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The Age of the Democratic RevolutionA Political History of Europe and America, 1760-1800$
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R. R. Palmer

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780691161280

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691161280.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM PRINCETON SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.princeton.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Princeton University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in PRSO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

The Lessons of Poland

The Lessons of Poland

(p.307) Chapter XIII The Lessons of Poland
The Age of the Democratic Revolution

R. R. Palmer

Princeton University Press

This chapter presents a compressed account of the Four Years' Diet of 1788–1792 and its background. Poland is first exhibited as a land of aristocracy triumphant. The question is then asked whether the Polish Revolution of 1791 was a revolution at all, and if so in what sense; and what observers in other countries—such as Burke in England, the revolutionaries in France, and the rulers of Prussia and Russia—thought that they learned from it. Jean-Jacques Rousseau drew lessons from Poland in 1771. With the country dissolving in civil war, subverted by Russia, and sinking into the First Partition, the author of the Social Contract, at the request of certain Polish patriots, offered his diagnosis of their situation. For Rousseau, the trouble with Poland was that it had no consistance, no staying power to resist pressure and infiltration from outside. What it needed was character, a character of its own, resting on the collective consciousness or will of its people.

Keywords:   Poland, Polish Revolution, aristocracy, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, consistance, staying power, collective consciousness

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