“I suffer a thousand times more than I can tell you. Nevertheless, hope does not abandon me. I am obliged to finish. But I shall never cease to be, with the most profound respect, your
“Grant that with zeal and skill, this day, I do What me to do behooves, what Thou command’st me to; Grant that I do it sharp, at point of moment fit, And when I do it, grant me good success in it.”113
We have now reached the summer of 1729. George II. was a weak-minded, though a proud, conceited man, who, as King of England, assumed airs of superiority which greatly annoyed his irascible and petulant brother-in-law, Frederick William. Flushed with his new dignity, he visited his hereditary domain of Hanover. The journey led him through a portion of the Prussian territory. Courtesy required that George II. should announce that intention to the Prussian king. Courtesy also required that, as the British monarch passed over Prussian soil, Frederick William should furnish him with free post-horses. “I will furnish the post-horses,” said Frederick William, “if the king apprise me of his intention. If he do not, I shall do nothing about it.” George did not write. In affected unconsciousness that there was any such person in the world as the Prussian king, he crossed the Prussian territory, paid for his own post-horses, and did not even condescend to give Frederick William any notice of his arrival in Hanover. The King of Prussia, who could not but be conscious of the vast inferiority of Prussia to England, stung to the quick by this contemptuous treatment, growled ferociously in the Tobacco Parliament.Frederick, having carefully scanned the Austrian lines for an instant or two, gave the signal, and all his batteries opened their thunders. Under cover of that storm of iron, several thousand of the cavalry, led by the veteran General Bredow, deployed from behind some eminences, and first at a gentle trot, and then upon the most impetuous run, with flashing sabres, hurled themselves upon the left wing of the Austrian lines. The ground was dry and sandy, and a prodigious cloud of dust enveloped them. For a moment the tornado, vital with human energies, swept on, apparently unobstructed. The first line of the Austrian horse was met, crushed, annihilated. But the second stood as the rock breasts the waves, horse against horse, rider against rider, sabre against sabre. Nothing met the eye but one vast eddying whirlpool of dust, as if writhing in volcanic energies, while here and there the flash of fire and the gleam of steel flickered madly through it.His energy inspired the whole kingdom, and paved the way25 for the achievements of his son. The father created the machine with which the son attained such wonderful results. He commuted the old feudal service into a fixed money payment. He goaded the whole realm into industry, compelling even the apple-women to knit at the stalls. The crown lands were carefully farmed out. He drained bogs, planted colonies, established manufactures, and in every way encouraged the use of Prussian products. He carried with him invariably a stout rattan cane. Upon the slightest provocation, like a madman, he would thrash those who displeased him. He was thoroughly an arbitrary king, ruling at his sovereign will, and disposing of the liberty, the property, and the lives of his subjects at his pleasure. Every year he was accumulating large masses of coin, which he deposited in barrels in the cellar of his palace. He had no powers of graceful speech, but spent his energetic, joyless life in grumbling and growling.
Frederick published his manifesto on the 10th of August, 1744. Early in the morning of the 15th he set out from Potsdam upon this new military expedition. His two eldest brothers, Augustus William, Prince of Prussia, and Prince Henry, accompanied him. The army entered Bohemia in three columns, whose concentrated force amounted to nearly one hundred thousand men. Frederick in person led the first column, the old331 Prince Leopold the second, and Marshal Schwerin the third. Marching by different routes, they swept all opposition before them. On the 4th of September the combined army appeared before the walls of Prague. Here, as in every act of Frederick’s life, his marvelous energy was conspicuous.355 “War is cruelty,” said General Sherman; “and you can not refine it.” “No man of refined Christian sensibilities,” said the Duke of Wellington, “should undertake the profession of a soldier.” The exigencies of war often require things to be done from which humanity revolts. “War,” said Napoleon I., “is the science of barbarians.” One of the principal objects of Frederick in this pursuit of the Austrians through Bohemia was to lay waste the country so utterly, destroying its roads and consuming its provisions, that no Austrian army could again pass through it for the invasion of Silesia. Who can imagine the amount of woe thus inflicted upon the innocent peasants of Bohemia? Both armies were reduced to the necessity of living mainly upon the resources of the country in which they were encamped. Their foraging parties were scattered in all directions. There were frequent attacks of outposts and bloody skirmishes, in which many were slain and many were crippled for life. Each death, each wound, sent tears, and often life-long woe, to some humble cottage.While these scenes of war and intrigue were transpiring, no one knowing what alarming developments any day might present, Vienna was thrown into a state of terror in apprehension of the immediate approach of a French army to open upon it all the horrors of a bombardment. The citizens were called out en masse to work upon the fortifications. The court fled to Presburg, in Hungary. The national archives were hurried off to Gr?tz. The royal family was dispersed. There were but six thousand troops in the city. General Neipperg, with nearly the whole Austrian army, was a hundred and fifty miles distant to the north, on the banks of the Neisse. The queen, on the 10th of September, assembled at Presburg the Hungarian Parliament, consisting almost exclusively of chivalric nobles renowned in war. The queen appeared before them with her husband, the Grand-duke Francis, by her side, and with a nurse attending, holding her infant son and heir. Addressing them in Latin, in a brief, pathetic speech, she said:
“Raising his eyes,” says Archenholtz, “he surveyed, with speechless emotion, the small remnant of his life-guard of foot, his favorite battalion. It was one thousand strong yesterday morning, hardly four hundred now. All the soldiers of this chosen battalion were personally known to him—their names, their age, their native place, their history. In one day death had mowed them down. They had fought like heroes, and it418 was for him they had died. His eyes were visibly wet. Down his face rolled silent tears.”In the presence of monarchs, of lords and ladies, of the highest dignitaries of Europe, the young heir apparent to the throne of Prussia, beautiful in person, high-spirited, and of superior genius, was treated by his father with studied contumely and insult. Every thing was done to expose him to contempt. He even openly flogged the prince with his rattan. It would seem that the father availed himself of this opportunity so to torture the sensibilities of his son as to drive him to suicide. Professor Ranke writes:“My dear Sister,—Here I am, within six leagues of a sister I love, and I have to decide that it will be impossible to see her after all. I have never so lamented the misfortune of not depending on myself as at this moment. The king being very sour sweet on my score, I dare not risk the least thing. A week from next Monday, when he arrives himself, I should be queerly treated in the camp if I were found to have disobeyed orders.
“My friends, the disasters which have befallen us here are not unknown to you. Schweidnitz is lost. The Prince of Bevern is beaten. Breslau is gone, and all our war-stores there. A large part of Silesia is lost. Indeed, my embarrassments would be insuperable were it not that I have boundless trust in you. There is hardly one among you who has not distinguished himself by some memorable action. All these services I well know, and shall never forget.“When I am dead,” he said, petulantly, “you will see Berlin full of madmen and freethinkers, and the sort of people who walk about the streets.
He rose about five o’clock. After a horseback ride of an hour he devoted the mornings to his books. The remainder of the day was given to society, music, and recreation. The following extract from his correspondence throws additional light upon the employment of his time. The letter was addressed to an intimate friend, Baron Von Suhm, of Saxony:On another occasion, an Austrian gentleman, M. Von Bentenrieder, who was exceedingly tall, was journeying from Vienna to Berlin as the embassador from the Emperor Charles VI. to the Congress of Cambrai. When near Halberstadt some part of his carriage broke. While the smith was repairing it, M. Bentenrieder walked on. He passed a Prussian guard-house, alone, in plain clothes, on foot, an immensely tall, well-formed man. It was too rich a prize to be lost. The officials seized him, and hurried him into the guard-house. But soon his carriage came along with his suite. He was obsequiously hailed as “Your Excellency.” The recruiting officers of Frederick William, mortified and chagrined, with many apologies released the embassador of the emperor.The next Sunday, June 3d, the betrothal took place with great magnificence. The ceremony was attended by a large concourse of distinguished guests. Lord Dover says that the very evening of the day of the betrothing a courier arrived from England with dispatches announcing that the English court had yielded to all the stipulations demanded by the King of Prussia in reference to the marriage of Wilhelmina to the Prince of Wales. It was now too late to retract. Probably both the king and Wilhelmina were gratified in being able to decline the offer. But the chagrin of the queen was terrible. She fell into a violent fever, and came near dying, reproaching her daughter with having killed her.
549 Frederick had cultivated a supreme indifference to public opinion. Not believing in any God, in any future retribution, or in any immortality, and regarding men merely as the insects of an hour, like the myriad polyps which, beneath the ocean, rear their stupendous structures and perish, his sense of right and wrong must necessarily have been very different from that which a believer in the Christian faith is accustomed to cherish. In allusion to this subject, he writes:“Shall we order that to cease, your majesty?”
“Some countries take six months, some twelve, to get in motion for war. But in three weeks Prussia can be across the frontiers and upon the throats of its enemy. Some countries have a longer sword than Prussia, but none can unsheath it so soon.”详情
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