Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

association alleviated the graver discussions by dining together on the first day, and on the second enjoyed the hospitality of their Birmingham brethren at a dinner presided over by Mr. J. W. Whateley, the President of the Birmingham Law Society.

ART. XI.—THE LEGAL RIGHTS OF HUNGARY. The Addresses of the Hungarian Diet of 1861, to H. I. M. the

Emperor of Austria, with the Imperial Rescript and other Documents. Translated for Presentation to Members of both Houses of the British Parliament. · By J. HORNE PAYNE, EŞQ., M.A., Lond., of the Inner Temple, pp. 101.

London: Bell and Daldy, 1862. WITHIN the last fifteen years a remarkable change has

come over the political feeling of this country. From 1815 to 1848 the people of England were, in a great measure, occupied by their own internal affairs; the lassitude which followed the tremendous war against the first Napoleon, the long arrears of legislation that had to be made up, the growth of the popular feeling in favour of a reform of abuses, the struggle that grew fiercer every year between the occupants of office and the advocates of change, all conspired to rivet the attention of the nation on its home politics. When the great Bill had become law, and the current of popular impulse was poured into our Government and Legislature, so much had to be done to retrieve the neglect of thirty years, and to harmonize our institutions with the living wants of the nationlaw reform, municipal reform, administrative reform, the removal of religious disabilities, the simplification of the tariff, and the consequent freedom of trade, so completely occupied the political mind of both parties in the state-that foreign affairs were looked on as of minor importance, only claiming a brief consideration when a Syrian war, or a Greek or Tahiti squabble, made a brilliant debate in Parliament, and a nine days' wonder at the clubs. During by far the greater part of this period of our history, the profound tranquillity which reigned over continental Europe encouraged, if it did not justify, some apathy on our part; and it is singular enough, that the conclusion of the last civil contest in which the passions of Englishmen were seriously roused, should have nearly coincided with that terrible outburst of revolution on the Continent, which has broken up the dreams of universal peace, produced already two bloody wars, and perplexed every nation, and England not the least, with that fear of change, and anxious speculation as to coming events, which inevitably make the foreign relations of a state its leading political idea.

If any proof were wanting of the absorbing nature of our interest in foreign affairs, it would be found in the influence which they exert over the state of our political parties. Twenty years ago, an eight-shilling duty on corn could convulse the kingdom ; but, keen as party strife was in those days, we doubt whether a ministry could have been formed or overthrown on a pure question of foreign policy. At the present moment, when the most eloquent of agitators fails to raise a breeze for even a moderate electoral reform, the Liberal party prolongs its tenure of office through its sympathies for Italian freedom. Or rather, it would be more just to say, that the Liberal party have this advantage in the present balance of political strength,—that in the one branch of politics which commands any real interest, they possess a clear and definite policy, approving itself to the judgment of the nation, while the Conservatives fail to show any foreign policy at all. Crippled by their new Ultramontane allies, and perplexed by their traditional conviction that the treaties of 1815 had the same origin as the Ten Commandments, they are unable to announce any principle which will bear the light of popular debate. The Liberals, on the contrary, know what they mean, and are not afraid to proclaim it; their principle is much the same as that enunciated (before its time) by an old Scotch patriot on the scaffold—that the Almighty has not created the millions of the human race saddled and bridled for use, and a few score booted and spurred to ride them. They hold the right of every people to judge for itself as to its own institutions and rulers; they are opposed to any invasion of just liberty, either by dynastic intrigue or military violence; and they are firmly of opinion that no nation can be governed by brute force either with happiness to the subject or profit to the sovereign. In other words, they are for self-government and non-intervention; and the vast majority of the English public, even many of those who differ from them on other points, steadfastly support their policy.

Another remarkable proof of the root taken by foreign politics in the minds of Englishmen is the fact that the people, at any rate in their avowed convictions, are ahead of their statesmen, and instead of following passively in the wake of authority, judge of continental affairs for themselves. This was so in reference to Italian independence, which was advocated by thinking men, and had become a popular idea, before it was heartily supported by any prominent statesman, with the exception, perhaps, of Mr. Gladstone. It is even now the case with Hungary, a country which has not yet received justice at the hands of our leading politicians, but in whose cause the sure instincts of the people have long since declared themselves. It was the misfortune of the Hungarians that thirteen years since they were compelled to wage a sanguinary conflict for their constitutional rights under peculiarly difficult circumstances, and at a time when the merits of the controversy between themselves and the Emperor of Austria were very imperfectly understood. Driven to desperation by the overpowering forces that were brought to crush them, and by the apathy exhibited in England and France, they suffered themselves to be finally persuaded into violent measures, which injured an otherwise righteous cause, and in some degree blotted out the sympathy that was rising in their favour. But the terrible overthrow which befell Hungarian patriotism was not without its compensating results.

VOL. XIV.NO. XXVII.

L

During the years of grinding oppression which followed the surrender of Georgey, party and local animosities were sunk in the one resolve to win back the ancient constitutional freedom of the land; while the emigrant soldiers and statesmen of Hungary spread everywhere the story of her wrongs, and roused a deep interest, especially in this country, in her future fortunes. Englishmen could not withhold their attention from a constitutional history which in so many respects resembled their own. They were surprised to find that in a country almost overlooked in their historical studies there had existed for at least six centuries institutions similar to those of England; a limited monarchy, a hereditary nobility, a house of representatives with the sole power of taxation, a system of local self-government more perfect, perhaps, than any other, and rights of personal freedom secured by immemorial usage. A country, too, in which religious liberty had been secured by a Catholic majority, and where free speech and writing, and a proud attachment to ancient franchises, had flourished for generations side by side with a chivalrous loyalty and a steady respect for law. It was impossible, we repeat, for Englishmen to withhold their sympathy from a nation who had inherited from old times recollections so strikingly akin to their own; as tales of Austrian oppression and lawlessness reached this country, the sympathy grew stronger; and when at length it was announced that a Hungarian Diet was again assembled, after the anarchical tyranny of twelve years' duration, and that the civil struggle for Hungarian rights had recommenced, the eyes of this country were turned with peculiar interest to the debates and other proceedings at Pesth. It was therefore with much disappointment that the coldness of our statesmen, whenever the name of Hungary was mentioned in either House of Parliament, was observed : yet it was hoped that the frigidity of their tone was forced on them by the necessities of State policy, and that in their hearts, like the rest of their countrymen, they were true to the traditions of constitutional independence. Much to the surprise of many, and certainly to the regret of the distinguished body over which he presided, Lord Brougham at this juncture stepped out of his way to utter discouragement to Hungarian patriotism, by informing the Social Science Association at their Dublin meeting, that the Austrian Emperor had already restored to his Hungarian subjects their ancient constitution, and only refused to them the alterations which had been made in that constitution during the revolutionary period of 1848.

The statement was so erroneous that none acquainted with the facts of the case could be swayed by it for a moment; but it was felt at Pesth and elsewhere that words spoken by so illustrious a man on such an occasion might produce unfortunate misapprehension, not only in this country, but over the whole Continent; and the leaders of the constitutionalists in Hungary (embracing both parties in the Diet, and nine-tenths at least of the whole nation) accordingly resolved “ to correct the impression which a statement so inconsistent with fact, from so high an authority, could not fail to produce upon many who might incline to take some interest in the controversy then pending between H. I. M. the Emperor of Austria and his Hungarian subjects. This object, it was thought by the most eminent members of both parties, could best, be attained, not by an ex parte statement, but by placing without comment an English translation of the original documents—both the Addresses of the Diet and the Imperial-Royal Reply–in the hands of the Members of both Houses of the British Parliament.”

The task of preparing this statement was entrusted to Mr. J. Horne Payne, whose knowledge of the Hungarian language and history peculiarly fitted him for the task. We are bound to say that he has executed his undertaking with ability and judgment, and placed before us, with explanatory notes, a series of documents which lucidly describe the attitude of the Hungarian Diet, and conclude the question as to the illegality of the Emperor's proceedings. The accuracy of the translation is vouched for by Baron Podmanicky, Vice-President of the

« AnteriorContinuar »