TOPICS OF THE DAY.
Pousif insurrections are always misconstrued ; on the one hand, by those who see in them nothing but the realizing of their own theories and wishes ; on the other, by those who, taking a more real yet too superficial view, judge them like similar movements in Western Europe. Struggles of reflecting, intelligent citizens, for equal rights and improved political institutions, the Polish insur- rections never have been. Characterized by false estimates of the competency of means to attain an end, and by excesses of fierce passion, they always have been. At first view they appear to have much in common with the machine-breaking riots or Cato Street conspiracies of England ; but closer inspection shows that they differ widely from these both in their characters and consequences. The liberty aimed at by Polish insurrections is mere national independence, rather than constitutional guarantees for the rights and securities of individuals. At the time of the first partition of Poland, the party which sincerely wished to emancipate the serfs, and substitute an hereditary limited monarchy for a lawless oligarchy, constituted numerically a small portion of the nation. The subsequent events of Polish history have not been favour- able to the growth of that material wealth among the unprivi- leged classes, and that general culture among all, which is the only sure basis of constitutional government. The Polish people —nation, alas I no longer—consist of three classes : the peasantry —mere serfs ; the mercantile class—mainly consisting of Jew pedlars, without a sense of nationality or the routine virtues of the substantial burgher; and the noblesse—including under that designation all members of the educated professions. It is the third class alone who entertain political opinions and sentiments. The traders are immersed in the petty details of their retail (often smuggling) traffic; the peasantry are contented when well fed, and utterly lawless in periods of distress and political excitement. For the sake of the head-money offered by the Austrian Govern- ment, they have delivered up their insurgent nobles, dead or alive and then taken the road to plunder on their own account.
The political opinions and sentiments of the noblesse, or edu-
cated class are limited to the one idea that their nationality has been blotted out. The Poles of the Prussian and Austrian pro- vinces are governed by Germans, in accordance with German opinions and institutions ; the Poles of the Russian provinces are governed by Russians and their laws. There is nowhere any Polish government. There are many Poles ; but not one of them can obtain political power or influence except by the sacrifice of his nationality—by adoption into the dominant class. With a lively remembrance of traditions of national power, the Poles feel themselves even in their own land a scattered people and degraded caste, like the Jews or Gipsies. The educated and sometimes wealthy Pole, received into general society as the equal of nobles, feels this degradation acutely, and seeks to reconstruct his nation in order to get rid of it. The most active, daring, and intelligent spirits in the conspiracies to which this sentiment gives rise, are most of them confiscated exiles of longer or shorter standing ; men exasperated bysevere losses—reckless as having nothing more to lose—imbued with the exaggerated notions of °political enthu- siasts and fanatics, who have always, in those countries where they have sought asylums, been foremost in cultivating their acquaintance. To these circumstances are owing the dreamy imaginative character of all Polish insurrectionary movements, and their tone of revolutionary ferocity. The rash pride of the Polish nobles, who argued with their sabres at their Diets, has been rendered more intractable by fifty years of fierce losing struggles ; and it is only in periods of general distress that the educated classes, susceptible of the sentiment of nationality, can arouse the masses.
Yet would the reestablishment of Polish nationality be a gain
for humanity. The Russian and Austrian despotisms are only ca- pable of keeping peoples in subjection, not of preserving order among free citizens. Even under the more popular institutions of Prussia, the Poles have no chance : the German Ascendancy in Posen is rapidly assuming the characteristics of the defunct Orange Ascendancy in Ireland. Notwithstanding their practical Liberalism, the false position in which the Prussian Government and people stand to their Polish subjects is generating this un- healthy relation between the governed and governing races in the Sclavonic provinces of the kingdom. It is only under a national government that the class which in France, England, and Ame- rica, has become the most powerful class, can be called into exist- ence. The alien governments to whom the dismembered Polish provinces have been subjected dare not educate their Polish sub- jects; for every extension of education increases the class alive to the traditions of national independence, the class upon which the numerous exiles can work with success. The physical wellbeing of the middle classes, and the diffusion of information which an enlightened regard to its own interests would teach a national government to promote, are the very things which Russia' Aus- tria, and to a great extent even Prussia, must jealously check.
For a people who have once resigned themselves to the condition of a degraded caste; there is no hope ; they can only die out, and leave the earth to their betters. Unless Polish nationality be restored, the Poles must become a degraded caste : and what a protracted period of human debasement and suffering must elapse before this numerous and high-spirited people be extirpated or absorbed by assimilation into the dominant races!
Viewed as this light, the restoration of the Polish nation would be a blessing to the East of Europe; obvious though it is that Poland would long be a theatre for the contests of fierce factions, and slender the prospect of equal well-administered laws extended to all classes. l'slor is the struggle of the Poles to reestablish their nationality utterly hopeless. The late explosion in Cracow has evidently been precipitated by the march of the Austrian soldiery into that city, to break up a secret organization of which the Government at Vienna had received intelligence. It is ob- vious that throughout the Polish provinces there were every- where affiliated associations preparing a national movement. Taken by surprise and isolated as they are, it requires the com- bined forces of Austria, Prussia, and Russia, to put down the in- surrection speedily. Had the Poles encountered only Russia— with her armies disproportioned to the extent of territory they occupy, her dilapidated finances, the difficulty of establishing ma- gazines in a year of scarcity, and the obstacles interposed by a mild wet winter in a fiat marshy country intersected by large rivers—time might have been given to so wide-spread an or- ganization to consolidate itself. Upon the continuance of pacific relations and a perfectly good understanding among the three Powers who have shared Poland between them, depends the sup- pression of Polish nationality; and keeping down the Poles is almost the only object that the three Powers have in common. If Austria and Prussia could discern their true interests, they might not offer a very strenuous opposition to the reestablish- ment of the kingdom of Poland, even though the event were brought about by a cession of part of their Polish provinces.. Until the last spark of Polish nationality is extinguished, or tha kingdom of Poland restored, the Polish provinces will be theatres of insurrection, each successive rising wilder and wilder. This insurrectionary spirit in the Austrian dominions may at any time create a diversion in favour of insurrectionary movements in Hungary or Italy. In Prussia it may divert and impede the Government in its wise though not unambitious German policy. Were the kingdom of Poland, as defined at the Congress of Vienna, established and made independent, it is very improbable that its Government would be so mad as to provoke the hostility of Austria and Prussia by asserting claims to those provinces of old Poland which have been de facto Germanized. In the inde- pendent kingdom of Poland, that very spirit which makes con-- spirators and disturbers of order in Prussia and Austria, diverted into legitimate channels of activity, would become a useful social element. The existence of a Polish kingdom, by removing Russia to a greater distance, might diminish her mischievous and aimless but incessant intrigues in Western Europe. In Poland there would be a Sclavome nation: in Russia there must long be mere serfs of an autocrat governing by clever aliens picked up from all parts of Europe. Unless the chapter of acci- dents force such a policy upon the Prussian and Austrian Governments, there is little chance of their adopting it : and yet experience should by this time have taught them, that the exten- sion of their territory by annexing parts of Poland—however excusable when it is remembered what a nuisance that lawless republic had made itself by hawking about its elective crown among the ambitious princes of Europe—has rather diminished than augmented their strength.