1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Poland
POLAND (Polish Polska, Ger. Polen), (see Poland, Russian, below), a country of Europe which till the end of the 18th century was a kingdom extending (with Lithuania) over the basins of the Warta, Vistula, Dwina, Dnieper and upper Dniester, and had under its dominion, besides the Poles proper and the Baltic Slavs, the Lithuanians, the White Russians and the Little Russians or Ruthenians.
We possess no certain historical data relating to Poland till the end of the 10th century. It would seem, from a somewhat Origins of Poland. obscure passage in the chronicle compiled from older sources by Nestor, a monk of Kiev (d. c. 1115), that the progenitors of the Poles, originally established on the Danube, were driven from thence by the Romans to the still wilder wilderness of central Europe, settling finally among the virgin forests and impenetrable morasses of the basin of the upper waters of the Oder and the Vistula. Here the Lechici, as they called themselves (a name derived from the mythical patriarch, Lech), seemed to have lived for centuries, in loosely connected communities, the simple lives of huntsmen, herdsmen and tillers of the soil, till the pressure of rapacious neighbours compelled them to combine for mutual defence. Of this infant state, the so-called kingdom of the Piasts (from Piast its supposed founder), we know next to nothing. Its origin, its territory, its institutions are so many insoluble riddles. The earliest Polish chroniclers, from Gallus in the early 12th century to Janko of Czarnkow in the 14th, are of little help to us. The only facts of importance to be gleaned from them are that Prince Ziemovit, the great-grandfather of Mieszko (Mieczyslaw) I. (962–992), wrested from the vast but tottering Moravian Empire the province of Chrobacyja (extending from the Carpathians to the Bug), and that Christianity was first preached on the Vistula by Greek Orthodox missionary monks. Mieszko himself was converted by Jordan, the chaplain of his Bohemian consort, Dobrawa or Bona, and when Jordan became the first bishop of Posen, the people seem to have followed the example of their prince. But the whole movement was apparently the outcome not of religious conviction, but of political necessity. The Slavonic peoples, whose territories then extended to the Elbe, and embraced the whole southern shore of the Baltic, were beginning to recoil before the vigorous impetus of the Germans in the West, who regarded their pagan neighbours in much the same way as the Spanish Conquistadores regarded the Aztecs and the Incas. To accept Christianity, at least formally, was therefore a prudential safeguard on the part of the Slavonians. This was thoroughly understood by Mieszko’s son Boleslaus I. (992–1025), who went a considerable step farther than his father. Mieszko had been content to be received on almost any terms into the Christian community, Boleslaus aimed at securing the Conversion to Christianity. independence of the Polish Church as an additional guarantee of the independence of the Polish nation It was Boleslaus who made the church at Gnesen in Great Poland a national shrine by translating thither the relics of the martyred missionary, St Adalbert of Prague. Subsequently he elevated Gnesen into the metropolitan see of Poland, with jurisdiction over the bishoprics of Cracow, Breslau and Kolberg, all three of these new sees, it is important to notice, being in territory conquered by Boleslaus; for hitherto both Cracow and Breslau had been Bohemian cities, while Kolberg was founded to curb the lately subjugated Pomeranians. Boleslaus was also the first Polish prince to bear the royal title, which Boleslaus I., King. seems to have been conferred upon him by Otto III. in 1000, though as Boleslaus crowned himself king a second time in 1025, it is evident that he regarded the validity of his first coronation as somewhat doubtful. He was primarily a warrior, whose reign, an almost uninterrupted warfare, resulted in the formation of a vast kingdom extending from the Baltic to the Carpathians, and from the Elbe to the Bug. But this imposing superstructure rested on the flimsiest of foundations. In less than twenty years after the death of its founder, it collapsed before a combined attack of all Poland’s enemies, and simultaneously a terrible pagan reaction swept away the poor remnants of Christianity and civilization. For a time Poland proper became a smoking wilderness, and wild beasts made their lairs in the ruined and desecrated churches. Under Boleslaus II. (1058–1079) and Boleslaus III. (1102–1139) some of the lost provinces, notably Silesia and Pomerania, were recovered and Poland was at least able to maintain her independence against the Germans. Boleslaus III., moreover, with the aid of St Otto, bishop of Bamberg, succeeded in converting the heathen Pomeranians (1124–1128), and making head against paganism generally.
The last act of Boleslaus III. was to divide his territories among his sons, whereby Poland was partitioned into no fewer Partitional Period, 1138–1305. than four, and ultimately into as many as eight, principalities, many of which (Silesia and Great Poland, for instance) in process of time split up into still smaller fractions all of them more or less bitterly hostile to each other. This partitional period, as Polish historians generally call it, lasted from 1138 to 1305, during which Poland lost all political significance, and became an easy prey to her neighbours. The duke of Little Poland, who generally styled himself duke of Poland, or dux totius Poloniae, claimed a sort of supremacy among these little states, a claim materially strengthened by the wealth and growing importance of his capital, Cracow, especially after Little Poland had annexed the central principality of Sieradia (Sieradz). But Masovia to the north, and Great Poland to the north-west, refused to recognize the supremacy of Little Poland, while Silesia soon became completely germanized. It was at the beginning of this period too, between 1216 and 1224, that Pomerania, under an energetic native dynasty, freed herself Tatar Invasion. from the Polish suzerainty. Nearly a generation later (1241) the Tatar hordes, under Batu, appeared for the first time on the confines of Poland. The Polish princes opposed a valiant but ineffectual resistance; the towns of Sandomir and Cracow were reduced to ashes, and all who were able fled to the mountains of Hungary or the forests of Moravia. Pursuing his way to Silesia, Batu overthrew the confederated Silesian princes at Liegnitz (April 9), and, after burning all the Silesian towns, invaded Hungary, where he routed King Bela IV. on the banks of the Sajo. But this marked the limit of his triumph. Exhausted and diminished by the stout and successful opposition of the Moravians at Olmutz, the Tatars vanished as suddenly as they had appeared, leaving a smoking wilderness behind them.
Batu’s invasion had an important influence upon the social and political development of Poland. The only way of filling up the gaps in the population of the ravaged land was to invite foreign immigrants of a superior class, chapmen and handicrafts men, not only given to peaceful pursuits and accustomed to law and Foreign Immigrants. Rise of Cities.order, but capable of building and defending strong cities. Such immigrants could naturally be obtained only from the civilized west, and on their own terms. Thus it came about that the middle class element was introduced into Polish society for the first time. Immediately dependent upon the prince, from whom they obtained their privileges, the most important of which were self-government and freedom from taxation, these traders soon became an important factor in the state, counterpoising, to some extant, the influence of the gentry, enriching the land by developing its resources, and promoting civilization by raising the standard of comfort.
Most of these German citizens in process of time were absorbed by the Polish population, and became devoted, heart and soul, to their adopted country, but these were not the only Germans with whom the young Polish state had now to deal. In the first year of the 13th century, the Knights of the Sword, one of the numerous orders The Knights of
the Sword.of crusading military monks, had been founded in Livonia to “convert” the pagan Letts, and, in 1208, the still more powerful Teutonic order was invited by Duke Conrad of Masovia to settle in the district of Kulm (roughly corresponding to modern East Prussia) to protect his territories against the incursions of the savage Prussians, a race closely akin to the Lithuanians. Conrad has been loudly blamed by Polish historians for introducing this foreign, and as it ultimately proved, dangerous element into Poland. But the unfortunate prince had to choose between dependence and extermination, for his unaided resources were powerless against the persistent attacks of the unconquerable The Teutonic Order. Prussians. The Teutonic Order, which had just been expelled from Hungary by Andrew II., joyfully accepted this new domicile, and its position in the north was definitely established by the compact of Kruschwitz in 1230, whereby it obtained absolute possession of the maritime district between Pomerania and Courland, and southwards as far as Thorn. So far were the Poles from anticipating any danger from the Teutonic Order, that, from 1243 to 1255, they actually assisted it to overthrow the independent Pomeranian princes, the most formidable opponents of the Knights in the earlier years of their existence. A second Tatar raid in 1259, less dangerous, perhaps, but certainly more ruinous, than the first invasion—for the principalities of Little Poland and Sandomir were systematically ravaged for three months—still further depressed the land, and, at this very time, another enemy appeared in the east—the Lithuanians.
This interesting people, whose origin is to this day the most baffling of ethnographical puzzles, originally dwelt amidst the forests and marshes of the Upper Niemen. Thanks to the impenetrability of their fastnesses, they preserved their original savagery longer than any of their neighbours, and this savagery was coupled The Lithuanians.with a valour so tenacious and enterprising as to make them formidable to all who dwelt near them. The Russians fled at the sight of them, “like hares before hunters.” The Livs and Letts were as much the prey of the Lithuanians “as sheep are the prey of wolves.” The German chroniclers describe them as the most terrible of all the barbarians. The Lithuanians first emerge into the light of history at the time of the settlement of the Teutonic Order in the North. Rumours of the war of extermination conducted against their kinsmen, the wild Prussians, by the Knights, first woke the Lithuanians to a sense of their own danger, and induced them to abandon their loose communal system in favour of a monarchical form of government, which concentrated the whole power of the state in a single hand. Fortunately, too, at this crisis of their history, the Lithuanians were blessed with an altogether exceptional series of great rulers, who showed themselves fully capable of taking care of themselves. There was, for instance, Mendovg (1240–1263), who submitted to baptism for purely political reasons, checkmated the Teutonic Knights by adroitly seeking the protection of the Holy See, and annexed the principality of Plock to his ever-widening grand duchy, which already included Black Russia, and formed a huge wedge extending southwards from Courland, thus separating Poland from Russia. A still greater prince was Gedymin (1315–1342) who did his utmost to civilize Lithuania by building towns, introducing foreigners, and tolerating all religions, though he himself remained a pagan for political reasons. Gedymin still further extended the limits of Lithuania by annexing Kiev, Chernigov and other old Russian principalities.
At the very time when Lithuania was thus becoming a compact, united, powerful state, Poland seemed literally to be dropping to pieces. Not even the exhortations of the popes could make her score of princes unite for mutual defence against the barbarians who environed them. For a time it seemed highly probable Wladislaus I.,
1306–1333.that Poland would be completely germanized, like Silesia, or become a part of the new Bohemian Empire which Wenceslaus II. (crowned king of Poland in 1300) had inherited from his father, Ottakar II. From this fate she was saved by the valour of Wladislaus Lokietek, duke of Great Poland (1306–1333), who reunited Great and Little Poland, revived the royal dignity in 1320, and saved the kingdom from annihilation by his great victory over the Teutonic Knights at Plowce in 1332. The whole reign of Wladislaus I. was indeed an unceasing struggle against all the forces of anarchy and disintegration; but the fruits of his labours were richly reaped by his son Casimir III. the Great (1333–1370), Poland’s first great statesman in the modern sense of the word, who, by a most skilful system of Casimir III. the Great, 1333–1370. matrimonial alliances, reintroduced isolated Poland into the European system, and gave the exhausted country an inestimably beneficial breathing space of thirty-seven years. A born ruler, Casimir introduced a whole series of administrative and economical reforms. He was the especial protector of the cities and the peasants, and, though averse from violent measures, punished aristocratic tyranny with an iron hand. Casimir’s few wars were waged entirely for profit, not glory. It is to him that Poland owed the important acquisition of the greater part of Red Russia, or Galicia, which enabled her to secure her fair share of the northern and eastern trade. In default of male issue, Casimir left the Polish throne to his nephew, Louis of Hungary, who ruled the country (1370–1382) through his mother, Queen Elizabeth, Wladislaus Lokietek’s daughter. Louis well deserved the epithet of “great” bestowed upon him by his contemporaries; but Poland formed but a small portion of his vast domains, and Poland’s interests were subordinated to the larger demands of an imperial policy which embraced half Europe within its orbit.
On the death of Louis there ensued an interregnum of two years marked by fierce civil wars, instigated by duke Ziemovit of Masovia, the northernmost province of Poland, which continued to exist as an independent principality Wladislaus II. Jagiello. Union
of Poland and Lithuania.alongside of the kingdom of Poland. Ziemovit aimed at the Polish crown, proposing to marry the infant princess Jadwiga of Hungary, who, as the daughter of Louis the Great and the granddaughter of Wladislaus Lokietek, had an equal right, by inheritance, to the thrones of Hungary and Poland. By an agreement with the queen mother of Hungary at Kassa in 1383, the Poles finally accepted Jadwiga as their queen, and, on the 18th of February 1386, greatly against her will, the young princess, already betrothed to William of Austria, was wedded to Jagiello, grand duke of Lithuania, who had been crowned king of Poland at Cracow, three days previously, under the title of Wladislaus II.
The union of Poland and Lithuania as separate states under one king had been brought about by their common fear of the Teutonic Order. Five years after the death of Gedymin, Olgierd, the most capable of his seven sons, had been placed upon the throne of Lithuania by his devoted brother Kiejstut, and for the next two-and-thirty years (1345–1377) the two princes still further extended the sway of Lithuania, principally at the expense of Muscovy and the Tatars. Kiejstut ruled the western portion of the land where the Teutonic Knights were a constant menace, while Olgierd drove the Tatar hordes out of the south-eastern steppes, and compelled them to seek a refuge in the Crimea. During Olgierd’s reign the southern boundaries of Lithuania touched the Black Sea, including the whole tract of land between the mouth of the Bug and the mouth of the Dnieper. Olgierd was succeeded by his son Jagiello as grand duke in 1377, while Kiejstut was left in possession of Samogitia, Troki and Grodno; but the Teutonic Order, alarmed at the growth of Lithuania, succeeded in estranging uncle and nephew, and Kiejstut was treacherously assassinated by Jagiello’s orders, at Krewo, on the 15th of August 1382. Three weeks later Jagiello was compelled to cede Samogitia, as far as the Dubissa, to the Knights, and, in the following year they set up against him Kiejstut’s son Witowt. The eyes of Jagiello were now opened to the fact that the Machiavellian policy of the Knights aimed at subjugating Lithuania by dividing it. He at once made peace with his cousin; restored him his patrimony; and, to secure Lithuania against the future vengeance of the Knights, Jagiello made overtures to Poland for the hand of Jadwiga, and received the Polish crown along with it, as already mentioned.
Before proceeding to describe the Jagiellonic period of Polish history, it is necessary to cast a rapid glance at the social and political condition of the country in the preceding Piast period.
The paucity and taciturnity of our sources make it impossible to give anything like an adequate picture of Old Poland during the first four centuries of its existence. A glimpse here and there of the political development of theBeginnings of the Polish Constitution. country is the utmost that the most diligent scrutiny can glean from the scanty record of the early chronicles. External pressure, here as elsewhere, created a patriotic military caste, and the subsequent partitional period, when every little prince had his own separate court, still further established the growing influence of the szlachta, or gentry, who were not backward in claiming and obtaining special privileges in return for their services. The first authentic pacta conventa made between the Polish nobility and the Crown dates from the compact of Kassa (September 17, 1374), when Louis of Hungary agreed to exempt the szlachta from all taxation, except two Polish groschen per hide of land, and to compensate them for the expenses of all military service rendered beyond the confines of the realm. The clergy received their chief privileges much earlier. It was at the synod of Leczyca, nearly a century before the compact of Kassa, that the property of the Church was first safeguarded against the encroachments of the state. The beneficial influence of the Church of Poland in these early times was incalculable. To say nothing of the labours of the Cistercians as colonists, pioneers and church builders, or of the missions of the Dominicans and Franciscans (the former of whom were introduced into Poland by Ivo, bishop of Cracow, the personal friend of Dominic), the Church was the one stable and unifying element in an age of centrifugal particularism. The frequent synods represented the whole of Poland, and kept alive, as nothing else could, the idea of national solidarity. The Holy See had also a considerable share in promoting the political development of the land. In the 13th century alone no fewer than forty-nine papal legates visited Poland, and thirty provincial synods were held by them to regulate church affairs and promote good government. Moreover the clergy, to their eternal honour, consistently protected the lower from the tyranny of the upper classes.
The growth of the towns was slower. During the heroic Boleslawic period there had been a premature outcrop of civil life. As early as the 11th century Kruschwitz, the old Polish capital, and Gnesen, the metropolitan see, were Growth of
the Towns.of considerable importance, and played a leading part in public life. But in the ensuing anarchic period both cities were utterly ruined, and the centre of political gravity was transferred from Great Poland to Little Poland, where Cracow, singularly favoured by her position, soon became the capital of the monarchy, and one of the wealthiest cities in Europe. At the end of the 14th century we find all the great trade gilds established there, and the cloth manufactured at Cracow was eagerly sought after, from Prague to Great Novgorod. So wealthy did Cracow become at last that Casimir the Great felt it necessary to restrain the luxury of her citizens by sumptuary ordinances. Towards the end of the 14th century the Polish towns even attained some degree of political influence, and their delegates sat with the nobles and clergy in the king’s councils, a right formally conceded to them at Radom in March 1384. Even the peasants, who had suffered severely from the wholesale establishment of prisoners of war as serfs on the estates of the nobles, still preserved the rights of personal liberty and free transit from place to place, whence their name of lazigi. The only portion of the community which had no privileges were the Jews, first introduced into Poland by Boleslaus the Pious, duke of Great Poland, in 1264, when bitter persecutions had driven them northwards from the shores of the Adriatic. Casimir the Great extended their liberty of domicile over the whole kingdom (1334). From the first they were better treated in Poland than elsewhere, though frequently exposed to outbreaks of popular fanaticism.
The transformation of the pagan Lithuanian chieftain Jagiello into the catholic king of Poland, Wladislaus II., was an event of capital importance in the history of eastern Europe. Its immediate and inevitable consequence was the Wladislaus II. and the Teutonic Order.formal reception of the Lithuanian nations into the fold of the Church. What the Teutonic Order had vainly endeavoured to bring about by fire and sword, for two centuries, was peacefully accomplished by Jagiello within a single generation, the Lithuanians, for the most part, willingly yielding to the arguments of a prince of their own blood, who promptly rewarded his converts with peculiar and exclusive privileges. The conversion of Lithuania menaced the very existence of the Teutonic Knights. Originally planted on the Baltic shore for the express purpose of Christianizing their savage neighbours, these crusading monks had freely exploited the wealth and the valour of the West, ostensibly in the cause of religion, really for the purpose of founding a dominion of their own which, as time went on, lost more and more of its religious character, and was now little more than a German military forepost, extending from Pomerania to the Niemen, which deliberately excluded the Slavs from the sea and thrived at their expense. The mere instinct of self-preservation had, at last, drawn the Poles and Lithuanians together against these ruthless and masterful intruders, and the coronation of Jagiello at Cracow on the 15th of February 1386, was both a warning and a challenge to the Knights. But if the Order had now become a superfluous anachronism, it had still to be disposed of, and this was no easy task. For if it had failed utterly as a mission in partibus, it had succeeded in establishing on the Baltic one of the strongest military organizations in Europe. In the art of war the Knights were immeasurably superior to all their neighbours. The pick of the feudal chivalry composed their ranks; with all Europe to draw upon, their resources seemed inexhaustible, and centuries of political experience made them as formidable in diplomacy as they were valiant in warfare. And indeed, for the next twenty years, the Teutonic Order more than held its own. Skilfully taking advantage of the jealousies of Poland and Lithuania, as they were accentuated by the personal antagonism of Jagiello and Witowt (q.v.), with the latter of whom the Knights more than once contracted profitable alliances, they even contrived (Treaty of Salin, 1378) to extend their territory by getting possession of the province of Samogitia, the original seat of the Lithuanians, where paganism still persisted, and where their inhuman cruelties finally excited the horror and indignation of Christian Europe. By this time, however, the prudent Jagiello had become convinced that Lithuania was too strong to be ruled by or from Poland, and yet not strong enough to stand alone, and by the compact of Vilna (January 18, 1401, confirmed by the compact of Radowo, March 10) he surrendered the whole grand duchy to Witowt, on the understanding that the two states should have a common policy, and that neither of them should elect a new prince without the consent of the other. The wisdom of this arrangement was made manifest in 1410, when Jagiello and Witowt combined their forces for the purpose of delivering Samogitia from the intolerable tyranny of the Knights. The issue was fought out on the field of Tannenberg, or Grünewald (July 15, 1410), when the Knights sustained a crushing defeat, which shook their political organization to its very foundations. A few weeks after the victory the towns of Thorn, Elbing, Braunsberg and Danzig submitted to the Polish king, and all the Prussian bishops voluntarily offered to render him homage. But the excessive caution of Jagiello gave the Knights time to recover from the blow; the Polish levies proved unruly and incompetent; Witowt was suddenly recalled to Lithuania by a Tatar invasion, and thus it came about that, when peace was concluded at Thorn, on the 1st of February 1411, Samogitia (which was to revert to the Order on the death of Jagiello and Witowt), Dobrzyn, and a war indemnity of 100,000 marks payable in four instalments, were the best terms Poland could obtain from the Knights, whose territory practically remained intact. Jagiello's signal for the attack at the battle of Grünewald, “Cracow and Vilna” (the respective capitals of Poland and Lithuania) had eloquently demonstrated the solidarity of the two states. This solidarity was still further strengthened by the Union of Horodlo (October 2, 1413) which enacted that henceforth Lithuania was to have the same order of dignitaries as Poland, as well as a council of state, or senate, similar to the Polish senate. The power of the grand-duke was also greatly increased. He was now declared to be the equal of the Polish king, and his successor could be elected only by the senates of Poland and Lithuania in conjunction. The Union of Horodlo also established absolute parity between the nobility of Poland and Lithuania, but the privileges of the latter were made conditional upon their profession of the Roman Catholic faith, experience having shown that difference of religion in Lithuania meant difference of politics, and a tendency Moscow-wards, the majority of the Lithuanian boyars being of the Greek Orthodox Confession.
During the remainder of the reign of Wladislaus II. the Teutonic Order gave Poland much trouble, but no serious anxiety. The trouble was due mainly to the repeated efforts of the Knights to evade the fulfilment of the obligations of the Treaty of Thorn. In these endeavours they were materially assisted by the emperor Sigismund, who was also king of Hungary. Sigismund, in 1422, even went so far as to propose a partition of Poland between Hungary, the empire and the Silesian princes, a scheme which foundered upon Sigismund's impecuniosity and the reluctance of the Magyars to injure the Poles. More than once Wladislaus II. was even obliged to renew the war against the Knights, and, in 1422, he compelled them to renounce all claims upon Samogitia; but the long struggle, still undecided at his death, was fought mainly with diplomatic weapons at Rome, where the popes, generally speaking, listened rather to the victorious monarch who had added an ecclesiastical province to the Church than to the discounted and turbulent Knights.
Had Wladislaus II. been as great a warrior as Witowt he might, perhaps, have subdued the Knights altogether. But by nature he was pre-eminently a diplomatist, and it must in fairness be admitted that his diplomacy in every direction was distinctly beneficial to Poland. He successfully thwarted all the schemes of the emperor Sigismund, by adroitly supporting the revolutionary party in Bohemia (q.v.). In return Hussite mercenaries fought on the Polish side at Tannenburg, and Czech patriots repeatedly offered the crown of Bohemia to Wladislaus. The Polish king was always ready enough to support the Czechs against Sigismund; but the necessity of justifying his own orthodoxy (which the Knights were for ever impugning) at Rome and in the face of Europe prevented him from accepting the crown of St Wenceslaus from the hands of heretics.
Wladislaus II. died at Lemberg in 1434, at the age of eighty three. During his long reign of forty-nine years Poland had gradually risen to the rank of a great power, a result due in no small measure to the insight and sagacity of the first Jagiello, who sacrificed every other consideration to the vital necessity of welding the central Slavs into a compact and homogeneous state. The next ten years severely tested the stability of his great work, but it stood the test triumphantly. Neither a turbulent minority, nor the neglect of an absentee king; neither the revival of separatist tendencies in Lithuania, nor the outbreaks of aristocratic lawlessness in Poland, could do more than shake the superstructure of the imposing edifice. After the death at Varna, in 1444, of Jagiello's eldest son and successor, Wladislaus III. (whose history belongs rather to Hungary than to Poland), another great statesman, in no wise inferior to Wladislaus II., completed and consolidated his work. This was Wladislaus's second son, already grand duke of Lithuania, who ascended the Polish throne as Casimir IV. in 1447, thus reuniting Poland and Lithuania under one monarch.
Enormous were the difficulties of Casimir IV. He instinctively
recognized not only the vital necessity of the maintenance
of the union between the two states, but also the
fact that the chief source of danger to the union lay
in Lithuania, in those days a maelstrom of conflicting
political currents. To begin with, Lithuania was Casimir IV.,
1447–1492.a far less composite state than Poland. Two-thirds of the grand duchy consisted of old Russian lands inhabited by men who spoke the Ruthenian language and professed the Orthodox Greek religion, While in the north were the Lithuanians proper, semi-savage and semi-catholic, justly proud of their heroic forefathers of the house of Gedymin, and very sensitive of the pretensions of Poland to the provinces of Volhynia and Podolia, the fruits of Lithuanian valour. A Lithuanian himself, Casimir strenuously resisted the attempts of Poland to wrest these provinces from the grand duchy. Moreover, during the earlier years of his reign, he was obliged to reside for the most part in Lithuania, where his tranquilizing influence was needed. His supposed preference for Lithuania was the real cause of his unpopularity in Poland, where, to the very end of his reign, he was regarded with suspicion, and where every effort was made to thwart his far-seeing and patriotic political combinations, which were beyond the comprehension of his self-seeking and narrow minded contemporaries. This was notably the case as regards his dealings with the old enemy of his race, the Teutonic Order, whose destruction was the chief aim of his ambition.
The Teutonic Order had long since failed as a religious institution, it was now to show its inadequacy as a political organization. In the domain of the Knights the gentry, parochial clergy and townsmen, who, beneath its protection, had attained to a high degree of wealth and civilization, for long remained without the slightest political influence, though they bore nearly the whole burden of taxation. In 1414, however, intimidated by the growing discontent, which frequently took the form of armed rebellion, the Knights consented to the establishment of a diet, which was re-formed on a more aristocratic basis in 1430. But the old abuses continuing to multiply, the Prussian towns and gentry at last took their affairs into their own hands, and formed a so-called Prussian League, which demanded an equal share in the government of the country. This league was excommunicated by the pope, and placed under the ban of the empire almost simultaneously in 1453, whereupon it placed itself beneath the protection of its nearest powerful neighbour, the king of Poland, who (March 6, 1454) issued a manifesto incorporating all the Prussian provinces with Poland, but, at the same time, granting them local autonomy and free trade.
But provinces are not conquered by manifestoes, and Casimir's acceptance of the homage of the Prussian League at once involved him in a war with the desperate Teutonic Knights, which lasted twelve years, but might easily have been concluded in a twelvemonth had he only been loyally supported by his own subjects, for whose benefit he had embarked upon this great enterprise. But instead of support, Casimir encountered obstinate obstruction at every point. No patriotic Pole, we imagine, can read the history of this miserable war without feeling heartily ashamed of his countrymen. The acquisition of the Prussian lands was vital to the existence of Poland. It meant the excision of an alien element which fed like a cancer on the body politic, it meant the recovery, at comparatively little cost, of the command of the principal rivers of Poland, the Vistula and the Niemen, it meant the obtaining of a seaboard with the corollaries of sea-power and world-wide commerce. Yet, except in the border province of Great Poland, which was interested commercially, the whole enterprise was regarded with such indifference that the king, in the very crisis of the struggle, could only with the utmost difficulty obtain contributions for war expenses from the half-dozen local diets of Poland, which extorted from the helplessness of their distracted and impecunious sovereign fresh privileges for every subsidy they grudgingly granted. Moreover Casimir's difficulties were materially increased by the necessity of paying for Czech mercenaries, the pospolite ruszenie, or Polish militia, proving utterly useless at the very beginning of the war. Indeed, from first to last, the Polish gentry as a body took good care to pay and fight as little as possible, and Casimir depended for the most part upon the liberality of the Church and the Prussian towns, and the valour of the Hussite infantry, 170,000 of whom, fighting on both sides, are said to have perished. Not till the victory of Puck (September 17, 1462), one of the very few pitched battles in a war of raids, skirmishes and sieges, did fortune incline decisively to the side of the Poles, who maintained and improved their advantage till absolute exhaustion compelled the Knights to accept the mediation of a papal legate, and the second peace of Thorn (October 14, 1466) concluded a struggle which had reduced the Prussian provinces to a wilderness. By the second peace of Thorn, Poland recovered the provinces of Pomerelia, Kulm and Michalow, with the bishopric of Ermeland, numerous cities and fortresses, including Marienburg, Elbing, Danzig and Thorn. The territory of the Knights was now reduced to Prussia proper, embracing, roughly speaking, the district between the Baltic, the lower Vistula and the lower Niemen, with Königsberg as its capital. For this territory the grand-masters, within nine months of their election, were in future to render homage to the Polish king; but, on the other hand, the king undertook not to make war or engage in any important enterprise without the consent of the Prussian province, and vice versa. Thus Prussia was now confederated with Poland, but she occupied a subordinate position as compared with Lithuania, inasmuch as the grand-master, though filling the first place in the royal council, was still a subject of the Polish crown. Thus the high hopes entertained by Casimir at the beginning of the war had not been realized. The final settlement with the Poles was of the nature of a compromise. Still the Knights had been driven beyond the Vistula, and Poland had secured a seaboard; and it was due entirely to the infinite patience and tenacity of the king that even as much as this was won at last.
The whole foreign policy of Casimir IV. was more or less conditioned by the Prussian question, and here also his superior diplomacy triumphantly asserted itself. At the beginning of the war both the empire and the pope were against him, but he neutralized their hostility by allying himself with George of Podvebrad, whom the Hussites had placed on the throne of Bohemia. On the death of George, Casimir's eldest son Wladislaus was elected king of Bohemia by the Utraquist party, despite the determined opposition of Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, whose ability and audacity henceforth made him Casimir's most dangerous rival. Sure of the support of the pope, Matthias (q.v.) deliberately set about traversing all the plans of Casimir. He encouraged the Teutonic Order to rebel against Poland; he entertained at his court anti-Polish embassies from Moscow; he encouraged the Tatars to ravage Lithuania; he thwarted Casimir's policy in Moldavia. The death of the brilliant adventurer at Vienna in 1490 came therefore as a distinct relief to Poland, and all danger from the side of Hungary was removed in 1490 when Casimir's son Wladislaus, already king of Bohemia, was elected king of Hungary also.
It was in the reign of Casimir IV. that Poland first came into direct collision with the Turks. The Republic was never, Poland and the Turks. indeed, the “Buckler of Christendom.” That glorious epithet belonged of right to Hungary, which had already borne the brunt of the struggle with the Ottoman power for more than a century. It is true that Wladislaus II. of Poland had fallen on the field of Varna, but it was as a Magyar king at the head of a Magyar army that the young monarch met his fate. Poland, indeed, was far less able to cope with the Turks than compact, wealthy Hungary, which throughout the 15th century was one of the most efficient military monarchies in Europe. The Jagiellos, as a rule, prudently avoided committing themselves to any political system which might irritate the still distant but much-dreaded Turk, but when their dominions extended so far southwards as to embrace Moldavia, the observance of a strict neutrality became exceedingly difficult. Poland had established a sort of suzerainty over Moldavia as early as the end of the 14th century; but at best it was a loose and vague over lordship which the Hospodars repudiated whenever they were strong enough to do so. The Turks themselves were too much occupied elsewhere to pay much attention to the Danubian principalities till the middle of the 15th century. In 1478 Mahomet II. had indeed attempted their subjugation, with but indifferent success; but it was not till 1484 that the Ottomans became inconvenient neighbours to Poland. In that year a Turkish fleet captured the strongholds of Kilia and Akkerman, commanding respectively the mouths of the Danube and Dniester. This aggression seriously threatened the trade of Poland, and induced Casimir IV. to accede to a general league against the Porte. In 1485, after driving the Turks out of Moldavia, the Polish king, at the head of 20,000 men, proceeded to Kolomea on the Pruth, where Bayezid II., then embarrassed by the Egyptian war, offered peace, but as no agreement concerning the captured fortresses could be arrived at, hostilities were suspended by a truce. During the remainder of his reign the Turks gave no trouble.
It was a fortunate thing for Poland that, during the first
century of her ascension to the rank of a great power, political
exigencies compelled her to appropriate almost more territory
than her primitive and centrifugal government could properly
assimilate; it was fortunate that throughout this period of
expansion her destinies should, with one brief interval, have
been controlled by a couple of superior statesmen, each of whom
ruled for nearly fifty years. During the fourteen years (1492–1506)
which separate the reigns of Casimir IV. and Sigismund I.
she was not so lucky. The controlling hand of Casimir IV. was
no sooner withdrawn than the unruly elements, ever present
in the Republic, and ultimately the ca
sue of its ruin, at once
burst forth. The first symptom of this lawlessness was the
separation of Poland and Lithuania, the Lithuanians proceeding
to elect Alexander, Casimir's fourth son, as their grand-duke,
without even consulting the Polish senate, in flagrant violation
of the union of Horodlo. The breach, happily, was of no very
long duration. A disastrous war with Ivan III., the first
Muscovite tsar, speedily convinced the Lithuanians that they
were not strong enough to stand alone, and in 1499 they
voluntarily renewed the union. Much more dangerous was
the political revolution proceeding simultaneously in Poland,
John I. Albert,
1492–1501. where John Albert, the third son of Casimir, had been elected king on the death of his father. The nature of this revolution will be considered in detail when we come to speak of the growth of the Polish constitution. Suffice it here to say that it was both anti-monarchical and anti-democratic, tending, as it did, to place all political authority in the hands of the szlachta, or gentry. The impecunious monarch submitted to the dictation of the diet in the hope of obtaining sufficient money to prosecute his ambitious designs. With his elder brother Wladislaus reigning over Bohemia and Hungary the credit of the Jagiellos in Europe had never been so great as it was now, and John Albert, bent upon military glory, eagerly placed himself at the head of what was to have been a great anti-Turkish league, but ultimately dwindled down to a raid upon Moldavia which ended in disaster. The sole advantage which John Albert reaped from his championship of the Christian cause was the favour of the Curia, and the ascendancy which that favour gave him over the Teutonic knights, whose new grand-master, Albert of Saxony, was reluctantly compelled to render due homage to the Polish king. Alexander,
1501–1506. Under Alexander (q.v.), who succeeded his brother in 1501, matters went from bad to worse. Alexander's election cemented, indeed, once for all, the union between Poland and Lithuania, inasmuch as, on the eve of it (Oct. 3, 1501) the senates of both countries agreed that, in future, the king of Poland should always be grand-duke of Lithuania, but this was the sole benefit which the Republic derived from the reign of Alexander, under whom the Polish government has been well described as a rudderless ship in a stormy sea, with nothing but the grace of God between it and destruction. In Lithuania the increasing pressure of the Muscovite was the chief danger. Till the accession of Ivan III. Russia and Lithuania. in 1462 Muscovy had been a negligible factor in Polish politics. During the earlier part of the 15th century the Lithuanian princes had successfully contested Muscovite influence even in Pskov and Great Novgorod. Many Russian historians even maintain that, but for the fact that Witowt had simultaneously to cope with the Teutonic Order and the Tatars, that energetic prince would certainly have extinguished struggling Muscovy altogether. But since the death of Witowt (1430) the military efficiency of Lithuania had sensibly declined; single-handed she was no longer a match for her ancient rival. This was owing partly to the evils of an oligarchic government; partly to the weakness resulting from the natural attraction of the Orthodox-Greek element in Lithuania towards Muscovy, especially after the fall of Constantinople, but chiefly to the administrative superiority of the highly centralized Muscovite government. During the reign of Alexander, who was too poor to maintain any adequate standing army in Lithuania, the Muscovites and Tatars ravaged the whole country at will, and were prevented from conquering it altogether only by their inability to capture the chief fortresses. In Poland, meanwhile, something very like anarchy prevailed. Alexander had practically surrendered his authority to an incapable aristocracy, whose sole idea of ruling was systematically to oppress and humiliate the lower classes. In foreign affairs a policy of drift prevailed which encouraged all the enemies of the Republic to raise their heads, while the dependent states of Prussia in the north and Moldavia in the south made strenuous efforts to break away from Poland. Fortunately for the integrity of the Polish state the premature death of Alexander in 1506 brought upon the throne his capable brother Sigismund, Sigismund I.,
1506–1548. the fifth son of Casimir IV., whose long reign of forty-two years was salutary, and would have been altogether recuperative, had his statesmanship only been loyally supported by his subjects. Eminently practical, Sigismund recognized that the first need of Poland was a standing army. The miserable collapse of the Polish chivalry during the Bukovinian campaign of 1497 had convinced every one that the ruszenie pospolite was useless for serious military purposes, and that Poland, in order to hold her own, must in future follow the example of the West, and wage her warfare with trained mercenaries. But professional soldiers could not be hired without money, and the difficulty was to persuade the diet to loose its purse-strings. All that the gentry contributed at present was two pence (groschen) per hide of land, and this only for defensive service at home. If the king led the ruszenie pospolite abroad he was obliged to pay so much per pike out of his own pocket, notwithstanding the fact that the heavily mortgaged crown lands were practically valueless. At the diet of 1510 the chancellor and primate, Adam Laski, proposed an income-tax of 50% at once, and 5% for subsequent years, payable by both the lay and clerical estates. In view of the fact that Poland was the most defenceless country in Europe, with no natural boundaries, and constantly exposed to attacks from every quarter, it was not unreasonable to expect even this patriotic sacrifice from the privileged classes, who held at least two-thirds of the land by military tenure. Nevertheless, the diet refused to consider the scheme. In the following year a more modest proposal was made by the Crown in the shape of a capitation of six gulden, to be levied on every nobleman at the beginning of a campaign, for the hiring of mercenaries. This also was rejected. In 1512 the king came forward with a third scheme. He proposed to divide the country into five circles, corresponding to the five provinces, each of which was to undertake to defend the realm in turn should occasion arise. Moreover, every one who so desired it might pay a commutation in lieu of personal service, and the amount so realized was to be re-used to levy troops. To this the dietines, or local diets, of Great Poland, and Little Poland, agreed, but at the last moment the whole project foundered on the question who was the proper custodian of the new assessment rolls, and the king had to be content with the renewal of former subsidies, varying from twelve to fifteen groats per hide of land for three years. Well might the disappointed monarch exclaim: “It is vain to labour for the welfare of those who do not care a jot about it themselves.” Matters improved somewhat in 1527, when the szlachta, by a special act, placed the mightiest magnates on the same level as the humblest squire as regards military service, and proposed at the same time a more general assessment for the purpose, the control of the money so realized to be placed in the hands of the king. In consequence of this law the great lords were compelled to put forces in the field proportioned to their enormous fortunes, and Sigismund was able in 1529 to raise 300 foot and 3200 horse from the province of Podolia alone. But though the treasury was thus temporarily replenished and the army increased, the gentry who had been so generous at the expense of their richer neighbours would hear of no additional burdens being laid on themselves, and the king only obtained what he wanted by sacrificing his principles to his necessities, and helping the szlachta to pull down the magnates. This fatal parsimony had the most serious political consequences, for it crippled the king at every step. Strive and scheme as he might, his needs were so urgent, his enemies so numerous, that, though generally successful in the end, he had always to be content with compromises, adjustments and semi-victories. Thus he was obliged, in 1525, to grant local autonomy to the province of Prussia instead of annexing it; he was unable to succour his unfortunate nephew, Louis of Hungary, against the Turkish peril; he was compelled to submit to the occupation of one Lithuanian province after the other by the Muscovites, and look on helplessly while myriads of Tatars penetrated to the very heart of his domains, wasting with fire and sword everything they could not carry away with them.
Again, it should have been the first duty of the Republic adequately to fortify the dzikie pola, or “savage steppe,” as The Cossacks. the vast plain was called which extended from Kiev to the Black Sea, and some feeble attempts to do so were at last made. Thus, in the reign of Alexander, the fugitive serfs whom tyranny or idleness had driven into this wilderness (they were subsequently known as Kazaki, or Cossacks, a Tatar word meaning freebooters) were formed into companies (c. 1504) and placed at the disposal of the frontier starostas, or lord marchers, of Kaniev, Kamenets, Czerkask on the Don and other places. But these measures proved inadequate, and in 1533 the lord marcher, Ostafi Daszkiewicz, the hero of Kaniev, which he had successfully defended against a countless host of Turks and Tatars, was consulted by the diet as to the best way of defending the Ukraine permanently against such inroads. The veteran expert advised the populating and fortifying of the islands of the Dnieper. Two thousand men would suffice, he said, and the Cossacks supplied excellent military material ready to hand. The diet unanimously approved of this simple and inexpensive plan; a special commission examined and approved of its details, and it was submitted to the next diet, which rejected it. So nothing at all was done officially, and the defence of the eastern Ukraine was left to providence. Oddly enough the selfish prudence of Sigismund's rapacious consort, Queen Bona, did more for the national defence than the Polish state could do. Thus, to defend her immense possessions in Volhynia and Podolia, she converted the castles of Bar and Krzemieniec into first-class fortresses, and placed the former in the hands of her Silesian steward, who acquitted himself so manfully of his charge that “the Tatars fell away from the frontier all the days of Pan Pretficz,” and a large population settled securely beneath the walls of Bar, henceforth known as “the bastion of Podolia.” Nothing, perhaps, illustrates so forcibly the casual character of the Polish government in the most vital matters as this single incident.
The most important political event during the reign of Sigismund was the collapse of the ancient Hungarian monarchy at Mohacs in 1526. Poland, as the next neighbour of Hungary, was more seriously affected than any other European power by this catastrophe, but her politicians differed as to the best way of facing it. Immediately after the death of King Louis, who fell on the field of battle, the emperor Ferdinand and John Zapolya, voivode of Transylvania, competed for the vacant crown, and both were elected almost simultaneously. In Poland Zapolya's was the popular cause, and he also found powerful support in the influential and highly gifted Laski family, as represented by the Polish chancellor and his nephews John and Hieronymus. Sigismund, on the other hand, favoured Ferdinand of Austria. Though bound by family ties with both competitors, he regarded the situation from a purely political point of view. He argued that the best way to keep the Turk from Poland was for Austria to incorporate Hungary, in which case the Austrian dominion would be a strong and permanent barrier against a Mussulman invasion of Europe. History has more than justified him, and the long duel which ensued between Ferdinand and Zapolya (see Hungary: History) enabled the Polish monarch to maintain to the end a cautious but observant neutrality. More than once, indeed, Sigismund was seriously compromised by the diplomatic vagaries of Hieronymus Laski, who entered the service of Zapolya (since 1529 the protégé of the sultan), and greatly alarmed both the emperor and the pope by his disturbing philo-Turk proclivities. It was owing to Laski's intrigues that the new hospodar of Moldavia, Petrylo, after doing homage to the Porte, intervened in the struggle as the foe of both Ferdinand and Sigismund, and besieged the Grand Hetman of the Crown, Jan Tarnowski, in Obertyn, where, however, the Moldavians (August 22, 1531) sustained a crushing defeat, and Petrylo was slain. Nevertheless, so anxious was Sigismund to avoid a collision with the Turks, that he forbade the victorious Tarnowski to cross the Moldavian frontier, and sent a letter of explanation to Constantinople. On the death of John Zapolya, the Austro-Polish alliance was still further cemented by the marriage of Sigismund's son and heir, Sigismund Augustus, with the archduchess Elizabeth. In the reign of Sigismund was effected the incorporation of the duchy of Masovia with the Polish crown, after an independent existence of five hundred years. In 1526 the male line of the ancient dynasty became extinct, and on the 26th of August Sigismund received the homage of the Masovians at Warsaw, the capital of the duchy and ere long of the whole kingdom. Almost every acre of densely populated Masovia was in the hands of her sturdy, ultra-conservative squires, in point of culture far below their brethren in Great and Little Poland. The additional revenue gained by the Crown from Masovia was at first but 14,000 gulden per annum.
The four and twenty years of Sigismund II.'s reign was a critical period of Polish history. Complications with the Turk were avoided by the adroit diplomacy of the king, while the superior discipline and efficiency of the Polish armies under the great Tarnowski (q.v.) and his pupils overawed the Tatars and extruded the Muscovites, neither of whom were so troublesome as they had been during the last reign. All the more disquieting was the internal condition of the country, due mainly to the invasion of Poland by the Reformation, and the coincidence of this invasion with an internal revolution of a quasi-democratic character, which aimed at substituting the rule of the szlachta for the rule of the senate.
Hitherto the Republic had given the Holy See but little anxiety. Hussite influences, in the beginning of the 15th The Reformation in Poland. century, had been superficial and transitory. The Polish government had employed Hussite mercenaries, but rejected Hussite propagandists. The edict of Wielun (1424), remarkable as the first anti-heretical decree issued in Poland, crushed the new sect in its infancy. Lutheranism, moreover, was at first regarded with grave suspicion by the intensely patriotic Polish gentry, because of its German origin. Nevertheless, the extremely severe penal edicts issued during the reign of Sigismund I., though seldom applied, seem to point to the fact that heresy was spreading widely throughout the country. For a time, therefore, the Protestants had to be cautious in Poland proper, but they found a sure refuge in Prussia, where Lutheranism was already the established religion, and where the newly erected university of Königsberg became a seminary for Polish ministers and preachers.
While Lutheranism was thus threatening the Polish Church from the north, Calvinism had already invaded her from the west. Calvinism, indeed, rather recommended itself to the Poles as being of non-German origin, and Calvin actually dedicated his Commentary on the Mass to the young krolewicz (or crown prince) Sigismund Augustus, from whom protestantism, erroneously enough, expected much in the future. Meanwhile conversion to Calvinism, among the higher classes in Poland, became more and more frequent. We hear of crowded Calvinist conventicles in Little Poland from 1545 onwards, and Calvinism continued to spread throughout the kingdom during the latter years of Sigismund I. Another sect, which ultimately found even more favour in Poland than the Calvinists, was that of the Bohemian Brethren. We first hear of them in Great Poland in 1548. A royal decree promptly banished them to Prussia, where they soon increased so rapidly as to be able to hold their own against the Lutherans. The death of the uncompromising Sigismund I. came as a great relief to the Protestants, who entertained high hopes of his son and successor. He was known to be familiar with the works of the leading reformers; he was surrounded by Protestant counsellors, and he was actually married to Barbara, daughter of Prince Nicholas Radziwill, “Black Radziwill,” the all-powerful chief of the Lithuanian Calvinists. It was not so generally known that Sigismund II. was by conviction a sincere though not a bigoted Catholic; and nobody suspected that beneath his diplomatic urbanity lay a patriotic firmness and statesmanlike qualities of the first order. Moreover, they ignored the fact that the success of the Protestant propaganda was due rather to political than to religious causes. The Polish gentry's jealousy of the clerical estate, whose privileges even exceeded their own, was at the bottom of the whole matter. Any opponent of the established clergy was the natural ally of the szlachta, and the scandalous state of the Church herself provided them with a most formidable weapon against her. It is not too much to say that the condition of the Catholic Church in Poland was almost as bad as it was in Scotland during the same period. The bishops were, for the most part, elegant triflers, as pliant as reeds, with no fixed principles and saturated with a false humanism. Some of them were notorious evil-livers. “Pint-pot” Latuski, bishop of Posen, had purchased his office for 12,000 ducats from Queen Bona; while another of her creatures, Peter, popularly known as the “wencher,” was appointed bishop of Przemysl with the promise of the reversion of the still richer see of Cracow. Moreover, despite her immense wealth (in the province of Little Poland alone she owned at this time 26 towns, 83 landed estates and 772 villages), the Church claimed exemption from all public burdens, from all political responsibilities, although her prelates continued to exercise an altogether disproportionate political influence. Education was shamefully neglected, the masses being left in almost heathen ignorance—and this, too, at a time when the upper classes were greedily appropriating the ripe fruits of the Renaissance and when, to use the words of a contemporary, there were “more Latinists in Poland than there used to be in Latium.” The university of Cracow, the sole source of knowledge in the vast Polish realm, still moved in the vicious circle of scholastic formularies. The provincial schools, dependent upon so decrepit an alma mater, were suffered to decay. This criminal neglect of national education brought along with it its own punishment. The sons of the gentry, denied proper instruction at home, betook themselves to the nearest universities across the border, to Goldberg in Silesia, to Wittemberg, to Leipzig. Here they fell in with the adherents of the new faith, grave, earnest men who professed to reform the abuses which had grown up in the Church; and a sense of equity as much as a love of novelty moved them, on their return home, to propagate wholesome doctrines and clamour for the reformation of their own degenerate prelates. Finally the poorer clergy, neglected by their bishops, and excluded from all preferment, took part with the szlachta against their own spiritual rulers and eagerly devoured and imparted to their flocks, in their own language, the contents of the religious tracts which reached them by divers ways from Goldberg and Königsberg. Nothing indeed did so much to popularize the new doctrines in Poland as this beneficial revival of the long-neglected vernacular by the reformers.
Such was the situation when Sigismund II. began his reign. The bishops at once made a high bid for the favour of the new Sigismund II., 1548-1572. king by consenting to the coronation of his Calvinist consort (Dec 7, 1550) and the king five days afterwards issued the celebrated edict in which he pledged his royal word to preserve intact the unity of the Church and to enforce the law of the land against heresy. Encouraged by this pleasing symptom of orthodoxy the bishops, instead of first attempting to put their own dilapidated house in order, at once proceeded to institute prosecutions for heresy against all and sundry. This at once led to an explosion, and at the diet of Piotrkow, 1552, the szlachta accepted a proposition of the king, by way of compromise, that the jurisdiction of the clerical courts should be suspended for twelve months, on condition that the gentry continued to pay tithes as heretofore. Then began a religious interim, which was gradually prolonged for ten years, during which time Protestantism in Poland flourished exceedingly. Presently reformers of every shade of opinion, even those who were tolerated nowhere else, poured into Poland, which speedily became the battle-ground of all the sects of Europe. Soon the Protestants became numerous enough to form ecclesiastical districts of their own. The first Calvinist synod in Poland was held at Pinczow in 1550. The Bohemian Brethren evangelized Little Poland, but ultimately coalesced with the Calvinists at the synod of Kozminek (August 1555). In the diet itself the Protestants were absolutely supreme, and invariably elected a Calvinist to be their marshal. At the diet of 1555 they boldly demanded a national synod, absolute toleration, and the equalization of all the sects except the Anti-trinitarians. But the king intervened and the existing interim was indefinitely prolonged. At the diet of Piotrkow, 1558-1559, the onslaught of the szlachta on the clergy was fiercer than ever, and they even demanded the exclusion of the bishops from the senate. The king, however, perceiving a danger to the constitution in the violence of the szlachta, not only supported the bishops, but quashed a subsequent reiterated demand for a national synod. The diet of 1558-1559 indicates the high-water mark of Polish Protestantism. From this time forward it began to subside, very gradually but unmistakably. The chief cause of this subsidence was the division among the reformers themselves. From the chaos of creeds resulted a chaos of ideas on all imaginable subjects, politics included. The Anti-trinitarian proved to be the chief dissolvent, and from 1560 onwards the relations between the two principal Protestant sects, the Lutherans and the Calvinists, were fratricidal rather than fraternal. An auxiliary cause of the decline of Protestantism was the beginning of a Catholic reaction. The bulk of the population still held persistently, if languidly, to the faith of its fathers; the new bishops were holy and learned men, very unlike the creations of Queen Bona, and the Holy See gave to the slowly reviving zeal of both clergy and laity the very necessary impetus from without. For Poland, unlike Scotland, was fortunately, in those days of difficult inter-communication, not too far off, and it is indisputable that in the first instance it was the papal nuncios, men like Berard of Camerino and Giovanni Commendone, who reorganized the scattered and faint-hearted battalions of the Church militant in Poland and led them back to victory. At the diet of Piotrkow in 1562, indeed, the king's sore need of subsidies induced him, at the demand of the szlachta, to abolish altogether the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts in cases of heresy; but, on the other hand, at the diet of 1564 he accepted from Commendone the Tridentine decrees and issued an edict banishing all foreign, and especially Anti-trinitarian, heretics from the land. At the diet of 1565 Sigismund went The Counter-Reformation in Poland. still farther. He rejected a petition for a national pacificatory synod as unnecessary, inasmuch as the council of Trent had already settled all religious questions, and at the same time consented to the introduction into Poland of the most formidable adversaries of the Reformation, the Jesuits. These had already been installed at Poltusk, and were permitted, after the diet rose, to found establishments in the dioceses of Posen, Ermeland and Vilna, which henceforth became centres of a vigorous and victorious propaganda. Thus the Republic recovered her catholicity and her internal harmony at the same time.
With rare sagacity Sigismund II. had thus piloted the Republic through the most difficult internal crisis it had yet encountered. In purely political matters also both initiative and fulfilment came entirely from the Crown, and to the last of the Iagiellos Poland owed the important acquisition of Livonia and the welding together of her loosely connected component parts into a single state by the Union of Lublin.
In the middle of the 16th century the ancient order of the Knights of the Sword, whose territory embraced Esthonia, Livonia, Courland, Semgallen and the islands of Dago and Oesel, was tottering to its fall. All the Baltic powers were more or less interested in the apportionment of this vast tract of land, whose geographical position made it not only the chief commercial link between east and west, but also the emporium whence the English, Dutch, Swedes, Danes and Germans obtained their corn, timber and most of the raw products of Lithuania and Muscovy. Matters were complicated by the curious political intricacies of this long-coveted domain, where the grand-master, the archbishop of Riga, and the estates of Livonia possessed concurrent and generally conflicting jurisdictions. Poland and Muscovy as the nearest neighbours of this moribund state, which had so long excluded them from the sea, were vitally concerned in its fate. After an anarchic period of suspense, lasting from 1546 to 1561, during which Sweden secured Esthonia, while Ivan the Terrible fearlessly ravaged Livonia, in the hope of making it valueless to any other potentate, Sigismund II., to whom both the grand-master and the archbishop had appealed more than once for protection, at length intervened decisively. Both he and his chancellor, Piotr Myszkowski (d. 1591), were well aware of the importance of securing a coast-land which would enable Poland to become a naval power. But the diet, with almost incredible short-sightedness, refused to waste a penny on an undertaking which, they argued, concerned only Lithuania, and it was not as king of Poland, but as grand-duke of Lithuania, and with purely Lithuanian troops, that Sigismund, in 1561, occupied Livonia. At his camp before Riga the last grand-master, Gotthard von Ketteler, who had long been at the head of the Polish party in Livonia, and William of Brandenburg, archbishop of Riga, gladly placed themselves beneath his protection, and by a subsequent convention signed at Vilna (Nov. 28, 1561), Livonia was incorporated with Lithuania in much the same way as Prussia had been incorporated with Poland thirty-six years previously. Ketteler, who had adopted Lutheranism during a visit to Germany in 1553, now professed the Augsburg Confession, and became the first duke of a new Protestant duchy, which he was to hold as a fief of the Polish crown, with local autonomy and absolute freedom of worship. The southern provinces of the ancient territory of the Order, Courland and Semgallen, had first been ceded on the 24th of June 1559 to Lithuania on similar conditions, the matter being finally adjusted by the compact of March 1562.
The apathy of Poland in such a vital matter as the Livonian question must have convinced so statesmanlike a prince as Sigismund II. of the necessity of preventing any possibility of cleavage in the future between the two halves of his dominions whose absolute solidarity was essential to their existence as a great power. To this patriotic design he devoted the remainder of his life. A personal union, under one monarch, however close, had proved inadequate. A further step must be taken—the two independent countries must be transformed into a single state. The great obstacle in the way of this, the only true solution of the difficulty, was the opposition of the Lithuanian magnates, who feared to lose the absolute dominance they possessed in the grand-duchy if they were merged in the szlachta of the kingdom. But, at the last moment, the dread of another Muscovite invasion made them more pliable and, at a Polish diet held at Warsaw from November 1563 to June 1564, which the Lithuanians attended, the question of an absolute union was hotly debated. When things came to a deadlock the king tactfully intervened and voluntarily relinquished his hereditary title to Lithuania, thus placing the two countries on a constitutional equality and preparing the way for fresh negotiations in the future. The death, in 1565, of Black Radziwill, the chief opponent of the union, still further weakened the Lithuanians, and the negotiations were reopened with more prospect of success at the diet which met at Lublin on the 10th of January 1569. But even now the Lithuanians were indisposed towards a complete union, and finally they quitted the diet, leaving two commissioners behind to watch their interests. Then Sigismund executed his master stroke. Knowing the sensitiveness of the Lithuanians as regards Volhynia and Podolia, he suddenly, of his own authority, formally incorporated both these provinces with the kingdom of Poland, whereupon, amidst great enthusiasm, the Volhynian and Podolian deputies took their places on the same benches as their Polish brethren. The hands of the Lithuanians were forced. Even a complete union on equal terms was better than mutilated independence. Complete Union of Lithuania and Poland, 1569. Accordingly they returned to the diet, and the union was unanimously adopted on the 1st of July 1569. Henceforth the kingdom of Poland and the grand duchy of Lithuania were to constitute one inseparable and indivisible body politic, under one sovereign, elected in common, with one diet and one currency. All dependencies and colonies, including Prussia and Livonia, were to belong to Poland and Lithuania in common. The retention of the old duality of dignities was the one reminiscence of the original separation. No decision, however, could be come to as to the successor of the childless king, partly because of the multiplicity of candidates, partly because of Austrian intrigue, and this, the most momentous question of all, was still unsettled when Sigismund II. expired on the 6th of July 1572.
The Jagiellonic period (1386-1572) is the history of the consolidation and fusion into one homogeneous, political whole Character of the Jagiellonic Period, 1386-1572. of numerous national elements, more or less akin ethnologically, but differing immensely in language, religion and, above all, in degrees of civilization. Out of the ancient Piast kingdom, mutilated by the loss of Silesia and the Baltic shore, arose a republic consisting at first of various loosely connected entities, naturally centrifugal, but temporarily drawn together by the urgent need of combination against a superior foe, who threatened them separately with extinction. Beneath the guidance of a dynasty of princes which, curiously enough, was supplied by the least civilized portion of this congeries of nationalities, the nascent republic gradually grew into a power which subjugated its former oppressors and, viewed externally, seemed to bear upon it the promise of empire. It is dangerous to prophesy, but all the facts and circumstances before us point irresistibly to the conclusion that had the Jagiellonic dynasty but endured this promise of empire might well have been realized. The extraordinary thing about the Jagiellos was the equable persistency of their genius. Not only were five of the seven great statesmen, but they were statesmen of the same stamp. We are disturbed by no such sharp contrasts as are to be found among the Plantagenets, the Vasas and the Bourbons. The Jagiellos were all of the same mould and pattern, but the mould was a strong one and the pattern was good. Their predominant and constant characteristic is a sober sagacity which instinctively judges aright and imperturbably realized its inspirations. The Jagiellos were rarely brilliant, but they were always perspicacious. Above all, they alone seem to have had the gift of guiding the most difficult of nations properly. Two centuries of Jagiellonic rule made Poland great despite her grave external difficulties. Had that dynasty been prolonged for another century, there is every reason to suppose that it would also have dealt satisfactorily with Poland's still more dangerous internal difficulties, and arrested the development of that anarchical constitution which was the ruling factor in the ruin of the Republic.
Simultaneously with the transformation into a great power of the petty principalities which composed ancient Poland, another and equally momentous political transformation was proceeding within the country itself.
The origin of the Polish constitution is to be sought in the wiece or councils of the Polish princes, during the partitional period (c. 1279-1370). The privileges conferred upon the magnates of which these councils were composed, especially upon the magnates of Little Poland, who brought the Jagiellos to the throne, directed their policy, and grew rich upon their liberality, revolted the less favoured szlachta, or gentry, who, The Polish Constitution. towards the end of the 14th century, combined for mutual defence in their sejmiki, or local diets, of which originally there were five, three in Great Poland, one in Little Poland and one in Posen-Kalisz. In these sejmiki the deputies of the few great towns were also represented. The Polish towns, notably Cracow, had obtained their privileges, including freedom from tolls and municipal government, from the Crown in return for important services, such as warding off the Tatars, while the cities of German origin were protected by the Magdeburg law. Casimir the Great even tried to make municipal government as democratic as possible by enacting that one half of the town council of Cracow should be elected from the civic patriciate, but the other half from the commonalty. Louis the Great placed the burgesses on a level with the gentry by granting to the town council of Cracow jurisdiction over all the serfs in the extra-rural estates of the citizens. From this time forth deputies from the cities were summoned to the sejmiki on all important occasions, such, for instance, as the ratification of treaties, a right formally conceded to them by the sejmik of Radom in 1384. Thus at this period Poland was a confederation of half a dozen semi-independent states. The first general assembly of which we have certain notice is the zjazd walny which was summoned to Koszyce in November 1404, to relieve the financial embarrassments of Wladislaus, and granted him an extraordinary subsidy of twenty groats per hide of land to enable him to purchase Dobrzyn from the Teutonic Knights. Such subsidies were generally the price for the confirmation of ancient or the concession of new privileges. Thus at the diet of Brześć Kujawski, in 1425, the szlachta obtained its first habeas corpus act in return for acknowledging the right of the infant krolewicz Wladislaus to his father's throne. The great opportunity of the szlachta was, of course, the election of a new king, especially the election of a minor, an event always accompanied and succeeded by disorders. Thus at the election of the infant Wladislaus III., his guardians promised in his name to confirm all the privileges granted by his father. If, on attaining his majority, the king refused to ratify these promises, his subjects were ipso facto absolved from their obedience. This is the first existence of the mischievous principle de prestanda obedientia, subsequently elevated into a statute. It is in this reign, too, that we meet with the first rokosz, or insurrection of the nobility against the executive. The extraordinary difficulties of Casimir IV. were freely exploited by the szlachta, who granted that ever impecunious monarch as little as possible, but got full value for every penny they grudgingly gave. Thus by the Articles of Cerekwica presented to him by the sejmik or dietine of Great Poland in 1454 on the outbreak of the Teutonic War, he conceded the principle that no war should in future be begun without the consent of the local diets. A few months later he was obliged to grant the Privileges of Nieszawa, which confirmed and extended the operation of the Articles of Cerekwica. The sejmiki had thus added to their original privilege of self-taxation the right to declare war and control the national militia. This was a serious political retrogression. A strongly centralized government had ever been Poland's greatest need, and Casimir the Great had striven successfully against all centrifugal tendencies. And now, eighty-four years after his death, Poland was once more split up into half a dozen loosely federated states in the hands of country gentlemen too ignorant and prejudiced to look beyond the boundaries of their own provinces. The only way of saving the Republic from disintegration was to concentrate all its political factors into a sejm-walny or general diet. But to this the magnates and the szlachta were equally opposed, the former because they feared the rivalry of a national assembly, the latter because they were of more importance in their local diets than they could possibly hope to be in a general diet. The first sejm to legislate for the whole of Poland was the diet of Piotrkow (1493), summoned by John Albert to grant him subsidies; but the mandates of its deputies were limited to twelve months, and its decrees were to have force for only three years. John Albert's second diet (1496), after granting subsidies the burden of which fell entirely on the towns and peasantry, passed a series of statutes benefiting the nobility at the expense of the other classes. Thus one statute permitted the szlachta henceforth to export and import goods duty free, to the great detriment of the towns and the treasury. Another statute prohibited the burgesses from holding landed property and enjoying the privileges attaching thereto. A third statute disqualified plebeians from being elected to canonries or bishoprics. A fourth endeavoured to bind the peasantry more closely to the soil by forbidding emigration. The condition of the serfs was subsequently (1520) still further deteriorated by the introduction of socage. In a word, this diet disturbed the equilibrium of the state by enfeebling and degrading the middle classes. Nevertheless, so long as the Jagiello dynasty lasted, the political rights of the cities were jealously protected by the Crown against the usurpation's of the nobility. Deputies from the towns took part in the election of John Albert (1492), and the burgesses of Cracow, the most enlightened economists in the kingdom, supplied Sigismund I. with his most capable counsellors during the first twenty years of his reign (1506–1526). Again and again the nobility attempted to exclude the deputies of Cracow from the diet, in spite of a severe edict issued by Sigismund I. in 1509, threatening to prosecute for treason all persons who dared to infringe the liberties of the citizens. During Sigismund's reign, moreover, the Crown recovered many of the prerogatives of which it had been deprived during the reign of his feeble predecessor, Alexander, who, to say nothing of the curtailments of the prerogative, had been forced to accept the statute nihil novi (1505) which gave the sejm and the senate an equal voice with the Crown in all executive matters. In the latter years of Sigismund I. (1530–1548) the political influence of the szlachta grew rapidly at the expense of the executive, and the gentry in diet assembled succeeded in curtailing the functions of all the great officers of state. During the reign of Sigismund II. (1548–1572) they diverted their attention to the abuses of the Church and considerably reduced both her wealth and her privileges. In this respect both the Crown and the country were with them, so that their interference, if violent, was on the whole distinctly beneficial.
The childless Sigismund II. died suddenly without leaving
any regulations as to the election of his successor. Fortunately
for Poland the political horizon was absolutely
unclouded. The Turks, still reeling from the shock
1572–1573. of Lepanto, could with difficulty hold their own against the united forces of the pope, Spain and Venice; while Ivan the Terrible had just concluded a truce with Poland. Domestic affairs, on the other hand, were in an almost anarchical condition. The Union of Lublin, barely three years old, was anything but consolidated, and in Lithuania it continued to be extremely unpopular. In Poland proper the szlachta were fiercely opposed to the magnates; and the Protestants seemed bent upon still further castigating the clergy. Worst of all, there existed no recognized authority in the land to curb and control its jarring centrifugal political elements. It was nearly two hundred years since the Republic had suffered from an interregnum, and the precedents of 1382 were obsolete. The primate, on hearing of the demise of the Crown, at once invited all the senators of Great Poland to a conference at Lowicz, but passed over the szlachta altogether. In an instant the whole Republic was seething like a caldron, and a rival assembly was simultaneously summoned to Cracow by Jan Ferlej, the head of the Protestant party. Civil war was happily averted at the last moment, and a national convention, composed of senators and deputies from all parts of the country, assembled at Warsaw, in April 1573, for the purpose of electing a new king. Five candidates for the throne were already in the field. Lithuania favoured Ivan IV. In Poland the bishops and most of the Catholic magnates were for an Austrian archduke, while the strongly anti-German szlachta were inclined to accept almost any candidate but a German, so long as he came with a gift in his hand and was not a Muscovite. In these circumstances it was an easy task for the adroit and energetic French ambassador, Jean de Montluc (d. 1579), brother of the famous marshal, and bishop of Valence, to procure the election of the French candidate, Henry, duke of Anjou. Well provided with funds, he speedily bought over many of the leading magnates, and his popularity reached its height when he strenuously advocated the adoption of the mode of election by the gentry en masse (which the szlachta proposed to revive), as opposed to the usual and more orderly “secret election” by a congress of senators and deputies, sitting with closed doors. The religious difficulty, meanwhile, had been adjusted to the satisfaction of all parties by the compact of Warsaw (Jan. 28, 1573), which granted absolute religious liberty to all non-Catholic denominations (dissidentes de religion, as they now began to be called) without exception, thus exhibiting a far more liberal intention than the Germans had manifested in the religious peace of Augsburg eighteen years before. Finally, early in April 1573, the election diet assembled at Warsaw, and on the 11th of May, in the midst of intrigue, corruption, violence and confusion, Henry of Valois was elected king of Poland.
The election had, however, been preceded by a correctura jurum, or reform of the constitution, which resulted in the Henry of Valois, king, 1573-1574. famous “Henrican Articles” which converted Poland from a limited monarchy into a republic with an elective chief magistrate. Henceforward the king was to have no voice in the choice of his successor. He was not to use the word haeres, not being an hereditary sovereign. He was to marry a wife selected for him by the senate. He was neither to seek for a divorce nor give occasion for one. He was to be neutral in all religious matters. He was not to lead the militia across the border except with the consent of the szlachta, and then only for three months at a time. Every year the senate was to appoint sixteen of its number to be in constant attendance upon the king in rotas of four, which sedecimvirs were to supervise all his actions. Should the king fail to observe any one of these articles, the nation was ipso facto absolved from its allegiance. This constitutional reform was severely criticized by contemporary political experts. Some strongly condemned the clause justifying renunciation of allegiance, as tending to treason and anarchy. Others protested against the anomalous and helpless position of the so-called king, who, if he could do no harm, was certainly powerless for good. But such Cassandras prophesied to heedless ears. The Republic had deliberately cast itself upon the downward grade which was to lead to ruin.
The reign of Henry of Valois lasted thirteen months. The tidings of the death of his brother Charles IX., which reached him on the 14th of June 1574, determined him to exchange a thorny for what he hoped would be a flowery throne, and at midnight on the 18th of June 1574 he literally fled from Poland, pursued to the frontier by his indignant and bewildered subjects. Eighteen months later (Dec. 14, 1575), mainly through the influence of Jan Zamoyski, Stephen Báthory, prince of Transylvania, was elected king of Poland by the szlachta in opposition to the emperor Maximilian, who had been elected two days previously by the senate, after disturbances which would have rent any other state but Poland to pieces.
The glorious career of Stephen Báthory (1575-1586) is dealt with elsewhere (see Stephen, King of Poland). His example Stephen Báthory, 1575-1586. demonstrates the superiority of genius and valour over the most difficult circumstances. But his reign was too brief to be permanently beneficial.
The Vasa period of Polish history which began with the election of Sigismund, son of John III., king of Sweden, was the Sigismund III., 1587-1632. epoch of last and lost chances. The collapse of the Muscovite tsardom in the east, and the submersion of the German Empire in the west by the Thirty Years' War, presented Poland with an unprecedented opportunity of consolidating, once for all, her hard-won position as the dominating power of central Europe. Everywhere circumstances were favourable to her, and in Źolkiewski, Chodkiewicz and Koniecpolski she possessed three of the greatest captains of that or any other age. With all the means at her disposal cheerfully placed in the hands of such valiant and capable ministers, it would have been no difficult task for the Republic to have wrested the best part of the Baltic littoral from the Scandinavian powers, and driven the distracted Muscovites beyond the Volga. Permanent greatness and secular security were within her reach at the commencement of the Vasa period; how was it, then, that at the end of that period, only fifty years later, Poland had already sunk irredeemably into much the same position as Turkey occupies now, the position of a moribund state, existing on sufferance simply because none was yet quite prepared to administer the coup de grâce? There is only one answer; the principal cause of this complete and irretrievable collapse is to be sought for in the folly, egotism and selfishness of the Polish gentry, whose insane dislike of all discipline, including even the salutary discipline of regular government, converted Poland into something very like a primitive tribal community at the very time when every European statesman, including the more enlightened of the Poles themselves, clearly recognized that the political future belonged to the strongly centralized monarchies, which were everywhere rising on the ruins of feudalism. Of course there were other contributory causes. The tenacity with which Sigismund III. clung to his hereditary rights to the Swedish Crown involved Poland in a quite unnecessary series of wars with Charles IX. and Gustavus Adolphus, when her forces were sorely needed elsewhere. The adhesion of the same monarch to the League of the Catholic Reaction certainly added to the difficulties of Polish diplomacy, and still further divided the already distracted diet, besides alienating from the court the powerful and popular chancellor Zamoyski. Yet Sigismund III. was a far more clear sighted statesman than any of his counsellors or contradictory. For instance, he was never misled by the successes of the false Demetrius in Muscovy, and wisely insisted on recovering the great eastern fortress of Smolensk rather than attempting the conquest of Moscow. His much-decried alliance with the emperor at the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War was eminently sagacious. He perceived at once that it was the only way of counteracting the restlessness of the sultan's protégés, the Protestant princes of Transylvania, whose undisciplined hordes, scarcely less savage than their allies the Turks and Tatars, were a perpetual menace both to Austria and to Poland. Finally he was bent upon reforming the Polish constitution by substituting the decision of all matters by a plurality of votes for a unanimity impossible to count upon.
When we turn to the szlachta who absolutely controlled the diet, we find not the slightest trace, I will not say of political foresight—that they never possessed—but of common patriotism, or ordinary public spirit. The most urgent national necessities were powerless to stir their hearts or open their purses. The diets during the reign of Sigismund III. were even more niggardly than they had been under the Jagiellos, and on the single occasion when the terrors of an imminent Tatar invasion constrained them to grant extraordinary subsidies, they saw to it that such subsidies should rest entirely on the shoulders of the burgesses (who had in the meantime been deprived of the franchise) and the already overburdened peasantry. In the very crisis of the Swedish War, the diminutive army of the victorious Chodkiewicz was left unpaid, with the result that the soldiers mutinied, and marched off en masse. Both Chodkiewicz and Źolkiewski frequently had to pay the expenses of their campaigns out of their own pockets, and were expected to conquer empires and defend hundreds of miles of frontier with armies of 3000 or 4000 men at most. When they retreated before overwhelming odds they were publicly accused of cowardice and incompetence. The determination to limit still further the power of the executive was at the bottom of this fatal parsimony, with the inevitable consequence that, while the king and the senate were powerless, every great noble or lord-marcher was free to do what he chose in his own domains, so long as he flattered his “little brothers,” the szlachta. Incredible as it may seem, the expedition to place the false Demetrius on the Muscovite throne was a private speculation of a few Lithuanian magnates, and similar enterprises on the part of other irresponsible noblemen on the Danube or Dniester brought upon unhappy Poland retaliatory Tatar raids, which reduced whole provinces to ashes. Every attempt to improve matters, by reforming the impossible constitution, stranded on the opposition of the gentry. Take, for instance, the typical and highly instructive case of Zebrzydowski's rebellion. Nicholas Zebrzydowski, a follower of the chancellor Zamoyski, was one of the wealthiest and most respectable magnates in Poland. As palatine of Cracow he held one of the highest and most lucrative dignities in the state, and was equally famous for his valour, piety and liberality. Disappointed in his hope of obtaining the great seal on the death of Zamoyski, he at once conceived that the whole of the nobility had been insulted in his person, and proceeded to make all government impossible for the next three years. On the 7th of March 1606 Sigismund summoned a diet for the express purpose of introducing the principle of decision by majority in the diet, whereupon Zebrzydowski summoned a counter-confederation to Stenczyn in Little Poland, whose first act was to open negotiations with the prince of Transylvania, Stephen Bocskay, with the view of hiring mercenaries from him for further operations. At a subsequent confederation, held at Lublin in June, Zebrzydowski was reinforced by another great nobleman, Stanislaus Stadnicki, called the Devil, who “had more crimes on his conscience than hairs on his head,” and was in the habit of cropping the ears and noses of small squires and chaining his serfs to the walls of his underground dungeons for months at a time. This champion of freedom was very eloquent as to the wrongs of the szlachta, and proposed that the assembly should proceed in a body to Warsaw and there formally renounce their allegiance. The upshot of his oratory was the summoning of a rokosz, or national insurrection, to Sandomir, which was speedily joined by the majority of the szlachta all over the country, who openly proclaimed their intention of dethroning the king and chastising the senate, and sent Stadnicki to Transylvania to obtain the armed assistance of Stephen Bocskay. Only the clergy, naturally conservative, still clung to the king, and Sigismund III., who was no coward, at once proceeded to Cracow to overawe the rokoszanie, or insurrectionists, by his proximity, and take the necessary measures for his own protection. By the advice of his senators he summoned a zjazd, or armed convention, to Wis̄lica openly to oppose the insurrection of Sandomir, which zjazd was to be the first step towards the formation of a general confederation for the defence of the throne. Civil war seemed inevitable, when the szlachta of Red Russia and Sieradz suddenly rallied to the king, who at once ordered his army to advance, and after defeating the insurrectionists at Janowiec (in October), granted them a full pardon, on the sole condition that they should refrain from all such acts of rebellion in future. Despite their promises, Zebrzydowski and his colleagues a few months later were again in arms. In the beginning of 1607 they summoned another rokosz to Jendrzejow, at the very time when the diet was assembling at Warsaw. The diet authorized the king to issue a proclamation dissolving the rokosz, and the rokosz retorted with a manifesto in which an insurrection was declared to be as much superior to a parliament as a general council was to a pope. In a second manifesto published at Jezierna, on the 24th of June, the insurrectionists again renounced their allegiance to the king. Oddly enough, the diet before dissolving had, apparently in order to meet the rokosz half-way, issued the famous edict De non praestanda obedientia, whereby, in case of future malpractices by the king and his subsequent neglect of at least two solemn warnings there-anent by the primate and the senate, he was to be formally deposed by the next succeeding diet. But even this was not enough for the insurrectionists. It was not the contingent but the actual deposition of the king that they demanded, and they had their candidate for the throne ready in the person of Gabriel Bethlen, the new prince of Transylvania. But the limits of even Polish complacency had at last been reached, and Źolkiewski and Chodkiewicz were sent against the rebels, whom they routed at Oransk near Guzow, after a desperate encounter, on the 6th of July 1607. But, though driven from the field, the agitation simmered all over the country for nearly two years longer, and was only terminated, in 1609, by a general amnesty which excluded every prospect of constitutional reform.
Wladislaus IV., who succeeded his father in 1632, was the most popular monarch who ever sat on the Polish throne. Wladislaus IV., 1632-1648. The szlachta, who had had a “King Log” in Sigismund, were determined that Wladislaus should be “a King Bee who will give us nothing but honey”—in other words they hoped to wheedle him out of even more than they had wrested from his predecessor. Wladislaus submitted to everything. He promised never to declare war or levy troops without the consent of the sejm, undertook to fill all vacancies within a certain time, and released the szlachta from the payment of income-tax, their one remaining fiscal obligation. This boundless complacency was due to policy, not weakness. The second Polish Vasa was a man of genius, fully conscious of his powers, and determined to use them for the benefit of his country. The events of the last reign had demonstrated the incompetence of the Poles to govern themselves. Any amelioration of the existing anarchy must be extra-parliamentary and proceed from the throne. But a reforming monarch was inconceivable unless he possessed the confidence of the nation, and such confidence, Wladislaus naturally argued, could only be won by striking and undeniable public services. On these principles he acted with brilliant results. Within three years of his accession he compelled the Muscovites (Treaty of Polyankova, May 28, 1634) to retrocede Smolensk and the eastern provinces lost by Sigismund II., overawed the Porte by a military demonstration in October of the same year, and, by the Truce of Stumdorf (Sept. 12, 1635), recovered the Prussian provinces and the Baltic seaboard from Sweden. But these achievements excited not the gratitude but the suspicion of the szlachta. They were shrewd enough to guess that the royal triumph might prejudice their influence, and for the next five years they deliberately thwarted the enlightened and far-reaching projects of the king for creating a navy and increasing the revenue without burdening the estates, by a system of tolls levied on the trade of the Baltic ports (see Wladislaus IV.), even going so far as to refuse for nine years to refund the expenses of the Muscovite War, which he had defrayed out of his privy purse. From sheer weariness and disgust the king refrained from any intervention in public affairs for nearly ten years, looking on indifferently while the ever shorter and stormier diets wrangled perpetually over questions of preferment and the best way of dealing with the extreme dissenters, to the utter neglect of public business. But towards the end of his reign the energy of Wladislaus revived, and he began to occupy himself with another scheme for regenerating his country, in its own despite, by means of the Cossacks. First, however, it is necessary to describe briefly the origin and previous history of these romantic freebooters who during the second half of the 17th century were the determining factor of Polish and Muscovite politics.
At the beginning of the 16th century the illimitable steppe of south-eastern Europe, extending from the Dnieper to the The Cossacks. Urals, had no settled population. Hunters and fishermen frequented its innumerable rivers, returning home laden with rich store of fish and pelts, while runaway serfs occasionally settled in small communities beneath the shelter of the fortresses built, from time to time, to guard the southern frontiers of Poland and Muscovy. Obliged, for fear of the Tatars, to go about with arms in their hands, these settlers gradually grew strong enough to raid their raiders, selling the booty thus acquired to the merchants of Muscovy and Poland. Moreover, the Turks and Tatars being the natural enemies of Christendom, a war of extermination against them was regarded by the Cossacks as a sacred duty. Curiously enough, these champions of orthodoxy borrowed the name, which has stuck to them ever since, from their “dog headed” adversaries. The rank and file of the Tatar soldiery were known as Kazaki, or Cossacks, a word meaning “freebooters,” and this term came to be applied indiscriminately to all the free dwellers in the Ukraine, or border-lands. As time went on the Cossacks multiplied exceedingly. Their daring grew with their numbers, and at last they came to be a constant annoyance to all their neighbours, both Christian and Mussulman, frequently involving Poland in dangerous and unprofitable wars with the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, it is not too much to say that, until the days of Sobieski, the Cossacks were invariably the chief cause of the breaches between the Porte and the Republic. We have seen how carefully the Jagiellos avoided participating in any of the crusades directed by the Holy See against the arch-enemies of the Cross. So successful was their prudential abstention that no regular war occurred between Turkey and Poland during the two centuries of their sway. The first actual collisions, the Cecora campaign of 1620 and the Khotin War of 1621 (for John Albert's Moldavian raid does not count), were due to the depredations of the Cossacks upon the dominions of the sultan by land and sea, and in all subsequent treaties between the two powers the most essential clause was always that which bound the Republic to keep its freebooters in order.
But in the meantime the Cossacks themselves had become a semi-independent community. The origin of the Cossack state is still somewhat obscure, but the germs of it are visible as early as the beginning of the 16th century. The union of Lublin, which led to the colonization of Lithuania, was the immediate occasion of a considerable exodus to the lowlands of the Dnieper of those serfs who desired to escape from the taxes of the Polish government and the tyranny of the Polish landlords. Stephen Báthory presently converted the pick of them into six registered regiments of 1000 each for the defence of the border. Ultimately the island of Hortica, just below the falls of the Dnieper, was fixed upon as their headquarters; and on the numerous islands of that broad river there gradually arose the famous Cossack community known as the Zaporozhskaya Syech, or Settlement behind the Falls, whence the Dnieperian Cossacks were known, generally, as Zaporozhians, or Backfallsmen. The Cossack kosh, or commonwealth, had the privilege of electing its hetman, or chief, and his chief officers, the starshins. The hetman, after election, received from the king of Poland direct the insignia of his office, viz. the bulawa, or bâton, the bunchuk, or horse-tail standard, and his official seal; but he was responsible for his actions to the kosh alone, and an inquiry into his conduct was held at the expiration of his term of office in the obschaya shkoda, or general assembly. In time of peace his power was little more than that of the responsible minister of a constitutional republic; but in time of warfare he was a dictator, and disobedience to his orders in the field was punishable by death.
The Cossacks were supposed to be left alone as much as possible by the Polish government so long as they faithfully fulfilled their chief obligation of guarding the frontiers of the Republic from Tatar raids. But the relations between a community of freebooters, mostly composed of fugitive serfs and refugees, and a government of small squires who regarded the Cossacks as a mere rabble were bound to be difficult at the best of times, and political and religious differences presently supervened. The Cossacks, mostly of Lithuanian origin, belonged to the Orthodox religion, so far as they belonged to any religion at all, and the Jagiellos had been very careful to safeguard the religious liberties of their Lithuanian subjects, especially as the Poles themselves were indifferent on the subject. But, at the beginning of the 17th century, when the current of the Catholic reaction was running very strongly and the Jesuits, after subduing the Protestants, began to undermine the position of the Orthodox Church in Lithuania, a more intolerant spirit began to prevail. The old Calvinist nobility of Lithuania were speedily reconverted; a Uniate Church in connexion with Rome was established, Greek Orthodox congregations, if not generally persecuted, were at least depressed and straitened; and the Cossacks began to hate the Pans, or Polish lords, not merely as tyrants, but as heretics. Yet all these obstacles to a good understanding might, perhaps, have been surmounted if only the Polish diet had treated the Cossacks with common fairness and common sense. In 1619 the Polish government was obliged to prohibit absolutely the piratical raids of the Cossacks in the Black Sea, where they habitually destroyed Turkish property to the value of millions. At the same time, by the compact of Rastawica, the sejm undertook to allow the Cossacks, partly as wages, partly as compensation, 40,000 (raised by the compact of Kurukow to 60,000) gulden and 170 wagons of cloth per annum. These terms were never kept, despite the earnest remonstrances of the king, and the complaints of the aggrieved borderers. Parsimony prevailed, as usual, over prudence, and when the Cossacks showed unmistakable signs of restiveness, the Poles irritated them still further by ordering the construction of the strong fortress of Kudak at the confluence of the Dnieper and the Samara, to overawe the Zaporozhian community. This further act of repression led to two terrible Cossack risings, in 1635 and 1636, put down only with the utmost difficulty, whereupon the diet of 1638 deprived the Cossacks of all their ancient privileges, abolished the elective hetmanship, and substituted for it a commission of Polish noblemen with absolute power, so that the Cossacks might well declare that those who hated them were lords over them.
Such was the condition of affairs in the Ukraine when Wladislaus IV. proposed to make the Cossacks the pivot of his foreign policy and his domestic reforms. His far-reaching plans were based upon two facts, the absolute devotion of the Zaporozhians to himself personally, and the knowledge, secretly conveyed to him by Stanislaus Koniecpolski (q.v.), that the whole of the Ukraine was in a ferment. He proposed to provoke the Tatars to a rupture by repudiating the humiliating tribute with which the Republic had so long and so vainly endeavoured to buy off their incessant raids. In case of such rupture he meant, at the head of 100,000 Cossacks, to fall upon the Crimea itself, the seat of their power, and exterminate the Khanate. This he calculated would bring about a retaliatory invasion of Poland by the Turks, which would justify him in taking the field against them also with all the forces of the Republic. In case of success he would be able to impose the will of a victorious king upon a discredited diet, and reform the constitution on an English or Swedish model. Events seemed at first to favour this audacious speculation. Almost simultaneously a civil war broke out in the Crimea and the Porte declared war against the Venetian republic, with which Wladislaus at once concluded an offensive and defensive alliance (1645). He then bade the Cossacks prepare their boats for a raid upon the Turkish galleys, and secured the co-operation of the tsar in the Crimean expedition by a special treaty. Unfortunately, Venice, for her own safety's sake, insisted on the publication of Wladislaus's anti-Turkish alliance; the Porte, well informed of the course of Polish affairs, remained strictly neutral despite the most outrageous provocations; and Wladislaus, bound by his coronation oath not to undertake an offensive war, found himself at the mercy of the diet which, full of consternation and rage, assembled at Warsaw on the 2nd of May 1647. It is needless to say that the Venetian alliance was repudiated and the royal power still further reduced. A year later Wladislaus died at his hunting-box at Merecz, at the very moment when the long-impending tempest which he himself had conjured up burst with overwhelming fury over the territories of the Republic.
The prime mover of the great rebellion of 1648, which shook the Polish state to its very foundations, was the Cossack Bohdan Chmielnicki (q.v.), who had been initiated in all the plans of Wladislaus IV. and, with good reason, feared to be the first victim of the Polish magnates when the king's designs were unmasked and frustrated. To save himself he hit upon the novel and terrible expedient of uniting the Tatars and the Cossacks Cossack Rebellion of 1648. in a determined onslaught upon the Republic, whose inward weakness, despite its brave outward show, he had been quick to discern. On the 18th of April 1648, at the general assembly of the Zaporozhians, he openly expressed his intention of proceeding against the Poles and was elected hetman by acclamation; on the 19th of May he annihilated a small detached Polish corps on the banks of the river Zheltndya Vodui, and seven days later overwhelmed the army of the Polish grand-hetman, massacring 8500 of his 10,000 men and sending the grand-hetman himself and all his officers in chains to the Crimea. The immediate consequence of these victories was the outburst of a khlopskaya zloba, or “serfs fury.” Throughout the Ukraine the gentry were hunted down, flayed, burnt, blinded and sawn asunder. Every manor-house and castle was reduced to ashes. Every Uniate or Catholic priest who could be caught was hung up before his own high altar, along with a Jew and a hog. The panic-stricken inhabitants fled to the nearest strongholds, and soon the rebels were swarming over the palatinates of Volhynia and Podolia. Meanwhile the Polish army, 40,000 strong, with 100 guns, was assembling on the frontier. It consisted almost entirely of the noble militia, and was tricked out with a splendour more befitting a bridal pageant than a battle array. For Chmielnicki and his host these splendid cavaliers expressed the utmost contempt. “This rabble must be chased with whips, not smitten with swords,” they cried. On the 23rd of September the two armies encountered near Pildawa, and after a stubborn three days contest the gallant Polish pageant was scattered to the winds. The steppe for miles around was strewn with corpses, and the Cossacks are said to have reaped 10,000,000 guldens worth of booty when the fight was over. All Poland now lay at Chmielnicki's feet and the road to the defenceless capital was open John II. Casimir, 1648-1668. before him; but he wasted two precious months in vain before the fortress of Zamošć, and then the newly elected king of Poland, John Casimir, Wladislaus IV.'s brother, privately opened negotiations with the rebel, officially recognized him by sending him the bulawa and the other insignia of the hetman's dignity, and promised his “faithful Zaporozhians” the restoration of all their ancient liberties if they would break off their alliance with the Tatars and await the arrival of peace commissioners at Pereyaslavl. But the negotiations at Pereyaslavl came to nothing. Chmielnicki's conditions of peace were so extravagant that the Polish commissioners durst not accept them, and in 1649 he again invaded Poland with a countless host of Cossacks and Tatars. Again, however, he made the mistake of attacking a fortress, which delayed his advance for a month, and gave John Casimir time to collect an army for the relief of the besieged. By the compact of Zborów (Aug 21, 1649) Chmielnicki was recognized as hetman of the Zaporozhians, whose registered number was now raised from 6000 to 40,000; a general amnesty was also granted, and it was agreed that all official dignities in the Orthodox palatinates of Lithuania should henceforth be held solely by the Orthodox gentry. For the next eighteen months Chmielnicki ruled the Ukraine like a sovereign prince. He made Chigirin, his native place, the Cossack capital, subdivided the country into sixteen provinces, and entered into direct relations with foreign powers. His attempt to carve a principality for his son out of Moldavia led to the outbreak of a third war between suzerain and subject in February 1651. But fortune, so long Bohdan's friend, now deserted him, and at Beresteczko (July 1, 1651) the Cossack chieftain was utterly routed by Stephen Czarniecki. All hope of an independent Cossackdom was now at an end; yet it was not Poland but Muscovy which reaped the fruits of Czarniecki's victory.
Chmielnicki, by suddenly laying bare the nakedness of the Polish republic, had opened the eyes of Muscovy to the fact that her secular enemy was no longer formidable. Three years after his defeat at Beresteczko, Chmielnicki, finding himself unable to cope with the Poles single-handed, very reluctantly transferred his allegiance to the tsar, and the same year the tsar's armies invaded Poland, still bleeding from the all but mortal wounds inflicted on her by the Cossacks. The war The Russians Invade Poland. thus begun, and known in Russian history as the Thirteen Years' War, far exceeded even the Thirty Years' War in grossness and brutality. It resembled nothing so much as a hideous scramble of ravening beasts and obscene fowls for the dismembered limbs of a headless carcase, for such did Poland seem to all the world before the war was half over. In the summer of 1655, moreover, while the Republic was still reeling beneath the shock of the Muscovite invasion, Invasion of Charles X. of Sweden, 1655. Charles X. of Sweden, on the flimsiest of pretexts, forced a war upon reluctant and inoffensive Poland, simply to gratify his greed of martial glory, and before the year was out his forces had occupied the capital, the coronation city and the best half of the land. King John Casimir, betrayed and abandoned by his own subjects, fled to Silesia, and profiting by the cataclysm which, for the moment, had swept the Polish state out of existence, the Muscovites, unopposed, quickly appropriated nearly everything which was not already occupied by the Swedes. At this crisis Poland owed her salvation to two events—the formation of a general league against Sweden, brought about by the apprehensive court of Vienna and an almost simultaneous popular outburst of religious enthusiasm on the part of the Polish people. The first of these events, to be dated from the alliance between the emperor Leopold and John Casimir, on the 27th of May 1657, led to a truce with the tsar and the welcome diversion of all the Muscovite forces against Swedish Livonia. The second event, which began with the heroic and successful defence of the monastery of Czenstochowa by Prior Kordecki against the Swedes, resulted in the return of the Polish king from exile, the formation of a national army under Stephen Czarniecki and the recovery of almost all the lost provinces from the Swedes, who were driven back headlong to the sea, where with difficulty they held their own. On the sudden death of Charles X. (Feb. 13, 1660), Poland gladly seized the opportunity of adjusting all her outstanding differences with Sweden. By the peace of Oliva (May 3, 1660), made under French mediation, John Casimir ceded Livonia, and renounced all claim to the Swedish crown. The war with Muscovy was then prosecuted with renewed energy and extraordinary success In the autumn of 1661 the Russian commanders were routed at Zeromsk, and nearly all the eastern provinces were recovered. In 1664 a peace congress was opened at Durovicha and the prospects of Poland seemed most brilliant; but at the very moment when she needed all her armed strength to sustain her diplomacy, the rebellion of one of her leading magnates, Prince Lubomirsky, involved her in a dangerous civil war, compelled her to reopen negotiations with the Muscovites, at Andrussowo, under far more unfavourable conditions, and after protracted negotiations practically to accept the Muscovite terms. By the truce of The Truce of Andrussowo, 1667. Andrussowo (Feb. 11, 1667) Poland received back from Muscovy Vitebsk, Polotsk and Polish Livonia, but ceded in perpetuity Smolensk, Syeversk, Chernigov and the whole of the eastern bank of the Dnieper, including the towns of Konotop, Gadyach, Pereyaslavl, Mirgorod, Poltava and Izyum The Cossacks of the Dnieper were henceforth to be under the joint dominion of the tsar and the king of Poland. Kiev, the religious metropolis of Western Russia, was to remain in the hands of Muscovy for two years.
The “truce” of Andrussowo proved to be one of the most permanent peaces in history, and Kiev, though only pledged for two years, was never again to be separated from the Orthodox Slavonic state to which it rightly belonged. But for the terrible and persistent ill-luck of Poland it is doubtful whether the “truce” of Andrussowo would ever have been signed. The war which it concluded was to be the last open struggle between the two powers. Henceforth the influence of Russia over Poland was steadily to increase, without any struggle at all, the Republic being already stricken with that creeping paralysis which ultimately left her a prey to her neighbours. Muscovy had done with Poland as an adversary, and had no longer any reason to fear her ancient enemy.
Poland had, in fact, emerged from the cataclysm of 1648-1667 a moribund state, though her not unskilful diplomacy had enabled her for a time to save appearances. Her territorial losses, though considerable, were, in the circumstances, not excessive, and she was still a considerable power in the opinion of Europe. But a fatal change had come over the country during the age of the Vasas. We have already seen how the ambition of the oligarchs and the lawlessness of the szlachta had reduced the executive to impotence, and rendered anything like rational government impossible. But these demoralizing and disintegrating influences had been suspended by the religious revival due to the Catholic reaction and the Jesuit propaganda, a revival which reached its height towards the end of the 16th century. This, on the whole, salutary and edifying movement permeated public life, and produced a series of great captains who cheerfully sacrificed themselves for their country, and would have been saints if they had not been heroes. But this extraordinary religious revival had wellnigh spent itself by the middle of the 17th century. Its last manifestation was the successful defence of the monastery of Czenstochowa by Prior Kordecki against the finest troops in Europe, its last representative was Stephen Czarniecki, who brought the fugitive John Casimir back from exile and reinstalled him on his tottering throne. The succeeding age was an age of unmitigated egoism, Growing Corruption in Poland. in which the old ideals were abandoned and the old examples were forgotten. It synchronized with, and was partly determined by, the new political system which was spreading all over Europe, the system of dynastic diplomatic competition and the unscrupulous employment of unlimited secret service funds. This system, which dates from Richelieu and culminated in the reign of Louis XIV., was based on the secular rivalry of the houses of Bourbon and Habsburg, and presently divided all Europe into two hostile camps. Louis XIV. is said to have expended 50,000,000 livres a year for bribing purposes, the court of Vienna was scarcely less liberal, and very soon nearly all the monarchs of the Continent and their ministers were in the pay of one or other of the antagonists. Poland was no exception to the general rule. Her magnates, having already got all they could out of their own country, looked eagerly abroad for fresh El Dorados. Before long most of them had become the hirelings of France or Austria, and the value demanded for their wages was, not infrequently, the betrayal of their own country. To do them justice, the szlachta at first were not only free from the taint of official corruption, but endeavoured to fight against it. Thus, at the election diet of 1669, one of the deputies, Pieniaszek, moved that a new and hitherto unheard-of clause should be inserted in the agenda of the general confederation, to the effect that every senator and deputy should solemnly swear not to take bribes, while another szlacic proposed that the ambassadors of foreign Powers should be excluded permanently from the Polish elective assemblies. But the flighty and ignorant szlachta not only were incapable of any sustained political action, but they themselves unconsciously played into the hands of the enemies of their country by making the so-called liberum veto an integral part of the Polish constitution. The liberum veto was based on the assumption of the absolute political equality of every Polish gentleman, with the inevitable corollary that every measure introduced into the Polish diet must be adopted unanimously. Consequently, if any single deputy believed that a measure already approved of by the rest of the house might be injurious to his constituency, he had the right to rise and exclaim nie pozwalam, “I disapprove,” when the measure in question fell at once to the ground. Subsequently this vicious principle was extended still further. A deputy, by interposing his individual veto, could at any time dissolve the diet, when all measures previously passed had to be re-submitted to the consideration of the following diet. The liberum veto seems to have been originally devised to cut short interminable debates in times of acute crisis, but it was generally used either by highly placed criminals, anxious to avoid an inquiry into their misdeeds, or by malcontents, desirous of embarrassing the executive. The origin of the liberum veto is obscure, but it was first employed by the deputy Wladislaus Siciński, who dissolved the diet of 1652 by means of it, and before the end of the 17th century it was used so frequently and recklessly that all business was frequently brought to a standstill. In later days it became the chief instrument of foreign ambassadors for dissolving inconvenient diets, as a deputy could always be bribed to exercise his veto for a handsome consideration.
The Polish crown first became an object of universal competition in 1573, when Henry of Valois was elected. In 1575, and again in 1587, it was put up for public auction, when the Hungarian Báthory and the Swede Sigismund respectively gained the prize. But at all three elections, though money and intrigue were freely employed, they were not the determining factors of the contest. The Polish gentry were still the umpires as well as the stake-holders; the best candidates generally won the day; and the defeated competitors were driven out of the country by force of arms if they did not take their discomfiture, Election of Michael Wiśniowiecki, 1669-1673. after a fair fight, like sportsmen. But with the election of Michael Wiśniowiecki in 1669 a new era began. In this case a native Pole was freely elected by the unanimous vote of his countrymen. Yet a few weeks later the Polish commander-in-chief formed a whole series of conspiracies for the purpose of dethroning his lawful sovereign, and openly placed himself beneath the protection of Louis XIV. of France, just as the rebels of the 18th century placed themselves under the protection of Catherine II. of Russia. And this rebel was none other than John Sobieski, at a later day the heroic deliverer of Vienna! If heroes could so debase themselves, can we wonder if men who were not heroes lent themselves to every sort of villainy? We have come, in fact, to the age of utter shamelessness, when disappointed place-hunters openly invoked foreign aid against their own John III. Sobieski, 1674-1696. country. Sobieski himself, as John III. (he succeeded Michael in 1674), was to pay the penalty of his past lawlessness, to the uttermost farthing. Despite his brilliant military achievements (see John III., King of Poland), his reign of twenty-two years was a failure. His victories over the Turks were fruitless so far as Poland was concerned. His belated attempts to reform the constitution only led to conspiracies against his life and crown, in which the French faction, which he had been the first to encourage, took an active part. In his later years Lithuania was in a state of chronic revolt, while Poland was bankrupt both morally and materially. He died a broken-hearted man, prophesying the inevitable ruin of a nation which he himself had done so much to demoralize.
It scarcely seemed possible for Poland to sink lower than she had sunk already. Yet an era was now to follow, compared with which even the age of Sobieski seemed to be an age of gold. This was the Saxon period which, with occasional violent interruptions, was to drag on for nearly seventy years. By the time it was over Poland was irretrievably doomed. It only remained to be seen how that doom would be accomplished.
On the death of John III. no fewer than eighteen candidates for the vacant Polish throne presented themselves. Austria Augustus II., 1697-1704. supported James Sobieski, the eldest son of the late king, France Francis Louis Prince of Conti (1664-1709), but the successful competitor was Frederick Augustus, elector of Saxony, who cheerfully renounced Lutheranism for the coveted crown, and won the day because he happened to arrive last of all, with fresh funds, when the agents of his rivals had spent all their money. He was crowned, as Augustus II., on the 15th of September 1697, and his first act was to expel from the country the prince of Conti, the elect of a respectable minority, directed by the cardinal primate Michal Radziejowski (1645-1705), whom Augustus II. subsequently bought over for 75,000 thalers. Good luck attended the opening years of the new reign. In 1699 the long Turkish War, which had been going on ever since 1683, was concluded by the peace of Karlowitz, whereby Podolia, the Ukraine and the fortress of Kamenets Podolskiy were retroceded to the Republic by the Ottoman Porte. Immediately afterwards Augustus was persuaded by the plausible Livonian exile, Johan Reinhold Patkul, to form a nefarious league with Frederick of Denmark and Peter of Russia, for the purpose of despoiling the youthful king of Sweden, Charles XII. (see Sweden: History). This he did as elector of Saxony, but it was War with Charles XII. of Sweden. the unfortunate Polish republic which paid for the hazardous speculation of its newly elected king. Throughout the Great Northern War (see Sweden: History), which wasted northern and central Europe for twenty years (1700-1720), all the belligerents treated Poland as if she had no political existence. Swedes, Saxons and Russians not only lived upon the country, but plundered it systematically. The diet was the humble servant of the conqueror of the moment, and the leading magnates chose their own sides without the slightest regard for the interests of their country, the Lithuanians for the most part supporting Charles XII., while the Poles divided their allegiance between Stanislaus Leszczyński. Augustus and Stanislaus Leszczyński, whom Charles placed upon the throne in 1704 and kept there till 1709. At the end of the war Poland was ruined materially as well as politically. Augustus attempted to indemnify himself for his failure to obtain Livonia, his covenanted share of the Swedish plunder, by offering Frederick William of Prussia Courland, Polish Prussia and even part of Great Poland, provided that he were allowed a free hand in the disposal of the rest of the country. When Prussia declined this tempting offer for fear of Russia, Augustus went a step farther and actually suggested that “the four eagles” should divide the banquet between them. He died, however (Feb. 1, 1733) before he could give effect to this shameless design.
On the death of Augustus II., Stanislaus Leszczyński, who had in the meantime, become the father-in-law of Louis XV., attempted to regain his throne with the aid of a small French army corps and 4,000,000 livres from Versailles. Some of the best men in Poland, including the Czartoryscy, were also in his favour, and on the 26th of August 1733 he was elected king for the second time. But there were many malcontents, principally among the Lithuanians, who solicited the intervention of Russia in favour of the elector of Saxony, son of the late king, and in October 1733 a Russian army appeared before Warsaw and compelled a phantom diet (it consisted of but 15 senators and Augustus III., 1733-1763. 500 of the szlachta) to proclaim Augustus III. From the end of 1733 till the 30th of June 1734 Stanislaus and his partisans were besieged by the Russians in Danzig, their last refuge, and with the surrender of that fortress the cause of Stanislaus was lost. He retired once more to his little court in Lorraine, with the title of king, leaving Augustus III. in possession of the kingdom.
Augustus III. was disqualified by constitutional indolence from taking any active part in affairs. He left everything to his omnipotent minister, Count Heinrich Bruhl, and Bruhl entrusted the government of Poland to the Czartoryscy, who had intimate relations of long standing with the court of Dresden.
The Czartoryscy, who were to dominate Polish politics for the next half-century, came of an ancient Ruthenian stock which had intermarried with the Jagiellos at an early date, and had always been remarkable for their civic virtues and political sagacity. They had powerfully contributed to the adoption of the Union of Lublin; were subsequently received into the Roman Catholic Church; and dated the beginning of their influence in Poland proper from the time (1674) when Florian Czartoryski became primate there. Florian's nephews, Fryderyk Michal and Augustus, were now the principal representatives of “the Family,” as their opponents sarcastically called them. The former, through the influence of Augustus's minister and favourite Bruhl, had become, in his twenty-eighth year, vice-chancellor and subsequently grand chancellor of Lithuania, was always the political head of the family. His brother and Augustus, after fighting with great distinction against the Turks both by land and sea (Prince Eugene decorated him with a sword of honour for his valour at the siege of Belgrade), had returned home to marry Sophia Sieniawska, whose fabulous dowry won for her husband the sobriquet of “the Family Croesus.” Their sister Constantia had already married Stanislaus Poniatowski, the father of the future king. Thus wealth, position, court influence and ability combined gave the Czartoryscy a commanding position in Poland, and, to their honour be it said, they had determined from the first to save the Republic, whose impending ruin in existing circumstances they clearly foresaw, by a radical constitutional reconstruction which was to include the abolition of the liberum veto and the formation of a standing army.
Unfortunately the other great families of Poland were obstinately opposed to any reform or, as they called it, any “violation” of the existing constitution. The Potoccy, whose possessions in south Poland and the Ukraine covered thousands of square miles, the Radziwiłłowie, who were omnipotent in Lithuania and included half a dozen millionaires amongst them, the Lubomirscy and their fellows, hated the Czartoryscy because they were too eminent, and successfully obstructed all their well-meant efforts. The castles of these great lords were the foci of the social and political life of their respective provinces. Here they lived like little princes, surrounded by thousands of retainers, whom they kept for show alone, making no attempt to organize and discipline this excellent military material for the defence of their defenceless country. Here congregated hundreds of the younger szlachta, fresh from their school benches, whence they brought nothing but a smattering of Latin and a determination to make their way by absolute subservience to their “elder brethren,” the pans. These were the men who, a little later, at the bidding of their “benefactors,” dissolved one inconvenient diet after another; for it is a significant fact that during the reigns of the two Augustuses every diet was dissolved in this way by the hirelings of some great lord or, still worse, of some foreign potentate. In a word constitutional government had practically ceased, and Poland had become an arena in which contesting clans strove together for the mastery.
It was against this primitive state of things that the Czartoryscy struggled, and struggled in vain. First they attempted to abolish the liberum veto with the assistance of the Saxon court where they were supreme, but fear of foreign complications and the opposition of the Potoccy prevented anything being done. Then they broke with their old friend Bruhl and turned to Russia. Their chief intermediary was their nephew Stanislaus Poniatowski, whom they sent, as Saxon minister, to the Russian court in the suite of the English minister Hanbury Williams, in 1755. The handsome and insinuating Poniatowski speedily won the susceptible heart of the grand-duchess Catherine, but he won nothing else and returned to Poland in 1759 somewhat discredited. Disappointed in their hopes of Russia, the Czartoryscy next attempted to form a confederation for the deposition of Augustus III., but while the strife of factions was still at its height the absentee monarch put an end to the struggle by expiring, conveniently, on the 5th of October 1763.
The interregnum occurring on the death of Augustus III. befell at a time when all the European powers, exhausted by the Seven Years' War, earnestly desired peace. The position of Poland was, consequently, much more advantageous than it had been on every other similar occasion, and if only the contending factions had been able to agree and unite, the final catastrophe might, perhaps, even now, have been averted. The Czartoryscy, of all men, were bound by their principles and professions to set their fellow citizens an example of fraternal concord. Yet they rejected with scorn and derision the pacific overtures of their political opponents, the Potoccy, the Radziwiłłowie, and the Braniscy, Prince Michal openly declaring that of two tyrannies he preferred the tyranny of the Muscovite to the tyranny of his equals. He had in fact already summoned a Russian army corps to assist him to reform his country, which sufficiently explains his own haughtiness and the unwonted compliancy of the rival magnates.
The simplicity of the Czartoryscy was even more mischievous than their haughtiness. When the most enlightened statesmen of the Republic could seriously believe in the benevolent intentions of Russia the end was not far off. Their naive expectations were very speedily disappointed. Catherine II. and Frederick II. had already determined (Treaty of St Petersburg, April 22, 1764) that the existing state of things in Poland must be maintained, and as early as the 18th of October 1763 Catherine had recommended the election of Stanislaus Poniatowski as “the individual most convenient for our common interests.” The personal question did not interest Frederick: so long as Poland was kept in an anarchical condition he cared not who was called king. Moreover, the opponents of the Czartoryscy made no serious attempt to oppose the entry of the Russian troops. At least 40,000 men were necessary for the purpose, and these could have been obtained for 200,000 ducats; but a congress of magnates, whose collective fortunes amounted to hundreds of millions, having decided that it was impossible to raise this sum, there was nothing for it but to fight a few skirmishes and then take refuge abroad. The Czartoryscy now fancied themselves the masters of the situation. They at once proceeded to pass through the convocation diet a whole series of salutary measures. Four special commissions were appointed to superintend the administration of justice, the police and the finances. The extravagant powers of the grand hetmans and the grand marshals were reduced. All financial and economical questions before the diet were henceforth to be decided by a majority of Stanislaus II. Poniatowski, 1764-1795. votes. Shortly afterwards Stanislaus Poniatowski was elected king (Sept. 7, 1764) and crowned (Nov. 25). But at the beginning of 1766 Prince Nicholas Repnin was sent as Russian minister to Warsaw with instructions which can only be described as a carefully elaborated plan for destroying the Republic. The first weapon employed was the dissident question. At that time the population of Poland was, in round numbers, 11,500,000, of whom about 1,000,000 were dissidents or dissenters. Half of these were the Protestants of the towns of Polish Prussia and Great Poland, the other half was composed of the Orthodox population of Lithuania. The dissidents had no political rights, and their religious liberties had also been unjustly restricted; but two-thirds of them being agricultural labourers, and most of the rest artisans or petty tradesmen, they had no desire to enter public life, and were so ignorant and illiterate that their new protectors, on a closer acquaintance, became heartily ashamed of them. Yet it was for these persons that Repnin, in the name of the empress, now demanded absolute equality, political and religious, with the gentlemen of Poland. He was well aware that an aristocratic and Catholic assembly like the sejm would never concede so preposterous a demand. He also calculated that the demand itself would make the szlachta suspicious of all reform, including the Czartoryscian reforms, especially as both the king and his uncles were generally unpopular, as being innovators under foreign influence. His calculations were correct. The sejm of 1766 not only rejected the dissident bill, but repealed all the Czartoryscian reforms and insisted on the retention of the liberum veto as the foundation of the national liberties. The discredit into which Stanislaus had now fallen encouraged the Saxon party, led by Gabriel Podoski (1719-1777), to form a combination for the purpose of dethroning the king. Repnin knew that the allied courts would never consent to such a measure; but he secretly encouraged the plot for his own purposes, with signal success. Early in 1767 the malcontents, fortified by the adhesion of the leading Catherine II. of Russia and Poland. political refugees, formed a confederation at Radom, whose first act was to send a deputation to St Petersburg, petitioning Catherine to guarantee the liberties of the Republic, and allow the form of the Polish constitution to be settled by the Russian ambassador at Warsaw. With this carte blanche in his pocket, Repnin proceeded to treat the diet as if it were already the slave of the Russian empress. But despite threats, wholesale corruption and the presence of Russian troops outside and even inside the izba, or chamber of deputies, the patriots, headed by four bishops, Woclaw Hieronim Sierakowski (1699-1784) of Lemberg, Feliks Pawel Turski of Chelm (1729-1800), Kajetan Ignaty Soltyk of Cracow (1715-1788), and Józef Jendrzej Zaluski of Kiev (1702-1774), offered a determined resistance to Repnin's demands. Only when brute force in its extremest form had been ruthlessly employed, only when three senators and some deputies had been arrested in full session by Russian grenadiers and sent as prisoners to Kaluga, did the opposition collapse. The liberum veto and all the other ancient abuses were now declared unalterable parts of the Polish constitution, which was placed under the guarantee of Russia. All the edicts against the dissidents were, at the same time, repealed.
This shameful surrender led to a Catholic patriotic uprising, known as the Confederation of Bar, which was formed on the Confederation of Bar. 29th of February 1768, at Bar in the Ukraine, by a handful of small squires. It never had a chance of permanent success, though, feebly fed by French subsidies and French volunteers, it lingered on for four years, till finally suppressed in 1772. But, insignificant itself, it was the cause of great events. Some of the Bar confederates, scattered by the Russian regulars, fled over the Turkish border, pursued by their victors. The Turks, already alarmed at the progress of the Russians in Poland, and stimulated by Vergennes, at that time French ambassador at Constantinople, at once declared war against Russia. Seriously disturbed at the prospect of Russian aggrandizement, the idea occurred, almost simultaneously, to the courts of Berlin and Vienna that the best mode of preserving the equilibrium of Europe was for all three powers to readjust their territories at the expense of Poland. The idea of a partition of Poland was nothing new, but the vastness of the country, and the absence of sufficiently powerful and united enemies, had hitherto saved the Republic from spoliation. But now that Poland lay utterly helpless and surrounded by the three great military monarchies of Europe, nothing could save her. In February 1769 Frederick sent Count Rochus Friedrich Lynar (1708-1783) to St Petersburg to sound the empress as to the expediency of a partition, in August Joseph II. solicited an interview with Frederick, and in the course of the summer the two monarchs met, first at Neisse in Silesia and again at Neustadt in Moravia. Nothing definite as to Poland seems to have been arranged, but Prince Kaunitz, the Austrian chancellor, was now encouraged to take the first step by occupying, in 1770, the county of Zips, which had been hypothecated by Hungary to Poland in 1442 and never redeemed. This act decided the other confederates. In June 1770 Frederick surrounded those of the Polish provinces he coveted with a military cordon, ostensibly to keep out the cattle plague. Catherine's consent had been previously obtained by a special mission of First Partition of Poland, 1772. Prince Henry of Prussia to the Russian capital. The first treaty of partition was signed at St Petersburg between Prussia and Russia on the 6-17th of February 1772; the second treaty, which admitted Austria also to a share of the spoil, on the 5-16th of August the same year. It is unnecessary to recapitulate the unheard of atrocities by which the consent of the sejm to this act of brigandage was at last extorted (Aug. 18, 1773). Russia obtained the palatinates of Vitebsk, Polotsk, Mscislaw: 1586 sq. m. of territory, with a population of 550,000 and an annual revenue of 920,000 Polish gulden. Austria got the greater part of Galicia, minus Cracow: 1710 sq. m., with a population of 816,000 and an annual revenue of 1,408,000 gulden. Prussia received the maritime palatinate minus Danzig, the palatinate of Kulm minus Thorn, Great Poland as far as the Nitza, and the palatinates of Marienburg and Ermeland: 629 sq. m., with a population of 378,000, and an annual revenue of 534,000 thalers. In fine, Poland lost about one-fifth of her population and one-fourth of her territory.
In return for these enormous concessions the partitioning powers presented the Poles with a constitution superior to anything they had ever been able to devise for themselves. The most mischievous of the ancient abuses, the elective monarchy and the liberum veto, were of course retained. Poland was to be dependent on her despoilers, but they evidently meant to make her a serviceable dependant. The government was henceforth to be in the hands of a rada nieustajaca, or permanent council of thirty-six members, eighteen senators and eighteen deputies, elected biennially by the sejm in secret ballot, subdivided into the five departments of foreign affairs, police, war, justice and the exchequer, whose principal members and assistants, as well as all other public functionaries, were to have fixed salaries. The royal prerogative was still further reduced. The king was indeed the president of the permanent council, but he could not summon the diet without its consent, and in all cases of preferment was bound to select one out of three of the council's nominees. The annual budget was fixed at 30,000,000 Polish gulden, out of which a regular army of 30,000 men was to be maintained. Sentiment apart, the constitution of 1775 was of distinct benefit to Poland. It made for internal stability, order and economy, and enabled her to develop and husband her resources, and devote herself uninterruptedly to the now burning question of national education. For the shock of the first partition was so far salutary that it awoke the public conscience to a sense of the national inferiority, stimulated the younger generation to extraordinary patriotic efforts; and thus went far to produce the native reformers who were to do such wonders during the great quadrennial diet.
It was the second Turkish War of Catherine II. which gave patriotic Poland her last opportunity of re-establishing her independence. The death of Frederick the Great (Aug. 17, 1786) completely deranged the balance of power in Europe. The long standing accord between Prussia and Russia came to an end, and while the latter drew nearer to Austria, the former began to look to the Western powers. In August 1787 Russia and Austria provoked the Porte to declare war against them both, and two months later a defensive alliance was concluded between Prussia, England and Holland, as a counterpoise to the alarming preponderance of Russia. In June 1788 Gustavus III. of Sweden also attacked Russia, with 50,000 men, while in the south the Turks held the Muscovites at bay beneath the walls of Ochakov, and drove back the Austrian invaders into Transylvania. Prussia, emboldened by Russia's difficulties, now went so far as to invite Poland also to forsake the Russian alliance, and placed an army corps of 40,000 men at her disposal.
It was under these exceptional circumstances that the “four years' diet” assembled (Oct. 6, 1788). Its leaders Stanislaw Reform of the Constitution, 1788. Malachowski, Hugo Kollontaj and Ignaty Potocki, were men of character and capacity, and its measures were correspondingly vigorous. Within a few months of its assembling it had abolished the permanent council; enlarged the royal prerogative; raised the army to 65,000 men, established direct communications with the Western powers; rejected an alliance which Russia, alarmed at the rapid progress of events, had hastened to offer; declared its own session permanent; and finally settled down to the crucial task of reforming the constitution on modern lines. But the difficulties of the patriots were commensurate with their energies, and though the new constitution was drafted so early as December 1789, it was not till May 1791 that it could safely be presented to the diet. Meanwhile Poland endeavoured to strengthen her position by an advantageous alliance with Prussia. Frederick William II. stipulated, at first, that Poland should surrender Danzig and Thorn, and Pitt himself endeavoured to persuade the Polish minister Michal Kleophas Oginski (1765-1833) that the protection of Prussia was worth the sacrifice. But the Poles proving obstinate, and Austria simultaneously displaying a disquieting interest in the welfare of the Republic, Prussia, on the 20th of March 1791, concluded an alliance with Poland which engaged the two powers to guarantee each other's possessions and render mutual assistance in case either were attacked.
But external aid was useless so long as Poland was hampered by her anarchical constitution. Hitherto the proceedings of the diet had not been encouraging. The most indispensable reforms had been frantically opposed, the debate on the reorganization of the army had alone lasted six months. It was only by an audacious surprise that Kollontaj and his associates contrived to carry through the new constitution. Taking advantage of the Easter recess, when most of the malcontents were out of town, they suddenly, on the 3rd of May, brought the whole question before the diet and demanded urgency for it. Before the opposition could remonstrate, the marshal of the diet produced the latest foreign dispatches, which unanimously predicted another partition, whereupon, at the solemn adjuration of Ignaty Potocki, King Stanislaus exhorted the deputies to accept the new constitution as the last means of saving their country, and himself set the example by swearing to defend it.
The revolution of the 3rd of May 1791 converted Poland into an hereditary limited monarchy, with ministerial responsibility and duennial parliaments. The liberum veto and all the intricate and obstructive machinery of the anomalous old system were for ever abolished. All invidious class distinctions were done away with. The franchise was extended to the towns. Serfdom was mitigated, preparatorily to its entire abolition; absolute religious toleration was established, and every citizen declared equal before the law. Frederick William II. officially congratulated Stanislaus on the success of “the happy revolution which has at last given Poland a wise and regular government,” and declared it should henceforth be his “chief care to maintain and confirm the ties which unite us.” Cobenzl, the Austrian minister at St Petersburg, writing to his court immediately after the reception of the tidings at the Russian capital, describes the empress as full of consternation at the idea that Poland under an hereditary dynasty might once more become a considerable power. But Catherine, still in difficulties, was obliged to watch in silence the collapse of her party in Poland, and submit to the double humiliation of recalling her ambassador and withdrawing her army from the country. Even when the peace of Jassy (Jan. 9, 1792) finally freed her from the Turk, she waited patiently for the Polish malcontents to afford her a pretext and an opportunity for direct and decisive interference. She had not long to wait. The constitution of the 3rd of May had scarce been signed when Felix Potocki, Severin Rzewuski and Xavier Branicki, three of the chief dignitaries of Poland, hastened to St Petersburg, and there entered into a secret convention with the empress, whereby she undertook to restore the old constitution by force of arms, but at the same time promised to respect the territorial integrity of the Republic. On the 14th of May 1792 the conspirators formed a confederation, consisting, in the first instance, of only ten other persons, at the little town of Targowica in the Ukraine, protesting against the constitution of the 3rd of May as tyrannous and revolutionary, and at the same time the new Russian minister at Warsaw presented a formal declaration of war to the king and the diet. The diet met the crisis with dignity and firmness. The army was at once dispatched to the frontier; the male population was called to arms, and Ignaty Potocki was sent to Berlin to claim the assistance stipulated by the treaty of the 19th of March 1791. The king of Prussia, in direct violation of all his oaths and promises, declined to defend a constitution which had never had his Russia overthrows the Constitution. “concurrence.” Thus Poland was left entirely to her own resources. The little Polish army of 46,000 men, under Prince Joseph Poniatowski and Tadeusz Kościuszko, did all that was possible under the circumstances. For more than three months they kept back the invader, and, after winning three pitched battles, retired in perfect order on the capital (see Poniatowski, and Kościuszko). But the king, and even Kollontaj, despairing of success, now acceded to the confederation; hostilities were suspended, the indignant officers threw up their commissions; the rank and file were distributed all over the country; the reformers fled abroad; and the constitution of the 3rd of May was abolished by the Targowicians as “a dangerous novelty.” The Russians then poured into eastern Poland; the Prussians, at the beginning of 1793, alarmed lest Catherine should appropriate the whole Republic, occupied Great Poland; and a diminutive, debased and helpless assembly met at Grodno in order, in the midst of a Russian army corps, “to come to an amicable understanding” with the partitioning powers. After Second Partition of Poland. every conceivable means of intimidation had been unscrupulously applied for twelve weeks, the second treaty of partition was signed at three o'clock on the morning of the 23rd of September 1793. By this pactum subjectionis, as the Polish patriots called it, Russia got all the eastern provinces of Poland, extending from Livonia to Moldavia, comprising a quarter of a million of square miles, while Prussia got Dobrzyn, Kujavia and the greater part of Great Poland, with Thorn and Danzig. Poland was now reduced to one-third of her original dimensions, with a population of about three and a half millions.
The focus of Polish nationality was now transferred from Warsaw, where the Targowicians and their Russian patrons Kościuszko. reigned supreme, to Leipzig, whither the Polish patriots, Kościuszko, Kollontaj and Ignaty Potocki among the number, assembled from all quarters. From the first they meditated a national rising, but their ignorance, enthusiasm and simplicity led them to commit blunder after blunder. The first of such blunders was Kościuszko's mission to Paris, in January 1794. He was full of the idea of a league of republics against the league of sovereigns; but he was unaware that the Jacob1ns themselves were already considering the best mode of detaching Prussia, Poland's worst enemy, from the anti-French coalition. With a hypocrisy worthy of the diplomacy of “the tyrants,” the committee of public safety declared that it could not support an insurrection engineered by aristocrats, and Kościuszko returned to Leipzig empty-handed. The next blunder of the Polish refugees was to allow themselves to be drawn into a premature rising by certain Polish officers in Poland who, to prevent the incorporation of their regiments in the Russian army, openly revolted and led their troops from Warsaw to Cracow. Kościuszko himself condemned their hastiness; but, when the Russian troops began to concentrate, his feelings grew too strong for him, and early in April he himself appeared at Cracow. In an instant the mutiny became a revolution. The details of the heroic but useless struggle will be found elsewhere (see Kościuszko, Kollontaj, Potocki, Ignaty, Dombrowski). Throughout April the Polish arms were almost universally successful. The Russians were defeated in more than one pitched battle; three-quarters of the ancient territory was recovered, and Warsaw and Vilna, the capitals of Poland and Lithuania respectively, were liberated. Kościuszko was appointed dictator, and a supreme council was established to assist him. The first serious reverse, at Szczekociny (June 5), was more than made up for by the successful defence of Warsaw against the Russians and Prussians (July 9 to Sept. 6), but in the meantime the inveterate lawlessness of the Poles had asserted itself, as usual, and violent and ceaseless dissensions, both in the supreme council and in the army, neutralized the superhuman efforts of the unfortunate but still undaunted dictator. The death-blow to the movement was the disaster of Maciejowice (Oct. 10), and it expired amidst the carnage of Praga (Oct. 29), though the last Polish army corps did not capitulate till the 18th of November. Yet all the glory of the bitter struggle was with the vanquished, and if the Poles, to the last, had shown themselves children in the science of government, they had at least died on the field of battle like men. The greed of the three partitioning powers very nearly led to a rupture between Austria and Prussia; but the tact and statesmanship of the empress of Russia finally adjusted all difficulties. On the 24th of October 1795 Prussia acceded to the Austro-Russian partition compact of the 3rd of January, Third Partition of Poland, 1796. and the distribution of the, conquered provinces was finally regulated on the 10th of October 1796. By the third treaty of partition Austria had to be content with Western Galicia and Southern Masovia; Prussia took Podlachia, and the rest of Masovia, with Warsaw; and Russia all the rest.
The immediate result of the third partition was an immense emigration of the more high-spirited Poles who, during the next ten years, fought the battles of the French Republic and of Napoleon all over Europe, but principally against their own enemies, the partitioning powers. They were known as the Polish legions, and were commanded by the best Polish generals, e.g. Joseph Poniatowski and Dombrowski. Only Kościuszko stood aloof. Even when, after the peace of Tilsit, the independent grand-duchy of Warsaw was constructed out of the central provinces of Prussian Poland, his distrust of Napoleon proved to be invincible. He was amply justified by the course of events. Napoleon's anxiety to conciliate Russia effectually prevented him from making Poland large and strong enough to be self-supporting. The grand-duchy of Warsaw originally consisted of about 1850 sq. m., to which Western Galicia and Cracow, about 900 sq. m. more, were added in 1809. The grand-duchy was, from first to last, a mere recruiting-ground for the French emperor. Its army was limited, on paper, to 30,000 men; but in January 1812 65,000, and in November the same year 97,000 recruits were drawn from it. The constitution of the little state was dictated by Napoleon, and, subject to the exigencies of war, was on the French model. Equality before the law, absolute religious toleration and local autonomy, were its salient features. The king of Saxony, as grand-duke, took the initiative in all legislative matters; but the administration was practically controlled by the French.
(R. N. B.)
The Congress Kingdom, 1813-1863.—The Grand Duchy of Warsaw perished with the Grand Army in the retreat from Moscow in 1812. The Polish troops had taken a prominent part in the invasion of Russia, and their share in the plundering of Smolensk and of Moscow had intensified the racial hatred felt for them by the Russians. Those of them who survived or escaped the disasters of the retreat fled before the tsar's army and followed the fortunes of Napoleon in 1813 and 1814. The Russians occupied Warsaw on the 18th of February 1813 and overran the grand duchy, which thus came into their possession Alexander I. and Poland. by conquest. Some of the Poles continued to hope that Alexander would remember his old favour for them, and would restore their kingdom under his own rule. Nor was the tsar unwilling to encourage their delusion. He himself cherished the desire to re-establish the kingdom for his own advantage. As early as the 13th of January 1813 he wrote to assure his former favourite and confidant, Prince Adam Czartoryski, that, “Whatever the Poles do now to aid in my success, will at the same time serve to forward the realization of their hopes.” But the schemes of Alexander could be carried out only with the co-operation of other powers. They refused to consent to the annexation of Saxony by Prussia, and other territorial arrangements which The Congress of Vienna. would have enabled him to unite all Poland in his own hand. By the final act of the Congress of Vienna, signed on the 9th of June 1815, Poland was divided between Prussia, Austria and Russia, with one trifling exception: Cracow with its population of 61,000 was erected into a republic embedded in Galicia. Posen and Gnesen, with a population of 810,000, were left to Prussia. Austria remained in possession of Galicia with its 1,500,000 inhabitants. Lithuania and the Ruthenian Palatinates, the spoil of former partitions, continued to be incorporated with Russia. The remnant was constituted as the so-called Congress Kingdom under the emperor of Russia as king (tsar) of Poland. It had been stipulated by the Final Act that the Poles under foreign rule should be endowed with institutions to preserve their national existence according to such forms of political existence as the governments to which they belong shall think fit to allow them.
Alexander, who had a sentimental regard for freedom, so long as it was obedient to himself, had promised the Poles a The New Polish Constitution, 1815. New constitution in April 1815 in a letter to Ostrovskiy, the president of the senate at Warsaw. His promise was publicly proclaimed on the 25th of May, and was reaffirmed in the Zamok or palace at Warsaw and the cathedral of St John on the 20th of June. The constitution thus promised was duly drafted, and was signed on the 30th of November. It contained 165 articles divided under seven heads. The kingdom of Poland was declared to be united to Russia, in the person of the tsar, as a separate political entity. The kingdom was the Congress Kingdom, for the vague promises of an extension to the east which Alexander had made to the Poles were never fulfilled. Lithuania and the Ruthenian Palatinates continued to be incorporated with Russia as the Western Provinces and were divided from the Congress Kingdom by a customs barrier till the reign of Nicholas I. The kingdom of Poland thus defined was to have at its head a lieutenant of the emperor (namiestnik), who must be a member of the Imperial house or a Pole. The first holder of the office, General Zajonczek (1752-1826), was a veteran who had served Napoleon. Roman Catholicism was recognized as the religion of the state, but other religions were tolerated. Liberty of the Press was promised subject to the passing of a law to restrain its abuses. Individual liberty, the use of the Polish language in the law courts, and the exclusive employment of Poles in the civil government were secured by the constitution. The machinery of government was framed of a council of state, at which the Imperial government was represented by a commissioner plenipotentiary, and a diet divided into a senate composed of the princes of the blood, the palatines and councillors named for life, and a house of nuntii elected for seven years, 77 chosen by the “dietines” of the nobles, and 51 by the commons. The diet was to meet every other year fer a session of thirty days, and was to be renewed by thirds every two years. Poland retained its flag, and a national army based on that which had been raised by and had fought for Napoleon. The command of the army was given to the emperor's brother Constantine, a man of somewhat erratic character, who did much to offend the Poles by violence, but also a good deal to please them by his marriage with Johanna Grudzinska, a Polish lady afterwards created Princess Lowicz, for whose sake he renounced his right to the throne of Russia (see Constantine Pavlovich).
The diet met three times during the reign of Alexander, in 1818, in 1820 and in 1825, and was on all three occasions opened by the tsar, who was compelled to address his subjects in French, since he did not speak, and would not learn, their language. It is highly doubtful whether, with the best efforts on both sides, a constitutional government could have been worked by a Russian autocrat, and an assembly of men who inherited the memories and characters of the Poles. In fact the tsar and the diet soon quarrelled. The Poles would not abolish the jury to please the tsar, nor conform as he wished them to do to the Russian law of divorce. Opposition soon arose, and as Alexander could not understand a freedom which differed from himself, and would not condescend to the use of corruption, by which the ancient Polish diets had been managed, he was driven to use force. The third session of the diet—13th of May to 13th of June 1825—was a mere formality. All publicity was suppressed, and one whole district was disfranchised because it persisted in electing candidates who were disapproved of at court. On the other hand, the Poles were also to blame for the failure of constitutional government. They would agitate by means of the so-called National Masonry, or National Patriotic Society as it was afterwards called, for the restoration of the full kingdom of Poland. The nobles who dominated the diet did nothing to remove the most crying evil of the country—the miserable state of the peasants, who had been freed from personal serfdom by Napoleon in 1807, but were being steadily driven from their holdings by the landlords. In spite of the general prosperity of the country due to peace, and the execution of public works mostly at the expense of Russia, the state of the agricultural class grew, if anything, worse.
Yet no open breach occurred during the reign of Alexander, nor for five years after his death in 1825. The Decembrist movement in Russia had little or no echo in Poland. On the death of Zajonczek in 1826, the grand duke Constantine became The Grand Duke Constantine. Imperial lieutenant, and his administration, though erratic, was not unfavourable to displays of Polish nationality. The Polish army had no share in the Turkish War of 1829, largely, it is said, at the request of Constantine, who loved parades and thought that war was the ruin of soldiers. No attempt was made to profit by the embarrassments of the Russians in their war with Turkey. A plot to murder Nicholas at his coronation on the 24th of May 1829 was not carried out, and when he held the fourth diet on the 30th of May 1830, the Poles made an ostentatious show of their nationality which Nicholas was provoked to describe as possibly patriotic but certainly not civil. Nevertheless, he respected the settlement of 1815. In the meantime the Patriotic Society had divided into a White or Moderate party and a Red or Extreme party, which was subdivided into the Academics or Republicans and the Military or Terrorists. The latter were very busy and were supported by the Roman Catholic Church, which did little for the Prussian Poles and nothing for the Austrian Poles, but was active in harassing the schismatical government of Russia.
The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1830 and the revolt of Belgium produced a great effect in Poland. The spread Polish Rising of 1830. of a belief, partly justified by the language of Nicholas, that the Polish army would be used to coerce the Belgians, caused great irritation. At last, on the 29th of November 1830, a military revolt took place in Warsaw accompanied by the murder of the minister of war, Hauke, himself a Pole, and other loyal officers. The extraordinary weakness of the grand duke allowed the rising to gather strength. He evacuated Warsaw and finally left the country, dying at Vitebsk on the 27th of June 1831 (see Constantine Pavlovich). The war lasted from January till September 1831. The fact that the Poles possessed a well-drilled army of 23,800 foot, 6800 horse and 108 guns, which they were able to recruit to a total strength of 80,821 men with 158 guns, gave solidity to the rising. The Russians, who had endeavoured to overawe Europe by the report of their immense military power, had the utmost difficulty in putting 114,000 men into the field, yet in less than a year, under the leadership of Diebitsch, and then of Paskevich, they mastered the Poles. On the political and administrative side the struggle of the Poles was weakened by the faults which had been the ruin of their kingdom—faction pushed to the point of anarchy, want of discipline, intrigue and violence, as shown by the abominable massacre which took place in Warsaw when the defeat of the army was known. The Poles had begun by protesting that they only wished to defend their rights against the tsar, but they soon proceeded to proclaim his deposition. Their appeal to the powers of Europe for protection was inevitably disregarded.
When the Congress Kingdom had been reconquered it was immediately reduced to the position of a Russian province. Poland a Russian Province. No remnant of Poland's separate political existence remained save the minute republic of Cracow. Unable to acquiesce sincerely in its insignificance and even unable to enforce its neutrality, Cracow was a centre of disturbance, and, after Russia, Prussia, and Austria had in 1846 agreed to its suppression, was finally occupied by Austria on the 6th of November 1848, as a consequence of the troubles, more agrarian than political, which convulsed Galicia. The administration established by Nicholas I. in Russian Poland was harsh and aimed avowedly at destroying the nationality, and even the language of Poland. The Polish universities of Warsaw and Vilna were suppressed, and the students compelled to go to St Petersburg and Kiev. Polish recruits were distributed in Russian regiments, and the use of the Russian language was enforced as far as possible in the civil administration and in the law courts. The customs barrier between Lithuania and the former Congress Kingdom was removed, in the hope that the influence of Russia would spread more easily over Poland. A very hostile policy was adopted against the Roman Catholic Church. But though these measures cowed the Poles, they failed to achieve their main purpose. Polish national sentiment was not destroyed, but intensified. It even spread to Lithuania. The failure of Nicholas was in good part due to mistaken measures of what he hoped would be conciliation. He supported Polish students at Russian universities on condition that they then spent a number of years in the public service. It was the hope of the emperor that they would thus become united in interest with the Russians. But these Polish officials made use of their positions to aid their countrymen, and were grasping and corrupt with patriotic intentions. The Poles in Russia, whether at the universities or in the public service, formed an element which refused to assimilate with the Russians. In Poland itself the tsar left much of the current civil administration in the hands of the nobles, whose power over their peasants was hardly diminished and was misused as of old. The Polish exiles who filled Europe after 1830 intrigued from abroad, and maintained a constant agitation. The stern government of Nicholas was, however, so far effective that Poland remained quiescent during the Crimean War, in which many Polish soldiers fought in the Russian army. The Russian government felt safe enough to reduce the garrison of Poland largely. It was not till 1863, eight years after the death of the tsar in 1855, that the last attempt of the Poles to achieve independence by arms was made.
The rising of 1863 may without injustice be said to be due to the more humane policy of the tsar Alexander II. Exiles were allowed to return to Poland, the Church was propitiated, the weight of the Russian administration was lightened, police rules as to passports were relaxed, and the Poles were allowed to form Insurrection of 1863.an agricultural society and to meet for a common purpose for the first time after many years. Poland in short shared in the new era of milder rule which began in Russia. In April 1856 Alexander II. was crowned king in the Roman Catholic cathedral of Warsaw, and addressed a flattering speech to his Polish subjects in French, for he too could not speak their language. His warning, “No nonsense, gentlemen” (Point de réveries, Messieurs), was taken in very ill part, and it was perhaps naturally, but beyond question most unhappily, the truth that the tsar’s concessions only served to encourage the Poles to revolt, and to produce a strong Russian reaction against his liberal policy. As the Poles could no longer dispose of an army, they were unable to assail Russia as openly as in 1830. They had recourse to the so-called “unarmed agitation,” which was in effect a policy of constant provocation designed to bring on measures of repression to be represented to Europe as examples of Russian brutality. They began in 1860 at the funeral of the widow of General Sobinski, killed in 1830, and on the 27th of February 1861 they led to the so-called Warsaw massacres, when the troops fired on a crowd which refused to disperse. The history of the agitation which culminated in the disorderly rising of 1863 is one of intrigue, secret agitation, and in the end of sheer terrorism by a secret society, which organized political assassination. The weakness of the Russian governor, General Gorchakov, in 1861 was a repetition of the feebleness of the Grand Duke Constantine in 1830. He allowed the Poles who organized the demonstration of the 27th of February to form a kind of provisional government. Alongside of such want of firmness as this were, however, to be found such measures of ill-timed repression as the order given in 1860 to the agricultural society not to discuss the question of the settlement of the peasants on the land. Concession and repression were employed alternately. The Poles, encouraged by the one and exasperated by the other, finally broke into the partial revolt of 1863–1864. It was a struggle of ill-armed partisans, who were never even numerous, against regular troops, and was marked by no real battle. The suppression of the rising was followed by a return to the hard methods of Nicholas. The Polish nobles, gentry and Church—the educated classes generally—were crushed. It must, however, be noted that one class of the measures taken to punish the old governing part of the population of Poland has been very favourable to the majority. The peasants were freed in Lithuania, and in Poland proper much was done to improve their position. The Russian government has benefited by their comparative prosperity, and by the incurable hatred they continue to feel for the classes which were once their oppressors. The national history of Poland closes with the rising of 1863. (D. H.)
Bibliography.—The best general history of Poland is still Józef Szujski’s monumental History of Poland according to the latest investigations (4 vols., Pol., Lemberg, 1865–1866), a work which has all the authority of careful criticism and easy scholarship. It adopts, throughout, the conservative monarchical standpoint Szujski’s book has superseded even Joachim Lelewel’s learned History of Poland (Pol., Brussels, 1837), of which there are excellent French (Paris, 1844) and German (Leipzig, 1846) editions. The best contemporary general history is August Sokolowski’s Illustrated History of Poland (Pol., Vienna, 1896–1900). The best independent German history of Poland is, on the whole, Roepell (Richard) and Caro’s (Jakab) Geschichte Polens (Hamburg and Gotha, 1840–1888). Scholars desiring to explore for themselves the sources of Polish history from the 11th century to the 18th have immense fields of research lying open before them in the Acta historica res gestas Poloniae illustrantia (1878, &c.), the Scriptores rerum polonicarum (1872, &c.), and the Historical Dissertations (Pol., 1874, &c.), all three collections published, under the most careful editorship, by the University of Cracow. To the same order belong Ludwik Finkel’s Fontes rerum polonicarum (Lemberg, 1901, &c.), and the innumerable essays and articles in The Historical Quarterly Review of Poland (Pol., Lemberg, 1887 &c.). The soundest history of Lithuania, before its union with Poland, is still Lelewel’s History of Lithuania (Pol., Leipzig, 1839), of which a French translation was published at Paris in 1861. Proceeding to the earlier history of Poland, Lelewel’s Poland in the Middle Ages (4 vols., Posen, 1846–1851) is still a standard work, though the greatest authority on Polish antiquities is now Tadeusz Wojciechowski, who unites astounding learning with a perfect style. His Historical Sketches of the Eleventh Century (Pol., Cracow, 1904) is a very notable work. Karol Szajnocha’s great monograph, justly described as “a pearl of historical literature,” Jadwiga and Jagiello (4 vols., Lemberg, 1861), the result of twelve years of exhaustive study, is our best authority on the first union between Poland and Lithuania. On the other hand, his Boleslaus the Bold, &c. (Lemberg, 1859) would now be considered too romantic and picturesque. The relations between Poland, Prussia and Livonia are adequately dealt with by two sound German books, Theodor Schiemann’s Russland, Polen und Livland bis ins xviii. Jahrhundert (Berlin, 1885–1887) and Max Perlbach’s Preussisch-polnische Studien (Halle, 1886). A good guide to the history of the Jagiellonic period, 1386–1572, is also Adolf Pawinski’s Poland in the 15th Century (Pol., Warsaw, 1883–1886). Of the numerous works relating to the reign of the heroic Stephen Báthory, 1575–1586, Ignaty Janicki’s Acta historica res gestas Stephani Bathorei illustrantia (Cracow, 1881), and Paul Pierling’s Un arbitrage pontifical entre la Pologne et la Russie 1581–1582 (Brussels, 1890) can be recommended. The best Polish work on the subject is Wincenty Zakrzewski’s The Reign of Stephen Báthory (Pol., Cracow, 1887). Of the books relating to the Polish Vasas the most notable is Szanocha’s Two Years of our History, 1646–1648 (Lemberg, 1865), which deals exhaustively with the little-known but remarkable attempt (the last practical attempt of its kind) of Ladislaus IV. to abolish the incurably vicious Polish constitution. Another first-class work, relating to the same period and dealing specifically with the mode of warfare of heroic Poland, is Józef Tretiak’s History of the War of Chocim (Pol., Lemberg, 1893). For works relating to the Sobieskian, Saxon and Partitional periods of Polish history, the reader is referred to the bibliographical notes appended to the biographies of John III., king of Poland, Michal Czartoryski, Stanislaus II., Tadeusz Andrzej Kościuszko, Józef Poniatowski, and the other chief actors of these periods. But the following additional authorities should also be noted. (1) Lelewel’s History of the Reign of Stanislaus Augustus (Pol., Warsaw, 1831; Fr. ed., Paris, 1839); the book is important as being based on unpublished memoirs in the exclusive possession of the author’s family. (2) Materials for the History of the last century of the Republic, by S. Korwin (Cracow, 1890). (3) Die letzte polnische Königswahl, by Szymon Askenazy (Cracow, 1882–1886). (4) The extremely valuable Prince Repnin in Poland by Aleksander Kraushar (Warsaw, 1900), one of the most thorough of contemporary Polish historians innumerable are the works relating to the Partitional period. Perhaps the best of all is Walery Jan Kalinka’s great work in four volumes, Der vierjährige polnische Reichstag (Berlin, 1896–1898). Kalinka is, however, far too severe upon the patriots and much too indulgent towards King Stanislaus. Albert Sorel’s La Question d'Orient au XVIIIᵉ siècle (Paris, 1889) is lucid and accurate, but somewhat superficial. Wolfgang Michael’s Englands Stellung zur ersten Teilung Polens (Hamburg, 1890) is of especial interest to Englishmen. Maryan Dubiecki’s Karol Prozor (Pol., Cracow, 1897) shows with what self-sacrificing devotion the gentry and people supported Kościuszko’s rising. For more complete bibliography see Józef Korzeniowski’s Catalogus actorum et documentarum res gestas Poloniae illustrantium (Cracow, 1889), and Ludwik Finkel’s Bibliography of Polish History (Pol., Lemberg, 1891). For the period 1815–1863 see also N. A. Day, The Russian Government in Poland (London, 1867); Theodor Schiemann, Russland unter Kaiser Nikolaus I., vol. i. (Berlin, 1904).
The Polish language belongs to the western branch of the Slavonic tongues, and exhibits the closest affinities with the Czech or Bohemian and Lusatian Wendish. Unlike the people of other Slavonic countries, the Poles are comparatively poor in popular and legendary poetry, but such compositions undoubtedly existed in early times, as may be seen by the writings of their chroniclers; thus Gallus translated into Latin a poem written on Boleslaus the Brave, and a few old Polish songs are included in Wojcicki’s Library of Ancient Writers. A great deal of the early literature written in Poland is in Latin. The earliest specimen of the Polish language is the so-called Psalter of Queen Margaret, discovered in 1826 at the convent of St Florian. The date of the manuscript appears to be the middle of the 14th century, and probably in its present form it is only a copy of a much older text; there is also a translation of the fiftieth psalm belonging to the 13th century. The ancient Polish hymn or war song, Piesn Boga Rodzica, was an address to the Virgin, sung by the Poles when about to fight. The oldest manuscript of this production is dated 1408, and is preserved at Cracow. By a legend which subsequently grew up the composition of it was assigned to St Adalbert. John Lodzia, bishop of Posen from 1335 to 1346, composed several religious songs in Latin.
The next monument of Polish literature to which we come is the Bible of Queen Sophia or Bible of Szaroszpatak. It is imperfect, and only contains the early books, viz. the Pentateuch, Joshua, Ruth and Kings, there are, however, fragments of three others. It is said to have been written for Sophia, the fourth wife of Jagiello, about the year 1455. It has been edited with great care by Malecki. Five religious songs in Polish dating from the 15th century have been preserved; they are ascribed to Andrew Slopuchowski, prior of the monastery of the Holy Cross on Lysa Góra. There is also the fragment of a hymn in praise of Wycliffe. To these fragments may be added the prayer-book of a certain Waclaw, a sermon on marriage, and some Polish glosses. These are all the existing memorials of the Polish language before the 16th century.
Perhaps a few words should be said concerning the writers in Latin. Martin Gallus lived in Poland between 1110 and 1135. From his name he has been supposed by some to have been a Frenchman or Walloon, and we must remember that Poland swarmed at that time with foreign ecclesiastics. Lelewel, the Polish historian, The Latin Chronicles.considers that it is merely a translation into Latin of some such name as Kura, signifying “a fowl.” Others suppose him to have been an Italian, or a monk from the convent of St Gall in Switzerland. He has plenty of legends to tell us, and writes altogether in a poetical style, so that his prose seems to fall into rhythm unconsciously. His quotations from the classics, Sallust, Lucan and others, show the extent of his reading. Gallus was followed by Matthew Cholewa and Vincent Kadlubek, two bishops of Cracow, and Bogufal or Boguchwal (Gottlob), bishop of Posen, who all used Latin. The work of Kadlubek is more ornate in diction than that of Bogufal, and for a long time enjoyed great popularity. He was born in 1160, educated at the university of Paris, and died in Poland in 1223 as a Cistercian monk. His Latin, like that of Gallus, is far from classical, but he writes with spirit and throws a good deal of light upon the events of his time. The education of the country was wholly in the hands of the ecclesiastics, many of whom were foreigners. In this way we must explain the great prevalence of the Latin language. Such a system would be sure to stifle all national outgrowth, and accordingly we have among the Poles none of those early monuments of the language which other countries boast. For instance, there are no bîlinî or legendary poems, such as are found among the Russians, although many passages in the ancient chroniclers from their poetical colouring seem to be borrowed from old songs or legends, and the first verses of some of these compositions have been preserved. Mention may here be made of other chroniclers such as Martin the Pole (Polonus), who died in 1279 or 1280, and Jan of Czarnkow, who died in 1389; the latter was the historian and panegyrist of Casimir the Great. With the reign of Casimir III. (1333–1370) must be associated the statutes of Wislica. Jadwiga, the wife of Jagiello, was mainly instrumental in creating the university of Cracow, which received a charter in 1364, but did not come into effective existence till its reconstitution in 1400. In this institution for many years all the great men of Poland were trained—among others Gregory of Sanok, Dlugosz and Copernicus. Casimir the Great may be said to have laid the foundation of this university. Having obtained the consent of Pope Urban V., he established at Cracow a studium generale on the model of the university of Bologna. It consisted of three faculties—Roman law, medicine and philosophy. But the aristocratic youth still preferred frequenting the universities of Prague, Padua and Paris, and accordingly the newly founded studium languished. Jadwiga, however, obtained from Boniface IX. permission to create a new chair, that of theology; and the university of Cracow was remodelled, having been reorganized on the same basis as that of Paris. Another university was founded later at Vilna by Bátory, and one at Zamość by the chancellor Zamoyski, There were also good schools in various places, such as the Collegium Lubranskiego of Posen and the school of St Mary at Cracow. In the year 1474 a press was set up in the latter city, where Günther Zainer printed the first book. The first press from which books in the Polish language appeared was that of Hieronymus Wietor, a Silesian, who commenced publishing in 1515. A few fragments printed in Polish had appeared before this, as the Lord’s Prayer in the statutes of the bishops of Breslau in 1475, the story of Pope Urban in Latin, German and Polish in 1505, &c.; but the first complete work in the Polish language appeared from the press of this printer at Cracow in 1521, under the title, Speeches of the Wise King Solomon. The translation was executed by Jan Koszycki, as the printer informs us in the preface, and the work is dedicated to Anna Wojnicka, the wife of a castellan. In 1522, a Polish translation of Ecclesiastes appeared from that press, and before the conclusion of that year The Life of Christ, with woodcuts, translated into Polish by Balthasar Opec. Many other presses were soon established. Printers of repute at Cracow, during the 16th and beginning of the 17th century, were Sybeneicher and Piotrkowczyk.
Little as yet had been produced in Polish, as the chroniclers still adhered to Latin; and here mention must be made of Jan Dlugosz, who called himself Longinus. He was bishop of Lernberg, the capital of Galicia, and has left us a very valuable history which has merits of style and shows considerable research. So anxious was Dlugosz to make his work Dlugosz.as perfect as he could that he learned Russian so as to be able to read the Chronicle of Nestor. The best part of his book is that which treats of the period between 1386 and 1480. About 1500 was written an interesting little work entitled “Memoirs of a Polish Janissary” (Pamietniki ianczara polaka). Although written in the Polish language, it was probably the production of a Serb, Michael Constantinovich of Ostrovitza. He was taken prisoner by the Turks in 1455 and served ten years among the Janissaries, after which he escaped into Hungary. About this time also flourished Nicholas Copernicus, a native of Thorn, one of the few Poles who have made themselves known beyond the limits of their country.
The Poles call the period between 1548 and 1606 their golden age. Poland was the great land of eastern Europe, and owing to the universal toleration encouraged by the government, Protestantism was widely spread. Many of the chief nobility were Calvinists, and the Socini came to reside in the country. All this, however, was to pass away under the great Jesuit reaction. At Rakow in Poland was published the catechism of the Socinian doctrines in 1605. The Jesuits made their appearance in Poland in 1564, and soon succeeded in getting the schools of the country into their hands. Besides extirpating the various sects of Protestants, they also busied themselves with destroying the Greek Church in Lithuania. Latin poetry was cultivated with great success by Clement Janicki (1516-1543), but the earliest poet of repute who wrote in Polish is Rej of Naglowice (1505-1569). After a somewhat idle youth he betook himself to poetry. He was a Protestant, and among other religious works translated the Psalms. His best work was Zwierciadło albo zywot poczciwego człowieka (The Mirror or Life of an Honourable Man)—a somewhat tedious didactic piece. He was also the author of a kind of play—a mystery we may term it, and productions of this sort seem to have been common in Poland from a very early time—entitled Life of Joseph in Egypt. This piece is interesting merely from an antiquarian point of view; there is but little poetry in it. It teems with anachronisms; thus we have mention of the mass and organs, and also of a German servant. Lucas Goinicki (1527-1603) wrote many historical works, and Dworzanin palski, an imitation of the Cartegiano of Castiglione.
Jan Kochanowski (1530-1584), called the prince of Polish poets, came of a poetical family, having a brother, a cousin Kochanowski. and a nephew who all enriched the literature of their country with some productions. Kochanowski studied for some time at the university of Padua, and also resided in Paris, where he made the acquaintance of Ronsard. Returning to Poland, he became in 1564 secretary to Sigismund Augustus. He has left The Game of Chess, an imitation of Vida, and Proporzec albo hold pruski (The Standard or Investiture of Prussia), where he describes the fealty done by Albert of Brandenburg to Sigismund Augustus. He also executed a translation of the Psalms. He wrote a play—a piece of one act, with twelve scenes—The Despatch of the Greek Ambassadors. It is written in rhymeless five-foot iambics, and is altogether a product of the Renaissance, reminding us of some of the productions of George Buchanan. Rhyme is employed in the choruses only. It was acted on the marriage of the chancellor Jan Zamoyski with Christine Radziwiłł, in the presence of King Stephen and his wife, at Ujazdowo near Warsaw in 1578. The poet's most popular work, however, is his Treny or “Lamentations,” written on the death of his daughter Ursula. These beautiful elegies have been justly praised by Mickiewicz; they are enough to raise Kochanowski far above the level of a merely artificial poet. Besides poems in Polish, he also wrote some in Latin. It will be observed that we get this double-sided authorship in many Polish writers. They composed for an exclusive and learned circle, certainly not for the Jew, the German trader of the town, or the utterly illiterate peasant. It may be said with truth of Kochanowski that, although the form of his poetry is classical and imitated from classical writers, the matter is Polish, and there is much national feeling in what he has left us. Mention must also be made of his epigrams, which he styled “Trifles” (Fraszki); they are full of spirit and geniality. Stanislaus Grochowski (1554-1612) was a priest; but his poetry is of little merit, although he was celebrated in his time as a writer of panegyrics. His satire Babie Kolo (The Women's Circle) gave offence on account of its personalities. A great partisan of the Catholics in the time of Sigismund III. was Caspar Miaskowski, whose Waleta Włoszłzonowska (Farewell to his Native Country) deserves mention. Szarzyński, who died young in 1581, deserves notice as having introduced the sonnet to the Poles. This species of poetry was afterward to be carried to great perfection by Mickiewicz and Gaszynski.
Szymonowicz (1554-1624) was a writer of good pastorals. Although they are imitated from classical writers, he has Szymonowicz. introduced many scenes of national life, which he describes with much vigour. Among the best are “The Lovers,” “The Reapers,” and “The Cake” (Kołacz). Mickiewicz is very loud in his praise, and considers him one of the best followers of Theocritus. The condition, however, of the Polish peasants was too miserable to admit of their being easily made subjects for bucolic poetry. There is an artificial air about the idylls of Szymonowicz which makes one feel too keenly that they are productions of the Renaissance; one of their best features is the humane spirit towards the miserable peasantry which they everywhere display. Another excellent writer of pastorals was Zimorowicz, a native of Lemberg, who died at the early age of twenty-five. Some of his short lyrics are very elegant, and remind us of Herrick and Carew—e.g. that beginning “Ukochana Lancellota! Ciebie nie proszę o złoto.” Another writer of pastorals, but not of equal merit, was Jan Gawinski, a native of Cracow. Some good Latin poetry was written by Casimir Sarbiewski, better known in the west of Europe as Sarbievius (d. 1640). He was considered to have approached Horace more nearly than any other modern poet, and a gold medal was given him by Pope Urban VIII. Martin Kromer (1512-1589) wrote a history of Poland in thirty books, and another volume, giving a description of the country and its institutions—both in Latin. The history is written in an easy style and is a work of great merit. A poet of some importance was Sebastian Fabian Klonowicz (1545-1602), who latinized his name into Acernus, Klon being the Polish for maple, and wrote in both Latin and Polish, and through his inclination to reform drew down on himself the anger of the clergy. Sometimes he is descriptive, as in his Polish poem entitled Flis (“The Boatman”), in which he gives a detailed account of the scenery on the banks of the Vistula. There is some poetry in this composition, but it alternates with very prosaic details. In another piece, Rhoxolania, in Latin, he describes the beauties of Galicia. Occasionally he is didactic, as in Worek Judaszow (The Bag of Judas) and Victoria deorum, where, under the allegory of the gods of Olympus, he represents the struggles of parties in Poland, not without severely satirizing the nobility and ecclesiastics. A curious work called Quincunx, written by Orzechowski (1515-1566), is concerned with religious polemics. Andrew Modrzewski, a Protestant, in his work De republica emendanda (1551), recommended the establishment of a national church which should be independent of Rome, something upon the model of the Anglican.
A florid Jesuitical style of oratory became very popular in the time of Sigismund III., not without rhetorical power, but Skarga. frequently becoming tawdry. The chief representative of this school was Piotr Skarga (1536-1612), one of the main agents in extirpating Calvinism in Poland and the Greek Church in Lithuania. Among his numerous writings may be mentioned Lives of the Saints, Discourses on the Seven Sacraments, and especially his sermons preached before the diet, in which he lashed the Poles for their want of patriotism and prophesied the downfall of the country. Mecherzynski, in his “History of Eloquence in Poland” (Historya wymowy w Polsce), especially praises his two funeral sermons on the burial of Anna Jagiellonka, widow of Stephen Bátory, and Anna of Austria, first wife of Sigismund III. Besides the Latin histories of Wapowski and Gwagnin (Guagnini, of Italian origin), we have the first historical work in Polish by Martin Bielski, a Protestant, viz. Kronika polska, which was afterwards continued by his son. The author was born in 1495 on his father's estate, Biała, and was educated, like so many other of his illustrious contemporaries, at the university of Cracow. He lived to the age of eighty; but, however great were the merits of his Chronicle, it was long considered a suspicious book on account of the leanings of the author to Calvinism. After his death his work was continued by his son Joachim (1540-1599). There is also a Chronicle by Bartholomew Paprocki. In 1582 was also published the Chronicle of Stryjkowski, full of curious learning, and still of great use to the student of history. Five years later appeared the Annales Poloniae of Sarnicki. The last three works are in Latin.
A few words may be said here about the spread of Protestantism in Poland, which is so intimately mixed up with Spread of Protestantism. the development of the national language. The doctrines of Hus had entered the country in very early times, and we find Polish recensions of Bohemian hymns; even the hymn to the Virgin previously mentioned is supposed to have a Czech basis. The bishops were soon active against those who refused to conform to the doctrines of the Roman church. Thus we find that Bishop Andrew of Bnin seized five Hussite priests and caused them to be burnt in the market of Posen in 1439. A hundred years afterwards a certain Katharina Malcher, on account of her Utraquist opinions, was condemned by Gamrat, the bishop of Cracow, to be burnt, which sentence was accordingly carried out in the rag market at Cracow. As early as 1530 Lutheran hymns were sung in the Polish language at Thorn. In Königsberg, John Seklucyan, a personal friend of Luther, published a collection of Christian Songs. He was born in Great Poland, and was at first a Roman Catholic priest in Posen, but afterwards embraced the Protestant faith and was invited by Duke Albert as a preacher to Königsberg, where he died in 1578. He executed the first translation of the New Testament in 1551. Four years afterwards appeared a complete Polish Bible published by Scharffenberg at Cracow. In 1553 appeared at Brześć the Protestant translation of the whole Bible made by a committee of learned men and divines, and published at the expense of Nicholas Radziwiłł, a very rich Polish magnate who had embraced the Protestant doctrines. This book is now of great rarity because his son Christopher, having been induced to become a Roman Catholic by the Jesuit Skarga, caused all copies of his father's Bible which he could find to be burnt. One, however, is to be seen in the Bodleian Library, and another in the library of Christ Church at Oxford. A Socinian Bible was issued by Simon Budny in 1570 at Nieświez, as he professed to find many faults in the version issued under the patronage of Radziwiłł, in 1597 appeared the Roman Catholic version of the Jesuit Wujek; and in 1632 the so-called Danzig Bible, which is in use among Protestants and is still the most frequently reprinted.
Up to this time Polish literature, although frequently rhetorical and too much tinctured with classical influences, had Macaronic Period. still exhibited signs of genius. But now, owing to the frivolous studies introduced by the Jesuits, the so-called macaronic period supervened, which lasted from 1606 to 1764, and was a time of great degradation for the language and literature. The former was now mixed with Latin and classical expressions; much of the literature consists of fulsome panegyric, verses written on the marriages and funerals of nobles, with conceits and fantastic ideas, devoid of all taste, drawn from their coats of arms. The poets of this period are, as may be imagined, in most cases mere rhymesters; there are, however, a few whose names are worth recapitulating, such as Wacław Potocki (c. 1622-c. 1696), now known to have been the author of the Wojna Chocimska, or “War of Khotin,” the same campaign which afterwards formed the subject of the epic of Krasicki. At first the author was supposed to have been Andrew Lipski, but the real poet was traced by the historian Szajnocha. The epic, which remained in manuscript till 1850, is a genuine representation of Polish life; no picture so faithful appeared till the Pan Tadeusz of Mickiewicz. Moreover, Potocki had the good taste to avoid the macaronic style so much in vogue; his language is pure and vigorous. He does not hesitate to introduce occasionally satirical remarks on the luxury of the times, which he compares, to its disadvantage, with the simplicity of the old Polish life. There is also another poem attributed to Potocki called the New Mercury. In one passage he censures King Michael for ceding Podolia to the Turks. Samuel Twardowski (1600-1660) was the most prolific poet of the period of the Vasas. His most important poem is Wladystaus IV., King of Poland, in which he sings in a very bombastic stran the various expeditions of the Polish monarch. A bitter satirist appeared in the person of Christopher Opalinski (1609-1656). His works were published under the title of Juvenalis redivivus, and, although boasting but little poetical merit, give us very curious pictures of the times. Hieronymus Vespasian Kohcowski (1633-1699) was a soldier-poet, who went through the campaigns against the Swedes and Cossacks; he has left several books of lyrics full of vivacity, a Christian epic and a Polish psalmody. Another poet was Andrew Morsztyn (born about 1620, died about the commencement of the 18th century), an astute courtier, who was finance minister (podskárbi) under John Casimir, and was a devoted adherent of the French party at court, in consequence of which, in the reign of Sobieski, he was compelled to leave his native country and settle in France. His poems are elegant and free from the conceits and pedantry of the earlier writers. In fact, he introduced into Poland the easy French manner of such writers as Voiture. He translated the Cid of Corneille, and wrote a poem on the subject of Psyche, based upon the well-known Greek myth. History in the macaronic period made a backward step: it had been written in the Polish language in the golden age; it was now again to take a Latin form, as in the Chronica Gestarum in Europa singularium of the ecclesiastic Paul Piasecki (1580-1649), who is an authority for the reigns of Sigismund III. and Wladisłaus IV., and Rudawski, who describes events from the accession of John Casimir to the peace of Oliva (1648-1660); and as valuable materials for history may be mentioned the five huge volumes of Andrew Chrysostom Zaluski (1711), bishop of Warmia. This work is entitled Epistolae historico-familiares. It would be impossible to recapitulate here the great quantity of material in the shape of memoirs which has come down, but mention must be made of those of John Chrysostom Pasek, a nobleman of Masovia, who has left us very graphic accounts of life and society in Poland; after a variety of adventures and many a well-fought battle, he returned to the neighbourhood of Cracow, where he died between 1699 and 1701. Some of the most characteristic stories illustrating Polish history are drawn from this book. A later period, that of the miserable epoch of Augustus III., is described very graphically in the memoirs of Matuszewicz, first edited by Pawinski at Warsaw in 1876. Relating to the same period are also the memoirs of Bartholomew Michalowski (Pamietniki Bartlomieja Michalowskiego). A curious insight into the course of education which a young Polish nobleman underwent is furnished by the instructions which James Sobieski, the father of the celebrated John, gave to Orchowski, the tutor of his sons. This has been twice printed in comparatively recent times (Instrukcya Jakoba Sobieskiego kasztelana Krakowskiego dana panu Orchowskiemu ze strony synów, Vilna, 1840). The old gentleman in his aristocratic imperiousness frequently reminds us of the amusing directions given by Sir John Wynne to his chaplain, quoted in Pennant's Tour in Wales.
A History of the Lithuanians in Latin was published by the Jesuit Koiałowicz; the first volume appeared at Danzig in 1650. A valuable work on the condiuon of Poland was written by Stanislaus Leszczynski, who was twice chosen king, entitled Głos wolny wolność ubezpieczający (A Free Voice Guaranteeing Freedom), where he tells the Poles some homely and perhaps disagreeable truths illustrating the maxim Summa libertas etiam perire volentibus.
A notable man was Joseph Andrew Załuski, bishop of Kiev, a Pole who had become thoroughly frenchified—so much so, that he preached in French to the fashionable congregations of Warsaw. He collected a splendid library of about 300,000 volumes and 15,000 manuscripts, which he bequeathed to the Polish nation; but it was afterwards carried off to St Petersburg, where it formed the foundation of the imperial public library. According to Nitschmann in his Geschichte der polnischen Litterature—a work which has been of service in the preparation of this article—the books were transported to Russia very carelessly, and many of them injured by the way. It was especially rich in works relating to Polish history. Konarski edited in six volumes a valuable work entitled Volumina legum, containing a complete collection of Polish laws from the time of the statute of Wislica. He did much good also in founding throughout the country schools for the education of the sons of the upper classes, but as yet nothing had been done for popular education properly so-called. About the close of this period we have some valuable writers on Polish history, which now began to be studied critically, such as Hartknoch in his Alt- und Neues Preussen (1684), a work in which are preserved interesting specimens of the old Prussian language, and Lengnich (1689-1774), author of the valuable Jus publicum regni Poloniae, which appeared in 1742.
We now come to the reign of the last Polish king, Stanislaus Poniatowski, and the few quiet years before the final division of the country, during which the French taste was all powerful. This is the second great period of the development of Polish literature, which has known nothing of medieval romanticism. The literature of the first or Renaissance period gives us some good poets, who although occasionally imitators are not without national feeling, and a goodly array of chroniclers, most of whom made use of Latin. In the second or French period we get verse-makers rather than poets, who long to be Frenchmen, and sigh over the barbarism of their country; but the study of history in a critical spirit is beginning under the influence of Naruszewicz, Albertrandi and others. In the third period, that of modern romanticism, we get true nationalism, but it is too often the literature of exile and despair. Here may be mentioned, although living a little time before the reign of Stanislaus, a Polish poetess, Elizabeth Druzbacka (1695-1760), whose writings show a feeling for nature at a time when verse-making of the most artificial type was prevalent throughout the country. The portrait prefixed to the Leipzig edition of her works is a striking one, representing a handsome, intellectual-looking woman, dressed in the garb of some religious order. Her Life of David in verse appears tedious, but many of the descriptions in the Seasons are elegant. Unfortunately she introduces latinisms, so that her Polish is by no means pure. A national theatre was founded at Warsaw in 1765 under the influence of the court, but it was not till long afterwards that anything really national connected with the drama appeared in Poland. Thomas Kajetan Węgierski (1755-1787), who was chamberlain to the king, enjoyed a considerable reputation among his countrymen for his satirical writing. He was a kind of Polish Churchill, and like his English parallel died young. His life also appears to have been as irregular as Churchill's. In consequence of an attack on the empress of Russia, he was compelled to leave Poland, and accordingly made a tour in Italy, France, America, and England, dying at Marseilles at the early age of thirty-three. His poetry shows the influence of the French taste, then prevalent throughout Europe. In times of great national disasters he deserves to be remembered as a true patriot; but the spirit of his poetry is altogether unwholesome. It is the wailing cry of a moribund nation. The great laureate of the court of Stanislaus was Trembecki (1722-1812), whose sympathies were too much with the Russian invaders of his country. He was little more than a fluent poetaster, and is now almost forgotten. One of his most celebrated pieces was Zofjowka, written on the country seat of Felix Potocki, a Polish magnate, for this was the age of descriptive as well as didactic poetry. Perhaps the English gave the hint in such productions as “Cooper's Hill.” The old age of Trembecki appears to have been ignoble and neglected; he had indeed “fallen upon evil days and evil tongues”; and when he died at an advanced age all the gay courtiers of whom he had been the parasite were either dead or had submitted to the Muscovite yoke. He comes before us as a belated epicurean, whose airy trifles cannot be warbled in an atmosphere surcharged with tempests and gunpowder. The end of the 18th century was not the period for a court poet in Poland.
The most conspicuous poet, however, of the time was Ignatius Krasicki, bishop of Warmia (1735-1801). He was the friend of Krasicki. Frederick the Great and a prominent member of the king's literary club at Sans Souci. Krasicki wrote an epic on the war of Khotin—the same as had furnished the subject of the poem of Potocki, of which Krasicki in all probability had never heard, and also that of the Dalmatian Gundulich. Krasicki's poem is at best but a dull affair, in fact a pale copy of a poor original, the Henriade of Voltaire. His mock heroics are, to say the least, amusing, and among these may be mentioned Myszeis, where he describes how King Popiel, according to the legend, was eaten up by rats. His Monachomachia is in six cantos, and is a satire upon the monks. The bishop was also the writer of some pretty good comedies. In fact most styles of composition were attempted by him—of course satires and fables among the number. He presents himself to us much more like a transplanted French abbé than a Pole. In the year 1801 he travelled to Berlin, and died there after a short illness. Among his other works the bishop published in 1781-1782, in two volumes, a kind of encyclopaedia of belles lettres entitled Zbiór Wiadomości. His estimates of various great poets are not very accurate. Of course he finds Shakespeare a very “incorrect” author, although he is willing to allow him considerable praise for his vigour. F. Morawski (1783-1861) published some excellent Fables (1800) in the manner of Krasicki, and in 1851 an epic entitled My Grandfather's Farm. Adam Naruszewicz (1733-1796) was bishop and poet. The existence of so many ecclesiastical writers was a natural feature in Polish literature; they formed the only really cultured class in the community, which consisted besides of a haughty ignorant nobility living among their serfs, and (at a vast distance) those serfs themselves, in a brutalized condition. Burghers there were, properly speaking, none, for most of the citizens in the large towns were foreigners governed by the Jus magdeburgicum. Naruszewicz has not the happy vivacity of Krasicki; he attempts all kinds of poetry, especially satire and fable. He is at best but a mediocre poet; but he has succeeded better as a historian, and especially to be praised is his “History of the Polish Nation” (Historya narodu polskiego), which, however, he was not able to carry further than the year 1386. He also wrote an account of the Polish general Chodkiewicz, and translated Tacitus and Horace. Interesting memoirs have been published by Kilinski, a Warsaw shoemaker, and Kosmian, state referendary, who lived about this time and saw much of the War of Independence and other political affairs. Among the smaller poets of this period may be mentioned Karpiński (1741-1828), a writer of sentimental elegies in the style then so very much in fashion, and Franciszek Dyonizy Kniaźnin (1750-1807), who nourished his muse on classical themes and wrote several plays. He was the court poet of Prince Adam Czartoryski at Pulawy, and furnished odes in commemoration of all the important events which occurred in the household. He lost his reason on the downfall of Poland, and died after eleven years' insanity in 1807. Julian Ursin Niemcewicz (1758-1841) was one of the most popular of Polish poets at the commencement of the present century (see Niemcewicz). His most popular work is the “Collection of Historical Songs” (Spiewy historyczne), where he treats of the chief heroes of Polish history. Besides these he wrote one or two good plays, and a novel in letters, on the story of two Jewish lovers. John Paul Woronicz (1757-1829) born in Volhynia, and at the close of his life bishop of Warsaw and primate of Poland, was a very eloquent divine, and has been called the modern Skarga. A valuable worker in the field of Slavonic philology was Linde, the author of an excellent Polish dictionary in six volumes. For a long time the cultivation of Polish philology was in a low state, owing to the prevalence of Latin in the 17th century and French in the 18th. No Polish grammar worthy of the name appeared till that of Kopczynski at the close of the 18th century, but the reproach has been taken away in modern times by the excellent works by Malecki and Malinowski. Rakowiecki, who edited the Rousskaia Pravda, and Macieiowski (who died in 1883, aged ninety), author of a valuable work on Slavonic law, may here be mentioned. Here we have a complete survey of the leading codes of Slavonic jurisprudence. At a later period (in 1856) appeared the work of Helcel, Starodawne prawa polskiégo pomniki (“Ancient Memorials of Polish Law”). Aloysius Feliński (1771-1820) produced an historical tragedy, Barbara Radziwiłł, and some good comedies were written by Count Polish Drama. Alexander Fredro (1793-1876). In fact Fredro may be considered the most entertaining writer for the stage which Poland has produced. He introduced genuine comedy among his countrymen. The influence of Molière can be very clearly seen in his pieces; his youth was spent chiefly in France, where he formed one of the soldiers of the Polish legion of Napoleon and joined in the expedition to Russia. His first production was Pan Geldhab, written in 1819 and produced at Warsaw in 1821. From 1819 to 1835 he wrote about seventeen pieces and then abandoned publishing, having taken offence at some severe criticisms. At his death he left several comedies, which were issued in a posthumous edition. There is a good deal of local colouring in the pieces of Fredro; although the style is French, the characters are taken from Polish life. From him may be said to date the formation of anything like a national Polish theatre, so that his name marks an epoch. The Poles, like many of the other nations of Europe, had religious plays at an early period. They were originally performed in churches; but Pope Innocent II. finding fault with this arrangement, the acting was transferred to churchyards. Mention has already been made of plays written by Rej and Kochanowski; they are mere fruits of the Renaissance, and cannot in any way be considered national. The wife of John Casimir, a Frenchwoman, Marie Louise, hired a troop of French actors and first familiarized the Poles with something which resembled the modern stage. The Princess Franciszka Radziwiłł composed plays which were acted at her private residence, but they are spoken of as inartistic and long and tedious. The national theatre was really founded in the reign of Stanislaus Augustus; and good plays were produced by Bohomolec, Kamiński, Kropiński, Boguslawski, Zabłocki, and others. Perhaps, however, with the exception of the works of Fredro, the Poles have not produced anything of much merit in this line. A great statesman and writer of the later days of Polish nationality was Kolłątaj, born at Sandomir in 1750. He was a man of liberal sentiments, and, had his plans been carried out, Poland might have been saved. He wished to abolish serfdom and throw open state employments to all. The nobility, however, were too infatuated to be willing to adopt these wise measures. Like the French aristocrats with the reforms of Necker, they would not listen till ruin had overtaken them. During the last war of Poland as an independent country Kolłątaj betook himself to the camp of Kościuszko, but when he saw that there was no longer hope he went to Galicia, but was captured by the Austrians and imprisoned at Olmutz till 1803. He died in 1812. An active co-operator with Kolłątaj was Salesius Jezierski, who founded clubs for the discussion of political questions, and Stanislaus Staszic, who did much for education and improved the condition of the university of Warsaw
The reputation of all preceding poets in Poland was now destined to be thrown into the shade by the appearance of Romanticism. Mickiewicz (1798-1855), the great introduce of dsm romanticism into the country (see Mickiewicz). Poland, as has been said before, is not rich in national songs and legendary poetry, in which respect it cannot compare with its sister Slavonic countries Russia and Servia. Collections have appeared, however, by Wacław Zaleski, who writes under the pseudonyms of Wacław z Oleska, Wojcicki, Roger, Żegota Pauli, and especially Oskar Kolberg. Poland and Lithuania, however, abounded with superstitions and legends which only awaited the coming poet to put them into verse. In the year 1851 Romuald Zieñkiewicz published Songs of the People of Pinsk, and collections have even appeared of those of the Kashoubes, a remnant of the Poles living near Danzig Mickiewicz had had a predecessor, but of far less talent, Casimir Brodzinski (1791-1835). He served under Napoleon in the Polish legion, and has left a small collection of poems, the most important being the idyl Wiesław, in which the manners of the peasants of the district of Cracow are faithfully portrayed. The second great poet of the romantic school who appeared in Poland after Mickiewicz was Julius Słowacki (1809-1849), born at Krzemieniec. In 1831 he left his native country and chose Paris as his residence, where he died. His writings are full of the fire of youth, and show great beauty and elegance of expression. We can trace in them the influence of Byron and Victor Hugo. He is justly considered one of the greatest of the modern poets of Poland. His most celebrated pieces are Hugo; Mnich (“The Monk”); Lambro, a Greek corsair, quite in the style of Byron; Anhelli, a very Dantesque poem expressing under the form of an allegory the sufferings of Poland; Krol duch (“The Spirit King”), another mysterious and allegorical poem; Wacław, on the same subject as the Marya of Malczewski, to be afterwards noticed; Beniowski, a long poem in ottava rima on this strange adventurer, something in the style of Byron's humorous poems; Kordyan, of the same school as the English poet's Manfred; Lilla Weneda, a poem dealing with the early period of Slavonic history. The life of Słowacki has been published by Professor Anton Małecki in two volumes.
Mickiewicz and Słowacki were both more or less mystics, but even more we may assign this characteristic to Sigismund Krasiński, who was born in 1812 at Paris, and died there in 1859. It would be impossible to analyse here his extraordinary poem Nieboska komedja (“The Undivine Comedy”), Irydion, and others. In them Poland, veiled under different allegories, is always the central figure. They are powerful poems written with great vigour of language, but enveloped in clouds of mysticism. The life of Krasiński was embittered by the fact that he was the son of General Vincent Krasiński, who had become unpopular among the Poles by his adherence to the Russian government; the son wrote anonymously in consequence, and was therefore called “The Unknown Poet.” Among his latest productions are his “Psalms of the Future” (Psalmy przyszłosci), which were attacked by the democratic party as a defence, of aristocratic views which had already ruined Poland. His friend Słowacki answered them in some taunting verses, and this led to a quarrel between the poets. One of the most striking pieces of Krasiński has the title “Resurrecturis.” The sorrows of his country and his own physical sufferings have communicated a melancholy tone to the writings of Krasiński, which read like a dirge, or as if the poet stood always by an open grave—and the grave is that of Poland. He must be considered as, next to Mickiewicz, the greatest poet of the country. Other poets of the romantic school of considerable merit were Gorecki, Witwicki, Odyniec, and Gaszynski, the last-named wrote many exquisite sonnets, which ought alone to embalm his name. Witwicki (1800-1847) was son of a professor at Krzemieniec. He was a writer of ballads and poems dealing with rural life, which enjoyed great popularity among his countrymen and had the good fortune to be set to music by Chopin. The works of Lelewel have separate mention (see Lelewel); but here may be specified the labours of Narbutt, Dzieje starozytne arodu litewskiego (“Early History of the Lithuanian People”), published at Vilna in nine volumes, and the valuable Monumenta Poloniae historica, edited at Lemberg by Bielowski, of which several volumes have appeared, containing reprints of most of the early chroniclers. Bielowski died in 1876.
A further development of romanticism was the so-called
Ukraine school of poets, such as Malczewski, Goszczynski,
and Zaleski. Anton Malczewski (1793-1826) wrote
one poem, Marya, a Ukrainian tale which passed
unnoticed at the time of its publication, but after
its author's death became very popular. Malczewski was one
of Napoleon's officers; he led a wandering life and was intimate
with Byron at Venice; he is said to have suggested to the latter the story of Mazeppa. Marya is a narrative in verse
in the manner of Byron. It is written with much feeling and
elegance, and in a most harmonious metre. The chief poem
Severin Goszczynski (1803-1876) is Zamek Kaniowski (“The
Tower of Kaniow”). The most interesting poem of Bogdan
Zaleski is his “Spirit of the Steppe” (Duch od stepu). Other
poets of the so-called Ukraine school, which has been so well
inspired by the romantic legends of that part of Russia, are
Thomas or Timko Padoura (who also wrote in the Malo-Russian,
or Little-Russian, language), Alexander Groza, and Thomas
Olizarowski. For many of the original songs and legends we
must turn to the work of Messrs Antonovich and Dragomanov.
Bogdan Joseph Zaleski was born in 1802 in the Ukraine village,
Bohaterka. In 1820 he was sent to the university of Warsaw,
where he had Goszczynski as a fellow student. Besides the
longer poem previously mentioned, he is the author of many
charming lyrics in the style of the Little Russian poems, such
as Shevchenko has written in that language. He died at Villepreux,
in France, in 1886, after more than fifty years of exile.
Michael Grabowski (1805-1863) belongs also to this school by
his fine Melodies of the Ukraine (1828). Maurice Goslawski
also won fame by his Poems of a Polish Outlaw in the struggle
of 1830-1831. A poet of great vigour was Stephen Garczynski
(1806-1833), the friend of Mickiewicz, celebrated for his War
Sonnets and his poem entitled The Deeds of Wacław.
Wincenty Poi (1807-1872) was born at Lublin, and though of foreign extraction by both parents proved an ardent patriot. He wrote a fine descriptive work, Obrazy z zycia i podrózy (“Pictures of Life and Travel”), and also a poem, Piesn o ziemi naszej (“Song of our Land”). For about three years from 1849 he was professor of geography in the university of Cracow. In 1855 he published Mohort, a poem relating to the times of Stanisłaus Poniatowski. Ludwik Władyslaw Kondratowicz (who wrote chiefly under the name of Syrokomla) was born in 1823 in the government of Minsk, and died on the 15th of September 1862 at Vilna. His parents were poor, and he received a meagre education, but made up for it by careful self-culture. One of his most remarkable poems is his Jan Dęborog, in which, like Mickiewicz, he has well described the scenery of his native Lithuania. He everywhere appears as the advocate of the suffering peasants, and has consecrated to them many beautiful lyrics. In Kaczkowski the Poles found a novelist who treated many periods of their history with great success. His sympathies, however, were mostly aristocratic, though modified by the desire of progress. An important writer of history is Karl Szajnocha (1818-1868), born in Galicia of Czech parents. He began his labours with The Age of Casimir the Great (1848), and Bolesław the Brave (1849), following these with Jadwiga and Jagiello, in three volumes (1855-1856)—a work which Spasovich, in his Russian History of Slavonic Literature, compares in vigour of style and fullness of colour with Macaulay's History of England and Thierry's Norman Conquest. Our author was still further to resemble the latter writer in a great misfortune; from overwork he lost his sight in 1857. Szajnocha, however, like Thierry and the American Prescott, did not abandon his studies. His excellent memory helped him in his affliction in 1858 he published a work in which he traced the origin of Poland from the Varangians (Lechicki początek polski), thus making them identical in origin with the Russians. He began to write the history of John Sobieski, but did not live to finish it, dying in 1868, soon after completing a history of the Cossack wars, Dwa lata dziejów naszych (“Two Years of Our History”). A writer of romances of considerable power was Joseph Korzeniowski (1797-1863), tutor in early youth to the poet Krasiński, and afterwards director of a school at Kharkov. Besides some plays now forgotten, he was author of some popular novels, such as Wedrówki oryginata (“Tours of an Original”), 1848; Garbaty (“The Hunchback”), 1852, &c. But the most fertile of Polish authors was J. I. Kraszewski (q.v.). His works constitute a library in themselves; they are chiefly historical and political novels, some or which treat of early times in Poland, and some of its condition under the Saxon kings. As lyrical poets may also be mentioned Jachowicz; Jáskowski, author of a line poem, The Beginning of Winter; Edmund Wasilewski (1814-1846), the author of many popular songs; and Holowinski, archbishop of Mogilev (1807-1855), author of religious poems. The style of poetry in vogue in the Polish parts of Europe at the present time is chiefly lyrical. Other writers deserving mention are Cornelius Ujejski (1823-1897), the poet of the last revolt of 1863; Theophilus Lenartowicz (born 1822), who wrote some very graceful poetry; Sigismund Milkowski (T. T. Tež, born in 1820), author of romances drawn from Polish history, for the novel of the school of Sir Walter Scott still flourishes vigorously among the Poles. Among the very numerous writers of romances may be mentioned Henry Rzewuski (1791-1866); Joseph Dzierzkowski wrote novels on aristocratic life, and Michael Czajkowski (1808-1876) romances of the Ukraine; Valerius Wieloglowski (1865) gave pictures of country life.
In 1882 the Poles lost, in the prime of life, a very promising historian Szujski (born in 1835), and also Schmitt, who died in his sixty-sixth year. Szujski commenced his literary career in 1859 with poems and dramas; in 1860 appeared his first historical production, Rzut oka na Historye Polski (“A Glance at Polish History”), which attracted universal attention; and in 1862 he commenced the publication in parts of his work Dzieje Polski (“The History of Poland”), the printing of which ceased in 1866. The value of this book is great both on account of the research it displays and its philosophical and unprejudiced style. One of the last works of Szujski, written in German, Die Poten und Ruthenen in Gatizien, attracted a great deal of attention at the time of its appearance. Schmitt got mixed up with some of the political questions of the day—he was a native of Galicia and therefore a subject of the Austrian emperor—and was sentenced to death in 1846, but the penalty was commuted into imprisonment in Spielberg, whence he was released by the revolution of 1848. In 1863 he took part in the Polish rebellion, and was compelled to fly to Paris, where he only returned in 1871. His chief works are History of the Polish People from the Earliest Times to the year 1763 (1854), History of Poland in the 18th and 19th Centuries (1866), and History of Poland from the time of the Partition (1868), which he carried down to the year 1832. In opposition to the opinion of many historians, his contemporaries, that Poland fell through the nobility and the diets, Schmitt held (as did Lelewel) that the country was brought to ruin by the kings, who always preferred dynastic interests to those of the country, and by the pernicious influence of the Jesuits. Adalbert Kętrzyński, who succeeded Bielowski in 1877 in his post of director of the Ossolinski Institute at Lemberg, is the author of some valuable monographs on the history of Poland. He was born in 1838. Casimir Stadnicki has treated of the period of the Jagiellons; and Szaraniewicz, professor at the university of Lemberg, has written on the early history of Galicia. Thaddeus Wojciechowski has published a clever work on Slavonic antiquities. Xavier Liske, born in 1838, processor of universal history at Lemberg, has published many historical essays of considerable value, and separate works by him have appeared in the German, Polish, Swedish, Danish and Spanish languages The “Sketch of the History of Poland” (Dzieje Potskie w zarysie) by Michael Bobrzyński, born in 1849 in Cracow (professor of Polish and German law), is a very spirited work, and has given rise to a great deal of cont rovers on account of the opposition of many of its views to those of the school of Lelewel. Vincent Zakrzewski professor of history at Cracow, has written some works which have attracted considerable attention, such as On the Origin and Growth of the Reformation in Poland, and After the Flight of King Henry, in which he describes the condition of the country during the period between that king's departure from Poland and the election of Stephen Batory. Smolka has published a history entitled Mieszko the Elder and his Age. Wladyslaw Wislocki has prepared a catalogue of manuscripts in the Jagiellon library at Cracow. Dr Joseph Casimir Plebański, besides editing the Biblioteka warszawska, a very valuable literary journal which stands at the head of all works of the kind in Poland, has also written a dissertation (in Latin) on the liberum veto which puts that institution in a new light. Felix Jezierski, the previous editor of the above-mentioned journal, published in it translations of parts of Homer, and is also the author of an excellent version of Faust.
The history of Polish literature has not been neglected. We first have the earl history of Felix Bentkowski (1781-1852), followed by that of Michael Wiszniewski (1794-1865), which, however, only extends to the 17th century, and is at best but a quarry of materials for subsequent writers, the style being very heavy. A “History of Eloquence” (Historya wymowy w Polsce) was published by Karl Mecherzyski. An elaborate history of Polish literature has been written by Anton Malecki, who is the author of the best Polish grammar (Gramatyka historyczno-porównawcza jezyka polskiego, 2 vols., Lemberg, 1879). The Polish bibliography of Karl Estreicher, director of the Jagiellon library at Cracow, is a work of the highest importance. One of the most active writers on Polish philology and literature is Wladysław Nehring, whose numerous contributions to the Archiv für slavische Philologie of Professor Jagic entitle him to the gratitude of all who have devoted themselves to Slavonic studies. Wladimir Spasowicz, a lawyer of St Petersburg, assisted Pipin in his valuable work on Slavonic literature. The lectures of Professor Cybulski (d. 1867) on Polish literature in the first half of the 19th century are written with much spirit and appreciation. The larger poetical works which appear during that time are carefully analysed.
In recent times many interesting geological and anthropological investigations have been carried on in Poland. In 1868 Count Constantine Tyszkiewicz published a valuable monograph on the Tombs of Lithuania and Western Ruthenia. And Professor Joseph Łepkowski, of Cracow, has greatly enriched the archaeological museum of his native city.
In philosophy the Poles (as the Slavs generally) have produced but few remarkable names. Goluchowski, the brothers Andrew and John Sniadecki, the latter of whom gained a reputation almost European, Bronislaw Trentowski, Karol Liebelt and Joseph Kremer
deserve mention. August Cieszkowski has written on philosophical and economic subjects. Moritz Straszewski, professor of philosophy at the university of Cracow, has also published some remarkable works.
Mention has already been made of the poetess Elizabeth Druzbacka. Female writers are not very common among Slavonic nations. Perhaps the most celebrated Polish authoress was Klementina Hoffmann, whose maiden name was Tanska, born at Warsaw in 1798. She married Karl Boromaus Hoffmann, and accompanied her husband, in 1831, to Passy near Paris, where she died in 1845. Her novels still enjoy great popularity in Poland. Of the poetesses of later times Gabriele Narzyssa Zmichowska (1825-1878), Maria Ilnicka, translator of Scott's Lord of the Isles, and Jadwiga Luszczewska may be mentioned.
A poet of considerable merit is Adam Asnyk (1838-1897). In his poetry we seem to trace the steps between romanticism and the modern realistic school, such as we see in the Russian poet Nekrasov. In some of the flights of his muse he reminds us of Slowacki, in the melody of his verse of Zaleski. Besides showing talent as a poet, he has also written some good plays, as “The Jew” (Zid), Cola di Rienzi, and Kiejstut. Other poets worthy of mention are Zagorski, Czerwienski, and Maria Konopnicka, who has published two volumes of poems that have been very favourably noticed. Mention must also be made of Balucki (1837-1901), author of novels and comedies, and Narzymski (1839-1872), who was educated in France, but spent part of his short life in Cracow, author of some very popular tales.
The four centres of Polish literature, which, in spite of the attempts which have been made to denationalize the country, is fairly active, are Cracow, Posen, Lemberg and Warsaw. A cheap edition of the leading Polish classics, well adapted for dissemination among the people, has been published, under the title of Biblioteka Polska, at Cracow. Not only are the professors of Cracow University some of the most eminent living Poles, but it has been chosen as a place of residence by many Polish literary men. The academy of sciences, founded in 1872, celebrated the bicentenary of the raising of the siege of Vienna by Sobieski by publishing the valuable Acta Joannis III. regis Poloniae. Some good Polish works have been issued at Posen. At Lemberg, the capital of Austrian Galicia, there is an active Polish press. Here appeared the Monumenta Poloniae historica of Bielowski, previously mentioned; but Polish in this province has to struggle with the Red-Russian or Ruthenian, a language or dialect which for all practical purposes is the same as the Southern or Little Russian. At Warsaw, since the last insurrection, the university has become entirly Russianized, and its Transactions are published in Russian; but Polish works of merit still issue from the press—among others the leading Polish literary journal, Biblioteka warszawska.
Perhaps the most popular modern writer in Poland is Eliza Orszeszko, of whose novels a complete “Jubilee” edition has appeared. Many of her tales—as, for instance, Argonauci (“The Argonauts”)—have appeared in the Tygodnik, or weekly illustrated journal of Warsaw. Meir Ezofowicz has enjoyed great popularity. The object of this tale is to bridge over the gulf between the Jew and Christian in Poland. Adolf Dygasinski writes clever vil age tales of the “kail-yard” school as it has been sometimes termed in England. Waclaw Sieroszewski has written Twelve Years in the Land of the Jakuts, a contribution to the literature of folk-lore and ethnology such as only a real artist could produce. Among the latest poets we may mention Wyspianski, Kisiliewski, Reymont, Mme Zapolska; the latter is the author of some powerful realistic novels and plays, and she has been called the Polish Zola. It is this kind of poetry and traces of the decadent school which we find in the later Polish poets. A pessimistic spirit is apparent, as in the writings of Wenceslaus Berent. Since the death of Asnyk and Ujejski the most prominent poet is Marya Konopnicka (1846). Some good critical work has been done in the leading reviews by Swietochowski and others. Historical work has been produced by Hirschberg, Pappée, Sobieski, Czermak and others, and the histories of Polish literature by Stanislaus Tarnowski and Piotr Chmielowski are of the highest value, the former dealing more with the aesthetic side of literature and the latter with the historical. The Poles are busy in reviving their great past. Hence the enthusiasm for historical studies, and the Biblioteka pisarzow polskich, which shows us what abundance of literature was produced in Poland in the 16th and beginning of the 17th century. In Henryk Sienkiewicz (q.v.), the historical novelist, Poland has a modern writer of European reputation.
Bibliography.—Pîpin and Spafovich, Istoria slavianskikh Literatur (in Russian; St Petersburg, 1879); Geschichte der polnischen Literatur von Dr A. Bruckner (Leipzig, 1901; also written in Polish); Chmielowski, History of Polish Literature (in Polish, 3 vols.); Stanislaus Tarnowski, History of Polish Literature (in Polish); Grabowski, Poezya Polska po roku 1863 (Cracow, 1903); Heinrich Nitschmann, Geschichte der polnischen Literatur (Leipzig, sine anno).
(W. R. M.)
- Archdeacon of Gnesen 1367: vice-chancellor of Poland; d. c. 1387.
- Archbishop of Gnesen 1219–1220. Died at Modena 1229.
- All the chief offices of state were consequently duplicated, e.g. the hetman wielki koronny, i.e. “grand hetman of the crown,” as the Polish commander-in-chief was called, had his counterpart in Lithuania., who bore the title of wielki hetman litewski, i.e. “grand hetman of Lithuania,” and so on.
- 18,000 of their 21,000 villages were destroyed, 1000 churches were razed to the ground, and the population was diminished by more than a quarter of a million.
- Pretficz won no fewer than 70 engagements over the Tatars.
- The Red Russian sejmik was of later origin, c. 1433.
- In view of the frequency of the Tatar inroads, the control of the militia was re-transferred to the Crown in 1501.
- Cf. American, Backwoodsmen.
- Thus the Sapiehas, who had been living on rapine for years, dissolved the diet of 1688 by means of the veto of one of their hirelings, for fear of an investigation into their conduct.
- The fourth eagle was the White Eagle, i.e. Poland.
- Michal Kazimierz Radziwill alone was worth thirty millions.
- 1 Pol. gulden = 5 silber groschen.
- At the very next diet, 1776, the Poles themselves reduced the army to 18,000 men.
- On the death of Stanislaus, the crown was to pass to the family of the elector of Saxony.
- The Psalter is called after Margaret, the first wife of King Louis, who died in 1349, by a mere conjecture. Caro thinks it more probable that the book belonged to Mary, his daughter.
- His collected works were printed in 1584; they were many times reprinted, the best edition being that of Warsaw (4 vols., 1884). His life was written by Przyborowski (Posen, 1857).