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

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3 Lucchesini to the ministers at Berlin, October 26, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14;
Spielmann's report of November 6. All sources agree in placing this audience on
the 24th of October, and not the 25th as in Sybel, op. cit., ii, p. 360.



The famous note, dated from Merle, October 25, is hardly a
model of clearness and precision, as neither the King nor Haug-
witz, who drew up the document, had at that moment a chan-
cellery at their disposal. Nevertheless, these few paragraphs, so
vague in part, were to be the Law and the Prophets for Prussian
ministers in the following year; they were to be held up as the
complete exposition of the nature of the King's participation in
the war, and as the sole basis and measure of his engagements.

The note may be divided into two parts. The first related to
the theory of Prussia's further participation in the war. The
King was ready, it was said, to continue his exertions either as a
member of a concert of all the European Powers, or in case the
Diet of Ratisbon declared war on France, as a member of the
Empire, i. e., with the small quota due from him as a Reichs-
stand. The first case was obviously unthinkable; and the aid
promised in the second would clearly be inacceptable to Austria.
These offers were, then, only phrases, intended to lead up to the
third case. If the Emperor, the note went on, saw fit to con-
tinue the war with all his forces, even if some or all of the other
Powers refused to join with him, the King agreed to assist him in
the next campaign with the same forces as had been employed
in the present one — under one condition. That is to say, all of
the previous engagements had been swept out of existence; and
if the King went on with the war, it would be only in order to aid
Austria, and at the price which he was about to name. It was the
beginning of the theory that Austria was partie principale et
attaquee, and Prussia partie accessoire et auxiliaire, a theory which
then became the favorite thesis of the statesmen at Berlin,
although it stood in glaring contradiction to the agreements with
which the two Courts began the war.

But now for the condition of Prussia's further cooperation,
which formed the principal part of the note. " Since the present
campaign," it was said, " has caused so considerable an expense
and so great a loss of life, and the continuation of the war must
involve a still greater expenditure, His Prussian Majesty feels
himself justified in expecting a complete and speedy compensa-
tion and indemnity for the expenses already incurred; and before


the King takes further part in the continuation of the war, he
considers himself bound by his duty to his realm to demand an
indemnity for the expenses of the next campaign. He therefore
expects that the arrondissement in Poland, with regard to which
he has already made overtures to the Emperor, will be assured to
him by the Courts of Austria and Russia, and actually taken into
his possession."

All this might have been said more precisely, but the drift was
clear. The King must have laid his hands upon his indemnities
both for the past and for the future, before he could begin a second
campaign. And with that, the whole previous plan for the joint
indemnification was thrown overboard. Hitherto both Powers
had always recognized the principle of complete parity: the
respective indemnities were to be equal ; they were to be gathered
in simultaneously; if the one proved impracticable, the other
must also be abandoned. Doubtless the King and some of his
advisers were still sincerely willing to help Austria to the acquisi-
tion of Bavaria; but the Exchange was obviously impossible at
that moment, and not to be realized for a long time to come; and
at all events Prussia meant to have her booty at once, whether
Austria ever got anything or not. That was the beginning of the
thesis that if the Court of Vienna had any titles to an indemnity
at all, they were not to be placed on the same line with those of
Prussia. The latter were absolutely independent of, and infinitely
more valid than, the Austrian claims. That was the crowning
blow to the theory of a common enterprise. It was also the ruin
of an alliance, the primary basis of which was complete equality
in all advantages.

But if the rights were mostly in favor of the Austrians, the facts
were all on the side of Prussia. Whatever the aims and nature of
the war had been originally, in view of the recent events the
allied Powers could no longer have any other object than to repel
the victorious Revolutionary armies and to exact such ven-
geance as they were able. In this the interests of Austria were
very much more at stake than were those of Prussia. And if the
altered nature of the war lent some color to the new Prussian
theory, the King's demand with regard to Poland was also not


without justification in the circumstances of the moment. The
Empress could not long defer settling Polish affairs in one way or
another; she seemed strongly inclined to a partition at present;
but it was to be doubted whether her good dispositions would
last, if the King long delayed the matter. There was reason for
haste then, and an admirable opportunity, if seized in time. To
ask the Prussian statesmen to relinquish or to postpone a hand-
some acquisition that seemed within their reach at that moment,
simply out of regard for a jealous ally or out of respect for pre-
vious engagements, would be to expect a self-denial and a loyalty
not very common in history. 1


Spielmann was filled with indignation and dismay by the Prus-
sian declaration. Taken together with the slack conduct of the
recent campaign and the suspicious negotiations with the enemy,
it seemed to him to indicate a deep-laid design to " put the knife
to the throat of Austria." In two days of heated discussions with
Haugwitz, he endeavored to prove that the principles of the note
violated all those invariably agreed upon between the two Courts,
and ran contrary to all loyalty, fairness, and justice. But irrefut-
able arguments were powerless against Haugwitz, who had facts
on his side. After weighing the situation carefully with Mercy,
Spielmann decided to make the best of it, not insisting too
strenuously on the old principles, but rather trying to drive a new
bargain on the basis of the Prussian note.

The Referendary now directed his main efforts towards making
sure of the King's earnest cooperation in effecting the Exchange.
On that point Haugwitz was satisfactory enough. He gave the
most solemn assurances that his sovereign was, and would
remain, sincerely disposed to further the Exchange to the best of
his ability; he would gladly employ his good offices with the
Duke of Zweibriicken; he would even guarantee the realization
of the project against all hindrances whatsoever. But as it was

1 The Note of Merle is printed in Vivenot, ii, pp. 292 f. On it cf. Sybel,
op. cit., ii, pp. 359 ff.; Sorel, op. cit., iii, pp. 128 f.; Hausser, op. ciL, i, pp. 398 ff.,
435 ff.; Heidrich, op. cit., pp. 397-402.


clear that not only the Exchange itself, but even the negotiation
with the Bavarian House, must still be postponed for an indefinite
period, Spielmann again proposed the plan for an interimistic
Austrian occupation in Poland, the district in question to be
restored to the Republic in case the acquisition of Bavaria and
of a suitable ' supplement ' should later be effected. On this
point, too, Haugwitz seems to have shown himself complaisant;
at least Spielmann reported that on this occasion the Prus-
sian minister made no objection to the idea, but asked only to
know definitely what acquisitions Austria desired to make in that
quarter. 1

The matter seemed so important, however, that in order to get
the minister's utterances confirmed, Spielmann sought and
obtained through Bischoffwerder an audience with the King
(October 2 7) . Frederick William approved all that Haugwitz had
said. In a tone which must, as Spielmann reported, inspire
nothing but confidence, if such a thing as good faith existed in the
world, the King expressed his readiness to guarantee the Ex-
change and to negotiate at Zweibriicken, and even added the
suggestion that in view of the provoking conduct of the Elector
of Bavaria, they might in his case adopt a tone other than that of
mere persuasion. Spielmann encountered some opposition at
first on the subject of the Austrian occupation in Poland, but
believed that in the end he had succeeded in winning the King's

1 Spielmann's report of November 6, Vivenot, ii, p. 346. Heidrich holds {op.
cit., p. 405, note 2) that Spielmann's statement here is not accurate, and that
he was confusing his conversation with Haugwitz with the assurances given him
immediately afterward by the King. This view Heidrich bases on Haugwitz's
declaration (in a letter to Schulenburg of October 27) that he had rejected the
proposition about an Austrian acquisition in Poland. I think it deserves to be
pointed out, however, that in the letter to Schulenburg Haugwitz was referring to a
previous discussion of this question with Spielmann on the occasion of the ' mem-
oire ' presented to him by the Referendary about a week before the Note of Merle.
Spielmann readily admits that on that occasion Haugwitz had opposed the idea,
but states positively that he did not raise the slightest objection on the later occa-
sion. It is quite possible that Haugwitz, who was now doing his best to sweeten
the bitter taste of the Note of Merle, showed himself this time more compliant on
the subject. At any rate, since his statement does not refer to the later conversa-
tion, and Spielmann's does, I should prefer to trust the latter, quite apart from the
question of the comparative veracity of the two men.


consent. It is not surprising, then, that on leaving Frederick
William he declared to Bischoffwerder that the audience had
revived all his hopes and cured all his sorrows. 1 The Note of
Merle would indeed lose its terrors, if Austria were assured of
the Prussian guarantee of the Exchange, the King's good offices at
Zweibriicken, and a real security besides in the shape of a Polish

It remained to hear the verdict of Vienna. Haugwitz was
destined to return temporarily to his old post, in order to receive
the reply to the Note of Merle, and to make sure of the Austrian
consent to an immediate Prussian occupation in Poland. On
October 30 he left Luxemburg on the road to Cologne, and some
hours later Spielmann followed.

On arriving in that city the two had further discussions.
Spielmann's attention seems to have been called by Reuss to a
new plan of a bold and promising character. The King of Prussia
and the Duke of Brunswick had suggested that if the Elector of
Bavaria continued his more than equivocal relations with the
French, the Imperial Court should adopt violent measures against
him. The Lower Palatinate and the fortress of Mannheim were
too important to be left in danger of falling into hostile hands. 2
Spielmann was favorably impressed with the idea. The Elector's
sins and shortcomings might furnish the Emperor with an admir-
able excuse for putting himself in possession of Bavaria at once. 3
Haugwitz was straightway approached on the subject, and
hurried back to Coblenz, where the King had now arrived, to take
his orders. Apart from the military grounds, Frederick William

1 Lucchesini to the ministers at Berlin, December 14, B. A., R. 96, L. N. 14.

2 Reuss' report of November 6, V. A., Preussen, Berichte, 1792. On the Elector's
conduct in this connection, see Schrepfer, Pfalzbayerns Politik im Revolutions-
zeitalter, pp. 50 ff .

3 Reuss does not expressly say that he suggested the idea to Spielmann, but on
the one hand he was very ardent for the project and brings it up continually in his
reports of November; and on the other hand Haugwitz refers to it as a proposition
brought forward by Reuss (Report of December 1, B. A., R. 1, 170). The ministers
at Berlin replied (December 6) that they understood that Spielmann originated
this idea (and Heidrich, op. cit., p. 407, note 3 accepts their opinion); but it seems
that Haugwitz, who was on the spot, was likely to be better informed than they


now had another motive for approving the idea. The latest news
from St. Petersburg was by no means so favorable as the Prussians
had hoped for. It began to appear that Austrian aid might be
required in order to induce the Empress to agree to the partition.
Hence the King decided to allow the Court of Vienna to occupy
Bavaria, but only after the united efforts of the Prussian and
Austrian envoys had extorted the Russian consent to the imme-
diate entry of the Prussian troops into Poland. 1 A new demand
was thus made upon Austria over and above those contained in
the Note of Merle; but this was little compared to the flattering
prospect offered to the Imperial Court of taking possession of its
indemnity at the same time that the Prussians occupied theirs, of
finally getting this long-sought and so elusive Bavaria into its
grasp. Spielmann might well congratulate himself upon the last
phase of his negotiation. He had almost wrung victory from
defeat. But his new plans and expedients had still to be sub-
mitted to the timorous, querulous, rancorous, quarrelsome
gentlemen of the State Conference. On November 25 he and
Haugwitz arrived in Vienna.

1 Lucchesini's report to the King, November 8, the cabinet ministry to Haug-
witz, November 20, and to Goltz, November 17, B. A., R. 92, L.N. 12; R. 1, 170;
and R. XI, Russland, 133.


Haugwitz's Final Negotiation at Vienna

The first effect produced at the Austrian capital by the disasters
of the campaign had been an outburst of exasperation and indig-
nation against the Prussians. The sober second thought was that
the war must be continued with all the strength the Monarchy
possessed, and that Frederick William's aid was indispensable.
Before the end of October preparations were begun for placing the
entire army on a war footing and for hurrying fresh troops to
the defence of the Netherlands. At the beginning of November,
the Prussian resident, Caesar, was able to give positive assur-
ance that his master was firmly resolved to pursue the common
enterprise in complete accord with the Emperor. 1 The battle of
Jemappes and the loss of all the Belgian provinces save Luxem-
burg did not diminish the determination of the Imperial govern-
ment to continue the war with redoubled vigor.

Another result of the recent calamities was to revive the attacks
upon the leading ministers, and especially upon Spielmann. 2
The opposition in the Conference would gladly have seen the
whole Bavarian-Polish project at last abandoned. When, in reply
to Spielmann's report of October 15, Cobenzl prepared new in-
structions authorizing the Referendary to continue the indemnity
negotiation in spite of the changed circumstances, Lacy, Rosen-
berg, and Colloredo persuaded the Emperor to have the instruc-
tions altered to the effect that for the present the two Powers
must occupy themselves with nothing save the vigorous prosecu-
tion of the war. One can easily imagine the effect on the Prussians

1 Caesar's report of November 3. This unconditional declaration was au-
thorized by the ministry at Berlin when they were still ignorant of the Note of
Merle and feared that Austria might desert the common cause (rescript of October
26, B. A., R. 1, 170).

2 Zinzendorf's Diary, October 13 and 27 (V. A.); Caesar's reports of October
17, November 7 and 10, B. A., R. 1, 170.



had Spielmann attempted to carry out these orders, had he
insisted that the indemnity question should be postponed
indefinitely. For once, however, the Emperor's vacillation served
to good purpose. When Cobenzl, after sending off the revised
instructions, took the liberty to remonstrate against their import,
his sovereign protested that neither he nor the Conference
ministers had meant that the indemnity negotiation must be
abandoned: the Vice-Chancellor was told that he had simply
misunderstood. Hence a second courier was sent flying after the
first, with dispatches authorizing Spielmann to go on with the
negotiation. It was a pitiful spectacle, this comedy between
the Emperor and the Vice-Chancellor; but nothing came of it
save perhaps a weakening of Cobenzl's personal credit. 1

The Note of Merle reached Vienna only on November 20, at a
moment when the news from Belgium was of the very worst.
Serious resistance to the Prussian demands was therefore hardly
to be thought of, and, after all, those demands were not so terrify-

1 Cobenzl's first draft of the instructions to Spielmann, October 26, Vivenot,
ii> PP- 3 00 ~3°9> the Emperor to Cobenzl and Lacy, October 29, Cobenzl to the
Emperor the same day, Vortrag of October 30, and the revised instructions,
ibid., pp. 313-321; Cobenzl to the Emperor, November 1, the Imperial reply of
November 3, Cobenzl's answer of the same day, the new instructions to Spiel-
mann of November 5, ibid., pp. 323, 337 f. There is in the Vienna Archive another
note of the Emperor to Cobenzl, of October 29, which is much sharper in tone than
those printed in Vivenot (Vortrage, 1792). Caesar reported, November 7, that
Cobenzl's influence had recently been impaired, and that he had been exposed for
a moment to his sovereign's displeasure, B. A., R. 1, 170.

I think there can be no question that the Vice-Chancellor had rightly understood
the vota of the Conference ministers; and the Emperor, in approving the instruc-
tions of October 30, had certainly sanctioned the alterations that Cobenzl had
accordingly made. The explanation vouchsafed the Vice-Chancellor four days later
was, therefore, only an awkward attempt to conceal the Emperor's hopeless vacil-
lation. Cf. Sybel's severe but very fitting judgment, op. cit., ii, pp. 357 f.

Sybel is wrong, however, in representing Lacy and associates as putting through
their opinion at a meeting of the Conference. Caesar does, indeed, report such a
meeting (November 3 and 7), but he was probably mistaken; for the Austrian
records speak only of the instructions to Spielmann being put into ' ministerial
circulation,' i. e., sent around to the various ministers to receive their written
comments. Quite in accordance with this, there is no mention of a protocol, but
only of the several ' vota.' Several weeks before, Colloredo had obtained an order
from the Emperor that all important correspondence with ministers abroad should
regularly be put in circulation in this way. (Colloredo to Cobenzl, October 15,
V. A., Frankreich, F. 261.)


ing. The Note of Merle was not extremely precise. While the
King had demanded to be assured of his indemnity at once, he had
not specified the exact form of assurance required. One could
distinguish between a mere occupation and a formal annexation.
The latter operation could hardly follow immediately upon the
former, as it would take some time to prepare the stage in Poland
for the last great act. Meanwhile the details of the indemnity
arrangements would have to be discussed at length between all
three of the participating Powers, and embodied in a formal
treaty. It seemed probable, therefore, that the final settlement
of the affair would suffer not a little delay, and meanwhile Austria
might find means and opportunities to provide for her own inter-
ests. The essential thing was to satisfy the King of Prussia at the
lowest possible price, to be outwardly all good will, and to make
the most of his ardor for the war.

It is probable that Spielmann brought back with him the con-
viction that however much Frederick William desired his acqui-
sition in Poland, he was even more eager to make a second
campaign. 1 The King's conduct lent some color to that idea;
for without waiting for the reply to the Note of Merle, he ordered
fresh troops to the Rhine, and pressed Reuss for the sending of an
Austrian general with full powers to settle the plan for the next
campaign — to the lively chagrin of his ministers. 2 The Aus-
trians were tempted to surmise that Frederick William would not
stand firmly by the principles of the note, but would allow himself
to be put off with half-concessions. Hence the interminable de-
lays of the Imperial cabinet in December, the conditional and
ambiguous acquiescence in the Prussian designs on Poland, the
show of confidence and complaisance in other matters, and the
attempt to inveigle the King into committing himself at once to
the continuation of the war. 3 It is highly characteristic of the

1 Lucchesini wrote to the ministers at Berlin (December 14) that he knew Spiel-
mann had that belief when he left Luxemburg. B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14.

2 The ministers at Berlin to Lucchesini, November 14, the latter's reply,
December 14, the King to Haugwitz, December 13, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14 and R. 96,
155 E. Reuss' dispatches of November and December were full of assurances of
the King's lively desire to take the field again in the following year.

3 Cobenzl to Reuss, December 4, 10, 18, Francis II to Frederick William,
December 17, Vivenot, ii, pp. 387 f., 398 ff.


reign of Frederick William II that the Powers who had to deal
with him continually reckoned that his generosity, his enthu-
siasms, or his feebleness would prevail over the less altruistic
counsels of his ministers — a calculation that was sometimes
justified, but very often proved fallacious.

Another circumstance that essentially influenced Austrian
policy at this time was the fact that since the French conquest of
Belgium, England suddenly manifested a disposition to take a
hand in Continental affairs. Whether the British government
wished only to mediate peace or was seriously minded to join in
the war, was still uncertain; but in either case its intervention
could not be unwelcome to Austria. Towards the end of Novem-
ber, Pitt had addressed inquiries to the Courts of Vienna and
Berlin regarding the plans for indemnities which those Powers
were known to be pursuing. The question aroused only suspicion
and ill humor in the Prussian ministry, who could not doubt
Pitt's opposition to a new partition of Poland; but it was favor-
ably received by the Imperial cabinet, which hoped to win the
consent of the British government to the Exchange, and regarded
that consent as indispensable to the realization of that plan.
Possibly, too, they may have counted on England to delay the
Prussian occupation in Poland, although there is no clear proof
of this in the Austrian records. At any rate, the new activity of
England was, from the Austrian standpoint, the most hopeful
sign in a generally dismal situation.


The policy which the Imperial Court was to pursue for the
next few months, was marked out at the meetings of the State
Conference on November 29 and 30. It was the unanimous
opinion of that body that peace, although desirable, was almost
unattainable, and therefore that every effort must be made both
to conduct the next campaign with vigor and to gain the assist-
ance of Prussia, Russia, and England. With regard to the indem-
nity question, it was decided to give the King of Prussia all
assurances of the Emperor's willingness to cooperate both at St.



Petersburg and in Poland in order to secure him his acquisition,
but to intimate that its size could be fixed only by the concert to
be established with Russia. The principle that the respective
acquisitions were to be made at the same time could no longer be
upheld, for it was clear that not only the Exchange itself, but even
the negotiation with the Bavarian House, would have to be post-
poned for an indefinite period; but meanwhile every precaution
must be taken to ensure the ultimate acquisition of an indemnity
somewhere. To that end the Conference resolved to demand that
the other two Powers should either consent to a temporary Aus-
trian occupation in Poland, or else formally guarantee the
realization of the Exchange. In offering these alternatives, the
Imperial ministers were well aware of the aversion of their allies
to seeing the Austrian troops enter the Republic. If the Court of
Vienna occupied a district in Poland, even if only temporarily,
the shares of the other Powers would have to be cut down pro-

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 37 of 59)