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the rate of interest on Government securities varying from 6 to
7 per cent, money could only be borrowed on terms which considerably diminished the probability of eventual profit; and so little were monetary principles understood in parts of the empire, that the province of Transylvania in 1840 did not possess a single bank. A retail tradesman at that time undertook the transmission of money to Vienna, and he would not even receive deposits unless he was paid a percentage for keeping them.*
The want of capital has hitherto prevented the growth of an intermediate order between the landowner and the labourer, and the non-existence of an independent, prosperous middleclass has had an important influence in retarding the material progress of Austria. Commerce has been confined within narrow limits, and restricted to a small number of competitors; and society has been divided into two great denominations—the rich and the poor. Banking accommodation has been rarely afforded except to large landed proprietors; and the great stream of public wealth has not been augmented by those innumerable petty rills, the aggregate contributions of which in other countries so vastly augment its volume, and accelerate its course. The rural economy of Austria has scarcely yet reached that stage of development in which rent is produced. There are few persons corresponding to the British farmer who invest their capital in the cultivation of land not their own, and derive from it a comfortable subsistence. Almost every proprietor within the Austrian dominions cultivates his own estate. No social phenomenon can more clearly mark the economical difference between England and Austria. Throughout almost the whole of its varied provinces a prince or noble, although the owner of a domain compared with which the largest of English estates would be thought only a petty farm, rarely lets any portion of it to a tenant; but having erected a sufficient number of farm-houses, he places in each a person of his own selection, and pays him for cultivating the land. The capabilities of the soil are, of course, but lightlytested by this system of farming; and it affords little indication of what the future yield of land might become when science and capital are combined in its cultivation.
The impediments which were long opposed to cultivation of waste-lands must have materially interfered with the course of agricultural improvement. The conversion, for example, of the smallest portion of forest into arable land required the special permission of the Sovereign,' because the forest. laws had enacted that, in order to prevent a scarcity of wood, the extent of forest
* Paget's 'Hungary and Transylvania,' p. 239.
land land should not be diminished; and a lord who desired to purchase even a few square yards of land from his tenant for building purposes was obliged to obtain the assent of the Emperor to the arrangement, because, by a well-meant enactment, the tenant-laws had forbidden the increase of domains from tenantlands.
To these disadvantages under which the commerce and agriculture of Austria have long laboured must be added the system of State lotteries, which has created a spirit of gambling which is diffused throughout all ranks of society, and has diverted the savings of multitudes from reproductive industry to exciting and often ruinous speculation. More than 20,000,000 florins, or nearly two millions sterling, are annually devoted by the public to this demoralising pleasure. The passion for gambling is indulged by persons of the slenderest means, and even wealthy and respectable firms have sometimes brought themselves to the verge of bankruptcy by such speculations. Lottery agents are appointed even in the remotest and least populous districts of the empire; and the spirit of gambling has become so widely extended that the amount invested in tickets increased from 1850 to 1857 by not less than 150 per cent. The Government obtains a considerable sum annually from this objectionable source; but it is to be hoped that the blot of such a financial expedient will soon be effaced from the Austrian budget.*
Not the least influential of the causes which have kept the Austrian empire in a state of financial penury and material backwardness has been its frequent political disquiet It has been constantly contending with the passion of provincial independence, and striving to subdue and extinguish that spirit of clanship in some one or other of its numerous provinces which was always aiming at the disintegration of the State. Innumerable conflicting local interests have from time immemorial thwarted the best-conceived plans' for the common good. The union even of the German provinces has been often precarious, but the empire has long struggled, and struggled in vain, to reconcile to its dominion a people who are almost unique in Europe. An Asiatic horde burst into the province of Pannonia in the year 883, and it has kept possession, through many vicissitudes, of the territory then acquired. Notwithstanding their long settlement in the very centre of Europe, the
* It is stated by a writer on Austria that the number of drawings in a year throughout the empire is not less than 450, and that the lowest amount that may be staked is two pence. We have, perhaps, scarcely a right to comment on this financial expedient of the Austrian Government. England was long an offender in the same category; but the lottery system was never carried to the same extent as it is in Austria, and we have long since abandoned our evil course.
Magyars Magyars retain to a considerable extent their Asiatic character. Their country now constitutes nearly one-half of the Austrian empire; and from the day that the leader of a nomadic tribe subjugated the country, it may be said that Hungary until towards the middle of the eighteenth century did not enjoy ten years of uninterrupted peace. The introduction of an Asiatic element into the very heart of Europe has necessarily considerably affected the material condition of the territory thus occupied. The Magyar is still essentially a Tartar in his habits, his occupations, and his tastes. He is a herdsman by descent and by inclination; and the peasant shepherd as he stalks over the illimitable plains in his white sheepskin robe might, from his noble bearing and majestic step, be mistaken for a prince of the desert. The magnanimous nature of the Magyar, his language, his Oriental pride, and more than Oriental hospitality, his natural dignity, and even his occasional languor and listlessness, all unequivocally denote his Asiatic derivation and proclaim him of a peculiar race. The Hungarian is rarely a merchant, neither is he by preference an agriculturist, as the steppes of Thibet seem almost reproduced in the great Hungarian plain; to rear horses and tend cattle and sheep are the principal occupations and enjoyments of the Magyar. The villages almost look like encampments, for the houses are built low and apart from each other like tents.
If these people are so distinctly marked, even among the many diversified races of the Austrian empire, the same may be equally said of much of the remarkable country which they inhabit. Hungary is a vast plain sloping to the south, and is surrounded on every side by mountains of different degrees of elevation. The greater part of the country consists of two levels—one 36,000 square miles in extent, or 4000 square miles larger than Ireland. No one portion of this great tract rises 100 feet above the level of the Danube; and, with the exception of a few sandy districts, it comprises some of the richest soil in Europe. The territory which extends from Pesth to the borders of Transylvania, and from Belgrade to the vine-clad hills of Hegyalja, is an almost unbroken level with boundless capabilities of production. The delta of the Nile does not surpass it in fertility. In the hands of a people more advanced in the arts of life it would have long since swarmed with population, and have presented an unexampled picture of agricultural wealth. A large portion of it yet remains the most neglected, the most inadequately peopled, and, with the exception of Turkey, the least improved portion of Europe. The Magyar, even when he applies himself to agriculture, displays chiefly his Asiatic indolence
and and carelessness. No ploughs were used in Hungary until lately but those of the rudest description; harrows were formed from the branches of trees; and the grain is trodden out by horses or oxen in the open field, and then stored in holes dug in the earth. Much of Hungary presents at the present day almost a virgin field for agriculture, and a moderate application of capital would speedily convert it into one of the finest corn-producing districts in the world.
The Austrian empire comprises, since the loss of Lombardy, an area of 11,252 Austrian square miles; and, Switzerland excepted, it is the most mountainous state in Europe. The mountain regions constitute indeed full three-quarters of its area. Austria thus maintains the third rank in geographical importance among the nations of Europe, Russia containing 75,150, and the united kingdoms of Sweden and Norway 13,760, geographical square miles. The Alps, the Carpathians, and the Transylvanian mountains enclose the great Hungarian plain, screening it from the chilling winds of the north, and giving to it some geological features which differ from those of Poland. The Adriatic washes 250 miles of the coast. The geological characteristics of so vast a country are, of course, extremely diversified, and include almost every kind of rock, and every quality of soil. The greater part of the empire lies within the temperate zone. The last Census of 1857, which did not include the army, shows a population of 34,439,067 souls; but it is computed that in the beginning of the year 1862 the empire contained 35,795,000 inhabitants, of which Hungary possessed rather more than 10,000,000, nearly one half of whom are Magyars. This large population is thus divided in respect of race and language :—
Bohemians, Moravians, and Slovacks .. 6,300,000
Italians (inclusive Ladins and Friauls) .. 3,050,000
Eastern Romans 2,700,000
Members of other races 1,430,000
A large proportion of the population (24,874,000) profess the Roman Catholic faith; about 6,600,000 are members of the Greek Church and its branches; while the remainder are chiefly Protestants and Jews.
The comparative cultivation of Great Britain, France, and Austria is exhibited in the following table, derived from a trustworthy source:—
This table, which, however, was formed before the separation of Lombardy from Austria, suggests some important considerations. The proportion of land altogether uncultivated is nearly equal in Austria, Great Britain, and France ; the mountains and commons of England, Scotland, and Wales, and the bogs of Ireland, corresponding to the Alpine provinces of Austria and the marshes and sandy districts of Hungary. In Austria the proportion of land in tillage is about equal to that in Great Britain, and the produce of the most fertile districts of Lower Austria is certainly not less than that obtained from similar soils in England; but in an estimate of comparative value of the agricultural produce of the three countries we have the following- results :*—
Approximate value in francs \ Britain.
of agricultural produce (not G900000000 4ioco,000,000 3,000,000,000 including live stock) in Bn- I tain, France, and Austria J
The area in tillage, either continuously or by rotation, is 3582 square miles, of which the alluvial district of the Danubian valley, a portion of Moravia, the north-east of Galicia, part of the Bukowina, and pre-eminently the great Hungarian plains, are the most prolific. The quantity of oats produced is considerably greater than that of any other grain, being about double that of wheat; the proportions of wheat, and barley, and
* The calculation having been made before the separation of Lombardy from the Empire, the proportions would now of course be considerably more unfavourable to Austria.