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Hugo Kołłątaj was a Polish Roman Catholic priest, social and political activist, political thinker, historian and philosopher.
After studying at the Kraków Academy (the later Jagiellonian University), he took holy orders, then spent time in Vienna and Italy, where he encountered Enlightenment philosophy. Returning to Poland, he became active in the Commission for National Education and the Society for Elementary Textbooks, and reformed the Kraków Academy, of which he was rector in 1783-1786.
Kołłątaj was equally active politically. He became prominent in the reform movement, heading an informal group called "Kołłątaj's Forge" (Kuźnia Kołłątajska). A leader of the Patriotic Party, he set out its program in Several Anonymous Letters to Stanisław Małachowski (1788-1789) and in The Political Law of the Polish Nation (1790). An organizer of the townspeople's movement, in 1789 he edited a memorial from the cities.
Kołłątaj co-authored the Constitution of May 3, 1791, and founded the Assembly of Friends of the Government Constitution to assist in the document's implementation. In 1791-92 he served as Crown Vice Chancellor (Podkanclerzy Koronny).
During the Polish-Russian war that broke out over the May 3rd Constitution (the War in Defense of the Constitution), Kołłątaj, along with other royal advisers, persuaded King Stanisław August, himself a co-author of the Constitution, to join the Targowica Confederation that had been formed to bring it down.
In 1792, upon the Confederates' victory, Kołłątaj emigrated to Leipzig, Saxony, where he co-authored a work with Ignacy Potocki, On the Adoption and Fall of the Polish May 3 Constitution (1793). In exile, his political views radicalized.
In 1794 he took part in the Kościuszko Uprising, co-authoring its Uprising Act (March 24, 1794) and Połaniec Manifesto (May 7, 1794), heading the Supreme National Council's Treasury Department, and backing the Uprising's left wing of Polish Jacobins.
After the suppression of the Uprising, Kołłątaj was imprisoned by the Austrians until 1802. In 1805, with Tadeusz Czacki, he organized the Krzemieniec Lyceum in Wołyń (Volhynia). In 1807-1808 he was interned by Russian authorities.
In the Duchy of Warsaw, barred from public activity, he sought to present a program for rebuilding and developing Poland (Remarks on the Present Position of That Part of the Polish Lands that, since the Treaty of Tilsit, Have Come to Be Called the Duchy of Warsaw, 1809).
Borrowing the physiocratic idea of a "physico-moral order", in The Physico-Moral Order (1811) Kołłątaj created a socio-ethical system emphasizing a natural interdependence between people's rights and obligations. In A Critical Analysis of Historical Principles regarding the Origins of Humankind, published posthumously in 1842, he essayed the first Polish presentation of concepts of social evolution and of geological concepts. In The State of Education in Poland in the Final Years of the Reign of Augustus III, published posthumously in 1841, he pioneered Polish studies on the history of education and culture.
Poland, 1952, Hugo Kołłątaj
Poland, 1952, Hugo Kołłątaj
Poland, 1964, Hugo Kołłątaj
Poland, 1973, Śniadecki, Kołłątaj and Niemcewicz
Poland, 1991, Constitution of 3 May 1791