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Household activities

The parents of Michał Kleofas Ogiński started preparing their son for independent life and state service from childhood.  The boy was educated at home. When he still lived at his parents’ estate in Gúzow, he learned the basics of agriculture, estate management and economy. In the recollections of his childhood (“My remembrances from the childhood to 1788”, kept in the Russian Archive of Ancient Acts (Moscow), he tells how his teacher Jean Rolé (1735–1808) got him interested in geometry and taught him how to draw a plan.  He soon was able apply this knowledge in practice.  Michał Kleofas wrote: “I understood without any difficulty what the tutor told me, because part of the money with which I was bought toys, books and clothes, my parents received for the produce grown at the estate. <…> This is how I gained the first understanding about the exchange of goods, their value, money and trade.  At that time I was not yet aware that studying in this way I would learn important basics of political economy, which would turn into studies of international economy, at which I would spend many hours of work and leisure since I was eighteen.”

The great-great-great-grandson of Michał Kleofas Ogiński, Andrzej Załuski (b. 1928), in his book „Michał Kleofas Ogiński: life, activities and creative work” (Vilnius, 2015) notes that “almost since he was sixteen, Michał Kleofas, without interrupting his rigorous studies, assisted his parents in running their estates.  He was responsible for the running of the stables, which housed sixty horses and were the workplace of as many servants.  He had his own office and three assistants.  He also took care of the official correspondence and once a week, prepared economic reports for his father.  Interestingly, he would also draw for him architectural plans.  This kind of work required time.  Often, when the father expressed a request in the evening, Michał Kleofas would work at those plans the whole night.”

All this knowledge and agricultural experience acquired at his parents’ estate served him well in later years, when he occupied a post in state service and when he had to manage the estates he had inherited, been gifted or asked to manage.

Dr. Ramunė Šmigelskytė-Stukienė in her book Michał Kleofas Ogiński: Where the Homeland’ Love and Duty call: an exhibition catalogue” (Vilnius, 2015) writes that “The economic benefit of the country was always the key focus of Michał Kleofas Ogiński. As the remaining correspondence shows it, along with political issues, letters dealt not only with the issues regarding the increase of land efficiency and draining systems, but also enhancement of the state’s trade and the improvement of the tax system. These ideas were put to practice in Zalesye estate and later in Rietavas, where, in the first years of the 19th century, Ogiński gave equal rights to peasant serfs and townsmen.”

A majority of historians note, that political steps undertaken by Ogiński’ were prompted not only by his love for the homeland and the desire to see it independent, but by the responsibility for his estates, for the people who lived there, for the relatives, friends and acquaintances, with whom he was connected in various ways. This is also obvious from Ogiński’s “Memoires”.

Upon his father‘s death in 1787, Ogiński received a complex of patrimonial estates  in Izabelin (Ashmyany powiat), and later, a major part of the inheritance from a childless relative, Helena z Ogińskich Ogińska (1700–1792), i. e. the Sokołów Podlaski estate and the Skandaičiai folwark in Samogitia, the management of which she had entrusted to Michał Kleofas already in 1788.  In 1791, Michał Kleofas made an agreement with a cousin twice removed (Michał Kazimierz Ogiński, 1728–1800), according to which almost all Lithuanian estates owned by this relative were made over to Michał Kleofas.  Even later, he inherited the assets of his uncle Franciszek Ksawery Ogiński (1742–1814).  Accepting estates by inheritance, or acquiring them through an agreement, Michał Kleofas would perforce take over their debts, so he had to manage and modernize the estates, pay off the debts and fulfill various other obligations.  He would not always succeed.  It was a difficult time.  Part of Ogiński‘s assets was seized at the time of the fall of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth because of his political views.

Ogiński constantly felt dearth of money for household needs, so sometimes he had to sell some estates and buy others.  This is testimonied by archival documents.

As mentioned above, Michał Kleofas put much effort into modernization of his estates, and the development of craft, for which purpose he would bring craftsmen even from abroad.

After the uprising of 1794, all Ogiński‘s assets located on the territory of the then Russia were seized. The years of emigration were the ones most economically difficult for him and his family. After his return to homeland in 1802, Ogiński gradually found his bearings again. It was then that he settled at the estate of his uncle Franciszek Ksawery Ogiński in Zalesye, Ashmyany county (the present Belarus), regained some of his father‘s property and took over the Rietavas estate.

Michał Kleofas accorded particular attention to the modernization of his estates.  In Zalesye, he rebuilt the palace and renovated the park.  At the same time, he oversaw the repair work on the Ogiński palace in Vilnius.  As his financial situation improved, Michał Kleofas would donate significant  amounts of money to the poor, hospitals, religious communities, support Vilnius University and  the construction of new schools.  He was known as a magnate of expensive tastes, prone to indulging in great representational expenses.

After 1822, the year when Ogiński went to live abroad, his wife Maria de Néri and their children took over the management of their estates.  The proceeds of the estates were used to cover the life expenses of Ogiński himself and his whole family.

Danutė Mukienė