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Partition Sejm

Partition Sejm

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The Partition Sejm was a Sejm lasting from 1773 to 1776 in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, convened by its three neighbours (Russian Empire
Russian Empire
The Russian Empire was a state that existed from 1721 until the Russian Revolution of 1917. It was the successor to the Tsardom of Russia and the predecessor of the Soviet Union...

, Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

) in order to legalize their First Partition of Poland
First Partition of Poland
The First Partition of Poland or First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in 1772 as the first of three partitions that ended the existence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by 1795. Growth in the Russian Empire's power, threatening the Kingdom of Prussia and the...

. During its first days in session, that Sejm was the site of Tadeusz Rejtan
Tadeusz Rejtan
Tadeusz Reytan was a Polish nobleman. He was a member of the Polish Sejm from the constituency of Nowogródek . Rejtan is remembered for a dramatic gesture he made in September 1773, as a deputy of the Partition Sejm...

 famous gesture of protest. The Sejm also passed some other legislation, notably establishing the Permanent Council
Permanent Council
The Permanent Council was the highest administrative authority in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between 1775 and 1789 and the first modern government in Europe...

 and the Commission of National Education. Cardinal Laws
Cardinal laws
The Cardinal Laws were a constitution enacted in Warsaw, Poland, by the Repnin Sejm of 1767–68. Ostensibly the Cardinal Laws were intended to ensure the "Golden Liberty" of the Polish-Lithuanian nobility, as demanded by nobles united in the Radom Confederation...

 were confirmed.

The new legislation was guaranteed by the Russian Empire, giving it another excuse to interfere in the Commonwealth politics if the legislation it favored was changed. Russia was the most determined to form the Permanent Council, which it saw as further means to control the Commonwealth.

The creation of the Commission of National Education, Commonwealth's and Europe's first ministry of education
Ministry of Education
Several countries have government departments named the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Public Education. The first such ministry ever is considered to be the Commission of National Education Several countries have government departments named the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of...

, is universally seen as the most proud and constructive achievement of the otherwise deplored Partition Sejm.

Background



In the late 17th century and early 18th century the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was reduced from the status of a major European power to that of a Russian protectorate
Protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

 (or vassal
Vassal
A vassal or feudatory is a person who has entered into a mutual obligation to a lord or monarch in the context of the feudal system in medieval Europe. The obligations often included military support and mutual protection, in exchange for certain privileges, usually including the grant of land held...

 or satellite state
Satellite state
A satellite state is a political term that refers to a country that is formally independent, but under heavy political and economic influence or control by another country...

), with the Russian tsar
Tsar
Tsar is a title used to designate certain European Slavic monarchs or supreme rulers. As a system of government in the Tsardom of Russia and Russian Empire, it is known as Tsarist autocracy, or Tsarism...

 effectively choosing Polish-Lithuanian monarchs during the free elections and deciding the outcome of much of Poland's internal politics, for example during the Repnin Sejm
Repnin Sejm
The Repnin Sejm was a Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that took place between 1767 and 1768 in Warsaw. This session followed the Sejms of 1764 to 1766, where the newly elected King of Poland, Stanisław August Poniatowski, attempted with some successes to push through reforms to...

, named after the Russian ambassador who unofficially presided over the proceedings.

The Partition Sejm and the First Partition occurred after the balance of power
Balance of power in international relations
In international relations, a balance of power exists when there is parity or stability between competing forces. The concept describes a state of affairs in the international system and explains the behavior of states in that system...

 in Europe shifted, with Russian victories against the Ottomans
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 in the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774) strengthening Russia and endangering Habsburg interests in that region (particularly in Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

 and Wallachia
Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

). At that point Habsburg Austria started to consider waging a war against Russia.

France, friendly towards both Russia and Austria, suggested a series of territorial adjustments, in which Austria would be compensated by parts of Prussian Silesia, and Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

 in turn would receive Polish Ermland (Warmia)
Warmia
Warmia or Ermland is a region between Pomerelia and Masuria in northeastern Poland. Together with Masuria, it forms the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship....

 and parts of the Polish fief, Duchy of Courland and Semigallia
Duchy of Courland and Semigallia
The Duchy of Courland and Semigallia is the name of a duchy in the Baltic region that existed from 1562 to 1569 as a vassal state of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and from 1569...

 – lready under Baltic German hegemony. King Frederick II of Prussia had no intention of giving up Silesia gained recently in the Silesian Wars
Silesian Wars
The Silesian Wars were a series of wars between Prussia and Austria for control of Silesia. They formed parts of the larger War of the Austrian Succession and Seven Years' War. They eventually ended with Silesia being incorporated into Prussia, and Austrian recognition of this...

; he was, however, also interested in finding a peaceful solution – his alliance with Russia would draw him into a potential war with Austria, and the Seven Years' War
Seven Years' War
The Seven Years' War was a global military war between 1756 and 1763, involving most of the great powers of the time and affecting Europe, North America, Central America, the West African coast, India, and the Philippines...

 had left Prussia's treasury and army weakened. He was also interested in protecting the weakening Ottoman Empire, which could be advantageously utilized in the event of a Prussian war either with Russia or Austria. Frederick's brother, Prince Henry, spent the winter of 1770–71 as a representative of the Prussian court at Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

. As Austria had annexed 13 towns in the Hungarian Szepes region in 1769 (violating the Treaty of Lubowla
Treaty of Lubowla
Treaty of Lubowla of 1412 was a treaty between Władysław II, King of Poland, and Sigismund of Luxemburg, King of Hungary. Negotiated in the town of Stará Ľubovňa in modern Slovakia, it was confirmed later that year in Buda....

), Catherine II of Russia and her advisor General Ivan Chernyshyov suggested to Henry that Prussia claim some Polish land, such as Ermland. After Henry informed him of the proposal, Frederick suggested a partition of the Polish borderlands by Austria, Prussia, and Russia, with the largest share going to the party most weakened by the recent changes in balance of power, Austria. Thus Frederick attempted to encourage Russia to direct its expansion towards weak and non-functional Poland instead of the Ottomans. Austrian statesman, Wenzel Anton Graf Kaunitz
Wenzel Anton, Prince of Kaunitz-Rietberg
Wenzel Anton, Prince of Kaunitz-Rietberg was a diplomat and statesman of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1764 he was made a prince of the Holy Roman Empire as Reichfürst von Kaunitz-Rietberg and in 1776 prince of the Kingdom of Bohemia.-Early life:Kaunitz was born in Vienna, one of 19 children of...

, counter-proposed that Prussia take lands from Poland in return for relinquishing Silesia to Austria, but this plan was rejected by Frederick.

Although for a few decades (since the times of the Silent Sejm
Silent Sejm
Silent Sejm is the name given to the session of the Sejm of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of 1 February 1717. A civil war in the Commonwealth was used by the Russian Tsar Peter the Great as an opportunity to intervene as a mediator...

) Russia had seen a weak Poland as its own protectorate, Poland had also been devastated by a civil war in which the forces of the Bar Confederation
Bar Confederation
The Bar Confederation was an association of Polish nobles formed at the fortress of Bar in Podolia in 1768 to defend the internal and external independence of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth against Russian influence and against King Stanisław August Poniatowski and Polish reformers who were...

 attempted to disrupt Russian control over Poland. The recent Koliyivschyna peasant and Cossack uprising in Ukraine also weakened Polish position. Further, the Russian-supported Polish king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, was seen as both weak and too independent-minded; eventually the Russian court decided that the usefulness of Poland as a protectorate had diminished. The three powers officially justified their actions as a compensation for dealing with a troublesome neighbor and restoring order to Polish anarchy (the Bar Confederation provided a convenient excuse); in fact all three were interested in territorial gains.

After Russia occupied the Danubian Principalities
Danubian Principalities
Danubian Principalities was a conventional name given to the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, which emerged in the early 14th century. The term was coined in the Habsburg Monarchy after the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca in order to designate an area on the lower Danube with a common...

, Henry convinced Frederick and Archduchess Maria Theresa of Austria that the balance of power would be maintained by a tripartite division of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth instead of Russia taking land from the Ottomans. Under pressure from Prussia, which for a long time wanted to annex the northern Polish province of Royal Prussia
Royal Prussia
Royal Prussia was a Region of the Kingdom of Poland and of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth . Polish Prussia included Pomerelia, Chełmno Land , Malbork Voivodeship , Gdańsk , Toruń , and Elbląg . It is distinguished from Ducal Prussia...

, the three powers agreed on the First Partition of Poland. This was in light of the possible Austrian-Ottoman alliance with only token objections from Austria, which would have instead preferred to receive more Ottoman territories in the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

, a region which for a long time had been coveted by the Habsburgs. The Russians also withdrew from Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

 away from the Austrian border. An attempt of Bar Confederates to kidnap king Poniatowski on 3 November 1771 gave the three courts an excellent pretext to showcase the "Polish anarchy" and the need for its neighbors to step in and "save" the country and its citizens.

Already by 1769–71, both Austria and Prussia had annexed some border territories belonging to the Commonwealth. On February 19, 1772, the agreement of partition was signed in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

. A previous agreement between Prussia and Russia had been made in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 on February 6, 1772. Early in August Russian, Prussian and Austrian troops simultaneously entered the Commonwealth and occupied the provinces agreed upon among themselves. On August 5, the three parties signed the treaty on their respective territorial gains on the commonwealth's expense. The partition treaty was ratified by its signatories on September 22, 1772.

After having occupied their respective territories, the three partitioning powers demanded that King Stanisław August Poniatowski and the Sejm approve their action. The king appealed to the nations of Western Europe
Western Europe
Western Europe is a loose term for the collection of countries in the western most region of the European continents, though this definition is context-dependent and carries cultural and political connotations. One definition describes Western Europe as a geographic entity—the region lying in the...

 for help and tarried with the convocation of the Sejm. The European powers reacted to the partition with utmost indifference; only a few voices – like that of Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke
Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

 – were raised in protest.

While the Polish king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, and the Senate of Poland
Senate of Poland
The Senate is the upper house of the Polish parliament, the lower house being the 'Sejm'. The history of the Polish Senate is rich in tradition and stretches back over 500 years, it was one of the first constituent bodies of a bicameral parliament in Europe and existed without hiatus until the...

 were debating on the course of action, the patience of foreign powers was running out. Eventually, one of the most prominent opponents of agreeing to the foreign demands, bishop Adam Stanisław Krasiński, was abducted by Cossacks and transported to Warsaw, were the foreign ambassadors demanded that the king and the Senate call in the Sejm (Polish parliament) to ratify the partition. In another sign of their influence, the next meeting of the Senate saw the Senators from the annexed territories denied participation (those denied participation included the bishop of Inflanty, the voivode of Ruthenia and the voivode of Witebsk). When no help was forthcoming and the armies of the combined nations occupied Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 to compel by force of arms the calling of the assembly, no alternative could be chosen save passive submission to their will. Warsaw was de facto a garrison of the foreign powers, with their forces commanded by the Austrian (or Russian, sources vary) general Abram Romanius (Abraham). On April 19 the Senate agreed to call for the Sejm.

Preparations


Preparations for the Sejm were not easy. Bishops Krasiński and Kajetan Sołtyk argued vocally against it. At least 32 sejmik
Sejmik
A sejmik was a regional assembly in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, and earlier in the Kingdom of Poland. Sejmiks existed until the end of the Commonwealth in 1795 following the partitions of the Commonwealth...

s (regional parliaments) that were to elect deputies to it were disrupted and eventually less than half of the regular number of representatives - only about 102-111 (sources vary) deputies, the lowest number in the history of the Commonwealth - arrived in Warsaw, where they were joined by about 36 Senators and Ministers. Most of the deputies from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 did not attend this Sejm.

Russia was represented by Otto von Stackelberg
Otto Magnus von Stackelberg (ambassador)
Reichsgraf Otto Magnus von Stackelberg was a diplomat of the Russian Empire, an envoy in Madrid from 1767 to 1771, ambassador in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1772 to 1790 and in Sweden from 1791 to 1793....

, Prussia by Gedeon Benoit and Austria by Karl Reviczky (all three were Germans, or of German origin, but in service of three different states).

Partition Treaty




The Sejm begun on 19 April (although some preliminary discussions took place days before). The Sejm took place in Warsaw
Warsaw
Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. It is located on the Vistula River, roughly from the Baltic Sea and from the Carpathian Mountains. Its population in 2010 was estimated at 1,716,855 residents with a greater metropolitan area of 2,631,902 residents, making Warsaw the 10th most...

 and the deputies and senators in service of foreign powers declared it a confederated sejm
Confederated sejm
Confederated sejm was a form of sejm in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 18th century. After 1764, sejms were frequently confederated...

 (with decisions decided by the majority) to prevent liberum veto
Liberum veto
The liberum veto was a parliamentary device in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It allowed any member of the Sejm to force an immediate end to the current session and nullify any legislation that had already been passed at the session by shouting Nie pozwalam! .From the mid-16th to the late 18th...

being used to stop it. The marshals of the Sejm were for the Crown of Poland, Adam Poniński
Adam Poninski (1732-1798)
Adam Poniński Adam Poniński Adam Poniński (1732 or 1733 – 23 July 1798 was a Polish nobleman, Prince, one of the leaders of the Radom Confederation of 1767, Grand Treasurer of the Crown (from 1775), member of the Permanent Council, he is remembered as the infamous Marshal of the Sejm (together with...

|, one of the nobles in Russian service, and for the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

, Michał Hieronim Radziwiłł. At least half of the deputies were bribed by the foreign powers, others threatened. After some early delays, as some deputies tried to protest (notably, Tadeusz Rejtan
Tadeusz Rejtan
Tadeusz Reytan was a Polish nobleman. He was a member of the Polish Sejm from the constituency of Nowogródek . Rejtan is remembered for a dramatic gesture he made in September 1773, as a deputy of the Partition Sejm...

, Samuel Korsak and Stanisław Bohuszewicz, also Franciszek Jerzmanowski, Stanisław Kożuchowski, Rupert Dunin, Jan Tymowski, J. Zaremba, Michał Radoszewski, Ignacy Suchecki, Tadeusz Wołodkowicz), by 24 April the few vocal opponents, such as Rejtan, have lost, the confederation was joined by the king, and the Sejm elected a committee of thirty to deal with the various matters presented (primarily, the partitioners demands, but also some reforms to the government). The committee was to deliberate until September, and the rest of the Sejm was adjourned meanwhile.

Despite some protests, on September 18, 1773, the Committee formally signed the treaty of cession, renouncing all claims of the Commonwealth to the occupied territories. The Sejm on 30 September 1773 accepted the partition treaty. By the first partition the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth lost about 211,000 km² (30% of its territory, amounting at that time to about 733,000 km²), with a population of over four to five million people (about a third of its population of 14 million before the partitions). The treaty was a major success for Frederick II of Prussia: Prussia's share
Prussian partition
The Prussian partition refers to the former territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth acquired during the partitions of Poland in the late 18th century by the Kingdom of Prussia.-History:...

 might have been the smallest, but it was also significantly developed and strategically important. Russia received
Russian partition
The Russian partition was the former territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that were acquired by the Russian Empire in the late-18th-century Partitions of Poland.-Terminology:...

 the largest, but least-important area economically, in the northeast.

Notable supporters of the partition, in addition to Poniński, included Michał Hieronim Radziwiłł and the Bishops Andrzej Młodziejowski, Ignacy Jakub Massalski
Ignacy Jakub Massalski
Prince Ignacy Massalski was a Polish-Lithuanian nobleman.Ignacy was Bishop of Vilnius and one of the initiators of the Commission for National Education. After few years he was removed from the Commission for embezzlement of public funds...

, and primate of Poland Antoni Kazimierz Ostrowski
Antoni Kazimierz Ostrowski
Antoni Kazimierz Ostrowski was a Polish priest and politician. He was bishop of Inflanty , bishop of Kujawy and archbishop of Gniezno . He was one of the Polish nobles in Russian service and supported their position, including presiding over the Partition Sejm in 1773–1775.- External links :*...

, who occupied high positions in the Senate of Poland
Senate of Poland
The Senate is the upper house of the Polish parliament, the lower house being the 'Sejm'. The history of the Polish Senate is rich in tradition and stretches back over 500 years, it was one of the first constituent bodies of a bicameral parliament in Europe and existed without hiatus until the...

.

Those of the senators who protested were threatened by the Russians (represented by the ambassador, Otto von Stackelberg
Otto Magnus von Stackelberg (ambassador)
Reichsgraf Otto Magnus von Stackelberg was a diplomat of the Russian Empire, an envoy in Madrid from 1767 to 1771, ambassador in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1772 to 1790 and in Sweden from 1791 to 1793....

) who declared that in the face of refusal the whole capital of Warsaw will be destroyed by them, other threats included executions, confiscation of estates, and increase of partitioned territory and some were even arrested by the Russians and exiled to Siberia.

Other reforms


The partitioning powers (in particular, Russia) demanded that the Sejm passes further reforms, with the intent of strengthening their power over the Commonwealth, and the original commission was allowed to work till January 1774, extending the Sejm which was adjourned again. The commission was unable to carry out its changes in that period, and thus it was allowed to extend its deliberations once more; there were ultimately seven such extensions.

Cardinal Laws
Cardinal laws
The Cardinal Laws were a constitution enacted in Warsaw, Poland, by the Repnin Sejm of 1767–68. Ostensibly the Cardinal Laws were intended to ensure the "Golden Liberty" of the Polish-Lithuanian nobility, as demanded by nobles united in the Radom Confederation...

 were confirmed and guaranteed by the partitioning powers. The Sejm also continued the recent trend enacting laws reducing the religious tolerance in the Commonwealth. The passive electoral rights of the Orthodox
Orthodox
Orthodox may refer to:In music:* Orthodox , album by the Czech death metal band KrabathorIn science:* File manager#Orthodox file managers in computing* Orthodox seed, seed which may be preserved via drying or freezing...

 and Protestants were limited, with a restriction passed that limited the number of non-Roman Catholic deputies in Sejm to three (one from Greater Poland
Greater Poland
Greater Poland or Great Poland, often known by its Polish name Wielkopolska is a historical region of west-central Poland. Its chief city is Poznań.The boundaries of Greater Poland have varied somewhat throughout history...

, one from Lesser Poland
Lesser Poland
Lesser Poland is one of the historical regions of Poland, with its capital in the city of Kraków. It forms the southeastern corner of the country, and should not be confused with the modern Lesser Poland Voivodeship, which covers only a small, southern part of Lesser Poland...

, and one from the Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

). They were also denied the ability to be elected to the Senate, or to the ministerial positions.

Royal power was restricted, as the king lost the power to give out titles and positions of military officers, ministers and senators, the starostwo
Starostwo
Starostwo , from the 14th century in the Polish Crown and later through the era of the joint state of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until the partitions of Poland in 1795, referred to the crown lands administered by the official known as starosta...

 territories, królewszczyzny would be awarded through an auction. In return, the king received, for personal possession, four starostwa. The royal (free) election was confirmed, with stipulations that the future kings had to come from the Polish nobility
Szlachta
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

, and if related, sons and grandsons of the previous king could not sit down on the same throne till two others have held it.

A trade treaty was signed between the Commonwealth and Prussia, rather unfavorable to the Commonwealth. The Partition cut off the Commonwealth access to the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

, and had no choice but to accept the high tariffs imposed by Prussia.

The Sejm also created two notable bodies: Permanent Council
Permanent Council
The Permanent Council was the highest administrative authority in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth between 1775 and 1789 and the first modern government in Europe...

, a proto-government, and the Commission of National Education. Although the Council was intended by the partitioners to be a body they could control more easily than the unruly Sejms, and was intended and would indeed be seen as a body under the influence of the Russian Empire, it was nonetheless a significant improvement in the Commonwealth governance. The Council, with committees (ministries) on Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs
Foreign Affairs is an American magazine and website on international relations and U.S. foreign policy published since 1922 by the Council on Foreign Relations six times annually...

, Treasury
Treasury
A treasury is either*A government department related to finance and taxation.*A place where currency or precious items is/are kept....

, Defense, Justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

 and the Interior
Interior
Coastal regions of a territory are often the most densely populated due to their greater economic productivity or colonial history. This leads to a contrast with the interior of the territory, which is sparsely populated...

 (Police), was able to interpret existing laws in the sphere of administration, and provided the Commonwealth with a continuous governing body that operated between the Sejms and was not affected by the liberum veto.

The Commission of National Education, another type of a newly created ministry (a central state institution of a collegiate structure), was one of the three Great Commissions (the other two were for the Treasury and the Army). It took over much of the possessions of the recently disbanded Jesuit order (see Dominus ac Redemptor
Dominus ac Redemptor
Dominus ac Redemptor is the papal brief promulgated on 21 July 1773 by which Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus.-Circumstances:...

), and became first ministry of education in Europe. As such, its creation is universally seen as the most proud and constructive achievement of the otherwise deplored Partition Sejm. The fiscal policy
Fiscal policy
In economics and political science, fiscal policy is the use of government expenditure and revenue collection to influence the economy....

 was also reformed, with one tax
Tax
To tax is to impose a financial charge or other levy upon a taxpayer by a state or the functional equivalent of a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law. Taxes are also imposed by many subnational entities...

 being introduced and tariffs being reintroduced. Military was reformed, with hetman
Hetman
Hetman was the title of the second-highest military commander in 15th- to 18th-century Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which together, from 1569 to 1795, comprised the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, or Rzeczpospolita....

s being held more accountable to the Sejm. The size of the army was increased to 30,000. Szlachta
Szlachta
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

 was officially allowed to deal with trade
Trade
Trade is the transfer of ownership of goods and services from one person or entity to another. Trade is sometimes loosely called commerce or financial transaction or barter. A network that allows trade is called a market. The original form of trade was barter, the direct exchange of goods and...

 and craft
Craft
A craft is a branch of a profession that requires some particular kind of skilled work. In historical sense, particularly as pertinent to the Medieval history and earlier, the term is usually applied towards people occupied in small-scale production of goods.-Development from the past until...

s (previously it conferred a risk of losing the noble status). The severity of serfdom
Serfdom
Serfdom is the status of peasants under feudalism, specifically relating to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery which developed primarily during the High Middle Ages in Europe and lasted to the mid-19th century...

 was discussed, but no significant reforms were passed in that field.

The new legislation was guaranteed by the Russian Empire, giving it another excuse to interfere in Commonwealth politics if the legislation it favored was changed.

Corruption was rampant, from deputies awarding themselves various starostwa and other privileges, to various fraudulent deals that channeled funds intended for government institutions, such as the Commission of National Education, to the pockets of the deputies and their allies.

The commission ended its deliberations on 27 March 1775; the Sejm resumed, accepting the various new acts, and was finally ended on 11 April 1775.

See also

  • Administrative division of Polish territories after partitions
    Administrative division of Polish territories after partitions
    This article covers the changing administration of the territories of former territories of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth acquired after three partitions of Poland in the late 18th century by the Austrian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Russian Empire in the period 1772-1918...

  • Second Partition of Poland
    Second Partition of Poland
    The 1793 Second Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was the second of three partitions that ended the existence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth by 1795. The second partition occurred in the aftermath of the War in Defense of the Constitution and the Targowica Confederation of 1792...