County Meeting at Pest.—Origin of Hungarian Municipalities.— The Municipal Government of Counties.—Municipal Officers. —Fö Ispan, —Vice-Ispán.-Szolga-biro.—Payment and Election of Magistrates.—County Meetings—their Powers.—Restaurations.—Municipal Government of Towns.—Senatus and Község.—Abuse of Candidation.—Municipal Government of Villages.--Advantages of Decentralization.—The Biro.—Taxation.—Mode of Levying Taxes.—Amount of Revenue.— Errors of the System.

ON our return to Pest, all the world was talking of a great county meeting which had just taken place ; in which the member, Mr. Pécsi, had been recalled by his constituents, and dismissed from his place for voting contrary to their instructions. The greatest efforts had been made by the Government party, at the head of which was the Fö Ispan, to defeat the Liberals ; and, finding themselves in a minority, they proposed to adjourn the new election to another day : but, just at the critical moment Count Karolyi György sprung upon the table, and calling out, " No time like the present !" was received with such a burst of acclamation as at once [536] COUNTY MEETING AT PEST. decided the question, and obliged the Tories to give up any further contest. The new Liberal deputy, Mr. Fáy, was required, before receiving his authority, to swear in no way, "by speech or silence," to act contrary to the instructions of those who elected him ; and it was determined that henceforward every deputy from that county should take the same oath.

There is something so decidedly free, and even democratic, in these county meetings, and in the municipal95 institutions of Hungary generally, that they excited my interest in no ordinary degree ; and I think I cannot do better than dedicate a few pages to their consideration before we proceed further on our journey. The county meeting at Pest was, it is true, rather political than municipal in its character ; but, though, in this instance, the two institutions were mixed together, they are generally sufficiently separated to entitle us to consider them apart.

I am inclined to think the Hungarians owe their municipal institutions to the Sclaves whom they conquered ; not merely because the latter were a settled nation skilled in agriculture and other arts of civilized life, and therefore necessarily exercising

95" By the term `municipal,' I mean to designate the administration which the inhabitants of any village, burg, or section of the country, established for the management of their local affairs, as distinguished from and independent of the political government.'— Urquhart's Turkey, p. 71.
[537] ORIGIN OF MUNICIPALITIES. a strong influence over a nomadic people like the Magyars, but because we find some traces of similar institutions among other Sclavish nations long before they were known to the European nations of (gothic origin. The popular character of the institutions of Poland are well known, and in the early history of Russia the same tendency to popular government may be traced. Segur, particularly, remarks on the firmness with which the Russian people maintained the management of their local affairs in their own hands ; nor was it without the greatest difficulty that the descendants of Ruric destroyed the ancient customs, and finally subjected Russia to the yoke of feudality. Several of the titles too of the municipal officers in Hungary are derived from the Sclavish language, and it is therefore more than probable that the offices themselves had their origin from the Sclaves.

Be this as it may, when St. Stephen,—the Alfred of Hungary,—about the year 1000, undertook to settle the affairs of his new kingdom, he at once destroyed the octarchy, or rule of the descendants of the eight chieftains who conquered the land ; and in part redividing, and in part adopting former divisions, he constituted the counties nearly in their present number and form, whilst for the government of these counties he appointed officers similar to those now existing.

In Hungary, each of the fifty-two counties (Var- [538] MUNICIPAL OFFICERS. megye) has a separate local administration, and constitutes a kind of state within itself; nor can the general Government interfere in its affairs, or even execute the laws within its boundaries, except through the county officers, all of whom (except one) are chosen by the people every three years. The exception is the Fo Ispán or Lord-lieutenant, the representative of Majesty, who is appointed directly by the Crown. Except at the triennial elections, or on other great occasions, this officer generally resides in the capital ; and the more important of his duties devolve on the elected Vice-Ispan or Al Ispán, as he is more commonly called at the present day. This magistrate answers in some respects to our sheriff ; indeed, when Latin was used in our law transactions, both were called by the same title, Vice-Comes. In the absence of the Fo Ispán, the Vice-Ispán summons and takes the chair at all county meetings, corresponds with the central Government, and executes its decrees. It is through him also that the deputies communicate with their constituents, and receive back their instructions. He holds the supreme direction of the provincial police, and presides as chief judge in the county courts, besides holding his own courts for the trial of minor offences, and small debt cases. A first and second Vice-Tsp án are always chosen, in order that, in case of the illness or unavoidable absence of the one, the other may supply his place.

[539] VICE-ISPA'N.

There can be few positions in society more honourable, or more to be coveted, than that of Vice-Ispán in Hungary. Chosen freely by the whole gentry of his county, possessed of immense power and influence, and exercising it among his own friends and neighbours, he enjoys all that to a healthy ambition can appear desirable. As a school for constitutional statesmen, I know of no office so good as this. It lays open a clear view of the wants and capabilities of the country, even to the minutest details ; it places its occupant in the closest connection with his constituents, keeps him in constant remembrance of his dependence upon them, accustoms him to public speaking, and initiates him into that ars agendi — that tact in the management of affairs—which nothing but a long continuance in office can give, and which is almost as necessary in the government of a country as commanding talent and just principles. It has accordingly been much sought after of late by young men of family, and I could name more than one hereditary magnate whose greatest pride is his election to the office of Vice-Ispán.

The municipal officers below the Vice-Ispán, and elected by the county, are the Szolga-birok, the Jurassores, the receivers of the state taxes and receivers of the county taxes, collectors, fiscals, and others, besides a medical officer of health, surveyors, jailors, inferior officers of police, &,c. who [540] MAGISTRATES ELECTED AND PAID. are elected for life. The most important of these is the Szolga-biro, or county magistrate. With the aid of the Jurati Assessores, or Jurassores, as Hungarian Latin makes them,—sworn men,—the Szolga-birok have the management of the separate districts (Kerület) into which each county is divided. Their duties extend to the administration of justice in trivial cases, the quartering of the soldiers, and the superintendence of the police within their districts.

All these officers receive a small annual payment during the period of their service, varying from 801. the salary of the Vice-Ispán, to 101. that of the Jurassor. It is not intended that this should be a remuneration for their services, but only a provision for the extraordinary expenses which their offices may bring upon them ; it being especially stated that none but men "well-to-do," and capable of living on their own property, shall be appointed. No man, when chosen, can refuse to serve.

The advantages resulting from this system of elected county officers, and their consequent responsibility to public opinion, are so striking that I need not point there out ; but some of its disadvantages may be less evident to those unacquainted with Hungary. In the first place, all these officers are elected by the people,—and be it recollected that in Hungarian that term excludes the peasantry,—and, from the short duration of their [541] CORRUPTION OF MAGISTRATES. period of office, they are naturally anxious to please those on whom their re-election depends, and they are not therefore likely to be impartial in the administration of justice between electors and non-electors. But there is a still greater evil. From the payment, small as it is, by which these offices are accompanied, a number of needy men have been accustomed to seek them,—I allude particularly to the office of Szolga-biro,—and, from a mistaken kindness on the part of the electors, have not unfrequently succeeded. Now, although this may not prevail in all parts of Hungary,—and I have certainly seen Szolga-birok very wealthy and respectable men, yet in others, where the spirit of the institution has been departed from, and poor men have been appointed, the consequence has been that their poverty has laid them open to bribery in their quality of judges. To such an extent does this prevail in one part of the country, that I have heard the people speak of bribing the Szolga-biro as a matter of course. I remember, in the district to which I allude, a Szolga-biro being pointed out to me as a most extraordinary man, because he administered justice fairly to the peasants, without ever accepting even a present from them. This, however, is not altogether a fault of the institution ; nothing but a high-state of moral civilization in the country at large can insure that strict honour in the judge, without which, the best of laws can never insure justice : " Nihil prosunt leges sine moribus." [542] THE COUNTY MEETINGS. Something, perhaps, might be done by rendering the offices honorary, and so excluding the needy from them, or by raising the salary so high as to render its possessor beyond the power of slight temptations ; but nothing would be so likely to produce the desired eflbct as a determination on the part of gentlemen of property and education to undertake the office of magistrate themselves, and so raise it, as with us, to be considered a mark of dignity and honour.

Four times at least in the course of every year, and oftener, if necessary, the Fö Ispan, or, in his absence, the Vice-Ispan, is obliged to call a public meeting (Márkdlis szék—Congregatio) of all the nobles and clergy of the county. These meetings partake both of a political and municipal character. During the sitting of the Diet, it is here that the questions before the chambers are discussed ; and, according to the vote of the majority, instructions are sent back to the deputies as to the manner in which they are to vote. Here, too, the wants and the "grievances" of the county are debated, and orders sent to the representatives to introduce bills to remedy them. They have the right of corresponding not only with other counties, but with foreign powers also ; which right was exercised riot long since in the case of the King of Bavaria. In short, the county meetings of Hungary are little less than provincial parliaments, and the deputies members of a confederation.


In their municipal or local character they have the management and direction of the means of communication, as the making of roads, cutting of canals, and the opening of rivers; they assess the taxes, and order the levies of soldiers voted by the Diet; they provide for the expenses of the county ; assize the price of corn and meat ; —in short, perform all the business which the government of the county can require. They have one privilege of a very extraordinary character, and which may be quoted as, perhaps, the greatest extent of power ever conferred on a popular assembly under any form of constitutional government. In the same manner as I have already stated, that the acts of the Diet are sent down to the counties to be published, so also are the ordinances of the monarch : but if, after due examination, these are found by the county meetings to be contrary to law, or in their tendency dangerous to liberty, they have " the right to lay them, with all due honour, on the shelf (cum honors seponuntur), and take no further notice of them ; a right which they have frequently exercised, and which is in itself a sufficient guarantee against any kind of administrative tyranny."96

Another of their privileges is of rather a curious nature; namely, the right of citing before them any noble who leads a scandalous life, and obliging

96I quote from a very excellent article on Hungary, in the Athenaeum of Nov. 1837.
[544] RESTAURATIONS. him to reform, or expelling him from the county. I have heard of one instance of a married Count, who was known to be rather too intimate with a pretty widow of his neighbourhood, and who incurred this disagreeable censure.

But important as the county meetings are in their immediate effects, they are still more so in training the people to think of, and act in, the affairs of the country; and I am convinced it is to them we must attribute the fact, that, in spite of the censorship of the press, in spite of their isolated position, and the many other disadvantages which they labour under, the Hungarians have sounder notions of politics, and a better acquaintance with their own real interests, than many of the so-called highly civilized nations of Europe.

There are few scenes better calculated to bring out the striking peculiarities of national character than a popular election ; and the elections of Hungary are no exceptions to the rule. It so happened that I never was present at a Restauration, as an election is called; but, if I may credit those who have, such a scene of feasting, fiddling, fuddling, and fighting was never equalled even in an Irish fair. A little country town, crowded during three or four days by three or four thousand noblemen, armed and accompanied by their followers, for the most part glorious with wine, their enthusiasm fired in the cause of a party or a name, and edged on by those little piquant animosities which near neigh- [545] RESTAURATIONS. hours will indulge in, must present a scene of wild and stirring interest.

The restaurations, whether of the deputies or municipal officers, are commonly presided over by the Fö Ispán himself. In the case of the municipal officers, the king, in the person of his representative, has the right of candidation ; that is, of naming three persons for every office, from among whom one must be chosen. In general, however, he nominates such as desire the honour, or who have a respectable party to support them ; so that this power is rarely used except to exclude an unworthy person. Elections are now commonly made by acclamation, though polling has been used ; Government having resumed what it calls the more ancient, certainly the more barbarous, mode, because it was thought that in the confusion the Fö Ispán might more easily decide upon the candidate most pleasing to the powers that be.

Never was scheme less successful. In the heat and enthusiasm of such a moment the influence of Government is lost; and the Hungarians have taught their lords-lieutenant to act with impartiality, by tossing out of the windows some who had shown a disposition to be partial. Should the numbers appear doubtful, the losing party have, within this last year or two, adopted the plan of demanding a poll, which the lords-lieutenant have not dared to refuse.

There is a good deal of similarity between these [546] RESTAURATIONS. restaurations and the elections of members of parliament in England in former times ; and though we have been right in changing the form under the plea of convenience for one less democratic, because newspapers supply the place of popular discussions, and party spirit is too active to prevent any possibility of indifference, the case is far otherwise in Hungary. The enthusiasm of a popular assembly is required not only to stimulate the slow, and encourage the timid, among the friends of liberty, but to baffle by its power the hardihood of the agents of corruption.

It must be confessed that the excesses sometimes committed are rather startling,—only the year before our visit eight men were killed at a restauration in the county of Bars ;—but they are certainly less than might be expected from an assembly of so many rude and often uneducated men of warm temperament, excited by wine and party animosity, especially when it is considered that there is no police to restrain them, and that they are for the most part armed. I can easily believe that to the well-drilled, well-policed slave of an absolute Government, such a meeting must appear very alarming; but by an Englishman, who has gone through the scenes of a contested election, it will be readily understood. Such a man has felt the blessings of Liberty, and can therefore easily overlook some of these outbursts of her wilder humours in consideration of the thousand blessings she showers [547] MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT OF TOWNS. upon him. He knows too that the political excesses of one tyrant cause more misery in a single year, than those of all the freemen of Europe in a century.

At these meetings it is wonderful with how much ease the Magyar, naturally eloquent, gives utterance to his burning thoughts and feelings in the sonorous tones of his much-loved mother-tongue. Word after word, and sentence after sentence, are poured forth without the slightest hesitation or difficulty. The election once over, and the Magyar forgets his anger. Both parties commonly meet, when the business of the day is concluded, without rancour or ill-will, at the table which the lord-lieutenant is obliged to provide for all comers. There again are speeches made,—thanks to the hot wines, yet more fluent than before !—toasts are drunk, healths are pledged, the national airs burst forth in all their native wildness from the gipsy band, and the sad-looking Magyar grows gay with the enthusiasm of the hour.

Of the municipalities of the towns in Hungary it is not necessary to say much; they are German in their origin, dependent in their principle. The municipal body consists of a Senatus and a Község. The Senatus answers to our court of aldermen, and is composed of twelve members, from among whom are chosen the Polgár Hester, or Mayor ; the Város Biro, or Judge of the town ; and the Város Capitány, or Commander of the police. The Kozseg forms the [548] DEPENDENCE OF Common Council, and consists, in Pest, of one hundred and twenty members, from whom the members of the Senatus are taken. Both these bodies are self-elected, and except the three superior officers, who are chosen annually, they retain their situations for life. So far there is a great resemblance between the constitution of Hungarian boroughs, and those of England before municipal reform ; but a striking exception occurs in the manner of the election. It is a principle, which runs through every branch of the Hungarian municipal system, both in towns and counties, that the Crown shall have a direct controlling influence; and this it enjoys in the right of candidation. It is in this way, not only that the superior officers and Senatus are chosen, but every member of the Kozség itself. But, although it is true that the same principle of candidation prevails in the counties, its effect is totally different in the two cases. In the towns, from the small number of persons interested, rendering corruption or intimidation more easy ; the long duration of the power delegated, making it more worth while to obtain it for a partisan; and from another cause, to be explained by and by ; the commissioner candidates whom he pleases, and would not hesitate in the least to omit the name of any person, however desired by the town, if his popularity or principles displeased him ; so that in fact the whole municipal body may be—though I do not say that they always are — mere creatures of [549] MUNICIPALITIES OF TOWNS. the Government. In the counties, on the contrary, where the elections take place every three years, and where the number of the constituency is often some thousands instead of a few score, the Fö Ispán dares not disobey the wishes of the meeting—thanks to the power of public opinion, and perhaps a little to those constitutional throwings out of windows to which we have before alluded ! In fact, triennial elections, and an extensive constituency, seem to furnish — at least in Hungary—a strong barrier against intimidation and corruption.

The other cause for the subserviency of the towns is this;—To enable the Senatus to dispose of any part of the funds, exceeding in amount six pounds, furnished by the taxes which they are authorized to impose on the town to defray local expenses, or from the corporate property97 in their possession, it is necessary that permission should be granted by the Crown. Now the Austrian Government makes it a point never to refuse any request made to it, if it is possible to avoid it, — I believe, if the Hungarians asked for the moon, the Austrians would only reply that their request should be attentively considered—but they have a method of delaying to give an answer, which they know will break the spirit of the strongest petitioner in the world ; and

97Though a citizen is not noble, and cannot possess landed property, a ..hole town, by a fiction of law, is considered equal to a noble, and so possesses land which it can sell to its citizens. In like manner, although a citizen cannot bring an action against a noble, the town in corpore can proceed for him.
[550] MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT OF TOWNS. if a town corporation has ventured to send too liberal instructions to its deputy at the Diet, or has ventured to demur about choosing the nominee of the Crown as a member of the Község, a street may go unpaved, a bridge unbuilt, or a nuisance unabated for half a century, before they can get permission to expend their own money in doing it. The deputy again, although the Crown has no right of nomination in his case, either in town or county, must be chosen from among the senators, all of whom the royal commission has twice candidated. And now, too, the reader will understand why the nobles have deprived the borough members of their right of vote at the Diet ; but although he may, perhaps, think them justified in so doing, he will not, therefore, the less lament that the wiser course of reforming the municipalities, by rendering them independent, was not adopted instead. I have no doubt the nobles have not done so, because they were convinced that the Crown would oppose them ; but let them only fairly propose a municipal reform at the Diet, and promise to restore to the borough deputies all their rights if it is agreed to, and he would be a bold minister that dare counsel the Crown to reject it.

There is still one part of the municipal system to be considered,—that which refers to the local government of a village. Every Hungarian village forms a Communitas in itself, and is governed by its own elected officers, assesses and collects its own taxes, [551] GOVERNMENT OF VILLAGES. and manages its own affairs, very much after its own fancy. The Lord of the Manor, has, to a certain extent, the same power in the village as the Monarch in the county.

The chief officer of the village is the Biro or Judge : for this office the Lord nominates three peasants, from whom the villagers choose one. Here, too, it is generally understood that the Lord should nominate the three persons most desired ; but in case he does not do so, and the peasants cannot decide in three clays, the Szolga-biro of the district appoints one himself, independently of both parties. The Biro must be able to read and write, and he is generally a man respected by his fellows for his character and acquirements. His salary, though small, is enough to make it worth his while to take the office ; and he is freed from all obligation to labour for the Lord or the county during his continuance in office. The Biro's duties extend to the collection of the taxes, the furnishing the appointed number of conscripts for the army, the quartering the soldiers on march fairly among the peasantry, the supplying horses for vorspann, the apprehending of rogues and vagabonds, the settling of disputes, and even the summary punishment of trivial offences. The Biro is aided by the Notarius, who keeps the accounts; by two Jurassores, who help him in his judicial functions, and must be present at every legal punishment ; by the Kis Biro, or Little Judge ; and by several [552] CONSERVATIVE CHARACTER. Haiduks, who perform the duties of flogging-masters-general to the village. Except the Haiduks, all these officers are paid as well as elected by the peasants.

I have entered thus at length into the subject of Hungarian municipalities, partly because it is a subject likely to excite great interest in England before long, and because I think we may borrow some useful hints from them ; but more particularly because I believe that in them may be found the true bulwarks of Hungarian liberty. It is an extraordinary fact, that Hungary, though exposed for so many centuries to constant war,—though her throne has been occupied by men of genius, men born for power, and of despotic dispositions,— though aliens in blood, in language, and in interests, have swayed her destinies,—though princes, whose rule was absolute in all the rest of their dominions, have worn the crown of St. Stephen,—though a Maria Theresa would have coaxed the Hungarians into slavery under the name of civilization,— though a Joseph would have robbed them of their constitution with the promise of " liberty and equality,"—yet has Hungary retained to the present time her ancient rights and institutions unimpaired. Where are we to search for the eminently conservative principle which has thus enabled her to resist so many dangers? I believe it is in the decentralization of the municipal system. The quarterly county meetings, and the discussions [553] DECENTRALIZATION. which take place in them, have diffused a knowledge of constitutional principles, and created a habit of exercising them, which nothing has been able to break through. After the violent interruption which Joseph caused in their proceedings had terminated, the whole machine readjusted itself, its various parts re-assumed their natural functions, and in a day the municipal government was reconstituted and in the performance of its duties, as though nothing had happened.

The manner in which the principle of decentralization has been carried out in Hungary, and rendered at the same time consistent with strength in the centre, is much more striking than in any other country of the old world. The local government, both of the counties and villages, administrative as well as executive, rests entirely in the hands of officers elected by those most interested. The political power, too, will be found to rest partly in a centre — the Crown ; partly to be disseminated through the provinces,—they having merely delegated an expression of their will, and not deputed a portion of their power to the Chamber. The executive is mixed in the same way ; partly depending on the Crown through its officers in the capital, partly on the people and their elected officers in the country. The link of centralization, too, by means of the Lord-lieutenant and his power of candidation, and of decentralization, again, through the limitation of the executive in the [554] TAXATION. provinces to the municipal officers, is very curious. Well may the Hungarians protest that they desire no revolution ! Their ancient constitution maintained and carried out in its ancient form and spirit, modified only where it injures and oppresses the weak, would secure to them all the freedom which man can reasonably desire.

I have remarked that the assessment and collection of taxes is confided to the municipal officers; and it may be as well, therefore, in this place, to give some further information on the subject of taxation in Hungary. The taxes in Hungary are divided into two classes, the general and local, — the Cassa Militaris and Cassa Domestica.

The Diet has the right of voting the amount of the taxes belonging to the Cassa Militaris, and the duty of fixing the proportion which shall be borne by each county. In order to render the proportion more equal, the whole country has been divided into six thousand two hundred and ten pork'? ; and so much is voted per porta.98

When the municipal officers have settled the

98The word porta was originally used, in 1342, to signify a gate through which a laden waggon could pass, such as is seen before every peasant's house. At this time a new finance system was introduced, according to which every porta which did not belong to a noble, a clergyman, a very poor peasant, a citizen,— he contributed separately,—the servant of a noble, or a peasant who followed his master to the wars, was obliged to contribute a certain sum yearly. This was afterwards adopted as the groundwork of assessments, and is continued to the present day; but although in time, as villages grew up and districts became inhabited, the number of gates increased, they still remained the same in the exchequer books; for it was found more easy to increase the amount of assessment than to make a new census. The revenue made up in this manner, now falls very unequally on some districts, while others escape tax-free. A new census has, however, been made, and a more equitable division arranged, which only waits for its formal adoption to be brought into use.
[555] GENERAL TAXES. distribution of this, and the amount which comes to the share of each village, the assessment on the individual peasants falls to the Biro and his Jurassores. The common manner of dividing it is so much per head for every grown-up man ; and then so much on each article of property,—as oxen, sheep, horses,—which he may possess. It is one of the great advantages of an elected officer, that those who elect him are commonly content with his manner of performing his duty; or, if they are not, the remedy rests with themselves. I do not recollect in other parts of Europe to have often seen the tax-gatherer and police-officers objects of respect to their neighbours; while in Hungary I never heard of a Biro being ill-regarded because he had performed his duty. It is a well-known fact, that, when the peasant is perfectly unmanageable in the hands of the lord or his steward, he is at once obedient to his own elected Biro.

The whole amount of taxes thus collected it is difficult to ascertain. The sum voted by the Diet of late years for the Cassa Militaris has been 5,300,000 f c. in. or 530,000l. This, however, is [556] GENERAL TAXES. far from constituting the whole amount of revenue derived from Hungary. According to the best statistical work (Neuste statistisch geographische Beschreibung des Konigreichs Ungarn, 1832,) at present existing, it would appear that from-
    fl. c. m.
  1. The crown and fiscal lands, the annual revenue is 1,200,000
Regalia. 2. From the tax on salt 20,000,000
(Royalties.) The duty on exports and imports 1,500,000 each
  Mines and mintage 1,096,000
  Post-office 500,000
  Fiscalities (probably sales of fiscal estates) 306,400
  Subsidium Ecclesiasticum (paid by the bishops, abbots,  
  and provosts, for the maintenance of fortifications) 121,600
  Jews' toleration tax 160,000
  Sixteen Zipser towns 16,581
  Royal free towns 16,434
  3. Contributions from the peasants and citizens 5,300,000
  4. Deperdita's99 3,000,000
or less than three millions and a half sterling.

It must be evident to any one who casts his eye over this list, and secs, in a country which enjoys the constitutional right of voting the supplies, that

99By Deperditct is meant the sum required to make up the losses sustained by individual peasants from supplying the soldiers with bread, corn, and hay, at a price much below the real value. It was, I think, in the reign of Maria Theresa that it was settled that Hungary should quarter sixty thousand soldiers; finding them in bread at the rate of one kreutzer the pound, hay at twenty kreutzers (eightpence) the cwt., and oats at twenty-four kreutzers the metzen, the ordinary price of such articles being very much higher. The difference between the real value and the fixed price of these articles, is partly made up to the peasant out of the county rates (which the peasantry at large pay), and constitutes a very important part of the county expenditure under the head of " Deperdita."
[557] GENERAL TAXES. only one-sixth of the whole amount of revenue depends in any way on the will of the nation, while the other five-sixths are obtained without its consent, that some great departure from the original spirit of the constitution must have been made Nearly two-thirds of the whole are derived from a tax on salt, not only levied without the consent of the nation, but in opposition to its remonstrances. Strongly, however, as the Diet has protested against this tax, and directly as it is opposed to the spirit of the constitution which every monarch at his coronation swears to observe, Government still obstinately maintains it, and probably will continue to do so till the nobles consent to bear their part in the burdens of the state.

To the foreigner it is of little importance whether Hungary pays more or less than her share of the general expenses of the Austrian empire ; but, as it is a question which excites great interest amongst both Hungarians and Austrians, we must not pass it over in silence.

The surface of Hungary equals nearly the whole of the rest of Austria, and certainly includes by far the most fruitful if not the most productive [558] MUNICIPAL TAXES. part. The population of Hungary is about one-third that of the entire empire. Now, the whole revenue of Austria is said to amount to one hundred and twenty millions of florins, or twelve millions sterling; of which, as we have seen, Hungary contributes only three and one-third millions sterling — little more than one-fourth of the whole. Now, though I feel certain that Hungary does not contribute a fair proportion, and certainly much less than she might do, there is no doubt that the Hungarians are right in saying, that the fault lies with Austria, and not with them; for, under a more liberal commercial system, of which Hungary is deprived, on the plea of protecting Austrian manufactures, the duties on importation and exportation alone would amount to more than the whole sum collected at present. Besides, when such a comparison is made, it should be added that the expense of maintaining schools, the administration of justice, the payment of police, the maintenance of the clergy, &c., are all, in Hungary, provided for independently of the sum which enters the royal exchequer.

The Cassa Domestica, instead of being voted by the Diet, is voted by the county meetings, and is entirely devoted to the expenses of the individual county. The amount must of course vary in each county, according to the circumstances of the time, and the necessities of different localities. From this source are derived the salaries of the municipal officers, the sums necessary for the maintenance and [559] MUNICIPAL TAXES. repair of bridges and roads, the erection of public buildings, and, till the present Diet, even the payment of the members of the Diet. The administration of the Cassa Domestica is entirely in the hands of the nobles, independent of the general government : it is entirely paid by the peasants. Here I know every English reader will be ready to join with me in execrating the selfishness — the flagrant and injurious selfishness — of the Hungarian nobles, which this fact discloses. That they should refuse to contribute to the support of a government which refuses them the right of regulating the expenditure of such contributions, every constitutionalist can understand ; and that those who are themselves bound to defend their country should decline to pay others to do it, is also comprehensible, — of course supposing that they were capable of performing their duty; — but on what plea they refuse to take a part in paying the officers chosen by themselves from their own body, whose duties in many cases regard exclusively the nobility—by what right they can pretend to force others to build houses for them to meet in, bridges for them to pass over, or roads for them to travel on, is beyond the power of any honest man to imagine. Thank Heaven ! the first step towards a great change has been already made. When Count Széchenyi obtained from the Diet an act for building a new bridge at Pest, and a power to make every one, noble or ignoble, pay as he passed over it, he gained as great a [560] MUNICIPAL TAXES. victory over prejudice and injustice as has been accomplished by any statesman of our day.

Some of the most enlightened Hungarians would gladly see this principle carried out to a much greater extent ; and it is not improbable that Government would second them : but among many of the nobles, especially the lowest and highest, there is so great an ignorance and so strong a prejudice,—on the one hand against losing what they consider their rights, and on the other against raising the peasantry to think and feel like men, — that much must be done before this act of justice can be accomplished. The advantage which such a reform would confer on the peasants by relieving them from an unjust and irksome burthen, on the country by the improvements which might then be undertaken in the means of communication, and on the nation at large by the encouragement of better feelings amongst all classes, and by the creation of a greater interest in preserving entire and free from foreign interference their municipal institutions, is incalculable, and worth any sacrifices to attain.


LONDON : Printed by S. & J. BENTLEY and HENRY FLEY, Bangor House, Shoe Lane.

Chapters 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents