An audience of refined and intelligent appearance was assembled on Saturday evening at the Stuyvesant Institute, to share with our adopted fellow citizens the memory of a struggle whose fruits are yet to come, but which cannot fail of bearing them, for God is our surety that no effort in behalf of the nobler aims of human nature can eventually fail of success, though it may fail of the immediate object for which it was undertaken. MR. WILLIAM T. MCCOUN, presiding over the meeting, read a letter from Hon. LUTHER BRADISH, who had been expected to take this place, expressing his warm sympathy in the feeling which inspires these commemorations. Judge J. T. OAKLEY acted as Vice President. The letter of Mr. BRADISH is as follows:
New-York, November 29th, 1845.
Gentlemen: I regret exceedingly that the extreme sickness of a near connexion will not permit me the great pleasure I anticipate in accepting your invitation to be present at the commemoration, this evening, at the Stuyvesant Institute of your National Revolution of 1830. Under other circumstances, it would have afforded me the highest gratification to have united with the friends of Poland, in commemorating an event so dear to the recollections of Poles, and so interesting in the annals of freedom, and the history of nations and of man, as that in question.
The late Revolution in Poland is prominent among the memorable events which have marked the first half of the nineteenth-century. It is memorable alike in its origin, its progress, and in its result. It had its source in the accumulated and unparalleled wrongs of more than half a century, and in the desperate struggles of a gallant and patriotic people for national existence.—Few periods in the history of the world present more brilliant examples of noble daring and gallant achievement, of self-sacrifice and high patriotic devotion to national freedom and the cause of liberty, than marked the progress of the Revolution. Its result is written in the blood of patriots; in the exile or subjugation of the remnant of a brave, intellectual and polished people, and the extinction of a nation! Poland, after twelve centuries of national existence and of freedom, is, in the face of passive and guilty Christendom, struck from the map of nations! Poland, that, like an adamantine rock, had stood for centuries an impassable barrier between the encroachments of Northern barbarism, and the temptations of Southern civilization, is no more! Thrice partitioned among those nations whom her gallantry had protected, she became at length herself the victim of a national freebooting, that had no pretension of right but that of power, no motive but the most sordid and grasping cupidity, and no means of accomplishing its purpose but one of the most corrupt conspiracies that soils the history of nations.
But it was not enough that Poland had ceased to exist as an independent nation. To the monstrous wrong of her destruction as such, Tyranny, in the gratification of its malignant and withering instincts, would also add the unparalleled cruelty of extinguishing in the bosom of every Pole every trace of nationality, every impulse of patriotic feeling. But in this attempt Power shall be impotent and Tyranny fail. The son of dismembered and bleeding Poland may be torn from the free maternal bosom that bore and nourished him, and given to the Northern serf for nurture and education; but even Tyranny itself cannot change his nature or nationality with his nurse. On the contrary, whether he languishes under the oppression of a conquering tyrant, or wanders an exile in a land of Freedom, he will never cease to be a Patriot and a Pole. His heart will ever burn with a recollection and a love of country. Her history, rich in the glories of the past, will ever furnish him with high motives for patriotic effort, and, in his bosom, will ever be found an altar upon which shall be daily and hourly offered up the most ardent aspirations for the vindication of his country’s wrongs, the restoration of her national existence, and the universal recognition of her rights.—Nor shall these aspirations be in vain. In the fate of Poland the rights of nations have been violated; the guarantees of national independence and public safety have been sacrificed, and Liberty herself outraged. Upon such wrongs Justice will sleep forever. The day of restoration and of retribution will come. The broken fragments of the shattered vase shall yet be gathered up, and reunited in their original form. The scattered elements of dismembered Poland shall again be brought together, her exiled sons again returned to their cherished homes, and the nation be reconstructed. The broken link in the bright chain of her national existence shall again be reunited, and her future history be thus connected with the glories of the past.
Renewing the expression of my regrets that I cannot participate in your proceedings of this evening, and with sentiments of great personal respect,
Your obedient servant,
JOHN JAY, Esq. then, after a short speech upon the leading features of Polish history, presented the following resolutions:
1. That the wrongs of Poland involve principles of right, justice and humanity, peculiar to no land, but of universal interest; and that the tyranny perpetrated by Russia, and countenanced by the selfish apathy of surrounding Europe, demand from the American people the expression of stern indignation against the perpetrators, and of generous sympathy for the victims of their oppression.
2. That the History of Poland from its first partition in 1772 to the present hour, teaches lessons of grave importance—that little dependence can be placed upon the magnanimity and good faith of Cabinets, when opposed by ambition and self-interest—that a nation’s best security is in the virtue and vigilance of the people—the strict accountability of its rulers—and absolute exemption of all foreign influence.
3. That the Polish Revolution of 1830, was the natural result of the cruel despotism of Russia, marked, too, by violation of good faith which increased its infamy; that the gallant struggle of that Revolution was of all wars the most just—strictly a war of independence, characterized, on the part of Poland, no less by determined and patriotic valor, than by moderation and clemency towards those in whose cruelty it had originated; and that its failure, caused by the criminal indifference of the nations which, in the Congress at Vienna, had guaranteed her constitutional privileges, and followed by renewed and aggravated outrages on the part of the Emperor Nicholas, is a source of deep and permanent affliction to all who truly value those eternal principles of freedom which were proclaimed to the world in the Declaration of American Independence.
4. That the spirit of nationality constitutes the great element of a people’s power, and that in this spirit so religiously kept alive in dismembered Poland, and so beautifully exhibited among her patriot sons scattered in foreign lands, we recognize the surest guarantee for her restoration to the roll of independent nations, when the free principles now rapidly advancing through the world shall have accomplished the end to which they are inevitably tending.
THEODORE SEDGWICK followed in a brief and pertinent address. We have never before heard Mr. Sedgwick; the tones of his voice and his manner were better suited to a caucus or mass meeting than the occasion like the present, as being abrupt, for so small a room noisy, and laden with more emphasis than the meaning of his words could claim.—There are few who have the fine tact to adapt their voice and manner equally well to a large or small assembly. The address in itself was good, and closed with the hope that the love of Freedom we were there to express might not in us be tested by exile and penury. Let us hope, still more, that if it should, it may stand the test as well as it has with the noble exiles present.
During the speech of Mr. Jay the Scandinavian Society, and a band of Italians in uniform had made their entrance and taken places reserved for them, on either side the tribune occupied by the appointed orators of the evening.
Mr. FORESTI followed with a beautiful and feeling address in Italian. Those who did not understand the words could not fail to appreciate the ardent soul, and full, energetic nature of the speaker as expressed in every line of his person, and the changes of his expression, nor to admire his varied and forcible declamation.
His beautiful Tuscan electrified such of the audience as understood it—for he touched the chord to which every manly heart must respond. He said that Nationality is for mankind what Individualism is to a nation; that without the fulfilment of the duties of either, Mankind would be a great sufferer; that there is more than fellow-feeling between Italy and Poland—those two nations burdened with fetters, both gigantic, but touched with the finger of the angry God; that the power of a despot must yield to perseverance as witnesses the indomitable spirit of the Mountaineers of Caucasus. Then the speaker alluded to the occasion of the evening; compared it to the invocation of Gods by Hannibal before the altar, and in presence of Anislear; he said that this commemoration takes place before the eyes of nations; that it is a good thing to have it repeated from year to year, and that those who lend their countenance to this occasion deserve well of mankind. Then the orator addressed himself to the Scandinavians as the nearest neighbors of the Moscovite, and having a common interest with the Poles. Finally, he spoke with a charming simplicity of soul to the Americans as enjoying the fruits of liberty, bespeaking at their hands, warm sympathies for the oppressed, while they would keep their hearts free from indifference to tyranny.
Seeing such men, we mourn anew the sorrows and degradation of Italy which is forced to deny a home and a sphere of action to her best blood. May the same fervor of heart be turned to forward the good of the adopted land, for wherever there is genius, greatness and religion, blooms anew the true Italy, the garden of the world!
Dr. WIERZBICKI followed in behalf of the Poles. His speech was in English, and, though very well written, was delivered with the slowness and hesitancy of a foreigner, therefore had less effect than it would in his native tongue. He spoke with judgment and feeling of the history and present position of Poland, hoping in the might of principles, and the impossibility of her enduring the constantly-increasing injuries heaped upon her. We think, ourselves, it is impossible they should, now that Nicholas is determined to break up not only all feelings of nationality, but also of individuality. The very worm would not endure so crushing and pertinacious a footstep, without rising up to sting the tyrant’s heel. He will find that the sanctuary of religious faith, or those inherited sentiments which are as indestructible a part of the man as his life-blood, cannot be entirely broken up and rifled without causing explosion that may wound himself. Dr. Wierzbicki imputed in part the failure of earlier efforts at resistance to the bad influence of the Jesuits who have sown the seeds of disease and feebleness in the Polish youth during the unguarded hours of education, so that, when the day came for wise and united effort, they were not found fit for it. A friend who was present has furnished us a report of Dr. Wierzbicki’s remarks, which we insert without abbreviation:
Countrymen and Fellow Citizens:—Once more on the recurrence of the anniversary of the Polish revolution of 1830 we meet to commemorate that great event, to do honor to the heroic dead and to plead before the civilized world the cause of that martyr nation, that its quickened sympathies may strengthen anew her sons in their efforts for a national existence. The spirit of the Poles, notwithstanding their reveries of fortune, is not yet broken, and as every streamlet goes to swell the sweeping waves of a mighty river, so every expression of sympathy for their holy cause quickens and animates their ardor.
The events of the past year have proved that their relentless foe has not relaxed his grasp: new victims have been added to dungeons already full to overflowing; the bones of thousands are whitening in the mountain passes of Caucasus; bereaved wives, mothers and sisters have longed for death as their only deliverer; others have suffered the martyrdom of the early Christians inflicted by this modern Diocletian; pious nuns whose sole crimes were love of God and love of country have left bloody foot prints on the desert wastes of Siberia. But I need no go on enumerating the atrocities inflicted upon that hapless nation by the incarnate fiend under whose iron heel she now writhes; my breast is lightening at the recollection of them and cries of anguish seem to be wafted on the evening breeze to our every midst.
It is not enough that the Poles must endure the gnawing pains of despotism at home, they are followed in their exile and unrelentingly traduced abroad. To cover the blackness of the souls of their oppressors, their character as a nation is maligned, their history is falsified, and their honor—that last and dearest patrimony left unsullied by their forefathers—is assailed. Of the many who have done this infamous work of despots we cannot overlook an Alison, who with a consummate hypocrisy of candor, misrepresents the bearing and teachings of Polish history in a work on Europe, so well known to the English reader. And even in this land of freedom, with regret we behold a man professing to be a follower of the just, meek and loving Master, now traversing the country, and scattering widely unwarranted opinions under the garb of “Lectures on the History of Northern Nations of Europe.” Out of regard for his clerical station, I dare not question the motives that influence the Rev. Doctor Baird, but in justice to the cause of truth and humanity, I am bound to expose his ignorance of the subject upon which he discourses so largely.
There are others who, to exculpate the Czar, called the struggle of the Poles an old family quarrel to be settled by the parties themselves—another of the abominable falsehoods to circulate which the Russian Government spares not its gold. I hold in my hands an address to the Russians, delivered by the Poles in London, commemorating on the 27th of July last the anniversary of the death of the first five martyrs in the cause of the Russian freedom. This address alone, if there were no other proofs, refuted the above assertions; the Russians here are styled brothers, children of the same parent stock, only duped and made subservient to the cunning devices of one selfish Tartaro-Germanic family, who grasps at the whole world for the sole pleasure of tyrannizing over it. What noble, what fraternal, what Christian sentiments does this address breathe to the misled Russians! The Italian patriots, at whose head stands the name of the honest Mazzini, are a guaranty for the truth of its contents.
In view of these calumnies and misrepresentations, it becomes a sacred duty to every Pole to protest against the injustice done to his country’s cause; and such an occasion as the present especially calls upon him to speak aloud of these wrongs and of their consequences upon the destinies of other nations. But it is doubly the duty of him who, like myself, is not less proud to call himself a Pole than a citizen of this Republic.
A discerning eye cannot fail to see that Providence, in its wisdom, has chosen the two nations as the instruments of the future regeneration of mankind. Permit me, then, my countrymen and fellow-citizens, to vindicate the honor of Poland, and linger for a moment upon the bright destinies which a unity of spirit between my native and adopted lands will secure for future generations. Her calumniators find it prudent to ignore the debt which Science and Christianity, or, in a word, Civilization owes to the Polish nation. I need not now dwell on this point—I have done so on another occasion. But it is to the spirit of her history that I would devote a few thoughts.
From her first entrance into the ranks of Christian nations, Poland was ever foremost in the progressive development of civilization, and she proved on more than one occasion, that she comprehended the spirit of her Divine Master better than some of her more boastful neighbors. A spirit of humanity, a love of light and freedom, constantly illumine the pages of her history. Who first among nations endeavored to enlighten the mass of her people by a liberal system of education? History answers, Poland—the same Poland that protected the freedom of conscience. Her moral grandeur may be seen in the institution of the order of nobility, which was conferred for real merit—virtue and knowledge only; while in other countries, invaders, freebooters, banditti, became barons of the realm—as in England, where the bloody Norman was the noble of the land.
The Polish nobility sprang from her own soil, at her own bidding; and he only who showed wisdom in council, courage on the battle-field in defence of his country, was made noble. And even three centuries ago, he who had received the honors of a University, entered de jure the rank of the proudest of her families, whatever might have been his origin.
The Polish nation was characterized by a spirit of great humanity. When her sons were fighting against despotism in Italy in the end of the last century, their banners spake to the world “Gli nomini liberi sano frateli.” Freemen are brothers. And when the Northern tyrant raised his arm to strike a deadly blow against Belgium, lest liberty might receive a mortal wound, Poland hastened to interpose her own bosom. In their late struggle with their foe, the inscription “For our and your liberty” on their standards told the misled Russian soldiery that freedom or death were in their own hands; and they were in the hands of forgiving brothers rather than relentless enemies. The noblest of her sons fought side by side in the cause of freedom and humanity. By such deeds is the spirit and history of the Polish nation manifested.
Her enemies and ill-informed friends ascribe the fall of Poland to her political follies and vices, thus endeavoring to extenuate the guilt of her rapacious neighbors. But as great follies and greater crimes have existed, and do exist now elsewhere, and yet the indenty and independence of those countries is preserved notwithstanding; he who does not see this, must have read history to little purpose.
The Poles are accused of want of unanimity, by those who do not wish to remember that difference of opinion is inseparable from the freedom of thought; freemen must differ, and as long as their hearts are inaccessible to corruption, their safety lies in this difference. But the misfortune of the Poles was that their enemies through secret channels, spared no effort to increase and maintain the difference.
The causes which were demoralizing European society were acting more or less in Poland also, and in the end proved a hot-bed for those which strictly sprung from her own institutions and operated within her territory. The cause that above all others brought on the downfall of Poland, lies in the corrupt public education of the Polish children, effected by the society of the Jesuits. At the time when the followers of the enthusiastic and crafty Loyola were introduced into Poland the world was weak enough to believe in their virtue, and the Polish nation, in this simplicity, with the name generosity which supported the learning of the Protestants, sought to maintain it among her Catholics also, by confiding to this fraternity of moral Thugs, well endowed institutions for education.
Previous to this event, Polish Catholicism was liberal and enlightened, and did not look to Rome to be instructed upon its doctrines and duties; but when the society of Jesus struck its deep roots into the Polish soil, a change came over the nation: the galaxy of bright stars that shone over the Polish horizon in the sixteenth century began to lose its brilliancy, its constellations went down one by one, and a profound moral night overhung the land. By degrees the Jesuits succeeded in engrossing the public education, and before a century elapsed, the Polish nation presented a humiliating spectacle of bigots under the Jesuitical rod, gravely discussing absurdities for the glory of God and salvation of men, while the civic virtues were forgotten. It is the object of the Jesuits to get dominion over the human soul by its strongest bias, be it virtue or vice—an end which they never fail to attain. The efforts of the Piarists, an order of patriotic ecclesiastics, were made too late to counteract efficiently the baneful influence of the Jesuits. These enemies of the human species by casuistry which they called philosophy, and doggerel Latin, which they taught to the exclusion of even the Polish, stultified the nation to the degree that she could not see the abyss to which she was verging, and religious persecution, unheard of before in Poland, sealed her destruction. Her enemies, under the most specious pretences, committed that act that filled every manly heart in Christendom with horror and indignation. Thus, for the last half century, Poland has been held down by the iron arm of power; but still, God be thanked, her spirit is not crushed, poor and desolate as she is.
From this page of Polish history, an important lesson may be learned. A proper public education in a free State is of the most vital importance to its security and prosperity; and a country whose destinies are so great and glorious as those of this republic, cannot fail to appreciate the lesson. Vigorous in her limbs, unshackled in her movements, with her face turned westward, she sees beyond the setting sun continents which Providence points our as the field of her labors in behalf of degraded races. Already the inhabitants of the Sandwich Islands bless her coming. Ere long her two opposite shores will be spanned by iron bars, and the shrill voice of the iron horse will resound among the dales and mountains of the Pacific coast, San Francisco on one shore, as New York on the other, will send their pulsating life into the most distant regions. Then light and freedom will encompass the western world and its effulgence will penetrate even Asiatic darkness. This, which now is visible only to the eye of fancy, ere fifty years pass away, will be a reality.
Wrapped in this beautiful vison, I see America press onward in this high career, conscious that her progress is the guaranty of the progress of mankind. True to her trust, and mindful of higher wants than more physical well-being, she keeps the torch of the hopes of the race ever burning. Poland, placed in the heart of Europe, at the head of eighty-five millions of the Slavonic race, purified through her martyrdom, and now, as ever, advancing the general good, is powerfully contributing to the same end. And when these masses of men are once fairly in motion, no earthly power can arrest their onward career. Liberty and light, in a united current, will melt like the electric fluid, the fetters in which men have already groaned too long. Friends of liberty and humanity, remember, the voice of this nation has its thousand echoes on the opposite shore of the Atlantic! “Let us then,” (in the words of one of your own poets,)
With a heart for any fate,
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.”
Professor HEBE, of Stockholm, was now introduced to the audience, and read an address in Swedish, which was received by those who understood it, with warm expressions of sympathy. He maintained, in an eloquent manner, that Nations without nationality have perished, and that Italy and Poland having preserved theirs, have a guaranty of the relization of their hopes.
Mr. H. KALUSSOWSKI addressed the audience next in elegant French. He thanked them for their indulgent attention, and stated that the Poles in exile must improve the freedom of speech, and tell of their country and her hopes, the rather, inasmuch as their brethren at home, who in heart are united with the exiles, are deprived of that blessing. Then the Chairman declared the meeting closed.
Such celebrations, if conducted with intelligence have a great value, though they lead to no immediate result, the enlarged views of important subjects to which they give rise, the electric communication they establish between minds far removed from one another in space fill a noble office in the education of the world. It is by such an education alone, through the vital appropriation by every mind of those great principles indispensable to the accomplishment of the destiny of man, that the outward despotism of hereditary rank, the mental despotism of prejudice, must be overthrown, and, till the general mind is thus enlightened, the convulsion of the suffering body will have no general and permanent results.
We published some days since in The Tribune an Address by the Poles of London to their Russian brethren, with a postscript by the Italians, at whose head was Mazzini, which expressed such principles. The tone of the Address was noble, and we regretted its being in a somewhat wordy, rhetorical style. It was not without eloquence, but of that superficial sort which seems to say that the time for great realization of the hope it expresses is yet far distant. Once in a while comes out some paper on a great occasion of a deep, pure eloquence—a speech which concentrates the life blood of a series of noble hopes, resolutions and struggles, which holds within itself the precious germ of a similar growth, one of those growths which, if it bears no mellow fruit for its day and generation, ripens the seed for God’s eternal year. Such a speech was Emmet’s appeal to posterity, at the bare remembrance of which we feel the tears start, not from the eyes, but from a deeper source, the swelling heart. Such was the Declaration of Independence hurled by the Circassians against the Russians, the first bolt of a war not ended yet.—Such were some of the speeches in the English Parliament, in the time of Charles the 1st, when the English mind teemed with those ideas to which we owe our existence as a nation. To such, a noble contemporary answered—“I will do justice to thy call, Oh! SILVER TRUMPET.” The Slavonian call is yet that of the Silver Trumpet; but let the fire be nursed and fed on the most precious materials, and, when it is deep and pure enough, it shall kindle all the nations yet, and raise an undying flame to gladden Heaven!*
“Anniversary of the Polish Revolution.” New-York Daily Tribune, 1 December 1845, p. 2.