Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Anon. The History of Poland (1831)

Bohdan Khmelytsky with Tuhai Bey at Lviv, painting by Jan Matejko (1885)

[Image source: Wikimedia]

This is a volume of “The Cabinet Cyclopaedia. Conducted by the Rev. Dionysius Lardner, LL.D etc, assisted by Eminent Literary and Scientific Men.”

I enjoy reading nineteenth-century historians. I have read most of Motley (The Dutch Republic and the United Netherlands) and thousands of pages of Lecky and Milman. This is not so good as those, but the author’s voice is one we are disposed to trust. In those days the historian made no secret of his beliefs, and judged accordingly. This historian is Protestant and enlightened, and so writes in a spirit of mordant condemnation about much of Poland’s history, especially the centuries of decline that made its demise as an independent nation seem (with hindsight, for now it was gone) inevitable. The other, apparently less partisan, value that has appealed to all historians since Thucydides is political savvy, the successful maintenance of power. Where religious difference is allowed for, the criterion of a supposedly common standard of morality is exercised. Thus, of the Catholic establishment yielding on an issue of clerical marriage: “This was a cowardly, we may add, a highly criminal subterfuge. Whether celibacy was right or wrong, they had sworn to enforce it.”  

But the reason for this note is the last six pages of the book: “to omit all mention of the Jews, a people more numerous here than in any other country of the same extent under heaven, and bearing so great a proportion to the whole population, would be unpardonable.”

What is surprising about these pages, which are written in just the same easy though uncompromising tone of voice as all the preceding, is their unemphatic outline of all the arguments that in due course would result in the Holocaust. There is no indication that the author thinks he is speaking out of turn; this material is uncontroversial, a reasonable inclusion in a work of general reference for English readers.

“... there can be no doubt that the hatred with which they were always regarded in Poland, as every where else, was to a certain extent deserved. By practising usury, and dealing in contraband commodities, - both forbidden by the ancient church of Poland, - by lending money on the most iniquitous terms to the heirs of the rich, they rendered themselves obnoxious to the people.”

“Nothing can more fully expose their exceptionable mode of dealing, than the fact, that by the Polish laws they have at all times been forbidden to keep wine shops, to sell brandy, or to traffic with the peasantry, lest they should not only impoverish, but corrupt that thoughtless class.”

(It is pointless to detail every objection I feel to the remarks I am quoting, but perhaps it is worth drawing attention to the form of the argument: “existence of discriminatory laws proves malevolence of those discriminated against” - the author admired the body of law as an expression of time-hallowed insights, and was not inhibited from drawing his logical conclusion. For us the premise is in need of modification.)

“The numerical increase of this people has long surprised the Poles; the ratio of that increase, compared with that of the Christians, being usually as two, or even three, to one.”

“.. the rapacious tyranny of the Jewish agents over the Cossacks of the Ukraine ... they appear to have been too formidable for punishment, at least by the state; but the Cossack chief massacred them wherever he found them. They were generally attached to the government which left them unmolested to the acquisition of wealth; but their feeling, when persecuted, was vindictive enough.”

(of a Jewish sect who are said to permit public profession of the dominant religion)  “The members of this sect are believed to be exceedingly numerous, and to fill important posts in the administration .... they assume so much mystery, that they have hitherto eluded the investigation of the police.” 

(of their litigiousness) “.. out of every ten cases brought before the courts, a Jew is said to be concerned in nine.”

“Almost all of the coin of the kingdom is in their hands...”

“There is no trade too vile, or even too dangerous, for a Polish Jew, if he can profit by it...”

(Examples of Jewish treachery, followed by two - clearly too well authenticated to be denied - of Jewish “patriotism”.)

“...the proportion they bear to the Christians is alarming. As they are not producers, but live on the produce raised by others, their existence in no state - at least in any considerable numbers - can be other than a national injury. That they have been a curse to Poland, is loudly proclaimed by all the native writers. Besides their usurious dealings and general unfairness, they are reproached with always contriving to fail when their children are full grown, and of previously consigning their property to them, to the prejudice of their creditors...”

What may justly be urged in defence of the eminent literary and scientific man is that he did not envisage circumstances in which the extermination of Jews would be possible. The thoughtless peasantry and spendthrift nobility of Poland were, in his eyes, no doubt impotent to execute such a commission.



The “conductor” Dionysius Lardner LL.D was doubtless a relation of Nathl. Lardner D.D., buried in Bunhill Fields. 

This was the 133-volume Cabinet Cyclopaedia that Sir Walter Scott inaugurated with his two-volume History of Scotland  (1829). Sir James Mackintosh wrote the History of England, Thomas Moore the History of Ireland. Other notable contributors included Robert Southey and Mary Shelley. 

I am not sure why my copy of  the History of Poland appeared no have no named author.

According to the useful Wikipedia article linked below, the author of the History of Poland was Samuel Astley Dunham ( ? - 1858). He made half a dozen contributions to the series. This one is the first, and the shortest. Best-known is the History of Spain and Portugal (five volumes, 1832-1833). 

Appendix (2004)

When I wrote the previous pages I assumed, in an unduly relaxed spirit, that I could count on all readers to share my disgust at anti-Semitism and to take the same kind of mildly-concerned interest in this minor note from a distant past. But, even in the few years since I wrote, there has been a perceptible upsurge in the expression of anti-Jewish attitudes. Recent international events have of course provided a fertile soil. For most of my lifetime it has been possible (however foolishly) to dismiss anti-Semitism as a horror of the past that was now maintained only by a few ignorant thugs. The Internet, however, with its uncanny capacity for highlighting the ugly preoccupations of fellow human beings, has generated a flood of literate, confident fascistic writing.  Anti-Semitic websites are disturbingly popular. I owe my knowledge of the following current news article from a US white supremacist webzine (National Vanguard), for example, to a much-published Polish formalist poet who wholly subscribes to its assumptions.

An intra-Jewish media dispute has led to the jailing of Lew Rywin (pictured), who co-produced Steven Spielberg's film Schindler's List. Lew Rywin was also a figure in The Piano, another anti-Polish and anti-White pro-Zionist production whose director was Jewish child molestor Roman Polanski...

The conviction highlights the ongoing legal, semi-legal and illegal operations of Jews in Eastern Europe, while also exposing the Spielberg "Holocaust" juggernaut which seeks to show Jews as blameless lambs at the mercy of White "anti-Semites." Gangsters have long been associated with Jewish "human rights" programs, not least the Lansky Syndicate's connections with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the USA.

The "victim" Adam Michnik remains unindicted despite having paid fellow Jew Rywin to bend the media policies of the emerging former Communist-occupied nation, which has historically stood as a major pillar and font of European civilization.

Michnik attached himself as a "crypto-Jew" to the anti-Communist Solidarity network in the 1980s, the Polish resistance which eventually defeated European Communism. Since liberation he has applied "neo-conservative" politics to undermine the gains of the Polish people and to distort the meaning and relevance of Solidarity. Interestingly, in paying off Rywin, the "anti-Communist" Michnik was seeking to influence the "post-Communist" heirs of the regime which repressed Solidarity.

Poles have long had disputes with Jews -- who have maintained what some observers call a psychotic hate for Poles. In the cultural sphere, one such hater was Jerzy Kosinski, who finally committed suicide after issuing "literary" fumings slandering the noble and heroic Polish people as mentally-retarded genocidal lunatics. In the USA "Polack" joins "redneck" as one of the few permissable ethnic slurs. The Polish-derived population is also one of the leading racially-conscious White communities in the United States.

I have abridged this and quote it only to emphasize the writer’s common ground with our literary gentleman of 1831; though the curiously disturbing way in which the style of the piece reads (in large part) just like The Economist, and not at all like an isolated mad prophet, is something well worth reflecting on.

It may not be so smugly easy, in the years to come, to maintain a critical distance from anti-Semitism. It may once again form the mainstream. To show that its dogmas are immemorial may be one step towards recognizing that its basis lies not in a reasonable analysis of current events but in poisonous folk-myth.

(2001, 2004)



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