[153] THE DIET.



Function of the Diet.—History of the Diet under Maria Theresa—under Joseph II.—his revolutionary Measures opposed and defeated—under Leopold II.—under Francis I.—Gravamina and Preferentialia.—Reform Party.—Diet of 1832.— Urbarial Reforms.— Chamber of Deputies.—Sessio Circularis. —Petition in Favour of Poland.—Deputies' Salaries.—Composition of the Lower Chamber.—County Members.—Delegate System—its Advantages in Hungary.—Borough Members.— Members of the Clergy—of Magnates, and of Widows of Magnates.—Business of the Diet.—Proposed Reforms in the Lower Chamber.—Chamber of Magnates.—The Palatine.—Debate.— Ferdinand the First or Fifth ?—Trick of the Government.— Character of the Chamber—composed of Prelates, Barons, and Counts of the Kingdom, and Titular Nobles. — Anomalous Position of the Chamber.—Reforms essential to its Independence and Usefulness.

ON our return to Presburg from the Wang, the Diet was again assembled, and we were once more launched on the troubled sea of Hungarian politics. To such as are anxious to know something about these matters or of the institutions with which they are connected, this chapter mill not be without its interest ; but to such as read only to kill time and to [154] FUNCTIONS OF THE DIET. escape the trouble of thinking, we recommend to pass it over.

" To maintain the old Magyar constitution," says Fessler,25 speaking of the duties and objects of the Hungarian Diet,—" to support it by constitutional laws, and to assert and secure the rights, liberties, and ancient customs of the nation; to frame laws, for particular cases; to grant the supplies, and to fix the manner and form of their collection ; to provide means for securing the independence of the kingdom, its safety from foreign influence and deliverance from all enemies ; to examine and encourage public undertakings and establishments of general utility; to superintend the mint ; to confer on foreigners the privileges of nobility, the permission to colonize the country and enjoy the rights of Hungarians, are the important functions of the Hungarian Diet." How far it has performed these noble functions since the period of its establishment, it would occupy us too long to analyze ; but some few remarks on the constitutional history of Hungary from the reign of Maria Theresa are necessary to enable us to understand its present position.

All Europe knows how Maria Theresa, when surrounded by enemies, and driven from every other

25I quote from the « Terra Incognita" of Orosz ; a book from which I have derived much instruction, and which I recommend to the English traveller, notwithstanding some things I do not admire, as the best source for acquiring information in regard to the present state of Hungary.
[155] MARIA THERESA. part of her dominions, took refuge in Hungary ; and throwing herself and child on the mercy of a generous people, was received, as every sabre leapt from its scabbard, with the glorious cry " Vitam et sanguinem pro Rego nostro Maria !" All know how faithfully this promise was fulfilled, but few are aware with how much danger to the very existence of Hungary the debt of gratitude was repaid.

The fixed idea of this great Queen's reign was the union of all her heterogeneous possessions under the same institutions and the same form of government. In Hungary she directed her efforts to the introduction of the German language, habits, and manners among the people. The Hungarians were told they were a savage race, who must become Germans to become civilized. This project, however, was so well mixed up with others, for the establishment of useful institutions, the improvement of the state of the peasantry, the education of all classes of her subjects, the better ordering of religious societies, the dismissal of the Jesuits from the kingdom, the removal of such barbarisms from the statute-book, as the right of sanctuary, the use of the rack, and the frequency of capital punishments, that the more enlightened of the Hungarians became ashamed of their nationality, forgot their native language, threw off the noble costume of their forefathers, and became as German as their Magyar tongues and Eastern blood would allow them. With so much skill were these changes effected, that Maria Theresa [156] JOSEPH II. was adored by the people, whose constitutional rights she was undermining. During the forty years she reigned, the Diet was only called together thrice !

Fortunately for Hungary, Joseph II. was less politic—as politeness and custom entitle us to call the infraction of the ruler's faith to the people—than his mother. His first act was to refuse the coronation, because he did not intend to rule according to the laws and constitution to which his coronation oath would have bound him. During his whole reign he never summoned a Diet, but went forward unrestrained by anything but his own conscience to work out what he believed to be the happiness of Hungary. Almost all his objects were great and good,—his means of execution almost always bad. Honest almost to a fault, Joseph committed only one error, but it destroyed the labour of his whole life. He made a revolution when only a reform was needed. Had Joseph been a reformer instead of a revolutionist, how much would have been spared both to him and to Hungary !

The king rushed forward in his course of improvement with blind precipitancy ; change followed upon change with the quickness of thought--that is, of Joseph's thought—for it was in vain that the best disposed even of the old-fashioned Magyars attempted to keep pace with him. It was his principle that he would himself see the effect of his labours, not leave all the advantage to posterity. How little did he know of human nature, or human institutions !

[157] JOBEPH II.

So really wise and useful were many of the changes ho introduced, that for a length of time the bad were borne for the sake of the good. Monasteries were dissolved, and schools and universities were endowed with their funds ; religious toleration, if not absolute equality, was granted to the Protestants ; hosts of court retainers and pensioners were dismissed ; the civil and criminal jurisprudence was reformed ; the relation between peasant and noble was placed on a more equitable footing, and taxation was equally distributed. But, with these reforms, came a virtual destruction of the whole political and municipal constitution of Hungary. The sanction of the Diet was wanting ; county meetings were forbidden ; the election of county officers dedared illegal ; local courts abolished ; and the whole country re-divided into ten districts, to be managed by royal commissioners. Even these measures met with only a passive resistance, till at last Joseph seized upon the sacred crown of St. Stephen,26

26It is almost impossible for a foreigner to conceive with how deep a veneration the Hungarians regard this crown as an emblem of national sovereignty, and its removal was considered, as indeed it was intended, to be a mark of the reduction of Hungary to the state of an Austrian province. Pope Sylvester II. sent the crown to Stephen, first King of Hungary, in the year 1000, on the establishment of Christianity in the country, whence it has received the title of " Holy and Apostolic Crown." It has at various times been seized by usurpers to the throne, been hidden for years, removed to foreign countries, but always eventually brought back, and more proudly regarded than ever. It is now placed in the castle of Buda; two of the highest nobles of the land are appointed its guardians ; and it is watched and guarded with even more care than the holiest of relics. The reign of Joseph II. is, by Hungarians, regarded as a kind of interregnum, because he never placed this crown on his head.
[158] OPPOSITION TO JOSEPH. conveyed it to Vienna and soon after issued a peremptory edict that all official business should be transacted in. Germany.

As one man, the country now rose in opposition; they felt that their existence as a nation was at stake ; the moment for the great struggle had arrived, and remonstrances, firm but respectful, were laid at the foot of the throne from every county. At the first appearance of resistance the spirit of absolutism showed itself ; strict commands were given that no opposition to the Royal ordinances should be permitted: no means to repress the rising spirit were left untried ; dark hints were even whispered of a servile insurrection excited by Royal emissaries,— but all was vain ; a Diet was loudly called for, and both soldiers and supplies were refused. At last the King's eyes were opened, alas, too late ! — his early death prevented him from fulfilling his declared intention "to follow that path which the common wishes of the nation pointed out as the best." His last act was to annul by one stroke of the pen all that he had been labouring to effect during his life.27

27The only exception was the decree of toleration in favour of the Protestants.

Most of the German historians who have written on this period of Hungarian history have neither understood nor appreciated it. On the one hand they see only barbarism and factious opposition, on the other an enlightened liberality led on by sincere philanthropy. It is certain that both Maria Theresa and Joseph were far in advance of the people whom they governed ; but however ignorant the latter may have been on other matters, they had a keen perception, which the habitual exercise of constitutional rights only can confer, of the danger of innovation in the hands of a King who acknowledges no control. They felt that although Hungary might have become greater by obedience, she would have become neither more happy nor more free. Had the Russians opposed Peter the Great with the same firmness the Hungarians did Joseph, Russia might have been at this day preserved from greatness and slavery.

The wise Leopold's too short reign gave rise to the most important Diet Hungary ever knew. After securing, as far as enactments could do, the national independence, and the ancient constitution of the country, as well as insuring the religious toleration of the Protestants, they formed a standing committee, or rather a deputation of the nation, to inquire into the gravamina or grievances of Hungary, with power to review the whole circumstances of the country, and to propose a general and efficient reform.


The stormy events which shook all Europe during the first part of the reign of Francis, prevented, or rather served as an excuse for delaying, the consideration of reforms to more quiet times ; and that foolish romantic generosity, of which the Hungarians as a nation cannot divest themselves, kept then quiet during the period when Austria's weakness would have forced her to grant what Austria's strength now enables her to refuse.

After a long interval a Diet was called together in 1825, but effected very little, nor was it till 1830, that they began to consider the report of the deputatio regnicolaris, as revised by a second deputation the year before. Of the gravamina and postulata of the first, fourteen were chosen out as preferentialia, and passed both chambers.

These preferentialia may be said to contain the essence of the grievances of Hungary. They demand that Dalmatia, Transylvania, Gallicia, and Lodomeria, should be reincorporated with Hungary ; that the military frontiers should be placed under the command of the Palatine and governed by Hungarian laws ; that the duty on salt should be reduced ; that the edicts of government to officers of justice should be discontinued ; that the laws respecting the taxes on the clergy should be observed ; that the Hungarian Chancery should be made really, not merely nominally, independent of the Austrian Chancery ; that the coinage should bear the arms of Hungary, and that the [161] GRAVAMINA. exportation of gold and silver should be prevented ; that the paper money should be abolished, and a return made to a metallic currency; that the Hungarian language should be used in all official business; that the fiscal estates—such as have fallen to the Crown on the extinction of the families to whom they were granted—should, as the law directs, be given only as the reward of public services, and not sold, as at present, to the highest bidder; and lastly, that spies should not be employed and trusted by the Austrian Government in Hungary. These, it will be observed, are in fact but so many demands that the laws, as they at present exist, shall be observed, and yet, with one or two very trifling exceptions, they have all been met by evasion or delay, so that it was impossible for the nation not to see that the court was determined, if possible, to refuse its requests, and that nothing but fear prevents its honestly saying so.

In the mean time a party had been springing up in Hungary, which, no longer content with merely requiring that the principles of the old constitution should be fairly carried out, desired that important reforms should take place in these institutions. The men who most strenuously opposed the government of former times, did so for the maintenance of their own exclusive privileges; the object of the present opposition was rather to cede privileges which were incompatible with the welfare of Hungary, but, at the same time, to obtain [162] OBJECTS OF THE LIBERALS. stronger guarantees for the maintenance of their rights as freemen, and gradually to extend those rights to others. They saw their country, in name possessing a free constitution, labouring under all the evils of a tyranny without its small advantages; and they determined, while retaining the freedom bequeathed to them by their ancestors, to disencumber it from the barbarisms by which it was surrounded. The wild schemes of revolution, which turned the heads of all Europe towards the end of the last century, no longer disturbed them, but they saw that a gradual reform was both useful and necessary. The favourite objects of their desires were—after strengthening the nationality of Hungary—freedom of commerce, and an improved commercial code ; the navigation of the Danube, and the improvement of internal communication ; increased freedom and education of the peasantry ; the repeal of laws preventing the free purchase and sale of landed property ; perfect equality of all religions and the freedom of the press. For the greater part of these objects they are still struggling.

In 1832, the Diet was again called together, and it was proposed to begin with an inquiry into and a reform of the commercial system ; but these, on the plea of the greater urgency of other measures, were cunningly delayed, and the code of laws respecting the peasants—the Urbarium—was considered and disposed of instead. The opposition say, that the [163] ACTS OF THE DIET. object of Government was here again to make itself appear the friend of the peasant, by putting the nobles in the equivocal position of seemingly neglecting the interests of the poor, and thinking only of their own pockets; or by inducing the more ignorant of their body to refuse concessions, which they would no doubt have ceded had a free commercial system been first introduced, and the material and moral advancement, necessarily consequent on it, been once felt. As it was, some good, though much less than was anticipated, was effected.

The deputation had strongly recommended, the liberal party united all their strength to carry through, and even Government did not deny the justice of a bill for giving to the peasant the unrestricted privilege of buying and selling landed property, and the enjoyment of equal rights before the law ; and yet this great measure, one from which Hungary might have dated a new era in her history, was not carried. Eleven times the Commons passed the bill—eleven times the Magnates rejected it. At last a majority of two voices was obtained against it in the Commons—that is, against its immediate consideration and it was accordingly put off to another Diet. In the course of this Diet, however, the peasants were relieved from the tax for the support of the deputies ; it was thought rather too impudent to make the peasant pay twelve shillings a day to a nobleman whose labours had been hitherto chiefly directed to his oppression. [164] SESSIO CIRCULARIS. This was, however, only a piece of quasi liberalism of the Tories ; the Radicals would fain have left it as it was, and founded a claim on it for the peasants to vote for those they paid.28

I find I have been betrayed into the use of Eng- lish party names, to express the divisions of Hungarian politicians ; but it must not be wondered at, for they are as well known, and almost as commonly used in Hungary as in England ; and, moreover, they have none of their own by which I can characterise them.

The second time we attended the sittings of the deputies, we were admitted into the body of the chamber, as it was only a Sessio Circularis, a kind of committee of the whole house, in which bills are prepared and discussed ; in fact, in which all the real business is done. On such occasions, not only the gallery, but the whole chamber is open to every one who chooses to enter, even without uniform. The gallery, as on our former visit, was in part occupied by ladies, while what we should call the floor of the house was crowded with students

28The principal acts of the Diet between this and the dissolu- tion, which took place in the beginning of 1836, were—an act for the introduction of the Hungarian language in all proceedings at law, public acts, and in the transaction of public business; an act for building a bridge at Pest, with power to make the nobles pay toll; an act for obliging the judges to record the reasons of their decisions, and for the publication of these ; and a formal resolution of the Diet, praying the King to summon the Diet to meet in future at Pest instead of Presburg.
[165] DEBATE ON POLAND. and young lawyers. This custom of admitting persons, unconnected with the business of the chamber, and who are allowed to cheer and express their disapprobation equally with the members themselves, produces considerable confusion, and detracts much from the solemn character of the debates. To change it, however, would create a violent opposition, for every noble claims the right to appear in person at the Diet, and only submits to be represented, because it is more convenient, but without, in the mean time, giving up his right to a direct share in the legislation.

The subject of debate was the presentation of a petition in favour of Poland, praying the King to interfere to prevent the total destruction of that gallant nation. Poland and Hungary had been so long united in the bonds of suffering, their commercial interests were so nearly allied, the similarity of their institutions and long historical associations, had so blended their names that, in no part of Europe did the Polish revolution meet with more ardent sympathy or more substantial support than in Hungary. The warmest wishes were everywhere openly expressed in favour of the Poles: volunteers from Hungary flocked to join the standard of liberty, and supplies of money and provisions were sent from every part of the country. Nor did the Hungarians desert their brave neighbours in the hour of need : crowds of refugees found shelter iu Hungary; scarcely a nobleman's house [166] DEBATE. in many parts of the country but had two or three of them concealed for months, and even years, from the search of Russian or Austrian agents. Not a county but drew up petitions and remonstrances against the barbarities of the Muscovite conqueror, and a spirit of hatred against Russia took possession of the breasts of the Magyars which that power may one day rue.

The petition, which was in Latin, was expressed in strong language, and drew forth some energetic speaking. It was no debate, however : for the speakers were all on one side, except as to some verbal corrections, which were all carried in favour of the more liberal interpretation.

The next subject was a motion to ask the immediate assent of the King to the bill for obliging the nobles to pay the deputies' salaries, formerly extorted from the peasants, instead of waiting, as is usual, to the end of the Diet. This was opposed by the liberal party as being a dangerous precedent, for some reasons which we could not make out, and was finally lost. Instead of dividing the house, the president called over the names of the counties, when the deputies rose and declared the tenour of their instructions; sometimes making speeches, sometimes giving a simple assent or dissent. This is the most common time chosen for speaking, though any one is at liberty to address the chamber before the voting begins.

The lower chamber in Hungary is strangely com- [167] COUNTY MEMBERS. posed, — a mass of anomalies and inconsistencies, such as old constitutions will sometimes present. Old constitutions, however, are not to be despised. They have been formed to satisfy the wants of those who use them, not to fulfil a theory ; and, although they may sometimes exhibit inequalities and inconsistencies, from which the work of many hands is rarely free, it should not be forgotten, that they possess the advantage of adapting themselves to changes which would destroy the harmony and solidity of a more regular structure.

The deputies forming the lower chamber are of different classes. First come the deputies of the counties, then those of the towns, and higher clergy, and lastly, those of the magnates and widows of magnates. The deputies of the fifty-two counties are chosen by the people29or constituent body, two for each county, who have, however, only one vote. They are, properly speaking, only delegates sent up to express the will of their constituents on certain questions, for which they are found iii lodging, and receive twelve shillings per day. But if they are paid, they are forced to do their duty; one or the other must be present at every decision, and neither can absent himself without permission.

The members communicate to the county meet-

29Populus, in Hungarian Latin, means the nobles, clergy, and inhabitants of free towns ; plebs, to which is usually appended " misera contribucns" is applied to the peasants only. Of the constituency of Hungary we shall speak more at large in the chapter on the nobles.
[168] DELEGATE SYSTEM. ing the motions about to be brought forward ; the constituents debate these questions, sometimes during several days; and then, according to the wishes of the majority, instructions are framed for the deputy, as to the manlier in which he is to vote. In case the deputy should act contrary to these directions, he is recalled; obliged to explain his conduct; and, if such explanation is not considered satisfactory, he is turned out and another elected. Many questions, of course, arise on which no instructions have been given, and here the deputy has only his own conscience to guide him: but he is obliged immediately to report what he has done. Notwithstanding all these checks, a deputy has much power and influence, and his recommendation and advice to his constituents have considerable effect in the framing of the instructions he receives.

In some cases where boldness of speech has brought the deputy into trouble, his county has come forward and declared that he only expressed the sentiments of his constituents, and that they were ready to answer for his conduct. In the instance of Balogh, when Government began the process against him, he immediately resigned his seat, and a meeting was called to elect a new member. The Lord Lieutenant came from Vienna with the avowed intention of persuading them to choose some one more agreeable to Government ; and it somehow got wind that he had 3000l. with him to aid his eloquence. Some of the lower nobles, who [169] DELEGATE SYSTEM. are chiefly Protestants, zealous and not too enlightened, were easily induced by the report that Balogh was an enemy to their religion, and perhaps a little influenced also by the judicious distribution of the 3000l. aforesaid, to promise their votes against him. By some chance, this plan became known, and the Protestant clergy,—liberals, because oppressed,—at once undeceived their flocks ; when, indignant at the deceit practised upon them, they all, to a man, voted for Balogh, and sent him back a stronger oppositionist than ever. So much for bribery in Hungary.

I know the feelings of an Englishman would be very strongly against this delegate system. I can fancy an old-fashioned county member declaring, " that no constituents should bind him hand and foot, and make him vote and speak according to their fancies instead of his own." " All very right, my good sir," an Hungarian might answer, " in your happy and united country, where a free press and a national government secure to the people a knowledge of everything that passes, and a certainty that the good of the country is always the chief desire of their rulers, however they may differ as to the best means of obtaining it ; but where no free press exists, where the interests of the ruling party may be opposed to the national welfare, where some of a small number of deputies, removed very far from their constituents, might possibly yield to the influence of threats or golden arguments, it is [170] BOROUGH MEMBERS. not so much amiss to have a strong and positive check upon them."

But I must not forget to mention the members of the royal boroughs, and the anomalous position which they occupy. They have the right of sitting and speaking in the chamber, but not of voting. Jealous of the nobles, as possessing rights and privileges superior to themselves, and looking up to the Crown as their immediate and natural protector, they have ever been little more than obsequious instruments in its hands : at least such is the excuse offered by liberal Hungarians for the violent, and apparently unjust proceeding of the other members of the Diet—namely, that of depriving the free towns of the right of vote which they certainly enjoyed at one period.

One vote among all the towns was insultingly offered by the nobles, and scornfully rejected; indeed, we cannot help lamenting that they did not, as they once contemplated, quit in a body the chamber where their presence was a degradation. Many of these places, it is true, are little better than old Sarums, and ill deserve any political privileges; but this alone is a poor reason for disfranchising all the boroughs of the kingdom. Almost all the liberal members declare themselves ready to restore this privilege to the towns when an improved municipal organization shall have freed them from the dictation of the Crown ; and, with reference to the population, as soon as a more [171] OTHER MEMBERS. fair distribution of representative power can be effected. It is an abuse which requires a speedy remedy, for it begets daily a stronger anti-national feeling amongst a population rapidly increasing both in wealth and numbers.

With another class of complainants I have no sympathy whatsoever : these are the representatives of the chapters of cathedrals,—some very reverend and well-fed prebendaries, who sleep away their time in Presburg, instead of in the country. Though still allowed to speak, neither their talent nor information has been such as to secure for them a willing audience, and custom shuts their mouths, except on subjects interesting to their order.

The most ridiculous position of all is occupied by the representatives of absent magnates, and of the widows of magnates. A magnate, who for any good reason is unable to attend the Diet, or a widow who cannot appear in person, have both the power of sending to the lower chamber,—not to the upper, to which they themselves belong,—a delegate who has no other privileges than those of sitting in the chamber, twisting his mustachios, and crying, "Haljuk ! Haljuk ! (hear ! hear!) when anything tickles his fancy. The fact is, this deputy is generally some young student of law, or poor dependant, whom business has brought to Presburg, and who thus gets his lodging at the expense of the town.

The right of summoning, proroguing, and dissolving the Diet, as well as fixing the place in [172] METHOD OF TRANSACTING BUSINESS which it shall be held, is of course a prerogative of the Crown;30but, according to law, it must be called together once at least in every three years, and, that too, within the boundaries of Hungary. Almost ever since the Hapsburg family has reigned in Hungary, the Diets have been held in Presburg, on account of its proximity to Vienna ; but it is loudly demanded, that in future they should be held in Pest. The Diet does not assemble like our parliament in annual sessions, but remains sitting till all the business is finished, so that a new election takes place for every Diet. In former times, a few weeks or months were generally sufficient to settle the affairs of the nation ; but the present Diet has been already sitting for more than three years, and it is not expected to be dissolved for some months to come.

When the King has issued his royal letters call-

30The prerogatives of the King of Hungary are strictly those befitting a limited monarchy. Among the principal are, the granting of nobility—except to foreigners—and all hereditary titles and dignities. The nomination to all high offices in the church and army, and to most of those in the state—the offices of palatine, sheriff, and county magistrate are exceptions. The prerogative of pardon, the right to coin, and other royal privileges. The command of the regular army, the declaring of war or peace, and the intercourse with foreign powers. The King has likewise the direction of public schools and universities, is head of the Protestant Church, and can admit or forbid the reception of the papal bulls. I believe the Crown has likewise the uncontrolled disposal of the public revenues ; the Diet votes the amount, but does not control its expenditure.
[173] AT THE DIET. ing on the counties and towns to send up their deputies, within six weeks, meetings are immediately called together, and the elections take place. After the chambers have gone through certain ceremonies, and are legally constituted, they send a deputation to the King to invite him to repair to the Diet. On his arrival in Presburg, the members of both chambers wait on him, and receive from his hands the royal propositions—a royal speech, in which are detailed all the measures recommended by the Crown to the consideration of the Diet. The business of the session commences with the debates in the Chamber of Deputies on these propositions, which are adopted or rejected as seems fit. If adopted, they are sent up to the Magnates, and if they pass them also, they are presented together with the other acts of the states for the royal approval or rejection in mass at the end of the Diet. Although the royal propositions in theory ought to constitute the sole objects of the labours of the Diet, they often form but a very inconsiderable part of them ; for any member on receiving instructions from his constituents has a right to introduce any other measures he chooses under the title of "grievances." When the acts of the Diet have received the royal signature, they are forwarded to the different chief magistrates all over the country, to be registered and published in the counties, towns, and circles under their administration.


The Personal or President of the lower chamber, at the same time chief judge of the Royal Table, is appointed by the Crown, and in the absence of responsible ministers, to a certain extent answers for the Crown.

Among the most important reforms to be made, — or rather disputed questions to be settled,— with respect to the constitution and privileges of the Chamber of Deputies, are the establishment of the right to vote of the deputies of towns, the exclusion of the deputies of Chapters and Magnates, the election of their own President, the presence of responsible ministers, the presentation of a budget, and the publication of their debates.

On our first visit to Presburg, we had neglected to visit the Chamber of Magnates—the Peers of Hungary. When we returned we hastened to supply this omission.

In another part of the same building where we have already seen the assembled Deputies, the Magnates hold their sittings. As we took our places in the small gallery which overlooks the hall, we were struck with the profound silence which seemed to reign over the place. Through the centre of the room runs a long table, at which were seated some thirty persons, many of whom were ecclesiastics-among others the bishop of the Greek church, with his long white beard,—all in black dresses, giving a solemn appearance to the place, which was broken only by a few gay uniforms of the Hungarian [175] THE PALATINE. guard. Though plain, however, the Chamber of Magnates is certainly fitted up with more attention to ornament than that of the Deputies.

About one o'clock the Palatine, the Archduke Joseph, uncle to the present King, took his seat at the head of the table as President, and received the deputation of the lower Chamber, which brought up a bill for their consideration. The Archduke is a tall very thin person, of advanced age, with that peculiar melancholy cast of countenance so characteristic of the reigning family of Austria, and which may be perceived in the old Spanish portraits of their ancestors just as distinctly as in every one of the family at the present day. No one who has seen Velasquez's portraits of Charles the Second and his mother, could doubt for a moment from what blood the Palatine of Hungary is descended. Though occupying a position of great difficulty, liable to the suspicion of courting popularity on the one hand, and sacrificing the country to the Crown on the other, he has obtained the respect, I believe, of all parties. His knowledge of business and his devoted attention to it, are said to be extraordinary. That he should be an admirer of constitutional independence, or a warm advocate of popular rights, is hardly to be expected from an Archduke of Austria; but that he is a sincere friend of Hungary, and a zealous promoter of what he believes beneficial to her, even his opponents allow.

The bill now brought up from the Deputies, and [176] FERDINAND THE FIRST OR FIFTH ? to which the degree of importance attached by all parties, appeared ridiculous to a stranger, had reference to the appellation of the new King, and was to settle whether he should be addressed as Ferdinand the First, or Ferdinand the Fifth. The matter, however, was not so unimportant as it may appear; the fact is, he is Emperor Ferdinand the First of Austria, and King Ferdinand the Fifth of Hungary; and unless Hungary had ceased to be an independent country, which the greatest courtier would not dare to insinuate, there could be no question as to his proper title. The Magnates, however, thought otherwise : it was understood, that the Court desired that the style of Ferdinand the First should be used, and the Magnates were too anxious to please not to desire the same thing. The Deputies had now for the fourth time sent up this same bill, insisting on the title of Ferdinand the Fifth, and for the fourth time the Magnates were now about to reject it. Two or three short speeches were made in Latin, the Palatine seemed to sum up the evidence in the same language, and the question was declared decided.

As we afterwards heard, it was in vain the court party exhausted their breath and servility, in favour of what they supposed the Court would wish. At the moment when the Magnates were as firm as rocks on the wrong side, the Court took the wise course of showing its contempt for such supporters, by sending down a proclamation : — " We, Ferdi- [177] SPEECHES IN LATIN. nand the Fifth, by the grace of God, King of Hungary, &c. &c."—adopting of its own accord what it knew to be right, and perceived to be the general wish, leaving the odium of having opposed it to its blind satellites. The Court is accused of often playing such tricks : and why should it not? It has surely a right to use as it pleases men whose want of moral independence makes them exist only in its smiles.

Quiet as were the meetings of the Deputies, the Magnates far exceeded them in this quality; a dead silence seemed to weigh upon their deliberations : not a cheer, not a plaudit, was heard ; and, as a young Radical observed when he heard me remarking the circumstance, "not a sentiment that deserves one." Of the two or three Liberal members who were present, no one spoke ; and not a word of Hungarian, therefore, was heard, for the Court party adhere most religiously to Latin. This is said to be in compliment to the Palatine, who once attempted to speak Hungarian, but only got laughed at for his politeness,—the Hungarians are as intolerant of a foreigner's blunders in their language as John Brill himself. But I suspect the Magnates have a still better reason for not speaking Hungarian, than mere courtesy; and that is simply, because they cannot. So completely has a great part of the higher nobility been denationalized, that they know almost any language of Europe better than that of their native country.


Of the six or seven hundred nobles who have a right to take their seats in this Chamber, only thirty were present ; the rest—some thinking it better to leave such matters to Government, some fearing the expense of a residence in town, some egotistically contenting themselves that they could do no good—stay at home, and let things take their course. Others again, not less egotists, proclaim in loud voices their contempt for the whole constitution ; declare that nothing but revolution can improve the system, nothing but republican liberty benefit the state; while, in the meantime, they are content to smoke their pipes, and flog their peasants to prepare for the great change. As in England, the Upper Chamber here is considered the representative of the stationary system ; and, in a country where the existing evils cry so loudly for reform, it may be supposed that it has not the voice of the country with it. In the commencement of the present session, a strong Liberal party assembled for the purpose of outvoting the churchmen in favour of a proposal for granting increased liberty to the Protestants, but it was carried against them ; and, since then, they seem to have left the Chamber entirely. I doubt if, among the whole of the titled nobles of Hungary, a Tory majority would be found to exist ; but so many are absent, that the very few Liberals who remain in the Chamber are totally powerless.

The position at present occupied by the Chamber [179] CATHOLIC PRELATES. of Magnates is one surrounded with doubts and difficulties on every side; its rights and constitution are every day a matter of question. It may be said to be composed of three classes of members : first, the higher Clergy ; second, the Barons and Counts of the kingdom (Magnates by office) ; and third, the Magnates by birth and title.

Thirty-five bishops and archbishops of the Catholic Church, and one Greek bishop, have seats in the Chamber of Magnates. Of the thirty-five Catholic bishops, sixteen are only titular bishops ; their sees being in Turkey.

The Catholic prelacy of Hungary is commonly said to form a very wealthy, very bigoted, and not very learned body.31 In the Diet they are not only the most strenuous advocates of Protestant exclusion, but are staunch opponents of any reformation in education, or any extension of liberty to the lower classes. It is said that one of them offered a young Magnate, whose youthful follies had placed him in pecuniary difficulties—though it had not

31This may appear a very sweeping and harsh judgment, and I am quite willing to allow that there are many and striking exceptions. I have had the pleasure of meeting members of the Catholic clergy, from the bishop to the parish-priest, who would have been an honour to any country, any religion, and any profession ; but the fact stands recorded in history, that the Catholic clergy in the reign of Leopold solemnly protested against that monarch's ratification of the Toleration edict of his predecessor, and all I have heard of their conduct during the present Diet tends to prove how little they have changed.
[180] THE PRINCE-PRIMATE. corrupted his integrity—to pay all his debts if he would speak against the Protestants on an approaching debate : the answer was one of the cleverest speeches in their favour made during the whole session.

The Archbishop of Gran—the Prince-primate as he is entitled—is possessed of wealth and power beyond all example ; and, in some things, little below that of royalty itself. Among other remains of a former state of society, is the right enjoyed by the Archbishop of conferring a kind of nobility, which is hereditary, and enjoys nearly the same privileges as that conferred by the Crown. A tenure of service was formerly attached to this right ; and it was commonly given only to such as distinguished themselves in war under the guidance of their lord-alike a spiritual and carnal warrior. It is now many years since the clergy ceased to do military service for their lands : but they hold just as fast as ever to the lands themselves, as well as to all the power and influence they confer ; nay, I doubt if they would not prefer to buckle on the shield, and place a lance in the rest, rather than forfeit their places at the Diet as Magnates of Hungary, or lose their seigneurial rights as lords of the soil.

The second class—the Barones et Comites Regni, as they are called — is headed by the Nádor or Palatine, the highest, and one of the most ancient dignities of the kingdom. For the office of Palatine the King nominates four persons, of whom I believe [181] BARONS AND COUNTS OF THE KINGDOM. two must be Protestants; and from these the Diet — that is, the two Chambers in common—elects one. Since the reign of Maria Theresa, the Palatine has always been chosen from the royal family; but so strong a feeling exists of the inconvenience of this, that it is scarcely probable it will occur again. The exact duties of the Palatine are very difficult to define. He is commonly called a mediator between the King and the people ; and it is in this character he is often invited to present petitions. When the nobles appear in arms, he is their natural chief. He is president of the Chamber of Magnates, and of the highest court of justice, the Septemviral Table. As Locum-tenens et Palatinus Regni, he is likewise President of the Vice-regal Council, which does, or ought to possess the executive power in Hungary; but, of this, more anon.

The other Barons and Counts of the kingdom are the great officers of state, and the lords lieutenant of counties. The first are fourteen in number; and, with the exception of the two guardians of the Crown, who are chosen like the Palatine, they are all nominated by the King. The latter are fifty-two in number, and are likewise named by the Crown, except in a few cases where the office has become hereditary in certain families.

The third class—called Itegalists, because summoned individually by royal letters—is composed of every titled Prince, Count, and Baron who has [182] RIGHTS OF THE MAGNATES. arrived at the age of twenty-five years ; and, as the title in Hungary descends to all the sons alike, they have all an equal right to a seat in the Upper Chamber.

There is considerable obscurity as to the origin and rights of the Chamber of Magnates. It is certain that at one time the Two Chambers sat together,32 and even yet, when they cannot agree, they sometimes come together in what is called a mixed sitting (sessio mixta), and decide by acclamation. This, however, has been less resorted to of late than formerly. Since a more compact opposition has been formed among the Deputies, the Magnates would be in the minority; and the mixed sittings, formerly the resource of the Court when in difficulty, are discontinued.

The Upper Chamber has at present no power of bringing forward any measure, nor I believe even of proposing amendments on those sent up from below; the power of veto, or approval, is all that is granted to it : but this it uses most liberally; for, in the present session, the same question has been re-

32 According to Klein, the Two Chambers were not formally separated till the Diet held in 1562 under Ferdinand I., the first monarch of the line of Hapsburg. It is extraordinary that Engel says nothing of this, though he enters at considerable length into the history of that Diet. Tradition attributes the separation to the accidental circumstance of the chamber where they met being too small to hold them both ; and lays the scene, I think, at Edenburg. It is probable that it had often been practised before it was formally introduced.
[183] NECESSARY REFORMS. jected eleven times, after as many approvals by the Deputies. But the most extraordinary anomaly is the undecided privileges of some of their own body. It is questioned whether the nobles deriving their seats from their titles only, have an equal right to vote with those deriving their seats from their offices and estates. In consequence of this, the Palatine, on some occasions, is said to have decided against the absolute majority : rota non numerantur, sed ponderantur, was declared to be the principle; and it was for him to hold the scales.

As it seems to be now a pretty well established opinion, even in the most democratic constitutions, that a second Chamber of a more independent character than the elected one is necessary to curb the first ebullitions of popular feeling, and to give solidity and consistence to a mixed constitution, perhaps the best thing the Hungarians can do is to make their Chamber of Magnates a really efficient and powerful body. The first points to be settled would be, the absolute power of the majority; the equality of rights among all the members ; the determination of the manner of voting ; and the extension of the privilege of the initiative in all questions not concerning finance.

If it were desired to effect a still more efficient reform, a fair balance of power might probably be maintained by leaving to the King the nomination of the bishops (if it were thought expedient to retain them), the great officers of the Crown, and [184] REFORMS. the lords lieutenant ; and by granting to the Magnates by title, in lieu of seats in the chamber, the right of electing from among themselves a number of representative peers for life, equal in number to those nominated by the King. Such a body, alike independent of the arbitrary will of the Crown, or the changing passions of the mass,— powerful from its wealth, and respectable from its talent and knowledge of business,—would soon assume a position which might effectually enable it both to check the inroads of the Crown on the rights of the nation, and shield the throne from attacks on the part of the people.

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