Emperor Charles Issues Hasty Federal Reform Pl…


The People’s Manifesto; the title states “To my faithful Austrian people!”

October 16 1918, Vienna–Like Germany, Austria had appealed for an armistice on the basis of the Fourteen Points.  This included “autonomous development” for Austria-Hungary’s subject peoples, and Emperor Charles wanted to make sure that this did not mean full independence for those peoples a complete breakup of his empire.  In an effort to get ahead of Wilson, who had not yet replied to the Austrian note, on October 16 Emperor Charles issued what its supporters would term the “People’s Manifesto,” calling for drastic reforms in the Austrian half of the empire.  Austria would be reorganized on a federal basis, with the German, Czech, Ukrainian, and Southern Slav portions establishing their own state governments.  Trieste would receive a special status. The Poles, who by this point were no longer loyal to the Habsburgs, would be permitted to join the independent Polish state to be formed out of conquered Russian territories.

In practice, the manifesto was a spectacular failure of judgment that only hasted the downfall of the empire.  The Czechs and Southern Slavs had already told the Emperor they would reject it.  Hungary, which wanted to maintain its control over its subject peoples in Slovakia, Transylvania, and Croatia, threatened to cut off food shipments to Austria if it were included, and even announced that it no longer considered itself bound by the 1867 Augsleich that formed Austria-Hungary.  Hungary’s exclusion from the manifesto meant that Croatia could not be fully included in the new South Slav state, nor Slovakia in the Czech one.  The manifesto thus only angered their leaders more, emboldened calls for independence, and exposed Emperor Charles’ weakness.

Today in 1917: Wilson Approves Text of Balfour Declaration

Today in 1916: First Birth Control Clinic Opens in US
Today in 1915: Britain Offers Cyprus to Greece
Today in 1914: Battle of the Yser Begins: Germans Attack Dixmude

Sources include: Alexander Watson, Ring of Steel.