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Cimafiej Akudovič. The approach of „three provinces” and unification tendencies at the Four-Year Sejm

The 18th century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth political life marked a steady struggle of factions of Polish and Belarusian-Lithuanian nobility around the question of either preservation or elimination of Lublin Union acts, especially those concerning state institutions duality. King Stanislaw August and a group of reformers insisted on unification of state bodies. Conservative nobility and magnates of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania consistently opposed to those changes at all the sejms. The discussion thus concerned the duality of the Treasury, the Army, the Tribunal, etc. During the Four-Year (Great) sejm (1788-92) almost all the separate state bodies of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were abolished. Namely this fact has been taken by researchers to evaluate the results of the duel of the two groupings at Four-Year Great Seim resulting in closing up all specific government bodies of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. At all this, researchers paid no attention to the fact that in the second half of the XVIII century the discussions between Polish and Belarusian-Lithuanian deputies shifted to a bit different aspect.

The King and his supporters systematically insisted on the separation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth into three provinces — the Greater Poland, the Lesser Poland and the Litva (Lithuania). According to that plan the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was supposed to become just one of those three provinces and gaining only 1/3 of all the benches in common state bodies. For its part the nobility of the Grand Duchy claimed for a half of all the benches in the state bodies. Therefore the discussion at the Four-Year (Great) sejm focused on those very questions. At first the nobility had to accept its 1/3 presence in most of the new common institutions as it was in case of the Permanent Council and the Army Commission. However, in accordance with the „Mutual Guarantees of the Two Nations” signed on October 21,1791 the situation cardinally changed: all common commissions except for Police Commission had to introduce the equal number of the Polish and Belarusian deputies. Such a concession made by the Polish deputies was reasoned by a tight situation the country was facing. It seems that that concession must have been temporary until the partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which took place 2 years later.

Thus in some way we can confirm that not only did „The Mutual Guarantees of the Two Nations” save the Union but also took it to a qualitatively new level: from the system of dualism or state institutions duality to the system of equal representation in common commissions.