Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/64

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The Bohemian Review

peror of Austria only. Acceptance of the two crowns would profit him nothing, since his Bohemian and Hungarian subjects obeyed him because he could enforce obedience, not because he was the rightful sovereign, while he, on his side, would have to promise in the presence of God and the Church to uphold complete home rule in the two kingdoms. Autonomy to Bohemia and Hungary would spell defeat to his ambition of making German territory of all his hereditary possessions and securing an unquestioned predominance in the German Bund over the rival Hohenzollern house.

The war of 1866 put an end definitely to the dreams of the Hapsburgs to rule Germany. They were thrust out of it and faced now the problem of reorganizing their possessions on a new basis. All the ten races of the monarchy clamored for national liberty. The Magyars were the loud est and most to be feared, and Francis Joseph gave in to their demands. The compromise of 1867 transformed the Austrian empire into the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and made Magyars absolute masters of the Hungarian half of it. This political act was confirmed by Francis Joseph in the most solemn way through his coronation as king of Hungary.

The rights of the Bohemian kingdom, consisting of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, were as undoubted as the rights of Hungary, and Francis Joseph on several occasions recognized the justice of the claims of Bohemia to separate government and promised by imperial rescripts to confirm them anew by assuming the crown of St. Vaclav in the cathedral of Prague. The Bohemian question which has been the burning problem of internal Austrian politics ever since the division of the empire into two parts, centered principally around the struggles of the Czechs to secure for their lands the same semi-independent position under the rule of the Hapsburgs which had been granted to Hungary. The emperor’s coronation in Prague was looked upon as the outward symbol of the political aims of the Czech nation during the last half century. But when the war broke out, the accomplishment of these aims seemed further off than ever.

It is not to be wondered at that a sensation was created among the Bohemian speaking people of the United States, when a cablegram reached the Bohemian National Alliance in Chicago from the central Bohemian committee in Paris in the latter half of April stating that Emperor Charles made to the representatives of the Bohemian people the offer that he would be crowned king of Bohemia and make Prague his residence for part of the year, thus making it equal to Vienna or Budapest. This surprising concession was due to three things. The fundamental reason was the conduct of the Bohemian people during the war; it is an old story by this time: insubordination of reservists, surrender of Czech regiments, unreliability of any miltiary unit composed of soldiers from Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia, the well known attitude of the Bohemian deputies which made the convocation of parliament inadvisable, refusal to subscribe to the war loans, treason trials of the leaders of the people, thousands of hangings in districts inhabited by Czechs. It proved impossible to suppress eight million determined people who set their faces dead against the unjust war. The second reason which had a great weight with the new emperor arose directly out of the attitude of the Czech race toward the war and the German plans of conquest. When the Allies announced to the world that their conditions of peace involved the disruption of the Hapsburg empire, the statesmen of Vienna could close their eyes no longer to the fact that policy of repression was dangerous. The voice of Bohemians, Slovaks, Roumanians, Italians, Serbians and Croats has been heard and heeded by Allies who claimed to fight for the rights of small nations. And while Germany, a real nation, cannot be destroyed even when completely defeated, Austria which is only a government and not a nation, will not be spared by the Allies, if its various races do not ask to have it preserved. Since January of this year those that followed closely all items of news coming from the capital city on the Danube perceived plainly a labored effort to convince the neutral and hostile world that the talk of discontent and disloyalty among the faithful subjects of the Hapsburgs was greatly exaggerated and that the Bohemians especially were satisfied with the course of action adopted by their young ruler.

Undoubtedly, though, the final impetus which induced Charles to go so far down the road of concessions to the Bohemians was the same motive which induced Kaiser William to promise electoral reforms in