Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward.

No. 137.]

Sir: I have made a careful translation of the Emperor’s speech on opening the Diet at Pesth, which you will find herewith. For the first time in history, the royal discourse to the Hungarian parliament was made in the Hungarian language, a fact which contributed much to the enthusiasm with which it was received.

My translation is from the German version published in the Vienna Gazette.

There is no need of my offering any remarks as to the extreme importance of this state paper in the present great historical crisis of the empire.

Even in the midst of your severe labors at home to clear away the wrecks of the secession war, and to re-establish the great republic on a more enduring basis than perhaps can be hoped for by many European realms, you will doubtless find time to observe the process by which the imperial government is seeking to repair the damages of the civil war of seventeen years since, and to reconstruct the empire.

I shall endeavor in this correspondence to keep you accurately informed as to the history and vital significance of events as they gradually unroll themselves, and I shall be careful not to trespass more upon your patience than seems necessary.

To-day I shall simply draw your attention to the passage in the speech regarding the necessity of the revision of a portion of the 1848 laws of Hungary, observing that upon this point the most earnest debates will probably soon take place, and the most divergent opinions manifest themselves. How to regulate the public affairs common to the whole monarchy, when perhaps the most influential party in Hungary will demand a resident palatine—in all but rank a king—with independent ministers and departments of treasury and of war for that kingdom, seems a most difficult problem. You will observe that the language of the monarch, although conciliatory and benignant in general, does not lack firmness upon this point. It is probable, therefore, that so soon as the first burst of enthusiasm has passed away with which the speech has been greeted on all sides in Pesth, grave demonstrations of dissent will be observed. Meantime the suspension of a constitutional life is likely to continue for a considerable period on both sides the Leitha, and this very fact must breed discontent throughout the empire.

Thus the organ at Pesth of the extreme party in Hungary (formerly called [Page 630] the Beschlusz Partei, or resolution party) observes in a late number that the 1848 laws contain nothing tending to the ruin of the monarchy or detrimental to the rights of majesty, but that, on the contrary, they are the foundation of constitutionalism and the prosperity of the monarchy, and that it will be the grateful task of the Diet to make this clear. It adds, that as the Hungarian and February constitution cannot exist together, one of the two must always remain in suspense. “This suspension of the entire State constitution simultaneously with the revision of the 1848 laws,” it continues, “is, however, satisfactory to none of us, since the result is simply that both constitutions are suspended, and that parliamentary government exists neither in Pesth nor Vienna.”

On the other hand, one of the most gifted and eloquent supporters of the February constitution, Count Auersperg, known to all Germany as a popular and graceful poet under the pseudonym of Anaslasius Gün, and recognized as one of the most eminent debaters in the late Reichsrath, recently used this strong language in the Diet of Carniola, speaking against the suspension manifesto of September: “By this patent a new situation is created. A constitution over which the Damocles sword of suspension is ever lifted is no longer a constitution, and absolutism is preferable to such a system. The incomplete carrying out of the February constitution was only a fault of persons, not of principle.

* * * There is much that is enticing in the September patent, yet if twenty creative diets are to bring about a chaos most certainly an absolute God Almighty will cry out to them, A quos ego.”

You see by these extreme expressions in Germany and in Hungary how very grave the situation may become, should the Hungarians, inspired by their present feelings of exultation, push their claims to an unreasonable extent.

Most certainly, if the various component parts of the Austrian monarchy cannot agree upon some common constitution, the necessary result is a return to absolutism—for otherwise the empire would cease to exist.

I observed in my last despatch that it was possible that the diet of Bohemia might pass a vote of censure or regret in regard to the September manifesto. The party sustaining the present administration, however, uniting with the extreme czech-federalist-aristocratic party, have obtained a small majority and voted an address of approbation.

The speech of the representative of government in the Bohemian Diet, Count Lazausky, eminently federalist in tone, was considered by the German party so bitter towards the Reichsrath that four members of that departed parliament, Prince Carlos Auersberg and Counts Hartiz, Salm and Althau, members of the late House of Peers, resigned their places as deputies in the Bohemian Diet. “The government commissioner,” they say, “has declared, in the debate on the address, that the Reichsrath has never legally existed, and has thus exposed the members of the suspended Reichsrath to the laughter and the scorn of the diet party, which abhors the Reichsrath. The undersigned, belonging to those members of the Reichsrath thus exposed to contumely by the government representative, are determined to prevent a recurrence of such scenes which have in view the depreciation of a mission undertaken from a sense of duty, and they therefore lay down their commission.”

Prince Carlos Auersberg was presiding officer of the House of Peers—the other gentlemen very eminent in rank, public service and general consideration; while the extreme liberal and democratic organs in the German part of the empire are still more vehement than the aristocratic party in their expressions of feeling.

Thus there are materials enough for a violent explosion, if the conflict of nationalities is carried too far.

I have the honor to be your obedient servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

[Page 631]

While we greet with sincere joy the estates and representatives of our beloved kingdom of Hungary assembled in Diet, we at the same time make known the purpose which has brought us here with that open frankness which can alone establish the indispensable bond of confidence between a monarch and his people.

We came to complete that which we had begun, penetrated with the feeling of our duty as regent. Our object is, by our personal intervention, and therefore the more successfully, to settle those doubts and to remove those obstacles which hitherto have opposed the solution of pending questions of state law.

Among these do we class in the first line the violent contradiction which existed in the different starting-points towards the contemplated mutual understanding. Legal forfeiture on the one side, and stiff legal continuity on the other, could not lead to any agreement.

The obstacle we now remove in choosing a universally acknowledged ground for our starting-point.

Whereas this fundamental state law has guaranteed the self-dependence of the inner formation and administration of the kingdom of Hungary and the adjoining provinces, it has at the same time preserved the constant indissoluble and inseparable union between the kingdoms and provinces standing under the government of our house, and therewith the position as a great power of their entirety. Even as we therefore find in this entirety a necessary and legal limitation of that independence, even so we recognize, without reserve, justification thereof within these limits.

In the same manner do we wish to preserve unimpaired the conditions of the pragmatic sanction which related to the integrity of the Hungarian crown, and although we are obliged to pay regard to those facts upon record in the last decade, we have at the same time directed our sovereign care to make possible the representation of the provinces of our Hungarian crown at this Diet.

For this purpose we have convoked the Diet of our principality of Transylvania, in order that it may undertake an earnest and thorough examination of the first law-article of the year 1848, relating to the union between Hungary and Transylvania, and we require the estates and representatives of our kingdom of Hungary assembled in Diet to take a similar action in regard to the seventh law-article of the year 1847-8, in order that this question, not, according to the dead letter of the law, a fictitious and doubtful one, but, on the contrary, in harmony with all vigorous factors, may find through their intimate conjunction a lasting and complete solution.

In the same manner have we made known the summons to the assembled Diet of Croatia and Sclavonia reasonably to provide that it should be represented at this Diet; and while we communicate the resolution of the Croatian Diet, passed in the year 1861, regarding the relation of Croatia to our kingdom of Hungary, do we feel the confidence that the argument in regard to the legal relations of brother races, united for centuries, will be firmly established in the way of mutual yielding and in the spirit of that equitable conception to which the estates and representatives of the kingdom of Hungary assembled in Diet have lent an unequivocal expression in their address in this regard, issued July 6, 1861.

As the first task of this Diet we must indicate the manner of negotiating affairs common to all our kingdoms and provinces.

The existence of such affairs has its formation already in the spirit of the pragmatic sanction, although, in regard to the manner of negotiating, the essentially altered relations demand an essential change.

The transformation of the political, economical, and social factors which in the meanwhile had gained ground, decided us, in the consciousness of our high task, to confer constitutional rights also on our other kingdoms and provinces, and therefore the affairs common to all provinces are only to be conducted under the constitutional co-operation of those kingdoms and provinces.

These were the motives which guided us when we issued our diploma of October 20, 1860, and we still firmly hold the conviction that a common constitutional treatment of affairs, indicated in that diploma as universal, forms an incontrovertible requisite of the united stability and position as a power of our collected monarchy to which every other consideration must be subordinate.

As regards the manner of negotiation, we have indicated a form in our patent of February 26, 1861, which has, however, excited various and important scruples. While we, therefore, cannot withhold the conviction that this question cannot be determined definitely and lastingly with the weapons of material or moral pressure, but, on the contrary, only in the way of general compromise, and a recognition of necessity, we have temporarily, by our manifests of September 20, suspended the efficacy of the statute of the representation of the empire, and do now lay before the estates and representatives of the kingdom of Hungary assembled in Diet our diploma of October 20, 1860, as well as the patent of February 26, 1861, for mature consideration, incisive criticism, and acceptance.

[Page 632]

The well-understood interests of our kingdom of Hungary, as well as the prosperity and safety of the whole empire, require the soonest possible settlement of this affair, so that the constitutional rights of the single kingdoms and provinces may, through the cordial annexation of our people, be durably secured, may develop themselves on a firm basis, and may rejoice in a vigorous bloom. We expect, therefore, of the estates and representatives of our kingdom of Hungary assembled at this Diet, that they may in a spirit of equity examine the state papers submitted to their judgment, and in case of the existing objections appearing insurmountable, they may propose such modifications only as can be brought into harmony with the vital conditions of our entire monarchy. In close and inseparable conjunction with the decision of this question stands the revision, and respectively the reform, of that part of the 1848 laws which has reference to the efficacy of our rights as sovereign, and the limitation of our attributes of government.

Things which stand in a close conjunction and exercise a mutual effect upon each other cannot in practical realization be separated.

The unchanged coming into life of these laws does not lie within the region of possibility when we take into consideration the position as a power of our empire, the undiminished value of our sovereign rights, and the just demands of the neighboring provinces. Although, therefore, the formal legality of these laws cannot be questioned, yet our duties as a sovereign, and the conscientious consideration of the care owed equally to all our people, forbid us to confirm by our inaugural oath the vindication and application of these laws, before the simultaneous fixation of the relation of the mutual rights and duties. It is, therefore, necessary that the motives of these laws which either circumscribe our sovereign rights or bear reference to the alteration of the form of government, without bringing them into harmony with the conditions of stability of the monarchy, or with the inner institutions of the land that repose on a long-inherited basis, may be carefully examined and judiciously altered. In this way it will be made possible that we, too, may with a quiet conscience render our royal inaugural oath to the suitably remodelled and, for late posterity, firmly established constitution, and receive the consecration of coronation with the diadem of the holy Stephen, our apostolic ancestor, with that holy crown in which we are disposed to insert, as its most precious stone, the prosperity of our kingdom of Hungary and the unbroken love of its people.

As crowned king, we will not fail to impart to the assembled estates and representatives, besides those state papers which we already submitted to the Diet of 2d of April, 1861, also our royal propositions in regard to numerous other affairs. These are objects which touch the spiritual and material interests of the wisest circles, and whose successful regulation cannot be postponed without detriment to the land.

The will of Divine Providence has imposed on us great and heavy tasks, and to this land not less earnest ones, and charged with grave responsibility, by reason of the suspension of constitutional life which has now taken place in a great portion of our empire.

Insoluble, however, they are not, if the country, in union with its sovereign, and following the traditions of the forefathers, undertakes them with self-denial and willingness of sacrifice.

We hope this so much the more as the land, in imparting strength and weight, gains strength and weight, in progressing to the lifting of these difficulties elevates itself, in working for procuring the stability of the whole secures its own stability; and if we are successful, after a long pressing epoch, in leading our empire with the help of the country through the doubtful turnings of a difficult situation to the wished-for term, we shall bless the moment that ripened our resolution to revive and confirm the confidence between the sovereign and the people.

With confident success do we look forward to the candid exposition of the views of the assembled estates and representatives of this land, and while we solemnly declare the Diet of our kingdom of Hungary as open, we close with the earnest wish that it may be granted to us, with God’s help, to lead to a happy issue the great work of mutual agreement.