August 24, 2010


Book Review: 'The Peasant Prince' By Alex Storozynski: Thaddeus Kosciuszko and the Age of Revolution (Patricia Chasteen, 8/23/10, Epoch Times)

Thaddeus Kosciuszko was born in Poland in 1746 to a noble family that was well off but not wealthy. He was trained as a soldier and also as an engineer. His family owned land that was worked by serfs. The serfs' station was slightly above that of American slaves—they were bought and sold but eventually worked toward personal freedom. Even at an early age, the idea of serfs or slavery did not sit well with Kosciuszko. His schooling, starting when he was nine, was by a group of priests called Piarists. Their main goal was to revolutionize the Polish school system and that included philosophical ideas and political enlightenment.

At the time Poland was ruled by the King, and the noblemen in various states were known as princes. Kosciuszko was known as the Peasant Prince mainly because he was a lifelong champion of the of the common man. He fought for woman’s rights, serfs, slaves, Native Americans, and Jews. He was way ahead of his time when it came to the belief and acceptance of all men as equals.

His story begins when he has to leave Poland in late 1775 to escape a death sentence for daring to court a woman who was “above his station." Her father was a nobleman who was wealthy and so was considered above Kosciuszko.

Luckily for the Continental Army he came to America in 1777—shortly after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He went to Philadelphia and knocked on the door of a man he knew was part of the war for revolution—Benjamin Franklin. He literally “volunteered” to serve the cause—and quickly showed his genius as an engineer.

The book outlines in great detail his incredible skill as an engineer and also his battle plans used in several key battles—without which the war for independence may have been lost.

It’s amazing to read how critical his achievements were during the war—including the battle plans for the Battle of Saratoga and plans for the fortress at West Point (which later became the basis for the West Point academy after the war). We are used to hearing and reading about our American heroes of the revolution such as Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, and Adams. But it’s fascinating to see how this one foreign rebel influenced the outcome of the American Revolution.

Following the end of the Revolution, Kosciuszko returned to Poland and became a leader in that country’s Constitutional Movement. He led the defense against a Russian invasion and in 1794 was the main leader of a revolt against Russian occupiers, The revolt is known as the Kosciuszko Uprising. He was captured during the revolt and spent several years in Russian captivity.

After his release, he returned to Poland and also spent time in France. He spent the rest of his life working for human rights in all countries. Thomas Jefferson, who became one of his closest friends called him “as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known.” repeatedly selling them out.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at August 24, 2010 6:21 AM
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