Read CHAPTER IX - EXILE of Kosciuszko A Biography , free online book, by Monica Mary Gardner, on

The great and romantic chapter of Kosciuszko’s history is now closed. Twenty more years of life remained to him. Those years were passed in exile. He never again saw his country.

The third partition of Poland was carried out by Russia, Austria, and Prussia in 1795, while the man who had offered his life and liberty to avert it lay in a Russian prison. Not even the span of Poland’s soil which Kosciuszko and his soldiers had watered with their blood was left to her. To that extinction of an independent state, lying between Russia and the Central Powers, barring the progress of Prussia to the Baltic and the East, the most far-seeing politicians ascribe the world-war that has been so recently devastating the world.

It was therefore in bitter grief of heart that Kosciuszko set out for Sweden. Besides Niemcewicz, he had with him a young Polish officer, named Libiszewski, who had eagerly offered himself to serve Kosciuszko in any capacity till he reached the United States. He carried Kosciuszko to carriage or couch, and distracted his sadness by his admirable playing on the horn and by his sweet singing. He died still young of fever in Cuba.

In the short northern day of four hours the party made a long and tedious journey, impeded by the bitter weather, through the pine forests of Finland. The country was buried in snow, and so rough was the travelling that the three Poles had to pass a night in the common hall of the inn, with pigs as their sleeping companions. Kosciuszko’s fame had spread all over Europe. Sweden held herself proud that he was her guest, greeting him as “one of the greatest men of our century.” At Stockholm the notables of the city crowded to pay their respects on foot, in order not to disturb the invalid with the sound of carriages and horses. He was not, however, very accessible. By temperament he shrank from either publicity or fame; and in his state of physical and mental suffering he had no heart for the honours showered upon him. He systematically discouraged the forerunners of the modern interviewers who were eager for “copy,” and as far as he could he kept to himself, his relaxations being his own drawing, and the music of which he was always passionately fond, and with which his Swedish admirers were careful to provide him. A Swedish writer, who was staying in the same hotel, desired to visit him, but dared not do so, partly for fear of intruding upon him, and partly because he owned that he could not keep from tears at the sight of the Polish patriot, so deeply had Kosciuszko’s history affected the public of those days. Finally, he made the plunge, and asked Kosciuszko’s permission for a young Swedish painter to take his portrait. Kosciuszko courteously refused; but an engraver surreptitiously took notes of his features, and reproduced them in a likeness that travelled all over Sweden, depicting him, as our own Cosway did afterwards, reclining, his face, says the Swedish description, expressing the sufferings of his soul over his countrys fate."

From Stockholm Kosciuszko passed on to Göteborg to await a ship for England. Here too the inhabitants vied with each other to do him honour, and arranged amateur concerts for him in his rooms. On the 16th of May the Poles embarked. After three weeks’ passage in a small merchant vessel, they landed at Gravesend, and thence reached London. “Kosciuszko, the hero of freedom, is here,” announced the Gentleman’s Magazine; and indeed the English papers were full of him. He stayed in Leicester Square. The whole of London made haste to visit him. The leading politicians, including Fox, men of letters, among whom we find Sheridan, the beauties of the day and the rulers of fashion, all alike thronged his rooms. To Walter Savage Landor, then a mere youth, the sight of Kosciuszko awoke the sympathy for Poland that he never lost, to which English literature owes one of his Imaginary Conversations. More than half a century later he looked back to the moment in which he spoke to Kosciuszko as the happiest of his life. The Whig Club presented Kosciuszko with a sword of honour. The beautiful Duchess of Devonshire pressed upon him a costly ring, which went the way of most of the gifts that Kosciuszko received: he gave them away to friends. All such tokens of admiration had never counted for anything in Kosciuszko’s life, and now they were the merest baubles to a man who had seen his country fall. In the portrait that, against his wish and without his knowledge, Cosway painted, said by Niemcewicz to resemble him as none other, we see him, lying with bandaged head in an attitude of deep and sorrowful musing. The face, the whole attitude, are those of one absorbed by an overmastering grief that filled his soul to the exclusion of all else. The fine portrait has found its way to Kosciuszko’s native land, and is now in Warsaw. The English doctor recommended by Rogerson attended Kosciuszko assiduously, and the Russian ambassadors kindness was so unfailing that Kosciuszko, sending him his farewells as he left England, wrote: If ever I recover part of my health it will be sweet to me to remember that it is to your attentions, to the interest that you took in me, that I shall owe it."

Bristol was at that time the English port of sailings for America. It was there that after a fortnight’s stay in London Kosciuszko betook himself, passing a night in Bath on the way. He found in Bristol old friends of his American days. He was the guest of one of them, now the United States consul, as long as he stayed in the town. A guard of honour received him, long processions of the townsfolk flocked to catch a glimpse of him, a military band played every evening before the consulate, and the city gave him a handsome silver service. An Englishman who visited him in Bristol records the impression that Kosciuszko made on all who saw him, of one whose whole being breathed devotion to his country. The same witness speaks of a soul unbroken by misfortune, by wounds, poverty, and exile; of an eagle glance, of talk full of wit and wisdom.

The course down the Avon to the point where Kosciuszko’s ship lay at anchor was a triumphal progress. He was accompanied by English officers in full dress, by the American consul and a host of well-wishers. All heads were bared as he was carried on board. The whole length of the river handkerchiefs were waved from the banks. Farewells resounded from every rock and promontory, where spectators had crowded to see the last of the Polish hero. Boats shot out from the private dwellings on the waterside, laden with flowers and fruits for the departing guest. Not a few men and women boarded the ship and accompanied Kosciuszko for some distance before they could bring themselves to part with him.

For nearly two months Kosciuszko and his Polish companions tossed on the Atlantic, running on one occasion a near chance of shipwreck. Philadelphia was their destination. Once in America, Kosciuszko trod soil familiar and dear to him. “I look upon America,” he said, replying in French to the deputation of Philadelphia’s citizens who came on board to welcome him, “as my second country, and I feel myself too happy when I return to her.” The cannon from the fort and a storm of cheering greeted him as he landed, and amidst cries of “Long live Kosciuszko!” the citizens drew his carriage to his lodging.

Washington had just ceased to be President. His successor, Adams, wrote congratulating Kosciuszko on his arrival, after the glorious efforts you have made on a greater theatre." Washington wrote also:” Having just been informed of your safe arrival in America, I was on the point of writing to you a congratulatory letter on the occasion, welcoming you to the land whose liberties you have been so instrumental in establishing, when I received your favour of the 23rd. [A letter of Kosciuszkos with a packet he had been requested to convey to Washington.] ... I beg you to be assured that no one has a higher respect and veneration for your character than I have; and no one more sincerely wished, during your arduous struggle in the cause of liberty and your country, that it might be crowned with success. But the ways of Providence are inscrutable, and mortals must submit. I pray you to believe that at all times and under any circumstances it would make me happy to see you at my last retreat, from which I never expect to be more than twenty miles again."

The story of the meeting between Washington and Kosciuszko, of Kosciuszko’s words, “Father, do you recognize your son?” is a myth. They met neither in Philadelphia nor elsewhere. The above letter is the last indication of any intercourse between them. Washington at this period was regarded with no favour by the democracy. Kosciuszko’s sympathies were with the latter and with Jefferson, and he never accepted the invitation to Washington’s home in Mount Vernon.

Yellow fever breaking out in Philadelphia, Kosciuszko went for a time elsewhere: first to New York, to the beautiful house of his old friend and commander, Gates, later to New Brunswick, where he stayed with another friend of the past. General White, in a family circle that attracted his warm regard. He was still confined to his sofa, and amused himself by his favourite pastime of drawing and painting, tended by the ladies of the house with a solicitude which drew from him after he had gone back to Philadelphia a charming “hospitable roof” letter. I have been unable to see the original English in which Kosciuszko wrote this letter, which is given in a privately printed American memoir. I am therefore obliged to translate it from the Polish version, which is in its turn a translation into Polish from Kosciuszko’s English. We therefore lose the flavour of Kosciuszko’s not wholly correct manipulation of our language:


“I cannot rest till I obtain your forgiveness in all its fulness for the trouble I gave you during my stay in your house. ... Perhaps I was the cause of depriving you of amusements more suited to your liking and pleasure, than busying yourself with me. You never went out to pay visits. You were kind enough to ask me daily what I liked, what I did not like: all my desires were carried out; all my wishes were anticipated, to gratify me and to make my stay agreeable. Let me receive an answer from you, forgiving me, I beg Eliza [her daughter] to intercede for me. I owe you too great a debt to be able to express it in words adequate to my obligation and my gratitude. Let this suffice, that I shall never forget it, and that its memory will never be extinguished for even one moment in my heart."

He gave these ladies some of the splendid presents he had received from the Russian Tsar: magnificent furs, a necklace of Siberian corals, and to White himself the Duchess of Devonshire’s ring. His memory went down through the family, and Mrs. White’s grandson often heard his grandmother tell of her Polish guest, and how she held no other man his equal with the patriotic exception of Washington! White was a valuable auxiliary to Kosciuszko in a somewhat intricate piece of business. To live on the gift of money which Paul I had given him was an odious position that Kosciuszko would not tolerate. It was his intention to return it, and to claim from Congress the arrears of the stipend owing to him from 1788, and that through some mischance had never reached him. With White’s assistance a portion of the American sum was handed over to him; but the return of the Tsar’s present was not so easy. Niemcewicz pointed out that such a proceeding would infallibly rouse the revenge of the Tsar upon the Poles in his dominions. This decision was against Kosciuszko’s personal feeling on the matter. He bided his time, and, as we shall see, at a more propitious moment took his own counsel. A bevy of visitors and admirers again surrounded Kosciuszko in Philadelphia. Among them were the future Louis Philippe, with the Princes de Montpensier and Beaujolais. They called themselves citizens of France, and sported the tricolour. They often spent the evening with Kosciuszko, and on their farewell visit Kosciuszko gave the younger prince a pair of fur boots. But the man with whom Kosciuszko was on the closest and warmest terms of intimacy was Thomas Jefferson. The pastel portrait that Kosciuszko painted of this dear friend is preserved among Polands national relics. He, wrote Jefferson to Gates, is the purest son of liberty among you all that I have ever known, the kind of liberty which extends to all, not only to the rich." To Jefferson Kosciuszko confided the testament of his American property, which he had been granted from Congress on the close of the War of Independence, and which lay in Ohio on the site of the present city of Columbus; to Jefferson, again, was entrusted the conduct of Kosciuszko’s secret departure from the States in 1798.

Some time in the March of that year a packet of letters from Europe was handed to Kosciuszko. His emotion on reading the contents was so strong that, despite his crippled condition, he sprang from his couch and staggered without a helping hand to the middle of the room. “I must return at once to Europe,” he said to General White, with no further explanation. Jefferson procured him a passport to France under a false name, and then with only Jefferson’s knowledge, with no word either to Niemcewicz or to his servant, for both of whom he left a roll of money in a drawer in his cupboard, he sailed for France. Before he embarked he wrote out the will that he sent to Jefferson in which, more than half a century before the war of North and South, the Polish patriot pleaded for the emancipation of the negro slaves.

“I, Thaddeus Kosciuszko” the text is the original English “being just in my departure from America, do hereby declare and direct that should I make no other testamentary disposition of my property in the United States thereby authorize my friend Thomas Jefferson to employ the whole thereof in purchasing negroes from among his own as any others and giving them liberty in my name, in giving them an education in trades or otherwise, and in haying them instructed for their new condition in the duties of morality which may make them good neighbours, good fathers or mothers, husbands or wives, and in their duties as citizens, teaching them to be defenders of their liberty and country and of the good order of society and in whatsoever may make them happy and useful, and I make the said Thomas Jefferson my executor of this.

“T. Kosciuszko.

“5th day of May, 1798.”

There seems to have been some difficulty in the way of putting the bequest into effect, perhaps, suggests Korzon, on account of Jefferson’s advanced years by the time that the testator was dead. It was never carried out; but in 1826 the legacy went to found the coloured school at Newark, the first educational institute for negroes to be opened in the United States, and which bore Kosciuszko’s name.

The secret of his movements is easily deciphered in a man of Kosciuszko’s stamp. It was the call of his country that drew him back to Europe.

For we have reached that period of Polish history which belongs to the Polish legions: the moment of brilliance and of glory when; led by the Polish flags, Polish soldiers in the armies of Napoleon shed their blood on every battlefield of Europe. In the hope of regaining from Napoleon the freedom of their country, the former soldiers of the Republic, no less than the rising young Polish manhood, panting with passionate patriotism and with the warlike instinct of their race, enrolled themselves in the French army. “Poland has not perished while we live,” was the song, the March of Dombrowski, with which they went to battle, and which to this day forbidden though it has been by their oppressors, we may hear Poles sing at national gatherings. The leader of the legions was the gallant Dombrowski. Fellow-citizens! Poles! cried he in his manifesto to his nation in language strangely prophetic of the hour that is scarcely past, when we have seen a Polish army in Polish uniform fighting for liberty by the side of the Allies in the European War: Hope is rising! France is conquering. The battalions are forming. Comrades, join us! Fling away the weapons which you have been compelled to bear. Let us fight for the common cause of all the nations, for freedom."

In these early days Napoleon’s betrayal of Poland was a tale still untold; but to the end the Poles fought by his side with a hope in him that only died with his fall, with a love and loyalty to his person that survived it.

Such was the news that travelled across the Atlantic to Kosciuszko with dispatches that informed him that his two nephews, sons of his sister Anna, who had borne arms in the Rising, had been sent in the name of Kosciuszko by their mother to Bonaparte with the prayer that they might serve in his ranks. By the end of June, 1798, Kosciuszko was in France, in Bayonne.

The accustomed acclamations greeted him there. Some fete-champetre was arranged at which Kosciuszko, the guest of honour, watched peasants laying their ploughs at the feet of soldiers, in exchange for the weapons of war. “It would have been thus in Poland,” he was heard to murmur to himself, “if fate had not betrayed us.”

In Paris he heard sympathy with himself and the Polish cause expressed on all sides. Public toasts to the defender of the nation who was pouring her blood like water in the cause of France were the order of the hour. Kosciuszko was moved to tears as he listened to the utterance of these good wishes for his country’s liberation. His first task was to confer with the various foreign ambassadors and with Dombrowski’s adjutant, Dombrowski being in Italy. He then definitely broke the bond between himself and Paul I. He returned the money received from the Tsar with the following letter:

“I am profiting by the first moment of liberty which I am enjoying under the fostering laws of the greatest and noblest of nations to send you back a gift, to the acceptance of which I was forced by the manifestations of your benevolence and the merciless proceedings of your ministers. If I agreed to accept it, let Your Majesty ascribe this only to the unconquerable strength of the attachment which I bear to my compatriots, the companions of my misfortunes, as well as to my hopes of still serving my country. It seemed to me that my unhappy condition moved your heart, but your ministers and their satellites did not proceed with me according to your wishes. Therefore, since they have dared to ascribe to my free resolution an act to which they forced me, I will disclose their violence and perfidy before you and before all men who know the worth of honour, and may they only be answerable before you, Sire, for the proclamation of their unworthy conduct."

At the same time that Kosciuszko forwarded this letter to the Tsar he published it in two French papers. The Tsar’s reply was to return the sum through the Russian ambassador in Vienna, with the remark that he would “accept nothing from traitors.” It lay untouched in an English bank till Kosciuszko’s death.

Even before the repudiation of Kosciuszko’s oath reached Petersburg the fact of his arrival in France had roused the wrath of Paul’s envoy in Berlin, who deliberated with the Prussian ministers how to impede “the criminal intentions of the chief perpetrator and instigator of the revolution in Poland.” Kosciuszko’s instant arrest was decreed, should he ever be seen within the boundaries of Russia’s domination, and any one who entered into relations with him there was branded as a traitor. Austria and Prussia followed suit. Thus was Kosciuszko’s return to his own country barred before him.

Closely watched by Russian and Prussian spies, who communicated, often erroneously, to their respective governments the movements of “that adventurer,” as one of them styles him, Kosciuszko had his headquarters in Paris. He was there when Kniaziewicz, fresh from the triumphs of the legions in Italy, brought him, in the name of Poland, Sobieski’s sword. It had been preserved at Loreto, whither the deliverer of Vienna had sent it more than a century ago, after his triumph over the Turks. The newly founded Republic of Rome presented it to the officers of the Polish legions in 1798, who destined it for Kosciuszko. “God grant,” said Kosciuszko, in his letter of acknowledgment to his fellow-Poles, “that we may lay down our swords together with the sword of Sobieski in the temple of peace, having won freedom and universal happiness for our compatriots."

For a while Kosciuszko, continuously corresponding with the French government, acted more or less as the head of the legions. But when in October, 1799, the government officially offered him the leadership of the legions, he refused, for the reason that he saw no sign that France was prepared to recognize their distinct entity as a Polish national army, and because he suspected Bonaparte would use them merely as French regiments a corps of mercenaries, as the Polish patriot bitterly exclaims for his own ends. He had written September, 1799 to the Directory, eloquently reminding France that the Polish legions were founded to fight for the independence of Poland, and that in the hope of freedom the Poles had gladly fought enemies who were, besides their own, the enemies of freedom, but that their dearest hopes had already been deceived. These considerations impel me to beg you to show us some ray of hope regarding the restoration of independence to our country." He required guarantees from Bonaparte, and these he never received.

Young Bonaparte and the Pole met for the first time on the former’s return from his brilliant Egyptian campaign, when he called on Kosciuszko, Kniaziewicz being also in the room. The interview was brief and courteous. “I greatly wished,” said Napoleon, “to make the acquaintance of the hero of the North.” “And I,” replied Kosciuszko, “am happy to see the conqueror of Europe and the hero of the East.” At a subsequent official banquet at which Kosciuszko was present, some instinct warned him of the course Napoleon’s ambition was to take. “Be on your guard against that young man,” he said on that occasion to certain members of the French government; and a few days later Napoleon proclaimed himself First Consul. From that time Kosciuszko began to withdraw from relations with French officialdom, and to concern himself only with the private matters of the Polish legions, not with their public affairs. Lebrun reproached him for showing his face no more among the high officers of state. “You are now all so grand,” replied the son of the simple, far-distant Lithuanian home, “that I in my modest garb am not worthy to go among you.” In 1801 came the Treaty of Luneville with Napoleon’s bitter deception of Poland’s hopes. Rage and despair filled the Polish legions. Numbers of their soldiers tendered their resignations. Others remained in the French army, and were sent by Napoleon, to rid himself of them, said his enemies, on the disastrous expedition to San Domingo. Done to death by yellow fever, by the arms of the natives and the horrible onslaughts of the negroes’ savage dogs, four hundred alone survived to return.

Henceforth Kosciuszko would have nothing further to say to Bonaparte. Before a large audience at a gathering in the house of Lebrun the latter called out to Kosciuszko: Do you know, General, that the First Consul has been speaking about you? I never speak about him, Kosciuszko answered curtly, and he visited Lebrun no more. The anguish of this fresh wrong to his nation went far to break him. He again suffered intensely from the wound in his head, and old age seemed suddenly to come upon him. Many of the Polish soldiers who had left the legions were homeless and penniless. These Kosciuszko took pains to recommend to his old friend Jefferson, now President of the United States. God bless you so Jefferson ends his reply and preserve you still for a season of usefulness to your country."

Kosciuszko’s intercourse with his American friends did not slacken. At the request of one of them he wrote a treatise in French on artillery that, translated in the United States into English, became a textbook at West Point.

About this time Kosciuszko came across a Swiss family whose name will ever sound gratefully to the Polish ear as the friends under whose roof he found the domestic hearth that gladdened his declining years. The Republican sympathies of the Zeltner brothers, one of whom was the diplomatic representative of Switzerland in France, first attracted Kosciuszko to them. Their relations soon grew intimate; and Kosciuszko’s first visit in their house, his sojourn with them in the country at Berville, near Fontainebleau, that reminded him of the Poland he had lost for ever, were the beginning of a common household that only death severed.

Napoleon became emperor. He crushed Prussia at Jena, from Berlin summoned the Poles in “Prussian” Poland to rise, and sent his minister, Fouche, to Kosciuszko, as the leader whose name every Pole would follow, to engage him to place himself at their head. Kosciuszko received these proposals with the caution of a long and bitter experience. Would Napoleon, he asked, openly state what he intended to do for Poland? Fouche put him off with vague promises of the nature that the Poles had already heard, and of which the Treaty of Luneville had taught them the worth, coupled with threats of Napoleons personal vengeance on Kosciuszko if he opposed the Emperors desire. The Emperor, answered Kosciuszko, can dispose of me according to his will, but I doubt if in that case my nation would render him any service. But in the event of mutual, reciprocal services my nation, as well as I, will be ready to serve him. May Providence forbid, he added solemnly, that your powerful and august monarch shall have cause to regret that he despised our goodwill."

But the tide of Napoleonic worship ran too high not to carry all before it. Kosciuszko’s was the one dissentient voice. Before the interview with Fouche had taken place, Wybicki and Dombrowski, unable to conceive that Kosciuszko would take a different line, had given their swords to the Emperor. Jozef Poniatowski did likewise. In November, 1808, Napoleon entered Poznan (Posen). In the same month the French armies were in Warsaw, and the Poles, in raptures of rejoicing, were hailing Napoleon as the liberator of their nation. Fouche, already cognizant of Kosciuszko’s attitude, issued a bogus manifesto, purporting to be from Kosciuszko, summoning his countrymen to Napoleon’s flag. But Kosciuszko himself only consented to repair to Warsaw, and throw his weight into the balance for Napoleon, if the Emperor would sign in writing and publicly proclaim his promise to restore Poland under the following three conditions:

(1) That the form of Poland’s government should be that of the English constitution;

(2) That the peasants should be liberated and possess their own land; and

(3) That the old boundaries of Poland should be reinstated.

He wrote to this effect to Fouche, and privately told a Polish friend that if the Emperor consented to these conditions he would fall at his feet and swear to the gratitude of the whole nation. The reply given by Napoleon to Fouche was that he attached no importance to Kosciuszko. His conduct proves that he is only a fool."

Active service for Poland was thus closed to Kosciuszko. Anxious to leave a Napoleon-ridden France, he requested permission to retire to Switzerland. It was refused, and he had nothing for it but to remain in his French country retreat, under police supervision. He stayed there for the five years that Napoleon’s conquests shook the world, condemning with his whole soul the spread of an empire on ruin and bloodshed, occupying himself with his favourite hobbies of gardening and handicrafts, working at his turning and making wooden clogs. The family with whom he lived was as his own. His name was given to the three children who were born since his residence under its roof: the only one of them who survived infancy Taddea Emilia became the beloved child of Kosciuszko’s old age. The eldest son learnt from him love for Poland and fought in the Polish Rising of 1830.

The story of the Russian campaign of 1812, with the passion of hope that it evoked in the Polish nation and its extinction in the steppes of Russia, need not be repeated here. In March, 1814, the allied armies and the monarchs of Russia and Prussia entered Paris.

Alexander I, the youth who had visited Kosciuszko in prison, was now Tsar of Russia. In the days when Alexander was a neglected heir at the court of Catherine II young Adam Czartoryski was a hostage at the same court, concealing his yearning for his country and loathing for his surroundings under the icy reserve that was his only defence. One day Alexander drew the young prince aside in the palace gardens, told him that he had long observed him with sympathy and esteem, and that it was his intention when he succeeded to the throne to restore Poland. This was the beginning of that strange friendship which led to a Pole directing the foreign policy of Russia in the years preceding the Congress of Vienna, and ended in Alexander’s betrayal of Czartoryski’s nation.

But in the spring of 1814 Alexander was still of liberal and generous tendencies. That Kosciuszko must have left a strong impression on his memory is evident; for on entering Paris he performed the graceful act of charging the Polish officers about him with courteous messages for the patriot of Poland. Kosciuszko never lost an opportunity of furthering the cause to which his life was devoted. He at once wrote to the Tsar, venturing, so he said, from his “remote corner” of the world to lay three requests before him. The first was that Alexander should proclaim a general amnesty for the Poles in his dominions and that the Polish peasants, dispersed in foreign countries, should be considered not serfs, but free men, on their return to Poland; the second, that Alexander should proclaim himself king of a free Poland, to be ruled by a constitution on the pattern of England’s, and that schools for the peasantry should be opened at the cost of the state as the certain means of ensuring to them their liberty. “If,” he added, “my requests are granted, I will come in person, although sick, to cast myself at the feet of Your Imperial Majesty to thank you and to render you homage as to my sovereign. If my feeble talents can still be good for anything, I will immediately set out to rejoin my fellow-citizens so as to serve my country and my sovereign honourably and faithfully."

He then asks a private favour not for himself: that Zeltner, who had a large family to support and whom Kosciuszko was too poor to help, might be given some post in the new French government, or in Poland.

He received no answer; and so came into Paris and obtained an audience. Alexander greeted him as an honoured friend, and bade him be assured of his good intentions towards Poland. A stream of visits and receptions then set in, at which Kosciuszko was the recipient of public marks of esteem, not only from the Tsar, but from his brother, the Grand Duke Constantine, whose ill-omened name was later to win for itself the execration of the Polish nation. But Kosciuszko was too far-sighted to content himself with promises. He asked for a written statement of what his country might expect from the Tsar. Alexander answered, on the 3rd of May, 1814:

“Your dearest wishes will be accomplished. With the aid of the Almighty I hope to bring about the resurrection of the valiant and admirable nation to which you belong. I have taken upon myself this solemn obligation. ... Only political circumstances have placed obstacles against the execution of my intentions. Those obstacles no longer exist, ... Yet a little more time and prudence, and the Poles shall regain their country, their name, and I shall have the pleasure of convincing them that, forgetting the past, the man whom they held for their enemy is the man who shall fulfil their desires."

Further personal interviews followed between Kosciuszko and the Tsar. Later, Kosciuszko called upon these as his witness when, at the Congress of Vienna, Alexander went back upon his given word. The question of Poland was now to come up in the European Congress, as one of the most pressing problems of the stability of Europe. Alexander I’s intention was to found a kingdom of Poland of which he should be crowned king. Adam Czartoryski, Alexander’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, requested Kosciuszko to repair to Vienna and deliberate with himself and the Tsar upon the matter. Napoleon was back from Elba and marching on Paris, and to ensure the possibility of prosecuting a journey under the complications of the hour Kosciuszko was advised to have his passport made out under some name not his own. He chose that of “Pole.”

With considerable difficulty, constantly turned back by police authorities, forbidden entrance by the Bavarian frontier, sent about from pillar to post, the white-haired, frail old soldier at last reached the Tsar’s headquarters at Braunau. The Tsar and he conferred for a quarter of an hour. Kosciuszko derived small satisfaction from the interview, and immediately proceeded to visit Czartoryski in Vienna. Czartoryski had nothing good to tell. The wrangling over the Polish question at the Congress, the mutual suspicions and jealousies of every power represented, nearly brought about another war. In May, 1815, Russia, Austria, and Prussia signed an agreement for a renewed division of Poland between them. An autonomous Kingdom of Poland was, it is true, to be formed, with the Tsar as king, but only out of a small part of Poland. As regards the remaining Polish provinces that remained under Russia’s rule, they were severed from the Kingdom and incorporated with Russia.

Kosciuszko heard these things. Under the shock of his apprehensions he wrote to the Tsar, pleading in the strongest language at his command, that penetrates through the diplomatic wording he was compelled to use, against the separation of lands that were Polish from the mother country, the mutilated Kingdom of Poland.

After expressing his gratitude for what the Tsar was prepared to do in the foundation of the new Kingdom of Poland, he proceeds:

“One only anxiety troubles my soul and my joy.

Sire, I was born a Lithuanian, and I have only a few years to live. Nevertheless, the veil of the future still covers the destiny of my native land and of so many other provinces of my country. I do not forget the magnanimous promises that Your Majesty has deigned to make me by word of mouth in this matter, as well as to several of my compatriots ... but my soul, intimidated by such long misfortunes, needs to be reassured again. He is prepared faithfully to serve Alexander: let the writer descend to the tomb in the consoling certainty that all your Polish subjects will be called to bless your benefits."

In vain he waited for an answer. Then, openly, as to the Tsar he could not write, he wrote to Czartoryski:

“My Dear Prince,

“You are certainly convinced that to serve my country efficaciously is my chief object. The refusal of the Tsar to answer my last letter removes from me the possibility of being of service to her. I have consecrated my life to the greater part of the nation, when to the whole it was not possible, but not to that small part to which is given the pompous name of the Kingdom of Poland. We should give grateful thanks to the Tsar for the resuscitation of the lost Polish name, but a name alone does not constitute a nation. ... I see no guarantee of the promise of the Tsar made to me and many others of the restoration of our country from the Dnieper to the Dzwiha, the old boundaries of the Kingdom of Poland, except only in our desires. [That restoration alone, says Kosciuszko, can establish sound and friendly relations between Poland and Russia. If a free and distinct constitution of such a kingdom be conferred upon Poland, the Poles might enjoy happiness.] But as things go now, and from the very beginning, Russians hold together with ours the first places in the government. That certainly cannot inspire Poles with any great confidence. On the contrary, with dread each of us will form the conclusion that the Polish name will in time be held in contempt, and that the Russians will treat us as their conquered subjects, for such a scanty handful of a population will never be able to defend itself against the intrigues, the preponderance and the violence of the Russians. And can we keep silence on those brothers of ours remaining under the Russian government? [Lithuania and Ruthenia.] Our hearts shudder and suffer that they are not united to the others."

Again Kosciuszko’s unerring single-mindedness and high patriotism had pierced through all illusions and foretold the truth. His words were literally verified. Fifteen years later Europe saw his nation driven into an armed conflict for the rights that had been promised to her by Alexander, that were trampled upon by him and his successor, and the man, to whom the above warning was addressed, outlawed by the Russian Government for the part he played in the insurrection.

Kosciuszko also wrote to Lord Grey to the same effect. Grey replied:

To that first violation of the sacred principles of general liberty which was effected in the partition of 1772, and those that followed in 1793 and 1795, we must refer all the dangers to which the whole of Europe has been subsequently exposed. ... No real safeguard can exist against the return of these dangers, if Poland remains excluded from the benefits of a general deliverance, which, to be perfect, must be guaranteed by the solemn recognition of her rights and independence. If the powers who sought to profit by injustice and who, in the sequence, have suffered so much because of it, could learn the true lesson of experience, they would see that their mutual safety and tranquility would be best preserved by reestablishing among them, as a genuinely independent state, the country that a false policy has so cruelly oppressed. (Portman Square, London, July I, 1814.)

This was written a hundred years ago, and the Nemesis of history is still with us. The Congress of Vienna was a fresh partition of Poland.

If, so Kosciuszko wrote to Alexander, he could have returned “as a Pole to his country,” he would have done so. As it was, he refused to return to what he knew was treachery and deception. With the aspect of a man who had suffered shipwreck, he left Vienna, and retired for good and all from public life.

He was now sixty-nine, with his health, that he had never regained since he was wounded at Maciejowice, broken. All that he asked was to spend his declining years in free Switzerland with a little house and garden of his own. When it came to the point he took up his abode with the devoted Zeltners in Soleure, and his last days passed in peace among them. He prepared his morning coffee himself in his room, upon the walls of which hung a picture painted in sepia after his own indications of that glorious memory of his life the battle of Raclawice. He dined at the family table, and enjoyed his evening rubber of whist with the Zeltners, the family doctor, and a Swiss friend. Every hour was regularly employed. In the mornings he always wrote: what, we do not know, for he left orders to his executors to destroy his papers, and unfortunately was too well obeyed. In the afternoons he walked or rode out, generally on errands of mercy. The little girl of the house was his beloved and constant companion; and we have a pretty picture of the veteran hero of Poland teaching this child history, mathematics, and above all, drawing. His delight was to give children’s parties for her amusement, at which he led the games and dances and told stories. He was the most popular of playmates. His appearance in the roads was the signal for an onslaught of his child friends with gifts of flowers, while he never failed to rifle his pockets of the sweets with which he had stuffed them for the purpose. He loved not only children, but all young people. The young men and girls of the neighbourhood looked upon him as a father, and went freely to him for sympathy and advice.

Kosciuszko’s means were slender, and his tastes remained always simple. An old blue suit of well-patched clothes sufficed for him; but he must needs have a rose or violet in his buttonhole, with which the ladies of Soleure took care to keep him supplied.

The money he should have spent in furbishing up his own person went in charity and in providing Emilia with articles of dress, for the family, chiefly through the father’s improvidence, was badly off. He was known by the poor for many a mile around as their angel visitant. Outside his doors gathered daily an army of beggars, certain of their regular dole. Kosciuszko’s rides were slow, not only on account of his wounded leg, but because his horse stopped instinctively whenever a beggar was sighted, in the consciousness that his master never passed one by without giving alms. He was a familiar visitor in the peasants’ cottages. Here he would sit among the homely folk, encouraging them to tell him the tale of their troubles, pinching himself if only he could succour their distress. He would explain to his domestic circle long and unaccountable absences in wild wintry weather by the excuse that he had been visiting friends. The friends were peasants, sick and burdened with family cares, to whom the old man day after day carried through the snow the money they required, as the stranger benefactor who would not allow his name to be told.

Into this quiet routine broke the advent of distinguished men and women of every nation, eager to pay their homage to a man whose life and character had so deeply impressed Europe. An uncertain tradition has it that Ludwika Lubomirska visited him, and that in his old age the two former lovers talked together once more. Correspondence from known and unknown friends poured in upon him. Among these was the Princess of Carignano, the mother of Carlo Alberto, herself the daughter of a Polish mother, Franciszka Krasinska, through whom the blood of Poland flows in the veins of the present Royal House of Italy. Nor was England left out. A book, now forgotten, but largely read in a past generation, in which Kosciuszko’s exploits figure, Jane Porter’s Thaddeus of Warsaw, was sent to Kosciuszko by its author. Jane Porter had heard her brother’s description of the Polish hero, to whom he had spoken when Kosciuszko was in London. She had seen the Cosway portrait. In his letter of thanks Kosciuszko told her jestingly that he was glad that all her eulogies of him were “in a romance, because no one will believe them.” Either from him or from a friend of his she received a gold ring or, as some say, a medal, with a representation of himself engraved upon it.

Through these last years Kosciuszko’s heart ever clung fondly to his own land and language. On the French letters he received his hand, as he read, was wont to trace Polish proverbs, Polish turns of phrase. Tears were seen to rise to his eyes as, gazing at the beautiful panorama from a favourite spot of his in the Jura, a French friend recited Arnault’s elegy on the homeless and wandering leaf, torn from the parent oak, in which the Pole read the story of his own exile. Education of the lower classes, for which he had already made so strong a stand, continued to be one of the matters in which he most keenly interested himself. During his stay in Vienna he had drawn up a memorandum on the subject for those responsible for the department in the Kingdom of Poland then forming. One of his last expeditions before his death was to a great Swiss educational establishment where Pestalozzi’s system had been inaugurated, and where Kosciuszko spent two days among the pupils, watching its working with the idea of its application to Polish requirements.

So his days went by till his quiet death. His death was as simple as had been his life. He put his worldly affairs in order, bequeathing the money of Paul I that he had never touched and that he would not affront Alexander I, with whom his relations were always friendly, by returning, to a Polish friend who had fought under him in the Rising and to Emilia Zeltner. The remainder of all that he had to give went to other members of the Zeltner family and to the poor. He directed that his body should be carried by the poor to the grave, that his own sword should be laid in his coffin and the sword of Sobieski given back to the Polish nation. Then, with a last look of love bent upon the child Emilia, who knelt at the foot of his bed, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, the greatest and the most beloved of Poland’s heroes, gently breathed his last on the evening of October 15, 1817.

His body now rests in the Wawel in Cracow, where lie Poland’s kings and her most honoured dead; his heart in the Polish Museum in Rapperswil, Switzerland, among the national treasures that have been placed in a foreign land to preserve them against spoliation by Poland’s conquerors. To his memory three years after his death his nation raised a monument, perhaps unique of its kind. Outside Cracow towers the Kosciuszko hill, fashioned by the hands of Polish men, women, and children, all bringing earth in shovel and barrow, to lay over dust, carried thither with no little difficulty, from the battlefields where Kosciuszko had fought for Poland. That act is typical. To this day the name of Tadeusz Kosciuszko lives in the hearts of the Polish people, not only as the object of their profound and passionate love, but as the symbol of their dearest national aspirations. He has given his name to the greatest poem in the Polish language that is read wherever the Polish tongue has been carried by the exiled sons of Poland. His pictures, his relics, are venerated as with the devotion paid to a patron saint. Legend, folk-song, national music have gathered about his name: and after Warsaw had risen for her freedom on the November night of 1830 it was to the strains of the Polonaise of Kosciuszko that the Poles danced in a never-to-be-forgotten scene of patriotic exultation.

A Prussian fiction has attributed to Kosciuszko as he fell on the field of Maciejowice the phrase Finis Poloniae. In a letter to Count Segur, Kosciuszko indignantly denied that he had uttered a sentiment which is the last ever to be heard on Polish lips or harboured in the heart of a Pole; and with his words, to which the Poles themselves have borne the most convincing testimony by the preservation of their nationality unimpaired through tragedy almost inconceivable, through nearly a hundred and fifty years of unremitting persecution, I close this book on the noblest of Polish patriots.

“When,” so Kosciuszko writes to Segur, the Polish nation called me to defend the integrity, the independence, the dignity, the glory and the liberty of the country, she knew well that I was not the last Pole, and that with my death on the battlefield or elsewhere Poland could not, must not end. All that the Poles have done since then in the glorious Polish legions and all that they will still do in the future to gain their country back, sufficiently proves that albeit we, the devoted soldiers of that country, are mortal, Poland is immortal."