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“The more you have proved that you were acquainted with452 the intentions of Saxony, the more odious have you rendered its invasion. In order to procure this knowledge, your minister has degraded his character. By means proscribed in society, you have discovered only that the King Elector of Saxony did not love the power of Prussia, that he feared it, and that he even dared to form projects to defend himself against it. Documents which are stolen make against the accuser who produces them, if they do not prove the crime which they impute.”116

CHAPTER XI. DIPLOMATIC INTRIGUES.Who can imagine the conflicting emotions of joy and wretchedness, of triumph and shame, of relief and chagrin, with which the heart of Frederick must have been rent! The army of Prussia had triumphed, under the leadership of his generals, while he, its young and ambitious sovereign, who had unjustly provoked260 war that he might obtain military glory, a fugitive from the field, was scampering like a coward over the plains at midnight, seeking his own safety. Never, perhaps, was there a more signal instance of a retributive providence. Frederick knew full well that the derision of Europe would be excited by caricatures and lampoons of the chivalric fugitive. Nor was he deceived in his anticipations. There was no end to the ridicule which was heaped upon Frederick, galloping, for dear life, from the battle-field in one direction, while his solid columns were advancing to victory in the other. His sarcastic foes were ungenerous and unjust. But when do foes, wielding the weapons of ridicule, ever pretend even to be just and generous?

Frederick, with grim humor characteristic of him, sent back the courier with the following response, as if from the Russian general, signed Fermor, but in the king’s handwriting:

On Monday, the 22d of August, the great review commenced near Strehlen. It lasted four days. All the country mansions around were filled with strangers who had come to witness the spectacle.

About the middle of October Wilhelmina came to Berlin to see her brothers again. Nine years had passed since her marriage, and seven since her last sad visit to the home of her childhood, in which inauspicious visit the wretchedness of her early years had been renewed by the cruelty of her reception. In211 Wilhelmina’s journal we find the following allusion to this her second return to Berlin:

“It is impossible,” writes Lord Dover, “not to perceive that the real reason of his conduct was his enmity to his son, and that the crime of the poor girl was the having assisted in making the son’s existence more supportable. The intention of Frederick William apparently being that the infliction of so infamous a punishment in so public a manner should prevent the possibility of Frederick’s ever seeing her again.”14Voltaire and the Jew.—Letter from Frederick to D’Arget.—Letter to Wilhelmina.—Caustic Letters to Voltaire.—Partial Reconciliation.—Frederick’s brilliant Conversational Powers.—His Neglect of his Wife.—All Females excluded from his Court.—Maupertuis and the Academy.—Voltaire’s Malignity.—Frederick’s Anger.—Correspondence between Voltaire and Maupertuis.—Menaces of War.—Catt and the King.

“I have called you together, not to ask your advice, but to inform you that to-morrow I shall attack Marshal Daun. I am aware that he occupies a strong position, but it is one from which he can not escape. If I beat him, all his army must be taken prisoners or drowned in the Elbe. If we are beaten, we must all perish. This war is become tedious. You must all find it so. We will, if we can, finish it to-morrow. General Ziethen, I confide to you the right wing of the army. Your object must be, in marching straight to Torgau, to cut off the retreat of the Austrians when I shall have beaten them, and driven them from the heights of Siptitz.Wusterhausen, where the young Crown Prince spent many of these early years of his life, was a rural retreat of the king about twenty miles southeast from Berlin. The palace consisted of a plain, unornamented, rectangular pile, surrounded by numerous outbuildings, and rising from the midst of low and swampy grounds tangled with thickets and interspersed with fish-pools. Game of all kinds abounded in those lakelets, sluggish streams, and jungles.

401The king then hastened on to Schweidnitz, a few miles west from Breslau. This was a small town, strongly fortified, about equally distant from the three beleaguered fortresses—Neisse, Brieg, and Glogau. The young monarch was daily becoming more aware that he had embarked in an enterprise which threatened him with fearful peril. He had not only failed to secure a single ally, but there were indications that England and other powers were in secret deliberation to join against him. He soon learned that England had sent a gift or loan of a million of dollars—a large sum in those days—to replenish the exhausted treasury of Maria Theresa. His minister in Russia also transmitted to him an appalling rumor that a project was in contemplation by the King of England, the King of Poland, Anne, regent of Russia, and Maria Theresa, to unite, and so partition the Prussian kingdom as to render the ambitious Frederick powerless to disturb the peace of Europe. The general motives which239 influenced the great monarchies in the stupendous war which was soon evolved are sufficiently manifest. But these motives led to a complication of intrigues which it would be alike tedious and unprofitable to attempt to unravel.

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209 The poor old bishop called loudly upon the Emperor of Germany for help. The territory of the Bishop of Liege was under the protection of the empire. The Emperor Charles VI. immediately issued a decree ordering Frederick to withdraw his troops, to restore the money which he had extorted, and to settle the question by arbitration, or by an appeal to the laws of the empire. This was the last decree issued by Charles VI. Two weeks after he died.“Adieu; go and amuse yourself with Horace, study Pausanias, and be gay over Anacreon. As to me, who for amusement have nothing but merlons, fascines, and gabions, I pray God to grant me soon a pleasanter and peacefuler occupation, and you health, satisfaction, and whatever your heart desires.”

“I observed that the king took a pinch of snuff as the sound of each discharge reached him. And even through that air of intrepidity, which never abandoned this prince, I could perceive the sensations of pity toward that unfortunate town, and an eager impatience to fly to its relief.”Voltaire, in summing up a sketch of this campaign of 1757, writes in characteristic phrase:

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