Robert Howard Lord.

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

. (page 44 of 59)
Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 44 of 59)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

fore resolved to send an experienced diplomat, Count Lehrbach,
to Frederick William's headquarters on a mission, the primary
aims of which were simply to gain time, to 'amuse' the Prussians,
and to sound them on the subject of conquests from France. 2 The
instructions which Lehrbach received — after long delays — on
the 3rd of August, were based on a rather complicated and peril-
ous plan. Thugut had, since April, repeatedly promised the
British government that the Emperor would abandon the Bava-
rian Exchange in return for guarantees from England of definite
acquisitions in France. This promise he had carefully kept secret
from the Prussians, for the very good reason that if they learned
of it, they would hold themselves absolved from the engagement
regarding the Exchange contained in the St. Petersburg Conven-
tion and, indeed, from every definite obligation to assist in
procuring indemnities for Austria. Furthermore, Thugut was con-
vinced of Prussia's mortal antipathy to the Exchange project, and
he knew more or less of Lucchesini's intrigues with the princes of
Zweibriicken. He believed that these intrigues had gone further
than. was really the case, and that the King had made definite

1 Cobenzl's reports of July 30 and August 2, Vivenot, iii, pp. 156 ff., 160 f.

2 The earliest mention I have found of Lehrbach's mission is in Thugut's letter
to Colloredo of June 4 (Vivenot, Vertrauliche Briefe, i, p. 20). As to Thugut's aims
in connection with this mission, see his dispatch to L. Cobenzl of June 30 (Vivenot,
iii, pp. 125 ff.) and his letter to Colloredo of July 30 (Vivenot, Vertrauliche Briefe,
i, pp. 25 £.).



promises to those princes contrary to the engagements of the
Partition Treaty. 1 Hence he formed the plan of taking the Prus-
sians by their weak side and pressing to know in what manner
they intended to fulfil the obligations of the Convention; the
King, unable or unwilling to discharge those obligations or to
explain the reason why, would be caught in a trap, from which he
would be glad to escape by undertaking the desired new engage-
ments respecting Austrian acquisitions in France. The plan was
not altogether badly conceived. It was, indeed, indispensable to
begin on the basis of the previous negotiations and obligations;
and Thugut's suppositions about the Prussian attitude towards
the Exchange, although somewhat exaggerated, were in the main
correct. As for the principle involved here, one may recall
Huffer's remark that anyone who has pledges from several
parties for the same thing, may always release one party from the
obligation without absolving another until he has secured a
promise of equivalent advantages in return for his renunciation. 2
Thugut's great mistake, however, was that he did not sufficiently
reckon with England.

Lehrbach was charged, then, to bring up Bavaria first of all,
and thus to prepare the way for the Austrian project for conquests
from France, or for an acquisition in Poland in case of necessity.
If possible, he was to secure the King's promise to continue the
war until the Court of Vienna's indemnities had been assured ; but
he was not authorized to make definite propositions regarding the
extent of those acquisitions until he had received further orders.
On the result of his negotiation, it was stated, the Emperor's
accession to the Partition Treaty would depend. 3

A refinement of subtlety, an entire lack of confidence, and the
absence of any sincere intention of coming to a definite agreement
were the outstanding features of these instructions. Thugut was
only too fully persuaded that nothing good was to be expected
from Prussia, that concessions were useless, and that confidence

1 Thugut to L. Cobenzl, June 16, to Starhemberg, August 31 (P. S.), Vivenot,
iii, pp. 113-117, 234 f.; Razumovski's report of June 22/July 3, M. A., ABCTpia,

HI, 55-

2 Huffer, Oestreich und Preussen, p. 35.

3 These instructions are printed in Vivenot, iii, pp. 163-169.


would only be abused. A negotiation begun with such presup-
positions had little prospect of success.

But even had Lehrbach come in the best of faith, it is scarcely
possible that he could have effected an agreement. What decided
the course of events more, perhaps, than all the dissensions
between the two allies, was the fact that the limited resources of
the Prussian state rendered it infinitely difficult for the King to
undertake a third campaign at his own expense. Since the spring
this thought had haunted the minds of the Prussian ministers,
and had formed the constant burden of their reports to their
sovereign. To retire from the war if possible, but if not, to avoid
continuing it without further ample indemnities, became their
first and last thought. After much discussion they had come to
the conclusion that since the territorial market was somewhat
depleted, the compensation to be demanded for a third campaign
must take the form of subsidies from England, Austria, and the
Empire. As usual, the great element of uncertainty lay in the
fitful moods of Frederick William himself, who, although de-
cidedly cooled in his zeal for the war since he had got Great
Poland into his possession, was still long subject to relapses of
military ardor. Before the end of July, however, he had practi-
cally succumbed to the importunities of his advisers. A cate-
gorical declaration that the King could not consent to make a
third campaign without further indemnities was henceforth re-
served as the Prussian piece de resistance for the negotiation with
Lehrbach. 1

This resolution about the continuation of the war decided the
Prussian attitude towards the two closely related questions, the
Austrian indemnities and the Emperor's accession to the Parti-
tion Treaty. In June the Court of Berlin would still have pre-
ferred to see Austria fasten her ambitions upon France. It was
important to ward off the Bavarian Exchange, and at this time it
seemed not impossible to make considerable conquests from

1 Alvensleben and Haugwitz to Lucchesini, July 25, 28, and August 8, B. A.,
R. 92, L. N. 14. Frederick William's final assent to the program of his ministers
seems to have been contained in a cabinet order of August 12, which I have been
unable to find, but the sense of which appears from the report of Alvensleben and
Haugwitz of August 19, B. A., R. 96, 147 H.



France in the course of this campaign. But the more the latter
hope diminished, the less the Prussians were inclined to commit
themselves to furthering the Emperor's ambitions in this direc-
tion. On the other hand, they did not yet see their way clear to
avoid assisting Austria to secure acquisitions somewhere. They
vacillated between repugnance to the Exchange and the dread of
a third campaign. They were also frightened by the rumor that
Austria and England were planning to transfer the Elector of
Bavaria to Alsace-Lorraine. The situation was the more harrow-
ing because the Court of Vienna maintained a profound silence
about its projects. Rescue from these embarrassments came
from an unexpected quarter.

On July 10 Lord Yarmouth arrived at the royal headquarters
to conclude a convention relating to the war. He soon became
confidential with Lucchesini, and began to make revelations
about the secret negotiations between London and Vienna. By
deftly drawing him out, Lucchesini learned that the Emperor had
already promised England to renounce the Bavarian Exchange. 1
This was, indeed, lux e tenebris. The chance to utilize this re-
nunciation could not be overlooked. The ministers at Berlin
adjured Lucchesini to hold fast to the Exchange project in the
approaching negotiation with Lehrbach. " It would be super-
fluous," they added, " to observe to Your Excellence why we
insist on the exchange of the Netherlands. We must hold to it
the more strictly because it is to be foreseen that England will
persist in thwarting it. If the question were then raised of sub-
stituting [for it] a plan for conquests, this would be a new order of
things, which would have nothing in common with the agreements
decided upon between Prussia and Russia; and in consequence it
would be necessary to begin the negotiation all over again, with-
out prejudice to the indemnities that we have already secured in
the past." 2 Thugut's previsions on this point were nothing if not

Lucchesini determined to seal the fate of the Exchange project
once for all by still another stroke. As Lord Yarmouth had been

1 Lucchesini to the cabinet ministry, July 14, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14.

2 Letter of August 8. Much the same strain in a letter of July 28, B. A., R. 92,
L. N. 14.


instructed to draw Bavaria into the coalition, the clever Italian
proposed to him that England should conclude with the Elector a
subsidy treaty, which should contain a mutual guarantee of the
present possessions of the contracting parties. 1 He also broached
the same scheme to the Duke of Zweibriicken, who then went off
to present it to his uncle, the Elector. Presently Lucchesini was
able to report to his colleagues glorious news from Munich.
" Everything has succeeded wonderfully in that quarter," he
wrote; " now I shall see whether Lord Yarmouth is already pro-
vided with full powers in order to profit by the Elector's good
dispositions. If he is, then all roads to the acquisition of Bavaria
are barred to the House of Austria, by England. It remains only
to ask the opinion of Your Excellencies about the utility of con-
cluding at present a formal alliance between the King [of Prussia]
and the Duke of Zweibriicken." 2 Neither this alliance nor the
Anglo-Bavarian treaty came into existence; but it must be con-
fessed that Thugut's much-condemned duplicity pales before
Lucchesini's sheer breach of faith. It was surely irony of the
choicest sort to insist that the Emperor should accede to the St.
Petersburg Convention and content himself with the promise of
Prussia's good offices in favor of the Bavarian Exchange, when at
the same time Prussia was secretly doing everything in her power
to make the realization of that Exchange absolutely impossible.
It is true, indeed, that Frederick William's ministers had never
really desired Austria's accession. They were seriously disquieted
by Razumovski's renewed importunities on that subject in June,
for they hardly ' dared flatter themselves that the Emperor would
persist in his refusal.' 3 But these fears presently showed them-
selves groundless. As the moment of Lehrbach's arrival ap-
proached, the Prussian ministers began to meditate a new
scheme. Lucchesini proposed that in case the Austrian diplomat
brought only a conditional accession to the Convention, as was to
be expected, they should at once declare that until the Court of
Vienna saw fit to keep its engagements (i. e., to acquiesce sans

1 Lucchesini to the cabinet ministry, July 17, B. A.. R. 92, L. N. 14.

2 Letter of September 6, B. A., loc. cil.

3 The cabinet ministry to Lucchesini, June 21 and 22, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14.



phrase in the Partition Treaty), the King could enter into no dis-
cussion of the Emperor's indemnities. 1 The ministers at Berlin
thoroughly approved, and added the suggestion that if by the
time of Lehrbach's arrival the treaty was not concluded at
Grodno, the King might declare that in view of the resistance of
the Poles he felt obliged to cease his operations on the Rhine in
order to direct his attention towards securing his acquisitions in
Poland. Such a threat seemed the more a propos because it
might stop the (supposed) intrigues of the Court of Vienna at the
Diet. 2 These ideas rapidly matured until at the moment Lehr-
bach appeared the Prussians had agreed on the following plan. If
events went well at Grodno, the King was to declare that he no
longer demanded the Emperor's accession to the Convention, and
that he would take part in the next year's campaign only on con-
dition of being assured of a sufficient indemnity. In the contrary
case, they would add to the foregoing the declaration that the
King was obliged to suspend action against France in order to
attend to his interests in Poland arms in hand. This would be
killing a great many birds with one stone. It would frustrate for
good and all the danger of the Emperor's accession; it would
throw the blame for everything upon Austria, who had delayed
her adhesion until it could be of no further value; it would furnish
the pretext for retiring, or threatening to retire, from the French
war. One precaution, however, was still necessary. The minis-
ters at Berlin recommended some delay in presenting the pro-
posed declaration, in the hope of a favorable turn of affairs at the
Diet. To reject the Emperor's accession before their treaty had
been concluded at Grodno would be to expose themselves to the
redoubled intrigues of Austria; and then there was always the
danger of compromising themselves with the Empress. 3 Thus
everything was prepared in advance to give Lehrbach's negotia-
tion a striking finale. The Prussians had even less desire for a
reconciliation and an amicable agreement than had the Austrians:

1 Lucchesini to the cabinet ministry, July 19, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14.

2 Alvensleben and Haugwitz to Lucchesini, July 25, B. A., lot. cit.

3 The cabinet ministry to the King, August 20 and 28, to Lucchesini, August
23, B. A., R. 96. 147 H, and R. 92, L. N. 14.


instead they were resolved to force on what was virtually the
rupture of the alliance.

Lehrbach arrived at the royal headquarters on August 18, and
three days later held his first conference with Lucchesini at the
village of Edenkoben. He began with the declaration that the
Emperor had always intended to accede to the Convention and
stood ready to do so now with pleasure, but on condition that the
King should agree to procure for him an indemnity fully equal to
the Prussian one. After reviewing the history of the previous
negotiations and establishing the principle of parity, he launched
into a discussion of the various means of indemnifying Austria.
He began with Bavaria, spoke of the antipathy of the members of
the House of Zweibriicken to the Exchange, alluded to several
indications that these princes supposed themselves to be backed
up in their opposition by Prussia, and ended by declaring that
unless the King could reassure the Emperor as to the efficacy of
the means that he was willing to employ in this connection, the
Exchange project must be abandoned. There would then remain
no other course than that of seeking conquests from France, as the
Court of Berlin had suggested by the dispatch to Caesar of June
10. Alsace and Lorraine seemed the most desirable acquisitions
in this quarter. Lehrbach then demanded formally that the King
should agree to continue the war until the Emperor was in actual
possession of his indemnity.

Lucchesini replied that he would report everything to his
sovereign, but that in the meantime he must observe how sur-
prised the King would be that the Emperor had not yet seen fit to
accede to the Convention of St. Petersburg, which formed the
basis of Prussia's cooperation in the present campaign. Wishing
to draw Lehrbach out, he then asked whether the Court of Vienna
really foresaw no other obstacles in the way of the Exchange than
those which had just been mentioned. Was there nothing to be
feared from England ? Caught unprepared by this thrust, Lehr-
bach hesitated, and finally admitted that some opposition had
been raised by the London cabinet, but said that he had not been
ordered to speak of it. Lucchesini triumphantly retorted that it
would have been unfair then to place at the King's charge the ill


success of his good offices, and to compromise His Majesty un-
necessarily with the other Powers. With this the conference
ended. 1

All things having fallen out as he had foreseen, Lucchesini
found no reason for giving the Austrian a definite reply at once;
instead he set out to protract matters until the long hoped-for
news should arrive from Grodno. Meantime he amused Lehrbach
with long-winded discussions on the origin and nature of the war
— a subject which might be argued in saecula saeculorum without
the slightest results; and he excused his delays on the ground of
the necessity of communicating with Berlin and St. Petersburg.
During this period of waiting he made a discovery which gave
him a final assurance of victory. Lord Yarmouth, probably
alarmed by the news that Lehrbach had brought up the subject of
the Exchange, saw fit to inform the Prussian minister that in
June a secret convention had been signed in London, by which the
Emperor formally renounced alienating the Netherlands. It is
quite certain that this convention existed only in Yarmouth's
imagination, but this fact could hardly be known to Lucchesini.
The latter's jubilation knew no bounds. " This transaction," he
wrote to the ministers at Berlin, " destroys all the obligations
which the Convention of Petersburg imposed on the King with
regard to Austria's indemnities; and it serves as the key to Count
Lehrbach's negotiation. They [the Austrians] would like to sub-
stitute new engagements about conquests in France for those
which English policy has forced them to sacrifice. . . . Your
Excellencies will know better than I what use can be made of this
renunciation at St. Petersburg." 2 Lehrbach thus saw his chief
weapon struck from his hands, his whole game exposed, his plan
of campaign confounded and upset. One may doubtless believe
Lucchesini's statement that the Count was in despair. 3 For some
weeks the negotiation was completely at a standstill. Then
the turn of events at Grodno precipitated the denouement.

1 Lucchesini to the cabinet ministry, August 21, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14; Lehr-
bach's report of the same day, printed in Vivenot, iii, pp. 198 ff.

2 Letter of August 26, B. A., R. 92, L. N. 14.

3 Lucchesini to the cabinet ministry, August 31, B. A., loc. cit.


On September 2 the Diet had finally agreed to the Prussian
treaty, but only under conditions that strained the patience of
Frederick William's advisers to the breaking-point. On the 14th
the ministers at Berlin sent in a report urging the most prompt
and vigorous measures: they implored the King to suspend all
operations against France and return with 50,000 men (out of the
80,000 on the Rhine) to enforce his claims on Poland in person.
This step was to be accompanied by a fulminating declaration
that should show the Austrians that Prussia was through with
them, that she was free of all obligations to them, that for what-
ever might happen they had no one to blame but themselves.
On receiving these proposals, Lucchesini and Manstein set to
work energetically to win over the King. It was no easy task, for
Frederick William's sensibilities revolted at the thought of desert-
ing the good cause of all sovereigns to seek sorry laurels in chastis-
ing a few helpless Poles. He consented, then retracted, and
finally gave in under conditions: he would first of all fulfil his
promise to turn the fines of Weissenburg; he would then go to the
east, but he would leave almost his entire army on the Rhine,
under the command of the Duke of Brunswick; and he would
return later, if possible, to finish the campaign with a few brilliant
feats of arms. 1 Even this concession might not, perhaps, have
been wrung from him, had he not been incensed against the Court
of Vienna by disputes with General Wurmser, by Lehrbach's
' insidious negotiation,' by the supposed complicity of Austria
in the resistance of the Poles, and by the suspicion that the Im-
perial Courts had secretly agreed to hold up his treaty at Grodno. 2

Lucchesini was now ready to unchain the lightning. On
September 22 he presented to Lehrbach and Reuss a written
declaration which announced: (1) that as the King was obliged
to go in person to assure his acquisition in Poland, he would leave

1 Lucchesini to the cabinet ministry, September 19, 22, and 26, B. A., R. 92,
L.N. 14.

2 Cf. Sybel, op. cit., iii, pp. 433 ft". There is not the slightest evidence that the
Austrians had done anything directly to stir up the Poles to resistance; though this
is not to deny that the known antipathy of the Imperial Court to the Partition
may have encouraged the opposition at Grodno. The Prussians were not far wrong,
however, in their suspicions regarding Thugut's intrigues at St. Petersburg.



to the Emperor the care of attending to his own indemnities in
France; (2) that, respecting the motives which had hitherto
prevented the Court of Vienna from acceding to the St. Peters-
burg Convention, the King would no longer insist on that formal-
ity; (3) that his duty to his subjects and the need of husbanding
the last resources of his Monarchy forbade His Majesty's con-
tinuing the war another year, unless the allied Powers provided
him with the means of doing so. 1 This declaration brought Lehr-
bach's mission to a close. It ended the long negotiation between
he German Powers on the indemnity question. It terminated
the discussion between them with regard to the Emperor's acces-
sion to the Partition Treaty. It dealt what was practically the
coup de grace to the Austro-Prussian alliance.


In spite of the disastrous outcome of Lehrbach's negotiation,
Thugut continued to treat of the Emperor's adhesion to the St.
Petersburg Convention with Russia — though henceforth with
Russia alone. The wider grew the breach with Frederick William,
the more ardently the Austrian minister threw himself into the
pursuit of Catherine's wonder-working graces. Time did not
count with Thugut: though it took ages, he would end by pre-
senting his sovereign with an acquisition in some quarter that
would conform in every respect to the sacrosanct principle of
' perfect parity.' Into the details of this long negotiation it is
impossible to enter here.

The failure of his attempt during the summer to secure the
Empress' consent to an Austrian acquisition in Poland had for a
time embarrassed Thugut. For some months St. Petersburg was
studiously silent. In the autumn, however, especially after
Frederick William's pronunciamiento, the reconcilation between
the Imperial Courts proceeded steadily. By December Thugut
was at last ready to declare himself with all precision at St.
Petersburg. The Court of Berlin having rejected Austria's acces-
sion — a fact over which he was not particularly grieved — he
announced that the Emperor desired to accede to the Partition

1 This declaration is printed in Vivenot, iii, pp. 290-295.


Treaty in such a manner that his adhesion would apply to Russia
alone. In return for this Thugut demanded the Empress'
guarantee for that acquisition in France which Mercy had sug-
gested — namely, the territory as far as the Meuse and the
Somme; and in case these conquests could not be effected, a
similar guarantee for an indemnity to be taken at the expense of
Venice. All claims for a share in Poland were, in deference to the
Empress, at last abandoned. 1

These propositions were sufficiently to Catherine's taste.
Markov repeatedly assured Cobenzl that, excluding Poland, the
remains of which she desired to keep intact, there was no plan of
aggrandizement that Austria might form of which the Empress
would not approve. Encouraged by this reply, Thugut proceeded
to draft the letters in which — as was usual in treaties be-
tween Austria and Russia — the two sovereigns were to embody
their agreement. 2 His proposals were about to be formally
accepted at St. Petersburg, the ministers were putting the final
touches upon the bargain, when the face of things was suddenly
changed by the outbreak of the revolution in Poland. The Rus-
sians again felt the need of Prussian cooperation; a new partition
was soon in prospect; both sides recognized that retroactive
arrangements about a now ancient treaty were inappropriate.

The course of the negotiation henceforth belongs to the history
of the Third Partition. This time Austria was the preferred
suitor. Behind the back of Prussia, the Imperial Courts con-
cluded the secret convention of January 3, 1795, which settled
the new partition. By the third article the Emperor acceded to
the Second Partition Treaty, but only in so far as it concerned the

Online LibraryRobert Howard LordThe second partition of Poland; a study in diplomatic history → online text (page 44 of 59)