Robert Howard Lord.

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

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Austria would be able to prevent the execution of the partition,
and they reflected, as Haugwitz wrote to Lucchesini: " If the

une continuation de la guerre de France, qui ne regarde directement et principale-
ment que la Cour de Vienne, j'ai du stipuler les conditions sous lesquelles seules
je pouvois me preter a y concourir ulterieurement, . . . et il ne depend plus de la
Cour de Vienne . . . de vouloir en revenir a celui [the principle] d'une reciprocity
rigoureuse, a laquelle depuis ce changement de circonstances, elle n'a certainement
plus les memes titres."

1 This note is printed in Vivenot, iii, pp. 63-67.


Court of Vienna had hastened to accede unconditionally to the
Convention of St. Petersburg, the evil would be done, and we
could no longer set limits to our cooperation in the war. ..."
" This refusal, if we are fortunate enough to see it maintained,
delivers us from this very onerous obligation . . . and we shall
no longer be bound to Austria except by the provisional promise
of cooperation contained in the Note of Merle, which relates only
to the present campaign."

Secondly, Lucchesini's note contained only the vaguest assur-
ances with respect to the Austrian indemnities. Thugut's demand
had put the Prussians in a really embarrassing position, for it was
impossible for them to press very far the distinction which they
had set up between their own and the Emperor's rights to an
acquisition, without also invalidating the claims of Russia.
Hence Lucchesini had not dared to deny Austria an indemnity
altogether, but had announced that his master would consult
with the Empress on that " important subject," and that ' he
flattered himself that his past conduct and his known principles
would be a sufficient guarantee of his zeal to contribute to the
satisfaction and the advantages of his ally.' In reality, the
Prussian ministry hoped that ' the Court of Russia, driven out of
patience by the tergiversations of Austria, would end by excluding
that Power entirely from the advantages stipulated in its favor by
the St. Petersburg Convention, this consequence flowing naturally
from the [Emperor's] refusal to accede.' Still, as they wrote to
Goltz, ' it was not yet time to touch that chord.' They preferred
to let the Empress speak first on so delicate a matter. 2

At the first signs of opposition from Austria, the partitioning
Powers had exchanged assurances that they would not allow
themselves to be deterred thereby in the execution of their plans. 3
The Russians were irritated enough at the — to them — unex-
pected stand taken by the Court of Vienna, but they were by no
means alarmed. Having just cemented their relations with
England by the convention signed March 25 (regarding a com-

1 Letters of May 5 and 10, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 31.

2 Rescript to Goltz of May 6, B. A., R. XI, Russland, 135.

3 Rescript to Goltz of April 5, Goltz's report of April 16, B. A., he. cit.


mon policy, if not a common action, against France), they found
Austria powerless to harm and themselves in position to wait
tranquilly until the Emperor ' returned to reason.' x Hence
Cobenzl's complaints and recriminations fell upon deaf ears.
The Russian ministers always replied that they had consented to
a negotiation with Prussia only at the request of Austria; that
Goltz had repeatedly assured them that the Court of Vienna had
acquiesced in all his master's demands; that once the affair had
been begun, it had been necessary to put it through without
delay; that it was impossible now to retrace their steps or to alter
the terms of the treaty; that Kamieniec and the territory adja-
cent to Galicia could not be restored to Poland, because the in-
habitants had already taken the oath of allegiance to the Empress.
Cobenzl soon convinced himself that it would be utterly impossi-
ble to secure any changes in the Convention.

On the other hand, the Russian ministers showed a real eager-
ness to obtain the Emperor's accession to the treaty, and were
lavish with assurances that their sovereign would do anything in
her power to provide an equal indemnity for Austria. " Flanders,
Lorraine, Alsace," said Markov, " offer you a vast field for ac-
quisitions, and you can exchange what is not to your convenience.
The King of Prussia offers to consent to the secularization of
some bishoprics in Germany; take advantage of that. England
will not be at all averse to the acquisitions that you may wish to
make at the expense of France; perhaps it will not think the same
of the Bavarian Exchange; but by acceding to the Convention
you will give us the right to speak firmly and to oblige Prussia
to do likewise." The Empress' generosity with other people's
property knew but one limit: when Cobenzl suggested that Aus-
tria might finally have to take her share in Poland, he was told
with some emotion that there would then be nothing left of that
unfortunate kingdom, and that it was the more uncalled for to
put it out of existence because if the King of Prussia were once
" bound," nothing could prevent Austria from finding her indem-
nity elsewhere. In general, the Russian ministers were over-

1 Markov to S. R. Vorontsov, April 29/May 10, Apx. Bop., xiv, pp. 253 f.;
Ostermann to Razumovski, May 16/27, M. A., ABdpia, III, 54.


flowing with friendship, professed to love the Austrian alliance as
much as they hated the Prussian one, and dwelt with unction on
the approach of the day when the one ' natural system ' could be
established — a combination of the Imperial Courts and Eng-
land. 1 Their final answer was given, however, only after they had
learned what reply Prussia had made to Austria. Then through
the dispatches to Razumovski of May 16/27 the Empress an-
nounced her firm resolution to uphold the St. Petersburg Con-
vention, and pressed vigorously for the Emperor's accession —
for the quite disinterested reason that otherwise the Court of
Vienna could not obtain from that of Berlin the least favor or
even strict justice. In truth, the Empress desired Austria's
accession for the same reason for which the Prussians would have
preferred to avoid it: without it the Court of Berlin would have
an excuse for withdrawing from the war. In the same dispatches
the cabinet of St. Petersburg invited the Emperor to choose
whatever he found to his convenience in France, with assurances
that Russia would not oppose. If the Court of Vienna could be
induced to base its hopes on conquests in the West, the war would
last all the longer.

Through Alopeus the Prussians were informed of as much of
this reply as they were fitted to receive, with the reassuring ex-
planation that the Austrians were never likely to make conquests
extensive enough to cause alarm. 2 The Berlin ministry were
delighted that the Empress had not revived the Exchange pro-
ject; they resolved to follow her cue and to divert the Court of
Vienna to the path of conquest, with the mental reservation that
they would make it their affair to set just limits to the Emperor's
aspiring course. Hence they now delivered through Caesar their
promised reply on the subject of the indemnities of Austria. 3
This reply was couched in a much friendlier tone than the note of
May 15. It expressed the King's continued readiness to do what-
ever he could to procure for Austria a just indemnity, either by

1 For the above: Cobenzl's reports of April 30, May 10, and 31, V. A., Russ-
land, Berichte, 1793.

2 Ostermann to Alopeus, May 16/27, M. A., ITpyccifl, III, 3T.

3 The cabinet ministry to Lucchesini, June 11, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14; rescript
to Caesar, June 10, B. A., R. 1, 174.


his good offices in the matter of the Bavarian Exchange, or, if the
Court of Vienna, considering the difficulties in the way of that
project, preferred to take its indemnities at the expense of France,
by cooperation to that end with all means that lay within his
power. His Majesty desired only to be informed of the precise
extent of the acquisitions that the Emperor desired to make in
that quarter, and he flattered himself that these acquisitions
could be secured by the end of the present campaign. This last
phrase was intended at Berlin, and understood at Vienna, as an
intimation that the King did not bind himself to continue the war
beyond the close of that year. This was, indeed, the crux of
Prussia's position. Chiefly out of regard for the Empress,
Frederick William's ministers had not dared refuse Austria an
indemnity altogether; they were mortally anxious to divert the
ambitions of that Power away from Bavaria; but they were no
less anxious that the satisfaction of those ambitions should not
involve a third campaign. How to wriggle out of this embarrass-
ing situation was the problem that occupied the cabinet of Berlin
for the next three months.

England had meanwhile replied to Thugut's overtures in a
manner at least half satisfactory. It was true that the British
ministers could offer little consolation with regard to Poland; for
while expressing freely their regret and disgust at the proceedings
of Russia and Prussia, they admitted that the French war ren-
dered it absolutely impossible for them to oppose the Partition.
On the other hand, however, they showed the utmost willingness
to assist Austria to secure a handsome acquisition at the expense
of France, and they left no doubt that they were eager for a close
alliance with the Imperial Court. 1

By the middle of June Thugut's first action might be regarded
as at an end. He had failed to secure any modification of the
Partition Treaty, or any postponement of its execution. There
was nothing left to be done except to accede on as favorable con-
ditions as could be obtained with regard to the Austrian indemni-
ties. As far as these indemnities were concerned, the replies from

1 Stadion's report of May 10, and those of his successor, Starhemberg, of May 24
and 31, V. A., England, Berichte, 1793.


Russia and England were not unpromising; and Prussia, although
denying the principle of ' parity,' still professed her eagerness to
know and to concur in the Emperor's desires. On the basis of
these results, Thugut's policy entered upon a new phase.


Since inaugurating his first action, the Director-General had
been busy planning a revision of the map of Europe. The more
clearly he saw the impossibility of impeding the execution of the
Partition Treaty, the more passionately he clung to the idea of
procuring for Austria acquisitions that would fully counterbalance
those of her allies. Aggrandizement in one quarter or another
became his first and last thought, and he turned his eyes in every
direction restlessly seeking whom or what he might devour. The
problem was not a little difficult.

The Bavarian Exchange being now definitely abandoned as
impracticable, the most obvious expedient was conquests from
France — a course which all the allied Powers combined to urge
upon Austria. Count Mercy had drawn up a plan for an acquisi-
tion which even he admitted was " gigantic " : it was to include all
the land as far as the Meuse and the Somme, i. e., Alsace, Lor-
raine, Artois, and half of Picardy. Thugut was not embarrassed
by the extent of this claim, but he was none too sanguine about
the ease of making conquests in this quarter; and he felt the need
of providing himself with an alternative, in case France made too
great difficulties about being partitioned. 1 The last resort of dis-
appointed conquest-hunters was Poland; and although Russia
and Prussia had shown a vexatious tendency to regard that realm
as their exclusive field of exploitation, Thugut had not entirely
lost hope of picking up something there. . At any rate, Poland was
not the only neighboring republic where Jacobins could be dis-
covered at pleasure: one might, perhaps, find a few in Venice.
The spoliation of that decayed state seemed both easy and

1 Mercy to Starhemberg, May 31, and to Thugut, June 15, Starhemberg,
to Thugut July 12, Thugut to Starhemberg, August 13, Thiirheim, Briefe des
Grafen Mercy, pp. 86 ff. and Vivenot, iii, pp. 112 f., 145-148, 184 f.


profitable. 1 The new program was, then, to retain Belgium; to
carve out an enormous acquisition in France, if possible; and if
this failed, to fall back on Polish or Venetian territories. The
realization of this plan was, of course, far in the future, but Thu-
gut aimed to provide for all eventualities immediately by securing
guarantees from the allied Powers. In the case of Russia and
Prussia, the obvious procedure was to demand such guarantees in
return for Austria's accession to the Partition Treaty.

On the Court of Berlin the Director- General placed, indeed, no
great reliance. He had begun his ministry with a strong aversion
to Prussia, and everything that had happened since convinced
him that that Power was aiming at the ruin of the House of
Austria. 2 On receiving Lucchesini's declaration of May 15, he
wrote to the Emperor that if there could have been any doubts
before, this note would have sufficed to reveal the hateful purposes
of Prussia in the fullest light. 3 He found it a document " truly
remarkable in the history of diplomacy " for " the absurdity of its
principles " and " the alteration of facts in a manner not only
fabulous but incredible "; and its tone was as provoking as its
substance. As it was not a moment, however, for beginning a
guerre de plume, he decided to leave the Prussians to their own
guilty consciences; and he found that their overtures of June
were only the result of their uncomfortable reflections. Even
these overtures, although " less revolting " than the first declara-
tion, were far from satisfactory, since they upheld in passing " the
palpable incongruities " of the note of May 15, and because their
tone was anything but frank and loyal. 4 As long as Prussia
refused to admit the sacred principle of ' parity,' Austria would
arrange her indemnities with the other Powers alone. These
indemnities could, indeed, scarcely be secured without Frederick
William's cooperation, but Thugut held it dangerous to enlighten
the King in advance about his plans of conquest. Any project

1 Thugut to Colloredo, June 4, 1794: " Adieu au secret [as to " nos vues sur
Venise "], qui depuis un an a €te conserve avec tant de soins! " Vivenot, Vertrau-
liche Brief e, i, p. 107 (the italics are mine).

2 Cf. his letters to Colloredo of May 4 and 11, ibid., i, pp. 15 f.

3 Vortrag of May 23, V. A.

4 Thugut to L. Cobenzl, June 30, Vivenot, iii, p. 125.


tending to a considerable aggrandizement of Austria would arouse
the Prussian jealousy to the highest pitch, and the Court of
Berlin would hasten to raise up difficulties of every sort. Hence
the Director-General desired to conceal his game, while binding
the King to the war through the intervention of England and
Russia, and so leading him on blindly to serve the interests of
Austria. It would be best of all, he thought, if the realization of
the Prussian acquisitions in Poland could in some way be post-
poned and made conditional on the vigorous prosecution of the
war; for once those acquisitions were finally secured, the King
would have no motive and no desire for continuing his exertions
in France. Among Thugut's various miscalculations none was
more persistent and disastrous than this idea that the true way to
render Frederick William active in the coalition was to raise up
obstacles in his path in Poland.

It was upon Russia that the Director-General chiefly relied for
bridling " the Prussian malevolence" and assuring the indemnities
of Austria. Since the middle of May — that is, since learning
that England would not oppose the Partition, and since receiving
Lucchesini's note — he had begun to show Razumovski all the old-
time confidence, to expatiate on his orthodox faith in the alliance
of the Imperial Courts, and to sigh for the coming of the Russian
courier. On June 10 the ambassador presented Ostermann's
dispatch; Thugut professed himself greatly pleased; and the
reconciliation was all the more effusive for the recent estrange-
ment. When Razumovski demanded, however, that the Emperor
should at once accede to the Convention of St. Petersburg,
Thugut replied that there would be no difficulty about that, but
that his sovereign must make his accession dependent on more
precise and reassuring stipulations regarding his indemnities.
The ambassador observed that the real way to captivate the
Empress would be to accede unconditionally; after that her
generosity and solicitude would know no bounds. 1 But Thugut
was not to be paid with such coin. He determined to test the
generosity of the Court of St. Petersburg by a few concrete prop-

1 The above from Razumovski's report of June 6/17, M. A., ABCTpia, III, 55.


By a dispatch of June 16 he ordered Cobenzl to demand that
the Empress should guarantee Austria the right to take her
indemnity in Poland, in case it should prove impossible to make
any considerable conquests from France. He would not contest
the objection already raised by the Russian ministers that in this
case the Polish state would be completely annihilated; but he
found that since the other Powers had appropriated such enor-
mous acquisitions, the total partition of the Republic would
involve no great inconveniences; besides, since the balance of
power absolutely required that Austria should gain aggrandize-
ment somewhere, all other considerations must give way before
this " peremptory reason." This was, of course, only a guarantee
for the future — for an extreme case; but in the meantime the
Emperor desired to profit by the present circumstances to im-
prove his Galician frontier by annexing a small strip of territory
along the boundary. If the Empress acquiesced, as was to be
expected, Thugut suggested that Sievers should receive instruc-
tions, so that the Republic might conclude the necessary treaty
with Austria at the same time as those with Russia and Prussia.
Finally, Cobenzl was informed that in eight or ten days full
powers would be sent to him to accede in the Emperor's name
to the St. Petersburg Convention. 1

Thugut's object in making this move was probably to gain a
foothold in Poland at once, before the conclusion of the impending
treaties at Grodno, which might contain guarantees of the in-
tegrity of the remaining possessions of the Republic. If Austria
could establish herself immediately on Polish soil, she could rely
on future events to furnish opportunities for extending her

As might have been foreseen, however, the demand ran counter
to one of the Empress' firmest principles. Regarding Poland as
her peculiar property, she had felt her late concession to Prussia
as a personal loss, and she was not inclined to make a new sacrifice
of this sort in favor of the Court of Vienna. Cobenzl therefore
encountered objections and subterfuges of all kinds. He was told
that it was impossible to change the whole indemnity plan every

1 Dispatch of June 16, printed in Vivenot, iii, pp. 113-117.


week; that if Austria had demanded a share in Poland in the
beginning, she might have obtained it, but that it was too late
now; that if the Empress had dreamed that it would be a question
of destroying the Republic entirely, she would never have con-
sented to a partition. Above all, the Russian ministers took
refuge behind Prussia, affirming that Frederick William would be
so enraged by this new demand of Austria that he would probably
withdraw at once from the coalition, if he did not proceed to
worse extremities. The most that Cobenzl could obtain was a
promise that the question should be left in suspense until the
arrival of the courier who was to bring the proposals of Austria in
full and instructions regarding the promised accession to the
Partition Treaty. 1

That courier was long in coming. The fact was that Thugut
was now absorbed in watching the proceedings at Grodno, where
the Polish Diet was making an unexpectedly vigorous resistance
to the demands of the partitioning Powers. That resistance
revived his hope that it might still be possible to delay the con-
summation of the Partition, and thus ' bind ' the King of Prussia
to the common cause. One means of doing so immediately pre-
sented itself, when the hard-pressed Diet dispatched a special
envoy, Wojna, to Vienna with an urgent appeal for the good
offices of the Imperial Court as a guarantor of the integrity of
Poland. Thugut refused, however, to allow himself to be seduced
into an open intervention. He did not conceal from Wojna his
aversion to the Partition, and his conviction that Austrian
interests were seriously menaced by it; but he always ended by
pointing to the French war, which rendered action against the
allied Powers impossible. Wojna's audience with the Emperor
was equally fruitless; he received plenty of sympathy, and
nothing more. 2 The Austrians were well advised in committing
themselves no further with the Poles, for Wojna's first dispatches
were read in the open Diet — to the lively chagrin of the Russian
and Prussian envoys. 3 But while it is true that Thugut did not

1 Cobenzl's reports of July 2 and 5, Vivenot, iii, pp. 128 ff., 133-137-

2 Wojna's reports of July 10, 17, August 7, 10, M. A., ApxHBi. U,apcTBa IIojlb-
cnaro. Cnomeuia ct> ABCTpieio, C6. 8.

3 De Cache's report of July 28, V. A., Polen, Berichte, 1793.



encourage the Diet in its resistance — as he has been accused of
doing by Prussian ministers at that time and by Prussian histori-
ans since — he did endeavor to delay the Partition by a new
action at St. Petersburg.

At the moment when the crisis at Grodno was at its height, the
Director- General sent off an appeal to Catherine to postpone
the settlement of Polish affairs until after the peace with France.
The Poles, he said, would not give in without coercion; and the
use of violent means would place the allied Powers in the most
unenviable light before the world, it might lead Turkey to declare
war, and it might, especially, so arouse public opinion in England
that the British government would be compelled to retire from
the coalition. And he hinted that this was, indeed, a spectacle to
shock all Europe, to see those Courts which were waging war on
France for the cause of sovereigns and the sanctity of treaties,
simultaneously overwhelming an unfortunate monarch with
indignities and tearing up their own solemn guarantees. Some
delay in so delicate a matter would involve no real inconveniences,
for the Russians would remain complete masters of Poland; it
could be cloaked with pretexts that would only lend added glory
to the Empress; and it would be the only means of ensuring
Prussia's active cooperation in the war. 1

By the time this dispatch reached St. Petersburg, the Diet had
given in to all the demands of Russia, but still remained obdurate
towards those of Frederick William. Cobenzl therefore applied
himself solely to the task of holding up the conclusion of the
Prussian treaty. Ostermann objected, warning him with great
good sense that the Court of Vienna deceived itself in imagining
that it could ensure the cooperation of the Prussians by keeping
them on tenterhooks regarding their acquisition; the King
would presently lose patience and proceed to violent measures,
which Russia could not prevent and which would furnish him with
an excuse for withdrawing from the French war altogether.
Markov, however, assumed quite the opposite tone, and assured
Cobenzl that the Empress wished nothing better than to delay

1 Thugut to L. Cobenzl, July 12, Vivenot, iii, pp. 141-145.


the Prussian treaty. 1 And this time the deed followed the word.
Although it was not entirely a result of Austria's insinuations,
Thugut had the satisfaction of seeing the Prussian treaty held up
for more than a month, until there came the inevitable catas-
trophe which Ostermann had prophesied and which Thugut
ought to have foreseen. This catastrophe was closely connected
with another negotiation to which it is now necessary to turn.


Determined as he was to settle all the great questions first of all
with Russia, Thugut had long realized that it would be impossible
to maintain a total silence towards the Court of Berlin. He there-

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 43 of 59)