Frederick, ever regardless of fatigue and exposure for himself, never spared his followers. It was after midnight of the 28th when the weary column, frostbitten, hungry, and exhausted, reached Olmütz. The king was hospitably entertained in the fine palace of the Catholic bishop, “a little, gouty man,” writes Stille, “about fifty-two years of age, with a countenance open and full of candor.”
This lasted till nightfall. As darkness veiled the awful scene the exhausted soldiers dropped upon the ground, and, regardless of the dead and of the groans of the wounded, borne heavily upon the night air, slept almost side by side. It is appalling to reflect upon what a fiend to humanity man has been, as revealed in the history of the nations. All the woes of earth combined are as nothing compared with the misery which man has inflicted upon his brother.Fortunately for the young man’s mother, she was in her grave. His father was at that time commandant of K?nigsberg, in high favor with the king. His illustrious grandfather on his mother’s side, Field-marshal Wartensleben, was still living. For half106 a century he had worthily occupied the most eminent posts of honor. The tears, the agonizing entreaties of these friends were not of the slightest avail. The king’s heart was as impervious to appeals for mercy as are the cliffs of Sinai.
At this time the whole disposable force of his Prussian majesty did not exceed eighty thousand men. There were marching against him combined armies of not less, in the aggregate, than four hundred thousand. A part of the Prussian army, about thirty thousand strong, under the king’s eldest brother, Augustus William, Prince of Prussia, was sent north, especially to protect Zittau, a very fine town of about ten thousand inhabitants, where Frederick had gathered his chief magazines. Prince Charles, with seventy thousand Austrians, pursued this division. He outgeneraled the Prince of Prussia, drove him into wild country roads, took many prisoners, captured important fortresses, and, opening a fire of red-hot shot upon Zittau, laid the whole place, with its magazines, in ashes. The Prince of422 Prussia, who witnessed the conflagration which he could not prevent, retreated precipitately toward Lobau, and thence to Bautzen, with his army in a deplorable condition of exhaustion and destitution.
“All religions must be tolerated, and the king’s solicitor must have an eye that none of them make unjust encroachments on the other; for in this country every man must get to heaven his own way.”In the mean time a Venetian embassador, on his way to one of the northern courts, passed a night at a hotel in Berlin. He was immediately arrested, with his luggage, by a royal order. A dispatch was transmitted to Venice, stating that the embassador would be held as a hostage till Barberina was sent to Prussia. “A bargain,” says Frederick, in his emphatic utterance, “is a bargain. A state should have law courts to enforce contracts entered into in their territories.”
Voltaire was, at this time, about forty years of age. His renown as a man of genius already filled Europe. He was residing,173 on terms of the closest intimacy, with Madame Du Chatelet, who had separated from her husband. With congenial tastes and ample wealth they occupied the chateau of Cirey, delightfully situated in a quiet valley in Champagne, and which they had rendered, as Madame testifies, a perfect Eden on earth. It is not always, in the divine government, that sentence against an evil work is “executed speedily.” Madame Du Chatelet, renowned in the writings of Voltaire as the “divine Emilie,” was graceful, beautiful, fascinating. Her conversational powers were remarkable, and she had written several treatises upon subjects connected with the pure sciences, which had given her much deserved celebrity.FREDERICK AND HIS DOGS.Sunday, July 6th, was a day of terrible heat. At three o’clock in the morning the Prussian troops were again in motion. There was not a breath of wind. The blazing sun grew hotter and hotter. There was no shade. The soldiers were perishing of thirst. Still the command was “onward,” “onward.” In that day’s march one hundred and five Prussian soldiers dropped dead in their tracks.
The position of the Austrians on the heights of Siptitz, an eminence which rose two hundred feet above the bed of the river, seemed impregnable. Sixty-five thousand Austrians stood512 upon those heights, protected by earth-works and a formidable abatis. They had four hundred guns in battery, a larger number than had ever before been brought upon a battle-field. To attack then and there was an act of desperation. On the evening of the 2d the king assembled his generals and said to them,
Wilhelmina was appalled in view of the difficulty and danger of the enterprise. It was a long distance from Dresden to the coast. Head winds might detain the vessel. The suspicious king would not long remain ignorant that he was missing. He would be pursued with energy almost demoniac. Being captured,80 no one could tell how fearful would be his doom. The sagacious sister was right. Fritz could not but perceive the strength of her arguments, and gave her his word of honor that he would not attempt, on the present occasion, to effect his flight. Fritz accordingly went to Dresden with his father, and returned.“Your majesty,” Sir Thomas rejoined, “by a little engineering art, could render Limburg impregnable to the French or any others.”
On the 1st of July, the day before the king heard of his mother’s death, he wrote to Wilhelmina, in reply to a letter from her which expressed great anxiety on his account:Maria Theresa, anxious to save Prague, sent an army of sixty thousand men under General Daun to its relief. This army, on the rapid march, had reached Kolin, about fifty miles east of415 Prague. Should General Daun, as was his plan, attack Frederick in the rear, while the fifty thousand in Prague should sally out and attack him in front, ruin would be almost inevitable. Frederick, gathering thirty-four thousand men, marched rapidly to Kolin and attacked the foe with the utmost possible fierceness. The Austrians not only nearly twice outnumbered him, but were also in a very commanding position, protected by earthworks. Never did men fight more reckless of life than did the Prussians upon this occasion.Frederick William was too stern a man to shed many tears over his father’s death. The old king was ostentatious in his tastes, fond of parade and splendor. The son had almost an insane contempt for all court etiquette and all the elegancies of24 life. As he stood by his father’s dying bed, his unamiable, rugged nature developed itself in the disgust, almost rage, with which he regarded the courtly pageantry with which the expiring monarch was surrounded. The remains of the king were allowed to be conveyed to the tomb with that pomp which had been dear to him while living.
“Do you think so?” inquired the king.“I was in such a state I know not how we got down stairs. I remember only that it was in a concert of lamentable sobbings. Madame, the Marchioness of Schwedt, who had been named to attend the princess to Stralsund, on the Swedish frontier, this high lady, and the two dames D’Atours, who were for Sweden itself, having sprung into the same carriage, the door of it was shut with a slam, the postillions cracked, the carriage shot away, and disappeared from our eyes. In a moment the king and court lost sight of the beloved Ulrique forever.”73
The King patronizes literary and scientific Men.—Anecdotes.—The Family Quarrel.—Birth of Frederick William III.—Rapid Recuperation of Prussia.—The King’s Tour of Observation.—Desolate Aspect of the Country.—Absolutism of Frederick.—Interview between Frederick and D’Alembert.—Unpopularity of Frederick.—Death of the King of Poland.—Plans for the Partition of Poland.—Intrigues of Catharine.—Interview between Frederick and the Emperor Joseph.—Poland seized by Russia, Prussia, and Austria.—The Division of the Spoil.—Remorse of Maria Theresa.—Indifference of Frederick to public Opinion.详情
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