Frederick now entered upon a period of ten years of peace.Augustus William, overwhelmed by his disgrace, and yet angered by the rebuke, coldly replied that he desired only that a court-martial should investigate the case and pronounce judgment. The king forbade that any intercourse whatever should take place between his own troops, soldiers, or officers, and those of his brother, who, he declared, had utterly degraded themselves by the loss of all courage and ambition. The prince sent to the king General Schultz to obtain the countersign for the army. Frederick refused to receive him, saying “that he had no countersign to send to cowards.” Augustus William then went himself to present his official report and a list of his troops. Frederick took the papers without saying a word, and then turned his back upon his brother. This cruel treatment fell with crushing force upon the unhappy prince. Conscious of military failure, disgraced in the eyes of his generals and soldiers, and abandoned by the king, his health and spirits alike failed him. The next morning he wrote a sad, respectfully reproachful letter to423 Frederick, stating that his health rendered it necessary for him to retire for a season from the army to recruit. The reply of the king, which was dated Bautzen, July 30, 1757, shows how desperate he, at that time, considered the state of his affairs. Hopeless of victory, he seems to have sought only death.
“Friedrich Wilhelm feels this sad contrast very much; the127 more, as the soldier is his own chattel withal, and of superlative inches. Friedrich Wilhelm flames up into wrath; sends off swift messengers to bring these judges, one and all, instantly into his presence. The judges are still in their dressing-gowns, shaving, breakfasting. They make what haste they can. So soon as the first three or four are reported to be in the anteroom, Friedrich Wilhelm, in extreme impatience, has them called in; starts discoursing with them upon the two weights and two measures. Apologies, subterfuges, do but provoke him farther. It is not long till he starts up growling terribly, ‘Ye scoundrels, how could you?’ and smites down upon the crown of them with the royal cudgel itself. Fancy the hurry-scurry, the unforensic attitudes and pleadings! Royal cudgel rains blows right and left. Blood is drawn, crowns cracked, crowns nearly broken; and several judges lost a few teeth and had their noses battered before they could get out. The second relay, meeting them in this dilapidated state on the staircases, dashed home again without the honor of a royal interview. This is an actual scene, of date, Berlin, 1731, of which no constitutional country can hope to see the fellow. Schlubhut he hanged, Schlubhut being only Schlubhut’s chattel. This musketeer, his majesty’s own chattel, he did not hang, but set him shouldering arms again after some preliminary dusting.”On the 15th, after a restless night, he did not wake until eleven o’clock in the morning. For a short time he seemed confused. He then summoned his generals and secretaries, and gave his orders with all his wonted precision. He then called in his three clerks and dictated to them upon various subjects. His directions to an embassador, who was about leaving, filled four quarto pages.
“Salzdahlum, Noon, June 12, 1733.As usual, Frederick wrote a poem upon the occasion. It was vulgar and profane. Carlyle says of it, “The author, with a wild burst of spiritual enthusiasm, sings the charms of the rearward part of certain men. He rises to the height of anti-biblical profanity, quoting Moses on the Hill of Vision; sinks to the bottomless of human or ultra-human depravity, quoting King Nicomedes’s experience on C?sar, happily known only to the learned. A most cynical, profane affair; yet we must say, by way of parenthesis, one which gives no countenance to Voltaire’s atrocities of rumor about Frederick himself in the matter.”111According to Frederick’s computation, he had succeeded in wresting this province from Maria Theresa at an expense of eight hundred and fifty-three thousand lives, actual fighters, who had perished upon the field of battle. Of these, one hundred and eighty thousand were Prussians. Of the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who, in consequence of the war, had perished of exposure, famine, and pestilence, no note is taken. The population of Prussia had diminished, during the seven years, five hundred thousand.
In the court-yard there was a fountain with stone steps, where Frederick William loved to sit on summer evenings and smoke his pipe. He frequently took his frugal dinner here in the open air under a lime-tree, with the additional protection of an awning. After dinner he would throw himself down for a nap on a wooden bench, apparently regardless of the flaming sun.Still centuries elapsed, leaving little for history to record but war and woe. Fierce tribes swept in all directions. Battle was life’s great business. Man, ignorant, degraded, brutal, could have had but few if any joys. Perhaps, through his degradation, his woes were only such as beasts feel. By degrees, from this chaos, a certain kind of governmental order emerged. Small tribes became united under powerful chieftains. Kings arose. There were all varieties of political organizations, dukedoms, principalities,18 marquisates, and electorates. It is recorded that Adalbert, bishop of Prag, about the year 997, with two companions, as apostles of Christianity, first penetrated these wilds. Like Christian heroes they went, with staff and scrip, regardless of danger. The bishop was fifty years of age, and his gray hairs floated in the breeze. As he landed a stout savage struck him with the flat of his oar, and sent him headlong to the ground.308
In the latter part of April, the weather being very fine, the king decided to leave Berlin and retire to his rural palace at Potsdam. It seems, however, that he was fully aware that his days were nearly ended, for upon leaving the city he said, “Fare thee well, then, Berlin; I am going to die in Potsdam.” The winter had been one of almost unprecedented severity, and the month of May was cold and wet. As the days wore on the king’s health fluctuated, and he was continually struggling between life and death. The king, with all his great imperfections, was a thoughtful man. As he daily drew near the grave, the dread realities of the eternal world oppressed his mind. He sent for three clergymen of distinction, to converse with them respecting his preparation for the final judgment. It seems that they were very faithful with him, reminding him of his many acts of violence and tyranny, alluding particularly to his hanging Baron Schlubhut, at K?nigsberg, without even a trial. The king endeavored to defend himself, saying,“I have at length seen Voltaire, whom I was so anxious to205 know. But, alas! I saw him when under the influence of my fever, and when my mind and my body were equally languid. With persons like him one ought not to be sick. On the contrary, one ought to be specially well. He has the eloquence of Cicero, the mildness of Pliny, and the wisdom of Agrippa. He unites, in a word, all the collected virtues and talents of the three greatest men of antiquity. His intellect is always at work. Every drop of ink that falls from his pen is transformed at once into wit. He declaimed his Mahomet to us, an admirable tragedy which he has composed. I could only admire in silence.”
It will be remembered that Prince Charles was at the head of a strong Austrian army, on the western banks of the Rhine. It numbered over fifty thousand combatants. The King of France had pledged himself to press them closely, so that they could not recross the Rhine and rush into Bohemia to thwart the operations of Frederick; but, unfortunately, Louis XV. was seized with a malignant fever, which brought him near to the grave. Taking advantage of this, Prince Charles, on the night of the 23d of August, crossed the Rhine with his whole army. It was bright moonlight, so that every movement was as visible as if it had been made by day. But the French officers, glad thus to be rid of the Austrian army, preferring much that Frederick334 should encounter it in Bohemia than that they should struggle against it on the Rhine, went quietly to their beds, even forbidding the more zealous subalterns from harassing Prince Charles in his passage of the river. It was then the great object of the French to take Freyburg. The withdrawal of Prince Charles, with his fifty thousand men, was a great relief to them.FREDERICK CONCENTRATING HIS ARMY AT CHRUDIM.
FREDERICK AND THE BRITISH MINISTERS.“‘I know not,’ I answered; ‘but it seems to me, until one knows a man, and is completely acquainted with his situation and his way of thought, one can not possibly determine whether he is happy or unhappy.’In the mean time Dr. Villa reached England. In conference with the British cabinet, the members deemed it very desirable, at all events, to effect the marriage of the Prince of Wales with the Prussian princess. The main consideration was that it would tend to detach Prussia from Germany, and secure its alliance with England. It was also a good Protestant match, and would promote the interests of Protestantism. The king desired this marriage. But he was inflexible in his resolve that both marriages should take place or neither. The Prussian king was equally inflexible in his determination that, while he would consent to one marriage, he would not consent to both. Colonel Hotham, a man of good family and of some personal distinction, was accordingly sent, as envoy extraordinary, to Berlin, to make new efforts in favor of the double marriage.
It is evident that the king, thus surrounded with perils and threatened with utter destruction, was anxious for the termination of the war. But still this inflexible man would not listen to any suggestions for peace but on his own terms. He wrote to Voltaire, urging him “to bring back peace.” At the same time he said,
“The head of Medusa,” writes the princess, “never produced such horror as did this piece of news to the queen. For some time she could not utter a word, and changed color so often that we thought she would faint. Her state went to my heart. I remained as immovable as she. Every one present appeared full of consternation.”Berlin was the capital of Brandenburg. K?nigsberg, an important sea-port on the Baltic, nearly five hundred miles east of Berlin, was the capital of the Prussian duchy. The ceremony20 of coronation took place at K?nigsberg. The road, for most of the distance, was through a very wild, uncultivated country. Eighteen hundred carriages, with thirty thousand post-horses, were provided to convey the court to the scene of coronation. Such a cavalcade was never beheld in those parts before. The carriages moved like an army, in three divisions of six hundred each. Volumes have been written descriptive of the pageant. It is said that the diamond buttons on the king’s coat cost seven thousand five hundred dollars each. The streets were not only tapestried with the richest cloth of the most gorgeous colors, but many of them were softly carpeted for the feet of the high-born men and proud dames who contributed, by their picturesque costume, to the brilliance of the spectacle. Frederick, with his own hands, placed the crown upon his brow. Thus was the kingdom of Prussia, ushered into being at the close of the year 1700.详情
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