Online Encyclopedia

FREDERICK WILLIAM (162o—1688)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V11, Page 69 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
FREDERICK WILLIAM (162o—1688), elector of Brandenburg, usually called the " Great Elector," was born in Berlin on the 16th of February 1620. His father was the elector George William, and his mother was Elizabeth Charlotte, daughter of Frederick IV., elector palatine of the Rhine. Owing to the disorders which were prevalent in Brandenburg he passed part of his youth in the Netherlands, studying at the university of Leiden and learning something of war and statecraft under Frederick Henry, prince of Orange. During his boyhood a marriage had been suggested between him and Christina, after-wards queen of Sweden; but although the idea was ,revived during the peace negotiations between Sweden and Brandenburg, it came to nothing, and in 1646 he married Louise Henriette (d. 1667), daughter of Frederick Henry of Orange, a lady whose counsel was very helpful to him and who seconded his efforts for the welfare of his country. Having become ruler of Brandenburg and Prussia by his father's death in December 164o, Frederick William set to work at once to repair the extensive damage wrought during the Thirty Years' War, still in progress. After some difficulty he secured his investiture as duke of Prussia from Wladislaus, king of Poland, in October 1641, but was not equally successful in crushing the independent tendencies of the estates of Cleves. It was in Brandenburg, however, that he showed his supreme skill as a diplomatist and administrator. His'disorderly troops were replaced by an efficient and disciplined force; his patience and perseverance freed his dominions from the Swedish soldiers; and the restoration of law and order was followed by a revival of trade and an increase of material prosperity. After a tedious struggle he succeeded in centralizing the administration, and controlling and increasing the revenue, while no department of public life escaped his sedulous care (see BRANDENBURG). The area of his dominions was largely increased at the peace of Westphalia in 1648, and this treaty and the treaty of Oliva in 166o alike added to his power and prestige. By a clever but unscrupulous use of his intermediate position between Sweden and Poland he procured his recognition as independent duke of Prussia from both powers, and eventually succeeded in crushing the stubborn and lengthened opposition which was offered to his authority by the estates of the duchy (see PRUSSIA). After two checks he made his position respected in Cleves, and in 1666 his title to Cleves, Julich and Ravensberg was definitely recognized. His efforts, however, to annex the western part of the duchy of Pomerania, which he had conquered from the Swedes, failed owing to the insistence of Louis XIV. at the treaty of St Germainen-Laye in 1679, and he was unable to obtain the Silesian duchies of Liegnitz, Brieg and Wohlau from the emperor Leopold I. after they had been left without a ruler in 1675. Frederick William played an important part in European politics. Although found once or twice on the side of France, he was generally loyal to the interests of the empire and the Habsburgs, probably because his political acumen scented danger to Brandenburg from the aggressive policy of Louis XIV. He was a Protestant in religion, but he supported Protestant interests abroad on political rather than on religious grounds, and sought, but without much success, to strengthen Brandenburg by allaying the fierce hostility between Lutherans and Calvinists. His success in founding and organizing the army of Brandenburg-Prussia was amply demonstrated by the great victory which he gained over the Swedes at Fehrbellin in June 1675, and by the eagerness with which foreign powers sought his support. He was also the founder of the Prussian navy. The elector assisted trade in every possible way. He made the canal which still bears his name between the Oder and the Spree; established a trading company; and founded colonies on the west coast of Africa. He encouraged Flemings to settle in Brandenburg, and both .before and after the revocation of the edict of Nantes in 1685 welcomed large numbers of Huguenots, who added greatly to the welfare of the country. Education was not neglected; and if in this direction some of his plans were abortive, it was from lack of means and opportunity rather than effort and inclination. It is difficult to overestimate the services of the great elector to Brandenburg and Prussia. They can only be properly appreciated by those who compare the condition of his country in 164o with its condition in 1688. Both actually and relatively its importance had increased enormously; poverty had given place to comparative wealth, and anarchy to a system of government which afterwards made Prussia the most centralized state in Europe. He had scant sympathy with local privileges, and in fighting them his conduct was doubtless despotic. His aim was to make himself an absolute ruler, as he regarded this as the best guarantee for the internal and external welfare of the state. The great elector died at Potsdam from dropsy on the 9th of May 1688, and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Frederick. His personal appearance was imposing, and although he was absolutely without scruples when working for the interests of Brandenburg, he did not lack a sense of justice and generosity. At all events he deserves the eulogy passed upon him by Frederick the Great, " Messieurs; celui-ci a fait de grandes choses." His second wife, whom he married in r668, was Dorothea (d. 1689), daughter of Philip, duke of Holstein-Glucksburg, and widow of Christian Louis, duke of 'Brunswick-Luneburg; she bore him four sons and three daughters. His concluding years were troubled by differences between his wife and her step-son, Frederick; and influenced by Dorothea he bequeathed portions of Brandenburg to her four sons, a bequest which was annulled under his successor. See S. de Pufendorf, De rebus gestis Friderici Wilhelmi Magni (Leipzig and Berlin, 1733) ; L. von Orlich, Friedrich Wilhelm der grosse Kurfurst (Berlin, 1836) ; K. H. S. ROdenbeck, Zur Geschichte Friedrich Wilhelms des grossen Kurfursten (Berlin, 1851); B. Erdmannsdorffer, Der grosse Kurfurst (Leipzig, 1879); J. G. Droysen, Geschichte der preussisehen Politik (Berlin, 1855—1886) ; M. Philippson, Der g'rosse Kurfurst (Berlin, 1897—1903); E. Heyck, Der grosse Kurfurst (Bielefeld, 19o2); Spahn, Der grosse Kurfurst (Mainz, 1902); H. Landwehr, Die Kirchenpolitik des grossen Kurfiirsten (Berlin, 1894); H. Prutz, Aus des grossen Kurfursten letzten Jahren (Berlin, 1897). Also Urkunden and Aktensti cke zur Geschichte des Kurfursten Friedrich Wilhelm von Brandenburg (Berlin, 1864—19o2) ; T. Carlyle, History of Frederick the Great, vol. i. (London, 1858); and A. Waddington, a Grand Electeur et Louis XIV (Paris, 1905). FREDERICK-LEMAITRE, ANTOINE LOUIS PROSPER (t800–1876) French actor, the son of an architect, was born at Havre on the 28th of July 1800. He spent two years at the Conservatoire, and made his first appearance at a variety performance in one of the basement restaurants at the Palais Royal. At the Ambigu on the 12th of July 1823 he played the part of Robert Macaire in L'Auberge des Adrets. The melodrama was played seriously on the first night and was received with little favour, but it was changed on the second night to burlesque, and thanks to him had a great success. All Paris came to see it, and from that day he was famous. He created a number of parts that added to his popularity, especially Cardillac, Cagliostro and Cartouche. His success in the last led to an engagement at the Porte St Martin, where in 1827 he produced Trente ans, ou la vie d'un joueur, in which his vivid acting made a profound impression. Afterwards at the Odeon and other theatres he passed from one success to another, until he put the final touch to his reputation as an artist by creating the part of Ruy Blas in Victor Hugo's play. On his return to the Porte St Martin he created the title-role in Balzac's Vautrin, which was forbidden a second presentation, on account, it is said, of the resemblance of the actor's wig to the well-known toupet worn by Louis Philippe. His last appearance was at this theatre in 1873 as the old Jew in Marie Tudor, and he died at Paris on the 26th of January 1876. FREDERICKSBU'RG, a city of Spottsylvania county, Virginia, U.S.A., on the Rappahannock river, at the head of tide-waternavigation, about 6o m. N. of Richmond and about 55 M. S.S.W. of Washington. Pop. (1890) 4528; (1900) 5068 (1621 negroes); (1010) 5874. It is served by the Potomac, Fredericksburg & Piedmont, and the Richmond, Fredericksburg & Potomac railways, and by several coasting steamship lines. The city is built on a series of terraces between the river and hills of considerable height. The river is here spanned by iron; bridges, and just above the city is a dam 900 ft. long and 18 ft. high. By means of this dam and a canal good water-power is furnished, and the city's manufactures include flour, leather, shoes, woollens, silks, wagons, agricultural implements and excelsior (fine wood-shavings for packing or stuffing). The water-works, gas and electric-lighting plants are owned and operated by the municipality. At Fredericksburg are Fredericksburg College (founded in 1893; co-educational), which includes the Kenmore school for girls and the Saunders memorial school for boys (both preparatory) ; a Confederate and a National cemetery (the latter on Marye's Heights), a monument (erected in 1906) to General Hugh Mercer (c. 1720-1777), whose home for several years was here and who fell in the battle of Princeton; and a monument to the memory of Washington's mother, who died here in 1789 and whose home is still standing. Other buildings of interest are the old Rising Sun Hotel, a popular resort during Washington's time, and " Kenmore," the home of Colonel Fielding Lewis, who married a sister of Washington. The city was named_ in honour of Frederick, father of George III., and was incorporated in 1727, long after its first settlement; in 1871 it was re-chartered by act of the General Assembly of Virginia. The battle of Fredericksburg in the American Civil War was fought on the 13th of December 1862 between the Union forces (Army of the Potomac) under Major-General A. E. Burnside and the Confederates (Army of Northern Virginia)under General R. E. Lee. In the middle of November, Burnside, newly appointed to command the Army of the Potomac, had manoeuvred from the neighbourhood of Warrenton with a view to beginning an offensive move trom Fredericksburg and, as a preliminary, to seizing a foothold beyond the Rappahannock at or near that place. On arriving near Falmouth, however, he found that the means of crossing that he had asked for had not been forwarded from Washington, and he sat down to wait for them, while, on the other side, the Confederate army gradually assembled south of the Rappahannock in a strong position with the left on the river above Fredericksburg and the right near Hamilton's Crossing on the Richmond railway. On the loth of December Burnside, having by now received his pontoons, prepared to cross the river and to attack the Confederate entrenched position on the heights beyond the town. The respective forces were Union 122,000, Confederate 79,000. Major-General E. V. Sumner, commanding the Federal right wing (II. and IX. corps), was to cross at Fredericksburg, Major-General W. B. Franklin with the left (I. and VI. corps) some miles below, while the centre (III. and V. corps) under Major-General Joseph Hooker was to connect the two attacks and to reinforce either at need. The Union artillery took position along the heights of the north bank to cover the crossing, and no opposition was encountered opposite Franklin's command, which formed up on the other side during the 11th and 12th. Opposite Sumner, however, the Confederate riflemen, hidden in the gardens and houses of Fredericksburg, caused much trouble and considerable losses to the Union pioneers, and a forlorn hope of volunteers from the infantry had to be rowed across under fire before the enemy's skirmishers could be dislodged. Sumner's two corps crossed on the 12th. The battle took place next morning. Controversy has raged round Burnside's plan of action and in particular round his orders to Franklin, as to which it can only be said that whatever chance of success there was in so formidable an undertaking as attacking the well-posted enemy was thrown away through misunderstandings,and that nothing but misunder= standings could be expected from the vague and bewildering orders issued by the general in command. The actual battle can be described in a few words. Jackson held the right of Lee's line, Longstreet the left, both entrenched. Franklin,` tied by his instructions, attacked with one division only, which a little later he supported by two more (I. corps, Major-General J. F. Reynolds) out of eight or nine available. His left flank was harassed by the Confederate horse artillery under the young and brilliant Captain John Pelham, and after breaking the first line of Stonewall Jackson's corps the assailants were in the end driven back with heavy losses. On the other flank, where part of Longstreet's corps held the low ridge opposite Fredericksburg called Marye's Heights, Burnside ordered in the II. corps under Major-General D. N. Couch about 11 A.M., and thenceforward division after division, on a front of little more than Boo yds., was sent forward to assault with the bayonet. The " Stone Wall " along the foot of Marye's was lined with every rifle of Longstreet's corps that could find room to fire, and above them the Confederate guns fired heavily on the assailants, whose artillery, on the height beyond the river, was too far off to assist them. Not a man of the Federals reached the wall, though the bravest were killed a few paces from it, and Sumner's and most of Hooker's brigades were broken one after the other as often as they tried to assault. At night the wrecks of the right wing were withdrawn. Burnside proposed next day to lead the IX. corps, which he had formerly commanded, in one mass to the assault of the Stone Wall, but his subordinates dissuaded him, and on the night of the 15th the Army of the Potomac withdrew to its camps about Falmouth. The losses of the Federals were 12,650 men, those of the Con-federates 4200, little more than a third of which fell on Long-street's corps. See F. W. Palfrey, Antietam and Fredericksburg (New York, 1881) ; G. W. Redway, Fredericksburg (London, 1906) ; and G. F. R. Henderson, Fredericksburg (London, 1889).
End of Article: FREDERICK WILLIAM (162o—1688)
[back]
FREDERICK VIII
[next]
FREDERICK WILLIAM HERVEY

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.