today in history » The Constitution of 3 May 1791
The constitution (Polish: Konstytucja 3 maja) is considered one of the most important achievements in the history of Poland, despite being in effect for only a year, until the Russo-Polish War of 1792. The constitution was a milestone in the history of law and the rise of democracy.
It has been called the second constitution in world history, following the 1788 ratification of the United States Constitution. The memory of the May 3 Constitution—recognized by political scientists as a very progressive document for its time—for generations helped keep alive Polish aspirations for an independent and just society, and continued to inform the efforts of its authors’ descendants.
In Poland it is viewed as a national symbol, and the culmination of all that was good and enlightened in Polish history and culture. The 3rd May anniversary of its adoption has been observed as Poland’s most important civil holiday since Poland regained independence in 1918. Its importance for the Polish people has been compared to that of July 4 to the Americans.