History of Friedrich II of Prussia— Volume 14

Author: Thomas Carlyle

Chapter VII. Friedrich Makes Treaty With France; and Silently Gets Ready.

Though Friedrich went upon the bantering tone with Voltaire, his private thoughts in regard to the surrounding scene of things were extremely serious; and already it had begun to be apparent, from those Britannic-Austrian procedures, that some new alliance with France might well lie ahead for him. During Voltaire’s visit, that extraordinary Paper from Vienna, that the Kaiser was no Kaiser, and that there must be "compensation" and satisfactory "assurance," had come into full glare of first-reading; and the DICTATUR-SACHE, and denunciation of an evidently partial Kur-Mainz, was awakening everywhere. Voltaire had not gone, when,—through Podewils Junior (probably with help of the improper Dutch female of rank),— Friedrich got to wit of another thing, not less momentous to him; and throwing fearful light on that of "compensation" and "assurance." This was the Treaty of Worms,—done by Carteret and George, September 13th, during those languid Rhine operations; Treaty itself not languid, but a very lively thing, to Friedrich and to all the world! Concerning which a few words now.

We have said, according to promise, and will say, next to nothing of Maria Theresa’s Italian War; but hope always the reader keeps it in mind. Big war-clouds waltzing hither and thither, occasionally clashing into bloody conflict; Sardinian Majesty and Infant Philip both personally in the field, fierce men both: Traun, Browne, Lobkowitz, Lichtenstein, Austrians of mark, successively distinguishing themselves; Spain, too, and France very diligent;— Conti off thither, then in their turns Maillebois, Noailles:—high military figures, but remote; shadowy, thundering INaudibly on this side and that; whom we must not mention farther.

"The notable figure to us," says one of my Notes, "is Charles Emanuel, second King of Sardinia; who is at the old trade of his Family, and shifts from side to side, making the war-balance vibrate at a great rate, now this scale now that kicking the beam. For he holds the door of the Alps, Bully Bourbon on one side of it, Bully Hapsburg on the other; and inquires sharply, "You, what will you give me? And you?" To Maria Theresa’s affairs he has been superlatively useful, for these Two Years past; and truly she is not too punctual in the returns covenanted for. It appears to Charles Emanuel that the Queen of Hungary, elated in her high thought, under-rates his services, of late; that she practically means to give him very little of those promised slices from the Lombard parts; and that, in the mean while, much too big a share of the War has fallen upon his poor hands, who should be doorholder only.

"Accordingly he grumbles, threatens: he has been listening to France, ’Bourbon, how much will you give me, then?’ and the answer is such that he informs the Queen of Hungary and the Britannic Majesty, of his intention to close with Bourbon, since they on their side will do nothing considerable. George and his Carteret, not to mention the Hungarian Majesty at all, are thunder-struck at such a prospect; bend all their energies towards this essential point of retaining Charles Emanuel, which is more urgent even than getting Elsass. ’Madam,’ they say to her Majesty, (we cannot save Italy for you on other terms: Vigevanesco, Finale [which is Genoa’s], part of Piacenza [when once got]: there must be some slice of the Lombard parts to this Charles Emanuel justly angry!’ Whereat the high Queen storms, and in her high manner scolds little George, as if he were the blamable party,—pretending friendship, and yet abetting mere highway robbery or little better. And his cash paid Madam, and his Dettingen mouse-trap fought? ’Well, he has plenty of cash:—is it my Cause, then, or his Majesty’s and Liberty’s?’ Posterity, in modern England, vainly endeavors to conceive this phenomenon; yet sees it to be undeniable.

"And so there is a Treaty of Worms got concocted, after infinite effort on the part of Carteret, Robinson too laboring and steaming in Vienna with boilers like to burst; and George gets it signed 13th September [already signed while Friedrich was looking into Seckendorf and Wembdingen, if Friedrich had known it]: to this effect, That Charles Emanuel should have annually, down on the nail, a handsome increase of Subsidy (200,000 pounds instead of 150,000 pounds) from England, and ultimately beyond doubt some thinnish specified slices from the Lombard parts; and shall proceed fighting for, not against; English Fleet co-operating, English Purse ditto, regardless of expense; with other fit particulars, as formerly. [Scholl, ii. 330-335; Adelung, iii. B, 222-226; Coxe, iii. 296.] Maria Theresa, very angry, looks upon herself as a martyr, nobly complying to suffer for the whim of England; and Robinson has had such labors and endurances, a steam-engine on the point of bursting is but an emblem of him. It was a necessary Treaty for the Cause of Liberty, as George and Carteret, and all English Ministries and Ministers (Diana of Newcastle very specially, in spite of Pitt and a junior Opposition Party) viewed Liberty. It was Love’s last shift,—Diana having intervened upon those magnificent ’Conferences of Hanau’ lately! Nevertheless Carteret was thrown out, next year, on account of it. And Posterity is unable to conceive it; and asks always of little George, What, in the name of wonder, had he to do there, fighting for or against, and hiring everybody he met to fight against everybody? A King with eyes somewhat A FLEUR-DE-TETE: yes; and let us say, his Nation, too,—which has sat down quietly, for almost a century back, under mountains of nonsense, inwardly nothing but dim Scepticism [except in the stomachic regions], and outwardly such a Trinacria of Hypocrisy [unconscious, for most part] as never lay on an honest giant Nation before, was itself grown much of a fool, and could expect no other kind of Kings.

"But the point intensely interesting to Friedrich in this Treaty of Worms was, That, in enumerating punctually the other Treaties, old and recent, which it is to guarantee, and stand upon the basis of, there is nowhere the least mention of Friedrich’s BRESLAU-AND-BERLIN TREATY; thrice-important Treaty with her Hungarian Majesty on the Silesian matter! In settling all manner of adjoining and preceding matters, there is nothing said of Silesia at all. Singular indeed. Treaties enough, from that of Utrecht downward, are wearisomely mentioned here; but of the Berlin Treaty, Breslau Treaty, or any Treaty settling Silesia,—much less, of any Westminster Treaty, guaranteeing it to the King of Prussia,—there is not the faintest mention! Silesia, then, is not considered settled, by the high contracting parties? Little George himself, who guaranteed it, in the hour of need, little more than a year ago, considers it fallen loose again in the new whirl of contingencies? ’Patience, Madam: what was good to give is good to take!’ On what precise day or month Friedrich got notice of this expressive silence in the Treaty of Worms, we do not know; but from that day—!"

Friedrich recollects another thing, one of many others: that of those "ulterior mountains," which Austria had bargained for as Boundary to Schlesien. Wild bare mountains; good for what? For invading Schlesien from the Austrian side; if for nothing else conceivable! The small riddle reads itself to him so, with a painful flash of light. [<italic> OEuvres de Frederic, <end italic> iii. 34.] Looking intensely into this matter, and putting things together, Friedrich gets more and more the alarming assurance of the fate intended him; and that he will verily have to draw sword again, and fight for Silesia, and as if for life. From about the end of 1743 (as I strive to compute), there was in Friedrich himself no doubt left of it; though his Ministers, when he consulted them a good while afterwards, were quite incredulous, and spent all their strength in dissuading a new War; now when the only question was, How to do said War? "How to do it, to make ready for doing it? We must silently select the ways, the methods: silent, wary,—then at last swift; and the more like a lion-spring, like a bolt from the blue, it will be the better!" That is Friedrich’s fixed thought.

The Problem was complicated, almost beyond example. The Reich, with a Kaiser reduced to such a pass, has its potentialities of help or of hindrance,—its thousand-fold formulas, inane mostly, yet not inane wholly, which interlace this matter everywhere, as with real threads, and with gossamer or apparent threads,—which it is essential to attend to. Wise head, that could discriminate the dead Formulas of such an imbroglio, from the not-dead; and plant himself upon the Living Facts that do lie in the centre there! "We cannot have a Reichs Mediation-Army, then? Nor a Swabian-Franconian Army, to defend their own frontier?" No; it is evident, none. "And there is no Union of Princes possible; no Party, anywhere, that will rise to support the Kaiser whom all Germany elected; whom Austria and foreign England have insulted, ruined and officially designated as non-extant?" Well, not quite No, none; YES perhaps, in some small degree,—if Prussia will step out, with drawn sword, and give signal. The Reich has its potentialities, its formulas not quite dead; but is a sad imbroglio.

Definite facts again are mainly twofold, and of a much more central nature. Fact FIRST: A France which sees itself lamentably trodden into the mud by such disappointments and disgraces; which, on proposing peace, has met insult and invasion;—France will be under the necessity of getting to its feet, and striking for itself; and indeed is visibly rising into something of determination to do it:—there, if Prussia and the Kaiser are to be helped at all, there lies the one real help. Fact SECOND: Friedrich’s feelings for the poor Kaiser and the poor insulted Reich, of which Friedrich is a member. Feelings, these, which are not "feigned" (as the English say), but real, and even indignant; and about these he can speak and plead freely. For himself and his Silesia, THROUGH the Kaiser, Friedrich’s feelings are pungently real;—and they are withal completely adjunct to the other set of feelings, and go wholly to intensifying of them; the evident truth being, That neither he nor his Silesia would be in danger, were the Kaiser safe.

Friedrich’s abstruse diplomacies, and delicate motions and handlings with the Reich, that is to say, with the Kaiser and the Kaiser’s few friends in the Reich, and then again with the French, —which lasted for eight or nine months before closure (October, 1743 to June, 1744),—are considered to have been a fine piece of steering in difficult waters; but would only weary the reader, who is impatient for results and arrivals. Ingenious Herr Professor Ranke,—whose HISTORY OF FRIEDRICH consists mainly of such matter excellently done, and offers mankind a wondrously distilled "ASTRAL SPIRIT," or ghost-like fac-simile (elegant gray ghost, with stars dim-twinkling through), of Friedrich’s and other people’s Diplomatizings in this World,—will satisfy the strongest diplomatic appetite; and to him we refer such as are given that way. [Ranke, <italic> Neun Bucher Preussischer Geschichte, <end italic> iii. 74-137.]’ "France and oneself, as SUBSTANCE of help; but, for many reasons, give it carefully a legal German FORM or coat:" that is Friedrich’s method as to finding help. And he diligently prosecutes it;—and, what is still luckier, strives to be himself at all points ready, and capable of doing with a mininum of help from others.

Before the Year 1743 was out, Friedrich had got into serious Diplomatic Colloquy with France; suggesting, urging, proposing, hypothetically promising. "February 21st, 1744," he secretly despatched Rothenburg to Paris; who, in a shining manner, consults not only with the Amelots, Belleisles, but with the Chateauroux herself (who always liked Friedrich), and with Louis XV. in person: and triumphantly brings matters to a bearing. Ready here, on the French side; so soon as your Reich Interests are made the most of; so soon as your Patriotic "Union of Reich’s Princes" is ready! In March, 1744, the Reich side of the Affair was likewise getting well forward ("we keep it mostly secret from the poor Kaiser, who is apt to blab"):—and on May 22d, 1744, Friedrich, with the Kaiser and Two other well-affected Parties (only two as yet, but we hope for more, and invite all and sundry), sign solemnly their "UNION OF FRANKFURT;" famous little Fourfold outcome of so much diplomatizing. [Ranke, ubi supra (Treaty is in Adelung, iv. 103-105).] For the well-affected Parties, besides Friedrich, and the Kaiser himself, were as yet Two only: Landgraf Wilhelm of Hessen-Cassel, disgusted with the late Carteret astucities at Hanau, he is one (and hires, by and by, his poor 6,000 Hessians to the French and Kaiser, instead of to the English; which is all the help HE can give); Landgraf Wilhelm, and for sole second to him the new Kur-Pfalz, who also has men to hire. New Kur-Pfalz: our poor OLD friend is dead; but here is a new one, Karl Philip Theodor by name, of whom we shall hear again long afterwards; who was wedded (in the Frankfurt-Coronation time, as readers might have noted) to a Grand-daughter of the old, and who is, like the old, a Hereditary Cousin of the Kaiser’s, and already helps him all he can.

Only these Two as yet, though the whole Reich is invited to join; these, along with Friedrich and the Kaiser himself, do now, in their general Patriotic "Union," which as yet consists only of Four, covenant, in Six Articles, To,—in brief, to support Teutschland’s oppressed Kaiser in his just rights and dignities; and to do, with the House of Austria, "all imaginable good offices" (not the least whisper of fighting) towards inducing said high House to restore to the Kaiser his Reichs-Archives, his Hereditary Countries, his necessary Imperial Furnishings, called for by every law human and divine:—in which endeavor, or innocently otherwise, if any of the contracting parties be attacked, the others will guarantee him, and strenuously help. "All imaginable good offices;" nothing about fighting anywhere,—still less is there the least mention of France; total silence on that head, by Friedrich’s express desire. But in a Secret Article (to which France, you may be sure, will accede), it is intimated, "That the way of good offices having some unlikelihoods, it MAY become necessary to take arms. In which tragic case, they will, besides Hereditary Baiern (which is INalienable, fixed as the rocks, by Reichs-Law), endeavor to conquer, to reconquer for the Kaiser, his Kingdom of Bohmen withal, as a proper Outfit for Teutschland’s Chief: and that, if so, his Prussian Majesty (who will have to do said conquest) shall, in addition to his Schlesien, have from it the Circles of Konigsgratz, Bunzlau and Leitmeritz for his trouble." This is the Treaty of Union, Secret-Article and all; done at Frankfurt-on- Mayn, 22d May, 1744.

Done then and there; but no part of it made public, till August following, ["22d August 1744, by the Kaiser" (Adelung, iv. 154.}] (when the upshot had come); and the Secret Bohemian Article NOT then made public, nor ever afterwards,—much the contrary; though it was true enough, but inconvenient to confess, especially as it came to nothing. "A hypothetical thing, that," says Friedrich carelessly; "wages moderate enough, and proper to be settled beforehand, though the work was never done." To reach down quite over the Mountains, and have the Elbe for Silesian Frontier: this, as an occasional vague thought, or day-dream in high moments, was probably not new to Friedrich; and would have been very welcome to him,—had it proved realizable, which it did not. That this was "Friedrich’s real end in going to War again," was at one time the opinion loudly current in England and other uninformed quarters; "but it is not now credible to anybody," says Herr Ranke; nor indeed worth talking of, except as a memento of the angry eclipses, and temporary dust-clouds, which rise between Nations, in an irritated uninformed condition.

Rapidly progressive in the rear of all this, which was its legalizing German COAT, the French Treaty, which was the interior SUBSTANCE, or muscular tissue, perfected itself under Rothenburg; and was signed June 5th, 1774 (anniversary, by accident, of that First Treaty of all, "June 5th, 1741");—sanctioning, by France, that Bohemian Adventure, if needful; minutely setting forth How, and under what contingencies, what efforts made and what successes arrived at, on the part of France, his Prussian Majesty shall take the field; and try Austria, not "with all imaginable good offices" longer, but with harder medicine. Of which Treaty we shall only say farther, commiserating our poor readers, That Friedrich considerably MORE than kept his side of it; and France very considerably LESS than hers. So that, had not there been punctual preparation at all points, and good self-help in Friedrich, Friedrich had come out of this new Adventure worse than he did!

Long months ago, the French—as preliminary and rigorous SINE QUA NON to these Friedrich Negotiations—had actually started work, by "declaring War on Austria, and declaring War on England:"—Not yet at War, then, after so much killing? Oh no, reader; mere "Allies" of Belligerents, hitherto. These "Declarations" the French had made; [War on England, 15th March, 1744; on Austria, 27th April (Adelung, iv. 78, 90).] and the French were really pushing forward, in an attitude of indignant energy, to execute the same. As shall be noticed by and by. And through Rothenburg, through Schmettau, by many channels, Friedrich is assiduously in communication with them; encouraging, advising, urging; their affairs being in a sort his, ever since the signing of those mutual Engagements, May 22d, June 5th. And now enough of that hypothetic Diplomatic stuff.

War lies ahead, inevitable to Friedrich. He has gradually increased his Army by 18,000; inspection more minute and diligent than ever, has been quietly customary of late; Walrave’s fortification works, impregnable or nearly so, the work at Neisse most of all, Friedrich had resolved to SEE completed,—before that French Treaty were signed. A cautious young man, though a rapid; vividly awake on all sides. And so the French-Austrian, French-English game shall go on; the big bowls bounding and rolling (with velocities, on courses, partly computable to a quick eye);—and at the right instant, and juncture of hits, not till that nor after that, a quick hand shall bowl in; with effect, as he ventures to hope. He knows well, it is a terrible game. But it is a necessary one, not to be despaired of; it is to be waited for with closed lips, and played to one’s utmost!—


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Chicago: Thomas Carlyle, "Chapter VII. Friedrich Makes Treaty With France; and Silently Gets Ready.," History of Friedrich II of Prussia— Volume 14 in History of Friedrich II of Prussia—Volume 14 Original Sources, accessed January 20, 2019, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Q81A5C4I5INRBI2.

MLA: Carlyle, Thomas. "Chapter VII. Friedrich Makes Treaty With France; and Silently Gets Ready." History of Friedrich II of Prussia— Volume 14, in History of Friedrich II of Prussia—Volume 14, Original Sources. 20 Jan. 2019. www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Q81A5C4I5INRBI2.

Harvard: Carlyle, T, 'Chapter VII. Friedrich Makes Treaty With France; and Silently Gets Ready.' in History of Friedrich II of Prussia— Volume 14. cited in , History of Friedrich II of Prussia—Volume 14. Original Sources, retrieved 20 January 2019, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=Q81A5C4I5INRBI2.