Topics of coins

Legislative Sejm of 1919-1922

10 February 1919 marks the first session of the Sejm after Poland regained independence. The Chief of State, Józef Piłsudski, in his speech delivered on this occasion, said: “At this hour, as the hearts of Poles are pounding, I feel happy to have the privilege of opening the Polish Sejm, which will now become the sole master and host of its home country again.”

The number of deputies changed several times as a result of the redrawing of Polish borders and the organisation of bye-elections in some frontier areas. Ultimately, in March 1922, the Sejm consisted of 432 deputies. The Legislative Sejm held 342 sessions during which it passed 571 acts. The last session was held on 27 November 1922.

The work of the Legislative Sejm led to the integration of the previously partitioned lands and to the formation of the structural pillars of modern democracy. The crowning of its work was the adoption, on 17 March 1921, of the Constitution, which established an egalitarian system of a democratic republic with a cabinet-parliamentary mode of government. It was based on Montesquieu’s concept of tripartite separation of powers. It conferred the superior authority on the people.

The reverse of the coin commemorating the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Legislative Sejm features the portrait of Wojciech Trąmpczyński (1860-1953) and the head of his Marshal’s staff.

Wojciech Trąmpczyński was a lawyer and an activist of the National Democracy. In the period following the partitions of Poland, thanks to his excellent command of the German language and law, he became famous for his matter-of-fact criticism of the anti-Polish politics of the government in the Prussian Landtag and German Reichstag. He was a member of the Supreme People’s Council in Poznań. He was elected Marshal of the Legislative Sejm. Then, in 1922-1927, he served as Marshal of the Senate, and between 1928-1935, he sat in the Sejm.

The portrait of Wojciech Trąmpczyński is modelled on an autolithograph by Stanisław Lentz – a painter, portraitist, illustrator, and professor of the Warsaw School of Fine Arts. The image comes from the portfolio “The Legislative Sejm of the Republic of Poland in Portraits”, published in 1919.

The staff shown on the coin was handed to Wojciech Trąmpczyński on his name day, 23 April 1920. It was funded by deputies on their own initiative. The staff was designed by Józef Teofil Smoliński – a painter and art researcher, and it was made by the Warsaw firm of Grzegorz and Feliks Łopieński.

The head of the staff (stormy sea waves) carries a single-masted boat with a sail and shrouds (the symbol of the state). In place of the crow’s nest there is an oak wreath (symbolising victory) on top of which an eagle is perched with a crown and outstretched wings (the White Eagle).

The Marshal’s staff symbolised the dignity of the Sejm Marshal and it was used at the opening and closing of each session. Striking the staff three times against the floor symbolised the three estates of the former Republic of Poland: the King, the Senate, and the House of Deputies (the lower chamber). The staff of Marshal Wojciech Trąmpczyński is on permanent exhibition at the Sejm.

The obverse of the coin features – to emphasise the continuity of parliamentary traditions – the emblems of the Second and Third Republic of Poland against the Polish flag, and the inscription Salus rei publicae suprema lex (the Welfare of the Republic shall be the Supreme Law). The motto, attributed to Cicero or Sallust, was the maxim of the Sejm of the Second Republic of Poland. The Latin proverb was placed above the presidium table in the Session Room of the Sejm in 1919. It also appeared on the medals – “The Opening of the Legislative Sejm” (author: Jan Raszka, dated 1919) and “The Anniversary of the Adoption of the March Constitution, 1922” (author: Feliks Łopieński, dated 1922).

Błażej Popławski