Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

leged, as his reason for entering Silesia, the danger of the Austrian territories from other pretenders, and endeavoured to persuade her to give up part of her possessions for the preservation of the rest, it was evident that he was the first and only invader, and that, till he entered in a hostile manner, all her estates were unmolested.

To his promises of assistance she replied, “ that she set a high value on the king of Prussia's friendship; but that he was already obliged to assist her against invaders, both by the golden bull, and the pragmatick sanction, of which he was a guarantee; and that, if these ties were of no force, she knew not what to hope from other engagements.” Of his offers of alliances with Russia and the maritime powers, she observed, that it could be never fit to alienate her dominions for the consolidation of an alliance formed only to keep them entire.

With regard to his interest in the election of an emperour, she expressed her gratitude in strong terms; but added, that the election ought to be free, and that it must be necessarily embarrassed by contentions thus raised in the heart of the empire. Of the pecuniary assistance proposed she remarks, that no prince ever made war to oblige another to take money, and that the contributions already levied in Silesia exceed the two millions offered as its purchase.

She concluded, that as she values the king's friendship, she was willing to purchase it by any compliance but the diminution of her dominions, and exhorted him to perform his part in support of the pragmatick sanction.

The king, finding negotiation thus ineffectual, pushed forward his inroads, and now began to show how secretly he could take his measures. When he called a council of war, he proposed the question in a few words : all his generals wrote their opinions in his presence upon separate papers, which he carried away, and, examining them in private, formed his resolution without imparting it otherwise than by his orders.

He began, not without policy, to seize first upon the estates of the clergy, an order every where necessary, and every where envied. He plundered the convents of their stores of provision; and told them, that he never had heard of any magazines erected by the apostles.

This insult was mean, because it was unjust; but those who could not resist were obliged to bear it. He proceeded in his expedition, and a detachment of his troops took Jablunca, one of the strong places of Silesia, which was soon after abandoned, for want of provisions, which the Au. strian hussars, who were now in motion, were busy to interrupt.

One of the most remarkable events of the Silesia war was the conquest of Great Glogaw, which was taken by an assault in the dark, headed by Prince Leopold of Anhault Dessau. They arrived at the foot of the fortifications about twelve at night, and in two hours were masters of the place. In attempts of this kind many accidents happen which cannot be heard without surprise. Four Prussian grenadiers who had climbed the ramparts, missing their own company, met an Austrian captain with fifty-two men : they were at first

frighted, and were about to retreat ; but, gathering courage, commanded the Austrians to lay down their arms, and in the terrour of darkness and confusion were unexpectedly obeyed.

At the same time a conspiracy to kill or carry away the king of Prussia was said to be discovered. The Prussians published a memorial, in which the Austrian court was accused of employing emissaries and assassins against the king; and it was alleged, in direct terms, that one of them had confessed himself obliged by oath to destroy him, which oath had been given him in an Aulic council in the presence of the duke of Lorrain.

To this the Austrians answered, “ that the character of the queen and duke was too well known not to destroy the force of such an accusation, that the tale of the confession was an imposture, and that no such attempt was ever made.”

Each party was now inflamed, and orders were given to the Austrian general to hazard a battle. The two armies met at Molwitz, and parted without a complete victory on either side. The Austrians quitted the field in good order; and the king of Prussia rode away upon the first disorder of his troops, without waiting for the last event. This attention to his personal safety has not yet been forgotten.

After this there was no action of much importance. But the king of Prussia, irritated by opposition, transferred his interest in the election to the duke of Bavaria; and the queen of Hungary, now attacked by France, Spain, and Bavaria, was obliged to make peace with him at the expense of half Silesia, without procuring those advantages which were once offered her.

[ocr errors]

:: To enlarge dominions has been the boast of many princes; to diffuse happiness and security through wide regions has been granted to few. The king of Prussia has aspired to both these honours, and endeavoured to join the praise of legislator to that of conqueror.

To settle property, to suppress false claims, and to regulate the administration of civil and crimi. nal justice, are attempts so difficult and so useful, that I shall willingly suspend or contract the history of battles and sieges, to give a larger account of this pacifick enterprise.

That the king of Prussia has considered the nature, and the reasons of laws, with more attention than is common to princes, appears from his dissertation on the Reasons for enacting and repealing Laws; a piece which yet deserves notice, rather as a proof of good inclination than of great ability; for there is nothing to be found in it more than the most obvious books may supply, or the weakest intellect discover. Some of his observations are just and useful; but upon such a subject who can think without often thinking right? It is, however, not to be omitted, that he appears always propense towards the side of mercy. “If a poor man,” says he, “ steals in his want a watch, or a few pieces, from one to whom the loss is inconsiderable, is this a reason for condemning him to death ?"

He regrets that the laws against duels have been ineffectual ; and is of opinion, that they can never attain their end, unless the princes of Europe shall agree not to afford an asylum to dueilists, and to punish all who shall insult their equals either by word, deed, or writing. He seems to suspect this

ور

scheme of being chimerical. “Yet why,” says he, “ should not personal quarrels be submitted to judges, as well as questions of possession ? and why should not a congress be appointed for the general good of mankind, as well as for so many purposes of less importance ?"

He declares himself with great ardour against the use of torture, and by some misinformation charges the English that they still retain it.

It is perhaps impossible to review the laws of any country without discovering many defects and many superfluities. Laws often continue, when their reasons have ceased. Laws made for the first state of the society continue unabolished, when the general form of life is changed. Parts of the judicial procedure, which were at first only accidental, become in time essential; and formalities are accumulated on each other, till the art of litigation requires more study than the discovery of right.

The king of Prussia, examining the institutions of his own country, thought them such as could only be amended by a general abrogation, and the establishment of a new body of law, to which he gave the name of the Code Frederique, which is comprised in one volume of no great bulk, and must therefore unavoidably contain general positions, to be accommodated to particular cases by the wisdom and integrity of the courts. To embarrass justice by multiplicity of laws, or to hazard it by confidence in judges, seem to be the opposite rocks on which all civil institutions have been wrecked, and between which legislative wisdom has never yet found an open passage.

« ZurückWeiter »