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

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strictement aux reclamations precedement proposees, B. A., loc. cit.


Scarcely less unfortunate was the fact that no very definite
agreement had been reached on the subject of indemnities.
The principle that compensation was to be demanded for the
costs of the enterprise had, indeed, been agreed upon; and it was
accepted on both sides that the indemnities of both Courts were
to be exactly equal. 1 This followed from the principle of parity
of efforts, which was the cornerstone of the concert, as well as
from that of strict equality in all ' advantages,' which, as Fred-
erick William said, was the basis, and would always be the firmest
support, of the alliance. 2 In general, however, the subject of
indemnities was little discussed during the critical month pre-
ceding the outbreak of the war. At the beginning of May, when
Austria found herself attacked and needed to show her ally the
utmost complaisance, Spielmann took up the topic again with
Jacobi, while Reuss was authorized to say that his Court left it
entirely to Prussia to decide whether they should generously
renounce all claim to indemnities, or demand reimbursement in
money, or seek compensation through conquests. 3 Disinterested-
ness was no longer Frederick William's role. He replied that he
could not conceive that the two Courts could afford to go without
indemnities; he did not believe that His Apostolic Majesty could
make such a sacrifice without detriment to his monarchy. 4 This
anxiety for the interests of the Austrian monarchy is almost
comic, when one remembers that a year later Prussian statesmen
were denying that the Court of Vienna had any rights to an
indemnity at all, or at least any rights that could be put on the
same plane with those of Prussia. As to what form of compensa-
tion he preferred, Frederick William promised to explain later on.

There was one Prussian minister, indeed, who had sought to
have the matter definitely settled before embarking upon the war.

1 Instructions to Bischoffwerder, February 18, Art. 4; Kaunitz's declara-
tions to Bischoffwerder reported by the latter March 13, and approved by the
King of Prussia March 19; Spielmann's remarks to Jacobi, reported by the latter
March 21, etc. (B. A., R. 1, 172 and 169).

2 Rescript to Jacobi, March 26, B. A., R. 1, 169.

3 Jacobi's report of May 3, B. A., loc. (At.; Kaunitz to Reuss, May 4, printed
in Vivenot, ii, pp. 23 ff.

4 Rescript to Jacobi, May 9, B. A., loc. cit.


Alvensleben repeatedly proposed to Schulenburg that the King
should join in the struggle only in case the Imperial Courts
allowed him to occupy immediately the coveted territories in
Poland. 1 How such a demand could have been reconciled with
Prussia's engagements and declarations, it is difficult to see.
On the Austrian side, Spielmann later claimed that it was not his
fault that his Court had not reached a definite agreement with
Prussia regarding the indemnities before the outbreak of the war. 2
That this had not come about was probably due chiefly to
Kaunitz, who, disliking the idea of a Prussian acquisition,
avoided discussing indemnities as far as he could; and also to the
Nestors of the State Conference, who found it the height of wis-
dom to postpone the topic until Prussia had spoken first. 3 Doubt-
less in April, in view of Frederick William's burning impatience
to begin the enterprise, it would have been easy to secure from
him a formal declaration on the subject, or at least a guarantee of
the principle of strict parity in future acquisitions. As it was, the
two Powers entered upon the war with insufficient agreements,
insufficient conceptions of the magnitude of the task, insufficient
forces, and — as was soon to be shown — with insufficient con-
fidence in one another. 4

1 See Alvensleben's well-known Proces-verbal of October 1, 1793, in Herrmann,
Erganzungsband, pp. 404-409.

2 See the letter of Thugut to Colloredo-Wallsee of November i, 1792, in Vivenot,
Vertrauliche Briefe des Freiherrn von Thugut, i, pp. 4-8.

3 Cf. the rescript of Kaunitz to Stadion of April 18, 1792, Vivenot, i, pp. 464-
467; and the decision of the Conference on January 17, 1792, already mentioned.

4 On the roles played by Austria and Prussia in connection with the outbreak
of the Revolutionary War, see, Sybel, op. cit., ii, pp. 171 ff., especially pp. 184 f.,
192-195; Heigel, op. cit., i, pp. 495 ff.; Hausser, op. cit., i, pp. 327-341; Sorel,
op. cit., ii, pp. 351 ff., especially pp. 366-369, 373-376, 424-427, 442-448; Ranke,
Ursprung und Beginn der Revolutionskriege, pp. 125 ff.; Glagau, Die franzosische
Legislative und der Ursprung der Revolutionskriege, pp. 157 ff., especially pp. 174-
!77, 257-259; Heidrich, op. cit., pp. 31 ff., especially pp. 33-36, 158-162.

Heidrich's account seems to me the most satisfactory, and it is the only one
based on a complete study of the Prussian records. It brings out strongly the
aggressive character of Prussia's policy, which I have also emphasized in the
text. Glagau's attempt to prove a somewhat similar, though a less decidedly
aggressive, tendency in Austrian policy seems hardly successful. Doubtless, in his
conversations with Jacobi and Bischoffwerder and in some of his numerous memo-
rials Kaunitz occasionally used rather bold language; but from a thorough study




The outbreak of the struggle in the West came marvelously a,
propos to serve the designs of Catherine II. For many months
she had been — according to her well-known confession to her
secretary — ' racking her brains to push the Courts of Vienna
and Berlin into the French enterprise, so that she might have her
elbows free.' x Now, through no particular merit of her own but
simply through the good luck that so constantly attended her,
she saw her neighbors nicely embarked on that tremendous under-
taking, just at the moment when she most needed to have them
fully occupied. The French declaration of war greatly facilitated,
although it did not, as is often said, determine the Empress'
onslaught upon Poland. 2

The Polish malcontents had already presented themselves at
St. Petersburg, at Catherine's invitation, in the latter part of
March. 3 They numbered hardly more than a dozen. Apart
from the three leaders, almost all of them were men without
standing or repute at home, mere clients and dependents of
Potocki. For this handful of emigres to set themselves up as the
true representatives of the Polish nation, the sole and sufficient
embodiment of the Republic, was nothing short of ludicrous; but
it was enough for the Empress' purposes to have any sort of a
figurehead behind which she might act. Her guests were lodged
at her expense, feted, caressed, and overwhelmed with attentions.
Their leaders were honored with daily private audiences with
Catherine and Zubov, in which the details of the future Con-
federation were settled.

The Empress presented to the Poles a scheme for the reorgan-
ization of their country which she herself had worked out. Drawn

of the Austrian acts one cannot escape the conviction that he was at bottom
extremely anxious to avoid a war, and that when he or any of the other Austrian
ministers expressed themselves in more or less bellicose terms, it was due either to a
momentary outburst of wrath against the National Assembly or to the desire to
satisfy the Prussians.

1 XpanoBHirKifi, ^HeBHHKt, December 14/25, 1791.

2 The news of the French declaration reached St. Petersburg only May 9, long
after the final orders for the attack on Poland had been sent off.

3 Potocki and Rzewuski arrived the 15th, Branicki the 29th.


up in the form of twenty-three articles, which were to be added to
the Pacta Conventa, it must have convinced her guests of her
sterling republican principles, for she had provided for the
annulment of every useful act of the Four Years' Diet and for the
restoration of every monstrosity of the old regime. 1 It appears,
however, that no definite arrangements were made at that time
for the future government of the Republic. The Poles could not
agree among themselves; and on one occasion, at the very close
of their stay in St. Petersburg, they almost came to blows with
one another in Zubov's chamber, when they fell to discussing the
delicate subject of the restoration of the power of the hetmans. 2

The immediate plan of action, however, was fixed with little
difficulty. The Act of Confederation was drawn up with Popov's
assistance, and apparently in accordance with an old scheme of
Potemkin. It was signed and sworn to by the Poles on April 27
at St. Petersburg, 3 but for the sake of appearances was lyingly
dated " May 14, Targowica." In other words, it was designed to
create the impression that the Confederation had arisen on Polish
soil, and on that date when it could first safely begin its activity
under cover of the invading Russian troops. The Act itself was
worthy of its signatories. It consisted mainly of a prolix, turgid,
and muddled indictment of " the usurpers " at Warsaw, who by
conspiracy and violence, and especially by " the audacious
crime " of the Third of May, had " overthrown all the cardinal
laws," abolished the liberty and equality of the nobility, spread
" the contagion of democratic ideas," following " the fatal ex-
amples set at Paris," imposed " the shackles of slavery " upon
the nation — in short, destroyed the Republic and established a
" despotism." Wherefore the undersigned " senators, ministers
of the Republic, officers of the Crown," etc., etc., united to form a
free Confederation in defence of the Roman Catholic religion, the

1 These articles are printed in the instruction for Baron Biihler in the C6opHHKi,
xlvii, pp. 303 ff. They are also to be found in various slightly divergent drafts
among Catherine's papers in the Petrograd Archives, X, 70.

2 Biihler to Zubov, November 19/30, 1792, M. A., HoJiBnia, IX, 3; Rze-
wuski to Catherine, August 19, 1792 and July 8, 1794, M. A., ITojibina, II, 7.

3 As to the place and date, see Smoleriski, Konfcderacya targowicka, pp. 30 f.,
and the Rescript to Kakhovski of April 16/27, C6opnnKi>, xlvii, p. 275.


liberty and equality of the szlachta, the territorial integrity of the
state, and the ancient republican form of government. They
annulled all that had been done at the present Diet contrary to
liberty and the laws; they declared that they would pursue all
those who in any way sought to defend the Constitution of the
Third of May; they ordered all ministers, senators, and deputies
to send in within two months a formal disavowal of all adhesion to
that illegal constitution; and they invited all ' their brothers in
the provinces ' to accede to the present Confederation. Since the
faction at Warsaw had usurped control of the armed forces of the
state, so that " the subjugated Republic " could not defend its
own cause, there remained, it was said, no other course than to
appeal for aid to " the great Catherine." " The justice of our
prayers," the Act concluded, " the sanctity of the treaties which
unite Russia to Poland, and above all the Empress' own grandeur
of character give us a well-grounded hope of her disinterestedness
and her magnanimity, in a word, of her worthy assistance to
our cause." 1

This masterpiece was supplemented by a formal reclamation for
aid, addressed by " the confederated Polish nation " to that
" immortal Sovereign," who although " ruling over half the
hemisphere " and ' filling the universe with her renown ' was
even more fitted by her heroic and godlike qualities to become
" the refuge of peoples and of kings " and " the tutelary divinity "
of Poland. 2

In preparation for the glorious role thus thrust upon her, the
Empress had already made the necessary military arrangements.
Early in April full instructions were sent to Generals Kakhovski
and Krecetnikov, the former commanding the army still quar-
tered in Moldavia and the other forces in the south, the latter the
troops massed on the frontiers of Lithuania. The date for begin-
ning action was fixed at the middle of May, the time set for the
evacuation of Turkish territory. According to the elaborate plan
of operations drawn up by General Pistor, four Russian corps
were to pour suddenly into the Ukraine from three sides; it was

1 The Act of the Confederation is printed in Angeberg, Recueil, pp. 262-274.

2 This document is printed in the C6opHHKT>, xlvii, pp. 310-316.


expected that the small Polish army, most of which was scattered
about in that region, could easily be outflanked, surrounded, dis-
persed, or captured ; and thereupon Kakhovski was to go straight
for Warsaw, while Krecetnikov rapidly bore down upon the
capital from the northeast. Nearly 100,000 troops were assigned
to the enterprise, although the Russians looked forward to a
military promenade rather than a serious campaign. 1

While we are but imperfectly informed of what went on behind
the scenes at St. Petersburg during these months, it is clear that
there were not a few differences of opinion about the undertaking
in Poland. Zubov and Markov, into whose hands the manage-
ment of the affair had passed, made all their plans with the utmost
secrecy and intended to begin action without once consulting the
Council of the Empire and without further communications to
the other Courts. In this, however, they encountered the lively
opposition of Bezborodko, who after being summoned to return
to the capital in haste, on his arrival found himself completely
thrust aside. Naturally the veteran statesman was full of con-
tempt for the political operations of the twenty-six year old
favorite and his clique, and full of indignation that such a coterie
should be able to plunge the state into a new war without the
knowledge or advice of the Empress' responsible ministers. 2 He
insisted that the whole Polish enterprise should be laid before the
Council. He was also particularly determined that nothing
should be done until an understanding had been reached with the
German Powers, or at least with Prussia. 3 Bezborodko must have
recognized that such an understanding would probably lead up to
a new partition. His report from Jassy in February had already
hinted at such an arrangement; and on his return to St. Peters-

1 See the rescripts to the two commanding generals of March 14/25, April
1/12, etc., in the C6opHHKT>, xlvii, pp. 241 ff.; also the discussion of the Russian
military plans in Soplica, Wojna polsko-rosyjska, pp. 9-18.

2 Cf. Bezborodko to S. R. Vorontsov, May 15/26, 1792, Apx. Bop., xiii, pp.

255 i-

3 That had been his opinion from the very outset; cf. his letter to Potemkin
of August 12/23, J79 1 ! CGopHHKt, xxix, p. 124; to A. R. Vorontsov, December 3/14,
ibid., p. 174; report of January 25/February 5 to the Empress, M. A., Typrrifl, IX,
14; Cobenzl's reports of March 23 and July 6, 1792, V. A., Rnsslatid, Berichte.


burg he seems to have urged upon the Empress the necessity of
acquiring for Russia the Ukraine and other Polish territories x —
an acquisition that would inevitably involve equivalent advan-
tages for Austria and Prussia.

It is impossible to say with certainty what was Catherine's
attitude towards a new partition at the moment when she began
her enterprise in Poland. It is probable, however, that she was
by no means averse to the idea. From the rescript to Potemkin
of July 18/29, 1791, and from her conduct in the latter part of
1792, it appears that she was not inclined to stand out in opposi-
tion, in case the other Powers insisted upon a new dismember-
ment of the Republic. There is some reason to think that she
even tried to hasten such a denouement by subtle insinuations to
Austria and Prussia; although naturally she was not disposed to
take upon herself the onus of proposing it formally and openly. 2
That she was quite alive to the advantages to be expected from
the annexation of the Ukraine, appears from the oft-cited rescript
to Potemkin; and it is perhaps worthy of notice that in 1793
one of her ministers wrote that for " several years " her mind had
been filled with the thought of acquiring this territory and of the
glory and profit to be gained thereby. 3 Nevertheless, at the time

1 Cf. Bezborodko's memorial to the Empress, of June 30/ July 11, 1793
(C6opHHK'b, xxix, pp. 236-239), reviewing his past services, and reminding her that he
had given this advice about making acquisitions from Poland " at the first moment
when an opportunity for making them began to dawn." From the context it would
seem that the reference was to the time immediately after his return to St. Peters-
burg from Jassy. Such is also the opinion advanced by Smolehski, Ostatni rok
sejmu wielkiego, pp. 313 f.

2 I am not referring here to the famous note to Zubov reported by Goltz in
February, 1792. Although that has been almost universally taken as a hint, or
even an invitation, to Prussia to come forward with proposals for a partition, I
regard it as quite uncertain whether the note was genuine, and whether Goltz came
to be informed of it by Catherine's intention or otherwise. What I have in mind
in the statement in the text is: first, the very curious and subtle overtures to
Prussia on the subject of indemnities, contained in the instructions to Alopeus
of June 10/21, 1792 (to be analyzed later on); and secondly, the pregnant insinu-
ations made by Razumovski to Bischoffwerder, as already noticed, in March, 1792,
and repeated in much more definite form to Cobenzl and Spielmann at the end of
June. That Razumovski could have ventured so far without being in some manner
informed of his sovereign's wishes, seems scarcely conceivable.

3 Zavadovski to S. R. Vorontsov, July 27/August 7, 1793, Apx. Bop., xii, p. 90.


now under consideration, she seems to have hesitated to disclose
her inmost thoughts even to her closest advisers. 1 Officially and
before the world she professed to have no object in view in Poland
except the overthrow of the new constitution and the vindication
of her treaties with the Republic.

Bezborodko's exertions had at least this result, that the
Empress was induced to lay the whole plan for the Polish enter-
prise before the Council of the Empire. While approving it in the
main, that body raised objections on some points; and especially
they urged the necessity of communicating their projects to
Austria and Prussia and securing the consent of those Courts.
They were, indeed, little disquieted by the known predilections of
Austria, but they feared that without a preliminary understand-
ing Frederick William would not remain a passive spectator. The
Empress was indignant at what she considered a criticism of her
own policy. 2 Nevertheless, on April 21 new dispatches were sent
to Vienna and Berlin, communicating in substantially identical
terms the plan for a Confederation and an armed intervention in
Poland, and requesting both Courts to support these measures,
when the time came, by appropriate and vigorous language at
Warsaw. It was a far cry, indeed, from the concert proposed in
February to the arbitrary and irrevocable resolutions thus
announced ; but the slight was glossed over with the excuse that
it was absolutely necessary for Russia to act at once, as her troops
were bound to return from Moldavia through Poland in May;
and it was also alleged that if the Empress had not confided her

1 Cf. the two undated notes to Bezborodko and Zubov, which may not im-
probably have been written about this period, CSopHHRt, xlii, pp. 245 f., 338. To
Bezborodko she wrote: " La proposition est incongrue; car par cette belle proposi-
tion nous attirerions non seulement tout l'odieux de la part des polonais, mais outre
cela nous agirions contre nos propres traites et notre garantie en £gard a Danzig
specialement. J'opine pour laisser tomber la proposition." To Zubov (in Russian):
" Your wish will never succeed with the present Courts of Vienna and Berlin. I
remember the partition of Poland with Maria Theresa and Frederick, how it went
off as smooth as butter. The comparison is not to the advantage of the former "
(the present Courts).

2 See the protocol of the Council, March 29/April 9, Apx. Toe. Cob., i, pp. 906-
910; Catherine's note to Bezborodko, CfiopHHKi, xlii, p. 224; XpanoBHUKifi, op. cit.,
April 3/14; Bezborodko to S. R. Vorontsov, May 15/26, Apx. Bop., xiii, pp. 255 f.


intentions earlier, it was because she was waiting for the long
delayed reply of Austria to her first communications. Some show
of regard for the other Courts was made at least; and Bezbo-
rodko's intervention may have averted rather embarrassing

Two weeks later the Russian declaration which was to be
presented at Warsaw, was also forwarded to Vienna and Berlin,
along with some additional explanations. At the same time a
pretence was made of replying to the Austrian dispatches of
April 12. It could scarcely soothe Kaunitz's irritation that, far
from being stricken with shame for its " unseemly and disloyal
conduct," the cabinet of Petersburg passed over all his arguments
and recriminations without the shadow of a response, and simply
reminded its ally of the long-standing engagement between the
Imperial Courts to maintain the Polish constitution of 1773.
In the dispatch to Berlin, it was emphatically declared that the
Empress had no other aim or project in Poland than to restore
the old form of government. That was not the declaration
the Prussians were hoping for, as the Russians were probably
aware. 1

Having thus set the stage, having organized the Confederation
which was to serve as her puppet, having formed her plans
without admitting her neighbors to consultation or deliberation
— in spite of the proposal for a concert — having then an-
nounced to those neighbors what she meant to do at the eleventh
hour when they no longer had time for counter-representations,
Catherine was ready for action. On May 18 Bulgakov presented
at Warsaw the declaration exposing the reasons which impelled
his sovereign to intervene on behalf of Polish liberties and in
defence of violated treaties against the usurping Diet and the
illegal Constitution of the Third of May. 2 On the night of the
18-19, the Russian troops crossed the frontier.

Thus at almost the same moment there burst forth in East and
West the two storms which the prudent diplomacy of Leopold II

1 Dispatches to Razumovski and Alopeus of April 23/May 4, M. A., ABdpifl,
III, 52 and Ilpyccifl, III, 28.

2 The declaration is printed in Angeberg, Recneil, pp. 274-281.


had foreseen and vainly striven to avert. The ardor of the
Girondists to revolutionize Europe combined with the no less
aggressive and revolutionary designs of Catherine II and with the
insatiable Prussian thirst for aggrandizement to plunge wellnigh
the whole Continent into the vortex of war. France and Poland,
the two states which had simultaneously been attempting sweep-
ing reforms and national regeneration, found themselves exposed
— each isolated and without connection with the other — to the
onslaught of the great military monarchies of Eastern Europe.
These two conflicts could not fail to work back upon each other in
innumerable ways. Their influence upon each other can hardly
be overestimated. Broadly speaking, the results of this interplay
may be described as highly favorable to France, and ruinous to
Poland. If the struggle brought to the former glory and conquests
unparalleled in her history, and to the latter political annihila-
tion, the difference is not altogether due to the genius of the one
nation and the weakness of the other.

Without attempting to trace here all the ways in which the
conflict in the West affected the fate of Poland, it is incumbent to
point out the chief form which that interaction took. Vastly
different as were the pretexts for the two wars — since France
was being attacked for turning a monarchy into a republic, and
Poland for converting a republic into a monarchy — neverthe- \
less, the diplomacy of the predatory Powers succeeded in finding
a common formula to justify the two utterly contradictory enter-
prises, and in establishing a subtle connection between them.
Both were ranged in the category of ' counter-revolutions,'
benevolently undertaken by the three allied Courts in the inter-

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 29 of 59)