Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

long considered as superior at sea : were it in the power of any articles of peace to get that power ascertained, by , seventing the enemy from building above a certain number of ships of war, then, indeed, we might on both sides hope for a long and lasting peace. It is necessary that the power of France by land should have some counterpoise; her strength and her riches are never so well known as by her losses. We see that notwithstanding she has, within the space of two years, lost upwards of a hundred thousand men in Germany; notwithstanding the immense sums she has dissipated among the northern powers, in keeping them either neutral or steady to her interest; and notwithstanding her furnishing the queen of Hungary, the electors of Saxony and Bavaria, and the other German princes in the alliance, with all the money which helped to put their troops in motion, yet we still see her able to pour new armies to her assistance, and fresh supplies of money into the coffers of her friends. Such amazing strength, I say, should have some counterpoise. From Prussia it cannot be expected, since the strength of that kingdom at present is merely artificial and transitory; as it rose to its highest pitch under the present monarch, so it probably will decline when he is no longer to support it. All the other powers whose interest it is to check the growth of French power, either bribed by her wealth, or persuaded by her counsels, conspire with her against their own independence; it lies, therefore, upon England alone to prescribe the proper terms of peace, and to provide such a treaty as will disable France from beginning a new war but at a manifest disadvantage. The house of Bourbon will not, indeed cannot, relinquish her present system, which must always render her terrible to her neighbors; but still there wants not a power sufficient to render all her intrigues abortive, and to defeat all her enterprises, though supported by her utmost force.

CHAPTER III.-OF PRUSSIA.

The interests of this monarch, if considered at large, might take up a large treatise. A man whose whole time is spent in studying the welfare of his subjects, has many connections unseen by the vulgar, and many designs which are known only to himself. The house of Brandenburgh, for more than a century, has been growing into power by a succession of wise and excellent princes, who laid out their lives in encouraging arts, promoting industry, inviting foreigners into their dominions, and levying such armies as might render them respected by their neighbors. By wisdom and by justice they have raised a kingdom whose power is great, if we regard the shortness of its existence, but small in comparison with that of other monarchs whose strength has been confirmed by time. Whatever artificial strength the dominions of the king of Prussia could acquire has been added to it; but unless a happy concurrence of the same events that gave this kingdom power continue in its preservation, it is to be feared it will again sink into its primeval obscurity. The kings of Prussia have long had two objects in view; they regarded themselves as members of the common confederacy against the ambition of France, at the same time that they were, plainly as princes of Germany, the only guardians of the Germanic constitution. Here then was a very difficult part to act; the house of Austria's ambition was to be restrained, who aimed at destroying those liberties which Prussia thought herself entitled to defend; but every resistance to the Austrian power was a diminution of it, and consequently an accession of power to her rival of France, and the common enemy of Europe. A third power was therefore requisite to regulate these alliances and disputes, and to prevent the ill consequences that might result from too great an increase of power in the states of Austria and France. It was the Prussian interest to see the balance of Europe kept exactly even: the king, therefore, paid constant attention to the measures pursued by Sweden and Denmark, and had ever a watchful eye upon the empire of Russia, as upon his diligence in those respects, he fancied the security and grandeur of his state to depend. This was a scheme which for a while was conducted with the most refined policy, and the greatest stretch of human prudence. From each of these powers he, by his address, drew some advantages, and without offending any, was considered as the natural ally of each. But how weak is human prudence against unexpected contingencies; and how little avails the wit of man, when Providence thinks proper to controvert his designs! He imagined the empire of Russia secure in his interests; but by the late revolution in the empire of Russia, the whole system of his affairs were changed with respect to that alliance. Instead of a close conjunction, it brought about a division of interests; and from an intimate union, created a distant civility, at first intermixed with some degree of jealousy, so much harder to be removed from his close alliance with the excluded family, with whom he had all the connections of friendship and mutual interests. Nor was his alliance with the crown of Sweden more fortunate. By marrying his sister to the then successor and now king of Sweden, he expected to secure the amity of that country; which, from other motives, he also expected would befriend him upon every occasion; but a late unfortunate attempt to enlarge the prerogative of the crown of that kingdom, has rendered the senate of Sweden more powerful, or at least established their former pretensions, by which he is looked upon with a jealous eye; and his connections with the royal family only serve to render him more obnoxious to the hatred of the members of the Swedish aristocracy.

The house of Austria saw the distress of his situation, and was desirous of taking the advantage of it, but had neither strength nor courage to avow her designs. France, however, privately offered her assistance, and the empress queen meditated the rescuing her Silesian dominions, which she regarded still as hers, though ceded to Prussia by all the formality of treaty. Notwithstanding all the obligations she lay under to his Britannic majesty, who wisely foresaw that being sincere in that cession was the only means of restoring tranquillity to Europe, she suffered symptoms of dislike to escape her on every occasion; and an apparent reluctance discovered itself in

every

measure of even common civility, which she was obliged to observe towards his Prussian majesty. Such a behavior could not fail of putting so penetrating a monarch upon his guard, and even obliged him to continue those forces for his interest, which he might otherwise be willing to do from inclination. France still continued her apparent friendship to the house of Brandenburgh: she was ready to lend her assistance to any power that could serve to embroil the affairs of Germany; but soon, however, they perceived Prussia to have greater strength, and consequently, from sound politics, thought themselves bound to side with the weaker, as this might give their assistance at once the appearance of equity, and draw the war to greater length, which was to be the grand result of all their designs.

Whatever politicians may fancy of unexpected occurrences, the junction of the houses of Austria and Bourbon was certainly foreseen when he concluded an alliance with England. But at that time he regarded Hanover as a sufficient barrier between him and France; and by the good conduct of its generals it appears to be such at this time. He long desired the alliance of England, a power so capable of giving him real assistance in his commercial views; and this friendship could be purchased only

by the loss of that of France. By France taking part in the war, he knew that he should encounter some difficulties, but at the same time he hoped greater advantages at the conclusion of a peace. Besides, he imagined that Russia would perform her treaties with England; and in her, from a suspected foe, he hoped a powerful friend. Such considerations made it both his interest and inclination to oultivate the friendship of the English ; a league which, though it did not happen to turn out entirely to his advantage, will probably, in the end, be more beneficial to him than any other he could have contracted.

The king of Prussia has great forces, large revenues, a genius capable of conducting both, and a moderation that will restrain him from attempts superior to these. He knows perfectly well, that the grandeur of the sovereign must be established upon the welfare of the subject; and this has excited him to show the same regard for the happiness of his people as for the extension of bis own power, or rather has induced him to make the latter always subservient to the former. Without a constant resource, he knows his power must be transitory; and this he can have by no other method so much as commerce. He has ever been known to have an inclination to become a maritime power, or which is the same thing in other words, to enable his subjects to increase their wealth by their industry, through the channels of foreign trade. What power, therefore, could so much promote his designs of this kind as England ?—a power which cannot fear him for a rival in greatness; which has no inclination to restrain, and has great abilities to protect, her enterprises of that nature. Whenever the struggles of power, which at present raise all Europe to arms, shall be composed, we have very little room to doubt that his majesty of Prussia will turn his whole views to commerce, since the very important and commodious port of Embden lies open to facilitate his schemes. There he may form such plans as will

« ZurückWeiter »