Frederick was probably not surprised at this act on the part of the emperor. He undoubtedly had sufficient candor to admit that it was exactly what he should have done under similar circumstances.
The nephew of Elizabeth, and her successor, Peter III., was a very warm admirer of Frederick. One of his first acts was to send to the Prussian king the assurance of his esteem and friendship. Peter immediately released all the Prussian prisoners in his dominions, entered into an armistice with Frederick, which529 was soon followed by a treaty of alliance. The two sovereigns commenced a very friendly correspondence. Frederick returned all the Russian prisoners, well clothed and fed, to their homes. The change was almost as sudden and striking as the transformations in the kaleidoscope. On the 23d Peter issued a decree that there was peace with Prussia, that he had surrendered to his Prussian majesty all the territorial conquests thus far made, and had recalled the Russian armies.
General Fermor was now informed, through his roving Cossacks, of the position of Frederick. Immediately he raised the siege of Cüstrin, hurried off his baggage train to Klein Kamin, on the road to Landsberg, and retired with his army to a very strong position near the village of Zorndorf. Here there was a wild, bleak, undulating plain, interspersed with sluggish streams, and forests, and impassable bogs. General Fermor massed the Russian troops in a very irregular hollow square, with his staff baggage in the centre, and awaited an attack. This huge quadrilateral of living lines, four men deep, with bristling bayonets, prancing horses, and iron-lipped cannon, was about two miles long by one mile broad.When near Augsburg, Fritz wrote a letter to Lieutenant Katte, stating that he should embrace the first opportunity to escape to the Hague; that there he should assume the name of the Count of Alberville. He wished Katte to join him there, and to bring with him the overcoat and the one thousand ducats which he had left in his hands. On Thursday, August 3d, the royal party reached the little hamlet of Steinfurth, not far from the Rhine. Here, as was not unfrequently the case, they slept in barns, carefully swept and prepared for them. The usual hour of starting was three o’clock in the morning.On the River Maas, a few miles north of the present city of Liege, there was a celebrated castle called Herstal. For many generations feudal lords had there displayed their pomp and power; and it had been the theatre not only of princely revelry, but of many scenes of violence and blood. A surrounding territory of a few thousand acres, cultivated by serfs, who were virtually slaves, was the hereditary domain of the petty lords of the castle. A few miles south of the castle there was a monastery called Liege, which was a dependency of the lords of Herstal.
But, immediately after these ceremonies were over, the new monarch, who assumed the crown with the title of Frederick William, not with that of Frederick II., to the utter consternation of the court, dismissed nearly every honorary official of the palace, from the highest dignitary to the humblest page. His flashing eye and determined manner were so appalling that no one ventured to remonstrate. A clean sweep was made, so that the household was reduced to the lowest footing of economy consistent with the supply of indispensable wants. Eight servants were retained at six shillings a week. His father had thirty pages; all were dismissed but three. There were one thousand saddle-horses in the royal stables; Frederick William kept thirty. Three fourths of the names were struck from the pension-list. Thus rigidly the king went on through every department of administrative and household expenses, until they were reduced to below a fifth of what they had been under his father.Early in the morning Frederick’s whole army was on the rapid march for Breslau, which was scarcely twenty miles distant from the battle-field. The Austrians had collected immense military stores in the city. Prince Charles, as he fled through the place with the wreck of his army, left a garrison of seventeen thousand men for its defense. In a siege of twelve days, during which there was an incessant bombardment and continual assaults, the city was carried. A few days after this, Liegnitz, which the Austrians had strongly fortified, was also surrendered to the victor. Frederick had thus reconquered the whole of Silesia excepting the single fortress of Schweidnitz.
“Mr. Guy Dickens may give to the prince the assurance of the deep compassion which the king feels in view of the sad condition in which the prince finds himself, and of the sincere desire of his majesty to aid, by all the means in his power, to extricate him. While waiting the result of some negotiations now on foot, his majesty is of the opinion that it would be best for the prince to defer for a time his present design; that the present critical state of affairs in Europe do not present a favorable opportunity for the execution of the contemplated plan; that the idea of retiring to France demands very careful deliberation; and that there is not time now to ascertain how such a step would be regarded by the French court, which his majesty would think to be essential before he advise a prince so dear to him to withdraw to that country.”“Gentlemen,” said Frederick, “I have assembled you here for a555 public object. Most of you, like myself, have often been in arms with one another, and are grown gray in the service of our country. To all of us is well known in what dangers, toils, and renown we have been fellow-sharers. I doubt not in the least that all of you, as myself, have a horror of bloodshed; but the danger which now threatens our countries not only renders it a duty, but puts us in the absolute necessity, to adopt the quickest and most effectual means for dissipating at the right time the storm which threatens to break out upon us.The probable object of the Austrian court in revealing the secret treaty of Schnellendorf was to set Frederick and France at variance. Frederick, much exasperated, not only denied the treaty, but professed increased devotion to the interests of Louis XV. The allies, consisting of France, Prussia, Bavaria, and Saxony, now combined to wrest Moravia from Maria Theresa, and annex it to Saxony. This province, governed by a marquis, was a third larger than the State of Massachusetts, and contained a population of about a million and a half. Moravia bounded Silesia on the south. Frederick made a special treaty with the King of Saxony, that the southern boundary of Silesia should be a full German mile, which was between four and five English miles, beyond the line of the River Neisse. With Frederick’s usual promptitude, he insisted that commissioners should be immediately sent to put down the boundary stones. France was surprised that the King of Saxony should have consented to the surrender of so important a strip of his territory.
Still it is evident that the serpent was in this Eden. Carlyle writes: “An ardent, aerial, gracefully predominant, and, in the end, somewhat termagant female, this divine Emilie. Her temper, radiant rather than bland, was none of the patientest on occasion. Nor was M. De Voltaire the least of a Job if you came athwart him in a wrong way. I have heard that their domestic symphony was liable to furious flaws; that plates, in presence of the lackeys, actual crockery or metal, have been known to fly from end to end of the dinner-table; nay, they mention ‘knives,’ though only in the way of oratorical action; and Voltaire has been heard to exclaim, ‘Don’t fix those haggard, sidelong eyes on me in that way!’—mere shrillness of pale rage presiding over the scene.”For several weeks the Austrians slowly and sullenly retired. Their retreat was conducted in two immense columns, by parallel roads at some distance from each other. Their wings of foragers and skirmishers were widely extended, so that the hungry army swept with desolation a breadth of country reaching out many leagues. Though the Austrian army was traversing the friendly territory of Bohemia, still Prince Charles was anxious to leave behind him no resources for Frederick to glean. Frederick, with his army, pressed along, following the wide-spread trail of his foes. The Austrians, with great skill, selected every commanding position on which to erect their batteries, and hurl back a storm of shot and shell into the bosoms of their pursuers. But Frederick allowed them no rest by day or by night. His solid columns so unremittingly and so impetuously pressed with shot, bullets, bayonet, and sabre-blows upon the rear ranks of the foe that there was almost an incessant battle, continuing for several weeks, crimsoning a path thirty miles wide and more than a hundred miles in length with the blood of the wounded and the slain.On the 15th of March Frederick left Berlin for Silesia. Stopping to examine some of his works at Glogau and Breslau, he reached Neisse on the 23d. On the 29th he dismissed the Old Dessauer, with many expressions of kindness and sympathy, to go home to recover his health.
“I am too tired to reply to your delightful verses, and shivering too much with cold to taste all the charm of them. But that will come round again. Do not ask poetry from a man who is actually doing the work of a wagoner, and sometimes even of a wagoner stuck in the mud. Would you like to know my way of life? We march from seven in the morning till four in the afternoon. I dine then; afterward I work—I receive tiresome visits; with these comes a detail of insipid matters of business. ’Tis wrong-headed men, punctiliously difficult, who are to be set right; heads too hot which must be restrained, idle fellows that must be urged, impatient men that must be rendered docile, plunderers to be restrained within the bounds of equity, babblers to hear babbling, dumb people to keep in talk; in fine, one has to drink with those that like it, to eat with those who are hungry; one has to become a Jew with Jews, a pagan with pagans. Such are my occupations, which I would willingly make over to another if the phantom they call glory did not rise on me too often. In truth, it is a great folly, but a folly difficult to cast away when once you are smitten by it.
But this war, into which the Prussian king had so recklessly plunged all Europe, was purely a war of personal ambition. Even Frederick did not pretend that it involved any question of human rights. Unblushingly he avowed that he drew his sword and led his hundred thousand peasant-boys upon their dreadful career of carnage and misery simply that he might enlarge his territories, gain renown as a conqueror, and make the world talk about him. It must be a fearful thing to go to the356 judgment seat of Christ with such a crime weighing upon the soul.“I was glad to receive you in my house. I esteemed your genius, your talents, and your acquirements. I had reason to think that a man of your age, weary of fencing against authors, and exposing himself to the storm, came hither to take refuge, as in a safe harbor.”
France had no fear of Prussia. Even with the addition of Silesia, it would be comparatively a feeble realm. But France did fear the supremacy of Austria over Europe. It was for the apparent interest of the court of Versailles that Austria should be weakened, and, consequently, that the husband of the queen should not be chosen Emperor of Germany. Therefore France was coming into sympathy with Frederick, and was disposed to aid him in his warfare against Austria.Peter III. had been left an orphan, and titular Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, when eleven years of age. His mother was a daughter of Peter the Great. His aunt, the Czarina Elizabeth, who had determined not to marry, adopted the child, and pronounced him to be her heir to the throne. Being at that time on friendly terms with Frederick, the Empress Elizabeth had consulted him in reference to a wife for the future czar. It will be remembered that the king effected a marriage between Peter and Sophia, the beautiful daughter of a Prussian general, Prince of Anhalt-Zerbst, and at that time commandant of Stettin. His wife was sister to the heir-apparent of Sweden. Carlyle, speaking of this couple, says:“‘Devil’s in the blockhead! Thank my sister, then?’
FREDERICK WILLIAM ENRAGED.详情
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