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The Political Testament of Frederick William I ("the Soldier King") (February 17, 1722)

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You must be very cautious in entering into alliances with great lords and promise nothing that you cannot keep and nothing that is against the word of God and against your country’s interests. [ . . . ]

[Here follow counsels on what relations the recipient of these instructions should follow with other powers: close friendship with Russia, good relations with Poland – but everything must be done to ensure that it remains a republic. “Always be on your guard against the House of Austria and the Emperor, who is very jealous of Prussia and its army,” etc. Frederick William is not opposed to Brandenburg’s sending troops against France, if properly rewarded, “but not to Italy or Hungary, this is against your interest and total ruin of your army and too far away from your own country.”]

I beg my dear successor to take no decision in affairs of State until you have considered everything well with your Ministers for Foreign Affairs. For if you spend a year listening to your Ministers speak and report on affairs you will soon learn and understand the subject and will learn to understand where your interest lies.

My dearest successor will think and say, why did my late father not act in all things as is written here? This is the reason. When my late father died in 1713, I found the land of Prussia practically a dead country, from human and cattle plague, all the Crown lands in the whole country, or most of them, pledged, or let under hereditary leases all of which I had to redeem, while the finances were in such a state that we were on the verge of bankruptcy. The army in so bad a condition and so small in numbers that I cannot even describe all that was wrong. It is certainly a masterpiece that in nine years, by 1722, I have gotten everything back into such good order and condition, and your estates are unencumbered with debt, your army and artillery in such a state as to count in Europe, and I assure you that I have had little help from my servants, but have rather been impeded by them, directly and indirectly. So I have not been able to do more in these nine years, but my dear successor will certainly be able to achieve everything that is written here in the instructions after my death. I wish my dear successor all good fortune and Divine blessing in this, and should God grant me a few more years of life, I shall myself be able to achieve much, as it stands here. Should I live longer I will write a supplement to these instructions, meanwhile I commend all to God and beg you to read it through often with reflection and attention; I am persuaded that you will find use in it and will follow me, for I have myself learned everything through experience, and in my time I have myself tried many experiments.

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