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Political Testament of Frederick II ("the Great") (1752)

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Those who are fortunate enough to achieve this acquisition will no doubt fortify Thorn, Elbing, and Marienwerder, and will even strengthen the smallest places along the Vistula, which would frustrate all enterprises which Russia might launch against us. Their regular troops are certainly not to be feared, but their Kalmuks and Tartars bring fire and destruction, devastate countrysides, carry away peoples into captivity, and burn all the places of which they make themselves masters. This is how they behaved in Finland, and this should make you try to avoid war with Russia so far as your reputation allows it.

The acquisitions which one makes by the pen are always preferable to those made by the sword. One runs fewer risks, and ruins neither one’s purse nor one’s army. I think that in making the pacific conquest of Prussia, it would be absolutely necessary to reserve Danzig for the last mouthful, because this acquisition would raise a great outcry among the Poles, who export all their wheat through Danzig, and would fear, with justice, being made dependent on Prussia by the taxes which Prussia could put, through the Vistula and the port of its discharge, on all the commodities which the Sarmatian lords sell to other countries.

Swedish Pomerania is the province that would suit us best after those of which I have spoken. This acquisition could only be made by treaties. I think that the plan is even more chimeric than the others. It could, however, be brought off in the following way: Russia, as the most considerable northern Power, might bring Sweden into alliance with Prussia, to establish a counterweight in the balance of power. If, then, in a happy conjuncture when Russia had a war on her hands, and Sweden conceived the plan of recovering Livonia, why should Prussia not promise her help on condition that, when the operation had been carried through, Sweden ceded Prussia the part of Pomerania that lies beyond the Peene? The difficulty of attacking Russia from the side of Livonia and Estonia is that it is necessary to have superiority at sea. The Swedish fleet is weak, and we have not a single galley. It would thus be impossible to besiege Reval, Narva, and the other fortresses, not to mention that the problem of supplies might be entirely insuperable, and, even supposing Prussia to succeed in conquering Livonia, has it not been practically proved that Sweden would be unable to advance through Finland, prevented as she would be by the Russian fortresses which their sitings render impregnable? Thus, after much blood had been spilt, the end would be a draw, and each party would remain in possession of what it had possessed under the status quo ante.

This is about all that I can say to you on the subject of acquisitions which would profit us. If this House produces great Princes, if the discipline of the army is kept up to its present level, if the sovereigns economize in time of peace, so as to have the money in hand for war if they understand how to draw profit from events with skill and prudence, and, finally, if they are themselves clear in their purpose, I do not doubt that the State will continue to grow and expand and that with time Prussia will become one of the most considerable Powers of Europe. [ . . . ]

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