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April–Oct. 1777. the bad neighbour at Berlin was, in effect, the ArchEnemy, probably mainspring of the whole matter; and that it would be in the highest degree interesting to see clearly what Lee and he had on hand. Order thereupon to Elliot: “Do it, at any price;" and finally, as mere price will not answer, “Do it by any method, -stea! Lee's Despatch-Box for us!"
Perhaps few Excellencies living had less appetite for such a job than Elliot; but his Orders were peremptory, “Lee is a rebel, quasi-outlaw; and you must!” Elliot thereupon took accurate survey of the matter; and rapidly enough, and with perfect skill, though still a novice in Berlin affairs, managed to do it. Privily hired, or made his servant hire, the chief Housebreaker or Pickpocket in the City: “Lee lodges in such and such a Hostelry; bring us his Red-Box for a thirty hours; it shall be well worth your while!” And in brief space the Red-Box arrives, accordingly; a score or two of ready-writers waiting for it, who copy all day, all night, at the top of their speed, till they have enough: which done, the Lee Red-Box is left on the stairs of the Lee Tavern ; Box locked again, and complete; only the Friedrich-Lee Secrets completely pumped out of it, and now rushing day and night towards England, to illuminate the Supreme Council-Board there.
This astonishing mass of papers is still extant in England ;72_-the outside of them I have seen, by no means the inside, had I wished it;—but am able to say from other sources, which are open to all the world, that seldom had a Supreme Council-Board procured for itself, by improper or proper ways, a Discovery of less
52 In the Eden-House Archives ; where a natural delicacy (unaware that the questionable Legationary Fact stands in print for so many years past) is properly averse to any promulgation of them.
April-Oct. 1777. value! Discovery that Lee has indeed been urgent at Berlin; and has raised in Friedrich the question, “ Have you got to such a condition that I can, with safety and advantage, make a Treaty of Commerce with you ?". That his Minister Schulenburg has, by Order, been investigating Lee on that head; and has reported, “ No, your Majesty, Lee and People are not in such a condition;" that his Majesty has replied, “Well, let him wait till they are;” and that Lee is waiting accordingly. In general, That his Majesty is not less concerned in guidance or encouragement of the American War than he is in ditto of the Atlantic Tides or of the East-Wind (though he does keep barometers and meteorological apparatus by him); and that we of the Council-Board are a-what shall I say! Not since the case of poor Dr. Cameron, in 1753, when Friedrich was to have joined the Highlanders with 15,000 chosen Prussians for Jacobite purposes, -and the Cham of Tartary to have taken part in the Bangorian Controversy,--was there a more perfect platitude, or a deeper depth of ignorance as to adjacent objects on the part of Governing Men. For shame, my
friends! This surprising bit of Burglary, so far as I can gather from the Prussian Books, must have been done on Wednesday, June 25th, 1777; Box (with essence pumped out) restored to staircase, night of Thursday, Police already busy, Governor Ramin and Justice-President Philippi already apprised, and suspicion falling on the English Minister, -whose Servant (“Arrest him we cannot without a King's Warrant, only procurable at Potsdam !") vanishes bodily. Friday 27th, Ramin and Philippi make report ; King answers, “ greatly astonished:” a “garstige Sache (ugly Business), which will do the English no honour:" “Servant fled, say you? April-Oct. 1777. Trace it to the bottom; swift!" Excellency Elliot, seeing how matters lay, owned honestly to the Official People, That it was his Servant (Servant safe gone, Chief Pickpocket not mentioned at all); Sunday evening 29th, King orders thereupon, “Let the matter drop.” These Official Pieces, signed by the King, by Hertzberg, Ramin and others, we do not give: here is Friedrich's own notice of it to his Brother Henri: “Potsdam, 29th June 1777.
There has just “ occurred a strange thing at Berlin. Three days ago, “ in absence of the Sieur Lee, Envoy of the American “ Colonies, the Envoy of England went” (sent!) “ to the “ Inn where Lee lodged, and carried off his Portfolio; " it seems he was in fear, however, and threw it down, “ without opening it, on the stairs” (alas, no, your Majesty, not till after pumping the essence out). “All “ Berlin is talking of it. If one were to act with rigour, “it would be necessary to forbid this man the Court, “ since he has committed a public theft: but, not to “ make a noise, I suppress the thing. Shan't fail, how
ever, to write to England about it, and indicate that " there was another way of dealing with such a matter, " for they are impertinent” (say, ignorant, blind as moles, your Majesty; that is the charitable reading !).73
This was not Excellency Elliot's Burglary, as readers see,--among all the Excellencies going, I know not that there is one with less natural appetite for such a job; but sometimes what can a necessitous Excellency do? Elliot is still remembered in Berlin society, not for this only, but for emphatic things of a better complexion which he did; a man more justly estimated April–Oct. 1777. there, than generally here in our time. Here his chief fame rests on a witty Anecdote, evidently apocryphal, and manufactured in the London Clubs: “Who is this
73 Euvres de Frédéric, xxvi. 394. In Preuss, v. (he calls it ‘iv.' or • Urkundenbuch to vol. iv.,' but it is really and practically vol. v.) 278, 279, are the various Official Reports.
Hyder-Ali,” said the old King to him, one day (according to the London Clubs). “Hm," answered Elliot, with exquisite promptitude, politeness and solidity of information, “ C'est un vieux voleur qui commence radoter “ (An old robber, now falling into his dotage),”—let his dotard Majesty take that.
Alas, my friends !--Ignorance by herself is an awkward lumpish wench; not yet fallen into vicious courses, nor to be uncharitably treated: but Ignorance and Insolence,—these are, for certain, an unlovely Mother and Bastard! Yes;—and they may depend upon it, the grim Parish-beadles of this Universe are out on the track of them, and oakum and the correction-house are infallible sooner or later! The clever Elliot, who knew a hawk from a hernshaw, never foundered into that platitude. This, however, is a joke of his, better or worse (I think, on his quitting Berlin in 1782, without visible resource or outlook): “I am far from hav
ing a Sans-Souci," writes he to the Edens; "and I " think I am coming to be sans six-sous.”—-Here still are two small Fractions, which I must insert; and then rigorously close. Kaiser Joseph, in these months, is travelling through France to instruct his Imperial mind. The following is five weeks anterior to that of Lee's Red-Box:
1. A Bit of Dialogue at Paris (Saturday, 17th May 1777). After solemn Session of the Académie Française, held in honour of an illustrious Comte de Falkenstein (privately, Kaiser Joseph II.), who has come to look at France, 74_-Comte de Falkenstein was
** Minute and rather entertaining Account of his procedures there, and especially of his two Visits to the Academy (first was May 10th), in Mayer, Reisen Josephs II. (Leipzig, 1778), pp. 112-132, 147 et seq. VOL. VI.
April–Oct. 1777. graciously pleased to step up to D'Alembert, who is Perpetual Secretary here; and this little Dialogue ensued :
Falkenstein. “I have heard you are for Germany this season; some say you intend to become German altogether?” D'Alembert. “I did promise myself the high honour of a visit to “ his Prussian Majesty, who has deigned to invite me, with all “ the kindness possible: but, alas for such hopes ! the bad state 4 of my health—” Falkenstein. “It seems to me you have al“ ready been to see the King of Prussia ?” D'Alembert. "Two “ times; once in 1756” (1755, 17th-19th June, if you will be exact), "at Wesel, when I remained only a few days; and again “ in 1763, when I had the honour to pass three or four months 6 with him. Since that time I have always longed to have the “ honour of seeing his Majesty again; but circumstances hin“ dered me. I, above all, regretted not to have been able to pay
my court to him that year he saw the Emperor at Neisse, - but
at this moment there is nothing more to be wished on that head” (Don't bow: the Gentleman is Incognito). Falkenstein. “It “ was very natural that the Emperor, young, and desiring to in“struct himself, should wish to see such a Prince as the King of “ Prussia ; so great a Captain, a Monarch of such reputation, 6 and who has played so great a part. It was a Scholar going " to see his Master" (these are his very words, your Majesty). D'Alembert. “I wish M. le Comte de Falkenstein could see the “ Letters which the King of Prussia did me the honour to write “ after that Interview: it would then appear how this Prince judged of the Emperor, as all the world has since done.”75
King to D'Alembert (three months after. Kaiser is home; passed Ferney, early in August; and did not call on Voltaire, as is well known).
“I hear the Comte de Falken“ stein has been seeing harbours, arsenals, ships, manufactures, 6 and hasn't seen Voltaire. Had I been in the Emperor's “place, I would not have passed Ferney without a glance at the “ old Patriarch, were it only to say that I had seen and heard “ him. Arsenals, ships, manufactures, these you can see any“ where; but it requires ages to produce a Voltaire. By the rumours I hear, it will have been a certain great Lady Theresa,
75 D'Alembert to Friedrich' (in Euvres de Frédéric, xxv. 75), 623d May 1777. Ibid. xxv. 82 ; '13th August 1777.'