Russia, Poland-Lithuania, and the Baltic, 1697-1721

Swedish rule over Livonia debars Muscovy and Poland-Lithuania from the Baltic. - Trade routes from the Baltic to the inland areas. - After ca 1670, while fighting Turkey, neither Russia nor the Republic loses sight of the North. - Poland urged to reconquer Livonia (1677). - The dependent position of Russia and Poland-Lithuania in relation to Riga similar to that of the Republic in relation to Danzig. - The szlachta of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at odds with the Swedish authorities in Livonia and the burghers of Riga. - The history of the port at Palanga. - Tension between Sweden and Russia at the end of the seventeenth century. - Tsar Peter's interest in the Black Sea connected with his ambitions on the Baltic. - Russia - the royal road to the Baltic ports? - The tsar's impressions of Amsterdam and London confirm the desirability of a Russian port on the Baltic coast. - Position of Augustus II similar to that of Peter I with regard to the Baltic. - The two monarchs decide in principle to act together in the Baltic (1698). - The outbreak of the Great Northern War (1700) and its early course. - Lack of enthusiasm in the Republic for the reconquest of Livonia. War deprecated by papal nuncio. - Shift in Russian intentions with regard to Livonia between 1700 and 1711. - 1718: Tsar Peter will not sacrifice Livonia to obtain peace. - The mission to St Petersburg of Stanisław Chometowski fails to change the tsar's resolve. - The Republic excluded from peace negotiations with Sweden but included in the treaty of Nystad (1721). Disappointment in Poland. - Tsar Peter's policies clash with Poland's interests in Courland and in Danzig. - Peter I lays Danzig under contribution (1707-1713); molests the city by land and sea (1716-1720), causing disquiet in England (1716-1717). - Swedish and Russian interference with Baltic shipping. - Elbing coveted by Prussia and squeezed by the tsar (1710-1712). - England's interest in the Northern Trades. The need for naval stores from Scandinavia, the 'East Country' and Russia. The Russian fleet. - The future of Livonia causes increasing concern in England. - George Mackenzie's memorandum of 1715: A port in the Baltic would give the tsar the monopoly of all the naval stores in Europe. - Similar views expressed by British ambassadors in 1719 and 1720. - In consequence of the peace treaty of Nystad (1721) the Grand Duchy of Lithuania is outflanked strategically and economically. - The szlachta of the Grand Duchy in chronic debt to the burghers of Riga. - Tsar Peter changes the destination of exports from left-bank Ukraine: Riga displaces Breslau (Wrocław). - How would a Swedish victory in the Great Northern War (in which the chief prize was Riga with its trade) have affected Poland-Lithuania? The evidence of the treaty of Warsaw (1705) between Sweden and the Republic. - The contrasting attitudes of Augustus II, Charles XII and Peter the Great towards Polish-Lithuanian indebtedness in Riga. The tsar's regulation of 1724. - The Russian victory was the lesser evil. - The cost of the Republic's failure to regain Livonia.

It will be recalled that after the peace of Oliva with Poland in 1661 and that of Kardis with Russia in 1669, Sweden's possession of Livonia, Estonia, Ingria and Karelia debarred both the Polish Republic and the tsar from the Baltic, thereby furnishing them with a common grievance and object of envy. Sweden's granary and her bulwark against Russia and Poland, Livonia with the port of Riga - 'the most valuable jewel of the crown of Sweden' - was a particularly invidious token of predominance in the Baltic and one whose lustre still outshone the growing importance of Narva in Estonia. At the same time Russia's annexation of the regions of Smolensk and Chernigov in 1667 made her as substantial an exporter to Riga as was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In addition, with Swedish encouragement, Russia was exporting increasing quantities of raw materials to Narva but here as well as at Riga, the Muscovites like the Poles and Lithuanians, were mere customers enriching the local middlemen and the treasury of a foreign power. Towards the end of the seventeenth century Sweden-Finland's income from Livonia and Estonia accounted for 33 per cent of her total ordinary revenue of 2,085,000 rix-dollars a year. Sweden's possession of Riga was to some extent matched by Russia's ownership of Archangel, but a port on the White Sea was too remote to serve as an outlet for the newly acquired regions on the left bank of the Dnieper. The traditional route from Starodub to the Baltic by land led across the Sozh, over the Dnieper at Bykhov, thence to Borisov on the Berezina, on to Minsk, Valkininkas, across the Neman at Olita and thence to Jurburg on the Prussian frontier and to Königsberg along the Pregel. From Chernigov the route to Königsberg ran via Loev, Rechitsa, Glusk, Slutsk, Nesvizh, Shchuchin, Grodno, Augustów, Elk, and Gizycko. From the area of Kiev on the right bank of the Dnieper and from the region of Pinsk, lying further to the west on the Pina, a tributary of the Pripet, goods - mostly grain and timber products - could be brought by land to the banks of the Bug, the chief eastern tributary of the Vistula, to be floated seawards to Danzig or Elbing.

From the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Riga was accessible through Beshenkovichi by way of the western Dvina which had linked Rus' with Scandinavia since the Middle Ages. The distance on dry land between the trading centres of Vitebsk on the Dvina and Orsha on the Dnieper was only about 82 km. But even here the river Luchosa, a confluent of the Dvina, could be reached by portage from Dubrouna (Dabrowna) on the Dnieper. It was this land-bridge between the two rivers that extended the hinterland of Riga to the basins of the Sozh and the Dnieper roughly to the point of their confluence. An alternative navigation head in the Grand Duchy was Stolbtsy on the Neman which carried boats and barges as far as Tilsit. From there the vicinity of Königsberg could be reached by way of the western branch of the Neman delta or of its eastern branch and the Courland lagoon. Neither the Neman nor the Dvina was as navigable as the Vistula; traffic on the Neman was perilous because of a multitude of reefs and shallows; on the Dvina it was hindered by three groups of rapids.

In the 1670s Russia and Poland were intermittently at war with Turkey, at first independently of one another and later as allies. But at no time was the attention paid to the Ukrainian theatre exclusive, and closer investigation shows Slavonic ambitions in the north to have been laid aside rather than abandoned. After the disgrace of A.L. Ordyn-Nashchokin in 1671 his successful rival, A.S. Matveev, did not lose sight of the ultimate aim of his predecessor's policy: territorial concessions from Sweden on the Baltic. In the critical year of 1676 when the threat of a Turkish invasion was hanging over Russia, Matveev, admittedly at the prompting of Sweden's enemies, Denmark and Brandenburg-Prussia, demanded the restitution of Ingria and Karelia. In 1678 Prussia pointed to Livonia as an even more desirable acquisition for the tsar. In Poland, John III Sobieski, elected king in 1674, attracted as he was to the Black Sea area, would have been just as glad to acquire new territory on the Baltic, while Sweden was at war with Denmark and Prussia between 1675 and 1679, although in his reckoning this was to be wrested from Prussia with the help of Sweden. Prussian propaganda in Poland, however, worked for the opposite end: the Republic, or Muscovy, or both together, should seize Livonia and share it out between them. The advantages that would accrue to the Republic from the single-handed reconquest of Livonia were enumerated in a pamphlet addressed to the Sejm of 1677. (The pseudonymous author called himself Nobilis Livo but was probably a Prussian.) Livonia with its fertile soil and the port of Riga would bring in resources for war and peace - revenue from customs duties, benefices for the Crown, estates for the Church, soldiers for the Republic. No realm can wield solid and lasting power unless this is derived from both land and sea. The Poles should seize Riga and the whole of Livonia rather than be content with Danzig which avoids paying proper deference to the Republic and handles trade to its disadvantage. If Sweden is confined to her rocky homeland, peace will be assured to all her neighbours. The Republic is threatened by the Muscovites, the Turks, the Cossacks and the Tatars. The Swedes, if left unchallenged in Livonia, will seek spoils outside their borders. The Grand Duke of Muscovy covets Livonia for himself. From the 'duchy' of Smolensk he already casts a greedy eye on the whole of Lithuania; from there and from Livonia he could peer into the heart of the Republic. Sweden has committed many breaches of the peace of Oliva; Livonia should be seized and held by the Republic in fee under the rule of Prince James (Jakub) Sobieski (born in 1667).

No such voices were raised in the Republic, habitually inimical towards any step that suggested dynasticism. But in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania the grand hetman, Michał Pac, did speak up in favour of action against the Swedes in association with Denmark and Brandenburg-Prussia with a view to recovering Livonia. In doing so, however, Pac was seeking to embarrass the king who would have preferred to annex East Prussia. As it turned out, the Republic as well as Muscovy abstained from action in the north, but in 1677 John III took steps to fill the vacant see of Livonia, thus laying an oblique claim on behalf of the Church of Rome to the former ecclesiastical estates in that province; the tsar did not formally abandon his territorial demands until 1683 when the peace of Kardis was renewed. Three years later Russia and Poland-Lithuania concluded a definitive peace treaty and offensive alliance against the Ottoman Empire, over which neither country was strong enough to prevail unaided. In the north too their interests were closer than had perhaps been realized since the dismissal of Ordyn-Nashchokin. The position of both countries in relation to Riga was one of dependence, not unlike Poland's position in relation to Danzig. Danzig, a self-governing city under the suzerainty of the Repubic, had grown rich by handling the szlachta's sales of grain and timber and purchases of Western manufactured goods and luxuries. At the end of the seventeenth century it was handing over to the king a proportion of its annual revenue - about 25,000 rix-dollars out of over three quarters of a million, a sum comparable to the public revenue of Poland - but regarded itself as a 'free member' of the Republic. The szlachta of Poland felt themselves to be 'oppressed' by the merchants of Danzig just as the szlachta of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania accused the citizens of Riga of 'having no notion of justice, recognizing no laws and causing human misery by their cunning Machiavellian tricks' - sharp practice in the sorting of merchandise and the use of weights and measures, injustice in the law courts. It was a long-standing complaint of the Riga merchants that they were unable to obtain the payment of their 'Polish' customers' debts. They did not dare to seek out noblemen on their estates; they could not be sure of having their claims validated in a court of law because the grandees who owed them money often participated in the dispensation of justice. Moreover the same grandees were the natural protectors merchants, traders and Jews who might likewise be in debt to the burghers of Riga. If these debts or debit balances on trading accounts had been discharged promptly then perhaps the traders themselves, middlemen for the most part, would not have had cause to complain of a constant shortage of working capital which weakened their position in relation to their other customers, the Dutch, who handled most of the exports out of, and imports into, Riga.

In retrospect at any rate it is clear that the artificial state of affairs then obtaining on the Baltic coast between the gulf of Riga and the gulf of Finland could not continue indefinitely. Either the Swedish bridgehead must serve as a base for further expansion leading to political control over, and economic exploitation of, the whole interior or it must be captured by the master or masters of the inland regions. Without being necessarily aware of these alternatives in their extreme form, the Swedes found much cause for uneasiness, on the side of Poland-Lithuania as much as on that of Russia, and in the disaffected mood of the Livonia nobility, resentful of the Crown's policy of claiming back their fiefs and of the commercial monopoly of the merchants of Riga. With the Grand Duchy of Lithuania there was constant friction over trade. The szlachta there objected to the heavy customs duties on imports and exports and to the dues levied by Sweden at will on the transit of grain across Livonia to Riga. Those who lived near enough reacted by sending it instead to Windau (Ventspils, Windawa) or Libau (Liepaja, Libava) in the duchy of Courland, a fief of the Republic. Here the customs duties were moderate and no transit duty was charged.

The history of the port at Palanga (Połaga, Polangen) on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania's short stretch of Baltic coast is brief and somewhat obscure but noteworthy because of the various conflicting or concordant interests that it reveals. The initiative for 'the settlement of an English company' at Palanga came from two merchants, Hurst and Archer. The company was to import salt which was much in demand in the Great Duchy and presumably to export flax and hemp. A new port was to be established at the mouth of the navigable river Sventa (Swieta, Heiligen-Aa) close to Palanga, hence the inaccurate but consistent references to that place. The consort of King John III Sobieski, Maria Casimira, had apparently received the starosty (Crown benefice) of Połaga as part of her dowry. The proposed name for the new port - Jan-Marienburg - suggests a joint commercial interest of the royal pair. The king granted the appropriate privilege, including exemption from customs duties, in 1685 but a year later was obliged to rescind it under constraint from unnamed private interests - perhaps Hurst and Archer's competitors in other Baltic ports. Duty was duly collected but business seems to have been good nevertheless, for the queen demanded and received a sum of money from the company; in 1689 she asked for 700 ducats p.a. In 1690 the Sejm confirmed the privilege originally granted to the English by the king on the grounds that portoria (the revenue from customs duties) were desirable, and at the same time, inconsequently, exempted the company from all duties and imposts for forty years. But the Swedes, out of jealousy for the predominance of Riga, took exception to the activities of the company, seized ships bound for Palanga and sold their cargoes at auction. The company broke up (perhaps in the interregnum of 1696-97) and the merchants moved to Libau in Courland. In 1699 Augustus II sent 4,500 troops to Palanga to rebuild and fortify the harbour but his aims were military rather that commercial: he was preparing to invade Livonia. In 1702 Charles XII gave orders for the port to be 'choked up'. In 1705 the treaty of Warsaw ordained that, having been visited by foreign ships contrary to ancient custom and to the interests of Livonia, Courland and Prussia, the port at Palanga was to be destroyed. The Swedish sanctions against Palanga, together with the tolls collected by the city of Riga on the river Bolderaa in order to discourage traffic with Courland, could properly be regarded as so many violations of article 15 of the peace of Oliva. Augustus II's subsequent assertion to that effect, though belated, was justified but still did not constitute any legitimate grounds for embroiling Poland-Lithuania with Sweden in 1700.

In 1692 Russia, in order to protect her trade at Archangel, raised the duty on exports to the Baltic, and Sweden retaliated by withdrawing the exemption of Russian goods from excise duty and road tolls. In all probability the Swedes had already taken the young tsar's measure and did not expect the difficulties with Russia to be confined to the economic sphere. As early as 1684 the Danish envoy, Hildebrand Horn, had reported that Tsar Peter wanted war with Sweden. In August 1692 the Swedes were expecting a Russian attack on Narva, which had been in Russian hands between 1558 and 1581. The correspondent conveying this news remarked prophetically, but not quite relevantly, that Sweden 'would lose extremely in losing Livonia'. By October nothing further had been heard of the movements of the Muscovites on the frontier; it was thought that the tsar's design had failed or had not been ripe for execution. Time would discover the intentions of Muscovy. These continued to be suspect, for by the beginning of 1697 the Swedish authorities were proposing discreetly and by degrees to continue withdrawing what still remained of the extensive concessions that the Russian merchants had been enjoying in Estonia for over half a century. Despite these earlier Swedish efforts to divert Russian exports to Narva, the export trade at Archangel had continued to grow but the Russians had meanwhile acquired the habit of trading also to the Baltic.

On the occasion of the tsar's visit to Archangel in 1694, his favourite, Admiral-General Franz Lefort, is said to have represented to him that even if he were to have a fleet on the White Sea, he would still profit only half as much thereby as he might do if he had a fleet and ports on the Black Sea and on the Baltic. The suggestion, if authentic, would confirm the existence of a connection between the tsar's expeditions against Azov, undertaken in 1695 and 1696 with the aim of establishing himself on the Black Sea, as well as his conquests on the Caspian in 1722-23 on the one hand, and his ambitions on the Baltic on the other. In his eyes Riga, Narva and later St Petersburg were not merely the antipodes of Azov and Astrakhan but the terminal points of the last stage of a possible new trade route. Leading from the Far East through Persia to Western Europe it could compete successfully with the existing long sea-route round the Cape of Good Hope or with the land-sea route to southern Europe through Aleppo or Smyrna. The mirage of caravans carrying silk and spices, unloading their merchandise at Astrakhan on to barges that would travel up the Volga and then by a system of canals to Archangel or, ideally, to a port on the Baltic, never ceased to haunt Tsar Peter's imagination until he turned his attention to Russia's commercial relations with Persia. One of his motives for the invasion of Persia by Russia in 1722 and the annexation of the coastal strip on the Caspian was the protection of her trade interests. A southern branch of the same new route could run from Azov to the Black Sea and thence to the Mediterranean, as it had done before the fall of Constantinople, and serve as an outlet for the produce of southern Russia and of the left-bank Ukraine.

For all its visionary appearance, the project for using Russia as the royal road from the Orient to the Baltic ports was neither original nor unrealistic. Together with its concomitant, the humbling of Archangel, it had preoccupied the hard-headed Swedes from the 1670s and in the last decade of the century overlapped with repeated attempts by Armenian merchants settled in Persia to conclude trade agreements with Sweden, Poland and Courland for the importation of oriental goods. At Riga the high customs duties on imports and exports discouraged foreign traders. Thus in 1696, after failing to reach agreement with the Swedes because of the high duties demanded by them, the Armenian merchant Philippus Zagly made a contract with the Duke of Courland. About the same time, labouring under similar but more acute difficulties, the English merchants trading to Sweden were casting about for stations that would impose fewer restrictions on their activities than Stockholm or Gothenburg. One such place was Narva, which by 1696 was sending about 70 per cent of its exports of hemp and flax to England, the other the traditional English staple of Archangel. It was not to be expected at that time than an invasion of Poland would bring Charles XII and his officials 750 km (as the crow flies) closer to the Orient. If Sweden were to defeat Russia and restore to the Republic the left-bank Ukraine, the opening by the Swedes of a trade route to the Orient along the Dvina and the Dnieper, connected by means of canals, might become a practical proposition.

Two years after Tsar Peter's visit to Archangel the first stage of his grand tour of north-western Europe brought him to Riga where he did some sightseeing that bordered suspiciously on military espionage. The governor of Riga formed the impression that the Russians would do everything in their power to obtain a foothold on the Baltic for the sake of promoting trade between China, India and Persia and their good friends in England and Holland. The next halt was in Courland. Under Duke James (Jacob Kettler, 1642-82) the principality had been a mercantilist paradise in miniature, equipped with an ocean-going fleet and owning a colony, the West Indian island of Tobago to which it still retained a claim. Later events suggest that what the tsar saw and heard in Courland inspired him to follow the example of the mercantilist duke and, by proxy, to assume his inheritance. The subsequent visits to Pillau, Amsterdam and finally London could not but have borne in on the tsar with renewed force the desirability of having a port on the Baltic coast. The remark that he was heard to make to that effect in London caused the Swedes to fear that he might join with the kings of Denmark and Poland for this very purpose. During his stay in England it could hardly have escaped his notice that Narva still formed part of the area covered by the monopoly of the Muscovy Company and was the centre of an increasingly brisk trade with England. And, monopoly or no monopoly, Narva was the natural terminus of the south-north trade route of which he wanted to make himself master. It is common knowledge that the tsar's negotiations with the merchants of London leading to the conclusion of the contract for the importation of Virginia tobacco into Russia hastened the abolition of the restriction on the membership of the Muscovy Company. There is every indication that the abolition of that company's monopoly and the opening of the Russian market to all and sundry was at least as much due to the appearance of the new bulk product destined for export to Russia, tobacco, as to the urgent need for a new, safe and cheap source of supply of materials for a fleet of well over 200 ships, soon again to be employed on active service. The Russian market, the sought-after alternative to the Swedish one, was now thrown open to the rank and file of England's merchants; the ships that took out tobacco and 'drapery' could return laden with naval stores, particularly hemp, flax, pitch and tar. But the voyage to the White Sea was long and arduous whilst at Narva the Swedes, after having for decades facilitated trade into and out of Muscovy, were making a show of erecting barriers. The excise duty on spun tobacco was suddenly raised from 2 to 34 per cent, then restored to 2 per cent, but there could be no certainty that it would not be raised again.

The position of Augustus II, the newly elected king of Poland, was in some respects not unlike that of Tsar Peter. In his bid for the Polish throne the Elector of Saxony had not primarily sought economic advantages but economic considerations were not alien to his ultimate aims. In the pacta conventa, his contract with the electorate, Augustus had sworn to recover for Poland the dominium maris Baltici and, although not in the same breath and without reference to any specific places on the Baltic coast, her lost provinces. Augustus's maritime policy for his new kingdom was probably framed not long afterwards. Poland was to have a Baltic fleet and a harbour; once she had these she could claim a share in the dominium maris for her own benefit and perhaps also with the ulterior object of promoting the economic welfare of the king's native Saxony. Here difficulties were being experienced similar to those with which the inhabitants of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were faced at Riga. The Brandenburgers were laying high duties on goods imported from Hamburg by the Saale so that the use of a Baltic port and the land route to Saxony through Poland was apparently considered an alternative channel of supply. The king began to execute his economic policy (which bears a striking resemblance to that of the tsar) by granting royal patronage to a company for the promotion of trade between the Black Sea and the Baltic. Some of the necessary capital was to be raised among the Jews of Amsterdam. The scheme, however, failed to win the support of the Primate, the second personage in order of importance in the Republic: Cardinal Michał Radziejowski had already been in official negotiation with the ubiquitous Zagly, but shied at the prospect of taxation having to be increased in order to raise capital for the company.

Concurrently with these events the separatist malcontents of Lithuania were laying plans for making Augustus hereditary grand duke as a safeguard against a revival of the supremacy of the Sapiehas. Whether Augustus saw any analogy between the troubles in Lithuania and the discontent in Livonia, and whether the possibility crossed his mind of pacifying both provinces by bringing them under his own rule may only be guessed at. The common ground between the king and the tsar, perilously narrow when it came to the future of Courland, but spacious enough to accommodate both at the expense of Sweden, was extended to the area of international politics by means of the alliance concluded in September 1698 between Augustus II and Christian V with the object of recovering the territories wrested by Sweden from its neighbours. The parties were to give one another military assistance, no matter who the aggressor might be, and to invite the tsar to join them. The conclusion of such a league had already been reported in the previous summer and had naturally aroused apprehension in Sweden.

When the tsar and the king met at Rawa, the Turkish war in which both countries were involved was drawing to a close and the two monarchs and their advisers were probably already engrossed in problems of the Baltic. When and by whom the word 'Sweden' was first dropped will probably never be known, but oblique references to the meeting made by the tsar in an interview with the Saxon envoy, Carlowitz, and reported at second hand by the Danish envoy, Paul Heins, make it clear that joint action for the pacification of Lithuania and for gaining access to the Baltic was decided upon in principle at Rawa. Nothing, in the reported words of the tsar, was more natural than to think of redressing the injustice that was depriving Russia of a port on the Baltic and restricting his subjects' trade to the detriment of his whole dominions. The analogous arguments to be put forward by Augustus II in justification of the Saxon raid on Riga in February 1700 have already been noted. Hence, then, the embraces and cooings with which king and tsar took leave of one another; they had, in the language of the twentieth century, established a complete identity of views. 'Economic and commercial interests' still 'governed the foreign policy of European states', and still 'the aggressive movements of Russia' and, it might be added, of Poland-Lithuania and Saxony, 'towards the Swedish-German provinces on the Baltic were directed towards the acquisition and domination of the Baltic trade'. Schmoller's words apply to the beginning of the eighteenth as much as to the seventeenth century.

The preamble of the treaty of alliance concluded on 21 November 1699 O.S. at Preobrazhenskoe between Russia and Saxony refers to the decision to attack Sweden taken at a most confidential meeting of the two monarchs - obviously at Rawa - in retaliation for past wrongs. The tsar promised to supply auxiliary troops in case of need and to begin operations in Ingria and Karelia as soon as practicable; the king undertook to help the tsar to secure a foothold on the Baltic. But as early as October 1700 it was believed at The Hague that the tsar had entered the conflict not as an auxiliary but as a principal and wanted Livonia for himself. The year 1700 seemed propitious for such an enterprise because, according to the calculations of its originators, the tide of European trade was running in its favour. Not long after the outbreak of the Great Northern War the king's and the tsar's diplomatic representatives in London were reported to have offered the English substantial advantages with regard to trade in return for being allowed to rule over Riga and Narva. In July 1704 the tsar gained a foothold in Livonia by capturing Dorpat (Tartu) and in August he took Narva. On 30 August his ministers made a treaty of alliance with the representatives of the king.

In the Republic a war with Sweden for the reconquest of Livonia aroused little enthusiasm. Those who did not want a war at all seemed to have been outnumbered only by those who wanted a war with Russia. The Primate, Cardinal Radziejowski, had a mercantilist notion of the value of trade as the source of the country's stock of gold and silver and, in 1694, had wished that Poland were making more prudent use of the resources - viz. exportable primary products - that God had given her. But after the outbreak of the northern war, in an undated manifesto, he accused the king of having deceived the Republic in moving his troops into Lithuania under the pretext of 'building' a port at Palanga with the intention of conquering and keeping Livonia. Hieronim Lubomirski, then grand treasurer of Poland, at a consilium of the senate held in Warsaw on 28 May 1700 remarked that the Republic's seaboard was not in its own but in alien hands (viz. of the Protestant and German-speaking burghers of Danzig and Elbing), that it had not sea power and was incapable of building up a fleet which would ward off foreign warships. But in regard to the participation in the war he advocated caution and wished the question which side - if any - to join, to be left open.

The then deputy hetman of Poland, A.M. Sieniawski, an exporter on a large scale of hemp and flax from his estate of Shklov to Riga and incidentally, in debt to some merchants there to the tune of about 12,000 rix-dollars, was not at all in favour of the reconquest of Livonia. It is hard to imagine that he did not give any thought to the possible advantages that he might derive from the abolition of the frontier with Livonia and, in consequence, of the customs barrier. But, as he pointed out in 1701, unhindered trade between Shklov and Riga depended on peaceful conditions and, therefore, on the cessation of hostilities.

The papal nuncio, Giovanni Antonio Davia, titular archbishop of Thebes, did not allow the prospect of the reestablishment of the Roman Catholic Church in Livonia to cloud his judgement. He had to put it to Fr Carlo Maurizio Vota, S.J., that, as confessor and theologian royal, he was in conscience bound to draw attention to all the disadvantages of a war which generally brings about a multitude of calamities, especially when it is not fought in a cause just enough to warrant a recourse to arms. The king spoke to Davia of the fresh developments in Livonia; the nuncio stated that he could not hope for any positive results from military action in those parts. In a further interview the nuncio told the king that his worst enemy could not have given him advice more likely to bring him to ruin than that to advance against the Swedes in Livonia. As if foreseeing the events of 1715-1716 he pointed out the fickleness of the Poles, their suspiciousness of the power of His Majesty and their secret desire to wipe out the German (Saxon) troops in Poland. In reply to a memorandum from the Republic at the end of 1705 the Russians confirmed their intention of handing over to Augustus and to the Republic the Livonian (and Estonian) towns but rejected the Polish proposal that they should be manned with Polish garrisons for the duration of the war, using the already familiar argument that these would not be strong enough to stand up to the enemy. Instead, it was agreed that the Russian garrisons should act on behalf of the king and the Republic.

In October 1709, at Thorn, the tsar and King Augustus concluded a fresh treaty of alliance supplemented with a separate and secret article according to which, in consideration of the burdens borne and losses incurred by Saxony, the tsar promised Augustus as Elector the province of Livonia for himself and for his heirs. In July 1710, after a prolonged siege and a bombardment in which some Saxon engineers and artillery officers had participated as a token of Augustus's intentions, Riga surrendered. Its burghers, as well as the knights of Livonia, swore loyalty to the tsar. On hearing of the surrender, Peter offered his felicitations to the king's envoy but the tone of his instructions to Sheremetev is entirely self-congratulatory: 'What you say about Riga, that it is, if anything, a more important victory that Poltava, is true, for ... thirteen years ago they held us under arrest and now it is we who hold them.' In August the Russians took Pernau (Pärnu) and in September, Reval. The conquest of Livonia and Estonia was complete. In informing the doge of Venice of these events at the end of the year, the tsar invited the Venetians to trade by land or sea with the Baltic ports or anywhere else in Russia. In his eyes 'Livonia' and 'trade' were virtually one.

In June 1711 at Jarosław, in the last agreement between Peter I and Augustus II on this subject, the tsar renewed his promise concerning Livonia but on the same day also confirmed the validity of the rival claim of the Republic, without any intention, it may be surmised, of keeping faith with either party. Augustus apparently divined these tactics and realized that even if he were fortunate enough to obtain Livonia, the szlachta were most unlikely to allow a king whom they suspected of despotic and dynastic designs to become naturalized on their doorstep and to deprive the Republic of the advantages that were to have been the reward for its part in the war. Aware of this attitude he tried to forestall such opposition by creating the impression that he intended to exchange Livonia for a Polish province lying closer to his hereditary lands. But, like the Republic, he was taking too much for granted since the tsar had shown no sign of allowing Polish or Saxon troops to relieve the Russians. The Poles, his spokesmen had argued, could not spare enough men and the loyalty of their generals was suspect.

From now on, with southern Finland already in his hands and the remainder about to be evacuated by the Swedes, the tsar was able to set about nullifying his compacts with Augustus and the Republic concerning Livonia and legalizing by means of new international agreements the Russian rule established there and in Estonia. By June 1718 it was generally agreed in Europe that the tsar would not sacrifice Livonia to obtain peace and Shafirov was ready to cut off his hand if his master were even to entertain such a thought. At a joint session held in November 1718 the Sejm and senate learnt from the Republic's three successive envoys to the tsar that there was no prospect of his handing over Riga and Livonia. Russia's position in this respect remained unchanged throughout the peace negotiations with Sweden at Lövö in the Åland islands and also after they had foundered in September 1719 on the very issue of Livonia, Estonia and Viborg (Viipuri). The situation then was no different from that which had obtained three years previously: 'the tsar could not well make peace without Reval for his fleet ... Narva is the key of Petersburg on one side and Kexholm (Käkisalmi) and Viborg on the other'. Livonia, as always meant proximity to Poland, Courland and Prussia and the revenues from the port of Riga. In 1727 these were estimated by the Saxon envoy, Jean Lefort, to amount to between 250,000 and 300,000 roubles out of a total income of 600,000 from customs duties raised on seaborne trade. Riga's trade with Poland-Lithuania accounted for at least 150,000 roubles.

After the collapse of the congress of Åland, the Republic resumed its representations to the tsar, but the next envoy, Chometowski, received though he was with great pomp and courtesy, accomplished little more than his predecessors. The tsar promised to withdraw all the Russian troops from Courland, leaving only a bodyguard of dragoons for the duchess, and eventually kept his word, but as to Livonia, he was surprised that Poland should press for its restitution at a time when she had no troops to defend it in case of attack. Rather than antagonize the Poles further by flatly refusing to hand over Livonia, the tsar and his ministers resorted to deceiving Chometowski with false hopes, thereby upsetting the assumption made by the British envoy, James Scott, that Russian intransigence would sting the Poles into action. Scott had underestimated the Russians' dexterity but it also took the blindest self-delusion and a complete misunderstanding of the tsar's aims and motives to expect him to give up Livonia for the sake of whose acquisition and retention he had hitherto seemed willing to pay almost any price in treasure and human lives. Nor did Augustus II achieve any more in that respect by his attempt to associate himself and the Republic with the action for the relegation of the tsar to his earlier bounds undertaken by the Emperor Charles VI as sovereign of his patrimonial possessions and George I and August II as electoral dukes, in virtue of the treaty of Vienna of 5 January 1719.

But when the plans for the expansion of the alliance into a northern league directed against the tsar and comprising Sweden and Prussia had proved impracticable peace negotiations between Russia and Sweden were resumed. The Republic was not represented but the tsar was able to insist, by making this a conditio sin qua non, on the inclusion of Poland in the peace treaty signed at Nystad on 30 August 1721, thus ensuring the recognition by the third interested party of Russia's annexation of Livonia (together with Estonia, Ingria, eastern Karelia and the province of Viborg). It was the tsar's perverse way of keeping his constantly repeated promise not to make a separate peace. His designation as mediator in the peace, still to be negotiated between Sweden and Poland, heaped humiliation upon the king's and the Republic's disappointed hopes. (Peace between the two countries was finally made in 1732 without Russian mediation.)

The two hetmans of Poland, A. M. Sieniawski and M. S. Rzewuski, received the news of the exclusion of the King and Republic with dismay and indignation. Sieniawski congratulated the tsar on his triumph and expressed the hope, unquestionably vain, that his allies, the Poles, might yet expect some share in his success. Surely, he continued, His Tsarish Majesty would not consent that those who had borne the hardships of the war against the common enemy, for the most part alone, risking their lives and fortunes, should receive nothing more than mere peace and the simulacrum of tranquillity in compensation for the losses, expenses, contributions and devastation suffered by their lands. In writing to Sieniawski, Rzewuski spoke of palpable injury done by the treaty and J. A. Wiśniowiecki, palatine of Cracow, of grave danger from a neighbour terrible on land and sea.

There was not much exaggeration in the assertion made in 1722 that the tsar was now in control of the whole stretch of the Baltic coast between Reval and Lubeck. The style of 'the Great' and 'Emperor' conferred on Peter I by the senate in October 1721 had been well earned. He may have embarked on the northern war with aims more modest than those of Aleksei Mikhailovich, who between 1656 and 1658 had contended in vain for the former possessions of the Livonian Order in their entirety, but the father's aim became virtually the sum of the son's achievement. Only the Polish palatinate of Livonia remained under Polish rule until 1772. Peter came much nearer than Aleksei to making Courland a Russian protectorate, a design which, after the tsar's death in 1725, now the king, now the Republic, was able to hinder with the support of a section of the local gentry. But the prospect of recovering Livonia had vanished for ever. 'The opportunity', reported the papal nuncio with reference to Peter I's demise, 'is splendid indeed, but these gentlemen will never again be in a position to turn such accidents to account.'

Courland was not the only place where the tsar's policies clashed with Poland's interests and undermined her sovereignty. His treatment of Danzig and Elbing, both of which lay within the boundaries of the Republic, gave more offence and caused great alarm abroad. For all the lack of harmony between the two partners, the fortunes of Danzig were inseparable from those of the Republic, the two prospered and declined together. Any interference with Danzig's export trade was a blow dealt at the landowners in the basin of the Vistula - 'hoc aureus Thalassus' - and on the south-western fringes of Ukraine whose welfare depended on the proceeds from the sales at Danzig of their grain, timber and other produce.

It took Tsar Peter very little time to grasp the political and commercial importance of Danzig. In December 1697, soon after the coronation of Augustus II, he was calling on the city to remain loyal to its legitimate sovereign; in later years he was to make the fullest possible use of its resources, laying this outpost of western capitalism under contribution in cash and kind, together with Elbing and, further to the west, Hamburg and Lubeck. Gustavus Adolphus had subjected the merchant communities of the Baltic coast to the same treatment with the self-same object of reducing the cost of a northern war. Peter's demands increased together with his ability to enforce them. In 1705 the tsar admonished Danzig for giving in to the demands of the Swedes, in 1707 he belatedly warned the city against recognizing Stanisław Leszczyński as king of Poland. Soon afterwards the Russian general commanding in the area, K.E.M. von Rönne (Renne), demanded horses, equipment and uniforms for 15,000 men, tents, powder and food for 10,000 and the admission of a Russian garrison, but was restrained by the tsar from using force. In September 1709 Peter I demanded a contribution of 300,000 rix-dollars to help him to meet the cost of the war; in November 1710 he doubled the sum. The city refused to pay. In the spring of 1712 General Iakov V. Brius (Bruce) renewed the demand, a Russian army laid a formal blockade to Danzig and Brius threatened bombardment but offered to accept 100,000. Still the city fathers stood firm, encouraged apparently by Augustus II and Frederick I of Prussia. In October 1713, under renewed military pressure brought to bear by Field Marshal Aleksandr D. Menshikov, Danzig agreed in a convention with Russia to pay 300,000 gulden (100,000) rix-dollars in return for being spare all troop movements, foraging, billeting and contributions. In 1714 the Russians continually molested Danzig by land and sea. In decreeing this ill-treatment that brought him so much odium in Europe, the tsar was acting in part from avarice and in part from strategic considerations. In the first instance Sweden must be cut off from this important source of grain and munitions of war, including naval stores from Poland and soldiers' cloth from Silesia. Early in 1716 two Russian frigates were ordered to lie in the mouth of the Vistula and arrest any ships arriving from Sweden with the exception, for the time being, of British and Dutch ones. As a long-term measure the city was requested to admit a Russian commissary and twelve men with powers to inspect all ships. A convention to this effect as well as for the fitting out of four privateers for use against Sweden was to be made by the city with the tsar and adhered to by the King of Poland. The Russians also wished to be supplied, in case of need, with two or three ships capable of carrying ammunition from Danzig to Copenhagen in preparation for a landing in Sweden. The magistracy, however, rejected these demands whereupon the tsar's representatives, Field Marshal Boris P. Sheremetev, the commander of the army concentrated in the area for action against Sweden, and Lieutenant-General Vasilii V. Dolgorukii (1667-1746), declared Danzig to be an enemy city. In the following summer Captain Franz Villebois (Vil'bua), a Russian 'caper' or privateer acting on the tsar's orders, present in Danzig at the time, was 'commanding arbitrarily' in the mouth of the Vistula and causing 'no small trouble to the merchants': he gave the impression that 'the Muscovites wanted to lord it wherever they went, to treat all property as if they owned it and to do exactly as they pleased'; in July the Russians renewed their demands and blocked the city from land and sea; by August the upkeep of the three infantry and four cavalry regiments in the city's territory had cost 40,000 rix-dollars out of a total of about 1 million that the city, by its own reckoning, had spent on the tsar's troops since 1711. The Polish ministers and senators resident at the court of Augustus II tried to stiffen the city's resistance by invoking on behalf of the Republic the dominium maris Baltici and sovereignty over Danzig. Their remonstrance to the effect that they could not give their consent to the king's accession to the proposed convention between the tsar and the city caused Augustus II to ask Peter I to release him from his earlier undertaking to support the tsar's demand concerning the provision of privateers. The Poles, as well as taking a stand on a principle, feared that in consequence of the privateers' interference with trade Polish grain and other produce would lose their foreign customers. But in the meantime the Russians had reacted by raising their demands. In September, under the threat of bombardment, the city compounded with the tsar's delegate, Lieutenant-General V.V. Dolgorukii, for three frigates to be used as privateers, the admission of a Russian officer - 'the tsar's spectacles on the city's nose' - with powers to inspect all shipping, a fine for tardiness of 140,000 rix-dollars to be paid in instalments and supposedly used for the upkeep of the Russian troops quartered outside the city walls, the troops not to move until the terms of the convention had been complied with. The city fathers could count themselves fortunate in being allowed to keep the altarpiece in the Marienkirche, the Last Judgement by Hans Memling to which the tsar had taken a fancy. For his part Peter I promised to grant privileges and liberties to Danzig merchants to trade to St Petersburg and other places in Russia. Assuming evidently that enough capital and goodwill towards his person subsisted in Danzig he invited the local merchants to join others and especially those of Breslau in a company for importing silk from Persia to Moscow and forwarding it to the Baltic. The Baltic ports in the tsar's possession did not fully satisfy his commercial, any more than his strategic, needs and he apparently intended to coax or coerce Danzig into providing him with an entrepot. In 1718 the Russian pressure continued undiminished. In April the first instalment of the promised sum was exacted; in the course of the summer more Russian troops arrived. Their presence in such numbers - at least 7.200 in the city's territory and another 20,000 further south - made provision for a strategic contingency: the possibility of joining with a Swedish force in the event of the Åland negotiations' resulting in a Russo-Swedish alliance directed against Denmark and Hanover. The rumour, rife at the time, that the tsar would help Frederick William I to occupy and keep Danzig fits in with an earlier plan, for vicariously giving Prussia Warmia (Ermland) with Elbing in place of Stettin. The addition of Danzig and Elbing to Pillau would have handed the monopoly of grain exports from Poland, East Prussia and the western portion of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at a stroke to the King of Prussia, a prospect that filled the French consul at Danzig with alarm. It is certain that the tsar's treatment of Danzig encouraged Frederick William to imitate him. The cash payments to the tsar made it impossible for Danzig to meet the demands of its creditors in Prussia and this furnished Frederick William with a ground for threatening the city with the use of force. All that the King and Republic were able to do in the circumstances was to plead on Danzig's behalf with the maritime powers, England in particular, and lodge a strong protest with Prussia. For effective help Danzig looked direct to George I in his double capacity as elector and king. Already at the outset of the crisis the magistrates had sent a deputy to A.G. von Bernstorff, the first minister at Hanover.

The tsar's conduct in relation to Danzig was also causing disquiet in England, a country whose connection with the city was close and long-standing. Englishmen had been established before 1337; the first trade treaty there between England and Danzig was made in 1388; in the early fifteenth century Danzig became a staple for English cloth, a position which it lost after a few decades but regained in 1628. In that year the Sejm granted the city the privilege of stamping all English cloth imported into Poland but suspended it in 1631 and again in 1641 before finally restoring it in 1658. Trade with England suffered from the foreign and domestic wars that afflicted Poland between 1648 and 1668; in the 1670s the sale of English cloth was considered to be in decline owing to diminishing consumption and foreign competition. None the less, in 1700 an English resident was appointed at Danzig with instructions to protect His Majesty's subjects trading to those parts and in 1706 a trade convention was concluded between England and the city 'for the ease' of the Englishmen resident there. Their status and rights were regularized, as was the treatment of Danzig ships and merchants visiting England. It was the only agreement of this kind between Danzig and a foreign government.

Side by side with an interest in the welfare of her expatriate subjects, England developed a growing concern for the general security of the city irrespective of the quarter from which it might be threatened - the Swedes, Augustus II or the Russians. In 1704 the dispatch of a naval squadron before Danzig was briefly envisaged as part of England's contribution to measures to be adopted conjointly with the Netherlands, Denmark and Prussia for the preservation of the city's neutrality and the safeguarding of its trade. In 1711 the British envoy to Poland, Scott, was instructed to ensure that Danzig was preserved with its present privileges and immunities and that it did not suffer by any military enterprise. In 1715 his successor received similar instructions. In 1714 the peace of Utrecht had guaranteed unhindered trade with Danzig to France, Spain and Britain, the most interested power in this aspect to the treaty. But two years later British trade in Danzig was reported to have been 'under a most sensible decay' for the past twenty years owing to the miserable poverty of the country resulting from the war and the plague, to Silesian and Dutch competition and to high customs duties. It may therefore be presumed that apart from the concern for the well-being of theszlachta British colony, Britain's interest in the city was kept alive by the large quantities of materials for shipbuilding - 'oak in plank, spruce, deals, masts and other naval commodities' - that she was able to procure from that source in a period of scarcity, and by the realization that even if it was no longer true that 'in peace time British trade there was more considerable than in any other part of the East Sea', it was a market capable of expansion.

In 1716 Danzig found itself caught between the Russian devil on land and the deep sea scoured by Swedish privateers. By early autumn they had begun to seize the city's ships in retaliation for its dealings with the Russians. The councillors wrote to George I 'entreating that Admiral Norris may have orders to let their ships pass under his convoy and protect their freight'. The request was appropriate enough, Danzig roads being the meeting point for the merchantmen returning from 'Russia' and the convoy under whose protection they sailed home. In May 1717 the ships of some merchants under contract with the Navy Board were convoyed to Danzig for importing plank and deal for His Majesty's magazines. Somewhat later, on account of the Swedish privateers, Admiral Byng was instructed to keep a watchful eye on Danzig where in August there was indeed much to be seen. But it was the Russian 'caper' who provided the spectacle: Villebois seized a British ship bound for Sweden after some of his men had killed the proprietor of the cargo, an English merchant established in Danzig. In the opinion of George I's agent, the failure of the magistracy to preserve the neutrality of their port was to be resented: 'The tsar's friendship it was their interest to court, but they must not compliment him with the estate of the subject of another prince.' British shipping, like that of the city of Danzig, was now becoming fair game for both belligerents. In May the Russian fleet had already entered into competition with the Swedish privateers and was reported to have begun to seize British ships, no doubt including those, said to be fairly numerous, engaged in the trade between Danzig and Sweden. The Russians captured a Scottish flyboat off the English coast and brought her to Holland as prize. In August Bernstorff's secretary, John Robethon, feared that the Russians would make themselves masters of Danzig. As a reward for helping Charles XII to re-establish Stanisław Leszczyński in Poland, the tsar was to be allowed to turn the city into a forward naval and military base. It was a prospect to which neither Bernstorff, who was at intervals being approached for advice and intercession by the city council, nor, in the long term, the English ministry, could remain indifferent.

Some thirty miles to the east of Danzig, on the eastern arm of the Vistula estuary, lies the town of Elbing (Elblag). At that time, together with its surrounding territory and the bishopric of Warmia further inland, it formed a sack-shaped inlet in East Prussia. To obtain possession of Elbing in order to close the sack before incorporating it in Prussian territory had already been the aim of Frederick I. This, once achieved, would have had the added advantage of practically encircling Danzig. In the reign of Frederick William I, the likelihood of the annexation of Elbing had increased with the tsar's declaration made in November 1716 at Havelberg that he would support the king's claim to Elbing and help him to keep it once he had got it. The already precarious 'balance of the North' had received another jolt and one that was felt in England. As early as 1710 it was known that the maritime powers would prefer Elbing to remain in Polish hands for the sake of the freedom of trade. But England's interest in Elbing was not comparable with her stake in Danzig; her connection with the town now belonged to the past and of the English merchants there remained only the coat or arms of an English agent adorning a public hall. In Elizabethan days, however, the members of the company of merchants trading to the East Country - or the Eastland Company - had been known as the Merchants of Elbing and in the years 1583-1628 it was Elbing that had enjoyed the privilege, subsequently vested in Danzig, of stamping English cloth.

The activities of the tsar's representatives at Elbing between February 1710, when the Russians took the town by storm from the Swedes and October 1712, when they handed it over to a Saxon garrison placed there by Augustus II (in his capacity as King of Poland), illustrate further Peter I's efforts to make a war waged outside Russian territory pay for itself and reveal an unexpected wealth of monetary resources at the disposal of a Baltic trading community in decline. Although Elbing's grain exports (via Pillau) were scanty by comparison with those from Danzig and its shipyards satisfied only local needs, in November 1711 the town council estimated that since the beginning of the northern war it had spent 2,000,000 gulden (some 700,000 rix-dollars) for the benefit of one side or other. The alleged total cost of the upkeep of the Russian garrison of 1500 men calculated at the end of their stay came to 528,930 gulden (or 176,310 rix-dollars), 26,446 gulden a month, when approximately 80,000 for the whole year would have been enough. The balance was apparently used for the travels of the court, the expenses of the Tsarevich Aleksei in Germany, envoys' salaries and the like. To this must be added various impositions in kind. Military equipment was demanded in quantities greater than the town was capable of supplying: 1,500 tents, trousers for six regiments, uniforms for 5,266 men, uniforms and rations for 524 men for six months, all as a pretext for imposing a cash fine or a means of extorting protection money for not enforcing the demand. Supplies were ordered on credit and never paid for - two frigates upwards of 30 guns each, ten small yachts, 5,000 cloaks in green, blue and red cloth and 300 coats for the tsar's dragoons. The rate of exchange for Russian money was fixed for the benefit of the garrison at the artificially low rate of 15 copecks, before being raised by the tsar to 80 copecks, for one rix-dollar. The commander of the garrison assigned to himself rations on a scale that even the tsar considered exorbitant enough to merit that officer's dismissal, though Peter I himself did not jib at asking for an advance of 15,000 rix-dollars and accepting 2,000 ex gratia. The tsar paid three visitis to Elbing, and on each occasion he and his suite and escort had to be kept and transported at the town's expense. Apart from gratifications pocketed at odd times, the tsar's ministers and their subordinates and servants received payments ranging from 1,000 to 13 rix-dollars. In 1712 the tsarevich and his wife stayed in Elbing free of charge. Lastly, there was the levy on labour: half of the 294 skilled craftsmen, including shipyard workers, were recruited for work in Russia or in Riga.

Outside the Baltic basin the only countries with an active concern in Livonia and Riga, as well as Danzig, that came near to equalling that of Sweden, Russia, Prussia and Poland, were the Netherlands and Great Britain. In England the reason for this interest, formulated in the previous century by Sir Thomas Roe still held good: trade with Sweden, Muscovy, Norway, Prussia and Livonia was 'fundamental and of absolute necessity, for from these trades we get the materials for shipping ... pitch, tarre, cordage, masts and such like ...' These 'Northern Trades' were the root of all the other trades which they made possible. They were also the starting point of a circle of self-perpetuating demand: naval stores were needed to build ships to fetch from beyond the Sound naval stores for the same purpose and particularly for replacing and maintaining the men-of-war that often convoyed the merchantmen. The warship, 'Britain's Glory', that source of the nation's prosperity and emblem of her power was therefore at best a hybrid - a skeleton of native oak, clad, staked and draped with the produce of Scandinavia, the East Country, and Russia. Plank, deals and masts, as well as timber, were imported from a large number of places on the Baltic; tar mostly from Finland via Sweden, but for two commodities England was largely dependent on Livonia. First, the best hemp for making cable and cordage came from Riga where it arrived from the hinterland unworked (Pol. konopie, Russ. konoplia) or worked (pienka, pen'ka). Muscovy, Livonia, Courland and Poland provided nearly all the seaports with hemp, but the 'Reinhanf' of Riga was the best, being softer and purer than the other varieties. Flax for sailcloth was grown in large quantities in Germany, but again Livonia and Poland supplied various kinds among which those of Riga were the most sought-after. One of the reasons for the popularity of the hemp and flax shipped from Riga was the 'brack' or 'wrack' where fibre was sorted, cleaned and packed under municipal supervision. Riga masts were also much in demand. The means of trade were barter, money or bills of exchange.

At the end of the seventeenth century England should have been Narva's best and Riga's second-best customer after the Netherlands. Both places, it will be remembered, were still as firmly in Swedish hands as Stockholm or Gothenburg, so that between 1696 and 1699, before, during and just after the tsar's visit to London, the revival and expansion of the trade to Russia was discussed with Archangel in mind. But it was dangerous, the critics of the monopoly of the slumbering Muscovy Company pointed out, for the English nation to depend for its supply of naval stores on Sweden only where they were subject to many and great grievances; it was safer to sail to Archangel than through the Sound where the passage might be obstructed; the Russians had no shipping and would not be capable of engaging in naval warfare and presumably would not therefore be in need of naval stores for their own use and prices would remain steady. Despite his initial denials of any such intention, the tsar did build a fleet consisting of men-or-war and galleys. Its creation was as spectacular an achievement as the building of St Petersburg, though less solid. In 1724 Russia had 35 warships but only 23 of these were seaworthy. The large galley fleet was well suited to operations in the skerries of the northern Baltic. However, Russia was still not a naval power and unlikely to become one for another 20 years (given the same rate of development). Nevertheless her fleet was an effective auxiliary weapon in the war against Sweden; it interfered with Swedish trade and in 1719, 1720 and 1721 transported and protected the troops which raided the Swedish coast.

During the first decade of the eighteenth century England's trade with Archangel grew while that with Livonia, Estonia and Courland suffered from the effects of the war. Riga was also affected by the prohibition which the tsar imposed in 1701 on exports thither from Ukraine. In the course of the subsequent ten years Ukrainian hemp was carried to Moscow for sale at Archangel and later also direct to St Petersburg. War damage as well as the tsar's preferential treatment of his future capital, on which work began in 1703, caused the decline of foreign trade with Narva, gradually to be superseded by St Petersburg. As early as 1705 the tsar was as eager to promote trade with England from Petersburg as Charles Whitworth, the British ambassador, was soon to be for English merchants to place orders there, especially for tar, which the conquest of Ingria had added to the range of naval stores at the tsar's disposal. By the autumn of 1710 Russia had replaced Sweden along the whole stretch of the Baltic coast from Riga to Viborg and gained control of every variety of the materials needed for building and maintaining large numbers of ships.

The maritime powere had long realized the importance of Livonia. In 1700 Augustus II was able to play on this awareness by claiming credit for having stopped the bombardment of Riga out of consideration for the property of the English and Dutch merchants there. In 1705 it was not for the sake of the Dutch but for fear of incurring opprobrium that the tsar abandoned the idea of bombarding Riga. The future of Livonia was beginning to cause serious concern in Europe. In 1706 Whitworth was asking rhetorically how far it might be in the interest of England and the Netherlands to let the tsar into the affairs and trade of Europe by the 'door' of Petersburg and Livonia. 'Several Swedish ministers think', he hints, 'you will never consent to such an establishment. The King of Poland has this notion likewise.' Whitworth deprecated the engrossment by Sweden or Russia of Riga together with its economic base - the areas 'round Polotsk and Vitebsk on the Dvina', and around Orsha, Shklov and Mohilev on the Dnieper from where for the time being the hemp 'growing ... for about thirty English miles on both sides of the river' was being exported to Königsberg-Pillau. The Russians in Poland had stopped the trade with Riga, the szlachta had hemp lying on their hands and could not deliver it safely to the Dutch or English merchants. Mr Crisp, an English merchant at Riga, was experiencing similar difficulties over some masts that he had lying in Poland. It fell to Whitworth to procure passes for these goods from the Russians.

In these early years of the Great Northern War naval stores, especially tar, were not easy to procure at a reasonable price and the English merchants at Archangel and Petersburg seemed just as aggrieved as those at Stockholm and Gothenburg. Sweden continued to be a capricious and frustrating supplier but her rival and possible successor on the southern shore of the Baltic was not proving to be any more accommodating. The fall of Riga caused Charles XII to issue his first trade prohibition amounting to a blockade of the Swedish ports occupied by Russia. Its consequences by degrees falsified two of the assumptions on which the development of England's trade with Russia was based: the Russians both had a fleet and were engaged in a sea war with Sweden in which Britain was to become all but formally involved and which by the summer of 1714 had cost her merchants over ł69,000 worth of shipping and goods and by the beginning of 1717 was to strip them of another ł45,000. After Charles XII's privateer ordinance, promulgated in February 1715, naval convoys protected the merchantmen from the Scylla of the Swedish blockade, but could not shield them from the Charybdis-like 'knavery' of the Muscovite suppliers who 'imposed' on the merchants. In 1711 the doggedness of Charles XII had caused as much alarm to the British government as the aggressiveness of the tsar, but so long as these balanced one another it seemed possible for England to set her trade with Russia on a favourable footing. In the middle of 1713 the tsar's territorial ambitions were viewed from London with some detachment as threatening principally his Saxon-Polish neighbour. In the spring of that year the northern allied engaged in planning their joint strategy had proposed a rather Delphic régime for Livonia that was apparently to have dispelled all suspicion of the tsar's intentions. Polish troops were to enter the province after all and it was to swear loyalty to the Republic but the tsar's garrisons were to stay put and the earlier oath of loyalty to him was to remain binding until the end of the war. But by September it was the intention of the maritime powers, according to their diplomatic representatives, to prevent the disintegration of Sweden and the excessive aggrandizement of Russia. The British envoy in Warsaw, Scott, was the principal advocate of a separate peace between Augustus II and Charles XII; the English were said to be very jealous of Russia. In September 1714 Bernstorff, already quoted on the political aspect of this point, informed Kurakin that on account of the Riga trade which they wished to see free from restrictions England and the Netherlands would want Livonia to be restored to Sweden under a general peace settlement. The tsar's periodic attempts to inveigle Britain into recognizing his claim to Livonia and Estonia by promising preferential terms for English merchants failed to produce the desired effect, although the Muscovy Company seemed eager to take advantage of a broad definition of the area assigned to it by its charter. The Russian chancellery obligingly stated that 'not only Ingermanland and Karelia but the greatest part of Eastland and Leifland did in old times belong to Russia'. In 1715 George Mackenzie on his return from Russia after a brief stay there as British minister resident (a stay preceded by a longer one in Poland as secretary in charge of affairs) submitted to the secretary of state a report on conditions in the provinces conquered by the tsar from Sweden. Excerpts from this memorandum were published in 1719 as a treatise 'tending to prove that it is no less the interest of our British trade, than of our State, that the Czar be not suffered to retain a fleet, if needs must he should [have] a seaport in the Baltic'. Though ill-written, Mackenzie's treatise, besides reiterating many of the ideas then current, shows a good grasp of technical detail and not a little acumen. After echoing Sir Thomas Roe - what food is to life, naval stores are to a fleet without which there can be no trade - Mackenzie points out that naval stores are the staple commodities of Muscovy proper (which is served by the port of Archangel), as well as of the Baltic provinces lately wrested by the tsar from Sweden. The interest of British trade cannot suffer the tsar to retain a port on the Baltic because such a port together with Archangel would provide him with the keys of the 'general magazine' of all the naval stores in Europe. His position would then be that of an unrivalled universal trader, for unlike the tsar, neither Denmark nor Sweden nor Poland, nor Prussia has at its disposal every single variety of naval stores. Finally, setting out from the premiss that the more markets there are, 'each under a different dominion', for supplying any demand, the easier and cheaper must be the purchase of the corresponding commodity, he discusses the future of Livonia, Estonia and Ingria. So long as these provinces and ports, he argues, are in the possession of the Swedes, they are only thoroughfares through which the commodities pass from their source to their destination, but in the hands of the tsar, together with the inland regions, they become magazines of his own commodities from which he can exclude the British middleman. Mackenzie adds in passing, obviously in relation to Livonia, that the cost of maintaining a 'third potentate' in possession there - King Augustus - would be equal to the losses caused by the existing situation.

For six years to come the question of Livonia and Estonia, the basic object of contention in the Great Northern War, was to prevent the restoration of peace in the north and cause further complications. It bedevilled the relations between Russia and Poland, was at the bottom of the conflict between England and Sweden, caused the deadlock of the negotiations for a Russo-British trade tready and barred the way to effective peace negotiations between Sweden and Russia. Swedish unwillingness to allow the tsar to keep all his conquests on the Baltic found support in British official circles: 'trade must be precarious so long as the whole market remains in his hands'. In 1719 Lord Carteret, the British ambassador to Sweden whose task was to restore the ancient friendship and good correspondence between the two crowns, wrote of 'the great and necessary design of driving the tsar out of the Baltic, at least out of Reval and Livonia', and in the following year Whitworth expressed the view that if the tsar had Livonia he would control practically the whole supply of naval stores, establish a direct commerce with Germany and have the trade carried in his own ships. Riga in peace time had as much shipping as all the other Baltic ports together.

Whereas the British ministry was willing enough to protect Danzig from the tsar and keep Elbing out of the clutches of the king of Prussia, it was never George I's declared intention that Livonia should fall to August II - Mackenzie's 'third potentate' - or to the Republic. From 1719, Britain did all she could to strengthen Sweden in her unwillingness to sacrifice Livonia, Estonia and Karelia, but the payment of subsidies and the despatch of squadrons to the Baltic were not enough. The league that might have compelled the tsar to make concessions to Sweden under British mediation was never brought into being, and by the peace of Nystad Sweden's eastern Baltic provinces were joined to Russia in their entirety. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was outflanked strategically as well as economically. 'Poland' lay entirely open to the tsar. In expressing this view in April 1721 Whitworth was more or less repeating the words spoken in January 1720 by Konstanty Szaniawski, bishop of Cuiavia. From now on it was natural for Russia to want to occupy Vitebsk, Polotsk and the left bank of the upper Dnieper - the areas marked out by Whitworth - and Polish Livonia, so as to draw profit from the areas supplying the 'thoroughfare' as well as from the 'thoroughfare' itself, by finally uniting the two as she did in 1772.

The pace of the economic life of those regions had long been set by the dealings between the merchants of Riga and their customers in the hinterland under the time-honoured system of advances in cash or kind from the merchants for goods to be supplied by the landowners or the richer peasants. Since the szlachta tended to buy goods imported from overseas in excess of the value of the produce sold by them, in all probability at artificially depressed prices, they found themselves in a state of chronic, and as interest dues accumulated, increasing indebtedness to the burghers. In the seventeenth century the rate of interest was 10 per cent. The debtors or their goods were liable to arrest. The number of burghers who owed money to their customers in the hinterland was comparatively small. Each supplier, moreover, was prohibited from dealing with any merchant other than his creditor, but the landowners tended to escape from this form of bondage by transferring their custom to Königsberg. Here, some of them asserted in a petition submitted in 1723, selling prices were higher and buying prices lower than in Riga and weights and measures and charges were more strictly controlled.

A further consequence of the annexation of Riga to Russia was the change in the routes used by the trade between the left-bank Ukraine and the West. Before the outbreak of the Great Northern War, produce had travelled by land or by water to Riga, Königsberg or Danzig, and overland to Breslau (Wrocław) via Ostrog, Olyka, Lutsk, Zamość, Piotrków, Wieruszów, Barczewo and Oleśnica or via Vladimir-Volynskii, Lublin, Radom, Opoczno, Piotrków, Kepno and Oleśnica, in all cases within the territory of the Republic. In 1711, after capturing Riga, the tsar restored its former link with Ukraine. From fiscal motives, however, the route was kept within the boundaries of Russia and now ran overland via Toropets; the tolls that would earlier have been levied on the Dvina for the Republic were collected on the highway for the tsar. In 1714, in order to increase the revenue from this source and from the port of Riga, the tsar stopped the trade with Silesia. The exports from Ukraine of oxen, Russian leather, hemp, flax, beeswax, tallow, saltpetre, etc., to Breslau, where they were exchanged for manufactured goods, paper, glassware, woolen, linen and silk fabrics, and metal tools - had already suffered from the war and unrest in Poland as well as from the deterrent effect of the tolls arbitrarily imposed by local landlords. If the 'great diminution in revenue' complained of by the grand treasurer of Poland, J. J. Przebendowski, could be calculated, it would make another item for inclusion in a statement of damage done to the Republic by the tsar's policies. The revenue from this source in 1712, of złotys 190,000 or 63,333 1/3 rix-dollars had amounted to only half of the corresponding figure for ca 1650. In 1723, at the request of the Emperor Charles VI the tsar eased the restrictions on the exportation of goods other than flax, hemp, saltpetre and elk hides.

In conclusion it may not be improper to guess at the consequences of the alternative extreme solution of the Northern Crisis. How would Poland-Lithuania have fared in the event of a Swedish victory over Russia? In terms of territory the price for the restitution to the Republic of the region of Smolensk would have been the loss of suzerainty over Courland and of Polish Livonia. The treaty of Warsaw of 1705 makes no direct reference to these delicate questions but shows that the Swedes intended to apply their hold on Poland principally to economic ends. The inland regions were to be subjected to a thorough draining by Swedish merchants who under the treaty were to be admitted without payment of tax to Danzig, Thorn, Warsaw, Cracow, Lvov, Jarosław and to Lithuanian towns. Their function would have been to channel the maximum of trade to Stettin by way of the Warta (on which unhindered navigation was stipulated) and the Oder, and in the Grand Duchy to Riga by the Dvina. According to 'Otwinowski' Charles XII had already, in 1703, ordered the destruction of all mills, dams and pools on the Warta, 'wishing loaded barges to ply from Poznan to Kostrzyn and thence by the Oder to Stettin to suit his interests'. The non-stop transit trade through Poland from Ukraine to Silesia and to Saxony was to be prohibited, ostensibly as being contrary to the interests of the Republic in that it flouted the ius stapulae but in fact to give the Swedish merchants the opportunity of pre-emption. With the same object the English merchants at Danzig were later to seek exemption from tax and the use of the Vistula and the tsar the right for his subjects to trade there without restriction. The transit of goods from Russia to Riga, on the other hand, was to be sanctioned, and the levies that both parties had imposed on the trade between Riga and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were to be abolished. The striking analogy between these provisions and the Russian measures of 1714, just noted, is due to rival but identical claims being laid to Riga. In its essence the contest for Livonia was the contest for Riga and its trade. The full application of these and other measures of the same nature would have added substantially to the customs duties collected at Riga and Stettin and hurt the burghers of Danzig. The chronic indebtedness of the szlachta and especially of the magnates in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to the merchants of Riga was still causing the Swedish authorities particular concern. All debts incurred before and during the war were to be paid and a commission was to be set up to regulate the contracting and discharge of debts without injury to creditor or debtor. The attitude towards this thorny question adopted by Augustus II and Peter I, the enemies of Charles XII and supposed allies, were contradictory. Reports sent from the Warsaw nunciature in 1700 and 1701 suggest that J.H. von Flemming, the chief confident of the king, wished to make trade in Riga free (allowing, for instance, foreigners to trade with one another), and that the king himself wished to show his benevolence by compelling the szlachta to settle their accounts with the burghers. By contrast, Tsar Peter's ordinance of 14 January 1724 (O.S.) regulated the relations between the traders of Riga and their 'Polish' customers mostly in accordance with the requests submitted earlier by the latter. The 'Poles', apprehensive of trading in Riga because of their old debts, should be allowed to go there without fear of arrest and should be enabled to pay off their debts gradually. Every time they brought a consignment of goods to Riga, they should apply five per cent of its value to the reduction of arrears. Interest on debts contracted before the peace with Sweden (1721) was to be waived. No 'Pole' or any goods of his should be arrested without the knowledge of the governor general of Riga. In consequence of this moratorium by 1764 various landowners in the Grand Duchy owed the merchants of Riga a total of 1,317,844 rix-dollars. At this time the merchants themselves were paying interest at the rate of one per cent a month on the loans made to them by their Dutch or English creditors. Peter the Great's chief purpose in promulgating the ordinance of 1724 was to safeguard his revenues by keeping up the turnover of trade at Riga but in so far as it favoured the szlachta and magnates of Polish Livonia and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the expense of the burghers of Riga, it can also be seen as a reward to those who had supported him during the war: Sieniawski, Pociej, Denhoff, the Oginskis and their friends. (Denhoff owned several landed estates in the palatinate of Sendomir but he also held the starosty of Lucyn or Ludza in Polish Livonia which produced potash, weidash and clapboard for export.) But, as has been noted, Riga was not the only outport for the Grand Duchy. The Oginskis, and others, also sent large quantities of hemp and flax to Königsberg. Riga's potential competitor, the port at Palanga, which had allowed the szlachta to trade direct with the English merchants, was to be destroyed and not to be rebuilt. Its condemnation was said to have resulted in a loss to the Republic of 200,000 rix-dollars, which 'the English' had allegedly offered to pay for once more making Palanga a 'free and open' port.

Sweden was patently disposed to treat Poland as something of a colony whereas Russia showed no desire to make the Republic the object of long-term economic exploitation. Despite the ultimate consequences of Russia's political influence in Poland, it may therefore be said that from the Polish point of view the Russian victory in the Great Northern War was the lesser evil. Nevertheless the statement made by an authority on the subject that Augustus II came out of the war 'as well as could be expected' requires qualification. The expectations associated by Augustus with the Northern War had been of the highest order. Whether the Republic would have had enough stamina to hold Livonia or enough skill and initiative to put it to economic use, may be doubted. But Augustus's failure to acquire it for himself resulted in his lacking what his predecessor, Sobieski, had lacked: an economic and political base for turning a pseudo-Republic into an absolute monarchy strong enough to check the expansionist tendencies of Poland's neighbours. The cost of the failure was heavy. The Republic did not lose any territory and this in itself was something of a triumph but the devastation and loss of life that follow in the wake of war and the plague had brought the utmost distress to the common people and penury to many of their masters. In embarking on a war with Sweden, Augustus had ignored public opinion and overestimated the degree of military effort of which the Republic was capable. George I, his counterpart as a dual sovereign, was more prudent in the management, as well as more fortunate in the condition, of his adoptive kingdom than Augustus II. The British navy proved to be of greater use to the one than the Polish cavalry to the other; the spectre of a Jacobite coup strengthened the hand of the government in England whereas the existence of an anti-king in the person of Stanisław divided and weakened Poland for a decade and a half. In the comparatively short space of four years George I carried off Bremen and Verden, but Augustus II had no gains to show for a period of belligerency five times as long. The tsar, the over-powerful ally on whom Augustus and his adherents had been obliged to lean for lack of effective support in Poland, had taken the lion's share of the spoils.

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