Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/32

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The Bohemian Review

by the mediaeval theocracy. For a brief moment in 1848 the Parliament of Kremsier laid down the fundamental law, “All power proceeds from the people,” and the Czech leader Dr. Rieger expounded this theme in one of his best speeches. But ever since this short-lived child of the revolution was dismissed and its home occupied by Austrian soldiers, each successive constitution in Austria has been not a democratic achievement, but the personal gift of Francis Joseph, designed as a cloak for theocratic monarchism, which claims to possess superhuman and divine rights.

6. The year 1866 wrought a great change; the Habsburgs were turned out of Germany. The national craving of all Germans for unity now became a practical reality; Prusia, who had prepared for it by her military and economic policy, finally achieved it in 1871 through the defeat of France. It would have been natural that Austria, after 1866, should have sought and found her strength in the development and unity of her various nations; but the Habsburgs were unable to give up their absolutist and imperialist leanings.

In 1866 the Prussian invaders of Bohemia published a proclamation acknowledging her right to full national independence, just as they recognised the same right to Hungary. But the Czechs turned a deaf ear and continued in their democratic and national endeavours of 1848; their politicians worked in the common Parliament and in the Diets for the federalization of the Empire, and in this they were supported by the non-German nations, the Germans being the protectors of centralism. But the dynasty came to an agreement with the Magyars, and the Dual system was designed to assure the hegemony of the Germans in Austria and of the Magyars in Hungary.

The Czech leaders, with Palacky, the “Father of the Nation,” at their head, answered the illogical transformation of Austria-Hungary” by paying an official visit to the ethnographic exhibition in Moscow in 1867, and thus proclaiming a radical national and Slav policy. Next year at the Diet the Czech deputies issued their famous Declaration, re-stating the historic rights of Bohemia.

Vienna answered by a fierce persecution. The common law was suspended and martial law introduced and administered by a General specially selected by Francis Joseph himself. But all the ferocity and cruelty employed did not crush the resistance of the leaders and the people. The Emperor had to yield, and he did so by appointing a new minstry presided over by Count Hohenwart, to conclude an agreement with the Bohemian nation. In a solemn rescript to the Bohemian Diet (12 September, 1871) Francis Joseph acknowledged the rights of Bohemia and promised to be crowned as its King.

“We are aware of the position of the Bohemian Crown founded on her constitutional law, and of the splendour and the power which it has brought to Us and Our predecessors. Remembering, also, the unshakeable loyalty with which the people of Bohemia have always supported Our Throne, We are happy to acknowledge the rights of this kingdom, and We are ready to renew this acknowledgment with Our Coronation Oath.”

Promises have ever been cheap with Francis Joseph. The Czechs formulated their wishes in a draft constitution—the Fundamental Articles of 10 October, 1871—but in less than a month the influence of Berlin and Budapest succeded in getting rid of Count Hohenwart and his ministry, and in replacing it by one selected for the special purpose of breaking Bohemian opposition. Never in the nineteenth century, in any civilised and constitutional country save Hungary, has a government, acting for the sovereign himself, behaved so shamelessly. An electoral caucus was organised to control the elections to the Diet and the Central Parliament; votes were openly bought and sold; meetings were suppressed by force; and the Czech papers and their editors persecuted. The gendarmerie and troops did not shrink from bloodshed. Corruption was rampant everywhere. In all departments of the administration the national life was checked and Germanisation openly proclaimed. Vexations of all kinds, even in trifling matters, were, the rule. I remember how the national songs were forbidden and the national emblems prohibited. Czech telegrams were not accepted, and we composed French words giving a meaning in our language. Vienna succeeded so far that a group of Moravian deputies gave up their policy of passive resistance, which had culminated in abstention from the Central Parliament and even from the Diets, and in refusal to pay the taxes. Finally the Premier, Count Taaffe, the descend-