think, my child, you have half thanked your preserver!”

news / writevotebookmark

"Besides the masquerade, and other festivities, in honor of, and to divert Prince Henri, we had lately a most magnificent show of fire- works. They were exhibited in a wide apace before the Winter Palace; and, in truth, 'beggared description.' They displayed, by a variety of emblematical figures, the reduction of Moldavia, Wallachia, Bessarabia, and the various conquests and victories achieved since the commencement of the present War. The various colors, the bright green and the snowy white, exhibited in these fire-works, were truly astonishing. For the space of twenty minutes, a tree, adorned with the loveliest and most verdant foliage, seemed to be waving as with a gentle breeze. It was entirely of fire; and during the whole of this stupendous scene, an arch of fire, by the continued throwing of rockets and fire-balls in one direction, formed as it were a suitable canopy.

think, my child, you have half thanked your preserver!”

"On this occasion a prodigious multitude of people were assembled; and the Empress, it was surmised, seemed uneasy. She was afraid, it was apprehended, lest any accident, like what happened at Paris at the marriage of the Dauphin, should befall her beloved people. I hope I have amused you; and ever am"--[W. Richardson, Anecdotes of the Russian Empire, pp. 325-331: "Petersburg, 4th January, 1771."]

think, my child, you have half thanked your preserver!”

The masquerades and galas in honor of Prince Henri, from a grandiose Hostess, who had played with him in childhood, were many; but it is not with these that we have to do. One day, the Czarina, talking to him of the Austrian procedures at Zips, said with pique, "It seems, in Poland you have only to stoop, and pick up what you like of it. If the Court of Vienna have the notion to dismember that Kingdom, its neighbors will have right to do as much." [Rulhiere, iv. 210; Trois Demembremens, i. 142; above all, Henri himself, in OEuvres de Frederic, xxvi. 345, "Petersburg, 8th January, 1771."] This is supposed, in all Books, to be the PUNCTUM SALIENS, or first mention, of the astonishing Partition, which was settled, agreed upon, within about a year hence, and has made so much noise ever since. And in effect it was so; the idea rising practically in that high head was the real beginning. But this was not the first head it had been in; far from that. Above a year ago, as Friedrich himself informed us, it had been in Friedrich's own head,--though at the time it went for absolutely nothing, nobody even bestowing a sneer on it (as Friedrich intimates), and disappeared through the Horn-Gate of Dreams.

think, my child, you have half thanked your preserver!”

Friedrich himself appears to have quite forgotten the Count-Lynar idea; and, on Henri's report from Russia, was totally incredulous; and even suspected that there might be trickery and danger in this Russian proposal. Not till Henri's return (FEBRUARY 18th, 1771) could he entirely believe that the Czarina was serious;--and then, sure enough, he did, with his whole heart, go into it: the EUREKA out of all these difficulties, which had so long seemed insuperable. Prince Henri "had an Interview with the Austrian Minister next day" (February 19th), who immediately communicated with his Kaunitz,--and got discouraging response from Kaunitz; discouraging, or almost negatory; which did not discourage Friedrich. "A way out," thinks Friedrich: "the one way to save my Prussia and the world from incalculable conflagration." And entered on it without loss of a moment. And labored at it with such continual industry, rapidity and faculty for guiding and pushing, as all readers have known in him, on dangerous emergencies: at no moment lifting his hand from it till it was complete.

His difficulties were enormous: what a team to drive; and on such a road, untrodden before by hoof or wheel! Two Empresses that cordially hate one another, and that disagree on this very subject. Kaunitz and his Empress are extremely skittish in the matter, and as if quite refuse it at first: "Zips will be better," thinks Kaunitz to himself; "Cannot we have, all to ourselves, a beautiful little cutting out of Poland in that part; and then perhaps, in league with the Turk, who has money, beat the Russians home altogether, and rule Poland in their stead, or 'share it with the Sultan,' as Reis-Effendi suggests?" And the dismal truth is, though it was not known for years afterward, Kaunitz does about this time, in profoundest secret, actually make Treaty of Alliance with the Turk ("so many million Piastres to us, ready money, year by year, and you shall, if not by our mediating, then by our fighting, be a contented Turk"); and all along at the different Russian-Turk "Peace-Congresses," Kaunitz, while pretending to sit and mediate along with Prussia, sat on that far other basis, privately thwarting everything; and span out the Turk pacification in a wretched manner for years coming. ["Peace of Kainardschi," not till "21st July, 1774,"--after four or five abortive attempts, two of them "Congresses," Kaunitz so industrious (Hermann, v. 664 et antea).] A dangerous, hard-mouthed, high-stalking, ill-given old coach-horse of a Kaunitz: fancy what the driving of him might be, on a road he did not like! But he had a driver too, who, in delicate adroitness, in patience and in sharpness of whip, was consummate: "You shall know it is your one road, my ill-given friend!" (I ostentatiously increase my Cavalry by 8,000; meaning, "A new Seven-Years War, if you force me, and Russia by my side this time!") So that Kaunitz had to quit his Turk courses (never paid the Piastres back), and go into what really was the one way out.

But Friedrich's difficulties on this course are not the thing that can interest readers; and all readers know his faculty for overcoming difficulties. Readers ask rather: "And had Friedrich no feeling about Poland itself, then, and this atrocious Partitioning of the poor Country?" Apparently none whatever;--unless it might be, that Deliverance from Anarchy, Pestilence, Famine, and Pigs eating your dead bodies, would be a manifest advantage for Poland, while it was the one way of saving Europe from War. Nobody seems more contented in conscience, or radiant with heartfelt satisfaction, and certainty of thanks from all wise and impartial men, than the King of Prussia, now and afterwards, in regard to this Polish atrocity! A psychological fact, which readers can notice. Scrupulous regard to Polish considerations, magnanimity to Poland, or the least respect or pity for her as a dying Anarchy, is what nobody will claim for him; consummate talent in executing the Partition of Poland (inevitable some day, as he may have thought, but is nowhere at the pains to say),--great talent, great patience too, and meritorious self-denial and endurance, in executing that Partition, and in saving IT from catching fire instead of being the means to quench fire, no well-informed person will deny him. Of his difficulties in the operation (which truly are unspeakable) I will say nothing more; readers are prepared to believe that he, beyond others, should conquer difficulties when the object is vital to him. I will mark only the successive dates of his progress, and have done with this wearisome subject:--

June 14th, 1771. Within four months of the arrival of Prince Henri and that first certainty from Russia, diligent Friedrich, upon whom the whole burden had been laid of drawing up a Plan, and bringing Austria to consent, is able to report to Petersburg, That Austria has dubieties, reluctances, which it is to be foreseen she will gradually get over; and that here meanwhile (June 14th, 1771) is my Plan of Partition,--the simplest conceivable: "That each choose (subject to future adjustments) what will best suit him; I, for my own part, will say, West-Preussen;--what Province will Czarish Majesty please to say?" Czarish Majesty, in answer, is exorbitantly liberal to herself; claims, not a Province, but four or five; will have Friedrich, if the Austrians attack her in consequence, to assist by declaring War on Austria; Czarish Majesty, in the reciprocal case, not to assist Friedrich at all, till her Turk War is done! "Impossible," thinks Friedrich; "surprisingly so, high Madam! But, to the delicate bridle-hand, you are a manageable entity."

It was with Kaunitz that Friedrich's real difficulties lay. Privately, in the course of this Summer, Kaunitz, by way of preparation for "mediating a Turk-Russian Peace," had concluded his "subsidy Treaty" with the Turk, ["6th July, 1771" (Preuss, iv. 31; Hermann; &c. &c.).]--Treaty never ratified, but the Piastres duly paid;--Treaty rendering Peace impossible, so long as Kaunitz had to do with mediating it. And indeed Kaunitz's tricks in that function of mediator, and also after it, were of the kind which Friedrich has some reason to call "infamous." "Your Majesty, as co-mediator, will join us, should the Russians make War?" said Kaunitz's Ambassador, one day, to Friedrich. "For certain, no!" answered Friedrich; and, on the contrary, remounted his Cavalry, to signify, "I will fight the other way, if needed!" which did at once bring Kaunitz to give up his mysterious Turk projects, and come into the Polish. After which, his exorbitant greed of territory there; his attempts to get Russia into a partitioning of Turkey as well,-- ("A slice of Turkey too, your Czarish Majesty and we?" hints he more than once),--gave Friedrich no end of trouble; and are singular to look at by the light there now is. Not for about a twelvemonth did Friedrich get his hard-mouthed Kaunitz brought into step at all; and to the last, perpetual vigilance and, by whip and bit, the adroitest charioteering was needed on him.

Reminder: Arrow keys left and right (← →) to turn pages forward and backward, up and down (↑ ↓) to scroll up and down, Enter key: return to the list