« PreviousContinue »
great State may arise in South-Eastern Europe. Federalism may provide the bond which Habsburg absolutism, Habsburg selfishness, and Habsburg tyranny failed to create. The provision of an efficient counterpoise to Russia may, and should be, left to Nature and to natural evolution.
THE PROBLEM OF POLAND 1
A CENTURY ago, at the Congress of Vienna, the question of Poland proved extremely difficult to solve. It produced dangerous friction among the assembled Powers, and threatened to lead to the break-up of the Congress. The position became so threatening that, on January 3, 1815, Austria, Great Britain, and France felt compelled to conclude a secret separate alliance directed against Prussia and Russia, the allies of Austria and Great Britain in the war against Napoleon. Precautionary troop movements began, and war among the Allies might have broken out had not, shortly afterwards, Napoleon quitted Elba and landed in France. Fear of the great Corsican re-united the Powers.
Because of the great and conflicting interests involved, the question of Poland may prove of similar importance and difficulty at the Congress which will conclude the present War. Hence, it seems desirable to consider it carefully and in good time. The consideration of the Polish Question seems not only useful but urgent.
Henry Wheaton, the distinguished American diplomat and jurist, wrote in his classical ‘History of the Law of Nations': The partition of Poland was the most flagrant violation of natural justice and International Law which has occurred since Europe first emerged from barbarism.' In Koch's celebrated 'Tableau des Révolutions de l'Europe,' written by a diplomat for the use of diplomats, and published
The Nineteenth Century and After, January, 1915.
in 1825, when the partition of Poland was still fresh in men's minds, we read :
The partition of Poland must be considered the forerunner of the total revolution of the whole political system of Europe which had been established three centuries before. Hitherto numerous alliances had been formed and many wars had been undertaken with a view to preserving weak States against the ambitions of strong ones. Now three Great Powers combined to plunder a State which had given them no offence. Thus the barriers which had hitherto separated right from arbitrary might were destroyed. No weak State was any longer secure. The European balance of power became the laughing-stock of the new school, and serious men began to consider the European equilibrium a chimera. Although the Courts of St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Vienna were most strongly to blame, those of London and Paris were not free from guilt by allowing without protest the spoliation of Poland to take place.
The Polish problem is not only a very great and extremely interesting problem, but it is unique of its kind. It can be understood only by those who are acquainted with the history of Poland and of its partitions. Many Englishmen are unacquainted with that history. Most believe that Russia has been the worst enemy of the Poles, that she caused the partitions, that Germany and Austria-Hungary were merely her accomplices, and that Great Britain has never taken a serious interest in Polish affairs.
Polish history, as usually taught, is a tissue of misconceptions and of falsehoods. In the following pages it will be shown that not Russia, but Prussia, was chiefly responsible for the partitions of Poland and for the subsequent oppression of the Poles, that Russia and Austria were, in their Polish policy, merely Prussia's tools and dupes, and that England, well informed by able and conscientious diplomats, has with truly marvellous insight and consistency unceasingly recommended the adoption of that liberal and enlightened policy towards Poland which seems likely
to prevail at last. History has wonderfully vindicated the wisdom and the far-sightedness of British statesmen in their treatment of Polish affairs from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present day. A brief résumé of the largely secret or unknown inner history of Poland and of its partitions is particularly interesting, because it throws a most powerful light on the true character and the inner workings of Prusso-German, Russian, and Austrian diplomacy from the time of Frederick the Great, of the Empress Catherine the Second, and of the Empress Maria Theresa to that of Bismarck, Bülow, and BethmannHollweg. I would add that much of the material given in the following pages has never been printed, and has been taken from the original documents.
Frederick the Great wrote in his 'Exposé du Gouvernement Prussien,' his Political Testament, which was addressed to his successor :
One of the first political principles is to endeavour to become an ally of that one of one's neighbours who may become most dangerous to one's State. For that reason we Prussians have an alliance with Russia, and thus we have our back free of danger as long as the alliance lasts.
He wrote in his ‘Histoire de Mon Temps':
Of all neighbours of Prussia the Russian Empire is the most dangerous, both by its power and its geographical position, and those who will rule Prussia after me should cultivate the friendship of those barbarians because they are able to ruin Prussia altogether through the immense number of their mounted troops. Besides, one cannot repay them for the damage which they may do to us because of the poverty of that part of Russia which is nearest to Prussia, and through which one has to pass in order to get into the Ukraine.
These two passages summarise and explain Prussia's policy towards Russia during the last century and a half, and furnish a key to her subtle and devious Polish policy. During the Seven Years' War Russia had given to Prussia the hardest blows. Guided by the considerations given above, Frederick the Great was most anxious to make peace and to conclude an alliance with Russia. He stated in his 'Memoirs on the Events following the Peace of Hubertusberg of 1763, referring, like Julius Caesar, to himself in the third person :
England's faithlessness (during the Seven Years' War) had broken the bonds between Prussia and that country. The Anglo-Prussian alliance, which had been founded upon mutual interests, was followed by the most lively hostility and the most serious anger between the two States. King Frederick stood alone on the field of battle. No one was left to attack him, but at the same time no one was ready to take his part. That position of isolation was tolerable as long as it was only temporary, but it could not be allowed to continue. Soon a change took place. Towards the end of the year negotiations were begun with Russia with a view to concluding a defensive alliance with that country. ...
The King of Prussia desired to obtain influence over Russia. ...
The power of the Russians is very great. Prussia still suffers from the blows which she had received from them during the Seven Years' War. It was obviously not in the interest of the Prussian King to contribute to the growth of so terrible and so dangerous a Power. Therefore two ways were open : Prussia had either to set bounds to Russia's conquests by force, or she had to endeavour to take skilful advantage of Russia's desire for expansion. The latter policy was the wiser one, and the King neglected nothing in order to carry it into effect. :
one, anden for expansur to take slissia's
The desired opportunity of concluding an alliance with Russia arose owing to the death of the Empress Elizabeth, his great opponent, which took place on January 5, 1762. Her successor, the foolish and imbecile Peter the Third, became a tool in Frederick's hands. He made peace with Prussia on May 5, 1762, and five weeks later, on June 8,