In the spring of 1859 all Europe saw that war between France and Austria was imminent. Louis Napoleon engaged with the Hungarian exiles to make the Independence of Hungary one of the conditions of peace if he won the war – they in turn engaged to induce the Hungarian troops in the Austrian service to desert, and offered to make Napoleon’s brother King of Hungary. But the French Emperor, after defeating Austria, broke his engagement on a plea of “the exigencies of the European situation.”
Francis Josef came back from the wars in a chastened spirit. “My beloved subjects,” he said to his people, “truth compels me to proclaim that we have been whipped,” and, therefore, he announced he would devote his whole and uninterrupted attention to establish the “internal welfare and external power of Austria by a judicious development of its rich, moral, and material strength, and by making such improvements in the Legislature and Administration as are in accord with the spirit of the age.” Next he fired out Bach. Thirdly, he invited Baron Josika, a Hungarian, to become Minister of the Interior. “Your Majesty,” said Josika, “l am a Hungarian. I understand Hungarians. I do not understand Austrians. If you appointed an Austrian to govern us Hungarians, he could not govern us well because he is alien to us. Neither could I govern well your Austrians, since I am of a different race. I assure your Majesty that the man who pretends he can govern a people well, who does not belong to that people, or else who has not spent his lifetime among them, is a humbug.” Josika’s reason for refusing office we commend to English statesmen as an excellent jest. Golouchowski, a Pole, was then offered and accepted the office declined by Josika. He and the Emperor put their heads together, and finally decided to increase the number of members in the Reichsrath – which then was the equivalent of what we know as the Privy Council – that they might better confer and consult; with it as to how to fix up matters. Six members were summoned from Hungary. “What shall we do?” asked the summoned of Deak. “Don’t go,” said Deak. “If Francis Josef wants to consult Hungary, let him come to Pesth and consult her through her Parliament.” Whereupon three of them refused to go, and three went and made eloquent speeches on the floor of the House, incited thereto by Count Desewffy, the loyal-addresser of 1857, who through attending tea-parties and things organised by Rechberg and Von Hubner, two Austrian Union-of-Hearts statesmen, came to the conclusion that Deak was really the obstacle to the better understanding of two peoples whom God had created as the complement of each other, and Francis Deak, instigated by the devil, kept asunder. Poor Von Hubner, however, was an honest fellow, and in the exuberance of his New Eraian enthusiasm he grew quite sentimental about Hungary, with the result that the Emperor dismissed him from office. The Hungarian County Councils had been abolished in defiance of the Constitution, and the Emperor and Golouchowski concluded their first step in the Conciliation game should be to revive these Councils in defiance of the Constitution, since they dared not admit the right of the Hungarian Parliament. If they acted honestly, the thing was simple enough. The Hungarian Parliament need only be convoked, and the County Councils would be brought again into being by the command of that Parliament. But it was the last thing the Emperor or Golouchowski intended to do at this period. They had set out with the object of killing off’ the demand for an autonomous Hungary and drawing the fangs of Hungarian disloyalty by restoring her a strictly limited district control over her gas-and-water, and by saying kind things of the Hungarian people and offering jobs and titles to influential Hungarians. “Let the dead past bury its dead,” said Golouchowski among the dead which it would bury being the Hungarian Constitution of 1848, a fact of which Golouchowski forgot to remind Hungary, but which Hungary did not forget. There were, of course, wise men in Hungary who saw quite plainly that Deak was entirely wrong in his policy, and who resented the fun he made of the conciliators. “Let us first arrive at a reconciliation with Austria, and then we shall be able to get justice done to the claims of Hungary and get our Parliament back,” said the Wise Men to Deak. “Let Austria first recognise the lawful status and authority of the Hungarian Parliament, and then by all means let the Parliament recognise the necessity for harmonising the distinctive rights of Hungary with the recognition of the common monarchy,” Deak replied to the Wise Men. “Expediency,” whispered the Wise Men to Deak. “Principle, Principle, Principle!” Deak shouted back, and his voice echoed through Hungary.
The Emperor and Golouchowski, to avoid “recognising the lawful status and authority of the Hungarian Parliament,” appointed a Hungarian Royal Commission to inquire into the working of Bach’s Municipal Law – that is, to re-create the County Councils. The country looked to Deak. It wanted its County Councils back badly, and it hoped he might find some means of accepting the Commission. But Deak was inexorable. “Return the Emperor of Austria your patents,” he said to the Commissioners. “None but the King of Hungary can appoint a Royal Hungarian Commission.” So the Royal Commissioners returned their patents with a polite note, in which they informed the Emperor of Austria and his Ministers that the work they were asked to do was work for the Hungarian Parliament, and the Hungarian Parliament alone. “See,” said the Wise Men, reproachfully, “Deak’s absurd and quixotic notions have prevented Hungary from having her County Councils restored.” But the reproach fell on deaf ears. Hungary was grieved, but unshaken. “Whatever it may seem on the outside, we feel that Deak is right,” said the people.” To Hungary Deak can do no wrong.”
The splendid allegiance of the people to Deak saved the Hungarians. Had they listened to the voices of the weaklings and the teachings of expediency, they would have got their County Councils in exchange for their principle – and there was an end of Hungary. But Hungary had a statesman, not a politician, at her head. Deak’s immobility and Hungary’s solidity baffled Austria. Austria could not recede – her Imperial existence depended on reversing Bach’s Absolutist policy. She could not advance – unless she paid Hungary toll. Deak had foreseen and knew – and smoking his pipe, waited. And the result was that Austria offered toll. By Royal Ordinance the County Councils were restored – Austria must needs save its face by making the restoration on the outside an Imperial affair – but at the same time the Hungarian Parliament was convoked. The wisdom of Deak was demonstrated even to the Wise Men, and Hungary not unnaturally was going to cheer when Deak told it not to. “Wait, my countrymen,” said he, “until the Parliament opens, and we see what we shall see. There is abundant time to cheer afterwards.” Deak knew his Austria, and Hungary sobered up, and in a calm and critical spirit awaited the now famous “Meeting of the Hungarian Diet of 1861.”