[Sidenote: Dispute as to the Austrian succession.]
The duchies of Austria and Styria were now claimed by the emperor Frederick II. as vacant fiefs of the Empire, and their government was entrusted to Otto II., duke of Bavaria. Frederick, however, who was in Italy, harassed and afflicted, could do little to assert the imperial authority, and his enemy, Pope Innocent IV., bestowed the two duchies upon Hermann VI., margrave of Baden, whose wife, Gertrude, was a niece of the last of the Babenbergs. Hermann was invested by the German king, William, count of Holland, but he was unable to establish his position, and law and order were quickly disappearing from the duchies. The deaths of Hermann and of the emperor in 1250, however, paved the way for a settlement. Weary of struggle and disorder, and despairing of any help from the central authority, the estates of Austria met at Truebensee in 1251, and chose Ottakar, son of Wenceslaus I., king of Bohemia, as their duke. [Sidenote: Ottakar of Bohemia, duke.] This step was favoured by the pope, and Ottakar, eagerly accepting the offer, strengthened his position by marrying Margaret, a sister of Duke Frederick II., and in return for his investiture promised his assistance to William of Holland. Styria appears at this time to have shared the fortunes of Austria, but it was claimed by Bela IV., king of Hungary, who conquered the land, and made a treaty with Ottakar in 1254 which confirmed him in its possession. The Hungarian rule was soon resented by the Styrians, and Ottakar, who had become king of Bohemia in 1253, took advantage of this resentment, and interfered in the affairs of the duchy. A war with Hungary was the result, but on this occasion victory rested with Ottakar, and by a treaty made with Bela, in March 1261, he was recognized as duke of Styria. In 1269 Ottakar inherited the duchy of Carinthia on the death of Duke Ulrich III., and, his power having now become very great, he began to aspire to the German throne. He did something to improve the condition of the duchies by restoring order, introducing German colonists into the eastern districts, and seeking to benefit the inhabitants of the towns.
[Sidenote: Rudolph of Habsburg.]
In 1273 Rudolph, count of Habsburg, became German king, and his attention soon turned to Ottakar, whose power menaced the occupant of the German throne. Finding some support in Austria, Rudolph questioned the title of the Bohemian king to the three duchies, and sought to recover the imperial lands which had been in the possession of the emperor Frederick II. Ottakar was summoned twice before the diet, the imperial court declared against him, and in July 1275 he was placed under the ban. War was the result, and in November 1276 Ottakar submitted to Rudolph, and renounced the duchies of Austria, Styria and Carinthia. For some time the three duchies were administered by Rudolph in his capacity as head of the Empire, of which they formed part. Not content with this tie, however, which was personal to himself alone, the king planned to make them hereditary possessions of his family, and to transfer the headquarters of the Habsburgs from the Rhine to the Danube. [Sidenote: The Habsburgs established in Austria, 1282.] Some opposition was offered to this scheme; but the perseverance of the king overcame all difficulties, and one of the most important events in European history took place on the 27th of December 1282, when Rudolph invested his sons, Rudolph and Albert, with the duchies of Austria and Styria. He retained Carinthia in his own hands until 1286, when, in return for valuable services, he bestowed it upon Meinhard IV., count of Tirol. The younger Rudolph took no part in the government of Austria and Styria, which was undertaken by Albert, until his election as German king in 1298. Albert appears to have been rather an arbitrary ruler. In 1288 he suppressed a rising of the people of Vienna, and he made the fullest use of the ducal power in asserting his real or supposed rights. At this time the principle of primogeniture was unknown in the house of Habsburg, and for many years the duchies were ruled in common by two, or even three, members of the family. After Albert became German king, his two elder sons, Rudolph and Frederick, were successively associated with him in the government, and after his death in 1308, his four younger sons shared at one time or another in the administration of Austria and Styria. In 1314 Albert's son, Frederick, was chosen German king in opposition to Louis IV., duke of Upper Bavaria, afterwards the emperor Louis IV., and Austria was weakened by the efforts of the Habsburgs to sustain Frederick in his contest with Louis, and also by the struggle carried on between another brother, Leopold, and the Swiss. A series of deaths among the Habsburgs during the first half of the 14th century left Duke Albert II. and his four sons as the only representatives of the family. Albert ruled the duchies alone from 1344 to 1356, and after this date his sons began to take part in the government. [Sidenote: Duke Rudolph IV.] The most noteworthy of these was Duke Rudolph IV., a son-in-law of the emperor Charles IV., who showed his interest in learning by founding the university of Vienna in 1365. Rudolph's chief aim was to make Austria into an independent state, and he forged a series of privileges the purport of which was to free the duchy from all its duties towards the Empire. A sharp contest with the emperor followed this proceeding, and the Austrian duke, annoyed that [v.03 p.0007] Austria was not raised to the dignity of an electorate by the Golden Bull of 1356, did not shrink from a contest with Charles. In 1361, however, he abandoned his pretensions, but claimed the title of archduke (q.v.) and in 1364 declared that the possessions of the Habsburgs were indivisible. Meanwhile the acquisition of neighbouring territories had been steadily pressed on. In 1335 the duchy of Carinthia, and a part of Carniola, were inherited by Dukes Albert II. and Otto, and in 1363 Rudolph IV. obtained the county of Tirol. In 1364 Carniola was made into an hereditary duchy; in 1374 part of Istria came under the rule of the Habsburgs; in 1382 Trieste submitted voluntarily to Austria, and at various times during the century, other smaller districts were added to the lands of the Habsburgs.
Rudolph IV. died childless in 1365, and in 1379 his two remaining brothers, Leopold III. and Albert III., made a division of their lands, by which Albert retained Austria proper and Carniola, and Leopold got Styria, Carinthia and Tirol. Leopold was killed in 1386 at the battle of Sempach, and Albert became guardian for his four nephews, who subsequently ruled their lands in common. The senior line which ruled in Austria was represented after the death of Duke Albert III. in 1395 by his son, Duke Albert IV., and then by his grandson, Duke Albert V., who became German king as Albert II. in 1438. [Sidenote: Minority of Ladislaus.] Albert married Elizabeth, daughter of Sigismund, king of Hungary and Bohemia, and on the death of his father-in-law assumed these two crowns. He died in 1439, and just after his death a son was born to him, who was called Ladislaus Posthumus, and succeeded to the duchy of Austria and to the kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia. William and Leopold, the two eldest sons of Duke Leopold III., and, with their younger brothers Ernest and Frederick, the joint rulers of Styria, Carinthia and Tirol, died early in the 15th century, and in 1406 Ernest and Frederick made a division of their lands. Ernest became duke of Styria and Carinthia, and Frederick, count of Tirol. Ernest was succeeded in 1424 by his sons, Frederick and Albert, and Frederick in 1439 by his son, Sigismund, and these three princes were reigning when King Albert II. died in 1439. Frederick, who succeeded Albert [Sidenote: Regency of the emperor Frederick III.] as German king, and was soon crowned emperor as Frederick III., acted as guardian for Sigismund of Tirol, who was a minor, and also became regent of Austria in consequence of the infancy of Ladislaus. His rule was a period of struggle and disorder, owing partly to the feebleness of his own character, partly to the wish of his brother, Albert, to share his dignities. The Tirolese soon grew weary of his government, and, in 1446, Sigismund was declared of age. [Sidenote: Popular revolt under Ulrich Eiczing and Count Ulrich of Cilli.] The estates of Austria were equally discontented and headed an open revolt, the object of which was to remove Ladislaus from Frederick's charge and deprive the latter of the regency. The leading spirit in this movement was Ulrich Eiczing (Eitzing or von Eiczinger, d. before 1463), a low-born adventurer, ennobled by Albert II., in whose service he had accumulated vast wealth and power. In 1451 he organized an armed league, and in December, with the aid of the populace, made himself master of Vienna, whither he had summoned the estates. In March 1452 he was joined by Count Ulrich of Cilli, while the Hungarians and the powerful party of the great house of Rosenberg in Bohemia attached themselves to the league. Frederick, who had hurried back from Italy, was besieged in August in the Vienna Neustadt, and was forced to deliver Ladislaus to Count Ulrich, whose influence had meanwhile eclipsed that of Eiczing. Ladislaus now ruled nominally himself, under the tutelage of Count Ulrich. The country was, however, distracted by quarrels between the party of the high aristocracy, which recognized the count of Cilli as its chief, and that of the lesser nobles, citizens and populace, who followed Eiczing. In September 1453 the latter, by a successful emeute, succeeded in ousting Count Ulrich, and remained in power till February 1455, when the count once more entered Vienna in triumph. Ulrich of Cilli was killed before Belgrade in November 1456; a year later Ladislaus himself died (November 1457). Meanwhile Styria and Carinthia [Sidenote: Austria created an archduchy.] were equally unfortunate under the rule of Frederick and Albert; and the death of Ladislaus led to still further complications. Austria, which had been solemnly created an archduchy by the emperor Frederick in 1453, was claimed by the three remaining Habsburg princes, and lower Austria was secured by Frederick, while Albert obtained upper Austria. Both princes were unpopular, and in 1462 Frederick was attacked by the inhabitants of Vienna, and was forced to surrender lower Austria to Albert, whose spendthrift habits soon made his rule disliked. A further struggle between the brothers was prevented by Albert's death in 1463, when the estates did homage to Frederick. [Sidenote: Hungarian conquest of Austria.] The emperor was soon again at issue with the Austrian nobles, and was attacked by Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, who drove him from Vienna in 1485. Although hampered by the inroads of the Turks, Matthias pressed on, and by 1487 was firmly in possession of Austria, Styria and Carinthia, which seemed quite lost to the Habsburgs.
[Sidenote: The emperor Maximilian I.]
The decline in the fortunes of the family, however, was to be arrested by Frederick's son, Maximilian, afterwards the emperor Maximilian I., who was the second founder of the greatness of the house of Habsburg. Like his ancestor, Rudolph, he had to conquer the lands over which his descendants were destined to rule, and by arranging a treaty of succession to the kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia, he pointed the way to power and empire in eastern Europe. Soon after his election as king of the Romans in 1486, Maximilian attacked the Hungarians, and in 1490 he had driven them from Austria, and recovered his hereditary lands. In the same year he made an arrangement with his kinsman, Sigismund of Tirol, by which he brought this county under his rule, and when the emperor Frederick died in 1493, Maximilian united the whole of the Austrian lands under his sway. Continuing his acquisitions of territory, he inherited the possessions of the counts of Goerz in 1500, added some districts to Tirol by intervening in a succession war in Bavaria, and acquired Gradisca in 1512 as the result of a struggle with Venice. He did much for the better government of the Austrian duchies. Bodies were established for executive, financial and judicial purposes, the Austrian lands constituted one of the imperial circles which were established in 1512, and in 1518 representatives of the various diets (Landtage) met at Innsbruck, a proceeding which marks the beginning of an organic unity in the Austrian lands. In these ways Maximilian proved himself a capable and energetic ruler, although his plans for making Austria into a kingdom, or an electorate, were abortive.
[Sidenote: Austria at the close of the middle ages.]
At the close of the middle ages the area of Austria had increased to nearly 50,000 sq. m., but its internal condition does not appear to have improved in proportion to this increase in size. The rulers of Austria lacked the prestige which attached to the electoral office, and, although five of them had held the position of German king, the four who preceded Maximilian had added little or nothing to the power and dignity of this position. The ecclesiastical organization of Austria was imperfect, so long as there was no archbishopric within its borders, and its clergy owed allegiance to foreign prelates. The work of unification which was so successfully accomplished by Maximilian was aided by two events, the progress of the Turks in south-eastern Europe, and the loss of most of the Habsburg possessions on the Rhine. The first tended to draw the separate states together for purposes of defence, and the second turned the attention of the Habsburgs to the possibilities of expansion in eastern Europe.
(A. W. H.*)
[Sidenote: Austria under Charles V. and Ferdinand.]
At the time of the death of the emperor Maximilian in 1519 the Habsburg dominions in eastern Germany included the duchies of Upper and Lower Austria, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and the county of Tirol. Maximilian was succeeded as archduke of Austria as well as emperor by his grandson Charles of Spain, known in history as the emperor Charles V. To his brother Ferdinand Charles resigned all his Austrian lands, including his claims on Bohemia [v.03 p.0008] and Hungary. [Sidenote: Mohacs and its results.] Austria and Spain were thus divided, and, in spite of the efforts of the archduke Charles in the Spanish Succession War, were never again united, for at the battle of Mohacs, on the 28th of August 1526, Suleiman the Magnificent defeated and killed Louis, king of Bohemia and of Hungary, whose sister Anne had married Ferdinand. By this victory the Turks conquered and retained, till the peace of Karlowitz in 1699, the greater part of Hungary. During most of his life Ferdinand was engaged in combating the Turks and in attempting to secure Hungary. In John Zapolya, who was supported by Suleiman, Ferdinand found an active rival. The Turks besieged Vienna in 1530 and made several invasions of Hungary and Austria. At length Ferdinand agreed to pay Suleiman an annual tribute for the small portion—about 12,228 sq. m.—of Hungary which he held. [Sidenote: Charles V. and Austria.] During Charles V.'s struggles with the German Protestants, Ferdinand preserved a neutral attitude, which contributed to gain Germany a short period of internal peace. Though Ferdinand himself did not take a leading part in German religious or foreign politics, the period was one of intense interest to Austria. Throughout the years from 1519 to 1648 there are, said Stubbs, two distinct ideas in progress which "may be regarded as giving a unity to the whole period.... The Reformation is one, the claims of the House of Austria is the other." Austria did not benefit from the reign of Charles V. The emperor was too much absorbed in the affairs of the rest of his vast dominions, notably those of the Empire, rent in two by religious differences and the secular ambitions for which those were the excuse, to give any effective attention to its needs. The peace of Augsburg, 1555, which recognized a dualism within the Empire in religion as in politics, marked the failure of his plan of union (see CHARLES V.; GERMANY; MAURICE OF SAXONY); and meanwhile he had been able to accomplish nothing to rescue Hungary from the Turkish yoke. It was left for his brother Ferdinand, a ruler of consummate wisdom (1556-1564) "to establish the modern Habsburg-Austrian empire with its exclusive territorial interests, its administrative experiments, its intricacies of religion and of race."
[Sidenote: The policy of Ferdinand and Maximillian II.]
Before his death Ferdinand divided the inheritance of the German Habsburgs between his three sons. Austria proper was left to his eldest son Maximilian, Tirol to the archduke Ferdinand; and Styria with Carinthia and Carniola to the archduke Charles. Under the emperor Maximilian II. (1564-1576), who was also king of Bohemia and Hungary, a liberal policy preserved peace, but he was unable to free his government from its humiliating position of a tributary to the Turk, and he could do nothing to found religious liberty within his dominions on a permanent basis. The whole of Austria and nearly the whole of Styria were mainly Lutheran; in Bohemia, Silesia and Moravia, various forms of Christian belief struggled for mastery; and Catholicism was almost confined to the mountains of Tirol. [Sidenote: The reign of Rudolph II.] The accession of Rudolph II. (1576-1612), a fanatical Spanish Catholic, changed the situation entirely. Under him the Jesuits were encouraged to press on the counter-Reformation. In the early part of his reign there was hardly any government at all. In Bohemia a state of semi-independence existed, while Hungary preferred [Sidenote: The family compact, 1606.] the Turk to the emperor. In both kingdoms Rudolph had failed to assert his sovereign power except in fitful attempts to extirpate heresy. With anarchy prevalent within the Austrian dominions some action became necessary. Accordingly in 1606 the archdukes made a compact agreeing to acknowledge the archduke Matthias as head of the family. This arrangement proved far from successful. Matthias, who was emperor from 1612 to 1619, proved unable to restore order, and when he died Bohemia was practically independent. His successor Ferdinand II. (1619-1637) was strong of will; and resolved to win back Germany to the Catholic faith. As archduke of Styria he had crushed out Protestantism [Sidenote: The Thirty Years' War.] in that duchy, and having been elected king of Bohemia in 1618 was resolved to establish there the rule of the Jesuits. His attempt to do so led to the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War (see BOHEMIA; THIRTY YEARS' WAR). Till 1630 the fortunes of Austria brightened under the active rule of Ferdinand, who was assisted by Maximilian of Bavaria and the Catholic League, and by Wallenstein. The Palatinate was conquered, the Danish king was overthrown, and it seemed that Austria would establish its predominance over the whole of Germany, and that the Baltic would become an Austrian lake. The fortunes of Austria never seemed brighter than in 1628 when Wallenstein began the siege of Stralsund. [Sidenote: The Swedish and French intervention.] His failure, followed by the arrival of Gustavus Adolphus in Germany in 1630, proved the death blow of Austrian hopes. In 1632 Gustavus Adolphus was killed, in 1634 Wallenstein was assassinated, and in 1635 France entered into the war. The Thirty Years' War now ceased to be a religious struggle between Catholicism and Protestantism; it resolved itself into a return to the old political strife between France and the Habsburgs. [Sidenote: The peace of Westphalia, 1648.] Till 1648 the Bourbon and Habsburg powers continued the war, and at the peace of Westphalia Austria suffered severe losses. Ferdinand III. (1637-1657) was forced to yield Alsace to France, to grant territorial supremacy, including the right of making alliances, to the states of the Empire, and to acknowledge the concurrent jurisdiction of the imperial chamber and the Aulic council. The disintegration of the Holy Roman Empire was now practically accomplished, and though the possession of the imperial dignity continued to give the rulers of Austria prestige, the Habsburgs henceforward devoted themselves to their Austrian interests rather than to those of the Empire.
[Sidenote: Leopold I.]
In 1657 Leopold I., who had already ruled the Austrian dominions for two years, succeeded his father Ferdinand and was crowned emperor in the following year. His long reign of 48 years was of great importance for Austria, as determining both the internal character and the external policy of the monarchy. The long struggle with France to which the ambitions of Louis XIV. gave rise, and which culminated in the War of Spanish Succession, belongs less to the history of Austria proper than to that of Germany and of Europe. [Sidenote: Wars with Turkey.] Of more importance to Austria itself was the war with Sweden (1657-60) which resulted in the peace of Oliva, by which the independence of Poland was secured and the frontier of Hungary safeguarded, and the campaigns against the Turks (1662-64 and 1683-99), by which the Ottoman power was driven from Hungary, and the Austrian attitude towards Turkey and the Slav peoples of the Balkans determined for a century to come. The first war, due to Ottoman aggression in Transylvania, ended with Montecuculi's victory over the grand vizier at St Gothard on the Raab on the 1st of August 1664. The general political situation prevented Leopold from taking full advantage of this, and the peace of Vasvar (August 10) left the Turks in possession of Nagyvarad (Grosswardein) and the fortress of Ersekujvar (Neuhaeusel), Transylvania being recognized as an independent principality. The next Turkish war was the direct outcome of Leopold's policy in Hungary, where the persecution of the Protestants and the suppression of the constitution in 1658, led to a widespread conspiracy. This was mercilessly suppressed; and though after a period of arbitrary government (1672-1679), the palatinate and the constitution, with certain concessions to the Protestants, were restored, the discontent continued. In 1683, invited by Hungarian malcontents and spurred on by Louis XIV., the Turks burst into Hungary, overran the country and appeared before the walls of Vienna. The victory of the 12th of September, gained over the Turks by John Sobieski (see JOHN III. SOBIESKI, KING OF POLAND) not only saved the Austrian capital, but was the first of a series of successes which drove the Turks permanently beyond the Danube, and established the power of Austria in the East. The victories of Charles of Lorraine at Parkany (1683) and Esztergom (Gran) (1685) were followed by the capture of Budapest (1686) and the defeat of the Ottomans at [v.03 p.0009] Mohacs (1688). In 1688 the elector took Belgrade; in 1691 Louis William I. of Baden won the battle of Slankamen, and on the 11th of September 1697 Prince Eugene gained the crowning victory of Zenta. This was followed, on the 26th of January 1699, by the peace of Karlowitz, by which Slavonia, Transylvania and all Hungary, except the banat of Temesvar, were ceded to the Austrian crown. Leopold had wisely decided to initiate a conciliatory policy in Hungary. At the diet of Pressburg (1687-1688) the Hungarian crown had been made hereditary in the house of Habsburg, and the crown prince Joseph had been crowned hereditary king of Hungary (q.v.). In 1697 Transylvania was united to the Hungarian monarchy. A further fact of great prospective importance was the immigration, after an abortive rising against the Turks, of some 30,000 Slav and Albanian families into Slavonia and southern Hungary, where they were granted by the emperor Leopold a certain autonomy and the recognition of the Orthodox religion.
By the conquest of Hungary and Transylvania Leopold completed the edifice of the Austrian monarchy, of which the foundations had been laid by Ferdinand I. in 1526. He had also done much for its internal consolidation. By the death of the archduke Sigismund in 1665 he not only gained Tirol, but a considerable sum of money, which he used to buy back the Silesian principalities of Oppeln and Ratibor, pledged by Ferdinand III. to the Poles. In the administration of his dominions, too, Leopold succeeded in strengthening the authority of the central government. The old estates, indeed, survived; but the emperor kept the effective power in his own hands, and to his reign are traceable the first beginnings of that system of centralized bureaucracy which was established under Maria Theresa and survived, for better or for worse, till the revolution of 1848. It was under Leopold, also, that the Austrian standing army was established in spite of much opposition; the regiments raised in 1672 were never disbanded. For the intellectual life of the country Leopold did much. In spite of his intolerant attitude towards religious dissent, he proved himself an enlightened patron of learning. He helped in the establishment of the universities of Innsbruck and Olmuetz; and under his auspices, after the defeat of the Turks in 1683, Vienna began to develop from a mere frontier fortress into one of the most brilliant capitals of Europe. (See LEOPOLD I.)
[Sidenote: War of Spanish Succession.]
Leopold died in 1705 during the war of Spanish Succession (1702-13), which he left as an evil inheritance to his sons Joseph I. (d. 1711) and Charles VI. The result of the war was a further aggrandizement of the house of Austria; but not to the extent that had been hoped. Apart from the fact that British and Austrian troops had been unable to deprive Philip V. of his throne, it was from the point of view of Europe at large by no means desirable that Charles VI. should succeed in reviving the empire of Charles V. By the treaty of Utrecht, accordingly, Spain was left to the House of Bourbon, while that of Austria received the Spanish Netherlands, Sardinia and Naples.
[Sidenote: Austria from 1715 to 1740.]
The treaty of Karlowitz, and the settlement of 1713-1714, marked a new starting-point in the history of Austria. The efforts of Turkey to regain her ascendancy in eastern Europe at the expense of the Habsburgs had ended in failure, and henceforward Turkish efforts were confined to resisting the steady development of Austria in the direction of Constantinople. The treaties of Utrecht, Rastadt and Baden had also re-established and strengthened the position of the Austrian monarchy in western Europe. The days of French invasions of Germany had for the time ceased, and revenge for the attacks made by Louis XIV. was found in the establishment of Austrian supremacy in Italy and in the substitution of Austrian for Spanish domination in the Netherlands.
The situation, though apparently favourable, was full of difficulty, and only a statesman of uncommon dexterity could have guided Austria with success through the ensuing years. Composed of a congeries of nationalities which included Czechs, Magyars, Ruthenes, Rumanians, Germans, Italians, Flemings and other races, and with territories separated by many miles, the Habsburg dominions required from their ruler patience, tolerance, administrative skill and a full knowledge of the currents of European diplomacy. Charles VI. possessed none of these qualities; and when he died in 1740, the weakness of the scattered Habsburg empire rendered it an object of the cupidity of the continental powers. Yet, though the War of Spanish Succession had proved a heavy drain on the resources of the hereditary dominions of the Austrian crown, Charles VI. had done much to compensate for this by the successes of his arms in eastern Europe. In 1716, in alliance with Venice, he declared war on the Turks; Eugene's victory at Peterwardein involved the conquest of the banat of Temesvar, and was followed in 1717 by the capture of Belgrade. By the treaty signed at Passarowitz on the 21st of July 1718, the banat, which rounded off Hungary and Belgrade, with the northern districts of Servia, were annexed to the Habsburg monarchy.
Important as these gains were, the treaty none the less once more illustrated the perpetual sacrifice of the true interests of the hereditary dominions of the house of Habsburg to its European entanglements. Had the war continued, Austria would undoubtedly have extended her conquests down the Danube. But Charles was anxious about Italy, then in danger from Spain, which under Alberoni's guidance had occupied Sardinia and Sicily. On the 2nd of August 1718, accordingly, Charles joined the Triple Alliance, henceforth the Quadruple Alliance. The coercion of Spain resulted in a peace by which Charles obtained Sicily in exchange for Sardinia. The shifting of the balance of power that followed belongs to the history of Europe (q.v.); for Austria the only important outcome was that in 1731 Charles found himself isolated. [Sidenote: The Pragmatic Sanction.] Being without a son, he was now anxious to secure the throne for his daughter Maria Theresa, in accordance with the Pragmatic Sanction of the 19th of April 1713, in which he had pronounced the indivisibility of the monarchy, and had settled the succession on his daughter, in default of a male heir. It now became his object to secure the adhesion of the powers to this instrument. In 1731 Great Britain and Holland agreed to respect it, in return for the cession of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla to Don Carlos; but the hostility of the Bourbon powers continued, resulting in 1733 in the War of Polish Succession, the outcome of which was the acquisition of Lorraine by France, and of Naples, Sicily and the Tuscan ports by Don Carlos, while the power of the Habsburg monarchy in northern Italy was strengthened by the acquisition of Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla. At the same time Spain and Sardinia adhered to the Pragmatic Sanction. Francis, the dispossessed duke of Lorraine, was to be compensated with Tuscany. On the 12th of February 1736 he was married to the archduchess Maria Theresa, and on the 11th of May following he signed the formal act ceding Lorraine to France.
[Sidenote: Treaty of Belgrade, 1739.]
The last years of Charles VI. were embittered by the disastrous outcome of the war with Turkey (1738-1739), on which he had felt compelled to embark in accordance with the terms of a treaty of alliance with Russia signed in 1726. After a campaign of varying fortunes the Turks beat the imperial troops at Krotzka on the 23rd of July 1739 and laid siege to Belgrade, where on the 1st of September a treaty was signed, which, with the exception of the banat, surrendered everything that Austria had gained by the treaty of Passarowitz. On the 20th of October 1740, Charles died, leaving his dominions in no condition to resist the attacks of the powers, which, in spite of having adhered to the Pragmatic Sanction, now sought to profit from their weakness. Yet for their internal development Charles had done much. His religious attitude was moderate and tolerant, and he did his best to promote the enlightenment of his subjects. He was zealous, too, for the promotion of trade and industry, and, besides the East India Company which he established at Ostend, he encouraged the development of Trieste and Fiume as sea-ports and centres of trade with the Levant.
[Sidenote: Maria Theresa.]
[v.03 p.0010] The accession of Maria Theresa to the throne of the Habsburgs marks an important epoch in the history of Austria. For a while, indeed, it seemed that the monarchy was on the point of dissolution. To the diplomacy of the 18th century the breach of a solemn compact was but lightly regarded; and Charles VI. had neglected the advice of Prince Eugene to leave an effective army of 200,000 men as a more solid guarantee of the Pragmatic Sanction than the signatures of the powers. As it was, the Austrian forces, disorganized in the long confusion of the Turkish wars, were in no condition to withstand Frederick the Great, when in 1740, at the head of the splendid army bequeathed to him by his father, he invaded Silesia (see AUSTRIAN SUCCESSION, WAR OF). The Prussian victory at Mollwitz (April 10, 1741) brought into the field against Austria all the powers which were ambitious of expansion at her expense: France, Bavaria, Spain, Saxony and Sardinia. Nor was the peril wholly external. Apart from the perennial discontents of Magyars and Slavs, the confusion and corruption of the administration, and the misery caused by the ruin of the finances, had made the Habsburg dynasty unpopular even in its German states, and in Vienna itself a large section of public opinion was loudly in favour of the claims of Charles of Bavaria. Yet the war, if it revealed the weakness of the Austrian monarchy, revealed also unexpected sources of strength. Not the least of these was the character of Maria Theresa herself, who to the fascination of a young and beautiful woman added a very masculine resolution and judgment. In response to her personal appeal, and also to her wise and timely concessions, the Hungarians had rallied to her support, and for the first time in history awoke not only to a feeling of enthusiastic loyalty to a Habsburg monarch, but also to the realization that their true interests were bound up with those of Austria (see HUNGARY: History). Although, then, as the result of the war, Silesia was by the treaty of Dresden transferred from Austria to Prussia, while in Italy by the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 1748 cessions were made at the expense of the house of Habsburg to the Spanish Don Philip and to Sardinia, the Austrian monarchy as a whole had displayed a vitality that had astonished the world, and was in some respects stronger than at the beginning of the struggle, notably in the great improvement in the army and in the possession of generals schooled by the experience of active service.
The period from 1747 to 1756, the year of the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, was occupied in preparations for carrying into effect the determination of Maria Theresa to recover the lost provinces. To give any chance of success, it was recognized that a twofold change of system was necessary: in internal and in external affairs. To strengthen the state internally a complete revolution of its administration was begun under the auspices of Count F. W. Haugwitz (1700-1765); the motley system which had survived from the middle ages was gradually replaced by an administrative machinery uniformly organized and centralized; and the army especially, hitherto patched together from the quotas raised and maintained by the various diets and provincial estates, was withdrawn from their interference. These reforms were practically confined to the central provinces of the monarchy; for in Hungary, as well as in the outlying territories of Lombardy and the Netherlands, it was recognized that the conservative temper of the peoples made any revolutionary change in the traditional system inadvisable.
[Sidenote: Austrian-French alliance, and Seven Years' War.]
Meanwhile, in foreign affairs, it had become clear that for Austria the enemy to be dreaded was no longer France, but Prussia, and Kaunitz prepared the way for a diplomatic revolution, which took effect when, on the 1st of May 1756, Austria and France concluded the first treaty of Versailles. The long rivalry between Bourbons and Habsburgs was thus ended, and France and Austria remained in alliance or at peace until the outbreak of the French Revolution. So far as Austria was concerned, the Seven Years' War (q.v.) in which France and Austria were ranged against Prussia and Great Britain, was an attempt on the part of Maria Theresa to recover Silesia. It failed; and the peace of Hubertsburg, signed on the 15th of February 1763, left Germany divided between Austria and Prussia, whose rivalry for the hegemony was to last until the victory of Koeniggraetz (1866) definitely decided the issue in favour of the Hohenzollern monarchy.
[Sidenote: Austria and Bavaria.]
The loss of Silesia led Austria to look for "compensation" elsewhere. The most obvious direction in which this could be sought was in Bavaria, ruled by the decadent house of Wittelsbach, the secular rival of the house of Habsburg in southern Germany. The question of the annexation of Bavaria by conquest or exchange had occupied the minds of Austrian statesmen throughout the century: it would not only have removed a perpetual menace to the peace of Austria, but would have given to the Habsburg monarchy an overwhelming strength in South Germany. The matter came to an issue in 1777, on the death of the elector Maximilian III. The heir was the elector palatine Charles Theodore, but Joseph II., who had been elected emperor in 1765, in succession to his father, and appointed co-regent with his mother—claimed the inheritance, and prepared to assert his claims by force. The result was the so-called War of Bavarian Succession. As a matter of fact, however, though the armies under Frederick and Joseph were face to face in the field, the affair was settled without actual fighting; Maria Theresa, fearing the chances of another struggle with Prussia, overruled her son at the last moment, and by the treaty of Teschen agreed to be content with the cession of the Quarter of the Inn (Innviertel) and some other districts.
[Sidenote: Russia, Austria and the Ottoman Empire.]
Meanwhile the ambition of Catherine of Russia, and the war with Turkey by which the empire of the tsars was advanced to the Black Sea and threatened to establish itself south of the Danube, were productive of consequences of enormous importance to Austria in the East. Russian control of the Danube was a far more serious menace to Austria than the neighbourhood of the decadent Ottoman power; and for a while the policy of Austria towards the Porte underwent a change that foreshadowed her attitude towards the Eastern Question in the 19th century. In spite of the reluctance of Maria Theresa, Kaunitz, in July 1771, concluded a defensive alliance with the Porte. He would have exchanged this for an active co-operation with Turkey, could Frederick the Great have been persuaded to promise at least neutrality in the event of a Russo-Austrian War. But Frederick was unwilling to break with Russia, with whom he was negotiating the partition of Poland; Austria in these circumstances dared not take the offensive; and Maria Theresa was compelled to purchase the modification of the extreme claims of Russia in Turkey by agreeing to, and sharing in, the spoliation of Poland. [Sidenote: Partition of Poland.] Her own share of the spoils was the acquisition, by the first treaty of partition (August 5, 1772), of Galicia and Lodomeria. Turkey was left in the lurch; and Austrian troops even occupied portions of Moldavia, in order to secure the communication between the new Polish provinces and Transylvania. At Constantinople, too, Austria once more supported Russian policy, and was rewarded, in 1777, by the acquisition of Bukovina from Turkey. In Italy the influence of the House of Austria had been strengthened by the marriage of the archduke Ferdinand with the heiress of the d'Estes of Modena, and the establishment of the archduke Leopold in the grand-duchy of Tuscany.
[Sidenote: Internal reforms under Maria Theresa.]
In internal affairs Maria Theresa may be regarded as the practical founder of the unified Austrian state. The new system of centralization has already been referred to. It only remains to add that, in carrying out this system, Maria Theresa was too wise to fall into the errors afterwards made by her son and successor. She was no doctrinaire, and consistently acted on the principle once laid down by Machiavelli, that while changing the substance, the prince should be careful to preserve the form of old institutions. Alongside the new bureaucracy, the old estates survived in somnolent inactivity, and even in Hungary, though the ancient constitution was left untouched, the diet was only summoned four times during the reign, and reforms were carried out, without protest, by royal ordinance. It was under Maria Theresa, too, [v.03 p.0011] that the attempt was first made to make German the official language of the whole monarchy; an attempt which was partly successful even in Hungary, especially so far as the army was concerned, though Latin remained the official tongue of the diet, the county-assemblies and the courts.
The social, religious and educational reforms of Maria Theresa also mark her reign as the true epoch of transition from medieval to modern conditions in Austria. In religious matters the empress, though a devout Catholic and herself devoted to the Holy See, was carried away by the prevailing reaction, in which her ministers shared, against the pretensions of the papacy. The anti-papal tendency, known as Febronianism (q.v.), had made immense headway, not only among the laity but among the clergy in the Austrian dominions. By a new law, papal bulls could not be published without the consent of the crown, and the direct intercourse of the bishops with Rome was forbidden; the privileges of the religious orders were curtailed; and the education of the clergy was brought under state control. It was, however, only with reluctance that Maria Theresa agreed to carry out the papal bull suppressing the Society of Jesus; and, while declaring herself against persecution, she could never be persuaded to accept the views of Kaunitz and Joseph in favour of toleration. Parallel with the assertion of the rights of the state as against the church, was the revolution effected in the educational system of the monarchy. This, too, was taken from the control of the church; the universities were remodelled and modernized by the introduction of new faculties, the study of ecclesiastical law being transferred from that of theology to that of jurisprudence, and the elaborate system of elementary and secondary education was established, which survived with slight modification till 1869.
[Sidenote: Joseph II. and "Josephinism."]
The death of Maria Theresa in 1780 left Joseph II. free to attempt the drastic revolution from above, which had been restrained by the wise statesmanship of his mother. He was himself a strange incarnation at once of doctrinaire liberalism and the old Habsburg autocracy. Of the essential conditions of his empire he was constitutionally unable to form a conception. He was a disciple, not of Machiavelli, but of Rousseau; and his scattered dominions, divided by innumerable divergences of racial and class prejudice, and encumbered with traditional institutions to which the people clung with passionate conservatism, he regarded as so much vacant territory on which to build up his ideal state. He was, in fact, a Revolutionist who happened also to be an emperor. "Reason" and "enlightenment" were his watchwords; opposition to his wise measures he regarded as obscurantist and unreasonable, and unreason, if it proved stubborn, as a vice to be corrected with whips. In this spirit he at once set to work to reconstruct the state, on lines that strangely anticipated the principles of the Constituent Assembly of 1789. He refused to be crowned or to take the oath of the local constitutions, and divided the whole monarchy into thirteen departments, to be governed under a uniform system. In ecclesiastical matters his policy was also that of "reform from above," the complete subordination of the clergy to the state, and the severance of all effective ties with Rome. This treatment of the "Fakirs and Ulemas" (as he called them in his letters), who formed the most powerful element in the monarchy, would alone have ensured the failure of his plans, but failure was made certain by the introduction of the conscription, which turned even the peasants, whom he had done much to emancipate, against him. The threatened revolt of Hungary, and the actual revolt of Tirol and of the Netherlands (see BELGIUM: History) together with the disasters of the war with Turkey, forced him, before he died, to the formal reversal of the whole policy of reform.
In his foreign policy Joseph II. had been scarcely less unhappy. In 1784 he had resumed his plan of acquiring Bavaria for Austria by negotiating with the elector Charles Theodore its exchange for the Netherlands, which were to be erected for his benefit into a "Kingdom of Burgundy." The elector was not unwilling, but the scheme was wrecked by the opposition of the heir to the Bavarian throne, the duke of Zweibruecken, in response to whose appeal Frederick the Great formed, on the 23rd of July 1785, a confederation of German princes (Fuerstenbund) for the purpose of opposing the threatened preponderance of Austria. Prussia was thus for the first time formally recognized as the protector of the German states against Austrian ambition, and had at the same time become the centre of an anti-Austrian alliance, which embraced Sweden, Poland and the maritime powers. In these circumstances the war with Turkey, on which Joseph embarked, in alliance with Russia, in 1788, would hardly have been justified by the most brilliant success. The first campaign, however, which he conducted in person was a dismal failure; the Turks followed the Austrian army, disorganized by disease, across the Danube, and though the transference of the command to the veteran marshal Loudon somewhat retrieved the initial disasters, his successes were more than counterbalanced by the alliance, concluded on the 31st of January 1790, between Prussia and Turkey. Three weeks later, on the 20th of February 1790, Joseph died broken-hearted.
[Sidenote: Leopold II.]
The situation needed all the statesmanship of the new ruler, Leopold II. This was less obvious in his domestic than in his foreign policy, though perhaps equally present. As grand-duke of Tuscany Leopold had won the reputation of an enlightened and liberal ruler; but meanwhile "Josephinism" had not been justified by its results, and the progress of the Revolution in France was beginning to scare even enlightened princes into reaction. Leopold, then, reverted to the traditional Habsburg methods; the old supremacy of the Church, regarded as the one effective bond of empire, was restored; and the Einheitsstaat was once more resolved into its elements, with the old machinery of diets and estates, and the old abuses. It was the beginning of that policy of "stability" associated later with Metternich, which was to last till the cataclysm of 1848. For the time, the policy was justified by its results. The spirit of revolutionary France had not yet touched the heart of the Habsburg empire, and national rivalries were expressed, not so much in expansive ambitions, as in a somnolent clinging to traditional privileges. Leopold, therefore, who made his debut on the European stage as the executor of the ban of the Empire against the insurgent Liegeois, was free to pose as the champion of order against the Revolution, without needing to fear the resentment of his subjects. He played this role with consummate skill in the negotiations that led up to the treaty of Reichenbach (August 15, 1790), which ended the quarrel with Prussia and paved the way to the armistice of Giurgevo with Turkey (September 10). Leopold was now free to deal with the Low Countries, which were reduced to order before the end of the year. On the 4th of August 1791, was signed at Sistova the definitive peace with Turkey, which practically established the status quo.
[Sidenote: Austria and the French Revolution.]
On the 6th of October 1700, Leopold had been crowned Roman emperor at Frankfort, and it was as emperor, not as Habsburg, that he first found himself in direct antagonism to the France of the Revolution. The fact that Leopold's sister, Marie Antoinette, was the wife of Louis XVI. had done little to cement the Franco-Austrian alliance, which since 1763 had been practically non-existent; nor was it now the mainspring of his attitude towards revolutionary France. But by the decree of the 4th of August, which in the general abolition of feudal rights involved the possessions of many German princes enclaves in Alsace and Lorraine, the Constituent Assembly had made the first move in the war against the established European system. Leopold protested as sovereign of Germany; and the protest was soon enlarged into one made in the name of Europe. The circular letter of Count Kaunitz, dated the 6th of July 1791, calling on the sovereigns to unite against the Revolution, was at once the beginning of the Concert of Europe, and in a sense the last manifesto of the Holy Roman Empire as "the centre of political unity." But the common policy proclaimed in the famous declaration of Pillnitz (August 27), was soon wrecked upon the particular interests of the powers. Both Austria and Prussia [v.03 p.0012] were much occupied with the Polish question, and to have plunged into a crusade against France would have been to have left Poland, where the new constitution had been proclaimed on the 3rd of May, to the mercy of Russia. Towards the further development of events in France, therefore, Leopold assumed at first a studiously moderate attitude; but his refusal to respond to the demand of the French government for the dispersal of the corps of emigres assembled under the protection of the German princes on the frontier of France, and the insistence on the rights of princes dispossessed in Alsace and Lorraine, precipitated the crisis. On the 25th of January 1792 the French Assembly adopted the decree declaring that, in the event of no satisfactory reply having been received from the emperor by the 1st of March, war should be declared. On the 7th of February Austria and Prussia signed at Berlin an offensive and defensive treaty of alliance. Thus was ushered in the series of stupendous events which were to change the face of Europe and profoundly to affect the destinies of Austria. Leopold himself did not live to see the beginning of the struggle; he died on the 1st of March 1792, the day fixed by the Legislative Assembly as that on which the question of peace or war was to be decided.
[Sidenote: Effects of the Revolutionary Wars.]
The events of the period that followed, in which Austria necessarily played a conspicuous part, are dealt with elsewhere (see EUROPE, FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY WARS, NAPOLEON, NAPOLEONIC CAMPAIGNS). Here it will only be necessary to mention those which form permanent landmarks in the progressive conformation of the Austrian monarchy. Such was the second partition of Poland (January 23, 1793), which eliminated the "buffer state" on which Austrian statesmanship had hitherto laid such importance, and brought the Austrian and Russian frontiers into contact. Such, too, was the treaty of Campo Formio (October 17, 1797) which ended the first revolutionary war. By this treaty the loss of the Belgian provinces was confirmed, and though Austria gained Venice, the establishment of French preponderance in the rest of Italy made a breach in the tradition of Habsburg supremacy in the peninsula, which was to have its full effect only in the struggles of the next century. The rise of Napoleon, and his masterful interference in Germany, produced a complete and permanent revolution in the relations of Austria to the German states. The campaigns which issued in the treaty of Luneville (February 9, 1801) practically sealed the fate of the old Empire. Even were the venerable name to survive, it was felt that it would pass, by the election of the princes now tributary to France, from the house of Habsburg to that of Bonaparte. [Sidenote: The "Empire of Austria."] Francis II. determined to forestall the possible indignity of the subordination of his family to an upstart dynasty. On the 14th of May 1804, Napoleon was proclaimed emperor of the French; on the 11th of August Francis II. assumed the style of Francis I., hereditary emperor of Austria. [Sidenote: End of the Holy Roman Empire.] Two years later, when the defeat of Austerlitz had led to the treaty of Pressburg (January 1st, 1806) by which Austria lost Venice and Tirol, and Napoleon's Confederation of the Rhine had broken the unity of Germany, Francis formally abdicated the title and functions of Holy Roman emperor (August 6, 1806).
Austria had to undergo further losses and humiliations, notably by the treaty of Vienna (1809), before the outcome of Napoleon's Russian campaign in 1812 gave her the opportunity for recuperation and revenge. The skilful diplomacy of Metternich, who was now at the head of the Austrian government, enabled Austria to take full advantage of the situation created by the disaster to Napoleon's arms. His object was to recover Austria's lost possessions and if possible to add to them, a policy which did not necessarily involve the complete overthrow of the French emperor. Austria, therefore, refused to join the alliance between Russia and Prussia signed on the 17th of March 1813, but pressed on her armaments so as to be ready in any event. Her opportunity came after the defeats of the Allies at Luetzen and Bautzen and the conclusion of an armistice at Pleswitz. Between 200,000 and 300,000 Austrian troops were massed in Bohemia; and Austria took up the role of mediator, prepared to throw the weight of her support into the scale of whichever side should prove most amenable to her claims. The news of the battle of Vittoria, following on the reluctance of Napoleon to listen to demands involving the overthrow of the whole of his political system in Central Europe, decided Austria in favour of the Allies. By this fateful decision Napoleon's fall was assured. By the treaty of Trachenberg (July 12, 1813) the Grand Alliance was completed; on the 16th, 17th and 18th of October the battle of Leipzig was fought; and the victorious advance into France was begun, which issued, on the 11th of April 1814, in Napoleon's abdication. (See NAPOLEON, NAPOLEONIC CAMPAIGNS, EUROPE.)
[Sidenote: Congress of Vienna.]
It was a recognition of the decisive part played by Austria in these great events that Vienna was chosen as the scene of the great international congress summoned (September 1814) for the purpose of re-establishing the balance of power in Europe, which Napoleon's conquests had upset. An account of the congress is given elsewhere (see VIENNA, CONGRESS OF). The result for Austria was a triumphant vindication of Metternich's diplomacy. He had, it is true, been unable to prevent the retention of the grand-duchy of Warsaw by Alexander of Russia; but with the aid of Great Britain and France (secret treaty of January 3, 1815) he had frustrated the efforts of Prussia to absorb the whole of Saxony, Bavaria was forced to disgorge the territories gained for her by Napoleon at Austria's expense, Illyria and Dalmatia were regained, and Lombardy was added to Venetia to constitute a kingdom under the Habsburg crown; while in the whole Italian peninsula French was replaced by Austrian influence. In Germany the settlement was even more fateful for Austria's future. The Holy Empire, in spite of the protests of the Holy See, was not restored, Austria preferring the loose confederation of sovereign states (Staatenbund) actually constituted under her presidency. Such a body, Metternich held, "powerful for defence, powerless for offence," would form a guarantee of the peace of central Europe—and of the preponderance of Austria; and in its councils Austrian diplomacy, backed by the weight of the Habsburg power beyond the borders of Germany, would exercise a greater influence than any possible prestige derived from a venerable title that had become a by-word for the union of unlimited pretensions with practical impotence. Moreover, to the refusal to revive the Empire—which shattered so many patriotic hopes in Germany—Austria added another decision yet more fateful. By relinquishing her claim to the Belgian provinces and other outlying territories in western Germany, and by acquiescing in the establishment of Prussia in the Rhine provinces, she abdicated to Prussia her position as the bulwark of Germany against France, and hastened the process of her own gravitation towards the Slavonic East to which the final impetus was given in 1866.
[Sidenote: Internal affairs of Austria under Francis II. and Metternich.]
In order to understand the foreign policy of Austria, inseparably associated with the name of Metternich, during the period from the close of the congress of Vienna to the outbreak of the revolutions of 1848, it is necessary to know something of the internal conditions of the monarchy before and during this time. In 1792 Leopold II. had been succeeded by his son Francis II. His popular designation of "our good Kaiser Franz" this monarch owed to a certain simplicity of address and bonhomie which pleased the Viennese, certainly not to his serious qualities as a ruler. He shared to the full the autocratic temper of the Habsburgs, their narrow-mindedness and their religious and intellectual obscurantism; and the qualities which would have made him a kindly, if somewhat tyrannical, father of a family, and an excellent head clerk, were hardly those required by the conditions of the Austrian monarchy during a singularly critical period of its history.
The personal character of the emperor, moreover, gained a special importance owing to the modifications that were made in the administrative system of the empire. This had been originally organized in a series of departments: Aulic chanceries for Austria, for Hungary and Transylvania, a general Aulic chamber for finance, domains, mines, trade, post, &c., an Aulic council [v.03 p.0013] of war, a general directory of accounts, and a chancery of the household, court and state. The heads of all these departments had the rank of secretaries of state and met in council under the royal presidency. In course of time, however, this body became too unwieldy for an effective cabinet, and Maria Theresa established the council of state. During the early years of the reign of Francis, the emperor kept himself in touch with the various departments by means of a cabinet minister; but he had a passion for detail, and after 1805 he himself undertook the function of keeping the administration together. At the same time he had no personal contact with ministers, who might communicate with him only in writing, and for months together never met for the discussion of business. The council of state was, moreover, itself soon enlarged and subdivided; and in course of time the emperor alone represented any synthesis of the various departments of the administration. The jurisdiction of the heads of departments, moreover, was strictly defined, and all that lay outside this was reserved for the imperial decision. Whatever was covered by established precedent could be settled by the department at once; but matters falling outside such precedent, however insignificant, had to be referred to the throne. A system so inelastic, and so deadening to all initiative, could have but one result. Gradually the officials, high and low, subjected to an elaborate system of checks, refused to take any responsibility whatever; and the minutest administrative questions were handed up, through all the stages of the bureaucratic hierarchy, to be shelved and forgotten in the imperial cabinet. For Francis could not possibly himself deal with all the questions of detail arising in his vast empire, even had he desired to do so. In fact, his attitude towards all troublesome problems was summed up in his favourite phrase, "Let us sleep upon it": questions unanswered would answer themselves.
The result was the gradual atrophy of the whole administrative machine. The Austrian government was not consciously tyrannical, even in Italy; and Francis himself, though determined to be absolute, intended also to be paternal. Nor would the cruelties inflicted on the bolder spirits who dared to preach reform, which made the Austrian government a by-word among the nations, alone have excited the passionate spirit of revolt which carried all before it in 1848. The cause of this is to be sought rather in the daily friction of a system which had ceased to be efficient and only succeeded in irritating the public opinion it was powerless to curb.
Metternich himself was fully conscious of the evil. He recognized that the fault of the government lay in the fact that it did not govern, and he deplored that his own function, in a decadent age, was but "to prop up mouldering institutions." He was not constitutionally averse from change; and he was too clear-sighted not to see that, sooner or later, change was inevitable. But his interest was in the fascinating game of diplomacy; he was ambitious of playing the leading part on the great stage of international politics; and he was too consummate a courtier to risk the loss of the imperial favour by any insistence on unpalatable reforms, which, after all, would perhaps only reveal the necessity for the complete revolution which he feared.
The alternative was to use the whole force of the government to keep things as they were. The disintegrating force of the ever-simmering racial rivalries could be kept in check by the army; Hungarian regiments garrisoned Italy, Italian regiments guarded Galicia, Poles occupied Austria, and Austrians Hungary. The peril from the infiltration of "revolutionary" ideas from without was met by the erection round the Austrian dominions of a Chinese wall of tariffs and censors, which had, however, no more success than is usual with such expedients. The peril from the independent growth of Liberalism within was guarded against by a rigid supervision of the press and the re-establishment of clerical control over education. Music alone flourished, free from government interference; but, curiously enough, the movements, in Bohemia, Croatia and elsewhere, for the revival of the national literatures and languages—which were to issue in the most difficult problem facing the Austrian government at the opening of the 20th century—were encouraged in exalted circles, as tending to divert attention from political to purely scientific interests. Meanwhile the old system of provincial diets and estates was continued or revived (in 1816 in Tirol and Vorarlberg, 1817 in Galicia, 1818 in Carniola, 1828 in the circle of Salzburg), but they were in no sense representative, clergy and nobles alone being eligible, with a few delegates from the towns, and they had practically no functions beyond registering the imperial decrees, relative to recruiting or taxation, and dealing with matters of local police. Even the ancient right of petition was seldom exercised, and then only to meet with the imperial disfavour. And this stagnation of the administration was accompanied, as might have been expected, by economic stagnation. Agriculture languished, hampered, as in France before the Revolution, by the feudal privileges of a noble caste which no longer gave any equivalent service to the state; trade was strangled by the system of high tariffs at the frontier and internal octrois; and finally public credit was shaken to its foundations by lavish issues of paper money and the neglect to publish the budget.
[Sidenote: Metternich's policy of stability.]
The maintenance within the empire of a system so artificial and so unsound, involved in foreign affairs the policy of preventing the success of any movements by which it might be threatened. The triumph of Liberal principles or of national aspirations in Germany, or elsewhere in Europe, might easily, as the events of 1848 proved, shatter the whole rotten structure of the Habsburg monarchy, which survived only owing to the apathy of the populations it oppressed. This, then, is the explanation of the system of "stability" which Metternich succeeded in imposing for thirty years upon Europe. If he persuaded Frederick William III. that the grant of a popular constitution would be fatal to the Prussian monarchy, this was through no love of Prussia; the Carlsbad Decrees and the Vienna Final Act were designed to keep Germany quiet, lest the sleep of Austria should be disturbed; the lofty claims of the Troppau Protocol were but to cover an Austrian aggression directed to purely Austrian ends: and in the Eastern Question, the moral support given to the "legitimate" authority of the sultan over the "rebel" Greeks was dictated solely by the interest of Austria in maintaining the integrity of Turkey. (See EUROPE: History; GERMANY: History; ALEXANDER I. of Russia; METTERNICH, &c.)
Judged by the standard of its own aims Metternich's diplomacy was, on the whole, completely successful. For fifteen years after the congress of Vienna, in spite of frequent alarms, the peace of Europe was not seriously disturbed; and even in 1830, the revolution at Paris found no echo in the great body of the Austrian dominions. The isolated revolts in Italy were easily suppressed; and the insurrection of Poland, though it provoked the lively sympathy of the Magyars and Czechs, led to no actual movement in the Habsburg states. For a moment, indeed, Metternich had meditated taking advantage of the popular feeling to throw the weight of Austria into the scale in favour of the Poles, and thus, by re-establishing a Polish kingdom under Austrian influence, to restore the barrier between the two empires which the partition of Poland had destroyed. But cautious counsels prevailed, and by the victory of the Russian arms the status quo was restored (see POLAND).
[Sidenote: Ferdinand I. 1835-1848.]
The years that followed were not wanting in signs of the coming storm. On the 2nd of March 1835 Francis I. died, and was succeeded by his son Ferdinand I. The new emperor was personally amiable, but so enfeebled by epilepsy as to be incapable of ruling; a veiled regency had to be constituted to carry on the government, and the vices of the administration were further accentuated by weakness and divided counsels at the centre. Under these circumstances [v.03 p.0014] popular discontent made rapid headway. The earliest symptoms of political agitation were in Hungary, where the diet began to show signs of vigorous life, and the growing Slav separatist movements, especially in the south of the kingdom, were rousing the old spirit of Magyar ascendancy (see HUNGARY: History). For everywhere the Slav populations were growing restive under the German-Magyar domination. In Bohemia the Czech literary movement had developed into an organized resistance to the established order, which was attacked under the disguise of a criticism of the English administration in Ireland. "Repeal" became the watchword of Bohemian, as of Irish, nationalists (see BOHEMIA). Among the southern Slavs the "Illyrian" movement, voiced from 1836 onward in the Illyrian National Gazette of Ljudevit Gaj, was directed in the first instance to a somewhat shadowy Pan-Slav union, which, on the interference of the Austrian government in 1844, was exchanged for the more definite object of a revival of "the Triune Kingdom" (Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia) independent of the Hungarian crown (see CROATIA, &c.). In the German provinces also, in spite of Metternich's censors and police, the national movements in Germany had gained an entrance, and, as the revolution of 1848 in Vienna was to show, the most advanced revolutionary views were making headway.
[Sidenote: Galician Rising, 1846.]
The most important of all the symptoms of the approaching cataclysm was, however, the growing unrest among the peasants. As had been proved in France in 1789, and was again to be shown in Russia in 1906, the success of any political revolution depended ultimately upon the attitude of the peasant class. In this lies the main significance of the rising in Galicia in 1846. This was in its origin a Polish nationalist movement, hatched in the little independent republic of Cracow. As such it had little importance; though, owing to the incompetence of the Austrian commander, the Poles gained some initial successes. More fateful was the attitude of the Orthodox Ruthenian peasantry, who were divided from their Catholic Polish over-lords by centuries of religious and feudal oppression. The Poles had sought, by lavish promises, to draw them into their ranks; their reply was to rise in support of the Austrian government. In the fight at Gdow (February 26th), where Benedek laid the foundations of the military reputation that was to end so tragically at Koeniggraetz, flail and scythe wrought more havoc in the rebel ranks than the Austrian musketry. Since, in spite of this object-lesson, the Polish nobles still continued their offers, the peasants consulted the local Austrian authorities as to what course they should take; and the local authorities, unaccustomed to arriving at any decision without consulting Vienna, practically gave them carte blanche to do as they liked. A hideous jacquerie followed for three or four days; during which cartloads of dead were carried into Tarnow, where the peasants received a reward for every "rebel" brought in.
This affair was not only a scandal for which the Austrian government, through its agents, was responsible; but it placed the authorities at Vienna in a serious dilemma. For the Ruthenians, elated by their victory, refused to return to work, and demanded the abolition of all feudal obligations as the reward of their loyalty. To refuse this claim would have meant the indefinite prolongation of the crisis; to concede it would have been to invite the peasantry of the whole empire to put forth similar demands on pain of a general rising. On the 13th of April 1846 an imperial decree abolished some of the more burdensome feudal obligations; but this concession was greeted with so fierce an outcry, as an authoritative endorsement of the atrocities, that it was again revoked, and Count Franz von Stadion was sent to restore order in Galicia. The result was, that the peasants saw that though their wrongs were admitted, their sole hope of redress lay in a change of government, and added the dead weight of their resentment to the forces making for revolution. It was the union of the agrarian with the nationalist movements that made the downfall of the Austrian system inevitable.
[Sidenote: Revolutions of 1848.]
The material for the conflagration in Austria was thus all prepared when in February 1848 the fall of Louis Philippe fanned into a blaze the smouldering fires of revolution throughout Europe. On the 3rd of March, Kossuth, in the diet at Pressburg, delivered the famous speech which was the declaration of war of Hungarian Liberalism against the Austrian system. "From the charnel-house of the Vienna cabinet," he exclaimed, "a pestilential air breathes on us, which dulls our nerves and paralyses the flight of our spirit." Hungary liberated was to become the centre of freedom for all the races under the Austrian crown, and the outcome was to be a new "fraternization of the Austrian peoples." In the enthusiasm of the moment the crucial question of the position to be occupied by the conflicting nationalities in this "fraternal union" was overlooked. Germanism had so far served as the basis of the Austrian system, not as a national ideal, but because "it formed a sort of unnational mediating, and common element among the contradictory and clamorous racial tendencies." But with the growth of the idea of German unity, Germanism had established a new ideal, of which the centre lay beyond the boundaries of the Austrian monarchy, and which was bound to be antagonistic to the aspirations of other races. The new doctrine of the fraternization of the Austrian races would inevitably soon come into conflict with the traditional German ascendancy strengthened by the new sentiment of a united Germany. It was on this rock that, both in Austria and in Germany, the revolution suffered shipwreck.
Meanwhile events progressed rapidly. On the 11th of March a meeting of "young Czechs" at Prague drew up a petition embodying nationalist and liberal demands; and on the same day the diet of Lower Austria petitioned the crown to summon a meeting of the delegates of the diets to set the Austrian finances in order. To this last proposal the government, next day, gave its consent. But in the actual temper of the Viennese the slightest concession was dangerous. The hall of the diet was invaded by a mob of students and workmen, Kossuth's speech was read and its proposals adopted as the popular programme, and the members of the diet were forced to lead a tumultuous procession to the Hofburg, to force the assent of the government to a petition based on the catch-words of the Revolution. [Sidenote: Fall of Metternich, March 13, 1848.] The authorities, taken by surprise, were forced to temporize and agreed to lay the petition before the emperor. Meanwhile round the hall of the diet a riot had broken out; the soldiers intervened and blood was shed. The middle classes now joined the rebels; and the riots had become a revolution. Threatened by the violence of the mob, Metternich, on the evening of the 13th of March, escaped from the Hofburg and passed into exile in England.
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 (see ITALY). 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 [v.03 p.0015] 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. (See GERMANY: History.)
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 15th 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 15th 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.
[Sidenote: National movements.]
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 Windischgraetz, 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 Windischgraetz 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.
[Sidenote: Jellachich and "Illyrism."]
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 Batthyani, 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; [v.03 p.0016] 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 banat, 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 sharpshooters 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 Stratemirović, were defying the Magyar power in the banat. 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 counsels was passed. The conservative leaders of the Hungarian nationalists, Eotvos and Deak, retired from public life; and, though Batthyani 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 (see HUNGARY: History).