Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

and constitutional. The Austrian Parliament

reassembled for the first time, after a lapse of Opening of two years, on the 22nd of May, 1867. On the the Reichs rath. opening of the Reichsrath, Baron Beust, true to

the constitutional idea which guided his policy throughout, intimated that the moment had arrived when parliamentary government should be once more firmly established in Western Austria, by the introduction of a responsible ministry chosen from amongst the party represented by the majority of the House. This was not the first attempt on the part of Baron Beust to form a parliamentary cabinet. He had tried in the preceding month and had failed, because the leader of the German party in Bohemia, to whom he had addressed himself, had refused his assistance. He then opened negotiations with some of the parliamentary majority, with the view of inducing them to form a cabinet, as the Hungarians had done but in vain. They categorically refused to join a ministry until the arrangement with Hungary should have been formally accepted in Cis-Leithania, and until the existing state of things should have so far become settled that they could

in full confidence reckon upon its solidity and permanence. The difficult task which Baron Beust had undertaken of reintroducing parliamentary government into Western Austria was rendered still more arduous by the national opposition, headed by Galicia, who demanded for herself a special separate position. To accede to these demands was of course out of the question; but the

! Minister saw that it was necessary to enter into negotiations, and to make small concessions in order as soon as possible to arrive at the consolidation of the new constitutional system. It is not our object in these pages to write a panegyric of Baron Beust, but the simple facts in themselves show how entirely and successfully he devoted himself to the regeneration of Austria. The hearty and repeated eljens with which the Hungarians greeted him when he rode through Pesth among the staff of the Emperor on the day of the coronation, afforded ample proof of how thoroughly his labours on behalf of the Hungarian compromise were appreciated. In Western Austria, too, the last trace of distrust vanished from the minds of the people when the announcement made by the Emperor in

D

his speech from the throne, that in future there would be a responsible government, was realized by the bill being laid on the table of the House in which he granted a general amnesty to all political offenders. Thus the past was for ever to be forgotten, and an entirely new liberal era inaugurated. His Majesty also availed himself of this momentous occasion to testify his high appreciation of the signal services rendered by Baron Beust to the Empire in her hour of need, as well as his unbounded confidence in his continued zeal. This could not have been done in a more striking manner than by his conferring upon the Minister,

on the 23rd of June, 1867, the rank and title of Appointment“ Chancellor of the Empire"--a dignity which

“ . of Baron Beust as had been given only twice before in Austria, and Chancellor

on both occasions to statesmen of the highest poliEmpire.

tical and social standing, viz., Prince Kaunitz and Prince Metternich.

Some delay necessarily ensued in the election of the members who were to constitute a commission for the purpose of arranging the financial portion of the compromise with Hungary, and determining the quota it should contribute to the common

of the

expenses of the realm and the payment of the interest of the State debt. On the 3rd of July the Lower House passed the revised laws, and elected ten deputies to carry out the details ; thus for the first time acknowledging the dualism of the Empire as an established fact.

The changes which Baron Beust was introducing into Austria were so rapid and sweeping that the country was hardly recognisable to those who knew it in the days of Absolutism, supported by a mixed rule of soldiers and bureaucrats. It seemed to have passed through a long and dangerous illness, ending in a crisis which was once more to restore it to convalescence and health. That such radical reforms should meet with opposition from a portion of the great hereditary aristocracy is not to be wondered at. Feudo-clerical ideas had been The re

actionary instilled into them from their birth, and they party. naturally looked with dismay at the broad liberal views of the strange minister who, without pandering to democracy, was yet determined to break down every barrier to progress, and give the people the rights so long withheld from them. But the reactionists were disappointed in their hopes

The Emperor.

of the support of one upon whom they reckoned for the frustration of what they considered the wicked machinations of the Saxon minister. They felt sure that the representative of the House of Hapsburg would veto this bloodless revolution, which, by diminishing the privileges of their caste, was, in their eyes, to bring ruin to the land. They

, were happily mistaken. The Emperor, from the moment when he wisely decided that Absolutism should make way for parliamentary rule, unflinchingly and consistently maintained and facilitated the latter system of government, and never, either then or since, held out the slightest encouragement to the reactionary party. The Liberals, who comprised the majority in the House, seeing that the principles they advocated were daily taking deeper root in the hearts of the people, now grew bolder, and proceeded at once to the discussion of those questions which they deemed of the most vital import. First and foremost amongst these was the Concordat. They felt that if Austria was really once again to become vigorous and truly liberal, she must be freed from this hurtful and obnoxious convention, and from the undue inter

The Concordat.

« ZurückWeiter »