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KINGS AND GOVERNMENT
IN LETTERS FROM SIR C. H. W.
THE RIGHT HON. H. F.
Dresden, 25th August, N. S. 1748.
I NOW sit down to begin to satisfy your curiosity, as well as I am able, with respect to the History and Government of Poland. And I believe, before I have done, you will repent that you ever questioned me upon the subject. It will take up a great deal of time and paper; but I undertake it with cheerfulness for many reasons. The first, because having a great deal
of leisure upon my hands, it will be an amusement to myself. The second, because the History both of the Government and Kings of Poland, is almost totally unknown in England. And lastly, because I flatter myself it may help you to pass away a long Winter's evening at Holland-house, and give you some entertainment from the novelty of the subject.
I intend to divide what I have to say into two parts. The first will contain a short History of the Sovereigns of Poland from Lechus the First, down to Augustus the Third. And the second will give you as succinct an account as is consistent with clearness, of the past and present Government of Poland.
I shall add a short dissertation at the end of the whole upon the Liberum Veto, as the Poles call it; by which one Nuntio, or Member, is capable of stopping or invalidating the whole proceedings of the Diet. This ruinous privilege, this destructive power, lodged in one person, is the source of all the confusion that
reigns in Poland. This leaves them, not only a prey to one another, but to whatever enemy shall please to attack them; and yet they call it their Palladium, and the Pupilla Libertatis.
I shall now at once begin my History, by telling you, that as in the accounts of most countries, their origin is very dark, so that of Poland, though taken up at a later period, is the darkest. The conjectures of their own miserable historians differ about it; but they seem all to agree that Lechus was the first who collected the Poles into a body, and was himself their leader; and this happened in the latter end of the sixth century after the birth of our Lord Christ. But all that is told of him and his successors, is so ill-grounded and so dark, so full of incredible wonders, and impossible miracles, that it is plainly all fable and fiction. His family continued to govern Poland till the year 840,* when their writers
* The names of the Princes that are said to have governed Poland after the death of Lechus down to the year 840,
seem to think they tread upon surer grounds. To convince their readers of it, they tell the most ridiculous and improbable stories of the Election of Piast, who from the Plough was chosen their Sovereign; and from whom all the native subjects of Poland that are advanced to the Throne continue to this day to be called Piast.
The last of the race of Lechus was Popiel the second, of whom I shall only say after the author that I borrow from, that he was cruel in his nature, and put many of his own relations to death at once, out of whose bodies there came a large number of mice who devoured both Popiel and his wife.
are Crachus, who built Cracow; Venda, his daughter; Lescus 1st; Lescus 2nd; Lescus 3rd; Popiel 1st; Popiel 2nd.
Some Polish writers say that the race of Lechus being extinguished (though they never pretend to say who his descendants were, and what names they bore) Poland was for some time governed by twelve Waiwodes, who not being able to agree among themselves, chose Cracus for their king in the year 700: but this I take to be a fiction, and only introduced to prove the antiquity of the Waiwodes, which in Polish is a synonymous word for Palatin.
But the famous legend of the Election of Piast must not be omitted, for in such parts of this History as won't afford you instruction, I intend to try to give you some diversion. What I am now going to tell you is faithfully taken from Dlugossius, their famous and best historian.
Popiel's life and death having disgusted the Poles from the rest of his line, they summoned an assembly at Cruisvic for the choice of a new Sovereign; but in vain; for the heats and animosities among the several great ones of the country, prevented their being able to fix upon any person for their chief, and the assembly dissolved itself. But though the assembly was dissolved, the heats and animosities continued, and broke out into all the shapes of vengeance throughout all Poland: these calamities soon cured themselves. Every body grew tired of these petty civil wars; and the next year they all agreed to convoke another assembly at the same place, and then it was that Piast was elected.