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August Cieszkowski

August Cieszkowski     
The founder of the “Halina” Higher School at Żabikowo
Patron of the Poznań University of Life Sciences



August Cieszkowski (1814—1894) — philosopher, politician. He studied for two years at the Faculty of Philosophy, the Jagiellonian University in Kraków and then he transferred to the University of Berlin. In 1838 he received a doctoral degree, after which he travelled around Europe for several years. He contributed to the establishment of the Library of Warsaw. In 1843 he took his residence in Wierzenica near Poznań. He was a man of many interests. Apart from philosophy, always close to his heart, he was interested in agronomy. He continued the ideas of Stanisław Staszic to disseminate ownership among peasants. He propagated the system of shares in profits and co-ownership for employees. He saw this system as an incentive to work more efficiently and as the basis for a multifaceted development. In 1845 during the Agricultural Congress in Berlin he put forth a proposal for the village hired labourers to share in the owner’s profits. He tried to put his ideas into practice not only in Wierzenica, but also in his landed estate that he purchased in France. His achievements were appreciated by the French, which was manifested in his being elected a delegate to the National Agricultural Congress in Paris in 1847. At the same time he participated actively in politics. In 1848 he was elected a member of the Prussian parliament. In the same year he cooperated in the establishment of the Polish League, which mission was to defect the Polish cause. Unfortunately, already a year later, as a consequence of sharpening of the regulations of the Act on associations the League was abolished. In the parliament he fought for the Polish causes believing that concessions might be gained in that way. Zygmunt Krasiński, another outstanding personality of that time, was of a completely opposite opinion, which resulted in a certain cooling of their friendship. He was repeatedly elected a member of the parliament. In 1850, together with other MPs from the Poznań province he relinquished his seat in the parliament in protest against changes in the Constitution and rejection of Polish demands. After being elected he presented the need to establish a university in Poznań, as that province under the Prussian rule was particularly neglected in terms of the existing education facilities, particularly higher education. The first period of his parliamentary activity lasted for seven years — in the following elections Polish members of the parliaments were not re-elected. In that time he became the leader of the Polish fraction not only due to his talents and education, but also his diligence. In the next years he travelled a little — e.g. he was to France, where he visited Zygmunt Krasiński. In spring 1857 he married his cousin, Helena Cieszkowska. They had two sons. In the same year he was a co-founder of the Poznań Society of Sciences. He was its chairman for three terms. He again started his parliamentary work in 1858. Two years later he was the president of the Polish Fraction in the parliament. The problems of agriculture were close to his heart – he appreciated its role and the importance of people working in agriculture. He was of an opinion that agricultural education contributes to improvement of their living conditions, as well as promotes the defence of the existence of the Polish nation under the partitions. In his landed estates he introduced numerous agronomical improvements in accordance with the world trends. Being aware of advances in agriculture in Western Europe, he tried to popularise these new ideas in Polish provinces. He corresponded with European agricultural centres and outstanding Polish community leaders, such as Tytus Działyński and Hipolit Cegielski. He was an activist of the Agricultural Society of the Poznań and Szamotuły Region and the Central Directory of the Economic Society. Since his actions aiming at the establishment of a higher school were ignored by the authorities, he declared in 1861 at a meeting of the Polish Fraction to found it in his own estate. In the following years he visited such schools in France, England and Belgium. Thanks to his unrelenting efforts and financial outlays an agricultural school was established in 1870 in Żabikowo, an estate that he donated to the Central Economic Society. It was the only higher school in the Polish territory under the Prussian rule. It was named Halina to commemorate his late wife. The school was established against the intentions of the authorities, solely as a private initiative. Although it did not have formal academic rights it realized an extensive, modern curriculum. It covered practical courses, natural foundations of plant and animal production, courses in economics and social sciences as well as foundation of agricultural produce processing. Courses in construction engineering, machine design, forestry, horticulture, pomology and vegetable crops were also taught. The curriculum to a considerable extent was similar to the contemporary curricula in agricultural schools. It was realised by such outstanding lecturers as Juliusz Au, Antoni Sempołowski, Szczęsny Kudelka or Józef Rivoli. Graduates were very well prepared to run modern farms. As a result of persecution by the government the school was closed in 1877. The Experimental Station established at the school operated until 1890 and afterwards its collections and library were donated to the Agricultural College in Kraków. In 1872 Cieszkowski took up his permanent residence in Poznań. He died on 12 March 1894. He was buried in the parish church in Wierzenica.
The Michał Opaczkowski Central Agricultural Library,