Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/369

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regiae; the Bonus, or Seneschal, of Croatia; the Tavernicorum regalium magister (fdtarnolemester) or Chancellor of the Exchequer; the vajdak or Seneschals of Transylvania and the minor border-provinces on the Danube; and the Lord-lieutenants of the counties (fflispanok).

The common gentry, about 15,000 families, consisted of persons forming the populus as distinguished from the plebs. They alone possessed real political rights; they alone enjoyed the active and passive franchise; their estates could not be taken away from them (a right called Ssiseg); they were exempt from taxation; they alone were the leading officials of the county-government, and their chief duty lay in their obligation to defend the country against any enemy attacking it. Even in point of common law they were, unlike Roman patricii or English gentry, in a position very much more advantageous than that allowed either to the urban population, called hospites, or to the rest of the unfree peasantry (jobbagyok).

On this stock of privileged nobility was grafted a system of local and national self-government closely resembling that of England, although the similarity holds good far more with regard to the Hungarian county-system than in respect of the Diet. In the former the local nobility managed all the public affairs with complete autonomy, and there was, especially in the fifteenth century, a strong tendency to differentiate each county as a province, unconcerned in the interests of the neighbouring counties, if not positively hostile to them. Inter-municipal objects, such as the common regulation of the unbridled Tisza river, proved as impossible of achievement as was the uniform assertion in all counties of recent legislative acts. Yet it was the county organisation, itself the outcome of the rapid conquest of all Hungary by one victorious people in the last decade of the ninth century, which preserved the unity of the Magyar kingdom.

The Diet (orszaggyHtts) on the other hand differed from the English Parliament in two essential points. It consisted, not of delegates or deputies, but of the mass of the nobles assembled in full arms on the field of Rakos, near Budapest, or elsewhere. Examples of delegates at Diets are, it is true, not entirely unknown in the period preceding the disaster of Mohacs (1526); yet as late as 1495, and repeatedly in 1498, 1500, 1518, special acts were passed enjoining every individual noble to attend the Diet in person. It may readily be seen that such an assembly possessed the elements neither of statesmanlike prudence nor of sustained debate. The poorer members, always the great majority, soon tired of the costly sojourn far away from their homes, and hastened back to their counties. The other essential difference from the English Parliament lay in the fact that down to the end of the period under review (1526) the Hungarian Diet consisted of a single Chamber only. Thus both in structure and in function, the