{2-405.} The Electoral Diet of Gyulafehérvár

Rákóczi made preparations for a meeting of the Transylvanian diet. He reassigned Orlay's regiments, made up of Thököly's former troops, to Transdanubia and did his best to reassure his partisans. In June 1704, he sent a personal representative to Transylvania: Councillor János Radvánszky, a member of the new Hungarian state's governing body, the Consilium Aulicum, who was accompanied by Lőrinc Pekry and Mihály Mikes. Radvánszky's mission was to assemble a diet according to Rákóczi's prescriptions. Personal conflicts between the aristocrats had to be overcome, the army had to be mustered to prepare for an attack by imperial forces, complaints had to be investigated, the security of the diet had to be assured, and bills had to be drafted.

The diet convened on 7 July 1704 in Gyulafehérvár, for a session that lasted a mere five days. Almost all of the counties, Székely széks, and Saxon towns had sent delegates. A large number of ordinary Székelys came along, and peasants crowded around the town. An eminent partisan of Thököly, General István Petrőczy, arrived from Moldavia.

At what was to be Transylvania's last electoral diet, Ferenc Rákóczi II was chosen prince without a single contrary vote. The secret of Rákóczi's success lay as much in his accomplishments in Hungary as in his policy of creating social unity. A further factor, according to contemporary reports, was the great impact of his personality. However, the diet also took measures to consolidate the rights of the feudal estates. The Gubernium was abolished and its seal invalidated, as was the seal of its officials in Szeben. This was the diet's most important decision, for it defined the structure of Transylvania's statehood. Translating it into their own words, soldiers cried out to the people of Kolozsvár: 'We have no emperor, there are no portions!'[127]127. 'Czegei Wass György naplója, 1704, augusztus 7', in Rákóczi tükör, p. 344.

{2-406.} After the ceremonies pursuant to the election, the diet named Pekry commander-in-chief and debated Radvánszky's report on military affairs. It adopted regulations concerning the raising of an army, endorsing the prince's decrees on tax exemptions for villein-soldiers and on military discipline. The feudal estates instituted a tax to provide for the sustenance of the army and discussed the nobility's tax obligations arising from the recruitment of soldiers. On 13 July, when news came that an imperial army was drawing near, the diet suspended its session.

A courier brought word of the election to Rákóczi in Hungary, and he was soon followed by a ceremonial delegation of some hundred people who, as Radvánszky indignantly reported, were travelling at public expense. Characteristically, the prince, who had a low opinion of the feudal estates, rejected the conditions attached to his election, for these reserved virtually all rights to the estates. Rákóczi's writings, as well as his measures to reorganize the Hungarian state, bear testimony to his refusal to retain the governing system of the old feudal state. He aspired, as a ruler, to create an orderly and well-managed, modern state, one capable to exploiting all latent, economic and human resources. He was consistent and determined in his pursuit of reforms, yet tactful enough to take into account the sensibilities of the feudal estates.

The feudal estates chose await the prince's investiture before setting up a new governing structure. The diet's session was thus followed by a strange interregnum during which the country teetered on the brink of anarchy. Zsigmond Szaniszló gave voice to a widespread wish when he wrote: 'Your Highness' visit to this country is as urgent a necessity as the beautiful sunlight amidst great darkness.'[128]128. OL, Rlt, III. oszt., XIX. cs., No. 7.

Although Rákóczi gave orders in summer 1704 that preparations be made for his enthronement, he was compelled by pressing business in Hungary to postpone his visit. In the interim, the pro-Turkish party grew stronger, and Mihály Barcsai warned Rákóczi {2-407.} not to delay in asking for an athname of endorsement from the Porte; otherwise, Turkish troops might invade through the Vöröstorony Pass.

Thököly's followers were dissatisfied with the results of the election at Gyulafehérvár. In early September, Thököly, who lived in some deprivation on Asia Minor's shores, sent greetings to his newly-elevated stepson and requested that the latter dispatch envoys to secure his release; for surely Rákóczi would not wish to sacrifice his stepfather in order to obtain the principality.

Rákóczi was anxious to overcome the serious difficulties weighing on the domestic political scene, and although he had to delay his investiture, he lost no time in imposing his authority on Transylvania. His power rested on a sizeable armed force which, however, was not easily manageable. János Radvánszky estimated that there were 16,000 insurgents in the principality. The majority consisted of poorly-equipped villeins from Hungarian and Romanian villages. The Székelys displayed remarkable solidarity, but their 4,000 men-in-arms would not submit readily to central direction. Led by veteran officers, the former Thököly regiments and fragments of regiments were equally intractable. The smallest, and best equipped units were composed of former imperial soldiers who had defected from the garrisons of fortresses and towns.

Radvánszky marshalled these disparate elements into an army that was essentially modelled on that of Hungary. The Thököly regiments and Székely units were left intact when they were integrated into Rákóczi's army. The village insurgents were organized into twelve regiments and four army groups. The lower levels of the officer corps consisted of Hungarian and Romanian lieutenants and captains, including Marcu Haţieganu, István Szudricsány, István Guthi, Mihály Kos, István Keczeli, János Nagy, Dániel Joó, Pál Kaszás, Vasile Balica, Ioan Bota, and Mátyás Fonáci. Hungarians and Romanians were not separated into different regiments. For instance, Balica was Kaszás' first lieutenant, while Lieutenant Bota {2-408.} served in the same unit as the standard-bearers György Szentmártoni and István Székely. As in Hungary, higher-ranking officers came from the aristocracy. To overcome the conflicts between generals and chief captains Mihály Teleki, Lőrincz Pekry, Mihály Mikes, and István Thoroczkai, Rákóczi appointed a Hungarian aristocrat, Count Simon Forgách, to the post of Transylvanian commander-in-chief. General Forgách had acquired much military expertise while serving in the imperial army, but he did not possess the prestige nor the tact and forcefulness necessary to overcome the antipathy felt by Transylvanians towards the military leadership in Hungary.

Rákóczi had appointed the members of the Transylvanian Consilium — Mihály Teleki, Mihály Barcsai, Gábor Jósika, István Sárosi, Márton Kolozsvári, and the latter's secretary, András Bartha — and defined the council's terms of reference without consulting the feudal estates. Located in Gyulafehérvár, the Consilium took its instructions from, and was accountable to no one but Rákóczi. Transylvania's court chancellery was subordinated to Rákóczi's Hungarian chancellery; its first director was Pál Ráday, and the second, András Bartha, a Transylvanian prothonotary and senator. The office of the National Commissariat was headed by Zsigmond Petki Nagy. The Consilium supervised the two principal functional institutions, the Provincial Commissariat and the Military Commissariat. The office of the treasurer, which looked after state revenues and expenditures, was headed by Sámuel Király, who was responsible the Consilium. The council was faced with an immense task. It had to put the state's financial affairs in order; enforce the exemption from feudal taxes and dues of villeins under arms in accordance with the Brezán Manifesto and the patent on taxation; supervise army recruitment and the collection of the tax for redemption of military duty; and assure adequate provisions for the army.

{2-409.} The Transylvanian Consilium was seldom able to carry out Rákóczi's instructions to the letter, and at times it acted as the spokesman for the feudal estates; but it did preserve the country from anarchy. It managed to clean up the administration of the Érc Mountains (Erzgebirge), the most important center of gold and mercury mining in Transylvania. After a long investigation uncovered evidence of corrupt practices, Zsigmond Bágyoni was dismissed as director and replaced by Jakab Grabarics, a man known for his expertise and unimpeachable honesty. On the other hand, the newly-appointed chief administrator of treasury estates, Mihály Teleki, lacked the talent and willingness to follow Rákóczi's lead. His instructions often ran counter to the Consilium's rulings, causing no little confusion at lower levels of the administration. Nobles predominated in the principal official posts, but Rákóczi was keen to employ the lesser nobles from the towns, and he made greater efforts than his predecessors to appoint Saxons. Rákóczi's plans were circumscribed by the fact that, apart from Kolozsvár, the two most important towns, Szeben and Brassó, remained under Habsburg control, and it took much bloodshed to liberate three other key towns, Déva, Medgyes, and Szamosújvár.

In the midst of reconstructing a centralized government in Transylvania, Rákóczi sent friendly and reassuring messages to Thököly; he counselled patience, but did nothing to obtain the latter's repatriation. He tried to paralyse Thököly's Transylvanian party and, without advising his stepfather, notified the Porte of his election as prince. He could do no other, for the title was recognized by other European rulers, and it lent prestige and authority to Hungary's leader as he struggled to secure his country's independent statehood. Rákóczi was also prompt in registering his election with the rulers of France, Prussia, Sweden, Poland, England, and the Netherlands. He had some reason to hope that he could revive the principality's links with European powers that were hostile to the Habsburg dynasty and which pursued interests at variance with those of Vienna.