Constitution of May 3, 1791
In the name of God, One in the Holy Trinity. Stanislaw August, by the grace of God and the will of the people King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Ruthenia, Prussia, Mazowsze, Zmudz [Samogitia], Kiev, Wolyn, Podole, Podlasie, Livonia, Smolensk, Sever and Czernihov; together with the confederated estates in dual number representing the Polish people.
Recognizing that the destiny of us all
depends solely upon the establishment and perfection of a national constitution,
having by long experience learned the inveterate faults of our government,
and desiring to take advantage of the season in which Europe finds itself
and of this dying moment that has restored us to ourselves, free of the
ignominious dictates of foreign coercion, holding dearer than life, than
personal happiness the political existence, external independence and internal
liberty of the people whose destiny is entrusted to our hands, desiring
as well to merit the blessing and gratitude of contemporary and future
generations, despite obstacles that may cause passion in us, do for the
general welfare, for the establishment of liberty, for the preservation
of our country and its borders, with the utmost constancy of spirit ordain
the present constitution and declare it to be entirely sacred and inviolable
until the people, at the time by law prescribe, by their clear will recognize
a need to alter it in any of its articles. To which constitution the further
statutes of the present seym shall apply in everything.
I. The Dominant
Religion Back to the top
II. The Landed
Nobility Back to the top
III. The Cities
And Their Citizens Back to the top
IV. The Peasants
Back to the top
V. The Government,
Or Designation Of Public Authorities
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Primo. As to general laws, that is, constitutional, civil, criminal, or for the institution of perpetual taxes: in which matters proposals submitted by the throne to the provinces (wojewodztwa), lands (ziemie) and counties (powiaty) for discussion, and by instructions coming to the chamber, shall be taken for decision first.
Secundo. As to resolutions of the sejm, that is, temporary levies, degree of coin, contraction of public debt, ennoblement or other incidental rewards, disposition of public expenditures ordinary or extraordinary, war, peace, final ratification of treaties of alliance or trade, any diplomatic acts or agreements involving the law of nations, the quitting of executive magistracies, and like matters corresponding to the chief national needs, in which matters proposals from the throne shall come directly to the chamber of deputies and shall have priority of procedure.
The duty of the chamber of senators, comprising bishops, province chiefs (wojewodowie), castellans and ministers, presided over by the king, who is entilled to cast a votum (vote) of his own, and secondly to resolve paritas (an equal division of votes) either in person or by sending his judgment to that chamber, is: Primo. To adopt, or to retain for further deliberation by the nation, by the majority vote provided in law, every law which, having formally passed the chamber of deputies, shall be immediately forwarded to the senate; adoption shall confer the force and sanctity of law; retention shall only suspend a law suspended by the senate shall be adopted. Secundo. To decide every resolution of the sejm in the above enumerated matters, which the chamber of deputies shall immediately send to the senate, together with the chamber of deputies by majority vote, and the conjoint majority, provided by law, of both chambers shall be the judgment and will of the estates.
We stipulate that senators and ministers shall not have a votum decisivum (decisive vote) in the sejm in matters concerning their conduct of office, either in the guardianship or in commission, and at such time shall have a seat in the senate only to give explication upon demand of the sejm.
An ever ready sejm shall be legislative and ordinary. It shall begin every two yea and shall last as provided in the law on sejms. Ready, convoked in exigencies, it shall decide only about the matter in which it be convoked, or about an exigency befallen after it be convoked. No law shall be abrogated at the ordinary sejm at which it has been enacted. A sejm shall comprise the number of persons provided by lower law, both in the chamber of deputies and in the chamber of senators.
We solemnly confirm the law on regional sejms, enacted at the present sejm, as a most essential foundation of civil liberty.
Inasmuch as legislation cannot be conducted by all, and the nation to that end employs as agents its freely elected representatives, or deputies, we determine that deputies elected at the regional sejms shall, in legislation and in general needs of the nation, be considered under the present constitution as representatives of the entire nation, being the repository of the general confidence.
Everything, everywhere, shall be decided by majority vote; therefore we abolish forever the liberum veto, confederations of any kind, and confederate sejms, as being opposed to the spirit of the present constitution, subversive of government, and destructive of society.
Preventing on one hand abrvpt and frequent
changes of national constitution, and on the other recognizing the need
to perfect it after experiencing its effect upon the public weal, we designate
a season and time for review and amendment of the constitution every twenty-five
yea, desiring that such a constitutional sejm be extraordinary in accordance
with the provisions of a separate law.
VII. The King,
The Executive Authority Back to the top
The executive, authority shall not enact or interpret laws, impose 1es or -levies by any name, contract public debts, alter the distribution of treasury revenues established by the sejm, wage war, or definitive (definitively) conclude peace or treaties or any diplomatic act. It shall be free to conduct only interim negotiations with foreign states, ad to take, temporary and current measures requisite for the security and peace of the country, of which it shall inform the next assembly of the sejm.
We desire and determine that the throne of Poland shall be forever elective by families. Disastrous experience of interregnums periodically overturning the government, the obligation to safeguard every inhabitant of the Polish land, the sealing forever of avenue to the influences of foreign powers, the memory of the former grandeur and happiness of our country under continuously reigning families, the need to turn foreigners away from ambition for the throne, and to turn powerful Poles toward the single-minded cultivation of national liberty, having indicated to our ptudence that the throne of Poland be passed on by right of succession. We determine, therefore, that following the life that Divine beneficence shall grant to us, the present-day elector of Saxony shall begin with the person of Frederick Augustus, present-day elector of Saxony, to whose male successors de lumbis (from the loins) we reserve the throne of Poland. Should the present-day elector of Saxony have no male issue, then the consort, with the consent of the assembled estates, selected by the elector for his daughter shall begin the male line of succession to the throne of Poland.Wherefore we declare Maria Augusta Nepomucena, daughter of the elector, to be infanta of Poland, reserving to the people the right, which shall be subject to no prescription, to elect another house to the throne after the expiration of the first.
Every king, when ascending the throne, shall execute an oath to God and to the nation, that he will preserve the present constitution and the pacta conventa15 that shall be drawn up with the present-day elector of Saxony, as destined to the throne, and which shall bind him as shall those of the past.
The person of the king is sacred and secure from everything. Doing nothing of himself, he shall be answerable for nothing to the nation. He shall not be autocrat but father and chief of the nation, and as such the present law and constitution deems and declares him to be. The incomes as they shalt be provided for in the pacta conventa, and the prerogatives proper to the throne as stipulated by the present constitution to the future elect, shall not be touched.
All public acts, tribunals, courts of law, magistracies, coin and stamps shall go under the king1s name. The king, to whom shall be left every power of beneficence, shall have ius agratiandi (the right to pardon) those sentenced to death, except in crlminibus stati's (in crimes of state). To the king shall belong the supreme disposition of the country1s armed forces in wartime and the appointment of army commanders, howbeit with their free change by the will of the nation. It shall be his duty to commission officers and appoint officials pursuant to the provisions of lower law, to appoint bishops and senators persuant to the provisions of that law, and ministers, as the prime officials of the executive authority.
The guardianship, or royal councit, added to the king for supervision of the integrity and execution of the laws, shall comprise: primo the primate, as chief of the Polish clergy and as president of the educational commission, who may substitute for himself in the guardianship the first bishop ex ordine (in rank), neither of whom shall sign resolutions; secundo five ministers, to wit: a minister of police, a minister of the seal, a minister be Iii (of war), a minister of the treasury, and a minister of foreign affairs; tertio two secretaries, of whom one shall keep the protocol of the guardianship, the other the protocol of foreign affairs, both without a decisive votum.
The successor the throne, having emerged from minority and executed an oath to uphold the constitution, may be present at all sessions of the guardianship, but without a vote.
The marshal of the sejm, elected for two years, shall be of the number seated in the guardianship, without entering into their resolutions, solely in order to convoke a ready sejm in the event that he recognize in the cases requiring convocation of a ready sejm, a true need, and the king demur at convoking it, when said marshal shall issue to the deputies and senators circular letters convoking them to a ready sejm and stating the causes of its convocation. The only cases requiring convocation of a sejm are the following: Primo. In an exigency involving the law of nations, more particularly in the event of war hard by the borders. Secundo. In the event of internal disorder that threatens revolution in the country or collision between magistracies. Tertio. In evident danger, generally voiced. Quarto. In the country's bereavement by death of the king, or in his dangerous illness. All resolutions in the guardianship shall be discussed by the above- mentioned body of persons, and the royal decision shall prevail after all opinions have been heard, that there be a single will in the execution of law; therefore every resolution from the guardianship shall issue under the king's name and with the signature of his hand, but it shall also be signed by one of the ministers seated in the guardianship, and thus signed, it shall oblige obedience, and shall be carried out by the commissions or by any executive magistracies, but particularly in such matters as are not explicilly excluded by the present law. In the event that none of the seated ministers wish to sign the decision, the ting 1shall abandon the decision, but should he persist in it, the marshal of the sejm shall request convocation of the ready sejm; and if the king 1delay convocation, the marshal shall convoke it.
Even as to appointment of all ministers, so also is it the king's right to summon one of them from every department of administration to his council, or guardianship. This summoning of a minister to sit in the guardianship shall be for two yea, as now with the king's free confirmation of it. Ministers summoned to the guardianship shall not sit in commissions.
In the event that a two-third majority of secret votes of the two conjoint chambers of the sejm demand change of a minister either in the guardianship or in an office, the king shall immediately appoint another in his place.
Desiring that the guardianship of the national laws be bound to strict accountability to the nation for any and all its misdeeds, we determine that, when ministers be charged with breach of law by a deputation designated to examine their deeds, they shall answer in their own persons and property. In any such impeachments, the assembled estates shall by simple majority vote of the conjoint chambers send the inculpated ministers to sejm courts for their just punishment equalling the crime or, their innocence being demonstrated, their release from proceedings and punishment.
For the orderly carrying out of executive authority, we institute separate commissions, having connection with the guardianship and bound in obedience to the guardianship. Commissioners shall be elected to them by the sejm to carry on thetr offices for a time set by law. These commissions are: primo of education, secundo of police, tertio of the army, quarto of the treasury.
The provincial (wojewodzkie) commissions
of order instituted at this sejm, also subject to the supervision of the
guardianship, shall receive orders through the above-mentioned intermediary
commissions, respective(ly) as to the objects of the authority and obligations
of each of them.
VIII. The Judicial
Authority Back to the top
Secundo. We secure judicial jurisdictions to all cities, pursuant to the law of the present sejm on the free royal cities.
Tertio. We shall have separate referendary courts for each province (prowincja) in matters of free peasants under former laws subject to this curt.
Quarto. We preserve chancery, assessorial, relational and Kurlandian courts.
Quinto. The executive commissions shall have courts in matters pertinent to their administration.
Sexto. In addition to courts in civil and criminal matters for all the estates, there shall be a supreme court, called a sejm court, to which persons shall be elected at the opening of every sejm. To this court shall be subject crimes against the nation and the king, or crimina status (crimes of state).
We command that a new code of civil and
criminal laws be drawn up by persons designated by the sejm.
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X. The Education
Of Royal Sons Back to the top
Armed Force Back to the top
[May 3rd Constitution EN]
[May 3rd Constitution PL]
[Before the Constitution]