Dziennik Chicagoski -- March 20, 1893Protest against the American Extradition Treaty with Russia 5,000 Poles Attend Mass Meeting
The mass meeting held yesterday by Chicago Poles for the purpose of instituting a protest against the proposed extradition treaty between the United States and Russia was eminently successful and the desired end was achieved. The gathering took place in the evening, with the school hall at Bradley Street filled to capacity. Approximately five thousand Poles attended the mass meeting, irrespective of their different organizational sympathies.
As the Reverend Vincent Barzynski had been detained by his church duties, the author of the protest idea, Mr. Szczesny Zahajkiewicz, took his place and opened the meeting. In a few words he explained the purpose of the mass meeting, pointing out indications of Russian despotism and Russia's efforts to extend her influence even to this hemisphere. In conclusion, he added that the first duty of the Poles was to protest these efforts, which have taken the form of the proposed extradition treaty with the United States.2
Mr. A. Rudnicki, who was called upon to preside over the meeting, appointed in turn the Reverend Francis Gordon, editor of Dziennik Chicagoski, as secretary.
In his introductory address, Mr. Rudnicki gave exclusive attention to the treaty. He explained that despite the fact that the treaty stipulates the extradition of only such political offenders as have committed criminal offenses, in the eyes of Russian despotism everything that contributes to liberty and right constitutes a crime. In the eyes of Moscow justice, the Polish heroes of 1831 and 1863 are criminals for the simple reason that they shed their blood for their country. Finally, to form an alliance with a country that has no constitution and, therefore, no guarantee of a fair degree of justice, would be a thoughtless act.
The first speaker to discuss the intended protest was Doctor K. Midowicz. In an extensive and enthusiastic speech, he emphasized the fact that at the 3present time it is most important that the Poles raise their voices in defense of liberty. He devoted his next remarks to a discussion of what, in the opinion of Moscow, constitutes a criminal offense. The members of the Unites (United Greek Church) are criminals in that they pray as their forefathers prayed before them, so they are murdered ruthlessly. Every person who teaches his child to speak Polish is a criminal, as is every Pole who hopes to see Poland free. Everyone who says "The Czar is worthless because he is Godless," is a criminal. By means of this treaty with the United States, Russia hopes to gain the right to persecute, on one pretext or another, all such "criminals" in this free land. Our duty is plain--we must protest.
The next speaker, Mr. Koinski, a native of Russian Poland and frequent witness to Russian atrocities, painted a black picture of the Russian courts of justice. Lawlessness is law in Russia. Judgment is passed in the courts in accordance with the caprices of the government; a prisoner is condemned without evidence against him, nor has he a chance to defend himself.4
The Czar, a self-willed despotic monster, has extended his bloody hand to America, but the people of the United States should answer: "Away with your paws!" The protest against Moscow, violator of the principles of Christ, is imperative. It should originate with the Poles; not the Poles of this or that party or organization, but all the Poles, for, in a matter such as this, we should stand together, shoulder to shoulder,as one man.
After a short address by the presiding officer Mr. Rudnicki, Dr. Midowicz made a motion that the meeting approve the sending of a telegram to the President of the United States and to other high officials in Washington, with a request that ratification be temporarily withheld. His motion also included a proposal to send to Washington an extensive protest containing the signatures of Polish-American citizens and of officers and members of Polish-American organizations in Chicago. The assembly accepted the motion by acclamation.5
The next speaker, Mr. Nagiel, discussed the importance of this decision to us, as Poles and as American citizens. As Poles, we demonstrate by this step--taken by a queer coincidence on the hundredth anniversary of the second Polish partition--that we exist, that we continue to live, that we have not been crushed under the iron heel of oppression. Despite a hundred years of martyrdom, we are Poles, here in this hemisphere as well as in the old country, guardians of liberty. As American citizens who understand more fully than anyone else the awful conditions under the despotic rule of the Czar, we cannot allow the leaders of this nation to take such a false step. This free land has been a refuge to us who were oppressed on all sides, and such a step would transform it into a land of the knout. In conclusion, the speaker proposed that a committee of five be named to draw up the telegraphic protest and to take charge of the matter generally. This proposal was unanimously accepted, and the presiding officer was empowered to make the appointments. The following citizens were named to the committee: Father Vincent Barzynski, Peter Kiolbassa, August J. Kowalski, J. Arkuszewski, and J. Paszkiewicz.6
Mr. Arkuszewski delivered the next address. He pointed out that the proposed treaty with the base Russian government is entirely opposed to American ideals, and he emphasized again the usefulness and necessity of the protest.
Mr. Walter Smulski, editor of the Catholic Gazette, explained the manner in which negotiation of the treaty was conducted during the last administration. He said that negotiations were conducted on the sly and cited this fact as evidence of Russian cunning. He declared that all Poles who have the honor of their adopted country at heart should protest against a treaty which could only bring disgrace to it.
Mr. Roland, who spoke next, declared that the new Democratic administration in Washington is imbued with the noble principles of freedom. These principles have already caused the annexation of Hawaii, which the Republicans had almost accomplished, and they should alike prevent the conclusion of this treaty with Russia.7
Peter Kiolbassa, whose private affairs had prevented his earlier arrival, was introduced as the next speaker. He said that even if he were not a Pole, he would consider it his duty as an American citizen to oppose the treaty with Russia. The speaker had never been in Russia and was acquainted with conditions only by reading and from hearsay, but he declared that what he had heard filled him with horror. Having lived in America since his youth, he could not understand any possible union between this free country and the corruption and despotism of Russia. Against such a union as the treaty seeks to create, Poles should protest as one man, regardless of party differences existing between them. The speaker declared that he is a Catholic, that he recognizes the necessity of proper government, and that he does not believe in political violence. However, a government like that of Russia, which violates daily the laws of God and man, deserves no respect. Mr. Kiolbassa wholeheartedly supported the protest and promised, as a member of the committee, to lend his best efforts to the cause.8
The Reverend Father Barzynski, instigator of the meeting, was the next speaker. He discussed the projected treaty in all its details. He pointed out the incongruity of such an understanding between the most liberty-loving nation in the world and a nation that is rotten to the core, a nation which distinguishes itself by the bloodiest of despotisms, before which nothing is sacred. Such a treaty is impossible. Russian cunning might clothe it in certain legal forms, but these forms are mere masks or rags which the Czar would soon discard. The treaty states that only such offenders will be extradited as have committed crimes. But who is to judge their offenses? The American courts cannot. Therefore the Russian courts will--courts in which the knout and the will of the Czar are law, courts which stoop to any baseness and in which perjury is the order of the day. The speaker touched on the Russian intrigues in Bulgaria, where the Czar sent hired criminals to threaten the lives of the prince and ministers. Documents that prove this is true have been made public. The Russian [Czar] 9is a brigand--and with this brigand the United States government contemplates a treaty! In spite of the fact that such documents were made public, Moscow is unashamed, unconcerned. But will the United States remain unashamed if this treaty is concluded? That is the question. The Polish protest should postpone ratification of the treaty long enough for the matter to be examined more closely. If worse should come to worst and our protest be futile, we have at least upheld an ideal and our honor by presenting it.
The last speaker was Mr. Zolynski, who arrived not long ago from Russian Poland. He gave a first-hand picture of Russian oppression.
As the meeting came to a close, Mr. Kiolbassa made a motion that the committee be increased by two members. Dr. Midowicz and H. Nagiel were accordingly appointed to the committee. With this, the meeting ended. We need only add that the audience was filled with noble fire and greeted each speaker with great enthusiasm.
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