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Frederick II ("the Great"), Notes to Himself on the Invasion of Silesia (1740)

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Next Spring, we shall not find anyone in our way; thus, if Russia wants to attack us, she can be assured that she will have the Swedes in her rear, so she would be putting herself between the hammer and the anvil. If the Empress is alive, the Duke of Courland, who has very rich estates in Silesia, will court my favor in order to keep them; furthermore, we must shower down among the leaders of the Council the rain of Danae, which will make them think as we want. If the Empress is dead, the Russians will be so occupied with their internal affairs that they will have no time to think about foreign questions; and in any case, it is not impossible to procure the entry into Petersburg of an ass with a load of gold.

I conclude from all this reasoning that we must put ourselves in possession of Silesia before the winter, and negotiate during the winter; then we shall always find cards to play, and we shall negotiate successfully when we are in possession, whereas if we act otherwise, we shall sacrifice our advantages, and we shall never get anything out of simple negotiation, or else the others will impose burdensome conditions on us, for granting us trifles.

Source of English translation: C.A. Macartney, ed., The Habsburg and Hohenzollern Dynasties in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, in Documentary History of Western Civilization. New York, Evanston, and London: Harper & Row, 1970, pp. 326-28. Introduction, editorial notes, chronology, translations by the editor; and compilation copyright © 1970 by C.A. Macartney. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source of original French text: J.C. Droysen et al., Politische Correspondenz Friedrichs des Grossen [Political Correspondence of Frederick the Great]. Berlin: Duncker, 1879-1919, vol. I, pp. 90-91. [The notes appear here in the original French.]

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