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A History of the Nineteenth Century, Year by Year

Metternich realized that the end had come


Kossuth's appeal]

[Sidenote: Magyar Constitution proclaimed]

[Sidenote: Stocks fall in Vienna]

The Austrian Empire itself, by this time, was shaken to its foundations. When the news of the February Revolution in Paris reached Austria the Magyar Diet was in session in Hungary. The success of the revolutionists in France inflamed the Liberal leaders in Hungary. Casting aside all reserve, Kossuth declared in the Diet: "From the charnel house of the Viennese system a poison-laden atmosphere steals over us. It would paralyze our nerves and pin us down when we might soar. The future of Hungary can never be secured while Austria maintains a system of government in direct antagonism to every constitutional principle. Our task is to found a happier future on the brotherhood of all the races in Austria. For a union enforced by bayonets and police spies let us substitute the enduring bond of a free constitution!" On March 3, the Hungarian Lower House triumphantly passed a resolution to that effect. The cry for a liberal constitution was instantly taken up in the other dominions of Austria. It so happened that the Provincial Estates of Lower Austria were to meet about this time. It was planned that an address embodying demands similar to those of Hungary should be forwarded to the Emperor by this assembly. The political agitation in Vienna became feverish. The students indulged in noisy

demonstrations. Rumors of the impending repudiation of the paper currency and of State bankruptcy made matters worse. A sharp decline in stocks showed Metternich that a public catastrophe was near at hand.

[Sidenote: Viennese Diet stormed]

[Sidenote: Fighting in the street]

[Sidenote: Imperial palace invaded]

[Sidenote: Downfall of Metternich]

On March 13, the Provincial Diet met. Dense crowds surged about the Diet Hall. The students marched around in procession. Street orators harangued the crowds. The tumult was at its height when a slip of paper was let down from one of the windows of the hall, stating that the Diet was inclining to half measures. An announcement to this effect was received with a roar of fury. The mob overran the guards and burst into the Diet Hall. All debate was stopped, and the leading members of the Estates were forced to head a deputation to the Emperor's palace to exact a hearing. All the approaches to the palace were choked with people. Street fighting had already begun. Detachments of soldiers were hurried to the palace and to the Diet Hall. From the roof and windows of the Diet Hall missiles were hurled upon the soldiery. The interior of the Hall was demolished. The soldiers now fired a volley and cleared the Hall with their bayonets. Blood flowed freely and many were killed. The sound of the shots was received by the crowds around the palace with howls of rage. The whole city was in an uproar. Barricades were thrown up and the gunsmith shops were sacked. At the palace, where the Emperor himself remained invisible, Metternich and his assembled Council received the deputation in state. The Council urged the aged Prime Minister to grant the demanded concession. At length he withdrew into an adjoining chamber to draft an order annulling the censorship of the press. While he was thus engaged the cry was raised, "Down with Metternich!" The deputies in the Council Chamber peremptorily demanded his dismissal. When the old statesman returned he found himself abandoned even by his colleagues. Metternich realized that the end had come. He made a brief farewell speech, marked by all the dignity and self-possession of his greatest days, and left the Council Chamber to announce his resignation to the Emperor.

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