15 SEPTEMBER 1883, Page 5


IvI, wish the Emperor of Austria could be interviewed, and made to explain, after the fashion of an Ameri- can candidate for the Presidency, his own view of his own present position. It would, we suspect, surprise some English politicians. In their view, he is one of the most fortunate and safest Sovereigns in Europe, has reconciled German Austria and Hungary, has recouped his Italian losses in the Balkan, and has by his treaty with Germany—that "good tidings of great joy," as Lord Salisbury called it—rendered himself safe against all external attack. He would, we imagine, declare that there was another and much darker side to his situation. The "reconciliation " of German and Magyar has only been accom- plished at a dangerous price. The acquisition of Bosnia and the Herzegovina has brought with the new territories new perils, much deeper than those involved in ascendancy in Italy, because, unlike the latter, they are insoluble by mere retreat. The German alliance, though so valuable to the Empire, brings to the dynasty at its head new and serious perplexities. For political purposes, and especially in their own judgment, the Hapsburgs are the Austrian Empire, and their future as a dynasty depends upon their ability to check disaffection in two dominant races—the German and the Magyar—without exciting it in the subordinate race which, in numbers and in courage, if not in developed capacity, is equal to the other two,—the South Slay. Hitherto, the dynasty, partly by good-fortune, partly by unscrupulous ad- herence to the single idea that its business is to reign, and partly by a sort of cynical impartiality shown in its readiness to use any race against any other, has succeeded in this difficult feat. It has conciliated German and Magyar at the expense of Slav, without destroying the loyalty of the latter, who, after saving the House in 1848, parted with most of their gains without serious discontent. For thirty years the three races have acquiesced in the sway of the House, and have maintained an unbroken, though threatened, peace among themselves. Of late, however, this harmony has once more disappeared, and it is quite possible that the Hapsburgs are on the eve of another stormy period. The South Slays are everywhere waking up. The relations between their scattered tribes in Bohemia, in Hungary, in Croatia, and in the Balkan generally have been drawn closer, chiefly by improved communications, and the defeat of Turkey—a grand Slav victory, as the Magyars, with their strong instinct for politics, at once perceived—has fired the imagination of the whole race. They thirst for more independence and more unity, and more distinction in the world, a thirst deepened both by distaste for the German alliance, which they quite understand is anti-Slav, as well as anti-French, and by grievous economic trouble. Their markets have not improved, their taxes have grown heavier, their debts are heaping up, and their desire for a more comfortable life, or, to be strictly true, for a less savagely simple life, has rapidly increased. The situation, then, throughout the kingdoms and States in which South Slays form the population, but are not independent, approximates to that of Ireland. The Slays are irritated at once by growing " nationalist " feeling and by economic distress, and detest the races above them about equally as tax-gatherers, as rent-receivers, and as dominant aliens. They are everywhere in ferment, here against land- lords, there against Jews, again, as in Croatia, against the tax-gatherers, and once more, as in Servia and Bulgaria, against the felt, though undefined, "Austrian influence," which, good or bad as against Russia, will, they feel, be fatal to their hopes as Slays. Sometimes the method of resistance is individual murder, sometimes -an attack by armed peasants on a town or a château ; often a sudden raid upon the Jews, who

are hated as money-lending extortioners ; and occasionally, as in Agram in August, a direct popular riot against the Govern- ment, its officials, or its emblems. In that case, citizen rioters pulled down the Hungarian arms.

It is absolutely indispensable to the Hapsburgs to soothe this ferment, lest in the end it should rise, as in Italy, to the in- surrectionary height, and be directed against the dynasty. That has not been the case hitherto. The Slav peasants are aware that the Hapsburgs have no race prejudices, and might under given circumstances declare themselves Slav—as practically happened in 1848—and only condemn their counsellors ; but if the conflict lasts too long and grows too embittered, loyalty may wear thin. The dynasty desires to soothe, but what is it to do I With a German alliance for its main- stay, it cannot irritate the German population, whose leaders have for their text every day the assertion that " the Slav flood is still rising," and who honestly believe themselves the pioneers of civilisation. It cannot in Hungary, without grave danger, irritate the Megyars, who have the capacity as well as the morbid pride of a dominant caste, who would risk all rather than lose their ascendancy, and who control the powerful and numerous militia of the kingdom. Half the army is Slav and two-thirds of the officers, and the " Mili- tary party," always so strong at the Hofburg, leans always on that side. The Hapsburgs are compelled to seem to agree with " the civilised sections of their people," and yet are determined not to irritate the Slays beyond a certain point. The position is nearly impossible, but its favourable points have been seized, with the adroit- ness, not to say wiliness, taught to the House by cen- turies of contention with the same difficulty. The local authorities in Croatia are replaced by a trained and competent agent, a Royal Commissary (General Ramberg), invested with all powers, and free from all race prejudices or scruples. To gratify the Germans, whose idea is, first of all, order, he in- creases the rural garrison, and by summary punishment re- presses the agrarian (.;meutes. To gratify the Magyars, he restores the Hungarian arms and the inscriptions in German and Magyar, which had been pulled down by the populace, —an act, it is said, no Slav officer would have per- formed. And then, to soothe Slav feeling, he instructs the Judges not to be too severe, but to remember that the people are ignorant and have grievances, and orders the tax-collectors of the State to remit arrears, and not press for the present even for their dues,—an order which, it is said, at once sent the majority of the armed peasants to their homes. The Germans and Magyars are, therefore, conciliated, while the Slav is not driven to extremities, and finding the tax-gatherer suddenly grown lenient, has half a suspicion in his inner mind that the Emperor is Slav at heart. It is very adroit, but the Government which is compelled to display such adroitness is not a Government at ease, and the Emperor must often doubt, as the Slav flood rises, and as he hears from all the Balkan States how deep is the suspicion and dislike of the Hapsburgs, whether the German alliance, necessary though it be, is an unmixed blessing.

It is this unique position, this necessity for sitting on three stools, which causes much of the evil character of Austrian policy in the Balkan peninsula. The Hapsburgs wish, no doubt, to extend their dominions, and especially to acquire a broad road southward to the lEgean, but they are also driven forward by fear. They think they cannot do justice in Bosnia, because if they did, the Maygars would see, in contented and self-governed Bosnians, allies of their own Slays. They think they must torment the Servians, because if Servia were really independent, she might act as a nucleus to attract all discontented Slav States, and play Piedmont in the Balkan.

They think they must resist Russia by intrigue, lest Russian preponderance should attract their own Slays, and above all, they think the Federation of the Balkan would be fatal to their own empire. Such a Federation, if it succeeded, and were decently happy, and allowed considerable latitude to its component States, would attract Bohemians, Dalmatians, Bosnians, Croatians, and the whole subordinate population of Hungary, and might on the occurrence of any crisis draw them into its own organisation, so creating a mighty State in which the Hapsburgs would have no place. That fear is intolerable, and drives the Emperor in precisely the same direction as his ambition to reign over yet wider territories. Hence the incessant intrigue which in Belgrade, in Sofia, in Philippopolis, and Montenegro makes all politics confused and progress nearly impossible ; hence the perpetual oppression of the Servians, who cannot stir independently without seeing their only market suddenly shut against them ; and hence, above all, the oppressive government in Bosnia.

The Hapsburgs intend to keep Bosnia, and but for their chronic fear they would be content to govern as leniently as

they do in Vienna, to allow the province a large measure of self-control, and even, if the people wished, to make it such a Grand Duchy as Tuscany once was. Nothing, however, can be done in that direction till the Slays are content and loyal ; and if they are content and loyal, Magyar and German will both be nearly in rebellion. The situation of the Emperor, so far from being the pleasant one that some observers imagine, is only tolerable because long habitude has made the per- plexities sit lightly, and has given the Austrian states- men confidence that if they are very cautious, and very crafty, and very slow, and just a little timid, they will get through somehow. Perhaps they will, but if they will not do a little

more justice they will find, when the great struggle comes with Russia, that the South Slays would rather "sink in the Russian morass " than bear so leaden a government at the hands of alien peoples. Gallicia is Slav, and Gallicia is content with the Hapsburgs ; but then in Gallicia Poles rule, not the Germans or the Magyar caste.