The Austrian Empire Part I

The acceptance of an imperial dignity by Napoleon I induced Franz II to accept the hereditary title of “Emperor of Austria” (as Franz I) on August 11, 1804; the constitutional relationship of his countries was not changed by it. In the 3rd Coalition War he renewed the fight against France, but Napoleon occupied Vienna and won a decisive victory at Austerlitz (December 2nd, 1805). In the Peace of Pressburg (December 26, 1805) Austria had to cede the Vorlande (Front Austria), Tyrol, Dalmatia and Veneto; it received the secularized Archdiocese of Salzburg. Emperor Franz initiated the establishment of the Rhine Confederation by Napoleon to lay down the Roman (German) imperial crown (August 6, 1806) and to declare the Holy Roman Empire extinct.

From 1806 until the Congress of Vienna

While Napoleon extended his rule over the whole of Germany, Austria was preparing for a new insurrection under J. P. Graf von Stadion as Foreign Minister and Archduke Karl as army leader. But in the war of 1809 it was defeated in spite of the victory at Aspern and Eßling as well as the uprising of Tyrol (A. Hofer) and in the Peace of Schönbrunn (October 14, 1809) it lost the Innviertel and Salzburg, western and part of eastern Galicia, Carniola, Trieste and parts of Carinthia and Croatia. A rapprochement with Napoleon was initiated by K. W. Prince von Metternich as the new Foreign Minister; in the spring of 1810 Napoleon married the Austrian emperor’s daughter Marie Louise.

Like Prussia and the other German states, Austria also provided an auxiliary corps for the Great Army in 1812 (under K. P. Fürst zu Schwarzenberg); however, it was very restrained in Russia and also during the beginning of the wars of liberation. In the summer of 1813 Austria joined the anti-French coalition, which Metternich led with diplomatic skill; Schwarzenberg received the supreme command of their armed forces. After the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig (1813) and the fall ofNapoleon (1814) the Congress of Vienna met in 1814/15. Austria owes him the return of its ceded possessions (Tyrol, Salzburg, Innviertel, the Illyrian provinces), as well as Dalmatia and the Tarnopol district; it also received Veneto and Lombardy, but finally renounced the foreland and the Austrian Netherlands.

The “Metternich System”

From 1814/15, Austria assumed a leading position in Europe under the leadership of Metternich (State Chancellor from 1821). In Germany it was the presidential power of the German Confederation, and in Italy it was indisputably the predominant power to which the Habsburg branch lines (in Tuscany and Modena), the Bourbons (in Naples-Sicily, Parma-Piacenza) and the popes (in the Papal States) submitted. According to computerminus, Metternich became the champion of the political system of restoration and defender of the European order of the Congress of Vienna and of monarchical absolutism against all liberal and national ideas. In Germany he knew how to maintain the agreement with Prussia, which he treated as an equal power in the German Confederation; the easier he could King Friedrich Wilhelm III. move from Prussia to support his policy (Karlsbader Resolutions 1819).

The “Metternich system” was only temporarily shaken by the effects of the French July Revolution of 1830; it was not until after 1840 that it began to gradually decay. In Austria itself, with the exception of Hungary, the tough police regiment and strict censorship suppressed all freedom of movement. There were no reforms of the state and the finances did not come out of the disruption caused by the Napoleonic wars. Since 1826, F. A. Graf Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky, as Minister of State, exercised the decisive power at home. As Franz (II.) / I. He died in 1835, followed by his weak-minded son Ferdinand I; the “Secret State Conference” (Archduke Ludwig [* 1784, † 1864], Archduke) ruled for him Franz Karl [* 1802, † 1878],Metternich, Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky). National movements stirred among the non-German peoples of the monarchy. The Magyars achieved the introduction of Hungarian as the state language in 1840; a national and liberal opposition emerged ever stronger. The national consciousness of the Slavs, especially the Czechs and Croats, grew stronger. The Poles of Galicia saw in the Austrian province a piece of their divided fatherland. When the Free State of Krakow became the focus of Polish surveys, it was incorporated into Austria in 1846.

The revolution of 1848/49

The shock of the French February Revolution also hit Austria. The outbreak of the March Revolution in Vienna (March 13-15) immediately led to Metternich’s fall. On March 15, the emperor had to promise a liberal constitution; this was issued on April 25 only for the non-Hungarian countries, while Hungary and Austria were to be in the relationship of the personal union. At the same time, the Frankfurt National Assembly entered together; in Venice (March 17) and Milan (March 18), supported by Piedmont-Sardinia (“Risorgimento”), the national revolution was first victorious. A mass movement in Vienna forced the revision of the electoral law on May 15; the new Reichstag was to be appointed as a constituent parliament and every electoral census was to be abolished. A. Fürst zu Windischgrätz violently suppressed the Whitsun uprising of the Czechs in Prague (June 11th – 17th).

The Austrian Empire 1

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