Frederic Ii.

surnamed the Great, the third king of Prussia, son of Frederic William I. was born Jan. 24, 1712, and educated in some measure in adversity; for when he began to grow up, and discovered talents for poetry, music, and the fine arts in general, his father, fearing lest this taste should seduce him from studies more necessary to him as a king, opposed his inclinations, and treated him with considerable harshness. In 1730, when the prince was eighteen, this disagreement broke out; he endeavoured to escape, was discovered, and thrown into prison, and Kat, a young officer who was to have attended his flight, was executed before his eyes. His marriage in 1733, with the princess of Brunswick Wolfenbuttel, restored at least apparent harmony in the family. But in his forced retirement, young Frederic had eagerly cultivated his favourite sciences, which continued to divert his cares in the most stormy and anxious periods of his life. He ascended the throne in May 1740, and almost immediately displayed his ambitious and military dispositions, by demanding Silesia from Maria Theresa, heiress of the emperor Charles VI. in his Austrian and Hungarian dominions, and pursuing his claim by force of arms. The emperor died October 20, 1740, and Lower Silesia had submitted to Frederic in November 1741. France stepped forward to support his pretensions; but in June 1742, he had signed a treaty at Breslaw, with the queen of Hungary, which left him in possession of Silesia and the county of Glatz. In the spring of 1744, either suspecting that the treaty of Breslaw would be broken, or moved again by ambition, betook arms under pretence of supporting the election of the emperor Charles VII. and declared war against Maria Theresa, who refused to acknowledge that | prince. The war was continued with various success, but on the whole very gloriously for Frederic, till the latter end of 1745. It was concluded by a treaty signed at Dresden on Christmas day, by which the court of Vienna left him in possession of Upper and Lower Silesia (excepting some districts, and the whole county of Glatz) on condition that he should acknowledge Francis I. of Lorraine as emperor.

In 1755, the contegt between England and France, concerning their American possessions, led those powers to eekallies. England made alliance with Prussia, and France with Austria. The boldness and decision of Frederick’s character were now remarkably displayed. Suspecting a design against him among the continental powers, and having even gained intelligence of a secret treaty, in which the king of Poland, elector of Saxony, was concerned, he published a strong manifesto, and marched at once with a powerful army into Saxony. But the states of the empire, not satisfied with the reasons he alleged, declared war against him, as a disturber of the public peace. In 1757, he found himself obliged to contend at once with Russia, the German empire, the house of Austria, Saxony, Sweden, and France. The numerous armies of his enemies overran his whole dominions; yet his activity and courage were ready in every quarter to give them battle. He was defeated by the Russians, had gained a battle against the Austrians, and had lost another in Bohemia, by the 18th of June, 1757. But on the 5th of November the same year, he met the Austrians and the French at Rosbach, on the frontiers of Saxony, and repaired his former losses by a signal victory. His genius had invented a new species of military exercise, and his enemies probably owed their defeat to their imperfect attempts to imitate what his soldiers had completely learned. Within a month he had gained another victory over the Austrians near Breslaw, in consequence of which he took that city, with 15,000 prisoners, and recovered all Silesia. Throughout the war, with an ability almost incredible, he gained so many advantages, and recovered with ‘such promptitude the losses he sustained, that the prodigious force combined against him was rendered ineffectual. Peace was at length concluded, Feb. 15, 1763, when the possession of Silesia was confirmed to him, and he, on his part, promised his suffrage to the election of Joseph, son | of the emperor, as king of the Romans. This was the most splendid military period of his life.

The year 1772 was remarkable for giving a proof of the insecurity of a small country situated between powerful neighbours, in the seizure of considerable territories belonging to Poland, of which the king of Prussia had his stare with Austria and Russia. The remainder of his reign, with very little exception, was devoted to the arts of peace; and his attention was diligently employed to give his subjects every advantage, consistent with a despotic government, of just laws, improving commerce, and the cultivation of the arts. Whatever were his errors in opinion or practice, which were both of the worst kind, or his offences against other powers, he sought and obtained the attachment of his subjects, by exemplary beneficence, and many truly royal virtues, mixed, however, with acts of extraordinary caprice and cruelty. He died August 17, 1786, in the seventy-fifth year of his age.

Frederic, like Cesar, united the talents of a writer with those of a warrior. He wrote in French, and was a tolerable poet; but his abilities are more displayed in history. His poem on the art of war is, however, valuable, both from his deep knowledge of the subject, ^and the traits of genius it displays. His works compose altogether nineteen volumes, 8vo. His poetical compositions, which, excepting his poem on the Art of War, consist chiefly of odes and epistles, passed through many editions under the title of “Oeuvres melees du Philosophe de Sans Souci.” But all the works published in his life, both in prose and verse, were collected in four vols. 8vo, in 1790, under the title of “Oeuvres primitives de Frederic II. Roi de Prusse, ou collection desouvragesqu’il publia pendant son regne.” Of this publication, the first volume contains his “AntiMachiuvel; military instructions for the general of his army; and his correspondence with M. de la Motte Fouquei.” TJie second, his “Memoirs of the House of Branden burgh.” In the third volume are his poems; and in the fourth, a variety of pieces in prose, philosophical, moral, historical, critical, and literary; particularly “Reflections on the military talents and character of Charles XII. king of Sweden; a discourse on war; letters on education, and on the love of our country; and a discourse on German literature.” His posthumous works hud been published stiil earlier. They appeare4 at Berlin in 1788, in | 15 vols. 8vo. The two first of these contain the “History of his own Time, to the year 1745.” The third and fourth, his “History of the Seven Years’ War.” The fifth contains “Memoirs from the Peace of Hubertsbourg in 1763, to the Partition of Poland in 1775.” The sixth is filled with miscellaneous matter, particularly “Considerations on the present state of the political powers of Europe,” and “an Essay on Forms of Government, and on the duties of Sovereigns.” The seventh and eighth volumes contain poetical pieces, and some letters to Jordan and Voltaire. The remaining seven volumes continue his correspondence, including letters to and from Fontenelle, Rollin, Voltaire, D‘Argens, D’Alembert, Condorcet, and others. Of these productions many are valuable, more especially his “History of his own Times,” where, however, he is more impartial in his accounts of his campaigns, than in assigning the motives for his wars, or estimating the merits of his antagonists.

His “Memoirs of the House of Brandenburg” are distinguished by his correctness in facts, the liveliness of his portraits, the justness of his reflections, and the vigour of his style. The “Frederician Code” displays him in the light of an able legislator, copying the Roman law, but adapting it with skill to the nature and circumstances of his own dominions. In his lighter productions he was an imitator of Voltaire,* whose friendship he long cultivated, and whose irreligious opinions unhappily he too completely imbibed. The activity of his mind was easily discerned in the vivacity of his eyes and countenance: and he was one of those extraordinary men who by an adroit and regular partition of their time, accompanied with strong spirits and perseverance, can pursue a variety of occupations which common mortals must contemplate with astonishment. Had he not been a king, he would in any situation have been a very distinguished man: being a king, he displayed those talents which usually require the retirement of private life for their cultivation, in a degree of excellence which his situation and mode of life rendered not less extraordinary than those qualities which he possessed in the highest perfection.

As all particulars respecting a man so eminent are objects of attention, we shall subjoin the account of his habitual mode of life, as it is given by the best authorities. His dress was plain in the extreme, and always military; | a few minutes early in the morning served him to arrange it, and it was never altered in the <lay boots always made a part of it. Every moment, from five o‘clock in the morning to ten at night, had its regular allotment. His first employment when he arose, was tr> peruse all the papers that were addressed to him from all parts of his dominions, the lowest of his subjects being allowed to write to him, and certain of an answer. Every proposal was to be made, and every favour to be asked in writing; and a single word written with a pencil in the margin, informed his secretaries what answer to return. This expeditions method, excluding all verbal discussion, saved abundance of time, and enabled the king so well to weigh his favours, that he was seldom deceived by his ministers, and seldom assented or denied improperly. About eleven o’clock the king appeared in his garden, and reviewed his regiment of guards, which was done at the same hour by all the colonels in his provinces. At twelve precisely, he dined; and usually invited eight or nine officers. At table he discarded all etiquette, in hopes of making conversation free and equal; but, though his own bons-mots and liveliness offered all the encouragement in his power, this is an advantage that an absolute monarch cannot easily obtain. Two hours after dinner Frederic retired to his study, where he amused himself in composing verse or prose, or in the cultivation of some branch of literature. At seven commenced a private concert, in which he played upon the flute with the skill of a professor; and frequently had pieces rehearsed which he had composed himself. The concert was followed by a supper, to which few were admitted except literary men and philosophers; and the topics of conversation were suited to such a party. As he sacrificed many of his own gratifications to the duties of royalty, he exacted a severe account from officers, and all who held any places under htm. But in many things he was indulgent, and particularly held all calumny in so much contempt, that he suffered some of the most scurrilous writers to vent their malice with impunity. “It is my business,” said he, “to do the duties of my station, and to let malevolence say what it will.1

1 Towers’s Life of Frederic, Thiebault’s Anecdotes of Frederic the Great. —Dict. Hist.