Journal article

Ramunė Šmigelskytė-Stukienė (2019)

The Wettins and the Issue of Inheritance of the Polish-Lithuanian State Throne in the Context of the Constitution of May 3, 1791: Position of the Lithuanian Nobility

Journal Open Political Science
Short title of the journal OPS
Number/Volume 2 (2019)
Page references 86-95

ISSN: 2543-8042

The article analyses attitudes of the Lithuanian nobility towards the inheritance of the throne of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (the Commonwealth) in the period of the Four-Year Sejm (1788-1792). Thorough analysis of historiography and research of narrative sources amplifies the position of the Lithuanian nobility towards the issue of inheritance of the throne of the Commonwealth as it was reflected in the political literature of 1787-1789 period. Analysis of the documents produced by the February and November dietines (Pol. sejmiks), 1790 of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (the GDL) reveals changes in the position of nobility towards selection of the successor to the throne with the king still alive. It was established, that in supporting the idea of a hereditary throne, Lithuanian political writers suggested different strategies in realizing this idea and proposed as candidates for the throne representatives of ruling dynasties of several states: Russia, Prussia, Saxony and Great Britain.

Changes in the position of nobility were significantly influenced by the activism of patriotic-reformist faction, which proposed the very idea of a hereditary throne and a candidate from the dynasty of Wettins: the GDL districts (Pol. powiats), having ignored the question of throne inheritance in the February dietines of 1790, in November of the same year agreed to the selection of Elector of Saxony as the successor to the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Stanislaw August. However, even if agreeing to the Wettin candidacy, the GDL nobility did not support establishing of the principle of such inheritance. Most of the GDL dietines supported limited monarchy, politically and financially dependent on the political will of the nation. The Elector of Saxony was given certain conditions, the departure from which was to bring back an elective monarchy.