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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Clinched the relations already contracted at Neisse


Secretly

favoring the confederates of Barr whom he had but lately encouraged in their uprising, and whom he had suffered to make purchases of arms and ammunition in Prussia, Frederick II. had sought in Austria a natural ally, interested like himself in stopping the advances of Russia. The Emperor, Maria Theresa's husband, had died in 1764; his son, Joseph II., who succeeded him, had conceived for the King of Prussia the spontaneous admiration of a young and ardent spirit for the most illustrious man of his times. In 1769, a conference which took place at Neisse brought the two sovereigns together. "The emperor is a man eaten up with ambition," wrote Frederick after the interview; "he is hatching some great design. At present, restrained as he is by his mother, he is beginning to chafe at the yoke he bears, and, as soon as he gets elbow-room, he will commence with some 'startling stroke; it was impossible for me to discover whether his views were directed towards the republic of Venice, towards Bavaria, towards Silesia, or towards Lorraine; but we may rely upon it that Europe will be all on fire the moment he is master." A second interview, at Neustadt in 1770, clinched the relations already contracted at Neisse. Common danger brought together old enemies. "I am not going to have the Russians for neighbors," the Empress Maria Theresa was always repeating. The devastating flood had to be directed, and at the same time stemmed. The feeble goodwill of France and the small body of troops
commanded by Dumouriez were still supporting the Polish insurrection, but the Duke of Choiseul had just succumbed to intrigue at home. There was no longer any foreign policy in France. It was without fear of intervention from her that the German powers began to discuss between them the partition of Poland.

She was at the same time suffering disseverment at her own hands through her intestine divisions and the mutual jealousy of her chiefs. In Warsaw the confederates had attempted to carry off King Stanislaus Augustus, whom they accused of betraying the cause of the fatherland; they had declared the throne vacant, and took upon themselves to found an hereditary monarchy. To this supreme honor every great lord aspired, every small army-corps acted individually and without concert with the neighboring leaders. Only a detachment of French, under the orders of Brigadier Choisi, still defended the fort of Cracow; General Suwarrow, who was investing it, forced them to capitulate; they obtained all the honors of war, but in vain was the Empress Catherine urged by D'Alembert and his friends the philosophers to restore their freedom to the glorious vanquished; she replied to them with pleasantries. Ere long the fate of Poland was about to be decided without the impotent efforts of France in her favor weighing for an instant in the balance. The political annihilation of Louis XV. in Europe had been completed by the dismissal of the Duke of Choiseul.

The public conscience is lightened by lights which ability, even when triumphant, can never altogether obscure. The Great Frederick and the Empress Catherine have to answer before history for the crime of the partition of Poland, which they made acceptable to the timorous jealousy of Maria Theresa and to the youthful ambition of her son. As prudent as he was audacious, Frederick had been for a long time paving the way for the dismemberment of the country he had seemed to protect. Negotiations for peace with the Turks became the pretext for war-indemnities. Poland, vanquished, divided, had to pay the whole of them. "I shall not enter upon the portion that Russia marks out for herself," wrote Frederick to Count Solms, his ambassador at St. Petersburg. "I have expressly left all that blank in order that she may settle it according to her interests and her own good pleasure. When the negotiations for peace have advanced to a certain stage of consistency, it will no longer depend upon the Austrians to break them off if we declare our views unanimously as to Poland. She cannot rely any further upon France, which happens to be in such a fearful state of exhaustion that it could not give any help to Spain, which was on the point of declaring war against England. If that war do not take place, it must be attributed simply to the smash in the finances of France. I guarantee, then, to the Russians all that may happen to suit them; they will do as much for me; and, supposing that the Austrians should consider their share of Poland too paltry in comparison with ours, and it were desirable to satisfy them, one would only have to offer them that strip of the Venetian dominions which cuts them off from Trieste in order to keep them quiet; even if they were to turn nasty, I will answer for it with my head that our union with Russia, once clearly established, will tide them over all that we desire. They have to do with two powers, and they have not a single ally to give them a shoulder."


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