Just in the days when Bouille left him for France, Friedrich ("October, 1784") had conceived the notion of some general Confederation, or Combination in the Reich, to resist, the continual Encroachments of Austria; which of late are becoming more rampant than ever. Thus, in the last year, especially within the last six months, a poor Bishop of Passau, quasi-Bavarian, or in theory Sovereign Bishop of the Reich, is getting himself pulled to pieces (Diocese torn asunder, and masses of it forcibly sewed on to their new "Bishopric of Vienna"), in the most tragic manner, in spite of express Treaties, and of all the outcries the poor man and the Holy Father himself can make against it. [Dohm (DENKWURDIGKEITEN, iii. 46,--GESCHICHTE DER LETZTEN PERIODE FRIEDRICHS DES ZWEITEN) gives ample particulars. Dohm's first 3 volumes call themselves "History of Friedrich's last Period, 1778-1786;" and are full of Bavarian War, 3d vol. mostly of FURSTENBUND;--all in a candid, authentic, but watery and rather wearisome way.] To this of Passau, and to the much of PANIS-BRIEFE and the like which had preceded, Friedrich, though studiously saying almost nothing, had been paying the utmost of attention:-- part of Prince Henri's errand to France is thought to have been, to take soundings on those matters (on which France proves altogether willing, if able); and now, in the general emotion about Passau, Friedrich jots down in a Note to Hertzberg the above idea; with order to put it into form a little, and consult about it in the Reich with parties interested. Hertzberg took the thing up with zeal; instructed the Prussian Envoys to inquire, cautiously, everywhere; fancied he did find willingness in the Courts of the Reich, in Hanover especially: in a word, got his various irons into the fire;--and had not proceeded far, when there rose another case of Austrian Encroachment, which eclipsed all the preceding; and speedily brought Hertzberg's irons to the welding-point. Too brief we cannot be in this matter; here are the dates, mostly from Dohm:--
NEW-YEAR'S DAY, 1785, on or about that day, Romanzow, Son of our old Colberg and Anti-Turk friend, who is Russian "Minister in the Ober-Rheinish Circle," appears at the little Court of Zweibruck, with a most sudden and astounding message to the Duke there:--
"Important bargain agreed upon between your Kaiser and his Highness of the Pfalz and Baiern; am commanded by my Sovereign Lady, on behalf of her friend the Kaiser, to make it known to you. Baiern all and whole made over to Austria; in return for which the now Kur-Baiern gets the Austrian Netherlands (Citadels of Limburg and Luxemburg alone excepted); and is a King henceforth, 'King of Burgundy' to be the Title, he and his fortunate Successors for all time coming. To your fortunate self, in acknowledgment of your immediate consent, Austria offers the free-gift of 100,000 pounds, and to your Brother Max of 50,000 pounds; Kur-Baiern, for his loyal conduct, is to have 150,000 pounds; and to all of you, if handsome, Austria will be handsome generally. For the rest, the thing is already settled; and your refusal will not hinder it from going forward. I request to know, within eight days, what your Highness's determination is!"
His poor Highness, thunderstruck as may be imagined, asks: "But-- but-- What would your Excellency advise me?" "Have n't the least advice," answers his Excellency: "will wait at Frankfurt-on-Mayn, for eight days, what your Highness's resolution is; hoping it may be a wise one;--and have the honor at present to say Good-morning." Sudden, like a thunder-bolt in winter, the whole phenomenon. This, or JANUARY 3d, when Friedrich, by Express from Zweibruck, first heard of this, may be considered as birthday of a Furstenbund now no longer hypothetic, but certain to become actual.
Zweibruck naturally shot off expresses: to Petersburg (no answer ever); to Berlin (with answer on the instant);--and in less than eight days, poor Zweibruck, such the intelligence from Berlin, was in a condition to write to Frankfurt: "Excellency; No; I do not consent, nor ever will." For King Friedrich is broad-awake again;-- and Hertzberg's smithy-fires, we may conceive how the winds rose upon these, and brought matters to a welding heat!--
The Czarina,--on Friedrich's urgent remonstrance, "What is this, great Madam? To your old Ally, and from the Guaranty and Author of the Peace of Teschen!"--had speedily answered: "Far from my thoughts to violate the Peace of Teschen; very far: I fancied this was an advantageous exchange, advantageous to Zweibruck especially; but since Zweibruck thinks otherwise, of course there is an end." "Of course;"--though my Romanzow did talk differently; and the forge-fires of a certain person are getting blown at a mighty rate! Hertzberg's operation was conducted at first with the greatest secrecy; but his Envoys were busy in all likely places, his Proposal finding singular consideration; acceptance, here, there,-- "A very mild and safe-looking Project, most mild in tone surely!"-- and it soon came to Kaunitz's ear; most unwelcome to the new Kingdom of Burgundy and him!
Thrice over, in the months ensuing (April 13th, May 11th, June 23d), in the shape of a "Circular to all Austrian Ambassadors", [Dohm, iii. 64, 68.] Kaunitz lifted up his voice in severe dehortation, the tone of him waxing more and more indignant, and at last snuffling almost tremulous quite into alt, "against the calumnies and malices of some persons, misinterpreters of a most just Kaiser and his actions." But as the Czarina, meanwhile, declared to the Reich at large, that she held, and would ever hold, the Peace of Teschen a thing sacred, and this or any Kingdom of Burgundy, or change of the Reichs Laws, impossible,--the Kaunitz clangors availed nothing; and Furstenbund privately, but at a mighty pace, went forward. And, JUNE 29th, 1785, after much labor, secret but effective, on the part of Dohm and others, Three Plenipotentiaries, the Prussian, the Saxon, the Hanoverian ("excellent method to have only the principal Three!" ) met, still very privately, at Berlin; and laboring their best, had, in about four weeks, a Furstenbund Covenant complete; signed, JULY 23d, by these Three,--to whom all others that approved append themselves. As an effective respectable number, Brunswick, Hessen, Mainz and others, did, [List of them in Dohm.]--had not, indeed, the first Three themselves, especially as Hanover meant England withal, been themselves moderately sufficient.--Here, before the date quite pass, are two Clippings which may be worth their room:--
1. BOUILLE'S SECOND VISIT (Spring, 1785). May 10th, 1785,--just while FURSTENBUND, so privately, was in the birth-throes,--"Marquis de Bouille had again come to Berlin, to place his eldest Son in the ACADEMIE DES GENTILSHOMMES; where the young man stayed two years. Was at Potsdam" May 13th-16th; [Rodenbeck, iii. 325.] "well received; dined at Sans-Souci. Informed the King of the Duc de Choiseul's death [Paris, May 8th). King, shaking his head, 'IL N'Y A PAS GRAND MAL.' Seems piqued at the Queen of France, who had not shown much attention to Prince Henri. Spoke of Peter the Great, 'whose many high qualities were darkened by singular cruelty.' When at Berlin, going on foot, as his custom was, unattended, to call on King Friedrich Wilhelm, the people in the streets crowded much about him. 'Brother,' said he to the King, 'your subjects are deficient in respect; order one or two of them to be hanged; it will restrain the others!' During the same visit, one day, at Charlottenburg; the Czar, after dinner, stepped out on a balcony which looked into the Gardens. Seeing many people assembled below, he gnashed his teeth (GRINCA DES DENTS), and began giving signs of frenzy. Shifty little Catharine, who was with him, requested that a certain person down among the crowd, who had a yellow wig, should be at once put away, or something bad would happen. This done, the Czar became quiet again. The Czarina added, he was subject to such attacks of frenzy; and that, when she saw it, she would scratch his head, which moderated him. 'VOILA MONSIEUR,' concluded the King, addressing me: 'VOILA LES GRANDS HOMMES!'