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Carl Friedrich, Freiherr von Kübeck von Kübau

Carl Friedrich, Freiherr von Kübeck von Kübau (1780-18 55) Austrian civil servant and bureaucrat, born October 28, 1780 in Iglau (Jihlava), Moravia; died September 11, 1855 in Hadersdorf near Vienna. Gifted son of master tailor Peter Kübeck of Iglau, Moravia, Carl Kübeck's high marks at the Znaim (Znojmo) Gymnasium won him a modest state scholarship to the University of Vienna where he studied law and political theory. In 1801 he entered the Habsburg civil service in Moravia where his ability and zeal led to his secretarial appointment in the Vienna Hofrat (1809) and the rank of Hofrat (1812). He became Referent for the financial section of the Staatsrat (1814), and by 1821 attained full membership in the Monarchy's highest advisory body as Staats- und Konferenzrat. He was knighted (Ritter) in 1816 and ennobled (Freiherr) in 1825. Although K¨beck is often cited to demonstrate that a commoner could attain prominence in Francis I's Austria, his case was exceptional and his career unique. He reported personally to the emperor on financial matters while his secretarial assistance at the Laibach and Verona Congresses won Francis I's esteem. Kübeck's youthful enthusiasm for liberal reform waned as he rose in the imperial service, but his critique of the Pre-March bickering between Kolowrat and Metternich fostered his preference for a Rechtstaat governed by a capable monarch and an enlightened bureaucracy.

Metternich's support brought Kübeck in 1840 at age sixty to the presidency of the Hofkammer (Treasury), where he supervised the establishment of Austria's state railways (1841) and telegraph network (1846), advocated freer trade and Austro-Hungarian economic integration, championed a strong state credit rating, and opposed heavy military expenditures. The 1847 economic crisis dashed Kübeck's hopes for fiscal stability and prompted his early 1848 call for a central assembly of the Austrian estates to bolster Austrian state credit.

Designated finance minister in Kolowrat's "responsible" ministry on March 15, 1848; Kübeck, claiming ill health, resigned on April 3 and retired to his Moravian estate where he recorded his bitterness about the revolutionary confusion in his famous diary (begun in 1795). In August 1848, when Archduchess Sophie and Empress Marianna sought his advice concerning Habsburg family finances and Emperor Ferdinand's proposed abdication, Kübeck journeyed to Olmütz to resume his role as intimate counsellor to the imperial family. A February 1849 by-election enabled him to observe the final sittings of the Kremsier constitutional assembly. In March 1849 Minister President Felix Schwarzenberg dispatched Kübeck to Buda to reconcile differences between the ministry and Field Marshal Prince Alfred Windischgrätz. Although this mission failed, impressed by Kübeck's devotion to the Habsburgs, the conservative field marshal demanded that Kübeck join the ministry. When the "constitutional wing" of the Schwarzenberg ministry forestalled his entering the cabinet, Kübeck returned to Moravia until October 1849 when Schwarzenberg named him federal commissioner (Bundeskommissar) to Frankfurt to implement the so-called "Interim" agreement.

Returned to Vienna in October 1850 the seventy-year-old Kübeck exploited personal and political tensions to facilitate enlightened authoritarianism. Since Franz Joseph chafed at the post-1848 constitutional government and longed to free himself from the Ministerrat's tutelage, Kübeck drafted statutes for a counter balancing Reichsrat to win political maneuverability for the twenty-year-old emperor. Dynastic devotion, his ideal of an efficient Josephinist state, paternal affection for his young monarch, and personal vanity motivated Kübeck to become the architect of Habsburg neoabsolutism. As Reichsratpräsident after December 1850, the elder official and the youthful sovereign established a Reichsrat, suspended ministerial responsibility, and by New Year's Eve 1851 abrogated the March 1849 constitution. At Schwarzenberg's April 1852 death, Kübeck persuaded Franz Joseph not to appoint a minister president, relegated the "responsible" cabinet (Ministerrat) to a purely advisory body (Ministerkonferenz). Gradually the legal and administrative reforms of 1848-1849 lost their liberal and constitutional character and a bureaucratic and police-supervised neoabsolutism emerged.

Kübeck soon fell victim to his personally inspired autocracy. The Reichsrat remained ineffective while the emperor's assumption of personal governmental responsibility combined with an etatist administrative and police dynamic deprived even Kübeck of political influence. Although honored in 1852 with the Order of St. Stephen, Kübeck's post-1852 diary records his disappoint- ment in his young master, his bitterness and foreboding. Even his financial recommendations -- budget cuts, credit regulation, and conservative taxation -- proved inadequate for the times. The Crimean War rendered Kübeck obsolete. Given his reputation as one of Pre-March Austria's most enlightened bureaucrats, his authorship of neoabsolutism, and his continuous critique of Habsburg government in practice, Kübeck's life contains elements both ironic and tragic. Kübeck was father to eight children from his marriages to Fanny Bager (1808-1825) and Julie Lang (1827). Of his five sons, only the youngest, Max, survived his father. Kübeck succumbed to cholera in September 1855.
Kenneth W. Rock


Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, 1883, XVII, 279-28 3.

Friedrich Walter (ed). Aus dem Nachlass des Freiherrn Carl Friedrich Kübeck von Kübau: Tagebücher, Briefe, Aktenstücke (1841-1855) "Veröffentlichungen der Kommission für neuere Geschichte Österreichs," vol. 45 Graz-Cologne: Hermann Böhlaus., 1960

Brandt, Harm-Hinrich. Der österreiche Neoabsolutismus: Staatsfinanzen und Politik 1848-1860. 2 vols. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1978

Max Freiherrn von Kübeck (ed.) Tagebücher des Carl Friedrich Freiherr n Kübeck von Kübau. 2 vols. in 3. Vienna: Gerdold, 1909.

Walter, Friedrich. "Carl Friedrich Freiherr Kübeck von Kübau und die Aufrichtung des franzisko-josephinischen Neuabsolutismus." Südost-Forschungen, Munich, 1960, XIX, 193-214.

Walter, Friedrich. Die Österreichische Zentralverwaltung. III. Abteilung, I. Die Geschichte der Ministerien Kolowrat, Ficquelmont, Pillersdorf, Wessenberg-Doblhoff und Schwarzenberg Vienna: Adolf Holzhausens Nachfolger, 1964.

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