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nowhere says so; but that is gradually one's own perception of the matter; no other refuge for you out of flat inconceivability. Philanthropic principle, we say, which the Voltaires and Sages of that epoch are prescribing as one's duty and one's glory : “0 ye kings, why won't you do good to mankind, then?” Catherine, a sort of she Louis Quatorze, was equal to such a thing. To put one's cast lover into a throne-poor soul, console hm in that manner--and reduce the long dissentient country to blessed composure under him: what a thing! Foolish Poniatowski, an empty, windy creature, redolent of macassar and the finer susceptibilities of the heart; him she did make king of Poland ; but to restore the long dissentient country to blessed composure under him—that was what she could not do. Countries in that predicament are sometimes very difficult to compose. The Czarina took, for above five years, a great deal of trouble, without losing patience. The Czarina, after every new effort, perceived with astonishment that she was farther from success than ever. ith nishment, and gradually with irritation, thickening and mounting towards indignation.
"There is no reason to believe that the grandiose Woman handled, or designed to handle, a doomed Poland in the merciless felinediabolic way set forth with wearisome loud reiteration in those distracted books: playing with the poor country as cat does with mouse ; now lifting her fell paw, letting the poor mouse go loose in floods of celestial joy and hope without limit: and always clutching the helpless creature back into the blackness of death, before eating and ending it. Reason first is, that the Czarina, as we see her elsewhere, never was in the least a cat or a devil, but a mere woman : already virtual proprietress of Poland, and needing little contrivance to keep it virtually hers. Reason second is, that she had not the gift of prophecy, and could not foreknow the Polish events of the next ten years, much less shape them out beforehand, and preside over them, like a devil, or otherwise, in the way supposod.
“My own private conjecture, I confess, has rather grown to be, on much reading of these Rulhières and distracted books, that the Czarina
- who was a grandiose creature, with considerable magnanimities, natural and acquired; with many ostentations, some really great qualities and talents; in effect, a kind of she Louis Quatorze (if the reader will reflect on the royal gentleman, and put him into petticoats in Russia, and change his improper females for improper males) – that the Czarina, very clearly resolute to keep Poland hers, had determined with herself to do something very handsome in regard to Poland; and to gain glory, both with the enlightened philosophic classes and with her own proud heart, by her treatment of that intricate matter. the one hand,” thinks she (or let us fancy she thinks)," here is Poland; a country fallen bedrid amidst anarchies, curable or incurable; much tormented with religious intolerance at this time, hateful to the philosophic mind: a hateful fanaticism growing upon it for forty years past (though it is quite against Polish law), and the cries of oppressed
Dissidents (Dissenters, chiefly of the Protestant and of the Greek persuasion) becoming more and more distressing to hear. And, on the other hand, here is Poniatowski, who...
· Let us make him King of Poland, with furnishings, and set him up handsomely in the world! We will close the Dissident business for him, cure many a curable anarchy of Poland, to the satisfaction of Voltaire and all leading spirits of mankind. He shall have outfit of Russian troops, poor creature; and be able to put down anarchies, and show himself a useful and grateful viceroy for us there. Outfit of 10,000 troops, a wise Russian manager, and the question of the Dissidents to be settled as the first glory of his reign. Ingenuous readers are invited to try, in their diffuse, vague Rulhières, and unintelligible shrieky Polish histories, whether this notion does not rise on them as a possible human explanation, more credible than tho folino-diabolic one, which needs withal such a foreknowledge, unattainable by cat or devil ?.... What we shall have to say with perfect certainty, and what alone concerns us in our own affair, is, first, That Catherine did proceed by this method of crowning, fitting out and otherwise setting up Stanislas; did attempt settlement (and at one time thought she had settled) the Dissident question and some curable anarchies; but stirred up such legions of incurable, waxing on her hands, day after day, year after year, as were abundantly provoking and astonishing: and that within the next cight years she had arrived, with Poland and her cargo of anarchies, at revolt, which struck the world dumb. Dumb with astonishment for some time; and then into tempests of vituperation more or less furious, which have never yet quite ended, though sinking gradually to lower and lower stages of human vocality' (vi. 411-415).
So much for Catherine; but as to Frederic and Joseph, omitting such empyrean arguments as may be derived from the • eternal Laws and Judgments, and using simply the ordinary standard of morality, we cannot imagine what defence or apology is to be tendered for them. And we should say the same of the great Empress-Queen Maria Theresa, were it not that history seems to have consented to grant her absolution on easy terms, on the score of a few sentimental expressions of remorse. They had no quarrel with Poland. Their provinces, safe by their position and by national antipathies, had nothing to dread from the contagion of Polish anarchy. They had no oppressed races to protect or avenge; the case of the few German settlers in West Preussen can hardly be considered as furnishing such an excuse. They had nothing in the world to advance for themselves but the stereotyped arguments--the balance of power must be preserved against Russia—and the annexations were so very convenientand the “ interests of civilization' so pressing! I have destroyed a man noxious to the world,' says Eugene Aram : 'with the wealth by which he afflicted society, I have been the means of
blessing many. And the same style of argument, it is scarcely necessary to add, has been equally made to serve the turn of the high-handed annexations made by France in Europe at the beginning of this century, and by the United States of America in Mexico; for, however ingeniously political sophistry may spin its distinctions, no difference worth noting can really be established between one of these cases and another.
Curious as is the mixture of defiance and apology with which Mr. Carlyle discusses the partition itself, still more remarkable, we must say, is the manner in which he interprets Frederic's own explanations, or rather his studious omission of explanations, on the whole subject :
“Yes, truly! our interests are very visible; and the interests and claims and wishes of Poland—are they nowhere worthy of one word from you, O king ? Nowhere that I have noticed : nor any mention of them, or 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 also, 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!' (vi. 484).
It is with unfeigned hesitation that we venture to differ from Mr. Carlyle on a question so peculiarly involving an intimate knowledge of the subject : but we should have been inclined to form an entirely different estimate of Frederic's character, as regards this especial point, namely, his desire to stand well with the world as to his political conduct. We imagine him to have valued public opinion' at least as highly as Napoleon did himself: and we believe the reason to have been the same: the great superiority of judgment and insight into the real causes of things which characterised them both, above mere ordinary conquerors, not any sentimental or 'soft' motives whatever. We imagine Frederic to have estimated the force of general approval, on his side of a quarrel, simply by a rough equation with so many bayonets and artillery: and Napoleon much the same. Frederic indeed never descended to overshoot his mark so grossly
as Napoleon did, in endeavouring to obtain this advantage for the moment by the indulgence of unbounded mendacity, though certain to be found out immediately afterwards. But he seems to us to have taken no ordinary amount of trouble to throw dust in the public eyes by an assumption of honourable motives, so long as any chance remained of securing an advantage thereby. He piqued himself—whenever he had anything like a tolerable case-in appealing to the circle of spectators for justification :
« J'ai eu en vue dans cet ouvrage doux objets principaux' (so he introduces his history of the Seven Years' War), l'un de prouver à la postérité et de mettre en évidence qu'il n'a pas dépendu de moi d'éviter cette guerre, que l'honneur et le bien de l'état m'ont émpêché de consentir à la paix à d'autres conditions qu'à celles ou elle a été conclue: mon second objet a été de détailler toutes les opérations militaires,' &c.
So in July, 1757, after the battle of Kolin and before Rossbach, and at one of the most unfavourable and apparently hopeless moments of that struggle, he fires off from Leitmeritz an Apologie de ma Conduite Politique,' evidently as a last appeal to European opinion, declaring with studied humility that . Un bon prince, sans déroger de sa dignité, peut et doit instruire le peuple, dont il n'est que le chef ou le premier ministre, des raisons qui l'ont obligé de prendre un parti plutôt que l'autre.'* Why, then, did he not follow this ordinary system of appeal to public opinion in the case of the Partition? For two reasons, probably: he had nothing in reality to say for himself: and it was not worth while to pay virtue the homage of hypocrisy. There was nothing to gain by it: no national opinion with which he cared at that moment to stand well. Austria and Russia were sharers in the dismemberment. France he had learned (at that particular period of her history) to regard as without European influence. It was certain that no state would interfere to redress the wrong : why give himself the trouble of palliating it? With a heart as hard as the nether millstone to all but considerations of expediency, he might safely proceed to reclaim his heaths, to dyke off his luxuriant marshes, to plant his German colonies, and to starve Danzig into rectifying the stinginess of the Czarina, in not allowing him to occupy it, by unconditional surrender of its
* It is true, and not inconsistent with this, that Frederic cannot conclude this Apologie, clearly drawn and well reasoned, without being tempted by the mocking devil who sat continually at his elbow to spoil it by a conclusion of cynical smartness. • Pauvres humains que nous sommes ! Le public ne juge point de notre conduite par nos motifs, mais par l'évènement. Que faut-il donc faire ? Il faut être heureux.'
freedom.* From a Prussia, thus aggrandised, he had nothing to expect but armed and enthusiastic support, and the opinions of foreigners were, in this particular case, uninfluential and unimportant. In the matter for which he suffered,' says Mr. Thackeray, in his inimitable George de Barnwell,' George could never be brought to acknowledge that he was at all in the wrong. " It may be an error of judgment,” he said, “ but it is no crime. Were it crime, I should feel remorse. Where there is no remorse, crime cannot exist. I am not sorry: therefore I am innocent. Is the proposition a fair one?”?
Frederic reigned thirteen years longer, after the first partition of Poland. It was a period of comparatively small interest as regards foreign affairs : or rather the interests which then came to the surface, very important at the time, have not proved of permanent consequence. The Prussian War of 1778, popularly termed the Kartoffel-Krieg or Potato-War, from a general feeling of impatience at the series of small mancuvrings and skirmishes about convoys of which it was chiefly made up: the "Fürsten-Bund,' or league of sovereign princes of the German Empire against the ambitious tendencies of Joseph the Second towards ‘unification : soon became historically obsolete, when in a very few years more the Empire itself had become a thing of the past.
To the present class of readers,' says Mr. Carlyle, · Fürstenbund has become nothing:' and he says it somewhat regretfully : for he has been pointing out, and with admirable force and perspicacity, how great a feat of statesmanship • Fürstenbund really was. The whole course of German politics in the year 1777-1785 contains a fine though forgotten lesson of kingly contrivance. If the headstrong encroachments of Joseph had not been met by so profound a combination of sagacity with courage as none but Frederic could show, the Kaiser would most assuredly then and there have restored the Empire to something like a reality, a body of vassals under one Imperial head. Not less admirable was the skill which, with so far inferior means, could enter on war with Austria on terms of equality and almost superiority: and the singular self-abnegation, which could make the first soldier of his, if not of any day, deliberately decline to risk the chances of that war, brave the somewhat contemptuous judgment of the world and the impatience of his own troops and subjects, and
* Even Geography, under Mr. Carlyle's hand, must bend a little here and there to make out an excuse for Frederic. •Danzig and the harbour-dues, what a case! Danzig harbour, that is to say, Netze river, belongs mainly to Frederic, Danzig city not. The river Netze, on the strength of which Frederic is also elsewhere called · Proprietor of Danzig harbour,' runs into the Warta, and so into the Oder, and has no connexion whatever with Danzig except through a canal, made, unless we are mistaken, by Frederic himself!