Austria strove to encounter the Passive Resistance of Hungary by ordaining, as England did in Ireland a generation later, “exclusive trading” illegal. The Hungarians despised the ordinance and pursued their policy, occasioning much filling of jails with “village ruffians,” “demagogues,” and other disreputable people who disturb the peace of a country which a stronger country desires to rob. Yet a few months of the jail-filling process and Austria found herself in another cul-de-sac. “The Hungarians are an emotional and generous people,” thought Francis Josef; “I shall try the friendly monarch policy.” And he amnestied all those whom but a few months before he had thrust into prison. But the Hungarians did not respond to the dodge and sing Alleluia for the generosity of the royal gentleman in Vienna. They had sucked wisdom from experience, and did not feel in the slightest grateful for having the lash lifted an inch off their backs to prevent them kicking too hard. And when, the excellent monarch, like the gentleman who, out of his bounty, built a big bridge at the expense of the county, was generously pleased to grant a subvention to the Hungarian National Museum and the Hungarian National Theatre at Pesth – out of the Hungarian funds – the Hungarians, far from being impressed by the royal generosity, added another satirical stanza to “The Austrian Thieves.”
In the meantime the Hungarian Deputies continued to meet, not indeed as the Parliament of Hungary, but as the Hungarian Agricultural Union, The Hungarian Industrial League, the Hungarian Archaeological and Literary Association, and so-forth, and through their debates and discussions kept the people of the country in the right road of National policy. There was no law, for instance, to compel Hungarians to support Hungarian manufactures to the exclusion of Austrian ones, but the economic wisdom of doing such a thing was emphasised in discussions at the admirable associations which we have named, and the results of these discussions had a force as binding as law upon the people. A succession of Hungarian gentlemen travelled Europe, seeking new fields for a Hungarian export trade, and keeping the Continental Press au courant with Hungarian affairs. At home, the Press was utilised to produce works of educational value to the Hungarian people – works National in tone and spirit, and the Hungarian historical novel became a feature of the time. A scarcity fell on the land in 1863, but the spirit of the Hungarian people tided them over what in Ireland’s case in 1847 became an appalling disaster, and at the end of the year of famine, Francis Josef, baffled by the manly policy of a spirited people, attempted overtures for a reconciliation, and announced that it was his wish to satisfy Hungary “not only in material respects, but in other respects.” But the Hungarians suspected him of insincerity and ignored his overtures – still continuing to refuse to recognise his kingship or his law, or his officials, or to pay his taxes, unless under compulsion. The benevolent Emperor then sought to delude the Hungarians by putting up Lustkandl, a jurist, to prove beyond all doubt that the Hungarians were a subject race, and not at all entitled to govern themselves as an independent people. Deak smashed up Lustkandl in an article, after which Austria and Prussia went to war with Denmark.
It was not as a consequence of Deak’s demolition of Lustkandl that Austria went to war with Denmark – it was only in sequence of time. Denmark owned the Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein, which both Austria and Prussia lusted after and claimed they were entitled to by right. Meanwhile Europe was scoffing at Austria’s Imperial Parliament. The Bohemians, after spending two years in it, grew disgusted, recalled their representatives to Bohemia, and declined to recognise any laws passed in Vienna affecting Bohemia as binding. Thus repudiated and boycotted by the two chief countries of the Empire – Hungary and Bohemia the “Imperial Parliament” became a standing jest for the politicians of the Continent. Francis Josef came back from the wars to find the name of Austria sinking lower day by day, and once again he caused overtures to be made to Hungary for reconciliation. Hungary’s answer was the same when she got what she demanded she would talk of friendship.
The friendship of Hungary had, however, become of urgent necessity to Austria, for Prussia was already quarrelling with Austria over the spoil of the Danish war. Bismarck had marked the deficiencies of the Austrian army and the internal weakness of the Austrian Empire, and decided the time was favourable to dethrone Austria from the headship of the Germanic Confederation and exalt Prussia in her stead. The statesmen of Vienna, viewing with alarm the prospect of war with Prussia, with a “disloyal” Hungary on their flank, endeavoured to placate Bismarck and conciliate Hungary. Deak was asked the price of Hungary’s “friendship.” He answered in the Easter of 1865 in the columns of the “Pesth Napolo.” The restoration of Hungary’s Free and National Constitution. “The Hungarian Nation will never give up its Constitution,” he wrote. “It is prepared when that independence has been restored to take the legal measures necessary to bring its laws into harmony with the stability of the monarchy.” Rumours of a change of policy spread through the land and at the end of May an official announcement reached Pesth that his Majesty was about to visit his beloved subjects in Pesth and inaugurate another New Era. Meantime the statesmen of Vienna staved off Prussia, while they anxiously awaited a success for the Royal Visit to the Hungarians in securing for them, if not the active assistance, at least the benevolent neutrality of Hungary in the impending war.