Second Constitution

Three years after the American Consitution,
there was a Second Constitution

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"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it."

Three years after the U.S. Constitution came into force, the "Constitution of 3 May 1791" was put into effect by the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a dual monarchy.   It "is generally considered Europe’s first, and the world’s second, modern written constitution, after the United States Constitution that had come into force in 1789."

If there were any doubts of the ability of the U.S. Constitution to survive – and in Europe there certainly were – the consequences for the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth were a huge part of the reasons.

Their constitution, like that of the U.S., created a republic (albeit, a monarchic republic) "with a clear division of executive, legislative, and judiciary powers."   Granted that there are now more written constitutions in Europe, but that separation of powers is something the rest of Europe lacks, for the most part, down to the present day, with the leading member of parliaments (by whatever name) being the Prime Minister (and the anachronistic king or queen being reduced to a token figurehead).

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth had been a major European power a century earlier, and in 1791 was still the biggest country in Europe.   But its constitution – and the country itself – lasted only 19 months.

Why?   Because "the Commonwealth’s neighbors reacted with hostility to the adoption of the Constitution."   In other words, the idea of a constitutionally-limited government was something that, among others, Prussia’s King Frederick William II and Imperial Russia’s Czar Catherine "the Great" absolutely did not want to see infecting their own populations; the Commonwealth, for their sakes, could not be tolerated.   It had to fail.

As happened in France, The ideas promulgated in the Commonwealth included those most dangerous ones, of liberty, freedom, and individual rights, learned while helping the Americans fight their Revolutionary War against the British. Those ideas were spread by returning soldiers when they arrived back to their native homes.   As a direct result, France was then embroiled in its own Revolution.   To have a similar event in Europe’s largest country could not be allowed to happen.

And so they made sure not only that the Constitution of 3 May 1791 failed, but that the country itself was eradicated.   Poland and Lithuania were annexed into Russia, ending their freedoms, and ceased to be countries at all, for 130 years, until after World War I.

Keep in mind the subsequent events: the return of Lithuanian sovereignty in 1918 was subsequently ended after only two decades, with annexation by the Soviet Union during World War II.

Polish sovereignty returned in 1918, only to be overrun two decades later by the Germans in 1939, starting World War II and on their way to invading Russia.   Russia subsequently ran rough-shod over everything and everybody, with the vicious level of plunder, rapine, and destruction usually associated with barbaric savages (which the Soviet army commanders encouraged of their illiterate mid-Asian soldiers), all the way back to Berlin and beyond, until they met the Allied forces advancing from the west.

"East Germany" and Poland, along with others, became Communist puppet states of the Soviet Union.   Lithuania became a part of the Soviet Union, without any pretense of sovereignty.

Poland and Lithuania only regained their sovereignty in 1990, with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Two hundred years of domination by foreign dictatorships (czars and communists) ended only three decades ago.   No wonder that both countries (and the rest of ex-Communist puppets in eastern Europe) are justifiably somewhat protective of their sovereignty, and do not casually let the new European Union bureaucratic-dictatorship take that from them.

And the worldwide efforts of socialists against freedom and individual rights continue, even within the U.S.

"Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean that politics will not take an interest in you." – Pericles

All quoted text is taken from this Wikipedia article

See also this about Lithuania,

For more on my thoughts on the nature of the European Union,

See these on the inherent, inevitable destructiveness of socialism,

See this for the most frequent means in current use for justifying the erosion of personal freedom,

Learn from history, or repeat it,

--   Scott Crosby
      12 May 2019

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