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motive which actuated the Polish nation in this fundamental infringement of their constitution, was, to exclude their neighbours from all interference in their domestic affairs, and to recover that independence which they had lost through those intestine confusions that in variably arose on the demise of their Kings, or proceeded from the disorderly construction of their government. This first and most essential step to emerge from a situation which had so long subjected them to the tyrannical controul of those imperious neighbours, was accordingly viewed by them as an attempt against their usurpations, which, if not timely repressed, might terminate finally in a total overthrow of that domineering system which had at first prompted the dismemberment of Poland; and probably would never cease until it had accomplished the total destruction of that unfortunate kingdom, by a final division of all its remain ing parts among those rapacious invaders.
Such being the intimate persuasion of the Poles, and indeed of all Europe, it was now incumbent on, them, after this unequivocal manifestation of their designs, to prepare against the worst that might happen, and to put themselves in a posture to resist the efforts that would infallibly be made to replace them in a state of subjection. The augmentation of the army continued with indefatigable diligence on the part of those who were entrusted with that department; and the commonalty at large seemed no
eager to second the intentions of their rulers. The levies oftroops were made with all facility, and consisted of the choicest men in the
nation. The ancient inveteracy between the Russians and the Poles operated powerfully among the lat ter, and animated even the very lowest classes to come forwards and partake of the honour of becoming the champions of their country. Ideas of this nature pervaded the whole nation. Those who were witnesses at this time of the prodigious ardour that inflamed people of all denominations, have since repeatedly asserted, that could a sufficient quantity of arms and military necessaries have been provided at this juncture, and a competent degree of discipline introduced among the vast multitudes that offered their services, their resistance would have proved invincible; the calamities that afterwards ensued have been effectually prevented; and Poland at this day have been an independent kingdom.
This aspect of affairs marked the commencement of the year 1791. To the spirited determination of the Poles, to risk a contest for their liberties, a fresh motive was added at this period, by the prospect afa quarrel between the courts of London and Petersburg. The patriotic party in Poland had formed the greatest expectations from an event of this nature; which, had it taken place, must undoubtedly have been highly favourable to their cause. The latter court quickly perceived the consequences of such a rupture, and how strongly it would operate against the meditated subjugation of this country. Hence, probably, the relinquishment of the conquests made over the Turks and the affected moderation with which that ambitious court accepted of the cession of Oczakow in lieu of the vast preten
sions it had formed, and would in all likelihood have enforced, had not the danger of its designs on Poland being frustrated so opportunely interposed for the preservation of the Turkish provinces.
In this critical situation of Poland at this time, it sincerely regretted the unbounded confidence that had been placed in the promises and expectations held out by the Prussian court, and which had induced the diet to accelerate some measures that might, perhaps, have been more prudently deferred. The necessity of not standing alone in the difficult attempt that was projected, rendered the wisest of the patriotic party willing to enter into any accommodation with the court of Berlin, not inconsistent with the clearest right and propriety on the part of Poland. But the peremptory demand of both Dantzic and Thorn was so evidently offensive to the interest, as well as to the dignity of the Polish nation, that the diet could not prevail on itself to acquiesce in so unjust and so unreasonable a request. Additionally to the disagreeable necessity of a refusal to comply with the demands of Prussia the diet beheld with much concern, that a power, of whose mediation they had long been desirous for a favourable settlement of their affairs, had, contrarily to their expectations, declared its concurrence with the views of Prussia. Great pains had been taken by those who befriended the pretensions of the court of Berlin, to represent it as so intimately connected with this power, that to disoblige the one would also offend the other.
The power alluded to was Great Britain. A publication appeared
about this time at Warsaw, universally ascribed to the British minister at that court. This publication represented the cession of Dantzic to Prussia as a matter of prudence on the part of Poland which could reap little benefit from the value of the place, while in its possession; but that by the cession of its sovereignty, great utility might be derived to the Polish trade to that city, were the court of Berlin, in consideration of this cession, to diminish the duties laid upon it. The commerce of Poland to this great mart, when freed from the incumbrances now attending it, would become an ample compensation to Poland for what Prussia had acquired by the treaty of partition. Dantzic was described as a city deprived of its port while it retained its present connexion with Poland; but which would quickly flourish and recover its former splendor, when once annexed to the Prussian dominions. Commercial arrangements of the greatest importance were announced in this publication between Great Britain, Holland, Prussia, and Poland. This last country was in particular to reap the highest advantages from those arrangements. The commercial intercourse between Great Britain and Russia was to be transferred to Poland, of which the productions would replace those which Great Britain drew from Russia. But, in order to facilitate this intercourse, and render it beneficial to both parties, those obstructions must be removed that intercepted a free communication between the two countries. The only method of effecting this, was to lessen the heavy exactions imposed on the Polish articles of trade, in their passage through the
Prussian territories, on their way to Dantzic; but this end was attainable by no other means than ceding that place to the King of Prussia; on whom the court of London engaged to prevail in such case to lower the duties two thirds of their present amount; and to insure a perpetual right to Poland to transport its commodities through his territories to the ports of Dantzic, Elbing, Koningsberg, and Memel. Of this right Great Britain would remain the gaurantee. Poland, it was suggested, could not in its present condition rely with any degree of confidence upon its own strength; a powerful ally was needed; and Prussia from its situation seemed the most proper to be chosen at this juncture. Were the present opportunity neglected, and the court of London to be reconciled to that of Petersburg, the detriment to Poland, both in a commercial and political light, would prove immense; it would lie, as heretofore, exposed to the continual insults and depredations of its neighbours; whereas, by consenting to the proposals of Prussia and Great Britain, it would acquire two potent allies, who for their own interest would support it against all external enemies, and enable it in the course of not many years to attain such a degree of internal strength, what through the opulence arising from trade, what through the melioration of its government, as would place it on a footing of complete independence of any power whatsoever.
These were the principal reasonings of this celebrated publication. Many of them were doubtless well founded; but the suspicions entertained of Prussia, enfeebled every argument produced in favour of
the proposals made by that court, which had, by the hesitation and instability of its conduct, obliterated that confidence in its friendship which had, till lately, rendered the Poles so implicitly attached to its politics, and so ready to be guided by its councils. The reverse had now taken place; and though not only a civil intercourse, but even the fairest appearances of intimacy subsisted between the courts of Berlin and Warsaw, it was no longer attended with the same degree of cordiality. The diet could not listen with temper to the reiterated suggestions of the Prussian ministry about the propriety of ceding Dantzic. In this matter the Poles seemed to consider their interest much less than their dignity. Dantzic had for ages enjoyed freedom and a species of sovereignty under the protection of Poland: a reciprocation of good offices had uninterruptedly been maintained between them; and that city had remained invariably faithful in the worst of times. This had produced a mutual attachment, which neither the one nor the other was willing to renounce. The inhabitants of that city claimed, on the one hand, the assistance of their ancient protectors; and these, on the other, felt the strongest repugnance to forsake those loyal adherents in the day of need. Notwithstanding the position of Dantzic in the midst of what might be reputed an hostile territory, still the vicissitude of things might emancipate it from such a situation; it would argue, therefore, an ill-timed despondency, to resign it to the pretensions of a power that had no right to make so unreasonable a demand. These, and a variety of other considera
tions, prevented the diet from yielding to the incessant solicitations of the court of Berlin to part with a place which appeared of such importance.
The patriotic party was busily occupied in the mean time in preparing and digesting the several regulations that had been proposed in favour of the people at large, whose attachment and zeal in the common cause they prudently took every method to secure. In the month of April divers decrees were passed, extending to the commons many of those rights that had heretofore been appropriated solely to the nobles. This order of men was no longer viewed with that jealousy and secret dislike which their undue privileges had created. As they now admitted the other classes to a participation of those franchises on which both public and private liberty are founded, they justly obtained the respect and esteem of all men, and became in fact possessed of more influence and power than ever. The harmony resulting from these arrangements was visible through the whole kingdom, and proved an additional motive of encouragement to those who were employed in framing the constitution that was intended shortly to be brought forwards for the acceptance of the nation. Though not only the Poles, but their neighbours entertained an idea that something of this nature was in agitation, the business itself, and those immediately concerned in it, remained in profound concealment. This was the more necessary, that Warsaw contained at this time a multitude of spies, who were commmissioned to pry into every transaction that came within their
cognizance, and to give immediate notice of all they were able to discover, to the public ministers and agents of those powers in whose service they acted. But, notwithstanding their vigilance and activity, they could not penetrate into the designs that were forming; so inviolable was the secrecy of those to whom they were intrusted.
It was not without reason that the patriotic party acted with so much caution. It was rumoured and universally believed, that the three partitioning powers had come to a secret determination to conclude all their differences by a final division of Poland. Had the Poles been accurately and certainly informed of all the particulars of this transaction, it was generally supposed that they would immediately have protested jointly against them, and possibly have taken more active methods to prevent the accomplishment of the great business that was intended. The intelligence received from time to time from the Polish ministers and agents at foreign courts, was, that no reliance ought to be placed on the assurances of good-will from any of the powers with whom they resided; a general combination being formed, either actively to concur in the destruction of the Polish monarchy, or passively to remain spectators of its subversion, without interposing to prevent it.
Intelligence of this nature necessarily quickened the operations of the patriotic party:-convinced that every obstruction would be thrown in their way that artifice as well as force could devise, they had done their utmost to provide against both. No time had been lost in adding strength to the army,
by increasing its numbers, and bringing it under the strictest discipline. But a measure no less effectual at the present juncture, was a precaution taken at the calling of the diet now sitting. Foreseeing that if the long used privilege of breaking up its sessions by a single dissentient voice were still allowed, all their designs might in one moment be defeated, they had previously taken care to change this meeting of the states into a diet of confederation, and to agree at the same time to decide all questions by a majority. This alone was so material an alteration in the form of the Polish government, and so clearly evinced a resolution to make further changes, that the alarm was instantly taken by the three partitioning courts. They fully comprehended the meaning of this measure, which was obviously calculated to defeat all their intrigues, Actuated by that resentment which arises from offended pride and dis. appointed ambition, they immediately suspended their reciprocal animosities, and employed them selves in concerting measures for opposing the designs obviously in contemplation. But the patriotic party had so well guarded against their machinations, that they found themselves arrested at once in the career formerly so successful, and leading so directly to the object at which they aimed; a few, and often a single individual, had sufficed to defeat the best and most national purposes, and even to put a stop to all proceedings of the diet: but they were now constrained to adopt a new plan, and to extend their bribes and promises wherever they hoped to procure their acceptance. But, to the great honour of the
Polish character, they fell much short of their expectations; and at a considerable cost obtained but very few partizans. This was a circumstance of which the public in every part of Europe took much notice at the time. It proved, unanswerably, that to the liberum veto all the calamities that had so long afflicted Poland were to be imputed, and that the only prevention to their return, was to abolish it for ever. But it also admonished the partitioning powers, that nothing was now left them to execute their projects on Poland, but a speedy and united exertion of their force.
A pacification was settled between the Porte and Austria: and the near prospect of the reduction of the Netherlands to their former obedience to this family, had enabled it to resume its ambitious spirit. Russia too was on the point of terminating its prosperous war against the Turks, with the additional splendor of having successfully resisted the mediation in their behalf, of the greatest maritime power in the universe. Prussia, with finances improved by a long duration of peace, and an army formed under the discipline of the great Frederick, was, after his example, meditating new acquisitions. This was certainly a perilous season for a people diminished in numbers and extent of territory, to enter on so bold an attempt as that of casting off the yoke of that interfering influence over them, which, though manifestly an usurpation, still had been established by treaties; and these, however compelled by the sword, would always be pleaded by those who had thus enforced them.
It required, therefore, very un