POLAND UNDER THE SAXON KINGS.
By the late R. NISBET BAIN, Assistant Librarian,
Competitors for the throne on the death of John III Sobieski. 191
Election of Augustus II. 191
Lithuania and the Saxon army-corps. 192
Augustus II and the Northern War. 192
Last years of Augustus II. 193
Candidature of Stanislaus Leszczynsld. 193
The Powers and the Convocation Diet. 194
Election of Stanislaus. 195
Beginning of the War of the Polish Succession. 196
Siege of Danzig. Abdication of Stanislaus. 197
Accession of Augustus III. 198
Rise and predominance of the Czartoryskis. 198-9
Efforts of the Czartoryskis to depose Augustus III. 200
His death. 200
POLAND UNDER THE SAXON KINGS.
OF the eighteen competitors for the throne of Poland vacant in 1696 by the death of John III, Sobieski, the most notable were the Austrian candidate, the Krdlewicz, or Crown Prince, James Sobieski ; the Prussian candidate, Margrave Lewis William of Baden-Baden ; Frederick Augustus, Elector of Saxony ; and Prince Henri of Condé and Prince Louis of Conti, successively supported by France. The chances of James Sobieski, on the whole the most suitable candidate, were ruined by the hostile intrigues of his own mother the Queen Dowager, Maria Casimiria, and the jealousy of all the other native candidates. The Margrave of Baden, ill supported, retired betimes from the contest which finally resolved itself into a duel between the Elector of Saxony and the Prince of Conti. At first the Elector was regarded by nobody as a serious candidate ; but his prospects brightened after he had publicly abjured Protestantism for Catholicism at the crisis of the struggle. He also had a longer and better administered purse than that of the French Minister in Poland, Abbé de Polignac ; but his chief advantage lay in the fact that all the neighbouring Powers preferred to see a German rather than a Frenchman or a Pole on the Polish throne. Tsar Peter even went so far as to threaten the Polish Senate with an invasion if they dared to choose a Frenchman. Nevertheless, the Prince of Conti was elected King of Poland by a considerable majority. It was only as the nominee of a minority, and consequently without possessing any legal status, that Frederick Augustus, at the head of a well-disciplined Saxon army which had been patiently awaiting the issue of events close to the Polish frontier, drove out the lawful sovereign. On September 16 he was crowned at Cracow as Augustus II ; but his title was not generally recognised in Poland till nearly two years later.
The determination of the new King to transform, and if possible abolish, the hopelessly vicious Constitution which was the source of all the calamities of Poland, furnishes the key to the right interpretation of the events of this unlucky reign. Augustus judged, rightly enough, that the presence in the country of a permanent and devoted regular army
During the last years of the reign of John III Lithuania had suffered from chronic anarchy, due mainly to the tyranny and violence of the great House of Sapieha which preyed upon its neighbours, lay and clerical. Casimir Sapieha, Grand Hetman of Lithuania, in a private quarrel with the Bishop of Vilna, had devastated the whole diocese and burnt dozens of churches and hundreds of manor houses. Twice, in 1693 and 1695, John III had been forced to summon Sapieha to answer for his misdeeds before the one tribunal he could not ignore-the sovereign Diet. On both occasions the partisans of Sapieha had succeeded in " exploding1 " the Diet before it had time to consider the case. In other words, that palladium of individual liberty, the liberum veto, had sunk so low that its principal use was to shelter high-placed felons from the pursuit of justice. In 1700 the insupportable misrule of the Sapiehas provoked an insurrection of all the other Lithuanian nobles against them, and, with the assistance of the Saxon troops, they were finally subdued, deprived of all their honours and dignities and expelled the country. A few months later, however, they were back again in the track of the victorious armies of Charles XII. Subsequently they became the chief supporters of the new King, Stanislaus Leszczynski, whom Charles placed upon the Polish throne.
After the removal of the Sapiehas, Augustus found a fresh justification for the continuance of his Saxons in Lithuania, and in Poland also, in the obligations of the great Northern War, of which he was one of the principal promoters. The details of that momentous episode, more especially its influence upon European politics, have already been set forth in this History. It only remains to be added that, as regards Poland, this war was an unmitigated disaster. The Republic had emerged from the most terrible of the cataclysms of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, not unscathed indeed, but at least morally chastened and stimulated. The stress of calamity had invariably rekindled the old martial spirit of the Szlachta (gentry), and, even in the darkest hours, evoked national heroes and deliverers. But the ten years' war which terminated with the collapse of Charles XII at Poltawa had no such salutary after-effect. It produced not a single eminent Polish captain, not a single valiant Polish soldier. Again and again, thousands of
The leading man in Poland on the death of Augustus II was the Primate and Interrex, Theodore Potocki, a devoted adherent of Stanislaus Leszczynski. He was upright, conscientious, and a true patriot, but too old to fight effectually for freedom, and, besides, circumstances were against him. His first steps were to dissolve the Diet ; disperse the body-guard of the late King ; order the Saxon auxiliaries to quit Poland ; and put small corps of observation along the Austrian and Prussian frontiers. He found active supporters in the French ambassador, Count Monti, in the great Lithuanian family of Czartoryski, and above all in the Palatine of Mazovia, Stanislaus Poniatowski, the one really capable statesman Poland then possessed, who had served Charles XIFs protege, King Stanislaus, with zeal and ability thirty years before, and was now ready to sacrifice everything for him once more. It was to France that Potocki and Poniatowski looked for help, nor was France,
When the tidings of the death of Augustus II reached St Petersburg, a grand national council was summoned, at which it was agreed unanimously that the interests of Russia would not permit her to recognise Stanislaus Leszczynski, or indeed any person dependent directly on France (and therefore, indirectly, on Turkey and Sweden also) as a candidate for the Polish throne. Thereupon, a menacing letter was addressed to the Polish Primate demanding that the name of Stanislaus should be struck off the list of candidates, and Count Carl Gustaf Löwenwolde was sent to Warsaw to reinforce his brother, Count Frederick Casimir, the actual Russian resident at the Polish capital. The two Ministers,
The protest of Russia and Austria had been bold and resolute ; but they were hampered at the outset by a peculiar difficulty : they had no alternative candidate of their own to offer. Stanislaus Leszczynski was the only native Pole who had the slightest chance of being elected King. It was therefore necessary to look abroad for a candidate. The Infant Emmanuel of Portugal, who had visited Russia in 1731, as a suitor for the hand of the Empress Anne, was at first proposed by the Court of Vienna; but his father would not consent to his nomination, and, ultimately, both Russia and Austria agreed to support the pretensions of the Elector of Saxony, the late King's son. Hitherto, indeed, Frederick Augustus had been regarded at Vienna with no friendly eye. He was suspected of leaning too much upon France as his father had done before him, and he had always steadily opposed the Pragmatic Sanction ; but, when it became evident that none other but the Saxon faction was strong enough to oppose Stanislaus, all objections on the part of the two Courts ceased, and Löwenwolde concluded a treaty with the Elector (August 14,1733), whereby he acceded to the Pragmatic Sanction, contracted a treaty of mutual defence and guarantee with Russia and Austria, and promised to keep inviolate the Constitution of the Polish Republic. Eighteen regiments of Russian infantry and ten of cavalry were then sent to the frontier, to be ready, at a moment's notice, to enter Poland.
But the march of events had been so rapid that it had now become necessary not merely to direct, but to reverse, the decision of the Polish nation. Nine days after the assembling of the Sejm, the vast majority of whose members remained faithful to the Primate, it issued a manifesto (September 4) solemnly cursing all who should assist or welcome the Muscovites. On the 9th, Stanislaus himself arrived at Warsaw, having travelled through central Europe disguised as a coachman. On the following day 60,000 armed and mounted noblemen assembled on the field of election. For eight hours the aged Interrex, after disregarding as irregular a protest from some 3000 malcontents, who were observing the proceedings from the opposite side of the Vistula, proceeded on horseback through the drenching rain, from group to group, asking all the deputies in turn whom they would have for their King, and greeted everywhere with shouts of: "Long live King Stanislaus!" Finally, after making another vain appeal to the patriotism of the malcontent minority, the Primate solemnly pronounced Stanislaus the duly elected King of Poland ; while the minority retired to Wongrowa, whence they issued a counter-manifesto, declaring the election null and void.
Thus Stanislaus had been elected King of Poland for the second time ; but his tenure of that perilous office was to be even briefer than it had been before. Immediately after his election, he issued a proclamation ordering a levée en masse of the gentry ; but, having no forces ready at hand to support him (the Polish regular army existing only on paper), he was obliged, twelve days after his election, to leave the defenceless capital, and shut himself up in Danzig with the Primate, Poniatowski, the Czartoryskis, and the French and Swedish envoys. A week later (September 30), General Peter Lacy, at the head of a Russian army, appeared on the right bank of the Vistula.
Lacy was speedily joined by the Polish malcontents, who formed (October 6), under his protection, what they called " a general confederation," though it consisted of only 15 senators and 500 of the Szlachta. This phantom of a Diet forthwith proclaimed the Elector of Saxony King of Poland, under the title of Augustus III, amidst loud acclamations. The Empress Anne had hoped to terminate the Polish difficulty in a single campaign, but the hope had soon to be abandoned. Almost the whole of Poland was in favour of Stanislaus, the country swarmed with his partisans, while he himself lay in the strong fortress of Danzig, awaiting the arrival of the promised succour from France. He knew his countrymen too well to expect any material help from their guerilla bands, and his past experience had taught him that the invasion of Saxony was the only way to make Augustus relinquish Poland. He looked to Louis XV to do for him now what Charles XII had done for him five and twenty years before. Failing this, he felt that all was lost. " I shall be compelled to return to France if the King does not occupy Saxony," he wrote to his daughter Queen Marie. On the other hand it was of paramount importance to Russia that Stanislaus should be driven, as speedily as possible, from Danzig, whither help could readily be conveyed to him by sea. Accordingly, at the end of 1733, Lacy was ordered to invest and reduce the place without delay. But it soon became evident that the difficulty of the enterprise had been vastly underrated. After leaving garrisons at Warsaw, Thorn (which he captured on his way) and some other places, Lacy, on sitting down before Danzig, found that his army had dwindled to 12,000 men, whom he was obliged to distribute over an area of two leagues swarming with more than 50,000 hostile guerillas, while the numerous artillery of the Danzigers, well served by French and Swedish gunners, did great execution. All through the winter the siege dragged on, and no impression seemed to have been made upon the fortress. On March 17, 1734, Lacy was superseded by Marshal Miinnich, who brought with him considerable reinforcements. On the 19th, a strongly fortified redoubt called " Scotland" was captured; but for the next fortnight the siege languished as the Marshal had no field-pieces with him but 8-pounders, and the King of Prussia refused to allow any artillery to be conveyed through his dominions to the besiegers.
At one time an actual rupture with Prussia was feared. Miinnich is said to have threatened that he would pay a visit to Berlin when he had done with Danzig. He actually wrote to the Empress that Stanislaus had bought over Frederick William and that the latter was about "to mediate " at the head of an army corps. At last the arrival of some mortars from Saxony enabled Miinnich to capture Fort Sommerschanz which cut Danzig off from Weichselmünde, its port at the mouth of the Vistula (May 6-7) ; but a subsequent attempt to storm the strong redoubt Hagelburg, the key of the whole position, was repulsed with the loss of 120 officers and 2000 men (May 9-10). On May 20, the long-expected French fleet appeared, in the roads and disembarked 2400 men under the command of Brigadier La Motte Pérouse. A week later, they made a gallant attempt to force the Russian entrenchments, but were repulsed and forced to take refuge behind the cannon of Weichselmünde. This encounter is memorable as being the first occasion on which French and Russians crossed swords. On June 10, the Russian fleet, under Admiral Gordon, brought Münnich the siege artillery, the want of which had so seriously hampered his operations, and at the same time vigorously bombarded La Motte's little army till it was forced to surrender and was conveyed to St Petersburg on board the Russian fleet. Two days after the capture of the French army, the fortress of Weichselmünde also surrendered. The loss of its port decided the fate of Danzig. On June 30 the city capitulated unconditionally after sustaining a siege of 135 days, which cost the besiegers 8000 men. The Primate, Monti, and Poniatowski were arrested. King Stanislaus, disguised as a peasant, had contrived to escape two days before.
Even after the fall of Danzig the embers of war continued to smoulder in Poland for nearly twelve months longer. The fugitive Stanislaus issued, in August, from Königsberg, a manifesto to his partisans, urging them to form a confederation on his behalf; and it was formed accordingly at Dzikowa, under the presidency of Adam Tarlo, and sent an envoy, Ozarowsky, to Paris to urge France to invade Saxony with at least 40,000 men, the confederates promising to cooperate simultaneously on the side of Silesia. In the Ukraine, too, Count Nicholas Potocki kept on foot a motley host of 50,000 men and entered into negotiations with the pretender to the throne of Transylvania, Francis Rakdczy II. But nothing came of these isolated and therefore impotent efforts. France was ill disposed to waste any more men and money on a patently unserviceable ally, more particularly as she had found ample compensation for her reverses on the Vistula in the triumphs of herself and her allies in Lombardy and on the Rhine. The desertion of France sealed the fate of the Stanislausian faction in Poland. The Primate and Adam Tarlo submitted to Augustus; Stanislaus signed his abdication (January 26, 1736) ; and the Diet which met at Warsaw (June 25) completed the pacification of the Republic, the new King
The new King was, in every respect, the antithesis of his alert, jovial and dissolute father. His character has been admirably symbolised in the famous picture which represents the portly Prince, enveloped in a luxurious dressing-gown, reclining in an easy chair and holding in his lap a tea-cup and saucer. Pious, pacific, and thoroughly domesticated, nothing but his one passion, a love of the chase, was ever able to tear him from the seclusion of his family circle, while a constitutional sluggishness compelled him to leave everything in the nature of business to Ministers who virtually ruled in his name. Thus, in Saxony, during the greater part of this thirty years' reign, Count Heinrich von Brühl held absolute sway, while in Poland the Czartoryski family-"the Family" as, from its immense influence and political predominance, it was generally called by contemporaries-endeavoured to rally round it the most enlightened and progressive elements of the nation.
The Czartoryskis were of very ancient lineage. They had held princely rank as early as the fifteenth century and were akin to the royal House of Jagello which had ruled Poland from 1384 to 1572. It was only in the middle of the seventeenth century, however, that they had risen to political eminence in the person of Florian Czartoryski, who became Primate of Poland during the brief and troubled reign of Michael Wisniowiecki (1669-73). At the beginning of the eighteenth century the fortunes of the family were completely reestablished, partly by the patronage of Augustus II, who exalted them at the expense of the wealthier aristocracy, but principally through the ability of two brothers, Prince Michael, who became Grand Chancellor of Lithuania, and was henceforth known as " the Prince Chancellor," and his brother Prince Augustus, Palatine of Russia (i.e. the Polish province of "Red Russia"), generally called " the Prince Palatine." These two brothers agreed with each other in all things, politics included, so absolutely that they must be regarded as a single personality rather than two separate individuals. The eminently capable Prince Chancellor was the statesman of "the Family," and as such was always deferred to without question, while his brother the Prince Palatine, who had served with distinction in the Turkish wars of the close of the seventeenth century, and been decorated for valour by Prince Eugene on the smoking bastions of Belgrade, was its military celebrity. The marriage in early life of the latter with the fabulously wealthy Pani Sieniawska, the last survivor and sole heiress of the united possessions of the Sieniawski and Denhof families, finally placed the Czartoryskis on a level with the mightiest magnates in Poland.
The focus of the influence of the Czartoryskis was Pulawy, their mansion in Volhynia, which became as famous in Polish as Holland House was in English politics, and in nearly the same period. Again
The real aim and explanation, however, of all the eiforhs of the Czartoryskis was the reform of the Polish Constitution, which they rightly regarded as the indispensable preliminary of any permanent improvement in the condition of the country. To educate, and thereby transform, public opinion, was the first step towards the realisation of this noble ambition. It was not enough that the new, saving ideas should be introduced by books and pamphlets-a new social atmosphere was to be created in which these ideas might expand and multiply. A new generation, full of courage and free from prejudice, was to be trained up to furnish the protagonists of the new ideas.
When the time came to translate these ideas into action in the field of politics, the Czartoryskis, at first, looked for assistance to the Saxon Court, where, from 1733 to 1753, their credit was very great. They won the friendship of Brühl by obtaining, though not without great difficulty, an " indigenat " or patent of nobility and naturalisation for his family in Poland ; and, in return for this extremely lucrative privilege, which opened the door to all manner of honours and dignities, Brühl, so far as he was able, supported their programme of reform. The period of comparative tranquillity which immediately succeeded the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) seemed to favour their views. Two advantageous matrimonial alliances (the marriage of Augustus Ill's daughter, Mary Josepha, to the Dauphin Louis, son of Marie Leszczynska, and that of his son Frederick Christian to Maria Antonia Walpurgis, daughter of the Emperor Charles VII) had greatly elated the Saxon Court, and induced the King to promise to assist the Czartoryskis to abolish the lïberum veto at the very least. Even when the Court of Vienna, which was first consulted on the subject, advised strongly against the attempt for fear of irritating Russia and Prussia, Brühl and the Czartoryskis still persisted in their efforts to remedy this scandalous abuse. All their efforts