COUNTRY LIFE AND PEASANTRY.
Occupations of the Hungarian Country Gentlemen.—Silk-growing.—Merino Sheep.—Granary.—English Horses.—Hunting. —Peasants.—Peasant Cottages at Z—.—Arrangement-Furniture—Plenty and Comfort.—Contrast with other Villages.—Former State of Peasantry.—Urbarium of Maria Theresa.—Improved Urbarium of 1835.—Peasants not Serfs.— Evil Effects of present System.—Similarity of Urbarial Tenure to English Copyhold.— Grievances of the Peasantry.— Prospect of Improvement.
AN invitation to spend a few days with Count S_____ at Z____, a village at some distance from Pest, besides laying open to us something of the economy of country life in Hungary in its best state, led us to make inquiries into the condition of the peasantry, which corrected many erroneous opinions on that subject which we had previously entertained.
I need not describe the house and establishment
of Z___; suffice it to say, that it was such as
befitted a man of high rank and large fortune, whose
tastes had been improved by foreign travel, but who
did not on that account despise what was good in
the habits and manners of his own country. Improvements in agriculture, the interests of his
He had then introduced a better system of husbandry, and had planted some thousand mulberry-trees in different parts of his estate for the feeding of silk-worms. Though quite in its infancy, we found a very intelligent Italian at the head of the silk-growing, which promises ere long to be an important and lucrative undertaking. This year they had collected about sixty pounds of silk, worth 20s. the pound.
The steward showed us over the farm-yard, where
we found a large flock of Merino sheep, collected in
hovels to protect theist from the heat of the midday sun. The entire flock amounted to about
twenty thousand, of course scattered over different
estates. At the present moment this is the most
profitable branch of agricultural industry ; it requires little labour, the produce is certain of sale,
and it pays no duty on exportation. The ordinary
The chief danger in the cultivation of the Merinos is from disease, caused by unhealthy or over feeding. On very rich pastures they allow them to graze only a few hours each clay. During the four winter months they are kept entirely under cover, where the temperature is accurately regulated by the thermometer ; and are fed on dry food, consisting of corn, straw, potatoes, and dried leaves; the latter being found a cheap and good substitute for hay. Nothing can be more miserable in appearance than the Merino sheep ; every other point is sacrificed to the wool. The flesh is said to be coarse ; indeed, all mutton is held in such low esteem here that it is difficult to get it.
At one end of the farm-yard was a huge granary of many stories high, and capable of containing vast stores of corn. This is said to be a source of great profit here ; for, from the reckless extravagance of the peasantry, and the necessitous state of a great part of the nobility, the rise of prices in spring is always greater than in other countries, where a more regular commerce and more prudent habits provide against such exigencies.
44The centner of Hungary contains one hundred Hungarian pounds, or one hundred and twenty-five pounds avoirdupois ; and, therefore, when I use the cwt. for the centner, it is only a rude approximation.
Our host was a great admirer of England, and had acquired many of our tastes, as his establishment sufficiently manifested; but there are so many of the present generation in Hungary who show the same inclination, that he can scarcely be regarded as an exception. In the stables we found six or seven English blood-mares, and several running-horses, under the management of a first-rate English trainer. One colt, bred in Hungary, and already a winner at Pest and Vienna, was very promising. He stood sixteen hands at least, was lengthy in the quarter, clean and strong in the bone, in fact, a racer all over.
From the stables we adjourned to the kennels,
where we found eight couple of young harriers, besides a brace or two of pointers. Count 5 Lad
formerly a pack of fox-hounds ; but the woods are
so extensive, and a large bog so near, that the foxes
almost always took refuge in the one or the other.
The length of the winter, too, which commonly lasts
four months, is a great impediment to bunting ; but,
in spite of this, two subscription packs are kept,—one
at Parendorf, near the north end of the Neusiedler
Lake, and another at Fót, near Pest. I heard that
one might almost fancy one's self in Leicestershire,
when among the smart English grooms, top-boots,
and scarlet coats, which are exhibited at a throw-off
in the neighbourhood of Pest ; but, alas ! the large
inclosures and the springy turf are wanting ; and,
though the sands are tolerably sound galloping
ground, bogs and woods are very awkward inter-
Count S_______ now took us to see what gave him more pleasure, and of which he was evidently more proud, than of house, horses, or dogs : I mean his Magyar peasants.
Like most of my countrymen, when I first entered Hungary, I had some indistinct idea of a
degrading serfage on the one side, and oppressive
seigneurial rights on the other, as the relative position of landlord and tenant in- this country ; and,
as a natural consequence, I had expected to find
among the peasants nothing but misery, attended
by the most abject submission or stifled hate. What
I had already seen had tended a good deal to
shake these first opinions ; and as we walked up the
wide street of the village of Z , with its row
of whitewashed cottages on either side, shaded by
an avenue of acacias and walnuts, it was impossible
to observe the comfortable appearance of everything around us without feeling convinced that I
had been in error, though to what extent I could
not tell. All I had lately heard, too, of the sacrifices which a noble was obliged to make to obtain
A number of cottages were entered, chosen as we pleased, or as chance directed; and, except some slight variations, the same aspect of comfort and plenty was presented by all. The cottage of the Hungarian peasant is, for the most part, a long one-storied building, presenting a gable only to the street, with an enclosed yard facing the whole length of the building. The gable end is generally pierced by two small windows—or rather peepholes, for they are very rarely more than a foot square—below which is a rustic seat overshadowed by a tree. The yard is separated from the street, sometimes by a handsome double gateway and stately wall ; sometimes by a neat fence formed of reeds or of the straw of the maize; and sometimes by a broken hedge, presenting that dilapidated state of half freedom, half restraint, in which pigs and children so much delight, where they can at once enjoy liberty and set at nought control.
Passing through the gateway of one of these cottages, we entered the first door, which led into the
kitchen ; on either side of which was a good-sized
dwelling-room. The kitchen, whitewashed like the
rest of the house, was itself small, and almost entirely occupied by a hearth four feet high, on which
was blazing a wood fire, with preparations for the
In the favourite corner we commonly observed - for the peasants of Z--- are Catholics--a gilded crucifix, or a rudely-coloured Mater dolorosa, the penatcs of the family; while all round hung a goodly array of pots and pans, a modest mirror, perhaps even a painted set of coffee-cups, and, sometimes, a drinking-glass of curious workmanship and of no ordinary dimensions. A Protestant peasant supplies the place of saints and virgins by heads of Kaizer Franzel, and Prince Schwartzenberg; and, not unfrequently, Buonaparte and Wellington look terrible things at each other across the room.
The corresponding apartment on the other side
of the kitchen was furnished with more ordinary
benches and tables, and served for the common
eating- and sleeping-room of the family. Beyond
this, but still under the same roof, was a store-room and dairy; and below it a cellar. The store-room well deserved its name ; for such quantities
of taro (a kind of cheese), lard, fruits, dried herbs,
The appearance of the peasant himself might, perhaps, strike a stranger's eye as somewhat rude. The fashion of his dress is uncouth, and its material is coarse; his hair hangs in braids or flowing locks upon his shoulders ; and his huge hat throws a deeper shade over his swarthy features; but speak to him, does he answer you with fear or rudeness? His strange costume, is it ill adapted to the climate of the country? Are there no signs of care and neatness in its adjustment ? Does not that elaborate embroidery on his fringed trowsers, and the gay lace on his jacket, tell of personal care, and a taste for harmless luxury? And do not these show that the man is neither a pauper nor a slave? Such appearances, it is true, are strange to our eyes; but let us not mistake them for signs of barbarism, lest others condemn us as ignorant for doing so.
Often slid our surprise break out, as not one, but
" Be not too hasty in your judgment," said Count S ; " what you see here is obtained despite of bad laws, not in consequence of them ; before you leave the country you will probably see enough to convince you of the existence of more than a fair share of poverty and misery among our peasantry : besides, you forget that these men are the cultivators of the soil, and with you would become wealthy farmers, bestowing a good education on their children, and bringing them up to reputable trades and professions."
Nor, as I afterwards learned, was the state of the peasantry at Z___ merely the effect of the laws they lived under. Their position has many advantages. The soil they cultivate yields abundantly ; a market and means of transport for any excess of production is near at hand ; the village school has given to almost all the first elements of education ; they have been blessed for generations with wise and just masters; and they are now reaping the advantages of some useful reforms which Count S___ has himself introduced among them.
It would be easy to find a contrast to this. Take
Such are the varieties to be found among the Hungarian peasantry ; nor have I in Z___ or G___ chosen exaggerated instances of either class. I could have cited the peasant whose proud and haughty bearing bespeak the feelings of the millionnaire,45
45 I believe Count Károly may boast the richest peasants in Hungary. Not long since, two of his villages purchased their entire freedom ; that is, compounded for ever their personal service for a fixed annual tax payable in money.
Without stopping to analyse the causes of these varieties,—among which might probably figure the nature of the soil, the facility of communication, the religion of the people, and, above all, the character and conduct of the landlord himself,—I cannot quit the subject without some notice of the laws by which the peasants have hitherto been affected, and the changes which of late have been introduced into them ; for I believe it is in this way many of the faults and vices by which they are distinguished can be best explained, and I ant convinced that it is only by an improved legislation that these can be radically cured.
It was not till 1405 that the Hungarian peasant seems to have had a recognised civil existence. In that year it was first declared that the peasant should have the power to leave the place where he was born, in case he could obtain his lord's consent ; which consent, however, it was provided, should not be arbitrarily refused.
It must not be imagined that, because this was
the first legal notice of the peasant's existence, he
No other material change in the condition of the peasantry took place till the commencement of the sixteenth century, when the nobles, irritated by the excesses committed during a servile insurrection under Dosa, revenged themselves by reducing the whole peasantry to absolute serfage, " that future generations might learn how great a crime it was for the peasant to rebel against his Lord."46
Too great a severity defeats its own object ; and it was soon found impossible to maintain this cruel enactment in its full vigour. It was repealed in 1547, again re-enacted in 1548, and a second time
46After the insurrection of Wat Tyler, Richard addressed the peasants of Essex, "liuslici juidem fuistis et estis, in, Londageo perm enebitis, non id hactexus, sed iaecoeuparabiliter viliori."—HALLAM'S Middle Ages, vol. iii. p. 268.
In the Diet of 1764, the third and last held under Maria Theresa, the grievances of the peasants were most strongly urged on the attention of the nobles, but no ameliorations were obtained : occupied with their own aflb.irs, those of the weaker classes were delayed to some future period. The next year, the natural consequences of the agitation of such a question without any step being made towards its solution, were manifested in a rising of the discontented peasantry in several parts of the country, and in the commission of the usual outrages before the forces of the Government could allay the ferment. Taking advantage of the alarm which these excesses had impressed upon the public mind, the great queen determined, by an act of arbitrary power, herself to apply the remedy to so crying an evil ; an act which, if it cannot be defended as strictly constitutional, will never want apologists among the friends of humanity.
The result of this determination was the celebrated Urbarium of Maria Theresa, the Magna
Charta of the Hungarian peasantry. Partly a formal
recognition of established customs, partly a grant of
new rights, the importance of which was not at first
perceived, this Urbarium, though Unsanctioned by
the Diet, became virtually, and almost without opposition, the law of the land. After the death of
One of the chief grievances of the peasantry in the time of Maria Theresa was the heavy taxation to which, for some years, they had been subject, and for which the almost constant wars in which the empire was engaged during this reign was a sufficient reason. The new Urbarium did not propose to lessen this burden ; but under the plea of rendering its pressure less irksome, and at the same time to defend the peasant against the oppression of his lord, it declared him not only at liberty to quit his land when he chose, but conferred on him the right to retain it as long as 1-e pleased on the fulfilment of certain conditions. To enable him to support the taxation, he was endowed with a kind of joint property in the soil.47
By this master-stroke of policy, one half48 of the land in Hungary was rendered for ever taxable. It is known to the reader that the Hungarian noble
47This principle had been announced by the predecessors of Maria Theresa in 1728, when it had met with the strongest opposition ; but it was now allowed to pass without a remark.
48Probably much more than one half is thus taxed and given (so to speak) to the peasants; for in many villages the whole land is in peasants' portions, and the only income to be derived from it by the landlord is a tenth of the produce and the labour. In Let, the nobles will one day find out that they have much less landed property than they fancy; albeit far more than they know what to do with.
The relative rights and obligations of the peasant and his lord, as laid down in the Urbarium of Maria Theresa, stood pretty much thus :
1st. The peasant was no more attached to the soil, but could leave his farm and landlord whenever he thought fit, having first given due notice to the magistrate and paid his debts.
2nd. An entire peasant's fief consisted of a house and garden-ground, to the extent of one acre ; of an arable and pasture farm,—varying in different counties, and according to the qualities of the soil,49— from sixteen to forty acres of arable, and from about six to twelve of meadow land.
49There are four classes of land, divided according to its qualities, in each of which the quantity appertaining to an entire fief is different; and each class differs in almost every county, according to the population, value of land, cost of labour, &c.
3rd. The landlord50 could only dispossess the peasant—nor that without (Inc process of law—in case he had absolute need of the land to build his own house on,51 or in case of incapacity or refusal on the part of the peasant to fulfil his duties, or of his condemnation for heinous offence; nor could the landlord exchange the fief without giving another equally large and good.
4th. When there were vineyards, the peasant might retail wines from Michaelmas to St. George's Day; where there were none, to Christmas only.52 The peasant might cut wood for building and firing, and gather rushes on the property of his landlord without payment.
Soc mill, or the obligation to grind at the lord's mill, was forbidden ; as likewise all other demands than those specified by this law.
The peasant held this property, for such it really was, subject to the following conditions :
1st. The holder of an entire fief was bound to labour for his landlord, in every year, one hundred and four days, or if he brought a team of oxen or
50I use the word landlord, as that most directly answering to the Grand Herr of the Germans, the dominos terrestris of Hungarian Latin.
511 have stated elsewhere, that the youngest son has the right of retaining the paternal mansion ; and the privilege above-mentioned was therefore extended to the elder sons, who might otherwise be left without a dwelling-place.
52Retailing wine, as well as baking bread, grinding corn, killing meat, and distilling spirits, are rights of the lord.
2nd. In like manner, the holder of half a fief performed half the quantity of service ; and the holder of a quarter, only a fourth : a mere householder rendered only eighteen days' hand labour.
3rd. Every four holders of entire fiefs were obliged, once yearly, to furnish a man and horse for a two days' journey, 53 the landlord paying the necessary expenses.
4th. Each peasant, for the liberty of cutting wood, was obliged to cut and convey to his landlord's dwelling one small cart-load of fire-wood.
5th. When the country was infested by beasts of prey (bears, boars, wolves, and foxes), the peasant was to assist in hunting three days, if required, in the course of the year.
6th. For his house, he paid two shillings yearly.
7th. Every fief was bound to pay yearly two liens, two capons, nineteen eggs, and one pound of butter, or eighteen-pence ; and every thirty fiefs together, one calf or three shillings in money.
8th. Should the lord or lady marry, or enter into
53Where there was no post, this was the means used for send- ing letters.
9th. For permission to distil, the peasant paid four shillings yearly for each still.
10th. Of all the productions of the soil, one ninth belonged to the landlord, except the produce of the second harvest, and the fruits of the garden. Of cattle, lambs, and kids, a ninth was also the lord's clue.
In order to enforce prompt obedience to these laws, the seigneur was empowered to inflict summary punishment on the refractory peasants, by means of his officers, to the amount of twenty-five blows ; for which, however, he was amenable to the laws if it was inflicted without due cause.
The Sedes Dominalis, — the Manor Court, — in which the lord or his representatives appointed the judges, was declared the legal tribunal for the settlement of differences between the peasant and his lord, as well as of those that might arise among the peasants themselves. There was a right of appeal to the County Court, and from that to the Statticalterei in Buda. In civil matters, the jurisdiction extended to all cases under the value of six pounds ; in criminal, to the infliction of twenty-five blows.
This has always been considered by foreigners
a very gross injustice ; but, when the cause has been
Where the landlord is himself a party interested in the process, the matter, however, assumes another character. Some Hungarian writers have alleged that the seigneurial right resolved itself into a simple refusal of the plaintiff's claim, which was of course referred to another tribunal, the County Court; that, in fact, the whole affair was little more than the serving a notice of action.
There was this important difference, however ; the right of appeal is undoubted, but it was what the Hungarian law-books call " extra dominium," without, in the meantime, arresting the execution of the first judgment; so that, if the refractory peasant had received his five-and-twenty blows, he might appeal against its injustice, but his master's cruelty had nevertheless enjoyed its savage indulgence.
If the County Courts, composed of magistrates,
themselves nobles, might be supposed to have
Such has been the law of landlord and tenant for the last three quarters of a century in Hungary. In the Diet of 1835, the Crown again proposed the question to the States, and a new law was passed.
The spirit in which the new Urbarium is conceived may be imagined from the avowed principle, that, where it was safe and proper, the nights of the peasant should he increased and his burdens diminished; but in no instance should his privileges, however attained, be curtailed. The small tithes, often a subject of vexatious oppression, were abolished, as well as gifts on extraordinary occasions. The long journeys, by which the peasants' cattle were injured, were given up. A number of other minor enactments were added, all in the same spirit ; and many of them rendered necessary, rather by the ingenuity of the dishonest, who found out a thousand ways of eluding the intentions of the legislator, than by any fault in the laws themselves.
Almost the only advantage gained by the landlord from the recent changes has been the establishment of his right to separate his land from that
But the changes really most important are those which tend to confer on the peasant a right of property to the land he holds, and which more distinctly fix the liability to taxation on the property, and not on the individual or class. The power of removing a peasant is rendered more difficult. The peasant is declared henceforth to have the right of buying and selling the investitures, ameliorations, together with the right of enjoyment of peasants' fiefs ; the right, however, being hampered and restricted in various ways. In the absence of heirs-at-law,—if he has children, it is divided among them just as with the property of nobles,— he has the right to dispose freely of his property by will. The more important of these restrictions have in view an object humane in itself, but it is easy to foresee that they will have a contrary effect to that designed ; and, like all legal measures intended to establish an artificial check on the operation of natural causes as regards the disposition of property, must eventually yield to the wants of a progressing society.
Since the passing of this law, it can scarcely be
said any longer that the peasant alone pays taxes ;
for it is especially provided, that, should a noble
In his judicial character the landlord is much more restricted than formerly ; he can no longer inflict on the refractory peasant any corporeal punishment, and the only summary means left in his power of enforcing obedience to his orders is imprisonment from one to three days, he being obliged to support the prisoner during that time.54 The jurisdiction of the Sedes Dominalis has been restricted to cases between peasant and peasant, those between the peasant and his lord are from henceforth to be decided by the Sedes Dominalis Urbarialis ; a new court composed of five disinterested persons, among whom must figure the magistrate of the district, and one of his sworn men, the rest being named by the landlord, but the landlord himself, and his officers, are absolutely excluded. All the numerous disputes arising from the peculiar relation in which landlord and tenant stand to each other, — as, oppressive exactions and unwarranted ejectments, illegal judgments, and bodily injuries, on the one side ; or on the other, refusal to labour, the nonpayment of dues,
54As long as the system of paying rent in labour continues, it is absolutely necessary that the landlord should have a sum mary power of enforcing it : a strong reason for changing the system.
I have entered thus at length into the laws affecting the Hungarian peasantry, especially those which regulate their intercourse with their lords ; because I have been anxious to show that they are not, as strangers commonly suppose, serfs, nor their lords tyrants, with unlimited power over their lives and fortunes.
The rights of each are accurately defined, and a cheap and easy process exists for obtaining justice on either side. The rent paid by the peasant in labour and produce, instead of cash, is exceedingly small; and he is endowed with a right in the property, inconsistent even with our notions of the landlord's just claims. It is evident enough, then, that the Hungarian peasant is no serf—that the laws give him rights fixed and determinate; but it is yet a question whether they have all been wisely conceived.
I believe that many of these laws have an injurious effect on the character of the peasantry. The
system of rent by robot or forced labour,—that is, so
many days' labour without any specification of the
quantity of work to be performed,—is a direct pre-
Now how much does the reader suppose such
workmen perform in one day ? Count S-- says,
just one-third of what the same men can do easily
when working by the piece; and he has accordingly
compounded his peasants' one hundred and four
days' robot for a certain amount of labour, which
they generally get through in about thirty-four clays.
Another evil of the robot is the ill-will it begets
between the masters and the workmen : their whole
lives seem to be a constant effort, on the one hand,
to see how much can be pressed out of the reluctant peasant; and, on the other, how little can be
done to satisfy the terms of agreement, and escape
punishment. Mutual injury becomes a mutual
The restrictions on the sale of peasants' fiefs, to which I before alluded, though evidently well meant, are equally injurious in their tendency. They exclude from purchasing peasants' fiefs the lord of the manor, or landlord, other nobles possessing parts of the same village, and the community or parish in corpore : while, in villages of forty entire fiefs, no one can purchase more than one fief; or in those of eighty, two ; or in those of one hundred and twenty, three ; and, even in the largest, four is the greatest number allowed to one person. The object is evidently to prevent the greedy speculator, the overbearing landlord, or even the saving industrious peasant, from grasping in his own power the whole property of a village, and thus reducing an independent peasantry to the state of tenants at will. Without pausing to examine whether the system of tenants at will does not produce greater happiness, as well as greater plenty, than that of independent holders, it is easy to see that these restrictions injure the peasant himself. In lessening the number of purchasers, they rob him of the value of his land ; by refusing him unlimited right of purchase in the same place, they check his industry and prevent his rising to a higher station ; while, by confining his farm to so small a size, improvement in agriculture becomes almost impossible.
Nor have they a less direct tendency to keep the
The present state of the Hungarian peasantry, and the tenure by which they hold their land, have a particular interest for the English reader, as they illustrate the origin of some obscure rights and customs in his own laws. I have been forcibly struck with some of these ; and, if I blunder occasionally in attempting to indicate them, the learned reader must pardon the errors of a nonprofessional annotator on so knotty a subject.
All landed property in England is either freehold
or copyhold ; that is, either what was originally held
by a homo liber (the noble of Hungary), and constituting a freehold, liberum tenementum,—or let by him
to a villein, or peasant, on consideration of certain
services, for which he held, as a title-deed, a copy of
the entry in the manor roll, hence called copyhold;
in other words, the fundus dominalis and fundus colonicalis of the Hungarian Urbarium. The very mode
Now how similar were the states of society which gave rise to these analogous laws !
In some of our old copyholds,55 still preserved in their original form, the services to be performed are servile : in one case the holder must reap the lord's corn, in another he must repair his fences ; in some cases it is especially provided that the lord shall find the copyholders in meat and drink ; and, in an old Scottish tenure, the lord binds himself to pay the piper as long as the villeins work. The resemblance in this last point is most extraordinarily maintained,—the Wallack peasantry of Transylvania will not work without a bag-piper; and I am sure, were they to commute their days of labour for so much work, they would contract for meat and drink, and bag-pipes too.
We have in England some tenures, equally curious, by which a certain number of fat geese must be delivered at Michaelmas ; and, in like manner, in some parts of Transylvania the tenants are bound to furnish a certain number of aigrettes' or herons' plumes, and martens' furs, as yearly rent. The only
55These have been for the most part commuted for payment of money-fines at certain periods, mere nominal services, &c. ; and though the lord has still the right to reclaim in theory, it has been generally allowed to fall into disuse.
Our manorial rights, which still exist, and which always go with the Hall,—Curia Dominalis,—are the sole remains of seigneurial power in England : would that the Jura Domini Terrestris of Hungary had become equally innocent ! But enough of law.
Should these pages meet the eye of some philanthropic Hungarian, he may think that I have spoken too leniently of the conduct of the nobles to their peasantry, and found too much of good in the peasants' condition. He would be mistaken, however ; I both know and appreciate their wrongs.
56Absolute villeinage, or serfage, has not existed in Hungary for several centuries.
No ! Hungarian peasants are not vassals ; but Heaven knows they have even still enough of injustice to complain of !
It is rare indeed that the poor, the ignorant,
and the weak do not suffer from the oppression
of the strong ; but in Hungary they have more
than their share of the sufferings which ordinarily
fall to the lot of humanity. Well might a Diet
of the olden times exclaim, " Nulla res magis
florenti quondam Hungariac statui nocuissc videtur
oppressione colonorum, quorum clamor ascendit ju-
I know well that the burdens of the Hungarian peasant are hard, and beyond all measure of justice. I know that, besides the dues he owes his landlord, he pays a tenth to the church, to the government a head-tax and property-tax, and to the municipality (besides his labour in the repair of roads and bridges, and the toll in crossing them) a heavy impost for the administration of justice, the municipal government, the maintenance of public buildings, and also the greater part of the burden of supporting an army of sixty thousand men. I know that the soldier is quartered upon the peasant; and that, besides giving up half his cottage for his accommodation, he is obliged, for one kreutzer (something less than a halfpenny) a day, to furnish him with fire, cooking, stable-room, and fodder,—not to mention the peculations and impertinences of which he dare neither complain nor avenge himself. I know that, in addition to this, he is obliged to sell his corn and hay at a fixed price for the use of the troops; and that, as this price was fixed many years ago, it is now generally below the market average, and in some years is only one-eighth of what would be obtained by a fair sale.
I know that, thus bearing all the burdens of the
state, the poor peasant enjoys but few of its privileges. It is true, that it is difficult to deprive him
of his farm, for in that government protects him,
Nor do I forget that the Hungarian peasant is
entirely excluded from all political power; that an
artificial barrier, which no exertions of his own can
enable him to pass, prevents the possibility of his
aspiring to it ; that he can only hold landed property under servile and degrading restrictions ; that
he can never hope to rise higher than the situation
in which he is born ; that he is not equal with the
noble before the law ; that he is liable to the infliction of imprisonment, and, till the last Diet, of
corporeal punishment also, without fair trial ; and
that, in all disputes with the noble, he is subject
But, in Hungary, I see prospects of better things to come. A great change has been begun, from which it is impossible any longer to recede ; and, if it be conducted wisely, I see a happy and glorious future for Hungary as the consequence. I see the nobles contented and wealthy ; I see the Government strong and feared abroad, because loved and respected at home; I see from the Hungarian peasants arise the future yeomen, the free possessors of the soil, the electors, the jurymen, the militiamen—the citizens in the noblest sense of the word, the bulwarks of their country in war, the guardians of her liberties in peace. It remains to consider how this vision will be accomplished.
I have already said that the act of the last Diet
would eventually change the whole aspect of society
in Hungary : the nobles showed by that act a spirit
of self-sacrifice worthy of all praise ; little more is
needed. The most simple remedy for existing evils
If to this it be desired to unite the great political
and national project of Magyarising the whole country, it is only necessary to annex to the enjoyment
of political and municipal rights the condition of a
knowledge of the Magyar language. This would be
no hardship, for, as the law stands, all legal and political acts must be published in that tongue ; and
it is evident that no one can be fit to take a part in
them who does not understand it. This would effect
Some such measures as these are all that are wanted.
Let the nobles gradually yield the vexatious rights of seigneury, which bring little profit to them, but do much injury to others ; let them enable the peasant to purchase his freedom from service ; grant him independent justice ; as he acquires property, let him acquire consideration and rights ; leave men and things to act as circumstances show to be best, untrammelled by restrictions, unaided by privilege ; and the peasant of Hungary will soon occupy a position which may justly be envied by his fellows of any other part of Europe.
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