Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/379

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Bohemia at the end of the fifteenth century, in spite of their brilliant beginnings fifty years before. Precisely at the times when the western States, even England, practically abandoned their faith in parliamentary institutions, and fell into more and more complete subjection to an efficient absolutism, the eastern countries were intent upon weakening the central power and drifted into a quite modern system of Diets and Parliaments. Their territory being continuous and large, neither their Kings nor the peoples underwent any pressure from the outside urging them to undertake the consolidation of their political fabric at home with any degree of superior efficiency, or to devote careful study and effort to the cultivation of foreign policy. Without such pressure from the outside no nation has ever persisted in the arduous work of reform for any lengthy period. In the times of Matthias, it is true, we notice that foreign policy was made a subject of constant and rigorous attention on the part of the King, who even tried to bring up a trained body of diplomatists, such as Balthasar Batthyanyi, Peter Ddczi, Gregory Labatlan, Benedictus Turoczi, and others. These were, however, mere beginnings, and very inferior indeed to the systematic work of the foreign representatives of Burgundy, or Austria, not to speak of Venice and the Pope. Under the Jagellos even these feeble attempts were abandoned, and Hungary and Bohemia were from 1490 to 1526 quite outside the main current of the international policy of Europe; alien to all the great interests then at issue; neither valued as allies, nor dangerous to any one except to minor countries in their immediate neighbourhood. When therefore the Turk in 1526 invaded Hungary with overwhelming forces, no serious attempt whatever was made to save Hungary on the part of any of the Powers, and the Turk, instead of meeting a European coalition, like that which he was to encounter at Lepanto in 1571, when he planned the ruin of Venice, was only confronted by a tiny Magyar army which he easily destroyed.

One has only to compare the incessant activity in foreign policy of Maximilian, or Ferdinand I of Austria, with that of Wladislav II and Louis II of Hungary and Bohemia, in order to see how utterly inferior Magyar political strategy was to that of the House of Habsburg. Maximilian's great wars with Venice, France, and Switzerland, his incessant diplomatic campaigns with the Curia of Rome, with the princes of Germany, with Venice, are all discussed in other parts of this work. It will be sufficient here to limit our attention to Maximilian's eastern policy. In addition to his repeated action in favour of the Teutonic Knights in what was afterwards known as East Prussia, he made several treaties with the "White Czar," such as those of 1490, 1491, and especially that of August 9, 1514, concluded at Gmunden with Czar Wasiliei Ivanovic, through an embassy previously sent to Russia and intended to bring pressure upon Sigismund, King of Poland, who tried