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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V26, Page 897 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BARON JOHANN AMADEUS FRANCIS DE PAULA THUGUT (1736–1818), Austrian diplomatist, was born at Linz on the 24th of May 1736. His origin and name have been the subject of legends more or less malicious and probably the inventions of enemies. It has been said that the correct form of his name was Thunichtgut, or Thenitguet (do no good), and was altered to Thugut (do good) by Maria Theresa. Tunicotta has been given as a variation. But Thugut was the name of his great-grandfather, who belonged to Budweiss in southern Bohemia. He was the legitimate son of Johann Thugut, an army paymaster, who married Eva Maria Mosbauer, daughter of a miller near Vienna. The paymaster, who died about 176o, left his widow and children in distress, and Maria Theresa took charge of them. Johann Amadeus was sent to the school of Oriental languages. He entered the Austrian foreign office as an interpreter and was appointed dragoman to the embassy at Constantinople. In 1769 he was appointed charge d'affaires, and in that capacity secured a grant of money and a promise of the territory of ' Little Wallachia from the Turks during the negotiations connected with the first partition of Poland (see POLAND: History). In 1771 he was appointed internuncio at Constantinople and was actively engaged, under the direction of Prince Kaunitz, in all the diplomacy of Austria in Turkey and Poland until he secured the cession of the Bukovina on the 7th of May 1775. During these years Thugut was engaged in a mean intrigue. His salary as dragoman was small, and his needs great. He therefore agreed to receive a pension of 13,000 livres, a brevet of lieutenant-colonel, and a promise of a safe refuge in case of necessity from the king of France, Louis XV. The condition on which the pension was granted was that he took advantage of his position as an Austrian official to render secret services to France. The only excuses to be made for him are that such hidden arrangements were not uncommon before and in his time, and that as a matter of fact he never did render France any real service, or betray his masters at Vienna. Yet the terror of discovery disturbed him at several periods of his life, and when Louis XV. died in 1774 he showed a strong disposition to take refuge in France, and would have done so if Louis XVI. would have given him a promise of employment. His pension was continued. It seems to be tolerably certain that at a later period he made a clean breast to the emperor Francis II. His services at Constantinople were approved by Prince Kaunitz (q.v.), who may possibly have been informed of the arrangement with the French secret diplomatic fund. It is never safe to decide whether these treasons were single or double. When Thugut was appointed internuncio he was also ennobled, being raised to the Ritterstand. After 1775 he travelled in France and Italy, partly on diplomatic service. In 1778 he was the agent through whom Maria .Theresa entered into direct negotiations with Frederick the Great, in order to stop the Bavarian War. In 178o he was Austrian envoy in Warsaw, but in 1783 he applied for leave and satisfied his which he kept before him, resistance to French aggression on the hankering after France by living for four years in Paris. It west, and to Russian and Prussian aggressions on the east, and was in this time that his savings, made during his years of the pursuit of more territory for Austria, compelled him to divide his exertions and his forces. Thus in 1793-94 he recalled troops from the west to participate in a partition of Poland, thereby taking pressure off France, and doing much to smooth the way for her subsequent victories. Some of his actions cannot be described as other than criminal. He was certainly responsible for the murderous attack on the French envoys at Rastadt in April 1799. He may have intended that they should only be robbed, but he must be held responsible for the acts of his agents. So again he has to answer for the perverse policy of Austria in 1799 when Suvarov (q.v.) and the Russians were recalled from northern Italy for no visible reason except that Austria should be left in sole possession of the dominions of the king of Sardinia, with a good excuse for keeping them. The correspondence of Joseph de Maistre shows how bitterly the continental allies of Austria resented her selfishness, and how firmly they were persuaded that she was fighting for her own hand. That Thugut believed that he was doing his duty, and that he was carrying on the traditional policy of Austria, may be true. Yet his methods were so extreme, and his attitude so provocative as to justify the judgment passed on him by Kaunitz —namely, that he required the control of a strong hand if good results were to be obtained from his ability. After the defeats of Austria in Italy in 1796-97 and the peace of Campo Formio, it became a fixed object with the French, and with a growing party in Austria who held him responsible for the disasters of the war, to secure the removal of Thugut. He found no support, except from the British government, which considered him, as a sure ally and had great influence at Vienna as paymaster of subsidies. The death of the empress Catherine of Russia deprived him of a friend at court. During the campaigns of 1799 and 1800 Thugut was the advocate of war " to the knife." At the end he was kept in office only by the vigorous support of England. The battle of Hohenlinden on the 3rd of December 1800 made his position untenable. He retired from public life, and left Vienna for Pressburg on the 27th of March 1801. At a later period he returned to Vienna and lived quietly on a pension of 7000 florins till his death on the 28th of May 1818. In personal appearance Thugut is described as looking like " a faunish Mephistopheles," a favourite of Louis XI., an Italian tyrant of the worst type, and by the prince de Ligne as what Henry IV. of France would have been if he had been king of the Jews, and if his mouth had worn a constant expression of derision, hate and malignity. The only known portrait of him appears to bear out these unpleasant descriptions. See A. von Vivenot, Thugut and sein politisches System, a strong defence of his policy in 1793-1794 (Vienna, 187o) ; and Quellen z. Geschichte d. deutschen Kaiser politik Oesterreichs wahrend d. franzos. Revolutions-Krieg (Vienna,1893-1885).

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