Difficulty, quasi-impossibility, on the French side, there evidently is, perhaps more than on any other. But Choiseul has many arts;--and his Official existence, were there nothing more, demands that he do the impossible now if ever. This Spring (26th March, 1761), to the surprise and joy of mankind, there came formal Proposal, issuing from Choiseul, to which Maria Theresa and the Czarina had to put their signatures; regretting that the British- Prussian Proposal of last Year had, by ill accident, fallen to the ground, and now repeating it themselves (real "Congress at Augsburg," and all things fair and handsome) to Britannic and Prussian Majesties. Who answered (April 3d) as before, "Nothing with more willingness, we!" [The "Declaration" (of France &c.), with the Answer or "Counter-Declaration," in Seyfarth,
And there actually did ensue, at Paris, a vivid Negotiating all Summer; which ended, not quite in nothing, but in less, if we might say so. Considerably less, for some of us. We shall have to look what end it had, and Mauduit will look!--Most people, Pitt probably among the others, came to think that Choiseul, though his France is in beggary, had no real view from the first, except to throw powder in the eyes of France and mankind, to ascertain for himself on what terms those English would make Peace, and to get Spain drawn into his quarrel. A Choiseul with many arts. But we will leave him and his Peace-Proposals, and the other rumors and futilities of this Year. They are part of the sound and smoke which fill all Years; and which vanish into next to nothing, oftenest into pure nothing, when the Years have waited a little. Friedrich's finances, copper and other, were got completed; his Armies too were once more put on a passable footing;--and this Year will have its realities withal.
Gotzkowsky, in regard to those Leipzig Finance difficulties, yields me a date, which is supplementary to some of the Archenholtz details. I find it was "January 20th, 1761,"--precisely while the Saldern Interview, and subsequent wreck of Hubertsburg, went on, --that "Gotzkowsky arrived in Leipzig," [Rodenbeck, ii. 77.] and got those unfortunate Seventeen out of ward, and the contributions settled.
And withal, at Paris, in the same hours, there went on a thing worth noting. That January day, while Icilius was busy on the Schloss of Hubertsburg, poor old Marechal de Belleisle,--mark him, reader!--"in the Rue de Lille at Paris," lay sunk in putrid fever; and on the fourth day after, "January 26th, 1761," the last of the grand old Frenchmen died. "He had been reported dead three days before," says Barbier: "the public wished it so; they laid the blame on him of this apparent" (let a cautious man write it, "apparent) derangement in our affairs,"--instead of thanking him for all he had done and suffered (loss of so much, including reputation and an only Son) to repair and stay the same. "He was in his 77th year. Many people say, 'We must wait three months, to see if we shall not regret him,'"--even him! [Barbier, iv. 373; i. 154.] So generous are Nations.
Marechal Duc de Belleisle was very wealthy: in Vernon Country, Normandy, he had estates and chateaux to the value of about 24,000 pounds annually. All these, having first accurately settled for his own debts, he, in his grand old way, childless, forlorn, but loftily polite to the last, bequeathed to the King. His splendid Paris Mansion he expressly left "to serve in perpetuity as a residence for the Secretary of State in the Department of War:" a magnificent Town-House it is, "HOTEL MAGNIFIQUE, at the end of the Pont-Royal,"--which, I notice farther, is in our time called "Hotel de CHOISEUL-PRASLIN,"--a house latterly become horrible in men's memory, if my guess is right.
And thus vanishes, in sour dark clouds, the once great Belleisle. Grandiose, something almost of great in him, of sublime,--alas, yes, of too sublime; and of unfortunate beyond proportion, paying the debt of many foregoers! He too is a notability gone out, the last of his kind. Twenty years ago, he crossed the OEil-de-Boeuf with Papers, just setting out to cut Teutschland in Four; and in the Rue de Lille, No. 54, with that grandiose Enterprise drawing to its issue in universal defeat, disgrace, discontent and preparation for the General Overturn (CULBUTE GENERALE of 1789)) he closes his weary old eyes. Choiseul. succeeds him as War-Minister; War-Minister and Prime-Minister both in one;--and by many arts of legerdemain, and another real spasm of effort upon Hanover to do the impossible there, is leading France with winged steps the same road.
Since March 17th, Friedrich was no longer in Leipzig. He left at that time, for Meissen Country, and the Hill Cantonments,-- organized there his little Expedition into Voigtland, for behoof of the Reichsfolk;--and did not return. Continued, mostly in Meissen Country, as the fittest for his many businesses, Army-regulatings and other. Till the Campaign come, we will remember of him nothing, but this little Note, and pleasant little Gift, to his CHERE MAMAN, the day after his arrival in those parts:--
TO MADAM CAMAS (at Magdeburg, with the Queen).