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Walenty Maciej Stefanski

Walenty Maciej Stefanski, A Polish bookseller, publicist, and politician. Born on February 12, 1813 in Srodka (at present a part of Poznan) in a family of a fisherman. For a short time he attended the grammar school and then began an apprenticeship in the E. Decker printing house in Poznan, completing his education by self-education. In February 1831 he crossed, illegally, the Prusso-Russian border to participate in the November Rising in the Congress Kingdom. Upon his return to Poznan, Prussian authorities punished him by confiscating his small inheirtance from his parents and by condemning him to a six-month imprisonment, which - as a minor - he was, however, acquitted. In 1838, he set up a bookstore and a printing house, a business he vigorously developed. He widely distributed prohibited publications smuggled in from abroad, and published popular religious and historical pamphlets for the lower classes of the society. Ignored when the secret Poznan committee, associated with the Polish democratic society was being formed at the beginning of 1842 he began organizing the Plebeians' Union, a mass organization of artisans and peasants, termed "a communist conspiracy" in Prussian files. Stefanski soon became one of the most active Polish conspirators and contributed to a split within the Poznan committee. Working together with the more active committeee members he developed a plan to launch an uprising. The plan misfired and the Prussian authorities were alerted. Having secured influence in the Plebeians' Union in the Prussian Partition, Stefanski sought contacts with revolutionaries in the Congress Kingdom and Galicia. In mid-1845 he accused the Poznan committeee of idleness and embarked on an ambitious plan of overthrowing the committeee. At the same time he started preparing a joint assembly of conspirators from the Russian and Austrian partitions to form an all-Polish committee capable of leading the uprising. He was, however, denounced by one of the conservative members of the Poznan committeee and subsequently arrested in the night of November 8-9, 1845. During his trial in Berlin, how ever, his guilt could not be proven, and he was acquitted in December 1847.

Upon return to his home town, Stefanski became one of the major initiators of the Poznan rising. On March 20, 1848 he arranged a popular assembly during which elected an ad hoc national committeee, the insurrection's leading body. Elected a member of the committeee, he vigorously set off to organize an information service by publishing Gazeta Polska (Polish Newspaper), the first Polish political journal in the Grand Duchy of Poznan. During the subsequent weeks of the rising he retreated from his radical position and struck an alliance with the moderate majority on the national committeee. On April 11, he represented the committeee when signing the Pact of Jaroslawiec. Subsequently, he supported developments aimed at a peaceful disbanding of the Polish insurrectionary military camps. At the terminal stage of the rising, however, Stefanski supported the guerilla fights as a matter of honor.

During 1848-1850, he belonged among the forefront of activists in the Polish League. When the Prussian authorities anded his publishing house franchise in 1851, he became a merchant, but without much success. In 1853 he left Poznan for good and resided in different localities in Pomerania. In 1863-1864, he was imprisoned for his patriotic activities. In his last years of life he leaned towards mysticism and forsook active public service. Stefanski died on June 30, 1877 at Pelplin in Pomerania.
Witold Molik

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JGC revised this file ( on October 26, 2004.

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