Frederick William I., second king of Prussia, son of the preceding and Elizabeth, a princess of Hesse-Cassel, born in 1688, died May 31, 1740. He served in the allied army against France, and distinguished himself at the siege of Menin and the battle of Malplaquet. The new monarchy (dating from 1701) had been ungraciously recognized by the crowned heads of Europe, and the crown prince early conceived the design of making for Prussia a conspicuous place among the powers by means of an army. He ascended the throne Feb. 25, 1713, and by strict economy was enabled to maintain a peace establishment of 60,000, and at length of 72,000 men, being 1/30 of his subjects. His ruling mania was to form a corps of giant soldiers; and for this purpose his envoys ransacked the world. An Irishman measuring seven feet was induced to enlist by a cash bounty equivalent to $6,200, a sum much greater than a year's salary of the Prussian ambassador who found him in the streets of London. During a reign of 27 years Frederick William preserved uninterrupted peace for Prussia, with the exception of a short misunderstanding with Charles XII., and a little idle soldiering under Prince Eugene. In 1713 he had concluded with Sweden, during Charles's absence in Turkey, a treaty, the object of which was to preserve Swedish Pomerania from Russia and Saxony. In consideration of 400,000 thalers, Frederick received the cities of Stettin and Wismar, and was to mediate between the belligerents.
Charles, returning from Turkey, insisted on the restoration of Stettin, but refused to refund the money. Frederick promptly declared war, and took the field in person; and the result was the acquisition of Poraerania as far as the river Peene, with Stettin, and the islands at the mouth of the Oder, on payment of 2,000,000 thalers. The following characteristic speech was addressed by the king to his privy council when about to take the field for this war:As I am a man, and may therefore die of a shot, I command you to take good care of Fritz [the crown prince Frederick, then three years old]; and I give all of you, my wife to begin with, my curse, if you do not bury me at Potsdam in the church vault there, without feasting and without ceremony." The wife of this amiable husband, Sophia Dorothea of Hanover, bore ten children; among whom the eldest son (afterward Frederick the Great) and a daughter, Wilhelmina, incurred the ferocious hatred of the father. His son wrote of him: He had an industrious spirit in a robust body, with perhaps more capacity for minute details than any man that ever lived; and if he occupied himself with little things, it was that great results might be the consequence." His character was singularly full of contradictions.
He was at once just and cruel; parsimonious and liberal; a careful and a brutal father; a defender of Lutheranism and protector of Protestant refugees, yet punishing'metaphysicians with exile. But he liberally rewarded all who introduced any new art, and many of the greatest manufactories in Prussia owe their foundation to him. He also founded the medico-chirurgical college and two charitable institutions at Berlin, and an orphanage at Potsdam. He left to his son $6,000,000 surplus money, 72,000 soldiers, 2,240,000 subjects, and a territory of 45,000 square miles.-See Droysen's Friedrich Wil-helm I. (2 vols., Leipsic, 1869).