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Old Homes of New Americans

The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy as a Whole
A Preliminary Statement
Chapter 1

The Complicated Relations of the Hapsburg Monarchy -- The Many Titles of Francis Joseph I -- The Relation of Hungary to Austria -- The Dual Monarchy largely Slavic and Magyar -- The Ost-Mark of the Frankish Empire -- The Claim of Bohemia -- The Racial Aspirations of Croatians, Poles, Ruthenians, and Slavonians -- The Conservatism of the Hapsburg Family -- Its View of the Reformation and of Modren Progress -- The Universities and Schools of Austria -- Why Americans should be interested in the Races of Austria-Hungary.


It is not easy for the uninitiated to understand the complicated relations of the Hapsburg Dynasty which rules over the destinies Austria-Hungary. There is really no Empire of Austria, though there is an Austrian Emperor; for the Austrian nation is made up of many provinces, each of which has a distinct history, and each of which retains to a certain extent at least, its own individuality.

Thus Emperor Francis Joseph I is the King of Bohemia, Galicia, and Dalmatia; the Margrave of Moravia and Istria; the Archduke of Upper Austria and Lower Austria; the Duke of Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Silesia, and the Bukowina; and the Prince of the Tyrol.

Hungary, as we shall see in other chapters, is not a part of Austria, nor a province of Austria-Hungary, but a distinct and separate kingdom, in many matters as separate from Austria as England is from France, but recognizing the authority of the same reigning house.

In both Austria and Hungary the hereditary ruler, according to the law of the lands, must come from the Hapsburg-Lorraine Dynasty, and the law also provides that the monarch must belong to the Roman Catholic Church. Thus the Emperor of Austria is the Apostolic King of Hungary, and, to speak correctly, we must say that he is the ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

A Hungarian will be very quick to tell us, if we make a slip in these particulars, that there is no such thing as the "Austro-Hungarian Empire"; that Hungary is not a part of any Empire, that it is a kingdom by itself; and that for good and sufficient reasons it is united with Austria in its foreign relations, in its military and naval affairs so far as they are connected with common defense, and in finance so far as it relates to affairs that the two nations have in common.

The relation between these two countries is not nearly so close and intimate as that of the several states of our Union; and at any time when the conditions of union do not suit the Hungarian people, they will doubtless feel at liberty to sever the tenuous bonds which now unite them to Austria, and to set up for themselves in all internal and external relations.

In ordinary speech the "Austrian Empire" or the "Austro-Hungarian Empire" is frequently alluded to, but it will be understood that if one speaks with the utmost accuracy, he must remember the vital distinctions here recorded, difficult as they are for a foreigner always to bear in mind.

Since I866, when Austria cut the cables which had hitherto bound her more or less to western Europe, as the result of the war in which she was so ingloriously defeated, she has looked to her provinces in the East arid to the Kingdom of Hungary as the source of her strength and power. Thus it happens that though the ruling family is of German descent and many of the nobles and high officials confess their Teutonic origin, the monarchy is largely Gomposed of Slavic and Magyar peoples, with a comparatively small element of Germans.

In succeeding chapters we shall see how the kingdoms and the provinces which make up the Austro-Hungarian monarchy have formed the outposts of Western civilization. "Austria," it is said, "began its career as the Ost-Mark of the Frankish Empire. It was an outpost against the pagan and savage hordes outside the pale of Teutonic and Catholic Europe. As a duchy, it was given to a Teutonic family, the Babenbergs, who were succeeded by the Hapsburgs, and by the energy and capability of the latter family it became the centre of a collection of hereditary possessions as large as many kingdoms."

Though the different Slavic races of Austria are restive under Austrian rule, and are yearning for complete independence, they have not, like the Magyars, been able to obtain it. The Bohemians claim to belong to a separate kingdom, but the Emperor has never acknowledged that claim or been willing to be crowned at Prague. The Croatians the Poles, the Ruthenians, the Slavonians, all have racial aspirations which, if they were allowed to indulge fully, would make of them separate principalities as independent as Hungary is today.

But while Austria gives them many privileges, and recognizes in many ways their racial distinctions, she has not yet been compelled to allow them any great measure of independence, though in many ways she is a less harsh stepmother than Russia or Gennany. What will happen when a new emperor comes to the throne, as he inevitably must in the course of a few years, no one is wise enough to predict.

More than any other nation in Europe, with the exception of Russia, the Hapsburg family has been able to maintain a conservative and reactionary attitude, Every concession to the spirit of modern progress has been grudgingly made; every recognition of the racial integrity of the provinces has been wrung from the monarch by fear of worse things that might happen if he did not grant a certain measure of autonomy. The Reformation was an abomination to the Hapsburgs of old, and no less an abomination to the venerable ruler who occupies the throne today.

The Jesuits were supreme for centuries in Austrian politics and social life, and their influence is still felt in every reactionary edict. The aristocracy of the Austrian capitalist, as might be expected after these centuries of conservatism, proud and exclusive. The best thing that can be said of it is that the millionaire has very little chance to get within its sacred precincts because of his gold. Its characteristics are not luxuriousness or ostentation, but it looks down upon trade and commerce, and its intellectual life has been stunted by exclusiveness and remoteness from the common affairs of life.

The universities of Austria have no worldwide fame, except the medical faculty of Vienna; and in literary and artistic lines the Austrian has not greatly influenced the world. The musicians, to be sure, who have made Austria their home--Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert -- are world-renowned, though we are told that "Beethoven, in his lifetime, was little appreciated in Vienna, and the poverty to which he was left in the imperial city was relieved by the London Philharmonic Society."

In many parts of Austria the common schools are numerous, and the elementary education that is given is thorough, so far as it goes; but there is a great difference in the different provinces, and the Poles have long complained of the poor opportunities offered their children to obtain a decent education. So that, taking the country over, we read that "at the beginning of this century, out of twenty-six millions of people more than a third could neither read nor write."

In considering the many races within the boundaries of Austria, the Jews are always to be reckoned with. As in so many other countries, they are here the bankers and the financiers· The Stock Exchange, both at Vienna and at Budapest, is said to be entirely controlled by the Jewish element. In smaller places the Jews, because they have been crowded out of many professions and trades, have become the money-lenders and the usurers, the saloon-keepers and the pawnbrokers; and gradually, through the improvidence of the people, especially the Slavs, have become the landowners and, it must be admitted, often the tyrants and the Shylocks of the land. It can easily be seen how racial animosities have thus been fostered, and how through denial of rights on the one side, and shrewd and often unscrupulous dealings on the other, the hatred thus engendered has resulted sometimes in massacres and wholesale emigration to other lands.

It is not within the province of this book to discuss at length the politics of the nation, its religious life, its army and navy, its finances, or its foreign relations; since my object is to describe the People as I have seen them, to tell something of their history and social customs as related to their present development, especially the history and customs of the classes and races who are emigrating to America by the hundred thousand, and who will form an element in the America of the coming centuries. For this reason I need say little about the German Austrians, or their beautiful capital of Vienna, for as compared with the great masses of Slavs and Magyars they do not come in great numbers to our shores, and those that do come are scarcely distinguishable from other German emigrants.

But the other races of Austria-Hungary, speaking a dozen languages and dialects, who look to Vienna and Budapest as their capitals, are of supreme, interest and importance to us of America, as we think of the new life-blood which is constantly infused into our veins from the lands of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

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