The New Protestant powers against the Catholic
powers of the Middle Age
‘the orator is vastly well provided for,’ thought Bedford
, in 1746, on the appointment of William Pitt
to a subordinate office of no political influence.
‘I assure your grace of my warmest gratitude,’ wrote Pitt
himself, in 1750, to Newcastle
, who falsely pretended to have spoken favorably of him to the king; and now, in defiance of Bedford
, and the antipathy of the king, he is become the foremost man in England
, received into the ministry as its ‘guide,’ because he alone was the choice of the people, and, by his greatness of soul and commanding eloquence, can restore the state.
On his dismissal in April, no man had the hardihood to accept his place.
A storm of indignation burst from the nation.
and to Legge
, who had also opposed the Russian
, with many other cities, voted its freedom; unexampled discontent pervaded the country.
, whose pusillanimity exceeded his vanity, dared not attempt forming a ministry; and by declining to do so, renewed
his confession that the government of Great Britain
could no longer be administered by a party, which had for its principle to fight up alike against the king and against the people.
The inebriate Granville
, the President
of the Council, would have infused his jovial intrepidity into the junto of Fox
; but Fox
himself was desponding.1 Bedford
had his scheme, which he employed Rigby
to establish; and when it proved impracticable, indulged himself in reproaches, and the display of2
anger, and withdrew to Woburn Abbey
In the midst of war, the country was left to anarchy.
‘We are undone,’ said Chesterfield; ‘at home, by our increasing expenses; abroad, by ill-luck and incapacity;’ the Elector of Hesse
, the Grand Duke
, destitute of the common honesty of hirelings, were in the market to be bid for by the enemies of their lavish employer; the King
's only ally, seemed overwhelmed, Hanover
reduced, and the French
were masters in America
So dark an hour, so gloomy a prospect, England
had not known during the century.
But the mind of Pitt
always inclined to hope.
‘I am sure,’ said he to the Duke
, ‘I can save this country, and nobody else can.’
For eleven weeks England
was without a ministry; so long was the agony; so desperate the resistance; so reluctant the surrender.
At last the king and the aristocracy were alike compelled to recognise the ascendency and yield to the guidance of the man whom the nation trusted and loved.
Made wise by experience, and relying on his own vigor of will for a
controlling influence, he formed a ministry from many
Lord Anson, Hardwicke
's son-in-law, took again the highest seat at the Board of the Admiralty
, who had children, and had wasted his fortune, accepted the place of paymaster, which the war made enormously lucrative.
had promised Halifax
a new office as third secretary of state
for the colonies.
‘I did not speak about it,’ was the duke's apology to him; ‘Pitt
looked so much out of humor, I dared not.’3
And the disappointed man railed without measure at the knavery and cowardice of Newcastle
reconciled him by leaving him his old post in the Board of Trade, with all its patronage, adding the dignity of a cabinet councillor.
, afterwards Lord Northington, became Lord Chancellor, opening the way for Sir Charles Pratt
to be made Attorney-General
, and George Grenville
of the Navy.
The illustrious statesman himself, the ablest his country had seen since Cromwell
, whom he surpassed in the grandeur and in the integrity of his ambition, being resolved on making England
the greatest nation in the world, and himself its greatest minister, took the seals of the Southern Department, with the conduct of the war in all parts of the globe.
With few personal friends, with no considerable party, and an aversion to. the exercise of patronage, he left to Newcastle
the first seat at the Treasury Board, with the disposition of bishoprics, petty offices, and contracts, and the management of ‘all the classes of venality.’5
At that day, the good will of the people was, in England
the most uncertain tenure of office; for they had no
strength in parliament; their favorite held his high position at the sufferance of the aristocracy.
‘I borrow,’ said Pitt
, ‘the Duke
's majority to carry on the public business.’6
The new ministry kissed hands early in July, 1757. ‘Sire,’ said the Secretary
, ‘give me your confidence, and I will deserve it.’
‘Deserve my confidence,’ replied the king, ‘and you shall have it;’7
and kept his word.
applauded the Great Commoner's elevation.
then just elected member of parliament, promised ‘steady support to the measures’ of ‘the ablest minister, as well as the first character, of the age.’
Bearing a message from Leicester House, ‘Thank God,’ wrote Bute
, ‘I see you in office.
If even the wreck of this crown can be preserved to our amiable young prince, it is to your abilities he must owe it. You have a soul, that, instead of sinking under adversity, will rise and grow stronger against it.’
knew himself called to the ministry neither by the king, nor by the parliament of the aristocracy, nor by Leicester House, but ‘by the voice of the people;’ and the affairs of the empire were now directed by a man who had demanded for his countrymen an uncorrupted representation, a prevailing influence in designating ministers, and ‘a supreme service’ from the king.
Assuming power, he bent all factions to his authoritative will, and made ‘a venal age unanimous.’
The energy of his mind was the spring of his eloquence.
His presence was inspiration; he himself
was greater than his speeches.
Others have uttered thoughts of beauty and passion, of patriotism and courage; none by words accomplished deeds like him. His voice resounded throughout the world, impelling the servants of the British
state to achievements of glory oil the St. Lawrence
and along the Ganges
Animated by his genius, a corporation for trade did what Rome
had not dreamed of, and a British merchant's clerk made conquests as rapidly as other men make journeys, resting his foot in permanent triumph where Alexander
Ruling with unbounded authority the millions of free minds whose native tongue was his own, with but one considerable ally on the European
continent, with no resources in America
but from the good — will of the colonies, he led forth the England which had planted popular freedom along the western shore of the Atlantic
, the England which was still the model of liberty, to encounter the whole force of the despotisms of Catholic Europe
, and defend ‘the common cause’ against what he called ‘the most powerful and malignant confederacy that ever threatened the independence of mankind.’9
The contest, which had now spread into both hemispheres, began in America
The English colonies, dragging England
into their strife, claimed to advance their frontiers, and to include the great central valley of the continent in their system.
The American question, therefore, was, Shall the continued colonization
of North America
be made under the auspices of
English Protestantism and popular liberty, or shall the tottering legitimacy of France
, in its connection with Roman Catholic Christianity, win for itself new empire in that hemisphere?
The question of the European
continent was, Shall a Protestant revolutionary kingdom, like Prussia
, be permitted to rise up and grow strong within its heart?
Considered in its unity, as interesting mankind, the question was, Shall the Reformation, developed to the fulness of Free Inquiry, succeed in its protest against the Middle Age
The war that closed in 1748 had been a mere scramble for advantages, and was sterile of results; the present conflict, which was to prove a Seven Years War, was an encounter of parties, of reform against the unreformed; and this was so profoundly true, that all the predilections or personal antipathies of sovereigns and ministers could not prevent the alliances, collisions, and results necessary to make it so. George the Second, who was also sovereign of Hanover
, in September, 1755, contracted with Russia
for the defence of that electorate; but Russia
, which was neither Catholic nor Protestant, tolerant in religion, though favoring absolutism in government, could not be relied upon by either party, and passed alternately from one camp to the other.
, the most liberal Protestant kingdom, had cherished intimate relations with Austria
, the most legitimate Catholic power, and, to strengthen the connection, had scattered bribes, with open hands, to Mayence, Cologne, Bavaria
, the Count Palatine
, to elect Joseph the Second King
of the Romans.
And all the while, Austria
was separating itself from its old ally, and
forming a confederacy of the Catholic
George the Second, though he personally disliked his nephew, Frederic, was driven irresistibly to lean on his friendship.
A deep, but perhaps unconscious, conviction of approaching decrepitude bound together the legitimate Catholic sovereigns.
In all Europe
, there was a striving after reform.
Men were grown weary of the superstitions of the Middle Age
; of idlers and beggars, sheltering themselves in sanctuaries; of hopes of present improvement suppressed by the anxious terrors of hell and purgatory; the countless monks and priests, whose vows of celibacy tempted to licentiousness.
The lovers and upholders of the past desired a union among the governments that rested upon mediaeval traditions.
For years had it been whispered that the House of Austria
should unite itself firmly with the House of Bourbon
and now the Empress Maria Theresa
, herself a hereditary queen, a wife and a mother, religious even to bigotry, by an autograph letter caressed endearingly the Marchioness de Pompadour
, once the French
king's mistress, now the procuress of his pleasures, to win her influence for the alliance.
Kaunitz, the minister who alone had her confidence, a man who concealed political sagacity and an inflexible will under the semblance of luxurious ease, won favor as ambassador at the court of Versailles by his affectations and his prodigal expense.
And in May, 1756, that is, in the two hundred and eightieth year of the jealous strife between the Houses
of Hapsburg and of Capet, France
put aside their ancient rivalry, and joined to de-
fend the Europe
of the Middle Age
, with its legitimate despotisms, its aristocracies, and its ecclesiastical powers, against Protestantism and the encroachments of free inquiry.
Among the rulers of the European
continent, Frederic, with but four millions of subjects, stood forth alone, ‘the unshaken bulwark of Protestantism and freedom of thought.’11
His kingdom itself was the offspring of the Reformation, in its origin revolutionary and Protestant.
His father—whose palace life was conducted with the economy and simplicity of the German middle class,—at whose evening entertainments a wooden chair, a pipe, and a mug of beer were placed for each of the guests that assembled to discuss politics with their prince,12
—harsh as a parent, severe as a master, despotic as a sovereign—received with painfully scrupulous piety every article of the Lutheran
creed and every form of its worship.
His son, who inherited an accumulated treasure and the best army in Europe
, publicly declared his opinion, that, ‘politically considered, Protestantism was the most desirable religion;’13
that ‘his royal electoral house, without one example of apostasy, had professed it for centuries;’ and Protestantism saw in him its champion.
As the contest advanced, the fervent Clement
the Thirteenth commemorated an Austrian victory over Prussia
by the present of a consecrated cap and
while, in the weekly concerts for prayer15
in New England
, petitions went up for the Prussian hero, ‘who had drawn his sword in the cause of religious liberty, of the Protestant interest, and the liberties of Europe
‘His victories,’ said Mayhew
, of Boston
, ‘are our own.’16
The Reformation was an expression of the right of the human intellect to freedom.
The same principle was active in France
, where philosophy panted for liberty; where Massillon
had hinted that kings are chosen for the welfare of the people; and Voltaire
, in the empire of letters, marshalled hosts against priestcraft.
Monarchy, itself, was losing its sanctity.
had risen to the throne through the frank and generous Henry
the Fourth, who, in the sports of childhood, played barefoot and bareheaded with the peasant boys on the mountains of Bearn.
The cradle of Louis the Fifteenth was rocked in the pestilent atmosphere of the Regency; his tutor, when from the palace-windows he pointed out the multitudes, had said to the royal child, ‘Sire, this people is yours;’ and as he grew old in profligate sensuality, he joined the mechanism of superstition with the maxims of absolutism, mitigating his dread of hell by the belief, that Heaven is indulgent to the licentiousness of kings.
, therefore, there was no alliance between the government and liberal opinion, and that opinion migrated from Versailles
to the court of Prussia.
The renovating intelligence of France
Louis the Fifteenth and his system; and, awaiting a
better summons for its perfect sympathy, saw in Frederic the present hero of light and reason.
Thus the subtle and pervading influence of the inquisitive mind of France
was arrayed with England
, and America, that is, with Protestantism, philosophic freedom, and the nascent democracy, in their struggle with the conspiracy of European
prejudice and legitimacy, of priestcraft and despotism.
The centre of that conspiracy was the empress of Austria
with the apostate Elector of Saxony
, who was king of Poland
Aware of the forming combination, Frederic resolved to attack his enemies before they were prepared; and in August, 1756, he invaded Saxony
, took Dresden
, blockaded the Elector
's army at Pirna
, gained a victory over the imperial forces that were advancing for its relief, and closed the campaign in the middle of October, by compelling it to capitulate.
In the following winter, the alliances against him were completed; and not Saxony
only, and Austria
, with Hungary
, but the German empire, half the German States
,—Russia, not from motives of public policy, but from a woman's caprice,—Sweden, subservient to the Catholic
powers through the degrading ascendency of its nobility,—France, as the ally of Austria
,—more than half the continent, took up arms against Frederic, who had no allies in the South
, or East, or North, and in the West
none but Hanover
, with Hesse
And as for Spain
, not even the offer from Pitt
of the conditional restitution of Gibraltar
and the evacuation of all English establishments on the Mosquito Shore
the Bay of Honduras
, nor any consideration what-
ever, could move the Catholic
monarch ‘to draw the sword in favor of heretics.’18
As spring opened, Frederic hastened to meet the Austrian
army in Bohemia.
They retired, under the command of Charles of Lorraine
, abandoning well stored magazines, and, in May, 1757, for the preservation of Prague
, risked a battle under its walls.
After terrible carnage, the victory remained with Frederic, who at once framed the most colossal design that ever entered the mind of a soldier,—to execute against Austria
a series of measures like those against Saxony
, to besiege Prague
and compel the army of Charles of Lorraine
But the cautious Daun
, a man of high birth, esteemed by the empress
queen and beloved by the Catholic Church, pressed slowly forward to raise the siege.
Dazzled by hope, Frederic, leaving a part of his army before Prague
, went forth with the rest to attack the Austrian commander, and, on the eighteenth of June, attempted to storm his intrenchments on the heights of Colin.
His brave battalions were repelled with disastrous loss.
Left almost unattended, as he gazed at the spectacle, ‘Will you carry the battery alone’ demanded one of his lieutenants; on which, the hero rode calmly towards the left wing and ordered a retreat.
The refined, but feeble, August William
, had remained at Prague
‘All men are children of one father;’ thus Frederic had once reproved his pride of birth; ‘all are members of one
family, and, for all your pride, are of equal birth, and
of the same blood.
Would you stand above them?
Then excel them in humanity, gentleness, and virtue.’
At heart opposed to the cause of mankind, the Prince
had, from the first, urged his brother to avoid the war; and at this time, when drops of bitterness were falling thickly into the hero's cup, he broke out into pusillanimous complaints, advising a shameful peace, by concession to Austria
But Frederic's power was now first to appear; as victory fell away from him, he stood alone before his fellow-men, in unconquerable greatness.
Raising the siege of Prague
, he conducted the retreat of one division of his army into Saxony
without loss; the other the Prince
led in a manner contrary to the rules of war and to common sense, and more disastrous than the loss of a pitched battle.
Frederic censured the dereliction harshly; in that day of disaster, he would not tolerate a failure of duty, even in the heir to the throne.19
The increasing dangers became terrible.
resolved,’ wrote Frederic, in July, ‘to save my country or perish.’
Colin became the war-cry of French and Russians, of Swedes and Imperialists; a Russian army invaded his dominions on the east; the Swedes from the north threatened Pomerania
; a vast army of the French
was concentrating itself at Erfurt for the recovery of Saxony
; while Austria
, recruited by Bavaria
, was conquering Silesia
will win no more victories,’ wrote the queen of Poland
Death at this
moment took from Frederic his mother, whom he
loved most tenderly.
A few friends remained faithful to him, cheering him by their correspondence.
‘O, that Heaven had heaped all ills on me alone!’
said his affectionate sister; ‘I would have borne them with firmness.’
Having vainly attempted to engage the enemy in Silesia
in a pitched battle, Frederic repaired to the West
, to encounter the united army of the Imperialists and French.
‘I can leave you no large garrison,’ was his message to Fink
; ‘but be of good cheer; to keep the city will do you vast honor.’
On his way, he learns that the Austrians have won a victory over Winterfeld and Bevern, his generals in Silesia
, that Winterfeld had fallen, that Bevern had retreated to the lake near Breslau
, and was opposed by the Austrians at Lissa
On the eighth of September, the day after the great disaster in Silesia
, the Duke
, having been defeated and compelled to retire, signed for his army and for Hanover
a convention of neutrality.20
‘Here,’ said George the Second, on meeting the Duke
, ‘is my son, who has ruined me and disgraced himself.’
advised Frederic to imitate Cumberland
‘If every string breaks,’ wrote Frederic to the Duke Ferdinand
, ‘throw yourself into Magdeburg
Situated as we are, we must persuade ourselves that one of us is worth four others.’
Morning dawned on new miseries;21
night came without a respite to his cares.
He spoke serenely of the path to eternal rest, and his own resolve to live and die free.
beloved people,’ he exclaimed, ‘my wishes live but
for you; to you belongs every drop of my blood, and from my heart I would gladly give my life for my country.’
And, reproving the meanness of spirit of Voltaire
, ‘I am a man,’ he wrote, in October, in the
moment of intensest danger; ‘born, therefore, to suffer; to the rigor of destiny I oppose my own constancy; menaced with shipwreck, I will breast the tempest, and think, and live, and die, as a sovereign.’
In a week, Berlin
itself was in the hands of his enemies.
When, on the fourth of November, after various
changes of position, the king of Prussia
, with but twenty-one thousand six hundred men, resumed his encampment on the heights of Rossbach
, the Prince de Rohan Soubise
, who commanded the French
and Imperial army of more than sixty-four thousand, was sure of compelling him to surrender.
On the morning of the fifth, the combined forces marched in flank to cut off his retreat.
From the battlements of the old castle of Rossbach
, Frederic gazed on their movement; his sagacity, at a glance, penetrated their design; and, obeying the flush of his exulting mind, he on the instant made his dispositions for an attack.
he cried, at half-past 2; at three, not a Prussian remained in the village.
He seemed to retreat towards Merseburg; but, concealed by the high land of Reichertswerben, the chivalrous Seidlitz, with the Prussian cavalry, having turned the right of the enemy, planted his cannon on an eminence.
Through the low ground beneath him, they were marching in columns, in eager haste, their cavalry in front and at a distance from their infantry.
A moment's delay, an inch of ground gained, and they would have come into line.
But Seidlitz and his
cavalry on their right, eight battalions of infantry on
their left, with orders precise and exactly executed, bore down impetuously on the cumbrous columns, and routed them before they could form, and even before the larger part of the Prussian infantry could fire a shot.
That victory at Rossbach
gave to Prussia
the consciousness of its existence as a nation.
To his minister Frederic
sent word of this beginning of success; but far ‘more was necessary.’
He had but obtained freedom to seek new dangers; and, hastening to relieve Schweidnitz, he wrote to a friend, ‘This, for me, has been a year of horror; to save the state, I dare the impossible.’
But already Schweidnitz had surrendered.
On the twenty-second of November, Prince Bevern was surprised and taken prisoner, with a loss of eight thousand men. His successor in the command retreated to Glogau.
On the twenty-fourth, Breslau
was basely given up, and nearly all its garrison entered the Austrian service.
seemed restored to Maria Theresa
‘Does hope expire,’ said Frederic, ‘the strong man must stand distinguished.’
Treachery, the despair of his army, midwinter in a severe clime, the repeated disasters of his generals, could not move him.
Not till the second day of December did the drooping army from Glogau join the king.
power was exerted to revive their confidence.
By degrees, they catch something of his cheerful resoluteness; they share the spirit and the daring of the victors of Rossbach
; they burn to efface their own ignominy.
Yet the Austrian army of sixty thousand men, under Charles of Lorraine
and Marshal Daun
veteran troops and double in number to the Prus
sians, were advancing, as if to crush them and end
the war. ‘The Marquis
,’ said Voltaire
, ‘will lose his hereditary states, as well as those which he has won by conquest.’
Assembling his principal officers beneath a beechtree, which is still to be seen between Neumarkt and Leuthen
, Frederic addressed them with a gush of eloquence.
‘While I was restraining the French
and Imperialists, Charles of Lorraine
has succeeded in conquering Schweidnitz, repulsing Prince Bevern, mastering Breslau
A part of Silesia
, my capital, my stores of war, are lost; my disasters would be extreme, had I not a boundless trust in your courage, firmness, and love of country.
There is not one of you, but has distinguished himself by some great and honorable deed.
The moment for courage has come.
Listen, then; I am resolved, against all rules of the art of war, to attack the nearly threefold stronger army of Charles of Lorraine
, wherever I may find it. There is no question of the number of the enemy, nor of the strength of their position.
We must beat them, or all of us find our graves before their batteries.
Thus I think, thus I mean to act; announce my decision to all the officers of my army; prepare the privates for the scenes which are at hand; let them know I demand unqualified obedience.
They are Prussians; they will not show themselves unworthy of the name.
Does any one of you fear to share all dangers with me, he can this day retire; I never will reproach him.’
Then, as the enthusiasm kindled around him, he added, with a serene smile, ‘I know that not one of you will leave me. I rely on your true aid, and am assured of victory.
If I fall, the country must reward you. Go, tell your
regiments what you have heard from me.’
added, ‘The regiment of cavalry which shall not instantly, at the order, charge, shall be dismounted and sent into garrisons; the battalion of infantry that shall but falter shall lose its colors and its swords.
Now farewell, friends; soon we shall have vanquished, or we shall see each other no more.’
On the morning of December fifth, at half past 4, the army was in motion, the king in front, the troops to warlike strains singing,
Grant, Lord, that we may do with might
That which our hands shall find to do!
‘With men like these,’ said Frederic, ‘God will give me the victory.’
were animated by no common kindling impulse.
, on that day, moved as one being, endowed with intelligence, and swayed by one will.
Never did the utmost daring so combine with severe prudence, as in the arrangements of Frederic.
His eye seized every advantage of place, and his manoeuvres were inspired by the state of his force and the character of the ground.
The hills and the valleys, the copses and the fallow land, the mists of morning and the clear light of noon, came to meet his dispositions, so that nature seemed instinct with the resolve to conspire with his genius.
Never had orders been so executed as his on that day; and never did military genius, in its necessity, so summon invention to its rescue from despair.
His line was formed to make an acute angle with that of the Austrians; as he moved forwards, his left wing was kept disengaged; his right came in contact with the enemy's left, outwinged it, and attacked it in front and
flank; the bodies which Lorraine
sent to its support
were defeated successively, before they could form, and were rolled back in confused masses.
was compelled to change his front for the defence of Leuthen
; the victorious Prussian army advanced to continue the attack, now employing its left wing also.
was carried by storm, and the Austrians were driven to retreat, losing more than six thousand in killed and wounded, more than twenty-one thousand in prisoners.
The battle, which began at half past 1, was finished at five.
It was the masterpiece of motion and decision, of moral firmness and warlike genius; the greatest military deed, thus far, of the century.
That victory confirmed existence to the country where Kant
and Lessing were carrying free inquiry to the sources of human knowledge.
The soldiers knew how the rescue of their nation hung on that battle; and, as a grenadier on the field of carnage began to sing, ‘Thanks be to God,’ the whole army, in the darkness of evening, standing amidst thousands of the dead, uplifted the hymn of praise.
fled into Bohemia, leaving in Breslau
a garrison of twenty thousand men. Frederic pressed forward, and astonished Europe
by gaining possession of that city, reducing Schweidnitz, and recovering all Silesia
army, which, under Apraxin, had won a victory on the northeast, was arrested in its movements by intrigues at home.
In this terrible campaign, two hundred and sixty thousand men had stood against seven hundred thousand, and had not been conquered.