2019.05.03 12:16

First European constitution remembered in Lithuania and Poland

Benas Gerdžiūnas, 2019.05.03 12:16

Lithuania and Poland remembers the May 3, 1791, constitution of the Lithuanian-Polish Commonwealth.

According to Polish Constitutional Tribunal Chairwoman Julia Przylebska on a visit to Vilnius, “it’s wrong to speak about Poland and Lithuania as the new states in Europe,” as both countries proved their “European and democratic” thinking in the 1791 constitution.

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė said “the joint past and future should remain very important in our countries’ relations”.

The 1791 constitution between Poland and Lithuania is considered Europe’s first written constitution.

Lithuanian Presidential Palace hosted a discussion in Vilnius to mark the occasion.

– The Constitution of 3 May 1791 was adopted by the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, a dual monarchy comprising the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

– The Constitution aimed for constitutional monarchy, political equality between townspeople and nobility, and placed peasants under the protection of the government, in an effort to mitigate effects of serfdom.

– The 1791 Constitution was in force for less than 19 months

– King Frederick William II broke Prussia's alliance with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and joined with Catherine the Great's Imperial Russia to defeat the Commonwealth in the 1792.

– The Second and Third Partitions of Poland and Lithuania in 1793 and 1795 respectively, ended the nations’ sovereign existence until 1918.

Source:  Norman Davies (May 15, 1991). The Third of May 1791. Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Harvard University