Abbildungen der Seite

constitutes his military character, took possession of almost all Bohemia, and began to talk of entering Austria and besieging Vienna.

The queen was not yet wholly without resource. The elector of Saxony, whether invited or not, was not comprised in the union of Frankfort; and as every sovereign is growing less as his next neighbour is growing greater, he could not heartily wish success to a confederacy which was to aggrandize the other powers of Germany. The Prussians gave him likewise a particular and immediate provocation to oppose them; for, when they departed to the conquest of Bohemia, with all the elation of imaginary success, they passed through his dominions with unlicensed and contemptuous disdain of his authority. As the approach of prince Charles gave a new prospect of events, he was easily persuaded to enter into an alliance with the queen, whom he furnished with a very large body of troops.

The king of Prussia having-left a garrison in Prague, which he commanded to put the burghers to death if they left their houses in the night, went forward to take the other towns and fortresses, expecting, perhaps, that prince Charles would be interrupted in his march; but the French, though they appeared to follow him, either could not or would not overtake him.

In a short time, by marches pressed on with the utmost eagerness, Charles reached Bohemia, leaving the Bavarians to regain the possession of the wasted plains of their country, which their enemies, who still kept the strong places, might again seize at will. At the approach of the Austrian army the courage of the king of Prussia seemed to have failed him. He retired from post to post, and evacuated town after town, and fortress after fortress, without resistance, or appearance of resistance, as if he was resigning them to the rightful owners.

It might have been expected that he should have made some effort to rescue Prague; but, after a faint attempt to dispute the passage of the Elbe, he ordered his garrison of eleven thousand men to quit the place. They left behind them their magazines, and heavy artillery, among which were seven pieces of remarkable excellence, called The Seven Electors. But they took with them their field cannon and a great number of carriages laden with stores and plunder, which they were forced to leave in their way to the Saxons and Austrians that harassed their march. They at last entered Silesia with the loss of about a third part.

The king of Prussia suffered much in his retreat, for besides the military stores, which he left every where behind him, even to the clothes of his troops, there was a want of provisions in his army, and consequently frequent desertions and many diseases; and a soldier sick or killed was equally lost to a flying army

At last he re-entered his own territories, and having stationed his troops in places of security, returned for a time to Berlin, where he forbad all to speak either ill or well of the campaign.

To what end such a prohibition could conduce, it is difficult to discover: there is no country in which men can be forbidden to know what they know, and what is universally known may as well

be spoken. It is true, that in popular governments seditious discourses may inflame the vulgar, but in such governments they cannot be restrained, and in absolute monarchies they are of little effect.

When the Prussians invaded Bohemia, and this whole nation was fired with resentment, the king of England gave orders in his palace that none should mention his nephew with disrespect; by this command he maintained the decency necessary between princes, without enforcing, and probably without expecting obedience but in his own presence.

The king of Prussia's edict regarded only himself, and therefore it is difficult to tell what was his motive, unless he intended to spare himself this mortification of absurd and illiberal flattery, which, to a mind stung with disgrace, must have been in the highest degree painful and disgusting.

Moderation in prosperity is a virtue very difficult to all mortals; forbearance of revenge, when revenge is within reach, is scarcely ever to be found among princes. Now was the time when the queen of Hungary might perhaps have made peace on her own terms; but keenness of resentment, and arrogance of success, withheld her from the due use of the present opportunity. It is said, that the king of Prussia in his retreat sent letters to prince Charles, which were supposed to contain ample concessions, but were sent back unopened. The king of England offered likewise to mediate between them ; but his propositions were rejected at Vienna, where a resolution was taken not only to revenge the interruption of their success on the Rhine by the recovery of Silesia, but to reward the

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

Saxons for their seasonable help, by giving them part of the Prussian dominions.

In the beginning of the year 1745 died the emperour Charles of Bavaria ; the treaty of Frankfort was consequently at an end; and the king of Prussia, being no longer able to maintain the character of auxiliary to the emperour, and having avowed no other reason for the war, might have honourably withdrawn his forces, and on his own principles have complied with terms of peace; but no terms were offered him; the queen pursued him with the utmost ardour of hostility, and the French left him to his own conduct, and his own destiny.

His Bohemian conquests were already lost; and he was now chased back into Silesia, where, at the beginning of the year, the war continued in an equilibration by alternate losses and advantages. In April, the elector of Bavaria seeing his dominions overrun by the Austrians, and receiving very little succour from the French, made a peace with the

queen of Hungary upon easy conditions, and the Austrians had more troops to employ against Prussia.

But the revolutions of war will not suffer human presumption to remain long unchecked. The peace with Bavaria was scarcely concluded when the battle of Fontenoy was lost, and all the allies of Austria called upon her to exert her utmost power for the preservation of the Low Countries; and, a few days after the loss at Fontenoy, the first battle between the Prussians and the combined army of Austrians and Saxons was fought at Niedburg in Silesia.

The particulars of this battle were variously re

ported by the different parties, and published in the journals of that time; to transcribe them would be tedious and useless, because accounts of battles are not easily understood, and because there are no means of determining to which of the relations credit should be given. It is sufficient that they all end in claiming or allowing a complete victory to the king of Prussia, who gained all the Austrian artillery, killed four thousand, took seven thousand prisoners, with the loss, according to the Prussian narrative, of only sixteen hundred men.

He now advanced again into Bohemia, where, however, he made no great progress. The queen of Hungary, though defeated, was not subdued. She poured in her troops from all parts to the reinforcement of prince Charles, and determined to continue the struggle with all her power. The king saw that Bohemia was an unpleasing and inconvenient theatre of war, in which he should be ruined by a miscarriage, and should get little by a victory. Saxony was left defenceless, and if it was conquered might be plundered.

He therefore published a declaration against the elector of Saxony, and, without waiting for reply, invaded his dominions. This invasion produced another battle at Standentz, which ended, as the former, to the advantage of the Prussians. The Austrians had some advantage in the beginning; and their irregular troops, who are always daring, and are always ravenous, broke into the Prussian camp, and carried away the military chest. But this was easily repaired by the spoils of Saxony.

The queen of Hungary was still inflexible, and hoped that fortune would at last change. She re

« ZurückWeiter »