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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

A long while after the battle of Fontenoy


The

retreat of the Hollanders admitted of the movement; the small field-pieces, as yet dragged by hand, were pointed against the English column. Marshal Saxe, with difficulty keeping his seat upon his horse, galloped hastily up to the Irish brigade, commanding all the troops he met on the way to make no more false attacks, and to act in concert. All the forces of the French army burst simultaneously upon the English. The Irish regiments in the service of France, nearly all composed of Jacobite emigrants, fought with fury. Twice the brave enemy rallied, but the officers fell on all sides, the ranks were everywhere broken; at last they retired, without disorder, without enfeeblement, preserving, even in defeat, the honor of a vigorous resistance. The battle was gained at the moment when the most clear-sighted had considered it lost. Marshal Saxe had still strength left to make his way to the king. "I have lived long enough, sir," he said, "now that I have seen your Majesty victorious. You now know on what the fortune of battles depends."

The victory of Fontenoy, like that of Denain, restored the courage and changed the situation of France. When the King of Prussia heard of his ally's success, he exclaimed with a grin, "This is about as useful to us as a battle gained on the banks of the Scamander." His selfish absorption in his personal and direct interests obscured the judgment of Frederick the Great. He, however, did justice to Marshal

Saxe: "There was a discussion the other day as to what battle had reflected most honor on the general commanding," he wrote, a long while after the battle of Fontenoy; "some suggested that of Almanza, others that of Turin; but I suggested--and everybody finally agreed that it was undoubtedly that in which the general had been at death's door when it was delivered."

The fortress of Tournai surrendered on the 22d of May; the citadel capitulated on the 19th of June. Ghent, Bruges, Oudenarde, Dendermonde, Ostend, Nienport, yielded, one after another, to the French armies. In the month of February, 1746, Marshal Saxe terminated the campaign by taking Brussels. By the 1st of the previous September Louis XV. had returned in triumph to Paris.

[Illustration: BRUSSELS----159]

Henceforth he remained alone confronting Germany, which was neutral, or had rallied round the restored empire. On the 13th of September, the Grand-duke of Tuscany had been proclaimed emperor at Frankfurt, under the name of Francis I. The indomitable resolution of the queen his wife had triumphed. In spite of the checks she suffered in the Low Countries, Maria Theresa still withstood, at all points, the pacific advances of the belligerents.

On the 4th of June, the King of Prussia had gained a great victory at Freilberg. "I have honored the bill of exchange your Majesty drew on me at Fontenoy," he wrote to Louis XV. A series of successful fights had opened the road to Saxony. Frederick headed thither rapidly; on the 18th of December he occupied Dresden.

This time, the King of Poland, Elector of Saxony, forced the hand of the new empress: "The Austrians and the Saxons have just sent ministers hither to negotiate for peace," said a letter to France from the King of Prussia; "so I have no course open but to sign. Would that I might be fortunate enough to serve as the instrument of general pacification. After discharging my duty towards the state I govern, and towards my family, no object will be nearer to my heart than that of being able to render myself of service to your Majesty's interests." Frederick the Great returned to Berlin covered with glory, and definitively master of Silesia. "Learn once for all," he said at a later period, in his instructions to his successor, "that where a kingdom is concerned, you take when you can, and that you are never wrong when you are not obliged to hand over. An insolent and a cynical maxim of brute force, which conquerors have put in practice at all times, without daring to set it up as a principle.


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