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The Constitution of May 3, 1791


On May 3, 1791, the Constitution of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was adopted. The Constitution of May 3, 1791 was the first modern Constitution in Europe and the 2nd in the World, preceded by the American constitution of 1787.

The constitution aimed to surpass the prevailing anarchy fostered by some of the country’s magnates and intended to introduce a more democratic constitutional monarchy. It supported political equality between townspeople and nobility, and placed the peasants under the protection of the government, thus mitigating the worst abuses of serfdom. It banned the use of liberum veto, which had put the Sejm at the mercy of any deputy who could revoke all the legislation that had been passed by that Sejm. The Commonwealth’s neighbours reacted with hostility to the adoption of the constitution. Frederick William II’s Kingdom of Prussia broke its alliance with the Commonwealth, which was attacked and then defeated in the War in Defence of the Constitution by an alliance between Catherine the Great’s Imperial Russia and the Targowica Confederation of anti-reform Polish magnates and landless nobility. The King, a principal co-author, eventually capitulated to the Confederates.

The 1791 document remained in force for less than 19 months; it was annulled by the Grodno Sejm on 23 November 1793. By 1795, the Second and Third Partitions of Poland ended the existence of the sovereign Polish state. Over the next 123 years, the Constitution of 3 May, 1791, was seen as proof of successful internal reform and as a symbol promising the eventual restoration of Poland’s sovereignty.

The 3rd of May Holiday is a joyful occasion. Spring events, concerts, family picnics are held throughout Poland.

Photo> communications-Unlimited.nl

On the photo: Presidential Palace, Warsaw, Poland.In 1791 it hosted the authors and advocates of the Constitution of May 3, 1791.

Sources: www.poland.pl and Wikipedia.