The earliest English edition of Poland’s constitution is going on display in Hammersmith for one evening only.
The historic Constitution of May 3 document will be shown to the public at the Polish Social and Cultural Association (POSK) on the 226th anniversary of its declaration in 1791.
Regarded by a scholar of the day as “the most pure public good ever conferred on mankind”, the edition was printed in June 1791 by London’s publishing house Debrett’s.
The displaying of the book on Wednesday (May 3) at the King Street centre is the highlight of the opening night of a new exhibition dedicated to the Constitution of May 3.
It was designed to introduce political reforms in the face of aggressive expansionist policies pursued by Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and sought to make the state more efficient and inclusive, emancipating townspeople and peasants.
It was the first codified (written) constitution in Europe and second in the world after the American of 1788, and received high praise from philosopher Edmund Burke, who called it “probably the most pure... public good which has ever been conferred on mankind”.
The event is a part of the Polish Heritage Day celebrations across the country, supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London, and will be attended by Arkady Rzegocki, the Polish Ambassador to the United Kingdom .
Designed as an annual event, the festival aims at bringing communities together and highlighting the Polish contribution to the United Kingdom.
The public presentation at 7pm will be followed at 7.30pm by a gala concert of music written by Poland’s greatest composers, including Fryderyk Chopin.
The existence of a sovereign Polish state ended in 1795 when the liberal system codified in the Constitution of May 3 was brought down by the Partitions, which saw land divided up by the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and Habsburg Austria.
During the following 123 years of foreign domination, this symbolic document was seen as an example of successful reform and sustained hope for Poland’s independence, which was finally restored on November 11, 1918.
In commemoration of the liberal and progressive Constitution of May 3, the anniversary of its passing by the Polish Parliament remains a national bank holiday in Poland.
The constitution will be on display for one evening only, while the exhibition runs to the end of May
Concert tickets are available for £10 from the Polish Social and Cultural Association’s box office on 020 8741 1940
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