21 JULY 1866, Page 8


I T is difficult for English Liberals, with all their deep-rooted distrust of the great Austrian House, to await the ap- proaching battle on the Danube without a sensation of alarm. Continental Liberals, we believe, have trained themselves to regard the dissolution of the Austrian Empire with very little concern, but Englishmen look to the East as well as the West, and in the East the destruction of the old monarchy will not be an unmixed good. Next week may be the commencement of anarchy throughout regions which contain at least one- fifth, and it may be the richest fifth, of Europe, southern regions, which will grow grapes, and yield oil, and are full of unworked mineral treasures, but which are possessed by races only half-civilized, jealous of each other to mania, divided in race, and creed, and language, incapable of organizing de- mocracies, yet unwilling to submit to control. Already as the Prussians advance, the Czech population of Bohemia, two- thirds of the whole, begins to betray its bitter dislike of the more civilized German third, and to talk of the claims of what it is pleased to call its nationality, to denounce the rule which for three hundred years has " arrested " what seems to sober observers an all but impossible " career." A crushing defeat before Vienna may release in a moment all the discords hitherto kept down only by military force, and Bohemia and Hungary, Transylvania and Croatia, Dalmatia and Galicia, with the population of European Turkey, may be all in uproar together. Even in the Hereditary States a strong feeling that it would be better to follow Prussia than be turned out of Germany altogether is beginning to manifest itself, and the result of the great battle may be a most dangerous disintegra,- tion. Not one of these States has any bond to another beyond a common loyalty to a great family, which if once more defeated will have lost the only prestige it ever had, that of almost unbroken grandeur. Even the Hungarians, despite the sentiment they are expressing towards the Empress, may not adhere to the House which has wrought them so many miseries. A mixed company of Hungarians and Prussians recently drank in Berlin the health of Prince Frederick Charles as King of Hungary, and a cadet of the Hohenzollerns has within the fortnight extorted from the Sultan the hereditary throne of Roumania, a transaction still unexplained, which at any other time would have attracted all the politicians of Europe. A Hohenzollern in Hungary is probably a dream, but such dreams show clearly how far men are breaking away from their traditional habits of thought. Without the Hapsburgs Eastern Europe would be a congeries of republics, or rather kingless States, without means, or it may be inclination, for federation. Galicia belongs naturally, by sympathy, and language, and position to the Poland she cannot join, the Czechs are as isolated in Europe as the Maltese or Basques, the Croats have a secular quarrel with Hungary, the Dalma- tians care chiefly for Italy, the Transylvanians, after Vienna, look to Moscow, and Hungary itself, the only strong State in the great Eastern group, is a vast, thinly peopled region, larger than Great Britain and Ireland, with only a third of its population, that population a mixture of races, half Oriental, and bound together only by their readiness to follow a very able political caste. The Magyars no doubt are a political race, with high capacity for political work, but supposing Hungary under her Diet to pick up the broken sceptre,—a work of extreme difficulty, unless indeed Prussia lends her aid,—and to link to herself her ancient outlying provinces, the result would be only a new Austria without Ger- mans, that is, without the civilizing element, without the Hapsburgs, who if they cannot govern well, can govern strongly, without wealth, with a great military monarchy on the north, and with a congeries of little States on the south, which are discontented indeed, but betray no aspirations for union with Hungary. There is no possibility without the Hapsburgs of retaining the Hereditary States, for the Germans are like Englishmen in this, that if associated with any civi- lization lower than their own they must and will bear rule, A voluntary federation between Austria proper and Hungary would take years to organize and centuries to become real, and has besides no object, the Austrian Germans fusing themselves far more easily into Germany. The non-German States, divided by mutual jealousies, by hatreds a thousand years old, by the differences of language, and the bitter prejudices of creed, will be too apt to sway towards Russia, the onlypower which can effec- tually assist them against each other.

Without the Hapsburgs the task of effecting a consolida- tion of Eastern Europe sufficient for independence seems beyond human strength, and even with them it will be one of extraordinary difficulty. Suppose Hungary com- pletely conciliated, and the " pivot of Austrian power trans- ferred to Pesth," as Count von Bismark advised, the old difficulty of governing either by fusion or federation, or what Austrian statesmen call " dualism," will still revive. Doubtless the Hapsburgs will make concessions, but there were obstacles in their road besides their own pride and obstinacy, and in gaining the Hungarians they may lose the affections of their equally numerous and far more obedient German subjects. Those subjects have hitherto never con- templated the possibility of being turned out of Germany, but they perceive it at last, and the old bitterness of 1848, the feeling that all rights have been sacrificed to the maintenance of an army, which army has proved useless in the hour of supreme trial, is rapidly gathering strength, and will at all events increase the discontent at any loss of their old ascen- dancy within the empire. If the Hapsburgs could not succeed in fusing Austria with their prestige unbroken, their army full of confidence, themselves backed in the last resort by the weight of Germany, how are they to succeed when deprived, as the next battle may deprive them, of all those advantages ? We talk very glibly of "concessions," but concessions in Austria mean gratifications to half the Empire at the expense of annoying the other half. They are like party concessions to Irish Catholics, which send Irish Protestants into the opposite rank. Doubtless if the family is wise, can secure the support of Germany, which is not impossible, and so obtain twenty years of peace, it may ultimately win the game, and rear up a strongly organized empire of the Danube, the destined and fitting inheritor of the Turkish dominion. There is room in these wild regions for twenty millions of Germans, and Germany swarms off her tens of thousands a year to Texas and Ohio. If that emi- gration could be directed eastward for any considerable term of years, the new empire would speedily be both civilized and strong ; but then can it, without exciting a jealousy as fierce as that which exists in Posen between Poles and Germans ? Have the Hapsburgs ever been wise, ever tried even in the zenith of their power to civilize their Eastern possessions ? And then the time ? The danger will be immediate, not distant ; the work of reorganization must be done now, or left undone for years; only to be accomplished after miseries as great as any which have ever afflicted Europe.

The hope of English Liberals has been, we imagine, that the Hapsburgs, compelled by their defeats to quit the Con- federation, and by circumstances to abandon Italy, would throw themselves with new vigour and concentration of purpose into the work first of conciliating, and then of strengthening, their great Eastern dominion. Up to the present time it has always been possible to conciliate Hungary, and with the aid of her German subjects, of German settlers in Hungary, and of the half- million Magyar families, Austria might in a few years create a really powerful State, strong enough, with the assistance which she would receive both from England and France, to throw herself between Russia and Constantinople, and free enough to attract to herself the provinces which are gradually sloughing off from 'Turkey. Those provinces need before all things a period of strong government, of freedom at once from fears of Turkey and intrigues with Russia, and these benefits a Danu- bian empire ruled by an ancient House could have secured. But to secure them some large modicum of strength is requi- site, and so terribly is the current setting in against the Haps- burgs, so innumerable are the interests which, clashing inces- santly with each other, unite in dislike of the Government of Vienna, that the next battle may reduce Austria to entire helplessness, to a position in which every little separatist interest can assert itself with effect, and so destroy for the time even the possibility of coherence. If an opinion springs up in the Hereditary States that it is better to be Prussian than Slavonic, nothing will be left of the Austrian Empire but par- ticles without a trace of natural affinity, or any affinity at all, except perhaps a common fear of the ambition of St. Petersburg.