Austrian statesman, b. at the family castle of Tetschen in Bohemia, 7 April, 1811; d. at Vienna, 17 December, 1888. He received his early education under the direction of the distinguished teacher, John Rohrwerk, and later studied law and philosophy at the University of Prague. After graduation he travelled through Germany, France, and England. The bent of his mind was towards politics, and he studied with especial interest the political system of England. In Paris he studied the prison system and the various benevolent institutions for working-men. As soon as he reached home he began to make use of the knowledge he had acquired and issued his first publication: "Die Notwendigkeit der moralischen Reform der Gefänguisse mit Hinweisung auf die zur Einführung derselben in emigen Ländern getroffenen Massregeln beleuchtet". Shortly afterwards he entered political life and became a member of the Bohemian Diet. He also interested himself in the revival of the Czech language and literature, and in 1842 published a treatise entitled: "Ueber den gegenwärtigen Stand der böhmischen Literatur und ihre Bedeutung". In 1846 a revolt broke out in Galicia, and Thun was appointed a member of the administrative board under Francis Stadion. He took up his residence at Lemberg with his wife, Countess Caroline Clam-Martinitz, whom he had recently married. At the outbreak of the revolution in the spring of 1848, Thun was appointed president of the administrative board and became the actual ruler of Bohemia, for the Archduke Francis Joseph, who had been selected as viceroy, was unable to assume the position. During the outbreak at Prague Thun was captured by the insurgents and imprisoned ; they were willing to release him if he would give certain assurances, which he refused to do. When finally set free he supported the commander of the troops in Prague in quelling the revolt by force of arms.
Thun rose rapidly, and in July, 1849, was appointed by the emperor minister of worship and education, the two offices being united for the first time in the person of Thun. He immediately set about reforming the methods of instruction to meet the demands of the times. He improved the primary schools and practically reorganized the administration and courses of study of the gymnasia and the universities. He took a special interest in industrial education and was the first to place trade and technical schools on a firm basis. He also did much to encourage art, especially by making an art university of the Academy of Fine Arts, and by giving employment to artists. Thun's work as minister of worship deserves equal attention. In his memorials to the emperor of 7 and 13 April, 1850, on the religious condition, he made his first attempt to loosen the fetters in which Josephinism had bound the Church. In his first paper he demanded the annulment of the Placitum regium, in the second he insisted that no teacher of religion or professor of theology should be appointed without the consent of the bishop. In September, 1852, the emperor appointed Archbishop Rauscher as his plenipotentiary for drawing up a concordat, and Pius IX appointed the nuncio Viale Préla as his representative. The agreement between the two was, laid before the committee of ecclesiastical affairs composed of five members, among which the predominating influence was naturally that of the minister of worship and education. Thun said himself that his share in the drawing up of this agreement was one of the "proudest and happiest recollections" of his life.
Thun acted both in his capacity as minister of education and minister of worship entirely in accordance with a rigid sense of duty, but he kept the two departments during his administration entirely distinct, so that Rauseher, who was associated a great deal with Thun, said of him: "Thun has a Catholic heart and a Protestant head." Grillparzer, who was less in agreement with Thun's policy, said: "I have a suicide to announce. The minister of worship has killed the minister of education." Austria now entered on a new era; it became a constitutional monarchy on 20 October, 1860, and Thun's office was abolished. The next year, however, the emperor appointed him a life member of the Upper House of the Imperial Parliament and he was a member of the Bohemian Diet for several terms. In both bodies he was always the pillar of the conservative Catholic party, was the leader of the Federalist party in Bohemia, and upheld the claims of Bohemia for a full autonomy. He founded the "Vaterland", the organ of the Federalist party, and a powerful influence in the politics of the day.
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