Robert Howard Lord.

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

. (page 31 of 59)
Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 31 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

desirability of proposing a truce and of appealing to the Empress
to end hostilities. Even the Marshal Potocki, just at that
moment returned from Berlin in downcast mood, approved of
this; but he strongly opposed the humiliating propositions out-
lined between Chreptowicz and Bulgakov. The result of the
discussion was that a courier was sent to Prince Joseph with
orders relating to the armistice (which Kakhovski, however, pro-
fessed himself unable to grant), while the King's letter to the
Empress was to be couched in the bolder and firmer tone recom-
mended by Potocki. 2

When Chreptowicz presented the document to Bulgakov, how-
ever, the Russian envoy declared flatly that this would never do;
it did not contain the propositions previously agreed upon be-
tween them; the tone was all wrong; the King must simply
throw himself on the mercy of the Empress. Thereupon, appar-
ently without consulting his cabinet, and contrary to the sense of
that body as manifested at its last session, Stanislas composed a
new letter, which Bulgakov was willing to accept. If Potocki had
recommended treating as one independent power with another,
the King's tone was that of a suppliant. He ' begged and
conjured ' the Empress to grant an armistice immediately. He
implored her not to carry out in their full rigor the intentions
announced in her declaration, while admitting that she had the

1 Bulgakov's report of June 11/22, M. A., IloJibina, III, 66.

2 Smolenski, op. cit., p. 134.


material power to do whatever she pleased. The essence of the
arrangement that he had to propose was that the succession
should be assured to the Grand Duke Constantine, and that
Poland should be attached to Russia by an "eternal alliance,"
while being allowed to enjoy " a better organized government than
heretofore," and especially freedom from the perpetual danger of
interregna. It will be noticed that the King did not yet offer to
renounce the Constitution of the Third of May entirely. Not a
word was said about the Confederation of Targowica. Indeed,
the letter was essentially an attempt to bribe the Empress, by
various advantages to herself, into throwing overboard that Con-
federation, allowing at least a part of the new constitution to
stand, and permitting the King to retain at least a part of the
power he had gained by it. 1

For the next month Stanislas waited in morbid anxiety for a
reply from St. Petersburg. As his appeal to the Empress had
been kept rigorously secret, he continued to maintain a pre-
tense of zeal for the war. He went on with the old manoeuvre
of preparing to go to the army, and never going. He repeated
over and over his hypocritical vow to die for his country. On
July 4 he at last issued the long delayed summons for a national
uprising — an act which might have produced great results, had
it come at the beginning, instead of almost at the end, of the

The Empress' reply arrived on July 22. It was cold, inflexi-
ble, imperious, as only Catherine knew how to write. Every one
of the King's proposals was rejected. He was simply advised —
or rather ordered — to accede to the Confederation of Targowica
without further delay, if he wished to avert the direst conse-
quences to his country, and — it was hinted — to himself. 2
Stanislas was, or pretended to be, overwhelmed with grief and
despair at these inexorable terms; nevertheless, before the end of
the day he had arranged with Bulgakov the form in which his

1 The King's letter of June 22 is printed in Kalinka, Ostatnie lata, ii, pp. 74 ff.;
Solov'ev, Geschichte des Falles von Polen, pp. 284 f.; Smitt, Suworow, ii, pp. 461 ff.,
and elsewhere.

2 This letter, dated July 2/13, is printed in Kalinka, op. cit., ii, pp. 76 f., and


accession was to be made. It remained only to save appearances,
as far as that could still be done.

For this purpose and no other, it would seem, on the 23rd the
King called together an extraordinary council. He had taken
pains to supplement the ordinary cabinet, in which he might not
have had a clear majority on his side, by the addition of various
high officials, on whose subservience he doubtless knew that he
could count. Before this carefully picked body he read the
Empress' letter, and then proceeded to set forth the situation of
the country — naturally in the blackest of terms. There could
be no doubt, he said, that the neighboring Powers were leagued
together against Poland. Further resistance would lead to the
immediate invasion of the Prussian armies already massed on the
frontier. Further resistance was impossible in any case, because
of the utter lack of money and the overwhelming superiority of
the hostile forces. No one could be more grieved than he at the
terms laid down by the Empress ; he would willingly give his life
for the maintenance of the constitution; but the sense of an obli-
gation higher than self-love, compelled him to consider whether
any desperate resolution could now bring the country any real
advantage. He therefore put the question whether it would not
be better to accede to the Confederation of Targowica in accord-
ance with the wishes of the Court of Petersburg.

The King's brother, the Primate, devoted to Russia from of old,
chimed in with the assertion that it was impossible to save the
constitution, but imperative to save the country. Others spoke
in the same sense, including even Kollataj, hitherto always the
boldest and most radical of the reformers. Only Malachowski,
the Marshal of the Great Diet, Ignacy Potocki, and two others
stood out unshakeably for resistance to the bitter end. Potocki
denied that the military situation was hopeless. He described
the enthusiasm and devotion of the troops. He conjured the King
to put himself at the head of the army and thereby set an example
that would surely inspire the nation to rise as one man; or if he
would not do that, let him at least lay down the crown and leave
the country, rather than stoop to associate himself with a band of
traitors. Ostrowski pointed to the overwhelming odds in the face


of which the Dutch had successfully carried through their
struggle for independence against Philip II; and he called upon
the King to emulate the bravery and constancy of John Casimir,
under whom Poland had been almost miraculously delivered
from extremities worse than the present. But all such manly
counsels were wasted. Stanislas Augustus leaving his palace, his
concerts, his mistresses, his ' proper cuisine,' for the rough life of
the camp — that was something inconceivable.

Eight of those present had spoken in favor of submitting to the
Empress' demands and four against. After Potocki had made his
last appeal, there was a moment's silence. Then the King an-
nounced that, having no more hope of saving a constitution dear
to him personally, and desiring to spare the country useless blood-
shed, complete devastation, and perhaps a new dismemberment,
he had decided to conform to the opinion of the majority and
accede to the Confederation. 1 The following day (the 24th) his
accession was sent to Bulgakov, while the army was ordered to
cease hostilities, recognize the Confederation, and leave the road
to Warsaw open to the Russians.

The King's shameful desertion produced an indescribable
feeling of rage, grief, and consternation in the capital, the army,
and the country at large. Nevertheless it immediately ended all
resistance to the invaders. For some few days it did indeed
appear likely that there would be a general uprising at Warsaw
and a repetition of the scenes then familiar at Paris. Crowds
gathered in the streets and squares, fiercely denouncing the King,
threatening to string up to the lamp-posts the advisers who had
misled him, and overwhelming with ovations those who had stood
up for the constitution. Inflammatory pamphlets and pasquils
were everywhere spread abroad. The police felt obliged to patrol
the city in heavy squads with loaded muskets, breaking up
gatherings in the streets and suppressing demonstrations. The
guard at the castle was doubled; and the King, trembling and
quaking, looked forward to the advent of the Russians as to a
deliverance. But, whether it was for fear of the oncoming enemy,

1 Bulgakov's report of July 16/27, M. A., ITojbma, III, 68; Cassini to Zubov,
July 25 (papers of V. S. Popov); Smolenski, op. cit., pp. 210-216.


or because of the lack of leadership, or because the Warsaw mob
had not the courage or the violent instincts of the Parisians, at all
events no serious outbreak took place. 1

The Patriotic leaders, unwilling to start a civil war against
their King and feeling that for the present their cause was lost,
determined to leave the country. The Marshals of the late Diet
issued a formal protest against the Confederation of Targowica.
Those members of the party who held high offices, resigned. Soon
practically all those who were called ' the men of the Third of
May ' had departed for Leipsic, Venice, or other havens of refuge.
The roads from Warsaw to the frontier were choked with the

In the army there was some talk of continuing the struggle in
spite of everything. Many of the officers, including Kosciuszko,
urged upon Prince Joseph the bold plan of abducting the King
and holding him a prisoner in the camp, while the fight for inde-
pendence was carried on in his name; but the Prince could not
bring himself to such an act of violence against his uncle. 2 There-
upon, rather than betray the cause they had sworn to defend,
Prince Joseph, Kosciuszko, and several dozen other officers
resigned, and many of them retired abroad.

Meanwhile the Russian troops arrived at Warsaw and en-
camped just outside, to hold down ' the factious city.' Most of
the provinces were similarly garrisoned. The Polish army, after
being obliged to take the oath to the Confederation, was parcelled
out in small detachments about the country, wherever it could do
least harm to its new masters. The King, in spite of his submis-
sion, was kept almost a state prisoner. The Confederates would
have deposed him outright, had the Empress been willing to
allow it. Forbidden that satisfaction, they treated him like a
convicted criminal, subjecting him to all the humiliations in their
power, and denying him any influence whatever in public affairs.

The whole machinery of government was now, nominally at
least, in the hands of the men of Targowica. Their role had been

1 As to the scenes in the capital in these days, Cassini to Zubov, July 25, and
to Popov, July 26; Smolenski, op. cit., pp. 219 ff.

2 On this plan, see Soplica, op. cit., pp. 419 ff.; Smolenski, op. cit., pp. 226 f.



insignificant enough while the war lasted. Returning to their
country under the protection of the invading army, and following
at a safe distance in the rear of the Russians, they had done their
utmost to produce a popular uprising in their favor, and they had
failed utterly. In vain they had attempted to debauch the army
that was fighting so valiantly for the nation's independence. In
vain they had tried to create an army of their own. Without a
strong guard of Cossacks they hardly dared show themselves.
Their proclamations, appeals, orders, and menaces produced little
or no response from their fellow-countrymen. If they succeeded
in forming local confederations here and there in the conquered
provinces, it was with the utmost difficulty, and often only by the
use of violence and constraint. It was true that after the King's
accession the situation was considerably changed in this respect.
As the Constitutionalist cause seemed hopelessly lost while the
men of Targowica appeared to have the game in their hands, their
ranks were soon swollen by the adhesion of all those who, regard-
less of honor or patriotism, were eager to be on the winning side.
The formation of confederations in each palatinate and the union
of all these local associations in a ' general Confederation ' then
went forward without much trouble. Still it cannot be said that
the men of Targowica ever acquired a really considerable popular
following. The mass of the nation held aloof, despising and exe-
crating them as a pack of traitors. Even the Russian officers
hardly concealed their contempt for their proteges. Without the
Empress' support the Confederation could not have held its posi-
tion a single day. Without her advice and approval its leaders
dared not raise a hand. In short, the Confederation remained
what it had been from the outset, a mere figurehead behind which
Russia could exercise sovereign rights over the Republic.

Thus Poland was once more prostrate before her old oppressors.
After enjoying a few brief years of glorious, exhilarating freedom,
after attempting to play once more the part of an independent and
active power in Europe, after striving so hard to purge itself of
the ancient errors and weaknesses and to lay the foundations for a
sound and progressive national life, the country suddenly found
itself plunged back under the old detested, anarchical regime and


into the old servitude to the foreigner. A more bitter history it
would be hard to imagine, were it not that the immediate future
had even worse disasters in store.


The rapid and complete success of Catherine's Polish enter-
prise would hardly have been possible but for the strange passi-
vity of the two German Powers. Their inactivity was not due to
whole-hearted approval of her conduct. Both Courts had been
not a little ruffled when at the beginning of May, instead of form-
ing the proposed concert, she had simply called upon them to
acquiesce in her high-handed measures and to give her virtually
carte blanche in Poland. Although Prussia was anything but dis-
pleased at the prospect of seeing the work of the Third of May
overthrown, and Austria had at last made up her mind to accept
that as inevitable, 1 still neither Court wished to allow Russia to
regulate Polish affairs single-handed, or to attain a quite exclusive
predominance in the Republic.

In view of the French war, however, downright opposition to
the Empress was hardly possible, and in any case both Powers
attached too much importance to her good graces to be willing to
attempt it. Even to make polite remonstrances was a matter for
serious hesitation. It required much ingenuity to devise, and not
a little courage to propose, measures that would check the de-
signs, without too much wounding the susceptibilities, of the
great lady in St. Petersburg. Neither Court aspired to the honor
of being the one to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. For some
time each contented itself with begging the other to confide its
inmost thoughts about what was to be done.

The Prussians really preferred to do nothing at all for the pres-
ent. They hoped that if there should be a negotiation between
the Empress and the government at Warsaw, they would have a
chance to interpose their ' good offices ' ; and if, on the other

1 As late as May 9, Cobenzl was ordered to urge the Russians to delay resorting
to violent measures. It was only on June 9 that the ambassador was instructed that
his master agreed entirely with the Empress on the desirability of restoring the old
constitution in Poland. Vivenot, op. cit., ii, pp. 31 f., 88 f.


hand, there was a protracted struggle, they might find a pretext
for armed intervention. For a time they played with the idea of
drawing a cordon across the Polish territory adjacent to their
frontier, without, however, finding the courage to take even so
half-way energetic a step. Painfully anxious to avoid all that
might possibly give umbrage at St. Petersburg, they preferred to
stand idle, consoling themselves with the thought that sooner or
later — perhaps in the course of the pending negotiation for a
Russo-Prussian alliance — the Empress would offer them a parti-
tion. Goltz was still strong in the faith that that was her inten-
tion. Doubtless there have been happier examples of political
sagacity. It is hard to see how the Prussian ministers could have
expected Catherine to make so huge a bid for their support, when
they were already conceding to her practically all she desired of
them. From what we know of the sentiments prevalent at St.
Petersburg at this time, it seems almost certain that had Prussia
taken a more vigorous tone and insisted on getting the price of
her complaisance, she could have secured easily then and there all
that she obtained with so much difficulty six or seven months

It was from the Austrian side that the first proposals for action
were made. Kaunitz had determined to checkmate the Empress
by taking up the idea of the triple concert, which she herself had
suggested and then apparently abandoned, and making it a
reality. He meant to enforce the principle that Polish affairs
could not be regulated definitively save by the joint action of all
three of the neighboring Powers. In accordance with that prin-
ciple, the Confederation of Targowica must be induced to request
the protection of Austria and Prussia, as it had already invoked
that of Russia. The envoys of the three Courts at Warsaw must
act together. Above all, the Empress must be invited to sign a
convention by which each of the three Powers should bind itself
to undertake nothing in Poland without the consent of the other
two. By such arrangements Kaunitz hoped to prevent the
Republic from becoming once more a mere province of Russia; to
win for Austria an influence in Polish affairs such as she had sel-
dom possessed in the past; and also to guard against that danger


which had been feared at Vienna ever since the beginning of the
crisis — an agreement between Russia and Prussia for a new
partition without the knowledge of their common ally. 1

About the middle of May the Chancellor explained to Jacobi,
the Prussian envoy, his ideas about setting bounds, by the means
just indicated, to the Empress' activity in Poland. Having
reported to his Court, Jacobi received a reply which was, to say
the least, far from clear, but from which he concluded that his
master fully approved of Kaunitz's suggestions. He could only
have been confirmed in this impression by a previous rescript, in
which the Prussian ministry had declared that the most essential
thing at present was to prevent Russia from acquiring exclusive
control in Poland, and that this aim might be attained by insist-
ing continually on a triple concert. 2 It is not surprising, there-
fore, that the envoy took up Kaunitz's idea with some energy.
Just at this moment Jacobi was performing the last acts of his
ministry at Vienna and initiating his successor, Count Haug-
witz 3 into current affairs. The latter, inexperienced and zealous,
threw himself into the scheme under discussion with a vigor not
uncommon with beginners in diplomacy, but at that moment
quite inconvenient for his Court.

On getting the ambiguous orders of May 21, the two Prussian
envoys began to assail the Austrians with demands for a definite
declaration to be presented by the allied Courts at St. Peters-
burg. Spielmann, who had probably already received a secret
proposal from Berlin of a very different sort, met their suggestions
rather coolly. He professed himself convinced of the purity of

1 This idea of a quasi-permanent triple concert on Polish affairs was only a
development of the principle laid down in the Vienna Convention of July 25, 1791,
and in the February alliance treaty. It first appears in fairly definite form in a
note of Kaunitz to Ph. Cobenzl of May 4, 1792 (printed in Schlitter, Kaunitz,
Ph. Cobenzl und Spielmann, p. 59). Cf. the note of Kaunitz of May 18, printed in
Vivenot, ii, p. 47.

2 Jacobi's report of May 16, rescripts to him of May 18 and 21, B. A., R. 1,
Conv. 169.

3 Haugwitz, who here began his ill-fated public career, had been destined since
October to the post at Vienna, which he owed not only to his personal credit with
Frederick William (he was of the Rosicrucian Society), but also to his friendship
with the late Emperor, and to his supposed sympathy for the Austrian alliance, to
which Jacobi had never been able to adapt himself.



the Empress' intentions, and too busy — on the eve of his
departure for the coronation at Buda — to undertake to draw up
the desired declarations. Haugwitz and Jacobi, not to be re-
buffed, thereupon announced that they would compose the draft
themselves, and presently they returned with one at which Spiel-
mann was fairly aghast. It contained, for example, the astonish-
ing demand that the Empress should arrest the advance of her
troops until the three Courts had agreed upon the measures to be
taken in common. Haugwitz was quite aware that such a demand
would have to be backed up by military demonstrations and
threats, but he did not shrink from that prospect. Spielmann,
however, protested emphatically and outlined a much more
moderate declaration, which the Prussians then accepted and at
once put upon paper. 1

Haugwitz next presented this draft to Kaunitz, who, finding in
it his own ideas, was highly pleased, declaring that if by this
means they could gain their great object, it would be a political
stroke of the rarest sort. The court having gone to Buda, it
required some time to obtain the royal assent to the project; but
this having been secured, the Chancellor proceeded to tone down
still more the terms of the declaration, and to add a draft for the
proposed convention, by which the three Powers were to bind
themselves to do nothing in Poland henceforth except conjointly
and by common accord. If the Empress entered upon this agree-
ment, recognized the principle of " a just community of in-
fluence," and took steps to induce the Confederation to request
the support of Austria and Prussia, the latter were in return to
present declarations at Warsaw analogous to Bulgakov's, and
also, in case of need, to render active military assistance to the
Russians. On June 20 the projects for the joint declaration and
the convention were sent to Berlin. 2

1 Jacobi's report of May 28, B. A., R. 1, Conv. 160. Haugwitz's readiness
to use measures of coercion against the Empress appears again in his report of
June 2, B. A., R. 1, Conv. 170. Spielmann's coldness towards the plan must have
been due in great part to the fact that he had probably just received Schulenburg's
secret overture regarding a new partition. That proposal was made through a
letter of May 22. The post between Berlin and Vienna ordinarily took five days,
and Spielmann's conferences with Jacobi and Haugwitz took place the 28th.

2 For the above: Haugwitz's reports of June 2, n, 15, B. A., R. 1, Conv.


The Prussian ministry had been much irritated ever since learn-
ing of the independent step of their two envoys. They foresaw that
the declaration would not please the Empress, and that the Court
of Vienna, or rather its ambassador at St. Petersburg, would prob-
ably try to throw the blame upon them. They had been led into
sanctioning the plan, however, on the receipt of Jacobi's first
dispatches, which made it appear that the declaration proposed
by the two envoys awaited only the King of Hungary's approval
to be sent off at once to St. Petersburg. When more correctly
informed on that point, they did not spare hints to Reuss that
they would much prefer not to take this step at present, although
constantly repeating that they would abide by the decisions of
their ally. They probably breathed a sigh of relief when the draft
prepared by Kaunitz reached Berlin; for the Chancellor had
moderated the language and eliminated every suggestion of
coercion exactly as they would have desired. Frederick William
and his ministers approved it therefore, because it ■ contained
absolutely nothing contrary to their interests and intentions,'
without attaching any great hopes to it, as Kaunitz had done. In
transmitting it to Goltz, they took care to emphasize that this
was really the handiwork of the Viennese cabinet, and not theirs;
and the envoy was instructed not to thrust himself- unduly for-
ward in conducting this affair. 1

On receiving their dispatches, neither Cobenzl nor his colleague
quite knew what to do with the declaration. It provided for a

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 31 of 59)