In January, 1658, Karl Gustav marches his Army, horse, foot, and artillery, to the extent of Twenty thousand, across the Baltic ice, and takes an island without shipping.
Continuing The Great Elector Grows Prussia,
our selection from History of Friedrich II of Prussia by Thomas Carlyle published in 1858. The selection is presented in five easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Great Elector Grows Prussia.
They gave him Three secularized Bishoprics, Magdeburg, Halberstadt, Minden with other small remnants, for compensation, and he had to be content with these for the present. But he never gave up the idea of Pommern. Much of the effort of his life was spent upon recovering Fore-Pommern; thrice eager upon that, whenever lawful opportunity offered. To no purpose, then; he never could recover Swedish Pommern; only his late descendants, and that by slowish degrees, could recover it all. Readers remember that Burgermeister of Stettin, with the helmet and sword flung into the grave and picked out again, and can judge whether Brandenburg got its good luck quite by lying in bed.
Once, and once only, he had a voluntary purpose toward War, and it remained a purpose only. Soon after the Peace of Westphalia, old Pfalz-Neuburg, the same who got the slap on the face, went into tyrannous proceedings against the Protestant part of his subjects in Juelic-Cleve, who called to Friedrich Wilhelm for help. Friedrich Wilhelm, a zealous Protestant, made remonstrances, retaliations; ere long the thought struck him, “Suppose, backed by the Dutch, we threw out this fantastic old gentleman, his Papistries, and pretended claims and self, clear out of it?” This was Friedrich Wilhelm’s thought, and he suddenly marched troops into the Territory with that view. But Europe was in alarm; the Dutch grew faint. Friedrich Wilhelm saw it would not do. He had a conference with old Pfalz-Neuburg: “Young gentleman, we remember how your Grandfather made free with us and our august countenance! Nevertheless, we — ” In fine, the “statistics of Treaties” was increased by One, and there the matter rested till calmer times.
In 1666 an effective Partition of these litigated Territories was accomplished; Prussia to have the Duchy of Cleve-Proper, the Counties of Mark and Ravensberg, with other Patches and Pertinents; Neuburg, what was the better share, to have Juelich Duchy and Berg Duchy. Furthermore, if either of the Lines failed, in no sort was a collateral to be admitted; but Brandenburg was to inherit Neuburg, or Neuburg Brandenburg, as the case might be. A clear Bargain this at last, and in the times that had come it proved executable so far; but if the reader fancies the Lawsuit was at last out in this way, he will be a simple reader. In the days of our little Fritz,[*] the Line of Pfalz-Neuburg was evidently ending; but that Brandenburg, and not a collateral, should succeed it, there lay the quarrel open still, as if it had never been shut, and we shall hear enough about it.
[* Frederick the Great]
Friedrich Wilhelm’s first actual appearance in War, Polish-Swedish War (1655-1660), was involuntary in the highest degree; forced upon him for the sake of his Preussen, which bade fair to be lost or ruined without blame of his or its. Nevertheless, here too he made his benefit of the affair. The big King of Sweden had a standing quarrel, with his big cousin of Poland, which broke out into hot War; little Preussen lay between them, and was like to be crushed in the collision. Swedish King was Karl Gustav, Christina’s Cousin, Charles XII’s Grandfather: a great and mighty man, lion of the North in his time; Polish King was one John Casimir; chivalrous enough, and with clouds of forward Polish chivalry about him, glittering with barbaric gold. Friedrich III, Danish King for the first time being, he also was much involved in the thing. Fain would Friedrich Wilhelm have kept out of it, but he could not. Karl Gustav as good as forced him to join; he joined; fought along with Karl Gustav an illustrious Battle, “Battle of Warsaw,” three days long (July 28-30, 1656), on the skirts of Warsaw; crowds “looking from the upper windows” there; Polish chivalry, broken at last, going like chaff upon the winds, and John Casimir nearly ruined.
Shortly after which, Friedrich Wilhelm, who had shone much in the Battle, changed sides. An inconsistent, treacherous man? Perhaps not, O reader; perhaps a man advancing “in circuits,” the only way he has; spirally, face now to east, now to west, with his own reasonable private aim sun-clear to himself all the while.
John Casimir agreed to give up the “Homage of Preussen” for this service; a grand prize for Friedrich Wilhelm. What the Teutsch Ritters strove for in vain, and lost their existence in striving for, the shifty Kurfuerst has now got: Ducal Prussia, which is also called East Prussia, is now a free sovereignty, and will become as “Royal” as the other Polish part, or perhaps even more so, in the course of time — Karl Gustav, in a high frame of mind, informs the Kurfuerst that he has him on his books, and will pay the debt one day.
A dangerous debtor in such matters, this Karl Gustav. In these same months, busy with the Danish part of the Controversy, he was doing a feat of war which set all Europe in astonishment. In January, 1658, Karl Gustav marches his Army, horse, foot, and artillery, to the extent of Twenty thousand, across the Baltic ice, and takes an island without shipping — Island of Fuenen, across the Little Belt — three miles of ice, and a part of the sea open, which has to be crossed on planks; nay, forward from Fuenen, when once there, he achieves ten whole miles more of ice, and takes Zealand itself, to the wonder of all mankind: an imperious, stern-browed, swift-striking man, who had dreamed of a new Goth Empire: the mean Hypocrites and Fribbles of the South to be coerced again by noble Norse valor, and taught a new lesson; has been known to lay his hand on his sword while apprising an Embassador (Dutch High Mightiness) what his royal intentions were: “not the sale or purchase of groceries, observe you, Sir! My aims go higher.” Charles XII’s Grandfather, and somewhat the same type of man.
But Karl died short while after; left his big, wide-raging Northern Controversy to collapse in what way it could. Sweden and the fighting parties made their “Peace of Oliva” (Abbey of Oliva, near Dantzig, May 1, 1660), and this of Preussen was ratified, in all form, among other points. No Homage more; nothing now above Ducal Prussia but the Heavens, and great times coming for it. This was one of the successfulest strokes of business ever done by Friedrich Wilhelm, who had been forced, by sheer compulsion, to embark in that big game. “Royal Prussia,” the Western Polish Prussia — this too, as all Newspapers know, has in our times gone the same road as the other, which probably after all, it may have had in Nature, some tendency to do? Cut away, for reasons, by the Polish sword, in that Battle of Tannenberg, long since, and then, also for reasons, cut back again: that is the fact, not unexampled in human History.
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