Skip to main content

tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 14, 2009 6:30pm-7:00pm EDT

6:30 pm
and the polish king who knew that unless he joined the people who were trying to reform the situation would suffer the same fate as the royalty in paris. so the poles passed the first written democratic constitution in europe. this was the second constitution in the world only to that of the united states. and it provided a form of habeas corpus, new rights for the burger classes and for the jews and serfs who escaped from other places amnesty granted and the king swore before god that he would honor this constitution. this constitution was so amazing that jefferson commented on it, george washington commented on it. thomas paine was so pleased with this new constitution that he even considered for applying for polish citizenship. however, katherine the great said if the poles freed their
6:31 pm
serfs my serfs will want to be free and they all attacked poland at once. now, kosciuszko, who had fought in the american revolution and was very impressed with the notion of minute men and militias explained to the poles that we need to have groups that are ready in different areas so we'll have our regular army but when the war goes to different regions, we should have local people ready. and at the time in poland 80% of the population were serfs. 10% were nobility and 10% were jews we need a regular army -- if we have a regular army made up of mostly peasants of no legal rights or government protection of our property and they will not feel ties in our company. if we have this militia of all classes, he wrote, especially the nobles should be represented in the same proportion as peasants, jews and those with no
6:32 pm
complete ties now in our country. so essentially he was telling the nobility we need to give guns to the peasant serfs and just as they didn't want to give guns to the black slaves the nobility in poland if we give guns on the peasants they will turn the guns on us so they didn't listen. as a result, poland lost that war because it was attacked by all three sides. its army wasn't big enough to deal with three armies from three different countries. so kosciuszko was again forced to flee his country. this time he went to paris. where he witnessed the guillotine in action. kosciuszko was disgusted and later told poles they would not have a french revolution and then he went to rome where the vatican hierarchy considered making him the head of the pope's army. but conservative cardinals
6:33 pm
viewed this participation in the american revolution with a bunch of protestants as wae;l too radical for them. after traveling around europe kosciuszko decided he would go back and the poles would be on their own and on may 24th, 1794, a revolutionary council that wanted to drive the russians out of poland proclaimed him the commander in chief. that same day kosciuszko gave four speeches to the army, the citizenry, the clergy and to the women of poland and kosciuszko walked in on the old synagogue and he spoke with the rabbi and told his congress they needed his support for the revolution. this is the plaque with the visit of the rabbi and the jews and at first the jews didn't know what to make of the proposition because while individual jews had fought in separate armies in different countries, they had never had their own army. but after a while, they saw that they could trust kosciuszko and
6:34 pm
in some areas of poland as much as 20% of the army was jewish. in addition to the regular army, kosciuszko decided that since the peasants won't  given guns, they're going to take their knives with wheat and they bent the blade forward and considered that would be their weapons. only with these blades with axes did these peasants go into battle and so april 4th, 1794, the russians attacked them and the serfs charged nothing with these and here's a serf who took his hat and extinguished the fuse on the canon. and the other serfs did the same and they extinguishes the fuses and they took the canons from
6:35 pm
the russians and they chopped 600 russians to bits cutting off arms and taking away their canons. well, this was incredible. because they were not armed only with these things, these knives so the serfs were the most valuable unit in that battle and in military tradition in poland at the time the commander of the unit -- the commander of the army would put on the jacket of whoever were the most valuable troops in that battle. and since the serfs were the most valuable unit in that battle, kosciuszko put on what's known as a sugmana seen here it's a peasant's robe made out of wool. well, the serfs roared in approval as the new peasant prince would be a separate branch of the polish army and their motto they feed and
6:36 pm
defend. and he was given his freedom and the poles brought these canons back to krakow and in the equivalent of lincoln's emancipation, kosciuszko issued a proclamation freeing the serfs and granting them civil liberties under the protection of the government. so kosciuszko was basically trying to free the white slaves and then he wrote to the russian orthodox church saying, quote, why don't you join your hearts with the poles who defend our freedom and yours. later a polish historian turned this phrase around to for your freedom and ours and that became poland's unofficial motto. this army marched its way up the river from krakow to warsaw where the word came out that kosciuszko's army was a multicultural army. they evenop2 had muslim soldiern
6:37 pm
the army. they were basically descendants of the tar tars and he was met by this man, a black man named john la pierre who showed up in poland to join the revolution. now, in addition to john la pierre, the jews decided that not only do they want to be part of the army, butz this man seen here decided he wanted to form a jewish cavalry made up completely of jews. this was the first wholly jewish military unit since biblical times. and kosciuszko was very pleased with this and he wrote in his newspaper, the government gazette, which was the propaganda organization and the nothing will help us than the fact we set aside the different religions and traditions of those who support our uprising
6:38 pm
and that that theirj( own free will they offered to lay down their lives. kosciuszko's article went on to explain how jews had suffered over the centuries but now they were willing to die for poland. and when the fighting started, even the ambassadors from austria and sweden started writing to their king saying this is unusual because even the jews are taking up arms. and a couple of weeks later, there was an appeal in the government gazette to the jews saying listen, children, of the tribes of israel, yee who have in their@yq implanted the image of god almighty all that are willing to help in the struggle for the father land, we act. the time has come to consecrate for our strength let us fight for our country. my beloved brothers awaken like lions and leopards. unfortunately, once again poland was attacked by three sides.
6:39 pm
and at the battle, kosciuszko was surrounded and he had a giant pike driven through his hip. he had another one driven through his back. and they punctured his sciatic nerve and he couldn't walk and he was thrown into prison in russia. now, in russia he spent two years in prison with john la pierre. but after katherine the great died, kosciuszko was offered freedom by her son czar paul. here we see john9y la pierre by his side who was with him during his incarceration in russia and he wasn't sure he should take this offer because he had 12 thousand of his soldiers sitting in siberia. well, he made a deal with the czar that, okay, if you let my men go i will go. and the czar said, okay, but you can never come back to poland and you have to promise never to attack again. so in order to free his men, who were in prison, kosciuszko agreed.
6:40 pm
czar paul also gave kosciuszkor 60,000 rubles and he gave him a fur coat because he was going to kq sweden and he needed something to keep him warm when kosciuszko made his way back to america after the revolution he gave that fur coat to thomas jefferson. now, thomas jefferson is seen here in the most famous portrait of him but in addition to that, if you go down to the jefferson memorial, you'll see that jefferson is also portrayed wearing this fur coat. now, it was not just blacks, jews and peasants that kosciuszko stood up for. he also stood up for the native americans when he saw that the founding fathers began murdering them and pushing them west. well, this is chief little turtle who showed up kosciuszko's room with a
6:41 pm
present. he gave kosciuszko this peace pipe and he said i hear you're this righteous white man who's standing up for everybody. so we wanted to show you that we appreciate this. well, kosciuszko saw that chief little turtle was squinting so he gave him his glasses and chief little turtle put on these glasses and said, my god you gave me new eyes and he gave him pistols these i have fought in defense of the oppressed, the week weak, the wronged of my own race and i'll present them to you with the injunction you shoot dead the first man to subject gait you or despoil of your country. eventually in this room kosciuszko was visited quite often by thomas jefferson and they had very long discussions on slavery.g8 and the fact that thomas jefferson who was vice president at the time owned slaves. so kosciuszko decided that by
6:42 pm
now the americans owed him $17,000 and what he'd do with the salary but when he died, he wanted jefferson to take that money and to buy him slaves and he freed them and he left the last will in testament with jefferson and he made thomas jefferson the administrator of his estate and this is kosciuszko's handwritten will at the time in which he wrote, i begged mr. thomas jefferson that in case i should die without will or testament, he should buy out of my money so many negroes and free them that the remaining sum should be sufficient to give themkx education and provide fo their maintenance. he went on to say each of these black men that were freed must be married and have 100 acres of land with instruments, cattle for tillage and know how to manage and govern it as well as how to behave toward their neighbors and the only thing kosciuszko wanted in return from them was to make themselves as happy as possible. now, jefferson took this and
6:43 pm
rewrote it into his own legalese making his own slaves the beneficiaries of this will but, unfortunately, after kosciuszko died jefferson never carried it out. he washed his hands of this will and left the matter to others. now, kosciuszko always wanted to go back to poland. and after the american revolution, there was a quasi war between the united states anm france because much like we have with the somali pirates trying to capture ships and commerce off the horn of africa and they captured american ships because they didn't want americans to do business with british. jefferson needed someone who knew well and kosciuszko was an honorary citizen during the french revolution, jefferson sent kosciuszko back to try to free, help win the freedom of these american sailors and so he
6:44 pm
help get the freedom of these soldiers but while he was there, he also met napoleon bonaparte. napoleon had been running around with all thighs different conquests. he had just returned from egypt where he'd stolen a bunch of artifacts. and murdered a bunch of egyptians in doing so, and when he got back to paris, the first person he wanted to see was kosciuszko and he walked into his room in paris and said i urgently wanted to meet the hero of the north. and kosciuszko replied, and i'm happy to see the conqueror of europe and the hero of the east but after talking for a while kosciuszko realized he doesn't care about freedom or liberty or any of those things. in fact, he's going to be a tyrant and so he contacted his friends and the french directorate, he said keep your dire spoil , he said keep your your arrangement.
6:45 pm
three weeks earlier napoleon staged a coup d'etat and declared himself in charge. there was much more i would like to tell you about kosciuszko but then you're not going to buy the book. but there are two points i would like to make in closing. in 1908, there was a journalist named israel white, he was the literary editor of the newark evening news and he was writing this will this will is an unwritten chapter it is possible if the suggestions had been followed there might have been no civil war in the united states and the race problem of today would not be so perplexing to economists. years later, an african-american educator named booker t. washington stopped in krakow, he wrote i knew in school history what kosciuszko had done for america in its early struggle for independence. i did not know, however, until my attention was called to it in krakow what kosciuszko had done for the freedom and education of
6:46 pm
my own people. the polish patriot is buried under the cathedral of krakow which is the westminster abbey of poland and is filled of the morals of the honored names of that country. he lies in a vault beneath the marble floor of the cathedral as i looked up on his tomb i thought how small the world is and how interwoven the interests that bind people together. when i visited the tomb of kosciuszko, i placed a rose on it in the name of my race. thank you very much. [applause] >> i'd be happy to take any questions and there's a microphone in the back for
6:47 pm
anybody. there's a gentleman over here. >> hello. >> i'm sorry, can you speak up a little bit. >> i'm otto. and three things came to mind when i was listening to your presentation. one of them was theology, one was philosophy, and one was topography. could you flesh those topics out as to what you feel influenced him in terms of those three points. and also i have another one, but i'll send you an email. [laughter] >> all three of those sounds like books in themselves. well, topography obviously kosciuszko was always warning
6:48 pm
about the high ground and where you could be attacked from. his philosophy, obviously, was that we're all equal. in fact, he wrote a letter to his sister once in which he said he, remember, we are all equal. except that some of us have more money and education than others and that is the only difference. so that was his philosophy in that everyone deserves a chance to make a living and be happy. he often used the word happiness. even his letters before the declaration of independence, he used the word we should all be as happy as possible. and in terms of theology, kosciuszko was born a catholic. but later on was more upset with the catholics because the catholic church also owned serfs and for him, this was unconscionable. he was more distant in the catholic church and he died in exile in switzerland and there was one point where there was a
6:49 pm
protestant minister who was aging and for his retirement, they decided they were going to give him a fancy parish in a fancy town and this protestant minister decided, no, he's happy where he is. giving masses to the poor peasants of switzerland in the mountains. when kosciuszko heard this, he jumped on his horse and he raised to that minister first thing in the morning and this poor minister was shaving and kosciuszko burst in on him and gave him a hug, finally, a cleric who i can identify with. and i look forward to your email. [laughter] >> i was curious about that fortress that you> in the drawing you mean? >> well, the drawing from above. and that looked like the star, a
6:50 pm
pattern of the great builder of fortresses and i'm just curious. did you find any connection for the model? >> he studied him in paris because he had to enroll in an art school but he audited all those classes in the military schools in paris. voban was perhaps the greatest expert in military history of siege craft in how to built forts. and kosciuszko was very influenced by him. that's true. >> i'm curious about why would czar paul do anything for kosciuszko? why not just kill him? >> well, czar paul felt sorry for him and also had similar thoughts about easing up on the serfs.
6:51 pm
he later eased up on the serfs of russia not as quickly as kosciuszko would like him to. but he was of the same thoughts in general as kosciuszko and he wasn't a tyrant like his more, katherine the great who wanted to stretch russia as far as she could. >> in the preface of your book you mentioned there was little until you took the task about the book written on both the polish and american side. can you comment on the many reasons why you think it is. it's a fascinating story and it's surprising so little is known about it so far. >> well, i think for starters he has this unpronounceable name that american historians wouldn't even know where to begin. and he was this -- he was this humble guy wn't seem the limelight like benedict and arnold and like some other people from history.
6:52 pm
and historians in poland for many years didn't have access to archives in the united states and american historians didn't have archives -- access to archives in poland and as i'm fluent in both languages i decided i'm going to try to bridge that gap between the two. >> can you say anything about kosciuszko's linguistic ability? how did he communicate when he was here in the united states? >> when he first arrived he spoke french because he had studied in paris for five years. and, in fact, everybody thought he was french at first. and the first references to him from george washington and others are we hear there's this smart french engineer but he was here for eight years and as you read his letters going on, his english gets better and better every year. >> but he arrived in 1776, he was a 30-year-old man.
6:53 pm
i think he was born 14 years after george washington who was born in 1732. and kosciuszko, if i'm pronouncing that correctly, was born in 1746, the same year as pilaski and he arrived in philadelphia as you said after a shipwreck in the indies. you didn't mention much about his encounters with george washington, who i read several places and also in the beautiful book that was given commemorating the 400 years of poland in america, which was rendered to all of us had the celebration on the 2nd of october of last year where they commemorated poland in my native state of virginia in georgetown of 1608 but george washington is
6:54 pm
purported in that book, celebrating the great poles in american history, to have given kosciuszko two pistols. they weren't by chance the two pistols he gave to little turtle, were they? [laughter] >> i don't think so. i think those pistols are now in the military museum in warsaw. >> oh, really? >> in addition to that, he gave him a sword with an inscription on it and kosciuszko was actually at france's tavern when george washington said goodbye to the troops. and, in fact, he gave -- 'cause kosciuszko was made a member of the order of the cincinnati. and washington, when he was saying goodbye to him, actually slipped a cameo ring on his finger and i say in the book that the irony of this it was as if washington was passing the
6:55 pm
baton to kosciuszko because you have one farmer/general passing the baton to another farmer/general who was trying to win freedom for his country and as far as kosciuszko's relationship with washington, it wasn't as warm and fuzzy as the relationship he had with general gates because general gates later freed his slaves and he allowed slaves to join his army as themselves rather than in the name of their -- in the name of their owner, the slave owners. so it was more an official relationship and washington spent probably the most amount of time with kosciuszko when they were at west point and on the visits to west point, he would be given tours of the various readouts and forts he was building. later on when kosciuszko arrived in the united states for a second time george washington
6:56 pm
invited him to mount vernon and rather than travel to virginia he went to see gates who now had a number of black people working for him in new york and they were free black people and kosciuszko identified more with that than going to a slave plantation. >> and the plans that the lady who had the box or the trunk with all the plans for fortifying west point that kosciuszko had laid out and then burned them, you know, for fear that they would fall into the hands of the british, was there any evidence, anything written that showed that kosciuszko and benedict arnold had ever crossed paths and -- >> oh, no. they did know each other. in fact, because kosciuszko was so close with general gates, they were all together at the battle of saratoga. and kosciuszko had much more of respect for the command of authority and gates and benedict
6:57 pm
arnold were constantly at each other's throats. gates had this -- was at the top of the hill and the british were marching up the hill. and benedict arnold wanted to run down the hill and gates kept saying, no, no, we're fine where we are. let them march up and we'll shoot at them when we march up. in fact, i found one memoir where kosciuszko talks about about benedict arnold, he was a drunk at saratoga. so i don't think that they -- they were the same kind of people. i don't think they would have liked each other but they definitely knew each other at west point and at the battle of saratoga. there's a woman back there. >> i'm sylvia. and i just wanted to say that actually i wanted to thank you for writing this book which i think was long overdue. since you are involved in kosciuszko foundation in new york, i wonder if you know that
6:58 pm
few years ago and, unfortunately, i can't remember exactly when, there was a play done about kosciuszko and about his life in switzerland. and he lived with a swiss family thaddeus a growing-up daughter, i don't remember 17 or something. and kosciuszko supposedly tutored her in various subjects and the girl fell in love with him. and i just wonder if it was a complete fantasy of the playwright whose name, unfortunately, i can't remember or there was a touch ofívh trut about it? at the same time, when i witnessed this play, it was so sad that this great hero of america in poland ended up with a, you know, bourgeois swiss family tutoring a young girl and
6:59 pm
actually nobody really knew who he was, though, he had some visitors from poland. according to the play. and i wonder if you could comment about this. >> well, kosciuszko dedicated the last years of his life to education and specifically education of serfs in poland, and in france. and, yes, he did tutor the daughter of a mr. zeltner and he was very involved with different theories on education and there was one educator and there was one educator that kosciuszko became very involved with and tried to introduce him to napoleon and napoleon said i can't waste my time with the abcs. and you mentioned this family, this swiss family, kosciuszko at the end of his life lived in paris for a while and


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on