Kronawetter. "I move the close of the sitting! And I demand the ayes and noes!"
Dr. Lecher. "Mr. President, have I the floor?"
P. "You have the floor."
Wolf (to the Chair, in a stentorian voice which cleaves its way through the storm). "It is by such brutalities as these that you drive us to extremities! Are you waiting till some one shall throw into your face the word that shall describe what you are bringing about?* [Tempest of insulted fury from the Right.] Is that what you are waiting for, old Grayhead? [Long-continued clatter of desk-boards from the Left, with shouts of "The vote! the vote!" An ironical shout from the Right, "Wolf is boss!"]
Wolf keeps on demanding the floor for his motion. At length --
P. "I call Representative Wolf to order! Your conduct is unheard-of, sir! You forget that you are in a parliament; you must remember where you are, sir." [Applause from the Right. Dr. Lecher is still peacefully speaking, the stenographers listening at his lips.]
Wolf (banging on his desk with his desk-board) . "I demand the floor for my motion! I won't stand this trampling of the Rules under foot -- no, not if I die for it! I will never yield! You have got to stop me by force. Have I the floor?
P. "Representative Wolf, what kind of behavior is this? I call you to order again. You should have some regard for your dignity."
Dr. Lecher speaks on. Wolf turns upon him with an offensive innuendo.
Dr. Lecher. "Mr. Wolf, I beg you to refrain from that sort of suggestions." [Storm of hand-clapping from the Right.]
This was applause from the enemy, for Lecher himself, like Wolf, was an Obstructionist.
Wolf growls to Lecher: "You can scribble that applause in your album!"
P. "Once more I call Representative Wolf to order! Do not forget that you are a Representative, sir!"
Wolf (slam-banging with his desk-board). "I will force this matter! Are you going to grant me the floor, or not?"
And still the sergeant-at-arms did not appear. It was because there wasn't any. It is a curious thing, but the Chair has no effectual means of compelling order.
After some more interruptions:
Wolf (banging with his board). "I demand the floor. I will not yield!"
P. "I have no recourse against Representative Wolf. In the presence of behavior like this it is to be regretted that such is the case." [A shout from the Right, "Throw him out!"]
It is true, he had no effective recourse. He had an official called an "Ordner," whose help he could invoke in desperate cases, but apparently the Ordner is only a persuader, not a compeller. Apparently he is a sergeant-at-arms who is not loaded; a good enough gun to look at, but not valuable for business.
For another twenty or thirty minutes Wolf went on banging with his board and demanding his rights; then at last the weary President threatened to summon the dread order-maker. But both his manner and his words were reluctant. Evidently it grieved him to have to resort to this dire extremity. He said to Wolf, "If this goes on, I shall feel obliged to summon the Ordner, and beg him to restore order in the House."
Wolf. "I'd like to see you do it! Suppose you fetch in a few policemen, too! [Great tumult.] Are you going to put my motion to adjourn, or not?"
Dr. Lecher continues his speech. Wolf accompanies him with his board-clatter.
The President despatches the Ordner, Dr. Lang (himself a deputy), on his order-restoring mission. Wolf, with his board uplifted for defense, confronts the Ordner with a remark which Boss Tweed might have translated into "Now let's see what you are going to do about it!" [Noise and tumult all over the House.]
Wolf stands upon his rights, and says he will maintain them till he is killed in his tracks. Then he resumes his banging, the President jangles his bell and begs for order, and the rest of the House augments the racket the best it can.
Wolf. "I require an adjournment, because I find myself personally threatened. [Laughter from the Right.] Not that I fear for myself; I am only anxious about what will happen to the man who touches me."
The Ordner. "I am not going to fight with you."
Nothing came of the efforts of the angel of peace, and he presently melted out of the scene and disappeared. Wolf went on with his noise and with his demands
*That is revolution.--M.T.
that he be granted the floor, resting his board at intervals to discharge criticisms and epithets at the Chair. Once he reminded the Chairman of his violated promise to grant him (Wolf) the floor, and said, "Whence I came, we call promise-breakers rascals!" And he advised the Chairman to take his conscience to bed with him and use it as a pillow. Another time he said that the Chair was making itself ridiculous before all Europe. In fact, some of Wolf's language was almost unparliamentary. By and by he struck the idea of beating out a tune with his board. Later he decided to stop asking for the floor, and to confer it upon himself. And so he and Dr. Lecher now spoke at the same time, and mingled their speeches with the other noises, and nobody heard either of them. Wolf rested himself now and then from speech-making by reading, in his clarion voice, from a pamphlet.
I will explain that Dr. Lecher was not making a twelve-hour speech for pastime, but for an important purpose. It was the government's intention to push the Ausgleich through its preliminary stages in this one sitting (for which it was the Order of the Day), and then by vote refer it to a select committee. It was the Majority's scheme as charged by the Opposition to drown debate upon the bill by pure noise drown it out and stop it. The debate being thus ended, the vote upon the reference would follow with victory for the government. But into the government's calculations had
not entered the possibility of a single-barreled speech which should occupy the entire time-limit of the sitting, and also get itself delivered in spite of all the noise. Goliath was not expecting David. But David was there; and during twelve hours he tranquilly pulled statistical, historical, and argumentative pebbles out of his scrip and slung them at the giant; and when he was done he was victor, and the day was saved.
In the English House an obstructionist has held the floor with Bible- readings and other outside matters; but Dr. Lecher could not have that restful and recuperative privilege -- he must confine himself strictly to the subject before the House. More than once, when the President could not hear him because of the general tumult, he sent persons to listen and report as to whether the orator was speaking to the subject or not.
The subject was a peculiarly difficult one, and it would have troubled any other deputy to stick to it three hours without exhausting his ammunition, because it required a vast and intimate knowledge -- detailed and particularized knowledge -- of the commercial, railroading, financial, and international banking relations existing between two great sovereignties, Hungary and the Empire. But Dr. Lecher is President of the Board of Trade of his city of Brunn, and was master of the situation. His speech was not formally prepared. He had a few notes jotted down for his guidance; he had his facts in his head; his heart was in his work; and for twelve hours he stood there, undisturbed by the clamor around him, and with grace and ease and confidence poured out the riches of his mind, in closely reasoned arguments, clothed in eloquent and faultless phrasing.
He is a young man of thirty-seven. He is tall and well proportioned, and has cultivated and fortified his muscle by mountain-climbing. If he were a little handsomer he would sufficiently reproduce for me the Chauncey Depew of the great New England dinner nights of some years ago; he has Depew's charm of manner and graces of language and delivery.
There was but one way for Dr. Lecher to hold the floor -- he must stay on his legs. If he should sit down to rest a moment, the floor would be taken from him by the enemy in the Chair. When he had been talking three or four hours he himself proposed an adjournment, in order that he might get some rest from his wearing labors; but he limited his motion with the condition that if it was lost he should be allowed to continue his speech, and if it carried he should have the floor at the next sitting. Wolf was now appeased, and withdrew his own thousand-times offered motion, and Dr. Lecher's was voted upon and lost. So he went on speaking.
By one o'clock in the morning, excitement and noise-making had tired out nearly everybody but the orator. Gradually the seats of the Right underwent depopulation; the occupants had slipped out to the refreshment-rooms to eat and drink, or to the corridors to chat. Some one remarked that there was no longer a quorum present, and moved a call of the House. The Chair (Vice-President Dr. Kramarz) refused to put it to a vote. There was a small dispute over the legality of this ruling, but the Chair held its ground.
The Left remained on the battle-field to support their champion. He went steadily on with his speech; and always it was strong, virile, felicitous, and to the point. He was earning applause, and this enabled his party to turn that fact to account. Now and then they applauded him a couple of minutes on a stretch, and during that time he could stop speaking
and rest his voice without having the floor taken from him.
At a quarter to two a member of the Left demanded that Dr. Lecher be allowed a recess for rest, and said that the Chairman was "heartless." Dr. Lecher himself asked for ten minutes. The Chair allowed him five. Before the time had run out Dr. Lecher was on his feet again.
Wolf burst out again with a motion to adjourn. Refused by the Chair. Wolf said the whole parliament wasn't worth a pinch of powder. The Chair retorted that that was true in a case where a single member was able to make all parliamentary business impossible. Dr. Lecher continued his speech.
The members of the Majority went out by detachments from time to time and took naps upon sofas in the reception-rooms; and also refreshed themselves with food and drink in quantities nearly unbelievable -- but the Minority stayed loyally by their champion. Some distinguished deputies of the Majority stayed by him, too, compelled thereto by admiration of his great performance. When a man has been speaking eight hours, is it conceivable that he can still be interesting, still fascinating? When Dr. Lecher had been speaking eight hours he was still compactly surrounded by friends who would not leave him and by foes (of all parties) who could not; and all hung enchanted and wondering upon his words, and all testified their admiration with constant and cordial outbursts of applause. Surely this was a triumph without precedent in history.
During the twelve-hour effort friends brought to the orator three glasses of wine, four cups of coffee, and one glass of beer -- a most stingy reinforcement of his wasting tissues, but the hostile Chair would permit no addition to it. But no matter, the Chair could not beat that man. He was a garrison holding a fort, and was not to be starved out.
When he had been speaking eight hours his pulse was seventy-two; when he had spoken twelve, it was one hundred.
He finished his long speech in these terms, as nearly as a permissibly free translation can convey them:
"I will now hasten to close my examination of the subject. I conceived that
we of the Left have made it clear to the honorable gentlemen of the other side of the House that we are stirred by no intemperate enthusiasm for this measure in its present shape....
"What we require, and shall fight for with all lawful weapons, is a formal, comprehensive, and definitive solution and settlement of these vexed matters. We desire the restoration of the earlier condition of things; the cancellation of all this incapable government's pernicious trades with Hungary; and then release from the sorry burden of the Badeni ministry!
"I voice the hope -- I know not if it will be fulfilled -- I voice the deep and sincere and patriotic hope that the committee into whose hands this bill will eventually be committed will take its stand upon high ground, and will return the Ausgleich-Provisorium to this House in a form which shall make it the protector and promoter alike of the great interests involved and of the honor of our fatherland." After a pause, turning toward the government benches: "But in any case, gentlemen of the Majority, make sure of this: henceforth, as before, you will find us at our post. The Germans of Austria will neither surrender nor die!"
Then burst a storm of applause which rose and fell, rose and fell, burst out again and again and again, explosion after explosion, hurricane after hurricane, with no apparent promise of ever coming to an end; and meantime the whole Left was surging and weltering about the champion, all bent upon wringing his hand and congratulating him and glorifying him.
Finally he got away, and went home and ate five loaves and twelve baskets of fishes, read the morning papers, slept three hours, took a short drive, then returned to the House and sat out the rest of the thirty-three-hour session.
To merely stand up in one spot twelve hours on a stretch is a feat which very few men could achieve; to add to the task the utterance of a hundred thousand words would be beyond the possibilities of the most of those few; to superimpose the requirement that the words should be put into the form of a compact, coherent, and symmetrical oration would probably rule out the rest of the few, bar Dr. Lecher.
In consequence of Dr. Lecher's twelve-hour speech and the other obstructions furnished by the Minority, the famous thirty-three-hour sitting of the House accomplished nothing. The government side had made a supreme effort, assisting itself with all the helps at hand, both lawful and unlawful, yet had failed to get the Ausgleich into the hands of a committee. This was a severe defeat. The Right was mortified, the Left jubilant.
Parliament was adjourned for a week to let the members cool off, perhaps a sacrifice of precious time, for but two months remained in which to carry the all-important Ausgleich to a consummation.
If I have reported the behavior of the House intelligibly, the reader has been surprised at it, and has wondered whence these lawmakers come and what they are made of; and he has probably supposed that the conduct exhibited at the Long Sitting was far out of the common, and due to special excitement and irritation. As to the make-up of the House, it is this: the deputies come from all the walks of life and from all the grades of society. There are princes, counts, barons, priests, peasants, mechanics, laborers, lawyers, judges, physicians, professors, merchants, bankers, shopkeepers. They are religious men, they are earnest, sincere, devoted, and they hate the Jews. The title of Doctor is so common in the House that one may almost say that the deputy who does not bear it is by that reason conspicuous. I am assured that it is not a self-granted title, and not an honorary one, but an earned one; that in Austria it is very seldom conferred as a mere compliment; that in Austria the degrees of Doctor of Music, Doctor of Philosophy, and so on, are not conferred by the seats of learning; and so, when an Austrian is called Doctor it means that he is either a lawyer or a physician, and that he is not a self-educated man, but is college-bred, and has been diplomaed for merit.
That answers the question of the constitution of the House. Now as to the House's curious manners. The manners exhibited by this convention of Doctors were not at that time being tried as a wholly new experiment. I will go back to a previous sitting in order to show
that the deputies had already had some practice.
There had been an incident. The dignity of the House had been wounded by improprieties indulged in in its presence by a couple of the members. This matter was placed in the hands of a committee to determine where the guilt lay, and the degree of it, and also to suggest the punishment. The chairman of the committee brought in his report. By this it appeared that, in the course of a speech, Deputy Schrammel said that religion had no proper place in the public schools -- it was a private matter. Whereupon Deputy Gregorig shouted, "How about free love!"
To this, Deputy Iro flung out this retort: "Soda-water at the Wimberger!"
This appeared to deeply offend Deputy Gregorig, who shouted back at Iro, "You cowardly blatherskite, say that again!"
The committee had sat three hours. Gregorig had apologized; Iro had explained. Iro explained that he didn't say anything about soda-water at the Wimberger. He explained in writing, and was very explicit: "I declare upon my word of honor that I did not say the words attributed to me."
Unhappily for his word of honor, it was proved by the official stenographers and by the testimony of several deputies that he did say them.
The committee did not officially know why the apparently inconsequential reference to soda-water at the Wimberger should move Deputy Gregorig to call the utterer of it a cowardly blatherskite; still, after proper deliberation, it was of the opinion that the House ought to formally censure the whole business. This verdict seems to have been regarded as sharply severe. I think so because Deputy Dr. Lueger, Bürgermeister of Vienna, felt it a duty to soften the blow to his friend Gregorig by showing that the soda-water remark was not so innocuous as it might look; that indeed Gregorig's tough retort was justifiable -- and he proceeded to explain why. He read a number of scandalous post-cards which he intimated had proceeded from Iro, as indicated by the handwriting, though they were anonymous. Some of them were posted to Gregorig at his place of business, and could have been read by all his subordinates; the others were posted to Gregorig's wife. Lueger did not say but everybody knew that the cards referred to a matter of town gossip which made Mr. Gregorig a chief actor in a tavern scene where siphon-squirting played a prominent and humorous part, and wherein women had a share.
There were several of the cards; more than several, in fact; no fewer than five were sent in one day. Dr. Lueger read some of them, and described others. Some of them had pictures on them; one a picture of a hog with a monstrous snout, and beside it a squirting soda-siphon; below it some sarcastic doggerel.
Gregorig deals in shirts, cravats, etc. One of the cards bore these words: "Much respected Deputy and collar-sewer -- or stealer."
Another: "Hurrah for the Christian-Social work among the women- assemblages! Hurrah for the soda-squirter!" Comment by Dr. Lueger: "I cannot venture to read the rest of that one, nor the signature, either."
Another: "Would you mind telling me if . . ."
Comment by Dr. Lueger: "The rest of it is not properly readable."
To Deputy Gregorig's wife: "Much respected Madam Gregorig, The undersigned desires an invitation to the next soda-squirt." Comment by Dr. Lueger: "Neither the rest of the card nor the signature can I venture to read to the House, so vulgar are they."
The purpose of this card to expose Gregorig to his family was repeated in others of these anonymous missives.
The House, by vote, censured the two improper deputies.
This may have had a modifying effect upon the phraseology of the membership for a while, and upon its general exuberance also, but it was not for long. As has been seen, it had become lively once more on the night of the Long Sitting. At the next sitting after the long one there was certainly no lack of liveliness. The President was persistently ignoring the Rules of the House in the interest of the government side, and the Minority were in an unappeasable fury about it. The ceaseless din and uproar, the shouting and stamping and desk-banging, were deafening, but through it all burst voices now and then that made themselves heard. Some of the remarks were of a very candid sort, and I believe that if they had been uttered in our House of Representatives they would have attract-