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22: Extra-Parliamentary Government

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LONG negotiations between the crown and the leaders of the Coalition having failed to give any promise of a modus vivendi, the king-emperor at last determined to appoint an extra-parliamentary ministry, and on the 21st of June Baron Fejérváry, an officer in the royal bodyguard, was nominated minister president with a cabinet consisting of little-known permanent officials. Instead of presenting the usual programme, the new premier read to the parliament a royal autograph letter stating the reasons which had actuated the king in taking this course, and giving as the task of the new ministry the continuance of negotiations with the Coalition on the basis of the exclusion of the language question. The parliament was at the same time prorogued. A period followed of arbitrary government on the one hand and of stubborn passive resistance on the other. Three times the parliament was again prorogued - from the 15th of September to the 10th of October, from this date to the 19th of December, and from this yet again to the 1st of March 1906 - in spite of the protests of both Houses. To the repressive measures of the government - press censorship, curtailment of the right of public meeting, dismissal of recalcitrant officials, and dragooning of disaffected county assemblies and municipalities - the Magyar nation opposed a sturdy refusal to pay taxes, to supply recruits or to carry on the machinery of administration.

Had this attitude represented the temper of the whole Hungarian people, it would have been impossible for the crown to have coped with it. But the Coalition represented, in fact, not the mass of the people, but only a small dominant minority,¹ and for years past this minority had neglected the social and economic needs of the mass of the people in the eager pursuit of party advantage and the effort to impose, by coercion and corruption failing other means, the Magyar language and Magyar culture on the non-Magyar races. In this supreme crisis, then, it is not surprising that the masses listened with sullen indifference to the fiery eloquence of the Coalition leaders. Moreover, by refusing the royal terms, the Coalition had forced the crown into an alliance with the extreme democratic elements in the state. Universal suffrage had already been adopted in the Cis-leithan half of the monarchy; it was an obvious policy to propose it for Hungary also, and thus, by an appeal to the non-Magyar majority, to reduce the irreconcilable Magyar minority to reason. Universal suffrage, then, was the first and most important of the proposals put forward by Mr József Kristóffy, the minister of the interior, in the programme issued by him on the 26th of November 1905. Other proposals were: the maintenance of the system of the joint army as established in 1867, but with the concession that all Hungarian recruits were to receive their education in Magyar; the maintenance till 1917 of the actual customs convention with Austria; a reform of the land laws, with a view to assisting the poorer proprietors; complete religious equality; universal and compulsory primary education.

The issue of a programme so liberal, and notably the inclusion in it of the idea of universal suffrage, entirely checkmated the opposition parties. Their official organs, indeed, continued to fulminate against the "unconstitutional"government, but the enthusiasm with which the programme had been received in the country showed the Coalition leaders the danger of their position, and henceforth, though they continued

¹ Of the 16,000,000 inhabitants of Hungary barely a half were Magyar; and the franchise was possessed by only 800,000, of whom the Magyars formed the overwhelming majority.

their denunciations of Austria, they entered into secret negotiations with the king-emperor, in order, by coming to terms with him, to ward off the fatal consequences of Kristóffy's proposals.

On the 19th of February 1906 the parliament was dissolved, without writs being issued for a new election, a fact accepted by the country with an equanimity highly disconcerting to patriots. Meanwhile the negotiations continued, so secretly that when, on the 9th of April, the appointment of a Coalition cabinet¹ under Dr Sándor Wekerle was announced, the world was taken completely by surprise. The agreement with the crown which had made this course possible included the postponement of the military questions that had evoked the crisis, and the acceptance of the principle of Universal Suffrage by the Coalition leaders, who announced that their main tasks would be to repair the mischief wrought by the "unconstitutional"Fejérváry cabinet, and then to introduce a measure of franchise reform so wide that it would be possible to ascertain the will of the whole people on the questions at issue between themselves and the crown. In the general elections that followed the Liberal party was practically wiped out, its leader, Count István Tisza, retiring into private life.

For two years and a half the Coalition ministry continued in office without showing any signs that they intended to carry out the most important item of their programme. The old abuses continued: the muzzling of the press in the interests of Magyar nationalism, the imprisonment of non-Magyar deputies for "incitement against Magyar nationality," the persecution of Socialists and of the subordinate races. That this condition of things could not be allowed to continue was, indeed, recognized by all parties the fundamental difference of opinion was as to the method by which it was to be ended. The dominant Magyar parties were committed to the principle of franchise reform; but they were determined that this reform should be of such a nature as not to imperil their own hegemony. What this would mean was pointed out by Mr Kristóffy in an address delivered at Budapest on the 14th of March 1907. "If the work of social reform," he said, "is scamped by a measure calculated to falsify the essence of reform, the struggle will be continued in the Chamber until full electoral liberty is attained. Till then there can be no social peace in Hungary." The postponement of the question was, indeed, already producing ugly symptoms of popular indignation. On the 10th of October 1907 there was a great and orderly demonstration at Budapest, organized by the socialists, in favour of reform. About 100,000 people assembled, and a deputation handed to Mr Justh, the president of the Chamber, a monster petition in favour of universal suffrage. The reception it met with was not calculated to encourage constitutional methods. The Socialist deputy, Mr Mezõffy, who wished to move an interpellation on the question, was howled down by the Independents with shouts of "Away with him ! Down with him !"Four days later, in answer to a question by the same deputy, Count Andrássy said that the Franchise Bill would be introduced shortly, but that it would be of such a nature that "the Magyar State idea would remain intact and suffer no diminution." Yet more than a year was to pass before the promised bill was introduced, and meanwhile the feeling in the country had grown more intense, culminating in serious riots at Budapest on the 13th of March 1908.

At last (November 11, 1908) Count Andrássy introduced the long-promised bill. How far it was from satisfying the demands of the Hungarian peoples was at once apparent. It granted manhood suffrage, it is true, but hedged with so many qualifying conditions and complicated with so elaborate a system of plural voting as to make its effect nugatory. Every male Hungarian citizen, able to read and write, was to receive the vote at the beginning of his twenty-fifth year, subject to a residential qualification of twelve months. Illiterate citizens were to choose one elector for every ten of their number. All electors not having the qualifications for the plural franchise were to have one vote. Electors who, e.g., had passed four standards of a secondary school, or paid 16s. 8d. in direct taxation were to have two votes. Electors who had passed five standards, or who paid £4, 3s 4d. in direct taxes, were to have three votes. Voting was to be public, as before, on the ground, according to the Preamble, that the secret ballot protects electors in dependent positions only in so far as they break their promises under the veil of secrecy."

It was at once seen that this elaborate scheme was intended to preserve "the Magyar State idea intact." Its result, had it passed, would have been to strengthen the representation of the Magyar and German elements, to reduce that of the Slovaks, and almost to destroy that of the Rumans and other non-Magyar races whose educational status was low. On the other hand, according to the Neue Freie Presse, it would have increased the number of electors from some million odd to 2,600,000, and the number of votes to 4,000,000; incidentally it would have largely increased the working-class representation.

This proposal was at once recognized by public opinion - to use the language of the Journal des Debats (May 21, 1909) - as "an instrument of domination"rather than as an attempt to carry out the spirit of the compact under which the Coalition government had been summoned to power. It was not, indeed, simply a reactionary or undemocratic

¹ The cabinet consisted of Dr Wekerle (premier and finance), Ferencz Kossuth (commerce), Count Gyula Andrássy (interior), Count Albert Apponyi (education), Daványi (agriculture), Polónyi (justice) and Count Aladár Zichy (court).

measure; it was, as The Times correspondent pointed out, "a measure sui generis, designed to defeat the objects of the universal suffrage movement that compelled the Coalition to take office in April 1906, and framed in accordance with Magyar needs as understood by one of the foremost Magyar noblemen." Under this bill culture was to be the gate to a share in political power, and in Hungary culture must necessarily be Magyar.

Plainly, this bill was not destined to settle the Hungarian problem, and other questions soon arose which showed that the crisis, so far from being near a settlement, was destined to become more acute than ever. In December 1908 it was clear that the Coalition Ministry was falling to pieces. Those ministers who belonged to the constitutional and popular parties, i.e., the Liberals and Clericals, desired to maintain the compact with the crown; their colleagues of the Independence party were eager to advance the cause they have at heart by pressing on the question of a separate Hungarian bank. So early as March 1908 Mr Hallo had laid a formal proposal before the House that the charter of the Austro-Hungarian bank, which was to expire on the 31st of December 1910, should not be renewed; that negotiations should be opened with the Austrian government with a view to a convention between the banks of Austria and Hungary and that, in the event of these negotiations failing, an entirely separate Hungarian bank should be established. The Balkan crisis threw this question into the background during the winter; but, with the settlement of the international questions raised by the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it once more came to the front. The ministry was divided on the issue, Count Andrássy opposing and Mr Ferencz Kossuth supporting the proposal for a separate bank. Finally, the prime minister, Dr Wekerle, mainly owing to the pressure put upon him by Mr Justh, the president of the Chamber, yielded to the importunity of the Independence party, and in the name of the Hungarian government, laid the proposals for a separate bank before the king-emperor and the Austrian government.

The result was a foregone conclusion. The conference at Vienna revealed the irreconcilable difference within the ministry; but they revealed also something more - the determination of the emperor Francis Joseph, H pressed beyond the limits of his patience, to appeal again to the non-Magyar Hungarians against the Magyar chauvinists. He admitted that under the Compromise of 1867 Hungary might have a separate bank, while urging the expediency of such an arrangement from the point of view of the international position of the Dual Monarchy. But he pointed out also that the question of a separate bank did not actually figure in the act of 1867, and that it could not be introduced into it, more especially since the capital article of the ministerial programme, i.e., electoral reform, was not realized, nor near being realized. On the 27th of April, in consequence of this rebuff, Dr Wekerle tendered his resignation, but consented to hold office pending the completion of the difficult task of forming another government.

This task was destined to prove one of almost insuperable difficulty. Had the issues involved been purely Hungarian and constitutional, the natural course would have been for the king to have sent for Mr Kossuth, who commanded the strongest party in the parliament, and to have entrusted him with the formation of a government. But the issues involved affected the stability of the Dual Monarchy and its position in Europe; and neither the king-emperor nor his Austrian advisers, their position strengthened by the success of Baron Aehrenthal's diplomatic victory in the Balkans, were prepared to make any substantial concessions to the party of Independence. In these circumstances the king sent for Dr László Lukács, once finance minister in the Fejérváry cabinet, whose task was, acting as a homo regius apart from parties, to construct a government out of any elements that might be persuaded to co-operate with him. But Lukács had no choice but to apply in the first instance to Mr Kossuth and his friends, and these, suspecting an intention of crushing their party by entrapping them into unpopular engagements, rejected his overtures. Nothing now remained but for the king to request Dr Wekerle to remain "for the present"in office with his colleagues, thus postponing the settlement of the crisis (July 4).

This procrastinating policy played into the bands of the extremists; for supplies had not been voted, and the question of the credits for the expenditure incurred in connection with the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, increasingly urgent, placed a powerful weapon in the hands of the Magyars, and made it certain that in the autumn the crisis would assume an even more acute form. By the middle of September affairs had again reached an impasse. On the 14th Dr Wekerle, at the ministerial conference assembled at Vienna for the purpose of discussing the estimates to be laid before the delegations, announced that the dissensions among his colleagues made the continuance of the Coalition government impossible. The burning points of controversy were the magyarization of the Hungarian regiments and the question of the separate state bank. On the first of these Wekerle, Andrássy and Apponyi were prepared to accept moderate concessions; as to the second, they were opposed to the question being raised at all. Kossuth and Justh, on the other hand, competitors for the leadership of the Independence party, declared themselves not prepared to accept anything short of the full rights of the Magyars in those matters. The matter was urgent; for parliament was to meet on the 28th, and it was important that a new cabinet, acceptable to it, should be appointed before that date, or that the Houses should be prorogued pending such appointment; otherwise the delegations would be postponed and no credits would be voted for the cost of the new Austro-Hungarian "Dreadnoughts"and of the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the event, neither of these courses proved possible, and on the 28th Dr Wekerle once more announced his resignation to the parliament.

The prime minister was not, however, as yet to be relieved of an impossible responsibility. After a period of wavering Mr Kossuth had consented to shelve for the time the question of the separate bank, and on the strength of this Dr Wekerle advised the crown to entrust to him the formation of a government. The position thus created raised a twofold question: Would the crown accept ? In that event, would he be able to carry his party with him in support of his modified programme ? The answer to the first question, in effect, depended on that given by events to the second; and this was not long in declaring itself. The plan, concerted by Kossuth and Apponyi, with the approval of Baron Aehrenthal, was to carry on a modified Coalition government with the aid of the Andrássy Liberals, the National party, the Clerical People's party¹ and the Independence party, on a basis of suffrage reform with plural franchise, the prolongation of the charter of the joint bank, and certain concessions to Magyar demands in the matter of the army. It was soon clear, however, that in this Kossuth would not carry his party with him. A trial of strength took place between him and Mr de Justh, the champion of the extreme demands in the matter of Hungarian financial and economic autonomy; on the 7th of November rival banquets were held, one at Makó, Justh's constituency, over which he presided, one at Budapest with Kossuth in the chair; the attendance at each foreshadowed the outcome of the general meeting of the party held at Budapest on the 11th, when Kossuth found himself in a minority of 46. The Independence party was now split into two groups: the "Independence and 1848 party," and the "Independence, 1848 and Kossuth party."

On the 12th Mr de Justh resigned the presidency of the Lower House and sought re-election, so as to test the relative strength of parties. He was defeated by a combination of the Kossuthists, Andrássy Liberals and Clerical People's party, the 30 Croatian deputies, whose vote might have turned the election, abstaining on Dr Wekerle promising them to deliver Croatia from the oppressive rule of the ban, Baron Rauch. A majority was thus secured for the Kossuthist programme of compromise, but a majority so obviously precarious that the king-emperor, influenced also - it was rumoured - by the views of the heir-apparent in an interview with Count Andrássy and Mr Kossuth on the 15th, refused to make any concessions to the Magyar national demands. Hereupon Kossuth publicly declared (Nov. 22) to a deputation of his constituents from Czegléd that he himself was in favour of an independent bank, but that the king opposed it, and that in the event of no concessions being made he would join the opposition.

How desperate the situation had now become was shown by the fact that on the 27th the king sent for Count Tisza, on the recommendation of the very Coalition ministry which had been formed to overthrow him. This also proved abortive, and affairs rapidly tended to revert to the ex-lex situation. On the 23rd of December Dr Lukács was again sent for. On the previous day the Hungarian parliament had adopted a proposal in favour of an address to the crown asking for a separate state bank. Against this Dr Wekerle had protested, as opposed to general Hungarian opinion and ruinous to the national credit, pointing out that whenever it was a question of raising a loan, the maintenance of the financial community between Hungary and Austria was always postulated as a preliminary condition. Point was given to this argument by the fact that the premier had just concluded the preliminaries for the negotiation of a loan of £20,000,000 in France, and that the money - which could not be raised in the Austrian market, already glutted with Hungarian securities - was urgently needed to pay for the Hungarian share in the expenses of the annexation policy, for public works (notably the new railway scheme), and for the redemption in 1910 of treasury bonds. It was hoped that, in the circumstances, Dr Lukács, a financier of experience, might be able to come to terms with Mr de Justh, on the basis of dropping the bank question for the time, or, failing that, to patch together out of the rival parties some sort of a working majority.

On the 28th the Hungarian parliament adjourned sine die, pending the settlement of the crisis, without having voted the estimates for 1910, and without there being any prospect of a meeting of the delegations. On the two following days Dr Lukács and Mr de Justh had audiences of the king, but without result; and on the 31st Hungary once more entered on a period of extra-constitutional government, After much negotiation a new cabinet was finally constituted on the 17th of January 1910. At its head was Count Khuen Héderváry, who, in addition to the premiership, was minister of the interior, minister for Croatia, and minister in waiting on the crown. Other

¹ The People's party first emerged during the elections of 1896, when it contested 98 seats. Its object was to resist the anti-clerical tendencies of the Liberals, and for this purpose it appealed to the "nationalities"against the dominant Magyar parties, the due enforcement of the Law of Equal Rights of Nationalities (1868) forming a main item of its programme. Its leader, Count Ziely, in a speech of Jan. 1, 1 897, declared it to be neither national, nor Liberal, nor Christian to oppress the nationalities. See Seton-Watson, p. 185.

ministers were Mr Károly de Hieronymi (commerce) Dr Lukács (finance), Ferencz de Székely (justice, education, public worship), Béla Serenyi (agriculture) and General Hazay (national defence). The two main items in the published programme of the new government were the introduction of universal suffrage and - even more revolutionary from the Magyar point of view - the substitution of state-appointed for elected offficlals in the counties. The real programme was to secure, by hook or by crook, a majority at the polls. Meanwhile, the immediate necessities of the government were provided for by the issue through Messrs Rothschild of £2,000,000 fresh treasury bills. These were to be redeemed in December 1910, together with the £9,000,000 worth issued in 1909, out of the £20,000,000 loan agreed on in principle with the French government; but in view of the opposition in Paris to the idea of advancing money to a member of the Triple Alliance, it was doubtful whether the loan would ever be floated.

The overwhelming victory of the government in June at the polls produced a lull in a crisis which at the beginning of the year had threatened the stability of the Dual Monarchy and the peace of Europe; but, in view of the methods by which the victory had been won not the most sanguine could assert that the crisis was overpassed. Its deep underlying causes can only be understood in the light of the whole of Hungarian history. It is easy to denounce the dominant Magyar classes as a selfish oligarchy, and to criticize the methods by which they have sought to maintain their power. But a nation that for a thousand years had maintained its individuality in the midst of hostile and rival races could not be expected to allow itself without a struggle to be sacrificed to the force of mere numbers and the less so if it were justified in its claim that it stood for a higher ideal of culture and civilization. The Magyars had certainly done much to justify their claim to a special measure of enlightenment. In their efforts to establish Hungarian independence on the firm basis of national efficiency they had succeeded in changing their country from one of very backward economic conditions into one which promised to be in a position to hold its own on equal terms with any in the world.

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