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Arms, but the partizans of the regent triumphing over the adherents of the king, the former was confirmed in his new dignity and assumed the title of Charles IX.
Legismund IIIrd. died in the year 1632 and was succeeded by his son Ladislaus. During the reign of the former, various successful incursions were made by the Polanders into Russia, and on one occasion Moscow was pillaged and burnt. Soon after the accession of Ladislaus, both Russia, and Turkey violated their engagements, and attacked Poland, but the spirited conduct and address of Ladislaus warded off the threatened danger, and preserved bis dominions from invasion. He defeated the armies of both Russia, and Turkey, in several pitched battles, and both the Czar Michael, and the Sultan Morad IVth. were obliged to submit to terms imposed by the victor. During the latter part of this reign, the Cossacks goaded by the oppression of the nobles, rebelled against the Polish Government, and Ladislaus at his death, which took place in 1646, left his country embroiled in a war, which threatened the most disastrous consequences. Casimir his brother and successor was unwilling to continue the contest against the Cossacks, but the haughty, and domineering remonstrances of his nobles left him no alternative ; and although, at the earnest solicitation of the King, a Treaty of Peace was subsequently concluded, it was destined to last but for a short time.
Michael the Sovereign of Russia dying about the year 1646, his son Alexis succeeded him, and taking advantage of the dissensions between Casimir and his nobles, and having made common cause with the Cossacks, be commenced a most violent attack upon the Polish dominions. He reduced Smolensko,and took Wilna the Capital of Lithuania. Harassed on the one side by the powerful Armies of Russia, Poland was attacked on the other by the King of Sweden, who took Cracow, and drove the unfortunate Casimir into Siberia ; and besides the humiliation, and disgrace of being thus obliged to fly from his country, and to quit his Throne, Casimir was doomed to behold the governors of his provincial Town trans. fer their allegiance to the invader who assumed the Government of the Country, and, for a time exercised the functions of its lawful Monarch. Surrounded by misfortunes, and at the same time disgusted with the haughty conduct of the nobles, Casimir some time afterwards formally resigned the crown, and it may not be amiss to remark that during this reign, the first instance occurred of the proceedings of the Diet being stopped by the dissentient voice of one of its members.
The successor of Casimir was Michael Wiesnowiskie, but as nothing remarkable occurred during bis reign we pass on to that of John Sobieski, a General employed against the Turks during the reign of Michael, and who from his military talents, and services was raised to that Throne for the preservation of which he had before so signally distinguished himself.
The successor of Sobieski on the Throne of Poland was Frederic Augustus, Elector of Saxony, who having been previously accustomed to arbitrary power, and to rule his Saxon subjects with a rod of Iron, brought him high and lofty ideas of divine right and passive obedience. Instead of conforming to the wishes, and consulting the feelings of his new subjects, he commenced his reign by a series of harsh and oppressive measures. He disgusted the Poles by conferring all offices of trust and emolument upon Saxons, and roused the jealousy of the nobles by his strong predilection in favor of his former subjects. Thus suspected and distrusted by the higher, and detested by the lower classes of the Poles, his dominions became a prey to foreign invasion. In vain did he alternately threaten and caress the Nobles: in vain did he endeavour to rouse the loyalty of the nation : in vain did he appeal to their national pride, and point out the ruin that awaited them, if internal strife and dissensions governed their counsels.
War had for some time previously raged between Russia and Poland on the one hand, and Sweden on the other. Charles XIIth King of the latter Country had uniformly been successful against the Poles, and he now signally defeated them near Riga; advancing from thence to Mittau the capital of Courland, he possessed himself of that City, in consequence of which the principal Towns in the Duchy, surrendered to him at discretion. From thence he went into Lithuania, and reached in triumph the Town of Birzen, where but a short time before the Czar Peter, and Augustus King of Poland had planned his destruction. It was here burning with resentment, and thirsting for revenge, Charles formed the bold scheme of dethroning Augustus, by means of his own subjects. The unpopularity of the Polish King greatly facilitated the scheme. He opened a secret correspondence with Radziewiski, who was at that time, Cardinal primate, who espoused the cause of the Nobles, and who had been chiefly instrumental in rousing their jealousies. Augustus called together the Diet, but perceiving that the malcontents were the strongest party, he had recourse to other modes of negotiation. He sent the countess of Koningsmark in order to appease the wrath of Charles. This Lady though celebrated for her beauty and accomplishments, was denied admittance into the Royal presence, although a deputation from the Nobles was received with the greatest honor. Charles however evaded their proposal for the immediate discussion of their grievances, but gave them to understand that he would meet the senate at Warsaw to which place be immediately commenced his march.
Before the arrival of Charles at Warsaw, the senate had dispersed, and Augustus had retired to Cracow. The Cardinal primate though he had secretly deserted his master, and was in the interest of his enemies, opened a negotiation in the name of Augustus, and sued for peace. The conference however was but short, the answer equally haughty and imperative. The Swedish Monarch ended it with the following words, “ I will not grant peace to the Poles before they have elected a new King.” Rather than tamely submit to such an indignity, Augustus made preparations for the renewal of hostilities, and determined to risk every thing, by another appeal to arms. He collected a numerous army, he prepared to place himself at its head, he assembled as many of the Nobles, as yet remained faithful to his interest, and led them forth, hoping that fortune would be favorable to his cause, and smile upon his endeavours to rescue himself from a degrading state of thraldom, and his country from becoming a prey to foreign intrignes. Misfortunes however continued to pursue him, in the first engagement, he sustained a complete defeat: his Camp, Baggage and even his Military Chest falling into the hands of the enemy, Augustus was compelled to fly to Thorn, a city on the Vistula in Polish Prussia, where he was followed by the Swedish Army, who regularly besieged the place, and compelled the Garrison to surrender; not however until Augustus had effected his escape into Saxony.
As soon as these events became generally known, the Diet moved by the intrigues of the Cardinal Primate came to the following resolution, viz. « That Augustus Elector of Saxony was incapable of wearing the Crown of Poland," and on the 14th February 1704 declared the Throne to be vacant. In consequence of this resolution it became necessary to look out for a successor to Augustus. The Diet with the concurrence of Charles determined to offer the Throne to James, the eldest son of their former Sovereign Sobieski, but that prince having been previously together with his next brother, taken prisoner, while on a hunting excursion near Brizlaw, the tender was made to Alexander a younger brother who declined it, determined, as he said, never to take advantage of his brother's misfortunes. It was next offered at the recommendation of Charles to Stanislaus Seczinski, Palatine of Pomerania, who accepted it, and was soon afterwards declare ed the Sovereign of Poland.
Charles still continued to harass the unfortunate Augustus, and carried the war into Saxony, and being unable either openly to resist, or secretly to thwart the schemes of his more powerful assailant, Augustus was compelled to sue for peace, and obtained it, only however on his renouncing for ever, all right to the throne of Poland. In vain did his Ministers en
deavour to obtain more favorable terms! To all their proposals and eran sions, they received but one awswer Such is the will of my Master and he never alters his resolution.”
Early in the 18th century Prussia began to take the lead in the North of Europe, and from the time of Peter the Great, to the death of Peter IIIrd her influence became greater and more extended. The bold Czarina Catherine, who seized the Throne of her husband, was a woman of great talent and ability, firm in her determinations, ind not easily deterred from the accomplishment of her designs, though in private life she was a woman of an abandoned and profligate character. Having introduced some salutary reforms into the internal administration, she began to look abroad and to aim at territorial aggrandizement. She cast a longing eye towards Poland, but as her plans were not altogether ripe, she for a time masked her intentions, and delayed the execution of her ambitious schemes.
On the death of Augustus IInd King of Poland, whose misfortunes have already been recorded, his son succeeded him as Elector of Saxony, but was unable to procure the Throne of Poland. Catherine exerted her influence and ultimately succeeded in placing thereon, one of her paramours. This was Count Poniatowski, who by his courtly manners and address, had insinuated himself into the favour of the Empress, and who for a considerable time occupied the most distinguished place, about her person and Court. The other northern powers tamely acquiesced in these proceedings. Catherine ordered the Diet to assemble, and sent an Army to Warsaw to secure to them the freedom of debate, and to assist them in the free choice of a Sovereign. Thus backed by the Empress, the count took possession of the Throne, and assumed the title of Stanislaus Augustus.
The affairs of Poland owing to the intrigues and interference of Catherine continued in an unsettled state, and Stanislaus although sensible of his obligations to her, was by no means disposed to become an instrument in her hands for the oppression of his new subjects. Violent disputes arose, and the Country appeared to be on the verge of some great civil convulsion, when a scheme of dismemberment which had for some time been in contemplation, was openly brought forward and avowed. This flagitious and ini. quitous scheme, was first broached by Frederic, who had already added to the Dominions lest him by his father; but as he still longed for a slice of Poland, he laid open to Catherine his scheme of partition. Considerable delay took place in adjusting the shares of these Royal Spoliators, but it was at length agreed that Frederic should take the Country between Eastern Prussia and his Dominions in Pomerania, with the exception of Dantzic and Thorn; and that Catherine should seize the greater part of Lithuania. Maria Theresa was invited to help herself to a share of this distracted, and unfortunate Country, but her demands were so high, and she wished for so much, that both Frederic, and Catherine affected to be shocked at her rapacity.
What remained to Poland after the three great powers had mutually settled their demands, was Warsaw, Cracow, and the Territory extending from Silesia in the West to the Berizena in the East, from the province of Samogitia in the North, to the Palatinate of Chelm in the South.
Although about two-thirds of Poland still remained under the king and Diet, the partition treaty was a deadly blow at its independence. Cathe. rine obtained such infuence, and could pour her troops with such facility into any part of the country, that she might now be said to dictate laws to Poland.
In a Manifesto published by the three Powers, they attempted to justify their conduct, and represented their rapacious acts of violence, as proceeding from benevolence and public spirit. They affected to deplore the onhappy state, to which Poland had been reduced by the imbecility of its Governors, and the haughty and untractable spirit of its nobles. They declared that neither persons nor property were secure; that trade was languishing, and commerce and agriculture declining; and that the measures adopted by them were necessary for the salvation of Poland, and to the internal peace, and tranquillity of their own Dominions.
A second partition soon after took place, and in the year 1795 a third and final partition followed. The Russian General Souvoroff entered Warsaw in triumph, and the keys of the City were presented to him. Thus the new constitution was annihilated. The three great powers determined to ease Stanislaus of the cares of Government, and influenced by that paternal and maternal care with which they had all along watched over its interest and protected its welfare, they declared that it was no longer expedient to have a separate king for Poland. The estates of many of the patriots were seized and confiscated; Stanislaus was deprived of the royal dignity, but received from his royal Mistress promises of protection and support. The Palatinates of Cracow, Chelm and Sublin were assigned to Austria. Warsaw besides many other considerable towns was given to Prussia, and Catherine pushed on her troops into the centre of Poland.
Thus a brief sketch of Poland, from its earliest foundation as a Dukedom, to its being blotted out of the Map of Europe as a nation, has been hastily drawn. The present time is big with its fate, and probably also with the fate of Europe. In attempting to throw off the Russian Yoke, its leaders, it is to be hoped, have calculated upon the chances of success,