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A Two-Country Freedom Fighter

A Two-Country Freedom Fighter

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Alex Storozynski’s biography of Thaddeus Kosciuszko tells the story of a Polish patriot who fought in the American war for independence and campaigned for liberty on two continents.

But the virtues of “The Peasant Prince” far outweigh its few sins against fact. Mr. Storozynski does a particularly good job of explaining the topsy-turvy nature of 18th- century Poland, a decayed feudal “Royal Republic” headed by an elected king—the charming, well-intentioned but terminally spineless Stanislaw Augustus Poniatowski. He was a bon vivant, patron of the arts and involuntarily retired lover of Catherine the Great—but dominated by a venal, arrogant handful of wealthy aristocratic families. Between them and the Polish masses stood the lesser gentry—the traditional backbone of Poland’s army, the bulk of the nation’s severely limited “electorate” and the class from which Kosciuszko himself was sprung. – from WSJ