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Frederick Augustus I

FREDERICK AUGUSTUS I. (1750-1827), king of Saxony, son of the elector Frederick Christian, was born at Dresden on the 23rd of December 1750. He succeeded his father under the guardianship of Prince Xavier in 1763, and was declared of age in 1768. In the following year (January 17, 1769) he married Princess Maria Amelia, daughter of Duke Frederick of Zweibrücken, by whom he had only one child, Princess Augusta (born June 21, 1782). One of his chief aims was the reduction of taxes and imposts and of the army. He was always extremely methodical and conscientious, and a good example to all his officials, whence his surname "the Just." On account of the claims of his mother on the inheritance of her brother, the elector of Bavaria, he sided with Frederick the Great in the short Bavarian succession war of 1778 against Austria. At the peace of Teschen, which concluded the war, he received 6 million florins, which he employed partly in regaining those parts of his kingdom which had been lost, and partly in favour of his relatives. In 1785 he joined the league of German princes (Deutscher Fürstenbund) formed by Prussia, but without prejudice to his neutrality. Thus he remained neutral during the quarrel between Austria and Prussia in 1790. In the following year he declined the crown of Poland. He refused to join the league against France (February 7, 1792), but when war was declared his duty to the Empire necessitated his taking part in it. Even after the peace of Basel (April 5, 1795) he continued the war. But when the French army, during the following year, advanced into the heart of Germany, he was compelled by General Jourdan to retreat (August 13, 1796). He maintained his neutrality during the war between France and Austria in 1805, but in the following year he joined Prussia against France. After the disastrous battle of Jena he concluded a treaty of peace with Napoleon at Posen (December 11, 1806), and, assuming the title of king, he joined the Confederation of the Rhine. But he did not alter the constitution and administration of his new kingdom. After the peace of Tilsit (July 9, 1807) he was created by Napoleon grand-duke of Warsaw, but his sovereignty of Poland was little more than nominal. There was a kind of friendship between Frederick Augustus and Napoleon. In 1809 Frederick Augustus fought with him against Austria. On several occasions (1807, 1812, 1813) Napoleon was entertained at Dresden, and when, on his return from his disastrous Russian campaign, he passed through Saxony by Dresden (December 16, 1812), Frederick Augustus remained true to his friend and ally. It was only during April 1813 that he made overtures to Austria, but he soon afterwards returned to the side of the French. He returned to Dresden on the 10th of May and was present at the terrible battle of August 26 and 27, in which Napoleon's army and his own were defeated. He fell into the hands of the Allies after their entry into Leipzig on the 19th of October 1813; and, although he regained his freedom after the congress of Vienna, he was compelled to give up the northern part - three-fifths - of his kingdom to Prussia (May 21, 1814). He entered Dresden on the 7th of July, and was enthusiastically welcomed by his people. The remainder of his life was spent in repairing the damages caused by the Napoleonic wars, in developing the agricultural, commercial and industrial resources of his kingdom, reforming the administration of justice, establishing hospitals and other charitable institutions, encouraging art and science and promoting education. He had a special interest in botany, and originated the beautiful park at Pillnitz. His reign throughout was characterized by justice, probity, moderation and prudence. He died on the 5th of May 1827.

Bibliography. - The earlier lives, by C. E. Weisse (1811), A. L. Herrmann (1827), Pölitz (1830), are mere panegyrics. On the other side see Flathe in Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, and Böttiger-Flathe, History of Saxony (2nd ed., 1867 ff.), vols. ii. and iii.; A. Bonnefons, Un Allié de Napoléon, Frédéric Auguste, premier roi de Saxe ... (Paris, 1902); Fritz Friedrich, Politik Sachsens 1801-1803 (1898); P. Rühlmann, Offentliche Meinung ... 1806-1813 (1902). There are many pamphlets bearing on the Saxon question and on Frederick Augustus during the years 1814 and 1815.

(J. Hn.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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