Frederick was fifty one years old, but he looked much older. Worry had creased his face, and if it would not have been for these large blue eyes, they would not have recognized him in Potsdam. He walked bent over, plagued by pains of rheumatism and gout. Although his looks were frail, his mind was razor sharp. He spoke in a short manner; and he seldom smiled. He had been away for six long years. His mother had died in 1757 and his beloved sister Wilhelmine had died in Bayreuth a year later. He was glad to be back in Sans Souci, where he sat for hours on the terrace looking down at the park. The beautiful evenings of years ago were gone forever; he still had concerts, but nothing was the same. He had trouble playing his flute, because his teeth had started to fall out. But slowly he turned his attention back to affairs of state. Almost one of the first things he did was to commission the building of the New Palais, a large pompous Palace in the park of Sans Souci. It was his way of showing Europe's monarchs that Prussia was not bankrupt after seven long years of war. The construction work, which took six years, also provided work for many masons and artisans. In the spring of 1764 a building boom began, and three years later 21000 destroyed houses had been rebuilt. Within five years 175 new villages were erected in Silesia, which had room for 75000 people. It was slow work to populate these parts of Prussia, in all it took about twelve years. He did everything humanly possible to get Prussia back on its feet. His striving was without any doubt for the welfare of his state and his people.
In 1740 there were ten coal mines in Silesia. During the next four decades the number rose to fifty. He increased production of the steel industry in Westfalen, and he implemented military exemption for all miners, that the work force was always at full strength. From all this not only the state profited, it was also for the benefit of the Prussian people. Frederick decreed that it was forbidden to import any goods, which could be manufactured in Prussia. he had founded the Royal Porcelain Works, which became famous throughout Europe and is still a prosperous enterprise today. At the end of his reign Berlin was the largest textile city in Germany. After the completion of the opera house, several theaters were built, followed by the construction of the St. Hedwig Cathedral and the Prince Heinrich Palais, which today is the main building of the Humboldt University. The street "Unter den Linden" was enlarged and the nearby Tiergarten became a park for everyone to enjoy.
Most other European nations had to deal with terrible famines. Frederick had seen to it, that in all the provinces surpluses were stored. He also turned his attention to the building of schools, Protestant and Catholic, and he looked into proper education for teachers. Teachers were relatively unknown until then; in most villages the minister or priest oversaw the education of the children.
As enlightened and free-thinking Frederick thought of himself, he never interfered in anyone's religious conviction. Every one praised his tolerance. As a child I had to learn in school that Frederick was fond of saying "Jeder soll auf seine Art seelig werden" (Everyone should find his salvation in his own way). Perhaps this tolerance contributed in some way to Frederick's greatness. Historians tell us that his claim to greatness does not rest on his victories in battle because they were matched by the agony of the defeats he suffered. It lies in part for Frederick's ability, when on the brink of disaster, to generate new resources and against all odds, turn events back in his favor, showing determination as well as dignity in adversity.