FRIEDRICH. "I am doing like the dogs who have fought bitterly till they are worn down: I sit licking my wounds. I notice most European Powers doing the same; too happy if, whilst Kings are being manufactured to right and left, public tranquillity is not disturbed thereby, and if every one may continue to dwell in peace beside his hearth and his household gods." ["Sans-Souci, 26th June, 1764" (Ib. p. 69).] Adieu, bright Madam.
No reader who has made acquaintance with Polish History can well doubt but Poland was now dead or moribund, and had well deserved to die. Anarchies are not permitted in this world. Under fine names, they are grateful to the Populaces, and to the Editors of Newspapers; but to the Maker of this Universe they are eternally abhorrent; and from the beginning have been forbidden to be. They go their course, applauded or not applauded by self and neighbors,--for what lengths of time none of us can know; for a long term sometimes, but always for a fixed term; and at last their day comes. Poland had got to great lengths, two centuries ago, when poor John Casimir abdicated his Crown of Poland, after a trial of twenty years, and took leave of the Republic in that remarkable SPEECH to the Diet of 1667.
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 (
Reminder: Arrow keys left and right (← →) to turn pages forward and backward, up and down (↑ ↓) to scroll up and down, Enter key: return to the list