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4: The Revolution of 1848

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THE fall of Metternich was the signal for the outburst of the storm, not in Austria only, but throughout central Europe. In Hungary, on the 31st of March, the government was forced to consent to a new constitution which virtually erected Hungary into an independent state. On the 8th of April a separate constitution was promised to Bohemia; and if the petition of the Croats for a similar concession was rejected, this was due to the armed mob of Vienna, which was in close alliance with Kossuth and the Magyars. The impotence of the Austrian government in this crisis was due to the necessity of keeping the bulk of the Austrian forces in Italy, where the news of Metternich's fall had also led to a concerted rising against the Habsburg rule. Upon the fortunes of war in the peninsula depended the ultimate issue of the revolutions so far as Austria was concerned.

The army and the prestige of the imperial tradition were, in fact, the two sheet- anchors that enabled the Habsburg monarchy to weather the storm. For the time the latter was the only one available; but it proved invaluable, especially in Germany, in preventing any settlement, until Radetzky's victory of Novara had set free the army, and thus once more enabled Austria to back her policy by force. The Austrian government, in no position to refuse, had consented to send delegates from its German provinces to the parliament of united Germany, which met at Frankfort on the 18th of May 1848. The question at once arose of the place of the Austrian monarchy in united Germany. Were only its German provinces to be included ? Or was it to be incorporated whole ? As to the first, the Austrian government would not listen to the suggestion of a settlement which would have split the monarchy in half and subjected it to a double allegiance. As to the second, German patriots could not stomach the inclusion in Germany of a vast non-German population. The dilemma was from the first so obvious that the parliament would have done well to have recognized at once that the only possible solution was that arrived at, after the withdrawal of the Austrian delegates, by the exclusion of Austria altogether and the offer of the crown of Germany to Frederick William of Prussia. But the shadow of the Holy Empire, immemorially associated with the house of Habsburg, still darkened the counsels of German statesmen. The Austrian archduke John had been appointed regent, pending the election of an emperor; and the political leaders could neither break loose from the tradition of Austrian hegemony, nor reconcile themselves with the idea of a mutilated Germany, till it was too late, and Austria was once more in a position to re-establish the system devised by her diplomacy at the congress of Vienna.

This fatal procrastination was perhaps not without excuse, in view of the critical situation of the Austrian monarchy during 1848. For months after the fall of Metternich Austria was practically without a central government. Vienna itself, where on the 14th of March the establishment of a National Guard was authorized by the emperor, was ruled by a committee of students and citizens, who arrogated to themselves a voice in imperial affairs, and imposed their will on the distracted ministry. On the 1st of March the government proposed to summon a central committee of local diets; but this was far from satisfying public opinion, and on the 25th of April a constitution was proclaimed, including the whole monarchy with the exception of Hungary and Lombardo-Venetia. This was, however, met by vigorous protests from Czechs and Poles, while its provisions for a partly nominated senate, and the indirect election of deputies, excited the wrath of radical Vienna. Committees of students and national guards were formed; on the 13th of May a Central Committee was established; and on the 1st a fresh insurrection broke out, as a result of which the government once more yielded, recognizing the Central Committee, admitting the right of the National Guard to take an active part in politics, and promising the convocation of a National Convention on the basis of a single chamber elected by universal suffrage. On the 17th the emperor left Vienna for Innsbruck "for the benefit of his health," and thence, on the 20th, issued a proclamation in which he cast himself on the loyalty of his faithful provinces, and, while confirming the concessions of March, ignored those of the 15th of May. The flight of the emperor had led to a revulsion of feeling in Vienna; but the issue of the proclamation, and the attempt of the government to disperse the students by closing the university, led to a fresh outbreak on the 26th. Once more the ministry conceded all the demands of the insurgents, and even went so far as to hand over the public treasury and the responsibility of keeping order to a newly constituted Committee of Public Safety.

The tide was now, however, on the turn. The Jacobinism of the Vienna democracy was not really representative of any widespread opinion even in the German parts of Austria while its loud-voiced Germanism excited the lively opposition of the other races. Each of these had taken advantage of the March troubles to press its claims, and everywhere the government had shown the same yielding spirit. In Bohemia, where the attempt to hold elections for the Frankfort parliament had broken down on the opposition of the Czechs and the conservative German aristocracy, a separate constitution had been proclaimed on the 8th of April; on March the 23rd the election by the diet of Agram of Baron Joseph Jellachich as ban of Croatia was confirmed, as a concession to the agitation among the southern Slavs; on the 18th of March Count Stadion had proclaimed a new constitution for Galicia. Even where, as in the case of the Serbs and Rumans, the government had given no formal sanction to the national claims, the emperor was regarded as the ultimate guarantee of their success; and deputations from the various provinces poured into Innsbruck protesting their loyalty.

To say that the government deliberately adopted the Machiavellian policy of mastering the revolution by setting race against race would be to pay too high a compliment to its capacity. The policy was forced upon it; and was only pursued consciously when it became obvious. Count Stadion began it in Galicia, where, before bombarding insurgent Cracow into submission (April 26), he had won over the Ruthenian peasants by the abolition of feudal dues and by forwarding a petition to the emperor for the official recognition of their language alongside Polish. But the great object-lesson was furnished by the events in Prague, where the quarrel between Czechs and Germans, radicals and conservatives issued on the 12th of June in a rising of the Czech students and populace. The suppression of this rising, and with it of the revolution in Bohemia, on the 16th of June, by Prince Windischgrätz, was not only the first victory of the army, but was the signal for the outbreak of a universal race war, in which the idea of constitutional liberty was sacrificed to the bitter spirit of national rivalry. The parliament at Frankfort hailed Windischgrätz as a national hero, and offered to send troops to his aid; the German revolutionists in Vienna welcomed every success of Radetzky's arms in Italy as a victory for Germanism. The natural result was to drive the Slav nationalities to the side of the imperial government, since, whether at Vienna or at Budapest, the radicals were their worst enemies.

The 16th of June had been fatal to the idea of an independent Bohemia, fatal also to Pan-Slav dreams. To the Czechs the most immediate peril now seemed that from the German parliament, and in the interests of their nationality they were willing to join the Austrian government in the struggle against German liberalism. The Bohemian diet, summoned for the 19th, never met. Writs were issued in Bohemia for the election to the Austrian Reichsrath; and when, on the 10th of July, this assembled, the Slav deputies were found to be in a majority. This fact, which was to lead to violent trouble later, was at first subordinate to other issues, of which the most important was the question of the emancipation of the peasants. After long debates the law abolishing feudal services - the sole permanent outcome of the revolution - was carried on the 31st of August, and on the 7th of September received the imperial consent. The peasants thus received all that they desired, and their vast weight was henceforth thrown into the scale of the government against the revolution.

Meanwhile the alliance between the Slav nationalities and the conservative elements within the empire had found a powerful representative in Jellachich, the ban of Croatia. At first, indeed, his activity had been looked at askance at Innsbruck, as but another force making for disintegration. He had apparently identified himself with the "Illyrian" party, had broken off all communications with the Hungarian government, and, in spite of an imperial edict issued in response to the urgency of Batthyáni, had summoned a diet to Agram, which on the 9th of June decreed the separation of the "Triune Kingdom" from Hungary. The imperial government, which still hoped for Magyar aid against the Viennese revolutionists, repudiated the action of the ban, accused him of disobedience and treason and deprived him of his military rank. But his true motives were soon apparent, his object was to play off the nationalism of the "Illyrians" against the radicalism of Magyars and Germans, and thus to preserve his province for the monarchy; and the Hungarian radicals played into his hands. The fate of the Habsburg empire depended upon the issue of the campaign in Italy, which would have been lost by the withdrawal of the Magyar and Croatian regiments; and the Hungarian government chose this critical moment to tamper with the relations of the army to the monarchy. In May a National Guard had been established; and the soldiers of the line were invited to join this, with the promise of higher pay; on the 1st of June the garrison of Pest took the oath to the Constitution. On the 10th Jellachich issued a proclamation to the Croatian regiments in Italy, bidding them remain and fight for the emperor and the common Fatherland. His loyalty to the tradition of the imperial army was thus announced, and the alliance was cemented between the army and the southern Slavs.

Jellachich, who had gone to Innsbruck to lay the Slav view before the emperor, was allowed to return to Agram, though not as yet formally reinstated. Here the diet passed a resolution denouncing the dual system and demanding the restoration of the union of the empire. Thus was proclaimed the identity of the Slav and the conservative points of view ; the radical "Illyrian" assembly had done its work, and on the 9th of July Jellachich while declaring it "permanent," prorogued it indefinitely "with a paternal greeting," on the ground that the safety of the Fatherland depended now "more upon physical than upon moral force." The diet thus prorogued never met again. Absolute master of the forces of the bánát, Jellachich now waited until the intractable politicians of Pest should give him the occasion and the excuse for setting the imperial army in motion against them.

The occasion was not to be long postponed. Every day the rift between the dominant radical element in the Hungarian parliament and imperial court was widened. Kossuth and his followers were evidently aiming at the complete separation of Hungary from Austria; they were in sympathy, if not in alliance, with the German radicals in Vienna and Frankfort; they were less than half-hearted in their support of the imperial arms in Italy. The imperial government, pressed by the Magyar nationalists to renounce Jellachich and all his works, equivocated and procrastinated, while within its councils the idea of a centralized state, to replace the loose federalism of the old empire, slowly took shape under the pressure of the military party. It was encouraged by the news from Italy, where, on the 25th of July, Radetzky had won the battle of Custozza, and on the 6th of August the Austrian standard once more floated over the towers of Milan. At Custozza Magyar hussars, Croats from the Military Frontier, and Tirolese sharp-shooters had fought side by side. The possibility was obvious of combating the radical and nationalist revolution by means of the army, with its spirit of comradeship in arms and its imperialist tradition.

So early as the beginning of July, Austrian officers, with the permission of the minister of war, had joined the Serb insurgents who, under Stratemirovic; were defying the Magyar power in the bánát. By the end of August the breach between the Austrian and Hungarian governments was open and complete, on the 4th of September Jellachich was reinstated in all his honours, and on the 11th he crossed the Drave to the invasion of Hungary. The die was thus cast, and, though efforts continued to be made to arrange matters, the time for moderate councils was passed. The conservative leaders of the Hungarian nationalists Eötvös and Deák, retired from public life, and, though Batthyáni consented to remain in office, the slender hope that this gave of peace was ruined by the flight of the palatine (September 24) and the murder of Count Lamberg, the newly appointed commissioner and commander-in-chief in Hungary, by the mob at Pest (September 27). The appeal was now to arms; and the fortunes of the Habsburg monarchy were bound up with the fate of the war in Hungary.

Meanwhile, renewed trouble had broken out in Vienna, where the radical populace was in conflict alike with the government and with the Slav majority of the Reichsrath. The German democrats appealed for aid to the Hungarian government; but the Magyar passion for constitutional legality led to delay, and before the Hungarian advance could be made effective, it was too late. On the 7th of October the emperor Ferdinand had fled from Schönbrunn to Olmütz, a Slav district, whence he issued a proclamation inviting whoever loved "Austria and freedom" to rally round the throne. On the 11th Windischgrätz proclaimed his intention of marching against rebellious Vienna, and on the 16th an imperial rescript appointed him a field-marshal and commander-in-chief of all the Austrian armies except that of Italy. Meanwhile, of the Reichsrath, the members of the Right and the Slav majority had left Vienna and announced a meeting of the diet at Brünn for the 20th of October; all that remained in the capital was a rump of German radicals, impotent in the hands of the proletariat and the students. The defence of the city was hastily organized under Bem, an ex-officer of Napoleon; but in the absence of help from Hungary it was futile. On the 28th of October Windischgrätz began his attack; on the 1st of November he was master of the city.

The fall of revolutionary Vienna practically involved that of the revolution in Frankfort and in Pest. From Italy the congratulations of Radetzky's victorious army came to Windischgrätz, from Russia the even more significant commendations of the emperor Nicholas. The moral of the victory was painted for all the world by the military execution of Robert Blum, whose person, as a deputy of the German parliament, should have been sacrosanct. The time had, indeed, not yet come to attempt any conspicuous breach with the constitutional principle but the new ministry was such as the imperial sentiment would approve, inimical to the German ideals of Frankfort, devoted to the traditions of the Habsburg monarchy. At its head was Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, the "army-diplomat," a statesman at once strong and unscrupulous. On the 27th of November a proclamation announced that the continuation of Austria as a united state was necessary both for Germany and for Europe. On the 2nd of December the emperor Ferdinand bound by too many personal obligations to the revolutionary parties to serve as a useful; instrument for the new policy, abdicated, and his nephew Francis Joseph ascended the throne. The proclamation of the new emperor was a gage of defiance thrown down to Magyars and German unionists alike; "Firmly determined to preserve undimmed the lustre of our crown," it ran, "but prepared to share our rights with the representatives of our peoples, we trust that with God's aid and in common with our peoples we shall succeed in uniting all the countries and races of the monarchy in one great body politic."

While the Reichsrath, transferred to Kremsier, was discussing "fundamental rights" and the difficult question of how to reconcile the theoretical unity with the actual dualism of the empire, the knot was being cut by the sword on the plains of Hungary. The Hungarian retreat after the bloody battle of Kápolna (February 26-27, 1849) was followed by the dissolution of the Kremsier assembly, and a proclamation in which the emperor announced his intention of granting a constitution to the whole monarchy "one and indivisible." On the 4th of March the constitution was published; but it proved all but as distasteful to Czechs and Croats as to the Magyars, and the speedy successes of the Hungarian arms made it, for the while, a dead letter. It needed the intervention of the emperor Nicholas, in the loftiest spirit of the Holy Alliance, before even an experimental unity of the Habsburg dominions could be established.

The capitulation of Világos, which ended the Hungarian insurrection, gave Schwarzenberg a free hand for completing the work of restoring the status quo ante and the influence of Austria in Germany. The account of the process by which thus was accomplished belongs to the history of Germany. Here it will suffice to say that the terms of the Convention of Olmütz (November 29, 1850) seemed at the time a complete triumph for Austria over Prussia. As a matter of fact, however, the convention was, in the words of Count Beust "not a Prussian humiliation, but an Austrian weakness." It was in the power of Austria to crush Prussia and to put an end to the dual influence in the Confederation which experience had proved to be unworkable, she preferred to re-establish a discredited system, and to leave to Prussia time and opportunity to gather strength for the inevitable conflict.

In 1851 Austria had apparently triumphed over all its difficulties. The revolutionary movements had been suppressed, the attempt of Prussia to assume the leadership in Germany defeated, the old Federal Diet of 1815 had been restored. Vienna again became the centre of a despotic government the objects of which were to Germanize the Magyars and Slavs, to check all agitation for a constitution, and to suppress all attempts to secure a free press. For some ten years the Austrian dominion groaned under one of the worst possible forms of autocratic government. The failure of the Habsburg emperor to perpetuate this despotic regime was due (1) to the Crimean War, (2) to the establishment of Italian unity, and (3) to the successful assertion by Prussia of its claim to the leadership in Germany. The disputes which resulted in the Crimean War revealed the fact that "gratitude" plays but a small part in international affairs. In the minds of Austrian statesmen the question of the free navigation of the Danube, which would have been imperilled by a Russian occupation of the Principalities, outweighed their sense of obligation to Russia, on which the emperor Nicholas had rashly relied. That Austria at first took no active part in the war was due, not to any sentimental weakness, but to the refusal of Prussia to go along with her and to the fear of a Sardinian attack on her Italian provinces. But, on the withdrawal of the Russian forces from the Principalities, these were occupied by Austrian troops, and on the 2nd of December 1854 a treaty of alliance was signed at Vienna between Great Britain Austria and France, by which Austria undertook to occupy Moldavia and Walachia during the continuance of the war and "to defend the frontier of the said principalities against any return of the Russian forces." By Article III., in the event of war between Russia and Austria the alliance both offensive and defensive was to be made effective (Hertslet, No. 252). With the progressive disasters of the Russian arms, however, Austria grew bolder and it was the ultimatum delivered by her to the emperor Alexander II. in December 1855, that forced Russia to come to terms (Treaty of Paris, March 30, 1856)

Though, however, Austria by her diplomatic attitude had secured, without striking a blow, the settlement in her sense of the Eastern Question, she emerged from the contest without allies and without friends. The "Holy Alliance" of the three autocratic northern powers, recemented at Münchengr(tz in 1833, which had gained for Austria the decisive intervention of the tsar in 1849, had been hopelessly shattered by her attitude during the Crimean War. Russia justly offended, drew closer her ties with Prussia, where Bismarck was already hatching the plans which were to mature in 1866' and, if the attitude of Napoleon in the Polish question prevented any revival of the alliance of Tilsit, the goodwill of Russia was assured for France in the coming struggle with Austria in Italy. Already t the isolation of Austria had been conspicuous in the congress of Paris, where Cavour, the Sardinian plenipotentiary, laid bare before assembled Europe the scandal of her rule in Italy. It was emphasized during the campaign of 1859, when Sardinia, in alliance with France, laid the foundations of united Italy. The threat of Prussian intervention, which determined the provisions of the armistice of Villafranca, was due, not to love of Austria, but to fear of the undue aggrandizement of France. The results to Austria were twofold. Externally, she lost all her Italian possessions except Venice; internally, her failure led to the necessity of conciliating public opinion by constitutional concessions.

The proclamation on the 26th of February 1861 of the new constitution for the whole monarchy, elaborated by Anton von Schmerling, though far from satisfying the national aspirations of the races within the empire, at least gave Austria a temporary popularity in Germany; the liberalism of the Habsburg monarchy was favourably contrasted with the "reactionary" policy of Prussia, where Bismarck was defying the majority of the diet in his determination to build up the military power of Prussia. The meeting of the princes summoned to Frankfort by the emperor Francis Joseph, in 1863, revealed the ascendancy of Austria among the smaller states of the Confederation but it revealed also the impossibility of any consolidation of the Confederation without the co-operation of Prussia which stood outside. Bismarck had long since decided that the matter could only be settled by the exclusion of Austria altogether, and that the means to this end were not discussion, but "Blood and Iron." The issue was forced by the developments of the tangled Schleswig-Holstein Question, which led to the definitive breach between the two great German powers, to the campaign of 1866, and the collapse of Austria on the field of Königgrätz, July 3.

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