Shortly before his death in 1817, Tadeusz Kosciuszko wrote the following advice to a young Swiss man, Conrad Zeltner, with whose family Kosciuszko spent his years living in exile from his beloved Poland and lonely for his adopted homeland, the United States of America. The words of Kosciuszko's advice in fact mirror his own extraordinary and altruistic life:
"Rising at four o'clock in summer and at six o'clock in winter, your first thought must be directed towards the Supreme Being, worshipping Him for a few minutes. Put yourself at once to work with reflection and intelligence, either to your prescribed duty, with the most scrupulous exactitude, or to perfect yourself in some science of which you should have a true mastery. Be always frank and loyal... and always speak the truth; never be idle, be sober and frugal and even hard on yourself but indulgent toward others. Avoid selfishness and egotism. Before speaking about something and answering, reflect well and reason... Never fail to make obvious your gratitude in all circumstances to a person who takes charge of your happiness. Look forward to his desires, his wishes, be attentive... always look for an occasion to render yourself useful, earn legitimately the confidence and preference over the native born by your merit and superior knowledge. If a secret is entrusted to you, maintain it religiously; in all your actions you must be upright, sincere, and open, no dissimulation in any of your talk, never argue, but seek truth serenely and modestly. Be polite and considerate to everyone, agreeable, and obliging in society, always humane, and succor the poor according to your means. Read instructive books to embellish your mind or better your heart. Never degrade yourself by making bad acquaintances, but be always with persons full of morals and of good reputation; and finally, your conduct must be such that everyone approves of it."
Upon completion of his distinguished military service to America (1776-1783) with the rank of Brigadier General and membership in the Order of the Cincinnati, Kosciuszko returned to Poland where he ultimately accepted full command of its armed forces against Russia, Prussia, and Austria, three contiguous kingdoms that, beginning with the First Partition of 1772, had collaborated in the initial stage for the destruction of Poland, ultimately eliminating it from the map of Europe through the Second and Third Partitions of 1793 and 1795. Poland fought valiantly for its national self-preservation without assistance from any other European kingdom. In 1789, by appointment of Poland's king, Kosciuszko became a Major General in its Army and subsequently was promoted to Lieutenant General. After winning a decisive victory over Russian forces at the battle of Raclawice in April 1794, Kosciuszko suffered near-mortal wounds during the long, unsuccessful battle of Maciejowice against Russian forces in October 1794. He was taken prisoner to St. Petersburg, the Russian capital, where he remained a prisoner until November 1796, during which time he was released by order of the new Russian emperor upon the death of the emperor's mother who, during her reign had issued the order for Kosciuszko's imprisonment. Along with his release from imprisonment, however, Kosciuszko was permanently exiled from the Russian empire, and in particular, Poland.
Kosciuszko returned to the United States in August 1797 and remained in America until June 1798. While in America, Kosciuszko wrote the final version of his last will and testament in May 1798 relating to the disposition of our nation's payment to him for his service as an American officer during the Revolutionary War:
"I, Thaddeus Kosciuszko, being just in my departure from America do hereby declare and direct that should I make no other testamentary disposition of my property in the United States, I hereby authorize my friend Thomas Jefferson to employ the whole thereof in purchasing slaves from among his own and any others and giving them Liberty in my name, in giving them an education in trades or otherwise and in having them instructed for their new condition in the duties of morality which may make them good neighbors, good fathers or mothers, husbands, or wives and in their duties as citizens teaching them to be defenders of the Liberty and Country and of the good of society and whatsoever may make them happy and useful, and I make the said Thomas Jefferson my executor of this."