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Polish League

Polish League An organization founded on June 25, 1848 in Berlin by Polish envoys to the Prussian parliament, aiming to defend Polish interests by legal means. Initially, only a few Polish activists, each having his own separate motivations, joined the league. The league grouped both democrats and conservatives, the latter striving to retain their superiority over the lower classes and to counteract the emigre revolutionary propaganda. The league was managed by a body called the principal directorate. At first, it intended to appoint county directorates and parochial posts of the League in the Grand Duchy of Poznan, Western Prussia, and Upper Silesia. However, the organizing movement in the provinces was deficient, mainly because of the lack of activists. Most probably, news coming from Berlin about the growing counter-revolutionary efforts and dissolution of the Diet also had a negative influence. Delegates of the county leagues could met for the first time on January 10-11, 1849 at Kornik. They approved the statutes of the league's objectives, which were "to strengthen, defend, support, and develop the Polish cause with overt and legal means." The major task was to increase the number of parochial leagues and to promote systematic educational and patriotic work in them. The intended effects were never fully achieved in spite of numerous sacrifices on the part of the league's leaders. In late 1849, i.e. during the league's full bloom, the network of local organizations of the Polish League numbered as few as about thee hundred grass-roots groups with a total of thirty seven thousand members, mostly recruited from among peasants, farm hands, and artisans. No organization could be established in the Upper Silesia due to the lack of a Polish intelligentsia there. The activity of local organizations was, with some exceptions, rather slight. Members gathered to develop certain educational and patriotic projects; articles from Polish journals were read aloud and lectures on the Prussian state system, parliament and elections, obligation to vote for the Polish candidates, respect for the private property and the existing social order were heard. Some parochial posts managed to establish community loan and savings banks, libraries, and day care centers for village children. Prussian authorities did not err in regarding the Polish League as a "state within the state" of sorts, this opinion being substantiated by the organizational structure of the league and its maintaining a certain tension among the Polish population by publishing and disseminating journals and leaflets. Therefore, membership in the league was forbidden for teachers, village headmen, and civil servants; in April 1850, invoking the earlier associations act, the Prussian authorities forced the dissolution of the league. The Polish League was the first, short-lived attempt to manage the social, political, and cultural aspects of life of Poles in the Grand Duchy of Poznan and Western Prussia, and it was directed against the Prussian state.
Witold Molik

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