Constitution of May 3, 1791(redirected from May Constitution of 1791)
Constitution of May 3, 1791
a constitution adopted by the Four-year Sejm of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The constitution established a hereditary monarchy, strengthened the central power, eliminated such archaisms as the confederation and the liberum veto, and made a single state of Poland and Lithuania, doing away with the last vestiges of Lithuanian statehood. Political rights were recognized only for the upper and middle szlachta (Polish nobility). The poorest members of the szlachta, the golota, were deprived of rights, limiting the influence of magnates who enjoyed the political support of the golota. The constitution made almost no changes regarding the status of peasants, although it declared its “concern” for them.
Reactionary magnates opposed the constitution and established the Confederation of Targowica (1792), which appealed to Russia and Prussia to occupy the country. The constitution and reforms of the Four-year Sejm were abolished.