In the mid-18th century, with the spread of the ideas of the Enlightenment, fundamental reforms of the state’s governance were introduced in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Part of the state’s modernisation concerned the reform of the court system, considered by 18th-century political theorists to be one of the composite branches of the state administration (alongside the treasury, the police and the army). During the reign of Stanislas Augustus Poniatowski, the work of the courts of first instance underwent reform on several occasions in Poland and Lithuania: with the passing of laws in 1764, 1792 and 1793 on the structure and organisation of the activities of the castle and land courts, the existing court system was changed, as was the procedure for electing judges, also defining the scope of competency of the courts, regulating court activities and the duties of judges, introducing new requirements for the handling of court procedural documents, and the calculation of judges’ working hours. During the course of the introduction of these reforms, principles reflecting the administrative ideas of the Enlightenment were gradually entrenched in the court system of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which concerned the election of judges and other court officials, the acceptance of collegial decisions, the elimination of the influence of any blood and marital ties, and the principles for remuneration, seeking to introduce stricter requirements for the qualification of judges.
In this article, based on legislation on the organisation of court activities passed at the diets (Sejm) of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and documents from the dietines (sejmiki) of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the author seeks to analyse changes to the activities of the courts and the regulation of judges’ duties, and reforms made in the court chanceries between 1764 and 1793.
The seizure of territory from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772, and its incorporation into Russia, Prussia and Austria, was accompanied by many problems related to land ownership, population relocation, religious affairs and others, which treaties between the Commonwealth and the countries that had carried out the Partition had to regulate. Treaties made in 1775 in the Warsaw Sejm with Russia, Prussia and Austria set the conditions for the resettlement of the population, principles for the separation of holdings, the terms for trade and religious relations, as well as legalising the status of double subordination. Our topic is the status of the double subject as defined in the treaties between the Commonwealth and the Russian Empire, relying on examples of the practical application of this status disclosing the problems accompanying the double subject in the period between the First and Second partitions of the Polish-Lithuanian state. On the basis of new materials from sources, we come to the conclusion that the status of the double subject legalised in the 1775 treaties not only failed to ensure existing land ownership, as in the Russian Empire it could be sequestered and confiscated, but also restricted the landlord’s political freedom. The political choice of double subject was limited, and with extensive cross-border relationships, dual subordination was not possible.