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Papers Relating to the Scots in Poland (1576 - 1798)
General Introduction by A. Francis Steuart - Part III


Dr. Fischer’s books contain many interesting details and names of Scots settled in Poland and Prussia. Of the former he printed lists of the burgesses and of those who merely dwelt in Posen [The Scots in East and West Prussia] (1585-1713), in Cracow (1573-1687), [The Scots in Germany. This supplements the information contained in this volume, on the ‘Scots admitted to the citizenship of Cracow, with evidence regarding their parentage.’] and in Warsaw [Ibid.] (1576-1697), and all those who settled (first or last) at Dantzig. Incident on these he gave us, in spite of the general denial by King Vladislas in 1633 of civil rights to the Scots, except in exceptional circumstances, the Charter of Privileges the Scots in Bromberg received on 7th October 1568, which was confirmed by King Stephen in 1581, and confirmed (with alterations) by King Sigismund III. In 1622, and King Vladislas IV. in 1636. [Ibid.]In addition to these towns we find Scots established in Lithuania, and Catholic Scots in Ermeland. The birth-brieves that are printed in full [Miscellany (New Spalding Club), vol. v. pp. 325-368.] show that the Scots of good family came in hordes from Dundee, from Aberdeen, and the surrounding counties, whether for merchandise or for war, and are found in very many Polish towns, the names of which are strangely written. We find them in ‘Zakroczim, Malsak, Posnay, Pitercow, Crosna, Pultuskie, Creta, Tarnova, Varsa, Lublin (they had a congregation there for long), Lisnae, Samosche, Wratslaffsko, Columin, Wisigrad, Cracow, and Presneets,’ and this from the years 1637 to 1705. The Aberdeenshire draft being either highflying Episcopalians or Catholics probably adapted themselves best to their adopted country, but the Calvinists also existed in large contingents, and not only in Lublin (as we have seen), but also in the chief settlement of Dantzig. There was, happily for them, comparatively little religious persecution as such in Poland; still the Catholic party became stronger and stronger and helped to weaken the status of the Scot, to make his position as a ‘Disident ‘ intolerable, and ultimately, with the constant political turmoils, to put an end to his superiority as a trader. In 1630 Posen imposed a religious test on its citizen. As we shall see in this book, Protestants, confused with Arians and classed with Jews, were often in trouble. We can follow their continuous persecutions in Lublin, and also at Cracow in 1647. In 1635, James Paull petitioned for help in Scotland, having with his Polish wife—a convert to Protestantism—fled from Lublin, and described his persecution and hers by the Jesuits. [Regiser of the Privy Council of Scotland (2nd Series), vol. v. p. 470.] We have seen how some of the Scottish confraternities legislated against Catholics. In 1652 a drunken riot in Posen, in which a Scot played an important part, turned the Catholics against the Protestants there. This persecution, and the hardships endured by the Polish ‘Dissidents’ evoked much sympathy in Scotland. We find that collections for the ‘distressed Protestants’ in Poland had been made, but when the delegate, Paul Hartmann, came to receive them, he found that the relief fund had been ‘intrometed with’ and ‘misemployed by diverse persons.’ [Register of the Privy Council of Scotland (3rd Series), vol. i. pp. 447-471, 483, 597-598.] In 1638 an inquiry into this was ordered from the Sheriffs of each shire. The Council’s order effected little and, eight months later, ‘Mr. John Elsener, Pollander,’ who had arrived had to complain that, instead of receiving the collection for his fellow-Protestants as he had been commissioned to do, he himself was in poverty living on ‘some honest people,’ and could not get away. The Council ‘recommended’ the magistrates of Aberdeen, where the collection had been raised, to ‘relieve his distress and transport him to his own country.’ The magistrates seem to have done little in the matter, as the order is repeated in June 1665, [Register of the Privy Council of Scotland (3rd Series), vol. ii. pp. xlvii-xlviii. 104-105.] and a letter in the name of King Charles, in response to a petition of an agent of the distressed churches, was sent to the Council. It was prompted by the churches’ ‘calamitous condition and increasing miseries by treason of the Turks invasion and warr,’ and ordered the Council to make a ‘speedy order’ for a national voluntary collection in the royal burghs and parish churches. The money this time was, to prevent decrease, to be sent direct either to Sir John Frederick in London, or to Sir William Davidson, official resident in Amsterdam. This was dated from Whitehall, 30th November 1664. No result is known, yet in 1665 we find a collection for ‘two Pollonian students’ at Banff. [Annals at Banff (New Spalding Club), p. 46.]

We now perhaps notice more Catholics, or pseudo-Catholics, coming to Poland than heretofore. In 1664, [Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, (3rd Series), vol. i. p. 560.) Ludovic Sinclair, son of the late Sir William Sinclair of Roslin, who had been in the military service of Sweden and Denmark, and ‘last under the King of Poland, in whose dominions he intends to reside,’ applied for and obtained a birth-brieve. [Father Angustin Hay calls him Lewis, ‘Captain of Horse in General Duncan’s Regiment,’ and says he was ‘killed at the Siedge of Hallingsted in the County of Hall.’—Genealogie of the Sainte Claires of Rosslyn, pp. 153-154. It is one of the representatives of his family, Mr. Bower St. Clair, whom Miss Baskerville mentions on p. 115.] Three years later three Scots, James Joachim Watson, George Edislay, and William Abercrombie, were enrolled as burgesses of Posen, after procuring birth-brieves, but under the condition that they are to embrace the Catholic faith within the year. [The Scots in East and West Prussia.]

In 1671, we find a Scot, George Bennet, applying for a birth-brieve, as he has for ‘severall weightie affairs’ to reside in ‘the Great dukdome of Lituania,’ holding the high office of Secretary to the King of Poland. He had ‘purchased a testifical thereof under the hands of the Laird of Moncreiffe and diverse uther Gentlemen,’ so the Privy Council accorded his request. [Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, (3rd Series), vol. iii. p. 374.] Near this time (1673) members of the Scottish family of Chalmers were added to the list of Polish nobles. [This ennoblement was probably qualified. Cf. Miss Baskerville’s note, p. 223 of this volume. Papers about the families of Chalmers and Ross will be found in the Appendix.] Others on the list were Forseit (Forsyth), Fraser, Gordon, Halyburton, Karkettle, Lindesay, Macfarlant, Mackay, Miller, Murison, Ogilvy, Patterson with the surname of Hayna, Stodart, Watson, and Bonar (old settlers), of whom we are given in Burke’s ‘Landed Gentry of 1848’ an account which we can only cite ‘without prejudice.’

‘Of all the Continental branches, the most illustrious were the Polish lines, which rose to great importance, and filled the highest offices in that kingdom, holding the dignities of Lord High Chancellor—of Earl Seneschal—or Burgrave Palatin of Cracow—of Prime Minister of the Crown—of Premier Lay Senator of Poland—of Lord Chief Governor—or Magnus Gubernator—of Lord High Treasurer—of Lord President of the States—of Tavernicorum Regalium Magister—of Grand Master of the Mint and Mines; they were also invested with the rank and title of Starosts, or Earls of the kingdom of Poland, and of Barons of the Holy Roman Empire (which last dignity was possessed by all the other Continental branches of this family), and produced several prelates, eminent both by their learning and piety, of whom the two most conspicuous were Theobald, of the Silesian branch (issued from a younger son of John, Lord High Treasurer of Poland, temp. King Sigismund I.) who was General of the Franciscans; and still greater lustre has been shed on the name by the virtues and piety of St. John-Isajah de Bonare, patron-saint of Casimirowna, who, dying in odour of sanctity in 1473, was canonised, and is recorded in the calendar on the 8th of February, as appears in the Acts of the Bollandists. This eminent personage was brother to John de Bonare, Lord High Chancellor of Poland, temp. King Casimir IV., and his exemplary piety and Christian virtues are treated of at length by Simplicianus, Elsius, Herrera; Szembeck, and Aligamba; and Bazil Skalsky, who published a biography of St. John-Isajah de Bonare, whose life was also written again at a later period by the Rev. Dom Fulgentius de Dryasky Ordin. Sanct. Augustin, who states that, at the time he wrote, the splendid mausoleum erected over the ashes of St. John-Isajah by his family was still in good preservation, and was magnificently sculptured in white marble, and adorned at each angle with a scutcheon bearing the arms of the family of Bonare. The four most illustrious descendants of this family on the Continent, and all descended from John of Laindes, were: ‘1. Jehan de Bonare . . . 1337. 2. St. John Isajah de Bonare, Patron-saint of Casimirowna, and canonised, d. in 1473. 3. John de Bonare, Starost of Zator, Rabzstym, and Oczwyecin, Baron de Biecin, and of the Holy Roman Empire, Premier Lay Senator of Poland, Burgrave Palatin of Cracow, and Magnus Gubernator in 1550, who m. his dau. to John de Firley, Heritable Grand Marshal and Palatine of Poland, elected king in 1572, but resigned in favour of King Henry de Valois. This lady is said by Mismiez to have carried a considerable portion of the possessions of the family of Bonar into the house of Firley, by her marriage; 4. John de Baner (of the Swedish Line), Field Marshal and Generalissimo of the Northern League in 1640’ As we have said, this is given for what it may be worth.

The Scots were now becoming more fused with the Poles and, though of a very different nationality, should have been far less strangers. In this book we can see the wealth they acquired and to a certain degree reconstruct their lives and their influence in Poland. Yet even as late as 1675, in Posen, the Pursemakers’ Guild chose to include them with the Jews, and prohibited them to sell by retail, and the Shoemakers’ Guild were ordered by the magistrates to prohibit them equally with the Jews, Armenians, and Lithuanians to bring in boots to sell in the town. [The Scots in Germany.] Still, rich Scots merchants had done well by their adopted country. Robert Porcyus (Porteus) ‘de Lanxeth,’ a great merchant in Poland and Lithuania, who died in 1661, became ‘secundus fundator,’ after his conversion to Catholicism, to the Church of SS. Peter and Paul at Krosna. [For his career, see the Scots in East and West Prussia.] The Scots benefited many charitable institutions and acted generously in Poland. [Cf. Caspar Kin’s will, p. 64, and p. 125 n on Alexander Chalmers.] Nor did they forget their connection with their own land. In 1693 a bursary was founded for a Polish student at the University of Edinburgh, and in 1701, when collections were made for the Restoration fund of Marischal College, Aberdeen, the Scottish settlers in Poland, not counting Dantzig, which subscribed largely, gave (by J. Robertson) at least 957 pounds. Their day as the chief foreign merchants in Poland was passing, however, with that of the unhappy kingdom itself. King Augustus II., in 1699, could still refer to the old laws against the Scots in Kosten, forbidding them to hold heritable property as heretics, but their reasons for being in Poland were fast vanishing. The appointment of one of the last Scottish ‘Purveyors to the Court’ [The Scots in Germany.] was made in 1697, and though we can see in this book the Scots receiving privileges as late as 1729, after that date the Scot remaining in Poland merged gradually into the native Polish population, although the Scottish Brotherhood at Lublin, whose history is also contained in this volume, continued at least until 1732.

We have this description of the economic wretchedness of Poland in the eighteenth century. ‘Long before 1763 the Estate of Burgesses had virtually disappeared, and all but a very few of the larger towns were the private property of the magnates. The few native merchants still surviving were to be found in the semi-German cities of Dantzig and Thorn, or in the half-dozen or so royal boroughs which had contrived to save some small fragments of their ancient privileges. But all the old cities were phantoms of their former selves. Cracow, once one of the most populous and prosperous cities in Central Europe, had sunk to the miserable level of a decayed provincial town. Grass grew in the streets of the once flourishing city of Lemberg. . . . The magistrates and the nobility encouraged the Jews at the expense of the native traders, because they could get more out of them, and the Jews, in their turn, sucked the few remaining burgesses dry.’ [R. Nisbet Bain, The Last King of Poland, pp. 39, 40.] The great Tepper Bank [Cf. Miss Baskerville’s note in this volume.] which had become the bank of the Scots Fergusons, and the Court bank, failed disastrously owing to the bankruptcy of King Stanislas Poniatowsky. There was, therefore, no alternative for any Scots who remained except to become Polish subjects with a doomed political future, to withdraw to Scotland, or else at least to leave the country. By so doing they left the trade of the fading kingdom just as it had been before their arrival some centuries back, and until some happy revival should come, to the tender mercies of as well as in the mercantile hands of the Jews.

A. FRANCIS STEUART.


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