The Dramatic Story of the Last Days of the Dual Monarchy.
COUNT JULIUS ANDRASSYFebruary151921
The Passing of a Nation
REVIEW of REVIEWS
The Dramatic Story of the Last Days of the Dual Monarchy.
COUNT JULIUS ANDRASSY
LESS is known of the declining days of the once great Austro-Hungarian Empire than is known of the fall of Germany. Yet the fall of the Dual Empire was overwhelmingly complete. Count Andrassy, Prime Minister at the time, writes in a striking manner of these epochal days.
“History’s laws are relentlessly enforced. Victorious violence never stops half way. After one day’s legal existence, Karoly’s cabinet became a revolutionary government.
“It will remain for me a tragic and uneffaceable memory, how I was summoned with extreme urgency to Schonbrunn by His Majesty that night, and how I could not find a conveyance to get there, and consequently arrived late at the imperial country house. Before we turned out of Mariahilferstrasse, I met the Emperor’s brother, Archduke Max, coming for me with an automobile in order to hasten my arrival. When I reached the imperial residence, the Emperor’s attendants bade me hasten. I ran upstairs, and through an open door to the Emperor’s office. That ruler was at the telephone and handed me the receiver. The Budapest government was demanding that he abdicate; if he did not, there would be bloodshed. He would be driven out and murdered; not only he, the King, but also Archduke Joseph and the cabinet. His Majesty quite properly would not consider abdication—would not give up the throne which he had sworn to defend, in face of a street revolution. The King of Hungary can only abdicate with the consent of the whole nation. Thereupon, the Budapest government asked him to absolve its members from their oath of allegiance. The game was already up. From the time the mob raised Karoly on its shoulders, the government’s authority lay in the dust. Since there was no statesman and no party in Budapest which believed it still possible to defend order and law, and since the army deserted him, the King was helpless. Even a few days earlier, I realized that the only way to rescue the situation was by force of arms. But now the formation of a new royal ministry, or even an attempt to form one, would result in useless bloodshed. The only course left to His Majesty was to refrain for the time being from participation in government business. That course was not abdicating, was not accepting what had occurred and what might occur later; it merely meant that the King, in view of his inability to form a lawful cabinet able to maintain order, abstained from interfering in the course of events and causing useless bloodshed until a better opportunity presented itself to claim his rights and to fulfill his obliga-
“Rulers have been overthrown in the past on many occasions and in many manners; but there was no precedent for what now occurred at Schonbrunn. I was witnessing the first presentation of a historical plot, and I was humiliated that it should have a Hungarian author. I was convinced that a revolution could not take place in Hungary except to over-
throw a ruler who violated his oath of office and defied the constitution. At least no exception to that rule had occurred in our former history. On this occasion, there was no such technical justification for a revolution. It was not necessary in order to get peace, for no man desired peace more ardently and sincerely than the King. There was no reason to fight over the personal union of the two monarchies, for this was settled and, furthermore, was an inescapable result and natural outcome of the situation. A democratic suffrage law was no longer an issue. It did not require a revolution, consequently, to give the disaffected elements control of the government. They were in complete possession of power without it.
“This revolution was consequently only a crisis of hysteria and a manifestation of war neurosis. It succeeded, not because the revolutionary party was well organized or possessed military power or pursued a thought-out, carefully planned policy, but because society itself was a nervous wreck and all the stays of the old order failed. The people and classes which normally maintain the stability of the state saw no escape from the frightful situation in which the country was placed; they had no confidence in a favorable peace or in any measure of salvation. They were bereft of energy and power; and shirked the fearful responsibility which goes with their possession for protecting the established order to the last. Since the best elements among the people despaired of saving the situation, they permitted themselves to be pushed from their positions of authority with a feeling of relief. A régime discredited and wrecked by the disastrous outcome of the war lacked confidence to resist men who based their * claim to leadership upon their having foreseen the catastrophe and predicting the tragic outcome of the policy pursued by the predecessors.
most frightful experience of my political career. Every moment brought reports of new disasters. Croatia seceded; Bohemia proclaimed its independence; Pan-Germans and Socialists were contending for supremacy in Austria; law lost its authority; revolution grew stronger and bloodier from day to day; the streets were unsafe; the foreign office was guarded by police; advocates of a republic were winning new adherents.
“In Hungary the government committed the folly of allowing the soldiers to disarm. In the midst of violent assaults and bloody massacres, our army received its death stroke in the back— from the Hungarian government. The fearful thought pressed ever like lead upon my brain that the best men of our country were being murdered and assassinated without reason or purpose, in expiation for the sins of others, without my being able to rescue or to aid them.
“Finally, we received the harsh armistice conditions. A Crown Council was held at night. The conditions were accepted. Our army leaders stated we could not offer further resistance. Every moment the fighting continued now might cost thousands and hundreds of thousands of lives. Our fleeing army would find itself in desperate straits because it had but few lines of retreat. But when every second was priceless because it meant saving human lives, the new Austrian government operated at a snail’s pace. The new authorities feared to take responsibility and, although eager to make peace, they were unwilling to incur the odium of accepting its conditions. That continued to cost time and blood. Reports reached us that Hungarian and Jugoslav sailors were fighting each other. The minister of the navy urged us to turn over our vessels to the South Slav government with a reservation respecting the rights of the other states, and that Hungary should take possession of the Danube monitors. With bleeding hearts we approved this proposal, for we hoped thus to preserve the vessels for the dynasty.
“The tragic seriousness of our conferences was incessantly interrupted by noisy street demonstrations. Adler and Bauer, the German Austrian political plenipotentiaries for foreign affairs, de-
manded to have a say in our foreign office, and insisted upon inspecting our correspondence without assuming any re sponsibility, or mentioning the secession of Austria from the Dual Monarchy. On every hand, people kept urging me not to resign my office and to save what could be saved. Even men who were attacking me in public pleaded with me to do this in private.
“I attempted, meantime, to follow up certain hopeful openings for negotiation via Switzerland. I sent thither one of the secretaries of the foreign office, followed by the former AustroHungarian ambassador in London, to take up these negotiations. But the revolution had destroyed every prospect which might have existed there. Our first representative was able to meet Entente diplomats and gained the impression that some agreement might be made. But by the time our former London ambassador arrived at Bern, the monarchy which was to be a party to the negotiation had already ceased to exist.
“Even the person of the Emperor was in danger. During the chaos which then prevailed, his bodyguard was lessened. Schonbrunn was protected by cadets from the military academy. What had been, but a few days before, a powerful, brilliant, imperial and royal court melted away like the snow at Easter.
“I took my leave of His Majesty. My efforts failed because they came too late. I had not been able to be of service and had only harmed myself; but I am glad I made the effort. I should have felt disgraced forever had I not answered the call which was made upon 'me, and had I not endeavored to avert the catastrophe which I so vividly saw approaching ”
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