THE KING AND HIS SERVANT.
“My dear Papa,—I have not, for a long while, presumed to come near my dear papa, partly because he forbade me, but chiefly because I had reason to expect a still worse reception than usual; and for fear of angering my dear papa by my present request, I have preferred making it in writing to him.
How soon Henry learned that he had been conversing with the King of Prussia we do not know. It is evident that Frederick was pleased with the interview. He soon after invited Henry de Catt to his court, and appointed him reader to the king. In this capacity he served his Prussian majesty for about twenty years. He left a note-book in the royal archives of Berlin from which the above extracts are taken.Frederick.”Lieutenant Chasot, another of his friends, was a French officer who had killed a brother officer in a duel at Philipsburg, and, in consequence, had fled to the Prussian lines. He had brightness of intellect and winning manners, which rendered him a universal favorite. Captain Knobelsdorf was a distinguished musician and architect. He rendered signal service in enlarging and decorating the chateau at Reinsberg. Baron De Suhm, with whom Frederick kept up a constant correspondence, was then in Saxony, translating for the Crown Prince the philosophy of Wolff. He sent the prince chapter by chapter, with copious notes.
It was an outrage to which Frederick was not disposed to submit. He entered his remonstrances. The question was referred to the British Court of Admiralty. Month after month the decision was delayed. Frederick lost all patience. English capitalists held Silesian bonds to the amount of about one million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.It was Saturday, the 8th of April. A blinding, smothering storm of snow swept over the bleak plains. Breasting the gale, and wading through the drifts, the Prussian troops tramped along, unable to see scarcely a rod before them. At a little hamlet called Leipe the vanguard encountered a band of Austrian251 hussars. They took several captives. From them they learned, much to their chagrin and not a little to their alarm, that the Austrian army was already in possession of Grottkau.“As I could not get into the cabin, because it was all engaged, I staid with the other passengers in the steerage, and the weather being fine, came upon deck. After some time there stepped out of the cabin a man in cinnamon-colored coat with gold buttons; in black wig; face and coat considerably dusted with Spanish snuff. He looked at me fixedly for a while, and then said, without farther preface, ‘Who are you, sir?’ This cavalier tone from an unknown person, whose exterior indicated nothing very important, did not please me, and I declined satisfying his curiosity. He was silent. But some time after he assumed a more courteous tone, and said, ‘Come in here to me, sir. You will be better here than in the steerage amidst the tobacco-smoke.’
In the court-yard there was a fountain with stone steps, where Frederick William loved to sit on summer evenings and smoke his pipe. He frequently took his frugal dinner here in the open air under a lime-tree, with the additional protection of an awning. After dinner he would throw himself down for a nap on a wooden bench, apparently regardless of the flaming sun.He could not but respect his wife. Her character was beyond all possible reproach. She never uttered a complaint, was cheerful and faithful in every duty. She had rooms assigned her on the second floor of the Berlin palace, where she was comfortably390 lodged and fed, and had modest receptions every Thursday, which were always closed at nine o’clock. A gentleman writes from Berlin at this time:
Frederick, being constrained by the approach of General Daun to raise the siege of Dresden, retired to his intrenched camp at Schlettau. Leaving fifteen thousand men to guard the camp, he, on the 1st of August, before the dawn, crossed the Elbe, and was again on the rapid march toward Silesia. His army consisted of thirty thousand men, and was accompanied by two thousand heavy baggage-wagons. In five days the king marched over one hundred miles, crossing five rivers. Armies of the allies, amounting504 to one hundred and seventy-five thousand Austrians and Russians, were around him—some in front, some in his rear, some on his flanks.150Delighted with this plan, and sanguine in the hope of its successful accomplishment, the czarina named her next grandson Constantine. Austria and Russia thus became allied, with all their sympathies hostile to Frederick. Old age and infirmities were stealing upon the king apace. Among the well-authenticated561 anecdotes related of him, the following is given by Carlyle:Frederick declares, in his history, that never were tidings more welcome to him than these. He had embarked in the enterprise for the conquest of Moravia with the allies. He could not, without humiliation, withdraw. But, now that the ally, in whose behalf he assumed to be fighting, had abandoned him, he could, without dishonor, relinquish the field. Leaving the Saxons to themselves, with many bitter words of reproach, he countermanded his order for Silesian re-enforcements, assembled his troops at Wischau, and then, by a rapid march through Olmütz, returned to his strong fortresses in the north.
The last letter which it is supposed that he wrote was the following cold epistle to his excellent wife, whom, through a long life, he had treated with such cruel neglect:“I will not go into the praises of King Frederick, now my host. I will merely send you two traits of him, which will indicate his way of thinking and feeling. When I spoke to him of the glory which he had acquired, he answered, with the greatest simplicity,The king was a very busy man. In addition to carrying on quite an extensive literary correspondence, he was vigorously engaged in writing his memoirs. He was also with great energy developing the wealth of his realms. In the exercise of absolute power, his government was entirely personal. He had no constitution to restrain him. Under his single control were concentrated all legislative, judicial, and executive powers. There was no senate or legislative corps to co-operate in framing laws. His ministers were merely servants to do his bidding. The courts had no powers whatever but such as he intrusted to them. He could at any time reverse their decrees, and flog the judges with his cane, or hang them.
General Neipperg was not attempting to move in the deep snow. He, however, sent out a reconnoitring party of mounted hussars under General Rothenburg. About two miles from Mollwitz this party encountered the advance-guard of the Prussians. The hussars, after a momentary conflict, in which several fell, retreated and gave the alarm. General Neipperg was just sitting down to dinner. The Prussian advance waited for the rear columns to come up, and then deployed into line. As the Austrian hussars dashed into the village of Mollwitz with the announcement that the Prussians were on the march, had attacked them, and killed forty of their number, General Neipperg dropped knife and fork, sprang from the table, and dispatched couriers in all directions, galloping for life, to concentrate his troops. His force was mainly distributed about in three villages, two or three miles apart. The clangor of trumpets and drums resounded; and by the greatest exertions the Austrian troops were collected from their scattered encampments, and formed in two parallel lines, about two miles in length, facing the Prussians, who were slowly advancing in the same order, wading through the snow. Each army was formed with the infantry in the centre and the cavalry on the wings. Frederick was then but an inexperienced soldier. He subsequently condemned the want of military ability which he displayed upon this occasion.详情
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