Jorg Hirsch / Kim Travnor (translation)

Andrew Andersen (map editing for web version)


Longman London and New York 1996







Hungary under the Habsburgs up to the Compromise of 1867









Dressed in the uniform of a Hungarian general, the Habsburg Emperor, Francis Joseph I, was crowned Apostolic King of Hungary in Buda on 8 June 1867. In the course of a solemn religious ceremony, conducted according to traditional mediaeval rites, the Hungarian Primate placed the holy crown of St Stephen on the Emperor's head to the rapturous acclaim of the crowd. This splendid act of reconciliation between a political nation and its ruler had come about not least through the mediating efforts of the Empress Elizabeth who enjoyed great popularity in Hungary. Based on a compromise agreement negotiated in the previous weeks, it brought to an end a crisis which had been smouldering in Hungary ever since the revolution of 1848.

To this day the Emperor has remained a controversial figure. But, given his bitter personal experiences from the time the Hungarian diet deposed the House of Habsburg-Lorraine on 14 April 1849, the many domestic and foreign policy failures following subsequent attempts to re-establish absolutist rule, unsuccessful experiments at constitutional centralism and Old Conservative federalism and especially Austria's shock defeat at Königgrätz, it says a great deal for his political vision that far from being blind to political realities, he deliberately instigated the Austrian Empire's transformation into the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary. Although the advocates of a unitary Empire thought that the dualism created by the so-called 'Compromise' of 1867 set the wrong course for the future and that obstructing moves towards a genuine federal structure for the Empire would inevitably contribute to the break-up of the multi-national state, the Compromise -- soon to be fiercely attacked also in Hungary -offered the only real chance of preserving the Habsburg Empire's great-power status and ending the prevailing conflict between the central imperial power and the nationalist aspirations for independence which had existed in Hungary since before the 1848 Revolution.

Following the annihilation of a small and badly led army under the young King Louis II (1516-26) by the army of Sultan Suleiman II at Mohács on 29 August 1526, Hungary fell under the rule of King Ferdinand I of Habsburg ( 1526-64) by the terms of a double marriage contract of 1515. Internal conflict between the Habsburg monarch and the Prince of Transylvania, John Zápolyai, whom the lesser nobility had crowned king, diverted attention from the need to defend the country against the Turks, so that, with the exception of a narrow strip of territory in the west and north-west, the main part of the old mediaeval kingdom of Hungary was incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. Only the Principality of Transylvania, though liable to pay tribute to the Turks, managed to preserve some degree of internal autonomy. Economic mismanagement under the Turks, constant fighting on the frontier and the long drawn-out Turkish wars exacted a high price. Whole areas were depopulated, trade and commerce suffered and Hungarian intellectual and cultural life stagnated. Buda, the ancient capital of mediaeval Hungary, was not finally wrested from the Turks by the imperial armies until 1686, and at a price. The Hungarian estates agreed to acknowledge the Habsburg succession, renouncing the right to the monarch's free election and the right to resist a ruler's illegal actions, as guaranteed in the Golden Bull of 1222. The country's reorganisation, carried out in a spirit of absolutism by the Emperor Leopold I ( 1657-1705), inspired the rebellion led by the prince of Transylvania, Ferenc II (Rákóczy). The diet convoked at Ónod in 1707 declared that the Habsburgs had forfeited the throne and proclaimed Hungary's independence. A compromise was finally reached in 1711 with the signing of the Treaty of Szatmár which secured for the nobility the unlimited possession of their estates, their traditional privilege of tax exemption, self-administration of the counties, the right of the Hungarian diet to legislate and unlimited seigneurial powers over their peasant labour. Following their acceptance of the Pragmatic Sanction in 1723 the estates also acknowledged the Habsburg succession in the female line and accepted the principle that Hungary, like the monarchy's other territories and possessions, formed an integral and indivisible part of the Habsburg dynasty's domains.

Despite all attempts to unify and modernise the Habsburg Empire in the eighteenth century, Hungary, thanks to its self-conscious maintenance of its special traditions, its nobility's feudal landownership and its retention of many independent political institutions, succeeded in maintaining its special position within the Empire based on a distinct nobility and national identity. Even Joseph II ( 1780-90) only partially succeeded in transforming Hungary from a constitution based on estates to a modern bureaucratic state and absolute monarchy. Hungary's estates, comprising some 200 magnates, approximately 8,000 wealthy landowners and about 135,000 families of the lesser nobility with 330,000 members, sought to preserve the old constitution, not for its own sake, but as a means of safeguarding the existing social order and aristocratic way of life from any major changes. Although Hungary retained its representative assembly and estates-based constitution, these institutions did not guarantee independence or autonomous government, since its main political institutions -- the Royal Hungarian Chancellery, the Royal Hungarian Council of Governors and the Royal Privy Council were effectively under the direct control of the imperial central government in Vienna.

The first decades of the nineteenth century witnessed the earliest attempts to modernise the country. In the wake of the French Revolution the nobility attempted to liberalise the constitution and promote a greater sense of Hungarian nationhood. During the so-called 'Reform Era' in the quarter century preceding the 1848 Revolution demands were made to replace the old estates-based constitution with a democratic constitution on the French or Belgian model, in other words, to replace the diet and its estates with a popularly elected representative assembly and responsible ministerial government. These demands were accompanied by efforts to institute land reform, emancipate the peasants, reform the judiciary, and introduce such civic rights as equality before the law, freedom of the press and the right of free assembly. Economic demands, such as the improvement of the infrastructure through improved regulation of the Danube, the construction of roads and railways, general industrialisation and increased productivity in the backward agricultural sector were accompanied by concrete measures to raise the extremely poor standard of education and generally promote intellectual life in the fields of literature, the press and the theatre. Every traditional area of life, customs and behaviour witnessed dramatic change, intended to place Hungary with its traditional mediaeval character on the road to modern socio-economic conditions and parliamentary government. This comprehensive process of modernisation also affected the Hungarians' previously unpolitical national consciousness which gave way to a Magyar nationalism and its political aspirations for a nation state. The long-held desire to see the power of the monarchy replaced by the creation of a nation state was combined with the wish to see the Magyar language predominate in the schools and public life, even to the point of fully assimilating the non-Magyar majority. As a result of the demographic effects of Turkish rule and the extensive settlement of foreign immigrants during the eighteenth century, Hungary, in 1842, comprised a colourful mixture of races. The country's 5.57 million Magyars were confronted by a majority of non-Magyars (2.47 million Rumanians, 1.72 million Slovaks, 1.32 million Germans, 1.26 million Croats, 1.05 million Serbs, 0.46 million Ukrainians, 45,000 Slovenes and 288,000 of other ethnic origin). In the absence of a nationally conscious Magyar middle class, in the modern sense of the term, it was the aristocracy in Hungary which gave impetus to reformist demands grounded in the liberal and nationalist spirit of the time.

The originator and main advocate of a programme of evolutionary reform was Count István Széchenyi. He wished to see urgent reforms cautiously and gradually introduced in consultation with the dynasty. However, the suspicion of reform harboured by the ageing Emperor Francis I ( 1792-1835), together with Metternich's repressive policing measures during the reign of the weak Emperor Ferdinand I ( 1835-48), encouraged the growth of radical ideas among the lesser nobility, plagued as it was at this time by financial hardship. From 1841 onwards, its spokesman was the young lawyer and writer, Lajos Kossuth. His ironical and pointed articles, which appeared in his newspaper, Pesti Hirlap (Pest Journal), argued passionately for major changes in the existing social structure. He also argued increasingly openly for Hungary's complete independence from the Habsburg monarchy -- or, at least, for parity alongside Austria within the framework of a confederation. Hungary's rigid tariff barriers, which had never been ratified by the Emperor, and the Language Decree promulgated by the Hungarian diet of 1843-44, which made Magyar the official language in almost all areas of national life, added to existing tensions. Although it was widely believed that the national language, more than any other factor, would guarantee the unity of Hungary's emergent 'bourgeois democracy', the imposition and spread of Magyar in those parts of the country inhabited by national minorities fuelled existing racial tensions and resulted in open conflict between the various ethnic groups and Magyar nationalism.

The successes of the opposition movement, which finally formed itself into the party of 'opposition' (Ellenzék) at a national congress in Pest on 15 March 1847, caused the central government in Vienna to take counter-measures. The energetic Count György Apponyi took over as head of the Royal Hungarian Chancellery and filled the key positions in the county administrations with men who worked energetically against this 'opposition' which drew its support from the liberal and educated middle class. When, in November 1847, a new diet was convened in Pressburg (now Bratislava), not far from Vienna, the pro-government elements were in the majority. However, they were unable to prevent the opposition's demands, formulated by Kossuth, from becoming the main focus of debate. These included the demand for national self-determination, abolition of the nobility's exemption from taxation, removal of the peasants' feudal status and obligations, the extension of the franchise beyond the aristocracy and the appointment of a ministry for Hungarian affairs, responsible to the assembly. The government was obliged to promise an end to corrupt administrative practices which flouted the law. Although it became clear in the course of the proceedings that most of the nobility shrank from any major radical reforms, the revolution which spread throughout the Habsburg Empire in mid-March 1848 brought about a completely new phase of development which was to have a profound effect on Hungary's relationship with the monarchy.

The revolution broke out in Vienna on 13 March 1848 and by 15 March had spread to the university town of Pest, Hungary's intellectual and cultural capital. Bad harvests had given rise to peasant disturbances in the countryside and the still comparatively small industrial proletariat which numbered around 150,000 was suffering from the effects of what was a general European economic crisis. Members of the intelligentsia and the student body began to stir up opposition to the monarchy's absolutism and joined the aristocracy in demanding greater political rights and a share in government. The unrest escalated into armed uprisings in the provinces inhabited by national minorities. Against this background, the Twelve Point programme proclaimed in the Café 'Pilvax' in Pest on the morning of 15 March 1848 found widespread support. The aims of this programme went beyond the nobility's reformist policies. It called for the abolition of hereditary serfdom, civic and religious equality before the law, universal taxes from which the nobility would no longer be exempt, the convocation in Pest of annual diets based on limited suffrage, the creation of a ministry with parliamentary responsibility, press freedom, the release of political prisoners, the introduction of trial by jury, the creation of a national militia, an army oath of allegiance to the constitution and, finally, union with Transylvania.

On the same day a deputation sent from the diet in Pressburg to meet Emperor Ferdinand managed to exploit the favourable situation which had arisen. By 17 March 1848, the delegates had pressed home their demands and managed to secure the appointment of the magnate, Count Lajos Batthyány, as Hungary's first prime minister responsible to a Hungarian parliament. Shortly thereafter, the representatives of the nobility in the diet drafted in quick succession the necessary laws for the annual summoning of a popularly elected representative assembly, the creation of a national bank, the introduction of press freedom, the formation of a responsible ministerial cabinet, compensation for landowners affected by the commutation of servile tenures and labour services and, finally, the abolition of entailed estates. Because of their fear of peasant revolution even the conservative elements voted for the immediate and unconditional emancipation of the peasants, especially since the liberated peasant masses were seen as the main guarantee for wresting and subsequently maintaining Hungary's newly won independence. It was probably for this reason that, on 28 March, the court in Vienna initially refused to sanction the draft laws to emancipate the peasants or create a council of ministers. However, in view of the revolutionary situation developing in Italy and Germany it eventually felt obliged to accept the draft proposals in their original form on 11 April 1848.

Despite the court's panic and impotence, which lasted through to June and July 1848, the central government in Vienna was not prepared in the long term to honour concessions forced upon it by the pressures of the hour, especially since many issued remained unresolved in the rush to pass all thirty-one laws and Hungary's relationship to the Empire as a whole had not been properly clarified. Although the moderates in Batthyány's ministry, led by Count Széhenyi (labour and transport), Baron Jozsef Eötvös (religion and public education) and Ferenc Deák (justice) were in the majority, and Kossuth had to content himself with the thankless job of minister of finance, they were incapable of influencing developments. The emancipation of the peasants generated so many problems that a growing dissatisfaction was noticeable not only among the nobility, heavily burdened by the loss of feudal dues and labour services, but also among the peasants who had had to settle for barely 50 per cent of the country's cultivated land. Their discontent could be contained only by military intervention and declaring martial law. Since the national minorities' demand for cultural autonomy within the framework of the Hungarian kingdom was completely rejected, the non-Magyar population turned against the Hungarian revolution. Attempts by the Croats, Rumanians, Slovaks and Ruthenes to take their own independence by force were brutally suppressed and gave the dynasty in Vienna a welcome opportunity to use the minorities which acknowledged the Habsburg Empire but objected to the idea of Magyar nation state to help contain Hungarian revolutionary fervour. The gradual return to normality in western Europe encouraged Vienna to attempt Hungary's forceful subjugation.

A rebellion had already flared up in Serbia in June 1848. On 11 July, the new diet, in which the 'opposition' comprised nine-tenths of the deputies elected on the basis of a new census-based electoral laws, felt obliged to agree to Kossuth's demand for 200,000 soldiers and 42 million guilders to organise the country's defence. The 40,000 recruits which the government in Vienna called for to put down the Italian liberation campaign was agreed to, but would involve a drastic rise in taxes, whereas a growing number of people supported the demand to establish a Hungarian national army, the Honvéd, as a sort of militia. Since there was a distinct shift to the left by the diet's liberal majority in August, the government in Vienna, encouraged by its successes in Bohemia and Italy, thought the time had come to put an end to Hungary's constitutional aspirations and struggle for independence. Although Batthyány's ministry was prepared to make concessions in order to avoid any punitive military action, even at the expense of Hungarian self-government, Vienna complained that the diet's military and fiscal measures had violated the Pragmatic Sanction and demanded that the April Laws be reduced in scope. In a dramatic speech before the diet, Kossuth spoke openly of the failure of Vienna's policy of pacification and called for emergency measures to be taken in defence of the country. On 10 September 1848, the Batthyány ministry resigned.


Map from Hungarian Historical Atlas depicting  the War f Independence / 1948-49.

Click on the map for higher resolution

When news reached Pest on 12 September that the provincial governor of Croatia, Field Marshall Jelačić, had begun military operations on the previous day, Hungary's various social classes joined together to form a united front. This included both liberal and racial landowners, as well as peasants won over by generous concessions, and townspeople, all of whom were prepared to defend their national independence. Although the peasant leader, Avram Iancu, staged an armed uprising in Transylvania and Slovakian irregulars took up arms against the Magyar authorities, the National Army comprising regular troops, the national militia, reserves and volunteers, was able to inflict a decisive defeat on Jelačić's troops on 29 September. Whereas the moderates now withdrew from the government, and the Committee for National Defence, dominated by Kossuth and the Left, became the real decision-making body, a combination of confused orders and hesitancy on the part of the Hungarian commander-in-chief, General Móga, prevented any joint action taking place with the revolutionaries in Vienna who had forced the court to flee post-haste to Olmütz on 6 October. On 30 October 1848, General Windischgrätz forced the Hungarians to retreat at Schwechat, just outside Vienna. However, the first cracks were already beginning to appear in Hungary's national effort, which was still united in the face of external threat. The more moderate politicians around Baron Z. Keményi, L. Kovács and G. Kazinczy, the nucleus of the later 'peace party' (Békepárt), were not prepared to go along with Kossuth's increasingly radical policies, nor with General Artúr Görgey's preparations for a final military reckoning with the Austrians. When, on 2 December 1848, Emperor Ferdinand I abdicated in favour of his nephew, Francis Joseph, these politicians called on Hungarians to accept the new monarch and argued for the need for a negotiated solution to resolve the conflict. The peasants also displayed a mood of growing disillusionment, since their demands were to be discussed only after the conclusion of the military operations. Hungary's nationalities, for their part, had placed themselves firmly on the side of the young Emperor.

The imperial army's initial successes over Hungary's revolutionary army strengthened Vienna's belief that the status quo could be completely restored in Hungary. When, in the spring of 1849, however, the Hungarians succeeded in pushing back the government troops, the Hungarian diet, which had since removed itself to Debrecen on 14 April, announced the deposition of the royal house of Habsburg-Lorraine and proclaimed an independent Hungarian Republic. Kossuth was chosen as its first 'acting governor', thus effectively assuming the position of Regent. While the Republic's army marched on to further victories, the 'peace party' succeeded in increasingly curtailing the authority of Kossuth with his left-wing sympathies and substantially paralysed the revolutionary government. The news, which was made public on the storming of the fortress at Buda on 21 May 1849, that Tsarist Russia would join Austria in its war against the Hungarian revolutionaries, caused profound demoralisation and a growing mood of defeatism in a country which was now politically isolated and militarily exhausted. From the middle of June onwards, the 150,000 or so soldiers of the poorly equipped and ill-trained army of the beleaguered Republic faced over 200,000 and 170,000 men in the Russian and Austrian imperial armies respectively. The government, which moved to Szeged at the beginning of July, tried desperately to mobilise the nation. However, the increasingly frequent reports of defeats meant that it was no longer possible to mobilise the disillusioned peasants to sacrifice themselves in the further defence of the country, despite promises of a major land reform intended to solve their problems. The Nationalities Law, passed by the diet during its last sitting on 28 July 1849, granted the country's non-Magyar peoples substantial rights in the use of their native languages and a limited autonomy. But these concessions came much too late in the day to bring about an improvement in Hungary's miserable situation. At Világos, on 13 August 1849, General Görgey was forced to surrender unconditionally to the Russian commander-in-chief, Field Marshall Paskevič. Kossuth, who up to the last moment had urged the Hungarians to fight on, escaped to Turkey with some of the revolution's military and civilian leaders.

Thanks to Russia's support, the Habsburg Empire had survived its revolutionary upheavals. The Hungarian experiment had been a heroic struggle lasting eighteen months. Its failure was the result not only of its enemies' superior strength and an unfavourable international situation, but of Hungary's own internal weaknesses and contradictions. The upheaval, which had its origins in the pre-1848 'Reform Era', had exposed the inadequacies of Hungary's social and economic structure but at the same time failed to produce and establish a new social and economic order. As the social class most identified with the state, the nobility had taken an active part in the political decisions of the day. It had subscribed to a passionate nationalism which had unrealistically assessed the possibilities of integrating and assimilating the country's majority of non-Magyar peoples, themselves in the grip of their own nationalism. It has also overestimated the economic capacity of a country which was still strongly agrarian in character. The missed opportunities which resulted from these misjudgements meant that the basic problems posed by the nationalities and the peasants could not be solved sufficiently quickly and decisively to ensure that national solidarity which was essential for the successful defence of the bourgeois-democratic revolution. In particular, the conflicting aims of the radical minority, the liberal nationalist majority and the conservative monarchists of the greater nobility and clergy, had quickly checked the revolution's momentum. The revolution had also proved abortive because its leaders failed to recognise the true nature of the power relationship and interests involved, and because those who had assumed political responsibility lacked compromise and moderation. The desire for revenge on the part of the triumphant Habsburg dynasty, its strict policy of restoring the status quo and its refusal to acknowledge any changes which had taken place, ruled out any collaboration based on trust and thus obstructed the Habsburg Empire's development towards a modern constitutional state based on a western European-type of social structure and solid industrial middle class.



Following the Republican Army's surrender at Világos, Hungary was subjected to a period of military rule which lasted until 10 July 1850. The government acted without restraint in carrying out savage reprisals against the rebels. While many tried to escape the punishment of the courts by fleeing abroad, thousands of patriots were given long prison sentences and had their property confiscated. The majority of officers in the defeated army were forced to serve as ordinary privates in punishment battalions. The overt dictatorship of Field Marshall Haynau, who had made his reputation as the 'hyena of Brescia' on account of cruelties committed under his command in Italy, reached its apogée on 6 October 1849, one year to the day after the working-class uprising in Vienna had taken place. In order to 'set an example', he ordered the execution in Arad of thirteen Honvéd generals as well as that in Pest of Hungary's first prime minister, Count Lajos Batthyáni, who had been appointed by the Emperor Ferdinand I. These men were to be followed to the scaffold by numerous army officers, revolutionary activists and government officials. Haynau's tough and vindictive measures forever remain a disgraceful episode in the history of the Habsburg monarchy. They not only provided Hungary with martyrs, but drove a deep wedge between the Hungarian nation and the Habsburg dynasty. They gave rise to anti-Austrian sentiments which were to last for decades, nourished by glorified accounts of Hungary's struggle for freedom and the heroes it had produced. The Austrian chancellor, Prince Felix Schwarzenberg, justified the 'forfeiture theory' which postulated that by rebelling and rejecting Habsburg rule, the Hungarians had forfeited their constitutional rights. Their country consequently deserved to be treated as a conquered province. As early as the autumn of 1849, Baron Geringer, Hungary's newly appointed governor-general, began to reorganise the Hungarian bureaucracy by destroying the unified administration of the old Hungarian kingdom and replacing it with five administrative districts, each under the direct authority of an army general. Transylvania, along with the Voivodina, Croatia and Slovenia with their substantial Serb populations, were detached from Hungary and placed on an equal footing with the Empire's other territories. In other words, they were reduced to the status of mere provinces. A popularly elected assembly and self-governing county administrations ceased to exist. Alongside the military and a strengthened police force and gendarmerie, foreigners -- mainly German and Czech civil servants, derided by the natives as 'Bach Hussars', after the new Austrian interior minister -- were put in charge of maintaining internal order. As formerly in the reign of Joseph II, German became the official language of the civil service and the language of instruction in elementary and secondary schools. Under the new centralised and absolutist government, openly practised after a royal decree of 1851 (the Sylvester Patent) had suspended the 1849 constitution, a return to Hungary's pre-revolutionary constitution based on feudal estates, particularist interests and self-government for the nationalities was unthinkable. While the clergy's influence was considerably strengthened by the signing of a Concordat in 1855, neither the federalist Old Conservatives, nor the constitutional liberals found favour at court in Vienna. As far as Hungary was concerned, the dynasty could rely only on a few career bureaucrats who had risen to the nobility in the service of the crown and the military who had similarly inculcated monarchist values. Even the moderate representatives of Hungary's nationalities found themselves forced into opposition.

Significantly, some of the liberal achievements of the revolution emained. The law, which had emancipated the peasants in Austria, proposed by Hans Kudlich, and implemented on 7 September 1848, was also extended to Hungary. This ensured the removal of the landowner's authority, patrimonial rights and police powers. The peasants' feudal services and dues were cancelled, partly through compensation, partly through commutation. The extension to Hungary of the Austrian criminal code and legal procedures proved beneficial in its effects, as did the improvements which took place in schooling. The introduction of universal taxation, the removal of internal tariffs and the regulation of banking and commerce through uniform legal regulations produced an economic upturn and resulted in significant progress. The railway network was also progressively expanded. By 1867 it already comprised over 2,000 kilometres. The upward economic trend in the agricultural sector soon helped the larger landowners overcome the losses incurred as a result of peasant emancipation. The lesser nobility, on the other hand, frequently failed to hold on to its share of land. Its members increasingly sought employment in the urban professions and the civil service. Favourable market conditions and a healthy employment situation helped the peasants, most of whom owned only small plots of land, to make modest economic progress, while the landless proletariat benefited from the country's gradual industrialisation and the expansion of its basic industries, financed mainly by foreign capital. The majority of Hungary's 300,000 workers, however, were still employed as small-scale tradesmen.

During this so-called 'Bach era', the conservative, anti-revolutionary aristocracy and even many members of the middle-ranking nobility showed a growing readiness to reach a sensible compromise with the monarchy. Even so, Vienna's brusque rejection of any attempt at compromise forced even the monarchist nobility, which opposed the loss of constitutional autonomy, to adopt an attitude of passive resistance though the spirit of revolt and national resistance to arbitrary rule found support only among clandestine groups. Political events abroad also planted the hope of regaining Hungary's traditional constitutional rights. The failures of detested Russian Tsardom in the Crimea ( 1853-56) and Italy's anti-Austrian campaign, stirred up by Napoleon III, raised hopes that the monarchy might change its policy towards Hungary. Austria's sudden defeat by France and Piedmont in 1859 frustrated Hungarian émigré plans to influence events at home by setting up a rival government in exile and a Hungarian Legion in Italy. Changes in government which resulted from the removal of the Bach ministry together with half-hearted concessions by Vienna, demonstrated the temporary weakness of the central government. The Hungarians were quick to take advantage of this by staging political demonstrations to coincide with their traditional national celebrations. Following bloody clashes on 15 March 1860, the situation grew even more tense when news reached Hungary of Garibaldi's triumphant progress through southern Italy and the prospect of direct Austrian involvement -- something Hungarian émigré did their best to encourage. In view of the -- difficult situation in both domestic and foreign policy the Emperor Francis Joseph soon felt obliged to enlarge the imperial council ( Reichsrat) by appointing to it some representatives of the Old Conservative Magyar aristocracy in the spring of 1860. On 20 October he also came some way towards accepting their ideas of a greater measure of federal government for the Empire by promulgating the October Diploma which reorganised the monarchy's internal governmental structure.

Faced with a dangerous situation in foreign policy, the Emperor hoped to strengthen the Empire's internal stability by partially fulfilling Hungarian demands. But this was not achieved. High hopes for a complete restoration of the traditional prerogatives of the old Hungarian kingdom and independent government with a sufficient degree of representation and control in the imperial council were not fulfilled. As an autonomous Crown territory, Hungary was to be granted only equal status with the Empire's other provinces. The restoration of the diet -- with albeit strongly curtailed legislative powers -- the Royal Chancellery, the governor's advisory council and the county administrations did not satisfy the majority of Hungarians. Led by Ferenc Deák, they supported the idea of 'legal continuity', i.e. that the laws enacted during the 1848-49 revolution should remain in effect. Since other parts of the Empire were fiercely opposed to the attempt to strengthen the monarchy constitutionally along the lines proposed in the October Diploma, the Emperor did a volte face and appointed Anton Ritter von Schmerling to take over in Vienna. The February Patent of 26 February 1861 now attempted to solve the problems of the Habsburg monarchy by means of a centralist liberal solution. The imperial council was now given the wider functions of a fully fledged central parliament, in whose Lower House Hungary would be represented by 85 deputies out of a total of 343, but the powers of the provincial diets (Landtage) were severely curtailed. By dividing the electorate into four separate classes on the basis of property qualifications, an electoral system was created which worked to the benefit of the German element and urban population.

The February Patent met with outright rejection in Hungary. The idea that a solution to the nationalities problem and a much more generous interpretation of the 1853 laws governing the commutation of the peasants' feudal obligations, which were necessary preconditions for restoring constitutional independence, would become an even greater source of conflict in future, grew not only among émigrés but in Hungary itself. The desire for reconciliation was also present among the leaders of Hungary's nationalities, although their demand to concede cultural and administrative autonomy to their virtually, self-contained areas of settlement found little support among the Magyar population which continued to insist on the territorial integrity and political unity of the lands of the crown of St Stephen and on the idea of a single Hungarian political nation. An alliance of all Hungary's nationalities and a united platform in the struggle for the restitutio in integrum, i.e. to restore the '48 platform' was, therefore, out of the question because of the fundamental differences that existed. When the diet reconvened on 2 April 1861, two main groups of equal strength emerged. The liberal aristocrats around Deák took the view that, in keeping with the constitution, Hungary's national demands had to be addressed to the Emperor Francis Joseph, who, though not yet crowned, was their de facto sovereign. The so-called 'resolution party', on the other hand, led by Count László Teleki, who, having been pardoned, had already returned from exile, was not prepared to accept a situation of constitutional illegality and wanted to make its protest known through a decree of the diet. The conflicts of conscience which resulted from the conditions attached to his pardon eventually drove Teleki to commit suicide on 8 May 1861. Thereafter, Deák managed to obtain a narrow majority of 155 to 152 in favour of his draft petition to the Emperor. While accepting the Pragmatic Sanction as the basis of Hungary's relations with the monarchy, it also invoked Hungary's former independence in demanding recognition of the laws passed in 1848. Owing to its lack of protocol and inadequate regard for the rights of Hungary's nationalities, the Emperor Francis Joseph I twice rejected the petition and dissolved the diet on 22 August 1861. The opportunity of reaching a negotiated settlement was therefore squandered for the time being. An interim measure, the so-called 'provisorium', by abolishing the self-government of the county administrations and municipal councils, ushered in a return to a new brand of absolutism.

Over the next four years the majority of the Magyar agrarian élite pursued a policy of passive resistance. The political stabilisation in Italy, the brutal suppression of the January Uprising in Poland in 1863-64, which contained the threat of expansion by Tsarist Russia, the dashing of hopes for German unification under Austria's leadership -- which appeared to open the way for solving Hungary's relationship to the Empire on the basis of a personal union -- and the consequences of the disastrous drought of 1863 stifled every initiative at first. Only the exiled Kossuth worked out a draft in 1862 for a Danubian Confederation of the two states, whereby Hungary, detached from the Habsburg monarchy, would form a federation with Croatia, Serbia, Rumania and Transylvania. While respecting each state's internal autonomy based on democratic principles, this scheme envisaged that only foreign, defence and economic policies should be conducted on a common federal basis. This proposal, for which the sine qua non was an arangement with the newly politically conscious nationalities, gained little support in Hungary itself. When, in 1864, events in the German-Danish War, fought over the Duchies of Schleswig-Holstein, highlighted Prussia's predominance in the German Confederation and Schmerling's government seemed unable to induce Hungary to accept the imperial constitution, Francis Joseph thought it was time for a change in Vienna's policy towards Hungary. After establishing informal contacts with the moderate Deák in late 1864 the government made significant concessions early in 1865 and agreed to allow the Hungarian diet to reconvene after its four-year-long suspension. Deák's celebrated 'Easter article' which appeared in the Pest daily newspaper, Pesti Napló, on 16 April 1865, declared Hungary's willingness to negotiate. The new Vienna government under Count Richard Belcredi took this as the occasion to annul the February Patent of 1861 and enable Hungary's partial return to constitutional rule. Apart from a small group of radicals around László Böszörményi, the representatives of the 'decree party' ( Határozati Párt) now led by Kálmán Tisza, agreed with Deák's supporters in the diet that a compromise settlement had to be sought with a view to regulating 'common affairs'. A diet committee on which count Gyula Andrássy, scion of a long-established and wealthy landowning family, was soon to play a decisive part, was appointed in the spring of 1866 to work out a basis for negotiations with the central government.

Following the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, which ended in Austria's crushing defeat at Sadowa on 13 July, and the dissolution of the German Confederation, the Habsburg monarchy was reduced to its hereditary territories. In order to preserve his dynastic interests, maintain Austria's great-power status and create the preconditions for exacting revenge on Prussia, the Emperor Francis Joseph and his advisers were forced to recognise the political necessity of a compromise with Hungary. For this they were prepared to forego a unitary, centralised Empire. Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust, the former prime minister of Saxony, who had been appointed foreign minister and, later, prime minister in the Austrian government after 7 February 1867, worked single-mindedly. for a compromise on the proposed principles on which the Habsburg Empire was to be fundamentally reorganised and -- after difficult negotiations, in which the Hungarians showed their willingness to compromise -- on the unresolved individual issues in both sides' new constitutional and economic relations. On 17 February 1867, the Emperor Francis Joseph appointed a separate government responsible for Hungary, headed by Count Gyula Andrássy. This led in turn to the Hungarian diet's acceptance of the 'Compromise' on 29 May. Following his coronation on 8 June 1867, the Emperor ratified the Compromise Law four days later on 12 June. Finally, the Vienna parliament passed the 'December Laws' of 21 December 1867 which made arrangements to regulate common affairs and took into account the changes in Hungary's relationship to the Monarchy.




After 1867 the unitary 'Austrian Empire' became the Dual Monarchy of ' Austria-Hungary'. This union of the Austrian half of the Empire, the 'kingdoms and territories' of which were 'represented in the Vienna parliament' (Reichsrat), with 'the lands of the holy Hungarian crown' -- henceforth referred to as 'Cisleithania' and 'Transleithania' respectively -- was based on the Pragmatic Sanction promulgated by the Emperor Charles VI ( King Charles III of Hungary) in 1722-23. Apart from the monarch's position as 'Emperor of Austria and Apostolic King of Hungary', the only areas of common responsibility within the Dual Monarchy were foreign affairs, defence policy and a common finance ministry which was responsible for providing the budgets of the other two common activities. Apart from these three 'imperial and royal' (k.u.k.) ministries, both halves of the Empire had their own bicameral parliaments and separate domestic government, each with a prime minister at the head of a cabinet of ministers with individual portfolios. They also had their own territorial armies and autonomous financial administration. The 'common ministry' I could not conduct the activities of government of either half of the Empire, nor exert influence on them', except in the case of common aff airs' (Law XII of 1867).


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As well as being responsible to the monarch, the,. common ministry was also accountable to elected representatives from both the Austrian and Hungarian parliaments. Each parliament delegated 60 members, elected on the basis of complete parity, comprising in each case 40 from the Lower House and 20 from the Upper House who were to review the common ministry's constitutional handling of fully fledged 'common affairs'. In addition, they were also responsible for 'commonly agreed affairs' or 'matters of common concern' -- mainly in the field of economic policy, trade and currency, taxes and customs duties. These delegations deliberated separately and sat in joint sesion only to vote on matters where there was general disagreement. One of their tasks was to decide on the ratio or quota by which Austria and Hungary were to share the expense of common affairs. For the first ten years this was set at 70:30 respectively. This arrangement, which was intended to be a flexible instrument capable of adjustment to take acount of future economic development, introduced an element of political insecurity into domestic affairs. The Hungarians were to make use of it later to loosen the, ties within the Dual Monarchy further. It was also the cause of the scorn heaped upon the Compromise, which was seen in terms of a 'monarchy with the right to give notice to quit'. The Customs and Trade Agreement of 1867, which established a common external customs barrier, remained in force for only a decade. It had to be renewed every ten years, but usually only after difficult negotiations which Hungary used as an opportunity to put forward fresh demands. The Hungarians threatened to terminate the community of AustroHungarian trade, customs, economy and currency if these were rejected.


Source: The Penguin Atlas of World History, Vol. 2, 1974. p. 78


Broadly speaking, however, the Compromise was a contract which could not be terminated unilaterally without jeopardising the independent existence of both halves of the Empire. As Emperor and King, the monarch reigned supreme in this undeniably complicated and cumbersome political structure. It was he who determined foreign policy. As 'Supreme War Lord', he enjoyed unlimited control of the army in which German was the language of command. He alone had the right to approve in advance draft laws brought before the legislature and he also had the final say in all controversial matters on which the governments of Austria and Hungary failed to agree. Francis Joseph had taken an active part in the initial deliberations which led to the Compromise and did not conceal his disappointment that he could neither use the common ministry to exert his political will, nor implement his plans for a just solution to the nationalities problem whose explosive potential he clearly recognised. Nevertheless, he stuck to the basic idea of establishing a German-Magyar condominium, even though it soon became obvious that a policy of German centralisation was impracticable in the Austrian half of the Empire because of its complex ethnic structure and the fact that the German minority was numerically relatively weak. In contrast, it was relatively easier to maintain the fiction of a Magyar nation state of the western European model in the 'territories of the Holy Crown of Hungary', since its greater internal political cohesion and sense of purpose, together with its livelier Magyar nationalism and intolerant nationalities policy, meant that many were prepared to sacrifice the Empire's unity for the sake of the Hungarian desire for total self-government.

The Great Powers, especially Bismarck's Prussia -- though it was also true of Britain and France -- welcomed the new-found solution as a guarantee for the Dual Monarchy's function of keeping order in east central Europe. The Compromise, which had been so strongly influenced by the 'national sage' (a haza bölcse), Ferenc Deák, and first so named by him, soon aroused criticism despite the rejoicing which took place at the restoration of Hungary's constitutional rights and the final defeat of neo-absolutism, centralism and the 'forfeiture theory'. It also gave rise to the call for a purely personal union, indeed, even unlimited sovereignty as the main priority and ultimate goal of Hungarian nationalism. From exile Kossuth spoke out to warn of the dangers posed by the agreement, as long as no internal solution was found to the problem of the nationalities. The danger would be that Hungary would become 'the target for the competing ambitions of hostile neighbours in the European conflicts about to surface'. While the German advocates of centralism in the Austrian half of the Empire mourned the loss of their power basis, the Czechs and the Poles of Galicia initially welcomed the Compromise in the hope that the concessions to the Magyars could not be withheld from them in the long term. Only after attempts to transform the multi-national Empire into a federation of free and equal national had failed, was the Compromise criticised on the grounds that the other nationalities -- above all the Slavs -- had been simply handed over to the rule of the Hungarian nobility and subjected to its policy of forced magyarisation.



After the break-up of the Dual Monarchy in November 1918, the Compromise of 1867 was generally condemned on the grounds that it had made the collapse of the Empire inevitable and ultimately ruled out any model restructuring of the Austrian kingdom into a federation based, not on historical provinces but national groups and their autonomous districts. At the same time, however, the idea of an independent Magyar nation state in the central Danube basin had to remain a utopian dream. Hungary's cooperation in the Habsburgs' imperial and great-power policies was held partly to blame for the disastrous mistakes which led to the First World War. It was not until the discussion sparked off by the centenary of the Compromise that there was room for a more positive judgement. Many came to agree with the judgement of the Hungarian historian Gyula Miskolczy that 'The Compromise of 1867 was not the best solution for the. Habsburg dynasty and monarchy, but the only possible one by which it could preserve its great-power status'.