February Patent of 1861

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February Patent of 1861

 

the constitutional act issued on February 26 by the Austrian emperor Francis Joseph I. The patent, prepared by the foreign minister Anton von Schmerling, replaced the October Diploma of 1860.

As conceived of in the February Patent, the multinational Hapsburg Empire was to be united under one legislature; the empire was to have a single legislative body, the Reichsrat, consisting of two houses—a house of lords and a house of deputies; and the emperor had the right to convene or dissolve the parliament as well as to repeal any law. Under the patent, the ministers were not responsible to parliament, and the government had the right to issue “extraordinary decrees” without parliamentary approval. The members of the house of deputies, elected by the provincial diets (Landtage) of the various territorial units (Lander), were chosen on the basis of property qualifications and by the electoral curiae. The urban and rural electoral districts of the Czech and Polish provinces were so distributed as to ensure German predominance. While matters pertaining to the Czech, Polish, and Galician provinces were decided in the Reichsrat, Hungary was granted the right to discuss Hungarian affairs in its own state assembly and to participate in discussions on matters relating to the empire as a whole.

The February Patent provoked strong opposition in the Czech and Polish provinces; it was rejected by Hungary, which demanded recognition of the Constitution of 1848. The patent became invalid in 1865. The dualist state of Austria-Hungary was established as a result of the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867.