1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Czartoryski, Fryderyk Michal, Prince
CZARTORYSKI, FRYDERYK MICHAL, Prince (1696–1775), Polish statesman, was born in 1696. Of small means and no position, he owed his elevation in the world to extraordinary ability, directed by an energetic but patriotic ambition. After a careful education on the best French models, which he completed at Paris, Florence and Rome, he attached himself to the court of Dresden, and through the influence of Count Fleming, the leading minister there, obtained the vice-chancellorship of Lithuania and many other dignities. Czartoryski was one of the many Polish nobles who, when Augustus II. was seriously ill at Bialyvostok in 1727, signed the secret declaration guaranteeing the Polish succession to his son; but this did not prevent him from repudiating his obligations when Stanislaus Leszczynski was placed upon the throne by the influence of France in 1733. When Stanislaus abdicated in 1735 Czartoryski voted for Augustus III. (of Saxony), who gladly employed him and his family to counteract the influence of the irreconcilable Potokis. For the next forty years Czartoryski was certainly the leading Polish statesman. In foreign affairs he was the first to favour an alliance with Russia, Austria and England, as opposed to France and Prussia—a system difficult to sustain and not always beneficial to Poland or Saxony. In Poland Czartoryski was at the head of the party of reform. His palace was the place where the most promising young gentlemen of the day were educated and sent abroad that they might return as his coadjutors in the great work. His plan aimed at the restoration of the royal prerogative and the abolition of the liberum veto, an abuse that made any durable improvement impossible. These patriotic endeavours made the Czartoryskis very unpopular with the ignorant szlachta, but for many years they had the firm and constant support of the Saxon court, especially after Brühl succeeded Fleming.
Czartoryski reached the height of his power in 1752 when he was entrusted with the great seal of Lithuania; but after that date the influence of his rival Mniszek began to prevail at Dresden, whereupon Czartoryski sought a reconciliation with his political opponents at home and foreign support both in England and Russia. In 1755 he sent his nephew Stanislaus Poniatowski to St Petersburg as Saxon minister, a mission which failed completely. Czartoryski’s philo-Russian policy had by this time estranged Brühl, but he frustrated all the plans of the Saxon court by dissolving the diets of 1760, 1761 and 1762. In 1763 he went a step farther and proposed the dethronement of Augustus III., who died the same year. During the ensuing interregnum the prince chancellor laboured night and day at the convocation diet of 1764 to reform the constitution, and it was with displeasure that he saw his incompetent nephew Stanislaus finally elected king in 1765. But though disgusted with the weakness of the king and obliged to abandon at last all hope of the amelioration of his country, Czartoryski continued to hold office till the last; and as chancellor of Lithuania he sealed all the partition treaties. He died in the full possession of his faculties and was considered by the Russian minister Repnin “the soundest head in the kingdom.” It is a mistake, however, to regard Czartoryski as the sole reforming statesman of his day, and despite his great services there were occasions when the partisan in him got the better of the statesman. His foreign policy, moreover, was very vacillating, and he changed his “system” more frequently perhaps than any contemporary diplomatist. But when all is said he must remain one of the noblest names in Polish history.
See the Correspondence of Czartoryski in the Collections of the Russian Historical Society, vols. 7, 10, 13, 48, 51, 67 (St Petersburg, 1890, &c.); Wladyslaw Tadeusz Kisielewski, Reforms of the Czartorysccy (Pol.) (Sambor, 1880); Adalbert Roepell, Polen um die Mitte des XVIII. Jahrhunderts (Gotha, 1876); Jacques Victor Albert de Broglie, Le Secret du roi (Paris, 1878); Antoni Waliszewki, The Potoccy and the Czartorysccy (Pol.); Carl Heinrich Heyking, Aus Polens und Kurlands letzten Tagen (Berlin, 1897); Ludwik Denbicki, Pulawy (Pol.) (Lemberg, 1887–1888). (R. N. B.)