Robert Howard Lord.

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

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dix XVI, 3).

2 Reuss' report of December 28, 1792, V. A., Preussen, Berichte; ministerial
rescript to Caesar, January 7, 1793, B. A., R. 1, 174.


his desired acquisition. 1 I know of only one previous allusion to
this: a somewhat similar but less definite statement in a letter of
Haugwitz to Lucchesini of January 21. 2 The Prussian envoy's
reports of December contain absolutely no reference to the exact
limits of his master's territorial claims. The Austrian records are
almost equally blank. Spielmann had, indeed, sent in from
Luxemburg a map showing the acquisition desired by Prussia in
case of the realization of the plan which he and Haugwitz had
agreed upon before the worst disasters of the campaign set in; and
from a letter of Haugwitz to Schulenburg 3 it appears that this
acquisition was identical with the one assured to Prussia by the
Partition Treaty. This plan, however, had been abandoned after
the presentation of the Note of Merle. After that note, Spiel-
mann seems to have believed that the King would claim only the
arrondissement proposed by Schulenburg at Mainz; 4 and that
idea is clearly conveyed in whatever allusions we have to the sub-
ject in the later Austrian acts — in the secret instructions to
Louis Cobenzl and in the Conference protocol of January 3? In
view of the meticulous attention with which the Austrians were
accustomed to scrutinize the territorial claims of Prussia, it is
inconceivable that they would not have noted — and protested
about — the difference between the acquisition proposed at
Mainz and that bounded by the line Czgstochowa-Rawa-Soldau,
if they had known of it. The difference was regarded by the
Prussians as a sufficient indemnity for a second campaign, and
was so great that the Berlin ministry hesitated for a time to pro-
pose the second line of demarcation at St. Petersburg. Once

1 The above-cited retrospective report of May 6.

2 B.A., R. 92, N. L. 31.

In this letter Haugwitz wrote: " Je prie V. Exc. instamment d'assurer a Sa
Majeste que le Consentement der Eigenthums-Besitznehmung des Arrondissements
Seiner Majestat in Pohlen, tel que je l'ai trace" au Baron de Spielmann a Luxem-
bourg a 6t6 formel et donne" de facon que la Cour de Vienne ne peut pas se r6tracter
sans deshonneur."

3 Letter of October 27, 1792, referring to the earlier negotiation, which, as
Haugwitz hastened to add, had had absolutely no consequences, B. A., R. IX,
Frankreich, 89 A".

4 See the passage in his report of November 6, Vivenot, ii, p. 342.

5 Vivenot, ii, pp. 429 and 457.


more one is driven to the conclusion that either Haugwitz or
Spielmann had failed to inform their Courts correctly of what had
passed between them. But if the Emperor and — at least most
of — his advisers had supposed that Prussia's claims went no
further than the line proposed at Mainz, had found even those
demands excessive, and had begged Russia to reduce them, it is
easy to understand what must have been their astonishment and
indignation to find that the Empress had granted Prussia a vastly
larger lot, of which the cabinet of Vienna had hitherto not been
informed at all. 1

Finally, the Convention of St. Petersburg did not accord to
Austria either of the two securities which that Court had de-
manded as the price of its consent to the Prussian occupation in
Poland. The promise of good offices and ' other efficacious means '
to facilitate the Exchange was very far from being the desired
guarantee. The promise of ' other advantages compatible with
the general convenience ' was as unsubstantial as thin air. The
sum of the matter was that the partitioning Powers had made sure
of their own acquisitions, assumed the acquiescence of Austria in
all that they chose to agree upon in secret, and offered her in
return castles in Spain. Little wonder that the Austrians felt
themselves in every way injured, deceived, and mocked.

Thugut presented his ideas about the reply to be made to
Russia and Prussia in a memorial submitted to his sovereign on
April 4. 2 In view of considerations substantially the same as
those discussed above, he found that the Emperor's interests and
dignity forbade him to accede unconditionally to the Convention,
although on the other hand circumstances rendered it inadvisable
to refuse accession entirely. He therefore advised demanding a
rectification of the proposed boundaries, to the end that neither

1 Sybel declares that in this matter, as in everything else concerning the Prussian
claims, the Austrians had been exactly informed in advance by Haugwitz (op. cit.,
iii, p. 262). Heidrich is of the opinion that no communication of the final Prussian
line of demarcation had been made to the Austrians, since — as he, strangely
enough, asserts — this line did not differ essentially from that previously announced
{op. cit., pp. 445 f.).

2 This document is printed in Vivenot, Thugut und sein politisches System, pp.


acquisition should directly touch, or even approach too near,
Galicia ; and he laid it down as the conditio sine qua non of the
Emperor's accession that the indemnities of Austria must be
determined in advance in a manner that would ensure to the
Imperial Court a perfect equality with its allies with regard not
only to the intrinsic value of its acquisitions but also to security
in obtaining them.

In Thugut's opinion the Partition Treaty had changed the sit-
uation so entirely and had gone so far beyond the proportions of
the original indemnity project that it was necessary for Austria to
base her indemnification on quite a new plan. The Bavarian
Exchange, he held, could never be put into the balance against
the enormous acquisitions of Prussia and Russia. It would entail
a loss of a million in population and four million florins in revenue,
while affording no advantage save that of rounding out the
Austrian frontier. Prussia's acquisition, on the other hand, com-
bined absolute advantages of every kind. Were the original
indemnity plan to be realized, the balance of power between the
two German Courts would be shifted by almost three millions in
population and eight or nine millions in revenue to the advantage
of Prussia. Thugut therefore proposed to abandon the project
agreed upon the previous May between Schulenburg and Spiel-
mann, to return to the original principle of the concert — a per-
fect equality in the respective indemnities — and to build up a
new system on that basis. Precisely what the new plan would be,
he was not yet in a position to say. It was first of all necessary to
know the exact value of the acquisitions of the other Courts.
Besides, he hoped that those Courts might be induced to propose
acquisitions to Austria. His calculation — which does not do
him great credit — was, probably, that it was more advantageous
to accept than to make such propositions. He also seems to have
feared that if he announced his indemnity plans too early, Prussia
would not fail to abuse his confidence and to raise heaven and
earth to cut down the Austrian aggrandizement. In this his intu-
itions did not deceive him. The essential thing at present, he held,
was to sound the two allies, whose good intentions were open to
some doubts, and to secure, if possible, an agreement on principles.


It had been one of the faults of Spielmann and Cobenzl that
they had left questions of principle in more or less obscurity.
Thugut meant to follow a more systematic course, and to advance
surely from step to step by clear and definite agreements. Such a
course involved delays, and he recognized it. But he believed
that the partitioning Powers would not be able to carry out their
plans so speedily ; the least sign of opposition from England would
probably encourage the Poles to a desperate resistance; in that
case the two Powers might find themselves in need of Austria's
support, and the Emperor would be in a position to sell his acces-
sion to the treaty at a good price.

His sovereign having readily approved this program, Thu-
gut began his campaign with the instructions sent on April 14 to
Reuss and Louis Cobenzl. 1 In these dispatches he set forth the
reasons which prevented the Emperor from acceding to the St.
Petersburg Convention except under conditions that would
properly safeguard the interests of Austria; he reviewed the
whole history of the negotiation on the indemnity question, and,
without stating precisely what acquisition his Court now con-
templated, labored to build up his principle of ' equality ' on the
basis of the agreements entered into between the allies at the
beginning of the war. This historical excursus was not of a nature
to please the Prussians: it was to be the beginning of a long liti-
gation fraught with the most unhappy results. In general, how-
ever, both replies were couched in moderate terms; there was
nothing to suggest threats or open opposition; on the contrary,
Austria expressed the willingness to acquiesce in all that had been
done, providing her allies showed her an equal regard. 2

1 Vivenot, iii, pp. 11-23.

2 I am at a loss to understand where Sybel got the idea that on April 4 Thugut
made a declaration to Caesar and Razumovski to the effect that the Emperor refused
to accede to the Convention, renounced the Exchange, demanded French territories
and a province in Poland, etc. (op. cit., iii, p. 266). As can be proved from the re-
ports of both envoys, no declaration at all was made at this time (it was only on
April 16 that Thugut announced to the two envoys the decision conveyed in the
dispatches to Reuss and Cobenzl of the 14th); and it is important to notice the
fact, since this apocryphal declaration cannot be used to justify certain proceedings
which took place on the Prussian side before the Emperor's reply was really first
announced by Reuss at the King of Prussia's headquarters on April 21.


Thugut was, of course, well aware that mere arguments, how-
ever well grounded, were not particularly effective at Berlin and
St. Petersburg. It was necessary to supply the other Powers with
more cogent motives for obliging Austria. But here, if ever,
thrice-sealed secrecy was indispensable. It was useless to attempt
action at Grodno, where the Polish Diet was about to assemble,
for a secret negotiation with the Poles was of all things the most
impossible. Under the urgent pressure of Razumovski, de Cache
was, indeed, instructed to go to Grodno, but he was ordered to
maintain an entirely passive conduct — a role for which he was
eminently fitted, as his Court had never allowed him to play any
other. 1 It was England to whom the honor was to be reserved of
pulling the chestnuts out of the fire. On April 14 Thugut in-
structed Mercy to communicate to the British government as
much of the Convention as seemed advisable, and to urge that, as
the Emperor, although far from wishing a new partition, was
unable to oppose one openly, it behooved England to intervene at
Berlin and St. Petersburg with representations that might at
least lead those Courts to reduce their territorial claims and to
postpone the execution of their plans. He also suggested that
were England to give some slight signs of sympathy for the Poles,
the latter might be encouraged to resist the partition, and thus
much valuable time would be gained. 2 In conversation with Sir
Morton Eden, the British ambassador, Thugut expressed himself
vigorously about the dangers resulting from the enormous ag-
grandizement and the measureless ambitions of Russia and Prus-
sia; and as a bid for British support against those two Powers, he
even declared that the Emperor was ready to desist from the plan
for the exchange of the Netherlands out of deference for England. 3

1 Orders to de Cache" of April 3 and 20, V. A., Polen., Expeditionen, 1793.
Sybel's repeated assertions (op. cit., iii, p. 269; H. Z., xxiii, p. 93) that de Cache"
was ordered to stir up the Poles secretly to resistance are utterly unfounded.

Thugut to de Cache, April 3: " Uebrigens haben sich Ew. Exc. iiber die vorlie-
genden Pohlnischen Umstande aller Aeusserungen gegen wen immer zu enthalten,
und alle Anfragen mit ganzlichem Abgang von Instructionen zu beantworten."

Thugut to de Cach6, April 20: " Vor der Hand haben Sie sich daselbst [in
Grodno] in die Rolle eines aufmerksamen Beobachters und ruhigen Zuschauers
lediglich zu beschranken. ..." 2 Vivenot, ii, pp. 24 ff.

3 Eden to Grenville, April 15, Herrmann, Erganzungsband, pp. 386 ff.


The new minister had thus begun his campaign by undertaking
two distinct and somewhat contradictory actions. On the one
hand, by protests, recriminations, and arguments he attempted to
induce Russia and Prussia to modify their agreements in such a
way as to provide effectively for the Emperor's interests: on the
other hand, by intrigues with England he hoped to raise up such
obstacles in the way of the partitioning Powers as would render
them more amenable to the demands of Austria. To frustrate
entirely the dismemberment of Poland was something which he
probably neither expected nor desired to do; but he did intend to
impede and delay the consummation of the partition until Russia
and Prussia could be brought to pay a sufficient price for Austria's

This policy, which was to have such unhappy consequences, has
often been severely condemned by historians. It was, indeed,
unfortunate that Thugut began at once with a double game. His
insinuations to England, although quite in the approved diplo-
matic style of the period, were to bring him no laurels. They
straightway came to the knowledge of Razumovski, and one can
imagine the indignation they produced at St. Petersburg. But
the refusal to accede unconditionally to the Partition Treaty was
not without much justification. It may well be doubted whether
any Power not in the last extremities would have submitted with-
out a word of protest to such treatment as Austria had met with
from her allies. At that moment, in view of the triumphant
recovery of the Netherlands, the Court of Vienna did not feel
itself in extremities. Thugut had no intention of breaking with
the partitioning Powers. It may well have seemed that with a
display of firmness Austria could secure an acceptable price for
her accession to the Convention. The conditions proposed by
Thugut were, in strict justice, sufficiently well founded. To con-
demn Austria for a shocking breach of faith in not submitting
unconditionally, to represent Prussia as the really aggrieved party
in this transaction, seems a singular perversion of the case. 1

1 I am referring, of course, to the view advanced by Sybel, op. cit., iii, pp. 266 ff.,
and H. Z., xxiii, pp. 85 ff . For the contrary view, substantially the one I have taken,
see Hiiffer, Oestreich und Preussen, pp. 132 ff., and Erganzungsband, pp. 32-35.


Whether Thugut's policy was politically wise, is, of course,
another question. To understand its consequences, one must
glance at the temper, plans, and calculations of the cabinet of


Since the conclusion of the St. Petersburg Convention the
Prussian ministry had been largely occupied with devising means
for evading as far as possible the obligations imposed by that
treaty. How to avoid continuing the war after the close of the
present year, how to thwart the Bavarian Exchange — " that
fatal project " — while still keeping up the appearance of favoring
it, how to reduce to the minimum the ' additional advantages '
stipulated for Austria in the Convention — those were subjects
for maturest deliberation. Long before the Court of Vienna had
announced its attitude towards the Partition Treaty, the Prussian
ministers were agreed that their master could not make a third
campaign without being assured of still a further ' indemnity ' in
territory or money; ' they were already sounding the alarm at St.
Petersburg with regard to Austria's " insidious designs " on Alsace
and Lorraine; 2 and they were secretly laboring to encourage the
Duke of Zweibriicken in his opposition to the Exchange, and to
bring him into close relations with England, which might be
expected to stand forth openly as his protector. 3 This attempt
to play off England against the Exchange was quite on a par with

1 This appears from Haugwitz's retrospective letter to Lucchesini of July 1,
1793, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 31.

2 Lucchesini's letter to the cabinet ministry of April 3, their reply of April 8,
B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14; rescript to Goltz of the 9th, B. A., R. XI, Russland, 135.
Cf. Lucchesini's memorial to the King of March 17, printed in [Schladen's] Mitihcil-
ungen ans den nachgelassenen Paplcrcn cities preussischen Diplomalen, pp. 155-170.

3 Lucchesini's letters to the cabinet ministers of April 9, 15, 16, 22; their letter
to him of the 21st, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14.

Lucchesini wrote (April 15): " Le Due de Deux-Ponts m'a paru dispose de faire
quelques demarches aupres de l'Angleterre pour la determiner a. prendre en conside-
ration les dangers qu'elle courroit ... si elle ne fesoit point tomber le projet du
troc. Comme Mylord Elgin va s'etablir au Quartier General, et que le Due de
Deux-Ponts est intentionne d'y venir remercier Sa Majeste de la visite qu'Elle lui
a faite a. Manheim, je n'ai pas cru devoir retenir ce Prince de s'ouvrir confidentielle-
ment a ce Ministre Anglais. . . . J'ai meme juge etre de l'interet du Roi d'appuyer


Thugut's nearly contemporaneous effort to induce the same
Power to oppose the Partition. It is hard to see that either of the
high allies yielded to the other in the matter of duplicity. At any
rate, there was plenty of material on hand for discussion between
the two Courts. To imagine that had the Emperor only acceded
unconditionally to the Convention of St. Petersburg, all trouble
would have been avoided and the coalition would have advanced
in perfect harmony, would be decidedly naive.

After the communication of that Convention at Vienna, the
Prussians awaited the Emperor's reply with a sort of malicious
curiosity, but with no trace of anxiety. The ministers at Berlin
expected that in spite of her jealousy Austria would end by acced-
ing, but the more far-sighted Lucchesini prophesied conditions and
long discussions. The situation was, however, quite to his taste.
" If the Emperor accedes," he wrote, " he will subscribe to very
considerable acquisitions in favor of other Powers, while obtaining
for himself nothing but hopes exposed to the inexhaustible chapter
of future accidents. If he refuses us his assent, the two partition-
ing Courts will keep their acquisitions none the less, and will find
themselves freed from all the obligations that they have con-
tracted in favor of the Court of Vienna." The Berlin ministry
professed themselves charmed by Lucchesini's exposition of this
"admirable dilemma"; they assured him that they meant to
improve to the utmost the "beautiful situation " resulting from
the expected embroilments between the Imperial Courts. 1

On April 21 Reuss presented the Emperor's answer at Frederick
William's headquarters. The effect was most unpleasant. The

en mon particulier cette idee, sans en laisser cependant aucun t£moignage de mon

April 16, Lucchesini continued: " Je l'ai mis [the Duke] sur les voyes pour qu'il
parvienne ... a avoir un entretien sur cet objet avec Mylord Elgin. . . ."

April 21, the ministers at Berlin replied: " Nous applaudissons . . . aux en-
couragemens indirects que V. Exc. lui a donnes [the Duke] .... Malgre toute
notre aversion pour ce funeste projet [the Exchange], nous n'en persistons pas
moins a croire que le Roi doit avoir l'air de le favoriser, d'apres les engagemens
qu'il a contractus. ... II suffiroit selon nous de mettre le Due de Deux-Ponts en
relation avec Mylord Elgin, pour etre sur que sa proposition sera bien recue. . . ."

1 Lucchesini to the cabinet ministry, March 31, their replies of April 4 and
11, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14.


Prussians, although prepared for objections, had not expected the
Imperial Court to disavow the engagements which, according to
Haugwitz, it had contracted in December. From their stand-
point, they were quite justified in considering this a gross breach
of faith. The ministry at Berlin pronounced Thugut's reply " a
veritable labyrinth of false assertions, captious arguments, and
insidious propositions," which deserved to be solidly refuted. 1
Haugwitz, as the man whose honor was involved, was called upon
to enter the lists. He drew up a memorial 2 recounting his entire
negotiation at Vienna and Luxemburg, and proving to the satis-
faction of his colleagues that the Austrian ministry had in Decem-
ber consented unconditionally to the immediate occupation and
annexation of precisely those territories which had been assigned
to the King by the Partition Treaty. Lucchesini, thus thrice-
armed, then went forth to confound the Austrians.

His note verbale to Reuss of May 15 is a document which has
hitherto received little notice, but which deserves a prominent
place in the history of the disruption of the Austro-Prussian
alliance. Thugut had invited a discussion on principles ; he had
sought especially to reassert that original principle of perfect
equality in the respective indemnities, which, as even the Berlin
ministry in confidential moments admitted, 3 had been agreed
upon between the two Courts at the beginning of the war. The
Prussians took up the challenge and replied with the first clear
expression since the Note of Merle of their position on the in-
demnity question. There were two ways of defending that posi-
tion. The one hitherto employed consisted in maintaining that
the unexpected turn of the war had completely changed the
character of the enterprise, and that the Note of Merle must
therefore be regarded as superseding all previous engagements. 4

1 Lucchesini to the cabinet ministry, April 22, their reply of the 28th, B. A., loc.cit.

2 Report to the King, May 6, B. A., R. 96, 147 H (printed in part in Appendix

XVI, 3).

3 E. g., in the ministerial rescript to Caesar of March 8:

" Je suis bien loin de meconnoitre, que dans l'origine les indemnit6s des deux
Cours devoient aller de pair, les miennes devant se trouver en Pologne et celles de
la Cour Imp6riale par le troc de la Baviere ou par d'autres avantages equivalens."

4 This is the view advanced in the rescript to Caesar cited above.

" Mais depuis que des evenemens impreVus . . . nous ont oblig6s de songer a


Lucchesini chose, however, the other and bolder course of denying
the previous engagements altogether. In his note to Reuss he
declared that the principle of parity had never been explicitly
recognized by Prussia as applicable to the indemnity question; he
asserted — on the strength of Haugwitz's (quite untrue) state-
ment — that that envoy had always maintained, from the very
beginning of his ministry at Vienna, that if Austria had any rights
to an indemnity, they could not be placed in the same category
with those of Prussia. The King was merely partie accessoire et
auxiliaire in the war, and was sacrificing himself for a cause not his
own — for the defence of Austria; the Imperial Court ought to be
grateful that he did not claim an indemnity at its expense, but
was willing to seek one instead in Poland. If that Court had any
titles of its own to an indemnity, they could apply only to France,
and could never be admitted to be of the same nature or validity
as, or to stand in any connection with, the rights of Prussia. 1

This note was the counterpart of Thugut's recent pronounce-
ment. The Austrians denied the concessions relating to Poland
which Haugwitz claimed to have received; the Prussians denied
the agreements and principles on which the alliance and the con-
cert against France had been based. The issue was thus squarely
drawn. The two Powers proclaimed quite contradictory views
regarding their past and their present relations. While each held
to its own standpoint, a reconciliation was impossible.

There were two important omissions in the note of May 15. In
the first place, no further attempt was made to persuade Austria
to accede to the Partition Treaty. The explanation is obvious.
With the probable exception of the King, none of the Prussians
really desired the Emperor's accession. They had no fear that

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 42 of 59)