Poland-Lithuania and the Liberum Veto

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Been doing a lot of research recently on the Polish-Lithuanian government in the early-modern period for a major paper and after everything I've read through (some many books and studies) I'm just incredulous that Poland-Lithuania survived to past 1505. Im even more amazed they survived past the 1630's when the Liberum Veto first appeared.

For those who have not invested the many hours to read about this Ill explain it briefly in chronological order:

1454: Casimir IV concedes the Nieszawa privileges to get noble support in his wars against the Teutonic order, notably the King could no longer levy taxes or troops from Greater Poland without consent of the local Sejm's. Additionally the Kings magistrates no longer had judicial power over the nobility and on commoners could only judge the following cases: Arson, Highway-Robbery, Breaking and Entering and Rape.

(btw paradox the current modifiers for the Nieszawa privileges do not make any sense)

1496: King Jan Olbracht extends the Nieszawa privileges to the entire country.

1501: King Alexander is forced to accept that he could no longer remove dignitaries, officials or magistrates from offices without court order. Additionally the King can no longer execute executive authority without approval of the Royal Council.

1505: By decree officials have to own land in their area of jurisdiction.
1505: The Nihil Novi constitution is created by the King to circumvent his Council, this constitutions meant that the Council needed approval of the Sejm to use executive power.

1578: Nobles are given sole responsibility to elect judicial officials

1606: the King is forbidden from changing the constitution without the Sejm's approval.

At somepoint post 1630 (It seems it is unknown the exact date): The Liberum Veto comes to exist, allowing any member the Sejm to terminate the days session and repeal all acts that have been passed on that day.

The combination of these (most importantly the last) means the central government is completely impotent and the Sejm's are also unable to do anything productive. So how on earth did Poland survive until 1795 given the above? Essentially all Judicial, Legislative and Executive power was invested in a body that allowed members to arbitrarily veto anything they wanted. Any thoughts on what allowed Poland-Lithuania to survive for 165 more years?



(Please note this is a simplified outline of the Commonwealths government, I didn't think anyone wanted to read a several thousand word paper outlining it.)
 
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I'm of the opinion that when the by now basically inevitable Poland nerf finally happens, it's the Elective Monarchy that will be targeted. In the game, while it's not the best government it's still a perfectly fine government type. IRL, it was the reason why Poland went from "massive blob" to "not to be found on the map" in 200 years.
 
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I'm of the opinion that when the by now basically inevitable Poland nerf finally happens, it's the Elective Monarchy that will be targeted. In the game, while it's not the best government it's still a perfectly fine government type. IRL, it was the reason why Poland went from "massive blob" to "not to be found on the map" in 200 years.

Based on what I have been researching the entire event chain for Poland and the elective monarchy is only barely relate able to reality. Furthermore it doesn't adequately represent why Poland got partitioned.

A good example of this is the Nieszawa Privileges, currently they give +5% tech cost and -20% stability cost.

This is not even close to what they actually did, what really should happen is it immediately increases the amount of land the Nobility estate needs (+10 or 20% of development) and all provinces controlled by the nobility should get -x% tax and -x% manpower modifiers, however you get -2 unrest in all land controlled by the nobility.
While at war Poland should occasional get events that state the nobles support the war and in return get +(x+y)% tax and +(x+y)% manpower modifiers until the war ends. This event should happen mostly for defensive wars, retaking cores or religious wars, however it should not be guaranteed to fire and maybe only every other war should have it.
 
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The rise of Russia as an strong and expansionist neighbor in the east at the start of the XVIII century, plus the consolidation of Prussia in the first half of that same century on the west that saw the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth as a weak target (especially with all the policies carried out by Frederick The Great to exploit Polish weakness), were probably the main factors of the consecutives partitions of Poland during the XVIII century.

Basically the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was like a ship "death in the water" with the crippling laws that prevented modernization of the state and the economy, but no one was able to sink it, or was interested about sinking or boarding the ship until Prussia and Russia saw a chance (and the Habsburg also demanded a piece of the cake)
 
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Basically the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was like a ship "death in the water" with the crippling laws that prevented modernization of the state and the economy, but no one was able to sink it, or was interested about sinking or boarding the ship until Prussia and Russia saw a chance (and the Habsburg also demanded a piece of the cake)

The Commonwealth was basically done for after the "Silent" Sejm of February 1st 1717 crushed the efforts of Augustus II to curtail the power of the szlachte and transform Poland into a more absolute government. To guarantee the terms forced on their monarch, they sought the help of none over the Tsar Peter the Great. Over the next decades Poland more and more became a mere puppet of the rising Russia, and once St. Petersburg decided that they no longer needed them to store their territory, they offered Prussia and Austria some crumbs to not face the potential wrath of the other major powers about this major shift of the balance of power in Europe. The Partitions of Poland were less wars then they were Russia withdrawing territory from their bank account.

But the decline of Poland in fact began in 1684 when Jan Sobieski and his Hussars rode to lift the Siege of Vienna.
 
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This is a cool thread guys. Nice to learn about how screwed up the PLC's government was.

Wasn't another reason that Poland lasted so long was because even though its government structure was poor, its cavalry was still very potent and attacking Poland directly would have rallied the Sejms to fight against foreign invaders?
 
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Why it survived till 1795? Why, politics. While nobles got increasingly more privileges as the time went on, there were still factions in the state with specific goals, which for example, included self defense etc. However, other factions would seek to undermine goals of rival faction. King was a balancing power and a notable force.

As a Lithuanian historian, I can shortly tell that dynamics were different in Lithuania than in Poland and faction rivalry was different (especially earlier), more concerned in preserving their control over Lithuania and united in defense against ever growing threat of Moscow. Polish nobles usually played different games and we have to remember that in reality, countries had separate foreign policies and armies till the Lublin Union.

Liberum veto was a privilege given for nobles and while it made easy for one faction to block any kind of law, yet factions were players, not the individuals. It is not unheard of that a daring noble was simply chopped down after being a single voter against a specific law and after taking care of this nuisance the Sejm simply did vote again.

However it is true in the 18 century Commonwealth became weaker and weaker. I.E. at the end of the republic single noble families had much bigger armies than the state itself. And we are talking ridiculous numbers like Poland having 11k and Lithuania 4k standing army at the dawn of 18th century while other countries counted in hundreds of thousands.

And the last point to make is that those same faction politics and electorial system led to the Commonwealth's downfall as this system of faction politics expanded to foreign nations opening precedent for them to dabble in it's politics. Thus Russia under Jaketerina firmly held the state and did not let it to make any kinds of reforms.
 
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I'm of the opinion that when the by now basically inevitable Poland nerf finally happens, it's the Elective Monarchy that will be targeted. In the game, while it's not the best government it's still a perfectly fine government type. IRL, it was the reason why Poland went from "massive blob" to "not to be found on the map" in 200 years.

Also, in EU4, Poland/Commonwealth is unlikely to even have Elective Monarchy in the historical period when this government type was at its most dysfunctional. Instead, the Royal Struggle usually gives it an early Absolute Monarchy, so that it can truly be the France of Eastern Europe. If you don't like that, you can instead opt to become an Oligarchic Republic (and possibly change it to some other elective Republic). Either way, your government ends up not just on par, but *better* than that of most countries in the area (except for Prussia and Ottomans of course).

Never mind any nerfs to Elective Monarchy itself, simply making it last until the end of the game would be a significant change at this point.

FWIW, I don't think Elective Monarchy should be nerfed (or at least not nerfed hard). It should have high Nobility influence, but that's something the player can and should be able to work with. What happened to the PLC historically is more like the 'Aristocratic Coup' disaster.
 
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Also, in EU4, Poland/Commonwealth is unlikely to even have Elective Monarchy in the historical period when this government type was at its most dysfunctional. Instead, the Royal Struggle usually gives it an early Absolute Monarchy, so that it can truly be the France of Eastern Europe. If you don't like that, you can instead opt to become an Oligarchic Republic (and possibly change it to some other elective Republic). Either way, your government ends up not just on par, but *better* than that of most countries in the area (except for Prussia and Ottomans of course).

Never mind any nerfs to Elective Monarchy itself, simply making it last until the end of the game would be a significant change at this point.
The thing is that there were historical attempts to reform the government and what EU4 is if not a sandbox game allowing us to play the "what if?" scenario? Maybe it should be made somewhat harder to get rid of the Elective Monarchy but it definitely shouldn't be hard-coded to last till the end of the timeline.

Also, Polish monarchy was elective in name only until the Jagiellons died out. For as long as this dynasty existed, they were basically guaranteed to have the throne for themselves. It's very poorly represented in EU4, where Poland immediately become a full-blown Elective Monarchy right after getting a PU over Lithuania and we end with Jagiellons no longer existing in the game already in late 15th century.
 
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The thing is that there were historical attempts to reform the government and what EU4 is if not a sandbox game allowing us to play the "what if?" scenario? Maybe it should be made somewhat harder to get rid of the Elective Monarchy but it definitely shouldn't be hard-coded to last till the end of the timeline.

Oh definitely, but the government type should have some probably of surviving into the late game. At the moment, both options in the Royal Struggle kill it (ironically, the 'give up' option kills it immediately).

It'd be nice to make it available to other countries too. For instance maybe Bohemia and/or Hungary should start elective - there was at least as much uncertainty in the mid-15th century about which dynasty would keep these crowns as there was with the crown of Poland. Later Austria can earn PUs, but only once they've first established their dynasty on the respective thrones (or Hungary gets wrecked by another power such as Ottomans).

It could also emerge as a government type in other countries where the ruling dynasty becomes extinct while there is very high Nobility influence.

Also, Polish monarchy was elective in name only until the Jagiellons died out. For as long as this dynasty existed, they were basically guaranteed to have the throne for themselves. It's very poorly represented in EU4, where Poland immediately become a full-blown Elective Monarchy right after getting a PU over Lithuania and we end with Jagiellons no longer existing in the game already in late 15th century.

Yep, it should only come in later. A natural place to introduce the Elective Monarchy government would be when the Commonwealth is formed. (The death of the last Jagiellon king would be more historical, but it's better not to tie such important mechanics to things outside player control.) Before that point, Feudal Monarchy is a better model.
 
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I propose the government type getting more events both positive and negative. And have the nobility estate requirement go up.

That would solve almost everything because honestly there's only like four events that pop up over and over and over per ruler. And none of them are really bad except for the veto which can be ignored with a stability and legitimacy hit.

Edit: the three main event chains that repeat themselves are golden Liberty, if the Sjem supports you the ruler, and their minor interaction with you their.
 
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Alexona

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It'd be nice to make it available to other countries too. For instance maybe Bohemia and/or Hungary should start elective - there was at least as much uncertainty in the mid-15th century about which dynasty would keep these crowns as there was with the crown of Poland. Later Austria can earn PUs, but only once they've first established their dynasty on the respective thrones (or Hungary gets wrecked by another power such as Ottomans).
Actually, in case of both Bohemia and Hungary the situation was far less certain.

It's very hard to imagine any other scenario than Poland ending up with Kazimierz Jagiellon of Lithuania on their throne as he was the younger brother of the former king of Poland (and Hungary which were in a PU just before the timeline starts). It took 3 years before Kazimierz took the Polish crown but that's only because he was a tough negotiator and he wanted to ensure as much autonomy for Lithuania as possible and he didn't want to concede to the initial demands of the Polish nobles.

Sure, formally there were rival candidates like the Brandenburgian Hohenzollern or the Mazovian Piast (which was the dynasty that originally established Poland in 10th century as a united country from Lechitic tribes living along Vistula and Warta rivers) but they were there mostly just in case Kazimierz wouldn't reach a compromise with the Poles.

So, yeah, if we wanna be historically accurate it should rather be Bohemia and Hungary (and perhaps also Denmark?) starting with elective monarchies and definitely not Poland. Then again, I think it'd be nice if the whole elective mechanic would get a major overhaul cos the way it works right now is very odd and rather more fitting for something like Papacy in my view.
 
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Okcydent

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The combination of these (most importantly the last) means the central government is completely impotent and the Sejm's are also unable to do anything productive. So how on earth did Poland survive until 1795 given the above? Essentially all Judicial, Legislative and Executive power was invested in a body that allowed members to arbitrarily veto anything they wanted. Any thoughts on what allowed Poland-Lithuania to survive for 165 more years?
Because not everything in life follows the Marxists way of thinking. Government is not everything. The individuals matters. Despots when beaten once can loose the whole country, republics can withstand multiple hits and still prevail. The country is decentralized. Aside of professional army there are private armies, wojska ordynackie, pospolite ruszenie ( levée en masse), Cossacks, armies of cities or Voivodships. Not everything was based on money but rather on feudal-like privileges and willingness of citizens.
Liberum Veto was a custom, a sign of divided nobility. In theory it was repealed only with the 3rd of May Constitution but in practice much earlier for the every Sejm there was Confederation made. This changed voting to majority rule and disallowed Liberum Veto. Besides, you cannot just simply say Liberum Veto without any strong backing. You would be killed for that (no man, no problem). The thing that break the backbone of PLC was Swedish invasion in 1655. The hell. The were worse than Mongols, worse even than 'Second World War'. In EU4 Swedes should be a horde. This war caused mass decline in population (about 1/4), destruction of important industrial regions.
 
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Alexona

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The thing that break the backbone of PLC was Swedish invasion in 1655. The hell. The were worse than Mongols, worse even than 'Second World War'. In EU4 Swedes should be a horde. This war caused mass decline in population (about 1/4), destruction of important industrial regions.
While you go way too far with saying Sweden should be a horde in EU4 :p, they definetely caused a lot of damage to Poland and it is worth noting that the whole war was started because of the Swedish king who ruled in Poland still making his claims to the Swedish throne. Neither Sweden nor Poland had national interests in this war, it was merely a family quarrel between two branches of the same Vasa dynasty.

However, the Swedish Deluge isn't the only thing that severely weakened Poland. The Cossack Uprising and their later alliance with the Tsar of Russia was influential as well. In general, 17th century was simply pretty messed up for Poland-Lithuania. :D
 

OldmansHQ

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At somepoint post 1630 (It seems it is unknown the exact date): The Liberum Veto comes to exist, allowing any member the Sejm to terminate the days session and repeal all acts that have been passed on that day.

The combination of these (most importantly the last) means the central government is completely impotent and the Sejm's are also unable to do anything productive. So how on earth did Poland survive until 1795 given the above? Essentially all Judicial, Legislative and Executive power was invested in a body that allowed members to arbitrarily veto anything they wanted. Any thoughts on what allowed Poland-Lithuania to survive for 165 more years?
It's actually not just a day that could be cancelled. It can be an entire parliamentary session which could last for weeks, sometimes months. That's why it was so crippling. I don't remember the details now, but I read about this case where authorities actually expected someone to veto, and as soon as it happened, the marshal (person responsible for keeping order during these sessions) called that person into question, hoping to change their mind. Meanwhile the nobleman left the chamber without a single word, got on a horse and rode straight east. One can easily guess where he was heading off. I don't think it was always bribery, it could have been intimidation.
 
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Otto of england

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Because not everything in life follows the Marxists way of thinking. Country is not everything. The individuals matters. Despots when beaten once can loose the whole country, republics can withstand multiple hits and still prevail. The country is decentralized. Aside of professional army there are private armies, wojska ordynackie, pospolite ruszenie ( levée en masse), Cossacks, armies of cities or Voivodships. Not everything was based on money but rather on feudal-like privileges and willingness of citizens.
Liberum Veto was a custom, a sign of divided nobility. In theory it was repealed only with the 3rd of May Constitution but in practice much earlier for the every Sejm there was Confederation made. This changed voting to majority rule and disallowed Liberum Veto. Besides, you cannot just simply say Liberum Veto without any strong backing. You would be killed for that (no man, no problem). The thing that break the backbone of PLC was Swedish invasion in 1655. The hell. The were worse than Mongols, worse even than 'Second World War'. In EU4 Swedes should be a horde. This war caused mass decline in population (about 1/4), destruction of important industrial regions.

In the case of Poland-Lithuania though, the King did not have the financial capability to sustain a field army for any length of time, and it is clear that not enough nobles were willing to front the bill to help sustain a field army. This can be seen quite well in the Berestechko campaign, the Commonwealth wins a crushing victory and then the army runs out of money preventing them from capitalizing on the Cossacks defeat. However in almost every campaign post 1389 the Polish armies were progressively finding it harder and harder to get funded as the Nobility won more privileges and paid less taxes to the king.

It can also be seen in a large amount of battles (I want to say most, but I can't find enough numbers to claim that) the Polish/Commonwealth fielded the smaller army, often times by a factor of 2 or 3. Furthermore almost every notable victory (ie decisively defeating the enemy) won by the Commonwealth was from a numerical inferiority. While this speaks great of the quality of Polish soldiers, and especially their cavalry, it does not speak well of the states capability to fight wars. Seeing as essentially every state that has ever waged war has tried to deploy as many troops as feasible, and that Poland, while being one of the largest and most populous nations in Europe, consistently fielded comparatively tiny armies (especially compared to the Ottoman empire) it can be gathered the nobility was either too poor or just unwilling to fight.

On confederations, you are correct, though I did mention the post was simplified. For the most part laws were done via the Sejm where Liberum Veto was allowed, though diets did get progressively more common as the Nobles realized the system was dying on the shear weight of people who had the ability to veto things. Also I would argue that there was probably no shortage of people willing to use a veto and back it (often times veto'ers were backed by foreign countries) seeing as the nobility comprised ~10% of the countries population at any given point.
 

Okcydent

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However in almost every campaign post 1389 the Polish armies were progressively finding it harder and harder to get funded as the Nobility won more privileges and paid less taxes to the king.
King also paid taxes! In PLC his treasury was delimited from state one, that was located in Rawa Mazowiecka (hence skarb rawski). Theoretically king possessed about 1/6 - 1/5 of the land but most of it not directly. Only Ekonomie transferred their yield to kings purse. 3/4 from their income was put to kings treasury and the 1/4 that was left was paid as a tax to the state. With this money the professional corps of soldiers could be maintained (oddziały kwarciane). But this army was commanded by hetman, not by the king, who had only small royal guard - about 3000 men. The majority of crown land was given by the king to the nobility as starostwa, usually only for life. King also couldn't buy any new land - that was prohibited by Sejm act (I read a while ago how the queen Konstancja tried to bypass this by fictional donation - sprawa dóbr w Żywcu/państwo Żywieckie). King could not set taxes but could set tariffs - he even didn't need the approval of Sejm as every coastal city in PLC was his possession. In this system capable Monarch can achieve everything by the 'club law' as the parliament is gathering every few years (he was obliged to summon parliament at least every 4 years). However the Szlachta had a right to oppose King with force if he had been breaking the law (Rokosz).

can be gathered the nobility was either too poor or just unwilling to fight.
Majority of wars is fought with credit and the geopolitical situation at that time cut the PLC from Protestant bankers. The Italians were also not willing to lend money (with exception to the Pope and Venice when Poland was fighting against the Ottomans). In Poland there is no gold and silver was mined only in Olkusz, about 2 tonnes per year. In general there was not much money in circulation! It is said that after the Treaty of Buczacz the Sejm set the taxes that high that there wasn't that many coins in the whole country.

Maybe I'll find and translate something about tax evasion, especially amongst the Lithuanian part of PLC.
 
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Zubrowka

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OP, you're probably incredulous that PL survived as it did for two basic reasons: 1) you're focused on the problems of extremely decentralized rule and not it's benefits and 2) you're not analyzing the problems of its neighbors with differing systems and circumstances to provide context. On the first count, just as an example, the impotence of the state and independent power of great nobles inhibited the kind of religious warfare and outright extermination that was occurring elsewhere in Europe during this time. Historian Norman Davies makes a convincing case of this in his God's Playground, with which I presume you are familiar. On the second count, see the excesses of Ivan the Terrible, such as the razing of Novgorod. Taken together, it's not that crazy PL / PLC survived. That said, the deluge really put the PLC on the back foot for the next century and a half, and that's brought about by a mix of external and internal forces. IMHO too often we restate the pretext for the partitions rather than analyze the PLC in context. Note it's exemplary rather than unique in states that disappear from the Northern European Plain (I.e. USSR, Prussia, etc.)

In context, the world was obviously a much more chaotic, violent and disfunctional place in the 1500-1800s relative to today, especially in Europe. It's a wonderful anything made it through, and part of why history is so awesome. I'm sure your paper is great. Would love to read it!
 
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