This John is "Casimir V.," last Scion of the Swedish House of Vasa,--with whom, in the Great Elector's time, we had some slight acquaintance; and saw at least the three days' beating he got (Warsaw, 28th-30th July, 1656) from Karl Gustav of Sweden and the Great Elector, [Supra, v. 284-286.] ancestors respectively of Karl XII. and of our present Friedrich. He is not "Casimir the Great" of Polish Kings; but he is, in our day, Casimir the alone Remarkable. It seems to me I once had IN EXTENSO this Valedictory Speech of his; but it has lapsed again into the general Mother of Dead Dogs, and I will not spend a week in fishing for it. The gist of the Speech, innumerable Books and Dead Dogs tell you, [HISTOIRE DES TROIS DEMEMBREMENS does, and many others do;--copied in
"Magnanimous Polack Gentlemen, you are a glorious Republic, and have NIE POZWALAM, and strange methods of business, and of behavior to your Kings and others. We have often fought together, been beaten together, by our enemies and by ourselves; and at last I, for my share, have enough of it. I intend for Paris; religious- literary pursuits, and the society of Ninon de l'Enclos. I wished to say before going, That according to all record, ancient and modern, of the ways of God Almighty in this world, there was not heretofore, nor do I expect there can henceforth be, a Human Society that would stick together on those terms. Believe me, ye Polish Chivalries, without superior except in Heaven, if your glorious Republic continue to be managed in such manner, not good will come of it, but evil. The day will arrive [this is the Prophecy, almost IN IPSISSIMIS VERBIS], the day perhaps is not so far off, when this glorious Republic will get torn into shreds, hither, thither; be stuffed into the pockets of covetous neighbors, Brandenburg; Muscovy, Austria; and find itself reduced to zero, and abolished from the face of the world.
"I speak these words in sorrow of soul; words which probably you will not believe. Which only Fate can compel you to believe, one day, if they are true words:--you think, probably, they are not? Me at least, or interest of mine, they do not regard. I speak them from the fulness of my heart, and on behest of friendship and conviction alone; having the honor at this moment to bid you and your Republic a very long farewell. Good-morning, for the last time!" and so EXIT: to Rome (had been Cardinal once); to Paris and the society of Ninon's Circle for the few years left him of life. ["Died 16th December, 1672, age 63."]
This poor John had had his bitter experiences: think only of one instance. In 1662, the incredible Law of LIBERUM VETO had been introduced, in spite of John and his endeavors. LIBERUM VETO; the power of one man to stop the proceedings of Polish Parliament by pronouncing audibly "NIE POZWALAM, I don't permit!"--never before or since among mortals was so incredible a Law. Law standing indisputable, nevertheless, on the Polish Statute-Book for above two hundred years: like an ever-flowing fountain of Anarchy, joyful to the Polish Nation. How they got any business done at all, under such a Law? Truly they did but little; and for the last thirty years as good as none. But if Polish Parliament was universally in earnest to do some business, and Veto came upon it, Honorable Members, I observe, gathered passionately round the vetoing Brother; conjured, obtested, menaced, wept, prayed; and, if the case was too urgent and insoluble otherwise, the NIE POZWALAM Gentleman still obstinate, they plunged their swords through him, and in that way brought consent. The commoner course was to dissolve and go home again, in a tempest of shrieks and curses.
The Right of Confederation, too, is very curious: do readers know it? A free Polack gentleman, aggrieved by anything that has occurred or been enacted in his Nation, has the right of swearing, whether absolutely by himself I know not, but certainly with two or three others of like mind, that he will not accept said occurrence or enactment, and is hereby got into arms against its abettors and it. The brightest jewel in the cestus of Polish Liberty is this right of confederating; and it has been, till of late, and will be now again practised to all lengths: right of every Polish, gentleman to confederate with every other against, or for, whatsoever to them two may seem good; and to assert their particular view of the case by fighting for it against all comers, King and Diet included. It must be owned, there never was in Nature such a Form of Government before; such a mode of social existence, rendering "government" impossible for some generations past.
On the strength of Saxony and its resources and connections, the two Augusts had contrived to exist with the name of Kings; with the name, but with little or nothing more. Under this last August, as we heard, there have been about forty Diets, and in not one of them the least thing of business done; all the forty, after trying their best, have stumbled on NIE POZWALAM, and been obliged to vanish in shrieks and curses. [Buchholz (
Latterly, as we observed, there has been little of confederating; indeed, for the last thirty years, as Rulhiere copiously informs us, there has been no Government, consequently no mutiny needed; little or no National business of any kind,--the Forty Diets having all gone the road we saw. Electing of the Judges,--that, says Rulhiere, and wearisomely teaches by example again and ever again, has always been an interesting act, in the various Provinces of Poland; not with the hope of getting fair or upright Judges, but Judges that will lean in the desirable direction. In a country overrun with endless lawsuits, debts, credits, feudal intricacies, claims, liabilities, how important to get Judges with the proper bias! And these once got, or lost till next term,--what is there to hope or to fear? Russia does our Politics, fights her Seven-Years War across us; and we, happy we, have no fighting;--never till this of Courland was there the least ill-nature from Russia! We are become latterly the peaceable stepping-stone of Russia into Europe and out of it;--what may be called the door-mat of Russia, useful to her feet, when she is about paying visits or receiving them! That is not a glorious fact, if it be a safe and "lucky" one; nor do the Polish Notabilities at all phrase it in that manner. But a fact it is; which has shown itself complete in the late Czarina's and late August's time, and which had been on the growing hand ever since Peter the Great gained his Battle of Pultawa, and rose to the ascendency, instead of Karl and Sweden.
The Poles put fine colors on all this; and are much contented with themselves. The Russians they regard as intrinsically an inferior barbarous people; and to this day you will hear indignant Polack Gentlemen bursting out in the same strain: "Still barbarian, sir; no culture, no literature,"--inferior because they do not make verses equal to ours! How it may be with the verses, I will not decide: but the Russians are inconceivably superior in respect that they have, to a singular degree among Nations, the gift of obeying, of being commanded. Polack Chivalry sniffs at the mention of such a gift. Polack Chivalry got sore stripes for wanting this gift. And in the end, got striped to death, and flung out of the world, for continuing blind to the want of it, and never acquiring it.
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