Page images
PDF
EPUB

the sovereignty. Their idea of the constitution corresponded perfectly to Rousseau's definition of the government of Poland, “where the nobles are every thing, the burghers nothing, and the peasants less than nothing." Their only scheme of political conduct was to allow of no innovation in the ancient customs of the Magyars, and to manifest constant jealousy of the house of Austria, whose interests coincided with those of the oppressed peasants and of the subject races of the population, inasmuch as these ancient customs obstructed the political influence of all three. It suited the untitled nobles to declare, that they were contending for the ancient liberties of Hungary, when in fact they were opposing the emancipation of the peasants, and endeavoring to prevent the subject Sclavonians and Wallachians from breaking their chains.

It was natural, therefore, that while Széchény and the old liberal party, the constitutional opposition in the Diet, were gradually attracted towards the ministerialists because the ministry favored their plans of social amelioration, a new and more radical party should be formed behind them, whose politics consisted merely in inflexible resistance to the crown and in opposition to Austrian influence on all occasions. Count Bathiany was the first leader of this new party; but their course soon became too violent and excessive to be favored by any magnate, and his influence was superseded by that of Paul Nagy and Kossuth, two radical deputies who had become distinguished by their powers in debate. The latter of these is not even a Magyar by birth, but a Magyarized Slowack lawyer, who attended the Diet of 1836 in the very humble capacity of secretary of one of its members. He soon distinguished himself by publishing a manuscript journal of the proceedings, (a printed one being prohibited by the censorship,) which journal was actually copied by hand, and circulated in considerable numbers through the country. Some of his other publications transgressed the bounds of law more openly, so that he was apprehended and imprisoned for a time. When released, his popularity having grown through the persecution he had suffered, he was chosen a deputy, and became of course a more flaming patriot than

His extraordinary eloquence led captive the minds of his hearers, so that, after the revolution, he acquired the entire

ever.

control of the Diet, and was finally appointed Supreme Dictator of Hungary during the war. In fact, Kossuth's party, ever since it was organized, has been endeavoring to effect a complete separation of Hungary from Austria, the preservation of feudal privileges and the domination of the Magyar race being of more importance in their eyes than the promotion of the commercial and other material interests of the country and the intellectual cultivation of its people. Széchény and his friends, on the other hand, aware that Hungary would be thrown into an isolated and semibarbarous position if cut off from its present political connection with central and western Europe, have aimed to secure the assistance of Austria in developing the resources of the kingdom, adapting its institutions to the spirit of the age, and diffusing intelligence and refinement among its inhabitants. This party, and the magnates generally, seem to have remained passive during the late revolutionary war; one of the Esterhazys is the only titled noble who appears to have acted with the insurgents.

The question of language has had more influence than any other on the politics of Hungary for the last thirty years. In a country where there was so great confusion of tongues, it was absolutely necessary that some one language should be chosen for a universal medium in matters of government and legislation. The Latin has long been adopted for this purpose, its use having come down from the Middle Ages, when it was the general medium of learning throughout Europe, and its preservation in Hungary so long after it was abandoned elsewhere being due to the rivalry of different nationalities, two or three of which have been offended by the selection of any living language. The Latin was neutral ground, on which the German, the Magyar, the Sclavonian, and the Wallachian could meet without cause of offence. Joseph II. of Austria, a philosophical schemer who projected many excellent reforms, but spoiled them all by an excessive love of system and uniformity, and by a want of tact and discretion in carrying them out, nearly caused a rebellion in Hungary by undertaking to make the German language universal there; he required it to be used in all public acts, in all schools and seminaries of education, in civil offices, and in military command. The haughty Magyars had been already offended by the contempt he had manifested for their peculiar institutions ;

he had altered the organization of the comitats, or counties, those little federal republics first established by St. Stephen ; he had refused to be crowned king of Hungary, and had even carried away the golden crown from Buda to Vienna; he had attempted to impose taxes on the nobles. These things they had borne, though sulkily; but when he attempted to supplant their noble language by the hated German, the spirit of the nation was effectually roused, and their resistance became so menacing that he was obliged to revoke all his reforms, and reëstablish Magyarism throughout Hungary. As he was not crowned at Buda, his acts were considered null, and they do not now appear on the statute book of the kingdom.

The Magyars had thus vindicated the respect due to their own vernacular tongue, but they were not willing to respect the language and the national feeling of others. By constantly pressing the Austrian government on this point ever since 1800, they had at last succeeded in causing the Latin to be supplanted by the Magyar language in the deliberations of the Diet and in the acts of the government; this change was not consummated till 1844. The few Sclavonians in the legislature were still allowed, as of necessity, to address the assembly in Latin, and the government officials sometimes spoke German, though they risked their popularity by so doing. Having carried this point against the imperialists, the Magyars attempted to impose their language upon the subject races, and to oblige them to use it

upon sions. The schoolmasters and the clergy, in every province and every village, though it might be inhabited exclusively by Sclavonians and Wallachians, were ordered to teach and to preach only in the Magyar tongue. This law created great irritation everywhere, but especially in Croatia. This province is in the same situation with regard to Hungary, that Hungary holds in respect to Austria. Together with its sister province of Sclavonia, it has a diet of its own, which meets at Agram, and is allowed to send three representatives to the general Hungarian Diet at Presburg or Pesth. The chief of these two provinces, who is styled the Ban of Croatia, holds the same relative position that the Palatine does in Hungary; he is responsible directly to the emperor, is chosen by the Croatian Diet, and claims to act independently of the Palatine. The Croats were very willing to abandon the Latin

all occa

for the sake of their own language, but not for the purpose of speaking the Magyar. They echoed back with one voice the declaration of their Diet, nolumus Magyarisari. The national feeling was effectually roused on this subject, and the Hungarian law was reprobated as both insulting and injurious. The Slowacks of the north of Hungary united with them in resistance to the law; and the Sclavonians generally were attracted towards the emperor, and sought, by increasing the influence of Austria, to erect for themselves a barrier against the haughty dominion of the Magyars. Ever since 1830, the deputies of Croatia in the Hungarian Diet have acted with the Austrian ministry, and supported the propositions of the Crown.

Croatia has been aptly called the Ireland of Hungary, and M. Louis Gaj aspires to play the part of its O'Connell. He began his career of agitation in 1835, striving to awaken the national feelings of the Illyrians, and to stir up hostility to the Magyars, the “Saxons” who for centuries have oppressed these honest “Celts.” Hoping ultimately to make Croatia wholly independent of Hungary, he began with the simple project of defending the language and the local liberties of his country against the encroachments and the centralizing spirit of the Magyars. His movements were at first tolerated, and even countenanced, by Austria, who hoped to find in the awakened energy and resolution of the Sclavonians the means of holding the Hungarians in check, and a pretence for refusing some of their increasing demands. But the agitation throughout the Illyrian provinces, fanned by the skilful proceedings of M. Gaj, had reached so great a height in 1845, that the Austrian government deemed it necessary to adopt some measures to stay its force. On occasion of a trifling tumult at the elections held in Agram, the Ban Haller ordered the troops to fire on the people, and a number of them were killed ; among whom were some young men of respectable families, devoted friends of the new movement.

The whole city immediately broke out in insurrection, and Haller, in order to save his authority and his life, was obliged temporarily to give up his office to M. Gaj, who alone had power to stay the tempest.

The patriot leader was too politic to take this occasion for breaking all terms with the Austrian government and engaging

in a desperate war for independence; though his countrymen were unanimous, and their zeal was roused to the highest pitch, he knew they would be overmatched by the power of the empire and by the warlike spirit of the Magyars. He affected, therefore, to represent the affair to Metternich as the result of a plot long meditated against the Illyrians, formed by the Ban Haller in concert with the Hungarians. Delighted to have the matter put in this light, the Austrian minister at once consented to recall Haller, to allow the patriot bishop of Agram to be elected temporary viceroy or Ban, and to relax the censorship so far as to allow the circulation of certain books, till then prohibited, among which was a very bold history of all the Illyrian races, written in the national language by M. Gaj himself. With these concessions, and some others relating to the constitution of the Croatian Diet, the Illyrian agitator returned to Agram to denounce the Magyars more violently than ever. He wished to obtain a military leader for that movement of which he was himself the head, and he found one in Baron Jellachich, a young colonel of the troops on the military frontier, of simple manners and resolute character, devoted to the welfare of Croatia and the advancement of the Sclavonian race, and who has since shown considerable ability as an orator and a diplomatist, no less than as a soldier. The feelings of the Croatians, directed entirely by M. Gaj, were soon manifested so strongly in favor of Jellachich, that the Austrian ministry was forced to approve his election as Ban, which gave him the full control of the troops in the province, and great influence over the Austrian Sclavonians everywhere.

The beginning of this agitation in the Illyrian provinces may be traced back to the scheme developed and advocated several years ago by M. Kollar, a Slowack poet, who proposed to unite all the Sclavonians in Europe under one head, and thus establish a new and powerful empire, which might sway

the destinies of the world. Panslavism was the name given to this project, which has been received with so much favor in Russia and other Sclavonic countries, as to create serious jealousy and uneasiness in Germany. The Sclavonic family constitutes from one third to one half of the whole population of Europe; the Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, two thirds of the Bohemians, one half of the Hungarians, the

« PreviousContinue »