|The main feature of Friedrich Wilhelm's internal policy was the establishment of a system of
permanent taxation, the revenue from which funded a strong, standing army. By the time the Great
Elector's grandson Friedrich Wilhelm I took power, the Prussian army amounted to 80,000 men, a
whole 4% of the population, in a system which kept many armed men as a highly trained citizen
army without damage to the economy. Half of the army was made up of foreign mercenaries, and
half were drafted from peasants throughout Prussia and Brandenburg. After training, they could
return to their homes and regular jobs for ten months a year. Nobles served, merchants were exempt.
East Prussia had been destroyed by plague and famine when Friedrich Wilhelm I took the throne.
He continued Prussia's tradition of giving refuge to countless religious and political refugees from
other regions of Europe, including our Salzburgers, and thereby repopulated the devastated land.
Upon his death, Friedrich Wilhelm I bequeathed a strong economy with a cash surplus and Europe's
best-trained army to his son, the future Friedrich the Great.
|A Short Background of East Prussia
|Brandenburg, one of seven Electorships of the Holy Roman Empire from the late medieval period,
was under the control of the Bavarian Wittelsbach family from 1323 until 1415 when it was granted
by Emperor Sigismund to the royal house of Hohenzollern. From the year 1442, Berlin became the
residence of the Hohenzollerns, and their dukes and electors eventually became Kings of Prussia.
East Prussia, along the southeastern coast of the Baltic Sea where it enclosed the bulk of lands of the
now-extinct old Prussians, was ruled by the Teutonic Order who since 1220 dotted the landscape
with castles at a distance of 20 miles from one another throughout the area and founded numerous
towns and fortresses, including Königsberg. The Knights eventually faced conflict with the newly
reunited Kingdom of Poland, and after several wars were defeated at the Battle of Grunwald in 1410.
Eastern, or "Ducal Prussia", was almost entirely German as a result of German settlers from the 13th
century on. Although it remained under the control of the Knights, it was a fief of Poland.
In prehistory, the east of the area was inhabited by the Eastern Balts. In time, the Western Balts
consolidated into the Old Prussian nation, while the Eastern Balts, including the "Curonians",
consolidated into part of Latvia and Lithuania. Parts of the Baltic region remained wilderness for
longer than anywhere else in Europe. About 350 BC Pytheas called the territory Mentenomon and
the inhabitants Guttones, neighbors of the Teutones. The territory was called "Brus" ("Prus") in an
8th century German map. Vikings penetrated into the area in the 7th and 8th centuries and many
were absorbed into the local population, especially in the bigger trade areas such as Truso and Kaup
where they were said to travel back and forth across the Baltic Sea. In expeditions launched by the
Vikings and Danes later, many areas in Prussia including Truso and Kaup were destroyed. The old
Prussian language belonged to the Western branch of the Baltic language group, but old Prussians
spoke a variety of tongues, including German, and some related to Latvian and Lithuanian.
All across East Prussia, the landscape was dotted by old castles of the Teutonic Knights. During the
siege of Acre in 1190, the Teutonic Order began as a hospital brotherhood to care for the many sick
German crusaders who were denied medical care from others. It was turned into a military-monastic
order in 1198, reflecting the involvement of the Hohenstaufen dynasty in the Holy Land. The order
conquered territory in the Holy Land, and then, under grandmaster Hermann von Salza, Eastern
Europe, where they rose to prominence. They were in Hungary by 1211-25.
After 50 years of war, the knights had subdued the pagan Prussians, who had risen in revolt
repeatedly and were now reduced to serfdom. The order allied themselves with the Polish dukes of
Masovia and Silesia to both subjugate the Prussians and fight against Novgorod.In the 13th century,
more German emigrants arrived to settle the Prussian lands, and the Order was now an
independently formed, noble political entity, and in 1243 and in 1263, the Pope allowed the knights
to monopolize the grain trade.
The Grand Master went to Venice after the fall of Acre in 1291, and then, after conquering
Pomerelia in 1309, to Marienburg in Prussia, absorbing the Sword-Brethren in Livonia whose
expansion had taken place further east. The knights administered their lands from Marienburg and
granted considerable freedom to the cities, many of which joined the Hanseatic League. The Order
was defeated in 1410 at Tannenberg by Poland and Lithuania, and after a revolt in its own territories
it became a vassal of Poland. Königsberg became the center of the order in 1457.
In 1525, the Hochmeister Albrecht of Brandenburg-Anspach became Lutheran and secularized the
Order's Prussian holdings into the duchy of Prussia. He resigned from the order and gave homage for
the duchy to the Polish king. In 1530, the seat of the Order was transferred from Marienburg to
Mergentheim. In Livonia, the Ordenmeister Livlands Gotthard von Ketteler followed suit in 1561 and
turned the order's remaining estates into the duchy of Kurland. Western, or "Royal Prussia" was left
under Polish control and provided with a corridor to the Baltic Sea. It was at this time that the port
city of Danzig was designated a "free city." The portion of Prussia on the Baltic Sea became a
hereditary duchy belonging to the Hohenzollern family and remained almost exclusively German. In
1618, the Hohenzollern line in Prussia died out and the duchy passed to a Hohenzollern cousin, the
Elector of Brandenburg. Brandenburg then further expanded its lands to include, among other
territories, the Duchy of Prussia in 1618 and the Duchy of Cleves in 1614. Since 1618, both
Brandenburg and Prussia ( Brandenburg- Prussia) were ruled by the Hohenzollerns.
Brandenburg was too widespread to defend itself properly during the Thirty Years' War, but after the
devastation, its brilliant leaders, the first being the Great Elector Friedrich Wilhelm I, managed to take
backwater Brandenburg to a pinnacle of power and prosperity in Europe. The capital was moved
from the town of Brandenburg to Potsdam and at this time, their dukes and electors became the
Kings of Prussia. With Frankish Nurnberg, Ansbach and the southern German Hohenzollerns, as well
as the eastern European connections to Berlin, the Hohenzollerns were one of the most important
and oldest royal families of Europe.
Problematically, there was a Polish region between the two German regions, and Brandenburg
acquired another stretch of Baltic coast in eastern Pomerania in 1648, bridging the territorial gap
between Brandenburg and ducal Prussia. In 1657, the elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg
succeeded in that year, through minor warfare and diplomacy, in severing the feudal link between his
duchy and the Polish kingdom. Poland conceded its loss of ducal Prussia in the treaty of Wehlau in
1657. With the peace of Oliva in 1660, the international community recognized Prussia as an
independent duchy belonging to Brandenburg.
This achievement enabled Friedrich Wilhelm's son, Friedrich III of Brandenburg, to achieve
prominence in 1700 when the Austrian emperor Leopold I needed his help in the War of the Spanish
Succession. Since there were no German kings within the Holy Roman empire apart from the
Habsburg kingdom of Bohemia, Leopold allowed Friedrich III to become Friedrich I, King of Prussia
and he was crowned as such in Königsberg in 1701. The Hohenzollern, as kings, attained greater
prestige and power in good part from the reforms of the administration and the army undertaken by
Friedrich Wilhelm, the Great Elector of Brandenburg from 1640 and continued by his son and
grandson, the first two Prussian kings.
|Friedrich III being crowned King Friedrich I of Prussia in 1701 in Königsberg Schloss, East Prussia
|Der Große Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm; Friedrich I. König in Preußen; Friedrich Wilhelm I
|THE SALZBURGERS: EAST PRUSSIA