Rousseau on International Relations

By Stanley Hoffmann; David P. Fidler et al. | Go to book overview
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7
Considerations on the Government of Poland (1772)

CHAPTER I THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM

Count Wielhorski's description of the government of Poland, and the comments he has added to it, are instructive documents for anyone who wants to form a regular plan for the reconstruction of that government. I do not know of anyone better suited than he himself to work out such a plan, for along with the requisite general knowledge he possesses all that detailed familiarity with the local situation which cannot possibly be gained from reading, and which nevertheless is indispensable if institutions are to be adapted to the people for whom they are intended. Unless you are thoroughly familiar with the nation for which you are working, the labour done on its behalf, however excellent in theory, is bound to prove faulty in practice; especially when the nation in question is one which is already well established, and whose tastes, customs, prejudices, and vices are too deeply rooted to be readily crowded out by new plantings. Good institutions for Poland can only be the work of Poles, or of someone who has made a thorough first-hand study of the Polish nation and its neighbours. A foreigner can hardly do more than offer some general observations for the enlightenment, but not for the guidance, of the law-reformer.

-162-

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