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Polish Committee in Paris

Polish Committee in Paris 1848 The 1848 events in Poland prompted some Polish emigrés to repatriate from France. During its meeting of March 23, 1848, the Temporary Commission - a Polish emigrant organization - assumed as its principal task the establishment of the Emigration Committee, a Polish government in exile.

The Polish Emigration Committee was elected during a general assembly on March 27, 1848. The committee consisted of: General J. Dwernicki, T. Malinowski, H. Jakubowski, K. Hoffman, A Hluszniewicz, G. H. Nieweglowski, and B. Zaleski. On March 28, 1848, the new committee issued a proclamation in which it acknowledged the repatriation movement and promised to support it. The French authorities allotted the committee office space at the palais national de l'Elysée. In early April, Hluszniewicz, Hoffman, and Zaleski left the committee, the vacancies being filled by inviting Jozef Garnysz, Romuald Plu anski, and Napoleon Orda to become members. Another change in membership followed General Dwernicki's departure to Galicia. He attended the committee's meeting for the last time on April 19 and announced that he intended to retain his capacities as a committee member and its president. The committee's membership was dominated by former activists of the Democratic Society.

Emigrés' centers in France viewed the committee with reticence. The Polish Democratic Society, hostile to the new representation of the Polish emigration, enjoyed a wide influence, which affected the attitude of most emigrés. On the other hand, Polish refugees living in other countries such as Algeria, Great Britain, Switzerland, and the United States, gave the committee a warmer welcome.

Jozef Reitzenheim was the committee's most important emissary in April and May 1848; he was active in Germany. In early May, the committee secured the services of two other valuable correspondents there, A. N. Dybowski and F. Krahnas. They contributed important information on events in Poland. The committee paid a particular attention to addressing public opinion and to keeping it informed of the events important to the Polish cause. Financial difficulties made it impossible for the committee to issue a journal, but the committee made up by assiduously supplying the French and German press with news bulletins, excerpts from correspondents' reports, and brochures.

Having received information on Polish authorities, on May 8, 1848, the committee decided to stop further repatriation. After the Poznan rising had failed, the committee issued two desperate appeals. One was addressed to the French national assembly and pled for French assistance to Poland, while the other was sent to the German national assembly, and demanded that the German parliament declare the partitions of Poland invalid. Both appeals remained unanswered.

The committee's unsuccessful actions which were associated with an abortive revolt in Paris that threatened the delicate position of Polish committes in the French capital and relations with the French provisional government, engendered negative attitudes towards it on the part of many emigré organizations, many of whom never having given it their full acceptance.

After May 15, the Hotel Lambert tried to transform the committee into a welfare organization with no right of approaching foreign authorities in a capacity as the overall representation of the emigration. In theory, the committee rejected such depreciation of its role, although all its further actions were for all practical purposes, those of a welfare organization serving the old and new waves of the Polish emigration.

When aiding the emigré families, the committee collaborated with Towarzystwo Dam Polsckich (Polish Ladies' Society) headed by Princess Czartoryska, Komisja Funduszow Emigracji Polskiej (Polish emigration Funds Commission), and Komitet Francusko-Polski (French-Polish Committee). Wishing to find employment for destitute Poles in France, the committee approached the French minister of public works who promised support. Particularly difficult was the situation of those Poles who spoke no French. Jakubowski and Malinowski proposed to set up a school for those people. However, the committee decided it had no funds for the school and that the meager financial resources it had in its disposal should be used as an emergency aid to those in need. The funds were being used in this way until August 4 when the aid had to be stopped as the very existence of the committee as an institution became threatened.

At this juncture, the committee decided to reconsider an earlier initiative of the General Dwernicki to form a Polish Legion in France, the legion serving as a means of solving the problems of Polish emigr‚s and preventing their dispersal. On June 10, the committee decided to circulate among the emigrés an appropriate petition and two proclamations: "To our brothers in Paris," and "To our brothers in the provinces," calling on the Poles to sign the petition. After the June Days revolt of 1848 in Paris, the French authorities refused to discuss the Polish Legion.

In late May 1848, the assembly of all Poles in Paris chose delegates who approached the committee with an idea of discussing question of the legion and uniting the emigration's efforts. On May 29, the committee declared its willingness to cooperate in uniting the emigration. After talks with a four-strong delegation of the Paris emigré community, the committee decided to encourage elections of a new institution that could represent the united Polish emigration. Once the new institution was established, the committee would dissolve. It was agreed that the general assembly would convene on June 8, the date subsequently shifted to June 9. For unknown reasons, the assembly produced no results.

Meanwhile, publications criticizing the committee for their usurping power over the emigration began appearing. The committee itself, in one of the letters to its nominal president, stated it was approaching an end of its activity. On August 10, J. Garnysz resigned due to the difficult financial situation of the committee. It is not known whether all the committee's founders stayed on until the end, nor are the circumstances of the committee's dissolution known. Most probably, the committee ceased to exist in late November 1848.

The main task of the committee was to represent the Polish emigration vis-à-vis foreign governments and parliaments and to unite efforts of the entire emigration toward liberation of the homeland. All the committee's efforts proved futile. Sharp differences of opinion within the committee prevented it from taking a neutral stand. After May 15, the committee was de facto transformed into a welfare organization after the abortive Polish invasion of the French assembly; this side-line task proved to be the committee's fundamental, most real, and most effective raison d'être.
Ursula J. Lech


Feldman, J. Sprawa polska w roku 1848, Cracow, 1933.

Grajewski, H. Komitet Emigracji Polskiej, Lod , 1960.

Wencel-Kalembkowa, U. Dzialalnosc gen. Jozefa Dwernickiego na emigracji w latach 1832-1848, Warsaw, 1978.

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