Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/381

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foreign policy. In that vital point neither the Bavarian Dukes, from the exiguity of their domain, nor the Bohemian or Hungarian Kings, from their totally different habits of political thought, could vie with them. Even Matthias could not, in the end, have prevailed against Maximilian, inasmuch as the Hungarians from the very nature of their unbroken, self-sustaining territory would neither have understood, nor have readily followed a Habsburg policy carried out by a Magyar King. Mohacs, then, was the necessary outcome of the neglect of foreign policy at a time when it was most needed; and this neglect again cannot but be ascribed chiefly to habits of political thought inevitable in a nation which lacked all those geographical and economic incentives to the maturing of a foreign policy that raised the nations ruled by the Valois and Habsburgs above all other nations of the continent. It is infinitely more becoming to lament Mohacs as an unavoidable calamity, than to use it as a text on which to lecture an unfortunate nation.

The fatal failings of Hungarian policy may be traced in Poland also. In the first quarter of the fifteenth century the great Prince of Lithuania, Vitovt, had had indeed far-reaching ideas about the foundation of a vast Cech-Polish empire, which was to dominate the whole east of Europe. However he failed, chiefly because he was antagonistic to the Catholic or national Church of Poland. Kasimir IV (1445-92), father of Wladislav II of Hungary and Bohemia, successfully combated the Teutonic Order and other neighbouring Powers. Doubtless, like his contemporary Matthias Corvinus, he had clear views about the necessity of reorganising his country on the basis adopted by the monarchs of the West. However, both he and his sons and successors after him, John Albert (1492-1501) and Alexander I (1501-6), tried in vain to break the power of the magnates by countenancing the minor gentry (szlachta). In 1496 the peasants were completely disfranchised; against the urban population, mostly Germans, and termed hospltes, several very damaging laws were passed; and the royal power was seriously reduced by the magnates. After suffering more particularly from the Statute of Nieszava, 1454,—the Golden Bull rather than the Magna Charta of the Polish oligarchs,—and from the Constitution "Nlhil novi" of 1505, the monarchy became practically helpless in the hands of Sigis-mund I (1506-48), brother to his predecessors. It was during this period that both the General Diet (izba poselslea, Chamber of Deputies) of all the various absolutely autonomous provinces of Poland, and the several Provincial Diets, acquired the fulness of actual authority in the legislative and administrative branches of government. The King might appoint, but might not remove officials. The nuntii terrae or representatives at the national Diets were inviolable and omnipotent. Thus in Poland too, Parliamentarism in a rather extreme form arose at the