Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

Lives of benefactors; online

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power, his greatness, arose less from his intellectual
gifts, than his moral elevation. How great a boon
has he conferred on mankind — not only by his deeds,
but by his fame, and his example ! He has taught
the world the path to truer glory than that which is
won upon the battle-field; he has shown the elevating
and ennobling power of a virtuous principle, and he
has set before mankind the strong argument of
example in favor of a disinterested philanthropic



Thaddexjs Kosciusko, the last generalissimo of the
republic of Poland, and one of the noblest characters
of his age, was descended from an ancient and noble,
though not rich family, in Lithuania. He was born
at the chateau of Sienniewicze, in 1756, and was
educated in the military school at Warsaw. The
prince, Adam Czartoriski, perceiving his talents and
industry, made him second lieutenant in the corps of
cadets, and sent him, at his own expense, to France,
where he studied drawing and the military art. After
his return, he was made captain. He had become
attached to the daughter of Sosnowski, a marshal of
Lithuania; but he saw her married to Prince Lubo-
mirski. He now left Poland, and sought to bury the
memory of his unhappy passion in solitary studies.
He devoted himself particularly to history and math-
ematics, and, possessing great elevation of character,
he was prepared to join in the contest for freedom,
in which he engaged. Hearing of the struggle of the
American colonies for liberty, he came hither, and
gained the confidence of Washington, who made him
his aid. He distinguished himself particularly at the
siege of Ninety-Six, and was very highly esteemed
by the army and commander-in-chief. He and La
Fayette were the only foreigners admitted into the
society of Cincinnatus.

In our service, Kosciusko received the rank of


general, and in 17S6 he returned to Poland. In
1789, the Polish army was formed, and the diet
appointed him major-general. In 1791, he served
under Prince Joseph Poniatowski, and in the cam-
paign of the next year, he distinguished himself
against the Russians. At Dubienka, under cover of
some works which he had thrown up, he, with four
thousand men, repulsed three attacks of the Russians,
ivho amounted to thirteen thousand men. Kosciusko
was obliged to retire, but he retreated without severe
toss, while the Russians lost four thousand men.

When King Stanislaus submitted to Catherine,
Kosciusko left the army, and retired from Poland.
He went to Leipsic, and the legislative assembly of
France at this time gave him the rights of a French
citizen. The Poles becoming impatient under the
oppression of Russia, some of Kosciusko's friends in
"Warsaw determined to make an effort for the libera-
tion of the country. They chose him for their gen-
eral, and made him acquainted with their plans. He
imparted them to the counts Ignatius Potocki and
Kolontai, in Dresden, who thought the enterprise inju-
dicious. He, however, went to the frontier, and sent
General Zayonczeck and Dzialynski into the Russian
provinces of Poland to prepare everytbAng- i« Si7ence.

But when the Polish army was merged, in part,
in the Russian, and the remainder reduced to fifteen
thousand men, the insurrection broke out before the
time fixed upon. The people flew to arms, and Kos-
ciusko was everywhere proclaimed as generalissimo.
The troops took an oath of allegiance to him, and by
deed appointed him dictator, in imitation of the Ro-
M VI.— 17


man custom, on occasions of emergency. His power
was absolute. He had the command of all the armies,
and the regulation of all affairs, political and civil.
Never was confidence so fully and unscrupulously
reposed by a nation in a single individual — never
were expectations better grounded. On the 1st of
April he left Cracow at the head of four thousand
men, armed mostly with scythes, and, on the 4th of
the same month, encountered a body of Russians, more
than thrice his own number, near the village of Rac-
lawice. The battle lasted for five hours, and victory
declared for the brave Poles ; three thousand Russians
being killed upon the spot. This success confirmed
the wavering patriots, and accelerated the develop-
ment of the insurrection throughout the kingdom.
Wilna and other cities threw off the yoke. The
patriots, however, suffered a defeat near Chelm, and
Cracow soon after fell into the hands of the enemy.
By this time the Russians and their allies began to
approach Warsaw. Three leagues from that city, at
Praca-Wola, Kosciusko was encamped.

It was here that one of his brothers in arms found
him sleeping on straw. The picture he draws of this
extraordinary individual in his camp, is an interest-
ing view of the hero who upheld the fate of Poland.
" We passed," says Count Oginski, " from Koscius-
ko's tent, to a table under some trees. The frugal
repast made here, with a dozen guests, will never be
effaced from my memory. The presence of this great
man, who had excited the admiration of all Europe ;
who was the terror of his enemies, and the idol of the
nation ; who, raised to the rank of generalissimo, had


no ambition but to serve his country and to fight for
it ; who always observed an unassuming, affable and
mild demeanor; who never wore any distinguishing
mark of the supreme authority Avith which he was
invested; who was contented" with a suit of coarse,
gray cloth, and whose table was as plainly furnished
as that of a subaltern officer ; could not fail to awaken
in me every sentiment of esteem, admiration and ven-
eration, which I have sincerely felt for him at every
period of my life."

The enemy continued to advance towards Warsaw,
but the city resisted all their attacks. At length
"Wilna yielded to the soldiers of Catherine, and the
rest of the province soon shared the same fate. On
the 10th of October, Kosciusko fell upon Fersen.
The battle was bloody, and fatal to the patriots.
Victory was wavering, and, the expected reinforce-
ments not appearing, Kosciusko, at the head of his
principal officers, made a furious charge, and plunged
into the midst of the Russians. He fell, covered with
wounds, and all his companions were killed or taken
captive. The general lay senseless among the slain.
At length he was recognised, notwithstanding the
plainness of his uniform, and was found still breath-
ing. His name now commanded respect, even from
the barbarous Cossacks — some of whon were about
to plunder him. They instantly formed a litter with
their lances, and conveyed him to the commander-in-
chief, who ordered his wounds to be dressed, and
treated him with the consideration he deserved. As
soon as he was able to travel, he was conducted to
Petersburg, where Catherine condemned this high-


minded patriot to end his days in prison. The news
of his captivity spread like lightning to Warsaw.
Every one received it as the announcement of the
country's fall. " It may appear incredible," says Ogin-
ski, " but I can attest what I have beheld, and what
a number of witnesses can certify with me, that many
invalids were seized with burning fevers ; some fell
into fits of madness, which never left them ; and men
and women were seen in the streets, wringing their
hands, beating their heads against the walls, and
exclaiming in despair, ' Kosciusko is no more ; the
country is lost ! ' " In fact, the Poles seemed para-
lyzed by this blow. Warsaw capitulated in a short
time after ; and the soldiers and generals of the revo-
lution were either killed or dispersed, immured in
the prisons of Petersburg, or sent to Siberia.

The death of Catherine, on the 17th of November,
1796, delivered the Poles from a detestable tyrant.
Her successor, the Emperor Paul, commenced a new
era in Russian history, that of clemency. His beha-
vior to Kosciusko was almost heroic. He visited him
in prison, embraced him warmly, and told him he
was free. He even presented him with his own
sword, but the Polish hero declined it, saymg, " I no
longer need a sword, since I have no longer a coun-
try." To the day of his death, he never again wore
a sword. Paul also proposed to present him with a high
military post : but this was declined. He then gave
him fifteen hundred serfs and twelve thousand roubles,
as a testimony of regard. But Kosciusko determined
to go to America, and returned these presents. He
then proceeded, by way of England, to the New


"World. He was received ■with marks of the greatest
kindness in the United States ; and, as his fortune
was small, he had been allowed a pension from our
government. On his arrival in France, in 1798, his
countrymen, in the Italian army, presented him with
the sword of John Sobieski, which had been found
at Lorctto. He now settled near Fontainbleau, where
he resided several years.

It was in 1797, that he touched at England, on his
passage to America. Dr. Warner, who saw him at
the house of the consul at Bristol, says : " I never
contemplated a more interesting human figure than
Kosciusko, stretched on his couch. His wounds
were still unhealed, and he was unable to sit upright.
He appeared to be a small man, spare and delicate.
A black silk bandage crossed his fair and high, but
somewhat wrinkled forehead. Beneath it, his dark,
eagle eye sent forth a flame of light, that indicated
the steady flame of patriotism which still burned
within his soul, unquenched by disaster and wounds
weakness, poverty and exile. Contrasted with its
brightness was the paleness of his countenance, and
the wan cast of every feature. He spoke tolerable
English, though in a low and feeble tone ; but his
conversation, replete with fine sense, lively remark,
and sagacious answers, evinced a noble understand-
ing and a cultivated mind. On rising to depart, I
oflTered him my hand : he took it. My eyes filled
with tears ; and he gave it a warm grasp. I mut-
tered something about ' brighter prospects and hap-
pier days ! ' He faintly smiled and said, ' Ah ! sir,


he who devotes hunself for his country must not look
for his reward on this side of the grave.'"

When, in 1806, Napoleon felt what powerful allies
the Poles, fighting for liberty, would be against Rus-
sia and Prussia, he used many arts to engage them
in his cause. There was one man then living, near
Fontainbleau, whose name alone would have raised
the whole population of Poland — Kosciusko. Bona-
parte made him the most pressing invitations to share
in the campaign, and urged him, again and again, to
address his fellow-countrymen, and call upon the
Polish nation to embrace the present opportunity of
regaining their liberty. But Kosciusko was not
dazzled by the splendor of Napoleon's career ; and he
divined that a military despot might be as treacherous
as hereditary tyrants. He seemed, too, to share, in a
degree, the feelings of those who, being set free and
mildly treated by Paul, imagined it would be an act
of ingratitude to appear in arms against him. He
never ceased, however, to hold the Avelfare of his
native land most dear to his heart. On the 9th of
April, 1814, after the allies had entered Paris, he sent
a letter to Alexander, in behalf of the Poles. The
emperor returned an autograph answer, promising
that his wishes should be accomplished. He again
wrote to Alexander, on the 10th of June, 1815, at
Vienna, calling upon him to fulfil the promises he
had made to him. To this no answer was given, and
Kosciusko, certain that his apprehensions were well
founded, on the 13th of June announced his intention
to retire to Switzerland. This design he soon put
into execution, arid went to reside at Soleure, where


he ended his illustrious life, on the 16th of October,

His body is deposited in the cathedral of Cracow,
in the same chapel where Sobieski and Joseph Ponia
towski had been laid before him ; and on the summit
of the artificial mountain, Bronislawa, national grati-
tude has erected a monument to his immortal mem-

The materials for preparing the memoirs of Kosci-
usko are scanty, but enough is preserved to show that
his character was one of the finest in history. As a
general, his rank is among the first, and his achieve-
ments altogether wonderful. During the war of 1794,
with a regular force of twenty thousand men and four
thousand peasants, he maintained himself for a long
period against four hostile armies, amounting to-
gether to one hundred and fifty thousand men, and
led by the greatest generals of the time. In the dis-
charge of the dictatorship conferred upon him, he
displayed the integrity of Washington and the activity
"of CoBsar. He attended to procuring supplies, super-
intended the raising and payment of money, pre-
vented plundering and fraud, and was equally active
in the council and the field. His days and nights,
and all his powers were devoted to his country. He
secured the administration of justice, abolished bond-
age, and finally restored to the nation, in the supreme
national council which he established, the great
power which had been delegated to him.

The amiableness of Kosciusko's private life has
given a beautiful finish to his fame, so exalted as a
general and a patriot. A single anecdote will illus-


trate his character. He once wished to send some
wine to a clergyman at Solothurn ; and, as he hesi-
tated to trust it by his servant, lest he should take
some of it, he gave the commission to a young man
of the name of Zeltner, and desired him to use the
horse which he himself usually rode. On his return,
young Zeltner said that he would never ride his
horse again, unless he gave him his purse at the same
time. Kosciusko inquiring what he meant, he an-
swered, — " As soon as a poor man on the road takes
off his hat and asks charity, the horse immediately
stands still, and will not stir till something is given to
the petitioner ; and as I had no- money about me, I
was obliged to feign giving something, to satisfy the

The sympathy which was excited by the struggle
of the Poles in 1794, and the heroic character of
Kosciusko, are well commemorated in the following
lines of Campbell, from the " Pleasures of Hope."

Oh ! sacred truth ! thy triumph ceased awhile !
And Hope, thy sister, ceased with thee to smile,
When leagued oppression poured to northern wars
Her whiskered pandoors and her fierce hussars,
Waved her dread standard to the breeze of morn.
Pealed her loud drum, and twanged her trumpet horn ;
Tumultuous horror brooded o'er her van.
Presaging wrath to Poland, — and to man !

Warsaw's last champion from her height surveyed
Wide o'er the fields, a waste of ruin laid, —
Oh ! Heaven ! he cried, my bleeding country save !
Is there no hand on high to shield the brave ?
Yet though destruction sweeps those lovely plains,
Rise, fellow-men ! our country yet remains '



By that dread name, \ve wave the sword on high !
And swear for her to live, — with her to die !

He said, and on the rampart heights arrayed
His trusty warriors, lew, but undismayed ;
Firm paced and slow, a horrid front they form,
Still as the breeze, but dreadful as the storm ;
Low murmuring sounds along their banners fly,
Revenge or death,— the watch-word and reply;
Then pealed the notes, omnipotent to charm,
And the loud tocsin tolled their last alarm!

In vain, alas ! in vain, ye gallant few.

From rank to rank your volleyed thunder flew ;

Ob, bloodiest picture in the book of Time,

Sarmatia fell, unwept, without a crime ;

Found not a generous friend, a pitying foe.

Strength in her arms, nor mercy in her wo !

Dropped from her nerveless grasp, the shattered spear,

Closed her bright eye, and curbed her high career;

Hope, for a season, bade the world farewell,

And Freedom shrieked, as Kosciusko fell !



Those who have perused the charming' romance
of Florian, under the title of "William Tell, or
Switzerland Delivered," may be reluctant to come
down to the somewhat meagre details which consti-
tute all we know of his veritable history. Yet, as, on
the one hand, the " Deliverer of Switzerland " demands
a place in our list of patriots — so sober truth compels
us to say that in the dearth of well authenticated facts
respecting his life, the real existence of such a man
has been seriously denied. It is not our purpose,
however, to dwell upon these doubts — William Tell
unquestionably lived and performed the great actions
attributed to him ; and these we shall present to the

We must travel back more than five hundred years,
and take our stand in the centre of Europe, at the
period when the dark ages are nearly passed, and the
light of civilization is beginning to dawn along the

At this epoch, Kodolph, Count of Hapsburgh, in
Switzerland, appeared upon the stag-e of history. His
possessions were small, but he had fine talents, a good
address and boundless ambition ; and in the course of
events, he became the emperor of Germany. This
occurred in 1273. From him the present house of
Austria is descended. For a series of generations the
daughters of this family have been remarkable for their


beauty, and it is by marriage with the principal
reigning families of Europe, that its aggrandizement
has been chiefly effected. From this circumstance,
it has been said that the house of Hapsburgh is more
indebted to Venus than to Mars, for its exahation.

It was the son of this Rodolph, Albert I., who suc-
ceeded his father as emperor, that gave rise io the
events connectgd with the history of Tell. He was a
grasping prince, and, wishing to increase his territo-
rial dominions, undertook to unite the forest cantons
of Switzerland, as they were called, to his personal
estates of Hapsburgh, which he had inherited. These
cantons belonged to the German empire, and as they
had been mildly governed, they wished to continue
so. They therefore rejected the overtures of Albert,
at which he was greatly incensed. Accordingly, in
his capacity of emperor, he sent governors to harass,
oppress, and punish them. These were two detesta-
table characters, named Gesler and Landenberg.

The people were now exposed to all the vexatious
persecutions of little tyrants, who were anxious to re-
commend themselves, by abuse of power, to the favor
of an angry master. Offences became arbitrary, and
punishments capricious. The governors never ap-
peared in public, unless they were surrounded by a
numerous guard. Nor did they omit other precau-
tions, designed alike to secure themselves against
sudden ebullitions of popular fury, and to rivet
more firmly the chains which it was the sole object
of their mission to impose. Fortresses were erected
in the disaffected places, into which persons of
every description were thrown, upon the slightest


grounds of suspicion. At the same time, all commer-
cial intercourse with their neighbors was entirely
denied to the people by the exorbitant duties imposed
upon merchandise of every kind, in its passage to and
from the forest cantons.

We may more clearly infer the general character
of the- administration of the German governors, by a
few instances of their conduct. Gesler, passing one
day by a neat and commodious house, which had been
lately built by a person of the name of Staufacher,
and which was externally decorated with more than
common elegance, inquired for the owner, and ad-
dressed him thus, with a contemptuous smile : " Do
you think such a habitation suited to the condition of
a peasant ? You complain of the emperor's exactions,
but while he leaves you wherewithal to erect such
buildings as these, you have too much reason to be
thankful." And immediately he ordered his satellites
to pull it down. Staufacher, from that moment, be-
came an ardent champion in the cause of liberty.

Landenberg was no less active in sowing the seeds
of discontent. Having seized the oxen belonging to
a respectable farmer for some slight offence, the pro-
prietor implored him to inflict some other punishment,
if he should in reality be found guilty of the crime of
which he was accused ; for that, otherwise, he must
inevitably be ruined, having no other means of culti-
vating his farm. " Let the miscreant draw his own
plough ! " was the reply ; and immediately another
hero was enlisted under the standard of freedom.

Henry, of Melchthal, a strenuous advocate for the
independence of his country, and who, by the integ-



rity of his character, had become an object of general
respect, was selected as another victim. Landenberg,
whose punishments were in general quickened by the
cupidity of his disposition, sent, upon some trifling
provocation, to seize his oxen, while they were em-
ployed in the labors of husbandry. His son, a gallant
youth, opposed the execution of the decree, and drove
away the officers of justice with the same whip with
which he had before been driving the plough. Young
Melchthal fled. The governor, who was irritated
beyond description at the insult which had been
offered to his authority, and still more so to find that
his prey had escaped, commanded the aged father to
be dragged into his presence, and, after reviling him
in the most opprobrious language, caused his eyes to
be put out, while he himself stood by to see the savage
sentence executed.

Gesler was the slave of vanity, and sought, by every
means, to gratify his prevailing passion. Among
other expedients he caused a pole to be erected in the
market place, at Altorf, and a hat to be suspended
upon it ; to which he enjoined all the passengers to
pay the same respect that was due to his own person.
So wanton a display of tyranny could not fail to
inflame the public, who wanted no accession of out-
rage to make them feel the misery of their dejected
state. Yet so completely were they kept in awe by
the numerous fortresses which the new government
had erected in all parts of their territory, that they
sunk into sullen despondency.

Staufacher appears to have been the first to con-
ceive the idea of deliverance from this cruel tyranny.
VL— 18 '*


In silence he contemplated tlie degraded state to which
his country was reduced. He brooded over her
wrongs in secret. He meditated upon the energies
of the human mind, and felt, from inward conviction,
that man was destined by nature to he something
more than the passive slave of despotism. Having
reduced his ideas to a regular plan, he hastened to
communicate them to his friend Walter Furst. At
his house, he met young Arnold of Melchthal, who
had taken refuge under his hospitable roof, from the
pursuit of Landenberg. Misfortune is the parent of
confidence. They had suffered in the same cause, and
flew to each other's arms with all the attachment of
men Avho were connected by the strongest of ties —
the love of freedom. Having deliberately weighed
the dangers to which they were exposed, and imparted
to each other the hopes with which they were ani-
mated, they bound themselves by the most solemn
promise to break the fetters of their country, or to
perish in the attempt.

Having finally engaged to observe the profoundest
secrecy, and agreed that no partial attempts should
be made till the mine was ready to be sprung ; and,
having fixed upon a place where they might meet
with a few chosen friends, to consult upon the neces-
sary preparations for a general insurrection, they took
leave of each other.

To propagate the electric flame among a people,
whose wishes were in perfect unison with their own,
required not the arts of persuasion. The founders of
Helvetic liberty met with a sure and ardent friend in
every person to whom they entrusted the important


secret. But they were cautious in their measures
and discreet in the selection they made.

On the 17th of November, 1307, the day fixed for
their meeting, each of them appeared at the appointed
spot, attended by ten chosen companions. This noc-
turnal assembly was held in the field of Kutli ; a
retired meadow, on the shores of the lake of Lu-
cerne, exactly on the confines between Schweitz and
Uri. Its solitary situation and surrounding rocks
seemed to preclude the possibility of a surprise.
Conscious, however, that a secret Avhich was known
to so many persons, was at best precarious, the greater

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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 13 of 21)