not, on the strength of my knowledge of them, to trifle:
But his principal achievement in Brandenburg History is his recovery of the Province called the Neumark to that Electorate. In the thriftless Sigismund times, the Neumark had been pledged, had been sold; Teutsch Ritterdom, to whose dominions it lay contiguous, had purchased it with money down. The Teutsch Ritters were fallen moneyless enough since then; they offered to pledge the Neumark to Friedrich, who accepted, and advanced the sum: after a while the Teutsch Ritters, for a small farther sum, agreed to sell Neumark. [Michaelis, i. 301.] Into which Transaction, with its dates and circumstances, let us cast one glance, for our behoof afterwards. The Teutsch Ritters were an opulent domineering Body in Sigismund's early time; but they are now come well down in Friedrich II.'s! And are coming ever lower. Sinking steadily, or with desperate attempts to rise, which only increase the speed downwards, ever since that fatal Tannenberg Business, 15th July, 1410. Here is the sad progress of their descent to the bottom; divided into three stages or periods:--
"PERIOD FIRST is of Thirty years: 1410-1440. A peace with Poland soon followed that Defeat of Tannenberg; humiliating peace, with mulct in money, and slightly in territory, attached to it. Which again was soon followed by war, and ever again; each new peace more humiliating than its foregoer. Teutsch Order is steadily sinking,--into debt, among other things; driven to severe finance-measures (ultimately even to 'debase its coin'), which produce irritation enough. Poland is gradually edging itself into the territories and the interior troubles of Preussen; prefatory to greater operations that lie ahead there.
"SECOND PERIOD, of Fourteen years. So it had gone on, from bad to worse, till 1440; when the general population, through its Heads, the Landed Gentry and the Towns, wearied out with fiscal and other oppressions from its domineering Ritterdom brought now to such a pinch, began everywhere to stir themselves into vocal complaint. Complaint emphatic enough: 'Where will you find a man that has not suffered injury in his rights, perhaps in his person? Our friends they have invited as guests, and under show of hospitality have murdered them. Men, for the sake of their beautiful wives, have been thrown into the river like dogs,'--and enough of the like sort. [Voigt, vii. 747; quoting evidently, not an express manifesto, but one manufactured by the old Chroniclers.] No want of complaint, nor of complainants: Town of Thorn, Town of Dantzig, Kulm, all manner of Towns and Baronages, proceeded now to form a BUND, or general Covenant for complaining; to repugn, in hotter and hotter form, against a domineering Ritterdom with back so broken; in fine, to colleague with Poland,--what was most ominous of all. Baronage, Burgherage, they were German mostly by blood, and by culture were wholly German; but preferred Poland to a Teutsch Ritterdom of that nature. Nothing but brabblings, scufflings, objurgations; a great outbreak ripening itself. Teutsch Ritterdom has to hire soldiers; no money to pay them. It was in these sad years that the Teutsch Ritterdom, fallen moneyless, offered to pledge the Neumark to our Kurfurst; 1444, that operation was consummated. [Pauli, ii. 187,--does not name the sum.] All this goes on, in hotter and hotter form, for ten years longer.
"PERIOD THIRD begins, early in 1454, with an important special catastrophe; and ends, in the Thirteenth year after, with a still more important universal one of the same nature. Prussian BUND, or Anti-Oppression Covenant of the Towns and Landed Gentry, rising in temperature for fourteen years at this rate, reached at last the igniting point, and burst into fire. February 4th, 1454, the Town of Thorn, darling first-child of Teutsch Ritterdom,--child 223 years old at this time, ["Founded 1231, as a wooden Burg, just across the river, on the Heathen side, mainly round the stem of an immense old Oak that grew handy there,--Seven Barges always on the river (Weichsel), to fly to our own side if quite overwhelmed"
"War hereupon, which blazed up over Preussen at large,--Prussian Covenant and King of Poland VERSUS Teutsch Ritterdom,--and lasted into the thirteenth year, before it could go out again; out by lack of fuel mainly. One of the fellest wars on record, especially for burning and ruining; above '300,000 fighting-men' are calculated to have perished in it; and of towns, villages, farmsteads, a cipher which makes the fancy, as it were, black and ashy altogether. Ritterdom showed no lack of fighting energy; but that could not save it, in the pass things were got to. Enormous lack of wisdom, of reality and human veracity, there had long been; and the hour was now come. Finance went out, to the last coin. Large mercenary armies all along; and in the end not the color of money to pay them with; mercenaries became desperate; 'besieged the Hochmeister and his Ritters in Marienburg;'--finally sold the Country they held; formally made it over to the King of Poland, to get their pay out of it. Hochmeister had to see such things, and say little. Peace, or extinction for want of fuel, came in the year 1466. Poland got to itself the whole of that fine German Country, henceforth called 'WEST Preussen' to distinguish it, which goes from the left bank of the Weichsel to the borders of Brandenburg and Neumark;--would have got Neumark too, had not Kurfurst Friedrich been there to save it. The Teutsch Order had to go across the Weichsel, ignominiously driven; to content itself with 'EAST Preussen,' the Konigsberg-Memel country, and even to do homage to Poland for that. Which latter was the bitterest clause of all: but it could not be helped, more than the others. In this manner did its revolted children fling out Teutsch Ritterdom ignominiously to the dogs, to the Polacks, first of all,--Thorn, the eldest child, leading off or setting the example."
And so the Teutsch Ritters are sunk beyond retrieval; and West Preussen, called subsequently "Royal Preussen," NOT having homage to pay as the "Ducal" or East Preussen had, is German no longer, but Polish, Sclavic; not prospering by the change. [What Thorn had sunk to, out of its palmy state, see in Nanke's
It was in the second year of that final tribulation, marked above as Period Third, that the Teutsch Ritters, famishing for money, completed the Neumark transaction with Kurfurst Friedrich; Neumark, already pawned to him ten years before, they in 1455, for a small farther sum, agreed to sell; and he, long carefully steering towards such an issue, and dexterously keeping out of the main broil, failed not to buy. Friedrich could thenceforth, on his own score, protect the Neumark; keep up an invisible but impenetrable wall between it and the neighboring anarchic conflagrations of thirteen years; and the Neumark has ever since remained with Brandenburg, its original owner.
As to Friedrich's Pomeranian quarrel, this is the figure of it. Here is a scene from Rentsch, which falls out in Friedrich's time; and which brought much battling and broiling to him and his. Symbolical withal of much that befell in Brandenburg, from first to last. Under the Hohenzollerns as before, Brandenburg grew by aggregation, by assimilation; and we see here how difficult the process often was.