Kultura polityczna w świetle języka. O senacie i senatorach na sejmach Zygmunta Augusta
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This article is concerned with the functioning of the Polish political system in the 16th century. This topic has already been handled by historians and parliamentary politics of that period can be considered as one of the better-researched problems. In this text, therefore, the author’s goals is not to reply, but to describe a complete set of opinions concerning the Senate (upper house of the Diet, Sejm) that where formulated in political practice on the parliamentary forum. In consideration are taken the records from the parliamentary sittings (diariusze) of the Diet of the Kingdom of Poland (except for 1570) during the reign of Sigismund II August (1548 – 1572). In that period the parliamentary life, customs, and relations between the main sides (both chambers and the king) matured to form the general characteristics of the future politics of the united Commonwealth. What also arises is the specific attitude towards the Senate, which can be described as a concept in itself. Here that concept is intentionally formulated on the basis of sources directly linked to the political practice and not - as usual – on the basis of theoretical texts. The collected material can be divided according to the main topics. The first one treated here is the senatorial oath. That text is commonly regarded – mostly by the deputies, but also by the senators – as a source of numerous ethical duties, fundamental for the Senate’s political role. Another topic is the rhetorical role of the senatorial “seats” (or, as in the language of the time, “chairs”), understood literally but above all in the figurative sense (seats as a metaphor for the historical and moral role, symbolizing all the past and future generations which sat/will sit in that honourable place). Senators are described also as “guards” of the laws and freedoms, also of the king (custodes legis et regis). On the one hand they have a special responsibility with regards to the law, and on the other hand the Republic “has” the senators as guardians of rights and freedoms, and not as “lords of law”. It is common to compare the deputies and senators as “younger” and “older” brothers. With that parallel a characteristic model of relations and sense of community is introduced. A serious part is the statements dealing with the relations between the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Traditionally, the senators’ duty is that of mediators between the deputies and the king (ordo intermedius). Here arises an extra role, too: being a mediator (giving a testimony) for the deputies on the land conventions (sejmiki). A special tie connects the Senate and the king. The king keeps an eye on the Senate, but the Senate – apart from the parliamentary sittings at the King’s Council – should admonish the ruler, being able even to protest against him. The biggest discussion about the Senate’s role in that period started on the Diet of 1548, at the very beginning of Sigismund’s rule and concerned the conflict around the king’s marriage. The main argument for a decisive role of the Senate, which appeared in the course of the debate was the tie between senatorial dignity (seen as endangered) and the common liberty of the political community. A matter of interest in the whole period was also the quality and shape of the Senate’s sittings – the motions of decisions should be openly passed to the deputies, the “younger” brothers are suspicious about sittings of an informal nature. The senators should not be limited in their free votes, working together cordially in unity. The last topic builds on the statements concerning senators as state officials. A stable connection between the person (his individual morale) and the dignity (office) could be seen. That model of the Senate proved durable, at least until the middle of the 17th century. It indicated the importance of specific values identified with the Senate for the whole system. The rhetorical formulas of the language of politics – although their pragmatic purpose and political context should not be neglected - can also be useful when they occur with regularity. They help to mark an essential part of the political culture.
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