THE PROBLEM OF SMALL NATIONS
economically weak and undeveloped. Austria proper was barely self—supporting, while Trieste and the Adriatic at that time were hardly utilized at all.
The centralizing absolutism of the Habsburgs and their Counter-Reformation caused the Revolution of 1618, which ended two years later in the disastrous battle of the White Mountain. Ferdinand II. avenged himself by ordering the execution of the leaders, whose heads for years frowned upon the population of Prague from the tower of the famous bridge of Charles IV. Ferdinand, acting on Jesuit advice, made use of the occasion to persecute the Protestants, and especially the Bohemian Union of Brethren; about 30,000 families had to leave the country, amongst them Comenius! Not only were the Bohemian countries depopulated, but the Habsburgs carried through one of the greatest economic revolutions in history. Four-fifths of the soil were taken from the legitimate owners to fill the treasury of the greedy Emperor and his tools, drawn from the dregs of every aristocracy in Europe. The country was brought back to Catholicism by fire and sword—her best men were exiled, her literature burned, her lands plundered.
In 1627, Ferdinand II. curtailed the legislative and administrative rights of the nation—but he did not dare to deprive Bohemia of her independence. In the same year he issued a new charter confirming the privileges of Bohemia, and expressedly rejecting the theory, preached by his advisers and upheld in modern times by Austrian and German historians, that the Bohemian nation had forfeited its rights to independence. Ferdinand himself and his successors were only too glad to remain kings of Bohemia.
The power of the Habsburgs was strengthened by their success in reimposing Catholicism. The Reformation, while destroying the mediaeval theocracy, strengthened the State, and, in Catholic countries, the State gained by its alliance with the Counter-Reformation.
During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the