Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

nians, finding themselves deceived by the emperor and other allies, who had left them to the mercy of their enemies, sent a deputation to the Polish court, headed by Tabor, Bishop of Wilna, who, in the name of his country swore that it should in future own no other master than the king of Poland.

It was in the reign of John Albert, that courts of justice were first instituted in Poland, the king being previously the supreme judge ; but he now reserved to himself only the right of nominating the judge, out of four candidates proposed by the palatinates. The right of appeal was reserved to the king. The people at large, however, were excluded from these advantages, and were by degrees reduced to a state of vassalage, by the increasing power of the nobles.

The prosperity of Poland continued unchecked through the reigns of Alexander and Sigismund; and the latter had the additional good fortune of making peace with the Turks and Russians, and of calming the internal discord that had prevailed in former reigns. Commerce and the arts flourished, and the Polish language was cultivated instead of the Latin, which was hitherto exclusively used in literature. The latter years of Sigismund were embittered by dissensions instigated by his wife, an ambitious and intriguing woman; and he died soon after a revolt of the nobles, who now had usurped the power of the diets, by excluding the deputies of the cities and boroughs, and coercing the electors in their own districts.

Sigismund Augustus, the last of the Jagellon dynasty, ascended the throne in 1548. He married Barbara Radzivill, widow of Gastold, the Grand Duke of Lithuania, which was violently opposed by his mother and the nobles. He managed, however, to quell the opposition ; and his wife dying soon after, his mother retired into Italy, carrying with her immense treasure, which, after her death, was seized by the King of Spain, and was never refunded.

At this period all Europe was agitated by religious dissensions; but Sigismond happily preserved his kingdom from being involved, and it became the asylum of those who were persecuted on account of their religious opinions. Many learned men took refuge there, which greatly advanced the prosperity of the university of Crakow. Schools were established everywhere, and were no longer under the exclusive direction of the clergy, and a host of literary men sprung up as historians, mathematicians, poets, &c. Eighty-three cities possessed printing-presses, and at Crakow there were fifty, and all books were printed in the Polish language.

For the better consolidation of the kingdom, Augustus exerted all his power to complete the union of Poland and Lithuania, and bring the latter more directly under the Polish crown. By degrees he prevailed upon the princes and nobles to fall in with the measure ; and the death of Radzivill, the chief opponent of it, removed all obstacles, so that at a general diet held at Lubin, in 1569, the two countries were unanimously proclaimed one republic, governed thenceforth, by the same monarch, to be elected in common by the two nations. The diets were to assemble at Warsaw, which was constituted the capital, being situated in the centre of the two countries, but, as belonging to Masovia, was neither Polish nor Lithuanian.

The latter end of the life of this politic prince, was clouded with a return to the vices and follies of youth, for which no excuse could be found. Surrounded by profligate associates in his castle of Kneyszyn, he lived a debauched life, dissipated his treasures, ruined his health, and at length died in 1572, in such abject poverty, as to leave scarcely enough to pay for his burial, in a manner befitting that of a king.

With Augustus the Jagellon family became extinct; and after an interregnum of a year, a general diet was convoked to proceed to the election of a new sovereign. On this occasion, all the nobles of the empire assembled, under arms, at Warsaw. An elegant and spacious tent was erected for the senate and the foreign ambassadors, round which the nobles formed a circle on horseback, whilst the momentous question was discussed within it. The names of the candidates were proclaimed by the senators to their several palatinates: they were Ernest of Austria, and Henry Duke of Anjou, son of Catherine of Medicis, and this latter was elected, and proclaimed King of Poland, by the regent-primate; a deputation was sent to Paris, where Henry swore to observe the laws of the realm, and proceeded to Poland to take possession of the throne; but he had not got further than Crakow, when, learning the death of Charles IX., his elder brother, he precipitately returned to Paris, more like a fugitive fleeing from justice, than a king abandoning a throne.

Another short interregnum took place ; but in 1576, Stephen Battory, Duke of Transylvania, was unanimously elected by the nobles, in spite of the efforts of the Primate Archbishop Ucharski, to procure the return of Maximilian, Archduke of Austria. Battory reigned with great energy and success ten years, and administered justice with impartiality. Ile had, however, a design to render the crown hereditary, instead of elective, in order to break down the power of the nobles; but having convoked a diet, with the ostensible design of declaring war against the Muscovites, an army was decreed and assembled, and he was on the point of carrying his design upon the nobles with force of arms, when death put an end to his career, which would probably have deluged Poland with blood, had he lived to prosecute his projects. With him, too, expired the power and prosperity of Poland ; and although she prosecuted war, with alternations of brilliant success and disastrous defeat, the internal anarchy and discord that prevailed were too strong for the weak and imbecile princes who subsequently filled the throne. These yielded to the different factions one after another of the prerogatives of the crown, and by thus weakening the source of the executive power, without substituting suitable laws to replace them, the foundation was laid for that spoliation which blotted Poland from the list of nations. Other circumstances and events, however, concurred to produce this result, which, although we may deplore it, was but the decree of that retributive Providence, which visits alike upon nations and individuals the crimes against society of which they have been the perpetrators. These causes and their effects we shall make the subject of future papers.

[To be continued.]

THERE's discontent from sceptre to the swain,
And from the peasant to the king again.
Then whatsoever in thy will afflict thee,
Or in thy pleasure seem to contradict thee,
Give it a welcome as a wholesome friend
That would instruct thee to a better end;
Since no condition from defect is free,
Think not to find what here can never be.

ALEX, NICCHOLES.

The real object of education is to give children resources that will endure as long as life endures; habits that will ameliorate, not destroy; occupations that will render sickness tolerable ; solitude, pleasant ; age, venerable ; life, more dignified and useful; and death, less terrible.-Rev. SIDNEY SMITH.

HOW THE “RUSSIAN PRISONERS” KEEP TWELFTH

DAY AT HOME.

[graphic][merged small]

Most people have heard of the Russian prisoners, and very few of the thousands who have visited Brighton this season, left without making an expedition to Lewes gaol to see them. In fact, they are quite the lions of the neighbourhood, and the little common deal ornaments, puzzles, &c., with the manufacture of which they occupy their leisure hours, are the popular articles of sale, not only at their own place of confinement, but also at the Brighton shops, where the announcement constantly meets the eye, “ Articles made by the Russian prisoners sold here." “ Russian prisoners” they are universally called, but very few of them have a right to that title, although captured when serving under Russian colours. By far the greater proportion of them are from Finland, a province formerly belonging to Sweden, and a comparatively recent acquisition on the part of Russia, who even now holds a very uncertain sway, and a still slighter influence over the Finlanders, whose interests are very generally on the side of their Scandinavian ancestry.

Shall we take a peep at them in their English home? It will not take us long. The crowd thickens as we approach the Brighton terminus, but we find that most of the passengers have the same destination in view. Almost every one at the station is asking for a “return to Lewes," and when we get upon the platform, the porters instinctively suggest “ Lewes?" as we glance undecidedly towards the long row of carriages. The drive is not interesting, and fortunately soon over; and in the course of half an hour we find ourselves wending our way up the steep streets of the town, following in the wake of a long procession towards the gaol. We ring at the bell, and are instantly admitted. No questions are asked, our object is known beforehand, and having written down our names in the book at the entrance, we are at once informed, “This way to the Russian prisoners.” After a few turns, we arrive at an open court devoted to the prisoners, most of whom are busy at work under a long shed. They are quite used to visitors, and take

very little notice of us, so we may look at them as long as we please. They are a small race of men, sallow and beardless; still wearing their own uniform, dark trousers, a grey great-coat, made very full and strapped together behind, so that it hangs in folds, and a round cap. They are all cutting wood into various shapes. This old man at the corner is carving out some curious little slips, each perforated lengthwise with a slit exactly its own width: these are afterwards plaited together, and form a kind of prickly wreath, which, in their own country, is devoted to the homely purpose of a stand to prevent a pot or kettle from burning the table, but which has become a popular drawing-room ornament in the land of their captivity. This youth, who looks scarcely eighteen, is cutting a cross with hanging ornaments; and that man beyond is holding up his handiwork, just completed, for admiration. It is very delicate and ingenious, representing a brooding bird ; and will certainly be sold as soon as it reaches the stall on the other side.

But we have lingered here long enough--let us follow this warder who is conducting a party over the Russian wards. Their dormitories look very clean and airy, although of course scantily furnished. Each.cell contains three beds, generally of iron, though some are only hammocks. There is little to excite our attention, so we will proceed to the reading-room, a detached building, con

« AnteriorContinuar »