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Polish National Day - anniversary of the adoption of the May 3 Constitution
May 6, 2017, 1:49 pm

This year marks the 226th anniversary of the adoption of the May 3 Constitution — the first constitution in modern Europe and the second in the world, following America’s Founding Principles.

The greatest legislative achievement of the four-year Sejm (Polish parliament), held from October 1788 to May 1792, was the passing of the Government Act, which was to become the foundation of the internal revival of the Republic. The constitution was based on the most progressive, reformatory enlightenment thought. The authors of the May 3 Constitution were Polish King Stanislaw August Poniatowski, Ignacy Potocki and Hugo Kollataj.

The text of the Constitution included the introduction and 11 articles. According to the Constitution of May 3, the constitution of the Republic of Poland was to be based on the concept of the sovereignty of the nation and the tripartite rule. The Basic Law ensured the dominance of legislative power over the executive, ensuring the extensive powers of the House of Deputies while weakening the monarch's position.

Since the adoption of the Constitution on 3 May, 1791, it has become a symbol of aspirations aimed at regaining the independence and sovereignty of the Republic. It claimed its status in Europe and beyond as the second such document after that of the 1787 constitution of the United States of America. Edmund Burke, the Irish philosopher and father of modern conservatism, described the May 3 Constitution in these words: "We see how in one go an end was put to anarchy and subversion, the throne was strengthened to protect the nation, without prejudice to its freedom ... No one suffered a loss or was humiliated. Everyone, from the king to the simple worker, has improved his position. "

Although the May 3 Constitution lasted only a year, until the Russian military intervention in the summer of 1792, it became a cause for pride for subsequent generations of Poles and its memory helped the Polish nation to survive 123 years of partition of the state.

The adoption of the May 3 Constitution was recognized as a holiday already on 5 May, 1791, however, the official celebration of the special day was forbidden during the partition. The May 3 national holiday was restored in the Second Republic in April 1919, and again after the fall of communism in 1990. Until the end of World War II and in the days of the People's Republic of Poland, the celebration of the Constitution Day was forbidden. At present, the May 3 Constitution is regarded by Poles as one of the most important historical events in the history of Poland.


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