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Kossuth, Lajos (Louis) 1802-

Patriot; born in Monok, Hungary, April 27, 1802; was in the Hungarian Diet in 1832-36; imprisoned for political reasons by the Austrian government in 1837-40; re-elected to the Diet in 1847; and became minister of finance in the independent Hungarian ministry which Emperor Ferdinand was forced to grant in 1848. Later in that year the Hungarians rose in insurrection against Austria; on April 14, 1849, the Diet declared Hungary independent, and appointed Kossuth governor; on Aug. 11 following Kossuth resigned his functions to General Gorgei; and, on the surrender of the latter two days afterwards, Kossuth fled to Turkey, where he remained in exile till 1851. In 1851-52 he visited the United States and received a hearty welcome in

Louis Kossuth.

all the principal cities. Subsequently he resided in London and in Turin, where he died, March 20, 1894. Under the title of Schriften aus der emigration he published his memoirs in 1881-82.

In the United States.

After his flight to Turkey the Austrian government demanded his extradition. The United States and England interfered, and he was allowed his freedom, with his family and friends. The United States government sent the war-steamer Mississippi to bring him to the United States, and early in the autumn of 1851 he embarked for this country. While in exile in Turkey and in prison, he employed his time in studying living languages, and he was enabled to address the people of the West in the English, German, French, and Italian languages. He arrived at New York, Dec. 5, 1851, accompanied by his wife. There he addressed public meetings and deputations in various Northern cities, and in all his speeches he showed a most intimate knowledge of American history and institutions. His theme was a plea for sympathy and substantial aid for his country, Hungary. He wished to obtain the acknowledgment of the claims of Hungary to independence, and the interference of the United States and Great Britain, jointly, in behalf of the principle of non-intervention, which would allow the nations of Europe fair play in their renewed struggle for liberty. He constantly asserted that grand principle that one nation has no right to interfere with the domestic concerns of another, and that all nations are bound to use their efforts to prevent such interference. The government of the United States, to which he appealed, assuming its traditional attitude of neutrality in all quarrels in Europe, declined to lend aid, excepting the moral power of expressed sympathy. Kossuth called for private contributions in aid of the struggle of his people for independence, and received more assurances of sympathy than dollars, for there seemed to be a reaction in Europe, and the chance for Hungarian independence appeared more remote than ever. He arrived in Washington at the close of December, and was received by two United States Senators and the marshal of the district. The Secretary of State (Daniel Webster) waited upon him; so also did many members of Congress. On the 31st he was presented [268] to President Fillmore by Mr. Webster, who received him cordially. On Jan. 5, 1852, he was introduced to the Senate. He entered the Senate chamber accompanied by Senators Cass and Seward. General Shields introduced him. The Senate adjourned, and the members all paid their personal respects to the distinguished exile. He then visited the House of Representatives, where he was warmly received by the speaker and most of the members. Then he was introduced to each member personally, and presented to an immense crowd of ladies and gentlemen who had assembled. A congressional banquet was given him at the National Hotel, at which W. R. King, president of the Senate, presided, Kossuth and Speaker Boyd being on his right hand, and Secretary Webster on his left. On that occasion Kossuth delivered one of his most effective speeches. Mr. Webster concluded his remarks with the following sentiment : “Hungarian independence, Hungarian control of her own destinies, and Hungary as a distinct nationality among the nations of Europe.” After Kossuth's departure there were debates in Congress on propositions for the United States to lend material aid to the people of Hungary, struggling for national independence; but the final determination was that the United States should not change its uniform policy of neutrality in favor of Hungary. The cordial reception of Kossuth everywhere, and the magnetic power of his eloquence over every audience, were gratifying and wonderful. A contemporary wrote: “The circumstances attending the reception of Kossuth constituted one of the most extraordinary spectacles the New World had ever yet beheld.” He returned to Europe in July.

Speech in Faneuil Hall.

The following is the first of three speeches made in Faneuil Hall, Boston, in April and May, this occasion being a public meeting. He had been welcomed to the State by Gov. George S. Boutwell, to the Senate by President Henry Wilson, and to the House of Representatives by Speaker Nathaniel P. Banks. A legislative banquet followed the delivery of the speech here given:

Ladies and Gentlemen,—Do me the justice to believe that I rise not with any pretension to eloquence within the Cradle of American Liberty. If I were standing upon the ruins of Prytaneum, and had to speak whence Demosthenes spoke, my tongue would refuse to obey, my words would die away upon my lips, and I would listen to the winds fraught with the dreadful realization of his unheeded prophecies. Spirit of American eloquence, frown not at my boldness that I dare abuse Shakespeare's language in Faneuil Hall! It is a strange fate, and not my choice. My tongue is fraught with a down-trodden nation's wrongs. The justice of my cause is my eloquence; but misfortune may approach the altar whence the flame arose which roused your fathers from degradation to independence. I claim my people's share in the benefit of the laws of nature and of nature's God. I will nothing add to the historical reputation of these walls; but I dare hope not to sully them by appealing to those maxims of truth the promulgation of which made often tremble these walls from the thundering cheers of freemen, roused by the clarion sound of inspired oratory.

“Cradle of American liberty” ; it is a great name; but there is something in it which saddens my heart. You should not say “American liberty.” You should say “Liberty in America.” Liberty should not be either American or European—it should be just “liberty.” God is God. He is neither America's God nor Europe's God. He is God. So shall liberty be. “American liberty” has much the sound as if you would say “American privilege.” And there is the rub. Look to history, and, when your heart saddens at the fact that liberty never yet was lasting in any corner of the world and in any age, you will find the key of it in the gloomy truth that all who yet were free regarded liberty as their privilege instead of regarding it as a principle. The nature of every privilege is exclusiveness; that of a principle is communicative. Liberty is a principle; its community is its security; exclusiveness is its doom.

What is aristocracy? It is exclusive liberty; it is privilege; and aristocracy is doomed, because it is contrary to the destiny and welfare of man. Aristocracy should vanish, not in the nations, but also [269] from among the nations. So long as that is not done, liberty will nowhere be lasting on earth. It is equally fatal to individuals as to nations to believe themselves beyond the reach of vicissitudes. To this proud reliance, and the isolation resulting therefrom, more victims have fallen than to oppression by immediate adversities. You have prodigiously grown by your freedom of seventy-five years; but what is seventy-five years to take for a charter of immortality? No, no, my humble tongue tells the records of eternal truth. A privilege never can be lasting. Liberty restricted to one nation never can be sure. You may say, “We are the prophets of God,” but you shall not say, “God is only our God.” The Jews have said so, and the pride of Jerusalem lies in the dust. Our Saviour taught all humanity to say, “Our father in heaven” ; and his Jerusalem is lasting to the end of days.

“There is a community in mankind's destiny.” That was the greeting which I read on the arch of welcome on the Capitol Hill of Massachusetts. I pray to God the republic of America would weigh the eternal truth of those words, and act accordingly. Liberty in America would then be sure to the end of time. But if you say “American liberty,” and take that grammar for your policy, I dare say the time will yet come when humanity will have to mourn over a new proof of the ancient truth, that without community national freedom is never sure. You should change “American liberty” into “Liberty,” then liberty would be forever sure in America, and that which found a cradle in Faneuil Hall never would find a coffin through all coming days. I like not the word “cradle” connected with the word “liberty.” It has a scent of mortality. But these are vain words, I know. Though in the life of nations the spirits of future be marching in present events, visible to every reflecting mind, still those who foretell them are charged with arrogantly claiming the title of prophets, and prophecies are never believed. However, the cradle of American liberty is not only famous from the reputation of having been always the lists of the most powerful eloquence; it is still more conspicuous for having seen that eloquence attended by practical success. To understand the mystery of this rare circumstance, a man must see the people of New England and especially the people of Massachusetts.

In what I have seen of New England there are two things the evidence of which strikes the observer at every step—prosperity and intelligence. I have seen thousands assembled, following the noble impulses of generous hearts; almost the entire population of every city, of every town, of every village where I passed, gathered around me, throwing the flowers of consolation in my thorny way. I can say I have seen the people here, and I have looked at it with a keen eye, sharpened in the school of a toilsome life. Well, I have seen not a single man bearing mark of that poverty upon himself which in old Europe strikes the eye sadly at every step. I have seen no ragged poor. I have seen not a single house bearing the appearance of desolated poverty. The cheerfulness of a comfortable condition, the result of industry, spreads over the land. One sees at a glance that the people work assiduously—not with the depressing thought just to get from day to day, by hard toil, through the cares of a miserable life, but they work with the cheerful consciousness of substantial happiness. And the second thing which I could not fail to remark is the stamp of intelligence impressed upon the very eyes and outward appearance of the people at large. I and my companions have seen that people in the factories, in the workshops, in their houses, and in the streets, and could not fail a thousand times to think, “How intelligent that people looks.” It is to such a people that the orators of Faneuil Hall had to speak, and therein is the mystery of their success. They were not wiser than the public spirit of their audience, but they were the eloquent interpreters of the people's enlightened instinct.

No man can force the harp of his own individuality into the people's heart; but every man may play upon the cords of his people's heart, who draws his inspiration from the people's instinct. Well, I thank God for having seen the public spirit of the people of Massachusetts bestowing its attention to the cause I plead, and pronouncing its verdict. After the spontaneous manifestations of [270] public opinion which I have met in Massachusetts, there can be not the slightest doubt that his Excellency, the highminded governor of Massachusetts, when he wrote his memorable address to the legislature, the joint committee of the legislative assembly, after a careful and candid consideration of the subject, not only concurring in the views of the executive government, but elucidating them in a report, the irrefutable logic and elevated statesmanship of which will forever endear the name of Hazewell to oppressed nations, and the Senate of Massachusetts adopting the resolutions proposed by the legislative committee, in respect to the question of national intervention—I say the spontaneous manifestation of public opinion leaves not the slightest doubt that all these executive and legislative proceedings not only met the full approbation of the people of Massachusetts, but were, in fact, nothing else but the solemn interpretation of that public opinion of the people of Massachusetts. A spontaneous outburst of popular sentiments tells often more in a single word than all the skill of elaborate eloquence could. I have met that word. “We worship not the man, but we worship the principle,” shouted out a man in Worcester, amid the thundering cheers of a countless multitude. It was a word like those words of flame, spoken in Faneuil Hall, out of which liberty in America was born. That word is a revelation that the spirit of eternal truth and of present exigencies moves through the people's heart. That word is teeming with the destinies of America.

Would to God that, in the leading quarters, small party considerations should never prevent the due appreciation of the people's instinctive sagacity! It is with joyful consolation and heartfelt gratitude I own that of that fear I am forever relieved in respect to Massachusetts. Once more I have met the revelation of the truth that the people of Massachusetts worship principles. I have met it on the front of your capitol, in those words raised to the consolation of the oppressed world, by the constitutional authorities of Massachusetts, to the high heaven, upon an arch of triumph, “Remember that there is a community in mankind's destiny.”

I cannot express the emotion I felt when, standing on the steps of your capitol, these words above my head, the people of Massachusetts tendered me its hand in the person of its chief magistrate. The emotion which thrilled through my heart was something like that Lazarus must have felt when the Saviour spoke to him, “Rise” ; and, when I looked up with a tender tear of heartfelt gratitude in my eyes, I saw the motto of Massachusetts all along the capitol, “We seek with the sword the mild quietness of liberty.” You have proved this motto not to be an empty word. The heroic truth of it is recorded in the annals of Faneuil Hall; it is recorded on Bunker Hill; recorded in the Declaration of Independence. Having read that motto, coupled with the acknowledgment of the principle that there is a community in the destiny of all humanity, I know what answer I have to take to those millions who look with profound anxiety to America.

Gentlemen, the Mohammedans say that the city of Bokhara receives not light from without, but is lustrous with its own light. I don't know much about Bokhara; but so much I know, that Boston is the sun whence radiated the light of resistance against oppression. And, from what it has been my good fortune to experience in Boston, I have full reason to believe that the sun which shone forth with such a bright lustre in the days of oppression has not lost its lustre by freedom and prosperity. Boston is the metropolis of Massachusetts, and Massachusetts has given its vote. It has given it after having, with the penetrating sagacity of its intelligence, looked attentively into the subject, and fixed with calm consideration its judgment thereabout. After having had so much to speak, it was with infinite gratification I heard myself addressed in Brookfield, Framingham, and several other places, with these words: “We know your country's history; we agree with your principles; we want no speech; just let us hear your voice, and then go on; we trust and wish you may have other things to do than speak.” Thus, having neither to tell my country's tale, because it is known, nor having to argue about principles, because they are agreed with, I [271] am in the happy condition of being able to restrain myself to a few desultory remarks about the nature of the difficulties I have to contend with in other quarters, that the people of Massachusetts may see upon what ground those stand who are following a direction contrary to the distinctly pronounced opinion of Massachusetts, in relation to the cause I plead.

Give me leave to mention that, having had an opportunity to converse with leading men of the great political parties which are on the eve of an animated contest for the Presidency—would it had been possible for me to have come to America either before that contest was engaged or after it will be decided! I came, unhappily, in a bad hour—I availed myself of that opportunity to be informed about what are considered to be the principal issues in case the one or the other party carries the prize; and, indeed, having got the information thereof, I could not forbear to exclaim, “But, my God, all these questions together cannot outweigh the all-overruling importance of foreign policy!” It is there, in the question of foreign policy, that the heart of the next future throbs. Security and danger, developing prosperity, and its check, peace and war, tranquillity and embarrassment —yes, life and death will be weighed in the scale of foreign policy! It is evident things are come to the point where they have been in ancient Rome, when old Cato never spoke privately or publicly, about whatever topic, without closing his speech with these words, “However, my opinion is that Carthage must be destroyed,” thus advertising his countrymen that there was one question outweighing in importance all other questions, from which public attention should never for a moment be withdrawn. Such, in my opinion, is the condition of the world now. Carthage and Rome had no place on earth together. Republican America and alloverwhelming Russian absolutism cannot much longer subsist together on earth. Russia active—America passive—there is an immense danger in that fact. It is like the avalanche in the Alps, which the noise of a bird's wing may move and thrust down with irresistible force, growing every moment. I cannot but believe it were highly time to do as old Cato did, and finish every speech with these words, “However, the law of nations should be maintained, and absolutism not permitted to become omnipotent.” I could not forbear to make these remarks, and the answer I got was, “That is all true and all right, and will be attended to when the election is over; but, after all, the party must come into power, and you know there are so many considerations—men want to be managed, and even prejudices spared, and so forth.” And it is true, but it is sorrowful that it is true. That reminds me of what, in Schiller's Maria Stuart, Mortimer says to Lord Leicester, the all-mighty favorite of Elizabeth, “O God, what little steps has such a great lord to go at this court!” There is the first obstacle I have to meet with. This consolation, at least, I have— that the chief difficulty I have to contend with is neither lasting, nor an argument against the justice of my cause or against the righteousness of my principles. Just as the calumnies by which I am assailed can but harm my own self, but cannot impair the justice of my country's cause or weaken the property of my principles, so that difficulty, being just a difficulty and no argument, cannot change the public opinion of the people, which always cares more about principles than about wirepullings.

The second difficulty I have to contend with is rather curious. Many a man has told me that, if I had only not fallen into the hands of the abolitionists and freesoilers, he would have supported me; and, had I landed somewhere in the South instead of New York, I would have met quite different things from that quarter. But, being supported by the free-soilers, of course I must be opposed by the South. On the other side I received a letter from which I beg leave to quote a few lines: “You are silent on the subject of slavery. Surrounded as you have been by slaveholders ever since you put your foot on English soil, if not during your whole voyage from Constantinople—and ever since you have been in this country surrounded by them whose threats, promises, and flattery make the stoutest hearts succumb— your position has put me in mind of a scene described by the apostle of Jesus Christ when the devil took him up into a [272] high mountain,” etc. Now, gentlemen, thus being charged from one side with being in the hands of abolitionists, and from the other side with being in the hands of the slave-holders, I indeed am at a loss what course to take, if these very contradictory charges were not giving me the satisfaction to feel that I stand just where it is my duty to stand, on a truly American ground.

I must beg leave to say a few words in that respect—the more because I could not escape vehement attacks for not committing myself, even in that respect, with whatever interior party question. I claim the right for my people to regulate its own domestic concerns. I claim this as a law of nations, common to all humanity; and, because common to all, I claim to see them protected by the United States, not only because they have the power to defend what despots dare offend, but also because it is the necessity of their position to be a power on earth, which they would not be if the law of nations can be changed, and the general condition of the world altered, without their vote. Now, that being my position and my cause, it would be the most absurd inconsistency if I would offend that principle which I claim and which I advocate.

And, O my God, have I not enough sorrows and cares to bear on these poor shoulders? Is it not astonishing that the moral power of duties, and the iron will of my heart, sustain yet this shattered frame? that I am desired yet to take up additional cares? If the cause I plead be just, if it be worthy of your sympathy, and at the same time consistent with the impartial considerations of your own moral and material interests—which a patriot should never disregard, not even out of philanthropy—then why not weigh that cause with the scale of its own value, and not with a foreign one? Have I not difficulties enough to contend with, that I am desired to increase them yet with my own hands? Father Mathew goes on preaching temperance, and he may be opposed or supported on his own ground; but whoever imagined opposition to him because, at the same time, he takes not into his hands to preach fortitude or charity? And, indeed, to oppose or to abandon the cause I plead only because I mix not with the agitation of an interior question is a greater injustice yet, because to discuss the question of foreign policy I have a right. My nation is an object of that policy. We are interested in it. But to mix with interior party movements I have no right, not being a citizen of the United States.

The third difficulty which I meet, so far as I am told, is the opposition of the commercial interest. I have the agreeable duty to say that this opposition, or, rather, indifference, is only partial. I have met several testimonials of the most generous sympathy from gentlemen of commerce. But if, upon the whole, it should be really true that there is more coolness, or even opposition, in that quarter than in others, then I may say that there is an entire misapprehension of the true commercial interests in it. I could say that it would be strange to see commerce, and chiefly the commerce of a republic, indifferent to the spread of liberal institutions. That would be a sad experience, teeming with incalculable misfortunes, reserved to the nineteenth century. Until now history has recorded that “commerce has been the most powerful locomotive of principles and the most fruitful ally of civilization, intelligence, and of liberty.” It was merchants whose names are shining with immortal lustre from the most glorious pages of the golden books of Venice, Genoa, etc. Commerce, republican commerce, raised single cities to the position of mighty powers on earth, and maintained them in that proud position for centuries; and surely it was neither indifference nor opposition to republican principles by which they have thus ennobled the history of commerce and of humanity. I know full well that, since the treasures of commerce took their way into the coffers of despotism, in the shape of eternal loans, and capital began to speculate upon the oppression of nations, a great change has occurred in that respect.

But, thanks to God, the commerce of America is not engaged in that direction, hated by millions, cursed by humanity. Her commerce is still what it was in former times–the beneficent instrumentality of making mankind partake of all the [273] fruits and comforts of the earth and of human industry. Here it is no paper speculation upon the changes of despotism; and, therefore, if the commercial interests of republican America are considered with that foresighted sagacity, without which there is no future and no security in them, I feel entirely sure that no particular interest can be more ambitious to see absolutism checked and freedom and democratic institutions developed in Europe than the commerce of republican America. It is no question of more or less profit, it is a question of life and death to it. Commerce is the heel of Achilles, the vulnerable point of America. Thither will, thither must be aimed the first blow of victorious absolutism. The instinct of self-preservation would lead absolutism to strike that blow if its hatred and indignation would not lead to it. Air is not more indispensable to life than freedom and constitutional government in Europe to the commerce of America.

Though many things which I have seen have, upon calm reflection, induced me to raise an humble word of warning against materialism, still I believe there was more patriotic solicitude than reality in the fact that Washington and John Adams, at the head of the War Department, complained of a predominating materialism (they styled it avarice) which threatened the ruin of America. I believe that complaint would, even to-day, not be more founded than it was in the infant age of your republic. Still, if there be any motive for that complaint of your purest and best patriots—if the commerce of America would know, indeed, no better guiding star than only the momentary profit of a cargo just floating over the Atlantic—I would be even then at a loss how else to account for the indifference of the commerce of America in the cause of European liberty than by assuming that it is believed the present degraded condition of Europe may endure, if only the popular agitations are deprived of material means to disturb that which is satirically called tranquillity.

But such a supposition would, indeed, be the most obnoxious, the most dangerous fallacy. As the old philosopher, being questioned how he could prove the existence of God, answered, “By opening the eyes,” just so nothing is necessary but to open the eyes in order that men of the most ordinary common-sense become aware of it, that the present condition of Europe is too unnatural, too contrary to the vital interests of the countless millions, to endure even for a short time. A crisis is inevitable. No individual influence can check it; no indifference or opposition can prevent it. Even men like myself, concentrating the expectations and confidence of oppressed millions in themselves, have only just enough power, if provided with the requisite means, to keep the current in a sound direction, so that in its inevitable eruption it may not become dangerous to social order, which is indispensable to the security of person and property, without which especially no commerce has any future at all. And that being the unsophisticated condition of the world, and a crisis being inevitable, I indeed cannot imagine how those who desire nothing but peace and tranquillity can withhold their helping hands, that the inevitable crisis should not only be kept in a sound direction, but also carried down to a happy issue, capable to prevent the world from boiling continually, like a volcano, and insuring a lasting peace and a lasting tranquillity, never possible so long as the great majority of nations are oppressed, but sure so soon as the nations are content; and content they can only be when they are free. Indeed, if reasonable logic has not yet forsaken the world, it is the men of peace, it is the men of commerce, to the support of whom I have a right to look. Others may support my cause out of generosity—these must support me out of considerate interest; others may oppose me out of egotism—American commerce, in opposing me, would commit suicide.

Gentlemen, of such narrow nature are the considerations which oppose my cause. Of equally narrow, inconsistent scope are all the rest, with the enumeration of which I will not abuse your kind indulgence. Compare with them the broad basis of noble principles upon which the commonwealth of Massachusetts took its stand in bestowing the important benefit of its support to my cause, and you cannot forbear to feel proudly that the spirit of old Massachusetts is still alive, entitled to claim that right in the councils of the united republic which it had [274] in the glorious days when, amid dangers, wavering resolutions, and partial despondency, Massachusetts took boldly the lead to freedom and independence.

Those men of immortal memory, who, within these very walls, lighted with the heavenly spark of their inspiration the torch of freedom in America, avowed for their object the welfare of mankind; and, when you raised the monument of Bunker Hill, it was the genius of freedom thrilling through the heart of Massachusetts which made one of your distinguished orators say that the days of your ancient glory will continue to rain influence on the destinies of mankind to the end of time. It is upon this inspiration I rely, in the name of my down-trodden country—to-day the martyr of mankind, to-morrow the battle-field of its destiny. Time draws nigh when either the influence of Americans must be felt throughout the world, or the position abandoned to which you rose with gigantic vitality out of the blood of your martyrs. I have seen the genius of those glorious days spreading its fiery wings of inspiration over the people of Massachusetts. I feel the spirit of olden times moving through Faneuil Hall. Let me leave your hearts alone with the inspiration of history. Let me bear with me the heart-strengthening conviction that I have seen Boston still a radiating sun, as it was of yore, but risen so high on mankind's sky as to spread its warming rays of elevated patriotism far over the waves. American patriotism of to-day is philanthropy for the world.

Gentlemen, I trust in God, I trust in the destinies of humanity, and intrust the hopes of oppressed Europe to the consistent energy of Massachusetts.

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