Early Polish Natural Rights Under Poland Lithuania
April 7, 2014
Pole, derives from a Slavic root meaning a field or a level place. This description of the location in which the Poles lives is accurate. Poland and its plains lie south of the Baltic Sea, north of Bohemia, sandwiched between Germany (or Prussia depending on the era) to the west and Russia to the east. Geography, specifically the lack of natural barriers, has often been blamed for Poland twice disappearing off the map in recent history.1 Poland has not always been on the verge of elimination in fact “Poland has had a longer and more successful history than most other European countries.”2 Poland experienced an “Era of Greatness” Under the Jagiellon Kings from The Fourteenth Century until the time of Sobeiski Poland experienced a period of peace allowed for the advancements in both the political and social fields3.
During the time of the “Era of Greatness” Poland was thriving agriculturally. The vast plains, which made Poland vulnerable to land invasions, also allowed for the mass production of grains. Poland never had the need for large cities because of this. The Cities merely served as a market and governing seat. Due to the extended period of peace during this time Polish cities never received walls a barriers that are accustomed to the Middle Ages. This peace is due to the alliance Poland formed with Lithuania.4
At the Union of Krewo in 1385 Jadwiga of the Polish Jagiello Dynasty married the Lithuanian Prince Yagaylo, thus uniting the Polish Kingdom and the Duchy of Lithuania in what would come to be known as the “Republic of Two Nations”. For the next two centuries this Dual Monarchy continued in a personal union. Both nations were under the same king but however had separate governments5. With the exception of skirmishes with German Knights most of Poland’s issues during this time period were domestic. The big internal issue was how to govern the massive state that was Poland-Lithuania. The Szlachta, Polish noble class, got together with the Boyar, Lithuanian noble class, to discuss ways to reign over their large territory. The two noble classes decided it would be best for the sake of ruling the territory to make the Union between the two nations political in addition to personal. At the Compact of Wilna in 1401 Poland surrendered all rights to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in order to assure that nations would be governed as “jointly elected sovereigns and were to peruse common policy”. The two groups of nobles met again at the Union of Horoldo were they then declared the two states as exactly equal in union.6 The union allowed for the national and civilian advancements of both nations because combined they were able to fend off the German Knights from the east and focus on themselves.7
Although these two nations came together they had little in common other than common enemies in German States and Russia. Lithuania was officially Roman Catholic but half of the citizens were still pagan. This would prove problematic if not worked out by the two nations as Poland related closely to the Roman Catholic8. Luckily through inter marriage of the two ruling houses religious issues where worked out as the entire nation’s nobility eventually converted to Roman Cathloic. Politically, before the union with Poland, Lithuania was organized in a feudal system. This would clash with the Polish style of Republic. Compromise was found and in 1493 when Poland’s Model Parliament was formed. There were two houses of the Polish Parliament. The upper house, known as the Senate which was for crown officials, and the lower house, which held members of the Szlachta. The King of the “Republic of Two Nations” signed this into Constitution thus guaranteeing more rights for the Szlachta9.
During this time of “Golden Freedom” a series of acts were passed that...
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