Mr. Motley to Mr. Seward.
Sir: Since my despatch of November 14th, No. 215, the debates in the various diets (Landtags) have been continued. Much excitement and even acrimony have been manifested in the cis-Leithan assemblies, and there is an almost general demand for the restoration of the constitution of 1861, suspended, as you are aware, by the imperial edict of September, 1865, and for the re-convocation of the Reichsrath. With the exception of the diets of Bohemia, in which, however, the minority in favor of the constitution is very large, and that of Glalicia, in which, too, the Euthenians opposed the vote of confidence in the ministers, the excitement in regard to what is called the “suspending policy” of the present government is very great.
The diet of this province (lower Austria) has just presented its address to the Emperor, moving him to restore the constitution. His Majesty received it with the simple expression that it should be reserved for closer consideration.
On the other side the Leithan, the debates of the Hungarian diet have been stormy. It seems to be well understood that the imperial rescript of this year has indicated the widest concessions to Hungary that it is possible for government to make. Yet the most advanced party, or left, has manifested its entire dissatisfaction with the course of policy thus proposed. On the other hand, the more moderate party, led by Francis Deák. has shown an inclination for the present to support the government. A vote was taken a few days ago on the question whether the labors of the commission appointed last winter by the diet for devising a plan of treating affairs common to the kingdom of Hungary, and to the hereditary provinces of the imperial house, should be suspended or continued.
Koloman Tisca moved that those labors should be suspended until the Hungarian constitution was restored, and a responsible Hungarian ministry appointed.
The motion was defeated by a very large majority, (227 nays, 107 yeas, and 53 absent.) Subsequently, Deák’s motion to continue the labors of the commission was sustained by a large majority, the yeas and nays not counted.
You are aware that the elaboration of a plan for the common affairs was [Page 550] intrusted to a committee of 67. Of this number, a sub-committee of 15 has been at work for many months.
When their report has been accepted by the great committee, and subsequently by the house, it will be offered to the chamber of magnates, and then laid before the government.
In order to place before you an accurate picture of Hungarian politics at the present moment, I translate, and append to this despatch, a few extracts from Deák’s speech on making his motion. The speech was received with infinite enthusiasm, and the vote is considered by the government as very satisfactory.
Time must soon show, however, whether there is any essential difference between the two great parties in Hungary. All claim entire and absolute independence for the kingdom. It is not pretended that any arrangement can be made except in the way of a treaty between two self-dependent and sovereign states, both of which happen to have the same monarch.
Yet how is such a theory compatible with any idea of national or imperial union ? The solution of the problem now before the government still seems too much like squaring the circle. At least it is difficult to reconcile the ideas of dualism and unity. Practically, the Austrian empire exists as a fact, and it is the obvious interest of Hungary that it should continue to exist.
On the other hand, the more Germany tends to unify itself, the greater in the future must be the attraction of Germany upon the German provinces of this empire.
The greater the concessions to Hungary, the more intense becomes the dissatisfaction of those cis-Leithan provinces in which the German element preponderates. Thus, the situation becomes day by day more grave. It seems impossible, however, in view of the mutual dependence of Hungary and the whole monarchy each on the other, as a matter of fact, that some constitutional union for the empire should not be devised, after the legal independence of Hungary has been sufficiently demonstrated as matter of law.
Unless this is done without any great delay, a catastrophe may occur, for an absolute government such as now exists seems scarcely possible.
[Extract from Deák’s speech.]
Gentlemen: The country bleeds from numerous wounds. When the question is to heal the wounds, the physician when dealing with dangerous injuries will not continually inquire for the hand that struck the wounds, but for the means of healing them. Consequently, when healing is in question, I will never concern myself with persons. To judge of the actions of persons belongs to history. My objections are principally and exclusively directed against the system, that absolute system which is the cause of all our misfortunes. The absolute system exists, and the question is not what is the name of one or the other of his Majesty’s advisers, for it is impossible to expect anything good from the absolute system, except that it would destroy itself, and so re-establish constitutionalism. [Applause.]
My highly valued friend Ghiczy has said, we will be consistent in our proceedings in this diet, for the foundation of our actions was the hope of the fulfilment of our wishes. This hope has vanished. This is clear. No one is here who could assert that our transactions have produced a result; that our constitution is re-established even in the smallest part. I, however, and I believe the whole house with me, wish so deeply and warmly for the restitution of the constitution that I am not capable of giving up the hope forever. [Lively applause. The speaker continued, raising his voice :] This hope is our all, and weak as may be the ray of hope, I shall never bring myself to extinguish it in my breast, or in the breast of another. [Enthusiastic assent.] For terrible would be the effect produced in the whole country if the delegates, if the men of trust should say, not in discourse, but in a resolution, we have assembled in the hope of the re-establishment of our constitution; we have repeatedly begged and striven for the re-establishment of our constitution, and we have chosen a committee for preliminary matters, because we hoped for the re-establishment of our constitution, and now we forbid the committee of 67 to continue its work, because every hope of the re-establishment of the constitution is vanished. [Hear, hear.] I say if the house pronounced such a resolution the last hope would be torn from the people, everything would be taken away from them, and only two things would remain to them: first, endless suffering; second, I do not name it, for it agrees not with the calling of this body, which is here to consult; which is here on the basis of the pragmatic sanction; which is here to work peacefully, and to make laws. I will lay down my opinion of this simply and concisely. [Thundering cheers, many [Page 551] minutes long, throughout the house and in the galleries; many delegates wave their hats toward the speaker, who, visibly moved, proceeds.] When the present diet was called together by his Majesty, the wishes of the people were, as the house remembers, two in number: 1st. Re-establishment of the constitution. 2d. An honorable adjustment. On this ground the diet came together—I admit, not on an entirely lawful basis, but still it assembled to work for the attainment of both these ends. The house has urged the re-establishment of the constitution; has appointed the committee of 67, which, in its turn, appointed the 15 sub-committee. What was the sphere of action of this sub-committee ? It was designed especially by the circumstance that the house recognized. This do also the 1848 laws. [Murmurs on the extreme left.] It was the duty of the members of this sub-committee to compose this design in the way they, according to their own consciences and their own conviction, judged the most to the purpose. This duty they have faithfully performed. It may be that the committee has failed. It may be that the plan contained things not to the purpose. It may be that in some point it went farther than the house wished. [A voice on the extreme left, “Very much.”] But has the sub-committee made final resolutions ? No. It will lay its work before the committee of 67, which, in its turn, will lay it before the house, and the latter will decide. Our opinions did not always agree; on some points they essentially differed. Neither should I wish that in such highly important affairs a determination should be arrived at without the conflict of different opinions. All this was to me not unexpected. Neither was it unsuspected by me that the conflict of opinions should show itself more and more sharply. But one thing was entirely unexpected by me: that the sub-committee should be accused of endangering the independence and self-dependence of the country, that it should be accused of wishing, because the government will not recognize our full right, to sacrifice the substance of that right so as to save its splinters. Public opinion pronounces itself only on two points :
1st. That we must have the complete constitution withboth good and bad details, because otherwise the bad is not to be altered.
2d. An honorable agreement with the preservation of the independence of the land.
It does not concern itself with details, and in the main point the fulfilment of these two wishes all are agreed. [Applause on all sides.] True to the principles mentioned at first, I say nothing further. I avoid refuting single arguments. Finally, as I judge it superfluous to explain that I shall vote for my propositions, [laughter,] only a few more words. Where different political opinions arise, there the harder the situation, the more necessarily parties arise. Let us oppose each other as political parties. Let us consult each other with every arm of consideration and reflection; but let us make no use of passion or bitterness, for these lead to misunderstanding, and this again to increased bitterness. [Prolonged applause from all sides of the house; stormy cries for the question. The deputies hurry towards the speaker and press his hands.]
I have the honor to remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.