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Plebeians' Union

Plebeians' Union (Zwiazek Plebejuszy) A Polish conspiratorial, radical society founded in 1842 in Poznan by the bookseller Walenty Stefanski. When the secret Central Coordinating Committee (Centralization), associated with the Polish Democratic Society was being established in the early 1840s, Stefanski was ignored, following which he began organizing another conspiracy based on petty bourgeoisie and peasantry. Among his most active collaborators were the miller Jozef Esman; Jozef Lipinski, a locksmith; Franciszek Trojanowski, a city office employee; and a peasant, Maciej Palacz. Associated with the union were the Wiarusy, an organization grouping secondary school students and artisan apprentices. The union's objective was to liberate Poland through a popular armed insurrection. Private property rights were to be suspended for the period of insurrection and the landholdings turned over to the county economic committees. The committees were to fulfill self-government and administrative roles and to direct distribution of goods and labor. The system was basically regarded as a temporary one, return of the individual private property rights being envisaged for after the victory unless the society voted otherwise. Beside egalitarian and anti-noble elements, the union's program strongly accentuated religious issues, protection of the Catholic church being one of the union's goals. The union was growing particularly rapidly in 1843, when its influences widened to Bydgoszcz and Torun, the Wiarusy setting up their units in Chojnice, Olesnica, and Wroclaw. Several Polish soldiers of the Poznan garrison joined in and collaborated with members of conspiratorial organizations in the Congress Kingdom, led by Edward Dembowski. He took advantage of his contacts with the union to press the Poznan Centralization and led Stefanski into an alliance with a radical factional group of Adolf Malczewski. A joint armed action of the union and Malczewski's group was planned for the beginning of 1844 and aimed at taking Poznan and Torun, forming an army, and starting an insurrection in the Congress Kingdom. The plan was, however, voided by the fact that Malczewski and his collaborators were arrested, but preparations for the rising continued, undeterred by arrests of about forty Wiarusy members in the night of February 23-24, 1845. During subsequent months, the union expanded its influences by recruiting several priests and village teachers who helped to spread the action in villages. The growing organization became a significant competitor for the Centralization. At this juncture, Stefanski undertook to overthrow the latter and form a single all-Poland revolutionary committee. The plans were brought to an end when Stefanski was arrested in the night of November 8-9, 1845, following which a number of his collaborators were arrested as well. The leadership was taken over by J. Esman who submitted the union to the Centralization and became one of its leaders. Members of the Plebeians' Union, both those arrested in 1845 and those detained after the Centralization had been dispersed in 1846, were tried during the Berlin trials in 1847.
Przemyslaw Matusik

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