Confessions of Frederick the Great - H. Treitschke

Confessions of Frederick the Great

Heritage History Editor's Note:—The Confessions were written by Fredrick the Great for the benefit of his nephew, the heir to the Prussian throne (Frederick himself was childless). They consist of seven short tracts on subjects pertaining to government and are amusingly candid. Although the essays give great insight into Frederick's thoughts regarding politics, religion, and many other matters, they were not considered especially important until the early 20th century, when suddenly the dark and diabolical nature of Prussian pragmatism came to the fore. As the current volume's editor, Doug Sladen notes in the heading of the first tract:

"The spirit of these Confessions and the principles advocated by Frederick are very closely in line with the teachings of Treitschke and with the national policy championed by Bernhardi."

In other words, the Machiavellian and irreverent nature of Frederick's approach to government appeared harmless and amusing to many scholars until the convulsions of the First World War forced a reconsideration. It is the thesis of Douglas Sladen, the editor of this volume that the "gospel of inhumanity" preached by the Bernhardi and other contemporary Germans was apparent already in the attitudes of the founder of the Prussian state, Frederick the Great himself, the first openly atheistic monarch of Europe.

The Confessions themselves are of great interest and are written in an offhand, entertainingly frank manner. Before reading the Confessions themselves, however, the editor offers three short essays, written by contemporary scholars (circa 1914), the provide commentary on both the Confessions, and the accompanying "Life of Frederick" by Treitschke.

  • The Preface, written by Sladen, gives some history of the Confessions, comments upon their authenticity, and raises several issues regarding the translation.
  • The Forward, written by the publisher, George Haven Putnam, offers commentary on important passages from both the Confessions and Treitschke's "Life of Frederick", and points out how the Prussian "doctrine of efficiency" carried on without scruples or limitations led to the current crisis of western civilization.
  • The Introduction, also written by Sladen, provides a much more detailed analysis of the Confessions that either of the other essays. His introduction to Treitschke's work is included in the preliminary chapter of the second book.


The origin of the gospel of inhumanity preached by von Bernhardi in his Germany and the Next War is to be found in the Confessions of Frederick the Great, which came into my hands accidentally a short time ago. The Rev. Graham McElroy, whom I met at a friend's house, who had noticed the resemblance, lent me an eighteenth century duodecimo containing an English translation of the first five "Mornings" of the Confessions, which up till then were unknown to me. And about the same time the editor of The Globe showed me the proof of an article which he had commissioned upon this book. It was a learned and intuitive paper, and a perusal of it and the book made me explore the subject at the british Museum. There I found the other two "Mornings," in another little eighteenth-century volume in their original French, and one of them, the highly important "Morning" which deals with Finance, had apparently never been translated into English on account of its banality.

Banal it is, but it contributes not a little to proving that the Confessions really were written by Frederick, for it sets forth, so naturally that one can almost hear Frederick saying the words, his nostrums for improving the administration and the yield of the Prussian taxes.

But intrinsic evidence is not necessary, for the manuscript of the Confessions in French has been preserved in Frederick's own handwriting, and if it were necessary, I have the opinion of the accomplished French scholar to whom I sent, to be typed, my translation of "Mornings" VI. and VII. When I met her, I asked if she knew what she had been typing. "No," she replied, "and what is more, I cannot be certain whether the translation is from the French or from the German"—the fact being that Frederick, writing in French, was unable to divest himself of Germanisms.

Even had von Bernhardi not openly confessed, by allusion, his obligations to Frederick, no one who had read the two books could fail to perceive that the seed of Germany and the Next War is to be found in the extremely amusing and shameless Confessions of Frederick the Great. It is obvious in all its nakedness.

And since von Bernhardi constantly admits his indebtedness to Treitschke, the historian of the Prussification of Germany, it seemed to me that I could offer no more interesting commentary on Frederick's Confessions than a translation of what Treitschke wrote about the great Frederick. This, like most of Treitschke's works, had never been translated into English. It proved very difficult to translate, and as my knowledge of German is slight, Miss Louise Scheerer made a literal translation of it, which I transposed, as far as I was able, into current phraseology. Mr. Sidney Whitman, the learned author of our chief books about Bismarck, who is second to no English writer on contemporary Germany and Austria, had almost completed explaining the phrases which baffled us, when he introduced Dr. Oscar Levy, the editor of the great eighteen-volume translation of Nietzsche, and the chief authority on Nietzsche in Great Britain. Dr. Levy has most generously gone through our entire translation to see that no mistranslations have crept in.

It may be taken, therefore, that whatever the literary faults, due entirely to me, may be, the translation is accurate, a matter of immense importance where Treitschke, who is almost as difficult to translate as Carlyle would be, is concerned. Treitschke, like Carlyle, is a great word-coiner and word-joiner, and pours forth torrents of ideas. But he is not more reliable than Macaulay, for he generally applied a similarly encyclopaedic knowledge with the partisanship of an advocate rather than the justice of a judge.

What sort of man Frederick was I shall endeavour to show in an introduction more within the comprehension of a plain man than he would be likely to find Treitschke's pregnant analysis of Frederick's share in Prussification.

I shall not detain the reader by specifying the actual passages in the Confessions which are paralleled by von Bernhardi, but shall prefer to point out how Frederick's unblushing disciple has put into practice their Royal Larkinism [hooliganism], their gospel of Tuum est meum [what's yours is mine].

Douglas Sladen

London, December, 1914.


The is a sharp conflict of opinion in regard to the causation of, or the responsibility for, the great struggle that is now desolating Europe and that has even extended to the furthermost coast of Asia. It is my own opinion, an opinion which is I believe held by the great majority of Americans, that this conflict will go down to history as the war of German aggression. The war has been described as the natural expression of what has come to be known as the Hohenzollern spirit and as the necessary result of the Hohenzollern policy. Berlin and London are at this time in accord on very few matters, but it is possible that this definition in regard to the inevitability of the European war under the conditions existing would be accepted in both capitals.

Those who are studying the war with reference to its causes and its probable results, and particularly those who are in the position of Americans and can investigate the war conditions without reference to the safety, or at least to the immediate safety, of their own homes, may naturally be interested, therefore, in tracing the history of what is called the Hohenzollern spirit and the development of this all-important Hohenzollern policy.

The Hohenzollern family has shown a full measure of vitality and on the whole of persistence of purpose; but, like all historic families the record of which extends over centuries, its successive personalities have varied very greatly in individual force and in effectiveness, and also in the nature and extent of their contributions to the success of the family in the development of the realms over which they came to rule and in extending its influence upon the world outside of those realms.

When, in the thirteenth century, Conrad of Hohenzollern, at that time Burggrave of Nuremberg, directed his political ambitions toward North Germany, he doubtless indulged in the usual visions of personal glory for himself and for his family. He could hardly, however, have looked forward to the position that was to be secured, at the close of centuries of effort, by his Hohenzollern descendants. The first historic reference that we find to the Hohenzollerns is connected with the name of Tasselin, who was active in the time of Charlemagne, but the family of the Zollern Castle comes into actual history only with the wanderjahr and the promotion of Burggrave Conrad. The beginning of the political power of the family may be said to date from 1568 when the duchy of Prussia was made hereditary in the House of Hohenzollern. It is the state developed from the duchy of Prussia that to-day dominates the Empire of Germany and that is fighting for the domination of Europe. The real founder of the kingdom of Prussia and of the Empire that has developed from that kingdom was not the first King, Frederick I, to whom the crown came in 1701, but his father the great Elector of Brandenburg. It was the Elector whose force of will and organizing capacity instituted what might be called the Prussian system, under which the resources of Brandenburg and Prussia were later made so wonderfully effective. The son of the Elector, the first King, did not impress himself upon the history of the time; while the service of the grandson, Frederick William I, was rendered in the form of saving up the resources in men and in money which were to be utilized so effectively by his son Frederick II, known as Frederick the Great.

The Confessions of Frederick were brought into print in an English edition in the latter part of the eighteenth century, shortly after the death of the King. In the frank obliviousness of any moral responsibility for human, or at least for royal, action, they recall the famous letters written by Lord Chesterfield for the guidance of his godson. There is, of course, a wide difference between the subjects considered by the two writers. The Englishman is giving counsel, based upon his own experience, for the success of his godson in social and political life, while the Prussian is impressing upon the young man who is to succeed him in the control of the kingdom the principles and the policies by which such kingdom should be maintained and developed. The letters are, however, curiously similar in their frank—one may say their naive—disregard of moral principle as having anything to do either with the life of an English courtier or with the work of a Prussian King.

With this utterance of King Frederick has been associated a biographical and critical study written by the historian Treitschke, who made himself the exponent of the Hohenzollern spirit. From these two works, so different in purpose and in character, the reader is able to secure a distinct and fairly complete picture of the nature, the methods, and the policy of Frederick the Great. He secures further an indication of the principles upon which Frederick's successor, William II, appears to have planned the policy of Germany with the purpose of shaping the destinies of Europe. In his Confessions, Frederick remarks that "it is not to eminence in virtues that our family owes its aggrandizement. The greater part of our princes have been rather remarkable for misconduct, but it was chance and circumstances that have been of service."

He complains that his "kingdom is not well situated and that the different portions of the territory are not well arranged to each other. They are dispersed or divided in such manner that they cannot mutually assist each other." The series of wars waged by Frederick had for their purpose the correction of this troublesome irregularity of boundary; and he succeeded, through the appropriation from his neighbours of the pieces of territory needed, in rounding out the dominions of Prussia.

The principles set forth by Frederick for the guidance of his nephew in the development of the Prussian realm, principles based upon the King's own experience, are affirmed in substance one hundred and fifty years later, in their philosophic relation, by Nietzsche. Says Nietzsche:

"A good war will sanctify any cause. . . . Active sympathy for the weak is more dangerous to the human race than any crime. ... At the bottom of all distinguished races, the beast of prey is not to be mistaken. To demand of strength that it should not assert itself as strength, that it should not be a will to oppression, a will to destruction, a will to domination, that it should not be athirst for foes and opposition and triumph, is precisely as senseless as to demand of weakness that it assert itself as strength."

A writer in a recent number of the Unpopular Review points out that Frederick was no hypocrite. "There never was a straighter monarch. He merely had the Prussian conscience. His suspicions of foreign powers are facts to be acted on, and he feels that an act which in a foreign nation is that of a cutthroat is, when done in the behoof of Prussia, not only justified, but holy." (We may compare with this the "scrap of paper," and the havoc wrought in Belgium for holy ends.) The article in the Review says further:

"This kind of conscience is general in grim, martial, partially civilized nations which have been forged tough in the struggle for existence. Such peoples trust to their suspicions and their hates and they readily justify their own Worst aggressions as simple anticipatory measures of self-defence. If such a nation can acquire the inventions and the resources of civilization without permitting civilization to abate these suspicions and hates, or impair the conviction that the nation can do no harm, such a nation will be more formidable in arms than any truly civilized state can hope to be."

Frederick tells his nephew that "religion is absolutely necessary in the state," but goes on to say that "it would not be wise in a King to have any religion himself . . . ."

There is nothing [he says] that tyrannizes more over the head and heart than religion, because it neither agrees with our passions nor with those great political views by which a monarch ought to be guided. The true religion of a prince is his interest and his glory.

Under the heading of "Justice," Frederick emphasizes with his nephew that,

we must do justice to all men, and especially to our own subjects when so doing would not overset or interfere with our own rights or wound our own authority. There ought to be no sort of equality between the right of the monarch and the right of the subject or slave.

Under the heading of "Politics," he expresses the opinion that,

to cheat or to deceive one's fellow-creatures is a mean and criminal action. . . . The term that has been invented to describe such action is Politics. ... I understand by this, dear nephew, that we are ever to try to cheat others. This is the way to secure the advantage, or, at least, to be on a footing with the rest of mankind; for you may rest persuaded that all the states of the world run the same career. . . . Never be ashamed of making alliances, but do not commit the stupid fault of not abandoning these alliances whenever it is to your interest so to do. . . . Stripping your neighbours is only to take away from them the means of doing an injury to yourself.

In a later chapter on what might be called "Applied Politics," the King tells the nephew that he "will not trouble him with" a demonstration of the validity of the pretensions under which Silesia had been seized, but that he had "taken care to have these duly established by his orators." "It is good policy," continues Frederick, "to be always attempting something, and in any case to be perfectly persuaded that we have a right to everything that suits us." "To form alliances for one's advantage is a great maxim of state, and there are no powers that can excuse themselves for a neglect of this. . . ." It is evident, however, that "an alliance should be broken as soon as it becomes prejudicial. I have already, my dear nephew, told you that politics and villainy are almost synonymous terms." This is quite in line with the teachings of Chesterfield.

"When a stranger comes to your court, overwhelm him with civilities, and take pains to have him constantly near you. . . . This is the best way to keep concealed from him the defects of your government." One would suppose that in this counsel Frederick was foreshadowing the ingenious plan of his successor William II for the establishment of exchange professorships.

Under the heading of "Military Counsel," in his account of the management of his army Frederick says: "I ascertained who in the army were regular bandits. . . . I closed my eyes to the oppressions committed by the general officers. . . . They work for me in working for themselves."

Visitors to Germany have been impressed, and particularly since 1871, with the general recognition insisted upon by the military authorities and accepted by the populace at large, of the superiority of the profession of arms. It is the belief of not a few friends of Germany that the dominating manner which actuates the army officers, and particularly those of Prussia, is not merely an annoyance to the civilians, but has proved a very bad training for the officers themselves, but this right to dominate has been insisted upon consistently in a long series of utterances of William II. In like manner Frederick says, "Always confer an air of superiority on the profession of arms."

A century and a half later, Nietzsche writes: "The future of German civilization rests on the sons of the Prussian officers." It is because this principle was accepted by Frederick and has been developed by Frederick's successors, that the word has gone forth to Germany and the world that the German officer was something sacrosanct, and that for the safety and the development of the state he must be permitted to dominate the civilian. He was to be accepted as an awe-inspiring representative of the Kaiser. Any temporary annoyance to the civilian population was to be fully atoned for later by the glorious success of "the Day."

The Confessions close with a chapter having to do with "Finance," in which Frederick places before his nephew with considerable detail his principles of taxation and the methods under which he managed the resources of the realm. It is evident from a study of these tables that the King was a wonderful organizer, and a good man of business. One may judge that he was a difficult bargainer to get the better of or to impose upon. It is probable that for the purpose of building up the realm of Prussia, a better instructor than Frederick could not have been found. It may be questioned to-day, however, whether the principles and policies which have been handed down to his successors by this the greatest of the Hohenzollerns may not in the end prove disastrous to Germany.

Macaulay, analyzing the successive wars of annexation of Frederick, says that "his selfish rapacity gave the signal to his neighbours. . . . His example quieted their sense of shame." The historian proceeds:

"On the head of Frederick is to be placed all the blood which was shed in a war that raged during many years and in every quarter of the globe. . . . The evil produced by his wickedness was felt in lands where the name of Prussia was unknown; and in order that Frederick might rob a neighbour whom he had sworn to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel and red men scalped each other by the Great Lakes of North America."

The historian Treitschke on the other hand finds Frederick a hero after his own heart. He takes the same actions that had formed the text for Macaulay's excoriation and describes these in such manner as to show that in his judgment they were necessary for the development of Prussia and of Germany, and for the proper carrying out of the destiny of the Hohenzollerns. Says Treitschke:

"Since the days of Gustavus Adolphus, the Lion of the Midnight Sun, Germany had had no picture of a hero to whom the entire nation could look up with awe. . . . Frederick strode through the middle of the Great Powers and forced the Germans to believe again in the wonder of heroism. . . . He was a German, and the mainspring in this mighty nature is the ruthless, terrible German directness."

The historian remarks that

not without arbitrariness Frederick arranged the facts of history according to a one-sided view, but onesidedness, turned towards life and light, is, after all, the privilege of the creative genius. . . .

And again:

Frederick recognized that it had become a necessity to enlarge the territory of his state . . . and his policy was to lift the new German state into expansion and power through the frightfulness of its weapons.

It may be noted that this term "frightfulness" has been utilized to-day in the instructions given to the generals who are occupying conquered territories in Belgium and in eastern France, as necessary for the terrorizing of the people.

Treitschke finds no ground for criticizing his hero "because no treaty or league could make him resign the right of deciding for himself," that is to say, of selecting his own time for the breaking of his obligation. The historian points out, and with truth, that as early as 1756 Frederick had recognized that the continuing issue in Germany was whether it was to accept the supremacy of Prussia or of Austria. The question was decided for Germany a century later at Koniggratz by William I, Bismarck, and Moltke. The soldier, reading the account of the campaigns of the Seven Years' War, cannot withhold a full measure of admiration for the pluck, the persistence, the patience, and the genius which carried the little army intact through defeats, and through victories which were hardly less exhausting than defeats, and which saved the existence of the little kingdom; but the courage of the troops and the genius of their leader had, of course, nothing whatsoever to do with the morality of the cause for which they were fighting, a cause which for the larger portion of all the campaigns of Frederick was simply the appropriation of the territory of his neighbour.

Treitschke writes in reference to the "educational power of war" that the "alert self-reliance of the Prussians contrasted strongly with the inoffensive kindly modesty of the other Germans." The quality that Treitschke terms "self-reliance" has in later years been described by those less sympathetic with the Prussian spirit as self-sufficiency or dominating arrogance. The truth of either definition depends, of course, upon the point of view.

Treitschke says, naively,

that there then dawned upon Frederick the idea of the partition of Poland. It was his purpose to combat the grabbing land-greed of Russia. . . . The Poles were, in any case, deserving of no sympathy, for [says Treitschke] they were distinguished above all the nations of Europe by an insolent disregard of the rights and the nationalities of others.

In Treitschke's reference to the organization given by Frederick to his army, he refers to the decision to place the officers' commissions exclusively in the hands of the nobility. He goes on to say:

In the noble officers' corps there arose an aristocratic arrogance (Junkersinn), which soon became more intolerable to the people than the coarse roughness of earlier times.

It is the belief of many that this characteristic of the corps of noble Prussian officers is stronger and more troublesome in the twentieth century than it was in the eighteenth.

Treitschke writes with full approval of Frederick's upholding of Christian toleration. He cites this as an old Prussian policy, and quotes Frederick's own words, "the people's conceptions of God and godly things cannot be made subject to a coercive law."

The defenders of the war policy of Germany of to-day contend that undue weight has been given to the utterances of the historian Treitschke, of the military scientist Bernhardi, and of the philosopher Nietzsche. When, however, it is possible to make clear that the germ of the teachings of historian, philosopher, and militarist is to be found in the recorded utterances of the greatest of the Hohenzollerns, and when the Hohenzollern of to-day says frankly that he is doing what he can to carry out the ideals of the King who made Prussia a European power, it is not inaccurate to contend that the spirit and principles of Frederick, Treitschke, Nietzsche, and Bernhardi are expressed by the policies and enforced by the military power of William II.

Frederick did not dread the antagonism of his neighbours and had no fear of their criticism. He was prepared to realize that he could hardly expect friendliness of feeling from the states whose territory had been despoiled to make Prussia greater. The defenders of the policy of Kaiser William II point out that Germany is surrounded by a "steel ring of enemies," states which are opposed to her natural development. Every nation is, of necessity, in touch with neighbouring nations; and whether these nations are to hold one of their neighbours in friendship or in enmity depends, of course, largely, if not chiefly, upon her own conduct and upon her observance in international relations of the principles of justice or of fair consideration. It is difficult to imagine that Germany should expect sympathetic friendship from Denmark (one third of whose territory had been snatched from her in 1864), or from France after the appropriation of Alsace-Lorraine and the institution in old French Lorraine of the great fortress of Metz threatening as it were with a mailed fist the heart of France. If Germany succeeds in the present struggle so that the annexation of Belgium as a province of the Empire (Reichsland) may be confirmed, it is hardly to be expected that for generations to come the Belgians, devastated by ruthless invasion and by the official burning of their cities, left in starvation through the appropriation of their food supplies, and crushed with heavy indemnities, some of which were imposed even after the territory had in form become a part of the German Empire, can regard with affection or with a feeling of loyal relation, their new rulers.

The reign of Frederick is a great example of the results of doctrines of efficiency carried to the nth power without scruples or limitations, or consideration for the rights of others. It is this Hohenzollern ideal of efficiency which has produced the finest fighting machine that the world has ever seen, and which has placed back of that machine the magnificently organized resources of a great Empire. It is for Europe to decide whether it will permit itself to be dominated by the ideals, the policy, and the methods of the Hohenzollerns

Geo. Haven Putnam.

New York, January, 1915.

Editor's Introduction
to Confessions of Frederick the Great

Carlyle's million words about Frederick the Great are too tedious for this impatient century, and, though there is an admirable life of Frederick by Mr. W. F. Reddaway in the Heroes of the Nations series, comparatively few English people are acquainted with the great King's frank effrontery and biting mother-wit, which are so conspicuous in his Confessions. Here are a few of the flowers which Mr. Reddaway has gathered.

His father made him marry Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern. Frederick's comment was:

When all is said and done, there will be one more unhappy princess in the world. [Twice he declared:] I shall put her away as soon as I am master. Am I of the wood out of which they carve good husbands? I love the fair sex, my love is very inconstant; I am for enjoyment, afterwards I despise it. I will keep my word, I will marry, but that is enough; Bon jour, Madame, et bon chemin.

Good counsel does not come from a great number [was his maxim]. Newton could not have discovered the law of gravitation if he had been collaborating with Leibnitz and Descartes.

After a sweeping measure of confiscation, which compelled the clergy to practise apostolic poverty, he wrote to Voltaire: "We free them from the cares of this world so that they may labour without distraction to win the heavenly Jerusalem which is their true home. "

"I know very well," wrote Frederick to his brother, Prince Henry, as another King of Prussia might very well be imagined writing to another brother Henry, "that it is only our interest which makes it our duty to act at this moment, but we must be very careful not to say so. "

And to that same brother he wrote:

"I, who am already more than half beyond this world, am forced to double my wisdom and activity, and continually keep in my head the detestable plans that this cursed Joseph begets afresh with every fresh day. I am condemned to enjoy no rest before my bones are covered with a little earth."

"If there is anything to be gained by being honest, let us be honest; if it is necessary to deceive, let us deceive."

That was the Frederick who wrote the Confessions which were first published in his lifetime in 1766, and never disowned by him. The nephew to whom he wrote was his successor. He tells his descent in the first "Morning." He was only the third King of Prussia, that monarchy having been established at the beginning of the eighteenth century, thirty-nine years before his accession, and when he came to the throne Prussia included neither Silesia nor West Prussia nor East Friesland. But he inherited what was of more value in the hands of a monarch with a mediaeval conscience—namely, an overflowing treasury and an army of eighty-five thousand men, of whom the infantry, at any rate, were the best drilled in Europe, though his cavalry lacked the dash of the Austrian cavalry, and he could not afford decent artillery and engineers.

His father, Frederick William I, was a most unlovable man; he was a bully in his own home, a bully to his subjects, and as cowardly as a bully to his enemies. Though he had the best army in Europe, he was afraid to fight; he could only snarl and show his teeth when his kingdom was threatened, except where his avarice was touched, as when Charles XII of Sweden refused to pay him his bill for holding Stettin. This was more than he could stand, and in the joint attack on Sweden which followed, he secured spoils of great value, the mouths of the Oder. Treitschke has recorded in this volume what the Austrians said about Frederick William.

History has many unlovely things to record of Frederick William I, who was so miserly that the whole government of Prussia cost only fifty-five thousand a year, and the whole royal expenses less than eight thousand. His treatment of his eldest son—Frederick the Great, who might have been more like Alexander the Great if his father had been more like Alexander's father, Philip of Macedon, was stupid and abominable. The comparison is irresistible, for Philip, the rough northern neighbour of Athens, laid the foundation of his son's conquests, just as Frederick William, the rough northern neighbour of the Empire, laid the foundations of the conquests of Frederick the Great.

And here I must define the expressions "the Empire" and "German," which will come so often into these pages. It is incorrect to call it the "German Empire." There never was a German Emperor actually so-called until William the First was crowned at Versailles, less than half a century ago. Maria Theresa's father and husband, who come into these pages, were Holy Roman Emperors, the successors of the Emperors of the West, who in their turn had succeeded to the western half of the Empire founded by Augustus. And until Maria Theresa's father died, the Emperors for more than three hundred years in unbroken succession had been elected from the House of Habsburg, who ruled the Austrian monarchy.

As Emperors, the Holy Roman Emperors, even Charles the Fifth, had no dominions. They were merely the elected heads of the Holy Roman Empire, which was, in fact, a loose confederation of German electors and minor princes. But the Empire had so long been identified with the Austrian House that the hereditary Austrian dominions became confused with it.

This arrangement seemed likely to go on forever, when Prussia, representing the Electorate of Brandenburg, interfered to get a Bavarian chosen to replace Maria Theresa's father; but, in point of fact, in 1806 the Holy Roman Emperor changed his title to Emperor of Austria, on the ground that the Holy Roman Empire was no longer either Holy, Roman, or an Empire.

Prussia was one of the States of the Empire, and up to the period of Frederick certain Prussian law-cases could be carried to the Imperial Courts. It was once suggested to Frederick the Great (perhaps prompted a la Caesar) that he should have himself elected Emperor, but he dismissed the suggestion with characteristic cynicisms about the poverty of Prussia and the jealousy which it would provoke from the other States. The Empire was usually referred to as the Holy Empire and the word German was not used to signify a person of Teutonic race, but a member of some State included in the Holy Empire.

The great Frederick was born with humanistic ideas uppermost; he took up military studies to escape some of the awful bullying inflicted on him by, his father, who hated him so that he tried to persecute the unhappy child into his grave. Only the creator of "Oliver Twist" could adequately describe the boyhood of Frederick the Great. Frederick had to do so many things to deceive his father that everyone thought that his interest and apparent progress in military studies were only clever pieces of acting. "I have just drilled, I drill, I shall drill," he wrote.

So cruel was the father, that the son at the age of eighteen attempted to flee from Prussia with his "chum" and confidant, the youthful Katte. They were arrested and flung into prison, and charged with high treason as military officers who had deserted. Katte, in spite of his acquittal by the court-martial appointed to try him, was executed—a refinement of cruelty—before his friend's eyes. Frederick, who had begged to die in Katte's place, fainted with anguish, and would have shared his fate but for the remonstrances of the Emperor. The ambassadors of other sovereigns joined in the protest, but probably weighed nothing in comparison.

Frederick William only listened to the Emperor as his technical lord, from whom he lacked the military courage to declare himself free. He pursued his revenge in various ways. When he was tired of treating his son as a convict, he made him marry a woman he did not like, the same woman who was giving a party at Schonhausen while Frederick was dying. How Frederick dreaded his father is proved by an anecdote told by Mr. Reddaway. "It was like a foretaste of death," he said, "when a hussar appeared to command his presence at Berlin."

I do not know whether to regard the letter which Frederick wrote to express his submission to his father as the bottom rung of sycophancy or as a masterpiece of irony and treachery interblent. I give Carlyle's translation:

"Custrin, 19th November, 1730.

"All-Serene and All-gracious Father,—

"To your Royal Majesty, my All-gracious Father, I have by my disobedience as your subject and soldier, not less than by my undutifulness as your Son, given occasion to a just wrath and aversion against me. With All-obedient respect I submit myself wholly to the grace of my most All-gracious Father; and beg him, Most All-graciously to pardon me; as it is not so much the withdrawal of my liberty in a sad arrest as my own thoughts of the fault I have committed, that have brought me to reason: Who, with all-obedient respect and submission, continue till my end,

"My All-gracious King's and Father's faithfully obedient

"Servant and Son," "Friedrich."

But for his father's cruelty Frederick might have borne one of the most honoured names in history, instead of fouling his greatness as a conqueror, and his goodness as a father of his country, by reducing to a system for Prussia the treachery and statecraft of Caesar Borgia. For it was Frederick the Great who founded the Borgia system, as avowed without shame by himself in his Confessions.

Fortunately or unfortunately for Frederick, the introducer of the Borgia system into Prussian politics, the Red Cross was still unknown, or he would doubtless have converted, what victories the Austrians did win against him into defeats.

I hold that the responsibility for the treachery of Frederick the Great must be laid at the door of his father, because without a system of smooth lying he would have been murdered by that monster of cold-blooded cruelty.

With this single exception, Frederick comes well out of that hellish ordeal. The breaking of the flute which was his chief solace did not deprive him of his love of music. His flute remained to him what the harp of David was to Saul. He played it for a couple of hours a day while he was solving the stern problems of maintaining the national existence. The depriving a born writer of all books except the religious works which are to literature what stones are to bread, could not rob him of his desire to write or his literary gift. And, above all, the harshness with which his governors and gaolers were compelled to treat him, did not lead to his revenging himself upon them, when he came to have the power; and if he showed no affection to his wife, or anyone else on earth except the literary friends who were transfigured to him by Genius, this also may be put down to Frederick William, who not only gave him the gall of hatred instead of the honey of parental love, but deliberately cut him off from every soft breeze of affection. His sister Wilhelmina of Baireuth, his fellow-victim under the lash, reigned alone in the one tender spot in his heart.

His treachery included ingratitude and invested it with a halo in militarist eyes. It may be due to a distorted hero-worship for Frederick that the obligations of hospitality meant less to the Germans of Antwerp than to the Bedouin of the desert.

Frederick owed his life to Maria Theresa's father, yet when the Emperor died, he not only broke the Pragmatic Sanction, like the other monarchs who had signed it, but actually marched his armies into one of the girl-Princess's richest provinces in a time of profound peace and seized it. The acquisition of Silesia by Prussia was the first fruit of Frederick's treachery and brigandage—the brigandage extolled by von Bernhardi and practised by Potsdam. Treachery continued to sully his glory through every alliance of his reign. When his ally prospered too much, he went over to the enemy; it was no part of his policy to let France crush Austria or Austria crush France. And though England deserted him instead of his deserting England, he was offering to desert her for France at the same time as he told the British Ambassador, on July 9, 1757, that "His Prussian Majesty said that as he resolved to continue firmly united with His [Britannic] Majesty, it would be to their mutual interest to think of terms of peace honourable and safe for both," etc.

When he was about to seize Silesia, he wrote to Podewils, who urged that some legal claim could be furbished up: "The question of right {droit) is the affair of ministers: it is your affair; it is time to work at it in secret, for the orders to the troops are given." And a quarter of a century later he wrote: "The jurisprudence of sovereigns is commonly the right of the Stronger."

I may now turn to the white side of his shield, and I turn with pleasure, for Frederick the Great was truly great—perhaps it would not be too much to say that no one has ever better deserved to be the national hero. For Prussia would have disappeared from the face of Europe if it had not been for his invincible soul, instead of being blessed with a vastly increased population and territory, and when he had made her position secure on the battle-field, he showed equal ability and resolution in rehabilitating commerce and agriculture in his ruined kingdom, which, after all his wars, he left free from debt. Nor does the total number of Prussian soldiers killed during his reign (180,000) contrast unfavourably with the losses of his descendant's armies in three months of the present war.

While his wars lasted, every interest in his kingdom was sacrificed to the maintenance of his army. He did not pay any of the salaries to the civil employees of the Government from his ministers downwards, and he drained the country of nearly everything except the men employed in agriculture. But when war was over he employed his war-treasure of 25,000,000 thalers saved for the next campaign, and his war-horses—sixty thousand of them—and even the personnel of his army in restoring agriculture and re-starting industries, and he not only restored them, but set about "protecting" them.

Justice has not been rendered to his efforts in this direction, because most of our English lives of Frederick were written at a time when Free Trade was a fetish hymned by a chorus of half-persuaded hypocrites. Frederick saw, as the founders of the commercial greatness of the United States and the new German Empire saw, that the creation of industries depended on discouraging the importation of anything which could be manufactured in the country.

The success of Free Trade in England for so many years reminds me of what Barney Thompson, the bookmaker, said to one of the richest men in Australia, when the latter was being purse-proud in the bar of Mack's Hotel after the Geelong Races: "What's the good of you blowing about your money?—a log could have made it when you did." At that time England's Free-traders had met with no opposition, because no one else had anything to sell. Frederick's policy of protection prevented any of the sorely needed gold from leaving Prussia, and resulted in the establishment of all sorts of industries, notably those of an agricultural nature. These he helped in a novel way, and one which was of the highest importance, in a direction the value of which is not only realized still in Germany, but is being reaped by Germany at this moment.

Frederick, who, when his reign began, had a standing army of over eighty thousand men, raised from a population of little over two millions, saw that the amount of fighting men which any nation can put into the field must ultimately depend on its population, and Prussia's population was a widow's mite compared with Austria's. Accordingly he set to work to drain the marshes in his kingdom, and settle them with foreigners selected for their sturdiness, who were induced to accept the position by gifts of land and exemption from taxes for so many years. When he died Prussia contained five million inhabitants and seventy-five thousand square miles.

Frederick enjoys the further fame of being for his time a very humane prince. He reduced capital punishment as much as he could, and was never vindictive in repressing the indiscretions of well-disposed people.

This was of a piece with his extraordinary tolerance in religious matters. He allowed and protected all creeds. He allowed his subjects to think as they liked, provided that they let him do as he liked. He not only restored the Lutherans, whose religion was the most dynastic of German religions, to all their liberties and privileges, but he welcomed the Jesuits when they were expelled from other countries, and found a use for them, because the supply of educators had run short in his wars. They acclimatized readily and impressed their methods even upon Prussian diplomacy.

In spite of all the ravages of his wars, he left Prussia immensely stronger than when he came to it; he laid the foundations upon which Bismarck reared the stately edifice of the new German Empire, the edifice filled to overflowing with wealth and prosperity by William II before he commenced the mad gamble now in progress—a gamble which recalls the prophecy of Mirabeau: "If ever a foolish prince ascends this throne we shall see the formidable giant suddenly collapse, and Prussia will fall like Sweden. "

Frederick had few pleasures, except that of hospitality. He liked good living, and for his boon companions chose men of the highest intellect, chiefly Frenchmen. All the world knows of his almost passionate friendship for Voltaire, tempered as it was by Voltaire's contempt for Frederick except as a man of action, and Frederick's contempt for Voltaire except as a man of letters. When Voltaire came to Frederick as a political envoy, Frederick laughed at his diplomacy just as much as Voltaire laughed at the King's French verses. How malicious he could be about Voltaire will be found in the Confessions. D'Alembert was another friend of Frederick's, and he made Maupertuis the head of the Berlin Academy.

He was an indefatigable worker. When he died, it was said of him that his death was the only rest he ever took in his life. He certainly worked just as hard till the day of his death, for at eleven o'clock on his last night he ordered that he should be waked at four to work. But he died two hours too soon in the arms of the faithful valet who had been holding him up since midnight. The last words he spoke were to ask for his favourite dog, and to bid them cover it with a quilt.

Of his habits, Mr. W. F. Reddaway, the most readable of his biographers, wrote:

His habit was to rise at dawn or earlier. The first three or four hours of the morning were allotted to toilet, correspondence, a desultory breakfast of strong coffee and fruit, preceded by a deep draught of cold water flavoured with fennel leaves, and flute playing as an accompaniment to meditation on business. Then came one or two hours of rapid work with his secretaries, followed by parade, audiences, and perhaps a little exercise. Punctually at noon Frederick sat down to dinner, which was always the chief social event of the day, and in later life became his only solid meal. He supervised his kitchen like a department of State. He considered and often amended the bill of fare, which contained the names of the cooks responsible for every dish. After dinner he marked with a cross the courses which had merited his approval. He inspected his household accounts with minute care and proved himself a master of domestic economy. The result was a dinner that Voltaire considered fairly good for a country in which there was no game, no decent meat, and no spring chickens.

Two hours, sometimes even four, were spent at table. Occasionally the time was devoted to the discussion of important business with high officials, but in general Frederick used it to refresh himself after his six or seven hours of toil. He ate freely, preferring highly spiced dishes, drank claret mixed with water, and talked incessantly. He was a skilful and agreeable host, putting his guests instantly at their ease, and by Voltaire's account, calling forth wit in others. After dismissing the company he returned to his flute, and then put the final touches to the morning's business. After this he drank coffee and passed some two hours in seclusion.

During this period he nerved himself for fresh grappling with affairs by plunging into literature. In the year 1749 he produced no less than forty works. About six o'clock he was ready to receive his lector or to converse with artists and learned men. At seven began a small concert, in which Frederick himself used often to perform. Supper followed, but was brief, unless the conversation was of unusual interest. Otherwise the King went to bed at about nine o'clock and slept five or six hours. In later life he gave up suppers, but continued to invite a few friends for conversation. He then allowed himself rather more sleep. In his last years he lost the power to play his flute, and with it, apparently, the desire to hear music.

Mr. Reddaway adds that Frederick would not endure the presence of any woman—that, strictly speaking, he had no courtiers, and that his private secretary, Eichel, whom he worked like a slave, was never seen by any human being.

Frederick, who wrote a great deal more than most professional authors, could be really witty, though much of his wit consisted in drawing attention to other people's weaknesses—an easy performance for an absolute monarch, since most men can do it when they are too drunk to fear the consequences, which may be the origin of the saying in vino Veritas.

Treitschke gives Frederick a very high rank as an author, but nothing which Frederick ever wrote is as readable in a translation as the Confessions which are given in this volume. The truth is that eighteenth century writings have to be excellent before they are readable, because they lack the human frankness of some other centuries. This frankness Frederick achieved only in the poorest of his literary productions, and for this reason Frederick's fame as an author is dead out of his own country; he is read only for the light which he throws upon that cynical, valiant soul which achieved one of the greatest works in the world—the creation of Prussia.

A few dates may be useful in following Treitschke's life of the great Prussian King, for Treitschke deals in dicta rather than dates.

Frederick was born on January 24, 1712. His mother was a sister of George II. He was eighteen years old when he tried to flee with Katte to France, and twenty-eight when his father died in 1740. He was married in 1733 to Princess Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, related to the Austrian House. The Emperor Charles VI, Maria Theresa's father, died on October 20, 1740, and on December 16th Frederick entered Silesia with twenty-eight thousand men, with the intention of annexing it. His victory at Mollwitz, which practically gave him the country, was fought on April 10, 1741, but he was not confirmed in it till his victory of Chotusitz, May 17, 1742, which was followed on June 11th by the Peace of Breslau.

This is called the first Silesian war. In the next war against Austria, in 1744 (the second Silesian war), he took Prague, September 16, 1744, but had to abandon it shortly afterwards. He had his revenge at his great victories of Hohenfriedberg, on June 5, 1745, and Sohr, September 30, 1745, both against the Austrians, and Hennersdorf, November 23, 1745, against the Austrians and Saxons combined, while the Prince of Dessau defeated another Austrian and Saxon army at Kesselsdorf on December 15th. The second Silesian war was terminated by the Peace of Dresden, signed on Christmas Day, 1745.

On August 29, 1756, Frederick crossed the Saxon frontier and began the Seven Years' War. The indecisive battle of Lobositz was fought between Frederick and the Austrian Marshal Browne, and before the end of the year he took possession of Saxony. On May 6, 1757, he won the battle of Prague, after enormous losses on both sides, and blockaded the city; but on June 18th he lost the great battle of Kollin, and had to raise the blockade and evacuate Bohemia. On November 5, 1757, he won the great battle of Rossbach, and a month later another supreme victory at Leuthen. On the 21st, Breslau capitulated to him, and a week later Liegnitz. But his General, Lehwaldt, had been defeated by the Russian General Apraxin at Gross-Jagersdorf on August 30th. In 1758 he marched into Moravia and besieged Olmiitz, but was compelled to retreat owing to the capture of a convoy of three or four thousand wagons by the Austrian General Laudon; on August 25th he won the battle of Zorndorf over the Russians, which ended their campaign, but on October 14th he was surprised and heavily defeated by the Austrians at Hochkirch, and on the same day lost his sister, the Margravine of Baireuth.

But for the English subsidy of 4,000,000 thalers Frederick would have been starved out in 1759. On July 25th his army was defeated by the Russians at Kay, and on August 12th he saw his army utterly routed by the combined Austrians and Russians at Kunersdorf. He lost Dresden by surrender on September 24th, and on November 23d Finck and his army of 12,000 men laid down their arms at Maxen. In the western field things had gone better. Ferdinand of Brunswick had driven the French army across the Rhine on June 23, 1758, at Crefeld, and though the French took Frankfurt on January 2, 1759, and won a battle at Bergen on April 13, 1759, they were severely defeated at Minden, August 1, 1759.

On June 23, 1760, a Prussian corps was annihilated at Landeshut and Glatz capitulated on July 22nd. But Frederick won a great victory over the Austrians under Laudon at Liegnitz on August 15th, and a hotly contested battle against the Austrians under Daun at Torgau on November 3rd, though Laudon had surprised and captured the great fortress of Schweidnitz on October 1st. The condition of Prussia at the end of this year appeared hopeless; the army had declined to sixty thousand men, and even more in quality than in numbers. But on January 5, 1762, the Czarina Elizabeth of Russia died, and was succeeded by her nephew, Peter III, the husband of the great Catherine, who was an idolatrous admirer of Frederick and at once recalled the Russian army. Prussia and Russia signed a peace on May 5th, and an offensive and defensive alliance on June 8th, and Sweden made peace with Prussia at Hamburg on May 22nd.

But in the interval the elder Pitt had been replaced as Prime Minister of England by the feeble Bute, who had but one desire—to terminate the war as soon as possible, and six months after Peter III's succession the whole of Russia, became so disgusted with him that on July 9, 1762, he was deposed by his wife, and a few days later strangled by her lover, Alexis Orloff. On July 21, 1762, Frederick won a battle over the Austrians at Burkersdorf, and in October captured Schweidnitz. Before the end of the year a truce was made which proved to be the end of the Seven Years' War — the Peace of Hubertusburg being signed on February 5, 1763.

Neither Frederick nor the Austrians gained an inch of territory in the Seven Years' War, but Austria failed in her object, which was to form a coalition to crush Frederick, and from this time forwards Prussia and Austria were equals and rivals.

It took Frederick twenty-three years, exactly half his reign, to arrive at this. The other half was spent almost entirely in peace, though there was a campaign, and gave Frederick the opportunity to show his powers of organizing agricultural and commercial enterprises and an economic system.

The principal events of the latter half of Frederick's reign were the Partition of Poland, the Bavarian Succession War, and the foundation of the League of Princes. In 1772, Frederick persuaded Austria and Russia to join him in the first Partition of Poland. His share was of great value to him, because until he obtained possession of Prussian Poland, East Prussia was detached from the rest of the kingdom.

Maria Theresa was only with great difficulty persuaded by her ambitious son to come into the arrangement. She complained that they had aimed at two incompatible objects at once, "to act in the Prussian fashion, and at the same time to preserve the semblance of honesty," to which Frederick sneeringly replied: "She is always weeping but always annexing."

The War of the Bavarian Succession in 1778 led to very little fighting. The main armies were unable to attack each other, and when the Czarina threatened to interfere on the Prussian side, Austria came to terms and made the Peace of Teschen, May 13, 1779. A year and a half later Maria Theresa died, leaving the restless Joseph without any steadying influence. To counter his attempts to increase the Imperial authority, Frederick gradually worked up not only the Protestant Princes of the Empire, but even the Catholic ecclesiastical States, to form the League of Princes (Furstenbund), which was signed in the first instance by Brandenburg, Hanover, and Saxony only, on July 23, 1785. About a year afterwards, on August 17, 1786, Frederick died at the age of seventy-four.

This Furstenbund was a fitting conclusion to his career, for it coincides approximately with the new German Empire.

Frederick found Prussia the smallest and weakest of the Great Powers, and left her equal to any of them. That should be his epitaph.

Douglas Sladen.