Past Worshipful Master, PETRU RAREȘ Lodge No. 51, Iași;
Deputy Grand Master of NGLR
Complex and of mark personality of the national pantheon, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, Ruler of Unification, was by turns hated and contested, loved and adulated, accused of serious breakdowns and earthly sins and equally considered as a man of high courage and moral value. All these happened along the seven years of his reign and the decades immediatly after his death in exile. ”The firing hate and the ardent apology burned down”, Gh. Brătianu wrote, in 1932 – letting room to the ”quiet and objective” judgement. Gradually, Alexandru Ioan Cuza placed himself coherently and conveniently in the Romanian’s collective memory, and his work and personality now occupys a central place in the national mithology. Although, the said of the historian above mentioned, nephew of one of the great enemies of Cuza – Ion Brătianu – are still a desideratum. Like many other historical personalities, Alexandru Ioan Cuza was and is the subject of some historiogeographical controverses and not only. Beginning with the place and date of his birth – according to the most and pertinent opinions, 20th of March, 1820, Bârlad – and ending with his quality as a member of some initiatic societies, almost all that ties to the biography and public life of the Ruler of Unification was scrutinized and interpreted in contradistinguished ways. Partially, all those who pronounced on Alexandru Ioan Cuza’s life and work were right, either they loved and raised him on history’s pedestal – the most and most recent ones, either they hated him and saw only the tyrant and imoral man in him – his lifetime enemies, not few and insignificants in number and as social presence.
In my concern, I will use the very words of Alexandru Ioan Cuza in order to explain my attitude and position toward him. In a discussion with Dimitrie Bolintineanu, this asserted: ”we all are the expression of our time.” Starting from this very affirmation, a truism to the many, I will try to discuss some of the Ruler of Unification’s life and work references. Unfornately, like in many other cases, a huge volume of documents and correspondence – regarding also to the multiple aspects of the life and activity of the character we deal with – vanished or ”was lost” willingly. I am refering here, especially,to the eventual private documents and, of course, the correspondence with Eduard Grenier and Arthur Baligot de Beyne, his consecutive secretaries. We have to remaind that his personal archive was undertaken after the night of his forced abdication by D. A. Sturdza, the one who was declared enemy to him, and only in 1912 at Academy Library, P. Henry, a French historian, noted in this respect: ”… It is desirable that these acts to be one day entirely published, they will make clear better than other document, the political life of these years of disquiet and rebirth and the vicissitudes of a prince brave and unselfish, determined to face all the impediments…” Also, the private archive of C. A. Rosetti, burnt in mysterious conditions, the night of 26th of January 1884, surely contained many documents of an extreme importance for our personage and his deeds. The afterward hostillity of many former political friends and were friends to Alexandru Ioan Cuza, begun since the very 1861-1863 and reached to its highest pick after 2nd of May 1864, the real hatred of the radical liberals for the Ruler and his memory, the slight guilty connivance of the liberal and conservatory political elite, who though always celebrated the Unification, expeling its main actor, celebrated – with great pomp and the masting of flags – on 11th of February, all these can expain some ”memory losses” and the lack of several clearing written sources. Nicolae Iorga noticed, on the occasion of the celebration of the Ruler’s birth centenary, that this was ”a man worthy of his legend” and that ”around him there was created a legend worthy to him.” A complete and ojective portrait of our personage is not easy to build. The most reliable and numerous sources come from those who met him. Some were admirers of him, like Papadopol Calimach and Dimitrie Bolintineanu, others were political enemies, and we here remind C. D. Aricescu and Ion C. Brătianu; finally, other witnesses come from those who oscillated between amity and hostillity to Alexandru Ioan Cuza, as in the case of Anastasie Panu and C. A. Rosetti. The historians instead have their ways to supply these regretable lacks and, with a little effort, they can reconstitute important chronotopic sequences from the life of the personages on whom they discuss.
Alexandru Ioan Cuza has his ascendency in an old Moldavian family from around Fălciu (Bârlad area). The first documentary mention about his forefathers is in 1638, whe there is mentioned a Cuza with a rank of vistiernicel (treasurer), as Gh. Ghibănescu informs us in the family’s monogarphy published at Iaşi, in 1912. A long row of Cuzeşti, with ranks and different high courtlinesses, is mentioned in the epoch’s documents, some of them victims of the political fights of all kinds. Ioan, father of Alexandru Ioan Cuza, was son of a căminar (tax collector specialized on alcoohol), and in his turn occupied different functions: spătar (bearer of the Ruler’s sword) and ispravnic (demnity of the Ruler’s representive in a County) in Fălciu, pârcălab (boyar, administrator of a province) at Galaţi, president of a judge court and then a postelnic (boyar, counsellor of the Ruler) – since 1828 – during the first land Ruler after Tudor Vladimirescu’s ”zavera” (revolt) – Ioniţă Sandu Sturza. He was possesses of lands in Bărboşi, Deleni and Bujorul. The mother of the Ruler of Unification, Sultana, née Cozadini, descended from a Romania-based Greek-Italian family. It was she who tought Alexandru Ioan Cuza the Greek language in his childhood. The future Ruler had a brother, Dimitrie, dead, as A. D. Xenopol tells us, after a riding accident in 1850, and a sister, Sultana, future wife to Mihai Jora – praefect of Roman, during his brother-in-low’s ruling. Among other relatives, an important role in Alexandru Ioan Cuza’s formation and life had his uncle, Grigore Cuza (former active member of Confederative Plot) and his cousin, Nicolae Docan, intimate and then enemy to the Ruler of Unification.
Alexandru Ioan Cuza’s childhood is not yet well documented and known in detail. We know but that he learned until 1831 in the Sachetti French pension, in Galaţi, and then in Iaşi, in French Victor Cuenim’ pension. Here then were collegues to him Mihail Kogălniceanu, Vasile Alecsandri, Eugen Alcaz, Anastasie Panu, and – among his relatives – his cousins Nicolae, Ioan and Panaite Docan. He continues his studies then, since the summer of 1834 – like almost all of his friends and wealthy Moldavians of that time – at Paris, where he obtains Artium Baccalaurens in letters in 1835. His mentor and host was Filip Furnarachi. After that, he aggregate to Medicine, then to Law, but undergraduating the courses of these Faculties. Interested in economics, he will become member of Society of Economist in Paris, as the great historian A. D. Xenopol report to us in his famous work dedicated to Cuza. It follows then a short Belgian episode in his education, dedicated to economical studies. Back in his country, like that time’s fashion, he enroles as a cadet in the army (September 1837), where he will resign three years later. In parallel, he continues his studies in Iaşi, ”mathematical learning”, and then since November 1837 until the spring of 1839 he is again in Paris. Remembering that effervescent epoch, Vasile Alecsandri noted: ” In foreign lands, the ones sent from both the Principality proved the popular saying’s truth: blood never turns in water! They used to tie to each other at the fastest sight as some good brothers who would gather again after years of parting: they lived in a place encouraging to each other at studies, helping to each other in needs and hardening thus to saving idea of Romanian Unification”. After his return from abroad, Alexandru Ioan Cuza spends the next two years (1839-1841) at Iaşi, living with his cousin Nicolae Docan at Eugen Alcaz’s, adjutant of Ruler Mihail Sturdza. He now enjoys the boheme of Iaşi, with all its avatars, participating at high life’s actions and also at the bellicose contests – the duels in vogue at that time. In february 1840, he resigns from the army, and after two years, in 1842, aged 22 years, he gets the post of president of tribunal in Covurlui. The activity in this function will bring the rank of aga (officer in charge of public security) to him, in 1843.
In 1844’s spring, Alexandru Ioan Cuza marries Elena Rosetti, daughter postelnic Iordache, possesses of Soleşti, in Vaslui. Elena’s mother, Ecaterina was a Sturdza. The bride’s brother, Theodor Rosetti will become praefect of Vaslui, during his brother-in-low’s reign, and later, in 1888, prime minister. A second brother, Dimitrie Rosetti will be in his turn politically active detaining the interim of Ministery of Cults and Public Instructions in Anastasie Panu government (1861). A noticeable and full of semnifications fact is that of the categorical refuse of the gipsy bondmen from his wife’s dowery list. Alexandru Ioan Cuza was among the first Romanians who did this gesture, accepting beyond his limits the Assembly of Public Good’s resolution, in 31st of January 1844, of gipsys’ manumission from the ruler and monasteries’domains.
An important arguement toward the direction of the setting of his image on politics and the country’s destiny, and also on national desiderata, would be his appartenence at the ”Patriotic Association”, the pandant of the Brotherhood in Romanian Country, since the very 1845, organisation to which there will take part Teodor Răşcanu, Iordache Lambrino, Toader Sion, Vasile Marinescu, Grigoraş Carp, Nicolae Istrati, Tucidide Durmuz etc. The meeting at Mânjina, June 1846 (Negri, Alecsandri, Vârnav) and then the Parisian stage (generated also by the politics of reprisal of Mihail Sturdza), until Octomber of the same year, his ties with the ”Society of the Romanian Students”, in which his brother Dimitrie was also enscribed, constitute too as solid arguments in this regard. Practically, since the very 1845, Alexandru Ioan Cuza cease detaining the function of president of Judge Court at Covurlui, seriously taking distance from Ruler Mihail Sturdza’s regime.
The elections in 1887 for the Assembly of Public-Good (campain, friendship and political affinities) and also Alexandru Ioan Cuza’s participation at the Revolution of 1848, where he a played a major role, are other arguements which has to be taken in consideration when we try to outline the political action of the Ruler of Unification in those years full of revolutionary effervescence.
Let us remind only that Alexandru Ioan Cuza was present at the events in Moldavia (where he was arrested), in Transylvannia at the Revolution of 1848 (Blaj Assembly in 3/15th of May), was in Pesta and Viena, took part in Moldavian Revolutionary Committe’s leading. The rich revolutionary correspondence of that time, Al. I. Cuza signing some of these letters, knows radical formula such as: ”if we do not have power by ourselves, we can get the power through agreement with all the Romanians.” ”Long live Daco-Romania, let God give after a short time Bucovina and Ardeal unite with us“, and so on, and also the relationship with the revolutionists from the borderer countries and West can fulfil entire his political profile. Present among the over one thoudsand Moldavian revolutionists gathered on 27th of March 1848, at Petersburg Hotel, in Iaşi, Alexandru Ioan Cuza takes the word and signs the Proclamation Petition of Moldavia’s boyars and dignitaries, document which in its 35 points sintetyses the modernization and democratical aspirations of a part of that time’s elite. Facing the repression ordered by Ruler Mihail Sturdza, Alexandru Ioan Cuza, as he was in the Mavrocordat house beside other revolutionists, advised his commerades – according to Gheorghe Sion’s witness – like this: ”But, brothers! Let’s die!… With our death we need to open to our nation worthy to the glory of our fourfathers’ past. Romanians! Today all the nations resurect, there need also ours to resurect.” In the confrontation that followed, the future Ruler was wounded. Alexandru Ioan Cuza was between the group of the thirteen revolutionists considered as the most dangerous for the Mihail Sturdza’s regime and, as a consequence, he was arrested and sent to deportation. With the help of Elena Cuza and Iorgu Ghica’ wife, six of the revolutionists, among them being our personage, managed to refugiate at the English Vice-Consul from Brăila, avoiding deportation and inquest in Otoman Empire, the sovereign power of that time. On boat, on Danube, accompanied by other revolutionists, he will reach Pesta, and then Blaj, in Transylvannia. Here he takes part at the great assembly of the Romanians, 3/15th of May 1848, after which he goes to Viena. During his short banishment, Alexandru Ioan Cuza affirms himself as one of the leaders of the Moldavian Revolutionary Committe, beside Costache Negri, Zaharia Moldoveanu, Vasile Alecsandri and Mihail Kogălniceanu. This latter one, from the Commitee’s charge, will draw up and publish at Cernăuţi – place where Alexandru Ioan Cuza too will reach – ”The wishes of the National Party in Moldavia”, fundamental document of the Revolution of 1848, in which there will recommenced the enounced questions in ”Our principles for the reformation of our Motherland”. Now there is consolidated the relationship of Alexandru Ioan Cuza with the future Ruler Grigore Alexandru Ghica and also with a constellation of Muntenian and Transylvannian revolutionists.This ties and realities made Nicolae Bălcescu to speak the prophetical words: ”Our Romania will exist! There is blind the one who does not see it.” The drama of losing his father, postelnic Ioan Cuza, happenned at 11th of June 1848, during the exile of the future Ruler, and the physical long way off from Elena Cuza darkened the private life of our personage.
After a long and sometimes full of traumas periplus at Pesta, Viena, Paris and Constantinopol, Al. I. Cuza returns in country in July 1849 and serves the new Ruler, supporter of the Union and reformes, Grigore Alexandru Ghica. The conexant events of the 1848 will definitively mark Alexandru Ioan Cuza’s generation with a fingerprint which will be visible along all the course of the political and public activity of this. The enunciation of the great national and social objectives in these moments will practically mean the engagement into a major national project of the large majority of the Romanian elite. After Grigore Alexandru Ghica’s coming on Moldavia’s throne, Alexandru Ioan Cuza will succesively occupy the posts of president of Judge Court at Covurlui, director of Ministery of Interne Affairs and pârcălab of Covurlui County. Well appreciated but that time’s public, Alexandru Ioan Cuza becomes now a good viewer of the country’s administrative problems. More than that, he implicates in education and health issues too, watching over these so important domains then, as well as now. As a sign of his value and of his dedication with which he fulfilled his assumed public tasks – and this instead his wife Elena Cuza’s long illness which kept him more at Galaţi – Alexandru Ioan Cuza receives in 1855 the rank of vornic (boyar charged with the internal affairs of the court). Named in 1856 as a pârcălab of Covurlui County, he assumes not only the curent deeds of the County, but he deploys also a considerable unionist activity. Thus, his ties with Ruler Grigore Alexandru Ghica who prepared himself for expatriation in the troublesome external context of that time – the conexant events to Crimeea War and the occupation of the Principalities – become stronger, both being ardent unionist and reformers. Eduard Grenier, future secretary of Cuza, describing the moment of Ruler Grigore Alexandru Ghica departure from Moldavia, noted: ”He, the pârcălab of the land, commanded the city to be illuminated in honour of the traveler Ruler, though he knew he was jeopardizing his situation and the new government was not going to forgive his beautiful gesture. In the evening, he came to accompany us on the boat. The Ruler, very moved, kisses him from all his heart… Cuza was the last Romanian Ghica saw in Moldavia and it seemed to me later that through that kiss he passed the Ruler’s Crown on his forefront”. After Grigore Alexandru Ghica’s departure, a tragic character – he will commit suicide one year later, at Paris – Alexandru Ioan Cuza will present his resignation in september 1856 to caimacan (Turkish minister, Ruler’s leutenant) Teodor Balş, personage known for his hostile attitude toward the Union. At Teodor Balş’s death, another anti-unionist enemy, Nicolae Vogoride, becomes caimacan, who from his desire to ensure popularity and frienship again names Alexandru Ioan Cuza as pârcălab of Covurlui County. Advised by his unionist friends, Cuza accepts and asks his re-enroling in the army. In this period, the name of Alexandru Ioan Cuza becomes increasingly often spoken in the elite’s circles, becoming known to the abroad circles, in his quality of creditable man and important personage of Moldavia. The unionist activity and the famous scandal of the elections for the Ad-hoc Council from year 1857 determin Cuza to resign from caimacan Nicolae Vogoride’s administration. In a circular letter of the Union’s Commitee from Iaşi, the summer of 1857, there was specified: ”… He the vornic Alecu Cuza presented his argumented resignation, which made great sensation and gave significant support to the general protest that was sent to Bucharest (the place where the consuls of the Great Power were being – author’s note). As it is well known, finally these elections were anulled and the elections for the Council Ad-hoc gave an overwhelning winning cause to the unionist party. After the opening of this important forum, on 22nd of September 1857, at Iaşi, Alexandru Ioan Cuza proved his constancy and political consistency in the numerous debates at which he actively paticipated. He supported the banish of class privileges, he pronounced for the agrarian issue’s resolvation – for peasentry’s problem – as Mihail Kogălniceanu, Costache Negri sustained it. Nicolae Vogoride – urged also by personal interests – will revise his attitude toward Alexandru Ioan Cuza, whom he will rank up as colonel in August 1858. In short time, Alexandru Ioan Cuza will become the help of the hatman of Moldavian Militia and then, in October 1858 – during the caimacan ruling in three, Catargiu, Sturdza and Panu – he will become hatman. In this quality, Cuza was practically the commander of the Moldavian army, post of great importance in the times to come. Within the Elective Assembly – which was going to choose the new Ruler of Moldavia and in which the unionists from the two Principalities put so many hopes – Alexandru Ioan Cuza was chosen vicepresident beside Petre Mavrogheni. We reached practically in the immediate vicinity of the event that had to push Alexandru Ioan Cuza in the very front of history, the moment of his double election (5th and 24th of January 1859) and had to consacrate him for posterity with the generous atribute of Ruler of Unification.