Quotations by Frederick II (the Great)


When I find any officer that answers me with firmness, intelligence, and clearness, I set him down in my list for making of his service on proper occasions.

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
“Morning the Fourth: On Private Politics” The Confessions of Frederick the Great [ed. D. Sladen (1915)]

Full text.
Added on 23-Nov-09 | Last updated 23-Nov-09
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A brave colonel makes a brave battalion.

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
(Attributed)

Quoted in R.R. Palmer, "Frederick the Great, Guibert, Bulow: From Dynastic to National War," in E. Earle (ed.), Makers of Modern Strategy (1943)

Added on 2-Nov-09 | Last updated 2-Nov-09
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My people and I have come to an agreement which satisfies both. They are to say what they please, and I am to do what I please.

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
(Attributed)
Added on 9-Nov-09 | Last updated 9-Nov-09
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Prudence is very inclined to preserve what one possesses, but courage alone knows how to acquire.

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
(Attributed)
    (Source)

In Heinrich von Treitschke, The Life of Frederick the Great [tr. Sladen (1915)]
Added on 10-Oct-12 | Last updated 10-Oct-12
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Dogs, would you live forever?

[Kerls, wollt ihr ewig leben?]

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
(Attributed) (18 Jun 1757)

Rallying call to retreating Prussian troops at the Battle of Kolin.

Variants:

  • Rogues, would you live forever? [Ihr Racke, wollen sie ewig leben?]
  • Rascals, do you want to live forever? [Kerls, wollt ihr denn ewig leben?]

The phrase has been attributed to various commanders since.

Added on 29-Nov-09 | Last updated 29-Nov-09
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The world is like a game in which there are both honest and dishonest players, so that a prince who plays in this game must learn how to cheat, not in order to do it, but in order not to be the dupe of others.

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
Anti-Machiavel, ch. 18 (1740) [tr. Sonnino (1981)]
Added on 31-May-12 | Last updated 31-May-12
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Don’t forget your great guns, which are the most respectable arguments of the rights of kings.

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
Letter to his brother, Prince Henry (21 Apr 1759)
Added on 12-Oct-09 | Last updated 12-Oct-09
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All Religions are equal and good, if only the people that practice them are honest people; and if Turks and heathens came and wanted to live here in this country, we would build them mosques and churches.

[Alle Religionen sind gleich und gut, wenn nur die Leute, die sie praktizeren, ehrliche Leute sind; und wenn Türken und Heiden kämen und wollten das Lande pöpulieren, so wollen wir ihnen Moscheen und Kirchen bauen.] 

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
Note (1740)

On the question of whether a Catholic should be allowed to be a citizen of a Prussian city.
Added on 16-Nov-09 | Last updated 16-Nov-09
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By push of bayonets, no firing till you see the whites of their eyes.

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
Order (6 May 1757)

Before the Battle of Prague.
Added on 2-Apr-14 | Last updated 2-Apr-14
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It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects. … If possible, this must be prevented. My people must drink beer.

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
Proclamation (13 Sep 1777)
Added on 30-Oct-14 | Last updated 29-May-17
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Religions must all be tolerated and the state has to keep an eye that none of them shall derogate the other, because here everyone must find his salvation in his own way.

[Die Religionen müssen alle toleriert werden und der Fiscal muß nur das Auge darauf haben, dass Keine der Andern abruch tue, denn hier muß ein jeder nach seiner Fasson selig werden.]

Frederick II (1712-1786) King of Prussia (a.k.a. Frederick the Great)
Reply to his secretaries

On whether Catholic schools should be forbidden in Prussia, which was officially Lutheran. Alt trans.: "All religions must be tolerated ...; for in this country every man must get to heaven his own way."
Added on 26-Oct-09 | Last updated 1-Jul-10
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