Robert Howard Lord.

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

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170; Kaunitz to the King, May 30, to Reuss and L. Cobenzl, June 21, the
Austrian draft of the declaration and convention, and the Jacobi-Haugwitz draft,
Vivcnot, ii, pp. 67 f., 99-103, 105 ff. In his letter to the King of May 30,
Kaunitz vehemently accused Spielmann of advising their sovereign against the
plan simply because it was not his own idea. On June 5 the Referendary
replied (V. A., Vortrage, 1792), calling the King to witness that he had never spoken
a word about it to him either pro or contra, and adding that he had himself dictated
the draft of the declaration word for word to Jacobi and Haugwitz, and that in its
present form he thoroughly approved of it. It follows from this that Spielmann,
although he had received the original propositions of the Prussians rather coldly
cannot be said to have opposed the project, as Sybel declares {op. cit., ii, p. 213).

1 Rescript to Jacobi of June 3, and to Haugwitz, June 7, B. A., R. 1, Conv.
170; Reuss to Kaunitz and to Spielmann, June 9, V. A., Preussen, Berichte, and
Vortrage, 1792; Schulenburg and Alvensleben to the King, June 27, and Frederick
William's reply of the 28th, rescript to Goltz, June 27, B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133.


formal convention, and yet neither minister had received powers
to sign such an act. They agreed to present the declaration
jointly, made some half-hearted representations, and went no
further. Each regarded the other with dislike and suspicion;
neither wished to be the one to bell the cat. Under such circum-
stances their ' joint action ' could scarcely be very effective.

The Russians were not slow to size up the situation. Markov
told Goltz that his Court showed too much deference to that of
Vienna. Ostermann remarked to Cobenzl that Austria had just
given a very great proof of her intimacy with Prussia. 1 Playing
off the one German Power against the other had always been
Russia's forte, and nothing could have been more unwelcome at
St. Petersburg than to encounter their united and determined
opposition. Nothing could have been less to the Empress' taste
than a formal, permanent concert on Polish affairs, or the admis-
sion of the other Powers to an equal share in guiding and control-
ling the Republic. She delayed her answer, however, for many
weeks, until the complete triumph of her armies had removed the
chief pretext for Austro-Prussian intervention. Then in a note (of
August 25), which was not without a touch of irony, she thanked
the two Courts for their willingness to render assistance that was
no longer needed. She promised to employ her good offices to
induce the Confederation to invoke the support of Austria and
Prussia — as soon as that body had become more firmly estab-
lished. She politely refused the proposed convention as super-
fluous, in view of the engagements contained in the treaties of
alliance which she had just concluded with both the German
Powers. The Russo-Prussian treaty did, in fact, contain a pro-
vision for a concert of the three Courts to settle the affairs of
Poland; and although the corresponding stipulation in the
Austro-Russian one made no mention of Prussia, the cabinet of
St. Petersburg professed its willingness to amend that article. 2

This vague, evasive, and almost sarcastic reply would prob-
ably alone have sufficed to put a damper upon Kaunitz's project.

1 For the above: Goltz's report of July 27, B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133; Cobenzl's
of the 2 1 st, V. A., Russland, Berichte, 1792.

2 Cobenzl's and Goltz's reports of August 28, V. A., Russland, Berichte, 1792
and B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133.


But by this time the German Powers themselves had lost all real
interest in the matter. Another plan of a very different kind
relating to Poland was already in full negotiation between them.
Hence the proposed convention was relegated to the archives.
Nothing more was heard of that triple Areopagus which was to
have presided over the destinies of the Republic. Thus ended the
one joint effort made by Austria and Prussia to check the Em-
press' victorious course, and to prevent her from recovering her
old exclusive control in Poland. The episode illustrates admira-
bly the difficulties in the way of any effective common action on
the part of these Powers in opposition to Catherine. Each Court
was far too eager to stand high in her favor to be willing to adopt
a really firm attitude. Each was reluctant to take the lead, for
fear that it would draw all the blame upon itself. Each hung
back, while trying to thrust the other forward. Each was mor-
tally afraid that its ally would outstrip it in Catherine's good
graces. Under such circumstances the Empress could go her way


How little the two German Powers thought of serious opposi-
tion to Russia is shown by the fact that in this summer of 1792
both were engaged in concluding alliances with her. It has
already been noted that by the Vienna Convention and the
Treaty of Berlin Austria and Prussia had agreed to invite the
Court of St. Petersburg to accede to their new union. When in
April the two monarchs came to carry out this promise, the forms
adopted in both letters suggested not so much a simple accession
to the existing treaty, as the establishment of similar engagements
between the Empress and the King of Prussia. 1 This latter

1 Francis to Catherine, April 12, 1792 (Beer, Leopold II, Franz II, und
Catharina, pp. 170 f. In Vivenot, i, p. 409, dated erroneously as " ce (7-8?)
mars "): " Sa Majeste Prussienne se dispose ... a L'inviter incessamment a des
engagemens analogues a ceux dont Je Lui fais part par la presente " [the Treaty of
Berlin]. . . . He wishes to inform her of " les ouvertures que le Roi de Prusse est
a la veille de Lui faire," and adds: " je ne saurois me dispenser de Lui temoigner
en meme terns la satisfaction infinie que je ressentirois en Lui voyant adopter les
memes principes." This is vague enough, and probably designedly so, as the



method was quite to Catherine's taste. She had never liked
triple alliances, for in such associations one might be outvoted.
In an alliance a deux, on the other hand, she was always sure to be
the dominant partner. Hence she replied to the Austrians that
certain clauses in the Treaty of Berlin (especially that mentioning
the Infanta of Poland, which implied a recognition of the Con-
stitution of the Third of May) prevented her from acceding to it;
but that she was confident that she would be conforming to the
intentions of His Apostolic Majesty in making a separate treaty
with Prussia, which would be based on the same principles as the
Austro-Prussian one, and which would be communicated at
Vienna immediately after its conclusion. 1 In the meantime,
although its term had not expired, she offered to renew her alli-
ance with Austria for another eight years. 2 To the Prussians, on
the other hand, the highly welcome reply was given that the
Empress was willing to contract directly with the King an alli-
ance based on the former treaties between the two Courts; and
that she preferred this procedure as characterizing more per-
fectly the return of both parties to the old ideas about the utility
of a liaison between them. Ostermann remarked significantly to
Goltz that it would be much better for them to unite " without
admitting certain people " (i. e., the Austrians). 3 Doubtless this
had been the wish of the Prussians from the outset. 4

It could hardly give unalloyed pleasure at Vienna to see that
Leopold's loyalty to Russia and his steadfast refusal to enter into
any connection into which his ancient ally could not be invited,

Austrians were far from eager to have the Empress accede to the alliance. Freder-
ick William to Catherine, April 15, 1792: " Je ne balance done pas de L'inviter a y
concourir en Lui proposant des engagemens defensifs analogues a ceux du susdit
Traite," B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133.

1 Catherine to Francis, May 2/13, 1792, Beer, op. cit., pp. 175 f.

2 Ostermann to Razumovski, May 4/15, M. A., ABCrpia, III, 52; Cobenzl's
report of May 19, V. A., Russland, Berkhte, 1792. Heidrich is wrong in declaring
{op. cit., p. 207) that the proposal for the renewal of the alliance was made from
the Austrian side, and that the Russians " wondered at the strange demand."

3 Catherine to Frederick William, May 3/14, Goltz's report of May 17, B. A.,
R. XI, Russland, 133.

4 Cf. Bischoffwerder's overtures to Alopeus of the previous autumn. Goltz was
highly delighted at the "adroit manner " in which the Empress had avoided acced-
ing directly to the Austro-Prussian treaty.


had resulted only in paving the way for a separate Russo-Prussian
alliance. There was a certain irony in the fact that Austria, who
for years had made it her business to prevent any connection
between St. Petersburg and Berlin, had now become the medium
for a reunion of those two Courts. The Viennese statesmen were
not a little chagrined at the role they had been obliged to play,
and not a little disquieted over the possible results of the rap-
prochement which they had sponsored. At any rate, there was
all the more reason to tighten their own connection with Russia.
Cobenzl was at once provided with full powers to renew the exist-
ing alliance; and he rushed through the treaty with a haste
which the jealous Goltz found positively "indecent." There was,
indeed, no occasion for delay, since it was merely a question of
renewing the engagements of 1781, with a very few slight modi-
fications. The separate article which concerned Poland con-
tained the mutual guarantee of the constitution of 1773, of the
' fundamental laws,' and of the boundaries of the Republic as
fixed at the time of the Partition. Austria thereby abandoned
the Constitution of the Third of May formally and completely.
On July 14, 1792, the Austro-Russian treaty was signed. 1

The negotiation between Russia and Prussia was not quite so
simple a matter. The draft of a treaty, prepared at St. Peters-
burg on the basis of the treaty of alliance of 1769, encountered
some objections at Berlin, especially the clauses relating to
Poland. The Russians had proposed a concert of the two Courts

1 The Empress' decision to conclude this treaty was in no way influenced by
the Austrian proposal of the Bavarian-Polish plan, as one might judge from Sybel's
account {op. cit., iii, p. 163). Razumovski's courier, who brought this proposal,
reached St. Petersburg three days after the treaty was signed.

Heidrich says the treaty " kennzeichnet sich gerade durch die Geschwindigkeit
seines Abschlusses gelegentlich einer Landpartie von Cobenzl mit Bezborodko als
vollig bedeutungslos " {op. cit., p. 207). As to how far it was ' vollig bedeutungslos,'
a word will be said in the text; but it deserves to be pointed out here: (1) that
the chief reason for haste lay in the necessity of concluding before the Imperial
coronation at Frankfort, so as to avoid the usual controversy about precedence
between the two Imperial Majesties; (2) The Landpartie in question (which
took place on the nth) had nothing in the world to do with it, as the whole affair
was previously settled with the exception of a couple of utterly insignificant points
— the wording of one phrase and the question of naming France as one of the allies
of Austria (Cobenzl's report of July 21, V, A.),


to reestablish the ancient order of things in the Republic. The
Prussian ministry demanded the inclusion of Austria in the con-
cert, and they named as the common aims the reestablishment
and maintenance of the Polish government on approximately the
old bases. The Russians were far from eager to take Austria into
the partnership, as they were opposed on principle to threefold
ententes; but Goltz stood firm, and after a month of haggling,
on August 7, 1792, the treaty was signed at St. Petersburg, sub-
stantially in accordance with the modifications proposed at
Berlin. 1

While it has sometimes been asserted, it seems hardly accurate
to say that by this treaty Catherine went over from the Austrian
to the Prussian system. Undoubtedly the relations between the
Imperial Courts were no longer so intimate as in the days of
Joseph II; Leopold's independent and pacific policy had aroused
dislike and distrust on the Neva; and since his death the reti-
cence, the delays, the reluctant concessions, and "the petty
finasseries'''' of the Court of Vienna had often produced no little
irritation. But in spite of all, the conviction was deeply rooted in
Russian minds that the alliance with Austria was a ' natural ' and
a necessary system. Moments of discontent and coolness might
occur, but these would be only passing shadows. The renewal of
the alliance was by no means a mere hollow formality. Though
its immediate object was to allay suspicions at Vienna regarding
the Empress' rapprochement with Prussia, it also bore witness to
the abiding belief of the Russian statesmen in the permanent
utility of the older connection, and to their resolution to wait
patiently until the Austrians returned to a sounder appreciation
of their true interests. 2

The Prussian alliance, on the other hand, owed its conclusion
chiefly to the exigencies of the moment: the need of conciliating
the Court of Berlin until Polish affairs were settled, and the neces-

1 Printed in Martens, Traites conclus par la Russie, vi, pp. 148-158.

2 For the above: Bezborodko to the Empress, January 25/February 5, 1792,
M. A., Typiiia, IX, 14; Markov to Razumovski, March 9/20, April 10/21,
October 9/15, 1792, October, 1793, P. A., XV, 576. Numerous examples of the
same ideas might be cited from the Vorontsov correspondence.


sity of preventing a revival of the Anglo-Prussian league. 1 The
conviction of permanent common interests which formed the
strength of the Austrian system was lacking here. 2 The best
proof of this is the fact that as soon as the Polish question seemed
to be settled, the Prussian alliance lost all reality, while the Aus-
trian one continued with growing intimacy down to the time of
the Empress' death. But for the present the new liaison with
the Court of Berlin was of the greatest value. For it gave Cather-
ine a comparatively free hand in Poland, offered her the chance to
mediate between Austria and Prussia in the indemnity ques-
tion, and afforded the desired security against too close a con-
nection between the German Powers.

At the close of the summer the Empress held a truly command-
ing position. She had brought to a successful conclusion the
Polish enterprise which most observers had believed she would
never dare risk. Whatever the moral aspects of that affair, she
had achieved a spectacular triumph of the rarest sort. With
Poland at her feet, with both the German Powers attached to her
by alliances and competing for her favor, with her own hands free
while her neighbors were just undertaking an enormous, an im-
possible task, she could well afford to sit back and watch events
confidently and serenely. " My part is sung," she wrote to
Rumiantsov. " It is an example of how it is not impossible to
attain an end and to succeed if one really wills it." 3

1 Cf. the protocols of the Council of the Empire of April 22/May 3 and May 31/
June 11, 1792, Apx. Toe. Cob., i, pp. 912 ff., 920 f.

2 Cf. Markov to S. R. Vorontsov, January 17/28, and July 27/August 7, 1793,
Apx. Bop., xx, pp. 34 ff., 52. Although he was writing to a man of strong pro-
Austrian views, Markov's declarations may probably be accepted at their face
value, as they were abundantly corroborated by the later course of Russian policy.

3 Letter of October 29/November 9, 1792, PyccKaa CrapiiHa, lxxxi 2 , p. 158.


Austria and Prussia Agree upon a Partition

That the upheaval precipitated by Catherine's violent interven-
tion in Poland would end with a new partition was, in the opinion
of many observers, almost a foregone conclusion from the mo-
ment the Empress began her enterprise. 1 For such a denouement
the situation was altogether favorable. The close union of the
three Eastern Powers, the effacement of England, the assassina-
tion of the restless King of Sweden, and the exhaustion of Turkey
provided a political constellation of the most auspicious character.
Recent events suggested the necessity of taking drastic measures
to check the alarming recrudescence of Polish vitality; and no
measure could be quite so effective as a repetition of the political-
surgical operation performed with such success twenty years
before. The appetftes of the Eastern Powers, which throughout
the protracted Oriental crisis had been constantly whetted but
never satisfied, could not much longer be restrained; and the
principle that indemnities must be found somewhere for the ex-
penses of the French war supplied a convenient pretext.

It has already been noted that the idea of taking these indem-
nities in Poland was discussed at Potsdam as early as February of
1792, and that in March at Vienna there was talk of combining
this project with that of the Bavarian Exchange. It was not until
May, however, that these plans were made the subject of a nego-
tiation. The initiative was taken by Prussia.

From the 12th to the 15 th of May conferences were held at
Potsdam between the King, the Duke of Brunswick, Schulenburg,
Bischoffwerder, and Reuss. In the intimate discussions which

1 Cf. Cobenzl's prophecies to the Russians in January and March, 1792, already
cited; the warnings addressed by the British government to Berlin and Vienna in
March, Salomon, Pitt, i li , p. 540; the forecast of Gustavus III, Odhner, op. cit.,
pp. 204 f.



then took place, the Prussian plan of action was probably decided
upon; * at any rate, immediately afterward the first fairly defi-
nite overtures looking to a partition were made both to Russia and
to Austria. It was, of course, an infinitely delicate subject to lead
up to; and, as will appear in the sequel, the Prussians went about
it with all conceivable caution.

A convenient pretext for sounding the Russians was furnished
by a dispatch from Goltz, which arrived in the midst of the dis-
cussions at Potsdam. The envoy wrote that he feared the Court
of St. Petersburg wished to combine the affairs of France too
much with those of Poland. The single word ' bon ' scrawled on
the dispatch opposite this passage, sufficiently shows that Goltz's
superiors were far from sharing his disquietude. 2 Soon after his
return to Berlin, Schulenburg hunted up Alopeus and confided to
him that he heard from all sides that the Empress wished to com-
bine French and Polish affairs; he personally could not at all
understand what this meant, and was curious to be informed.
The Russian envoy, unfortunately, could not enlighten him, and
Schulenburg did not see fit to speak plainly. 3

Bischoffwerder, however, was less reserved. Having written
from Potsdam to request an interview, he met Alopeus on the
1 8th at Charlottenburg, guided the conversation to the subject of
Poland, and presently threw out the suggestion that in order to
remove all occasions for controversy between the three Eastern
Powers, it would be best to reduce the Republic to so insignificant
a size that it could safely be left free to choose whatever form of
government it pleased. If this idea were once adopted, he added,
it would be easy enough to come to an understanding; and the
principal role in directing the affair would naturally be reserved

1 In a letter to the Duke of Brunswick of May 6, Schulenberg mentioned com-
bining French and Polish affairs, and promised to go into details in case he was
summoned to the conference at Potsdam. B. A., R. XI, Frankreich, 89 b.

2 Goltz's report of May 1, received the 14th, B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133. Cf.
Appendix XIII (documents illustrating the earliest discussions between Russia
and Prussia regarding a new partition).

3 Alopeus' report of May 8/19, M. A., Ilpyccifl, III, 29. Goltz was also
ordered (May 17) to find out how the Russian Court thought to combine two
questions between which the Prussian ministry pretended to see no great connec-
tion. B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133.


for the Empress. Alopeus reported to his Court that he had
merely listened and said nothing. 1 It was apparently the first
time that a Prussian had broached the topic of a partition to him.

A week or so later Schulenburg favored the Russian envoy with
a long disquisition on the subject of indemnities for the French
enterprise, insisting strongly that his master must receive com-
pensation of some sort, and begging for a communication of the
Empress' views on that matter. 2 Putting together these various
overtures, the Court of Petersburg could hardly be badly at a loss
to divine the object of Prussia's aspirations.

While thus paving the way for a future understanding, Freder-
ick William and his advisers did not at that time mean to go
further than hints with Russia. Their purpose was, first of all, to
make sure of Austria, and then with the suport of their ally to
drive the best bargain they could with the Empress.

Schulenburg proceeded to initiate his action at Vienna with one
of those little tricks so beloved in eighteenth century diplomacy:
a negotiation behind the back of the Austrian Chancellor, quite
on a par with Leopold's and Kaunitz's intrigues with BischorT-
werder. As to which of the Viennese ministers to approach first,
there could hardly be a question. The one among them who was
known to be the most ardent champion of the Prussian connec-
tion, was Spielmann. Accordingly, on May 21 Schulenburg
confided to Reuss certain ideas on which he desired a very secret
and frank exchange of opinions with the State Referendary. In
view of the unexpected and high-handed action of Russia in
Poland, he declared, it behooved Austria and Prussia to consider
measures to safeguard their own interests and prestige. If the
Empress continued to conceal her real intentions, while her
armies went steadily forward, he would suggest that the two
Courts should send corps of observation across the frontier, with-
out declaring themselves for or against anyone, and thus, on the
pretext of providing for their own security, establish themselves
in Polish territory. Such a demonstration would probably force
Russia at last to reveal her true aims. From many indications he

1 Alopeus' report of May 8/19. M. A., Hpyccia, III, 29.

2 Alopeus' report of May 17/28.


thought it likely that the Empress greatly desired to appropriate
the Ukraine. If that supposition proved correct, it might facili-
tate a settlement of the indemnity question: for in that case
Prussia, too, might take a part of Poland, while Austria found
compensation on the Rhine. In conclusion he begged that this
plan should be kept in the utmost secrecy until it had been agreed
upon by both Courts, and until the moment for its execution
arrived. 1

On receiving this momentous overture, Spielmann seems to
have had little hesitation about entering into the project, which
fitted in well, indeed, with ideas that he had had in mind since
March or even January. With the approval of King Francis, he
replied by a letter to Reuss, in which he declared himself agreed
with Schulenburg on the main principle. If Russia, he said,
coveted Polish territory, of which, however, he had as yet seen
no indication, she could doubtless make no more suitable acqui-
sition than Courland or the Ukraine. 2 He was convinced that
the Court of Berlin could nowhere else find more desirable ag-
grandizement than in Poland ; and Austria would assuredly con-
sent to such a Prussian acquisition not only without envy or
jealousy, but with a truly friendly readiness to assist in the
matter. But it could never suit the Court of Vienna, he protested,
to seek its indemnity on the Rhine; for of what value were
remote and precarious acquisitions, which could be retained only
by immense efforts, and which would expose their possessor to
the odium of having been the only Power to take part in a dis-
memberment of France ? Moreover, to seek compensation
through conquests in the west would involve prolonging the war
beyond the present year — and the allies hoped to finish the
struggle within that time — or else altering the whole plan of
campaign. He was therefore of the opinion that the only means

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 32 of 59)