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A Defence of the Hessians   By: (1835-1921)

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Reprinted from "The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography." July, 1899.



[In a pamphlet printed in Melsungen and published in Cassel in 1879 under the title of "Frederick the Second and Modern History, a Contribution to the Denial of the Fairy Stories as to the Pretended Sale of Soldiers by Hessian Princes, with a New View of Seume's Statements," there is quite a full defence of the Hessians and their service in America under the British flag. As it is a second and enlarged edition, it must have found readers, although I do not think I have ever seen any notice of this somewhat novel view. It may not be without interest to students of history to have a brief summary and statement of the defence of the Hessians and their princes, who ever since our Revolutionary War have been the subjects of obloquy and treated with lofty scorn and contempt.]

The Seven Years' War had enlisted England's rich help in men and money. A powerful army of one hundred thousand men, composed of English soldiers, of twenty four thousand Hessians, of Hanoverians and Brunswickers, enabled Frederick of Prussia to continue a resistance which otherwise he could not have maintained for two years. The North German states were not Prussian vassals, but allies of England for a hundred years, on the basis of common political aims. Hesse, as the stronghold of the Protestants of North Germany, had been in close alliance with England at a time when Brandenburg was little thought of. The ancient military glory of Hesse during the Thirty Years' War was so great that Gustavus Adolphus on landing in Germany had asked for a Hessian, Colonel Falkenburg, as military governor of Magdeburg. For a century and a half Hessian soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder with the English troops, mainly against France. That they should again act together in America was not more surprising than that the Sardinian Italians should coƶperate with the French in the Crimea. The same statesmanlike wisdom was shown in Cassel and in Turin, and led to a like result. The little Hesse of 1866 must not be confused with the old Hesse, which was an important factor in German politics. In almost every war of the last century Hesse had taken part with its army of twenty four thousand men, an important contingent at that time and one that made Hesse the object of many invitations to close alliance. In the Seven Years' War, England joined Frederick the Great, so, too, did the Hessians and the other German allies. It fared badly with Hesse, repeatedly it was overrun and often held by the French, while its army was serving in Westphalia and Hanover; the Elector died away from his home and was succeeded by his son; none of the eastern provinces of Prussia suffered like Hesse.

The Elector Frederick had been educated on the Rhine, and shortly before the outbreak of the Seven Years' War was the guest of the Archbishop Elector of Cologne. Political honors have been made the reason of the Elector of Saxony's change of his Protestant faith that he might secure the throne of Catholic Poland. Vanity and want of patriotic pride have led German princesses to win Russian husbands at the sacrifice of their Protestant faith, while no Russian princess has ever given up her church for the sake of a foreign husband. Frederick of Hesse changed his religion from purely personal reasons and in perfect honesty. It was long concealed from his father, a strong Protestant, ruling the church in the spirit of his ancestor Maurice. An accident revealed the secret, and violent was the anger of the sturdy Protestant father. At first he wanted to exclude his son from the succession, but this required an appeal to the Emperor, who naturally would refuse. The elder prince then, with the approval of his Parliament, made a close alliance with England, and this added to the security of his son's English marriage... Continue reading book >>

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