Austria-Hungary played a prominent part in the overthrow of Napoleon and no wonder Vienna was chosen as the place of deliberations for the resettlement of the map of Europe.
Metternich the Chancellor of Austria gave to Austrian policy that “vigorous and certain direction which enabled him afterwards to boast himself as the conqueror of Napoleon.”
Between 1815 and 1918 Austria- Hungary was ruled by Francis I (1792-1835), Ferdinand I (1835-48) and Francis Joseph I (1848-1918).
- 1. Metternich
- 2. General Policy of Metternich
- 3. Metternich and Germany
- 4. Metternich and Italy
- 5. Metternich and Spain
- 6. Metternich and Russia
- 7. Metternich and Eastern Question
- 8. Metternich and France
- 9. Metternich and Great Britain
- 10. Metternich and Austria and Hungary
- 11. Estimate of Metternich
- 12. Revolutions of 1848-49
- 13. Austria and Italy
- 14. Ausgleich or Compromise of 1867
- 15. Austria-Hungary and the Balkans
Prince Metternich was born in 1773 and he died in 1859. He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and entered the diplomatic service of Austria at a very young age He was able to acquire a lot of diplomatic experience within a short time as he was transferred from one capital to another. When he was hardly 36, he was appointed the Chancellor of Austria and he occupied that position for nearly 40 years when he had to run away from Vienna to England.
Metternich was the central figure not only in Austrian and German politics but also in European diplomacy. He was the most famous statesman produced by Austria in the 19th century He was the prince of diplomats and was thoroughly at ease in the intrigues of the European politics. His vanity knew no bounds.
He felt that the world was resting on his shoulders. To quote him, “My position has this peculiarity that all eyes, all expectations are directed to precisely that point where I happen to be.” Again, “Why among so many million men, must I be the one to think when others do not think, to act when others do not act, and to write because others know not how?” He felt that his death would leave behind a void.
Metternich was the enemy of the French Revolution and all that it stood for. He described it as “the disease which must be cured, the volcano which must be extinguished, the gangrene which must be burnt out with the hot iron, the hydra with jaws open to swallow up the social order” According to him, democracy could “change daylight into darkest night.”
To begin with, he had to play a very difficult role. Napoleon was connected with the royal family of Austria and consequently it was difficult to take action against him. Likewise, Metternich did not want complete collapse of Russia as that was liable to upset completely the balance of power in Europe. No wonder, between 1810 and 1813, Metternich followed the policy of playing off Napoleon and the Czar against each other.
When Napoleon attacked Russia in 1812, Metternich promised him help, but at the same time assured Russia that the Austrian troops would not be used against her. The intervention of Austria in the Battle of Nations in 1813 and in the campaign of 1814 brought about the collapse of Napoleon and made Austria the dominant power among the victorious Allies.
2. General Policy of Metternich:
At the Congress of Vienna (1814-15):
Metternich was given the greatest amount of attention and under him the leadership of Europe passed from France to Austria. He was able to secure as much as could possibly be got for Austria. In exchange for the distant Austrian Netherlands, he got Lombardy and Venetia in Italy. He was able to put the members of the Habsburg royal family on the thrones of Parma, Modena and Tuscany.
In this way, he secured effective control over Italy. Likewise, he secured for his country a dominant position in the affairs of Germany. Austria was to be the controller of the German Diet and without her approval nothing could be done. He was able to create a strong on the frontiers of France so that she might not be able to create any trouble in the future.
Metternich stood for the maintenance of the status quo in Europe. He wanted to make the Vienna Settlement permanent and for that purpose he entered into the quadruple alliance with Prussia Russia and Great Britain. It was decided among the Great Powers to meet from time to time “with a view to discuss the problems facing them and thereby maintain the peace of Europe.” In 1818 was held the first Congress at Aix-la-Chapelle.
An attempt was made to guarantee the territorial status quo as established by the Congress of Vienna but the attempt was unsuccessful on account of the opposition of Great Britain. However, in 1820, the protocol of Troppau was adopted in spite of the opposition of Great Britain.
According to that protocol, the European powers were given the right to interfere in the internal affairs of those States where revolutions took place and those revolutions endangered the safety of other States. The protocol enabled Metternich to police the whole of Europe and crush liberalism and nationalism wherever it raised its head.
It was in pursuance of this policy that Austrit was able to crush the revolts in Naples and Piedmont. Likewise, France was given the mandate to interfere in Spam and restore the Spanish king to absolute power. The era of Congresses ended in 1822 after the Congress of Verona when Great Britain left the Congress on the question of Spain and her American colonies.
However, Metternich had secured what he wanted. Thousands of persons were imprisoned, exiled or executed. Arbitrary government of the worst type was established. Metternich himself was satisfied with the results. He is said to have observed. “I see the dawn of a better day Heaven seems to will it that the world should not be lost.”
3. Metternich and Germany:
In spite of the wishes and efforts of the German patriots a loose confederation was created in Germany as that was the only thing in the interests of Austria. The 39 sovereign States of German Confederation could be used by Austria to serve her own ends Metternich took advantage of the jealousy of the smaller German States against Prussia.
With a view to put a check on the activities of the secret societies in Germany, the Carlsbad Decrees were enacted in 1819. Censorship was imposed on the Press. Universities were to be under State control. A commission was set up to trace out the conspiracies and crush them.
The result of this measure was that the liberty of the people was crushed. The patriots had to work under very difficult circumstances. As a result of the July Revolution in France, there was some unrest in some States of Germany but it was crushed by Metternich. This state of affairs continued up to 1848 when the Metternich regime ended. According to Prof Hayes, “Metternich’s hold on Germany was complete.”
4. Metternich and Italy:
Metternich referred to Italy as merely a “geographical expression.” He got for Austria Lombardy and Venetia which were incorporated into the Austrian empire Members of the Habsburg royal family were to be on the thrones of Parma, Modena and Tuscany In 1815 Metternich entered into a secret alliance by which Austria was to help the ruler of Naples and Sicily in case of necessity.
In 1820, there was a revolt in Naples and its ruler appealed to Austria for help The Austrian troops were sent to Naples and the ruler was restored to absolute power. There was also a revolt in Piedmont in 1821 and the Austrian troops on their way back from Naples crushed that also. To quote Hayes, “Italy was bound hand and foot to the triumphant reactionary chariot of Austria.”
5. Metternich and Spain:
Ferdinand VII was restored in 1815. He followed a reactionary policy and cancelled the liberal constitution of 1812. In 1820, there was a revolution in Spain and the people demanded the restoration of the constitution of 1812.
Ferdinand pretended to agree but he corresponded with the Great Powers to help him. The reactionary Powers of Europe saw the haunting spectre of the revolution in Spain. The result was that the Congress of Verona of 1822 authorised France to intervene in Spain and restore the Bourbon king. Metternich was happy when the French armies entered Spam and restored Ferdinand to absolute power.
6. Metternich and Russia:
To begin with Czar Alexander I held liberal ideas and consequently it was difficult to handle him. However, the ideas of Alexander underwent a change after 1815. In 1815, there was a revolutionary conspiracy among the officers of the bodyguard of the Czar In 1819 Kotzebue, who was suspected to be a Russian spy in Germany, was assassinated. In 1820 Due de Berry of France was murdered.
All these factors frightened Alexander and he was converted to the view that all liberal ideas were dangerous. On the occasion of the Congress of Troppau of 1820 he declared publicly that he was a follower of Metternich. He referred to him as his master and asked him to give him any command. From 1820 to 1825, Alexander was completely under the influence of Metternich. It was on account of this fact that Alexander did not come to the help of the Greeks when the latter revolted against Turkish tyranny.
7. Metternich and Eastern Question:
The Greeks revolted under the leadership of Ypsilanti and they confidently expected help from Russia. Russia hated Turkey and would like to come to the help of the Greeks who professed the same religion as she did. In spite of the community of interests, Alexander was prevailed upon by Metternich to disown Ypsilanti.
The result was that the revolt was put down by the Turks and Metternich had the pleasure of imprisoning Ypsilanti in Austria for seven years The Greeks also revolted in the Morea and the Aegean Islands in 1821. Once again, Alexander was prevailed upon by Metternich not to help them. Metternich cynically remarked that the revolt should be allowed “to bum itself out beyond the pale of civilization.”
8. Metternich and France:
After having brought about the fall of Napoleon Metternich tried to encircle France in an “iron ring”. With that object in view, Belgium and Holland were combined, the Rhineland was given to Prussia and Genoa was given to Piedmont. Metternich was also not unaware of the fact that the revolutionary ideas had issued from France which could be a source of trouble once again.
However, when France paid off the war indemnity in 1818; it was decided to withdraw the allied army of occupation. France was accepted as a member of the Quadraple Alliance which was transformed into the Quintuple Alliance. Metternich was on his guard when a revolution took place in France in 1830.
9. Metternich and Great Britain:
Metternich co-operated with Great Britain in the common task of the overthrow of Napoleon. When that was accomplished, Metternich and Castlereagh co-operated in the Congress of Vienna. Great Britain joined the Quadruple Alliance with Austria and other countries for the purpose of maintaining the status quo. However, differences arose between the two countries on the question of the right of one country to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.
The difference of views was visible in the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818. In 1820, Castlereagh opposed the Protocol of Troppau. Although Castlereagh committed suicide on the eve of the Congress of Verona, Great Britain opposed French intervention in Spain and left the Congress. That led to the break-up of the Congress system. Canning also opposed the Spanish move to re-establish her hold over her colonies in South America. He was assisted by the American Government which enunciated the famous Monroe Doctrine.
10. Metternich of Austria and Hungary :
Metternich followed a reactionary policy in Austria-Hungary. He did all that he could to crush liberalism and nationalism within the country. His conviction was that that was the only policy which was demanded by the circumstances of the Austrian Empire. His was a negative policy and he did not seem to like the role which he was called upon to play.
To quote him “I have come into the world either too early or too late. Earlier I should have enjoyed the age;’ later I should have helped to reconstruct it. Today I have to give my life to propping up mouldering institutions.” Prevention was the keynote of his internal administration. “Govern and change nothing” was the beginning and the end of his programme. To quote him again, “We follow a system of prevention in order that we may not be compelled to follow one of repression.
We are firmly convinced that any concession a government may be induced to make, strikes at the basis of its existence. Concessions properly so called can only have to do with the rights of sovereignty… they can only be made by a sovereign at the expense of the capital of his own existence.” Metternich summed up his own policy in these words. “As for policy, Austria has none….Our policy is exclusively confined to the maintenance of treaties and of public response.” Francis II, the Austrian Emperor, referred to the policy of his government in these words: “I also have my Estates; I have maintained their constitution and do not worry them, but if they go too far, I snap my fingers at them and send them home.” Again, “He who serves me, much teach what I command”.
To achieve his objective, Metternich established the censorship of the press. An elaborate system of espionage was maintained throughout the country. The universities were put under the strict control of the government. Foreign travel was discouraged and every effort was made to segregate Austria from the rest of Europe. Education was at a low level and neither industry nor commerce developed.
According to Karl Marx, “All around frontier wherever the Austrian State touched upon the civilized country a cordon of literary censors was established in connection with the cordon of custom house officials, preventing any foreign book or newspaper from passing into Austria before its contents had been twice or three times thoroughly shift and founded pure of even the slightest contamination of the malignant spirit of the age.”
In spite of his strict measures, Metternich had to admit in 1820 that “Public opinion is absolutely diseased. At Vienna, as at Paris, Berlin and London, in the whole of Germany and Italy as well as in Russia and America, our triumphs are rated as so many crimes, our conquests as so many errors and our projects as so many follies.”
Although Austria seemed to follow “the Chinese principle of immobility,” there was a slow underground movement going on which baffled Metternich’s efforts. “The wealth and the influence of the manufacturing and trading middle-class increased. The introduction of machinery and steam power in manufactures upsets in Austria, as it had done everywhere else, the old relations and vital conditions of whole classes of society; it changed serfs into freemen, small farmers into manufacturing operatives; it determined the old feudal trade corporations and destroyed the means of existence of many of them. The new manufacturing and commercial population came everywhere into collision with the old feudal institutions. The middle-classes, more and more induced by their business to travel abroad, introduced some mythical knowledge of the civilized countries situated beyond the imperial line of customs; the introduction of railways finally accelerated both the industrial and intellectual movements.
There was a dangerous part in the Austrian States establishments, viz., the Hungarian feudal constitution, with its parliamentary proceedings and its struggles of the impoverished and oppositional mass of the nobility against the government and its allies, the magnates. Pressburg, the city of the Hungarian Diet, was at the gates of Vienna. All the elements contributed to create among the middle-class of the towns of a spirit, not exactly of opposition, for opposition was as yet impossible, but of discontent. A general wish was for reforms, more of an administrative than of a constitutional nature ….The reform plans before the stamp of an innocuousness almost amounting to political virginity. A constitution and a free press for Austria were things considered unattainable- administrative reforms, extension of the rights of the Provincial Diets, admission of foreign books and papers and a less severe censorship—the loyal and humble desires of these good Austrians hardly go any further.” (Karl Marx).
When the February Revolution took place in France in 1848, the reins of power were in very feeble hands in Austria. The Emperor was semi-imbecile. Metternich was aged. The counsellors were timid and ignorant. No one was ready to lead to make generous concessions.
There was hesitation and timidity on all sides. During the first fortnight of March 1848, the struggle was over. Students and professors led a demonstration to the Emperor on 12 March 1848 and on 13th March, there was a conflict between the mob and the troops. Ultimately, the troops joined the revolutionaries. Metternich resigned and ran away from the country declaring that a deluge would follow him.
The flight of Metternich was of great importance. It marked the era of the revolution’s glory. The strongest symbol of reaction had fallen so quickly. The man, who for 30 years had gagged the press, cowed or destroyed the parliaments and imprisoned the revolutionaries of Central Europe, was hunted from his capital and the Continent amid the scorn and execration of the world. The fall and flight of Metternich meant that a tide was sweeping over Europe and kings were running before it in terror.
11. Estimate of Metternich:
Metternich dominated the politics of Europe from 1815 to 1848 and no wonder we talk of the Metternich era. For a long time, he decided as to how events were to shape themselves in Europe. In 1824, he stated that “they look for me as Messiah.” However, Metternich had had to admit that he was fighting for a lost cause. According to Gruttwell, Metternich fought a losing game. According to Hayes, in spite of the efforts of Metternich the old regime was doomed and could not be saved. According to Prof Alison Phillips, “For a tired and timid generation, he was a necessary man; and it was his misfortune that he survived his usefulness and failed to recognize that while he himself was growing old and feeble, the world was renewing its youth.”
According to Prof H. A.L. Fisher, the Metternich system “has secured for the Austrian statesman the plaudits of a generation which has recent knowledge of the tribulations of war. Metternich had many attributes of a great political leader, a brilliant and engaging presence, a cool head, a vast comprehension of affairs, a firm and patriotic will. His prestige as a liberator of his country and as the principle artificer of the end Europe was immense; the confidence reposed in him throughout the German-speaking world almost unbounded.
In the counsels of the autocrats, his was the directing mind so that the period between 1815 and 1848 has not unjustly been called the Age of Metternich Yet this accomplished aristocrat, whose morals were so loose, whose principles were so strict and whose influence was so wide, laboured under one of the greatest intellectual disabilities which can vitiate the judgment of a statesman. He saw no mean between revolution and autocracy, and since revolution was odious, he set himself to repress that which is the soul of human life in society, the very spirit of liberty.”
According to Henry A. Kissinger, “It was Austria’s destiny that in its years of crisis it was guided by a man who epitomised its very essence; it was its destiny and not its good fortune, for as in Greek tragedy the success of Clemens Von Metternich made inevitable the ultimate collapse of the State held fought so long to preserve. Like the State he represented, Metternich was a product of an age in the process of being transcended.
He was born in the eighteenth century of which Talleyrand was to say that nobody who lived after the French Revolution would ever know how sweet and gentle life could be. And the certitude of the time of his youth never left Metternich. Contemporaries might sneer at his invocation of the maxims of sound reason, at his facile philosophizing and polished epigrams. They did not understand that it was an accident of history which projected Metternich into a revolutionary struggle so foreign to his temperament. For like the century that formed him his style was adapted better to the manipulation of factors treated as given than to a contest of will better to achievement through proportion than through scale.
He was a Rococo figure, complex, finely carved, all surface, like an intricately cut prism. His face was delicate but without depth, his conversation brilliant but without ultimate seriousness. Equally at home in the saloon and in the Cabinet, graceful and facile, he was the beau ideal of the eighteenth century aristocracy which justified itself not by its truth but by existence. And if he never came to terms with the new age it was not because he failed to understand its seriousness but because he disdained it. Therein too his fate was the fate of Austria.”
Again “The reaction against Metternich’s smug self-satisfaction and rigid conservation has tended for over a century now to take the form of denying the reality of his accomplishments. But a man who came to dominate every coalition in which he participated, who was considered by two foreign monarchs as more trustworthy than their own ministers, who for three years was in effect Prime Minister of Europe, such a man could not be of mean consequence. To be sure, the successes he liked to ascribe to the moral superiority of his maxims were more often due to the extraordinary skill of his diplomacy His genius was instrumental, not creative: he excelled at manipulation, not construction. Trained in the school of eighteenth century cabinet diplomacy, he preferred the subtle manoeuvre to the frontal attack, while his rationalism frequently made him mistake a well-phrased manifesto for an accomplished action.
Napoleon said of him that he confused policy with intrigue, and Hardenberg, the envoy of Hanover at Vienna, wrote the following analysis of Metternich’s diplomatic methods at the height of the crisis of 1812: ‘Endowed with a high opinion of the superiority of his ability…he loves finesse in politics and considers it essential. Since he does not have sufficient energy to mobilize the resources of his country…he attempts to substitute cunning for strength and character…It would suit him best if a fortunate accident—the death of Napoleon or great successes of Russia—were to create a situation where he could let Austria play an important role. Fnednch von Gentz, for long Metternich’s closest associate, has left probably the best capsule description of Metternich’s methods and personality “Not a man of strong passions and of bold measures; not a genius but great talent; cool calm, imperturbable and calculator par excellence.”
About Metternich, Ketelbey says that his personal charm and social gifts, his diplomatic experience and powers, his insight into men, his flair for the niceties of intrigue and the ease with which he handled intricate questions gave him an ascendancy at the Congress of Vienna and later a “moral dictatorship” over Central Europe. He “could swim like a fish in the sparkling whirl-pool” of Vienna, “no one knew so well as he how to carry through a political intrigue between dinner and a masked ball” or to envelop a difficult situation in a golden mist of fine phrases.
Metternich has been attacked on the ground that he was merely an intriguer, an opportunist as “polished dust.” Czar Alexander called him a liar, while liberals and democrats then and since have charged him with obscurantism and reactionaries and hostility to the desires and aspirations of the people. The view of Ketelbey is that Metternich was an Austrian Minister and it was the Austrian interests that determined his policy.
He fully realised that the Austrian Empire consisted of an incoherent congeries of states and dominions accumulated by hereditary bequests of marriage dowry, as the limit of war or diplomacy, in the interests of the balance of power or as a bulwark of Christendom against Turkey.
It was held together by no consistent principle except common obedience to a single law and Metternich fully realised that its equilibrium would be upset by popular or nationalist agitation. Ketelbey says that behind the opportunism and apparent obscurantism of Metternich lay a radical, defensible principle and an authentic historical vision and that was the preservation of the Austrian Empire.
With a clear vision of the new perils, Metternich set himself to suppress the nationalist and democratic movements of Germany and Italy, to counter the aspirations of the people of the Balkans for independence and to check the Czar. At the same time, he tried to build up five-power equilibrium to sustain the European system against the increased weight of Russia and the diminished weight of France.
The aim of Metternich was not so obvious and self-explanatory in peace as in war. It seemed too negative, piecemeal and opportunist and in the end repressive. Metternich knew full well that democracy and nationalism were not likely to succeed as an integrating policy. Therefore, he sought to base Austrian stability on a balanced European society, a general observation of the status quo and an international alliance of like-minded rulers. Metternich was in a real sense the victim or the prisoner of his age.
A thorough cosmopolitan, he saw both the Austrian and European problem in terms of an equilibrium of traditional, historic units. In the international world, his vision was statesmanlike and realist. However, in the Austrian Empire, in Germany and in Italy, such a policy became stultifying and repressive. It chocked the only proper outlet for the vitality of the people. That seems the real charge against Metternich. Ketelbey concludes by saying that the Europe which condemned him enjoyed 40 years of peace that was largely of his making.
About Metternich Professor Alison Phillips says, “At the crisis of Austria’s fortunes, during the final straggle with imperial France when everyone was wavering the sparing or trying to find a way out of a sorry tangle, it was he who had given the Austrian policy the vigorous and certain direction which enabled him afterwards to boast himself the conqueror of Napoleon.” Again, “For a timid and tired generation, he was a necessary man; and it was his misfortune that he survived his usefulness and failed to recognise that while he himself was growing old and feeble, the world was renewing its youth.”
12. Revolutions of 1848-49:
The February Revolution in France profoundly affected the fortunes of Hungary. When the news of the French revolution reached Hungary. Kossuth (1802-94) proposed to address to the Austrian Emperor a demand not only for a responsible ministry but for the “fraternisation of the Austrian peoples” under the leadership of Hungary. In his speech of March 3, 1848, Kossuth observed.
“The suffocating vapour of a heavy curse hangs over us, and out of Charnel house of Cabinet of Vienna a pestilential wind sweeps by, benumbing our senses and exercising a deadening effect on our national spirit. The future of Hungary can never be secured while in other provinces (especially in Vienna) there exist a system of government directly opposed to every constitutional principle.
It is our task to establish a happier future on the brotherhood of all the Austrian races and to substitute for the union enforced by bayonets the enduring bond of a free constitution.” The speech was printed and sold in thousands in Hungary and Austria. The result was that there were demonstration in Vienna in March 1848 and Metternich ran away. After making many concessions, the Austrian Emperor also ran away from Vienna to Innsbruck.
As soon as the news reached Italy of a revolution in Vienna and the flight of Metternich, there was a revolt in Milan and the Austrian Viceroy ran away. The Austrian troops under Radetzky also withdrew from Lombardy. A Republican Government was set up in Venice. The rulers of Parma and Modena also ran away. Charles Albert, the ruler of Piedmont, declared war against Austria in March 1848 There was a great enthusiasm all over Italy to turn out the Austnans from the country. Contingents came from all over Italy to fight against the Austrians. It appeared that all was lost in Italy.
Austria had her hold over Germany since 1815. In March 1848, there was a revolt in Berlin and the king of Prussia put himself at the head of the rebels. The Frankfurt Parliament consisting of representatives from all over Germany met in 1848 to draft a constitution for a united Germany. There was great enthusiasm all over the country and the Austrian control over Germany collapsed.
As regards Hungary, Kossuth, the Hungarian leader, demanded a separate parliamentary government for Hungary and the Austrian Emperor granted the same. Hungary passed the famous March laws which abolished feudalism, serfdom and aristocratic privileges.
There was also a revolt in Bohemia. The Czechs had resented the domination of the Germans and after the revolt in Vienna they presented their demands to the Austrian Emperor, but those demands were not conceded by the Austrian Emperor. The Czechs called a meeting at Prague which was attended by the representatives of the Czechs, Silesians, Poles, Ruthenians, Serbs and Croats. The Czechs of Prague revolted and attacked the palace of the Austrian Military Commander and killed his wife. Peace was purchased by conceding the demands.
There was also another revolutionary movement with its headquarters at Agram. Its object was to unite the Croats, Slovenes and Serbs. Under these circumstances, the condition of Austria-Hungary was very critical and everything seemed to have been lost. However, partly through his own efforts and partly on account of the mistakes of others, Austria was able to re-establish herself.
As regards Italy, Charles Albert was defeated in the Battle of Custozza in July 1848 and thus Lombardy and Venetia were brought under the control of Austria. In March 1849, Charles Albert again declared war against Austria but was again defeated in the Battle of Novara. The Republic of Rome was crushed by the French troops and the Republic of Venice was also defeated by the Austrian troops. Thus, Italy was once again brought under Austrian control.
As regards Germany, the members of the Frankfurt Parliament wasted a lot of their valuable time in academic discussions with regard to the fundamental rights of the people and the boundaries of the new German State After a lot of waste of time, it was decided to offer the throne of Germany to the King of Prussia but the latter refused to accept the same on account of the fear of Austria which had already recovered herself from the shock.
Thus, the movement for the unification of Germany on a democratic basis collapsed in 1850. After refusing the throne offered to him by the Frankfurt Parliament, the King of Prussia persuaded the four kingdoms of Hanover, Saxony, Wurtemberg and Bavaria to form a union with Prussia. Austria opposed the union and ultimately Prussia had to surrender before Austria in 1850 by the Convention of Olmutz.
As regards Hungary, the problem was a difficult one. There Kossuth had become a popular hero not only within Hungary but also throughout Europe. Under his influence during the 1840’s, Magyar had replaced Latin as the exclusive language used in Hungary for laws, Government business and public education. Magyar language became the double protection for the gentry against German imperial officials and Slav nationalists.
This group backed the ideal of Kossuth to make Hungary a Magyar national state although the Magyars were actually in a minority in total population of Hungary. The “March Laws” passed through the Diet by Kossuth provided for Hungarian rule under the nominal kingship of the Habsburgs, with a separate parliament at Budapest elected on a restricted suffrage. The nobility lost their exemption from taxation. The towns were given representation in Parliament.
The new assembly met on 4 July 1848. Within 8 hours of its meeting, Kossuth had to proclaim “the country in danger.” That was due to the fact that the Slav races, encouraged by the Austrians, had revolted in Croatia and Serbia. Kossuth appealed for and was granted the power to raise an army of 200,000 men to enable Hungary to defend herself 40,000 of these soldiers were sent to support Austria on the condition that they were not to be used “against the freedom of the Italian nation.”
By the end of August, General Radetzky had defeated Charles Albert at Custozza and taken Milan and all Lombardy. Windischgratz had crushed Prague. The Austrian Government found itself strong enough to crush Hungary and revoke the “March Laws.” On 11 September the imperial army from Croatia invaded Hungary. Kossuth appealed to the Constituent Assembly of Vienna for help. However, in that Assembly, the German and Slav sentiment combined against Magyar claims and gave the Government a majority.
There was a second mass rising in Vienna in October 1848 with the object of creating a national Germany and a national Hungary. However, the democrats of Vienna were crushed by Windischgratz. In November, Felix Schwarzenberg, the brother-in-law of Windischgratz, was made the Prime Minister of Austria. He had been an adviser of Radetzky in Italy. He was a man of violence and his chief aim was to accumulate power and use the same to restore order and central authority in the Austrian Empire.
In December 1848, Emperor Ferdinand abdicated and Francis Joseph became the Emperor. The new Emperor also stood for the preservation of the prestige and military power of the monarchy. By the end of 1848, the Habsburgs were back in the saddle and the Magyar nationalist movement was doomed.
Faced with anti-Magyar risings of the Slovaks in the North, the Serbs in the South, the Rumanians and Germans in the East and the Croats on the South-West, Kossuth whipped up the Magyar national feeling to frenzy by the end of 1848. Although Windischgratz, in the winter of 1848, advanced into Hungary and even occupied Budapest, he was compelled to withdraw again by April 1849. On 14 April 1849, the Hungarian Parliament deposed the Habsburgs and elected Kossuth as the Governor.
He issued a declaration of Hungarian independence and on 6 June 1849, entered Budapest in triumph. It is maintained that the declaration of independence was a great blunder on the part of Kossuth. He ought not to have openly flouted the authority of Austria. Hungary gained nothing by the declaration of independence but that enabled Austria to ask for the help of Nicholas I, the Czar of Russia Nicholas I and Francis Joseph met at Warsaw on 21 May 1849 and there settled upon the plan of campaign.
The motives of the Czar to intervene in Hungary have been much debated, but they seem to be very simple. A large number of Poles had fought in the Hungarian army and many of them were eminent as generals at the head of it. In March, the Russian troops had entered Transylvania and been expelled by the Hungarian forces.
A Hungarian division had been stationed near the Galician frontier expressly to encourage the Poles to revolt against Austria. The Czar was particularly sensitive about the Poles. His view was that all the sovereigns must unite against the revolutionaries. Czar Nicholas I intervened in Hungary partly to suppress the Polish revolt in the bud and partly to help a brother ruler against the revolutionaries.
Hungary was invaded from three sides. It was invaded by Haynau, the new Austrian commander, from Vienna side. It was invaded by Jellacic from Zagreb. Field Marshal Paskievic crossed the Carpathians and attacked the Hungarians in the rear. Gorgei who had been appointed in December 1848 the commander of the Magyar army, found himself in a very bad position. He was hopelessly outnumbered and hampered by the political necessity of defending Budapest and Komarom.
Though he met with reverses, Jellacic managed to join hands with Haynau by 14 July 1849. On 18 July, the combined Austrian army entered Budapest. The operations were then transferred to the Theiss (Tisza). Gorgei managed to avoid contact with the Russians under Field Mershal Paskievic, but Haynau caught up with the Southern Hungarian army and utterly routed it at Temesvar on 9 August 1849.
Gorgei had anticipated defeat and informed Kossuth at Arad on 10 August that he would surrender if Haynau were victorious at Temesvar. The reply of Kossuth was that if that happened he would himself commit suicide. On 11 August, the news of the disaster at Temesvar arrived and Gorgei prepared to surrender and asked Kossuth to abdicate in order to relieve the political head of the responsibility for surrender. There is a lot of controversy on the question of surrender Kossuth accused Gorgei of deliberately betraying Hungary to the enemy.
The charge seems to be absurd and probably it was put forward as a popular explanation of the defeat of Hungary. There is no doubt that both Kossuth and Gorgei knew that resistance was impossible. Even if Georgei had demanded the autonomy of Hungary, neither Haynau nor Paskievic would have accepted any terms except unconditional surrender on a military basis. On 13 August 1849, Gorgei led over 23,000 troops to the Russians at Vilagos and laid down his arms. Gorgei was the most remarkable of the revolutionary leaders produced by the upheavals of 1848.
It is true that Paskievic wrote to the Czar that “Hungary lies at the feet of your Majesty”, but as a matter of fact, Gorgei’s army and the settlement of Hungary were both handed over to Haynau. It is true that the life of Gorgei was spared as a result of the intervention of the Czar, but 13 of his generals known as “the martyrs of Arad” were shot or hanged.
About 400 officers were imprisoned. Bathyany, who had been Prime Minister of Hungary, and over 100 politicians, were executed. Kassuth himself. Count Julius Andrassy and 74 others were hanged in effigy. All kinds of cruelties were done. The atrocities of the Slav and Ruman guerrillas passed wholly unpunished. Haynau earned the nickname of “Hyena” for his atrocities.
Kossuth had not committed suicide when surrender came. On 17 August 1849, he buried the Hungarian crown near the border town of Orsova and fled to Turkey from Hungary which he never saw again He became an eloquent voice in the wilderness. He possessed a marvellous gift of exciting human emotions in favour of Hungary in the United States and England and that made him first man in Hungary He lived for nearly 50 years and remained irreconcilably anti-Hapsburg.
When Haynau visited England, he was mobbed and severely handled by the draymen of Barclay and Perkins Breweries. Lord Palmerston, the Foreign Minister of England, sympathized with the workmen. It is true that on account of the anger of Queen Victoria, Palmerston offered a perfunctory apology for the rough treatment of Haynau, but extended a very friendly welcome to Kossuth.
That shows the esteem in which Kossuth was held in foreign countries. After his death, the bones of Kossuth were brought back to Hungary in 1902 in the midst of scenes of emotion such as Hungary had never seen. Undoubtedly, he exercised a volcanic and incalculable power. Without Kossuth, there would have been no revolution in Hungary as the conservative forces there were very strong.
13. Austria and Italy:
Reference may be made to the war between Austria on the one hand and France and Piedmont on the other in 1850. Cavour was convinced that this country could be liberated from the Austrian yoke only with the help of a foreign Power whose military strength was as great as that of Austria, It was with that object in view that he entered into a deal with Napoleon III at Plombieres in July 1858.
It was agreed between the parties that while Napoleon III was to help Piedmont to liberate Lombardy and Venetia from Austrian yokes, he would get Nice and Savoy as his compensation, It was in accordance with that agreement that Napoleon III joined Piedmont in the war against Austria in 1859. The Austrians were defeated in the battles of Magenta and Solfenno. However in July 1859, Napoleon III made the Armistice of Villafranca with Austria.
Its terms were ratified by the Treaty of Zurich. Piedmont got Lombardy from Austria and Napoleon did not press his claim for Nice and Savoy. After the withdrawal of the Austrian troops from Lambardy, the people of Tuscany Parma and Modena revolted and turned out their rulers. Ultimately, by the Treaty of Turin (March 1860), France recognised the incorporation of Tuscany, Parma and Modena into Piedmont and got Nice and Savoy as promised in 1858.
In 1866, Italy entered into an alliance with Prussia and fought on the side of Prussia in the Austro- Prussian War of 1866. Although the Italians were defeated in the Battle of Custozza by Austria, yet they got Venetia after the war as their partner smashed the Austrian resistance.
14. Ausgleich or Compromise of 1867:
Reference may be made at this stage to the Compromise of 1867 between Austria and Hungary. It has already been pointed out that the Hungarians were crushed in 1849 by the combined forces of Austria and Russia. After that, a policy of centralisation and absolutism was followed with regard to Hungary. It was officially announced that “the former constitution of Hungary is annulled by the revolution.” The system of local government was superseded and administrative and judicial posts were filled by Austrian officials. German was substituted for Magyar as the State language. Hungary was made a vassal State of Austria.
However, such a state of affairs could not continue long. The war of Italian liberation of 1859-60 proved that Austria was not strong enough to maintain the integrity of her Empire. Many Hungarians joined the enemies of Austria and there was the possibility of a revolt in Hungary. It was realised that a State which was being attacked by outsiders could not afford to fight with its own subjects and consequently the necessity of an understanding with Hungary was felt by Austrian statesmen.
There were differences of opinion with regard to the solution of the difficulty. The German Liberals advocated the maintenance of a unitary and centralised government set up by Schwarzenberg. There were others who stood for a federal form of government. Under these circumstances, many trials were made before a solution acceptable to the parties was arrived at.
The October Charter or Diploma of 1860 restored Hungary to the pre-1848 condition. The five administrative districts were abolished. The Hungarian Diet was restored. The system of local government was also renewed in Hungary. Hungarion officials were appointed in their country. Undoubtedly, the Charter of 1860 paved the way for the reconciliation of Hungary.
However, the Magyars of Hungary were not satisfied with the mere restoration of pre-1848 conditions and institutions. They demanded the enforcement of the March Laws of 1848. On account of the uncompromising attitude of the parties, there was again trouble. The Ministry of Schmerling aimed at centralisation and the maintenance of the territorial integrity of the Austrian Empire and issued in 1861 the February Patent.
The Constitution was framed for the whole of the Austrian Empire and Hungary was reduced to the status of a mere province. No wonder, the Patent was rejected by the Hungarian Diet. Hungary refused to send Deputies to the Reichsrath at Vienna. The watchword of Deak, the Hungarian leader, was “the recognition of the laws of 1848.” The Hungarians maintained that they had been a separate nation for a long time.
They were united with Austria by merely a personal union. The Emperor of Austria became the King of Hungary only when he took an oath to support the fundamental laws of Hungary and was crowned in Hungary with the iron crown of St. Stephen.
The fundamental laws of Hungary were centuries old and were merely affirmed by the March Laws of 1848. No change could be made in those laws without the approval of Hungary. They could not be set aside by a unilateral act on the part of the Austrian Emperor. Hungary was a historic State with definite boundaries which could not be altered by the Austrian Emperor at will.
The deadlock continued from 1861 to 1865. In 1865, negotiations were started to resolve the same. Those were interrupted on account of the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 but were resumed in 1867 and result was the Compromise of same year.
It is stated that after the Austrian defeat of 1866, Deak was asked what Hungary demanded. His reply was “Hungary asks no more after Konnigratz than she asked before it.” The compromising attitude of Deak was helpful to expedite the compromise.
Moreover, Austria was turned out from Germany by the Austro-Prussian war and she must find support in some other quarter so that she may be able to stand against Prussia. That was possible only if Hungary was reconciled. The compromise was accepted by Francis Joseph the Austrian Emperor, and the Parliaments of both the Countries Francis. Francis Joseph was also crowned as the King of Hungary.
The Compromise of 1867 created a curious type of State which was neither federal nor unitary. It set up the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, Austria-Hungary was to consist of two distinct and independent States each of which was equal to the other. They were to have the same flag and the same ruler. However, the latter was to be known as Emperor in Austria and King in Hungary.
Both Austria and Hungary were to have their separate Parliaments, ministries and administrations. Each was to be completely independent in matters of internal administration. However, provision was made for a joint ministry of three department viz., foreign affairs, war and finance. There was no common Parliament for the two countries but provision was made for a system of Delegations.
Parliament of each country was to select a delegation of 60 members and these delegations were required to meet alternately in Vienna and Budapest. These delegations were really committees of the two Parliaments.
They sat and deliberated separately. Each of them used its own language and communicated to the other in writing. Provision was made for a joint session only in the case of a difference of opinion between the two delegations and the matter was to be decided by a majority vote.
Such matters as tariffs and currency system were not put under the control of the joint ministry or the delegations. They were required to be regulated by agreements concluded between the two Parliaments for periods of 10 years and that resulted in a lot of unnecessary tension after every 10 years.
The dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was the only possible solution under the circumstances. Francis Joseph, the Austrian Emperor, was not prepared to make any radical change. The compromise was in keeping with the precedents of the past and was intended to maintain the supremacy of the Emperor although many concessions were made to Magyar nationalism; the compromise had its own advantages. It preserved the unity of military and diplomatic services in which the Austrian Emperor was most interested.
It guaranteed the supreme direction of those affairs by the Emperor himself. It prevented both Austria and Hungary from becoming separate national States. The administrations in Austria and Hungary were dominated by the nobility and the upper middle classes. The Emperor was allowed to exercise an absolute veto over all proposed legislation. He was empowered to retain ministries even when they had not the support of the majority in Parliament.
After 1867 certain differences arose between Austria and Hungary-Austria was progressively industrialised and consequently the manufacturing, commercial and banking interests became very important and competed with the agricultural interests. On the other hand, Hungary remained overwhelmingly agricultural and consequently the industrial interests did not become strong.
However, as a result of the economic disparity between the two parts, there was constant haggling between the two over the proportional contribution which was to be made by each country towards the joint expenses of the empire. The tariff policy of Austria conflicted with that of Hungary and vice versa.
Austria was in favour of giving protection to industries and establishing free trade in the matter of agricultural products. On the other hand, Hungary was in favour of establishing protection for agriculture and free trade in manufactured goods. Alternately, a compromise was arrived at by which protection was given both to industry and agriculture.
The military reforms of 1868 created bitterness between the two countries. The Hungarian government insisted that the Hungarian troops should be officered exclusively by Magyars and command should be addressed to them only in the Magyar language.
Austria did not accept the Hungarian demands and in 1897 Hungary refused to renew the military agreement with Austria. The Emperor was able to maintain the joint army by means of annual decrees. The German language was continued as the official language of command. In 1907, Hungary renewed the military agreement with Austria on account of the dangerous international situation.
Another source of friction was provided by the establishment of a centralised Austro-Hungarian bank at Vienna in 1878. The Hungarians demanded the establishment of separate national banks and were prepared to put up only with a common superintendence. It was agreed that after 1917, every commercial treaty of the dual monarchy with a foreign nation was to be signed, not merely by the joint ministry of foreign affairs, but also by the separate representatives of the Austrian and Hungarian governments.
In spite of its shortcomings, the compromise of 1867 brought certain advantages to both the countries. It was felt that if combined, they could count in the international politics. Their prestige was great and the same was true of their material resources. The joint fiscal arrangements created a wide market for Austrian and Hungarian goods.
Thus, Austrian industry got a privileged market in Hungary and Hungarian agricultural products got a privileged market in Austria. Their joint military forces served to maintain the position and reputation of the Habsburg as a great power. Both Austria and Hungary were afraid of Russia and no wonder they co-operated in supporting a big military establishment.
David Thomson says that the Compromise of 1867 rested on an ingenious effort to evade the principles of national unification and independence. It was a synthetic substitute for nationalisation, not an implementation of it. It consecrated political division and national disunity.
From the point of view of the Habsburg Empire, it was a masterpiece of conciliatory statecraft devised to perpetuate the Empire as a power unit in European politics, to postpone indefinitely the separatist hopes of subject peoples for independence and consolidate the joint predominance of the Germans and Magyars over the dual kingdom. It represented the principle not of unification, but of partition.
It was a partition of territory between the Germans and the Magyars. It accepted and reaffirmed the view that the Austrian Empire was incapable of national unification in the sense in which Italy and Germany were being unified. It may be condemned as leaving to the 20th century a tangle of unresolved problems, as merely papering over the cracks. However it lasted for half a century and it gave Austria-Hungary a period of relative stability at a time when the rest of Central and Eastern Europe was seething with unrest.
It was realistic in the sense that it accepted the undeniable fact that the economic and social development of this area could not support a homogenous nation state. Deak and Beust, who were responsible for the Compromise of 1867, showed a spirit of realism worthy of Cavour or Bismarck, but their services were rendered to an ancient dynastic state and not to the cause of integral nationalism.
Watson says “While it is true to describe the Ausgleich as the logical outcome of the Pragmatic Sanction (1723), subsequent events have nonetheless shown it to rest upon a far more cynical basis than that of a historic evolution. The real motive force which underlies the Dual System is a league between the two strongest races, the Germans and the Magyars, who divided the monarchy between them, and by the grant of autonomy to the two next strongest races, the Poles and Croats; made them their accomplices in holding down the remaining eight.”
The Slavs were in favour of a federal form of government instead of the Dual Monarchy. They stood for the autonomy of all nationalities within the Austrian Empire which could lay claim to “historic rights.” Bohemia was particularly bitter as she left that she was entitled to a better treatment. Thus, it was that the Compromise of 1867 contained within itself the seeds of future discord. The situation in Hungary itself got complicated after 1867.
It is true that Deak acted as a statesman and tried to reconcile the non-Magyar elements in Hungary. He offered the famous ‘blank sheet’ to the Croats and asked them to fill in as they pleased. Croatia was given “complete autonomy in all matters of administration, justice, religion and education, and Croatian is everywhere the language of the legislature and the executive.” Foreign affairs alone remained with the Hungarian Diet to which Croatia was permitted to send 40 members. She was allowed to have her own Diet at Agram.
The law of Nationalities of 1866 attempted to solve the problems of the non-Magyar races in Hungary. While Magyar was made the official language of Hungary in legislature and administration, the use of other languages was allowed in schools, courts of law and establishments. It satisfied “the lawful national claims” of the different races in Hungary. However, the Law of Nationalities remained a dead letter from the very beginning. No effort was made to implement its provisions. On the other hand, no stone was left unturned to Magyarise the non-Magyars in Hungary. That was bound to result in bitterness and the ultimate break-up of Hungary itself.
The compromise of 1867 was not the real solution of the problems facing Austria-Hungary. The other minorities in Austria-Hungary were jealous of the concessions given to Hungary in 1867. No effort was made to reconcile them after 1867. The result was that discontentment continued to grow among them and ultimately brought about the complete disintegration of the Austrian Empire after 1918.
15. Austria-Hungary and the Balkans:
The Balkans were of great importance to the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. That was due to the geographical position of Austria in Europe. She was a landlocked country and stood in need of an outlet to the sea. The Danube River could give Austria access to the sea, but with Constantinople in hostile hands, the advantages of that access were liable to be nullified. Trieste was the Liverpool of the Dual Monarchy and Pola was its Portsmouth.
If Trieste went to Italy and Istria and Fiume went to Italy or Serbia (or Jugoslavia), the naval and commercial position of Austria-Hungary was liable to become desperate. Her position on the Adriatic was exceedingly precarious. Secure in the possession or Brindisi and Valona, Italy had no difficulty in barring the access of Austria-Hungary to the Mediterranean. Montenegro and Serbia were also the rival of Austria-Hungary in the Balkans. Montenegrom had already gained access to the Adriatic Sea although her coast-line was less than 30 miles in extent.
If the dreams of a Jugoslav Empire were realised even partially, the importance of Trieste, Fiume and Pola was bound to be neutralised. These factors were responsible for Austria taking keen interest in the Balkans. Even if she was denied an access to the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea, she thought of finding an outlet to the Aegean Sea. No wonder, there was rivalry and hostility between Austria on the one hand and Russia and Serbia on the other.
Austria-Hungary began to take keener interest in the Balkans after her expulsion from Germany and Italy in 1866. By the Treaty of Berlin of 1878, Austria-Hungary got Bosnia, Herzegovina and the Sanjak of Novi-Bazzar. Novi-Bazzar not only formed a wedge between the Slavs of Serbia and those of Montenegro, but seemed to invite Austria-Hungary towards the Vardar Valley and so on to Salonica.
Up to 1903, the ruling family of Serbia was subservient to Austria-Hungary. However, in that year King Alexander and his queen were murdered in cold blood and the Obrenovic dynasty to which he belonged, was completely extinguished. The Karageorgevic family came to power. The new family was virile and opposed to Austria-Hungary. The result was that tension between Austria-Hungary and Serbia began to increase. It resulted in the “Pig-War” of 1905-6.
This convinced the Serbians that there could be no economic development of their country so long as they did not get a coast-line either on the Adriatic or on the Aegean Sea. Access to the Aegean Sea was out of the question and as regards the Adriatic Sea access was possible only if she got Bosnia and Herzegovina or some of the harbours of Dalmatia.
The Serbs felt that they could get Bosnia and Herzegovina, but they were completely disappointed when in 1908, Austria-Hungary which had been given the right of merely occupying and administering them by the Treaty of Berlin annexed them. This action of Austria was like a declaration of war and there was every possibility of such a war between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.
Military preparations were made in Serbia but she was persuaded by Russia not to precipitate a crisis as Russia was not in a position to fight against Austria and Germany. Germany also declared her determination to stand by the side of her ally. Serbia asked for compensation in the Sanjak of Novi-Bazzar but she got nothing. On the other hand, she was forced to eat the humble pie and declared that she had no claims to Bosnia and Herzegovina and that she accepted their annexation by Austria.
Turkey got some money from Austria-Hungary as compensation and accepted their annexation by Austria. Bulgaria got £50,000,000 from Austria. It was in this way that the Bosnian crisis of 1908-9 was averted. However, that left bitter memories among the Serbians who felt that they had been deprived of their chances of getting Bosnia and Herzegovina.
During the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, Serbia was able to add to her territory and prestige. She was able to strengthen the barrier between Austria-Hungary and Salonica. The Serbian victories during the Balkan wars gave them more of self-confidence and also made them ambitious. Austria could not tolerate the enormous increase in the strength of Serbia and there was every possibility of a clash in 1913. However, that was averted.
But on 28 June 1914, the Serbians murdered Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria in the Bosnian capital of Serajevo. Austria gave an ultimatum to Serbia and after the expiry of the stipulated period, Austria declared war on Serbia. Austria was supported by Germany and Serbia was supported by Russia, France and Great Britain. Thus, the World War I broke out in 1914. Austria Hungary was defeated during the war and she was broken up by the Treaty of St. Germain and the Treaty of Trianon.