Frederick the Great’s “General Principles of War” (1748)
The wars that I have waged have afforded me the opportunity to reflect deeply on the principles of the great art that has raised or destroyed so many a kingdom. Roman discipline persists with us alone. Let us also follow the example of the Romans in making war the object of our study and peace our constant practice.
I have therefore deemed it useful to pass my reflections on to you; after me, you have the greatest share of command and a mere indication of my thoughts must suffice; finally, you must act in accordance with my principles in my absence.
In this work, I have combined my own reflections with those I found in the writings of the greatest generals and turned them into a synthesis, which I have applied to the training of our troops.
I write only for my officers. I speak only of what is applicable to the Prussian service, and I have no enemies in mind other than our neighbors – for those two words have unfortunately become interchangeable. I hope that my generals will be more persuaded by reading this work than by anything I could tell them orally, and [I hope they] will recognize that the discipline of our army is the foundation for the glory and preservation of the state. If they look at these observations from this perspective, they will be more zealous than ever before in maintaining order among the troops in full strength, so that it cannot be said that we let the instruments of our fame grow blunt in our hands. It is nice to have won fame. But far be it from us to fall asleep in blameworthy safety. Rather, we must prepare well in advance the instruments that time and circumstances will give us the opportunity to use.