Images de page
PDF
ePub

traveller to beware of conversing on politics, people consider their own affairs of paramount importance to those of the state!

"Notwithstanding the mild paternal character of the Austrian government, still the idea of being subject to the unlimited control of one man, whose humanity is the sole guarantee against tyranny, is but ill-calculated to satisfy the independent spirit who has once enjoyed the proud privilege of being free. It cannot be denied that the influence of public opinion in Austria, controls despotism, and prevents the exercise of atrocious violence against the property or personal freedom of the people; to which may be added, the character of the sovereigns who have been, since the union of the house of Lorraine with that of Hapsburg, distinguished for virtue and patriotism; yet even these are very inefficient substitutes for a representative government, and for the confident assurance that no tyrant dares invade the rights of the humblest individual; for in Austria, as in other despotic countries, not excepting France, a man may be incarcerated for life upon the unsupported testimony of some designing villain, without the power of demanding a public trial."*

It might be easy to show that the Germans in former times enjoyed more of legislatorial, or, in modern parlance, of constitutional power, than has been permitted to them for many years, or rather centuries; whilst, at the same time, the great body of the people in ancient, as well as modern times, have been slaves. "Liberti non multum supra servos sunt." "Adhuc hodie in Cathedris juridicis quæritur: an homines proprii, die Leibeigene, in Deutschland sint servi? quod idem est ac si quærerem an ensis sit gladius, cum æque servus, et homo propius in significatû juris gentium sint synonymi."§

*Spencer's Germany and the Germans, vol. ii. p. 163-165. London, 1836.

Lex consensu

Tacitus, de Morib. Germ. §. 11, 12, 13, 22. populi fit, et constitutione Regis." Carolus Calvus in Edicto Pistensi. "Denn, wenn Sie" (die freyen Leute) auch keinen so starken Einfluss in die Berathschlagungen selbst hatten, so war doch ihre Beystimmung nothwendig." Schmidts Geschichte der Deutschen, B. 3. c. x. vol. i. pp. 532, 533. note y. See Ermold. Nigell. Carm. de Gest. Ludov. Lib. i. 113, 119.

Tacitus, de Morib. Germ. §. 25.

§ Thomasius, de Jure dandæ civitatis, §. 32. as quoted by Biot, Part. 5. c. 2. p. 363. The word "Lidus, Leud, or Latt means" says Schmidt, "any one who has a lord, or master," and in another pas

We may not deem it to be necessary to enter into an analysis of the ancient liberties of Germans, although the point is one that cannot have escaped the consideration of their statesmen or their legislators. Those who seek to imitate ancestors by their customs--vile as some of these were -such, for instance, as that of intoxication; and dangerous as others must be, as, for example, the effort to defy by the willing exposure of their bodies to all the rigours of a German winter,-are persons who can never be forgetful that they are the children of the Suevi.* Our main purpose is with the recent condition of Germany when that was disturbed, or, more properly speaking, destroyed by the revolution of March.

Vienna, the ancient Castra Flaviana, the capital of the heir to the Holy Roman Empire, was apparently in a state of perfect repose at the commencement of the present year. It was the abode of the best of emperors, the wisest of politicians of the very Nestor of statesmen-of the greatest diplomatist of any age, or any country-Prince Metternich. Its new-year's-day (a Viennese festival) was a day of tumultuous joy; its hours seemed to be marked by processions of mighty magnates, whose costly garments were decorated with jewels sufficiently rich and rare to be worth large lands and treasures of gold-its people were never more vivacious; its waltzes never more untiring, and from the mechanic to the emperor but one wish could have been expressed, viz., that such happy days might continue for ever. If the thought of another revolution in Paris

sage he observes, "between such, the Liden, and the Coloni, or peasantry (bauern) there was little distinction, theirs was an intermediate condition between freedom and slavery." Geschichte der Deutschen, vol. 1. pp. 544, 545. But persons in this condition often were permitted to exercise greater power than those of free or noble birth. "Super ingenuos et, super nobiles ascendunt." Tacitus. Germ. §. 25. At length services which it was the office of slaves to discharge, came to be regarded and treated as dignities even by independent princes: thus the Elector of Bohemia was arch cup-bearer of the holy Roman empire, the Elector of Bavaria arch-steward, &c. See Ducange, in verb. domesticus, and Rer. Gall et Frane. Script. vol. iv. p. 477. notes, g to 1.

* See Cæsar de Bell. Gall. Lib. iv. c. 2. In this chapter is depicted the same species of gymnastic exercise, which is now practised by the modern Turners in all parts of Germany.

crossed the mind of any one, it would have been as vain to speak of it, and thereby to excite apprehension as to the stability of Metternich, as to warn a fair lady, who was about to take part in a quadrille at Almacks, of the instability of human life, because Lisbon might be visited with another earthquake! In both cases the danger would be regarded distant if it did occur, and improbable if it might ever occur. In either case, alike out of the sphere of a happy Viennese, whose well-supplied table displayed the wines of Hungary, the sea-fish of Trieste, and the fatted fowl of Styria. What had the merry-maker of Vienna on the "Neujahrstag" to do with a revolution in Paris, when he was aware that all the evil consequences of the last had been evaded by lowering the price of provisions? that with a plentiful meal for the poorest man in the empire, the propagandists of Paris who had ventured to show themselves in Vienna

"Were obliged to make a speedy retreat, after being kicked out of all the coffee-houses, the beer-houses, and wine-shops in the metropolis; and nothing was heard in the streets but loud vivats, and the people singing the national anthem,

66

Gott erhalte Franz, den kaiser,
Unsern guten kaiser Franz."*

To express then an apprehension on new-year's-day, 1848, of a revolution in France, when Louis Philippe had incarcerated Paris within a continuous line of bastiles, or to suppose that a French revolution could penetrate the palace-gemmed suburbs of Vienna, and front Prince Metternich himself in the Josephs-Platz, would be as stupid, as improper, and as nonsensical, as to talk of growing pineapples in Siberia! The iron railroad might have been permitted to span the Danube, because it was grateful to the Viennese to see, and advantageous to them to use; but for a Gallic revolution to explode within hearing of the Aulic chancery, was deemed to be not less impossible than improbable. And yet this perfect confidence in the future might, judging from the past, have well been felt. It did not seem misplaced, even though there were dark clouds. louring over every part of Europe, from the bay of Naples to the bay of Dublin-even though there was to be found either in the heart of every empire some fierce and efferves

*Spencer's Germany and the Germans, vol. ii. p. 161.

cent nationality determined to burst forth; the Sicilian from the Neapolitan, the Sclavonic from the German, the Celt from the Saxon, the Pole from the Russian, the Italian from the Teutonic-or, that the furious passions of infidelity were aroused, and raging to glut themselves in the persecution of the pious, as in Switzerland-or, that the brave and the lovers of truth, freedom, religion, and legitimate monarchy, were writhing beneath the oppressions of ruthless tyrants, who called themselves "Constitutionalists, or, of church robbers who dignified themselves with the title of "liberals," as in France, and Spain, and Portugal.

[ocr errors]

In every country events afforded the assurance that continued quiescence was impossible, change certain, and revolution not impracticable. But one empire seemed to be assured against the common danger from without, and that was Austria; but one city safe from internal commotion, and that was Vienna. Fenced round by the policy of Metternich, the loyal subjects of Ferdinand might feel with respect to the efforts of republican propagandists, as the citizens of Tyre once felt, when they looked with haughty contempt upon the soldiers of Alexander, busily engaged upon constructing in deep sea water a mole whereby it was hoped to overcome them in their otherwise impregnable position :-" interrogabant etiam num major Neptuno esset Alexander."*

How then came it to pass, that if France gave the signal for revolution in February, Vienna should have been in March the city which should demonstrate not merely to Germany, but to every part of the world, that revolution was practicable wherever a sufficient number of persons could be collected together who were tired of the existing state of things, and who saw in a change the chance, if not the certainty, of improving their condition? From the days of Catiline to the present, there have ever been found ready propagandists of revolution: "incerta pro certis, bellum quam pacem malebant." But in Vienna, the marvel is how such a class of persons should so far predominate, as eventually to win for themselves the mastery over a metropolis, in which previously they did not appear

Q. Curtius. Lib. iii. c. 2.

+ Sallust. Cat. c. 17.

VOL. XXV.-NO. XLIX.

to exist? The question is an interesting one, and because we believe it to be pregnant with instruction, we shall endeavour to give to it an explanation, which, to be fully comprehensible, must enter into a good many details.

There are two important facts to be borne in mind with regard to the Viennese Revolution. The first fact is, that the revolution never could have been successful if the emperor Ferdinand had firmly determined to prefer his own authority to the lives of his subjects,-that at the time he yielded, he had at his command an army which could have crushed (and that, too, in the course of a few hours) the efforts of the insurgents,-that he might have slaughtered them if he chose to do so, that he voluntarily yielded when he had the power to resist, and that he did so solely because he would not stain his prerogatives by the effusion of blood, that the lives of his people were more dear to him than his own crown.

This is the first fact which the reader should bear in mind, although the ungrateful Viennese have acted as if utterly forgetful of it.

The second fact, and it is one not less important than the first, is, that Vienna has been afflicted with the mania of a revolution, because in its enjoyment of all the pleasures of this life, it has been forgetful of the blessings of the next, because, although nominally Catholic, it has been bound but by the slightest ties to the chair of St.. Peter, the pope's Bull, in accordance with the Placitum Regium, being no better than a passport, and requiring the vise of a policeman to give it validity in Austria;* because, indulging in sensuality, it has regarded with an evil eye those great monastic orders, which are great by reason of their members being living examples of the mortification of the senses,-because the past history of the Germanic empire, of which Vienna is the capital, is degraded by many persecutions of many noble pious pontiffs, because modern history shows that the worst persecutor of monks and Jesuits, was one who was himself a citizen of Vienna-Joseph II., Emperor of Germany.

The decrees of Joseph II.-the imperial citizen of Vienna-striking down and spoliating the religious orders in all parts of his dominions, were worse than the worst of

*See "Report from Select Committe on Regulation of Roman Catholic Subjects in Foreign States." p. 7. and appendix, p. 74-120.

« PrécédentContinuer »