Research Subjects: Miscellaneous

A Cursory View of Prussia from the Death of Frederick II to the Peace of Tilsit

LETTER VIII: Prussian Neutrality and French Perfidity in 1805


IN 1802 the cabinet underwent a change of ministers, but without undergoing any change of measures.  Count Haugwitz and a Mr. Lombard, both deeply imbued with French principles, obtained the direction of affairs—Bonapartè’s future operation somewhat indicate his security of the continued neutrality of Prussia; for, by his gradual proceeding until he afterwards took possession of Hanover, he entered almost into the heart of the kingdom, as both Magdeburg and all Westphalia lay at his mercy; yet still Prussia slept, secure in the contemplation of her own sincerity.  Haugwitz remained not long in office, and Hardenberg succeeded him; a man; from real principle, devoted to the English.  It was, therefore, now expected that his influence would break the charm of the neutral system; but no, this must undergo a farther trial.  The consequences were, that Bonapartè was quietly suffered to become master of Ulm, and gain the victory of Austerlitz; both which might apparently have been prevented, had not the king unfortunately carried his principles of moral rectitude into his politics.  He trusted to the Corsican’s promise to respect his neutrality; and, though Duroc was sent to Berlin with the view to shake it, yet the only result he could draw from his mission was, that his Majesty of Prussia adhered inflexibly to the system, which, if infringed upon, he would know how to defend.—Duroc hinted, that it nevertheless seemed that the Russians were encroaching.  “In that case,” answered the Monarch, “necessity will oblige me to join the French.”  Indeed, Duroc had so artfully conducted himself, and thrown out so many advantages to Prussia, that an immediate alliance would have probably taken place, had not Hardenberg’s more powerful arguments and manly remonstrances kept Frederick William true to his favorite old system.  Troops were, however, sent towards the Russian frontiers; and Bonapartè, in the hope that hostilities would certainly soon commence there, wrote to Bernadotte, “that now, all must be risqued to gain all;” and fortwith the neutrality of Anspach was violated.  “Sire,” (Mack as reported to have said, before the capitulation), “had I not respected the neutrality of Anspach, I should have thwarted your majesty’s plans.”—“You ought to have attempted it.”—“But I should then have involved the Emperor my Master in a fresh war, and perhaps lost Bohemia.”—“No, no,” answered Bonapartè, with a significant smile; “you needed not to have apprehended that.”  By which you will observe how well he knew Frederick William’s moderation and pacific disposition.  These were, however, at length put to the proof.  A courier from Anspach brought the intelligence to Berlin, that the French had actually forced a passage through that territory.  This threw the whole cabinet into the utmost consternation; and Hardenberg called loudly for war.  The King, upon his flagrant breach of faith, felt himself highly offended; but was still undetermined how to proceed.  By this irresolution, he gave Bonapartè time to obtain all that he wanted.

The whole nation seemed now in a ferment, and parties opposed each other with such vehemence, that the King was quite embarrassed, and knew not on what to resolve.  He therefore held a serious consultation, the result of which you will find in my next letter.



Miscellaneous Index | More on "A Cursory View of Prussia" ]

Search the Series

© 1995-2010, The Napoleon Series, All Rights Reserved.

Top | Home ]