Polish and Russian Political History – The First Romanovs And Wladislaus IV, 1613-1648

THE possibility of such an election as that of Michael Romanov was an even more remarkable and encouraging fact than the election itself. It was the symptom of awakening public spirit, the presage of a better order of things. The Moscovites had risen superior to all personal and local considerations, and, after purging the capital of foreign foes, had placed themselves, unreservedly, under an autocracy, as being the best conceivable government for themselves in the circumstances. Their choice, at such a time, of an inexperienced youth of sixteen demonstrated that it was not so much the person of the monarch as the principle of monarchy for which they voted. It is not too much to say that the Renaissance of Russia dates from the quinquennium (1613-1618) during which the great men of the realm devoted them-selves to the patriotic duty of guiding the footsteps of their young Gosudar, and rallying all the recuperative elements of the nation around the newly established throne.

And now, having elected a Tsar, the next thing was to find him. Not till March 24, did the delegates of the Council discover the young Prince in the Spasovsky Monastery, near Kostroma, under the guardianship of his mother Martha Romanovna. At first, neither mother nor son would accept the gift of the Moscovite throne. Martha protested that her son was too young and tender for so difficult an office. From the third to the ninth hour, the Boyars entreated Michael to accept the throne ; and he only yielded, at the last moment, when they solemnly declared that, if he persisted in his refusal, they would hold him responsible to God for the utter destruction of Moscovy.

Michael may well be pardoned for his hesitation. Rarely has any European country been in such desperate straits as Russia was in 1613. The Swedes occupied all her Baltic provinces, as well as Great Novgorod, her commercial metropolis. The Poles held Smolensk, which commanded her western provinces. In the extreme south-east the Cossack Zarucki was carving out a kingdom of his own on the Volga. Savage hordes of Tatars swarmed in every direction. Through-out the whole northern district of Archangel and Cholmogory all the churches had been profaned, all the cattle killed, all the villages burnt. Travellers entering Moscovy from the West had tales of equal terror to tell. They found every village between Reval and Novgorod destroyed ; and, before they could shelter from the extreme cold in the ruined way-side huts, they had to empty them of corpses, often the terrible stench drove them back to the snow-drifts. But Tsar Michael had no need to be told of the misery of his people ; he could see it with his own eyes. Every day, on his journey from Kostroma to Moscow, he encountered hundreds of people of all classes robbed to the skin, bleeding, blinded, maimed, covered with bruises and sores. On reaching the Troitsa Monastery, some 75 versts from the capital, he refused to go any further till something had been done to stay this effusion of blood. Yet, in truth, it was not so much horror as penury which detained him. The Boyars could not provide suitable quarters for him at the Kreml, because the palaces there were without roofs or windows, and there was no money in the treasury to pay carpenters for repairing them. In his extremity, Michael was compelled to beg the wealthy Stroganovs to supply him with money, corn, fish, salt, cloth, and all manner of wares, to pay, feed, and clothe his soldiers. At last (May 13), the Tsar was brought into Moscow by the entire male population, which had gone forth to meet him ; and, on July 221 he was solemnly crowned, on which occasion the valiant master-butcher, Kuzma Minin, was ennobled.

The first care of Michael and his council was to clear the land of robbers. The means for doing this were obtained by a general contribution in money and kind, collected with the utmost difficulty by agents accompanied by soldiers, and additionally fortified by the authority of the Church, which threatened the backward and the disobedient with excommunication. The most dangerous and audacious of these native ruffians, the Cossack Zarucki, Pseudo-Demetrius V, who had set up a court of misrule at Astrakhan, was defeated and taken prisoner on June 27, 1614, and impaled at Moscow. Three weeks later, a large Cossack host was routed and scattered on the banks of the Luzha, near Moscow. After this, the robber-bands, though they continued, for some years, to pillage the central and southeastern provinces of Moscovy, ceased to be a peril to the State.

The aliens had next to be got rid of, and it was determined to treat with the Swedes first. So hopeless did the prospects of Moscovy seem in 1611, that Great Novgorod was willing to recognise Charles Philip, the younger brother of Gustavus Adolphus, as the Grand-Duke of a separate Russian State extending from the Baltic to the White Sea, and united with Sweden as Lithuania was with Poland. The election of Michael Romanov dispelled this dream of a Scandinavian empire. In June, 1613, Alexis Zyuzin was sent to England to obtain the mediation of James I, who sent John Merrick to Moscovy for the purpose. The negotiations lasted, with frequent interruptions and perambulations, from January 14, 1616, to March 10, 1617, when a definitive treaty was signed at the now extinct town of Stolbovo, to the satisfaction of both parties. At Moscow, “the surrender of a few places” even though they included Noteborg, the key of Finland, and three other fortresses in Ingria, was regarded as a trifling matter compared with the retrocession of Great Novgorod and the recognition of Michael as Tsar of Moscovy.

Meanwhile, Moscovy was at open war with Poland. Negotiations opened in September, 1615, under the mediation of the imperial ambassador, Gandelius, had been broken off in January, 1616, amidst fierce recriminations ; the Moscovites refusing to accept the Krolewicz Wladislaus as Tsar, and the Poles as obstinately declining to recognise Michael Romanov. In April, 1617, the Polish Diet voted supplies for one year only; and the Krolewicz, with Chodkiewicz as his mentor, set forth ” to conquer and incorporate Moscovy.” Terror fell upon central Russia at his approach. Dorogobuzh opened its gates to him in September ; and in October he made his triumphal entry into Vyazma. Moscow was placed in a state of defence. The national hero, Prince Demetrius Pozharsky was sent against the Krolewicz. After wintering at Vyazma Wladislaus, contrary to the advice of Chodkiewicz, advanced against Moscow; but his progress was retarded by the mutiny of his unpaid troops, the Sejm, with its usual fatal parsimony, having sent reinforcements without the still more necessary money and supplies. Nevertheless, despite all the efforts of Pozharsky to prevent it, Wladislaus effected his junction, at the Oka, with the hetman Sahajdaczny, who had hurried to his help with 20,000 registered Cossacks; and, on October 18, he made a night assault on Moscow which was repulsed with heavy loss to the Poles. Dread of the approaching winter, and the miserable condition of his half-clothed, half-starved and more than half-mutinous army, then compelled Wladislaus to open negotiations with the Moscovites, at the village of Deulino, 3 versts from the Troitsa Monastery ; and, after two months of wrangling, a truce of 14 1/2 years was concluded, each party surrendering too much to consent to a definitive peace. The Poles provisionally recognised Michael as Tsar, while Michael surrendered to the Republic a large tract of his central province extending from Byelaya in the north to Chernigov in the south, both inclusive, with the fortresses and towns of Smolensk, Storodub and Novgorod-Syeversk, thus bringing the Polish frontier appreciably nearer to Moscow.

The most important result of the truce of Deulino, as regards Moscovy, was the return from his nine years’ exile in Poland, of the Tsar’s father, Philaret Romanov, Metropolitan of Rostov. The tidings of his son’s election was, at first, by no means welcome to him; but, on returning to Moscow, he both gratified his own ambition and served his country by reigning conjointly with Michael. Ten days after his arrival (July 9), he was enthroned as Patriarch by Theophanes, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and the prelates of the Russian Church ; and henceforth, till his death, in 1633, the established govern-ment of Moscovy was a diarchy. In private letters, indeed, Philaret invariably addressed his son as your majesty “; and the name of Michael preceded that of his father in all public documents. But they both bore the sovereign title of Gosudar ; foreign ambassadors presented their credentials to Tsar and Patriarch simultaneously ; and Philaret frequently transacted important affairs of State without even consulting Michael.

Naturally, the domination of the experienced and energetic Patriarch was deeply resented by the clique of courtiers who had hitherto been nearest to the young Tsar. But all who hated anarchy and loved good government welcomed the advent to power of an enlightened statesman who protected the weak against the tyranny of the strong and was gracious to all men of learning and ability, irrespective of birth or rank.

The first care of the Patriarch was to secure the succession by getting the Tsar married. Philaret was bent upon raising the dignity of the new dynasty by securing a consort for his son from some sovereign house; and embassies were sent to Copenhagen and Stockholm for the purpose. But Christian. IV of Denmark refused even to receive the Moscovite envoy ; while Gustavus. Adolphus, on hearing, that his sister-in-law, Catherine of Brandenburg, the lady selected by Philaret, would first have to be rebaptised into the Orthodox Church, declared, with a bigotry moot inferior to Philaret’s, that the Princess should not sacrifice her soul’s salvation even for the Tsardom of Moscovy. Finally the Tsar gave his hand to Eudoxia Stryeshnevaya, the daughter of a small squire, who thus became the matriarch of the imperial Romanovs.

Philaret’s administration must be judged rather by its intentions than its results. The dilapidation of the land was too great, its resources were too inadequate, to admit of anything more than an attempt to lay the foundations of a better order of things ; and this, Philaret conscientiously endeavoured to do. The tyranny and peculation of the tax-collectors were partially restrained by the compilation of new land registries and the appointment of tax-assessors from among the taxpayers. A perambulatory commission was also appointed by Philaret to enquire into the condition of the various districts, to remit taxation whenever necessary, but, at the same time, to use every effort to bring the fugitive serfs back to their original dwelling-places. Hitherto the rights of the oppressed peasantry had to some extent been safe-guarded by Boris Godunov’s ukases, which limited the time within which they might be recovered by their former owners. But now, yielding to the earnest solicitation of the gentry, the Government authorised them to recover their fugitive peasants without fixing any time-limit. On the other hand, the taxation of those of the sluzhnuie lyudi, or military tenants, who chose to settle in the towns, was the first step towards the proportional taxation of the hitherto privileged classes.

In other respects the administration of Philaret was obviously progressive. He encouraged the publication of theological works, formed the nucleus of the subsequently famous patriarchal library, and instituted a special department for the revision of liturgical books. He also commanded that every archbishop should establish a seminary in his palace, and he himself founded. a Greco-Latin institute in the Chudov monastery. He also encouraged learned Greeks to settle in Moscow to instruct the orthodox clergy.

Another great service rendered by Philaret to his country was the re-organisation of the army with the help of foreign officers. The Moscovite gentry had lost whatever of martial instincts it may once have possessed, while still remaining the military caste of Moscovy. The gentry had come to regard their settled peaceful life on their properties as their normal state of existence, and the occasional summons to warfare as an extraordinary and unwelcome interruption. Contemporary writers, not inaptly, compare the Moscovite armies of their day to herds of cattle. The infantry, encumbered rather than armed with heavy, obsolete, blunderbusses, the so-called pishchal or with blunt and clumsy spears and axes, rarely ventured to attack an enemy unless they out-numbered him by four to one, while the cavalry was ” a shameful thing to look upon.” Mounted on sorry hacks, and armed with primitive carbines, or simply with the saadak1, they considered it a great victory if they managed to kill half a dozen Tatars—that is to say, if they fought at all ; for the great aim of the Russian soldier was to get home again as quickly as possible. In vain a whole series of statutes threatened deserters with the knout, exile and confiscation ; the generals were constantly complaining of shameless and wholesale desertion in the course of every campaign. Yet we know from a somewhat later, but equally trust-worthy, source that the Russian infantry, when properly trained, would follow its foreign officers through fire and water.

The gentry formed the bulk of the Tsar’s forces ; the peasants and tradespeople were rarely recruited, being far too valuable to the state as taxpayers ; but in the stryeltsui, or musketeers, the Tsar possessed a peculiar and superior sort of militia composed of able-bodied volunteers outside the agricultural class. In times of peace, the stryeltsui lived in their own quarters on the outskirts of the towns, with their wives and families, carrying on various trades, toll-free, and, at the same time, acting as police and firemen. In Moscow alone there were 20,000 of them, divided into prikazui or companies. The stryeltsui had a fixed salary as well as a special allowance for clothes and salt. Their chief officers were always selected from among the Boyars.

But the proved inefficiency of the Russian fighting-man compelled Tsar Michael, like Tsar Boris before him, to intro-duce foreign mercenaries to teach the native levies European methods. So early as 1614, foreign soldiers began to enter Michael’s service. In 1624 we find no fewer than 445 of them in Russia, of whom 168 were Poles, 113 Germans, and 64 Irish. Recruiting officers were also sent abroad to enlist foreign soldiers; but the most orthodox of governments looked askance at Catholic hirelings, and would not allow the recruiting of any of the Roman Faith.

Tsar Michael’s army was an improvement upon all previous Moscovite armies ; but, when it came to be tested in the second Polish War, the chief event of Michael’s later years, its inadequacy was most painfully demonstrated.

The Peace of Deulino was but a temporary interruption of hostilities postponed by mutual consent. Poland, harassed simultaneously by the Swedes and the Turks, was forced to leave her rebellious vassal (for as such she still regarded Moscovy) unpunished for a time, while Moscovy eagerly awaited the first opportunity of regaining her lost provinces. The death of old King Sigismund III (April, 1632), and the consequent interregnum in Poland, seemed to present that opportunity. Twelve months previously, Alexander Leslie had been sent by Philaret to Sweden to hire 5000 infantry and persuade as many smiths, wheelwrights and carpenters as possible to come to Moscow. Two other emissaries to the same country purchased 10,000 muskets with the necessary ammunition. At the end of 1631, there were 66,000 hired mercenaries in Moscow; and the leading generals were busy inspecting troops in the provinces. In April 1632, one of the national assemblies, which were the great feature of Michael’s reign and a sign of weakness and irresolution in the central government, voted large subsidies in money and kind ; and Mikhail Shein and Artemy Izmailov were sent to recover the lost towns with 32,000 men and 158 guns, speedily reinforced to twice that number. At first, everything went well ; and Shein, who had had some military experience, ” picked up fortresses as if they were birds’ eggs.” Serpyeisk surrendered on October 23, Dorogobuzh six clays later, and sixteen smaller fortresses followed their example. But this was the term of Shein’s success. The new King of Poland took the field immediately after his election, and he proved a far more formidable antagonist than his father.

Wladislaus IV was the most popular monarch that over sat on the Polish throne. His election was the merest formality. It was understood from the first that the elder Krolewicz was the only possible successor of Sigismund lII. A genuine Pole by temperament, frank, impetuous, mercurial, impressionable, with not a trace of the almost Castilian grandezza and punctilio of his father, Wladislaus’s naturally noble nature had been refined and matured by excellent tutors with wide views and high ideals. He was absolutely free from caste prejudice ; his ardent faith was unspotted by bigotry ; and, from an early age, he was remarkable for his sociability, chivalrousness and patriotism. His mind had been still further enlarged by the usual grand tour, under excellent guides, which he made in 1624 and he brought back with him to Poland that love of’ art and letters which was so largely to console him for his political misadventures. Providence seemed to have destined him for great deeds, and the dream of his life was to place on his brows the crown of Vladimir and Monomakh which the Moscovites themselves had pressed upon him in his sixteenth year. He had learnt the science of war under the great Chodkiewicz, and had endeared himself to the common soldiers by the thoroughness and cheerfulness with which he shared their hardships. With the Cossacks he was especially popular, because, in warfare, he made no distinction between them and the Szlachta.

But there was another and deeper reason for the rare unanimity with which all parties united to elect Wladislaus. The Poles meanly calculated that so generous and impulsive a Prince would be content with fresh limitations of the royal power; would be a sort “of King-bee dispensing nought but honey to his subjects “; would, first, ease all grievances, satisfy all complaints, and then courteously stand aside and consent to be governed rather than to govern. Accordingly, the Coronation Diet, which assembled on September 27 1632, still further curtailed the prerogative. The Pacta Conventa presented to Wladislaus before his coronation bound him never to declare an offensive war, or form alliances, however profitable, or hire mercenaries, though there was no regular army, without the consent of the Estates, or of the Senate as the trustees of the Estates. Moreover, he was to fill up all public vacancies within a certain time and relieve the Szlachta from the payment of the land tax and the hearth tax, the sole taxes to which they were still liable, “because the said taxes savoured of servitude.” And this, too, at a time when the nobles and clergy between them owned nearly all the land’ in the Kingdom and there was a deficit in the treasury of 370,000 gulden. The King agreed to all these usurpations, without cavil, and even without comment. The sweetness of popularity and the hope of military glory which, as he supposed, would exalt him still more in the eyes of the nation, and enable him ultimately to lead it whither he would, can alone explain his apparently reckless complaisance on this occasion. The niggardliness with which the Sejm responded to his magnanimity might have warned him that ‘he was taking the wrong path. The deputies, when they had squeezed everything possible out of him, refused to grant him a single subsidy towards the expenses of the Moscovite War, which had been forced upon the Republic and threatened its very existence. Only by pawning his father’s crown for 50,000 gulden, and by selling to the Elector of Brandenburg, for 90,000 more, exemption from personal homage for his Prussian Duchy, was Wladislaus able, at last, to muster 16,000 regular soldiers for the relief of Smolensk, now hardly pressed. Yet, at this very time, there were at least a score of Polish magnates each one of whom could have put 5000 fully equipped soldiers in the field without feeling the expense.

With his 16,000 troopers, reinforced by 15,000 registered Cossacks, Wladislaus hastened to the relief of his chief eastern fortress. The Russian commander, Shein, had distributed his troops in three immense entrenched camps on both sides of the Dnieper. The walls of these camps, according to an eye-witness, were as strong, vast and lofty as the walls of Smolensk itself, and were also defended by forts and blockhouses. After a series of bloody assaults (August 7-22) Wladislaus captured two of the camps, occupied the surrounding hills, and besieged Shein for four months in his main camp, while Kazanowski defeated a relief army advancing from Dorogobuzh. Finally Shein, who had received nothing from Moscow but promises, yielding to the clamours of his foreign officers, surrendered to the Poles (Feb. 26, 1634). On March 1, the Moscovite army, ” without music or the beating of drums, and with arms reversed,” issued forth, by companies, and laid 122 banners at the feet of the Polish King, who sat on horseback beneath the triumphant White Eagle standard, the centre of a brilliant ring of castellans and palatines. Next Wladislaus proceeded to besiege the fortress of Byelaya, which resisted so stoutly that the Lithuanian chancellor, Prince Radziwill, declared that, from henceforth it should be called not Byelaya1 but Krasnaya2. So great was the dearth of food in the Polish camp that the King ate only half a chicken for dinner so as to save the other half for supper, while bread, even at the royal table, was a luxury. And now, too, disquieting news from the south disposed him to secure his Moscovite conquests by a permanent peace. The Turks were again in arms against the Republic ; and, though the Polish Grand Hetman, Stanislaus Koniecpolski, in the summer of 1633, had defeated them at Paniowce, it was rumoured that Sultan Amurath IV, after publicly insulting the Polish envoy, Trzebinski, at a public audience, had placed himself at the head of a new army and was already at Adrianople. Negotiations were accordingly opened with the Moscovites on the river Polyankova in March 1634, but it was not till May 28 that the treaty was signed. The Poles conceded the title of Tsar to Michael, but refused the epithet ” of all Russia,” arguing, reasonably enough, that as Russian3 provinces were to be found in both the Moscovite and Polish States, Michael should call himself Tsar ” of his own Russia.” Territorially, the Poles were now in very much the same position as after the Truce of Deulino, as they had little more than recovered what the Moscovites had won at the beginning of the campaign. The Tsar, moreover, renounced all his rights to Livonia, Esthonia and Courland, and paid a war indemnity of 200,000 rubles. Wladislaus, on the other hand, relinquished all his rights to the Moscovite throne. The treaty of Polyankova so impressed the Turks that, when Wladislaus hastened to Lemberg to take up the struggle with them, they at once made pacific overtures. A truce was concluded in October 1634, on condition that, henceforth, the Poles should keep their Cossacks under better control, while the Sultan undertook to place Hospodars friendly to Poland on the thrones of Moldavia and Wallachia.

The Moscovite and Turkish Wars were no sooner over than events occurred which threatened to draw Poland into the Thirty Years’ War. The death of Gustavus Adolphus (1632), and the subsequent rout of the Protestants at Nordlingen (1634), had brought Sweden and France still more closely together and consequently induced the Imperialists to look abroad for fresh allies. The martial King of Poland seemed to Richelieu to be just the man to make a powerful diversion from the east ; and the cardinal offered Silesia and the hand of Maria Ludovika Gonzaga, daughter of the Duke of Nevers, one of the greatest of the great dames of France, to Wladislaus IV, if he would accede to the Franco-Swedish alliance and put 10, 000 men in the field. Simultaneously, the Maritime Powers tempted Wladislaus with the hand of the ex-Queen of Bohemia. But Poland was desirous of peace, and the Sejm rejected both propositions. Unable to gain Poland as an ally yet anxious to prevent her from attacking Sweden while still in difficulties, England, France, and Holland then mediated the Truce of Stuhmsdorf’, to last for 26 years from September 12, 1635, whereby, without the knowledge and greatly to the indignation of Axel Oxenstjerna, the Swedish Senate retroceded to Poland all the Prussian conquests of Gustavus Adolphus, while retaining Livonia provisionally.

For once the Sejm had acted prudently in restraining the impetuous King from plunging into a war which would have brought small advantage to the Republic. But even this solitary act of prudence was entirely dictated by the selfish fear lest Wiadislaus’s victories might increase the royal power. For precisely the same reason they next opposed his statesman-like endeavour to provide Poland with a navy.

One of Wiadislaus’s many obligations under the Pacta Conventa was to maintain, at his own cost, a fleet on the Baltic. He applied all his energy to the provision of this long-felt necessity. Two new fortresses, Wladyslawow and Kazimierzow, were speedily constructed on the north-west of the Gulf of Dantzic ; one large and twelve small vessels were purchased at a cost of 381,000 gulden ; and, for the first time in Polish history, a Polish fleet appeared in the Baltic. This was a good beginning, but it was only a beginning. The construction and maintenance of an adequate navy were impossible without far more money than the short-sighted Sejm was willing to bestow. Wladislaus therefore proposed to re-levy, for the benefit of the Republic, the lucrative tolls which the Swedes had levied during their occupation of Prussia and which had brought them in 3,600,000 Polish gulden per annum, Pillau alone yielding 1, 500, 000. To this obviously advantageous proposal, which, besides, cost them nothing, the Senate at once agreed. But, when Wladislaus announced his intention of levying the tolls, the people of Dantzic at once protested against it, as a violation of the Truce of Stuhmsdorf. They appealed to the signatories of that treaty for protection; and, when the King summoned the rebellious Dantzickers to appear before him and blockaded their harbour with his little fleet, a Danish admiral, acting in collusion with the city, broke the blockade and destroyed the Polish ships. This was the state of things when the Sejm assembled in 1638, shortly after the King had wedded the Archduchess Cecilia Renata, daughter of the Emperor Ferdinand III. Wladislaus at once appealed to Parliament to punish Dantzic for thus publicly insulting the Crown and materially injuring the Republic. But the Sejm was in a more than ordinarily stupid and suspicious mood. It affected to regard the project of the Baltic tolls as “a Spanish conception.” The King, it was said, was acting in the Austrian interest. He meant to suppress Dantzic as a first step towards subduing Scandinavia. A strong fleet would too greatly increase the royal power. The idea of it had been devised by the Chancellor Ossolinski, during his recent secret interview with the Emperor at Ratisbon—and much more to the same effect. Most of the Senators thereupon deserted the King from fear of the Sejm ; the Dantzic affair was referred to a special commission, which quietly shelved it; and from henceforth nothing more was ever heard of a Polish fleet.

But the real cause of the Sejm’s distrust of the King was the foundation by Wladislaus, at this very time, of the Knightly Order of the Immaculate Conception, the statutes of which were brought by Ossolinski from Rome, confirmed by Urban VIII. The Order was to consist of seventy-two cavaliers, selected from among the noblest families in Poland, and was obviously meant, in the future, to form the nucleus of a royalist party, by means of which the King might curb the lawlessness of the Szlachta and indirectly bring about a reform of the Constitution. A purely Roman Catholic Society like this could not fail to be offensive to the orthodox Lithuanians and the protestant Prussians ; but a minority like theirs would have been powerless but for the support of the Catholic magnates themselves, who preferred the domination of the Szlachta, which could always be managed or bribed, to the rivalry of a strong King. The united opposition compelled the King to abolish the Order of the Immaculate Conception ; and the Sejm, out of spite, refused to pay the debts contracted by Wladislaus during the Moscovite war. Not till 1642 did the chancellor Ossolinski succeed in getting the King reimbursed by skilfully waiving the royal claims in return for “a gratification” of 4,500,000 thalers, which roughly represented the amount due.

The disillusioned King, foreseeing clearly the abyss towards which Poland was hastening, but worn out by repeated humiliations, now abandoned politics altogether and sank into a lethargy of indifference from which he was only aroused by the birth of a son, christened Sigismund, in 1640. From henceforth, he became another man, and laboured with all his might first to promote the unity of the nation, and then to bring about a revolution by means of a military coup d’état.

He began by attempting to reconcile the various sects in Poland.

Having conquered the Lutherans and Calvinists, the Jesuits directed their attention to the Greek Orthodox Church, their one remaining spiritual rival in the territories of the Republic. The Princes of the House of Jagiello had, prudently, left their Orthodox subjects alone. Their policy was to strengthen, by every means, the union between Poland and Lithuania ; and their statesmanlike instincts told them that any attempt violently to bring together the Roman Church in Poland and the Orthodox Church in Lithuania would only introduce discord where harmony was so essential. The Jesuits thought differently. Their great argument was that the union of the two churches would consolidate the union of the two States ; and this argument is set forth, with extraordinary force and eloquence, in the famous book of the greatest of the Polish Jesuits, Peter Skarga, entitled ” O jednosci Kosciola Bozego2.” He proposed a provisional union between the Roman and Greek Churches on three conditions ; (1) that the Archbishop of Kiev, the Metropolitan of the West Russian Church, should henceforth be consecrated by the Pope instead of by the Patriarch of Constantinople ; (2) that the Russians should acknowledge the supremacy of the Church of Rome ; and (3) that the external ceremonies and the liturgical language of the Russian Church should remain intact. A conditional union was considered preferable to an absolute submission as being the easier way of undermining the obstinate attachment of the Orthodox congregations to their ancient faith. The flagrant and manifold abuses in the Orthodox church of Poland seemed to justify the necessity of its union with the better-ordered and instructed Roman Church. All contemporary evidence describes its condition in the darkest colours. The bishops, with scarce an exception, were robbers and ruffians ; the lesser clergy followed the unedifying example of their ecclesiastical superiors. Prince Constantine Ostrogski, the chief pillar of the Orthodox church, bitterly complained that the common people hungered in vain for the word of’ God, while Melecy Smotrzycki Orthodox Archbishop of Polock, declared that he could not lay his hand on three Orthodox preachers, and that, but for the aid of’ Catholic postillas, there would have been no preaching at all. An attempt on the part of the Constantinopulitan Patriarch Jeremiah, in 1588, to reform these crying abuses only made matters worse and raised a storm of protest, till the best of the Lithuanian Orthodox, both lay and clerical, began to look longingly towards Rome. After some preliminary negotiations with Sigismund l I I and Zamoyski, the better class of Orthodox bishops at last took the decisive step. At a synod, held at Brzesc, on June 14, 1595, they drew up two addresses, one to the Pope and the other to the King, in which they declared their willingness to accede to the Union of Florence on condition that their ceremonies and discipline were left intact. Delegated bishops were then sent to Rome to offer the submission of the Orthodox church in Poland to the Apostolic: See; and, early in January, 1596, the Bull Magnus Dominus et Iaudabilis nimis n mis received the ” Rutheni ” into the Catholic Church.

Unfortunately, the bishops did not think fit to take Prince Constantine Ostrogsky into their confidence. As the patron of 600 livings, to say nothing of the inestimable services he had rendered to the Orthodox church by founding academies and issuing a Slavonic translation of the Scriptures, the famous Ostrog Bible, he certainly should have been consulted before hand. When then he was informed of what had been done after the event, his volcanic indignation threatened to wreck the young Uniate Church at the very outset. He terrified the vacillating Metropolitan Rukoza, formed a close union with the anti-episcopal brotherhoods of Lithuania, and, during the Diet of 15961 at the head of a formidable minority, fiercely opposed the King himself, while Orthodox preachers perambulated Lithuania denouncing the Uniate bishops as traitors and stirring the Orthodox population against them. At the Synod of Brzesc, held on October 9, 1596, the two parties met face to face and excommunicated each other. Thus the immediate result of the Union ” was the division of the West Russian Church into ” Uniates ” and “Disunited”; but the Orthodox party was now in a much worse position than before, because it was no longer officially recognised, and had to contend against the combined forces of the Uniates and the Catholics. But Ostrogski did not abandon the struggle, and it was due to his efforts that the Warsaw Diet of 1607 granted a ” constitution” to the ” Disunited ” which gave them a quasi-legal status. The death of Ostrogski, in the following year, was a great blow to the Orthodox ; and the Uniates redoubled their efforts to ” convert ” the ” Disunited.” What their methods were, may be gathered from the warning addressed by Leo Sapieha, chancellor of Lithuania, to the fanatical Uniate Archbishop of Polock, Josephat Kuncewicz, who disregarded, it and was consequently murdered, in November 1623, in the streets of Witebsk, by the outraged Orthodox population. Witebsk was duly punished, but no notice was taken by Sapieha of a savage epistle from Urban VIII demanding that ” this plague of schism should be extirpated by fire and sword.”

Thus Poland once more vindicated her character as a non-persecuting Power in an age of religious intolerance. In process of time, the position of the ” Disunited ” improved. Thus the Diets of 1631 and 1635, despite the opposition of the Curia, fully recognised the Orthodox Church in Poland as a separate and independent establishment, with bishoprics at Lemberg, Przemysl and Mohilev, and a Metropolitan at Kiev, and confirmed them in the possession of all their property. Wladislaus IV would have gone further still. He proposed, by means of conferences and congresses, to bring about an understanding between the Catholics and all the Dissenters, both Protestant and Orthodox. As regards the Orthodox in particular, the times seemed most propitious as on the Orthodox metropolitan throne of Kiev now sat Peter Mohila, a Moldavian by birth, educated at Paris, and connected by family ties with many of the leading Polish magnates. On the initiative of Wladislaus, a synod of Polish Catholic Bishops assembled at Warsaw in 1643 and invited the Dissidents to meet them at a colloquium charitativum, in the following year. The colloquium was actually held at Thorn, on August 28, 1645, under the presidency of the chancellor Ossolinski, but came to naught, owing to the opposition of Pope Innocent X.

To attain his second object, the reform of a mischievous constitution by means of a coup d’etat, Wladislaus reckoned chiefly upon the Dnieperian or registered Cossacks, who, at any rate, formed part of the irregular forces of the Republic, and were not mere free-booters like their brethren of the Don. The Cossacks liked Wladislaus IV, and he was certain of their whole-hearted support in case of a collision with the Se m against whom the Cossacks nourished many ancient grievances. No doubt the restless predatory, incalculable Cossack was a difficult factor for any statesman to deal with ; but, hitherto, the Szlachta had frustrated or ignored every attempt to settle adequately the urgent Cossack question. The Pans regarded the Cossacks generally as schismatical, runaway serfs, to whom only the very minimum of tardy justice was to be grudgingly conceded. They did not always remember that these semi-barbarous horsemen were also the sole guardians of the south-eastern Ukraine, or frontier, of the Republic. The condition of the Ukraine was always more or less abnormal ; and the slightest accident there, in view of the near neighbourhood of the Turks and Tatars, and the utter defencelessness of Poland, was bound to have the most dangerous consequences.

At the beginning of the reign of Wladislaus IV, the Zaporozhians were more than usually restless. To curb them, the fortress of Kudak was erected, by French engineers, at the confluence of the Samara and Dnieper, to overawe the Cossack Syech, or Commonwealth, a little lower down the river. The Polish army then withdrew, leaving this solitary fortress in the wilderness, garrisoned by a few hundred dragoons, at the mercy of the Cossacks, who, on the first stormy night, attacked and destroyed it. For this they were severely punished by the Polish Grand Hetman, Koniecpolski; and Kudak rose again from its ashes. The number of the registered Zaporozhians was now reduced to 6000, and they were promised 100,000 gulden per annum for their maintenance. But, despite the repeated warnings of the King, the stipulated amount was never paid regularly; and the result was a series of fresh rebellions, in 1636 and 1638, which were mercilessly repressed. The Diet of 1638, moreover, abolished all the liberties of the Cossacks, including the right of electing their own Hetman ; and they were subordinated to a Polish military Commission sitting at Trachtymirov. But no extra precautions, such as the maintenance of an adequate permanent army, or the building of fresh forts, in the now thoroughly disturbed Ukraine, were taken against the possible further consequences of the Government’s breach of faith. Everything was left to the discretion of Koniecpolski, who, fortunately for the Republic, was an expert in Ukrainian matters as well as a warrior of renown.

Wladislaus IV largely depended on the cooperation of the Grand Hetman for the consummation of his plans. As originally conceived, these plans were fantastically ambitious. In 1641 he sent Ossolinski to Rome to inform the Pope that he meditated conquering Sweden and Moscovy and pacifying Europe, finally proceeding, at the head of united Christendom, to expel the Turks from Europe and establish his own claims to Constantinople, which he hoped to acquire through Maria Ludovika Gonzaga de Nevers, the last surviving descendant of the Paleologi, whom Mazarin and the Queen Mother of France, in the hope of detaching Wladislaus from the Austrian alliance, had selected to be his second wife.

In the spring of 1646, circumstances seemed to favour the oriental part of the King’s designs. In the previous year, the Tatars, enraged at the refusal of Wladislaus to continue the humiliating tribute which the Khan exacted from Poland, invaded the territories of the Republic, but were almost annihilated at Ochmatow by Koniecpolski. Simultaneously, dissensions broke out in the Crimea; and the Turks declared war against Venice. Wladislaus immediately ordered the Cossacks to make ready their boats for a raid upon the Turkish galleys in the Euxine, and sent envoys to Moscow and Venice to conclude a league against the Porte. But Koniecpolski, who was summoned to Cracow to give advice, took a less sanguine view of the situation. He declared that an invasion of Turkey was impracticable unless adequately financed by Venice, at the rate of a million scudi down and half a million more per annum so long as the war lasted. He urged the King to limit his operations to the acquisition of Moldavia and Wallachia and the subjugation of the Tatars. On March 10, 1646, Maria Ludovika arrived at Cracow and was married to Wladislaus, to whom she brought a very serviceable dowry of 800,000 livres.

At this juncture the sudden death of Koniecpolski deprived the King of his most loyal and judicious co-operator. Still Wladislaus persisted in his designs, leaning now, almost entirely, on the Cossacks, whose deputies arrived at Cracow and held midnight conferences with him and the seven Senators, out of 120, on whom he could depend. In return for a promise of the restitution of their liberties, the Cossacks promised to put 50,000, or even 100,000 men in the field, whenever they were required. Secure in this quarter, Wladislaus next concluded an alliance with the Moscovites for a simultaneous attack on the Budziak Tatars and the Crimea. The plan was well laid and might have succeeded, had not the Venetian ambassador, in order to frighten the Porte, prematurely proclaimed the secret offensive and defensive treaty existing between Venice and Poland. Instantly the whole Polish Republic was in a ferment, and the cry that the Constitution was in danger re-sounded everywhere. Wladislaus’ secret treaty with Venice was undoubtedly a breach of the Pada Conventa; and the Senate, for fear of the Diet, openly turned against the King, declaring they would rather cut off their hands than sign the circular letters directed by Wladislaus to his recruiting agents. Wladislaus’ last hope was that the Porte would now declare war against him, or, at least, send the Tatars across the border, in either of which cases he would be justified in using the forces he had collected for the defence of the Republic. But the Porte, well-informed of what was going on in Poland, carefully avoided every appearance of hostility, while the Diet of 1646, convinced that a successful Turko-Tatar war would be ” the grave of the national liberties,” reduced the standing army to 1200 men and forbade the King to issue any declaration of war whatever without the consent of the Republic. Yet Wladislaus never relaxed his military preparations, hoping against hope that the Turks, or the Tatars, if aggravated, might still play into his hands. But the Sultan ostentatiously proclaimed his desire for peace and sent the Tatars against the Moscovites instead of against the Poles. At the extraordinary Diet of May 2, 1647 the King professed that he did not understand the foreign policy of the deputies. ” Here you are,” slid he, ” surrounded on every side by enemies and ill-wishers, and yet you break away from your sole ally, the Venetian Republic !” So tumultuous and unmanageable was this Diet that not a single measure was passed during the session. The death of the little Krolewicz, Sigismund, still further depressed the King, who did not, how-ever, relax his efforts to gain over the Cossacks ; and Ossolinski was sent on a mysterious mission to the Ukraine, probably (for the incident is obscure) to offer the bâton of Hetman of the Zaporozhians to Chmielnicki, who now appears prominently on the scene for the first time.

Bohdan Chmielnicki was the son of a Cossack, Michael Chmielnicki, who, after serving Poland all his life, died for her on the field of Cecora, leaving to Bohdan the village of Subotow with which the Polish King had rewarded Michael’s valour and fidelity. History, in all probability, would never have known the name of Chmielnicki, if the intolerable persecution of a neighbouring Polish squire had not converted the thrifty and acquisitive Cossack husbandmen into one of the most striking and sinister figures of modern times. Failing to obtain redress from the local courts for the raiding of his village, the slaughter of his servants, and the flogging to death of his little son, Chmielnicki sought for justice at Warsaw, whither he had been summoned, with other Cossack delegates, to assist Wladislaus IV, in the projected Turkish campaign. The King, perceiving him to be a man of some education and intelligence, appointed him pisarz, or secretary, of the registered Cossacks and chief recruiting officer. Chmielnicki, encouraged by these marks of favour, complained to Wladislaus of the outrages inflicted upon him at Subotow; but, inasmuch as Chmielnicki could not produce any “privilege” entitling him to property actually given to his father for military services, the Polish jurists decided that the non-noble Cossack had no claim against his noble oppressor. Revolted by this instance of aristocratic chicanery, Wladislaus, at a private interview, fastened a sword to the Cossack’s side and said to him significantly, ” You are a soldier, now, remember Defend yourself.”

Chmielnicki, on his return to the Ukraine, took part in the campaign of Ochmatow under Koniecpolski. But he was now doubly hateful to the Pans, as being a royalist as well as a Cossack, and was deprived of his fair share of booty, accused of meditating rebellion, and thrown into jail, whence he escaped by bribing his jailers. Feeling that neither his life nor his liberty was any longer secure among the Pans, Chmielnicki, in December, 1647, fled to the Zaporozhian settlement on the Dnieper, and sent messages to the Khan of the Crimea, proposing an invasion of Poland by the combined forces of the Tatars and the Cossacks. This was a contingency which Koniecpolski had always foreseen and Wladislaus IV had always included in his political calculations. When, then, the King learnt that Chmielnicki had been proclaimed Hetman of the Cossacks (April 18, 1648), and was marching northwards at the head of his Cossack-Tatar host, he recognised that his long sought-for opportunity had come at last. After ordering the new Grand Hetman, Nicholas Potocki, to await reinforcements before attacking Chmielicki, he sent off to the Ukraine all his avail-able troops, and was preparing to follow them, when he died suddenly in consequence of a severe chill, caught while hunting in the forests round Mereczko, on May 20, 1648, in his 52nd year.