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SOME NOTABLE ELECTORS His son, Joachim II, was surnamed Hector because of his truculent spirit. It is recorded that once, in an afterdinner controversy, he drew his sword upon the famous Duke of Alva. He publicly adopted the Protestant religion, and confiscated the monasteries and other property of the Roman Catholic Church. He
reckless spendthrift in scattering that wealth abroad. He was succeeded by his son, John George the Economist, who was noted for his thrift and business methods. Also, it may be said, the Economist was the father of twenty-three children, of whom the last was born after John George's death at the age of seventy-three.
Joachim Frederick, the eighth elector, had an uneventful reign. But the ninth, John Sigismund, marked another epoch in two ways. One was his substitution of Calvinism for Lutheranism. The other was his acquisition of the Dukedom of Prussia.
The latter state had been formed under the suzerainty of Poland, and Albert of Hohenzollern of the Nuremberg branch of the family, grand master of the then moribund Order of Teutonic Knights, on the advice of Martin Luther, had made himself its first duke. On his death in 1618, without direct male heir, his kinsman, John Sigismund, who had married Albert's granddaughter, received from Poland recognition of his succession as duke. Under his successor, the weak and vacillating George William, the realm was made the prey of both factions in the Thirty Years' War; and, while George William was ultimately forced by Gustavus Adolphus to declare himself on the Protestant side, his delay gave opportunity for Tilly's sack of Magdeburg.
FOUNDER OF PRUSSIA
Next came the Great Elector, the real founder of the Prussian state, whose monument is one of the landmarks of Berlin. This was George William's son, Frederick William. He signalized his accession by "establishing sovereignty,” as he called it. In fact, it was the establishment of absolute autocracy. Also he compelled the Emperor to renounce his suzerainty over Brandenburg, and Poland to recognize the complete independence of Prussia. Thus he consolidated the whole realm under his own personal rule.
Frederick founded the military power of Prussia, developing a standing army, at first for domestic purposes, to impose his will upon the provinces, and afterward to make Prussia respected and feared abroad. As the ally of Sweden in the latter's war with Poland, he captured Praga, in the suburbs of Warsaw; and later, when the Swedes became allied with the French and invaded Brandenburg, he inflicted upon them at Fehrbellin one of the most crushing defeats in history. He also waged maritime war against Spain.
Frederick III, son and successor of the Great Elector, was perhaps the weakest and least worthy of all the line. Yet he did some important things. He founded the University of Halle and the Prussian Academy of Sciences.
Next came his son, Frederick William I, whom Macaulay described as “a prince who must be allowed to have possessed some talents for administration, but whose character was disfigured by odious vices and whose eccentricities were such as had never before been seen out of a madhouse."
FREDERICK THE GREAT His son, so vilely persecuted and put in peril of death by his inhuman father, was the illustrious Frederick the
Great, who is said to have been acknowledged to be a great man by every one who ever wrote or spoke of him, excepting his own much-loved and highly gifted brother, Prince Henry. The latter was himself one of the very
ablest captains of his age, perhaps second only to Frederick, and was certainly capable of appreciating greatness in others. That he was moved by jealousy of Frederick is scarcely conceivable. On the other hand, Frederick never wearied of expressing appreciation and admiration of his brother.
It was Frederick who placed Prussia among the great powers of Europe and who opened the way for placing her in Austria's old place at the head of the Teutonic world. Then he died, childless, and left the crown to the son of his brother, Augustus William, who, as Frederick William II made of his court a harem, characterized with a flagrant grossness of debauchery seldom rivaled in any civilized capital. For eleven years life in Berlin was an orgy, and the foreign activities of Prussia were either brutal spoliation, as in the partitions of Poland; or disgraceful failures, as in the attack upon the French Revolution.
CRUSHED BY NAPOLEON The one bright spot in the dark scene was presented by the purity of the domestic life of the Crown Prince and his consort, the beautiful and gifted Louise of Mecklenburg. But when this prince came to the throne as Frederick William III he showed himself as weak a King as he was a good man. Vacillating and hesitant, he at last opposed Napoleon, and was crushed at Jena and sent into long exile at Memel, leaving his Queen to be insulted by Napoleon and to die of a broken heart. Yet he must be credited with the choice of such administrative geniuses as Stein and Hardenberg, and he shared in the achievements of Leipzig and Waterloo. He promised Prussia a constitution, but died with that promise unfulfilled, leaving to his son, Frederick William IV, an absolute despotism.
Frederick William IV also delayed to fulfill that promise of his father's, though urged to it by the multitudinous appeals of the Prussian people. A man of attractive personality, he was pedantic, bigoted, and in politics almost fanatical in his adherence to the doctrine of divine
right. So he drifted blindly into the Revolution of 1848, which he suppressed, but to which he was forced to yield so far as to grant the long-delayed constitution. Ten
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years later he became paralytic and imbecile, and was replaced by his brother as regent, and on his death three years later as King.
OLD "KAISER WILHELM" That brother was William I, the grandfather of the present King and Emperor. At his succession he was