Page:EB1911 - Volume 03.djvu/46

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HISTORY]
31
AUSTRIA–HUNGARY

in power; but in the reconstructed cabinet, though Stremayr was president, Count Taaffe, as minister of the interior, was the most important member.

Parliament was dissolved in the summer, and Taaffe, by private negotiations, first of all persuaded the Bohemian feudal proprietors to give the Feudalists, who had long been excluded, a certain number of seats; secondly, he succeeded where Potocki had failed, and came to an agreement with the Czechs; they had already, in 1878, taken their seats in the diet at Prague, and now gave up the policy of “passive resistance,” and consented to take their seats also in the parliament at Vienna.

On entering the House they took the oath without reservation, Count Taaffe. but in the speech from the throne the emperor himself stated that they had entered without prejudice to their convictions, and on the first day of the session Rieger read a formal reservation of right. The Liberals had also lost many seats, so that the House now had a completely different aspect; the constitutionalists were reduced to 91 Liberals and 54 Radicals; but the Right, under Hohenwart, had increased to 57, and there were 57 Poles and 54 Czechs. A combination of these three parties might govern against the constitutionalists. Taaffe, who now became first minister, tried first of all to govern by the help of the moderates of all parties, and he included representatives of nearly every party in his cabinet. But the Liberals again voted against the government on an important military bill, an offence almost as unpardonable in Austria as in Germany, and a great meeting of the party decided that they would not support the government. Taaffe, therefore, was obliged to turn for support to the Right. The German members of the government resigned, their place was taken by Clericals, Poles and Czechs, Smolka was elected president of the Lower House of the Reichsrath, and the German Liberals found themselves in a minority opposed by the “iron ring” of these three parties, and helpless in the parliament of their own creation. For fourteen years Taaffe succeeded in maintaining the position he had thus secured. He was not himself a party man; he had sat in a Liberal government; he had never assented to the principles of the Federalists, nor was he an adherent of the Clerical party. He continued to rule according to the constitution; his watchword was “unpolitical politics,” and he brought in little contentious legislation. The great source of his strength was that he stood between the Right and a Liberal government. There was a large minority of constitutionalists; they might easily become a majority, and the Right were therefore obliged to support Taaffe in order to avert this. They continued to support him, even if they did not get from him all that they could have wished, and the Czechs acquiesced in a foreign policy with which they had little sympathy. Something, however, had to be done for them, and from time to time concessions had to be made to the Clericals and the Federalists.

The real desire of the Clericals was an alteration of the school The Clericals. law, by which the control of the schools should be restored to the Church and the period of compulsory education reduced. In this, however, the government did not meet them, and in 1882 the Clericals, under Prince Alfred v. Liechtenstein, separated from Hohenwart's party and founded their own club, so that they could act more freely. Both the new Clerical Club and the remainder of the Conservatives were much affected by the reaction against the doctrines of economic Liberalism. They began to adopt the principles of Christian Socialism expounded by Rudolf Mayer and Baron von Vogelfang, and the economic revolt against the influence of capital was with them joined to a half-religious attack upon the Jews. They represented that Austria was being governed by a close ring of political financiers, many of whom were Jews or in the pay of the Jews, who used the forms of the constitution, under which there was no representation of the working classes, to exploit the labour of the poor at the same time that they ruined the people by alienating them from Christianity in “godless schools.” It was during these years that the foundation for the democratic clericalism of the future was laid. The chief political leader in this new tendency was Prince Aloys v. Liechtenstein, who complained of the political influence exercised by the chambers of commerce, and demanded the organization of working men in gilds. It was by their influence that a law was introduced limiting the rate of interest, and they co-operated with the government in legislation for improving the material condition of the people, which had been neglected during the period of Liberal government, and which was partly similar to the laws introduced at the same time in Germany.

There seems no doubt that the condition of the workmen in the Special legislation. factories of Moravia and the oil-mines of Galicia was peculiarly unfortunate; the hours of work were very long, the conditions were very injurious to health, and there were no precautions against accidents. The report of a parliamentary inquiry, called for by the Christian Socialists, showed the necessity for interference. In 1883 a law was carried, introducing factory inspection, extending to mines and all industrial undertakings. The measure seems to have been successful, and there is a general agreement that the inspectors have done their work with skill and courage. In 1884 and 1885 important laws were passed regulating the work in mines and factories, and introducing a maximum working day of eleven hours in factories, and ten hours in mines. Sunday labour was forbidden, and the hours during which women and children could be employed were limited. Great power was given to the administrative authorities to relax the application of these laws in special cases and special trades. This power was at first freely used, but it was closely restricted by a further law of 1893. In 1887-1888 laws, modelled on the new German laws, introduced compulsory insurance against accidents and sickness. These measures, though severely criticized by the Opposition, were introduced to remedy obvious, and in some cases terrible social evils. Other laws to restore gilds among working men had a more direct political object. Another form of state socialism was the acquisition of railways by the state. Originally railways had been built by private enterprise, supported in some cases by a state guarantee; a law of 1877 permitted the acquisition of private lines; when Taaffe retired the state possessed nearly 5000 m. of railway, not including those which belonged to Austria and Hungary conjointly. In 1899 a minister of railways was appointed. In this policy military considerations as well as economic were of influence. In every department we find the same reaction against the doctrines of laissez-faire. In 1889 for the first time the Austrian budget showed a surplus, partly the result of the new import duties, partly due to a reform of taxation.

For a fuller description of these social reforms, see the Jahrbuch für Gesetzgebung (Leipzig, 1886, 1888 and 1894); also the annual summary of new laws in the Zeitschrift für Staatswissenschaft (Stuttgart). For the Christian Socialists, see Nitti, Catholic Socialism (London, 1895).

Meanwhile it was necessary for the government to do something The language question. for the Czechs and the other Slavs, on whose support they depended for their majority. The influence of the government became more favourable to them in the matter of language, and this caused the struggle of nationalities to assume the first place in Austrian public life—a place which it has ever since maintained. The question of language becomes a political one, so far as it concerns the use of different languages in the public offices and law courts, and in the schools. There never was any general law laying down clear and universal rules, but since the time of Joseph II. German had been the ordinary language of the government. All laws were published in German; German was the sole language used in the central public offices in Vienna, and the language of the court and of the army; moreover, in almost every part of the monarchy it had become the language of what is called the internal service in the public offices and law courts; all books and correspondence were kept in German, not only in the German districts, but also in countries such as Bohemia and Galicia. The bureaucracy and the law courts had therefore become a network of German-speaking officialism extending over the whole country; no one had any share in the government