Passing through France on his way to Vienna he had reached Strasburg on the German frontier, when an incident occurred which changed his prospects and gave a direction to his life different from what he intended, or could have anticipated. A review of the garrison of Strasburg being held, he presented himself on the field as a spectator, 'mounted on a superb English horse, and in the full uniform of his rank as a colonel of dragoons. The French officers were ea g er to make the acquaintance of a conspicuous stranger, the more so that his attendance at a review of French troops in full English uniform was regarded as an act of courtesy which deserved a return. Among those who entered into conversation with him was Prince Maximilian, nephew and presumptive heir of the Elector of Bavaria, and who had served as the commander of a French regiment in the American war. So agreeable was the impression which Thompson made on the prince, that on learning his circumstances and intentions, the later offered him an introduction to his uncle the Bavarian elector, in case he should be inclined to alter his design of proceeding to Vienna, and make trial of the Bavarian service. The proposal pleased Thompson, and, furnished with the prince's letter of introduction, he set out for Munich. Wherever he went he seems to have had the art, almost in spite of himself, of conciliating favor; and on his very first audience with the Elector of Bavaria, he was offered an important situation at court. Still clin g ing, however, to his resolution to visit Vienna, he did not accept the offer; but after spending some time at Munich, during which the elector's esteem for him increased more and more, he set out for the Austrian capital. The elector, however, continued to send him pressing invitations to enter his service; and learning at Vienna that the Turkish war was likely to be brought to a speedy conclusion, Colonel Thompson at length promised that, provided he could obtain the consent of his British majesty, he would take up his residence at Munich. Proceeding to London, in order to obtain the consent which was required, he was received with great kindness by George III, who conferred on him the honor of knighthood, and gave him permission, while resi g ning the command of his regiment, to retain the title of lieutenant-colonel, and the half-pay attached to it.
In the close of the year 1784, Sir Benjamin Thompson took up his residence in Munich, fillin g the posts of aid-de-camp and chamberlain to the elector, thus connected filling with the military and civil service. Charles Theodore, the ruling prince of Bavaria, was a man of enlightened mind, whose ambition was to elevate the state over which he reigned to a high rank among the various members of the German confederacy. The aristocracy of Bavaria itself not furnishing men of sufficient liberality of view to cooperate with him in his designs of improvement, and the prejudices of the court preventing him from employing able men from among the pee pie, even had there been any such qualified for his purpose, he had judiciously resolved to employ foreign talent in the difficult work of reforming his dominions. The capacity, therefore, in which Sir Benjamin Thompson took up his residence in Munich was that of a man who, unconnected by ties of blood or interest with the people of Bavaria, and furnished only with general ideas applicable to all times and places, was to make it his business, under the auspices of the elector, to take a general survey of the condition of Bavaria, with a view to rectify as much as possible of what was wrong in it. A more noble or responsible situation can scarcely be conceived and the dignity and responsibility will appear all the greater, when we reflect that the government of Bavaria, being, in its nature des potic, the powers of a man in Thompson's position - that, namely, of virtual though not ostensible prime minister - were almost unlimited, seeing that there were no constitutional forms, and nothing but the absolute will of the elector, to check or thwart his proceedings.
Another circumstance which rendered the situation of Sir Benjamin Thompson a peculiarly interesting one, was the position of Bavaria at the time. Most of those,' says Cuvier, who are called to power by adven titious circumstances, are led astray by the opinion of the vulgar. They know that they will infallibly be called men of genius, and be celebrated in prose and verse, if they succeed in changing the forms of government, or in extending the territory of their sovereign but a few additional leagues. Happily for Count Rumford, Bavaria at this period had no such temptations for her ministers. Her constitution was fixed by the laws of the empire, and her frontiers defined by the more powerful states who were her neigh bors. She was, in short, reduced to that condition which most states consider so hard a one - namely, to have her whole attention confined to the sole object of ameliorating the fortune of her people. The whole attention of Sir Benjamin Thompson, therefore, was necessarily to be concentrated on the internal condition of Bavaria - a country about the size of Scotland, but considerably more populous.