On the other hand, Frederick himself was in the very prime of manhood. He was ambitious of military renown. He had a compact army of one hundred thousand men, in better drill and more amply provided with all the apparatus of war than any other troops in Europe. The frugality of his father had left him with a treasury full to overflowing. To take military possession of Silesia would be a very easy thing. There was nothing to obstruct the rush of his troops across the frontiers. There were no strongly garrisoned fortresses, and not above three thousand soldiers in the whole realm. No one even suspected that Frederick would lay any claim to the territory, or that there was the slightest danger of invasion. The complicated claim which he finally presented, in official manifestoes, was founded upon transactions which had taken place a hundred years before. In conversation with his friends he did not lay much stress upon any legitimate title he had to the territory. He frankly admitted, to quote his own words, that “ambition, interest, the desire of making people talk about me, carried the day, and I decided for war.”37Frederick, being constrained by the approach of General Daun to raise the siege of Dresden, retired to his intrenched camp at Schlettau. Leaving fifteen thousand men to guard the camp, he, on the 1st of August, before the dawn, crossed the Elbe, and was again on the rapid march toward Silesia. His army consisted of thirty thousand men, and was accompanied by two thousand heavy baggage-wagons. In five days the king marched over one hundred miles, crossing five rivers. Armies of the allies, amounting504 to one hundred and seventy-five thousand Austrians and Russians, were around him—some in front, some in his rear, some on his flanks.150
There are sometimes great and glorious objects to be attained—objects which elevate and ennoble a nation or a race—which warrant the expenditure of almost any amount of temporary suffering. It is not the duty of the millions to suffer the proud and haughty hundreds to consign them to ignorance and trample them in the dust. In this wicked world, where kings and nobles have ever been so ready to doom the masses of the people to ignorance, servitude, and want, human rights have almost never made any advances but through the energies of the sword. Many illustrious generals, who, with saddened hearts, have led their armies over fields of blood, have been among the most devoted friends and ornaments of humanity. Their names have been enshrined in the affections of grateful millions.The Emperor Charles VI. left no son. He therefore promulgated a new law of succession in a decree known throughout213 Europe as the “Pragmatic Sanction.” By the custom of the realm the sceptre could descend only to male heirs. But by this decree the king declared that the crown of the house of Hapsburg should be transmitted to his daughter, Maria Theresa. This law had been ratified by the estates of all the kingdoms and principalities which composed the Austrian monarchy. All the leading powers of Europe—England, France, Spain, Prussia, Russia, Poland, Sweden, Denmark, and the Germanic body—had bound themselves by treaty to maintain the “Pragmatic Sanction.” It was a peaceable and wise arrangement, acceptable to the people of Austria and to the dynasties of Europe as a means of averting a war of succession, which might involve all the nations of the Continent in the conflict.“The body of Frederick is a ruin, but his soul is still here, and receives his friends and his tasks as formerly. Asthma, dropsy, erysipelas, continual want of sleep; for many months past he has not been in bed, but sits day and night in an easy-chair, unable to get breath except in that posture. He said one morning to somebody entering, ‘If you happened to want a night-watcher, I could suit you well.’”200
At an early hour on the morning of the 3d Frederick broke up his camp south of the foe, and, by a circuitous route of fourteen513 miles, came down upon the Austrians from the north. General Ziethen marched in almost a straight line for Torgau, to cut off the retreat. It was two o’clock in the afternoon when Frederick, emerging from the forest, ordered his men to charge. The assault was as impetuous and reckless as mortal men could possibly make. Instantly four hundred pieces of artillery opened fire upon them.“Indeed, how many reasons has one at fifty years of age to despise life! The prospect which remains to me is an old age of infirmity and pain, with disappointments, regrets, ignominies, and outrages to endure. In truth, if you really consider my situation, you ought to blame my intentions less than you do. I have lost all my friends. I am unfortunate in all the ways in which it is possible to be so. I have nothing to hope for. I see my enemies treat me with derision, while their insolence prepares to trample me under foot. Alas!
It is probable that even Seckendorf was somewhat moved by this pathetic appeal. Fritz succeeded in sending a letter to the post-office, addressed to Lieutenant Keith at Wesel, containing simply the words “Sauvez vous; tout est decouvert” (Save yourself; all is found out). Keith received the letter but an hour or so before a colonel of gens d’armes arrived to arrest him. Seckendorf had an interview with the king, and seems to have endeavored to mitigate his wrath. He assured the infuriate monarch of his son’s repentance, and of his readiness to make a full confession if his father would spare those who had been led by their sympathies to befriend him. The unrelenting father received this message very sullenly, saying that he had no faith that his son would make an honest confession, but that he would see what he had to say for himself.
“Our grand care,” said he, “will be to further the country’s well-being, and to make every one of our subjects contented and happy. If it ever chance that my particular interest and the190 general good of my country should seem to conflict, it is my wish that the latter should always be preferred.”“To the custom-house officer at Stettin. The loss of the excise dues shall fall to my score. The dress shall remain with the princess; the slaps to him who received them. As to the pretended dishonor, I entirely relieve the complainant from that. Never can the appliance of a beautiful hand dishonor the face of an officer of customs.”
As the king was about to embark upon this enterprise, it was proposed to place upon the banners the words “For God and our Country.” But Frederick struck out the words “For God,” saying that it was improper to introduce the name of the Deity into the quarrels of men, and that he was embarking in war to gain a province, not for religion.43 In a brief speech to his soldiers he said,MAP ILLUSTRATING THE MOLLWITZ CAMPAIGN.
While in health and prosperity, quaffing the wines of Frederick, he was an avowed infidel, and eagerly joined the ribald companions of the king in denouncing all religion as the fanaticism of weak minds. But in these hours of pain, of loneliness, and of approaching death he could find no consolation in the teachings of philosophy. He sent for two Christian ministers to visit497 him daily, and daily had the Bible read to him. It was a death-bed repentance. Bitterly he deplored a wasted life. Sincerely he seemed to embrace the doctrines of Christianity.143 He died, after a lingering sickness, far from home and friends, on the 27th of July, 1759.
The king could be very courteous. He gave a dinner-party, at which General Loudon, one of the most efficient of the Austrian generals, and who had often been successfully opposed to Frederick, was a guest. As he entered the king said,“Very well,” said the king, impatiently; “let us see, then, what there is more.”“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.”
As this report was made to the king, he exclaimed, angrily, “Let him lie in ward, then, and await the doom which the laws adjudge to him. He is my colonel. He has attempted to desert. He has endeavored to induce others to desert with him. The law speaks plainly enough as to the penalty for such crimes.”
THE RETREAT OF THE AUSTRIANS.“The French have seized upon Friesland, and are about to pass the Weser. They have instigated the Swedes to declare war against me. The Swedes are sending seventeen thousand men into Pomerania. The Russians are besieging Memel. General Schwald has them on his front and in his rear. The troops of the empire are also about to march. All this will force me to evacuate Bohemia so soon as that crowd of enemies gets into motion.Early in June, the cautious but ever-vigilant General Daun succeeded in throwing into Olmütz a re-enforcement of eleven hundred Austrian troops. They were guided by peasants through by-paths in the forests. Crossing the river some miles below Olmütz, they entered the city from the east.详情
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