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Once again, the Emeryk Hutten Czapski Museum presents the exhibition titled Ye Who Rule the Commonwealth. The Polish Sejm in the Old Prints from the Collection of Emeryk Hutten-Czapski – a display of Sejm prints dating back to the period from the early 16th century to the end of the 18th century.
On display are selected published texts of laws regulating the everyday life of the Nobles' Commonwealth for almost 300 years.
Through its resolutions called constitutions, the Polish Sejm, formed in the early 16th century, made decisions in matters of general national importance, imposition of taxes, military expeditions, the Polish-Lithuanian union, proclamation of the king, and sometimes also the fate of individuals. In 1505, at the request of the nobility gathered at the Sejm in Radom, King Alexander made a decision to compile all the laws of the kingdom for the first time. It resulted in printing the so-called Statutes edited by Chancellor Jan Łaski in 1506. The exhibition opens with a unique copy of this work, printed on parchment, containing the first illustration depicting the two houses of the Polish parliament deliberating along with the king.
The Sejm prints including constitutions, law proposals and publications documenting the speeches of individual members of parliament and senators testify to efforts lasting several centuries to reach a consensus which would benefit the Polish raison d'etat, which was not easy in this vast, multinational and multireligious state with varying legal status of its estates – nobility, clergy, bourgeoisie and peasantry.
From 1506 until the last years of the existence of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the reform of the state introduced at the Great Sejm, inscribed in the Constitution of 3 May, great efforts were made to publish the current laws passed by the successive Sejms and approved by the kings. Their swift and efficient distribution among the public and the authorities ensured the implementation of the rule-postulate formulated by Stanisław Orzechowski, a 16th-century political writer: Law is the master in a free Kingdom.
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