Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

by functionarism was most appropriate; because, also, the policy originated by Frederick and his father has been to encourage commerce and the growth of towns, thus affording a more apt field for functionary government; because, lastly, a refinement and complexity of social relations has spread through Germany, and become characteristic of Prussian life, at the same time that independence and selfaction have been eradicated from it. Thus not only is functionarism appropriate by reason of the absence of powerful nobility, but appropriate also because the social conditions which require it have been studiously and continuously introduced into German life.

A government which when established was inappropriate, may become appropriate by the change in the civilisation of the people; and Frederick the Great's policy was aimed not only at making a class of functionaries, but at making the nation suited to their government. He succeeded in the first, those who have followed him have succeeded in the last.

But nothing in such a functionarism as the Prussian prevents the nation extending its commerce and obtaining a powerful plutocracy. The great German commercial league, founded with the sanction and assistance of the German potentates, has already raised a large manufacturing class, and many wealthy families, who can afford to live in greater grandeur than the income of the high offices of the state can provide.* Thus they are steadily proceeding from that stage of their existence which we have called the constitutional—but which in them could never be truly constitutional, because of the defect of their aristocracy--to the stage when democracy and plutocracy are combined. This progress escapes us at the first glance, for over it is spread the great upas-tree of despotic functionarism, which poisons and stunts, and in the end must destroy this development.

* Laing, German Catholic Church, p. 189, 899.

Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, even if they shake off despotism, can never hope for a true constitutional monarchy and a full development of the course of national progress, for their noblesse is destroyed; but they may by a gradual, though partial development, arrive at the second stage of the national acme, when plutocracy and democracy are the sole and equally-balanced secular elements of society.

Let us now turn to a population which

“ Stands at the door of life, and doubts to clothe the year.”

I know no single spectacle in the history of the present age more striking, or one which should more interest statesmen who hope that they may be scientific without ceasing to be practical, than the spectacle now afforded by the population that dwells in the principalities of the Danube. There is a present with two possible futures a class of haughty, honourable nobles, from whom the prince is elected, rules a peaceful population of intelligent but enslaved peasants.

What is this but the England of the eleventh century? That commonalty may rise by commerce and by towns till it curb the strength of the noblesse; that prince, now elective, may become an hereditary monarch, and then what have we but the England of Elizabeth ? This were one future. Who will not pray that it may be realised ?

But those of the commons who have managed to get together some little wealth, do not live like the sturdy citizens in their medieval towns, strong in their numbers and their industry, and the favour of their sovereign, but buy a quasi-nobility which exempts them from taxes and leaves them dependent on office for half their support. If this state of things continues, if the prince, like Frederick, surrounds himself with these willing functionaries, whose character, I am informed, is no better than that of their fraternity in Prussia and Sweden, if he manages to destroy the power and wealth of the nobility, then the future of these princi

[ocr errors]

palities is the present state of Prussia and of Sweden. But the opportunity of being something greater is in their hands. All that is wanted to save them from such a stunted growth is to make the commons commercial, and to outroot this element of functionarism. If it grows up now, their development will be arrested and imperfect ; if this parasite is removed, I know nothing that should prevent their career from being as high and glorious as any in history.

Hungary, with Transylvania and Croatia, clearly ranks in the class of nations to which despotism is inappropriate. There are three classes in that country, the Magyars, about 5,000,000 persons, who are descendants of the ancient Huns, and compose the nobles and gentry of the country ; the Slavonians, about 6,000,000 persons; and the Roumans or Wallachs, about 3,000,000, who are descendants of the Dacian colonies of Trajan, and inhabit the eastern portion of the country. The Magyars came in as a conquering aristocracy, in the ninth century, under Aspad. They established an elective monarchy, though, as is frequent in such cases, the crown remained in the same family till it died out, in the fourteenth century. Ferdinand I. of Austria was then elected king of Hungary, and his successors have ever since succeeded to the throne, not as despots, but as constitutional kings. Hungary was till lately never merged into the Austrian empire, but has preserved its own laws and its own constitution; and the emperor obtained allegiance, not as emperor, but as constitutional king of Hungary. The constitutional checks came, as in all other aristocratic monarchies, from the aristocrats — the Magyars alone. The Slavonian and Rouman population had no voice in the government. The Magyars are many of them poor, but all inspired with a keen sense of honour, and the pride which never dies out of unconquered races. They are fond of war, fierce in their passions, full of patriotism ; but not more addicted to steady and plodding industry than other

warrior aristocracies. The system of government is local and decentralised. The spirit of decentralisation is deeply rooted in the Hungarian people. The upper class of nobles is fond of a court life, but the second class of nobility forms the squirearchy of Hungary.

They live upon their estates during most of the year, and are fond

, of field sports. They, as well as the poorer Magyars, are brave, hospitable, but, like our own squirearchy in former days, hard-drinking and unruly. The highest and courtly class generally belongs to the Latin Church ; the second and third class of nobles are usually Protestant, either Calvinist or Lutheran. The peasantry, who belong to the subject races, are not mere serfs, but hold their land by villein tenure of the lord of the manor, and are secured in the possession of it very much like our copyholder. They are agricultural, and without trade or commerce.

Now, this sketch discloses to us a country in a state very much like that of England in the earlier days of the Tudors †; Hungary being, in fact, a very fair type of the stage of national existence next succeeding the settlement of a warrior aristocracy. It is clear that the proper government for such a country is an aristocratic monarchy, till the commons become commercial and able to compete in the national councils with the nobility and the monarch. And it is equally clear that the attempt of the monarch, who happens also to be Emperor of Austria, to introduce functionary despotism into Hungary, is completely and stupidly wrong. The revolution of 1848 was caused by this Austrian policy; and

* See Cayley's European Revolutions in 1848.

† Bishop Heber wrote from Hungary in 1806 : “ There are few countries where an Englishman could obtain so much important information as in Hungary, the constitution of the government of which is a complete comment on the ancient principles of our own, as low down as Edward III."

though the Austrians were, thanks to the Russian army, victorious in the struggle, it will take many centuries of undisturbed functionary despotism to make it appropriate to that country.

How unhappy is the fortune of oppressed and dissevered Poland! The calamities of the Poles are brought upon them by the fraud and infamy of their neighbours. The despotic functionarism which rules them now is the most alien of all governments to the character of the Poles. They deserve to be trusted ; but despotisms are founded on the belief that its subjects cannot be trusted, and, unhappily for poor human nature, this assumption, sometimes unjust at the beginning, in the end justifies itself, for men who are told authoritatively that they are rascals and villains are too prone to prove it. At the time of their subsidence under a foreign yoke, Poland, like Hungary, was in that stage of national career when a monarchical aristocracy rules over an agricultural population. With some slight differences, unimportant to our present purpose, it was like England in the days of King John, like France in the days of Francis I. Now, an invasion by a more warlike race, which settled in the land, would merely have deposed the old aristocracy and founded a new one; but an invasion by an absolute monarch, or a clique of absolute monarchs, who dwell in another country, has a totally different effect. It checks all progress, no towns or trade grow up under that foreign influence, and the people remain precisely as they were, except that their taxes are greater, and the money which their own nobles would spend among them is taken away as tribute to a foreign land.

For a time this condition lasts without any serious moral deterioration of the people ; but commerce and towns can hardly arise under such a system, and if the autocrat adopts the Roman practice and Machiavelli's precept, he will soften and enervate his subjects by spreading his “ humanitas” among them, till at last they

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »