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Austria


Austria - Prince Metternich - Hungary - Effects of the French Revolution- Petition to the Emperor - Effects of Kossuth's Speech on the Mob - Metternich House sacked - Riots - Resignation of Metternich - Proclamation of the Emperor - Triumph of the Revolution - Educational Freedom - The Literary Class - Popular Excesses - Departure of the Emperor from Vienna - His Proclamation - Revolution at Prague - Germans and Sclaves - Pan-Sclavonic Movement - Congress at Prague - Provisional Government - The Princess Windischgrâtz shot - Bombardment of Prague - The Insurrection suppressed - The Ban of Croatia - State of Hungary - Louis Kossuth - Opening of the Assembly at Vienna - Address of the Archduke John - The Emperor's return to Vienna - Treachery of the Emperor towards Hungary in secretly supplying the Croatians with Money to carry on the War - Petition to the King, entreating his Aid to put down the Insurrection - Cold Reply of the King - Indignation of the Hungarians - Deputation to the National Assembly - The Hungarians resolve to break off all connection with Austria - Kossuth is proclaimed Dictator - Count Lamberg appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Army - His Arrival at Pesth - Murder of Count Lamberg - Count Eugene Vichy tried by the Hungarians, and hanged as a Traitor - Decree of the Emperor dissolving the Diet, and appointing Jellachich Commander-in-Chief in Hungary - Kossuth issues a Counter-Proclamation, declaring the Independence of Hungary - Assassination of Count Latour - Capture of the Arsenal after a Desperate Contest - Committee of Public Safety - Demands of the Assembly - Flight of the Emperor - His Proclamation - Nocturnal Bivouac of the Insurgents - Arrival of Jellachich and his Army, and of Windischgrâtz - The Hungarian Army - Polish Auxiliaries - General Bern - Terms offered by Windischgrâtz - The Diet reject the Terms - Fighting commences - The City Bombarded - Conflagrations - Defeat of the Insurgents - Capitulation of the City - Expected Relief - Renewal of the Contest - Defeat and Route of the Hungarian Army - Gorgei's Account - Blum and Messenhausen Shot - Military Occupation of Vienna - Abdication of Ferdinand - Francis Joseph: his Liberal Manifesto - The Emperor's Appeal to the People - The New Constitution - The Hungarian War - The Forces on Both Sides - Commencement of Hostilities - Retreat of Görgei - Siege of Komorn - Retirement of the Diet and Government from Pesth - General Bern's Army - Görgei's March through the Carpathian Mountains, and Defeat of the Austrians at Iglo - Inactivity of Windischgrâtz - Kossuth’s Prodigious Exertions - The Battle of Kapolna - Retreat of the Hungarian. - Dembinski deprived of his Command - Proceedings of Bern - Battle of Isaszeg - Differences between Kossuth and Görgei - Independence of Hungary proclaimed - Russian Intervention - Manifesto of the Czar - Defeat of the Hungarians - Surrender of Görgei - Termination of the W«r - Execution of Batthyani - Fate of the Hungarian Leaders.
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Austria, the centre of despotic power on the Continent, the model of absolutism, in which the principle of Divine right was most deeply rooted, enjoyed peace from 1815, when Europe was settled by the Holy Alliance, down to 1848, when it felt, in all its force, the tremendous shock of revolution. During that time Prince Metternich ruled the Austrian Empire almost autocratically. This celebrated diplomatist and statesman was the greatest champion and most powerful protector in Europe of legitimacy and ultra-conservatism. He hated all innovation. His maxim was, that any transition in politics was productive of the greatest evils, and that whatever tends to political disturbance must be avoided at any price. In order to carry out this policy, and to restrain effectually the power of public opinion, he established a rigid censorship of the press, which allowed nothing to escape its supervision in home literature, and which sought hermetically to seal the empire against liberal ideas from abroad. A secret police was also established, thoroughly and minutely organised, on the most extensive scale, for maintaining a censorship of conversation in private life, so that the Government might be able, by its espionage, to penetrate the very heart of society, and detect its inmost thoughts. But he might as well have attempted to exclude the air from their dwellings, or to measure out to them the sunshine and the rain, as to prevent the circulation of thought, or to get at the real sentiments of the people by means of spies. As they were aware that spies were about them, and in the midst of them, they did not speak on politics except to those whom they knew well and could fully trust. Besides, there is no society in which a revolutionary explosion is more to be apprehended than one in which the oppressed are obliged to communicate in whispers. In spite of all her precautions, Austria could not keep down the spirit of revolt in her Italian provinces, in which she was called upon to suppress several rebellions. The French Revolution of 1830 caused great consternation at Vienna. The elevation of Louis Philippe, the " Citizen King," to the throne, to the exclusion of the elder branch of the Bourbon dynasty, was a rude shock to the principle of legitimacy, and powerfully moved the provinces subject to Austrian rule, especially Hungary, which alone of them all had anything like self-government or constitutional rights, the rest being ruled directly from Metternichs bureau. Hungary, too, was deprived of the liberty of the press; but her Diet boldly demanded redress of grievances, and threatened to stop the supplies till it was granted. The Emperor Francis died in 1835, leaving the throne to his son Ferdinand, over whose weak mind the omnipotent and crafty Minister obtained a complete mastery. At this epoch the monarchy was not menaced by external dangers, but, internally, abuses accumulated in every department, and the demand for reform became every day more urgent. Public confidence in the Government was hourly diminishing. The finances were in a state of hopeless disorder, and the public debt rapidly increased from year to year. As Austria was brought into relation with countries in which constitutional freedom was enjoyed, the spirit of that freedom gradually penetrated through all the strata of the Austrian population; while there was within the Austrian Empire itself a kingdom which had for centuries enjoyed a free constitution. On the other hand, there was a source of perplexity in the rising influence of Prussia in the German Confederation, which looked to the King of Prussia as its leader, and to Prussia itself as the best embodiment of the elements of German nationality. These circumstances, however, did not hinder Metternich from violating treaties, by blotting out Cracow, the last remnant of Polish independence, from the map of Europe, notwithstanding the remonstrances of England and France. Emboldened by his success in Poland, Metternich, the arch-enemy of freedom everywhere, intermeddled with the internal affairs of Switzerland, and brought the power of Austria to bear in favour of the Jesuitical party called the Sonderbund. A leading object of his domestic policy was to fuse into one homogeneous nation the various races which constituted the population of the empire - a heterogeneous mass of races which were alien to one another in religion and language, as well as in blood. The pure Germans, residing chiefly in Austria proper, numbered 7,000,000 - about one-fifth of the whole; the Sclavonian races amounted to 17,000,000, of which 7,000,000 were Chechs, Moravians, and Slovacs; there were about 5,000,000 of Croats and Servians, and about 2,500,000 of Poles; the Magyars in Hungary amounted to about 5,000,000, the Wallachians to 2,000,000; and the Italian population subject to the Austrian sceptre was about 5,000,000. They spoke four or five different languages - German, Italian, Sclavonic, Romanic, and some Oriental dialects.

In order to comprehend fully the events of 1848 in Austria, it is necessary to glance back at the position of Hungary. Notwithstanding the ancient rights of that kingdom, whose crown had been inherited by the Emperor of Austria, its Diet had never been convoked from 1812 to 1825. It was permitted to assemble in that year, and thenceforward the noblest of its races, the Magyars, having a field open for the exercise of their talents and energies, began gradually to assert their supremacy over the Croatians and Sclavonians. In 1830 they induced the Diet to substitute the Magyar language for the Latin throughout the whole of Hungary. Croatia and Sclavonia had a joint Diet of their own, and they protested against being Magyarised, the popular cry being, " Nolumus Magyarisi! " This element of discord in Hungary was unfortunate, as it strengthened the division which afterwards enabled Austria to re-conquer the country. But however the population of the empire might have been divided amongst themselves, and however strong their national animosity and mutual antipathies of race, they all groaned alike under the common pressure of the iron despotism centralised at Vienna, and they all rejoiced at the lightning stroke by which that despotism was shattered in a moment.

The news of the French Revolution reached Vienna on the 1st of March; and no censorship of the press, no espionage, no sanitary cordon designed to exclude the plague of revolution, could avert its electric influence, or arrest its tremendous effects. The aristocratic and bureaucratic circles were overwhelmed with consternation and despair, while the literary classes, the students of the university, and the bourgeoisie were in raptures. The news fled on the electric wires from city to city, from burgh to burgh, from village to village, imparting a sensation of joy and exultation throughout the oppressed masses of the huge German Empire. The citizens of Vienna felt that the time was come to put an end to the leaden régime of Metternich; but they did not proceed rashly, nor did the mob break forth with sudden violence. The first movement began oil the 6th of March, at a meeting of the Industrial Association, which, though the Archduke Charles was present, unanimously voted an address to the Emperor, setting forth in strong terms the grievances under which the country laboured, and especially the stagnation of industry arising from misgovernment. For several days the excitement spread, and the spirit of revolution fermented the whole mass of the city population. At length the professors of the University gave formal expression to the popular feelings and demands. They drew up a petition, which was signed by all the students and a large proportion of the householders. They demanded representative bodies, freedom of the press, publicity of criminal proceedings, and various other reforms, tantamount to an effective system of constitutional government. This petition was addressed to the provisional estates of Lower Austria, the meeting of which was fixed for the 30th of March. On that day, when the estates met, the students forced their way into the hall, and, it is said, "concussed" the members into the adoption of a petition to the Emperor. Whether concussed or not, they agreed to the following flighty address: - "Most gracious Sire, - The people of Austria will elevate to the stars the crown which, free and self-conscious, great and glorious, declares confidence to be the real fortress of the State, and harmonises this confidence with the ideas of the age." They also adopted a petition to the Emperor, demanding permission to institute various reforms. The students had forced their way in in large numbers; the House was surrounded by an anxious and impatient multitude. The occasion was urgent, and a deputation was sent immediately with the address and petition to the Emperor. During their absence the people became impatient. Loud cries were heard for the liberty of the press, religious liberty, universal education, a general arming of the people, the independence of Germany, the Italians in arms, the Magyars. In order to appease the tumult, Count Montecucculi, one of the Ministers, appeared at a window, and suggested that the students should send a deputation of twelve of their number to support the petition of the Diet. This was done, and then, says Balleydier, the historian of the Austrian revolution, before they had time to commence a statement of their demands, a young man, with inflamed visage and flashing eyes, rushed into the court, holding aloft a paper, and calling out, " The speech of Kossuth! the speech of Kossuth! " The cry was caught up by a thousand voices, with imperative demands of "Bead, read!" He read the speech delivered by the Hungarian patriot on the 3rd of March to the Assembly at Pesth. When ho came to the words, " I know that it is as difficult to change an antiquated policy as for an old man to detach himself from the ideas of a long life," he was interrupted by a tumult of applause, and compelled to read it three times, while cries of "Metternich! Metternich!" resounded from thousands of lips. Immediately the mob proceeded to the hotel of that obnoxious Minister, which they entered and sacked. The Prince refused to have the doors shut and the place defended, remarking to his servants, " No, they will say that I was afraid." The rioters then proceeded towards the palace, where the military were drawn up for its defence. They were assailed with hisses, and pelted with stones and other missiles. Orders were then given to fire; the troops charged with the bayonet, and five persons were killed. The populace retired, but only to prepare for determined resistance. The gunsmiths' shops throughout the city were emptied of their contents, and the insurgents armed themselves with every sort of weapon they could lay their hands upon. Deputation after deputation went to the Emperor, wringing from him concessions bit by bit, which only inflamed the revolutionary party. At length, the rector of the University, with tears in his eyes, threw himself at the feet of the Archduke Louis, and extorted from him the promise that the students, 2,000 in number, and sons of the most respectable citizens, should be supplied with arms from the arsenal next morning. Meantime, Prince Metternich arrived at the palace from the office of the Chancery. He got in without sustaining personal injury, but in the midst of a tempest of groans and hisses. Silence being at length restored, the veteran champion of a conservatism whose policy had done so much to bring about the revolution, rose and said: - " The object of my entire life is summed up in one word - devotion. I declare in this solemn moment before God, to whom my heart is open, before you who hear me, that in the course of my long career I have never had a thought but for the safety of the monarchy. If it is now thought that my presence at the head of affairs is inconsistent with that safety, I am ready to retire. In that case, my retreat will not be a sacrifice, and from afar, as near, I shall never have a thought but for the happiness of my country." Then addressing the Archduke Louis, ho said - " My Lord, I resign my situation into your hands as into those of the Emperor; from this moment I re-enter private life. Gentlemen, I foresee that the report will speedily be spread that, in retiring from the Ministry, I carry with me the monarchy. I protest solemnly and beforehand against such an assertion. No one in the world, more than myself, has shoulders broad enough to bear away a state. If emperors disappear, it is never till they have come to despair of themselves." He soon after had an interview with the Emperor, when he said - " Sire, your Majesty has but one of two parts to take in resolving the problem which the revolt has now submitted to your determination - concession or resistance. Concession in presence of an insurrection is revolution; resistance is a struggle. If your Majesty decides for concession, my conscience imposes on me the duty of laying at your Majesty's feet my resignation. If you should decide for resistance, I am ready to follow on a ground whero success is now certain. In either case I shall esteem myself fortunate to have an opportunity of giving to the monarchy the last proof of my devotion, by sacrificing myself for it." At the mention of resistance, the monarch, who was destitute of firmness, turned pale, as if he had seen a spectre. His expression and silence sufficiently proved that between concession and resistance his mind was made up. Metternich saw that it was all over, and respectfully bowing, took his leave. He set out on the following day with the Princess Metternich for Feldstenstein. The public indignation, however, was so violent, that he was obliged to leave, and he proceeded with her to Dresden. The dangers which thickened around him, however, were such, that they were obliged to go on under feigned names, and in perpetual danger of their lives, clandestinely to Brunswick, Hanover, Minden, and Arnheim. At the last place he heard that a price had been put upon his head, and five hundred ducats offered to any one who should produce it. He escaped all his dangers notwithstanding, and reached London in safety.

Next morning the troops of the line, to the number of about 18,000, were withdrawn beyond the walls, and the preservation of order was confided to the burgher guard. The formation of a national guard was also decreed. On the 15th, the following important proclamation was issued by the Emperor: - " By virtue of our declaration establishing the censorship, liberty of the press is allowed in the form under which it exists in those countries which have hitherto enjoyed it. A national guard, established on the basis of property and intelligence, already performs the most desirable service. The necessary steps have been taken for convoking, with the least possible loss of time, the deputies from all our provincial states, and from the central congregations of the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom (the representation of the class of burghers being strengthened, and due regard being paid to the existing provincial constitutions), in order that they may deliberate on the constitution which we have resolved to grant to our own people. We, therefore, confidently expect that excited tempers will become composed, that study will return to its wonted course, and that industry and peaceful intercourse will spring into new life."

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