Robert Howard Lord.

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

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vigorously that if the Elector had to part with his possessions on
the Lower Rhine the Exchange would be rendered forever im-
possible; and he added gloomily that in the end the allies would
have to fall back on taking their indemnities in French assignats
— an idea which filled Haugwitz with horror. 2

The debate moved around in a vicious circle. Still it appears
that Haugwitz did not express himself on the subject of the
Margraviates with sufficient firmness to destroy the hopes of the
Austrians. It was rather the answer given to Reuss that first
enlightened the Imperial ministry on what was to be expected
from Prussia.


The Ansbach-Baireuth proposition had not appeared to Schu-
lenburg particularly exorbitant and offensive at the moment when
it was first brought forward. It was only the day after the
conference of July 21, after long rumination, that he convinced
himself that the demand was thoroughly unjustifiable and inadmis-
sible. Then the suspicion awoke in him that the Court of Vienna
was systematically trying to strew the negotiation with difficulties

1 Ph. Cobenzl to Reuss, August 8, Vivenot, ii, pp. 159 ff.

2 Haugwitz to Frederick William, August 16, B. A., R. 1, Conv. 170.



in order to thwart the whole indemnity project; that it preferred
to dispense with compensation for the war altogether, out of a
Machiavellian calculation that fifty millions more of debts would
not ruin a state with the resources of Austria, while the same
loss would be fatal to Prussia. 1 Even the complaisance of the
Austrians in other matters filled him with distrust. This proud
Court of Vienna was not wont to be so courteous, so pliable: it
must certainly have, some vast, mysterious, and insidious design
on foot. 2

In this harrowing state of suspicion and uncertainty, Schulen-
burg clung all the more firmly to one principle and framed one
momentous resolution. Whatever might happen, Prussia must
obtain an indemnity for the cost of the war; and since Austria
had failed him, he decided that the vital point at present was to
reach an understanding with Russia. After the Prussian indem-
nity had thus been ensured, it would be time to consider the
demands of the Court of Vienna. Austria might then be allowed
to effect the Exchange, and, if it were clearly proved that a deficit
would result, she might be permitted to make up the loss by
certain acquisitions from France; but the claim for the Margra-
viates must be categorically, once and finally, rejected. This was
a turning-point in Prussian policy. Hitherto Schulenburg's cardi-
nal principle had been the concert with Austria. Now he looked
for salvation only to Russia. 3

If he had found the Ansbach-Baireuth proposition "inadmis-
sible," his colleagues at Berlin declared it " alarming, not to say
insolent," and even " revolting." Both of them had long been
discontented with the reigning policies; and they now found a
chance to give their anti-Austrian proclivities full vent. It was
bad enough, they held, to have to consent to the Bavarian
Exchange; but to undertake to urge it at London and Zwei-
briicken was out of the question. It could not be permitted at

1 Schulenburg to Finckenstein and Alvensleben, July 21, B. A., R. XI, Frank-
reich, 89 g.

2 Alopeus' report of July 13/24, based on Schulenburg's confidences to him,
M. A., Ilpyccia, III, 30.

3 Schulenburg to Finckenstein and Alvensleben, July 22, in Ranke, Ur sprung
und Beginn der Revolutionskriege, p. 365.


all, unless Prussia obtained a very handsome acquisition in Po-
land. Though without great hopes with respect to the Empress'
attitude, they agreed entirely with Schulenburg's idea as to the
necessity of seeking first of all an understanding with Russia. If
that could be attained, the King ought to take possession of his
acquisition at once, and then tell the Court of Vienna that he
would do what he could for it. That was the only way to deal
with Austria, the two ministers declared. In 1771 and 1772 the
Court of Vienna had also affected an attitude of disinterestedness ;
but when it saw Russia and Prussia agreed and determined to
have their way, it had hastened to throw off the mask and beg
for a share of ' the cake.'

The idea, it must be said, was luminous enough, except that
there was this difference between 1772 and 1792: in the latter
year Prussia was bound to Austria by an alliance, the basis of
which was equality in all advantages; and she was engaged along
with that Power in a joint war, the success of which depended
upon complete mutual confidence. The alliance and the common
enterprise were doomed, the moment Prussia attempted to carry
out behind the back of her ally a coup like that proposed by the
Berlin ministry. Doubtless the Imperial Court had rendered
an agreement difficult by its exorbitant demands, but to seize
the coveted lands in Poland without a preliminary understanding
and then to present Austria with an insulting fait accompli was
to turn the alliance to scorn. The project did not, indeed, come
to execution at this time, as the sphinx at St. Petersburg could
not be brought to speak; but in the ideas here proposed by
Finckenstein and Alvensleben, and approved by Schulenburg,
one can see the germs of the Note of Merle, the Second Partition
Treaty, and the disruption of the First Coalition. 1

1 For the above: Alvensleben's and Finckenstein's notes to each other on
Schulenburg's letter of July 21/22, their joint reply to him of July 27, his letter
to them of August 2, B. A., R. XI, Frankreich, 89 g.

Finckenstein and Alvensleben wrote: "... Nous sommes tout a. fait du senti-
ment de V. Exc. que pour nous procurer du cote' de la Pologne le dedommagement
qui fait notre objet, le consentement de la Russie est un prealable absolument
n£cessaire avant de pouvoir faire aucune demarche de poids du c6te de l'Autriche.
. . . L'affaire une fois de regie avec la Russie, nous pensons qu'il faudra la terminer
sans perte de tems par nous mettre en possession le plut6t qu'il se pourroit sans


' Unanimous as was the opinion of the cabinet ministry, the
King did not at first display the same repugnance to the idea of
ceding the Margraviates; and Haugwitz was at bottom inclined
to it. In a report to his sovereign of July 26, the envoy urged
that the Court of Vienna might, indeed, be induced to content
itself with the Exchange alone, but in that case it would probably
raise great difficulties about the Polish affair; whereas if it were
promised Ansbach and Baireuth, all assistance and good will
might be expected from it. Before Schulenburg could intervene,
Frederick William replied with a letter in which he showed him-
self not entirely unwilling to make the proposed cession, if in
return he could get for himself the whole left bank of the Vistula. 1
Schulenburg was almost in despair over the royal indiscretion.
He did what he could to mend matters by a private letter to
Haugwitz, begging him in Heaven's name not to let the faintest
suspicion transpire that their master could ever conceive of the
possibility of such a cession. In public Haugwitz was to express
as his own opinion that the King's aversion to the sacrifice de-
manded of him was wellnigh invincible. For the envoy's private
instruction, Schulenburg added that it was only in the last
extremity and only in return for immense acquisitions in Poland,
that Prussia could consent to give up the Franconian principali-
ties; and he personally would never lend a hand to such a trans-
action save with infinite repugnance. 2

meme trop s'apesanter sur un arrangement exact des demarcations . . . et cela
fait, dire a la Cour de Vienne que telle est notre indemnity et que nous sommes
prets a lui en procurer une de la meme valeur, en autant que la chose dependroit
de nous. C'est la vraie maniere a notre avis de traiter en pareil cas avec l'Autriche.
Lors du demembrement de la Pologne en 1771 et 1772 elle suivit a peu pres la
meme marche qu'aujourd'hui, jouant la desinteressee . . . ; mais lorsqu'elle nous
vit d'accord avec la Russie et les deux Allies disposes a aller leur chemin, quelque
parti que Ton prit a Vienne, elle revint d'elle meme a nous pour avoir sa part au
gateau. . . . Nous . . . avons ete vraiment revokes en apprenant que les Min-
istres Autrichiens ont ose proposer la cession des Principautes de Franconie. . . .
V. Exc. a bien raison de nommer le projet d'une telle cession insoutenable et in-
admissible. . . . Nous sommes ainsi bien d'accord tous trois que dans tous les cas
il faut rejetter haut a la main une proposition aussi inacceptable sous tous les
rapports, et qui ne sauroit meme faire un objet de discussion entre les deux Cours."

1 Frederick William to Haugwitz, July 28, B. A., R. 96, 155 E.

1 Schulenburg to Haugwitz, July 30, B. A., R. XI, Frankreich, 89 K.


With that, however, the evil was not quite undone. The
King's " indifference " to the " revolting proposition," did not
cease to alarm the cabinet ministry. They trembled at the
thought that if the Court of Vienna but suspected the weakness
of their position, it would, with its usual perseverance, return
again and again with offers of advantages and equivalents of all
sorts, until finally the King succumbed. 1 The secret of that
report of Haugwitz's and the replies made to it, Schulenburg
wrote, must be concealed like murder. What if Bischoffwerder
should learn of it, with his Austrian propensities ! 2 It was a try-
ing moment for the Prussian ministers. They feared the weak-
ness of their own sovereign; they had ceased to expect anything
good from Austria ; they found their hands bound with regard to
France by the declaration in which the Duke of Brunswick was
made to deny that the allied Powers had any designs upon the
territory of that kingdom. Not only the Prussian acquisition in
Poland, but a Prussian acquisition anywhere, seemed to be in
grave jeopardy.

It was under these circumstances that the Austrian cabinet
delivered its new attack through the dispatches to Reuss of
August 8. Nevertheless, the communication of Cobenzl's report
failed to work the wonders expected. This time Schulenburg was
the first to gain the King's ear, and he succeeded in putting
through an answer after his own heart. The reply given to Reuss
declared clearly and emphatically that Prussia could never think
of ceding the Margraviates, except in exchange for Lusatia, if
that should ever return to Austrian hands; that whereas Cobenzl
reported only the private opinions of the Russian ministers, it
was indispensable to learn as soon as possible the sentiments of
the Empress; that meantime the King desired to know whether
the Emperor would accept the Bavarian Exchange as equivalent
to the Prussian acquisition in Poland, and if not, and in case a
partition were found impossible, what were his ideas regarding
the indemnities that would then have to be sought at the expense

1 Schulenburg to his colleagues, July 30, their reply of August 4, B. A., R. XI,
Frankreich, 89 g.

2 To Finckenstein and Alvensleben, August n, ibid.


of France. To this formal response, Schulenburg added orally
that his sovereign fully accepted the principle of a ' supplement '
for Austria, and would assuredly be willing to cooperate in pro-
curing one for his ally. His (Schulenburg's) personal opinion
was that such an acquisition could best be found in Alsace. The
honest Reuss was quite moved by such zeal for the interests of
the Imperial Court, and reported with touching simplicity that
it was plainly not Schulenburg's fault, if the King refused to
cede the Margraviates. The divergence between Schulenburg's
' personal ' utterances and his formal, ministerial declarations,
BischofTwerder's profuse sympathy, and the probable ambiguity
of Haugwitz's interpretations of orders with which he did not
agree, may well have had something to do with the fact that the
Austrian ministry still refused for some time to consider the
King's decision about the Margraviates as final. 1

The Prussian ministers, too, were not yet thoroughly assured
that the Ansbach-Baireuth question was dead and buried. Haug-
witz continued even into September to recommend the cession,
in order to secure a very generous acquisition in Poland; and
this in spite of Schulenburg's efforts to " indoctrinate him," and
in spite of the fulminations of the Berlin ministry against the
very idea. 2 The King's mind, however, seemed henceforth fixed.

The Austrian communications through Reuss produced the
very reverse of the desired effect on the Prussian ministry. The
latter, instead of seeking the proposed concert with the Imperial
Court, now hastened their advances to Russia. Goltz, who had
hitherto been confined to generalities and hints, was at last
ordered to enter into full and frank explanations. 3

1 For the above: Reuss' report of August 17, V. A., Preussen, Berichte, 1792;
Schulenburg to Finckenstein and Alvensleben, August 14, B. A., R. XI, Frankreich,
89 g. It is to be noted that Schulenburg did not mention to his colleagues bis
declarations regarding a ' supplement,' and yet Reuss reports them so positively
that one can hardly doubt his word, especially in view of the fact that he was
admittedly one of the most truthful and honest of diplomats.

2 Haugwitz to the King, August 16, 20, September 4, B. A., R. 1, 170; Schulen-
burg to Haugwitz, August 15, B. A., R. XI, Frankreich, 89 g, and September 2,
B. A., R. XI, Frankreich, 89 K; Finckenstein and Alvensleben to Haugwitz,
passim, August 20 and September n especially, B. A., R. 1, 170.

3 Rescripts to Goltz of August 20 and 24, September 1 and 4, B. A., R. XI,
Russland, 133.


Before these instructions reached St. Petersburg, matters had
already begun to progress in that quarter, largely, it would seem,
as a result of new communications from Vienna. On August 8
Philip Cobenzl had sent off to his cousin dispatches containing
a report of the interviews at Mainz. Until the question of the
Margraviates was settled, the Austrians were far from desiring to
start a formal negotiation at St. Petersburg; and hence the
object of the new communications was only to keep the Russians
informed and in good humor. But the dispatches contained one
novelty. By this time the Viennese ministers had convinced them-
selves that it would be impossible to avoid giving the Empress
a share of the spoils; and so in order not to be outdone in gener-
osity by the Prussians, and in order to accumulate merits for his
own Court, the Vice-Chancellor here mentioned for the first time
that, as a matter of course, Russia, too, should get something. 1
When Louis Cobenzl read these dispatches to Ostermann, the
latter's face lighted up with pleasure when it came to the passage
about an acquisition for Russia. " Well and good, in that case
the thing can go through," he declared; " it was impossible that
we alone should get nothing." 2 Without yet being in a position
to speak ministerially, he gave Cobenzl to understand that the
Empress agreed to the principle of the indemnity plan, and that
the only question was as to the quo modo. Goltz, who arrived for
his conference immediately afterward, found that day — for the
first time — a ready listener. Ostermann repeated to him the
assurance just given to Cobenzl, that his sovereign would cer-
tainly not oppose an arrangement for the advantage of all three
Courts and wished only to be informed of the plan in more
detail. 3

Now at last the Prussian ministry could, as they expressed it,
see a little couleur de rose in what had been so black a cloud. In
accordance with Goltz's suggestion, they at once begged the King
to fix the precise extent of the acquisition to be demanded in

1 Ph. Cobenzl to L. Cobenzl, August 8, Vivenot, ii, pp. 164-169.

2 " So recht, so kann die Sache gehen, denn es war nicht moglich dass wir die
einzigen leer ausgehen."

3 Cobenzl's and Goltz's reports of August 24, V. A., Russland, Berichle, 1792,
B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133.


Poland, so that the envoy might be enabled to bring matters to
a definite agreement. 1 Hitherto the Prussians had been by no
means clear as to the exact boundaries that they meant to claim.
The King had several times spoken longingly of the whole left
bank of the Vistula, 2 and he had found Schulenburg's ideas too
modest. Haiigwitz, on leaving Frankfort, seems to have been
charged to go to Silesia and collect topographical information
bearing on the problem. In the middle of August, he reported
his conclusions. In case of the cession of the Margraviates, he
proposed to demand the whole left bank of the Vistula except
Mazovia; in the contrary case, a boundary might be drawn from
Cz^stochowa through Piotrkow and Rawa to the confluence of
the Bug and Vistula, and thence across to the East Prussian
frontier at Soldau. This latter proposal is worth noting: it is the
first appearance of the line of demarcation adopted in the Second
Partition Treaty (with very slight changes). 3 Haugwitz's ideas,
however, were apparently too bold to suit his superiors at Berlin,
and in the instructions now forwarded to Goltz the size of the
acquisition in Poland was cut down to much the same limits as
had been proposed by Schulenburg at Mainz. 4 In any case, the
road was thus paved for a formal negotiation at St. Petersburg,
and the will was not lacking in the Prussian ministry to close
V with Russia at once, without waiting a moment for Austria.
Unless the Court of Vienna hastened to present a really accept-
able proposition, it was likely to find itself isolated and ignored.
Meantime the Austrian ministers were casting around desper-
ately for their ' supplement,' hopelessly unable to meet the
impending danger.

1 Finckenstein and Alvensleben to Schulenburg, September 10, B. A., R. XI,
Frankreich, 89 g.

2 In his note to Schulenburg of March 12, and his letter to Haugwitz of July 28.

3 Haugwitz to the King, August 16, B. A., R. 1, 170.

4 Rescript to Goltz of September 28, B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133. The line
indicated ran from the frontier of East Prussia southward through Lip6w and
Bolkowa to Plock on the Vistula; thence via Gostyn, Sleszyn and Grzegorzow to
the Warta; then up that stream through Uniej6w and Sieradz, and across country
via Wielkie to the Silesian frontier near Gorz6w. It thus included the whole of
the palatinates of Gnesen, Posen, Kalisz, and Cujavia, about one-third of that of
Sieradz, and also the cities of Dantzic and Thorn.



Apart from its obstinate insistence on the impossible demand
for the Margraviates, the Court of Vienna had done nothing
throughout the whole month of August, the last month in which
by prudent concessions an agreement with Prussia on advanta-
geous terms might still have been reached. The Imperial cabinet
presented a sad spectacle of ever-growing feebleness, incoherency,
and internal dissensions. Now that Kaunitz had finally retired,
the direction of foreign affairs had passed nominally into the
hands of Cobenzl, an amiable, easy-going bureaucrat, who scribbled
and stuttered placidly through life without displaying an excess
of imagination, initiative, or energy. Spielmann was a more vig-
orous personality, but the ground was already shaking under his
feet. If at the beginning of the reign he had passed for the new
monarch's most confidential adviser, by this time the hatred of
the aristocrats for this parvenu, the discontent of all classes with
a war of which he was popularly supposed to be the author, the
rankling jealousy of Kaunitz towards his presumptuous pupil,
the violent opposition in the Conference — all this had combined
to place his position in grave danger. And with him the Bavarian-
Polish project stood or fell. In the Conference the parties were
equal: Spielmann, Cobenzl, and Starhemberg, the advocates of
the Exchange, against Lacy, Rosenberg, and Colloredo. But
even Cobenzl, whether from jealousy of his colleague or from a
natural inclination to steer with the wind, varied in his attitude
towards the project, sometimes apparently going so far as to
place the ' supplement ' above the Exchange itself. 1 As for the
opponents of the plan, they had nothing to put in its place. To
escape from the war as soon as possible; to free themselves from
an irritating dependence on Prussia; to avoid compromising the
Emperor's good name by complicity in a new dismemberment of
Poland: such seems to have been the height of their desires.
Without any perception of the real situation, without plan or
system, without moderation in their demands or prudence in the

1 Cf. his memorial written in the last days of August, Vivenot, Zur Genesis der
zweilen Theilimg Polens, pp. 43-47.


choice of means, these gentlemen of the Conference found their
chief function in criticizing, obstructing, and tearing down; and
their activity resulted only in hampering and thwarting the
policy of the Emperor's responsible ministers.

The arrival of the reply given to Reuss threw the whole in-
demnity project into doubt. Spielmann told Haugwitz that ' he
was at the end of his Latin ' ; if the King absolutely refused to
cede the Margraviates, there could be no more talk of either
Bavaria or Poland. 1 Cobenzl felt bound to advise that the
matter should be brought before the Conference. 2 Accordingly,
on September 3 another great ministerial field day was held in
the Emperor's presence at Schonbrunn.

This time the victory rested with Spielmann. In spite of the
renewed efforts of the opposition and especially of Lacy, it was
decided to keep on with the Exchange plan, and to make a new
attempt to reach an understanding with Prussia about a ' supple-
ment.' In accordance with an idea brought forward by Spiel-
mann, the Conference resolved to propose once more the cession
of the Margraviates, this time in return for the promise of an
eventual cession of Lusatia whenever that territory should lapse
to Austria. But as a new refusal was to be expected here, the
State Chancellery had suggested that the ' supplement ' might
be found either in Alsace or in Poland. Rosenberg championed
the former alternative, but the Emperor decided in favor of the
latter; and Lacy was charged to draw up the boundaries of a
desirable acquisition in that quarter. It was the first occasion on
which the Austrians had seriously taken up the idea of demand-
ing a share in the new dismemberment of Poland. Here, too,
they discussed for the first time a possibility that was just begin-
ning to loom up on the horizon. The Bavarian Exchange could
hardly be effected until after the peace with France, and in the
meantime the definite settlement of Polish affairs could not well
be long delayed. What if Russia and Prussia should seize their
acquisitions before Austria had gained any securities for hers ?
The Conference decided that in such a case the Imperial Court

1 Haugwitz's report to the King of August 25, B. A., R. XI, Frankreich, 89 g.

2 Vortrag of August 27 (V. A.).


must occupy a district in Poland equivalent to that claimed by
Prussia, and retain it as a guarantee until the Bavarian Exchange
and the acquisition of the ' supplement ' had been effected.
Finally, the Emperor announced his intention of sending Spiel-
mann to the King of Prussia's headquarters to present these
propositions and to negotiate a definitive agreement. The news
from the front was favorable; it seemed probable that the allied
armies would soon be in Paris; it was urgently necessary to
settle the indemnity question at once. 1

Though much chagrined by the results of this Conference, 2 the
opposition were not yet ready to acknowledge themselves beaten.
In the next few days they sent in written vota repeating their
objections, especially to the idea of joining in the spoliation of
Poland, with such force that the Emperor was apparently shaken
in his previous resolution. Moreover, on the question of the
supplement, Cobenzl now went over to their side, thus giving
them the majority in the Conference. 3 One other incident also
occurred to render a reconsideration of the recent decisions desir-
able. Haugwitz, learning of Spielmann's mission, took the occa-
sion to declare that he should regret it, were the Referendary
sent in the supposition that the cession of the Margraviates

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 35 of 59)