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Title: Frederick the Great - And the Rise of Prussia
Author: Reddaway, W. F.
Language: English
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Heroes of the Nations

  A Series of Biographical Studies presenting the lives and work of
      certain representative historical characters, about whom have
      gathered the traditions of the nations to which they belong,
      and who have, in the majority of instances, been accepted as
      types of the several national ideals.

  12°, Illustrated, cloth, each          $1.50
  Half Leather, gilt top, each           $1.75
  Nos. 33 and following Nos.         net $1.35
    Each                      (By mail, $1.50)
  Half Leather, gilt top             net $1.60
                              (By mail, $1.75)


  Heroes of the Nations

  H. W. Carless Davis











  The Knickerbocker Press


  Published, April, 1904

  The Knickerbocker Press, New York




In attempting to sketch the career of Frederick the Great and to
define its relation to the rise of Prussia, I have made free use of
many printed works, especially of Frederick’s own _Œuvres_ and of
the elaborate _Politische Correspondenz_ of his reign. With these
great “primary” authorities may perhaps be ranked the face and voice
of modern Germany, rich in evidence of Frederick’s work, which have
doubtless influenced my opinions more than I am aware of. Among
“secondary” authorities I owe most to the opulent treasure-house of
Carlyle’s _Frederick the Great_ and to the more systematic narrative
of Professor Koser. His _Friedrich der Grosse als Kronprinz_, which
largely inspired the work of Lavisse translated under the title _The
Youth of Frederick the Great_, forms my chief source for much of
Frederick’s early life, as does the last volume of the _König Friedrich
der Grosse_ (1903), for the domestic labours after 1763. Mr. Herbert
Tuttle’s judicious _History of Prussia_ gave me much assistance down to
the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War, and I have often referred to Mr.
Lodge’s _Modern Europe_ and Mr. Henderson’s _Short History of Germany_.

At critical points in the record of the years 1712 to 1786 I was
influenced successively by the _Mémoires de la Margravine de Baireuth_,
the trenchant _Frédéric II et Marie-Thérèse_ of the Duc de Broglie,
the _Politische Staatsschriften_, Schäfer’s _Der Siebenjährige Krieg_,
von Arneth’s _Oesterreichische Geschichte_, and Sorel’s _The Eastern
Question in the Eighteenth Century_. Many of the battles in Saxony,
Brandenburg, Bohemia, and Silesia form the subject of monographs which
it was interesting to study on the field, sometimes with the aid of
collections of maps and plans preserved in the neighbourhood.

It would be impossible without a false pretence of erudition to name
more than a small portion of the books to which some reference must be
made in writing of the rise of Prussia. Students will recognise the
debt that I owe to such well-known works as those of Ranke, Droysen,
Philippson, Förster, Seeley, Isaacsohn, Oncken, Vitzthum, Archenholtz,
and many more, as well as to the _Essays_ of Macaulay and Lord Mahon.
My account of the early history of Brandenburg is in part based on my
paper of April, 1901, in the _Transactions_ of the Royal Historical

I offer my grateful thanks to Mr. G. H. Putnam and to Mr. H. W. C.
Davis for their counsel, to Mr. G. H. M. Gray for minute scrutiny
of the proof-sheets, and to Messrs. Ernest and Harold Temperley, my
indulgent comrades in Silesia. To the latter this book owes much at
every stage.

            W. F. R.

      Jan. 9th, 1904.



  INTRODUCTION                                                         1

       THE RISE OF PRUSSIA                                             3

       FREDERICK AS CROWN PRINCE, 1712–1740                           24

       THE PROBLEM OF 1740                                            56

       THE SILESIAN ADVENTURE, 1740–1742                              83

       THE SECOND STRUGGLE FOR SILESIA, 1742–1745                    128

       THE TEN YEARS’ PEACE, 1746–1756                               155

       THE SEVEN YEARS’ WAR TO THE BATTLE OF LEUTHEN                 189

           (DECEMBER, 1757, TO DECEMBER, 1759)                       251

       THE END OF THE SEVEN YEARS’ WAR, 1760–1763                    281

       FREDERICK AND PRUSSIA AFTER THE WAR                           301

       FREDERICK AND EUROPE, 1763–1786                               322

       FREDERICK’S DEATH AND GREATNESS                               344

  Index                                                              361




      FREDERICK THE GREAT                                 _Frontispiece_
           After the painting by Carlo Vanloo.

      FREDERICK THE GREAT                                             10
          After the painting by Christian Wolffgang.

      MAP OF PRUSSIA AFTER THE CONGRESS OF VIENNA, 1715               22

          After the painting by Hirseman.

      FREDERICK THE SECOND                                            38
          After the painting by Cunningham.

      ELIZABETH CHRISTINA OF BRUNSWICK                                44
          From an old print.

      VOLTAIRE                                                        54
          From the statue by Houdon at the Comédie Français.

      FREDERICK WILLIAM THE FIRST                                     64

          After the painting by F. W. Weideman.

      VIEW OF GLATZ IN THE 18TH CENTURY                               78
          From an old print.

      MAP OF EUROPE IN 1740                                           80

      THE RATHHAUS IN BRESLAU                                         90
          From a steel engraving.

      THE BOARD OF FINANCES AT NEISSE                                104
          From a steel engraving.

      PLAN OF MOLWITZ, APRIL 10, 1741                                114

      THE PARADE GROUND AT POTSDAM                                   128

      FREDERICK THE SECOND, KING OF PRUSSIA                          140

      After the painting by F. Bock.

      SANS-SOUCI. CARYTID FRONT                                      160

          Reproduced by permission of A. F. Czihaks Nachflg, Vienna.

      LEOPOLD, COUNT VON DAUN                                        214
          From a copper print.

      PLAN OF PRAGUE, MAY 6, 1757                                    216

      PLAN OF KOLIN, JUNE 18, 1757                                   222

          From a relief on his statue at Weissenfels.

      PLAN OF ROSSBACH, NOVEMBER 5, 1757                             236

      PLAN OF LEUTHEN, DECEMBER 5, 1757                              246

      THE CHARGE OF THE WALLOON DRAGOONS AT KOLIN                    248
          From a relief on the monument of Victory near Křečhoř,
            unveiled 1898.

      MAP FOR THE SILESIAN AND SEVEN YEARS’ WARS                     254

      PLAN OF ZORNDORF, AUGUST 25, 1758                              260

      BATTLE OF HOCHKIRCH, OCTOBER 14, 1758                          264

      BATTLE OF KUNERSDORF, AUGUST 12, 1759                          270

      BATTLE OF LIEGNITZ, AUGUST 15, 1760                            286

      BATTLE OF TORGAU, NOVEMBER 3, 1760                             292

      THE NEW PALACE AT POTSDAM                                      308

      JOSEPH THE SECOND                                              322
          After the painting by Listard.

      WENZEL ANTON, PRINCE VON KAUNITZ                               326
          After the painting by Steiner.

      UNTER DEN LINDEN IN 1780                                       340
          From an etching by Rosentag.

      DEATH-MASK OF FREDERICK THE GREAT                              344
          From the original in the Hohenzollern Museum, Berlin.


      FREDERICK THE SECOND, KING OF PRUSSIA                          356
          After the painting by Chodowiecki.





In the Austrian and Prussian capitals to-day the traveller may mark the
contrast between two great statues, in each of which the meaning of a
reign is set forth with happy instinct. In the heart of imperial Vienna
is seated the colossal figure of Maria Theresa, the Victoria of an age
when a Pompadour could sway the fate of nations. Her effigy presents
her as the mother of her people, displaying rather than obscuring the
scholars, statesmen, and warriors who cluster round her feet, sharing
harmoniously the glory which neither Queen nor people could have won
without the other’s aid.

In Berlin the superb monument of the Great Frederick is instinct with
a different spirit. Raised high above the throng, the King seems to
gaze with his inscrutable mask-face at the astounding works of his
successors. At the base of his lofty pedestal are stationed generals
and civilians of renown, numerous enough almost to confute the Cassius
who should infer of Frederick’s Prussia that there was in it but
one only man. The statue none the less suggests the truth. Between
monarch and people there was ever a great gulf fixed. Through all
his life—in his counsels, in his despair, in his triumph, and in his
death—Frederick, almost beyond parallel in the record of human history,
was alone.





The first task of the student of Frederick’s life-story is to rid
himself of the idea that the solitary King was either wholly original
or wholly free. To seize Silesia, to quarter Poland, to rival Austria,
to humble France, each was no doubt a feat which no Prussian ruler
before him had dared to attempt. Yet in each of these, as will
presently be shown, the hand of the living was at once nerved and
guided by the dead. From his House Frederick inherited his might,
to his House he turned for inspiration in the use of it, and to it
he dedicated his conquests. He who would appreciate Frederick must
first survey the road trodden for three centuries before him by the
Hohenzollerns from whom he sprang.

“Why should I serve the Hohenzollerns?” Bismarck is said to have
exclaimed. “My family is as good as theirs.” It was the complaint
of the yeoman against his fellow who has saved money and bought the
lordship of the manor.

The early history of the state now called Prussia is chiefly the record
of a thrifty family—the Hohenzollerns. Since the year 1415, when
the overlordship of the sandy tract lying between the middle Elbe
and lower Oder and stretching across their banks was conferred upon
him by the Emperor for cash down, Frederick of Hohenzollern and his
descendants had remained lords of Brandenburg. From Nuremberg, where
Frederick had been Burggrave, they had brought with them the vital
energy and business ability of successful townsmen. So poor was their
new estate that for many generations relaxation would have meant ruin.
There was therefore no temptation to depart from that policy of adding
field to field which is the natural law of the industrious countryman.
Whether from native superiority or from greater need, the Hohenzollerns
were usually a little wiser than their neighbours. With the aid of a
family statute of 1473, which made primogeniture the rule of succession
for Brandenburg, they avoided the consequences of that custom of equal
inheritance which has been the bane of Germany. By careful watching of
opportunities, by windfalls, by purchase, and by covenants for mutual
succession on failure of heirs made with neighbours whose lines died
out, the domain of the rulers of Brandenburg was in two centuries
increased fourfold. When the Thirty Years’ War broke out and the modern
history of Prussia began, the head of the Hohenzollern family, who had
long since become one of the seven Electors of the Empire, held sway
over an area almost as great as that of Ireland.

Of the territories by which the original Mark of Brandenburg had been
augmented, two were of special importance. In 1525 East Prussia had
been acquired. This province, which throughout this book will be
called by its German name of Ost-Preussen, was richer by far than the
Mark, the kernel of the Hohenzollern possessions. It had an important
city, Königsberg, for its capital and a coast-line on the Baltic. It
constituted the domain of the old Order of Teutonic Knights, permanent
crusaders whose task had been to spread the faith and civilisation of
their fatherland among the heathen Slavs. But the Baltic lands had
all submitted to the Cross, and the Knights became in their turn the
objects of a religious mission. Early in the sixteenth century, the
doctrines of the Reformation penetrated the minds of their High Master,
Albert of Hohenzollern. He turned for counsel to Luther himself. In a
celibate Order which had no more heathen to convert, the husband of the
nun Catherine Bora could see only a standing defiance of the laws of
nature and of God. By his advice Ost-Preussen was “secularised,” that
is, taken from the service of religion to form a Hohenzollern estate,
and in time (1618), though still submissive to the suzerainty of
Poland, it was added to the main body of the Electoral dominions. The
Hohenzollerns thus became distinguished from the mass of German princes
by ruling territories to which the Empire had never possessed any
claim. Ost-Preussen was to them on a small scale what England became in
1688 to the House of Orange, or in 1714 to the House of Hanover. Their
policy acquired a new breadth and a new weight. Hitherto provincial, it
became more and more cosmopolitan, and commerce with the Baltic lands
and England began to hint to the lord of Pillau and Memel that his
future lay upon the water.

A makeweight to Ost-Preussen, which would prevent the centre of gravity
of the Hohenzollern lands from shifting eastwards, was found in 1609,
when the family inherited Cleves, Mark, and Ravensberg in Western
Germany. This acquisition, made on the very eve of the Thirty Years’
War, was accompanied in 1613 by the conversion of the Elector, John
Sigismund, from the Lutheranism which his grandfather, Joachim II.,
had established in 1539 to the sterner and more militant creed of
Calvin. This meant that at the very moment when all Germany was taking
up arms for the greatest religious war of modern times, the court and
people of Brandenburg were hopelessly at variance with one another. A
Calvinist prince ruled a Lutheran people, and the new Elector, George
William (1619–1640), “of Christ-mild memory” but the weakest of his
line, proved to be a puppet in the hands of Schwarzenburg, his Romanist
prime-minister. Under such guidance did Brandenburg, ill-knit and
ill-armed, become the battle-ground between Swede and Hapsburg in their
struggle for faith and empire.

What Brandenburg suffered in the terrible decade 1630–1640, between
the landing of Gustavus Adolphus in Germany and the accession of the
Great Elector, can never be fully calculated. The State was rudderless,
defenceless, and poor; the combatants on both sides brigands, whom
years of license had habituated to every kind of cruelty. What passed
could be described by no more patently truthful eye-witness than
Andreas Rittner, the cheery burgomaster of Tangermünde, a little town
on the Elbe with a royal history of its own. In his pages may be traced
the swift descent of the afflicted people through every depth of
misery down to despair or even annihilation. The invaders—it mattered
little whether Swedes or Imperialists—exacted in endless sequence
contributions, lodging, forage, and loot, drove off the cattle, broke
up the coffins of the dead, laid waste the land, and hunted down the
inhabitants. The mischief was only increased by the feeble efforts of
the home government to call out and support a militia. The maddened
peasants turned guerilla. Food failed, for who could sow or reap?
Men fed on carrion, even, it was whispered, on human flesh, and soon
pestilence seized on persecutors and persecuted alike.

Anarchy and degradation brought forth torture. The name of the Swedish
Drink attests the cruelty of the degenerate deliverers of Germany.
“They laid men awhile upon the fire,” writes Rittner,

    “baked them in ovens, flung them into wells, hung them up by
    the feet, fastened thumb-screws upon them, drove sharp spikes
    under their nails, bound round their heads so tight that
    their eyes started out, gagged them and sealed their mouths.
    Matrons and virgins were oft-times put to shame. Husbands must
    often leave their wives and wives their husbands, parents
    their children and children their parents, even on the bed of
    sickness, for they were powerless to save them from abuse, and
    sometimes when they came back they found nought of them save
    some few bones, for all else had the dogs mangled and eaten up.”

Not less graphic is the story told in stone in some of the tormented
cities. Round the giant church, spared by the Swedes to uphold the
Lutheran faith of which it was then the temple and by the Imperialists
for the sake of the Roman faith which they hoped to establish anew
within its walls, there may be seen the tombs of many generations
of citizens. Those of the sixteenth century are covered with quaint
adornment and graven with artistic skill. Then, as war sweeps over
the land, the series is broken, to be resumed after many decades
with a rude clumsiness which shows that wealth and art had fled from
Brandenburg together.

Though it would be rash to assume that any single part of the Mark may
be regarded as typical of the whole, there seems to be no reason to
call in question the dictum of Frederick the Great, that his ancestors
needed a century to repair the damage of the Thirty Years’ War. This
great task was confided to a youth of twenty years, an only son, yet no
favourite of his father, the Elector George William, whom he succeeded
in 1640. Frederick William, known to history as the Great Elector,
was the great-grandfather of Frederick the Great. By common consent
he is reputed the founder of the glory of the House of Hohenzollern
in modern times. He found Brandenburg prostrate and threatened with
dissolution. It is from the low-water mark of these earliest years,
when he with reason bewailed difficulties greater than those of David
or Solomon, that the progress of his State is to be measured and his
own achievement thereby understood.

He found his exchequer empty, his palace half-ruined, the court seeking
safety and even sustenance at far-off Königsberg, the Austrian papist,
Schwarzenburg, supreme in the state, the Mark trampled underfoot by
alien hosts. How should an open country like his, the highroad between
Sweden and Austria, be delivered from the endless war? Even if, by
miracle, a peace could be devised, which Calvinists and Lutherans
could both accept, what prospect, nay what possibility existed that
territories so ill-compacted as his could be welded into a single,
solid state? All the needful bonds of union seemed to be lacking. What
common tie of blood, of faith, of speech was there strong enough to
bind together Cleves and Brandenburg and Ost-Preussen, units gathered
by the chance of recent history into one hand but dissevered by
hundreds of miles of alien soil and by chasms of sentiment still harder
to bridge over? The constituent parts of Frederick William’s domain
were in 1640 dissimilar in race, in history, and in interest. They had
no desire for closer relations; they had not even a uniform calendar;
their only common political aim seemed to be to flout the Elector, who
was the bugbear of them all.

Even were he to make himself master of the centre, dangers clustered
thick on either wing, while behind the Polish problems of the East and
the Netherlandish problems of the West a seer might have discerned the
double peril that encompasses modern Germany. Peter the Great and his
Russia lay yet in the womb of time, but Richelieu and his France were
in the full flood of successful ambition. Thus the organiser of a
North German power must work while his horizon was already darkening.
In grasping the lands which formed his birthright the Great Elector was
defying, though as yet he knew it not, two of the greatest forces of
modern times. Hohenzollern rule on the Niemen was to become a challenge
to Russia and to the Slavic advance, while the Hohenzollern lord of
Cleves must ultimately reckon with the belief of Frenchmen that the
Rhine is the boundary designed by nature for their state.



During the first critical years of his rule, however, the plans of
the Great Elector were of the humblest. Striving for existence rather
than for empire, he was not too proud to beg for help in every likely
quarter. Among our own State-papers are to be seen his letters suing
for petty favours which Charles I., so long as diplomacy would serve,
was very willing to grant. The King of England marked the small esteem
in which he held the untried and obscure Elector by pressing upon him
the hand of his niece, a princess of the fugitive and bankrupt House of
the Palatinate. Frederick William’s relations with Poland, the suzerain
of whom he held Ost-Preussen, show yet more clearly how slight was his
power at his accession. When the Lutherans of Königsberg threatened
riot because a Calvinist was chosen to preach the funeral sermon of
George William, the Elector did not blush to solicit the Papist King,
Wladislaus IV., to admonish these unruly Protestants. To this end he
bade his minister at Warsaw “make humble request to His Majesty
that His Majesty would in friendly—cousinly fashion let it please
him to send a letter to our chief Councillors (but as if His Majesty
had been informed of this from other quarters and not from us) and
thereby to order them to reprove and repress this folly of the unquiet
theologians.... It will perhaps be best if you solicit this work only
after the departure of the Diet.” The request was made and granted, and
the minister instructs the Elector how he may palm off the document as
a mandate approved by the Diet behind whose backs it had been obtained.

Where charity was to be looked for, Frederick William was not too proud
to beg. But of all powers the least likely to be charitable was Sweden,
whose armies had for nearly ten years been fighting solely for material
compensation. To Sweden therefore the Elector offered money and was
allowed to purchase that deliverance from the war which was essential
to all his plans (1641). He could now begin the task of his life—to
reduce all his provinces into dependence upon himself and to render
Brandenburg, augmented and centralised, a formidable military power.

During forty-eight years (1640–1688) he pursued the old Hohenzollern
policy of family aggrandisement. His success has earned him the title
of the Great Elector, and the place of the first hero of the Prussian
state. Yet he is remarkable chiefly for his commercial instinct,
imbibed perhaps during his education among the Dutch, the neighbours to
whom he always looked for example and alliance. On occasion he could
display the soldierly instinct of his race, but in time of peace he was
hardly a heroic figure. With domestic virtues specially to be praised
in a monarch of that time he combined a weakness for strong drink which
damaged his health and temper. He took pride in being abreast of the
times, reverenced London and Amsterdam, and was ready to haggle with
foreigners for preferential rates. He wrote a good commercial hand,
planted cabbages in his garden, and hammered out verses which with a
little doctoring might have graced the poet’s corner of a provincial
newspaper. He was a thrifty householder, save when he deemed it
necessary to keep up his position by building a massive palace or
giving a pompous feast. A convinced Protestant, he welcomed serviceable
Huguenots to his capital with more good-will than serviceable papists.
It is not impossible to believe that as a German patriot he took
favours from the Emperor with more inward pleasure than from Louis XIV.
In what Dr. Prothero terms “the ocean of recognised mendacity which
we call diplomacy” he floundered without either repugnance or great
success. He spent his life in unifying his dominions and made a will
which if carried into effect would have dismembered them at his death.
That a man of this stamp is designated Great suggests that he was not
only diligent but that he was also fortunate in the conditions under
which he lived and worked.

In his early years he owed much to the weakness and insignificance
which have already been described. What rival state was thrown into the
shade if Brandenburg was allowed to grow? Thus, at the close of the
Thirty Years’ War, the Hohenzollern line received indulgent treatment.
Their claim to Pomerania was admitted for the eastern half of the
duchy. The western half was indispensable to Sweden, but the rights of
the Elector were bought up at the price of more valuable ecclesiastical
lands scattered between the Mark and his possessions in the West. The
bishoprics of Halberstadt and Minden and the reversion of the rich
archbishopric of Magdeburg were given to Brandenburg, whose part in
the war had been contemptible, by the great Peace of Westphalia, the
fundamental pact of modern Europe. Yet its sacredness was so little
appreciated by the Elector that a few years later he would have renewed
the war, had not outraged Germany held him in.

The Peace of Westphalia had bestowed upon Brandenburg and other
German states a gift of more value than many bishoprics—the gift of
independence. In outward show Frederick William was still a vassal of
the Emperor. He continued to be one of the seven Electors who chose
the head of the Holy Roman Empire and honoured him with lowly homage.
In virtue of his hereditary office of Grand Chamberlain it was the
duty of the Elector of Brandenburg, prescribed by the Golden Bull of
1356, to appear at solemn courts “on horseback, having in his hands a
silver basin with water, and a beautiful towel, and descending from his
horse, to present the water to the Emperor or King of the Romans to
wash his hands.” As a German prince, moreover, he had still to look
to the Emperor for investiture, leadership, and advice. But his right
to determine the creed of his subjects, which the Peace of Westphalia
confirmed, and the right to choose allies outside the Empire, which it
expressly granted, were inconsistent with real vassalage. The gift of
these admitted Brandenburg to a place in the commonwealth of nations.
The Elector had become undisputed master in his own house. Soon his
horizon expanded far beyond the bounds of Germany. Europe, nay more,
as his colonial ventures were to prove, the wide world lay open to the
Hohenzollern. Both at home and abroad he could strike with a freer
hand. But his power, though irresistible in Brandenburg, was made
respectable in Europe only by years of toil. Hence the home policy of
the Great Elector was as straightforward as his foreign policy was
tortuous. To beat down all competing authority, to establish an armed
autocracy, to develop to the utmost all the resources of the State—such
was the plan which the Great Elector designed, which his son and
grandson perfected, and the fruits of which Frederick the Great enjoyed.

By steady pressure, by force, and at times by fraud, the Great Elector
guarded the future of the Hohenzollern power against the danger
of obstructive provincial parliaments. To make the men of Cleves,
Brandenburg, and Ost-Preussen feel themselves brethren was indeed
beyond his power. But he ruthlessly suppressed the institutions which
symbolised their mutual independence of each other and of himself.
Carlyle, the great panegyrist of _coups d’état_, thus describes one
example of

    “his measures, soft but strong, and ever stronger to the
    needful pitch, with mutinous spirits. One Bürgermeister of
    Königsberg, after much stroking on the back, was at length
    seized in open Hall, by Electoral writ,—soldiers having first
    gently barricaded the principal streets, and brought cannon to
    bear upon them. This Bürgermeister, seized in such brief way,
    lay prisoner for life; refusing to ask his liberty, though it
    was thought he might have had it on asking.”

The Great Elector’s chief legacy was, however, the Prussian army. The
ruler of mere patches of the great northern plain, “a country by nature
the least defensible of all countries,” he girdled it laboriously with
a wall of men. In an age when France alone possessed a large standing
army, this obscure German prince raised his force from a few garrisons
to a host some twenty-seven thousand strong, well drilled and well

The lord of Brandenburg now became a _condottiere_ of ever-increasing
reputation. His regiments brought security to his dominions and gold
to his exchequer. In every European struggle their aid was welcome.
On the frozen lagoons by the Baltic and on the shores of Torbay,
on the torrid plain of Warsaw, and in the vine-clad valley of the
Rhine—everywhere the men of the Mark approved themselves good soldiers
and punctual allies. In 1660 the Great Elector netted his profit from
the Northern war by receiving Ost-Preussen free from Polish suzerainty.
The heroic moment of the whole reign came, however, in 1675, when all
the threads of the Elector’s policy—ambition, vengeance against the
Swedes, military creation, domestic organisation—guided him to the
stricken field of Fehrbellin. While playing his part in the West as a
member of the coalition against France, he learned that the Swedes,
his hated neighbours in Pomerania, had been hurled upon his domains by
their patron Louis XIV. He straightway turned his back upon the Rhine
and stalked silently across Germany to rescue his helpless people. His
troops had been beaten by Turenne and exhausted by the long struggle
with rain and mud. Yet he dared to overrule his generals and to strike
straight at superior forces trained in the school of Gustavus and
posted with a river in their rear.

The bold move succeeded. In a hand-to-hand struggle, amid bogs and
dunes, Brandenburg was saved by its chief. At the crisis of the fight
he put himself at the head of a wavering squadron, and with one wild
charge shattered the Swedes and their prestige together. The result of
Fehrbellin was that Brandenburg took rank as the first military power
of Northern Europe and that the land had rest for many years.

Fehrbellin forms a conspicuous landmark on the road to Hohenzollern
greatness, but it is separated by no great interval of time from
a double demonstration of the insignificance of Brandenburg when
confronted with states of the first order. The Emperor flatly refused
to admit the claim of the Elector to portions of Silesia. The King of
France dashed from his lips the cup of triumph over the Swedes. In
an age when rivers were of even greater value than at present, the
great waterway of Brandenburg was the Oder. Ere she could draw full
profit from the Oder, Stettin, with its splendid harbourage and strong
strategic position, must be wrested from alien hands. At Fehrbellin
hope sprang up that the time was come. With all the tenacity of his
nature the Great Elector clung to the task. In 1677 Stettin fell, after
enduring one of the most desolating bombardments in history. Before the
close of 1678 the Swedes were driven from all Western Pomerania. They
descended upon Ost-Preussen, but Frederick William set at naught the
winter cold and his own infirmity, hurried from Cleves to the Vistula,
put his troops on sledges, and dashed at the enemy across the frozen
sea (January, 1679). The triumph of the Elector was complete, but at
the Peace of S. Germain (1679) he was compelled to surrender all his
conquests at the behest of Louis XIV.

In spite of some failures, however, Frederick William by dogged
perseverance accomplished enough to justify his reputation as the
founder of the Prussian State. He is still a force in Germany.
Frederick the Great and all the later Hohenzollerns of renown have paid
homage to his memory. William II. embittered the downfall of Bismarck
by applauding a drama which represented the Great Elector deposing
Schwarzenburg, the hated counsellor of his father. Throughout Prussia
the imperious features of the little hero of Fehrbellin are as familiar
to the people as his deeds.

With the death of the Great Elector in 1688 the age of iron gave way
to the age of tinsel. Frederick, who ruled in his father’s place for a
quarter of a century (1688–1713), was a prince who prized culture above
character and strove to imitate in his provincial court the splendours
of Versailles. From time to time, though less often than in other royal
lines, the business instinct of the Hohenzollerns fails, and of such a
lapse Frederick is an example. Despising the domestic labours of the
Great Elector, he was captivated by those ceremonious shadows which
the German nation is always wont to pursue. Frail, even maimed, since
childhood, he developed a passion for pageants, robes, and titles. He
could not endure the promotion of his equals to rank higher than his
own. If the Dutch Statthalter rose to be William III. of England and
the Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg to be Elector George of Hanover, might
not he himself, as master of the best troops in Germany, also claim
to rise? When in 1696 he was about to visit William of Orange at the
Hague he declared that he could not consent to sit upon an ordinary
seat while an armchair was placed for the King. The interview therefore
was accomplished standing, and when William returned the visit he found
armchairs of equal dignity set for the Elector and for himself.

Seldom has a ruler’s weakness done better service to his State.
Brandenburg was shielded by its poverty from the ordinary fate of
German states whose rulers tried to copy the profusion of the kings of
France. Frederick, moreover, had not the force of will to break with
all the traditions of the Great Elector. He continued to take part
in every struggle as an auxiliary, but in none as a principal. His
country thus enjoyed the glories of war without its penalties. It was
under the command of Prince Eugene, Austria’s greatest general, that
Brandenburgers helped to overthrow the French before Turin (1706). And
since a large army is the most splendid trapping of monarchy, Frederick
made his army very large. He inherited 27,000 men, he bequeathed nearly
50,000 to his son.

The climax of his reign was reached in 1701, when he prevailed upon
the Emperor to make him King of Prussia. In a double sense it may be
said with truth that he owed his crown to his weakness. It is generally
believed that the chief motive which prompted him to sue for it was
vanity. For months he could think and speak of nothing else. When at
last the imperial license came, the enraptured Elector quitted Berlin
in midwinter and spent twelve days in moving with a pompous train to
Königsberg. There, with every detail of ceremony that his imagination
could suggest, he placed the crown upon his head. It is doubtful
whether a more sober ruler would have prized a throne as he did, and
doubtful too whether the Emperor would have consented to the elevation
of a prince less obviously feeble. But Frederick had carried on without
reserve the old Hohenzollern tradition of standing well with the head
of the German world. He had even given back to Austria the territory
of Schwiebus, which the Emperor had assigned to the Great Elector in
settlement of whatever claim the Hohenzollerns possessed to portions
of Silesia. Now he was prepared to uphold the Hapsburg cause in the War
of the Spanish Succession. What harm could there be, the Emperor may
well have asked himself, in promoting a vassal so devoted as this?

Forty years later, Austria had bitter cause to rue the error of her
chief. From the very first the crown aggrandised the Hohenzollern
dynasty. It consecrated their ambition, enlarged their horizon, and
gave them, as the Lord’s anointed, a new claim upon the devotion of
their subjects. The Order of the Black Eagle, which for two centuries
has been the coveted prize of service to their state, signalised the
coronation of Frederick I.

The Great Elector and the first king of Prussia have this in
common—that whatever may be thought of their achievements it is
difficult to mistake the men themselves. Of the second king, Frederick
William I. (1713–1740), the father of Frederick the Great, the exact
opposite is true. His life-work, the establishment of the royal power
“like a rock of bronze,” is patent to all. He himself, on the other
hand, was a mystery to his own children. His most gifted admirer,
Carlyle, sets out to paint a prophet and ends by portraying something
very like a madman. His theory of his own sovereign office was as
mystical as his practice of ruling was simple. He regarded himself,
it has been said, as the servant of an imaginary master—the King of
Prussia—under whose eye he lived and worked. Baser princes looked on
their royalty as a privilege to be enjoyed. To Frederick William
it was a duty calling for endless toil. He struggled to check every
detail of government with his own hand, as though Prussia were a single
manor and he the squire. A French critic (Lavisse) thus portrays him
wrestling with his ever-multiplying tasks:

    “Have we not too many officials,” the King enquires. “Could
    not several places be merged into one? We must see if some of
    the officials cannot be put down. Why is not the beer so good
    everywhere as at Potsdam? In order to have wool we must have
    sheep. Now in Prussia there are nearly as many wolves as sheep.
    Quick, let me have a minute upon the destruction of wolves.
    How comes it that the salt tax has brought in less money this
    year than last from the district of Halberstadt? The number of
    officials has not diminished, has it? They must have eaten as
    much salt as last year. There must therefore be fraud or waste
    somewhere. The Superintendent of the Salt Department must be
    warned to manage matters better than he has done of late. Can
    it be that my subjects buy salt in Hanover or Poland? Every
    importer of salt must be hanged.”

His violence was and still is notorious. He flung plates at his
children, caned his son in public, cudgelled the inhabitants of his
capital, and flung the judges down-stairs. He forced his queen, the
sister of the English King, to drink to the downfall of England. He
vilified everything French, and insulted the British Ambassador so
seriously that he conceived himself bound to leave Berlin. Yet he kept
Prussia at peace steadily enough to earn for himself the reputation of
a mere bully whom the Emperor could lead by the nose.

In spite of the contradictions of his character, however, the broad
principles of his reign are clear. Having stripped the state of the
veneer of luxury with which Frederick I. had disguised its poverty,
he took up and developed further the ideals of the Great Elector. He
made the royal power absolute in the state, and increased the army
till a population of about two and a half million souls supported
the unheard-of number of 83,000 men under arms. These were drilled
to such a pitch of perfection that Macaulay could say that, placed
beside them, the household regiments of Versailles and St. James’s
would have appeared an awkward squad. Yet this mighty force was used
for little save to secure the frontiers of Prussia and the rights of
all German Protestants. In territory the “Sergeant King” gained only
from the wreck of Sweden part of the prize which the Great Elector
had grudgingly relinquished at the behest of Louis XIV.—the mouth of
the Oder and with it the islands of Usedom and Wollin, and Western
Pomerania as far as the river Peene (1720).

[Illustration: PRUSSIA

After the Congress of Vienna, 1815]

In the home department, on the other hand, Frederick William I. made
a conspicuous advance from the point reached by his grandfather. He
showed the same military zeal, the same practical insight, the same
determination to set to rights with his own hand whatever in his
dominion was governed amiss, the same contempt for higher education,
the same benevolence towards the persecuted of other lands who might be
made useful to Prussia. But he showed also a power of grasping and of
simplifying the whole system of administration such as few rulers
have ever possessed. His great Edict of 1723 removed friction from the
working of the Prussian state. Thanks to this, his son Frederick found
the organisation described in the sixth chapter of this book—a machine
of government answering to every touch of the royal hand. He found at
the same time a firm tradition in favour of thrift, diligence, and
activity in the steersman of the state. We have traced the growth of
Prussia to 1740; let us now turn to the story of the prince who in that
year linked her fortunes with his own.





What manner of man was the first-born son of Frederick William,
known to history as Frederick the Great, and what were the causes
that made him such as he was? To answer either question is a task of
uncommon difficulty. Even to those who were regarded as his intimates
Frederick remained an enigma all his life. In his early trials he
acquired, as Carlyle happily expresses it, “the art of wearing among
his fellow-creatures a polite cloak-of-darkness,” and became what he
in great measure still remains, “a man politely impregnable to the
intrusion of human curiosity.” And if it passes our wit adequately
to describe his personality, how shall we determine and distinguish
the factors which created it? No adding together of influences
will suffice. Such enquiries lead us far beyond the bounds of mere
arithmetic. Of Frederick’s nature, as of every man’s, a greater share
was built up in ages which have left no record than in the generations
whose history we can trace. If therefore we next endeavour to indicate
the influences of his parentage and his surroundings, let us avoid the
delusion that these alone made him what he was. In Frederick’s case,
too, it is perhaps equally needful to beware of the converse error. His
personality, like his policy, was not untouched by ordinary influences.
Parents, tutors, friends, nation, home, even religion—each bestowed
something upon one who might on a too hasty scrutiny be pronounced a
freak of nature—the ugly duckling of the Hohenzollern brood.

Frederick’s birth, on January 24, 1712, remedied the anxieties of a
line which had gained too much from the extinction of allied lines not
to be keenly sensitive to its own lack of heirs. His father, Frederick
William, gave vent to rude transports of joy at the arrival of a male
heir. Frederick I., the royal grandfather, who had himself a third time
plunged into wedlock in the hope of safeguarding the succession to
the new Prussian crown, seized the opportunity to astonish Berlin by
the pomp of the infant’s christening. The Prussian nation, living in
tranquillity under the Hohenzollerns, shared in their rejoicing.

The infant prince represented many noble lines, and, it might almost
be said, two separate civilisations. Frederick William was a kind of
Prussian Squire Western. His wife, Sophia Dorothea, was a princess of
the rising House of Hanover, a lady soon to be nicknamed Olympia from
her majestic bearing as queen. Through her and through his grandmother,
a clever daughter of Sophia of Hanover, a thin strain of Stuart blood
flowed in Frederick’s veins. His great-grandmother, the wife of the
Great Elector, was a daughter of the House of Orange, born at the
moment of its triumph over Spain. A generation farther back the
Hohenzollerns had married into the House of the Palatinate, which in
1618 threw for the Bohemian crown and lost. But the virtues of every
Protestant House in Europe could not compensate for the infirm health
which had assailed both the father and the son of the Great Elector,
and which there seemed reason to fear had descended to the offspring of
his grandson Frederick William. Two older sons had died in infancy, a
daughter, Wilhelmina, though she grew up and married, was never robust,
and Frederick himself seems in his childhood to have been often ailing.

The home circle of this delicate prince was surely the strangest in the
world. The royal family of Prussia in the reign of Frederick William
I. was hardly a family and hardly royal. The monarch seemed to regard
his sceptre chiefly as a superior kind of cudgel. As Prussian King, and
therefore _ex officio_ the father of his people, he could treat them
as children, could order them to be anything or to build anything or
to pay anything, with even less risk of resistance than an Elector of
Brandenburg might have had to fear. He was, it is true, on a footing
of equality with foreign kings in negotiating for a treaty or a
province or a bride. But apart from his acceptance of the perquisites
of royalty, his life was one long protest against all that the world
associated with the name of king. Intolerant of state and ceremony, he
agonised his chamberlains by his behaviour. His recreations were such
as befitted a bargeman on the Havel or an overgrown loafer kidnapped to
serve in the King of Prussia’s giant grenadiers. In that snuff-taking
age, a king whose hobby was to smoke pipes in a kind of glorified
tavern-circle known as the Tobacco Parliament earned the reputation
that would fall in our own day to a king who should chew and spit.

Frederick William drank himself to death before he was fifty-two.
Though an artist, if not a scholar, he drove Wolf, the philosopher,
from his dominions and made Gundling President of the Academy of
Letters because he amused the Tobacco Parliament when in his cups. As a
sportsman he slew wild swine by the thousand and forced his subjects to
buy their carcasses at a fixed price. He ordered his officials to spend
only six thousand thalers on the entertainment of Peter the Great, but
to give out that it cost him thirty or forty thousand. His mixture of
fervent piety and immorality suggests that he was hardly sane, and his
foreign policy does not discountenance the suggestion. In some of his
officials he placed complete confidence, even when proofs that they
were bribing his envoys abroad to send home false news were in his
hands. He rushed upon others with his cudgel, first breaking their
heads and then cashiering them. What he was to his children may be
inferred from the fact that his daughter became his bitter satirist and
his son his bitter foe.

Such was the father who directed Frederick’s education. His talent for
detail was always at the service of the state. It could be devoted to
no worthier object than the training of the future king. At the age of
nine years, therefore, Frederick found every hour of the day assigned
to some part of the scheme of education by which the crowned Podsnap
designed to make him such another as himself.

For all its minuteness, the scheme failed in its main object. It
failed because Frederick William was not the sole factor in moulding
and inspiring his son. In the royal household were two trembling
conspirators against the tyrant—his wife and his daughter. Sophia
Dorothea and Wilhelmina formed with Frederick a trio who sighed after
the genteel. Loathing the pipe-clayed Teutonism in which their lord
delighted, they longed for newer fashions and society more polite, for
the wit and gallantry of the French court, and for the splendour of
their own opulent kinsfolk at Saint James’s. Their lines had fallen in
far less pleasant places. In Berlin, a quiet country town with dull
surroundings and a trying climate, they had at least palaces, parties,
and scandal. In Wusterhausen, to this day a lonely village, they were
in exile; and Wusterhausen was the favourite residence of the King. The
Europe in which they lived, it must be remembered, was a Europe which
believed with all its heart that whatever Louis XIV. might have been
in politics, he was beyond doubt the Apollo of culture. German princes
prided themselves on speaking French, on dressing _à la française_,
on building palaces that might be named in the same breath with
Versailles. Frederick’s mother spoke French so well that a Huguenot
refugee paid her the supreme compliment of enquiring whether she
understood German. His sister’s memoirs, like his own, are French in
language and in inspiration. What sympathy, we may wonder, could there
be between these ladies and a boor who hated everything French, whether
language, literature, art, cookery, or dress, and whose ideal of life
was to sleep on straw in a barn, wash at daybreak in a tub, don a plain
uniform, inspect farms, account-books, and soldiers, gorge himself with
rude German dishes in the middle of the day, snore under a tree in the
afternoon, and devote the evening to tobacco, buffoonery, and strong

It is not surprising that, when the King’s scheme of discipline
outraged his son instead of moulding him, mother and sister were
at hand with ready sympathy. The wayward boy never forgot their
kindness, nor the indulgence of the tutors who connived at a more
humane education than Frederick William had commanded them to inflict.
Cordially as the King detested French culture, he did not venture to
exclude it from a leading part in the education of his son. A French
lady, Madame de Roucoulle, was entrusted with the oversight of his
earliest years. Madame de Camas, whom he called Mamma, was the wife of
a Frenchman. His tutor, Duhan, was a Huguenot. French was at that time
the universal language of the polite and learned world. Frederick, who
never learned English and was forbidden to learn Latin, therefore drew
all his mental supplies from French originals or French translations.

German he never spoke or wrote with ease. To him it stood for whatever
was dull in his education,—for windy sermons every Sunday, lessons
of nearly two hours a day in the Christian religion, books full of
dismal pedantry, the speech of boors and of his father. Thus he early
acquired from France ideas which he proclaimed throughout his life.
That literary creation is the highest achievement of man, and that next
to creation stand patronage and culture; that religion is superstition;
that the enlightened man is he who views with calm not only the rubs of
fortune but also the frailties of mankind—such were the abiding traces
of Frederick’s education. The King, as may readily be believed, did not
fail to remark something of this and to loathe it. He leaped to the
conclusion that a boy who preferred French to German, and flute-playing
to parades, was a monster who would ruin Prussia. It never occurred to
him that his own scheme could be imperfect, and life became one long
collision between father and son.

Yet Frederick’s most irritating delinquencies—his delight in soft
living and secret dissipation, his distaste for the uniform and duty
of a soldier, his contempt for Germans and their tongue—may fairly
be ascribed in great part to mere youthful squeamishness and to the
tyranny of the King. Had Frederick William been wise enough to trust
to the future and to the past, to reflect that in the long line of
Hohenzollerns none had been traitor to his House, that a lad who could
think for himself would be more easily influenced than coerced, that
at the worst he himself was not twenty-four years older than his son
and might train the state to survive Frederick II. as after the Great
Elector it had survived Frederick I.—had he in short been either a
sympathetic father or a man of real penetration, then history might
have heard nothing of either the new Junius Brutus or the Ogre of
Potsdam, and the million victims of Frederick’s wars might have been

Unhappily for his son and for the world, Frederick William was neither
sensible nor sympathetic. His aversion to an heir who refused to
resemble himself was doubled when the heir became the advocate of a
matrimonial policy which he came to regard with loathing. From the hour
of Frederick’s birth the dearest wish of the Hanoverian House, and of
Sophia Dorothea most of all, had been to unite more closely the royal
lines of England and Prussia. At length a double marriage was proposed.
The Prince of Wales was to marry Wilhelmina, and Frederick his cousin
Amelia, daughter of George II. In 1730, however, England and Prussia
were estranged, yet Frederick William knew that his household had not
given up their darling project. Flouted as a father and as a statesman,
he treated his son so ill as to lend colour to the suspicion that he
wished him dead. Not content with impounding his books, forbidding him
the flute, compelling him to see his mother only by stealth, the tyrant
actually rained blows upon him in public, even in the camp of the
Saxon King. “Had I been so treated by my father,” he is said to have
exclaimed, “I would have blown my brains out, but this fellow has no

Unfortunately for Frederick William, the youth whom he thus outraged
was Crown Prince of Prussia, and as such by no means lacked friends.
To England, to Austria, and to his father’s ministers he was an
important pawn in the game of politics. Some of the younger officers
lent him countenance in the hope of favours to come. But the dearest
friend of his life, Lieutenant von Katte, loved him for himself rather
than for what he might be able to bestow. To Katte the prince confided
his fixed purpose to flee from a tyranny that was past endurance.
Together they planned to make use of the opportunity of escape which
might arise when Frederick should approach the French frontier in the
course of a forthcoming tour with his father among the German courts.



On August 4, 1730, the attempt was made. The confederates tried to
steal from the royal camp at dawn and to ride into France. Such a
flight was not without precedent in Hohenzollern history. Frederick’s
grandfather, sharing the general belief that his stepmother had
poisoned his brother and meant to poison himself, had first sought
shelter at Cassel with his aunt and at a later date had quitted the
Great Elector’s court altogether. But for the heir to a crown to flee
beyond the bounds of Germany was a still graver step. The youth of
eighteen had hardly calculated the probable consequences of success.
Where was Frederick William’s heir to find a safe asylum? Louis XV. was
not likely to be to him what Louis XIV. had been to the Old Pretender.
George of England would hardly expose Hanover to the vengeance of
the King of Prussia. His envoy had in fact refused to countenance
the scheme. Nor would the Emperor care to sacrifice the Prussian
alliance to mere sentiment. Even if Frederick should succeed in finding
a refuge for himself, he would none the less have left two dear
hostages at the mercy of the King. “Your mother would have got into the
greatest misery,” declared Frederick William a year later. “Your sister
I would have cast for life into a place where she would never have seen
sun and moon again.”

Thanks, however, to the vigilance of Colonel von Rochow, his keeper,
and to the panic of his page, Frederick did not even mount the horse
that was to have borne him out of Germany. His abortive attempt
inaugurated one of the strangest tragedies in history. From the very
fact that he was the guest of other princes Frederick William could not
act in haste. The scheme was betrayed to him at Mannheim on August 6th,
and he ordered von Rochow to deliver his son to him at his own town of
Wesel, alive or dead. In this mood they continued the tour of pleasure,
sailing down the Rhine and visiting the potentates upon its shores. At
last, on the evening of the 12th, they reached Wesel. Frederick William
at once interrogated his son, who lied and protested his submission.
The King replied by despatching him to Spandau under the care of a
general, who was enjoined to frustrate any attempt at rescue by killing
his prisoner.

Spandau is the fortress near Berlin where to-day the Prussian sentries
guard some millions of the treasure wrung from France. It was not
deemed safe enough to keep the Prince of Prussia. “He is very cunning,”
wrote the King, “and will have a hundred inventions for making his
escape.” A stronger gaol was sought for. In a sombre plain east of
the capital lies Cüstrin, whose grim fortress marks the spot where
the sluggish Wartha gliding down from Poland silently joins the Oder.
There, on September 4th, Frederick was imprisoned. On the way he had
faced a tribunal of soldiers and lawyers with a jaunty confidence which
showed that though he might cower before the King he had not forgotten
that he was still Crown Prince of Prussia. It was rumoured that he
had poked fun at Grumbkow, his father’s most trusted counsellor. For
himself he asked no favours, but avowed his responsibility for all that
Katte had done amiss.

A fortnight later, on September 16th, the commission examined him
again. In the meantime he had begun to understand the nature of a
gaol. His father, who lived in such a state of frenzy that he ordered
that the tongue which spoke of this affair should be cut out, had
not scrupled to condemn him to solitary confinement, a penalty often
destructive of health and not seldom of reason. He was clad in brown
prison dress, fed on the humblest fare, and deprived of light at seven
o’clock in the evening. Thus prepared, he was subjected to a merciless
inquisition. After more than one hundred and eighty questions of fact,
came two which the King had commanded the interrogators to add. “Do
you wish that your life should be granted to you or not?” “I submit
to the King’s mercy,” answered Frederick, adding in pencil, when the
report was laid before him, “and to his will.” “Since by violating
your honour,” ran the last question of all, “you have made yourself
incapable of succeeding to the throne, will you renounce the succession
by an abdication that shall be confirmed by the whole Roman Empire—to
save your life?” “My life is not over-dear to me,” replied the Prince,
“but Your Majesty would surely not be so ungracious to me”—and he added
a prayer for pardon. The King tore up the petition and applied his
genius for detail to a code of rules for the torment of his heir. No
one was to speak to the prisoner. Three times a day the door of his
room might be opened, but within four minutes it must be made fast
again. Mute attendants were to set before Frederick food which they
had cut in pieces, since the royal command deprived him of knife and
fork. For Katte Frederick William had ordered the rack, but on the
representations of Grumbkow the order was cancelled. For his son he
discovered a torture which Grumbkow himself was to apply. “He must be
told,” decreed the King, “that no one thinks of him any more; that my
wife will not hear his name; that his sister Wilhelmina has fallen
under my displeasure, that she is shut up in Berlin, and will very soon
be sent into the country.”

The problem before Frederick William, whose wrath increased as he
experienced the difficulty of laying to his son’s account any definite
crime, was to crush his heir without imperilling Prussia. On October
11th Frederick declared to the commission that he was ready to renounce
the succession. On October 16th the King avowed in writing his desire
to make his second son his heir. But to do this while Frederick
lived was dangerous, and on what charge could he be put to death?
Assassination, though it might rectify the succession to Philip of
Spain or Peter of Russia, was to a Hohenzollern simply impossible. And
Frederick William was not entirely sovereign over his son. It was true
that a Prussian subject had no longer any right of appeal from the
decrees of the Prussian King. But the Prussian King was also Elector
of Brandenburg, and therefore a vassal of the Emperor. The heir to
the Electorate of Brandenburg was equally a prince of the Empire and
as such could appeal unto Cæsar. Moreover, no proof could be found
that Frederick was a traitor. He had neither acted nor tried to act in
collusion with any foreign Power. His father suspected that England was
at the bottom of the plot, but no evidence of this could be found. By
no severity could his son be brought to confess more than a design to
run away. Foreign sovereigns protested against violence which degraded
the royal caste.

It is difficult to see with what hope the baffled King insisted on a
quibble which might make out his son to be technically a criminal.
Frederick, by no choice of his own, was a colonel in the Prussian army.
On October 25th a military court met at the King’s bidding to try him
and his accomplices for desertion.

The court consisted of fifteen officers, three from each of five
grades. The members of each grade, after deliberating apart,
handed their votes to a president, the aged Lieutenant-Colonel von
Schulenburg, who summed up their verdicts and added a sixth vote of
his own. With regard to the Crown Prince, all were unanimous. Declaring
themselves incompetent to pronounce upon affairs of state and of the
royal family, they commended the exalted penitent to His Majesty’s
supreme and paternal mercy. Katte was condemned by three grades to
death, by two to lifelong imprisonment. Von Schulenburg voted for
the latter, which by military law carried the day, since it was less
severe. The King denounced their criminal leniency and clamoured for
“justice,” but von Schulenburg stood firm, appealing to a Higher Power.
Thereupon Frederick William decreed “that Katte, although in conformity
with the laws he has deserved to be torn with red-hot pincers and
hanged for the crime of high-treason which he has committed, be removed
from life to eternity by the sword, out of consideration for his
family. In informing Katte of this sentence, the Council will tell him
that it grieves His Majesty, but that it is better that he should die
than that justice should entirely leave the world.”

Under a sentence which no consensus of civilised opinion, no
high-placed appeal, no murmur of disaffection could reduce, the doomed
man journeyed slowly to Cüstrin. Frederick, who believed that all
would go well with himself and his friend, was cheerful still. At five
o’clock on the morning of November 6th he was awakened by two officers
who told him that Katte was that morning to be put to death and that
he must witness it. “What are these ill tidings that you bring me?”
he is said to have exclaimed. “Lord Jesus! rather take my life.”
Before his judges he had steadfastly declared that Katte’s guilt lay
at his door. Now for two terrible hours he wailed, wrung his hands,
burst into tears, sent to his friend to beg forgiveness, prayed for a
respite while a courier should lay at the King’s feet whatever he might
desire from his son—renunciation of the succession, consent to lifelong
imprisonment, nay, his own life if Katte’s might be spared. His
honourable clamour moves the heart of posterity, but it could vary no
line upon the parchment on which the King had set down even the numbers
of the soldiers who were to attend the execution. Seven o’clock struck,
and the dismal procession filed into the courtyard which stretched from
the fortress-wall to the Oder. As the King had commanded, Frederick was
led to the window of his cell. He saw his friend, who had received the
communion, standing calm and brave amid the soldiers and awaiting with
bared head the recital of the sentence of death. The prince kissed his
hand to him and cried aloud for his forgiveness. Katte laid his finger
upon his lips, bowed respectfully, and answered that there was nothing
to forgive. He then bade his comrades farewell, knelt to receive the
chaplain’s blessing, and with prayer upon his lips submitted to the
fatal stroke.



Frederick had fainted. It was the duty of the chaplain to pass straight
from the dead offender to the living, and to exhort him to repent.
But nature made this royal order of none effect. The prince, when he
came to, could only stare dumbly at the gloomy pall which draped
the body of his friend. At two o’clock some citizens brought a coffin
and bore away the corpse, but Frederick could not withdraw his gaze
from the place of execution. All that day he took no food. At night he
passed from delirium into a second swoon—then fell to raving anew. When
morning broke he declared that Katte was standing before him. But the
very violence of his emotion made the reaction swift. On the same day
he told the doctor that he was well and asked him for a certain powder.
Next day, after much talk with the chaplain on matters of religion, he
learned from him that Katte’s fate was not to be his own. Nine days
later he made peace with Grumbkow, who came at the head of yet another
Commission to exact an oath of strict obedience to the King, and to
open the prison doors a little wider. Before Christmas he was reported
to be “as merry as a lark.”

The conduct of father and son during this crisis is peculiarly worthy
of attention because each was his own counsellor, and because Frederick
never again lay under a scrutiny so searching. In the summer of 1730
the King reaped all that he had sown during his son’s boyhood. He found
in his heir a youth whom he distrusted and despised but could not get
rid of. He therefore began the task anew and inaugurated a second
education sterner than the first. He had slain his son’s friend, not,
as he professed, “that justice should not entirely leave the world,”
but that he might, in spite of past failures, fashion an heir after
his own heart. The loyal father of the dead man found consolation in
viewing his loss as a sacrifice to this design. That this, which he
believed to be indispensable to the welfare of Prussia, was the leading
motive of the King’s policy, grew clearer as his outbursts of wrath
against his son became less frequent and less fierce. It inspired
Frederick also with a leading motive—to beguile his father into
believing that he had his way.

His first education made him a rebel; his second, a hypocrite. Katte’s
death had taught him once and for all that life would be tolerable only
if he gained his father’s confidence. To this end he applied every art
which a fertile brain could devise and an unscrupulous actor could
practise. He exhausted the language of contrition for the past. He
promised full amendment for the future. He sent letters, as many as his
father would consent to receive, and the burden of all was that he was
indeed a new man, a second Frederick William, adoring the things that
he had burned and burning those that he had adored. The new Frederick
is interested in tall soldiers, his father’s hobby, and longs to put
on the uniform which he had been wont to call his winding-sheet. He
relishes theology and after argument abandons what his father calls
“the damned heresy” of predestination. He professes to find pleasure
in the work of the estates committee and informs his father with
ecstasy that the rent of some royal domains can be raised. He tries to
propitiate the King of Prussia as Philip of Spain tried to propitiate
the English people, by pretending to a taste for beer. Even his opinion
of his own family has swiftly changed. He now pretends to realise that
his mother is a mischievous intriguer; to be content that his sister
shall abjure the throne of England and marry an obscure Hohenzollern
of Baireuth; to desire that his father may live to see his children’s
children grow up around him. Finally he receives at the hands of
Frederick William a regiment and a wife and withdraws into the marshy
solitudes of Brandenburg to make the best of both.

It is the duty of Frederick’s biographer to mark from Frederick’s
point of view the stages of this second education. The first period
lasted rather more than two and a half years, from November, 1730,
to June, 1733, and therefore roughly corresponds with the period of
residence at an English university which is usually enjoyed at the age
at which the Crown Prince had then arrived. This course began and ended
with a crime. Katte was done to death for a military offence which a
tribunal representing the most sternly disciplined army in the world
had declared not to be death-worthy—though their commander-in-chief
and king demanded another verdict. A fortnight later, that is, on
November 20, 1730, Frederick was admitted as a humble participant in
the proceedings of the local Chamber of War and Domains—to assist in
duties which he privately styled the work of brigands. He was to study
agriculture under the Director, Hille, and in general to survey the
foundations of the Prussian State.

He was still a close prisoner living at Cüstrin under the heavy cloud
of the King’s displeasure. At Christmas he fell ill and his father
wrote on the margin of a report which told him of it: “If there were
any good in him he would die, but I am certain that he will not die,
for weeds never disappear.” He was forbidden all books save bible,
hymn-book, and Arndt’s _True Christianity_, a work of devotion dear
to humble believers in many lands. Geometry and fortifications were
classed as “amusement” and forbidden, along with cards, music, dancing,
summer-clothing, and meals outside the house. Again, as in the early
days of August, Frederick William entrusted him to the care of three
nobles. These were to refuse to converse with him on any subject
save “the Word of God, the constitution of the land, manufactures,
police, agriculture, accounts, leases, and lawsuits.” Such a scheme
of education, aimed at compounding a king out of a recluse and an
attorney, it is hardly necessary to discuss. We hardly know whether
to think the King a simpleton for imagining that he would be obeyed,
or a fool for continuing to issue minute directions if he knew that
he would not. What is certain is that Frederick’s household revelled
in forbidden gifts, diverted itself as best it could, and pressed
unceasingly for further freedom. One pleasure, as Frederick William
knew in his heart, sweetened his son’s captivity,—in exile he was at
least safe from the sight of his father.

The first dawn of forgiveness took place on August 15, 1731, the King’s
forty-third birthday. Then Frederick received his father in his shabby
lodging, kissed his feet, listened to his reproaches, confessed once
more that it was he who had led Katte astray, and finally received
the royal embrace before all the people. Soon came permission to
engage in the practical study of agriculture, attended by an increase
of liberty and even of amusement. The King still imposed restrictions
upon Frederick’s reading and ordered him to sing hymns. He was never
to be alone or to speak privately to anybody, especially to any girl
or woman. Within a fortnight of his father’s visit he had begun his
courtship of the young wife of Colonel von Wreech.

The remaining months of the year 1731 brought Frederick great pleasure
and a heavy blow. He grew in favour with his father, who in November
summoned him to appear for a short time at Berlin and at last promised
to restore to him his rank in the army. But at the same time he lost
his sister. Wilhelmina was forced by her father into an unhappy
marriage with the Margrave of Baireuth, a humble cousin whose title to
the favour of his bride was that by accepting him she propitiated her
father and freed herself from a still less bearable suitor. Elated by
the progress of his own fortunes, Frederick seems for the moment to
have been insensible to her trouble and to his own loss. By the King’s
order he paid his sister a visit. But he treated her coldly when they
met, broke off the conversation abruptly, and walked into the room
to which her husband had courteously withdrawn. “He scanned him for
some time from head to foot,” writes Wilhelmina, “and after addressing
to him a few words of cold politeness he withdrew.... I could not
recognise that dear brother who had cost me so many tears and for whom
I had sacrificed myself.” Frederick’s standard of behaviour towards his
social inferiors was however revealed by other incidents at this time.
His tutor, Hille, was a man of the middle classes. In his official
position he received reports from a Landrat, or Sheriff, who was of
noble birth. A reference by Hille to these reports drew from the Crown
Prince the remark that it was singular that a nobleman should render
account to a man of the middle class. Next year he wrote to Grumbkow
that his daughter was “without charms and without ancestors.”



In 1732 Frederick experienced another pleasure and a far severer
blow. He was allowed to leave Cüstrin, but he left it under sentence
of marriage. This had been decreed in consequence of a curious chain
of events. Frederick’s preceptors had remarked that he scorned
administrative detail but displayed a taste for high politics. This was
evident in his suggestions for the disposal of his hand. Now he would
marry, if he must marry at all, Anne of Russia; now the Archduchess
Maria Theresa, renouncing his succession in Prussia. This suggestion
was reported by Grumbkow to the Emperor’s great minister, Eugene.
The old diplomat scented danger in such large ideas and urged that
the Crown Prince of Prussia should be bound to the car of Austria.
He might be encouraged to borrow money from the Emperor, and married
to Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, a niece of the Empress. Frederick
William, still hot against England, with whose Court his queen
continued to intrigue, cheerfully assented to the match.

In a honeyed letter of February 4, 1732, the King broke the news to
his son. “She is a creature who fears God,” he wrote, “and that is
everything.” The bridegroom elect thought otherwise. He wrote to
Grumbkow that he hated severe virtue, and rather than marry a fanatic,
always grimacing and looking shocked, he would prefer the worst
character in Berlin. “When all is said and done he cried, there will be
one more unhappy princess in the world.” “I shall put her away as soon
as I am master,” he twice declared. “Am I of the wood out of which they
carve good husbands?” “I love the fair sex, my love is very inconstant;
I am for enjoyment, afterwards I despise it. I will keep my word, I
will marry, but that is enough; _Bonjour, Madame, et bon chemin_.”

Frederick’s marriage, by which he brought to an end the sternest period
of his second education, was a crime, but the bridegroom was not
guiltless. All his outcry was made in secret. To the King, in whose
hands his fate lay, he showed himself all submission. Frederick William
had in his own young days received the names of three princesses from
whom his father desired him to choose a bride. He protested with
success against such compulsion and his marriage with Sophia Dorothea
was something of a love-match. Here was an argument to which he could
hardly shut his ears. His son preferred to purchase greater liberty
for himself by condemning to a life of misery an innocent creature who
had never harmed him. At the same time, by making a happy home-life
impossible, he shut out what was perhaps the last chance that he might
become in any sense of the words a good man.

For the moment, however, his submission brought him freedom. On March
10, 1732, he went through the formal ceremony of betrothal. Some of
the guests remarked that his eyes were filled with tears and that he
turned abruptly from his betrothed to a lady who was supposed to be
the mistress of his heart. But a year’s respite was granted him. While
Austrian statesmen schemed to turn the timid, ignorant Elizabeth of
Brunswick-Bevern into a woman of the world, who might make her husband
a Hapsburg partisan, Frederick was learning his work as colonel not far
from the field of Fehrbellin. It was drudgery, but it was not Cüstrin.
After a year of it he wrote: “I have just drilled, I drill, I shall
drill. That is all the news. But it is delightful to indulge in a few
moments’ breathing-space, and I would rather drill here from dawn to
dusk than live as a rich man at Berlin.”

June 12, 1733, was Frederick’s wedding-day. The Austrian diplomats, who
had made the match, went far towards flinging away their advantage. At
the last moment they dared to suggest that Frederick William should
accommodate the Emperor by entering into a new combination which
assigned an English bride to his son. The King was furious at the
slight, and the marriage was only another step towards the alienation
of the Hapsburgs and the Hohenzollerns.

After his marriage Frederick’s father still dictated his movements and
kept him short of money. But the period of dragooning was over, and
it becomes important to enquire what Frederick William had achieved
by this stage of the second education begun with crime and carried on
with cruelty. One answer to this question must be mentioned because it
is supported by the authority of Carlyle. He holds that the execution
of Katte was just, that the imprisonment of Frederick was salutary,
that the King was a father yearning to reconcile his son with God and
with himself, and that he was not only just and affectionate but also
successful. An opinion more widely held is that the execution and
imprisonment were unjust but politic, that reasons of state excused
them, that their righteousness was proved by their success, and that by
them Prussia gained a hero who made her great among the nations of the
earth as none but he was able.

On reflection we may think it strange that results so great should
have been achieved by a scheme of education so stupid. The King owed
the best features of his plan to suggestions from outside. He had
condemned his son to tedious, nay, dangerous idleness: it was Wolden
who obtained for him a grudging permission to work. He had set him to
learn agriculture by attending board meetings: it was Hille who urged
that he should be allowed to see how farming was carried on. The united
efforts of Hille and Wolden could not convince him that the heir to the
throne needed any books save books of devotion. These faults, though
significant, were errors of detail. But the King’s whole plan is open
to graver objections. It is in fact based on three of the commonest
yet most fatal errors with regard to education. That boys are dough or
putty to be placed in a mould and beaten till they take the exact shape
of it, that a youth who is destined for a given career will succeed
best by trying to make himself a facsimile of some one else who has
been successful in it, and that it is good to limit training to the
acquisition of professional aptitude—these are errors which Frederick
William held in common with pedants and doctrinaires of every era.

From Frederick’s birth onwards he had laboured to give him his own
characteristics, even his own vices, in the hope that as his son’s
conduct grew like his own, so also would his policy. This was still
the aim of all his measures. But the second education is distinguished
from the first by the ghastly object-lesson with which it opens and
by its appearance of success. The death of Katte affords the measure
of Frederick William’s powers as a teacher. It imperilled the health,
even the reason of his pupil, but assuredly it was not forgotten. Are
we then to infer that the King’s system atoned for its faults by its
triumph? That Frederick was bullied into love for his father seems
incredible. It is true that in public he spoke little ill of him,
either before his death, when it would have been dangerous to himself,
or after it, when it would have been detrimental to the office which
he had inherited. But neither his motto nor his conduct after 1730
betokened love. “Far from love, far from the thunderbolt,” are not
words of affection, nor is it filial piety to cozen, to flatter, and
to shun. He addressed the King as “most all-gracious Father,” while
he secretly petitioned the foes of Prussia for funds wherewith to play
upon his weakness for tall recruits. It was like a foretaste of death,
he said, when a hussar appeared to command his presence at Berlin.

It may at once be granted that in conduct Frederick was transformed.
Before his disgrace he had been a trifler, after it he worked hard till
the day of his death. What is doubtful is that this result could not
have been obtained at a less cost. There is no evidence that the King
had ever tried the normal method of giving his son a fitting task and
a reasonable independence in performing it. Frederick, moreover, was
nearing the age at which many triflers develop a new spirit. During his
year of exile his health improved. He became stouter in body and firmer
in gait, so that at first even Wilhelmina did not recognise him. This
change at least was not designed by the father who wished him dead, yet
to this may be ascribed much of his novel energy.

It is still less certain that his character had gained from the second
education. Many of the striking traits of old reappear. Frederick is
still before all else brilliant—a gay and versatile young man with
elastic spirits and a passion for music, society, and intellectual
conversation. Despite his father’s hatred of all things French,
Frederick still looked on Paris as the Mecca of civilisation. His
literary ambitions were more pronounced than ever. At Cüstrin he had
gone back to verses—verses always Gallic, copious, and bad. A Prussian
patriot lamented that while he knew not whether his ancestors had won
Magdeburg at cards or in some other way, he had Aristotle’s rules of
composition by heart. Yet, for all his perseverance, Lord Mahon speaks
with justice of “his two kinds of prose, the rhymed and unrhymed.”
In the darkest hours of his struggle against all Europe, he sat down
to rhyme in French. “He does not really know the Germans at all,”
complained his tutors. Though sometimes brutal, he prided himself on
his ceremonious politeness—a German version of Louis XIV. All through
his career he was wont at times to put on the great monarch. “Hush,
gentlemen,” once exclaimed Voltaire when his royal host thus suddenly
stiffened, “the King of Prussia has just come in.” His morals were no
better after confronting death than before. “The flesh is weak,” he
writes to his mother, “but I do not believe that Cato was Cato when he
was young.” It was said that the motive of his amours was vainglory
rather than the satisfaction of vicious desires. No one, wrote harsh
critics, could rely upon his word, and few if any could tell of a
disinterested act that he had done.

Yet in some respects Frederick had gained. His talent for diplomacy
grew with the need for it. His father’s schooling had this effect—that
he learned to outwit his father. The closing years of Frederick
William’s life were cheered by the mirage of a good son and a
good husband, which of all Frederick’s fabrications was perhaps
the cleverest. Progress in diplomacy was attended by increase of
self-control. Frederick learned in a hard school to disguise his true
emotions and to feign what he did not feel. Hence arises a difficulty
which Carlyle constantly encounters as he strives to approach his hero
with paternal sympathy and to penetrate into his inner man. He is
forced to speak of Frederick’s “polished panoply,” and to describe him
as “outwardly a radiant but metallic object to mankind.”

The King’s handiwork may be discerned in the increasing poverty of
affection that his son displayed. Frederick William had killed his
friend, proscribed his associates, banished his sister, placed his
mother under a cloud, and forced upon him a wife whom he despised.
It is not surprising that Frederick’s heart, never of the tenderest,
grew harder year by year. He turned to the friendship of men, always
difficult for kings to win, and doubly difficult for an autocrat who
was not prone to self-sacrifice. It was remarked of him in later
life that he softened only in illness, and that the sure sign of his
recovery was renewed harshness towards those about him. His intimates
were chiefly devotees of art and letters, among whom Voltaire was
chief. But the very name of Voltaire, whom Frederick first adored and
then expelled, hints at the transient nature of these ties. As his
sister, his mother, and Madame de Camas were one by one removed by
death, he became bankrupt of affection, and his old age was consoled
only by the fidelity of his servants and of his dogs.

Such was Frederick at his marriage, but his very defects contributed
for a time to his social success. An accomplished man, with great
flashing eyes and flexible, resonant voice, “musical even in cursing,”
he had a genuine relish for the circle of which he was the centre. His
schooling had given him skill in seeming what he pleased, and whatever
affection he possessed was given to his friends. At Rheinsberg, where
he built himself a house and lived from 1736 till 1740, he was gay,
hospitable, and refined, living in apparent amity with his wife and
fitting himself by study and by administration to fill the throne in
his turn.

The year after Frederick’s marriage, the year 1734, was of high
importance in his career. The war of the Polish Succession had
broken out between France and the Empire, and Prussia fulfilled her
obligations by sending an auxiliary force of ten thousand men to serve
on the Rhine under Eugene. In this campaign, which proved inglorious,
Frederick played the part of an eager novice, dogging the footsteps
of the aged hero and copying even his curt manner. There he laid to
heart several fruitful facts—that the great commander never accepted
praise to his face, that the enemy feared him more than they feared
his army, and that other German troops cut a sorry figure beside the
men of Prussia. And—though his father had ordered him to keep out of
harm’s way—he proved by his calm while cannon-balls were splintering
trees around him that the traditional courage of the Hohenzollerns had
descended to him.

Next year (1735) he begged to go to the war again, but the King,
who had been near death from dropsy, put him off with a journey to
Ost-Preussen. This was the first of those official tours of inspection
which later became one of the chief occupations of Frederick’s years
of peace. In 1736 he began a far more agreeable pursuit. It was then
that he established himself at Rheinsberg, and, that, to quote his own
testimony, he began to live.

To live, in Frederick’s vocabulary, meant to read. He plunged into
books, comparing, annotating, analysing, and learned by four days’
trial the lesson of the zealous freshman—that man needs more than two
hours’ sleep a day. To the remonstrances of the doctors he replied that
he would rather suffer in body than in mind. Books were supplemented
by conversation, the society of ladies, music, theatricals, literary
effort of every kind. His _Anti-Machiavel_, a treatise on the duty of
princes, attracted the attention of Europe, and men of liberal mind
awaited with impatience the moment at which he would be able to put his
virtuous maxims into practice. Meanwhile he revelled in intercourse
with philosophers and learned men. Frederick styled his house “the
temple of friendship,” and his guests rejoiced to find that the palace
of a Crown Prince could be Liberty Hall.

Yet the hand of Frederick William was not entirely invisible. Thrice
every Sunday must the master of the house tear himself from philosophy
to go to church, and he was also compelled to read the sermons which
his father’s favourite chaplains had composed. His own select preacher
was Voltaire, with whom and with his intimates he “reasoned high Of
providence, fore-knowledge, will and fate, Passion and apathy and
glory and shame.” From history he learned much for every department of
life; from philosophy chiefly contempt for religion and a deep-rooted
fatalism which sustained him at many moments of disaster. He speaks of

    “this Necessity, which orders all things, directs our
    intercourse and determines our fate.” “I know too well that we
    cannot escape from the inexorable laws of fate ... and that it
    would be folly to desire to oppose what is Necessity and was so
    arranged from all eternity. I admit that consolation drawn from
    the impossibility of avoiding an evil is not very well fitted
    to make the evil lighter, but still there is something calming
    in the thought that the bitter which we must taste is not the
    result of our fault, but pertains to the design and arrangement
    of Providence.”

In such discussions passed many hours of the halcyon period, 1736–1740.
Of perhaps higher value was the insight into the possibilities of human
providence which Frederick gained during his visits to Ost-Preussen.
There he saw how the hand of his father had turned a wilderness into
the most blooming of his provinces, so that a land which the King had
found swept bare of men by the plague now contained half a million
prosperous inhabitants. When at last (May 31, 1740) he took the place
of the father whose last hours his presence had consoled, it was with
a conviction that if his foreign policy had been contemptible, he had
shown himself heroic at home.

[Illustration: VOLTAIRE.


The time had come when the domestic organisation of Prussia was to
acquire a new significance in Europe. At Rheinsberg, while protesting
that he desired nothing more in life than to be left in peace with
his books and his friends, Frederick had been steadily pursuing the
study of politics. In 1738 he had set down on paper “Considerations”
which pointed to the need of a new champion to defend the liberties
of Europe against the stealthy and menacing expansion of France. It
remained to be seen whether Prussian foreign policy would in future be
influenced by her singular constitution. To appreciate the meaning and
the value of Frederick’s innovations in both systems we must portray
the situation that he found on his accession. This demands in the first
place a brief scrutiny of Europe as it was at Frederick William’s death.





In his instructions for the education of his successor, Frederick
prescribed a thorough course of European history from the time of the
Emperor Charles V. (1519–1556) to his own reign. This had been the
favourite study of his own youth, so that at his accession he realised
to the full that modern Europe owed little of its political contour
to chance, but much to the aspirations and struggles of the several
states during the last two centuries. For modern Europe was no older
than Charles V. Right through the Middle Ages the Christian world
maintained that supreme authority, like truth, ought to be one, and
that every Christian should look up to the Emperor in matters temporal
as he looked up to the Pope in matters spiritual. On the secular side,
however, this theory had crumbled beneath its own weight. Even a
Charlemagne could not really rule the world. As the various races of
mankind who lived in England, France, Spain, and Scandinavia gradually
came under the sway of a few national rulers, the Emperor dwindled
into a dignified president of German princes. His lordship of the
world survived only in distracting claims to rule more widely and more
exclusively than his attenuated power could warrant. Two sharp shocks
heralded modern times. First Columbus bestowed upon his masters, the
Kings of Spain, a new world which had never heard of Pope and Emperor
and which the Emperor at least did not pretend to sway. Then Luther,
wrestling blindly with the papacy, shattered the central pillar of
the mediæval world, and modern history, the biography of a group of
independent states, began.

These states, however, did not enjoy unchallenged independence. Each
had to work out its own religious settlement, and—if it embraced
the Reformation—had to repel, with whatever help it could find, the
rescue-work of the Pope and his allies. To the end of the sixteenth
century, through the careers of Charles V., Elizabeth, William of
Orange, Henry of Navarre, Romanist and Protestant States always
tended to fall apart into two hostile camps. Even in Frederick’s time
religious affinity always counted for something. He had laid history
to heart and, as we shall see, profited in his dealings with England
by the old cry of “Church in danger.” On his lips the cry was a mere
ruse. The day of crusades was over. In the sixteenth century Spain,
Austria, and Italy rejected the Reformation; England established its
own Church; France came to terms with the Huguenots. At the great Peace
of Westphalia Germany established parity between the warring creeds, a
boon tardily won by thirty years of desolation. Thenceforward affairs
of state came first in every land. Louis XIV.’s revocation of the
Edict of Nantes in 1685 proved that religious aggression was to be
feared only as the sequel of undue political preponderance. From the
birth of modern states down to our own time, the bugbear of the nations
has been world-rule and their watchword equilibrium.

The first prince who threatened to restore in fact if not in form the
world-rule which had broken down in the Middle Ages was Charles V.,
the scion and pattern of the House of Hapsburg, whose career is the
narrative of European politics from 1519 to 1556. France, which he
threatened most, took the lead against him, began the long duel between
Bourbon and Hapsburg, and thus guarded the liberties of Europe till the
close of the Thirty Years’ War (1648). Then Louis XIV. threatened to
make France in her turn mistress of the world. The equilibrium which
he, as absolute ruler of the foremost State of Europe, seemed to have
overthrown, was painfully re-established at Utrecht (1713). A new and
greater Thirty Years’ War was thus brought to an end. It left the
States weary and timid, dreading France as a century earlier they had
dreaded Spain, clinging to peace lest the whole fabric of Europe should
collapse and with it the gains which they had made or hoped to make
should vanish. France, conscious of weakness in spite of the glories of
Louis XIV., turned to diplomacy and won Lorraine. England, ridden on a
loose rein by Walpole, followed her natural bent towards the sea. For
Austria and the Hapsburg Charles VI., the great problem was to keep
what had already been heaped together. Only Spain was not afraid to
break the peace, and in the long run she gained parts of Italy by her

Most of the territorial profits made by European Powers during the
years 1713–1740 were made at the expense of Charles VI., either as head
of the Hapsburgs or as Emperor. As it became certain that he would
have no son, he grew more and more reckless in sacrificing the welfare
of the Empire to that of his House. The future of his heir was indeed
precarious. For there was not and never had been an Austria in the same
sense in which there was an England, a France, or a Spain; that is, a
well-knit nation, preferring ruin to dismemberment. “Austria” meant
the dominions of the elder branch of the House of Hapsburg just as
“Prussia” under Frederick I. meant the dominions of the elder branch of
the House of Hohenzollern. In the case of the Hapsburg agglomeration,
however, the subjects were too many, too miscellaneous, and too
rich for the work of a Frederick William to be possible. Germans,
Hungarians, and Italians were only the chief among a motley crowd of
races which had come under the sceptre of Charles VI.’s ancestors and
which he strained every nerve to hand down to his daughter undispersed.

The method which Charles selected was to proclaim that his dominions
were one and indivisible, and descended to a female heir if no male
were forthcoming. This he did by the famous Pragmatic Sanction, a
document which for fifteen years, from 1725 to 1740, was the pivot
of European politics. From State after State Charles purchased a
guarantee of the Pragmatic Sanction, which amounted to an undertaking
to recognise his daughter, Maria Theresa, as heir to the Hapsburg
dominions. For this he yielded to Spain broad lands in Italy, for
this he sacrificed commercial prospects to the sea-powers England and
Holland, for this he consented that Lorraine should pass from Germany
to France, for this he followed Russia into a Turkish war which cost
him great tracts on either side the Danube. For this, too, he committed
what was perhaps the most dangerous of all his blunders. He played fast
and loose with a time-honoured ally, and estranged the King of Prussia.

Ever since the Peace of Westphalia had given them freedom to make
alliances where they would, the policy of the Hohenzollerns had been to
maintain a good understanding with Austria. It might, indeed, happen,
as after 1679, when Louis XIV. hired them, that some other course
became so advantageous that for the moment they adopted it. In general
however, the Emperor had most to give. To him the German princes still
looked for investiture, for arbitration, and for promotion, and if a
State desired to exercise its troops, who was so likely as the lord
of the long Hapsburg frontiers to be at war? King Frederick William
might reasonably hope that the Power which had given his father the
crown, which had led Prussians to victory before Turin, and which had
permitted him to keep conquests in Swedish Pomerania (1720), would
reward his devoted service by favouring his pretensions to inheritance
on the Rhine.

Though a forceful squire, as a statesman the King lacked imagination.
He was master of the finest soldiers in Europe, yet he dared not
vindicate his claims to Jülich-Berg without the help of the Emperor,
and he could not understand that the Emperor might be reluctant to help
the master of the finest soldiers in Europe. Such was, however, the
truth. The rise of the Hohenzollerns had long been watched at Vienna
with not unnatural jealousy. Even against the Turk Prussians were but
sparingly enlisted. The gift of the crown had been hotly opposed and
bitterly regretted. When Frederick William cried, “The Emperor will
have to spurn me from him with his feet: I am his unto death, faithful
to the last drop of my blood,” it was already a Hapsburg maxim that a
new Vandal kingdom must not arise on the shores of the Baltic.

The statesmen at Vienna valued the Prussian alliance enough to employ
Grumbkow and the Austrian ministers at Berlin to hoodwink Frederick
William. As we have seen, they lavished pocket-money and sacrificed
a bride in the hope of securing ascendancy over his son. But they
blundered greatly when to please England and thereby to further the
Pragmatic Sanction, they bade the King break off a marriage which all
the world knew was fixed for the very next day, and they blundered
still more when to please France and Holland with the same end in view
they withdrew the promise of supporting him in Jülich-Berg. In 1732
Frederick William, for the only time in his life, met Charles VI. face
to face and the truth with regard to the relations between Hapsburg
and Hohenzollern began to dawn upon him. All his life he had been the
vassal of an Emperor whom he had imagined as a German overlord, heir to
the dignity of the Cæsars, who when the time was ripe would look with
paternal complacency upon the Prussian claims. The vision faded and
revealed a rival monarch, pompous, contemptuous, and shifty. The shock
of disillusionment was terrible, but before his death he saw clearly.
Once, it is said, he pointed to Frederick with the words, “There stands
one who will avenge me.” It is certain that with failing breath he
warned his son against the policy of Vienna.

Thus, even supposing that Frederick’s view of politics had been no
wider than his father’s, that he had come to the throne resolved merely
to keep up a great army and to win Jülich-Berg, he would none the less
have possessed remarkable freedom of action. In foreign politics he was
fettered by only one great treaty, that of Berlin (December, 1728), by
which Prussia undertook to maintain the Pragmatic Sanction. But it was
possible to contend that this agreement, which was made in secret to
secure the Emperor’s assistance in Jülich-Berg, became void in 1739,
when Austria entered into conflicting engagements with France.

Circumstances, too, were favourable to Frederick’s liberty. The
very existence of the Pragmatic Sanction, a violent remedy against
dissolution, was a guarantee that Austria would be harmless for years
to come. If Charles VI. and his heir were loath to uphold Prussia on
the Rhine, they would be very unlikely to risk their own existence by
taking up arms against her. In other quarters Prussia had little to
fear. Hanover, the parvenu electorate which lay like a broad barrier
across the direct road from Berlin to the West, had become a dependency
of England in 1714, and therefore was not dangerous. Whatever might be
the wishes of George II., it was certain that Walpole would not spend
blood and treasure to maintain the House of Pfalz-Sulzbach, Prussia’s
rival in Jülich-Berg, at Düsseldorf. The Dutch, it is true, felt
themselves menaced by a Prussian garrison in Cleves, but their course
had by this time become that of a mere cock-boat in the wake of Great
Britain. France alone remained to be considered, and France, with a
frontier fifty leagues from Berg, was guided by a Walpole of her own,
Cardinal Fleury, now nearing the close of his eighty-seventh year. If
then Frederick elected to make Prussia more considerable among the
Powers of the West by pressing his claims to Berg he could fling his
sword into the scales of justice without great fear that a stronger
hand would turn the balance against him.

Adventure in the Rhine countries had much to commend it to the young
King. His House undoubtedly possessed some title to Berg, and it had
been the secular policy of the Hohenzollerns to forego no claim without
arguing to the death. The busy and fertile Rhineland was a gold-mine
in comparison with the sterile Mark. Frederick, as an enthusiast for
the higher civilisation of the West, might well feel drawn towards
a duchy which lay more than half-way along the direct line from his
capital to Paris. And, greatest merit of all in the eyes of a dynasty
of merchants, Berg was eminently salable. The Rhenish duchies were like
good accommodation-lands in the midst of thriving farms. Many rulers
would always be glad of them and their price would therefore be high.

But the arguments against staking all on Berg were also strong. A
statesman trained between the Elbe and the Oder could hardly be unaware
that Prussia’s heritage in the West was a mere windfall and that by
interest as by situation she belonged to the system of the North. Her
natural outlook was towards the Baltic, which formed the only free road
between her centre and her eastern wing. It was by foregoing lands
on the Baltic that she had gained rich bishoprics to the westward in
1648. Baltic Powers, Poland, Russia, and above all Sweden, had steadily
influenced her politics since the advent of the Great Elector. History
and geography alike seemed to beckon young Frederick to the sea. Let us
therefore cast a glance at those among his neighbours whom he had to
take account of, whatever plan he might devise.



Just as the traditional enemy of the Bourbon was the Hapsburg, so the
traditional enemy of the Hohenzollern was the Vasa. This gifted House
had ruled in Sweden since 1520 and had chosen for their country a path
which it was not strong enough to follow to the end. They had striven
to turn the Baltic into a Swedish lake by conquering all its coasts.
Success seemed nearest when in 1630 Gustavus landed in Germany, and at
the point of the sword compelled his kinsman of Brandenburg to favour
his adventure. The result of these bold steps was for Sweden a swift
blaze of glory; for Brandenburg a decade of misery inflicted in great
part by Swedish hands. In 1648 the great treaty compensated the Swedes
for their work by driving the Great Elector from the mouth of the Oder.
Their ambition to be masters of the Baltic shores, however, remained,
and the Great Elector suffered much at their hands before the Peace of
Oliva (1660) confirmed his sovereignty over Ost-Preussen. What happened
at Fehrbellin and after it has been already told. The meteoric career
of Charles XII. (1697–1718), who began by humbling Prussia, but ended
by losing Stettin to her, is no part of our story, except in so far
as it interested and influenced young Frederick. It suffices that in
1740 Sweden was factious and impotent, and that her aged King still
held that part of Pomerania which Prussia did not possess. To acquire
Western Pomerania was therefore a possible object for Frederick’s

The central mass of the Hohenzollern dominions touched along almost
the whole of its eastern frontier a Power whose decline was even
more visible than that of Sweden. The Polish Republic, which almost
encircled Ost-Preussen, formed perhaps the strangest spectacle that
Europe has ever seen. A vaster country than any of the Western Powers,
Poland remained in the Middle Ages. Her constitution, indeed, seemed
to have no other end than to make progress impossible. There were
only two classes, nobles and serfs, the free and the unfree. But where
every freeman was noble, many nobles were poor. These served for hire,
and were distinguished, it is said, from men of lower birth by the
privilege of being flogged upon a Turkey carpet. The direction of this
vast country rested with a few thousand feudal chiefs who elected a
nominal King from within their own body or outside it. They made the
laws themselves, but a single dissentient voice could wreck the work
of a whole Diet, as the annual session of Parliament was termed, and
of late years this right had commonly been exercised. What trade there
was, was left to the despised class of German burghers. The fighting
force grew every year more feeble. While Austria could boast a Eugene
and Russia a Peter, while the parade-ground at Potsdam was trodden
by ever-growing masses of men who handled modern weapons with the
precision given by daily practice, the Poles were blindly trusting in
feudal levies generalled by a puppet King.

At Frederick’s accession, however, Poland still possessed two elements
of strength besides her vast bulk and the knightly courage of her
sons. These were the Saxon connexion and the port of Danzig. Two years
earlier, at the price of war with France (1733–1738) and loss of lands
in Italy, Charles VI. had secured the Polish crown for the son of the
late King, Augustus III., the Elector of Saxony. The Emperor made this
sacrifice to win support for the Pragmatic Sanction and to propitiate
Russia, who looked upon Poland as her own if the French candidate were
expelled. And, as the road from Dresden to Warsaw passed through the
Hapsburg province of Silesia, Augustus had good reason to be faithful
to the daughter of Charles VI.

Poland none the less promised much to a king of Prussia who could wait.
Her artificial connexion with Saxony, established by foreign Powers
against the will of a majority of the Poles, could only weaken the
frail bonds which bound the State together. Poland, all the world had
long known, would one day fall in pieces, and who should hinder Prussia
from gathering some of them? For the moment, however, Augustus could
defend his new dominions. A king of Prussia in a fever to act at once
could not assail Poland without laying bare his flank to Saxony and to
her Imperial ally.

But could Prussia in 1740 afford to wait? If Augustus’s dream were to
be fulfilled would not she be in jeopardy? The Elector hoped that the
Emperor would cede to him a part of Lower Silesia, so that Prussia
might be for ever divided and hemmed in by a Saxon-Polish State. Had we
no other guide than the map, we might be tempted to guess that it was
to avert this peril that Frederick seized Silesia. If it were true it
were a grievous fault. Augustus, who was no statesman, might dream of
a hereditary crown, but a firm Saxony-Poland was in fact impossible.
Dresden and Warsaw were centuries apart. Out of two such halves no
strong whole could be compounded. The one was German, the other Slav;
the one industrial, the other primitive; the one Lutheran, the other
partly Romanist and partly Orthodox. Compounds so discordant could
have found no abiding unity in a monarchy based on the treason of their
common head against the constitution of each. Nor could such a State
have barred for a decade the path of the Muscovite Colossus which Peter
had already roused and which Catherine and Alexander were soon to

In weighing Frederick’s wisdom we must not forget that the share of
Poland which he might expect that Prussia was destined to acquire,
and which did, in fact, fall to her during his own lifetime, would
change Ost-Preussen from an isolated province into a strong limb of a
well-knit State. It gave her the lower waters of a third great arterial
river—the Vistula. But it came to her in 1774 shorn of its chief glory,
the old portal of the Vistula and strong tower of Poland, the matchless
town of Danzig. Frederick had seen that fair city, a hearth of German
culture among the Slavs, with its giant Marienkirche towering over
a mass of battlements and gates and churches of stately civic halls
and mansions hardly less stately, the whole forming a Venice of the
North beside which his capital was but a market town. He must have
taken note of the foundation of all this grandeur, great warehouses
on busy wharves, canals crowded with masts and hulls from many lands.
And he cannot have been blind to the fact that within a few miles of
this prize lay Ost-Preussen, and that, since Augustus had surrendered
Curland, within a few miles of Ost-Preussen lay Russia. Seldom has a
king had clearer warning to look before he leaped.

Thus, without departing from the policy of the men who had made Prussia
what she was, the young King had his choice between adventure on the
Rhine or across the Peene and a policy of expectant watchfulness on
the Vistula. But if he were capable of building upon the foundations
of his forefathers the loftiest structure that they would bear, then a
still more glorious conquest might be his. Lord of Stettin and of the
ports of Ost-Preussen, he might claim a share in what all the nations
coveted, the empire of the sea.

It is one of the most grotesque facts in history that the Emperor
William II., when he cried, “Our future lies upon the water,” should
have been uttering as prophecy what ought to have been commonplace for
a century and a half. Even in 1740 the truth that the New World offered
a fairer career than the Old was not hidden from statesmen less astute
than Frederick. Since the Armada foundered in 1588, the nations of
Europe had been realising it one by one. Spain and Portugal, the first
in the field, still held a vast heritage across the ocean, but their
monopoly was not as unchallenged as of old. First the Dutch, who as
subjects of Spain had monopolised that carrying-trade which seemed to
be beneath the dignity of an Iberian gentleman, enriched themselves so
rapidly that they were able to throw off the yoke of Philip II. and to
establish a colonial and commercial empire of their own. Then England,
tardily comprehending the changing conditions of life, grappled with
their little republic in a long and doubtful struggle. Finally weight
told, and after the Revolution of 1688 England under her Dutch
King led the way and Holland followed in a campaign against a rival
dangerous to both. For France had been guided by Colbert into the path
of greatness beyond the seas, and it was by grasping at Spain and the
Indies that Louis XIV. aroused the keenest apprehensions that he might
become dictator of the world. Only at the cost of two mighty wars had
the danger from France been averted for a generation. By the Peace of
Utrecht (1713) the Sea Powers gained security for themselves and for
their commerce, but the prize of North America still remained to be
fought for between France and England.

In the early years of the eighteenth century other competitors put to
sea. Under Peter the Great, the new land Power, Russia, struggled to
become maritime, though her horizon, as yet, hardly extended beyond
European waters. But in 1722 the Emperor Charles VI. made his port
of Ostend the headquarters of a new Imperial East India Company,
and England, France, and Holland joined in an outcry against German
competition. Nine years later they were appeased. The Hapsburg
sacrificed the future of his House to its past. To purchase guarantees
of the Pragmatic Sanction he withdrew his support from the Company,
which none the less was able to maintain itself for more than sixty

If then the tide had set so strongly towards distant continents that
even conservative ill-knit Austria was swept along with it, we may well
ask, what of Prussia? The history of our own time makes the question
more pertinent. North Germany has shown beyond dispute not only that
she can now build ships, a fact which proves little or nothing as to
her powers in the past, but also that she can fill them with brave
and skilful seamen, whose character only many generations of worthy
forefathers could create. These forefathers were the Prussians of
Frederick’s day, poor, fearless, and docile, living on the borders of
the Baltic, speeding and welcoming its fleets at Memel, at Pillau,
at Colberg, and above all at Stettin. Why, it may be wondered, was
Frederick blind to the signs of the times? Why did not he at the very
outset of his reign hasten to employ the power of the Crown, which
Frederick William had raised so high, to equip a Prussian Baltic
Company, a Prussian West Africa Company, even a Prussian East India

Never was the political situation more favourable to such an enterprise
than when Frederick grasped the reins. No neighbour could enforce a
veto upon Prussian maritime enterprise. Poland was in the last stage of
impotence and decay. Russia, who might form a good customer, was not
yet equipped for conquest. Austria could not afford to offend a German
ally. Sweden had lost her sting and her province of Pomerania was a
hostage at Frederick’s mercy. The Sea Powers would view the enterprise
askance, but they too had given hostages to Prussia. If England played
foul, the master of eighty thousand men could overrun Hanover in a
fortnight and the Dutch would think twice ere they provoked the lord
of Cleves. Of all Powers Denmark, the surly janitor of the Baltic,
was perhaps the best able to injure Prussian commerce with impunity,
but the heir of the Great Elector might be trusted to find a way with
Denmark. Thus Europe seemed to invite Prussia to follow the destiny
which nature prescribed, and which led to wealth. Firmly governed,
armed to the teeth, learned, Protestant, and rich, she might have
pursued her old opportunist policy on the mainland with full confidence
that the future would bring her wider boundaries and yet greater

In an earlier generation and with smaller means the Great Elector had
perceived that the true path for Prussia lay across the seas. Balked of
Stettin, he strove to make Pillau and Memel his London and Amsterdam.
His little Armada of ten frigates attacked the Spaniards with success.
In a humble way there began to be Brandenburgish West Indies, and in
1683 Fort Great-Fredericksburgh was built upon the Brandenburgish
Gold Coast. But the Great Elector’s son and grandson lacked either
his firm hand or his imagination. While Frederick I. was squabbling
with the Dutch about armchairs, the Dutch were driving his subjects
from West Africa. Frederick William, the apostle of domestic economy,
was impatient of flunkeys, universities, and colonies, the several
extravagances of his father and of his grandfather. Would Frederick II.
prove himself more enlightened?

We see with amazement that he did not. A prince who was accounted
clever, who had spent the first decade of manhood in pondering on high
politics, who revered the memory of the Great Elector, and followed
the fortunes of England with keen interest—how could such an one ignore
what the movement of the times and the course of after events seem
to point out so clearly? Among his first acts was the establishment
of a new department of manufactures. He commanded the head of it to
take measures for improving the condition of existing industries, for
introducing new ones, and for bringing in foreign capital and foreign
hands. Why did he not at the same time establish a department of
marine? Why did he wait till East Frisia fell to Prussia before making
even a half-hearted effort to win profit from the sea?

A partial explanation may lie in the fact that Frederick lacked the
inspiration drawn from travel. The stupid fears of Frederick William
that his son would become too Frenchified in his life or too Austrian
in his politics had closed to Frederick the doors of the best school
of his time. Who knows how much profit the Great Elector brought to
his State from his education in Holland, or Peter the Great from his
journeys in the West? Save at Danzig, Frederick had hardly seen with
his own eyes the dignity which commerce might create. Save for two
stolen days in Strasburg in the first months of his reign, a secret
visit to Holland in 1755, and a meeting with the Emperor in Moravia in
1770, he was fated never to gain fresh knowledge of what would now be
foreign lands except at the head of his army.

Again, Frederick’s political economy was unfavourable to Prussian
commerce. At Cüstrin he learned from Hille that the only trade by which
a country can profit is that which adds to its stock of gold and
silver. His father had carried this idea to its logical conclusion. He
had seized the precious metals and locked them up. Like a timid farmer
who thinks that the bank will break, he had hidden in his cellars
the hoard which represented the economies of a lifetime. Frederick
therefore found a treasure of more than twenty-six million marks, at a
time when the weekly wage of a common soldier hardly exceeded one.

It seems clear that a policy of hoarding could be wise only when war
was in sight. In time of war that Government would be happiest which
had most coined money with which to pay its troops. But in time of
peace not even Frederick William could take a breed from barren metal
by keeping it locked up. Profit could be drawn from it in either of two
ways. The coined metal might be spent to advantage, so that the State
bought something, such as a school, or a farm, or a flock of sheep,
which would in the future be worth more than the sum laid out. Or it
might be lent to citizens who would pay for the use of it and establish
with its aid some business which might be taxed. By locking up the
surplus funds of the country, however, the King stifled commerce at the
birth. Frederick did not detect the fallacy, and Germany waited till
the nineteenth century for her commercial rise.

Though nimble-witted and fond of philosophy, the King was hardly
profound. His lector, the Swiss de Catt, tells a significant story of
his first discussion with a singular stranger on a Dutch vessel, whom
he did not suspect to be the lord of Prussia. Frederick, he says,

    “tried to prove that creation was impossible. At this last
    point I stood out in opposition. ‘But how can one create
    something out of nothing?’ said he. ‘That is not the question,’
    answered I, ‘the question is, whether such a Being as God can
    or cannot give existence to what has yet none?’ He seemed
    embarrassed and added, ‘But the Universe is eternal.’ ‘You are
    in a circle,’ said I, ‘how will you get out of it?’ ‘I skip
    over it,’ said he, laughing; and then began to speak of other

He wrote incessantly on history and politics, always with the clearness
and sprightliness that seem inseparable from the French tongue which
he employed, and always with the confidence of a journalist and of a
king. Of his ancestor Joachim I. he says: “He received the surname of
Nestor in the same way as Louis XIII. that of ‘the Just’; that is, for
no reason that any one can discover”—and this is a very fair example of
his style. Sense, lucidity, concise statement, even wit, distinguish
his writings. He made so many confident generalisations on political
affairs that some have almost of necessity proved correct. But of deep
insight, still less of great constructive power, there is little trace.

In freedom from illusions, however, Frederick surpassed some rival
statesmen. This was abundantly illustrated at the very outset of his
reign. He saw, as Charles VI. could not, that the claim of the Emperor
to be lord of the world rested on no firm basis. Early in 1737 he had
written: “If the Emperor dies to-day or to-morrow, what revolutions
will come to pass! Every one will wish to share his estate, and we
shall see as many factions as there are sovereigns.” The discovery,
indeed, was by no means new. More than a century earlier Gustavus
Adolphus had told the Germans that their constitution was rotten.
But Frederick informs the Emperor pointedly that he is only first
among his peers. He was equally clear-sighted in the choice of means
to spread his views. William the Silent had perceived a fact dark to
many statesmen since his time—that the public opinion of Europe is
worth much and that it may be courted through the Press. Frederick had
already composed the earliest of his many pamphlets, which he intended
to publish anonymously as the work of an Englishman, to rouse the Sea
Powers against France.

More significant than all else was the fact that he viewed his own
strength with clearer eyes than his father’s. Frederick William had
never been able to convince himself that Prussia was a strong State:
Frederick wears no blinkers and with his accession the day of half
measures is over. Two years before this he had written to Grumbkow
words which express his real opinion of the old policy of his House.
The affair of Berg, which he as Crown Prince earnestly hoped would
enable him to win fame on the battle-field, had then entered upon a
phase adverse to Prussian expectations. Austria had been prevailed on
to join with France and the Sea Powers in claiming that it should be
referred to the arbitration of a congress, and Frederick William,
though disgusted, had decided to give way. Of this decision Grumbkow
approved, writing, “I am persuaded that a King of Prussia, like a King
of Sardinia, will always have more need of the fox’s hide than of the
lion’s.” Frederick replies (March, 1738):

    “I confess that I perceive in the answer a conflict between
    greatness and humiliation to which I can never agree. The
    answer is like the declaration of a man who has no stomach
    for fighting and yet wishes to seem as if he had. There were
    only two solutions, either to reply with noble pride, with
    no evasions in the shape of petty negotiations whose real
    value will soon be recognised, or to bow ourselves under the
    degrading yoke that they wish to lay upon us. I am no subtle
    politician to couple together a set of contradictory threats
    and submissions, I am young, I would perhaps follow the
    impetuosity of my nature; under no circumstances would I do
    anything by halves.”

Close observers held that a change of king would be followed by a
change of policy and that Frederick was likely to attempt great things.
What these would be no one, with the possible exception of the young
King himself, had the least idea. What in the opinion of the present
writer they should have been is sufficiently indicated above. What they
were, will be shown in the following chapter.

At first, for all his determination to lose no time, the results of
his accession seemed but small. No human being could maintain that he
was swayed by his affections. Though Duhan, Keith, and Katte’s father
received some measure of compensation for their sufferings, Frederick’s
behaviour towards those concerned in his early struggles emboldened
the wits to say that his memory was excellent as far back as 1730.
His Rheinsberg friends expected to share the spoils of office. They
were disappointed in a way that has reminded Macaulay of the treatment
of Falstaff by Henry V. Frederick was as masterful as his father.
The aged Prince of Anhalt-Dessau, who had created the Prussian army,
and the aged General von Schulenburg, who had risked all rather than
condemn Katte to death, were humiliated by royal reprimands. Grumbkow,
with whom he had corresponded for more than eight years in terms of
affectionate intimacy, might have caused him a moment’s embarrassment,
but he had just died—“for me the greatest conceivable gain,” the
King assured his sister. He broke up his father’s useless and costly
regiment of giant grenadiers, a measure which Frederick William had
himself advised, but he increased the effective strength of the army by
nearly ten thousand men. At the same time he sounded, more clearly even
than his ancestor George William, the note of religious toleration for
which Brandenburg had been honourably distinguished in the time of her
greatest peril. “In this country,” he instructed his officials, “every
one shall get to heaven in his own way.”



The crowned philosopher always recognised the difference between the
things which were Cæsar’s and the things which were God’s. The scion
of a Calvinist House, he began his reign by authorising the Lutherans
to restore their ritual, which had been arbitrarily simplified by his
father. He was soon to court the favour of Breslau by supplying her
with Protestant preachers, and of Glatz by bestowing vestments upon
a statue of the Virgin. When Romanist Europe expelled the Jesuits,
he seized the opportunity of picking up well-trained teachers cheap.
Some of his papist subjects had a fancy for buying handkerchiefs which
bore the effigies of saints. Frederick, eager to encourage the linen
manufacture, bade his officials find out which saints were the most
popular and adjust the supply to the demand.

A story cited by Carlyle illuminates Frederick’s views upon the
relations between Church and State. He was questioning the monks of
Cleve, to whom the old dukes had assigned an income from the royal
forest-dues for masses to be said on their behalf. “‘You still say
those masses then?’ ‘Certainly, your Majesty.’ ‘And what good does
anybody get out of them?’ ‘Your Majesty, those old sovereigns are to
obtain heavenly mercy by them, to be delivered out of purgatory by
them.’ ‘Purgatory? It is a sore thing for the Forests, all this while!
And they are not yet out, those poor souls, after so many hundred years
of praying?’ Monks have a fatal apprehension, No. ‘When will they be
out, and the thing complete?’ Monks cannot say. ‘Send me a courier
whenever it _is_ complete!’ sneers the King,” and leaves them to
finish the _Te Deum_ which they had begun to greet his arrival.

Lastly, the forms with which Frederick took up the kingship showed that
the fears of his father and the hopes of enlightened men were alike
without foundation. It became clear that the philosopher-king, though
he relieved famine and tempted learned foreigners to Berlin, would not
revert to the ill-timed pageantry of his grandfather. Nor—though he
freed the press and restricted to a few cases the use of torture—would
he anticipate the glory of some Hohenzollern who is still unborn by
fostering a spirit of individual liberty among his people. Impatient
of coronation, which he classed among the “useless and frivolous
ceremonies which ignorance and superstition have established,” he
received the homage of his subjects by proxy everywhere save in
Ost-Preussen, Brandenburg, and Cleve. At Königsberg he paid homage to
the memory of liberties which his ancestors had crushed, and which he
had no intention of animating anew. The ceremony at Berlin was made
memorable by one of his rare displays of feeling. When he appeared on
the balcony of the Castle and looked down upon the surging crowd in
the square below, he was so affected that he remained standing many
minutes, silent and buried in thought. Then, recovering himself, he
bowed to the multitude, and rode off to attend a military review.

[Illustration: EUROPE 1740

_G. P. Putnam’s Sons. London, & New York._]

It is, however, on his journey to Wesel, his Rhenish capital, that
he reveals most clearly how the Crown Prince has changed into the
King. Wilhelmina had found him of late so careless, even so uncivil,
a correspondent that the news of his coming to Baireuth prostrated
her with joy. He seemed to her so altered in countenance and developed
in form that, just as after his imprisonment at Cüstrin, she hardly
recognised him. But a less welcome change was only too perceptible.
Wilhelmina found her brother’s caresses forced, his conversation
trivial, their sister, the Margravine of Ansbach, more favoured than
herself. The remainder of the journey proved that Frederick at least
remained true to the French. At Frankfort he disguised himself for a
flying visit to Strasburg. There his little party put up at an inn,
sent the landlord to invite officers to their table, and visited the
theatre. The mask was penetrated by a runaway Prussian whose tall
brother had been kidnapped for the army and who recognised the son of
his former King. The greatest pleasure of all came last. At Wesel,
besides dealing with the affair of Herstal, which will be described in
the next chapter, Frederick for the first time paid homage in person to

At the end of October Wilhelmina visited Berlin, but her brother
welcomed her coldly. She found abundant proofs that he had become
inscrutable. She describes in her _Memoirs_ how the Queen Mother had
shut herself up, equally astonished and mortified at her complete
exclusion from affairs of State. “Some complained of the little care
he had to reward those who had been attached to him as prince royal;
others, of his avarice, which they said surpassed that of the late
King; others of his passions; others again of his suspicions, of his
mistrust, of his pride, and of his dissimulation.” This criticism
from an unwonted quarter may possibly be explained away. It has been
suggested that the King’s treatment of his sister at Baireuth was due
to the same policy of repelling every possible claimant to influence
his policy, which may be held to excuse the snubs inflicted upon Dessau
and Schulenburg and the dignified exile of Frederick’s mother and wife.
His conduct at Rheinsberg, whither Wilhelmina followed him, does not
admit of the same excuse.

    “The little spare time that he had,” she complains, “was spent
    in the company of wits or men of letters. Such were Voltaire,
    Maupertuis, Algarotti, and Jordan. I saw the King but seldom.
    I had no ground for being satisfied with our interviews. The
    greater part of them was spent either in embarrassed words of
    politeness or in outrageous witticisms on the bad state of the
    Margrave’s finances; indeed he often ridiculed him and the
    princes of the empire, which I felt very much.”





The proceedings of Frederick in 1740, trivial as some of them are,
reveal him as a statesman, just as the events of 1730 revealed him as a
man. They therefore possess an interest such as hardly any other part
of his reign can claim. For a few months he is free to choose his own
path in life, guided only by instinct and education. Thus an element
of free-will is present which is to some extent lacking in two notable
crises of his fortunes—the tragedy of 1730 and the miracle of 1757.
This year sums up, as it were, the eight and twenty which had gone to
make Frederick what he was: it shapes his course in the six and forty
that were to follow.

In the story of Prussia, 1740 inevitably suggests comparison with 1640,
when the Great Elector likewise stood at the parting of the ways.
Then and for years afterwards the choice had lain between existence
and ruin; now it was between increase by natural growth and perhaps
speedier increase by speculation. For a century Prussia had seldom
departed from a policy of thrift and autocracy at home and opportunism
abroad. Would she now abandon it? Frederick’s early measures showed
that he intended no sweeping changes in domestic politics. We may
therefore postpone an examination of the system which he there
pursued. For us he is at present only the lord of ninety thousand of
the best-drilled troops in the world, entangled in no alliances and
hampered by no fears. What choice would be for him the wisest?

Calm reflection on the situation of Europe in 1740 seems to show that
Frederick’s strength was to sit still. Signs were abundant that the
peace which had prevailed almost from his birth could not endure much
longer. Apart from the problem of Austria, grave questions had arisen
which not even a Walpole and a Fleury could settle otherwise than by
the sword. France and England, it was felt, would soon resume the duel
which the Peace of Utrecht had but interrupted, and would struggle for
primacy in America and in the world. Spain and England were already at
war, and Europe knew that the Bourbon Kings of Spain and France, who
were uncle and nephew, were joined in close alliance. To strike at King
George without crossing the sea France must aim at Hanover, and the
sword of Frederick, the neighbour of Hanover, would be bid for by both
sides. According to the convenient theory then current, a prince could
hire out an army without committing his State to war, so that Frederick
stood to gain much,—money, military glory, experience for his men,
perhaps even territory for his House,—while he need stake nothing save
that which he had long desired to hazard,—his own life and the lives
of his soldiers.

A Hohenzollern was the last man in the world to undervalue what he
might wish to sell. Frederick strove to persuade Europe that in
him a new and greater Gustavus had appeared. He increased his army
ostentatiously and bade his representative at Versailles speak of his
active and impetuous way of thinking.

    “You can say,” he continues, “that it is to be feared that this
    increase kindles a fire which may set all Europe in a blaze;
    that it is the way of youth to be adventurous, and that the
    alluring visions of heroic fame may disturb and have disturbed
    the peace of countless nations in the world.”

The prospect of acquisitions in the Rhineland seemed first to engage
his thoughts. In hopes of winning Berg he not only made overtures
to France, but even invited the help of Russia. The fruit of these
negotiations was small. Their significance, however, is great, since
they showed that Frederick intended to choose his allies without regard
to the tradition of his House in favour of Austria, and also that he
would not shrink from favouring Muscovite development by employing
Cossacks in Western Germany.

At the same time that he bargained in this spirit with foreign
Powers, Frederick compelled his brother Germans to mark the change of
accent which he was introducing into the old language of his House.
Brandenburg had taken up the informal protectorate of the German
Protestants when the Saxon Elector by becoming Romanist (1697) resigned
it. Frederick William devised a safe but effective method of checking
Romanist aggression. If any German prince persecuted Protestants, the
King of Prussia used forthwith to apply similar oppression to his own
papist subjects. Thus, without stirring from Berlin, he stayed the hand
of persecutors in the distant valleys of the Neckar and the Salzach.
His son soon proved himself ready to go to greater lengths.

Claims and counter-claims as to territory had arisen between one
of the great Romanist princes, the Archbishop of Mainz, and the
Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, the heir of one of the earliest champions
of the Reformation. The former relied on his own troops and on those
of neighbouring bishops, while he also possessed the support of the
Emperor, whose right to judge the case had been challenged by his
opponent. The Landgrave appealed to the King of Prussia and to other
princes of the Empire. Frederick’s reply was immediate, emphatic,
and successful. “In case of need,” he wrote to his brother-Elector
of Mainz, “we should not know how to refrain from affording to the
aforementioned His Dilection the Lord Landgrave William the necessary
protection and help against unlawful force and disturbance.” At these
words the hostile coalition—Elector, bishops, and Emperor—melted away.
The young King, it was apparent, had entered the field of German
politics with _éclat_.

Equally peremptory and equally successful was Frederick’s verdict for
his own claims in a dispute with the Bishop of Liège with regard
to Herstal, a tiny barony lying on the Meuse to the westward of
Aix-la-Chapelle. The inhabitants had resisted the officers of his
father, who would gladly have sold Herstal to Liège, and the Bishop,
who wished to buy but could not come to terms, had egged them on.
Frederick, scorning the advice of his ministers, resolved to use his
strength as a giant. From Wesel he sent the following ultimatum to the

    “Cousin! Knowing all the attacks that you have made upon my
    unquestionable rights over my free barony of Herstal, and how
    the seditious men of Herstal have been supported for some
    years in their detestable disobedience to me, I have ordered
    my privy-councillor Rambonnet to visit you on my behalf,
    to demand from you in my name a sincere and categorical
    explanation within the space of two days, whether you wish to
    protect the mutineers of Herstal in their abominable disorder
    and disobedience. In case you refuse, or delay that just reply
    which I demand of right, you will render yourself solely
    responsible before all the world for the consequences which
    your refusal will inevitably bring after it. I am, etc.”

“This is strong, this is lively,” cried the ambassadors at Berlin when
they read it; “it is the language of Louis XIV.; it is a beginning
which shows what we must expect some day from this prince.” Their
prophecy was to be fulfilled sooner than they anticipated. In the
meantime the new diplomacy won another triumph. The Bishop made no
reply to the ultimatum and in a week’s time the Prussians, sowing
apologies broadcast over Europe, seized his county of Hoorn. The
apologies concluded with the assertion: “His Majesty will never put
from him a just and reasonable arrangement with the said prince, as
the sole end which his justice and moderation have in view in this
affair, these two invariable principles being the pole-star of all
his actions.” The “just and reasonable arrangement” proved to be the
payment of two hundred thousand thalers to the King.

Frederick could therefore congratulate himself that within five months
of his accession he had taught both Prussia and Europe that he was
stronger than his father. It was clear that he was resolved not to
be hoodwinked by man or woman. He had rejected the advice of his
cautious ministers with the pleasantry that when they spoke of war they
resembled an Iroquois talking of astronomy. The event had gone far
towards silencing the taunt of Europe that “the Prussians never shoot,”
and towards establishing the truth of Frederick’s well-known simile,
“The Emperor is an old phantom of an idol and has no longer any nerves.”

A king of Prussia with such a spirit as Frederick had already shown
was not likely to rest long upon his oars. But it was chance that
determined the course that he was next to steer. The Herstal treaty,
which confirmed his second diplomatic victory, was signed on October
20th. Six days later a swift courier brought to Rheinsberg the news
that on that same day the Emperor, Charles VI., had died. Frederick lay
ill of fever. He defied his doctors, took quinine, and was well. He
sent for his cautious minister Podewils and for the dauntless soldier
Schwerin, and wrote to Voltaire:

    “The least expected event in the world forbids me this time
    to open my soul to yours as is my wont.... I believe that in
    June it will be powder, soldiers and trenches rather than
    actresses, ballets and theatres.... This is the moment of the
    entire transformation of the old system of politics: the stone
    is loosed which Nebuchadnezzar beheld when it rolled upon the
    image of four metals and destroyed it.”

Two days later he expressed himself with still greater confidence: “I
am not going to Berlin, a trifle like the Emperor’s death does not
demand great commotions. All was foreseen, all was thought out in
advance. So it is only a question of carrying out designs which I have
long had in my mind.”

These designs were, in brief, so to use the political situation created
by the death of Charles VI. as to add to Prussia the whole, or at
least the north-western part, of the Hapsburg province of Silesia—the
fertile basin of the upper Oder. In conception and in execution the
idea was Frederick’s own. It is the pediment of his fame as a hero of
his nation. All the world knows that the capture of Silesia converted
Frederick the Second into Frederick the Great. It is therefore
imperative that at this point, with judgment unclouded by the smoke of
battle and the incense of victory, we should address ourselves to the
double enquiry, Was it necessary? and Was it right? postponing but not
evading the further question, Was it wise?



The plea that Silesia was necessary to Prussia, that the existence of
Prussia could only be prolonged or her people safeguarded or fed if
Silesia were hers, may be dismissed at once. Necessity is the usual
pillar of a claim to extend the area of dominion over lands lately
rescued from barbarism. The Law of Nations declares that, when under
such conditions two civilised states desire the same territory, one may
further its claim by showing that without this addition the territory
which it already has would be rendered worthless. But what might give a
good title to Fashoda would be absurd if applied to Breslau. Frederick
had himself investigated the subject nine years before when studying
under Hille at Cüstrin. He then concluded that Silesia did Prussia
commercial injury by exporting to her goods at lower rates than the
merchants of Brandenburg could afford to take. This state of things, he
and Hille thought, demanded a protective tariff. It could not by any
stretch of imagination dictate or justify the annexation of a province.
Nor from a military point of view was there imperative necessity for
acquiring Silesia. It was no doubt desirable for Prussia that she
should avert future danger by thrusting a wedge between Saxony and
Poland, and that more than one-fifth of the road from Vienna to Berlin,
by way of Breslau, should be in Prussian hands. But no Prussian could
maintain in 1740 that if Glogau and Breslau remained Austrian his state
would be imperilled in the same sense as the German Empire would have
been imperilled if Metz and Strasburg had remained French in 1871, or
as the British Empire would be imperilled to-day if Pretoria and
Johannesburg were still in hostile hands. The plea of hereditary right,
not that of necessity, was put forward by Frederick as the basis of his
claims. In 1740 the latter would have seemed equally absurd in law and
in fact.

The second question, Was it right for Prussia to attempt to acquire
Silesia for her own profit? may seem to have little claim to discussion
by Frederick’s biographers, because considerations of right and wrong
counted for little with Frederick himself. There seems to be no
evidence that Frederick either in his public or private life practised
the stale hypocrisies of truth and morality. What it seemed to him
profitable to do, that he did; what it seemed to him profitable to say,
that he said. “If there is anything to be gained by being honest, let
us be honest; if it is necessary to deceive, let us deceive,” are his
own words. In the case of Silesia, his avowal to Podewils, who urged
that some legal claim could be furbished up, is sufficiently explicit.
On November 7th the King writes: “The question of right (_droit_) is
the affair of the ministers; it is your affair; it is time to work at
it in secret, for the orders to the troops are given.” Two days later
he received the news of the death of the Empress of Russia, which was
worth more to him than a thousand title-deeds. Russia had no clear
rule of succession, and usually fell into anarchy at the demise of the
Crown. Frederick could therefore strike southward with confidence that
his flank was safe.

The question, Was it right? has, however, a deeper historical interest
than that involved in the biography of a king of Prussia. Frederick’s
indifference to all right renders it unnecessary to reflect in his
case upon the spectacle of a good man cheerfully doing evil in the
service of the State—of Sir Henry Wotton setting out with a jest “to
lie abroad,” or of Cavour exclaiming, “If we did for ourselves what we
do for Italy, what scoundrels we should be!” But it is to be borne in
mind that in 1740 it was impossible to lay down with certainty the duty
of a state towards its neighbours. The standard of right and wrong for
states in their dealings with one another was not yet fixed. Nearly a
quarter of a century later it was possible for Frederick to write, “The
jurisprudence of sovereigns is commonly the right of the stronger.” But
Maria Theresa was taught that sovereigns must rule their peoples as
branches of one Christian family.

Hitherto the old idea that a state was the property—the estate—of the
king had not lost all its influence. Even in England, which was already
the leader of the world in politics, the dynasty elected by the nation
had great weight in determining foreign policy. Without the knowledge
of any Englishman, William III. had committed England to the partition
of Spain, and in defiance of most Englishmen George II. was soon to
commit her to the defence of the Pragmatic Sanction. But if England
was not yet wholly free from the ancient notion, much more did Austria
and Prussia, bundles of Hapsburg and Hohenzollern lands, resemble the
estates of their rulers.

From this two consequences followed, vital in that day, almost
incomprehensible in ours. It was, in the first place, a maxim
universally accepted among the rulers of the Continent that the
inhabitants of a province had little or no share in choosing their
overlord. They might possess rights, even the right not to be divided
between several lords, but they could be sold or exchanged or given
away by one overlord to another without their own desire or even
consent. This maxim was accepted to the full by both Hapsburgs and
Hohenzollerns, whose fortunes had been made by the union of family
estates, and who never hesitated to barter those estates to advance
their own fortunes. Thus the fact that a province would be happier
under an overlord who professed the same religion with itself would,
according to the ideas prevalent in 1740, afford no good reason for
change. Religious oppression by a ruler, it was universally admitted,
entitled other rulers to interfere. But religious differences between
ruler and ruled gave no such right.

In so far, then, as States still resembled estates, the relations
between them varied according to the personal character of their
kings and princes. The nation ruled by an honourable king observed
its engagement strictly, at whatever inconvenience to itself. If a
State evaded its engagements the king’s honour was held to have been
tarnished. Unfortunately for Europe, this theory had been shaken, if
not shattered, by the reign of Louis XIV. The Apollo of France, the
cynosure of the Christian world, the king who was the very fount of
honour and in person the very pattern of chivalry, had in his dealings
with the Dutch and the Germans shown himself a kinsman of Machiavelli
and of Bismarck. His conspicuous severance of political from personal
morality shook the faith of the world, and in the corrupt generation
which followed Louis XIV. and nurtured Frederick even the standard of
personal morality sank low.

At the death of Charles VI., therefore, men were perplexed about
the source of law as between State and State. It seemed no longer
sufficient to trust in princes, and yet what new code could be set up?
Frederick’s attack upon Silesia struck a deadly blow at the remnant of
the old system. His whole career was to influence the new profoundly.

In answer to our two first questions it would therefore appear that the
attack upon Silesia was not dictated to Frederick by hard necessity,
and that, tried by the old standard of honour between princes, it was
clearly wrong. The third question—Was it wise?—is of a different order,
for it is far from certain that the wisdom or folly of Frederick’s
act has been sufficiently tested by time. A safe step towards the
truth, indeed, is to examine the international situation and calculate
Frederick’s chances of success, as a statesman would compute them
from the facts which lay before him in 1740. First of all, however,
we must account for the fact that Frederick, who was only the third
Hohenzollern to wear a crown, found himself in a position to assail the
dynasty which had held for centuries the foremost place in Germany.

The House of Hapsburg, perhaps to a greater extent than any other of
the ruling families in Europe, lay under the spell of its own past.
This was due in part to its native pride and sluggish blood, in part
to its long association with the oldest and most dignified institution
of the Christian world—the Holy Roman Empire. From 1438 onwards the
descendants of Rudolf of Hapsburg had been chosen in unbroken sequence
to fill the office which entitled its possessor to style himself Lord
of the World. The radiance of old Rome had gilded Vienna for so long a
time that it seemed to have transfigured the race that reigned there.
Thus the Hapsburgs grew proud with a pride which no other House could
rival, and no Hapsburg was prouder than Charles VI., the Anglo-Austrian
candidate in the War of the Spanish Succession. His pride was fatal,
for it banished him from the world of fact. He could never comprehend
how Europe could leave off fighting to make him King of Spain, nor
how the King of Prussia, who served him with towel and basin as Grand
Chamberlain of the Empire, could cherish aims and aspirations which
conflicted with his own. Pompous ceremonies and parchments made up
so large a part of his own life that he came to believe that they
expressed realities. Hence he made the cardinal error of his life. He
committed the future of his House to the Pragmatic Sanction. Domestic
economy was beneath his notice. While Frederick William was crying
out because his son’s tutors permitted an item “for the housemaids
at Wusterhausen,” to appear in the accounts, dishonest stewards were
debiting the Emperor with twelve buckets of the best wine for the
Emperor’s bath and two casks of old Tokay for Her Majesty’s parrots.
When Charles VI. died the treasury was almost empty; the army seemed
to have passed away with Prince Eugene; the ministers were blunderers
of seventy and the sovereign a woman of twenty-three.

Maria Theresa had, however, much in her favour. Though untried in
affairs of State, it was certain that her birth, her beauty, her piety,
her courage, her wifely devotion, and her unfailing goodness of heart
would win the affection of her subjects. And the realm of the Hapsburgs
needed only loyalty to be strong. Its broad and smiling provinces could
furnish inexhaustible supplies of men and food, and the rank and file
had proved their courage in a hundred wars. Besides, after all the
trouble and sacrifices of Charles VI., in what quarter could immediate
danger arise? The rulers of Bavaria, Saxony, Spain, and Sardinia had
each a claim to some part of his inheritance, but they could each and
all be confuted or bought off. A miscellaneous empire like that of the
Hapsburgs could never be wholly free from such disputes. What might
well give confidence for the future was the fact that France, so long
the moving spirit of Europe and the implacable foe of Austria, had in
1738 given to the Pragmatic Sanction the most ample guarantee that
the wit of man could devise. What her king had then undertaken, her
all-powerful minister had lately confirmed. In January, Fleury had
written to the Emperor:

    “The King will observe with the most exact and inviolable
    fidelity the engagements which he has made with you, and if
    I may speak of myself after a name so worthy, I venture to
    flatter myself that my pacific intentions are well enough known
    for it to be supposed that I am very far from thinking of
    setting Europe on fire.”

Both King and Cardinal were sincere, and the best proofs of their
sincerity were the signs of coming strife between them and England.
It was clearly to the interest of France that they should keep their

If she had nothing to fear from France, Maria Theresa had everything
to hope from Prussia. It is hardly necessary to say that Frederick
William, the devoted vassal of the Emperor, had been among the first to
guarantee the Pragmatic Sanction. His son, so Austrian statesmen might
argue, had to thank the Emperor for protection when he lay in prison,
for secret supplies of money, for experience in the field, above all
for admission by way of marriage to the outer circle of the Imperial
family itself. Now he expressed himself in terms which convinced the
consort of the Queen, Francis of Lorraine, that his attitude towards
the young couple was that of a father. Francis even flattered himself
with expectations of Prussian support in his candidature for the office
of Emperor. Although the Austrian resident at Berlin wrote towards the
end of October, 1740, that the gossips spoke of dangerous designs upon
a portion of Silesia, and although, on November 19th, Maria Theresa
gave utterance to a fear that the price of Prussian protection would
be a slice of her hereditary dominions, still no one at Vienna had the
least suspicion of the blow that Frederick was preparing.

What was hidden from the victims was hidden also from Europe and
from Berlin. Till the end of November, the only clear fact was that
Prussia was arming fast. Envoys besieged Podewils and the King, and
even Voltaire journeyed to Rheinsberg in the hope of piercing the
veil. All their efforts were vain. The conviction that Silesia was
in danger gathered strength, but no one could be sure that Frederick
would move at all, or that if he moved it would not be towards the
Rhine. He astutely feinted in the direction of Berg by strengthening
the garrisons in Cleves and repairing the roads to the West. At the
same time he toiled hard to baffle official curiosity at home and
abroad and to feel the pulses of the Powers, especially that of France.
Wilhelmina, who saw her brother revelling in the social pleasures of
Rheinsberg, had no idea of what was in the wind.

At last, when secrecy was no longer profitable, the King’s design was
allowed to appear. On November 29th, the English ambassador wrote from
Berlin that the project of invading Silesia was as good as avowed.
Frederick had yet to meet and to brave the Marquis di Botta, who came
from Vienna on a special mission to the Prussian Court and encountered
the stream of troops flowing towards Silesia. At their meeting the King
dropped the mask of friendship. “I am resolved,” he said in effect,
“to safeguard my rights over parts of Silesia by occupying it. Yield
it to me and I will support the throne of Maria Theresa and procure
the imperial crown for her husband.” “Impossible for us,” urged the
Austrian, “and for you, criminal in the eyes of all Europe.” Argument
was plainly futile, and both fell to threats. “The Prussian troops make
a handsomer show than the Austrian,” said Botta, “but ours have smelt
powder.” “The Prussian troops will prove themselves as brave as they
are handsome,” replied the King. Three days later, on December 12th,
he attended a masquerade in the apartments of the Queen, questioned
the French ambassador with regard to the disposition of Fleury, and
afterwards supped in public. To the last moment the routine of pleasure
was performed.

Next morning Frederick set out for Silesia. He had first to shake
off two lads of fourteen and ten, his brothers Henry and Ferdinand,
the youngest colonels in his army, who seized the skirts of his coat
and begged him to take them to the war. A day’s drive brought him to
Frankfurt-on-Oder, and between Frankfurt and the frontier of Silesia
was encamped an army of 19,000 men with seventy-four guns. The heart
of the despot not yet twenty-nine years old beat high with lust of
adventure and with confidence of success. On the evening of December
16th, he wrote to Podewils from Silesian soil:

    “I have crossed the Rubicon with waving banners and resounding
    music; my troops are full of good-will, the officers ambitious
    and our generals consumed with greed for fame; all will go as
    we wish and I have reason to promise myself all possible good
    from this undertaking.... I will either perish or have honour
    from it.”

Frederick’s next step was to issue to the world a document, of which
one thousand copies had been printed in deepest secrecy exactly a month
before. This was designed to reassure the people of Silesia as to
the intentions of the King of Prussia. It was dated December 1st and
gave out that a general war was threatening, in which Silesia, “our
safeguard and outwork,” would be involved and the security of Prussia
threatened. To avert this peril the King saw himself compelled to
despatch troops to Silesia.

    “This is by no means intended to injure Her Majesty of Hungary,
    with whom and with the worshipful House of Austria we rather
    most eagerly desire to maintain the strictest friendship and
    to promote their true interest and maintenance according to
    the example of our glorious forefathers in our realm and
    electorate. That such is our sole intention in this affair,
    time will show clearly enough, for we are actually in course of
    explanation and agreement with Her Majesty.”

Commentary on this profession, if not sufficiently supplied by
Frederick’s interviews with Botta, was afforded two days after his
entry into Silesia. Then for the first time a Prussian representative,
Borcke, informed the rulers of Austria of his master’s proceedings.
Shamefaced and without hope of success, he began the unwelcome task
by offering to the Archduke Francis his master’s guarantee for the
Hapsburg lands in Germany, a place in the Prussian alliance with
England, Holland, and Russia, his vote at the Imperial election, and
a loan of two million florins. Then he named the price—the cession of
all Silesia. “Rather the Turks before Vienna,” cried the Archduke,
“rather the Netherlands to France, rather any concession to Bavaria and
Saxony.” And when he grew calmer and spoke of negotiation, the door
opened and Maria Theresa asked whether her husband was there.

Next day the subject was broached anew by a more Olympian
plenipotentiary, Oberhofmarschall Gotter, who had arrived after
Borcke’s message was made known. He found Vienna stirred to its depths
and the English ambassador declaring that if such a thing were done
Frederick would be excommunicated from the society of Governments. None
the less he took the high tone and strove to intimidate the pliable

    “‘I bear,’ he said, ‘in one hand safety for the House of
    Austria and in the other, for Your Highness, the Imperial
    crown. The treasures of the King my master are at the service
    of the Queen, and he brings her the succour of his allies,
    England, Holland and Russia. As a return for these offers and
    as compensation for the peril which he incurs by them, he asks
    for all Silesia, and will take no less. The King’s resolve is
    immovable. He has the will and the power to possess himself
    of Silesia, and if it be not offered to him with a good grace
    these same troops and treasures will be given to Saxony and
    Bavaria, who are asking for them.’”

Gotter’s words seem to strike the keynote of the Silesian adventure.
His silence as to legal claim throws into strange relief the
preposterous character of the moral claim which he advances. Saxony and
Bavaria had made no overtures to Frederick, and Frederick, as soon
became apparent, was willing to accept much less than the whole of
Silesia. The spirit of Maria Theresa breathed in the calm and dignified
reply of the Archduke. Her high-minded confidence in Providence, her
allies, her people, and herself blunted all the weapons of Prussia—the
threats and cajolings addressed to the sovereign and the three hundred
thousand thalers offered to the ministers. Austria declared that
the invasion must cease or she would not even negotiate. Thereupon
Gotter and Borcke joined their voices to the loud and unceasing chorus
of remonstrance with which Prussia and Europe assailed the ears of
Frederick in vain.

The young King’s firmness may be ascribed in part to an overweening
confidence in his own talents and in part to the favourable progress of
his enterprise. He knew himself to be a cleverer man than his father
and he had boundless faith in prompt and decided action. His success
in the affairs of Mainz and Herstal could not but have augmented his
self-esteem. The sight of the well-found and eager army which a word
from him had assembled filled him with a sense of omnipotence. He
declared that it must not be said that the King of Prussia marched with
a tutor at his elbow. The minister of France, who admitted his great
power of becoming what he wished, smiled maliciously at what he wished
to become.

    “Fully convinced of his superiority in every department, he
    already thinks himself a clever statesman and a great general.
    Alert and masterful, he always decides upon the spot and
    according to his own fancy. His generals will never be anything
    but adjutants, his councillors anything but clerks, his
    finance-ministers anything but tax-gatherers, his allies among
    the German princes anything but his slaves.”

Frederick’s whole career is a vindication of this estimate.

Already, both in Silesia and in Europe, good progress had been made.
No Austrian armies disputed Frederick’s advance, for Charles VI’s
grandiose projects had denuded his home provinces of troops. The
natural defences of Silesia, too, were all on the wrong side. Mountains
formidable though by no means impassable screened it from loyal Bohemia
and loyal Moravia, and thus blocked the direct paths to Vienna. Only
a few hills and streams barred an attack from the side of Saxony and
no natural obstacle intervened between Breslau and Berlin. The strong
portal looking towards Prussia was Glogau, which closed the Oder, the
great natural highway of Silesia. Breslau, the capital, a city which
Frederick could praise as the finest in Germany, was too big to be a
fortress by nature and too independent to be made one by art. In the
main Protestant, and therefore ill-disposed towards Austrian rule,
it stood firmly upon its right to provide for its own defence and
refused to receive a garrison. Glogau was therefore the only formidable
fortress in Lower Silesia, the half of Silesia where Protestant feeling
was strongest and which was most exposed to the Prussian invasion. The
south-eastern half, Upper Silesia, contained two other strong places
of high importance—Brieg, which commanded the upper Oder, and Neisse,
which secured the backdoor of the province towards Austria. But Glogau,
Brieg, and Neisse were all ill-supplied and undermanned. Without a
field army to use them as bases and supports they could not oppose a
serious obstacle to the army of the King.



Frederick’s worst foe, indeed, was the weather, which tested the
endurance of the Prussians and found it great. Torrents of rain fell
from the eighteenth of December to the twentieth.

    “Waters all out,” says Carlyle of the latter day, “bridges
    down, the country one wild lake of eddying mud. Up to the knee
    for many miles together; up to the middle for long spaces;
    sometimes even up to the chin or deeper, where your bridge was
    washed away. The Prussians marched through it, as if they had
    been slate or iron.... Ten hours some of them were out, their
    march being twenty or twenty-five miles; ten to fifteen was the
    average distance come.”

Their unshaken discipline was the trophy of Frederick William and the
best omen for the adventure of his son. On December 22d he knocked at
the door of Silesia and was not dismayed at finding it shut. Wallis,
the Governor of the province, had thrown himself into Glogau, had
worked manfully to make it defensible, and now stood firm. Without
siege-guns Frederick could hardly hope to take the place, and for a
few days his own command was brought to a standstill. He summoned the
reserve under the younger Prince of Anhalt-Dessau to join him at
Glogau and used the delay to organise a system by which Silesia should
feed his troops for the future, but should feed them with the minimum
of inconvenience and waste. Meanwhile the enterprise continued to be
fortunate. On December 27th Schwerin and the right wing surprised
Liegnitz, an industrial town within sight of the western wall of
mountains, and on the same day the Young Dessauer brought the reserve
to Glogau and set Frederick free. “Thou wilt shortly see Silesia ranked
in the list of our provinces,” wrote the King. “Religion and our brave
soldiers will do the rest.”

In Silesia and in Europe alike the philosopher-king counted much on
religion. He cheerfully accepted the rôle of Protestant hero assigned
him by the people, first of Berlin, then of Silesia, and finally of
England. Never was this rôle more serviceable than in his dealings with
Breslau. Leaving the Young Dessauer to blockade Glogau, he pressed on
to the capital and, aided by the frost, accomplished the journey of
seventy miles in three days. Much display of friendship and a little
sharp practice sufficed to win the city, and Frederick, gracious and
debonair, entered it in great state. Thus in three weeks from his
departure from Berlin the King destroyed the Austrian civil government
of Silesia. Half the province lay almost passive in his grasp, and he
had secured a base for the conquest of the other half.

The remainder of the month of January, 1741, was spent in pressing
home the advantage already won. The smaller towns, Ohlau, which would
be useful as a base till Brieg could be acquired, Ottmachau, and
Namslau, capitulated one by one. It was true that the activity of the
young Austrian general, Browne, produced an ever-increasing disposition
to resist, and that Glatz, hedged in by hills, defied the besiegers.
But the area under Prussian control was steadily increased. Brieg was
masked as Glogau had been, and Neisse, after a futile bombardment of
four days, was treated in the same way. Schwerin was set free to drive
Browne through the mountains into Moravia and to lead the army into
winter quarters. On the 29th of January, Frederick returned to Berlin
and plunged with zest into the whirlpool of diplomacy which had been
stirred to its depths by his adventure.

Great as was his trust in resolute action and in accomplished facts,
he could not disguise from himself the truth that on one side his
calculations had broken down. Austria, inspired by a Queen whose high
soul it was not in Frederick’s power to measure, was not one whit
nearer to compliance with his demands. Russia, as he foresaw, was
likely to do little to help her, but the action of the Western Powers
was less easy to calculate. Frederick felt sure of one thing above all
else—that under no circumstances would France and England be on the
same side. He therefore devoted himself to the task of winning the
alliance of one and the neutrality of the other.

Frederick’s simultaneous courtship of two Powers whose latent enmity
to each other was beginning to reappear throws valuable light on his
diplomatic methods and upon his regard for the truth.

    “A veracious man he was, at all points,” says Frederick’s
    greatest biographer; “not even conscious of his veracity; but
    had it in the blood of him; and never looked upon ‘mendacity’
    but from a very great height indeed. He does not, except where
    suitable, at least he never should, express his whole meaning,
    but you will never find him expressing what is not his meaning.
    Reticence, not dissimulation.... Facts are a kind of divine
    thing to Frederick; much more so than to common men; this is
    essentially what Religion I have found in Frederick.”

By his verdict that Frederick was a “veracious” man and his seizure of
Silesia a righteous act, Carlyle robs the story of his life of half its
value. The plain meaning of the facts which he adduces seems to be that
he was an astute man, careless of truth and right. Hence we may enquire
with keen interest, How far can such means lead to lasting success?
In deference to a great name, however, two of Frederick’s letters may
be placed side by side. It will then be unnecessary to recur to this
ungracious topic. From this time forward it will be assumed that the
reader has formed his own opinion of Frederick’s truthfulness.

So soon as he realised that his negotiation with Austria might break
down, Frederick turned to France. On January 5, 1741, he wrote to
Fleury from Breslau:

    “My dear Cardinal, I am deeply impressed by all the assurances
    of friendship which you give me and I will always reply to them
    with the same sincerity. It depends only upon you, by favouring
    the justice of my title to Silesia, to make eternal the bonds
    which will unite us. If I did not make you a sharer in my plans
    at first it was through forgetfulness rather than for any other
    reason. It is not everyone who is as unfettered amid his work
    as yourself, and to Cardinal Fleury alone is it granted to
    think of and to provide for everything.”

And in sending the letter he added:

    “I ask nothing better than a close union with His Most
    Christian Majesty, whose interests will always be dear to me,
    and I flatter myself that he will have no less regard for mine.”

At the same time he was making proposals for a close union with the
natural enemy of France. In the same month, January, 1741, he addressed
the following sentences to George II.:

    “My Brother! I am delighted to see that I have not deceived
    myself in placing confidence in Your Majesty.

    “As I have had no alliance with anyone I have not been able
    to open my mind to anyone; but as I see Your Majesty’s good
    intentions I regard you as already my ally, from whom I ought
    in future to have nothing secret or concealed. Far from
    desiring to disturb Europe, I demand only that heed be paid
    to the justice of my uncontestable rights. I place unbounded
    confidence in Your Majesty’s friendship and in the common
    interests of Protestant princes, which require that those
    oppressed for their religion should be succoured. The tyranny
    under which the Silesians have groaned is frightful, and the
    barbarity of the Catholics towards them inexpressible. If the
    Protestants lose me they have no other resort.

    “If Your Majesty desires to attach to yourself a faithful ally
    of inviolable constancy, this is the time: our interests, our
    religion, our blood is the same, and it would be sad to see
    ourselves acting against each other: it would be still more
    grievous to oblige me to concur in the great plans of France,
    which I intend to do only if I am compelled.”

The question of alliances was still unsettled on February 19th, when
Frederick again left Berlin for the scene of war. Prussia might be
doomed to act alone; her safety lay in her own right hand. New armies
were set on foot, but a skirmish at Baumgarten, in which he narrowly
escaped capture, proved to Frederick that the Austrians were moving
and that his own troops were not all that could be desired. Nor was
the Prussian strategy above criticism. The Old Dessauer, the father of
the army, held up his hands in horror at the dispositions of Schwerin.
Weak detachments were cantoned everywhere and the mountain-passes not
secured, although Neisse, Brieg, and Glogau were still Austrian, and
the Prussians would be at the mercy of an army entering Silesia from
the Bohemian side.

But soon the King’s spirits, which had been depressed by the danger
of a European coalition against him, were raised and the military
situation greatly improved by a brilliant feat of the Young Dessauer.
Glogau, Frederick had been pleased to decree, must be taken. At
midnight on March 8th-9th, therefore, a combined assault was made with
that perfect organisation and cool courage which already distinguished
the Prussian infantry. In an hour the work was done, at a speed
which made the loss on each side the merest trifle. Frederick could
congratulate his lieutenant on “the prettiest military stroke that has
been done in this century,” and himself on the acquisition of an open
highroad to Breslau. The capital now became a safe central storehouse
for the Prussians, and its value as a base of operations was greatly
enhanced by the gain of control over the Oder. So far as Glogau itself
was concerned, it may be convenient to remark that the work had never
to be done a second time. In a wall near the northern portal may be
seen a stone inscribed F. R. 1741—a token of Prussian sovereignty which
from that day to this has suffered no erasure.

The next task was to secure Neisse, the Glogau of Upper Silesia. The
problem was complicated by the fact that the Austrians had succeeded
in flinging a thousand men into the fortress, and that a relieving
army under Marshal Neipperg was known to be on its way from Vienna.
Frederick therefore determined to turn the blockade into an active
siege, while one covering army was established to the westward., and
Schwerin received orders to concentrate another to the south-east. The
detachments were being called in for this purpose when the King had to
acknowledge a surprise which led to the first pitched battle of the
war and which might have ruined his whole enterprise. While Schwerin
was carefully shutting the south-eastern gate of Silesia in Neipperg’s
face, the marshal passed him on his right and, by a creditable march
over roads supposed to be impracticable, arrived at Neisse on April
5th. The advantage of this bold move was soon apparent. Frederick and
Schwerin, who had been within an ace of capture, were also marching
northwards, but they were separated from their friends by the river
Neisse and by a superior force of the enemy. Neipperg was strong in
cavalry and longed to follow up his advantage by crushing the Prussians
in detail.

Frederick was saved, however, by Neipperg’s ignorance of the strength
and position of his foes. With a force of less than sixteen thousand
men, the marshal’s plain duty was to use his temporary superiority
in numbers by meeting the enemy in the field and striving to destroy
him. Failing in this, he might make for Ohlau and the magazine. But
after crossing the Neisse, he lost touch with Frederick’s force
and believed himself to be between hostile armies on the north and
south-east. Snow and rain hampered his movements and chilled his men.
He therefore abandoned the initiative, and on April 9th sat down within
sight of friendly Brieg to await events. He was right in supposing
that a Prussian force lay to the south-east of him. It was the army
of Frederick and Schwerin, which had received reinforcements from
all sides. It was three times as strong as he believed it could be,
and it was within five miles of his camp. He was wrong, however, in
supposing that a stronger force lay to the north in Ohlau. Ohlau was
weak and Frederick was hastening thither to save his heavy artillery
and magazine. Neipperg lay right across his path and a battle was
inevitable. It would soon be proved whether the Prussian troops were
indeed as brave as they were handsome, or whether Europe was right in
thinking that Prussia would pay dear for the presumption of her King.

Frederick realised the importance of the crisis. For two days, it is
said, he could neither eat nor sleep. On April 8th he wrote to his
brother and heir, Prince Augustus William, bidding him farewell if the
next day should be his last. In that event he commended to his care
four of his friends, “those whom in life I have loved the most,” as
well as two of his servants. The next day, however, proved tempestuous
and the Prussian attack was postponed till April 10th. Then the morning
sun shone out upon a plain hardened by frost and covered to a depth of
two feet with snow. The Prussian baggage was packed at five o’clock,
and by nine the whole force had silently taken rank. An hour later,
the march northward began, the army pressing slowly through the snow
towards Ohlau, and feeling for the enemy who lay across their path. At
last the vanguard surprised an Austrian outpost, captured twenty men,
and learned that Neipperg lay encamped in and about Mollwitz, a village
less than two miles ahead.

How twenty-two thousand men could have approached so close to the
enemy unperceived, it is hard to understand. Neipperg, it is true,
did not expect to be attacked. There was some screen of woods between
the Prussians and Mollwitz, and the country-folk were Protestants who
volunteered information only to the Prussians. But the day was clear
and the scene as flat as the parade-ground at Potsdam; the Austrians
were particularly well supplied with scouts and their general’s
avowed plan was to shape his course according to the movements of his
opponents. None the less it was in fact not till after ten o’clock
that he received the alarm, and by that time the Prussians were
methodically ranking themselves for battle. Had the same opportunity
come to Frederick later in life, he would, as he himself declares, have
flung troops upon Mollwitz and the neighbouring villages and put the
Austrians to flight before they could form. But in this first fight
every traditional precaution was carefully observed, “the faithful
apprentice-hand,” says Carlyle, “still rigorous to the rules of the old

While Neipperg was bustling and hurrying to collect his army from three
villages and to draw it up in front of Mollwitz, the Prussians were
manœuvring into place as though they were on parade. Two long lines
were formed across the plain. These were three hundred paces apart, so
that if the front were pierced, which was hardly supposed possible, the
rear could fire their flintlocks without massacring their comrades.
Heavy guns to the front, cavalry on the wings, were the orders, and,
as the enemy were superior in cavalry, Frederick copied an expedient
of the great Gustavus by placing two regiments of grenadiers between
the squadrons of horse on either wing. At length all was ready, and at
midday the Prussian cannonade began, galling the Austrian cavalry and
as yet unanswerable by the Austrian guns.

Neipperg had ordered the cavalry to wait till a general advance could
be made. But the left wing, refusing to be shot down like dogs,
suddenly defied their officers and dashed at the Prussian right. They
lost all formation, but they found a foe unschooled in their tactics.
First pistol-shot, then a stroke with a sabre as sharp as a razor right
at the head of the enemy’s horse, finally, as horse and man went down,
a thrust from the rear at the rider—such an attack was beyond the
experience of the Prussian cavalry, and they could not stand against
it. As often as Austrian horse met Prussian on the day of Mollwitz they
gained an easy victory. They captured some of the guns, plundered the
baggage, tore several gaps in the line, and drove the King himself in
headlong flight from his first battle.

[Illustration: PLAN OF MOLWITZ, APRIL 10, 1741.]

For some time Frederick was driven helplessly here and there amid his
ruined cavalry in a fight which was unlike anything that he had ever
seen and which he was impotent to control. His generals begged him to
quit the field. To his inexperienced eye all seemed lost, and at last
Schwerin confirmed his fears. “There is still hope,” said this tried
captain to his sovereign, “but in case of the worst it would be well
if your Majesty in person would bring troops from Ohlau and Strehlen.”
Bewildered and despairing, the King turned his back on the wreck of
all his hopes and fled far to the south-east. Distancing many of his
attendants in a swift ride of more than thirty miles, he arrived at
Oppeln on the Oder, only to be repulsed by the unexpected fire of a
party of Austrian hussars who had seized the town and who captured some
of his worse-mounted companions. To this check, for he then doubled
back towards his army, he owed the fact that at the close of a ride of
nearly fifty miles he received the news of victory without delay.

When Frederick left the field it was about four o’clock. The havoc in
the Prussian ranks had been wrought by unsupported charges of horse.
Schwerin could still count upon his infantry, which in the midst of
the whirlwind had stood firm as a rock and by sheer steadiness and
speed of firing had tumbled masses of cavalry into ruin. His first act
was to send to the Young Dessauer, who commanded the second line, an
exhortation to do his duty and to keep his men from firing volleys into
the backs of their comrades. The Young Dessauer, who hated Schwerin,
replied that he needed no judge save the King and that he would do his
duty without any reminders.

After this exchange of courtesies, Schwerin braced himself to the
task of retrieving the day. He assured his infantry that the King was
well, that no battle could be won or lost by cavalry alone, and that
he placed his trust in them. He then ordered his right wing forward
against the Austrian infantry. These were raw levies and gave signs of
unsteadiness before the Prussians came within range. Range, in days
of weak powder and clumsy muskets, was some forty-five paces, and the
sight of the enemy bearing down upon them, shoulder to shoulder, was
too much for undisciplined men to face. Neipperg drew supports from
his right, but even his victorious cavalry soon refused to face the
fire which was poured in by men perfectly trained and furnished with
the iron ramrods invented by the Old Dessauer. The Austrian infantry,
which was able at the best to fire less than half as fast as the enemy,
hid trembling one behind another and tried to endure a torment to which
they could not reply. As the sun was sinking Schwerin pressed his
advantage home. With sounding music and waving banners, in irresistible
advance, the Prussian left swept down upon the weakened Austrian right.
Neipperg saw that the battle was lost. He retreated first behind
Mollwitz then, seeing that his men would not stand, round the Prussian
left and eventually to Neisse.

Except that his magazine was saved and that he was soon able to capture
Brieg, Frederick derived little immediate military advantage from what
he describes as “one of the rudest battles fought within the memory of
man.” The chief profit of Neipperg’s march had evaporated before the
battle, at the moment when Frederick and Schwerin became superior in
numbers. In spite of Mollwitz the Austrian army remained on Silesian
soil, and it was better placed near Neisse than near Brieg. In killed
and wounded each side had lost about 4500 men, nearly one-fourth of the
combatants engaged. And in spite of Frederick’s hoarded millions and
well-filled regiments, it was clear that, if the contest were to remain
a duel between himself and Maria Theresa alone, the size and natural
wealth of Austria must tell in the long run. After Mollwitz, Frederick
would still have been glad to accept Lower Silesia as the price of his
alliance with Austria and a contribution to her exchequer.

Prussia’s greatest gain from Mollwitz was increase of prestige. Though
her cavalry did not regain their nerve for many a day, her infantry,
the backbone of the army, had proved that it was indeed as brave as it
was handsome. Frederick never alluded to his own departure from the
field. In later life he accustomed himself to inaugurate the Prussian
military year by celebrating the anniversary of the triumph which he
had not seen. Every fifth of April the Guards were twice ordered to
the charge and dismissed with the words, “Thus did your forefathers at
Mollwitz.” The traditional Austrian contempt for Prussia had received
its first signal rebuke. The story survives among the villagers of
Mollwitz that when the call to arms disturbed one of Neipperg’s
officers at dinner he called to the landlord to keep the dishes hot.
“We will come back soon,” he promised, “but we have to go and dust the
Prussians’ jackets for them.”

Victory in the field reconciled Prussian opinion to Frederick’s
Silesian adventure, but this was a small gain in comparison with its
effect on opinion in Europe, especially in France. At the Court of
Louis XV. the party opposed to Fleury and to peace had been gathering
strength day by day. Hot-headed men and women, blind to the true
interests of their country, could see in Austria only the hereditary
enemy from whom lands and laurels were to be won. Chief among them was
Marshal Belleisle, a man who conceived great schemes and advocated them
with eloquence and charm. His plan was that France should ally herself
with Prussia, procure the Imperial crown for Charles Albert of Bavaria,
and, in spite of all her pledges to support the Pragmatic Sanction,
endow both the Bavarian and Saxon claimants with Austrian lands. Having
thus humbled Austria and made the fortunes of Austria’s rivals, France
might gain the Netherlands and Luxemburg for herself and dictate to a
divided Germany for ever.

Before Mollwitz, Belleisle had progressed with this policy so far as to
be entrusted with a mission to the Diet which assembled at Frankfort
to elect an Emperor. Frederick’s victory encouraged all the enemies of
the Hapsburgs and thus lightened the task of Belleisle. In May, 1741,
Charles Albert accepted the rôle marked out for him, and early next
month the King of Prussia, despairing of an alliance with England, came
to terms with France. By a treaty signed at Breslau in the deepest
secrecy, he agreed to renounce his claims to Jülich-Berg, and undertook
to vote for Charles Albert at the Diet. France in return guaranteed
him in the possession of Lower Silesia, and undertook to safeguard
Prussia by sending an army to support Charles Albert within two months
and by stirring up Sweden to make war on Russia. The coalition against
Austria gathered strength as it proceeded, and with the exception of
the English and the Dutch no nation hesitated to desert the Pragmatic

The idea with which Frederick began the Silesian adventure was
at length realised. He had, as he anticipated, stirred up general
confusion, amid which the strong man who knew his own mind could hardly
fail to carry off some spoils. To France, as the moving spirit, he
was all gratitude and devotion. But his real design henceforward was
to leave his confederates to subdue Austria, while he himself devoted
all his powers to grasping what Prussia could hope to retain. What he
gained from Belleisle’s work was made manifest in the summer and autumn
of 1741. While the Bavarians and French were advancing in triumph down
the Danube towards Vienna, the Austrians could take no thought for
Silesia. Frederick, therefore, had leisure to train his cavalry and
consolidate his conquest. He treacherously destroyed the municipal
independence of Breslau, which he had bound himself to preserve, but
did little actual fighting. Neisse, protected by Neipperg’s army,
seemed still too strong to be attacked.

Meanwhile the extreme peril of Maria Theresa’s throne forced the
Queen to make trial of desperate remedies. By throwing herself upon
the generosity of the Hungarians, the traditional rebels against her
House, she more than doubled the force at her disposal. Her endeavour
to purchase France was futile, but a hint from Frederick was now
enough to inaugurate negotiations with Prussia. Early in October
these issued in the famous convention of Klein Schnellendorf. In deep
secrecy, for Fleury had written that the King of Prussia was false in
everything, even in his caresses, and the French ambassador kept a
watchful eye upon his movements, Frederick met Neipperg at a castle
in the neighbourhood of Neisse. Each was accompanied by one companion,
while the English ambassador, Lord Hyndford, who had arranged the
interview, acted as clerk and witness. There Frederick, who had just
written to Belleisle a letter full of encouragement, sold his allies
for his own profit. It was agreed that after a sham siege of Neisse
the Austrians should evacuate Silesia, and that Prussia should become
neutral in fact though not in show. To Neipperg, whose army would now
be free to act against the French in Bohemia, Frederick gave wise
counsel for the campaign. “Unite all your troops, then strike home
before they can strike you.” If the Austrians should succeed, Frederick
might join them; if not, he would be compelled to look to himself. To
deceive the French, the English ambassador was to report him as deaf to
all propositions. If any word of the convention got abroad, the King
declared he would deny all and regard all as void.

This conspiracy against Frederick’s allies was punctiliously carried
into effect so long as it was profitable to Prussia. For fifteen days
Neisse submitted to a bombardment and two hundred cannon-shot were
fired off by either side. After seven days Neipperg’s army made off,
attended by a Prussian corps in seeming pursuit, and at the time
appointed the strong fortress was surrendered. On the very same day
the King accepted a treaty for the partition of Austria. The Prussians
then, as arranged, went into winter quarters in Upper Silesia,
which Austria was eventually to retain, and from time to time sham
skirmishes took place to hoodwink the French.

At the beginning of November the King left Neisse for Berlin, pausing
on his way to view the scenes of all his triumphs. At Brieg and Glogau
he inspected the fortifications, but at Breslau he drove in state to
the grand old Rathaus and received the homage of Lower Silesia, the
province secretly ceded to him at Klein Schnellendorf. The ceremony
was immediately followed by the reorganisation of the Government in
Church and State. The province was simply made Prussian, with absolute
religious equality, heavy but not harsh taxation, and a regular system
of conscription.

At Klein Schnellendorf Frederick had hinted that if the Austrians were
not successful in Bohemia they could not expect him to do more than
stand neutral. The event soon showed what he meant. Before the end of
November Prague was stormed in brilliant fashion by the Bavarians,
French, and Saxons. Frederick’s allies had succeeded where he expected
them to fail. He at once proclaimed his intention of standing by the
winning side. “My fingers itch for brilliant and useful action on
behalf of my dear Elector,” he wrote to Belleisle. He broke all the
provisions of the convention of Klein Schnellendorf and derided the
suggestion that such a pact could ever have existed. “Should I be
so foolish as to patch up a peace with enemies who hate me in their
hearts, and in whose neighbourhood I could enjoy no safety?” the King
demanded. “The true principles of the policy of my House demand a
close alliance with France.” Such was the substance of the argument
which Frederick addressed to Fleury.

Lord Hyndford, however, had witnessed all that passed at Klein
Schnellendorf, and would not allow England to be duped by lies.
Frederick therefore told him frankly that he intended to set the
convention at defiance. The allies, he showed, had 150,000 men
against Austria’s 70,000 and could do with her what they would. If
she published the convention she would only expose her own folly,
and perhaps she would not be believed. Then, besides treating Upper
Silesia as his own and laying hands on the adjoining county of Glatz,
he ordered the conquest of Moravia. Ere the year was out Schwerin was
in Olmütz, the chief town of the North, and it seemed as though the
allies would filch yet another province from the Queen. “Alas!” wrote
the philosopher-king on one occasion to Voltaire, “trickery, bad faith
and double-dealing are the leading feature of most of the men who are
at the head of the nations and who ought to set them an example.”

Never was the fortitude of Maria Theresa more needed or more
illustrious than in these winter months. The earlier gleams of
light—Vienna spared and Frederick bought off—only made yet more
black the clouds which now gathered over her throne. Her father had
flattered himself that he bequeathed to her the support of united
Europe. Within a year of his death the greater part of Europe was
leagued to despoil her. France, Spain, Bavaria, Prussia, Saxony, the
Elector Palatine, the Elector of Cologne formed the coalition, and
the accession of Sardinia was the prelude to a severe struggle on the
side of Italy. The loss of Bohemia almost without a blow made the
Queen well-nigh forgetful of Silesia until the perfidy of Frederick
opened the former wound anew. At the same time a revolution at St.
Petersburg extinguished for the time being the Austrian influence in
Russia and thereby increased the King’s security. Then came the attack
upon Moravia, and before the end of January, 1742, the Imperial crown
passed from the Hapsburg family by the election of the head of a rival
House—Charles Albert of Bavaria.

Amid all these disasters, however, the courage of the young Queen,
rooted as it was in her belief that right must triumph, remained
unshaken. She organised new armies and inspired them with her own
spirit. Before the resurgent might of Austria the new-made Emperor sank
into impotence. Within a month of his election the Queen recovered her
cities on the Danube and overran the hereditary lands of the Bavarian.
_Et Cæsar et nihil_ laughed the wags. What would his allies, France,
Prussia, and Saxony, do to relieve him?

The position of affairs may be simply stated. Two Austrian armies
were in the field, one conquering Bavaria, the other protecting it
against an attack from the side of Bohemia, where the allies were
still masters of Prague. If this second army were driven back by
a superior force, the first would be recalled to support it. Thus
Bavaria and Bohemia, the actual and the pretended inheritance of
Charles Albert, would be freed from the Austrians together. At the
same time the French in Bohemia would be relieved from the fear of
being outnumbered and attacked, and the Saxons would have the simplest
march possible—straight into Bohemia by the natural highroad of the
Elbe. Every military consideration thus summoned Frederick to join in
clearing the kingdom of Austrian troops. But this plan promised no
special advantage for the King of Prussia and it opened no market in
which he might barter his allies. With infinite labour he therefore
secured the adoption of another, in which these defects were remedied.
This was that he should lead the Saxon army into Moravia to assist the
Prussians in conquering the province, and in thus creating a diversion
which, he maintained, would aid the Emperor as well as any other.

The Saxons reluctantly left their country with no force, save the
French, to guard its frontier against the Austrian army of Bohemia.
Frederick was therefore secure against treason on his flank and could
again stir the waters of politics in full confidence that his House
would gain some profit. Moravia might become to Silesia what Silesia
had now become to Brandenburg—a dependency and an outwork. Or if this
was too much to hope for, he as conqueror of Moravia might at least
dictate to Vienna the surrender of a Silesia augmented by cuttings from
the Bohemian kingdom, of which Frederick regarded the Emperor or the
Queen as lawful sovereign exactly according to his convenience at the
moment. At the worst Moravia might pass to the Saxon House, which was
a weaker and therefore a safer neighbour than the Hapsburg.

All these calculations were falsified by events. The invasion of
Moravia was a far more difficult task than the invasion of Silesia.
Instead of a level and fertile country inhabited in part by Protestant
well-wishers, Frederick found a rugged desert whose people hated the
Prussians and did them every mischief in their power. He devastated the
land by way of penalty, and dragged the grumbling Saxons through clouds
of guerillas to Brünn, the capital, where he induced them to join him
in a siege. As leader of a composite army, however, he was no longer
served with the prompt and unquestioning obedience which the unmixed
Prussian forces had displayed.

Brünn made a stout resistance and Prince Charles was deputed to march
to its relief. At this point the heroism of the Queen seemed to be
rewarded by a sudden change of fortune. Frederick tried once more to
sacrifice his allies to his own profit, but in vain. England, now
guided by Carteret in place of Walpole, was actively supporting Maria
Theresa. Sardinia deserted the coalition against her. At Vienna, men
regained a confidence which was heightened by the news from the North.
Prince Charles feinted against the French in Bohemia and Frederick
dismissed the Saxons to help them. This was but the first step towards
the abandonment of the whole venture. After a toilsome retreat and
countless skirmishes, the exhausted Prussians crossed safely into
Bohemia before the end of April and again the negotiators were set to
work. Once more they failed and the Prussians found themselves between
Prague and the army of Prince Charles, which was now making thither
from Moravia.

A conflict was inevitable. It took place at Chotusitz, near the Elbe,
within three marches of Prague, on May 17, 1742. This battle is
remarkable not only because seven thousand men fell in three hours, but
also because it is the first victory actually won by Frederick himself.
His imperious temper had cost him the services of Schwerin, the hero
of Mollwitz, while the Old Dessauer had been rebuked for disobedience
and sent to the rear. But the Prussian infantry were as steady as at
Mollwitz, the cavalry, who suffered terribly, much better, and the
King proved that he could seize the moment for decisive action on the
field as well as in the cabinet. Four thousand Prussians fell, but
casualties, captures, and desertion reduced Prince Charles’s force of
thirty thousand by one-half.

The victory of Chotusitz assisted Frederick once more to abandon his
allies. It added force to the diplomacy of England, whose policy
was to help Austria a great deal against the French, but not at all
against the Prussians. While the English ambassadors were urging the
Queen to submit to the loss of Silesia, the Austrian troops pressed
the French hard in Bohemia and thus forced Frederick to hurry on a
peace. Within four weeks of Chotusitz, victor and vanquished had come
to terms. Frederick withdrew from the war and received all Silesia
except a fringe on the south-west, as well as the county of Glatz in
full sovereignty for ever. On July 28th these terms were embodied in
the Treaty of Berlin, which closed the First Silesian War. In twenty
months, at a cost of two pitched battles, Frederick had added to
Prussia sixteen thousand square miles of fertile land and a million and
a quarter of inhabitants—a greater prize than any that his ancestors
had won. He was not yet thirty-one years of age.





After following Frederick’s career through many phases in a dozen
years, we observe him with interest as he quits the whirlpool of
foreign adventure for the calm of government at home. We may well
enquire how far three crowded and strenuous campaigns have transformed
our hero. It is impossible that the deeds done at Breslau, Mollwitz,
Klein Schnellendorf, Olmütz, and Chotusitz and the strenuous toil of
twenty months in departments new to him should have left no mark upon
himself. The story outlined in the foregoing chapter suggests that he
moved from place to place and from task to task with great speed and
that his life, perhaps even his throne, were more than once in danger.
But it can convey no adequate idea of the inundation of ambassadors,
generals, messengers, officials, and busybodies which daily surged
in upon the King. Frederick, it must be remembered, was his own
commander-in-chief and his own prime minister at a time when, as he
himself confessed in later years, he had not the least knowledge of
war, when, owing to his father’s jealous absolutism, he had had the
briefest possible experience of diplomacy, and when his powers both in
war and in diplomacy were taxed by the problems of a newly-won province
which must be conciliated at all costs.


The strain was indeed severe. Under it Frederick became more
statesmanlike but not more humane. After a course of the waters at
Aix-la-Chapelle, he diverted himself as of old with literature and
the society of wits. But he made no effort to improve his domestic
life. His queen had retired to Schönhausen, a modest country-house in
the dreary plain which lies on the north side of Berlin—a dwelling so
remote that the swift expansion of recent years has not yet brought
it within the city. The King’s thoughts ran already upon a bachelor
establishment at Potsdam, the Sans Souci of later years, where he
might escape from the society of his relations to enjoy that of his
friends. For his subjects he attempted to provide few benefits beyond
a codification of the law—little enough for one who had held out hope
of a revolution in the art of kingship. It is true that he built the
great Opera House at Berlin, that he lavished money upon actors and
musicians, and that he endowed an Academy of Sciences. But he made
French the only vehicle of learned and literary thought; and though
Berlin might shine in Europe, the Prussian people gained little benefit

The King even enjoyed for a time the society of Voltaire, at that time
the King of Letters. The transaction is characteristic of the age.
The brilliant Frenchman, having quarrelled with his peers at home,
obtained from Louis XV. an informal commission to pry into the secrets
of Prussia. Before leaving France, he vented his spleen in a parcel of
epigrams upon Louis and his subjects, which he sent in all secrecy to
his affectionate admirer, Frederick. The latter, thinking to close the
doors of France to his guest and so to cage him at Berlin, published
them all at Paris. Both betrayals failed. As a diplomat Voltaire
extracted only banter from his patron and disciple, while Frederick
found that Louis XV. was indeed what Voltaire had termed him—“the most
stupid of kings,” for the epigrams did not sting him.

Frederick’s wider experience of life, it is clear, had rather hardened
his heart than softened it. As a king he had developed, faster
doubtless than in time of peace, along the lines with which we are
already familiar. He was still conspicuously energetic, imperious, and
mercantile. His energy is the more striking by contrast with the habit
of his contemporaries. Philip of Spain was sluggishly obeying his wife.
Louis of France, whom Frederick termed a good man whose only fault was
that he was King, was toying with mistresses, patronising sieges, and
pointing out the faults in a policy which he was too indolent to cheek.
Augustus of Saxony was sacrificing his armies lest he should be late
for the opera. The Czarina Elizabeth has been described as “bobbing
about in that unlovely whirlpool of intrigues, amours, devotions, and
strong liquor, which her history is.” In a word, the princes of Europe
still in great part looked on their office as an inheritance to be
enjoyed. Meanwhile, the King of Prussia was rising at dawn, reviewing
troops, inspecting fortresses, drafting and conning despatches,
superintending his players, and constituting himself a judge of appeal
for all his kingdom.

Whether judge, general, or stage-manager, he was always the King of
Prussia, and his naturally imperious temper mounted higher day by day.
His stern treatment of the Old Dessauer and the alienation of Schwerin
have already been mentioned. In time of peace his ministers met with no
greater forbearance. They were treated at best as clerks, and often as
dogs. The faithful Podewils, who had just rendered priceless services
to his master in the negotiations with Austria, presumed to suggest
that the King should remain for a time in Silesia. “Attend to your own
affairs, Sir,” was the reply, “and do not presume to dictate whether I
ought or ought not to go. Negotiate as I order you, and do not be the
weak tool of English and Austrian impudence.” With the same imperious
brutality Frederick wrote to the honourable nobleman who represented
him at Vienna. “Do not forget, Sir, with what master you have to do,
and if you take heed of nothing else, take heed for your head.”

As with his dependents, so with states weaker than his own, Frederick
always played the dictator. To grace his new opera he had engaged the
famous dancer Barberina, who was then at Venice. Her English lover
persuaded her to break the contract and remain there and the Doge and
Senate professed themselves powerless to interfere. Frederick therefore
seized a Venetian ambassador in Berlin and held him as a hostage, until
the Venetians in their turn violated justice by sending Barberina a
prisoner to Berlin.

With an imperiousness equal to that of his father Frederick combined
the traditional Hohenzollern willingness to buy and sell. He failed
to buy Silesia, but he succeeded in buying Glatz. The county of Glatz
belonged to Bohemia, and in 1741 Frederick recognised Charles Albert
as King of Bohemia. From him he purchased territory which the Bavarian
had never possessed and which he could never hope to possess without
foreign aid. The Prussians conquered the country and in 1742 Maria
Theresa offered to cede it. Thereupon the King accepted from Austria
what he had declared to belong to Bavaria and announced that he was no
longer bound to pay the purchase money agreed upon.

Frederick seems to be still in all essentials the man whose development
we have traced from his birth to his accession. He is tougher, as it
were, in mind and body alike. He has thrown off the feeble health of
his earlier years and the lust for mere adventure which possessed him
in the twenties. But experience has only added to his trust in himself,
to his belief that “negotiations without arms are music without
instruments,” that war determines disputes, and that bravery and
leadership determine war. His faith in prompt and decided action was
never more conspicuous than in 1744, when on the death of its prince
without lineal heirs, he seized Eastern Frisia. Hanover also had claims
to the land, but nothing could withstand the speed with which the
Prussians made this miniature Silesia their own and thus acquired in
Emden an outlet on the North Sea.

Frederick’s schemes are, indeed, so daring, and his acts so swift and
decisive, that many have believed—as he himself seems to have believed
at the time—that he was gifted with almost superhuman insight and rose
superior to human weakness. It may, therefore, be well to cite the
words in which Professor Koser of Bonn, the greatest living authority
upon the subject, has set down his impression of the King as he was at
the end of the First Silesian War.

    “To us he seems neither superhuman nor inhuman, a man not ready
    made and complete, but still in process of growth. The cold
    ‘satanic’ calculator shows himself more than once a sanguine
    man, a man of impulse. Sometimes insolent and sometimes almost
    faint-hearted, he lets his bearing be easily decided by the
    impressions of the moment. In his haste and heat and lack of
    experience he makes plenty of mistakes, not only in war, but
    also in politics. He does not look far into the future, and
    sometimes, however near to his heart lies his good repute, he
    takes no thought for it in time to come. And as he himself
    later admits, he owes a great part of his successes to fortune
    and to chance. In one word, we grant plenty of what the King,
    grown more mature, has described as the ‘giddiness’ of his
    younger years.”

When Frederick, pleading that in shipwreck each must save himself,
forsook his allies in the summer of 1742, he did so with certain
definite intentions. He wished to give Prussia time to digest Silesia,
and Europe time to accustom herself to Prussia. “The only question
now,” he wrote to Podewils, “is to accustom the cabinets of Europe to
see us in the position which this war has given us, and I believe that
much moderation and much good temper towards all our neighbours will
lead to that result.” The words breathe peace, but peace only so long
as it was both safe and profitable for Prussia. “The safety of our new
possessions,” he had just pointed out, “rests on a large and efficient
army, a full treasury, powerful fortresses and showy alliances which
easily impose upon the world.” For a time, it is clear, the King
intended to revert to the old policy of drilling men and saving money.
But it seems equally clear that if all went well the question which
Frederick propounded in 1740 would in due course present itself again.
“When one has an advantage is he to use it or not?” Is it reasonable to
suppose that the conqueror of Silesia would in future answer No?

For the present, however, while the Prussian system of government was
being established in Silesia, Frederick scanned every rise and fall of
the political barometer. What he saw made him at first congratulate
himself on having forsaken a losing cause before it was too late. Early
in September, 1742, the Saxons quitted the war empty-handed, and it
was evident that France repented of her share in it. Before the end
of the year her troops had been driven out of almost all Bohemia, and
in January, 1743, the death of Fleury deprived her of what unity in
policy and administration she still possessed. Worse than all else, the
Sea Powers now entered vigorously into the war. George II. was anxious
to protect Hanover; Carteret and the English people longed to strike a
blow at their natural enemy, France; and the importunity of England at
length induced the Dutch to move.

Frederick, though he had arranged affairs in Russia to his liking, had,
therefore, every reason to fear lest Austria should grow strong enough
to turn against himself. He was annoyed beyond measure by the news of
King George’s lucky victory over the French at Dettingen on June 27,
1743. “The devil fly away with my uncle,” he wrote to Podewils. He
declared that he would never hear the name of France again. “Noailles
is beaten, and by whom? By people who do not understand how to draw up
a line of battle, and who, in fact, did not draw one up.” Frederick’s
disgust was only increased by the fact that his military criticism was
well founded. Owing to George’s want of skill, Noailles had caught
his army in a trap, from which it escaped only by calm courage and
desperate fighting hand to hand. “I have tolerably well foreseen
everything that has passed in Europe hitherto,” wrote the King of
Prussia, “but for this blow I was not prepared.”

Dettingen and the fear of worse to follow impelled Frederick to take up
arms anew. Early in September, 1743, he visited Wilhelmina at Baireuth
and endeavoured in vain to organise a league of German princes to
rescue the Emperor. The Austrian diplomats were more successful. In
the same month, by a treaty made at Worms, they secured the definite
alliance of England and Sardinia. Frederick noticed with some alarm
that the Treaty of Berlin, which gave him Silesia, was not treated at
Worms as indispensable to the future of Germany. In December a compact
more distinctly menacing to Prussia, should she again interfere in the
war, was concluded between Austria and Saxony.

Early in the new year (1744), therefore, Frederick turned unabashed
to France. He offered to join her in a war which both parties should
pledge themselves to continue until Bohemia should have been wrested
from the Queen. The Emperor was to receive the greater part of the
kingdom, but Prussia, as in 1742, claimed the four Bohemian circles
east of the Elbe and also that fringe of Silesia which the Treaty of
Berlin had left in Austrian hands. Early in June all was arranged. By
the so-called Union of Frankfort some share in the undertaking was
promised by the Elector Palatine and the Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel. But
the substantial allies were, as in the earlier war, France, Prussia,
and Bavaria. The general plan agreed upon was that France should
cripple the Sea Powers by attacking the Netherlands and Hanover. If the
result was to bring an Austrian army into Alsace, Frederick promised
in his turn to cripple Austria by flinging eighty thousand men into
Bohemia. In that case the French undertook to make another campaign in
the East.

The motives which inspired Frederick to take action are so clear that
there is no need to seek them in the solemn accusation against Austria
which he gave to the world in August. He deemed it expedient to take up
the attitude of a German patriot, who, after exhausting the resources
of negotiation, was driven to repel by force the conspiracy of the
Queen of Hungary against the constitution of the Empire.

    “The race of those Germans of old, who for so many centuries
    defended their fatherland and their liberties against all the
    majesty of the Roman Empire, still survives, and will make
    the same defence to-day against those who dare to conspire
    against them.... In one word, the King asks for nothing and
    with him there is no question whatever of personal interests.
    His Majesty has recourse to arms only to restore liberty to the
    Empire, the sceptre to the Emperor and peace to Europe.”

Such was the Prussian account of the origin of the Second Silesian War.

Frederick again resorted to the method of simultaneous parley and
stroke which had served so well when he seized Silesia. On the same day
(August 7, 1744) that his ambassador at Vienna announced his crusade
to rescue the Emperor, he himself astonished the Saxons by showing
them the Emperor’s order to permit the passage of Prussian troops. It
is characteristic of the tangled politics of the time that Prussia and
Saxony remained technically at peace with each other while Frederick,
as the Emperor’s servant, led sixty thousand men up the Elbe into
Bohemia and Augustus, as the ally of the Queen of Hungary, sent twenty
thousand men to act against him. For the moment Frederick profited
by his speed. At the beginning of September he lay before Prague and
joined forces with twenty thousand men whom Schwerin had brought from
Silesia. Eighty thousand Prussians were thus assembled in the heart of
Bohemia, and on September 16th they took the capital.

The appearance of success was, however, delusive. Far from being
panic-stricken by Frederick’s sudden spring, the scrupulous Queen
rejoiced to see him break the treaty which gave him a title to Silesia.
From every point of the compass she summoned forces to defend Bohemia.
The army of Alsace recrossed the Rhine with great skill and marched
eastwards. They were undisturbed by the French, among whom Frederick’s
treacheries were passing into a proverb:—_se battre pour le roi de
Prusse_, to fight without reward. Clouds of irregular horse issued from
Hungary. The Saxons were marching southwards. The people of Bohemia
showed themselves hostile to the Prussians and assisted an Austrian
army to maintain itself in the kingdom. What course, we may ask, was
the wisest for a commander surrounded by so many dangers?

After the fall of Prague Frederick lay in the centre of Bohemia,
a kingdom walled in by a quadrilateral of mountains. He held the
north-eastern gates which led into Silesia. The south-western led into
Bavaria, and through them the army of Alsace was soon to enter. But at
the head of nearly 80,000 men the King was vastly stronger than any
single force that could be brought against him and his communications
with Prussia were safe. There was therefore much to be said for a
simple defensive policy. North-eastern Bohemia was the prize that
Frederick hoped to gain by the war, and this he could have held like
a second Silesia. Such a desertion of his allies would, however, have
shocked public opinion, particularly in France, and Frederick admits
that he shrank from it on that account.

The next best course, if some offensive movement must be made, would
have been first to crush the army of Bohemia and then to hold the
south-western gate against the army of Alsace. This course was advised
by Schwerin and favoured by the King. But the fatal influence of
Belleisle proved stronger than the promptings of common-sense. France
was avenged for the treacheries of Klein Schnellendorf and Berlin when
Frederick allowed himself to be persuaded to strike due south, in the
hope of conquering Bohemia, opening communications with Bavaria, and
cowing Vienna.

At first the plan prospered. Several towns were captured for the
Emperor, and by October 4, 1744, the Prussians had almost reached
the frontier of Austria proper. Then they began to realise that they
were the dupes of a mirage. The armies of Bohemia and of Alsace had
united in their rear and lay between them and Prague. They found
themselves isolated, ill fed, and worse informed. Swarms of light horse
enveloped them, cutting off convoys, scouts, and messengers. Schwerin
opened a line of retreat, but their recent conquests were lost with
the garrisons which held them. The Austrians had found a soldier,
Field-marshal Traun, and at his hands Frederick received painful
lessons in the art of war. The King had already begun to negotiate.
He thirsted for French co-operation and a pitched battle, but could
obtain neither boon. Traun, who was now superior in numbers, had no
need to fight. He occupied unassailable positions to the north of
Frederick’s force and left hunger, disease, and irregulars to do their
work upon the enemy. Thus harassed, the Prussian rank and file deserted
by thousands, and many offered their services to Traun. Schwerin again
took umbrage and withdrew from the campaign.



Step by step the reluctant King was driven towards Silesia. Before
the end of November it was plain that his whole enterprise must be
abandoned. It was mid-December before the last detachments of some
40,000 men, the remnant of his 80,000, straggled across the mountains
to the friendly walls of Glatz. Thanks to the determination of Maria
Theresa, a postscript had yet to be added to the history of the
campaign. In the spirit of her own Hungarians, who scorned to provide
a commissariat because their forefathers had journeyed from Asia to
the Land of the Five Rivers without one, the Queen dictated a winter
assault upon Silesia. The Old Dessauer, whom Frederick had left in
command, at length succeeded in clearing the province of anything like
an Austrian army, but it was not till February that the Prussians were
able to go into winter quarters. Thus a campaign which had begun
with the conquest of Bohemia came to an end to the sound of _Te Deums_
sung at Berlin for the deliverance of Silesia. Europe began to suspect
that the sword of Traun had pricked the Prussian bubble.

The anxiety with which Frederick awaited the spring of 1745, when he
must expect to have to fight in earnest for Silesia, was rendered more
intense by a sudden change in the attitude of his allies. He had joined
in the struggle with the expectation that Austria would be attacked by
the French and hampered both by the war in Italy and by the forces of
the Emperor. On January 20th, however, Charles Albert died, and the
youth who succeeded him was soon beaten to his knees. By the Treaty
of Füssen, in April, Austria and Bavaria agreed to ignore the past;
and the latter for the first time guaranteed the Pragmatic Sanction
and promised to vote for the husband of Maria Theresa at the imperial
election. The effect of this treaty upon Frederick’s position will
be appreciated when it is borne in mind that the road from France to
Austria passed through Bavaria, while the Austrian Netherlands, which
France coveted, lay at her very door. Thus it was easy to suspect that
in the coming campaign Prussia would receive little effective help
from France. Suspicion passed into certainty when Louis XV. elected to
accompany his army in person.

The campaign of 1745 might therefore be expected to fall into two
separate halves. In the Netherlands, France would be pitted against the
Sea Powers and an Austrian contingent, while in Silesia Austria would
make a great effort against Prussia. At the same time the secondary
struggle of Austria with Spain and France would go on in Italy, while
French and Austrian corps would guard the Rhine. It is evident at a
glance that the withdrawal of the French and Bavarians must greatly
improve the prospects of Austria with regard to Silesia. And when (May,
1745) she was joined by Saxony, whose help all parties desired, in an
undertaking to make no peace until Frederick should resign Silesia and
Glatz to the one and part of his hereditary dominions to the other,
the Queen might well be sanguine. Much of her advantage was, however,
thrown away by an error common to Hapsburg rulers, who are wont to
believe that no family is so fitted as their own for command. The
invasion of Silesia was entrusted to Prince Charles of Lorraine, the
nominal leader of the army in the previous year, while Traun, the real
author of the Austrian success, was sent to watch the Imperial election
at Frankfort. The consequence was that the Austrians did not move till
May, and that they were worse generalled than the Prussians.

Meanwhile Frederick had been assiduous in preparing for war and in
negotiating to avoid it. He was ready to put 80,000 foot and 30,000
horse into the field: but he had sued in vain for the alliance of
Saxony and the aid of England and of Russia. The King, who in 1740
had offered millions to Maria Theresa and planned a partition of her
dominions, must in 1745 implore Louis XV. for a subsidy to avert the
partition of his own. But the danger to Prussia, though real, was not
yet as overwhelming as her enemies believed. “Excellent bearskin to
be slit into straps,” chuckles Frederick’s admirer, “only the bear is
still on his feet.”

The King could still count upon two mighty allies,—upon his army,
whose spirit had been restored by the successes of the Old Dessauer in
the defence of Silesia, and upon himself. Both grew year by year more
valuable. At this crisis, as events were soon to prove, Frederick’s
spirit was worthy of the Queen herself. “I have made it a point of
honour,” he wrote to Podewils on April 27, 1745, “to contribute more
than any other to the aggrandisement of my House. I have played a
leading part among the crowned heads of Europe. These are so many
personal engagements which I have taken and which I am resolved to
fulfil even at the cost of my fortune and my life.” Since the middle of
March he had been making ready in Silesia, and in April he sent home
directions for carrying on the government if Berlin should be in danger.

Next month he learned that his French allies, who were bent on
capturing Tournay, had gained a great victory at Fontenoy (11th May,
1745). He received the news with mixed feelings. He had been striving
to find words which might force into the mind of Louis XV. the truth
that victories in the Netherlands would do nothing for the common cause
in Germany. “We beg the King of France,” he wrote, “not to imagine that
any efforts of his in Flanders can procure the least relief for the
King of Prussia. If the Spaniards land in the Canary Islands, if the
King of France takes Tournay, or if Thamas Kuli-Chan besieges Babylon
it is all one,” since such feats could not influence the war in Bohemia
and Moravia. Yet it was not disheartening to know that Dettingen had
been avenged and that other foes of Austria could more than hold their
own. With renewed hope, Frederick bent all his energies to the task of
holding Silesia.

The King had learned much from Traun, and he was no longer compelled to
consult the interests of his allies. He therefore avoided the mistakes
of the former year. In 1745 his clear gaze penetrated the heart of the
problem which he had to solve, and he followed the right course with
the coolest daring. Silesia, he knew, was divided from the country of
the enemy by a mountain rampart more than three hundred miles in length
and pierced by many roads. Veiled by clouds of light horse, Prince
Charles might choose any of these roads without betraying his choice
to the army of defence. What Neipperg had accomplished when he entered
Silesia in 1741 might be repeated by Prince Charles on a greater scale,
and with less favour from fortune the Prussians might this time be
crushed in detail. Frederick therefore drove sentiment from his breast,
abandoned south-eastern Silesia to the Hungarians, and concentrated
all his force in the neighbourhood of Neisse, a stronghold which the
Prussians had made impregnable. His design was to admit the invaders
to Silesia in the hope of catching them at a disadvantage and of
destroying their enterprise at a blow.

The result was that, when the allies came, they came in the highest
spirits. Their progress had been as fortunate as they could have hoped.
First, as usual, troops of wild riders poured into Silesia from the
south-east. They enjoyed the success which Frederick’s plan assured to
them, and treason among his soldiers gave them Cosel, a fortress on the
upper Oder. Then Prince Charles moved northward from Königgrätz into
the mountains and 30,000 Saxons joined him on the way. On June 3, 1745,
the combined army marched proudly down into the plain. Breslau lay
little more than two days’ march to the north-east of them.

The fixed idea of Prince Charles was that Frederick would behave in
1745 as he had behaved in 1744; that is to say, that he would retreat.
This delusion had been carefully fostered by the King. Discovering
that one of the spies whom he kept in the Austrian camp was in fact
selling Prussian secrets to the enemy, Frederick cleverly hinted to
him that he was afraid of being cut off from Breslau. The spy informed
Prince Charles, who readily gave credit to information which confirmed
his previous belief. Frederick then ordered some repairs on the roads
leading to the capital and supplied further proof of his intention,
if any were needed, by leaving the passes unguarded. Prince Charles
therefore emerged from the mountains in entire ignorance of the fact
that he was to be attacked by a force of 70,000 men. The invaders
encamped upon a plain some five miles broad and as flat as the field of
Mollwitz, with the little town of Hohenfriedberg on the edge of the
mountains to their rear, and Striegau, a place of greater size, on
the hills before them. The Saxon vanguard, which had already been in
contact with the enemy, was instructed to seize Striegau next morning,
if the Prussians still ventured to hold it. “There can be no God in
heaven,” said Prince Charles, “if we do not win this battle.”

Frederick’s camp lay almost at right angles to the line of the allies
between Hohenfriedberg and Striegau. That night (June 3–4, 1745) the
Prussians stole silently from their stations, crossed a stream which
separated them from the enemy, and ranged themselves before him in
line of battle. At dawn they began a general attack as furious as it
was unexpected. The Saxons, always unfortunate in war, were the first
to suffer, and their dogged resistance only increased their loss. The
Austrian infantry stood firm, but their cavalry could no longer face
the Prussians. Thus the Austrian centre and right wing, though favoured
by the ground, could gain no advantage sufficient to compensate for the
disasters of the Saxons on the left. Hohenfriedberg was a soldiers’
battle, and the decisive stroke was an irresponsible charge of the
Baireuth dragoons, who dashed at the enemy through a dangerous gap in
the Prussian line. The shock carried all before it. More than sixty
standards were captured by this regiment alone. By eight o’clock in the
morning the Austrians were in retreat towards the mountains and the
invasion of Silesia was at an end.

The allied army fled so quickly, writes the historian of the
Evangelical church at Hohenfriedberg, that little damage was done in
the place, and the inhabitants were soon able to bear what succour they
could to the wounded, who lay in thousands on the plain below. In about
four hours’ fighting the victors had lost more than 4000 men killed
or wounded, and the vanquished about 10,000. These figures do not,
however, represent one tithe of the advantage which Frederick gained
at Hohenfriedberg. He had reduced the allied army by some 25,000 men,
of whom 7000 were prisoners and many more deserters. Every German army
at that time included thousands of professional soldiers who fought
for either side indifferently and preferred the victors’ pay to their
pursuit. Thousands more fought against their will, and the retreat
through mountains gave them an opportunity to slip away. For a month
the Prussians hung in the rear of the allies and drove them as far as
Königgrätz. Instead of his defensive attitude in Silesia, Frederick
now took up a defensive-offensive in Bohemia, a plan which was as
creditable to his strategy as the battle had been to his tactics. Above
all other advantages he had gained this at Hohenfriedberg—that he could
henceforth trust his cavalry. Worthless at Mollwitz, respectable at
Chotusitz, at Hohenfriedberg they proved themselves superb. The panel
which commemorates the victory in the Prussian Hall of Fame portrays
the dragoons swooping down upon the white-clad infantry of Austria.

The triumph of Frederick the Warrior on this bloody fourth of June
revealed interesting glimpses of Frederick the man. In his first
transports of delight he hugged the French ambassador and astonished
him by owning gratitude to God. “So decisive a defeat,” he informed his
mother, “has not been since Blenheim.” He believed that the Queen would
now come to terms, and wrote to Podewils that it must have softened the
heart of Pharaoh. His delight found vent in music, and he composed his
_March of Hohenfriedberg_. But soon the statesman reappeared. None of
these ebullitions clouded his insight into the situation of affairs. He
saw clearly that his aims of the year before were still impracticable,
that what he needed was peace, and that his victory must have brought
peace nearer by discouraging the enemy.

It is true that now, as so often before, Frederick underrated the
firmness of the Queen. He was further disappointed by the unyielding
attitude of Augustus, who possessed a dangerous patron in the Czarina.
But England, the paymaster of the coalition, had no stomach for a war
of vengeance against Prussia. To her the Austrian alliance was merely
an investment. It would be profitable only if it produced hard fighting
against her real foes, the French. Fontenoy, where the Sea Powers had
been left to do their own fighting, shook her faith in her Hapsburg
ally, and the conduct of the Eastern campaign showed that the Queen’s
thoughts centred on the recovery of the province which England had
induced her to give up. At this juncture England herself was attacked.
The invasion of the Pretender compelled her to recall her troops from
the Continent and favoured the convention which was concluded at
Hanover towards the end of August. By the Convention of Hanover, signed
on the 26th August, 1745, Frederick a third time deserted the French.
He promised to vote for Francis at the Imperial election on condition
that Silesia should be guaranteed to him by all Europe, while George
II. undertook to induce Austria to renew the Treaty of Berlin within
six weeks.

The good offices of England, which as usual consisted in pressing the
Queen to buy off her enemies, were entirely useless. At the end of
August Austria and Saxony drew closer together, and on September 13th
the House of Hapsburg regained its old prestige by the election of
Francis as Emperor. Soon afterwards Frederick perceived that he had
exhausted the supplies of north-eastern Bohemia and began to retire
towards Silesia. By the end of September he had crossed the Elbe and
encamped with 18,000 men at the foot of the mountains near the village
of Soor. There something like his own manœuvre of Hohenfriedberg was
practised upon him by Prince Charles with an army almost double the
size of Frederick’s. Under cover of darkness the Austrians took up
positions commanding the Prussian camp. Only the King’s swift grasp of
the situation and the wonderful skill and speed of his troops averted
a great disaster. In a five hours’ fight the Austrians were driven
off, leaving more than 4000 men on the field and more than 3000 in
the enemy’s hands. The number of Prussian casualties exceeded 3000—a
heavy price to pay for bad scouting. Frederick was, moreover, put to
great inconvenience by the sack of his camp and the capture of his
secretary, the silent, assiduous Eichel.

At Soor, Frederick gained a safe retreat to Silesia and a lesson to be
careful in the future. But victory made him inattentive to the lesson.
The behaviour of his men had been beyond all praise. They formed
under fire; the cavalry charged up-hill and routed the enemy, and the
infantry, though unsupported, attacked superior numbers and captured
batteries. The King, not unnaturally, began to believe that there was
nothing which he and his soldiers could not accomplish. The result,
in a future as yet far distant, was great glory mingled with great

During the winter months the Prussian rank and file gathered fresh
laurels. Once more Frederick believed that he had tamed the Queen and
once more he found himself mistaken. As in every previous year of the
Silesian wars, Maria Theresa ordered an attack upon her enemy in the
winter. This of 1745 was threefold and the goal was not Breslau but
Berlin. Prince Charles’s army was to march from Bohemia into Saxony
and to join with the Saxons in a march to Frankfurt-on-Oder, while
10,000 men detached by Traun crossed Germany and seized Berlin. Enough
of this elaborate plan was blabbed to the Swedish ambassador by the
Saxon Premier, Count Brühl, to put Frederick upon his guard. His own
army had gone into winter quarters. A force under the Old Dessauer,
which had been stationed for some time at Halle in readiness to spring
at the throat of Saxony, was likewise laid up for the winter. Podewils
and the Old Dessauer refused to credit a scheme at once so grandiose
and so dangerous to the Saxons, who in case of failure would be left at
the mercy of Prussia. The King, however, overruled them, rushed into
Silesia, collected 35,000 men, marched for some days parallel with
the unsuspecting Prince Charles, and on November 23, 1745, crushed
his Saxon vanguard at Hennersdorf. At this blow the whole enterprise
collapsed. The Austrians retired into Bohemia, followed by Augustus and
Count Brühl, who stubbornly rejected the Prussian overtures for peace.

Meanwhile the Old Dessauer, who had captured Leipzig, was making for
Dresden under urgent orders to attack the Saxon force wherever he might
find it. Four armies were at this time converging upon the capital. The
Saxons under Count Rutowski, with whom were the Austrian contingent
from the West, formed a force of 35,000 men and lay to the westward of
the Elbe and of the city. The Old Dessauer, having secured Meissen, had
provided a bridge across the river by which Frederick marching from the
East could join him in case of need. But Prince Charles with 46,000 men
was advancing towards Dresden from the side of Bohemia, and Frederick
feverishly urged his veteran lieutenant to strike a speedy blow. If the
allies were to join forces the war might be prolonged and it seemed
likely that Russia would attack Prussia in the spring.

Prince Charles was in fact only five miles distant when, on December
15th, the Old Dessauer came upon Rutowski strongly posted at
Kesselsdorf. “Heavenly Father,” prayed the old man in the hearing
of his devoted soldiers, “graciously aid me this day: but if Thou
shouldest not be so disposed, at least lend not Thy aid to those
scoundrels the enemy, but passively await the issue.” The task of the
infantry was even harder than that of capturing the batteries at Soor.
Twice they were repulsed with a loss of nearly 1500 men out of 3600.
But the usual impetuosity of armies not perfectly trained came to
their aid. The Saxons in the intoxication of victory charged from the
entrenchments, only to be routed by the Prussian horse. This proved
the turning-point in a battle which cost Rutowski 3000 men killed and
wounded and twice as many taken prisoner.

The Prussians lost some 4600 men, but they gained peace. Prince Charles
fled once more into Bohemia and Dresden made no resistance. In the hour
of triumph Frederick’s bearing was admirable. All through the winter
campaign he had showered insults upon the Old Dessauer, a prince born
the year after Fehrbellin and hero of well-nigh half a hundred battles
and sieges. “My field-marshal is the only person who either cannot or
will not understand my plain commands.” “You go as slowly as though you
were determined to deprive me of my advantage.” Such were the royal
words which had goaded the old man into attempting the impossible
at Kesselsdorf, where he exposed himself recklessly and received
three balls through his clothing. Now he enjoyed as ample amends as
Frederick’s conception of the royal dignity permitted him to bestow.
On the day after the battle the King sprang from his horse at sight of
him, advanced to meet him with doffed hat, embraced him, and accepted
his guidance over the field.

At Dresden Frederick stayed eight days and showed himself anxious to
please. He entered the city, it is true, as a conqueror, in a carriage
drawn by eight horses, and he exacted a million thalers from the land.
But he visited and honoured the children of Augustus, played a leading
part in the society of the place, attended church and opera on Sunday,
and in general acted with the utmost moderation.

In the existing political situation, such conduct was no less politic
than humane. In spite of his triumph over the Saxons, Frederick’s
position was far from secure. Augustus was only a recent recruit in the
phalanx of kings arrayed against Prussia. Russia, his patron, had yet
to be reckoned with. The army of Prince Charles was unbroken. Southern
Silesia was flooded with Hungarians. Traun might yet leave the Rhine
and revive the painful memories of 1744. In face of all these dangers
Frederick had no reserves. His treasury was empty and the anger of the
French at the Convention of Hanover forbade him to expect assistance
from them. These considerations made him willing to name a low price
for peace. Even when fleeing from Traun in 1744 he had demanded a part
of Bohemia. Now after four victories he stipulated only that Austria
should renew the Treaty of Berlin. Maria Theresa was thus confronted
with the painful choice between abandoning, at least for the present,
all hope of recovering Silesia and resigning the help of the Sea
Powers, on which her hope of retaining Italy depended. The Saxon
alliance had broken down, a negotiation with France was unsuccessful,
and the Queen wisely consented to accept Frederick’s terms. At Dresden
on Christmas Day, 1745, treaties were signed which restored peace to a
great part of Germany and closed the Second Silesian War.





Two Silesian wars, episodes in the eight years of general turmoil
produced by the Austrian Succession question, had now been brought by
Frederick to a fortunate end. The Hapsburgs once more possessed the
Imperial crown, but the Hohenzollerns were masters of Silesia and their
days of vassalage were over.

The course of history has shown that by gaining Silesia Prussia enabled
herself to become in time the principal German state. From this time
onward, the Teutonic elements in the Hapsburg realm became more and
more outweighed by the rest, until in 1866 Austria, as a Power whose
political centre was Buda-Pest, was finally expelled from Germany. In
1745, it is true, the full significance of the transfer of Silesia was
felt rather than understood. But it was felt strongly enough to prevent
Frederick from deluding himself with the vain belief that Austria would
be easily reconciled to her loss, or that she regarded the Peace of
Dresden as more sacred than the Peace of Berlin. The Queen, it was
said, could not behold a Silesian without tears. Her spirit was so
high that she is believed to have thought seriously of becoming her own
commander-in-chief, and her resources grew greater with every year of

Frederick’s task of holding what he had so lightly seized in 1740
therefore grew no less difficult as time went on. He had good reason
for remaining constant to the principle which he professed at Dresden:
“I would not henceforth attack a cat, except to defend myself.” His
policy, as he wrote in his Testament of 1752, was to maintain peace
as long as might be possible without lowering the dignity of Prussia.
“We have drawn upon ourselves the envy of Europe by the acquisition
of Silesia,” he confessed. “It has put all our neighbours on the
alert; there is none who does not distrust us.” The ink of the Treaty
of Dresden was hardly dry ere new plans were mooted to blot it out.
The attitude of Russia towards the victor was menacing, that of
Poland defiant, and it was easy to see that Austria and Saxony had an
understanding with the Northern Powers which boded him no good.

Frederick was, however, no longer a novice in diplomacy and he knew
his own mind. Evading all efforts to tempt him back into the whirlpool
of war, he watched its successive phases till the Peace of 1748. He
saw the Queen turn her energies to Italy, while the Sea Powers, who
could not maintain themselves in the Netherlands without her aid, hired
troops in the only market open to them and brought 35,000 Russians
to the Rhine. But the value of this new factor in the politics of
Western Europe had not been tested when the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle
was patched up. Then the exhausted combatants entered upon the task of
reconstruction, in which Frederick had more than two years’ start of
them. To him the peace brought a guarantee by all Europe of the treaty
by which he held Silesia.

Imperfect as it was, for it settled no great question, the Peace of
Aix-la-Chapelle gave pause to the armed strife of Europe for eight
years. Prussia therefore enjoyed a full decade of rest before 1756,
when the third and greatest of her struggles for Silesia began. She
dared not put off her harness, but she stood at ease. After the peace
her army still numbered 135,000 men. But the crowned commander-in-chief
had now a leisure unattainable in time of war. His excuse for deserting
his ally at Dresden was that he wished to enjoy life and to labour for
the good of his subjects. Now his opportunity had come. It would be
strange if a reign of less than six years had destroyed the ideal which
Frederick championed in his early treatise on kingcraft. Prussia and
Europe might well expect that he would be, like the great-grandfather
of whom he wrote the words, “as great in peace as in the bosom of
victory,” and that he would apply his untrammelled power to remedy
whatever defects his enlightened insight might still discover in the
Prussian State. Frederick the Warrior had cleared the way for Frederick
the Reformer. Ought not Prussian history in the fifties to be a story
of regeneration?

The King himself, however, practically omits the record of this
decade from his history of the reign. He assigns as the reason that
“political intrigues which lead to nothing deserve no more notice than
teasing in society, and the particulars of the internal administration
do not afford sufficient material for history.” His great English
admirer holds that this routine work in itself was eminent, that
“one day these things will deserve to be studied to the bottom;
and to be set forth, by writing hands that are competent, for the
instruction and example of Workers,” but that “of Frederick’s success
in his Law-Reforms, in his Husbandries, Commerces and Furtherances,
conspicuously great as it was, there is no possibility of making
careless readers cognisant at this day.” Carlyle then explains that
the visit of Voltaire to Frederick and their quarrel is one of the few
things perfectly knowable in this period and the only thing which the
populations care to hear.

The following chapter of this book is written in the belief that
readers of the story of Frederick may well demand, above all else,
whether he is justly termed “The Great,” and if so, in virtue of what
achievements? Unless we are willing to answer that the title is his of
right because he seized Silesia and held it against great odds, these
questions compel us to enquire into his home administration. We know
well that the ruler is strong only because he wields the collective
strength of his nation, and that his chief task is to render the
nation stronger and to improve the machinery by which its strength is
collected and exerted. A great ruler is one who, when the difficulties
which he had to contend with are taken into account, is perceived to
have accomplished much more in the performance of this task than could
be expected from an ordinary man. If we find that Frederick improved
the lot of his subjects in a remarkable degree, or that he invented
beneficial institutions, or devised a system by which the future of
government in Prussia was assured and progress made easy, then we shall
have to concede to him a right to the title of Great other than that
which conquest may confer.

It is of high importance to ascertain at the outset of the enquiry how
far Frederick was free to act as he pleased and to what extent he was
fettered by constitutional or social ties. His whole manner of life,
indeed, was such as to suggest the most complete freedom. From the
moment of his father’s death he was master of his people and of his
policy as few European potentates have ever been. Autocracy as well as
diligence is stamped upon even the externals of his everyday existence.
Though his stature was not quite five feet seven inches, his ablutions,
when performed at all, slight and few, and his dress of the shabbiest,
no one ever suggested that his presence lacked kingliness. He usually
wore an old grey hat of soft felt, a faded blue uniform smeared with
the snuff in which he indulged immoderately, and boots which through
neglect were of a reddish colour. But his bearing, stern and caressing
by turns, his clarion voice, and his glance which, as a contemporary
owned, nothing could resist, made him the cynosure of whatever company
he was in. The absence of the customary trappings of royalty rendered
the King of Prussia less formidable to the poor, whom he patronised,
while it marked his contempt for the official and middle classes, whom
he sometimes allowed to kiss the skirts of his dirty coat.

Frederick, it need hardly be said, was fully conscious of his own
superiority to his subjects in birth, address, and talent. During
his incognito visit to Strasburg in 1740, Marshal Broglie remarked
the contrast between Frederick and Algarotti on the one hand and the
awkward Germans of the party on the other. The vivacity of the King’s
circle was almost all imported from abroad. Many years later the
French philosopher d’Alembert stated that Frederick himself was the
only man in Prussia with whom it was possible to hold conversation
as the word was understood in France. The man who by right of birth
was absolute ruler of Prussia had some reason to believe that he was
also the greatest poet, historian, philosopher, critic, administrator,
legislator, statesman, captain, and general in his dominions.


There is perhaps no more conclusive proof of his wisdom than that
his consciousness of this unique endowment did not cause his home
policy to become tyrannical and his foreign policy grandiose. From
the second fault he was saved by his keen eye for realities, which
taught him that, as he confessed, Prussia was playing a part among
the Great Powers without being in fact the equal of the rest. That he
never became a tyrant, was probably due in part to natural humanity
and in part to the philosophy which was his pride. He was often harsh
towards his subjects, but he proclaimed that his duty was to make them
happy and he never shed their blood. His threats to execute his
ministers were mere insults. But philosophy did not check one evil to
which he was inclined by nature and impelled by situation. Nothing
short of human sympathy could have mitigated his contempt for the
populace, which gathered strength with years. “My dear Sulzer,” he
replied to an educational theorist who urged that men were naturally
inclined to good, “you do not know that curséd race as I do.” “It is
more probable,” he held, “that we sprang from evil spirits, if such
things could exist, than from a Being whose nature is good.” As he rode
through the streets of his capital on one famous occasion, he came
upon a group of the discontented staring at a seditious cartoon. “Hang
it lower down,” was his scornful order, “so that they need not strain
their necks to see it.”

To the service of those whom he termed the rabble, none the less,
Frederick devoted a great share of a life of incessant labour. Every
day, Sunday and week-day alike, was parcelled out so as to contain
the greatest possible amount of work. “It is not necessary that I
should live,” wrote the King, “but it is necessary that I should act.”
He toiled for the State and for himself, and, with the exception of
regular visits to his mother and Madame de Camas, he admitted few
social claims upon his time. His Queen never even saw his favourite
home, Sans Souci, which he built in the park at Potsdam in 1747. She
knew so little of his affairs that she gave a party at Schönhausen
while he was lying _in extremis_. The consideration which he denied
to her he did not give to others whose title to it was less strong.
As he grew older, he curtailed even the short time that he had been
wont to spend in his capital, and divided the bulk of the year between
seclusion at Potsdam and the inspection of his provinces.

His habit was to rise at dawn or earlier. The first three or four hours
of the morning were allotted to toilet, correspondence, a desultory
breakfast of strong coffee and fruit, preceded by a deep draught of
cold water flavoured with fennel leaves, and flute-playing as an
accompaniment to meditation on business. Then came one or two hours
of rapid work with his secretaries, followed by parade, audiences,
and perhaps a little exercise. Punctually at noon Frederick sat down
to dinner, which was always the chief social event of the day and in
later life became his only solid meal. He supervised his kitchen like a
department of State. He considered and often amended the bill of fare,
which contained the names of the cooks responsible for every dish.
After dinner he marked with a cross the courses which had merited his
approval. He inspected his household accounts with minute care and
proved himself a master of domestic economy. The result was a dinner
that Voltaire considered fairly good for a country in which there was
no game, no decent meat, and no spring chickens.

Two hours, sometimes even four, were spent at table. Occasionally the
time was devoted to the discussion of important business with high
officials, but in general Frederick used it to refresh himself after
his six or seven hours of toil. He ate freely, preferring highly spiced
dishes, drank claret mixed with water, and talked incessantly. He was
a skilful and agreeable host, putting his guests instantly at their
ease, and, by Voltaire’s account, calling forth wit in others. After
dismissing the company he returned to his flute, and then put the
final touches to the morning’s business. After this he drank coffee
and passed some two hours in seclusion. During this period he nerved
himself for fresh grappling with affairs by plunging into literature.
In the year 1749 he produced no less than forty works. About six
o’clock he was ready to receive his lector or to converse with artists
and learned men. At seven began a small concert, in which Frederick
himself used often to perform. Supper followed, but was brief, unless
the conversation was of unusual interest. Otherwise the King went
to bed at about nine o’clock and slept five or six hours. In later
life he gave up suppers, but continued to invite a few friends for
conversation. He then allowed himself rather more sleep. In his last
years he lost the power to play his flute and with it, apparently, the
desire to hear music.

The sketch which has been given of Frederick’s daily life suggests that
whatever his power might be, it was not subjected to the interference
of others. At Potsdam there was no place for the ordinary influences
which were brought to bear upon Kings. Frederick would not endure the
presence of any woman, and, strictly speaking, he had no courtiers.
His intimates were not politicians, but wits and men of letters, for
the most part of foreign birth. Even those who accused him of hideous
vices admitted that he never suffered his accomplices to have the
smallest influence over him. Eichel and the two other secretaries who
worked with the King every day were slaves rather than counsellors.
They lived in such seclusion that, according to the French ambassador,
Eichel was never seen by any human being. During Frederick’s last
illness, he forced their successors to attend him at four o’clock
in the morning, so that the few weeks that might yet remain to him
should be serviceable to the State. One of them fell to the ground
in a fit, but the King merely summoned another, and went on with the
business. Through their hands passed Frederick’s correspondence with
his ministers, whom he rarely saw. “In his orders of two lines,”
grumbled a subordinate, “he announced no reasons.” He was of course
obliged to listen to the ambassadors of foreign Powers. As though to
avenge himself for this, he tolerated no suggestions from his own. He
desired spies rather than advisers, and often chose men of inferior
intelligence to fill high diplomatic posts. On every hand we find
tokens that Frederick looked to his own breast alone for inspiration in
the exercise of his power.

To realise how unfettered was the authority that Frederick wielded we
must consider the peculiar structure of the society over which he ruled
and of the machinery by which he ruled it. Frederick’s Prussia was a
state which just a century of strong monarchical rule had manufactured
out of a number of Hohenzollern fiefs. Its basis still remained feudal.
There were few social classes, and strong barriers separated class
from class. The career open to a Prussian was strictly limited by his
birth. Between town and country the law reared a dividing wall, unseen
but impassable. Townsmen alone were allowed to become manufacturers,
merchants, and civil servants. They paid a special tax, the “Excise,”
levied on the articles which they consumed. They had magistrates of
their own choosing, a relic of the municipal independence which the
Great Elector had broken down.

To the countryfolk, on the other hand, the King looked for his army.
They were divided into two great classes; the nobles, who alone might
become officers, and the peasants, who were still serfs tied to the
estates of their lords. The nobles enjoyed exemption from ordinary
taxes and paid only a small feudal rent to the Crown. Upon the
shoulders of the peasants fell the heavy burden of the “Contribution,”
a direct payment in money. Neither they nor the nobles might become
craftsmen or engage in commerce. The barrier which separated the two
classes of countryfolk was as firm as that which separated both from
the dwellers in towns. New patents of nobility were rarely granted by
the King, but all the children of a noble were nobles. Even the soil
was divided into noble-lands and peasant-lands, and neither class might
acquire the portion of the other.

It is easy to see that this system of rigid class division was unlikely
to ensure to every Prussian the career for which he was best fitted. In
Frederick’s eyes, however, it possessed two supreme merits, and for the
sake of these he was willing to make it eternal. It provided a gigantic
army and it contained no germ of opposition to the Crown.

Prussia under Frederick was practically one vast camp. Every
social class had a military function to perform. The King was
commander-in-chief and paymaster-general. The nobles formed the corps
of officers. Some of the peasants were called on to bear arms while the
rest laboured in the fields to produce the necessary supplies of food.
The burghers, who have been styled the commissariat department of the
army, armed and clothed the troops, and helped to provide funds with
which to hire the foreigners of whom half the army was composed.

It was possible to entrust to foreigners so great a share in Prussian
wars because the framework of the army was of iron. The native half of
each regiment was drawn from a particular locality. It consisted of
peasants led by the lords whom they had been accustomed from infancy
to obey. The regiment was ruled in a fashion almost patriarchal by a
commander who gave it his own name. Under this system _esprit de corps_
became a passion, and none knew better than Frederick how to turn it to
good account. To the army “Prussia” was a name which within the memory
of their fathers had been arbitrarily assigned to the dominions of the
elder branch of the House of Hohenzollern. Where national patriotism
was in its infancy, local patriotism was all the more intense, and it
was by playing upon this that Frederick, the Father of all his lands,
called forth many marvellous feats of arms.

But the King, though he fostered profitable sentiment, was far too
wary to trust to it over much. He had other expedients for attracting
nobles to the colours and for keeping the ranks full. He withdrew his
royal favour from those of noble birth who were so unpatriotic as
either to avoid his service or to leave it in a few years. The social
arrangements which have been outlined above were yet more powerful in
securing a supply of officers. The nobles were numerous, poor, and
brave. They must find some career, and what other lay open to them?
When Frederick’s father began to impress cadets, many parents even
tried to prove that they were not of noble birth. But with them, as
with many other classes of the discontented, firm government in the
long run brought cheerful obedience. “The King’s bread is the best,”
became their maxim. Frederick marked his appreciation of their worth by
rarely giving commissions to men of lower rank. It was not the least
of his gains that he thus acquired military authority over the most
influential class in his dominions.

He made sure of the common man by stern discipline. Although the
Prussian members of each regiment were bound together by social and
local bonds, by no means all of them were willing to fight for the
King. They were conscripts, not volunteers, and they were released only
when they became unfit to serve. Not a few deserted to the enemy under
stress of war. The foreigners who were their comrades under arms were
a varied host. Some were mercenaries, some deserters from the enemy,
some keen fighting men who were glad to serve in the finest army in the
world. Many had been kidnapped or pressed or tempted into the Prussian
service by false promises or admitted when their own countries were too
hot to hold them. Frederick’s directions to Prussian commanders for
the march are based on the assumption that many of the men will desire
to run away. When in time of war some of the peasants volunteered, the
astonished King asked what finer deed the Romans of old had performed.

His standing remedy against disintegration was “to make the discipline
so stern and the punishments so severe that the men would learn to fear
their own superiors more than the enemy.”

    “The punishments were barbarous,” writes Professor Martin
    Philippson. “Thrashing was customary. Imprisonment, sharpened
    by all kinds of chastisement and torment, was not rare. The
    most terrible of all was running the gauntlet, in which the
    offender was stripped to the waist and forced to run from
    twenty to thirty times through a living lane of hundreds of
    soldiers armed with rods, while the officers looked to it that
    every man laid on lustily. Hundreds of wretched men gave up the
    ghost under these tortures.”

Yet of the rank and file it may be said with more confidence than of
any other section of Frederick’s subjects that they loved the King.

Enough, perhaps, has been said to suggest that where classes were so
sharply divided there was little likelihood of any national resistance
to the Crown and that the Prussian military system gave Frederick a
peculiar authority over two great sections of his people. A further
source of power consisted in his enormous wealth. In every province
the Crown possessed vast domains amounting in all to nearly one-third
of the soil of Prussia. The result was that Frederick was lord of
innumerable peasants and by far the greatest capitalist in his
dominions. To him the nobles looked for help in time of dearth, while
the townsmen expected him to bear the initial loss of new industrial
enterprises. His domestic policy was directed towards the maintenance
of this position. For him the notion of taxes fructifying in the
pockets of the people had no charm. His ideal was that of subjects
paying the greatest possible amount of taxes to be administered by the
head of the State. Under his father’s rule the limit of profitable
taxation had already been reached, but Frederick was able to make
the collectors stricter than before. Though no spot in the Mark or
Pomerania or Magdeburg was more than twenty miles from a border, the
frontiers of his straggling dominions were watched with a vigilance
which became proverbial. An Italian priest, whom he begged to smuggle
him through the gate of heaven under his cassock, professed that he
would be charmed to do so, provided that the search for contraband were
not so keen as in Prussia. Liberty of commerce and remission of taxes
were not among the ideals of a King who claimed to direct all the
economic activities of his people.

The Prussian clergy had less power than the moneyed interest, and less
desire than the landed interest, to oppose or influence the will of the
King. His absolutism was favoured by the fact that in his dominions
several jealous churches existed side by side, and that he alone could
be the umpire in their disputes. His own point of view was perfectly
clear. He valued pastors because they taught their people to obey their
superiors and not to rob and murder, as, in the King’s opinion, they
would do if unrestrained. If the pastors accomplished this duty with
reasonable success they might, without fear of his displeasure use any
ritual or proclaim any doctrine of which their congregations approved.

Frederick regarded the Protestant teaching as far more useful than
the Romanist, but was determined to protect each in the enjoyment
of its rights and privileges. He professed himself willing to build
mosques for Turks and heathen if they would people the land. He was
the official head of the Lutheran Church, whose clergy then, as
always, preached the divine right of Kings. The King for his part
usually jeered at their faith only in private. At times, however, he
allowed his contempt for their observances to appear. When several
congregations appealed to him to condemn a new hymn-book he despatched
a refusal, and added with his own hand, “Everyone is free to sing ‘Now
all the woods are resting’ and more of such stupid nonsense.” In the
same spirit he answered the clergy of Potsdam who begged him not to
block out the light from their church, “Blessed are they which have not
seen and yet have believed.”

Frederick’s relations with his many papist subjects ran all the
smoother because the contemporary Popes were as a rule too much
engrossed by troubles within their own flock to engage in unnecessary
aggressions. His treatment of the papists in his hereditary dominions
was always carried out in the spirit of his answer to the monks of
Cleves. Though hardly meritorious in the eyes of the Holy Father, it
was too upright to give reasonable cause of offence. Near the royal
palace in Berlin rose the Hedwigs-Kirche, a temple modelled on the
Pantheon at Rome and built by the heretic King for the use of Romanists.

In the conquered provinces, however, a more difficult problem
confronted him. The Romanists, who formed the bulk of the population
of Upper Silesia and were powerful even in Breslau, could not be
expected to accept with pleasure the head of an alien church as their
supreme lord. The Prussian confiscation of one-half the net revenues
of the conventual houses and at a later date the disgrace of Cardinal
Schaffgotsch were measures dictated by needs of State, but not on
that account less unwelcome to the Church. The papists of Silesia,
particularly the clergy and the Jesuits, long continued to hope for the
restoration of Hapsburg rule.

Even in Silesia, however, Frederick’s policy of impartial firmness
disarmed his religious opponents in the end. While his neighbours
were expelling the Jesuits from their dominions and confiscating the
estates of the Church, his doors stood open to the fugitives and the
original settlement of the relations between Church and State remained
unvaried. It must not be forgotten, too, that the King of Prussia was
the patron and paymaster of a vast number of ecclesiastics of all
creeds. This fact finds illustration in one of the practical jokes
which he played upon his needy friend Pöllnitz. Although he had already
changed his religion in hope of a lucrative marriage, Frederick tempted
him by hinting that a rich canonry in Silesia was vacant. Next day, as
he expected, Pöllnitz came to tell him that he had again recanted and
was now eligible for the post. The King replied that the appointment
was already made, but that he had still a place of Rabbi to dispose
of—“Turn Jew and you shall have it.” With the same cynicism he exhorted
and often compelled the clergy to practise apostolic poverty. “We
free them from the cares of this world,” he wrote to Voltaire after
a sweeping measure of confiscation, “so that they may labour without
distraction to win the Heavenly Jerusalem which is their true home.”
It is not surprising if Carlyle is justified in stating that under
Frederick “the reverend men feel themselves to be a body of Spiritual
Sergeants, Corporals and Captains, to whom obedience is the rule and
discontent a thing not to be indulged in by any means.”

If, then, it is vain to look either to any class of society or to the
military or ecclesiastical organisations for a possible check upon
Frederick’s absolutism, the remainder of our quest must be confined
within two fields—the Judiciary and the Executive. It is idle to
imagine parliaments in Frederick’s Prussia. His ancestors had freed
themselves from the privileged assemblies which grew up in the several
provinces under the feudal system. To this day his successors upon the
Prussian throne reject the claims of their subjects to what William II.
stigmatised as “the freedom to govern themselves badly according to
their own desires.” Nor was the absence of parliament atoned for by the
influence of public opinion. Society at Berlin occasionally ventured to
mark its disapproval of the King’s action. It was, however, a narrow
caste, which lacked even the wit to temper despotism by epigram. The
King, though he endowed his capital with many handsome buildings, took
little pains to conciliate its inhabitants by living in their midst,
and on occasion did not scruple to play upon their stupidity. “In 1767,
the King found the public at Berlin inclined to tattle on the chance
of another war. To turn their attention he immediately composed and
sent to the newspapers a full account of a wonderful hail-storm stated,
though without the smallest foundation in fact, to have taken place
in Potsdam on the 27th of February in that year. Not only did this
imaginary narrative engross for some time, as he desired, the public
conversation, but it gave rise to some grave philosophical treatises on
the supposed phenomenon.” (Mahon.)

Many despotisms have, however, been tempered by the judicial system
of the nation or by the established machinery of administration. We,
therefore, turn finally to the judges and civil officers of Prussia
for some check upon Frederick’s power. But we find that in the
department of law he was as absolute as in any other. His subjects were
no longer entitled to carry their suits to the Imperial courts, and
the King at once supplied the deficiency, and kept his judges under
by making himself in person an accessible and swift tribunal of final
appeal (1744).

In this connexion the case of Miller Arnold is of world-wide celebrity.
A miller living near the Polish border was condemned by his lord to
be evicted for persistent non-payment of rent. He appealed to the
chief court of the province for restitution, alleging that another
noble, who afterwards bought the mill, had deprived him of water by
restoring a fish-pond higher up the stream. When the court decided
against him, he availed himself of the privilege of petition which
Frederick accorded to all his subjects. The King deputed one of his
colonels to investigate the matter in company with a member of the
provincial court. The colonel reported in favour of Arnold, but his
colleague upheld the previous decision. The King, convinced that his
colonel was in the right and that a poor man was being robbed of his
livelihood by a legal quibble, ordered the provincial court to make a
fresh enquiry. This second investigation only served to confirm their
previous view of the case, though an expert in drainage was of opinion
that the fish-pond really restricted the flow of water to the mill.
They declined to alter their verdict and Frederick ordered the judges
at Berlin to revise it.

The judges obeyed and revised the depositions with great care. Once
more sentence was pronounced against Arnold. Thereupon the King
determined to make an example of those who in his name oppressed the
poor under form of law. He summoned before him the Chancellor and
the three judges at whose door he supposed the guilt to lie. To the
Chancellor he addressed six words only: “March, thy place is filled
already.” The three judges were first rated like malefactors and then
flung into the common gaol.

It would be tedious to recite all the items of the King’s vengeance.
His hand fell as heavily upon the provincial court as upon the judges
at Berlin. When the Minister of Justice refused to pronounce sentence
against them, Frederick himself condemned them to loss of office, a
year’s imprisonment, and the payment of all that Arnold had lost. Thus
the miller triumphed, though he had in truth suffered no loss of water
power. Not till the succeeding reign was his knavery exposed and the
royal decree reversed.

These proceedings, which took place in the later years of the reign,
serve to show that Frederick was strong enough to trample the law
and its ministers underfoot. In general, however, he proved himself
practical, impartial, and firm in all that pertained to the judicial
system. The story that a miller of Potsdam refused to sell his
wind-mill to the King and answered his threats with a reference to
the courts, has been destroyed by modern criticism. “The laws must
speak and the sovereign be silent,” was, however, one of his maxims.
The distrust of lawyers which caused him to prefer the verdict of one
colonel to that of many judges did much to inspire the sweeping changes
for which the years following the Peace of Dresden are illustrious.

Frederick’s law-reforms were in great part achieved by the aged
jurist Cocceji, who, with the King’s support, triumphed over all
the interested opposition of lawyers and of his rivals. In the
course of the years 1747 and 1748, he abolished superfluous courts,
raised the fees for litigation, quickened the procedure, established
satisfactory tests for judges and advocates, reduced the numbers of
these functionaries, and did away at one stroke with the whole class
of solicitors. The violence of these reforms is a fresh proof of the
King’s omnipotence. He might by a stroke of the pen have given binding
force to the _Codex Fridericianus_, a famous code of law which Cocceji
drew up on principles of his own choosing.

It is evident that in Prussia the judges were forced to be “lions under
the throne.” The civil service gave less proof of courage and was
equally impotent to oppose the will of the King. Its structure might
have been designed for the very purpose of preventing any official save
the King from enjoying any substantial power or prominence. The lower
agents, who could not be dangerous, had no colleagues, but all the
higher functions were performed by boards. The villages were governed
by the bailiffs of their lords, and thus a vast number of petty local
officers were directly responsible to the representative of the Crown.
Above the bailiffs stood the Sheriff (_Landrat_), who was nominated by
the local nobles, but appointed by the King and acted as his factotum.
One young _Landrat_ strove to convince Frederick that there were
locusts in his country by sending him some live specimens in a box.
They escaped in the palace, and the angry King straightway altered the
conditions of the office, decreeing that in future no one should be
eligible who was under thirty-five years of age.

In the towns royal commissioners were charged with the collection of
the “Excise” and with duties of general supervision. But at the next
stage collegiate administration begins. _Landrat_ and commissioner
alike were responsible to the Provincial Chamber for War and Domains—a
body such as that on which Frederick had served while a prisoner at
Cüstrin. The individual members of the Chamber served the Crown as
inspectors in their province and as special commissioners to carry out
the public works which the King constantly initiated. The Chamber as
a whole reviewed the work of the lower officials and reported to the
General Directory, a clumsy corporation of ministers, which in its turn
reported to the King. It is hardly necessary to observe that Frederick
conceded to no person or body in this hierarchy the right to stand
between himself and any business with which he chose to interfere. He,
like his father, often preferred the evidence of his own eyes and of
his soldiers to the statements of his civil servants.

The General Directory had been created by Frederick William in 1723.

    “We wish,” he frankly stated, “that any odium, however
    undeserved, should fall not on us ... but on the
    _General-Ober-Finanz-Kriegs-und-Domänen-Directorium_ [General
    Supreme Financial War and Domains Directory] or on one or other
    of the members of the same, unless it shall prove possible to
    make the public change its bad opinion.”

The members were instructed to give such a turn to the business that
this aim might be realised, “because,” as the King expressed it, “we
wish to be frugal as regards the love and affection of our subjects and
of the friendship of our neighbours.”

The new body, as its name implies, was primarily concerned with
finance, which lay at the root of all Prussian government. It was
called into being at the moment when Frederick William amalgamated
two machines for collecting and expending revenue. It presided over
the administration of the old feudal revenue which came from the
Domains and over that of the new national revenue which came from the
Contribution and Excise,—taxes imposed for the support of the apparatus
of war. Foreign affairs and justice, each of which formed the charge
of two or three other ministers, lay outside the sphere of the General

This consisted of four departments, each of which supervised the
general administration on one great section of the soil of Prussia.
The North-east, the Centre, the West, and the districts lying between
the Centre and the West formed four distinct spheres of government,
each of which was the special charge of a chief minister and several
assistants. To these sectional departments, however, were assigned
various minor charges extending over the whole kingdom. Thus the
second department, which governed the Electoral Mark and Magdeburg,
at one time also fulfilled the functions of commissary-general for
all Prussia. It had in addition oversight over questions of salt,
millstones, cards, and stamps, in whatever locality they might arise.
If the chief of the department had four or five assistants a certain
specialisation was possible, but he was obliged to reckon with the
contingency that one or more of them might be commissioned to spend
part of their time in another department.

The General Directory, as Frederick found it, contained four
departments, but five chief ministers. The fifth, whose functions were
the general supervision of justice and of finance, was in Frederick
William’s conception a royal spy upon his colleagues. If they were
idle, deceitful, or inharmonious, it was his duty to report the facts
to the King, “that His Majesty may get no short measure anywhere and
may not be tricked.”

It is easy to see that this machine of government, however cumbrous,
was admirably designed to serve a despotic king. An army of clerks and
inspectors was always at his disposal. If he desired to know what was
passing in the furthest corner of his dominions, a curt note of enquiry
to the General Directory sufficed to set the machine in motion. The
Directory met five times a week, with no vacations. At its bidding,
commissioners were appointed by the Provincial Chamber to ascertain the
facts. In due course the Chamber received, digested, and annotated
their report, and supplied the necessary information to the Directory.
There, in the department which presided over the province in question,
the papers were again sifted and abstracted.

The Directory could not often be hoodwinked by its subordinates, for
Frederick William had furnished it with an army of local spies. Check
after check was applied. When the member of the department before whom
the affair was brought had satisfied himself, he procured the assent
of his colleagues. The department procured the assent of the Directory
as a whole. The Directory then reported to the confidential servants
of the King. Eventually the most concise and accurate information
obtainable, together with a table of arguments for and against a given
course of action, was laid before the King by Eichel and his colleagues
in the Cabinet. Frederick had only to glance at the paper and scrawl
a few words upon it in the morning and in the afternoon to sign a
royal order embodying his decision. Then General Directory, Provincial
Chamber, Sheriff, and Bailiff set to work in turn to procure the
execution of his commands.

It was objected that little Prussia had thirteen or fourteen ministers
when France required no more than five. But the multiplication of high
officials had this advantage—that it prevented them from leaving the
real conduct of affairs in the hands of obscure subordinates. Not only
must every State paper be signed by one or more ministers, but every
signature implied actual knowledge of its contents. The system, too,
prevented the rise of any single man or board that could challenge
comparison with the King by reason of its ascendancy in any great
function of government. Even Cocceji appeared to the people merely as a
royal commissioner appointed to accomplish a definite mission.

Corruption on any great scale was impossible. The public accounts
passed under so many eyes that the King of Prussia could never, like
Charles VI., be deprived of three-fourths of his revenue before it
reached the exchequer. It was useless to bribe Frederick’s ministers
to betray him, for they had not the power. They were there to give him
information and to obey his behests. He seldom asked them for advice.
“Good counsel does not come from a great number,” was his maxim.
Newton, he maintained, could not have discovered the law of gravitation
if he had been collaborating with Leibnitz and Descartes. As Minerva
sprang armed from the head of Jupiter, so must a policy spring from the
head of the prince.

Frederick, therefore, admitted no man or body of men as his colleague,
in the work of government. The officers of the Directory, Justice,
and Foreign Affairs were not allowed to form a conclave which might
meddle with questions of general welfare. As a body they were wont to
appear before the King only once a year. As individuals they seldom
communicated with him save in writing. The ministers of Foreign Affairs
had not even the privilege of writing about all of the important
matters which fell within the scope of their department. Their master
kept the conduct of weighty negotiations within his own Cabinet and
corresponded with his ambassadors direct. Eichel was his sole familiar.
Secrecy, which the King termed the soul of public business, was thus
preserved inviolable. “To pry into my secrets,” he boasted, “they must
first corrupt me.”

This is not the place to marshal the disadvantages to the State which
the Prussian system of administration involved. At this stage it
is sufficient to note that it placed absolute power in Frederick’s
hands and that he regarded it as a monument of the highest wisdom.
“If you depart from the principles and the system that our father has
introduced,” ran his warning to his brother and heir, “you will be the
first to suffer by it.”

The ten years of peace were therefore not devoted to structural
reform. In the first year of his reign Frederick had created a fifth
department of the General Directory. To it he entrusted first the trade
and manufactures of the whole kingdom and later the posts and the
settlement of immigrants from other lands. In 1746 he established in
like manner a sixth department, that of Military Affairs. These changes
merely developed the system of Frederick William a little further.
By a new departure, however, the Government of Silesia was made
independent of the General Directory. For reasons which the King never
stated, Münchow became the only minister for the province, and he was
responsible to Frederick alone. With this addition the whole framework
of government was stereotyped by an ordinance of 1748.

The years 1746–1756 are notable for Frederick’s use of his machine
rather than for the changes which he made in it. He now displayed
in action the principles of domestic policy which were the fruit of
his early training and the guide of his later years. His ideal is as
simple to understand as it was difficult to realise in practice. He
allowed his subjects to think as they pleased on condition that they
acted as he pleased. Neither in home nor in foreign policy did the King
recognise any bounds to the assistance that he might demand from the
dwellers within his dominions.

The main object of his foreign policy was to extend the borders of
Prussia to the utmost limit consistent with the safety of the State.
His home policy was to bring within those borders the greatest possible
number of men, to prevent them from falling below a certain moderate
level of righteousness, comfort, and knowledge, to organise a huge
army, to collect a vast revenue, and to enable Prussia as far as
possible to supply all the needs of every one of her people. Other
states were useful to her because they supplied recruits to her army,
teachers for her artisans, and gold and silver in exchange for her
surplus manufactures. The gold and silver were drawn into the treasury
by taxation and used to build villages, to establish new manufactures,
to hire more soldiers, and to fill Frederick’s war-chest. Then, by
war or a display of force which made war superfluous, a new province
would be joined to Prussia and the routine of development, taxation,
armament, and acquisition could begin anew.

It does not appear that Frederick regarded any single part of this
programme as weightier than the rest. In spite of all his economies
and accumulations he was no miser, cherishing money for its own sake.
He hoarded treasure so that his army might be sure of pay in time of
war and his subjects sure of help in case of devastating calamity.
On the same principle he maintained and added to the huge Government
granaries, which bought in years of plenty and sold, at high but not
exorbitant prices, in years of dearth. Frederick did not refuse to
make some profit from the institution, but his main object was to
confer upon the State the inestimable boon of freedom from famine.
The establishment of public warehouses for wool, silk, and cotton was
similarly designed to guard against glut and shortage. It was merely a
new adaptation of the policy of the Staple, which England had discarded
at the end of the Middle Ages. But it secured a market to the Prussian
producer and an unfailing source of supply to the Prussian manufacturer
and placed the whole traffic in raw materials under the supervision and
control of the State.

Frederick is as little open to the charge of megalomania as to that of
avarice. He was singularly free from foibles. He frankly admits that
the adventure of 1740 was partly inspired by the desire to make himself
a name. But before the Peace of Dresden his lust of mere conquest seems
to have been extinguished. Thenceforward his armaments and acquisitions
were strictly regulated by reasons of State, and in his conception of
statecraft domestic policy stood on a par with foreign. He likened
the Finances, Foreign Policy, and the Army to three steeds harnessed
abreast to the car of State, and himself to the charioteer who directed
them and urged them on.

Frederick’s most striking innovations in the department of home affairs
were made during his later years. It will therefore be necessary in
a subsequent chapter to give further illustrations of the working of
his principles and to calculate the results which he accomplished.
All through his reign, however, the process of internal improvement
and interference was carried on in conformity with these ideas.
Agriculture, as the basis of all, had the first claim upon the King’s
attention, and he made unceasing efforts to render every acre of the
land productive and to provide it with a cultivator. If in the course
of his innumerable journeys he observed a waste place that seemed
capable of improvement he would commend it to the Provincial Chamber
as a site for a certain number of new villages of a given size. If
the suggestion proved feasible it was carried out at the expense of
the State, which reaped its profit in course of time from the new
taxpayers, producers, and recruits, who were thus included in the

The most signal of these victories in time of peace was the reclaiming
of huge swamps lying along the Oder below Frankfurt, In July, 1747,
the King appointed commissioners, including the famous mathematician
Euler, and placed troops at their disposal. The task demanded not only
dams and drainage works, but also in parts excavation of a new bed for
the great river. It was urged forward by Frederick with all speed. He
often inspected the works and exacted a report of their progress week
by week. Boats were commandeered by force from the reluctant villagers.
Some of those whose fishing rights were done away conjured the King,
“falling at his feet,” so ran their petition, “most submissively in
deepest woe and dejection as a most terrified band fearing the fatal
stroke,” that he would lay to heart the ruin which his measures would
inevitably bring upon them. The King drily answered that they might let
him know when they had suffered any actual harm and compensated them
with reclaimed land.

Early in 1753 Frederick was able to make arrangements to people the
new province which he had thus conquered from the domain of Chaos. The
landowners, who had shared in the general opposition to the enterprise,
were compelled to resign to the State their claim to a large percentage
of the reclaimed land and to provide a prescribed number of peasants
for the remainder. Born Prussians were as a rule declared ineligible,
for here was an opportunity of tempting valuable fresh blood into the
State. Freedom from military service to the third generation, exemption
from taxes for some years, and at first actual assistance were the
terms offered to many immigrants. The result was that Frederick secured
an influx of new subjects from far and wide. The Rhineland, Würtemburg,
Mecklenburg, Swedish Pomerania, Saxony, Bohemia, Poland, and the
mountains of Austria—all sent contingents. He laid out more than
500,000 thalers in all and secured a rental of 20,000. More than 250
villages were created. Thanks in great part to this policy of internal
colonisation, the numbers of the people steadily rose. At his accession
Frederick had ruled over rather more than 2,200,000 people. Thirteen
years later the number in the old provinces had become more than
one-sixth greater, while East Frisia added 90,000 souls and Silesia
some 1,200,000 more. In 1756 the total exceeded 4,000,000.

The decade which followed the Peace of Dresden, though uneventful in
comparison with the periods of seven years which it divides, was thus
by no means barren. For Frederick it was indeed a period of manifold
activity. It was signalised by the establishment of Sans Souci and by
the memorable visit of Voltaire. For three years (1750–1753) the King
enjoyed the constant exchange of homage with the cynosure of the world
of letters, who described his new home, Potsdam, as “Sparta and Athens
joined in one, nothing but reviewing and poetry day by day.” Each of
the two friends revered the genius and despised the character of the
other. The sequel was a desperate quarrel, and the flight and arrest of
Voltaire. When he was suffered to pass beyond the reach of Frederick’s
sceptre he strove to avenge himself with the pen which had lavished
exquisite flattery upon the King for many years and which was often to
resume the old style in the future.

Literary effort and witty company were, however, only the King’s solace
in a life of labour. Day by day he scanned the political horizon,
resolved to take no action which would not serve the State, and to
shrink from nothing if Prussian interests were threatened. Day by
day, too, he urged forward the labours of peace and the preparations
for war. While Silesia was being gradually assimilated and the old
Prussia developed, Frederick was making use of his new possession, East
Frisia, in a tardy and only moderately successful endeavour to further
commerce overseas. Commerce in Frederick’s opinion ranked far below
agriculture and manufactures in value to a state with ideals such as
those which he had chosen for Prussia. He therefore devoted far more of
his energy to the task of forwarding Prussian industry, which he argued
gave employment to a thousand times as many men, brought more gold and
silver into the country, and remained more amenable to State control.
At the same time he was steadily accumulating treasure and perfecting
his military force. In the fateful year 1756 he had upwards of
14,000,000 thalers stored up for war. The standing army then numbered
more than 150,000 men.





All the world knows that in 1756 the King of Prussia embarked upon a
struggle in comparison with which his previous wars might almost be
called sham-fights. This was the Third Silesian War, commonly known
as the Seven Years’ War, which Macaulay’s lurid prose depicts as
setting almost the whole globe on fire. The true cause of Austria’s new
struggle, not merely to regain Silesia, but also to curb the dangerous
power of Prussia, will be patent to all who have followed the story
of Frederick’s life. It was the memory of past wrong quickened by
apprehensions of worse to come. Maria Theresa could not believe that
Heaven would suffer her despoiler to go unchastised, and she watched
the political horizon for signs that the day of vengeance upon him was
at hand. At the same time all the neighbours of Prussia perceived with
that instinct which is the surest guide of states that the system to
which they belonged was jeopardised by an intruding Power whose conduct
had been such as to justify a crusade against her.

In that age of unstable alliances and easy wars it was certain that
a conviction shared by so many states would sooner or later lead
to action. It was equally certain that, while Frederick was king,
Prussia would strike back. Hence we may regard with some indifference
nice balancings of moral judgment upon the great fact of 1756, when
Frederick suddenly made war upon Austria and treated Saxony with almost
greater violence. It seems idle to maintain that because Austria had
yielded up Silesia by treaty she was debarred for ever from retaliating
upon Frederick in the fashion which he had set. Who would apply such a
rule to the problems of the present? If it be lawful, in our own day,
for France to hope to recover Alsace and Lorraine, or for Spain to hope
to recover Gibraltar, it is not easy to understand why, in 1756, Maria
Theresa might not lawfully hope to reverse the verdict of 1742 and
1745. And if she and her neighbours contemplated something more than a
recovery of lands actually lost, if they sought to reduce the King of
Prussia to the harmless level of a Margrave of Brandenburg, who can be
indignant or even surprised? A new coalition against Frederick would be
merely the Austrian answer to his own riddle, “If I have an advantage,
am I to use it or not?”



But if, as seems undeniable, Austria and her neighbours had good
grounds for hoping to attack Prussia, and if, as Frederick had reason
to believe, the danger was becoming imminent in 1756, what could be
more futile than the statement that none the less he was not justified
in striking the first blow? It is true that for reasons of current
politics the Austrian Chancellor, Kaunitz, schemed with success to
shape events so as to make Prussia seem the aggressor, and that he
thus established the conditions under which Austria could claim the
fulfilment of a treaty of defensive alliance. At a distance of a
century and a half, however, such subtleties can be appraised at
their true value. Though in 1756 war emerges from as dense a cloud of
diplomacy as ever befogged the path of European history, our generation
may regard the Third Silesian War as the natural result of the original
aggression of Frederick and of the abiding interests of other Powers.

Those interests, however, demand a brief explanation, for they
determined the time and the form of a war which at some time and in
some form was inevitable from the very moment at which Austria and
Prussia laid down their arms at Dresden. In an age when the true course
of states was steered by kings and statesmen of whom some were lazy,
some self-seeking, some timid, some honestly mistaken in their designs,
it was not to be expected that many should, like Prussia, make straight
for a definite goal. Since the Peace of Utrecht, Europe had lived in an
atmosphere of general uncertainty. Nations formed countless short-lived
comradeships for the pursuit of objects often transient. It was almost
impossible to forecast who, if war broke out, would be ranged on one
side or the other, and hardly less difficult to forecast the side upon
which those who had entered the war as allies of one of the combatants
would be found at the end of it. What might, however, be anticipated
with confidence was that few Powers would neglect the chance of profit
which war afforded. Walpole’s famous boast, “There are fifty thousand
men slain in Europe this year and not one Englishman,” was called forth
by his triumph in keeping clear of the War of the Polish Succession,
which was not too remote to embroil every other Great Power.

While there was then a tendency for every Power to share in every
war as an auxiliary if not as a principal, two alliances had become
traditional. Ever since the undue predominance of France first
imperilled the liberties of Europe, England had steadily supported
Austria against her. And so soon as the Great Elector showed that
Prussia might be a serviceable ally, France strove to employ her with a
view to the humiliation of Austria. Though only occasionally successful
in engaging Prussia, she continued to regard her as a natural ally.
Thus each of the maritime and commercial rivals of the West had its
_liaison_ with one of the German Land Powers of the East.

More to be reckoned on than these connexions were, however, three
great antipathies which the course of history had revealed. The clash
of interest between Austria and Prussia seemed destined to distract
Germany until one or other proved supreme, and, so long as Maria
Theresa confronted Frederick, it would be made harsher by a duel
between the sovereigns. Russia, while Elizabeth ruled, would go with
Austria. The giant State whose westward path had been marked out by
Peter the Great already discerned in Prussia the athlete braced to
dispute the way. Ost-Preussen was always a tempting bait, and long ere
this an ambassador at Frederick’s Court reported that the King feared
Russia more than his God. None the less Frederick had permitted his
sharp tongue to goad the luxurious Czarina into a fury which surpassed
that of the Queen whom he had robbed of Silesia. In April, 1756, the
Austrian ambassador at St. Petersburg was informed that Russia was
ready to co-operate in an immediate attack upon Prussia by sending
80,000 men, and that she would not lay down her arms until Maria
Theresa had recovered Silesia and Glatz.

The jealousy of the rival states in Germany and the wrath of the
despot who swayed the policy of Russia would count for much in the
coming war. Weightier still was the struggle between France and
England for the primacy in three continents and on the seas. This
great national duel had been begun by William III. and brilliantly
continued by Marlborough. During the pacific rule of Walpole, when
the two countries were nominally in alliance, England was gaining
strength and taking up a position in America and India which her
rival could not witness unmoved. The close league formed by France
with Spain, the monopolist of the New World, rendered lasting peace
with England impossible and even Walpole was forced into war. This
war, known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear, began with an attack on the
Spaniards in 1739, and developed into a world-wide struggle with the
French in which Dettingen and Fontenoy were incidents. The settlement
at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748, which put an end to it, was obviously a
mere breathing-space. In the early fifties hostilities broke out anew
between the English and French in India and North America, and it could
hardly be doubted that Europe would soon catch fire.

In 1756, therefore, war between France and England had already begun,
and war between Frederick and his two Imperial neighbours was imminent.
The custom of Europe and the precedent of the former struggle made it
in the highest degree unlikely that these wars would be kept apart.
What would be the connexion between them? The answer was determined by
three accidents. The King of England happened to be Elector of Hanover,
the ruling spirit at Vienna happened to be Kaunitz, and the mistress of
Louis XV. happened to be Madame de Pompadour.

Hanover, argued George II., will certainly be attacked by the French.
It must be defended at all costs. The only possible defenders are
Austria, Russia, and Prussia. Austria, the old patron of Hanover, would
be preferable. But the Queen has grievances against England and is
bent on attacking Prussia. Alliance with her would therefore expose
Hanover to the Prussians as well as to the French, and must therefore
be regarded as out of the question. Russia and Prussia remained to be
considered. Russia actually made a convention to hire out troops for
the defence of Hanover. But Russia, the King found, also desired to
attack Prussia, and was therefore as ineligible an ally as Austria.
Only the Prussian alliance remained possible. In January, 1756, by the
Convention of Westminster, it was secured.

The Convention of Westminster, by which Frederick bound himself to
defend Hanover against attack, helped on the far more difficult task of
Kaunitz. This was no less than to reverse the secular policy of France
and Austria and to bring Bourbon and Hapsburg into alliance. Kaunitz
based his calculations on the assumption that France might help Austria
to recover Silesia, but that England never would. This view of the
political situation was urged for seven years with great ability by
a statesman in whom the Queen reposed a confidence greater than that
with which our own Elizabeth honoured Burleigh, and who treated her in
return with a haughtiness such as Essex would never have dared to show.
Kaunitz, whose life was spent in the endeavour to exalt the power of
his mistress, forced her to shut her windows to humour his prejudice
against fresh air, and stalked out of her Council when she interrupted
him with a question. At another meeting, it is said, she remonstrated
with him on his riotous living. He replied that he had come there to
discuss her affairs, not his own.

But the great, it is said, are known to the great, and Maria Theresa’s
confidence in Kaunitz seemed to be justified when his visionary
scheme proved feasible. It was easy to form a league to despoil
Prussia. Kaunitz tempted Russia with parts of Poland, Poland with an
indemnity in Ost-Preussen, Saxony with Magdeburg, Sweden with Prussian
Pomerania, the princes of the Empire with the favours which the Emperor
alone could bestow. But it required great powers of imagination to
conceive that France might quit the beaten track of history, which was
at the same time plainly the path of self-interest, in order to assist
her hereditary foe in a great land-war at a time when she needed all
her strength to meet England upon the seas.

Kaunitz had not only the strength to see this vision, but also the
fortune to realise it in fact. The circumstance that favoured him the
most was that the Pompadour was now at the height of her influence in
France. The mistress of Louis XV. furthered the plan of Kaunitz for
selfish reasons, but in the expectation that its result would be the
exact reverse of what it was. She desired to keep the peace in Europe
in order that she might continue to live quietly at Versailles. The
Minister of Marine, moreover, was her friend; the minister who might
profit by a land-war was her enemy. She therefore favoured a covenant
of neutrality with Austria in the hope that the two wars would thus be
kept apart.

The Convention of Westminster, however, made it impossible that the
affair should rest here. The fact that Prussia had bound herself to
resist a French invasion of Hanover frustrated all Frederick’s efforts
to propitiate the Pompadour and to throw dust in the eyes of the French.

    “If the ministry of France will consider it well,” wrote
    Frederick on January 24th, “... it should find nothing to say
    in reason if I undertake such a convention, by which, moreover,
    I flatter myself that I render an essential service to France,
    seeing that I shall certainly arrest 50,000 Russians by it, and
    shall hold in check another 50,000 Austrians at least, who but
    for that would all have acted against France.”

He further endeavoured to discount his alliance with George II. by
turning a sympathetic ear to the French plans for assisting the Young
Pretender, and by advising her to strike in Ireland and on the south
coast of England at the same time. It was beyond his art, however, to
disguise what he had done, and Kaunitz knew how to profit by it.

The labours of the diplomatists were immense, but at last they were
successful. On May 1, 1756, by the Treaty of Versailles, both France
and Austria undertook for the future to defend the European possessions
of the other with 24,000 men. In the war with England, Austria was
to remain neutral, but if in the course of it any province of France
in Europe were to be attacked by any ally or auxiliary of England,
Austria promised by a secret article to provide the stipulated
assistance and France offered a similar guarantee. This might be
interpreted as binding Austria to join in the war if the French were
masters of Hanover and the Prussians marched against them. It thus
deprived the Convention of Westminster of half its value, and at the
same time threatened to connect the war against England, which France
had begun brilliantly at Minorca, with the war against Prussia, for
which Elizabeth was clamouring. Negotiations for a still closer union
between Austria and France were pressed on, and Kaunitz hoped that in
1757 all would be ready.

Too much was, however, in the wind for Frederick’s keen scent to be
entirely baffled. Austria, indeed, sincerely desired peace for the
present. The published articles of the Treaty of Versailles were
innocent. The English ministry disingenuously tried to lull the
protector of Hanover into false security by assurances that they
could answer for Russia. But the King of Prussia had his own sources
of information as well as the most perfect faith in the malevolence
of his fellow-men. For three years and a half one Menzel, a clerk in
the Saxon Foreign Office, had been furnishing him with copies of the
secret state-papers of Augustus. The whole truth about the negotiations
against Prussia was not known at Dresden, but enough reached Frederick
from this source to impress upon him the desirability of anticipating
his foes. So early as June 23, 1756, he sent to General Lehwaldt,
in Königsberg, three sets of instructions, military, economic, and
secret, for dealing with the anticipated Russian invasion, and even for
negotiations with a view to peace.

    “You know already,” wrote the King, “how I have allied myself
    with England, and that thereupon the Austrian court, from
    hatred of my successful convention with England, took the
    course of allying itself with France. It is true that Russia
    has concluded a subsidy-treaty with England, but I have every
    reason to believe that it will be broken by Russia and that
    she has joined the Austrian party and concerted with her a
    threatening plan. But all this would not have caused me to
    move if it had not been brought to my notice through many
    channels and also by the march of Russian and Austrian troops
    that this concert is directed against myself.”

Frederick probably told the truth to his commander-in-chief in
Ost-Preussen. On the same day Sir Andrew Mitchell, the shrewd and
honest Scotchman who then represented England at the court of Prussia,
had an audience with the King. He reported that, notwithstanding the
great number of enemies, the King seemed in no wise disconcerted, and
had already given orders everywhere. “In a fortnight’s time he will
be ready to act. His troops, as I am informed, are complete, and the
artillery in excellent order.”

On the eve of war, then, Frederick’s sword was as sharp as of old
and his courage as high. He soon showed that his pen had not lost
its cunning. At the end of June he indicted his enemy before the
judgment-seat of England. Austria regarded her new connexions, so
stated his clever memoir, as the triumvirate of Augustus, Antony, and
Lepidus. The three courts, like the three Romans of old, had sacrificed
their friends to each other.

    “The Empress abandoned England and Holland to the resentment
    of France, and the court of Versailles sacrificed Prussia to
    the ambition of the Empress. The latter proposes to imitate
    the conduct of Augustus, who used the power of his colleagues
    to aggrandise himself and then overthrew them one by one. The
    court of Vienna has three designs towards which her present
    steps are tending—to establish her despotism in the Empire,
    to ruin the Protestant cause, and to reconquer Silesia. She
    regards the King of Prussia as the great obstacle to her vast

Thus Frederick claimed to be the champion of the balance of power and
of Protestantism, and proposed to solicit not only Denmark and Holland,
but even the Turk and the Empire for aid. His appeal to England
concluded with the assurance that Prussia was not cast down. “Three
things can restore the equilibrium of Europe—a close and intimate
connexion between our two courts, earnest efforts to form new alliances
and to foil the schemes of the enemy, and boldness to face the greatest

A paper of this kind, brilliant, concise, astute, and even eloquent, is
worth many thousand lines of the rhymed platitudes by which the author
set greater store. We might expect to hear that it was followed at
once by a spring at the throat of the enemy. It is true that Kaunitz,
who was not yet ready for war, and who wished that if war must come
Frederick should be the aggressor, held the Russians back. But he was
pressing forward warlike preparations in Bohemia and Moravia, and
Frederick was not likely to ignore the advantage of striking swiftly
and of waging war outside his own borders. The military men, when they
saw the evidence in the King’s hands, were all for action. “Schwerin,”
says Carlyle, “much a Cincinnatus since we last saw him, has laid down
his plough again, a fervid ‘little Marlborough’ of seventy-two.” He
urged the immediate seizure of Saxony, as a base of operations against

Cooler heads, indeed, counselled Frederick to have patience. On behalf
of England, a Power always singularly dispassionate when the interests
of a German ally were at stake, Mitchell urged that many chances of
war and politics might swiftly change the face of affairs, and that
to attack Austria would give unnecessary provocation to France. The
faithful Podewils ventured to spend a summer afternoon at Potsdam in
labouring to turn the King from his purpose. In his letter of July 22,
1756, to Eichel, he speaks of the “respectful freedom” with which he
begged the King not to drive France and Russia to do what they had no
desire to do that year if Austria were not attacked. Let him rather
use the ten months’ grace before the next campaign in securing allies
within and without the Empire, in trying to reconcile France and
England, and in preparing an imposing defence.

“But all this,” says the poor man, “was completely rejected as arising
from far too great timidity, and at last I was dismissed coldly enough
with the words, ‘_Adieu, Monsieur de la timide politique_.’” His
concluding phrases, however, have in them so much of prophecy that they
may be cited here.

    “That it was not doubtful that progress and success might at
    first be brilliant, but that the complication of enemies, at
    a time when the King was isolated and deprived of all foreign
    help, which had never happened to him yet, at least in regard
    to the diversions which had been made in his favour in the two
    preceding wars, would, perhaps, make him remember one day what
    I took the respectful liberty of representing to him for _the
    last time_.”

Such is the literal rendering of the French into which Podewils, who
writes the bulk of his letter in a jargon of German, French, and Latin,
forces his tortuous German thoughts.

Frederick, indeed, seems already to have passed the stage at which he
could be influenced by argument. An agile rather than a deep thinker,
he reached at times a point at which calculation became agony and the
only remedy was action. Now, as in his earlier adventure, “pressed with
many doubts, he wakes the drumming guns that have no doubts.” That a
mere Prussian minister should combat his plans seemed to him little
short of _lèse-majesté_. Nor could he be moved by those who were not so
tightly bound to the car of Prussia. Mitchell followed Podewils with
arguments, and Valori, the French ambassador, followed Mitchell with
threats. Frederick’s answer was a series of blunt questions pressed
home twice over at Vienna—Have you a treaty with Russia against me? Why
are you arming? Will you solemnly declare that you do not intend to
attack me this year or next? The final answer was received on August
25, 1756. Next day the Prussians invaded Saxony.

The Seven Years’ War had begun. Needless to say, every movement of the
Prussians had been planned out long before. The army was under orders
which enforced the most perfect mobility. A hundred supernumeraries
had been added to every regiment. On the 13th to 15th August Frederick
issued directions that the secret of their destination was to be
strictly kept from the troops. They were to take with them provisions
for nine days, every cavalryman carrying three days’ supply of hay, and
every infantryman three days’ supply of bread, while bread for six days
was placed in the single baggage-cart allowed to each company. None of
this reserve of food was, however, to be broken into save in the utmost
need, and no officer of any rank whatever might have table utensils of
nobler metal than tin.

A word would set all in swift motion, but the machine had to be
arrested until it should be known that the Prussian ultimatum was
rejected. Klinggräffen, Frederick’s ambassador at Vienna, caused some
delay by asking for instructions. On the 24th the King wrote to General
Winterfeldt, the most impatient advocate of war: “The cursed courier is
not yet here, so I have been compelled to stop the regiments till the
28th. Klinggräffen deserves to be made a porter by way of punishment.
Such stupid tricks are unpardonable and the prolonged uncertainty is
unbearable.” On the 26th, however, after hearing from Vienna, the King
was able to set all in motion anew.

    “The answer,” he wrote to his brother, the Prince of Prussia,
    “is impertinent, high, and contemptuous, and as for the
    assurances that I asked of them, not a word, so that the sword
    alone can cut this Gordian knot.... At present, we must think
    only of making war in such a fashion as to deprive our enemies
    of the desire to break the peace too soon.”

While one royal messenger was bearing this message from Potsdam to
Berlin, others were on their way to Vienna, to Dresden, and to
every division of the Prussian army. Klinggräffen was instructed to
return a third time to the charge, with the final offer that if the
Empress-Queen would declare definitely that she would not attack
Frederick that year or the next, the troops now moving should be
recalled. More profit was, however, expected from the message to the
Saxon Court. King Augustus, or Count Brühl, was to be informed, “with
every expression of my affection and of your respect that good breeding
can supply,” that Frederick was compelled by the Court of Vienna to
enter Saxony with his army in order to pass into Bohemia.

    “The estates of the King of Saxony,” continued the royal
    missive, “will be spared as far as present circumstances allow.
    My troops will behave there with perfect order and discipline,
    but I am obliged to take precautions so as not to fall again
    into the position in which the Saxon Court placed me during the
    years 1744 and 1745.... I desire nothing more ardently than to
    behold the happy moment of peace, so that I may prove to this
    Prince the full extent of my friendship, and place him once
    more in the tranquil possession of all his estates, against
    which I have never had any hostile design.”

This declaration was addressed to a ruler who had made no engagements
hostile to Frederick, and who now offered to observe perfect neutrality
and to allow his troops to pass. A commentary upon it is supplied
by a document which was probably drawn up several days earlier, and
which was soon to be put in force. By this “instruction” for the
administration of Saxony during the war, “in order that His Majesty
may not leave a highly dangerous enemy in his rear,” the Prussian
minister von Borcke is directed to suspend the native administration
of the land and to substitute a Prussian Directory of War. The Saxon
royal revenue, it is said, amounts to about six million thalers, but
Frederick “will be contented with five million, so that the inhabitants
may be solaced thereby.” In other respects the order and temperance
which distinguished the Prussian Government were to be applied to the
subjects of Augustus. Such was Frederick’s plan for the future of
Saxony, a would-be neutral, during the war.

The problem which the King set himself was to cripple Austria before
Russia or France could come to her assistance. Austria had assembled
forces in Moravia and in Bohemia. If Frederick attacked the former
the Bohemian army might cut off his retreat. He therefore directed
Schwerin to guard Silesia while he himself converted Saxony into a base
for the invasion of Bohemia. From the Saxons he expected little or no
opposition. He therefore proposed to march in three columns upon Pirna,
a fortress situated at the point at which the Elbe bursts through the
mountain-wall of Bohemia to enter the fertile plains of Saxony. Then,
with a granary and a highway behind him, he would follow the river into
Bohemia as far as Melnik, less than twenty miles north of Prague, where
it ceases to be navigable. He would thus at the very least have gained
a commanding position on the further side of the mountains.

    “As he does not think that the Austrians will soon be ready to
    attack him,” wrote Mitchell on August 27th, “he imagines they
    will throw in a strong garrison into Prague, that [_sic_] as
    the winter approaches, he can have good quarters in Bohemia,
    which will disorder the finances at Vienna and perhaps render
    that court more reasonable.”

To the ambassador of England Frederick made light of his enterprise and
insisted that it would permit him, if necessary, to defend Hanover. But
it is difficult not to surmise that he looked for a great campaign. The
capture of Prague, the rout of the army of Bohemia, and the seizure of
its magazines—all this would be a fitting sequel to the coercion of
Saxony. It was not too grave a task for the main host of Prussia.

Even the lesser scheme failed, however, because Augustus, though a
weakling, was a man of honour. His army was less than twenty thousand
strong, but it sufficed to hold Pirna and to block the highway of the
Elbe. On September 9, 1756, Frederick entered Dresden, but Augustus
had fled to the army and lay safe in the impregnable rock-fortress of
Königstein. While the invader was rifling his archives for proofs of
a great conspiracy against Prussia, he offered to observe the most
benevolent neutrality and begged for an exact statement of what more
could be expected from him. He received the answer on September 14th
from the lips of Frederick’s favourite, Winterfeldt. It was nothing
less than that he should join Prussia in attacking Maria Theresa.

“How can I turn my arms against a Princess who has given me no cause
for complaint, and to whom, in virtue of an old defensive alliance of
which Your Majesty is aware, I ought to furnish 6000 auxiliaries, only
that it is doubtful whether the present war is a case of aggression?”
Such was the old King’s reply to the Prussian tempter, and he coupled
with it renewed assurances of neutrality. Frederick reiterated his
demands and expressed regret that he could not extend complaisance
further. By no effort of diplomacy could he shake the honourable
firmness of Augustus, and it was therefore necessary to gain the
highroad into Bohemia by force.

Frederick had surrounded Pirna, but he did not venture to assault it,
though Napoleon declared at first sight that there were nine points of
attack. It was clear, however, that hunger must soon force the Saxons
to move and that their only hope lay in succour from the Austrians.
Browne, the Irishman who had proved himself to be one of the Queen’s
best generals, therefore led an army northward to the foot of the
mountains and was confronted by Frederick in person at Lobositz. On
October 1, 1756, a fierce fight of seven hours proved indecisive.
Early in the day the King sent twenty squadrons of horse to meet
disaster at the hands of the Austrian gunners, and later the Prussian
infantry showed that they were still the men of Mollwitz and of Soor.
The Prussians kept the field of battle, but of nearly 6400 killed and
wounded more than half were theirs.

The relief of Pirna was checked but not frustrated. Lobositz is,
however, chiefly memorable as the day on which the Austrians first
encountered the Prussians at their best and were not beaten. It is no
more than Frederick’s due to remark that the troops whom he had now
to face were men who had learned what his father’s army had to teach.
They had adopted the Old Dessauer’s iron ramrod, and the swiftness of
their fire was no longer less than the half of their opponents’. Their
artillery, thanks to the labours of Prince Lichtenstein, was always
good and not seldom superior to the Prussian.

In little more than a fortnight after Lobositz the campaign of 1756 was
at an end. On October 11th, Browne reached Schandau, on the right bank
of the Elbe, where he expected the starving Saxons to join him. They
were not ready, and after waiting two days he was compelled to retreat.
The failure of the relieving expedition sealed the fate of Augustus’s
army. On October 17th, the rank and file laid down their arms—only to
be compelled, in defiance of the terms of surrender, to take them up
again as soldiers of the King of Prussia.

Augustus, however, did not suffer martyrdom in vain. He lost his army
and his Electorate, but his “ovine obstinacy” ruined the attack upon
the Queen. In the hour of triumph Frederick wrote to Schwerin: “As for
our stay in Bohemia, it is impossible for either of us to establish
a sure footing there this year, for we have entered the province too
late. We must confine ourselves to covering Silesia and Saxony.” Both
Prussians and Austrians tacitly agreed to postpone the decisive blow
till the new campaign.

To balance the gain and loss which Frederick owed to his preference
of his own plan to the “timid policy” of Podewils we must take into
account wider considerations of war and politics. By treating Saxony
in Hohenzollern fashion, without scruple and without riot, the King
undoubtedly gained some advantages. He found in the archives at Dresden
the material for yet another manifesto to Europe. He tested and
inspired his army, which only knew that under his leadership it had won
a battle, captured an army, and conquered a state. He even increased
its numbers by forcing the vanquished Saxons into the ranks. Above all,
he won security for the western flank of Silesia and a safe base from
which to attack Bohemia.

But all this was purchased at a great price in material and moral
strength. Prussia was still a Power which had to ask herself whether
she could bear a second or a third campaign. To raise new taxes was
difficult if not impossible. Frederick, it might almost be said, paid
for the war out of his own pocket with the help of his allies and of
the enemy. Already he showed some signs of being pressed for money.
In the middle of September he made secret arrangements for borrowing
300,000 thalers from a house of business in Berlin. Soon the Saxon
officials were told that their pay must fall into arrear and Frederick
observes with some brutality that Augustus, who had retired to his
second capital at Warsaw, could support his queen and her household
in Saxony from the French and Austrian subsidies. He thus denied to
the victim that courtesy for his family which he had ostentatiously
promised from the first.

It may be doubted whether 14,000 pressed men, even though some of
them might otherwise have found their way to the enemy, compensated
Prussia for the loyal veterans who fell at Lobositz. Throughout the war
Frederick found no servants less reliable than the Saxons whom he had
impressed and no foes more bitter than their countrymen who escaped.
As for Saxony itself, it is true that if war must come, which Podewils
regarded as dubious, Prussia derived much strength from her possession
of it. But Frederick’s treatment of Saxony removed all possibility
of escaping not only from a war, but from war upon the scale that he
professed to expect. The spectacle of the suffering King inflamed
all his enemies. As an exile in Warsaw Augustus was a more valuable
ally to Austria than he could have been in Dresden. He made it absurd
for Frederick to pose as the defender of German princes against the
Hapsburg. In January, 1757, a majority of those princes, assembled in
Diet at Ratisbon, solemnly commissioned the Hapsburg to marshal their
corporate might against the Prussian aggressor.

Frederick had treated the defensive alliance between the two Empresses
as a conspiracy against himself. Early in February it became such;
save that what he might once have termed a conspiracy now wore the
aspect of a crusade. All the North was summoned to unite with Austria
in curbing Prussia for ever, and Russia bound herself to keep 80,000
men in the field until the lost provinces had been regained. Frederick
had even performed what Kaunitz and the Pompadour could not completely
accomplish. France now gave in her whole-hearted adhesion to the league
for the recovery of Silesia and Glatz. She pledged herself to pay
Austria a heavy annual subsidy, to place 105,000 French troops in the
field, and to enlist 10,000 Germans. The history of the negotiations,
which were prolonged till May 1, 1757, shows how real were the
difficulties to be overcome before Bourbon and Hapsburg could unite.

In May, 1757, when the new campaign began, Frederick thus stood face
to face with what it is hardly an exaggeration to term a world in
arms. He, and no other, had brought Prussia to this pass. A coalition
unprecedented in history was the result of the aggressions of 1740 and
1756. All the world believed that the hour of reckoning had struck
and that the Third Silesian War would bring the punishment from which
chance had delivered the King who made the First.

To the biographer of Frederick, 1757 is welcome, for Frederick now
begins to be a hero. Had a chance bullet at Lobositz struck him down,
the world would have known only a king who promised to bring in a new
era of government, but who owed to his father’s work and methods the
chief part of whatever success he achieved. For creative power he
would have taken rank below the Great Elector and Frederick William,
for military renown below the Old Dessauer and Schwerin; for the
aggrandisement of his House, who knows? for who can calculate what
havoc the Coalition of 1757 would have wrought with his dominions?
The Frederick who had bequeathed to Prussia several volumes of prose
and verse in French and the memory of sixteen years’ tenure of Silesia
would hardly be known to fame as Frederick the Great.

In 1757, however, he takes his stand for the existence of Prussia.
At the moment that the military balance turns against him the moral
balance turns in his favour. Courage, energy, resource, determination,
all displayed through a score of lifetimes, if sensations rather than
moments make up life,—Frederick is the embodiment of these things
during the next six years. At first it is his daring that seems to
eclipse all else. If Frederick feared not God, neither did he regard
man. Far from being dazzled by the array of sceptres marshalled against
him, he determined to strike before his foes could form.

With the first breath of spring he despatched three royal princes and
the Duke of Bevern against four several points in Bohemia. “If those
false attacks have so far succeeded as to cover the King of Prussia’s
real intention,” writes Mitchell on April 18th, “I may venture to say
that His Prussian Majesty is upon the point of executing one of the
boldest and one of the greatest designs that ever was attempted by
man.” Just at this juncture a plot against his life was discovered. “I
think upon the whole His Prussian Majesty has had a very narrow escape,
which however seems to have made no impression at all upon him, nor to
have created in him the least diffidence whatever of anybody.” Such is
his Scotch friend’s account of the King at the outset of the chequered
campaign to which he owes the immensity of his fame.

Frederick’s courage was not foolhardiness, for the very reason that he
was one, and his enemies were many. Every coalition must encounter the
difficulty of concerting a plan of campaign acceptable to all and the
still greater difficulty of securing honest and punctual co-operation.
The coalition against Frederick had the advantage that several of its
members could serve the common cause by following the course most
profitable to themselves. The Russians might be expected to overrun
Ost-Preussen and the Swedes to attack Prussian Pomerania with the
best will in the world, while the Austrians had every incentive to be
vigorous in the conquest of Silesia. But France consented to help to
make Silesia and Glatz Austrian chiefly in order that she might secure
Austrian help nearer to her own borders. The motley forces of the
Empire had little interest in the quarrel, and the activity of Russia
depended upon a czarina whose health was bad. Speed and secrecy were
alike unattainable by a machine which could be set in motion only after
debate between the Board of War at Vienna, the corrupt and factious
Court at St. Petersburg, and the inharmonious ministers of France.
Once set in motion, however, the gigantic machine seemed irresistible.
Kaunitz could launch battalions against Prussia from every point of the
compass. Although a new English minister, William Pitt, seemed disposed
to stand by Frederick, it might well be thought incredible that
Prussia could escape destruction at the hands of such a multitude.

Frederick’s plain course was to make use of the speed and secrecy for
which the Prussian movements were famous. The Queen was massing troops
in Bohemia. She had determined to raise 150,000 men, but with sisterly
partiality she halved their effectiveness by appointing Prince Charles
to the command. This appointment favoured the plan which Mitchell
admired so highly. Frederick was devising a new form of the manœuvre by
which he decoyed the Austrians to Hohenfriedberg. He was so successful
that everyone on the Austrian side believed that his one object was to
maintain himself in Saxony. To them the four sham-invasions of Bohemia
seemed to be designed to conceal the King’s defensive operations and
to paralyse their own attack. The illusion was strengthened because at
the same time they learned that Torgau and Dresden were being fortified
in all haste and that barricades were rising on the roads from Bohemia
into Saxony. The last thing that they could suspect was that Frederick
was on the eve of attacking.



The result was that the movement planned for the previous autumn was
now carried out in the face of 133,000 Austrians. Frederick’s three
columns issued from Saxony, Schwerin came from Silesia, and before the
end of April 117,000 Prussians were encamped in Bohemia. In the face
of such a force the astonished Austrians abandoned the magazines which
they had stored for the conquest of Saxony and fell back on Prague.
Having occupied a strong position to the east of the city, Prince
Charles awaited the arrival of Field-Marshal Daun, who was advancing
from the south.

Now the Prussians were to learn that a royal command has drawbacks.
Frederick was burning to attack the enemy. He had staked the success
of the campaign on the chance of a pitched battle, and the timid
tactics of Prince Charles filled him with impatience. At his back
was the finest army in the world. He was opposed by cavalry who had
never beaten their Prussian opponents since Mollwitz, by infantry
who had never beaten them at all, and by a general whom he despised.
Preferring, as usual, the boldest course, he crossed to the eastern
side of the river Moldau, which runs through Prague, and signalled to
Schwerin to join him.

Prince Charles did not venture to oppose a movement by which the
enemy’s force was made almost equal in number to his own. Such
inertness could be justified only if he believed either that he was
very weak or that his situation was impregnable and that Daun’s
arrival would make him sure of victory. His position indeed was strong
enough to have given pause to a general less impatient than the King
of Prussia. All Frederick’s royal authority had to be exerted before
Schwerin would consent that 64,000 men, of whom the half had been
marching since midnight, should attack a strongly fortified position
held by 60,000 of the enemy. But the vanguard of Daun’s 30,000 was
within ten miles of the capital and Frederick had his way.

[Illustration: PLAN OF PRAGUE, MAY 6, 1757.]

His forlorn hope at Prague on May 6, 1757, was to cost more blood than
had been spilled on any field in Europe for nearly fifty years. The
Prussians began by marching with great skill round the Austrian right.
Browne, however, suggested an effective counter-manœuvre, so that when
Schwerin assailed the flank at ten o’clock he did so under unsuspected
disadvantages of ground. “The cavalry began the encounter, and after
several fruitless attacks Zieten with the reserve overthrew the
Austrian cavalry. In the pursuit, however, his troops came upon one of
the enemy’s camps and drank so deep that they were of no more use that
day.” Such is the statement of Schäfer, the Prussian historian of the
war. At the same time the infantry of the first line pressed forward,
but found that the way to the enemy lay through the treacherous slime
of fishponds coated with green, which Frederick in his haste had taken
to be meadow-land. They struggled across unharmed, but the well-served
Austrian batteries began to destroy them at a range of 400 paces. Then
their onslaught was shattered by the Austrian grenadiers, and Schwerin,
as he seized the colours to rally his men, was slain by a blast of
grape-shot. The Austrian grenadiers began a triumphant counter-charge,
but they were unsupported, for their army had now no leader. Browne had
fallen early in the charge, and Prince Charles collapsed in wrestling
with problems too great for his powers. The Prussian second line was
therefore able to repair the disaster of the first, and, after a
terrible struggle at close quarters, they stormed the heights and
won the battle. Many of the Austrians fled southwards across the river
Sazawa, but the greater number took refuge behind the walls of Prague.

In the battle itself Frederick played the part of a brave and skilful
leader. His first impression was that he had gained a decisive victory.
In the evening he wrote to his mother:

    “My brothers and I are well. The Austrians are in danger of
    losing the whole campaign and I find myself free with 150,000
    men, and that we are masters of a kingdom which must provide
    us with troops and money. The Austrians are scattered like
    chaff before the wind. I am going to send part of my troops to
    compliment _Messieurs les Français_ and to pursue the Austrians
    with the rest.”

He informed Wilhelmina that about 5000 men had been killed and wounded.
To his ally, George II., he sent word that the battle had been “as
decisive as possible,” and to his Scotch friend, Field-Marshal Keith,
that he believed that the capture of Prague would finish the war.
Fuller knowledge showed that these ideas were ill-conceived. The King’s
impatience had caused an attack across treacherous ground with weary
men. The pursuit therefore failed, and the Austrian casualties did
not greatly exceed the Prussian. Frederick himself later computed his
loss at 18,000 men, “without counting Marshal Schwerin, who alone was
worth above 10,000.” The most moderate estimate states it at 12,500.
The Austrians lost some 13,000, including prisoners, but nearly 11,000
more fled across the Sazawa, and the Prussians made an unwonted haul
of baggage and artillery. One of the musketeers wrote home that 186,000
Prussians had beaten 295,000 Austrians and captured 200 guns. The army
and the people were jubilant, but the price was great. “Schwerin’s
death,” said the King, long after, “withered the laurels of victory,
which was bought with too much precious blood. On this day fell the
pillars of the Prussian infantry ... and a bloody and terrible war gave
no time to rear them anew.”

The success of the campaign now hung on the fate of Prague. If the
capital and its defenders fell into his hands without delay, the King
might still execute the remainder of his daring scheme. He might sweep
away Daun, enter Moravia, and dictate peace at Vienna. Thence he might
lead his army to the western scene of war, to crush the forces of the
Empire, and drive the French across the Rhine. A strong reinforcement,
he believed, would enable Lehwaldt to grapple with the Russians, whose
soldierly qualities he had not yet learned to appreciate. The moral
effect of his victory was felt by all Europe. Frederick became the hero
of the English nation. At Vienna depression reigned, and Kaunitz grew
loud in his appeals to France and Russia. Roving bands of Prussians
spread terror through the Empire by pretending to be the vanguard of
the King, and demanding contributions from the magistrates of hostile
towns with threats of stern measures if their demands were not complied
with. Austria could not protect her German allies, and Louis XV. feared
that she might now desert him as Prussia had deserted him in 1742 and
1745. If Prague fell the coalition would be shaken if not destroyed.

But however great the profit to be gained by the fall of Prague,
Frederick realised that he could not hope to carry by storm a city
which Browne had previously undertaken to hold with 8000 men and which
now contained a garrison of 44,000. He therefore detached the Duke of
Bevern with a force of 17,500 to observe Daun in the south, while he
himself set to work to reduce Prague by starvation. In the hope of
destroying the magazines he maintained a severe bombardment, which
put the inhabitants to great suffering but brought little military
advantage. He even brought a notorious burglar out of gaol to break
into the city and procure information. Prince Charles, who had plenty
of meal though little meat, did not risk his army in a sally _en
masse_, but with the approval of his Government simply waited for Daun
to set him free. This was an afflicting policy for the impatient King.
On May 24th, Frederick hoped “at present more than ever that all this
race of Austrian princes and beggars will be obliged to lay down their
arms.” On May 29th, he informed Wilhelmina that a week ought to see the
end, but before the week was over he began to admit the possibility of
failure. On June 11th he wrote to Lehwaldt that it might be three or
four weeks before he would be free to move. Next day, after hearing
from Bevern that Daun could no longer be kept at bay, he sounded the
knell of the whole enterprise:

    “Who loses time in war,” runs Frederick’s broken German,
    “cannot make it good again. Had you pressed forward at once
    towards Czaslau, Daun would have retreated further ... and I
    wager that if one flies at his throat he will do it. To get
    together 10 battalions now is impossible, but perhaps I will
    come myself to make an end of the matter, so that what has been
    gained by bravery be not lost by hesitation.... Daun must be
    driven into Moravia be he weak or strong, else we do not win
    Prague and cannot resist the other enemies who come on, and the
    whole campaign, however well begun, is lost.”

The cause of this note to Bevern was that with less than 10,000 men he
had at last fallen back before the enemy. Daun, whose caution was to
earn him the nickname “_Fabius Cunctator_,” had assembled an army some
54,000 strong and was advancing under strict orders to venture a battle
for the relief of Prague. Frederick felt that the crisis called for his
own presence. For the issue he had no fear. In order to risk nothing
during his absence, he took with him only some 14,000 men, so that by
strict count of heads he would attack against odds of more than five to
three. But if Schwerin were worth 10,000 men, the King may well have
believed that his own value was far greater. On June 16th he wrote to
his representative in London that he had joined Bevern,

    “in order to march straight on Field-Marshal Daun, to fight
    him, and to drive him altogether out of Bohemia into Moravia. I
    flatter myself that in a few days I shall be able to give you
    good news of our success; and when this expedition is happily
    over, I believe that the town of Prague will fall of its own
    accord, and that then with hands more free, I shall be able to
    send a detachment against the French.”

The King’s confidence was in great part warranted by what he had
already seen in the present war. It seemed that only a Browne would
dare to attack Prussian troops led by their King. Had not Prince
Charles been overruled by his generals, he would have abandoned Prague
to avoid a battle. Daun had retreated before Bevern till he became
overwhelmingly superior in force, and he advanced only when his Queen
promised him gratitude for a victory and her continued favour if he
were beaten. The most that could be expected from such commanders as
these was that they would stand on the defensive in a strong position.

This very fact made the tactics of the Prussians doubly formidable.
Drilled to the last degree of perfection, they could change their
formation with a speed which their enemies admired but could not rival.
Frederick could therefore veil his movement till the last moment.
Having chosen the enemy’s most vulnerable wing, he could strengthen the
wing opposed to it without fear that the enemy would either accomplish
the countermove in time or attack the section which he had weakened.
It was therefore of little consequence that the Austrians greatly
outnumbered the Prussians in the part of the field where no fighting
was likely to take place. The battle was gained because the Prussians
swiftly overcame all that nature and art could oppose to them at the
spot selected by the King for contact. The doomed wing would be broken,
the centre laid bare, and then the cautious Austrian would make off,
rejoicing that it was not dishonourable to be beaten by the King of
Prussia, and that the attack demanded so much preliminary marching that
the weary victors were not often terrible in pursuit.

Such were the tactics attempted in the battle of June 18, 1757, when
Frederick attacked Daun in his camp overlooking the highroad between
Vienna and Prague, within sight of the town of Kolin. The country
undulates sufficiently to make it impossible for the King to have
ascertained every detail of the problem with which he was confronted.
But from many points, and with especial clearness from an isolated
height across the highway, he could see that the Austrian right wing
held the crest of a gentle slope south of the road and parallel with
it, and that it was at the further extremity of this wing that the
ground seemed most favourable to the attack.

[Illustration: PLAN OF KOLIN, JUNE 18, 1757.]

The morning of the stifling summer’s day was spent in marching along
the line of the highroad towards Kolin, and it was after midday that
the Prussian left turned upon the enemy. Zieten, the terrible hussar,
put to flight the Austrian horse, but an oak-wood gave them shelter
behind which to rally, and meanwhile Daun made all haste to move up
supports to his right. But though the Austrians fought doggedly and
poured in a deadly artillery fire, the matchless Prussian infantry
pressed on. They captured point after point of Daun’s position until
the moment came at which, although their cavalry had turned tail, they
needed only reinforcements to crush his right. It was the duty of
Prince Maurice, the son of the Old Dessauer, to bring help from the
centre. The moment was critical. The Austrian musketeers, seven times
charged by the Prussians, had shot away their last cartridge. “Four
fresh battalions,” wrote the King four days after, “and the battle was
won.” Daun had already begun to withdraw his heavy guns and to issue
orders for retreat. But by a fatal misunderstanding, due, it is hinted,
to the impatience of the King in giving orders, Maurice was attacking
the enemy more than half a mile further down the line. Still nearer to
the Prussian right General Manstein defied orders and dashed at the

The Prussians were therefore involved in a frontal attack, and their
inferiority in numbers at once began to tell against them. Yet still,
though Frederick had only the reserves of cavalry in hand and these,
even when he put himself at their head, refused to pass through
the fire to aid them, the dauntless Prussian left achieved fresh
triumphs. When the deadly wrestle reached its fourth hour they still
maintained their hold upon the heights. Daun hurled his light Saxon
cavalry upon them, but with a heroism worthy of Mollwitz field they
formed into groups and drove back the foe. But at this moment the
Count de Thiennes, colonel of a regiment of young dragoons from the
Netherlands, begged for leave to attack. He won a grudging assent,
at first refused, “but,” said Daun, “you won’t do much good with your
beardless boys.” “You will see,” answered Thiennes and galloped back
to his regiment. “Boys,” he cried, after repeating the field-marshal’s
taunt, “show that though you are beardless you can bite.” Uniting with
the Saxons, the “boys” swept the enemy’s horse from the field, then
flung themselves on the grim square of tattered heroes, broke it, and
drove it from the heights. This was the prelude to a general flight of
the exhausted remnants of the Prussian infantry. Almost beside himself
with rage and disappointment, Frederick collected some forty men and
led them against the foe. But even the King could not persuade them to
suicide. One by one they slunk away till at last his adjutant put the
question, “Will your Majesty take the battery alone?” Frederick once
more gazed at the enemy through his glass, then rode to Bevern on the
right and ordered retreat.

Of 31,000 Prussians little more than 17,000 were left. As at Prague,
it was the infantry whose loss was the greatest. Of 18,000, more than
two-thirds were killed or captured. It was true that they had inflicted
upon the enemy a loss of more than 8000 men, and that Daun, “like a
good Christian who would not suffer the sun to go down on his wrath,”
did nothing by way of pursuit. But Frederick saw at a glance that the
conquest of Bohemia was now beyond his strength. On June 20, 1757,
the very day on which Prince Charles had announced that he would be
compelled to surrender, the besiegers quitted Prague.

Frederick’s plan was to retreat slowly through north-eastern Bohemia
into Saxony, exhausting the country as he went. “My heart is torn in
pieces,” he wrote to Prince Maurice two days after the battle, “but I
am not cast down and will try on the first opportunity to wipe out this
disgrace.” Perhaps because, in his own phrase, “a certain Hungarian
rabble has taken kennel on the highways,” his letter to his sister
makes light of Kolin. “I attacked Daun on the 18th. In spite of all
our efforts, we found the country so difficult that I believed myself
bound to abandon the enterprise in order not to lose my army.” For the
information of Berlin, Eichel magnified the gentle slopes which are
all that the battle-field can show into “a steep mountain, cut by many
ravines and defiles at its base.” But to London the King sent a franker

    “After winning eight battles in succession, we have for the
    first time been beaten, and that because the enemy had three
    posts on a tolerably high hill fortified by strong batteries
    one behind another. After taking two of them, the attacking
    battalions and their supports had suffered so much that they
    were too few to force the third post, and so the battle ended
    for lack of combatants.”

The transports of the Queen and the exaggerated caution with which Daun
and Prince Charles neglected to follow up their advantage attested
the truth of Frederick’s assurance that his situation was by no means

From day to day however, it altered for the worse. Disaster in the
field was followed by affliction in the home. Within a fortnight
of Kolin, Frederick suddenly learned that his mother was no more.
The crushing news was blurted out by a letter from his wife, whose
thoughtless use of a red seal in place of a black one frustrated the
kindly machinery which Podewils and Eichel had devised for preparing
the mind of the King. He had just written to Wilhelmina a letter full
of confidence.

    “You have nothing to fear on my account, dear sister, men are
    always in the hands of what is called destiny.... Germany is
    passing through a terrible crisis. I am obliged to stand alone
    in defending her liberties and her faith. If I fall, there will
    be an end of them. But I have good hope. However great may be
    the number of my enemies, I trust in the goodness of my cause,
    in the admirable courage of my troops and in the goodwill which
    exists from the marshals down to the humblest soldier.”

Then the blow fell and for two days, even at such a crisis, the flow of
political correspondence is checked. His grief finds utterance in an
agonised note to his sister Amelia.

    “All kinds of misfortune are overwhelming me at once.... I am
    more dead than alive.... Perhaps Heaven has taken away our dear
    Mother that she may not see the misfortunes of our House.”
    “Yesterday and the day before,” writes Eichel on July 3d, “His
    Majesty’s grief has been very great and violent, but today
    it is somewhat lessened, because his Majesty has taken into
    consideration his duty to his state, his army and his faithful
    subjects at the present crisis, and the necessary orders have
    somewhat relieved his depression, though there is no lack of
    gloomy moments and intervals.”

On the same day the King began to pour out his soul to Mitchell, who
owns himself “most sensibly affected to see him indulging his grief and
giving way to the warmest filial affections.”

Calamity was, however, as impotent as success to teach Frederick good
faith towards his allies. Mitchell had reported on June 30, 1757, that
“he renewed to me on this occasion his firm resolution to hearken to no
terms of peace without His Majesty’s privity and approbation.” On July
9th he describes a further interview in which “His Prussian Majesty
said that, as he resolved to continue firmly united with His Majesty,
it would be for their mutual interests to think of terms of peace,
honourable and safe for both, and to concert together what terms they
would adopt, if a favourable opportunity occurred to propose them.”
Yet between these assurances of fidelity to England Frederick accepted
with enthusiasm an offer made by Wilhelmina to send an envoy to procure
peace with France by bribing the Pompadour.

    “I will willingly charge myself with his expenses,” he writes
    on July 7th. “He may offer the favourite anything up to 500,000
    crowns for peace, and he may raise his offers far higher if at
    the same time they would promise to procure us some advantages.
    You see all the nicety of which I have need in this affair and
    how little I must be seen in it. If England should have the
    least wind of it all would be lost.”

Job’s tidings continued to pour in upon the King. In the sunshine of
Kolin the crop sown by Kaunitz was ripening fast. Before July was half
over Frederick learned that the French had seized East Frisia and were
striking east, that the Swedes were sending 17,000 men into Pomerania,
and that the Russians were likely to destroy Lehwaldt in Ost-Preussen.
Thus all his northern frontier was on fire and the army of the Empire
was about to join the Austrians in kindling new conflagrations in the
south. Bohemia, of course, must soon be abandoned, and how would it be
possible to hold Saxony, Silesia, or even Brandenburg against such a
host of foes? Men said that in Voltaire the King of Prussia had lost
his pen and in Schwerin his sword.

In the latter half of the month the situation altered still further
for the worse. While Frederick lay motionless at Leitmeritz on the
Elbe, intent on devouring Bohemia till the last moment, but keeping
open his retreat into Saxony, his eldest brother, Augustus William,
was out-manœuvred by the Austrians further east. Prince Charles, with
inferior numbers, seized one of his posts, outpaced him to Zittau,
burnt the magazine there, and finally compelled him to flee far into
Saxony. Nothing remained but for the indignant King to rescue the heir
to the throne, who had thus opened to the enemy the Lusatian door into
both Saxony and Silesia. On his way Frederick paused to garrison
Pirna, and there, on July 27, 1757, he received what Mitchell terms “a
draught of comfort to one who has not had a single drop since the 18th

So serious was the crisis that the King had sent orders to Berlin that
at the first news of further disaster in Lusatia the archives and
treasure should be removed to Cüstrin. That very day he had written
a plain account of the situation to convince his ally of England how
desperate was his plight. “If I except Spain, Denmark, Holland, and the
King of Sardinia, I have all Europe against me. Even so, I fear not for
the places where I can set armies against them, but for those where he
who comes will find no one to oppose him.”

Such was the King’s mood when his friend, the ambassador of England,
laid before him with delight the contents of as considerate a despatch
as was ever penned in Whitehall. Sympathy for Kolin, approval of the
new plan of campaign, “entire reliance upon the King of Prussia’s great
military abilities,” a cheerful review of the forces still at his
disposal—all this might be expected from the ministers of George II.
But what followed might well have heaped coals of fire upon Frederick’s
head. His ally, little suspecting the overtures to the Pompadour,
persisted in treating him as a man of honour.

    “The hint his Prussian Majesty threw out to you, of an
    inclination to peace, is agreeable to the language that Prince
    has held from the very beginning of the present troubles in
    Germany.... The King will at all times be glad to contribute
    to a general pacification, whenever equitable conditions can
    be had for himself, the King of Prussia, and their allies ...
    the King being determined to take no steps in an affair of this
    consequence without his Prussian Majesty’s concurrence and

Then follow solid offers of co-operation with ships and above all with
gold, the latter “only meant as the convenient and proper contingent of
England to her allies.”

Frederick, by Mitchell’s account, received the message

    “with a flow of gratitude not to be described. After a short
    pause, he said, ‘I am deeply sensible of the King’s and your
    nation’s generosity, but I do not wish to be a burden to my
    allies; I would have you delay answering this letter till
    affairs are ended in Lusatia; if I succeed, I will then consult
    with you upon the different points suggested in the letter
    and give my opinion freely upon them. If I am beat, there
    will be no occasion to answer it at all; it will be out of
    your power to save me, and I would not willingly abuse the
    generosity of my allies by drawing them into unnecessary and
    expensive engagements that can answer no valuable purpose.’ I
    was pleased, but not surprised,” the report continues, “with
    the noble dignity of this answer, for I have seen the King of
    Prussia great in prosperity but greater still in adversity.”

There was, however, little of dignity or greatness in the King’s
treatment of his unlucky brother and heir, whom he met on the road
to Bautzen two days later. It was in the early hours of the morning,
according to the narrative of an eye-witness, the son of one of the
chief delinquents, that Augustus William saw the King and beside him
Winterfeldt and Goltz, two of his own generals, for whom he had waited
a full hour in vain. Each of the royal brothers rode at the head of
his staff, and in Frederick’s train were Prince Henry and Ferdinand
of Brunswick. At a distance of about three hundred paces the King
stopped. Augustus William did the like, and he and his party doffed
hats. The King’s party bowed to them, but Frederick turned his horse
round, dismounted, and lay down upon the ground as though awaiting his
vanguard. He made Winterfeldt and Goltz sit by him. All his officers
dismounted, as did the Prince and his party. Soon Goltz crossed over
to the Prince and said a few words to him, whereupon the Prince called
his officers together and requested him to repeat the King’s message in
their presence. This he did in the following words:

    “His Majesty bids me tell Your Royal Highness that he has
    cause to be very dissatisfied with you. You deserve that a
    court-martial should be held over you, and then you and all the
    generals with you would lose your heads. But His Majesty is not
    willing to carry the matter so far, because in the General he
    would not forget the Brother.”

Augustus William made answer like a brave man, exculpating his
generals, and requesting a strict enquiry into his own conduct. But
the King replied only by putting himself at the head of his vanguard,
which had now come up, and riding on with his staff past the Prince,
always keeping from three to four hundred paces away from him. At
Bautzen he encamped, but still kept at a distance from the fugitives,
lest, suggests Eichel, their fear should contaminate his own officers.
Augustus William, treated like a leper, applied for permission to go
to Dresden. “The Prince may go where he will,” said Frederick to the
lieutenant who bore the letter. He went to Berlin and died of a broken

If anything could palliate brutality to the merely unfortunate it would
have been the situation in which Frederick was placed by his brother’s
blunder. Despite all his efforts, the Austrians remained masters of
the pass into Lusatia. With French, Swedes, Russians, and Imperialists
all pressing on, it became imperative to dispose of the Austrians by
a second Hohenfriedberg. But Prince Charles was not to be tempted
from the strong position which Daun had chosen with his wonted skill.
After three impatient weeks Frederick decided that the peril from the
French was too acute to permit of further delay in trying to force
the Austrians to give battle. Early in August he received the news of
Cumberland’s downfall at Hastenbeck. Hanover lay at the mercy of the
French under Richelieu, and when on August 25, 1757, the King turned
his face towards the west, Soubise with a second French force and the
army of the Empire was already at Erfurt. Frederick was determined
to maintain his hold on Saxony. Bevern, he decided, must watch the
Austrians, distance and fortune must account for the Russians and
Swedes, while he himself undertook a march of two hundred miles to
muster 20,000 men and lead them against Soubise.

It seemed at first as though the King did wrong to trust in fortune.
On August 30, 1757, the army of Ost-Preussen was vanquished by the
Russians at Gross-Jägersdorf. Frederick, however, kept on his way. In
the middle of September he reached the scene of action, only to suffer
from the caution of Soubise a month of the same torture that Prince
Charles had inflicted in Lusatia. Then he was suddenly called upon to
hurry a hundred miles towards the north-east to drive the Austrians
from his capital. In his absence Prince Charles had moved eastwards
into Silesia and his rearguard of light cavalry, 15,000 strong, seized
a favourable moment for a foray on Berlin. They exacted a ransom of
200,000 thalers from the town, and then made off by forced marches.
Frederick, who feared an invasion in force, was greatly relieved at
the news, which reached him on October 18th. Next day, despairing of
bringing the French to book, he informed Prince Maurice that it was
time to think of chasing the Austrians from Silesia, but on the 23rd he
sent him word that Soubise was after all leaving the hills and marching
straight for Leipzig.

“Here very much is altered in a day,” he added with his own hand. It
was in fact the turning-point of the most marvellous and chequered
year of Frederick’s life. Full of hope, he ordered a concentration
between his own command and those of Ferdinand, Keith, and Maurice.
The sum-total was not great, but the quality and temper of the troops
were incomparable. They were face to face with Frenchmen, of old the
scorners of the German race, which they were wont to conquer by their
arms and to corrupt by their example. Now these invaders were laden
with the spoils of Thuringia. Insolent and infatuated, they were too
proud to see among themselves defects which were patent to Prussian
eyes. It was little wonder that Frederick’s veterans shared the
ardour of their King. “The spirit of the soldiers was remarkable,”
noted Mitchell when they came to Leipzig. “They did not complain of
fatigue, notwithstanding of the long marches, but desired to be led out
immediately, and murmured on being ordered to quarters.”

Three days later their desire was gratified. On the last day of
October, 1757, Frederick was at Weissenfels on the Saale, checked for
the moment because the enemy burned the bridge in his face and held
the line of the river against him. His road from Leipzig had led him
across the dismal plain where Charles XII. held for a moment the fate
of Europe in his hand, past the granite slab which marks the spot where
a greater King of Sweden fell at the head of his men. The region is
memorable in history, but the deed which would have been most notable
of all was averted. At Weissenfels, tradition says, Frederick owed his
life to the chivalry of a French officer who forbade an artilleryman to
pick him off.



The French and Imperialists gave up the line of the Saale, joined
forces, and took up a strong position in the undulating country to the
west. On November 3rd, Frederick crossed the river and expected that
next day the intolerable tension would be at an end. When, however,
he came to reconnoitre the enemy’s position in force he found that to
attack it against odds of two to one would be to invite a second Kolin.
To the exultation of the allies, he drew back under a heavy cannonade
and encamped with his left wing resting on Rossbach. On November 5th,
Eichel, who was lodged at a safe distance, sent word of this fiasco to
the Government, which had taken refuge in Magdeburg. “The whole war,”
wrote this most submissive of Frederick’s slaves, “is of no avail. May
Your Excellency soon make a good peace.” He added a postscript: “At the
moment of closing this, about 2 o’clock in the afternoon, we hear a
very loud cannon-fire and, as it seems, musketry also.” Frederick was
being delivered from his troubles by a game of hide-and-seek.

The King’s object in encamping near Rossbach was to turn the allies’
position, or, failing this, to hang upon their rear when hunger
should compel them to retreat. By the enemy, however, the movement
was attributed to fear. Hot-headed Frenchmen, full of the martial
traditions of their race, urged Soubise to crush a foe whose stroke
they had yet to learn lest his little army should escape them. Vengeful
Saxon voices joined with theirs, while shivering Imperialists, who
for five days had subsisted on what food they could pick up among the
peasants, clamoured for the break-up of the camp. Soubise at last gave
way and planned a second Soor, to be done this time in broad daylight.
Screened by the low hills, the allies were to march round Frederick’s
left and to take him in flank and rear. Believing themselves to be four
times as strong as the King, they feared only lest he should flee to
Merseburg in time.

After a march of some three hours the allies reached a point due south
of Rossbach. With a salutary access of caution, the French proposed to
encamp there, right on Frederick’s flank. But this proposal was angrily
resisted by the Imperialists and Saxons, and at the critical moment
the news came that the Prussians were retreating. It was evident that
they could delay no longer without permitting Frederick to escape. If,
however, they hastened round the eastern end of the long, low ridge
which hid his army from view, they might still take it in flank as it
fled along the road to Merseburg. With this plan in mind, Soubise and
his colleagues cast prudence to the winds. From the first they had
omitted to name a place of retreat or a formation to be adopted in case
they should be attacked. Now their army hurried along pell-mell, with
three generals at the head of the cavalry, the infantry straggling
after as best they might, the French reserves pressing between the
marching columns and the artillery, and the whole flank exposed on the
left, where the low ridge still screened the enemy from their sight.

[Illustration: PLAN OF ROSSBACH, NOVEMBER 5, 1757.]

Behind that ridge Frederick was ranking his men for battle. He, too,
had believed his opponents to be in retreat and received with coarse
taunts and disbelief the report of a lieutenant that they were trying
to outflank him. The sight of their infantry, however, convinced
him that they meant even more than a reconnoissance. At a glance he
saw his opportunity. “In less than two minutes,” writes an onlooker,
“all the tents lay on the ground, as though someone had pulled a
string behind the scenes, and the army was in full march.” At first,
by great luck, the heads of the Prussian columns pointed north-east
towards Merseburg, and thus the allies were deluded into the belief
that they were in retreat. Then, hidden by the ridge, they moved east
and finally south-east, converging towards the enemy. In the waning
November afternoon they formed line and waited unseen, cannon massed on
the right, Prince Henry with the infantry in the centre, on the extreme
left Seydlitz, the prince of dragoons, smoking his short clay pipe till
the King should order the charge.

Little more than an hour after the Prussians struck their tents they
were dashing at the open flank of the allies, and ere another hour had
passed Frederick’s western frontier was saved. The so-called battle of
Rossbach would be better named the drove of Reichartswerben. But for
the slaughter inevitable when the best troops in the world swooped down
upon a mob, the encounter would have been a pure farce. First Seydlitz
by repeated charges drove the cavalry of the allies off the field.
Then, to the accompaniment of a heavy cannonade, Prince Henry led the
infantry down the slope and poured swift volleys into the medley out of
which Soubise was vainly struggling to form a line of battle. Some of
the French, Swiss, and West-German troops showed fight, the rest fled.
Finally Seydlitz fell upon their rear and the butchery was checked only
by darkness. At the cost of about five hundred men Frederick destroyed
an army of nearly fifty thousand and made himself the hero of the
Teutonic race. He jeered at the vanquished enemy in blasphemous French
verses and set to work to reap the fruits of victory.

Everywhere save in Silesia the aspect of affairs was changing in his
favour. A report that Elizabeth was dying caused the Russians to
withdraw from Ost-Preussen just when their victory had placed it at
their mercy. Lehwaldt was therefore set free to undertake the defence
of Pomerania against the Swedes. England, inspired by Pitt, was proving
herself a worthy ally against France. A new army was formed for the
defence of Hanover. The command was offered to Prince Ferdinand, and
British soldiers were to serve under him. For the present year at
least, the North and West might be accounted safe. But from the Eastern
theatre of war the news was bad. Prince Charles had followed Bevern
into Silesia and now stood between him and Schweidnitz. Not a moment
was to be lost if the King would save this important fortress.

Once more, however, Prussian speed was equal to all demands. Two days
after Rossbach Frederick was already on his way. “I will leave you
as strong a corps as I can on this side,” he writes to Keith, “and
march unceasingly for Silesia. A toilsome year for me!” In good heart
after Rossbach, he strongly approved of Bevern’s resolve to attack
the Austrians. “For God’s sake have no fear of a weak enemy,” he
wrote, “but trust to your own insight and experience.” But the days of
Schwerin and the Old Dessauer were over. Except Henry and Ferdinand,
Frederick had now no general from whom he could expect victories like
his own. While he strode swiftly through Saxony Silesia was lost. On
November 18, 1757, at Königsbrück, he learned that Schweidnitz had
fallen without a blow. The confused reproaches and threats which he
poured out upon Bevern and his generals were futile, for on the 22nd
Prince Charles drove the Prussians from Breslau across the Oder, and
within the week the capital was Austrian once more.

Before the news of Breslau reached him Frederick had declared to Bevern
that he was firmly resolved to attack the enemy, but that it must be
with their united forces, “else I am too weak and not much over 12,000
strong.” Next day, November 24th, at Naumburg on the Queiss the report
reached him that Bevern had gained a victory. He therefore planned to
catch Prince Charles in a net at Neumarkt by marching from Liegnitz
to meet Bevern sallying forth from Breslau. He even hinted that Keith
might surprise Prague, and wrote to Ferdinand: “With good fortune I
flatter myself that I shall finish this business in a fortnight.” “The
Almighty shows us one great mercy after another,” wrote Eichel. Next
day they learned part of the truth, though rumour multiplied fourfold
the Austrian loss of 6000. “Defend Breslau to the last man—on peril of
your head,” was the sum of Frederick’s orders to his brother-in-law,
accompanied by much military counsel and a promise of speedy aid. But
soon the news came that Bevern was a prisoner, that his army had fled
to Glogau, worst of all, that Breslau had capitulated without firing
a shot. Thousands of the garrison voluntered to serve Maria Theresa.
It is said that one battalion quitted the capital in a strength of
nine officers and four men. After sixteen years Silesia seemed to be
welcoming home its Queen.

For a fortnight Frederick’s army had struggled along bad roads at
the astonishing rate of nearly sixteen miles a day. They drew rein
at Parchwitz, within two marches of Breslau. There on November 28th
the King composed a short testament. “I will be buried at Sans Souci
without pomp or ceremony—and by night,” was his decree. “... If the
battle be won, my brother must none the less send a messenger to France
with full powers to negotiate for peace.” The words show how completely
he identified himself with Prussia amid circumstances so gloomy that
Eichel forbore, ever after, to mention the document lest he should
recall them to the mind of the King. Yet on the same day Frederick
wrote one of his most characteristic letters to Wilhelmina, who had
expressed her fear that the army vanquished at Rossbach would afflict
Germany anew. “This is now our task,” ran his reply:

    “to put the Austrians to flight and to recover all that we have
    lost; and it is no trifle. However, I am undertaking it at the
    risk of what may follow. Neither Soubise nor the Imperialists
    will come back this year: as for the future, we must hope for
    peace, for indeed it seems as though our enemies had determined
    to destroy the human race.... I beg you to await the issue in
    these parts with patience; neither our anxiety nor our care
    make any difference to it, and nothing will happen except
    what pleases His Sacred Majesty Chance.... If I reach winter
    quarters, I shall have the honour of sending you a prodigious
    quantity of verse of every kind.”

Needless to say, Frederick’s fatalism did not abate his energy, nor
against such odds did his courage degenerate into rashness. He gave
the command of Bevern’s ruined army to Zieten, who had defeated the
enemy’s right in the battle of Breslau, and bade him bring men and guns
from Glogau. Then he and his weary 14,000 waited four full days at
Parchwitz, with Prince Charles’s victorious army to their front, the
garrison of Liegnitz on their flank, and Austrian slowness letting slip
the opportunity to attack.

On December 2nd, Zieten arrived at Parchwitz, having rallied some
18,000 men. Frederick had now an army about 32,000 strong, well
furnished with cavalry and artillery. His plan had from the first been
as clear as the task before him. He was resolved to perish rather than
abandon Silesia. The Austrians held the province by means of an army
and two strong places, Breslau and Schweidnitz. He must therefore
first beat the army and then capture the strong places. The advent of
December forbade long manœuvring in the hope of catching Prince Charles
at a disadvantage. To save Silesia this year and Prussia next, he must
lead his army straight to the enemy. The problem that he expected to
find resembled the problem of Prague and of Kolin—to destroy an army
not inferior in numbers posted in ground of its own choosing. Prince
Charles, he believed, had his back to Breslau and his front protected
by a stream of some size. “He is in an advantageous camp,” wrote Eichel
on December 1st, “well furnished with artillery; he lives on our
magazines, and the possession of Breslau gives him liberty to retire in
any case across the Oder, from which God preserve us!” The ejaculation
reminds us that if the Austrian force remained in being, Frederick
would be foiled.

The King was determined to venture all upon a battle. That he
appreciated the odds against him is not entirely clear. Writing to his
brother Henry on November 30th, he declares himself hopeful of pitting
36,000 men against the 39,000 at which he estimates the Austrian force.
Next day he alters the former number to 39,000, and Eichel states that

    “According to many letters from his officers which we have
    intercepted, the enemy has lost more than 24,000 men, as well
    as 8000 at the siege of Schweidnitz; he has suffered much from
    sickness; half of his cavalry is ruined; yet notwithstanding
    all this he must be equal if not superior in numbers to

On the other hand, Prussian tradition represents the King as declaring
on December 3rd that, contrary to all the rules of war, he would attack
Prince Charles’s army wherever he found it, though it was nearly
thrice as strong as his own. But whatever be the truth,—whether or
no he would have done what he had declined to do on the day before
Rossbach, whether or no he knew or guessed the truth that Prince
Charles had 80,000 men,—Frederick spared no effort to fill every
soldier with his own spirit. Rest and food and drink, the story of
Rossbach to chase away the memory of Breslau, all these were showered
upon an army which since adversity had purged it of its foreign
elements responded with eager loyalty to the touch of the Prussian King.

Stripping off his cherished French manners, he was for a brief space
the Father of his people. The news flew round the army that the King
had bandied rough pleasantries with his grenadiers, that veterans had
called him “Thou” and “Fritz,” that he had told the Pomeranians that
without them he would not dare to give battle. The effect was magical,
and the rank and file caught the glow which warmed the breasts of their
superiors. For Frederick had done what he had perhaps never yet deigned
to do, save when he quitted his capital in 1740 to grasp Silesia. He
had called his officers together and appealed in impassioned phrases
to their honour, their loyalty, and their patriotism. “Gentlemen,” he
cried, “the enemy stand in their entrenchments armed to the teeth.
We must attack them there, and conquer, or remain every one of us
on the field. If any of you is unwilling, he may have his discharge
at once and go home.” Then he paused. The devoted men were silent,
many in tears, only one major cried out: “High time for such wretched
scoundrels to be off.” Frederick smiled and declared that he was sure
of their faithful service and of victory. He then denounced stern
threats against the man or regiment who should fail in the hour of
battle. “Farewell, gentlemen,” were his concluding words; “soon we beat
the enemy or we see one another no more.” More than twenty years later
the rough soldiers wept like children as they told the tale, and those
who heard it could not keep back their tears.

On Sunday, December 4, 1757, King and army set out for Breslau. From
Parchwitz to the walls of the city the distance is some thirty-two
miles as the crow flies. The road runs through Neumarkt, about
twenty-three miles from Breslau, and Lissa, a little more than
nine. That evening Neumarkt was in Prussian hands, and besides the
little town 80,000 Austrian rations of bread, welcome in themselves,
but far more welcome for the news which they conveyed. “The fox,”
cried Frederick, “has crept out of his hole, now I will punish his

On December 2nd, the day of Zieten’s junction with the King, the
Austrians had indeed determined to attack. The reason for this fatal
decision was by no means over-confidence born of success. Prince
Charles was very far from despising the adversary who had defeated him
on four stricken fields. With almost nervous anxiety, in spite of his
80,000 men, he sought to be informed of every movement in Frederick’s
camp at Parchwitz. It is true that Austrian policy would be best served
if the Queen were to regain Silesia without the armies of her allies.
It is false that she ordered the army of Silesia to give battle at
any cost. Before and after the fight Prince Charles stated expressly
that his generals were unanimous in favour of marching on Neumarkt.
The object was to save Liegnitz from Frederick and to prevent him from
making his position too strong.

Both combatants, therefore, made for Neumarkt on the same day, and the
forward movement of the Austrians was only quickened when they learned
that the Prussians had chased their vanguard from the town. On the
night of December 4th the armies lay within a few miles of each other.
The Prussians were exulting in the news that Prince Charles had crossed
the two streams which rendered his old position so formidable that
Frederick had enrolled 800 volunteers for the first attack.

With an army tuned to the highest pitch and a King who knew every
rood of the ground on the road to Breslau, the Prussians advanced to
give battle. Before five o’clock on the dismal morning of December 5,
1757, they were on the march, Frederick in the van, and only a single
battalion left in Neumarkt with the baggage. The exact position of the
Austrians was not known to them as they hastened through the broken
country east of Neumarkt towards the champaign west of Leuthen. If the
enemy had placed this champaign at their back, the attack would still
be hampered by the ground.

The Prussians had espied watch-fires on a height to the south of the
great road a few miles east of Neumarkt—a height from which in daylight
both the towers of Neumarkt and the farms and cottages of Leuthen may
be seen. Was this an Austrian wing? To their delight it proved to be
only a vanguard. Three regiments of Saxon light horse, heroes of Kolin,
had been placed there with two of Imperial hussars to collect the wreck
of the Neumarkt garrison and to watch the road to Breslau. They clung
too closely to their task and were crushed by the Prussian vanguard.
Eleven officers and 540 men were taken prisoner, many fell, and the
rest fled wildly to alarm the Austrian right. Frederick could with
difficulty check the mad pursuit of his hussars, who drew bridle almost
within cannon-shot of the enemy.

The King’s spirits rose yet higher when he learned from the prisoners
that Prince Charles had left most of his heavy guns in Breslau. He
indulged his advancing columns with the sight of the captured troopers
filing past them to Neumarkt and again condescended to repartee. “Why
did you forsake me?” he asked a Frenchman who had previously deserted
from the Prussian army. “Indeed, your Majesty,” the man replied, “our
position is too hopeless.” “Well,” said the King, “let us strike one
more blow to-day, and if I am beaten we will both desert to-morrow.”

[Illustration: PLAN OF LEUTHEN, DECEMBER 5, 1757.]

As the gathering daylight revealed Prince Charles’s army Frederick’s
confidence was more than ever justified. The Austrian position, chosen
perhaps to cover three routes to Breslau, was far too extensive. Their
line, which stretched from Nippern due south across the highroad, then
on behind Leuthen village as far as Sagschütz and the pine-clad hill
beyond, was not less than five miles long and unprotected for the
most part by the ground. Only the right wing, where the Italian Luchesi
was in command, was defended in front and flank by hills and woods and
marshes. These made it practically impossible for the Prussians to
attack at any point between Nippern and the highroad, and if they fell
upon the centre Luchesi might advance through the wood and take them in

Prince Charles, who knew something of Frederick’s methods, would have
done well to strengthen his left. But on the day of Leuthen, Fortune
seemed resolved to favour the side which trusted most to her help. By
design or by accident, Frederick’s movements were such as to convince
Luchesi that the Prussians were about to hurl all their strength upon
him. While the King reconnoitred, the heads of his columns remained
pointing in the direction of their line of march and thus seemed to
threaten the Austrian right. In each of the great battles of this year,
at Prague, at Kolin, and in a sense also at Rossbach, it was the right
wing of the allies upon which the Prussians fell. Now when he saw
Frederick diligently inspecting his own quarter of the field Luchesi
insisted on being reinforced. His clamour prevailed and, at the moment
when Frederick began the movement towards Leuthen and Sagschütz, Daun
was galloping with cavalry from the centre and left towards Nippern,
the point most distant from the danger.

The Prussian army this day surpassed itself in the swift precision of
its movements. No sooner was the King’s plan formed than Maurice and
Zieten were ranking the eager veterans for their mysterious march due
south—parallel with the Austrian line of battle and in part hidden from
its view by the undulations of the ground. Frederick rode along the
ridge between the armies and exulted as he marked the mistake of Daun.
For some two miles he might, for all the Austrians knew, be in retreat.
Then as the ground sinks into a plain he drew nearer to the enemy’s
left and hurled all his strength upon it.

Frederick and his 32,000 men had only some four hours of daylight in
which to overthrow a host nearly 80,000 strong. Despite the tension the
Prussian machine worked perfectly. The complicated attack in oblique
order was accomplished as never before or after, and an invincible
assault began. By steady valour, not by desperate onrush, the infantry
cleared the height near Sagschütz and in perhaps fifteen minutes they
took the battery which crowned it. The Austrians and Bavarians made
furious efforts to regain what the flight of their comrades from
Würtemburg had sacrificed. Nothing, however, could now withstand
the disciplined onset of the Prussians, who swept before them the
shattered regiments and the breathless supports who hurried to their
aid. Hindered by ditches, the Prussian cavalry had as yet been able to
give little help, but the irresistible advance of the infantry brought
them at length to better ground and Zieten completed the ruin of the
Austrian left.



In numbers, however, Prince Charles was still superior to his
assailants. He might fairly ascribe the disaster on his left to the
blunder by which the Würtembergers, mere auxiliaries, were entrusted
with the key of the position. Out of his unbroken centre and right
he formed a new line of battle of which Leuthen village was the key.
Leuthen, with a wall of men and a hasty breastwork in front of it, with
its courtyards and churchyard packed with men, and behind it men in
thick masses with cannon, might surely be held until Luchesi and his
cavalry could come to the rescue on the right.

The advanced guard was soon driven off by the terrible fire of the
Prussians, whose heavy guns now and throughout the battle tore
frightful gaps in the crowded ranks of the enemy. But the village
proved a formidable obstacle to their progress. House after house had
to be stormed, and the churchyard was most difficult of all. At last
the Prussians carried Leuthen. Then, however, they were exposed to the
batteries behind and for perhaps an hour a furious conflict raged on
something like equal terms. Frederick sent his left wing into action,
but still the Austrians stood firm. But again, when already three of
the four hours of daylight were spent, Luchesi proved to be the evil
genius of his side. Coming up with his cavalry, he took the Prussian
infantry in flank, only to be himself outflanked, crushed, and killed
by a concealed reserve of Prussian cavalry. The panic produced by this
sudden onslaught spread to the infantry, and the Prussians pressed
home their advantage with a bayonet charge. At last the Austrians were
beaten. They flung away their muskets, forsook their guns, and fled
wildly towards Breslau. A regiment which strove to cover their flight
was reduced to one officer and eight men.

As at Rossbach, darkness robbed the victors of the full fruit of their
success. The Prussian loss of one man in five proved that Leuthen was
no easy triumph. But they struck down 10,000 men and captured 12,000,
they put to flight an army nearly three times as great as their own,
and they won Silesia and undying fame.




THE SEVEN YEARS’ WAR (_continued_)


What profit would Leuthen bring to Prussia? was Frederick’s first
thought after the glorious fifth of December, and may well be ours. He
himself was worn and ill. In the excitement of victory he had closed
the long day of Leuthen with a jest. Pressing on to the castle of
Lissa, he found it full of Austrian officers. “Bonjour, Messieurs,”
cried the King, suddenly appearing out of the darkness, “can you find
room for me?” But reaction and depression followed the strain of 1757.
“If the year upon which I am entering,” he wrote on his birthday
(January 24, 1758), “is to be as cruel as that which is at an end, I
hope it will be my last.”

Every kind of anxiety, public and private alike, pressed at the same
time upon the hero of Rossbach and Leuthen. His brother, Augustus
William, for whom a chance bullet might at any moment clear the throne,
had not yet succumbed under the burden of disgrace, and wearied
Frederick with complaints and acid congratulations. His brother-in-law,
Ferdinand of Brunswick, was stricken with fever, and the King’s mind
was full of vague fears which he confessed but could not account for.
Upon his sister, Wilhelmina, who had more need of it, he lavished
sympathy and encouragement in a flood of tender messages.

    “I am delighted that you are having some music and a little
    dissipation,” he writes, early in the new year; “believe me,
    dear Sister, there is nothing in life that can console us but a
    little philosophy and the fine arts.... I swear to give thanks
    to Heaven on the day when I can descend from the tight-rope on
    which I am forced to dance.”

If we must choose a simile from the circus to describe Frederick
during this war, he might be likened to an acrobat juggling with five
bomb-shells at once. Of three, the Swedes, the Russians, and the
Imperialists, he had not yet felt the full weight, and with a supreme
effort he had flung the French and the Austrians high into the air.
What would be his task in 1758?

While he harvested the fruits of Leuthen without pause Frederick
permitted himself to hope that his victory would bring peace. After the
fall of Breslau on December 19, 1757, he estimated the Austrian losses
and found them overwhelming. He even gave out that at a sacrifice of
less than 4000 Prussians killed and wounded, he had reduced the enemy’s
force by 47,707 men. He was still gathering in prisoners and deserters
every day. Before the year was out he could assure Prince Henry that,
according to sound opinion, Prince Charles’s army consisted of no more
than 13,000 foot and 9000 horse. “If this does not lead to peace,”
writes Frederick on December 21st, “no success in war will ever pave
the way thither.” A week later he is still hopeful, “but even if one
were sure of it, we must none the less labour to make our position
formidable, since force is the only argument that one can use with
these dogs of Kings and Emperors.” Leuthen indeed gave Maria Theresa
another opportunity to prove her constancy and courage. Frederick
made overtures to her for peace, but she refused to engage in any
negotiation apart from her allies. Early in January, 1758, the King
became aware that Austria whatever it might cost her, was determined on
another campaign.

Gradually the prospect grew clearer. Almost beyond the hopes of the
Queen her alliance with France survived the double shock of Rossbach
and Leuthen. At the beginning of February Louis promised to send 24,000
men into Bohemia. Since his encounter with Soubise, Frederick regarded
the French as brigands rather than warriors, but their onset compelled
him to place a sturdy watch-dog in the West. This part was played
by Ferdinand of Brunswick, who drove them across the Rhine before
March was over. Another foe, the Swedes, were even less considerable.
Frederick jeered at them as “cautious people who run away eighty miles
so as not to be taken,” and assured his sister, the Queen of Sweden, of
his willingness to grant them peace. So long as France was willing to
pay subsidies, however, the Swedes were willing to provide 30,000 men.
They still occupied their “bastion,” Pomerania, in force, and therefore
Lehwaldt must still act as the Ferdinand of the North. The King himself
proposed to astonish Europe by his dealings with the Austrians and
Imperialists. From his ally he might look for the same assistance as in
the previous year. He laboured in vain to persuade the Sea Powers that
the Protestant cause and their own interests demanded that they should
attack France with their own troops. But in April Pitt undertook to
furnish an annual subsidy of £670,000, and for four years the money was
punctually paid.

[Illustration: Map for the SILESIAN AND SEVEN YEARS WARS

_G. P. Putnam’s Sons, London & New York._]

With Silesia at his back, the French and Swedes held in check, and
England in close alliance, Frederick’s prospects for the campaign
of 1758 might seem almost brilliant. He had some 206,000 men under
arms. Ready money was not plentiful, but Frederick procured it in
a thoroughly Prussian fashion—unscrupulous but practical. His own
subjects he spared so far as possible. At times indeed he treated even
them in the manner of his father. In January, 1758, the merchants
of Breslau answered “Impossible” to a royal demand that they should
advance 300,000 thalers to the Jews who had charge of the coinage.
Frederick’s minister reported the fact, adding that the Jews enjoyed
no credit in the mercantile world. The King’s annotation, scrawled in
German on the back of the report, is still treasured in the archives
pf the General Staff at Berlin, It runs as follows: “I will cook
something for the President if he don’t get the money out of those
merchants at once without arguing.”

In general, however, with the exception of a few loans, no new demands
were made upon the ill-lined purses of the Prussians. Indirectly,
of course, they felt the burden of the war. The coin with which the
State supplied them was debased and therefore purchased less goods.
The pensions of those who had served the King in the past, but could
serve him no longer, were left unpaid or paid only in paper. But
the chief granary of the Prussian army was, whenever possible, the
territory of the enemy. The second great source of supplies consisted
in those countries which the fortune of war had placed in their hands.
“Mark well the contributions of Mecklenburg,” was Frederick’s order
to General Dohna. “Take hostages, and threaten the Duke’s bailiffs
with fire and plundering to make them pay promptly.” But by far the
heaviest burden fell upon the Saxons. Besides systematically draining
them of cash, Frederick resorted to what he termed “reprisals” at their
expense whenever “the allies of the King of Poland” pillaged any of
his dominions. Men who were thus made scapegoats for the sins of half
Europe betrayed with seasonable treachery the allegiance which the King
of Prussia had compelled them to swear against their will.

In 1758, however, Frederick allowed the notorious disaffection of the
Saxons to fetter him no more than the armies of France and Sweden. He
had a great plan of campaign, and he began to execute it with a speed
and secrecy which no one in the world could equal. On March 15th he
left Breslau. Within five weeks he had captured Schweidnitz, the sole
fortress in Silesia which remained Austrian, and was making for Moravia
in order to besiege Olmütz. The Austrians, he argued, must relieve it
and might be vanquished in a battle in which he would have choice of
ground. Olmütz could then be taken and Vienna threatened. This would
compel the enemy to concentrate in defence of the capital. Prince Henry
would thus be free to swoop down from Dresden upon Bohemia and to erase
the traces of Kolin.

Frederick’s idea was brilliant, and for a time success waited upon
his arms. Daun, who, to the great profit of the Austrians, had
replaced Prince Charles in the chief command, continued to fortify
Bohemia against the attack which he expected from the East. On May 3rd
Frederick reached Olmütz. Consternation reigned at Vienna, but for
eight weeks the cautious Daun did not venture to disturb the siege.
Till the last day of June all went well. Then came what the King
frankly terms a terrible _contretemps_. At Domstädtl a convoy of some
4000 waggons from Neisse was destroyed by General Laudon, who made
himself a great name by a victory which cost Zieten’s command at least
2400 men. The Prussians were thus deprived of the supplies which were
indispensable to their success.

Frederick recognised at once that the siege must be abandoned, and with
it his whole enterprise. He admitted that he had lost the superiority
over the Austrians which he had gained in 1757. Threatening to
imprison and cashier officers who should make faces or say that all
was lost, he slipped cleverly past Daun’s left into Bohemia, and for a
month remained there at his ease. Then he sped swiftly northward. On
August 22, 1758, he was at Cüstrin dictating a fresh testament on the
eve of the encounter with a new and gigantic foe.

In estimating Frederick’s prospects for the campaign of 1758, no
account has yet been taken of Russia. The action of the Muscovite
forces was proverbially uncertain and of necessity slow. It was
possible that they would not influence the main struggle at all, or
that Frederick’s plan of aggression in the South would be accomplished
before they had time to become formidable. Since the New Year, however,
storm-clouds had been massing to the north-eastward. It is fortunately
no part of our task to peer behind them into the dark secrets of the
Russian court. Suffice it to say that Elizabeth still lived, and
that so long as she remained on the throne peace with Prussia was
impossible. Her armies might be ill-found and her ministers corrupt,
but it would be strange if the mistress of Russia proved too weak to
wound Frederick in his ill-guarded flank beyond the Oder.

Fermor received the chief command of an army 34,000 strong. In January,
1758, he overran Ost-Preussen and forced the inhabitants to swear
fealty to the Czarina. In February Königsberg was illuminated in honour
of Russian royalty. Frederick avenged the first offence by reprisals
upon the Saxons, the second by withdrawing his favour for ever from
the polluted province. His power of self-restraint is attested by
the fact that he attempted nothing by way of rescue. He calculated
dispassionately that Fermor’s advance would at best be slow, that a
broad expanse of barren Polish territory separated the invader from
the rest of the Prussian dominions, and that offensive action in the
South was more likely to be profitable than defensive in the North.
Königsberg had been a Russian city for more than three months when
Frederick dashed into Moravia.

The danger, however, grew greater throughout the summer months. The
Muscovite tide rolled slowly across Poland into Frederick’s dominions
east of the Oder. Europe now had an opportunity of learning something
of the nature of the society which Peter the Great had brought within
her pale. In the Russian army, as in the nation, the highest classes
were men of honour when not too sorely tried, but the lowest were
filthy savages, who made the country a desert and tortured and burned
men and women alike. What the rank and file might be, Frederick had yet
to learn. But that his trusted field-marshal, Keith, gave him timely
warning, he might well have been pardoned for his belief that Fermor’s
unseasoned horde would not face the heroes of Leuthen led by himself,
the foremost captain in the world.

As the King sped towards his old prison, Cüstrin, the trembling
peasants came in crowds to kiss the hem of his coat. He found the
fortress unharmed, but the defenceless town reduced to ashes by
Fermor’s bombs. The Russians, more than 40,000 strong, lay on the
eastern side of the Oder, having an open road to Poland, but all others
barred by swamps and rivers. Before Frederick’s arrival, Dohna, with
perhaps a third of their numbers, the waters of the Oder, and the walls
of Cüstrin had been the only defences of Berlin. Now, however, the
Prussians were some 36,000 strong and as much superior to their foes in
mobility as were Drake and Hawkins to the Spanish Armada. Fermor was
short of supplies. He could not go forward and had hundreds of miles of
desert at his rear. Was the time at the King’s disposal so scanty that
he could not starve, harry, and crush the enemy without the sacrifice
of more than a few hundred Prussian lives?

Frederick was, however, in no mood for a war of strategy. He had
published his fixed resolve to conquer or die. He was impatient to
return to Silesia, where he had left 40,000 men under Charles of
Brandenburg-Schwedt. He was still more impatient to annihilate the
bloody vagabonds, who, he wrote, were burning villages every day and
committing horrors which made Nature groan. In the spirit of Leuthen,
though perhaps without like need, he resolved to attack Fermor without
an hour’s delay. Knowing every inch of the dismal country-side, he
swiftly planned a massacre that should avenge the past and safeguard
the future. The Russians had abandoned the siege of Cüstrin and taken
up a position so sheltered by the Oder and its tributary, the Mietzel,
that Fermor believed it to be unassailable. Frederick crossed the Oder
some miles below Cüstrin, marched right round their camp, and prepared
to hurl them into the waters in which they trusted for defence.

The plan seems a sound one only on the supposition that Keith’s opinion
was ill-founded and that the Russians would not show fight. They had
much in their favour. They were a national army, roused to enthusiasm
by the benedictions of a mob of orthodox popes. They outnumbered the
enemy and were far better furnished with cannon. In cavalry, it is
true, Frederick had a great advantage, but this was discounted by the
Russian formation in dense masses, which cavalry could hardly hope
to pierce. Above all, the King provided his opponents with the best
possible argument against running away when he left them no road by
which to run. With no alternative save drowning or suffocation, the
Russians chose to die where they stood, but to sell their lives dear.

[Illustration: PLAN OF ZORNDORF, AUGUST 25, 1758.]

These conditions made the battle fought near Zorndorf on August
25, 1758, one of the bloodiest of the whole war. It was in great
part a desperate hand-to-hand struggle, kept up with mutual fury
until the Russians were cut to pieces. According to the Prussian
histories, Seydlitz, the matchless dragoon, refused point-blank to
obey Frederick’s order to advance on the Russian guns. When and where
needed, he replied, he would be at hand with his men. “After the
battle,” came the King’s message, “you will answer for it with your
head.” “After the battle,” answered the imperturbable general,
“my head will be at the service of the King.” He justified his
insubordination by twice charging at the enemy on his own initiative.
He thereby saved the day, and, instead of being cashiered, was embraced
by his delighted master. But when the issue had once been decided by
sheer rage maintained for ten hours, some of the Prussian infantry
showed themselves equally insubordinate and less successful. It seems
not the least strange feature of this chaotic death-grapple that in an
attack upon an army strongly posted the cavalry should have formed the
chief factor in Frederick’s success.

Success, though much qualified, Frederick might indeed fairly claim.
Fermor, it is true, bivouacked on the field, fought again, though
languidly, next day, sent off bulletins of victory, and retired
unmolested a week later. His troops had endured the Prussian whirlwind
with a steadfastness beyond all praise. But of the 30,000 killed and
wounded nearly two-thirds were his, and Frederick had achieved, though
at a great cost, his prime object of securing his dominions on the
eastern side.

Against a new foe the King had displayed once more those qualities
which readers of his history have by this time learned to regard as
characteristic of him. He had been brave, secret, and masterful, swift
to plan and to carry out, tireless in body and teeming in brain. He
had at the same time proved himself exacting, overbearing, and rash,
adroit at supplying the need of the moment rather than far-sighted and
sagacious in providing for the future. Though he accepted victory and
defeat like a philosopher, there was too much of the despot, both in
what he exacted from his troops and in what he expected from his foes.
In this, though in this alone, it seemed as though the common infirmity
of the overpowerful had at last assailed a Hohenzollern, and that
Frederick had lost something of his power of seeing facts as they are.
All the torrents of Prussian blood wasted at Prague, at Kolin, and at
Zorndorf had not swept away his belief that Prussians led by himself
could carry out any order that he chose to give.

It is chiefly these virtues and foibles of the King that shape the
story of the remaining months of the campaign. While he was on the
banks of the Oder the Austrians and Imperialists had begun the
reconquest of Saxony and Silesia. Frederick by speed and cleverness
saved both, but his conceit doomed nearly nine thousand of his army to
wounds, captivity, or death.

First, by wonderful marches, he snatched Dresden from the jaws of
Daun. The cautious general took up a strong position, which barred
Frederick’s road to Silesia, where the Austrians were besieging Neisse.
Having failed to tempt him to battle, Frederick next stole round his
army, but Daun retorted with a similar manœuvre and encamped near
Hochkirch with some 65,000 men. On October 10th, Frederick with less
than half the number actually insisted upon occupying an untenable
position hard by. His generals, among whom were the Young Dessauer,
Seydlitz, and Zieten, remonstrated with him in vain. Next day Keith
arrived and spoke his mind quite frankly: “If the Austrians leave us
quiet in a position like this, they deserve to be hanged.” “It is to
be hoped that they fear us more than the gallows,” rejoined the King,
and planned a flank attack on Daun, who, he believed, was about to
retreat into Bohemia. The result was that before daybreak, on October
14, 1758, the Prussian camp was surprised. Five generals, Keith among
them, perished. Frederick’s obstinate foolhardiness cost him more than
one-fourth of his army, with more than a hundred guns and much material
of war. Kolin, Domstädtl, and Hochkirch, three victories over the
King of Prussia within sixteen months, formed a splendid chaplet for
a general whose forte was caution. The Pope was said to have rewarded
Daun with a consecrated hat and sword.

“It may be safely reckoned,” so the King informed the Berlin public a
week later, “that our loss does not exceed 3000 men.... These disasters
are sometimes inevitable in the great game of chance which we call
war.” The hour of disaster had again proved Frederick superior to the
shrewdest blows of Fate. At the moment when the Austrians, creeping
through the darkness, began to butcher his men in their tents, he
proved himself once more a hero. Disdaining to order a retreat, he
extricated his army from its terrible position and formed a new line
only half a league to the rear. Daun, who had lost more than 6000 men,
entrenched himself on the field, and was soon plying his old trade of
circumspectly hanging upon the skirts of the foe. Within ten days of
the battle Frederick robbed him of the fruits of victory by marching
round him once more. He flung himself between Daun and the besiegers of
Neisse, and Silesia was saved.

Daun’s counterstroke was, as was almost inevitable, an invasion of
Saxony while Frederick’s back was turned. He alarmed Dresden, but was
once more frustrated by Prussian speed. Frederick hurried back in time
to save both Saxony and its capital. In mid-December he went into
winter quarters at Breslau, master of dominions as broad as when he had
quitted the city nine months before.

[Illustration: PLAN OF HOCHKIRCH, OCTOBER 14, 1758.]

In those months he had, however, lost much that cannot be marked upon
the map. Faithful officers by hundreds, trained soldiers by thousands,
hard-wrung thalers by millions had been sacrificed, and nothing but
glory and a respite had been gained. No lands outside Ost-Preussen
were as yet conquered by foreign kings, but many had been wasted by
foreign armies, and some, at the dictate of urgent need, by their
own defenders. These losses weighed upon Frederick, whose task it
was to gather men and money for next year. But as a man he had cause
for more poignant grief, for Death had knocked hard at the door of
his own household. The loss of his heir, Augustus William, once his
father’s favourite, now the victim of Frederick’s cruelty, probably
afflicted him only because Prince Henry avenged it by refusing to see
him except on business. But the death of Wilhelmina, who died on the
eve of Hochkirch, was the most crushing calamity of his life. “Great
God, my Sister of Baireuth!” scrawled the afflicted King as postscript
to a brief despatch in cipher to his brother Henry. The message is
more pregnant than much fine writing. “The death of Her Highness the
Margravine of Baireuth embarrasses me with regard to His Majesty the
King more than all war matters,” wrote the faithful Eichel from Dresden
on the day after Frederick received the news, “since I can judge how
highly afflicting and crushing it must be to him. Councillor Coeper
writes to me yesterday that although every care was taken to prepare
His Majesty gradually for sad tidings it has none the less made an
indescribably great impression upon him, and he does not believe that
deeper woe is possible.” “If my head had within it a lake of tears it
would not be enough for my grief,” sighed the King to another mourner,
Keith’s brother, when the hard fighting and marching came to an end.

After three campaigns the war had now, at the close of the year 1758,
reached what may be called a chronic state. Thrice had Frederick
lunged at the heart of his enemies and each time they had parried the
thrust. At Vienna alone could the coalition receive a mortal wound. St.
Petersburg, Stockholm, and Paris were equally out of reach, and the
States of the Empire might be squeezed and harried for ever without
terminating the war. If the Prussians failed to dictate peace at
Vienna, their one hope must be that they might defend themselves until
some of the hostile Powers should change their minds. Their opponents,
too, felt the strain of prolonged and unprofitable war. It was true
that they had not to strain themselves like the nation whose very
existence was at stake, but neither Russia nor Austria nor France knew
the secret of Prussian thrift. The time might come when even Elizabeth
and the Pompadour would confess that the game was no longer worth the
candle. The French, in particular, were not all blind to the fact that
they were losing their Empire to England in order to gratify the spite
of the King’s mistress against the King of Prussia. Would they hold to
the Austrian alliance even for another year?

The event falsified the hopes of Frederick. With some relaxation of
intimacy, the Austro-French league was renewed, and the King perceived
that he must henceforward hold Prussia like a huge beleaguered
fortress. Five Powers were still encamped upon his frontiers and
ready to break in upon him. Like all resolute garrisons, therefore,
the Prussians had recourse to sallies, and some of these met with
much success. By sudden forays Henry and Ferdinand destroyed the
magazines that were being formed by the Austrians and Imperialists and
so retarded the invasion of Prussia, which could not proceed without
them. Mere partisan inroads like these were, however, insufficient
to prevent Daun from taking up a strong position at Mark-Lissa, with
Bohemia at his back and Saxony and Silesia open on either hand. There
he menaced Frederick while the Russian host once more drew near to the
Oder, overthrowing as it came a Prussian force which had been sent into
Poland to destroy its magazines and pen it in the swamps of the Vistula.

The story of this Polish campaign throws much light on the strength
and weakness of the Prussian army. Rightly neglecting the lesser danger
in order to make adequate head against the greater, the King had sent
against the Russians the force which usually defended the North against
the Swedes. The rank and file were good, but without leadership they
could accomplish nothing. “Your Polish campaign deserves to be printed
as an eternal example of what every intelligent officer must avoid.
You have done every silly thing which can be done in war and nothing
whatever that an intelligent man can approve. I tremble to open my
letters.” Such were the concluding words of a long indictment which
Frederick addressed to their commander, General Wobersnow.

Nothing but the royal presence, it seemed, could save the situation.
The King himself was not yet free to leave Daun. He therefore invented
a deputy-king, and despatched General Wedell to Poland “with the powers
of a Dictator in Roman times.” Twelve curt instructions were drafted
for his guidance. He was “(4) to forbid lamentation and depreciatory
talk among the officers on pain of dismissal. (5) To disgrace also
those who cry out on every occasion that the enemy is too strong. (6)
First to check the enemy by occupying a good position. (7) Then to
attack in my own fashion.” From the King’s own lips Wedell received the
order to fight the Russians whenever he should find them, and officers
and men alike were commanded to obey him as though he were indeed the
King. But Frederick was never sanguine that these attempts to win a
Russian Leuthen by proxy would succeed. His instructions were followed
to the letter, and within four days he was condoling with the Dictator
upon the disaster of Kay (July 23, 1759), where the Prussians lost more
than 8000 men killed and wounded. Nothing could now hold back Soltykoff
and his Russians from the Oder, and across the Oder lay Frederick’s
helpless capital.

But worse was yet in store. The Russians, for all their numbers and
their greed, were ill-fed, irresolute, and slow. They dreaded the
victor of Zorndorf and they were determined not to be the catspaw
of their allies. If only they could be kept at a distance from the
Austrians they might starve before they could agree upon the next step
in advance. From Kay to Mark-Lissa is some ninety miles as the crow
flies, and the Oder and Frederick’s army lay between. To strengthen
the barrier the King was prepared even to leave Saxony almost without
defence. He summoned Henry to observe Daun while he himself made “cruel
and terrible marches” through the burning sand towards Wedell in the
North. So severe was the strain that he passed six of the torrid nights
without sleep. But he was racing a fleet adversary—Laudon, the hero of
Domstädtl and probably the best partisan soldier in the world. Knowing
that he had served ten years in the Russian army, Daun now detached him
with 36,000 men to allay Soltykoff’s suspicions of the Austrians and to
speed his coming. Frederick disturbed the march, but started too late
to stop it altogether. When Laudon found the Russians at Frankfurt he
was still master of nearly 20,000 men.

This reinforcement vastly increased the effectiveness of Soltykoff’s
army as a fighting force. The Russians were well furnished with guns,
and their infantry had proved its toughness at Zorndorf. But their
cavalry was bad and Laudon added to it some 6000 men, well-mounted and
well-trained. None the less he was received with extreme discourtesy.
The Russians abused him because he brought no supplies. They refused
to cross the Oder unless Daun’s whole army should appear. Until fresh
orders from St. Petersburg produced some change of tone, Laudon felt
certain that they were on the eve of retreat. Then came the news that
the King of Prussia was upon them and the voice of discord was hushed.

Frederick had set himself a harder task than the destruction of Fermor
on the banks of the Oder in 1758. Only overwhelming necessity made him
give battle. He suspected that an Austrian detachment was threatening
his capital. “I believe that Hadik means Berlin,” he wrote, “and I
am obliged to make haste here to parry his blow in time. A lost soul
in purgatory is not in a more wretched situation than I am.” In mere
numbers, it is true, the disparity between the combatants was not much
greater than at Zorndorf. Frederick had now nearly 50,000 men against
a composite force of about 68,000, but of the enemy nearly one-quarter
were light horse, who in the shock of battle counted for next to

In quality and in position, however, his army was worse off than
before, while the enemy was much better. In the previous year he had
led seasoned troops whose ranks had been purged by incessant marches
under a scorching sun to join the army of Dohna, which was at least
unbeaten and unwearied. Their meeting had provoked one of Frederick’s
best-remembered sayings: “Your men have made themselves wonderfully
smart; mine look like grass-devils, but they can bite.” Now, however, a
great part of his command consisted of troops mishandled by Wobersnow
and decimated by the Russians at Kay. It was unlikely that they would
fight like the victors of Leuthen.

[Illustration: PLAN OF KUNERSDORF, AUGUST 12, 1759.]

Nor was Frederick favoured by the ground. The most casual glance at
the two fields is sufficient to show that Kunersdorf, the scene of the
bloody drama of August 12, 1759, presented difficulties such as the
assailant at Zorndorf never had to overcome. The allies were again
encamped on the right bank of the Oder, and were now separated by the
broad river from the town of Frankfurt. To march round their position
was far more arduous than at Zorndorf. Their left wing was shielded
by impassable morasses, and the right by forest. Behind them lay a
fortress commanding a well-bridged river, before them a tangled mass
of sand-hills, woods, and lakes which seemed to have been designed by
nature to impede an attacking force and which was now made still more
formidable by art. This position, even if the 16,000 irregulars be
ignored, was held by some 40,000 Russians, now veterans in western
warfare, aided by 13,000 of the flower of the Austrian army under a
captain worthy to cross swords with Frederick himself.

On the other hand, the King had still Seydlitz, but such men as
Wedell could ill supply the place of Schwerin, the Old Dessauer, and
Keith. Some of his troops were men who had fled before the Russians
every year, at Gross-Jägersdorf, at Zorndorf, and at Kay, and whom he
could not even trust. Owing to the difficulties of the ground and the
King’s impatience, most of the Prussians went into action suffering
under privations that would have well-nigh killed ordinary men. They
lacked food and drink. After two nights without sleep they must drag
themselves and their accoutrements through a manœuvre of nine hours’
duration, now tugging cannon through pine-woods, now clambering over
sand-hills under the broiling August sun. Then at noon they were
ordered to attack an enemy more numerous than themselves who was
resting quietly behind entrenchments in ground of his own choosing.

That they accomplished what they did proves that the Prussians were
heroes. Frederick’s design was, as at Zorndorf, to cross the Oder below
the Russian camp, to march round it, and then to strike. But the barren
waste east of Frankfurt was to him unfamiliar country. At Leuthen and
at Zorndorf he had profited greatly by his knowledge of the field. But
at Kunersdorf he knew neither the difficulties of the ground nor the
extent to which, in one most important particular, those difficulties
had been surmounted by the enemy. When he scanned their position from
the north-east before completing his plan of attack, he could discern
Laudon’s force encamped in a seemingly isolated peninsula in the
great marsh which protected the left. He was informed that Laudon and
Soltykoff could communicate only by a roundabout way. Not till the
issue of the day was dubious did he learn that a new causeway connected
the Austrians with the main body of the enemy, and the error proved
fatal. Twice in his life Frederick paid dear for imperfect information,
but the price of the blunder at Prague was a trifle by the side of the
price paid here.

The beginning of the fray was such as to make the end a doubly crushing
blow to the King. After long and toilsome preparations it seemed as
though victory was assured. When the Prussian van went into action
they advanced like fresh men and turned the Russians out of their
entrenchments at the point of the bayonet. A second onslaught, better
supported, took the enemy in flank and by two o’clock the Russian left
was beaten, with a loss of seventy guns. Frederick sent off a courier
to carry the tidings of victory to Berlin. The third attack, however,
made on difficult ground in the face of cannon at 800 yards and
musketeers at fifty, did not succeed until the Prussian infantry had
been decimated and its strength almost spent. At this point Frederick’s
generals cried “Enough”; but the King, as at Hochkirch, preferred his
own opinion. Once more the Prussians stormed forward and for the
fourth time they annihilated the Russian line. If one knoll more, the
Spitzberg, and the battery upon it were taken, the victory, it seemed,
would be complete.

But at this crisis Laudon intervened to save the battery and the day.
His grenadiers climbed the knoll when the Prussians were still 150
paces from the top, and drove them back with a volley of case-shot.
Frederick ordered up his artillery, but the heavy guns stuck fast in
the sand and light field-pieces were of no avail. In the agony of the
moment the King lost his head and ordered the cavalry to storm the
Spitzberg. As at Zorndorf, Seydlitz declined to sacrifice his troops
to a blunder, but this time Frederick was deaf to the voice of reason.
He repeated the order and was obeyed. Seydlitz was wounded and his
superb squadrons shattered, without the smallest gain. A crushing
countercharge headed by Laudon completed the ruin of the Prussian
horse, and thenceforward the allies were the attacking side.

Frederick, almost beside himself, continued to demand victory from his
men, and the infantry, though it could not go forward, held its ground
against the Russians. Laudon, however, contrived the _coup de grâce_.
At about five o’clock he suddenly hurled a fresh Austrian host upon
the heroes who had been fifteen hours under arms. The overthrow was
complete. Frederick, who sought death in vain, was borne from the field
by a party of his own hussars. Amid the chaos he wrote a terse note in
French to inform his capital that the game was up. “My coat is riddled
with balls; two horses were killed under me; it is my misfortune to be
still alive. Our loss is great; not 3000 men out of 48,000 are with
me. At this moment all are in flight and I am no longer master of my

The King’s first thought was that he himself was crushed and that
therefore Prussia was ruined. There was indeed good reason for his
despair. Even if Soltykoff should allow him to recross the Oder and to
rally the remnants of his army he dared not hope to save Berlin. He had
fought at Kunersdorf in the belief that an Austrian force under Hadik
was advancing towards his capital from the south. If he now attacked
Hadik he must expose his rear to the victors of Kunersdorf; if he stood
firm against them, Hadik would take him in flank. “Only a miracle could
save us,” wrote the Secretary of State.

The downfall of his country seemed inevitable and Frederick was
resolved not to witness it. For years he had carried poison. Before
using it he spent two days in arranging his affairs. On the plea of
a severe illness, he entrusted the army to General Finck and gave
directions that it should swear allegiance to the son of Augustus
William. He advised the well-to-do citizens of Berlin to fly to
Hamburg, the Government to make Magdeburg their asylum, and Schmettau,
the commandant at Dresden, to surrender on good terms if he saw no
means of succour when attacked.

Frederick’s life-drama, it seemed, was played out, but the curtain did
not fall. The allies, who had bought victory dear, made no move, and
on the fourth day after the battle the King was himself again. “All my
troops have done wonders,” had been his words when he gave up hope. Now
he sent a new version to the same correspondent, Finckenstein. “The
victory was ours, when suddenly my wretched infantry lost courage.
The silly fear of being carried off to Siberia turned their head and
there was no stopping them.” His loss at Kunersdorf amounted to at
least 18,500 men, but he found himself master of an army 20,000 strong.
They were, he said, not to be compared with the worst troops of former
years, but he prepared to sacrifice them and himself for the defence of
the capital, and awaited Soltykoff on the river Spree.

A letter to Prince Henry written on August 16, 1759, shows the temper
of the Prussian Leonidas.

    “The moment that I sent you word of our mishap everything
    seemed desperate. Do not think that the danger is not still
    very great, but be assured that until my eyes are closed I
    will sustain the State, as is my duty. A case that I had in my
    pocket was smashed by a shot, but saved my leg. We are all in
    tatters; there is hardly anyone who has not had two or three
    balls through his clothes or his hat. But we would cheerfully
    sacrifice our wardrobe, if that were all.”

Despite these signs of reviving courage, Frederick felt with tenfold
intensity what he expressed years afterwards when he said that after
Kunersdorf the enemy had only to give him the finishing stroke. Yet
it is highly characteristic of him that already his thoughts ran upon
another battle. To carry on defensive warfare, he argued, the support
of a fortress was indispensable. But he had only Cüstrin and Spandau to
choose from, and to sit down near either would be to sacrifice Berlin.
Desperate evils, he held, needed desperate remedies, and he would court
Fortune sword in hand. Eight days after Kunersdorf he hoped soon to
have 33,000 men in his camp, but he protested that he feared them more
than the enemy. “I count on the firmness and honesty of Pitt, and it is
on him alone that we can at this juncture base some hope.”

Frederick expected day by day the catastrophe of Prussia. Yet the only
direct result of Kunersdorf was that for a time he lost a great part of
Saxony. Early in September Dresden was wrested from him by the motley
army of the Empire, which was accounted the most despicable member of
the coalition. Schmettau had acted too mechanically in following the
King’s counsels of despair. But the Swedes, though their opponents
had withdrawn, failed to strike south. The French, who had set out
in earnest to conquer Hanover, were routed at Minden by Ferdinand of
Brunswick on August 1, 1759. They were driven headlong through the
narrow gorge at the spot where the Weser cleaves the bulwark of hills
which guards the northern plain, and thus before the day of Kunersdorf
Frederick knew that he had nothing to fear on the western side. But
how, it may well be wondered, could Daun and Soltykoff, with 120,000
men at their disposal and only half the number against them, neglect
to follow up their victory? The sequel even suggests that Frederick’s
desperate measures beyond the Oder had been superfluous. Prussia was
far weaker than before, yet she did not fall. The King was crippled,
Austrians and Russians were now massed into one unbroken force, triumph
at Dresden followed triumph at Kunersdorf, yet they accomplished

Their opponents, it is true, were tacticians of the first rank. Prince
Henry, by wonderful marches, evaded Daun, and Frederick, returning
to the Oder, frustrated all Soltykoff’s efforts to gain Silesia.
It was, moreover, beyond the power of Daun to furnish the Russians
with supplies, and if their ally did not supply them they refused
point-blank to proceed. But the chief cause of Prussia’s salvation
was that victory, though it united the armies of her enemies, could
not unite their interests. Russians and Austrians remained as before
separate armies with divergent interests to consult. At no time did
Frederick draw greater profit than after Kunersdorf from the fact that
Prussia was one and her opponents many.

Soon Berlin breathed freely and even Breslau felt safe. Before
October was at an end Soltykoff was marching home, while Daun was
struggling to save Dresden at least from Prince Henry’s reconquest of
Saxony. The _Te Deums_ ceased at Vienna and dejection reigned there.
Daun’s sluggishness in aggressive action extinguished the renown
due to his triumphs of defence. His wife dared not show herself in
public. At court the story ran that she opened a package addressed
to the Field-marshal, and discovered that some wag had mocked his
sluggishness by sending him a night-cap.

At this juncture, however, it would have been well for Prussia if her
King’s activity had been less superhuman. Flushed with the triumph
of his strategy and confident of the devotion of Pitt, he had the
audacity to demand that compensation for Prussia should be the basis
of negotiation for peace. During the greater part of October, 1759,
he was tormented by gout and fever. He spent his enforced leisure in
writing an essay on Charles XII., the Madman of the North, a warrior
who would have prized the bloody afternoon of Kunersdorf far more than
the strategy which drove Soltykoff empty-handed from Silesia. Then,
when the Russian peril had vanished, Frederick set out in a litter for
Saxony. “I am very weak, but although still a cripple, I will do all
that my feebleness allows me to attempt,” he wrote on November 4th. His
heart beat high with the hope of repeating the miracles of 1757, and of
regaining, by a new Leuthen, all that had been lost during the summer,
and peace.

“I make them carry me like the relics of a saint,” wrote the King after
the first day’s journey. Though sleepless and crippled, he concocted
daily bulletins to Prince Henry in the spirit of a schoolboy. Since it
had been noised abroad that Daun had received the papal benediction
he had more than ever been the butt of Frederick’s jests. Now, to
create “a favourable impression on the mind of the blessed creature and
his council,” he bids his brother announce his little escort as 4000
strong, and sends a list of the regiments of which it may be said to
consist. “Daun and his Austrians shall not perceive that I have the
gout,” he boasted.

Two days later, on November 14th, he took over the command. Pleased
that Daun paid him the compliment of retreating, he ordered Finck
to pursue. All the general’s objections were overruled, and he took
refuge in wooden obedience to the letter of the King’s orders. “In a
few days,” Frederick wrote on the 17th, “we shall reap the fruit of
this disposition.” In four the royal prophecy was fulfilled, but the
harvester was Daun. Finck’s command, some 15,000 strong, with seventy
guns, was entangled in the hills south of Dresden. Believing themselves
to be surrounded by thrice their number, the Prussians laid down their
arms at Maxen (November 21, 1759).

The blow was more crushing than Kunersdorf, for the whisper now sped
through the world that the Prussians were turning cowards. Eichel
confessed that his heart was so full of bitterness and chagrin that
it was quite out of his power that day to write anything in cipher.
The King, who had boasted to Voltaire that he would despatch his next
letter from Dresden, complained bitterly that ill-luck pursued him all
his days. He strove to atone for his over-confidence by exertion, and
for many weeks kept the field, defying the stern winter. He thereby
averted an Austrian reconquest of Saxony, but the gates of Dresden
never opened to him again. The Prussian cause and the Prussian King,
thought the world, were failing together. “If you saw me, you would
scarcely know me again,” Frederick wrote to Voltaire. “I am old,
broken, grayheaded, wrinkled. I am losing my teeth and my gaiety.”
Yet this dejected veteran alone kept together the Prussian army. That
army was the sole bulwark of the State. If Frederick had in truth lost
health, skill, and fortune, what hope was left to Prussia?





Between the spring of 1760, when the weary Frederick braced himself
to grapple anew with a task which four campaigns seemed only to
have increased, and the moment when a sudden stroke of fortune was
to give him rest, there intervenes a gap of time as great as that
which separates his first plunge into the war from his overthrow at
Kunersdorf. If we are compelled to be content with a swift review of
these final phases of the struggle, we must by no means lose from sight
the tenacity and adroitness of the hero upon whom every campaign laid
a heavier burden than the last, and to whom every year seemed endless.
After Kunersdorf and Maxen, we, who know that Frederick and Prussia did
not perish, may be impatient to have done with their long agony. But
Frederick himself enjoyed no such comfortable prescience. Hopes he had
indeed in plenty. Denmark might join him, the Tartars might rise, the
Turks, he was constantly assured, were on the very verge of attacking
Austria. Now the French, now the Russians, he believed, were about to
desert the coalition against him. The event testified to his courage
rather than to his insight. Time brought only fresh disappointments and
prospects ever more black, but the King neither flinched nor paused.
Under the bludgeonings of chance his head was bloody but unbowed. “It
was not the army,” said Napoleon, “that defended Prussia, seven years
through, against the three greatest Powers of Europe, it was Frederick
the Great.”

Till near its close the campaign of 1760 seemed to be merely the
natural sequel to that of 1759. In spite of all the chances of high
politics, the same combatants took the field on either side. France,
beaten by land and sea, had tempted England with the offer of a
separate peace. But Pitt displayed anew the loyalty to his ally which
was the consolation of Frederick’s darkest hours. The English minister
recognised that his country’s triumphs over France off Lagos, in
the bay of Quiberon, and before the walls of Quebec in the glorious
campaign of 1759, had been due to the Prussian alliance almost as
directly as the victory of Minden. He braved the taunt that he was more
Prussian than the King of Prussia and inflexibly refused to desert him
in his hour of misfortune. The Russians, on the other hand, consented
to serve Maria Theresa anew, but at a high price. Ost-Preussen, which
they had conquered, was to be theirs for ever. Thus the Hapsburg,
though guardian and head of Germany, was compelled to promise that if
Prussia were crushed the Muscovite should advance to the Vistula.

The labours of the diplomatists, from which Frederick looked for great
gains, had done nothing to change the military situation in his favour.
The campaign of 1760 saw once more Ferdinand confronting the French in
the West, the Swedes paralysed by their own incompetence in Pomerania,
Daun striving to reconquer Saxony, Laudon striving to reconquer
Silesia, and the Russians, as usual, advancing towards the Oder. But,
whereas in 1759 Frederick’s own presence had more than once caused
disaster to his armies, in 1760 he became again the hero of the strife.
He was always most formidable when the odds against him were heavy, and
in 1760 none could doubt that the Prussians were at an overwhelming
disadvantage. Even the King regarded the campaign as a gambler’s last
throw. Failing extraordinary good fortune, he predicted the collapse of
Prussia before the autumn.

For the first time in the war the enemy began a campaign on Prussian
soil. Laudon invaded Silesia, and the King’s friend, Fouqué, believing
himself too weak to hold Landshut, fell back on Breslau. The Silesians
protested that they were being abandoned to the mercy of the enemy and
Frederick complained that his generals did more mischief to him than
to the enemy. Under-estimating Laudon’s talent for war, he ordered
Fouqué to recover Landshut at once, and promised to come to the rescue
in person as soon as he had beaten the enemy in Saxony. Fouqué obeyed,
but in Laudon he had an opponent far more active than Daun. His force
of less than 11,000 men was soon in as hopeless a plight as that of
Finck at Maxen. He, too, avenged the insults of the King by following
his orders to the letter, for the more considerate counter-orders
which Frederick despatched never reached him. On June 23, 1760, near
Landshut, the Prussians maintained a hopeless struggle for seven hours.
It is believed that the killed and wounded numbered more than 5000
men. It is certain that only some 1500 cavalry, perhaps one-seventh of
Fouqué’s whole force, succeeded in cutting their way through the enemy.

At Landshut the Prussian regiments regained by their valour the repute
which they had lost at Maxen, where they laid down their arms without
a blow. But the fruits of Laudon’s victory were great. Silesia now lay
defenceless before the Austrians, and only Prince Henry’s weak force
screened it from the advancing Russians. Frederick, though balked of
a battle, was compelled to leave his work in Saxony undone and to
transfer the bulk of the Prussian army to the eastern theatre of war.
His going was a proof of weakness, but the manner of it paid a signal
tribute to his fame. None dared to stand in his way. The Austrians
under Lacy were so determined to be on the safe side that they left
Dresden bare, and Frederick was tempted by the opportunity of a
brilliant triumph to turn aside.

He hoped to take the Saxon capital in two or three days, but the
defenders were stout-hearted beyond his calculation. After he had
wasted more than a fortnight before the walls, the news that Glatz
had fallen and that Breslau was in danger compelled him to resume
the dreary tramp towards Silesia. His prestige and his position had
suffered alike, and his mood was more dejected than ever. Philosophy,
he professed, was his only consolation. Since nothing worse could
happen to him than what he looked for, he could have no occasion for
disappointment. He was determined to hold fast to duty during the brief
space that might still separate him from the abyss. It was no great
matter, he told Finckenstein, whether they were crushed a month sooner
or a month later. The death of his old servant, Podewils, affected him
little, for it seemed but a small item in the general ruin of the State.

Thus began the month of August, 1760, in which Frederick and his army
dispelled by their own valiant deeds some of the darkest clouds that
hung over Prussia. They were escorted into Silesia, where Soltykoff’s
Russians and Laudon’s Austrians awaited them, by the armies of Daun and
Lacy, which marched, said the King, like the vanguard and rear-guard
of their own force. Thanks to the stout-heartedness of the Prussian
general Tauentzien, Laudon had summoned Breslau in vain. Now, however,
he effected a junction with Daun, and the united Austrian forces
outnumbered Frederick by three to one.

At no moment of his long career, not even when he galloped from the
field of Mollwitz nor when he gathered round him the wreckage after
Kunersdorf, had the King’s plight seemed so desperate as now. He
himself upon whom all depended was in the depths of dejection. He had
with him only some 30,000 men, and Kay, Kunersdorf, Maxen, Landshut,
Dresden formed an unbroken series of disasters. Against him were some
90,000 Austrians, commanded by Daun, to whom his royal mistress had
sent the most unequivocal instructions to fight, and by Laudon, to
whom military instinct no less clearly dictated battle. They barred
Frederick’s path both to Breslau and to Schweidnitz, and brought his
force to the verge of starvation. Across the Oder the Russians were
masters of the land, waiting only for the tidings of victory to pour
a new host over bridges which they had already built. To retreat was
to abandon Silesia, to stand still was to be starved or crushed,
to attack was beyond the imagination even of a Frederick. Prussian
officers talked of a new and greater Maxen, and the British ambassador,
Mitchell, burned his papers.

[Illustration: PLAN OF LIEGNITZ, AUGUST 15, 1760.]

At last Frederick moved. Having learned from a drunken deserter that
Daun was planning a surprise, he resolved to march towards the Oder,
preferring the neighbourhood of the Russians on the right bank to a
situation which had plainly become untenable. On the evening of August
14, 1760, the Prussians stole away from their camp and occupied a
strong position to the north-east of Liegnitz. On the western side,
where Daun’s attack might be looked for, the ground was admirable for
defence. Behind the stream of the Schwarzwasser rises a steep and
sudden bank, shaped like a natural bastion. This was manned by the
right wing, encamped on a champaign so level that it forms the Liegnitz
drill-ground to this day. Further north-east a gentle slope descended
from the lines of the Prussian left to the little village of Panten and
so to the river Katzbach. There through the moonlit night the men
lay under arms, forbidden to cheer themselves with song, but filled
with an expectancy that banished sleep. The King, who shared all their
privations, wrapped himself in his cloak and snatched a brief rest by a
watch-fire after satisfying himself that all was ordered aright.

Till dawn the stillness was unbroken. Then in a moment blazed up one of
the shortest and most brilliant fights of the whole war. A breathless
messenger cried that the enemy—Laudon—was attacking in force on the
extreme left. Frederick hurried off to oppose him. Had the attack been
made fifteen minutes earlier, he declared, the issue would have been
far different. But the Prussians profited much by their stealthy change
of camp. Laudon’s march was a part of Daun’s concerted attack upon
the position that they had quitted seven hours before. The result of
their movement was that Daun hardly reached them, while Laudon, who
expected to surprise their baggage, was himself surprised. Marching
without a vanguard, he found himself committed to an uphill fight
without support from Daun. None the less he attacked with such swing
and dash that the Prussian left was well-nigh cut in two, It was saved
by the infantry, who first valiantly held Panten and then set it on
fire. This checked the Austrian advance and enabled the Prussians to
make good use of their position. About an hour and a half after the
first onset Laudon retired across the Katzbach unpursued. The Prussians
claimed to have killed or wounded 6000 men and captured 4000—a total
loss thrice as great as their own. They had thus annihilated nearly
one-third of Laudon’s force, and—what was even more important—they had
rent the net that was closing round them. Daun had appeared in sight
of the Prussians only to learn of Laudon’s disaster and to retire.
Henceforward it was beyond the power of the Empress to induce her
favoured field-marshal to attack.

The moral gain was perhaps the greatest of all the advantages that
Frederick derived from Liegnitz. “A second edition of Rossbach,” as
he called the battle, was the best proof that Prussian valour and
leadership and luck had none of them vanished from the earth. The King,
who had his coat torn by one ball and his horse wounded by another,
ascribed the victory to the favour of fortune and the bravery of his
men. No other judge, whether Prussian, Austrian, or Russian, could fail
to ascribe a great share in it to the King. The value of this renewal
of prestige was apparent almost every day that the war had yet to
run. However huge the masses of Austrians and Russians might be, they
were usually content to watch Frederick at a respectful distance. The
initiative was thus often abandoned to the weaker side and the value of
Frederick’s army enhanced threefold.

Yet nothing could demonstrate more clearly than their movements after
Liegnitz how weak the Prussians were. Frederick’s departure from the
field of victory was in truth a flight, but a flight which covered the
fugitives with glory. Young Lieutenant Archenholtz, who was among the
victors, tells the astounding tale of how

    “this army, spent with bloody toil and girt by mighty hosts,
    must press on without rest and without delay, and yet must
    bear with it every gun and man that had been taken and all the
    wounded as well. These last were packed into meal-wagons and
    bread-wagons, into carriages and carts, no matter whose they
    might be. Even the King gave up his. King and generals gave up
    their led horses to carry the wounded who could ride. The empty
    meal-wagons were broken up and their horses harnessed to the
    captured guns. Every horseman and driver must take with him one
    of the enemy’s muskets. Nothing was left behind, not a single
    wounded man, Prussian or Austrian, and at nine o’clock, four
    hours after the end of the battle, the army with its enormous
    load was in full march.”

Twelve good miles were covered that day under the August sun. Frederick
was still between two armies, each larger than his own. Neither
Russians nor Austrians, however, dared attack him and he joined Prince
Henry at Breslau without another stroke of sword.

Of his brother Henry, Frederick said at a later date, “There is but
one of us that never made a mistake in war.” But the King continually
rejected his counsel, though the event proved it to have been wise,
and his relations with the Prince often became strained. A brilliant
strategist, Henry wished to husband Prussian powder and Prussian blood
by manœuvring more and fighting less. The victor of Leuthen, on the
other hand, was ready to take great risks if he believed that his
success would be fatal to the chief army either of the Russians or of
the Austrians. “If you engage in small affairs only,” he maintained,
“you will always remain mediocre, but if you engage in ten great
undertakings and are lucky in no more than two you make your name

Frederick’s habitual inclination to throw for high stakes was increased
by the events of September and October, 1760. His task was to guard
the Silesian fortresses against Daun, but while he—like the court of
Vienna—yearned for a decisive action Berlin fell into the hands of
40,000 Russians and Austrians. The raiders occupied the city for four
days and exacted a contribution of two million thalers, but the rumour
of the King’s approach sufficed to drive them off. Winter was drawing
nigh and the Russians vanished as was their wont. There was thus less
need to fear for Silesia, but the enemy still held Saxony, and Saxony
was to Frederick a recruiting-ground, a treasure-house, and a home.
With added reasons for a battle, but with little assurance of success,
he therefore transferred thither the seat of war.

    “The close of my days is poisoned,” he wrote, “and the evening
    of my life as hideous as its morning. Never will I endure the
    moment that must force me to make a dishonourable peace. No
    persuasion, no eloquence can bring me to sign my shame. Either
    I will bury myself under the ruins of my fatherland, or if this
    consolation seem too sweet to the Misfortune that pursues me, I
    will myself put an end to my woes.... After having sacrificed
    my youth to my Father, and my ripe years to my fatherland, I
    think I have acquired the right to dispose of my old age as
    I please.... And so I will finish this campaign, resolved to
    hazard all and to try the most desperate measures, to conquer
    or to find a glorious end.”

We who have seen Frederick resign his crown after Kunersdorf are free
to believe that he would have taken his life after a new Kolin. His
words are in any event highly significant of the view which he took
of the limits of his duty to the State, whose course he had steered
according to his own will for twenty years. Five days after they were
written, on November 3, 1760, he did in truth hazard all, and try the
most desperate measures. Daun, who had followed him into Saxony, was
encamped near Torgau in a position reputed impregnable. He had 50,000
men with an enormous park of artillery, and whatever his shortcomings
in attack, none could impugn his talent for defence. Yet Frederick,
with 44,000 men, determined to attack, and to attack by one of the most
difficult operations in war, a simultaneous onslaught on opposite sides
of the enemy’s position. The King himself proposed to lead half the
army through the forest, right round the Austrian camp, so as to assail
it from the north. The other half was to attack from the south under
Zieten, the bravest of hussars but the youngest of generals, who had
commanded a wing at Liegnitz, but had never handled an army, and who
did not know the ground.

It is hardly surprising, with such a plan as this, that Torgau, like
many battles, was fought not as was designed but as best it might
be. The history of the day proved beyond dispute that Frederick had
ventured much. The weather, their own errors, and the enemy’s guns
ruined the Prussian simultaneous attack. The King’s contingent fought
a desperate battle. Few of his attendants escaped without a wound. His
own life was saved as if by miracle. Three horses were killed under
him. A spent ball struck him senseless, but his pelisse saved him from
serious hurt. He rallied both himself and his men, but when evening
came the Austrians had the advantage. Daun felt that he might safely
leave the field to dress a wound and send news of victory to Vienna.

Then, in the last hour of the fight, something like a simultaneous
attack was carried out and it succeeded. After long indecision, Zieten
stormed the southern heights with desperate courage and the confused
struggle was taken up a third time by the King’s forces on the north.
By eight o’clock, thirteen hours after the Prussians had left camp,
the Austrian resistance was at an end. Ere midnight Daun was fleeing
across the Elbe, while Frederick, seated on the altar-step of a village
church, scribbled a note to Finckenstein, promising to send details of
the victory next day.

[Illustration: PLAN OF TORGAU, NOVEMBER 3, 1760.]

Before dawn, he was once more among his troops riding through the
lines and embracing Zieten. At Torgau he had frustrated the Austrian
reconquest of Saxony and reduced their forces by some 16,000 men.
But when his own loss came to be counted he strictly forbade his
adjutants to reveal the sum. Torgau was the bloodiest battle of the
war and the Prussians had suffered most. Their casualties exceeded by
nearly one thousand those of the beaten side.

In spite of Liegnitz and Torgau the campaign of 1760 seemed to have
changed Frederick’s situation but little. Dresden was still beyond
his reach, but he was able to spend a pleasant winter at Leipzig,
surrounded by books and men of letters. Diplomacy, as before, promised
much and performed little, but drilling and recruiting went on without
pause. Although the quality of the Prussian army could not but
deteriorate, the numbers were astonishingly maintained. Commissions
were given to mere lads, freebooters were welcomed, and the lands of
the lesser German princes were scoured for men, till in the spring
of 1761 a hundred thousand soldiers were ready to take the field. To
furnish the necessary funds no new taxes were laid upon the Prussians,
but Frederick issued great quantities of base coin and Saxony, where
the Austrians might otherwise have found support, was harried to the
verge of devastation.

It was believed at Vienna that Frederick would resort to his plan of
the preceding year by pitting himself against the army which covered
Dresden. The Empress therefore implored Daun once more to take command.
He consented, but only on the astounding condition that he should not
be expected to make conquests. Then the King of Prussia transferred
himself to Silesia, which became the principal scene of the events of
1761, perhaps the dreariest of all campaigns.

For the third year in succession it was beyond the power of the
Prussians to prevent the armies of the Empress and Czarina from
joining hands in Silesia. The King would have risked a battle against
either, but battle was not vouchsafed him. Yet in face of an enemy
who outnumbered his 55,000 men by more than two to one he had still
a weapon at his disposal and it proved effectual. The bold offensive
of his earlier campaigns had perforce given place to defensive action
only. Although Ferdinand still gloriously held his own against
the French, Frederick knew that he himself was too weak to meet
the combined Austrian and Russian army in the field. He therefore
entrenched himself and defied the allies either to destroy him where he
stood or to make lasting conquests while his army remained undestroyed.

For five weeks, till near the end of September, he thus inhabited the
famous camp of Bunzelwitz, resting upon Schweidnitz, the key of Lower
Silesia. Then, deeming the danger past, he moved southward to seek
fresh supplies. His absence woke the foe to life and the campaign
closed with disaster. On October 1, 1761, Laudon astonished Europe by
storming Schweidnitz. A second reverse followed. Before the year was
out the Russians were masters of Colberg, the Baltic gate of Prussian
Pomerania. For the first time, therefore, the armies of the enemy could
winter on Prussian soil. A huge crescent of foes, French, Imperialists,
Austrians, Russians, Swedes, was at last enfolding Prussia. When
spring came would they not surely stifle her?

Frederick, moping through the winter at Breslau, declared once more
that Fortune alone could save him. He likened himself to a fiddler from
whose instrument men tore away the strings one by one till all were
gone and still demanded music. Once more he declared that philosophy
alone could console him in his “pilgrimage through this hell called the
world.” “I save myself,” he wrote, “by viewing the world as though from
a distant planet. Then everything seems infinitely small, and I pity
my enemies for giving themselves so much trouble about such a trifle.”
Yet he never ceased to recruit, to drill, and to make plans for the
glorious offensive campaign that he hoped to engage in with the aid of
the Tartars and the Turks.

In December, 1761, he professed indifference to the course of events in
England, though two months earlier his champion Pitt had given place
to men who preferred the Austrian alliance to the Prussian, and who
desired that separate peace with France which Pitt had rejected in
1758. The treaty then made between England and Prussia forbade either
to make peace without the other till April 11th of the following year.
In 1759, 1760, and 1761 this compact had been renewed. Now, however,
Newcastle and Bute began to clamour for what Pitt had ventured only
to suggest—that Frederick should purchase peace by some concession
conformable to the course of the Continental war. The Prussian envoys
in London dared to advise their sovereign to comply. He answered that
they were in nowise permitted to give him such foolish and impertinent
counsel. “Your father,” he wrote to one of them, though the charge was
baseless, “took bribes from France and England; has he bequeathed the
habit to you?”

Frederick’s inflexible resolve to make no concession was by no means
the same as a resolve to make no bargain. He often played with the
fancy that Saxony or a part of it might be left in his hands at the
peace. For this he would gladly surrender any or all of his outlying
provinces. But he would rather forfeit the English subsidy and
jeopardise the very existence of the Prussian State than sue for the
peace which Kaunitz was more than willing to conclude on terms of
moderate profit for the allies. Two weighty reasons of policy increased
his determination. The labours of the winter once again filled the
ranks and the war-chest of Prussia. And Fortune, of whom the King said
that she alone could extricate him, now gave with one hand more than
she took away with the other. At the moment when England left him,
Russia ranged herself at his side.

The cause of this marvellous revolution was the accident that the
Czarina died early in January, 1762, and that her nephew and successor,
Peter III., was a worshipper of the King of Prussia. Elizabeth had
lived in debauchery and left upwards of 15,000 dresses to bear witness
to her luxurious tastes. It is possible that her chief motive in
attacking Frederick was a desire to chastise the man who had spoken
ill of her. But there can be no doubt that her policy was suited to the
interests of the State. It was argued at a later date that her alliance
with the Queen had cost Russia countless lives and sixty millions of
money. But in 1762 it had already procured Ost-Preussen and part of
Pomerania, and there seemed to be good hope that Prussia, the only
Power which could prevent a vast extension of Russian influence in
Poland, would be permanently crippled. If the allies dared not attack
the King of Prussia, they were at least in a fair way to exhaust his

In a moment, however, the rash young Holsteiner who now wielded the
sceptre of his great namesake, Peter, flung away all that his troops
had purchased with their blood in five campaigns—at Gross-Jägersdorf,
Zorndorf, Kay, Kunersdorf, and Colberg. In the first hours of his
reign he ordered his army to take no step in advance. Before January
was over, Frederick knew that peace with Russia was assured. The
Czar’s one desire seemed to be to gratify his brother of Prussia. He
craved investiture with the order of the Black Eagle, and declared
that he would stand by while Turks and Tartars attacked the Austrian
dominions. He resigned the Russian conquests without indemnity,
undertook to promote peace with Sweden, and even offered Frederick his
alliance. Influenced by his withdrawal, the Swedes came to terms of
their own accord and concluded the Peace of Hamburg (May 22, 1762),
which re-established the conditions of 1720. Frederick could therefore
face the remnants of the coalition without anxiety for his rear. From
Ost-Preussen he now drew 15,000 men. By undertaking to assist Peter in
his schemes for winning back the lands which the House of Holstein had
lost to Denmark forty years before, he secured the immediate help of
20,000 Russians.

The situation was so completely transformed since the days when
Frederick lay motionless at Bunzelwitz that in 1762 he determined
once more to take the aggressive. His first aim must be the recovery
of Schweidnitz. This could only be accomplished by inducing Daun to
give battle, for his army, which had encamped near the fortress, was
now playing the part that had fallen to the Prussians in the previous
year. While the manœuvres were pursuing their tedious course the news
arrived that Peter III. had been deposed. His wife, the German princess
Catherine II., who was thus placed in power, at once recalled the
20,000 Russians from Silesia. Frederick, however, calculating on the
influence which their presence would exercise upon the mind of Daun,
persuaded their commander to conceal the order and to remain a few days
longer as a spectator of the war. Then on July 21, 1762, the Prussians
surprised Daun’s right wing and gained a clever victory at Burkersdorf.
At a sacrifice of some 1600 men they reduced the enemy’s force by
nearly 10,000, and the retreat of the Austrians enabled them to begin
the siege of Schweidnitz.

Thenceforward it was plain that the dragging war would lead to no
decisive issue. Frederick was so sure of his cause that he had
already sent a commissioner to examine the civil needs of Pomerania.
But he could only undertake formidable aggressive movements if the
Turks and Tartars rose, and once again they disappointed his hopes.
Instead of new combatants joining in the fray the old ones were
quitting it. Bute was eager to take the step which Pitt had scorned to
take in 1760. Before the year was out France and England signed the
preliminaries which were embodied in the Peace of Paris in February,
1763. Immediately after Burkersdorf, the Russians withdrew and it was
not to be expected that the Austrians and Imperialists could accomplish
by themselves a task which had baffled the unbroken coalition. Daun,
indeed, attempted to avenge Burkersdorf by a counter-surprise. He
failed and in October, 1762, Schweidnitz fell. Before the month was
over Prince Henry, who was conducting the campaign in Saxony, gained
a great victory over the Imperialist army at Freiberg. The campaign
closed with an armistice between Frederick and the Austrians and a
series of Prussian forays against the hostile princes of the Empire.

At last the Queen realised that she had failed. She promptly determined
not to prolong a struggle which could only add to the misery of
mankind. So vast a legacy of hate had, however, been left by the war
that it was difficult to find a single Power whose good offices both
sides could accept with a view to peace. The Queen therefore brought
herself to approach “the wicked man” direct and sent an envoy to
the King of Prussia. For nearly seven weeks negotiations went on at
Hubertusburg, a castle of the unfortunate Saxon monarch. Frederick
showed himself pliant in matters of etiquette and unbending where any
practical advantage was at stake. He was willing to gratify Hapsburg
pride by sending his envoy more than half-way to meet the envoy of the
Queen, by allowing her name to precede his in the documents, and by
promising to further the election of her son Joseph as Emperor. But
he insisted on the restoration of Glatz by the Austrians, and on the
payment by the Saxons of his grinding taxes up to the very eve of peace.

On February 15, 1763, the Peace of Hubertusburg was signed. After seven
campaigns and an incalculable loss of blood and treasure, Austria and
Prussia agreed to return to their situation before the outbreak of the





The monarch who had borne the burden of seven campaigns—a burden of
which his ten great battles formed but a trifling fraction—might well
have been pardoned for appropriating to himself some share in the
repose which his labours had won for Prussia. Even if it is difficult
to couple the thought of Frederick with that of repose, it might at
least be expected that after a triumph of defence hardly surpassed in
human history he would delight his army by praising their achievements
and his people by accepting their plaudits. Relaxation for himself
and courtesy towards others were, however, equally distasteful to the
King. He slunk into his capital by back streets and thus frustrated
the preparations of the citizens to express their loyalty and joy. Yet
in the darkest moments of the war he had been devising plans for the
improvement of Prussia and he hardly waited for the peace to be signed
before plunging into a rapid career of reform. After Kunersdorf, while
his despair was gradually giving place to hope and hope to confidence,
he was not too absorbed in strategy to lay to heart the defects which
he observed in the schooling of the peasants near the Spree. The weeks
which passed while his envoy at Hubertusburg was harvesting the fruits
of the war were spent by Frederick in planning reforms for the army
which had proved its matchless quality through all the seven campaigns.

His first desire was to get rid of those helpers whose services he had
accepted only because of pressing need. Twenty-one free battalions had
been raised and had proved immensely serviceable. Now the King bade
two-thirds of them go their ways without reward. His learned friend and
servant, Colonel Guichard, upon whom in consequence of a dispute about
the battle of Pharsalia he had inflicted the name Quintus Icilius,
appealed to him to repay to his officers part at least of the money
which they had spent from their own pockets in enlisting their men.
“Thy officers have stolen like ravens,” replied the King; “they shall
not have a farthing.” Still more ungenerous was his treatment of a
section of his army whose only fault was their lack of noble birth.
During the long war many students and schoolboys of the citizen class
entered the army as volunteers and received commissions. In the hour of
triumph they were ruthlessly sacrificed to Frederick’s principle that
his officers, save perhaps among the garrison regiments, must belong to
the caste of nobles. Prussians who had served him in his extremity must
submit to be cashiered, while foreigners of rank were enlisted to atone
for the dearth of natives whose pedigrees satisfied his requirements.

At the same time the army as a whole was wounded by harsh criticism
and harsh reforms. This, like much of Frederick’s conduct, may be
ascribed to the contempt for mankind which experience only increased,
and to the almost inevitable effect upon himself of the unbridled
absolutism described in the sixth chapter of this book. “Dogs, would
ye live for ever?” he shrieked at his men in the crisis of one of his
fights. He was forced to confess that, as his strength became less and
the number of his subjects greater, he could not hope to look into all
affairs of government with his own eyes. Yet he shrank more and more
from creating an official or a system in anywise independent of his own
immediate control. In 1763 he therefore appointed inspectors of cavalry
and of infantry in every province and endowed them with wide powers of
supervision of the officers and all that they did. This measure, it
need hardly be said, roused the utmost bitterness among the regimental
staff, which had hitherto enjoyed a great measure of independence on
the sole condition that the King was satisfied with the results of
its work. It was the more distasteful for the very reason which made
it acceptable to Frederick—that the new inspectors were appointed at
the royal pleasure without regard to seniority. The chief officer of
a regiment, who had been wont to rule it like a patriarch, was now
subjected to the control of a rival, perhaps his junior, who did not
resign his own command and could favour it as he pleased.

The captains, too, suffered in pocket from another unpopular reform.
They had hitherto received from the treasury the full wages of every
man on the muster-roll of their company. In time of peace, however,
the native-born soldiers spent nine or ten months of the year on
furlough without pay. Each captain defrayed the cost of recruiting
foreigners for his company out of what he received and pocketed the
balance. Now, at the moment when war ceased, Frederick cut off this
source of income. By retaining regiments of special merit on the old
footing he insulted the rest, and by graduating according to his
opinion of the regiment’s efficiency the trifling allowances paid by
way of compensation he cast a slur upon the professional honour of
officers and men alike. The King paid his officers ten thalers a month
and their pensions depended entirely upon his caprice. Many captains
were thenceforward unable to resist the temptation to falsify the
muster-rolls so as to receive pay for soldiers who did not exist.

The King’s despotic power, however, enabled him to make light of
military discontent in time of peace. He resolved to keep up an army
of 150,000 men, to drill it as it had never been drilled before, to
educate the officers, to review all the troops every year, to build new
fortresses, and to establish stores of money and munitions sufficient
to enable Prussia to enter at a moment’s notice upon a war of eight
campaigns. It is a highly significant fact that in Frederick’s secret
estimates for the future struggle the annual contribution of Prussia
was set down at 4,700,000 thalers and the sum to be extorted from
Saxony at 5,000,000. The balance of the 12,000,000 thalers, which
was the price of a campaign, must come from the royal accumulations.
Frederick’s own expenses were only 220,000 thalers a year. At the
close of his reign, when the total revenue of the State was not quite
22,000,000 thalers, the treasure amounted to more than 51,000,000, a
sum fully five times as great as that which he had inherited from his

Frederick was compelled by his past to stand to arms all his life
through. With advancing years he became more lonely and more subject
to disease. In 1765 he lost his sister, the Margravine of Schwedt,
and next year the aged Madame de Camas, whom he always called Mamma.
His old friends died one by one and the French wits had vanished. His
brothers, Henry and Ferdinand, were often estranged from him by his
bitter words. Yet to the end of his life he prided himself on his
cheerfulness between the attacks of gout and he permitted no disease to
interrupt his labours. These were devoted first, as we have seen, to
making the land secure from attack by means of the army, and also to
guarding it from famine by methods which may next be considered. Close
on the heels of these essential duties came tasks of fresh development
and reform, the acquisition of West-Preussen in 1772, and new
endeavours to uphold Prussian prestige against the House of Hapsburg.

It is of course impossible to calculate exactly the damage which a
country suffers in time of war. Moral gains and losses count in the
long run for more than material, and no statistics even of material
losses are truly satisfactory. As between one Prussian province and
another, however, a rough comparison may be made by means of the growth
or decline of the population. Silesia and the lands east of the Oder
had naturally suffered most, since, in addition to their quota of
soldiers slain, they had long endured the presence of invading armies.
In Silesia the numbers fell by 50,000, about one in twenty-three, but
further north, in the districts in which the Russians had encamped, the
proportion was nearly five times as heavy. Frederick’s own estimate was
that one-ninth of his subjects had perished.

The loss of property had undoubtedly been very great. The conscience
of the age forbade massacre, but was lenient towards pillage and
devastation. But the King surpassed himself by what Carlyle terms “the
instantaneous practical alacrity with which he set about repairing that
immense miscellany of ruin.” So far as the material losses sustained
by individual Prussians could be ascertained, they were set down by
the careful hands of royal commissioners and mitigated by royal gifts.
The King had at his disposal depreciated coin to the amount of nearly
30,000,000 thalers, the sum which had been accumulated to pay for the
eighth and ninth campaigns. This more than sufficed for the needs of
the army and the repayment of the trifling loans, less than five and a
half million thalers in all, that Frederick had contracted during the
war. With the residue and with the surplus revenues of the State the
King set to work to prevent a single one of his subjects from falling
into absolute ruin. His doles were graduated not by any standard of
abstract justice, but by the rule that the minimum amount of help
should be given that would serve the purpose of the State. Many towns
had paid ransoms to the enemy to avoid being sacked. That of Berlin,
two million thalers, was repaid out of the treasury, but Halle received
less than one-sixth of what it claimed, and in the majority of cases
the burghers were left to bear the loss themselves.

In the country districts, however, there was less power of recuperation
than among the comparatively wealthy towns. According to Frederick’s
opinion, it was therefore necessary that the State should make it
possible for nobles and peasants alike to resume their normal duties.
The spare horses from the army, to the number of 35,000, and many
rations for man and beast from the magazines were at once distributed
to the most needy. Officials allotted to the peasants wood to rebuild
their houses and sums of money to assist the work. Their rents were
remitted for a time, and oxen, cows, sheep, meal, and seed-corn were
supplied to them free of charge. The State reaped its reward in the
rents and taxes which speedily flowed into the royal coffers, as well
as in the rapid growth of population.

While the King was thus doling out relief to a great part of his
subjects, he indulged in a singular extravagance which has been the
subject of much criticism and conjecture. Though he inequitably threw
upon the people the expense of restoring the coinage, though his
subjects were sending him sheaves of petitions for aid, though he
was of all monarchs the least addicted to pomp, none the less, three
months after peace had been signed he began to build a third palace at
Potsdam. The astonished Prussians believed that the cost was 22,000,000
thalers. If no more than one-tenth of this was actually expended, the
King lavished on a superfluity more than one-third of the sum that he
assigned to the restoration of the land.

Those who insist that he did nothing without a motive of State may find
it in his desire to convince foreign Powers that it was dangerous to
attack a nation which could afford luxuries while its enemies were deep
in debt. Other conjectures are possible. Frederick loved to indulge
the hope that the Sciences, which had visited Greece and Italy, France
and England, in turn, might settle for a while in Prussia, and the
new palace, like the salary paid to Voltaire, might be regarded as a
sacrifice at their altar. The claims of the new Prussian industries,
especially the manufacture of silk, which was largely used in adorning
the interior, may have induced the King to provide an artificial market
in this way. Frederick’s Versailles, however, remains to this day both
a monument to his absolutism and an enigma.


Absolutism and diligence are still the hall-marks of all his measures.
The military reforms, the work of restoration, and the attention paid
to the arts taxed him but lightly when compared with his labours for
the development of the agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and finance
of his dominions. No sooner was the war at an end and the work of
restoration set on foot than Frederick began to pour forth a flood of
edicts for the regulation and advance of every department of national
life, and to engage in incessant labours of inspection to see that
they were carried out.

In promoting agriculture he was guided by principles with which we
are already familiar. His prime rule was still to increase the number
of tillers of the soil and to make them safe against starvation.
He therefore continued to bring in colonists from far and near, to
drain marshes, to reclaim wastes, and to build new habitations. It is
computed that at the close of his reign one-fifth or one-sixth of his
subjects were immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. Besides a
knowledge of husbandry and handicraft which in many cases surpassed
that of the Prussians, the aliens brought with them substantial
additions to the material wealth of the land. The official inventory of
their belongings, though incomplete, shows that 6392 horses, 7875 head
of cattle, 20,548 sheep, 3227 pigs, and upwards of 2,000,000 thalers in
money were thus added to the capital of the nation.

To provide for the accommodation of the recruits to his army of
agriculture, the King applied every art of government to bring new
land under cultivation and to increase the fertility of the old. The
superior enlightenment of Prussia was attested by the curt refusal
of Brunswick and Hanover to co-operate in works of drainage. No site
for a farmstead was to be left vacant and in the forests—so ran the
decree—“no place where a tree can stand, unplanted.” The sterile
nature of the soil challenged the unwearied industry of the King. Many
centuries before blotting-paper came to be known, Brandenburg was
nicknamed “the sand-box of the Holy Roman Empire.” Thousands of acres
had to be set with bushes to prevent its surface from being blown over
the neighbouring fields.

    “I confess,” wrote Frederick to Voltaire, “that with the
    exception of Libya few states can boast that they equal us in
    the matter of sand. Yet we are bringing 76,000 acres under
    cultivation this year as pasture. This pasture feeds 7,000
    cows, whose dung will manure and improve the land, and the
    crops will be of more value.”

The spectacle of the royal philosopher writing to Voltaire about
manure and walking almost daily from Sans Souci to his turnip-field
is a visible proof of Frederick’s devotion to this branch of his
stewardship. He was wont to speak with authority as the leading
agriculturist of the realm. Here, as elsewhere, his breadth of view
often enabled him to discern the best product or practice in other
lands, and his command of resources to transport it to his own. Having
once attained his object by teaching his subjects to produce an article
at home, he imperatively forbade them to import it from abroad. The
full reward of his policy would be reaped when Prussia began to supply
it to other countries in exchange for gold and silver.

A single instance of the minuteness and imperiousness with which the
King applied this policy to agriculture may be cited from Professor
Koser’s history of the reign. The Berlin egg-market was still dependent
on foreign supply. In 1780 a royal hen-census showed that there were
324,175 hens in the Electoral Mark and that 36,300 more were required
to meet the demand for eggs. “What will it matter,” asked the King,
“if every peasant keep ten or twelve more hens? Their food does not
cost much; they can pick up most of it in the straw and dung of the
farmyard.” Prohibition of the import of foreign eggs followed. This
caused the market price to rise and the ministers expressed the fear
that the supply would not be sufficient. The King rejoined:

    “It is all the fault of the farmers and peasants for not
    setting about it. I have laboured forty years to introduce
    things of this kind. If the ministers want to eat eggs, let
    them take more trouble with the Chambers to carry it through.
    The prohibition of foreign eggs remains as before.”

Only a six months’ interval was allowed later to give the new
establishments time to develop.

All through his reign Frederick set his face firmly against any attempt
to bridge over the gulf which divided the country from the town. The
tobacco and sugar with which the peasant solaced himself, the clothes
he wore, the plough and hoe which served him to till the fields were
all made more costly in order that the towns might thrive. The vast
majority of handicrafts might be practised only within their walls. On
the other hand, the King’s ordinances against artisans who meddled with
farming were so severe that they could not be strictly carried out. He
also tried many measures with a view to conferring upon the peasant a
secure position on the soil. He was successful in preventing the nobles
from buying up the holdings of the class below them. He established
some three hundred new villages by breaking up outlying farms. But
in other directions even his autocratic power failed to overcome the
passive resistance of the rural population.

In theory, Frederick was a champion of human freedom. He condemned
slavery in strong terms and viewed askance the legal position of the
Prussian countryfolk whom their lords regarded as so many head of
labour. But he dared not shake the pillars of his army and of his
treasury by giving the peasant leave to quit the soil. He desired
to retain serfdom, but only in its mildest form. He set his heart
on making every serf a hereditary tenant at a money rent. This was,
however, repugnant both to the nobles, who feared that they would not
be able to secure labourers for hire, and to the peasants, who feared
that they would in future be obliged to bear the loss when their cattle
died and to pay their arrears of taxation themselves. The proposed
reform, as well as an attempt to assign limits to the labour that the
lords might lawfully exact, had therefore to be given up.

A change of still more unquestionable benefit, of which England
had enjoyed the fruits for fully two centuries, likewise proved
impracticable in Prussia, even on the domains of the Crown. Each
holder, whether noble or peasant, had a number of scattered strips of
land in huge fields which were unenclosed and were ploughed and sown
in common by the labour of the whole village. The abuses of such a
system were manifold. It stereotyped the succession of crops, checked
individual enterprise, prevented the high cultivation which depended on
the aid of walls or hedges, and exposed the strips of the industrious
to the spreading tares of his slothful neighbour. Frederick, once more
guided by his loftier outlook on affairs, ordered commissioners to
remedy this unprofitable system by a rearrangement of all the holdings.
Peasants, bailiffs, ministers, all protested in vain, but Frederick
in his turn commanded in vain. All that he could accomplish in his
lifetime was the severance of noble from peasant land. He was compelled
to content himself with abolishing practical slavery as distinguished
from serfdom, with codifying the services due from the peasants, and
with other minor reforms.

Whatever may have been its effect in the long run, however, there
can be little doubt that it was Frederick’s deeds rather than his
laws which conferred the greatest immediate benefit upon Prussian
agriculture. His subjects were assured, as were those of no other great
monarch in Europe, that there would be a market for their produce in
years of plenty, relief of their necessities in years of dearth, and
succour from the State where fire or flood or pest would otherwise have
ruined them. This sense of security against starvation, though now so
common that it is difficult to appreciate it, was then so rare that
thousands of freemen left their native lands for the despotism and
sterile soil of Prussia.

In the sphere of industry Frederick was less hampered than in that of
agriculture by the inertia of his people. He found Prussia making few
commodities save the simplest and exporting only three,—wool, linen,
and wood. Before he died his minister, Hertzberg, could boast that
every conceivable manufacture found a home in his dominions.

The record of the steps by which the transformation was effected is
simply a further series of illustrations of the autocracy and diligence
of the King. He strove with might and main to reanimate and develop
the old industries and to establish new ones. This involved incessant
contrivance and inspection on his part, the free use of subsidies by
the State, and the constant imposition of vexatious restrictions upon
every form of trade.

One of the most conspicuous examples of Frederick’s methods is the
development of the porcelain industry of Berlin. During the Prussian
occupation of Saxony the secret of the far-famed Dresden ware was
extorted from the employees of Augustus. The King spared no effort to
make the most of his prize. He bought up the manufactory at Berlin,
forbade all purchase of rival goods from abroad, installed porcelain
at his own table in place of the gold and silver associated with royal
state, used porcelain snuffboxes, and bestowed samples of the finest
products when convention prescribed a regal gift. To promote the
welfare of Prussia, Jews who wished to marry were compelled to purchase
a service of porcelain and to dispose of it abroad.

With the same unflinching resolution the King pursued his design of
making Berlin a great industrial centre, of establishing manufactures
in all his towns, and of forcing Prussia to provide for all her own
needs and for many of the needs of foreign lands. Every industry, silk
and satin, cloth and linen, shipbuilding and mining, alike received the
royal stimulus and was compelled to submit to the royal interference.
Frederick’s success varied, for in some cases it was more apparent
than in others that precepts, prohibitions, and subsidies could not
make good deficiencies of climate, skill, and enterprise. While the
production of porcelain was firmly established, that of tobacco by
no means fulfilled the expectations of the King. He commissioned a
Prussian chemist to find out a sauce which would make the home-grown
leaf at least comparable with the Virginian. The experiment, which
occupied more than two and a half years, was furthered by all the
resources of Government. No less than 1180 samples were tested. The
report of the General Tobacco Administration, however, stated that only
34 of these were in any way better for the treatment, and that these
34, “notwithstanding they made a brave show to outward seeming,” were
too unsavoury even to be mixed with the products of Virginia.

Twice a year the King with the aid of his ministers was wont to
take stock of his kingdom, and to measure the progress of all his
schemes. In the interval he travelled through his provinces and issued
instructions for the amendment of all that he found amiss. “Schweidnitz
and Neisse are still very short of tiled roofs, N. B., someone will
have to look to it” is one of fourteen points that he noted down in
the course of a visit to Silesia. No detail was too trifling for his
attention. At the time when a paper manufactory was determined on,
doubt was expressed whether sufficient raw material in the shape of
fine rags would be forthcoming.

    “The ill custom prevails among us,” rejoined the King, “that
    both in town and country the servant-girls make the best rags
    into tinder to light the fire. We must try to break people of
    it, and therefore the rag-collectors must be provided with
    touch-wood, which is just as good as tinder for lighting a
    fire, to give to the girls in exchange for rags.”

A king who took upon his own shoulders so vast a share as did Frederick
in regulating the agriculture and industry of his subjects could not
avoid concerning himself also with their foreign trade. The general
principles of commercial policy which he followed were simple. He was
determined to see that Prussian subjects sold as much as possible to
foreigners and bought as little as possible from them in return. The
latter part of his task could be, and was, accomplished by prohibiting
the importation of certain commodities, such as salt, porcelain,
and steel, and by appointing a host of customs-officers to make the
prohibition effective. But to sell to foreigners goods which were
produced in Prussia chiefly because the King willed that his subjects
should forego the convenience of buying them from foreigners was a feat
which taxed Frederick’s statecraft to the utmost.

In general it may be said that Prussian commerce did not thrive. Thanks
to the strenuous efforts of King and ministers, who imported foreign
artisans, endowed them with implements and homes, compelled natives to
learn crafts, bought sheep in Spain, forbade the export of raw material
or the import of finished goods, forced the monasteries to support
unprofitable industries, vetoed profitable industries that threatened
in any way to prejudice their favourites, in short, exhausted the arts
of government to foster production,—thanks to all this the Silesian
export of cloth and linen rose to between five and six million thalers
a year.

This result was not achieved by domestic interference only. The King
did not shrink from tariff wars with Austria and Saxony, nor from
much toil to procure commercial treaties. It often appeared, however,
that there were spheres in which statecraft, even when practised by a
Frederick, could accomplish little.

    “When at that time a new republic arose across the ocean,”
    writes Professor Koser, “King Frederick made haste to enter
    into commercial relations with it, in order to exchange
    cloth, woollen stuffs, and linen, iron goods and porcelain,
    for rice, indigo, and Virginian tobacco. The ‘most favoured
    nation’ treaty of 10 September, 1785, between Prussia and the
    United States of America fulfilled, it is true, few of the
    expectations which both parties formed of it, for the English,
    who from a seafaring and capitalist point of view were more
    competent, long continued to be the commercial intermediaries
    between those renegade colonies and the Old World.”

In the course of his efforts the King endeavoured at different times to
supplant Hamburg, to ruin Danzig, and to make Silesia an impenetrable
barrier between Polish wool-growers and their customers in Saxony.
It was a peculiar feature of Prussia that her straggling frontiers
were crossed by many roads and rivers which connected foreign states.
The Hohenzollern laboured to turn this fact to account and to favour
Prussian merchants by hampering foreigners with enormous tolls. The
result was that commerce was compelled to avoid the borders of his

Frederick was indefatigable in inciting his subjects to take up new
enterprises as well as in striving to procure for them advantages
abroad. As a rule, however, the commercial companies which he formed
either decayed or relapsed into the position of State undertakings. It
may be surmised that what might have been possible to the Frederick
and the Prussia of 1740 had been rendered well-nigh impossible by the
changes in both which a generation of militarism had produced. The
system of despotic command and automatic obedience was fatal to the
growth of a class of self-reliant merchants, and the King complained
bitterly that neither individuals nor corporations would act with
enlightened patriotism in developing the commerce of Prussia. Able
advisers of the Crown, indeed, did something to atone for this lack
of initiative. Thanks to the talent of Hagen, the Bank, which was
established in 1765, survived its early perils and became serviceable
to Prussian trade. The Marine Commercial Company also outlived many of
Frederick’s semi-official creations.

It is perhaps in the sphere of taxation that Frederick’s unflinching
autocracy is most remarkably displayed. He claimed not only to
regulate the consumption of his people according to his own standard
of propriety, but also to select agents to enforce his rules without
the smallest consideration for their feelings. Frederick wished to
make existence easier for the poor, especially for the soldier. He
therefore abolished the tax on grain, but subjected meat, beer, and
wine to progressive imposts. Every Prussian was forced to buy from the
State a fixed quantity of inferior salt at a price equal to four times
its cost of production. The King’s delight in coffee did not make him
blind to the fact that the State would gain more profit if his subjects
were forced to abandon it in favour of Prussian beer. Accordingly in
1781 coffee became, like salt and tobacco, a monopoly of State and a
tax of 250 per cent. upon its value was imposed. Frederick strove to
refute the remonstrances of the Pomeranian gentry with the words: “His
Majesty’s high person was reared in youth on beer-soup, therefore the
people in that part can equally well be reared on beer-soup; it is
much more wholesome than coffee.” The people, however, seem to have
mitigated the inconvenience to which they were put by their King in
part by brewing decoctions of herbs, but chiefly by smuggling. It has
been estimated that no less than two-thirds of the coffee which they
used was contraband. It boded ill for the State when to knock one of
the King’s spies on the head excited none of the odium of murder.

The measure which most of all estranged the hearts of the Prussians
from their King dates, however, from the year 1766, when Frederick
resolved to introduce the French system of farming out the indirect
taxes, or Regie. Not the system alone, but also the chief agents who
carried it into effect, were brought from France. The lessee-in-chief,
de Launay, exercised great influence over the King, who accepted his
opinion as to the possibilities of taxation in preference to that of
his Prussian commissioners.

The people, as was natural, detested an innovation which both wounded
their Teutonic sensibilities and raised the price of food. De Launay
and his assistants were caricatured as marching behind beasts laden
with rackets, foils, and fiddles, to avenge the shame of Rossbach on
the inhabitants of Berlin. Patriots might well chafe at the thought
that a new and foreign department was introduced into the General
Directory itself, and that whereas a Prussian minister was paid only
4000 thalers a year, each of the four chief Frenchmen received 15,000.
Less than ten per cent. of the 2000 tax-gatherers were foreigners, but
the Germans were insulted at being deemed fit for the lower grades

Their murmurs, however, were powerless to alter the purpose of the
King. The innovation, indeed, was not recommended by conspicuous
success. Though it simplified the fiscal administration, a large
proportion of the returns was still swallowed up by expenses of
collection. On a review of the twenty years, 1766–1786, the proceeds
of the Regie seem to have been in no wise augmented by de Launay’s
hated invasion. Yet Frederick adhered to his plan, kept the taxes high,
administered the funds of the State in secret, and crowned all by
bringing coffee under the control of the French. To his fiscal measures
more than to all else was it due that the State which he had exalted
drew a deep breath of relief when he died.





The chief significance of the Peace of Hubertusburg for Prussia was not
expressed in any of its clauses. The signature of the treaty implied
that Europe renounced the endeavour to deprive her of the rank among
the Great Powers which she had arrogated to herself in 1740. Their
survival of the great ordeal conferred a new consequence upon Frederick
and his State. “Frederick himself,” Mr. James Sime happily says,
“acquired both in Germany and in Europe the indefinable influence which
springs from the recognition of great gifts that have been proved by
great deeds.” The brief sketch of his domestic labours that has been
given in Chapter X. suggests that he was not lacking in the energy
which was needed to maintain this influence and to derive full profit
from it. The history of his dealings with foreign Powers during the
latter half of his reign is the story of how this was done.

[Illustration: JOSEPH THE SECOND.


From the moment at which he signed the treaty down to the day of his
death, Frederick felt that Austria was still his enemy. Joseph II.,
the eldest son of the Queen, who was unanimously elected Emperor in
1765, had learned politics from the King of Prussia. He desired nothing
so much as to restore the immemorial pre-eminence of his House by a
sudden blow at its upstart rival. Frederick, who had spies everywhere,
was soon acquainted with the ambitions of the restless youth. For
the present he could place some reliance on the pacific influence of
the Queen and more on the emptiness of the Austrian treasury, but he
was none the less compelled to make it his foremost task to thwart
successive Hapsburg schemes of aggrandisement.

His security was the greater, however, because the Peace of Paris
of 1763 reconciled France and England as little as the Peace of
Hubertusburg reconciled Austria and Prussia. Frederick, it is true,
was still treated with coldness by the French, who clung to their
alliance with the Queen, and he was resolved never again to trust an
English ministry. With a rare access of spite, indeed, he condemned the
charger which he had named after Lord Bute to be yoked with a mule and
to perform humiliating duties in his sight. But though neither of the
Great Powers of the West was his ally, their latent hostility was still
too incurable to permit them to unite against him.

On the remaining Great Power, therefore, the well-being of Prussia
depended. The Seven Years’ War of the future, which Frederick was
always labouring to avert by means of elaborate armaments, was
improbable if Russia stood neutral and impossible if she became his
ally. From 1763 onwards the Russian alliance was the prize for which
he strove. He had to surmount the obstacle that as sovereign of
Ost-Preussen he was the natural enemy of the Russian designs upon
Poland. But Austria, on the other hand, besides being interested in
Poland, was the natural enemy of the Russian designs upon the Turk.
Frederick might reasonably hope that by humouring Russia to the extreme
limit which the interests of his State permitted, he might establish
a good understanding with her to the prejudice of the more formidable
empire in the south.

Catherine, whose throne was far from secure, seemed at first resolved
to shun a new connexion with the ally of her murdered husband. Early in
October, 1763, however, her neighbour, Augustus, died, and the stress
of the election to the throne of Poland compelled her to seek the aid
of some foreign Power. France, Austria, and finally the Russian faction
in Poland all disappointed her, and she feared a hostile combination
between Prussia and the Turk. On April 11, 1764, therefore, Frederick’s
desire was gratified. He bound himself to aid Catherine in upholding
the existing constitutional anarchy in Poland and in Sweden, and
received in return the coveted Russian guarantee for Silesia. Then, by
means of force and corruption, Stanislaus Poniatowski was installed as
King of Poland (September 7, 1764). “God said, let it be light, and it
was light,” was Frederick’s congratulation to Catherine. “You speak and
the world is silent before you.”

In accommodating himself without undue humility to the flighty humours
of his imperious ally, and in appropriating for Prussia most of
the benefits of the compact, Frederick showed that experience had
taught him much. The state of Polish and Turkish affairs gave to the
Eastern Question of that day two storm-centres which threatened wide
and immediate disturbance. Frederick, who was deep in his labours of
restoration and reform at home, desired above all to keep the peace.
This imposed upon him tasks of the utmost delicacy. He had to prevent
the formation of a Northern league which Russia desired, to cow Austria
by means of the Russian alliance, to follow with the closest attention
the turbulent course of politics in Poland, to keep Austria from
acquiring influence there, to check the military ardour of the Turk,
and to hinder a _rapprochement_ between Austria and Russia. During more
than four years (April, 1764-October, 1768), he was able to stave off
war, and when at last France induced the Turks to attack Russia, he
found himself liable only to pay an annual subsidy of less than half a
million thalers. In 1769 the alliance was prolonged till 1780.

The war between Russia and the Turks seemed to Frederick a pitiable
display of incompetence. “To form a correct idea of this war,” he
wrote, “you must figure a set of purblind people who, by constantly
beating a set of altogether blind, end by gaining over them a complete
mastery.” But the triumph of Russia, however achieved, threatened to
kindle the general conflagration which he dreaded. It was clear that if
left to herself she would make conquests, and Austria was on the alert
for compensation. The Hapsburg claims might possibly be satisfied at
the expense of the Turk, but this resource was of no avail to furnish
the compensation which Prussia herself would not forego. Frederick cast
longing glances towards West-Preussen, but could not bring himself to
believe that Russia would consent to an acquisition which would add
immensely to the power of a rival state. He therefore feared that the
knot would yield only to the sword.

At this crisis the King twice met Joseph II. face to face. At Neisse,
in August, 1769, little save a personal introduction was effected.
Frederick professed to be charmed with the beautiful soul and noble
ambitions of the young Emperor, while Joseph reported to his mother
that the King talked admirably, but betrayed the knave in every word he
spoke. At the second meeting, which took place in Moravia in September,
1770, Frederick spared no effort to captivate Joseph and Kaunitz. He
donned the Austrian uniform of white, though he smilingly confessed
that his mania for snuff made him too dirty to wear it. He extolled
the Imperial grenadiers as worthy to guard the person of the God of
War. He made Laudon sit beside him, saying in graceful allusion to
Hochkirch and Kunersdorf, that he would rather have General Laudon at
his side than be obliged to face him. After sacrificing to the vanity
of the Chancellor by listening for an hour to a monologue on political
affairs, he won his heart by posing as a grateful convert to his views.



The result was that Frederick was able to offer Catherine the joint
mediation of Austria and Prussia to end the war. The offer was not
accepted, but it proved that the two foes were not irreconcilable.
The mere hint that Austria might compete for the Prussian alliance was
enough to raise its value at St. Petersburg. It became clear, too,
that only the fear of Prussia was preventing Austria from interfering
on behalf of the Turk. Urged on by his brother Henry, who had just
returned from the Russian capital, Frederick determined early in 1771
to take the risk of offending Russia and provoking Austria to war, in
order to net his profit from this advantageous situation ere it changed.

In the summer of 1770 Austria had drifted, half involuntarily, into
an occupation of Zips, a portion of the territory of Poland which was
almost surrounded by her own, and of some of the adjacent districts.
Frederick now seized upon this, though the Queen was willing to draw
back, as an excuse for pressing upon Russia a plan which he had
promulgated under an alias at an early stage in the war. On February 1,
1769, he had suggested to his ambassador at St. Petersburg

    “that Russia should offer to the Court of Vienna Lemberg and
    the surrounding country in return for support against the
    Turks; that she should give us Polish Preussen with Ermland
    and the protectorate over Danzig; and that she should herself
    incorporate a suitable part of Poland by way of indemnity for
    the expenses of the war.”

The plan of dismembering Poland because the Turks were defeated
was, as Frederick knew full well, distasteful to both of the Powers
whose complicity he desired. Russia was strongly opposed to any
aggrandisement of Prussia to the eastward. Austria, besides being
averse to the aggrandisement of her rival in any quarter, preferred
any lands to the Polish and any method to that of naked force. Yet the
King, while professing that he was an old man whose brain was worn out,
secured the co-operation of Russia within a year (15th January, 1772),
and of Austria less than eight months later.

The triumph of his diplomacy was enhanced by the fact that he would
have been completely foiled if Austria had consented to join Russia
in dismembering the Turk. As it was, he was permitted to enjoy the
spectacle of the Queen struggling with her conscience and upbraiding
herself, her Chancellor, and her son. She complained that they had
aimed at two incompatible objects at once, “to act in the Prussian
fashion and at the same time to preserve the semblance of honesty.” The
prospective additions to her domains were to her odious, since they
were “bought at the price of honour, at the price of the glory of the
monarchy, at the price of the good faith and religion, which are our
peculiar possession.” “She is always weeping, but always annexing,”
sneered the triumphant King.

On August 5, 1772, Austria signed the Treaty of Partition. By agreeing
upon their demands the three Powers had accomplished the hardest part
of their enterprise. The strength of Poland had been wasted by the
anarchy which Russia and Prussia had studiously conserved. Since 1768,
Romanists and Dissidents had been engaged in a bloody and desolating
war in which Russia, the protector of the Greek Church, played the
decisive part. No party among the Poles still retained sufficient
energy to oppose in arms the claims to Polish provinces which, in order
to save appearances, were formulated by the Powers. Frederick even
put forward a double title to Pomerellen, alleging that it had been
wrongfully alienated by the Margrave of Brandenburg in 1311, and that
if he as suzerain consented to overlook this irregularity, he would
still be entitled to the province as heir, since 1637, to the elder
branch of the House of Pomerania. He claimed Great Poland as heir of
the Emperor Sigismund, who had pawned it to the Teutonic Order, from
which the Poles had wrested it by force. The remainder of his share was
due to him as compensation for the loss of the revenues of these two
provinces for so many centuries.

The Polish statesmen had no difficulty in refuting such nonsense as
this. But King Stanislaus was convinced that true patriotism dictated
obedience in order to save what remained. France and England were too
intent on their own affairs to interfere by force. Hence a mixture
of persuasion, bribery, and the presence of 30,000 soldiers was
sufficient to procure the unanimous acquiescence of the Diet after
six months’ negotiation (September 30, 1773). The Austrian ambassador
was astonished at the trifling sums for which the nobles sold their
votes. His Saxon colleague lamented that they shamelessly laid upon the
gaming-tables the foreign gold with which they had just been bribed.

Frederick’s share of the spoil amounted to more than sixteen thousand
square miles, and in 1774 he was able quietly to filch two hundred
additional villages from Poland. Long before the Diet consented to the
cession he had inaugurated Prussian rule. In June, 1772, he made a
triumphal entry into his new province. He gave out to all and sundry
that no one could envy his good fortune, for as he came he had seen
nothing but sand, pines, heath, and Jews. “It is a very good and very
profitable acquisition,” he wrote to Prince Henry, “both for the
political situation of the State and for its finances.” Men said that
without Danzig, which along with Thorn remained Polish, West-Preussen
was but a trunk without a head, but the King was full of schemes for
partitioning the trade of Danzig among his own ports. Voltaire, finding
him deaf to his exhortations to free the Greeks, lamented that the
harbour of Danzig lay nearer his heart than the Piræus.

Soon the poverty-stricken land echoed to the untiring march of
Hohenzollern progress. The contempt which the King openly expressed
for “this perfectly imbecile set with names ending in ki” was apparent
in all his dealings with the privileged classes. His treatment of
private estates as well as of provinces seemed to warrant the Poles
who added the word _Rapuit_ to the _Suum Cuique_ which they saw
inscribed beneath the Prussian eagle. The local officials were simply
dismissed from office, and their lands appropriated at the cost of a
trifling compensation. Though Frederick bound himself to respect the
existing rights and property of the Roman Catholics, the bishops
and abbots likewise lost their lands, but in their case an allowance
amounting to nearly half of their previous incomes was conceded. Upon
the nobles a tax of one-quarter of their net revenues was imposed, but
Protestants were entitled to a discount of twenty per cent. In the hope
of cleansing West-Preussen of its Polish inhabitants, the King went so
far as to favour the purchase of noble lands by German peasants. Strict
watch was kept on the frontier for Polish immigrants who might try to
enter the country.

The common people, however, could not but gain from the introduction of
that policy of developing all the resources of the land which formed
the Hohenzollern ideal of domestic government. Slavery was abolished
and serfdom regulated. New waterways were dug. Colonists were brought
in by thousands. Prussian soldiers scoured the country in search of
gipsies, tramps, and begging Jews. Toleration, justice, and education
were established where all three had been far to seek. The peasants and
townsmen were subjected to the Prussian system of taxation, which laid
upon their shoulders a burden heavy indeed, but steady and not beyond
their strength. Soon the royal revenue from West-Preussen amounted to
more than two million thalers a year.

But for a timely revival of energy in her royal House, it is not
impossible that Sweden, like Poland, would have been the poorer for the
Russo-Prussian alliance. In 1769 Catherine and Frederick had pledged
themselves to maintain anarchy in Stockholm as well as in Warsaw.
Should the existing constitution be modified, Russia would take up
arms and Frederick’s contribution to the war was to be the invasion of
Swedish Pomerania. It is easy to imagine that with Russia and Prussia
in cordial agreement and France and England embroiled or apathetic,
a war with Sweden might have resulted in the annexation of Finland
and the remainder of Pomerania by the allies. In 1772, however, young
Gustavus III., the son of Frederick’s sister Ulrica, delivered Sweden
from the trammels of her constitution by an unlooked-for _coup d’état_.
Russia, which was still hampered by the Turkish war, was unable to wage
war against the revolution, and Frederick, who for once was taken by
surprise, grudgingly accepted the apologies of his nephew.

The remainder of Frederick’s life was dedicated to the defence of the
position that he had already attained. He was determined to do nothing
that could prejudice his cause in a future struggle with Austria. He
therefore looked on while Russia and Austria despoiled the Turk in
1774, while England and her Colonies fell to blows in the next year,
and while France joined in the fray in 1778. His private opinion,
indeed, was that the country which could commit its destinies to a Bute
could hardly fail to be in the wrong. He blamed the English both for
political and military folly—for beginning a terrible civil war with no
settled plans or adequate preparations, for underestimating the enemy’s
force, for dividing her own and for trampling upon the rights of
neutrals. But he avoided with the most scrupulous care any action that
could give offence to either combatant, and declared to his ministers
that he intended to await the issue quietly and to throw in his lot
with the side which fortune favoured.

In the very year in which France allied herself with the Colonies
against England (1778) Frederick’s long-expected struggle with Austria
came to pass. Joseph II., whose restless desire to imitate the
achievements of the King of Prussia was not satisfied by his gains
from Poland and the Turk, thought that the moment had arrived for
acquiring a portion of Bavaria, the great geographical obstacle to the
consolidation of the Hapsburg lands. At the close of the year 1777 the
Elector of Bavaria died, and his lands passed by right to the aged and
childless Elector Palatine. Austria, however, furbished up a claim to a
considerable portion of eastern Bavaria, and on January 14, 1778, the
Elector was half bribed, half frightened into acquiescence. Two days
later 10,000 Austrian troops occupied the ceded districts. Joseph’s
triumph seemed to be assured.

Frederick, however, had still to be reckoned with. Though his health
was indifferent and his desire was all for peace, he took up the
challenge without an hour’s delay. Determined, as he said, “once for
all to humble Austrian ambition,” he assumed his ancient pose as
champion of the German princes against an Emperor who was trampling
upon their constitutional rights. “I know very well,” he owned to
Prince Henry, “that it is only our own interest which makes it our
duty to act at this moment, but we must be very careful not to say
so.” Few volunteers, however, declared themselves on his side. The
Elector’s cousin and heir, Duke Charles of Zweibrücken, became a pawn
in Frederick’s hands, and the Elector of Saxony, who had claims on the
estate of the dead prince, promised 21,000 men. But his only other
ally was Bavarian public opinion, which was shocked at the idea of
partition. The Bavarians, according to the current jest, left off their
pious invocation of “Jesu, Mary, Joseph,” and cried to “Jesu, Mary,
Frederick” to deliver them.

The Austrian statesmen were willing enough to negotiate, but they clung
to the gains which they had made. Their preparations for war were not
complete, but they did not believe that Prussia meant to fight. Both
sides, indeed, hoped more from negotiation than from battle. It became
evident, too, that Frederick was no longer the general whose delight
was in swift and resolute movements. Not till April 6, 1778, did he
march from Berlin, and then he drew rein in southern Silesia, and spent
three months more in fruitless haggling. At last, on July 3rd, he made
a declaration of war, and two days later completed his march across the
mountains into Bohemia. Even then the Queen brought herself to beg for
peace, so that, although hostilities continued, August was half gone
before the diplomatists finally dispersed.

The War of the Bavarian Succession formally began, however, when
Frederick set out for Bohemia, on July 3, 1778. He was attacking with
two armies, each about 80,000 strong. Earlier in the year he had hoped
that the main Austrian force would assemble in Moravia. In that case
his plan was to lead his own army from Silesia against it, to win a
great victory, and thus to compel the enemy to call back their troops
from Bohemia. This would make it easy for Prince Henry with a combined
host of Prussians and Saxons to advance on Prague while the King made
progress in Moravia. The two armies, if all continued to go well, would
then press forward towards the Danube.

The plan was spoiled, however, because the Austrians were bold enough
to choose north-eastern Bohemia for their place of concentration.
There they were indeed further from Vienna, but they secured greater
possibilities of offensive action. If Frederick invaded Moravia they
could overrun Silesia behind his back or fall upon Prince Henry and
Saxony in overwhelming force. The King, therefore, reluctantly turned
aside into Bohemia by way of Nachod in order to engage the enemy’s
attention until his brother, marching from Dresden, should have
established himself firmly in the north.

On his arrival in Bohemia, Frederick found the Austrians some 250,000
strong. Joseph and Lacy with the bulk of the troops confronted him in
a position on the Elbe nearly fifty miles in length and as strong as
water, earthworks, and cannon could make it. Judging it impregnable,
Frederick waited impatiently for his brother to get the better of
Laudon, who was guarding the northern gate into Bohemia. The army
chafed at the enforced inaction, but the King still hoped by sending
repeated detachments to Moravia to compel the enemy to meet him there
in the field.

Prince Henry, after hesitating for some time between different routes,
performed his task to perfection. Early in August he led his army
over the mountains to the east of the Elbe by ways hitherto reputed
impassable. Laudon was at his wits’ end. He fell back upon the line
of the Iser, but on August 14th, Joseph himself admitted that he was
too weak to hold it. If Laudon were driven off, the great position on
the Elbe would be untenable, but Prince Henry lacked the hardihood to
venture the decisive move. Dissensions between the royal brothers and
the failure of their efforts to effect a junction justified the policy
of their opponents, who, Frederick sneered, seemed to be turned into
stone. Soon the movements of the Prussians were dictated largely by
hunger and the conflict earned its nickname of the Potato War. Heavy
rains completed their discomfiture. By the middle of October the
exultant Austrians had seen the last of the invaders.

The campaign of 1778 cost the combatants some 20,000 men and 29,000,000
thalers in money. Frederick had shown himself captious and irresolute.
His brother declared that he was more on his guard against the
treachery of the King than against the enterprises of the enemy. The
army had become dejected, ill-disciplined, and disaffected. Frederick,
though he prepared to invade Moravia in the spring, spent the winter
in working his hardest for peace. France and Russia lent their aid. In
March, 1779, a congress of the four Powers met at Teschen, and on May
13th peace was signed.

The Peace of Teschen was in some degree a triumph for Frederick. The
chief points for which he had taken up arms were secured at no great
cost. The Austrian acquisitions were limited to the Quarter of the Inn,
a strip of territory bounded on the west by that river, while Bavaria
was obliged to pay 4,000,000 thalers in settlement of the Saxon claims.
Prussia seemed thus to have maintained the rights of two great German
princes from motives of pure patriotism. Her military prestige, on
the other hand, had suffered. She had not derived prompt support from
her intimacy with Russia and she had failed to disturb the connexion
between Austria and France. No less than four royal marriages now
linked the Bourbons to their secular foes the Hapsburgs. By accepting
the guarantee of France and Russia to a treaty in which the Peace of
Westphalia was once more confirmed, Prussia had moreover paved the way
for unwelcome foreign intrusions into German affairs.

Frederick saw good reason to fear that the danger from Austria would be
renewed so soon as Joseph should be emancipated from the restraining
influence of the aged Queen. For the time being, however, he was
free to resume his round of toil, to mourn the loss of Voltaire, to
correspond with the philosopher d’Alembert, and to pursue reforms
in law and education. The Prussian judges were now empowered to
interrogate the parties to suits and compelled to hear what they had
to say. A codification of the law and a Book of Rights which should
stereotype the existing feudal system of society in Prussia were set
on foot. And at the moment when Romanist sovereigns drove out the
Jesuits, Frederick welcomed the fugitives as harmless individuals, who
could help to supply one of the most pressing needs of the State by
instructing the common people.

The lack of qualified elementary teachers in Frederick’s dominions
was attested by the fact that in 1763 an edict of educational reform
in Silesia permitted them to continue such employments as tailoring,
but forbade them to eke out their incomes by peddling, by selling
beer or brandy, or by fiddling in public-houses. A counsel of despair
had been to set the worn-out sergeants to keep school. Out of 3443
of them, however, only 79 were reported by the military officials as
possibly fit to serve, and investigation by the civil authorities still
further reduced the number. Under such conditions as these the influx
of members of an order which had long been famous for its schools was
regarded by the King as a boon to Prussia. To grant them an asylum
gratified his real love of toleration, without in his opinion involving
the smallest peril to the allegiance of his subjects.

From time to time, however, Frederick was unpleasantly reminded of
his insecurity. In the summer of 1780, Austria secured a portion of
the Bavarian inheritance which it was beyond his power to take away.
In spite of all his diplomacy, the mighty sees of Cologne and Münster
fell into Hapsburg hands. At this moment of triumph, Maria Theresa died
(November 29, 1780). “She has done honour to her throne and to her
sex,” wrote the King to d’Alembert. “I have made war against her, but
I have never been her enemy.”

Though Frederick regarded his great antagonist as bigoted and
hypocritical, he mourned her sincerely, for her death removed the most
potent check upon her son. Joseph seemed to have inherited his mother’s
energy, without her reverence for existing institutions. He now plunged
into a medley of hasty and sweeping reforms, treating the inhabitants
of his miscellaneous provinces as cavalierly as though he were a
Frederick and they submissive Prussians. The King could afford to look
on while Joseph and Kaunitz embroiled themselves with the landowners,
the Hungarians, and the Church. It was not long, however, before their
foreign policy compelled him to active interference.

Since 1780 the Russian alliance had failed him. He valued it as a
means of preserving peace, but the policy which now prevailed at St.
Petersburg looked towards war. Frederick, who was strangely blind to
this, declared in response to the blandishments of the Czarina that
the time was not ripe to seize more of Poland (1779). He proposed the
admission of the Turk into the league at the moment when Catherine was
dreaming of a new crusade. In Joseph, on the other hand, the Czarina
found a willing partner in a policy of adventure. From the time when
he visited her in the summer of 1780, the alliance between Russia
and Prussia was practically dead. Frederick sacrificed to it in May,
1781, by joining the Armed Neutrality which Russia had organised in
order to check the high-handed treatment of neutral vessels by Great
Britain. But in the same month Catherine and Joseph made a defensive
alliance for eight years. Frederick rightly divined that the ambitious
Czarina had won the Emperor’s countenance to the scheme of a revival by
Russia of the old Eastern Empire. Her eldest grandson was destined to
be Czar of all the Russias. Her second was named after the founder of
Constantinople and suckled by six Greek nurses. The third, sneered the
King, when another was expected, would presumably become Great Mogul.

But though Frederick regarded Catherine as pretentious, saying that if
she were corresponding with God the Father she would claim at least
equal rank, none knew better than he the value of her alliance. In 1762
Russia had turned the scale, and had she been favourable to the plan,
Joseph’s bold throw for Bavaria might have been successful. It was no
light matter for Frederick that in his old age his State was threatened
by an Emperor whose thoughts were still running on Silesia and who had
succeeded in seducing his sole ally. France and England were beyond
the range of his overtures, and when the Russian armies moved in
1783 Europe believed that the Turk was about to be finally expelled.
Frederick, it seemed, was doomed to perilous isolation.

[Illustration: UNTER DEN LINDEN IN 1780.


One force indeed remained—a force difficult to marshal, but as Charles
V. had found, formidable when marshalled—which Frederick might hope
to rally to his side. The tilted balance of Europe might still be
redressed in Germany. By his conduct in the affair of the Bavarian
Succession Frederick had proved that it was not impossible for Germans
to trust him, and since that time Austria by fresh aggressions had
alienated from herself the general body of Romanist opinion among
them. It appeared that the Empire which was a corporation for the
preservation of rights had acquired in Joseph a head who set at naught
all rights save those of Austria. The inevitable result was that the
princes began to think of uniting in self-defence.

From the beginning of the year 1784, Frederick devoted himself to
the task of organising a confederacy of German States to defend the
existing constitution. This was a far more arduous undertaking than
any negotiation with a single Great Power. It was always difficult to
induce a number of naturally jealous neighbours to combine. In 1784
the difficulty was increased threefold. The danger from Austria was
general and prospective, rather than specific and imminent. It might
be averted, indeed, by maintaining an equality of strength between
Prussia and Austria, but the princes would beware of embarking upon a
course which might make Prussia the stronger of the two. Frederick,
moreover, was compelled to entrust a great share in the negotiations to
his ministers. His chief agent, Hertzberg, had dared to form political
ideas of his own. In the hope that a _rapprochement_ with Austria would
lead to further gains in Poland, he quietly obstructed the measures of
the aged King.

The inactivity of the Prussian ministers might have delayed the
confederation indefinitely had not all Germany been shocked by the
sudden revival of the Emperor’s designs upon Bavaria. Again, just as
seven years earlier, Austria corrupted the Elector Palatine without
the privity of his heir and again her acquisition of the Electorate
was paraded before the world as an accomplished fact. In the first
days of January, 1785, Rumianzow, the Russian agent at the German
Diet, suddenly presented to the Duke of Zweibrücken a joint demand of
Austria and Russia for his acceptance of a bargain to which the Elector
Palatine had already consented. The substance of this was that Bavaria
was assigned to the Emperor in return for the Austrian Netherlands, the
title of King, and handsome rewards in money.

“I, who am already more than half beyond this world,” complained
Frederick to his brother, “am forced to double my wisdom and activity,
and continually keep in my head the detestable plans that this curséd
Joseph begets afresh with every fresh day. I am condemned to enjoy no
rest before my bones are covered with a little earth.” His energy,
none the less, was as great as the crisis demanded. Austria was always
hampered in time of war because the distant Netherlands were hers
as much as because the adjacent Bavaria was not. The exchange was
therefore most alluring, but the opposition of Prussia to the scheme
was so stout as to evoke disclaimers from all the parties to it.
Catherine protested that she would countenance no violation of the
Peace of Teschen. Louis XVI., whom Frederick believed to have been
bribed by the offer of Luxemburg, stated in answer to his protests
that the Emperor renounced the scheme. Before the end of February,
1785, the danger was past.

To guard against its recurrence Frederick none the less completed the
_Fürstenbund_ or League of Princes. On July 23, Prussia, Saxony, and
Hanover entered into an alliance, with the object of safeguarding the
lands and rights of every member of the Empire. By separate articles
the three Electors bound themselves to act together in Imperial
business. The accession of the Archbishop of Mainz, who as president
of the Electoral College had a casting vote, both gave the League a
majority at the election of the Emperor, and prevented it from being
regarded as a mere clique of Protestants. Frederick’s triumph was
complete when, in spite of the diplomatic opposition of the Emperor, a
host of German princes accepted the result of his work. The rulers of
Zweibrücken, Hesse-Cassel, Gotha, Weimar, Brunswick, Ansbach, Baden,
Anhalt, Mecklenburg, and Osnabrück formed with the four protagonists a
great body of organised German conservatism led by the King of Prussia.
Frederick in his old age had improvised with marvellous success a
temporary insurance against the greatest danger that visibly threatened
his State.





The League of 1785 was Frederick’s last contribution to the politics of
Europe. He felt that his days were numbered, but answered the summons
of Death only by quickening the step with which he had long traversed
the routine of daily duty. In his last months he remained true to
his long-cherished ideal of life and still proved himself diligent,
imperious, stoical, and even gay.

The fatal shock to his health, which was already shaken by gout and
dyspepsia, seems to have been given at a review in Silesia on August
24, 1785. After the manœuvres of the previous year he had written
to the Infantry Inspector-General of the province that he was more
dissatisfied with his troops than ever before. “Were I to make
shoemakers or tailors into generals, the regiments could not be worse,”
declared the King by way of prelude to more particular strictures. He
threatened court-martial in the following year to whomsoever should not
then fulfil his duty.



When the time arrived for the visit of 1785 to Silesia, no symptoms of
disorder could keep the King from his post. As he made his usual
tour of inspection, thousands of the country-folk flocked in to see him
pass and to utter their gratitude for his subsidies. So he arrived at
the review of August 22nd-25th, which was held in the plain that lies
south of Breslau, and which military Europe regarded as one of the
greatest tactical displays of the year.

On the third morning of the four, Frederick insisted on teaching his
men their duty by sitting his horse for six hours in a deluge of rain
without the shelter of a cloak. In spite of the inevitable chill, he
then presided at dinner, at which the Duke of York, Lafayette, and
Cornwallis were among the guests. Fever and ague followed, but he shook
them off in a night and completed the review, the progress through
Silesia, the journey to Potsdam, and the inspection of artillery at
Berlin. On September 10th, he left his capital for the last time.

At Potsdam, on the eve of the Grand Review, the blow fell. Within a
month of his indiscretion in Silesia he was seized in the night with
a fit of apoplexy (September 18–19, 1785). Gout, asthma, dropsy, and
erysipelas set in, and after days of torment he was compelled to spend
his nights in fighting for breath in an armchair. Yet no disease could
break his spirit. “There is traceable,” says Carlyle with fine insight,
“only a complete superiority to Fear and Hope.”

Partly, perhaps, because Austrian troops might menace the frontiers if
his weakness were known, but doubtless in part out of fortitude and
pride, he concealed his illness so far as possible from his subjects
and from his friends. He performed the labours of the Cabinet with
unclouded brain and with a growing fever of energy. His mind was full
of plans for establishing new villages upon the districts reclaimed
from the sand, for providing technical instruction in agriculture, and
for arranging the coming manœuvres in Silesia. He continued to read
history day by day, and to converse cheerfully with his friends. Once
he enquired of the Duke of Courland whether he needed a good watchman,
maintaining that his sleeplessness at nights qualified him to fill the
post. After seven months of suffering he entertained Mirabeau with
lively conversation, though his state was so pitiable as to render the
interview painful to his favoured guest.

Very early on the morning of April 17, 1786, he left the palace
in Potsdam town, where he had passed the winter, and made a long,
circuitous journey to his favourite abode, Sans Souci. But the change
was powerless to bring relief. Some days he was too weak to converse as
usual with his guests. On June 30th, however, he shocked his doctor by
taking a copious dinner of strong soup full of spices, beef steeped in
brandy, maize and cheese flavoured with, garlic, and a whole plateful
of pungent eel-pie. Four days later he actually quitted his chair for a
short gallop on horseback, but the exertion left him prostrate.

Again he rallied, and until the middle of August disease and his
inflexible determination to accomplish the daily routine struggled
for the mastery. On August 10th, he sent a tender little note to his
widowed sister Charlotte of Brunswick. “The old,” wrote the dying
King, “must give place to the young, that each generation may find
room clear for it: and life, if we examine strictly what its course
is, consists in seeing one’s fellow-creatures die and be born.” By an
almost pathetic chance his last letter, written on August 14th, was to
de Launay, demanding more minute accounts of the hated excise.

Frederick, like his ancestors, died at his post. The Great Elector,
whose only fear was that dropsy might unfit him to govern, held a
Privy Council within two days of the end. Frederick William amid all
his torments spent his last days in private conference with his heir.
Frederick, an older man than either, began work at five o’clock on
the morning of Tuesday, August 15th. He made the arrangements for a
review at Potsdam and dictated despatches of weight with all his wonted
clearness. On Wednesday he failed, struggling in vain to give his
weeping general the parole. All that day he lay in his chair dying,
attended by valets, ministers, and physicians. In the evening he slept,
and when eleven o’clock struck he enquired the time and declared that
he would rise at four. Towards midnight he asked for his favourite dog
and bade them cover it with a quilt. Then for more than two hours his
faithful valet Strützky knelt by his chair to keep him upright, passing
both his arms around the half-unconscious King. At twenty minutes past
two in the morning of August 17th, Frederick passed quietly away.

Hertzberg closed his eyes and led his nephew and successor, Frederick
William, to the corpse. The King had willed to be buried on the terrace
of Sans Souci, but he could now command no longer. Throughout one day,
August 18th, he lay in state at Potsdam. In the evening his coffin was
borne to a vault in the garish church of the Potsdam garrison, where it
rests by the side of his father’s.

Frederick’s fame, as was inevitable in the case of one who died on
the eve of the French Revolution, has fluctuated with the current of
subsequent events. The world that he quitted paid to his memory the
homage due to one who had been for a generation the foremost among
its princes. Among his poorer subjects traces of a warmer feeling may
be discerned. The legend of the Prussian soldier who boasted all his
life that Frederick had answered his challenge with the words, “Dog,
hold thy peace,” is doubtless symbolic of the attitude of many of the
rank and file. It would be idle to imagine that multitudes of humble
serfs did not bewail the loss of the Father whose charity succoured
them in time of need and whose equity they could always invoke against
oppression. It would be no less idle to imagine that among his veteran
servants no hearts beat in unison with the heart of General Lentulus,
who craved the honour of following his great chief as rear-guard, since
Zieten, who died earlier in the year, had secured the place of pride in
the van.


Berlin, however, rejoiced that Frederick was no more. The cry of the
hour was, Back to Frederick William I! Led by a silly King (1786–1797)
Prussia plunged into a Teutonic reaction. Good-humour, pomp,
aggressive orthodoxy, the use of the German speech, and a grandiose
foreign policy marked the royal condemnation of Frederick’s practices.
Prussia was tempted by profits in Poland and in Germany to regard the
convulsions of France with narrow selfishness. On the field of Jena,
twenty years after Frederick’s death, she paid the price of all her
errors (1806). Next year her Russian ally agreed with Napoleon that she
should lose half her land, forego the right to arm, and submit for the
future to be hemmed in by four hostile States.

Prussia was rescued from this plight by forces which found no place
in Frederick’s system. Great ministers now gained ascendancy over
the King. The nation flung off the fetters of feudalism, all classes
joined in the War of Liberation, and the final triumph in 1813–1815 was
inspired by the spirit not of autocracy but of German nationality. The
memory of Frederick faded into that of a ruler of that old despotic
type which the sovereigns, in defiance of the claims of their people,
were striving to restore.

It was the spirit of nationality, however, that in the long run revived
Frederick’s renown. The German people cried out for an organisation
that should be closer and more virile than the federation into which
they had been formed after the overthrow of Napoleon. In 1848–49, while
Austria was paralysed by revolt, they turned hopefully to Prussia for
leadership, but the reigning King refused to accept an Imperial crown
at the hands of the mob. From that time onwards, however, the theory
gained wide credence that it was the destiny of Prussia to unite and
to regenerate Germany.

When in 1866 she worked her will with Austria, and when in 1871 the
Imperial crown was handed to her over the body of prostrate France, the
Hohenzollern legend grew. Results so glorious, men thought, could have
been achieved only because a long series of national heroes had worked
towards a common goal. The Hohenzollerns, and Frederick chief among
them, were extolled by a thousand pens as the pioneers of a solid and
triumphant Germany. A generation which salutes by the title of “Great”
the Emperor whom Bismarck was wont to hoodwink and cajole is logically
compelled to regard Frederick as superhuman.

The student who reviews the life-work of Frederick without either the
sympathy or the bias of German patriotism may return a calmer answer to
the question,—Is Frederick rightly termed “The Great”? Having followed
the main steps in his long career, we may at its close sift out and set
down those qualities and achievements, if such exist, which entitle
him not merely to a place among the great, but to a place in that
small circle of the world’s heroes whose memory is so illustrious that
greatness is always coupled with their names.

As a thinker, Frederick falls very far short of greatness. Though he
struggled all his life with the problem of the World and its Maker,
he convinced himself only that nature furnished irresistible proof of
an intelligent Creator, but that the idea of an act of creation was
absurd. In no department of thought was his range of vision long, but
he saw with wonderful clearness so far as his sight could penetrate.
The very fact that all objects within his ken seemed so distinct
prevented him from realising that great forces might lie beyond.
Thus the method of progress which he followed was that of devising
ingenious improvements in a world that was settled and known. Though he
witnessed the American Revolution and died within three years of the
great explosion in France, he seems to have had no suspicion that the
framework of the world might change.

This lack of sympathy with the deeper currents of human progress
reveals itself by many signs in almost all the phases of Frederick’s
activity. In the art of war, indeed, he had witnessed too great an
advance during his own career not to suppose that further advance was
possible. He had himself given the infantry a mobility then unrivalled.
He had introduced horse-artillery, and created the finest cavalry in
the world. In his old age he turned to account the lessons of wars
in both hemispheres, by raising his artillery to the importance of
a separate arm and experimenting with the straggling tactics of the

Literature and learning, however, he regarded with a less open
mind. While Voltaire lived, he viewed him as the sole surviving man
of letters. He treated the work of young Goethe, his own fervent
admirer, with contempt and showed himself no less blind to the latent
possibilities of natural science and mathematics. What he saw clearly
was that these studies claimed much devotion, but sometimes failed to
produce practical results. “Is it not true,” he demanded of d’Alembert,
“that electricity and all the miracles that it reveals have only
served to excite our curiosity? Is it not true that the forces of
attraction and gravitation have only astonished our imagination? Is it
not true that all the operations of chemistry are in the same case?”
Euler himself had failed to make the fountains at Sans Souci play
successfully, and the King jeered at geometricians as the very type
of the pig-headed. In the campaign of 1778 an officer who trusted his
theodolite in preference to his eye was bidden to go to the devil with
his trigonometry.

None of Frederick’s opinions or whims can be termed unimportant, for
his power was so unfettered that he could embody any of them in acts
of State. The building of the New Palace furnishes a hint of how
great might have been the consequences had he given rein to a single
enthusiasm in the sphere of art. But with this reservation it is in the
domain of statecraft, especially in his system of foreign policy, his
economic doctrine, and his theory of the organisation of the State,
that we must seek the true measure of his mind.

In his conception of the political world and of Prussia’s place in it,
acuteness and lack of profundity are again apparent. The acuteness is
indeed impaired because of the existence of two political factors,
honesty and women, that Frederick never understood. The former, it
is true, was so rare that his ignorance of its nature hampered him
but little, save when Augustus frustrated all his plans in 1756, and
when in the later stages of the Seven Years’ War Louis XV. fulfilled
his unprofitable engagements with the Queen. But during Frederick’s
lifetime women played an unusually prominent part in Europe, and his
misjudgment of them was a serious political defect. Prussia suffered
severely for his belief that Maria Theresa was pliable, Elizabeth
of Russia incapable, the Pompadour insignificant, and Catherine II.

In general, however, Frederick was as gifted a tactician in politics
as in war, and in both he knew how to profit by experience. Compared
with his handling of France in his early years, his handling of
Russia from 1762 to 1779 shows an advance as marked as that of his
guardianship between Mollwitz and Leuthen. The circumstances of the age
favoured a policy of opportunism for Prussia. Dexterity, not depth, was
profitable, and Frederick therefore earned handsome rewards—Silesia,
East Frisia, and West-Preussen.

The pillars of his system, none the less, were built of crumbling
stone. The triumphs of his successors have to this day shored up some
among them—that profit ranks before promises in affairs of State, that
morals are to be reserved for manifestoes, and that the rectitude of
an act is determined by its success. Some, on the other hand, were
swiftly demolished by the course of subsequent events. That Austria
was Prussia’s most dangerous foe, that the German princes were her
least desirable allies, and that lasting concord with Russia was
expedient, may be regarded as mistakes, natural enough but damaging to
Frederick’s reputation for profound statesmanship.

His economic errors have been discussed in earlier chapters of this
book. Where an original thinker would have reflected and enquired,
Frederick plunged into ill-judged action. While he claimed for Prussia
a place among the Great Powers, he was bent on administering her
resources as despotically as though she were a farm and he the steward.
His thrift and industry palliated but could not cure the evils which
flowed from this confusion. The birth of individual enterprise was
retarded, while by the concentration of its attention upon petty cash
the hereditary tendency of the Prussian Government to be sordid was
intensified. The King, though admirably acquainted with the details
of the production of material wealth, was insensible to the vastly
greater value of goods which cannot be seen or handled. How, it may
be wondered, could his Government foster honour, initiative, or
independence—qualities which in the long run are the fundamentals even
of material success?

In foreign policy Frederick was successful, and in economic practice
his failure was qualified. But his lack of true insight into the
functions of government was fraught with terrible consequences for
Prussia. Judged by the standard of the age, it is true, Frederick’s
administration was a pattern to the world. The State, as the fashion
then was, interfered everywhere and with irresistible strength. Its
machinery, though cumbrous, ran smooth and true, and the actual
expense was small. “If Prussia perishes,” wrote Mirabeau, “the art of
government will return to its infancy.”

From the same pen, however, came a verdict, damning, indeed, yet
unshaken by appeal to reason or to the event. “If ever a foolish
prince ascends this throne we shall see the formidable giant suddenly
collapse, and Prussia will fall like Sweden.” Frederick secured his own
triumph by making it impossible to succeed him.

Against this department of his statecraft a double indictment must be
brought. He was not profound enough to see that the machine which he
laboured to render indissoluble was such that only an unbroken series
of monarchs as gifted as he could guide it. Nor was he wise enough,
though he knew that the next steersman of the State would be a fool, to
alter the machine so as to give it some power of self-direction.

The folly of tacitly assuming that successors like himself would be
forthcoming was shared by Frederick with many of the great autocrats
of history. Men abhor the thought of a vacuum created by their own
disappearance. The self-abnegation of a Washington is as much rarer as
it is wiser than the augmented industry of an aged Louis XIV. Yet the
sketch that has been given in this book of the all-embracing activity
of the King, who nominated even the sergeants and corporals in an army
of 200,000 men, and allowed no branch of his civil hierarchy the least
real independence, suffices to show how improbable it was that an
ordinary prince could put himself in Frederick’s place, and how fatal
it would be to the Government if he did not.

Frederick himself stated clearly the ruin that would ensue if a King
of Prussia relaxed his grip on the finances, embarked upon schemes
of premature aggression, or paused to enjoy his kingship. His nephew
and heir, to look no further into the future, was a man whom he knew
to be likely to commit all these faults. The remedy was to call into
existence a body outside the throne and to entrust to its keeping some
share in the power which had grown too great for the monarchy to wield.
In the bureaucracy Frederick possessed a body of loyal and upright
men who were not connected with any dangerous caste. Yet so far from
training them for partial independence, he continued to treat them,
from the General Directory downwards, like schoolboys who deserved
to be flogged. His standing recipe was to keep them between fear and
hope. In 1780, to cite only one instance from many, he wrote to the
Chamber for West-Preussen: “Ye are arch-rogues not worth the bread
that is given you, and all deserve to be turned out. Just wait till I
come to Preussen!” It is not surprising that men of birth and capacity
hesitated to serve in the administration during Frederick’s lifetime
and that narrow-minded pedantry soon became its distinguishing feature
after he died. The King bequeathed an impossible task to posterity and
the catastrophe of the Prussian State at Jena was the result.



As a thinker, then, even in politics and administration, Frederick
falls very far short of greatness. His powers were, in reality,
those of a man of action. The versatility with which he entered into
every department of government in turn is no more astounding than
the clearness with which he perceived the immediate obstacles to be
overcome in each, the courage with which he faced them, and the force,
swift, steady, and irresistible, by which he triumphed. The wonderful
energy which prompted him to bear on his own shoulders all the burden
of the State in war and peace, and to put forth all his strength at
every blow, was yet more marvellous because it was susceptible of
control. Frederick, as we have seen, ceased from the labours of the
Seven Years’ War, only to undertake the reconstruction of the economic
life of a great kingdom. By mere overflow of force he finished his
_History of the War_ early in the year after that in which peace
was made. Yet, with all his energy, he was able to realise that not
seldom force needs the help of time. He was gratified when some of his
enterprises began to repay him after twenty years, and he declined to
aggrandise Prussia beyond the limit which his statesmanlike instinct
taught him that her strength would warrant.

Among Frederick’s powers, then, energy alone is truly great, but his
energy was such that to him few achievements were impossible. If we
turn from his powers to his performance, we find his name associated
with three great phenomena of history. Under his guidance Prussia rose
at one step from the third to the highest grade among the Powers.
He was, moreover, the pattern of the monarchs of his time, the type
of the benevolent despots of the later eighteenth century. Finally,
in the great series of events by which Germany has become a united
military Empire his life-work fills a conspicuous place. How far, we
may enquire, should his work in any of these three fields compel the
admiration of succeeding ages?

That part of the Hohenzollern legend which portrays Frederick as the
conscious or semi-conscious architect of the modern German Empire finds
little support in the record of his life. Sometimes, it is true, he
used the language of Teutonic patriotism and posed as the indignant
defender of German liberties against the Hapsburg. But he posed with
equal indignation as the protector of Polish or Swedish “liberties”
against a reforming king or as the champion of Protestantism against
Powers who might be represented as its foes. The whole course of his
life witnessed to his preference for French civilisation over German,
and to his indifference as to the race of his subjects and assistants,
if only they were serviceable to the State. His point of view was
invariably and exclusively Prussian. It would never have occurred to
him to refuse to barter his Rhenish provinces for parts of Bohemia or
Poland because the former were inhabited by Germans and the latter by
Slavs. He was far from being shocked at the suggestion that he might
one day partition the Empire with the Hapsburgs. He struggled for
equality with Austria, never dreaming of the time when his descendants
should expel her from Germany and assume the Imperial crown. Thus,
though his work was a step towards their triumph, it was unconscious.
He must be judged by viewing his achievements in relation to his own

Frederick’s influence upon his contemporaries was enormous, and in
many respects it cannot be overpraised. He found what has been styled
“Sultan and harem economy” prevalent among his peers, together with
a tendency to regard the income of the State as the pocket-money of
the ruler. For this he substituted in Europe a great measure of his
own ideal of royal duty. Fearing nothing and hoping little from any
future state, he was yet too proud to flinch from an atom of the
lifelong penance that he believed was prescribed for kings by some law
of nature. Duty to his House and duty to his State were to him the
same, and they dictated a life of incessant labour for his subjects’
good, and forbade the appropriation of more than a living wage. Other
sovereigns followed the Prussian mode, and “benevolent despotism” came
to be regarded as the panacea for the ills of Europe. Though it hardly
survived the storm of the Revolution, it was instrumental in removing
many abuses and in promoting during several decades the comfort of
the common people. Thanks in great part to Frederick, irresponsible
monarchy became impossible for ever.

Frederick’s fame, none the less, finds its most solid basis in the
achievement to which all else in his life was subordinate,—the
successful aggrandisement of Prussia. Though it may be true that
another and a better way lay open to him, that the path which he
marked out led straight to Jena, that he owed much of his success to
fortune, and that his work was rescued by forces which he had not
prized, in spite of all it is to him that Prussia owes her place among
the nations. By his single will he shaped the course of history. His
rule completed the fusion of provinces into a State, his victories
gave it prestige, and the success of his work of aggrandisement was
great enough to consecrate the very arts by which it was accomplished.
Two decades after his death a king of Prussia entered his tomb by
night, seeking inspiration to confront Napoleon. The architects of
modern Germany declare that all that they have built rests upon the
foundations that he laid. As long as the German Empire flourishes and
the world is swayed by the principles of its founders, so long will the
fame of Frederick the Great remain secure.





  Agriculture, Prussian, 309 _ff._

  Aix-la-Chapelle (Aachen), 129;
    Peace of (1748), 156, 157, 194

  Alembert, d’, 160, 337, 339, 352

  Algarotti, 82, 160

  Amelia, Princess, 31

  Anhalt-Dessau, Leopold, Prince of (“the Old Dessauer”), 78, 82, 109,
          116, 126, 140, 143, 150 _ff._

  Anhalt-Dessau, Leopold, Prince of (“the Young Dessauer”), 104, 105,
          109, 115, 262

  Anne of Russia, 44, 91

  Ansbach, Margravine of, 81

  Anti-Machiavel, 53

  Archenholtz, cited, 289

  Armed Neutrality of 1780, 339

  Army, Prussian, 15, 19, 22, 66, 78, 81, 104, 109, 114, 117, 126, 147,
          150, 165 _ff._, 188, 203, 221, 243, 247, 267, 271, 289, 293,
          302 _ff._, 336, 344, 351

  Augustus III., Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, 66, 67, 130, 138,
          148, 151, 153, 204, 206 _ff._, 324, 352

  Augustus William, Prince, 112, 203, 228, 230 _ff._, 251, 264


  Baireuth, 81, 82, 135

  Baireuth, Margrave of, 41, 43, 82

  Bank, Prussian, 318

  Barberina, 131, 132

  Baumgarten, 109

  Bautzen, 230, 232

  Bavaria, in 1778, 333, 334;
    in 1785, 342, 343

  Bavarian Succession, war of the, 334 _ff._

  Belleisle, Marshal, 118, 121, 139

  Berg, 61 _ff._, 76, 85, 98 Berlin, 28, 35, 80, 98, 129, 150, 171, 173,
          233, 290, 307, 314, 345, 348;
    treaty of (1728), 62;
    treaty of (1742), 127, 136, 149, 153

  Bevern, Duke of, 212, 219, 220, 224, 232, 238

  Bismarck, 3, 94, 350

  Black Eagle, Order of the, 20

  Bohemia, campaign in (1778), 334 _ff._

  Book of Rights, Prussian, 337

  Borcke, 100, 102, 205

  Botta, Marquis di, 98–100

  Breslau, 79, 90, 103, 105, 118, 119, 121, 145, 239 _ff._, 252, 285

  Brieg, 104, 109, 116, 121

  Broglie, Marshal, 160

  Browne, 207, 216

  Brühl, Count, 150, 151, 204

  Brünn, 125

  Bunzelwitz, 294

  Bureaucracy, Prussian, 356

  Burkersdorf, battle of, 298

  Bute, Lord, 295, 299, 323


  Camas, Madame de, 29, 51, 161, 305

  Carlyle, Thomas, cited, 15, 20, 24, 47, 79, 104, 107, 113, 130, 143,
          158, 172, 200, 306, 345

  Carteret, 125, 135

  Catherine II. of Russia, 298, 324, 326, 331, 339, 340, 342, 353

  Catt, M. de, 74, 75

  Charles I. of England, 10

  Charles V., Emperor, 56–58

  Charles VI., Emperor, 58 _ff._, 62, 66, 70, 75, 88, 96, 103, 181

  Charles XII. of Sweden, 65, 278

  Charles Albert of Bavaria (Emperor Charles VII.), 118, 123, 132, 141

  Charles, Prince, of Lorraine, 125, 126, 142, 144, 145, 214 _ff._, 228,
          232 _ff._, 238, 239, 241 _ff._

  Charles of Brandenburg-Schwedt, 259

  Charlotte of Brunswick, 347

  Chotusitz (battle also called Czaslau), 126, 127, 147

  Cleve, or Cleves, 6, 9, 10, 14, 17, 63, 71, 79, 80, 98, 171

  Cocceji, 176, 181

  Codex Fridericianus, 176

  Coffee in Prussia, 319

  Colberg, 71, 294

  Colbert, 70

  Commerce, Prussian, 316 _ff._

  Contribution, the, 165, 178

  Cornwallis, 345

  Cosel, 145

  Curland, or Courland, 68

  Courland, Duke of, 346

  Cumberland, Duke of, 232

  Cüstrin, 34, 37, 41, 44, 46, 73, 81, 90, 257 _ff._


  Danzig, or Dantsic, 66, 68, 73, 317, 327, 330

  Daun, 215, 218 _ff._, 232, 247, 248, 256, 262 _ff._, 266 _ff._, 277
          _ff._, 283, 285 _ff._, 290 _ff._, 298

  Dessauer, the Old and the Young. _See_ Anhalt-Dessau.

  Dettingen, 135, 144, 194

  Dohna, 255, 259

  Domstädtl, 256

  Dresden, 151 _ff._, 262, 264, 276, 284, 293;
    Treaty of (1745), 154, 155

  Duhan, 29, 78


  East Frisia, 187, 188

  Eastern Question, 325

  Edict of 1723, 23

  Education, Prussian, 338

  Eichel, 150, 164, 180, 182, 201, 225, 226, 232, 233, 239, 240,
          242, 265, 279

  Elector Palatine, 333, 342

  Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, 44 _ff._, 161

  Elizabeth of Russia, 130, 193, 197, 257, 296, 353

  Emden, 133

  Empire, Holy Roman, 4, 13, 36, 56 _ff._, 62, 75, 76, 86, 95, 210

  England, 21, 31, 58, 60, 61, 84, 92, 135, 136, 148, 317, 332

  Ermland, 327

  Eugene, 44, 52, 66, 96

  Euler, 185, 352

  Europe 1713–56, 191 _ff._

  Excise, 165, 178, 347


  Fehrbellin, battle of, 16, 17, 46, 65

  Ferdinand of Brunswick, 231, 238, 252, 253, 276, 283

  Ferdinand, Prince, 99, 266

  Fermor, 257 _ff._

  Finck, 274, 279

  Finckenstein, 285, 292

  Fleury, 63, 84, 96, 99, 107, 108, 117, 119, 122, 135

  Fontenoy, 143, 148, 194

  Fouqué, 283, 284

  Francis of Lorraine (Emperor Francis I.), 97, 100, 101, 149

  Frankfort, on the Main, 81, 118

  Frankfort, Union of, 136

  Frankfurt-on-Oder, 99, 185, 269

  Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg 1640–86. _See_ Great Elector.

  Frederick I. (King in Prussia 1701), otherwise Frederick III., Elector
          of Brandenburg 1686–1713, 18–20, 22, 25, 32, 72

  Frederick II. of Prussia, called Frederick the Great, statue (Berlin,
          Unter den Linden), 1;
    policy, 3, 62 _ff._, 77, 83 _ff._, 102, 129 _ff._, 169 _ff._,
          183 _ff._;
    and his forerunners, Chapter I. _passim_, 14, 17, 23;
    on Thirty Years’ War, 8;
    mother, _see_ Sophia Dorothea;
    birth, 25;
    personality, 25, 49 _ff._, 107, 128, 132, 133, 143, 159 _ff._, 261,
          262, 281, 282, 296, 305;
    education, 28 _ff._, 41 _ff._;
    marriage, 31, 44 _ff._;
    plan of flight (1730), 32, 33;
    trial and imprisonment, 33 _ff._;
    writings, 53, 55, 75, 163;
    philosophy, etc., 53 _ff._, 73 _ff._, 160, 290, 291, 295,
          304 _ff._, 319;
    accession and early measures, 77 _ff._;
    seizure of Silesia, 89 _ff._;
    campaign of 1741, 109 _ff._;
    Klein Schnellendorf, etc., 120 _ff._;
    campaign of 1742, 123 _ff._;
    diplomacy of 1743–44, 134 _ff._;
    campaign of 1744, 137 _ff._;
    campaign of 1745, 141 _ff._;
    in peace, 1746–56, 155 _ff._;
    and religion, 79, 105, 170 _ff._;
    habits, 162 _ff._;
    power, 164 _ff._;
    and Seven Years’ War, 195 _ff._;
    in 1757, 211 _ff._;
    in 1758, 251 _ff._;
    in 1759, 266 _ff._;
    in 1760, 281 _ff._;
    in 1761, 293 _ff._;
    in 1762, 296 _ff._;
    in 1763, 299 _ff._;
    his work of restoration, 306 _ff._;
    economic policy, 312 _ff._;
    foreign policy from 1763, 322 _ff._;
    partition of Poland, 325 _ff._;
    and West-Preussen, 330, 331;
    foreign policy from 1772, 332;
    Bavarian Succession, 333 _ff._;
    life and government from 1779, 337 _ff._;
    foreign policy from 1779, 339 visit to Silesia in 1785, 344;
    illness and death, 345 _ff._;
    estimate of, 350 _ff._

  Frederick William I., King of Prussia, 1713–40 (the “Sergeant King”),
          father of Frederick the Great, 20 _ff._, 25 _ff._, 45 _ff._,
          60 _ff._, 76–78, 86, 97, 104, 167, 177–180, 182, 347

  Frederick William II., King of Prussia (1786–1787), 274, 348, 349, 356

  Freiberg, battle of, 299

  Frisia, East, 73, 133

  Füssen, Treaty of, 141


  General Directory, 177 _ff._, 320

  George II., 31, 32, 84, 108, 135, 149, 194

  George William, Elector of Brandenburg, 1619–40, 6, 8, 78

  Glatz, 79, 122, 126, 132, 140, 142, 284, 300

  Glogau, 103 _ff._, 121

  Goethe, 351

  Golden Bull, 13

  Goltz, 231

  Gotter, 101, 102

  Great Elector, The (_see_ Frederick William), 6, 8–20, 22, 64, 65, 72,
          73, 83, 165, 347

  Great-Fredericksburgh, 72

  Gross-Jägersdorf, 233

  Grumbkow, 34, 35, 39, 44, 45, 61, 76–78

  Guichard, Colonel, 302

  Gundling, 27

  Gustavus Adolphus, 6, 16, 65, 76, 85, 113

  Gustavus III. of Sweden, 332


  Hadik, 269, 274

  Hagen, 318

  Halberstadt, 13, 21

  Halle, 150, 307

  Hamburg, 317;
    Peace of (1762), 297

  Hanover, 18, 25, 31, 32, 63, 71, 84, 133, 135, 194 _ff._, 206, 232;
    Convention of (1745), 149, 153

  Hapsburgs, policy of, 94 _ff._

  Hastenbeck, 232

  Hedwigs-Kirche, 171

  Hennersdorf, 151

  Henry, Prince, 99, 231, 237, 242, 264, 266, 268, 275, 277, 278, 289,
          299, 305, 327, 330, 333, 335 _ff._

  Herstal, 81, 87, 88, 102

  Hertzberg, 314, 341, 347

  Hesse-Cassel, Landgrave of 86

  Hille, 41, 44, 47, 90

  _History of the War_, Frederick’s, 357

  Hochkirch, battle of, 262, 263

  Hohenfriedberg, 145 _ff._;
    _March of_, 148

  Hohenzollern, Albert of, 5

  Hohenzollern, Frederick of, 4;
    family policy and traits, 4 _ff._, 19, 20, 36, 46, 52, 59, 61–64,
          80, 85, 93, 132, 143;
    legend, 350, 358

  Hoorn, 88

  Hubertusburg, Peace of, 299, 300, 322, 323

  Hyndford, Lord, 120, 122


  Jena, 349, 356, 359

  Jenkins’ Ear, war of, 193

  Jesuits, 171, 172, 338

  Jews in Prussia, 314, 330

  Joachim II., Elector of Brandenburg, 1535–71, 6

  John Sigismund, Elector of Brandenburg, 1608–19, 6

  Jordan, 82

  Joseph II., Emperor, 300, 322, 323, 326, 333, 335, 336, 339 _ff._

  Jülich, 61 _ff._, 118

  Junius Brutus, the new (= Frederick William I.), 31


  Katte, Lieutenant von, 32, 34, 35, 37–39, 41, 42, 47, 48, 78;
    father of, 78

  Katzbach, 287

  Kaunitz, 191, 194 _ff._, 326, 339

  Kay, battle of, 268

  Keith, 217, 233, 258, 262, 263;
    Lieutenant, 78

  Kesselsdorf, 151, 152

  Klein Schnellendorf, Convention, 119 _ff._, 139

  Klinggräffen, 203, 204

  Kolin, battle of, 220 _ff._

  Königgrätz, 145, 147

  Königsberg, 5, 9, 10, 15, 19, 80, 257, 258

  Königsbrück, 239

  Königstein, 206

  Koser, Professor, cited, 133, 310, 311, 317

  Kunersdorf, battle of, 269 _ff._


  Lacy, 284, 285, 335

  Lafayette, 345

  Lagos, 282

  Landrat (or Sheriff), 177

  Landshut, 283, 284

  Laudon, 256, 268, 269, 272, 273, 283 _ff._, 294, 326, 335, 336

  Launay, de, 320, 347

  Lavisse, cited, 21

  Law-reforms, Frederick’s, 176

  League of Princes (_Fürstenbund_), 340 _ff._

  Lehwaldt, 198, 218, 228, 238, 254

  Leipzig, 151, 233, 234, 293

  Leitmeritz, 228

  Lemberg, 327

  Lentulus, 348

  Leuthen, battle of, 245 _ff._

  Lichtenstein, 208

  Liège, 87

  Liegnitz, 105, 245;
    battle of, 286 _ff._

  Lissa, 244, 251

  Lobositz, 207, 208

  Louis XIV., 16, 17, 28, 32, 58, 70, 93, 94

  Louis XV., 32, 117, 130, 141, 143, 353

  Louis XVI., 342

  Luchesi, 247, 249

  Lusatia, 228, 230, 232, 233

  Luther, 5


  Macaulay, 189

  Magdeburg, 13, 50, 169, 235

  Mahon, Lord, cited, 50, 173

  Mainz, 86, 102

  Mannheim, 33

  Manstein, General, 223

  Maria Theresa, statue (Vienna, Hofburg), 1, 44, 92, 96, 101, 102, 119,
          122, 123, 138, 142, 148, 150, 154, 214, 240, 253, 299, 323,
          327, 328, 334, 338, 353

  Marine Commercial Company, Prussian, 318

  Mark, the, of Brandenburg, 4 _ff._, 9, 14, 63, 169

  Mark-Lissa, 266, 268

  Maupertuis, 82

  Maurice of Anhalt-Dessau, 223, 225, 233

  Maxen, 279, 283, 284

  Meissen, 151

  Melnik, 205

  Memel, 71, 72

  Menzel, 198

  Merseburg, 236, 237

  Mietzel, 259

  Miller, Arnold, case of, 174, 175

  Minden, 13;
    battle of, 276, 282

  Mirabeau, 346, 355

  Mitchell, Sir Andrew, 199, 201, 202, 206, 212, 227, 230, 234, 286

  Mollwitz, 112 _ff._, 147

  Münchow, 182


  Nachod, 335

  Nantes, Edict of, 58

  Napoleon, 207, 349, 360

  Naumburg on the Queiss, 239

  Neckar, 86

  Neipperg, 110 _ff._, 120, 144

  Neisse, 104 _ff._, 119–121, 144, 262, 264

  Neumarkt, 239 _ff._

  Newcastle, Duke of, 295

  New Palace (Neues Palais), 308, 352

  Nippern, 246, 247

  Noailles, 135


  Ohlau, 111, 112, 114

  Oliva, Peace of, 65

  Olmütz, 122, 256

  Oppeln, 114

  Ordinance of 1748, 182

  Ostend, 70

  Ost-Preussen (East Prussia), 5, 9, 10, 14, 15, 17, 53, 54, 65, 68, 69,
          80, 233, 238, 257, 282, 297, 298, 324


  Panten, 286, 287

  Paper industry in Prussia, 315, 316

  Parchwitz, 240, 241, 244

  Paris, Peace of (1763), 299, 323

  Partition of Poland, 325 _ff._

  Peene, 22, 69

  Peter the Great of Russia, 27, 68, 70, 73

  Peter III. of Russia, 296–298

  Pfalz-Sulzbach, House of, 63

  Philippson, Professor, cited, 168

  Pillau, 71, 72

  Pirna, 205 _ff._

  Pitt, William, 213, 238, 254, 276, 282, 295

  Podewils, 89, 91, 98, 99, 131, 135, 150, 201, 202, 209, 210, 226, 285

  Poland, 10, 34, 64 _ff._

  Polish Succession, War of, 52

  Pöllnitz, 172

  Pomerellen, 329

  Pompadour, 194, 196, 227, 229, 353

  Population, statistics of, 187, 306

  Porcelain, Prussian, 314

  “Potato War,” 336

  Potsdam, 113, 129, 162, 171, 308, 345 _ff._

  Potsdam, Ogre of (= Frederick the Great), 31

  Pragmatic Sanction, 59–61, 66, 70, 92, 95, 96, 118

  Prague, 121, 123, 126, 138, 139, 206, 218 _ff._;
    battle of, 214 _ff._

  Pretender, the, 148

  Prussia, early history, 3;
    East (_see_ Ost-Preussen).


  Quarter of the Inn (_Innviertel_), 337

  Quebec, 282

  Quiberon, 282

  Quintus Icilius, 302


  Rambonnet, 87

  Regie, 320, 321

  Rheinsberg, 52 _ff._, 82, 88, 98

  Richelieu, 232

  Rittner, Andreas, 7

  Rochow, von, 33

  Rossbach, battle of, 235 _ff._

  Roucoulle, Madame de, 29

  Rumianzow, 342

  Rutowski, 151, 152


  Sagschütz, 246–248

  Salt, Prussian, 319

  Salzach, 86

  Sans Souci, 129, 161, 187, 346, 348

  Sazawa, 217, 218

  Schäfer, cited, 216

  Schaffgotsch, 171

  Schandau, 208

  Schmettau, 274, 276

  Schönhausen, 129, 161

  Schulenburg, General von, 36, 37, 78

  Schwarzenburg, 6, 9, 17

  Schwarzwasser, 286

  Schwedt, Margravine of, 305

  Schweidnitz, 238, 239, 241, 256, 294, 298, 299

  Schwerin, 89, 105, 109 _ff._, 114 _ff._, 122, 126, 138 _ff._, 200,
          205, 208, 214, 216, 217, 228

  Schwiebus, circle of, 19

  Serfdom in Prussia, 312, 313

  Sergeant King, the. _See_ Frederick William I.

  Seydlitz, 237, 238, 260, 273

  Sigismund, 329

  Silesia, 16, 20, 67, 89 _ff._, 126, 141 _ff._, 155–157, 171, 182, 283,
          306, 315, 317, 324, 340, 344 _ff._

  Sime, Mr. James (cited), 322

  Soltykoff, 268 _ff._, 285

  Soor, 149, 150

  Sophia Dorothea, Queen-mother of Frederick the Great, 25, 27, 31, 45,
          81, 148, 161, 226, 227

  Soubise, 232 _ff._, 253

  Spandau, 33

  Spanish Succession, War of the, 20

  Stanislaus Poniatowski, 324, 329

  Stettin, 17, 65, 71, 72

  Strasburg, 81

  Strehlen, 114

  Striegau, 146

  Strützky, 347

  Sweden and Swedes, 7, 11, 13, 16, 22, 64, 65, 71, 332

  Sweden, Queen of, 253

  Swedish drink, 7


  Tangermünde, 7

  Tauentzien, 285

  Teschen, Peace of, 336, 337, 342

  Teutonic Knights, 5

  Thiennes, 223, 224

  Thirty Years’ War, 6 _ff._, 13, 57, 58

  Thorn, 330

  Tobacco, in Prussia, 315, 319

  Tobacco Parliament, 27

  Torgau, battle of, 291 _ff._

  Tournay, 143, 144

  Traun, 140–142, 144, 150, 153

  Turenne, 16

  Turin, battle of (1706), 19, 60


  United States of America, 317

  Usedom, 22

  Utrecht, Peace of, 58, 70, 84


  Valori, Marquis de, 202

  Vasa, House of, 64

  Versailles, Treaty of (May, 1756), 197, 198

  Vistula, 68, 69

  Voltaire, 51, 53, 81, 82, 89, 98, 129, 130, 158, 162, 163, 172, 187,
          228, 279, 280, 310, 330, 337, 351


  Wales, Prince of, 31

  Wallis, 104

  Walpole, Robert, 58, 84, 125, 192, 193

  Wartha, 34

  Wedell, 267, 268

  Weissenfels on the Saale, 234

  Wesel, 33, 80, 81, 87

  Westminster, Convention of, 195–197

  Westphalia, Peace of (1648), 13, 14, 57, 60, 65, 337

  West-Preussen, 326, 327, 330, 331

  Wilhelmina, Princess, sister of Frederick the Great, 26, 27, 31, 35,
          43, 49, 80 _ff._, 135, 226, 227, 240, 252, 264

  William I., German Emperor, 350

  William II., German Emperor, 69, 173

  Winterfeldt, 203, 206, 231

  Wladislaus IV. of Poland, 10

  Wobersnow, 267

  Wolden, 47

  Wolf, 27

  Wollin, 22

  Worms, Treaty of (1743), 136

  Wreech, Madame von, 43

  Wusterhausen, 28, 95


  York, Duke of, 345

  Young Pretender, 197


  Zieten, 216, 222, 241, 248, 256, 262, 291 _ff._, 348

  Zips, 327

  Zittau, 228

  Zorndorf, battle of, 260 _ff._

  Zweibrücken, Charles of, 334, 342, 343



The Story of the Nations.

In the story form the current of each National life is distinctly
indicated, and its picturesque and noteworthy periods and episodes are
presented for the reader in their philosophical relation to each other
as well as to universal history.

It is the plan of the writers of the different volumes to enter into
the real life of the peoples, and to bring them before the reader as
they actually lived, labored, and struggled—as they studied and wrote,
and as they amused themselves. In carrying out this plan, the myths,
with which the history of all lands begins, will not be overlooked,
though these will be carefully distinguished from the actual history,
so far as the labors of the accepted historical authorities have
resulted in definite conclusions.

The subjects of the different volumes have been planned to cover
connecting and, as far as possible, consecutive epochs or periods, so
that the set when completed will present in a comprehensive narrative
the chief events in the great STORY OF THE NATIONS; but it is, of
course, not always practicable to issue the several volumes in their
chronological order.

  Nos. 1–61, each                            $1.50
  Half leather                                1.75
  Nos. 62 and following Nos., each (by mail,  1.50
                                         net  1.35
  Half leather (by mail, $1.75)          net  1.60

_For list of volumes see next page._


  GREECE. Prof. Jas. A. Harrison.
  ROME. Arthur Gilman.
  THE JEWS. Prof. James K. Hosmer.
  CHALDEA. Z. A. Ragozin.
  GERMANY. S. Baring-Gould.
  NORWAY. Hjalmar H. Boyesen.
  SPAIN. Rev. E. E. and Susan Hale.
  HUNGARY. Prof. A. Vámbéry.
  CARTHAGE. Prof. Alfred J. Church.
  THE SARACENS. Arthur Gilman.
  THE MOORS IN SPAIN. Stanley Lane-Poole.
  THE NORMANS. Sarah Orne Jewett.
  PERSIA. S. G. W. Benjamin.
  ANCIENT EGYPT. Prof. Geo. Rawlinson.
  ALEXANDER’S EMPIRE. Prof. J. P. Mahaffy.
  ASSYRIA. Z. A. Ragozin.
  THE GOTHS. Henry Bradley.
  IRELAND. Hon. Emily Lawless.
  TURKEY. Stanley Lane-Poole.
  MEDIÆVAL FRANCE. Prof. Gustave Masson.
  HOLLAND. Prof. J. Thorold Rogers.
  MEXICO. Susan Hale.
  PHŒNICIA. George Rawlinson.
  THE HANSA TOWNS. Helen Zimmern.
  EARLY BRITAIN. Prof. Alfred J. Church.
  THE BARBARY CORSAIRS. Stanley Lane-Poole.
  RUSSIA. W. R. Morfill.
  THE JEWS UNDER ROME. W. D. Morrison.
  SCOTLAND. John Mackintosh.
  SWITZERLAND. R. Stead and Mrs. A. Hug.
  PORTUGAL. H. Morse-Stephens.
  SICILY. E. A. Freeman.
  POLAND. W. R. Morfill.
  PARTHIA. Geo. Rawlinson.
  JAPAN. David Murray.
  AUSTRALASIA. Greville Tregarthen.
  VENICE. Alethea Wiel.
  THE CRUSADES. T. S. Archer and C. L. Kingsford.
  VEDIC INDIA. Z. A. Ragozin.
  BOHEMIA. C. E. Maurice.
  CANADA. J. G. Bourinot.
  THE BALKAN STATES. William Miller.
  MODERN FRANCE. André Le Bon.
  THE BRITISH EMPIRE. Alfred T. Story. Two vols.
  THE FRANKS. Lewis Sergeant.
  THE WEST INDIES. Amos K. Fiske.
  THE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND. Justin MCCarthy, M.P. Two vols.
  AUSTRIA. Sidney Whitman.
  CHINA. Robt. K. Douglass.
  MODERN SPAIN. Major Martin A. S. Hume.
  MODERN ITALY. Pietro Orsi.
  THE THIRTEEN COLONIES. Helen A. Smith. Two vols.
  WALES AND CORNWALL. Owen M. Edwards. Net $1.35.
  MEDIÆVAL ROME. Wm. Miller.
  MEDIÆVAL INDIA. Stanley Lane-Poole.
  BUDDHIST INDIA. T. W. Rhys-Davids.
  THE SOUTH AMERICAN REPUBLICS. Thomas C. Dawson. Two vols.


Heroes of the Nations.

A series of biographical studies of the lives and work of a number of
representative historical characters about whom have gathered the great
traditions of the Nations to which they belonged, and who have been
accepted, in many instances, as types of the several National ideals.
With the life of each typical character will be presented a picture of
the National conditions surrounding him during his career.

The narratives are the work of writers who are recognized authorities
on their several subjects, and, while thoroughly trustworthy as
history, will present picturesque and dramatic “stories” of the Men and
of the events connected with them.

To the Life of each “Hero” will be given one duodecimo volume,
handsomely printed in large type, provided with maps and adequately
illustrated according to the special requirements of the several

  Nos. 1–32, each                          $1.50
  Half leather                              1.75
  No. 33 and following Nos., each
                       (by mail $1.50, net 1.35)
  Half leather (by mail, $1.75)         net 1.60

_For full list of volumes see next page._


  NELSON. By W. Clark Russell.
  GUSTAVUS ADOLPHUS. By C. R. L. Fletcher.
  PERICLES. By Evelyn Abbott.
  THEODORIC THE GOTH. By Thomas Hodgkin.
  SIR PHILIP SIDNEY. By H. R. Fox-Bourne.
  JULIUS CÆSAR. By W. Warde Fowler.
  WYCLIF. By Lewis Sergeant.
  NAPOLEON. By W. O’Connor Morris.
  HENRY OF NAVARRE. By P. F. Willert.
  CICERO. By J. L. Strachan-Davidson.
  ABRAHAM LINCOLN. By Noah Brooks.
  LOUIS XIV. By Arthur Hassall.
  CHARLES XII. By R. Nisbet Bain.
  LORENZO DE’ MEDICI. By Edward Armstrong.
  JEANNE D’ARC. By Mrs. Oliphant.
  CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS. By Washington Irving.
  ROBERT THE BRUCE. By Sir Herbert Maxwell.
  HANNIBAL. By W. O’Connor Morris.
  ULYSSES S. GRANT. By William Conant Church.
  ROBERT E. LEE. By Henry Alexander White.
  THE CID CAMPEADOR. By H. Butler Clarke.
  SALADIN. By Stanley Lane-Poole.
  BISMARCK. By J. W. Headlam.
  ALEXANDER THE GREAT. By Benjamin I. Wheeler.
  CHARLEMAGNE. By H. W. C. Davis.
  OLIVER CROMWELL. By Charles Firth.
  RICHELIEU. By James B. Perkins.
  DANIEL O’CONNELL. By Robert Dunlop.
  SAINT LOUIS (Louis IX of France). By Frederick Perry.
  LORD CHATHAM. By Walford Davis Green.
  OWEN GLYNDWR. By Arthur G. Bradley. $1.35 net.
  HENRY V. By Charles L. Kingsford. $1.35 net.
  EDWARD I. By Edward Jenks. $1.35 net.
  AUGUSTUS CÆSAR. By J. B. Firth. $1.35 net.
  WELLINGTON. By W. O’Connor Morris.

Other volumes in preparation are:

  CONSTANTINE. By J. B. Firth.
  MOLTKE. By Spencer Wilkinson.
  JUDAS MACCABÆUS. By Israel Abrahams.
  SOBIESKI. By F. A. Pollard.
  FREDERICK II. By A. L. Smith.
  MARLBOROUGH. By C. W. C. Oman.
  CHARLES THE BOLD. By Ruth Putnam.
  GREGORY VII. By F. Urquhart.
  MAHOMET. By D. S. Margoliouth.

    NEW YORK,      LONDON.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.

Title page: “OVID, IN LIVIAM, 266” should be “265”.

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