Statutes of Lithuania

Statutes of Lithuania

The Statutes of Lithuania originally known as the Statutes of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Lithuanian: "Lietuvos statutai", Belarusian: "Статуты Вялікага княства Літоўскага", Polish: "Statuty litewskie") were a 16th century codification of all the legislation of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its successor, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The statutes were important as, at that time, unlike the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, most European countries were absolute monarchies that did not invest as much authority in legislative bodies or seek to codify their acts. The Statutes consist of three legal codes (1529, 1566, and 1588) all written in Ruthenian, translated into Latin and later Polish (unofficial translation). They formed the basis of the legal system of the Grand Duchy. The main purpose of the First Statute was to standardise and collect various tribal and customary laws in order to codify them as a single document.

The First Statute was drafted in 1522 and came into power in 1529 by the initiative of the Lithuanian Council of Lords. It has been proposed that the codification was initiated by Grand Chancellor of Lithuania Mikalojus Radvila as a reworking and expansion of the Casimir Code. [lt icon E. Gudavičius, [ Stages of the Lithuanian Statute] ] The first edition was redrafted and completed by his successor Albertas Goštautas, who assumed the position of the Grand Chancellor of Lithuania in 1522.

The second statute went into effect in 1566 by the order of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, Sigismund I the Old , and was larger and more advanced. The Grand Duke did this because of pressure from the Lithuanian nobility, as the expansion of nobles' rights since the publication of the first statute had made it redundant. The second statute was prepared by a special commission, consisting of ten members, appointed by the Grand Duke and the Council of Lords.

The Third Statute was accepted in 1588, modifying the laws in response to the Union of Lublin, which created the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Statutes of Lithuania were supported by Lithuanian magnates, as they granted them special powers and privileges allowing them to keep the lesser Lithuanian nobility in checkFact|date=November 2007. As a token for being acknowledged as Grand Duke of Lithuania, Stephen Báthory revised the Union of Lublin and approved the Third Lithuanian Statute.

Another group often opposing the Statutes was the Polish nobility, which viewed the statutes of Lithuania as unconstitutional, because at the signing of Union of Lublin it was said that no law could conflict with the law of Union. The Statutes, however, declared the laws of the Union that conflicted with them to be unconstitutional. Statutes of Lithuania were also used in territories of Lithuania annexed by Poland shortly before Union of Lublin. These conflicts between statutory schemes in Lithuania and Poland persisted for many years.

Attempts to limit the power of Lithuanian magnates (especially the Sapiehas' family) led to the koekwacja praw movement, culminating in the koekwacja reforms of the election sejm of 1697 (May–June), confirmed in the general sejm of April 1698 in the document "Porządek sądzenia spraw w Trybunale Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskego".ref|Malec

Copies of the statutes used to be kept in each powiat (district) so they could be used and seen by each person desiring to do so.

The Statutes of Lithuania were a sign of the progressive European legal tradition, and were cited as precedent in Polish and Livonian courts, furthermore in 1649 the Russian legal code, Sobornoye Ulozheniye, was rewritten according to Lithuania's Statutes. After forming an association with Poland—including both the dynastic union (1385–1569) and the confederated statehood (1569–1795)—the Lithuanian Statutes were the Grand Duchy's greatest expression of independence. In 1791, efforts were made to change the system and do away with the privileges of the nobility, creating a constitutional monarchy with a modern citizenry. However, these plans came to naught when Russia, abetted by Austria and Prussia, destroyed the Polish–Lithuanian state, although leaving the Lithuanian Statutes in effect in Lithuania until 1840.

Notes and references

see Jerzy Malec, "Szkice z dziejów federalizmu i myśli federalistycznych w czasach nowożytnych", Wydawnictwo UJ, 1999, Kraków, ISBN 83-233-1278-8, Part II, Chapter I "Koewkwacja praw".

ee also

*Law of Lithuania

External links

* [ 1588 Statute Original] (Ruthenian)

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