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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 Count von Solms (Potsdam, February 27, 1771)

Your dispatch of the twelfth of this month has duly reached me, and since it informs me that the postillion carrying the post of January 27 was robbed near Petersburg, I hasten to send you herewith a duplicate of my orders of the twenty-seventh of that month.

I also enclose a passport which the “Administrator” of the district of Poland occupied by the Court of Vienna issued on November 8, 1770, to the Staroste [Prefect] Pelilcancyk, which shows only too clearly that that Court already regards that district, with all its dependencies, as States incorporated in its Kingdom of Hungary. This move proves clearly enough that it is determined to keep it, and I have every reason to suppose that it will never relinquish it unless obliged to do so by force majeure.

This idea naturally leads me on to another, and leads me to believe that the best course would be if Russia and I profited equally from this situation, and if, imitating the Court of Vienna, we looked to our own interests and derived some real and proportionate advantage from it. It seems to me, in fact, that it must be indifferent to Russia in which quarter she gets the compensation she is, as your despatch announces, so anxious to obtain. For although her present war arose solely out of Polish affairs, I do not see why she need think only of gaining her compensation from the territory of that Republic, and for myself, if I want to prevent the balance from being tipped too far to the Austrian side, I could not renounce obtaining for myself, in the same way, some small part of Poland, if it were only as a token equivalent for my subsidies and the losses and damage that I have suffered during this war. Even more, I shall be greatly pleased if I am able to say truthfully that it is to Russia that I am chiefly obliged for this new acquisition, which will, at the same time, furnish a new opportunity for us to reaffirm our mutual links and to render them more unbreakable than ever.

As to her peace negotiations, she may, on the contrary, rest well assured that I shall not cease to support her to the best of my power, and that I shall leave no stone unturned to procure for her a glorious peace; and on this point, I must inform you that her Minister at Vienna, Prince Galitzin, has already carried out the commission which he was ordered to perform with Prince Kaunitz. So far, however, he is still waiting for his answer, Kaunitz having only received his proposals ad referendum, pending Her Imperial and Royal Majesty’s decision. He will soon be given his answer, and we shall see how it will run. [ . . . ]

[The rest of the despatch is concerned only with enjoining the completest secrecy.]

Source of English translation: C.A. Macartney, ed., The Habsburg and Hohenzollern Dynasties in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, in Documentary History of Western Civilization. New York, Evanston, and London: Harper & Row, 1970, pp. 355-59. Introduction, editorial notes, chronology, translations by the editor; and compilation copyright © 1970 by C.A. Macartney. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source of original French texts: R. Koser, Aus der Vorgeschichte der ersten Teilung Polens [From the Prehistory of the First Partition of Poland] (Session Reports of the Royal Academy of Berlin, 1908), pp. 286ff; and Politische Korrespondenz Friedrich des Großen [Political Correspondence of Frederick the Great], vol. XXX, nos. 19687 and 19710. [The correspondence appears here in the original French.]

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