Joseph II (1780-90), a dynamic leader strongly
the Enlightenment, shook Hungary from its malaise when he
inherited the throne from his mother, Maria Theresa.
sought to centralize control of the empire and to rule it
decree as an enlightened despot. He refused to take the
coronation oath to avoid being constrained by Hungary's
constitution. In 1781 Joseph issued the Patent of
which granted Protestants and Orthodox Christians full
rights and Jews freedom of worship. He decreed that German
replace Latin as the empire's official language and
peasants the freedom to leave their holdings, to marry,
place their children in trades. Hungary, Croatia, and
Transylvania became a single imperial territory under one
administration. When the Hungarian nobles again refused to
their exemption from taxation, Joseph banned imports of
manufactured goods into Austria and began a survey to
imposition of a general land tax.
Joseph's reforms outraged Hungary's nobles and clergy,
the country's peasants grew dissatisfied with taxes,
conscription, and requisitions of supplies. Hungarians
Joseph's language reform as German cultural hegemony, and
reacted by insisting on the right to use their own tongue.
result, Hungarian lesser nobles sparked a renaissance of
Magyar language and culture, and a cult of national dance
costume flourished. The lesser nobles questioned the
the magnates, of whom less than half were ethnic Magyars,
even those had become French- and German-speaking
Magyar national reawakening subsequently triggered
revivals among the Slovak, Romanian, Serbian, and Croatian
minorities within Hungary and Transylvania, who felt
by both German and Magyar cultural hegemony. These
revivals later blossomed into the nationalist movements of
nineteenth and twentieth centuries that contributed to the
empire's ultimate collapse.
Late in his reign, Joseph led a costly, ill-fated
against the Turks that weakened his empire. On January 28,
three weeks before his death, the emperor issued a decree
canceling all of his reforms except the Patent of
peasant reforms, and abolition of the religious orders.
Joseph's successor, Leopold II (1790-92), recognized
again as a separate country under a Habsburg king and
reestablished Croatia and Transylvania as separate
entities. In 1791 the Diet passed Law X, which stressed
status as an independent kingdom ruled only by a king
crowned according to Hungarian laws. Law X later became
for demands by Hungarian reformers for statehood in the
from 1825 to 1849. New laws again required approval of
Habsburg king and the Diet, and Latin was restored as the
official language. The peasant reforms remained in effect,
however, and Protestants remained equal before the law.
died in March 1792 just as the French Revolution was about
degenerate into the Reign of Terror and send shock waves
the royal houses of Europe.
Enlightened absolutism ended in Hungary under Leopold's
successor, Francis I (1792-1835), who developed an almost
abnormal aversion to change, bringing Hungary decades of
political stagnation. In 1795 the Hungarian police
abbot and several of the country's leading thinkers for
a Jacobin kind of revolution to install a radical
egalitarian political system in Hungary. Thereafter,
resolved to extinguish any spark of reform that might
revolution. The execution of the alleged plotters silenced
reform advocates among the nobles, and for about three
reform ideas remained confined to poetry and philosophy.
magnates, who also feared that the influx of revolutionary
might precipitate a popular uprising, became a tool of the
and seized the chance to further burden the peasants.
Data as of September 1989