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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

And in 1697 Augustus the Strong of Saxony



Frederick William of Brandenburg, however, was spared the knowledge of the worst features of this outrage. He died the same year, after a reign of forty-eight years, at the age of sixty-eight. The latter years of his reign were devoted to the internal development of his State. He united the Oder and Elbe by a canal, built roads and bridges, encouraged agriculture and the mechanic arts, and set a personal example of industry and intelligence to his people while he governed them. His possessions were divided and scattered, reaching from Koenigsberg to the Rhine, but, taken collectively, they were larger than any other German State at the time, except Austria. None of the smaller German rulers before him took such a prominent part in the intercourse with foreign nations. He was thoroughly German, in his jealousy of foreign rule; but this did not prevent him from helping to confirm Louis XIV. in his robbery of Strasburg, out of revenge for his own treatment by Leopold I. When personal pride or personal interest was concerned, the Hohenzollerns were hardly more patriotic than the Hapsburgs.

The German Empire raised an army of about 60,000 men, to carry on the war with France; but its best commanders, Max Emanuel and Prince Eugene, were fighting the Turks, and the first campaigns were not successful. The other allied powers, Holland, England and Spain, were equally unfortunate, while France, compact and consolidated

under one despotic head, easily held out against them. In 1693, finally, the Margrave Ludwig of Baden obtained some victories in Southern Germany which forced the French to retreat beyond the Rhine. The seat of war was then gradually transferred to Flanders, and the task of conducting it fell upon the foreign allies. At the same time there were battles in Spain and Savoy, and sea-fights in the British Channel. Although the fortunes of Germany were influenced by these events, they belong properly to the history of other countries. Victory inclined sometimes to one side and sometimes to the other; the military operations were so extensive that there could be no single decisive battle.

All parties became more or less weary and exhausted, and the end of it all was the Treaty of Ryswick, concluded on the 20th of September, 1697. By its provisions France retained Strasburg and the greater part of Alsatia, but gave up Freiburg and her other conquests east of the Rhine, in Baden. Lorraine was restored to its Duke, but on conditions which made it practically a French province. The most shameful clause of the Treaty was one which ordered that the districts which had been made Catholic by force during the invasion were to remain so.

[Sidenote: 1697. DECLINE OF THE EMPIRE.]

Nearly every important German State, at this time, had some connection or alliance which subjected it to foreign influence. The Hapsburg possessions in Belgium were more Spanish than German; Pomerania and the bishoprics of Bremen and Verden were under Sweden; Austria and Hungary were united; Holstein was attached to Denmark, and in 1697 Augustus the Strong of Saxony, after the death of John Sobieski, purchased his election as king of Poland by enormous bribes to the Polish nobles. Augustus the Strong, of whom Carlyle says that "he lived in this world regardless of expense," outdid his predecessor, John George II., in his monstrous imitation of French luxury. For a time he not only ruined but demoralized Saxony, starving the people by his exactions, and living in a style which was infamous as well as reckless.

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