"When all my lands were invaded, and I knew not where in the world I should find a place to be brought to bed in, I relied on my good right and the help of God. But in this thing, where not only public law cries to Heaven against us, but also all natural justice and sound reason, I must confess never in my life to have been in such trouble, and am ashamed to show my face. Let the Prince [Kaunitz] consider what an example we are giving to all the world, if, for a miserable piece of Poland, or of Moldavia or Wallachia, we throw our honor and reputation to the winds. I see well that I am alone, and no more in vigor; therefore I must, though to my very great sorrow, let things take their course." [
And, some days afterwards, here is her Majesty's Official Assent: "PLACET, since so many great and learned men will have it so: but long after I am dead, it will be known what this violating of all that was hitherto held sacred and just will give rise to." [From
Friedrich has none of these compunctious visitings; but his account too, when he does happen to speak on the subject, is worth hearing, and credible every word. Writing to Voltaire, a good while after (POTSDAM, 9th OCTOBER, 1773)) this, in the swift-flowing, miscellaneous Letter, is one passage: ... "To return to your King of Poland. I am aware that Europe pretty generally believes the late Partition made (QU'ON A FAIT) of Poland to be a result of the Political trickeries (MANIGANCES) which are attributed to me; nevertheless, nothing is more untrue. After in vain proposing different arrangements and expedients, there was no alternative left but either that same Partition, or else Europe kindled into a general War. Appearances are deceitful; and the Public judges only by these. What I tell you is as true as the Forty-seventh of Euclid." [OEuvres de Frederic, xxiii. 257.]
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."
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