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came back from seeing Charles he was thanked by
the confederation of V/arsaw for the favourable con-
ditions which he had obtained, and they proceeded
to elect another king, setting aside Augustus alto-
gether. There were three new candidates, the prince
of Conti, and the palatines Radziwill and Lubomirski.
Charles XII. was eager that Stanislaus should be
appointed, and when Cardinal Radziejowski endea-
voured to alter his determination, the Swedish king
asked, " What have you got to say against Stanislaus ? "
"Sire," replied the ecclesiastic, "he is too young."
" But he is about my own age," replied the king,
turning his back on the prelate. At the diet held on
the 1 2th of July, an overwhelming majority elected
Stanislaus. Charles XII. sent on the same day a
brilliant embassy to the new king, and gave him some
soldiers to help him in supporting his clairn. For
the country was now divided into two factions, that
of Augustus II. supported by the Tsar, and Stanis-
laus by Charles. The next move of the Swedish
king was to occupy Lemberg, and while he was busy
with his military operations there, Augustus marched


on the capital and tried to seize his rival. Stanislaus
had only just time to send his family to Posen. On
this occasion his infant daughter aged one year was
nearly lost ; the child was abandoned by its nurse in
the confusion, and afterwards found in a stable. This
was the daughter who as wife of Louis XV. was
destined to become queen of France.

Stanislaus now joined Charles at Leinbcrg, and the
two forced Augustus to quit successively Warsaw and
Cracow and to take refuge at Dresden. On the 27th
of July, 1705, the Diet of Warsaw formally declared
the deposition of Augustus, and on the 4th of October
the new king and his wife Catherine Opalinska were
consecrated. Charles XII. was present incognito at
the ceremony, in a reserved seat in the cathedral.

Augustus II. now secretly visited Lithuania, where
he had an interview with the Tsar Peter. On ascer-
taining this meeting Charles and Stanislaus renewed
the campaign, and at first were successful against the
Russians. Charles XII., wishing to inflict a blow
upon Augustus in his hereditary states, invaded
Saxony and established his headquarters at Altran-

Augustus was now forced to sign the humiliating
treaty called after this place (Sept. 24, 1706), by which
he renounced the Polish crown and recognised Stanis-
laus as king ; he was also at the same time compelled
to surrender the unfortunate Patkul to the vengeance
of Charles. The story of this Livonian nobleman is
well known. He had presented a petition of the
states of that province to the father of the Swedish
king, who meditated arresting him for treason. Warned


in time, Patkul succeeded in escaping from the clutches
of Charles XL, and took refuge at the court of Augus-
tus, whom he had endeavoured to persuade to make
himself master of Livonia. Augustus had attempted
to arrange the escape of Patkul from Konigstcin
Castle, where he was confined in order to evade the
demand of Charles, but owing to the hesitation of
Patkul he was seized and tried by court-martial at
Casimir. There he continued a prisoner for some
months, and was finally broken on the wheel, under
circumstances of the most revolting cruelty, on the
30th of September, 1707. An account of his last
moments has been handed down by a Lutheran
pastor who attended him at the time of his execution.
In spite, however, of his temporary success Stanis-
laus was not to be allowed to reign in peace ; in the
year after the treaty (1707), at a meeting at Lemberg
the abdication of Augustus was declared null and
void. The Poles could not forget that Stanislaus
had been appointed by foreign influence. The plague
now raged in the country, and great numbers of the
inhabitants were carried off at Danzig and Warsaw.
Peter now invaded Poland, and saw himself obliged
to retire and gather up his strength to meet his rival,
who entered Russian territory with a large army.
The battle of Poltava in 1709, by which the Swedes
were crushed, was fatal to the cause of Stanislaus.
Charles had been allured to invade Peter's dominions
by the hetman Mazeppa, who had promised him his
co-operation. The events of the war belong rather
to Russian than Polish history. Although Mazeppa
had received much kindness from Peter, and had


made him the most lavish promises of fidelity, he had
for a long time been meditating treason. The elderly
hetman was in reality in love with the daughter of
Kochubei a Malo-Russian, and this perhaps retarded
his movements. Some of his love-letters have been

Augustus now tore up the treaty of Altranstadt
and announced by a manifesto (Aug. 8, 1709), that
he was about to resume the Polish crown. Stanis-
laus saw himself obliged to follow the Swedes into
Pomerania, from whence he passed into Sweden to
await the result of the negotiations begun on the
conclusion of peace. His reign thus lasted only four
years, 1 704-1 709. His abdication was the condition
preliminary to every arrangement ; he accordingly
departed for Turkey to join Charles XH., but he was
recognised by the hospodar of Moldavia (Feb. 17 13),
arrested and sent prisoner to Bender. Count Ponia-
towski laboured to assist the two kings ; he succeeded
in persuading the Sultan to take arms against Peter
and Augustus. It was settled in the divan that
80,000 men should be given to Stanislaus to bring
him back into his dominions, that he should open
the campaign, and that Charles should follow him
at the head of an army more numerous still.
Stanislaus accompanied by several Poles actually
set out on the 8th to take the command of these
troops at Chocim. Suddenly, however, the Sultan
changed his intentions, and persuaded by his council
who, according to some writers, were under the
influence of Russian bribes, sent an order to bring
Stanislaus back to Bender.


When Charles was preparing to quit Turkey, he
could not induce Stanislaus to accompany him in the
new expeditions which he was planning. " No," said
Stanislaus, " my resolution is taken, and you will
never see me draw the sword for the restoration of
my crown." *' Well," replied Charles, " I will draw
it for you ; and in the meantime, before we make our
triumphant entry into Warsaw, I give you my princi-
pality of Deux Fonts, with its revenues." Stanislaus
was set at liberty on the 23rd of May, 1714 ; he went
in disguise' through Hungary, Austria, and Germany,
and took possession of his little state. Thither he
was soon followed by his family. But even there he
was not allowed to live in peace. The popularity
which he enjoyed among his countrymen aroused
fears in his enemies — a plot was entered into for
getting rid of him. On the 15th of August, 1716, he
was fired at by some conspirators in ambuscade.
Three of the assassins were seized, among them a
Saxon officer named Lacroix, who was chief of the
band. They would have been killed on the spot had
not the king saved them by crying out, " I pardon
you, that you may live to become better men ! "
Augustus protested that he knew nothing of this
conspiracy, but he was probably privy to it, and his
minister, Fleming, is supposed to have instigated it.

But the hopes of the king were completely destroyed
by the death of Charles in September, 17 18. He was
obliged to surrender Deux Fonts, which was claimed
by the heir. Count Gustavus. Stanislaus then asked
for an asylum in France, and was allowed to go to
Weissenburg in Alsace (January, 1720), with a small


pension, which was, however, irregularly paid.
Augustus II. complained of this retreat being allowed
to his rival, but the French Court paid no attention
to his objections. Here another attempt was made
upon his life by means of poisoned tobacco. The
contriver of this outrage was never discovered. The
Polish ex-king lived in obscurity in his humble retreat
till his daughter married Louis XV. (September 5,
1725) by means of a set of intrigues hardly unravelled
at the present time, but of which the discussion more
properly belongs to the history of France. Stanislaus
then had a better residence assigned him, at first the
castle of Chambord, and then Meudon. We must
here leave him, but shall shortly hear of him again.

In the time of Augustus the affairs of Courland also
occupied a prominent place. The duchy had been
held by its dukes under the suzerainty of Poland from
the year 1561. Peter the Great married his niece
Anne, daughter of his brother Ivan, to Frederick
William, duke of the province. This prince, however,
died of excessive drinking in 171 1. The Tsar, being
all powerful, was able to exclude the brother of
Frederick from the succession, and contrived that the
administration of the country should be carried on in
the name of the Grand Duchess. And thus Courland
fell more and more under the influence of Russia,
and was practically lost to Poland. This was still
more the case when Anne became Empress of Russia.
In 1 737, by her influence, Biren was elected duke, but in
1740 he was sent to Sibeiia. The race of the Kettlers,
the original dukes, was now extinct. In the sixteenth
century the Poles had recognised the secularisation


of the ecclesiastical property in Courland, and had
promised to protect Gotthold Kettler as feudatory of
Poland on condition that in case of the extinction of
the house of Kettler, the duchy should be incorporated
with Poland, and divided into palatinates. The
Courlanders had offered their duchy to Maurice of
Saxony, but the Russians opposed the arrangement,
although he was willing to marry the widowed Anne.
The election of Biren had been sanctioned by
Augustus III., but the Russians held the duchy
during his captivity, and he was restored when
Catherine came to the throne in 1762. Biren died
in 1772, and was succeeded by his son Peter, a weak
and incapable ruler. The Courlanders in 1795 formally
surrendered their duchy to the Russian Empress, since
which time it has been incorporated with that Empire.

We must now turn to consider the condition of the

Liberty of opinion in religious matters did not
make much progress in Poland. But perhaps it is
hard to blame her when the neighbouring powers
exhibited such want of toleration. We must re-
member that about this time John Locke had begun
to preach it in England. In the reign of John Sobieski
(1689), ^ noble of Lithuania, Casimir Ly^czynski,
had been cruelly put to death on a frivolous charge
of blasphemy. He was sentenced to Jaave Ins tongue
cut out and then to be beheaded and^burn\ This
atrocious sentence was carried out irt spite of the
opposition of the king. Bishop Z^uski^ whose
letters furnish such valuable materials tor thb. his-
torical student, has recorded the execution with

( ^


manifest satisfaction. As regards Frederick Augustus,
although tolerant himself, he allowed the clergy to
carry out their laws against heresy, because he was
anxious to gain their support.

The hopes which the Protestants had formed on
the election of Stanislaus Leszczynski, were doomed
to disappointment when the rule of that amiable king
was terminated by the battle of Poltava. In 171 5
occurred the case of Sigismund Unruh, a Protestant,
who, for some trifling notes which he had made in a
book, was informed against before the tribunal of
Piotrkow, and accused of having blasphemed the
Holy Catholic Church. For this offence he was
sentenced to have his tongue torn out, his right hand
cut off, and his body (after beheading) to be burnt,
together with his manuscript, but by a timely flight
he escaped the execution of the sentence, which was
afterwards annulled, and his property restored to him.

In the year 1724 occurred the affair of Thorn,
which sent a thrill of horror throughout Europe,
and was the subject of many polemical pamphlets.
A riot occurred between some Jesuit students and
Protestants in that city, and the latter were accused
of sacrilege. In consequence of this, Rosner, the
president of the city council, Zernicke, the vice-presi-
dent, and several other leading citizens, were sentenced
to be executed. Prince Lubomirski, with one hun-
dred and fifty horsemen, arrived at Thorn to see the
sentence carried out. On the 7th of December, the
aged Rosner was beheaded ; Zernicke, the vice-presi-
dent, contrived to procure a pardon, but the rest, with
the exception of one who embraced Romanism, were



executed. This sanguinary affair was not without its
effects upon the rest of Europe. The Protestant powers
— Great Britain, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, and Hol-
land — assumed an indignant attitude, and the Poles
were especially annoyed by the speech of the English
minister at Ratisbon. In 1731 the ambassador from
Great Britain at the Polish Court presented a memorial
to the king, enumerating the various oppressions to
which the Protestants were exposed in Poland, and
concluding with a threat of retaliation on the Roman
Catholics in England and the other Protestant States.
l^ut all the efforts were fruitless, and even increased
the sufferings of the unfortunate Dissidents. But the
day of reckoning was at hand. Like the French
noblesse, on the eve of the Revolution, the infatuated
Polish magnates did not see that they were digging
the grave of their country. In 1733 a law was passed
by which the Dissidents were declared incapable of
holding any office or enjoying any dignity. We must
remember, however, that the English Roman Catholics
were hardly in a more favourable position, and that
the Protestants in France were oppressed.

On the 1st of January that year, the worthless
king died ; a man of mean capacity, and notorious for
his private vices. He had married Christina, Mar-
gravine of Baireuth, who died in 1727. In his reign
Poland sank considerably in political dignity, material
prosperity, and eminence in literature and arts. Many
of the Poles now wished to elect again to the throne
Stanislaus Leszczynski, who was living in Lorraine.
When the proposal was made to him that he should
quit his comfortable residence, he was at first very


much opposed to it, in spite of the material assistance
which he was promised by Louis XV. " I know the
Poles well," said Stanislaus. " I am sure that they
will appoint me, but I am also sure that they will
not support me ; in short, that I shall soon find my-
self near to my enemies and far from friends." To
get to Poland was no easy matter. There was a
Russian fleet in the Baltic, and Austria and Prussia
gave orders to stop his passage through their territories.
We see what active foes Poland had on her borders,
and how by her continual dissensions she played into
their hands. They were always ready to impede her
when she was making efforts to ameliorate her position,
as she would certainly have done by the election of
so good and wise a man as Stanislaus. To make the
journey of the Polish king secure, a stratagem was
planned. A report was circulated in France that he
was about to take the command of a fleet fitted out
on the coast of Brittany and ready to sail to Danzig.
On the 20th of August, 1733, Stanislaus took formal
leave of the French royal family, and went to Berry,
to visit Cardinal Bissy. There the Chevalier de
Thianges, who bore some likeness to Stanislaus, put
on a carefully arranged costume, and took the route
to Brest. He caused himself to be announced as the
king, but took care only to travel by night. On the
26th of August, the day on which the diet opened,
while the false Stanislaus embarked amid the roar of
cannon, the real one got into a post-chaise and hurried
off to Poland in the company of the Chevalier
d'Andelot. He passed through Germany without any
obstacle, and arrived at Warsaw during the night of


the 8th of September. On the loth he appeared in
pubhc, and his presence caused a general rejoicing.
On the nth he was proclaimed king. There were
sixty thousand voices for his election, and only
thirteen against. The disaffected portion retired to
Praga, the suburb of Warsaw, where they awaited the
approach of Russian troops in order to proclaim
Augustus III., the son of the late king. As the
Polish army had been reduced to eight thousand
men, it was unable to defend the capital, and the
only course open to Stanislaus was to retire to the
fortress of Danzig, and there to await the succours
which France had promised. Five months after the
Polish king had entered the town, the Russians under
their general, Miinich, began the siege. When the
French troops arrived they consisted of only i,6oo
men, under the command of Count Pleto. They and
the inhabitants were prepared to defend the place
with spirit, but a Russian fleet now made its appear-
ance, and blockading all the neighbouring ports,
hastened the catastrophe. Stanislaus, giving up all
hope, advised the authorities to surrender the town,
and quitted the place in the garb of a peasant on the
27th of June. He has himself left an account of his
marvellous escape, which in point of interest may
almost be compared with those of Charles II. after
Worcester, or the young Pretender after Culloden.
In his flight he was assisted by peasants, and found
one of them at least as free from mercenary motives
as Charles Stuart did his highland attendants. Let
us hear the very words of Stanislaus : " We were
about to land, when, taking my host aside and affec-


tionately thanking him for all he had done for me,
I put into his hand as many ducats drawn from my
pocket as mine could hold. The honest peasant,
surprised and ashamed, drew back and endeavoured
to escape me. ' No, no,' said I, * it is in vain ; you
must receive this present.' As I urged him more
strongly, and as he renewed his attempts to escape, the
others supposed that I was quarrelling with him, and
advanced to appease me. Perceiving this movement
on their part, he hastily said that to satisfy me he
would accept ^wo ducats, which he would always keep
as a remembrance of the happiness he had had in
knowing me. This noble disinterestedness charmed
me the more, as I had no reason to expect it from a
man in his condition. He took two ducats from my
hand, but made such grimaces that I cannot express

With considerable difficulty Stanislaus passed
through the lines of Cossacks, crossed the Vistula,
and by a fisherman was ferried over the Nogat, and
finally landed at Konigsberg, where he might hope
for more security than when surrounded by the
Russian armies. Thence he leisurely proceeded to
Lorraine. In 1735 the Treaty of Vienna w^as con-
cluded"between France and the German Empire, by
which Stanislaus abdicated the Polish throne, but was
to have the title of king during his life. He was to
enjoy possession of the duchies of Lorraine and Bar,
which after his death were to be permanently united
to France. On the 28th of June, 1735, he signed the
decree of his abdication at Konigsberg, and on the
3rd of April, 1737, ^^ ^^s formally put in possession


of his new territories. He made hiiri^elf very popular
among his subjects, so that he earned the title of
Stanislaus the Benevolent. He greatly embellished
the cities of Nancy and Lun^ville, founded colleges,
and reduced the taxation of the duchies. In 1758
the Royal Academy of Nancy was established.
Stanislaus corresponded with several sovereigns, and,
among literary men, with Voltaire, Rousseau, Montes-
quieu, and Boufiflers. It was a piece of singular ill-
fortune for Poland to have been deprived of the
services of so excellent a king.

Up to 1766, when he had reached the age of eighty-
nine, he had enjoyed excellent health ; but on the 5th
of February of that year his dressing-gown acci-
dentally caught fire. He was at length extricated
from his dangerous situation, but died on the 23rd of
the same month, and was buried near his wife at
Nancy. Two years afterwards his daughter, Mary
Leszczynska, the French queen, died, and her heart
was buried in her father's vault. In 1831 a statue was
erected to this excellent man at Nancy. His name
stands out amongst the worthless Polish sovereigns of
the eighteenth century, and we have therefore allowed
more space for a description of his career.

At Nancy appeared his remarkable worl?, GIos
Wolny Wolnosc Ube^ (^' A Free Voice guaran-
teeing Freedom "), in which he unhesitatingly spoke
of the errors of the Polish constitution, and gave
advice for their rectification. In a curious letter pre-
.served in Hearne's " Collectanea " (Doble's ed., ii. 43)
we get a glimpse of him in juxtaposition with his
friend and protector, Charles, who is more fully


described. Of the Swedish king, Lord Raby, the
writer of the letter, says : " He wears a black crape
cravat, but the cape of his coat, buttoned so close
about it, that you cannot see whether he has any or
no. His shirt and wristbands are commonly very
dirty : for he wears no ruffles or gloves, but on horse-
back. His hands are commonly of the same colour
of [5-/^] his wristbands ; so that you can hardly dis-
tinguish them. His hair is light brown, very greasy
and very short, never combed but with his fingers.
He sits upon any chair or stool he finds in the house,
without any ceremony to dinner, and begins with a
great piece of bread and butter, having stuck his
napkin under his chin : then drinks with his mouth
full out of a great silver, old-fashioned beaker small
beer, which is his only liquor. At every meal he drinks
about two English bottles full ; he then empties his
beaker twice. Between every bit of meat he eats a
piece of bread and butter, which he spreads with his
thumb. He is never more than a quarter of an hour
at dinner, eats like a horse, speaks not one word all
the while. As soon as he rises, his life guards sit
down at the same table to the same victuals. His
bedchamber is a very dirty little room with bare
walls ; no sheets nor canopy to his bed, but the same
quilt that lies under him turns up over him, and so
covers him. . . , His writing-table is of slit deal, with
only a stick to support it, and instead of a standish
a wooden thing with a sand-box of the same. . . .
He has a fine gilt Bible by his bedside, the only
thing that looks fine in his equipage. . . . But that
my letter is too long already, I would give you some



account of the Polish Court of King Stanislaus ; for
being incognito only with a friend and one footman,
and impossible to be known, I would take a tour to
Leipsic, where I not only saw that king, but he very
civilly came and spoke to me and my friend, seeing we
were strangers. His Court has much a better air than
that of his maker [i.e.^ Charles XII.], and his mother
and wife were there, a couple of well-bred women,
well dressed, and both spoke very good French. He
is a tall handsome young man, with a great pair of
whiskers [moustaches], in the Polish dress, but in-


clinable to be fat, and a little upon the dirty, as all
the Poles are. . . ."

After our long digression upon Stanislaus we will
now turn to the king who was appointed in his place.
Augustus HI., son of Augustus II., swore to the
pacta conventa^ and was crowned king at Warsaw in
1734. He married Maria Josefa, daughter of the
Emperor Joseph I. She died in 1757. In 1736 a
diet of pacification was held at Warsaw, which was
followed by a general amnesty. Its terms have
already been explained. The country was in a
wretched condition ; the king was a coarse man, who
led a life of indolence and pleasure. One of his chief


amusements appears to have been to shoot at dogs
from the windows of his palace. Like his father, he
could not speak a word of Polish, and he left every-
thing to the management of his minister Brlihl. The
country was flooded with false money, in the circula-
tion of which the Jews were very active. The king,
as Elector of Saxony, was mixed up with the Seven
Years' War, but his l^olish subjects were not dragged
into it. The territory of the Republic was, however,
frequently invaded by her neighbours, and Poland
was called Karcznia Zajezdna, the public inn : thus
the Russians in one of their expeditions against the
Turks marched unimpeded and without asking leave

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Online LibraryWilliam Richard MorfillPoland → online text (page 12 of 23)