Robert Howard Lord.

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

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On Potemkin's extraordinary interest in Cossacks, his efforts
during the winter of 1787-88 to organize a new and very numerous
Cossack army, his plan for forming great Cossack settlements along
the Polish and Turkish frontiers, etc.: cf. HeTpoBi,, Biopaa Type^aa
BofiHa, i, pp. 125-129; Stein, Geschichte des russischen Heeres, pp.
172 ff.; documents in the C6opHHKt BoeH.-HC-rop. MaTepiajioBi, vi, passim;
Apx. BopoHn,oBa, xiii, p. 227.

That along with his other projects Potemkin also held in reserve
as early as 1788-89 the plan of heading an Orthodox and Cossack
rising in the Ukraine is only an hypothesis, but a very probable one.
It is quite certain that he later had such a plan (1790); it was uni-
versally ascribed to him in Poland during the troubles in the Ukraine
in 1789, reported by all the foreign ministers to their courts, and
only half denied at St. Petersburg. Cf . Kalinka, Der polnische Reichs-
tag, i, pp. 440-443, and Askenazy, op. cit., pp. 38 f.


On the Change in Prussian Policy in the Summer of 1789

It is only within the last fifteen years that historians have realized
the importance of the summer of 1789 as marking a decided turning-
point in Prussian policy. For recent discussions of the subject, see:


P. Wittichen, Die polnische Politik Preussens, ch. v; F. C. Wittichen,
"Die Politik des Grafen Hertzberg," in Hist. Vjschr., ix, pp. 183 ff.;
Krauel, Graf Hertzberg als Minister, pp. 44 ff.; Luckwaldt, "Zur
Vorgeschichte der Konvention von Reichenbach," in Delbriick-Fest-
schrift, pp. 232-256; Salomon, William Pitt, i\, pp. 451 f.; Aske-
nazy, Przymierze polsko-pruskie, pp. 55 f. The chief printed sources
are the correspondence between Hertzberg and Lucchesini in Dembin-
ski, op. cit., and that of Schlieffen with Hertzberg and Ewart in Nach-
richt von einigen Hausern des Geschlechtes der von Schlieffen, ii, pp.
408 ff.

To Paul Wittichen and Krauel belongs the honor of having first
brought to light Hertzberg's proposals for immediate vigorous action
that summer. These proposals occupy the central place in Witti-
chen's defence of Hertzberg, as he finds here the occasion when the
minister's much-criticized plan might have been brilliantly executed.
Here was the unique opportunity, the neglect of which avenged itself
at Reichenbach. Salomon accepts this view, while Krauel argues
against it — as I think, with justice. For one may, perhaps, accept
the apparently unanimous opinion of the Prussian generals that the
army was not ready in September of 1789; and moreover, if one was
to go to war, there was no need to begin with such a declaration as
Hertzberg proposed, which, without conciliating the enemy, would
have alienated every friend. The belligerent Powers would probably
have made peace with each other on terms reciprocally much more
advantageous than Hertzberg's, and Prussia would have been left
isolated and discredited.

Wittichen is responsible for placing in circulation a story which I
regard as at best only an unproved hypothesis, and probably an error:
the story, namely, of Hertzberg's proposed "Anschlag auf Gross-
Polen." He declares that in case the Imperial Courts rejected the
Prussian plan of pacification, Hertzberg intended immediately and
without further preliminaries to seize a large part, perhaps all, of
Great Poland, so that Prussia would thus at once realize the part of
the 'plan' that most concerned her, whatever might happen in
other quarters. Wittichen thinks that Russia would have offered
no opposition to this — at the most, she might have appropri-
ated a few Polish territories herself ; Austria would have been
terrorized or coerced into submission; as for the Poles, Hertzberg
had isolated them so successfully that they must have accepted
whatever Prussia dictated. This would, indeed, have been a piece


of treachery and high-handedness seldom paralleled. F. C. Witti-
chen, Salomon, and Askenazy repeat the tale much as P. Wittichen
has given it.

It is to be noted, however, that none of the texts cited by Witti-
chen in support of his theory — a few very vague passages from
letters — contain the slightest proof that Great Poland was to be
won by such a violent procedure. There is nothing to show that the
minister did not hold to his old plan of acquiring (a part of) Great
Poland by voluntary cession from the Republic, in return for Galicia
wrested away from Austria.

To the best of my knowledge, we have from Hertzberg's pen only
one fairly concrete account of the military measures recommended
by him that summer. It is contained in his letter to Schlieffen of
October 22, 1789. 1 Here there is no reference to any 'Anschlag auf
Gross-Polen ' — an omission which Wittichen attempts to explain
away by all manner of conjectures. Instead there is mention only of
two preliminary military movements, the one on the frontiers of
Galicia, the other on the side of Livonia; and then, in case of a re-
fusal on the part of the Imperial Courts, the invasion of Austrian
territory is to begin.

In Hertzberg's statements regarding a possible war with the Im-
perial Courts one almost invariably finds him counting on the co-
operation of the Poles. The following passages seem to me signifi-
cant (August 1, 1789, Hertzberg to Lucchesini): "Je suis d'accord
avec vous sur la necessite de frapper le grand coup pour nous et pour
nos amis. . . . il me semble . . . qu'il vaudroit mieux, apres avoir
recu notre derniere reponse de Constantinople, que nous offrions
notre plan dilemmatique . . . comme en Hollande, et qu'apres le
refus qu'on peut prevoir, nous concertions et executions tout de suite
avec nos amis notre grand plan." 2

(August 22, Hertzberg to the King) . . . "II me semble que le
cas existeroit toujours de presenter aux deux Cours Imperiales sa
[His Majesty's] mediation armee et notre Plan avec le mouvement
de l'armee; ... en cas qu'il [the plan] ne fut pas accepte par les
deux Cours Imperiales, V. M. est sur de l'alliance de la Porte, de la
Suede et de la Pologne, meme avant d'en avoir les actions solemnels
[sic]." 3 It would seem hardly probable that even Hertzberg could

1 Schlieffen, op. citi, pp. 430 ft., reprinted by P. Wittichen, op. cil., pp. 93 ff.

2 Dembinski, Documents, i, p. 403.
* B. A, R. 9, 27.


have fancied that the Poles would join in the war on Austria, if
Prussia began operations by seizing Great Poland.

Summing it up, I think Wittichen's view rests on a mere conjec-
ture, which finds very little support from the sources, and for which
anything like a solid proof has not yet been furnished. It is to be
noted that Luckwaldt, who has written the most detailed and the
most recent account of the events of that summer, makes no men-
tion of any proposed 'Anschlag auf Gross-Polen.'


OSTERMANN TO ALOPEUS, MARCH 14/25, 1791 [M. A., Hpyccifl, VI, 24]

J'ai mis, Monsieur, sous les yeux de l'lmperatrice Votre depeche
du 8/19 Fevr. 1 Son contenu a ete d'autant plus agr^able a S. M. I.
qu'il est parfaitement conforme aux intentions que Vous aves tou-
jours ete charge d'annoncer en Son nom, tant par les instructions que
Vous aves emportees en partant d'ici, que par celles qu'on Vous a
fait parvenir ulterieurement durant Votre mission a Berlin. Les
unes et les autres expriment constamment le desir et le voeu de
S. M. I. de conserver et de maintenir une bonne harmonie impertur-
bable avec S. M. Prussienne. En effet ce systeme etant analogue aux
interets des deux Monarchies et le Roi de Prusse paraissant partager
a cet egard la conviction de l'lmperatrice, il ne s'agit que de calmer
et d'ecarter les ombrages et les soupcons qui ont dirige jusqu'a pre-
sent la politique de la Cour de Berlin en sens contraire. Le moyen
qu'on Vous a suggere et dont Vous rendes compte dans la depeche
susmentionnee pour etablir et consolider la confiance entre les deux
Cours ne repugne en rien a la sincerite des vues de S. M. I. et de Ses
dispositions a, l'egard de S. M. Prussienne. Elle a asses developpees
[sic] ces dernieres dans toute Sa conduite pour ne laisser aucun doute
de la facilite avec laquelle Elle se pretera a tout ce qui pourra effec-
tuer un rapprochement aussi desirable pour les deux Souverains.
C'est dans ce sens que nous nous sommes expliques demierement
aussi vis-a-vis de la Cour de Dannemark en reponse aux ouvertures
qu'elle nous a faites au nom de celle de Berlin relativement aux con-
jonctures actuelles; et nous avons ordre de Vous autoriser, Monsieur,
en cas que cette derniere persiste dans les dispositions qu'on Vous a

1 For this dispatch, see Dembinski, Documents, i, pp. 116-119.



temoignees en dernier lieu, a lui annoncer que Tlmperatrice ne fera
nulle dimculte de donner les mains a un arrangement provisionel
touchant le Traite d'alliance que S. M. Prussienne desire de conclure
avec Elle a. la suite de notre paix avec la Porte Ottomanne. Vous
nous instruires de la forme que la Cour de Berlin voudra donner a
l'acte ou a la convention secrette qu'on pourroit arreter entre les
deux Cours. Nous ne dirons qu'un mot de ce qui doit faire la sub-
stance de cette transaction. Elle doit d'abord porter l'engagement
mutuel de renouveller apres la presente guerre finie les anciennes
liaisons entre la Russie et la Prusse sur le meme pied ou elles ont
existees jusqu'a l'annee 1788. Ensuite on stipulera en termes pro-
pres la promesse positive de la part de S. M. Prussienne, non seule-
ment de ne point s'opposer a ce que Tlmperatrice amenat la Porte
Ottomanne par tous les moyens possibles a. faire la paix aux condi-
tions que S. M. a proposees, a savoir: le renouvellement pur et simple
des anciens Traites et transactions anterieures a cette guerre-ci et la
cession d'Oczakoff avec son territoire jusqu'au Dniester, de maniere
que cette riviere serve desormais de frontiere entre les deux Empires,
mais aussi a employer aupres de la dite Porte Ses representations et
Ses exhortations les plus efficaces et les plus energiques a fin de la
determiner a accepter ces conditions. ... Si ... S. M. Prussienne
se determine a realiser un accord ou un arrangement analogues au
plan que nous venons d'esquisser et qu'Elle Vous fasse connaitre
Ses intentions definitives la dessus, nous n'attendrons que le rap-
port que Vous nous en feres, pour Vous envoyer le projet d'acte
ou de convention secrette avec les pleins pouvoirs requis pour le
conclure et le signer et le convertir en instrument authentique et
revetu de toutes les formalites usitees dans les transactions entre
les Souverains.

Le courrier que nous Vous depechons, pour mieux cacher sa desti-
nation, a ordre de ne s'arreter aupres de Vous que le terns qu'il lui
faudra pour Vous remettre cette depeche et de passer d'abord a
Hambourg, ou Mr. de Gross le retiendra une huitaine de jours et
Vous le renverra pour chercher les rapports que Vous seres dans le
cas de nous transmettre et pour nous les apporter ici. Vous voyes
que de cette maniere le tems sera epargne autant qu'il est possible
et qu'il ne tiendra qu'a la Cour de Berlin d'ecarter les extremites
auxquelles les circonstances au grand regret de l'Imperatrice et au
grand detriment des interets respectifs paroissent avoir achemine
les choses.



Notes on Chapter IX

1. On the Origin of Bischoffwerder's Second Mission

to Leopold

How far the Emperor was responsible for bringing about this
mission is a disputed question. It was asserted in the Prussian en-
voy's instructions that Leopold had asked to have Bischoffwerder
sent to him; and this statement has been very frequently repeated
by German historians. Leopold, on the other hand, denied having
expressed such a wish; 1 and although this has been declared to be
merely a dementi for use at St. Petersburg, I am inclined to think the
Emperor spoke the truth. If he had really expressed the wish for
such a mission, why was it that on Bischoffwerder's arrival his first
step was to attempt to persuade the Prussian envoy that he had not
done so? Besides, in his report to Grenville of May 15 Elgin said
merely: "I even venture to conceive it possible, that should His
Prussian Majesty send to the Emperor some confidential person with
powers similar to those His Majesty has been pleased to entrust with
me (I must add that the Emperor repeatedly mentioned Colonel
Bischoffwerder in high terms of approbation), such preliminary
stipulations might be immediately signed by us," 2 . . . The
same day Elgin wrote to Ewart at Berlin about the matter, and in
the translation of that letter communicated by Ewart to the Prus-
sian ministry the important passage runs: "il m'a paru qu'il Lui
[the Emperor] seroit fort agreable qu'une personne de confiance fut
envoyee aupres de Lui par Sa Majeste Prussienne avec des pouvoirs
semblables aux miens. Sa Majeste Imperiale m'a parle tres souvent
du Colonel de Bischoffwerder dans les termes de la plus haute Estime
et Confiance, qui prouvoient combien Elle desiroit de le revoir." 3
From this it appears that Elgin himself, encouraged by some words
of praise for Bischoffwerder on the part of the Emperor, conceived
the idea of bringing the 'worthy Colonel' upon the scene in order to
help along his own negotiation.

1 "Journal iiber die Verhandlungen mit Bischoffwerder," Vivenot, i, p. 178.

2 F. z. D. G., v, p. 251. * B. A., R. 1, Conv. 172.



The question has a certain importance, inasmuch as the Emperor's
supposed request has often been taken as a proof of his eagerness in
May for an immediate alliance with Prussia — an eagerness of which
I find no clear signs until about the middle of June, when French
affairs suddenly assumed a dangerous aspect.

2. On the Vienna Convention of July 25, 1791

The origin of the much-discussed ' separate article ' on Polish affairs
may be traced from the following excerpts.

(1) February 21, 1791, Bischoffwerder proposed as one of the
articles of the projected alliance: "D'eloigner par des moyens sages
et bien concertes l'influence de la Russie en Pologne (comme le foyer
d'ou la plus part [sic] des intrigues de la Cour de Petersbourg sont
parties) sans rechercher neanmoins aucune influence preponderante
en Pologne, ne desirant que le maintien de la constitution actuelle
de ce Royaume et un Roi librement elu de la nation polonoise selon
leurs Loix sans l'intervention de la Russie.

" (Pour rendre cet Article ostensible on propose de le changer ainsi.)
D'eloigner par des moyens sages et bien concertes tout influence
preponderante en Pologne de la part de ses trois voisins, de maniere
a y maintenir toutefois la constitution actuelle de ce Royaume et
un Roy librement elu par la nation polonoise selon leurs loix." 1

(2) The Austrian 'observation' on this was: "On est pret d'entrer
dans ces vues et l'on est meme si persuade qu'elles sont propres a
combiner les veritables interets des trois Puissances voisines de la
Pologne qu'on ne croit pas difficile de consolider ces vues par un
nouveau concert entre elles." 2

(3) J u ty 22 > I 79 I > Bischoffwerder again presented this article in
the 'ostensible' form just given, with the additional clauses: "Et
pour ecarter — apres la Revolution qui vient de se faire dans ce
Royaume — tout Sujet de jalousie et d'ombrage, les deux Cours
sont tombes d'accord: qu'il ne pourra jamais etre question d'un
mariage entre l'lnfante et un Prince des trois Puissances voisines,
ni de l'elevation d'un tel Prince dans le cas d'une nouvelle election
au Throne de Pologne." 3

(4) The final (Austrian) redaction: "Les interets et la tranquil-
lite des Puissances voisines de la Pologne rendant infiniment desira-
ble qu'il s'etablisse entre Elles un concert propre a eloigner toute

1 V. A., Vortrdge, 1791. 2 V. A., ibid. 8 V. A., ibid.


jalousie ou apprehension de preponderance, les Cours de Vienne et
de Berlin conviendront et inviteront la Cour de Russie de convenir
avec Elles, qu'Elles n'entreprendront rien pour alterer l'integrite et
le maintien de la libre constitution de la Pologne; qu'Elles ne cher-
cheront jamais a placer un Prince de leurs Maisons sur le Trone de
Pologne, ni par un mariage avec la Princesse l'lnfante, ni dans le
cas d'une nouvelle election, et n'employeront point leur influence
pour determiner le choix de la Republique dans l'un ou l'autre cas
en faveur d'un autre Prince hors d'un concert mutuel entre Elles." l

Askenazy 2 finds a contradiction between the recognition of the
new constitution implied in the mention of the Infanta and the refer-
ence to a possible new election to the throne. He overlooks the fact
that the acceptance of the crown by Frederick Augustus was by no
means certain, and that in case he refused it, a new election would
be necessary even according to the new constitution. I think he is
equally in error in asserting that the apparent recognition accorded
to the new form of government was belied and reduced to a mere
sham by the setting up of a condition impossible of fulfilment, namely
the approval of Russia. In the first place, it is nowhere said in the
article that Austria and Prussia would submit to a Russian veto on
the new constitution; and secondly, they could not know at that
time in Vienna that the Empress would never give her consent to
the new regime in Poland — in fact, they had reason to think that
she would.

The article was certainly not considered at Warsaw as an open
sign of Prussia's desertion (as Askenazy regards it) : on the contrary,
Stanislas Augustus was deeply gratified and encouraged by it. See his
letters to Bukaty of August 20, and to the Crown Secretary Rzewuski
of August 24, Kalinka, Ostatnie lata, ii, pp. 199 ff., and Smolenski,
Ostatni rok sejmu wielkiego, pp. 240 f . ; also de Cache's reports of
August 24, 31, September 3, 10 (V. A., Polen, Berichte, 1791); Bul-
gakov's of August 13/24 (M. A., nojibma, III, 64).

3. On Bischoffwerder's Attitude towards an Intervention

in France

There is no doubt that in signing the Vienna Convention Bischoff-
werder went far beyond the instructions given him by the Prussian
ministry, but it is not improbable that he may have had further

1 V. A., Vortrage, 1791. 2 Przymierze polsko-pruskie, pp. 150 ff.



secret orders from the King. This suspicion arises particularly with
regard to French affairs. It has been noted in the text that the King
was busy in September, 1790, with plans for an intervention in France;
in November he promised one of the Count of Artois' agents his aid
under certain conditions; x in the spring of 1791 there appear to have
been further negotiations, in the course of which he stipulated the
repayment of his expenses as the condition of his cooperation. 2
These pourparlers came to the knowledge of the Prussian ministry
only in June, and then only imperfectly, but they were doubtless
known to Bischoffwerder. It is also worth notice that some months
later Prince Hohenlohe — who as early as September, 1790, was the
confidant of his master's views on French affairs — told Fersen
that Bischoffwerder on going to Italy had been charged to propose
to the Emperor an intervention in France and a scheme for territo-
rial 'indemnities' similar to that which had once been suggested to
Reuss. 3 According to Hohenlohe, Leopold rejected the latter idea.
Carisien, the Swedish envoy in Berlin, in general a very good ob-
server, also held that one of the chief objects of Bischoffwerder's
mission to Italy was to find out the Emperor's views on the state of
affairs in France. 4 Insufficient as the evidence is, it is difficult to
understand how Bischoffwerder could have entered from the outset
with such zeal upon Leopold's proposals for an intervention in France,
unless he knew that they corresponded closely to the views of his
own sovereign.


On the Austrian Attitude towards the Plan for the
Permanent Union of Saxony and Poland

Sybel long maintained that the plan in question was originated by
Leopold soon after the revolution of the Third of May, and was pro-
posed by him at that time to Russia. 5 This position Sybel later had
to abandon. Herrmann was right in maintaining that the project

1 Schlitter, Marie Christine, p. xxii.

2 Fersen to Taube, April 11, in Klinckowstrom, Le Comte de Fersen el la Cour de
France, i, p. 99; instruction to Baron Roll, May 21, B. A., R. 1, Conv. 172.

3 Fersen from Prague, September 6, 1791, Klinckowstrom, op. oil., i, pp. 24 f.

4 Taube, Svenska beskickningars berdttelser, p. 85. Cf. also Taube to Fersen,
February 6, 1792, Klinckowstrom, op. cit., ii, p. 165.

5 See H. Z., x, pp. 418 ff., xii, pp. 280 ff.


originated with the Elector, but wrong in asserting that Leopold
never supported it. 1 Beer's account 2 is much more accurate, but
fails to notice the real reason for the Emperor's cautious attitude in
this matter: the fact that his daughter was married to the prince to
whom it was proposed to assure the Polish succession.

Frederick Augustus conceived the plan of the Saxon-Polish per-
sonal union as early as June, 1791; 3 it was broached by his minister
Gutschmidt to Spielmann at Pillnitz; 4 it seems to have formed one
of the topics discussed in a letter from the Elector to the Emperor
not long afterwards. 5 At Vienna the plan was immediately approved. 6
While, for the reason mentioned in the text, the point was passed
over lightly in the ostensible instructions given to Landriani, Kaunitz
added in a secret postscript that this plan was of much importance
for Austrian interests, and continued: "Mr. de Landriani ne laissera
pas de seconder cet objet autant qu'il pourra sans risquer qu'on nous,
soupconne des vues secondaires. Comme au reste l'Electeur tient
lui-meme tres-fortement a la reussite de ce point, il sera plus facile
de combiner a cet egard le but essentiel avec les menagemens deli-
cats auxquels nous sommes astreints." 7 This fear of being suspected
of 'vues secondaires,' which has hitherto been overlooked by histo-
rians, is the dominant consideration in the Austrian utterances on
this subject.


On the Note from Catherine to Zubov Reported
by Goltz, February 3, 1792 8

This enigmatic episode has been related by all historians of the
period, and has given rise to a variety of conjectures. It has been
almost universally stated that Goltz actually saw the note in question,
but I think that can hardly have been the case, for the envoy nowhere
claims to have seen it, and he complains in his report of February 7

1 F. z. D. G., iv, pp. 397 ff. 2 H. Z., xxvii, pp. 11 ff.

3 Hartig's report of June 24, V. A., Sachsen, Berichte, 1791.
* Spielmann to Kaunitz, August 31, Vivenot, i, pp. 239 f.

5 Cf. the instructions to L. Cobenzl of November 12.

6 Cf. Schlitter, Kaunitz, Ph. Cobenzl utid Spielmann, pp. 89 f.

7 V. A., F. A. 62 A.

8 The several dispatches from Goltz cited in this appendix are all to be found in
the B. A., R. XI, Russland, 133.



that he had been unable to learn more of the details of the Russian
project, since "le personnage peureux et borne qui avoit fait la lecture
en question 1 n'a rien su ajouter aux notions deja communiquees."
Cf. the phrase in his report of February 3: "Ce papier n'ayant ete lu
qu'a la hate, il a ete impossible d'en savoir davantage." The point
is not without interest, because it has been so often assumed that
the note was written only to be shown to Goltz, and that it was a
ballon d'essai intended to tempt Prussia out of her reserve. 2

I think it more probable that this was an ordinary case of a 'leak.'
Whitworth, the English envoy, to whom the Russians could have
no possible reason for letting out such secrets, had managed to get
even fuller information as to these same Russian plans earlier than
Goltz, without the latter's knowledge, and apparently through the
same channel. If the secret was betrayed in one case, why not in
the other? 3

Whitworth does not speak of a note, but the plan which he reports
agrees almost entirely with that described by Goltz. He refrained
at first from confiding in his colleague. The latter appears to have
broached the subject to him, and to have used his (Whitworth's)
knowledge to verify the sources of his own information.

The Russian archives have as yet failed to disclose any documents
bearing on this episode. Under such circumstances the incident
must remain obscure, but we are certainly not in a position to speak
of it, with Hausser, as "a Russian proposition to Prussia for a parti-

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