In the ranks all of the army were equally entitled to distinction. Promotion was conferred upon merit, not upon the accident of birth. This principle, which was entirely ignored in the other European despotisms, probably contributed to the success of Frederick’s armies. A Hanoverian count wrote to him, soliciting a high position in the army for his son, in favor of his exalted birth. Frederick dictated the following reply:“Gentlemen, gentlemen, it is of no use to think about it.”
Establishment of the Berlin Academy of Sciences.—Religious Toleration.—A Free Press.—Sternness of the young King.—Domestic Habits of the King.—Provision for the Queen-mother.—Absolutism of the King.—Journey to Strasbourg.—First Interview with Voltaire.The marshal glanced his eye over the document, and retired, overwhelmed with confusion. Thus ended the alliance between Prussia and France. “Each party,” writes Frederick, “wished to be more cunning than the other.”69Rambonet presented the peremptory missive, and waited forty-eight hours for the answer. He then returned to Wesel without any satisfactory reply. Frederick immediately issued a manifesto, declaring the reasons for his action, and ordered two thousand men, horse and foot, who were all ready for the emergence, to advance immediately to Maaseyk, one of the principal towns of the bishop, take possession of it and of the surrounding region, quarter themselves upon the people, enforce liberal contributions, and remain there until the bishop should come to terms.34
FREDERICK AND THE BRITISH MINISTERS.
George was a taciturn, jealous, sullen old man, who quarreled with his son, who was then Prince of Wales. The other powers of Europe were decidedly opposed to this double marriage, as it would, in their view, create too intimate a union between Prussia and England, making them virtually one. Frederick William also vexatiously threw hinderances in the way. But the heart of the loving mother, Sophie Dorothee, was fixed upon these nuptials. For years she left no efforts of diplomacy or intrigue untried to accomplish her end. George I. is represented40 by Horace Walpole as a stolid, stubborn old German, living in a cloud of tobacco-smoke, and stupefying his faculties with beer. He had in some way formed a very unfavorable opinion of Wilhelmina, considering her, very falsely, ungainly in person and fretful in disposition. But at last the tact of Sophie Dorothee so far prevailed over her father, the British king, that he gave his somewhat reluctant but positive consent to the double matrimonial alliance. This was in 1723. Wilhelmina was then fourteen years of age. Fritz, but eleven years old, was too young to think very deeply upon the subject of his marriage. The young English Fred bore at that time the title of the Duke of Gloucester. He soon sent an envoy to Prussia, probably to convey to his intended bride presents and messages of love. The interview took place in the palace of Charlottenburg, a few miles out from Berlin. The vivacious Wilhelmina, in the following terms, describes the interview in her journal:
When they reached Strasbourg they provided themselves with French dresses. The king and his brother put up at different inns, that they might be less liable to suspicion. Frederick,200 with several of his party, took lodgings at the Raven Hotel. He sent the landlord out to invite several army officers to sup with a foreign gentleman, Count Dufour, from Bohemia, who was an entire stranger in the place. Some of the officers very peremptorily declined the invitation, considering it an imposition. Three, however, allured by the singularity of the summons, repaired to the inn. The assumed count received them with great courtesy, apologized for the liberty he had taken, thanked them for their kindness, and assured them that, being a stranger, he was very happy to make the acquaintance of so many brave officers, whose society he valued above that of all others.CHAPTER X. THE ACCESSION OF FREDERICK THE SECOND.
“I believe that there will, by June next, be more talk of cannon, soldiers, trenches, than of actresses and dancers for the ballet. This small event changes the entire system of Europe. It is the little stone which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, loosening itself and rolling down on the image made of four metals, which it shivers to ruin.”Frederick remained at Reitwein four days. He was very unjust to his army, and angrily reproached his soldiers for their defeat. It is true that, had every soldier possessed his own spirit, his army would have conquered, or not a man would have left the field alive. The Russians, with almost inconceivable inactivity, retired to Lossow, ten miles south of Frankfort-on-the-Oder. The king, having by great exertions collected thirty-two thousand men, marched up the valley of the Spree, and placed himself on the road between the Russians and Berlin.
The Duke of Mecklenburg had a sister, Charlotte, a bright and beautiful young girl of seventeen. Her heart was so moved by the scenes of misery which she witnessed every where around her that she ventured to write a very earnest appeal to Frederick for peace.
In the following terms, Frederick correctly sums up the incidents of the two Silesian campaigns:“Hardly,” he replied, “in that dress. Besides, your majesty has grown thinner.”详情
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