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National Romanticism: The Formation of National Movements

Balazs Trencsenyi
Michal Kopecek

Chapter III. The Nationalization of Space

Petition to the Emperor against the unification of Bohemia and Moravia

Traduction de Derek Paton

Texte intégral

1Title: Adresa císaři proti spojení Čech s Moravou (Petition to the Emperor against the unification of Bohemia and Moravia)

2Originally published: issued on April 4, 1848

3Language: German

4The text used is from Jindřich Dvořák, Moravské sněmování roku 1848–1849 (Sessions of the Moravian Diet, 1848–49) (Telč: Emil Šolc, 1898), pp. 94–97.


5Moravia has been one of the historical lands of the Bohemian Crown since the eleventh century. Ever since the early Middle Ages, however, when it was raised to a margraviate, it had its own administrative system and Diet. Since the mid-fifteenth century Bohemia and Moravia had been formally united, but administration remained divided and Moravia and Bohemia occasionally each had a different ruler, though most often it was someone from the same ruling dynasty. At the end of the eighteenth century, and again in the period between the two world wars, Moravia was administratively united with the Czechoslovak part of Silesia. Moravia was inhabited by people of Slav and German origins. Germans were settled in the south, in adjacent Silesia to the north, and in the larger towns, whereas Czechs were settled in the central parts and were slightly greater in number. Because of the separate administration, closer ties with Vienna, and the slight economic backwardness of Moravian Czechs, not only in comparison to Germans but also to Czechs in Bohemia, the Czech national movement had a less dynamic development here. As a result, the Landespatriotismus had a stronger impact and above all longer life, not only among the Moravian aristocracy and clergy, but also among the German and Czech bourgeoisie. The first important period with respect to Czech nationalism was the 1830s, when individual ‘awakeners’ started to spread the ideas of Czech cultural nationalism in Moravia. The most important of them came from Bohemia (F. C. Kampelík, F. M. Klácel, A. V. Šembera). Their campaign was particularly successful in Moravian educational institutions, the noble academies in Brno (Ger. Brünn) and Olomouc (Ger. Olmütz), and the theological seminary in Brno.

6In the Brno seminary a circle of patriotic priests gathered, whose spiritus rector was František Sušil (1804–1868). This group took the Cyril and Methodius tradition as the central point of their patriotism (Cyril and Methodius were ninth-century Byzantine missionaries who Christianized the Great Moravian Empire, and were later canonized). What came out of the vaguely formulated program of the Brno seminary circle was a synthesis of Roman Catholicism, Moravian patriotism, Czech national consciousness, and Pan-Slavism. They did not form a political movement, and their chief impact came from the fact that most of them spread their patriotic ideas among the Czech-speaking people in their parishes.

7The second phase of the spread of Czech national ideas began in 1848–49. The revolutionary atmosphere brought a new dynamic to national agitation. In the Reichsrat and the Slav Congress in Prague, the Moravian Czech deputies met their colleagues from Bohemia and realized that they had much in common. At the same time, in Moravia, similarly to Bohemia, the relationship of Czechs and Germans became of central importance for the first time, since both sides realized that they had different political visions with respect to the Greater-German movement. This was a significant factor in the subsequent increase of nationalist agitation in both communities.

8As it turned out at the political level, however, Landespatriotismus in Moravia still outweighed Czech liberal nationalism. In early March 1848, the St. Wenceslas Committee in Prague (which is considered the initial stage of the real political activity of Czech liberalism) sent two petitions to the Emperor. Among a number of democratic requests there was also a demand for the constitutional unification of Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. The reaction of the Moravian Czech patriots was on the whole negative. Not only did the politicians from Prague fail to consult with the Moravians regarding the request for unification, but unification was understood as a menace to Moravian independence. Referring to the liberal principle of freedom, the patriotic journal Týdeník (Weekly) rejected the proposed unity of the Bohemian Lands, while stressing the close ties between both lands and, above all, “the Czech and Moravian nation.”

9The request of the St. Wenceslas Committee soon became a subject of discussion in the Moravian Diet session. The Diet committee, led by Alois Pražák, the future leader of the Moravian People’s Party (the key Czech-speaking liberal force in Moravia), labeled the petition for constitutional unification an intolerable attack on Moravian independence. In the general discussion, warning voices (particularly that of Count Sylva-Taroucca) also appeared, arguing that the only prospects for Moravians lay in either becoming totally Germanized or joining the Czech national movement. The Diet had drawn up a petition to the Emperor, however, in which they repeated the negative stance of the Diet committee to a constitutional unification of their land with Bohemia. The petition emphasized that in the interest of Austria, the ‘common motherland,’ and in accordance with historical development, Moravia had to remain an independent country, legally subordinated exclusively to the House of Habsburg.

10The majority of the members of the Diet were a mixture of the aristocracy and the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church—that is to say, people indifferent to the ideas of the young national movement. The Diet petition to the Emperor shows that the consciousness of Moravian autonomy was still quite strong at this time. It also shows that Moravians were aware of the close ties with Bohemia and of the dynamic progress of Czech nationalism. After the renewal of constitutional life in Austria in the 1860s, the Moravian Czechs clearly leaned towards the Czech national mainstream and accepted the political program of Czech ‘historical rights.’ The older kind of Moravian patriotism played an important role until it was overshadowed by Czech nationalism. The dénouement came in the 1880s with a new generation of Moravian Czech nationalists. They completely acknowledged the cultural and political predominance of Prague and devoted their work to furthering the Czech national movement. Since that time Moravian regional consciousness has been a layer of identity of many Moravian Czechs that can hardly challenge the main national allegiance. From time to time during the twentieth century, however, the defense of Moravian specificity against the centralism of Prague had played a certain political role (in times of unrest, such as the Prague Spring of 1968 or the Velvet Revolution in 1989).


Petition to the Emperor against the Unification of Bohemia and Moravia

12The assembled Moravian Diet expresses the conviction, which is instilled in most of the inhabitants of Moravia, namely, that at present it believes that the expression of all provincial efforts must be made subordinate to the commonweal of the shared homeland, and speaks out firmly against the wishes of the residents of Prague who desire the joining of Bohemia and Moravia in a joint assembly for these lands.

13The loyal and obedient Moravian estates cannot, first and foremost, consider the wishes of the capital city, Prague, to be an expression of the requests of the whole Kingdom of Bohemia, because only the estates of this kingdom are the legal organ that may make requests to Your Imperial and Royal Majesty in the matter of the state-rights position of Bohemia with regard to Moravia. The assembled Moravian estates, however, protest as solemnly as possible, in the name of the country represented by them, against all testimony of the capital city, Prague, or the land of Bohemia, which is aimed against the integrity of Moravia or is meant to recognize the independence of this land from the kingdom of Bohemia.

14In the history of the land one cannot find any document according to which contemporary Moravia would, after the fall of the Great Moravian Empire, have agreed rightfully to relinquish its independence from the Kingdom of Bohemia. The fact that by and large one sovereign ruled in these lands is not, however, based on legal necessity, but on the election of the estates, agreements concluded for the maintenance of the independence of Moravia, and hereditary right. The history of the land has seen times, however, when even this claim to rule in both lands varied, whereby each of them had its own sovereign, who was independent of the other sovereign. Nor is there any legal relationship based on the charters of incorporation of 1348 and 1355 other than the joining of the two lands under a single sovereign.

15Since the time of Konrad, the first margrave of Moravia, in 1182, who received the land in fief from the German emperor, the dispute between Bohemia and Moravia over this independence has been decided in favor of Moravia.

16Since 1298 Moravia has had its own district administrator; since 1348 it has had its own land rolls. As far back as one can remember Moravia has had its own estates [diets] and courts of law, and since 1535 it has had its own administration; Moravia has always had a separate emblem, different from the Bohemian, which since 1462 has looked as it does today.

17The estates of both lands have always been considered equal to each other, for as early as 1435 the Bohemian estates sent delegates to the Moravian Diet, so that they could reach an agreement with King Sigismund.

  • 1 Ladislaus (1440–1457), Archduke of Austria, king of Hungary as László V; king of Bohemia as Ladisl (...)

18The Kniha tovačská tit. VIII. a XXXI., the oldest book of the laws in Moravia, which was confirmed in vim legis (as valid law) by King Maxmilian in 1567, shows that both the estates and the Bohemian sovereigns recognized the independence of Moravia. In 1453, homage was paid to King Ladislav,1 first in Brünn and only later in Bohemia; the dispute over this which arose between the Bohemian diet and the Moravian was not settled till the Bohemian estates presented Moravia with the statement in which they said that in their view when the Moravians accepted Ladislav as their sovereign before the Czechs the Moravians had acted in a fitting and proper manner and in accordance with the law, and they, the Czechs, did not see the Moravians as their vassals but as their dear brothers, blood relations, and good friends. In Tit. XXXI., the liberty and independence of Moravia is expressed, and so is the difference, defined by the estates, between the two lands—namely, that the Bohemian estates shall swear an oath of servitude to the king, but the Moravian estates shall only take a vow.

  • 2 Ferdinand I Habsburg, King of Bohemia and Hungary (r. 1526–1564) and Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1558–1 (...)
  • 3 Ladislaus II (Cz. Vladislav Jagellonský, Hun. Ulászló II), King of Bohemia from 1471 and of Hungar (...)

19After the death of King Louis, the Bohemians elected as king Ferdinand I,2 husband of Princess Anne, daughter of King Vladislav,3 without inviting the Moravians to the election. The Moravians protested against the election, recognizing Ferdinand I as king only after Princess Anne ceded Moravia, by the legal route, to her husband Ferdinand I for life. The Moravian estates also refused Ferdinand I, who was elected king in Bohemia, entrance to Moravia as long as he lacked a letter of safe conduct from them.

20Moravian independence, declared also as a constitutional law by the Moravian government in 1535, was never quashed.

  • 4 Matthias I (r. 1612–1619), Holy Roman Emperor, also king of Hungary (as Mátyás II, from 1608) and (...)

21Matthias,4 as margrave of Moravia, had the estates pay homage to him at the diet in Brünn in 1608, while his brother Rudolf was still ruling in Bohemia. By a Letter of Majesty, issued on 19 February 1613, Matthias confirmed the liberty and independence of Moravia.

22Whenever the envoys of the Moravian estates were called to Prague for an extraordinary diet, it took place only with the issuing of a declaration that this voluntary sending of delegates to the extraordinary diet was never intended to prejudice the rights and freedoms of Moravia and its estates.

23At the diet of 1617, the Moravian estates complained that the Bohemians crowned Ferdinand II king of Bohemia without calling upon the Moravians; but because he was the grandson of King Ferdinand I and Queen Anne, and his successor, they accepted him as margrave of Moravia.

24If on fol. I of the new constitution, promulgated on 10 May 1628, there is mention of Moravia as an incorporated land, and if Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, as well as Upper and Lower Lusatia are named on fol. XII of the same constitution as incorporated lands, it clearly shows only the mutually equal status of these lands and their having joined under one sovereign, as is also clear from the oath of allegiance on fol. III, which the Bohemian king must himself take as margrave of Moravia.

25Similarly, this constitution cannot be to the detriment of the independence of the margraviate of Moravia, even less so because Ferdinand II, by a supreme decision taken on 26 June 1628, confirmed several freedoms by name to the Moravian estates, by which Moravian independence from Bohemia was secured.

26With his Pragmatic Sanction, issued on 30 September 1720, His Majesty the Emperor Charles VI confirmed the line of hereditary succession in all the independent lands of his kingdom and consequently also by the Moravian estates. This act would certainly have been unnecessary had the sovereign, under the basic laws, considered Moravia independent from Bohemia.

27Lastly, the loyal and obedient estates of Moravia refer to the declarations that were made to the Moravian estates by the renowned forebears of Your Majesty and also as the result of homage paid to Your Majesty. With each of these declarations it was expressed from the highest place that the paying of homage in Prague was not to the detriment of the Moravian independence from Bohemia.

28For these reasons the loyal and obedient estates of Moravia express their conviction that:

  1. Moravia is a land independent of Bohemia, belonging only to the whole union of the Austrian monarchy.
  2. Between the two lands there has always been a close union based on the same nationality and one sovereign; the uniting of the estates [diets] cannot, however, be expressed as a basic law, because that would violate the constitution and independence of Moravia.

29Also, considerations of the material interests and sympathies of the Moravian land lead the Moravian estates to speak out against the merging of the diets and polities of Bohemia and Moravia; even less so can the Moravian estates allow themselves to be moved to accommodate the wishes of the capital city, Prague, because they would thereby prejudice the rights of the residents of the towns and villages of Moravia, residents who were, at the sessions of the Moravian estates, unanimously invited to the representative body of the land, but are still not represented by free elections in that diet.

30The most important task of the loyal and obedient estates of Moravia must therefore first of all be the buttressing and expanding of the constitution of the land, in accordance with the intention of Your Imperial and Royal Majesty, expressed by the supreme rescript, issued on 18 March of this year, so that the rights of all the inhabitants of this land may be defended by the freely elected representatives of all the towns and villages, and so that, under the protection of this constitution, the national specificities and individuality of the whole people of Moravia lead to stable, uninterrupted development.

31As the loyal and obedient Moravian estates give Your Imperial and Royal Majesty for sanction, which is stipulated by the constitutional law, the relevant documents on the representation of towns and villages, which are already being worked on, so, too, the Moravian estates are assiduously seeing to it that all the wishes of the land, which aim to support the tasks set out above and to establish a free constitutional government, are satisfied, and presented for supreme approval. The Moravian estates will consequently always support, among other things, the preservation of a friendly, firm union with the Kingdom of Bohemia, which is allied with Moravia by the same nationality and same tongue, so long as this does not threaten the independence of Moravia. […]


1 Ladislaus (1440–1457), Archduke of Austria, king of Hungary as László V; king of Bohemia as Ladislav I.

2 Ferdinand I Habsburg, King of Bohemia and Hungary (r. 1526–1564) and Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1558–1564). By uniting the Austrian, Bohemian and Hungarian lands under his rule, he laid foundations of the Habsburg Monarchy lasting until 1918.

3 Ladislaus II (Cz. Vladislav Jagellonský, Hun. Ulászló II), King of Bohemia from 1471 and of Hungary from 1490, until his death in 1516.

4 Matthias I (r. 1612–1619), Holy Roman Emperor, also king of Hungary (as Mátyás II, from 1608) and Bohemia (Cz. Matyáš II, from 1611). He occupied the imperial throne by forcing his brother, Rudolf II to abdicate.

© Central European University Press, 2007

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