Robert Howard Lord.

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

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idea of excluding Austria from the negotiation would cause great
grief at Berlin. The ministry recognized that the Court of Vienna
would probably show some ill humor when the convention was
presented to it; but after all it would only be paying the penalty
for all its "tergiversations" and " insidious negotiations." 2 They
were especially pleased by the prospect of not having to incur any
engagements for the continuation of the war. ' Undoubtedly,'
they wrote to Goltz, ' their continued cooperation would be a
tacit condition of their new acquisition, but there was a great
difference between a binding and formal agreement and a volun-
tary cooperation, which might depend more or less on circum-
stances and convenience.' 3 The connection between French and
Polish affairs had been very useful when it furnished a pretext for
acquisitions: when it entailed obligations, that was quite a
different matter.

1 Goltz's report of December 16, B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133.

2 The cabinet ministry to the King, December 27, B. A., R. XI, Russland,

3 Ministerial rescript to Goltz of December 26, B. A., loc. cit.


Frederick William's joy was, if possible, even greater than that
of his ministers. " Our great aim is, thank God, fulfilled," he
wrote to them: " it required efforts to attain it, but he who risks
nothing gains nothing. The anxieties that your patriotic appre-
hensions have given you, are now removed, and succeeded by
the satisfaction of seeing your labors crowned with the happiest
success." l With the King's complete approval of the ministerial
propositions, the courier was soon speeding back to St. Peters-

The situation on the Neva had meanwhile altered in several
respects. The Russian ministers were again showing themselves
ominously cold towards Goltz, in order to reduce him to a be-
coming state of anxiety and humility. This manoeuvre was
beautifully calculated to deprive him of the courage to make
either new demands or objections. With Goltz the effect was
unfailing. A further new element in the situation was the fact
that the Austrian dispatches of December 23 had arrived, and
the Empress' hand was strengthened in so far as the Court of
Vienna had turned over to her the congenial role of arbiter in the
indemnity question. From the first the Russians gave Cobenzl
to understand that it would be impossible to cut down or to post-
pone the Prussian acquisition. They were lavish in assurances,
however, that in the impending negotiation they would take pains
to bind the King to the continuation of the war, and would in
general provide for Austrian interests as carefully as for their own.
This appears to have been the sole effect of the secret instructions
sent to Cobenzl. For the rest, the Austrian communications to
England regarding the indemnities produced an extremely bad
effect at St. Petersburg: from the Empress down, everyone con-
sidered those confidences premature, indiscreet, and even insid-
ious. This was one more reason for hastening to settle with

The negotiation, which for greater secrecy was conducted
between Goltz and Ostermann alone, was rushed through in less
than six days. Terrified by reports that a large part of the

1 Frederick William to the cabinet ministry, December 31, B. A., R. XI, Russ-
land, 135.


Russian ministry was opposed to the partition altogether, Goltz
feared to ruin all by delaying matters in any way. His proposi-
tion about Polangen was curtly refused once for all, on the pretext
that the Empress could not acquiesce in Prussian claims more
extensive than those already communicated to the Court of
Vienna. Goltz dared not make the obvious retort that the size
of the Russian acquisition was wholly unknown to that Court.
Nor had he better luck with his objections regarding the territory
along the Galician frontier. He was obliged to accept an article
concerning the French war, which he and his Court would greatly
have preferred to see omitted. In short, the Russians simply
dictated their own terms. January 23 Ostermann, Bezborodko,
and Markov for Russia, and Goltz for Prussia signed the treaty of
partition. 1


The act, which had been drafted by Markov, followed as far as
possible the form and phraseology of the treaties of 1772. This
time, indeed, there were no ' ancient and legitimate rights ' to
Polish territory that might be invoked; there was, in fact, no
decent pretext of any kind ; but the difficulty was met in the pre-
amble by sonorous allusions to " the imminent and universal
danger " that threatened Europe as a result of " the fatal revolu-
tion in France," and the need that the Powers interested in the
maintenance of " order " and " the general tranquillity " should
take " the most rigorous and efficacious measures " to arrest the
progress of the evil. It required something of a tour de force to
make Poland an accomplice in the guilt of France, but the
formula had long before been discovered. It was said that the
contracting parties had ' recognized by sure signs that the same
spirit of insurrection and dangerous innovations, which now
reigned in France, was ready to break out in the Kingdom of
Poland, in the immediate vicinity of their own possessions '; they
had therefore ' felt the necessity of redoubling their precautions

1 For the above: Goltz's reports of January 18, 22, and 24, 1793, B. A., R. XI,
Russland, 135. The text of the treaty is printed in Martens, Traites cone! us par
la Russie, ii, pp. 228-235; Vivenot, ii, p. 516-519.


and efforts in order to guarantee their subjects against the effects
of a scandalous and often contagious example ' ; and they had
been obliged to combine those efforts in such a way as to obtain
for themselves l both present and future security and an indem-
nity for the exorbitant expenses which these exertions must
necessarily occasion them.'

The partition being thus represented as part of the wider
system of measures for combating the revolutionary plague ; and
also as an indemnification for such laudable services, it followed
that the two Powers could not well avoid committing themselves
to some kind of definite obligations regarding the French war.
Catherine was, indeed, delighted to seize the chance to bind the
hands of the King of Prussia as tightly as possible in this respect;
but as for her own cooperation, she preferred that it should remain
of the same purely moral and exhortatory sort as heretofore.
By Article I of the Convention she generously pledged herself to
maintain her military and naval forces " on the same formidable
footing as at present," so as to be able at all times to protect her
own states against any possible attack, to assist her allies in the
cases stipulated by the treaties, and to repress any outbreaks
that might occur in Poland. Prussia, on the other hand, was
obliged to promise to continue the war in common with the
Emperor, and to make no separate peace nor truce until the two
sovereigns ' had attained the aim announced by their common
declarations,' and forced " the French rebels ... to renounce
their hostile enterprises abroad and their criminal attentats in the
interior of the Kingdom of France" (Art. IV.). Taken in the
strict sense, this article would have bound Frederick William to
an interminable war. Here, it must be admitted, the Empress
had effectually provided for the interests of Austria — and inci-
dentally for her own.

As an indemnity for the expense of her armaments, and also for
the sake of " the general security and tranquillity," Russia was to
take possession of the Polish territories east of the line Druja-
Pinsk-Choczim : that is to say, of virtually the whole eastern half
of the Republic, including the rich palatinates of the Ukraine, the
granary of Poland, which had so long formed the object of Potem-


kin's ambition. Prussia's acquisition, bounded by the line
Cz^stochowa-Rawa-Soldau, embraced the whole of Great Poland,
including the cities of Dantzic, Thorn, Posen, Gnesen, Kalisz and
Sieradz. The yawning gap in the flanks of the Monarchy was
thus filled in more than generous fashion, and the Prussian fron-
tier advanced to within a few miles of Warsaw and Cracow. The
respective shares of the two partitioning Powers were glaringly
unequal. Russia gained over three million new subjects: Prussia
little more than one million. In area the Empress' share was
almost exactly four times as large as the King's. The loss to
Poland was relatively far greater than that in 1772. While the
First Partition had cost the Republic only twenty-nine per cent
of its area and thirty-six per cent of its population, the Second
Partition was to rob it of fifty-four per cent of its remaining
territory and approximately half of its remaining population.
There was left to the ruined state only a long, narrow quadri-
lateral extending from Courland to Cracow and Volhynia. 1

The formal annexation of the territories in question was fixed
for the period between the 5th and the 21st of April (New Style).
The two Powers agreed to act in the closest concert in effecting
the necessary " definitive arrangement with the Republic of
Poland." Finally, they made certain specious provisions for the
interests of Austria. By Article VII they bound themselves,
when the time should come, and when the request had been made
of them, ' to omit none of their good offices and other efficacious
means in their power to facilitate the Bavarian Exchange, while

1 It is impossible to offer any exact statistical data with regard to the area and
population affected by the Second Partition. According to the calculations pre-
sented to the Diet of Grodno on August 21, 1793, the Republic possessed before
the Partition an area of 9,630 (Polish) square miles ( = 206,795 square miles, Eng-
lish) ; the share taken by Russia included 4,157 square miles ( = 89,257 square miles,
English); that taken by Prussia 1,062 square miles ( = 22,805 square miles, English) .

Korzon estimates the area of Poland in 1792 as only 9,438 geographical square
miles = 200,661 square miles, English (i, pp. 160 f.). Sybel puts the Prussian lot as
1,016 square miles {op. cit., iii, pp. 222 f.); Priimers (Das Jahr 1793, p. 76) at 1,061.
According to the same statistics presented at the Grodno Diet, the population of
the Republic just before the Partition was 7,660,787 (but Korzon places it as high
as 8,790,000, ibid.); that of the lands annexed by Russia 3,055,900; that gained
by Prussia 1,136,389 (see this whole set of calculations in Kraszewski, op. cit., iii,
p. 336). These figures can be regarded as only approximate at the best.


adding to it such other advantages as should be compatible with
the general convenience.' This article might mean much or
little, according as it was interpreted. The term ' efficacious
means ' suggested the idea of coercion to bring about the Ex-
change, but there followed the limitation to ' means in their
power.' The ' other advantages ' sounded well, but were bound
up with the elastic phrase about ' the general convenience.'
Each concession or promise contained a loophole for escape.
Austria was really offered nothing more solid than the eventual
good offices of the two Courts in behalf of the Exchange. Article
VIII stipulated that after ratification the Convention was to be
communicated to the Emperor with the request that he should
formally accede to it and guarantee its provisions, the Empress
and the King engaging for their part to guarantee the Exchange as
soon as it should be effected. Needless to say, this was not the
kind of guarantee for which the Austrians had asked.

In general, the treaty was an unsurpassed triumph of Russian
policy. The Empress, without having taken any active part in
the French enterprise, awarded to herself an enormous ' indem-
nity ' ; she accorded Prussia a lot one-fourth as large as her
own, under onerous conditions; and she provided chiefly by airy
promises for her ' ancient ally,' who bore the main burden of
the war.

The Prussian ministry found the terms of the Convention open
to more than one objection. They were chagrined at getting no
additions to their share and at the obligations imposed upon
them, but they were far too clever not to see the various means
provided for evading those obligations. The engagement to
continue the war was softened by the stipulation ' in common
with the Emperor,' for they were confident that they could rely on
him to abandon the enterprise at the first good opportunity.
The ' efficacious means ' to be employed to further the Exchange
could and must be interpreted as referring only to cooperation
in the recovery of the Netherlands. At any rate, all such captious
considerations were outweighed by the joy of having signed and
sealed the treaty which at last " raised the Prussian Monarchy
to that degree of material power to which it was destined by the


genius of its sovereigns and the vigor of its people." ' On Febru-
ary 28 the exchange of ratifications took place at St. Petersburg.


The execution of the Partition was already well under way.
On January 16, 1793, the Prussian envoy Buchholtz presented at
Warsaw a note announcing that his master was about to send a
corps of troops into Great Poland. As a pretext for this step, it
was alleged that " the self-styled Patriotic party " (formerly
known as ' the Prussian party,' it may be remarked) was ' con-
tinuing its secret machinations, which obviously tended to the
total subversion of order and tranquillity,' and which had exposed
the neighboring Prussian provinces to " repeated excesses and
violations of territory"; that ' the spirit of French democracy
was taking deep root in Poland, so that the manoeuvres of
Jacobin emissaries were gaining powerful support, and already
several revolutionary clubs had been formed, which made open
profession of their principles '; that the spread of this " dangerous
poison," and the connection of "the zealots" with theFrench clubs
placed the King under the absolute necessity of providing for the
safety of his own states, and averting the danger of being attacked
in the rear at the moment when he was engaged in war in the
west. As the aim of the intended occupation was only to repress
those who were fomenting troubles and insurrection, to restore
and maintain order, and to assure to honest citizens an efficacious
protection, ' the King flattered himself that he could count on the
good will of a nation whose well-being could not be a matter of
indifference to him, and to which he wished to give substantial
proofs of his affection and benevolence.' 2 The sublime irony or
the brazen hypocrisy of this declaration will rarely find a parallel.
Barring a few eccentric and utterly unimportant individuals,
there was at that time in Poland no ' democratic ' propaganda,
no ' Jacobin emissaries,' no ' revolutionary clubs.' 3 The King

1 The cabinet ministry to the King, February 3, Lucchesini to the Ministry,
February 7, B. A., R. 96, 147 H, and R. 92, L. N. 34.

2 The declaration is printed in Angeberg, op. cit., pp. 297 ff., and elsewhere.

3 Cf. Smolenski, Konfederacya targowicka, pp. 366 ff. It is pathetic to find an


of Prussia was threatened by no danger on the east — unless he
provoked one by undertaking a new partition and thus goading
the Polish nation into a supreme act of desperation. And yet the
formula, which was henceforth to serve the robber Powers in all
their unholy operations against Poland, had been furnished by the
Poles themselves; for the men of Targowica, in their blind hatred
of their opponents, had long been stigmatizing the adherents of
the monarchical constitution of 1791 as ' democrats ' and
' Jacobins.'

On January 24 the Prussian troops under General Mollendorff
poured over the frontier. The districts to be annexed were oc-
cupied without difficulty, almost without resistance. Dantzic
alone closed its gates and held out until, threatened with famine
and deprived of all hope of succor, the Town Council surrendered
the city and begged for its incorporation with Prussia (April 4).
Even then on the day of the occupation the mob fired on the
incoming Prussian troops.

In the face of this attack, the government of Poland — the
' Generality ' of the Confederation, sitting at Grodno — pre-
sented the most dismal spectacle of consternation, impotence,
and cowardice. That Prussia's action had been taken with the
Empress' consent was revealed in Buchholtz's declaration; and
that this action was only the preliminary to a new partition,
agreed upon between the two Powers, was only too obvious.
Deserted by Catherine, upon whose protection alone their power
had hitherto rested, the Confederation saw themselves exposed
to the execration of a nation, half of which regarded them as
dupes, and the other half as traitors. It is characteristic of these
men that in such a crisis they thought not so much of their
country as of themselves; for it is clear that in what few feeble
efforts they made to oppose the Prussians, their main aim was
only to save appearances and to vindicate, as far as might oe,
their own ruined reputations.

The Generality replied to Buchholtz's declaration with a meek
protest, denying any need for the entrance of the Prussian troops

historian like Sybel attempting a vindication of the Prussian declaration, and
asserting that " the facts " alleged in it were true {op. cit., iii, p. 194).


and requesting their withdrawal. When Felix Potocki, with
streaming eyes, announced the news that the invasion had
actually begun, the Confederation could think of nothing better
to do than to dispatch a pitiful appeal to St. Petersburg, throwing
themselves on the mercy of their great Protectress. While
awaiting her answer, they made some pretence of activity. They
issued a magniloquent proclamation, protesting " in the most
solemn manner in the face of the universe against any usurpation
of the least part of the Republic's territory," and swearing that
' they were ready to shed the last drop of their blood in defence
of the liberty and integrity of the country.' 1 The Hetman
Rzewuski bustled about giving orders to the troops to oppose the
advance of the Prussians. On February n the Generality even
mustered up the courage to issue ' universals ' instructing the
nation to hold itself in readiness for a levee en masse (the so-called
pos polite ruszenie). How much sincerity there was behind these
demonstrations appears from the fact that Potocki and associates
hastened to assure the Russians that the universals had been sent
out simply because the Confederation had to do something to
appease the public, and this had seemed " the most innocent
means " that they could think of. 2

Any doubts as to Catherine's sentiments and intentions were
very soon removed. General Igelstrom, the new commander of
the Empress' forces in Poland, refused to allow a single Polish
regiment or a single cannon from the Warsaw arsenal to be sent
against the Prussians. Baron Sievers, who had just arrived to
replace Bulgakov as Russian ambassador, denied, indeed, any
knowledge as to the reasons for the Prussian invasion, but
announced that it was the Empress' will that the Generality
should attempt no resistance, and should in general avoid all
measures that might stir up the nation and disturb " the public
tranquillity." 3 Roundly rebuked for their universals of February
11 — so grave a step precipitately taken without consulting him,
" the minister of a friendly and allied state " — the Confederation

1 This document, dated February 3, is printed in Angeberg, Recueil, pp. 299-304.

2 Biihler to Zubov, February 1/12, M. A., IloJibiua, IX, 7.

3 Cf. Smolenski, op. cit., pp. 408 f.


could only issue a new proclamation practically canceling the
preceding one and informing the nation that if there were any
hope left, it could be only in the magnanimity of the great Cath-
erine. 1 With that it was clear that every thought of national self-
defence had been abandoned. Poland lay helpless and passive
before her despoilers, while the leaders of the Confederation
thought only of making their escape from the scene.

In the middle of March, Potocki went off to St. Petersburg,
ostensibly in order to implore the Empress' protection for the
Republic. He was to return to the country only after the final
partition — ■ a Russian general. Branicki laid down his het-
man's staff, retired to the banks of the Neva, and became a
Russian subject. His worthy colleague Rzewuski remained for a
time nominally in office, busying himself chiefly with attempts to
whitewash himself before his fellow-countrymen and with desper-
ate and burning appeals to St. Petersburg. In words that well
sum up the tragedy of the Targowicians, he wrote: " Today I am
regarded as the opprobrium of my nation, as a man who bar-
gained to lead a people into error and to sacrifice the whole coun-
try to the interests of Russia. . . . Woe to the man who has to
deal with you Russians. I thought to establish the prosperity of
the Republic on eternal foundations: I was wrong. You have
wrought the ruin of my country and me." 2

The King, too, would gladly have joined in the general deban-
dade. Foreseeing what was coming, he wrote to the Empress
begging to be allowed to abdicate, if only his debts were paid. 3
His prayer was not granted : the Empress still had work for him
to do.

On April 7 the two partitioning Powers issued manifestoes
announcing the annexation of their respective acquisitions and
calling upon the inhabitants to take the oath of allegiance to
their new masters. Two days later Sievers and Buchholtz pre-
sented to the Generality at Grodno the long-expected formal
declarations of " the firm and irrevocable decision" of their Courts

1 Konfederacya targowicka, pp. 413 f.

2 Letter of March 11, 1793, probably to Zubov, M. A., IIo.TBma, IX, 1.

3 Letter of January 25, Kalinka, Ostatnie lata, ii, pp. 80 f.


to execute a new partition. The Polish nation was invited to
convoke a Diet " in order to proceed amicably to the arrange-
ments and measures necessary to attain the salutary aim which
Their Majesties propose, that of securing to the Republic a firm,
durable, and unalterable peace." l It then remained only to
coerce the Poles into formally surrendering the half of their
country, and to provide against whatever opposition to the Parti-
tion might be forthcoming from foreign Powers.

1 See the Russian declaration, Angeberg, op. cit., pp. 306-309.


The Attitude of Austria Towards the Partition

Although the St. Petersburg Convention seemed to assume that
Austria had acquiesced in advance in all the agreements that
might be concluded between her two allies, Russia and Prussia
saw fit to communicate the treaty at Vienna only after they had
virtually completed their arrangements for carrying it out. By
the express will of the Empress, 1 the negotiation had been kept
strictly secret from Louis Cobenzl, in spite of the latter's
reiterated and indignant protests. It was not until March 5 that
the ambassador could report that a convention had been signed;
and its contents remained unknown to him until after the act had
been sent to Vienna. 2 Meanwhile during the three months before
the blow fell, the Austrian cabinet presented the spectacle of a
ministry vaguely conscious of impending disaster, but helpless to
avert it, divided against itself, rejecting or postponing plan after
plan, perpetually waiting for a reply from one quarter and a
courier from another, incapable of making a vigorous decision of
any kind.

In January the main problem was how to gain some real secur-
ity for the effectuation of the Exchange, in case Russia and
Prussia refused to give the precise guarantees demanded. At the
ministerial Conference of January 3, the Vice-Chancellor Cobenzl
proposed that as the Empress had now given her consent to the
entry of Prussian troops into Poland, Austria also should tem-
porarily occupy certain territories in that Republic. As usual,
Lacy and his friends interposed a host of objections. It would be
imprudent, they urged, to divert any considerable body of troops
to the east, when all available forces were needed for the recovery

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 40 of 59)