Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

agitation continued in an extraordinary degree, and it was this pressure which had induced the majority of the Imperial Parliament to approve the law before them. The only question was whether it was expedient to extend the application of the measure. The gentlemen of the Social Democratic party themselves afforded the most copious material and arguments for its continuance. The agitation which had first made the law necessary still went on, and therefore the renewal of the state of siege clause was also essential. Against an idea they could not battle with a law, but it was the duty, as it was in the power, of the Government to oppose an agitation to the extent, at least, of enabling the rest of the population to engage in their pursuits in confidence and quiet. The Prussian Government would like to see the rest of Germany free from the menace of the measure, though not forbidden itself to make use of it; but the times, unfortunately, were not yet nearly ripe for that."

The Bill was ultimately passed on May 4 by 191 to 94 votes, the debate on the third reading being chiefly occupied by a brilliant and eloquent diatribe from Herr Liebknecht, who threw in the face of the Government Cavour's well-known maxim, that any bunglers could govern under a state of siege.

The first appearance of Prince Bismarck in Parliament was on May 9, on a question affecting the navigation of the Elbe and the rights of the Hanse city of Hamburg. In March a revised Elbe Navigation Act or agreement between Germany and Austria had been concluded. One clause stipulated for the former country the optional right to remove the present Customs frontier on the river lower down the stream. This Act or treaty regulates, among other things, the Customs formalities to be observed by vessels entering the Elbe from the sea ; and whereas hitherto Bergedorf, a place considerably above Hamburg, had been the examining station, the German Government now seemed to contemplate selecting Glückstadt, half-way down the estuary, below the free Hanse city, as the riparian toll-bar. Some deputies contended that the alteration of the Customs frontier in this way would unquestionably tend to nullify many of those privileges enjoyed by Hamburg as a free port, while others, looking at it from the more elevated, if perchance less practical, platform of constitutional law, averred that the Federal Council of itself was not, as it claimed to be, properly entitled to decree the new delimitation proposed, but that Parliament should also have a sanctioning share in the transaction.

Prince Bismarck, acting on the resolution of the Trade and Customs Committee of the Bundesrath, had hit upon an expedient by means of which he had, as he conceived, avoided the constitutional difficulty involved in the right claimed by the Bundesrath to incorporate St. Pauli with the Customs territory of the Empire. This method of settlement, however, was in no way approved by Dr. Delbrück, a distinguished ex-Minister, who had

there to obtain more marked distinction than elsewhere. During the summer more practical questions occupied the public mind, and the ill-feeling which had been aroused by Herr Stöcker's indiscreet utterances slumbered awhile. Towards the close of the autumn, however, it broke out again with increased intensity, and numerous breaches of the peace ensued, in which the Christians were not always the aggressors; and, at length, the question became a Parliamentary one.

On October 26 the Prussian Chambers had reassembled after the recess, and in the election of the officers of the Landtag the Ultramontanes had sustained an unexpected defeat. The Conservatives, who had hitherto voted with the Centre, split up into two portions—the more Liberal thus giving a lesson to the Ultramontanes who had refused to take part in the national festival of the completion of Cologne Cathedral. The reactionary fraction committed the further grave error of associating themselves with the anti-Semitic agitation, of which Herr Stöcker and Professor Henrici had constituted themselves the leaders. By their initiative a petition was laid before the Landtag praying that the movement of the Jewish population should be the subject of police reports; that only the lower places in the public service should be accessible to its members; and, further, that restraints should be placed by the Government on the Jewish immigration. The debate which ensued, whilst giving rise to much declamatory violence, led to no practical results, the members of the Government holding aloof from the discussion after having announced their determination not to permit the question of the civil rights of citizens of any religious denomination to be tampered with.

The Prussian Budget showed a very considerable increase on various heads of expenditure, that of the War Department alone being 30,310,588 marks (1,515,2291.) in excess of the previous year's estimates, but the hope of an equilibrium was held out, the deficit of previous years to be covered by an increase of the land and house tax and a fresh loan. But it was rather against the principle on which financial affairs were being managed that criticism was directed in the Landtag. This system consisted in augmenting the old or creating new imperial taxes, and paying back to the various States a certain portion of the excess. As Herr Richter pointed out, it was proposed to raise 240 millions of marks additional, of which 150 millions would have to be contributed by Prussia; while under the Finance Minister's proposal, seventyeight millions only would be repaid to reduce the burden of the Prussian taxes, or in other words the taxpayer would have to pay his share of the 150 millions more as a German, and his share of 78 millions less as a Prussian.

to prove that he would not allow himself to be outdone ; he had neither let himself be outdone by Parliamentary nor by Particularist tendencies, and he hoped that God would not grudge him at his present age, though physically weak, the mental energy still to enable him stedfastly and continuously to thwart every such attempt at outdoing him a wish which on the Right was hailed with lively cries of “ Brayo!” He warned them from breeding dispeace between the governments :

“In questions of utility the latter might vote against each other as much as they liked, but in a question of constitutional rights to put Prussia in the minority, he told them, was not without danger. He told them that in full consciousness of all the history he had lived through during the last thirty years. And when he said not without danger, they were not to assume that he was afraid of peril and recoiled from it—that he did just as little as ever. He had now fought the fight of German unity for thirty years, and he had been for eighteen years in the position described by a French historian, whom some time ago

up to beguile a sleepless night, where he speaks thus of a statesman accorded much more merit than he himself could claim :-- Il devait succomber au poids des haines inassouvies qui s'accumulent sur la tête de tout Ministre qui reste trop longtemps au pouvoir.” He bimself, too, had had within the last eighteen years to wrestle violently in turn with all parties, and hence the “haines inassouvies’ referred to by the French historian. But now he was no longer young; he had lived, loved, and fought, and he bad no longer any disinclination for a quiet life. The only thing which retained him at his post was the will of the Emperor, whom at his advanced age he had never been able to leave against his will, though he had several times tried it. But he could tell them he was weary, dead weary, especially when he considered against what kind of obstacles he had to fight when wishing to stand up for the German Empire, the German nation, and German unity. If he proposed to the Empire to hand over to others the burden he was no longer himself able to bear he must, of course, make other proposals also, and he was convinced that, after the long confidence bestowed upon him by his Majesty, the latter would listen to them with respect. Seeing, as he did, that the power of the Centre was insuperable, and that the disunion prevailing among all other Germans remained the same, he would be obliged, in the interest he felt for domestic peace, to propose to his Majesty, on retiring, to form a Cabinet capable of harmonising the wishes of the Centre and Conservative parties. Not being able to submit himself to the system represented by the Centre, and also believing that the claims urged by the members of that party would never allow of peace being permanently established in Prussia if they did not modify their pretensions, it was pretty much the same to him whether or not after him 'progress and Free-trade' (Fortschritt und Freihanlel) urged his successor on the way to Canossa—he could endure it as well as to the Slavs was an order issued by the Government to the administrative and judicial authorities in Bohemia, instructing them to make known their decisions in the language used by those applying for them, to issue notifications in the language of those to whom they are addressed, and to conduct criminal trials in the language of the accused. On June 11 another attempt was made by the Government to conciliate the Czechs. It has long been a matter of complaint with the Czechs that the number of representatives which, under the present system of election, they are able to send to the Bohemian Diet, is far below that to which they would be entitled if they were allowed as many representatives in proportion to their population as the Germans. The Government accordingly brought in a bill, nominally to improve the representation of the landowners (who in Austria have separate representatives of their own), but really to increase the number of the Czech members of the Diet. Under the existing system the Bohemian landowners are divided into two electoral bodies, one for entailed and the other for unentailed property; the first sends sixteen representatives to the Diet, and the second fifty-four. Under the Government bill the number of electoral bodies was to be increased to six, and the first of these, comprising the entailed properties and those paying above 10,000 florins in taxes, was to send thirty-two members to the Diet, the remaining thirty-eight being divided among the five other electoral bodies. The result of this arrangement would have been that the thirty-two seats of the first electoral body, and several of the others, would be assured to the Czechs, whose great aristocratic families hold most of the entailed properties, and also of the larger unentailed ones. As was to be expected, the bill was lost in committee by a majority of thirteen German to seven Czech votes; but the Ministry attained their object of demonstrating their wish to give the Slavs a larger share of political power in the monarchy than they have hitherto enjoyed. By so doing, however, they naturally alienated the German element, and it soon became evident that they could not long retain their composite character of representatives both of the German centralist party and of the Slavs, whose instinctive leaning is towards federalism. A new change of Ministry accordingly took place on June 27. Count Taaffe remained Prime Minister, but Dr. Stremayr and Barons von Horst, von KorbWeidenheim, and von Kriegsau were succeeded in the departments of Justice, National Defence, Commerce, and Finance respectively by Baron von Streit, Count Welfersheimb, Herr von CremerAuenrode, and Dr. Dunayevski. The most significant of the new appointments was that of the Minister of Finance : Dr. Dunayevski is the ablest and most energetic member of the Polish section of the Reichsrath, and is regarded as one of the most formidable of the adversaries of the German centralist party. This appointment showed that Count Taaffe had given up his original idea of forming a “middle” party in the House, and that he would now look chiefly for support to the autonomist majority.

he took

The line thus openly adopted by the Ministry gave great offence to the Hungarians as well as to the Austrian Germans. Threats were even uttered by the chief members of the old Déak party, which had been mainly instrumental in bringing about the dualist system, to the effect that if federalism were to gain ground as a principle of government in Cisleithania, they would begin an agitation in Hungary with the object of making that country entirely independent of Austria, the only link connecting them being that of a common sovereign and army. These utterances, which could hardly be seriously meant, at least testified to the profound dissatisfaction with which the Hungarians viewed the development of a policy of concession towards the Slavs. The Government, however, felt that the position of affairs abroad had become so critical that it could no longer afford to ignore the wants of its Slavonic subjects. The continued agitation in Bulgaria and Eastern Roumelia, the pressure put by Europe upon the Porte and its obstinate resistance, and the war preparations of Montenegro and Greece, all portended a new convulsion in the Balkan peninsula, the result of which would probably be the disruption of the Turkish Empire-a result which concerned Austria-Hungary more nearly than any of the other Powers. The union in a single state of the Bulgarians would be a very dangerous precedent for similar claims on the part of Servia and Roumania, which could not be satisfied without depriving Austria-Hungary of large and important portions of her territory, Transylvania being inhabited by Roumanians, and Croatia and Dalmatia by peoples of a race akin to the Servian. Moreover, the encouragement and assistance which the Bulgarian agitators received from Russia showed that the Government of St. Petersburg, notwithstanding its anxieties at home, was steadily pursuing its old policy of intrigue among the Christian nationalities of Turkey, with a view to ultimately inheriting the throne of Constantinople. The success of such a policy would place Austria at the feet of Russia; or rather, as one might say with General Fadeyeff, the way to Constantinople for Russia lies through Vienna, and the break-up of the AustroHungarian monarchy would be a necessary preliminary to the subjugation by Russia of the Balkan peninsula. As a military power, Austria has not much to fear from Russia. Though her army is not so numerous as that of the Czar, she can bring into the field troops which would be quite equal in strength, and probably superior in efficiency, to any that she would have to encounter in the case of a Russian invasion ; besides which she would certainly have the support of Germany, which consideration in itself renders the contingency of a direct Russian attack upon Austria very improbable. But Russia has at her command, as against Austria, weapons far more dangerous than those of war. Panslavism is latent in most of the Slavonic provinces of the

« ForrigeFortsæt »