Tchesme fell out July 7th; Elphinstone has hardly done his tea in the Dardanelles, when (August 1st) this of Kaghul follows: both would be fresh news blazing in every head while the Dialogues between Friedrich and Kaunitz were going on. For they "had many dialogues," Friedrich says; "and one of the days" (probably September 6th) was mainly devoted to Politics, to deep private Colloquy with Kaunitz. Of which, and of the great things that followed out of it, I will now give, from Friedrich's own hand, the one entirely credible account I have anywhere met with in writing.
Friedrich's account of Kaunitz himself is altogether life-like: a solemn, arrogant, mouthing, browbeating kind of man,--embarrassed at present by the necessity not to browbeat, and by the consciousness that "King Friedrich is the only man who refuses to acknowledge my claims to distinction:" [Rulhiere (somewhere) has heard this, as an utterance of Kaunitz's in some plaintive moment.] --a Kaunitz whose arrogances, qualities and claims this King is not here to notice, except as they concern business on hand. He says, "Kaunitz had a clear intellect, greatly twisted by perversities of temper (UN SENS DROIT, L'ESPRIT REMPLI DE TRAVERS), especially by a self-conceit and arrogance which were boundless. He did not talk, but preach. At the smallest interruption, he would stop short in indignant surprise: it has happened that, at the Council-Board in Schonbrunn, when Imperial Majesty herself asked some explanation of a word or thing not understood by her, Kaunitz made his bow (LUI TIRA SA REVERENCE), and quitted the room." Good to know the nature of the beast. Listen to him, then, on those terms, since it is necessary. The Kaunitz Sermon was of great length, imbedded in circumlocutions, innuendoes and diplomatic cautions; but the gist of it we gather to have been (abridged into dialogue form) essentially as follows:--
KAUNITZ. "Dangerous to the repose of Europe, those Russian encroachments on the Turk. Never will Imperial Majesty consent that Russia possess Moldavia or Wallachia; War sooner,--all things sooner! These views of Russia are infinitely dangerous to everybody. To your Majesty as well, if I may say so; and no remedy conceivable against them,--to me none conceivable,--but this only, That Prussia and Austria join frankly in protest and absolute prohibition of them."
FRIEDRICH. "I have nothing more at heart than to stand well with Austria; and always to be her ally, never her enemy. But your Highness sees how I am situated: bound by express Treaty with Czarish Majesty; must go with Russia in any War! What can I do? I can, and will with all industry, labor to conciliate Czarish Majesty and Imperial; to produce at Petersburg such a Peace with the Turks as may meet the wishes of Vienna. Let us hope it can be done. By faithful endeavoring, on my part and on yours, I persuade myself it can. Meanwhile, steadfastly together, we two! All our little rubs, custom-house squabbles on the Frontier, and such like, why not settle them here, and now? [and does so with his Highness.] That there be nothing but amity, helpfulness and mutual effort towards an object so momentous to us both, and to all mankind!"
KAUNITZ. "Good so far. And may a not intolerable Turk-Russian Peace prove possible, without our fighting for it! Meanwhile, Imperial Majesty [as she has been visibly doing for some time] must continue massing troops and requisites on the Hungarian Frontier, lest the contrary happen!"
This was the result arrived at. Of which Friedrich "judged it but polite to inform the young Kaiser; who appeared to be grateful for this mark of attention, being much held down by Kaunitz in his present state of tutelage." [
And by a singular chance, on the very morrow there arrived from the Divan (dated August 12th) an Express to Friedrich: "Mediate a Peace for us with Russia; not you alone, as we have often asked, but Austria AND you!" For the Kaghul Slaughtery has come on us; Giaour Elphinstone has taken tea in the Dardanelles; and we know not to what hand to turn!--"The young Kaiser did not hide his joy at this Overture, as Kaunitz did his, which was perhaps still greater:" the Kaiser warmly expressed his thanks to Friedrich as the Author of it; Kaunitz, with a lofty indifference (MORGUE), and nose in air as over a small matter, "merely signified his approval of this step which the Turks had taken."
"Never was mediation undertaken with greater pleasure," adds the King. And both did proceed upon it with all zeal; but only the King as real "mediator," or MIDDLEman; Kaunitz from the first planting himself immovably upon the Turk side of things, which is likewise the Austrian; and playing in secret (as Friedrich probably expected he would) the strangest tricks with his assumed function.
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