Historical Perspectives on Kosciuszko
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TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY PERSPECTIVES

Theodore D. Martin (1962 -     ), A career officer in the United States Army and graduate of the United States Military Academy in 1983, he held overseas commands in Germany and Iraq. In 2011, he returned to West Point to assume command of the United States Corps of Cadets, becoming the Academy's 73rd Commandant of Cadets. During the visit of Poland's President, Bronislaw Komorowski, for a wreath laying ceremony at the Kosciuszko Monument on September 25, 2012, Brigadier General Martin stated to the audience composed of the general public as well as Cadets that:

"Without Kosciuszko, there would be no West Point."

Bill D. Moyers (1934 -    ), American journalist and public commentator, Deputy Director of the Peace Corps in the administration of President John F. Kennedy, Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, White House Press Secretary, President of the Schuman Center for Media and Democracy, host of Moyers' Journal on PBS, and author of "Message to West Point," presented as the Sol Feinstein Lecture at the United States Military Academy on November 15, 2006:

"It's more important than ever that citizens and soldiers - and citizen-soldiers - honestly discuss and frankly consider the kind of country you are serving and the kind of organization to which you are dedicating your lives. You are, after all, the heirs of an army born in the American Revolution, whose radicalism we consistently underestimate. 

No one understood this radicalism - no one in uniform did more to help us define freedom in a profoundly American way - than the man whose monument here at West Point I also asked to visit today - Thaddeus Kosciuszko. I first became intrigued by him over 40 years ago when I arrived in Washington. Lafayette Park, on Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the White House, hosts several statues of military heroes who came to fight for our independence in the American Revolution. For seven years, either looking down on these figures from my office at the Peace Corps, or walking from my office in the White House, I was reminded of these men who came voluntarily to fight for American independence against the monarchy. The most compelling for me, was the depiction of Kosciuszko.

What many don't realize about Kosciuszko is the depth of his commitment to republican ideals and human equality. When huge agglomerations of personal wealth are defended as a sacred right of liberty, as they are today with the gap between the rich and poor in America greater than it's been in almost one hundred years...Kosciuszko - General Kosciuszko, from tip to toe a military man - was talking about investing the people with productive resources. Yes, freedom had to be won on the battlefield, but if freedom did not lead to political, social and economic opportunity for all citizens, freedom's meaning could not be truly realized.

Think about it: a Polish general from the Old World, infusing the new nation with what would become the marrow of the American Dream."

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TWENTIETH CENTURY PERSPECTIVES

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), born into slavery, advanced by way of education to become an educator himself first at Hampton Institute in Virginia, became a leading American orator, the founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, an African-American leader, and an inspirational author best known for his autobiography, UP FROM SLAVERY and as well, MY LARGER EDUCATION, Being Chapters from My Experience that was published in 1911:

"In the course of my journey across Europe I visited, in the fall of 1910, the ancient city of Cracow, the former captial of Poland...(There) I met a very intelligent American lady...of Polish origin, who turned out to be the wife of the Polish count who was the owner and proprietor of the hotel. It was this lady who advised me to go and visit, while I was in Cracow, the tomb of the Polish patriot, Kosciuszko, whose name I had learned in school as one of those Revolutionary heroes who, when there was no longer any hope of liberty for their own people in the Old World, had crossed the seas to help establish it in the New.

Kosciuszko, I learned, made a will in which be bequeathed part of his property in this country in trust to Thomas Jefferson to be used for the purpose of purchasing the freedom of...(slaves) and giving them instruction in the trades and otherwise.

Seven years after his death, a school (for former) slaves, known as the Kosciuszko School, was established in Newark, New Jersey. The sum left for the benefit of this school amounted to thirteen thousand dollars.

The Polish patriot is buried in the cathedral at Cracow, which is the Westminster Abbey of Poland, and is filled with memorials of the honored names of that country. Kosciuszko lies in a vault beneath the marble floor of the cathedral. As I looked upon his tomb I thought how small the world is after all, and how curiously interwoven are the interests that bind people together. Here I was in this strange land, farther from my home than I ever expected to be in my life, and yet I was paying my respects to a man whom the members of my race owed one of the first permanent schools for them in the United States.

When I visited the tomb of Kosciuszko I placed a rose on it in the name of my race."

* * *

NINETEENTH CENTURY PERSPECTIVES

Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), French general, statesman, and nobleman who fought for American freedom and independence as a divisional commander in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, wrote upon learning of Kosciuszko's death:

"To speak of Kosciuszko is to recall a man who was greatly respected by his enemies, even the very monarchy against whom he had fought. His name belongs to the entire civilized world and his virtues belong to all mankind. America ranks him among her most illustrious defenders. Poland mourns him as the best of patriots whose entire life was sacrificed for her liberty and sovereignty. France and Switzerland stand in awe over his ashes, honoring them as the relic of a superior man, a Christian, and a friend of mankind. Russia respects in him the undaunted champion whom even misfortune could not vanquish." 

* * *

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), author of the Declaration of Independence, philosopher, friend of Kosciuszko, apostle of agrarian democracy, third President of the United States of America (1801-1809) who on March 16, 1802 signed the Congressional legislation known as the Military Peace Establishment Act, thereby creating the United States Military Academy at West Point, reacted to the news of the passing of his friend:

"To no country could that event be more afflicting nor to any individual than to myself. I had enjoyed his intimate friendship and confidence for the last twenty years, and during the portion of that time which he passed in this country, I had daily opportunities of observing personally of his virtue. The benevolence of his services during our Revolutionary War had been well known and acknowledged by all. When he left the United States in 1798, he left in my hands an instrument, giving, after his death, all his property in our funds, the price of his military labors here, to the charitable purposes of educating and emancipating as many of the children of bondage in this country as it should be adequate to. I am therefore taking measures to have it placed in such hands as will ensure a faithful discharge of his philanthropic views."

Finally, Jefferson wrote as well that Kosciuszko was:

"...as pure a Son of Liberty as I have ever known, and of that liberty which is to go to all, and not to the few and rich alone."

* * *

Jules Michelet (1798-1874), outspoken advocate for democracy in France and historian of the French Revolution, wrote the book, Democratic Legends. In it, in two short paragraphs, he not only summarized with great clarity Kosciuszko's wholesome personality that was always characterized by altruism but also his instinct for democracy and equality in society:

"Is it certain that a Kosciuszko endowed with greater citizenly severity would have saved Poland? I doubt it - but I am convinced that it was his kindliness, kindliness of a high order, which brought such countless, endlessly beneficial results for the fortune of his fatherland. It won over to him on the one hand the hearts of all nations, and many became convinced that absolute human kindness was to be found in this Pole. On the other hand, various estates in Poland, so unhappily rent asunder, found in his high moral excellence a new ideal and a new rallying point for their unification. The nobility saw him as a crusading knight, and the villagers found him to have a good heart; they felt that he was their man, that he was Poland itself.

On the day when this man of faith, leading his uncouth hordes against the Russian army, abandoned all routine and ages-old pride, [took leave of] the noble cavalry, dismounted from his horse and stood in the ranks of the peasant scythe-bearers, on that day a great thing was brought about for Poland and the world. To that day, Poland was only the heroic nobility. From that day on, it became a different nation, a great nation that could not be wiped out. It would not allow itself to be extinguished as long as the spark of national vitality shone out - it penetrated into the hearts of the people, and remained there along with the memory of the Polish people."

* * *

EIGHTEENTH CENTURY PERPECTIVES

George Washington (1732-1799), Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and first President of the United States of America (1789-1797), held to be the "Father of His Country" by Americans, wrote to Kosciuszko in 1797:

"I beg you to be assured that no one has a higher respect and veneration for your character than I have; or one who more singularly wished during your arduous struggle in the cause of liberty and your country, that it might be crowned with Success. But the ways of Providence are inscrutable, and Mortals must submit. I pray you to believe, that at all times, and under any circumstances, it would make me happy to see you at my last retreat..."

* * *

Jean-Rodolphe Perronet (1708-1794), French architect, structural and civil engineer, premier ingenieur du roi, and teacher of Kosciuszko in Paris, wrote of Kosciuszko that:

"He is a fine fellow, modest, manly, a noble character, and a splendid soldier. He has all the liberal ideas of the day, and yet he will not talk of anything but Poland and her restoration. For him, there seems to be no other country in the world."

                                                                             * * *

Nathaniel Greene (1742-1786), American Continental Army general, wrote of Kosciuszko in testimony of his service to America in the Southern Theater of America's Revolutionary War"

"Among the most useful and agreeable of my companions in arms, was Colonel Kosciuszko. Nothing could exceed his zeal for the public service, nor in the prosecution of various objects that presented themselves in our small but active warfare, could anything be more useful than his attention, vigilance, and industry. In promoting my views to whatever department of the service directed, he was at all times, a ready and able assistant. One in a word whom no pleasure could seduce, no labor fatigue and no danger deter. What besides greatly distinguished him was an unparalleled modesty and entire unconsciousness of having done anything extraordinary. Never making a claim or pretension for himself and never omitting to distinguish and commend the merits of others. This able and gallant soldier has now left us for the North, intending to return to his own country, where he cannot fail to be soon and greatly distinguished."

* * *

"For your freedom and ours." (Za wolnosc wasza i nasza.)
Polish motto of late 18th century origin, one that
Kosciuszko used in Poland and America.