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Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1746 - 1817)
Part 8: Final Years (1794 - 1817)

 More of this Feature
• 1: Introduction
• 2: Early Life
• 3: Road to Saratoga  
• 4: West Point & Victory  
• 5: Peace, War & Exile
• 6: Rebellion & Raclawice
• 7: Warsaw & Defeat  
• 9: Timeline
 
 Elsewhere On The Web
• Kosciuszko Memorial
 
The Russians held Kosciuszko captive for over two years, before political changes allowed his freedom. The death of Catherine II brought a new Tsar, Paul I, to power, and he released Tadeusz on one important condition: the Pole could never return to Russia (which now included much of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth). Still recovering from his wounds, Kosciuszko traveled through Northern Europe, visiting Sweden and then Britain, before returning to the United States of America in 1797. Here, he was granted land and a stipend by Congress, and welcomed as a returning hero.

Despite renewing his friendship with Jefferson, Kosciuszko left for France within a year. Before departing he made provisions for freeing a number of slaves, and named Jefferson executor of his will. In the book Thaddeus Kosciuszko: Military Engineer of the American Revolution, Francis Kajencki claims that Kosciuszko also aided a US diplomatic initiative in 1797, aimed at quelling France's growing hostility towards the American States. (Source: a review of the book by the Pinkowski Institute).

Kosciuszko settled in France for just over sixteen years, his longest stay in any one country since childhood. Here Tadeusz campaigned on behalf of the Polish Commonwealth, but with limited success. He distrusted Napoleon and would not fight for him, despite the Emperor's offer of the Polish Legion, an army composed of the Commonwealth's exiled military. Kosciuszko instead demanded a commitment to Polish sovereignty, believing Napoleon to be only interested in France; the Emperor found other allies. Consequently, Kosciuszko was not involved in the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, a puppet state set up by Bonaparte in 1807. He was, however, invited to the Congress of Vienna, the great gathering of European leaders that redrew Europe in the aftermath of Napoleon's defeat. Here, Emperors once again courted Kosciuszko, and Tsar Alexander planned a Poland under Russian dominion, possibly headed by the Pole. Once again, the plans did not conform to Tadeusz's ideals, and he refused.

The question of revolution continued to occupy Kosciuszko, and he wrote several texts on rebellion, contributing to, if not starting, a genre of works discussing uprisings and guerilla warfare. The key material was an equation concerning armies, of which the most famous example is: Your population is ten million, of which roughly a fifth is suitable for military service. This gives a rebellion two million untrained troops, surely enough to beat even a vast enemy force of 300,000. How could this not work? Of course, it didn't, and in 1815 Kosciuszko moved to Switzerland, dying of a fall in 1817.

Individuals rarely get to make tangible contributions to events of historical importance, but Tadeusz Kosciuszko managed it twice. He became a hero of both the American Revolution and the Polish people, while the monuments to his name include Australia's highest mountain. When American pilots flocked to the newly reborn Poland in the aftermath of the Great War, they formed the 'Kosciuszko Squadron'.

Tadeusz's place of burial also highlights his contemporary importance to the Polish people - he is one of only five non-royals to be interred in the 'kings' tomb' at Krakow's Warwel Cathedral. You may be interested to note that King Poniantowski, Kosciuszko's original patron and the monarch whose reign saw his country partitioned three times, is missing from the Cathedral - he died in Russia, where his remains were lost. Of course, Kosciuszko's achievements contain a sharp contrast, for the war in north America succeeded and directly changed the modern world, while the revolution in Poland failed, and Tadeusz's legacy became one of inspiration. He has as great a claim as any to be called 'The Hero of Two Worlds'.

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For Citation And Footnotes
Title: Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1746 - 1817)
Author: Robert Wilde
Date: 2001

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