{2-430.} Transylvania and the Szatmár Agreement

By 1709, and with Transylvania lost to him, Prince Rákóczi noted that European countries were wearying of war and that the time of peacemaking was drawing close. He and his government therefore did their utmost to hang on until the European powers, convened in a peace conference, could settle the relationship between Hungary and Transylvania, on the one hand, and the Habsburg dynasty.

The odds were daunting. For eight years, contending armies had lived off Transylvania, draining the principality of its last economic resources. The plague that swept across the continent, and from Pozsony to the Székelyföld, had a devastating effect on Transylvania, where the urban population was decimated. In such crowded, fortified towns as Szeben, Brassó, and Kolozsvár, entire families fell victim to the Black Death. In 1710, after suffering a defeat at Romhány, Rákóczi withdrew east of the Tisza, into the northeast corner of Hungary. Trusting in the promise of the peace talks at the Hague (1709) and at Geertruidenberg (1710), he played for time until the European wars were ended by a comprehensive treaty.

The principle of Transylvania's independent statehood became even more important in the context of Rákóczi's strategy of prolonging the war. The only part of that country still under his control was Huszt, which was an important component in the Hungarian line of fortified places centred on Munkács. It was not easy to provide for the thousands of Transylvanian families that had sought refuge east of the Tisza, but they represented a symbolic token of Rákóczi's social base in the principality. Under the direction of Mihály Mikes, the captain-general of Háromszék and a princely councillor, remnants of the Transylvanian army were formed into new regiments in Wallachia and Moldavia. Two years into their exile, these organized Transylvanians represented their country's claim to statehood, and the imperial commanders in the principality {2-431.} had to make allowance in their battle plans for the presence of some 4,000 armed Transylvanians in Moldavia. They were one reason why, despite repeated orders, General Steinville delayed launching an offensive in the direction of Debrecen; and, as a consequence, a plan for military cooperation with the new commander-in-chief in Hungary, Field Marshal Count János Pálffy, fell through.

Thus Transylvania's status became once again a key issue in diplomacy. At the time of the Geertruidenberg talks, Rákóczi advised England and Holland — and personally told the Duke of Marlborough — that his interest was not in imposing his own rule but in securing Transylvania's independent statehood, and requested that the principality's relations with the Habsburg dynasty be codified in a multilateral agreement. He also tried to exploit Transylvania's geopolitical significance in the context of the balance of power in east-central Europe. After Charles XII had suffered a defeat at Poltava and withdrawn to Bender, Rákóczi facilitated an accord between the Swedish king and Czar Peter; for their part, the two monarchs undertook to back Transylvania's cause and act as mediators and guarantors at the forthcoming international talks. Meanwhile, in Wallachia, Brîncoveanu was supplying provisions to the imperial army, but Cantacuzino and boyars' party promised to give their full assistance and cooperation to Rákóczi. The first concrete instance of cooperation was an agreement on reciprocal land transfers, signed by Mihály Mikes and Cantacuzino on 6 November 1710. With regard to Moldavia, talks in Iaşi between Transylvania's envoy and the voivode bore some promise that the latter might ally himself with the Hungarian–Transylvanian confederation. In August 1710, Rákóczi informed his people that, thanks to the mediation of England's queen, the Dutch estates, and the Russian Czar, peace negotiations would be initiated, and that he would try to secure for Transylvania the status of an independent principality.

{2-432.} In the opposing camp, the Habsburg regime's brilliant politician, Eugene of Savoy, sought to defend the empire's interests in eastern Europe. He did all in his power to exclude the question of Hungary and Transylvania from multilateral talks, and to terminate the war by an accord between the emperor and his subjects. To win over the Transylvanians, he resorted to both forceful and conciliatory approaches. The exiles' property was seized, their homes were ransacked, and their families as well as more distant relatives were held to ransom. In Kolozsvár, women were rounded up and flogged. Meanwhile, on 25 January 1711, Emperor Joseph issued a decree promising gratia vitae to those who once again gave him their allegiance, and he empowered a committee, chaired by General Steinville, to hand back their property.

On Rákóczi's side, the principality was represented by Mihály Mikes's circle and by a Transylvanian Council. In December 1710, the council's members — István Thoroczkai, Mihály Teleki, Ábrahám Barcsai, and János Arndt — wrote to Rákóczi, reaffirming their allegiance and stressing that 'we are bound, by our very nature, to concern ourselves with the security of people in our dear country.'[140]140. István Thoroczkai and his associates to Rákóczi, Berdo, 6 December 1710, OL, RSzlt, G. 15, Fasc. 20. In early 1711, Rákóczi and members of his government moved to Poland, there to await the conclusion of the peace talks.

Meanwhile, the newly-appointed military commander, Sándor Károlyi, sought to preserve his estates at Szatmár and Huszt by concluding, with János Pálffy, a separate agreement that ceded Ecsed to the emperor. Panic began to spread among the Transylvanian politicians who lived in exile east of the Tisza River, while the shadow of an impending Russo–Turkish war weakened the determination of the exiles in Moldavia and Wallachia. Károlyi now conveyed Pálffy's overture to Mihály Mikes. Some representatives of the confederation convened for a meeting that, originally, was to be held in Huszt, then, in the interest of a quick accord, relocated to Szatmár; Transylvania was represented by a few members of the princely council. Emperor Joseph I died on 17 April 1711; {2-433.} this event, and the wish to forestall mediation by the English and Dutch ambassadors in Vienna, lent new urgency to the efforts of the imperial government to terminate the war in Hungary. That government therefore incorporated in the draft agreement some of the conditions set by Rákóczi to protect the rights of Transylvania's nobility; it promised to return the latter's property, and hinted that religious matters could be settled in a spirit of tolerance.

An accord was concluded at Szatmár on 29 April 1711. It was signed, on behalf of Transylvania by two council members, Mihály Barcsai and Mihály Teleki, by two government officials, Treasurer Ábrahám Barcsai and Major Gábor Haller of the noble life-guards, by two municipal magistrates, István Hunyady from Nagybánya and György Szász from Felsőbánya, and by several army colonels. Acting in the name of the late emperor, the Austrians concluded the Szatmár agreement not with the Transylvanian government but with subjects who had renewed their oath of allegiance. Thus, strictly speaking, the Transylvanian signatories acted in a private capacity when they endorsed the compromise between the dynasty and the feudal estates.

Almost all of the Transylvanian exiles were drawn home by the general amnesty promising gratia vitae et bonorum. By mid-May, Steinville could report the repatriation of five thousand people. On 3 July 1711, Mihály Mikes, Dávid Petki, and some of their troops delivered an oath of allegiance before Brassó's military commander. Simon Kemény and Elek Bethlen returned from Poland. Only a few Transylvanian exiles, most notably Kelemen Mikes, János Cserei, and Mihály Kálnoki, chose to remain with their prince.

Rákóczi's last political pamphlet concerning the termination of the war dealt with Transylvania. Correspondence found in the French foreign ministry's archives reveals that, in December 1712, the state secretary for foreign affairs had tacitly endorsed the publication in French of a 'memorandum regarding the Transylvanian {2-434.} Principality'. The pamphlet, which bore the title 'Safeguards for the rights of the Transylvanian Principality', included the text of the letter of alliance, dated 21 June 1686, in which Emperor Leopold acknowledged the principality's statehood. The document was distributed at the peace conference, but Transylvania earned no mention in the Treaty of Utrecht.