Kingdom of Prussia
Prussia ; the smallest of the (so called) great powers of Europe; was a country in several respects singular, being composed of very heterogeneous parts, several of them not connected by any common feeling or common interest, not even by geographical situation, but merely by artificial political system; and yet it held an influential station among the European powers. Another very striking feature of this monarchy was the care which it bestowed on science and education. The sciences were no where fostered with more care, and there were few countries in which common schools are more widely diffused. Notwithstanding the effect which this must have in enlightening the people, and notwithstanding the attention which has been paid, for several generations, to the administration of justice, there was an almost incomprehensible backwardness in every thing which belonged to a civic spirit.
The greatness of Prussia proceeded from, and was supported by, military power, the power of standing armies, and the whole system of government has been carried on with something of a military spirit by numerous officers m regular gradations, who execute the orders received from their superiors. The many of the various parts composing the monarchy had no national interest, as Prussians, in each other; so that the noblest germs of civil virtue remained undeveloped in the people, whose interests were diverse. Since the time of Frederick the Great, Prussia felt obliged to seek a strong ally in Russia to strengthen herself against Austria - an alliance which had much retarded her civil advancement.
The Prussian monarchy, which contained 3,000,000 of inhabitants, on 46,428 square miles, with an army of 76,000 men, when Frederick the Great ascended the throne, contained, in 1804, without reckoning Neufchatel, 9,977,497 inhabitants, upon 120,395 square miles (with 38,000,000 of Prussian dollars income, about 32,000,000 Spanish), and at the end of 1828,12,72(3,823 inhabitants, upon 106,852 square miles, with 3,316,459 buildings, to which is to be added Neufchatel, with 51,580 inhabitants, upon 296 square miles; and, at die close of 1830, the number of the inhabitants was 12,939,877.
The Teutonic knights received, in 1220, a strip of land on the Vistula from Conrad of Masovia, in order that they might protect Poland from the heathen inhabitants of Prussia. From 1230 to 1283, they carried on a war of exlermination with eleven Prussian tribes. These at hist became Christians, and adopted the German customs. The power of the Teutonic knights increased rapidly, and, in the fifteenth century, their territory extended from the Oder, along the Baltic, to the bay of Finland, and contained cities like Dantzic, Elbing, Thorn, Culm, &c. About 1404, they ruled over 2,500,000 of people, and had an annual income of 800,000 marks.
But the knights became tyrants, and the nobility and cities had no means of escaping their oppression but by submitting to Poland. A terrible war ensued, from 1454 to 1456, and the country was filled with bloodshed and devastation. In 1511, the knights elected Albert of Brandenburg, son of the margrave of Anspach, to the office of grand master, with a view of strengthening themselves. In 1525, the order was abolished entirely in Prussia, and its territory was converted into an hereditary duchy, under prince Albert and his male descendants or brothers, as a fief of Poland. The republic of Poland acknowledged the sovereignty of the elector of Brandenburg in the duchy of Prussia by the treaty of Welau, Sept 19, 1657.
Towards other powers, and especially Sweden, the great elector Frederick William maintained a respectable attitude. His son Frederick III placed the royal crown upon his head, Jan. 18, 1701, as Frederick I, thereby elevating Prussia Proper to a kingdom. Vanity probably led him to take this step, but, under him, the monarchy increased in territory, and a desire for further increase - a necessary consequence of the scattered condition of its component parts - and the assumption of a station which required augmented power to support it - became an early, and ruling trait of Prussian policy. Frederick William I received Stettin in 1720, by the peace of Stockholm, and also Prussian Guekhys. He was a tyrannical soldier, but sagacious, a friend of justice when it did not interfere wilh his caprices or plans. His desire to keep on foot a standing army of 60,000 men, led him to the enlisting of foreigners. He was frugal, and under him began the system so much developed by Frederick II, of making the internal government as much as possible a machine. His love of justice not infrequently led him to infringe the independence of the judiciary.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|