View Full Version : The elusive Political Testament of Frederick II

Dominique R. Poirier
07-02-2007, 01:37 PM
Has anyone ever read essays on political and military affairs written by Frederick II of Prussia (aka “the Great”)?

Some of his works on politics and military affairs are still worthy of interest.
The problem is that some of them are pretty hard to find nowadays.

Would someone be willing to help me?

If so I provide you with further information.

In 1752, Frederick II finished is Political Testament. The original title is Testament Politique; for, Frederick II mastered the French tongue and wrote nearly all his books in this language. He expressed contempt toward German language because his native tongue didn’t reach its maturity and richness in his time.
Excerpts from the Political Testament may be found here and there on the web or in many books dedicated to history; as in the enlightening Makers of Modern Strategy, by Derwent Whittlesey, for example.
But, unless I missed something, it seems a priori impossible to find a copy of the integral text of this book on the web or in any famous library you would obviously think about!

Some copies of Frederick II’s books on modern power, including the Political Testament, were later found on generals captured by the troops of the French Emperor Napoleon 1st. Actually, Frederick wrote two political testaments. The first was written in 1752; and the second in 1768. But they were first published in full by Volz in 1920 (I don't know whether this "Volz" is an editor or an authors's name), when at least dynastic secrets could be safely revealed. However, they then disappeared from nearly all libraries and were never published again since then, seemingly.

Just in case, any traces of the Political Testament are conspicuously missing in the monumental Works of Frederick the Great, in 31 vol. (1846-57), and in Posthumous Works of Frederickk II, by T. Holcroft, trans. (London, 1789), which is logical however since this book was still a secret document in those earlier times. But there is not even a single word making allusion to this rare bird in the History of Friedrich II of Prussia, in 20 vol., written by Thomas Carlyle. I have spotted an available copy online of the Political Testament on the website of North Park University, two years ago, but the link was already broken when I tried it.

Such a conundrum!

For those who might be interested in Frederick's other works on military affairs, here is a link directing to online copies of Military Instructions, and Particular Instructions of the King of Prussia to the Officers of his Army, and Especially Those of the Cavalry, equally written by Frederick II, and translated by Lieutenant Colonel T. Foster.


Thank you.