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An important improvement was brought about in the cultural standards of the Ruthenes and some of the Roumanians by the introduction among them (against strong resistance which limited its extension) of the Uniate church; but the level of the populations which remained true to the Orthodox creed (the Serbs and over half the Roumanians) remained deplorably low.

The chief charge brought by the Hungary of the nineteenth century against that of the eighteenth was of having allowed the national spirit to decay. It was certainly the case that by the end of the century the magnate class was only half Hungarian. It was not, indeed, an ethnically foreign class like that of Bohemia; for whereas the Germans, Spaniards and Irishmen among whom the estates of the Czech rebels had been distributed after the Battle of the White Mountain had found these habitable and profitable, and had struck their roots in them, the foreign beneficiaries of the Neoacquistica had often found the geographical and human conditions in their new homes too intractable, and had sold them back to Hungarians or to Greek speculators, who in turn had sold them on. Those who had survived, or had come in later - for even after the liquidation of the Neoacquistica it had not been difficult for a foreigner to buy an estate and acquire Hungarian `indigenate' - had Magyarised, and become indistinguishable from the old stock.

But on the class as a whole, Maria Theresa's policy of the sugar-loaf had worked with great effect. They spent much of their time and their rent-rolls in Vienna, intermarried with the 'Imperial' German-Austrian and Bohemian aristocracy, looked for their culture, not to Hungary (where, indeed, its products were thin enough on the ground) but to Vienna or Paris, and forgot, or failed to learn, the Magyar language itself. If few of them were 100 per cent centralists - national pride and an appreciation of the material advantages which went with a patent of Hungarian nobility forbade this - they were yet unquestioning supporters of the Gesammtmonarchie and essentially alien from the rest of the nation.

This was enormously important politically, for few as they were - the families bearing hereditary titles at the end of the eighteenth century numbered only 108 (two princely, 82 of counts and 24 baronial) - they owned between them about one third of the soil of Hungary. They also, as we have seen, formed a separate 'Table' of the Diet and no Resolution by the Lower Table was valid unless endorsed by the Upper. Their monopoly of the high offices of state was almost complete.

In default of the magnates it was chiefly on the bene possessionati middle nobles in their county strongholds that the leadership of the national cause devolved. Many of them took their responsibilities seriously and conscientiously, and in so far as Hungary emerged at the end of the period with its political institutions as nearly intact as they were, its national life as vigorous, the merit must go to these men. Most of them were national also in the narrower sense of the term. They felt themselves to be Magyars, spoke the Magyar language, affected Magyar usages. It is true that this was the period at which the Magyar language, regarded as a means of expression, was at its lowest ebb. The nation had never renounced the tradition that its official documents were couched in Latin, and since the sixteenth century the debates of the Diet and even the county congregations, and the proceedings of the Courts, had come to be conducted in that language. Partly for that reason - to fit budding administrators and jurists for their careers - education above the primary level was given mainly in that language, and after Latin, the Ratio Educationis gave the largest place (above the primary level) to German[17]. Thus Magyar in the eighteenth century was hardly a literary language, but it was none the less a living one, spoken currently by an educated class. Thus when the time came for the full political national revival, the Magyar people, like the Polish, had to hand a class which was already fully national; it did not, like the Slovenes or Ruthenes, have to create one.

The achievement of the Hungarian nobles had, however, its weaknesses, although these were not all of their own making. Those critics who castigate them so severely for the exclusive stubbornness with which they defended their own class privileges should in fairness remember that this was the only major political question on which the Crown commonly allowed them any voice at all: it usurped almost all constructive work as its own prerogative. Nor is it by any means certain that the instinct was absurd which warned the Hungarian nobles always to mistrust any proposal emanating from Vienna. If their outlook was narrow, what else could be expected from these local squires whom the deplorable communications cut off during much of the year from contact with all but their nearest neighbours?

Yet the narrowness was there, and it was true that they were too easily satisfied, looking no further so long as they possessed the wherewithall for abundant living and for the limitless hospitality which was their pride. Also true that they too easily attributed these blessings to the successful defence by their ancestors of their privileges, not asking whether time had not changed the value of those privileges. It was especially unfortunate that the most treasured among them, the exemption of their land from taxation, entailed them in a direct conflict of interests with the peasants, so that their defence of it did breed among them a great class-egotism.

This was particularly apparent in their attitude towards the peasants, where, incidentally, they made no national distinction: a true noble should be Magyar, but the converse, that a true Magyar should be noble, was not admitted. The Hungarian nobles of the eighteenth century went right back to Werb czy and to Werb czy's own authorities in their identification of Hungary with themselves. The gulf had never been wider in the national history, or at least not since the old days of slavery, between the populus and the misera contribuens plebs, whose function in the state was still simply to work for his betters. 'God himself has differentiated between us', wrote one contemporary, 'assigning to the peasant labour and need, to the lord, abundance and a merry life.'

For the first decades of the period the material condition of the peasants, too, degenerated. The savage enactments of the Tripartitum had proved short-lived in practice; as early as 1547 a Diet had repealed the adscriptionem glebae, seeing in the misfortunes of the previous years Divine punishment for the oppression of the poor, 'whose cry goes up incessantly before the Face of God'. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the peasants suffered greatly from war and from the exactions of the foreign garrisons and the Austrian treasury, but their legal position did not greatly deteriorate. A very considerable proportion of them achieved free or partially free status, holding their lands on 'contracts' which were often not unfavourable.

But the return of law and order, and the growth of commercial farming in an era of labour shortage, coupled with the economic conditions which left land still almost the only source of wealth, brought a renewal of the pressure. Old customary freedoms were overridden, common lands enclosed, dues and services multiplied. To the landlords' exactions were added those of the state, for besides the war-tax, which rested exclusively on their shoulders, the peasants had now to supply food and transport for the local units of the standing army, and might themselves be pressed into service in it (for the 'recruiting' normally took the form of shanghai-ing). Finally, the `house-tax', levelled by each county (again exclusively from the non-nobles) to meet the costs of local administration, rose sharply. In Transylvania conditions were worse still: here the robot was four days a week, and there was also much rural over-population, so that misery was acute in the whole province, including the Szekel districts.

Charles did not willingly interfere in the relations between landlord and peasant, but after serious disturbances had broken out in Slavonia, he worked out an urbarium for that area, laying down the minimum legal size for a peasant sessio and the maximum services which the landlord might exact. This, however, never became law. Maria Theresa did not raise the question seriously at her Coronation Diet, at which she needed the nobles' support, but asked the Diet of 1751 to raise the war-tax without increasing the burden on the peasants. The Diet retorted that the way to alleviate the peasants' position was to reduce the tax and to abolish the discriminatory tariff. In 1756 the queen simply promulgated Charles' urbarium in Slavonia, and hoped to persuade the Diet which she convoked in 1764 to adopt a similar system, and to accept the taxation of its own land. Although the unrest was now widespread the Diet refused flatly. Maria Theresa did not try to enforce the extension of the land-tax, which would have been contrary to her own sworn word, but now had the rest of Hungary (Transylvania excluded) surveyed, and in 1767 simply enacted an urbarium for it by rescript.[18]

The urbarium registered all land then worked as peasant-holdings, and thus liable to tax. Further alienation of such land, except under permit, was forbidden. The size of a sessio was fixed at an area ranging according to locality and the quality of the land from 16 hold [19] arable plus 6 hold ley for the best land in Sopron and Pozsony to 38 plus 22 for poor-quality land on the Tisza, plus, in every case, one hold for house, garden and farm-buildings. The peasant's obligations to his landlord were fixed at one day's robot (labour) weekly per full sessio if performed with draught animals and cart, or twice as much hand-labour, plus the old 'ninth' payment introduced by Louis the Great, and certain other dues and payments which varied according to locality. The obligations of a peasant holding less than a full sessio were proportionately less. A peasant was declared legally free to leave his holding if he had paid up all his dues. Royal Commissions were appointed to supervise the work of the patrimonial Courts of Justice.

This enactment must have improved the peasants' conditions, which some observers now described in very favourable terms. The robot was, at any rate, far lighter than in Bohemia or Galicia, where it was 156 days a year per full sessio, while even in Styria it was 104. On the other hand, the Hungarian peasant was worse off than the Austrian in that he lacked the protection which the latter enjoyed through the Kreis officials; the 'noble county,' with all its administrative and judicial apparatus, was and remained a class institution.

And the way in which the reform had been brought about deepened still further the cleft between noble and peasant. Although humanitarian considerations had entered into it, the primary motive behind it had been simply to secure for the Crown a larger fraction of the peasants' production by limiting that of the landlord. Nevertheless, the Crown was now able to figure as the protector of the peasants against the tyranny of the nobles, and was widely so regarded by the peasants themselves.

The period also saw the consummation of what, in its long-term effects on the national destinies, was the most serious of all its developments: the great transformation of the ethnic character of the population.

The beginnings of the change reach back, of course, to far earlier periods. The Turkish advance through the Balkans had already driven many Serbs, Vlachs and Bosnian Croats to take refuge in Hungary. Then had come the Turkish invasion and occupation of Hungary itself, the brunt of which had fallen on its most purely Magyar areas, while the national homes of the Slovaks, Ruthenes and Roumanians in north Hungary and Transylvania had escaped relatively lightly. It is true that many Magyars had escaped into these parts, but those saving themselves by flight were outnumbered many times by those slaughtered or carried off into slavery, and while the non-Magyars, too, had their losses, these were much less heavy and were partially offset, in the case of some of them, by further immigration: substantial numbers of Serbs and Vlachs followed the Turks into the Alföld, other Roumanians slipped unobtrusively into Transylvania; and there was a big immigration of Croats, not only into the old Slavonia, (now officially known as 'Croatia'), but northward into the Muraköz, and more sporadically, all up the Austro-Hungarian frontier.

It has been calculated that when the wars of liberation began, some 50 per cent of the total population was still Magyar; but the ravages of these wars, again, were heaviest in the Magyar areas, and the end of them was accompanied by more waves of immigration. The biggest of these, the organised immigration of the Serbs under their Patriarch, has already been mentioned, and besides this great body, many smaller groups entered Hungary both from the Balkans and from Wallachia. Serb and other South Slav elements occupied the old Lower Slavonian counties, now known simply as 'Slavonia', and much of the south of Hungary proper; the Vlach element multiplied in Transylvania and, driven by the pressure of population and harsh social conditions, spilled out into the Partium.

This led on to the systematic operation known as the Impopulatio, viz., the settlement by the Crown (and on a smaller scale, by some of the big landed proprietors) of the vacant lands at their disposal. In some instances great landowners who owned estates both in the north and the centre populated the latter by bringing down peasants from their other properties: it was in this way, for example that the Slovak colony round Békéscsaba, still in existence, came into being. Even a few Magyar peasants were moved in this way. But the purpose of the operation was to mcrease the total population, which could not be done by moving men from one part of the under-populated country to another; and in fairness it must be recalled that the economic doctrines of the day held the multiplication of population to be a desirable objective in itself. To this, however, were undoubtedly added, in the Crown's mind, the political and economic considerations that the Magyars were a politically unreliable element, which it was desirable to weaken, and a backward one in its agricultural methods.

So another stream of non-Magyars was directed into the country: a few freak groups brought from as far afield as France, Italy, Catalonia and South Russia, a few political, religious or moral deportees from Austria, but the great majority recruits, enlisted by agents, from the smaller states of south Germany, a fact which led to the application to them all by the Hungarians of the generic name of 'Swabians'. The process began under Charles, was at its fullest flood in the middle years of Maria Theresa's reign and was not officially wound up until 1786.

The chief receiving areas were the Bánát (from which Magyars were excluded by deliberate policy) and the other empty lands of South Hungary, Bács-Bodrog, Baranya and Tolna, in which the Germans were settled in such numbers as to earn for the district the popular name of 'Swabian Turkey'; but Germans were settled in considerable numbers also in other parts of Hungary, including the western environs of Buda itself.

Meanwhile, the inconspicuous immigration of Roumanians had been going on, and there had been other smaller but not inconsiderable movements: several thousand Armenians settled in Transylvania; a steady trickle of artisans and other specialists, these chiefly from Austria and the German districts of Bohemia-Moravia, entered the towns. The Jewish population, too, although still small, was on the increase.

The Magyar element re-asserted itself not ineffectually in certain parts of the country. When the central and northern parts of the Alföld were cleared of the Turks, not only did the old landowning class, in so far as it had survived, flock back to re-occupy its ancestral acres, but the same road was taken also by a large number of Magyar peasants, lured by the larger holdings and easier social conditions. The surviving non-Magyars of these areas Magyarised (it was in Maria Theresa's reign that the Cuman language finally died out). These areas became almost solidly Magyar, and the same became true of much of the Dunántúl, except its western fringe, its south-eastern corner, a few smaller areas, and the towns. But this centripetal movement depleted the Magyar stock in the peripheral areas, and as they moved down, the non-Magyars moved in after them.

It is calculated that by the end of the impopulatio, the Magyars numbered only about 3,350,000, or some 3~ per cent of the total population. The Roumanians now numbered about a million and a half, the Slovaks a million and a quarter, the Germans a million, the Serbs and Croats about three quarters of a million each. The remainder was made up of Ruthenes, gypsies, Jews and smaller nationalities.

An ethnic map of the country drawn at the end of Maria Theresa's reign which did not take density of population into account and ignored small ethnic islets, would have looked very much like one drawn in 1900. It would have shown the Magyars in a large, or clear, majority only in the central parts of Hungary. In the west, the fringe was German. In the north, the main ethnic line between the Magyars on the one hand and the Slovaks and Ruthenes on the other followed approximately the line where the foothills of the Carpathians melt into the plain. In Transylvania and the Partium, the Roumanians were probably now in a small absolute majority. Croatia proper was almost solidly Croat, the Slavonian counties chiefly Serb, and the rest of the south a hotch-potch of Southern Slav, of various brands, German and Roumanian, with a relatively small admixture of Magyars.

The Serbs were always a thorn in the Hungarians' flesh. From the first, they regarded themselves as the Emperor's men, whose function it was to fight any of his enemies, including, or for preference, Hungarians. They certainly did not propose, if they could help it, to exchange their accustomed life of herdsmen-soldiers for the arduous state of peasant cultivators on some Hungarian nobleman's estate. They battled hard for continued recognition of their `national' status, if possible on a territory of their own, where they would form a separate polity under the Emperor.

The Hungarians succeeded in getting this latter demand rejected, and the Serbs' 'national' privileges reduced to ecclesiastical autonomy. Through their church, however, the Serbs kept alive their feeling of national cohesion, and, most of them, their implacable hostility towards Hungary, and this was the easier because a high proportion of them were settled in the Military Frontier, where the authorities welcomed and fostered the attitude.

There were national stirrings during the period also among the Roumanians. Between the Orthodox Roumanians and the Hungarians, again, the religious difference helped to accentuate the contempt in which the latter held the former, as an unstable and altogether inferior race, little superior to gypsies. The Roumanians in their turn endured with sullen hatred their position of inferiority and the increasing social pressure which was put on them as the Transylvanian nobles drove them into settled work under conditions which were peculiarly burdensome. The conscious Roumanian national revival was, however, initiated by the leaders of the Uniate church, who came forward with the theory that the Roumanians of Transylvania were its true autochthonous population, the descendants of the Roman colonists of Dacia. They used this theory as an argument to demand recognition of the Roumanian nobles as a fourth 'nation' of Transylvania, and of the Orthodox faith as a fifth 'recognised' religion.

The remaining non-Magyars had not yet become troublesome. The Croat nobles lived in harmony with their Hungarian colleagues; the non-nobles here had nothing to say. There was some friction between the Hungarians and the German peasant colonists, who also regarded themselves as the subjects rather of the Empire than of Hungary, and the German burghers - this last as much on social and economic as on strictly national grounds. This was not, however, very serious, and in the case of the peasants, rather tended to diminish as they settled in. Slovak and Ruthene nationalism was still dormant. The Hungarians, for their part, did not see in the non-Magyar quality of the peasants (as distinct from the Serbs) any particular danger. Yet the danger, although still latent, was there, and only a little later it was destined first to threaten and then to destroy the Hungarian state itself.

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