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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Austria became the ideal of the German nobility

Frederick William's regular evening recreation was his "Tobacco College," as he called it. Some of his ministers and generals, foreign ambassadors, and even ordinary citizens, were invited to smoke and drink beer with him in a plain room, where he sat upon a three-legged stool, and they upon wooden benches. Each was obliged to smoke, or at least to have a clay pipe in his mouth and appear to smoke. The most important affairs of State were discussed at these meetings, which were conducted with so little formality that no one was allowed to rise when the king entered the room. He was not so amiable upon his walks through the streets of Berlin or Potsdam. He always carried a heavy cane, which he would apply without mercy to the shoulders of any who seemed to be idle, no matter what their rank or station. Even his own household was not exempt from blows; and his son Frederick was scarcely treated better than any of his soldiers or workmen.

[Sidenote: 1725. CONDITION OF GERMANY.]

This manner of government was rude, but it was also systematic and vigorous, and the people upon whom it was exercised did not deteriorate in character, as was the case in almost all other parts of Germany. Austria, in spite of the pomp of the Emperor's court, was in a state of moral and intellectual decline. Karl VI. was a man of little capacity, an instrument in the hands of the Jesuits, and the minds of the people whom he ruled gradually became as stolid and dead as the latter order wished to make them. Their connection with Germany was scarcely felt; they spoke of "the Empire outside" almost as a foreign country, and the strength of the house of Hapsburg was gradually transferred to the Bohemian, Hungarian and Slavonic races which occupied the greater part of its territory. The industry of the country was left without encouragement; what little education was permitted was in the hands of the priests, and all real progress came to an end. But, for this very reason, Austria became the ideal of the German nobility, nine-tenths of whom were feudalists and sighed for the return of the Middle Ages: hundreds of them took service under the Emperor, either at court or in the army, and helped to preserve the external forms of his power.

In most of the other German States the condition of affairs was not much better. Bavaria, the Palatinate, and the three Archbishops of Mayence, Treves and Cologne, were abject instruments in the hands of France: Hannover was governed by the interests of England, and Saxony by those of Poland. After George I. went to England, the government of Hannover was exercised by a council of nobles, who kept up the Court ceremonials just as if the Elector were present. His portrait was placed in a chair, and they observed the same etiquette towards it as if his real self were there! In Wuertemberg the Duke, Eberhard Ludwig, so oppressed the people that many of them emigrated to America between the years 1717 and 1720, and settled in Pennsylvania. This was the first German emigration to the New World.

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