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History of Friedrich II of Prussia — Volume 10 By Thomas Carlyle Characters: 16150

Updated: 2017-12-04 00:02

Friedrich spent ten days on his circuitous journey home; considerable inspection to be done, in Minden, Magdeburg, not to speak of other businesses he had. The old Newspapers are still more intent upon him, now that the Herstal Affair has broken into flame: especially the English Newspapers; who guess that there are passages of courtship going on between great George their King and him. Here is one fact, correct in every point, for the old London Public: "Letters from Hanover say, that the King of Prussia passed within a small distance of that City the 16th inst. N.S., on his return to Berlin, but did not stop at Herrenhausen;"-about which there has been such hoping and speculating among us lately. [Daily Post, 22d September, 1740; other London Newspapers from July 31st downwards.] A fact which the extinct Editor seems to meditate for a day or two; after which he says (partly in ITALICS), opening his lips the second time, like a Friar Bacon's Head significant to the Public: "Letters from Hanover tell us that the Interview, which it was said his Majesty was to have with the King of Prussia, did not take place, for certain PRIVATE REASONS, which our Correspondent leaves us to guess at!"

It is well known Friedrich did not love his little Uncle, then or thenceforth; still less his little Uncle him: "What is this Prussia, rising alongside of us, higher and higher, as if it would reach our own sublime level!" thinks the little Uncle to himself. At present there is no quarrel between them; on the contrary, as we have seen, there is a mutual capability of helping one another, which both recognize; but will an interview tend to forward that useful result? Friedrich, in the intervals of an ague, with Herstal just broken out, may have wisely decided, No. "Our sublime little Uncle, of the waxy complexion, with the proudly staring fish-eyes,-no wit in him, not much sense, and a great deal of pride,-stands dreadfully erect, 'plumb and more,' with the Garter-leg advanced, when one goes to see him; and his remarks are not of an entertaining nature. Leave him standing there: to him let Truchsess and Bielfeld suffice, in these hurries, in this ague that is still upon us." Upon which the dull old Newspapers, Owls of Minerva that then were, endeavor to draw inferences. The noticeable fact is, Friedrich did, on this occasion, pass within a mile or two of his royal Uncle, without seeing him; and had not, through life, another opportunity; never saw the sublime little man at all, nor was again so near him.

I believe Friedrich little knows the thick-coming difficulties of his Britannic Majesty at this juncture; and is too impatient of these laggard procedures on the part of a man with eyes A FLEUR-DE-TETE. Modern readers too have forgotten Jenkins's Ear; it is not till after long study and survey that one begins to perceive the anomalous profundities of that phenomenon to the poor English Nation and its poor George II.

The English sent off, last year, a scanty Expedition, "six ships of the line," only six, under Vernon, a fiery Admiral, a little given to be fiery in Parliamentary talk withal; and these did proceed to Porto-Bello on the Spanish Main of South America; did hurl out on Porto-Bello such a fiery destructive deluge, of gunnery and bayonet-work, as quickly reduced the poor place to the verge of ruin, and forced it to surrender with whatever navy, garrison, goods and resources were in it, to the discretion of fiery Vernon,-who does not prove implacable, he or his, to a petitioning enemy. Yes, humble the insolent, but then be merciful to them, say the admiring Gazetteers. "The actual monster," how cheering to think, "who tore off Mr. Jenkins's Ear, was got hold of [actual monster, or even three or four different monsters who each did it, the "hold got" being mythical, as readers see], and naturally thought he would be slit to ribbons; but our people magnanimously pardoned him, magnanimously flung him aside out of sight;" [Gentleman's Magazine, x. 124, 145 (date of the Event is 3d December N.S., 1739).] impossible to shoot a dog in cold blood.

Whereupon Vernon returned home triumphant; and there burst forth such a jubilation, over the day of small things, as is now astonishing to think of. Had the Termagant's own Thalamus and Treasury been bombarded suddenly one night by red-hot balls, Madrid City laid in ashes, or Baby Carlos's Apanage extinguished from Creation, there could hardly have been greater English joy (witness the "Porto-Bellos" they still have, new Towns so named); so flamy is the murky element growing on that head. And indeed had the cipher of tar-barrels burnt, and of ale-barrels drunk, and the general account of wick and tallow spent in illuminations and in aldermanic exertions on the matter, been accurately taken, one doubts if Porto-Bello sold, without shot fired, to the highest bidder, at its floweriest, would have covered such a sum. For they are a singular Nation, if stirred up from their stagnancy; and are much in earnest about this Spanish War.

It is said there is now another far grander Expedition on the stocks: military this time as well as naval, intended for the Spanish Main;-but of that, for the present, we will defer speaking. Enough, the Spanish War is a most serious and most furious business to those old English; and, to us, after forced study of it, shines out like far-off conflagration, with a certain lurid significance in the then night of things. Night otherwise fallen dark and somniferous to modern mankind. As Britannic Majesty and his Walpoles have, from the first, been dead against this Spanish War, the problem is all the more ominous, and the dreadful corollaries that may hang by it the more distressing to the royal mind.

For example, there is known, or as good as known, to be virtually some Family Compact, or covenanted Brotherhood of Bourbonism, French and Spanish: political people quake to ask themselves, "How will the French keep out of this War, if it continue any length of time? And in that case, how will Austria, Europe at large? Jenkins's Ear will have kindled the Universe, not the Spanish Main only, and we shall be at a fine pass!" The Britannic Majesty reflects that if France take to fighting him, the first stab given will probably be in the accessiblest quarter and the intensely most sensitive,-our own Electoral Dominions where no Parliament plagues us, our dear native country, Hanover. Extremely interesting to know what Friedrich of Prussia will do in such contingency?

Well, truly it might have been King George's best bargain to close with Friedrich; to guarantee Julich and Berg, and get Fredrich to stand between the French and Hanover; while George, with an England behind him, in such humor, went wholly into that Spanish Business, the one thing needful to them at present. Truly; but then again, there are considerations: "What is this Friedrich, just come out upon the world? What real fighting power has he, after all that ridiculous drilling and recruiting Friedrich Wilhelm made? Will he be faithful in bargain; is not, perhaps, from of old, his bias always toward France rather? And the Kaiser, what will the Kaiser say to it?" These are questions for a Britannic Majesty! Seldom was seen such an insoluble imbroglio of potentialities; dangerous to touch, dangerous to leave lying;-and his Britannic Majesty's procedures upon it are of a very slow intricate sort; and will grow still more so, year after year, in the new intricacies that are coming, and be a weariness to my readers and me. For observe the simultaneous fact. All this while, Robinson at Vienna is dunning the Imperial Majesty to remember old Marlborough days and the Laws of Nature; and declare for us against France, in case of the worst. What an attempt! Imperial Majesty has no money; Imperial Majesty remembers recent days rather, and his own last quarrel with France (on the Polish-Election score), in which you Sea-Powers cruelly stood neuter! One comfort, and pretty much one only, is left to a nearly bankrupt Imp

erial heart; that France does at any rate ratify Pragmatic Sanction, and instead of enemy to that inestimable Document has become friend,-if only she be well let alone. "Let well alone," says the sad Kaiser, bankrupt of heart as well as purse: "I have saved the Pragmatic, got Fleury to guarantee it; I will hunt wild swine and not shadows any more: ask me not!" And now this Herstal business; the Imperial Dehortatoriums, perhaps of a high nature, that are like to come? More hopeless proposition the Britannic Majesty never made than this to the Kaiser. But he persists in it, orders Robinson to persist; knocks at the Austrian door with one hand, at the Prussian or Anti-Austrian with the other; and gazes, with those proud fish-eyes, into perils and potentialities and a sea of troubles. Wearisome to think of, were not one bound to it! Here, from a singular CONSTITUTIONAL HISTORY OF ENGLAND, not yet got into print, are two Excerpts; which I will request the reader to try if he can take along with him, in view of much that is Coming:-

1. A JUST WAR.-"This War, which posterity scoffs at as the WAR OF JENKINS'S EAR, was, if we examine it, a quite indispensable one; the dim much-bewildered English, driven into it by their deepest instincts, were, in a chaotic inarticulate way, right and not wrong in taking it as the Commandment of Heaven. For such, in a sense, it was; as shall by and by appear. Not perhaps since the grand Reformation Controversy, under Oliver Cromwell and Elizabeth, had there, to this poor English People (who are essentially dumb, inarticulate, from the weight of meaning they have, notwithstanding the palaver one hears from them in certain epochs), been a more authentic cause of War. And, what was the fatal and yet foolish circumstance, their Constitutional Captains, especially their King, would never and could never regard it as such; but had to be forced into it by the public rage, there being no other method left in the case.

"I say, a most necessary War, though of a most stupid appearance; such the fatality of it:-begun, carried on, ended, as if by a People in a state of somnambulism! More confused operation never was. A solid placid People, heavily asleep (and snoring much, shall we say, and inarticulately grunting and struggling under indigestions, Constitutional and other? Do but listen to the hum of those extinct Pamphlets and Parliamentary Oratories of theirs!),-yet an honestly intending People; and keenly alive to any commandment from Heaven, that could pierce through the thick skin of them into their big obstinate heart. Such a commandment, then and there, was that monition about Jenkins's Ear. Upon which, so pungent was it to them, they started violently out of bed, into painful sleep-walking; and went, for twenty years and more, clambering and sprawling about, far and wide, on the giddy edge of precipices, over house-tops and frightful cornices and parapets; in a dim fulfilment of the said Heaven's command. I reckon that this War, though there were intervals, Treaties of Peace more than one, and the War had various names,-did not end till 1763. And then, by degrees, the poor English Nation found that (at, say, a thousand times the necessary expense, and with imminent peril to its poor head, and all the bones of its body) it had actually succeeded,-by dreadful exertions in its sleep! This will be more apparent by and by; and may be a kind of comfort to the sad English reader, drearily surveying such somnambulisms on the part of his poor ancestors."

2. TWO DIFFICULTIES.-"There are Two grand Difficulties in this Farce-Tragedy of a war; of which only one, and that not the worst of the Pair, is in the least surmised by the English hitherto. Difficulty First, which is even worse than the other, and will surprisingly attend the English in all their Wars now coming, is: That their fighting-apparatus, though made of excellent material, cannot fight,-being in disorganic condition; one branch of it, especially the 'Military' one as they are pleased to call it, being as good as totally chaotic, and this in a quiet habitual manner, this long while back. With the Naval branch it is otherwise; which also is habitual there. The English almost as if by nature can sail, and fight, in ships; cannot well help doing it. Sailors innumerable are bred to them; they are planted in the Ocean, opulent stormy Neptune clipping them in all his moods forever: and then by nature, being a dumb, much-enduring, much-reflecting, stout, veracious and valiant kind of People, they shine in that way of life, which specially requires such. Without much forethought, they have sailors innumerable, and of the best quality. The English have among them also, strange as it may seem to the cursory observer, a great gift of organizing; witness their Arkwrights and others: and this gift they may often, in matters Naval more than elsewhere, get the chance of exercising. For a Ship's Crew, or even a Fleet, unlike a land Army, is of itself a unity, its fortunes disjoined, dependent on its own management; and it falls, moreover, as no land army can, to the undivided guidance of one man,-who (by hypothesis, being English) has now and then, from of old, chanced to be an organizing man; and who is always much interested to know and practise what has been well organized. For you are in contact with verities, to an unexampled degree, when you get upon the Ocean, with intent to sail on it, much more to fight on it;-bottomless destruction raging beneath you and on all hands of you, if you neglect, for any reason, the methods of keeping it down, and making it float you to your aim!

"The English Navy is in tolerable order at that period. But as to the English Army,-we may say it is, in a wrong sense, the wonder of the world, and continues so throughout the whole of this History and farther! Never before, among the rational sons of Adam, were Armies sent out on such terms,-namely without a General, or with no General understanding the least of his business. The English have a notion that Generalship is not wanted; that War is not an Art, as playing Chess is, as finding the Longitude, and doing the Differential Calculus are (and a much deeper Art than any of these); that War is taught by Nature, as eating is; that courageous soldiers, led on by a courageous Wooden Pole with Cocked-hat on it, will do very well. In the world I have not found opacity of platitude go deeper among any People. This is Difficulty First, not yet suspected by an English People, capable of great opacity on some subjects.

"Difficulty Second is, That their Ministry, whom they had to force into this War, perhaps do not go zealously upon it. And perhaps even, in the above circumstances, they totally want knowledge how to go upon it, were they never so zealous; Difficulty Second might be much helped, were it not for Difficulty First. But the administering of War is a thing also that does not come to a man like eating.-This Second Difficulty, suspicion that Walpole and perhaps still higher heads want zeal, gives his Britannic Majesty infinite trouble; and"--And so, in short, he stands there, with the Garter-leg advanced, looking loftily into a considerable sea of troubles,-that day when Friedrich drove past him, Friday, 16th September, 1740, and never came so near him again.

The next business for Friedrich was a Visit at Brunswick, to the Affinities and Kindred, in passing; where also was an important little act to be done: Betrothal of the young Prince, August Wilhelm, Heir-Presumptive whom we saw in Strasburg, to a Princess of that House, Louisa Amelia, younger Sister of Friedrich's own Queen. A modest promising arrangement; which turned out well enough,-though the young Prince, Father to the Kings that since are, was not supremely fortunate otherwise. [Betrothal was 20th September, 1740; Marriage, 5th January, 1742 (Buchholz, i. 207).] After which, the review at Magdeburg; and home on the 24th, there to "be busy as a Turk or as a M. Jordan,"-according to what we read long since.

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