The New International Encyclopædia/Hardenberg, Karl August, Prince
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Hardenberg, Karl August, Prince
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HARDENBERG, Karl August, Prince (1750-1822). A Prussian statesman, born at Essenrode, in Hanover, May 31, 1750. He was educated at Leipzig and Göttingen, and in 1776-78 traveled in France, Holland, and England. On his return to Hanover he became Councilor of the Privy Chamber, and was raised to the rank of count; but a private quarrel with a member of the royal family induced him, in 1782, to quit the Hanoverian service. He took up his residence at the Court of Brunswick, where the Duke appointed him, in 1787, president of the Council of State. Soon afterwards he was sent on a diplomatic mission to Frederick William II. of Prussia, who received him with marked distinction. In 1790 the Margrave of Ansbach and Bayreuth requested the Prussian monarch to furnish him with a person competent to administer the affairs of his dominions, and Frederick William recommended Hardenberg. When Ansbach and Bayreuth were united with Prussia in 1791, Hardenberg was appointed Minister of State and a member of the Cabinet. At the commencement of the war with France, the King summoned him to his headquarters at Frankfort-on-the-Main as administrator of the army. Early in 1795 he was sent to Basel, where on April 5th he concluded a peace between Prussia and the French Republic. After the accession of Frederick William III., Hardenberg was recalled to Berlin (1798), and was intrusted with the partial management of foreign affairs. In 1804 he became first Prussian Minister on the resignation of Haugwitz, and in this capacity endeavored to keep Prussia neutral in the war between France and England. Nevertheless, by the victory of Napoleon at Austerlitz, Prussia was compelled to enter into an alliance with Napoleon in the winter of 1805-06. Hardenberg was deprived of his office in April, 1806, and Haugwitz, who was friendly to the French, returned to power. Prussia was driven in the same year to take up arms against Napoleon. After the fatal battle of Jena, Hardenberg accepted the portfolio of Foreign Affairs, which he held for a few months only. Napoleon, who considered him the chief opponent of France in Prussia, demanding his dismissal at the Peace of Tilsit. In 1810 he was appointed Prussian Chancellor. Hardenberg now proceeded to carry out Stein's plan for a regenerated Prussia through the enactment of radical and far-reaching reforms. The victories of the British troops in the Spanish Peninsula, and the disasters that overwhelmed Napoleon's vast army in Russia, made it possible for Hardenberg to realize his patriotic efforts, and he had the satisfaction of seeing his plans crowned with success. The War of Liberation freed Prussia. Hardenberg subscribed to the Peace of Paris, May 30, 1814, and was soon after raised to the rank of prince by his sovereign. He accompanied the allied sovereigns to London and took part in the proceedings of the Congress at Vienna and in the conferences at Paris (1815). In 1817 he reorganized the Council of State, of which he was appointed president. He was present at the meetings of the monarchs of the Holy Alliance at Karlsbad, Laibach, Troppau, and Verona. His later policy showed reactionary tendencies, however, and lost him much of his previous popularity. During a tour through the north of Italy, he was taken suddenly ill at Pavia and died at Genoa, November 20, 1822. The services rendered by Hardenberg to his country were great; to him, next to Stein, Prussia is indebted for the improvements in her army system, the abolition of serfdom and feudal burdens, the throwing open of the civil service to all classes, and the complete reform of the educational system. Hardenberg's Memoirs, 1801-07, were suppressed until fifty years had elapsed, and were then edited with a biography by Ranke, Denkwürdigkeiten des Fürsten von Hardenberg (5 vols., Leipzig, 1877). Consult also: Klose, Leben Karl Augusts, Fürsten von Hardenberg (Halle, 1807); Meier, Die Reform der Verwaltungsorganisation unter Stein und Hardenberg (Leipzig, 1881); Seeley, Life and Times of Stein (London, 1879).