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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Maria Theresa and her Government



The last years of Frederick the Great were peaceful. He lived to see the American Colonies independent of England, and to send a sword of honor to Washington: he lived when Voltaire and Maria Theresa were dead, preserving to the last his habits of industry and constant supervision of all affairs. Like his father, he was fond of walking or riding through the parks and streets of Berlin and Potsdam, talking familiarly with the people and now and then using his cane upon an idler. His Court was Spartan in its simplicity, and nothing prevented the people from coming personally to him with their complaints. On one occasion, in the streets of Potsdam, he met a company of school-boys, and roughly addressed them with: "Boys, what are you doing here? Be off to your school!" One of the boldest answered: "Oh, you are king, are you, and don't know that there is no school to-day!" Frederick laughed heartily, dropped his uplifted cane, and gave the urchins a piece of money that they might better enjoy their holiday. The windmill at Potsdam, which stood on some ground he wanted for his park, but could not get because the miller would not sell and defied him to take it arbitrarily, stands to this day, as a token of his respect for the rights of a poor man.

When Frederick died, on the 17th of August, 1786, at the age of seventy-four, he left a kingdom of 6,000,000 inhabitants, an army of more than 200,000 men, and a sum

of 72 millions of thalers in the treasury. But, what was of far more consequence to Germany, he left behind him an example of patriotism, of order, economy and personal duty, which was already followed by other German princes, and an example of resistance to foreign interference which restored the pride and revived the hopes of the German people.



Maria Theresa and her Government. --Death of Francis I. --Character of Joseph II. --The Partition of Poland. --The Bavarian Succession. --Last Days of Maria Theresa. --Republican Ideas in Europe. --Joseph II. as a Revolutionist. --His Reforms. --Visit of Pope Pius VI. --Alarm of the Catholics. --Joseph among the People. --The Order of Jesuits dissolved by the Pope. --Joseph II's Disappointments. --His Death. --Progress in Germany. --A German-Catholic Church proposed by four Archbishops. --"Enlightened Despotism." --The small States. --Influence of the great German Authors.

[Sidenote: 1750. MARIA THERESA.]

In the Empress Maria Theresa, Frederick the Great had an enemy whom he was bound to respect. Since the death of Maximilian II., in 1576, Austria had no male ruler so prudent, just and energetic as this woman. One of her first acts was to imitate the military organization of Prussia: then she endeavored to restore the finances of the country, which had been sadly shattered by the luxury of her predecessors. Her position during the two Silesian Wars and the Seven Years' War was almost the same as that of her opponent: she fought to recover territory, part of which had been ceded to Austria and part of which she had held by virtue of unsettled claims. The only difference was that the very existence of Austria did not depend on the result, as was the case with Prussia.

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