- Jul 15, 2006
Divided But United - Austria 1836-1920
No cheats or mods.
In 1836, Austria was ruled by Ferdinand I, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia . The Austrian Empire had the largest land-area in Europe(not counting Russia). It was counted among the great powers of the world, but it had one crippling downside. Ethnic division. With 12 major languages, 5 major religions and various different issues between the ethnic groups, Austria was a house of cards, built on a shaky desk.
The Emperor wasn't capable of uniting the country. He wasn't regarded as a man of intelligence, even though he had a sharp wit. His epileptic seizures(he could have over 20 per day) severely restricted his ability to rule. The country was de facto run by a clique of ministers, with Prince Klemens von Metternich as the headsman.
Since there was considerable difficulty of keeping the country together, many ministers proposed that social reforms should be made, like improving the healthcare and unemployment subsidies. Metternich was completely against it, and more importantly, the treasury was nearly empty.
No social reforms took place, and Metternich rammed through his proposals of raising the taxes and tariffs to get some much-needed money on the state treasury.
This, of course, provoked violence, but since the crime-figthing budget was raised significantly, major criminal activities were almost completely wiped out from the Empire. Any revolts were violently surpressed and 2 new divisions were trained. A relative peace had returned, but it wouldn't last if changes were not made. At this point, the Emperor made one of his most clear-headed decisions ever.
The Emperor was not blind, even if some people questioned his intelligence. Seeing his people rioting in the streets of Vienna and hearing the news from the rest of the Empire, he decided to act. Since he was plaugued with constant seizures, he couldn't really march into the chamber of ministers. Instead, he wrote a letter.
In Vienna, 17th of May, 1839 A.D.
To Prince Klemens von Metternich and the other members of the Regent's Council
It has come to my attention that the people of my Empire aren't satisfied with the current economic policy and harsh laws that restrict their rights as citizens of the Empire. Since the Regent's Council is not able to handle the situation, I order by Imperial Edict, that all male citizens of the Empire after turning 24 years old have equal rights to vote for the members of the Regent's Council. The nominee for the position in the council must be a honourable citizen of the Empire, male, literate and well taught in governmental affairs.
I know this may shock you, since many of you are my relatives and personal friends. But make no mistake, all councilmembers will be arrested, should they choose not to comply to this Imperial Edict. I remind you that every single citizen of the Empire is bound by the Imperial Decree, and all opposing it are named enemies of the Empire.
The position of the Chairman of the Council shall not be elected by the people. The Emperor shall nominate the chairman from now on. Currently, I see no reason why Prince von Metternich shouldn't resume in his position.
The people know what is the will of the people.
Yours, Ferdinand I, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia
Ferdinand had completely stepped over the authority of the Council and implemented a change that was very radical by any standard. Universal suffrage was only in use in the USA and parts of Italy and France.
The members of the council were, of course, furious. That didn't stop the Imperial Bodyguard of arresting anyone who went too far. Metternich, being the clever politician that he was, chose to shut his mouth and wait to see what the future would hold. He was as surprised as everyone else in the Council, but he was also smarter than many in the council.
The Emperor was praise everywhere, gaining unofficial titles such as Ferdinand V the Good in Bohemia. Ferdinand's decision was radical, welcomed and very risky. One cannot say that his decision unified the country, but it brought the people closer together. There were still many issues, like the seperatism in Northern Italy and Romania, but overall the chaotic situation of some months earlier was now nothing more than an unpleasant memory.