Kremsier Parliament


Kremsier Parliament

Historical Background

The Kremsier Parliament (Assembly at Kroměříž) was the Constituent Assembly formerly convening in Vienna but later residing in Kremsier, Moravia, to avoid martial law in Vienna. Following the popular trend in Europe during the Revolutions of 1848, in October 1848 workers rioted for a constitutional monarchy in Vienna and blockaded the troop transports headed for Hungary. The workers hoped that siding with the Hungarian rebellion would bring military strength to the Viennese workers revolt. However, the revolt failed when General Windischgrätz surrounded the city and violently crushed the workers. With Vienna under martial law, the Assembly decided to move to Kremsier to write the new constitution. [1]

The Kremsier Assembly

The overarching theme of the Assembly's deliberations was the vast array of conflicting nationalities living under the Habsburg Monarchy. In the first week of March 1849, the Kremsier Constitution was completed. It featured many progressive reforms including forming a constitutional monarchy, creating a parliament that would share power with the Emperor, abolishing the privileged status and all titles of the Catholic Church within the Empire, deriving the Emperor's power from the people rather than the "Grace of God," [2] and finally, making all languages and nationalities equal in the eyes of the Monarchy. [3] The Kremsier Constitution was shortlived, however, with Prime Minister Felix Schwarzenberg dissolving the Assembly and nullifying the constitution within days of completing the document (sometime between 4 March 1849 and 6 March 1849 depending on source used).

Critique of the Assembly

Edward Crankshaw raises three major critiques of the Kremsier Assembly in his book, "The Fall of the House of Habsburg". First, the constitution claimed that all political power was derived from the people yet it called for a central authority. [4] Could anyone have honestly thought a Habsburg Emperor with central authority vested in him would have genuinely taken into account the plight of the masses? Is it even possible to understand one's subjects if they come from thirteen major ethnicities? Second, the Assembly had zero representatives from Hungary since the region was in revolt, thus all Hungarian issues were completely ignored. Third, the Assembly failed to take into accound the larger picture, meaning there was no acknowledgement of the Frankfurt Assembly's attempts to create a unified Germany (including the German states within Austria) and there was no realization that the Prime Minister, Schwarzenberg, was drawn to the Frankfurt Assembly. [5]

Reaction to the Kremsier Constitution

Following the dissolution of the Assembly, Schwarzenberg had his own constitution drawn up. The new constitution saved only one significant piece of the Kremsier Constitution: vernaculars were now permissible at the local levels for all non-political discussion. Besides this stripped version of an article in the Kremsier Constitution, four major points were drawn up in the new constitution: 1) the Emperor was given absolute authority in dealing with the military and foreign policy. 2) Parliament would meet once a year but the Emperor had the power to dismiss them and veto all legislation Parliament passed, effectively turning Parliament into a bicameral debate society. 3) the Emperor was equipped with an advisory council of his choosing. 4) German was the official language of the Empire for politics, education, and administration and the Empire was united under one crown, one constitution, and one parliament. [6] As one can see, the progressive movement of the Kremsier Parliament created a devastating backlash against the growing national identities of the Empire. The Empire was now tightly controlled in a neo-absolutist regime with a hostile attitude towards nationalist tendencies.

Footnotes

[1] Victor Tapie, "The Rise and Fall of the Habsburg Monarchy" trans. Stephen Hardman (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1969) 282.

[2] J.A.S. Grenville, "Europe Reshaped 1848-1878" Second Edition (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 2000) 110.

[3] Robert Okey, "The Habsburg Monarchy c. 1765-1918" (New York: St. Martin's Press, 2001) 200.

[4] Edward Crankshaw, "The Fall of the House of Habsburg." (New York: Penguin Books, 1963) 63.

[5] Crankshaw 63.

[6] Grenville 110.


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