“To form an idea,” he writes, “of the general subversion, and how great were the desolation and discouragement, you must represent to yourself countries entirely ravaged, the very traces of the old habitations hardly discoverable. Of the towns some were ruined from top to bottom; others half destroyed by fire. Of thirteen thousand houses the very vestiges were gone. There was no field in seed, no grain for the food of the inhabitants. Sixty thousand horses were needed if there were to be plowing carried on. In the provinces generally there were half a million population less than in 1756; that is to say, upon four millions and a half the ninth man was wanting. Noble and peasant had been pillaged, ransomed, foraged, eaten out by so many different armies; nothing now left them but life and miserable rags.
On the 8th of September Fritz returned to Potsdam from this his first military expedition, with his regiment of giants. He was then seventeen years of age. His soldierly bearing had quite rejoiced the king, and he began to think that, after all, possibly something might be made of Fritz.
About this time Frederick was somewhat alarmed by a statement issued by the court of Austria, that the emperor, Charles Albert, was no legitimate emperor at all; that the election was not valid; and that Austria, which had the emperor’s kingdom of Bavaria by the throat, insisted upon compensation for the Silesia she had lost. It was evident that Maria Theresa, whose armies were every where successful, was determined that her husband, Duke Francis, should be decorated with the imperial crown. It now seemed probable that she would be able to accomplish her design. Frederick was alarmed, and deemed it necessary to strengthen himself by matrimonial alliances.ASSASSINATION OF PETER III.
“Very well,” said the king, impatiently; “let us see, then, what there is more.”
There still remained to Frederick twenty-three years of life. He now engaged very vigorously in the endeavor to repair the terrible ravages of war by encouraging agriculture, commerce, and all useful arts. He invited the distinguished French philosophers Helvetius and D’Alembert to visit his court, and endeavored, though unavailingly, to induce them to take up their residence in Berlin. They were both in sympathy with the king in their renunciation of Christianity.
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.”
Catharine was at this time engaged vigorously in a war with the Turks. Frederick, by his treaty with the czarina, was compelled to assist her. This ambitious woman, endowed with extraordinary powers, was pushing her conquests toward Constantinople, having formed the resolve to annex that imperial city to the empire, and thus to open through the Straits of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles new avenues for Russian commerce.The Marquis D’Argens, another of Frederick’s infidel companions, one whom Voltaire described as “the most frank atheist in Europe,” after a very ignoble life of sin and shame, having quarreled with the king, found himself aged, poor, friendless, and infirm. He then, experiencing need of different support from any which infidelity could give, became penitent and prayerful. Renouncing his unbelief, he became an openly avowed disciple of Jesus.99
“And then, grumbling and blaming, would alter the camp till it was all out of rule, and then say,
212 Frederick invited his sister to visit him at Reinsberg, to which place either business or pleasure immediately called him. After the lapse of two days, Wilhelmina, with the neglected Queen Elizabeth, repaired to the enchanting chateau, hoping to find, amid its rural scenes, that enjoyment which she never yet had been able to find in the sombre halls of the Berlin palace. Here quite a gay company was assembled. Frederick was very laboriously occupied during the day in affairs of state. But in the evening he appeared in the social circles, attracting the attention of all by his conversational brilliance, and by the apparent heartiness with which he entered into the amusements of the court. He took an active part in some private theatricals, and none were aware of the profound schemes of ambition which, cloaked by this external gayety, were engrossing his thoughts.Frederick had hardly reached Berlin ere he was astonished to learn, from dispatches from the Old Dessauer, that the Austrians, not content with driving him out of Bohemia, had actually invaded Silesia. Amazed, or affecting amazement, at such audacity, he sent reiterated and impatient orders to his veteran general to fall immediately upon the insolent foe and crush him.详情
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