Domestic Policy
Domestic Policy

Austria, 1867-1893 : Domestic Policy

In 1867 Emperor Franz Joseph I. signed the AUSGLEICH (compromise) with Hungary, granting the Hungarian parliament full authority in all political areas except foreign policy and defense; in effect, the Habsburg lands were, from 1867 onward, divided in a Hungarian half and a less clearly defined Austrian half, sometimes referred to as CISLEITHANIA.

With Hungary having a separate administration, the Viennese administration was for the most part limited to the Austrian half of what was called the DUAL MONARCHY.
Political authority lay with the person of the Emperor; cabinet ministers were his appointees (and Franz Joseph did not even fully trust in them, refusing to act on many suggested reforms/measures). What was left of Austria had two rudimentary constitutions, the FEBRUARY PATENT (of 1861, foreseeing a central REICHSRAT) and the OCTOBER DIPLOMA (of 1860, foreseeing regional diets in a federal constitution). Yet the diets were old-fashioned in their composition (with a strong representation of the nobility, bicameral) and their authority was limited to approval of budgets. The (frequently changing) administration in an attempt to achieve approval of their policies played regional against central diet, ethnic group against ethnic group. GALICIA was given self-government of internal affairs; in return the Galician representatives were loyal supporters of the Viennese administration.
Franz Joseph I. was concerned about the German liberals and for some time toyed with the idea of granting concession to the Czechs of Bohemia. The Bohemians demanded the union of the lands of St. Wenceslas (Bohemia, Moravia, Austrian Silesia) and for these a treaty similar to the Austro-Hungarian Ausgleich of 1867. Franz Joseph conceded an extension of the franchise, which broke the German majority in the Bohemian diet; the Czech demands however were too radical to him (and were also strongly opposed by the Hungarians); the negotiations were abruptly broken off (1868) and the plan laid ad acta.

The Emperor was, for Austria, unwilling to accept the principle of a constitutional monarchy (in case of Hungary he regretted to have given them that much authority); attempts for political form were at times considered, as a tool to reach a short-term political goal, not as an issue on its own merit. Obstacles were great, and the will to push through these reforms was limited.
In the administration as in the diets, the German liberals were rather influential; in 1867 to 1879 they held the majority in the Reichsrat. They waited for their opportunity to gain the authority the Hungarian parliament had won. The Czechs, whose repeated attempts to achieve their goal of self-government and recognition of the Czechs as Bohemians people of state had ended in frustration, boycotted the Reichsrat until 1881.
Parliamentary activity, limited in authority as it was, therefore was distorted - by the franchise which favoured the nobility and the wealthier classes, by the attitudes different ethno-political groups took toward parliamentary policy, by the confusing competition of two constitutional systems. The state of the country remained in the need of a clear definition (constitution).

In 1879, the majority of the German liberals was broken and EDUARD COUNT VON TAAFFE appointed chancellor, a man not committed to any party or ethnic group, loyal to the House of Habsburg. A politician in the style of a diplomat, he could deal with all political groups and held on to the office until 1893, thus establishing a degree of political stability - while the situation of a lacking clear constitution continued.

Under the given circumstances, political parties were slow to develop. In 1882 a German Nationalist Party was founded, in 1888/1889 the Social Democratic Party (SPOe). The CHRISTIAN SOCIALIST PARTY (CSP) developed out of earlier organizations, the ANTI-SEMITIC PARTY and the ANTI-LIBERAL PARTY, who merged and later were renamed; the most influential figure was KARL LUEGER. Effectively barred from taking on responsibility even in local or regional government, party programmes had a utopian character, envisaging a radical reorganization of society, at the expense of other ethnic groups or social classes.
Political groups/parties developed stubbornness. Their political activity being reduced to the right to vote in matters of approval or the lack of it in diets, the stand mostly taken was "do it my way or else". The line of conflict in Cisleithania usually was that of language policy, the Germans insisting on German only, the Slavs on the introduction of the regional Slavic language as a second official language.

The suicide of crown prince Rudolf at MAYERLING in 1889 was an omen pointing at a bleak future for the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

List of Emperors of Austria, 1867-1893
Links lead to Biographies from aeiou
1848-1916 Franz Joseph I.

Austria, Prime Ministers, 1867-1914
Links lead to Biographies from aeiou
Richard Count Belcredi
Friedrich Baron von Beust
Karl Prince von Auersperg
Eduard Count von Taaffe
Ignaz von Plener
Alfred Count von Potocki
Karl Siegmund Count von Hohenwart
Adolf Wilhelm Daniel Prince von Auersperg
Eduard Count von Taaffe

The Ghosts of Mayerling, The death of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary (1858-1889), from eurohistory
Elisabeth of Wittelsbach (Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary), from Roses de Baviere
Chronology Austria under Franz Joseph, from Coins of Austria 1657-1918
Turning Points in the Development of Parliamentarism in Austria : The December Constitution (1866/67); The Development of the Franchise from the Austrian Parliament
Towards the Dual Monarchy and Constitutional Government, from Austrian Parliament
Vom Einigungsparteitag bis zur Ausrufung der ersten Republik, from SPÖ, Geschichte, in German, chronology 1888-1918
Article Karl Lueger, from Catholic Encyclopedia; from aeiou
Biography Count Eduard von Taaffe, from aeiou
Biography Friedrich Ferdinand Count Beust, from aeiou
Liberalism, from aeiou
Antisemitism, from aeiou
Biography Georg Ritter von Schoenerer, from aeiou
Mayerling, from aeiou
Elisabeth, Empress of Austria, from aeiou
World Exhibition in Vienna, from aeiou
Black Friday 1873, from aeiou
Crime at Mayerling, from Austrian Information
DOCUMENTS Lists of Austrian Emperors, Chancellors, from World Statesmen : Austria by Ben Cahoon
Coins of Austria 1852-1892, Coins of Austria 1892-1918, from Austrian Coins 1657-1918
Staatsgrundgesetz 1867 (Constitution of 1867), from Austrian Parliament (scan of 1st and last pages)
REFERENCE National Awakening in the Habsburg Lands (pp.778-785); Mass Politics and Nationalism : Austria-Hungary, 1867-1914 (pp.950-953) in : John Merriman, A History of Modern Europe, NY : W.W. Norton 1996
The Making of Dualism 1866-1867 (pp,130-140), Liberal Failure : German Ascendancy in Austria 1867-1879 (pp.141-155), Habsburg Recovery : The Era of Taaffe, 1879-1893 (pp.156-168); The Years of Confusion : From Taaffe to Badeni, 1893-1897 (pp.169-184); Hungary after 1867 : Koloman Tisza and the Magyar Gentry (pp.185-195) from : A.J.P. Taylor, The Habsburg Monarchy, 1809-1918, Chicago : UP (1948) 1976
Article : Austria-Hungary, in : Statesman's Year Book 1878, pp.3-27 (data on 1877) [G]
Article : Austria-Hungary, in : Appleton's Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events 1886 pp.66-74 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on September 6th 2007

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz