Page images

Diet had always been limited as to taxation, and that the union between Hungary and the Hereditary States was real and not personal. The chief arguments relied on for the latter position are the unity of the army, the fact that Hungary has never had a separate ministry of foreign affairs, and the Act of 1741, by which the husband of Maria Theresa was made guardian of the heir in event of a minority instead of the Palatine of Hungary. To these three arguments it is replied in the second address, that though Hungarian regiments have fought side by side with Austrian soldiers in the wars of the Empire, yet the number of troops and the mode of levying and providing for them was always regulated by the Diet, and an Act of as late as 1840 is quoted on this point :—“Whereas in accordance with the demand of the Estates, based on the law, reports have been, in the name of His Majesty, laid before them of the position of foreign affairs, and of the present state of the Hungarian regiments, in consequence of these reports, and in consideration of these exigencies, the Estates grant, as subsidies, to meet the said requirements, of their own free-will and accord, and without prejudice, 38,000 recruits, under the following conditions.” If this, and such as this, be the documents on which the Emperor relies for proofs of his right to raise armies in Hungary without leave of the Diet, he is certainly in evil case.

With respect to foreign affairs, the Diet reply that they have always been satisfied to leave them in the hands of the sovereign, as King of Hungary, whose ancient prerogative it is to transact them, subject to the general control of his Parliament; but they point out several statutes to show that the foreign interests of Hungary have never been merged in those of Austria ; and as to the guardianship of a minor heir to the Crown, they completely turn the tables on the Emperor in the following sentences :

[ocr errors]

“If the Constitutional Independence of Hungary were not clearly expressed in the Pragmatic Sanction and other laws, this said 4th Act of 1741, in the Rescript referred to, would alone


[ocr errors]

establish it beyond all doubt. For the Estates of the land chose the Consort of Her Majesty, Francis Duke of Lorraine, Barri, and Hetruria—who had not yet been elected Roman Emperor-co-regent with her most gracious Majesty, and entrusted him with the guardianship of the heir to the Throne, in the event of his minority. But they explicitly declared that this election took place of their own free-will and accord, and that no Royal Consort should be entitled to found claims upon this Act as a precedent.' They further provided that, during the co-regency, the inseparability and hereditary right of succession as by the 1st and 2nd Acts of 1723 established, should be unprejudiced; that the laws and privileges of the country should be maintained; that the office of Palatine should not be shorn of any of its prerogatives; that the affairs of the country should be administered in accordance with the laws; and that His Majesty, the co-regent, should not exercise the highest Royal functions, nor the jura majestatica, which, according to the laws, belong only to the crowned Kings.

"If Hungary had possessed no Constitutional Independence, if, according to the laws, the right of guardianship of the infant Hungarian King had not devolved on the Palatine, then it would have been unnecessary to pass this Act, seeing that to the father belongs the right of guardianship naturally, as well as by the laws of the Hereditary States. But just because the political position of Hungary is entirely different from that of the Hereditary States,just because there existed no real union, it was necessary to pass a separate law, that with reference to Hungary the father might not be deprived of the right of guardianship of his own son."

The answer as to the alleged restriction of the financial powers of the Diet is equally satisfactory, but for this and other arguments we must refer our readers to the Addresses themselves. We cannot pass by, however, the extraordinary declaration of the Emperor which brought the affairs between himself and the Diet to a crisis. Unable to deny the nature and extent of his obligations to Hungary, and feeling himself, probably, defeated by the Diet in logic and in statement of fact, he had recourse to the expedient of repudiating the terms to which his predecessors had assented, on the ground that he is “not personally pledgedto the laws he is violating ; in other words, that a sovereign who inherits a crown has a right to set aside all previous statutes and contracts which he finds inconvenient to himself! The Queen of England, by this reasoning,


may repudiate the terms of the Act of Settlement, as it was passed more than a century before her birth; or if inclined to revise the Reform Act, she may declare herself “ not personally pledged” to a measure enacted under her immediate prede

This last, indeed, is a case precisely in point, since the Emperor claims to cancel the Acts of 1848 (or rather such of them as are opposed to his own ideas) because they were passed in a period of excitement, and assented to only by his uncle. Well do the Diet say in reply to this audacious dishonesty :

“If the sovereign has the right not to consider personally binding on himself the laws sanctioned by his predecessors, what guarantee have we for our constitution, for our legal liberty, for laws created and to be created; on what are the peoples of the Empire, on whom your Majesty has bestowed constitutional liberty, to rely ? Every successor of your Majesty can declare that he does not think this or that constitution, which his predecessor has sanctioned, compatible with the interests of the Empire, or with its position as a great power, and does not consider it binding for his person. If we cancel from the constitution that continuity of obligation which passes from generation to generation, and binds as much the sovereign as his peoples; every constitution, the safety of every state, becomes the plaything of circumstances. This continuity is the basis of the liberty of the people and of the throne, of the sovereign, and of his hereditary right of succession. The denial of that continuity annihilates that interposing power, without which, on a collision of interests, every question must be decided by arbitrary force, or by the edge of the sword, without which peoples and their princes would have no other choice but Absolute Government or Revolution. This salutary mediating power is confidence and belief in the durability of right, which cannot even be conceived apart from continuity of obligation.”

We are not surprised that after this avowal of faithlessness on the part of the Emperor the Diet spoke of “the thread of negotiation as broken off,” and re-insisted in firm, though perfectly temperate language, on their constitutional rights. Francis Joseph, with some good qualities, and some materials for a higher character, seems to be afflicted with the same mental peculiarities as brought so much calamity on our own unhappy Charles. Like Charles he has no idea of the honourable fulfilment of reciprocal obligations between a sovereign and his people. Like Charles, he inspires with profound distrust those who have to negotiate with him on national affairs. Like Charles, too, he exhibits a petulance when thwarted, and an impatience of sound advice, which prove his mind to be destitute of the true capacities for a ruler. The Diet, therefore, after once more recounting the legal rights of their country, and the oppressions which it now endures, concluded with a solemn declaration that they held fast to the Pragmatic Sanction, and to all the conditions contained in it, without any exception, and that they must refuse to “regard or recognise as constitutional anything which is in contradiction to any part of it.” And after categorically refusing to accept the Imperial Diploma, or to send representatives to the Austrian Council; after declaring that all Acts passed, obligations incurred, or loans contracted by that Council, were invalid as respects Hungary; after further declaring that they will not surrender their lawful right to vote supplies, to regulate taxes and military levies, and to constitute with the Sovereign the Legislature of Hungary,—that they are “compelled to regard the present administration of the country, especially the despotic conduct of unconstitutional officials, as illegal, and subject to punishment according to the laws,” they finally conclude in a sentence which, for the eloquence of dignity and patriotism, may match with anything of ancient or modern

times :

" It is possible that over our country will again pass hard times; we cannot avert them at the sacrifice of our duties as citizens. The constitutional freedom of the land is not our possession in such a sense that we can freely deal with it; the nation has with faith entrusted it to our keeping, and we are answerable to our country and to our conscience. If it be necessary to suffer, the nation will submit to suffering, in order to preserve and hand . down to future generations that Constitutional Liberty it has inherited from its forefathers. It will suffer without losing courage, as its ancestors have endured and suffered, to be able to defend the rights of the country: for what might and power take away, time and favourable circumstances may restore; but the



recovery of what a nation renounces of its own accord, from fear of suffering, is matter of difficulty and uncertainty. The nation will suffer, hoping for a better future, and trusting to the justice of its cause."

The Emperor, probably convinced that this second Address was unanswerable, at once dissolved the Diet. He has since ruled Hungary by force in admitted violation of the law.

We have dwelt on this history, because the vivid interest of Englishmen in foreign politics, on which we observed at the commencement of the article, will cause our readers to appreciate every turn of the conflict. We cannot doubt of the opinion with which any impartial man, conversant in any degree with constitutional law, will rise from a perusal of the foregoing pages, and still more from that of the documents on which our remarks have been founded.

Baron Podmanicky, in a short letter addressed to Mr. Horne Payne, which will be found at the commencement of his volume, says that, “if there is one country in Europe whose opinion is valued by us, it is England.”

The Baron, and every Hungarian patriot, may rest well assured that whatever mistaken words may have fallen from a distinguished man, or whatever may be insinuated to the contrary by supple politicians or railway negotiators, the people of England are true to the great principles of constitutional freedom, of which they know the value themselves, and desire to see triumphant in Hungary as elsewhere in Europe. Nor let the Emperor or his Austrian statesmen delude themselves with the belief that the public opinion of this country, which controls any ministry, will suffer an active alliance with a Government which contemns moral obligation, and outrages law and justice. The system at present maintained in Hungary is in truth an anarchy; and the ruler who at this time, and with the political prospect before us, perpetuates anarchy, is the public enemy of Europe.

« PreviousContinue »