The Nation says the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand could have serious political consequences. The writer got that right.
There are undoubtedly serious political implications in the assassination of Francis Ferdinand, which occurred on Sunday in the capital of Bosnia, but it is the personal aspect of the tragedy which first makes appeal. This new blow to the aged Emperor, whose life was thought a few weeks ago to be nearing its end; evokes world-wide expressions of sympathy for a ruler whose long reign has brought him almost unprecedented personal bereavements. The murdered Crown Prince had for some time past been active in the work of government. He was in this way visibly in preparation for his accession to the throne; and also had the motive of relieving Francis Joseph of some of the cares of state. Ferdinand was of strong and energetic nature, and Austria had looked forward to his becoming Emperor, confident that the transition would be made without shock, and that the administration of affairs would be in able hands. That outlook is now changed. The new heir apparent is a young and untried archduke, Charles Francis, who is said, however, to be democratic in bearing and popular. The old Emperor will doubtless make an effort to keep the reins in his hands as long and as firmly as possible, but it is evident that Austria will have to face trials of a sort to test her strength and her international policy.
For the causes of the assassins’ mad determination can by no means be ignored.
They were not of the ordinary ‘crank” class, these boyish murderers, but felt themselves the instruments of their country’s vengeance. Whether Servians or Bosnians, they had been bred to think of Austria as a national enemy and oppressor. Friction between the Austrian authorities and the Bosnians had been for some time severe. Only a little while ago the Government was confronted with a strike of the Serb students at Mostar in Herzegovina. Their complaint was that a Government professor had made violent attacks upon the Servians. These students were expelled; but thereupon their fellows throughout the two provinces struck in sympathy, and all the efforts of the Government had not, at last accounts, been able to make them return to their schools. From this clash alone, it is possible, the impulse to Sunday’s tragedy may have been derived. All accounts agree that the relations have been bad between the Austrians and the inhabitants of the two provinces of which Austria undertook the protectorate under the Treaty of Berlin, and which she later coolly annexed, despite warm protests from Great Britain. It is now evident that she annexed not only territory, but race hatred and a lurking spirit of assassination.
This ill will has obviously been intensified by events connected with the latest Balkan war. Throughout, Austria’s motives were violently suspected by the Servians, and the mobilization of her army on the Servian frontier gave great offence. In the diplomatic negotiations which followed the war, it was believed that Austria had designs on Servian as well as Albanian territory, and that she was determined to push on to the East at every opportunity. And the display of her military power in Bosnia seems not to have had the effect of over-awing so much as enraging. It was to attend Austrian manoeuvres on the Servian frontier that Francis Ferdinand was on his way. The occasion was plainly seized for elaborate plots against his life, the first of which failed, but the second was deadly. There is no indication that the shots were fired at the Archduke as a ruler personally offensive, only, he typified the Government.
Such efforts to temper tyranny by assassination—we now speak, of course, from the point of view of the perpetrators of the crime— are almost always futile. This lies in the nature of the ease Governments cannot yield to terrorism. And there is no good reason for believing that Austria will be deflected from the general line of policy and of Imperial development which she has been pursuing. The Austro-Hungarian Empire has been for fifty years the subject of more mistaken prophecies than any country in Europe. It has belonged to the class of what used to be called in Italy the attendibili—the “watched-over.” Outsiders were watching Austria to see when the inevitable process of her breaking-up was to begin. Charles Sumner was positive, more than a generation ago, that the thing could not be long delayed. He called Austria merely “a geographical expression”. But the Empire still stayed on the map. It even grew larger and more powerful and apparently more stable. At one time it was supposed that Pan-Germanism would prove a dissolvent. Early in Kaiser William’s reign there was much talk of the predominantly German provinces of Austria gravitating to Berlin. But all this has long since dropped below the horizon. We hear much more at present of Pan-Slavlsm than we do of Pan-Germanism. And the real concern of European Chancelleries, in the presence of this Austrian tragedy, is more with personal and dynastic changes which may follow in Vienna, than with any possibility that Austria will be shaken out of her orbit; more, above all, with the race jealousies and conflicts beyond the Austrian frontier, and with the renewed tension between Greece and Turkey, than with any thought that Bosnia will make a serious attempt to rise against Austrian rule.