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Full Online Book HomeNonfictionsNotes On Life And Letters - Part 2. Life - The Crime Of Partition 1919
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Notes On Life And Letters - Part 2. Life  -  The Crime Of Partition 1919 Post by :cclittle Category :Nonfictions Author :Joseph Conrad Date :May 2012 Read :2471

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Notes On Life And Letters - Part 2. Life - The Crime Of Partition 1919

At the end of the eighteenth century, when the partition of Poland had become an accomplished fact, the world qualified it at once as a crime. This strong condemnation proceeded, of course, from the West of Europe; the Powers of the Centre, Prussia and Austria, were not likely to admit that this spoliation fell into the category of acts morally reprehensible and carrying the taint of anti-social guilt. As to Russia, the third party to the crime, and the originator of the scheme, she had no national conscience at the time. The will of its rulers was always accepted by the people as the expression of an omnipotence derived directly from God. As an act of mere conquest the best excuse for the partition lay simply in the fact that it happened to be possible; there was the plunder and there was the opportunity to get hold of it. Catherine the Great looked upon this extension of her dominions with a cynical satisfaction. Her political argument that the destruction of Poland meant the repression of revolutionary ideas and the checking of the spread of Jacobinism in Europe was a characteristically impudent pretence. There may have been minds here and there amongst the Russians that perceived, or perhaps only felt, that by the annexation of the greater part of the Polish Republic, Russia approached nearer to the comity of civilised nations and ceased, at least territorially, to be an Asiatic Power.

It was only after the partition of Poland that Russia began to play a great part in Europe. To such statesmen as she had then that act of brigandage must have appeared inspired by great political wisdom. The King of Prussia, faithful to the ruling principle of his life, wished simply to aggrandise his dominions at a much smaller cost and at much less risk than he could have done in any other direction; for at that time Poland was perfectly defenceless from a material point of view, and more than ever, perhaps, inclined to put its faith in humanitarian illusions. Morally, the Republic was in a state of ferment and consequent weakness, which so often accompanies the period of social reform. The strength arrayed against her was just then overwhelming; I mean the comparatively honest (because open) strength of armed forces. But, probably from innate inclination towards treachery, Frederick of Prussia selected for himself the part of falsehood and deception. Appearing on the scene in the character of a friend he entered deliberately into a treaty of alliance with the Republic, and then, before the ink was dry, tore it up in brazen defiance of the commonest decency, which must have been extremely gratifying to his natural tastes.

As to Austria, it shed diplomatic tears over the transaction. They cannot be called crocodile tears, insomuch that they were in a measure sincere. They arose from a vivid perception that Austria's allotted share of the spoil could never compensate her for the accession of strength and territory to the other two Powers. Austria did not really want an extension of territory at the cost of Poland. She could not hope to improve her frontier in that way, and economically she had no need of Galicia, a province whose natural resources were undeveloped and whose salt mines did not arouse her cupidity because she had salt mines of her own. No doubt the democratic complexion of Polish institutions was very distasteful to the conservative monarchy; Austrian statesmen did see at the time that the real danger to the principle of autocracy was in the West, in France, and that all the forces of Central Europe would be needed for its suppression. But the movement towards a _partage on the part of Russia and Prussia was too definite to be resisted, and Austria had to follow their lead in the destruction of a State which she would have preferred to preserve as a possible ally against Prussian and Russian ambitions. It may be truly said that the destruction of Poland secured the safety of the French Revolution. For when in 1795 the crime was consummated, the Revolution had turned the corner and was in a state to defend itself against the forces of reaction.

In the second half of the eighteenth century there were two centres of liberal ideas on the continent of Europe: France and Poland. On an impartial survey one may say without exaggeration that then France was relatively every bit as weak as Poland; even, perhaps, more so. But France's geographical position made her much less vulnerable. She had no powerful neighbours on her frontier; a decayed Spain in the south and a conglomeration of small German Principalities on the east were her happy lot. The only States which dreaded the contamination of the new principles and had enough power to combat it were Prussia, Austria, and Russia, and they had another centre of forbidden ideas to deal with in defenceless Poland, unprotected by nature, and offering an immediate satisfaction to their cupidity. They made their choice, and the untold sufferings of a nation which would not die was the price exacted by fate for the triumph of revolutionary ideals.

Thus even a crime may become a moral agent by the lapse of time and the course of history. Progress leaves its dead by the way, for progress is only a great adventure as its leaders and chiefs know very well in their hearts. It is a march into an undiscovered country; and in such an enterprise the victims do not count. As an emotional outlet for the oratory of freedom it was convenient enough to remember the Crime now and then: the Crime being the murder of a State and the carving of its body into three pieces. There was really nothing to do but to drop a few tears and a few flowers of rhetoric upon the grave. But the spirit of the nation refused to rest therein. It haunted the territories of the Old Republic in the manner of a ghost haunting its ancestral mansion where strangers are making themselves at home; a calumniated, ridiculed, and pooh-pooh'd ghost, and yet never ceasing to inspire a sort of awe, a strange uneasiness, in the hearts of the unlawful possessors. Poland deprived of its independence, of its historical continuity, with its religion and language persecuted and repressed, became a mere geographical expression. And even that, itself, seemed strangely vague, had lost its definite character, was rendered doubtful by the theories and the claims of the spoliators who, by a strange effect of uneasy conscience, while strenuously denying the moral guilt of the transaction, were always trying to throw a veil of high rectitude over the Crime. What was most annoying to their righteousness was the fact that the nation, stabbed to the heart, refused to grow insensible and cold. That persistent and almost uncanny vitality was sometimes very inconvenient to the rest of Europe also. It would intrude its irresistible claim into every problem of European politics, into the theory of European equilibrium, into the question of the Near East, the Italian question, the question of Schleswig-Holstein, and into the doctrine of nationalities. That ghost, not content with making its ancestral halls uncomfortable for the thieves, haunted also the Cabinets of Europe, waved indecently its bloodstained robes in the solemn atmosphere of Council- rooms, where congresses and conferences sit with closed windows. It would not be exorcised by the brutal jeers of Bismarck and the fine railleries of Gorchakov.

As a Polish friend observed to me some years ago: "Till the year '48 the Polish problem has been to a certain extent a convenient rallying-point for all manifestations of liberalism. Since that time we have come to be regarded simply as a nuisance. It's very disagreeable."

I agreed that it was, and he continued: "What are we to do? We did not create the situation by any outside action of ours. Through all the centuries of its existence Poland has never been a menace to anybody, not even to the Turks, to whom it has been merely an obstacle."

Nothing could be more true. The spirit of aggressiveness was absolutely foreign to the Polish temperament, to which the preservation of its institutions and its liberties was much more precious than any ideas of conquest. Polish wars were defensive, and they were mostly fought within Poland's own borders. And that those territories were often invaded was but a misfortune arising from its geographical position. Territorial expansion was never the master-thought of Polish statesmen. The consolidation of the territories of the _serenissime Republic, which made of it a Power of the first rank for a time, was not accomplished by force. It was not the consequence of successful aggression, but of a long and successful defence against the raiding neighbours from the East. The lands of Lithuanian and Ruthenian speech were never conquered by Poland. These peoples were not compelled by a series of exhausting wars to seek safety in annexation. It was not the will of a prince or a political intrigue that brought about the union. Neither was it fear. The slowly-matured view of the economical and social necessities and, before all, the ripening moral sense of the masses were the motives that induced the forty three representatives of Lithuanian and Ruthenian provinces, led by their paramount prince, to enter into a political combination unique in the history of the world, a spontaneous and complete union of sovereign States choosing deliberately the way of peace. Never was strict truth better expressed in a political instrument than in the preamble of the first Union Treaty (1413). It begins with the words: "This Union, being the outcome not of hatred, but of love"--words that Poles have not heard addressed to them politically by any nation for the last hundred and fifty years.

This union being an organic, living thing capable of growth and development was, later, modified and confirmed by two other treaties, which guaranteed to all the parties in a just and eternal union all their rights, liberties, and respective institutions. The Polish State offers a singular instance of an extremely liberal administrative federalism which, in its Parliamentary life as well as its international politics, presented a complete unity of feeling and purpose. As an eminent French diplomatist remarked many years ago: "It is a very remarkable fact in the history of the Polish State, this invariable and unanimous consent of the populations; the more so that, the King being looked upon simply as the chief of the Republic, there was no monarchical bond, no dynastic fidelity to control and guide the sentiment of the nations, and their union remained as a pure affirmation of the national will." The Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its Ruthenian Provinces retained their statutes, their own administration, and their own political institutions. That those institutions in the course of time tended to assimilation with the Polish form was not the result of any pressure, but simply of the superior character of Polish civilisation.

Even after Poland lost its independence this alliance and this union remained firm in spirit and fidelity. All the national movements towards liberation were initiated in the name of the whole mass of people inhabiting the limits of the old Republic, and all the Provinces took part in them with complete devotion. It is only in the last generation that efforts have been made to create a tendency towards separation, which would indeed serve no one but Poland's common enemies. And, strangely enough, it is the internationalists, men who professedly care nothing for race or country, who have set themselves this task of disruption, one can easily see for what sinister purpose. The ways of the internationalists may be dark, but they are not inscrutable.

From the same source no doubt there will flow in the future a poisoned stream of hints of a reconstituted Poland being a danger to the races once so closely associated within the territories of the Old Republic. The old partners in "the Crime" are not likely to forgive their victim its inconvenient and almost shocking obstinacy in keeping alive. They had tried moral assassination before and with some small measure of success, for, indeed, the Polish question, like all living reproaches, had become a nuisance. Given the wrong, and the apparent impossibility of righting it without running risks of a serious nature, some moral alleviation may be found in the belief that the victim had brought its misfortunes on its own head by its own sins. That theory, too, had been advanced about Poland (as if other nations had known nothing of sin and folly), and it made some way in the world at different times, simply because good care was taken by the interested parties to stop the mouth of the accused. But it has never carried much conviction to honest minds. Somehow, in defiance of the cynical point of view as to the Force of Lies and against all the power of falsified evidence, truth often turns out to be stronger than calumny. With the course of years, however, another danger sprang up, a danger arising naturally from the new political alliances dividing Europe into two armed camps. It was the danger of silence. Almost without exception the Press of Western Europe in the twentieth century refused to touch the Polish question in any shape or form whatever. Never was the fact of Polish vitality more embarrassing to European diplomacy than on the eve of Poland's resurrection.

When the war broke out there was something gruesomely comic in the proclamations of emperors and archdukes appealing to that invincible soul of a nation whose existence or moral worth they had been so arrogantly denying for more than a century. Perhaps in the whole record of human transactions there have never been performances so brazen and so vile as the manifestoes of the German Emperor and the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia; and, I imagine, no more bitter insult has been offered to human heart and intelligence than the way in which those proclamations were flung into the face of historical truth. It was like a scene in a cynical and sinister farce, the absurdity of which became in some sort unfathomable by the reflection that nobody in the world could possibly be so abjectly stupid as to be deceived for a single moment. At that time, and for the first two months of the war, I happened to be in Poland, and I remember perfectly well that, when those precious documents came out, the confidence in the moral turpitude of mankind they implied did not even raise a scornful smile on the lips of men whose most sacred feelings and dignity they outraged. They did not deign to waste their contempt on them. In fact, the situation was too poignant and too involved for either hot scorn or a coldly rational discussion. For the Poles it was like being in a burning house of which all the issues were locked. There was nothing but sheer anguish under the strange, as if stony, calmness which in the utter absence of all hope falls on minds that are not constitutionally prone to despair. Yet in this time of dismay the irrepressible vitality of the nation would not accept a neutral attitude. I was told that even if there were no issue it was absolutely necessary for the Poles to affirm their national existence. Passivity, which could be regarded as a craven acceptance of all the material and moral horrors ready to fall upon the nation, was not to be thought of for a moment. Therefore, it was explained to me, the Poles _must act. Whether this was a counsel of wisdom or not it is very difficult to say, but there are crises of the soul which are beyond the reach of wisdom. When there is apparently no issue visible to the eyes of reason, sentiment may yet find a way out, either towards salvation or to utter perdition, no one can tell--and the sentiment does not even ask the question. Being there as a stranger in that tense atmosphere, which was yet not unfamiliar to me, I was not very anxious to parade my wisdom, especially after it had been pointed out in answer to my cautious arguments that, if life has its values worth fighting for, death, too, has that in it which can make it worthy or unworthy.

Out of the mental and moral trouble into which the grouping of the Powers at the beginning of war had thrown the counsels of Poland there emerged at last the decision that the Polish Legions, a peace organisation in Galicia directed by Pilsudski (afterwards given the rank of General, and now apparently the Chief of the Government in Warsaw), should take the field against the Russians. In reality it did not matter against which partner in the "Crime" Polish resentment should be directed. There was little to choose between the methods of Russian barbarism, which were both crude and rotten, and the cultivated brutality tinged with contempt of Germany's superficial, grinding civilisation. There was nothing to choose between them. Both were hateful, and the direction of the Polish effort was naturally governed by Austria's tolerant attitude, which had connived for years at the semi-secret organisation of the Polish Legions. Besides, the material possibility pointed out the way. That Poland should have turned at first against the ally of Western Powers, to whose moral support she had been looking for so many years, is not a greater monstrosity than that alliance with Russia which had been entered into by England and France with rather less excuse and with a view to eventualities which could perhaps have been avoided by a firmer policy and by a greater resolution in the face of what plainly appeared unavoidable.

For let the truth be spoken. The action of Germany, however cruel, sanguinary, and faithless, was nothing in the nature of a stab in the dark. The Germanic Tribes had told the whole world in all possible tones carrying conviction, the gently persuasive, the coldly logical; in tones Hegelian, Nietzschean, warlike, pious, cynical, inspired, what they were going to do to the inferior races of the earth, so full of sin and all unworthiness. But with a strange similarity to the prophets of old (who were also great moralists and invokers of might) they seemed to be crying in a desert. Whatever might have been the secret searching of hearts, the Worthless Ones would not take heed. It must also be admitted that the conduct of the menaced Governments carried with it no suggestion of resistance. It was no doubt, the effect of neither courage nor fear, but of that prudence which causes the average man to stand very still in the presence of a savage dog. It was not a very politic attitude, and the more reprehensible in so far that it seemed to arise from the mistrust of their own people's fortitude. On simple matters of life and death a people is always better than its leaders, because a people cannot argue itself as a whole into a sophisticated state of mind out of deference for a mere doctrine or from an exaggerated sense of its own cleverness. I am speaking now of democracies whose chiefs resemble the tyrant of Syracuse in this, that their power is unlimited (for who can limit the will of a voting people?) and who always see the domestic sword hanging by a hair above their heads.

Perhaps a different attitude would have checked German self-confidence, and her overgrown militarism would have died from the excess of its own strength. What would have been then the moral state of Europe it is difficult to say. Some other excess would probably have taken its place, excess of theory, or excess of sentiment, or an excess of the sense of security leading to some other form of catastrophe; but it is certain that in that case the Polish question would not have taken a concrete form for ages. Perhaps it would never have taken form! In this world, where everything is transient, even the most reproachful ghosts end by vanishing out of old mansions, out of men's consciences. Progress of enlightenment, or decay of faith? In the years before the war the Polish ghost was becoming so thin that it was impossible to get for it the slightest mention in the papers. A young Pole coming to me from Paris was extremely indignant, but I, indulging in that detachment which is the product of greater age, longer experience, and a habit of meditation, refused to share that sentiment. He had gone begging for a word on Poland to many influential people, and they had one and all told him that they were going to do no such thing. They were all men of ideas and therefore might have been called idealists, but the notion most strongly anchored in their minds was the folly of touching a question which certainly had no merit of actuality and would have had the appalling effect of provoking the wrath of their old enemies and at the same time offending the sensibilities of their new friends. It was an unanswerable argument. I couldn't share my young friend's surprise and indignation. My practice of reflection had also convinced me that there is nothing on earth that turns quicker on its pivot than political idealism when touched by the breath of practical politics.

It would be good to remember that Polish independence as embodied in a Polish State is not the gift of any kind of journalism, neither is it the outcome even of some particularly benevolent idea or of any clearly apprehended sense of guilt. I am speaking of what I know when I say that the original and only formative idea in Europe was the idea of delivering the fate of Poland into the hands of Russian Tsarism. And, let us remember, it was assumed then to be a victorious Tsarism at that. It was an idea talked of openly, entertained seriously, presented as a benevolence, with a curious blindness to its grotesque and ghastly character. It was the idea of delivering the victim with a kindly smile and the confident assurance that "it would be all right" to a perfectly unrepentant assassin, who, after sawing furiously at its throat for a hundred years or so, was expected to make friends suddenly and kiss it on both cheeks in the mystic Russian fashion. It was a singularly nightmarish combination of international polity, and no whisper of any other would have been officially tolerated. Indeed, I do not think in the whole extent of Western Europe there was anybody who had the slightest mind to whisper on that subject. Those were the days of the dark future, when Benckendorf put down his name on the Committee for the Relief of Polish Populations driven by the Russian armies into the heart of Russia, when the Grand Duke Nicholas (the gentleman who advocated a St. Bartholomew's Night for the suppression of Russian liberalism) was displaying his "divine" (I have read the very word in an English newspaper of standing) strategy in the great retreat, where Mr. Iswolsky carried himself haughtily on the banks of the Seine; and it was beginning to dawn upon certain people there that he was a greater nuisance even than the Polish question.

But there is no use in talking about all that. Some clever person has said that it is always the unexpected that happens, and on a calm and dispassionate survey the world does appear mainly to one as a scene of miracles. Out of Germany's strength, in whose purpose so many people refused to believe, came Poland's opportunity, in which nobody could have been expected to believe. Out of Russia's collapse emerged that forbidden thing, the Polish independence, not as a vengeful figure, the retributive shadow of the crime, but as something much more solid and more difficult to get rid of--a political necessity and a moral solution. Directly it appeared its practical usefulness became undeniable, and also the fact that, for better or worse, it was impossible to get rid of it again except by the unthinkable way of another carving, of another partition, of another crime.

Therein lie the strength and the future of the thing so strictly forbidden no farther back than two years or so, of the Polish independence expressed in a Polish State. It comes into the world morally free, not in virtue of its sufferings, but in virtue of its miraculous rebirth and of its ancient claim for services rendered to Europe. Not a single one of the combatants of all the fronts of the world has died consciously for Poland's freedom. That supreme opportunity was denied even to Poland's own children. And it is just as well! Providence in its inscrutable way had been merciful, for had it been otherwise the load of gratitude would have been too great, the sense of obligation too crushing, the joy of deliverance too fearful for mortals, common sinners with the rest of mankind before the eye of the Most High. Those who died East and West, leaving so much anguish and so much pride behind them, died neither for the creation of States, nor for empty words, nor yet for the salvation of general ideas. They died neither for democracy, nor leagues, nor systems, nor yet for abstract justice, which is an unfathomable mystery. They died for something too deep for words, too mighty for the common standards by which reason measures the advantages of life and death, too sacred for the vain discourses that come and go on the lips of dreamers, fanatics, humanitarians, and statesmen. They died . . . .

Poland's independence springs up from that great immolation, but Poland's loyalty to Europe will not be rooted in anything so trenchant and burdensome as the sense of an immeasurable indebtedness, of that gratitude which in a worldly sense is sometimes called eternal, but which lies always at the mercy of weariness and is fatally condemned by the instability of human sentiments to end in negation. Polish loyalty will be rooted in something much more solid and enduring, in something that could never be called eternal, but which is, in fact, life-enduring. It will be rooted in the national temperament, which is about the only thing on earth that can be trusted. Men may deteriorate, they may improve too, but they don't change. Misfortune is a hard school which may either mature or spoil a national character, but it may be reasonably advanced that the long course of adversity of the most cruel kind has not injured the fundamental characteristics of the Polish nation which has proved its vitality against the most demoralising odds. The various phases of the Polish sense of self-preservation struggling amongst the menacing forces and the no less threatening chaos of the neighbouring Powers should be judged impartially. I suggest impartiality and not indulgence simply because, when appraising the Polish question, it is not necessary to invoke the softer emotions. A little calm reflection on the past and the present is all that is necessary on the part of the Western world to judge the movements of a community whose ideals are the same, but whose situation is unique. This situation was brought vividly home to me in the course of an argument more than eighteen months ago. "Don't forget," I was told, "that Poland has got to live in contact with Germany and Russia to the end of time. Do you understand the force of that expression: 'To the end of time'? Facts must be taken into account, and especially appalling facts, such as this, to which there is no possible remedy on earth. For reasons which are, properly speaking, physiological, a prospect of friendship with Germans or Russians even in the most distant future is unthinkable. Any alliance of heart and mind would be a monstrous thing, and monsters, as we all know, cannot live. You can't base your conduct on a monstrous conception. We are either worth or not worth preserving, but the horrible psychology of the situation is enough to drive the national mind to distraction. Yet under a destructive pressure, of which Western Europe can have no notion, applied by forces that were not only crushing but corrupting, we have preserved our sanity. Therefore there can be no fear of our losing our minds simply because the pressure is removed. We have neither lost our heads nor yet our moral sense. Oppression, not merely political, but affecting social relations, family life, the deepest affections of human nature, and the very fount of natural emotions, has never made us vengeful. It is worthy of notice that with every incentive present in our emotional reactions we had no recourse to political assassination. Arms in hand, hopeless or hopefully, and always against immeasurable odds, we did affirm ourselves and the justice of our cause; but wild justice has never been a part of our conception of national manliness. In all the history of Polish oppression there was only one shot fired which was not in battle. Only one! And the man who fired it in Paris at the Emperor Alexander II. was but an individual connected with no organisation, representing no shade of Polish opinion. The only effect in Poland was that of profound regret, not at the failure, but at the mere fact of the attempt. The history of our captivity is free from that stain; and whatever follies in the eyes of the world we may have perpetrated, we have neither murdered our enemies nor acted treacherously against them, nor yet have been reduced to the point of cursing each other."

I could not gainsay the truth of that discourse, I saw as clearly as my interlocutor the impossibility of the faintest sympathetic bond between Poland and her neighbours ever being formed in the future. The only course that remains to a reconstituted Poland is the elaboration, establishment, and preservation of the most correct method of political relations with neighbours to whom Poland's existence is bound to be a humiliation and an offence. Calmly considered it is an appalling task, yet one may put one's trust in that national temperament which is so completely free from aggressiveness and revenge. Therein lie the foundations of all hope. The success of renewed life for that nation whose fate is to remain in exile, ever isolated from the West, amongst hostile surroundings, depends on the sympathetic understanding of its problems by its distant friends, the Western Powers, which in their democratic development must recognise the moral and intellectual kinship of that distant outpost of their own type of civilisation, which was the only basis of Polish culture.

Whatever may be the future of Russia and the final organisation of Germany, the old hostility must remain unappeased, the fundamental antagonism must endure for years to come. The Crime of the Partition was committed by autocratic Governments which were the Governments of their time; but those Governments were characterised in the past, as they will be in the future, by their people's national traits, which remain utterly incompatible with the Polish mentality and Polish sentiment. Both the German submissiveness (idealistic as it may be) and the Russian lawlessness (fed on the corruption of all the virtues) are utterly foreign to the Polish nation, whose qualities and defects are altogether of another kind, tending to a certain exaggeration of individualism and, perhaps, to an extreme belief in the Governing Power of Free Assent: the one invariably vital principle in the internal government of the Old Republic. There was never a history more free from political bloodshed than the history of the Polish State, which never knew either feudal institutions or feudal quarrels. At the time when heads were falling on the scaffolds all over Europe there was only one political execution in Poland--only one; and as to that there still exists a tradition that the great Chancellor who democratised Polish institutions, and had to order it in pursuance of his political purpose, could not settle that matter with his conscience till the day of his death. Poland, too, had her civil wars, but this can hardly be made a matter of reproach to her by the rest of the world. Conducted with humanity, they left behind them no animosities and no sense of repression, and certainly no legacy of hatred. They were but a recognised argument in political discussion and tended always towards conciliation.

I cannot imagine, whatever form of democratic government Poland elaborates for itself, that either the nation or its leaders would do anything but welcome the closest scrutiny of their renewed political existence. The difficulty of the problem of that existence will be so great that some errors will be unavoidable, and one may be sure that they will be taken advantage of by its neighbours to discredit that living witness to a great historical crime. If not the actual frontiers, then the moral integrity of the new State is sure to be assailed before the eyes of Europe. Economical enmity will also come into play when the world's work is resumed again and competition asserts its power. Charges of aggression are certain to be made, especially as related to the small States formed of the territories of the Old Republic. And everybody knows the power of lies which go about clothed in coats of many colours, whereas, as is well known, Truth has no such advantage, and for that reason is often suppressed as not altogether proper for everyday purposes. It is not often recognised, because it is not always fit to be seen.

Already there are innuendoes, threats, hints thrown out, and even awful instances fabricated out of inadequate materials, but it is historically unthinkable that the Poland of the future, with its sacred tradition of freedom and its hereditary sense of respect for the rights of individuals and States, should seek its prosperity in aggressive action or in moral violence against that part of its once fellow-citizens who are Ruthenians or Lithuanians. The only influence that cannot be restrained is simply the influence of time, which disengages truth from all facts with a merciless logic and prevails over the passing opinions, the changing impulses of men. There can be no doubt that the moral impulses and the material interests of the new nationalities, which seem to play now the game of disintegration for the benefit of the world's enemies, will in the end bring them nearer to the Poland of this war's creation, will unite them sooner or later by a spontaneous movement towards the State which had adopted and brought them up in the development of its own humane culture--the offspring of the West.

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Notes On Life And Letters - Part 2. Life  -  A Note On The Polish Problem 1916 Notes On Life And Letters - Part 2. Life - A Note On The Polish Problem 1916

Notes On Life And Letters - Part 2. Life  -  A Note On The Polish Problem 1916
We must start from the assumption that promises made by proclamation at the beginning of this war may be binding on the individuals who made them under the stress of coming events, but cannot be regarded as binding the Governments after the end of the war.Poland has been presented with three proclamations. Two of them were in such contrast with the avowed principles and the historic action for the last hundred years (since the Congress of Vienna) of the Powers concerned, that they were more like cynical insults to the nation's deepest feelings, its memory and its intelligence, than state papers

Notes On Life And Letters - Part 2. Life  -  Autocracy And War 1905 Notes On Life And Letters - Part 2. Life - Autocracy And War 1905

Notes On Life And Letters - Part 2. Life  -  Autocracy And War 1905
From the firing of the first shot on the banks of the Sha-ho, the fate of the great battle of the Russo-Japanese war hung in the balance for more than a fortnight. The famous three-day battles, for which history has reserved the recognition of special pages, sink into insignificance before the struggles in Manchuria engaging half a million men on fronts of sixty miles, struggles lasting for weeks, flaming up fiercely and dying away from sheer exhaustion, to flame up again in desperate persistence, and end--as we have seen them end more than once--not from the victor obtaining a crushing advantage,