Robert Howard Lord.

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

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of realizing Schulenburg's ideas would be a plan based on the

1 Reuss to Spielmann, May 22, Vivenot, ii, pp. 55 f. This highly important
correspondence was first published by Adolf Beer in the Historische Zeilschrift, xxvii
(1872), and then more fully by Vivenot.

2 Schulenburg had not mentioned Courland. Probably Spielmann threw out
the suggestion in the hope of transferring the Russian acquisition from the south
to the north — away from the frontiers of Austria and towards those of Prussia.


exchange of the Austrian Netherlands for Bavaria and the Upper
Palatinate. He knew very well, he said, what an anathema had
been laid on this project at Berlin during Hertzberg's ministry;
but he believed that the circumstances and the relations between
the two Courts had now changed so entirely that, with a minister
of Schulenburg's insight and high-mindedness, a few hours' con-
versation would suffice to bring about a perfect agreement. As
for the means proposed by Schulenburg for executing his plan,
Spielmann objected with much reason that anything which con-
veyed the least suggestion of coercion produced on the Empress
of Russia an effect exactly contrary to that which was desired.
Instead of an armed demonstration in Poland, he proposed that
after the two Courts had come to an agreement among them-
selves, they should at once lay their plan frankly before the Em-
press with the assurance that they were willing to consent to
whatever she might demand for herself. The fact that she seemed
inclined to cooperate in the French enterprise made it probable
that she would readily agree to this method of indemnifica-
tion. 1

Schulenburg professed to be, and doubtless was, delighted with
this reply. Never, he told Reuss, had ministers of two Courts
acted towards each other with such sincerity as he and Baron
Spielmann. He readily gave his assent to the modifications of his
original proposals which Spielmann had suggested. He agreed
as to the inadvisability of a military demonstration in Poland,
although he was thereby renouncing for his Court the prospect
of taking immediate possession of its proposed acquisition. He
not only accepted the Bavarian Exchange plan, but declared that
he had all along shared Spielmann's ideas on that subject 2
(although this involved the sacrifice of one of the most sacred
of the traditions handed down from Frederick the Great). In-
vited by Spielmann to indicate the precise acquisition that would
suit his Court, Schulenburg could only point to the Polish district
that separated Silesia from East Prussia, adding that its size must

1 Letter of May 29, Vivenot, ii, pp. 63-67.

2 This was doubtless true, for Schulenburg could hardly have remained ignorant
of Bischoffwerder's discussions at Vienna on that topic.


depend on the lot claimed by Russia and could not be definitely-
fixed in advance. 1

A few days later, on the King's return from Pomerania, the
Prussian minister reported that his sovereign agreed to the Ba-
varian Exchange and offered to use his good offices with both the
Elector and his heir, the Duke of Zweibrucken; that he could not,
indeed, think of resorting to coercion in order to secure the assent
of those princes, in view of a promise he had once made; but
that he flattered himself that the King of Hungary would not
expect such extreme measures of him. As both monarchs had
now given their consent to the combined Bavarian-Polish plan,
Schulenburg requested that the affair should at once be brought
into the regular ministerial channel, in order to take advantage
of the pending negotiations with Russia. 2

Spielmann, who received Reuss' last two letters only on June 18
while at Buda, replied with assurances that nothing was more
justified than the King's aversion to coercive measures against
the Duke of Zweibrucken; he was convinced that there would
be no need of them. He was overflowing with joy at the happy
course the negotiation had taken, and at the confidence shown
by Schulenburg in him personally. He did not doubt, he added,
that all the details of the plan could be satisfactorily arranged at
the approaching meeting of the two sovereigns. 3


The first step in bringing the affair into the regular minis-
terial channel was to reveal the secret to Kaunitz. This Spiel-
mann and the King proceeded to do by letters written shortly
before their return from Buda. To the old Chancellor, already
jealous of his subordinate, 4 this negotiation, carried on with the
approval of the monarch behind his back, was a staggering blow.
In his reply of June 25 he poured out his wounded feelings in

1 Reuss to Spielmann, June 4, Vivenot, ii, pp. 80 ff.

2 Reuss to Spielmann, June 9, ibid., pp. 89 IT.

3 Spielmann to Reuss, June 22, Vivenot, ii, pp. no f.

4 Zinzendorf's Diary, June 6: " Le vieux [Kaunitz] s'est brouille' avec Spiel-
mann. ... II a pense a. faire sauter Spielmann." (V. A.)



terms that few ministers would have dared address to their
sovereigns. He found the plan which the King had sanctioned,
" a chimera," an insult to the Austrian Court, utterly unjustifiable
— at least in so far as it concerned Poland, — and contrary to all
existing treaties and engagements. He doubted very strongly
whether the Bavarian House would ever give its consent; and he
was almost sure that the Maritime Powers would oppose; and
they would be right in doing so. At any rate, the Austrian
indemnity would be left dependent on a long and uncertain
negotiation, while Prussia could at any moment take possession
of her share. What security was there that the Imperial Court,
after being inveigled into assenting to the gains of its allies, would
not come forth empty-handed ? What reliance could be placed on
the proffered good offices of Prussia with the Elector and his
heir ? It was obvious that although the Court of Berlin had no
scruples about robbing the allied Republic of Poland, it still
objected to using sufficiently earnest language to secure the con-
sent of those princes. "I see then in this whole policy," the
Chancellor wrote, " nothing but covetousness, and principles
which can inspire little confidence in future times and which
therefore promise little good. Such a political morality is not
in accordance with my principles, and should . . . never be ac-
cepted by a great Power which respects itself, and recognizes the
value of its good name. . . . From evil no good can ever result;
it is therefore . . . my only wish and my only hope that nothing
can and will come of this." *

However much personal feelings may have influenced Kaunitz's
reply and whatever may be thought of his right to plume himself
on his exalted political morality, it must be admitted that his
objections and warnings were only too well grounded. On the
other hand, it is difficult to blame Spielmann unreservedly. An
indemnity had to be found for Prussia somewhere, and in that
case Austria could not afford to dispense with an equivalent
advantage. To seek compensation at the cost of France involved
prolonging the war indefinitely, covering the two Courts with

1 The King to Kaunitz, June 21, the Chancellor's reply of the 25th, and his
appended " Reflections," Vivenot, ii, pp. 107 f., 114 f.


odium, and raising an insurmountable barrier to the restoration
of Louis XVI. To refuse Prussia the so ardently desired acquisi-
tion in Poland meant to loosen the alliance and to drive the Court
of Berlin into the arms of Russia. On the other hand, by consent-
ing, Austria could gain what seemed a unique chance to realize
that exchange project which had been pursued with such efforts
for almost a century; she might secure what was doubtless the
most valuable acquisition the Hapsburg Monarchy could make,
while at the same time getting rid of distant possessions which
exposed the state to ceaseless trouble and to a galling dependence
on foreign Powers. The success of the plan depended, indeed, on
the consent of a prince who had hitherto shown himself strongly
opposed to the Exchange — the Duke of Zweibriicken; but it
may well have seemed that he could no longer refuse when
Prussia, hitherto his chief support, urged his acceptance. On the
Elector's consent Spielmann might fairly count, both because of
his previous attitude and in view of his overtures to Lehrbach in
March. Undoubtedly the war introduced a great element of
uncertainty into the calculation; but one must remember the
exaggerated reports then universally current about the disorgani-
zation and impotence of France, and the general belief in the
speedy triumph of the allied arms. Spielmann's course is, then,
intelligible enough. And yet none of his hopes were to be realized ;
all of Kaunitz's prophecies were to be fulfilled.

The Chancellor's objections produced no change in the King's
resolutions. The only result was a severe tension in the relations
between monarch and minister. It was widely noted at Vienna
that at his departure for the Imperial coronation at Frankfort,
the young King failed to pay Kaunitz the customary visit.
Malicious tongues had it that the attention had been omitted for
prudential reasons : the old man had proposed to teach his sover-
eign a salutary lesson. 1 In his note of June 25 the Chancellor had
begged the King, if he adhered to the Schulenburg-Spielmann
plan, to excuse him from taking part in the affair, ' in order that
he might not be obliged, against his own conviction, to end his
ministry by such a step.' On this point he was gratified, for not

1 Zinzendorf's Diary, July 6 (V. A.).


only the negotiation over the indemnities, but all important busi-
ness henceforth passed through other hands. In August the old
man insisted on resigning his functions altogether. It was vir-
tually the end of Kaunitz's long and honorable career.


Almost immediately after the return of the King and Spielmann
from Buda an opportunity presented itself for entering into
negotiations with Russia concerning the new plan. Razumovski,
the Empress' ambassador, saw fit to force a confidential dis-
closure of the secret. In a familiar conversation with Cobenzl
(June 30), he took occasion to dwell at length on his sovereign's
invariable attachment to the alliance and on her great interest in
the prosperity of the House of Austria, and thus led up to the sug-
gestion that this might, perhaps, be the most favorable moment
to effect the Bavarian Exchange plan, to which the Empress had
formerly lent so willing a support. Cobenzl objected that even
now the Court of Berlin would not fail to oppose, unless it received
a corresponding advantage. Razumovski pointed to Dantzic and
Thorn. The Empress, he said, had formerly opposed Prussian
aggrandizement in that quarter solely out of regard for Austria.
" But do you think," said Cobenzl, " that to-day, if we found such
a plan to our advantage, the Empress would consent to it without
desiring any acquisition for herself?" "Oh no!" said the
Russian, " I think that in that case she, too, would wish to get
something." " But," replied the Austrian, " what is there that
would suit her ? She can make acquisitions of value to Russia
only in Poland." " Precisely in Poland," said Razumovski; " the
acquisition of the Ukraine would be very useful to us." " Yes,
the Ukraine or Courland," said Cobenzl, throwing out the same
idea that Spielmann had advanced to Schulenburg. The ambas-
sador considered, however, that the annexation of Courland
would be of no value to his Court, since that Duchy was already
totally dependent on Russia; an advantageous acquisition could
be found only in the Ukraine. As for the pretext, he was sure
there would be no difficulty; there were plenty of available titles


in the archives. Cobenzl then hazarded a suggestion that showed
the persistence of the ideas of Leopold. The Poles, he said, were
so infatuated with their new constitution that they might, per-
haps, consent to territorial sacrifices, in order to obtain its con-
firmation from the neighboring Powers. Razumovski replied,
however, that after restoring the old regime, the Powers could
easily obtain the desired cessions from the well-disposed party.
That day the conversation went no further. Both diplomats had
been profuse in compliments; Razumovski had amused his friend
by building air-castles; it was apparently only harmless specula-

Cobenzl hastened, however, to inform the King and Spielmann.
The next day, at the close of the Sunday audience of the ambas-
sadors, he drew Razumovski aside and confided to him that he
had penetrated their secret, or rather that there could be no
secrets between such allies. With the King's authorization he
then set forth the whole plan for the Bavarian Exchange and the
Prussian acquisition in Poland, though without mentioning the
fact that negotiations on this subject had already been opened
with Prussia. It is strange that with all his assurances that the
project would be left entirely to the good pleasure of the Em-
press, he failed to suggest that she, also, should share in the spoils.
Razumovski protested profusely about his sovereign's inclination
to anything that promised advantages to her allies; but he felt
bound to intimate that her interests must also be provided for.
Immediately afterward Spielmann confirmed to the ambassador
all that Cobenzl had said. It was thereupon agreed that Razu-
movski should send off a courier to St. Petersburg with a dis-
patch of his own, and one to Louis Cobenzl. 1

The instruction drawn up by the Vice-Chancellor for his"
cousin 2 is interesting, as showing how recent events, especially
those of the Oriental crisis, had convinced Austrian statesmen of
the impossibility in the long run of defending Poland's integrity
against Prussia. It also reveals a curious attitude towards

1 On the above see Appendix XIV, where the text of Razumovski's report of
his discussions with Cobenzl is printed.

2 Dispatch of July 2, Vivenot, ii, pp. i2off.


Russia. The Empress, Cobenzl wrote, could not justly demand
an acquisition, since the whole burden of the French war was
borne by Austria and Prussia, and since all the advantages
gained through the alliance of the Imperial Courts had hitherto
fallen to Russia. He thought that if the Court of Petersburg
consented to the indemnities demanded by the German Powers
for themselves, they might in return offer to excuse it from all
cooperation in the war with France, and to assist it in the com-
plete restoration of the old regime in Poland. But if, in spite of
all, the Russians manifested a very strong desire to make acquisi-
tions, the ambassador was ordered not to contest the claim
directly, nor to show any open signs of disinclination to such a
demand. The Vice-Chancellor added that the whole plan was
only a new idea, about which he desired to learn the Empress'
opinion. Much more precise instructions would be sent to St.
Petersburg after the meeting of the Emperor-elect and the King
of Prussia. Unsettled as the plan might be at that time, one can-
not repress a gasp of astonishment that an experienced Austrian
statesman could have imagined for a moment that the Empress
would renounce a share in the general distribution of indemni-
ties. One sees again that the Viennese ministers were by no
means eager to have the Russian eagles approach the frontiers of


It is uncertain whether Razumovski, in making his far-reaching
suggestions to the Austrians, was acting in accordance with
directions from St. Petersburg. There are no instructions on this
subject among Ostermann's dispatches to him of this period; and
in his report to Bezborodko the ambassador expressed the hope
that his step would not be disapproved, since he had sought only
to verify a suspicion which he had long felt, that the Court of
Vienna desired to revive the Exchange project. The realization
of the plan depended solely on the Empress, he added; it could be
arrested by a single word from her, in case it did not conform to
her views. In spite of this apology, however, it is difficult to
suppose that he would have ventured to go so far without at


least a hint from some of the persons in power at St. Petersburg,
presumably from Zubov or Markov. The suspicion that Russian
diplomacy was at work at this moment pulling the most secret
wires in order to bring a partition upon the order of the day, is
strengthened by the fact that, almost simultaneously with
Razumovski's strange performance, his government took the
initiative in provoking very similar explanations from the Court
of Berlin.

Schulenburg's advances to Alopeus on the subject of indemni-
ties served as the point of departure. The Russians must have
been highly gratified by those overtures, both because they thus
obtained a chance to take a hand in a matter in which they were
keenly interested, and because they probably desired to give the
indemnity question a turn adapted to their own special views.
As a participant in the French enterprise (by paying subsidies),
and still more as being accustomed to take the leading role in all
great affairs, the Empress could not look on indifferently while
her neighbors collected war indemnities or annexed provinces.
Nothing could be more vexatious to her than to have Austria and
Prussia arranging everything between themselves, instead of
referring humbly to the grand court of arbitration at St. Peters-
burg. She would not have been Catherine II, had she not tried
to get the indemnity question into her own hands, so that in the
end she might appear on the stage to award the prizes, while
incidentally appropriating the largest for herself. Now it was
clearly not to her interest that the indemnities should take the
form of conquests from France, for in that quarter there were no ''
particularly desirable acquisitions to be found for Russia. It is
not improbable that the idea may very early have been adopted
at St. Petersburg, as at Berlin, of allowing Poland to pay the
costs. 1 That would be far more convenient for Russia and Prussia,

1 In Cobenzl's report of June n, 1791, relating Ostermann's first overtures
to him about an intervention in France, there is an enigmatic but suggestive pas-
sage. Ostermann said that the Empress desired an understanding with Austria on
the French question " d'autant plus qu'il ne seroit peutetre pas impossible de lier
ces affaires-la avec celles qui occupoient d'ailleurs les deux Cours Imp£riales." At
a time when the Oriental crisis was practically past, and the revolution of the
Third of May was very fresh in the minds of the Russians, the " affairs which




and Austria could doubtless be provided for somewhere. By
June of 1792, the Empress must have been sufficiently well aware
that this idea corresponded to the wishes of the German Powers.
Since Razumovski's report of March and Alopeus' of May, she
could hardly have been in doubt as to the direction in which the
ambitions of Austria and Prussia would turn. 1 In view of all
this, Ostermann's reply to the above-mentioned overtures of
Schulenburg is highly significant.

In his dispatches to Alopeus of June 10/21, the Vice-Chancellor
eclared that the Empress entirely approved of Frederick Wil-
liam's claim for compensation, and would hasten to lend her
support, if it were needed, as soon as she was informed of the
nature and form of the projected indemnities. She expected that
a similar demand for compensation would probably be raised by
the other Courts cooperating in the French enterprise (i. e.,
Austria, Sardinia, and Russia) . She felt obliged, however, to urge
upon the King's consideration that if France, weakened and ex-
hausted by anarchy, were now to be subjected to a dismember-
ment, as well as burdened with a form of government that would
never allow the country to recover its strength (i. e., a constitu-
tional government, instead of the absolute monarchy which she
had vainly advised the allies to restore), this state would dis-
appear completely from the political balance of Europe. She left
it to the King to decide whether that would be to the general
advantage. — The inference from this is obvious. If, as Oster-
mann plainly hinted, the indemnities were not to be taken in
France, there was practically only one other place in which to
seek them. There was only one quarter in which the Empress'
proffered aid in securing acquisitions for Prussia could be needed
or could be of value. Catherine was virtually inviting the King
to confide to her how much of Poland she could help him to

occupied the Imperial Courts elsewhere," and which were to be combined with the
French enterprise, could hardly have been other than those of Poland (V. A.,
Russland, Berichte, 1791).

1 Cf. Schulenburg to Frederick William, June 30: " Apres les insinuations in-
directes qui lui ont 6te faites, elle [Russia] ne peut ignorer le fonds de Ses [the
King's] idees a cet egard " [a partition of Poland], B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133.


appropriate. Anything less than that these ' ostensible ' dis-
patches could scarcely have meant. This was also the sense in
which they were understood by the Prussian ministry, whose joy
can easily be imagined. 1

Only a few days before, in reply to a note in which the King
had impatiently inquired what was to be done to bring " the
principal aim" (the Polish acquisition) to the front, Schulenburg
had urged that it was still advisable to await further advances
from Russia, since if they (the Prussians) announced their desires
openly, the Court of St. Petersburg might betray everything to
the Poles in order to win the whole nation to its side. 2 The
furthest he had yet dared to go, was to tell the Prince of Nassau,
Catherine's agent in French affairs, who was then in Berlin, that
France had no money, and yet that an indemnity in money was
the only suitable compensation that Russia and Prussia could
find "in that quarter." As usual, the irresponsible Bischoffwerder
did not stop there, but proceeded to confide to Nassau the entire
plan for the Bavarian Exchange and the Prussian acquisition in
Poland — in the certain knowledge that it would be reported
straight to the Empress. 3

A few days later (July 1) Alopeus presented the thrice welcome
dispatches of June 21 regarding the indemnities. Soon after the
Russian envoy sought out Schulenburg with the direct intention
of provoking a confidence, precisely as Razumovski had done.

1 Ostermann to Alopeus, June 10/21, M. A., Upyccia, III, 28: Schulen-
burg to the King, July 1, Schulenburg and Alvensleben to the King, July 3, Fred-
erick William's reply of July 4, B. A., R. 96, 147 G. I am strongly tempted
to see a connection between these Russian advances to Prussia and Razumovski 's
simultaneous manoeuvres with the Austrians. Alopeus' reports of May 8/19 and
17/28 must have reached St. Petersburg not later than June 10 or 1 2. They brought
pretty full indications as to the designs of Prussia and provoked the decisive action
which Russia then undertook at Berlin. It seems not improbable that the courier
who left St. Petersburg for Vienna on June 16, may have carried secret and private
directions to Razumovski to draw out the Austrians on the same subject.

2 Frederick William to Schulenburg, June 28, the minister's reply of the 30th,
B. A., R. 96, 147 G.

3 Alopeus' report of June 19/30, Nassau to the Empress, July 11, both referring
to Nassau's conversation of the 29th of June with Schulenburg and Bischoffwerder,
M. A., Ilpyccifl, III, 29, and {ibid.) France, IX, Princes el Emigres, 1792.


Schulenburg resisted temptation no better than the Austrians.
Encouraged by Ostermann's so favorable response, he revealed
the whole Bavarian-Polish plan, including the acquisition of the
Ukraine for Russia, pretending, indeed, not to know his master's
views on the subject, but announcing that he meant to ascertain
them at once. 1 On July 5 he reported that, as a result of the
recent friendly overtures of the Empress, the King would now
enter into definite negotiations with the Court of Vienna on the
indemnity question, and would inform her of the results with all
loyalty and frankness. 2 In order to open the way to negotiations
at St. Petersburg, Goltz was next initiated into the secret, and

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 33 of 59)