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34
[HISTORY
AUSTRIA–HUNGARY

two clubs, the German Austrians and the Germans, joined once more under the name of the “United German Left” into a new club with eighty-seven members, so as the better to guard against the common danger and to defeat the educational demands of the Clericals, the National Germans remained apart with seventeen members. They were also infected by the growing spirit of anti-Semitism. The German parties had originally been the party of the capitalists, and comprised a large number of Jews; this new German party committed itself to violent attacks upon the Jews, and for this reason alone any real harmony between the different branches would have been impossible.

Notwithstanding the concessions about language the Czechs had, however, made no advance towards their real object—the recognition of the Bohemian kingdom. Perhaps the leaders of the party, who were now growing old, would have been content with the influence they had already attained, but they were The agreement with Bohemia. hard pressed at home by the Young Czechs, who were more impatient. When Count Thun was appointed governor of Bohemia their hopes ran high, for he was supposed to favour the coronation of the emperor at Prague. In 1890, however, instead of proceeding to the coronation as was expected, Taaffe attempted to bring about a reconciliation between the opposing parties. The influence by which his policy was directed is not quite clear, but the Czechs had been of recent years less easy to deal with, and Taaffe had never really shown any wish to alter the constitution; his policy always was to destroy the influence of parliament by playing off one party against the other, and so to win a clear field for the government. During the month of January conferences were held at Vienna, with Taaffe in the chair, to which were invited representatives of the three groups into which the Bohemian representatives were divided, the German party, the Czechs, and the Feudal party. After a fortnight's discussion an agreement was made on the basis of a separation between the German and the Czech districts, and a revision of the electoral law. A protocol enumerating the points agreed on was signed by all who had taken part in the conference, and in May bills were laid before the diet incorporating the chief points in the agreement. But they were not carried; the chief reason being that the Young Czechs had not been asked to take part in the conference, and did not consider themselves bound by its decisions; they opposed the measures and had recourse to obstruction, and a certain number of the Old Czechs gradually came over to them. Their chief ground of criticizing the proposed measures was that they would threaten the unity of the Bohemian country.[1] At the elections in 1891 a great struggle took place between the Old and the Young Czechs. The latter were completely victorious; Rieger, who had led the party for thirty years, disappeared from the Reichsrath. The first result was that the proposed agreement with Bohemia came to an end. But the disappearance of the Old Czechs made the parliamentary situation very insecure. The Young Czechs could not take their place: their Radical and anti-clerical tendencies alarmed the Feudalists and Clericalists who formed so large a part of the Right; they attacked the alliance with Germany; they made public demonstration of their French sympathies; they entered into communication with other Slav races, especially the Serbs of Hungary and Bosnia; they demanded universal suffrage, and occasionally supported the German Radicals in their opposition to the Clerical parties, especially in educational matters; under their influence disorder increased in Bohemia, a secret society called the Umladina (an imitation of the Servian society of that name) was discovered, and stringent measures had to be taken to preserve order. The government therefore veered round towards the German Liberals; some of the ministers most obnoxious to the Germans resigned, and their places were taken by Germans. For two years the government seemed to waver, looking now to the Left, now to Hohenwart and his friends; for a time Taaffe really had the support of all parties except the Young Czechs.

After two years he gave up his cautious policy and took a Electoral reform. bold move. In October 1893 he introduced a reform bill. Universal suffrage had long been demanded by the working men and the Socialists; the Young Czechs also had put it on their programme, and many of the Christian Socialists and anti-Semites desired an alteration of the franchise. Taaffe's bill, while keeping the curiae of the feudal proprietors and the chambers of commerce as they were, and making no change in the number of members, proposed to give the franchise in both towns and rural districts to every one who could read and write, and had resided six months in one place. This was opposed by the Liberals, for with the growth of socialism and anti-Semitism, they knew that the extension of the franchise would destroy their influence. On this Taaffe had probably calculated, but he had omitted to inquire what the other parties would do. He had not even consulted Hohenwart, to whose assistance he owed his long tenure of power. Not even the pleasure of ruining the Liberals was sufficient to persuade the Conservatives to vote for a measure which would transfer the power from the well-to-do to the indigent, and Hohenwart justly complained that they ought to have been secure against surprises of this kind. The Poles also were against a measure which would give more influence to the Ruthenes. The position of the government was hopeless, and without waiting for a division Taaffe resigned.

The event to which for fourteen years the Left had looked The coalition ministry, 1893. forward had now happened. Once more they could have a share in the government, which they always believed belonged to them by nature. Taught by experience and adversity, they did not scruple to enter into an alliance with their old enemies, and a coalition ministry was formed from the Left, the Clericals and the Poles. The president was Prince Alfred Windisch-Grätz, grandson of the celebrated general, one of Hohenwart's ablest lieutenants; Hohenwart himself did not take office. Of course an administration of this kind could not take a definite line on any controversial question, but during 1894 they carried through the commercial treaty with Russia and the laws for the continuance of the currency reform. The differences of the clubs appeared, however, in the discussions on franchise reform; the government, not strong enough to have a policy of its own, had referred the matter to a committee; for the question having once been raised, it was impossible not to go on with it. This would probably have been fatal to the coalition, but the final blow was given by a matter of very small importance arising from the disputes on nationality. The Slovenes had asked that in the gymnasium at Cilli classes in which instruction was given in Slovenian should be formed parallel to the German classes. This request caused great excitement in Styria and the neighbouring districts; the Styrian diet (from which the Slovene minority had seceded) protested. The Slovenes were, however, members of the Hohenwart Club, so Hohenwart and his followers supported the request, which was adopted by the ministry. The German Left opposed it; they were compelled to do so by the popular indignation in the German districts; and when the vote was carried against them (12th June 1895) they made it a question of confidence, and formally withdrew their support from the government, which therefore at once resigned.

After a short interval the emperor appointed as minister-president Badeni's ministry. Count Badeni, who had earned a great reputation as governer of Galicia. He formed an administration the merit of which, as of so many others, was that it was to belong to no party and to have no programme. He hoped to be able to work in harmony with the moderate elements of the Left; his mission was to carry through the composition (Ausgleich) with Hungary; to this everything else must be subordinated. During 1896 he succeeded in carrying a franchise reform bill, which satisfied nearly all parties. All the old categories of members were maintained, but a fifth curia was added, in which almost any one might vote who had resided six months in one place and was not in domestic service; in this way seventy-two would be added to the existing members. This matter having been

  1. On this see Menger, Der Ausgleich mit Böhmen (Vienna, 1891), where the documents are printed.