Parliamentary life in Austria was paralysed by the feud between Germans and Czechs that resulted directly from the Badeni language ordinances of 1897 and indirectly from the development of Slav influence, particularly that of Czechs and Poles during the Taaffe era (1879-1893).
Before the combination of Clericals and Federalists the ministry broke down; they were divided among themselves; Counts Taaffe and Alfred Potocki, the minister of agriculture, wished to conciliate the Slav races - a policy recommended 1 The documents are printed in Baron de Worms, op. cit.
Taaffe and his friends resigned in January 1870, but mentary the majority did not long survive.
The ministry resigned, and Potocki and Taaffe formed a government with this object.
The disliked the alliance with the aristocracy and the Y in power; but in the reconstructed cabinet, though Stremayr was president, Count Taaffe, as minister of the interior, was the most important member.
Parliament was dissolved in the summer, and Taaffe, by private negotiations, first of all persuaded the Bohemian feudal proprietors to give the Feudalists, who had long been excluded, a certain number of seats; secondly, he succeeded where Potocki had failed, and came to an agreement with the Czechs; they had already, in 1878, taken their seats in the diet at Prague, and now gave up the policy of " passive resistance," and consented to take their seats also in the parliament at Vienna.
Taaffe, who now became first minister, tried first of all to govern by the help of the moderates of all parties, and he included representatives of nearly every party in his cabinet.
Taaffe, therefore, was obliged to turn for support to the Right.
For fourteen years Taaffe succeeded in maintaining the position he had thus secured.
There was a large minority of constitutionalists; they might easily become a majority, and the Right were therefore obliged to support Taaffe in order to avert this.
Originally railways had been built by private enterprise, supported in some cases by a state guarantee; a law of 1877 permitted the acquisition of private lines; when Taaffe retired the state possessed nearly 5000 m.
What Taaffe's Administration did was to interpret this law in a sense more favourable to the Sla y s than had hitherto been the case.
The Sla y s, however, required that, even when a small minority of Slav race settled in any town, they should not be compelled to go to the German schools, but should have their own school provided for them; and this demand was granted by Prazak, minister of education under Count Taaffe.
Slav races was, however, not merely the result of government assistance; it had begun long before Taaffe assumed office; it was to be seen in the census returns and in the results of elections.
In 1890, however, instead of proceeding to the coronation as was expected, Taaffe attempted to bring about a reconciliation between the opposing parties.
The influence by which his policy was directed is not quite clear, but the Czechs had been of recent years less easy to deal with, and Taaffe had never really shown any wish to alter the constitution; his policy always was to destroy the influence of parliament by playing off one party against the other, and so to win a clear field for the government.
During the month of January conferences were held at Vienna, with Taaffe in the chair, to which were invited representatives of the three groups into which the Bohemian representatives were divided, the German party, the Czechs, and the Feudal party.
For two years the government seemed to waver, looking now to the Left, now to Hohenwart and his friends; for a time Taaffe really had the support of all parties except the Young Czechs.
Taaffe's bill, while keeping the curiae of the feudal proprietors and the chambers of commerce as they were, and making no change in the number of members, proposed to give the franchise in both towns and rural districts to every one who could read and write, and had resided six months in one place.
On this Taaffe had probably calculated, but he had omitted to inquire what the other parties would do.
The position of the government was hopeless, and without waiting for a division Taaffe resigned.
The strongest of them were the fifty-nine Poles and sixty Young Czechs; he therefore attempted, as Taaffe had done, to come to some agreement with them.
In 1879 Count Eduard Taaffe became Austrian prime minister, and he succeeded in persuading the representatives of Bohemia to take part in the deliberations of the parliament of Vienna.
The government of Count Taaffe, in recognition of this concession by the Bohemians, consented to remove some of the grossest anomalies connected with the electoral system of Bohemia, which had hitherto been grossly partial to the German minority of the population.
The government of Count Taaffe also consented to the foundation of a Bohemian university at Prague, which greatly contributed to the intellectual development of the country.
On the fall of the government of Count Taaffe, Prince Alfred Windischgratz became prime minister.
This post he laid down in 1879, and came forward as leader of the Liberal German opposition to the administration of Count Taaffe.
When it came to his turn Peter Taaffe implied that his one time leader and mentor was getting crusty, if not senile.
The combined effect of these successive blows, aggravated by the long period of decentralizing policy from Taaffe to Badeni, is still felt in the Kaiserstadt.
Eduard Franz Joseph, count von Taaffe, 11th viscount Taaffe and baron of Ballymore >>
But this way too had to be given up, since even the smallest nationality would not allow itself to be absorbed, and during Taaffe's administration (1878) the idea came into favour of treating each nationality, and allowing it to grow up, according to its own idiosyncrasies; they were only to be restricted so far as the unity of the state rendered it absolutely necessary.
It was not till the Taaffe Government that it became a frequent thing for individual Slav deputies to speak in their own language.
In 1887 things went better; there was some difficulty about the tariff, especially about the tax on petroleum, but Count Taaffe had a stronger position than the Austrian ministers of 1877.
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