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MASARYK'S IDEA OF DEMOCRACY* OTAKAR ODLOZILIK SOME twenty-five years ago a German daily sent letters to prominent persons of that time asking whom they would recommend as president, should the United States of Europe be created. The late George Bernard Shaw replied at once, naming Thomas Garrigue Masaryk, then President of Czechoslovakia. In those years which seem to he so remote and different from the present time, the chances of international co-operation were fairly good. The Locarno Pact was accepted with a sigh of relief despite the fact that it applied only to western Europe. The Soviet Union continued to boycott the League of Nations, hut was not so sharply opposed to dealings with Western democracies as in the period of revolution and of foreign intervention. The project of a European union was still in the realm of visions, and not much was achieved by its sponsors to make it acceptable even in principle. But an air of optimism pervaded the world during the middle twenties, and prospects of international co-operation were brighter at that time than ever before or afterwards. In that period of peace and prosperity, Masaryk's life and work reached their culmination. Born on March 7, \850, he was then about seventy-five years of age but unbent by the duties of his high office. A belief that the post-war difficulties had been settled and that his nation had successfully overcome the ills of childhood, was the mainspring of Masaryk's activities during the middle twenties. He was vigorous and optimistic, and shaped with firm hand the destinies of his people. More than ever before he was convinced that democracy is the best system of government and that every effort should be made to defend it against any dictatorial tendency. When wilful critics cited the weaknesses and shortcomings of the democratic system, he recommended as the only remedy a larger dose of freedom-to he sure, of true freedom.1 Masaryk entered into the history of mankind as the staunchest supporter of democracy. He made his name as an eager and ardent *Delivered ,in part as a Masaryk Memorial Lecture under the auspices of the D opartment of History, University of Toronto, February 27, 1951. IMasaryk's message on the first Independence Day, October 28. 1919-, appeared in the Czechoslovak Review (Chicago). III, 1919, 382-6. The relevant passage runs there as fol1ows: "J.t may be that republican liberty is here and there badly understood, and that it has its bad effects. But I am convinced that against liberty the only remedy is more liberty and true liber,ty." Vol. XXI, no. 1, Oct., 1951 2 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY interpreter of political theories derived from the legacies of both the American and the French revolutions. He secured a prominent place ainong the statesmen and rulers of the time by his consequent application of the democratic creed. The question arises how he had become acquainted with the democratic concept of government and what were the principal sources from which he had drawn his inspiration for both political theory and practice. A few remarks about conditions in central Europe, prior to the First World War, should be made as a partial answer to this question. Thomas Masaryk was born soon after the victory of the reactionary forces in Austria over the revolutionary movements of 1848. The schools to which he was sent were controlled by the state authorities and their principal aim was to teach, in addition to the prescribed subjects, loyalty to the Imperial house and to the sovereign. The collapse of the absolutist regime after ten years of experiment and the restoration of the constitutional system in the eighteen-sixties brought about only a partial improvement. The Austrian constitution of 1867 was fairly liberal as far as fundamental rights were concerned . The corresponding articles of the Hungarian constitution were either identical or even more liberal. Judged by the two charters, the Halisburg Empire was a constitutional monarchy with parliaments and representative governments in its two parts, Austria and Hungary, and in their respective capitals, Vienna and Budapest. But the outward signs and appearances were misleading, and a wide...


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