Thun-Hohenstein - Encyclopedia

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THUN-HOHENSTEIN. The family of Thun-Hohenstein, one of the wealthiest of the Austrian nobility, which has for more than 200 years settled at Tetschen, in Bohemia, has given several distinguished members to the Austrian public service. Of the three sons of Count Franz, the eldest, Friedrich (1810-1881), entered the diplomatic service; after holding other posts he was in 1850 appointed president of the restored German Diet at Frankfort, where he represented the anti-Prussian policy of Schwarzenberg, and often came into conflict with Bismarck, who was Prussian envoy. He was afterwards ambassador at Berlin and St Petersburg. After his retirement from the public service in 1863 he supported in the Bohemian Landtag and the Austrian Reichsrat the federal policy of his brother Leo. In 1879 he was made hereditary member of the Upper House. In this position he was on his death, on the 24th of September 1881, succeeded by his eldest son Franz Anton (b. 1847). Like the rest of his family, he belonged to the Federalist party, and his appointment in 1889 as governor of Bohemia was the cause of grave dissatisfaction to the German Austrians. He took a leading part in the negotiation of 1890 for the Bohemian settlement, but the elections of 1891, in which the young Czechs who were opposed to the feudal party gained a decisive victory, made his position a very difficult one. Contrary to expectation, he showed great energy in suppressing disorder; but after the proclamation of a state of siege his position became untenable, and in 1895 he had to resign. On the resignation of Badeni in 1898 he was made minister president, an office which he held for little more than a year, for, though he succeeded in bringing to a conclusion the negotiations with Hungary, the support he gave to the Czechs and Slovenians increased the opposition of the Germans to such a degree that parliamentary government became impossible, and at the end of 1899 he was dismissed.

The third son of Count Franz, Leopold or LEO (1811-1888), was one of the leading Austrian statesmen. After studying at the university of Prague he travelled through Europe, and among other countries he visited England, where he became acquainted with James Hope (afterwards Hope-Scott) and other leaders of the Tractarian party. He was much affected by the romantic movement and the Ultramontane revival, and after his return home interested himself greatly in the revival of Czech language and literature and the growth of the Bohemian national feeling. He formed a personal friendship with Palacky and others of the Czech leaders; he helped in the foundation of schools in which Czech should be taught, and set himself to acquire some knowledge of the language. He was also interested in prison reform, on which he wrote, and other philanthropic work. After serving under Stadion in Galicia, he was in 1848, after the outbreak of the revolution, appointed president of the administration and acting Stadthalter in Bohemia. He had scarcely entered on his duties when the rebellion of June broke out in Prague. In order to avoid bloodshed, he went down to the insurgents on the barricade, but was seized by them, imprisoned, and for some time his life was in danger. On his release he vigorously supported Windischgratz, who was in command of the troops, in the restoration of order, but thereby lost his popularity and was superseded. He still defended the Bohemian national movement, and in one of his writings laid down the principle that nationality was one of the interests outside the control of the state. Notwithstanding this, in 1849 he accepted the office of minister of religion and education, which he held in 1860 under the autocratic and centralizing administration of Schwarzenberg and Bach. At first he threw himself with great energy into the task of building up an adequate system of schools. He summoned experienced teachers, Protestant as well as Catholic, from Germany, established middle and higher schools in all parts of the empire, superseded the antiquated textbooks and methods of instruction, and encouraged the formation of learned societies and the growth of a professional spirit and independence among the teachers. It is noticeable that at this time he insisted on the use of German in all schools of higher education. As minister of religion he was to a certain extent responsible for the concordat which again subjected the schools to the control of the Church: to a certain extent he thereby undid some of his work for the extension of education, and it was of him that Grillparzar said, "I have to announce a suicide. The minister of religion has murdered the minister of education." But during his administration the influence of the church over the schools was really much less than, by the theory of the concordat, it would have appeared to be. The crisis of 1860, by which the office he held was abolished, was the end of his official career; for the rest of his life he was very prominent as the leader of the Federalist party in Bohemia. His high social position, his influence at court, his character, as well as his undoubted abilities and learning, not often in Austria found in a man of his rank, gave him great influence. He supported the claims of Bohemia to a full autonomy; he strongly attacked both the February constitution and the Ausgleich with Hungary; what he desired was a common parliament for the whole empire based on a settlement with each one of the territories. With the old Czechs he refused to recognise the constitution of 1867; he helped to draft the declaration of 1868 and the fundamental articles of 1871, and took a leading part in the negotiations during the ministry of Potocki and Hohenwart. In order to found a strong Conservative party he established a paper, the Vaterland, which was the organ of the Clerical and Federalist party. It is needless to say that he protested against the ecclesiastical legislation of 1867 and 1873. He married in 1847 the countess Clam-Martinic, but there was no issue of the marriage. He died in Vienna on the r 7th of December 1888.

See the very full article by Frankfurter in the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, which supersedes his earlier biography. (J. W. I-IE.)

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