Hetmani Rzeczypospolitej Obojga Narodów w XVIII wieku (lata 1717-1794)
HETMANS OF THE POLISH-LITHUANIAN COMMONWEALTH IN THE 18TH CENTURY (1717-1794)
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The role played by the hetmans in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and in the armies underwent significant changes in the 18th century. The changes were mostly caused by the new legal conditions governing the hetman’s office, the creation of armies that were stable in terms of the budget, organization and composition but most of all by the long period of peace, which started as early in 1710. The hetmans were deprived of the influence over the matters related to the army financing (the so called “power of the pen”), and by extension, they were deprived of a significant source of income and the ability to affect the internal affairs of the state in an informal and unlawful manner. They kept, however, the so called “power of the sword”, or the command of the army; however, that power was rather limited in the times of peace. Between 1717 when the Silent Sejm approved the description of the hetman’s office and 1794 when the office was ultimately abolished, there 20 hetmans, including 9 in Poland and 11 in Lithuania. It was during that time that we witness the ultimate degradation of the hetman’s power. The process resulted from a combination of several factors. As of 1710, hetmans were no longer able to command the army during military campaigns, which was the purpose for which the office was established in the first place. Instead, they focused on conducting political activity. They were leaders of political parties, which were usually in the opposition to the king. After the Convocation Sejm of 1764, it became a necessity because the king initiated actions aimed at limiting the power of the hetmans. With the lost command over the army and the attempts to regain former competencies, hetmans became more of politicians than soldiers. On the other hand, the hetman’s bulawa became one of the most valuable ways to honor the people who were most active on the political scene.
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