A great sovereign must know exactly what the strong and weak points of his country are. He must be well acquainted with its resources and the national commerce. The sovereign must perform his duties connected to his offices with care. Fredrick William II would say, he is “the principle servant of the state”; therefore, he must act unselfishly, honestly and with wisdom. “The sovereign stands to his people in the same relation in which the head stands to the body.” (Barker, p22)
Fredrick William I reined from 1713 to 1740. When he came to power Prussia was only broken territories, so his goal was to make Prussia a country. Four achievements marked his reign. He decreased the expenses of the court and strengthened his military to eighty thousand soldiers because he believed that the key to a country’s wealth was its military. Eighty percent of Prussia’s income was used to build up this military. Fredrick I became known as the “soldier king” because of his fondness in military display. His military became one of the largest in Europe. He wanted an intimidating army so only tall men were hired. Some men were even kidnapped from their homes by Fredrick’s agents. The tallest men in the army were said to be about nine feet tall. He developed the Prussian government into a very efficient centralized organization. Fredrick I took charge of the chief offices, central and local government. He also introduced measures to improve Prussia’s economy by improving agriculture. He tried to make education compulsory for children but did not enforce it. Fredrick William I had a son Fredrick William II-future Fredrick the Great. He trained his son to become a good soldier and a thrifty administrator.
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His son was displeasing to him though, because he showed more interest in literature and music than in his fathers great army. Once the prince turned eighteen he decided to run away to England; but his plan was discovered so he was arrested, imprisoned and temporarily deprived of his status as crowned prince. Fredrick William I believed in harsh discipline so he also forced his son to witness the execution of his two confederates in addition to his punishment. Once his son began to apply himself diligently to fiscal and military affairs and consented to marry Elizabeth Christine, daughter of Fernand Albert II of Brunswick in 1733, he was reinstated to his position as crowned prince of Prussia. Although the soldier king did not gain much territory for Prussia, he worked hard on economic practices and left plenty of money in the states treasury.
Fredrick William II was also known as Fredrick the Great. He was said to be one of the greatest of the Enlightened Despots. Fredrick II was enlightened in three ways. He did not allow government officials to take money. He did not allow his subjects to be tortured and he had religious toleration. He was an absolute ruler, and he lived as though he was the “first servant of the state.” He did not rule by his personal desires, but with the guidance of what was beneficial for Prussia. It seemed like he was everywhere at once, he checked the work of his officials constantly. New methods of agriculture and manufacturing were introduced under his rule. Marshes were drained to provide new land for cultivation and the institution of serfdom was liberalized to an extent. The efficiency plus the size of the army was increased noticeably also. Fredrick II saw a chance to unify Prussia geographically by taking over the Austrian province of Silesia and immediately planned an invasion. He wanted Silesia because it had 1,000,000 people which was half the size of his nation and more people means more money. Fredrick the Great built Prussia into one of the strongest nations in Europe.
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