Frederick Chopin, as a Man and Musician — Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 478 pages of information about Frederick Chopin, as a Man and Musician — Volume 1.
deprive them of king and country, drive them into exile, and make them despised by those who formerly feared and respected them.  But these warnings remained unheeded, and the prophecies were fulfilled to the letter.  Elective kingship, pacta conventa, [Footnote:  Terms which a candidate for the throne had to subscribe on his election.  They were of course dictated by the electors—­i.e., by the selfish interest of one class, the szlachta (nobility), or rather the most powerful of them.] liberum veto, [Footnote:  The right of any member to stop the proceedings of the Diet by pronouncing the words “Nie pozwalam” (I do not permit), or others of the same import.] degradation of the burgher class, enslavement of the peasantry, and other devices of an ever-encroaching nobility, transformed the once powerful and flourishing commonwealth into one “lying as if broken-backed on the public highway; a nation anarchic every fibre of it, and under the feet and hoofs of travelling neighbours.” [Footnote:  Thomas Carlyle, Frederick the Great, vol. viii., p. 105.] In the rottenness of the social organism, venality, unprincipled ambition, and religious intolerance found a congenial soil; and favoured by and favouring foreign intrigues and interferences, they bore deadly fruit—­confederations, civil wars, Russian occupation of the country and dominion over king, council, and diet, and the beginning of the end, the first partition (1772) by which Poland lost a third of her territory with five millions of inhabitants.  Even worse, however, was to come.  For the partitioning powers—­Russia, Prussia, and Austria—­ knew how by bribes and threats to induce the Diet not only to sanction the spoliation, but also so to alter the constitution as to enable them to have a permanent influence over the internal affairs of the Republic.

The Pole Francis Grzymala remarks truly that if instead of some thousand individuals swaying the destinies of Poland, the whole nation had enjoyed equal rights, and, instead of being plunged in darkness and ignorance, the people had been free and consequently capable of feeling and thinking, the national cause, imperilled by the indolence and perversity of one part of the citizens, would have been saved by those who now looked on without giving a sign of life.  The “some thousands” here spoken of are of course the nobles, who had grasped all the political power and almost all the wealth of the nation, and, imitating the proud language of Louis XIV, could, without exaggeration, have said:  “L’etat c’est nous.”  As for the king and the commonalty, the one had been deprived of almost all his prerogatives, and the other had become a rightless rabble of wretched peasants, impoverished burghers, and chaffering Jews.  Rousseau, in his Considerations sur le gouvernement de Pologne, says pithily that the three orders of which the Republic of Poland was composed were not, as had been so often and illogically stated, the equestrian order, the senate, and the king, but the nobles who were everything, the burghers who were nothing, and the peasants who were less than nothing.  The nobility of Poland differed from that of Other countries not only in its supreme political and social position, but also in its numerousness, character, and internal constitution.

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Frederick Chopin, as a Man and Musician — Volume 1 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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