- Eduard Taaffe, 11th Viscount Taaffe
Eduard Franz Joseph Graf von Taaffe, Viscount Taaffe 10th Minister-President of Cisleithania In office
12 August 1879 – 11 November 1893
Monarch Francis Joseph I Preceded by Karl Ritter von Stremayr Succeeded by Alfred III, Prince of Windisch-Grätz Interior Minister of Cisleithania In office
14 April 1870 – 6 February 1871
Monarch Francis Joseph I Prime Minister Alfred Józef Potocki Preceded by Carl Giskra Succeeded by Count Karl Sigmund von Hohenwart 2nd Minister-President of Cisleithania In office
24 September 1868 – 15 January 1870
Monarch Francis Joseph I Preceded by Prince Karl of Auersperg Succeeded by Baron Ignaz von Plener Interior Minister of the Austrian Empire In office
7 March 1867 – 30 December 1867
Monarch Francis Joseph I Prime Minister Count Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust Preceded by Count Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust Succeeded by Carl Giskra Personal details Born 24 February 1833
Died 29 November 1895(aged 62)
Family background and early years
Taaffe was the second son of Louis Patrick John, 5th Count (Graf) Taaffe, 9th Viscount Taaffe (1791-1855), a minister of justice in 1848 and president of the Austrian court of appeal. As a child, Taaffe was one of the chosen companions of the young archduke, afterwards emperor, Francis Joseph. In 1852, he entered public service.
By the death of his elder brother, Charles (1823-1873), a colonel in the Austrian army, Eduard Taaffe succeeded to the Austrian and Irish titles. He married in 1862 Countess Irma Tsaky, by whom he left four daughters and one son, Henry.
Minister-President (first term)
In 1867 Taaffe became governor of Upper Austria, and the emperor offered him the post of minister of the interior in Beust's administration. In June he became vice-president of the ministry, and at the end of the year he entered the first ministry of the newly organized Austrian portion of the monarchy. For the next three years he took a notable part in the confused political changes, and probably more than any other politician represented the wishes of the emperor.
Taaffe had entered the ministry as a German Liberal, but he soon took an intermediate position between the Liberal majority of the Berger ministry and the party which desired a federal constitution and which was strongly supported at court. From September 1868 to January 1870, after the retirement of Auersperg, he was president of the cabinet. In 1870, the government fell on the question of the revision of the constitution: Taaffe with Potocki and Berger wished to make some concessions to the Federalists; the Liberal majority wished to preserve undiminished the authority of the Imperial Council. The two parties presented memoranda to the emperor, each defending their view and offering their resignation: after some hesitation the emperor accepted the policy of the majority, and Taaffe with his friends resigned.
The Liberals, however, failed to form a new government, as the representatives of most of the territories refused to appear in the Imperial Council: they resigned, and in the month of April Potocki and Taaffe returned to office. The latter failed, however, in an attempt to come to an understanding with the Czechs, and in their turn they had to make way for the Clerical and Federalist cabinet of Hohenwart. Taaffe now became governor of Tyrol, but in 1879, on the collapse of the Liberal government, he was recalled to high office. At first, he attempted to carry on the government without a change of principles, but he soon found it necessary to come to an understanding with the Feudal and Federal parties and was responsible for the conduct of the negotiations which in the elections of the same year gave a majority to the different groups of the National and Clerical opposition. In July he became minister president: at first he still continued to govern with the Liberals, but this was soon made impossible, and he was obliged to turn for support to the Conservatives.
Election reform of 1882
Count Taaffe is mostly remembered for his election reform of 1882, which reduced to 5 guilders the minimum tax base required for men over the age of 24 to vote. Before this reform, the tax base was set locally, but was usually at a considerably higher level, so that only 6% of the male population of Cisleithania had been entitled to vote. However, even after this reform, there were still four classes of voters whose vote counted differently, depending on how much tax an individual was paying.
The next election reform was enacted in 1896 by Kasimir Felix Graf Badeni, who succeeded in bringing about more radical reforms than Taaffe had achieved.
Policies on nationalities
It was Taaffe's great achievement that he persuaded the Czechs to abandon the policy of abstention and to take part in the parliament. It was on the support of them, the Poles, and the Clericals that his majority depended. His avowed intention was to unite the nationalities of Austria: Germans and Slavs were, as he said, equally integral parts of Austria; neither must be oppressed; both must unite to form an Austrian parliament. Notwithstanding the growing opposition of the German Liberals, who refused to accept the equality of the nationalities, he kept his position for thirteen years.
Taaffe's character and overall assessment
Not a great creative statesman, Taaffe had singular capacity for managing men; a very poor orator, he had in private intercourse an urbanity and quickness of humour which showed his Irish ancestry. Beneath an apparent cynicism and frivolity Taaffe hid a strong feeling of patriotism to his country and loyalty to the emperor. It was no small service to both that for so long, during very critical years in European history, he maintained harmony between the two parts of the monarchy and preserved constitutional government in Austria. The necessities of the parliamentary situation compelled him sometimes to go farther in meeting the demands of the Conservatives and Czechs than he would probably have wished, but he was essentially an opportunist; in no way a party man, he recognized that the government must be carried on, and he cared little by the aid of what party the necessary majority was maintained.
In 1893 he was defeated on a proposal for the revision of the franchise, and resigned. He retired into private life, and died two years later at his country residence, Ellischau, in Bohemia.
Political offices Preceded by
Interior Minister of the Austrian Empire
Karl von Auersperg
Minister-President of Cisleithania
1868 – 1870
Ignaz von Plener
Interior Minister of Cisleithania
1870 – 1871
Count von Hohenwart
Karl von Stremayr
Minister-President of Cisleithania
1879 – 1893
Alfred III. zu Windisch-Grätz
Peerage of Ireland Preceded by
Viscount Taaffe Succeeded by
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