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THE POLITICAL SITUATION IN
AUSTRIA AND HUNGARY

It has always been admitted in England as an unquestionable fact that the Balance of Power in Europe necessitates the existence of a strong State in the centre of Europe, on the spot where the dual monarchy of the Habsburgs has been built up in the course of centuries, not so much by conquest as by well-planned marriages, in accordance with the old Habsburgian maxim : Bella gerant alii, tu, felix Austria, nube. As a matter of fact, women's goodwill played a great part in the growth of the Habsburgian power ever since the time of Margaret, known as “Maultasche,” which nickname showed that her beauty indeed was questionable, but that in the opinion of Rudolph of Habsburg the Tyrol was worth having. The dynasty owes the crown of Hungary also to a woman : to Mary, widow of Louis II., King of Hungary, who was killed at the battle of Mohacs, and sister of Ferdinand Duke of Austria, who married King Louis' sister. Queen Mary was quite prepared to buy the votes of the most influential Hungarian magnates, which unfortunately were for sale, and Ferdinand was elected King of Hungary. Besides the chink of golden coin which sounded pleasant in the ears of the magnates, a further inducement was provided by the fact that it sounded well at that time that the younger brother of the most powerful Sovereign of Europe (the Emperor Charles V.) should be called upon to defend Hungary against the Turkish invasion. This, however, he scarcely ever attempted to do, and Hungary was simply looked upon as a buffer, good enough for the purpose of attenuating the shock of Turkish power against Imperial Germany. Twelve times during his reign Ferdinand broke faith with the Hungarian Constitution ; and while Transylvania, Sclavonia, Croatia, and two-thirds of Hungary were lost to the Kingdom, the rest was preserved only by the payment of an annual tribute to the Porte. Yet, had he wished it, Ferdinand would have been in a position to effectively promote the defence of his Hungarian Kingdom; for at that time the power of the Habsburg dynasty reached its apogee. The preponderance of the Emperor Charles V. completely upset the balance of power in Europe; and that proud Sovereign, who waged a destructive war merely out of spite because he was knocked out of his saddle in a friendly tournament by the lance of King Francis I. of France, would certainly have scorned the idea that his descendant, the Emperor and King Francis-Joseph (whom misfortune has made wise, and age has made benignant), should thereafter become the chief guarantee of the balance of power in Europe. Notwithstanding the personal qualities of Francis-Joseph developed by a long series of trials inflicted by fate, and notwithstanding his love of peace and the respect he personally shows for the laws he has sanctioned (in which respect he is unique in his long ancestral line), the exceptional patience which the “Kaiser" shows towards his Austrian subjects, to whom he gave such freedom as they never enjoyed before, has not had the effect of promoting public peace in Austria. On the contrary since a year or more there seems to be a competition between the Vienna “Reichsrath” and the Parliament in Budapest as to which of the two shall be the more successful in bringing the normal transaction of State affairs to a deadlock. The reason for this condition differs widely in Austria and in Hungary; yet in both cases they so clearly derive their essential origin from the natural development of events, that there is no chance of any permanent settlement taking place either in Austria or in Hungary, unless certain transformations are effected in both countries. Unfortunately, however, the traditions of the dynasty still make a desperate stand against the introduction of these modifications, although it is clear that it would be to the interest of the Habsburgs not to oppose what looks like the irresistible development of the logic of history, but rather to hasten the conclusion, in order that a natural compromise may as soon as possible be effected between an apparently unalterable situation and the interests of the dynasty, to which both Austria and Hungary are bound by the ties of law and tradition. At present there is no evidence of the existence of any subversive tendency nor of any want of loyalty towards the dynasty, except perhaps in the case of a few men who wear cornflowers in their button-holes in Vienna—an innocent trick, which is not likely to endanger the throne of Francis-Joseph, who, though certainly he was not liked in his youth, is universally respected in his old age. It would be impossible to attempt to give an insight into the reasons of what has been taking place for some time past in Budapest and in Vienna without giving some historical and legal explanations which may perhaps not be entirely devoid of interest, more especially as I may take it for granted that the English public still takes an interest in the affairs of Hungary and Austria, though perhaps that interest is not so great, nor is it of the same nature, as that which was felt for Hungary immediately after that gallant nation had failed in its struggle for national independence, and at the time when Louis Kossuth came to England to lay his hand on the heart of the English people, and to find that it beat strong and true for the cause of freedom and humanity. In our day there is a strong notion abroad that England has an interest in the affairs of Eastern Europe on which the state of Hungary and Austria may exercise considerable influence ; and this explains why the English daily press follows so closely the development of events in the realms of the Habsburg Monarchy. I suppose that every man in England can be made to see the following fact clearly ; namely, that the power of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy is weakened by the permanent want of internal peace, by the strife of the different nations and races which are comprised in the abstract conception of Imperial Austria. As a matter of fact Austria is nothing more or less than a small province, partly prosperous and partly picturesque, with which Bohemia, Galicia, Moravia, Styria, Tyrol, &c., have nothing in common. The inhabitants of these provinces of the Empire (some of which were independent and powerful States for centuries) would revolt at the idea that they should rank as part and parcel of an imaginary non-existent “Austrian nation.” The title itself of “Emperor of Austria” has not, perhaps, been very happily chosen. To the inhabitants of the so-called Empire of Austria it produces about the same effect as it may be supposed would be produced in the case of the English, the Scotch, and the Irish, if through some extraordinary circumstance the King of Great Britain and Ireland suddenly decided to call himself “King of Wales,” and demanded that his subjects should henceforth be considered Welshmen. Such a pretension would hardly do in England, and its equivalent has never succeeded in Austria. The fact is that the denomination “Emperor of Austria” is only ninety-eight years old ; the title having been assumed by the Emperor Francis II. when Napoleon I. abolished the fiction of the “Holy Roman Empire,” and Francis II. ceased to be Emperol of Germany. An imperial title had to be found somewhere, and there was much ado about it. The first title proposed was that of Emperor of Hungary; but the Hungarians protested

energetically against it, out of allegiance to the Apostolic crown of Saint Stephen. The next title suggested was that of Emperor of Pannonia ; but fortunately it was soon discarded : indeed it would have amounted to a historical blunder ; besides, it would have been rather theatrical, savouring somewhat of Offenbach's Grand-Duke of Geroldstein. Finally, the imperial title was taken from the small province of Austria, of which the Habsburgs had been Dukes long before they became Kings of Hungary and of Bohemia. The ruling House of Austria appears to have been always predestined to climb to higher rank, and to attain to more exalted titles ; and certainly the Habsburgs did all they could to promote this tendency. No scion of the long line of Habsburgs was so bent upon this as the restless Duke Rudolph IV., whose first trouble was that he had no right to wear a golden cross at the top of his ducal sable cap: a privilege which he ultimately obtained from the Emperor of Germany. This success seems to have encouraged him, and historians have discovered to their astonishment that he ordered imaginary letters-patent to be drawn up (in imitation of those which the most ancient “Kings of Germany ” used to grant), and that these forged letters conferred exceptional privileges on Austria and its Dukes. The Emperor Charles IV. was taken in, and was on the point of recognising the authenticity of these “pseudo-ancient" letters patent, when Petrarch, the famous Italian poet and envoy, revealed the plot. Charles IV. was indignant, and we are bound to suppose that Rudolph IV. felt rather ashamed ; but this did not prevent his using, on the basis of the imaginary letters-patent, the title of Archduke in all his relations with other rulers except his suzerain the Emperor, and King Louis the Great of Hungary, who was reputed the finest knight of his age, in whose presence Rudolph had a somewhat awkward feeling. The House of Austria having climbed to the highest rank, it was easy to obtain for it general recognition ; but it was less easy to create an Austrian “nation.” The high-sounding title of Emperor of Austria has remained therefore meaningless to this day. Indeed, no power on earth would induce a Czech, for instance, to feel that he belongs to the Austrian “nation.” He is an Austrian subject because he cannot help himself, but he is a Bohemian and not an Austrian. He proudly remembers that Bohemia was powerful and its kings were mighty even when the Habsburgs were but simple lords of their small castle in Switzerland, where, being poor, they used to escort with their men-at-arms the German merchants, who paid them for their services for fear of the robber-lords who infested all Germany. The Bohemian remembers that the Kings of Bohemia of the House of Luxemburg sat on the Imperial throne; that King Ottokar besieged the first Habsburg “Kaiser” in Vienna, and that the Bohemian knights would have killed him at Dürnkrut had not Ladislas King of Hungary come to his rescue, for which service the crafty Emperor paid by trying to deprive Ladislas' kingdom of its independence. Bohemia was never conquered by the Habsburgs; the crown of Saint Wenceslas was placed freely and by election on the head of that same Ferdinand who managed to become King of Hungary also. That monarch pledged his oath to the Bohemian Diet to keep the laws and to defend the independence of Bohemia; but twenty-one years later he abrogated the old Bohemian Constitution at the meeting of the Diet of the land known as “the bloody Diet,” for the reason that he caused all those who stood up for the laws of their country to be killed. This, however, was only a preliminary to what Ferdinand II. did with Bohemia, who had the half of the population of the kingdom exterminated because of their Protestant religion. This frightful blood-letting sent Bohemia to sleep for over two centuries; but the light of freedom which dawned on Austria after the Imperial defeat of 1866 caused Bohemia to awake, and no such bleeding, such debilitating narcotic, as Ferdinand II. administered in 162o can be repeated in the twentieth century, even if there were any disposition to attempt it, which there certainly is not. The case of Bohemia shows how matters stand in Austria. On the one hand we find the Imperial power and traditions as strictly German as ever. The Emperor and those who surround him persistently fail to see that it is useless to try to keep up the German character of the Austrian Empire since the day that it was excluded from Germany, and in view of the fact that the German minority of Austria no longer has the big German world to back it up. The Germans of Austria themselves share the illusions of the Court, and will not get used to the idea that the days of German hegemony are over. On the other hand, we find the Sclavonic races of Austria, which represent racial conglomerations of power and historical importance in the past, and are perfectly conscious of the fact that, taken together, they form the majority of the population of Austria, constituting as they do two-thirds, and the Germans barely one-third, of the total population. The basis of all constitutional government is the rule of the majority; and as the majority in Austria is Sclavonic, it is clear that Austria cannot be governed constitutionally by the German minority against the will of the Sclavonic majority. It is very probable there

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