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21: The Independent Kingdom

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HUNGARY was now a free and independent modern state; but the very completeness and suddenness of her constitutional victory made it impossible for the strongly flowing current of political life to keep within due bounds. The circumstance that the formation of political parties had not come about naturally was an additional difficulty. Broadly speaking, there have been in Hungary since 1867 two parties: those who accept the compromise with Austria, and affirm that under it Hungary, so far from having surrendered any of her rights, has acquired an influence which she previously did not actually possess; and secondly, those who see in the compromise an abandonment of the essentials of independence and aim at the restoration of the conditions established in 1848. Within this broad division, however, have appeared from time to time political groups in bewildering variety, each adopting a party designation according to the exigencies of the moment, but each basing its programme on one or other of the theoretical foundations above mentioned. Thus, at the outset, the most heterogeneous elements were to be found both on the Left and Right. The Extreme Left was infected by the fanaticism of Kossuth, who condemned the compromise and refused to take the benefit of the amnesty, while the prelates and magnates who had originally opposed the compromise were now to be found by the side of Deák and Andrássy. The Deák party preserved its majority at the elections of 1869, but the Left Centre and Extreme Left returned to the diet considerably reinforced. The outbreak of the Franco-German War of 1870 turned the attention of the Magyars to foreign affairs. Andrássy never rendered a greater service to his country than when he prevented the imperial chancellor and joint foreign minister, Count Beust,¹ from intervening in favour of France. On the retirement of Beust in 1871, Andrássy was appointed his successor, the first instance, since Hungary came beneath the dominion of the Habsburgs, of an Hungarian statesman being entrusted with the conduct of foreign affairs. But, however gratifying such an elevation might be, it was distinctly prejudicial, at first, to Hungary's domestic affairs, for no one else at this time, in Hungary, possessed either the prestige or the popularity of Andrássy. Within the next five years ministry followed ministry in rapid succession. A hopeless political confusion ensued. Few measures could be passed. The finances fell into disorder. The national credit was so seriously impaired abroad that foreign loans could only be obtained at ruinous rates of interest. During this period Deák had almost entirely withdrawn from public life. His last great speech was delivered on the 28th of June 1873, and he died on the 29th of January 1876. Fortunately, in Kálmán Tisza, the leader of the Liberal (Szabadelvû, i.e., "Free Principle") party, he left behind him a statesman of the first rank, who for the next eighteen years was to rule Hungary uninterruptedly. From the first, Tisza was exposed to the violent attacks of the opposition, which embraced, not only the party of Independence, champions of the principles of 1848, but the so-called National party, led by the brilliant orator Count Albert Apponyi, which aimed at much the same ends but looked upon the Compromise of 1867 as a convenient substructure on which to build up the Magyar state. Neither could forgive Tisza for repudiating his earlier Radical policy, the so-called Bihar Programme (March 6, 1868), which went far beyond the Compromise in the direction

¹ Beust was the only "imperial chancellor" in Austro-Hungarian history; even Metternich bore only the title of "chancellor"; and Andrássy, who succeeded Beust styled himself "minister of the imperial and royal household and for foreign affairs."

of independence, and both attacked him with a violence which his unyielding temper, and the ruthless methods by which he always knew how to secure victory, tended ever to fan into fury. Yet Tisza's aim also was to convert the old polyglot Hungarian kingdom into a homogeneous Magyar state, and the methods which he employed - notably the enforced magyarization of the subject races, which formed part of the reformed educational system introduced by him - certainly did not err on the side of moderation. Whatever view may be held of Tisza's policy in this respect, or of the corrupt methods by which he maintained his party in power, there can be no doubt that during his long tenure of office - which practically amounted to a dictatorship - he did much to promote the astonishing progress of his country, which ran a risk of being stifled in the strife of factions. Himself a Calvinist, he succeeded in putting an end to the old quarrel of Catholic and Protestant and uniting them in a common enthusiasm for a race ideal; nominally a Liberal, he trampled on every Liberal principle in order to secure the means for governing with a firm hand; and if the political corruption of modern Hungary is largely his work,¹ to him also belongs the credit for the measures which have placed the country on a sound economic basis and the statesmanlike temper which made Hungary a power in the affairs of Europe. In this latter respect Tisza rendered substantial aid to the joint minister for foreign affairs by repressing the anti-Russian ardour of the Magyars on the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-78, and by supporting Andrássy's execution of the mandate from the Berlin Congress to Austria-Hungary for the occupation of Bosnia, against which the Hungarian opposition agitated for reasons ostensibly financial. Tisza's policy on both these occasions increased his unpopularity in Hungary, but in the highest circles at Vienna he was now regarded as indispensable.

The following nine years mark the financial and commercial rehabilitation of Hungary, the establishment of a vast and original railway system which won the admiration of Europe, the liberation and expansion of her over-sea trade, the conversion of her national debt under the most favourable conditions and the consequent equilibrium of her finances. These benefits the nation owed for the most part to Gábor Baross, Hungary's greatest finance minister, who entered the cabinet in 1886 and greatly strengthened it. But the opposition, while unable to deny the recuperation of Hungary, shut their eyes to everything but Tisza's "tyranny," and their attacks were never so savage and unscrupulous as during the session of 1889, when threats of a revolution were uttered by the opposition leaders and the premier could only enter or leave the House under police protection. The tragic death of the crown prince Rudolph hushed for a time the strife of tongues, and in the meantime Tisza brought into the ministry Dezsõ Szilágyi, the most powerful debater in the House, and Sándor Wekerle, whose solid talents had hitherto been hidden beneath the bushel of an under-secretaryship. But in 1890, during the debates on the Kossuth Repatriation Bill, the attacks on the premier were renewed, and on the 13th of March he placed his resignation in the king's hands.

The withdrawal of Tisza scarcely changed the situation, but the period of brief ministries now began. Tisza's successor, Count Gyula Szápáry formerly minister of agriculture, held office for eighteen months, and was succeeded (Nov. 21, 1892) by Wekerle. Wekerle, essentially a business man, had taken office for the express purpose of equilibrating the finances, but the religious question aroused by the encroachments of the Catholic clergy, and notably their insistence on the baptism of the children of mixed marriages, had by this time (1893-1894) excluded all others, and the government were forced to postpone their financial programme to its consideration. The Obligatory Civil Marriage Bill, the State Registries Bill and the Religion of Children of Mixed Marriages Bill, were finally adopted on the 21st of June 1894, after fierce debates and a ministerial interregnum of ten days (June 10-20); but on the 25th of December, Wekerle, who no longer possessed the king's confidence,² resigned a second time and was succeeded by Baron Dezsõ (Desiderius) Bánffy. The various parties meanwhile had split up into some half a dozen sub-sections; but the expected fusion of the party of independence and the government fell through and the barren struggle continued till the celebration of the millennium of the foundation of the monarchy produced for some months a lull in politics. Subsequently, Bánffy still further exasperated the opposition by exercising undue influence during the elections of 1896. The majority he obtained on this occasion enabled him, however, to carry through the Army Education Bill, which tended to magyarize the Hungarian portion of the joint army; and another period of comparative calm ensued, during which Bánffy attempted to adjust various outstanding financial and economical differences with Austria. But in November 1898, on the occasion of the renewal of the commercial convention with Austria, the attack on the ministry was renewed with unprecedented virulence, obstruction being systematically practised with the object of goading the government into committing

¹ Especially the Electoral Law of 1874, which established a very unequal distribution of electoral areas, a highly complicated franchise, and voting by public declaration, thus making it easy for the government to intimidate the electors and generally to gerrymander the elections.

² The Austrian court resented especially the decree proclaiming national mourning for Louis Kossuth, though no minister was present at the funeral.

illegalities, till Bánffy, finding the situation impossible, resigned on the 17th of February 1899. His successor, Kálmán Széll, obtained an immense but artificial majority by a fresh fusion of parties and the minority pledged itself to grant an indemnity for the extra- parliamentary financial decrees rendered necessary by Hungary's understanding with Austria, as well as to cease from obstruction. As a result of this compromise the budget of 1899 was passed in little more than a month, and the commercial and tariff treaty with Austria were renewed till 1903.¹ But the government had to pay for this complacency with a so-called "pactum," which bound its hands in several directions, much to the profit of the opposition during the "pure" elections of 1901. On the reassembling of the diet, Count Albert Apponyi was elected speaker, and the minority seemed disposed to let the government try to govern. But the proposed raising of the contingent of recruits by 15,000 men (Oct. 1902) once more brought up the question of the common army, the parliament refusing to pass the bill, except in return for the introduction of the Hungarian national flag into the Hungarian regiments and the substitution of Magyar for German in the words of command. The king refusing to yield an inch of his rights under clause ii. of Law XII. of the Compromise of 1867, the opposition once more took to obstruction, and on the 1st of May 1903 Széll was forced to resign.

Every one now looked to the crown to extract the nation from an ex-lex, or extra- constitutional situation, but when the king, passing over the ordinary party-leaders, appointed as premier Count Károly Khuen-Héderváry, who had made himself impossible as ban of Croatia, there was general amazement and indignation. The fact was that the king, weary of the tactics of a minority which for years had terrorized every majority and prevented the government from exercising its proper constitutional functions, had resolved to show the Magyars that he was prepared to rule unconstitutionally rather than imperil the stability of the Dual Monarchy by allowing any tampering with the joint army. In an ordinance on the army word of command, promulgated on the 16th of September, he reaffirmed the inalienable character of the powers of the crown over the joint army and the necessity for maintaining German as the common military language. This was followed by the fall of Khuen-Héderváry (September 29), and a quarrel á outrance between crown and parliament seemed unavoidable. The Liberal party, however, realized the abyss towards which they were hurrying the country, and united their efforts to come to a constitutional understanding with the king. The problem was to keep the army an Hungarian army without infringing on the prerogative of the king as commander-in-chief, for, unconstitutional as the new ordinance might be, it could not constitutionally be set aside without the royal assent. The king met them half way by inviting the majority to appoint a committee to settle the army question provisionally, and a committee was formed, which included Széll, Apponyi, Count István Tisza and other experienced statesmen.

A programme approved of by all the members of the committee was drawn up, and on the 3rd of November 1903, Count István Tisza was appointed minister president to carry it out. Thus, out of respect for the wishes of the nation, the king had voluntarily thrown open to public discussion the hitherto strictly closed and jealously guarded domain of the army. Tisza, a statesman of singular probity and tenacity, seemed to be the one person capable of carrying out the programme of the king and the majority. The irreconcilable minority, recognizing this, exhausted all the resources of "technical obstruction" in order to reduce the government to impotence, a task made easy by the absurd standing-rules of the House which enabled any single member to block a measure. These tactics soon rendered legislation impossible, and a modification of the rule of procedure became absolutely necessary if any business at all was to be done. The Modification of the Standing- orders Bill was accordingly introduced by the deputy Gábor Daniel (Nov. 18, 1904); but the opposition, to which the National party had attached itself, denounced it as "a gagging order" inspired at Vienna, and shouted it down so vehemently that no debate could be held; whereupon the president declared the bill carried and adjourned the House till the 13th of December 1904. This was at once followed by an anti-ministerial fusion of the extremists of all parties, including seceders from the government (known as the Constitutional party); and when the diet reassembled the opposition broke into the House by force and wrecked all the furniture, so that a session was physically impossible (Jan. 5, 1905). Tisza now appealed to the country, but was utterly defeated. The opposition thereupon proceeded to annul the Lex Daniel (April 7) and stubbornly to clamour for the adoption of the Magyar word of command in the Hungarian part of the common army. To this demand the king as stubbornly refused to accede; and as the result of the consequent dead-lock, Tisza, who had courageously continued in office at the king's request, after every other leading politician had refused to form a ministry, was finally dismissed on the 17th of June.

¹ Subsequently extended till 1907.

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