{2-410.} Confederation with the Hungarian Kingdom

In spring 1705, János Radvánszky delivered a gloomy report on the domestic situation in Transylvania. There was great unrest, he observed, because the army's lack of discipline had catastrophic consequences: 'The enemy treated the Saxon nation and the poorer strata with greater kindness than did our own people, and it is progressively winning them over'. Transylvanians felt that Rákóczi's position in Hungary was insecure, and they wanted to see evidence of his alliance with the French. Radvánszky stressed that as long as Szeben, Brassó, and, especially, the Vöröstorony Pass remained under imperial control, it 'would not be wise for Your Highness to come to Transylvania'.[129]129. Report of the prince's commissioner, János Radvánszky, on the situation in Transylvania, 6 May 1705. OL, Rlt, III. oszt., XXXVI. cs., No. 140.

In the event, the prospect of an alliance with Louis XIV and the new developments following Emperor Leopold's death impelled Rákóczi to put off until fall 1705 the convocation of a diet for his ceremonial investiture. Meanwhile, when the Hungarian diet met in September 1705 at Szécsény, Rákóczi and his supporters took steps to expand the social base of the confederation by passing a new law on religious tolerance. However, Rákóczi failed to carry through a full domestic reform of the new Hungarian state. The interregnum was not confirmed. The Consilium Aulicum, which had served as a provisional government and was composed mainly of Protestant nobles, was replaced by a Senate that also included aristocrats and church dignitaries. Although the central government had sole responsibility for the standing army, it postponed implementation of draft plans for the latter's organization and sustenance.

On the other hand, Rákóczi and his party strengthened the links between royal Hungary and Transylvania. The diet passed a law which provided that if Transylvania ratified the confederation, the Hungarian state would form an alliance with the principality, with the stipulation that neither party would act independently to {2-411.} secure a peace treaty. Apprised that Thököly had passed away, on 13 September 1705, the diet passed a resolution commemorating the 'Kuruc king' and his historic role. The Szécsény diet delegated three senators, Miklós Bercsényi, Bishop Ferenc Petes, and Ferenc Galambos, to attend the session of the Transylvanian diet at which Rákóczi would be installed as prince; the session, initially scheduled for 16 October, opened on 4 November. Urged on by the Consilium and other Transylvanians, Rákóczi travelled directly from Szécsény to the principality.

When the new Habsburg emperor, Joseph I, ascended the throne, he promptly revised his father's rigid and old-fashioned methods of governance. However, he considered that the key to restoring Habsburg rule in Hungary lay in a Habsburg-ruled Transylvania, and he dispatched Field Marshal Herbeville to the principality at the head of a powerful army. When Hungarian regiments, led by Károlyi and Bottyán, failed to halt the advance of imperial forces southward from Pest and across the Great Plains, Rákóczi decided to confront them on Transylvania's border, in the Szamos Valley. The plans called for sealing the two access routes, the Karika and Zsibó passes, along the Szamos River and the Egregy brook, but the earthworks and other fortifications could not be completed in time.

Mihály Teleki had been preparing for the investiture, and he arrived at Zsibó with luggage full of ceremonial garb, but he paid scant attention to feeding the troops and the hundreds of ditch diggers. At Kolozsvár, the Jesuits erected a ceremonial arch to welcome the new prince. Meanwhile, the troops mustered to defend Transylvania proved to be ill-equipped and undisciplined. Rákóczi tried to master the situation by sending the Transylvanian regiments and aristocrats to the country's interior while he assembled the Hungarian forces at a camp in Magyaregregy. Retaining personal command of the main force, Rákóczi dispatched Károlyi with some 8,000 men to the Solymos Mountains, north of Zsibó, so that when {2-412.} Herbeville's army entered the Szamos Valley, the Hungarians could engage it from two directions.

When, on 8 November, Herbeville reached Szilágysomlyó, his spies informed him that Rákóczi was guarding the Karika Pass with a sizeable force, and that the defences were weaker at the Zsibó Pass. Trusting in General Glöckelsperg's knowledge of the Transylvanian terrain, Herbeville changed course. On hearing this, Rákóczi's lieutenants, notably General Forgách, recommended that the enemy be allowed to advance into Transylvania, and that it be engaged in the lowlands, where the Hungarian cavalry could operate more effectively. Wishing to preserve the much-abused Transylvanian population from further horrors, Rákóczi chose instead to move his troops to the half-completed fortifications at the Zsibó Pass. There the Hungarian army, with 15,000 men and 35 artillery pieces, would make a stand against Herbeville's 16,000 weary but expertly-led men. On the defensive line, the right wing was commanded the Marquis des Alleurs, Louis XIV's envoy to the court of Ferenc Rákóczi, and the left wing by General Simon Forgách; the reserves remained under Rákóczi's direct command. The attack came on 11 November, at 3 p.m., and ended with the victory of the imperial forces. Herbeville lost 450 men; Rákóczi's army left 400 dead on the battlefield, as well as 25 cannons, and it suffered some 200 other casualties.

The political and strategic consequences of the defeat at Zsibó were considerable. The imperial army wrought appalling destruction as it advanced into Transylvania. Rákóczi's troops scattered, most of them to the Partium, Moldavia and Wallachia. The local population — nobles, officials, townspeople with their families — fled before the invader. Some 12,000 people sought refuge in Hungary. On 15 December 1705, aristocrats and nobles who had stayed behind assembled for a meeting of the diet at Segesvár. The diet rescinded Rákóczi's election to the principality and swore allegiance to Emperor Joseph.

{2-413.} Rákóczi, for his part, began to make preparations for the reconquest of Transylvania within days of his defeat at Zsibó. He charged General Count Ferenc Barkóczy with developing a defensive line, from the Máramaros Alps through Tasnád to Déva on the Maros River, that could also serve to launch a counter-offensive. Captain (ezereskapitány) Sebestyén Seldtmajer, whose regiment included Transylvanian German soldiers, was directed to Nagybánya, while Captain Sándor Komlóssy, who — according to Rákóczi — 'enjoyed the confidence of ordinary folk', was assigned to organize defense in the districts of Belényes and Sebesvár.[130]130. Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II to Sándor Károlyi, Szerencs, 1 November 1707. KO V, p. 717. He relied on experienced officers to rebuild his forces in Transylvania, thus Mátyás Fonáczi in Zaránd County, Mihály Katona at Somlyó Castle, and László Mósa at Kővár.

Rákóczi's Hungarian confederation could not give up Transylvania, if only because the principality had a history of acknowledged sovereignty and might thus serve as a bridge to the European powers and source of support against the Habsburg dynasty's Hungarian policy. In late 1705 and early 1706, the politicians around Rákóczi strove to devise a new policy for Transylvania within the context of the confederation. They tried to ascertain the prospects of a pro-Turkish orientation. Pál Ráday held talks with the Transylvanian estates at Aranyosmedgyeshegy. At a council meeting on 10 February 1706, at Miskolc, it was decided to convene a diet at Huszt, with the participation of representative Transylvanians who had taken refuge in the Partium, in order to seal an act of confederation with Transylvania.

At the Huszt diet, which was in session from 8 to 20 March 1706, the Hungarian confederation was represented by István Kálmánczay, and the Senate by the court's captain-general, Ádám Vay. The Transylvanian Principality was represented by delegates of the aristocracy, the towns and counties, and the Székelys as well as Saxons. Those attending included Pekry, Mihály Mikes, and Mihály Teleki; Simon Kemény, who carried the legacy of the old {2-414.} Kemény-Rákóczi party; and the grand old man of the pro-Turkish party, Ábrahám Barcsai. The Székelys were represented by Benedek Henter, Ferenc Dániel, and János Sándor; the Saxons by András Soppel; the towns by Péter Gálffi and János Tikos; the Partium by György Dolhay; and the counties by Zsigmond Balogh and Péter Dobai. Gábor Nagyszegi, the onetime leader of a group of Romanian lesser nobles and merchants who opposed union with Hungary, also attended the session.

The diet's first act concerned the constitutional status of Transylvania: it declared that the country did not recognize Emperor Joseph I as its ruler and was severing its link with the House of Habsburg. This declaration, with preceded that of the Hungarian confederation by more than a year, was designed to provide a constitutional basis for the principality's independence. The diet then proceeded to define the relationship between Transylvania and the Hungarian kingdom. The Hungarian confederation acknowledged and guaranteed Transylvania's independent statehood. After noting that, in the past, Hungary and Transylvania had formed a single country, the two countries' representatives declared that they wished to preserve 'the two nations' status under one crown, not in the old form, but in true confederation.'[131]131. 'Az erdélyi és a magyarországi rendek szövetséglevele, Huszt 1705. március 8', in Ráday iratai I, p. 531. In modern political fashion, a treaty of confederation between the two states laid the foundations for a common policy. The Partium was attached to Transylvania, and the war against the Habsburg dynasty was declared to be a common enterprise. Negotiations with the Habsburg government would conducted on the basis of a commonly-agreed strategy, and neither country would conclude a separate peace. An eventual peace treaty would have to incorporate Transylvania as well as Rákóczi's royal Hungary. Transylvania would give its sustained backing to the Hungarian confederation and, if necessary, serve as a haven for its supporters.

The confederation bore advantages for both countries. Transylvania could draw benefit from the foreign support won by {2-415.} Rákóczi's state, while Rákóczi could exploit the principality's earlier alliances to expand his relations with other states. However, the Huszt act of confederation left many issues unresolved. It did not address potential conflicts between the common ruler, who embodied central authority, the centralized government institutions, and the two countries' somewhat divergent sets of feudal estates. Nor was it easy, even in peacetime, to harmonize the two countries' conduct of foreign relations. The Senate agreed to endorse the act of confederation only with an amendment guaranteeing that neither Hungary nor Transylvania would make unilateral approaches to the Turks or to any other foreign country.