26 OCTOBER 1867, Page 9


THE outburst of loyal enthusiasm throughout Austria which has followed the Kaiser's snub to the Bishops, is perhaps the most significant event of an eventful year. It' means that the last kingdom honestly faithful to the Papal. standard has for ever abandoned its cause. In England, the people of Austria are supposed to be Ultramontanes, and, we imagine, the belief was once in some loose sense well founded,' that the Empire, as a whole, could be relied on to support reaction ; but it is not so now. The Church has for eighteen years enjoyed undisputed sway in Austria, controlling education, politics, and society with unlimited authority, an entire gene- ration has grown up under its sway, and the feeling of the people has undergone an entire, and, as we believe, a perma- nent change. That strange and morbid hate towards itself which priestly rule invariably develops, a hatred to which all merely secular passions are feeble, has infected Austria also, and there is probably no country in the world, not even France, where the priesthood, as a caste, is regarded with such con- temptuous dislike. The gentry have not ceased to be Catholic, the peasants are still superstitious, the bourgeoisie have not thrown off the chain of respectability, but the Church now exists andflourishes in its own strength alone. From the highest class to the one next above the lowest the disgust at priestly interference has penetrated every section of society, has so changed opinion that 2,000 country schoolmasters, men as dependent as clerks, as strictly disciplined as soldiers, have publicly declared in the great hall of the Palace at Vienna that they will starve sooner than endure even for afew years more the tyrannyof ecclesiastics. The Emperor, a melancholy man trained by Jesuits and habi- tuated to misfortune, is still, it is said, an Ultramontane, —still inclined to believe that the Church has a moral right to reign over civil society. A few nobles of the first rank still hold that "fidelity," as it is called, is essential to the character of a gentleman and the position of an aristocrat, and a few of the more remote districts, notably the German Tyrol, are still obedient to the priests. But the active portion of the Austrian people has lost the sense of religious awe. In the haute voile, the real "society," till lately so omnipotent, belief in Christianity is now considered a mark of a weak and a credulous mind, of an intellect altogether behind the century. It is decorous to bow to priests, but fashionable to preach the "Gospel of Darwin," a man whose name in Germany drives priests crazy. In the second society, the professional class, priests are scorned with a bitterness kept up by the incessant conflict about education and the right of speech and writing ; while the third, or shopkeeping and upper peasant order, has tacitly agreed to limit thought to this world. Creeds may be true, say three in four of the Austrian electors, or they may be false, but priests shall have nothing whatever to do with civil society. The priesthood may preach and teach and chant and read in church without our interference, but out of it they shall have no power whatever. Marriage shall be a contract, education shall be secular, writing shall be free, the family door shall be the property of the family father, and of him alone. The priest, "frozen up in a sterile individuality," as the Viennese Municipality say, is not a human being, and he shall not be permitted to interfere in any way whatever in human affairs. Let him stand aside, on a pedestal if he likes, but stand aside carefully, under penalty of being kicked aside with regrettable violence. There is no special inclination, be it remarked, for kicking; these Austrian Germans are too gentle, it may be too lazy, for that ; but an absolute conviction, a steady, unchangeable certainty, which is more of the temperament than the brain, has taken possession of their minds, a conviction that if priests rule civilization will be impossible, a certainty that while they have power life can never be improved. The Austrians are not longing for a new Church, or accepting new dogmas, or tending towards Voltair- ianism, or obeying any religious impulse whatever. They are simply hungering for the .secular " civilization " which they see elsewhere, for the free, progressive society which they are rapidly erecting into an ideal, an object almost of worship, a Promised Land which they will reach, whether they find a Moses or no, and even if they have to leave Aaron behind. Naturally the least revolutionary of mankind, they are driving their Reichsrath towards this end at headlong speed, at a speed which, their usual habits considered, startles observers who have watched them for years, and utterly paralyzes the Church. Even in France Jews are not elected to municipal and political office so readily as in Austria Proper, even in England the baptism of a Hebrew girl without her father's consent would scarcely elicit the passion of emotion displayed last week in the Austrian Chamber. The Minister of Justice could scarcely speak for excitement as he related the news, three-fourths of the representatives were on their feet at once, a storm of imprecations swept through the hall, and the priests were ordered then and there by telegraph to restore their prize. It was not religious feeling which prompted this exhibition. The non-Jewish members did not probably 'care two straws what faith any girl chose to profess, but they were absolutely resolved that priestly dominance should end ; that in the family, as in the State, the civil power should be master, and not the ecclesiastical. That once secured, the people will be tolerably content ; but that refused, their secu- larist dislike to priests may very easily rise into fanaticism. They are good, easy-going, people these Germans of the South, but they are Southerners still, with a latent capacity for savage rage, for boiling over like Italians or Frenchmen, and in a much more destructive way. When they last rose against the Church, the Emperor Ferdinand had to extirpate whole popu- lations before he could even imagine the opposition subdued, and a clear refusal to fulfil their desires might last week have brought down the Hapsburg throne.

It would be difficult to state in detail all the causes which have operated to produce this immense change in Austrian sentiment, but some of them are sufficiently patent. The first has, no doubt, been the slow filtration downwards of that contempt for authority of any kind, that disposi- tion to deride anything which is, simply because it is, which has become so conspicuous in every division of South Germany. A mental hunger, an intellectual unrest, has entered into the people, and they are attracted by any- thing which promises a life different from that which they have hitherto led, any organization other than that they have obeyed ; and this unrest, which extends to every institution and department of society, gathers strength from the extreme inefficiency, the visible powerlessness of almost everything existing. The priests control education, but they do not teach ; the officials control society, but they do not organize ; the nobles control the Army, and it is beaten on every battle-field. Men are sick of rulers who will not even rule, sick till they ask why on earth they should be chosen for rulers, where their commission is ;—and to that question there can be no reply. Books have been excluded from the seminaries, and liberal papers, and liberal professors, and even liberal theologians, and yet when 2,000 pupil-teachers, —select peasants, in reality,—are gathered together in Vienna, with the Lord-Lieutenant in the chair, the Church is thunder- struck to find they are all Red. Then, no doubt, the feeling which has been so strong in England at different times, which is at this moment the main difficulty of the Catholic priest- hood in Italy and South America, the intense dislike of the priests as celibates, as men dehumanized by the absence of family ties, is acting as a powerful solvent on the old reverence for the Church. " These men," say quiet, fubsy citizens, who think heresy most improper, "cannot comprehend us, and never will. What children have they to teach ? " And, lastly, society is exposed throughout South Germany, and indeed throughout all Germany, to two new and most potent intellectual influences. The first of these is the example of America. Three millions of Germans, half of them Southerners, have settled in America. Day by day hun- dreds of Germans quit their country for the New World, week by week dozens return utterly Americanized, month by month tons of American letters are distributed in every BEARDS are often supposed to indicate an inclination to- wards revolutionary and democratic sentiment. This is because beards are generally supposed to be cultivated as a sort of natural right by lovers of natural rights, by men who like all signs of Manhood (with a large M), and who are supposed to think a well grown beard the true qualification for the Suffrage. Possibly there is a party who would justify their dislike to woman suffrage, secretly to their own hearts, on the ground that women have no beards, but even they would scarcely think that picturesque but troublesome appendage a fit reason to assign publicly as justifica- tion of a 'natural right' to a vote. We are disposed to think there may really be a certain connection between a love of natural rights and the original cultivation of beards in 'blank opposition to the customs of a surprised and out- raged society. The vague association of ideas between letting Nature do as she likes with your hair, and letting Nature do as she likes with political society, is perhaps sufficient to account for this curious connection between beards and man- hood suffrage ; and possibly an additional link was given to the association by the practice of tonsure for priests in sacerdotal and ascetic Churches, which may have conveyed an idea that as the ascetic class objects to hair, and takes some pains to cut it off where other people wear it, a class which appeals to nature as the test of right would be apt to wear it where other people cut it off. Besides, as a feature of expression, no doubt hairiness does, so far as it goes, give a certain wildness of effect, a forest-solitude sort of look to men ;—like tall weeds in a garden. And looking not merely to the outward effect, but to the cause, it may imply undoubtedly some sort of indisposition (whether arising from indolence or from love of wildness does not for this purpose matter at all) to prune away natural growths and redundancies,—an unascetic turn of mind. So far, there is corner of the Empire, letters burning with a " liberalism " some slight justification for the vague, general impression of stronger, redder, more implacable than that of the Anglo- Saxons. Ireland is scarcely more under the influence of America than Germany is, and of all the peoples now active among mankind the Americanized Germans are the most bitterly anti-sacerdotal, the most nearly akin to those whom we call in England Secularists. They shock and perplex even Americans, who care nothing about priests, and their influence acts on the Ultramontane Church like perpetual rain on plaster ; and they are aided by a class as numerous, as powerful, and as anti-sacerdotal as themselves. The whim- sical charge brought by the late King of Prussia against the Liberals, and constantly repeated by the priests in Austria, that they were "a parcel of Jews," had a basis in truth. Per- secuted for twelve centuries by priests, the Jews are avenging themselves on the oppressors, whom also they will survive. Everywhere throughout Germany the Jews are rising. to a position such as they have never attained elsewhere in Europe. They are wild for instruction, thirsty for activity, they swarm in the universities, fill professors' chairs, play a great part in literature, and almost monopolize municipal activity and commerce. Full of spirit and tenacity, often eloquent, and always liberal, they are rapidly conciliating all but the most ignorant among the masses, and their weight in every Catho- lic country is thrown steadily and heavily into the anti-sacer- dotal scale. In them the Church fights a corporation as active, as persistent, and as deathless as its own. Rome boasts of its capacity to wait, but in the strife with the Hebrew race even Roman patience has been tired out, and of all human beings the German priest most dislikes the onset of the Jew.

We are by no means sure that we approve the present tendency of Austrian feeling, that we can sympathize much with a movement which, in destroying Ultramontanism, is very likely indeed to set up a worse theory of life in its place. Better any worship than the worship of the Stomach, and Austrians in their recoil from priestcraft seem far too much inclined to believe that the only thing certain is the sweetness of sugar. It is easier to develop Romanism into a grand faith than to develop Secularism, and it is Secularism which Austria has for the time embraced. But the fact of the change is past question. There may, of course, be yet another revolution of the political wheel, the Emperor may yet call upon his half civilized subjects, or the priesthood may establish a re'gime based on universal suffrage, bat so long as the present electoral law subsists, Austria, their last stronghold, is lost to the Ultramontanes.