Portal:Poland/Selected article/32

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Cover of 1791 printed edition of the Constitution of 3 May
The Polish Constitution of 1791, the world's second oldest written constitution after that of the United States, was adopted by the Great Sejm on 3 May 1791. The document was designed to redress political defects of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, such as the system of "Golden Liberty", which had corrupted the country's politics. It sought to supplant the prevailing anarchy, fostered by some of the country's magnates, with a more democratic constitutional monarchy. It introduced elements of political equality between townspeople and nobility, and placed the peasants under the protection of the government, thus mitigating the worst abuses of serfdom. It also banned pernicious parliamentary institutions such as the liberum veto, which allowed any single deputy to undo all the legislation that had been passed during a given session of the Sejm. The constitution remained in force for less than 15 months and was abolished following the Constitution War against Russia and the Russian-supported Targowica Confederation, a coalition of Polish magnates and landless nobility who opposed reforms that might have weakened their influence. In the words of two of the document's co-authors, Ignacy Potocki and Hugo Kołłątaj, it was "the last will and testament of the expiring Country."
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