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April Laws, Hungarian

APRIL LAWS, HUNGARIAN, 1848 The April Laws completed the Hungarian reform era's transformation of the feudal Hungarian kingdom into a modern constitutional monarchy. As a consequence of the news of the revolutions in Paris and Vienna, the Hungarian diet at Pressburg (Bratislava) presented demands for reforms in March 15. The same day, demonstrators in Pest printed the twelve demands, intimidating the local civilian and military authorities and starting the Hungarian revolution of 1848. With the consent of the court and the state conference the April Laws were worked out by the diet and approved by the king at Pressburg on April 11. The April Laws abolished the feudal dependence of peasants and emancipated serfs and the general sharing of taxation. They created the first Hungarian constitutional government and sanctioned Batthyany's government, whose ministers of finances and defence, called into question the concept that the Habsburg lands constituted a single (Gesamtmonarchie). The April Laws reformed suffrage laws and allowed the election of the Hungarian national assembly in Pest in the summer of 1848. The April Laws called for liberty of press and regulated the administration of counties and cities. It defined the national colors of the red-white-green tricolor and re-established the usage of the old Hungarian arms of nation. The April Laws enacted the legal existence of the national guard, which the Pest revolution spontaneously organized. The thirty-one articles of the April Laws were the constitutional basis of a modern Hungarian state, calling for a government responsible to the parliament, independent in internal affairs within the Habsburg monarchy, including a separate civil administration, armed forces and judiciary. But the famous Law III, establishing the sphere of authority of the new Hungarian government and abolishing the vice-regal vouncil, the Viennese direction of the Hungarian treasury and the royal Hungarian court chancellery, was silent about the unity of the imperial royal army, although allowing the Hungarian government control over "all military affairs." As a result of Batthyany's determined action in Vienna the king's decree of May 7 ordered army units stationed in Hungary to obey the Hungarian minister of defence. This caused dissention within the imperial army among those who feared the dissolution of the army and even the monarchy. Opposing the Hungarian efforts to incorporate the military border, the court circles and high ranks in the army encouraged the newly appointed Baron Jellacic, the Ban of Croatia against the Hungarian revolution, and opposed Hungarian demands for independent finances and army. Those demands got their official form in the Staatsschrift, a memorandum of the Austrian ministry sent by the king to Archduke Stephen, the Hungarian Palatin. Contradicting the king's April Laws, the Hungarian national assembly refused to obey. This caused open armed conflict between Hungarian and Austrian forces and led to the Hungarian war of independence.
Aladar Urban


Corpus Juris Hungarici. Magyar Törvénytar. 1836-1868. Evitörénycikkek. Budapest: Franklin Tarsulat, 1896.

Deak, Istvan. The Lawful Revolution. Louis Kossuth and the Hungarians, 1848-1849. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

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