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19: Habsburg Repression

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OF far more political importance than these fluctuating wars of invasion and conquest was the simultaneous Catholic reaction in Hungary. The movement may be said to have begun about 1601, when the great Jesuit preacher and controversialist, Péter Pázmány, first devoted himself to the task of reconverting his countrymen. Progress was necessarily retarded by the influence of the independent Protestant princes of Transylvania in the northern counties of Hungary. Even as late as 1622 the Protestants at the diet of Pressburg were strong enough to elect their candidate, Szaniszló Thurzó, palatine. But Thurzó was the last Protestant palatine, and, on his death, the Catholics, at the diet of Sopron (1625), where they dominated the Upper Chamber, and had a large minority in the Lower, were able to elect Count Miklós Esterházy in Thurzó's stead. The Jesuit programme in Hungary was the same as it had been in Poland a generation earlier, and may be summed up thus: convert the great families and all the rest will follow.ą Their success, due partly to their whole-hearted zeal, and partly to their superior educational system, was extraordinary; and they possessed the additional advantage of having in Pázmány a leader of commanding genius. During his primacy (1616-1637), when he had the whole influence of the court, and the sympathy and the assistance of the Catholic world behind him, he put the finishing touches to his life's labour by founding a great Catholic university at Nagyszombat (1635), and publishing a Hungarian translation of the Bible to counteract the influence of Gáspár Károli's widely spread Protestant version. Pázmány was certainly the great civilizing factor of Hungary in the 17th century, and indirectly he did as much for the native language as for the native church. His successors had only to build on his foundations. One most striking instance of how completely he changed the current of the national mind may here be given. From 1526 to 1625 the usual jubilee pilgrimages from Hungary to Rome had entirely ceased. During his primacy they were revived, and in 1650, only seventeen years after his death, they were as numerous as ever they had been. Five years later there remained but four noble Protestant families in royal Hungary. The Catholicization of the land was complete.

Unfortunately the court of Vienna was not content with winning back the Magyars to the Church. The Habsburg kings were as jealous of the political as of the religious liberties of their Hungarian subjects. This was partly owing to the fact that national aspirations of any sort were contrary to the imperial system, which claimed to rule by right divine, and partly to an inveterate distrust of the Magyars, who were regarded at court as rebels by nature, and therefore as enemies far more troublesome than the Turks. The conduct of the Hungarian nobles in the past, indeed, somewhat justified this estimate, for the fall of the ancient monarchy was entirely due to their persistent disregard of authority, to their refusal to bear their share of the public burdens. They were now to suffer severely for their past misdoings, but unfortunately the innocent nation was forced to suffer with them. Throughout the latter part of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century, the Hungarian gentry underwent a cruel discipline at the hands of their Habsburg kings. Their privileges were overridden, their petitions were disregarded, their diets were degraded into mere registries of the royal decrees. They were never fairly represented in the royal council, they were excluded as far as

ą The jobbágyok, or under-tenants, had to follow the example of their lords; they were, by this time, mere serfs with no privileges either political or religious.


possible from commands in Hungarian regiments, and were treated generally as the members of an inferior and guilty race. This era of repression corresponds roughly with the reign of Leopold I. (1657-1705), who left the government of the country to two bigoted Magyar prelates, György Szelepesényi (1595-1685) and Lipót (Leopold) Kollonich (163l-1707), whose domination represents the high-water mark of the anti-national regimen. The stupid and abortive conspiracy of Péter Zrínyi and three other magnates, who were publicly executed (April 30, 1671), was followed by wholesale arrests and confiscations, and for a time the legal government of Hungary was superseded (Patent of March 3, 1673) by a committee of eight persons, four Magyars and four Germans, presided over by a German governor; but the most influential person in this committee was Bishop Kollonich, of whom it was said that, while Pázmány hated the heretic in the Magyar, Kollonich hated the Magyar in the heretic. A gigantic process against leading Protestant ministers for alleged conspiracy was the first act of this committee. It began at Pressburg in March 1674, when 236 of the ministers were "converted" or confessed to acts of rebellion. But the remaining 93 stood firm and were condemned to death, a punishment commuted to slavery in the Neapolitan galleys. Sweden, as one of the guarantors of the peace of Westphalia, and several north German states, protested against the injury thus done to their coreligionists. It was replied that Hungary was outside the operation of the treaty of Westphalia, and that the Protestants had been condemned not ex odio religionis but crimine rebellionis.

But the liberation of Hungary from the Turks brought no relief to the Hungarians. The ruthless suppression of the Magyar malcontents, in which there was little discrimination between the innocent and the guilty, had so crushed the spirit of the country that Leopold considered the time ripe for realizing a long-cherished ideal of the Habsburgs and changing Hungary from an elective into an hereditary monarchy. For this purpose a diet was assembled at Pressburg in the autumn of 1687. It was a mere rump, for wholesale rekindled the martial ardour of the Turks, and a war party, under the grand vizier Kara Mustafa, determined to wrest from Leopold his twelve remaining Hungarian counties, gained the ascendancy at Constantinople in the course of 1682. Leopold, intent on the doings of his perennial rival Louis XIV., was loth to engage in an eastern war even for the liberation of Hungary, which he regarded as of far less importance than a strip or two of German territory on the Rhine. But, stimulated by the representations of Pope Innocent XI., who, well aware of the internal weakness of the Turk, was bent upon forming a Holy League to drive them out of Europe, and alarmed, besides, by the danger of Vienna and the hereditary states, Leopold reluctantly contracted an alliance with John III. of Poland, and gave the command of the army which, mainly through the efforts of the pope he had been able to assemble, to Prince Charles of Lorraine. The war, which lasted for 16 years and put an end to the Turkish dominion in Hungary, began with the world-renowned siege of Vienna (July 14-Sept. 12, 1683). There is no need to recount the oft-told victories of Sobieski. What is not quite so generally known is the fact that Leopold slackened at once and would have been quite content with the results of these earlier victories had not the pope stiffened his resistance by forming a Holy League between the Emperor, Poland, Venice, Muscovy and the papacy, with the avowed object of dealing the Turk the coup de grâce (March 5, 1684). This statesmanlike persistence was rewarded by an uninterrupted series of triumphs, culminating in the recapture of Buda (1686) and Belgrade (1688), and the recovery of Bosnia (1689). But, in 1690, the third of the famous Kuprilis, Mustafa, brother of Fazil Ahmed became grand vizier, and the Turk, still further encouraged by the death of Innocent XI. rallied once more. In the course of that year Kuprili regained Servia and Bulgaria, placed Tököli on the throne of Transylvania, and on the 6th of October took Belgrade by assault. Once more the road to Vienna lay open, but the grand vizier wasted the remainder of the year in fortifying Belgrade, and on August 18th, 1691, he was defeated and slain at Slankamen by the margrave of Baden. For the next six years the war languished owing to the timidity of the emperor, the incompetence of his generals and the exhaustion of the Porte; but on the 11th of September 1697 Prince Eugene of Savoy routed the Turks at Zenta and on the 13th of November 1698 a peace-congress was opened at Karlowitz which resulted in the peace of that name (Jan. 26, 1699). Nominally a truce for 25 years on the uti possidetis basis, the peace of Karlowitz left in the emperors' hands the whole of Hungary except Syrmia and the territory lying between the rivers Maros, Theiss, Danube and the mountains of Transylvania, the so-called Temesköz, or about one-eleventh of the modern kingdom. The peace of Karlowitz marks the term of the Magyar's secular struggle with Mahommedanism and finally reunited her long-separated provinces beneath a common sceptre.

But the liberation of Hungary from the Turks brought no relief to the Hungarians. The ruthless suppression of the Magyar malcontents, in which there was little discrimination between the innocent and the guilty, had so crushed the spirit of the country that Leopold considered the time ripe for realizing a long-cherished ideal of the Habsburg and changing Hungary from an elective into an hereditary monarchy. For this purpose a diet was assembled at Pressburg in the autumn of 1687. It was a mere rump, for wholesale executions had thinned its numbers and the reconquered countries were not represented in it. To this weakened and terrorized assembly the emperor-king explained that he had the right to treat Hungary as a conquered country, but that he was prepared to confirm its constitutional liberties under three conditions: the inaugural diploma was to be in the form signed by Ferdinand I., the crown was to be declared hereditary in the house of Habsburg and the 31st clause of the Golden Bull, authorizing armed resistance to unconstitutional acts of the sovereign, was to be abrogated. These conditions the diet had no choice but to accept, and, in October 1687, the elective monarchy of Hungary, which had been in existence for nearly seven hundred years, ceased to exist. The immediate effect of the peace of Karlowitz was thus only to strengthen despotism in Hungary. Kollonich, who had been created a cardinal in 1685, archbishop of Kalocsa in 1691 and archbishop of Esztergom (Gran) and primate of Hungary in 1695, was now at the head of affairs, and his plan was to germanize Hungary as speedily as possible by promoting a wholesale immigration into the recovered provinces, all of which were in a terrible state of delapidation.ą

The border counties, now formed into a military zone, were planted exclusively with Croatian colonists as being more trustworthy defenders of the Hungarian frontier than the Hungarians themselves. Moreover, a neo-acquista commissio was constituted to inquire into the title-deeds of the Magyar landowners in the old Turkish provinces, and hundreds of estates were transferred, on the flimsiest of pretexts, to naturalized foreigners. Transylvania since 1690 had been administered from Vienna, and though the farce of assembling a diet there was still kept up, even the promise of religious liberty, conceded to it on its surrender in 1687, was not kept. No wonder then if the whole country was now seething with discontent and only awaiting an opportunity to burst forth in open rebellion. This opportunity came when the emperor, involved in the War of the Spanish Succession, withdrew all his troops from Hungary except some 1600 men. In 1703 the malcontents found a leader in Francis Rákóczy II., who was elected prince by the Hungarian estates on the 6th of July 1704, and during the next six years gave the emperor Joseph I., who had succeeded Leopold in May 1705, considerable anxiety. Rákóczy had often as many as 100,000 men under him, and his bands penetrated as far as Moravia and even approached within a few miles of Vienna. But they were guerillas, not regulars, they had no good officers, no serviceable artillery, and very little money; and all the foreign powers to whom Rákóczy turned for assistance (excepting France, who fed them occasionally with paltry subsidies) would not commit themselves to a formal alliance with rebels who were defeated in every pitched battle they fought. On the other hand, if the Rákóczians were easily dispersed, they as quickly reassembled, and at one time they held all Transylvania and the greater part of Hungary. In the course of 1707 two Rákóczian diets even went so far as formally to depose the Habsburgs and form an interim government with Rákóczy at its head, till a national king could be legally elected. The Maritime Powers, too, fearful lest Louis XIV. should materially assist the Rákóczians and thus divert part of the emperor's forces at the very crisis of the War of the Spanish Succession, intervened, repeatedly and energetically, to bring about a compromise between the court and the insurgents, whose claims they considered to be just and fair. But the obstinate refusal of Joseph to admit that the Rákóczians were anything but rebels was always the insurmountable object in all such negotiations. But when, on the 7th of April 1711, Joseph died without issue, leaving the crown to his brother the Archduke Charles, then fighting the battles of the Allies m Spain, a peace congress met at Szatmár on the 27th of April, and, two days later, an understanding was arrived at on the basis of a general amnesty, full religious liberty and the recognition of the inviolability of the ancient rights and privileges of the Magyars.

Thus the peace of Szatmár assured to the Hungarian nation all that it had won by former compacts with the Habsburgs; but whereas hitherto the Transylvanian principality had been the permanent guardian of all such compacts, and the authority of the reigning house had been counterpoised by the Turk, the effect and validity of the peace of Szatmár depended entirely upon the support it might derive from the nation itself. It was a fortunate thing for Hungary that the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succession introduced a new period, in which, at last, the interests of the dynasty and the nation were identical thus rendering a reconciliation between them desirable. Moreover, the next century and a half was a period of domestic tranquillity, during which Hungary was able to repair the ruin of the long Turkish wars, nurse her material resources, and take the first steps in the direction of social and political reform. The first reforms, however, were dynastic rather than national. Thus, in 1715, King Charles III.˛ persuaded the diet to consent to the. establishment of a standing army, which - though the diet reserved the right to fix the number of recruits and vote the necessary subsidies from time to time - was placed under the control of the Austrian council of war, The same centralizing tendency was shown in the administrative and judicial reforms taken in hand by the diet of 1722. A Hungarian court chancery was now established at Vienna, while the government of Hungary proper was committed to a royal stadholdership at Pressburg. Both the chancery and the stadholdership were independent of the diet and responsible to the king alone, being, in fact,

ą E.g., in Esztergom, the primatial city, there were only two buildings still standing.

˛ Charles VI. as emperor.


his executive instruments. It was this diet also which accepted the Pragmatic Sanction, first issued in 1713, by which the emperor Charles VI, in default of his leaving male heirs settled the succession to his hereditary dominions on his daughter Maria Theresa and her heirs. By the laws of 1723, which gave effect to the resolution of the diet in favour of accepting the principle of female succession, the Habsburg king entered into a fresh contract with his Hungarian subjects, a contract which remained the basis of the relations of the crown and nation until 1848. On the one hand it was declared that the kingdom of Hungary was an integral l)art of the Habsburg dominions and inseparable from these so long as a male or female heir of the kings Charles, Joseph and Leopold should be found to succeed to them. On the other hand, Charles swore, on behalf of himself and his heirs, to preserve the Hungarian constitution intact, with all the rights, privileges, customs, laws, &c., of the kingdom and its dependencies. Moreover, in the event of the failure of a Habsburg heir, the diet reserved the right to revive the "ancient, approved and accepted custom and prerogative of the estates and orders in the matter of the election and coronation of their king."

The reign of Charles III. is also memorable for two Turkish wars, the first of which, beginning in 1716, and made glorious by the victories of Prince Eugene and János Pálffy, was terminated by the peace of Passarowitz (July 21, 1718), by which the Temesköz was also freed from the Turks, and Servia, Northern Bosnia and Little Walachia, all of them ancient conquests of Hungary, were once more incorporated with the territories of the crown of St Stephen. The second war, though undertaken in league with Russia, proved unlucky, and, at the peace of Belgrade (Sept. 1, 1739), all the conquests of the peace of Passarowitz, including Belgrade itself, were lost, except the bánát of Temesvár.

With Maria Theresa (1740-1780) began the age of enlightened despotism. Deeply grateful to the Magyars for their sacrifices and services during the War of the Austrian Succession, she dedicated her whole authority to the good of the nation, but she was very unwilling to share that authority with the people. Only in the first stormy years of her reign did she summon the diet; after 1764 she dispensed with it altogether. She did not fill up the dignity of palatine, vacant since the 26th of October 1765, and governed Hungary through her son-in-law, Albert of Saxe-Teschen. She did not attack the Hungarian constitution; she simply put it on one side. Her reforms were made not by statue, but by royal decree. Yet the nation patiently endured the mild yoke of the great queen, because it felt and knew that its welfare was safe in her motherly hands. Her greatest achievement lay in the direction of educational reform. She employed the proceeds of the vast sums coming to her from the confiscation of the property of the suppressed Jesuit order in founding schools and colleges all over Hungary. The kingdom was divided into ten educational districts for the purpose, with a university at Buda. Towards All her Magyars, especially the Catholics, she was ever most gracious; but the magnates, the Batthyánis, the Nádasdys, the Pálffys, the Andrássys, who had chased her enemies from Bohemia and routed them in Bavaria enjoyed the lion's share of her benefactions. In fact, most of them became professional courtiers, and lived habitually at Vienna. She also attracted the gentry to her capital by forming a Magyar bodyguard from the cadets of noble families. But she was good to all, not even forgetting the serfs. The úrbéri szabályzat (feudal prescription) of 1767 restored to the peasants the right of transmigration and, in some respects, protected them against the exactions of their landlords.

Joseph II. (1780-1790) was as true to the principles of enlightened despotism and family politics as his mother; but he had none of the common sense which had led her to realize the limits of her power. Joseph was an idealist and a doctrinaire, whose dream was to build up his ideal body politic; the first step toward which was to be the amalgamation of all his dominions into a common state under an absolute sovereign. Unfortunately, the Hungarian constitution stood in the way of this political paradise, so Joseph resolved that the Hungarian constitution must be sacrificed. Refusing to be crowned, or even to take the usual oaths of observance, he simply announced his accession to the Hungarian counties, and then deliberately proceeded to break down all the ancient Magyar institutions. In 1784 the Language Edict made German the official language of the common state. The same year he ordered a census and a land-survey to be taken, to enable him to tax every one irrespective of birth or wealth. Protests came in from every quarter and a dangerous rebellion broke out in Transylvania; but opposition only made Joseph more obstinate, and he endeavoured to anticipate any further resistance by abolishing the ancient county assemblies and dividing the kingdom into two districts administered by German officials.

In taking this course Joseph made the capital mistake of neglecting the Machiavellian maxim that in changing the substance of cherished institutions the prince should be careful to preserve the semblance. In substance the county assemblies were worse than ineffective: mere turbulent gatherings of country squires and peasants, corrupt and prejudiced, representing nothing but their own pride of race and class; and to try and govern without them, or to administer in spite of them, may have been the only expedient possible to statesmen. But to the Magyars they were the immemorial strongholds of their liberties, the last defences of their constitution, and the attempt to suppress them, which made every county a centre of disaffection and resistance, was the action not of a statesman, but of a visionary. The failure of Joseph's "enlightened" policy in Hungary was inevitable in any case: it was hastened by the disastrous Turhish war of 1787-92, which withdrew Joseph altogether from domestic affairs; and on his death-bed (Feb. 22, 1790) he felt it to be his duty to annul all his principal reforms, so as to lighten the difficulties of his successor.

Leopold II. found the country on the verge of revolution • but the wisdom of the new monarch saved the situation and won back the Magyars. At the diet of 1790-1791 laws were passed not only confirming the royal prerogatives and the national liberties, but leaving the way open for future developments. Hungary was declared to be a free, independent and unsubjected kingdom governed by its own laws and customs. The legislative functions were to be exercised by the king and the diet conjointly and by them alone. The diets were henceforth to be triennial, and every new king was to pledge himself to be crowned and issue his credentialsą within six months of the death of his predecessor. Latin was still to be the official language, but Magyar was now introduced into the university and all the schools. Leopold's successor Francis I. (1792-1835) received a declaration of war from the French Legislative Assembly immediately on ascending the throne. For the next quarter of a century he, as the champion of legitimacy, was fighting the Revolution on countless battle-fields, and the fearful struggle only bound the Magyar nation closer to the Habsburg dynasty. Ignáz József Martinovics (1755-1795) and his associates, the Hungarian Jacobins, vainly attempted a revolutionary propaganda (1795), and Napoleon's mutilations of the ancient kingdom of St Stephen did not predispose the Hungarian gentry in his favour. Politically, indeed, the whole period was one of retrogression and stagnation. The frequent diets held in the earlier part of the reign occupied themselves with little else but war subsidies: after 1811 they ceased to be summoned. In the latter years of Francis I. the dark shadow of Metternich's policy of "stability" fell across the kingdom and the forces of reactionary absolutism were everywhere supreme. But beneath the surface a strong popular current was beginning to run in a contrary direction. Hungarian society not unaffected by western Liberalism, but without any direct help from abroad, was preparing for the future emancipation. Writers, savants, poets, artists, noble and plebeian, layman and cleric, without any previous concert, or obvious connexion, were working towards that ideal of political liberty which was to unite all the Magyars. Mihály Vörösmarty, Ferencz Kölcsey, Ferencz Kazinczy and his associates, to mention but a few of many great names, were, consciously or unconsciously, as the representatives of the renascent national literature, accomplishing a political mission, and their pens proved no less efficacious than the swords of their ancestors.

ą Litterae credentiales, nearly equivalent to a coronation oath.


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