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Central, Northern, and Eastern Europe; Rise of Russia and Prussia; the Seven Years' War; Russia and Turkey; the Partition of Pol page 3

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In 1758 Prince Ferdinand kept back the French, and Frederick, after some indecisive operations against the Austrian forces, marched to meet the Russians, now in the heart of his kingdom, and fought the battle of Zorndorf, near Frankfort-on-the-Oder. After a desperate struggle the enemy were defeated, and for a few months the east was rendered safe. The victor then.hastened into Saxony to encounter the Austrians under cautious Daun and Laudohn (or Loudon), who was the most enterprising of the Austrian generals. They attacked him, in one of his rare moments of carelessness, at dead of night in his camp at Hochkirchen, inflicting a severe defeat, with the loss of the brave Marshal Keith. Frederick soon repaired his losses, made a rapid and circuitous march past Daun's victorious army, passed into Silesia, and defeated a body of Austrians besieging Neisse, in the south of the country. The enemy were thus driven into Bohemia. Meanwhile Daun, in Saxony, attacked Dresden, which was desperately defended by the Prussian garrison. The suburbs had been burnt to the ground, when Frederick's swift return from Silesia caused the Austrians to retire. The campaign was over it was now November - and the king passed the winter at Breslau. In 1759 the Austrian troops were again in Saxony, and other forces were threatening Berlin. The Russians defeated the king's men on the Oder, menaced Silesia, and joined Laudohn. Both armies intrenched themselves strongly at Kunersdorf, east of Frankfort-on-the-Oder, and Frederick, hastening to attack them, incurred one of his worst reverses, with terrible loss in men and guns. Undismayed, the hero soon rallied his men and again faced the foe with 30,000 troops. Then disaster came fast on disaster. One Prussian general, with a large force, was captured at Maxen, in Saxony; another was defeated at Meissen, north-west of Dresden. At the end of the year Prussia seemed to be without further resources to maintain a contest against odds so overwhelming. The only success had been in the west, where Ferdinand of Brunswick, by the victory of Minden, in which British regiments played a glorious part, had ended all fear from France.

The year 1760 opened badly for the king's cause. Berlin was again occupied, with the plunder of .the palace. Silesia then became the scene of operations, and at Liegnitz, to the west of Breslau, Frederick gained a great victory over Marshal Laudohn. At Torgau, on the Elbe, north-east of Leipzig, after a fearful struggle, he defeated Daun. In 1761 success was varied, but matters went badly, on the whole, for the king. No great defeat was sustained, but his resources were near exhaustion. Laudohn captured, by surprise, the strong fortress of Schweidnitz, south-west of Breslau, and with this loss went half of Silesia, and the command of the chief passes through the mountains. The Russians defeated the king's forces in Pomerania; the country seemed utterly wasted. At this crisis, when utter ruin was in near prospect, a certain event changed the face of the struggle. Mr. Pitt (afterwards Lord Chatham) retired from office in England; and the Empress Elizabeth of Russia died. The withdrawal of Pitt menaced ruin to the Prussian cause, as he would never have deserted his ally. The new minister, Lord Bute, made peace with France, and gave up interest in Continental policy. The loss of Frederick's only friend was, however, more than compensated by the change of rulers in Russia. The new tsar, Peter III., was an admirer of the Prussian monarch. He withdrew his forces, restored Prussian prisoners, and sent 15,000 men as a reinforcement. Thus aided, the king soon recovered Silesia, defeated Daun at Buckersdorf, and retook Schweidnitz. When Peter of Russia was deposed and murdered, his successor, Catharine II., maintained peace with Prussia. France became neutral towards Germany, and the great coalition against Prussia was thus dissolved. Austria alone was in the field, and, being threatened in formidable force by Turkey on the south-east, she could not act alone against Prussia. The war was over. In Macaulay's words on Frederick's part in the struggle, "the whole Continent in arms had proved unable to tear Silesia from that iron grasp." In February, 1763, the Peace of Hubertusburg, in Saxony, left the Prussian king in possession of his conquest. He entered Berlin in triumph, after an absence of more than six years, passing along in an open carriage, with his able colleague in war, Ferdinand of Brunswick, at his side. His reception was such as to shake even his iron nerves. It was his task, and one fulfilled, on the whole, with admirable wisdom and success, to repair the fearful ravages of the Seven Years' War, during a reign protracted until 1786. The one great fact was that no debt had been incurred. Skill and rigid economy had enabled the king to pay his way throughout the contest, and the losses due to war were by degrees repaired.

We turn to a brief notice of Austrian affairs in the period between the conclusion of peace and the French Revolution. Joseph II., son of Maria Theresa, a man of excellent abilities and intentions, was emperor from 1765 to 1790, but in the Austrian dominions he had full power only after his mother's death in 1780. He at once began a revolutionary system of benevolent reforms, in accordance with the arbitrary philanthropic methods of the 18th century. His object was to establish, regardless of prescription and privilege, a strong, centralised, united state, and he succeeded in giving a new vitality to the monarchy, though none of his reforms survived him, with the important exceptions of the abolition of serfdom and the edict enjoining religious toleration. The clergy and the nobility, as privileged classes, were the objects of his hostility. In 1781 the edict was issued which granted freedom of worship to all Christian sects, and in the course of the reign nearly 700 monasteries were closed, with the dispersal of 36,000 members of religious orders. The Pope. (Pius VI.) vainly visited Vienna to oppose these proceedings. Attacks on the privileges of the nobles aroused great discontent, especially in Hungary and the Austrian Netherlands, and a revolt of the peasantry in Hungary, excited by the nobles, caused the withdrawal of the measures of reform.

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