On the 28th of February, 1750 in Radzyń Podlaski a town in eastern Poland, Roman Ignacy Franciszek Potocki was born in the Potoki palace. He was born into the Polish nobilty, during the time of the The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth(1).
This commonwealth possessed features unique among contemporary states: the Commonwealth's political system known alternately as the Noble's Democracy or Golden Freedom was characterized by strict checks upon monarchical power. These checks were enacted by a legislature (Sejm) controlled by the nobility (szlachta). This idiosyncratic system was a precursor to modern concepts of democracy, constitutional monarchy and federation. The two component states of the Commonwealth were formally equal, yet Poland was the dominant partner in the union. The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was marked by high levels of ethnic diversity and by unusual religious tolerance, though the degree of religious tolerance varied over time. Shortly before its demise, the Commonwealth adopted a massive reform effort and enacted the Constitution of May 3, 1791, which has been described as the 2nd oldest codified national constitution of modern history.
Potocki was an alumnus of the Collegium Nobilium (College of Nobles) in Warsaw, Poland, and later studied theology and law in Rome. As a member (1772-1791) of Poland's Commission of National Education the world's first ministry of education – he presided over the Society for Elementary Textbooks.
First an opponent of King Stanisław II August, during the Four-Year Sejm (1788-1792) Potocki backed the King and was a leader of the Patriotic Party and the reform movement. An advocate of a pro-Prussian orientation, he helped conclude an alliance on March 29, 1790 with the Kingdom of Prussia.
However Count Potocki is best remembered by Poles as the co-author of the Constitution of May 3, 1791. Europe's first codified national constitution in modern history, and the world's second, (after the United States Constitution), which had been ratified two years earlier. The revolutionary Constitution recast the erstwhile Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as a Polish–Lithuanian federal state with a hereditary monarchy and abolished many of the deleterious features of the old system. The new constitution: Abolished the liberum veto and banned the szlachta's confederations; provided for a separation of powers among legislative, executive and judicial branches of government; established "popular sovereignty" and extended political rights to include not only the nobility but the bourgeoisie; increased the rights of the peasantry; preserved religious tolerance (but with a condemnation of apostasy from the Catholic faith). unfortunately this reforms immediately induced the surrounding kingdoms, Russia, Austria, and Prussia to invaxe and partition Poland. In the end, the May 3rd Constitution was never fully implemented, and the Commonwealth entirely ceased to exist only four years after the Constitution's adoption. Throughout the Napoleonic Wars the poles saught to regain their country and allied themselves with France, producing a truly steady ally.
Potocki participated in preparations for the Kościuszko(2) Uprising of 1794, in which he served as a member of the Supreme National Council (Rada Najwyższa Narodowa). Upon suppression of the Uprising, he was imprisoned by the Tsarist Russian authorities.
After being released in 1796, Potocki settled in Galicia (southern Poland) and devoted himself to historical studies. He died 30 August 1809 in Vienna. He was married in 1773 to Elżbieta Lubomirska(3) by which he had 1 child, Krystyna Potocka.
Jezus i Maryja,
My other posts on Poland, here, here, here, here, and here.
Polish saints are found here and http://lefleurdelystoo.blogspot.com/2010/05/st-maximilian-kolbe.html
(1)The official name of the Commonwealth was Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania
(2)Kościuszko fought in the American Revolution.
(3)All female names in Polish always end in an A, first, last, and middle. Potoki's wifes name wouud be Elżbieta Lubomirska Potocka