17 SEPTEMBER 1859, Page 16


THE HOUSE OF HABSBURG.* THE Austrian concordat was to have crowned and consolidated the work which has been in progress since 1849 for establishing

the despotic power of the Government on the broadest and most

unassailable basis. In a very brief time after its completion this promised means of strength and safety has gone near to jeopardize

the very existence of the empire. The purpose of M. Alfred Michiels volume is to show that in making prodigious con- cessions to Rome, detrimental to the rights of his subjects, the prosperity of his dominions, and his own sovereign authority, the Emperor Francis Joseph has but followed the hereditary policy of his house. He may now find himself constrained to imitate more or less closely his namesake Joseph II., the only Austrian monarch who was unwilling to endure the domination of Rome ; but until the day of Solferino he had followed the

beaten track of Rudolph of Habsburg, of Charles V., and, above all, of Ferdinand II., whose maxim was, "Sooner a desert than a country peopled by heretics." It remains to be seen how far the young Emperor's present necessities will lead him in an opposite direction. " Whenever," says M. Miehiels, " the Imperial fa- mily of Austria manifests any interest or pity for nations, any respect for the labours of the intellect, or any sympathy for the progress of civilization, it has previously undergone some dreadful crisis. But it soon returns to its natural condition, its Olympian self-esteem, its egotism, its hardness of heart ; and its historic traditions ever thrust back into its hands the stick, the cord, and the axe." Joseph de Maistre, one of the ablest and most zealous champions that Catholicism ever possessed, has stigmatized the house of Austria as " that great enemy of the human race," and history confirms the sentence. When Ferdinand I. ascended the throne in 1556, nine-tenths of the German population, and a ma- jority of that in the Austrian hereditary States, had adopted the principles of the Reformation. Twelve years later Michell, a Venetian envoy, reported: " A system of mutual toleration has -become customary. Wherever the two faiths are mingled, no one cares to inquire whether a person is Catholic or Protestant. The same indulgence prevails in families : in many houses the parents profess one doctrine, the children the other. Brothers hold dif- ferent religious opinions. Catholics and Huguenots intermarry. No one complains against it, or regards it as a scandal." Mon- taigne testifies to the existence of the same state of things at Augsburg in 1589. Such was the happy state of Germany when Ferdinand II., the abject tool of the Jesuits, began his accursed reign; before he ended it he had his wish, "to see beggars rather than heretics in Germany." In February, 1637, " that most pitiless murderer that ever yet persecuted the human race " died with signs of the deepest devotion, and a mind untroubled by re- morse. Twelve millions of human beings at the least had perished by his orders for the glory and good of the Church. The work did not slacken after his death. It was continued by his worthy son and successor Ferdinand III., an imbecile whose favourite dogma and chief topic of conversation was the Immaculate Con- ception, until the Thirty Years' War was closed by treaty on the 24th o/October 1648 :— " The struggle terminated in the humiliation of Austria, the emancipa- tion of the Catholic and Lutheran princes, the dismemberment of the em- pire, and the formal recognition of the equality of all forms of worship. The Jesuits alone attained the principal object of their ambition. Austria had become a fief of their order, and was governed by their general as suzerain."

The heralds who were sent forth to proclaim the return of peace found Germany a wilderness of ruined towns, deserted farms, and what had once been cultivated lands, returned to the condition of marsh and forest, the haunts of wolves, foxes, and crowds of robbers. Very slowly were the physical effects of the long cala- mity repaired ; but to this day Germany has not wholly recovered from the moral prostration into which she was cast by the House of Austria.

" A final circumstance will suffice to depict the condition of Ger- many at this period. The excessive despair had so ulcerated the hearts of the people, and turned them from all natural affections, that men abstained from their wives, and lived in gloomy and tragic chastity. . . . The Ger- maine race seemed resolved to die out, and not leave such boundless misery as a legacy for future generations. A whole nation desired to commit suicide. It was found necessary to exhort married people from the pulpit to make use of their rights, and not thwart the intentions of nature. Even more, the Franconian Diet, with the approval of the Archbishops of Bamberg and Wurtzburg, formed, on the 15th February, 1650, at Nuremberg, a legis- lative decision which allowed priests to marry, and authorized polygamy. . . . "To such a state was Germany reduced! Like Bohemia, it ended by

losing two-thirds of its population. Supposing that it possessed thirty mil- lion of inhabitants at the beginning of the war (it now contains more than double), twenty millions perished by famine or a violent death. The bar- barian hordes did not produce such disasters in the Roman empire. "And now, let any one upbraid the French for the excesses of '93! The Jesuits and Dominicans destroyed more victims than the whole of the re- volutionary party since the beginning of the world. ' " The persecution organized by Ferdinand II., under the influence of the Jesuits, retarded civilization for one hundred and fifty years beyond the Rhine. When it commenced its ravages, Germany possessed a brilliant school of painting, famous engravers, learned men, and a rising literature ; when the reaction pulled down its scaffolds, and spiked its guns, all talent had disappeared like a dream i ignorance held out the hand to misery. Genius could not flourish again in this devastated land till the middle of the eighteenth century : the arts have only returned to their pristine vigour in our day. Thwarted and arrested by France in their ambitious plans, the Jesuits transported their gloomy apparatus to that country, and avenged • Secret History of the Austrian Government, and:of its Systematic Persecutions of Protestant*. Compiled from Official Documents. By Alfred Michiels. Pub- lished by Chapman and Hall. themselves by obtaining the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The Dra- gonnades, and all that accompanied them, were only an imitation of their procedure in Austria."

The persecution in Hungary was not less savage than that which had raged in Germany, and lasted much longer. The resistance it provoked would have been fatal to the House of Austria but for the aid brought to that thankless race by Sobieski when the Turks and the Magyars were thundering at the walls of its eapitaL In 1711 Austria was forced to conclude the treaty of Zathmar, which restored to the people of Hungary their political constitu- tion, civil laws, and religious liberty, and confirmed that right of national self-defence which is technically called the right of in- surrection. During the hundred and thirty-seven years from 1711 to 1848 the Magyars enjoyed the dignity and repose which their indomitable patriotism had won for them. The oppression of the last eleven years has not crushed the spirit of that heroic nation.

Reviewing the history of the Habsburg family M. Michiels finds an explanation of their crimes and follies in the taint of in- sanity which runs in their blood from a double source. The mar- riage of the grandson of Charles the Rash of Burgundy with Joan the Mad of Aragon " allied two mournful elements : the frenzied exaltation and impatient will of the Flemish sovereign, and the inexorable fanaticism of the Spanish monarchs." Joan's son, the Emperor Charles V., that taciturn, ferocious, and gluttonous prince, devoured by insatiable self-esteem and fearful bigotry, revealed his unhealthy origin by flagrant signs. The symptoms of mental disorder which he exhibited were aggravated in his son Philip II.-

" Can we believe that his savage piety, his thirst for blood, his gloomy libertinism, and implacable pride, were free from mental alienation ? His death between the walls of a cell, before a picture of Hell painted by Jerome Bosch, and his dying agony tortured by hideous hallucinations, form a drama such as Dante could scarce have invented. Nearly all his successors, nearly all the heirs of his uncle Ferdinand I., brother of Charles V., and' Emperor of Germany, revealed by some signs the secret infirmity of the family.

" In Rudolph II. it was displayed in all its nudity. Business inspired him with the profoundest disgust, and he never interfered in it save through jealousy, and to complicate matters when he saw them in the hands of a skilful secretary of state. . . . His favourites 'alone approached him for months together, so that the empire did not know were he dead or alive. After passing several hours motionless and silent, he would rise sometimes and break up furniture, statues, clocks, pictures and precious vases. The death of an old lion, and of two eagles, which 'he daily fed with his own hands, broke his heart : he was inconsolable at their loss, and soon uttered his last sigh.

" Even before his death the sanguinary hypochondria of Philip II. reap- peared in the Archduke Ferdinand II., who would one day ascend the im- perial throne. In spite of the edicts of toleration, he adhered to his design of crushing the Reformation, and set to work unscrupulously and pitilessly. We have shown to our readers this sepulchral face, this hang-dog devotee, i

who might justly be called the greatest murderer in history. He it was who exterminated two-thirds of the Germanic population, and by the excess of oppression, want, and famine, brought back his subjects to cannibalism, and reduced them to eat human flesh. Guards had to be stationed round the cemeteries at night to prevent the dead bodies being exhumed. His atrocious madness continued to rage in his two heirs, Ferdinand III. and Leopold. Hoffman did not invent more fantastic characters, or Tacitus describe reigns more hideous than theirs.

" In Charles VI. some rays of light shone through the clouds that usually enveloped the minds of this family, although the expulsion of thirty thou- sand Protestants recalls the gloomy fanaticism of the Habsburgs. Maria Theresa, though more intelligent than her predecessors, betrayed by mani- fest signs the leanings of her race. She carried bigotry to the 'furthest limits of exaggeration, and at times treated her subjects with implacable ferocity. . . .

" The mixture of French and Austrian blood by the marriage of Maria Theresa with Francis of Lorraine produced two noble characters, two Em- perors who honoured the throne—Joseph II. and Leopold U. But the Prince Consort possessed a weak and timid character, a voluptuous and in- dolent nature ; hence the gloomy genius of the Habsburgs was not crushed or subdued by the genius of France, so slothfully represented. It slowly undermined the constitution of the new family, and suddenly, in the son of Leopold, in that Francis I. who reigned forty-three years and sustained a colossal war against Napoleon, the sinister spirit of Philip II. reappeared without any alteration and in all its ghastly nudity. It also animates, counsels, and directs the new Emperor, Francis Joseph, and the commence- ment of this prince's reign strengthened in him the evil influences of his race."

M. Michiels concludes his work by declaring that " sooner or later France must make an end of Austria "—an end, we sup- pose he means, of the reigning dynasty of Austria. The event, however, is not likely to occur very soon. The whole civilized world, he adds, ought to pronounce the overthrow of the Habs- burgs, "for never has a criminal race committed such wrongs on humanity, abused so cowardly and pitilessly a fortuitous advantage —that of birth—invented more falsehoods, humiliated and mar- tyrized a greater number of men, caused more tears to be shed, provoked more curses, or wantonly provoked more bloodshed."