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The courtiers of Frederic William had seen too many of such exhibitions to be shocked by them.*
A man accused his wife of adultery with a state councillor, and demanded a divorce, but as he produced no proof, his demand was rejected, and his wife was acquitted by the criminal court. The plaintiff went straight to the King, who, on his own mere motion, drew up a judgment the very opposite of that given by the tribunal, adding: this judgment is much 'more just than that fools' judgment.' He then summoned the complainant and the councillor, and when both were come, asked the first, 'Is that your man?' on his answering 'Yes,' Then give him,' exclaimed the King, a couple of boxes on 'the ear! the scoundrel shall marry the strumpet!' The boxes on the ear were duly administered, but the wedding, which was to take place the next day by royal command, could not be completed, because the councillor had made his escape during the night.
In another case in which the Consistory refused a divorce on the demand of the husband, the King wrote upon the margin of the record: It is quite clear that there are some gallants in 'the Consistory: I hope your wives will make cuckolds of you; and, complain as you will, you shall certainly keep them."
An impudent and roguish adventurer, named Echhard, who
A just man, I say, and a valiant and veracious.' (Carlyle, vol. i. p. 406.) Here is one of his own examples of justice:-' Doris Ritter, a comely-enough good girl, nothing of a beauty, but given to 'music, Potsdam Cantors (Precentor's) daughter, has chanced to be 'standing in the door, perhaps to be singing within doors once or 'twice, when the Prince passed that way. Prince inquired about her 'music, gave her music, spoke a civility as young men will,- nothing more upon my honour; though His Majesty believes there was much more, and condemns poor Doris to be whipt by the beadle, and beat hemp for three years. Rhadamanthus is a strict judge, your Majesty, and might be a trifle better informed.' (Vol. ii. p. 277.) Now for veracity. Frederic William, obliged to provide horses and travelling accommodation for the Czar Peter, writes to the postmaster: -'Observe, you contrive to do it for 6,000 thalers: won't allow you 'one other penny; but you are to give out in the world that it costs me from 30 to 50,000. Mr. Carlyle's comment on this combination of meanness, falsehood, and tyranny runs thus :-'So that here is the Majesty of Prussia, who beyond all men abhors lies, giving orders to tell one-alas, yes, a kind of lie or fib (white fib or even gray). the pinch of thrift compelling. But what a window into the artless inner-man of His Majesty, even that gray fib,- not done by 'oneself, but ordered to be done by the servant, as if that were cheaper.' (Vol. i. p. 424.)
had got possession of the royal ear by flattery, was named war and revenue councillor, received a patent of nobility and a decoration. The Electorate Chamber ventured a respectful protest, and was thus addressed: The high, praiseworthy Chamber is 'entreated to let alone reasoning, and not to meddle with the 'honourable Echhard, or We shall come and in our own person 'undertake the presidency of the Chamber with a good 'cudgel.' There was a pictorial postscript from the royal pen or pencil, representing a gallows with a man hanging, and underwritten, The well-merited reward of the Electorate 'Chamber.' The King afterwards assigned Echhard a palace for his residence, and ordered the Academy of Science to frame an inscription, with the words, This is the reward of true ser'vice, poliment tournés selon les régles de l'art;' which recalls the scene in Molière where M. Jourdain desires his languagemaster to compose a billet-doux, by an eloquent amplification of Belle Marquise, vos beaux yeux me font mourir d'amour.' The Academy demurred, or the King was not satisfied, for a motto of his own composition was set up: Thus is Truth ' rewarded;' and the night following a gallows was added immediately above the motto.
One of Echhard's schemes was to enrich the royal treasury by speculations in grain. He told the King that complaints were made of the want of a market for corn in Prussia, and advised him to buy up all the corn, have it carried to Berlin, forbid importations from neighbouring countries, and sell the contents of his granaries as dearly as he could. No sooner said than done; and a rise of price, causing great privation, was the result. The Crown Prince on his way from Rheinsberg, not far from the Mechlenburgh boundary, met fourteen waggons laden with corn. On asking the drivers where they were going, he learnt that they were returning home after having been refused entrance into Prussia. He ordered them to turn back and unload their corn, which he purchased from them, and sold to the people at the market price, being less than half of that for which the King was then selling it. Mr. Carlyle is probably of opinion that this was enlightened economy, and would be prepared to rank this Prussian Empson with Turgot, Colbert, Stein, or Hardenberg. One of the first acts of Frederic the Great on his accession was to remove the restriction and throw open the magazines.
Frederick William employed knaves like Echhard knowingly
*That he (the King) understood National Economies, has now become very certain.' (Carlyle, vol. i. p. 406.)
and systematically. On being told after Grumkow's death, that some man of position and acknowledged merit should be named to a vacant post, he replied: You know nothing about the 'matter; I know from experience that people of position and 'merit are not fit for business. They intrench themselves 'behind their point of honour, when they do not choose to obey 'my commands. If these are not what they think right and ' reasonable, they make objections and take it ill when I tell 'them to get away with them. This does not suit me, and for the future I prefer taking "Kläffer" (yelping dogs) whom 'one can order about without their being sulky, who must do ' whatever I wish without reasoning.'
The selection of a public servant was by no means the sole occasion on which his practice and theory corresponded; thereby showing that his departures from the right path were rather the rule than the exception. In the course of a conversation in July 1734, at which some members of the diplomatic body were present besides his ministers, the binding force of treaties was discussed, and the King observed, with more frankness than discretion, that no sooner was one made than the parties began thinking of the best means of breaking it. This colloquy ensued:
The King.-Count Manteuffel, you know what treaties are: say honestly, is a single one ever made with the intention of keeping it?
Manteuffel.-Your Majesty is joking when you ask such a question. The prior question would be, whether great rulers are honest men, and are anxious to be esteemed as such. How could they pass for such, if they did not hold to truth and faith?
'The King. That is all true enough; but what treaties are observed? I know none.
'Manteuffel. I know many. Your Majesty has made all your treaties with the intention of keeping them, and you do keep them in fact.
'The King.-Yes; I have always had the intention; but I have not always abided by it. It pains me; but I must own as much.' He then related to the whole company that, in the times of the Czar Peter the First, he had solemnly promised never to abandon him, and never to make peace with Sweden without him, which he had, notwithstanding, done.
"Was that right?" he continued. "I do not think so; but it was done. I held out a long time. I worked myself into a fever about it; but what could I do? My rogues"-the chief of whom was present "plagued me so. Kniphausen would not leave me a moment's peace: I must sign. I might assent or dissent; and I ended by signing. That was a downright fraud."
This, taken altogether, may be deemed one of the most credit
able traits recorded of him, although it would reflect no great amount of credit on an ordinary ruler.
Johnson praises Frederick the Great for so accurate an acquaintance with his cellar as to be able to tell where a bottle of any given wine was to be found. He may have inherited or learnt this curious qualification for kingcraft, if he really possessed it, from his father, whose minute attention to the expenses of his household was one of the peculiar features of his character. He kept the Queen and Princesses on such short commons that they would have been in danger of perishing by inanition had not the Crown Prince surreptitiously added two dishes daily to their dinner. The cook was forbidden to render the slightest addition to their bill of fare under penalty of the gallows, and the written order to this effect concluded: This order is to be 'obeyed after my death.' One day, after remaining some time sunk in thought, he suddenly addressed the Queen: Sophy, what is the price of eggs?' On her confessing her ignorance, he flew into a passion; told her that after his death she would die on a dunghill because she attended to nothing. He then sent for some kitchen-maids, examined them about all sorts of household trifles, and bade them sweep out the apartment in his and the Queen's presence, that the Queen might learn how it 'was done.'
Till 1738 the sum of eight dollars was allowed for the royal table. Early in that year he was put out of humour by the desertion of sundry giants, and the conviction coming upon him that he was plundered by his cooks, he reduced the allowance to seven dollars and a half, and issued two fresh decrees: 1. For the banishment of all turnspits and kitchen helps, as a race good only for stealing the eatables and making the cooks lazy; 2. To prohibit, under the penalty of the gallows, any tasting by the cooks, because, under the pretence of tasting, they levied a heavy toll on the dishes. This proves that his Majesty was not a gourmand, for the editor of the famous Almanach' lays down that the forefinger of a good cook should travel unceasingly from his saucepans to his tongue, and suggests that, if his taste should lose its delicacy, the sole mode of restoring to him 'cette fleur qu'il a perdue, de lui faire reprendre sa souplesse, sa délicatesse, et ses forces, c'est de purger le cuisinier, telle résistance qu'il y oppose.' It is fortunate for the Prussian cooks that their royal master did not think of this method of improving them.
'Touch not, taste not,' was a maxim which one of the royal suite, high in favour, neglected to his cost. A barrel of oysters was announced, price ten dollars. The King, who liked oysters
but was staggered by the cost, asked von Kleist if they were likely to turn out good. Excellent, was the reply, and on being asked how he knew, he stated that, passing through the kitchen as they were opening the oysters, he had tasted one. Very 'well,' said the King, he who has eaten one may eat them all, and repay me the money they have cost.' He compelled Kleist to take the bargain off his hands.
More wild boars than were wanted having been killed by the royal foresters, the King took out his ministers and suite to look at them, and carelessly asked the ministers what they were worth a head. To flatter him, they named a high price, seven dollars. Right, right; seven dollars. Each of you will take 'one, but you must pay ready money.' After a grand chasse the slaughtered boars and porkers were counted by hundreds, like pheasants after an English battue, and portioned out in lots amongst the officials, nobility, and townspeople, who were obliged to take and pay for them whether they liked swines-flesh or not. The Jews of Berlin were compelled to take 200 head at once, after a week of extraordinary slaughter in 1724. The Jews were turned to account in many ways. When the King wished to afford help which cost nothing, he was wont to give the object of his bounty a license or privilege in blank for the settlement of a Jew in Berlin. This was saleable, and the name could be filled in at pleasure. One of them has been known to sell for seven or eight hundred dollars.
Finding the new part, the Tyburnia or Belgravia of Berlin (Dorotheenstadt), not sufficiently peopled, he ordered several families who were on the point of quitting, and had already removed their goods, to stay in it. In 1737, under the pretence that the soldiers were not well lodged, he issued a decree that the front rooms of the houses in the Old Town should be given up to the military, and that the householders who were not content to live in their own back rooms should remove to the New Town. To throw a halo round this child of his fancy, he decreed in 1739 that, dating from March 8th, every one who possessed a carriage and horse, without distinction of ranks, should appear every Sunday from three to five on the promenade in the New Town, under the penalty of 100 dollars. The effect is described as curious in the extreme, since 'carriage' was understood to mean every description of vehicle, from a butcher's cart to a coronetted coach; so that the promenade resembled the Epsom road on a Derby day, rather than the Prater, the Bois de Boulogne or Hyde Park in its glory.
We must admit that there is considerable fertility of resource and variety of invention in these administrative expedients,