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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 321 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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COUNT EDUARD FRANZ JOSEPH VON TAAFFE [rith Viscount Taaffe and Baron of Ballymote, in the peerage of Ireland] (1833-1895), Austrian statesman, was born at Vienna on 24th February 1833. He was the second son of Count Ludwig Patrick Taaffe (1791-1855), a distinguished public man who was minister of justice in 1848 and president of the court of appeal. As a child Taaffe was one of the chosen companions of the young archduke, afterwards emperor, Francis Joseph. In 1852 he entered the public service; in 1867 he was Statthalter of Upper Austria, and the emperor offered him the post of minister of the interior in Beust's administration. In June he became vice-president of the ministry, and at the end of the year he entered the first ministry of the newly organized Austrian portion of the monarchy. For the next three years he took a very important part in the confused political changes, and probably more than any other politician represented the wishes of the emperor. He had entered the ministry as a German Liberal, but he soon took an intermediate position between the Liberal majority of the Berger ministry and the party which desired a federalistic amendment of the constitution and which was strongly supported at court. From September 1868 to January 187o, after the retirement of Auersperg, he was president of the cabinet. In 187o the government broke up on the question of the revision of the constitution: Taaffe with Potocki and Berger wished to make some concessions to the Federalists; the Liberal majority wished to preserve undiminished the authority of the Reichsrath. The two parties presented memoranda to the emperor, each defending their view, and offering their resignation: after some hesitation the emperor accepted the policy of the majority, and Taaffe with his friends resigned. The Liberals, however, failed to carry on the government, as the representatives of most of the territories refused to appear in the Reichsrath: they resigned, and in the month of April Potocki and Taaffe returned to office. The latter failed, however, in the attempt to come to some under-standing with the Czechs, and in their turn had to make way for the Clerical and Federalist cabinet of Hohenwart. Taaffe now became Statthalter of Tirol, but once more on the break-down of the Liberal government in 1879 he was called to office. At first he attempted to carry on the government without change of principles, but he soon found it necessary to come to an understanding with the Feudal and Federal parties, and he was responsible for the conduct of the negotiations which in the elections of this year gave a majority to the different groups of the National and Clerical opposition. In July he became minister president: at first he still continued to govern with the Liberals, but this was soon made impossible, and he was obliged to turn for support to the Conservatives. It was his great achievement that he persuaded the Czechs to abandon the policy of abstention and to take part in the parliament. It was on the support of them, the Poles, and the Clericals that his majority depended. His avowed intention was to unite the nationalities of Austria: Germans and Slays were, as he said, equally integral parts of Austria; neither must be oppressed; both must unite to form an Austrian parliament. Notwithstanding the growing opposition of the German Liberals, who refused to accept the equality of the nationalities, he kept his position for thirteen years. Not a great creative statesman, he had singular capacity for managing men; a very poor orator, he had in private intercourse an urbanity and quickness of humour which showed his Irish ancestry. For the history of his administration see AUSTRIA-HUNGARY, History (Sec. II. " Austria Proper "). Beneath an apparent cynicism and frivolity Taaffe hid a strong feeling of patriotism to his country and loyalty to the emperor. It was no small service to both that for so long, during very critical years in European history, he maintained harmony between the two parts of the monarchy and preserved constitutional government in Austria. The necessities of the parliamentary situation compelled him sometimes to go farther in meeting the demands of the Conservatives and Czechs than he would probably have wished, but he was essentially an opportunist:_ in no way a party man, he recognized that the government must be carried on, and he cared little by the aid of what party the necessary majority was maintained. In '893 he was defeated on a proposal for the revision of the franchise, and resigned. He retired into private life, and died two years later at his country residence, Ellerschau, in Bohemia, on 29th November 1895. By the death of his elder brother Charles (1823-1873), a colonel in the Austrian army, Taaffe succeeded to the Austrian and Irish titles. He married in 1862 Countess Irma Tsaky, by whom he left four daughters and one son, Henry. The family history presents points of unusual interest. From the 13th century the Taaffes had been one of the leading families in the north of Ireland. In 1628 Sir John Taaffe was raised to the peerage as Baron Bally-mote and Viscount Taaffe of Corven. He left fifteen children, of

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