The Observations and Opinions of Jan Beniamin Steinhauser, the Saxon-Polish Councilor (Kammerrat), about the End of the Reign of Augustus III and the Election of Stanislaw Augustus
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Among the large group of arrivals from German lands who settled down in the Commonwealth at the time of the Polish-Saxon union particular attention is due to chamber councilor Jan Beniamin Steinhauser (1692-1767), a high-ranking treasury official residing in Warsaw and a loyal servant of successive monarchs: Augustus II and Augustus III of the Wettin dynasty, and then Stanislaw Augustus Poniatowski. The State Archive in Torun has preserved more than 400 letters written to his friend, Christian Klosmann, the mayor of Torun. The Steinhauser correspondence analysed in this article depicts a man of great knowledge and intelligence, well-acquainted with domestic Polish issues as well as international relations of the period. Steinhauser soberly assessed the weakness of the Commonwealth, the faulty political system, the absence of suitable administration and the faults of the gentry society. He feared (already since 1754) the intensification of domestic conflicts and civil war, which could have led to the intervention of foreign states and even a partition. The Steinhauser letters show clearly the enormity of the shock caused among the Saxon court and its entourage by the death of Tsarina Elizabeth in January 1762, as well as Russian-Prussian rapprochement. Steinhauser did not harbour any illusions that in this changed situation Saxony and the Commonwealth would be able to conduct an independent policy contrary to the interests of Russia and Prussia. By drawing appropriate conclusions, he ultimately opted for the victorious 'Family' of the Czartoryskis and Stanislaw Augustus (1764) and fully approved their plans to reform and reinforce the state.
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