Two hundred and fifty one years have passed since in February 1746, in the Eastern territories of the Kingdom of Poland, the man to whom these words are addressed was born. The man who was to become the symbol of alliance between countries so distant in space yet so close in their love of freedom.
A cadet of the Military Academy in Warsaw, an outstanding, educated in France engineer - strategist, a hero of the U.S. War of Independence, the commander-in-chief of the only Polish uprising to be named after its leader - Kosciuszko Rising.
Tadeusz Kosciuszko. This - how difficult for them a name - the American people have imprinted in gold onto the pages recording the dramatic history of the struggle for independence. History spanning the time from the moment when on October 18th 1776 the Leader of the Congress signed - with the words "... with great faith and trust in tour patriotism, virtues and loyalty ..." - Kosciuszko's nomination for the colonel of the American Army, till the day of November 25th, 1783 when General Kosciuszko accompanied the Commander-in-Chief George Washington on his triumphant return to New York.
On the great map of the United States of America there still shine with the glare of victory and faithful memory the battlefields where Kosciuszko fought. Saratoga - regarded as the "turning point" in the history of the War of Independence, fortified by "the young Polish engineer" that won the words of highest esteem from Horatio Gates, his commander.
West Point - the stronghold called by Washington "the most important post in America" where Tadeusz Kosciuszko, in the words of that supreme commander, had "chief direction and superintendence". The Yadkin and Dan rivers in North Carolina and Virginia where the crossing directed by Kosciuszko twice rescued the army from the enemy, compelling its commander, General Nathaneal Greene to call his chief engineer "one of the most helpful and congenial companions", stressing his "perseverance, determination, indefatigable efforts" as well as his "incomparable modesty".
"From one man we can have but one life" - wrote about Kosciuszko President Thomas Jefferson ' "and you gave us the most valuable and active part of yours, and we are now enjoying and improving its effects. Every sound American, sincere votary of freedom loves and honors you...".
The New York bridge that bears the name of Tadeusz Kosciuszko is crowned at the top with the emblems of both our states. They differ in shape but the symbol is the same. An eagle. American and Polish.
Tadeusz Kosciuszko came from a family of small landed gentry. He attended the Cadet School and in 1770 left for Paris to continue his studies. There, he became acquainted with the progressive ideology of the French Enlightenment. Poland was undergoing the first partition of 1772 when Kosciuszko was in France. In 1776 Kosciuszko left for America and took part in the fight for the freedom of the North American colonies.
Back in Poland in 1784, Kosciuszko helped organize the Polish Army which was enlarged by provisions contained in the statutes of the Four-Year Seym and participated in the 1792 war against Russia.
An armed insurrection broke out in Poland in 1794. Kosciuszko returned to the country and was appointed commander-in-chief of the armed forces with powers of a dictator.
On March 24th Kosciuszko took his oath in Cracow: "I swear to the whole Polish nation that I shall not use the power vested in me for private oppression but that I shall exercise this power only in the defense of the whole of the frontiers and to regain the independence of the Nation and to establish universal freedom". Wishing to draw the peasant masses into the fight for liberty, Kosciuszko proclaimed what is called the Połaniec Universal in which he abolished serfdom, reduced the corvee - or unpaid labour for the lord - and freed peasants who served in the army from this duty.
After several victorious battles in October, 1794, the Polish forces suffered a defeat at Maciejowice. The commander, heavily wounded in the field, was taken prisoner. Kosciuszko remained in Russia as a prisoner until 1796. After his release Kosciuszko lived in the West.
Kosciuszko died in Switzerland in 1817. his body was brought to Poland and laid to rest in the royal crypt at Wawel Castle.
"The effusion of friendship and my warmest toward you which not time will alter. Your principles and dispositions were made to be honored, revered and loved. True to a single object, the freedom and happiness of man..." - so wrote the President of the United States Thomas Jefferson to his friend, American and Polish army general Tadeusz Kosciuszko.