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History of Frederick the Second online

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provinces in Poland - Russia, Prussia, and Austria each taking a share.
“To which Petersburg, intoxicated with its own outlooks on Turkey, paid
not the least attention.”[179] The second interview, of five days,
commenced on the 3d of September, 1770, at Neustadt, near Austerlitz,
which has since become so famous.

The Prince De Ligne, in a long letter to Stanislaus, King of Poland,
gives an interesting account of several conversations which ensued. In
this narrative he writes:

“I forget how the conversation changed. But I know that it grew so free
that, seeing somebody coming to join in it, the king warned him to take
care, saying that it was not safe to converse with a man doomed by the
theologians to everlasting fire. I felt as if he somewhat overdid this
of his ‘being doomed,’ and that he boasted too much of it. Not to hint
at the dishonesty of these free-thinking gentlemen, who very often
are thoroughly afraid of the devil, it is at least bad taste to make
display of such things. And it was with the people of bad taste whom he
had about him, and some dull skeptics of his own academy, that he had
acquired the habit of mocking at religion.”

The king was not a little vain of the keen thrusts he could
occasionally give the clergy. In a letter to Marie-Antoine, Electress
of Saxony, dated Potsdam, May 3, 1768, he, with much apparent
complacency, records the following witty achievement:

“It is a pity for the human race, madam, that men never can be
tranquil. But they never can be any where. Even the little town
of Neufchâtel has had its troubles. Your royal highness will be
astonished to learn how. A parson there had set forth in a sermon that,
considering the immense mercy of God, the pains of hell could not
last forever. The synod shouted murder at such scandal, and has been
struggling ever since to get the parson exterminated. The affair was of
my jurisdiction, for your royal highness must know that I am pope in
that country. Here is my decision:

“‘Let the parsons who make for themselves a cruel and barbarous God be
eternally damned, as they desire and deserve; and let those parsons who
conceive God gentle and merciful enjoy the plenitude of his mercy.’

“However, madam, my sentence has failed to calm the minds. The schism
continues, and the number of damnatory theologians prevail over the

The king could be very courteous. He gave a dinner-party, at which
General Loudon, one of the most efficient of the Austrian generals, and
who had often been successfully opposed to Frederick, was a guest. As
he entered the king said,

“General Loudon, take a seat by my side. I had much rather have you
with me than opposite me.” _Mettez vous auprès de moi. J’aime mieux
vous avoir à côté de moi que vis-à-vis._[181]

Catharine was at this time engaged vigorously in a war with the Turks.
Frederick, by his treaty with the czarina, was compelled to assist her.
This ambitious woman, endowed with extraordinary powers, was pushing
her conquests toward Constantinople, having formed the resolve to annex
that imperial city to the empire, and thus to open through the Straits
of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles new avenues for Russian commerce.

Count Von Kaunitz, an able but proud and self-conceited man, was prime
minister of the Emperor of Germany. His commanding mind exerted quite
a controlling influence over his imperial master. Kaunitz records the
following conversation as having taken place at this interview between
himself and Frederick:[182]

“These Russian encroachments upon the Turk,” said Kaunitz, “are
dangerous to the repose of Europe. His imperial majesty can never
consent that Russia should possess the provinces of Moldavia and
Wallachia. He will much rather go to war. These views of Russia are
infinitely dangerous to every body. They are as dangerous to your
majesty as to others. I can conceive of no remedy against them but
this. Prussia and Austria must join frankly in protest and absolute
prohibition of them.”

“I have nothing more at heart,” Frederick replied, “than to stand well
with Austria. I wish always to be her ally, never her enemy. But the
prince sees how I am situated. Bound by express treaty with her czarish
majesty, I must go with Russia in any war. I will do every thing in my
power to conciliate her majesty with the emperor - to secure such a
peace at St. Petersburg as may meet the wishes of Vienna.”[183]

Singularly enough, the very next day Frederick received an express
from the Divan requesting him, with the aid of Austria, to mediate
peace with Russia. The Turks had encountered such reverses that they
were anxious to sheathe the sword. Frederick with great joy undertook
the mediation. But he found the mediation far more difficult than
he had imagined. Catharine and Maria Theresa, so totally different
in character, entertained a rooted aversion to each other. The
complications were so great that month after month the deliberations
were continued unavailingly. Maria Theresa was unrelentingly opposed to
the advance of Russia upon Constantinople.

Thus originated with the Empress Catharine, one hundred years ago, the
idea of driving the Turks out of Europe, and of annexing Constantinople
to her majestic empire. From that time until now the question has
been increasingly agitating the courts of Europe. Every day, now, the
“Eastern Question” is assuming greater importance. The following map
very clearly shows the commanding position of Constantinople, and the
immense strength, both in a military and a commercial point of view, it
would give to the Russian empire.

Meneval, private secretary of Napoleon I., records that, in one of
the interviews of the emperor with Alexander, the czar offered to
co-operate with Napoleon in all his plans if the emperor would consent
that Russia should take Constantinople. The French emperor replied,
after a moment’s hesitation,

“Constantinople! never. It is the empire of the world.”

[Illustration: MAP OF THE EAST.]

There can be but little doubt, however, that the Bosphorus and the
Dardanelles will ere long be in the hands of Russia. “I know that I or
my successors,” said the Czar Nicholas, “must have Constantinople. You
might as well arrest a stream in its descent from a mountain as the
Russians in their advance to the Hellespont.”[184]

There was a famine in Poland, and the famine was followed by
pestilence. A general state of tumult and discord ensued. Maria Theresa
had gathered a large army on the frontiers of Hungary to watch the
designs of Russia upon Turkey. Availing herself of this disturbed state
of Poland, Maria Theresa marched her troops into one of its provinces
called Zips, which had once belonged to Hungary, and quietly extended
her boundaries around the acquisition. Catharine was much exasperated
by the measure.

The czarina had, about that time, invited Prince Henry, the warlike
brother of Frederick, to visit her. They had met as children when the
czarina was daughter of the commandant at Stettin. Henry was received
with an extraordinary display of imperial magnificence. In the midst
of this routine of feasting, balls, and masquerades, Catharine one day
said to Henry, with much pique, referring to these encroachments on the
part of Maria Theresa,

“It seems that in Poland the Austrians have only to stoop and pick
up what they like. If the court of Vienna has the intention to
dismember that kingdom, its neighbors will have the right to take their

Frederick caught eagerly at the suggestion, as the remark was reported
to him by his brother. He drew up a new plan of partition, which he
urged with all his powers of address upon both Russia and Austria. The
conscience of Maria Theresa was strongly opposed to the deed. Catharine
and Kaunitz were very greedy in their demands. Circumstances assumed
such an aspect that it was very difficult for Maria Theresa to oppose
the measure. At length, through the extraordinary efforts of Frederick,
on the 5th of August, 1772, the following agreement was adopted:

Russia took 87,500 square miles. Austria received 62,500. The share
which fell to Frederick was but 9456 square miles. Small in respect to
territory as was Frederick’s share, it was regarded, in consequence of
its position and the nature of the country, equally valuable with the
other portions.

“Frederick’s share,” writes Mr. Carlyle, “as an anciently Teutonic
country, and as filling up the always dangerous gap between his Ost
Prussen and him, has, under Prussian administration, proved much the
most valuable of the three, and, next to Silesia, is Frederick’s most
important acquisition.”

In carrying out these measures of partition, which the world has
usually regarded as one of the most atrocious acts of robbery on
record, resort was had both to bribery and force. The King of Poland
was the obsequious servant of Catharine. A common fund was raised by
the three powers to bribe the members of the Polish diet. Each of the
confederate powers also sent an army to the Polish frontiers, ready
to unite and crush the distracted people should there be any forcible
resistance. Thus the deed was accomplished.

Maria Theresa was a devout woman, governed by stern convictions of
duty. Her moral nature recoiled from this atrocious act. But she felt
driven to it by the pressure brought upon her by her own cabinet, her
powerful and arrogant prime minister, and by the courts of Prussia and
Russia. While, therefore, very reluctantly giving her assent to the
measure, she issued the following extraordinary document:

“When all my lands were invaded, and I knew not where in the world to
be brought to bed in, I relied on my good right and the help of God.
But in this thing, where not only public law cries to Heaven against
us, but also all natural justice and sound reason, I must confess never
in my life to have been in such trouble, and I am ashamed to show my
face. Let the prince (Kaunitz) consider what an example we are giving
to all the world, if, for a miserable piece of Poland, or of Moldavia,
or Wallachia, we throw our honor and reputation to the winds. I see
well that I am alone, and no more in vigor. Therefore I must, though to
my very great sorrow, let things take their course.”[186]

A few days afterward, in an official document, she writes: “I consent,
since so many great and learned men will have it so. But long after I
am dead, it will be known what this violating of all that was hitherto
held sacred and just will give rise to.”[187]

Frederick had cultivated a supreme indifference to public opinion. Not
believing in any God, in any future retribution, or in any immortality,
and regarding men merely as the insects of an hour, like the myriad
polyps which, beneath the ocean, rear their stupendous structures
and perish, his sense of right and wrong must necessarily have been
very different from that which a believer in the Christian faith is
accustomed to cherish. In allusion to this subject, he writes:

“A new career came to open itself to me. And one must have been either
without address or buried in stupidity not to have profited by an
opportunity so advantageous. I seized this unexpected opportunity by
the forelock. By dint of negotiating and intriguing, I succeeded in
indemnifying our monarchy for its past losses by incorporating Polish
Prussia with my old provinces. This acquisition was one of the most
important we could make, because it joined Pommern to East Prussia,
and because, rendering us masters of the Weichsel River, we gained the
double advantage of being able to defend that kingdom (East Prussia),
and to draw considerable tolls from the Weichsel, as all the trade of
Poland goes by that river.”

The region thus annexed to Prussia was in a deplorable state of
destitution and wretchedness. Most of the towns were in ruins. War had
so desolated the land that thousands of the people were living in the
cellars of their demolished houses.

“The country people hardly knew such a thing as bread. Many had never
tasted such a delicacy. Few villages possessed an oven. A weaving-loom
was rare; a spinning-wheel unknown. The main article of furniture in
this bare scene of squalor was a crucifix, and a vessel of holy water
under it. It was a desolate land, without discipline, without law,
without a master. On nine thousand English square miles lived five
hundred thousand souls - not fifty-five to the square mile.”[188]

With extraordinary energy and sagacity Frederick set about developing
the resources of his new acquisition. Houses were built. Villages
rose as by magic. Marshes were drained. Emigrants, in large numbers,
mechanics and farmers, were transported to the new lands. Canals
were dug. Roads were improved, and new ones opened. One hundred and
eighty-seven school-masters were sent into the country. Every where
there was plowing, ditching, building.

“As Frederick’s seven years’ struggle of war may be called superhuman,
so was there also, in his present labor of peace, something enormous,
which appeared to his contemporaries almost preternatural, at times
inhuman. It was grand, but also terrible, that the success of the whole
was to him, at all moments, the one thing to be striven after. The
comfort of the individual was of no concern at all.”[189]

The weal or woe of a single human polyp was, in the view of Frederick,
entirely unimportant in comparison with the great enterprises he was
ambitious of achieving. For this dismemberment of Poland Frederick was
severely assailed in a book entitled “Polish Dialogues.” In answer to a
letter from Voltaire, he wrote, under date of March 2, 1775:

“The ‘Polish Dialogues’ you speak of are not known to me. I think of
such satires with Epictetus, ‘If they tell any truth of thee, correct
thyself. If they are lies, laugh at them.’ I have learned, with years,
to become a steady coach-horse. I do my stage like a diligent roadster,
and pay no heed to the little dogs that will bark by the way.”



Character of the Crown Prince. - Stratagem of the Emperor Joseph
II. - Death of the Empress Catharine of Russia. - Matrimonial
Alliance of Russia and Prussia. - Death of the King of Bavaria. -
Attempt to Annex Bavaria to Austria. - Unexpected Energy of
Frederick. - Court Intrigues. - Preparations for War. - Address to
the Troops. - Declaration of War. - Terror in Vienna. - Irritability
of Frederick. - Death of Voltaire. - Unjust Condemnation of the
Judges. - Death of Maria Theresa. - Anecdote. - The King’s Fondness
for Children. - His Fault-finding Spirit. - The King’s Appearance. -
The Last Review. - Statement of Mirabeau. - Anecdote related by Dr.
Moore. - Frederick’s Fondness for Dogs. - Increasing Weakness. -
Unchanging Obduracy toward the Queen. - The Dying Scene.

Toward the end of the year 1775 the king had an unusually severe attack
of the gout. It was erroneously reported that it was a dangerous attack
of the dropsy, and that he was manifestly drawing near to his end.
The Crown Prince, who was to succeed him, was a man of very little
character. The Emperor of Germany, Joseph II., thought the death of
Frederick would present him an opportunity of regaining Silesia for
Austria. The Austrian army was immediately put in motion and hurried
to the frontiers of Silesia, to seize the province the moment the king
should expire. This was openly done, and noised abroad. Much to the
disappointment of the emperor, the king got well. Amidst much ridicule,
the troops returned to their old quarters.[190]

Frederick was probably not surprised at this act on the part of the
emperor. He undoubtedly had sufficient candor to admit that it was
exactly what he should have done under similar circumstances.

Catharine of Russia had a son, Paul, her heir to the throne. It so
chanced that she died just at the time Prince Henry of Prussia was
visiting St. Petersburg. Through his agency Paul was induced to take as
a second wife a niece of Frederick’s, the eldest daughter of Eugene of
Würtemberg. Thus the ties between Russia and Prussia were still more
strengthened, so far as matrimonial alliances could strengthen them.
The wedding took place in Berlin on the 18th of October, 1776.

Several years now passed away with nothing specially worthy of record.
Frederick did not grow more amiable as he advanced in years. Though
Frederick was often unreasonable, petulant, and unjust, and would
seldom admit that he had been in the wrong, however clear the case,
it can not be doubted that it was his general and earnest desire that
justice should be exercised in all his courts.

In September, 1777, the King of Bavaria died. The emperor thought it
a good opportunity to annex Bavaria to Austria. “Do but look on the
map,” says Carlyle, in his peculiar style of thought and expression:
“you would say, Austria without Bavaria is like a human figure with its
belly belonging to somebody else. Bavaria is the trunk or belly of the
Austrian dominions, shutting off all the limbs of them each from the
other; making for central part a huge chasm.”

France would hardly object, since she was exhausted with long wars.
England was busy in the struggle with her North American colonies.
Russia was at war with the Turks. There was no power to be feared but

“Frederick,” said Kaunitz, “is old and broken. He can not live long.
Having suffered so much, he has an absolute horror of war. We need not
fear that he will again put his armies in motion.”

But no sooner did Frederick get an intimation that Austria was
contemplating this enlargement of her domains than he roused himself
to prevent it with all the vigor of his earlier years. It was a very
delicate matter; for Charles Theodore, the elector, and his nephew
August Christian, heir to the electorate, a young gentleman of very
illustrious pedigree, but of a very slender purse, had both been bribed
by Austria secretly to co-operate in the movement. The reader will be
interested in Carlyle’s account, slightly abbreviated, of Frederick’s
skill in diplomacy:

“Heir is a gallant enough young gentleman. Frederick judges that
he probably will have haggled to sign any Austrian convention for
dismemberment of Baiern, and that he will start into life upon it so
soon as he sees hope.

“‘A messenger to him,’ thinks Frederick; ‘a messenger instantly; and
who?’ For that clearly is the first thing. And a delicate thing it
is; requiring to be done in profoundest secrecy, by hint and innuendo
rather than speech - by somebody in a cloak of darkness, who is of
adroit quality, and was never heard of in diplomatic circles before,
not to be suspected of having business of mine on hand.

“Frederick bethinks him that in a late visit to Weimar he had noticed,
for his fine qualities, a young gentleman named Görtz, late tutor
to the young Duke Karl August, a wise, firm, adroit-looking young
gentleman, who was farther interesting as brother to Lieutenant General
Von Görtz, a respectable soldier of Frederick’s. Ex-tutor at Weimar, we
say, and idle for the moment; hanging about court there, till he should
find a new function.

“Of this ex-tutor Frederick bethinks him; and in the course of that
same day - for there is no delay - Frederick, who is at Berlin, beckons
General Görtz to come over to him from Potsdam instantly.

“‘Hither this evening, and in all privacy meet me in the palace at such
an hour’ (hour of midnight or thereby); which of course Görtz, duly
invisible to mankind, does. Frederick explains: an errand to München;
perfectly secret, for the moment, and requiring great delicacy and
address; perhaps not without risk, a timorous man might say: will your
brother go for me, think you? Görtz thinks he will.

“‘Here is his instruction, if so,’ adds the king, handing him an
autograph of the necessary outline of procedure - not signed, nor with
any credential, or even specific address, lest accident happen. ‘Adieu,
then, herr general lieutenant; rule is, shoes of swiftness, cloak of
darkness: adieu!’

“And Görtz senior is off on the instant, careering toward Weimar,
where he finds Görtz junior, and makes known his errand. Görtz junior
stares in the natural astonishment; but, after some intense brief
deliberation, becomes affirmative, and in a minimum of time is ready
and on the road.

“Görtz junior proved to have been an excellent choice on the king’s
part, and came to good promotion afterward by his conduct in this
affair. Görtz junior started for München on the instant, masked
utterly, or his business masked, from profane eyes; saw this person,
saw that, and glided swiftly about, swiftly and with sure aim; and
speedily kindled the matter, and had smoke rising in various points.
And before January was out, saw the Reisch-Diet, at Regensburg, much
more the general gazetteerage every where, seized of this affair, and
thrown into paroxysms at the size and complexion of it: saw, in fact, a
world getting into flame - kindled by whom or what nobody could guess
for a long time to come. Görtz had great running about in his cloak of
darkness, and showed abundant talent of the kind needed. A pushing,
clear-eyed, stout-hearted man; much cleverness and sureness in what
he did and forebore to do. His adventures were manifold; he had much
traveling about: was at Regensburg, at Mannheim; saw many persons whom
he had to judge of on the instant, and speak frankly to, or speak
darkly, or speak nothing; and he made no mistake.

“We can not afford the least narrative of Görtz and his courses:
imagination, from a few traits, will sufficiently conceive them. He had
gone first to Karl Theodor’s minister: ‘Dead to it, I fear; has already
signed?’ Alas! yes. Upon which to Zweibrück, the heir’s minister, whom
his master had distinctly ordered to sign, but who, at his own peril,
gallant man, delayed, remonstrated, had not yet done it; and was able
to answer:

“‘Alive to it, he? Yes, with a witness, were there hope in the world!’
which threw Görtz upon instant gallop toward Zweibrück Schloss in
search of said heir, the young Duke August Christian; who, however, had
left in the interim (summoned by his uncle, on Austrian urgency, to
consent along with him), but whom Görtz, by dexterity and intuition of
symptoms, caught up by the road, with what a mutual joy! As had been
expected, August Christian, on sight of Görtz, with an armed Frederick
looming in the distance, took at once into new courses and activities.
From him no consent now; far other: treaty with Frederick; flat refusal
ever to consent: application to the Reich, application even to France,
and whatever a gallant young fellow could do.

“Frederick was in very weak health in these months; still considered
by the gazetteers to be dying. But it appears he is not yet too weak
for taking, on the instant necessary, a world-important resolution; and
of being on the road with it, to this issue or to that, at full speed
before the day closed. ‘Desist, good neighbor, I beseech you. You must
desist, and even you shall:’ this resolution was entirely his own, as
were the equally prompt arrangements he contrived for executing it,
should hard come to hard, and Austria prefer war to doing justice.”[191]

While pushing these intrigues of diplomacy, Frederick was equally busy
in marshaling his armies, that the sword might contribute its energies
to the enforcement of his demands. One hundred thousand troops were
assembled in Berlin, in the highest state of discipline and equipment,
ready to march at a moment’s warning.

On Sunday, April 5, 1778, Frederick reviewed these troops, and
addressed his officers in a speech, which was published in the
newspapers to inform Austria what she had to expect. Eager as Frederick
was to enlarge his own dominions, he was by no means disposed to grant
the same privilege to other and rival nations. The address of Frederick
to his officers was in reality a declaration to the Austrian court.

“Gentlemen,” said Frederick, “I have assembled you here for a public
object. Most of you, like myself, have often been in arms with one
another, and are grown gray in the service of our country. To all
of us is well known in what dangers, toils, and renown we have been
fellow-sharers. I doubt not in the least that all of you, as myself,
have a horror of bloodshed; but the danger which now threatens our

Online LibraryJohn S. C. (John Stevens Cabot) AbbottHistory of Frederick the Second → online text (page 45 of 52)