Robert Howard Lord.

The second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history online

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Oxford University Press





L Co




The diplomatic history of the Second Partition of Poland has
never hitherto been made the subject of a monograph. It has by
no means escaped attention, but it has always been treated as a
matter of secondary or collateral interest: it has been adduced
to explain the policy of the great Powers during the Eastern and
Northern wars of 1787-92, or in connection with the formation
and collapse of the First Coalition against Revolutionary France,
or again as a chapter in the long struggle between Poland and
Russia; it has not been studied as a whole, by and for itself.

The serious investigation of the diplomatic questions con-
nected with the Second Partition began in the sixth decade of
the last century with Hausser's Deutsche Geschichte (1854-57),
Herrmann's Geschichte des russischen Staates (vol. vi, i860), Zin-
keisen's Geschichte des osmanischen Reiches (vol. vi, 1859), and
Sybel's Geschichte der Revolutionszeit (1853 fL). The first three
of these works were based chiefly on the records of the Prussian
and Saxon archives and on private papers (particularly Diez's),
and, owing to the scantiness of their sources, they went very far
astray both in general conceptions and in matters of detail.
Greatly superior to all of them was Sybel's masterly work, espe-
cially in view of the corrections and additions made in the
successive editions through which it passed. In it most of the
questions that have since been debated were raised, and many
of them were practically settled. The '60s were rilled by a rather
acrimonious controversy between Herrmann and Sybel with re-
gard to the policy of Leopold II ; and a little later Sybel engaged
in lively polemics with Vivenot and Huffer about the falling-out
of Austria and Prussia over the Polish Question, and especially
about the character and policy of Thugut. Researches on all
these problems entered upon a new stage when towards 1870 the
Viennese archives were finally thrown open freely to scholars. In
the next twenty years investigations and publications of the


Austrian sources followed thick and fast. The predominant
interest, however, was usually in the Revolutionary War; and
the Polish Question, which had previously been brought forward
chiefly in order to cover either Austria or Prussia with ignominy,
ceased to attract much attention from German historians when
the political rivalry between Berlin and Vienna came to an end.
Of late years controversy in this field has centered chiefly about
the period of the Oriental crisis, and especially about the policy
of Hertzberg, although a few recent monographs (Schrepfer's and
Heidrich's, for instance), would seem to indicate a revival of
interest in the early Revolutionary period.

In Russia, the first important work on subjects connected with
the Second Partition was Blum's biography of Sievers (1853).
Some years later Smitt's Suworow (1858) and Solov'ev's History
of the Downfall of Poland (the Russian edition in 1863, the Ger-
man in 1865) gave the first accounts based on the documents of
the Russian archives, and brought to light a multitude of in-
valuable facts. Since the appearance of Kostomarov's Last Years
of the Polish Republic and Ilova'iski's Diet of Grodno (both in
Russian) in 1870, Russian historical writing on this subject has
virtually come to a standstill, although the publication of sources
in Russia has continued uninterruptedly — and on a scale seldom

For Polish historians the period of the downfall of the Republic
has always had an intense, if painful, fascination. If the older
writers (Lelewel, Schmitt, Bobrzynski, e. g.) intent chiefly upon
explaining the catastrophe according to the a priori ideas of the
' monarchist ' or the ' republican ' school, had contented them-
selves with a very inadequate knowledge of facts, Korzon's
elaborately documented and admirably scientific Internal History
of Poland in the Reign of Stanislas Augustus (1887) gave for the
first time a secure basis for judging the moral, economic, and
political forces of the nation in that crucial period. While Polish
scholars have busied themselves preeminently with the study of
domestic conditions, Kalinka, Dembinski, and Askenazy have
also made important contributions to the diplomatic history of
that age by extensive investigations in foreign archives.


At present the literature relating to the Polish crisis of 1788-93
and to the Second Partition is immense.

Of the various collections of printed sources, one of the most
important is Vivenot's Quellen zur Geschichte der deutschen Kaiser-
politik Oesterreichs, which, for the period from January, 1790
to April, 1793, contains many letters of the Austrian sovereigns;
practically all the extant protocols of the Staatsconjerenz; and
the more important ministerial reports (Vortrdge), dispatches to
the Austrian envoys, and reports of diplomats on special missions
(notably Spielmann's from Reichenbach and Luxemburg). Vive-
not's work has two considerable defects: he refused to print the
reports of the Austrian envoys, except in very rare cases; and he
gave to the affairs of the Holy Empire a quite disproportionate
amount of space — to the detriment of our knowledge of Austrian
policy in the Polish Question. Zeissberg, who continued Vivenot's
enterprise, has avoided both these faults, and his publication
leaves little to be desired in the matter of completeness.

Only second in importance to the Vivenot-Zeissberg compila-
tion are the numerous collections of letters of the Austrian mon-
archy and ministers of this period, published by Arneth, Beer,
Vivenot, B runner, and Schlitter. Austrian history can boast of
nothing in the way of memoirs, except for the somewhat dry
reminiscences of Philip Cobenzl and the very amusing ones of
the Prince de Ligne.

A publication of much importance for the policy of the North-
ern Courts is the supplementary volume of Herrmann's Geschichte
des russischen Staates, which contains a mass of excerpts from the
Prussian, Saxon, and English state papers bearing particularly
upon the Polish Question. It is a contribution for which one
must be grateful; but it is far from affording sufficient evidence
on most questions, and the choice of documents in many cases
seems arbitrary or even misleading. Fragments from the Prussian
archives are also found scattered in Ranke's and Sybel's works,
and in Dembinski's first volume to which reference will be made
below. The list of Prussian memoirs of interest for this period
is also very short: Massenbach's and SchliefTen's are the chief
ones that come into account, and, apart from a few valuable


letters, neither offers much that is important, and neither is
thoroughly reliable.

The first volume of Professor Dembinski's Documents relatifs
a Vhistoire du deuxieme et troisieme partage de la Pologne deals
with the period from 1788 to May 3, 1791, and contains chiefly:
(1) the correspondence of the Vice-Chancellor Ostermann with
the Russian ministers at Berlin and Vienna; (2) the correspon-
dence of the Prussian government with its envoys at St. Peters-
burg; (3) the private correspondence between Hertzberg and
Lucchesini. This is a contribution of the first importance, and
the continuation of this work will be awaited with eagerness.

Among the mass of sources printed in Russia the most notable
are: the correspondence and other papers of Catherine II pub-
lished in the C6ophhki> HimepaTopcKaro PyccKaro HcTopn^ecKaro C^mecTBa,
the PyccKaa Orapiraa and the Pyccirift ApxHBv, various papers and
letters of Potemkin in the periodical last mentioned; the invalu-
able correspondence of the brothers Vorontsov with Bezborodko,
Markov, Zavadovski, and others in the ApxHBt Kna3a BopomjoBa;
the papers of the Razumovski family published by Wassiltchikow;
and the protocols of the Council of the Empire in the ApsHBt
rocyjjapcTBeHHaro CoBiia. Martens' collection, the Traites de la Rus-
sie, adduces here and there a document, and meagre as it was,
being in French, it long remained one of the standard source-books
for the Russian policy of this time. The memoirs of Engelhardt,
Derzavin, and Langeron contain some interesting information,
especially with regard to the career of Potemkin; and one cannot
pass over in silence Khrapovitski's diary, which furnishes a
detailed chronicle of Catherine's doings and sayings in the years
1787 to 1789, but becomes somewhat scanty after the latter
date. It contains one story that has been conscientiously retold
by everyone who has written on the Empress' policy towards

Of sources relating exclusively to Polish affairs, the most im-
portant are: the Domestic Correspondence of Stanislas Augustus,
published by Zaleski (i. e., correspondence with Poles pertaining
to the domestic affairs of the country); the documents printed
by Kalinka in the second volume of his Last Years of the Reign


of Stanislas Augustus (the correspondence of the King with
Catherine, with Bukaty and Kicinski; the diary of Bulgakov,
the Russian envoy at Warsaw 1791-92); the curious and not
altogether trustworthy book called The Establishment and Over-
throw of the Polish Constitution of the Third of May, which con-
tains the apologia of the reforming party; and the memoirs of
Czartoryski, Oginski, Kozmian and others.

Of the secondary works that come into account here, Hausser's
and Herrmann's are for the most part antiquated, in so far as
the Polish Question is concerned. Sybel has the great merit of
having first shown the close connection and mutual interaction
between the French and the Polish crises, and of having first
defined the essential scope and character of the revolutionary
policy of Catherine II and the pacific and conservative policy of
Leopold. As was to be expected, however, in the case of one who
was breaking so much new ground, he fell into numerous errors in
matters of detail; he left many questions unexplored; he held
obstinately to various untenable views, even after it had been
clearly proved that he was in the wrong; and his pronounced
Prussian bias too frequently led him to pervert and distort facts
in a truly exasperating fashion. Of recent general works, Heigel's
Deutsche Geschichte is, perhaps, the most notable. It shows a sort
of reversion to Herrmann's point of view in its appreciation of
Leopold's attitude towards Poland. Heigel has, I think, placed
too much faith in the agreeable things that the Austrians saw
fit to tell the Prussian envoys.

Among works relating specially to Austria, Beer's study of
Leopold's Polish policy (in the volume Leopold II, Franz II und
Catherina. Ihr Briefwechsel) is the best account of this subject,
but, confined as it was to the narrow dimensions of an introduc-
tory essay, it was not by any means exhaustive nor altogether
accurate. There are no monographs on the era of Spielmann
and Cobenzl; and Thugut's storm-encircled figure still awaits a
proper biography.

Prussian policy has received much more attention. The period
from 1787 to 1790 has been minutely studied by Duncker,
Bailleu, Luckwaldt, Andreae, and the brothers Paul and F. C.


Wittichen. The events that led up to the Convention of Reichen-
bach have been exhaustively investigated — as far as Prussian
policy is concerned — by Sybel, Ranke, and Ritter. The Prus-
sian-Polish alliance of 1790 has lately found a brilliant historian
in Professor Askenazy of Cracow. The policy of Prussia towards
Austria, Poland, and France in 1792 is a subject on which the
conventional account (Sybel's) has long needed revision. This
want has been admirably met by Heidrich's recent book, Preussen
im Kampfe gegen die franzosische Revolution. By a more thorough
exploration of the Prussian archives than had yet been made, and
especially by the use of the rich collection of Lucchesini's papers
(secured by the Berlin Archive some years after Sybel's last
edition appeared), he has reached many new conclusions, and
above all has brought out clearly the essentially aggressive char-
acter of Frederick William's policy in that momentous year. I
had already reached views quite similar to his when Heidrich's
book appeared; and, apart from a number of questions of detail,
I have few objections to raise with him.

For Poland Kalinka's great work on the Four Years' Diet
(down to the Third of May) retains a considerable importance,
although his too pessimistic view of internal conditions has been
largely refuted by Korzon, and his fundamental ideas about
foreign policy have been sharply contested by Askenazy. Kal-
inka's magnum opus has found a not unworthy continuation in
Smolensky's Last Year of the Great Diet, which is written, how-
ever, from a very different point of view. Smolenski's Con-
federation of Targowica is distinctly inferior to his earlier work;
for instance, it leaves the origins of that unhappy movement
almost untouched.

Solov'ev's chapters on the events that led up to the Second
Partition are rich in documentary materials, but for several
reasons they leave very much to be desired. The author wrote
with too strong a nationalist bias (intelligible, perhaps, in a book
published in 1863); he was not always critically minded; he
knew little about the Austrian and Prussian side of the case; and
he often passed over things of the greatest importance with a
few vague sentences. Kostomarov concentrated his attention on


the internal affairs of Poland, and — through a sublime faith in
the veracity of Stackelberg's and Bulgakov's dispatches — pre-
sented a picture of unrelieved blackness. He dismissed the Parti-
tion Treaty with a sentence, and hurried with quite exasperating
haste through all the negotiations of Russia with the German
Powers. It is interesting to find him asserting that Catherine
aimed at a partition from the beginning of her action in Poland
in 1792; but he was as little able to offer proof of this as was
Solov'ev to establish the contrary.

In general, the mass of secondary works dealing with the
Polish crisis of 1 788-93 and the Second Partition seemed to have
the following defects.

There remained not a few gaps in our knowledge, especially in
regard to the policy of Russia and the origin and development of
the Austro-Prussian 'indemnity' plan. The period bristled with
controverted questions: one has only to recall the widely-diver-
gent or downright contradictory views of Sybel and Vivenot re-
garding the merits of the dispute between the two German
Powers; of Kalinka and Askenazy regarding the Prusso-Polish
alliance; of Solov'ev and Kostomarov regarding the aims of
Catherine II. It was also to be noted that, with very rare excep-
tions, the German historians who had dealt with this period, had
been unable to use works in the Slavic languages, and Solov'ev,
Vasil'cikov (Wassiltchikow), and Kalinka were the only im-
portant writers in Russian and Polish whose books had been
translated into Western tongues. The greatest part of the rich
publications in Russian and Polish had thus remained inacces-
sible to most Western scholars. On the other hand, Solov'ev and
Kostomarov were little acquainted with the German investiga-
tions in this field. It seemed necessary, therefore, to collate the
materials and the results that were to be obtained from both
sides. Furthermore, it appeared that while the Prussian official
documents had been very thoroughly studied, the Austrian and
still more the Russian archives deserved further exploration.

Above all, there was need of a synthetic presentation of the
whole course of events that led up to the Second Partition.
Although the Polish crisis of 1788-93 has the same sort of unity


as that of 1763-75, no one had attempted to treat the former as
a whole, in the way that Beer and Sorel have treated the latter.
And yet the Second Partition cannot be properly understood
when treated as a mere casual episode in the history of the
Revolutionary War, or simply as the result of a political ' deal '
arranged between the great Powers in 1792. In order to under-
stand it, one must follow the whole course of that brave venture
to regain national independence which was undertaken by the
Four Years' Diet in 1788; one must also study the fundamental
aims and ambitions, to which, in spite of many apparent changes
of ' system,' each of the neighboring Powers adhered tenaciously
throughout this crisis; and finally, one must trace the interaction
of these discordant ambitions through the astonishing vicissitudes
of five years of very complicated European politics. Hence it
appeared that what the existing literature dealing with the
Second Partition especially lacked was a comprehensive survey
of the development of the Polish Question from the time when
that question was re-opened in 1788 by the bold initiative of the
Great Diet down to the drastic resettlement of 1793, by which
the Poles were punished for their attempt to recover their inde-

To present such a comprehensive survey is the primary aim
of the present volume. I have attempted to follow with equal
attention the policy of each of the three great neighbors of the
Republic, as well as the course of affairs in Poland and such
events in the broader theatre of European politics as worked
back upon the Polish Question. I have attempted to utilize more
fully than has often been done in the past the results gained not
only by German and Austrian, but also by Russian and Polish
scholarship. For the most part, however, the present work is
based on the results of two years of researches in the Austrian,
Prussian, and Russian archives, researches which, if not exhaus-
tive, may, perhaps, fairly be termed more extensive than had
hitherto been made.

In the K. u. K. Haus-Hof-und Staatsarchiv at Vienna I had
the opportunity to use:


(i ) the correspondence (Expeditionen and Berichte) of the Austrian govern-
ment with its envoys at St. Petersburg (1788-93), Warsaw (1790-93),
Berlin (1790-93), London (1792-93), Dresden (1791-92), and Munich

(2) the Vortrdge (reports of the State Chancellery to the monarch and
protocols of the Staatsconferenz) for the years 1790-93;

(3) Spielmann's reports from his missions to Reichenbach and to the
Prussian army headquarters in 1792;

(4) the correspondence relating to Landriani's mission to Dresden, 1791-

(5) the private correspondence between Philip and Louis Cobenzl; be-
tween Kaunitz, Philip Cobenzl, and Spielmann; between Thugut
and Colloredo-Wallsee;

(6) the (unprinted) diary of Count Karl Zinzendorf.

In the Kgl. Preussisches Geheimes Staatsarchiv at Berlin I made
use of:

(1) the correspondence of the Prussian government with its envoys at
St. Petersburg, Vienna, and Warsaw for the years 1792-93, and, in
the case of the Warsaw legation, also the acts for the period July,
1788-October, 1789;

(2) the correspondence of the King and Hertzberg with various Polish
magnates, 1788-89;

(3) the acts relating to Bischoffwerder's three missions to Vienna in

(4) the reports of the cabinet ministry to the King, 1792-93;

(5) the correspondence of Lucchesini with the cabinet ministry, Bischoff-
werder, Schulenburg, Alvensleben, Haugwitz, Manstein, Jacobi, and

(6) the correspondence of Schulenburg with Haugwitz and the Duke of

In the Petrograd Archives of the Empire and of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs (rocy^apcTBeHHHH h neTporpa^cKiii ApxiiBH MannciepcTBa
nnocTpaiiHHXT. ^ixb) , I had the privilege of using :

(1) a mass of papers of the Empress Catherine II — notes, fragments
and comments — , her letters to Potemkin, P. A. Zubov, Bezborodko,
Ostermann, and Stackelberg (Rep. V and X) ;

(2) the papers of Potemkin, preserved in Rep. XI, 950;

(3) the correspondence of A. K. Razumovski with Markov; and various
minor series of documents.

In the Imperial Public Library at St. Petersburg, I had the
opportunity to go through the papers of the " Archives of V. S.
Popov", which contain a large number of letters and notes from


Bezborodko to Potemkin and Popov, and also the reports sent
by Potemkin's and Popov's correspondents at Warsaw from 1790

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 1 of 59)