History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 5

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII.
AMERICA IN EUROPE. THE ARMED NEUTRALITY.
1778–1780.

FREDERIC of Prussia had raised the hope that he would follow France in recognising the independence of the United States; but the question of the Bavarian succession compelled him, in junction with Saxony, to stand forth as the champion of Germany; and in his late old age, broken as he was in everything but spirit, he stayed the aggressions of Austria on Bavarian territory, and on the liberty and the constitutions of the Germanic body. “At this moment the affairs of England with her colonies disappeared from his eyes.” To William Lee, who, in July 1777, had been appointed by congress its commissioner to treat alike with the emperor of Germany and the king of Prussia, and in March 1778 importuned the Prussian minister Schulenburg for leave to reside at Berlin as an American functionary, Frederic minuted this answer: “We are so occupied with Germany that we cannot think of the Americans: we should be heartily glad to recognise them; but at this present moment it could do them no good, and to us might be very detrimental.” He could not receive the prizes of the Americans in Embden, because at that harbor he had no means to protect them; their merchants were admitted to his ports on the same terms as the merchants of all other countries.

The British ministry, abandoning the scheme of destroying Prussian influence at Petersburg, sought to propitiate Frederic, as the best means of gaining favor in Russia; and authorized its minister at Berlin to propose an alliance. But Frederic was

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