The decision taken by the Four Year Seym on 17 July 1789, confirmed in the law passed on 24 July 1789, to confiscate the estates of the vacant bishopric of Cracow, and to pay all future bishops salaries of 100,000 zlotys p. a., threatened the most serious split between the State and the Roman Catholic Church in the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The decisions were taken by a parliamentary assembly that deliberated in public, and was subject to being swayed by persuasive orators.However, a focus on public discourse cannot explain why the Seym took some potentially acceptable decisions (such as that concerning the bishoprics) but not others (such as proposals to confiscate monastic property). This article seeks to explain how and why the issue of the bishopric of Cracow came to be presented to the Seym in the expectation that it would 'reduce' the bishopric to 100,000 zlotys p. a. . Beginning with the death of Bishop Kajetan Soltyk (1788), the article covers the ambitions of Primate Michal Jerzy Poniatowski to retain the administration of Cracow alongside his tenure of the archbishopric of Gniezno, and the aspirations of other episcopal hopefuls, such as Adam Naruszewicz, Ignacy Krasicki, Ignacy Massalski, Krzysztof Hilary Szembek, Józef Kossakowski and Feliks Turski, as well as the interests of the Holy See, the Polish king, the clique led by Hetman Franciszek Ksawery Branicki, and Prussian and Russian diplomats and their respective courts. It follows the jockeying for position among the interested parties in connection with other political issues, explains the failure of King Stanislaw Augustus to cut a deal with King Frederick William II, and throws some light on the deteriorating relationship between Stanislaw Augustus and the Russian Ambassador, Otto Magnus von Stackelberg. The article concludes that the king and primate were indeed responsible for summoning Krasicki to Warsaw for negotiations which precipitated the denouement in the Seym. It also advances evidence that the outcome satisfied the Prussian envoy Girolamo Lucchesini, and that he played a vital role in procuring the final result of what the papal nuncio termed 'intrigues and simonies'.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.