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Frederick was now in imminent danger of being assailed by a coalition of Austria, Russia, Poland, and England. Indeed, it was by no means certain that France might not also join the alliance. All this was the result of Fredericks great crime in wresting Silesia from Austria. Such was the posture of affairs when, in the summer of 1755, Frederick decided to take a trip into Holland incognito. He disguised himself with a black wig, and assumed the character of a musician of the King of Poland. At Amsterdam he embarked for Utrecht in the common passage-boat. The king mingled with the other passengers without any one suspecting his rank. There chanced to be in the boat a young Swiss gentleman, Henry de Catt, twenty-seven years of age. He was a teacher, taking a short tour for recreation. He gives the following account of his interview with the king, whom, at the time, he had no reason to suppose was other than an ordinary passenger. We give the narrative in his own words:Frankfort is on the west side of the Oder. The Russian army was encamped on the eastern side of the river. The force collected there consisted of about seventy-eight thousand Russians and eighteen thousand Austrians. Frederick had, by great exertions, gathered fifty thousand troops to attack them. He was approaching Frankfort from the southwest. In a secret midnight march he crossed the river by bridges of boats some miles north of the city, near Cüstrin. At four oclock in the morning of the 11th of August his troops had all accomplished the passage482 of the stream, and, to the surprise of the Russians, were marching down upon them from the north.

The first assault was made by six thousand grenadiers upon the extreme western wing of the Austrian army. The terrible conflict lasted nearly an hour. The Prussians were driven back, leaving nine out of ten of the assailing force dead or wounded behind them. The Austrians pursued, and encountered slaughter equal to that which they had inflicted.Frederick speedily concentrated all his strength at Bautzen, and strove to draw the Austrians into a battle; but in vain. The heights upon which they were intrenched, bristling with cannon, he could not venture to assail. After three weeks of impatient man?uvring, Frederick gathered his force of fifty thousand424 men close in hand, and made a sudden rush upon Bernstadt, about fifty miles to the east of Bautzen. Here he surprised an Austrian division, scattered it to the winds, seized all its baggage, and took a number of prisoners. He also captured the field equipage, coach, horses, etc., of General Nadasti, who narrowly escaped.

His majesty pledged his word of honor that he would fulfill these obligations, but declared that, should the slightest intimation of the agreement leak out, so that the French should discover it, he would deny the whole thing, and refuse in any way to be bound by it. This was assented to.As an administrative officer the young sovereign was inexorable and heartless in the extreme. Those who had befriended him in the days of his adversity were not remembered with any profusion of thanks or favors. Those who had been in sympathy with his father in his persecution of the Crown Prince encountered no spirit of revenge. Apparently dead to affection, and oblivious of the past, the young sovereign only sought for those agents who could best assist him in the work to which he now consecrated all his energiesthe endeavor to aggrandize the kingdom of Prussia. Poor Doris Ritter received but a trivial pension for her terrible wrongs. Lieutenant Keith, his friend and confederate in his contemplated flight, who had barely escaped with his life from Wesel, after ten years of exile hastened home, hoping that his faithful services and sufferings would meet with a reward. The king appointed him merely lieutenant colonel,194 with scarcely sufficient income to keep him from absolute want. Perhaps the king judged that the young man was not capable of filling, to the advantage of the state, a higher station, and he had no idea of sacrificing his interests to gratitude.

The emperor was probably induced to this decisive course not merely by motives of humanity, but also by the consideration that by thus saving the life of Frederick he would forever attach him to the interests of the house of Austria. The kings of Poland and Sweden also wrote to the king, earnestly interceding for the life of the Crown Prince.

On the 28th of June, 1729, the population of Bühlitz, a Hanoverian border village, sallied forth with carts, escorted by a troop of horse, and, with demonstrations both defiant and exultant, raked up and carried off all the hay. The King of Prussia happened to be at that time about one hundred miles distant from Bühlitz, at Magdeburg, reviewing his troops. He was thrown into a towering passion. Sophie Dorothee, Wilhelmina, Fritz, all felt the effects of his rage. Dubourgay writes, under date of July 30, 1729:I have been to see the King of Prussia. I have courageously resisted his fine proposals. He offers me a beautiful house in Berlin, a pretty estate, but I prefer my second floor in Madame Du Chatelets here. He assures me of his favor, of the perfect freedom I should have; and I am running to Paris, to my slavery and persecution. I could fancy myself a small Athenian refusing the bounties of the King of Persia; with this difference, however, one had liberty at Athens.

There was no credit by trading people even for the necessaries of life. There was no police in the towns. To habits of equity and order there had succeeded a vile greed of gain and an anarchic disorder. The silence of the laws had produced in the people a taste for license. Boundless appetite for gain was their main rule of action. The noble, the merchant, the farmer, the laborer, raising emulously each the price of his commodity, seemed to endeavor only for their mutual ruin. Such, when the war ended, was the fatal spectacle over these provinces, which had once been so flourishing. However pathetic the description may be, it will never approach the touching and sorrowful impression which the sight of it produced.The selfish rapacity of the King of Prussia gave the signal to his neighbors. His example quieted their sense of shame. The whole world sprang to arms. On the head of Frederick is all the blood which was shed in a war which raged during many years, and in every quarter of the globethe blood of the column of Fontenoy, the blood of the brave mountaineers who were slaughtered at Culloden. The evils produced by this wickedness were felt in lands where the name of Prussia was unknown. In order that he might rob a neighbor whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel, and red men scalped each other by the great lakes of North America.

The king was staggered. War seemed the only alternative. But war would empty his money-casks, disfigure his splendid troops, and peril the lives even of his costly giants. One of these men, James Kirkman, picked up in the streets of London, cost the king six thousand dollars before he could be inveigled, shipped, and brought to hand. Nearly all had cost large sums of money. Such men were too valuable to be exposed to danger. Frederick William was in a state of extreme nervous excitement. There was no rest for him night or day. His deep potations did not calm his turbulent spirit. War seemed imminent. Military preparations were in vigorous progress. Ovens were constructed to bake ammunition bread. Artillery was dragged out from the arsenals. It was rumored that the Prussian troops were to march immediately upon the duchy of Mecklenburg, which was then held by George II. as an appendage to Hanover.

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Permit me to say there is not a man on the earth but owes thanks for the care you take to cultivate, by sound philosophy,175 a soul that is born for command. Good kings there never were except those who had begun by seeking to instruct themselves; by knowing good men from bad; by loving what was true; by detesting persecution and superstition. No prince, persisting in such thoughts, but might bring back the golden age into his countries.Frederick.Leave the cold ashes of Maupertuis in peace. He was noble and faithful. He pardoned you that vile libel of Doctor Akakia which your criminal fury scribbled against him. And what return are you making? Shame on such delirious ravings as those of Voltaire! Shall this grand genius, whom I have admired, soil himself with calumny, and be ferocious on the dead? Shall he, like a vile raven, pounce upon the sepulchre, and make prey upon its corpses?

Monsieur,Although I have not the satisfaction of knowing you personally, you are not the less known to me through your works. They are treasures of the mind, if I may so express myself; and they reveal to the reader new beauties at every perusal. I think I have recognized in them the character of their ingenious author, who does honor to our age and to human nature. If ever the dispute on the comparative merits of the moderns and the ancients should be revived, the modern great men174 will owe it to you, and to you only, that the scale is turned in their favor. With the excellent quality of poet you join innumerable others more or less related to it.


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