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Nihil novi

Nihil novi nisi commune consensu ("Nothing new without the common consent") is the original Latin title of a 1505 act adopted by the Polish Sejm (parliament), meeting in the royal castle at Radom.

Contents

  • History 1
  • Nihil novi 2
  • Text 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6

History

Plaque at Radom Castle, commemorating 500th anniversary of adoption there, in 1505, of Act of Nihil novi

Nihil novi effectively established "nobles' democracy" in what came to be known as the Polish "Commonwealth [or Republic] of the Nobility." It was a major component of the evolution and eventual dominant position of the Polish parliament (Sejm).[1]

"Nihil novi," in this political sense, is interpreted in the vernacular as "Nothing about us without us" (in Polish, "Nic o nas bez nas").

The Latin expression, "nihil novi" ("nothing new"), had previously appeared in the Vulgate Bible phrase, "nihil novi sub sole" ("there is nothing new under the sun"), in Ecclesiastes 1:9.[2]

Nihil novi

The Sejm's 1505 Act of Nihil novi nisi commune consensu marked an important victory for Poland's nobility over her kings. It forbade the king to issue laws without the consent of the nobility, represented by the Senat and Chamber of Deputies, except for laws governing royal cities, crown lands (królewszczyzny), mines, fiefdoms, royal peasants, and Jews.

Nihil novi invalidated the Privilege of Mielnik, which had strengthened only the magnates, and it thus tipped the balance of power in favor of the Chamber of Deputies (the formally lower chamber of the Parliament), where the ordinary nobility held sway. Nihil novi is often regarded as initiating the period in Polish history known as "Nobles' Democracy," which was but a limited democracy as only male nobility (szlachta) were able to participate (the nobility constituting some ten percent of the Republic's population, still a higher eligible percentage than in much of Europe).

The act of Nihil novi was signed by King Alexander Jagiellon on 3 May 1505 in a Sejm session held at the royal castle in Radom.

That same year, the nobility further expanded their power by abrogating most cities' voting rights in the Sejm and by forbidding peasants to leave their lands without permission from their feudal lords, thereby firmly establishing a "second serfdom" in Poland.

Text

Whereas general laws and public acts pertain not to an individual but to the nation at large, wherefore at this General Sejm held at Radom we have, together with all our kingdom's prelates, councils and land deputies, determined it to be fitting and just, and have so resolved, that henceforth for all time to come nothing new shall be resolved by us or our successors, without the common consent of the senators and the land deputies, that shall be prejudicial or onerous to the Commonwealth [or "Republic"] or harmful and injurious to anyone, or that would tend to alter the general law and public liberty.[3]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Wagner, W.J. (1992). "May 3, 1791, and the Polish constitutional tradition". The Polish Review 36 (4): 383–395.  
  2. ^ King James Version: "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun." New International Version: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun."
  3. ^ Translated from Polish.

References

  • Norman Davies, God's Playground: A History of Poland in Two Volumes. Volume I: The Origins to 1795, New York, Columbia University Press, 1982, ISBN 0-231-05351-7.
  • Sebastian Piątkowski, Radom: zarys dziejów miasta (Radom: A Brief History of the City), Radom, 2000, ISBN 83-914912-0-X.
  • Adam Zamoyski, The Polish Way: A Thousand-Year History of the Poles and Their Culture, New York, Hippocrene Books, 1994, ISBN 0-7818-0200-8.
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