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History of Frederick the Second online

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were to amuse themselves in defending Neisse from a sham siege until
the pleasant weeks of autumn were gone, and then they were to march,
with all their guns and ammunition, south to Vienna, there to fight
the French. Frederick, still assuming that he was the ally of France,
was to avail himself of the excuse that the season of ice and snow was
at hand, and withdraw into winter quarters. Such, in general, were the
terms which Frederick authorized his minister, Goltz, to propose to
Lord Hyndford, as the agent of England and Austria.

Most of our readers will pronounce this to be as unwarrantable an act
of perfidy as history has recorded. But, in justice to Frederick, we
ought to state that there are those who, while admitting all these
facts, do not condemn him for his course. It is surprising to see how
different are the opinions which intelligent men can form upon the same
actions. Mr. Carlyle writes, in reference to these events:

“Magnanimous I can by no means call Frederick to his allies and
neighbors, nor even superstitiously veracious in this business; but he
thoroughly understands, he alone, what just thing he wants out of it,
and what an enormous wigged mendacity it is he has got to deal with.
For the rest, he is at the gaming-table with these sharpers, their dice
all cogged, and he knows it, and ought to profit by his knowledge of
it, and, in short, to win his stake out of that foul, weltering melley,
and go home safe with it if he can.”

While these scenes of war and intrigue were transpiring, no one knowing
what alarming developments any day might present, Vienna was thrown
into a state of terror in apprehension of the immediate approach of
a French army to open upon it all the horrors of a bombardment. The
citizens were called out _en masse_ to work upon the fortifications.
The court fled to Presburg, in Hungary. The national archives were
hurried off to Grätz. The royal family was dispersed. There were but
six thousand troops in the city. General Neipperg, with nearly the
whole Austrian army, was a hundred and fifty miles distant to the
north, on the banks of the Neisse. The queen, on the 10th of September,
assembled at Presburg the Hungarian Parliament, consisting almost
exclusively of chivalric nobles renowned in war. The queen appeared
before them with her husband, the Grand-duke Francis, by her side, and
with a nurse attending, holding her infant son and heir. Addressing
them in Latin, in a brief, pathetic speech, she said:

“I am abandoned by all. Hostile invasion threatens the kingdom of
Hungary, our person, our children, our crown. I have no resource but in
your fidelity and valor. I invoke the ancient Hungarian virtue to rise
swiftly and save me.”

The queen was radiantly beautiful in form and features. Her eyes were
filled with tears. The scene and the words roused the zeal of these
wild Magyar warriors to the highest pitch. They drew their sabres,
flourished them over their heads, and with united voice shouted
_Moriamur pro nostro rege, Maria Theresa_ - “Let us die for our king,
Maria Theresa.” “They always,” writes Voltaire, “give the title of king
to their queen. In fact, no princess ever better deserved that title.”


Between the two camps of the Austrians and Prussians, south of the
River Neisse, there was a castle called Little Schnellendorf, belonging
to Count Von Steinberg. It was a very retired retreat, far from
observation. Arrangements were made for a secret meeting there between
Frederick and General Neipperg, to adjust the details of their plot.
It was of the utmost importance that the perfidious measure should be
concealed from France. The French minister, Valori, was in the Prussian
camp, watching every movement with an eagle eye. “Frederick,” writes
Carlyle, “knows that the French are false to him. He by no means
intends to be romantically true to them, and that they also know.”

On Monday morning, the 9th of October, 1741, the British minister, Lord
Hyndford, accompanied by General Neipperg and General Lentulus from
the Austrian camp, repaired to this castle, ostensibly to fix some
cartel for the exchange of prisoners. Frederick rode out that morning
with General Goltz, assuming that he was going to visit some of his
outposts. In leaving, he said to the French minister Valori, “I am
afraid that I shall not be home to dinner.” At the same time, to occupy
the attention of M. Valori, he was invited to dine with Prince Leopold.
By circuitous and unfrequented paths, the king and his companion hied
to the castle.


Frederick cautiously refused to sign his name to any paper. Verbally,
he agreed that in one week from that time, on the 16th, General
Neipperg should have liberty to retire to the south through the
mountains, unmolested save by sham attacks in his rear. A small
garrison was to be left in Neisse. After maintaining a sham siege for
a fortnight, they were to surrender the city. Sham hostilities, to
deceive the French, were to be continued until the year was out, and
then a treaty was to be signed and ratified.

His majesty pledged his _word of honor_ that he would fulfill these
obligations, but declared that, should the slightest intimation of the
agreement leak out, so that the French should discover it, he would
deny the whole thing, and refuse in any way to be bound by it. This was
assented to.

At the close of the business, the king, who had been exceedingly
courteous during the whole interview, took General Neipperg aside, and,
beckoning Lord Hyndford to join them, said, addressing Lord Hyndford,

“I wish you too, my lord, to hear every word I speak to General
Neipperg. His Britannic majesty knows, or should know, my intentions
never were to do him hurt, but only to take care of myself. And pray
inform him that I have ordered my army in Brandenburg to go into winter
quarters, and break up that camp at Göttin.”

The reader will bear in mind that the camp at Göttin, menacing Hanover,
was acting in co-operation with Frederick’s ally, France, and that
forty thousand men had been sent from France to the aid of those
Prussian troops. Frederick now, entering into secret treaty with the
enemy, while still feigning to be true to his ally, was perfidiously
withdrawing his troops so as to leave the French unsupported. His
treachery went even farther than this. In the presence of Lord
Hyndford, the representative of England, he informed the Austrian
general minutely how he could, to the greatest advantage, attack the

“Join,” said he, “the Austrian force under Prince Lobkowitz in Bohemia.
Fall immediately and impetuously upon the French, before they can
combine their forces to resist you. If you succeed in this, perhaps I
will by-and-by join you; if you fail - well, you know every one must
look out for himself.”

The audacious duplicity of this ambitious young king was still more
conspicuously developed by his entering into a secret correspondence
with the court of Austria, through certain generals in the
Austrian army. And that he might the more effectually disguise his
treachery from his allies, the French, he requested Lord Hyndford
to write dispatches to various courts - to Presburg, to England, to
Dresden - complaining that Frederick was _deaf to all proposals; that
nothing could influence him to enter into terms of reconciliation with
Austria_. It was to be so arranged that the couriers carrying these
dispatches of falsehood should be captured by the French, so that these
documents should be carried to the French court.

And, in addition to all this, the more effectually to hoodwink the
eagle eyes of the French minister in the Prussian camp, M. Valori, the
following stratagem was arranged. The king was to invite M. Valori to
dine with him. While at the table, merry over their wine, a courier was
to arrive, and with trumpet blast announce dispatches for the king.
They were to be delivered to the king at the table. He was to open them
before Valori, to find that they consisted of a bitter complaint and
remonstrance, on the part of the British minister, that the king was
inflexible in repelling all advances toward an amicable adjustment of
their difficulties, that unrelentingly he persisted in co-operating
with France in her warfare against Austria. All this farce took place
according to the programme. M. Valori was effectually deceived.

Some of our readers may think that the above narrative is quite
incredible; that a young sovereign, who had just written the
_Anti-Machiavel_, and who knew that the eyes of the world were upon
him, could not be guilty of such perfidy. But, unhappily, there is no
possible room for doubt. The documentary evidence is ample. There is no
contradictory testimony.

General Neipperg, in his account of the interview, writes, in reference
to Frederick: “He is a very spirited young king. He will not stand
contradiction; but a great deal may be made of him if you seem to adopt
his ideas, and honor him in a delicate, dexterous way. He did not in
the least hide his engagements with France, Bavaria, Saxony. But he
would really, so far as I could judge, prefer friendship with Austria
on the given terms. He seems to have a kind of pique at Saxony, and
manifests no favor for the French and their plans.”

Mr. Carlyle, who, with wonderful accuracy, and with impartiality which
no one will call in question, has recorded the facts in Frederick’s
career, gives the story as it is here told. In the following terms Mr.
Carlyle comments upon these events:

“Of the political morality of this game of fast-and-loose what have
we to say, except that the dice on both sides seem to be loaded; that
logic might be chopped upon it forever; that a candid mind will settle
what degree of wisdom (which is always essential veracity) and what of
folly (which is always falsity) there was in Frederick and the others;
whether, or to what degree, there was a better course open to Frederick
in the circumstances; and, in fine, it will have to be granted that you
can not work in pitch and keep hands evidently clean. Frederick has
got into the enchanted wilderness populous with devils and their work,
alas! It will be long before he get out of it again; _his_ life waning
toward night before he get victoriously out, and bequeath his conquest
to luckier successors!”

On the 16th of November General Neipperg broke up his camp at Neisse,
according to the arrangement and, leaving a small garrison in the city
to encounter the sham siege, defiled through the mountains on the south
into Moravia. The Prussians, pretending to pursue, hung upon his rear
for a short distance, making as much noise and inflicting as little
harm as possible. General Neipperg pressed rapidly on to Vienna, where
he was exultingly welcomed to aid in defending the city menaced by the

Frederick on the 17th, the day after the departure of the Austrian
army, invested Neisse. He had an embarrassing part to play. He was to
conduct a sham siege in the presence of M. Valori, who was not only a
man of ability, but who possessed much military intelligence. Feigning
the utmost zeal, Frederick opened his trenches, and ostentatiously
manœuvred his troops. He sent the young Prince Leopold, with fifteen
thousand horse and foot, into the Glatz country, many leagues to the
east, to guard against surprise from an enemy, where no enemy was to
be found. He marked out his parallels, sent imperious summonses for
surrender, and dispatched reconnoitring parties abroad. M. Valori
began to be surprised - amazed. “What does all this mean?” he said to
himself. “They have great need of some good engineers here.”

With that vigilant eye upon him, Frederick was compelled to some vigor
of action. On the night of October 17th he commenced the bombardment.
The noise was terrific. It could not be prevented but that the shot
and shell should do some harm. Some buildings were burned; several
lives were lost. M. Valori, who knew that the result could not be
doubtful, was induced to go to Breslau and await the surrender. After
the garrison had made apparently a gallant resistance, and Frederick
had achieved apparent prodigies of valor, the city was surrendered on
the 31st of October. Most of the garrison immediately enlisted in the
Prussian service.

Thus the last fortress in Silesia fell into the hands of Frederick.
There was no longer any foe left in the province to dispute his
acquisition. He took possession of Neisse on the 1st of November,
celebrating his victory with illuminations and all the approved
demonstrations of public rejoicing.


On the 4th of November he returned to Breslau, entering the city with
great military display. Seated in a splendid carriage, he was drawn
through the streets by eight cream-colored horses. Taking his seat upon
the ancient ducal throne, he was crowned, with great ceremonial pomp,
Sovereign Duke of Lower Silesia. Four hundred of the notables of the
dukedom, in gala dresses, and taking oaths of homage, contributed to
the imposing effect of the spectacle. Illuminations, balls, and popular
festivities, in great variety, closed the triumph.

On the morning of the 9th of November Frederick set out for Berlin,
visiting Glogau by the way. On the 11th he entered Berlin, where he
was received by the whole population with enthusiastic demonstrations
of joy. For a short time he probably thought that through guile he
had triumphed, and that his troubles were now at an end. But such
victories, under the providence of God, are always of short duration.
Frederick soon found that his troubles had but just begun. He had
entered upon a career of toil, care, and peril, from which he was to
have no escape until he was ready to sink into his grave.

But a few days after his return, Lord Hyndford, who had followed
the king to Berlin, met his majesty in one of the apartments of the
palace. Frederick, struggling to conceal the emotions with which he was
agitated, said to him,

“My lord, the court of Vienna has entirely divulged our secret.
The Dowager Empress has acquainted the court of Bavaria with it.
Wasner, the Austrian minister at Paris, has communicated it to the
French minister, Fleury. The Austrian minister at St. Petersburg, M.
Linzendorf, has told the court of Russia of it. Sir Thomas Robinson has
divulged it to the court of Dresden. Several members of the British
government have talked about it publicly.”

Frederick immediately and publicly denied that he had ever entered
into any such arrangement with Austria, and declared the whole story
to be a mere fabrication. Having by the stratagem obtained Neisse, and
delivered Silesia from the presence of the Austrian army, he assured
the French of his unchanging fidelity to their interests, and with
renewed vigor commenced co-operating with them in the furtherance of
some new ambitious plans.



Frederick’s Motives for the War. - Marriage of William Augustus. -
Testimony of Lord Macaulay. - Frederick and his Allies. - Visit to
Dresden. - Military Energy. - Charles Albert chosen Emperor. - The
Coronation. - Effeminacy of the Saxon Princes. - Disappointment and
Vexation of Frederick. - He withdraws in Chagrin. - The Cantonment on
the Elbe. - Winter Campaigning. - The Concentration at Chrudim.

It was on the 11th of November, 1741, that Frederick, elated with
his conquest of Silesia, had returned to Berlin. In commencing the
enterprise he had said, “Ambition, interest, and the desire to make
the world speak of me, vanquished all, and war was determined on.”
He had, indeed, succeeded in making the “world speak” of him. He had
suddenly become the most prominent man in Europe. Some extolled his
exploits. Some expressed amazement at his perfidy. Many, recognizing
his sagacity and his tremendous energy, sought his alliance.
Embassadors from the various courts of Europe crowded his capital.
Fourteen sovereign princes, with many foreigners of the highest rank,
were counted among the number. The king was in high spirits. While
studiously maturing his plans for the future, he assumed the air of a
thoughtless man of fashion, and dazzled the eyes and bewildered the
minds of his guests with feasts and pageants.

[Illustration: FREDERICK THE GREAT. ÆT. 30]

On the 7th of January, 1742, Frederick’s eldest brother, William
Augustus, was married to Louisa Amelia, a younger sister of the king’s
neglected wife, Elizabeth. The king himself graced the festival, in
gorgeous attire, and very successfully plied all his wonderful arts
of fascination. “He appeared,” says Bielfeld, “so young, so gay, so
graceful, that I could not have refrained from loving him, even if he
had been a stranger.”

But, in the midst of these scenes of gayety, the king was contemplating
the most complicated combinations of diplomacy. Europe was apparently
thrown into a state of chaos. It was Frederick’s one predominant
thought to see what advantages he could secure to Prussia from the
general wreck and ruin. Lord Macaulay, speaking of these scenes, says:

“The selfish rapacity of the King of Prussia gave the signal to his
neighbors. His example quieted their sense of shame. The whole world
sprang to arms. On the head of Frederick is all the blood which was
shed in a war which raged during many years, and in every quarter of
the globe - the blood of the column of Fontenoy, the blood of the brave
mountaineers who were slaughtered at Culloden. The evils produced
by this wickedness were felt in lands where the name of Prussia was
unknown. In order that he might rob a neighbor whom he had promised
to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel, and red men
scalped each other by the great lakes of North America.”

As we have stated, Frederick had declared that if any rumor should be
spread abroad of the fact that he had entered into a secret treaty with
Austria, he would deny it, and would no longer pay any regard to its
stipulations. He had adopted the precaution not to affix his signature
to any paper. By this ignoble stratagem he had obtained Neisse and
Silesia. The rumor of the secret treaty had gone abroad. He had denied
it. And now, in accordance with the principles of his peculiar code of
honor, he felt himself at liberty to pursue any course which policy
might dictate.

Frederick, in his _Histoire de mon Temps_, states that, in the
negotiations which at this time took place in Berlin, France pressed
the king to bring forward his armies into vigorous co-operation; that
England exhorted him to make peace with Austria; that Spain solicited
his alliance in her warfare against England; that Denmark implored
his counsel as to the course it was wise for that kingdom to pursue;
that Sweden entreated his aid against Russia; that Russia besought his
good offices to make peace with the court at Stockholm; and that the
German empire, anxious for peace, entreated him to put an end to those
troubles which were convulsing all Europe.

The probable object of the Austrian court in revealing the secret
treaty of Schnellendorf was to set Frederick and France at variance.
Frederick, much exasperated, not only denied the treaty, but professed
increased devotion to the interests of Louis XV. The allies, consisting
of France, Prussia, Bavaria, and Saxony, now combined to wrest Moravia
from Maria Theresa, and annex it to Saxony. This province, governed
by a marquis, was a third larger than the State of Massachusetts, and
contained a population of about a million and a half. Moravia bounded
Silesia on the south. Frederick made a special treaty with the King of
Saxony, that the southern boundary of Silesia should be a full German
mile, which was between four and five English miles, beyond the line
of the River Neisse. With Frederick’s usual promptitude, he insisted
that commissioners should be immediately sent to put down the boundary
stones. France was surprised that the King of Saxony should have
consented to the surrender of so important a strip of his territory.

Frederick paid but little regard to his allies save as he could make
them subservient to the accomplishment of his purposes. He pushed
his troops forward many leagues south into Moravia, and occupied the
important posts of Troppau, Friedenthal, and Olmütz. These places were
seized the latter part of December. The king hoped thus to be able,
early in the spring, to carry the war to the gates of Vienna.

On the 18th of January, 1742, Frederick visited Dresden, to confer
with Augustus III., King of Poland, who was also Elector of Saxony,
and whose realms were to be increased by the annexation of Moravia.
His Polish majesty was a weak man, entirely devoted to pleasure. His
irresolute mind, subjected to the dominant energies of the Prussian
king, was as clay in the hands of the potter.

“You are now,” said Frederick, “by consent of the allies, King of
Moravia. Now is the time, now or never, to become so in fact. Push
forward your Saxon troops. The Austrian forces are weak in that
country. At Iglau, just over the border from Austria, there is a large
magazine of military stores, which can easily be seized. Urge forward
your troops. The French will contribute strong divisions. I will
join you with twenty thousand men. We can at once take possession of
Moravia, and perhaps march directly on to Vienna.”

Frederick, in describing this interview, writes: “Augustus answered
_yes_ to every thing, with an air of being convinced, joined to a look
of great _ennui_. Count Brühl,[61] whom this interview displeased,
interrupted it by announcing to his majesty that the Opera was about
to commence. Ten kingdoms to conquer would not have kept the King of
Poland a minute longer. He went, therefore, to the Opera; and the King
of Prussia obtained at once, in spite of those who opposed it, a final

The next morning, in the intense cold of midwinter, Frederick set
out several hours before daylight for the city of Prague, which the
French and Bavarians had captured on the 25th of November. Declining
all polite attentions, for business was urgent, he eagerly sought M.
De Séchelles, the renowned head of the commissariat department, and
made arrangements with him to perform the extremely difficult task of
supplying the army with food in a winter’s campaign.

The next morning, at an early hour, he again dashed off to the east,
toward Glatz, a hundred miles distant, where a portion of the Prussian
troops were in cantonments, under the young Prince Leopold. Within a
week he had ridden over seven hundred miles, commencing his journey
every morning as early as four o’clock, and doing a vast amount of
business by the way.

It will be remembered that, in the note which M. Valori accidentally
dropped, and which Frederick furtively obtained, the minister was
instructed by the French court not to give up Glatz to the Prussian
king if he could possibly avoid it. But Frederick had now seized the
city, and the region around, by force of arms, and held them with a
gripe not to be relaxed. Glatz was a Catholic town. In the convent
there was an image of the Virgin, whose tawdry robes had become
threadbare and faded. The wife of the Austrian commandant had promised
the Virgin a new dress if she would keep the Prussians out of the city.
Frederick heard of this. As he took possession of the city, with grim
humor he assured the Virgin that she should not lose in consequence of
the favor she had shown the Prussians. New and costly garments were
immediately provided for her at the expense of the Prussian king.

On the 26th of January Frederick set out from Glatz, with a strong
cortége, for Olmütz, far away to the southeast. This place his troops
had occupied for a month past. His route led through a chain of
mountains, whose bleak and dreary defiles were clogged with drifted
snow, and swept by freezing gales. It was a dreadful march, accompanied
by many disasters and much suffering.

General Stille, one of the aids of Frederick on this expedition, says
that the king, with his retinue, mounted and in carriages, pushed
forward the first day to Landskron. “It was,” he writes, “such a march
as I never witnessed before. Through the ice and through the snow,
which covered that dreadful chain of mountains between Böhmen and
Mähren, we did not arrive till very late. Many of our carriages were

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 24 of 52)