The Nihil novi Constitution

517th anniversary of proclamation of the Act

The Nihil novi Constitution was adopted by the General Sejm (parliament) convened in the city of Radom in 1505. Its passage entailed one of the stages in the conflict between the magnates of the royal council and the representation of the szlachta (gentry) gathered in the Chamber of Deputies – i.e., the lower house of the parliament – whose impact on the political system of the state was then increasing. An attempt at restricting the deputies’ influence on the state system had been made by means of the October 30, 1501 “Union of Mielnik”, which marginalized the significance of the Chamber of Deputies in the bicameral Sejm. The gentry responded first by invalidating the deed, and thereafter by enacting a constitution in 1504 that interdicted the alienation of royal estates to magnates (in Poland-Lithuania, ‘constitutions’ were equivalent to parliamentary acts or laws). The Nihil novi Constitution is what then followed.

Nihil novi rendered the “Union of Mielnik” null-and-void in its entirety and strictly limited the legislative competences of the monarch and the Senate, banning the issuance of laws without the consent of the senators and gentrymen represented in the Chamber of Deputies. The thrust of Nihil novi was essentially to reinforce the position of the bicameral parliament in the political system of the Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita (Commonwealth). In so doing, the parliament, and particularly its Chamber of Deputies, attained the position of highest authority in the state. The functioning of the Sejm was henceforth to be based on smooth co-operation between the king, the royal council – i.e. the Senate – and the deputies elected locally or regionally to the Chamber of Deputies.

Constitutional and legal historians recognize Nihil novi as marking the beginning of the ‘nobles’ democracy’ (or, democracy of the nobility) in the Polish-Lithuanian Rzeczpospolita.

The text of the demands