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

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could ever be conceded, since he had recently had cause to doubt
more strongly than ever the feasibility of such a project. 4 Hence
on the 7th the Conference met again, this time in the absence of
the Emperor, who did not enjoy long discussions.

1 Conference protocol of September 3, and the ' separal-vota,' Vivenot, ii,
pp. 180-186. It seems highly probably that Spielmann's remarks on Reuss'
reports, which are printed in Vivenot, ii, pp. 172-176, were prepared to serve as
the basis of discussion at this conference, and represent the Vorlage usually sub-
mitted on such occasions by the State Chancellery.

2 Zinzendorfs Diary, September 6 : " Rosenberg a honte d'etre de la conference "
(V. A.).

3 Cobenzl's desertion evidently took place after the Conference of September 3.
Otherwise the party in favor of taking the supplement in Alsace rather than in
Poland would have been in the majority that day, whereas it appears from the
protocol of September 7 that it was only the separat-vota submitted on the 5 th
and 6th which showed them to be in a majority.

4 This from the Conference protocol of September 7, V. A., Vortrage, 1792.
Haugwitz gives a somewhat more vigorous tone to his declaration in his report of
the same day, B. A., R. 1, Conv. 170.


Once more the question of Alsace or Poland was hotly fought
over. Rosenberg again advocated the former plan, on the ground
that it was more honorable to take a just indemnity from a con-
quered enemy than to join in dismembering a friendly state,
and also because of the superior value of this acquisition, which,
combined with Bavaria and the Austrian lands in Swabia, would
give the Imperial Court a decided preponderance in South Ger-
many. To the difficulties in the way of conquering and defending
such a province, Rosenberg seemed completely blind. With less
appeal to principle or sentiment, but with far more common
sense, Starhemberg argued that the Austrian indemnities must
be rendered, as far as possible, independent of the fortunes of
war, just as were the Russian and Prussian ones; that an acquisi-
tion in Poland would be easy and safe, while one in Alsace would
be quite the reverse ; and as for the odium of joining in a partition
of the Republic, the Imperial Court would only be following the
example of its two allies, and even if it did not take an open hand
in the affair, the world would never believe that it had not given
its consent in order to secure advantages elsewhere. The Con-
ference contented itself that day with elucidating the arguments
on both sides, which were to be submitted to the Emperor.
Regarding the other great point at issue, the ministers recom-
mended making a final effort to win the Margraviates by offering
a special arrangement by which the Bavarian House should cede
Juliers and Berg to Prussia. 1

Two days later the Emperor gave his decision. Characteristi-
cally enough, he tore up his own resolution adopted only six days
before, and pronounced in favor of just the opposite course: he
would take his supplement in Alsace, and not in Poland. One
may doubt whether this decision had quite the world-historic
importance that has sometimes been given to it; 2 but it would
seem to have been a fresh blunder for Austria to renounce the one
acquisition that she had any chance of making, in order to launch
forth on schemes for impossible conquests from France. It is

1 Protocol of September 7, in Vivenot, ii, pp. 186-190.

2 Sybel {op. cit., ii, pp. 355 f.) finds that it changed the whole character of the
war by turning the enterprise of the allies into a war for conquests on a grand scale.


more to the credit of the Emperor's judgment that he vetoed the
Juliers-Berg project, thus finally consigning the wretched ques-
tion of the Margraviates to oblivion. 1

Armed with these new and by no means modest propositions,
Spielmann set out on the morning of September 12, accompanied
by the high hopes of the Vice-Chancellor that the grand affair
would at last be settled to the great advantage of Austria. 2 The
wonder and the curiosity of the diplomatic world rose one pitch
higher, when on the same day Count Haugwitz also departed in
the same direction. 3 All eyes in Vienna were now turned toward
the Prussian headquarters. " Judging by what Prince Reuss
has just reported," Cobenzl wrote to Spielmann, " your letters
will probably soon be dated from Paris." It was the day of
Valmy. 4

1 Cobenzl's Vertrag of September 9, and the Imperial apostil, Vivenot, ii, pp.
191 f.

2 Cobenzl to Spielmann, September 9, V. A., Mission in das preussische Haupt-
quartier de 1792, A.

3 The reasons for Haugwitz's journey are not quite certain. He had received a
letter from the King appointing him cabinet minister and informing him of Schu-
lenburg's impending return to Berlin, but not, apparently, summoning him to the
army. He seems to have undertaken on his own initiative to go to Frankfort, in
the expectation that he would then be called to the royal headquarters to take
Schulenburg's place in conducting the negotiation with Spielmann. The letter to
the King (of September 5), in which he explained his reasons for taking this step,
is apparently lost. To Schulenburg he excused himself on the plea that he had
grounds for suspecting that Spielmann was charged to renew the proposition about
the Margraviates, and that hence he had determined to go to Frankfort, in order
to be near the King and strengthen the royal resistance to such a demand, suppos-
ing that Schulenburg would already have left the army. (Letter of September 30,
B. A., R. XI, Frankreich, 89 K.) Alopeus reported (doubtless on the basis of what
Lucchesini had told him) that Spielmann had asked Haugwitz to accompany him,
because he wished to negotiate with a minister in whom he had confidence and
with whom he was accustomed to deal. (Report of September 11/22, M. A.,
Ilpyccia, III, 30.) This is quite probable, since if Haugwitz had not been present,
Spielmann would have had to negotiate with the much distrusted Lucchesini. At
any rate, it is clear that Haugwitz's trip was undertaken without orders from

* Vivenot, ii, pp. 211 f.


The Note of Merle

Spielmann reached Frankfort on September 18, closely followed
by Haugwitz. As the latter had just received the King's order to
come to the army, the two continued on the journey together as
far as Luxemburg. On the way Spielmann applied himself with
all his skill to win Haugwitz over to his propositions; and he
seems to have found a very ready hearer. Haugwitz, it must be
remembered, had always been in favor of allowing Austria a
' supplement,' in order to obtain for his own Court a particularly
large slice of Poland. He now showed himself so complaisant
that Spielmann ventured to claim for his sovereign not only the
Bavarian Exchange, but Alsace and Lorraine as far as the Moselle
— an acquisition such as the Conference had never dared to
demand in even its wildest moments. Haugwitz accepted the
proposition, without objections apparently, and, leaving Spiel-
mann at Luxemburg, went on to Verdun (the 26th) to find the
King and receive his orders regarding the Austrian demands and
the counter-claims to be advanced for Prussia. 1

But just at this moment there began that rapid series of dis-
asters which ruined the hopes of the invaders of France and gave
an entirely new face to the situation. After Valmy (September
20) came Dumouriez's negotiation with Manstein; September 29
the retreat of the allied army was decided upon; October 8 the

1 Haugwitz to Schulenburg, September 30, B. A., R. XI, Frankreich, 89 K;
Spielmann to Cobenzl, September 27, V. A., Mission in das preussische Haupt-
quartier, and October 15, Vivenot, ii, pp. 272-277.

Haugwitz wrote: " La Cour de Vienne demandera pour sa part l'echange de la
Baviere . . . et ils proposeront d'ajouter au lot de l'Autriche l'Alsace et une partie
de la Lorraine jusqu'a la Moselle, ce qui comprend les possessions francoises entre
le Rhin et la Moselle depuis les sources de cette derniere jusqu'a Remiez [Remich],
tout le long de la riviere en y comprenant les villes et forts situ6s sur la Moselle "
[i. e., Toul, Metz, Thionville, etc.].



Prussians renewed the sham negotiation; on the 12th Verdun was
abandoned, on the 22nd Longwy; and in the next few days the
last German troops evacuated the soil of France. Meanwhile
Custine had made his bold raid down the Rhine, seizing Spires
September 30, Mainz October 21, and the next day Frankfort.
After the high hopes with which the allies began the ' promenade
to Paris,' these unthinkable catastrophes were doubly crushing.
Of 42,000 Prussians who had entered France, hardly 20,000
recrossed the frontier, and of these more than half were sick. 1
A soldier who lived through the horrors of 181 2, later declared
that the Prussians during the retreat from Champagne were per-
haps a more terrible sight than even the wrecks of the Grand
Army. 2 The effect upon Frederick William's impressionable and
glory-loving mind can easily be imagined. He who throughout
his reign had had to stand the comparison with his illustrious
predecessor, had played away in an expedition as ill-fated as
mismanaged the prestige and the nimbus of invincibility which
had hitherto clung to the army of the great Frederick. Little
wonder that the King was eager to wipe out the shame by a new
campaign in the following year, and that he was even more
anxious to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of his subjects by secur-
ing immediately an acquisition that would balance all his losses.
Under these circumstances, Haugwitz met his sovereign on
October 8 at Consenvoye, reported what he supposed to be the
aims of Spielmann's mission, and obtained definite instructions
as to the share which the King intended to demand in Poland.
On the map of the Republic Frederick William traced the line
Czgstochowa-Rawa-Soldau, which henceforth formed the basis of
the Prussian claims. Haugwitz was directed to go back to Ver-
dun, where Spielmann had now arrived, to receive the definite
propositions of the Court of Vienna. 3 On his return, however, he
found the Austrian minister on the point of retiring to Luxem-

1 Chuquet, La Catnpagne de VArgonne (1792), pp. 476 f.

2 Ibid., p. 475.

3 Haugwitz to Schulenburg, October 15, B. A., R. XI, Frankrekh, 89 K. The
fact that the King at this time gave definite orders as to his claims in Poland, and
traced the line of demarcation on the map with his own hand, appears from Haug-
witz's great report of May 6, 1793, B. A., R. 96, 147 H.


burg, as the evacuation of Verdun had just been decided upon.
During the brief conversation that then took place, Spielmann
learned only that the King expressed great willingness not only
to assist in the realization of the Exchange, but to secure for the
Imperial Court a rich ' supplement ' in lieu of the Margraviates. 1
On reaching Luxemburg on the 12th, the Referendary fell ill with
a fever, so that although Haugwitz arrived the following day, the
negotiation had to be still further delayed.

The situation had changed so greatly that Spielmann weighed
the question whether he could negotiate at all on the basis of
instructions drawn up on quite different presuppositions. Haug-
witz urged, indeed, that the King was resolved to make a second
campaign, if the Court of Vienna agreed, and was anxious to
settle the indemnity question at once. But the Prussian minister
also threw out an ominous hint of the kind of settlement his
master had in mind, when in a lively discussion (on the 14th) he
declared that the King must have his acquisition in Poland, no
matter how other affairs turned out, and that he could not leave
it dependent on the uncertain course of future events. In other
words, the King meant to make sure of his indemnity at once,
although, in view of the disastrous turn of the war, the realization
of the Exchange seemed still very far in the future. The prin-
ciple, hitherto accepted on both sides, that the respective indem-
nities must proceed pari passu, was in danger of being repudiated.
Spielmann did his best to combat so insidious an idea; but
Haugwitz maintained that his own personal standing depended
on the realization of his master's wishes. 2 It was the beginning of
a decisive turn in Prussian policy.

Nevertheless, after long cogitation, Spielmann determined to
go ahead even without instructions, and to make such arrange-
ments as were, on the one hand, required by the dangerous posi-
tion of affairs, and would, on the other hand, satisfy the desires of
Frederick William. He recognized clearly that the continuation
of the war was far more indispensable to Austrian than to Prus-
sian interests; the King was eager at present to make a second

1 Spielmann to Cobenzl, October 15, Vivenot, ii, pp. 272-277.

2 Spielmann to Cobenzl, October 15.


campaign; but if Austria showed any disinclination to it, or to
settling the indemnity affair at once, it was only too greatly to be
feared that his good dispositions would grow cold, and that he
would retire from the war altogether. No doubt the Jacobins
would build him 'bridges of gold'; and in the loss of the Austrian
Netherlands, Prussian statesmen might find a sufficient gain for
themselves, even if they got nothing in Poland. 1 With these
reflections in mind, Spielmann drew up a plan for an agreement
about the indemnities, in which he advanced for his own Court
those none too modest claims to which Haugwitz had already lent
so willing an ear, while he added certain stipulations adapted to
the altered circumstances and to the wishes of the King of Prussia.
Though it was destined to an early grave, this plan is too remark-
able to be passed over without some description.

Frederick William desired to make a second campaign; Spiel-
mann had no definite orders on that point, but he knew that the
interests of his Court imperatively demanded it: hence the first
article of the proposed agreement provided that the two Powers
should make a second campaign with forces as large as had been
employed in the present; that neither should consent to a truce
or a negotiation without the consent of the other; and that both
should endeavor to induce England, Russia, and the Germanic
Empire to join actively in the war. The struggle was to be con-
tinued in common until monarchical government had been
restored in France, or until the spread of revolutionary principles
had been sufficiently and permanently checked. The King of
Prussia would thus find his first wish gratified, and himself nicely
bound, too, if he consented to all this. Frederick William also
desired to occupy his Polish acquisition at once, without leaving
it to the uncertain chances of war. Spielmann was ready to grant
this also — on certain conditions. First of all, the Bavarian Ex-
change must be ensured immediately. If the King would at once
send Haugwitz to win the consent of the Duke of Zweibriicken,
while Austria simultaneously began negotiations at Munich; if

1 These reflections in Spielmann's letter to Cobenzl cited above. At the end of
this report he declared that he would later send in the plan by which he had deter-
mined to proceed. The plan followed in his next report of November 6.


a formal treaty was concluded with the Bavarian House (the
execution to be deferred till the time of the peace with France) ;
if Prussia would guarantee the Exchange against all obstacles
from foreign Powers (England and Holland): then Frederick
William might proceed to the occupation of his lot in Poland, the
territory bounded by the line Cze^stochowa-Rawa-Soldau. But
the Austrian ' supplement ' must also be brought under cover.
Here Spielmann reverted to the idea approved by the Conference
on September 3 and discarded four days later. He proposed that
simultaneously with the Prussian occupation in Poland the
Emperor should also occupy a district there equivalent to the
respective acquisitions of his allies, and should retain this as a
guarantee until Bavaria and Alsace-Lorraine as far as the Moselle
were in his hands. Thus all contingencies would be provided for,
every interest of Austria would be ensured, the King of Prussia's
chief desires would be complied with : in short, a basis seemed to
have been found on which the two Powers could finally agree.

When Spielmann presented this plan to Haugwitz, the latter
readily acquiesced, as far as his personal opinion was concerned,
in all its points save one. He objected to the proposed Austrian
occupation in Poland. If the Court of Vienna must join in that
banquet, there would not be enough to go round. He agreed,
however, to report all to the King; and one would judge from the
tone of a letter of that moment that he was by no means dis-
inclined to the project. 1

But immediately afterward events began to play havoc with
Spielmann's plan. On leaving Verdun he seems to have thought
that the allies would retreat only beyond the River Chiers and
would still occupy winter quarters in France. But in fact the
retreat from Verdun turned into a rout, the combined forces
poured over the frontier in the most sorry plight, French soil was

1 Spielmann's plan is printed in Vivenot, ii, pp. 348-354. The other sources
relating to it are the Referendary's report of November 6, and Haugwitz's letters
to Schulenburg of October 19 and 27, B. A., R. XI, Frankreich, 89 K. The
account given in the text differs greatly from those of previous writers, owing
to the fact that I have placed this plan in the middle of Spielmann's negotiation,
while Sybel put it at the very end, and Heidrich at the very beginning. The ques-
tions at issue are discussed in Appendix XV.


completely evacuated; and in the meantime the mysterious
negotiations of the Prussians with the enemy aroused in Spiel-
mann, as in all the Austrians present, the vehement suspicion
that there was treachery afoot. Under these circumstances, the
Referendary redoubled his efforts to bring Haugwitz to a cate-
gorical declaration as to the King's intentions, but he can scarcely
have concealed from himself the fact that the fateful turn of
events allowed little chance of success to the plan he had pre-
sented only a few days before. 1


Frederick William, for more than one reason, was angry with
the Austrians. The common disasters had not failed to bring
forth dissensions among the allies; and the refusal of the Im-
perial general Hohenlohe (Kirchberg) to defend Longwy, fol-
lowed by his precipitate retreat into Belgium, had capped the
climax. 2 The few supporters of the Austrian system had fallen
from favor. Schulenburg, who, patriot as he was, had meant to
deal loyally with the Court of Vienna, had returned to Berlin
discredited and disillusioned. Bischoffwerder was in semi-dis-
grace and entirely without influence on foreign policy. Of the
men who now enjoyed the most credit, the royal adjutant Man-
stein — the sometime friend and present rival of Bischoffwerder
— and Lucchesini, who had been called to the army to direct the
anticipated negotiations with France, were united in the desire
for peace and for the dissolution of the Austrian alliance. Haug-
witz, though unsteady and pliable, had formerly inclined to much
the same principles, and now under Lucchesini's influence re-
turned to them. It was Lucchesini who strove most effectually
to dampen the King's ardor for the war, persuaded him out of
proposing an ' offensive league ' to the Court of Vienna, and
continually urged upon him the necessity above all things of

1 Cf. his report of November 6, Vivenot, ii, p. 338.

2 Cf. Frederick William's outburst to Bischoffwerder after this incident: " Voila

les f alli6s que vous m'avez donneV, je suis pres de rompre avec eux," and

his complaints to Nassau, Feuillet de Conches, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette el
Madame Elisabeth, vi, pp. 367 f., 372 ff., 392-396.



attending to his indemnity. 1 It was Lucchesini, apparently, who
originated the plan embodied in the Note of Merle.

This plan was, substantially, to take advantage of the disas-
trous campaign, the danger threatening the Austrian Nether-
lands, the peril menacing the Empire itself, to demand an
immediate acquisition in Poland as the price of continuing the
war. Austria's necessity must be Prussia's opportunity. The
settlement of the indemnity question had been so long delayed
and had been so much obstructed by the pretensions of the
Imperial Court, that the chance was not to be lost to use the lever
thrust into Prussian hands. There could be no doubt that
Austria stood greatly in need of further assistance, and that, as
far as the French were concerned, Frederick William was free to
/ withdraw from the contest whenever he pleased. It was, indeed,
true that according to the spirit of their original engagements,
neither of the allied Powers had the right to withdraw without the
other. As late as October 15 that principle was plaintively
reasserted by the Prussians themselves, when they feared for a
moment that Austria might be on the point of backing out of the
contest and leaving them in the lurch. On that date the ministers
at Berlin wrote to Lucchesini that since the two Powers had
undertaken this enterprise at their common expense, in the same
spirit and for the same aim, there could be no question of the one
abandoning the other; the struggle must necessarily be pursued
with united efforts until both Courts could simultaneously make
an honorable peace. Neither the ministers at Berlin nor Haug-
witz seem at first to have perceived the opportunity created by
the new situation. It may be doubted whether even Lucchesini
would have ventured to recommend taking so high a tone despite
all previous engagements, if he had expected to meet with the
united opposition of the Imperial Courts. But just at this
moment he felt fairly sure of encountering no obstacles from

Goltz had recently reported, in a tone of assurance quite un-
common with him, that the Russian ministers showed the best of

1 Lucchesini to Finckenstein, Schulenburg, and Alvensleben, October 15, 23-26,
B. A., R. 92, Lucchesinis Nachlass, No. 14. The papers from this collection are
henceforth cited L. N.


intentions on the indemnity question, and that he was convinced
that the Empress desired a new partition of Poland, provided
only that Austria was not allowed to take anything from the
Republic. 1 Alopeus had also come to the camp at Consenvoye to
present a dispatch from Ostermann, which announced that the
Empress was disposed to oblige her allies as soon as she knew
their precise plans, and which pressed for a speedy communica-
tion of the King's views at St. Petersburg. 2 Such invitations
were not to be neglected. They also gave reason to think that
the effect of the reply would not be spoiled by a mild threat.

Frederick William made haste, then, to respond with a letter to
the Empress (written from Longuyon, October 17), in which he
referred to the definite and detailed communications which Goltz
was charged to make, and intimated politely but clearly that he
could not decide to undertake a second campaign until assured of
his indemnities not only for the expenses of the past, but for those
to be incurred in the future.

It remained to deal with Austria. From that Power little good
will was to be expected, but — thanks to Brunswick's generalship
— Prussia was in a position to dictate her terms. To prepare the
Austrians for the blow, the King invited the three ministers,
Spielmann, Mercy, and Thugut (the latter two had been sent to
conduct the expected negotiations with France) to his head-
quarters near the village of Merle (October 24), and after dinner
received them in audience in his tent. Though he treated them
graciously enough and spoke warmly of his desire to maintain the
alliance, he indicated sufficiently clearly the determination that
he had reached. At the close he announced that Haugwitz
would present his intentions in writing. Spielmann understood
what was coming, and already told his friends that he was a lost
man. 3 The following evening the Referendary received the
promised ' declaration ' from Haugwitz.

1 Report of September 25, B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133.

2 Ostermann to Alopeus, September 3/14, Alopeus' report of October 8/19,
M. A., Ilpyccia, III, 28 and 30.

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 36 of 59)