« PredošláPokračovať »
FREDERICK THE GREAT.
THE Prussian monarchy, the youngest of the great European States, but in population and in revenue the fifth amongst them, and in art, science, and civilization entitled to the third, if not the second place, sprang from an humble origin. About the beginning of the fifteenth century, the marquisate of Brandenburg was bestowed by the Emperor Sigismund on the uoble family of Hohenzollern. In the sixteenth century that family embraced the Lutheran doctrines. Early in the seventeenth century it obtained from the King of Poland the investiture of the duchy of Prussia. Even after this accession of territory, the chiefs of the house of Hohenzollern hardly ranked with the Electors of Saxony and Bavaria. The soil of Brandenburg was, for the most part, sterile. Even around Berlin, the capital of the province, and around Potsdam, the favorite residence of the Margraves, the country was a desert. In some tracts the deep sand could with difficulty be forced by assiduous tillage to yield thin crops of rye and oats. In other places, the ancient forests, from which the conquerors of the Roman empire had descended on the Danube, re. mained untouched by the hand of man. Where the soil was rich it was generally marshy, and its insalubrity repelled the cultivators whom its fertility attracted. Frederick William, called the Great Elector, was the prince to whose policy his successors have agreed to ascribe their greatness. He acquired by the peace of Westphalia sev. eral valuable possessions, and among them the rich city and district of Magdeburg ; and he left to his son Frederick a principality as considerable as any which was not called a kingdom.
Frederick aspired to the style of royalty. Ostentatious and profuse, negligent of his true interests and of his high duties, insatiably eager for frivolous distinctions, he added nothing to the real weight of the State which he governed ; but he gained the great object of his life, the title of king. In the year 1700 he assumed this new dig. nity. He had on that occasion to undergo all the mortifications which fall to the lot of ambitious upstarts. Compared with the other crowned heads of Europe, he made a figure resembling that which a Nabob or a Commissary, who had bought a title, would make in the company of Peers whose ancestors had been attainted for treason against the Plantagenets,