Nicholas I's Proclamation on the Abolition of the Polish Constitution (1832)

[Excerpted from Readings in Modern European History, James Harvey Robinson and Charles Beard, eds. vol. 2 (Boston:Ginn and Company, 1908), pp. 342-343]

By shrewd negotiations at the Congress of Vienna Alexander I was able to secure possession of the grand duchy of Warsaw, which Napoleon had created from the old Polish territories. Alexander transformed the duchy into the " kingdom of Poland " and assumed the crown himself. He gave the restored kingdom an elaborate constitution, guaranteeing self-government to the Poles, liberty of the press, religious toleration and equality of all citizens before the law. It was not long, however, before the Poles began to complain that the Tsar's agents observed neither the letter nor the spirit of the constitution, and, in 183o, encouraged by the example of the French, the Poles revolted against the rule of Alexander's successor, Nicholas L The Tsar was able by great cruelty and harshness to suppress the Polish insurrection. He then abolished their constitution in 1832, and forced upon them in its stead a so- called "organic statute." This reduced Poland to the status of a Russian province. Nicholas strove to justify his conduct in the following proclamation:

When, by our manifesto of the 25th of January of last year, we announced to our faithful subjects the entrance of our troops into the kingdom of Poland, which had been for a moment withdrawn by rebellion from the rule of its lawful sovereign, we at the same time declared our intention of establishing the future state of that country on a solid basis, in accordance with the wants and welfare of our whole empire. An end having now been put, by force of arms, to the disturbances by which the kingdom of Poland was agitated, and the nation, which had been led away by factious men, having been once more brought back to its duty and restored to tranquillity, we consider that the proper moment has come for carrying our intentions into execution, and for laying the foundation of a solid and lasting order of things, by which the peace and the indissoluble union of the two nations committed by Divine Providence to our care may be secured against every new attack.

The kingdom of Poland, once earlier conquered by the victorious arms of Russia, not only recovered, in 1815, its existence as a nation, but obtained rights of its own, and a constitutional charter, a monument to the magnanimity of our august predecessor, the Emperor Alexander of glorious memory. This charter did not, however, satisfy men who were the enemies of all order and legitimate power, and who, persevering in their guilty projects, and meditating the separation of the two nations subject to our scepter, abused the favors which they derived from the regenerator of their country by employing the very laws and institutions which his sovereign will had generously conferred upon them for the subversion of his great work.

Torrents of blood have been shed. The tranquillity and happiness which the kingdom of Poland enjoyed in a degree that it had never before known, have been succeeded by the horrors of civil war and general desolation. But these misfortunes are now past. The kingdom of Poland, again restored to our dominion, is now at peace, and will again breathe tinder the auspices of a protecting government. But our paternal solicitude for our faithful subjects imposes upon us the duty of preventing, by all the means in our power, the return of similar disasters, by henceforward depriving the evil-disposed of the means which they have openly employed to disturb the public peace.

It is nevertheless our will that our subjects in the kingdom of Poland should at the same time enjoy all the advantages essential to their own well-being and for the prosperity of their country ; that persons and property, liberty of conscience and municipal franchises should be respected ; that our said subjects should possess a distinct administration adapted to their wants, in such manner, however, that the kingdom of Poland shall never cease to be an integral part of our empire - and that they shall henceforth form with the Russians one single nation, one fraternal people. For these reasons we have deemed it necessary to determine, by an organic statute issued this day, the future mode -of organization of the said kingdom, in conformity with the intentions herein set forth.

Given at St. Petersburg the Wh (26th) February, in the year of our Lord 183 2, and the seventh year of our reign.