The offer to be Kaiser was made him in his old days; but he wisely declined that too. It was in Brandenburg, by what he silently founded there, that he did his chief benefit to Germany and mankind. He understood the noble art of governing men; had in him the justice, clearness, valor and patience needed for that. A man of sterling probity, for one thing. Which indeed is the first requisite in said art:--if you will have your laws obeyed without mutiny, see well that they be pieces of God Almighty's Law: otherwise all the artillery in the world will not keep down mutiny.
Friedrich "travelled much over Brandenburg;" looking into everything with his own eyes;--making, I can well fancy, innumerable crooked things straight. Reducing more and more that famishing dog-kennel of a Brandenburg into a fruitful arable field. His portraits represent a square headed, mild-looking solid gentleman, with a certain twinkle of mirth in the serious eyes of him. Except in those Hussite wars for Kaiser Sigismund and the Reich, in which no man could prosper, he may be defined as constantly prosperous. To Brandenburg he was, very literally, the blessing of blessings; redemption out of death into life. In the ruins of that old Friesack Castle, battered down by Heavy Peg, Antiquarian Science (if it had any eyes) might look for the tap-root of the Prussian Nation, and the beginning of all that Brandenburg has since grown to under the sun.
Friedrich, in one capacity or another, presided over Brandenburg near thirty years. He came thither first of all in 1412; was not completely Kurfurst in his own right till 1415; nor publicly installed, "with 100,000 looking on from the roofs and windows," in Constance yonder, till 1417,--age then some forty-five. His Brandenburg residence, when he happened to have time for residing or sitting still, was Tangermunde, the Castle built by Kaiser Karl IV. He died there, 21st September, 1440; laden tolerably with years, and still better with memories of hard work done. Rentsch guesses by good inference he was born about 1372. As I count, he is seventh in descent from that Conrad, Burggraf Conrad I., Cadet of Hohenzollern, who came down from the Rauhe Alp, seeking service with Kaiser Redbeard, above two centuries ago: Conrad's generation and six others had vanished successively from the world-theatre in that ever-mysterious manner, and left the stage clear, when Burggraf Friedrich the Sixth came to be First Elector. Let three centuries, let twelve generations farther come and pass, and there will be another still more notable Friedrich,--our little Fritz, destined to be Third King of Prussia, officially named Friedrich II., and popularly Frederick the Great. This First Elector is his lineal ancestor, twelve times removed. [Rentsch, pp. 349-372; Hubner, t. 176.]
Eleven successive Kurfursts followed Friedrich in Brandenburg. Of whom and their births, deaths, wars, marriages, negotiations and continual multitudinous stream of smaller or greater adventures, much has been written, of a dreary confused nature; next to nothing of which ought to be repeated here. Some list of their Names, with what rememberable human feature or event (if any) still speaks to us in them, we must try to give. Their Names, well dated, with any actions, incidents, or phases of life, which may in this way get to adhere to them in the reader's memory, the reader can insert, each at its right place, in the grand Tide of European Events, or in such Picture as the reader may have of that. Thereby with diligence he may produce for himself some faint twilight notion of the Flight of Time in remote Brandenburg,-- convince himself that remote Brandenburg was present all along, alive after its sort, and assisting, dumbly or otherwise, in the great World-Drama as that went on.
We have to say in general, the history of Brandenburg under the Hohenzollerns has very little in it to excite a vulgar curiosity, though perhaps a great deal to interest an intelligent one. Had it found treatment duly intelligent;--which, however, how could it, lucky beyond its neighbors, hope to do! Commonplace Dryasdust, and voluminous Stupidity, not worse here than elsewhere, play their Part.
It is the history of a State, or Social Vitality, growing from small to great; steadily growing henceforth under guidance: and the contrast between guidance and no-guidance, or mis- guidance, in such matters, is again impressively illustrated there. This we see well to be the fact; and the details of this would be of moment, were they given us: but they are not;--how could voluminous Dryasdust give them? Then, on the other hand, the Phenomenon is, for a long while, on so small a scale, wholly without importance in European politics and affairs, the commonplace Historian, writing of it on a large scale, becomes unreadable and intolerable. Witness grandiloquent Pauli our fatal friend, with his Eight watery Quartos; which gods and men, unless driven by necessity, have learned to avoid! [Dr. Carl Friedrich Pauli,
On one other point I must give the reader warning. A rock of offence on which if he heedlessly strike, I reckon he will split; at least no help of mine can benefit him till he be got off again. Alas, offences must come; and must stand, like rocks of offence, to the shipwreck of many! Modern Dryasdust, interpreting the mysterious ways of Divine Providence in this Universe, or what he calls writing History, has done uncountable havoc upon the best interests of mankind. Hapless godless dullard that he is; driven and driving on courses that lead only downward, for him as for us! But one could forgive him all things, compared with this doctrine of devils which he has contrived to get established, pretty generally, among his unfortunate fellow-creatures for the time!--I must insert the following quotation, readers guess from what author:--
"In an impudent Pamphlet, forged by I know not whom, and published in 1766, under the title of