Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/10

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The Bohemian Review

he admonished the powers ruling in Vienna that the fate of the Empire and of the dynasty was just as much at stake as the fate of Bohemia, should German designs prevail. But knowing his own impotence and the helplessness of his people, aware of the gigantic forces behind the schemes of Germany, he still clung to the Austrian Empire as the only political structure under which the Czech race could exist and prosper. As persecutions multiplied in Bohemia and cabinet succeeded cabinet in Vienna, each more unfriendly to the aspirations of the Czech race for free national development, Kramar lost much of his former popularity in Bohemia and Moravia. The Czechs resented instinctively his conciliatory attitude toward ministers who took away bit by bit political concessions secured in times more favorable. But the tragedy of Kramar’s life consists in this: the man who spent his career in trying to establish Austria on the firm foundation of justice to all its various races was taken into custody some months after the war broke out, was accused of high treason, convicted on flimsy and falsified evidence, and finally saved from hanging only by the accession of the new emperor, who out of his royal mercy commuted Kramar’s death sentence to fifteen years’ imprisonment at hard labor.

Masaryk is a stateman of a different type. He possesses few of the qualities usually associated with successful politicians; he is not a stirring orator nor a magnetic personality nor a clever manipulator of men. One might describe him as a great intellect energized by love of his country and a passion for justice. Two incidents of his earlier public life illustrate what manner of man is this great Bohemian. As a young university teacher he denounced for forgeries two celebrated manuscrips that had been treasured by several generations of Bohemians as precious monuments of the earliest literary activity of their race. He proved his contention, but not till he had been attacked for years as an iconoclast and almost a traitor to his people. Again he incurred the utmost unpopularity, when he championed the cause of a Jew, named Hilsner, whom the courts convicted of ritual murder and who was universally and fanatically held guilty.

It is not to be wondered that a man who chooses to fight against popular delusions does not become the official leader of his nation. Masaryk who was chiefly a scholar and teacher of young men took up parliamentary work not from inclination, but as a matter of duty. In the Vienna Reichsrat he was the leader of a small group of Czech deputies who called themselves originally realists and later progressives. But although the party gathered around him remained always small, Masaryk himself with his wonderful insight into the intricacies of politics, his ability to shove aside the subterfuges and uncover the heart of the question, his merciless logic and the absolute integrity of his mind and character was the one man to whom the deputies and the whole Czech nation looked in a crisis.

What was at the bottom of Masaryk’s mind, as he saw the European catastrophe approaching, no one in this country can tell. It is certain that he, not less clearly than Kramar, realized the growing subordination of Austria to its stronger partner, realized the German ambitions upon the Balkan Slavs as a bridge between Germany and Anatolia, realized the inevitableness of a general European war. But Masaryk, whom no one would call a dreamer, saw more clearly than the brilliant leader of the Young Czech party what his people were to do, as the storm was gathering: fight the ambitious German plans to use Austria as a tool in the Balkans; oppose boldly Vienna cabinets controlled by Berlin; vote in parliament against the so-called state necessities and above all against the army increase; ignore the wishes of the emperor and brave the anger of the archdukes and the generals who made and unmade ministers. Kramar hesitated to act resolutely lest he should bring about a definite break between the dynasty and the Czech nation. Masaryk was not halted by this fear. He dared to say with Palacky: “We were here before Austria, we shall be here after it is gone.”

In the strenuous years since the annexation of Bosnia in 1908, years occupied by warfare against the dishonest, bullying “high politics” of Vienna and Budapest and by constant endeavor at home to arouse the Czech people to unite their ranks and for get their differences in view of the probable cataclysm, Masaryk’s most significant accomplishment was his exposure of the forged documents by means of which fifty Serbo-Croats were convicted in Zagreb (Agram) of plotting high treason against