• GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • FRANKISH KINGDOM
  • JOHANNES REUCHLIN
  • THE WEIMAR CONSTITUTION
  • W
  • INFLATION, REPARATIONS, AND
  • THE STRESEMANN ERA, 19231929
  • STABILIZATION AND LOCARNO,
  • CULTURE AND SOCIETY
  • ROAD TO DICTATORSHIP,
  • T
  • CONSOLIDATION OF POWER
  • THE NAZI TOTAL STATE
  • ULRICH VON HUTTEN
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  • THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN
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  • D-DAY TO DEFEAT NAZI GERMANY
  • THE HOLOCAUST
  • A
  • ALLIED PLANS AND CONFERENCES
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  • T
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  • R
  • CONSEQUENCES AND PROBLEMS OF
  • ECONOMIC UNIFICATION,
  • P
  • RENAISSANCE ART
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  • FOREIGN POLICY
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  • blank check
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  • CHARLES V AND THE REFORMATION
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  • AN UNPLANNED REVOLUTION
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  • POLITICAL PARTIES UNPREPARED
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  • EBERT MAKES A DEAL WITH THE
  • THE SPARTACISTS
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  • A VENGEFUL PEACE
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  • THE GOALS OF THE PEACEMAKERS
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  • WAR GUILT AND REPARATIONS
  • DENUNCIATION AND RELUCTANT
  • GERMANIC MIGRATIONS AND
  • Frederick William II

    lang=EN-US style='font-size:10.5pt;font-family:"Meridien-Medium","serif"; color:black'>(17441797)

    king of Prussia

    Frederick William II was the nephew of FREDERICK

    II The Great and was crowned king of

    Prussia in 1786. During his reign the French

    Revolution broke out, but he failed to see the

    dangers it posed for monarchical power in PRUSSIA.

    He was overconfident in the quality of the

    army that he had inherited from his uncle, Frederick.

    In his eagerness to participate in the partition

    of the remaining territory of Poland in

    1792, the Prussian campaign against France

    became ineffectual.

    When Frederick became king, he was welcomed

    by the Prussian people. Most people were

    relieved when they heard the news of old Fritzs

    death. He had dominated the state with his will

    but had stifled individual initiative. His contempt

    for religion, his criticism of German, and enthusiasm

    for French culture, as well as excise taxes,

    generated popular resentment. So it was not surprising

    that there was a popular approval for the

    new kings appearance at church and his denunciation

    of French culture. He even eliminated the

    French character his predecessor had given to the

    Berlin Academy. The mercantilist policies of the

    past were liberalized, but it appears more with an

    eye to gaining popularity than a desire for permanent

    structural change. After a few years all

    liberal measures were abandoned, and taxes

    were increased on consumer goods because tax

    reform had diminished state revenues. In fact,

    the state treasury was in trouble due to numerous

    wars and political incompetence. Fredericks

    enormous war chest of some 50 million thaler

    was reduced in 10 years to a public debt of

    approximately the same amount.

    Frederick William II was a friendly king with

    amiable gifts who unfortunately had no political

    talent and was manipulated by those who flattered

    him or who like his mistresses appealed to

    his sensuality. He had slight interest in military

    and political affairs, leaving the operation of

    state affairs in the hands of his ministers, the

    most important of which was J. R. Bischoffwerde,

    who was his foreign policy adviser. In

    military affairs his adviser was Johann Christoph

    Wöllner, who together with Bischoffwerde was

    among his Rosicrucian companions who staged

    unprecedented spiritualistic séances in the garden

    of CHARLOTTENBURG. Moral corruption from

    the court spread to BERLIN society, and criticism

    of conformity to traditional norms encouraged

    individuals to live according to their desires.

    Both Prussia and AUSTRIA were initially little

    affected by the French Revolution, nor by the

    emigrant French nobles who were crowding

    many places in the Rhineland, particularly

    Frederick William II 391

    Mainz and Coblenz. In August 1791 Leopold II

    of Austria and Frederick William II met in Pillnitz

    in SAXONY, where they rejected the demands

    of the youngest brother of Louis XVI, the count

    of Artois, to restore the political and social position

    of the crown and nobility. The German

    emperor and king of Prussia formulated the

    DECLARATION OF PILLNITZ, which promised to

    intervene to restore Louis XVI and introduce a

    moderate constitution. The condition which

    they set made it unlikely that any effort would

    be made. The Jacobin leaders in Paris, however,

    capitalized on the possible threat that Pillnitz

    posed, and before long Austria and Prussia

    found it necessary to conclude a defensive

    alliance in February 1792. With the declaration

    of war against Austria by the French legislature,

    Prussia mobilized the largest army, commanded

    by Duke Ferdinand of Brunswick. Due to an

    undiplomatic manifesto by the duke, he enabled

    the French revolutionaries to declare a war of

    national defense against tyranny. Although the

    Germans experienced successes and the way to

    Paris lay open, the duke hesitated for a variety

    of reasons and retreated to Germany. As the

    great German writer of the day, Johann Wolfgang

    von GOETHE predicted, on that day a new

    chapter in world history had begun.

    With the formation of the first great coalition

    against the armies of the French Revolution, the

    German Empire finally declared war on France

    in March 1793, but the actual burden of fighting

    was carried by the Austrian and Prussian armies.

    After German victories in 1793 the tide of battle

    turned in favor of the French. Lazare Carnot,

    the Committee of Public Safetys organizer of

    victory enlisted new military leadership,

    including Napoleon Bonaparte, and created

    mass armies of as many as 800,000 men. The

    French armies gained superiority in 179495,

    while Prussian forces were weakened by disagreements

    with the Austrians and the need to

    suppress a revolt, which had emerged in Poland

    over the partition. The third Polish partition

    brought about the collapse of the Austro-Prussian

    alliance. With the exhaustion of Prussian

    finances, Frederick William II decided to sue for

    peace with France in the Peace of Basel on April

    15, 1795. French troops were left in occupation

    of Prussian territories west of the RHINE. Resentment

    against Prussia was particularly strong in

    southern Germany, which was now exposed to

    French invasion. It was the beginning of an anti-

    Prussian attitude that was to last for decades.

    Prussia now became neutral for 10 years, leading

    to a situation in which Prussia had to fight

    Napoleon alone in 1806.

    Two years after the third partition of Poland,

    Frederick William died. He was great neither as

    a man nor as a ruler. In intellectual and church

    affairs he was an obscurantist. In religion he

    insisted on narrow orthodoxy and rigid censorship;

    Protestant pastors could teach only what

    was in the official manuals. With the immorality

    of the court, society also experienced a

    decline of morals, while politics also degenerated.

    Even though Prussia had made some

    notable acquisitions, Prussia no longer merited

    the position to which it had been elevated by

    Frederick the Great. The campaigns of Frederick

    William brought no great victories, while the

    Treaty of Basel was disastrous for Prussias future

    leadership among the German states.

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