Robert Howard Lord.

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

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Poles of this. As for the project of alliance, Lucchesini was
ordered to restrain the ardor of his Polish friends, since only
the events of the Eastern war could allow Prussia to make a
final decision. 2

The time for a final decision seemed, indeed, to be close at
hand. The general situation in the summer of 1789 was such
as to challenge Prussia to action. To all the older sources of
embarrassment from which the Imperial Courts had been suffer-
ing, there was now added the Revolution at Paris, which robbed
them of their one possible new ally, and entirely freed the hands
of their enemies; while the growing internal troubles of Austria —
the danger of rebellions in Belgium, Galicia, and Hungary —
together with the mortal illness of Joseph II, threatened com-
pletely to paralyze the energies of the Hapsburg Monarchy.
Under such circumstances, what glittering prospects opened up
before the King of Prussia, with his untouched resources, his well-
filled treasury, his numerous allies, his army of 200,000 of the
best troops in Europe ! " The events of ten centuries," Lucchesini

1 Flathe, Die V erhandhingen iiber die dcm Kurfiirsten Friedrich August III von
Sachsen angebotene Thronfolge in Polen, p. 7.

2 Hertzberg's reflections on the Polish proposals are set forth in his report to
the King of July 9, and the rescripts to Lucchesini of July 10 and 20, B. A., R. 9, 27.
H. to F. W., July 9: "V. M. nc peut jamais permettre selon ses veritables interets
que le throne devienne h£r6ditaire en Pologne, a. moins que l'Autriche ne sorte
entierement de ce royaume, et que V. M. ne recoive un tel aggrandissement
et accroissement de puissance qui La mette entierement en surety du cot6 de la
Pologne, puisque ce Royaume gouvern£ par un Roi hereditaire deviendroit trop
dangereux pour la Prusse."



declared, " could not bring about a situation more favorable to
Prussia for putting the last touch upon her aggrandizement." 1

Even Hertzberg, whose learned combinations had so long held
the Prussian sword in the scabbard, was now — rather suddenly
— seized with a fever for action. He proposed that the King,
on going to Silesia for the annual reviews, should gather two army
corps and then present to the belligerent Powers in the form of
an ultimatum a scheme for the general pacification based upon
the sacrosanct ' grand plan.' Hertzberg may, not improbably,
have thought that a mere military demonstration would suffice
to secure the general acceptance of his terms; but if the Imperial
Courts refused, then Prussia should strike, at least at Austria;
with the aid of the Turks and Poles the business would be finished
by winter, and Prussia raised to the pinnacle of earthly grandeur.
Seldom had the old minister aroused himself to such a pitch of
impetuous energy, and never had he seen success so nearly within
his grasp.

But now, for the first time, the King eluded him. At the
royal headquarters in Silesia other counsels prevailed. The de-
cision was doubtless due in large part to the influence and in-
trigues of England, which had never relished Hertzberg's schemes
of aggrandizement, and which was now moving heaven and earth
to prevent the outbreak of a general European conflagration.
Moreover, the Prussian generals declared with one accord that
the season was too far, and the military preparations not far
enough, advanced to permit of striking a blow that year. Freder-
ick William personally was ready enough to go to war in his own
good time, but he did not propose to do so merely in order to
obtain an exchange of provinces rather advantageous to Austria.
' He could not bring himself,' he said, 'to do so little harm to his
natural enemy.' 2 Never very enthusiastic about the Hertzberg
plan, he now seemed to have made up his mind to abandon it for
something more practicable. >

The plan that the King adopted in its stead was: to await the
expected rebellions in Belgium, Hungary, and Galicia; to con-

1 Lucchesini to Hertzberg, August 27, 1789, Dembinski, op. cit., i, p. 405.

2 Lucchesini to Hertzberg, August 30, 1789, Dembinski, op. cit., i, p. 407.


elude an alliance with the Porte; to keep the Poles ready to act
and the Swedes from making peace; to complete Prussia's own
hitherto inadequate military preparations, and then in the spring,
with the aid of all these allies, to deliver a crushing attack upon
the Emperor. Whatever may be thought of the morality of it,
this program, compared with the Hertzberg system of ' parti-
tions and exchanges,' ' equivalents ' and ' compensations,' seems
like a return* to sane and practical politics. It had something of
the spirit of Frederick the Great. If only the King had the energy
and the will-power to conduct the grand venture in Frederick's
manner, the " opportunity of ten centuries" would not have come
in vain. Hertzberg, however, was inconsolable at the overthrow
of his idolized scheme and the loss of the "unique moment" of the
summer. Henceforth there appears an ever-growing divergence
between the views of the minister, still clinging to his 'grand plan'
and perpetually devising new combinations for realizing at least
a part of it, and the projects of the King, who was bent not so
much on making acquisitions as on settling once for all with
Prussia's ' natural enemy.' Henceforth Prussia was to have on
more than one occasion two policies, the King's and Hertzberg's,
and sometimes even a third, an awkward combination of these
two. 1

At first, however, Prussia started off bravely enough on the
new course. Immediately after the King's return from Silesia,
orders were sent to Diez at Constantinople to conclude an offen-
sive and defensive alliance with the Porte, and to promise that
Prussia would take up arms the following year. 2 Gustavus III
was encouraged to persevere in his lonely struggle by a substantial
loan, coupled with assurances that Prussia would induce England
to send a fleet to the Baltic and might even consent in good time
to a Swedish alliance. 3 Negotiations were started for an alliance
with Poland; and by underground channels the malcontents of

1 In Appendix IV there will be found an enumeration of the authorities for this
episode of the summer of 1789, and some discussion of controversial points.

2 Zinkeisen, op. cit., vi, p. 740.

3 Wahrenberg, " Bidrag till historien om K. Gustaf Ill's sednaste regeringsar,"
in Tidskrift for Litteratur, 185 1, pp. 336 ff.


Belgium, Hungary, and Galicia were invited to prepare for
Armageddon. 1

Frederick William's warlike resolutions were only strengthened
by the events of the autumn. In October the revolt began in the
Austrian Netherlands; by the end of the year the Imperialists
had been virtually driven from the country; in January, 1790,
the Congress at Brussels proclaimed the independence of ' The
United States of Belgium.' On the other hand, the Turks, who
had come through the previous campaign tolerably well, now met
with a series of crushing reverses: the great defeats of Focsani
(August 1) and Rimnic (September 22), the fall of Bender, Aker-
man, and Belgrade, and the total loss of the Danubian Principali-
ties. After such disasters it was only too probable that the
discouraged Ottomans would make peace at once, unless the
King of Prussia speedily came to the rescue.

Driven on by the most imperative and pressing orders from
Berlin, Diez at last brought his negotiation to a successful con-
clusion. On January 31, 1790, the Prusso-Turkish alliance was
signed. Prussia pledged herself to declare war on both the Im-
perial Courts in the coming spring, and not to lay down arms
until the Turks had recovered, not only all they had lost during
the present war, but also the Crimea. In return the Porte
promised to exert itself, at the time when peace should be con-
cluded, to procure the restitution of Galicia to Poland and to
obtain substantial advantages for Prussia. 2 This treaty produced
a tremendous sensation throughout Europe, and not a little
mortification even at Berlin, where it was found that Diez had
wildly overstepped his instructions, especially with regard to the
Crimea. Nevertheless, the King was well content, for at last he
was sure of the Turks, and the cornerstone of his great offen-
sive coalition was laid. Not long afterwards the Prusso-Polish
alliance also came into existence.

1 Herrmann, op. cit., vi, p. 282; Van de Spiegel, Resume des negotiations, etc.,
pp. 16 ff. and 61 ff.; Blok, Geschiedenis van het N ederlandsche Volk, vi, pp. 513 ff.;
Bailleu, " Herzog Karl August, Goethe, und die ungarische Konigskrone," in
Goethe- J ahrbuch, xx (1899), pp. 144-152; Krones, Ungarn unter Maria Theresa und
Joseph II, pp. 51 f.

2 This treaty is printed in Martens, Recueil de Traites des Puissances de V Europe,



For some months during the autumn Hertzberg had delayed
a formal negotiation with the Republic by every device his in-
genuity could suggest. If the minister had had his way, the
alliance would probably never have been made. But the Poles
grew continually more impatient, Lucchesini more insistent, and
Frederick William more ardent for " the alliance and war." x
At last, on December 10, 1789, a letter was communicated to the
Diet, in which the King of Prussia formally promised to conclude
an alliance as soon as the terms could be agreed upon. The sole
condition that he attached to it was that the Poles should put
through certain reforms in their constitution, since he saw "more
advantage in a well-ordered government in Poland which would
assure the political existence of the nation, than in an army of
300,000 men under a state of things that exposed the country to
constant revolutions and changes." The Diet, roused to en-
thusiasm, made haste to act upon this suggestion. A new con-
stitution, avowedly imperfect but designed to meet the emergency
and to strengthen the hand of the government, was rushed
through in remarkably quick time and with still more remarkable
unanimity (December 23). Meanwhile the Deputation of For-
eign Interests was authorized to negotiate an alliance, not only
with Prussia but also if possible with England. 2

It was an historic moment, the apogee of the Prusso-Polish
honeymoon. Never before nor later were the two sides so nearly
at one in purposes, desires, and aspirations. The King of Prussia

iv, pp. 466 ff.; Hertzberg, Recueil, iii, pp. 36-43; Angeberg, Recueil des Traites et
Conventions concernant la Pologne, pp. 216-220.

1 Hertzberg to Lucchesini, December 1, 1789: " Le roi, qui veut a present a
tout priz alliance et guerre . . . ," Dembinski, op. cit., i, p. 419. Very instructive
for Hertzberg's attitude is his " Denkschrift iiber das zwischen Preussen und Polen
im Jahre 1790 geschlossene Bundniss," in Schmidt's Allgemeine Zcitschrift fiir
Geschichte, vii, pp. 261-271.

2 Kalinka, Der polnische Reichstag, i, pp. 641 ff.; Askenazy, op. cit., pp. 57 f.
The proposal for an alliance subsequently made at London received only an evasive
answer, as Pitt was too much occupied with other things and also fearful of Conti-
nental connections that involved a danger of war. See Bukaty to Ankwicz,
December 18, 1789 and February 16, 1790, Dembinski, op. cit., i, pp. 426 f. (notes).


believed that he had a real need of the Polish alliance in order
to complete his offensive coalition. He was probably sincere in
his professed wish to see a strong government in Poland, in order
that the Republic might prove an efficient confederate. The
mass of the Poles were eager for a treaty that promised security
against Russia, while the leaders of the Patriots, initiated into
the aggressive plans of Prussia, rejoiced in the prospect of a
glorious war, the recovery of Galicia, the restoration of Poland
to an honorable place in the political system of Europe. With
such dispositions on both sides, it might have seemed that the
conclusion of the alliance would be a short and easy matter.

The formal negotiation was begun at Warsaw in the last days
of December; and early in January, the draft of a treaty having
been put on paper, Lucchesini went off to Berlin to procure his
master's final instructions. Then, however, there came a painful
halt, and dangers loomed up that threatened to wreck the project.
The difficulty came, in the first place, from the King of Poland.
Stanislas Augustus was still profoundly convinced that salvation
lay only on the side of Russia, and he was haunted by Stackel-
berg's frequent warnings that the Empress would pardon any-
thing except an alliance with Prussia. How far he had bound
himself to the Russian ambassador, who had promised him the
payment of his enormous debts if he would thwart the obnox-
ious project, 1 it is difficult to say; at any rate, it is certain that
the King viewed the alliance with repugnance, and worked
against it as much as he dared.

As one means of checking the project, Stanislas secretly advised
the Imperial Courts to present declarations to the Diet that they
bore no ill will for all that had recently taken place in Poland,
and were themselves willing to conclude treaties of alliance with
the Republic, guaranteeing its independence and integrity.
Possibly such declarations might have had the desired effect;
but nothing could induce the proud lady in Petersburg to such

1 De Cache's report of February 6, 1790, as to Stackelberg's offer, V. A.,
Polen, Berichte. That the King gave the ambassador some kind of a promise to
place obstacles in the way of the alliance appears from the protocol of the Russian
Council of the Empire of January 7/18, 1790, Apx. Toe. Cob., i, p. 758.


an act of condescension. Austria, indeed, took up the King's
suggestion. At least, Kaunitz, keenly alarmed at the danger
threatening Galicia, approached the Polish minister at Vienna
with the rather abrupt offer of an Austro-Polish alliance on the
same terms as that which was to be concluded with Prussia.
But as this overture was not made public, the leaders at Warsaw,
rightly regarding it as a mere snare, returned an evasive answer
and avoided bringing the matter before the Diet at all. 1

While thus disappointed in the hopes he had based upon the
Imperial Courts, Stanislas Augustus had been more successful
with another device for thwarting the Prussian alliance. From
the beginning he had insisted that the alliance must be accom-
panied by a commercial treaty that would, at least to some extent,
free Polish trade from the enormous transit duties and other
restrictions imposed by Prussia. This was, indeed, a matter of
the utmost importance, in view of the fact that the vast bulk of
the foreign trade of the Republic had to pass through Prussian
territory, by the Vistula and the Oder or through Silesia; but
it involved delicate and complex questions which it would have
been wiser not to raise at such a time. The Patriotic leaders fully
realized how inopportune the demand for a commercial treaty
was; but the demand, which was certain to be popular, became
noised abroad, and they did not dare resist. Hence, when the
Polish proposals for the alliance went to Berlin, the commercial
question had been coupled with the political one. 2

All this was grist to Hertzberg's mill. He, too, wished to
combine the two sets of questions, because, in his pettifogging
way, he saw a chance to drive a sharp bargain and to prove once
more that for the aggrandizement of Prussia the pen was mightier
than the sword. He would sell the Poles the alliance and the
commercial treaty in return for the cession of Dantzic and
Thorn. Both Hertzberg and his master seem to have believed
that the Diet would make the sacrifice without too much

1 Kaunitz to L. Cobenzl, February 10 and 17, V. A., Russland, Exped., 1790;
the Deputation of Foreign Interests to Ankwicz, February 24, Museum XX.
Ossolinskich, MS. 516; Wegner, Dzieje dnia trzeciego i piqtego maja, pp. 320 f.

2 KaHnka, Der polniscke Reichstag, ii, pp. 20 ff. ; Askenazy, op. cit., p. 205.


murmuring : an error for which Lucchesini and the Polish envoys
at Berlin were probably responsible. 1

When at the end of February the Prussian minister returned
to Warsaw and presented his two treaties, including the demand
for Dantzic and Thorn, the impression was staggering. The
leaders of the Patriots were, indeed, ready to agree even to these
terms, realizing that the natural and inevitable desire of Prussia
for two cities enclosed in her own territory could not in the long
run be denied; but this mattered little, for no one dared come
out openly in defence of so violently unpopular a project. To
the rank and file of the so-called ' Prussian party,' it was a terrible
disillusionment to find the ' virtuous ' and ' disinterested '
Frederick William a veritable Shylock in disguise. If this was
the first sample of his ' generosity,' what might not be expected
of him in the future ? To the mass of the nation the idea of the
proposed cession was intolerable, because it would have seemed
like a new partition, and this time the more shameful because
voluntarily accepted. 2 In short, the partisans of the alliance were
thrown into consternation, while the ' Russians ' and ' Parasites '
triumphed, declaring that this was what they had always pre-
dicted. The Deputation of Foreign Interests did not venture
even to lay the Prussian terms before the Diet. Lucchesini did
not dare show himself. Sick with fever or chagrin, the envoy
shut himself up in his house and wrote home desperately, begging
for permission to drop the commercial treaty and the odious
conditions attached to it, assuring his Court that the Diet would
even rather give up the alliance than consent to sacrifice the
two cities. 3

Hertzberg, much ruffled at the inconceivable blindness of the
Poles to their ' true interests,' would probably have renounced

1 Lucchesini to Hertzberg, November 4 and 29, 1789, Dembinski, op. tit., i,
pp. 415 and 417; Hertzberg's Memoir in Schmidt's Zeitschrift, vii, p. 267.

2 Kraszewski, Polska w czasie trzech rozbiordw, ii, p. 287.

3 For the effect produced by the Prussian demands: Lucchesini to Hertzberg,
February 27, in Dembinski, pp. 423, f.; Lucchesini to Jacobi, March 20, B. A.,
R - 93, 33> de Cache's reports of March 2 and 6, V. A., Polen, Berichte, 1790; Aubert
(the French charge" d'affaires) to Montmorin, February 27 and March 3, Dembinski,
op. tit., 1, pp. 495-498; Engestrom, Minnen och Anteckningar , i, pp. 157 f.


the alliance rather than desist from his territorial claims, but the
King was not so minded. Through the latter's intervention,
Lucchesini was straightway given the orders he had asked for:
the commercial question was to be postponed, and the alliance
to be concluded at once. 1

By the time. these instructions reached Warsaw, the atmos-
phere there had already cleared. The evil effects of the Prussian
demands had by no means been obliterated; they remained to
taint this alliance from its birth; but the news of the Prusso-
Turkish treaty, the death of the Emperor Joseph, the exhortations
of the English, Dutch, and Swedish ministers, who held out the
prospect of admission to the Triple Alliance, and above all the
energetic exertions of the Patriotic leaders had combined to pro-
duce a marked revulsion of public opinion in favor of the great
project. 2

The demand for Dantzic and Thorn being now laid on the
shelf, the final arrangements were quickly pushed through. On
March 27 the Diet in secret session approved the proposed draft
of the alliance with little opposition. The 29th the instrument
was signed.

The treaty contained the usual guarantees of the respective
possessions of the contracting parties, although it was stated that
this should not exclude a future voluntary agreement about cer-
tain territorial questions now unsettled. This referred, of course,
to Dantzic and Thorn. In case either side should be attacked,
the other was bound to render military assistance: Poland with
8,000 cavalry and 4,000 infantry; Prussia with 14,000 infantry
and 4,000 cavalry. In case of extreme necessity either party was
bound to aid its ally with all its forces. Article VI, which later
acquired a mournful celebrity, ran: " If any foreign Power, by
virtue of any previous acts or stipulations or the interpretation
thereof, should seek to assert the right to interfere in the internal

1 For Hertzberg's attitude, cf. his above-cited "Denkschrift iiber das Biindniss,"
in Schmidt's Zeitschrift, vii, p. 267; Kalinka, Der polniscke Reichstag, ii, pp. 51 ff.

2 Kalinka, op. cit., ii, pp. 58 f.; Askenazy, op. cit., pp. 59 ff.; de Cache,
March 13, 17, 31, V. A., loc. cit.; Engestrom, loc.cit.; Hailes' report of April 29 in
Herrmann, op. cit., vi, p. 546; Stanislas Augustus to Bukaty, March 31, in
Kalinka, Ostalnie lata, ii, pp. 150 f.


affairs of the Republic of Poland, or of its dependencies [i. e.
Courland], at any time or in any manner whatsoever, His Maj-
esty the King of Prussia will first endeavor by his good offices
to prevent hostilities growing out of such a pretension; but if
these good offices should not prove effective and hostilities against
Poland result, His Majesty the King of Prussia, recognizing this
as a casus foederis , will then assist the Republic according to the
provisions of Article IV of the present treaty." So much for any
future attempt of Catherine II to revive the Russian guaran-
tee. Finally, both sides expressed their desire to conclude a
commercial treaty, but that matter was reserved for a future
time. 1

Thus that alliance with Prussia which the Patriot leaders had
hoped and worked for ever since the beginning of the Diet; the
alliance in which they saw the ' palladium of liberty,' the one
guarantee of their new-won independence, their one safeguard
against the reprisals and aggressions of Russia ; the alliance which
was to admit them to the great Federative System and restore
them to a secure and honorable place in Europe, had at last come
to be. That alliance had not been extorted from Prussia by mere
importunities, cajoleries, or ruses. Prussia had entered into it
voluntarily, in a spirit of comparative sincerity and amity. How-
ever much Hertzberg might writhe and rage, however much
Lucchesini might strive to give his reports from Warsaw a fine
Machiavellian flavor, the fact remained that at that time Fred-
erick William was really the friend of Poland. The King had
ardently desired the alliance; he wished to see the Poles reform
their government and strengthen their army; he favored their
plan of securing to the Elector of Saxony the succession to the
throne; he contemplated admitting the Republic to the Triple
Alliance. 2 All this, of course, was not because of any particular

1 The treaty of alliance of March 29, 1790, is printed in Martens, Recueil, iv,
pp. 471 ff.; Hertzberg, Recueil, iii, pp. 1-8; Angeberg, op. cit., pp. 222-226.

2 Before his return to Warsaw in February, 1 790, Lucchesini was sent to Dresden
to offer the Elector Prussia's assistance in the matter of the Polish succession
(de Cache, February, 13). As to the admission of Poland to the Triple Alliance,
see e. g., Hertzberg to Lucchesini, March 6 (Dembifiski, op. cit., i, pp. 426 f.) and
to Diez, March 9 (Herrmann, op. cit., vi, p. 290).


affection for the Poles, but because the King believed that he
needed their alliance for his coalition against Austria.

The alliance was made, then, by both sides in good faith, for
precise, practical reasons. It was no mere formality, no hollow
form of words. Defensive according to the letter, it was in spirit
an offensive alliance, for it was formed with a view to a great joint
enterprise. It was an alliance for action, for meeting a great
opportunity with a great deed. 1

1 Cf. the remarks of Askenazy, op. ciL, pp. 60 ff.



Never, perhaps, in the course of its stormy history has the
Austrian Monarchy been placed in a more desperate situation
than at the moment when Joseph II sank into the grave. 1 With
the costly and bloody Turkish war still dragging on, the opulent
Netherlands lost, the other provinces apparently ready to revolt,
and slight hope of effective aid from an exhausted and unreliable
ally, the tottering edifice of the Hapsburg power must have
collapsed before a single vigorous blow from without. That the

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 14 of 59)