What was the Home Policy of Metternich?

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The administration of such a big empire having twenty-nine million populations was not an easy task. But Metternich, on the basis of his principles described above, established such a system of administration which could help him maintain peace and order in his empire.

At that time, the social setup of Austria was entirely based upon the principles of feudalism. The nobles, feudal lords and the higher class of the clergy enjoyed special privileges.

They had landed property of their own. Almost the entire land of the empire was under the possession of the privileged classes. They enjoyed freedom from compulsory military service. They were exempt from taxation.

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The highest offices of the state were fully controlled by them. They had their own police. With the help of police, they collected the revenue from the peasants and the poor masses.

On the other hand, the condition of the peasants was deplorable and pitiable. They had to pay a large portion of the agricultural produce in the form of various types of taxes to the feudal lords.

Owing to the Industrial Revolution, the condition of the labourers also became miserable. Most of them had become unemployed. The social and economic condition of Austrian empire was unsatisfactory due to unequal division of wealth.

The rich became richer; the poor, poorer. The condition of Austrian empire in 1815 has been described by Hazen in the following words:

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“Absolutism in government, feudalism in society, special privileges for the favoured few, oppression and misery for the masses, such was the condition of Austria in 1815.”

The administrative system was entirely based upon a meddlesome police, elaborate espionage system and a vigilant censorship of liberal ideas. The following measures were adopted in home affairs in order to maintain peace and order in the empire:

(i) The whole of the empire was divided into various provinces; and in each province, governors were appointed who were the feudal lords or nobles.

(ii) The educational institutions were kept under the strict control of the government. The publication of books, newspapers and magazines containing revolutionary and nationalistic ideas, was prohibited by the government.

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Restrictions were also imposed on the study of History and Political Science. Spies were appointed in educational institutions. The teachers were directed to have a limited number of books.

Text books were prescribed under the strict control of the government. In the words of Hazen: “Particularly did his government fear the universities because it feared ideas.

Professors and students were subjected to humiliating regulations. Spies attended lectures. The govern­ment insisted on having a complete list of the books that each professor took out of the university library.”

(iii) A network of police and spies was spread all over the empire, especially in theatres, universities and government offices.

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(iv) The government employees were directed to obey the orders of the government.

(v) Restrictions were also imposed on foreign travels. Nobody could leave Austria for any other country without the permission of the government.

(vi) In order to prevent the entry and spread of liberal ideas from abroad, Metternich erected check posts on the borders of Austria.

Inspectors were appointed on these check posts, whose main duty was to see that no nationalistic or liberalistic person or literature might enter Austria. In this way, Metternich tried his best to insulate his empire from the liberal thought of Europe.

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As regards the administrative system of Metternich, Hayes, an eminent historian, has remarked: “To combat the danger of infiltration of revolutionary ideas from abroad, he created a wall of tariffs and censors around the Hapsburg lands.

To prevent the rise of liberalism at home, he rigidly supervised the press, strengthened the police and confirmed the pre-eminence of conservative ecclesiastics in the schools.

Even the slight liberalism in Giriliparzer’s drama was detected by the governmental censors and Austria’s foremost dramatist cynically ceased to write. It was only music which escaped Metternich’s interference.”

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