ACQUISITION OF POLISH PRUSSIA. "During several Centuries, the much- divided Germans had habitually been pressed upon, and straitened and injured, by greedy conquering neighbors; Friedrich was the first Conqueror who once more pushed forward the German Frontier towards the East; reminding the Germans again, that it was their task to carry Law, Culture, Liberty and Industry into the East of Europe. All Friedrich's Lands, with the exception only of some Old- Saxon territory, had, by force and colonization, been painfully gained from the Sclave. At no time since the migrations of the Middle Ages, had this struggle for possession of the wide Plains to the east of Oder ceased. When arms were at rest, politicians carried on the struggle."
PERSECUTION OF GERMAN PROTESTANTS IN POLAND. "In the very 'Century of Enlightenment' the persecution of the Germans became fanatical in those Countries: one Protestant Church after the other got confiscated; pulled down; if built of wood, set on fire: its Church once burnt, the Village had lost the privilege of having one. Ministers and schoolmasters were driven away, cruelly maltreated. 'VEXA LUTHERANURN, DABIT THALERUM (Wring the Lutheran, you will find money in him),' became the current Proverb of the Poles in regard to Germans. A Protestant Starost of Gnesen, a Herr von UNRUH of the House of Birnbaum, one of the largest proprietors of the country, was condemned to die, and first to have his tongue pulled out and his hands cut off,--for the crime of having copied into his Note-book some strong passages against the Jesuits, extracted from German Books. Patriotic 'Confederates of Bar,' joined by all the plunderous vagabonds around, went roaming and ravaging through the country, falling upon small towns and German villages. The Polish Nobleman, Roskowski [a celebrated "symbolical" Nobleman, this], put on one red boot and one black, symbolizing FIRE and DEATH; and in this guise rode about, murdering and burning, from places to place; finally, at Jastrow, he cut off the hands, feet, and lastly the head of the Protestant Pastor, Willich by name, and threw the limbs into a swamp. This happened in 1768."
IN WHAT STATE FRIEDRICH FOUND THE POLISH PROVINCES. "Some few only of the larger German Towns, which were secured by walls, and some protected Districts inhabited exclusively by Germans,--as the NIEDERUNG near Dantzig, the Villages under the mild rule of the Cistercians of Oliva, and the opulent German towns of the Catholic Ermeland,--were in tolerable circumstances. The other Towns lay in ruins; so also most of the Hamlets (HOFE) of the open Country. Bromberg, the city of German Colonists, the Prussians found in heaps and ruins: to this hour it has not been possible to ascertain clearly how the Town came into this condition. [
"The Country people hardly knew such a thing as bread; many had never in their life tasted such a delicacy; few Villages possessed an oven. A weaving-loom was rare, the spinning-wheel unknown. The main article of furniture, in this bare scene of squalor, was the Crucifix and vessel of Holy-Water under it [and "POLACK! CATHOLIK!" if a drop of gin be added].--The Peasant-Noble [unvoting, inferior kind] was hardly different from the common Peasant: he himself guided his Hook Plough (HACKEN-PFLUG), and clattered with his wooden slippers upon the plankless floor of his hut. ... It was a desolate land, without discipline, without law, without a master. On 9,000 English square miles lived 500,000 souls: not 55 to the square mile."
SETS TO WORK. "The very rottenness of the Country became an attraction for Friedrich; and henceforth West-Preussen was, what hitherto Silesia had been, his favorite child; which, with infinite care, like that of an anxious loving mother, he washed, brushed, new-dressed, and forced to go to school and into orderly habits, and kept ever in his eye. The diplomatic squabbles about this 'acquisition' were still going on, when he had already sent [so early as June 4th, 1772, and still more on September 13th of that Year [See his new DIALOGUE with Roden, our Wesel acquaintance, who was a principal Captain in this business (in PREUSS, iv. 57, 58: date of the Dialogue is "11th May, 1772;"--Roden was on the ground 4th June next; but, owing to Austrian delays, did not begin till September 13th).]] a body of his best Official People into this waste-howling scene, to set about organizing it. The Landschaften (COUNTIES) were divided into small Circles; in a minimum of time, the land was valued, and an equal tax put upon it; every Circle received its LANDRATH, Law-Court, Post-office and Sanitary Police. New Parishes, each with its Church and Parson, were called into existence as by miracle; a company of 187 Schoolmasters--partly selected and trained by the excellent Semler [famous over Germany, in Halle University and SEMINARIUM, not yet in England]-- were sent into the Country: multitudes of German Mechanics too, from brick- makers up to machine-builders. Everywhere there began a digging, a hammering, a building; Cities were peopled anew; street after street rose out of the heaps of ruins; new Villages of Colonists were laid out, new modes of agriculture ordered. In the first Year after taking possession, the great Canal [of Bromberg] was dug; which, in a length of fifteen miles, connects, by the Netze River, the Weichsel with the Oder and the Elbe: within one year after giving the order, the King saw loaded vessels from the Oder, 120 feet in length of keel," and of forty tons burden, "enter the Weichsel. The vast breadths of land, gained from the state of swamp by drainage into this Canal, were immediately peopled by German Colonists.
"As his Seven-Years Struggle of War may be called super-human, so was there also in his present Labor of Peace something enormous; which appeared to his contemporaries [unless my fancy mislead me] almost preternatural, at times inhuman. It was grand, but also terrible, that the success of the whole was to him, at all moments, the one thing to be striven after; the comfort of the individual of no concern at all. When, in the Marshland of the Wetze, he counted more the strokes of the 10,000 spades, than the sufferings of the workers, sick with the marsh-fever in the hospitals which he had built for them; [Compare PREUSS, iv. 60-71.] when, restless, his demands outran the quickest performance,--there united itself to the deepest reverence and devotedness, in his People, a feeling of awe, as for one whose limbs are not moved by earthly life [fanciful, considerably!]. And when Goethe, himself become an old man, finished his last Drama [Second Part of FAUST], the figure of the old King again rose on him, and stept into his Poem; and his Faust got transformed into an unresting, creating, pitilessly exacting Master, forcing on his salutiferous drains and fruitful canals through the morasses of the Weichsel." [G. Freytag,
These statements and pencillings of Freytag, apart from here and there a flourish of poetic sentiment, I believe my readers can accept as essentially true, and a correct portrait of the fact. And therewith, CON LA BOCCA DOLCE, we will rise from this Supper of Horrors. That Friedrich fortified the Country, that he built an impregnable Graudentz, and two other Fortresses, rendering the Country, and himself on that Eastern side, impregnable henceforth, all readers can believe. Friedrich has been building various Fortresses in this interim, though we have taken no notice of them; building and repairing many things;--trimming up his Military quite to the old pitch, as the most particular thing of all. He has his new Silesian Fortress of Silberberg,--big Fortress, looking into certain dangerous Bohemian Doors (in Tobias Stusche's Country, if readers recollect an old adventure now mythical);--his new Silesian Silberberg, his newer Polish Graudentz, and many others, and flatters himself he is not now pregnable on any side.
A Friedrich working, all along, in Poland especially, amid what circumambient deluges of maledictory outcries, and mendacious shriekeries from an ill-informed Public, is not now worth mentioning. Mere distracted rumors of the Pamphleteer and Newspaper kind: which, after hunting them a long time, through dense and rare, end mostly in zero, and angry darkness of some poor human brain,--or even testify in favor of this Head-Worker, and of the sense he shows, especially of the patience. For example: that of the "Polish Towns and Villages, ordered" by this Tyrant "to deliver, each of them, so many marriageable girls; each girl to bring with her as dowry, furnished by her parents, 1 feather-bed, 4 pillows, 1 cow, 3 swine and 3 ducats,"--in which desirable condition this tyrannous King "sent her into the Brandenburg States to be wedded and promote population." [Lindsey, LETTERS ON POLAND (Letter 2d). p. 61: Peyssonnel (in some. French Book of his, "solemnly presented to Louis XVI. and the Constituent Assembly;" cited in PREUSS, iv. 85); &c. &c.] Feather-beds, swine and ducats had their value in Brandenburg; but were marriageable girls such a scarcity there? Most extraordinary new RAPE OF THE SABINES; for which Herr Preuss can find no basis or source,--nor can I; except in the brain of Reverend Lindsey and his loud LETTERS ON POLAND above mentioned.
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