It is customary to divide the history of the Austrian monarchy in the mid-nineteenth century into periods: the Vormarz, during which the forces (chiefly national ones), impatient of the system established under the Emperor Francis and prolonged under Ferdinand, took shape and gathered strength; the revolution, when those forces actively challenged and temporarily overthrew the regime; the reaction, the violent repression of the revolution by those forces still at the disposal of the old order; and the gradual emergence of a new system, based on a compromise between the various elements.
The first two of these periods are touched upon elsewhere (see vol. XI and this volume, ch. XV), so that the present chapter need concern itself only with the readjustment which followed the revolution. Yet it is difficult to know where to begin. The scheme described above, while convenient when taken broadly, is difficult to apply in detail. Neither the political nor the chronological distinctions are clear cut. There were in the Austria of the Vormarz a full dozen national movements, each with aims which involved changes in the existing order, while the regime itself was fundamentally hostile to any nationalism; but so conflicting were the ambitions of the different nationalities that many of them saw their chief hope in a strengthening of the central authority of the crown as a protection against their stronger neighbours; and conversely, the crown felt obliged to seek the alliance of this or that nationality, against some more dangerous common enemy. The chosen ally was then a loyal supporter of the regime while the third party was a revolutionary; but these definitions were political rather than juridical, and often shortlived, as was well shown by the case of Baron Jellacic, described by the crown in a close succession of documents as a trusted servant, a rebel, and a true man again. The Hungarians maintained through more than a decade that the political changes introduced by them in March 1848, having been duly enacted by the Diet and sanctioned by the crown, were entirely legal; it was the crown which committed the illegality in later cancelling them unilaterally; and in 1865 the crown tacitly admitted the truth of this contention. As for chronology: the revolution really broke out in 1846 among the peasants of Galicia, and the crown promptly made of them its most dependable supporters. After this, March 1848 may, from a pragmatical standpoint, be regarded as the beginning of the revolutions—a word by all means to be used in the plural and not in the singular. But by the end of April everything was over in Galicia, after the socage peasants had been emancipated on the 25th and a rising of the Polish nobility in Cracow put down the next day. Thereafter the government could use the Polish political class or ignore them exactly as suited its purpose, encouraging or repressing the peasants and the primitive Ruthene intelligentsia accordingly; while not needing in practice to take either factor much into consideration. When on 9 August Charles Albert accepted the Armistice of Vigevano the Italian provinces equally passed out of the immediate revolutionary picture. A proportion (not a very high one) of the armed forces had to be kept in Italy to prevent a recurrence of disorder, but since it was generally agreed that whatever happened to the Italian provinces, they would not be integrated into the rest of the Austrian dominions, they formed only a small and occasional factor in the general equation being worked out by ‘revolution’ and ‘reaction’, the answer to which was to constitute the future form of Austria.
As significant factors in that equation, beside the court and its direct supporters, there remained, in the west, the Germans and the Czechs, and in the east, the Hungarian regime, as remodelled by the April Laws (ch. XV, p. 398), on the one side, and the Croats, the Serbs of the south, the Transylvanian Roumanians and, to a lesser extent, some of the other ‘nationalities’, on the other. Here the decisive step taken by the court was when, on 4 September, heartened by the news of Radetzky’s victory at Custoza, it reinstated Jelladic in the position and dignities from which it had solemnly deposed him on 10 June. Just what form the future Hungary was to take was still obscure; but in any case, its existing government ranked henceforward as rebels.
Of the two protagonists in the western provinces, the Czechs had always been the less dangerous, since that small people could never become a disruptive force within Austria unless utilised for that purpose by Russia, and Tsar Nicholas was defending Austria, not attacking it. Palacky expressed the point of view which, under the circumstances, Czech nationalism was bound to adopt towards Austria, as such, on his famous rejection of the invitation to Frankfurt (pp. 238-9), in April 1848. The question which remained was whether the Czechs’ claims within Austria could be satisfied without driving the German-Austrians into rebellion. In fact, the Czechs’ early demand for recognition of the ‘rights of the Bohemian crown’— that is, for a Czech-dominated federal unit, consisting of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, within Austria—had been one of the things which had most exacerbated the German-Austrians. But Windischgratz’s ruthless suppression of the Prague riots of June (the motives of which had been as much social as national) sobered the Czech leaders (one of them confessed afterwards: ‘We should never have gone to Vienna [that is, to the Constituent] but for Windischgratz’) and made them, for the time, generally anxious to reach a constructive agreement with the German-Austrians.
Strong elements among the latter (who were much less united than any other nationality in the monarchy) remained genuinely revolutionary throughout the summer and autumn of 1848, in the hope that a solution would emerge at Frankfurt which satisfied their national and social ideals; alternatively, or in connection therewith, that the Hungarian government would be able to maintain itself, with the twofold consequence of keeping the Slavs down and of establishing constitutional and liberal institutions in the monarchy. But the hopes from Frankfurt faded out, then those from Hungary, and in October Windischgratz crushed the radicals of Vienna as he had crushed those of Prague in June. Now the German-Austrians, too, ceased to be a revolutionary element; thrown back on ‘Austrianism’, they could hope only to achieve the best terms possible, within fairly narrowly defined limits.
And those terms would be granted to them, not taken by them of right.
When the new Schwarzenberg ministry was formed in November and the Diet moved to Kremsier the ‘reaction’ was really firmly in the saddle west of the Leitha, and there was no longer any prospect that, whatever plan the Diet evolved, it would be that on which Austria was governed in the immediate future. If the results of its deliberations nevertheless remain not only interesting but also important, this is partly because portions of them were taken over by the government in its own subsequent productions, partly because the people’s representatives themselves, when allowed to meet again in 1861, took up their argument much where they had laid it down in March 1849. Above all, two fundamental principles survived nearly all the changes of the next eighteen years, to reappear almost verbatim in the ‘Fundamental Laws’ of 1867: the first laying down the equality of all citizens before the law, the second declaring that: ‘All peoples [Volksstamme] of the empire are equal in rights. Each people has an inviolable right to preserve and cultivate its nationality in general, and its language in particular. The equality of rights in the school, administration and public life of every language in local usage [landes-ublich] is guaranteed by the State.’
For the rest, the debates showed that of the ‘Austrian’ peoples, only the unimportant Slovenes really desired the radical solution of scrapping the ‘historic units’ in favour of a new organisation of Austria on an ethnic basis; the Czechs, it is true, made a similar proposal, but only after their first, more ambitious, demand had been again put forward and rejected, and even so, in connection with a wider plan (which went beyond the Diet’s terms of reference) to redivide the whole monarchy, attaching the Slovak areas of Hungary to the Czech. They did not really want Bohemia and Moravia partitioned: they wanted them kept undivided, and under Czech hegemony. The Poles, quite simply, stood for an undivided Galicia, dominated by themselves, but although in this sense federalist, they would not form a solid front with the Czechs, never being quite certain whether they could not strike a better bargain with the Germans. The Ruthenes, out of fear of the Poles, were solid centralists. The Germans, as the strongest single element, and one represented in almost every Land, stood for giving the maximum authority to the central government and the minimum to the Lands. At the same time, since their own Lands, although small, were numerous, they supported the retention of the ‘historic units’, combined with the principle that each of these should be equal in rights with every other; an arrangement which gave results much more favourable to them than the repartition of the monarchy on ethnic lines, when they would have emerged as the largest single group, but only one of a number, and excluded from that control over the other peoples which they had so long exercised and would not willingly renounce.
The resultant compromise retained the historic units (except that Vorarlberg was to be merged in the Tirol) but provided that those of mixed nationality should be divided into Kreise, delimited on an ethnic basis. The Lands were ‘equal in rights’ and each sent six delegates to the upper house; but where the Land was divided into Kreise, each Kreis also sent a representative. It was an arrangement possessing considerable merits, especially for the Germans, for although the respective competencies of the central Reichstag and of the Lands were not exactly defined, the tendency was indubitably centralist.
Meanwhile, the Diet had owed even its continued existence only to the fact that Hungary was still undefeated. Moreover, it was the uncomfortable fact that the April Laws on which the Hungarian government rested had really been sanctioned by Ferdinand, Hungary’s legally crowned king. On 2 December Ferdinand was induced to abdicate, not because he was feeble-minded (although such was the case), but because he was bound by the April Laws. He was now succeeded by his young nephew, henceforward known as Francis Joseph. A manifesto in which the new sovereign addressed his peoples announced his intention of ‘uniting all Lands and peoples of the monarchy in one great state’, and although these words were ambiguous, the presence of Jelladic and Windischgratz at the ceremony of abdication made his meaning clear. It was, of course, at once understood by the Hungarian Diet, which, on Kossuth’s motion, refused to admit the abdication of Ferdinand as legal; it could recognise no other sovereign until he had been crowned and taken the oath to the constitution.
The court then showed its hand plainly. On 19 December an imperial Patent restored the institutions of a Serbian patriarch and voivode and promised to regularise their position ‘on the principle of the equality of rights of all Our peoples’. The same day Jellacic crossed the Austrian frontier into Hungary at the head of the imperial forces. Windischgratz followed behind him, having been invested by the young emperor with plenipotentiary powers to reduce the country. Other armies advanced from the north, and in the south the Serbs again took up arms. Greatly outnumbered, the Hungarians retreated; Buda fell on 4 January 1849. The Austrian forces then suffered a temporary set-back, but won another heavy victory at Kapolna on 27 February. The war now seemed over, and on 4 March Schwarzenberg issued a new constitution, applicable to the entire monarchy (except the Italian provinces, whose position was reserved for later settlement). On 7 March the Diet of Kremsier was dissolved on the ground that it had failed to complete its constitutional task; actually its constitutional committee had ended its labours with demonstrative self-congratulations on 2 March.
The March constitution, which was mainly Count Stadion’s work, took over a large part of the proposals of the Kremsier Diet. For the ‘West Austrian Lands’ it restored the ‘historic units’, with the modification that Galicia was divided into two Crownlands (an innovation personally introduced by Stadion, who had been Statthalter in Lvow and a warm patron of the Ruthenes, whom, indeed, he was accused by the Poles of having ‘invented’ as a nation). Again there was to be a central parliament of two houses, and Landtags; but this time the competencies of the latter were exactly defined and were relatively limited. The list of civic liberties promised to the people was not ungenerous. It was, indeed, largely taken over from that compiled by their own representatives, and the equality of rights of all ‘peoples’ and the inviolable right of each to preserve and cultivate its language was expressly reaffirmed. A fairly extensive communal autonomy was promised, and enacted by an order of 11 March. Elected assessors were to assist the professional Kreis and Bezirk authorities. An addition which time was to prove important was that the Staats-rath, the advisory body to the crown which in one form or another had existed since the sixteenth century and whose off-shoot, the privy conference, had really ruled Austria for Ferdinand, was preserved in altered form. Its new version, the Reichsrath, was to consist of twenty-one members, nominated by the emperor, but, since the introduction of ministerial responsibility, it was destined for a role not larger than that of the British Privy Council.
But the importance of the constitution lay elsewhere. Francis Joseph’s proclamation expressly declared his decision to apply it to ‘the single and undivided Empire of Austria’. In future ‘Austria’ was to be a unity, both political and economic. The monarch would be crowned only as emperor of Austria; there would be only one citizenship; and laws would apply equally throughout the entire territory.
Complete uniformity was not, indeed, envisaged: Lombardy and Venetia were to receive a special statute, and it was stated that: ‘The constitution of the kingdom of Hungary remains in force, with the reservation that those of its provisions which are contrary to the present imperial constitution are abrogated, and that equality of rights is assured to every nationality and every locally current language in all fields of public and civic life; a special statute will regulate these questions.’ The practical effect of the proclamation was, however, to wipe out the Hungarian constitution; the more so since the Patent enumerated the ‘Crownlands’ which made up the Austrian empire. The kingdom of Hungary was one of them; Croatia-Slavonia, with Fiume, another; Transylvania with the Partium another, both being entirely independent of Hungary. The rights of the ‘Serbian Voivodina’ were confirmed; whether it would be attached to ‘another province’ was reserved for discussion, as was the union of Dalmatia with Croatia. The Military Frontier2 retained its old status.
The proclamation was thus a flat defiance alike to the Austrian constitutionalists, to Italy and to Hungary: to everyone, in fact, except Jellacic, and to him it gave much less than he had expected. The inhabitants of the Austrian provinces, to do them justice, took the whole thing without a murmur loud enough to cause the authorities anxiety, and the business of government went on exactly as it had before: by enactment by the appropriate authority, pending the end of the ‘state of emergency’.
Not so elsewhere. In Italy Charles Albert denounced the armistice, and Venice rose: but on 23 March Radetzky inflicted on Charles Albert, at Novara, a defeat so crushing that he abdicated (see ch. xn, pp. 321-2). His successor, Victor Emmanuel, ended by recognising Austria’s possessions in Italy. Lombardy and Venetia were, however, kept under strict military control and thus remained outside the general picture. The promised special status could not yet be granted them; on the other hand, the general measures of the government (except some in the economic field) were not applied to them.
In Hungary, on the contrary, the government meant to achieve the most speedy and complete integration of the whole area comprising the ‘Lands of the Holy Crown’ with the Austrian dominions. Windischgratz, who himself possessed estates in Hungary and had many friends among the landowning class there, was indeed at first inclined to interpret the imperial proclamation by restoring the pre-1848 constitution in the conquered parts of the country, leaving the amendment of it until later; and a certain collaboration towards this end developed in west Hungary between him and the Hungarian magnates, who now constituted themselves as an ‘Old Conservative’ Party, with the programme of a restoration of the old constitution—to which, indeed, they admitted no amendment, except that they accepted as fait accompli the emancipation of the socage peasants. But the country was, of course, not behind them. The Hungarian government answered the proclamation of 4 March by a counter-proclamation, dated 14 April, which declared Hungary, with all its annexes (Transylvania, Croatia, etc.) a completely independent state, and deposed from the throne of it ‘the perjured House of Habsburg-Lorraine’. Pending the final settlement of the form of state, Kossuth became ‘Governor’ or ‘regent’. Bach, at that time Minister of Justice in the Austrian government, promptly argued that this proclamation ‘rendered the Hungarian constitution null and void’ so that the government’s hands were now free. Schwarzenberg himself could not share Windischgratz’s views; he was dictatorial, not feudal, and already on 12 April had got Windischgratz replaced by General Welden, as provisional head both of the military operations and of the civilian administration. On 30 May Welden in his turn was replaced as commander-in-chief by Haynau, to whom was attached, as civilian commissioner, Baron Geringer. Bach, who had now personally taken over the Ministry of the Interior from Stadion (whose reason had given way) invested Geringer with plenipotentiary powers to introduce the new order. The blue-print for this was issued on 4 July. What was left of Hungary was to be divided into five districts, each under a high commissioner; and the districts were brought into being as the armies advanced. Simultaneously work began on implementing the emancipation of the socage peasants and on introducing equality of usage for all ‘local’ languages. Austrian civilian commissioners were even attached to the Russian armies to realise the desired measures behind their battlefields also.
On 13 August Gorgey surrendered to the Russian armies at Vilagos. On 1 September Haynau issued a proclamation declaring the rebellion at an end, and summoned all soldiers, officials and members of the Diet to appear before the authorities for screening. The day before, the ministerial council in Vienna had withdrawn from Haynau the power to pass sentence of death. Nevertheless, the famous ‘martyrs of Arad’ suffered the supreme penalty on 6 October; well over 1000 persons were condemned by court martial to imprisonment or fortresses. Minor offenders were conscripted into the army, in such numbers that the authorities could not cope with them and they had to be discharged. On 17 October a ‘provisional administrative system’ was introduced for the whole country, and on 1 November the March constitution was extended to Hungary, without the earlier reservations, it being again argued that the Hungarian Diet’s own actions had rendered the constitution null and void. The five districts were now definitely constituted, delimited, as far as possible, to place the Magyars in a minority; the old administrative subdivisions were retained, but all the officials were now government employees, and the majority of them—the host popularly known as the Bach Hussars—were non-Hungarians, German-Austrians, Poles, and above all, Czechs. The civilian authorities were assisted by the new gendarmerie, a large body, the organisation of which was one of the regime’s most urgent tasks.
Transylvania, enlarged as had been promised, was organised on rather similar lines. The Saxons were the most favoured of the local elements, but very considerable linguistic and cultural concessions were made to the Roumanians, in accordance with the principle of national equality. Here too, however, the ultimate control was vested in Vienna.
The settlement of the Southern Slav areas presented great difficulties, since the new Serb Patriarch, Rajacic, who was the Hungarian Serbs’ real leader (the elected voivode, a Colonel Suplyika, was actually away with a regiment in Italy), proved to be more of a Serb nationalist than a Yugoslav. He now asked for the Voivodina to be made an independent Crownland and claimed for it, besides the county of Bacs-Bodrog, the Banat, the adjacent areas of the Frontier, and the Slavonian counties. Haynau had meant to keep the Banat as a separate command, but finally, to pacify the Serbs, he added its three counties (but not the Frontiers) to that of Bacs-Bodrog and two districts of Szerem to form the ‘Serb Voivodina and Banat of Temesvar’—an area in which the Serbs now formed only about one-fifth of the population, barely outnumbering the Germans and easily outnumbered by the Roumanians. Jellacic got the rest of Szerem and the other two Slavonian counties for his Croatia; also Fiume and the Murakoz, detached from Hungary, but Dalmatia was still withheld from him, as were the Croat Frontier districts. And to the disgust of both Serbs and Croats, they both came under the same centralised rule as Hungary or the Austrian provinces: Austrian administrators ruled them by order-in-council, and non-Croat officials, Germans or Slovenes, sat in the local offices.
For good or ill, the politically and economically unitary empire was now established. All the ministerial threads now ran together in the hands of Bach, who definitively took over Stadion’s portfolio in June, yielding that of Justice to Schmerling. Schwarzenberg, who in any case was mainly occupied with foreign affairs, was no great light; but Bach, Schmerling, Krausz (Finance), Brack (Trade) and Thun (Education) formed a vigorous team, each eager to press forward with the reforms which he thought necessary, and none anxious to be hampered by the popular will. Indeed, Bach soon cancelled the steps which Stadion had taken in the direction of popular representation. Immediately on taking over the Ministry of the Interior he suspended the Communal Autonomy Law, and in March 1850, dropped the Kreis and Bezirk assessors.
The measures initiated during this period cut off much old wood, the disappearance of which had been long overdue. The most grandiose among them were those which gave practical effect to the emancipation of the peasants—a large-scale and most complex operation in which (counting Hungary) over three million persons received land, while nearly 100,000 had to cede it. In the German-Austrian and Bohemian Lands one-third of the compensation was paid by the state, one-third by the Land and one-third by the recipient. In Galicia and Hungary no payment was required of the peasants, but even in the other Lands the payment was low, since the land was assessed for the purpose at only about one-third of its real value. The compensation to the ex-owner was correspondingly meagre.
The patrimonial jurisdiction of the landlords having been abolished, the whole judicial system had to be recast, and a new system of Bezirk courts was established, with higher instances at the Land centres and a Supreme Court of Appeal, as final instance for both Austria and Hungary. The changes introduced here were by no means all retrogressive, as the old system of depositions taken privately and in writing gave way to a public procedure based on the oral examination of witnesses. The jury system was introduced for all crimes and serious misdemeanours.
The railways were taken over by the state and expanded, notably by the construction of the Sudbahn; communications were greatly improved, the merchant fleet expanded, the postal services reorganised. Chambers of Trade and Industry were founded and vigorous attempts made both to expand industry and to push exports. It was Bruck’s dream to make the new combined Austro-Hungarian economic territory the leading economic factor in Europe, and especially in central Europe. With this aim, a more liberal trade policy was adopted and tariffs reduced.
Even Thun’s ministry enacted during this period a number of measures most of which were technically admirable and many of them definitely liberal in spirit. The gymnasia were reformed, freedom of instruction and learning was introduced in the universities, the students given freedom to change their universities and technical instruction greatly developed.
The new system even brought some cultural and national satisfaction, on the lower levels, to the less advanced nationalities of the monarchy, particularly in Hungary and Galicia. The principle was laid down that in elementary schools, instruction should be given in the pupil’s mother tongue, and accordingly, a considerable number of schools began to give elementary instruction in Slovak, Ruthene and Slovene. In secondary and higher education, too, Slovaks were no longer instructed in Magyar, nor Ruthenes in Polish, and they began to receive a certain measure of instruction in their languages in such establishments.
Similarly, the instructions first issued to officials (for Hungary) provided that no ‘linguistic compulsion’ was to be applied in church or school;
that the locally current languages were to be placed on an equal footing; that all official notices were to be issued in the languages locally current; that dealings with the public were to be in the locally current languages; and that communications should be accepted, and answered, in those languages. Similar enactments appeared for other Lands.
Very soon, however, the all-important rule was laid down that German was to be the sole language of the ‘inner service’, that is, of communications between one government office and another, throughout the entire monarchy, so that every public servant had to know it. It was also the ‘language of service’ in the army. It became the sole official language in Silesia and Bukovina, and the language of the courts, not only in the higher instances but in many lower courts in non-German areas. Education followed. In Ruthene Galicia, higher instruction was at first given ‘provisionally’ in German, since no qualified Ruthene teachers were available; but although this could not be said of the Poles, the ancient Jagiellon University of Cracow was entirely Germanised in 1854, as were many of the higher educational establishments in Hungary. Czech was abolished outside the elementary schools, except for religious instruction, in 1853: and two orders, of 16 December 1854 and 1 January 1855 respectively, decreed that in all gymnasia throughout the empire, Lombardy-Venetia excepted, German must be an obligatory subject and instruction should be given ‘mainly’ in that language, at least in the higher classes. Thus administration, justice and education alike were, except on the lowest levels, in German, and instruments of Germanisation.
In 1850 and 1851 all these measures were still, officially, provisional, being enacted by order-in-council pending the termination of the ‘emergency’. It is still not certain how far Bach, the ex-liberal, the ‘Minister of the Barricades’, had shed his earlier ideas, and he may well have been driven forward by fears that if he did not reform from above, others would not reform at all. Schwarzenberg, and other members of Francis Joseph’s entourage, on the other hand, disliked, not Bach’s methods, but his deeds. It was probably more in the hope of bridling Bach, than with any other purpose, that they early began to press on Francis Joseph, not to restore constitutional institutions, which they disliked heartily, but to make himself sole and absolute ruler. The moving spirit in this connection was von Kubeck, who was beyond any doubt one of the most upright and intelligent servants of the old regime but also one to whom effective conservation now seemed to be far more important than any kind of innovation. He it was who had been largely responsible for organising the abdication of Ferdinand and the succession of Francis Joseph; and he was close in the secrets of the imperial family. On 5 December 1850 Kubeck was nominated president designate of the Reichsrath and when that body was called into existence in the following April, being the only one of Stadion’s proposed institutions to achieve that distinction, he found himself Francis Joseph’s special adviser-in-chief. He at once began to press on his young master the desirability of abolishing ministerial responsibility, and vesting all responsibility in the monarch alone. The Reichsrath, as the supreme advisory body, would replace the ministerial council, the ministers relapsing into the position of departmental chiefs (this being roughly the relationship which had existed before 1848 between the Staatskonferenz and the various Hofstellen and Hofkanzleien).
It was not difficult to convert to these ideas the young Francis Joseph, who was as firmly convinced as any of his family of his divine right and mission to rule, for his subjects indeed, but not with them. On 20 August 1851, three days after Kubeck had expounded his views to the emperor in a long, reasoned memorandum, Francis Joseph issued a rescript relieving the ministers of all responsibility, except to himself. The abolition of the March constitution was now only a matter of time, delayed chiefly by Austria’s need to menager the opinion of the secondary kings and princes of Germany until her victory over Prussia in the long struggle for hegemony was assured; and above all, by the prevailing uncertainty whether fresh unrest might not break out in France and spread thence to the rest of Europe. But on 29 November Schwarzenberg signed with Manteuffel the Olmutz Punctation, which seemed—although later events proved the judgment mistaken—to decide in Austria’s favour the long diplomatic struggle with Prussia, and to leave her free to do as she liked in Germany (cf. ch. XIX, pp. 502-3). On 2 December Louis Napoleon brought off his successful coup in Paris (cf. chs. XV and XVII, pp. 411 and 444-5). The way was now clear. On 31 December the so-called ‘Sylvester Patent’ or proclamation of New Year’s Eve (Sylvesterabend) revoked the March constitution, confirming, however, that the laws enacting the equality of citizens before the law and the emancipation of the socage peasants remained valid. The emperor now assumed sole and exclusive political responsibility. The principles on which the state was to be administered were listed in a document addressed to Schwarzenberg, and really composed by Bach. The system was one of complete absolutism, exercised through the bureaucracy, and close centralisation. Of self-governing institutions, only the remnants of the communal autonomy survived, but the existing elected councillors, etc., became government servants, and there were to be no further elections. ‘Advisory’ committees, representative chiefly of the landed nobility, were to be constituted in each Crownland, Kreis and Bezirk; these, in the event, never came into being. The ‘historic units’, as remodelled, survived, but the functions of the Land Offices were reduced, the chief weight now falling on the smaller unit, the Gemischter Bezirksgericht, so called because it united political and judicial functions. Many functions were carried out by Hofkommissionen appointed by and directly responsible to Vienna.
With the Patent the return to pre-revolutionary political conditions, and indeed, far beyond them, was complete and political absolutism could go no farther. The next seven years saw in fact no major change in the political machine: only small readjustments and a steady increase in Germanisation; tempered for the population by the successive proclamation in most Crownlands of the end of the state of emergency. The system gravitated more and more into the hands of Bach, for Schmerling had resigned in January 1851, Bruck in May, and Krausz followed soon after; their successors were unimportant. When Schwarzenberg died suddenly, in April 1852, Francis Joseph appointed no new prime minister: Count Buol, a pupil of Mettemich, took over the conduct of foreign affairs. The Reichsrath proved ineffectual and before long Kubeck resigned its presidency.
One other important move was made: to renew the old alliance which had so long linked the Habsburg dynasty and the Holy See. The prime movers here were Francis Joseph’s old tutor, von Rauscher, who in 1853 became cardinal-archbishop of Vienna, and Thun; but Bach was a strong ally, as were Francis Joseph himself and his family. Even in 1850 the powers and privileges of the Roman Catholic bishops had been considerably enlarged; in June 1851 the Jesuits, whose activities in Austria had been suspended in May 1848, were reinstated. In April 1852 negotiations were opened for a concordat, and this was concluded in August 1855. It put the church of Rome in an extraordinarily powerful and privileged position. The Catholic church was placed under the especial protection of the state. The pope could communicate freely with the bishops, clergy and people, without consulting the lay authorities. The bishops had full charge over all Catholic education. The ecclesiastical courts were restored. The property of the church was declared sacred and inviolable, and the funds derived from Joseph II’s dissolution of the monasteries were transferred to its keeping. A secret agreement went farther still, including, for example, a promise that Austria would not alter any confessional or inter-confessional laws without the previous consent of the Holy See.
The conclusion of the concordat may be taken as the farthest point reached by the Austrian government in its march back from 1848. It was followed by a year or two of standstill: then the slow gathering became perceptible of the forces of opposition; and from 1859 onward the government was steadily forced back until a new resting point was reached in 1867-8. Its retreat was reluctant, and the path of it anything but direct; but this is due not so much to the inconsistency and impulsiveness for which Francis Joseph was often blamed as to the fact that those forces which were pressing him backwards, and with which he was obliged, in the end, to ‘compromise’—Hungarian nationalism and Viennese finance—were precisely those for which he and his nearest advisers had the least natural sympathy. And this explains why the much-abused Compromise, when it was reached at last, could justify itself historically by continuing to exist for half a century—a remarkable term of life for any political settlement in central Europe: because it gave satisfaction to the strongest forces in the field.
The peoples of the western half of the monarchy accepted the reintroduction of absolutism with the best grace imaginable. It must be remembered that a substantial proportion of them were ex-socage peasants, who had benefited greatly by the liberation. It is true that some of them were disagreeably surprised to find that the state now expected them to pay taxes, and there were some riots in Galicia and the Bukovina; but in any case, they were not having the landlords back. The industrial workers did not count politically; a combination of full employment and close police supervision kept them quiet. The real intellectual ferment of the revolution, among both German-Austrians and Czechs, had been supplied by a very small class of intellectuals, and of these the Germans, on the whole, felt amply compensated for the loss of united Germany by the prospect now reopened to them of fulfilling their ‘Germanic mission’ by running the affairs of the other nations of the monarchy, including the Hungarians: a prospect which was not only ideologically, but also materially satisfactory, since the enormously enlarged bureaucracy offered careers to as many young middle-class German-Austrians as wanted them. The Viennese ex-politicians and literati made sarcastic jokes, which their later historians dutifully anthologised as evidence of ‘resistance’, but real resistance was negligible. The Czechs did not receive the small national satisfaction from the new regime which came to the Germans, but obtained as many practical benefits. Every middle-class Czech spoke German well enough to become a Bach Hussar, in which body the Czechs formed the largest contingent. The few devoted nationalists among them were embittered but isolated. When Havlifiek, the most wholehearted of them all, returned to Prague in 1855 from the residence in Brixen which had been the penalty imposed on him by the regime (such was the measure of the terrorism of that day) his most painful impression was that ‘the reaction was and is in ourselves—and chiefly in ourselves’!
This appeasement was greatly facilitated by the fact that, for the common man, material existence was more than usually easy during the early ’fifties. The emancipation of the peasants gave a great impetus both to agriculture and to economic life generally. The peasants worked for themselves as for decades they had not worked for their masters, produced much more than before and entered the economic field as consumers with purchasing power. Bruck did all he could to foster free exchange: the trade barriers with Hungary and Lombardy-Venetia were in any case abolished and he now sought to provide the freest possible exchange with Germany. The system of import prohibitions was changed to one based on tariffs, as low as he could make them; after him, Buol in 1853 concluded a commercial treaty with Prussia based on the ‘most favoured nation’ clause which proved very advantageous to the consumers and to many industries, which gained more by the extension of markets than they lost through the lowered protection (but cf. ch. XIX, p. 505). The new Chambers of Commerce and Industry did good work, and the large public works—railways, etc.—provided employment and lucrative contracts; so, for that matter, did the equipment of the army, which was conducted in an incredibly wasteful fashion.
The industrial boom which resulted from all this (and which chiefly benefited Vienna and Bohemia) was made possible largely because now, for the first time, industry began to operate largely or mainly on a credit basis: in other words, because finance came to dominate industry. In the Vormarz the Austrian National Bank had dealt almost exclusively with the state. Of private bankers, the house of Rothschild stood alone; the remainder were dwarfs, and their operations largely clandestine. Now the whole system expanded suddenly. Very large credit transactions were undertaken first by the Credit Mobilier, a Jewish concern with headquarters in Paris. Then in 1853 an Austrian group founded the first important Austrian private bank, the Eskompte-Gesellschaft, and in 1855 the Viennese Rothschilds founded the great Creditanstalt, with the specific design of driving the Credit Mobilier out of the field.
These institutions really helped Austrian industry to maintain itself and expand: even more, they brought many fortunes to speculators, for an extraordinary wave of speculation accompanied, in particular, the foundation and first operations of the Creditanstalt. This enriched not only the Jews in the Leopoldstadt of Vienna, and an enormous number of little men who came into lucky possession of some booming shares in one of the numerous new shareholding companies, but also many of the great aristocrats, whose resentment against the new liberalism was thereby perceptibly softened. The founders of the Creditanstalt included the names, not only of Rothschild and Laurels, but also of Schwarzenberg, Furstenberg, Auersperg, Chotek and others of the first families of Austria.
The other side of the medal was represented by the constantly growing state expenditure. The complicated administration, the extravagant army, the grandiose public works and the compensation of the landowners swallowed enormous sums, and although the Austrian system of taxation was extended to Hungary, and a new income-tax introduced, the budgets —in spite of the windfall from the Sardinian war indemnity—could never be balanced. The state borrowed from the National Bank, or sold crown property. The mobilisation during the Crimean war (see ch. XVIII, pp. 478-80), in particular, was extremely expensive, and after this nearly all the state railways, which comprised two-thirds of all railways then existing in Austria, were sold, on terms extremely unfavourable to the exchequer, to an international group in which the Credit Mobilier held the leading position.
This done, the state had to meet its deficits by floating loans. Since, however, the situation was extremely profitable from the point of view of the buyer, either of the state properties or of the loans, so long as the state did not go bankrupt; and since the threat of bankruptcy had not yet appeared, finance continued to smile on the regime, and industry still sunned itself in the smiles of finance.
It was otherwise in Hungary. Here alone, outside the Italian provinces, had the hand of the ‘reaction’ been, of necessity, really heavy; but here alone it proved impossible to relax the pressure in any essential respect. There were a large number of amnesties and acts of grace and the whole political system was left ‘provisional’ for a year after the Sylvester Patent, in the hope that some political compromise might be reached; but all the efforts made in this direction by the Old Conservatives proved unsuccessful, and in January 1853 a ‘Definitivum’ was issued, which confirmed the previous territorial and political arrangements and initiated an era of still more systematic rule from above.
Even in Hungary there were, of course, collaborators, chiefly among the local Swabians, but the great mass of the middle and small nobility, who previously had controlled every aspect of the national existence, now stood frigidly aloof. Even had he wanted it otherwise, Bach would have been thrown back on foreigners for the conduct of his new regime. He had reckoned with this; but where his calculations, like those of others before and after his day, went wrong, was in underestimating the hold possessed on the country by its traditional leaders. The German-Austrian, Czech and Polish officials arrived in their thousands, armed with the most enlightened instructions. Unacquainted with the language, the conditions and the mentality of the local inhabitants, they could do nothing with them. Detested as they were by the local population, they were no happier than their victims. One of them has described his experiences vividly and with humour. The day he arrived in the village assigned to his charge, he found a queue awaiting him. This proved to consist of persons condemned to imprisonment for sedition; but there were no prisons for them, so every day they drew a sum in lieu of rations, and spent it in the local public-house. The police reported ruefully that the population stood squarely behind its old leaders. The peasants persisted in maintaining that Kossuth, not Bach, had liberated them, and that against the will of ‘Vienna’. The emancipation had even bridged the gulf between the social classes, uniting them against ‘Vienna’. Even the Jews took the side of the Hungarian government, whose almost last act at Debrecen had been to remove the restrictions on them; restrictions which the new regime had reimposed.
Some of the Slovak intellectuals took the side of the regime, petitioning for territorial autonomy within a federated Austria, but they were few; the two northern districts of Hungary, delimited to give Slovak and Ruthene majorities respectively, were only a little less disaffected than the central ones.
Moreover, the new Crownlands created with the special aim of forming a counterweight to Hungary were in hardly better state. In Transylvania the Roumanians, although pleased to be free of the Magyar yoke, found the German hardly more bearable. They did not combine with the local Magyars, but like them they opposed the regime. The Croats were thoroughly disgruntled at finding Dalmatia, and even the Military Frontier, still kept apart from them and Croatia merely a Crownland—under centralised rule and administered, no less than Hungary, by non-natives— instead of the centre of a Triune kingdom. The ‘Definitivum’ divided Croatia into six Regierungsbezirke, each under a chief nominated from Vienna. A commission arrived to screen the officials. Those found not up to standard were dismissed, if the reason was political, or sent to school to learn German, and the Bach Hussars descended on Croatia as mercilessly as on Hungary. Jelladic was given the post of Statthalter, but immersed himself in those poetical labours for which, to tell the truth, he showed more aptitude than for either politics or strategy. The remark made by a Croat leader to a Hungarian friend is famous: ‘What you have got as punishment, we have been given as reward.’
The Serb Voivodina was a shambles from the first. The Roumanians of the Banat always resented being included in it. The Germans (not to mention the Bunyevci and the local Magyars) protested vigorously against being put under the Serbs. The Serbs complained at the non-inclusion of the Frontiers; worse still, their loyalty became something more than suspect, particularly after relations between Austria and Russia cooled, at the time of the Crimean War. In the end, the Voivodina also was put under centralised control, supervised on the higher levels chiefly through Germans.
There were two aspects of the Hungarian situation which were particularly serious. One was the financial: the bureaucratic administration, ineffectual as it was, proved exceedingly expensive, while on the other side, the Hungarians displayed an unexampled ingenuity in failing to pay taxes. The attempt to rule Hungary against her will was costing the government enormous sums annually. The second danger was the foreign-political. The bulk of the nation still looked to Kossuth as its leader, and Kossuth, fertile of brain and golden of tongue, was touring the world, and sending his emissaries about it, everywhere stirring up hostility to the Habsburgs and plotting their downfall. Thus the dissatisfaction in Hungary encouraged Austria’s enemies, for it was to be anticipated that in the event of war Hungary would rise against the government.
That prospect grew steadily nearer. Austria had reached the peak of her apparent power at Olmutz; and when the Sylvester Patent was issued Schwarzenberg addressed a note to the German Bund demanding that the whole unitary Austrian state, German and non-German areas alike, should be admitted into it. But Austria’s very success rallied the powers against her, in a fashion of which Prussia was able to take advantage. The Congress of Dresden was reduced at last to restoring the old Bund as it had been constituted in 1815, with the anomalous result that half the new unitary state was inside the Bund and half outside it. Austria was now back in her old position of a rival with Prussia for the leadership in Germany; and as each year went by the balance shifted farther in Prussia’s favour. In the Crimean War Austria followed a clumsy and hesitant policy which cost her the tsar’s friendship and brought her nothing in exchange (see ch. XVIII). Cavour’s skilful diplomacy, on the other hand, brought Piedmont a large addition in prestige, so that the status quo in Italy was no longer secure. Moreover, Louis Napoleon had now found his feet, and was openly espousing the principle of nationality. An alliance between France and Piedmont, directed against Austria, had cast its shadow before, even before the Plombieres meeting of 20 July 1858 (see pp. 271 and 463).
These events kept alive the hopes of the Hungarian irreconcilables, and meanwhile the situation at another nerve-centre had changed. Bruck, brought back as Finance Minister in 1855, tried to restore order by a return to orthodoxy which included heavy increases in taxation. Then in 1857 the great stock-exchange crash, travelling from England and America, via Germany, reached Vienna. The bubble was pricked. Stock-exchange speculators found themselves beggars. Credits to industry were called in. Now the newly (and most expensively) constructed Sudbahn had to be sold, and the Tisza railway. The Creditanstalt itself suffered heavily. The holders of existing loans turned against any further borrowing, as dangerous to the security of the earlier issues. From this moment onward finance and business generally began to press for economy in state expenditure, concentrating their attacks particularly on Bach’s bureaucracy and on the army. It is not irrelevant that the circles which led these attacks were particularly antagonistic to the Concordat and to all its implications.
It was the worst possible moment to economise on the army, for by now it was an open secret that France and Sardinia were preparing to attack Austria in Italy, and Prussia’s attitude, too, was threatening. Francis Joseph could not bring himself to buy Prussia’s support at her price. War came in April 1859. Austria, by her ultimatum, was the technical aggressor, but not the real one; the war was the work of Louis Napoleon and Cavour (see ch. XXI, pp. 571-2). Francis Joseph simply advanced the outbreak of hostilities in the hope of a quick victory which would spare him a long and costly campaign, or the hardly less costly process of keeping a large force under arms.
For the threat of this war brought to a head Austria’s difficulties from the two sides which, as we said, constituted, in their different but interlocking ways, serious threats to the regime. 150,000 troops had to be left in Hungary, partly to prevent a rising, partly to collect taxes, which the wretched Bach Hussars were quite unable to get in. In Vienna, the National Bank was obliged, four days before the outbreak of war, to suspend payments in currency and to collect an emergency tax by simply docking the coupons of the state loans. A fresh loan, although issued at 70 and at 5 per cent, found hardly any subscribers; banks, consumers and private taxpayers were simply ordered to take it up, and the state took advances from the National Bank to the tune of 133 million gulden. Finally, an extraordinary surcharge on the direct taxes was ordered by imperial decree.
The quick victories failed to materialise, partly owing to the gross incompetence of the Austrian commander-in-chief, Gyulai, and his advisers—a weakness for which Francis Joseph, who had dispensed with a Minister of Defence and taken personal charge of the army and its affairs, was personally responsible—partly owing to political disaffection: while German and Czech troops were kept in Hungary, Hungarians were sent to Italy, and not only they and the Italian soldiers but—more ominous still—the trusted Croats deserted in large numbers. Sardinia won the battles of Magenta and Solferino largely because the soldiers of the Austrian army deserted or surrendered.
It was on the morrow of Solferino that Francis Joseph began his retreat from absolutism. Buol had already resigned when the emperor sent his ultimatum to Sardinia, being replaced as Foreign Minister by Rechberg. Now, in July, Rechberg took over the duties of Minister President; but the important change was that Bach was dismissed in favour of a new minister whose appointment came, indeed, as a surprise to everyone, including himself: Count Goluchowski, a Polish aristocrat, previously Statthalter in Galicia. ‘But I am a Slav’, he is said to have exclaimed when the emperor told him of his new appointment: to which Francis Joseph replied: ‘The Slavs are my most loyal subjects.’ It was a fact that at the time they were causing him far less anxiety than either the Germans or the Magyars.
But it was not to them that the first concessions were made; nor, indeed, was Goluchowski a true representative of the federalist nobility which was soon again to raise its voice. ‘The Laxenburg Manifesto’ of 23 August 1859, which set out the new government’s programme, began with the promise that all government expenditure, civil and military, should be submitted to ‘effective control’, adding assurances that the non-Catholic religions should be allowed autonomy and freedom of worship and that ‘the position of the Israelites should be regulated along modem lines, but taking into account local and provincial conditions’. A measure of communal autonomy was to be restored, and a ‘substantial part’ of the duties at present performed by the bureaucracy transferred to autonomous bodies; whereafter ‘bodies representing the Estates’ were to be called into being ‘in the various Crownlands’.
The word ‘constitution’ was not mentioned in the manifesto, which did not imply that Francis Joseph had become a convert to constitutionalism, or to democracy; only that certain concessions, to certain interests, had become simply unavoidable. Even they came slowly: it was only on 21 December that a state debt commission was appointed— a measure the reception of which by the business and financial interests showed that they regarded it as totally inadequate.
Meanwhile, the Italian war having ended on terms unexpectedly favourable to Austria—who lost Lombardy, but retained Venice and the Quadrilateral—the most important political problem was that of Hungary. Typically, Francis Joseph was still unwilling to negotiate with the real forces in that country, the lesser nobility who stood by 1848; but the Old Conservatives now again came forward as mediators. Even they demanded more than the government was willing to give, for the essential of their claim was the restoration of the pre-1848 constitution, but they were prepared to see this amended by giving larger powers to the crown as a counterweight both to Kossuth’s separatism and to his liberalism. Throughout the autumn of 1859 Rechberg was engaged in private conversations with the Old Conservative leaders, and it was largely on their suggestion that on 5 March 1860 Francis Joseph issued the so-called ‘March Patent’. The Reichsrath was to be enlarged and, while remaining, in the last instance, only advisory, given a quasi-representative character by adding to its twenty-one original members thirty-eight more from the various Landtags. Pending the constitution of the latter, the monarch himself would appoint the new members. This body, the ‘Reinforced Reichsrath’, was convoked for 31 May; a portion of its members were drawn from the higher Viennese bourgeoisie, the remainder from the various Lands, these being in nearly every case high aristocrats or prelates.
The six Hungarian members were all Old Conservatives (to do the government justice, it suggested other names also, but the nominees rejected the invitation). Even so, they proved distressingly Hungarian. Their leaders, Counts Szeczen and Emil Dessewffy, proved themselves much the most skilful and experienced politicians among all those present. In effect, they took charge of the whole proceedings. They welded the aristocratic representatives from the Lands into a ‘United Party of the Federalist Nobility’, which outnumbered the centralists and their allies, and then turned the proceedings into something resembling those of a constituent assembly.
Of the highest importance was the attitude taken up by the Hungarians towards their colleagues from Bohemia and Galicia. Seeing their chief enemy in Viennese centralism—whether absolutist, bureaucratic or liberal—they were prepared to ally themselves with any of its opponents, and supported, not only the claim of the Polish aristocrats for a special status for Galicia but also that which the Bohemian leaders (the chief of whom was Count Clam-Martinitz) were emboldened to put forward for recognition of the rights of the Lands of the Bohemian crown. This was not merely a tactical move, made during the session, for Eotvos, the brains of the Hungarian aristocracy, endorsed the same claim in his Garantien der Macht und Einheit Oesterreichs (1859).
In return, the Bohemian aristocrats, as well as the Poles, supported the Hungarians’ demands for the restoration of their constitution. This meant that the Slovaks were abandoned; the Transylvanian Roumanians and, still more, the Serbs of the Voivodina were quite obviously marked out as future sacrifices to Hungary. Even the Croats received relatively little consideration. Thus a new alignment of political forces came into being, or rather an old one returned in more definite form. The Czech nationalist intellectuals abandoned, in the interests of the larger claim, such community of action as they had hitherto maintained with German liberalism, while the German nationals were driven to seek again the friendship of the Hungarian liberals.
Led by the Hungarians, the united nobility secured the adoption by the Reinforced Reichsrath, by a majority (the Croats voting with the majority, but all the German bourgeois representatives, the Serbs, Roumanians and Ruthenes against), of a report recommending that the monarchy should be reconstructed on a new system which should take into account ‘the historic-political individualities of its various components’ and should ‘link up with the formerly existing historic institutions’. Communal autonomy and the local institutions of Hungary should be restored; in the other Lands, where no institutions analogous to the Hungarian existed, they should be created. All the Diets should be convoked, and the Lands should be guaranteed real autonomy. The report admitted the equality, in principle, of all Lands of the monarchy.
While these negotiations and debates were going on, quite a number of concessions of real political value had been made to Hungary. The quinquipartite division of the country was given up. Field-Marshal Benedek, himself a Hungarian, was made governor-general. Yet another amnesty was issued, and the predominance of the German language in education greatly reduced. (In this respect, parallel concessions to the Polish language were made in Galicia.) None of these appeased public opinion, particularly since in September 1859 Thun had issued a ‘Protestant Patent’, regulating the position of the Protestant churches, which the latter regarded as grossly violating their rights.
Francis Joseph was now in haste to reach a settlement; on 21 October he had to meet the tsar and the prince regent of Prussia in Warsaw, and did not want to come to the meeting with half his dominions in almost open revolt against him. Szeczen, it is said, assured him, in the course of a conversation in a railway train, that a settlement on the lines of the Reinforced Reichsrath’s majority report would be accepted in Hungary. A document to the effect was hurriedly drafted, and appeared, in the form of the so-called ‘October Diploma’ on 20 October 1860. In fact, it closely followed the recommendations of the Majority Report. The crown would in future exercise its legislative powers ‘with the co-operation of the Landtags, legally assembled, and of the Reichsrath, to which the Landtags have to send members in a number fixed by Us’. The Reichsrath was to deal with questions affecting the monarchy as a whole (these were enumerated), the Landtags with all others; ‘in the Kingdoms and Lands belonging to the Hungarian crown in the sense of their earlier constitutions, and in the other Kingdoms and Lands constitutionally, in the sense of and in accordance with their Statutes’. The organs of local self-government in Hungary were to be reinstated immediately, and similar institutions created elsewhere. Communal elections were to be carried through immediately. The Reichsrathe of the non-Hungarian Lands were to meet without the Hungarians when questions were under discussion of the type which had long been ‘handled and decided’ for them as a unit.
Simultaneously with the Diploma, a large number of rescripts were issued. Francis Joseph reaffirmed the assent given by his ancestors in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to certain laws relating to the Hungarian Estates, the effect of this being, broadly, to re-establish the constitutional status quo ante 1848 in Hungary. In connection therewith, the Hungarian Court Chancellery was re-established, Baron Vay, until recently in prison for sedition, being appointed chancellor. The chancellor was to be a member of the central government, into which Szeczen also was taken, as Minister without Portfolio. The validity of those laws of 1848 which dealt with the emancipation of the peasants was recognised, although no others. Magyar was restored as the central official language and that of the ‘inner service’, as of higher education, but adequate facilities were to be given to non-Magyars to use their languages in local administration and elementary education. Immediate elections were to be held in the county and municipal diets, whereafter the old system of autonomous local government would be resumed. The Diet was to be convoked in 1860, to submit further proposals for recasting the relationship between Hungary and the crown.
Similarly, the Transylvanian Court Chancellery was restored and the Transylvanian Diet, in its old shape, summoned to meet and, after hearing the representatives of all local nationalities, religions and classes, to submit proposals for the realisation of the principle of the equality of all citizens. The Ban of Croatia was instructed to convoke the local diet in order to submit proposals for a new internal constitution, and also for the relationship between Croatia and Hungary. A commission was to be sent to the Voivodina to report on the wishes of the local peoples as to their future. In Cis-Leithania the government was to elaborate statutes for the various Lands, assuring to them ‘representation adapted alike to their historic development, their present requirements, and the interests of the Empire’.
The ministries of the Interior, Justice and Cults were abolished.
The Diploma was ill-received almost everywhere. It did not even satisfy the Czechs, who had expected more. Practically all the Germans were against it: the bureaucrats a la Bach, because they saw Hungary slipping out of their hands; the nationalists, who saw the Sudeten Germans left at the mercy of Czech majorities under the new federalism; the liberals, who saw the federalists and clericals installed as the rulers of Austria; the moneyed interests, to whom the Diploma offered no real satisfaction. The three last-named groups were able to form a loose common front, united by the slogan that ‘Austria must be treated as favourably as Hungary’. That is, if Hungary had a central, constitutional parliament, Austria must have one too. Broadly, then, the Diploma had already prepared the Germans of Austria for dualism.
The protests, which a relaxation of the censorship allowed to be more vocal, grew louder when Goluchowski began publishing his Landes-statute: in every case exceedingly conservative instruments which left the land-owning aristocracy and the prelates in a dominating position. Then came fresh financial difficulties: von Plener, who had become Finance Minister after the suicide of Brack, had to propose an uncovered issue of paper money to the tune of 50 million gulden, in anticipation of taxes. But the greatest disappointment came from Hungary. Szeczen himself had not reckoned on this sudden issue of the relevant enactments by ukase, without any previous preparation of public opinion. And in any case, it immediately became clear that the magnates had entirely misjudged opinion in their own country. It was true that Hungarian public opinion towards the Habsburgs was not completely negative.
Kossuth’s name was still, sentimentally, the most popular in the country, but after the armistice of Villafranca it looked as though Kossuth’s grandiose schemes for mustering Europe against Austria were doomed to failure; nor were his projects for Danubian federation at all universally popular in Hungary. Much of the nation was prepared to come to terms with the Habsburgs, but their idea of acceptable terms was not that of the Old Conservatives.
Increasingly, Hungarian opinion had been falling into line behind the man who now emerged as the country’s leader, Francis Deak. This quiet, unassuming country gentleman, a leader before 1848 of the movement for social and political reforms in Hungary, had entered the 1848 government as Minister of Justice, but had not accompanied it to Debrecen in January 1849. He had thus not participated in the deposition of the Habsburgs, of which he disapproved. On the other hand, he maintained with complete firmness that the April Laws were legal and that all measures taken by the crown, from the issue of the March constitution onward, were legally null and void. Not even the most generous concessions by the crown would be acceptable if issued unilaterally, without previous consultation with Hungary’s lawful Parliament. As interim tactics, during the ’fifties, he had advocated passive resistance; and the nation had become increasingly converted to this idea, which spared it bloodshed and kept its money in its pockets (since the resistance was mainly to the tax-collectors) and was showing its practical effectiveness by forcing the crown, step by step, into retreat. Under Deak’s leadership, Hungary unhesitatingly rejected the October Diploma, and the first results of its accompanying concessions were, accordingly, discouraging enough to the government; for the counties celebrated the restoration of their Diets by electing to those bodies such persons as Kossuth, Cavour and Louis Napoleon. Under the influence of these demonstrations, and of the loudly voiced dissatisfaction of the Viennese tax-payers and financiers, Francis Joseph, on 14 December, dismissed Goluchowski in favour of Anton von Schmerling.
Schmerling was a man on whom, for some years past, the liberals of Vienna, the civil servants and the Sudeten Germans had united in fixing their hopes. He represented at once German nationalism, centralism and constitutionalism, and was correspondingly unpopular among the feudalists and the Slavs. Strangely enough, his candidature was supported and indeed actually proposed by the Hungarian Old Conservatives, who believed that he would effectively carry through the concessions granted to Hungary in October, and it was popular among the Hungarian 1848 Party, who thought that he would pave the way towards the dualism —a centralised constitutional Austria balancing a centralised, constitutional Hungary—which most of them still felt, as they had felt in 1848, to be the ultimate solution best guaranteeing their own position.
In fact, a few days after Schmerling’s appointment, the Voivodina was reincorporated in Hungary and, soon after, the Murakoz restored to it. Francis Joseph was not blind to the real situation in Hungary, for he called Eotvos and Deak to private audiences, which left personal good impressions on both sides. Schmerling, however, was not, in reality, a pro-Hungarian at all. He was as much of a centralist as Bach, but had not yet drawn the logical conclusion, to which he was afterwards driven, that if centralisation could be carried out at all, this could only be by force. On 26 February the ‘February Patent’, which embodied his ideas, appeared. Nominally a development of the October Diploma, this contrived radically to modify the spirit of the earlier document. The Reichsrath remained; it was to consist of 343 deputies, delegated, in fixed numbers, by the Diets of the ‘Lands’ (among which Transylvania and Croatia were listed separately). The respective competencies of the Reichsrath and the Lands (all of which, from Hungary to the Bukovina, still ranked as equals) were exactly defined, those of the former being very extensive. An elaborate electoral geometry weighted the electoral colleges in the Austrian Lands heavily in favour of the Germans, with a small curia of landed proprietors holding the balance in Bohemia and Moravia. A ‘narrower Reichsrath’, not attended by the deputies from the Hungarian Lands and Venetia, was to sit alone when subjects of exclusive interest to Austria were being discussed. There was also an Upper House.
Simultaneously with the issue of the Patent, all Landtags were convoked for 6 April, in order that they should send their representatives to the Reichsrath.
The Patent was received almost as ill as the Diploma, although the objections came, of course, from different quarters. The Slav nationalists, the feudal aristocracy and also the German clericals protested strongly; there were turbulent scenes in the Landtags of Prague and some other centres. When, finally, the 203 Reichsrath representatives from Cis-Leithania were ready to assemble, three groups numbering 130 deputies and composed almost entirely of German bourgeois, with the Ruthenes, were prepared, some of them with considerable reservations, to support the Patent; the German clericals, Poles, Czechs and Slovenes—in all, seventy deputies—formed the opposition. Meanwhile, the Venetians boycotted the elections altogether and a large party in Hungary favoured the same course. Deak, however, advised that the Hungarian parliament should meet. The elections practically swept away the Old Conservatives, and not one deputy who was returned now accepted the Patent. The two houses, after listening non-committally to a speech from the throne, divided into two parties who agreed precisely on the substance of what they should demand—recognition of the 1848 Laws, to which they were then prepared to agree certain modifications—and differed only on whether they should couch their demands in the form of a reply to the address, which would have implied recognition that the address itself, made in the name of a sovereign who had not yet been crowned king of Hungary, was legal, or of a resolution, which, it could be presumed, would come to Francis Joseph’s notice. Deak, for once compromising with his strict principles, advised the latter course, which was adopted by a very narrow majority; but the demands formulated in the ‘Reply’ were so uncompromising that Schmerling simply returned an ultimatum summoning the Diet to send its representatives to the Reichsrath forthwith. When this was rejected, he dissolved the Diet and reintroduced the absolutist regime of the preceding decade.
The deadlock was renewed, and Schmerling was confident that time was on his side; but he was wrong. One of the few decisions taken by the Diet was to set up a committee which should work out an equitable and satisfactory nationalities law. Although the majority of this committee was firm in refusing the demands of the Serb and Slovak minority leaders for any derogation, on either a territorial or a personal-national basis, of the unity of the state, they agreed, on Eotvos’ motion, to enunciate the principle of complete national equality, from which no derogation was permissible except in the practical field of the use of the different languages, and that only in so far as necessitated by the practical requirements of administration. This formula in fact satisfied many of the ‘nationalities’. The Diet also enacted the equality of rights for the Jews, and the abolition of the remaining obligations of the socage peasantry.
Deak also approached the Croats, offering them a ‘blank sheet’ on which to write the conditions under which they would return to their old association with Hungary; further conceding their claim to the disputed Slavonian countries. The Croats, too, were deeply hostile to the Patent, and further irritated by the regime’s continued hesitation to attach Dalmatia to Croatia. In July their Diet resolved, by 120 votes to 3, to enter into a closer constitutional relationship with Hungary if their independence was recognised; a few days later, they resolved not to send their delegates to the Reichsrath. In November the Croat Diet also was dissolved. Only in Transylvania did things go somewhat better for the government. The Saxons and Roumanians presently appeared in the Reichsrath; but the Hungarians remained completely hostile.
Meanwhile in Vienna the opposition of the Czechs and Poles grew increasingly violent. The Poles concentrated on their own demand, for a special status for an undivided Galicia; the Czechs not only revived the claim for the rights of the Lands of the Bohemian crown, but maintained that the whole Reichsrath was unconstitutional, while the Hungarians absented themselves. Schmerling was thus ruling against Slavs and Hungarians at once, and his system came more and more to resemble that of Bach, with its political repression and its weakness on both sides of the financial ledger: expensive administration and decreasing resources, since the Hungarians had returned to passive resistance and to non-payment of taxes. Now the tax-payers and the banks in their turn grew restive again, and showed their discontent in a way particularly disagreeable and also dangerous to Francis Joseph: over 40 per cent of the state’s annual expenditure now went on the national debt, and large sums were required also for repayment of advances from the National Bank. The moneyed circles declared these to be sacrosanct, and in their attacks on the government, which were often more violent than those made by the opposition itself, demanded reductions of administrative, and also of military expenditure.
Of the various opponents of the regime, it was the Hungarians whom Francis Joseph first brought himself to approach. Deak’s position was, after all, not anti-Habsburg or unreasonable. He took his stand quite strictly on certain fundamental documents agreed between the crown and Hungary: on the Pragmatic Sanction of 1722, amending and extending the Succession Law of 1687, and itself extended and amended by the assurances given by Leopold II on his succession in 1791. Under these the crown was bound to govern Hungary according to her own laws and customs, agreed with the Diet, and not ad normam aliarum provinciarum, and no Austrian authority had anything whatever to say in Hungary. But by the same instruments Hungary had recognised the legal right of the Habsburgs to succeed to the throne (provided they accepted coronation, swore the coronation oath and subscribed to the Diploma), had admitted that Hungary was united indivisibiliter atque inseparabiliter with the Habsburgs’ other dominions and even admitted the existence of certain affairs (foreign policy, defence and the finance entailed thereby) of common interest to Hungary and those dominions. And since he also accepted the view, strongly maintained by Kossuth, that a constitutional regime in Hungary such as the 1848 Laws had established could not count on survival while the Austrian regime was autocratic, he necessarily admitted some sort of consultation, in these matters, with the constitutional representatives of Austria.
This offered a basis of agreement, which had become urgent in 1864, since the international situation had again grown dangerous and Austria was threatened alike by France, Sardinia and Prussia. Francis Joseph could not bear to divide his opponents by buying one of them off; Rechberg, who would have compromised with Prussia, was dismissed on 27 October in favour of Mensdorff-Pouilly, who with Hofrat Biegeleben, now the real director of foreign policy, favoured a forward policy. In December Francis Joseph then began secret private negotiations, through an intermediary, with Deak, who insisted that the union of Transylvania could not be abandoned, nor could Croatia be detached from the Holy Crown. Francis Joseph must be crowned king of Hungary and undertake the appropriate obligations. But he explained how far he was ready to go in the matter of common institutions, and promised that Croatia should have adequate autonomy, and the nationalities treatment in the sense of the 1861 draft. By arrangement, he published these views on the basis of a possible compromise in a series of newspaper articles which appeared in the spring of 1865; whereupon Francis Joseph suddenly travelled to Pest, where he promised publicly ‘to do everything possible to satisfy the peoples of my Hungarian Crown’. On 27 July, when the session of the narrower Reichsrath closed, Schmerling and nearly all his ministers, except Mensdorff, the Hungarian Chancellor, Majlath, and Count Maurice Esterhazy, Minister without Portfolio, were dismissed. On 20 September a manifesto appeared suspending the operation of the October Diploma and February Patent. These were to be submitted to the Hungarian and Croat Diets. The result of the negotiations, if satisfactory at all, was afterwards to be laid before legal representatives of the Cis-Leithanian Lands, convoked later for that purpose. Pending this, the government would take the indispensable measures by the exercise of emergency powers.
Thus, in Francis Joseph’s view, the negotiations with Hungary were proceeding along a direct line. That they did not do so was because, to succeed Schmerling (but with competencies extending only to Cis-Leithania), he appointed Count Belcredi, a member of the Bohemian landed aristocracy, feudal, federalist and Slavophile. The appointment was made on the suggestion of Esterhazy, himself an Old Conservative, who still thought in the terms of the 1861 alignment of forces and drew the natural conclusion from the support which the German-Austrians had cheerfully given to Schmerling’s renewed larger centralism; also, apparently, believing, with his class-colleagues, that Hungary would accept a central Reichsrath if not over-powerful. But the effect was very different. In the west, the Slavs were jubilant and revived their plans for federalising Austria. The Germans were correspondingly embittered, and the turn of events now raised to influence the German-Austrian autonomists, a small party led by Kaiserfeld, whose main strength lay in Styria. This party had continued to advocate the old idea that the German-Austrians should make terms with the Hungarians and Poles, thus freeing their hands to deal with the Czechs and Slovenes; since 1862 they had had a working agreement with the Hungarian liberals, and this was now intensified. When the Hungarian parliament met in December, the Old Conservatives’ calculations again proved faulty. Francis Joseph said that he no longer disputed the legality of the 1848 Laws (and in token thereof enacted the reunion of Transylvania) but wanted them revised in the light of the later instruments. The Hungarians politely but firmly refused to recognise either Diploma or Patent, or to enter any central Reichsrath; but they would consider simultaneous meetings of representatives from their own parliament and of those of the Habsburgs’ other dominions when the monarch wished to discuss matters admitted under the Pragmatic Sanction to be of common interest to Hungary and to those dominions; and they would set up a parliamentary committee to discuss modalities.
Meanwhile in Austria the Landtags met and wrangled: things were at a deadlock until the Hungarian question was settled. In the middle of this, the Austro-Prussian war broke out, to end in a few weeks with crushing defeat for Austria (see chs. XII and XIX, pp. 325 and 519).
Again voices were raised in Hungary that Austria’s difficulty was Hungary’s opportunity, but this was not Deak’s view, nor that of Count Gyula Andrassy, who now came forward to take a part second only to Deak’s own in the negotiations. Far shallower in mind than Deak, Eotvos or even Szeczen, Andrassy combined the advantages of exceptional personal charm, a most persuasive tongue, and a lineage which made him hoffahig. A native of the Slovak north Hungary, Andrassy was more alive than Deak to the Slav danger, and certain movements among the local Slovaks and Ruthenes, coinciding with indiscreet utterances by Palacky, deepened his conviction that the only safety for Hungary lay in a connection with Austria, and at that, an Austria not dominated by the Slavs.
In a memorandum which he submitted to Francis Joseph in 1866 he argued that ‘an artificial reconstruction of the Bohemian crown and a grouping of the Slav provinces round it would only begin in Austria a work which would necessarily end outside it’. In private audience he is said to have summed up dualism in the words: ‘You look after your Slavs and we will look after ours.’ The autonomists’ programme in Austria offered a foundation on which this structure could be built, while Bismarck’s similar conviction that the maintenance of Austria was a European necessity, in view of the Russian danger—the conviction which led him to impose such generous peace terms after Koniggratz—made it possible to fit this inner Austrian programme into an international one.
It was Andrassy who in 1866 persuaded Francis Joseph to drop federalism for Austria. The chief obstacle to dualism was now Belcredi’s government, most of whose members, like himself, were federalists and Slavophiles. This was overcome after the introduction into the government of the Saxon, Beust, who also advocated dualism—not out of wish for a final reconciliation with Prussia, but for the opposite reason that he hoped, by favouring the German-Austrian liberals, to regain for Austria the sympathies of the secondary German states, preliminary to reopening the struggle for the hegemony in Germany. But the immediate effect was the same. Beust established contact both with the Hungarian liberals and with their Austro-German sympathisers. A Hungarian ministry was formed, under Andrassy, on 17 February 1867. The Austrian Landtags had been dissolved on 2 January, and new elections ordered, after which an extraordinary Reichsrath was to debate the settlement with Hungary.
These were carried through on Schmerling’s franchise: nevertheless, their results foreshadowed a small federalist majority in the Reichsrath. Beust urged that this would mean the breakdown of the settlement with Hungary, and Andrassy came from Pest to support him and to insist that the representatives of Austria were not entitled to approve or disapprove Hungary’s relations with her king. Francis Joseph gave way, and a new Patent, of 4 February, cancelled that of 2 January, transforming the extraordinary Reichsrath into an ordinary one. Belcredi now resigned; Beust took over, and secured for the Reichsrath a centralist majority by buying off the Poles, who, after at first demanding complete autonomy for Galicia, accepted in the end a special status, under a Landesminister, which gave them the reality of their wishes. Left now in the minority, the Czech leaders vented their anger by making a ‘Pilgrimage to Moscow’, where they hailed Russia as ‘the sun of the Slav community’. Needless to say, this gesture strengthened German centralism in Austria.
The final agreement with Hungary was now reached with relative ease. Very briefly, Hungary was reinstated, April Laws and all, as a constitutional monarchy, governed by her own laws and free from any control by Austria over her internal affairs. Nevertheless, foreign affairs, defence, and the finance necessary to carry on those two activities were recognised as matters of common interest to Hungary and to the crown’s other possessions, and a machinery was devised for debating these through parliamentary delegations so ingeniously shaped that no man could say whether it was square or circular. Each side voted its quota towards the common expenses, this quota being fixed anew every ten years. A customs union was concluded, also renewable every ten years. On 8 June Francis Joseph was crowned king of Hungary. Next year the negotiations with Croatia were successfully concluded. Croatia received an autonomy which did full justice to her historic rights, and a nationalities law reaffirmed, and laid down the practical application of, the 1861 formula.
The Reichsrath, from which the Czechs absented themselves, duly ‘took note’ of the Compromise and then proceeded to enact a revision of the Austrian constitution which made it at once more centralised and more liberal; many of the formulae produced at Kremsier, including the famous statement on the national and linguistic question, reappeared. The status of Galicia was regulated in the manner agreed.
So the long struggle ended. When in 1870 Francis Joseph was toying with the idea of revenge on Prussia, the project arose once again of revising the constitution in a federal and Slavophile direction. It was again Andrassy who prevailed on Francis Joseph to drop the project, so that Austria-Hungary remained a state based internally on the supremacy of the Germans in the west and of the Magyar-feeling Hungarians in the east; with the corollary that in foreign policy she was bound to Germany. It is true that since the balance in Austria was a very delicate one, the German element was thereafter often in a minority west of the Leitha, but the Slavs were never again, so long as the monarchy survived, in a position to overthrow the fundamental principles on which it had been placed in 1867.