Page images

These defects, in the conftitution of 1795, appeared in the very moment of its birth; and became more and more glaring during the short period of its existence. The History of France has, for too many years, been a fevere illuftration of the maxim, that Nations, in order to be free and happy, must be juft and moderate. To defcribe and record whatever may imprefs on the mind this folitary leffon, is a task attended with a mixture of pain and pleasure: pain, in contemplating the miferable effects of vice and folly; pleasure, in the reflection, that such warnings may prevent mifery to the prefent and future ages.


In making these selections, out of that vaft variety of materials which is prefented to the Annalist, at a period of fuch extended intercourfe among men and nations, our Readers will perceive and acknowledge, that we are guided, not by any prejudices in favour of particular fubjects, but, by a regard to the general views and conduct of the human understanding, and the common fentiments of the human heart. In the prefent volume there is an extraordinary occafion for the exercife and gratification of both in the fall, and final dismemberment and diffolution, of the Commonwealth of Poland; a very affecting, as well as inftructive, Episode in the Hiftory of Europe.


[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


Efects of the new Conflitution efiablished in Poland.-External and internal.-Notice to all the European Powers of the New Changes in Poland. Schemes of the Courts of Petersburgh, Berlin, and Vienna, for the complete Subjugation and Dismemberment of Poland.-Patriotic Affociations in that Kingdom, in Support of the New Conftitution.-Difficulties and Perplexities of the Poles.-Plan of Defence against an expected Attack by Ruffia.-Oppofed by the Nobles.-Interference of Ruffia, and Declaration of the Ruffian Ambaffador to the King and Polish Diet.The Nobles defift from their Oppofition to the Plan for National Defence.A cordial Union between all Individuals and Parties.-The King of Poland invested with the Command of the Polish Armies.-The Ruffian Army enters the Frontiers of Poland.-Various Actions between the Ruffian and Polish Troops.-Application of the Poles for the fipulated Succours to the King of Prussia.-Thefe refufed.-Signal Victory obtained by the Poles over the Ruffians.-Inefficacy of this for the great End for which they had taken up Arms.—Prevalence of the Ruffian Power-Submiffion of the Polish Nation,-Proteft in the Diet against this Submiffion.-Popular Diffatisfaction and Indignation at the Proceedings of the Diet.


HE eftablishment of the new conftitution in Poland excited very different fenfations among its VOL. XXXVII.

various neighbours. Sweden and Denmark, whofe dread of Ruffia inclined them to wish for a diminution


tion of that influence which the ex-
ercifed with fo much defpotifm,
could not fail to behold with fatis-
faction a people eminent for their
long attachment to liberty, and
once of the first confequence in the
north of Europe, in a way of re-
covering their former importance;
and fetting bounds to the ambition
of the court of Petersburgh. The
Turks, lately humbled by the
Ruffian arms, and whofe preferva-
tion was entirely due to a fortunate
concurrence of accidents, were well
pleafed to fee that rapacious power
checked in her reftlefs progress to
aggrandizement. The powers at a
diftance from the scene of action,
could not be altogether diffatisfied
that the balance of Europe fhould
promife, by this great event, to
regain that poife it had loft for
fome years in thofe northern parts.
The only confideration that could
poffibly obftruct this fentiment, was
the apprehenfion that Poland, in
order to refift that combination, of
which he had been the victim,
would have recourfe to the aflift-
ance of France: and, rather than
fubmit to the tyranny which she had
fo long experienced, enter into the
ftricteft bonds of union with that
power; now become odious to all
crowned heads, and aiming at a
diffemination of its principles,
wherever it could procure them ac-

This, indeed, was the fole rea-
fon that could be alleged for the
furprifing inactivity and indif-
ference that prevailed in fo ma-
ny courts;
as in times
paft, would have felt themselves
deeply interefted in the tranfac-
tions relating to Poland, had not
events of a more preffing import-
ance confined their views nearer

home. This was vifibly the cafe in
everycountry bordering uponFrance.
In Spain, ever fince the meeting of
the States-General at Paris, and
their converting that denomination
into another more appofite to their
wifhes and defigns, the celebrated
name of National Affembly, the
public had affumed a liberty of
fpeaking that greatly alarmed the
courts. The example fet before the
fubjects of all abfolute governments
was of a nature to fill them with the
moft ferious apprehenfions, and to
engage them to unite together for
the fuppreffion of all attempts fimi-
lar to thofe that had fucceeded in
fo fudden and unexpected a manner
in France, and changed it from the
most abfolute to the moft limited
monarchies. Hence it happened,
that thofe powers excepted, of
which the immediate fafety re-
quired the depreffion of Ruffia
upon any terms, all the others con-
curred unanimoufly in hoping that
no power would start up of which
the intereft fhould lead it to efpoufe
the caufe of the French; whom, in
the cabinets of the European po-
tentates, deep schemes were laid to
crush with all speed.

Little more than two months af
ter the revolution in Poland, was
held the famous convention of Pil-
nitz, in which it is faid to have
been ftrictly ftipulated or under-
ftood by the contracting powers, that
Ruffia fhould be at full liberty to pur-
fue her fchemes in Poland, while they
were occupied in the purfuit of
This fatisfactorily ac-
their own.
counts for the inactivity of the
crowned heads in Europe, during
the tranfactions that followed, incon-
fequence of the alterations intro-
duced into the Polish forms of go-
vernment, by the new conflitution.


In the mean time, that country was filled with univerfal exultation at the late changes; thefe were evidently fo beneficial to all conditions of fociety, that they all unfeignedly agreed in teftifying their cordial acquiefcence. The principal oppofers of the revolution foon were convinced that it was too popular and defirable a measure to be refitted. Count Braniki, grand general of the kingdom, and Malachowiki, great chancellor, both of them fincere patriots, had however been the leaders in that oppofition; poibly from an apprehenfion that the measures propofed was too hazardous. Reflecting, however, on its juftice and propriety, they acceded to it, and were followed by all their adherents. The he reditary fucceffion to the crown was the chief, and indeed the only motive affigned for their noncompliance. An attachment to ufages, confirmed by the practice of centuries, could not eafily be eradicated; and the dread of those abuses of power, fo prevalent in monarchies ruled by fucceffors of the fame family, operated on the Poles too forcibly to permit the idea of inheritance in the crown. It was not therefore until they were completely convinced that the liberties of the nation would not fuffer by hereditary royalty, that they were prevailed on to unite their affent to that of the vast majority against which they had acted.

The fact was, that they had been particularly inftructed by their confituents, to refift this dangerous innovation, as it was termed, by that portion of the Polish nation which difapproved of it; but when they faw with what applaufe the new

fyftem, after being carried fo triumphantly through the diet, was received by the people; when they confidered the limits within which the power of the crown was circumfcribed, and that the fovereignty of the nation was maintained in the diet, they thought it their duty to defift from oppofing what appeared manifeftly the will of the nation. They frankly, therefore, declared their concurrence in the revolutionary measures adopted, and their determination to adhere with fidelity to a conftitution established by fuch a plurality of votes, as amounted to an almost unanimous affent of the legislative body of the nation.

All parties being thus happily agreed, a day of public thanksgiving was appointed throughout the kingdom, and an annual commemoration on the third of May. And it was alfo decreed, that a magnificent church fhould be conftructed at the public expence, with an infcription, purporting that it was erected in gratitude to Divine Providence, in order to eternize the remembrance of a revolution effected almost unanimoufly, and without the lofs of a drop of blood. This was accompanied by a folemn declaration of the ftates, by which they bound themselves to defend the conftitution to the utmost of their power, and enjoined the magiftrates and military at Warsaw to take an oath to the fame intent immediately, and all civil officers and individuals be longing to the army, in every part of the kingdom to do the fame.

In order at the fame time to imprefs the public and all Europe with a due fenfe of the refolution they had taken, to maintain their new [B2] fyftem

fyftem at all hazards, and against all opponents, they formally declared, that whoever oppofed it, by forming confederacies or planning infurrections for that purpose, or by exciting miftruft either openly or fecretly, fhould be reputed enemies and traitors to their country, and punifhed with the utmoft rigour of the law. The more effectually to intimidate perfons difpofed to offend, a tribunal was erected, with orders to fit conftantly at Warsaw, and to try all perfons accufed before it, by any citizen of repute and property.

The next step taken by the government, was to difpatch a notification to every European power, of the alteration in the conftitutional fyftem of Poland, and of the motives which had prompted them. Of all the fovereigns and ftates, to whom intelligence of this great event was regularly communicated, none replied to this communication with a fronger appearance of fatisfaction than the king of Pruffia. He exprefled himself in terms of the higheft approbation and applaufe at every thing they had done upon this occafion. If they had not been taught by experience to place little reliance on that prince, his proteftations of friendship and attachment to Poland were fo ftrong and fervent, that the most cautious statefman might have easily been deceived. But the grounds on which the Polish government relied, with fome reason, were, that the interefts of Pruffia, were it rightly understood and purfued, intimately connected with thofe of Poland. This chiefly induced them to place a degree of confidence in the warmth with which the court of

Berlin feemingly entered into their views. Nevertheless, the more doubtful and wary politicians prohourced its conduct to be influenced only by the circumstances of the moment: duplicity was requifite to cover the measures it was at that inftant forming in concert with the courts of Peterburgh and Vienna.

The Raffian court, accustomed for a length of years to a humble deference to its mandates, from the Polish government, confidered these tranfactions in Poland in hardly any other light than open rebellion. It was at this hour bufily occupied in putting a final termination to the Turkifh war, and the manner in which this was concluded, evidently proved that other motives than thofe of moderation accelerated the decifion of that bufinefs. It was not till the middle of Auguft, 1791, that a treaty of peace was concluded between the Porte and the court of Petersburgh: and the 'remainder of the year was confumed in the neceflary operations fubfequent to a pacification. It was not for this reafon, till the return of the Ruffian armies from the theatre of war, and after they had refted in their winterquarters, that a refolution was formed to employ them in the profecution of the defigns against Poland.

In the mean time, the three partitioning courts, as they have been juftly ftyled fince the first difmemberment of Poland, in 1793, were conjointly devifing in what manner to accomplish the ultimate object they had long propofed: the utter fubjugation of the Poles, and the divition of their country. These three ambitious powers had feen enough of the reviving fpirit of liberty

« EelmineJätka »