Britain Engages foreign troops.
November, 1775—February, 1776.
had the king employed none but British troops,
the war by land against the colonies must have been of short duration.
His army was largely recruited from American loyalists; from emigrants driven to America
by want, and too recently arrived to be imbued with its principles; from Ireland
and the Highlands of Scotland
; and from Germany
Treaties were also made for subsidiary troops.
When Sir Joseph Yorke
, the British
ambassador at the Hague
, proposed the transfer of a brigade from the service of the Netherlands to that of his sovereign, the young stadtholder wrote directly to his cousin the king of England
, to decline what was desired.
He received a reply, renewing and urging the request.
In 1599 the Low Countries
pledged to Queen Elizabeth, as security for a loan, three important fortresses which she garrisoned with her own troops; in 1616 the Dutch
discharged the debt, and
the garrisons were withdrawn from the cautionary
towns except an English and a Scottish brigade, which passed into the service of the confederacy.
William the Third recalled the former; and in 1749 the privilege of recruiting in Scotland
was withdrawn from the latter, of which the rank and file, now consisting of more than twenty one hundred men, were of all nations, though its officers were still Scotchmen
or their descendants.
In favor of the loan of the troops, it was urged, that the officers already owed allegiance to the British
king, and were therefore well suited to enter his service; that common interests and intimate relations existed between the two countries; that the present occasion offered to the prince of Orange
‘the unique advantage and particular honor’ of strengthening the bonds of close friendship which had been ‘more or less enfeebled’ by the neutrality of the United Provinces during the last French war.
In the states general, Zealand and Utrecht
consented: the province of Holland
objected, that a commercial state should never but from necessity become involved in any quarrel.
Baron van der Capellen
tot den Pol, one of the nobles of Overyssell, the Gracchus of the Dutch
republic, protested against the measure on principles which were to increase in strength, and to influence the impending revolution in Europe
He reasoned that furnishing the troops would be a departure from the true policy of the strictest neutrality; that his country had fruitlessly sacrificed her prosperity to advance the greatness of England
; that she had shed rivers of blood under pretence of establishing a balance of power, and had only strengthened an empire which was now assuming
a more dreadful monarchy over the seas than ever
had been known; that she would find herself, as formerly, engaged in a baleful war with France
, her most powerful neighbor and her natural ally in the defence of the liberty of commerce; that a war between Britain
would bring advantage to the navigation of the republic, if she would but maintain her neutrality; that she had never derived any benefit from a close alliance with England
; that, in the war of succession, which gave to that power the key to the Mediterranean, she had nothing for her share but the total waste of her forces and her treasure; that she had religiously observed her treaties, and yet England
denied her the stipulated freedom of merchandise in free bottoms, and searched and arbitrarily confiscated her ships.
Besides, janizaries should be hired to subdue the colonists rather than the troops of a free state.
Why should a nation who have themselves borne the title of rebels and freed themselves from oppression by the edge of their swords, employ their troops in crushing what some were pleased to call a rebellion of the Americans
, who yet were an example and encouragement to all nations, worthy of the esteem of the whole world as brave men, defending with moderation and with intrepidity the rights which God and not the British
legislature gave them as men!
These ideas, once set in motion, were sure to win the day; but the states of Overyssell suppressed all explicit declarations against England
; and the states general, wishing to avoid every appearance of offensive discourtesy, at last consented to lend the brigade, but only on the condition that it never should
be used out of Europe
This was in fact a refusal;
the brigade was never accepted by the English
, who, during the tardy course of the discussion, had obtained supplies of men from Germany
That empire had never recovered from the disorganization occasioned by the thirty years war; when military service became a trade, and mercenary troops took the place of lieges, till the more efficient system of standing armies superseded the use of adventurers.
In this way the medieval liberties disappeared; in the great monarchies, the people by their numbers formed a counterpoise to absolute monarchy: in the smaller principalities the weight of the commons was insufficient to bear up against their rulers; the sentiment of patriotism was merged in the obedience of the soldier, who learned that he had a master, but not that he had a country; and electors and landgraves and reigning dukes assumed the right of engaging in wars for their personal profit, and hiring out their troops according to their own pleasure.
The custom became so general that, for the gain of their princes, and pay and plunder for themselves, German troops were engaged in every great contest that raged from Poland
, from the North Sea
; and were sometimes arrayed in the same battle on opposite sides.
At peace the disbanded supernumeraries lounged about the land, forming an unemployed body, from which the hope of high wages and booty could at any time raise up armed bands.
So soon as it became known that the king of England
, unable to supply the losses in his regiments by enlistments within his own realm, desired to draw recruits from Germany
, crowds of adventurers, eager
to profit by his wants, volunteered to procure the
levies he might need.
He had scruples about accepting their offers, saying: ‘The giving commissions to German officers to get men, in plain English amounts to making me a kidnapper, which I cannot think a very honorable occupation;’ but he consented that a contract should be made with a Hanoverian lieutenant colonel for raising four thousand recruits in Germany
without loss of time; he granted also the use of his electoral dominions and that ‘assistance and support of his field marshal which was indispensably necessary to the execution of the undertaking.’
In those days no reciprocal comity restrained the princes from tempting each other's soldiers to desert; and a larger bounty, higher wages, and the undefined prospect of amassing spoils in the ‘el dorado’ of America
, readily attracted the vagabond veterans of former wars to the British
The kings of France
had long been accustomed, with the consent of the cantons, to raise troops in Switzerland
, and had used the permission so freely, that the total sum of their Swiss levies in three hundred years, was computed at more than a million of men. The German diet had prohibited the system; the court of Vienna was obliged, for the sake of appearances, to write to the free cities and several of the states of the empire, that ‘Great Britain
had no more connection with the empire than Russia
, neither of which powers was permitted to recruit within its limits;’ but she was only required to throw gauze over her design; her contractor was very soon ready with a small instalment of a hundred and fifty men; and promised rapid success when the enterprise
should get a little better into train.
prince bishop of Liege
and the elector of Cologne
consented to shut their eyes to the presence of English agents, who also had recruiting stations in Neuwied
and at Frankfort
The undertaking was prohibited by the laws of nations and of the empire; the British
ministers therefore instructed their diplomatic representative at the small courts to give all possible aid to the execution of the service, but not officially to implicate his government.
In this way thousands of levies were obtained to fill up British regiments, which had been thinned by battle, sickness, and desertion.
But the wants of the ministry required more considerable negotiations with German princes.
It was hoped that the duke of Brunswick
, if well disposed, could supply at least three thousand men, and the landgrave of Hesse Cassel
five thousand; in November, 1775, Suffolk
thus instructed Colonel Faucitt
, the British
agent: ‘Your point is to get as many as you can; I own to you my own hopes are not very sanguine in the business you are going upon; therefore the less you act ministerially before you see a reasonable prospect of succeeding, the better.
Get as many men as you can; it will be much to your credit to procure the most moderate terms, though expense is not so much the object in the present emergency as in ordinary cases.
Great activity is necessary, as the king is extremely anxious; and you are to send one of two messengers from each place, Brunswick
, the moment you know whether troops can be procured or not, without waiting for the proposal of terms.’
There was no occasion for anxiety; more than
one little prince hurried to offer troops.
regard it as a favor,’ wrote the Prince
, ‘if the king will accept a regiment of six hundred men, composed of officers and soldiers, who, like their prince, will certainly demand nothing better than to find an opportunity of sacrificing themselves for his majesty.’
The offer was eagerly accepted.
On the twenty fourth of November, Faucitt
, having received his instructions at Stade
, set off on his mission; but the nights were so dark and the roads so bad, that it required five days to reach Brunswick
Charles, the reigning duke, was at that time about sixty three.
During the forty years of his rule, the spendthrift had squandered a loan of twelve millions of thalers, beside the millions of his revenue, on his Italian opera, his corps of French dancers, his theatre, journeys, mistresses, and gaming, his experiments in alchemy, but most of all on his little army, which now, in his decrepit age, it was his chief pride to review.
Within the last three years, a new prime minister had improved the condition of his finances; at the same time Prince Ferdinand, the heir apparent, had been admitted as co-regent.
In 1764 Ferdinand had married Augusta
, a sister of George the Third, receiving with her a dowry of eighty thousand pounds beside an annuity of eight thousand more, chargeable on the revenues of Ireland
His education had been in part confided to Jerusalem, a clergyman who neither had the old fashioned faith, nor the modern want of it; and his governor had been indulgent to the vices of his youth.
From Frederic of Prussia
, his uncle, he adopted not disinterested nationality, but scepticism, with which he mixed
up enough of philanthropic sentiment to pass for a
free thinker with ideas of liberalism and humanity.
Stately in his appearance, a student of gestures and attitudes before the glass, he was profuse of bows and compliments, and affectedly polite.
The color of his eye was a most beautiful blue, and its expression friendly and winning.
He himself and those about him professed the strongest sense of the omnipotence of legitimate princes; he loved to rule, and required obedience; his wish was a command.
Indifferent to his English wife, he was excessively sensual; keeping a succession of mistresses from the second year of his marriage to his death.
He had courage, and just too much ability to be called insignificant; it was his pride to do his day's work properly; and he introduced economy into the public administration.
Devoted to pleasure, yet indefatigable in labor, neither prodigal, nor despotic, nor ambitious, his great defect was that he had no heart, so that he was not capable of gratitude or love, nor true to his word, nor fixed in his principles, nor gifted with insight into character, nor possessed of discernment of military worth.
He was a good secondary officer, priggishly exact in the mechanism of a regiment, but wholly unfit to plan a campaign or lead an army.
On the evening of Faucitt
's arrival, he sought a conference with the hereditary prince, to whom he bore from the king a special letter.
Ferdinand gave unreservedly his most cordial approbation to the British
proposal, and promised his interposition with his father in its favor.
The reigning duke, although he regretted to part with troops which were the only amusement of his old age, in the distressed state of
his finances, gave his concurrence with all imaginable
It now remained for Faucitt
to chaffer with Ferrance, the Brunswick
minister, on the price of the troops, which were to be ready early in the spring, to the number of four thousand infantry and three hundred light dragoons.
These last were not wanted, but Faucitt
accepted them, ‘rather than appear difficult.’
Sixty German dollars for each man was demanded as levy money; but thirty crowns banco, or about thirty four and a half of our dollars, was agreed upon.
Every soldier who should be killed, was to be paid for at the rate of the levy money; and three wounded were to be reckoned as one killed. The date of the English
pay was the next subject in dispute: Brunswick
demanded that it should begin three months before the march of the troops, but acquiesced in the advance of two months pay. On the question of the annual subsidy a wrangling was kept up for two days; when it was settled at sixty four thousand five hundred German crowns from the date of the signature of the treaty, and twice that sum for two years after the return of the troops to their own country.
, a colonel in the duke's service, was selected for the command, and received the rank of a major general.
He was a man of uprightness, honor, and activity, enterprising, and full of resources; fond of his profession, of which he had spared no pains to make himself master.
During the war, Brunswick
furnished altogether five thousand seven hundred and twenty three mercenaries; a number equal to more than one sixth of the
able-bodied men in the principality.
As a conse-
quence, two of the battalions destined for the British
service were a regular force; the rest, in disregard of promises, were eked out by undisciplined levies, old men, raw boys, and recruits kidnapped out of remote countries.
It is just to inquire if conduct like that of Ferdinand was followed by a happy life and an honorable death.
His oldest son died two years before him; his two other sons were idiotic and blind; his oldest daughter was married to the brutal prince of Wurtemberg
, and perished in 1788.
The same intimate relations, which led George the Third to begin the purchase of mercenary troops with his brother-in-law, made him select Ferdinand's younger daughter Caroline,—a woman brought up in the lewd atmosphere of her father's palace, accustomed to the company of his mistresses, and environed by licentiousness from her childhood,—to become, at the ripe age of twenty seven, the wife of the prince of Wales
, and eventually a queen of Great Britain
As to the prince himself, in a battle where his incompetence as a commander assisted to bring upon Prussia
a most disastrous defeat, his eyes were shot away; a fugitive, deserted by mistress and friends, he refused to take food, and so died.
From Brunswick Faucitt
hurried to Cassel
, where his coming was expected by one who knew well the strait to which the British
ministry was reduced.
The town rises beautifully at the foot of a well wooded hill and overlooks a fertile plain.
The people of Hesse
preserve the hardy and warlike character of its ancestral tribe, which the Romans could never vanquish.
It was still a nation of soldiers, whose valor
had been proved in all the battlefields of Europe
In the former century the republic of Venice
had employed them against the Turks, and they had taken part in the siege of Athens
The landgrave, Frederick
the Second, was at that time about fifty six, and had ruled for nearly sixteen years. He had been carefully educated; but his nature was coarse and brutish and obstinate.
The wife of his youth, a daughter of George the Second, was the mildest and gentlest of her race; yet she was forced to fly from his inhumanity to his own father for protection.
At the age of fifty three he married again, but lived with his second consort on no better terms than with his first.
The landgrave had been scrupulously educated in the reformed church, of which the house of Hesse
had ever proudly regarded itself as a bulwark; but he piqued himself on having disburdened his mind of the prejudices of the vulgar; sought to win Voltaire
's esteem by doubting various narratives in the Bible
; and scoffed alike at the Old Testament and the New
. In his view, Calvinism had died out even in Geneva
; and Luther, though commendable for having loved wine and women, was but an ordinary man; he therefore turned Catholic in 1749, from dislike to the plebeian simplicity of the established worship of his people.
He had learnt to favor toleration, to abolish the use of torture, and to make capital punishments exceedingly rare; at the same time he was the coarse representative of the worst licentiousness of his age; fond of splendor and luxurious living; parading his vices publicly, with shameless indecorum.
no nationality, he sought to introduce French modes
of life; had his opera, ballet-dancers, masqueradesduring the carnival, his French playhouse, a cast-off French coquette for his principal mistress, a French superintendent of theatres for his librarian.
But nothing could be less like France
than his court; life in Cassel
was spiritless; ‘nobody here reads,’ said Forster
; ‘the different ranks are stiffly separated,’ said the historian, Von Muller
Birth or wealth alone had influence: merit could not command respect, nor talent hope for fostering care.
To this man Faucitt
delivered a letter from the British
, the minister with whom he was to conduct the negotiation, prepared him for unconditional acquiescence in every demand, by dwelling on the hazard of finding the landgrave in an unfavorable turn of mind, and describing him ‘as most exceedingly whimsical and uncertain in his humors and disposition;’ at the same time he undertook to promise twelve thousand foot soldiers for service in America
, who would not confess even to his own mind that he sold his subjects from avarice, professed a strong desire to force the rebels back to their duty, and grew so warm and so sanguine that he seemed inclined, in the cause of monarchy, to head his troops in person.
This zeal augured immoderate demands: his first extortion was a sum of more than forty thousand pounds for hospital disbursements during the last war. The demand was scandalous; the account had been liquidated, paid, and closed; but the distress of the government compelled a reconsideration of the claim, and the tribute was enforced.
In conducting the bargain, the landgrave in-
sisted on adhering to the beaten track of former conventions; and this predilection for precedents was not confined to mere formalities, but in every essential point was attended with an anxiety to collect and accumulate in the new treaty every favorable stipulation that had separately found its way into any of the old ones.
The levy money appeared to be the same that was agreed upon with Brunswick
; but as it was to be paid for the officers as well as for the men, the Hessian contract had an advantage of twenty per cent.
The master stroke of Schlieffen
was the settlement of the subsidy.
In no former convention had that condition extended over a less period than four years: the British
minister objected to a demand for six, believing that one campaign would terminate the war; the Hessian, therefore, with seeming moderation, accepted a double subsidy, to be paid from the signature of the treaty to its expiration.
Precedents were also found for stipulating that the subsidy should be paid not as by the treaty with Brunswick
in German crowns, but in crowns banco, which made a further considerable gain to the landgrave; and as the engagement actually continued in force for about ten years, it proved very far more onerous than any which England
had ever before negotiated, affording a clear net profit to the landgrave on this item alone of five millions of our dollars.
The taxes paid by the Hessians were sufficient to defray the pay rolls and all the expenses of the Hessian army: these taxes it had not been the custom to reduce; but on the present occasion, the landgrave, to give his faithful subjects proof of his paternal inclinations,
most graciously suspended from July to the
time of the return of his troops, one half of the ordinary contribution to his military chest.
The other half was rigorously exacted.
It was stipulated that the British
pay, which was higher than the Hessian, should be paid into the treasury of Hesse
; and this afforded an opportunity for peculation in various ways.
The pay rolls, after the first month, invariably included more persons than were in the service; with Brunswick
, the price to be paid for the killed and wounded was fixed; the landgrave introduced no such covenant, and seemed left with the right to exact full pay for every man who had ever once been mustered into the British
service, whether active or dead.
The British minister urged the indispensable necessity that the Hessian soldiers should be allowed as ample and extensive enjoyment of their pay as the British
: ‘I dare not agree to any express or limited stipulation on this head,’ answered Schlieffen
, ‘for fear of giving offence to the landgrave.’
‘They are my fellow-soldiers,’ said the landgrave; ‘and do I not mean to treat them well?’
The sick and the wounded of the Brunswick
troops were to be taken care of in the British
hospitals; for the Hessians, the landgrave claimed the benefit of providing a hospital of his own.
The British ministers would gladly have clothed the mercenary troops in British manufactures; but the landgrave would not allow this branch of his profits to be impaired.
It had been thought in England
that the landgrave could furnish no more than five thousand foot;
but the price was so high, that after contracting for
twelve thousand, he further bargained to supply four hundred Hessian chasseurs, armed with rifle barrelled guns; and then three hundred dismounted dragoons; and then three corps of artillery, taking care for every addition to make a corresponding increase in the double subsidy.
To escape impressment, his subjects fled into Hanover
; King George, who was also elector of Hanover
, was therefore called upon ‘to discourage the elopement of Hessian subjects into that country, when the demand for men to enable the landgrave to fulfil his engagement with Great Britain
was so pressing.’
It was also thought essential to march the troops through the Electorate to their place of embarkation, for it was not doubted, ‘if the Hessians were to march along the left bank of the Weser, through the territories of Prussia
and perhaps half a score of petty princes, one half of them would be lost on the way by desertion.’
The other half went willingly, having been made to believe that America
was the land of golden spoils, where they would have free license to plunder, and the unrestrained indulgence of their passions.
Every point in dispute having been decided ac cording to the categorical demands of the landgrave, the treaty was signed on the thirty first day of January.
This would have seemed definitive; but the payment of the double subsidy was to begin from the day of the signature of the treaty; the landgrave, therefore, put back the date of the instrument to January the fifteenth.
His troops were among the best in Europe
was Lieutenant general Heister
brave old man of, nearly sixty, cheerful in disposition, crippled with wounds, of a good understanding, but without genius for war; tenacious of authority, but good natured, bluntly honest, and upright.
Next him stood Lieutenant general Knyphausen
, remarkable for taciturnity and reserve; one of the best officers in the landgrave's service, of rare talents in his profession, with a kindly nature and the accomplishments of a man of honor.
The four major generals
were all of moderate capacities and little military skill.
Of the colonels, every one praised Donop
, who commanded the four battalions of grenadiers and the chasseurs; Rall
, Mingerode, Wurmb
, and Loos, were also highly esteemed; four or five others had served with distinction.
The excuse of the British
ministry for yielding to all the exactions of the landgrave, was their eagerness to obtain the troops early in February. ‘Often,’ wrote Suffolk
, ‘as I have urged expedition, I must repeat it once more, nothing is so much to be guarded against as delay, which will mar the expected advantage.’
The landgrave freely consented that thirteen battalions should be prepared to march on the fifteenth of February; but so inefficient was the British
ministry, so imperfect their concert, that though delay involved the loss of a campaign, the admiralty did not provide transports enough at the time appointed, and even in March could not tell when they would all be ready.
The first detachment from Brunswick
did not sail from England
till the fourth of April, and Riedesel
was at Quebec
before the last
were embarked; the first division of the Hessians did
clear the British
channel till the tenth of May.
The transports were also very badly fitted up; the bedding furnished by the contractors was infamously scanty, their thin pillows being seven inches by five at most, and mattress, pillow, blanket, and rug, altogether hardly weighing seven pounds. The clothing of the Brunswick
troops was old, and only patched up for the present; ‘the person who executed the commission’ for purchasing new shoes for them in England
, sent ‘fine thin dancing pumps,’ and of these the greatest number were too small for use.
The treaty with the hereditary prince of Hesse Cassel
, who was the ruler over Hanau, met with no obstacle.
His eagerness and zeal were not to be described; he went in person round the different bailiwicks to choose the recruits that were wanted; and he accompanied his regiment as far as Frankfort
on their way to Helvoetsluys.
Conscious of the merit of all this devotion, he pressed for an additional special subsidy.
Professing ostensibly to give an absolute refusal, lest he should wake up similar claims, Suffolk
in fact prepared to grant the demand, or some equivalent, under an injunction of the most absolute secrecy.
's minister reiterated in his name a written promise of preserving a discretion without bounds.
‘My attachment and most humble respect to the best of kings, my generous protector and magnanimous support, removes all idea of interest in me,’ wrote the prince himself.
He wished that all the officers and soldiers of his regiment might be animated with an attachment and zeal like his own; and attempting English
, he wrote to Suffolk
: ‘May the
end they shall fight for, answer to the king's upper
contentment, and your laudable endeavors, my Lord
, be granted by the most happiest issue.’
For a few months it was doubted if the prince of Waldeck
could make good his offers; for his land was already overtasked, as there were three Waldeck
regiments in the service of Holland
: the states of the principality had complained of the loss of its subjects; but the prince still pleaded such most disinterested zeal, and vowed so warm an attachment to the ‘incomparable monarch’ of Britain, that on the twentieth of April, the treaty with him was closed.
He had no way of getting troops except by force, or authority, or deceit; but the village ministers from the pulpit encouraged the enlistment; and it was thought that an effective regiment would soon be ready, provided in the formation of it ‘he should not be too tender of his own subjects.’
The conscripts were quieted by promises of great wealth: but to prevent their deserting, a corps of mounted forest chasseurs escorted them to Beverungen.
The ruling prince of the house of Anhalt Zerbst, brother to Catharine, then empress of Russia
, himself half crazed, living very rarely within his own dominions, keeping up sixteen recruiting stations outside of them, in a letter which from ‘the confusion in his style and in his expressions, could not be translated,’ made to England
the offer of a regiment of six hundred and twenty-seven men. He also wrote directly to George the Third; but his manner was so strange that the letter was not thought fit to be delivered.
During that year nothing came of his proposal.
The elector of Bavaria
expressed to Elliot
British minister at Ratisbon
, his very strong desire of a subsidiary engagement: but little heed was given to this overture, for ‘the Bavarian troops were among the worst in Germany
;’ and besides, ‘the court was so sold to Austria
that the prince himself thought proper to warn the British
diplomatist against speaking of the proposal to his own ministers.’
On the last day of February, the treaties with Brunswick
were considered in the house of commons. Lord North said: ‘The troops are wanted; the terms on which they are procured, are less than we could have expected; the force will enable us to compel America
to submission, perhaps without any further effusion of blood.’
He was answered by Lord John Cavendish
: ‘The measure disgraces Britain and humiliates the king; it also impoverishes the country by its extravagance.’
‘Our business will be effected within the year,’ replied Cornwall
; ‘and if so, of which there is no reason to doubt, the troops are all had on lower terms than was ever known before.’
Lord Irnham took a broader view: ‘The landgrave of Hesse
and the duke of Brunswick
vile and dishonored in the eyes of all Europe
, as a nursery of men for those who have most money.
Princes who thus sell their subjects, to be sacrificed in destructive wars, commit the additional crime of making them destroy much better and nobler beings than themselves.
The landgrave of Hesse
has his prototype in Sancho Panza, who said that if he were a prince, he should wish all his subjects to be blackamoors, so that he could
turn them into ready money by selling them.’
warning voice was raised by Hartley
: ‘You now set the American congress the example of applying to foreign powers; when they intervene, the possibility of reconciliation is totally cut off.’
The third son of the earl of Bute
spoke for sanguinary measures, and contrasted the unrivalled credit of England
with the weak, uncurrent paper of America
‘The measures of ministers,’ said James Luttrell
, who had served in America
, ‘are death-warrants to thousands of British subjects, not steps towards regaining the colonies.’
, afterwards Marquis
, proposed the alternative: ‘Shall we abandon America
, or shall we recover our sovereignty over that country?
We had better make one effort more.’
Lord George Germain
defended the treaties on the ground of necessity; this Lord Barrington confirmed, for British recruits could not be procured on any terms, and the bargain was the best that could be made.
All complaints were ineffectual; the ministers were sustained by their usual majority.
Five days later they were equally well supported in the house of lords; but not without a rebuke from the Duke
, one of the king's brothers, who said: ‘I have constantly opposed these oppressive measures; I heartily concur in reprobating the conduct of the ministers; my lords, I lament to see Brunswickers, who once to their great honor were employed in the defence of the liberties of the subject, now sent to subjugate his constitutional liberties in another part of this vast empire.’
The whole number of men furnished in the war
was equal to one twenty seventh part of
its collective population; by the landgrave of Hesse
was equal to one out of every twenty of his subjects, or one in four of the able bodied men; a proportionate conscription in 1776 would have shipped to America
alone an army of more than four hundred thousand.
Soldiers were impressed from the plough, the workshop, the highway; no man was safe from the inferior agents of the princes, who kidnapped without scruple.
Almost every family in Hesse
mourned for one of its members; light-hearted joyousness was not to be found among its peasantry; most of the farm work was thrown upon women, whose large hands and feet, lustreless eye, and imbrowned and yellowing skin showed that the beauty of the race suffered for a generation from the avarice of their prince.
In a letter to Voltaire
, the landgrave, announcing his contribution of troops, expressed his zeal to learn ‘the difficult principles of the art of governing men, and of making them perceive that all which their ruler does is for their special good.’
He wrote also a catechism for princes, in which Voltaire
professed to find traces of a pupil of the king of Prussia
: ‘Do not attribute his education to me,’ answered the great Frederick
: ‘were he a graduate of my school, he would never have turned Catholic, and would never have sold his subjects to the English
as they drive cattle to the shambles.
He a preceptor of sovereigns!
The sordid passion for gain is the only motive of his vile procedure.’
From avarice he sold the flesh of his own people while they were yet alive, depriving many of existence
and himself of honor.
In an empire which
spoke the language of Luther, where Kant
by profound analysis, was compelling scepticism itself to bear witness to the eternal law of duty, where Lessing inculcated faith in an ever improving education of the race, the land of free cities and free thought, where the heart of the best palpitated with hope for the American
cause, the landgrave forced the energies of his state to act against that liberty which was the child of the German forests, and the moral life of the Germanic nation.
And did judgment slumber?
Were the eyes of the Most High
Or, in the abyss of the divine counsels, was some great benefit in preparation for lands all so full of tyrants, though beyond the discernment of the sordid princes, whose crimes were to promote the brotherhood of nations!