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1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Jan Zamoyski

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JAN ZAMOYSKI (1541-1605), Polish statesman, was the son of Stanislaw, Castellan of Chelm, and Anna Herburtowna, who belonged to one of the most ancient and illustrious families in Poland. After completing his education at Paris, Strassburg, and at Padua, where as rector of the academy he composed his celebrated work De senate romano (Venice, 1563), he returned home in 1565, one of the most consummate scholars and jurists in Europe. His essentially bold and practical genius sought at once the stormy political arena. He was mainly instrumental, after the death of Sigismund II., in remodelling the Polish constitution and procuring the election of Henry of Valois. After the flight of that prince Zamoyski seems to have aimed at the throne himself, but quickly changed his mind and threw all his abilities into the scale in favour of Stephen Bathory and against the Austrian influence. By his advice, at the beginning of January 1576 a diet was summoned to Jedrzejow to confirm the election of Bathory, and from the time of that monarch's arrival in Poland till his death ten years later Zamoyski was his foremost counsellor. Immediately after the coronation, on the 1st of May 1576, Zamoyski was appointed chancellor, and in 1580 wielki hetman, or commander-in-chief, so that he was now the second highest dignitary in the kingdom. He strenuously supported Stephen during his long struggle with Ivan the Terrible, despite the obstruction and parsimony of the diet. He also enabled the king in 1585 to bring the traitorous Samuel Zborowski to the scaffold in the face of a determined resistance from the nobility. On the death of Stephen, the Zborowski recovered their influence and did their utmost to keep Zamoyski in the background. Their violence prevented "the pasha," as they called him, from attending the convention summoned to Warsaw on the death of Bathory; but at the subsequent election diet, which met at Warsaw on the 9th of July 1587, he appeared at the head of 6000 veterans and intrenched himself with his partisans in what was called "the Black Camp" in contradistinction to "the General Camp" of the Zborowski. Zamoyski was at first in favour of a member of the Báthory family, with which he was united by ties of amity and mutual interest; but on becoming convinced of the impossibility of any such candidature, he pronounced for a native Pole, or for whichever foreign prince might be found most profitable to Poland. The Habsburgs, already sure of the Zborowski, bid very high for the support of Zamoyski. But though he was offered the title of prince, with the Golden Fleece and 200,000 ducats, he steadily opposed the Austrian faction, even at the imminent risk of a civil war; and on the 19th of August procured the election of Sigismund of Sweden, whose mother was Catherine Jagiellonica. The opposite party immediately elected the Austrian Archduke Maximilian, who thereupon made an attempt upon Cracow. But Zamoyski traversed all the plans of the Austrian faction by routing the archduke at the battle of Byczyna (January 24, 1588) and taking him prisoner. From the first there was a certain coldness between the new king and the chancellor. Each had his own plan for coping with the difficulties of the situation; but while Zamoyski regarded the Habsburgs with suspicion, Sigismund III. was disposed to act in concert with them as being the natural and strongest possible allies for a Catholic power like Poland. Zamoyski feared their influence upon Poland, which he would have made the head of the Slavonic powers by its own endeavours. Zamoyski was undoubtedly most jealous of his dignity; his patriotism was seldom proof against private pique; and he was not always particular in his choice of means. Thus at the diet of 1589 he prevailed over the king by threatening to leave the country defenceless against the Turks, if the Austrians were not excluded from the succession. In general, however, his Turkish policy was sound, as he consistently adopted the Jagiellonic policy of being friendly with so dangerous a neighbour as the Porte. His views on this head are set out with great force in his pamphlet, La defaicte des Tartares et Turcs (Lyons, 1590). The ill-will between the king and the chancellor reached an acute stage when Sigismund appointed an opponent of Zamoyski vice-chancellor, and made other ministerial changes which limited his authority; though ultimately, with the aid of his partisans and the adoption of such desperate expedients as the summoning of a confederation to annul the royal decrees in 1592, Zamoyski recovered his full authority. In 1595 Zamoyski, in his capacity of commanderin-chief, at the head of S000 veterans dethroned the anti-Polish hospodar of Moldavia and installed in his stead a Catholic convert, George Mohila. On his return he successfully sustained in his camp at Cecora a siege by the Tatar khan. Five years later (October 20, 1600) he won his greatest victory at Tergoviste, when with a small well-disciplined army he routed Michael the Brave, hospodar of Walachia and Moldavia. But beyond securing the Polish frontier Zamoyski would never go. He refused to wage war with Turkey even under the most favourable circumstances, nor could he be drawn into the Holy League against the Ottomans in 1600. When pressed by the papal legate and the Austrian envoys to co-operate at the head of all the forces of the league, he first demanded that in case of success Moldavia, Walachia and Bessarabia should fall to Poland, and that she should in the meantime hold Olmutz and Breslau as guarantees. The refusal of the Austrians to accept these reasonable terms justified Zamoyski's suspicion that the league would use Poland as a cat's-paw, and the negotiations came to nothing. Statesman though he was, Zamoyski cannot, however, be called a true patriot. Polish historians, dazzled by his genius and valour, are apt to overlook his quasi-treasonable conduct and blame Sigismund III. for every misadventure; but there can be no doubt that the king took a far broader view of the whole situation when he attempted to reform the Polish constitution in 1605 by strengthening the royal power and deciding all measures in future by a majority of the diet. These reforms Zamoyski strenuously opposed. The last speech he delivered was in favour of the anarchic principle of free election. He died suddenly at Zamosc on the 3rd of June 1605.

See Vincent'Laureo, 1574-78, et ses depeches inedites (Ital.) (Warsaw, 1877); Augu s tin Theiner, Vetera monuments Poloniae et Lituaniae vol. ii. (Rome, 1862); Adam Tytus Dzialynski, Collectanea vitam resque gestas J. Zamoyocii illustrantia (Posen, 1881). (R. N. B.)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Jan Zamoyski'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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