FREE Catholic Classes
The Kingdom of Prussia at the present time covers 134,616 square miles and includes about 64.8 per cent of the area of the German Empire. It includes the greater part of the plain of northern Germany and of the central mountain chain of Germany. With exception of the small Hohenzollern district, the original domain of the Prussian royal family, it does not extend beyond the Main. However, in a south-westerly direction west of the Rhine it includes a considerable portion of the basin of the Saar and of the plateau of Lorraine. All the large German rivers flow through it, and it contains the greater part of the mineral wealth of Germany, coal, iron, salt, and potash. Of the area devoted to agriculture over 2.5 per cent are used for the cultivation of grain as follows: 25.91 per cent for rye, 15.37 per cent oats, 6.86 per cent wheat. In 1905 the population was 37,282,935, that is 61.5 per cent of the population of the German Empire . The annual increase of the population is about 1.5 per cent, but this results from the decline of emigration and the decrease of the death-rate. In 1905 about 11.5 per cent were Slavs, of whom 8.887 per cent were Poles. In religion 63.29 per cent were Protestants, 35.14 per cent Catholics, 0.13 per cent Jews. In 1895 34.18 per cent of the population was employed in agriculture, 38.7 per cent in manufactures. About one-half of all the manufacturing industries are carried on in the provinces of the Rhine, Westphalia, and Silesia. It is only since 1866 that Prussia has had its present area, and not until 1871 did it become the ruling state of Germany. Its present area and power are the result of a gradual development extending over more than seven centuries.
The beginnings of the state are connected with the bloody struggles and with the wonderful cultural and missionary labours by means of which the territories on the Baltic between the Elbe and Memel were wrested in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries from the Slavs and won for Germany and the Catholic Church. In this era the region on the Vistula and the Pregel Rivers, which originally was the only part of the territory bearing the name of Prussia, was conquered by the Teutonic Knights in 1230 and converted to Christianity. In 1309 the Grand Master of the order transferred his residence to the Marienburg, a castle noted for its artistic importance, which has been restored by the Emperor William II. The order and the region ruled by the order attained their highest development in the years succeeding this especially under the government of Winrich of Kniprode (1351-82). Pomerania, the district along the coast to the right and left of the mouth of the Oder, continued to be ruled by its dynasty of Slavonic dukes, nevertheless it was also under German influence and was converted to Christianity in the first half of the twelfth century by St. Otto of Bamberg. The inland territory between the Elbe and Oder, and the region drained by the Warthe and Netze, first called the Electorate of Brandenburg and the New Mark, were acquired from 1134 onwards by the Ascanian line, which also had possessions in Saxony. Before long this line also gained the feudal suzerainty over Pomerania. In all three districts the Teutonic Knights, who carried on wars and colonized at the same time, had the principal share in reconstructing the political conditions. The Cistercian Order had also a large part in the peaceful development of civilization; the order founded flourishing monasteries beginning at Lehnin, and Chorin and extending as far as Oliva near Danzig, and Christianized the natives. In all these territories, though, numerous German cities were founded and German peasants were settled on the soil.
After the extinction of the Ascanian line in 1320 the Electorate of Brandenburg became a possession of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach, and in 1373 of the House of Luxemburg. Under the new rulers the government and the country greatly declined and the nobility ruled with an iron hand. In order to restore order the last member of the Luxemburg line transferred Brandenburg, at first temporarily, then on 30 April, 1415, as a fief to Frederick of Hohenzollern. This was the birthday of the future great state of Prussia, for Prussia has not become a great power from natural, geographical, or national conditions, but is the product of the work of its kings of the House of Hohenzollern. Frederick I probably desired to make Brandenburg a great kingdom on the Baltic for himself; however, he limited himself to crushing the power of the nobles and then devoted his attention again to imperial affairs. During the next two centuries his descendants did not do much to increase the power of Brandenburg, and they never attained the power of the last members of the Ascanian line. The most important event was the "Dispositio Achillea" of 1473, by which Brandenburg was made the chief possession of the Hohenzollern family and primogeniture was established, as the law of its inheritance.
Of the Hohenzollern rulers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries only Frederick II (1440-70) and Joachim I Nestor (1499-1535) were men of any prominence. They were more successful in internal affairs than in the endeavour to extend the size and importance of their realm. Frederick II separated the towns of Brandenburg from the Hanseatic League, and forced them to become a part of the territory of Brandenburg. He also brought the clergy under the power of the state by aid of two Bulls of 1447, which he obtained from Pope Nicholas V , and laid the foundation of the later State Church system established by his family. His efforts to enlarge his territories were checked by the rapid development of the power of Poland at this time, which was followed by the rising importance of Hungary. The result was that all the German possessions along the coast of the Baltic were endangered; and the greater part of the territory of the Teutonic Knights, comprising the region of the Vistula, was conquered together with Danzig by the Poles after two wars : in the war of 1410-11 the Teutonic Knights were defeated by the Poles at the battle of Tannenberg; this was followed by the First Peace of Thorn; after the war of 1456-66 came the Second Peace of Thorn. The Poles also took part in the war which Frederick II waged with Pomerania over the possession of Stettin. When Frederick's nephew and successor sought compensation for Stettin in Silesia, he was opposed by Hungary and had to retire there also.
As ruler Joachim I was even firmer than Frederick II. During his administration the nobility were forced to give up their freebooting expeditions. Following this example the ruling family of Pomerania, of which the most important member of this era was Bogislaw X (reigned 1478-1524), put an end to the excesses of the Pomeranian nobility also. In the provinces along the Baltic the nobility had then a force of armed men at their disposal probably equal to similar forces of the princes. Thus, for example, a family called Wedel had so many branches that in the sixteenth century it could at one time reckon on two hundred men among its own members capable of bearing arms. When these rode out to war with their squires and mounted men they formed a body of soldiers, which, owing to the scarcity of money, was difficult for the ruling princes to meet. Both in Brandenburg and Pomerania the establishment of order was followed by an improvement in the laws and the courts, and by a reorganization of the administration. This latter brought about the gradual formation of a class of civil officials, who had in part legal training, and who were dependent not on the nobility but on the ruling princes. The beginnings were also made of an economical policy. Joachim I sought to turn to the advantage of the Hohenzollerns the fact that the Wettin line ruling in Saxony, which up to that time had been of more importance than the Hohenzollerns, had paralyzed its future development in 1485 by dividing its possessions between two branches of the line. These two dynastic families, Wettin and Hohenzollern, were active competitors for the great spiritual principalities of the empire. In 1513 Joachim's brother Albrecht became Archbishop of Magdeburg and Bishop of Halberstadt, and in 1514 Archbishop of Mainz. At the same time, another member of the Hohenzollern family, one belonging to the Franconian branch of the line, became Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, that is, he was the ruler of that portion of Prussia which still belonged to the order. In 1525 he brought about the secularization of the territory of the order, and made it a permanent possession of his family ; in return for this, however, he was obliged to acknowledge the feudal suzerainty of Poland. Joachim was unable to maintain his claims to the right of succession on the extinction of the Pomeranian dukes, but had to give up the claim to feudal supremacy (Treaty of Grimnitz, 1529).
Of all the ecclesiastical principalities, Joachim's successors were able to retain Magdeburg alone, and this only to the end of the century. In Prussia (1569) they obtained the right to joint feudal possession, and thus gained for the main branch of the family a claim to the Duchy of Prussia. Taken altogether, however, the Hohenzollern power declined very decidedly. The ruling branch in Brandenburg was badly crippled by debts, and the last member of the line ruling in Prussia was weak-minded. This enabled the Estates, which had rapidly developed in all German territories from the second half of the fifteenth century, to obtain great influence over the administration, both in Prussia and Brandenburg. This influence was due to the fact that the Estates, owing to their possessing the right of granting the taxes, were equivalent to a representative assembly composed in part of the landowners, the nobility, and the clergy, and in part of the cities, who controlled considerable ready money. At first the nobility was the most powerful section of the Estates. In order to keep the nobles well-disposed the ruling princes, both in Brandenburg and Prussia, and also in Pomerania, transferred to them the greater part of the princely jurisdiction and other legal rights over the peasants, so that the feudal lords were able to bring the peasants into complete economic dependence upon themselves and to make them serfs. As a result the influence of the nobility constantly grew. But as the nobles were men without breadth of view, and in all foreign complications saw the means of reviving the power of the princes and of imposing taxes, the strength of the three Baltic duchies waned equally in the second half of the sixteenth century. None of them seemed to have any future.
At this juncture the head of the Franconian branch of the Hohenzollern family, George Frederick of Ansbach-Bayreuth, persuaded the Brandenburg branch of the family to enter upon a far-reaching policy of extension which, in the end, resulted in leading the dynasty and the state over which it reigned into an entirely new path. Influenced by George Frederick, John George of Brandenburg (1571-98) strengthened his claim upon Prussia by marrying his daughter to the weak-minded Duke of Prussia, and secured for himself by another marriage a new reversionary right to the Duchy of Cleve-Jülich, the ruling family of which was nearing extinction. Up to this time Prussian policy had been entirely directed to gaining control in eastern Germany, and this marriage was the first attempt to make acquisitions in western Germany. During the reign of John Sigismund (1608-19) the ducal line of Cleve-Jülich became extinct in 1609, and in 1618 that of Prussia. Of the possessions of Cleve-Jülich, however, Jülich and Berg were claimed by the Wittelsbach family, and Brandenburg was only able to acquire Cleve and a few adjacent districts (1614); even the hold on this inheritance was for a long time very insecure. On the other hand Prussia was united with Brandenburg without any dispute arising because Poland in the meantime had become involved in war with Gustavus Adolphus and was obliged to act with caution. At about the same time the ducal House of Pomerania was nearing extinction, so that all at once the state ruled by the Hohenzollerns seemed to approach a great extension of its territories.
In 1613 John Sigismund became a Calvinist, a faith at that time which had a great attraction for all the energetic and ambitious among the German Protestant princes. The ruler of Brandenburg and Prussia became the son-in-law of the leader of the Calvinistic party, the Elector Palatinate, and his daughter married Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. However, on account of the great power which the Estates had acquired in his dominions John Sigismund was not able to undertake a vigorous policy. The Estates were strongly opposed to his adoption of Calvinism, and his promise to leave the Lutheran Confession undisturbed hardly satisfied them, nor were they willing to grant any money for his external policies. On account of these financial difficulties his successor, George William (1619-40), during the Thirty Years' War , came near losing the territories just inherited; and he was not able to make good his claims to Pomerania when, in 1637, his right of inheritance was to be enforced. It became evident that the power of the Estates must be crushed and the people forced to pay their taxes regularly, before the Hohenzollerns could obtain firm possession of their newly acquired domain, establish their authority in Pomerania, and then build up their power in the Baltic coast lands in the valleys of the Oder and Vistula. George William's chief adviser, Count Adam von Schwarzenberg, recognized this and made the attempt to carry out this policy; from 1637 he was engaged in a severe struggle with Sweden, to prevent the Swedes from taking possession of Pomerania.
The merit of finally carrying out this policy and of turning the small and far from cultured state into a strong instrument for political and military aggression belongs to the Great Elector, Frederick William (1640-88), and to his grandson, King Frederick William I (1713-40). In 1644 the Great Elector laid the foundation of the standing army with the aid of which his successors raised Brandenburg-Prussia to its leading position; Frederick William I increased the standing army to 83,000 men. In order to procure the resources for maintaining his army the Great Elector gradually reorganized the country on entirely different principles, and did his utmost to further the prosperity of his people so as to enable them to bear increased taxation. His grandson continued and completed the same policy. At this period a like internal policy was followed in all the states of the German Empire, including the larger ones. Nowhere, however, was it carried out in so rational and systematic a manner as in Brandenburg-Prussia, and nowhere else were its results so permanent. In this, not in its originality, consists the greatness of the political achievement of the Hohenzollerns. The Estates and their provincial diets were not opposed and put down on principle, but they were forced in Prussia and Cleve to grant what was needed for the army; the cities were then subjected to a special indirect taxation (excise duties ), and in this way were withdrawn from the government of the Estates. The nobility, now the only members of the Estates, were subjected to personal taxation by reforms in the existing system of direct taxation, by the abolition of the feudal system, and especially by the introduction into Prussia of the general taxation of land. At the same time the control that the Estates had acquired over the collection and administration of the taxes was abolished, and the assessment and collection of the taxes was transferred to the officials of the Government, who had originally charge only of the administrative and commissariat departments of the army. All these officials were placed under a central bureau, the general commissariat, and a more rigid and regular state system of state receipts and expenditures was established. Among the changes were the founding of the exchequer, the drawing-up of a budget, which was prepared for the first time in 1689, and the creation of an audit-office. Moreover, there was a stricter regulation of the finances in every part of the Government, and an extension of the supervision of every branch of the administration by the fiscal authorities so as to include even the independent departments of the state, the result being that these bodies, especially the cities, were actually ruled by these officials.
Help Now >
These reforms reached their culmination in the founding of the "General Directory", at Berlin, and of the Boards of War and Finance in the provinces in 1721. The result was that the entire official life of Prussia became bureaucratic, and financial considerations had the preponderating influence in the internal administration of the country, as is still strikingly noticeable. Those departments of national administration that yielded little revenue, or were apt to cost more than they could be counted upon to yield, were for the present neglected, or in part still left under the control of the Estates, in those cases where the Estates had acquired the supervision of them; such were, above all, the administration of law, ecclesiastical affairs, and the schools. On the other hand great attention was given to improving economic conditions, and gradually all the measures were used in Prussia that the genius of a Colbert had planned during the reign of Louis XIV to raise France to the place of the first power in the world. Accordingly the population was increased by encouraging the immigration of the Dutch, Huguenots, and finally of the Protestants, who were driven out of Salzburg. Much also was done to improve the soil and the breeding of cattle. In agreement with the prevailing principles of economics, i.e. as much money as possible should be brought into the country, but that its export should be prevented, manufacture and commerce were to be stimulated in every possible way. The Great Elector even established a navy and also founded colonies on the African Gold Coast; in 1717 Frederick William I sold the colonies. Many excellent officials were drawn from other countries to aid in the administration. However, the ruling prince was the centre of the Government. The result of this was that, as early as the latter years of the reign of the Elector, the principal boards of administration and the ministers presiding over them sank more and more into mere tools for carrying out the will of the ruling prince, and decisions were made, not in the boards, but in the cabinet of the prince. This method of administration became completely systematized in the reign of Frederick William I; consequently it is customary to speak of the cabinet government of Prussia. This form of administration was maintained until 1806.
The success of the organizing energy of the ruling princes was so evident that even before the end of the seventeenth century Leibniz said: "This country is a kingdom in all but name." The lacking name of kingdom was given to the country when Frederick I (1688-1713), the son of the Great Elector, crowned himself on 18 January, 1701, at Königsberg, with the title "King in Prussia", meaning of the former duchy. As long as the development of the internal strength of the country was backward there was little chance of gaining any important additions of territory, even though the great wars of the period made such efforts very tempting. The Great Elector was a man of uncontrolled and passionate character, and of much military ambition ; it was very hard for him to let others reap where he had sown, for he had taken part in nearly all the wars of his era. Frederick William I also was alive to his country's glory, but was more inclined to prepare for war than to carry it on; in many respects his character recalls that of the later William I. In this period the chief object of the foreign policy of the Hohenzollerns was to increase their possessions along the Baltic. Above all they desired to own Pomerania, which Sweden retained. By the Treaty of Westphalia the Great Elector received only Further Pomerania (Hinterpommern), which was of little value. He gained nothing from the first Northern War (1655-60) in which he took part; his victory over the Swedes in the battle of Fehrbellin (1675) proved fruitless. His grandson finally acquired Stettin and the mouth of the Oder in 1720, and Hither Pomerania (Vorpommern) did not become apart of Prussia until 1815. The Great Elector was more fortunate in obtaining the release of the Duchy of Prussia from the feudal suzerainty of Poland (1658), and was also able to increase its area by the addition of Ermland. He further desired to acquire Silesia. In these years the chief battlefield of Europe was the western part of the Continent. This was unfavourable for the schemes of the Hohenzollerns, for at that time they had no definite policy of territorial extension in western Europe, and consequently no interests of any importance there.
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
In the west the Great Elector limited himself to securing the lasting possession of Cleve (1667) and the occupation of the territories which France had secured for him in exchange for Pomerania, namely Minden, Halberstadt, and Magdeburg, which before this had been ecclesiastical principalities. These gave him strategetically important positions controlling points of crossing the Elbe and the Weser; but he could not obtain Magdeburg until 1666, and did not gain full possession of it until 1680. During the reigns of his son and grandson some small and unimportant territories to the west of these were obtained. Taken altogether Brandenburg-Prussia had by 1740 increased in area from 9000 square miles under the first Hohenzollern Elector and 31,600 square miles in the reign of John Sigismund to about 46,800 square miles with a population of about 2,250,000. Up to now the bulk of the area of the country had lain towards the east, but from this period onward the preponderating part of its territories began to be found in the west. The wife of the Great Elector belonged to the family of the Princes of Orange, and this led the Elector to consider Holland in his foreign policy; in 1672 especially this influenced him to take part in the war between Holland and Louis XIV. He also gave more attention to imperial affairs than his immediate predecessors. In the politics of the empire sometimes he sided with the emperor. At times, however, he adhered to the views held by the German ruling princes of that time that there was an inner Germany consisting of the various states of the empire, and that this was the real Germany, the interests of which did not always coincide with those of Austria or of the reigning emperor. He believed that the real Germany must at times maintain its interests against Austria by the aid of one of the guaranteeing powers of the Peace of Westphalia, viz. France and Sweden. The only times he paid no attention in his policies to his duty as a prince of the empire was at the beginning of his reign when influenced by religious prejudices, and towards its end when disappointed by the Peace of St.-Germain-en-Laye (1679).
Another sign that the Prussian state was becoming gradually involved in the affairs of western Europe was the fact that as a second wife the Great Elector married a Guelph, to which family the wives both of his son and grandson belonged. In the second half of the seventeenth century the Guelph line founded the Electorate of Hanover in north-western Germany, the only state in this section of Germany that, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, could in any way compete with Brandenburg-Prussia for the leading position. The founding of the Academy of Berlin is due to Sophia Charlotte, wife of Frederick I. The same royal couple established the University of Halle, which soon gained a European reputation on account of its professors Thomasius and Christian Wolf and the institutions for the poor founded by Professor Francke. The fine addition in the royal castle at Berlin and the splendid statue of the Great Elector by Andreas Schlüter were both works of this reign.
Frederick II, The Great (1740-88), son of Frederick William I, had probably more intellectual ability than any other Hohenzollern known to history; he had in him a touch of genius. What checked development and exercise of his ability was, however, that he seemed from his natural predispositions, and from the way in which in youth he looked upon life, to be born for entirely different conditions than those prevailing in the Prussia of that era. He was more inclined to literature and music than to official routine work and military service, and early became a free-thinker. He preferred the literature of France and despised that of Germany, and was indifferent to Prussia and its people. When a young man these tastes led to conflicts with his father, who resolved on this account to exclude Frederick from the succession, and imprisoned him for several years in the fortress at Küstrin. Frederick was then married against his will, by the advice of Austria, to the Princess Elizabeth of Brunswick-Bevern, personally an excellent and good woman. He finally learned self-control and applied himself with gradually increasing zeal and intensity to the civil and military affairs of the state, but he did this not from a sense of pleasure in such occupations, but from one of discipline and necessity. This may be the reason why in his civil administration and in the aims of his foreign policy he showed little originality in comparison to his natural abilities. On the other hand, in the conduct of war the king showed extraordinary energy, great intellectual activity, and ceaseless personal attention to his task. In his foreign policy Frederick followed the principles of his predecessors and sought above all to develop his domain towards the east. The precarious position of Austria at the beginning of the reign of Maria Theresa was taken advantage of by Frederick to begin a campaign in Silesia in Dec., 1740. As a pretext for the war he took the treaties of succession of his forefathers with the rulers of several of the smaller Silesian duchies, made in 1537, for the nonfulfilment of which Austria seemingly was alone to blame.
He gained the battle of Mollwitz 10 April, 1741, and on 5 June formed an alliance with France, the chief of the other opponents of Maria Theresa ; the intervention of England led him to agree to a truce on 9 October, which enabled Austria to make its military force equal to that of France. In alarm Frederick advanced into Moravia, gained the battle of Chotusitz, 17 May, 1742, and in the Peace of Breslau, of 1 June of the same year, obtained from Austria the whole of Silesia, excepting the Countships of Glatz, Troppau, and Teschen. As in the war between Austria and France, which still went on, the advantage of the former continually increased, Frederick once more formed an alliance with Austria's opponents and began a campaign in Bohemia in Sept., 1744, but was obliged to withdraw from this province in December. His position in Silesia now became precarious, but he extricated himself by the victory at Hohenfriedberg, 4 June, 1745, and then defeated the enemy, already on the march to Berlin, at Soor 20 Sept., at Katholisch-Hennersdorf 23 Nov., and at Kesselsdorf 15 Dec. By the Peace of Dresden of 25 Dec., 1745, Frederick retained Silesia. Maria Theresa, however, was not willing to give up Silesia without further effort. Consequently after peace had been made between Austria and France, Kaunitz, who was now Maria Theresa's minister of foreign affairs, sought to form more friendly relations with France and to strengthen those already existing with Russia. So little, however, was attained in France that Kaunitz wished to drop the negotiations, but Maria Theresa's persistence and the measures taken by Frederick in 1756 led to the formation of the alliance. Made uneasy by the weakness of France, Frederick did not maintain the amicable relations that had existed until then between himself and that power. When war broke out between England and France over the colonies in 1755-6, England negotiated with Russia for the sending of auxiliary troops. Frederick feared to permit such auxiliaries to march through Prussia and offered to guarantee England's possession on the Continent himself (Convention of Westminster, Jan., 1756).
France and Austria now agreed to help each other in case of attack by Frederick (First Alliance of Versailles, 1 May, 1756). Upon this Frederick, led perhaps by fear of attack by a coalition stronger than himself, perhaps also by the hope of making fresh gains by daring seizures, began a third war, the Seven Years' War, with Austria, taking as a pretext the advance of the Austrian troops. Without any declaration of war he advanced into the Electorate of Saxony, which was friendly to Austria, and besieged Dresden 9 Sept., but the Saxon troops kept up a longer resistance than he had counted upon, so it was 1757 before he could begin a campaign in Bohemia. In the meantime Russia and Austria had signed an alliance for war against him 2 Feb., 1757; in addition both the Empire and Sweden declared war against him, and on 1 May, 1757, France and Austria agreed in the Second Alliance of Versailles to adopt the offensive together against him. Frederick's opponents could produce a force of 430,000 men, while he with the aid of England and Hanover (Treaty of 11 January, 1757) controlled about 210,000 men. It was most important for him to force the matter to a conclusion as quickly as possible, before the means of his still poor country were exhausted. On 6 May he won a bloody battle near Prague, but on 18 June he was defeated near Kollin and suffered losses by the new Austrian commander Daun which he could not repair. Frederick was forced to return to Saxony, while the French defeated the Hanoverian army at Kastenbeck on 6 July, and the Russians defeated a Prussian army at Grossjägerndorf on 30 Aug. However, the Russians and French did not form a junction with the Austrians quickly enough. When finally the united French and Imperial army advanced, Frederick defeated the joint forces badly at Rossbach on 5 Nov., and then turned against Daun, who had entered Silesia and had taken Breslau. Frederick defeated him at Leuthen on 5 Dec. Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick continued to lead the Hanoverian and Prussian forces that fought against the French and drove the latter to the Rhine in the battle of Crefeld, 23 June, 1758. The progress of the war in the east did not equal the great expectations aroused by the success at Leuthen. In 1758 the Russians advanced. Frederick maintained himself against them at Zorndorf, 25 August, but the battle was not decisive, from here he hastened to Saxony, where the troops he had left behind were threatened by Daun, and he was surprised by Daun at Hochkirch on 14 Oct.
At the end of 1758 the majority of his officers were dead, and he could only fill the gaps among the soldiery by the compulsory enlistment of mercenaries. His treasury was empty, and he struck debased coin. He exhausted the resources of Saxony. On the other hand the Austrian army was always ready for the field, and the Austrian artillery was superior to his. Accordingly his opponents in the campaign of 1759 forced Frederick to take the defensive. The united Russians and Austrians decisively defeated Frederick at Kunersdorf on 12 August. The result was a series of capitulations. Frederick lost Saxony, the greater part of Silesia was taken from him in 1760-61, largely by Laudon. What saved him, besides his own energy, was the gradual dissolution of the alliances between his enemies. France began to withdraw in the Third Alliance of Versailles of 30-31 December, 1757. At first Russia and Austria drew all the closer together in the Treaty of St. Petersburg of 1 April, 1760. The Russians plundered Berlin in Oct., 1760. At this most critical moment Frederick maintained himself only by the almost unexpected victory of Torgau, 3 Nov., 1760, which enabled him once more to occupy a secure position in Saxony. As early as 1761 the Russian interest in the war began to decline, and when in January, 1762 Peter III, an admirer of Frederick, became tsar, he took sides with Frederick (truce in March, peace 5 May, alliance 19 June). It was also an advantage to Frederick that Turkey began a war against Austria. In July, 1762, Peter III was succeeded by the famous Catherine II. She wished to have a European peace, and continually urged Maria Theresa to yield. On the Rhine Ferdinand of Brunswick continued to keep the French in check. As the French were also successful in their war with England, they withdrew from the struggle against Frederick by the preliminary Peace of Fontainebleau (3 Nov., 1762). The imperial army broke up. Finally Austria also grew weary of the struggle.
On 15 Feb., 1763, the Peace of Hubertusburg closed the Austro-Prussian war. Frederick retained Silesia, but made no new acquisitions. However, his personal importance and the respect for the military prowess of Prussia were so greatly increased that henceforth Prussia was treated by the other countries as a great power. After this Frederick's administration was a peaceful one. He was able to increase his realm by taking part in the First Partition of Poland (1772), whereby he gained Polish Prussia with the exception of Danzig and Thorn. The War of the Bavarian Succession (1778-79), which Frederick declared against Austria to prevent Bavaria becoming part of that monarchy, caused but little bloodshed. In the Peace of Teschen Austria abandoned all claim to the Bavarian succession. In 1781 Frederick took part in the "Naval Alliance of Neutral Powers". This was formed by Catherine II, and intended mainly to limit the power of England on the Baltic, but it was of small importance. It should also be mentioned that in 1744 East Frisia became a part of Prussia by inheritance.
The most important measure of domestic policy carried out by Frederick in the first half of his reign with the help of his minister Cocceji, was the reorganization of the department of justice, which had been neglected during the reign of his father. After the Seven Years' War his personal influence became more manifest in the other departments of state. It must be confessed, however, that at the same time he obstinately adhered both to the forms and principles of government that he had inherited. At the most it was only in isolated cases that power was exercised with moderation or that the administration was modified in harmony with the spirit of the times, although this spirit, animated by humanitarian ideas and a tolerance arising from indifference, was also alive in him. He even exaggerated many of the objectionable sides of the old system of government. He ruled the country and especially the new provinces as an enlightened despot, exclusively from the cabinet, though as a writer he approved of Rousseau's views as set down in the "Social Contract ". In addition he employed the higher officials as if they were subalterns. The officials throughout the country during his reign developed more and more of a tendency to treat the people and especially the middle classes with bureaucratic contempt. Though proud of their victories in the Seven Years' War, the people manifested no consciousness of their belonging to a unified Prussian State. It is true that in the last years of his reign Frederick regarded it as his duty to inspire the entire Prussian people in their economic and social feelings with the sense of their direct relations to the Government, so that every Prussian in all his doings should have in view not only his own personal advantage but also the welfare and strengthening of the state. Practically, however, this idea, only led him to accentuate the social differences, the abolition of which was demanded by the needs of the time. At the end of his reign the Prussian State, of which he was more than ever the monarch, ended just as at the beginning of this rule, with the president of each district. As regards his economic policy, he held on to the worn-out mercantile system.
The great errors of this policy, e.g., the neglect of agriculture, the failure to abolish serfdom, the retention of the double system of taxation (direct for the country and indirect for the cities), a system that paralyzed all economic development, the maintenance of the excessively high system of protection with its many internal duties, were due to this cause. The same may be said of many of his failures, such as the mercantile enterprises which he founded, or his partial failures, such as the transfer of several industries, in particular the porcelain and silk industries, to the leading provinces of the state. His adherence to the mercantile system of economics was necessitated by his adherence to the one-sided conception of national finances which led the Prussian Government to provide for the economic prosperity of the population, with the intention of bringing as much money as possible into the country in order to have it for government purposes. Frederick, therefore, made no changes in the financial theories of Prussian policy. These theories led him, for instance, in imitation of French fiscal methods, to introduce the Regie, i.e. to farm out the customs and indirect taxes, and to make the sale of tobacco, coffee, and salt absolute monopolies. The Regie made him very unpopular. It is all the more surprising that, notwithstanding the reactionary character of his internal policy, he made the country politically capable of performing all the unusual tasks that he imposed on it, that he changed his possessions into a well-regulated state, and that he succeeded, by political measures, in repairing the terrible injuries of the Seven Years' War in a comparatively short time. Large extents of moor-land and swamp were brought under cultivation, a hundred thousand colonists were settled in deserted districts, and the revenues yielded by manufacture and industry were decidedly increased. The great estates were aided to pay off their debts by encouraging union credit associations, and Frederick sought to regulate and give independence to the circulation of money by founding the Prussian Bank. In harmony with the spirit of the times he also undertook a comprehensive codification and revision of the laws of the state, which was completed after his death and culminated in the publication of the general "Prussian Statute Book" of 1794; Francisco Suárez was the chief compiler.
Towards the end of his reign he encouraged the efforts made on behalf of the Catholic public schools by the provost Felbiger, and those for the Protestants by Freiherr von Zedlitz and the cathedral canon Rochow, but he never at any time gave the schools sufficient money. The new code laid down the principle that the public schools were a state organization. Frederick's government, internal and foreign, was marked by a mixture of strong and weak characteristics. It was the policy of a man of genius who was entirely devoted to his task; too intellectual and enlightened to be a reactionary, but one who showed himself greater in carrying out and in utilizing the policies of his predecessors, than in establishing what was necessary to ensure the future development of the state. Great as were his achievements, he ended by paralyzing Prussia's vital powers and engaged the resources of the country in a direction opposed to its development. Frederick gave Prussia the position of a Great Power. But, outside of his personal importance, this position of the state rested exclusively on its military power, not yet, as in the case of the other Great Powers, upon the area of the country and the economic efficiency of the population. Consequently, the position of Prussia as a Great Power needed to be placed on a stronger basis. Its people had to make marked advances culturally, and develop a real national spirit. Furthermore, the effort must be made to bring the future development of Prussia into close connexion with the leading movements of the coming generation, so that the roots of its life should receive fresh nourishment. Both problems could best be solved by furthering the transfer towards the west of the centre of gravity of the Prussian states already begun under Frederick's predecessors. This western development of his territory was also a policy furthered by Frederick, but he pursued it unwillingly and cared little for it. By this one-sidedness he lessened his services to Prussia when he enlarged his territories in the district of the Oder and Vistula, where the foundations of the state had been laid during the Middle Ages.
There is no doubt that in 1757-58 the coalition formed against him would have crushed him had not Hanover fought on his side and given him the strategic control of north-western Germany. As even after 1763 he regarded Austria, as the deadly enemy of Prussia, he could not fail to see that for strategic reasons it was absolutely necessary for Prussia to have the whole of north-western Germany within its sphere of influence; but he did nothing to attain this end. Moreover, he could not abstain from interfering in imperial politics in order to keep Austria from making southern Germany dependent on itself. He, therefore, urged on the War of the Bavarian Succession against Austria in 1778-79, and in 1783 was for a time the leader of the "League of Princes" formed among the German princes of the empire against Joseph II. However, all imperial, that is to say, German politics were distasteful to him. By his example he, more than any one else, contributed to smother all interest in the empire on the part of the German statesmen. He preferred rather to rest Prussian policy on that of Russia, and to lay his political schemes in the east of Europe. In like manner in his internal administration he deliberately neglected his western provinces, although it was just this part of his kingdom that lay in the centre of the rising economic life of Europe, and contained, along with Silesia, the mineral treasures that in the future were to make the country and its population rich. It was also the population of this section that was to prove itself unusually energetic and capable in economic life. Fortunately for the realm Frederick's excellent minister of commerce, Heynitz, did not neglect the western provinces. In these provinces the young Freiherr von Stein passed the first years of his career in the service of the Government. During Frederick's reign the eastern provinces of Prussia were also brought into connexion with the cultural development of the civilization of Western Europe. In order to meet the growing demand of England for grain, their great estates were worked on a capitalistic basis. The younger civil officials and nobility admired England as a model country and were full of interest in all the liberal ideas of the period. Prominent among these was Theodore von Schön. But a number of other young jurists called for a constitution. The University of Königsberg had a large share in producing this development. One of its professors, Kraus, a political economist, spread the theories of Adam Smith; another professor was Kant, who also started with the English philosophy.
During Frederick's reign a novel element found its way into the Prussian State. By the conquest of Silesia, Prussia for the first time acquired a province that was predominantly Catholic ; in annexing Polish Prussia it annexed one that was half Catholic. Up to then the only Catholics in Prussia were a few in Cleve. During the reign of the Great Elector, Catholic Ermland also became a part of Prussia, but this province never was considered of much importance. The church privileges of the Catholics here as there rested upon national treaties. As a rule they were respected. However, a strict watch was kept that the position of the Catholics should be an exceptional one. Attempts to introduce Protestantism among them were encouraged. In ecclesiastical matters Frederick followed in the path of his predecessors. Being a free-thinker the tolerance of his predecessors, based on treaty obligations, became under him a policy merely of religious indifference . "In my kingdom, each may go to Heaven after his own fashion". He provided for the religious and educational needs even of the Catholics, and showed favour to the Jesuits. Still, in his reign Catholics were not allowed to hold office except inferior ones. In its foreign policy the State remained the champion of Protestant interests. This policy could be continued, notwithstanding the great increase in the number of Catholics, because the population of Prussia was accustomed to obey the Government
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- The Apostles' Creed
- Hail, Holy Queen
- Renewal of Baptismal Promises
- Padre Nuestro - Our Father (Lord's Prayer)
Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.