Mr. Delaplaine to Mr. Evarts
Vienna , November 30, 1880. (Received December 23.)
Sir: Yesterday was observed not only in this capital, but throughout the Austrian Empire, as a festival in commemoration of the day, on which a century before, the truly great and illustrious monarch, Joseph II, ascended the throne of the Habsburgs.
An equestrian statue stands opposite the Imperial Library, and the pedestal bears the inscription: “Josepho II, Aug. qui saluti publicae vixit non diu sed totus,” thus laconically and gracefully recalling to the passing citizen and stranger the name and merits of a prince whose lofty philanthropy, enlightened patriotism, restless energy in the cause of education and in reform of abuses and in promoting the culture and welfare of his subjects, have gained for him an honorable record in history, more lasting than that brazen monument now adorned with wreaths. This noble epithet associated with his name: “Schätzer der Menschheit,” indicating the high esteem cherished by him for the whole human race, is well deserved, and truly manifested by his public and private acts of benevolence. In the former may be enumerated the founding of the General Hospital of Vienna, which is accounted even now the largest and best conducted in the world, by the edict of religious toleration, by the abolition of many feudal franchises of the nobility, by his opening to the citizens of Vienna the Prater, the Augarten, and other resorts to which, previously, only the privileged classes enjoyed admittance. In the suppression of numerous monasteries and convents originated the inimical feelings of the clerical party towards him which have not diminished during the last hundred years. This has been shown in the absolute refusal of the clergy to confer upon the commemoration their approval, or to lend their co-operation.
The performance of the official part of the programme has been appointed for to-day, being the visit by the civil authorities of Vienna to his last resting place in the vault of the Capuchins. To-night a voluntary and almost general illumination of the city is anticipated.
The most interesting of the festivities has probably been the banquet or “comers” of the students of the university and high schools who are connected with the Greman-Austrian Reading Association. It was held in the great hall of the Musikverein, where at least 4,000 persons were assembled to do honor to the illustrious regenerator of the Austrian Empire.
In response to an invitation addressed to me by the committee, I proceeded to the hall. Through its extent long tables were spread, at which the students were seated, while the larger portion of the invited guests, including numerous ladies, occupied the boxes and galleries. [Page 28] On a raised dais fronting the chair of the president, Baron Camerlander, was the “ehrentisch” or table of honor, to which, upon my arrival, I was conducted, and at which were also seated the ex-ministers Baron von Hofmann and Bitter von Hasner, the rector of the university, Dr. Lorenz, the vice-burgomaster of Vienna, Dr. Schrank, the eminent author Nordmann, also all the prominent liberal members of Parliament; Dr. Sturm, Baron Max Rubeck, Plener, Dr. Herbst, &c.
The president welcomed from the chair each of the invited guests by name, and upon the acknowledgment by each in rising from his seat and saluting, the cheers of the assembly followed in turn.
In the spirited speeches of Ritter von Hasner, Dr. Kopp, Dr. Herbst, and others, as well as in those of several members of the committee, not only the name and deeds of the enlightened Emperor were eulogized, but also his liberal ideas and lofty aspirations were recited, amid bursts of acclamation.
Ritter von Hasner remarked that in rising to address the assembly in a moment of such enthusiasm for the immortal Emperor Joseph, three phases of his life and of his personal experience came vividly to his memory.
I was [he said] professor in two high schools of this empire, and that period was the happiest of my life. When I now feel as professor, while I speak as such, I speak also as a Josephiner, as an admirer of that man to whom freedom of thought and moral and intellectual culture of his people were the highest aim and task of his life. When I speak as ex-minister of instruction, I speak the first word and express the first sentiment of a Josephiner. When I speak as a member of the House of Peers, then I speak as one of that old guard, each member of which adopts the distinction and title of Josephiner, and is proud of the privilege of being called by that name.
If I may be permitted to refer especially to one act among the many which the glorious Emperor performed, I am happy to have noticed it extolled in the glowing, patriotic spirit which has pervaded the eloquent speeches to which we have listened—his energetic support of the idea of unity in this empire. The present situation demands that this idea should be most warmly cherished. Austrian unity alone is the soil on which the fruits of our application and industry can flourish. The true statesman must possess one virtue, one quality, namely, patience and confidence in the triumph of truth, and this I commend to you as the statesmen of the future. Await the ripening of that which has been sown.
After citation of an apt metaphor in illustration of his opinion, he concluded with a toast, “To the immortality of the spirit of freedom and of patriotism in the academic youth of this empire.”
The eminent advocate, Dr. Joseph Kopp, said:
I crave permission to comment on the reproach made against the Emperor Joseph, that he was in his home policy too precipitate and too much in advance of his period. Where is the source of this so-styled error? It is in the enthusiasm for all that is good and noble; in the impulse and the ardent ambition to deliver his subjects from the night of ignorance and from the bonds of servitude. Such truly great and eventful acts are offspring of the brightest virtues, and they ever originate in enthusiasm; they ever result from rapid action following firm determination. He had a reign of but ten years, and he wisely and efficiently employed this brief period. Had he omitted to do so—had the time been spent in cautious reflection only as to opportunity or advisability—then he would have left behind him nothing but unexecuted plans and projects, the evidence of his will indeed, but not the results of his acts.
After commending the laudable ambition and passion for the ideal which animate youth, but often decline and depart after later experience and under difficulties, he urged upon them the value of the lesson to be derived and expressed in the motto, “Be practical.”
The orator concluded by offering a toast to “The prosperity of the German youth of Austria—our future, our hope, the inheritors of our toils, the successors to our conflicts, and to enjoyment of the fruits of our victories.”[Page 29]
The tone of all the speeches of the evening was similar to that of the two from which I have quoted the above brief extracts, thus proving that the spirit of progress, of order, of obedience to law, and of constitutional liberty is deeply rooted and warmly cherished by the people of this empire, while their loyal attachment and devotion to their sovereign have ever been conspicuous on every occasion where an appeal has been made.
I have, &c.,