Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/494

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ideals of western civilization, can not be adequately treated without an exhaustive review of the history of the nations of eastern Europe. However, a short resume of Polish characteristics will suffice to give an idea of the type of the race and result which may be expected from the great wave of Slavic immigration now sweeping over us.

For the two hundred years succeeding the close of the fourteenth century, Poland was the leading power of eastern Europe. Her 20,000 square miles was the seat of what was, to all intents, a vast republic, for, though her elective king was responsible only to her nobility, this nobility was so large and so accessible and eager to maintain the political equality of all its own members, that the constitution, though it conferred rights only upon the privileged classes, carried out in reality the idea of almost unlimited freedom for the individuals of that class. Had this very numerous nobility of freedom born a still larger proportion to the total population, the self government of the nation would have been an accomplished fact, for the ideas of political reform and the extension of privileges to all classes were already beginning to make themselves felt when Poland was caught between the upper and nether mill stones of foreign tyranny, and her national identity crushed out forever by the treachery of Prussia and the soldiers of the Russian throne. Since the last partition of Poland in 1795, her people have not been given the chance to exercise the capacity for self government which they had undoubtedly developed to a high point when overtaken by the series of misfortunes which resulted in the loss of national identity. There are many reasons to think that this capacity is not wholly dead, but only lies dormant, awaiting the propitious changes of fortune. At the same time it must be conceded that the Pole possesses, in common with all Slavs, a peculiar combination of eastern and western ideals that makes his fitting into an Anglo-Saxon civilization a problem of great complexity. For, while he loves political freedom almost to the point of insanity, he is easily caught by the glitter and pomp of a throne. Confiding by nature, the mere promise of the unscrupulous Napoleon was sufficient to make him offer up his life upon many a bloody battle field.

As the Poles are, individually, poor business men, easily imposed upon by the commercially minded Hebrew, to whom the generosity of a political asylum was time and again extended when he was driven and harried from almost every other country in Europe, so are they, in the aggregate, poor political economists, and have thus always been worsted in the fields of diplomacy as well as in trade. Whereas they possess the greatest intellectual gifts, being almost universal linguists, and contributing great names to literature and science, they are apt to be versatile rather than profound, and are prone to waste their efforts in unpractical fields of endeavor. Though courteous and brave, their love of individual freedom is sometimes carried to the point of anarchy, and