15 Elek Csetri, â˜Az erdÂ´ lyi kozponti hatosÂ´ gok tisztviseloinek nyelvtudÂ´ sÂ´ rol a 18. szÂ´ zad
e Â¨ Â´a Ë aaÂ´ a
vÂ´ gÂ´ nâ™, in Nemzeti es tÂ´ rsadalmi atalakulÂ´ s a 19. szÂ´ zadban MagyarorszÂ´ gon, ed. I. Orosz
ee Â´a Â´ a a a
et al. (Budapest, 1994), pp. 19â“29.
16 Claude Michaud, â˜FelvilÂ´ gosodÂ´ s, szabadkomuvessÂ´ g es politika a 18. szÂ´ zad vÂ´ gÂ´ nâ™,
a a ËË eÂ´ a ee
SzÂ´ zadok 115 (1983), pp. 558â“98; the same art. in French in Dix-huiti`me si`cle 12
a e e
(1980), pp. 327â“79. For Feketeâ™s French connections, cf. ZoltÂ´ n Baranyai, A francia
nyelv es mË veltsÂ´ge MagyarorszÂ´ gon, 18. szÂ´ zad (Budapest, 1928), pp. 40â“58.
Â´u e a a
17 IstvÂ´ n Gy. Toth, Literacy and Written Culture in Early Modern Central Europe (Eng. trans.,
Budapest, 2000), pp. 130â“45.
18 Robert Townson, Travels in Hungary, with a Short Account of Vienna in the Year 1793
(London, 1797), p. 332; William Hunter, Travels in the Year 1792 through France, Turkey,
and Hungary, to Vienna, Concluding with an Account of that City (2 vols., London, 1798),
II.238; Edward Clarke, Travels in Various Countries of Europe, Asia and Africa (11 vols.,
London, 1816â“24), II.651; Richard Bright, Travels through Lower Hungary (London,
1818), pp. 100, 138.
206 R. J. W Evans
Latin.19 The abilities of postillions and the like probably reď¬‚ected rather
the parrot-learning of set phrases.
At all events a good deal of interplay of different language groups cer-
tainly took place, even if dialectal variations could compound the prob-
lems for strangers. As the diplomat Sir Robert Murray Keith bemoaned:
â˜With my ten languages I could never make a one [sic] of the six nations
which inhabit Hungary comprehend a word I said.â™20 When the English
physician Richard Bright noted a little later, of the linguistic skills of
merchants at Hainburg, on the Austrian side of the border, that â˜they
spoke ď¬‚uently no less than seven, of which they wrote ď¬ve with tolerable
correctnessâ™, one wonders how he could be so sure. â˜Such accomplish-
mentsâ™, he added, â˜are, however, by no means unusual in the country we
were just entering.â™21 In c. 1780 all forty-one ofď¬cials of the Transylva-
nian county of Kolozs, at every level down to the janitor, allegedly spoke
Latin, Magyar and Romanian.22
How much mixing of vernaculars took place on the ground? We have
far too little ready information. Hungaryâ™s towns were comparatively
small: most contained several nationalities, often with a German or Ger-
manized establishment, but little sign of friction. The twin centres of
Buda and Pest, reviving fast from their destruction in the Turkish wars,
afford good examples; they soon attracted at least ď¬ve substantial eth-
nic groups: Germans, Magyars, Serbs, Slovaks, Jews.23 Villages might be
mixed too, especially in the south (Serbian/Croatian/Magyar/German)
and Transylvania (German/Romanian/Magyar), as well as parts of the
west (Magyar/German) and north (Slovak/Magyar/Ruthene). A typical
instance would be MezoberÂ´ ny on the Great Plain with its three sepa-
rate but interconnected settlements of Germans, Magyars and Slovaks.24
Guilds formed the chief form of social organization in many towns, and
they operated through much of the countryside too. They might well
be divided on ethnic lines, mainly because of language, though also
maybe through the type of work undertaken, as with different styles of
tailoring. Yet here too Latin retained an ofď¬cial role, not least for des-
ignation of the trades involved. Some of the delectable results deserve
citing here, such as spacicaminarius (chimney-sweep), catapultarius
19 Hofmannsegg utazÂ´ sa, p. 9; Krisztina KulcsÂ´ r, â˜18. szÂ´ zadi nÂ´ met utazok Magyar-
a a a e Â´
orszÂ´ gonâ™, in Sic Itur ad Astra (1996), pp. 83â“113, at p. 101.
20 Memoirs and Correspondence . . . of Sir Robert Murray Keith, ed. G. Smyth (2 vols., London,
21 22 Hajdu, A kÂ¨ zjÂ´ szolgÂ´ latÂ´ ban, pp. 94â“6.
Bright, Travels, p. 96. oo aa
23 Lajos Nagy in Budapest tÂ¨ rtÂ´nete, vol. III: A tÂ¨ rÂ¨ k kiË zÂ´sÂ´tË l a mÂ´ rciusi forradalomig, ed.
oe oo u eeo a
D. KosÂ´ ry (Budapest, 1975), pp. 150ff.
24 For MezoberÂ´ ny and its like, see IstvÂ´ n RÂ´ cz, A tÂ¨ rÂ¨ k vilÂ´ g hagyatÂ´ka MagyarorszÂ´ gon
Ë e a a oo a e a
(Debrecen, 1995), esp. pp. 148ff.
The politics of language in Hungary 207
(riď¬‚e-maker), cordubisiarius sive pellium cordovan dictarum praeparator
((Cordoba) leather-worker), cremati ustor (distiller), dulciarius (confec-
tioner), farcimererius (sausage-stuffer), or â“ best of all â“ placentarum mel-
litarum pistor for the humble pancake-maker.25
Besides Latin, alternative cross-communicative languages had an
established, but still strictly subordinate place. On German, more will
be said shortly. While reported by many travellers as commonly under-
stood, for practical transactions, it was by no means an Open Sesame,
and few nobles knew it well, if at all. Near LÂ´ va/Levice Bright met a
postmaster who â˜could not speak German, and gave me the choice of
all the languages he knew; they were Latin, Hungarian, Sclavonian and
Walachianâ™. Bright of course chose Latin.26 In higher society the use of
French became quite widespread, especially after mid-century, with a
vogue emanating from Vienna. It entered into its own above all in corre-
spondence and in the reading matter of private libraries, reď¬‚ecting local
contacts with a philosophe cultural ambience.27 In Hungary, announced
a representative from that quarter in the 1780s, â˜all that is called the ď¬ne
world speaks our patois [i.e. French]â™.28 By then there is some evidence
of secondary school teaching and primers in French. Italian too had cer-
tain ecclesiastical and social functions, and gained more just at this time,
in the maritime domain, with the countryâ™s acquisition of the port of
Fiume/Rijeka, on the Adriatic.
The rule of Latin in Hungary was ultimately sustained and perpetuated
by a constitutional relationship. It long suited both the country and its
largely absentee monarchs, both the Estates of the realm at home and
the distant central government of the Monarchy as a whole, to be able to
operate through Latin as a traditional and neutral vehicle. But from the
mid-eighteenth century that balance of interest came under pressure,
pari passu with the big changes afoot in other parts of the Habsburg
lands. To some extent the retreat of Latin in Austria must have played
its part. More decisive were measures initiated by the monarchs and
their government, in the context of their overall reform programme,
which impinged directly on the linguistic situation across the Hungarian
border. We shall consider ď¬rst two small steps, mildly in favour of the
25 List in GÂ´ za Eperjessy, MezË vÂ´ rosi es falusi cÂ´hek az AlfÂ¨ ldÂ¨ n es a DunÂ´ ntÂ´ lon, 1686â“1848
e oa Â´ e ooÂ´ au
(Budapest, 1967), pp. 205â“9. Cf. A magyarorszÂ´ gi cÂ´hes kÂ´zmË vesipar forrÂ´ sanyagÂ´ nak
ae eu a a
katasztere, comp. I. Eri (2 vols., Budapest, 1975), I.180ff.
26 27 Baranyai, A francia nyelv.
Bright, Travels, p. 138.
28 Johann Caspar von Ri[e]sbeck, Travels through Germany, a Series of Letters (3 vols., Eng.
trans., London, 1787), II.47.
208 R. J. W Evans
vernaculars in general; and then one huge one, heavily to the advantage
of one vernacular in particular.
The Urbarium of 1767 was the largest enactment for Hungary during
the reign of Maria Theresa. A highly contentious piece of â˜legislationâ™
(strictly a mere ordinance, since a refractory diet had refused its consent),
it sought to establish ofď¬cial norms to regulate the manorial nexus which
bound peasants to their lords. Important for our purposes is that the
framers of the Urbarium unprecedentedly sought responses directly from
the common people. Although the outline of the nine points (puncta)
they raised and of the anticipated replies (fassiones) was still in Latin, the
peasants supplied their material in the language of the village. Did they
possess any existing urbaria or other contracts? How burdensome was the
robot (corvÂ´ e) and how arranged? What local beneď¬cia and maleď¬cia could
be identiď¬ed, e.g. good or bad soils, presence or absence of woods, quality
of water? How extensive were arable and pasture, or wasteland (puszta)?
What tithes were due? Was their serfdom hereditary? All this information,
for thousands of settlements all across the country, emanated, directly or
indirectly, from the villagers themselves.29 It both afforded rich testimony
to the state of the vernaculars and enhanced their respectability. The
priorities of the Urbarium went with a rising tide of manuals and primers
of instruction on all sorts of agrarian and artisan matters, which were
similarly circulated in every language of the country.30
A decade later a further governmental initiative was launched which
likewise still clothed itself in Latin garb, but opened up new vistas for the
vernaculars. The Ratio educationis issued in 1777 was the blueprint for
an elaborate new scheme of state-directed education, addressed to the
majority Catholic population in the ď¬rst instance, but with implications
for the rest of Hungaryâ™s church-based school system. It stressed that
all of the countryâ™s modern languages were necessary to underpin Latin,
and that it would be useful for pupils to learn several. It also laid out pre-
cise timetables: thus on Monday afternoons â˜German and other linguae
domesticaeâ™ should be studied in secondary schools.31 The Ratio formed
29 Slovak ones in IstvÂ´ n Udvari (ed.), A MÂ´ ria TerÂ´zia-fÂ´le urbÂ´rrendezÂ´s szlovÂ´ knyelvÂ¨ doku-
a a e eÂ´e e a u
mentumai/SlovenskÂ´ dokumenty urbÂ´ rskej regulÂ´ cie MÂ´ rie TerÂ´zie (NyÂ´regyhÂ´ za, 1991), and
e a a a e Ä± a
Udvari, SzlovÂ´ k mezË vÂ´ rosok nÂ´pÂ´lete MÂ´ ria TerÂ´zia korÂ´ ban. Adatok PozsonyvÂ´ rmegye
a oa ee a e a a
18. szÂ´ zadi tÂ¨ rtÂ´netÂ´hez (NyÂ´regyhÂ´ za, 1994). Ruthene ones in Udvari, Ruszinok a 18.
a oe e Ä± a
szÂ´ zadban. TÂ¨ rtÂ´nelmi es mË velË dÂ´stÂ¨ rtÂ´neti tanulmÂ´ nyok (2nd edn, NyÂ´regyhÂ´ za, 1994),
a oe Â´ u oeo e a Ä± a
pp. 251â“83. In general: I. Felho et al. (eds.), Az urbÂ´res birtokviszonyok MagyarorszÂ´ gon
Ë Â´e a
MÂ´ ria TerÂ´zia korÂ´ ban, vol. I: DunÂ´ ntÂ´ l (Budapest, 1970).
a e a au
30 Examples in JÂ´ nos Barta, MezË gazdaÂ´ gi irodalmunk a 18. szÂ´ zadban (Budapest, 1973);
a o a a
cf. Barta, A felvilÂ´ gosult abszolutizmus agrÂ´ rpolitikÂ´ ja a Habsburg- es a Hohenzollern-
a a a Â´
monarchiÂ´ ban (Budapest, 1982).
31 MÂ´ szÂ´ ros, Ratio educationis, esp. pp. 63f., 69, 71, 75, 123, 130f., 135; Rapant, K
poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, I.112ff.
The politics of language in Hungary 209
part of a broader AufklÂ¨ rung current of support for culture in the mother
tongue, which encouraged the beginnings of â˜nationalâ™ literatures in the
region.32 This, as we shall see, gave a massive boost to publications gener-
ally by the 1780s, helped, in Hungary as in Austria, by the â“ temporary â“
abolition of censorship then.
The Urbarium and the Ratio raised expectations and concerns. They
were not uncontentious. But all that was as nothing compared with the
storm aroused by Joseph IIâ™s decree of spring 1784 which essentially com-
manded the replacement of Latin by German in the whole of Hungarian
public life, all within a matter of months or at most a very few years.33 This
ukase, introduced over the heads of even the emperorâ™s most loyalist royal
advisers, came as a bolt from the blue. It had some limited antecedents
in ď¬nancial management, including the valuable mining industry, much
of which spoke the language of the Viennese agencies who controlled it,
as did the army command, including the commissariat for procurement
which dealt brusquely at times with local county and municipal author-
ities. The Military Frontier and the Banat of TemesvÂ´ r also operated in
German for the most part; and the language enjoyed reasonably wide cur-
rency for commercial transactions, as the majority language among the
citizens (if not normally among the whole population) of many Hungarian
towns.34 But those were, for patriots, long-established and circumscribed
abuses, perhaps on their way to being overcome. Had not the Habsburgs
just returned the Banat to civilian control in 1780?
Joseph says it is a â˜scandalâ™ still to use Latin, because the language is
a dead one, already replaced by living tongues almost everywhere else in
Europe. At the same time the emperor stresses that he is not just making
the change for his own convenience, â˜since I can express myself in Latin
32 The subject is too large to engage with here. For a ď¬rst orientation, see R. J. W. Evans,
Austria, Hungary, and the Habsburgs: Essays on Central Europe, c. 1683â“1867 (Oxford,
2006), chs. 3, 4, 8.
33 To be implemented immediately in central administration; within a year in the counties;
within three years at lower levels. Original text of the decree (drafted 26 April, revised
6 May, issued 18 May 1784) in IstvÂ´ n Katona, Historia critica regum Hungariae, vol.
XL (Buda, 1810), pp. 378â“80. Cf. Henrik Marczali, MagyarorszÂ´ g tÂ¨ rtÂ´nete II. JÂ´ zsef
a oe o
korÂ´ ban (3 vols., Budapest, 1885â“8), II.384ff.; Pavel (Paul) Mitrofanov, Politicheskaia
dieiatelâ™nostâ™ Iosifa II, eia storonniki i eia vragi, 1780â“90 (St Petersburg, 1907), pp. 223ff.,
trans. as Joseph II. Seine politische und kulturelle TÂ¨ tigkeit (2 vols., Vienna, 1910), I.260â“
7; and Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, I.209ff. have paraphrases. See also discussion
by Franz von Krones, Ungarn unter Maria Theresia und Joseph II. (Graz, 1871), pp.
23â“45, and Eva H. BalÂ´ zs in MagyarorszÂ´ g tÂ¨ rtÂ´nete, 1686â“1790, ed. Gy. Ember and G.
a a oe
Heckenast (2 vols., Budapest, 1989), II.1064â“7, 1480; also as BalÂ´ zs, BÂ´cs es Pest-Buda a
rÂ´gi szÂ´ zadvÂ´gen, 1765â“1800 (Budapest, 1987), pp. 205â“10, 368â“70; and BalÂ´ zs, Hungary
e a e a
and the Habsburgs, 1765â“1800: An Experiment in Enlightened Absolutism (Budapest, 1997),
34 Not least of Pest and especially Buda, starting point for the excellent study of JÂ´ nos a
Kosa, Pest es Buda elmagyarosodÂ´ sa 1848-ig (Budapest, 1937).
Â´ Â´ a
210 R. J. W Evans
quite wellâ™ â“ though in practice his grammar seems to have been rather
faulty.35 Moreover, Joseph asserts, Magyar could not be considered as
a replacement, since only a minority of Hungarians are able to speak it.
German, on the other hand, is already known to many, indeed to the
bulk of those involved in administration (here he exaggerated wildly),
besides being the language of the rest, and hence the larger part, of his
whole Monarchy. Joseph shrugs off objections put to him on behalf of
senior Hungarian ofď¬cials in a highly characteristic retort (with a further,
macaronic dig at Latin en passant): â˜they are not to be asked an possint
[whether they can], but the fac, ut possis [do, so that you may be able] is
to be impressed upon themâ™.36
In fact the decree proved impossible to enforce: even bodies closest to
the ruler failed to apply it properly. Its deadlines soon had to be extended,
and it was abandoned within a few years. But meanwhile the episode set in
motion crucial reactions. Responses from the Hungarian noble establish-
ment were articulated through the county congregations and culminated
at a diet, the ď¬rst for twenty-ď¬ve years, held in the immediate aftermath
of Josephâ™s death in 1790, just when the threat from German seemed
(for the present, at least) eliminated by an effective political backlash
against the emperorâ™s assault on constitutional and social privileges, and
by a broader crisis of Habsburg government. The arguments on language
deployed by Josephâ™s opponents now call for our attention.
Defences of Latin had their background in the humanist manuals which
were still in use in Hungarian schools, though with increasing textual
adaptation to local circumstances, works such as the Syntaxis ornata et
ď¬‚os Latinitatis originally compiled by a French Jesuit, FranÂ¸ ois Pomey.37
The Ratio educationis itself appeared in Latin and stressed Latin teaching:
it urged the needs of the Church and the merits of classical authors; it
pointed to Latin as the language of Hungaryâ™s laws, decrees, diet, admin-
istration and courts, and as the lingua franca in a multinational country.38
The counties, reacting (in Latin, of course) against Josephâ™s plans, used
more colourful imagery and more plaintive rhetoric â“ indeed their texts
furnish eloquent testimony to the continuing creative engagement with
35 Marczali, II. JÂ´ zsef, II.532. Ferenc Kazinczy, MË vei, ed. J. Szauder (2 vols., Budapest,
1979), I.221, notes Joseph as making â˜wineâ™ masculine in Latin instead of neuter: â˜vinusâ™
instead of â˜vinumâ™.
36 â˜ist ihnen nicht die Frage zu stellen, an possint, sondern das fac, ut possis, ist ihnen
einzubindenâ™: Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, I.516.
37 See JÂ´ nos BalÂ´ zs, Magyar deÂ´ ksÂ´ g. AnyanyelvÂ¨ nk es az eurÂ´ pai nyelvi modell (Budapest,
a a aa uÂ´ o
1980), esp. pp. 602ff.
38 MÂ´ szÂ´ ros, Ratio educationis, pp. 63, 67, 74f. (esp.), 82â“90, 113â“19.
The politics of language in Hungary 211
the language by their spokesmen. Alongside the same claims for Latin as
the language of culture, philosophy and politics, they by the end of the
1780s more and more insisted on it as a bastion of their grants and free-
doms. Therefore it is a sovereign tongue; deprived of it, others have lost
their liberties and their beliefs. It defends the patria against despotism,
and is needful for transactions with other lands, especially the associated
realm of Croatia.39
Other lines of argumentation were still being sustained as late as 1844
by the very last apologist for Latinâ™s ofď¬cial status in Hungary. The
Catholic priest AndrÂ´ s RÂ´ cz then presented it not just as the vehicle of
religious tradition and universal civilization, but as the language of purity.
In terms reminiscent, for a British context, of eighteenth- and nineteenth-
century defences of Welsh, he asserted that vernaculars introduce worldli-
ness, immorality and cultural decay. By then RÂ´ cz was contemplating, and
detesting, a full-scale Magyarization campaign.40 Sixty years earlier, the
noble Estates frequently presented Latin and Magyar as complementary:
Latin was the â˜ofď¬cialâ™, â˜legalâ™, â˜habitualâ™, â˜chiefâ™, â˜fatherâ™ tongue; Magyar
was the â˜popularâ™, â˜patrioticâ™, â˜vernacularâ™, â˜motherâ™ tongue.41 The coun-
ties thus still mainly viewed Magyar as a kind of back-up to Latin, part
of the national defence if the latter proved vulnerable. Not for nothing
did they appeal against Joseph to the language tolerance of their own ď¬rst
king, St Stephen, and also â“ inter alia â“ of the ancient Persians, even (a
piquant allusion, given their destructive role in Hungarian history!) of
the medieval Tatars.42
By the beginning of the 1790s, however, the language balance was
already shifting. At the diet a surge of patriotic enthusiasm brought
Magyar into favour in the lower house, at least among those who spoke
it well â“ and some of the rest became anxious, even ď¬nding themselves
hissed on occasion when they eschewed it or performed badly in it.43
This defection from Latin fed into an existing more critical discourse
among intellectuals which, albeit desultorily, dated back several decades.
The Calvinist minister PÂ´ ter Bod seems to have been the ď¬rst, in 1760,
39 Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, I.216ff. Cf. Katona, Historia critica, 380â“90; and
Marczali, II. JÂ´ zsef., II.390ff. on county responses (though he is inclined to play down
their Latinophilia). Cf. also R. J. W. Evans, â˜Language and State-building: The Case of
the Habsburg Monarchyâ™, Austrian History Yearbook 35 (2004), pp. 1â“24, at p. 9.
40 (AndrÂ´ s RÂ´ cz), Reď¬‚exiones privatae de linguae latinae in Sacris Ecclesiae Catholicae usu,
ejusque apud Hungaros in occasum vergentis inclinatione (Leipzig, 1845), a forgotten and
eccentric, but most interesting little work. For the Welsh comparison, cf. G. H. Jenkins
(ed.), The Welsh Language and its Social Domains, 1801â“1911 (Cardiff, 2000).
41 Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, I.251ff., II.53ff.
42 BalÂ´ zs, in MagyarorszÂ´ g tÂ¨ rtÂ´nete, 1686â“1790, II.1066.
a a oe
43 Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, II.31ff., 129ff.
212 R. J. W Evans
to launch an attack on perhaps the most vulnerable point of the existing
division of linguistic functions: he censured excessive Latinity within the
Magyar tongue. The latter had indeed, especially in its more adminis-
trative uses, as in verbal diet proceedings and related unofď¬cial polit-
ical diaries and correspondence, become so bizarrely macaronic that
foreigners who heard it may well actually have thought it was Latin.44
Purity in this (rather than in RÂ´ czâ™s) sense increasingly went with indi-
geneity. By some commentators Magyar was already coming to be
described as the â˜ancestral speech of Hungaryâ™ (sermo patrius Hungariae),
the â˜idioma nativumâ™. Stung by Joseph IIâ™s aspersions in 1784, the
Chancellor, Ferenc EsterhÂ´ zy, claimed it as a language known to practi-
cally all nobles in public affairs; and at the same time JÂ´ nos Beothy, vice-
sheriff of Bihar, argued that Magyar was used by all county politicians in
Hungary proper, even at the diet.45
The Vienna-trained patriot Gyorgy Bessenyei, in his tract MagyarsÂ´ g
(1778), introduced to Hungarians the topos that â˜every nation has
become learned in its own languageâ™ (â˜minden nemzet a maga nyelvÂ´ n e
lett tudosâ™), and must have a mother tongue, presumably a distinct one.
An entire nation, in other words, cannot rely on a foreign means of com-
munication, and â“ here Bessenyei broached another important theme for
the future â“ it is the monoglots, primarily the peasants, who keep nobles
from losing touch with the vernacular. The ď¬rst work on Magyar by the
pioneering grammarian Miklos RÂ´ vai appeared in 1778. There then fol-
lowed especially SÂ´ ndor BÂ´ rocziâ™s defence of Magyar, which refutes the
arguments for Latin point by point, emphasizing that languages need to
change and that truths, especially religious truths, need to be expressed in
the tongue of the people.46 BÂ´ rocziâ™s work appeared, together with several
other pamphlets of similar cast, simultaneously with the diet of 1790â“1.
44 Two choice examples. 1/ A 1712 resolution by the Protestant Estates that â˜a religiora
tartozo dolgokat tractÂ´ lhassÂ´ k, concludÂ´ lhassanak is, ha miben pedig difď¬cultasok inter-
Â´ a a a
veniÂ´ lna referÂ´ lhassÂ´ k a mostani Diaetara congregalt Evangelica Confession levo Com-
a a a Ë
munitasnakâ™ (SzijÂ´ rto, A diÂ´ta, p. 270). 2/ A 1741 report on meetings of the circular ses-
sions (cf. below): â˜itt combinaltÂ´ k instructioikat s gravaminÂ´ ikat universalisra redigÂ´ ltÂ´ k,
a a aa
hogy amidon F. Asszonyunk [Maria TerÂ´ zia] lejovetelÂ´ vel . . . a diaeta referÂ´ ltatik s bÂ´ all,
Ë e Â¨ e a eÂ´
akkoron kÂ´ szen lehessen az OrszÂ´ g a gravaminÂ´ ival s az altallis accelerÂ´ ltassanak a dolgokâ™
e a a Â´ a
(ibid., p. 340). For Bod: ZoltÂ´ n Eder, BenkË JÂ´ zsef nyelvÂ´szeti munkÂ´ ssÂ´ ga es az ErdÂ´lyi
oo e aa Â´ e
Magyar NyelvmË velË TÂ´ rsasÂ´ g (Budapest, 1978), pp. 36ff.; BalÂ´ zs, Magyar deÂ´ ksÂ´ g,
uoa a a aa
45 Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, I.80. The revised and reissued Ratio educationis of
1806 (MÂ´ szÂ´ ros, Ratio educationis, pp. 217â“382, passim) refers to Magyar as â˜lingua
patriaeâ™. Marczali, II. JÂ´ zsef, II.387, 395f., 527â“32, at p. 529 (EsterhÂ´ zy, Beothy).
o a Â¨
46 Gyorgy Bessenyei, VÂ´ logatott mË vei, ed. J. Szauder (Budapest, 1953), pp. 197â“201
Â¨ a u
(MagyarsÂ´ g). RÂ´ vai, A magyar nyelv tanÂ´tÂ´ snak kÂ´t rÂ´szei (1779). (SÂ´ ndor BÂ´ roczi),
a e Ä±a ee a aÂ´
A vÂ´delmezett Magyar nyelv, vagyis a â˜DeÂ´ ksÂ´ g mennyire szÂ¨ ksÂ´ges voltÂ´ rÂ´ l valÂ´ kettË s-
e aa ue ao o o
beszÂ´lgetÂ´s (Vienna, 1790).
The politics of language in Hungary 213
That diet was itself a linguistic turning-point, partly (I think) for techni-
cal reasons. It shared no personnel with its immediate predecessor back
in 1764â“5, and it took place in a new location, Buda. Those circum-
stances enhanced the scope for the development of a new institution in
the lower house, the circular sessions (kerÂ¨ leti ulÂ´sek), which met together
on an informal basis to prepare the business and even the decisions of
the collectivity of deputies. My hunch is that these bodies, in which the
strongly patriotic counties of the Tisza region took a leading part, mainly
debated in Magyar from the beginning.47 Moreover, the diet did brieď¬‚y
assert that language as the norm for its own ofď¬cial business â“ and this
meant to some extent for both houses, since the majority of its plenary ses-
sions, unusually, were mixed ones.48 Magyar became, and would remain,
the authentic language of the printed diet proceedings (as opposed to
its decrees), likewise initiated in 1790â“1. The assembly also enacted the
ď¬rst in a series of laws in favour of employing Magyar in public life, espe-
cially education. But in practice the extended use of Magyar in dietal
and county dealings speedily subsided, for the moment. The immediate
results of the campaign were slow, patchy and sometimes contradictory.
Thus, for example, increasing reliance on written forms of communica-
tion (nuncia) between the two houses ironically meant the elimination
for that purpose of the vernacular which had frequently served as an oral
In the struggle between the counties and Joseph II, Hungaryâ™s other lan-
guages remained deď¬nitely subordinate. But if Latin fell under suspicion,
whereas German failed to win out, a different front opened up and the
contest was soon transformed. That too had some ancestry before the
1780s, notably in the unlikely looking location of a footnote in a learned
Latin source edition, published anonymously by Maria Theresaâ™s court
librarian, Adam KollÂ´ r. Commenting in 1763 on a passage in the descrip-
tion of multi-ethnic Hungary by a sixteenth-century humanist, KollÂ´ r a
observed that the countryâ™s inhabitants were not as diverse as his source
had believed. In fact they were and are mostly Slavs, he (wrongly) claimed;
and â˜the Slavic peoples all use one and the same language, without
any great difference in pronunciationâ™. That view, however remote from
47 SzijÂ´ rto, A diÂ´ta, pp. 331â“48 and passim, has much on the emergence of the kerÂ¨ leti
aÂ´ e u
ulÂ´sek, and stresses their importance for his thesis of the rise of the county gentry; but
strangely he does not tie them in with changing linguistic usage. Cf., however, Henrik
Marczali, Az 1790/1-diki orszÂ´ ggyË lÂ´s (2 vols., Budapest, 1907), I.354.
48 Marczali, 1790/1-diki orszÂ´ ggyË lÂ´s, I.341ff., esp. p. 364 for Magyar as the language of the
diet; cf. ibid., II.1ff. SzijÂ´ rto, A diÂ´ta, p. 81 for the point about mixtae sessiones.
49 SzijÂ´ rto, A diÂ´ta, p. 75, notes this consequence en passant.
214 R. J. W Evans
reality, was a commonplace in the still modest tradition of Slavonic
grammarians.50 But KollÂ´ r goes on with something far more drastic, a
prophecy about the vulnerability of the Magyar language: â˜The Hungari-
ans, that is the people who just use the Hungarian idiom, have the smallest
part of Hungary; indeed, it is to be feared that their tongue will pass away.â™
KollÂ´ r, a controversial and touchy ď¬gure (he admitted to being provoked
â˜propter cavillationes quorundam qui itidem Hungariam incoluntâ™), at
odds with the noble establishment, already had his own agenda â“ and
his prediction ended up, far more conspicuously, in a famous passage of
Meanwhile divergence was opening up on the ground, with the devel-
opment in Hungary of standard or literary languages alongside Latin.
Magyar led the way, with a koine or common speech (kÂ¨ znyelv) rapidly
becoming regularized, accompanied by a sharp increase in publications
and a reduced proportion of dialect writing. The key decade was the
eighties, by the end of which the ď¬rst Hungarian novels were in print and
the language lay poised to ď¬‚ourish as a vehicle for more technical and
scientiď¬c literature.52 A shift took place between the 1770s and 1790s
in the nascent patriotic programme from a stress on â˜national cultureâ™ to
one on â˜national cultureâ™, with the linguistic medium assuming a value in
itself.53 Magyar already had a built-in advantage in respect of varieties
50 â˜Slavicae gentes omnes una eademque utuntur lingua, non magna admodum pronuncia-
tionis differentiaâ™: (A. F. KollÂ´ r (ed.)), Nicolai Olahi . . . Hungaria et Atila (Vienna, 1763),
pp. 91f. n. For earlier tropes (e.g. the â˜donationâ™ of Alexander the Great, apparently ď¬rst
invented at the court of Emperor Charles IV, revived at Leopold Iâ™s): A. S. Mylâ™nikov,
Kartina slavjanskogo mira. Vzgliad iz vostochnoi Evropy: etnogeneticheskie legendy, dogadki,
protogipotezy, XVI. â“ nachala XVIII. veka (St Petersburg, 1996), esp. pp. 45ff.
51 â˜Minima Hungariae portio est, quae Hungaros, sive populum, Hungarico solum idio-
mate utentem, habet; verendumque profecto est, ne sermo ipse exolescetâ™: KollÂ´ r, a
Olahi . . . Hungaria, pp. 91f. n. The reference has been picked up by modern
commentators: Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, I.184, 468, 492f.; Andor Csizma-
dia, HistorickÂ´ Casopis 12 (1964), pp. 215â“36 at p. 219; Dezso Dummerth, FilolÂ´ giai
KÂ¨ zlÂ¨ ny 9 (1963), pp. 181â“3, and 12 (1966), pp. 391â“413. Johann Gottfried Herder,
Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit, ed. M. Bollacher (Frankfurt a.M.,
1989), p. 688: â˜Da sind sie [die Ungarn] jetzt unter Slawen, Deutschen, Wlachen und
andern Volkern der geringere Teil der Landeseinwohner, und nach Jahrhunderten wird
man vielleicht ihre Sprache kaum ď¬nden.â™ For the impact of this Herder passage: Holm
Sundhaussen, Der Einď¬‚uĂ der Herderschen Ideen auf die Nationsbildung bei den VÂ¨ lkern dero
Habsburger Monarchie (Munich, 1973), pp. 76ff.
52 LorÂ´ nd Benko, A magyar irodalmi Â´rÂ´ sbelisÂ´g a felvilÂ´ gosodÂ´ s korÂ´ nak elsË szakaszÂ´ ban
a Ë Ä±a e a a a o a
(Budapest, 1960). A useful listing and illustration of late eighteenth-century Magyar
works on aesthetics, literary history, philosophy, psychology, architecture, arithmetic,
algebra, physics, astronomy, mechanics, mineralogy, chemistry, geography, botany,
human and animal medicine is in PannÂ´ niai fÂ´niksz, ed. I. Gazda and A. Stemler
53 From â˜nemzeti mË velË dÂ´sâ™ to â˜nemzeti muvelodÂ´ sâ™: Ferenc BÂ´ro, â˜Nemzet, nyelv, irodalom:
u oe Ë Ëe Ä±Â´
az 1780-as evek ertelmisÂ´ gÂ´ nek ideologiÂ´ jÂ´ hozâ™, IrodalomtÂ¨ rtÂ´neti KÂ¨ zlemÂ´nyek 88 (1984),
Â´ Â´ ee Â´ aa oe o e
The politics of language in Hungary 215
of speech, since its widespread use by nobles almost throughout the
country and in some major urban centres like Debrecen had already
helped standardize its forms, while the geo-linguistic beneď¬t of its con-
centrated plainland location contributed through a relative absence of
dialect. New kinds of elite sociability may have favoured it too (evidence
from Freemasonic lodges would be specially instructive); and inď¬‚uential
polemics, by BÂ´ roczi, SÂ´ muel Decsy, Gyorgy Aranka and others, argued
aÂ´ a Â¨
for Magyar to be fostered as the only egress from cultural and material
Other vernaculars stood not far behind, but had extra handicaps
to overcome. The ď¬rst important Slovak philologist, the priest Anton
BernolÂ´ k, was already at work in the 1780s: his Grammar, with its praise
of the â˜lingua slavicaâ™ (in KollÂ´ râ™s sense), came out in 1790. Here too
novels began to appear. But the Catholicâ“Protestant divide, with a Czech
version of the language in favour among the Lutheran minority, at least
in formal contexts, was aggravated by stark dialectal variance.55 Ger-
man possessed, of course, an imported standard, effective for education
(and literacy rates were anyway much higher among German-speakers);
but its progress was impeded by local diversity, not least the presence
of settlers from all over the Reich and beyond and confessional splits
even among the long-standing Swabian and Saxon populations. Serbian-
and Romanian-speakers both had to contend with obsolete or actually
foreign sacral languages. Their secular literary equivalents were corre-
spondingly slow to develop, and those who sought to promote them,
especially Dositej ObradoviÂ´ and the romanizing Transylvanian School,
initially provoked considerable dissension. The other Orthodox tongue,
Ruthene, had not yet come under starterâ™s orders at all. Finally Croatian,
a particular and curious case. It displayed huge dialectal and geographical
diversity; and it does not appear to have yet availed itself of its own limited
communal domain, centred on Habsburg Croatiaâ™s provincial assembly
(the sabor), although presumably all those members of the local noble
elite who attended its close-knit sessions knew more or less the same
54 Marczali, 1790/1-diki orszÂ´ ggyË lÂ´s, I.299ff. The lack of dialect was noted by contem-
poraries too: e.g. Hofmannsegg utazÂ´ sa, pp. 55, 139; Benko, IrÂ´ sbelisÂ´g, esp. p. 264.
The Freemasons of the distinctive Hungarian (Draskovics) rite appear to have oper-
ated in Latin into the 1780s: Lajos Abaď¬, A szabadkË mË vessÂ´g tÂ¨ rtÂ´nete MagyarorszÂ´ gon
ou e oe a
(Budapest, 1900), pp. 163, 203. One wonders whether that changed later. BÂ´ roczi, aÂ´
VÂ´delmezett Magyar nyelv; Decsy, PannÂ´ niai FÂ´niksz, avagy hamvÂ´ bÂ´ l fel-tÂ´ madott
e o e ao a
magyar nyelv (Vienna, 1790); Aranka GyÂ¨ rgy erdÂ´lyi tÂ´ rsasÂ´ gai, ed. S. Enyedi (Budapest,
o e a a
55 Anton BernolÂ´ k, GramatickÂ´ dielo, ed. J. Pavelek (Bratislava, 1964), includes the Disser-
tatio philologico-critica and Orthographia of 1787, and the Grammatica slavica of 1790.
Background in K poËiatkom slovenskÂ´ho nÂ´ rodnÂ´ho obrodenia, ed. J. TibenskÂ´ (Bratislava,
c e a e y
216 R. J. W Evans
vernacular. Rather, Croats would hold out longer than anyone else for
Latin in Hungarian public life.56
By the early 1790s most of these languages boasted some kind of print-
ing network and periodical press. It now proved decisive for the future
that, just as a plurality of claimants presented themselves for a share in
the sphere of public communication, proponents of Magyar attempted a
drastic reduction in the multilingual options. On the one hand they began
to stake a claim for the rights of monoglot speakers, not only among
nobles and burghers, where they were perhaps becoming increasingly
numerous, but especially among the masses of the Hungarian popula-
tion. For instance at tripartite MezoberÂ´ ny, which we encountered ear-
lier, the Germans apparently learned Slovak and Magyar, and the Slovaks
learned Magyar, whereas the Magyars remained monolingual.57 On the
other hand they laid rhetorical stress on Hungary as â“ for them â“ literally
â˜Magyarlandâ™ (â˜MagyarorszÂ´ gâ™), and thus on the â˜foreignnessâ™ of the rest
of her peoples and their languages, an argument which after the turn of the
new century more and more came to be applied to German and French
too, and even Latin. In one typical formulation, the native (Magyar)
tongue is distinguished as â˜sunshineâ™, the remainder as â˜moonshineâ™.58
Contemporary pamphlets maintained that cultivation of Magyar was the
best way to keep away outsiders (and most effective for swearing at them
too). By the early nineteenth century competitions were instituted, with
prizes, to demonstrate the utility and merits of Hungarian.59
Yet all that, of course, also reď¬‚ected continued unease about the lan-
guageâ™s comparative credentials. And it earned ever more strident rejoin-
ders about the Magyars as being â˜Asiaticâ™ in their origins and culture, from
Serbs and others who made heightened political demands in 1790 and the
years following60 â“ just at the time when Herder was recycling KollÂ´ r, as
chance would have it. What made things worse was the incipient impact
of Finno-Ugric studies â“ the work of Sajnovics, Benko, Gyarmathi â“
which demonstrated that Magyars shared a common linguistic ancestry
with the peasant Finns rather than with the warrior Turks, an awkward
pill for noble proponents of the Hungarian cause to swallow, though some
But cf. Vlatko PavletiÂ´ et al., Hrvatski jezik u hrvatskom saboru = The Croatian Language
in the Croatian Parliament (Zagreb, 1997).
57 RÂ´ cz, A tÂ¨ rÂ¨ k vilÂ´ g, pp. 141, 158, for MezoberÂ´ ny.
a oo a Ë e
58 Jozsef Teleki, A magyar nyelvnek tÂ¨ kÂ´letesÂ´tÂ´se uj szavak es uj szÂ´ lÂ´ smÂ´ dok altal, ed. Z. Eder
Â´ oe Ä±e Â´ Â´ Â´ oa o Â´
(Budapest, 1988), esp. pp. 66ff. (re Latin), 134ff. (re German). Aranka GyÂ¨ rgy, ed. o
Enyedi, p. 109 (sunshine/moonshine).
59 Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, II.177â“80, 575. See esp. Teleki, Magyar nyelvnek
tÂ¨ kÂ´letesÂ´tÂ´se, pp. 9ff. (competitions).
60 Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, II; S. GavriloviÂ´ and N. PetroviÂ´ (ed.), TemiËvarski
c a c c s
sabor 1790 (Novi Sad, 1972), passim.
The politics of language in Hungary 217
took it in their stride.61 Altogether Magyarization as a political campaign
to spread the language owed its genesis precisely to Magyarâ™s lack of any
decisive cultural advantage. Hence the legislation which, still nominal
from 1792 onwards, would acquire teeth after 1805 and introduce the
language wars proper that raged through the region during the nineteenth
This whole Hungarian literary movement was associated particularly with
Ferenc Kazinczy (1759â“1831), its leading codiď¬er and theorist. Kazinczy,
from a well-to-do Protestant noble family, grew up in a multicultural
climate, much inď¬‚uenced especially by German models â“ but he later
explicitly forswore the term â˜cosmopolitanâ™.62 An enlightened progressive
in his younger days, Kazinczy made a major administrative career under
Joseph II, as county ofď¬cial and then district inspector in the new school-
ing system; but from 1790 he turned to patriotic activity, even beginning
to call himself a â˜nationalistâ™. The linguistic concomitant of this was that
Kazinczy, though a ď¬‚uent speaker of Latin, German and Slovak, became
an ever stronger Magyarizer. In his programmatic statements he asserted,
inter alia, that the native language was the cultural equivalent of â˜Hun-
garian breadâ™ (magyar kenyÂ´r), which non-Magyars must either learn or
they will starve.
Meantime, however, Kazinczy fell foul of the â˜Jacobinâ™ purge, by which
the government sought to eliminate the members of an alleged revolution-
ary conspiracy; and that left its linguistic residue in his memoir of captivity
(FogsÂ´ gom naplÂ´ ja). Though this text has, since its belated ď¬rst publication
in 1931, become an essential component of Kazinczyâ™s autobiographical
writings as a whole and thus part of the standard canon of Hungarian
literature, it ironically happens to yield the best evidence known to me
about the continuing multilingual character of later eighteenth-century
Hungary, especially about the scarcely diminished signiď¬cance of Latin
at the very end of the century. Most of this â“ neglected and at times oblit-
erated by later commentators64 â“ appears in the extraordinary, at times
61 Cf. Gunter J. Stipa, Finnisch-ugrische Sprachforschung von der Renaissance bis zum Neupos-
itivismus (Helsinki, 1990), esp. pp. 208ff. Teleki, Magyar nyelvnek tÂ¨ kÂ´letesÂ´tÂ´se, pp. 10,
33, 39, 262ff., is happy with Magyar as an eastern, but also a Finno-Ugrian language.
62 Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, I.331ff., 369ff. and passim; Kazinczy, MË vei, I.261.
c a u
The most detailed account of the relevant period of Kazinczyâ™s life is still JÂ´ nos VÂ´ czy,
Kazinczy Ferenc es kora, vol. I (no more published), (Budapest, 1915).
63 â˜vagy ehhel hal elâ™: Kazinczy MË vei, II, nos. 11, 73. Cf. also Gy. Szekfu (ed.), Iratok a
Â´ u Ë
magyar allamnyelv kÂ´rdÂ´sÂ´nek tÂ¨ rtÂ´netÂ´hez, 1790â“1848 (Budapest, 1926), pp. 24ff.;
Â´ e ee oe e
Rapant, K poËiatkom madâ™arizÂ´ cie, II.55, 64, 514â“15.
64 E.g. VÂ´ czy, Kazinczy, pp. 495â“514, who clearly used the then still MS text, but air-
brushed out non-Hungarian passages.
218 R. J. W Evans
verbatim record of Kazinczyâ™s imprisonment and treason trial in 1795,
extracts of which are printed as an Appendix to this chapter. Whereas
the ofď¬cial documentation of the trial, since published in extenso because
of the political weight of the occasion, provides much information of a
general kind about both oral and written practice, the gripping narrative
in the diary adds many revealing personal details.65
We might wonder about Kazinczyâ™s accuracy, given that he seems to
have written down his recollections decades later. Yet he was a quasi-
professional philologist, devoted to exactness of words, and there seems
no reason why he should have played fast and loose, in a memoir designed
only for private circulation, with texts that were not even in his beloved
Magyar. Besides, Kazinczyâ™s memory would have been mightily sharp-
ened by the traumatic circumstances in which he had experienced them:
he received a death sentence which was commuted only at the last
moment to a long gaol term. An interesting corroborative feature are
the hints at how Latin was actually spoken; elsewhere Kazinczy com-
mented on his own Latin accent, as formed in the Calvinist college at
SÂ´ rospatak.66 Altogether these passages give us some insight into the
functional nature of Hungaryâ™s multilingualism, deriving from a mix-
ture of need and facility, institutional rules (which in the courtroom, for
example, evidently enjoined Latin upon all those who knew it), social
conventions, issues of conď¬dentiality and familiarity, and so forth.
Kazinczyâ™s arrest, on 14 December 1794, was negotiated in German
throughout, since an Austrian army ofď¬cer had been sent to detain him.
His subsequent dealings with various other prisoners, guards, etc., at
ď¬rst in Hungary and then in Moravia, involved a mixture of tongues, with
much German and some Slovak. He also regularly used Latin, especially it
seems to avoid being understood by all and sundry, as in his exchange with
a warder (extract I), when Kazinczy, suffering from gaol fever, found
himself required to take a carriage journey which ended up, to his sur-
prise, in a notorious penitentiary at Obrovitz/Obrovice. This passage has
an authentic ď¬‚avour, both in Kazinczyâ™s efforts to gain special treatment,
and in the way both men resort to German in the argument at the end.
Latin was the language of Kazinczyâ™s interrogation too, even though
all those round the table must have known Magyar. It began (extract
II), after preliminaries of identiď¬cation, with the defendantâ™s denial that
he had known about a Jacobin catechism found on his friend Szent-
marjay, though they had been together on one potentially compromising
65 K. Benda (ed.), A magyar jakobinusok iratai (3 vols., Budapest, 1952â“7), II, prints much
of this material: the testimony, submissions and confessions (among them Kazinczyâ™s,
ibid., pp. 343â“50) in Latin; the reports to Vienna mainly in German.
66 Kazinczy, MË vei, I.255f.
The politics of language in Hungary 219
occasion. The letter from him to Szentmarjay which his prosecutors have
found, says Kazinczy, is the only one he wrote â“ and concerns nothing
more than the dispatch of some literary works by Klopstock. Whether or
not prompted by that learned cue, one of the interrogators now switches
to Magyar, in a distinctly intimate register, trying to induce the prisoner
into a confession, a gambit seconded by another of them, who makes the
same sort of plea (â˜by the ď¬ve wounds of Jesus Christ . . . â™), in Latin,
though of a regionally accented kind, as Kazinczy notes.
The prisoner refused to inculpate himself during these exchanges; but
when, after another monthâ™s conď¬nement, he was brought back for more
questioning, the outcome (extract III) was different. Now the odious
prosecutor, NÂ´ meth, shows him testimony from another of the suspects,
Szulyovszky, which claims that Kazinczy indeed kept company with other
alleged conspirators. At this point, fazed by the revelation but not by Latin
dialogue, Kazinczy admits as much: he would have said so earlier, but for
his promise to protect Szulyovszky (a relation of his, and evidently rather
witless). His tormentor seeks to lead him further: â˜But itâ™s not sufď¬cient
to say what you did, what you know: you must add your way of thinking
about public affairs, about the revolutio Gallica . . . â™ We are reminded
how much of Hungarian politics continued to be conducted in Latin.
The conď¬scated papers of the â˜Jacobinsâ™ included a Latin translation of
Exurge natio lacertosa
Sume ensem detructorem in manus . . .67
After his conviction, Kazinczy was taken to serve his term in Moravia.
On the way he ran across a fellow prisoner, Abafy, with whom he con-
versed in Latin (extract IV) â“ again perhaps for privacy. Once more
we hear about Kazinczyâ™s now comparatively indulgent treatment in his
conď¬nement, but the talk soon shifts to Szulyovszky, who, according to
Abafy, gave proof of his lunacy by continually singing Lutheran songs in
his cell. Moreover, on this account, he sang them in Slovak, since they are
identiď¬ed by that tongue (with Latin endings!) in the text. This is con-
ď¬rmed elsewhere in the diaries, where Szulyovszky complicates the issue
further by telling Kazinczy that he took the Lutheran lines from a German
original.68 Kazinczy also reports, glossing our extract, that Abafy spoke
67 Benda, Magyar jakobinusok iratai, I.1049f.
68 â˜Amice, multum ď¬‚evi, multum orebam, cantabam; praesertim certam cantionem slavi-
cam, ex germanico Wer nur den lieben Gott la[=Â¨ ]sst walten; et assecuro te, cantio
haec me erexit. Animum tamen meum non poteram inducere ut credam Jesum Chris-
tus fuisse.â™ At which Kazinczy laughed and said â˜lutheranszka pisznicskakat [he gives
them Magyar endings] nem dudoltam isâ™: Ferenc Kazinczy, Az en eletem, ed. F. SzilÂ´ gyi
Â´ Â´Â´ a
(Budapest, 1987), pp. 178f.
220 R. J. W Evans
â˜ď¬‚oweryâ™ Latin, evidence of which was that he pronounced the letter â˜sâ™,
for example in the word â˜stultusâ™, as a simple sound, which implies that
most Hungarians rendered it with â˜shâ™, as they would the same letter in
A ď¬nal short excerpt (extract V) illustrates the expressive power which
Latin still retained in Hungary among those who naturally turned to it.
It brings back two characters we have already met: Ferenc Szentmar-
jay, a young idealist deeply involved with the radical conspiracy, and
JÂ´ nos NÂ´ meth, the director causarum regiarum or royal prosecutor, widely
regarded as the most sinister, venomous and unscrupulous of the team of
Habsburg myrmidons who worked to suppress it. NÂ´ meth seems to have
lured Szentmarjay with a promise that he would be spared if he made a
clean breast of his part in the plot. When the death sentence is neverthe-
less conď¬rmed to him, Szentmarjay turns on NÂ´ meth with an emotional
Latin outburst, ending â˜I die, but I await Your Worship before that tri-
bunal where perjury shall be avenged.â™ We may wonder whether these
were the condemned manâ™s exact words, since Kazinczy was presumably
not present; but he occupied a nearby cell, and gives no hint of having to
compromise here what appears to be an overall philological exactness.
Kazinczy would doubtless have looked askance at my quarrying his richly
Magyarophile writings for evidence of Latin usage. Much more would
need to be assembled than I have done here for us to build up any ade-
quate picture of linguistic interplay in eighteenth-century Hungary and its
relation to political and social development. But at least some concluding
questions can be put.
Had the continuing role of Latin been cause or effect of all this delayed
development of the vernaculars? What were the reasons for the extraordi-
nary acceleration of national language campaigns thereafter, led by that
for Magyar, which in some ways had a long head start by the end of the
century? What was the role of domestic factors in that process, along-
side the shock delivered by Habsburg policy, especially under Joseph II?
And how did linguistic interplay affect the issue of access to the public
Ultimately we need to ask whether language, in this distinctive Hun-
garian case, was a vehicle for social and political exclusion or inclusion,
and how far that changed as the long-time hegemony of one language that
was no oneâ™s mother tongue faced a challenge from several rival languages
which were. The country had become a last preserve of the perceived
69 â˜Abafy cifrÂ´ cskÂ´ n beszÂ´ le deÂ´ kul, es a stultus az o szÂ´ jÂ´ ban sztulltusz voltâ™: Kazinczy,
aa e a Â´ Ë aa
MË vei, I.460â“1.
The politics of language in Hungary 221
merits of multilingualism, in theory and practice. Various adages â“ such
as that â˜unity of language is a blemish on the dignity of the realmâ™ â“ were
regularly invoked to justify this, not least of course when the status quo
came under pressure from Joseph II.70 It is hardly surprising that these
were habitually cited in Latin.
70 Cf. Evans, â˜Language and State-buildingâ™, p. 3.
Extracts from Ferenc Kazinczyâ™s FogsÂ´ gom naplÂ´ ja (Journal of my Cap-
I / K A Z I N C Z Y A N D H I S WA R D E R , O N A J O U R N E Y
W[arder]: Induat se, ibimus in aliam domum.
K[azinczy]: Scit me male valere. Ut sum, transibo. Sed rogo, det mihi amoenum
cubiculum, si licet.
W: Induere se debet; rheda vehemur.
[K. asks to be taken through the town of BrÂ¨ nn/Brno:]
W: Faciam, sed videbo, qualem mihi discretionem dabunt, dum eliberabuntur.
[On arrival at destination:]
K: Quid hoc est? Recordor mihi dictum fuisse, dum octobri hic pransus sum, in
hoc parte esse domum correctoream . . .
W: Ja, das ist das Zuchthaus . . .
[When K. begins to shout and swear:]
W: Per amorem Dei, non faciant ne hic sciatur me dixisse, quod ista domus
correctorea sit, quia includat ad arestum.
K: Hohle Sie der Teufel und Ihr Arrest.2
I I / K A Z I N C Z Y ' S F I R S T I N T E R R O G AT I O N ( M O S T LY B Y
O N E M I K O S , A M A G YA R L I K E T H E R E S T )
M[ikos]: Domine perillustris, quod est nomen?
K: Franciscus Kazinczy.
M: Unde? / Quot annorum? / Quae conditio? / Cujus religionis?
K: Protestans Helv. confessionis.
1 I have used the edition of this text in Kazinczy, MË vei, I.419â“541. The relevant sections
are also conveniently reprinted in Benda, Magyar jakobinusok iratai, III.296â“325.
2 Kazinczy, MË vei, I.469â“70.
The politics of language in Hungary 223
[Interruption by one of the judges:]
Domine Magniď¬ce, scribat, reformatus.
M: Quare est interceptus?
K: Ex actione Mď¬ci Dni directoris causarum regg.,3 quam in Kerepes mecum
Ord. Jud. Nobil. Cottus Borsodiensis4 Adam PogÂ´ ny communicaverat. Scio
catechismum aliquem hic queri. Ego de catechismo tali nihil quidquam scio.
[The chief prosecutor, N[Â´meth] asks:]
Dne spectabilis, fuitne cum Francisko Szentmarjay [another suspect] in
KÂ´ rolyiensi installatione?
K: Fui, et meo curru vectus est Patakinum.
N: Et qualis haec est epistola?
K: Mea, ad Szentmarjay. Sed cum ad eum nullas unquam alias literas scripserim,
constare mihi debet, in his nullam aliam contineri petitionem, quam ut mihi
opera Klopstockii a Bibliopola mitteret.
[Another interrogator tries to soften him up in Magyar:]
Edes ocsÂ´ muram, mi osztÂ´ lyos atyaď¬ak vagyunk, s ocsÂ´ muram tudja, hogy en
Â¨e a Â¨e Â´
ocsÂ´ muramat gyermeksÂ´ ge olta nagyon szerettem [etc.].
[Now the chairman, the vice-palatine, intervenes, â˜in his Slovak pronunciation, with
all the long vowels shortâ™:]
Domine spectabilis frater, scimus omnia. Per quinque vulnera Jesu Christi
oro spectabilem dominum fratrem, non se destruat, non se reddat indignum
clementia Optimim Principis, fateatur, quod facit . . .5
III/ MORE QUESTIONING (BY NĂMETH)
N: Domine Spectabilis, veniat huc. Noscit hanc scripturam?
[Another of accused has testiď¬ed:]
Ego in congregatione Ujhelyiensi Franciscum Kazinczy evocavi ad habita-
tionem meam; venit ad RÂ´ koc; descendimus ad hortum. Tum ego: Domine
Frater . . .
K [breaks in]: Non est necesse, ut lectionem magniď¬ca dn. vestra continuet; dicam
totum, nihil enim interest aliquid tacere. Ni me Szulyovszky per liberos suos
rogasset ne revelem, dixissem omnia sub primo examine.
N [exulting, and calling for pen, ink and paper]:
3 The director of royal prosecutions, JÂ´ nos NÂ´ meth, another of those present in the room.
4 The chief justice (fË szolgabÂ´rÂ´ ) of the county of Borsod, in north-east Hungary.
5 Kazinczy, MË vei, I.428â“9.
224 R. J. W Evans
Sed non est satis dicere quid fecerit, quid sciat: addat cogitandi rationem de
rebus publicis, de revolutione Gallica . . .6
IV/ ANOTHER INCIDENT FROM KAZINCZY' S
TRANSFER AS A CONVICT
[K[azinczy] encounters en route his former fellow captive A[bafy]:]
A: Amice, quid hic facis?
K: Brunam deducimur.
A: Sed quomodo? Sine catena te video, sine stipatore?
K: Habemus excellentem ofď¬cialem; omnia nobis indulget.
A: Quid ergo Szulyovszky?
K: Graecium deductus est.
A: Habui ego comoedias cum illo stulto [but K. notes he said â˜sztull-toâ™]. Budae
meus vicinus fuit. Diu non poteram scire, quis illus meus vicinus sit, qui
LutheranszkÂ´ sz pisznicskÂ´ sz semper cantabat. Sero agnovi vocem, atque
nocte intempesta acclamavi ei: Szul-lov-szky! Ille mihi: Quis es? â“ Ego sum,
Abafy. â“ Ah, amice, quid ergo tu? . . .7
V / S Z E N T M A R J AY I S C O N D E M N E D T O D E AT H
[He breaks out with â˜wild outrageâ™ against the chief prosecutor:]
Domine magniď¬ce, haec ergo est publica ď¬des? D[omi]natio vestra me decepit,
dum mihi spem fecerat, fore ut si omnia ingenue fassus fuero, gratia vitae
mihi danda sit. Ego morior, sed expecto D[omi]nationem vestram coram
illius tribunali, qui perjurii vindex est.8
6 7 8
Ibid., I.429â“30. Ibid., I.460â“1. Ibid., I.440.
11 â˜Silence, respect obedienceâ™: political culture
in Louis XVâ™s France
Birkbeck College, London
In the early hours of the night of 19â“20 January 1771, president Louis-
FranÂ¸ ois de Paule Lef` vre dâ™Ormesson de Noiseau of the Parlement of
Paris, who along with his colleagues was on judicial strike, was woken by
the sound of two musketeers hammering at his door.1 They presented him
with a royal lettre de cachet, which when opened contained the following
Sir, I send you this letter to inform you that it is my intention that you should
resume the functions of your ofď¬ce and carry out the duties that you owe to
my subjects for the dispatch of their affairs . . . and that you should make clear
in writing to the bearer of the present [letter] without humming and hawing or
beating about the bush, by a simple declaration of yes or no, your willingness
to submit to my orders, informing you that I will consider a refusal to explain
yourself and to sign as disobedience.
More than 150 of dâ™Ormessonâ™s colleagues received a similar visit on this
remarkable night. The majority replied negatively and they were exiled
the next evening, and their remaining colleagues who had initially written
â˜yesâ™ quickly recanted and soon suffered the same fate.
These dramatic events were the culmination of an intense and complex
political crisis that had already provoked the disgrace of Louis XVâ™s pow-
erful secretary of state for foreign affairs, the duc de Choiseul, and had
pitted the Parlement of Paris against chancellor de Maupeou in a battle
for survival.3 It was not the ď¬rst time that the magistrates had been exiled,
similar crises had occurred in 1756â“7, 1753â“4, 1732 and 1720, but on
each occasion a compromise had eventually been reached. Indeed the
1 A[rchives]N[ationales] 156 mi[croď¬lm] 74, fo. 1.
2 J. Flammermont, Le chancelier Maupeou et les parlements (Paris, 1883), p. 207.
3 The crisis has been discussed by, among others, W. Doyle, â˜The Parlements of France
and the Breakdown of the Old Regime, 1771â“1788â™, French Historical Studies 6 (1970),
pp. 415â“58; J. Egret, Louis XV et lâ™opposition parlementaire (Paris, 1970); Flammermont,
Chancelier Maupeou; and J. Swann, Politics and the Parlement of Paris under Louis XV,
1754â“1774 (Cambridge, 1995).
226 Julian Swann
punishment of the Parlement had traditionally been part of what histori-
ans increasingly describe as judicial politics, namely the series of ď¬‚exible,
unwritten rules and procedures governing relations between the crown
and the parlements in which both informal and formal channels of com-
munication, rituals, threats, bribery and entreaty all played a part.4 The
seemingly bizarre idea of waking magistrates in the middle of the night
to answer â˜yesâ™ or â˜noâ™ to the kingâ™s orders is perhaps best explained as
a botched example of judicial politics, with the chancellor trying unsuc-
cessfully to coerce the Parlement into backing down. In 1771, Maupeou
was engaged in a game of brinkmanship, but when his gambit failed he
ceased to play by the old rules and began to dismantle the institutions and
conventions of government, recruiting a new Parlement, remodelling its
jurisdiction, abolishing venality and the fees paid by litigants to the judges
hearing their cases.
Contemporaries were quickly conscious that a Rubicon had been
crossed and â˜Maupeouâ™s revolutionâ™ aroused controversy on a hitherto
unimagined scale, with the court, the royal administration, the judiciary
and even the wider public bitterly divided. Both sides rushed into print
and the ensuing pamphlet war illustrates perfectly how competition for
public support was transforming the nature of politics in the eighteenth
century. Subsequent historians have reď¬‚ected that split with continuing
debate between those who see Maupeou as an accidental revolutionary,
taking desperate measures to advance or shore up his own position, and
those who, in the tradition of Voltaire, believe he led an attempt backed
by Louis XV to impose a French form of Enlightened absolutism.5 There
is still scope for debate about both the effectiveness and viability of Mau-
peouâ™s reforms and the outcome of the war of words that they unleashed.
However, in this chapter I intend to leave these familiar arguments to
one side and concentrate instead upon the nature of old regime political
culture and the impact of the revolution of 1771 on the attitudes of the
4 In addition to the works cited above, see: P. R. Campbell, Power and Politics in Old
Regime France, 1720â“1745 (London, 1996); D. Dee, â˜Judicial Politics, War Finance and
Absolutism: The Parlement of BesanÂ¸ on and Venality of Ofď¬ce, 1699â“1705â™, French His-
tory 19 (2005), pp. 440â“62; W. Doyle, â˜The Parlementsâ™, in K. M. Baker, ed., The French
Revolution and the Creation of Modern Political Culture, I: The Political Culture of the Old
Regime (Oxford, 1987); D. Hudson, â˜The Parlementary Crisis of 1763 in France and
its Consequencesâ™, Canadian Journal of History 7 (1972), pp. 97â“117; J. M. J. Rogister,
Louis XV and the Parlement of Paris, 1737â“1755 (Cambridge, 1995); J. H. Shennan, The
Parlement of Paris (2nd edn, London, 1998); B. Stone, The French Parlements and the Crisis
of the Old Regime (Chapel Hill, 1986); and J. Swann â˜Parlements and Political Crisis in
France under Louis XV: The BesanÂ¸ on Affair, 1757â“1761â™, Historical Journal 37 (1994),
5 For a discussion of the historiography of the parlementaire opposition, see Swann, Politics
and the Parlement, pp. 27â“44.
Political culture in Louis XVâ™s France 227
governing elite as it confronted the crucial issue of the legitimacy of royal
The works of Keith Michael Baker have been particularly inď¬‚uential
in the study of political culture. He famously offered a linguistic deď¬ni-
tion of politics as â˜the activity through which individuals and groups in
any society articulate, negotiate, implement and enforce the competing
claims they make upon one another and upon the whole. Political cul-
ture is, in this sense, the set of discourses or symbolic practices by which
these claims are made.â™6 As Baker was well aware, it was the second half
of his deď¬nition that was problematic, especially when he attempted to
deď¬ne speciď¬c discourses such as â˜administrativeâ™, â˜judicialâ™ or â˜politicalâ™
and ď¬t the ideas and actions of individuals into such categories or explain
political events through discursive conď¬‚ict alone.7 Even if one accepts the
philosophical premise that â˜human identity and action are linguistically
constitutedâ™,8 to make sense of individual responses when the musketeers
rapped at the door, it is necessary to consider a complex combination
of social, cultural and psychological factors with ambition, conscience,
education, family tradition, personality and much else besides all playing
a part. Only by considering these factors, relating them to the speciď¬c
context of a political crisis and to the values, expectations and rules gov-
erning individual and collective behaviour are we likely to get close to
an accurate deď¬nition of political culture in eighteenth-century France.9
The revolution of 1771 provides a particularly pertinent example for such
a study because it not only forced individuals to make difď¬cult choices,
but also to think hard about the nature of power. As Tim Blanning has
so justly remarked, power is about more than just the ability of rulers to
command obedience; it is also about perception.10 Louis XV failed dis-
mally to project an image of himself as an Enlightened or patriot king and
perhaps more damagingly his very weakness made him more vulnerable
to the accusation that he was little better than a despot.
The idea of waking magistrates in the middle of the night of 19â“20 January
1771 was clearly intended to intimidate, but it could be justiď¬ed on the
6 K. M. Baker, Inventing the French Revolution: Essays on French Political Culture in the
Eighteenth Century (Cambridge, 1990), p. 4.
7 8 Ibid., p. 6.
Ibid., pp. 4â“7, 126â“7.
9 Deď¬nitions of this sort are invariably problematic and I have borrowed here, in part, from
Lynn Hunt, Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution (Berkeley, CA, 1984), p. 10
and from T. C. W. Blanning, The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture: Old Regime
Europe, 1660â“1789 (Oxford, 2002), pp. 1â“10.
10 Blanning, The Culture of Power, p. 5.
228 Julian Swann
basis that it might secretly be welcomed. Since at least 1750, ministers
and many magistrates had complained that the parlements no longer
thought or acted as they had once done.11 Magistrates who dared to voice
moderate or unpopular opinions were regularly shouted down by their
opponents, and serious divisions had riven the parlements of BesanÂ¸ on, c
Paris, Pau and Rennes. By presenting individuals with a stark choice of
answering â˜yesâ™ or â˜noâ™ to the orders of their sovereign, it might have
been expected that free from the glares and heckles of their colleagues
many would reply â˜yesâ™. Remarkably, no fewer than thirty-ď¬ve magistrates
refused to give a direct answer. AbbÂ´ Philippe, for example, sent the
musketeers packing and told them to take their paper with them, while
president dâ™Ormesson de Noiseau chose to write â˜neither yes nor no,
believing this form of disobedience to be more honest than deceiving the
king by writing one or the otherâ™.12
Of the others, only forty-six wrote â˜yesâ™ and the list included some of
the most notorious opponents of the chancellor, while seventy answered
â˜noâ™.13 However, at least forty magistrates ignored the terms of the lettre
de cachet and the protests of the musketeers by writing a more detailed
explanation of their stance. Robert de Saint-Vincent spent an hour in bed,
with his wife praying for inspiration by his side and the musketeers looking
on in silent bemusement, while he sought the right words to reply.14 He
and most of his colleagues eventually produced ď¬rm expressions of loyalty.
President Brisson wrote simply:15
I await with the most respectful and submissive resignation the events with which
I am threatened, and I beg the king to be so good as to believe that, in whatever
situation I ď¬nd myself reduced, I will always conserve the same unshakeable
attachment to his sacred person, to his service, to the good of his subjects and to
the preservation of the essential laws of the kingdom.
Maupeouâ™s failure to coerce the magistrates reď¬‚ected his own unpopular-
ity and his lack of political ď¬nesse. For the night of 19 January to have had
any impact, those who replied â˜noâ™ ought to have been exiled immedi-
ately. Instead, they were allowed to meet up with their colleagues, most of
11 As the distinguished former procureur gÂ´nÂ´ral of the Parlement of Paris, Joly de Fleury,
complained in a letter to the prince de Conti, 2 January 1756, B[iblioth` que]N[ationale]
Collection Joly de Fleury 2103, fo. 348.
12 13 Flammermont, Chancelier Maupeou, pp. 207â“11.
AN 156 mi 74, fos. 1â“3.
14 Robert de Saint-Vincent, MÂ´moires, pp. 509â“10. All references to these memoirs are
from a photocopy of a typed version of the original kindly put at the disposal of the
author by Dale Van Kley. The original is conserved by M. Michel Vinot. I would like to
thank both Dale Van Kley and M. Vinot.
15 Quoted in Flammermont, Chancelier Maupeou, p. 210.
Political culture in Louis XVâ™s France 229
whom quickly fell into line with the majority decision. The chancellorâ™s
response was to punish the magistrates with exile to often remote and
inhospitable towns and villages from the Atlantic coast to the foot of the
Although Maupeou was not a visionary statesman, he had energy and
ruthlessness in abundance and against all expectations he was able to
remodel the judicial system during the course of 1771. His intentions were
made clear at a lit de justice held on 13 April, where he presented edicts
which, in the eyes of his opponents, transformed France into despotism.
When the terms of the ď¬rst law had been read out, the acting ď¬rst president
of the new Parlement, Antoine Martin Chaumont de La Galazi` re, hade
an opportunity to reply. He did so very brieď¬‚y, declaring:
Sire, in a place, on a day, when everything proclaims the absolute exercise of your
power, we cannot fulď¬l any other duty than that of silence, respect obedience.
As Maupeou rattled through his list of measures, Chaumont de La
Galazi` re continued to reply after each new law: â˜silence, respect obe-
dienceâ™. Once the ceremony was complete, Louis XV spoke with an
unaccustomed vehemence that shook his audience, declaring his sup-
port for the changes and barking imperiously â˜je ne changerai jamaisâ™,
before departing with a sense of majesty reminiscent of Louis XIV.17
These dramatic scenes captured the very essence of the Maupeou revo-
lution. An absolute, and for once almost charismatic monarch had spoken
and his loyal subjects had submitted to a clear expression of his royal will.
The lesson was clear; any future opposition was nothing less than wilful
disobedience. With such a strategy, Maupeou hoped to gain the political
and moral high ground, and compel all but the most recalcitrant mag-
istrates to cede. His plan was not dissimilar to that employed in March
1766, when Louis XV had temporarily silenced the magistrates with his
resounding restatement of monarchical authority at the sÂ´ance de la ď¬‚agel-
lation. However, the genius of that ceremony lay in its simplicity; in reality
it was no more than a robust response to the Parlementâ™s remonstrances.
What Maupeou proposed was not only a radical institutional reform, but
also a far more authoritarian, inď¬‚exible deď¬nition of royal power and of
the duties and rights of the subject. Questions that had long been cloaked
in shades of grey were suddenly represented as if they were black or white,
permitting a response of yes or no as on the night of 19 January 1771. By
16 J. Flammermont, Remontrances du parlement de Paris au xviiie si`cle (3 vols., Paris, 1888â“
98), III.185â“207, esp. pp. 192â“8.
17 The phrase â˜Je ne changerai jamaisâ™ could be translated as â˜my decision is ď¬nalâ™ or â˜my
decision is irreversibleâ™ and it was this sense of ď¬nality and determination which so
surprised his audience.
230 Julian Swann
treating complex political matters in such a blunt fashion, Maupeou in
turn radicalised his opponents and split the governing elite in a potentially
The â˜kingâ™s true servantsâ™
The magistrates who served in Maupeouâ™s reformed courts were exco-
riated by the majority of their contemporaries and they have fared lit-
tle better at the hands of subsequent historians.18 The new magistrates
were accused of, among other failings, low birth, professional ignorance,
corruption, immorality and above all opportunism for putting private
gain above the public good, and many no doubt deserved such criticism.
Choosing to serve Maupeou or to side with the king against the majority
in a Parlement was not, however, an easy option, and social ostracism,
public insults and the threat of a career ending in ruins were an integral
part of the bargain. Louis Jean Bertier de Sauvigny, ď¬rst president of
the remodelled Parlement of Paris, was recognised by many of his oppo-
nents as a man of probity.19 His appointment was nevertheless greeted
by popular verses such as:20
Caligula once made his horse
Roman Consul: is it such a wonder,
If our prince, in like madness
Makes Sauvigny chief of his tribunal?
Bertier himself had a very different explanation for his appointment. He
believed that he had preserved his honour and personal integrity, acting in
accordance with his conscience. In a letter sent to Louis XVI in November
1774, after the recall of the old Parlement, he claimed: â˜I only accepted the
charge of ď¬rst president after a formal order, and by pure obedience.â™21
As in April 1771, he rejected offers of reward for his services for fear of
being accused of having ceded to ambition rather than the:
18 For an overview of the debate and a more nuanced treatment of these magistrates, see
J. FÂ´ lix, Les magistrats du parlement de Paris, 1771â“1790 (Paris, 1990).
19 As the comments of dâ™Ormesson de Noiseau, AN 156 mi 74, fo. 72, and Hue de
Miromesnil, BN MS Fr 10986, fo. 17, make clear.
20 B[iblioth` que]M[unicipale de]D[ijon] 1233, abbÂ´ CourtÂ´ pÂ´ e, â˜Recueil de la plus
e e ee
etonnante rÂ´ volution arrivÂ´ e en France depuis 1769 a 1775â™, fo. 282.
Â´ e e `
Caligula fËt jadis son cheval
Consul de Rome: est-ce grande merveille,
Si notre prince, en dÂ´ mence pareille
Fait Sauvigny chef de son tribunal?
21 BMD 1233, fo. 280, â˜Lettre de M. Bertier de Sauvigny, ancien premier prÂ´ sident du
parlement dÂ´ truit le 7 novembre 1774â™.
Political culture in Louis XVâ™s France 231
simple desire to show the king, my obedience, my zeal, my respect and my entire
devotion to his will; at a time when the sentiments of a loyal and submissive
subject were attributed to dishonour in the opinion of a large part of the nation.
Bertierâ™s colleague, president Aymar-Charles-FranÂ¸ ois de Nicolay, a for-
mer captain in the dragoons, was another to emphasise the duty of an obe-
dient subject, declaring that his only crime was to have had the courage
for four years to obey.22 Others were even more explicit and as Louis
XVI prepared to recall the Parlement of Rennes in 1774, those who had
served Maupeou warned him that he would see â˜loyal magistrates, who
have sacriď¬ced themselves for their prince and their patrie, insulted, per-
secuted, proscribed and abandoned by the royal authority of which they
would be the martyrsâ™.23 For these Breton judges there was an irrec-
oncilable division between their own belief as subjects in â˜an absolutely
essential duty to obeyâ™ and those who saw their duty to resist. Perhaps
surprisingly, such sentiments were rarely expressed in terms of the divine
right of kings, although it is signiď¬cant that most presented themselves as
subjects rather than citizens.
This emphasis on duty and obedience was reď¬‚ected in the public pro-
nouncements of a young maËtre des requËtes, who justiď¬ed his cooperation
with the new tribunals with the phrase â˜I have no respect for them, I
despise them, but I serve Louis XV.â™24 The willingness to put duty above
any personal sentiments was typical of the members of the kingâ™s council
who ď¬lled in for the exiled Parlement of Paris between January and April
1771.25 Such devotion to the monarch offers an interesting counterpoise
to abbÂ´ de VÂ´ riâ™s observation early in the reign of Louis XVI that â˜the
commonplaces of my youth like âserve the kingâ are no longer on the
lips of Frenchmenâ™.26 Far from assuming royal service was â˜for valetsâ™,
many nobles of both robe and sword continued to venerate an idealised
bond between themselves and their monarch as much, if not more, than
any sense of serving an abstract state or even the nation. It was surely
not a coincidence that Louis XVIâ™s abortive ď¬‚ight to Varennes in June
1791 triggered â˜the military emigrationâ™ with the most substantial noble
exodus from the ofď¬cer corps of the army.
22 B[iblioth` que de]P[ort-]R[oyal] Collection Le Paige 573, â˜Lettre de M. de Nicolai a M.
de Miromesnil, 13 novembre 1774â™.
23 BMD 22981 (III), â˜Lettre du parlement de Bretagne au roi, du 31 aout 1774â™.
24 Recorded by dâ™Ormesson in his journal, AN 156 mi 75, fo. 391.
25 According to dâ™Ormesson, AN 156 mi 74, fo. 33, Trudaine de Montigny, for example,
claimed to be ashamed to wear his judicial robes in public and angrily informed Bertier
de Sauvigny that they were â˜doing everything that they should not do and nothing that
26 Quoted in Blanning, The Culture of Power, p. 187.
232 Julian Swann
The kingâ™s will is law
There was a strong strand of authoritarian, or what we might legiti-
mately describe as â˜absolutistâ™, thinking in the writings of the chancel-
lorâ™s servants and real continuity in terms of both ideas and person-
nel spanning the various parlementaire crises of the preceding quarter-
century. In the many pamphlets produced on behalf of the government,
the phrase â˜si veut le roi, si veut le loiâ™ was repeated so often that it
appears to have been part of a deliberate strategy.27 More often than not,
it was presented as both a challenge and a reproach, as one author asked
and what has become of this axiom so often repeated in the grandâ™chambre; this
maxim from antiquity that our most famous jurists have put at the forefront of
our public law: si veut le roi, si veut le loi? Since when did citizens become free
to say: such and such an edict will not become law in the kingdom, because it
frightens us, humiliates us, or simply displeases us?
On one level, â˜si veut le roi, si veut le loiâ™ was a simple statement of
royal sovereignty and as Maupeouâ™s supporters intended it was difď¬cult
to refute on its own terms. Yet it was also the expression of an inď¬‚exible,
authoritarian interpretation of French monarchy, which, for all the the-
oretically absolute power of the king, had always been tempered by the
rights and privileges of his subjects.
The need for unconditional obedience was another permanent refrain
of pro-government pamphlets, and it was presented as the necessary basis
of both divine and human law.29 Magistrates in particular were expected
to set an example by showing that it was not dishonourable to obey.
Military analogies abounded and for many the resistance of the parlemen-
taires was seen as the equivalent of soldiers deserting the colours. As one
anonymous author explained matters:30
27 â˜Si veut le roi, si veut le loiâ™ could be translated as â˜the kingâ™s will is lawâ™ or as â˜the king
wishes, so does the lawâ™.
28 BMD 4833, Examen analytique et raisonnÂ´ dâ™un ecrit qui a pour titre: protestations des princes
du sang (n.p., n.d.), p. 21.
29 For examples, see: BMD 4833, Dialogue entre un ofď¬cier franÂ¸ois qui revient de Corse, et
son neveu, ci-devant conseiller au parlement de Paris, exilÂ´ dans une petite ville (n.p., n.d.),
pp. 32â“3; Lettres amÂ´ricaines sur les parlements 1770 et 1771 (n.p., n.d.), pp. 8â“9, 18â“19;
IdÂ´es dâ™un patriote (n.p., n.d.), pp. 26â“7; and Examen analytique et raisonnÂ´, p. 21.
30 AN K 695, â˜MÂ´ moire sur lâ™autoritÂ´ que sâ™arrogent les parlements sur lâ™autoritÂ´ royaleâ™.
e e e
Much the same argument was presented in a pro-government pamphlet entitled Ils
reviendront: ils ne reviendront pas, ou le pour et le contre (n.p., n.d.), p. 19, in which the
author declared that a regiment that disobeyed â˜would be brokenâ™, not subjected to the
judgement of another regiment.
Political culture in Louis XVâ™s France 233
a corps of magistrates that quits its functions . . . commits the gravest crime
against the sovereign authority and against public order. Its desertion endangers
the peace of the state and delivers its jurisdiction up to anarchy. The regiment
that refuses to march is broken; suppression [of his ofď¬ce] would be the least
rigorous punishment that could be inď¬‚icted on the judge who refuses to carry out
Many of these themes were developed by the author of the Dialogue entre
un ofď¬cier franÂ¸ois qui revient de Corse, et son neveu, ci-devant conseiller au
parlement de Paris, exilÂ´ dans une petite ville, which was based upon an
imaginary conversation between a bluff military man and a committed
young parlementaire. For the ofď¬cer, France, unlike England, Poland or
Sweden, was a monarchy and royal authority was held absolutely by the
king, and to resist his orders, or to encourage others to do so, was to incite
revolt. The cause of Franceâ™s present unhappiness was a new â˜spirit of
mutinyâ™, which he contrasted with that in â˜Spain, Portugal and chez the
King of Prussia, where [peoples] live happily, not because they are better
treated or governed more gently, but because they are more submissiveâ™.31
Not surprisingly, the ofď¬cer had little sympathy for the plight of his
exiled nephew, which was depicted as the bitter fruit of his own disobedi-
ence. However, the author did not leave matters there, and he continued
by comparing the fate of the exiled parlementaires with that of military ofď¬-
cers obliged to spend years in lonely garrisons without complaint, facing
the threat of being â˜dischargedâ™ after offering the sacriď¬ce of their lives in
battle. He also offered his reď¬‚ections on the rigours of military discipline
that meant a soldier could be hanged for stealing a cabbage, while the
disobedience of the magistrates was met with leniency. He concluded by
urging his nephew to accept an ofď¬ce in Maupeouâ™s reformed courts and
when this plea was rejected, declared:32
is it not always glorious to be employed by your king to render service to the state?
I can see your stubbornness only too well, your inď¬‚exible pride. Continue then
in your revolt, because that appears to you so ď¬ne, heroic; but I tell you straight
that I do not wish to recognise a rebel among my kin; expect nothing from me, I
am no longer your uncle.
Such a close comparison between military and judicial ofď¬cers was
typical of Maupeouâ™s apologists, as was an insistence upon the fact that
the parlements needed to be punished for their insubordination. The
31 Dialogue entre un ofď¬cier franÂ¸ois et son neveu, pp. 22â“3, 42â“3. Other pamphlets took up
the theme of military obedience such as Le mot dâ™un militaire: prenez et lisez (n.p., n.d.)
and Lettre dâ™un ofď¬cier du rÂ´giment de â—â—â— a monsieur de â—â—â— , son fr`re, conseiller au parlement
e ` e
de â—â—â— (n.p., n.d.).
32 Dialogue entre un ofď¬cier franÂ¸ois et son neveu, p. 57.
234 Julian Swann
problem was accentuated by the fact that many of those who came into
conď¬‚ict with the parlements were in fact serving military ofď¬cers. At the
royal sÂ´ance held in the Parlement of Paris on 7 April 1770, the duc de
Fitz-James, who had placed most of the Parlement of Toulouse under
house arrest in 1763, opined that â˜the kingâ™s wish alone must serve as a
rule and that it sufď¬ce that His Majesty order something that everyone
should hasten to submitâ™.33 For those who shared Fitz-Jamesâ™s outlook,
their opponents were â˜leaguersâ™, â˜frondeursâ™ or even â˜republicansâ™ who
could legitimately be suspected of treason.34 Confronted by divisions
within the Parlement of BesanÂ¸ on in February 1757, the duc de Randan
personally, I limit myself to noting . . . as a soldier attached to his master, that
the League makes all sorts of efforts to remove this province from his authority
and that it seeks to revive the ancient project of becoming a Swiss canton.
In Brittany a decade later, the allegation that the Parlement and the
provincial Estates formed a â˜league against obedienceâ™ was regularly
voiced, as was the idea that the only way Louis XV could restore his
authority was by entering the province at the head of an army.36
Men like Fitz-James, Randan and other military ofď¬cers who clashed
with the parlements, such as the duc dâ™Aiguillon or Chastellier Dumes-
nil, clearly struggled to understand that a corps of judges could not be
expected to behave like a regiment of soldiers. Yet, this was not just