Youth of the Great Elector - George Upton

The Message

Count Schwarzenberg gave a banquet in honor of the Prince, who accepted the invitation, although he had no sympathy with the Count, because his father desired him to do so. A sudden illness seized him at the table and he was taken home very sick. On the next day he felt better and soon recovered. It was whispered among the people that an attempt had been made to poison him. The Electoral Prince, they said, is the only survivor of his family who can enter upon the inheritance, and Schwarzenberg is the Emperor's favorite. Two other stories were also circulated. A man was said to have been discovered under the Prince's bed with a dagger. It was also said that an attempt had been made upon his life while he was hunting. These and similar stories passed from mouth to mouth, which had the effect to make the people more uncomfortable and wretched. At last the citizens of Berlin and Coln decided to send a message to the Prince. It read as follows:

"It is well known how greatly the country has been weakened and wasted by friend and foe, and that many officers have been sumptuously entertained though they had no commands, and have been paid large salaries, while under-officers and soldiers have had but scanty allowances and have been wretched and hungry. The outrages of the Elector's troopers have been so monstrous that neither horse, cow, ox, nor man was safe from them; and for that reason tillage in the best localities has been abandoned. Business has stopped; cities, towns, and villages are deserted, and for miles you will find neither men nor cattle nor even a dog or a cat. In spite of all this, heavy tribute has been levied and collected by military force. They have taken houses, farms, gardens, fields, and vineyards, and given them to officers who were exempt from levies. Berlin has paid immense sums monthly for the support of the Elector's troops, and Coln in proportion. The Swedes under Colonel von Debitz, after the Elector's troops had abandoned the roads to Landsberg, Frankfort, and Purstenwald, and left everything in the greatest disorder, invaded the residences and stripped them of almost everything. Merchants, trades-people, and travellers were robbed of their goods and property. Villages lay in ashes. The town-house servants, church and school teachers have not been paid. In short, Berlin and Coln have been reduced to poverty by fire, robbery, and oppression. Many have put an end to their wretched lives by water, the rope, or the knife; while others, taking wives and children, have forsaken their homes and are wandering about in wretched plight."

Burgsdorf handed this message to the Prince on the forenoon of the day it was received. He hoped that he would graciously receive the message, meet his friends, consult with them about the condition of the country, settle upon some plan of action for its relief, and afterwards lay it before the Elector, and especially insist upon Schwarzenberg's dismissal. But Burgsdorf had greatly deceived himself. The Prince, whose motto was the words of the Psalm "Lord, show me the way that I must go," had decided upon his homeward journey the position he would take at the Electoral Court. After reading the message he looked earnestly at Burgsdorf and said: "You know the story of Absalom, how he sat by the gate and did obeisance to all who came nigh to the King for judgment and stole the hearts of the men of Israel. Do you think these stories are unknown to me? I know also the story in which we are told how David met Saul, who would have killed him in the cave, and how some of David's friends bade him kill Saul. You ought to know these stories; but better still you ought to understand that mere knowing is of little use. 'Be it far from me,' said David, 'to lay my hand upon the Lord's anointed.' You seem astonished that I have referred to these past events. You certainly do not desire to make an attempt upon the life of the Prince of this country. But I say to you, 'Far be it from me to stretch out my hand against the country's anointed,' so take back the message. If my father seeks my advice, my word for the good cause shall not be lacking, so far as God gives me the power to perceive what is right."