Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/375

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history might have been proud of a patriot, jurist and statesman such as Stephen Verbo'czy, the author of the first authoritative if not strictly official codification of Magyar law, written and unwritten, the Decretum Tripartltum juris conftuetudinarii inclyti regni Hungariae: (Harma-skonyv). Utterances nobler and truer than the speeches delivered by him at the Diets never fell from the lips of a sincere and wise patriot. Nor was Bornemisza a commonplace or mediocre politician: while Paul Tomory, Archbishop of Kalocsa, both as an ecclesiastic and as a commander, to whom the defence of the south of the country was entrusted, deserved highly of his country.

The existence of an ample stock of public and private virtues even in those dark times becomes, however, more evident still when we study the collective actions of the Diets. After making all due allowance for their ultimate barrenness, one cannot but acknowledge that the public of that time, that is to say, the bulk of the magnates and common gentry, were at least very anxious to bring about in the government of the country a tolerable equilibrium between the powers possessed by the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities respectively. As to the legislative, they carried two great principles which in any other age would have been considered a distinct gain for any liberal constitution. One was the law that taxes can be levied by decree of the Diet alone; the other was the equally important law contained in the decrees of 1495, 1498, and especially 1507, by virtue of which the common gentry (not knights, there being no such Order in Hungary) were always to have an equal share with the magnates in the government of the nation, particularly in the Privy Council. Other important laws, salutary in themselves though still-born, were passed in great number; and immediately before the disastrous campaign of Mohacs the gentry of their own accord temporarily abandoned their exemption from taxation. Highly commendable from the same point of view are the motives discoverable in numerous measures of the time, endeavouring to regulate the working of the county organisation; and the very high reputation of Verb6czy, who was rewarded by a national gift for his codification, tends to show the genuine interest taken by the commonalty in the important work of legal reform.

The Renaissance, it must be admitted, left but a faint impression on Hungary. The magnificence with which Matthias had patronised Italian scholars and artists, and established his famous collection of books, the Corvina, was only feebly imitated by a few noblemen and churchmen. As late as 1491 we find that the Judex Curiae (Lord Chief Justice) of Hungary, Stephen Batori, was so illiterate as to be unable to sign his name at the treaty negotiations between Maximilian and Wladislav II at Pozsony (Pressburg). In the field of architecture there was some progress. Thus the largest and most beautiful cathedral in the Gothic style in Hungary, that of Kassa, was finished under the Jagello