Towards Partition

Part One: Grand Designs

The meaning of partage. - Divisions in Poland (1704). - Early fears confirmed by early plans (1703). - Aims and attitudes of Prussia, Russia and Sweden. - The Prussian grand dessein of 1710. - Subsequent variations on that theme. - All chimerical unless approved by the tsar. - A Swedish scheme. - Polish fears revived. - Partition contrary to Russian interests.

King John Casimir’s gloomy prophecy of 1656 that the Republic would fall in direptionem gentium was not fulfilled. The danger of partition, in any case exaggerated, had been averted by the final outcome of the wars with Sweden and with Russia and had receded further before the deceptive military successes of John III Sobieski in the first decade of his reign. But the esprit de partage (which Frederick the Great was to condemn in 1768, a mere four years before he himself took part in the first dismemberment of Poland) knew no frontiers and at the end of the century was dormant only in eastern Europe while in the west it inspired the authors of the schemes for the partition of the Spanish inheritance. As it affected Poland-Lithuania in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, partition was a scheme for transferring portions of Poland-Lithuania to at least two of the Republic’s neighbours with or without the cooperation of its king. In the latter case the partage was the price to be exacted for allowing the constitutional monarch to become an absolute ruler, otherwise it was either a way of putting an end to the northern war by satisfying the belligerents or the ingredient of an alliance that could be expected to lead to the speedy victory of one side.

For by 1704 the war which had been intended to end quickly was felt to be dragging on and its end was not in sight. Augustus II had been forced to give up the siege of Riga in 1700, Charles XII had routed the Russians later in the same year at Narva and the Saxons in 1701 outside Riga, had entered Cracow and Warsaw in 1702. Charles had demanded the dethronement of Augustus II as early as August 1701, the king’s supporters rallied to him and formed a number of local confederacies in his interest in 1702 and 1703. His opponents did the same; in February 1704 in Warsaw they constituted themselves a confederacy, proclaimed an interregnum and began negotiations for peace and an alliance with Sweden. The loyalists responded by forming their own confederacy at Sandomierz in May 1704, Charles XII counterchecked them in July by ordering the election of an anti-king, Stanisław Leszczyński (1677-1766), at that time palatine of Poznan. A de facto civil war had begun.

These Swedish successes, however, were to some extent matched by Peter I’s progress in Ingria and Estonia, with the conquest of Nöteborg in 1702, Nyenskans (soon to become the site of St Petersburg) in 1703 and of Dorpat and Narva in 1704. In this initial period, in 1701, 1702 and 1703 the tsar, allied with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from June 1703 and with Poland from August 1704 but anxious for Prussian support, was willing to allow Frederick I to lay claim to Royal (or Polish) Prussia. But this was no more than tentative diplomatic bargaining and had as yet little to do with actual partition. Not that what followed on the same lines was any less detached from military or political reality, and anything other than wishful thinking concerned with remote possibilities. These reveries may have begun even earlier. It is not out of the question that Frederick Augustus I, Elector of Saxony, and his right-hand man, Colonel J.H. von Flemming, had planned the Elector’s enthronement in Poland-Lithuania with the intention that in due couse he should exchange some of the Republic’s territorial assets with Prussia and Russia for their connivance at King Augustus’s making himself an absolute and hereditary monarch. According to the papal nuncio that was precisely what some Poles feared as early as January 1698. It is also the case that Frederick Augustus regarded his Saxon territories as his personal property which he was at liberty to alienate if he so wished and it is likely that he found it convenient to take the same view of the Republic, a view reflected in a remark which the temporarily dethroned King Augustus made in 1707 for the benefit of Charles XII: 'La Pologne est assez grande pour en demembrer quelques unes des provinces dont elle se compose.' The szlachta on the other hand, with the possible exception of a small minority of Lithuanian separatists, regarded the territories of the Republic as its own property sacrosanct and inalienable. This republican view was clearly stated by the partisans of Augustus II as well as by those of Leszczyński who made his election conditional on Charles XII’s promise that he would not allow the alienation of any province of the Republic under any pretext whatever.

Assuming that Augustus II did not act with premeditation, and avoiding the trap of a 'conspiracy theory', it could be said that the critical time at which the esprit de partage descended on Augustus II and Flemming, was somewhere between the battle of Kliszow in July 1702 and that of Puł8tusk in April 1703 in both of which the Polish king suffered further defeat at the hands of Charles XII. The man to step into, or to be cast in, the role of providential peacemaker was a Saxon named Christian Müller von Kisefeld, a self-styled 'statist and publicist' and a Protesant zealot, eager for the revival of his religion in Poland-Lithuania. In the spring of 1703 Müller travelled to Berlin and from there, with the approval of the Prussian court but without official status, to the Swedish headquarters, where he contrived to have laid before Charles XII his plan for a partition of the Republic as the basis of a peace settlement. Prussia was to receive Polish Prussia, Sweden - the Duchy of Courland and a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the tsar - the right-bank Ukraine. The Emperor, it was expected, would not object to the plan if the partitioners (presumably Saxony and Prussia) provided him with 60,000 troops for the war with France. King Augustus should retain the rest of the Republic’s territory as a hereditary and absolute ruler, provided that he renounced his conversion to Roman Catholicism. Similar schemes, soon to be put forward by the Prussian ministers, were to meet with the full approval of Flemming who may well have been the author of the first one. In Müller’s proposal the moral justification for a partition is founded on the bad political character of the Poles and of their Republic. The Poles are reproached with being disloyal, corrupt, covetous and generally noxious, depraved by their political freedom and a thorn in the flesh of their neighbours and the rest of Europe. These sentiments are almost certainly echoes of the bitternes and disappointment that must have been felt by Augustus II and Flemming at the failure of their ill-conceived policies in Poland, particularly the involvement of the Republic in the war with Sweden. Flemming, apparently perturbed at the consequences of his own miscalculation and shortsightedness, now warned the court of Berlin of the threat that Tsar Peter’s successes on the Baltic seaboard posed to the King of Prussia and his neighbours. Here was an opportunity to check the tsar at the expense of the Republic. Müller, whom Flemming, laying a false trail, described as an accomplished adventurer and a dangerous projector who had engaged in libel, extortion, malicious litigation and alchemy, seems to have had more than a little in common with his detractor and probably puppet-master.

So narrow was the gap between irrational amateurism and raional professionalism in diplomatic planning that Müller’s scheme prompted the minister in charge of Prussian foreign policy, H.R. von Ilgen (1654-1728), to conceive later in the same year a peace plan based on the same principle of partition designed on a much larger scale but hardly more practicable, the first of a series of desseins. Prussia would receive from Poland Polish Prussia, a district in Greater Poland (Wielkopolska) and from Augustus II as supposed feudal overlord the reversion of the Duchy of Courland upon the extinction of the reigning dynasty, the Kettlers; Sweden and Russia - unspecified Polish-Lithuanian territories to be agreed upon by the Kings of Prussia and Sweden, and approved by the King of Poland who would become a hereditary and absolute ruler. The project comprised a strong admixture of adventurism, for the success of the scheme depended on a coup de force in Poland: the army was to be incapacitated and all political assemblies were to be forbidden. In assuming that Tsar Peter would give up his foothold on the Baltic the scheme also shows a not altogether surprising lack of realism. But seen from the Prussian point of view, the fundamental strategic aim of the grand dessein was sound, envisaging as it did the maximum aggrandizement of Brandenburg-Prussia at the expense of Poland-Lithuania, both for its own sake and as a counterpoise to the excessive expansion of Sweden or Russia. The first, if faltering, step in this direction was made about the same time. Taking advantage of the fact that the Republic had failed to honour its undertaking of 1699 to buy off in a payment of 300,000 thaler Frederick I’s claim as mortgagee to the city and port of Elbing, the Prussians occupied Elbing in October only to be ousted by the Swedes in December 1703. At the very least Prussia wanted to establish a land-bridge of linea communicationis across Polish territory between Pomerania and Prussia. (It will be recalled that an extra-territorial motorway through the 'Polish Corridor' was one of the unacceptable demands put forward by Hitler in 1939.) Elbing with its port, fortress and fertile surrounding district, a desirable acquisition in peacetime, was in wartime the key to Polish Prussia.

The tsar for his part, between 1703 and 1705, in his search for a mediator or an ally was at least as inclined to offer to Frederick I various portions of Polish territory as the King of Prussia was eager to demand them. At one point, in 1705, he also extended an open hand towards Charles XII: he might help the royal Swede towards something in Lithuania and cared little if this resulted in a loss to the Republic. In 1709 in joining the defensive alliance between Prussia, Saxony and Denmark, in a vaguely worded secret article the tsar undertook to put Frederick I in possession of Elbing as part of a general peace settlement but from 1710 judged that city to be much needed by himself for communication beteen Livonia, newly occupied by the Russians, and Pomerania, soon to become a theatre of war.

When the Prussians did not see the territories of the Republic as an object of partage, they regarded them, early in 1705 and in 1706, as a compensation fund from which they could receive a reward for entering the war on the side of Sweden or for adopting an attitude of benevolent neutrality towards Augustus II in which case the recompense would be the land-bridge to Prussia. Augustus II had, upon his election, sworn to guard the integrity of the Republic, a promise which he had already broken and would continue to break. Chales XII on the other hand was able to declare truthfully in January 1706 that he could easily have accepted the vey tempting offers made to him by the enemy, he could have aggrandized himself by accepting the offer of rich provinces dismembered from the Republic 'but he had preferred to keep his word (informally given) and to act for the support and well-being of the Republic'. These sentiments were echoed by Leszczyński in 1712. This was not pure chivalry. With a Swedish eye on the future the treaty made in Warsaw in 1705 between Charles XII and King Stanisław had opened the inland regions of Poland-Lithuania to Swedish merchants who were to be admitted without payment of toll to Gdansk, Thorn, Warsaw, Cracow, Lvov, Jaros∏aw and to Lithuanian towns, obviously to buy up primary produce at favourable prices for export through the Swedish ports of Szczecin and Riga. In order to facilitate commercial transactions new Polish coins were eventually to be minted to the same standards of weight and fineness as those of Sweden. In protecting the integrity of the Republic Charles XII was safeguarding the prospective profits of Swedish merchants and the revenues of the Swedish Crown from customs duties.

In August 1706 Charles XII invaded Saxony, in September, by the treaty of Altranstaedt he obliged Augustus II to make peace and renounce the Polish crown. Early in 1706, after the Swedes had crushed the Saxons in the battle of Wschowa (Fraustadt), some of the supporters of Augustus II, despairing of their king and seeking such external protection as they could find, were willing to make underhand territorial concessions to Prussia but these did not necessarily involve a partition. In September 1707 Charles XII was back in Poland, in January 1708 he crossed the Niemen and began operations against the Russian armies in Lithuania. In White Russia, where the Poles had fought the Muscovites in 1653 and 1656, his luck and judgement deserted him. After the inconclusive battle of Golovchino in June 1708 he was no longer seen as invincible and in September he left Peter I in possession of the field at Lesnaia, in July 1709 Peter I scattered the Swedish army at Poltava in the Ukraine in what appeared to be one of the decisive battles of the western world. Charles XII found sanctuary in Turkey.

In the spring of 1709, well before that battle, the planners of Prussian policy, evidently assuming that Charles XII’s position was already so weak that he would have to make peace, at the prompting of Augustus II revised and revived Ilgen’s grand dessein, making it even grander in scope and turning it into a societas leonina directed against Sweden. The other participants were to be Augustus II, restored to the Polish throne as a hereditary and absolute ruler, Stanisław Leszczyński, Russia, Denmark, Hanover and Hesse-Cassel. In June Augustus, not yet reinstated, declared unexpectedly - perhaps because at that point he was acting in concert with King Frederick IV of Denmark - that he wished to regain his kingdom with a partage or a demembrement (a useful semantic distinction between two and more than two sharers, not generally observed). Nevertheless after his return to Poland in August 1709 he was willing enough to join Frederick I and the tsar in an act of dismemberment that was to establish his sovereignty in the Republic, in other words make him a hereditary and absolute monarch. But in October the tsar curtly dismissed the King of Prussia’s proposals for a partage as impracticable, putting in an anticipatory nutshall the central argument of this chapter. Outside the Republic the legitimacy of a partition was not questioned and even the Pope was concerned mostly with its confessional consequences. In the summer of 1709, before the battle of Poltava, Clement XI had expected a general pacification with the participation of Denmak and Prussia, to be followed by the return to Poland of King Augustus and involving a partition of the Republic. The Pope did not want this to happen for fear of Catholic areas falling into the hands of the heretical Elector of Brandenburg. In 1714 he was to demand of Augustus II that he abandon his intention of establishing an absolute monarchy in Poland, probably not so much from a respect for republican institutions as in the knowledge that sovereignty was the companion of partage and would be resisted by the szlachta.

Frederick I believed that the changed situation in Poland provided him with the unique opportunity of recovering the former possesions of the Teutonic Order that in his opinion were due to him in equity and by the will of God, as well as of obtaining the much desired line of communication across Polish Prussia. The cost to Prussia of these gains was to be almost nil. Augustus II would be allowed a free hand in Poland and Prussia would refrain from mediating between Sweden and its opponents, Augustus and the tsar, without their consent. As the Saxons found this offer inadequate the Prussians next approached the tsar and demanded in return for a treaty of alliance against the still formidable Swedes the whole of Polish Prussia as well as Elbing and the territory of the episcopal principality of Warmia, the whole of Samogitia, the reversion of the Duchy of Courland and the whole of Swedish Pomerania. The tsar, however, took the view that the merely defensive accord which he had made with Prussia at Kwidzyn (Maienwender) in November 1709 did not warrant any such concessions. Undeterred, Frederick I inserted his grand dessein in the agenda for the discussions which he held with Augustus II at the beginning of 1710 only to be rebuffed on that side too. It was obvious that no such plan could be put into effect without the cooperation of the tsar who was virtually master of Poland. So well did Frederick and his advisers grasp this point that a further version of the grand dessein was phrased so as to give the impression that its authot was none other than the tsar himself. The document, pompous in its name, deceitful in its attribution, hypocritical in its sentiments, presages at once the proceedings of the Dumb Diet of 1717 and the act of partition of 1772. The invocation of the true interest of the Polish people whose government had been so harmful to the tranquillity of that nation and all its neighbours seeks to justify the sinister purpose of the plot - a coup de force to be executed principally by the tsar and followed by a political diktat to be accepted without discussion. Poland would assume 'another form'. The tsar would receive Swedish Livonia and a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Prussia - Polish Prussia, Samogitia, the reversion of Courland and some districts in Greater Poland; Augustus II - the remainder as a hereditary ruler. A special status would be reserved for Gdansk and Riga. In addition the Republic would renounce in favour of the House of Austria the Polish rights over the enclave of Zips (Spisz, on the southern slope of the Carpathians, mortgaged to Poland by Hungary in 1412), now occupied by Russian troops. This was the first occasion on which Austria was formally included in a list of potential partitioners of Poland-Lithuania. The preliminary coup was to be carried out by a combined military force of 60,000 men. The elaborate provisions for dealing with individual dignitaries (senators and other grandees) - each one was to make a declaration for or against the proposed changes without joint consultations - and for the treatment of the supporters and opponents of the new dispensations inadvertently reveal the obstacles that would have hindered the execution of the plan. The dessein was only in part approved by the Saxon court, the Russians who no doubt could see through the whole intrigue and realized that it had little to offer them, turned it down.

One scholar equates the 'tranquillity' which the scheme of 1710 was to restore in Poland with 'equilibrium' but this is a quibble, balance is precisely what most of these schemes did not seek to preserve, designed as they were to benefit mainly Prussia and neglecting the interests of the two principal combatants in the northern war. Neither Sweden nor Russia would allow its chief enemy, let alone a third party, occupy a position of predominance in Poland-Lithuania. Still less would Sweden, whose king behaved as if he were not even down let alone out, grant Russia a foothold on the Baltic or the tsar renounce it for the sake of peace, and that, incidentally, is why the war had to be fought to a finish. None of these considerations, however, deterred the projectors. All their designs, great and small, were and were to remain so many pipe-dreams, visions of unattainable ends which touched with fantasy negotiations that called for clear-headed realism.

In November 1710 Turkey declared war on Russia; early in 1711 the tsar put forward a new version of the dessein in a form recast so much to his advantage that the Prussians rejected it out of hand. The motives for this step are obscure - was it a piece of bravado intended to show that Peter I was not afraid of Turkey or a warning to the supporters of Stanilas Leszczyński and, by association, of Charles XII? Prussia was to receive Polish Prussia and Warmia, Russia - White Russia and the right-bank Ukraine. The constitution of the Republic, and with it the dominant position of the tsar, would remain unchanged. Nominally a defensive alliance against those portions of the Republic which were expected to come to the aid of Charles XII and the sultan, the plan was in reality one for an alliance directed against those two monarchs, a commitment into which Prussia did not wish to enter. The text of this proposal which was received in Berlin on 28 Januay 1711 is not published in PB; in any case it was superseded by the offer of an alliance dated 2 March 1711 O.S. (two days after Russia had counter-declared war on Turkey) in defence against a Swedish irruption into Poland from Turkey or into Saxony from Swedish Pomerania. In return for military action Prussia would receive Swedish Pomerania and a line of communication between Prussian Pomerania and the Vistula. The good offices of Russia would be used to obtain for Prussia the repeal of the reversion of the King of Poland’s suzerainty over East Prussia in the event of the extinction of the line of Hohenzollern and the renunciation of the Republic’s claim to Lebork, Bytow and the starosty of Drahim (Draheim, which had been mortgaged to the Great Elector but was never redeemed). The annexation by Prussia of Samogitia and of Courland (without the district of Semigallia) is veiled by the reference to 'the ancient Prussian frontier up to the river Aa (Lielupa)'. The object of the scheme was clearly to protect Augustus II’s position both in Saxony and in Poland but the price, to be paid by the Republic, was punitive. By June 1711 Peter had again changed his tack. The concert made between himself and Augustus at Jarosław included the tsar’s solemn declaration that he had no intention of restoring the Eastern Empire or laying waste and dismembering the Republic, a suspicion which had given rise to not a little jalousie at other Courts and could do much harm to the interests of the northern allies. The matter had been discussed in good faith and His Majesty once more denied for the present and for the future both intentions attributed to him. It would be pleasing to His Majesty if His Polish Majesy were to take all possible steps to allay such suspicions wherever they might arise. It was an astonishing statement to make. Its object was to stem the rising tide of Russophobia in Poland, in western Europe and perhaps also in Turkey, but like all dementis it was more apt to arouse than to dispel suspicion.

In 1712 Ilgen, alarmed at the tsar’s ascendancy over Poland-Lithuania and the prospect of Russian hegemony in the North, fleetingly renounced and condemned partition as being of no benefit to Prussia and put forward a different plan: in return for territorial concessions Prussia would mediate between Augustus II and Charles XII. This time, perhaps because Ilgen was in earnest, his asking price was comparatively moderate: Courland, Szczecin (in place of Elbing whence the Russians had ousted the Swedes in February 1710) and line of communication, now referred to as a via regia, across Polish Prussia. Prussia would reciprocate by establishing a condominium with Saxony in the district of Krosno (Crossen) so as to creat a territorial link between that Electorate and Poland. The Polish senators who were consulted objected to the intended territorial concessions: the Republic had entered the war in order to recover past losses, not to suffer new ones - but Leszczyński was willing to renounce his right to the Polish throne in order to facilitate a settlement. Charles XII studied the plan which gave him the chance of joining forces with Prussia and Poland-Saxony against Russia but rejected it after the renewed declaration of war by Turkey on Russia had improved his position. It transpired during these negotiations that Charles XII was not absolutely inflexible on the point of the preservation of the territorial integrity of the Republic, he would have considered allowing the Prussians to annex a piece of Polish territory but only if they contributed to the recovery by Poland of Polish Livonia from Russia. The point on which Charles XII would not yield as matter of honour (and expediency) was his demand for the establishment of Stanisław Leszczyński on the Polish throne. That was indeed the conditio sine qua non on which at the end of 1712 and in the middle of 1713 he was willing to make an alliance with Prussia. In return for the dubious gain of a Swedish viceroy Poland was to give up to Prussia Warmia and Elbing, and allow the extra-territorial line of communication between Brandenburg and Prussia which the Poles were known to be unwilling to grant for fear that it might enable Prussia to obtain a foothold on the left bank of the Vistula which, in conjunction with Kwidzyn close to the right bank, would make it possible for the Prussians to interfere with commecial navigation on the Vistula. It is strange that Chales XII who in 1705 in his treaty with Stanisław and his supporters had made provision for the economic exploitation of Poland-Lithuania should have overlooked this pitfall. Prussia was also to receive half of the cash indemnity to be exacted by Sweden from Russia at the end of the war. But as the Prussians would not abandon King Augustus there was no basis for negotiation.

After Frederick William I (who succeeded his father in 1713) had ended a long period of Prussian hesitation by declaring war on Sweden in May 1715, the grand dessein was revised yet again, this time on the initiative of the Polish-Saxon court by the instrumentality of Flemming, that indefatigable but clumsy schemer. In return for Saxon military assistance in the operations against Sweden, Prussia would with her troops help Augustus II to establish his sovereignty in what would be left of Poland-Lithuania after Prussia had taken Polish Prussia, Elbing, Warmia, Samogitia and Courland and the Emperor Charles VI had been made Grand Duke of Lithuania, a new and fanciful proposal put forward by Flemming no doubt in order to keep the tsar out of the Republic. Peter I would retain his conquests on the Baltic but Polish Livonia with the addition of Riga would go to Augustus II. The draft of the agreement to that effect reveals the motives and intentions of the authors of the scheme. In giving vent to the exasperation of Augustus II and his entourage at the unruliness of the szlachta who by their inconstancy, disloyalty and open revolt had made the Republic ungovernable, it jusifies the extreme remedies that were being proposed: the king was in conscience bound to apply them in order to prevent new wars and calamities. After a military intervention by Saxon and Prussian troops there would be no more senatus consilia or sessions of the Sejm. For his part Ilgen did not believe that Lithuania under the Habsburgs would provide any protection against the tsar and probably did not relish the prospect of an Austian presence in the proximity of East Prussia but the Prussians’ demande were as exorbitant as ever. In consequence, except for the use of Saxon troops in Prussian operations against Sweden in Pomerania, this project too came to nothing. The chief obstacle, however, was and always would be in any similar circumstances, the opposition of the tsar. As Frederick William I put it: without the tsar’s accession everything that had been proposed by the 'Polish' court seemed 'sehr chimerique'. Quite so. All the comings and goings of the projectors, their secret confabulations, the drafting of treatises, the ciphering and deciphering of dispatches, all the diplomatic hustle and bustle was futile and of interest only as a record of unsatisfied appetites and thwarted ambitions because the real master of the situation was Tsar Peter.

But eastward-thrusting Prussia, if it could not put through a grand dessein, was not above trying on a small one. In 1715 the court of Berlin was eager to seize the opportunity of buying for the King of Prussia through his envoy in the Republic the starosty (benefice in the gift of the Crown) of Grudziadz, situated on both banks of the Vistula. In Prussian hands it would have provided a convenient stepping stone towards Prussia. The details of this abortive transaction are revealing. The potential vendor was the grand chancellor of Poland, Jan Szembek (d. 1730) who wished with the proceeds to buy a hereditary estate. The king having refused (one may wonder on whose advice?) to allow the assignment, Flemming put in a bid for the starosty but the king again refused permission, acting in both instances in the interest of national security. Augustus II apparently feared that Flemming, first Kabinettsminister since 1712, might retire from his service and cede the starosty to the king of Prussia.

Another inhabitant of the dreamland of power politics was a high Swedish official, Josias Cederhielm. After having been taken prisoner at Poltava he was allowed by the Russians to travel to Stockholm to discuss the exchange of prisoners of war. On his return into captivity he kept up a clandestine correspondence with some of his colleagues and his king. To Cederhielm as to Ilgen or Flemming no recipe for a solution of the crisis seemed to exceed the bounds of possibility and to a responsible bureaucrat any device that would put an end to a costly and potentially disastrous war was worth trying. Characteristically for a man who attached much importance to equilibrium he hedged his options. In 1710 and 1711 he was of the opinion that Sweden should either make a separate peace with the tsar or form a coalition against him with Prussia and Augustus II who would be induced to change sides by the promise of a free hand in Poland. The final outcome of such a league would be a partage to the advantage of Sweden and Prussia consisting in the respective annexations of Pskov with Novgorod Severskii, Kiev and the whole Ukraine would be recovered from Russia, not for the Republic, however, but for the benefit of Stanisław Leszczyński. The practical consequences of such a division do not appear to have entered into Cederhielm’s calculations.

In 1718 the Polish fears of a partition were reawakened. This time the formula was taken up by G.H. von Goertz (1668-1719) Sweden’s Flemming (but more capable and more astute than the Field Marshal) to be applied as a painless remedy for the troubles of the North. The modus operandi was to be the establishment of Stanisław Leszczyński brought back from the obscurity of his retreat at Zweibruecken in the Palatinate in a part of the Republic dismembered for his sake and also curtailed of some of its territories in or close to Royal Prussia. Once the peace negotiations in the Aland islands had got under way Goertz was said to have worked out a more detailed proposal which allowed the tsar to keep most of his conquests on the Baltic, did not give him any part of the Republic but assigned the Grand Duchy of Lithuania to Stanisław (as always a Swedish puppet), and parts of Royal Prussia to Sweden to make up for the retrocession of Pomerania and Szczecin. This was only one of a whole series of Goertz’s vertiginous flights of fancy beside which the baroque dreams of the earlier one look like models of orderliness and rationality. In the concoction of these scenarios in which Stanisław was the central figure Goertz was assisted by the soldier and diplomat in Charles XII’s service, Stanilas Poniatowiki (1676-1762), the future father of the last king of Poland, Stanisław Augustus in whose reign the Republic was to fall victim to the esprit de partage, Tsar Peter’s attitude towards these schemes from which he had nothing to gain was, naturally, guarded, he advised Leszczyński to content himself with the resitution of his estates and a promise of support in the next royal election. In Poland, in September 1718, Goertz’s plans gave rise to an elaborately constructed rumour: the tsar and the King of Prussia have made a treaty of mutual assistance. They will make peace with Sweden under the terms of which the tsar will keep only some of his gains on the Baltic. Prussia will hand back to Sweden Szczecin but receive in compensation, at the expense of the Republic, Elbing, territory of the bishopric of Warmia, access to the Vistula from Pomerania across Royal Prussia and some other parts of that province. The tsar now favours Stanisław whose daughter will marry a member of the House of Baden in order to obtain a foothold in the Empire. The tsar and the King of Sweden will conclude an alliance to the detriment of the Empire and will defend the rights of the Protestants in the Empire; they have come to an understanding with the Protestants in Poland through a man named Jabłoński (Daniel Ernest, 1660-1741, superintendent of the Bohemian Brethren in Poland and of the Reformed Church in Lithuania) and have similar links in Hungary. They have the support of the grand hetman of Lithuania (L.K. Pociej, 1664-1730), they intend to make the Grand Duchy independent of the Republic and also to detach Courland therefore. In order to sow discord and suspicion between the King and the Republic they will send to Grodno - the venue of the next Sejm - an agent who will put it about that the King intends to have the Republic partitioned by its neighbours and will provoke a rupture of the Diet. Whoever had spread this story abroad had obviously done so in the joint interest of Augustus II, the Emperor and the Church of Rome. In November of that year the King of Prussia in his own name and in that of the tsar denied rumours to the effect that it was the intention of the two monarchs to attack the Republic in order to destroy it or lay it waste and annex some of its provinces. Augustus II in welcoming the denial and attendant assurance of friendly intentions ominously pointed at the many difficulties that would hinder the execution of such a plan.

Early in 1719 the Russian troops which had been withdrawn from Mecklenburg to Poland still showed no signs of moving eastwards, thus arousing the suspicion in the whole of Europe as to the tsar’s intentions towards Poland. In a letter to Augustus II, Peter I indignantly dismissed the rumours of any sinister designs on his part as groundless and emanating from the king himself. He rebutted the suggestion that he intended to detach Courland from Poland and to take part in a division of the Republic, making it plain that he was strongly opposed to any such scheme because a partition of Poland-Lithuania involved the establishment of a hereditary monarchy and the extinction of political freedom in the Republic. That would be contrary both to the principles on which the relations between the two countries rested and to his own interest. The same objection applied to the establishment of a hereditary monarchy pure and simple which the tsar in turn suspected the king and the Sejm of preparing. That was Peter Alekseevich’s principal official reason for keeping his troops in Poland. Whose suspicions were better founded, the tsar’s or the king’s, is a matter for separate discussion. What is relevant to the present theme is the incidental statement of Russian policy: partition as desired at various times by Augustus II and by Prussia was contrary to 'my interest' which also had to reckon with armed resistance in the Republic and an outcry in Europe. It was as much Tsar Peter’s intention to keep the Republic intact but weak and under his thumb as it was the objective of Prussian policy to close the gap between Pomerania and Prussia and to shift the frontier of Prussia from the upper Niemen to the upper Dvina at the expense of the Republic but - since a price had to be paid - to the political and dynastic advantage of Augustus II. This the tsar, who was in military control of the Republic, would never allow and had no difficulty in preventing.

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