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Title: Portret szlachty czasów stanisławowskich, epoki kryzysu, odrodzenia i upadku Rzeczypospolitej w pamiętnikach polskich
Authors: Rolnik, Dariusz
Keywords: szlachta polska; pamiętniki polskie; Stanisław August Poniatowski; historia
Issue Date: 2011
Publisher: Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Śląskiego
Abstract: There is a strong belief among Polish historiographers, that the Republic fell admittedly because of vices and faults of its citizens, but also at the very moment its national revival commenced. Different interpretations of the statement as there were, their most important element was a citizen nobleman who saw the necessity of reforms aiming to increase the prestige, authority and power of the state. This area included also the whole spectrum of issues formely unsolved in the Polish state. In this context, it is important to look at the gentry as close as possible. It might help us understand why it changed its attitude towards the state and other related social and ideological issues. An attempt to present or build up such a collective portrait of the Polish nobility under Stanisław August Poniatowski on the basis of diaries can be a step in this direction. Such a dynamic presentation of the nobility arises from the inner chronological partitioning of the research material. It has been divided into three groups. The first group of diaries covers reports written before the fall of the First Republic, that is until 1795. The second one involves memoires of the people, acting in various areas of everyday life, after the fall of the Polish state but also politically active i.e. mature in the times of Stanisław August Poniatowski. The third group of diaries contains descriptions of the past produced by the people born between 1780 and 1795. All in all, the study is based on about 300 diaries. The present dissertation is divided into four chapters covering all of the most important spheres of the noblemen s activity. Chapter I The Nobility in the Circle of Family and Household for Peace, Stability and Strength of the House presents the noblemen in their natural environment, namely depicts their attitude to family and possessions. Also the values considered to be the most important to the nobility in everyday life as well as the features they felt proud of and those disapproved of in others are discussed. Such a catalogue of features and values of the Polish nobility positions religiousness next to debauchery, fear next to courage, hospitality and goodness also with respect to lower social classes next to selfishness. Chapter II Citizens towards the State for the preserving and well being of the Republic the Native Country, presents a stereotypical portrait of the nobility in those times, all visible vices and virtues of an average nobleman included. The leitmotif of this Chapter are the recurring dilemas between a private interest and that of the state. Here, the attitude of the middle nobility to Stanisław August was described, both to his rule and person, as well as to the mighty elites of the nobility and to the curves of history that the Republic got through in Stanisław August times. It also presents the hierarchy of values the citizens followed in the case of choice, what the love of their own country and freedom meant to them, what their ideal, faultless state was to be, if and to what extent their understanding of nation changed, to what degree their attachment to it depended on the community of interests and aims, culture and language. Chapters III and IV expand and complete the area of observation thus allowing to verify certain fragments of the portrait. They show the citizens of the Republi in soldiercraft and in priesthood . The portrait of the nobility as a whole, created mostly by the nobility itself, reflects its stereotypical images, functioning at that time. A portrait of the nobility in its homely environment, with its visibly outlined vices and virtues, reinforced, at least in the sphere of theory and ideology, by the norms of behaviour strengthened by the functioning tradition, is very positive. It is humane and natural with each group of diarists, the emphasis being put on the first one though. Here the lack of willingness to create or confabulate a certain reality is painfully direct, from the criticism of dishonourable behaviour towards their mates, though sometimes not perceived as such, to explicit protection to obtain financial benefits. The second group of diarists, on the other hand, has the tendency to create a portrait of the gentry interested in the effectiveness of their enterprise to build up the power of their house which suggests their endeavour to realize Arcadia s myth in their homes. That very trend remained unchanged with the third group of diaries. In Chapter II the portrait of the nobility is more diversified in all three groups of diaries. In the first type of diaries the nobility is fairly neutral, distanced from the politics, though taking part in it, treating the advantage of Moscow as a natural phenomenon but at the same time considering it the reason of evil observed in the country. The diaristst of the second group thought a bit different though they do not deny the fact of Moscow s advantage over the Republic. They claim that the whole evil derives from the magnates advantage who were first to control their poorer mates and, with their eyes fixed on their own interests, fought with one another, ignoring the Republic. It spoilt the former traditions and principles. They stopped thinking about their country; it became the matter of secondary importance. Imaginary needs of the magnates led to betrayal and as a result the whole nation suffered. Yet such radical and severe images of the citizens in the reign of Stanisław August Poniatowski do not predominate in diary descriptions. There were many more causes that brought about the fall of the Republic the nobility was not accused of. On the one hand, recording the events, diarists often presented the gentry in the situations revealing their weaknesses. On the other hand, having in view the nobility s good they tried to understand and, at times, excuse their negative behaviour by other virtues. What predominates is the authenticity and good nature of a citizen. A nobleman in its military role complements some aspects of the portrait. It proves his inclination to stabilisation. Depending on the the financial status in the society, the soldiercraft was a path to settle or make a career. It is accepted by all diary writers who underline its difficulty though it is the third group of diarists which points to its honesty. It was a turn towards bringing knighthood back to favour in the noble society. In terms of characterological features a soldier did not differ much from a nobleman-landholder nor from a citizen-politician. It was only the financial status that made the gentry take on the inclinations of the poorer nobility that is why the issues connected with everyday existence determined to a large extent their behaviour. Irrespective of the time they were written the diaries present cleric nobility as resembling the general features shown in the portrait. The diaries written by clergymen, originating from the nobility, do not differ much from those written by the nobility. The difference lies in a milder look at the figures of the epoch, a kindness of their authors, a greater distance to what is earthly. In a way, it justifies the attitude of neutrality of clergymen in the critical moments of the Republic s history, which was sometimes explained by Divine Providence. What links lay and cleric authors are mainly the issues of an economic nature and those connected with professional career and religiousness. The image of the clergy is quite decent due to the religiousness declared by diary writers of the three groups and showed by them. The evil is condensed in a few figures commonly referred to as unworthy of being called Polishmen. All diary writers follow the same pattern. Rich clergymen who, in the majority of cases, derive from rich families, are evaluated negatively. The ones evaluated more positively in terms of morality, ethics and politics are priests or monks, less frequently noticed and lower-ranked in the social hierarchy. They are characterologically similar to the noblemen citizens. The portrait of the nobility in the reign of Stanisław August Poniatowski in Polish diaries was dominated by political issues where the year 1795 is a kind of ceasura. At that time, it was a decisive moment. Their world changed rapidly: botn in their fathers homes, woken up in a foreign state, they changed their attitude to the future. And so did change the portrait of the gentry of Stanisław August Poniatowski times. Although clear symptoms of changes in the way of thinking about reality surrounding them were visible as early as the time of Great Sejm, it was only after the fall of the Polish state that a different perspective concerning the times of Stanisław August and their citizens consolidated. What became significant was the attachment to tradition, old Polish customs and religiousnes. They comprise such indicators as own country, widely understood citizen liberties and devotion to family. The canon of features ascribed to the nobility was stable and did not undergo diversification in all kinds of diaries. They all pointed out courage in the defence of the world created by the nobility and in the defence of the nation. It is connected with the other features such as love of their own country, hospitality and openness. These, especially in descriptions written by the second and third group of diary writers, are presented on the basis of the projection of dreams in defence of such a positive image of the nobility. Optimistically speaking, one could assume that schematically drawn heroic nobleman-citizen, devoted to his country and family is an unchanging model. It is an ideal model based on the images of diary writers, not on the observation of reality and other sources.
ISBN: 978-83-226-1796-0
Appears in Collections:Książki/rozdziały (W.Hum.)

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