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prospect presented itself of emancipating their country from the galling and oppressive yoke of an upstart tyrant.
Although it would be a pleasing task to follow the illustrious individuals of the house of Coburg through their various exploits, yet, in the present instance, the description of them would be irrelevant, excepting in those cases, in which Prince Leopold, the younger branch of the family, participated.
Previously to the French revolution, a German principality might be justly considered an imperium in imperio ; governed by their own laws, and according to their own political constitution, the little states presented an heterogeneous body of civilized governments, supported by an exhibition of military strength, which, when collected in one mass, was sufficient to repel invasion, and even. to carry victory into the heart of the invading country. Aggrandizement of territory has ever been the ruling, though secret principle of action of the German princes; and the wary despot, who at that time ruled the destinies of France, foresaw a favorable opening to the consummation of his ambitious views, in the clashing interests of the petty states of Germany; and he calculated that by creating dissensions amongst them, the weak would naturally fall a prey to the stronger, and the latter in its turn would fall a prey to him." The bait which was gilded with consummate art, was seized with avidity; the minor states were
gradually absorbed in the larger, and the ultimate conquest of the latter was the consequence.
Of all the governments existing at that time in Germany, the house of Coburg, possessing deeper penetration and foresight than the others, appeared the most unwilling to participate in the dismemberment of the Germanic states, and openly avowed its resistance to those measures which were then in the progress of execution; the whole weight of the tyrant's vengeance fell in consequence upon them, and no opportunity was suffered to escape by which their possessions could be despoiled, or misery inflicted upon any individual member of the family.
In the year 1806, the political affairs in the north of Germany presented the most disastrous aspect; the electoral states of the house of Brunswick had been taken possession of by Prussia, under the plea, that as it was obtained by right of conquest, by the Emperor Napoleon, the rightful possession of it had passed over to Prussia, in consideration of the cession of three of its provinces.
The French arms were every where victorious, and towards the close of the year, they approached the Saxon frontiers. At that period, Duke Francis of Coburg resided at Coburg with the younger branches of his family, among whom was Prince Leopold, then about fourteen years of age.
The brothers of Leopold, both actuated by a
martial spirit, and feeling for the degraded and humiliating state of their country, hastened to that quarter where their services might be attended with the greatest benefit. Ernest, the hereditary prince, had repaired to the Prussian head-quarters, and Ferdinand was actively employed in the Austrian service."
On the approach of the French armies, Duke Francis considered it prudent to retire from Coburg, and with his family repaired to Saalfeld. The amiable dispositions of Prince Leopold displayed themselves in this instance, in the most pleasing manner. The health of his father had been long in a declining state; and the present distressed and harassed situation, into which he was thrown by political events, increased his indisposition. From the affectionate care and attentions of his son Leopold, he received the greatest consolation under his afflictions; and the pleasure which he derived from his society, tended in no small degree to divert his mind from the contemplation of those objects which pressed so heavily upon it. His disposition partaking considerably of the hypochondriacal, it required the utmost assiduity on the part of Prince Leopold, to. prevent his parent from sinking into a state of despair; and he partially succeeded in his design, by divesting the events as they transpired of their sombre hue, and representing the great probability of a change in the existing state of affairs in Germany
: In the mean time victory followed the armies of France, and a besieging corps appeared before the gates of Saalfeld. No conditional surrender was accepted or even proposed; and the bloodthirsty enemy, actuated by a most diabolical spirit of revenge, and resolved to inflict the utmost horrors of war on the family of Coburg, stormed the castle. Although but a stripling, , Prince Leopold exhibited the most distinguished proofs of a daring spirit; and, he shewed that he possessed the native courage of his illustrious ancestors. In this contest it may be said, that his maiden sword was fleshed ;-the feelings of the patriot and of the son nerved his young arm ;-he fought for his country and for his parents, for his kindred and his home ;- nor did he yield the contest until every hope of victory had vanished, and the colours of the enemy were flying upon the ramparts. The ducal family escaped from the hands of their infuriated and revengeful enemy; but the loss of his possessions, joined to an accumulation of other severe misfortunes, operated too strongly upon the mind of the Duke, and in the following winter he found a refuge from his troubles in the grave.
The disastrous battle of Saalfeld forms a conspicuous figure in the history of the late wars; and, it was generally remarked, that less quarter was given by the enemy in this battle, than in any other which was fought. during that campaign.
With the history of the family of Saxe-Coburg Saalfeld is connected, in a particular degree, the versatile conduct of Prussia, which at that time began to shew itself. The coalition which had been formed against France, was connected by the most slender ties; and the extraordinary genius which at that time presided over her destinies, seized in the most adroit manner every opportunity by which they could be broken. There was no opposition to his projects, no collision with his interest. The decisions of his cabinet, or, more correctly speaking of his closet, instead of being obliged to wait the forms of slow deliberation, or the fluctuations of remote caprice, tending to dissipate the most valuable energies, sprang with all their bloom and freshness into immediate action. The adjustment of all his plans, the appointment of all his agents, depended solely upon himself. When to this circumstance, so calculated to simplify the working of the vast machine, to produce not counteraction but effective and complete co-operation, is added his profound knowledge of the machine itself; the success of this extraordinary man will appear less mysterious than many, who have thought it necessary to call in fortune or destiny to their assistance, have actually felt it. In the coalitions which he has had to encounter, this simplicity in the midst of complication, has in a great measure, doubtless, necessarily been deficient. Instead of being brought to bear with accumulated force against the enemy, one party