Pufendorf: History of the Principal Kingdoms, 1700
Pufendorf discusses the decline of central power in the Holy Roman Empire (a process
which reached back to the 13th century).
Germany has its particular Form of Government, the like is not to be met withal in
any Kingdom of Europe, except that the ancient Form of Government in France came
pretty near it. Germany acknowledges but one Supreme Head under the Title of the Roman
Emperor; which Title did at first imply no more than the Sovereignty over the City of
Rome, and the Protection of the Church of Rome and her Patrimony. This Dignity was first
annexed to the German Empire by Otto I. but it is long ago since the Popes have
robbed the Kings of Germany of this Power, and only have left them the bare Name.
But besides this, the Estates of Germany some of which have great and potent
Countries in their possession, have a considerable share of the Sovereignty over their
Subjects; and though they are Vassals of the Emperor and Empire, nevertheless they ought
not to be considered as Subjects, or only as potent or rich Citizens in a Government; for
they are actually possessed of the supreme jurisdiction in the Criminal Affairs; they have
power to make Laws and to regulate Church Affairs, (which however is only to be understood
of the Protestants) to dispose of the Revenues rising out of their Own Territories; to
make Alliances, as well among themselves as with Foreign States, provided the same are not
intended against the Emperor and Empire; they may build and maintain Fortresses and Armies
of their own, Coin Money, and the like. This grandeur of the Estates, 'tis true, is a main
obstacle that the Emperor cannot make himself absolute in the Empire, except it be in his
Though it is certain that Germany within its self is so Potent, that it might be
formidable to all its Neighbours, if its strength was well united and rightly employed;
nevertheless this strong Body has also its infirmities, which weaken its strength, and
slacken its vigour; its irregular Constitution of Government is one of the chief causes of
From Samuel Pufendorf, An Introduction to the History of the Principal Kingdoms and
States of Europe (London: Thomas Newborough and Martha Gilliflower, 1700), p. 303.
Seckendorf: On Frederick William I
King Frederick William 1 (1713-1740) made possible the rise of Prussia through his
creation of an efficient army and bureaucracy. Seckendorf was the Austrian ambassador in
It is certain that nowhere in the world one can see troops comparable with the
Prussians for beauty, cleanliness, and order. Although in drill, training, and marching
much is forced and affected, nearly everything is useful and efficient. Besides, it must
be admitted that the army and the troops lack nothing that is needed. The soldiers number
70,000, and every regiment has at least a hundred more men than the normal figure. The
Arsenal is superabundantly provided with field artillery and siege artillery, and only the
teams are missing. Moreover, there is such an enormous store of powder, shot, and shells
as if a great war was threatening. In Berlin and all about Brandenburg one sees as many
troops moving as one saw in Vienna during the last war against the Turks. All this
activity is directed by the King in person, and only by him. Besides, he looks after the
whole public administration in all its branches With such care and thoroughness that not a
thaler [note: a monetray unit]is spent unless he has given his signature. Those who
do not see it cannot believe that there is any man in the world, however intelligent and
able he may be, who can settle so many things personally in a single day as Frederick
William the First, who works from 3 o'clock in the morning till 10, and spends the rest
of' the day in looking after and drilling his army....
Isaacsohn: History of the Prussian Civil Service
The absolute subordination of the Civil Service from the highest to the lowest,
their unquestioning obedience to the King, together with their absolute responsibility not
only for then- own actions, but also for those of their colleagues and their inferiors,
created among them an extremely strong sense of professional honour, solidarity, arid of'
professional pride. The influence of the nobility and of Society diminished unceasingly.
The service of the King required undivided attention.
The King's uniform, which every Civil Servant had to wear when on duty, kept the
feeling alive among them that they were the King's servants and had to represent the
King's interests. The power of the officials and their independence, in case they were
opposed by strong social influences, was increased by the fact that the officials were
strangers in the districts in which they were employed, for Frederick William continued
the policy of appointing only strangers to the district to official positions....
From The Foundations of Germany, J. Ellis Barker, trans. (New York: E. P. Dutton
and Company, 1916), pp. 11, 15.
Prince Frederick and Frederick William I
This is an exchange between Frederick William I with his 16-year old son, the later
From Prince Frederick
Wusterhausen, September 11, 1728.
I have not ventured for a long time to present myself before my dear papa, partly
because I was advised against it, but chiefly because I anticipated an even worse
reception than usual and feared to vex my dear papa still further by the favor I have now
to ask; so I have preferred to put it in writing.
I beg my dear papa that he will be kindly disposed toward me. I do assure him that
after long examination of my conscience I do not find the slightest thing with which to
reproach myself; but if, against my wish and will, I have vexed my dear papa, I hereby beg
most humbly for forgiveness, and hope that my dear papa will give over the fearful hate
which has appeared so plainly in his whole behavior and to which I cannot accustom myself.
I have always thought hitherto that I had a kind father, but now I see the contrary.
However, I will take courage and hope that my dear papa will think this all over and take
me again into his favor. Meantime I assure him that I will never, my life long, willingly
fail him, and in spite of his disfavor I am still, with most dutiful and childlike
respect, my dear papa's
Most obedient and faithful servant and son,
Frederick William: Reply
A bad, obstinate boy, who does not love his father; for when one does one's best,
and especially when one loves one's father, one does what he wishes not only when he is
standing by but when he is not there to see. Moreover you know very well that I cannot
stand an effeminate fellow who has no manly tastes, who cannot ride or shoot (to his shame
be it said!), is untidy about his person, and wears his hair curled like a fool instead of
cutting it; and that I have condemned all these things a thousand times, and yet there is
no sign of improvement. For the rest, haughty, offish as a country lout, conversing with
none but a favored few instead of being affable and popular, grimacing like a fool, and
never following my wishes out of love for me but only when forced into it, caring for
nothing but to have his own way, and thinking nothing else is of any importance. This is
From J. H. Robinson, Readings in European History (Boston: Ginn and Co., 1906),
Frederick II (1740-1786): Memoirs
When he became king, Frederick II expanded his dominions. A major achievement was
his seizure of Silesia from Austria, despite previous promises to respect Austria's
Posterity will perhaps see with surprise in these Memoirs accounts of treaties
which have been concluded and broken. Although examples of broken treaties are common, the
author of these Memoirs would require better reasons than precedent for explaining his
conduct in breaking treaties. A sovereign must be guided by the interest of the State. In
the following cases alliances may be broken:
(1) When one's ally does not fulfil his engagements;
(2) When one's ally wishes to deceive one, and when one cannot by any other means
(3) When necessity (force majeure) compels one;
(4) When one lacks means to continue the war.
By the will of Fate wealth influences everything. Rulers are slaves of their means. To
promote the interest of their State is a law to them, a law which is inviolable. If a
ruler must be ready to sacrifice his life for the welfare of his subjects, he must be
still more ready to sacrifice, for the benefit of his subjects, solemn engagements which
he has undertaken if their observance would be harmful to his people. Cases of broken
treaties may be encountered everywhere. It is not our intention to justify all breaches of
treaty. Nevertheless, I venture to assert that there are cases when necessity or wisdom,
prudence or consideration of the welfare of the people, oblige sovereigns to transgress
because the violation of a treaty is often the only means whereby complete ruin can be
To me it seems clear and obvious that a private person must scrupulously observe the
given word, even if he should have bound himself without sufficient thought....
The word of a private person involves in misfortune only a single human being, while
that of sovereigns can create calamities for entire nations. The question may therefore be
summed up thus: Is it better that a nation should perish, or that a sovereign should break
his treaty? Who can be stupid enough to hesitate in answering this question?
From The Foundations of Germary, J. Ellis Barker, trans. (New York: E. P.
(1740-1786):Essay on the Forms of Government
A sovereign must possess an exact and detailed knowledge of the strong and of the
weak points of his country. He must be thoroughly acquainted with its resources, the
character of the people, and the national commerce....
Rulers should always remind themselves that they are men like the least of their
subjects. The sovereign is the foremost judge, general, financier, and minister of his
country, not merely for the sake of his prestige. Therefore, he should perform with care
the duties connected with these offices. He is merely the principal servant of the State.
Hence, he must act with honesty, wisdom, and complete disinterestedness in such a way that
he can render an account of his stewardship to the citizens at any moment. Consequently,
he is guilty if he wastes the money of the people, the taxes which they have paid, in
luxury, pomp, and debauchery. He who should improve the morals of the people, be the
guardian of the law, and improve their education should not pervert them by his bad
Princes, sovereigns, and king have not been given supreme authority in order to live in
luxurious self-indulgence and debauchery. They have not been elevated by their fellow-men
to enable them to strut about and to insult with their pride the simple-mannered, the
poor, and the suffering. They have not been placed at the head of the State to keep around
themselves a crowd of idle loafers whose uselessness drives them towards vice. The bad
administration which may be found in monarchies springs from many different causes, but
their principal cause lies in the character of the sovereign. A ruler addicted to women
will become a tool of his mistresses and favourites, and these will abuse their power and
commit wrongs of every kind, will protect vice, sell offices, and perpetrate every
The sovereign is the representative of his State. He and his people form a single body.
Ruler and ruled can be happy only if they are firmly united. The sovereign stands to his
people in the same relation in which the head stands to the body. He must use his eyes and
his brain for the whole community, and act on its behalf to the common advantage. If we
wish to elevate monarchical above republican government, the duty of sovereigns is clear.
They must be active, hard-working, upright and honest, and concentrate all their strength
upon filling their office worthily. That is my idea of the duties of sovereigns.
From The Foundations of Germany, J. Ellis Barker, trans. (New York: E. P.
Dutton, 1916), pp. 22-23