WHAT FRIEDRICH DID WITH HIS NEW ACQUISITION.
Considerable obloquy still rests on Friedrich, in many liberal circles, for the Partition of Poland. Two things, however, seem by this time tolerably clear, though not yet known in liberal circles: first, that the Partition of Poland was an event inevitable in Polish History; an operation of Almighty Providence and of the Eternal Laws of Nature, as well as of the poor earthly Sovereigns concerned there; and secondly, that Friedrich had nothing special to do with it, and, in the way of originating or causing it, nothing whatever.
It is certain the demands of Eternal Justice must be fulfilled: in earthly instruments, concerned with fulfilling them, there may be all degrees of demerit and also of merit,--from that of a world- ruffian Attila the Scourge of God, conscious of his own ferocities and cupidities alone, to that of a heroic Cromwell, sacredly aware that he is, at his soul's peril, doing God's Judgments on the enemies of God, in Tredah and other severe scenes. If the Laws and Judgments are verily those of God, there can be no clearer merit than that of pushing them forward, regardless of the barkings of Gazetteers and wayside dogs, and getting them, at the earliest term possible, made valid among recalcitrant mortals! Friedrich, in regard to Poland, I cannot find to have had anything considerable either of merit or of demerit, in the moral point of view; but simply to have accepted, and put in his pocket without criticism, what Providence sent. He himself evidently views it in that light; and is at no pains to conceal his great sense of the value of West- Preussen to him. We praised his Narrative as eminently true, and the only one completely intelligible in every point: in his Preface to it, written some years later, he is still more candid. Speaking there in the first person, this once and never before or after,--he says:--
"These new pretensions [of the Czarina, to assuage the religious putrid-fever of the Poles by word of command] raised all Poland [into Confederation of Bar, and WAR OF THE CONFEDERATES, sung by Friedrich]; the Grandees of the Kingdom implored the assistance of the Turks: straightway War flamed out; in which the Russian Armies had only to show themselves to beat the Turks in every rencounter." His Majesty continues: "This War changed the whole Political System of Europe [general Diplomatic Dance of Europe, suddenly brought to a whirl by such changes of the music]; a new arena (CARRIERE) came to open itself,--and one must have been either without address, or else buried in stupid somnolence (ENGOURDISSEMENT), not to profit by an opportunity so advantageous. I had read Bojardo's fine Allegory: [Signifies only, "seize opportunity;" but here is the passage itself:--
Here is a Historian King who uses no rouge-pot in his Narratives,-- whose word, which is all we shall say of it at present, you find to be perfectly trustworthy, and a representation of the fact as it stood before himself! What follows needs no vouching for: "This acquisition was one of the most important we could make, because it joined Pommern to East Prussia [ours for ages past], and because, rendering us masters of the Weichsel River, we gained the double advantage of being able to defend that Kingdom [Ost- Preussen], and to draw considerable tolls from the Weichsel, as all the trade of Poland goes by that River."
Yes truly! Our interests are very visible: and the interests and wishes and claims of Poland,--are they nowhere worthy of one word from you, O King? Nowhere that I have noticed: not any mention of them, or allusion to them; though the world is still so convinced that perhaps they were something, and not nothing! Which is very curious. In the whole course of my reading I have met with no Autobiographer more careless to defend himself upon points in dispute among his Audience, and marked as criminal against him by many of them. Shadow of Apology on such points you search for in vain. In rapid bare summary he sets down the sequel of facts, as if assured beforehand of your favorable judgment, or with the profoundest indifference to how you shall judge them; drops his actions, as an Ostrich does its young, to shift for themselves in the wilderness, and hurries on his way. This style of his, noticeable of old in regard to Silesia too, has considerably hurt him with the common kind of readers; who, in their preconceived suspicions of the man, are all the more disgusted at tracing in him, not the least anxiety to stand well with any reader, more than to stand ill, AS ill as any reader likes!
Third parties, it would seem, have small temptation to become his advocates; he himself being so totally unprovided with thanks for you! But, on another score, and for the sake of a better kind of readers, there is one third party bound to remark: 1. That hardly any Sovereign known to us did, in his general practice, if you will examine it, more perfectly respect the boundaries of his neighbors; and go on the road that was his own, anxious to tread on no man's toes if he could avoid it: a Sovereign who, at all times, strictly and beneficently confined himself to what belonged to his real business and him. 2. That apparently, therefore, he must have considered Poland to be an exceptional case, unique in his experience: case of a moribund Anarchy, fallen down as carrion on the common highways of the world; belonging to nobody in particular; liable to be cut into (nay, for sanitary reasons requiring it, if one were a Rhadamanthus Errant, which one is not!)--liable to be cut into, on a great and critically stringent occasion; no question to be asked of IT; your only question the consent of by-standers, and the moderate certainty that nobody got a glaringly disproportionate share! That must have been, on the part of an equitable Friedrich, or even of a Friedrich accurate in Book-keeping by Double Entry, the notion silently formed about Poland.
Whether his notion was scientifically right, and conformable to actual fact, is a question I have no thought of entering on; still less, whether Friedrich was morally right, or whether there was not a higher rectitude, granting even the fact, in putting it in practice. These are questions on which an Editor may have his opinion, partly complete for a long time past, partly not complete, or, in human language, completable or pronounceable at all; and may carefully forbear to obtrude it on his readers; and only advise them to look with their own best eyesight, to be deaf to the multiplex noises which are evidently blind, and to think what they find thinkablest on such a subject. For, were it never so just, proper and needful, this is by nature a case of LYNCH LAW; upon which, in the way of approval or apology, no spoken word is permissible. Lynch being so dangerous a Lawgiver, even when an indispensable one!--
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