Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg
by Frederick the Great
A New Translation by Levi Bookin
FIRST KING OF PRUSSIA
Frederick 3rd was born at Königsberg-in-Prussia on 22nd July 1657, son of Louise-Henrietta of Orange, first wife of the Great Elector. He lost his mother early, and the Electress Dorothy caused him violent anguish in his youth. She found ways to embitter the spirit of Frederick-William against this sickly and deformed son of his first wife, and whose education had been quite neglected. The bitterness of his father reached a point where, without regret, he would have seen his succession devolve to his second son, Prince Philip.
There were those who dared to suspect the Electress of having attempted to get rid of her step-son by poison, but as there was no certain proof, and this fact was advanced so lightly, it ought not to have a place in history. The memory of the great should not be soiled by such imputations without proof of such a crime.
The facts justify the Electress: Frederick 3rd lived. In 1679, he married his first wife, Elisabeth-Henrietta, daughter of William 6th, Landgrave of Hesse. After her death, he married Sophia-Charlotte in 1684, daughter of the Duke of Hanover, Ernest-Augustus, and sister of George, who later became king of England.
The Electress Dorothea wanted possessions in plenty rather than the life of this elector. It is affirmed that, as the result of her solicitations, the Great Elector was determined to make a will, by which he divided among his children by his second wife all the acquisitions which he had made during his reign. The Austrians skillfully used this will to prejudice the Elector against France. The Emperor promised to annul that paternal disposition, on condition that Frederick 3rd transferred the district of Schwiebus to him. We will see below how that agreement was executed.
The accession of Frederick 3rd to the throne was marked by a new war, of which Louis 14th was the author. He demanded several bailiwicks of the Palatinate as belonging to Madame d'Orléans; he complained of the injury that the German princes had caused him by the alliance at Augsburg against France; and he declared that his honor obliged him to support the election of the Prince of Fürstenberg by the canons of Cologne, to which the Emperor was opposed.
The declaration of war was backed by armies. Marshal de Duras took Worms, Philippsburg, and Mainz; the Dauphin, in person, besieged Mannheim and Frankenthal; in less than a campaign, almost all the course of the Rhine passed under French dominion.
Because of all the vexation that his step-mother had given Frederick 3rd, and because, for her particular reasons, she had engaged Frederick-William on the side of Louis 14th, Frederick was filled with a blind hatred for all that was French. The Emperor's party carefully nourished the prince in this disposition, as it could only result in their advantage. They fomented it further by creating the phantom of the universal monarchy of Louis 14th, with which they bewitched half of Europe. Germany was often alarmed by this childish means, and plunged into wars which were quite foreign to it; but as the temper of the best arms eventually becomes blunted, these arguments insensibly lost their illusory force, and the German princes understood that if they had despotism to fear, it was not that of Louis 14th.
At that time, the spell was still in full force and operated effectively on a mind disposed by prejudices to give it a favorable reception. Frederick 3rd therefore believed that he was obliged to help the Emperor. He sent General Schöning with a considerable body to the Upper Rhine; the Brandenburgers seized Rheinberg; the Elector took personal command of the army and laid siege to Bonn. Mainz surrendered to the allies; the troops who had taken that city joined to those of the Elector, and prevented Boufflers from helping Bonn. Asfeld, who was the governor, surrendered the city on 12th October.
The Elector took part in the next campaign, and continued to furnish considerable assistance to the allies against France. In that year, the Prince of Orange did not command an allied army in Flanders. His ambition occupied him elsewhere, as we are about to explain, with objects which were more personal to him.
Since the death of Cromwell, his son Richard—more of a philosopher than a politician—having renounced the power that the Protector had left him by his usurpation, Charles 2nd was called by the English to the throne of his father, with a common voice. After Charles' death, James 2nd succeeded him. William, Stadhouder of Holland, who had married James' elder daughter, Mary, profited from the prejudice of the English nation against its king, whose principal crime was of being a Catholic. For a long time a considerable party was forming in England against this prince. It exploded a short time after the death of the Great Elector; and it was then that the Prince of Orange undertook to dethrone his father-in-law, only wanting exercise for his army that his intrigues were too late to procure him. A Jew from Amsterdam, named Schwartzau, prepared two million for this expedition, saying: "If you are successful, I know that you will return it; if you are unsuccessful, I consent to the loss."
With that sum, William crossed to England. He dethroned King James, defeated the opposition and, by various methods, became the legitimate sovereign of the three kingdoms with the approbation of the people, who seemed to authorize the usurpation. James, who had not been able to command respect on the throne, nor reign over a nation whose privileges he had to respect, let the scepter slip from his hands and, pursued by his own children, who had seized his crown, he took refuge in France, where neither his dignity nor misfortunes could earn him any esteem.
The new king of England took command of the army of the allies. He governed Europe by his intrigues, exciting the jealousy of all the princes against the power of Louis 14th, whom he hated. The world was armed and at war, for him to retain the despotism with which he governed the United Provinces, which he would have lost in time of peace. He was known as the King of Holland and the Stadhouder of England. Unfortunate in war—in which he was usually defeated—fertile in resource, and vigilant to repair his losses, he was like the hydra of the fable, which ceaselessly reproduced itself, so that he was also respected by his enemies after his defeats, as Louis 14th was after his victories.
He had a meeting with the Elector, on the subject of the political interests of the time. The character of each of these two princes was too different for important results in many of their deliberations. William was cold, simple in his manners, and filled with solid things. Frederick 3rd was impatient, preoccupied with his greatness, ruling his least actions by the exact compass of ceremony and on the nuances of dignity. An armchair and a high-backed chair might have embroiled these princes forever. In Flanders, however, fifteen thousand Brandenburgers joined the army that King William commanded, and the Elector sent other considerable assistance to the Emperor against the Infidels. These troops distinguished themselves at the battle of Salankemen, which the Prince Eugene won against the Turks. King William, either less fortunate or less skilful, lost the battles of Leuse and Landen in Flanders.
For his part, Duke Ernest-Augustus of Hanover, father-in-law of Frederick 3rd, furnished the Emperor with a body of six thousand men, for the war in Hungary, and in recompense for this assistance, he received the electoral dignity. The creation of this ninth electorate met with much opposition in the Empire. Only the electors of Brandenburg and of Saxony consented to it; but the Emperor, who had need of real assistance, did not believe that their purchase was too dear, when paid with frivolous titles.
It seemed that that epoch favored the ambition of the princes of Europe. At least, at the same time that the Prince of Orange put the crown of England on his head, Ernest, Duke of Hanover became elector; Augustus, Elector of Saxony, set off on the road to the throne of Poland; and Frederick 3rd was already turning over in his head the plan for his monarchy.
As it is one of the principal actions in the life of this elector, that this event is of the greatest importance for the house of Brandenburg, and that it served to tie up the policy of Frederick 3rd, it is necessary that we set out here what gave rise to it, by what means it was executed, and all the details which influenced the plan and its negotiation.
The ambition of Frederick 3rd found itself confined, as much as by his State as by his possessions. His weakness did not allow him to raise himself at the expense of neighbors, as strong and powerful as he was. Except for the pomp of titles, no resources remained to this elector to supplement his intrinsic lack of power; and for these reasons, all his wishes turned towards monarchy.
There is in the archives a reasoned memorandum that is attributed to the Jesuit priest, Vota. He considered the choice between the titles of King of the Vandals or King of Prussia, and the advantages that the house of Brandenburg would derive from this monarchy. It was even believed that this Jesuit had inspired in Frederick 3rd the idea of that new dignity. It is even worse [to attribute this to the Jesuit], when the Jesuit's Society would have no interest in the aggrandizement of a Protestant prince. It is more natural to believe that the elevation of the Prince of Orange and the hopes of Augustus of Saxony had made Frederick 3rd jealous, and had excited in him the emulation of a place on a throne, following their example. One is always mistaken, if one seeks the principles of the actions of men other than in the passions of the human heart.
This design was so difficult to execute that it appeared impractical to the Elector's council. His ministers, Danckelmann and Fuchs, protested against the frivolity of the object, against the insurmountable obstacles that they foresaw in the path of success, the little benefit to be reaped from it, and the weight of the burden of which would be necessary for a dignity onerous to support, which could only bring vain honors. But all these reasons could not affect the spirit of a prince who was in love with his ideas, jealous of his neighbors, and avid for greatness and magnificence.
Danckelman dated his disgrace from that day. He was sent to Spandau for having expressed his feelings with boldness, for having demonstrated the truth with too little softness to a court corrupted by flattery, and for contradicting a vain prince in the plans for his greatness. Fortunate are the princes whose less delicate ears love truth, even when it is produced by an indiscreet mouth! But this is an effort of virtue of which few men are capable.
Danckelman was succeeded in the Elector's favor by a young courtier, who was without merit, except for his perfect knowledge of the tastes of his master. This was the Baron of Kolb, later Count of Wartenburg. Without those brilliant qualities which excite the public, he possessed the art of the court, which is that of concentration, of flattery, and, in a word, of servility. He followed his master's views blindly, convinced that by gratifying his master's passions, he would ensure his own fortune. Kolb was not so simple as not to perceive that he needed a skilful guide in his new career. D'Ilgen—a secretary in the bureau of foreign affairs—gained his trust, and directed him with so much wisdom that Kolb was declared prime minister, and was put at the head of the department of the foreign affairs.
Frederick was in fact flattered only by the externals of royalty, by its trappings, and by a certain irregular self-importance which is pleased by making others feel their inferiority. Nevertheless, what was originally the work of vanity subsequently became a masterpiece of politics. The monarchy extracted the house of Brandenburg from the yoke of servitude in which the house of Austria then held all the princes of Germany. It was a bait that Frederick threw to all his posterity, and by which he seemed to say to them "I have acquired a title for you; make yourselves worthy of it. I have laid the foundations of your greatness; it is for you to complete the work." Frederick employed all resources of intrigue and all methods of statesmanship to steer his project to maturity.
It was a prerequisite of this matter to ensure the goodwill of the Emperor, whose approbation would draw after it the whole Germanic body. In order to prejudice the Emperor in his favor, the Elector restored to him the district of Schwiebus, and was content with the expectation of the principality of Friesland and the barony of Limburg, over which the electoral house had incontestable rights in any event. On the same principles, Brandenburger troops served in the Imperial army in Flanders, on the Rhine, and in Hungary. The interests of the Elector, who had neither a direct nor an indirect part in these wars, would have been better served by observing strict neutrality. Although Frederick had prepared all the means which were necessary to bring the royal dignity into his house, he could not pursue this design brusquely, and he needed to wait for favorable circumstances. We will see later, how the events coincided to allow him to execute it with ease.
While Europe was torn apart by violent wars, Frederick, following his father's example, reconciled the dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Strelitz, who were wrangling concerning the succession. He founded the University of Halle, and attracted skilful professors to it and, in order to facilitate the commerce that that city made with its salt, he had fine sluices built on the Saale, which rendered it more navigable.
Berlin then saw an embassy which appeared all the more extraordinary, when one named the Strong represented the Muscovite embassy, and that he had the Tsar Peter Alexeivitch in his party.
This young prince recognized, by means of his genius, that he was a barbarian, and that his nation was savage. He had left his dominions for the first time, having formed the noble plan of receiving instruction and taking back to his country the light of reason and industry, which it lacked. Nature had made of this prince a great man; but a total lack of education had left him a savage. The result was that his conduct was an extraordinary mixture of actions both great and singular, witty repartee and gross manners, useful designs and cruel vengeance. He complained himself that he had tamed his nation, but he could not yet subdue his own ferocity. In matters of morality, he was a bizarre phenomenon which inspired admiration and horror; for his subjects, he was a storm whose fury beats down trees and steeples, and whose rain fertilizes the countryside. From Berlin he left for Holland, and from there, to England.
Europe was now disposed towards a general peace. The allies were discouraged by the lack of success of their arms; and Louis 14th, seeing Charles 2nd of Spain in his decline, and with a temperament that could not hold out a long life, easily lent himself to peace. Although he restored his conquests almost without restriction, he sacrificed transient advantages or those of more lasting design. He needed peace in order to prepare for a war, whose object was of the greatest importance for the house of Bourbon. The peace was concluded at Ryswick; and the Elector, who had not participated in that war except by complaisance, reaped no advantage from it.
In the North, Augustus of Saxony obtained the crown of Poland by a second election, when the care taken by Flemming, his minister and general, was more successful than that of the Prince of Conti; by the approach of his troops; and by his practical liberality, more efficacious than the magnificent promises of the Cardinal of Poland. The new king of Poland was exhausted by his expenses, which obliged him to sell to Frederick, at Halle, the advowson of the abbey of Quedlinburg and of Petersburg.
The Elector profited by the troubles of Poland and seized Elbing in order to reimburse himself for a sum that the Poles owed him. An accommodation was arrived at, by which the Poles pledged the crown and some Russian jewels to him, that are still retained at Königsberg. After that, the Elector evacuated the city and retained, with the consent of the Republic, the possession of the territory of Elbing.
It was not long before Europe was disturbed by new troubles at the beginning of this century. The houses of Bourbon and of Austria disputed the succession of Charles 2nd, King of Spain—who was dying.
Attempts had been made to prevent the bloody wars which the succession would cause. Louis 14th was agreeable at first to a Treaty of Partition with the maritime powers. Charles 2nd, indignant at this treaty, had made a will according to which his nephew, the young Prince Electoral of Bavaria, would inherit all his dominions. All hopes were mistaken, however, because the Prince of Bavaria died. A second Treaty of Partition was made, which was no more relevant than the first. The fate of Europe was to have the war.
The Emperor protested against any partition. He supported the independence of the Spanish monarchy and pretended that, being the same house divided in two branches, they had the right to succeed each other: the Spanish branch, that of Austria; and the Austrian branch, that of Spain. The Emperor Leopold and Louis 14th were in the same degree of kindred: each was a grandson of Philip 3rd; each had married a daughter of Philip 4th. The right of seniority was in the house of Bourbon, and Louis 14th founded his rights principally on that famous testament of Charles 2nd that Cardinal Portocarrero and his confessor made him sign, agonized and with a trembling hand. This testament changed the face of Europe.
Louis 14th resigned his rights to his grandson, Philip of Anjou, hoping, by the choice of this prince who was distant from the throne of France, to remove the difficulties and the obstacles that the jealousy of Europe might raise against his greatness. Philip crossed into Spain; he was recognized as king by all the sovereigns [of Europe], with the exception of the Emperor Joseph.
At the beginning of that war, France was at the peak of her greatness. She was victorious over all her enemies; the peace of Ryswick was a eulogy to her moderation. Louis 14th displayed his splendor and his magnificence throughout the entire universe; he was feared and respected. France was like a lone athlete prepared for battle, who entered the lists where no adversary appeared. Nothing was spared for the preparation of armaments for sea and for land, equally. In its most violent efforts, that monarchy maintained four hundred thousand soldiers, but the great generals were dead, and before the merit of Villars was recognized, France was found to have eight hundred thousand arms, but no head. This demonstrates that the fortune of states often depends on one man alone.
The house of Austria was very far from so fortunate a situation. It was almost exhausted by the continual wars that it had had to support. Its government was feeble; and although joined to the German body, it could do nothing without the assistance of the Dutch and of the English but, with less resources and troops than France, it had Prince Eugene of Savoy at the head of its army.
King William of England and Holland was stunned by surprise on learning of the death of Charles 2nd, and somewhat hastily recognized the Duke of Anjou as king of Spain. But upon reflection, he returned to his natural phlegm and declared himself for the house of Austria, because the English nation wanted him to, and his own interests seemed to demand it.
The North was itself plunged into the war carried on by Charles 12th in Denmark. The youth of this king had inspired in his neighbors sufficient boldness to attack him, but they found a hero who joined impetuous courage to implacable vengeance.
Frederick 3rd, whose country was at peace, took part in the great alliance which formed against Louis 14th, of which King William was the soul, and the Archduke of Austria, the pretext. Frederick received subsidies, which helped the prodigality of his magnificence, and he believed that the assistance that he furnished to the allies would smooth his road to monarchy. By an astounding effect of the contradictions to which the human spirit is subject, this prince, who had so proud and so vain a soul, abased himself so as to receive alms from sovereigns he regarded only as his equals. All offers, made to him by France in order to detach him from the allies, were useless. His engagements had been accepted, and he found himself bound by the subsidies, by his inclination, and by his hopes.
It was in these circumstances that the Treaty of the Crown was negotiated at Vienna, by which the Emperor undertook to recognize Frederick 3rd as king of Prussia, on condition that he furnish him with assistance in the form of ten thousand men, at his own expense, throughout the course that war; that he maintain a company in garrison at Philippsburg; that he would always act in concert with the Emperor in all matters concerning the Empire; that his monarchy would not change in any respect the obligations of his dominions in Germany; that he would forego the subsidy that the house of Austria owed him; and that he promised to give his vote for the election of the male children of the Emperor Joseph, "unless there were serious and unavoidable reasons that obliged the Elector to elect an Emperor from another house."
The treaty was signed and ratified; Rome cried, and Warsaw was silent; the Teutonic Order protested against this act, and presumed to reclaim Prussia. The King of England, who only sought enemies of France, purchased them at any price; he needed the the Elector's assistance in the great alliance, and he was among the first to recognize him. King Augustus, who was assuring his own crown, subscribed to it. Denmark, which only feared and envied Sweden, also did so without difficulty. Charles 12th, who was carrying on a difficult war, was not convinced that he should bargain about a title and thereby increase the number of his enemies, and the Empire being dragged in as was foreseeable.
Thus terminated that great affair, which was met with the opposition: in the Elector's council; from foreign courts; from friends, as from enemies. For the matter to succeed, it necessitated a complication of circumstances so extraordinary that it had been treated as chimerical, and of which one soon took a different opinion. On learning of it, Prince Eugene said that the Emperor ought to hang those ministers who had given him such treacherous advice. The coronation took place in the following year. The king, whom we call from now on Frederick 1st, appeared in Prussia. And in the holy ceremony, it was seen that he himself placed the crown on his own head. In memory of that event, he created the Order of the Knights of the Black Eagle.
The public, however, could not abandon their prejudice against this royalty; the good sense of the people desired an increase in power together with the increase in dignity. Those who were of higher status thought similarly; it slipped from the Electress to one of her ladies that she was desperate at having to play the theatrical queen in Prussia opposite her Aesop. She wrote to Leibnitz: "Do not believe that I prefer these grandeurs and these crowns of which are so esteemed here to the charms of the philosophical conversations that we had at Charlottenburg." Thanks to her pressing solicitations, there was formed at Berlin the Royal Academy of Science, of which Leibniz was the head. Frederick was persuaded that it was suitable to his monarchy to have an academy, as a new noble is led to believe that it is suitable to keep a pack of hounds. This academy will be dealt with more fully in its proper place.
After his coronation, the king abandoned himself, without bounds, to the penchant that he had for ceremonies and magnificence. On his return from Prussia, he made a magnificent entry into Berlin. During the diversion of these feasts and celebrations, it was learned that Charles 12th, that Alexander of the North, who would have entirely resembled the King of Macedonia if he had had his fortune, had gained a complete victory over the Saxons near Riga. As we have said, the King of Denmark and the Tsar had attacked this young hero, the one in Norway, and the other in Livonia. Charles 12th forced the Danish monarch, in his own capital, to make peace. From there, he crossed with eight thousand Swedes into Livonia, defeated eighty thousand Russians near Narva, and defeated thirty thousand Saxons at the crossing of the Dvina.
The flight of the Saxons drew them towards the border of Prussia. Frederick was particularly disquieted, because the greater part of his troops was serving in the Imperial army, and the war was approaching his new kingdom. As the result of the intercession of the Emperor, of England, and of Holland, however, Charles 12th promised that Prussia would be neutral.
These years were the epoch of triumph of the King of Sweden. He treated Poland as if he were sovereign. His negotiations were orders, and his battles were victories; but these victories, as brilliant as they all were, consumed the victors and obliged the hero to recruit for his army. A transport of Swedish troops arrived in Pomerania; Berlin sounded the alarm; the troops traversed the Electorate, no less, and arrived in Poland, which was their destination.
The King raised eight thousand new troops. Instead of employing them for the security of his dominions, he sent them to the army of the allies in Flanders. He himself went to the country of Cleves, to take up the inheritance of William of Orange, King of England, to whose throne, Anne, second daughter of King James, had succeeded. The rights of Frederick 1st were founded on the testament of Frederick-Henry of Orange, who had settled his possessions, in the event of extinction of the male line, upon his daughter, wife of the Great Elector. King William left a contradictory testament in favor of the Frisian Prince of Nassau, whose States-General were the executors. The possessions of the succession consisted in the principalities of Orange, of Meurs, and in different lordships and estates situated in Holland and in Zealand.
Frederick threatened to retract his troops from Flanders if he did not receive justice; that threat persuaded the Dutch that his rights were legitimate. The conditions of a provisional agreement were reached, however, which divided the inheritance into two equal parts. A large diamond was first handed over to Frederick, and he consented to leave his troops in Flanders. Louis 14th put the Prince of Conti in possession of Orange. Frederick was gravely offended, he increased his army, and even took troops of Gotha and Wolfenbüttel into his service. Soon afterwards, he declared war on France, because the army of Boufflers had committed several excesses in the country of Cleves. Louis 14th did not notice that he had an extra enemy; and the new king did much for his passions, but nothing for his interests. He manifested his hatred for France on all occasions. He obliged Duke Antoine-Ulrich of Wolfenbüttel to retract the engagement that he had made with Louis 14th, after the dukes of Hanover and of Celle had dissipated the troops that he maintained by means of French subsidies.
At this time, England made prodigious efforts for the house of Austria; her fleet transported the Archduke Charles—who later became Emperor—to the kingdom of Spain, that an English army was to help him conquer. The enthusiasm of Europe for the house of Austria surpassed anything imaginable.
As long as the war of succession lasted, the Prussian troops maintained, with éclat, the reputation that they had acquired under the Great Elector. They took Kayserswerth near to the Rhine, and in the action at Höchstädt—where Villars surprised and defeated Styrum—the Prince of Anhalt made a fine retreat with the eight thousand Prussians that he commanded. I have heard it said that, when he noticed the confusion and flight of the Austrians, he formed his troops into a square and crossed a great plain in good order, as far as a wood that he gained towards night, without the French cavalry daring the slightest interference.
The success of the Prussian troops on the Rhine, and their good conduct in Swabia, did not reassure Frederick against the apprehension caused by the proximity of the Swedes; nothing could resist them. The genius of Peter 1st, the magnificence of Augustus, were impotent against the fortunes of Charles 12th. This hero was, at the same time, more valorous than the Tsar and more vigilant than the King of Poland. Peter preferred ruses to boldness; Augustus, pleasure rather than work; and Charles, the love of glory to the possession of the entire world. The Saxons were often surprised or beaten; the Muscovites had learned at their own expense the art of apt retreat; they made only wars of incursions. The Swedish army was, until then, only the assailants and victors; but Charles 12th, whose inflexible perseverance never softened, did not know how to execute his plans, other than by force; he wanted to dominate events as he subjected his enemies. The Tsar and the King of Poland added to this valorous enthusiasm with the intrigues of the cabinet. They awoke the jealousy of Europe and created envy against the good of a young and ambitious prince, implacable in his hatred, and who did not know how to avenge himself on the kings who were his enemies, except by dethroning them.
These intrigues did not prevent Frederick, who had no troops to deploy, from concluding a defensive alliance with Charles 12th, who had a victorious army in proximity. Frederick and Stanislas reciprocally recognized their mon¬archies. This treaty lasted only as long as the fortunes of Charles 12th did not contradict it.
Although that alliance should have reassured the King, he supplied all his Prussian territory with sufficient garrisons, and sent new assistance to the allied army in Swabia. It was in that province that the Prussians had a considerable part to gain from the famous battle of Höchstädt. They were to the right, under the orders of the Prince of Anhalt; and in the body of the army commanded by Prince Eugene. In the first attack, the Imperial cavalry and infantry folded before the French and the Bavarians; but the Prussians withstood the shock and opened up the enemies. Prince Eugene came and placed himself at their head, irritated by the bad maneuver of the Austrians. He said that he wanted to fight with brave men, and not with troops who dragged their feet. It is a known fact that Lord Marlborough took twenty-seven battalions and four regiments of dragoons prisoner in the village of Blenheim, and that his victory caused the French the loss of Bavaria and Swabia.
Having ended that glorious campaign, Lord Marlborough appeared at Berlin, to persuade Frederick to send a body of his troops to Italy. This Englishman, who had predicted the plans of Charles 12th, on seeing a map spread out on his table, easily penetrated the character of Frederick by casting a glance over his court. He filled himself with submission and suppleness before the King, adroitly flattering his vanity; he hastened to present him the ewer when he rose from the table. Frederick could not resist him; the flattery of the courtier induced him to grant that which the merit of the great general or the skill of the profound politician might have led him to refuse. The fruit of the negotiations was that the Prince of Anhalt marched into Italy at the head of eight thousand men.
The death of Queen Sophie-Charlotte put all the court into mourning. She was a princess with distinct merit, who joined all the appeal of her sex to the grace of her spirit and to the light of reason. In her youth, she had traveled in Italy and in France under the conduct of her parents; she was destined for the throne of France. Louis 14th was all for her beauty; but political reasons caused her marriage with the Duke of Bourgogne to founder. The Queen brought into Prussia the spirit of society, true courtesy, and love of the arts and sciences. As mentioned above, she founded the Royal Academy; she summoned Leibniz and many other savants to her court. Her curiosity made her desire to grasp the first principles of things. Leibniz, whom she pressed one day on this subject, said: "Madame, there is no way of satisfying you; you want to know the why of the why." Charlottenburg was the rendezvous of people of taste; all sorts of entertainments and infinitely varied feasts rendered this residence delightful; and this court, brilliant.
Sophie-Charlotte had a strong soul; her religion was pure; her humor, gentle; her spirit, adorned by reading all the best French and Italian books. She died at Hanover, in the bosom of her family. [Before she died] they wanted to introduce a Calvinist minister into her rooms. "Leave me to die," she told him, "without dispute." A lady of honor, whom she loved much, dissolved in tears. "Do not pity me," said the Queen, "for I go now to satisfy my curiosity about the principles of the things that Leibniz had never been able to explain to me, concerning space, infinity, being, and nothingness. And I am giving my husband, the King, the spectacle of funereal pomp, where he will have a new occasion to display his magnificence." Dying, she recommended to the Elector, her brother, the learned whom she had protected, and the arts that she had cultivated. By the ceremony of her obsequies, Frederick consoled himself for the loss of a wife whom he would never be able to regret enough.
In Italy, the war began to become livelier. The Prussians, whom Lord Marlborough had marched there, were beaten at Cassano under Prince Eugene; and at Calcinato, when General Reventlow who commanded them, was surprised by the great prior of Vendome. Prince Eugene could be beaten, but he knew how to repair his losses like a great man; and the embarrassment of Cassano was soon forgotten by the victory in the famous battle of Turin, in which the Prussians played a principal part.
Although the Duke of Orleans proposed that the French should leave their entrenchments, his advice was not followed. It is certain that La Feuillade and Marsin had orders from the court, not to chance a battle. That at Höchstädt had frightened Louis 14th's council. The French, who would have had double superiority over the allies had they attacked them outside their entrench¬ments, were their inferiors everywhere, because the different quarters that they had to defend were of a great area and mainly separated by the Doire. The Prussians, who had the left wing of the allied army, attacked the right of the French entrenchment which was pressed to the Doire. The Prince of Anhalt was already at the edge of the ditch, and the resistance of the enemies slowed the vigor of his attack, when three grenadiers slid along the Doire and came round the entrenchment by a place where it was not sufficiently proximate to the bank. All of a sudden, a voice was heard in the French army: "We are cut off!" They abandoned their post, took flight; and at the same time, the Prince of Anhalt scaled the entrenchment, and gained the battle. Prince Eugene gave a compliment to the King; the eulogy concerning his troops must have given him all the more pleasure, coming from a prince who knew much about such matters.
During that war, Frederick made several peaceful acquisitions. He purchased the county of Tecklenburg, in Westphalia, from the Count of Solms-Braunfels. And on the death of Madame de Nemours, who was in possession of the principality of Neufchatel, the council of the state of Neufchatel took the regency and elected some of its members to judge the pretentions of the King of Prussia on the one side, and all the relatives of the house of Longueville on the other. The principality of Neufchatel was adjudged to the King as having better rights as the heir of the house of Orange. Louis 14th himself opposed that judgment, but he had such great interests to discuss that he dismissed such little disputes and the sovereignty of Neufchatel was assured to the royal house by the peace of Utrecht.
Charles 12th had reached by then the highest period of his prosperity: he had dethroned Augustus of Poland, and at Alt-Ranstädt, mid-Saxony, had dictated to him harsh conditions of peace. Frederick wanted to persuade the King of Sweden to quit Saxony. He sent the great Marshal Printzen to beg him not to trouble the peace of Germany by remaining there with his troops. Charles 12th, who had in any event planned to quit the states of a prince he had abased, in order to renew the same scene with the Tsar at Moscow, took it badly that Printzen should make him a similar proposal, and asked ironically if the Prussian troops were as good as Brandenburgers. "Yes, Sire," replied the envoy, "they are still composed of those old soldiers who were at Fehrbellin."
Crossing Silesia, Charles 12th obliged the Emperor to return one hundred and twenty-five churches to the Protestants of that duchy; the Pope grumbled, and did not spare his protestations and appeals. Joseph replied that if the King of Sweden had proposed that he himself become a Lutheran, he did not know what would have happened
These same Swedes, who were then the terror of the North, re-established with the Prussians and the Hanoverians, the calm that popular sedition had troubled in the city of Hamburg. Frederick sent four thousand men to support the prerogatives of the aldermen and of the mayors. He had several disputes with those of Cologne, because the populace of that city had broken open the door of the resident Prussian, who had a Protestant chapel in his house. The King halted a march of the merchants of that city, who descended the Rhine and crossed by Wesel; and he threatened to interdict the Catholic sect in his dominions, as he had when the Elector Palatine had persecuted the Protestants of the Palatinate. The fear of such reprisals made the city of Cologne return to its duties and taught it that toleration is a virtue which it is often dangerous to cancel.
The court of Frederick was then full of intrigues. The spirit of this king floated between the cabals of his favorites, like a sea agitated by different winds. Those who approached him more closely had less than genius; their artifices were large; and their behavior, scarcely adroit. They all hated each other and burned in secret desire to supplant each other. If they were in agreement, it was only on an equal disposition to enrich themselves at the expense of their master. The Crown Prince had difficulty in hiding his dissatisfaction at their conduct.
The marks of the displeasure of the Crown Prince led them to support their credit with a new prop. Although the King was sick, they persuaded him to go through a third marriage. He lived only by the art of the physicians, and he contested, by a remaining trace of his temperament, a puff of life that he was going to lose. Marshal de Biberstein took this intrigue upon himself. He represented to the King that the Crown Prince would not have children by his wife—a daughter of the Elector George of Hanover—although she was pregnant even then; that the good of his people demanded that he should seriously consider assuring the succession; that he was still vigorous; and that after this marriage, he would be sure to see the crown, which he had acquired with so much difficulty, devolve on his descendants. Repeated by different persons, the same discourse persuaded this good sovereign that he was the most vigorous man in his dominions. The physicians succeeded in agreeing to the union, of which the nuptial ceremony was celebrated with Asiatic pomp. The remainder of the marriage was simply unfortunate.
Fortune finally tired of protecting the caprices of Charles 12th. He had enjoyed nine years of success; the nine last years of his life were only a chain of reverses. He returned victorious to Poland with a numerous army, bearing treasures and the spoils of Saxony. Leipzig was the Capua of the Swedes. Whether the delights of Saxony had softened the victors, whether prosperity had inflated the boldness of this king and pushed him beyond his goal, he had no more awful misfortunes to brush off; he wanted to treat Russia as he had Poland, and to dethrone the Tsar as he had dethroned Augustus.
With this design, he advanced towards the border of Muscovy, where two roads led, the one by Livonia, where all the assistance of Sweden was within reach and adjacent by sea, by which he would been able to advance as far as the new city that the Tsar was building on the Baltic coast, and to destroy forever the prospective link between Russia and Europe. The other road traversed the Ukraine, and led to Moscow via impracticable deserts. Charles determined in favor of the latter, either because he had heard it said that the Romans could only be conquered in Rome; or that the difficulty of the venture aroused his courage; or because he counted on Mazeppa, Prince of the Cossacks, who had promised to supply his army with provisions and to join him with a considerable number of his people. The Tsar was warned of the intrigues of this Cossack. He dispersed the troops that Mazeppa assembled and seized his magazines, so that when the King of Sweden arrived in the Ukraine, he found only awful deserts in place of a country good for subsistence; and a fugitive prince who came to seek asylum in his camp, instead of a powerful ally who would attract reinforcements.
These setbacks did not discourage Charles 12th. He besieged Poland as if he lacked nothing. He, who had been invulnerable until then, was wounded in the leg, when amusing himself by reconnoitering this unimportant place too closely. His general, Lewenhaupt, who was bringing him provisions, munitions, and a reinforcement of thirteen thousand men, was beaten by the Tsar on three occasions and was obliged, in that necessity, to burn the transport that he led. He arrived at Charles's camp with only three thousand men, worn out from shooting, and who added to the scarcity which reigned in the camp.
The Tsar was soon approaching Poland; and in that plain was fought that battle, between the two most singular men of their century. Charles 12th, who was until then the arbitrator of destiny and had found nothing that could thwart his wishes, did everything that could be expected of a prince who was wounded and was carried in a litter. Peter Alexeivitsch, who until then had only been a legislator assisted by Menschikoff, showed on that day that he possessed the part of a great captain, and that his enemies had taught him to win. Everything was fatal for the Swedes: the wounding of their king which prevented him from action, the misery which removed their strength to fight, the absence of a large detachment of troops that lost its way on the day of this decisive engagement, the number of their enemies, and the [lack of] time they had to erect redoubts and to dispose their troops to advantage. The Swedes were finally defeated and, in a decisive and unfortunate instant, lost the fruit of nine years of work and of so many prodigies of valor. Charles 12th was reduced to seeking asylum among the Turks. His implacable hatreds followed him to Bender, from where he tried in vain, by his intrigues, to arouse the Porte against the Muscovites. He thus became the victim of his inflexibility of spirit, which one would call obstinacy if he had not been a hero. After that defeat, the Swedish army laid down its arms before the Tsar at the banks of the Borysthene, as the Muscovite army had previously before Charles 12th, on the banks of the Baltic, after the battle of Narwa.
Augustus, who saw his adversary overthrown, believed himself discharged from his word and from the Treaty of Alt-Ranstädt. At Berlin, he had a discussion with Frederick and the King of Denmark and as a result, Augustus re-entered Poland with an army, and the King of Denmark attacked the Swedes in Scania. Frederick, whom these powers could not shake, remained neutral.
In Poland, all the Swedish party went over to the side of the Saxons. Stanislas was near the Swedish army that Krassow commanded. This general, finding himself enclosed by the Muscovites and the Saxons, crossed the New Mark and surrendered at Stettin, without being able to request permission from Frederick, who regarded with displeasure these moves and these numerous armies in his proximity.
Frederick travelled to Königsberg where, the Tsar who had gone there, agreed to re-establish the young Duke of Courland, Frederick's nephew, to his dominions, on condition that he married the niece of Peter Alexeivitsch.
Frederick received only good news of his troops: they distinguished themselves no less in Flanders than in Italy; they did marvels under the command of the Count of Lottum, as much at the battle of Oudenarde as at the siege of Lille.
The French, discouraged by the lack of success of their armies and by the loss of three great formal battles, made a proposal for peace at The Hague. But the fermentation of spirits was still too great, and the hopes of the two parties and their pretentions too excessive, for an agreement to be reached. If men were capable of reason, would they make such long, relentless, and onerous wars, to come sooner or later to conditions of peace which only seemed intolerable to them when their passions governed them, or when Fortune favored them?
The allies opened the campaign by taking Tournai, and with the battle of Malplaquet, where the Crown Prince appeared in person. The Count of Finck had a great part in that victory; he was the first who forced the French entrenchment with the Prussians. He formed his troops on the parapet and from there supported the Imperial cavalry, which the French repulsed on two occasions, until a greater number of troops joined his, placing the last seal on that victory.
In Pomerania, the Swedes caused apprehension by their demonstrations that they had plans to penetrate into Saxony. Frederick feared that the war was finally coming into his own states and, with the intention of assuaging the troubles of the North, took every measure which could increase them. He proposed the maintenance of an army of neutrality, but that army never assembled. Krassow consented to a suspension of arms. When Charles 12th learned of it, he protested from the depths of Bessarabia against all neutrality: the draft treaty was broken and it suffered the fate of all such public acts that necessity and weakness make at one instant, and that force, assisted by circumstances, favors their breach at another.
In the South, France renewed the peace negotiations at Gertruydenberg and, from the first conferences, undertook to recognize the monarchy of Prussia and the sovereignty of Neufchatel. The opening of the peace aborted once more and the Prussians were employed in this campaign, under the Prince of Anhalt, at the sieges of Aire and of Douai, which he took. Frederick declared that he would not return the city of Gueldre, where he had garrisons, as long as the Spanish did not pay him the subsidies they owed him; and he retained the possession of that city by the [eventual] peace.
At this time, Frederick's nephew, the Duke of Courland, died. The Muscovites seized New Courland; they took Elbing; but as the King had rights in respect of that city, a Prussian battalion was put into garrisons there.
The passing of so great an army and its proximity had carried the contagion into Prussia. A famine, which began to make itself seriously felt, increased the violence and venom of the plague. Frederick, from whom the evil was partly concealed, abandoned these people to their misfortune and, while his revenues and his subsidies did not suffice even for the magnificence of his expenditure, he saw more than two thousand one hundred souls perish miserably, whom he would been able to save by some liberality.
The Crown Prince, revolted by the harshness that his father showed towards the Prussians, spoke strongly to the counts of Wartenberg and of Wittgenstein, in order to procure assistance and provisions for the people, who perished as much by their misery as by the contagion. He found these ministers inflexible; they drily refused to purchase corn for ten thousand crowns, with which, the inhabitants of Königsberg, at least, could have been comforted. Highly annoyed by this refusal, the prince resolved to dispense with these iniquitous ministers and toyed with all sorts of means to distance them. Fortune has its reverses; the court has its storms. Envious of the favor of Wartenberg, the party of Kameke was happy to employ the pretext of the public good to serve his ambitious vision. A young courtier of this family, who often played chess with the King, found the means of making so many insinuations against these ministers and of repeating the same so often, that Wittgenstein was sent to the fortress of Spandau, and Wartenberg exiled. Dissolving in tears, the King parted with the Great Chamberlain whom he cherished. Wartenberg retired to the Palatinate with a pension of twenty thousand crowns and died there soon after his disgrace.
In the North, as we have said, Charles 12th had refused neutrality. For the Tsar, and for the kings of Poland and Denmark, this served as a pretext for an attack into Pomerania. Frederick constantly refused to join that league; he did not want to expose his dominions to incursions and to the ravages and hazards of war; and by his neutrality, he hoped even to gain by the dissensions of his neighbors. The beginning of the operations was not in their favor; the Danes raised the siege of Wismar, and Augustus raised those of Stralsund and Stettin.
While Europe was subject to these convulsions, when hope, interest, and ambition blew discord into the hearts of the two parties, the Emperor Joseph died. The Archduke Charles, who was then blockaded in Barcelona, was elected in his place, having been crowned, and then hunted from Madrid after the loss of the battle of Almanza.
The death of the Emperor Joseph smoothed the way to a general peace. The English, who began to tire of so much expense, considered the object of the war. And in the same measure that the clouds of their enthusiasm were dissipating, they became convinced that the house of Austria would be powerful enough, if it retained its hereditary territories: Milan, Flanders, and the kingdom of Naples; and they were prepared to hold conferences at Utrecht, with a view to making peace.
Frederick, who desired to terminate the wrangles concerning the succession of Orange by a definite treaty, appeared in Cleves to settle the affair with the Prince of Friesland; but this unfortunate prince was drowned at the Mœrdyk crossing when returning to The Hague. By way of repayment, Frederick made another acquisition by the extinction of the counts of Mansfeld. This country was sequestered in the hands of the King of Prussia and the Elector of Saxony; the Prussian office was held at Mansfeld; and the Saxon, at Eisleben.
Nevertheless, everything led insensibly to the peace. The conferences continued at Utrecht; the counts of Dönhoff, of Metternich, and of Bieberstein appeared with the powers of plenipotentiaries of the King.
During these conferences, a revolution took place in England, as to the responsibility for which, Europe accused Marshal de Tallard, who had been a prisoner in London. Whether it was this Marshal or that, or what is known as chance, was the cause, Lord Marlborough's party was overthrown. Those of the nation who wanted peace brought it about. The Duke of Ormond had the command of the English troops in Flanders, and he separated himself from the allies at the beginning of the campaign. Prince Eugene, although weakened by the defection of the English, continued the offensive. The Prince of Anhalt and the Prussians were in charge of the siege of Landrecies, but Villars marched to Denain, fell upon the camp that Lord Albemarle commanded, and defeated him before Prince Eugene was able to help him. This victory restored Marchiennes, le Quesnoi, Douai, and Bouchain to the power of the French.
The allies followed the example of the English, and dreamt seriously of peace. The Emperor was the only who wanted to continue the war, either because the lethargy of his council had not had enough time to decide, or that he believed himself strong enough to resist Louis 14th on his own. His condition only became worse.
Frederick then surprised the Dutch garrison at Meurs and, by its possession, upheld the rights that he had on this place.
But the peaceful feelings of the South did not influence the North. The King of Denmark entered the Duchy of Bremen and took Stade; the Tsar and the King of Poland attempted a landing in the island of Rügen, which the good measures of the Swedes caused them to go without. The allies were not more fortunate at the siege of Stralsund, which they were obliged to raise. At Gadebusch, in Mecklenburg, Stenbock had gained a victory over the Saxons and Danes; and a reinforcement of ten thousand Swedes having arrived in Pomerania, the entire country was delivered to enemies. Obliged to abandon Rostock, the Danes handed that city over to Frederick's troops, as he was director of the district of Lower Saxony; but the Swedes evicted the Prussians. Frederick's neutrality was not affected, and he continued to negotiate in order to carry the contenders to reconciliation, and to divert the storms which assembled over his dominions.
At the beginning of 1713, Frederick 1st died of a slow malady which had long undermined the measure of his days. He saw neither the consummation of the peace, nor the re-establishment of tranquility in his proximity.
Frederick had three wives. The first was a princess of Hesse, by whom he had a daughter, married to the hereditary Prince of Hesse, at present King of Sweden; Sophia-Charlotte of Hanover brought Frederick-William—who succeeded him—into the world; and because of her dementia, Frederick repudiated the third, who was a princess of Mecklenburg,.
We have seen all the events of the life of Frederick 1st; it remains only to cast a few rapid glances on his person and on his character. He was small and deformed; with an air of pride, he had a common physiognomy. His soul was like a mirror, which reflects all objects nearby, flexible to every impression given to him. Those who had gained a certain influence over him knew how to animate or to calm his spirit, violent by caprice, mild by indolence. He condemned vain things with the really great ones; more attached to the glory which dazzles, than to the useful which is solid. He sacrificed thirty thousand of his subjects in the different wars of the Emperor and of the allies, in order to procure his monarchy. He desired that dignity with so much ardor, only in order to satisfy his taste for the ceremonial, and justified his fatuous dissipations with specious pretexts. He was magnificent and generous, but at what price did he purchase the pleasure of satisfying his passion? He bartered the blood of his people with the English and the Dutch, like those Tartar vagabonds who sell their herds to the butchers of Podolia for slaughter. When he went to Holland to garner the succession of King William, he was on the point of retrieving his troops from Flanders. He was given a great diamond for this succession; and his fifteen thousand men were killed in the service of the allies.
The prejudice of the people seems to favor the magnificence of princes; but the liberality of an individual is one thing, and that of a sovereign is another. A prince is the leading servant and the leading magistrate of the State. He is accountable for the use that he makes of the taxes he levies: for the purpose of defending the State by means of the troops that he maintains, in order to support the dignity with which he is invested, to reward service and merit, to establish in some way an equilibrium between the rich and the debtors, to comfort the unfortunate in every class and every sort, and in order to direct his magnificence in the interests of the body of the state in general. If the sovereign has an enlightened spirit and a good heart, he directs all his expenses to the utility of the public, and to the greater advantage of his people.
The magnificence that Frederick loved was not of this class. It was often the dissipation of a vain and prodigal prince. His court was one of the most superb of Europe. His embassies were as magnificent as those of the Portuguese. He trod on the poor in order to fatten the rich; those in his favor received large pensions, while his people were in misery; his buildings were sumptuous, his feasts, superb; his equerries and his officers had more Asiatic pomp than European dignity. His liberality appeared more often the effect of chance than that of judicious choice. His domestics made their fortune, once they had suffered the first effects of his temper. He gave a fief of forty thousand crowns to a huntsman who caught him a large stag. The bizarreness of his expenditure is never more striking than when one compares its total with that of his revenues, and when one makes of his whole life just a single tableau. It is then astounding to see a gigantic body at the side of members which are perishing. This king wanted to mortgage the principality of Halberstadt to the Dutch, in order to purchase the famous Pitt diamond, which Louis 15th subsequently acquired during his reign. He sold twenty thousand men to the allies in order to maintain thirty thousand. His court was like a great river which absorbs the water of all the little streams. His favorites overflowed with his liberality and the daily cost of his profusions was immense, while Prussia and Lithuania were abandoned to the famine and to the contagion, without this generous monarch condescending to help them. A miserly prince is for his people like a physician who lets a sick person drown in his blood; a prodigal prince is like one who kills him by blood-letting.
Frederick 1st never had constant inclinations, whether he repented of a bad choice, or whether he had any indulgence for human weakness. From Baron Danckelman until the Count of Wartenberg, his favorites all came to an unfortunate end.
His weak and superstitious spirit had a singular attachment to Calvinism, to which he would wanted to lead all the other religions. One may believe that he would have been a persecutor, if the priests had been instructed to join ceremonies to persecutions. He composed a book of prayer, which for his honor was not printed.
If Frederick 1st is worthy of praise, it is for having always retained his dominions in peace, while those of his neighbors were ravaged by the war; for having a naturally good heart and, if one wishes, for not going outside conjugal virtue. Finally, he was great in the little things and little in the great; and his misfortune was that he was placed in history between a father and a son, whose superior talents eclipsed him.