The visions of international order
Added: 2017-10-30
Added: 2017-10-30

Text from the collective work Przeklęte miejsce Europy? Dylematy polskiej geopolityki [“Cursed Place in Europe: Dilemmas in Polish Geopolitics”], Ośrodek Myśli Politycznej [Centre for Political Thought], Kraków 2009.


The concept of international order has many meanings. It may refer to the sphere of political relations, but it may equally describe an “order” in the economic, legal and cultural dimensions, etc. Moreover, experts who focus on international relations indicate that international order is most often understood “either as a very complex system of norms and values or as an organised system of international relations or other linkages between participants of international life”.[1] Three suggestions are already present in this sentence. First, international order is supported or should be supported by a specific system of norms; secondly, it is an “organised” order shaped by conscious actors; thirdly, it is simply a “system” of linkages between participants in international relations.[2]

A number of questions arise in this connection. The first one concerns ontic issues. The question appears fully justified whether the international order is something given, an entity that exists objectively and on which man only has an indirect influence. Or perhaps it is an order that exists objectively, but is moving in a specific direction and this is happening due to human actions? Do the entities that make up this order undertake activities arising from their free will (independent of the prime mover) or perhaps some of them have had a certain historical role to fulfil?

The first group of questions, regardless of whether we have answered them, raises further, equally important, issues concerning human cognitive abilities, and therefore the man’s aspirations to know and describe the relationships that occur in the supranational (supra-ethnic) space. At this point, the fact should be borne in mind that the concept of an order or system can be treated as opposed to the concept of chaos – the longing for discovering harmony in the spaces existing between entities and in the relations between them may be considered a temptation (a compulsion resulting from each man having to make assumptions that make it possible to reject accidental coincidences), which makes us see harmony and order where they simply are not and cannot be present. This, in turn, may imply adopting the position according to which it is possible and justified to try to fathom fundamental truths, and thus to discover the rules that enable us to answer the question why things happen the way they do and why what must happen will happen. Therefore, assuming that an order exists and that it can be known, we usually feel the temptation to draw a vision of the future that is ordered to the same extent as the present, and certainly “described” from the same perspective, using the same terms and involving the same factors, criteria for selecting characteristics or components. Adopting such assumptions may lead to the view according to which the possession of knowledge and skills, and in general of virtue (virtu), predisposes one to seek to create an order that is in accordance with the raison d’état, the good of the nation, the good of a class, race, etc.

The international order, if only because it can be considered from various perspectives (e.g. philosophical, theoretical) and because it can be a category applied to various (economic, military and other) spheres in international and inter-state relations, was also a subject touched upon by many generations of political writers, including Polish ones.

Several threads can be distinguished in the reflections on the international order present in Polish political writings. The first thread raises the question of equality of states as well as issues concerning just war – this group of writers includes Stanisław of Skarbimierz and Paweł Włodkowic, but also Samuel Przypkowski. The second one is related to the debate on the special role of some peoples, and especially Poles, in the protection of the European order. Finally, the third thread adopts the providential perspective.

I. Equal rights for all actors. Just war

Stanisław of Skarbimierz (1360–1431), who was indirectly involved in the debate around the conflict between the then Polish state and the Teutonic Order, undertook to precisely specify the essence of a just war and to give the answer to the question about the possible sources of moral (religious) justification for warfare that is based on brutal force. In his argument, Stanisław drew on authorities who were very important to the Europeans at that time, including Saint Augustine, Gratian, Pope Innocent IV, Raymond of Penyafort and William of Rennes.

Stanisław offers seven observations regarding a just war. First, in order for a war to be considered just, hostilities must be initiated out of necessity, and therefore in defence of one’s own homeland, in order to recover or preserve one’s property (territory). Second, any spoils that the representative of a side which wages a just war gains by the force of arms at the enemy’s expense become his property upon the commander’s consent. Stanisław also granted the right to spoils of war to clergymen who participated in military expeditions. Third, one who wages a just war does not sin even “if he kills one hundred men”.[3] During war, killing is not a sin if it results from inevitable necessity. However, Stanisław also allowed the use of subterfuge or ambush during wars. Fourth, just as the use of violence against people, also the use of fire and sword against the enemy’s property does not result in condemnation if it is done out of necessity and without hatred. Fifth, anyone who starts an unjust war bears full responsibility for its consequences: material responsibility to those who wage just war against him and moral responsibility towards his own subjects. Sixth, a just war can be waged not only by Christians against pagans, but also by Christians against Christians. Moreover, Stanisław believed that in a just war, a Christian monarch can use pagan (e.g. Lithuanian) troops against other Christians (e.g. the Teutonic Order). It is worth pointing out here that according to Stanisław, the very fact that a ruler is pagan does not mean that he deserves to be stripped of his power by a Christian ruler; the existence of a pagan state should be respected and its paganism should not be treated as a pretext for waging a war against it. He writes: “the pope and the faithful must not take away states or authority from infidels, since the latter wield them without sin and lawfully”.[4] Therefore pagans who fight against a Christian aggressor wage a just war. Seventh, a just war can be initiated without any authorisation, since Stanisław wrote: “it is everyone’s natural right to remain alive and to respond to force or violence or counteract them as best they can”.[5]

Paweł Włodkowic (1370–1435) strongly opposed the argument according to which pagan peoples were not capable of creating their own statehood, and no authority wielded by a pagan was legitimate. In his opinion, “it is ungodly and unreasonable to claim that infidels are at present completely incapable of exercising any authority, dignity, power or control”.[6] In Włodkowic’s opinion, in pagan countries, just as in Christian ones, authority over people and over earthly property is most often exercised without sin, because when God created man, he placed under his control everything that he created – “without distinction, he placed all things at the feet of the man whom he had shaped in his own image”.[7] The fact that the community in question is a pagan one does not necessarily mean that the relationships of authority and property within it are sinful.

An important question was whether monarchs should be subject to the emperor. Włodkowic noted that opinions on that issue among scholars were contradictory. Referring to Aristotle and William of Ockham, he pointed out that monarchy as the optimal system induces us to accept a single ruler over the entire Christendom. However, Włodkowic notes that “in some cases, it is better that, having abandoned this optimal system as one that is unattainable, different provinces be subject to different monarchs”.[8] Following in William of Ockham’s footsteps, the author assumed that the emergence of multiple kingdoms was a consequence of human sins. Therefore since there was no single kingdom in the material sense, its existence in the legal sense was suspended as well (temporarily rather than absolutely). By applying this approach, Włodkowic strengthened the position of the Polish king whose authority was independent of the emperor, and on the other hand, he delegitimised the efforts of the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg which consisted in supporting the Teutonic Order in order to persuade the Polish ruler to recognise his imperial authority. The emperor, who was the arbitrator in the dispute, was by no means authorised to impose his authority on King Władysław. Moreover, Włodkowic writes, by the same token, the emperor cannot “righteously” initiate hostilities against anyone, including against non-Christian rulers; starting a war against the infidels in order to gain their obedience will be neither righteous or lawful.[9]

Paweł Włodkowic’s writings on authority were inseparable from the just war theory. Drawing on the concept presented by his predecessor Stanisław of Skarbimierz, Włodkowic developed it further, treating it as the foundation on which he built his defence of the Kingdom of Poland at the Council of Constance.

For Włodkowic, a just war was one which met five conditions that concerned, in turn, the person, the object, the cause, the spirit and the authorisation. As concerns the person, a just war can only be waged by those who are obligated to do so and who are lay people. Referring to this requirement, Włodkowic pointed to the Teutonic Order, calling it “a heretical sect”. The object of the war could be regaining lost property (as opposed to gaining the right to property) or defending one’s homeland. As for the cause, Włodkowic believed that a just war should somehow result from necessity; we fight as a result of someone’s aggression, since we have been forced to take action by the aggressor. External aggression becomes a cause for war; it can also be said that the motivation for conducting hostilities on our part is the pursuit of peace. Underlying a just war is the desire to establish a peaceful order by regaining what used to be the legal right of the kingdom and its subjects. The fourth condition is acting in the right spirit. As the author noted, “to fight is not a sin”, but it is a sin to fight for spoils and out of hatred. Thus so long as greed and hatred are not the drivers of the knights’ actions, it can be said that they fight in a spirit that is proper for a just war. Finally, as concerns the authorisation, a war can be started with the pope’s consent if the matter concerns a question of faith, or with the authorisation of a secular ruler if matters of material order are involved.[10]

It appears that the five conditions of just war indicated by Włodkowic became more of an original creation when the diplomat from Kraków made certain assumptions that precluded the recognition of the war being fought by the Teutonic Order as one waged with the papacy’s authorisation in order to defend the faith. As it has already been mentioned, Włodkowic believed that by the will of Christ, the pope had authority not only over Christians, but also over pagans, and hence the latter were entitled to his protection when unjustified (unjust) warfare was waged against them. The mere fact of being a pagan should not result in acts of aggression by the emperor or by a king. The only case when punishing pagans was lawful was when they violated natural law. Włodkowic recommended similar principles of conduct towards Jews. “Christian princes should not expel Jews and other infidels from their states or plunder them if there is no just cause… The laws forbid molesting them when they want to live peacefully”.[11]

A war waged in the name of religion which may be termed a just one is a war initiated with the pope’s authorisation and waged similarly to the Crusades – in the name of recovering “the Holy Land that was sanctified by the birth, life and death of Jesus Christ, but in which Mohammed rather than Jesus Christ is worshipped”.[12] Let us note here that the author writes about the situation where “sanctified” land is lost where Jesus Christ should be, but is not, worshipped. This position should be compared to the one taken on a pagan state in which the rights of Christians are not respected. According to Włodkowic, in this case the pope can strip the pagan ruler of his authority and jurisdiction over Christians.[13] The principle of tolerance was to be binding not only on Christians in their dealings with pagans and Jews; the writer also demanded that pagans be tolerant of Christians. A pagan ruler could persist in his errors when it came to faith, but retain power at the same time only if he allowed missionaries to freely carry out their peaceful Christianising mission in his state. “However, those who have never accepted Christian faith should not be punished for infidelity”.[14]

The issue of war took centre stage in the writings of the Arian Samuel Przypkowski (1592–1670) who, contrary to the dominant Arian orthodoxy, not only recognised state institutions, but also the state’s duty to use force against external aggressors. Moreover, Przypkowski believed that it was every man’s duty to take all the actions necessary to defend the community to which he belonged. The writer considered the position that friends, fellow citizens and aggressors should be treated alike to be a grave mistake. In his opinion, the order to love one’s neighbour that flowed from Christ’s teachings did not go as far. Indeed, the order to love obliges us to protect our loved ones, i.e. family members, but also our national community, from suffering and death at the hands of enemy troops. In this way, Przypkowski came to the conclusion that the fact that states engage in hostilities stems from natural laws to the same extent as the very existence of the state. It should be added, however, that in his opinion there were some wars in which Christians should not participate. On this issue, Przypkowski, like Grotius, basically drew on the classical definition of a just war, pointing out that a justified war was a defensive one waged without feelings of hatred and revenge; it was a war without cruelty or a desire to fulfil “reckless ambitions”.[15] Like Grotius, Samuel Przypkowski believed that international order should be based on the principles contained in the law of nations (ius gentium). However, while Stanisław of Skarbimierz, Paweł Włodkowic or the representatives of Polish republicanism borrowed their understanding of the ius gentium from Saint Thomas Aquinas, for Przypkowski and Grotius it was a kind of law that functioned as the regulator of relations between nations. The ius gentium became a normative system common to all nations and provided the common foundations that enabled the conclusion of agreements between free parties, i.e. free states. Just like agreements between citizens, those between states were also based on the pacta sunt servanda principle.

II. Sarmatia and Sarmatism

Apart from writings in which relations between states were discussed as ones between equal actors, as the political power of the Jagiellonian state grew, ideas that were meant to build and strengthen the sense of pride among citizens began to appear increasingly frequently in Polish political thinking. The Poles looked at the existing international order not only from an institutional perspective, but above all from a “national” one. In the 16th century, the concept of religious and cultural universalism collapsed, which created the basis for the formation of nation states. As a result, Europe entered the era of religious and national wars and feuds. At that time, Polish political thinkers created a vision of Europe that was protected from the flood of paganism by the brave Sarmatian people who made their state a “bulwark of Christendom”.

The term antemurale christianitatis was used for the first time around the mid-15th century. It was used in the debate between Poland and the Holy See as an argument for exempting the Kingdom of Poland from the financial burdens related to fighting the Turkish threat. However, it was only in the 17th century, after the Turks had been defeated by Polish troops at Chocim in 1621, that Pope Gregory XV recognised Poles as worthy of “being called liberators of the world and vanquishers of the fiercest enemies by the entire Christian community”.[16] However, it was already Wincenty Kadłubek who claimed that the subjects of Polish rulers played a special role. In the second half of the 15th century, Jan Ostroróg (c. 1436–1501) referred to that statement by Kadłubek, depicting the Kingdom of Poland as Europe’s defender against the anti-Christian Turkish threat.[17] Maciej Miechowita was the writer who went far beyond the Polish context in his views.

It was Miechowita’s writings that led to a certain breakthrough in Europe, since his treatise entitled Tractatus de duabus Sarmatis Europiana et Asiana et de contentis in eis [“Description of European and Asian Sarmatia and of their Contents”] became Europe’s essential source of knowledge about the order that prevailed on their continent, and especially in Eastern Europe, which remained terra incognita for most inhabitants (even educated ones) of the rest of Europe. Before Miechowita, Roman chronicles remained the main treasury of such knowledge.

However, the Poles’ merits in the description of the East were far greater. A writer under the pseudonym Michalon Litwin (probably Wencław Mikołajewicz) published the work entitled De moribus tartarorum, lituanorum et moscorum [“On the Customs of Tatars, Lithuanians and Muscovites”], which was subsequently translated into many languages. Even more popular was the work entitled Sarmatiae Europeae descriptio [“Description of Sarmatia and Europe”], which was written by Alexander Guagnini, an Italian in Polish service (although Jan Strykowski accused the author of plagiarising his work).

Historian and politician (diplomat) Marcin Kromer (1512–1589) pointed out the importance of presenting the nation’s history for both its present and future. He remarked that great nations, even if their origin was lost in the obscurity of bygone ages or should not be a source of pride for them, embellished their history with “fictitious stories”.[18]

Going back in the history of Poland, Kromer pointed to the supposed roots of his nation, placing them in Sarmatia; it was from there that we travelled to finally settle in the lands on the Vistula River. Before the Sarmatians arrived, these lands had been occupied by the Vandals and the Vistula Veneti. According to the historian from Kraków, the Poles and Czechs were both Slavs and thus Sarmatian nations.[19] “The Slovaks and the Veneti are ancient Sarmatians, or, as the Greek says – Sauromatians who, after the nations had been dispersed as a result of the construction of the tower of Babel, and after the flood had passed, settled in all countries of this world; it is not from Tuiskon that they are descended but rather from Hazarmaveth, or Sarmatian, whom the Jewish writers Moses and Joseph described as the son of Ister or Joktan, grandson of Shem and great-grandson of Noah”.[20] When writing those words, Kromer was convinced of the accuracy of his narrative, stressing that in this respect, he differed from the other historians who made up the roots of their peoples.

The Old Testament roots of the Polish nation were a very important matter; it suffices to look at Stanisław Orzechowski’s Turcyki [“Turks”] where the author attempts to embolden the Poles to fight against the Turks who were considered to be of base origin since the Holy Scriptures did not mention them at all. Thus, the argument about the roots was primarily addressed to the writer’s own nation in order to stimulate “positive thinking”.

Wojciech Dembołęcki (c. 1585–c. 1647) went even further than Kromer and Orzechowski. He promoted Sarmatism in the 17th century, which was an era of wars (including the Thirty Years’ War), and his theses were better developed compared to those of Sarmatian writers of the 16th century. Dembołęcki wrote: “…our ancestors had no need to make up anything, since they were full of virtues and their ancient line descended from Scyth or Seth, son of Adam”.[21] Combining the origin of the Poles-Sarmatians with the figure of Seth (brother of Cain and Abel) was of fundamental importance, since it placed the Poles among the peoples who were untainted by Cain’s mark. Thus it was hardly possible to find in Europe a people more predestined to defend it against the flood of pagan barbarians. Could any other nation restore the “orthodox” Roman Catholic religion to Europe and to the world at large?

Polish Sarmatians also planned to restore Catholicism to the peoples who had renounced it, such as the people of Sweden. Schismatic territories had to be subject to the rule of the Holy See, and it appears that the Union of Brest was one of the most significant (and not only formal) manifestations of this policy.

The end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century was a period of intensified colonisation. For the countries of Western Europe, overseas territories were the main goal of their expansion, while for the Polish nobility the destination was the East. In his Posiłek Bellony Sauromackiej [“Assistance to the Sauromatian Bellona”] (1608), Marcin Paszkowski described the Russians as Sarmatia’s stepchildren who unlawfully occupied the lands to the east of the Commonwealth’s borders. Szymon Starowolski drew attention to the fact that Ukraine was less known to the Poles than Brazil to the Dutch. Paweł Palczowski went even further – in his Kolęda moskiewska [“Muscovite Carol”] he called on the Poles to conquer the East, advancing arguments appropriate to colonial conquests: “Brother, if you have lost something, or if you desire a change, go to Muscovy where you will acquire wealth and many other riches… We have bred numerous children, so let us go there where we will have space to spread, and that on a land that is wonderfully fertile. There we should no longer constantly sue or kill each other because of the great inconveniences of living too close to one’s neighbours”.[22] Palczowski, who had been prisoner in Muscovy for a time, clearly presented the goals of the expedition in his brochure: conquer a weak, mediocre and not yet mighty nation; “take their abundant land, end their impertinence – improve their government by changing their faith and bad habits”.[23] Thanks to the conquest of Muscovy, “we could also be as powerful and rich as any nation or kingdom in Christendom”.[24] Finally, the author stated that the capture of Muscovy would open the way for the Poles to reach India and Persia, which were considered symbols of wealth at the time.

Summing up: viewed in the context of the international order, Sarmatism generated several important attitudes. First of all, the Polish Sarmatians had an extremely important role to play in halting the barbarian expansion that advanced into Europe from Asia. Sarmatism was building and strengthening the concept of Poland as the bulwark of Christendom. Second, the Polish Sarmatians had not only the right, but even the duty to settle the lands lying to the east of their borders. Third, the Polish Sarmatians, owing to their virtues, were able to create the political system that most perfectly protected civil liberties – the Republic (Commonwealth). Poland was becoming a model for other nations.

III. Providentialism

The basic question that arises when we reflect on the order of the world is the doubt whether the history of individual peoples and of the entire humanity is moving in a direction that is consistent with human intentions. There are probably many answers to this question. Let us recall two that were offered by writers who were active in Poland.

The first was Piotr Skarga (1536–1612), the author of Kazania sejmowe (“Sermons Before the Sejm”), a fervent advocate of improving the Commonwealth using models borrowed from the Roman Catholic Church. He also called for the restoration of religious uniformity. Addressing his sermons to deputies, Skarga believed that his was a very important role: to make politicians aware of the consequences of their past, but most of all, future deeds. As he explained: “all kingdoms which collapsed had such messengers of God and preachers who showed them their sins and predicted their downfall”.[25] This did not mean that the defeat and downfall of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was inevitable; everything was in the hands of the Poles. At the end of the eighth sermon, Skarga lists three possible scenarios. Unfortunately, the second one (not the most drastic in fact) was ultimately realised: “And there is the Lord’s retribution, which does not materialise rapidly, but only affects the offspring who sin and imitate their evil fathers. There was the warning of the flood which only occurred one hundred and twenty years later. And there was the one about Babylonian captivity – Hezekiah asked God to delay the pillaging of the king’s house and the captivity of his sons until after his days…”.[26] Let us stress here: Looking at the Commonwealth, Skarga did not prejudge its fate because this depended directly on its citizens who had free will. It was they who, guided by the wisdom of God and acting according to God’s law, could enjoy good – and even golden – freedom. Conversely, by using “the wisdom of beasts” and rejecting the legal order, by taking advantage of the devil’s freedom, they would necessarily bring the God’s punishment upon them and their state would collapse.

So, if we apply Skarga’s thinking to the issue of international order, we must acknowledge the existence of a factor that was extremely important for the functioning of this order: God as a judge and guardian who meted punishments and rewards and who endowed both the internal and the external (international) order with a moral dimension.

A different perspective was present in Arian thinking. In the eyes of the most radical among the Polish Arians, the state bound a man to that which was material and made him a slave to this world, a slave to sin. Johann Ludwig Wolzogen wrote: “we do not have a permanent state here, but we are waiting for the future one”.[27] It should be stressed that such a position was extremely radical, even in the Commonwealth. In other states of Europe at that time, such a view would be met with immediate action on the part of the authorities, and an extremely violent action at that. Punishing all those who opposed the institution of the state was as typical of Catholic as it was of Protestant states. The Polish Arians awaited the end of “this” world, similarly as the Hutterites had once waited for an invasion from Turkey; they were expecting a war that would bring about the collapse of Western civilisation and thus accelerate the coming of the Kingdom of God. Thus Wolzogen advocated the providential concept. Similarly as Saint Augustine, he treated a tyrant’s rule or a pagan invasion of the Christian world as the punishing scourge of God. Wolzogen believed that when they were routed and defeated, orthodox Christians could count on God’s assistance; as he noted, “God can often cause his sons to avoid punishment. He can save the pious from being experienced, like Lot was saved from the destruction of Sodom”.[28] From this aspect of Wolzogen’s reflections, very important conclusions could be drawn. First, destruction and death need not affect orthodox believers; second, the condition for survival is being faithful to the Church, and therefore the mere fact of being a subject and citizen does not guarantee security and staying alive in any case; third, relationships with other people who live in the territory of the state and are not believers who belong to the Church are relationships that are imposed artificially by the state; fourth, the death of these other people, but also the death of one’s brethren in faith is fully justified by the will of God; fifth, it would be extremely foolish for a Christian to take action in order to try to oppose things that will happen anyway – a Christian should be ready to suffer and submit himself humbly to God’s will rather than act against this will by taking up arms; one should not try to defend that which does not deserve to be defended. Humanity is moving towards the ultimate goal set by God; in Wolzogen’s view, the man’s only duty is to submit to Providence.

The two systems presented – Skarga’s and Wolzogen’s – reveal very important but also very different interpretations of Providence. Skarga’s current of thought was revived in the 19th century when the causes of Commonwealth’s downfall were debated and attempts to establish a new international order after the partitions were made, while traces of the Arian thinking, which pointed to the inevitability of change and the man’s limited ability to influence the external order, can be found in approaches that advocated extreme loyalty to victors.

IV. European equilibrium

Finally, we reach the fourth current of thinking, which tended to combine examining relationships between the conflicted European countries with a look into a future where “united” Europe beckoned, which would finally bring peace. These views were represented by Stanisław Leszczyński (1677–1766) and Stanisław Staszic (1755–1826).

Leszczyński, who was engaged for many years in a political struggle for the throne of the Commonwealth (a struggle that took the form of an international armed conflict at one point), necessarily became a visionary who saw a possibility of imposing a new order on Europe – an order that would guarantee peace and be based on an equilibrium. In his Memoriał o utrwaleniu pokoju powszechnego [“Memorial on Consolidating Universal Peace”], Leszczyński did not suggest that a unified state be created; on the contrary, he wrote: “this Christian Republic, which would unite all opposing interests of nations and constrain each of them within just limits, is purely a chimera”.[29] His hope for the future was the idea of a republican system, which was pondered in many European countries at that time. In the thinking of the King of Poland and the Duke of Lorraine, republican ideas were reflected in the concept of a mixed system, in which the authority of the monarch (king, prince or chief) would be balanced by both democracy (the elected lower chamber of deputies) and aristocracy (senate – the upper chamber whose members would be nominated by the king or take their seats by the right of primogeniture). A characteristic feature of republican states was that they did not have an imperialist streak; as Leszczyński stated, they only cared “to preserve their possessions and maintain their form of government, and in particular the ability to exercise their freedom”.[30] The list of such countries was not at all short: England, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Venice, Switzerland, Genoa - all of them were to lay the foundation for an agreement on establishing an “association” of states that would forgo the use of force. This association, based on an alliance (agreement), would be tasked with “watching in good faith over things which could lead to disputes between rulers… so that all conflicts be resolved peacefully, and in the case of stubborn and unfair claims, providing help to the party which is considered oppressed and in danger of being unable to defend itself”.[31] Such an association would be headed by the King of France Louis XV who was recognised by Leszczyński as the ruler who brought peace to Europe and was guided by the general good in his policies; he was the only one who could guarantee the establishment of universal peace. Without going into legal and organisational details, the author of the memorial pointed out that Louis XV’s leadership of the association could contribute directly to strengthening it.[32] Equilibrium in Europe was to be achieved not by wars, as it used to be the case, but rather by mutual inhibition and restraint within the framework of the association.

While for Leszczyński the concept of European equilibrium was an important category, for Stanisław Staszic it was of truly fundamental importance. As he noted: “in the political relations between European countries, nothing has remained in stable equilibrium. This apparent political balance was oftentimes just a work of passion; it wobbled, changed, disappeared and emerged much as the desires and fortunes of those who held the fate of states in their hands”.[33] Staszic saw that Poland had been in equilibrium for many years and had contributed to the European equilibrium by being “the European bulwark against invasions from Asia”. However, in the circumstances where Russia’s power grew and there was no support from Western Europe, the Commonwealth had to fall. A possible new equilibrium could only be seen from a certain perspective, which was related to the tribal and national factor. In Europe, there are three groups of nations – those originating from the Gauls and Latins (French, Italians), from the Teutons (English, Irish, Dutch, Austrians, Prussians) and from the Slavs (Poles, Russians). For Staszic, this perspective gave clear answers why the French betrayed the Poles in 1772 (first supporting and then abandoning the confederates of Bar), while the Prussians failed to fulfil their obligations from 1788 (guarantees by the King of Prussia related to the reform of the political system). At the same time, the writer emphasised the particular perfidy of Teutons, which was reflected in their activities aimed at fomenting conflict between the Slavs – the Poles and the Russians. It was an apparent paradox that as a result of the partitions, the unification of the Slavic element took place. I stress here that this paradox was only apparent: when addressing the Slavs (Poles and Russians), Staszic stressed that their unification was in equal measure the work of providence (which he spelled in lowercase) and the work of forces of nature (also in lowercase, but for consistency reasons only). Thus its occurrence was not dependent solely on human will. The unification of Slavs introduced a real balance instead of the earlier, exceptionally fragile one. Now the aggressive Teutonic nations faced not only the weak (after the defeat at Waterloo) Gauls and Latins – from that time onward, the role of the factor that truly ensured balance was to be taken over by the Slavs. According to Staszic, “the merging and association of Slavs within the Russian Empire will bring about the unification of Europe, destroy all wars in it and ensure constant peace in this part of the world”.[34] In his opinion, this association was an imminent process; he categorically stressed that “everyone who moves against the north and against [the Slavs – W. B.] is threatened with misery and destruction. You will walk with nature, while they will walk against it”.[35]

Stanisław Leszczyński and Stanisław Staszic exemplified two very different approaches, but both looked forward to European equilibrium and saw it as a guarantee of peace. The first approach was republican and based on an agreement, while the other was sinister because it was permeated with a sense of inevitability and tried to frame defeat as victory. The first one was developed by a king who had lost his crown but remained optimistic nevertheless; the second was the work of a bitter and disappointed politician who once had been an Enlightenment reformer.

The visions described in this article, which were all formulated by representatives of Polish political thinking, are certainly not the only ones which deserve to be presented. Therefore this paper should only be treated as an outline and introduction to in-depth research on the issues of international order in Polish political thought.


[1]               E. Cziomer, L. W. Zyblikiewicz, Zarys współczesnych stosunków międzynarodowych, Warszawa 2005, p. 176.

[2]              Professor Ryszard Stemplowski looks at this issue in a similar way, pointing to the distinction between the philosophy of politics and the theory of politics: “A theoretician asks questions about the content of a policy, who pursues it, what its sources are, what effects it brings, etc. On the other hand, a philosopher takes a normative attitude and also asks what a policy should look like from the point of view of norms, including ones with the ethical component. A philosopher wants to know what this policy should be, and then gives a response that contains the justification of the concept he has formulated”. R. Stemplowski, Wprowadzenie do analizy polityki zagranicznej, vol. 1, 2nd ed., Warszawa 2007, p. 13.

[3]              Stanisław ze Skarbimierza, Kazanie o wojnie sprawiedliwej, [in:] idem, Mowy wybrane o mądrości, Kraków 2000, p. 95.

[4]              Ibidem, p. 109.

[5]              Ibidem, p. 97.

[6]              Paweł Włodkowic, Konkluzje 50–51, [in:] idem, Pisma wybrane, vol. 1, Warszawa 1968, p. 135.

[7]              Ibidem, p. 121.

[8]              Idem, Omówienie konkluzji Frebacha: konkluzja IV, [in:] idem, Pisma wybrane, vol. 2, Warszawa 1968, p. 369.

[9]              Ibidem, p. 370.

[10]             See: idem, Saevientibus, [in:] idem, Pisma wybrane, vol. 1, op. cit., pp. 66–67.

[11]              Idem, Opinio Ostiensis, [in:] idem, Pisma wybrane, vol. 1, op. cit., p. 120.

[12]             Idem, Saevientibus, op. cit., p. 21.

[13]             Ibidem, p. 33.

[14]             Ibidem, p. 37.

[15]             See: L. Chmaj, Przypkowski a Grotius, [in:] idem, Bracia Polscy. Ludzie, idee, wpływy, Warszawa 1957, p. 310.

[16]             Quoted after: H. Olszewski, Ideologia Rzeczypospolitej – przedmurza chrześcijaństwa, [in:] idem, Sejm w dawnej Rzeczypospolitej. Ustrój i idee, vol. 2, Poznań 2002, p. 117.

[17]             “… Poland also defeated Alexander the Great whom the world could not contain and exiled him from his country. What is more, Julius Caesar, having been routed in three battles, made an alliance with Poland”. J. Ostroróg, Mowa wobec papieża Pawła II, [in:] Wybór mów staropolskich, B. Nadolski (ed.), Wrocław-Kraków 1961, p. 34.

[18]             “It is nothing new that some great and noble nations, wishing to cover the insignificance of their ancestors and their trivial origins with appearances of antiquity and distinction, use either true or fictitious stories; their first ancestors are supposed to be descended from false gods or else to date back to the flood and Noah’s ark”. M. Kromer, Kronika polska ksiąg XXX, vol. 1, translated by Marcin z Błażowa Błażowskiego, Sanok 1868, p. 9.

[19]             See ibidem, p. 27.

[20]             Ibidem, p. 37.

[21]             W. Dembołęcki, O tym, że najdawniejsze w Europie jest Królestwo Polskie, a język słowieński pierwotnym językiem świata, [in:] Filozofia i myśl społeczna XVII wieku, Part 1, Z. Ogonowski (ed.), Warszawa 1979, p. 149.

[22]             P. Palczowski, Kolęda moskiewska, quoted after: W. Czapliński, Propaganda w służbie wielkich planów publicznych, [in:] idem, O Polsce siedemnastowiecznej. Problemy i sprawy, Warszawa 1966, p. 192–193.

[23]             Ibidem, p. 189.

[24]             Ibidem, p. 193.

[25]             P. Skarga, Kazania sejmowe, Wrocław 2003, p. 172.

[26]             Ibidem, p. 175.

[27]             J. L. Wolzogen, Obowiązki chrystianina nie dadzą się nigdy pogodzić z obowiązkami obywatela, [in:] Filozofia i myśl społeczna XVII wieku, op. cit., p. 229.

[28]             J. L. Wolzogen, Obowiązki chrystianina…, p. 229.

[29]             S. Leszczyński, Memoriał o utrwaleniu pokoju powszechnego, [in:] Filozofia i myśl społeczna w latach 1700-1830, vol. 1, M. Skrzypek (ed.), Warszawa 2000, p. 654.

[30]             Ibidem, p. 657.

[31]             Ibidem, p. 658.

[32]             Leszczyński was the father-in-law of Louis XV and he owed to him the Duchy of Lorraine, which had been granted to Leszczyński for life.

[33]             S. Staszic, Myśli o równowadze politycznej w Europie, [in:] idem, Pisma filozoficzne i społeczne, vol. 2, Warszawa 1954, p. 2.

[34]             Ibidem, p. 11.

[35]             Ibidem.

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