Robert Howard Lord.

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

. (page 24 of 59)
Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 24 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

him nothing more than the consent to open negotiations for the


purpose of clearing up the difficulties which he found in the new
constitution. At Warsaw this concession was taken for more
than it was worth, and it was hoped that a speedy negotiation
would end the Elector's scruples and secure an immediate accept-
ance. In November Prince Adam Czartoryski set out for
Dresden to undertake the mission, on which, as the Poles be-
lieved, the fate of their constitution depended.

The Austrian cabinet also attached great importance to this
negotiation, and they found themselves impelled by several other
incidents to undertake immediate action in Polish affairs. In
October the government at Warsaw, encouraged by Leopold's
friendly attitude to abandon the reserve which it had been accus-
tomed to maintain towards Austria, at last made a formal
communication of the new constitution at Vienna, and requested
the Emperor's good offices to secure for it the approval of the
Court of St. Petersburg. About the same time the Elector turned
to Leopold with a new appeal for advice. 1 The Austrians desired
nothing so much as to see Frederick Augustus accept without
further loss of time; but they hesitated to declare themselves
openly at Dresden and Warsaw out of regard for Russia. Co-
benzl's reports now left little hope that the Empress would ever
give her approval to the work of the Third of May, and they
pointed to the grave danger to the alliance, in case she adopted a
policy towards Poland which would be accepted by Prussia, but
rejected by Austria. And this was not the only peril ahead. The
Empress and her ministers were storming for action against
France, criticizing Leopold's conduct openly and bitterly, and
praising Frederick William's. The spectre of a rapprochement
between Prussia and Russia and the shipwreck of the alliance
between the Imperial Courts haunted the minds of the ambassa-
dor and his superiors. 2

In this delicate situation, in full realization of the danger of an
estrangement from Russia, the cabinet of Vienna still decided to
make anew attempt to save the Constitution of the Third of
May. To this end they determined to bind the hands of

1 Kaunitz to Leopold, November 25, V. A., Vortrage, 1791.

2 L. Cobenzl's reports of October 4, 7, and 13, V. A., Russland, Berichte, 1701.



Prussia by turning the Convention of Vienna into a formal treaty
of alliance as soon as possible, 1 to make a last effort to convert
Russia to their views on Polish affairs, and to send a secret nego-
tiator to Dresden to persuade the Elector to accept the crown at

As far as Prussia was concerned, the plan had somewhat the
nature of a stratagem. Kaunitz was quite convinced that the
internal consolidation of Poland was directly opposed to Prussian
interests and was so regarded at Berlin; but he reckoned that
Frederick William had so bound his own hands by his unlucky
Polish policy of the past three years, by the assurances given to
the Elector, and especially by the Convention of Vienna, that if
Frederick Augustus would only accept the crown at once, and if
the Convention were turned into a formal treaty, Prussia would
not only have to consent, bon gre mal gre, to the establishment of
the new order in Poland, but would even have to contribute to it. 2
Probably the Chancellor also reflected that it was important to
cement the union with the Court of Berlin at once in order to
prevent the latter from throwing itself into the arms of Russia
and possibly coming to an agreement with Catherine on Polish
affairs without the knowledge of Austria. Hence in their discus-
sions with the Prussian envoy the Imperial ministers emphasized
the necessity of settling the Polish question by a concert of the
three Courts, and avoided laying too much stress on the solution
which they themselves preferred. There was no need to alarm

1 That this decision to hasten the alliance with Prussia was not due to the
exigencies of the French question, as is generally assumed, appears from the fact
that the proposal was sent to Berlin along with the circular announcing the sus-
pension of the concert on French affairs. In view of the fact that the new repre-
sentations in favor of the Polish constitution were dispatched to St. Petersburg the
same day (November 12), and that in general throughout November Austrian
statesmen were preeminently occupied with this latter question, one may safely
assume that it was the Polish crisis that led to the resumption of the negotiation
for the alliance. Heidrich is, I think, the only writer who has remarked this (Preus-
sen im Kampfe gegen die franzosische Revolution, pp. 29 f.).

Landriani's mission to Dresden was first formally proposed, it appears, in a
report of Kaunitz to the Emperor of November 25, but one would judge from the
Chancellor's note to Spielmann of November 2 that it had been practically a settled
matter since the beginning of the month (V. A., Vorirage, 1791).

2 Kaunitz's Vortrag of November 25, V. A.


the Prussians until the net was firmly fastened around them. 1
In accordance with the proposals made through Reuss, the pre-
liminary discussion of the treaty of alliance was at once begun
between Berlin and Vienna; 2 and although the delays inherent
in such a method of negotiating and the pressure of other business
prevented rapid progress, still Kaunitz could well be satisfied
with this part of his program.

The new attack at St. Petersburg was launched through the
voluminous instructions sent to Louis Cobenzl on November 12.
In these notable dispatches Kaunitz urged that it was imperative
for the Imperial Courts to define their attitude towards Poland at
once, since in the present critical condition of the Republic further
delay must result in the gravest dangers to the general tranquil-
lity. He pointed out with some asperity that the Court of Vienna
had communicated its views on Polish affairs as early as May, and
had waited vainly for six months for a similar confidence from
Russia. In the meantime it had been obliged to express itself in a
general way regarding the new constitution to Prussia and to the
Elector, and it could only assume that its declarations had not
been displeasing to the Court of Petersburg, since otherwise the
latter would have remonstrated. If the Empress, however, were
now to adopt a policy towards Poland contrary to that to which
she had allowed her ally to commit itself, the Court of Vienna
would be placed in the most embarrassing position, and the world
would draw the most unfortunate inferences as to the lack of
harmony between the two allies. But the more he considered the

1 In the face of such decisive documents as Kaunitz's Vortrag of November 25,
the orders to L. Cobenzl of November 12, and the instructions to Landriani, the
casual remarks of the Austrian ministers to Jacobi or the dubious surmises of the
Saxon and Polish envoys have no great significance for the interpretation of Austrian
policy on this question. Hence I cannot assent to Heigel's view {op. cit., i, p. 490,
note 2) that there was no great difference between the attitudes of Austria and
Prussia regarding Poland at this time. Both were indeed agreed that a concert of
the three neighboring Powers was necessary; but the concert that Prussia had in
mind was one in which Russia should speak the decisive word against the new con-
stitution, while that intended by the Austrians was to have no other business than
to approve a. fait accompli — the Elector's acceptance of the crown and the definitive
establishment of the new regime in Poland.

2 Orders to Reuss of November 12, his report of November 19, V. A., Preussen,
Exped. and Bcrichte, 1791.


situation, Kaunitz continued, the more he was convinced that in
this question the interests of both Courts were identical. Both
were equally concerned, on the one hand, to shield the Republic
from the Prussian lust for aggrandizement, and, on the other, to
prevent it from becoming strong enough to endanger its neigh-
bors. Neither Court could desire further acquisitions of territory
in this quarter, since their frontiers were already so admirably
rounded out. From this it followed that a new partition of Po-
land would redound only to the advantage of Prussia, and to the
positive detriment of the Imperial Courts; that it was, indeed,
necessary that the royal power should remain limited, and that
the old republican spirit among the szlachta should not be allowed
to die out; but that it was quite as important that Poland should
cease to be the theatre of constant disturbances and a field
always open to Prussian schemes of aggrandizement, as it had
been under the old constitution. The new constitution was
admirable in that it promised to make the Republic just strong
enough, and not too strong. The change from an elective to a
limited hereditary monarchy was especially commendable, not
only because it would put an end to the periodical outbreaks of
anarchy inseparable from ' free elections/ but also because from
an hereditary sovereign the Imperial Courts could expect a more
constant and sincere attachment than from any elected king, who
was always sure to be blind to his own interests, or else powerless
to follow them. Moreover, if Poland were not allowed a stronger
monarchical government and a certain amount of reforms, it was
to be feared that the French democratic principles would take
root there, and Warsaw become a second Paris. All these con-
siderations led, of course, to the conclusion that the Imperial
Courts must at once declare themselves openly and clearly in
favor of the Constitution of the Third of May. 1

From the Austrian point of view, these dispatches were a mas-
terpiece. The appeal to the old principles so long agreed upon
between the Imperial Courts — the integrity of Poland, the dan-
ger of allowing Prussia further aggrandizement, the desirability

1 The dispatches to L. Cobenzl of November 12 are printed in part in Vivenot,
i, pp. 271-283.


of an Austro-Russo-Polish league; the appeals to the Empress'
surviving resentment against Frederick William and to her new
hatred for ' the French ideas '; the not unsuccessful attempt to
demonstrate the innocuousness of the new constitution — these
were the arguments, if any, which might have persuaded Cath-
erine. But with all his belief in the power of his own dis-
patches, one must doubt whether Kaunitz cherished any great
hope that the Empress would allow herself to be persuaded; and
the fact that he took this decided step in spite of Louis Cobenzl's
warnings shows how strongly he and Leopold desired to uphold
the new order of things in Poland.

The third part of the November program, the mission to
Dresden, was entrusted to the Chevalier Landriani, a clever
Italian, half diplomat and half scientist, a confidant of the
Emperor and a man favorably known at both the Saxon and the
Polish courts. 1 Taking advantage of these connections, he was
ordered to negotiate directly with the Elector or with the favorite
Marcolini, avoiding the ill-disposed Saxon ministers as far as
possible, and surrounding his actions with the utmost secrecy, so
as not to compromise his Court with Russia or Prussia. The
confidential instruction made out for him is a document of much
interest; for here, freed from the precautions and reticences
necessary in communications to Berlin or St. Petersburg, Kaunitz
lays bare the fundamental ideas and inmost wishes that guided
the Polish policy of Austria at that time. 2 From it appears the
Chancellor's strong conviction that the firm establishment of the
new regime in Poland was peculiarly an Austrian interest, and an
Austrian interest of the first magnitude. He desired the consoli-
dation of the new constitution because it would enable the
Republic to free itself from all danger from, or dependence upon,

1 Landriani was an intimate friend of the Elector's favorite Marcolini. He en-
joyed the confidence of Stanislas Augustus to such a degree that the King several
times tried to get him appointed Austrian minister at Warsaw.

2 The voluminous Instruction pour M. le Chevalier de Landriani, V. A., F. A. 62,
dated December 12, and the other papers relating to his mission have hitherto
escaped the attention of the numerous investigators who have worked through this
period in the Austrian archives. Very interesting, too, is the Vortrag of Kaunitz
to the Emperor of November 25, analyzed in Beer, Leopold II, Franz II, und Catha-
rina, pp. 114-117.


either Russia or Prussia. He approved of the Saxon succession,
because the Court of Dresden was always likely to be more de-
voted to Austria than to the other Powers. Best of all, he
thought, would be the establishment of a permanent personal
union between Saxony and Poland, as Frederick Augustus de-
sired; for there would thus be constituted a fairly strong state
which would naturally seek the alliance of Austria, as the one
neighbor with whom it had most in common, and from whom
it had least to fear. But Austrian interests also demanded that
the revival of Poland should not be carried beyond a certain
point; for if the Republic became strong enough to undertake
aggressive enterprises, it might cast its eyes on Galicia. Hence
Kaunitz desired that the royal prerogatives should not be ex-
tended beyond the limits fixed by the new constitution.

In accordance with these general ideas, the primary object of
Landriani's mission was to persuade the Elector to accept the
Polish crown immediately. That would place Russia and Prussia
before a fait accompli, which they could not with good grace
attempt to reverse. In order to overcome the Elector's irresolu-
tion, the envoy was equipped with all manner of arguments, some
of which did not bear the stamp of perfect sincerity. For in-
stance, he was to conceal, as far as possible, the fears entertained
at Vienna as to the attitude of Russia, and to insinuate rather
that the Empress was really not opposed to the new constitution;
if she remained silent, it was only because the Turkish war pre-
vented her from giving serious attention to the subject, or
because the conduct of the present Diet towards her must na-
turally lead her to adopt a certain reserve. Landriani was also
charged to persuade the Elector to abandon his demand for
further changes in the Polish constitution, on the ground that
such changes would involve an unfortunate delay and could
better be effected at some future time. As for Frederick Augus-
tus' desire to have the succession arranged in such a way as to
ensure the permanent union of Poland and Saxony, the envoy was
ordered to do what he could secretly to further the project, but
without showing his hand openly. There was a peculiar reason
for this caution regarding a plan so warmly approved of at


Vienna. Prince Anton, the Elector's brother and prospective
heir in Saxony, was Leopold's son-in-law. To have advocated
openly the extension of the Saxon law of succession to Poland
would have exposed the Emperor to the suspicion of working for
personal and dynastic ends. Hence Leopold felt bound to dis-
play a reserve which led many people at that time, and has led
many historians since, to conclude that he was averse to the
projected union of Saxony and Poland. 1

On his arrival at Dresden (December 18), Landriani found the
negotiations between the Saxon ministers and the Polish com-
missioners already begun but not progressing. The Elector
insisted on constitutional changes which the Poles professed
themselves utterly unable to grant; and he was still determined
not to accept the crown without the consent of all the neighboring
Powers. Under such circumstances Landriani soon convinced
himself that no amount of exhortations or arguments could
extort the immediate acceptance which he had been sent to
obtain. Nevertheless he threw himself with the greatest zeal
into the task of smoothing out the difficulties between Frederick
Augustus and the Poles over constitutional questions, and here
he attained a fair measure of success. Largely through his inter-
vention, it would seem, the Polish commissioners agreed to
recommend at Warsaw the alteration of the law of succession, so
as to ensure the permanent union of Poland and Saxony; and
they were also induced to promise various extensions of the royal
prerogatives in accordance with the Elector's wishes. 2 By the
end of January matters seemed to be going forward so satis-
factorily, the Elector appeared so eager to wear the crown and the
Poles so ready to make concessions, that Landriani was at a high
pitch of optimism. Given a fair amount of time, he was sure that
Frederick Augustus would in the end accept. 3

Meanwhile, the Austrian diplomat had been displaying a
talent scarcely inferior to Lucchesini's for gaining the confidence
of the Poles. The circles nearest to Stanislas Augustus came to

1 See Appendix VII.

2 Landriani's reports of December 30, January 9 and 14, February 22, V. A.,
F.A. 62.

3 Reports of January 20 and February 4, V. A., F. A. 62.


base their hopes of success at Dresden on ' our Landriani,' ' the
honest co-worker,' ' the Assisting Angel.' They were en-
couraged by him to dream of a quadruple alliance between
Austria, Prussia, Poland, and Saxony, a league that should
relegate Russia to the rank of an Asiatic Power. This glittering
project was to be brought to realization by a new mission of
Bischoffwerder to Dresden and Vienna and the coming of Lan-
driani to Warsaw. 1 But while the Poles were building these
air-castles and the Elector continued his interminable delays, the
face of affairs had once more been changed through the revival of
the danger from the west.


Since the end of November the war fever had been steadily
rising at Paris. The exchange of notes then begun with the Aus-
trian government, first on the subject of the emigres, and then
regarding Leopold's supposed counter-revolutionary plans, led
only to embitterment on both sides. Early in December Louis
XVI secretly addressed to the Powers an urgent plea for armed
intervention. The danger of a French attack, the spread of
' Jacobin ideas ' in the Belgic provinces, the complaints made by
Marie Antoinette at other Courts about her brother's inaction —
all this combined to force Leopold and Kaunitz to resume in
January, 1792, the plan for a concert of the Powers against the
Revolution. They did not intend to venture forward a step
without a general concert, and even if the concert came into being,

1 The hold which Landriani soon won over the Poles is shown in the letters of
Stanislas' confidant Piattoli at Warsaw to Mostowski at Dresden, in which the
Austrian envoy is almost always referred to as L'Ange Subsidiaire. For a specimen
of the tone of this correspondence one may take the passage in Piattoli's letter of
February 3: " Depuis cette epoque la condition de l'Ange Subsidiaire devenant
celle d'un Esprit lumineux et brillant de toute sa clarte, il n'y a rien que nous ne
devions attendre de son heureuse influence." (These curious letters are in the
archive of Count Maurice Zamojski-Ordynat at Warsaw.)

As to the idea of the Quadruple Alliance, which aroused great hopes for a time
at Warsaw and which was regarded as Leopold's ' own system ': Bulgakov's diary,
January-March, passim, M. A., Iloabraa, III, 66; Cassini to Popov, February
25 and March 3 (Imperial Public Library, Petrograd, Papers of V. S. Popov);
Lucchesini's reports of January 7 and n, B. A., R. 9, 27.


they were not inclined to undertake a complete restoration of the
old regime in France, such as was preached so vehemently at
Coblenz 1 and St. Petersburg. They hoped rather by mere de-
monstrations and threats to intimidate the National Assembly
and so to procure for Louis XVI the conditions of a tolerable
existence; in which event they would have been content to see
France remain in a state of " fluctuation, internal weakness, and
external nullity." 2

The whole calculation about the concert was sufficiently
erroneous; but it was a yet greater mistake that even before the
enterprise was launched Kaunitz saw fit to read biting rebukes to
the National Assembly and to admonish the French nation con-
cerning its internal affairs in a manner that could only be taken
as an insult at Paris. 3 Whether the great Revolutionary War
might have been avoided is a question one need not assume to
answer; but beyond a doubt the arrogant and challenging tone
adopted by the Austrian government in this crisis greatly facili-
tated its outbreak. By his failure to understand the character
and force of the Revolution, by his unhappy trust in the coercive
power of his " strong declarations," Kaunitz was largely respon-
sible for involving Austria in that disastrous struggle, which,
apart from its consequences in the west, threw the Court of
Vienna into dependence upon its rapacious allies, Russia and
Prussia, and forced it to sacrifice Poland. 4

The first result of the new crisis in Austro-French relations was
an effort on the part of the Imperial cabinet to come to a thor-
ough understanding with Prussia on all the pending questions.
At the beginning of January, Reuss was sent a draft of the treaty
of alliance, with full powers to conclude the matter and instruc-

1 The headquarters of the French emigr6s.

2 From the proposals of the State Chancellery to the ministerial Conference,
January 12, 1792, Vivenot, op. cit., i, pp. 330-341.

3 The Austrian notes of December 21, 1791, and February 17, 1792.

4 The best characterizations of Austrian policy in this connection are, I think,
those of Glagau (Die franzbsische Legislative und der Ursprung der Revolutions-
kriege, ch. vi), and Lenz (" Marie Antoinette im Kampfe mit der Revolution," in
Preussische Jahrbiicher, lxxviii). See also: Ranke, Ursprung und Beginn der Revolu-
tionskriege, pp. 128 ff.; Sybel, op. cit., ii, pp. 32 ff.; Sorel, op. cit., ii, pp. 342 ff.;
Heigel, op. cit., i, pp. 495 ff.



tions to hasten. 1 Towards the end of the month the proposals
for the concert on French affairs were dispatched to Berlin, with
the categorical inquiry whether the King was ready to accept the
Emperor's views and to offer military cooperation in case the
concert came into existence. 2 Throughout the month constant
discussions also went on between the two Courts regarding the
Polish question. The more pressing grew the danger on the west,
the more necessary Kaunitz found it to settle Polish affairs at
once. The more he became convinced that Russia was invincibly
opposed to the new constitution, the more anxiously he strove
to win Prussia to his principles before the Empress had time to
declare herself.

Prussia, however, regarded both the French and the Polish
questions from a standpoint very different from the Austrian one.
While the Imperial cabinet had only been driven perforce to
resume the plan for a concert of the Powers, and would always
have preferred to get off with mere declarations and demonstra-
tions, Frederick William wanted to bring on a war. He con-
sented readily to the Austrian proposals, but constantly urged
the necessity of agreeing at once on the military measures to be
employed to back up the joint declarations. The Austrian plan
for the concert reached Berlin on January 31, and five days later
the Duke of Brunswick had already been summoned to discuss
plans for a campaign. The only additional diplomatic step that
was suggested by Prussia was one that seemed specially designed
to make war inevitable. It was the demand that the French
government repress by the most vigorous measures the machina-
tions of the society of the Amis de la Constitution, and of every
other association tending to propagate in other countries prin-
ciples subversive of order and tranquillity. 3 When it appeared
that the Austrian ministry inclined more and more to a peaceful
course, Frederick William made one effort after another to spur
them on to action. The extreme importance of not letting ' the
democrats ' think the two Courts feared a war, the urgent necessity

1 Kaunitz to Reuss, January 4, 1792, Vivenot, i, pp. 305 ff.

2 Kaunitz to Reuss, January 25, ibid., i, pp. 344-350.

3 The cabinet ministry to the King, February 3, B. A., R. 96, 147 G.; note

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 24 of 59)