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House of Representatives, and we heartily commend this brief volume, consisting of the imperial writ of summons for the Diet, the two addresses of that body, and other documents, to all interested in the most remarkable civil contest that has taken place since Hampden and Pym confronted the royal invader of our liberties.
For the benefit of those of our readers who may not have time or inclination for the perusal of these documents, we will endeavour to give a succinct account of the points at issue between the Emperor and the Diet; and in doing so we shall hope to refute the statement conveyed in the words of Lord Brougham. We allude to his Lordship with some reluctance, because we are thoroughly convinced that he has been misled by erroneous information, and that his heart is with freedom in Hungary as elsewhere; but as he has embodied in the sentence referred to what we fear is an opinion prevalent in some other quarters, we shall take his words as the proposition to be dealt with, and shall demonstrate, we trust, to the satisfaction of our readers, that the ancient constitution of Hungary has never been restored since 1849, and that the demands of the Diet are as legal and just, as the pretensions of the Emperor are unfounded.
By the laws of Hungary, then, the king cannot be crowned, and consequently cannot enter into the full enjoyment of even his limited prerogative, until he has taken the coronation oath, and issued the “ diploma inaugurale.” By the oath he undertakes to preserve intact the franchises and territories of the kingdom, and in the diploma he renews this promise in a more detailed form, and in language which is settled by the Diet
. This oath is as old as 1222, when Andreas II. granted the “ Aurea Bulla,” the Magna Charta of Hungary, and its words have remained unaltered in substance to the present day. The only sovereign, prior to the present reign, who did not take the coronation oath, was Joseph II., who reigned despotically from 1780 to 1790, when he repented of his conduct, cancelled all the decrees he had issued, and made preparations for his legal coronation, which was only prevented by his death. An Act was passed by the Diet in 1790, providing that the coronation must in future take place within six months of the accession.
But when the King of Hungary had been duly crowned, he did not thereby become possessed of any arbitrary power; he shared the power of legislation, as the sovereign of this country does, with the Parliament, which consists, as with us, of a house of hereditary nobles, and a house of elected representatives. He has never had the power to make or unmake a law, to raise a shilling by taxation, or to levy a recruit for the army;* he could never legally supersede the established tribunals, nor imprison a subject save in due course of law.
These ancient franchises of the kingdom were solemnly reiterated in the famous document which is known as the Pragmatic Sanction. This compact between the House of Hapsburg and the Hungarian nation was made in 1723, when the Diet agreed to waive the Salic law of the country, and admit the female descendants of the reigning house to the throne, on certain specified conditions. They stipulated that Hungary should always remain an independent kingdom, subject only to its own laws, and that the king should observe the rights, liberties, and laws of the land, should take the coronation oath, and issue the inaugural diploma. Under this sacred compact the present Emperor of Austria, descended from the female line, claims the Crown of Hungary, and by its terms, as an honourable man, and a lawful sovereign, he is unquestionably bound to abide.
* “ We will not now appeal to our older laws, which show, beyond dispute, that so long as taxes have been paid, since the first standing army was established, the granting of taxes and the raising of recruits have been the undoubted rights of the nation, which she has continuously exercised through her Diet. We refrain from recapitulating the detailed exposition in the text of the 8th Act of 1715, and the i9th Act of 1790, and will content ourselves with quoting the 4th Act of 1827, which declares that, -as well the decreeing of all kinds of taxes, and other subsidies, in gold or in kind, as also the granting of recruits, belong to the province of the Diet to discuss and settle, and cannot, under any pretext, even in the most extraordinary case, be withdrawn from it; that the taxes granted by ihe Diet cannot be increased without its consent, nor any new tax imposed, nor recruits
raised.'" -Second Address of Diet of Hungary.
The enactments passed by the Diet in 1848 did not alter
any of the leading principles of the Hungarian constitution. They abolished the exclusive privileges of the nobles, did away with several oppressive imposts, and enlarged the electoral franchise; but we find from his Rescript to the Diet that the Emperor has given his express approval to these provisions, * and only objects to those which concern the relations between Hungary Proper and Croatia, and those (but this point is not quite clear) which transferred some portions of the old local legislation to the jurisdiction of the Diet. By what figure of speech can it then be said that the ancient constitution of Hungary has been restored? Up to the present moment the Emperor has never been crowned as King of Hungary, has never taken his coronation oath, or issued his diploma; he has promulgated laws on his sole authority, has levied taxes without consent of the Diet, has superseded the common law courts by military tribunals, and has imprisoned his subjects by arbitrary power; at this moment illegal exactions are being wrung from the Hungarian people by the license of a soldiery; and every semblance of constitutional government is purposely set at nought. We do not colour the picture by dwelling on all the brutality and insolence which characterise the Austrian army in its unlawful occupation of the country; this, however insupportable to the unhappy victims of the wrong, is only an incident to the illegality-we simply ask whether such a state of things, such a mode of government, is the restoration of constitutional rule?
* “We have, in our Diploma of the 20th of October, 1860, solemnly recognised as just
, and confirmed the principles of the laws of 1848, by which the privileged position of single classes is abolished—the qualification to possess property and hold office extended to all—the obligations of the Urbarium, Tithe, and those of the subject class cancelled—the duty of aiding in supporting the burdens of the State, the liability to serve in the Army, declared to be common to all—and lastly, the right of suffrage extended to classes who before had not enjoyed it." -'Rescript of H.I. M. the Emperor of Austria.
But it may be said, that if the Hungarians are now suffering the evils of absolute military sway they have no one but themselves to thank for it, since they refused to avail themselves of the offer made by the Emperor to send delegates to the General Council of the Empire at Vienna. The answer to this is short and simple: Hungary is an independent kingdom, possessing her own laws and institutions, which she has a right to retain until she relinquishes them of her own free will; she did not choose to give up the power of selftaxation and the advantage of national independence, in order to send, as was proposed, 85 members to a house of 343 representatives, of whom the majority would be elected by nationalities with interests diverse from her own. Nor is the question of the legal right of Hungary to abide by her own constitution in any way affected by the wisdom or folly of this refusal by her Diet. When there are two parties to a bargain it is open to either to decline the contract. A woman may be foolish to refuse an offer, but it does not follow that it is lawful to marry her by force. Naboth might have done well to accept the proffered terms for his vineyard, but Ahab was not therefore entitled to seize the land by violence. So in this case, the Emperor was entirely justified in asking the Hungarians to give up their constitution, and to fuse their national government in that of his other territories; but he was not justified, either as a politician or a gentleman, in turning on them with temper when they declined his overtures, in dissolving the Diet, and subjecting the whole land to tyranny and rapine.
This question of the union between Austria and Hungary is the point on which much of the controversy turns.
The Diet maintain that the union is simply personal, like that between Sweden and Norway, the identity of the individual who wears the two crowns of Austria and Hungary being the sole connecting link. The Emperor on the other hand alleges that the union is real, the two countries forming one indivisible state. We are bound to say that the Emperor has the worst of the argument, the documentary evidence, even that which he brings forward himself, being clearly against him. But even supposing that the union is somewhat closer than the Hungarians are willing at the present moment to admit, we cannot see how the Emperor's case is advanced thereby. Whatever union may exist between the crowns, it is indisputable that Hungary has from time immemorial possessed a Diet. Whatever construction the Emperor may put on the Pragmatic Sanction, this at least cannot be denied, that that famous instrument stipulates for the ancient privileges of Hungary, and that Maria Theresa and her successors acknowledged the obligation. On what possible pretext of morality or law does a Sovereign who, in his diploma summoning the Diet, relies on the Pragmatic Sanction for his title to the throne, violate the provisions of that compact by ruling without a Diet, and without legal tribunals ? The Emperor is in the position of a man who claims an estate by his title-deeds, while he repudiates the covenants contained in them. It is a position which every English gentleman, if we except perhaps Mr. Roebuck, will consider at least equivocal.
We are able in this country to see the real question the more clearly inasmuch as our own history furnishes us with a case in point. Rather more than a century and a half ago England and Scotland were two separate kingdoms, united by the golden link of the crown, but each ruled independently by its own legislature and administration. A treaty of union was proposed, and after considerable negotiation, was assented to on both sides, to the great and lasting benefit of each nation. It will not be denied that the Scotch would have acted most unwisely if they had declined the bargain ; but suppose they had done so-suppose that national pride, and ancient hostility, had prevailed over prudence and foresight -what then ? Would the English Government have been therefore justified in marching an army over the border, dissolving the Parliament in Edinburgh, superseding the Court of Session by military tribunals, quartering soldiers on the