Meanwhile the Hungarian Opposition broke its engagement. The Magyar words of command. Obstruction was continued by a section of the independence party; and Kossuth, seeing his authority ignored, resigned the leadership. The obstructionists now raised the cry that the German words of command in the joint army must be replaced by Magyar words in the regiments recruited from Hungary - a demand which, apart from its disintegrating influence on the army, the crown considered to be an encroachment upon the royal military prerogatives as defined by the Hungarian Fundamental Law XII. of 1867. Clause 11 of the law runs: - "In pursuance of the constitutional military prerogatives of His Majesty, everything relating to the unitary direction, leadership and inner organization of the whole army, and thus also of the Hungarian army as a complementary part of the whole army, is recognized as subject to His Majesty's disposal." The cry for the Magyar words of command on which the subsequent constitutional crisis turned, was tantamount to a demand that the monarch should differentiate the Hungarian from the Austrian part of the joint army, and should render it impossible for any but Magyar officers to command Hungarian regiments, less than half of which have a majority of Magyar recruits.

The partisans of the Magyar words of command based their claim upon clause 12 of the Fundamental Law XII. of 1867 - which runs: - "Nevertheless the country reserves its right periodically to complete the Hungarian army and the right of granting recruits, the fixing of the conditions on which the recruits are granted, the fixing of the term of service and all the dispositions concerning the stationing and the supplies of the troops according to existing law both as regards legislation and administration." Since Hungary reserved her right to fix the conditions on which recruits should be granted, the partisans of the Magyar words of command argued that the abolition of the German words of command in the Hungarian regiments might be made such a condition, despite the enumeration in the preceding clause 11, of everything appertaining to the unitary leadership and inner organization of the joint Austro-Hungarian army as belonging to the constitutional military prerogatives of the crown. Practically, the dispute was a trial of strength between Magyar nationalist feeling and the crown.

Austrian feeling strongly supported the monarch in his determination to defend the unity of the army, and the conflict gradually acquired an intensity that appeared to threaten the very existence of the dual system.

When Count Khuen-Hederváry took office and Kossuth relinquished the leadership of the independence party, the extension of the crisis could not be foreseen. A few extreme nationalists continued to obstruct the estimates, and it appeared as though their energy would soon flag. An attempt to quicken this process by bribery provoked, however, an outburst of feeling against Khuen-Hederváry who, though personally innocent, found his position shaken. Shortly afterwards Magyar resentment of an army order issued from the cavalry manoeuvres at Chlopy in Galicia - in which the monarch declared that he would "hold fast to the existing and well-tried organization of the army" and would never "relinquish the rights and privileges guaranteed to its highest war-lord"; and of a provocative utterance of the Austrian premier Körber in the Reichsrath led to the overthrow of the Khuen-Hederváry cabinet (September 30) by an immense majority. The cabinet fell on a motion of censure brought forward by Kossuth, who had profited by the bribery incident to resume the leadership of his party.

An interval of negotiation between the crown and many Stephen Tisza. leading Magyar Liberals followed, until at the end of October 1903 Count Stephen Tisza, son of Koloman Tisza, accepted a mission to form a cabinet after all others had declined. As programme Tisza brought with him a number of concessions from the crown to Magyar nationalist feeling in regard to military matters, particularly in regard to military badges, penal procedure, the transfer of officers of Hungarian origin from Austrian to Hungarian regiments, the establishment of military scholarships for Magyar youths and the introduction of the two years' service system. In regard to the military language, the Tisza programme - which, having been drafted by a committee of nine members, is known as the "programme of the nine" - declared that the responsibility of the cabinet extends to the military prerogatives of the crown, and that "the legal influence of parliament exists in this respect as in respect of every constitutional right." The programme, however, expressly excluded for "weighty political reasons affecting great interests of the nation" the question of the military language; and on Tisza's motion the Liberal party adopted an addendum, sanctioned by the crown: "the party maintains the standpoint that the king has a right to fix the language of service and command in the Hungarian army on the basis of his constitutional prerogatives as recognized in clause 11 of law XII. of 1867."

Notwithstanding the concessions, obstruction was continued by the Clericals and the extreme Independents, partly in the hope of compelling the crown to grant the Magyar words of command and partly out of antipathy towards the person of the young calvinist premier. In March 1904, Tisza, therefore, introduced a drastic "guillotine" motion to amend the standing orders of the House, but withdrew it in return for an undertaking from the Opposition that obstruction would cease. This time the Opposition kept its word. The Recruits bill and the estimates were adopted, the Delegations were enabled to meet at Budapest - where they voted £22,000,000 as extraordinary estimates for the army and navy and especially for the renewal of the field artillery - and the negotiations for new commercial treaties with Germany and Italy were sanctioned, although parliament had never been able to ratify the Széll-Körber compact with the tariff on the basis of which the negotiations would have to be conducted. But, as the autumn session approached, Tisza foresaw a new campaign of obstruction, and resolved to revert to his drastic reform of the standing orders.