The Karwicki’s Reckoning and a New Method of Elections (Karwicki #1)

Stanisław Dunin Karwicki (ca. 1640-1724, read like kahrveetzky) is interesting for a number of reasons. First, he’s more of a regular guy, so to say, not holding any major local or central office for most of his life. Yet, he was elected an envoy from Sandomierz voivodship twelve times (1668, 1669, two times in 1674, 1681, 1688, 1697 two times, 1705, 1712/13, 1720). He died as “subchamberlain” (podkomorzy) of Sandomierz elected in 1713, which was a purely honorific if esteemed title.

Second (which may be the reason why he didn’t accomplish more), he was a (Reformed) Protestant in a country where the religious liberty–over the course of his lifetime–was effectively rooted out, along with many other things that used to make the Republic a functional free country. The last of his envoyships seems to be barely legal, because the Sejm of 1718 officially barred non-Catholics from the parliament. (Still, the freedom here was wider than in other countries like France and England, where even confessing a wrong faith was a crime, and ideas of people like John Locke remained largely on paper. But it’s important to notice that the degeneration of the political system, and the state in general, coincided closely with waning of independent thinking and personal liberty.)

Third, Karwicki for most of his lifetime was a convinced and outspoken royalist. Only when he wrote his treatises in early 1700s, in the time of discord, bloody civil wars, two kings (supported by different foreign powers) fighting each other, Lithuania being on the verge of seceding, and a catastrophic plague on top of that–did he come to republican conclusions. I mean it in a specific sense, because both making king hereditary and unrestrained, and alternatively ditching him altogether, were beyond the boundaries of mainstream political discourse of the Republic.

The Great Council of Republic of Venice. Venetian political system was rather quirky, with layers of convoluted randomness and repeated voting. Karwicki nevertheless wanted to borrow some elements from it.

But Karwicki says that one of these unspeakable extremes has to be chosen, in order to form a sustainable government. Either go for absolutum dominium and trade the liberty for a monarch deciding for the people, or let the people run institutions fully by itself. Let it live without the constant, toxic fear of royal conspiracy.

The main and rather obvious point here is making major senators and ministers electable, instead of king appointing them. Also, the public land–hitherto given away by the monarch in form of starostships–would be used to support the underfunded military.

A toć jest prawdziwe źrzódło wszystkich u nas w Polszcze dyfidencyj, kłótni, mieszanin wewnętrznych, że dwie z przyrodzenia sobie przeciwne i wrodzoną niby antypatyją mające rzeczy, a obie ważne mamy: to jest majestat królewski z wolnością narodu. Bo królom wrodzony jest apetyt wolnowładnego panowania i przysiodłania wolności. Naprzeciw wolności wrodzona jest konserwacyja samej siebie, przy tym, że z przyrodzenia bojaźliwa jest i podejrzeniem narabiająca wolność, stąd ustawiczne do króla i kreatur dworskich dyfidencyje, a gdy możniejsi z nieukontentowania jakiego z dystrybuty, gdy kogo ten albo ów wakans minie, podbijają bębenka, kłótnie i mieszaniny domowe. I nie masz tak dobrego pana zacząwszy od Zygmunta I, kiedy się już wolność na swą wybieła wolą, żebyśmy do niego wszyscy konfidencyją mieli, ani tak szczęśliwego panowania, żeby to państwo od kolizyi wolności z majestatem wolne było. Tak dalece, że podczas chwytamy się do konserwacyjej wolności takich sposobów, które ją prędzej do zguby przywieść mogły, jako były rokosze, rwania sejmów i insze tym podobne. (Egz 4v-5)
And this is the real source of all the distrust in our Poland, all the discords and turmoils. It is that we have two things that are innately opposite, and both of them in power: the royal majesty and the freedom of the people. For it is inherent for the kings to crave absolute power and suppression of freedom. On the other hand, the freedom intrinsically seeks to preserve herself. She is fearful and suspicious. And hence there are constant mistrusts towards the king and people supported by his court. The richer and more powerful of people, unhappy when they cannot get some vacating office, escalate the conflicts, stir up the discords.
Since Sigismund I (when the freedom had fought her way to self-determination) we had no lord so good that we would all trust him. There was no reign when the state would be free of collision of the freedom and the majesty. And this is to such an extent that we resort to means of preserving freedom threatening the very freedom herself, such as rokoszes [ie. armed confederations against the king], breaking sejms and such.

Then he goes on to say that Roman Republic did not have kings (instead it had consuls, which Karwicki curiously translates as regimentarze), and so didn’t ancient Carthage and many Greek cities, and present day … Swiss cantons and confederated provinces of Netherlands. And then, Sparta did have two kings and Venice–a doge, but with their powers being very limited.

Yet Karwicki is as far as you could get from being a speculative thinker. (Certainly much farther from that than the nearest upcoming authors as Orzechowski, Rousseau and Fredro.) He thinks in terms of clashing interests and practical parliamentary politics, with which he had much of an experience. His argumentation, of course tailored to the mentality of his contemporaries, is heavily based on quoting existing projects and legislation from 1500s and 1600s. Karwicki likes to stress that he proposes (almost) “nothing new”. That being said, he sometimes needs to use the examples of Italian republics of Genoa and Venice (being quite knowledgable in their political systems).

So of course Karwicki doesn’t call for anything like abolishing the monarchy oficially. In fact, he claims that the king would have less worries if he wouldn’t have hordes of people demanding that he’d give them offices and benefits. The monarch would also still give away minor titulary honors in voivodships and so-called lesser castellanies, which nevertheless granted seats in the Senate. Also, as Karwicki reminds, a regulation of royal appointments (dystrybuta, as he calls it) was promised in pacta conventa (election agreements) by all the kings since Władysław IV in 1632 (Egz 11).

Above, Łabędź (Swan) coat of arms used by the Karwicki family. Below, the coat of arms of voivodship of Sandomierz (northern Lesser Poland; Karwickis actually lived near Kielce, which is in Świętokrzyskie voivodship today). As I mentioned, people identified strongly with their voivodship, as they had large autonomy.

Karwicki was quite shrewd in his argumentation, and compromises. He tried to predict all the potential holes in the system, knowing all too well how a republic in the wild (as opposed to one constructed in someone’s head) can be exploited by clever politicians and powerful magnates. But in order to understand the origins of his projects and their poor chances of becoming reality (against the violence), we should see the times when he wrote his Exorbitances. (As an aside, Dzieduszycki and Szczuka from our master list were writing in the same period.)

Great Northern War in the Republic (1700-1721)

In the royal election of 1697, there were three major candidates: Jakub (James) Sobieski, son of John III, who defeated Turks in the battle of Vienna in 1683, François Louis prince de Conti supported by France and Frederick Augustus, elector of Saxony. The latter even converted to Catholicism for that occassion. What happened was rather ridiculous: prince de Conti won the majority of vote counted on one day, and Frederick Augustus on another, and both were proclaimed kings by different bishops. Both gained their votes by bribes, which in case of Conti were financed by Louis XIV.

It turned out that Frederick Augustus (supported by Austria, Brandenburg and Muscovy) was quicker to enter the country with his army. Conti, actually reluctant to assume his duties, gave up shortly after his arrival to Gdańsk and returned to France.

And so the Republic had a new king, Augustus II the Strong. He was a man famous for breaking horseshoes with his bare hands, numerous love affairs and children born out of wedlock. Apart from that, he had many ideas of dubious legality, to say the least. One should grant him that he wanted to make the state and economy more efficient, but clearly for his dynastic interest, not caring about the Republic by herself or her people. Poland, however, will become attached to the Wettin dynasty for a long time. After Augustus II’s reign (1697-1733) there will be Augustus III (1733-1763, Frederick Augustus II in Saxony), granting the Polish succession to the Wettins in the Constitution of 1791, and finally third Frederick Augustus receiving the Duchy of Warsaw from Napoleon (it existed 1807-1815).

(From now on, you may want to refer to the map from 1600 in the first Peyton posting.)

In late 1600s the Republic was still at war with Turkey along with Austria and Muscovy. It ended in 1699, when Podolia and Kamianets (lost in 1672) were restored to the Crown of Poland. (By the way, the peace treaty, signed by Rafał [in fact not his son Stanisław, as stated in the link] Leszczyński voivod of Poznań on behalf of Augustus II. King and the Republick of Poland, by the mediation of England and Netherlands, can be read here in English. Stanisław Leszczyński will reappear shortly in our narration.)

Then most statesmen expected that the Republic will proceed to regain Smolensk and Eastern Ukraine, lost to Moscow since 1650s. (Ukraine formally still had her own hetmans under Muscovy–as granted by Sejm since 1649 during civil war with Cossacks–but their autonomy wasn’t taken seriously by tsars. These just wanted have an empire, without some places enjoying, you know, priviledges.) On the Polish (Western) side of Ukraine, 1702-1704 lasted a peasant uprising of Semen Paliy (or Palej in Polish), sparked by disbanding the Cossacks by Sejm of 1699 (which was forced by the treaty with Turks).

In 1698-99 also an issue emerged near the Baltic coast. Duchy of Prussia attacked Elbląg (Elbing in German, a port in Royal Prussia) and subdued the city after a long siege. The king was inclined to forsake the Elblągians for 150,000 thalers, but this way caused an uproar in Royal Prussia and Poland. The duke of Prussia was forced to withdraw his army.

Augustus II wanted to win some territory where he could install his family as hereditary rulers. It would hopefully help him in imposing reforms of his liking by military force, and inflicting his son as successor to the crown. The king entered into secret accords of Preobrazhenskoye with Moscovian tsar Peter, known later as the Great. Both men promised each other military aid in case of “rebellion of the subjects” and plotted a war against Sweden.

Its king Charles XII was around eighteen, so defeating him seemed easy enough. Augustus II was preparing to grab Livonia (which also was in the hands of the Republic until 1621) for his family. Well, many surprises awaited here for king Augustus.

The election of Stanisław Leszczyński in 1704. In the background, noblemen, mounted and armed, with standards of their voivodships and ziemie (lands). In the center, senators and bishop of Poznań Mikołaj Święcicki presiding in absence of achbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland, Michał Radziejowski. In reality, the election looked far less glorious, as only a couple of voivodships were present.

Without consulting it with Sejm or senators, Augustus in 1700 sent his army of Saxony to besiege Riga, the main port of Livonia, and present day capital of Latvia. When the Senate learnt about that, it declared that Saxony started a war for itself and the Republic is still at peace with Sweden. Which frankly wasn’t a big surprise, since Henrician Articles (which each king had to accept by oath) explicitly stated that no war can be started without a decision of Sejm.

What turned out to be more important, Charles XII with his army humiliated Denmark and Muscovy, the allies of Augustus. In the battle of Narva (1700) he forced capitulation of the Moscovian army. Then, Swedes went after Augustus and engaged his forces in Livonia. The Sejm of 1701-1702 upheld the previous decision of Senate and offered a mediation between Charles and Augustus, which at this point was eagerly accepted by the latter.

Other issue which Sejm was trying to address was the civil war in Lithuania. The ruling faction of Sapieha magnate family was just vanquished by the opposition in the battle of Olkieniki (Valkininkai in Lithuanian, 1700). Some of the victors started to contemplate secession from the union with Poland. They confiscated goods of Sapiehas and allegedly declared Augustus hereditary grand duke in Vilna. In the Sejm they backed off.

The session was eventually broken anyway, by a Lithuanian envoy Kazimierz Michał Pac. (It was done by leaving the city were the session was taking place, and refusing to return.) He later maintained that it was only because the presiding marshal denied him discussing his points, regarding mainly abuses of Saxon army in the Republic. Most people thought it was because he was angry with the king because he gave the office of court marshal of Lithuania to someone else.

Charles XII rejected the offer of mediation, demanded dethronization of Augustus II, and invaded the Republic. Now, the citizens and the army supported the king. Swedes were making rapid progress, brutally ravaging the land on their way. 19 VII 1702 Saxons and Poles were defeated in the battle of Kliszów, almost next to Karwicki’s home, near Kielce. Still in August 1702, nobility in a general convention in Sandomierz reaffirmed its support for Augustus, and so did the Sejm of 1703. They even, reluctantly, accepted the king’s alliance with Moscow. Karwicki also stood firmly for Augustus; but the national unity started to break.

In 1704, some of the anti-Saxon opposition formed a confederation in Warsaw under the protection of Swedish army. They proclaimed the throne vacant and, under the pressure of Charles, elected Stanisław Leszczyński, voivod of Poznań, the new king. Technically they were right from the legal standpoint, as Augustus broke Henrician Articles on many occasions, which by the same document relieved his subjects from obedience. But this way the confederates started a civil war. Since then the Republic had literally two governments, with both kings appointing offices. Citizens and common folk were being killed by all the armies, and a plague started to decimate the populace (1706-1713).

Most of Karwicki’s work on Exorbitances took place around 1703-1706.

In the civil war the Saxon supporters still prevailed, although Augustus himself was defeated by Charles in his Electorate and forced to abdicate from the throne of Poland in 1706. Loyalist confederation of Sandomierz, existing since 1704 (Karwicki was one of the counsellors here), kept on fighting Swedes in alliance with tsar Peter. Charles XII, not caring much about that mess, marched to the East, planning to defeat Muscovy by an invasion from Ukraine.

And in 1709, Swedes were crushed near Poltava by the modernized Moscovian army. This is what Charles got for delaying taking on Peter for almost ten years since Narva in 1700.

Wounded Charles XII and Ivan Mazepa–hetman of Ukraine who deflected to him from Moscow–after the battle of Poltava (1709).

Karwicki steps forward with his ideas

Great Northern War continued for next decade, but in the meantime Augustus reinstalled himself in Poland and Lithuania. In 1710, the pro-Saxon confederation of Sandomierz formed a sort of temporary ruling body under the name of “General Council of Warsaw”. Karwicki appeared here as an envoy and called for a financial and military reform. Apart from that, he sent copies of his Exorbitances to envoys and senators. Karwicki received letters of praise from Stanisław Morsztyn, voivod of Sandomierz, and Kazimierz Łubieński, (Catholic) bishop of Cracow (which shows, by the way, that people were still able to get over their religious differences sometimes).

Probably at that time no reforms of the Republic were possible without consent of Augustus (who still planned to make his absolutist dreams come true) or confronting him violently, which after a civil war and with the conflict with Sweden still ongoing seemed proposterous. Besides, the king had the Saxon army on his disposal, and the support of Moscow.

The projects resurfaced in 1717, around the session of so-called Silent Sejm, where no envoy was allowed to speak. But this time the Moscovian army supported Augustus and his Saxons, so that citizens were practically hampered. The Republic became sort of protectorate of Muscovy, since 1764 recognized by Polish government as Empire of Russia.

That being said, the views from Exorbitances were known throughout the 18th century among people wanting to reform the Republic and restore her freedom.

The full title of the piece is Egzorbitancyje we wszystkich trzech stanach Rzeczypospolitej krótko zebrane a oraz sposób wprawienia w ryzę egzorbitancyj i uspokojenia dyfidencyj między stanami podany, a przez ślachcica koronnego dany cenzurze statystów, meaning: Exorbitances in All Three Estates of the Republic, Shortly Gathered, with a Method of Taming the Exorbitances and Alleviating Mutual Distrust of the Estates, Submitted by a Nobleman from the [Polish] Crown to the Judgement of Statesmen. The word exorbitance appears quite often in the political discourse of the Republic; it meant deviating from lawfulness, going beyond the legal limits. This shows that transgressions were perceived as common, but at the same time, that there was a widespread sense of the legitimate and right ways being there.

The second work, published posthumously in 1746 as De republica ordinanda (On the Need of Rearrangement of the Republic), is essentially an extended of Exorbitances, written in Latin. Latin at the time could be read by all educated people in Europe, and many works especialy in Poland and Germany were published in that language. In DRO Karwicki added a project of judiciary reform and a detailed analysis of military reform, coupled with economic means that would support the standing army.

What’s the good of affections with royalty?

One could rightly ask, why the Polish society followed Augustus so blindly, even when he abandoned the throne, that it helped him make the country dependent on Moscow. There were many reasons. One of them was the sheer brutality of Swedish soldiers of Charles XII and his plans to subdue Poland. Another–the religious difference between the Catholics and Protestant invaders (but consider the Reformed Karwicki supporting the Saxons). Neither of them explains why the loyalty always stuck to the king himself.

The main reason, I will submit, was the compulsion to sustain a uniform, stable government.

It wasn’t so strange, as a republican state needs a sentiment of this kind. Citizens are not told what to do by anyone: instead, they had to decide what is right by themselves, even in difficult situations. To prevent a complete chaos, they need a sensible mixture of patriotism and legalism. We will see that in the language of the Republic it was mutual love and trust of people forming the state. These are strong and tactile words, bearing heavy connotations.

The spirit that I mentioned was still present in the Republic in early 1700s. Even if they sometimes existed in the degenerated form as expressed in the saying (attacked by Karwicki, Egz 1-2, DRO 3) Polska nierządem stoi–literally “Poland stands because of non-government”, or “as long as the government does nothing and presents no threat to the neighbors, Poland will stand”.

An 18th century depiction of the battle of Kalisz (29 X 1706), in which Sandomierz confederates and Muscovites defeated the Swedes and Warsaw confederates. In the center, we see king Augustus, great hetman of Poland Adam Mikołaj Sieniawski and field hetman of Poland Stanisław Mateusz Rzewuski. General Arvid Axel Mardefelt with the Swedish banner falls from his horse. It’s interesting that Augustus had abdicated in September from Polish throne, but apparently made a brief reappearance then. The painter conveniently ignores sizable foreign forces on the winning side and Polish supporters of king Leszczyński, which outnumbered Swedes twofold in this battle.

All the rokoszes (armed confederations) against kings were in defense of the law, trying to stop some exorbitances, present or planned. At least they were until the confederation of Warsaw of 1704, which elected Leszczyński but didn’t gain much popular support, and the confederation of Bar of 1768, which tried to depose Stanisław Augustus Poniatowski.

The taboos didn’t break entirely, as the Bar confederates eventually released the king when they captured him. One could wish that the Targowica confederates of 1792, opposing the Constitution of 1791, would be more alike their ancestors from 1704 in blind allegiance to the government–even to a one of dubious legality. But we should remember that in calling for the Russian intervention–which was obviously a high treason, regardless of doubts raised by the Constitution of 1791–they followed the example of king Augustus II.

The nation had a huge, enamoured weakness for kings, even if the rulers showed little affection for the country or blatantly violated the law. Poles really, really wanted to have monarchs to be a shiny ornament of the state and champions of patriotic unity and pride. It was an emotional affair. Chancellor Zamoyski in his last speech in the Sejm of 1605–with tears in his eyes–implored Sigismundus III to love the country:

Miełuję cię, dali Bóg, WKM., pana swego, służęć, dali Bóg, wiernie i po wtóre mówię, służęć wiernie. Dziwuję się, żeśmy tak peregrini in Repub. nostra, że dignitatem regis ochraniamy. Nie masz wprawdzie, jeno maiestas regia w statuciech i konstytucjach, dignitas regis nie masz. Dignitas WKMci nie może być więtsza, jako miłość ludzka poddanych swoich ku WKMci. Łacnoć o pieniądze, łacno o pomnożenie państw, gdy miłość poddanych twoich mieć będziesz; wszystko z tą WKMci przyjdzie, ale bez tej trudno począć w naszej wolności, w której tak się kochamy, że bez niej zgoła żyć nie możem: jako ryba bez wody tak szlachcic polski bez wolności. Tę iż miłujemy i ojczyznę i pany swe miłujemy; jakoż lubo libere panom swym i przodkowie naszy mówieli, nie słuchamy przecię ani czytamy, żeby pany swe, jako inni, kozikami kłuli. …
Miełujże, Najjaśniejszy Miłościwy Królu, tę ojczyznę naszę! Jestci tak, że cię Suecia genuit, ale też excepit i genus twoje maternum, zwłaszcza że et honores et ornamenta stąd masz. (Pisma polityczne z czasów rokoszu Zebrzydowskiego 1606-1608. T. 2, 478-480)
God sees that I love you, Your Highness, as my lord, and I serve you faithfully, and I say it again, I serve you faithfully. And I am surprised that we are aliens [ie. not citizens] in our Republic, so that we would protect dignity of kings. We have no such things in our statutes and constitutions, only majesty of the realm. Dignity of king could not be bigger than love of Your Highness by the subjects.
It will be easy for Your Highness to obtain money, to obtain new realms, when you will have love of your subjects. Everything will come with this, but without love it is hard to accomplish anything in our freedom. We love freedom so much we could not live without her. Like a fish out of water, such is Polish nobleman without freedom. And because of loving her, we love the fatherland and our kings. And so our ancestors spoke freely to kings, but it is unheard of that that they would stab their lord with a knife, as other nations do. …
O, Most Serene and Loving King, please love our fatherland! You are born in Sweden, but here we received you and gave you honors and ornaments, and from here descends the family of your mother.

Sejm casually gave Sigismund III tax money to defend his own, private rights to the throne of Sweden. Let’s not delve, for now, into how he showed his gratitude.

The part about “other nations murdering their kings” was a Polish commonplace, especially reinforced by the fate of Henry de Valois, king of Poland and grand duke of Lithuania 1573-1575. He insulted the nation by forsaking it in favor of French throne, vacated in 1574 by Charles IX; then was stabbed to death near Paris in 1589 by a fanatic monk.

It’s interesting how closely Karwicki follows (a full century later) Zamoyski’s line of thinking:

Dzięki wielkoduszności naszych przodków i cnocie wojennej z wolna z panowania i królestwa powstała wolna Rzeczpospolita. Nie przez wygnania i zabójstwa królów (jak się to powszechnie zdarzało wśród innych narodów), lecz raczej z miłości do swych królów i ich potomstwa, następnie w bohaterskich czynach wojennych dzięki wzajemnej miłości własnych królów tego dosługiwano się, że sami królowie rezygnowali ze swoich praw i albo te regalia dzieli ze stanem rycerskim, albo rezygnowali z nich na jego rzecz. (DRO 9)
Through the magnanimity of our forefathers, and by their wartime merits, kingdom and lordship slowly transformed into a free Republic. It happened not by exiles of kings and regicides (as it occurred so commonly among other nations), but rather by love of kings and their offspring, and love reciprocated by kings because of heroic feats [of the nation]. [Our ancestors] earned that the kings renounced their rights and either shared them with the knightly estate [= nobility], or ceded them to it altogether.

It is debatable how much monarchs of 14th and 15th century really wanted to abandon their powers over people, amazed by their willingness to fight Teutonic Knights and such. The mainstream interpretation today is that they were forced to that by, you know, “irresponsible” nation. It is true that Stephen I Bathory in 1578 granted most of judiciary competences that he had to electable tribunals in Poland and Lithuania–mainly because he was fed up with resolving all the cases by himself.

We can now see how hard it was for Karwicki to break with his royalism. Although he certainly wasn’t the first to be a Polish radical republican, as for example the views of Łukasz Górnicki (1527-1603) ended up being quite consistent in that matter.

Still, Karwicki emphasizes that removing potential the potential sources of tiranny is in the interest of enforcing the law on everyone. He points out that in Genoa, Venice and Ancient Sparta monarchs were purely titulary, unthreatening to the freedom, and:

Stąd nie mając się czego od księcia swego obawiać, bezpiecznie praw na się napisanych egzekucyją królowi zlecają, zdrajców rzeczypospolitej i innych egzorbitantów surowo karzą. My naprzeciw nie pozwalamy egzekucyjej z możniejszych, bo obawiając się, żeby król przykładem Tarkwiniusza wyciąwszy co wyższe malcontenti nie pogniótł mniejsze, wolemy cierpieć i bronić (ile pod płaszczykiem wolności) by największych egzorbitantów, niż otworzyć by najmniejszą drogę królom do wolnowładnego panowania, a tak jednego tyrana się bojąc, ucierpiemy wielu. (Egz 7-7v)
Since they have nothing to fear from their prince, they can safely leave him the enforcement of laws that they write for themselves. The traitors of the republic and transgressors are duly punished. And we, in contrast, refuse to enforce the law on the rich and potent, because we fear that the king–as Tarquinius of Rome–would eradicate the powerful dissenters and then subjugate the common citizens. And so we prefer to suffer (under the pretense of freedom) the greatest transgressors, so not to open a narrow path for the king to an absolute power. Thus fearing one tyrant, we suffer many.

This is a very thought-provoking passage, worth more consideration sometime, as it still tells us something today. On the one hand, there is an important aspect of universal solidarity of citizens against the government oppression, as the famous Niemöller’s poem reminds: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist” etc. “… Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.” I mentioned that in my previous posting in the context of religious differences in the Republic and the oath of defending everyone’s freedom taken in the Warsaw Confederation of 1573.

So it is important to stand by default for anyone who is persecuted by state. But what if they are powerful offenders, who threaten the freedom of their fellow citizens? Thus a republic needs to bear (ideally) no seeds of tiranny by the government, as then the enforcement of law can be always carried out in safety–by institutions of the people.

A method of countrywide election

I’ll have to take back my latest statement that electing head of state in a countrywide election was something very hard to accomplish in the Early Modern period. In fact Stanisław Dunin Karwicki outlines a method for doing that in his booklet from around 1703, not going very far from the existing practice on sejmiks (local convents of citizenry).

His method resembles the modern electoral college practice in the US, because he counts only the winner in each voivodship. (Of course, American electors were originally meant to decide freely, and not act as proxies of the candidates). Then, which is different, he assigns to the endorsement a weight determined by the amount of tax paid by the voivodship. Karwicki was aware that head of state could be elected by popular vote, but rejects the possibility for his own reasons that we will see.

Various statistics on voivodships, collected by Karwicki, from one of the manuscripts of “De republica ordinanda”. For a more readable version of this, see (1).

He proposes that sejmiks, conducted immediately after demise of the previous monarch, would elect their chosen candidate for king by secret ballot. You would have to register as voter on the first day, and then cast your vote on the second. The third would be left for counting.

Oh, and all the foreign candidates would be rejected, from now on only a citizen of the Republic will be eligible for kingdom.

Then the votes of constituencies (voivodships or “lands”, ziemie, which were their subdivisions) would be weighted by the amount of tax paid by them. Note that each voivodship decided for itself how much tax it will pay (no kidding), and thus there were some that were particularly stingy, even if densely populated. Karwicki was from Sandomierz voivodship (in northern Lesser Poland), which didn’t have that many noblemen, but more of common folk and higher total tax. Several Mazovian voivodships had many voters, but paid significantly less. Karwicki encourages voivodships to levy more taxes on themselves, to gain more votes in elections (1).

Pierwszy dzień powinni odważyć na spisowanie regestrów … Co czasu zbędzie tego dnia, obrócić na porozumiewanie się względem kandydatów na królestwo. Kto nie zjedzie i nie wpisze się tegoż dnia w regestr, sobie winien będzie i głosu nazajutrz mieć nie będzie mógł. … Drugiego dnia już nie przyjmując nikogo do regestru niech idą głosy albo suffragia tajne przez kartki … zaraz z rana zasiadszy przed senatorem onego województwa … czytać z regestrów spisanych porządkiem powiaty albo osoby, gdzie każdy, co mu głos dadzą, miasto głosu i mowy odda swoje suffragium albo kreskę na kartce zwinionej. I tak żeby to mogło się drugiego dnia skończyć. Te suffragia w skrzynce … zamknąć pod pieczęciami i oddać do zakrystyjej w kościele albo gdzie najbezpieczniej. …
Trzeciego dnia z kartek przy senatorach i deputatach z powiatów … zebrać kreski i obrachować, wiele który kandydat mieć ich będzie i dopiero, który najwięcej ze wszytkich kandydatów mieć będzie kresek, napisać kandydatem z województwa albo z ziemie tej. …
Po skończonych we trzech dniach sejmikach zaraz prosto (ile z odleglejszych województw) senatorowie i posłowie roczni niech jadą na sejm limitowany wyżej. Tam z każdego sejmiku kandydata (tego mówię, co inszych na sejmiku kreskami przewyższył) podadzą i konfrontować będą kandydatów, który najwięcej kresek będzie miał, tego królem obwołać prymas powinien. Proporcyją zaś do rachowania kresek kandydatowi każdego województwa lub ziemie najsłuszniejsza brać z taryfy podatków. (Egz 51-52)
In the first day should be devoted to preparing the registers [of voters]. … The time that will remain should be spent discussing the candidates for kingdom. Whoever won’t come on this day, will deprive himself of vote on the next day. … In the next day no one should be added to the register.
The voting should be carried out by secret ballots. … In the morning the senator of the voivodship should preside in reading names of all the voters. Instead of voicing one’s opinion aloud, everyone should give his vote in a folded ballot. And so the matter should be finished on the second day. … Then the chest with the votes should be sealed and closed in the sacristy [as sejmiks usually used churches as a place of assembly] or in a different place that is safe. …
In the third day, the votes should be counted in the presence of senators and deputies from counties. And then, whoever will win the greatest number of votes, shall be the candidate from this voivoship or land.
With this procedure completed in three days, the senators and envoys for the given year should go to the Sejm (the mode of which was outlined earlier). Here the candidates elected in sejmiks will be made known and compared with each other. The candidate that received the most votes of sejmiks shall be proclaimed the king by the primate. The number of votes assigned to each sejmik would be derived most justly from the amount of tax paid.

As I’ve mentioned, Karwicki does consider resolving the election simply by popular vote, and summing up all the votes received by a candidate in all voivodships. The problem for him is that voivodships with the most proliferated nobility would always elect kings (te województwa, gdzie rozrodzona ślachta, zawsze by nam obierały króla). Even not agreeing here with Karwicki, one cannot deny him first-hand knowledge of politics:

Tu może kto pomyślić, czemuż by nie lepiej wszytkie kreski, tak jako po województwach pójdą i wiele ich na którego będzie konotować, odesłać za wszytkimi kandydatami na sejm, a nie z jednym z każdego województwa, tym tylko co innych przewyższy kreskami, tego obrać, który najwięcej w całym państwie mieć ich będzie. Ale w tym refleksyjej trzeba na to. Naprzód, że te województwa, gdzie rozrodzona ślachta, zawsze by nam obierały króla. Na przykład księstwo żmudzkie w Litwie miałoby tyle kresek, że kilka województw inszych, które podatki większe płacą, nie miałoby tyle, choćby je w kupę złożyć. …
Druga, że … konkurenci zachodzili[by] koło siebie, cisnęli się do tych województw, gdzie rozrodzone domy, które im uboższe, tym podleglejsze fakcyjom, a tak by fakcyjami więcej niż zasługami i godnością stawali elektowie. (Egz 53v-54)

Someone could think that it would be better to collect all the votes cast in the voivodships and send it to the Sejm, instead of choosing just one from each. And then, the one that would receive the greatest number of votes in the whole country, would be elected. But we should consider the following. Firstly, that voivodships with the most proliferated nobility would always elect kings. For example, the Duchy of Samogitia in Lithuania [this was a name of a voivodship] would have more votes that several other voivodships combined, even if the latter pay more taxes.

Secondly, the candidates would compete in the voivodship with the largest families. These, the more poor they are, the more they are prone to become dependent on factions. And thus more by factions than by their dignity and merit the elects would be chosen.

There are far more considerations of Karwicki that would be interesting to review and I plan to do that in the next posting. There’s a slight possibility that it will appear around the end of January, but I will put 11.02 as the official date just to be safe.

(1) (A long, and possibly pointless, digression on money.) The tax amount (for maintaining the army) was computed from declared number of chimneys (Polish: dymy, literally smokes) in the voivodship. Sieradzkie (between Greater and Lesser Poland) had 12,000 chimneys and paid 6000 złotys; Zakroczymska land in Mazovia had 3860 chimneys but paid from 324 (!) of them only 162 Polish złotys (złp.). Next to it, Czerska land paid 3075 Polish złotys from 6152 chimneys. The whole Mazovian voivodship paid 21,000 złotys. Krakowskie voivodship (of Cracow) paid 25,000 złotys from 50,000 chimneys, Poznańskie and Kaliskie voivodships (in Greater Poland) 30,000 złotys from 45,000 chimneys (although here these two numbers are taken from different works of Karwicki). Then Podlaskie (next to Mazovia and Lithuania) paid 5000 złp. (from 10,000 chimneys), Lubelskie 6000 złp., Bełskie 3000 złp. (these two in Lesser Poland) etc. (Egz 53-54, DRO 54, 146-147)

(If you’re interested in the full statistics, here is a scan from the modern edition of De republica ordinanda. The meaning of the columns: Nr 1 – voivodship and its ziemie (lands), Nr 2 – number of chimneys in 1629, Nr 3 – number of chimneys in 1661 (the effects of the war with Sweden can be seen), Nr 4 – number of infantrymen that the given territorial division should maintain (as proposed by the author), considering its number of chimneys, Nr 5 – total number of łans harvested (1 łan = around 20 hectares, or 50 acres), Nr 6 – as in Nr 4, but considering the amount of land, Nr 7 – average of the numbers of soldiers (Nr 4 and 6), Nr 8 – decline in the number of chimneys (from 1629 to 1661). Note that only the Kingdom of Poland, without Grand Duchy of Lithuania, is considered.)

When Karwicki gives an (abstract) example of inheritance of a private person, he assumes that it’s worth 400,000 złp. overall (DRO 124). It’s a rather high number, although (data from later 1700s) great magnates could have even 5,000,000 złp. of yearly income (Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł), or 3,000,000 złp. (Stanisław Szczęsny Potocki), 775,000 złp. (Franciszek Ksawery Branicki) etc. (from here) In Warsaw, in 1793, a pound (in Poland ca. 0.4 kg) of beef was supposed to cost 7.5 groszy, or 0.25 złp. (as here–pricing regulations in the Republic for the win!).

When outlining his military reform, Karwicki estimates that total yearly cost of keeping a winged hussar is 408 złp., of an infantryman–220 złp. Of the latter figure, 78 złp. would be for feeding him (45 groszy, or 1.5 złp. a week), 53.5 złp. for boots and uniform, 22.5 złp. for gun, 66 złp. for other expenses on the army level. (DRO 97)

— Egz: Egzorbitancyje we wszystkich trzech stanach Rzeczypospolitej krótko zebrane a oraz sposób wprawienia w ryzę egzorbitancyj i uspokojenia dyfidencyj między stanami podany, a przez ślachcica koronnego dany cenzurze statystów, in Stanisław Dunin Karwicki, Dzieła polityczne z początku XVIII wieku, ed. by Adam Przyboś and Kazimierz Przyboś, Wrocław 1992.

DRE: De Republica Ordinanda in Stanisław Dunin Karwicki, Dzieła polityczne…

My pagination is as in the originals, as provided in the above edition. I considered only the Polish translation of Latin DRO. —

/-/ Popiel.

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