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no active hostility to it; scarcely any section of the people in the hereditary states were inclined or able to make a stand for privilege. The inhabitants of the old Austrian provinces were docile and manageable. In Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, there was, as we have seen, a kind of condottieredescended nobility very slightly rooted in the soil, and leaning on the crown for support; and a populace tamed into submission by ages of tyranny. Where any popular spirit existed, it was but the jealousy of rival rights and nationalities, holding each other in perpetual check, and looking to the crown as the only umpire. Accordingly, great as the changes effected by her government were, yet, being temperately though firmly introduced, we hear little or nothing of any difficulty experienced in their execution. In a few years, the old stattholderships and separate governments were totally abolished, and exchanged for a centralised system of government from Vienna; a large revenue was raised from regular taxation; the largest standing army in Europe recruited by regular conscription; a great absolute monarchy compacted out of a multitude of limited principalities.
With the detached portions of the empire enjoying distinct constitutional rights--the Tyrol, the Netherlands, Hungary those which really possessed a national spirit—the prospect of success was widely different in the eyes of a prudent sovereign, however despotically inclined. Accordingly, we do not find that Maria Theresa meddled with the rights of the two former at all. Her dealings with her ancient and eccentric kingdom of Hungary, too near and powerful a neighbour to Vienna to be simply disregarded, were throughout very characteristic. In that region there was fiery spirit enough, and jealous opposition to all increase of the central power ; but, on the other hand, there were those deep-rooted internal divisions which have caused the masses ever to play the Austrian game, — differences of religion, differences of race (the latter not less felt in those times than our own, although their effect was less appreciated), and the constant suppressed warfare between the populus and the misera contribuens plebs, the half a million of nobles and the millions of trampled peasants. Above all, there was that organised anarchy wħich the Hungarians then called a constitution ; which, by maintaining a perpetual conflict of rights, claims, and protests, kept all internal government at a dead lock, and rendered recourse to the central power, however distasteful, matter of sheer necessity, when there was anything really to be done : even as the contending parties in the play must have stood for ever with their points at each others' throats, had not some one
entered to bid them, in the Queen's name, drop all their swords • and daggers.' It was clear that, although Hungary could not, without encountering violent resistance, be so governed as to add much to the regular financial or military strength of the monarchy, it might at least be so governed as to furnish no cause of weakness in ordinary times, and a great reserve of strength in emergencies, by an administration content neither to anticipate nor oppose the course of events, and to leave progress to take care of itself. The flowers of constitutional privilege, the attempt to pluck which by force from the national tree would draw blood, would fall of themselves, like ripe figs into the mouth of the eater, if left alone.
Such was the general and most successful policy of her Hungarian government. She did ‘nil contra legem, .multa præter legem.' She convoked three diets, and quarrelled with all of them about internal reforms; she then resolved to convoke no more, and none met during the last sixteen years of her reign. Nor did she appoint a Palatine, the ancient mediator between the crown and nation in Hungary, after the death of Louis Bathyany in 1765. But what the nobles had refused to the Plebs, she took advantage of an apprehended Jacquerie to confer of her own authority. The famous • Urbarium,'— the
' bill of rights, such as it is, of the Hungarian peasantry - was simply published by the crown, and not confirmed by the Diet until many years after her death. The privileged classes submitted — under perpetual protest of course – to the gentle violence which did for them what the esprit de corps of the inferior nobility would never have allowed them to do for themselves ; and they submitted, with similar apathy, to the gradual and indirect substitution of the ready, active, and helpful subordinates of the executive for their own clumsy municipal authorities. • The Constitution would have fairly gone to sleep,' says Mailàth, if Maria Theresa had lived much longer.'
But the great Empress-queen loved the Magyars; and that chivalrous race were proud of the gracious and accomplished sovereign, whom they had rescued in her utmost necessity; and this tie
between them contributed even more than policy to the maintenance of her authority. She made her favourite friends and gossips of the ladies of their aristocracy; she drew their magnates to Vienna by all the attractions of her personal influence; she carried on the Germanising of the nobility, of which stern patriots at times complained, by the most quiet and gradual means. Only an occasional outbreak of feeling would betray the intense jealousy with which she watched any revival of the old independent spirit. An Austrian Count, Aspermont, enjoyed large Hungarian estates through a female descent from the great
Prince of Transylvania, Ragoczy. The Count's carriage once stuck fast on a journey in the depths of a Hungarian cross road. Numbers of peasants were passing in their market carts, but they remained deaf to all the solicitations of his servants for help, and only enjoyed the sight of the Germans in a • fix. At last the Count got on the roof of his carriage and shouted, Will 'you let the grandson of Ragoczy be smothered in the mud ? They rushed to his assistance at once, and drew him out in triumph. When next he appeared at Court, the Empress called him before her. - Listen to me, Aspermont: I do not wish you • to be smothered in the mud; but leave alone this nonsense * about Ragoczy, or I shall assuredly send you to prison.' (Vol. vii. p. 169.)
Great, however, as were the administrative reforms effected under Maria Theresa, it can hardly be said that they extended so far as to produce any substantial change in the social condition of her people. In this respect, undiscriminating eulogy has done her rather more than justice. Little impression was made, during her time, on the vast mass of barbarism and serfdom which overspread the bulk of her empire. Her good dispositions towards the inferior classes of her subjects, whatever they may have been, found but little practical scope. She was probably very willing to make mankind happy under a beneficent despotism; her tendencies, as an Austrian writer describes them, with some affectation but some truth, were idyllisch-autocratisch;' her fancy may have aspired to a pastoral reign among neatly powdered Arcadians after the fashion of Watteau. But the loving mother of the empire knew little, face to face, of the sufferings and oppressions of her poorer children. Her legislation, in these respects, followed with a lagging pace the spirit of the age. She reformed the criminal law indeed, but hers was still 'ein grausames Gesetzbuch,' a savage code; torture was only abolished, even at Vienna, in 1776, the law of witchcraft 'mo
dified' about the same time, justifying the saying attributed to Pitt, that Austria is always an idea behind the rest of the
world. What she did for the peasants of Hungary has already been noticed; in the German States, she went no farther than to ameliorate, in some respects, the condition of leibeigenschaft or personal servitude.
It was, above all things, the sense of this great duty unaccomplished, fermenting in a character of strong will and positive judgment, during twenty years of nominal power and real impotence under his mother's rule, which made of Joseph II. what he was, the royal comet, travelling with brilliant but questionable impetus without the regular orbit in which crowned luminaries usually revolve. The world has judged this sovereign, the despotic precursor of the French Revolution, as it usually judges, by success. Because he failed, he has become a byeword; had he carried through the great scheme of policy which he had conceived, he would have been regarded as the greatest, and with all his absolutism the most beneficent, sovereign who ever swayed the destinies of the human race. And had not his early death intervened, it is difficult to say that a large portion of that scheme might not have been realised. We cannot safely pronounce on what might have been, nor decide whether, as the popular notion is, his death rescued him from general rebellion, or whether it cut short the career of one who was beginning to learn, by experience, the right means towards his magnificent ends, and who would in a few years more have changed much more than the surface of European politics and society.
But however this may be, we utterly disclaim the test of mere success in the judgment of characters such as his. That one bred up in an atmosphere of bigotry, court Battery, and aristocratic pride, should for years have been framing to himself a distinct perception and thorough appreciation of the iniquities and oppressions wrought under the sun; that he should have realised the depth of popular ignorance, the crying injustice of noble privileges, the canker of idle monachism, the countless sufferings of the enslaved multitude; that he should have formed within his mind the deliberate resolution, These things shall not be; they are simply evil, and they shall perish, if my power is torn up by the roots along with them; if my own ease and popularity, and life itself, are shattered to pieces in the encounter with them;- that he should have issued at once to attack these gigantic abuses, like Thalaba among the enchanters, without parley or preparation, relying on his own good right alone, and resolutely cutting away his own chance of retreat ;all this amounts, in point of à priori moral probability, to little less than a miracle. It were a likelier task for nature to produce another Napoleon than another Joseph II. Yet he is generally passed by with the cursory sentence, that he was one who formed vast projects, but lacked judgment, tact, and moderation to put them into useful execution. That his composition did lack these wholesome diluents is certain, but it is equally certain that a man possessed of them to any large amount would never have formed such projects at all. As well complain of want of judgment, tact, and moderation in Shaw the lifeguardsman at Waterloo.
How many inferior qualities go to make up a mind like his
how much there may have been of vanity, and desire to astonish, and love of power, in his character--a biographical analyst may think it his duty to inquire: for our purpose, the purity and loftiness of its chief elements dispenses with the duty of examining how much of the grosser clay was mixed with it. The main springs of his policy were a fervent love of mankind, and an intensely acute sense of justice: and his chief errors were caused by the excess of these, not by any intrusion of baser motives. That philanthropy is a somewhat revolutionary virtue we now well know: excessive love of justice, in a sovereign, is hardly less so. “L'art de bouleverser les états' (says Pascal) • est d'ébranler les coûtumes établies, en sondant jusque dans • leur source, pour marquer leur défaut de justice: il faut, diton, recourir aux lois fondamentales et primitives de l'état,
qu'une coûtume injuste a abolies. C'est un jeu sûr pour tout • perdre; rien ne sera juste à cette balance. This strong conscientiousness Joseph inherited from his mother: but the passion for ideal political justice was his own. He carried it to a point at which it became not only a weakness in the eyes of statesmen, but in those of the multitude a positive vice. To take an instance which strongly exemplifies our meaning: the popular notion that a sovereign should only interfere with the sentences of criminal courts to remit them, that a King's face should 'give grace'-is inseparable in feudal Europe from the very idea of monarchy. But this one-sided interference was revolting to his sense of absolute equity. He was the only Christian monarch out of Russia, so far as we know, who ever assumed, as a regular course, the function of increasing as well as diminishing the punishments awarded by the ordinary tribunals: and this innovation, founded as it was on the strictest view of right, was the very first which he was compelled by public feeling to withdraw.
Never, assuredly, was so complete a sweep made of old institutions and usages, as far as mere change of the law could do it, as in the five first years of Joseph's reign. That of the French Revolution itself will hardly bear the comparison, especially when regard is had to the different genius, and state of preparation, of the two communities. It was like the sudden change in the locomotion of the same country, from the old Eilwagen crawl of four miles an hour, without intervening improvements, to the speed of the railway. It takes away the breath of those accustomed to the bit-by-bit proceedings of constitutional countries, to recite the mere catalogue of Joseph's reforms. In the short space of time we have mentioned, all exclusive rights and privileges were clean abolished: serfdom, and compulsory feudal