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CHAPTER XXV.

CIRCUMLOCUTION OFFICES.

To the north-east of Naszód, towards Hungary and the Bukovina, lies Rodna-" Dives Rodna," as it was named. A German town stood here formerly, but the Mongols destroyed it. The silver and lead mines which were worked by the Romans are still in operation, and vestiges of the labours of those ancient explorers are everywhere to be found.

There is a tradition that at one time three hundred mines were in full work. The frequent invasions of the Mongols-1150-half destroyed the Saxon population, and caused those remaining in Rodna to leave the dangerous neighbourhood and go further into the interior : they withdrew therefore to Bistritz.

Those northern people on the other side of the Carpathians, still rolling on eastwards, caused the nomade popu- lation to flee before them; and these sought safety by crossing the mountain-ridges, and descending into the Transylvanian valleys. They were, so to say, thrown here by the mighty barbarian stream which poured down from the north and east. The lands in which they settled were, however, Saxon property ; and there were remonstrances and continual feuds between the original possessors and the new-comers, until at last a territory was marked out which was to be ceded to the latter. But though all this happened centuries ago, the old enmity still continues, and the same attempts are made as formerly to invade the Saxon rights. But it is thus throughout the province : go where you will, you find conflicting feelings or conflicting interests,-some old right possessed by a handful of people which trenches on the interests of another handful close by, no iota of which one will cede to the other. One village has annulled its feudal service ; in another it exists, but in another form, as at Bükszád. Or, where tithes were abolished, and the clergy paid in kind, some claim was left unsettled, and indemnities are still asked for from this and not from that, etc. Thus in no one instance do you find an arrangement finished or complete,-no compact which, on account of collateral rights, is not open to dispute; no state of things which, owing to antecedents of (may be) three centuries ago, but conceals a germ of jealousy or feud. A brisk trade in cloth and cattle and spices was carried on here formerly, between Transylvania and Poland and Moldavia ; but this has long since had an end. The Protestant clergyman wandered away from the deserted spot, and in the once Lutheran church the ritual of the Greek Catholics is now chanted. About 1500 or 1600 cwt. of pure lead are produced here annually. At 10 florins per cwt. this would give 1.6,000 florins, and at 12 florins, 19,200 florins; but as the working expenses amount to 20,000 florins, there is always a deficit.

This is almost always the case in such undertakings in Austria. The expense of forest and mine superintendence is so great that the profits are never what they ought to be. It is the red-tapery which here, as in Eng land, complicates and throws obstacles in the way of the most simple operations. The unfortunate result is, that the Government, rather than continue so losing a game, has disposed of many of its most valuable possessions. This was done, in 1821, with the copper mine at St. Domokos; it was sold for a trifle, because the income did not cover the outlay; and yet the undertaking, even if but tolerably well conducted, would prove to any one literally a mine of wealth. The truth is, there are so many officers, one to overlook another, that it is impossible anything so carried on can pay.

Not far from Abrudbanya are magnificent forests (Topänfalva) belonging to the Crown. Every year the accounts showed a deficit in the balance-sheet. The whole tract is to be sold, *25_1 because to keep it induces a loss.

25_1* "A brilliant speculation for him who purchases it!" said those who knew the forest, and what might be done with it. It would seem that the department of Woods and Forests is everywhere the least well administered, although, if properly cared for, it would prove one of the most productive sources of revenue. " In France," says About, " the forests of the State are badly managed ; those to whom they are entrusted are incompetent and dishonest."

I saw one gold-mine which had been bought for 300 ducats, with all the buildings belonging to it, stamping_ mills, dwelling-houses, etc. etc. The man who told me chuckled, as he spoke of his excellent bargain. The stone walls of the tenements, he said, were alone worth more.

Beside such mistakes, we find continually, as controlling authority, the wrong man in the wrong place. People who know nothing about what they come to direct are sent round to inspect what the well-informed, hard- working, practical under-officers have been about. Civil engineers who have never even seen a mine have the pro positions of experienced miners laid before them, to accept or reject them as they like. Whatever relates to mining matters is brought before the Handels Ministerium -the Board of Trade,-which has to decide on mining questions often purely technical. Thus, permission was for years refused to have a steam-engine in one of the most important mines of the province ; when it was at last erected, in two years it paid itself. Then, again, the subdivision into various departments-red-tapery-leads to endless blunders. The one department orders a ma- gazine for the salt to be built here ; another department -a tramroad being wanted from the mine-orders the laying down of the tramway yonder ; and when the work of each is nearly done, it is found that one stands exactly in the way of the other. But each department takes its stand on its special jurisdiction and authority, and will not budge an inch, or condescend to consult with another.

I have seen the house of an officer of the mines. It wanted repair; the expense would have been 100 florins. Permission is asked at head-quarters to have the repairs done. An architect is sent down to see if repairs are ne- cessary. Ile stays some days, "to inspect;" his allowed expenses amount to much more than the repairs would have cost. He returns, and reports in favour of repair; but for a long time nothing is done. At last, workmen are sent ; and meanwhile the walls, owing to the delay, are in so much worse a state, that the work done costs now considerably more than the original estimate.*25_2

25_2* I saw a drain for which 175 florins had been allowed and paid by Government; the real price of work done was 30 florins. The reason is this :- When any building is to be done, the estimates are made according to tables of prices of masonry, lime, etc. Thus Government allows 75 florins per cubic fathom of masonry ; the real cost is 20 florins. Where the drain was built, materials and work were cheaper than where those estimates were made, but, notwithstanding, the work was reckoned according to prices some hundred miles off. Another building for which Government gave, in this manner, 3087 florins, cost in reality only 1000 florins. These facts I had from a Government inspecting-officer.

Is it any wonder, then, that these Government establishments frequently do not pay? All the mines of Transylvania are in the fifth section of the Ministry of Finance, and here, not only financial, but technical matters are decided on by men who do not even know what a mine is like. Formerly all mining business belonged to the fourth department, which was a purely technical administration.

These facts, which came under my own observation, are mentioned here rather for the information of the Austrian authorities-in case this book should ever reach them-than for English readers. A Circumlocution Office in England, bad as the thing is, will not ruin us : Austria, however, in her peculiar position, will be ruined if such a state of things be allowed to go on much longer.

The subordinate Government officers are paid badly, so that, to use the words of my informant, himself holding office, "they must steal." Another allowed that " they must defraud in order to live." A third said, "We lose annually very considerably by theft." An overseer (Aufseher) at a mine gets six florins a month. Some men on the smallest salary live well and handsomely. How do they manage it ? Near one salt-mine in full work is another now deserted. Here, organized bands of fifty or sixty men, with outposts as sentinels, regularly steal salt ; and the badly-paid overseers connive at the depredation.

The weather was beautiful, and I hardly think a Canadian winter could be more bright. To the east of Bistritz lies Borgó Prund, and thither I drove to see and to purchase some of the manufactures of the Roumain women. The country hereabouts reminded me at once of the sce- nery in the Valley of the Inn. Here, too, is the so-called " Mittel Land," a ridge of low hills rising in the vale between the higher mountains. Even now their bold forms and gentle slopes were most attractive ; and in summer, when the woods on the upland are in full leaf, and the pastures green and enlivened with flocks and herds, the scene must be most lovely.

The wife of the arch-priest very obligingly showed me her handiwork,-rugs, carpets, table-covers, and a woven sash or girdle for the waist. I drove on to another village, and the young Roumain school-teacher took me to his parents' house. Presently a girl of seventeen came in, and I do not think I ever saw a more beautiful face. Her blue eyes and exquisite complexion were as bright as those we often read of, but so seldom see. Indeed, she was a rare apparition ; all her features were finely moulded, and her whole air was unlike that of a peasant girl. Then came another daughter, to take out of the painted locker her store of kratinsas, and coverlets, and embroidery. She was a brunette, and, though a beauty, she had not the sunny radiance of her sweet young sister. There was no end to the stores their diligent fingers had woven ! They could not possibly want them all, yet they were very unwilling to part with two deftly-wrought kratinsas, on which my heart was set. At last they let me purchase them, and a large carpet also, which now makes a handsome covering for my bed. And then I went to see their loom, in which these webs had been produced. What a barbarous contrivance ! It was exactly like the frame now used for the same purpose in the interior of Africa, which, again, is like that seen on the monuments of the ancient Egyptians. At Prund, I found a German who was well acquainted with all Liebig's works on agriculture, and spoke of him with enthu- siasm.*25_3

The Roumain dwelling that I entered was strikingly neat. The houses were not thatched, but tiled, the palings before the house were painted, and the whole place looked tidy. The fact was, this was on " the Border," and had been under military rule ; hence the inhabitants had good schools, and learned order. Here, too, I heard regrets that the Bach system was no more. " Then we had justice, speedy justice, and were sure of getting it." These expressions greatly amused me, for till now all that belonged to that time and that system had been spoken of as being the very perfection of what was objectionable and bad. It only shows that the arrangements were, after all, not so wholly bad as was asserted. At all events, they worked well; on that head there is now only one opinion.-j-25_4

25_3* Liebig is popular here, and his works form the groundwork of all the later writings on agriculture.

25_4-j- t For the system in question, I have nothing to say either pro or con. But all the world over, opposition is surely made to new arrangements. I can remember quite well hearing, when a boy, the crowd hooting and shouting, " Peel's gang !" after our present police, on their first appearance, when they arrested some offender in the street.

Still further on, towards the pass into Moldavia, the scenery increases in picturesqueness, and nothing can be better than the road thither.

In the neighbourhood of Prund lies a territory, the possession of which has led to the most flagrant outrages. Commission after commission has been appointed to decide peremptorily on the line of demarcation, and although the existing documents and the boundary marks all prove where it is-indeed there was never any doubt about it-the Wallacks will not give way, but come on their neighbour's land, plough it for their own purposes, or destroy the harvests which the Saxons have raised. Should they be opposed, they maim or slay whoever resists. This state of things has been going on for years, and Imperial authority, and proclamations, and decisions of the highest courts of law are unavailing to enforce obedience. As I have observed, it is useless to talk of law to a people in a semi-barbarous state ; and till they have some comprehension of justice and reciprocal rights, force alone can make them yield. It is a sorry part the Government thus plays, allowing itself to be bearded by a few Roumain villages, and the judgments disregarded which its own highest officers have pronounced. For the people of Ilva Mika, Fóldra, Nepos, and Rehrischora no more heed the commands of the authorities in this matter, than they do the cawing of a crow.*25_5

25_5 * Some years ago, a wood' belonging to Hermannstadt was cut down and devastated by the Wallacks. Though only a mile or so from the seat of government, there was no redress to be had. Instead of the Government being tyrannical, it is far too tolerant.

For things to continue so is utterly impossible. The Government will be obliged before long to do what it ought to have done already-to enforce respect for its commands. If only just, and I have seen nothing to make me believe it would not be so, it has nought to fear from resolute decision.

Indeed, the Austrian Government must be just in self-defence, for justice is the only sure breastplate with which to meet the attacks of its opponents. But these would fail, in presence of righteous laws unflinchingly carried out. Such policy is Austria's only safety. Excess of arbitrary power would merely weaken her position, and she has therefore renounced its exercise to give the people a share in the government. That the new system is carried out free from flaw or imperfection, no one will assert; it would be a wonder if it were so. The fault is now on one side, now on the other, for neither party can learn, overnight as it were, what we all find so difficult, even after years of teaching,-moderation of enjoyment, whether of liberty or power.




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