Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

advance the reputation of regal understanding, or indeed that it can add more to the safety, than it takes away from the honour of him that shall adopt it.

The queen in her answer, after charging the king of Prussia with breach of the treaty of Breslaw, and observing how much her enemies will exult to see the peace now the third time broken by him, declares,

That she had no intention to injure the rights of the electors, and that she calls in question not the event but the manner of the election.

That she had spared the emperour's troops with great tenderness, and that they were driven out of the empire only because they were in the service of France.

That she is so far from disturbing the peace of the empire, that the only commotions now raised in it are the effect of the armaments of the king of Prussia.

Nothing is more tedious than publick records, when they relate to affairs which by distance of time or place lose their power to interest the reader. Every thing grows little as it grows remote; and of things thus diminished, it is sufficient to survey the aggregate without a minute examination of the parts.

It is easy to perceive, that, if the king of Prussia’s reasons be sufficient, ambition or animosity can never want a plea for violence and invasion. What he charges upon the queen of Hungary, the waste of countries, the expulsion of the Bavarians, and the employment of foreign troops, is the unavoidable consequence of a war inflamed on either

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

side to the utmost violence. All these grievances subsisted when he made the peace, and therefore they could very little justify its breach.

It is true, that every prince of the empire is obliged to support the imperial dignity, and assist the

emperour when his rights are violated. And every subsequent contract must be understood in a sense consistent with former obligations. Nor had the king power to make a peace on terms contrary to that constitution by which he held a place among the Germanick electors. But he could have easily discovered that not the emperour but the duke of Bavaria was the queen's enemy, not the administrator of the imperial power, but the claimant of the Austrian dominions. Nor did his allegiance to the emperour, supposing the emperour injured, oblige him to more than a succour of ten thousand men. But ten thousand men could not conquer Bohemia, and without the conquest of Bohemia he could receive no reward for the zeal and fidelity which he so loudly professed.

The success of this enterprise he had taken all possible precaution to secure. He was to invade a country guarded only by the faith of treaties, and therefore left unarmed, and unprovided of all defence. He had engaged the French to attack prince Charles, before he should repass the Rhine, by which the Austrians would at least have been hindered from a speedy march into Bohemia : they were likewise to yield him such other assistance as he might want.

Relying therefore upon the promises of the French, he resolved to attempt the ruin of the house of Austria, and in August, 1744, broke into Bohemia at the head of a hundred and four thousand men. When he entered the country, he published a proclamation, promising that his army should observe the strictest discipline, and that those who made no resistance should be suffered to remain at quiet in their habitations. He required that all arms, in the custody of whomsoever they might be placed, should be given up, and put into the hands of publick officers. He still declared himself to act only as an auxiliary to the emperour, and with no other design than to establish peace and tranquillity throughout Germany, his dear country

In this proclamation there is one paragraph of which I do not remember any precedent. He threatens, that, if any peasant should be found with arms, he shall be hanged without further inquiry; and that, if any lord shall connive at his vassals keeping arms in their custody, his village shall be reduced to ashes.

It is hard to find upon what pretence the king of Prussia could treat the Bohemians as criminals, for preparing to defend their native country, or maintain their allegiance to their lawful sovereign against an invader, whether he appears principal or auxiliary, whether he professes to intend tranquillity or confusion. His

progress was such as gave great hopes to the enemies of Austria : like Cæsar, he conquered as he advanced, and met with no opposition till he reached the walls of Prague. The indignation and resentment of the queen of Hungary may be easily conceived; the alliance of Frankfort was now laid open to all Europe ; and the partition of the Austrian dominions was again publickly projected. They were to be shared among the emperour, the king of Prussia, the elector palatine, and the landgrave of Hesse. All the powers of Europe who had dreamed of controlling France were awakened to their former terrours; all that had been done was now to be done again ; and every court, from the Straits of Gibraltar to the Frozen Sea, was filled with exultation or terrour, with schemes of conquest or precautions for defence.

The king, delighted with his progress, and expecting like other mortals, elated with success, that his prosperity could not be interrupted, continued his march, and began in the latter end of September the siege of Prague. He had gained several of the outer posts, when he was informed that the convoy which attended his artillery was attacked by an unexpected party of the Austrians. The king went immediately to their assistance with the third part of his army, and found his troops put to flight, and the Austrians hasting away

with his cannons : such a loss would have disabled him at once. He fell upon the Au. strians, whose number would not enable them to withstand him, recovered his artillery, and having also defeated Bathiani, raised his batteries; and there being no artillery to be placed against him, he destroyed a great part of the city. He then ordered four attacks to be made at once, and reduced the besieged to such extremities, that in fourteen days the governour was obliged to yield the place.

At the attack commanded by Schwerin, a grenadier is reported to have mounted the bastion alone, and to have defended himself for some time with

his sword, till his followers mounted after him ; for this act of bravery, the king made him a lieutenant, and gave him a patent of nobility, .

Nothing now remained but that the Austrians should lay aside all thought of invading France, and apply their whole power to their own defence. Prince Charles, at the first news of the Prussian invasion, prepared to repass the Rhine. This the French, according to their contract with the king of Prussia, should have attempted to hinder; but they knew by experience the Austrians would not be beaten without resistance, and that resistance always incommodes an assailant. As the king of Prussia rejoiced in the distance of the Austrians, whom he considered as entangled in the French territories; the French rejoiced in the necessity of their return, and pleased themselves with the prospect of easy conquests, while powers whom they considered with equal malevolence should be employed in massacring each other.

Prince Charles took the opportunity of bright moonshine to repass the Rhine; and Noailles, who had early intelligence of his motions, gave him very little disturbance, but contented himself with attacking the rear-guard, and when they retired to the main body ceased his pursuit.

The king, upon the reduction of Prague, struck a medal, which had on one side a plan of the town, with this inscription : “ Prague taken by the king of Prussia,

September 16, 1744 ; For the third time in three years. On the other side were two verses, in which he prayed, “ Thathis conquests might produce peace.” He then marched forward with the rapidity which

« ZurückWeiter »