Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/201

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monarchy, including Hungary, the other to legislate for the non-Hungarin lands of the emperor. At the same time the competence of the diets was summarily abbreviated and the Vienna parliament was made the real legislative body in all matters of importance. In other words, while the October diploma contemplated a federalistic Austria, the February patent decreed a centralized Austria with many indications of the coming dualism, the division of power between the Germans and the Magyars at the expense of the Slavs.

Rieger was elected to the Bohemian diet, and the diet sent him to the Vienna parliament. There he became the leader of the right, a party aiming at the federalization of Austria and the recognition of the separate place of the lands of the Bohemian crown within the Hapsburg monarchy. He had reached an agreement with the Bohemian nobiity, and as long as he remained the leader of the Czech people, he adhered to this alliance with the great landholders who according to he conservative election laws held the balance of power in the Bohemian diet and occasionally in the parliament.

The first Austrian parliament under the present constitution had a centralistic majority. What was more important, the emperor listened to the advice of Schmerling, a German liberal whose ideal was to make Austria a German state ruled by commercial and industrial magnates of the cities. The Bohemian deputies could accomplish nothing under those conditions, and by remaining in the parliament would have recognized its legality. In March 1863 Czech deputies left the Reichsrat not to return for 16 years. The attention of Rieger during the first year of the famous passive opposition was directed to educational work at home. The National Theatre of Prague around which has grown up so much of the literary and musical art of Bohemia is primarily the result of the work of Rieger. Even before the revolutionary days of 1848, when the Czechs were ignored in their own capital, Rieger was the moving spirit in organizing a society for the building of a Czech National Theatre. In the sixties, when the Czechs and their allies, the historical Bohemian nobility, controlled the diet, Rieger secured an appropriation of 300,000 gulden for the building of a theatre worthy of the nation. His plans were not fully carried out until in 1881, and the noble theatre now standing on the banks of the Vltava dates from 1883, after the first great theatre had been burned down. But a provisional building was erected by Rieger in November 1862, and since then drama and opera have been offered in Bohemian guise to the inhabitants of Prague without an interruption.

In 1865 a change occurred in Vienna. The centralizing ministry of Schmerling was dismissed, and the new premier, Count Richard Belcredi, was more favorable to the aspirations of the Czechs. Rieger organized a conference of Bohemian and Moravian leaders and submitted in their name a memorandum to Belcredi, stating the demands of the Bohemian people. In the diet also he supported in a powerful speech an address to the emperor, as a result of which Francis Joseph for the second time promised to come to Prague and in assuming the ancient royal crown confirm the liberties of the kingdom. Then the war came by which Austria was thrust out of Germany, and Prussia definitely took the leading place until then enjoyed by the Hapsburgs in the old German empire. One result of the complete defeat of Austria was the necessity of satisfying the demands of the Magyars who threatened to repeat their rebellion of 1849. Francis Joseph without consulting the representatives of any race, upon the advice of his German ministers conceded the demands of the Magyars and changed fundamentally the whole structure of his empire. In place of the Austrian monarchy arose now the Austro-Hungarian dual empire, in one part of which the Germans were to rule, while the other part was turned over to the Magyar aristocracy. Only after the deed was done, did the emperor consent to submit it to the ratification of the “narrower” parliament, now the only assembly in Vienna, and in order to gain majority there, he dissolved refractory diets, like the diet of Bohemia, and by using every kind of governmental and dynastic pressure brought the big landholders to his side and secured the election of enough Reichsrat representatives to have the Hungarian compromise ratified. In the Bohemian diet the Czech party found itself in a minority, and so in 1867 the Czech deputies led by Rieger turned their backs on the Prague diet, as they had done four years before in the Vienna parliament.

By way of protest against this arbitrary change of the status of the Bohemian lands Palacký and Rieger headed an important Bohemian delegation to Moscow, where in 1867 the first Russian exposition was held. Since that time the eyes of the Czechs were constantly turned toward Russia in the hope that through her great power the condition of the Austrian Slavs would be ameliorated. Two years later he submitted a memorandum to the representative of the French government, outlining such a reconstruction of the Hapsburg empire, as would make of Austria an ally of France. Had the just demands of the Bohemians been granted, Austrian foreign policy would not have come under the tutelage of Germany, and without Austria Germany would never have dared to defy the world.

In 1870 Francis Joseph experienced another change of mind. Count Potocki was called to the head of the government, and as a first sign of the changed regime the Bohemian diet was again dissolved. The new diet had a Czech majority, and Rieger prepared an address to the emperor in which the Czechs agreed to attend the delegations, representing the whole empire, but not the Reichsrat the legality of which they would not recognize. In the meantime the Franco-Prussian war broke out, and it was due to Rieger who like all the Bohemians sympathized deeply with the French that the diet of Bohemia, the only parliamentary body