The Austrian envoy expressed to his court a suspicion that Silesia might be threatened. The reply which came back was that the Austrian court would not, and could not, believe that a prince who was under such obligations to the father of Maria Theresa, and who had made such loud professions of integrity and philanthropy, could be guilty of such an outrage.
“Frederick was in very weak health in these months; still considered by the gazetteers to be dying. But it appears he is not yet too weak for taking, on the instant necessary, a world-important resolution; and of being on the road with it, to this issue or to that, at full speed before the day closed. ‘Desist, good neighbor, I beseech you. You must desist, and even you shall:’ this resolution was entirely his own, as were the equally prompt arrangements he contrived for executing it, should hard come to hard, and Austria prefer war to doing justice.”191Four campaigns of the Seven Years’ War have passed. We are now entering upon the fifth, that of 1760. The latter part501 of April Frederick broke up his encampment at Freiberg, and moved his troops about twenty miles north of Dresden. Here he formed a new encampment, facing the south. His left wing was at Meissen, resting on the Elbe. His right wing was at the little village of Katzenh?user, about ten miles to the southwest. Frederick established his head-quarters at Schlettau, midway of his lines. The position thus selected was, in a military point of view, deemed admirable. General Daun remained in Dresden “astride” the Elbe. Half of his forces were on one side and half on the other of the river.
Instantly the Prussian troops were ordered to the right about. Rapidly retracing their steps through the streets of Leipe, much to the surprise of its inhabitants, they pressed on seven miles farther toward Ohlau, and encamped for the night. The anxiety of Frederick in these hours when he was retiring before the foe, and when there was every probability of his incurring disgrace instead of gaining honor, must have been dreadful. There was no sleep for him that night. The Prussians were almost surrounded by the Austrians, and it was quite certain that the morrow would usher in a battle. Oppressed by the peril of his position, the king, during the night, wrote to his brother Augustus252 William, who was at Breslau, as follows. The letter was dated at the little village of Pogerell, where the king had taken shelter.
“The sword and death have made frightful ravages among us. And the worst is that we are not yet at the end of the tragedy. You may judge what effect these cruel shocks make on me. I wrap myself in my stoicism the best I can. Flesh and blood revolt against such tyrannous command, but it must be followed. If you saw me you would scarcely know me again. I am old, broken, gray-headed, wrinkled. I am losing my teeth and my gayety. If this go on, there will be nothing of me left but the mania of making verses, and an inviolable attachment to my duties, and to the few virtuous men whom I know.”
The plan of his Prussian majesty was bold and sagacious. He supposed that he could easily take Olmütz. Availing himself of the vast magazines to be found there, he would summon450 his brother Henry to join him by a rapid march through Bohemia, and with their combined force of sixty thousand troops they would make a rush upon Vienna. The Austrian capital was distant but about one hundred miles, directly south. As the Austrian army was widely dispersed, there were but few impediments to be encountered. The success of this plan would compel the allies to withdraw their forces from the territories of the King of Prussia, if it did not enable Frederick to dictate peace in the palaces of Maria Theresa.On the 18th of January, 1742, Frederick visited Dresden, to confer with Augustus III., King of Poland, who was also Elector of Saxony, and whose realms were to be increased by the annexation of Moravia. His Polish majesty was a weak man, entirely devoted to pleasure. His irresolute mind, subjected to the dominant energies of the Prussian king, was as clay in the hands of the potter.
But Frederick did not seem to think himself at all bound by his treaty obligations with France to refrain from entering into secret arrangements with the foe which would promote his interests, however antagonistic those arrangements might be to his assumed obligations. He was the ally of France in the attempt to wrest territory from the young Queen of Austria, and to weaken her power. His armies and those of France were acting in co-operation. Frederick now proposed to the common enemy that, if Silesia were surrendered to him, he would no longer act in co-operation with his ally; but, that France might not discover his perfidy, he would still pretend to make war. The Austrians were to amuse themselves in defending Neisse from a sham siege until the pleasant weeks of autumn were gone, and then they were to march, with all their guns and ammunition, south to Vienna, there to fight the French. Frederick, still assuming that he was the ally of France, was to avail himself of the excuse that the season of ice and snow was at hand, and withdraw into winter quarters. Such, in general, were the terms which Frederick authorized his minister, Goltz, to propose to Lord Hyndford, as the agent of England and Austria.“But he interrupted me hastily with the word, ‘Nothing more of kings, sir—nothing more. What have we to do with them? We will spend the rest of our voyage on more agreeable and cheering objects.’ And now he spoke of the best of all possible worlds, and maintained that in our planet, earth, there was more evil than good. I maintained the contrary, and this discussion brought us to the end of the voyage.
“I was conducted into his majesty’s apartment, where there was nothing but the bare walls. I perceived in a closet, lit by a single wax candle, a small bed, two feet and a half wide, on204 which lay a little man wrapped up in a cloak of coarse blue cloth. It was the king, who perspired and shivered, under a miserable coverlet, in a violent access of fever. I made my bow, and began the acquaintance by feeling his pulse, as if I had been his first physician. When the fit was passed he dressed himself and came to supper. Algarotti, Keyserling, Maupertuis, and the king’s embassador to the States General made up the party. We talked learnedly respecting the immortality of the soul, liberty, and the Androgynes of Plato, and other small topics of that nature.”Just at the break of day of Thursday morning, September 30, as the king was in his tent, busy with his generals, examining maps in preparation for the immediate resumption of the march, an orderly came, in breathless haste, to inform the king that the Austrians were advancing rapidly upon him, and in great force. While he was yet speaking another messenger arrived, confirming the tidings, and stating that, apparently, the whole Austrian army, in battle array, was coming down upon him.DORIS RITTER’S PUNISHMENT.
FREDERICK AND LINSENBARTH.59 While the king was thus suffering the pangs of the gout, his irascibility vented itself upon his wife and children. “We were obliged,” says Wilhelmina, “to appear at nine o’clock in the morning in his room. We dined there, and did not dare to leave it even for a moment. Every day was passed by the king in invectives against my brother and myself. He no longer called me any thing but ‘the English blackguard.’ My brother was named the ‘rascal Fritz.’ He obliged us to eat and drink the things for which we had an aversion. Every day was marked by some sinister event. It was impossible to raise one’s eyes without seeing some unhappy people tormented in one way or other. The king’s restlessness did not allow him to remain in bed. He had himself placed in a chair on rollers, and was thus dragged all over the palace. His two arms rested upon crutches, which supported them. We always followed this triumphal car, like unhappy captives who are about to undergo their sentence.”详情
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