Scarcely had the Treaty of Gastein, by which Austria ceded Lauenberg to Prussia, been formally signed, than the Austrians found reason to suspect that Prussia desired more than that Duchy as the price of peace. Accordingly, coercion was sus- pended, soft words were spoken of the Hungarians, and an amazing amount of virtue and innate loyalty to the Emperor Francis Josef were dis- covered by the journalists of Austria to exist in the souls of the countrymen of Deak and Kossuth. The doubt of the Austrians as to Prussia’s designs became a certainty after Lauenberg had been handed over, for when that had been done the Prussians immediately asked for the remainder – Hoistein – to surrender which to Prussia, under the circumstances, would have been tantamount to Austria resigning the headship of the German Empire.
It was clearly no time for coercing the Hungarians – Prussia was making friendly references through her Press both to that country and to Bohemia, and was seeking to conclude an offensive alliance with Italy. As against an allied Prussia and Italy and an insurgent Hungary and Bohemia, Austria could count only on Saxony, Bavaria, Hanover, and a few minor German States for support, and defeat under these circumstances appeared inevitable. With Hungary on her side, however, the matter would be very different, indeed with the active support of Hungary the Austrian Emperor believed he could march to Berlin and dictate the terms of peace to King Wilhelm. But before any hope of Hungarian support could be reasonably held, it was patent that there must be “concessions,” and Austria was reluctant to make concessions. There was one alternative to yielding to Hungary, it seemed to the Austrian statesmen – and it they sought – an alliance with France against Prussia. Napoleon, it was known, regarded with apprehension the growing power of the Prussian kingdom, and to Napoleon the Emperor Francis Josef turned, but a little too late. Bismarck’s piercing eye had read the mind of Francis Josef, and when the Austrians approached the French Emperor, they found that Bismarck had squared him into neutrality.
There was clearly nothing for it but to “conciliate” Hungary. “Something must be done,” said the Emperor. “Something must be done,” his statesmen echoed. In view of the possibilities he had got rid of Schmerling, who made his exit on the Budget of 1865, and Count Pouilly, somewhat of a figurehead, took his place, but the real force in the new Cabinet was the Moravian, Belcredi, whose infallible plan for patching up the Empire was the Home-Rule-all-Round specific, although, being naturally an opportunist he was not prepared to limit himself too much. When the news came that France would not join Austria against Prussia in the event of war, the Emperor assembled his sages, and the result was the Manifesto of the 20th September.
The Manifesto of the 20th of September, 1865, was a franker document than State documents usually are. First, it abolished the Imperial Parliament, because as it admitted very frankly, the machinery of the Imperial Parliament had been upset since Hungary refused to send her representatives to Vienna, and kept them at home instructing the people to ignore the laws made by the Imperial Parliament. The manifesto then acknowledged the right of Hungary, Bohemia, and the other countries to manage their own affairs and conserve their separate nationalities, and it wound up by declaring the authority of the Hungarian Parliament and the other countries’ Parliaments restored. And the Emperor added he would do himself the honour of visiting Pesth in December to open the Parliament of Hungary.
“So far, so good,” said Deak, “but this must not be a mock Parliament.” The former Deputies of Hungary met under Deak’s presidency in Pesth to consider the Manifesto, and they unanimously resolved to accept nothing less than the restoration of the Constitution of 1848, and the establishment of a separate Hungarian Ministry, responsible only to the legally-crowned King of Hungary, and the elected representatives of the Hungarian people in the Parliament of Hungary. The election of the members of the new Parliament gave Deak, who was himself elected for Pesth, 200 followers out of 333. The remainder comprised the Conservative or former Austrian party, but who were now pledged to Deak’s policy on the question of the status of the Parliament, and the Separatists, who, while they supported Deak’s demands, declared nevertheless for separation and a Republic. On the 6th of December the Parliament of Hungary was elected. On the 12th the Emperor Francis Josef left for Pesth to open it. All Europe waited expectantly the result. Prussia suspended for a while her war preparations to see what Hungary’s action would be, and Hungary herself waited quietly and calmly to know whether this meant the restoration of her liberties, or whether it was merely another Austrian dodge to secure Hungarian aid in her hour of need – which, indeed, it was. But, unlike Ireland, Hungary had learned from her frequent betrayals not to trust the oppressors when they came bearing gifts, and it was in no mood of loyal enthusiasm, but in a critical and perhaps cynical spirit Hungary awaited the speech of Francis Josef to the representatives of the Hungarian nation.