« PreviousContinue »
8,633,172/. represents British and Irish produce and manufactures ; and the imports from France have risen from 10,447,774/. in 1854, to 17,815,119/. in 1861, and are still steadily increasing. The change of commercial policy almost forced upon a reluctant people has thus resulted, in a degree scarcely anticipated hy the most sanguine, in a vast increase to the prosperity of France. Nor have those interests suffered, the destruction of which was so confidently foretold. In the case of the French fisheries, the reduction of the duty on imported fish was strongly objected to on patriotic as well as on commercial grounds. It would ruin, it was said, thousands of poor fishermen, and likewise diminish the number of sailors available for the Imperial navy. It has resulted in a very large increase in the number both of boats and men employed. Again, in oleaginous seeds, an important article of agricultural production in France, their cultivation, it was said, would cease to be profitable; and the first importations certainly caused a fall in prices, but they have since recovered themselves. The increased importation of almost all articles of consumption, such as cattle, spirits, cocoa, coffee, coke, and wool, has been very marked. Neither has the admission of commodities, hitherto almost excluded by high duties, produced that sudden inundation of the markets which was foretold. There is now even an active competition between the English and French woollen manufacturers: and whereas the latter in the alteration of the tariff saw nothing but their approaching ruin, they now admit that they have been benefited by the change, and that the exportation of woollen goods from France to England is greater than the importation of similar articles from England to France. The imports of French woollen manufactures increased from 1861 to 1862,18 per cent.; of silk manufactures 8 per cent.; of cotton manufactures 13 per cent.; and the consumption of French wines has risen from 571,993 gallons in 1858 to 1,901,200 gallons in 1862. Importations, it has been now proved, rarely permanently lower the price of a home-produced article. The explanation is simple and intelligible. Imports stimulate demand and increase consumption; and prices, after perhaps a slight temporary decline, not only regain their former level, but often exceed it. These principles the legislators and statesmen of Austria, with the example of France and England before them, can scarcely fail to recognise as at once the remedy for the restoration of public credit and the source of private prosperity. The ability of other countries to become valuable customers of Austria is proved by the increase which has recently taken place in her trade. In one year, from 1859 to 1860, she showed the large increase of upwards of twenty-nine
million million florins, or nearly three millions sterling, in her exports, of which twenty-two millions consisted of cereal produce and fruits. What, then, may not be expected when her commercial relations have been adjusted in conformity to her own true interests?
The National Debt of Austria is about two hundred and fifty millions sterling, which cannot be considered large for a country of such great resources. Austria like other states when in financial difficulties has freely had recourse to the expedient of paper money to meet her immediate wants, and depreciation was the necessary consequence. Scarcely any other country has ever approached so near to the abyss of a tremendous financial catastrophe. In twelve years, from 1847 to 1859, her taxation was doubled, but the public expenditure was tripled within the same period. The State appears to have acted as a reckless spendthrift on the road to ruin. It sold its most valuable domains, parted with its railways for an inadequate price; and the public debt, notwithstanding the extraordinary means resorted to for replenishing the treasury, was enormously augmented. The expenses of the Government rose to frightful proportions, the increase in twelve years having been not less than 87*65 per cent. There is now, however, one proof of the gradual restoration of credit in Austria, which cannot deceive, namely, the state of the exchange with foreign countries. In January, 1861, the exchange on London at Vienna was as high as 156; on the 1st of January, 1862, it was 153; it is, while we write, 121; or, in other words, 10/. sterling, which were worth 156 florins two years ago, are worth only 121 florins now,—such has been the increase in the value of Austrian paper, indicating a proportional growth of confidence in the country and its Government.
Railways are gradually connecting all the provinces of the empire. We have already referred to the effect of a railway communication, although a circuitous one, from the interior of Hungary to the Adriatic in increasing the exports of corn. The completion of the line connecting Sissek with the ViennaTrieste Railway, and the works in progress for improving the navigation of the Drave, will open to commerce some of the most fertile districts in Europe, including the Servian Banat, Sclavonia, and Croatia. It is to the late Baron Brack that Austria owes the commencement of that system of railroads which is now gradually extending over Hungary and towards the western frontier of Transylvania. The great importance of connecting the Hungarian port of Fiume with the interior did not escape his attention. It involved the necessity of passing through the Julian Alps, those great natural barriers which are interposed between
Hungary Hungary and the sea, but a railway will doubtless amply repay any cost that may be incurred in its construction. This im
?9rtant line is now in contemplation, and it will proceed from iume to Carlstadt and Agram, and thence to Esgek, thus connecting the richest districts of Hungary with die sea. The railways formed under Imperial concessions have been generally constructed with no special reference to commercial interests, but rather with a view to strategical considerations. The existing lines consist of about 800 miles, and 600 additional miles are in progress.
Among the plans for promoting a more extensive intercourse between Great Britain and Hungary is one suggested by Mr. Fane, by the adoption of which, he thinks, a great and immediate impulse would be given to the commerce of the two countries. He proposes that in some great seat of trade, accessible both by land and water, such as Semlin, free entrepots and bonded warehouses should be established, and fairs held half-yearly, on the principles of those of Leipsig and Frankfort. Those marts, it is well known, have imparted great activity to the trade of Northern Germany. Mr. Fane thinks, and his official position entitles his opinion to great weight, that a stimulus would thus be given to the purchase of British commodities by the knowledge that Hungarian and other traders would acquire of articles of which they at present know little; and British merchants, through their agents, would become better acquainted with Hungarian produce. The trade in corn, wine, tobacco, tallow, oil, seeds, hides, as well as in horses, cattle, and provisions, would be increased.
That which most strikes a political observer when traversing the diversified provinces of Austria is the extremely heterogeneous character of the population, which includes races in almost every stage of social progress. In the other great monarchies of Europe some one element has absorbed or neutralised the rest. In France, Celts and Provencals have been long merged in the modern French; in our own island, Celts, Saxons, and Normans have gradually lost their specific attributes; but the dominions of the House of Hapsburg are peopled by races which still preserve most of their original characteristic differences, and thus constitute a political problem such as no other state in Europe has to solve. The ethnological and social peculiarities which are found in this great political union are as various as they are interesting. To the Magyars we have already referred, and we can only now touch slightly on a few of the others. If the variety of races within the Austrian empire makes the task of government difficult, it is not without some counterbalancing advantage, for the Vol. 114.—No. 227. D number number of the 'nationalities' affords a security against the injurious predominance of one. Thus the Magyar element possesses an effective counterpoise in Transylvania, and Transylvania is a natural fortress of extreme political importance, for as long as Austrian influence is paramount there any renewed struggle in Hungary would be in vain. The remarkable people who are most numerous in Transylvania are the Roumans, the descendants of the civilized Romans of Dacia: they have greatly degenerated under centuries of oppression; but their facial contour, dark complexion, and antique costume, denote unequivocally their classic descent, although indolence and superstition have long kept them in a state of social degradation, which presents a marked contrast to many other races of the empire. It is a favourite sentiment with them that God, who takes care of the sparrows who never go to mass, will certainly take care of them who never miss a Sunday at church. The degeneracy of this people is attributable to prolonged Magyar tyranny, which kept them for centuries in a state of abject helotry. A Rouman was obliged to wear sandals instead of shoes; he was not permitted to wear an embroidered coat or a hat; his house was not to be furnished with windows that looked into the street, nor was it allowed to be constructed with a chimney. Much has been done of late by the Austrian Government to elevate this long-depressed people. As the preponderating race in a province very important to Austria, thev have lately received much of its attention; for if Transylvania should decide on being represented in the Reichsrath, Hungary must ultimately abandon all pretension to dictate to Austria the terms of its adhesion to the empire.*
Inhabiting the north-west of Hungary, a district which once formed a part of the kingdom of Great Moravia, is a people which presents a marked contrast to the Roumans and to the Magyars, and indeed to most of the other races of the Austrian empire. The Slovacks have been termed the industrial Scots of Hungary, who go forth with their sobriety, industry, and economy to the most distant provinces, and are found carrying on with success their various pursuits, from Presburg even almost to the summits of the Carpathians. They are an agricultural people, strongly attached to their country, with verymarked national peculiarities, cautious rather than impetuous, but; like their prototypes in North Britain, generally ready to proceed to distant lands in search of the good things of life. No people in the Austrian monarchy exercises so great an influ
* The population of Transylvania is 2,409326, of which the Koumans number 1,249,181.
ence ence or possesses so much political importance as the Bohemians. The population of Bohemia forms about one-ninth of that of the Austrian empire; but one-fourth of the civil employes of the Government are natives of that country. Great numbers of men of keen intellect, good education, but limited means, annually leave their country to push their fortunes in Vienna, and no other race exercises so important an influence as this vigorous people does on the politics of the Austrian empire. The struggle for national independence made by the Czecks or people of Sclavonian blood during the lamentable anarchy of Austria in 1848 has not been renewed, and the Bohemian members of the Reichsrath are generally supporters of the Government and favourable to the unity of the empire. Galicia, although tempted by the Polish outbreak to make common cause with the insurgents, has remained loval to Austria, wisely preferring the solid advantages of a mild government, light taxation, and liberal municipal institutions, to the phantom of a resuscitated nationality. Upon the Tyrolese the House of Hapsburg has always relied for courage and loyalty in the most adverse circumstances; and, although their bigoted Catholicism has lately objected to the religious toleration which is now one of the principles of the Austrian Government, the empire contains no firmer supporters of its unity. The Croats, although not without some national aspirations of their own which have hitherto prevented their complete union with Austria, are on the whole loyally disposed, and have more than once rendered great services to the state.
One of the most interesting, although geographically not one of the most important of the provinces of the Austrian empire, is that narrow strip of territory which lies between Turkey and the Adriatic, the coast of which, broken into numerous creeks and bays, and studded with islands, affords many admirable harbours and roadsteads. Dalmatia first became an Austrian possession in 1797. The maritime resources of Austria are now limited to the province of Dalmatia and to the ports and harbours in the Gulf of Venice. It cannot be considered an unreasonable ambition of Austria to aspire to some influence on the sea, and to possess a navy which shall be an appreciable element of her strength. To the direction which her views have thus somewhat recently taken, must be attributed that determined hold on Venetia, which neither the political embarrassments inseparable from its retention, nor the very heavy charge upon her finances which its possession entails, will probably induce her to relax. Until her acquisition of Dalmatia, Austria held only a few leagues of coast in the Gulf of Venice. She once possessed a grand opportunity of acquiring maritime importance while the old Spanish Netherlands were
D 2 annexed