First page of manuscript of Polish Constitution.

The United States constitution is famous worldwide for being the first of its kind in the world, the supreme law for the state and an affirmation that the government exists to serve its citizens. But did you know that Poland was the first in Europe and the second in the world to introduce a constitution of its own?

First adopted in 1791, the constitution was an attempt to redress defects in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (which was also the largest nation in Europe at one point). It was met with hostility by Poland’s more autocratic neighbours and was a factor in the Second Partition of Poland. Within a few short years after it came into effect, Poland would cease to exist on the map.

The constitution was too late to save the state but it did save the nation. The memory of it would keep for generations and help to support Polish dreams of a free and independent nation. It is remembered today as a national symbol and seen as the culmination of the enlightenment in Polish history and culture.

The Polish Constitution is celebrated every year on its anniversary, May 3rd. A national holiday, it commemorates the ideal of a just and free Poland. It’s no surprise that the holiday was banned during the Partitions as well as Nazi/Soviet occupation as it celebrated Polish independence. 3rd May was also a popular day for demonstrations and protests during the Communist era.

So raise a glass to those who dreamt of a better tomorrow on this day. Enjoy a drink and toast the spirit of democracy and freedom.

Commemorative coin celebrating the constitution issued the same year