All Western Europe was exhausted. Prussia most of all, where boys of fourteen had been conscripted, and farms had been devastated, and merchants had been ruined by the stifling of trade. Austria had more men than money, and had lost vital Russian aid. Spain had lost Havana and Manila to the English, and nearly all her navy had been destroyed. France was bankrupt, her colonies were gone, her commerce had almost disappeared from the sea. England needed peace to consolidate her gains.
On September 5, 1762, Bute sent the Duke of Bedford to Paris to negotiate a settlement with Choiseul. If France would yield Canada and India England would restore Guadeloupe and Martinique, and France might keep, with British consent, Frederick’s western provinces of Wesel and Gelderland.66 Pitt denounced these proposals with passionate eloquence, but public opinion supported Bute, and on November 5 England and Portugal signed with France and Spain the Peace of Fontainebleau. France gave up Canada, India, and Minorca; England restored to France and Spain her conquests in the Caribbean; France promised to maintain neutrality between Prussia and Austria, and to withdraw her armies from Prussian territory in western Germany. A further Peace of Paris (February 10, 1763) confirmed these arrangements, but left France her fishing rights near Newfoundland, and some trading posts in India. Spain ceded Florida to England, but received Louisiana from France. Technically these agreements violated Britain’s pledge against a separate peace; actually they were a boon to Frederick, for they left him with only two adversaries—Austria and the Reich; and he was now confident that he could hold his own against these disheartened enemies.
Maria Theresa resigned herself to peace with her most hated foe. All her major allies had abandoned her, and 100,000 Turks were marching into Hungary. She sent an envoy to Frederick, proposing truce. He accepted, and at Hubertusburg (near Leipzig), February 5—15, 1763, Prussia, Austria, Saxony, and the German princes signed the treaty that ended the Seven Years’ War. After all the shedding of blood, ducats, rubles, thalers, kronen, francs, and pounds the status quo ante bellum was restored on the Continent: Frederick kept Silesia and Glatz, Wesel and Gelderland; he evacuated Saxony, and promised to support the candidacy of Maria Theresa’s son Joseph as King of the Romans and therefore emperor-to-be. At the final signing Frederick’s aides congratulated him on “the happiest day of your life”; he replied that the happiest day of his life would be the last one.67
What were the results of the war? To Austria, the permanent loss of Silesia, and a war debt of 100,000,000 écus. The prestige of the Austrian rulers as traditional holders of the Imperial title was ended; Frederick dealt with Maria Theresa as ruler of an Austro-Hungarian, rather than a Holy Roman, Empire. The German princes of the Empire were now left to their resources, and would soon submit to the Prussian hegemony in the Reich; the Hapsburg power declined, the Hohenzollern power rose; the road was open for Bismarck. Patriotism and nationalism began to think in terms of Germany instead of each proudly separate state; German literature was stimulated to Sturm und Drang, and mounted to Goethe and Schiller.
Sweden lost 25,000 men, and gained nothing but debts. Russia lost 120,000 men to battle, hardship, and disease, but would soon reproduce them; she had opened a new era in her modern history by marching into the west; the partition of Poland was now inevitable. For France the result was enormous losses in colonies and commerce, and a near-bankruptcy that moved her another step toward collapse. For England the results were greater than even her leaders realized: control of the seas, control of the colonial world, the establishment of a great empire, the beginning of 182 years of ascendancy in the world. For Prussia the results were territorial devastation, thirteen thousand homes in ruins, a hundred towns and villages burned to the ground, thousands of families uprooted; 180,000 Prussians (by Frederick’s estimate68) had died in battle, camp, or captivity; even more had died through lack of medicine or food; in some districts only women and old men were left to till the fields. Out of a population of 4,500,000 in 1756, only 4,000,000 remained in 1763.
Frederick was now the hero of all Germany (except Saxony!). He entered Berlin in triumph after an absence of six years. The city, though destitute, with every family in mourning, blazed with illuminations to welcome him, and acclaimed him as its savior. The iron spirit of the old warrior was moved: “Long live my dear people!” he cried. “Long live my children!”69 He was capable of humility; in his hour of adulation he did not forget the many mistakes he had made as a general—he the greatest of modern generals excepting Napoleon; and he could still see the thousands of Prussian youths whose bloody deaths had paid for Silesia. He himself had paid. He was now prematurely old at fifty-one. His back was bent, his face and figure lean and drawn, his teeth lost, his hair white on one side of his head, his bowels racked with colic, diarrhea, and hemorrhoids.70 He remarked that now his proper place was in a home for elderly invalids.71 He lived twenty-three years more, and tried to redeem his sins with peaceful and orderly government.
Politically the main results of the Seven Years’ War were the rise of the British Empire, and the emergence of Prussia as a first-class power. Economically, the chief result was an advance toward industrial capitalism: those Gargantuan armies were glorious markets for the mass consumption of mass-produced goods; what client could be more desirable than one that promised to destroy the purchased goods at the earliest opportunity, and order more? Morally, the war made for pessimism, cynicism, and moral disorder. Life was cheap, death was imminent, suffering was the order of the day, pillage was permissible, pleasure was to be seized wherever it could for a moment be found. “But for this campaign,” said Grimm in Westphalia, 1757, “I should never have conceived how far the horrors of poverty and the injustice of man can be carried”;72 and they had only begun. The suffering helped, as well as hindered, religion: if a minority was turned to atheism by the stark reality of evil, the majority was moved to piety by the need to believe in the ultimate triumph of the good. A reaction to religion would soon come in France, England, and Germany. Protestantism in Germany was saved from destruction; probably, if Frederick had lost, Prussia would have experienced, like Bohemia after 1620, a compulsory restoration of Catholic faith and power. The triumph of imagination over reality is one of the humors of history.