This quarrel was detrimental to the town and to the Elector Palatine, but profitable to Kahr, whose office it was to protect the rights of the town, and those persons who defended the claims of the Elector; the latter kept a faro bank, the plunder of which had enriched the town; and the former Kahr, under pretence of defending their cause, embezzled the money of the people; so that both parties endeavoured with all their power to prolong the litigation.
It vexed me to see their proceedings. Those who suffered on each side were deceived; and I conceived the project of exposing the truth. For this purpose I journeyed to the court at Mannheim, related the facts to the Elector, produced a plan of accommodation, which he approved, and obtained power to act as arbitrator. The Minister of the Elector, Bekkers, pretended to approve my zeal, conducted me to an auberge, made me dine at his house, and said a commission was made out for my son, and forwarded to Aix-la-Chapelle—which was false; the moment he quitted me he sent to Aix-la-Chapelle to frustrate the attempt he pretended to applaud. He was himself in league with the parties. In fine, this silly interference brought me only trouble, expense, and chagrin. I made five journeys to Mannheim, till I became so dissatisfied that I determined to quit Aix-la-Chapelle, and purchase an estate in Austria.
The Bavarian contest was at this time in agitation; my own affairs brought me to Paris, and here I learned intelligence of great consequence; this I communicated to the Grand Duke of Florence, on my return to Vienna. The Duke departed to join the army in Bohemia, and I again wrote to him, and thought it my duty to send a courier. The Duke showed my letter to the Emperor; but I remained unnoticed.
I did not think myself safe in foreign countries during this time of war, and purchased the lordship of Zwerbach, with appurtenances, which, with the expenses, cost me sixty thousand florins.
To conclude this purchase, I was obliged to solicit the referendary, Zetto, and his friend whom he had appointed as my curator, for my new estate was likewise made a fidei commissum, as my referendaries and curators would not let me escape contribution. The six thousand florins of which they emptied my purse would have done my family much service.
In May, 1780, I went to Aix-la-Chapelle, where my wife's mother died in July; and in September my wife, myself, and family, all came to Vienna.
My wife solicited the mistress of the ceremonies to obtain an audience. Her request was granted, and she gained the favour of the Empress. Her kindness was beyond expression: she introduced my wife to the Archduchess, and commanded her mistress of the ceremonies to present her everywhere. "You were unwilling," said she, "to accompany your husband into my country, but I hope to convince you that you may live happier in Austria than at Aix-la-Chapelle."
She next day sent me her decree, assuring me of a pension of four hundred florins.
My wife petitioned the Empress to grant me an audience: her request was complied with: and the Empress said to me: "This is the third time in which I would have made your fortune, had you been so disposed." She desired to see my children, and spoke of my writings. "How much good might you do," said she, "would you but write in the cause of religion!"
We departed for Zwerbach, where we lived contentedly, but when we were preparing to return to Vienna, and solicited the restitution of part of my lost fortune, during this favour of the court, Theresa died, and all my hopes were overcast.
I forgot to relate that the Archduchess, Maria Anna, desired me to translate a religious work, written in French by the Abbe Baudrand, into German. I replied I would obey Her Majesty's commands. I began my work, took passages from Baudrand, but inserted more of my own. The first volume was finished in six weeks; the Empress thought it admirable. The second soon followed, and I presented this myself.
She asked me if it equalled the first; I answered, I hoped it would be found more excellent. "No," said she; "I never in my life read a better book:" and added, "she wondered how I could write so well and so quickly." I promised another volume within a month. Before the third was ready, Theresa died. She gave orders on her death-bed to have the writings of Baron Trenck read to her; and though her confessor well knew the injustice that had been done me, yet in her last moments he kept silence, though he had given me his sacred promise to speak in my behalf.
After her death the censor commanded that I should print what I have stated in the preface to that third volume, and this was my only satisfaction.
For one-and-thirty years had I been soliciting my rights, which I never could obtain, because the Empress was deceived by wicked men, and believed me a heretic. In the thirty-second, my wife had the good fortune to convince her this was false; she had determined to make me restitution; just at this moment she died.
The pension granted my wife by the Empress in consequence of my misfortunes and our numerous family, we only enjoyed nine months.
Of this she was deprived by the new monarch. He perhaps knew nothing of the affair, as I never solicited. Yet much has it grieved me. Perhaps I may find relief when the sighs wrung from me shall reach the heart of the father of his people in this my last writing. At present, nothing for me remains but to live unknown in Zwerbach.
The Emperor thought proper to collect the moneys bestowed on hospitals into one fund. The system was a wise one. My cousin Trenck had bequeathed thirty-six thousand florins to a hospital for the poor of Bavaria. This act he had no right to do, having deducted the sum from the family estate. I petitioned the Emperor that these thirty-six thousand florins might be restored to me and my children, who were the people whom Trenck had indeed made poor, nothing of the property of his acquiring having been left to pay this legacy, but, on the contrary, the money having been exacted from mine.
In a few days it was determined I should be answered in the same tone in which, for six-and-thirty years past, all my petitions had been answered:—
"THE REQUEST OF THE PETITIONER CANNOT BE GRANTED."
Fortune persecuted me in my retreat. Within six years two hailstorms swept away my crops; one year was a misgrowth; there were seven floods; a rot among my sheep: all possible calamities befell me and my manor.
The estate had been ruined, the ponds were to drain, three farms were to be put into proper condition, and the whole newly stocked. This rendered me poor, especially as my wife's fortune had been sunk in lawsuits at Aix- la-Chapelle and Cologne.
The miserable peasants had nothing, therefore could not pay: I was obliged to advance them money. My sons assisted me, and we laboured with our own hands: my wife took care of eight children, without so much as the help of a maid. We lived in poverty, obliged to earn our daily bread.
The greatest of my misfortunes was my treatment in the military court, when Zetto and Krugel were my referendaries. Zetto had clogged me with a curator and when the cow had no more milk to give, they began to torture me with deputations, sequestrations, administrations, and executions. Nineteen times was I obliged to attend in Vienna within two years, at my own expense. Every six years must I pay an attorney to dispute and quarrel with the curator. I, in conclusion, was obliged to pay. If any affair was to be expedited, I, by a third hand, was obliged to send the referendary some ducats. Did he give judgment, still that judgment lay fourteen months inefficient, and, when it then appeared, the copy was false, and so was sent to the upper courts, the high referendary of which said I "must be dislodged from Zwerbach."
They obliged me at last to purchase my naturalisation. I sent to Prussia for my pedigree; the attestation of this was sent me by Count Hertzberg. Although the family of Trenck had a hundred years been landholders in Hungary, yet was my attorney obliged to solicit the instrument called ritter-diploma, for which, under pain of execution, I must pay two thousand florins.
By decree a Prussian nobleman is not noble in Austria, where every lackey can purchase a diploma, making him a knight of the Empire, for twelve hundred wretched florins!—where such men as P—- and Grassalkowitz have purchased the dignity of a prince!
Tortured by the courts, terrified by hailstorms, I determined to publish my works, in eight volumes, and this history of my life.
Fourteen months accomplished this purpose. My labours found a favourable reception through all Germany, procured me money, esteem, and honour. By my writings only will I seek the means of existence, and by trying to obtain the approbation and the love of men.
On the 22nd of August, 1786, the news arrived that Frederic the Great had left this world!
* * * * *
The present monarch, the witness of my sufferings in my native country, sent me a royal passport to Berlin. The confiscation of my estates was annulled, and my deceased brother, in Prussia, had left my children his heirs.
* * * * *
I journey, within the Imperial permission, back to my country, from which I have been two-and-forty years expelled! I journey—not as a pardoned malefactor, but as a man whose innocence has been established by his actions, has been proved in his writings, and who is journeying to receive his reward.
Here I shall once more encounter my old friends my relations, and those who have known me in the days of my affliction. Here shall I appear, not as my country's Traitor, but as my country's Martyr!
Possible, though little probable, are still future storms. For these also I am prepared. Long had I reason daily to curse the rising sun, and, setting, to behold it with horror. Death to me appears a great benefit: a certain passage from agitation to peace, from motion to rest. As for my children, they, jocund in youth, delight in present existence. When I have fulfilled the duties of a father, to live or die will then be as I shall please.
Thou, O God! my righteous Judge, didst ordain that I should be an example of suffering to the world; Thou madest me what I am, gavest me these strong passions, these quick nerves, this thrilling of the blood, when I behold injustice. Strong was my mind, that deeply it might meditate on deep subjects; strong my memory, that these meditations I might retain; strong my body, that proudly it might support all it has pleased Thee to inflict.
Should I continue to exist, should identity go with me, and should I know what I was then, when I was called Trenck; when that combination of particles which Nature commanded should compose this body shall be decomposed, scattered, or in other bodies united; when I have no muscles to act, no brain to think, no retina on which pictures can mechanically be painted, my eyes wasted, and no tongue remaining to pronounce the Creator's name, should I still behold a Creator—then, oh then, will my spirit mount, and indubitably associate with spirits of the just who expectant wait for their golden harps and glorious crowns from the Most High God. For human weaknesses, human failings, arising from our nature, springing from our temperament, which the Creator has ordained, shall be even thus, and not otherwise; for these have I suffered enough on earth.
Such is my confession of faith; in this have I lived, in this will I die. The duties of a man and of a Christian I have fulfilled; nay, often have exceeded, often have been too benevolent, too generous; perhaps also too proud, too vain. I could not bend, although liable to be broken.
That I have not served the world, in acts and employments where best I might, is perhaps my own fault: the fault of my manner, which is now too radical to be corrected in this, my sixtieth year. Yes, I acknowledge my failing, acknowledge it unblushingly; nay, glory in the pride of a noble nature.
For myself, I ask nothing of those who have read my history; to them do I commit my wife and children. My eldest son is a lieutenant in the Tuscan regiment of cavalry, under General Lasey, and does honour to his father's principles. The second serves his present Prussian Majesty, as ensign in the Posadowsky dragoons, with equal promise. The third is still a child. My daughters will make worthy men happy, for they have imbibed virtue and gentleness with their mother's milk. Monarchs may hereafter remember what I have suffered, what I have lost, and what is due to my ashes.
Here do I declare—I will seek no other revenge against my enemies than that of despising their evil deeds. It is my wish, and shall be my endeavour, to forget the past; and having committed no offence, neither will I solicit monarchs for posts of honour; as I have ever lived a free man, a free man will I die.
I conclude this part of my history on the evening preceding my journey to Berlin. God grant I may encounter no new afflictions, to be inserted in the remainder of this history.
This journey I prepared to undertake, but my ever-envious fate threw me on the bed of sickness, insomuch that small hope remained that I ever should again behold the country of my forefathers. I seemed following the Great Frederic to the mansions of the dead; then should I never have concluded the history of my life, or obtained the victory by which I am now crowned.
A variety of obstacles being overcome, I found it necessary to make a journey into Hungary, which was one of the most pleasant of my whole life.
I have no words to express my ardent wishes for the welfare of a nation where I met with so many proofs of friendship. Wherever I appeared I was welcomed with that love and enthusiasm which only await the fathers of their country. The valour of my cousin Trenck, who died ingloriously in the Spielberg, the loss of my great Hungarian estates, the fame of my writings, and the cruelty of my sufferings, had gone before me. The officers of the army, the nobles of the land, alike testified the warmth of their esteem.
Such is the reward of the upright; such too are the proofs that this nation knows the just value of fortitude and virtue. Have I not reason to publish my gratitude, and to recommend my children to those who, when I am no more, shall dare uprightly to determine concerning the rights which have unjustly been snatched from me in Hungary?
Not a man in Hungary but will proclaim I have been unjustly dealt by; yet I have good reason to suspect I never shall find redress. Sentence had been already given; judges, more honest, cannot, without difficulty, reverse old decrees; and the present possessors of my estates are too powerful, too intimate with the governors of the earth, for me to hope I shall hereafter be more happy. God knows my heart; I wish the present possessors may render services to the state equal to those rendered by the family of the Trencks.
There is little probability I shall ever behold my noble friends in Hungary more. Here I bid them adieu, promising them to pass the remainder of any life so as still to merit the approbation of a people with whose ashes I would most willingly have mingled my own. May the God of heaven preserve every Hungarian from a fate similar to mine!
The Croats have ever been reckoned uncultivated; yet, among this uncultivated people I found more subscribers to my writings than among all the learned men of Vienna; and in Hungary, more than in all the Austrian dominions.
The Hungarians, the unlettered Croats, seek information. The people of Vienna ask their confessors' permission to read instructive books. Various subscribers, having read the first volume of my work, brought it back, and re-demanded their money, because some monk had told them it was a book dangerous to be read. The judges of their courts have re-sold them to the booksellers for a few pence or given them to those who had the care of their consciences to burn.
In Vienna alone was my life described as a romance; in Hungary I found the compassion of men, their friendship, and effectual aid. Had my book been the production of an Englishman, good wishes would not have been his only reward.
We German writers have interested critics to encounter if we would unmask injustice; and if a book finds a rapid sale, dishonest printers issue spurious editions, defrauding the author of his labours.
The encouragement of the learned produces able teachers, and from their seminaries men of genius occasionally come forth. The world is inundated with books and pamphlets; the undiscerning reader knows not which to select; the more intelligent are disgusted, or do not read at all, and thus a work of merit becomes as little profitable to the author as to the state.
I left Vienna on the 5th of January, and came to Prague. Here I found nearly the same reception as in Hungary; my writings were read. Citizens, noblemen, and ladies treated me with like favour. May the monarch know how to value men of generous feelings and enlarged understandings!
I bade adieu to Prague, and continued my journey to Berlin. In Bohemia, I took leave of my son, who saw his father and his two brothers, destined for the Prussian service, depart. He felt the weight of this separation; I reminded him of his duty to the state he served; I spoke of the fearful fate of his uncle and father in Austria, and of the possessors of our vast estates in Hungary. He shrank back—a look from his father pierced him to the soul—tears stood in his eyes—his youthful blood flowed quick, and the following expression burst suddenly from his lips:—"I call God to witness that I will prove myself worthy of my father's name; and that, while I live, his enemies shall be mine!"
At Peterswald, on the road to Dresden, my carriage broke down: my life was endangered; and my son received a contusion in the arm. The erysipelas broke out on him at Berlin, and I could not present him to the King for a month after.
I had been but a short time at Berlin before the well-known minister, Count Hertzberg, received me with kindness. Every man to whom his private worth is known will congratulate the state that has the wisdom to bestow on him so high an office. His scholastic and practical learning, his knowledge of languages, his acquaintance with sciences, are indeed wonderful. His zeal for his country is ardent, his love of his king unprejudiced, his industry admirable, his firmness that of a man. He is the most experienced man in the Prussian states. The enemies of his country may rely on his word. The artful he can encounter with art; those who menace, with fortitude; and with wise foresight can avert the rising storm. He seeks not splendour in sumptuous and ostentatious retinue; but if he can only enrich the state, and behold the poor happy, he is himself willing to remain poor. His estate, Briess, near Berlin, is no Chanteloup, but a model to those patriots who would study economy. Here he, every Wednesday, enjoys recreation. The services he renders the kingdom cost it only five thousand rix-dollars yearly; he, therefore, lives without ostentation, yet becoming his state, and with splendour when splendour is necessary. He does not plunder the public treasury that he may preserve his own private property.
This man will live in the annals of Prussia: who was employed under the Great Frederic; had so much influence in the cabinets of Europe; and was a witness of the last actions, the last sensations, of his dying king; yet who never asked, nor ever received, the least gratuity. This is the minister whose conversation I had the happiness to partake at Aix-la-Chapelle and Spa, whose welfare is the wish of my heart, and whose memory I shall ever revere.
I was received with distinction at his table, and became acquainted with those whose science had benefited the Prussian states; nor was anything more flattering to my self-love than that men like these should think me worthy their friendship.
Not many days after I was presented to the court by the Prussian chamberlain, Prince Sacken, as it is not customary at Berlin for a foreign subject to be presented by the minister of his own court. Though a Prussian subject, I wore the Imperial uniform.
The King received me with condescension; all eyes were directed towards me, each welcomed me to my country. This moved me the more as it was remarked by the foreign ministers, who asked who that Austrian officer could be who was received with so much affection and such evident joy in Berlin. The gracious monarch himself gave tokens of pleasure at beholding me thus surrounded. Among the rest came the worthy General Prittwitz, who said aloud—
"This is the gentleman who might have ruined me to effect his own deliverance."
Confused at so public a declaration, I desired him to expound this riddle; and he added—
"I was obliged to be one of your guards on your unfortunate journey from Dantzic to Magdeburg, in 1754, when I was a lieutenant. On the road I continued alone with you in an open carriage. This gave you an opportunity to escape, but you forbore. I afterwards saw the danger to which I had exposed myself. Had you been less noble-minded, had such a prisoner escaped through my negligence, I had certainly been ruined. The King believed you alike dangerous and deserving of punishment. I here acknowledge you as my saviour, and am in gratitude your friend." I knew not that the generous man, who wished me so well, was the present General Prittwitz. That he should himself remind me of this incident does him the greater honour.
Having been introduced at court, I thought it necessary to observe ceremonies, and was presented by the Imperial ambassador, Prince Reuss, to all foreign ministers, and such families as are in the habit of admitting such visits. I was received by the Prince Royal, the reigning Queen, the Queen-Dowager, and the royal family in their various places, with favour never to be forgotten. His Royal Highness Prince Henry invited me to a private audience, continued long in conversation with me, promised me his future protection, admitted me to his private concerts, and sometimes made me sup at court.
A like reception I experienced in the palace of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick, where I frequently dined and supped. His princess took delight in hearing my narratives, and loaded me with favour.
Prince Ferdinand's mode of educating children is exemplary. The sons are instructed in the soldier's duties, their bodies are inured to the inclemencies of weather; they are taught to ride, to swim, and are steeled to all the fatigue of war. Their hearts are formed for friendship, which they cannot fail to attain. Happy the nation in defence of which they are to act!
How ridiculous these their Royal Highnesses appear who, though born to rule, are not deserving to be the lackeys to the least of those whom they treat with contempt; and yet who swell, strut, stride, and contemplate themselves as creatures essentially different by nature, and of a superior rank in the scale of beings, though, in reality, their minds are of the lowest, the meanest class.
Happy the state whose prince is impressed with a sense that the people are not his property, but he the property of the people! A prince beloved by his people will ever render a nation more happy those he whose only wish is to inspire fear.
The pleasure I received at Berlin was great indeed. When I went to court, the citizens crowded to see me, and when anyone among them said, "That is Trenck," the rest would cry, "Welcome once more to your country," while many would reach me their hands, with the tears standing in their eyes. Frequent were the scenes I experienced of this kind. No malefactor would have been so received. It was the reward of innocence; this reward was bestowed throughout the Prussian territories.
Oh world, ill-judging world, deceived by show! Dost thou not blindly follow the opinion of the prince, be he severe, arbitrary, or just? Thy censure and thy praise equally originate in common report. In Magdeburg I lay, chained to the wall, ten years, sighing in wretchedness, every calamity of hunger, cold, nakedness, and contempt. And wherefore? Because the King, deceived by slanderers, pronounced me worthy of punishment. Because a wise King mistook me, and treated me with barbarity. Because a prudent King knew he had done wrong, yet would not have it so supposed. So was his heart turned to stone; nay, opposed by manly fortitude, was enraged to cruelty. Most men were convinced I was an innocent sufferer; "Yet did they all cry out the more, saying, let him be crucified!" My relations were ashamed to hear my name. My sister was barbarously treated because she assisted me in my misfortunes. No man durst avow himself my friend, durst own I merited compassion; or, much less, that the infallible King had erred. I was the most despised, forlorn man on earth; and when thus put on the rack, had I there expired, my epitaph would have been, "Here lies the traitor, Trenck."
Frederic is dead, and the scene is changed; another monarch has ascended the throne, and the grub has changed to a beautiful butterfly! The witnesses to all I have asserted are still living, loudly now proclaim the truth, and embrace me with heart-felt affection.
Does the worth of a man depend upon his actions? his reward or punishment upon his virtue? In arbitrary states, certainly not. They depend on the breath of a king! Frederic was the most penetrating prince of his age, but the most obstinate also. A vice dreadful to those whom he selected as victims, who must be sacrificed to the promoting of his arbitrary views.
How many perished, the sin offerings of Frederic's obstinate self-will, whose orphan children now cry to God for vengeance! The dead, alas! cannot plead. Trial began and ended with execution. The few words—IT IS THE KING'S COMMAND—were words of horror to the poor condemned wretch denied to plead his innocence! Yet what is the Ukase (Imperial order) in Russia, Tel est notre bon plaisir (Such is our pleasure) in France, or the Allergnadigste Hofresolution (The all-gracious sentence of the court), pronounced with the sweet tone of a Vienna matron? In what do these differ from the arbitrary order of a military despot?
Every prayer of man should be consecrated to man's general good; for him to obtain freedom and universal justice! Together should we cry with one voice, and, if unable to shackle arbitrary power, still should we endeavour to show how dangerous it is! The priests of liberty should offer up their thanks to the monarch who declares "the word of power" a nullity, and "the sentence" of justice omnipotent.
Who can name the court in Europe where Louis, Peter, or Frederic, each and all surnamed The Great, have not been, and are not, imitated as models of perfection? Lettres-de-cachet, the knout, and cabinet-orders, superseding all right, are become law!
No reasoning, says the corporal to the poor grenadier, whom he canes!—No reasoning! exclaim judges; the court has decided.—No reasoning, rash and pertinacious Trenck, will the prudent reader echo. Throw thy pen in the fire, and expose not thyself to become the martyr of a state inquisition.
My fate is, and must remain, critical and undecided. I have six-and-thirty years been in the service of Austria, unrewarded, and beholding the repeated and generous efforts I made effectually to serve that state, unnoticed. The Emperor Joseph supposes me old, that the fruit is wasted, and that the husk only remains. It is also supposed I should not be satisfied with a little. To continue to oppress him who has once been oppressed, and who possess qualities that may make injustice manifest, is the policy of states. My journey to Berlin has given the slanderer further opportunity of painting me as a suspicious character: I smile at the ineffectual attempt.
I appeared in the Imperial uniform and belied such insinuations. To this purpose it was written to court, in November, when I went into Hungary, "The motions of Trenck ought to be observed in Hungary." Ye poor malicious blood-suckers of the virtuous! Ye shall not be able to hurt a hair of my head. Ye cannot injure the man who has sixty years lived in honour. I will not, in my old age, bring upon myself the reproach of inconstancy, treachery, or desire of revenge. I will betray no political secrets: I wish not to injure those by whom I have been injured.—Such acts I will never commit. I never yet descended to the office of spy, nor will I die a rewarded villain.
Yes, I appeared in Berlin among the upright and the just. Instead of being its supposed enemy, I was declared an honour to my country. I appeared in the Imperial uniform and fulfilled the duties of my station: and now must the Prussian Trenck return to Austria, there to perform a father's duty.
Yet more of what happened in Berlin.
Some days after I had been presented to the King, I entreated a private audience, and on the 12th of February received the following letter:—
"In answer to your letter of the 8th of this month, I inform you that, if you will come to me to-morrow, at five o'clock in the afternoon, I shall have the pleasure to speak with you; meantime, I pray God to take you into his holy keeping.
"Berlin, Feb. 12, 1787."
"P.S.—After signing the above, I find it more convenient to appoint to-morrow, at nine in the morning, about which time you will come into the apartment named the Marmor Kammer (marble chamber)."
The anxiety with which I expected this wished-for interview may well be conceived. I found the Prussian Titus alone, and he continued in conversation with me more than an hour.
How kind was the monarch! How great! How nobly did he console me for the past! How entirely did his assurance of favour overpower my whole soul! He had read the history of my life. When prince of Prussia, he had been an eyewitness, in Magdeburg, of my martyrdom, and my attempts to escape. His Majesty parted from me with tokens of esteem and condescension.—My eyes bade adieu, but my heart remained in the marble chamber, in company with a prince capable of sensations so dignified; and my wishes for his welfare are eternal.
I have since travelled through the greater part of the Prussian states. Where is the country in which the people are all satisfied? Many complained of hard times, or industry unrewarded. My answer was:—
"Friends, kneel with the rising sun, and thank the God of heaven that you are Prussians. I have seen and known much of this world, and I assure you, you are among the happiest people of Europe. Causes of complaint everywhere exist; but you have a king, neither obstinate, ambitious, covetous, nor cruel: his will is that his people should have cause of content, and should he err by chance, his heart is not to blame if the subject suffers."
Prussia is neither wanting in able nor learned men. The warmth of patriots glows in their veins. Everything remains with equal stability, as under the reign of Frederic; and should the thunder burst, the ready conductors will render the shock ineffectual.
Hertzberg still labours in the cabinet, still thinks, writes, and acts as he has done for years. The king is desirous that justice shall be done to his subjects, and will punish, perhaps, with more severity, whenever he finds himself deceived, than from the goodness of his disposition, might be supposed. The treasury is full, the army continues the same, and there is little reason to doubt but that industry, population, and wealth will increase. None but the vile and the wicked would leave the kingdom; while the oppressed and best subjects of other states would fly from their native country, certain of finding encouragement and security in Prussia.
The personal qualities of Fredric William merit description. He is tall and handsome, his mien is majestic, and his accomplishments of mind and body would procure him the love of men, were he not a king. He is affable without deceit, friendly and kind in conversation, and stately when stateliness is necessary. He is bountiful, but not profuse; he knows that without economy the Prussian must sink. He is not tormented by the spirit of conquest, he wishes harm to no nation, yet he will certainly not suffer other nations to make encroachments, nor will he be terrified by menaces.
The wise Frederic, when living, though himself learned, and a lover of the sciences, never encouraged them in his kingdom. Germany, under his reign, might have forgotten her language: he preferred the literature of France. Konigsberg, once the seminary of the North, contains, at present, few professors, or students; the former are fallen into disrepute, and are ill paid; the latter repair to Leipsic and Gottingen. We have every reason to suppose the present monarch, though no studious man himself, will encourage the academies of the literati, that men learned in jurisprudence and the sciences may not be wanting: which want is the more to be apprehended as the nobility must, without exception, serve in the army, so that learning has but few adherents, and these are deprived of the means of improvement.
Frederic William is also too much the friend of men to suffer them to pine in prisons. He abhors the barbarity with which the soldiers are beaten: his officers will not be fettered hand and foot; slavish subordination will be banished, and the noble in heart will be the noble of the land. May he, in his people, find perfect content! May his people be ever worthy of such a prince! Long may he reign, and may his ministers be ever enlightened and honourable men!
He sent for me a second time, conversed much with me, and confirmed those ideas which my first interview had inspired.
On the 11th of March I presented my son at another audience, whom I intended for the Prussian service. The King bestowed a commission on him in the Posadowsky dragoons, at my request.
I saw him at the review at Velau, and his superior officers formed great expectations from his zeal. Time will discover whether he who is in the Austrian, or this in the Prussian service, will first obtain the rewards due to their father. Should they both remain unnoticed, I will bestow him on the Grand Turk, rather than on European courts, whence equity to me and mine is banished.
To Austria I owe no thanks; all that could be taken from me was taken. I was a captain before I entered those territories, and, after six-and-thirty years' service, I find myself in the rank of invalid major. The proof of all I have asserted, and of how little I am indebted to this state is most incontestable, since the history of my life is allowed by the royal censor to be publicly sold in Vienna.
It is remarkable that one only of all the eight officers, with whom I served, in the body guard, in 1745, is dead. Lieutenant-colonel Count Blumenthal lives in Berlin; Pannewitz is commander of the Knights of Malta: both gave me a friendly reception. Wagnitz is lieutenant-general in the service of Hesse-Cassel; he was my tent comrade, and was acquainted with all that happened. Kalkreuter and Grethusen live on their estates, and Jaschinsky is now alive at Konigsberg, but superannuated, and tortured by sickness, and remorse. He, instead of punishment, has forty years enjoyed a pension of a thousand rix-dollars. I have seen my lands confiscated, of the income of which I have been forty-two years deprived, and never yet received retribution.
Time must decide; the king is generous, and I have too much pride to become a beggar. The name of Trenck shall be found in the history of the acts of Frederic. A tyrant himself, he was the slave of his passions; and even did not think an inquiry into my innocence worth the trouble. To be ashamed of doing right, because he has done wrong, or to persist in error, that fools, and fools only, can think him infallible, is a dreadful principle in a ruler.
Since I have been at Berlin, and was received there with so many testimonies of friendship, the newspapers of Germany have published various articles concerning me, intending to contribute to my honour or ease. They said my eldest daughter is appointed the governess of the young Princess. This has been the joke of some witty correspondent; for my eldest daughter is but fifteen, and stands in need of a governess herself. Perhaps they may suppose me mean enough to circulate falsehood.
I daily receive letters from all parts of Germany, wherein the sensations of the feeling heart are evident. Among these letters was one which I received from Bahrdt, Professor at Halle, dated April 10, 1787 wherein he says, "Receive, noble German, the thanks of one who, like you, has encountered difficulties; yet, far inferior to those you have encountered. You, with gigantic strength, have met a host of foes, and conquered. The pests of men attacked me also. From town to town, from land to land, I was pursued by priestcraft and persecution; yet I acquired fame. I fled for refuge and repose to the states of Frederic, but found them not. I have eight years laboured under affliction with perseverance, but have found no reward. By industry have I made myself what I am; by ministerial favour, never. Worn out and weak, the history of your life, worthy sir, fell into my hands, and poured balsam into my wounds. There I saw sufferings immeasurably greater; there, indeed, beheld fortitude most worthy of admiration. Compared to you, of what could I complain? Receive, noble German, my warmest thanks; while I live they shall flow. And should you find a fortunate moment, in the presence of your King, speak of me as one consigned to poverty; as one whose talents are buried in oblivion. Say to him—'Mighty King! stretch forth thy hand, and dry up his tears.' I know the nobleness of your mind, and doubt not your good wishes."
To the Professor's letter I returned the following answer:—
"I was affected, sir, by your letter. I never yet was unmoved, when the pen was obedient to the dictates of the heart. I feel for your situation; and if my example can teach wisdom even to the wise, I have cause to triumph. This is the sweetest of rewards. At Berlin I have received much honour, but little more. Men are deaf to him who confides only in his right. What have I gained? Shadowy fame for myself, and the vapour of hope for my heirs!
"Truth and Trenck, my good friend, flourish not in courts. You complain of priestcraft. He who would disturb their covetousness, he who speaks against the false opinions they scatter, considers not priests, and their aim, which is to dazzle the stupid and stupefy the wise. Deprecate their wrath! avoid their poisoned shafts, or they will infect tiny peace: will blast thy honour. And wherefore should we incur this danger. To cure ignorance of error is impossible. Let us then silently steal to our graves, and thus small we escape the breath of envy. He who should enjoy all even thought could grasp, should yet have but little. Having acquired this knowledge, the passions of the soul are lulled to apathy. I behold error, and I laugh; do thou, my friend, laugh also. If that can comfort us, men will do our memory justice—when we are dead! Fame plants her laurels over the grave, and there they flourish best.
"Schangulach, near Konigsberg, April 30th, 1787."
"P.S—I have spoken, worthy Professor, the feelings of my heart, in answer to your kind panegyric. You will but do me justice, when you believe I think and act as I write with respect to my influence at court, it is as insignificant at Berlin as at Vienna or at Constantinople"
Among the various letters I have received, as it may answer a good purpose, I hope the reader will not think the insertion of the following improper.
In a letter from an unknown correspondent, who desired me to speak for this person at Berlin, eight others were enclosed. They came from the above person in distress, to this correspondent: and I was requested to let them appear in the Berlin Journal. I selected two of them, and here present them to the world, as it can do me injury, while they describe an unhappy victim of an extraordinary kind: and may perhaps obtain him some relief.
Should this hope be verified, I am acquainted with him who wishes to remain concealed, can introduce him to the knowledge of such as might wish to interfere in his behalf. Should they not, the reader will still find them well-written and affecting letters; such as may inspire compassion. The following is the first of those I selected.
"Neuland, Feb 12th, 1787.
"I thought I had so satisfactorily answered you by my last, that you would have left me in peaceful possession of my sorrows! but your remarks, entreaties, and remonstrances, succeed each other with such rapidity, that I am induced to renew the contest. Cowardice, I believe, you are convinced, is not a native in my heart, and should I now yield, you might suppose that age and the miseries I have suffered, had weakened my powers of mind as well as body; and that I ought to have been classed among the unhappy multitudes whose sufferings have sunk them to despondency.
"Baron Trenck, that man of many woes, once so despised, but who now is held in admiration, where he was before so much the object of hatred; who now speaks so loudly in his own defence, where, formerly, the man who had but whispered his name would have lived suspected; Baron Trenck you propose as an example of salvation for me. You are wrong. Have you considered how dissimilar our past lives have been; how different, too, are our circumstances? Or, omitting these, have you considered to whom you would have me appeal?
"In 1767, I became acquainted, in Vienna, with this sufferer of fortitude, this agreeable companion. We are taught that a noble aspect bespeaks a corresponding mind; this I believe him to possess. But what expectations can I form from Baron Trenck?
"I will briefly answer the questions you have put. Baron Trenck was a man born to inherit great estates; this and the fire of his youth, fanned by flattering hopes from his famous kinsman, rendered him too haughty to his King; and this alone was the origin of all his future sufferings. I, on the contrary, though the son of a Silesian nobleman of property, did not inherit so much as the pay of a common soldier; the family having been robbed by the hand of power, after being accused by wickedness under the mask of virtue. You know my father's fate, the esteem in which he was held by the Empress Theresa; and that a pretended miracle was the occasion of his fall. Suddenly was he plunged from the height to which industry, talents, and virtue had raised him, to the depth of poverty. At length, at the beginning of the seven years' war, one of the King of Prussia's subjects represented him to the Austrian court as a dangerous correspondent of Marshal Schwerin's. Then at sixty years of age, my father was seized at Jagerndorf, and imprisoned in the fortress of Gratz, in Styria. He had an allowance just sufficient to keep him alive in his dungeon; but, for the space of seven years, never beheld the sun rise or set. I was a boy when this happened, however, I was not heard. I only received some pecuniary relief from the Empress, with permission to shed my blood in her defence. In this situation we first vowed eternal friendship; but from this I soon was snatched by my father's enemies. What the Empress had bestowed, her ministers tore from me. I was seized at midnight, and was brought, in company with two other officers, to the fortress of Gratz. Here I remained immured six years. My true name was concealed, and another given me.
"Peace being restored, Trenck, I, and my father were released; but the mode of our release was very different. The first obtained his freedom at the intercession of Theresa, she, too, afforded him a provision. We, on the contrary, according to the amnesty, stipulated in the treaty of peace, were led from our dungeons as state prisoners, without inquiry concerning the verity or falsehood of our crimes. Extreme poverty, wretchedness, and misery, were our reward for the sufferings we had endured.
"Not only was my health destroyed, but my jawbone was lost, eaten away by the scurvy. I laid before Frederic the Great the proofs of the calamities I had undergone, and the dismal state to which I was reduced, by his foe, and for his sake; entreated bread to preserve me and my father from starving, but his ear was deaf to my prayer, his heart insensible to my sighs.
"Providence, however, raised me up a saviour,—Count Gellhorn was the man. After the taking of Breslau, he had been also sent a state prisoner to Gratz. During his imprisonment, he had heard the report of my sufferings and my innocence. No sooner did he learn I was released, than he became my benefactor, my friend, and restored me to the converse of men, to which I had so long been dead.
"I defer the continuance of my narrative to the next post. The remembrance of past woes inflict new ones. I am eternally."
"February 24, 1787.
"Dear Friend,—After an interval of silence, remembering my promise, I again continue my story.
"My personal sufferings have not been less than those of Trenck. His, I am acquainted with only from the inaccurate relations I have heard: my own I have felt. A colonel in the Prussian service, whose name was Hallasch, was four years my companion; he was insane, and believed himself the Christ that was to appear at the millennium: he persecuted me with his reveries, which I was obliged to listen to, and approve, or suffer violence from one stronger than myself.
"The society of men or books, everything that could console or amuse, were forbidden me; and I considered it as wonderful that I did not myself grow mad, in the company of this madman. Four hard winters I existed without feeling the feeble emanation of a winter sun, much less the warmth of fire. The madman felt more pity than my keeper, and lent me his cloak to cover my body, though the other denied me a truss of straw, notwithstanding I had lost the use of my hands and feet. The place where we were confined was called a chamber; it rather resembled the temple of Cloacina. The noxious damps and vapours so poisoned my blood that an unskilful surgeon, who tortured me during nine months, with insult as a Prussian traitor, and state criminal, I lost the greatest part of my jaw.
"Schottendorf was our governor and tyrant; a man who repaid the friendship he found in the mansion of my fathers—with cruelty. He was ripe for the sickle, and Time cut him off. Tormentini and Galer were his successors in office, by them we were carefully watched, but we were treated with commiseration. Their precautions rendered imprisonment less wretched. Ever shall I hold their memory sacred. Yet, benevolent as they were, their goodness was exceeded by that of Rottensteiner, the head gaoler. He considered his prisoners as his children; and he was their benefactor. Of this I had experience, during two years after the release of Hallasch.
"Here I but cursorily describe misery, at which the monarch shall shudder, if the blood of a tyrant flow not in his veins. Theresa could not wish these things. But she was fallible, and not omniscient.
"From the above narrative, you will perceive how opposite the effects must be which the histories of Baron Trenck and of myself must produce.
"Trenck left his dungeon shielded from contempt; the day of freedom was the day of triumph. I, on the contrary, was exposed to every calamity. The spirit of Trenck again raised itself. I have laboured many a night that I might neither beg nor perish the following day: working for judges who neither knew law nor had powers of mind to behold the beauty of justice: settling accounts that, item after item, did not prove that the lord they were intended for, was an imbecile dupe.
"Trenck remembers his calamities, but the remembrance is advantageous to himself and his family; while with me, the past did but increase, did but agonise, the present and the future. He was not like me, obliged to crouch in presence of those vulgar, those incapable minds, that do but consider the bent back as the footstool of pride. Every man is too busy to act in behalf of others; pity me therefore, but advise me not to hope assistance, by petitioning princes at second hand. I know your good wishes, and, for these, I have nothing to return but barren thanks.—I am, &c."
The reasons why I published the foregoing letters are already stated, and will appear satisfactory to the reader. Once more to affairs that concern myself.
I met at Berlin many old friends of both sexes; among others, an aged invalid came to see me, who was at Glatz, in 1746, when I cut my way through the guard. He was one of the sentinels before my door, whom I had thrown down the stairs.
The hour of quitting Berlin, and continuing my journey into Prussia, towards Konigsberg, approached. On the eve of my departure, I had the happiness of conversing with her Royal Highness the Princess Amelia, sister of Frederic the Great. She protected me in my hour of adversity; heaped benefits upon me, and contributed to gain my deliverance. She received me as a friend, as an aged patriot; and laid her commands upon me to write to my wife, and request that she would come to Berlin, in the month of June, with her two eldest daughters. I received her promise that the happiness of the latter should be her care; nay, that she would remember my wife in her will.
At this moment, when about to depart, she asked me if I had money sufficient for my journey: "Yes, madam," was my reply; "I want nothing, ask nothing; but may you remember my children!"
The deep feeling with which I pronounced these words moved the princess; she showed me how she comprehended my meaning, and said, "Return, my friend, quickly: I shall be most happy to see you."
I left the room: a kind of indecision came over me. I was inclined to remain longer at Berlin. Had I done so, my presence would have been of great advantage to my children. Alas! under the guidance of my evil genius, I began my journey. The purpose for which I came to Berlin was frustrated: for after my departure, the Princess Amelia died!
Peace be to thy ashes, noble princess! Thy will was good, and be that sufficient. I shall not want materials to write a commentary on the history of Frederic, when, in company with thee, I shall wander on the banks of Styx; there the events that happened on this earth may be written without danger.
So proceed we with our story.
On the 22nd of March I pursued my journey to Konigsberg, but remained two days at the court of the Margrave of Brandenburg, where I was received with kindness. The Margrave had bestowed favours on me, during my imprisonment at Magdeburg.
I departed thence through Soldin to Schildberg, here to visit my relation Sidau, who had married the daughter of my sister, which daughter my sister had by her first husband, Waldow, of whom I have before spoken. I found my kinsman a worthy man, and one who made the daughter of an unfortunate sister happy. I was received at his house within open arms; and, for the first time after an interval of two-and-forty years, beheld one of my own relations.
On my journey thither, I had the pleasure to meet with Lieutenant-General Kowalsky: This gentleman was a lieutenant in the garrison of Glatz, in 1745, and was a witness of my leap from the wall of the rampart. He had read my history, some of the principal facts of which he was acquainted with. Should anyone therefore doubt concerning those incidents, I may refer to him, whose testimony cannot be suspected.
From Schildberg I proceeded to Landsberg, on the Warta. Here I found my brother-in-law, Colonel Pape, commander of the Gotz dragoons, and the second husband of my deceased sister: and here I passed a joyous day. Everybody congratulated me on my return into my country.
I found relations in almost every garrison. Never did man receive more marks of esteem throughout a kingdom. The knowledge of my calamities procured me sweet consolation; and I were insensible indeed, and ungrateful, did my heart remain unmoved on occasions like these.
In Austria I never can expect a like reception; I am there mistaken, and I feel little inclination to labour at removing mistakes so rooted. Yet, even there am I by the general voice, approved. Yes, I am admired, but not known; pitied but not supported; honoured, but not rewarded.
When at Berlin, I discovered an error I had committed in the commencement of my life. At the time I wrote I believed that the postmaster-general of Berlin, Mr Derschau, was my mother's brother, and the same person who, in 1742, was grand counsellor at Glogau, and afterwards, president in East Friesland. I was deceived; the Derschau who is my mother's brother is still living, and president at Aurich in East Friesland. The postmaster was the son of the old Derschau who died a general, and who was only distantly related to my mother. Neither is the younger Derschau, who is the colonel of a regiment at Burg, the brother of my mother, but only her first cousin; one of their sisters married Lieut.- Colonel Ostau, whose son, the President Ostau, now lives on his own estate, at Lablack in Prussia.
I was likewise deceived in having suspected a lieutenant, named Mollinie, in the narrative I gave of my flight from Glatz, of having acted as a spy upon me at Braunau, and of having sent information to General Fouquet. I am sorry. This honest man is still alive, a captain in Brandenburg. He was affected at my suspicion, fully justified himself, and here I publicly apologise. He then was, and again is become my friend.
I have received a letter from one Lieutenant Brodowsky. This gentleman is offended at finding his mother's name in my narrative, and demands I should retract my words.
My readers will certainly allow the virtue of Madame Brodowsky, at Elbing, is not impeached. Although I have said I had the fortune to be beloved by her, I have nowhere intimated that I asked, or that she granted, improper favours.
By the desire of a person of distinction, I shall insert an incident which I omitted in a former part. This person was an eye-witness of the incident I am about to relate, at Magdeburg, and reminded me of the affair. It was my last attempt but one at flight.
The circumstances were these:—
As I found myself unable to get rid of more sand, after having again cut through the planking, and mined the foundation, I made a hole towards the ditch, in which three sentinels were stationed. This I executed one night, it being easy, from the lightness of the sand, to perform the work in two hours.
No sooner had I broken through, than I threw one of my slippers beside the palisades, that it might be supposed I had lost it when climbing over them. These palisades, twelve feet in length, were situated in the front of the principal fosse, and my sentinels stood within. There was no sentry-box at the place where I had broken through.
This done, I returned into my prison, made another hole under the planking, where I could hide myself, and stopped up the passage behind me, so that it was not probable I could be seen or found.
When daylight came, the sentinel saw the hole and gave the alarm, the slipper was found, and it was concluded that Trenck had escaped over the palisades, and was no longer in prison.
Immediately the sub-governor came from Magdeburg, the guns were fired, the horse scoured the country, and the subterranean passages were all visited: no tidings came; no discovery was made, and the conclusion was I had escaped. That I should fly without the knowledge of the sentinels, was deemed impossible; the officer, and all the guard, were put under arrest, and everybody was surprised.
I, in the meantime, sat quiet in my hole, where I heard their searches, and suppositions that I was gone.
My heart bounded with joy, and I held escape to be indubitable. They would not place sentinels over the prison the following night, and I should then really have left my place of concealment, and, most probably have safely arrived in Saxony. My destiny, however, robbed me of all hope at the very moment when I supposed the greatest of my difficulties were conquered.
Everything seemed to happen as I could wish. The whole garrison came, and visited the casemates, and all stood astonished at the miracle they beheld. In this state things remained till four o'clock in the afternoon. At length, an ensign of the militia came, a boy of about fifteen or sixteen years of age, who had more wit than any or all of them. He approached the hole, examined the aperture next the fosse, thought it appeared small, tried to enter it himself, found he could not, therefore concluded it was impossible a man of my size could have passed through, and accordingly called for a light.
This was an accident I had not foreseen. Half stifled in my hole, I had opened the canal under the planking. No sooner had the youth procured a light, than he perceived my shirt, examined nearer, felt about, and laid hold of me by the arm. The fox was caught, and the laugh was universal. My confusion may easily be imagined. They all came round me, paid me their compliments, and finding nothing better was to be done, I laughed in company with them, and, thus laughing was led back with an aching heart to be sorrowfully enchained in my dungeon.
I continued my journey, and arrived, on the fourth of April, at Konigsberg, where my brother expected my arrival. We embraced as brothers must, after the absence of two-and-forty years. Of all the brothers and sisters I had left in this city, he only remained. He lived a retired and peaceable life on his own estates. He had no children living. I continued a fortnight within him and his wife.
Here, for the first time, I learned what had happened to my relations, during their absence. The wrath of the Great Frederic extended itself to all my family. My second brother was an ensign in the regiment of cuirassiers at Kiow, in 1746, when I first incurred disgrace from the King. Six years he served, fought at three battles, but, because his name was Trenck, never was promoted. Weary of expectation he quitted the army, married, and lived on his estates at Meicken, where he died about three years ago, and left two sons, who are an honour to the family of the Trencks.
Fame spoke him a person capable of rendering the state essential service, as a military man; but he was my brother, and the King would never suffer his name to be mentioned.
My youngest brother applied himself to the sciences; it was proposed that he should receive some civil employment, as he was an intelligent and well-informed man; but the King answered in the margin of the petition,
"No Trenck is good for anything."
Thus have all my family suffered, because of my unjust condemnation. My last-mentioned brother chose the life of a private man, and lived at his ease, in independence, among the first people of the kingdom. The hatred of the monarch extended itself to my sister, who had married the son of General Waldow, and lived in widowhood, from the year 1749, to her second marriage. The misfortunes of this woman, in consequence of the treachery of Weingarten, and the aid she sent to me in my prison at Magdeburg, I have before related. She was possessed of the fine estate of Hammer, near Landsberg on the Warta. The Russian army changed the whole face of the country, and laid it desert. She fled to Custrin, where everything was destroyed during the siege. The Prussian army also demolished the fine forests.
After the war, the King assisted all the ruined families of Brandenburg; she alone obtained nothing, because she was my sister. She petitioned the King, who repined she must seek for redress from her dear brother. She died, in the flower of her age, a short time after she had married her second husband, the present Colonel Pape: her son, also, died last year. He was captain in the regiment of the Gotz dragoons. Thus were all my brothers and sisters punished because they were mine. Could it be believed that the great Frederic would revenge himself on the children and the children's children? Was it not sufficient that he should wreak his wrath on my head alone? Why has the name of Trenck been hateful to him, to the very hour of his death?
One Derschau, captain of horse, and brother of my mother, addressed himself to the King, in 1753, alleging he was my nearest relation and feudal heir, and petitioned that he would bestow on him my confiscated estates of Great Sharlack. The King demanded that the necessary proofs should be sent from the chamber at Konigsberg. He was uninformed that I had two brothers living, that Great Sharlack was an ancient family inheritance, and that it appertained to my brothers, and not to Derschau. My brothers then announced themselves as the successors to this fief, and the King bestowed on them the estate of Great Sharlack conformable to the feudal laws. That it might be properly divided, it was put up to auction, and bought by the youngest of my brothers, who paid surplus to the other, and to my sister. He likewise paid debts charged upon it, according to the express orders of the court. The persons who called themselves my creditors were impostors, for I had no creditors; I was but nineteen when my estates were confiscated, consequently was not of age. By what right therefore, could such debts be demanded or paid? Let them explain this who can.
The same thing happened when an account was given in to the Fiscus of the guardianship, although I acknowledge my guardians were men of probity. One of them was eight years in possession, and when he gave it up to my brothers he did not account with them for a single shilling. At present, therefore, the affair stands thus:—Frederic William has taken off the sentence of confiscation, and ordered me to be put in possession of my estates, by a gracious rescript: empowered by this I come and demand restitution; my brother answers, "I have bought and paid for the estate, am the legal possessor, have improved it so much that Great Sharlack, at present, is worth three or four times the sum it was at the time of confiscation. Let the Fiscus pay me its actual value, and then let them bestow it on whom they please. If the reigning king gives what his predecessor sold to me, I ought not thereby to be a loser."
This is a problem which the people of Berlin must resolve. My brother has no children, and, without going to law, will bequeath Great Sharlack to mine, when he shall happen to die. If he is forced in effect to restore it without being reimbursed, the King instead of granting a favour, has not done justice. I do not request any restitution like this, since such restitution would be made without asking it as a favour of the King. If his Majesty takes off the confiscation because he is convinced it was originally violent and unjust, then have I a right to demand the rents of two-and-forty years. This I am to require from the Fiscus, not from my brother. And should the Fiscus only restore me the price for which it then sold, it would commit a manifest injustice, since all estates in the province of Prussia have, since 1746, tripled and quadrupled their value. If the estates descend only to my children after my death, I receive neither right nor favour; for, in this case, I obtain nothing for myself, and shall remain deprived of the rents, which, as the estate is at present farmed by my brother amount to four thousand rix- dollars per annum. This estate cannot be taken from him legally, since he enjoys it by right of purchase.
Such is the present state of the business. How the monarch shall think proper to decide, will be seen hereafter. I have demanded of the Fiscus that it shall make a fair valuation of Great Sharlack, reimburse my brother, and restore it to me. My brother has other estates. These he will dispose of by testament, according to his good pleasure. Be these things as they may, the purpose of my journey is accomplished.
Thou, great God, has preserved me amidst my trouble. The purest gratitude penetrates my heart. Oh, that thou wouldst shield man from arbitrary power, and banish despotism from the earth!
May this my narration be a lesson to the afflicted, afford hope to the despairing, fortitude to the wavering, and humanise the hearts of kings. Joyfully do I journey to the shores of death. My conscience is void of reproach, posterity shall bless my memory, and only the unfeeling, the wicked, the confessor of princes and the pious impostor, shall vent their rage against my writings. My mind is desirous of repose, and should this be denied me, still I will not murmur. I now wish to steal gently towards that last asylum, whither if I had gone in my youth, it must have been with colours flying. Grant, Almighty God, that the prayer I this day make may be heard, and that such may be the conclusion of my eventful life!
HISTORY OF FRANCIS BARON TRENCK. WRITTEN BY FREDERICK BARON TRENCK, AS A NECESSARY SUPPLEMENT TO HIS OWN HISTORY.
Francis Baron Trenck was born in 1714, in Calabria, a province of Sicily. His father was then a governor and lieutenant-colonel there, and died in 1743, at Leitschau, in Hungary, lord of the rich manors of Prestowacz, Pleternitz, and Pakratz, in Sclavonia, and other estates in Hungary. His christian name was John; he was my father's brother, and born in Konigsberg in Prussia.
The name of his mother was Kettler; she was born in Courland. Trenck was a gentleman of ancient family; and his grandfather, who was mine also, was of Prussia. His father, who had served Austria to the age of sixty- eight, a colonel, and bore those wounds to his grave which attested his valour.
Francis Baron Trenck was his only son; he had attained the rank of colonel during his father's life, and served with distinction in the army of Maria Theresa. The history of his life, which he published in 1747, when he was under confinement at Vienna, is so full of minute circumstances, and so poorly written, that I shall make but little use of it. Here I shall relate only what I have heard from his enemies themselves, and what I have myself seen. His father, a bold and daring soldier, idolised his only son, and wholly neglected his education, so that the passions of this son were most unbridled. Endowed with extraordinary talents, this ardent youth was early allowed to indulge the impetuous fire of his constitution. Moderation was utterly unknown to him, and good fortune most remarkably favoured all his enterprises. These were numerous, undertaken from no principle of virtue, nor actuated by any motives of morality. The love of money, and the desire of fame, were the passions of his soul. To his warlike inclination was added the insensibility of a heart natively wicked: and he found himself an actor, on the great scene of life, at a time when the earth was drenched with human gore, and when the sword decided the fate of nations: hence this chief of pandours, this scourge of the unprotected, became an iron-hearted enemy, a ferocious foe of the human race, a formidable enemy in private life, and a perfidious friend.
Constitutionally sanguinary, addicted to pleasures, sensual, and brave; he was unappeased when affronted, prompt to act, in the moment of danger circumspect, and, when under the dominion of anger, cruel even to fury; irreconcilable, artful, fertile in invention, and ever intent on great projects. When youth and beauty inspired love, he then became supple, insinuating, amiable, gentle, respectful; yet, ever excited by pride, each conquest gave but new desires of adding another slave over whom he might domineer; and, whenever he encountered resistance, he then even ceased to be avaricious. A prudent and intelligent woman, turning this part of his character to advantage, might have formed this man to virtue, probity, and the love of the human race: but, from his infancy, his will had never suffered restraint, and he thought nothing impossible. As a soldier, he was bold even to temerity; capable of the most hazardous enterprise, and laughing at the danger he provoked. His projects were the more elevated because the acquirement of renown was the intent of all his actions. In council he was dangerous; everything must be conceded to his views. To him the means by which his end was to be obtained were indifferent.
The Croats at this time were undisciplined, prone to rapine, thirsting for human blood, and only taught obedience by violence; these had been the companions of his infancy: these he undertook to subject, by servitude and fear, to military subordination, and from banditti to make them soldiers.
With respect to his exterior, Nature had been prodigal of her favours. His height was six feet three inches, and the symmetry of his limbs was exact; his form was upright, his countenance agreeable, yet masculine, and his strength almost incredible. He could sever the head from the body of the largest ox with one stroke of his sabre, and was so adroit at this Turkish practice, that he at length could behead men in the manner boys do nettles. In the latter years of his life, his aspect had become terrible; for, during the Bavarian war, he had been scorched by the explosion of a powder-barrel, and ever after his face remained scarred and impregnated with black spots. In company he rendered himself exceedingly agreeable, spoke seven languages fluently, was jocular, possessed wit, and in serious conversation, understanding; had learned music, sung with taste, and had a good voice, so that he might have been well paid as an actor, had that been his fate. He could even, when so disposed, become gentle and complaisant.
His look told the man of observation that he was cunning and choleric; and his wrath was terrible. He was ever suspicious, because he judged others by himself. Self-interest and avarice constituted his ruling passion, and, whenever he had an opportunity of increasing his wealth, he disregarded the duties of religion, the ties of honour, and human pity. In the thirty-first year of his age, when he was possessed of nearly two millions, he did not expend a florin per day.
As he and his pandours always led the van, and as he thence had an opportunity to ravage the enemy's country, at the head of troops addicted to rapine, we must not wonder that Bavaria, Silesia, and Alsatia were so plundered. He alone purchased the booty from his troops at a low price, and this he sent by water to his own estates. If any one of his officers had made a rich capture, Trenck instantly became his enemy. He was sent on every dangerous expedition till he fell, and the colonel became his universal heir, for Trenck appropriated all he could to himself. He was reputed to be a man most expert in military science, an excellent engineer, and to possess an exact eye in estimating heights and distances. In all enterprises he was first; inured to fatigue, his iron body could support it without inconvenience. Nothing escaped his vigilance, all was turned to account, and what valour could not accomplish, cunning supplied. His pride suffered him not to incur an obligation, and thus he was unthankful; his actions all centred in self, and as he was remarkably fortunate in whatever he undertook, he ascribed even that, which accident gave, to foresight and genius.
Yet was he ever, as an officer, a most useful and inestimable man to the state. His respect for his sovereign, and his zeal in her service, were unbounded; whenever her glory was at stake, he devoted himself her victim. This I assert to be truth: I knew him well. Of little consequence is it to me, whether the historians of Maria Theresa have, or have not, misrepresented his talents and the fame he deserved.
The life of Trenck I write for the following reasons. He had the honour first to form, and command, regular troops, raised in Sclavonia. The soldiers acquired glory under their leader, and sustained the tottering power of Austria: they made libations of their blood in its defence, as did Trenck, in various battles. He served like a brave warrior, with zeal, loyalty, and effect. The vile persecutions of his enemies at Vienna, with whom he refused to share the plunder he had made, lost him honour, liberty, and not only the personal property he had acquired, but likewise the family patrimony in Hungary. He died like a malefactor, illegally sentenced to imprisonment; and knaves have affirmed, and fools have believed, and believe still, he took the King of Prussia prisoner, and that he granted him freedom in consequence of a bribe. So have the loyal Hungarians been led to suppose that an Hungarian had really been a traitor.
By my writings, I wish to prove to this noble nation on the contrary, that Trenck, for his loyalty deserved compassion, esteem, and honour in his country. This I have already done in the former part of my history. The dead Trenck can speak no more; but it is the duty of the living ever to speak in defence of right.
Trenck wrote his own history while he was confined in the arsenal at Vienna; and, in the last two sheets he openly related the manner in which he had been treated by the council of war, of which Count Loewenwalde, his greatest enemy, was president. The count, however, found supporters too powerful, and these sheets were torn from the book and publicly burnt at Vienna. Defence after this became impossible: he groaned under the grip of his adversaries.
I have given a literal copy of these sheets in the first part of this history; and I again repeat I am able to prove the truth of what is there asserted, by the acts, proceedings, and judicial registers which are in my possession. He was confined in the Spielberg, because much was to be dreaded from an injured man, whom they knew capable of the most desperate enterprises. He died defenceless, the sacrifice of iniquity and unjust judges. He died, and his honour remained unprotected. I am by duty his defender: although he expired my personal enemy, the author of nearly all the ills I have suffered. I came to the knowledge of his persecutors too late for the unfortunate Trenck. And who are those who have divided his spoils—who slew him that they might fatten themselves? Your titles have been paid for from the coffers of Trenck! Yet neither can your cabals, your wealthy protectors, your own riches, nor your credit at court, deprive me of the right of vindicating his fame.
I have boldly written, have openly shown, that Trenck was pillaged by you; that he served the house of Austria as a worthy man, with zeal; not in court-martials and committees of inquiry, but fighting for his country, sharing the soldier's glory, falling the victim of envy and power; falling by the hands of those who are unworthy of judging merit. He take the King of Prussia! They might as well say he took the Emperor of Morocco.
Yes, he is dead. But should any man dare affirm that the Hungarian or the Prussian Trenck were capable of treason, that either of them merited punishment for having betrayed their country, he will not have long to seek before he will be informed that he has done us both injustice. After this preface, I shall continue my narrative on the plan I proposed. Trenck, the father, was a miser, yet a well-meaning man. Trenck the son, was a youthful soldier, who stood in need of money to indulge his pleasures. Many curious pranks he played, when an ensign in I know not what regiment of foot. He went to one of the collectors of his father's rents, and demanded money; the collector refused to give him any, and Trenck clove his skull with his sabre. A prosecution was entered against him, but, war breaking out in 1756, between the Russians and the Turks, he raised a squadron of hussars, and went with it into the Russian service, contrary to the will of his father.
In this war he distinguished himself highly, and acquired the protection of Field-marshal Munich. He was so successful as a leader against the Tartars, that he became very famous in the army, and at the end of the campaign, was appointed major.
It happened that flying parties of Turks approached his regiment when on march, and Trenck seeing a favourable moment for attacking them, went to Colonel Rumin, desiring the regiment might be led to the charge, and that they might profit by so fair an opportunity. The colonel answered, "I have no such orders." Trenck then demanded permission to charge the Turks only with his own squadron; but this was refused. He became furious, for he had never been acquainted with contradiction or subordination, and cried aloud to the soldiers, "If there be one brave man among you, let him follow me." About two hundred stepped from the ranks; he put himself at their head, routed the enemy, made a horrible carnage, and returned intoxicated with joy, accompanied by prisoners, and loaded with dissevered heads. Once more arrived in presence of the regiment, he attacked the colonel, treated him like the rankest coward, called him opprobrious names, without the other daring to make the least resistance. The adventure, however, became known; Trenck was arrested, and ordered to be tried. His judges condemned him to be shot, and the day was appointed, but the evening before execution, Field-marshal Munich passed near the tent in which he was confined, Trenck saw him, came forward, and said, "Certainly your excellency will not suffer a foreign cavalier to die an ignominious death because he has chastised a cowardly Russian! If I must die, at least give me permission to saddle my horse, and with my sabre in my hand, let me fall surrounded by the enemy."
The Tartars happened to be at this time harassing the advanced posts; the Field-marshal shrugged his shoulders, and was silent. Trenck, not discouraged, added, "I will undertake to bring your excellency three heads or lose my own. Will you, if I do, be pleased to grant me my pardon?" The Field-marshal replied, "Yes." The horse of Trenck was brought: he galloped to the enemy, and returned within four heads knotted to the horse's mane, himself only slightly wounded in the shoulder. Munich immediately appointed him major in another regiment. Various and almost incredible were his feats: among others, a Tartar ran him through the belly with his lance: Trenck grasped the projecting end with his hands, exerted his prodigious strength, broke the lance, set spurs to his horse, and happily escaped. Of this wound, dreadful as it was, he was soon cured. I myself have seen the two scars, and can affirm the fact; I also learned this, and many others in 1746, from officers who had served in the same army.
During this campaign he behaved with great honour, was wounded by an arrow in the leg, and gained the affection of Field-marshal Munich, but excited the envy of all the Russians. Towards the conclusion of the war he had a new misfortune; his regiment was incommoded on all sides by the enemy: he entreated his colonel, for leave to attack them. The colonel was once more a Russian, and he was refused. Trenck gave him a blow, and called aloud to the soldiers to follow him. They however being Russians, remained motionless, and he was put under arrest. The court-martial sentenced him to death, and all hope of reprieve seemed over. The general would have granted his pardon, but as he was himself a foreigner, he was fearful of offending the Russians. The day of execution came, and he was led to the place of death, Munich so contrived it that Field-marshal Lowenthal should pass by, at this moment, in company within his lady. Trenck profited by the opportunity, spoke boldly, and prevailed. A reprieve was requested, and the sentence was changed into banishment and labour in Siberia.
Trenck protested against this sentence. The Field-marshal wrote to Petersburg, and an order came that he should be broken, and conducted out of the Russian territories. This order was executed, and he returned into Hungary to his father. At this period he espoused the daughter of Field-marshal Baron Tillier, one of the first families in Switzerland. The two brothers of his wife each became lieutenant-general, one of whom died honourably during the seven years' war. The other was made commander-general in Croatia, where he is still living, and is at the head of a regiment of infantry that bears his name. Trenck did not live long with his lady. She was pregnant, and he took her to hunt with him in a marsh: she returned ill, and died without leaving him an heir.
Having no opportunity to indulge his warlike inclination, because of the general peace, he conceived the project of extirpating the Sclavonian banditti.
Trenck, to execute this enterprise, employed his own pandours. The contest now commenced and activity and courage were necessary to ensure success in such a war. Trenck seemed born for this murderous trade. Day and night he chased them like wild beasts, killing now one, then another, and without distinction, treating them with the utmost barbarity.
Two incidents will sufficiently paint the character of this unaccountable man. He had impaled alive the father of a Harum-Bashaw. One evening he was going on patrol, along the banks of a brook, which separated two provinces. On the opposite shore was the son of this impaled father, with his Croats. It was moonlight, and the latter called aloud—"I heard thy voice, Trenck! Thou hast impaled my father! If thou hast a heart in thy body, come hither over the bridge, I will send away my followers; leave thy firearms, come only with thy sabre, and we will then see who shall remain the victor." The agreement was made—and the Harum-Bashaw sent away his Croats, and laid down his musket. Trenck passed the wooden bridge, both drew their sabres; but Trenck treacherously killed his adversary with a pistol, that he had concealed, after which he severed his head from his body, took it with him, and stuck it upon a pole.
One day, when hunting, he heard music in a lone house which belonged to one of his vassals. He was thirsty, entered, and found the guests seated at table. He sat down and ate within them, not knowing this was a rendezvous for the banditti. As he was seated opposite the door, he saw two Harum-Bashaws enter. His musket stood in a corner; he was struck with terror, but one of them addressed him thus:—"Neither thee, nor thy vassals, Trenck, have we ever injured, yet thou dost pursue us with cruelty. Eat thy fill. When thou hast satisfied thy hunger, we will then, sabre in thy hand, see who has most justice on his side, and whether thou art as courageous as men speak thee."
Hereupon they sat down and began to eat and drink and make merry. The situation of Trenck could not be very pleasant. He recollected that besides these, there might be more of their companions, without, ready to fall upon him; he, therefore, privately drew his pistols, held them under the table while he cocked them, presented each hand to the body of a Harum-Bashaw, fired them both at the same instant, overset the table on the guests, and escaped from the house. As he went he had time to seize on one of their muskets, which was standing at the door. One of the Croats was left weltering in his blood; the other disengaged himself from the table, and ran after Trenck, who suffered him to approach, killed him within his own gun, struck off his head and brought it home in triumph. By this action the banditti were deprived of their two most valorous chiefs.
War broke out about this time, in 1740, when all the Hungarians took up arms in defence of their beloved queen. Trenck offered to raise a free corps of pandours, and requested an amnesty for the banditti who should join his troops. His request was granted, he published the amnesty, and began to raise recruits; he therefore enrolled his own vassals, formed a corps of 500 men, went in search of the robbers, drove them into a strait between the Save and Sarsaws, where they capitulated, and 300 of them enrolled themselves with his pandours. Most of these men were six feet in height, determined, and experienced soldiers. To indulge them on certain occasions in their thirst of pillage were means which he successfully employed to lead them where he pleased, and to render them victorious. By means like these Trenck became at once the terror of the enemies of Austria, and rendered signal services to his Empress.
In 1741, while he was exercising his regiment, a company fired upon Trenck, and killed his horse, and his servant that stood by his side. He ran to the company, counted one, two, three, and beheaded the fourth. He was continuing this, when a Harum-Bashaw left the ranks, drew his sword, and called aloud, "It is I who fired upon thee, defend thyself." The soldiers stood motionless spectators. Trenck attacked him and hewed him down. He was proceeding to continue the execution of the fourth man, but the whole regiment presented their arms. The revolt became general, and Trenck, still holding his drawn sabre, ran amidst them, hacking about him on all sides. The excess of his rage was terrific; the soldiers all called "Hold!" each fell on their knees, and promised obedience. After this he addressed them in language suitable to their character, and from that time they became invincible soldiers whenever they were headed by himself. Let the situation of Trenck be considered; he was the chief of a band of robbers who supposed they were authorised to take whatever they pleased in an enemy's country, a banditti that had so often defied the gallows, and had never known military subordination. Let such men be led to the field and opposed to regular troops. That they are never actuated by honour is evident: their leader is obliged to excite their avidity by the hope of plunder to engage them in action; for if they perceive no personal advantage, the interest of the sovereign is insufficient to make them act.
Trenck had need of a particular species of officers. They must be daring, yet cautious. They are partisans, and must be capable of supporting fatigue, desirous of daily seeking the enemy, and hazarding their lives. As he was himself never absent at the time of action, he soon became acquainted with those whom he called old women, and sent them from his regiment. These officers then repaired to Vienna, vented their complaints, and were heard. His avarice prevented him from making any division of his booty with those gentlemen who constituted the military courts, thus neglecting what was customary at Vienna: and in this originated the prosecution to which he fell a victim. Scarcely had he entered Austria with his troops before he found an opportunity of reaping laurels. The French army was defeated at Lintz. Trenck pursued them, treated his prisoners with barbarity; and, never granting quarter in battle, the very appearance of his pandours inspired terror.
Trenck was a great warrior, and knew how to profit by the slightest advantage. From this time he became renowned, gained the confidence of Prince Charles, and the esteem of the Field-marshal Count Kevenhuller, who discovered the worth of the man. No partisan had ever before obtained so much power as Trenck; he everywhere pursued the enemy as far as Bavaria, carrying fire and sword wherever he went. As it was known Trenck gave no quarter, the Bavarians and the French flew at the sight of a red mantle. Pillage and murder attended the pandours wherever they went, and their colonel bought up all the booty they acquired. Chamb, in particular, was a scene of a dreadful massacre. The city was set on fire and the people perished in the flames; women and children who endeavoured to fly, were obliged to pass over a bridge, where they were first stripped, and afterwards thrown into the water. This action was one of the accusations brought against Trenck when he was prosecuted, but he alleged his justification.
The banks of the Iser to this day reverberate groans for the barbarities of Trenck. Deckendorf and Filtzhofen felt all his fury. In the first of these towns 600 French prisoners capitulated, although his forces were four miles distant; but he formed a kind of straw men, on which he put pandour caps and cloaks, and set them up as sentinels; and the garrison, deceived by this stratagem, signed the capitulation. The services he rendered the army during the Bavarian war are well known in the history of Maria Theresa. The good he has done has been passed over in silence, because he died under misfortunes, and did not leave his historian a legacy. He was informed that either at Deckendorf or Filtzhofen there was a barrel containing 20,000 florins, concealed at the house of an apothecary. Impelled by the desire of booty, Trenck hastened to the place, with a candle in his hand, searching everywhere, and, in his hurry, dropped a spark into a quantity of gunpowder, by the explosion of which he was dreadfully scorched. They carried him off, but the scars and the gunpowder with which his skin was blackened rendered his countenance terrific.
The present Field-marshal Laudohn was at that time a lieutenant in his regiment, and happened to be at the door when his colonel was burnt. Scarcely was Trenck cured before his spies informed him that Laudohn had plenty of money. Immediately he suspected that Laudohn had found the barrel of florins, and from that moment he persecuted him by all imaginable arts. Wherever there was danger he sent him, at the head of 30 men, against 300, hoping to have him cut off, and to make himself his heir. This was so often repeated that Laudohn returned to Vienna, where, joining the crowd of the enemies of Trenck, he became instrumental in his destruction. Yet it is certain that, in the beginning, Trenck had shown a friendship for Laudohn, had given him a commission, and that this great man learned, under the command of Trenck, his military principles. General Tillier was likewise formed in this nursery of soldiers, where officers were taught activity, stratagem, and enterprise. And who are more capable of commanding a Hungarian army than Tillier and Laudohn? I, one day said to Trenck, when he was in Vienna, embarrassed by his prosecution, and when he had published a defamatory writing against all his accusers, excepting no man,—"You have always told me that Laudohn was one of the most capable of your officers, and that he is a worthy man. Wherefore then do you class him among such wretches?" He replied, "What! would you have me praise a man who labours, at the head of my enemies, to rob me of honour, property, and life!" I have related this incident to prove by the testimony of so honourable a man, that Trenck was a great soldier, and a zealous patriot, and that he never took the King of Prussia prisoner, as has been falsely affirmed, and as is still believed by the multitude. Had such a thing happened, Laudohn must have been present, and would have supported this charge.
Bavaria was plundered by Trenck; barges were loaded with gold, silver, and effects, which he sent to his estates in Sclavonia; Prince Charles and Count Kevenhuller countenanced his proceedings; but when Field-marshal Neuperg was at the head of the army, he had other principles. He was connected with Baron Tiebes, a counsellor of the Hofkriegsrath who was the enemy of Trenck. Persecution was at that time instituted against him, and Trenck was imprisoned; but he defended himself so powerfully that in a month he was set at liberty. Mentzel, meanwhile, had the command of the pandours; and this man appropriated to himself the fame that Trenck had acquired by the warriors he himself had formed. Mentzel never was the equal of Trenck. Trenck now increased the number of his Croats to 4,000, from whom, in 1743, a regiment of Hungarian regulars was formed, but who still retained the name of pandours. It was a regiment of infantry. Trenck also had 600 hussars and 150 chasseurs, whom he equipped at his own expense. Yet, when this corps was reduced, all was sold for the profit of the imperial treasury, without bringing a shilling to account.