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

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portionately. The Austrians themselves had no real desire to
take such a step, which would involve them in the odium of the
partition and would require a considerable military force. They
imagined, however, that the threat of such an occupation would
render their allies much more willing to accept the second alterna-
tive, the formal guarantee of the Exchange. Neither proposal, it
must be confessed, does great credit to the insight of the Viennese
statesmen. The demand to be allowed to occupy a district in
Poland could only irritate both Prussia and Russia. The idea of
a guarantee of the realization of the Exchange was not a little
difficult to fathom, for how could the other two Powers guarantee
an arrangement which admittedly depended on the voluntary
consent of the parties directly interested ? To find any sense in it
at all, one is driven to conjecture that the proposal meant a
guarantee of the acquisition either of Bavaria or of an equivalent.
One means there was by which the Imperial Court might have
entered into possession of its indemnity at the same time as its
allies : this was to adopt Spielmann's and Reuss' plan of seizing
Bavaria under pretext of punishing the Elector for his unpatriotic
and disloyal conduct. It is impossible to say whether this plan
was discussed at the conferences of November 29 and 30, but at


^iny rate there is no mention of it in the protocol. Apparently the
Emperor and his advisers could not make up their minds to so
drastic and ruthless a measure. The Austrians did not lack
appetite, but they had not the bold unscrupulousness that was
necessary in order to keep pace with such Powers as Russia and

The second main point resolved upon in the Conference was to
answer England in a friendly but cautious manner, and especially
to confide the plan for the Exchange. It was decided to consult
Prussia about this reply and to suggest that she should make a
similar communication at London regarding her ambitions in
Poland; but even if the Court of Berlin refused to take such a
step, the majority of the Conference held that Austria should
take England into the secret with respect to her own hopes for an
indemnity. Finally, the Court of St. Petersburg was to be fully
informed of the negotiations with England and Prussia, and to
be begged to do its utmost for the interests of its hard-pressed
and ' most intimate ' ally. 1

After the conferences of November 29 and 30, almost two weeks
elapsed before the answer to the Note of Merle was ready.
Haugwitz urged and stormed; Razumovski added his exhorta-
tions; but the Austrians were not to be hurried. Nothing was
effected by this delay except that the Prussians were irritated,
and the Empress of Russia lost all patience waiting for the long
promised courier from Vienna. The answer, approved by the
Conference on December 6, was at last presented to Haugwitz
on the nth. In accordance with the decisions just described,
this note recognized the justice of the Prussian demand for an
acquisition in Poland, and promised Austrian support for it at
St. Petersburg; it referred to the principle invariably agreed upon
between the two Courts, of complete equality in the respective
indemnities, and expressed the confident hope that the King
would cooperate in the realization of the Exchange; finally, it
requested either consent to an Austrian occupation in Poland or a
guarantee of the Exchange by Prussia and Russia. The most
salient feature of the reply was the fact that while the Note of

1 Conference protocol and Separat-voten, Vivenot, ii, pp. 377-382.

3 68


Merle was answered article by article, its last clause, which con-
tained the demand that Austria should consent to the King's
immediate occupation of his prospective acquisition, was passed
over without a word. 1

The impression produced on the Prussians was unfortunate in
the extreme; the more so because Reuss had previously been
ordered to announce that the reply would be entirely satisfac-
tory. 2 Lucchesini and the ministers at Berlin vied with each
other in expressing their feelings of horror and revolt at such dis-
loyal conduct. Their indignation was especially aroused by
" the abominable snare " (cheville), that lurked behind the prop-
osition about an Austrian occupation in Poland. That insidious
demand, combined with the Court of Vienna's desire to take
England into the secret of the indemnity plan, seemed to an-
nounce the design of thwarting the partition entirely. Either
proposition might furnish the Empress with a sufficient excuse, if
she wanted one, for throwing over the whole project. There was
only one means of staving off such a disaster : the King must hold
inflexibly to the terms of the Note of Merle, and force both
Imperial Courts to recognize that not a single Prussian soldier
would take the field until the Prussian demands were granted. 3
These conditions and stipulations to safeguard the Austrian
indemnities were not to be thought of. The Prussian ministers
quite realized the embarrassment of their allies; they observed
with grim satisfaction that the recovery of Belgium was hardly
probable, and the consent of the Bavarian House to the Exchange
still less so; but the Austrians must recognize that their salvation
depended on the continuation of aid from Prussia, and must con-
tent themselves with such indemnities as " events would permit
them to obtain." 4 Doubtless these would not be very extensive,
if the Prussian ministers had their way. But whatever hap-

1 This note is printed in Vivenot, ii, pp. 293 ff. The date should be December 9.

2 Cobenzl to Reuss, December 4? ibid., ii, pp. 387 f.

3 The ministers at Berlin to Lucchesini, December 17 and 19, to Haugwitz
the 17th, to the King the 19th, Lucchesini to the ministers, December 17, B. A.,
R. 92, L. N. 14; R. 96, 147 G; R. 1, 170.

4 The cabinet ministry to Haugwitz, December 17, and to the King, December
19, B. A., R. 1, 170, and R. 96, 147 G.


pened, the Austrians must make no indiscreet pretensions that
would interfere with the plans of their allies.

Though apparently not so much incensed as his colleagues,
Haugwitz found the Austrian note quite insufficient. He could
not be "reassured," he told Cobenzl and Spielmann, until he had
seen absolutely satisfactory instructions sent off at once to the
Austrian ambassador at St. Petersburg. The Imperial ministers
promised and procrastinated. The delay in this case was, indeed,
more intelligible, for the ' expeditions ' in preparation for London
and St. Petersburg were extremely voluminous, and had, besides,
to be sent the rounds of the Conference. Haugwitz, however,
grew impatient and suspicious. He later declared that at this
time he abandoned the ordinary tone of a diplomat for that of a
minister who announces the peremptory will of his master. 1 His
reports picture him relentlessly beating down the resistance of the
Austrians, ordering and disposing in sovereign fashion; and yet
later events were to prove this negotiation such a medley of
misunderstandings that one is driven to doubt whether Haug-
witz's language was quite so peremptory and unequivocal as he
himself made out.


The ' expedition ' to London is the first case in point. Cobenzl
had drawn up a long ostensible dispatch to Stadion (the Austrian
ambassador to the Court of St. James), explaining the aims of the
allied Powers in the war against France, and several postscripts
in which the Exchange plan was set forth at length with some
allusions to the Russian and Prussian designs on Poland. 2 Sta-
dion was expressly ordered, however, to omit all reference to the
last-named subject in case his Prussian colleague, Jacobi, was not
instructed to make similar communications. 3 Haugwitz's atti-
tude on this occasion is far from clear. In his own dispatches he

1 Report to the King, May 6, 1793, B. A., R. 96, 147 H.

2 The dispatches to Stadion of December 22 are printed in Vivenot, ii, pp. 406-

3 Vivenot, ii, p. 423. This fact deserves to be mentioned the more, because the
Austrian government has often been charged with insidiously betraying the plans
of its allies — a reproach that is hardly justified.


claimed to have protested against making any confidences to
England at present with regard to the indemnity plans; but, on
the other hand, Cobenzl reported to the Emperor that the Prus-
sian envoy had not only failed to raise the slightest objection to
these dispatches, but had declared that his own Court could not
do better than to give Jacobi entirely analogous instructions, and
that he meant to send off a courier to Berlin to bring this about. 1
The contradiction is flat and glaring.

The same phenomenon appears in the case of the instructions
to Louis Cobenzl. The Vice-Chancellor had prepared several
ostensible dispatches to his cousin intended to satisfy Haugwitz.
In one of these it was said that the Emperor earnestly wished and
begged that the Empress of Russia would at once " enter into a
concert " for arranging and carrying out the proposed partition of
Poland and the " prise de possession eventuelle " so much desired
by the King of Prussia; and hence that she would specify the
acquisitions that might be found suitable for her Empire. For
the security of the Austrian indemnities the same demands were
advanced as in the reply to Prussia: namely, that the Emperor
must be allowed to occupy a district in Poland unless before the
effectuation of the Prussian acquisition his two allies had found
means to assure the realization of the Exchange. He would con-
sider such security as existing if the Empress and the King of
Prussia would undertake the guarantee of the Exchange; and
in this case he would claim nothing in Poland, even if he found
himself unable to obtain a ' supplement ' elsewhere. If the Ex-
change proved impossible, however, he would have no alternative
but to seek his indemnity at the expense of the Republic along
with his allies.

With all these conditions, the ostensible dispatches still com-
plied to some extent with the wishes of Prussia. But the Austrian
ministry could not resist the temptation to try to diminish the
evil by a subterfuge that was neither honorable nor dexterous nor

1 Haugwitz's reports of December 18 and 21, B. A., R. 1, 170; Cobenzl to the
Emperor, December 21, V. A., Vortrage, 1792, and a similar statement in the
2d P. S. to Stadion (Vivenot, ii, p. 423) and in the dispatch to Reuss of December
30 {ibid., ii, p. 448).


effective. It is probable that they did not need to have the idea
suggested to them, but they may well have been encouraged in it
-by one of Louis CobenzPs recent reports. In the latter part of
-November, when Frederick William's exploits in Champagne were
still exciting lively ill humor at St. Petersburg, the Russian min-
isters had spoken with irritation of the size of the Prussian de-
mands in Poland, paraded their own devotion to the interests of
Austria, and suggested that if the partition took place at all, its
execution at least ought to be delayed for some time. 1 This fitted
in admirably with the wishes of the Austrian ministry. Accord-
ingly, alongside the dispatches shown to Haugwitz, the Vice-
Chancellor prepared a secret instruction for Louis Cobenzl, in
which he declared that the Imperial Court had never consented
to the present exorbitant territorial demands of Prussia; that it
was not, however, in a position to contest them openly; but that
it relied upon Russia to cut down the Prussian lot in accordance
with the principle proclaimed by Zubov himself, 2 that Poland
must remain large enough to form a real buffer state. Doubtless
it would be the most desirable solution, the dispatch continued,
if the three Powers, while resolving upon the partition now,
should postpone its execution. But in view of the impatience
and importunities of Prussia, the Court of Vienna felt obliged to
propose that the two German Powers should simultaneously
occupy equivalent districts in Poland, under the pretext of
maintaining order or repressing Counter-confederations. The
Empress was begged, however, to assume the responsibility of
inducing the Prussians to defer a formal annexation until a more
convenient time, when, as it was hoped at Vienna, the Bavarian
Exchange might also be effected. Finally, the Vice-Chancellor
added the urgent entreaty that Russia should consent to the
Prussian aggrandizement only under the double condition that
the King should continue the war with all vigor, and that the Ex-
change should be assured at once and realized as soon as peace
was made. The Austrian government thus entrusted its cause
entirely to the merciful protection of the Empress. It appealed

1 Cobenzl's reports of November 13, 16, 20, V. A., Russland, Berichte, 1792.

2 Cobenzl's report of November 20, V. A., loc. cit.


to her to tame the ally whom it dared not oppose openly. It
appointed her arbiter of the whole indemnity question. 1

When the ostensible dispatches to Louis Cobenzl were com-
municated to Haugwitz, the latter found them somewhat more
satisfactory than the note of December 9, but he objected to the
term prise de possession eventuelle, instead of actuelle, and still
more to the condition attached to that concession, the Austrian
occupation in Poland. In his reports to his government, he claims
that he then redoubled his efforts to remove these last difficulties,
and that within a few days he had vanquished every obstacle.
On December 24 he wrote that he had obtained a formal oral
declaration from the Emperor's ministers that their sovereign
1 would address the most urgent representations to the Empress
of Russia in order to secure her consent to the Prussian prise de
possession actuelle, without adding any condition relative to an
Austrian occupation in Poland, but contenting himself solely
with the demand that the Empress and the King should jointly

1 The dispatches to L. Cobenzl are printed in Vivenot, ii, pp. 425-435. Sybel's
account of the origin of this ' expedition ' is far from accurate. He conjectured
(op. cit., iii, pp. 179 ff.) that the secret instructions were decided upon at the meet-
ing of the Conference on December 19, and that this unfortunate step was forced
upon Ph. Cobenzl by the Emperor himself, guided perhaps by Count Colloredo.
The basis of this assumption he found in the Emperor's note to the Vice-Chancellor
of December 21 (Vivenot, ii, p. 405) in which the Conference of the 19th is mentioned
and Cobenzl rebuked for his slowness in getting off the dispatches to London and
St. Petersburg. Sybel deplored the fact that Vivenot did not publish the protocol
of " this most important session " of the Conference. Vivenot is quite excusable.
No protocol of the 19th is to be found in the Vienna Archives. And apparently
that is no great loss. From certain other documents not printed in Vivenot, it
appears that except for the parts relating to the reply to England, the dispatches
to L. Cobenzl were already completed and had received the sanction of the Con-
ference ministers (having been ' circulated ' among them) by December 15. At
the session of the 19th only " slight changes and additions " were made, and one
further postscript to Stadion was agreed upon (doubtless the 4th, printed in Vive-
not, ii, p. 425), as Cobenzl himself relates in a note to the Emperor of December 21
(V. A., Vortrdge, 1792). If the conference of the 19th had resolved upon anything
so important as the secret instructions to L. Cobenzl, it is hardly possible that the
Vice-Chancellor would not have mentioned it in this note, in which he sums up the
reasons for his previous delays. It appears, then, that this meeting had little or
no importance. I do not think there is the slightest evidence to show where the
responsibility for the secret instructions rests. Sybel's view may be admitted as a
pure hypothesis; but the Vice-Chancellor's delays may equally well be ascribed to
his natural slowness, timidity, and indecision.


guarantee their consent to the Bavarian Exchange.' 1 With that
he considered his negotiation finished, and prepared to return to
Berlin to assume his new post as cabinet minister. At his final
audience (December 23), the Emperor assured him that his only
fear was that in spite of his own consent and the orders he had
sent to St. Petersburg, the Empress of Russia might still refuse
to agree to the Prussian demands. 2 Nothing apparently could be
more amicable or loyal. Haugwitz left Vienna affirming his
conviction that the Imperial Court was acting in good faith and
was sincerely disposed to further his master's acquisition. 3

If he really had secured the oral declaration he reported, he
might indeed congratulate himself on a complete diplomatic
victory. In that case, Austria had yielded to every Prussian
demand, in return for a single concession of the flimsiest and most
meaningless sort. For that phrase ' guarantee of consent ' was
vagueness itself: anyone could interpret that at his good pleas-
ure. The Berlin ministry hastened to inform Caesar (who had
been left as charge at Vienna) that they accepted the engagement,
if it meant ' promise of consent,' but that they would never allow
it a broader significance. 4 A promise of consent the King had
already given, and as long as its fulfilment was postponed, his
ministers were not greatly embarrassed by it. A guarantee of
the realization of the Exchange would be quite a different matter.

The question inevitably presents itself: did Haugwitz really
secure such complete and momentous concessions ? If so, why
did he not insist on the alteration of the dispatches to Louis
Cobenzl, which were based on quite different principles ? Why
did he content himself with a mere verbal assurance ? How
explain the fact that the Austrian records contain not the slightest
trace of the promise he claimed to have received, and that the
Austrian ministers continued to act as if such a promise had never
been given ? We find, for instance, that on January 3 the Con-

1 Haugwitz's reports of December 21 and 24, B. A., R. 1, 170. See Appendix
XI, 1.

2 Haugwitz's retrospective report of May 6, 1793, B. A., R. 96, 147 H. See
Appendix XVI, 3.

* Letter to Lucchesini, December 25, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 31.
4 Rescript of December 29, B. A., R. 1, 170.



ference met to decide what Polish territories should be occupied
by the Imperial Court, in case the other Powers failed to furnish
a sufficient guarantee of the Exchange. 1 Cobenzl continually
spoke to the astonished Caesar of the alternative — occupation
or guarantee — as quite a matter of course. 2 Such positive
language is unintelligible — assuming Haugwitz's report to be
accurate — except on the hypothesis that Cobenzl and Spielmann
had been driven into concessions which they dared not reveal to
their colleagues, or on the supposition that they did not know the
meaning of the terms in question. Or did Haugwitz misunder-
stand them ? Or did he, in his haste to finish the affair, content
himself with assurances much less positive and satisfactory than
those which he reported ?

In favor of this last hypothesis, we have the testimony of one
witness who was fairly well acquainted with the course of the
negotiation and sufficiently intimate with all the negotiators.
Razumovski had frequently discussed the matters here in ques-
tion with Haugwitz, Cobenzl, and Spielmann, and he understood
from them that it was entirely settled that Austria should occupy
a district in Poland, unless Russia and Prussia furnished the
desired guarantee of the Exchange. Moreover, when Caesar,
much disturbed over the affair, read to him Haugwitz's final dis-
patch of December 24, Razumovski wrote to Ostermann that
Haugwitz, in order to facilitate his negotiation, had shown far
more condescendance in his conferences with the Austrians than
in his reports. 3

If the Russian ambassador's view was correct, it would point
to nothing exceptional in Haugwitz's first year of diplomatic
activity. It will be remembered how facile the latter had shown
himself towards the Austrians in May, in the affair of the joint
declaration at St. Petersburg; in July and August, in the affair
of the Margraviates; in October, in connection with SpielmannV
'plan.' If one compares his reports with the Austrian ones

1 Vivenot, ii, p. 457.

2 Caesar's reports of Jan. 30, Feb. 6 and 25, 1793, R. A., R. 1, 174.

3 Razumovski's report of January 21/February 1, 1793, Caesar's report of
January 30, M. A., ABCTpia, III, 54, and B. A., R. 1, 174. Razumovski's re-
port is printed in part in Appendix XVI, 2.


relative to the negotiation at Luxemburg and to the dispatches
to Stadion in December, and still more if one studies his long re-
port of May 6, 1793, reviewing the whole course of the indemnity
affair, one sees that his conduct as represented to his Court was
very much more energetic, decided, ' peremptory,' than it ap-
peared to those with whom he negotiated. It must be remem-
bered that he was only a beginner in diplomacy. He later wrote
of this negotiation at Vienna: " These were the preliminaries that
were to serve as my schooling." l The suspicion lies very near at
hand that perhaps the novice did not pass the test so triumph-
antly as he reported. At any rate, mysterious as is the whole
affair, one may perhaps surmise that the Austrian ministers had
agreed to acquiesce in all that Prussia demanded for herself, and
to renounce their own project of an occupation in Poland, on
condition of receiving a guarantee of the Exchange (meaning the
realization of the Exchange) ; and that Haugwitz either misunder-
stood them, or deliberately misrepresented.

The consequences were momentous for the future course of the
affair. The Austrian cabinet continued to act on the principles
embodied in the dispatches to Louis Cobenzl; continued to re-
gard their assent to the Prussian demands as conditional upon
their securing safeguards for the Exchange either through an
occupation in Poland or through the guarantee of the other
Courts; continued to view the final settlement of the indemnity
question as dependent upon a concert of the three Powers, into
which England might also possibly be taken. 2 But the Imperial
ministry seems to have framed no clear idea as to the form which
this concert was to take. Although they knew that Goltz was
authorized to conclude a definite treaty with Russia, 3 they took
no steps to provide Louis Cobenzl with similar powers. They
thus condemned themselves to be excluded from a negotiation

1 Ranke, Hardenberg, ii, p. 306.

2 Cf . Caesar's report of January 23 : " Tout se reduit done a l'id6e qu'on parott
toujours avoir ici que l'etendue de l'arrondissement de V. M. en Pologne, ainsi que
les formes de l'echange de la Baviere et du nouvel etablissement de la maison Pala-
tine, seront d6finitivement arrangees du concours de toutes les Puissances contract-
antes par les negociations futures de la paix," B. A., R. 1, 174. It was a sort of
Congress of Vienna that the Austrians thus prematurely imagined.

3 L. Cobenzl's report of November 23, 1792, V. A., Russland, Berichle.



that concerned their most vital interests, with a lack of foresight,
prudence, and consistency that is almost unintelligible.

The Prussians, on their side, viewed the agreements of Decem-
ber only in the light of Haugwitz's final dispatch, and so con-
cluded — quite justifiably — that Austria had given them a
perfectly free hand in Poland. The King was satisfied and
/ grateful, but he was almost alone in his opinion. The long
delays, the bad grace with which the Imperial Court had yielded,
and the snares and subterfuges which they detected in all its
utterances, had convinced the Prussian ministers that no confi-
dence was to be placed in the good will of ' their faithful allies '
and ' natural rivals.' " I see more and more clearly," Lucchesini
wrote to the ministers at Berlin, " that if we had had to expect
our indemnity from the Court of Vienna, we should never have
obtained it." x At that moment their indemnity no longer de-
pended on Austria. The Empress had spoken at last.

1 Letter of January 4, 1793, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14.


The Russo-Prussian Partition Treaty

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 38 of 59)