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WARS

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 934 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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WARS, &c.) The emperor's firmness averted what would have been an irreparable loss of position. Seeing that the Empire was in the last stage of dissolution, and that, even were it to survive, it would pass from the house of Habsburg to that of Bonaparte, he in 1804 assumed the title of hereditary emperor of Austria. The object of this prudent measure was double. In the first place, he guarded against the danger that his house should sink to a lower rank than the Russian or the French. In the second place, he gave some semblance of unity to his complex dominions in Germany, Bohemia, Hungary and Italy, by providing a common title for the supreme ruler. His action was justified when, in r8o6, the establishment of the Confederation of the Rhine forced him to abdicate the empty title of Holy Roman emperor. In 1805 he made an important change in the working of his administration. He had hitherto been assisted by a cabinet minister who was in direct relation with all the " chanceries " and boards which formed the executive government, and who acted as the channel of communication between them and the emperor; and was in fact a prime minister. In 18o5 Napoleon insisted on the removal of Count Colloredo, who held the post. From that time forward the emperor Francis acted as his own prime minister, superintending every detail of his administration. In foreign affairs after 1809 he reposed full confidence in Prince Metternich. But Metternich himself declared at the close of his life that he had sometimes held Europe in the palm of his hand, but never Austria. Francis was sole master, and is entitled to whatever praise is due to his government. It follows that he must bear the blame for its errors. The history of the Austrian empire under his rule and since his death bears testimony to both his merits and his limitations. His indomitable patience and loyalty to his inherited task enabled him to triumph over Napoleon. By consenting to the marriage of his daughter, Marie Louise, to Napoleon in 181o, he gained a respite which he turned to good account. By following the guidance of Metternich in foreign affairs he was able to intervene with decisive effect in 1813. The settlement of Europe in 1815 left Austria stronger and more compact than she had been in 1792, and that this was the case was largely due to the emperor. During the twenty years which preceded his death in 1835, Francis continued to oppose the revolutionary spirit. He had none of the mystical tendencies of the tsar Alexander I., and only adhered to the half fantastic Holy Alliance of 1815 out of pure politeness. But he was wholly in sympathy with the policy of repression " which came. in popular view, to be identified with the Holy Alliance; and though Metternich was primarily responsible for the part played by Austria in the " policing " of Europe, Francis cannot but be held personally responsible for the cruel and impolitic severities, associated especially with the sinister name of the fortress prison of the Spielberg, which made so many martyrs to freedom. It is not surprising that Francis was denounced by Liberals throughout Europe as a tyrant and an obscurantist. But though at home, as abroad, he met all suggestions of innovation by a steady refusal to depart from old ways, he was always popular among the mass of his subjects, who called him " our good Kaiser Franz." In truth, if in the spirit of the traditional Landesvater he chastised his disobedient children mercilessly, he was essentially a well-meaning ruler who for-warded the material and moral good of his subjects according to his lights. But he held that, by the will of God, the whcle sovereign authority resided in his person, and could not be shared with others without a dereliction of duty on his part and disastrous consequences; and his capital error as a ruler of Austria was that he persisted in maintaining a system of administration which depended upon the indefatigable industry of a single man, and was entirely outgrown by the modern develop-ment of his subjects. Before his death, government in Austria was almost choked, and it broke down under a successor who had not his capacity for work. Like his ancestor Philip II. of Spain, Francis carried caution, and a disposition to sleep upon every possible proposal, to a great length. He died on the 2nd of March 1835. See Baron J. A. Helfert, Kaiser Franz and die osterreichischen Befreiungs-Kriege (Vienna, 1867). Ample bibliographies will be found in Krones von Marchland's Grundriss der osterreichischen Geschichte (Berlin, 1882).
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