| 2004 - Władysław Grabski Year |
The Sejm of the Republic of Poland passed the resolution proclaiming the year 2004 as the Wladyslaw Grabski's Year. The decision stems from the fact that this year we celebrate the 130th anniversary of Wladyslaw Grabski's birthday and the 80th anniversary of the public finance reform he introduced. In April and May the National Bank of Poland is also celebrating the anniversary of the foundation of the Bank of Poland.
Wladyslaw Grabski was born in 1874, in Borowo in central Poland, to a landowner`s family. His father, Feliks, voluntarily abolished serfdom on his estate and assigned land to the peasants; he also took part in the 1863-64 Uprising. Having graduated from the 5th Boys` Classical Gymnasium in Warsaw, Wladyslaw Grabski went to Paris where in 1892 - 94 he studied in the School of Political Science at the General Division, and in 1893 - 95 he studied history at the Sorbonne. In the course of his studies he changed his political views - he surrendered his belief in the socialist theory of class struggle and adhered to the idea of social and national solidarity. In 1895, he completed his agricultural practical training in a manor at Wola Trebska, and in 1896 he took up agricultural studies in Halle. However, after his father's death in 1897, he was forced to discontinue his studies to take care of the family estate, which he transformed into a modern farm.
In 1904, Wladyslaw Grabski founded the Melioration Society in Warsaw (1904) the Local Agricultural Society in Łowicz in central Poland (1905). It was the first such organisation in central Poland which was then attached to the Russian Empire as a result of the partitions. For his monumental work The History of the Agricultural Society he received an award from the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cracow. In view of winning the peasants' support in the fight for national independence, Grabski, together with Stanislaw Chelchowski, created the National Labour Union. In 1905, he was arrested by the Russian authorities and imprisoned in Warsaw.
Designated by the National Democracy Party, he was elected a member of three successive sessions of the Duma (1906 - 1912), the legislative assembly of the Russian Empire. He was involved in the work of the Budgetary Commission with the Russian Ministry of Agriculture. When World War I broke out, he organised the Central Citizens' Committee. The main objective of this organisation was to restore order into life of society devastated by the partitions, and to represent the interests of Polish people before the Russian authorities. He was also a member of the National Polish Committee created by the National Democracy Party.
Returning from Russia in April 1918, he was offered a chair in the Commission for regulation of the trade relationships with Germany. However, he never took up the position, because he was detained by the Germans in the town of Modlin. He was released on 12 October 1918, and two weeks later became Minister of Agriculture in the Jozef Swierzynski's government which only lasted for 13 days. When Poland regained its independence, he became the head of the General Liquidation Office. In 1919, he was sent to join the Polish delegation at the peace conference in Versailles to be responsible for the financial provisions of the Treaty.
Designated by the National Peoples` Union, Wladyslaw Grabski was a deputy to the Polish Constituent Assembly in the period 1919 - 1922. In 1920 he became Treasury Minister and he remained in this position in the subsequent cabinet, however, he was forced to resign due to the political controversies over the methods of balancing the state budget. In December 1923 he became Prime Minister and served as Treasury Minister in a specialist cabinet (appointed by but not necessarily composed of elected parliamentary representatives). The crowning achievement of the public finance reform was the foundation of the Bank of Poland and the creation of the new Polish currency - the gold-based zloty which replaced the Mark.
The Act of 11 January 1924 on the improvement of the state's treasury and currency reform introduced a new monetary system and established the issuing bank. The Bank of Poland was founded as a joint stock company, which guaranteed its independence from the government and the state treasury. The Act also abolished the Polish National Savings Union which had acted as an issuing bank. Its functions were taken over by the Bank of Poland. The first President of the Bank of Poland was Stanislaw Karpinski. On 14 January the organising committee of the Bank of Poland was established, and on 26 January the sale of the bank's shares began. Payments could only be made in foreign currencies and in gold. On 15 April, during the first shareholders' meeting, the Bank of Poland Joint Stock Company was established. The Bank's Management Board and the Board of Auditors were elected, consisting of 12 members and 3 deputies, and of 5 members and 3 deputies, respectively. In the announcement of 15 April, the Minister of Treasury declared that the Bank of Poland would commence its activities on 28 April 1924. "In the Notary Office of Jozef Zborowski, a notary public appointed by the Mortgage Department of the Warsaw District Court, in the presence of the Treasury Minister, a joint stock issuing bank under the name of the Bank of Poland is established in order to monitor cash flow and provide credit facilities". On 28 April, after a Holy Mass celebrated in the Cathedral, the official opening ceremony first continued at the bank's official seat on Bielańska Street and than in the Government Office where in the evening a special dinner was served.
Wladyslaw Grabski also built a network of state banks and founded the Bank for National Economy. He also initiated far-going changes in the structure of Polish exports and industrial output. He established the Border Security Corps. After the end of the so called "tariff war" with Germany he retired from active politics and devoted himself to pedagogic and academic work at the Warsaw Agricultural Institute (SGGW). In 1926, he became its rector. In 1936 on his motion the Rural Sociology Institute was established, of which he remained head until his death in 1938.