March Constitution (Austria)

The March Constitution, also called Imposed March Constitution or Stadion Constitution (German: Oktroyierte Märzverfassung or Oktroyierte Stadionverfassung, Hungarian: olmützi alkotmány or oktrojált alkotmány), was a constitution of the Austrian Empire promulgated by Minister of the Interior Count Stadion between 4 March and 7 March 1849. Though declared irrevocable, it was eventually revoked by the New Year's Eve Patent (Silvesterpatent) of Emperor Franz Joseph I on 31 December 1851.[1][2] The Stadion Constitution emphasized power for the monarch; it also marked the way of the neo-absolutism in the Habsburg ruled territories.[3] It preempted the Kremsier Constitution of the Kremsier Parliament. This state of affairs would last until the October Diploma of 20 October 1860 and the later February Patent of 26 February 1861.



Franz Joseph, at that time the freshly appointed Emperor of Austria, refused to accept the reforms of the Hungarian April laws, and so he revoked them. This could be seen as an unconstitutional act, because the laws had already been signed by his predecessor Ferdinand, and the monarch had no right to revoke parliamentary laws that were already signed. However, unlike his uncle who was bound by the oaths he had sworn, Franz Joseph had sworn no oaths to Hungary, and so was not subject to the limitations imposed on Ferdinand. The March Constitution reclaimed Habsburg power after the concessions it had made during the Revolutions of 1848. The constitution was accepted by the Imperial Diet of Austria. The March Constitution also tried to abolish the Diet of Hungary[4] and the historical constitution of Hungary.[5] The revoking of the Hungarian April Laws and reduction of Hungary's territory and traditional status prompted a renewal of the Hungarian Revolution.[6]

On 7 March 1849 an imperial proclamation issued in the name of emperor Francis Joseph established a united constitution for the empire. According to the proclamation, the traditional territory of the Kingdom of Hungary would be carved up and administered by five separated military districts, while the Principality of Transylvania would be reestablished.[7]

Hungary was divided into five military districts, Transylvania was also separated. The order was executed in 1850

These events represented an existential threat for the Hungarian state, and contributed to the renewal of the Hungarian revolution.

Legitimacy problems of Franz Joseph in Hungary


From a legal point of view, according to the coronation oath, a crowned Hungarian King cannot abdicate the throne during his life. If the king is alive and unable to do his duty as ruler, a regent had to undertake the royal duties. Constitutionally, his uncle Ferdinand remained the legal king of Hungary. If there is no possibility to inherit the throne automatically due to the death of the predecessor king (king Ferdinand was still alive), but the monarch wants to relinquish his throne and appoint another king before his death, technically only one legal solution remained: the parliament had the power to dethrone the king and elect his successor as the new king. Due to the legal and military tensions, the Hungarian parliament did not offer that favor to Franz Joseph. This event gave an excuse to the revolt. "From this time until the collapse of the revolution, Lajos Kossuth (as elected regent-president) became the de facto and de jure ruler of Hungary."[8]


  1. ^ Schjerve, Rosita Rindler (2003). Diglossia and Power: Language Policies and Practice in the 19th Century Habsburg Empire. Language, Power, and Social Process. Vol. 9. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter. pp. 75–76. ISBN 9783110176544.
  2. ^ Mahaffy, Robert Pentland (1908). Francis Joseph I.: His Life and Times. Covent Garden: Duckworth. p. 39.
  3. ^ Walther Killy (2005). Schmidt - Theyer, Volume 9 of Dictionary of German biography. Walter de Gruyter. p. 237. ISBN 9783110966299.
  4. ^ Július Bartl (2002). Slovak History: Chronology & Lexicon, G - Reference, Information and Interdisciplinary Subjects Series. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers. p. 222. ISBN 9780865164444.
  5. ^ Hungarian statesmen of destiny, 1860-1960, Volume 58 of Atlantic studies on society in change, Volume 262 of East European monographs. Social Sciences Monograph. 1989. p. 23. ISBN 9780880331593.
  6. ^ Rapport, Mike (2008). 1848: Year of Revolution. Basic Books. p. 369.
  7. ^ Phillips, Walter Alison (1911). "Hungary" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 13 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 918.
  8. ^ This sentence incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Headlam, James Wycliffe (1911). "Kossuth, Lajos". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 15 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 916–918.