The Domestic Policies

Austria Table of Contents

Despite Metternich's high profile, it was the emperor's conservative outlook and hostility toward the values and ideas of the French Revolution that set the parameters for Austrian policy. This was especially true of domestic policy, which Franz I retained under his direct personal control until his death in 1835. The composition of the state council that Franz selected to rule in the name of his mentally incompetent son Ferdinand I ensured the continuance of his policies until revolution shook the foundations of Habsburg rule in 1848.

Franz's aim was to provide his subjects with good laws and material well-being. To accomplish the first, he issued a new penal code in 1803 and a new civil code in 1811. He expected that the second--material well-being--would evolve naturally with the reestablishment of peace, and he considered additional measures unnecessary. Political and cultural life was kept under careful scrutiny, however, to prevent the spread of nationalism and liberalism. These two movements were a common threat to Franz's conservative regime because his political opponents looked to the establishment of a unified German nation-state incorporating Austria as a means for realizing the liberal reforms impossible in the framework of the Habsburg state.

Political stagnation, however, did not prevent broader socioeconomic changes in Austria. By 1843 the population had risen to 37.5 million, an increase of 40 percent from 1792. The urban population was rising quickly, and Vienna counted nearly 400,000 inhabitants. Economically, a degree of stability was reached, and the massive wartime deficits gave way to almost balanced budgets. This was made possible by cutting state expenditures to a level near actual revenues, and not by instituting fiscal reforms to increase tax revenues. Austria's ability to protect its interests abroad or carry out domestic programs thus continued to be severely restrained by lack of revenue.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress