Targowica Confederation


May 28, 2022

Targowica Confederation - a magnate conspiracy formed on the night of May 18-19, 1792 in Targowica (in fact, April 27, 1792 in St. Petersburg), at the request and under the patronage of Empress Catherine II of Russia, directed against the reforms of the Four Years' Seym and the Constitution of May 3, considered a symbol of treason national.


After the adoption of the first constitution by the Four Years' Sejm on May 3, 1791, some of the influential magnates did not intend to submit to the laws established by this constitution, and on May 14, 1792, they established a confederation in the small town of Targowica in the borderlands in order to overthrow it. In fact, the plot was launched on April 27, 1792 in St. Petersburg under the patronage of Empress Catherine II, who from 1768 acted as a guarantor of the Polish political system. The text of the confederation act itself was edited by Russian General Vasily Popov, head of the chancellery of Prince Grigory Potemkin. It was attended by magnates: General of the Crown Artillery Stanisław Szczęsny Potocki as Marshal of the Crown Confederation, Grand Hetman of the Crown Franciszek Ksawery Branicki, Field Hetman of the Crown Seweryn Rzewuski, General Szymon Marcin Kossakowski and others. The publicist Dyzma Bończa-Tomaszewski became the secretary of the confederation. They wanted to divide the country into independent provinces. To this end, they asked the Empress of Russia for military help, they obtained it, and on May 18, 1792, a 100,000-strong Russian army struck the Commonwealth - the Polish-Russian war began. According to some assessments (eg Wojciech Stanek), it was the opposition's reaction to the constitutional coup and the reform of the Warsaw revolutionary parliament. The signatories of the Targowica Confederation act were to accuse the authors of the Constitution on May 3: never before has the art of deception been visible in Poland to the extent to which it turned out in recent times. [...] this was experienced by the noble Polish nation, and through art and deception, freedom was taken from it. Only partially, where it could have gone, the building of the Commonwealth was undermined, things were cooked in order to suddenly overturn it.

Polish-Russian war of 1792

The war, also known as the war in defense of the Constitution of May 3, took place after the Russian troops entered Poland, after the Targowica confederates asked Russia for help. Despite the victories at Zieleniec and Dubienka by the Polish side, the Russians reached the Vistula, which prompted King Stanisław August Poniatowski to join the Targowica confederation and issue an order to stop further fighting. On the king's order, issued on July 25, the Polish army stopped the hostilities, and the commanders, incl. Fr. Józef Poniatowski and General Tadeusz Kościuszko, as a sign of protest, resigned. Many officers and civilian opponents emigrated, mainly to Saxony. In this way they did, among others declared opponents of the Targowica Confederation, Speaker of the Sejm Stanisław Małachowski and Ignacy Potocki. The formally undeclared Russo-Polish war lasted from May 16 to July 26, 1792. After the premature capitulation of Polish troops as a consequence of the king's accession to the Targowica Confederation, the Targowica residents, with the help of Russian troops, seized all voivodeships of the Republic of Poland, liquidating the authorities appointed by the Four-Year Sejm.

General Confederation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania

After the occupation of Lithuania by the Russian army, on June 25, 1792, the general confederation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was proclaimed in Vilnius, largely complementary to the crown confederation. The Grand Chancellor of Lithuania, Aleksander Michał Sapieha, was appointed Marshal of the Lithuanian Confederation, and Józef Zabiełło, the great Lithuanian hunter, was his deputy hunter. In fact, the actual power over the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was exercised by the self-proclaimed Lithuanian field hetman, Szymon Marcin Kossakowski, and his brother, the Bishop of Livonia, Józef Kazimierz, who headed the mission.