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1773. • Allegory :42 I seized by the forelock this unexpected
opportunity; and, by dint of negotiating and intriguing' (candid King), “I succeeded in indemnifying our Mon• archy for its past losses, by incorporating Polish Prussia with my
Old Provinces.143 Here is a Historian King who uses no rouge-pot in his Narratives,--whose word, which is all we shall
say of it at present, you find to be perfectly trustworthy, and a representation of the fact as it stood before himself! What follows, needs no vouching for: “ This acquisition
was one of the most important we could make, be'cause it joined Pommern to East Prussia' (ours for ages past), and because, rendering us masters of the · Weichsel River, we gained the double advantage of
being able to defend that Kingdom' (Ost-Preussen), 6 and to draw considerable tolls from the Weichsel, as * all the trade of Poland goes by that River.'
Yes truly! Our interests are very visible: and the interests and wishes and claims of Poland, -are they nowhere worthy of one word from you, O King? Nowhere that I have noticed; not any mention of them, or
42 Signifies only, 'seize opportunity ;' but here is the passage itself: " Quante volte le disse : "O bella Questa età giovenil, ch' è si gioiosa, dama,
· Tutta in diletto consumar si deve, Conosci l'ora de la tua ventura, 'Perchè quasi in un punto ci è nas· Dapoi che un tal Baron più che sè t'ama,
Como dissolve 'l sol la bianca neve, Che non ha il Ciel più vaga creatura. Como in un giorno la vermiglia · Forse anco avrai di questo tempo brama,
'Perde il vago color in tempo breve, . Che'l felice destin sempre non dura; Cosi fugge l' età com' un baleno, 'Prendi diletto, mentre sei su’lverde, 'E non si può tener, chè non ha • Che l'avuto piacer mai non si perde.
(Bojardo, Orlando Innamorato, lib. i. cant. 2.) 13 Eurres de Frédéric (Preface to Mémoires depuis 1763 jusqu'à 1774), vi. 6, 7: "Mémoires' (Chapter First, including all the Polish part) 'were finished in 1775 ; Preface is of 1779.'
1773. allusion to them; though the world is still so convinced that perhaps they were something, and not nothing! Which is very curious. In the whole course of my reading I have met with no Autobiographer more careless to defend himself upon points in dispute among
his Audience, and marked as criminal against him by many of them. Shadow of Apology on such points you search for in vain. In rapid bare summary he sets down the sequel of facts, as if assured beforehand of your favourable judgment, or with the profoundest indifference to how you shall judge them; drops his actions, as an Ostrich does its young, to shift for themselves in the wilderness, and hurries on his way. This style of his, noticeable of old in regard to Silesia too, has considerably hurt him with the common kind of readers; who, in their preconceived suspicions of the man, are all the more disgusted at tracing in him not the least anxiety to stand well with any reader, more than to stand ill, as ill as any reader likes!
Third parties, it would seem, have small temptation to become his advocates; he himself being so totally unprovided with thanks for you! But, on another score, and for the sake of a better kind of readers, there is one third party bound to remark: 1o. That hardly any Sovereign known to us did, in his general practice, if you will examine it, more perfectly respect the boundaries of his neighbours; and go on the road that was his own,
anxious to tread on no man's toes if he could avoid it: a Sovereign who, at all times, strictly and beneficently confined himself to what belonged to his real business and him. 2o. That apparently, therefore, he must have considered Poland to be an exceptional case, unique in his experience: case of a moribund Anarchy, fallen down as carrion on the common high1773. ways of the world; belonging to nobody in particular; liable to be cut into (nay, for sanitary reasons requiring it, if one were a Rhadamanthus Errant, which one is not!)—liable to be cut into, on a great and critically stringent occasion; no question to be asked of it; your only question the consent of bystanders, and the moderate certainty that nobody got a glaringly disproportionate share! That must have been, on the part of an equitable Friedrich, or even of a Friedrich accurate in Bookkeeping by Double Entry, the notion silently formed about Poland.
Whether his notion was scientifically right, and conformable to actual fact, is a question I have no thought of entering on; still less, whether Friedrich was morally right, or whether there was not a higher rectitude, granting even the fact, in putting it in practice. These are questions on which an Editor may have his opinion, partly complete for a long time past, partly not complete, or, in human language, completable or pronounceable at all; and may carefully forbear to obtrude it on his readers; and only advise them to look with their own best eyesight, to be deaf to the multiplex noises which are evidently blind, and to think what they find thinkablest on such a subject. Were it never so just, proper, and needful, this is by nature a case of Lynch Law; upon which, in the way of approval or apology, no spoken word is permissible. Lynch being so dangerous a Lawgiver, even when an indispensable one!
For, granting that the Nation of Poland was for centuries past an Anarchy doomed by the Eternal Laws of Heaven to die, and then of course to get gradually buried, or eaten by neighbours, were it only for sanitary reasons,-it will by no means suit, to declare openly on behalf of terrestrial neighbours who have taken up
1773. an idea (granting it were even a just one, and a true reading of the silent but inexorably certain purposes of Heaven), That they, those volunteer terrestrial neighbours, are justified in breaking in upon the poor dying or dead carcass, and flaying and burying it, with amicable sharing of skin and shoes! If it even were certain that the wretched Polish Nation, for the last forty years hastening with especial speed towards death, did in present circumstances, with such a howling canaille of Turk Janissaries and vultures of creation busy round it, actually require prompt surgery, in the usual method, by neighbours,—the neighbours shall and must do that function at their own risk. If Heaven did appoint them to it, Heaven, for certain, will at last justify them; and in the mean while, for a generation or two, the same Heaven (I can believe) has appointed that Earth shall pretty unanimously condemn them. The shrieks, the foam-lipped curses of mistaken mankind, in such case, are mankind's one security against over-promptitude (which is so dreadfully possible) on the part of surgical neighbours.
Alas, yes, my articulate-speaking friends; here, as so often elsewhere, the solution of the riddle is not Logic, but Silence. When a dark human Individual has filled the measure of his wicked blockheadisms, sins and brutal nuisancings, there are Gibbets provided, there are Laws provided; and you can, in an articulate regular manner, hang him and finish him, to general satisfaction. Nations too, you may depend on it as certain, do require the same process, and do infallibly get it withal; Heaven's Justice, with written Laws or without, being the most indispensable and the inevitablest thing I know of in this Universe. No doing without it; and it is sure to come and the Judges and Executioners, we observe,
1773. are not, in that latter case, escorted in and out by the Sheriffs of Counties and general ringing of bells; not so, in that latter case, but far otherwise !
And now, leaving that vexed question, we will throw one glance-only one is permitted—into the far more profitable question, which probably will one day be the sole one on this matter, What became of poor WestPreussen under Friedrich? Had it to sit weeping unconsolably, or not? Herr Dr. Freytag, a man of good repute in Literature, has, in one of his late Books of Popular History, 14 gone into this subject, in a serious way, and certainly with opportunities far beyond mine for informing himself upon it:from him these Passages have been excerpted; labelled, and translated by a good hand:
Acquisition of Polish Prussia. “During several Centuries, • the much-divided Germans had habitually been pressed upon, 6 and straitened and injured, by greedy conquering neighbours ; • Friedrich was the first Conqueror who once more pushed forward the German Frontier towards the East ; reminding the
Germans again, that it was their task to carry Law, Culture, · Liberty and Industry, into the East of Europe. All Friedrich's ' Lands, with the exception only of some Old-Saxon territory, " had, by force and colonisation, been painfully gained from the · Sclave. At no time since the migrations of the Middle Ages,
had this struggle for possession of the wide Plains to the east 6 of Oder ceased. When arms were at rest, politicians carried on the struggle.
Persecution of German Protestants in Poland. In the very “ Century of Enlightenment” the persecution of the Germans • became fanatical in those Countries; one Protestant Church after the other got confiscated; pulled down; if built of wood, set on fire : its Church once burnt, the Village had lost the privilege of having one. Ministers and schoolmasters were
4 G. Freytag, Neue Bilder aus dem Leben des deutschen Volkes (Leipzig, 1862).