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Prussian King Frederick II ("the Great"), Correspondence preceding the First Partition of Poland (1770-71)

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Frederick to Privy Councillor of Legation Count von Solms at Saint Petersburg (Potsdam, February 20, 1771)

I think it well to communicate to you the details which I have received of the occupation effected by the Austrians of territory along the frontiers of Hungary, which seems to me interesting enough to merit the attention of the neighboring Powers. I have just learned that not only the Starosty [District] of Zips, but also those of Novitarg, Czorstyn, and another area equally considerable have been surrounded by an Austrian cordon; that the territory so occupied is probably some 20 miles in length, from the County of Sáros in Hungary to the frontiers of Austrian Silesia; that it contains in all several towns and up to ninety-seven villages; that the Court of Vienna has already exercised sovereign rights there several times; that in reply to the complaints made by the Republic of Poland, Prince Kaunitz has given replies which are vague, but clearly indicate an intention to assert ancient rights, and they are probably already at work in Vienna to make a case to justify and support these various seizures.

I have no doubt that Petersburg has already informed itself of most of this. I even remember that the first news which arrived of the occupation gave rise in the minds of many persons at the Russian Court to the idea of an equal aggrandizement for all Poland’s neighbors, and although I saw from one of your reports that that idea did not take general hold, and although I feel very strongly the reasons that could be adduced against it, I have yet thought well to write to you, because these reasons are always based on the assumption that the Court of Vienna will desist from its enterprise, whereas all the indications which I have just passed on to you make it plain that it is firmly resolved to persist in it.

If we thus look at the realities of the position, the question is no longer one of maintaining Poland intact, since the Austrians want to truncate it, but of preventing this dismemberment from upsetting that balance between the House of Austria and my own that is so important for me and of such interest to the Russian Court itself. But I see no other way of maintaining it than to imitate the example set me by the Court of Vienna, to assert, as it does, old claims which the archives will produce for me, and to place myself in possession of some little province of Poland, which can be restored if the Austrians desist from their enterprise or retained if they try to make good the pretended title alleged by them.

You will yourself feel that an acquisition of this kind could offend no one, that the Poles, who are the only party which would have a right to cry out, have by their attitude forfeited any right to be considered either by the Court of Russia or by my own, and that once the Great Powers are agreed, this could not prevent the work of pacification.

But I should like first to know the real feelings of the Russian Court on this question, and I leave you free to choose whatever means you regard as most proper and fitting to achieve this. If you succeed in getting the Empress and her Minister to adopt my views, you will be rendering me a service that will be the more agreeable because, as I see it, this is the only means of preserving equality between me and the Court of Vienna. I consequently have no doubt that you will employ all your tact to carry out this commission in accordance with my wishes, and that you will render me an exact and detailed account of how far you have been successful.

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