The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg and Other Stories HTML version
Stirring Times In Austria
I. THE GOVERNMENT IN THE FRYING-PAN.
Here in Vienna in these closing days of 1897 one's blood gets no chance to stagnate. The
atmosphere is brimful of political electricity. All conversation is political; every man is a
battery, with brushes overworn, and gives out blue sparks when you set him going on the
common topic. Everybody has an opinion, and lets you have it frank and hot, and out of
this multitude of counsel you get merely confusion and despair. For no one really
understands this political situation, or can tell you what is going to be the outcome of it.
Things have happened here recently which would set any country but Austria on fire
from end to end, and upset the Government to a certainty; but no one feels confident that
such results will follow here. Here, apparently, one must wait and see what will happen,
then he will know, and not before; guessing is idle; guessing cannot help the matter. This
is what the wise tell you; they all say it; they say it every day, and it is the sole detail
upon which they all agree.
There is some approach to agreement upon another point: that there will be no revolution.
Men say: 'Look at our history, revolutions have not been in our line; and look at our
political map, its construction is unfavourable to an organised uprising, and without unity
what could a revolt accomplish? It is disunion which has held our empire together for
centuries, and what it has done in the past it may continue to do now and in the future.'
The most intelligible sketch I have encountered of this unintelligible arrangement of
things was contributed to the 'Traveller's Record' by Mr. Forrest Morgan, of Hartford,
three years ago. He says:
'The Austro-Hungarian Monarchy is the patchwork-quilt, the Midway Plaisance, the
national chain-gang of Europe; a state that is not a nation, but a collection of nations,
some with national memories and aspirations and others without, some occupying distinct
provinces almost purely their own, and others mixed with alien races, but each with a
different language, and each mostly holding the others foreigners as much as if the link of
a common government did not exist. Only one of its races even now comprises so much
as one- fourth of the whole, and not another so much as one-sixth; and each has remained
for ages as unchanged in isolation, however mingled together in locality, as globules of
oil in water. There is nothing else in the modern world that is nearly like it, though there
have been plenty in past ages; it seems unreal and impossible even though we know it is
true; it violates all our feeling as to what a country should be in order to have a right to
exist; and it seems as though it was too ramshackle to go on holding together any length
of time. Yet it has survived, much in its present shape, two centuries of storms that have
swept perfectly unified countries from existence and others that have brought it to the
verge of ruin, has survived formidable European coalitions to dismember it, and has
steadily gained force after each; forever changing in its exact make-up, losing in the West
but gaining in the East, the changes leave the structure as firm as ever, like the dropping