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Maria Theresa's Political Testament (1749-50)

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After I had each time well tested my intentions by this principle, I afterwards undertook each enterprise with great determination and strong resolution, and was consequently tranquil in my spirit in the greatest extremity as though the issue did not affect me personally at all; and with the same tranquility and pleasure, had Divine Providence so disposed, I would instantly have laid down the whole government and left it to the enemies who so beset me, had I believed that in so doing I should be doing my duty or promoting the best welfare of my lands, which two points have always been my chief maxims. And dearly as I love my family and children, so that I spare no effort, trouble, care, or labor for their sakes, yet I would always have put the general welfare of my dominions above them had I been convinced in my conscience that I should do this or that their welfare demanded it, seeing that I am the general and first mother of the said dominions.

I found myself in this situation, without money, without credit, without army, without experience and knowledge of my own and finally, also without any counsel, because each one of them at first wanted to wait and see what way things would develop. This was my position when I was attacked by the King of Prussia. This King’s sweet words and vehement protestations misled even my Ministers, because they were unable and unwilling to believe that the King of Prussia would act as an enemy. The confidence of my Ministers, especially of Sinzendorff, and my own inexperience and good faith were the reason why the defensive preparations in Silesia, and the reinforcement of the garrison there by neighboring units, were largely neglected and the King in Prussia was thus left a free hand to overrun the Duchy of Silesia within six weeks.

Cotter was sent here by the King of Prussia when the latter had already reached Glogau, and soon after actually took Breslau. He proposed that I should cede all Silesia to his master, when he would immediately guarantee his help against all other claims to the succession, and also to secure the election of my dear husband to the Imperial Crown. Some of my Ministers – Sinzendorff, Harrach and Kinsky – advised treating with the King; the other Ministers, Starhemberg and Bartenstein, with whom I agreed, argued that the cession of any territory, even if only of a few Principalities, would be the more prejudicial to the dispositions of the Pragmatic Sanction because all the other Powers, as guarantors, would regard themselves as the less obliged to give a further guarantee because we should ourselves have broken the indivisible succession by concluding the treaty with Prussia, while the King, as soon as he had received part of Silesia by agreement, would probably claim the rest, or at least the greater part of it, as proportionate return for his help. The event proved that we were right and that the King’s object was to acquire the whole of Silesia.

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