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Kossuth (1851).

Speech delivered at the Antislavery Bazaar, Saturday evening, December 27, 1851.

I have been requested to consider this evening, the position which Kossuth occupies in relation to the Antislavery cause in America. I need not say to those who have traced the course of this illustrious man, that it must be with the profoundest regret that any one who loves liberty can utter the first word of criticism in regard to him. His life has been, up to the time of his landing on our shores, one continued sacrifice on the altar of his country's independence. He has never forgotten her. He gave her the bloom of his youth. He has given her the first fruits of his genius. He has been true to her amid the temptations of ambitious life. He has been her martyr in the horrible dungeons of the despots of Europe. He stood by her equally under temptations of success. His name has become synonymous with patriotism and devotion to the rights of his race. He came to us heralded by the sympathies of every one who had a heart either for the sufferers by the oppressions of Europe, or for those who lie under the weight of the far greater oppressions of our own country. Not only this, but he came to us indebted to the government of the United States. Words of gratitude from his lips were both natural and fitting. I-T could not do otherwise than be grateful. He had a right to pour out, with [41] Oriental profuseness, the overflowing thanks of one who had been rescued from the heavy yoke of Russia, and allowed to plead his cause face to face with the millions of the west of Europe, and of our own land. It was something to be thankful for. No one can find fault with him for any grateful words which he has uttered, on touching the land under whose flag he first raised his head, no longer a prisoner, hardly an exile. He might well, as in classic story, have fallen down and kissed the deck of that national frigate which was to be his rostrum, with the world for an audience. You will not understand me, therefore, as endeavoring to disparage the momentous service which he has rendered to the Slavonic races of Europe, the purity of his purpose, his gallant daring, the energy which he has displayed,--no, nor to find fault with the gratitude which he has expressed to America. All this it was his duty to do. But there was something more expected of him. That expectation has been disappointed. I shall not attempt, for it is not in the mood either of the speaker or of any one who listens to him, to indulge in any epithets which shall characterize his course. I want to state a few simple principles, and then a few pregnant facts, and ask you whether the Abolitionists of this country have not a fair charge to make against the great Hungarian; whether those men who wait always with patient expectation the coming of those great and noble spirits who are to drag forward the cause of human progress, at least a hand's breadth, have not a right to be disappointed, and withdraw themselves from the crowd of idolators around him who has been designated as the man of the nineteenth century, as the van leader of the reform spirit of the age, as one whose boundless capacity, purity of purpose, and the universality of whose sympathies, almost merited that we should take the [42] statue of Washington from its pedestal, and replace it with the form of the great Hungarian.

This, then, is my purpose,--to look at Kossuth as the slave would look at him. Let me preface what I have to say with a single remark about America. You will recollect the old story of the African chief, seated naked under his palm-tree to receive the captain of an English frigate, and the first question he asked was, “What do they say of me in England?” We laugh at this vanity of a naked savage, canopied by a palm-tree, on an unknown river somewhere in the desert of a barbarous continent; but the same spirit pervades our twenty millions of Americans. The heart of every man is constantly asking the question, “What do they say of us in England?” Europe is the great tribunal for whose decision American sensitiveness always stands waiting in awe. We declared our independence, in 1876, of the British Crown, but we are vassals, to-day, of British opinion. So far as concerns American literature or American thought, the sceptre has never departed from Judah; it dwells yet with the elder branch on the other side of the water. The American still looks with too servile admiration to the institutions which his fathers reluctantly quitted, and which he still regards with overmuch fondness. Our literature is but a pale reflection of the English mind; and one reason why we have never become more thoroughly democratic is because, while our institutions have been so in form, the whole literature upon which we lived was impregnated with English ideas, and every student and every thinker breathed the atmosphere of London. London is yet the great fount of ideas for all the Saxon race. Not until the principles of democracy shall enter Temple Bar, will the Saxon race be fully democratic, whether planted on the steppes of the Cordilleras or on the shores of the [43] Pacific. What is thus true of England, is true in a less degree of the rest of Europe.

Now, it is to such a nation as this that Kossuth comes, -a nation sensitive to a fault, servile to the last degree; catching, with a watchful interest, the first breath of foreign criticism; hugging to its bosom with delight any eulogy that falls from the lips of noted men on the other side of the water. Is there anything peculiar and to be remarked in the state of public affairs at the time of his visit? Yes; he comes precisely at the moment when one absorbing question has banished all others from the nation's mind. The great classes and interests of society crash and jostle against each other like mighty vessels in a storm. The slave question having, like Aaron's rod, devoured all other political issues, claims and keeps the undivided attention of excited millions. The lips of every public man are anxiously watched, and his lightest word scanned with relentless scrutiny. Pulpit and forum are both busy in the discussion of the profoundest questions as to the relations of the citizen to the law, and the real value and strength of our institutions. For the first time, some men have begun to doubt whether they are compatible with free speech and Christianity; while men, called statesmen, either emboldened by success, or hardened by desperate ambition, have been found ready openly to declare that the Union is possible only on condition that the sons of the Pilgrims consent to hunt the slaves, and smother those instincts which have made the poets of all ages love to linger round the dungeon of the patriot and the stake of the martyr,with Tell and Wallace, with Lafayette and Silvio Pellico, with Charles Stuart hunted by the soldiery of Cromwell, and the Covenanter shot by that same Charles Stuart at his cottage door.

Kossuth lands on a shore where humanity is illegal, [44] and obedience to the Golden Rule of Christianity has just been declared treason. He was not ignorant of this state of things. Private individuals and public societies in England had placed in his hands ample evidence of the real character of American institutions, and the critical state of public opinion on the momentous question of enslaving every sixth man, woman, and child in the land. Some besought him to pause ere he set foot on a land cursed with such a monstrous system of oppression, and all bade him beware of the temptation to which his position subjected him, of strengthening by his silence or approbation the hands of the oppressor. At such a time, and in the midst of such a people, we have a right to claim that he should walk carefully. He knew that he must throw the weight of his mighty name in the scale of one party or another that was waging war for principle on this side of the Atlantic. Senator Foot spoke truly when he said, from his seat in the Senate chamber, “There is a great struggle going on through the world. It is between despotism and liberty. There is no neutrality in this struggle. No man can fail to be on one side or the other. He that is not with us is against us.” To which John P. Hale replied with such readiness, “Exactly.” We have now that condition of affairs which George Canning prophesied when he said, “The next war that passes over Europe is to be a war of ideas.” Now, wherever there is the war of ideas, every tongue takes a side. There is no neutrality. Even silence is not neutrality; but he who speaks a word of sympathy to his brother-man is on the side of humanity and progress. [Loud cheers.]

Now I have brought three facts before you. A man whose simple name is an argument, whose opinion is a fact potent throughout the world in sustaining institutions [45] of government,--I have placed him in the midst of a people with every eye fixed upon him to note his course and learn his opinion; I have shown that he is not ignorant of this his critical position. What has he done? No man expected that he should come into this hall; that he should go into Antislavery meetings; that he should take ground against the Fugitive Slave Bill. No. But you remember when Alexander went to see Diogenes, and asked what he could do for him, the reply of the cynic was, “Stand out of my light!” Now the slave had at least the right to say to Kossuth, “Stand out of my light!” Let the glowing sun of the humanity of the nineteenth century strike full upon me. Let the light and heat of those generous ideas with which God has inspired some of the white race, fall upon me, to melt these chains of mine; and let not your lavish praise be the spell that shall lull to sleep the half-awakened conscience of a people who have just begun to attend to the neglected, and to remember the forgotten. Throw not the weight of your great name into the scale of those, my enemies, who glory in a national prosperity fed out of my veins, and worship a Union cemented with my blood.

Take his speeches. Do they differ from those of the most pro-slavery American? Does he qualify his eulogy, does he limit his praise? Has he a word of sympathy for the oppressed,--a hint, even, at any blot on our national escutcheon? Could he have spoken without taking a side, unless he had used the most guarded and qualified language? Take his speeches relating to the Constitution of the United States. Place them side by side with the speeches of Daniel Webster and Rufus Choate, with those of any of the men recognized as supporters of this Union for its very quality of being an added ligament to hold the slave to his master. Is not [46] the tone the same? Is not the eulogy of our Constitution as unqualified and as glowing? Do you ever find the slightest allusion to the fact that one-sixth part of the inhabitants under it are denied those personal rights which make the sufferings of the Magyar peasant tame in comparison Throughout this flood of sublime eloquence which he has poured forth with such lavish genius to applauding crowds, when has he been heard to speak a word for three millions of people in this land, outraged and trampled under foot, to intimate that he sympathized with them, to hint that he knew of their existence? Our country is “great, glorious, and free; the land of protection for the persecuted sons of freedom among the great brotherhood of nations.” This is his language.

As I am speaking of one so much praised and trusted, let me read to you two or three lines, to show the tone in which he speaks of the Union whose President and courts have been occupied more fully, the last twelve months, with the recapture of fugitive slaves, and with the trial of men who had nobly aided them, than with any other cases whatever,--a Union of which Daniel Webster says the Fugitive Slave Bill is the very bond and corner-stone, that it cannot exist without it; a Union pledged to pursue and recapture every man who has the heroism to escape from Southern bondage. “Oppressed men will look to your memory as a token of God that there is hope for freedom on earth,” --this of a Union that returned Sims and Long to their chains, and by which fugitives have been returned by dozens from Ohio and Pennsylvania!--“because there is a people like you to feel its worth and support its cause. Europe has many things to learn from America. It has to learn the value of free institutions, and the expansive power of freedom.” And this is a fair type of his general language. You know it. [47]

We have just closed a war for the perpetuity of slavery (every man, North or South, acknowledges it),a war which even the Senate of the United States pronounced wicked and unnecessary; which the noblest intellects of the land have reprobated; which all parties have justified on the ground of its necessity to preserve the Union by aiding slavery, and not on the ground of justice, of humanity, or of liberty. What does he say of it? “Take, for instance, the glorious,” --we sent out a party from a slave State across to Mexican territories: we, Protestants, set up slavery on the soil which Catholics had purged from the stain,--“Take, for instance, the glorious struggle you had not long ago with Mexico, in which General Scott drove the President of that Republic from his capital.” Mark you that language! I shall have occasion to refer to it again.

“ I know how to read your people's heart. It is so easy to read it, because it is open like Nature, and unpolluted (!) like a virgin's heart (!!). Many others shut their ears to the cry of oppressed humanity, because they regard duties but through the glass of petty interests. Your people has that instinct of justice and generosity (!) which is the stamp of mankind's heavenly origin; and it is conscious of your country's power; it is jealous of its own dignity; it knows that it has the power to restore the law of nations to the principles of justice and right; and knowing itself to have the power, it is willing to be as good as it is powerful.”

These are the twenty millions of people whom George Thompson, with such striking truth, has described as engaged in one great slave hunt, with their President at their head, pursuing a poor, trembling fugitive, flying for refuge to the flag of Great Britain, on the other side of the lakes. “Your people have that instinct of justice [48] and generosity which is the stamp of mankind's heavenly origin” (!!!).

“ May your kind anticipations of me be not disappointed! I am but a plain man. I have nothing in me but honest fidelity to those principles which have made you great, and my most ardent wish is, that my own country may be, if not great as yours, at least as free and as happy, which it will be in the establishment of the same great principles. The sounds that I now hear seem to me the trumpet of resurrection for down-trodden humanity throughout the world.”

What! free as the land where the Bible is refused to every sixth person! Free as the land where it is a crime to teach every sixth person to read! Free as the land where, by statute, every sixth woman may be whipped at the public whipping-post! Free as the land where the murderer of the black man, if the deed is perpetrated only in the presence of blacks, is secure from legal punishment! Free as the land, the banks of whose Mississippi were lit up with the horrid sight, not seen even in Europe for two centuries, of a man torn from the hands of justice and burned in his own blood by a mob, of whom the highest legal authority proclaimed, afterward, that their act was the act of the people, and above the notice of the judiciary! Free as the land, the beautiful surface of whose Ohio was polluted by the fragments of three presses,--the emblems of free speech,--and no tribunal has taken notice of these deeds! Free as the land, whose prairie has drunk in the first Saxon blood shed for the right of free speech for a century and a half,--I mean the blood of Lovejoy! Free as the land where the fugitive dares not proclaim his name in the cities of New England, and skulks in hiding-places until he can conceal himself on board a vessel, and make his way to the kind shelter of Liverpool and London! [49] Free as the land where a hero worthy to stand by the side of Louis Kossuth — I mean Ellen Crafts [great cheering]--has pistols lying by her bedside for weeks, as protection against your marshals and your sheriffs, your chief-justices and divines, and finds no safe refuge until she finds it in the tender mercies of the wife of that poet who did his service to the cause of freedom at Missolonghi!

But what does Kossuth wish for Hungary? “My most ardent wish is, that my own country may be, if not as great as yours, at least as free and as happy, which it will be in the establishment of the same great principles.” “As free and as happy” ! Is that all that the loving son of Hungary can ask for his native land? Would he thrust back to serfdom one-sixth part of her twelve millions? Would he not blush to stand so near even to Austria, who compels her peasantry to learn to read, and make the teaching of every sixth Hungarian a penal offence? Would he legislate into existence a nation of Haynaus, and authorize them to whip Magyar women? Would he fill Hungarian prisons with Draytons and Sayres, with Torreys and Fairbankses? Hungarian graves with Crandalls and Lovejoys? Would he hang his courts in chains, that his brother nobles might drag back their serfs in peace? Before he repeats such a wish, let him go and meditate one hour more in that dungeon whence one of his comrades went to his grave, and the other came out blind; let him send his thoughts back again to that refuge which the Sultan gave him when he refused, at the hazard of his Crescent, to surrender to his neighbor State the Hungarian Crafts, Sims, Long, etc., who had escaped and claimed his protection. He would, if he be the man the world believes him, learn there that he never could consent to make Hungary what these United States are, and that he begs aid for [50] his loved country too dear, if he begs it by words not truthful from the lips of Louis Kossuth.

“ Happy art thou, free nation of America, that thou hast founded thy house upon the only solid basis of a nation's liberty! Thou hast no tyrants among thee to throw the apple of Eros into thy Union! Thou hast no tyrants to raise the fury of hatred in thy national family!” This he says, when he knows that the newspapers of one half the Union are full of the records of the atrocities perpetrated by the white man upon the blacks, guilty of nothing but a skin not colored like their own. I defy Kossuth to find in any German paper, at the very fount of Austrian despotism, such advertisements as daily fill our Southern presses. I defy him to match the crimes and wickedness of the press that leagues with despotism in this land. Mothers sold with their infants six weeks old, together or apart. I defy him to match the advertisements coming from our Southern States, calling for a man or his head: Fifty dollars reward for a man, dead or alive!

A land with three millions of slaves, and not a tyrant! Free speech achieved on the floor of Congress only after a dozen years of struggle, and still a penal offence in one half the Union; our jails filled with men guilty only of helping a brother-man to his liberty,--yet the keen eyes of this great soul can see nothing but a “solid basis of Liberty” ! Southern Conventions to dissolve the Union; the law executed in Boston at the point of the bayonet; riot, as the government calls it, stalking through the streets of Detroit, Buffalo, Syracuse, Boston, Christiana, and New York; Massachusetts denied by statute the right to bring an action in South Carolina; Georgia setting a price on the head of a Boston printer; senators threatening to hang a brother senator, should he set foot in a Southern State; the very [51] tenants of the pulpit silenced, or subjected to a coat of tar and feathers; one State proposing to exclude the commerce of another; demagogue statesmen perambulating the country to save the Union; honest men exhorted to stifle their consciences, for fear the Ship of State should sink amid the breakers; the whole nation at last waking to Jefferson's conviction, that “we have the wolf by the ears; we can neither hold him nor safely let him go,” --yet this man, whose “tempest-tossed life has somewhat sharpened the eyes of his soul,” can see only a “solid basis of Liberty” “No tyrant to throw the apple of Eros in the Union;” “to raise the fury of hatred in thy national family” What place has such fulsome and baseless eulogy on the lips of a truthful and honest man?

I have a great deal more of the same tenor, but I shall weary your patience. You will not deny that this has been the general tenor of his addresses in America. “Now,” he says, “I do it because I love Hungary so much.”

Well, then, he is a patriotic and devoted Hungarian, -grant him that! He loves Hungary so much that his charity stops at the banks of the Danube. He is a lover of his mother-land. It is a great thing to suffer for one's mother-land; but still, it is a local patriotism. Even Webster loves the whites. It is something to love one's race, and so much is patriotism; but they claim for Kossuth that he represents the highest ideas of the nineteenth century. We do not dispute his title to this, that he has been devoted to Hungary. Grant him that. When Alexander had consecrated himself as a god, he sent word to the Lacedaemonians that he had made himself a god, and they sent him back word, “Be a god!” So if men only claim for Kossuth that he is ready to do and dare all for Hungary, we are willing to reply [52] with the Lacedaemonians, “Be to Hungary her Washington!” The time was when even he claimed more, when he could proclaim that the cause of liberty was one the world over. That whoever struck a blow for justice and humanity anywhere, helped the oppressed the wide world through; while he who gave comfort to tyrants was the foe of all peoples. We felt that that lightning which melted the chain of the Hungarian serf, flashed a glad light into every hovel of the Carolinas; and that the blow which Garrison was striking on the gates of the American Bastile, lent strength to hosts that battled on the banks of the Danube. So thought Kossuth once; but is it possible that his conviction was no manly faith, but only a fairy spell which legends tell us a running stream always dissolves, and that the waves of the Atlantic have washed it out, and flung him upon our shores a mere Hungarian exile,--instead of one of those great spirits with which God at rare intervals blesses the ages, with hearts so large that for them the world is their country, and every man, especially every oppressed man, is a brother?

Men say, “Why criticise Kossuth, when you have every reason to believe that, in his heart, he sympathizes with you?” Just for that reason we criticise him; because he endorses the great American lie, that to save or benefit one class, a man may righteously sacrifice the rights of another. Because, while the American world knows him to be a hater of slavery, they see him silent on that question, hear him eulogize a nation of slave-holders, to carry his point. What greater wrong can he do the slave than thus to strengthen his foes in their own good opinion of themselves, and weaken, by his example, that public rebuke to which alone the negro can trust for ultimate redemption? He whom tyrants hated on the other side the ocean, is the [53] favored guest of tyrants on this side. He eats salt with the Haynaus of Washington. It is high time that he explain to Europe the geographical morality that enables him to do it, and be still the Louis Kossuth whose wandering steps Russian vengeance thought it worth while to follow. Could he have filed his tongue as cunningly at home, why should he ever have left Pesth? Or shall we deem him a man hotly indignant at his own wrongs, and those of his own blood, but cold to those of men whose skin is some few shades darker than his own?

Kossuth has sacrificed the cause of liberty itself; he has consented to praise a nation whose freedom is a sham; he has consented to praise the nation which tramples Mexico under foot; he has consented to praise them that he might save Hungary,--then rate him at his right price. The freedom of twelve millions bought the silence of Louis Kossuth for a year. A world in the scale never bought the silence of O'Connell or Fayette for a moment. That is just the difference between him and them. O'Connell (I was told the anecdote by Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton), in 1859, after his election to the House of Commons, was called upon by the West India interest — some fifty or sixty strong — who said, “O'Connell, you have been accustomed to act with Clarkson and Wilberforce, Lushington and Brougham, to speak on the platform of Freemasons' Hall, and advocate what is called the abolition cause. Mark this! If you will break loose from these associates, if you will close your mouth on the slave question, you may reckon on our undivided support on Irish matters. Whenever your country's claims come up, you shall be sure of fifty votes on your side.” “No!” said O'Connell; “let God care for Ireland; I will never shut my mouth on the slave question to save her!” [Loud cheers.] He stood [54] with eight millions whom he loved; he stood with & peasantry at his back meted out and trodden under foot as cruelly as the Magyar; he stood with those behind him who had been trampled under the horses' feet of the British soldiery in 1782 and 1801; he knew the poverty and wretchedness, he knew the oppression under which the Irish groaned: but never for a moment, would he consent to lift Ireland,--whose woes, we may well suppose, rested heavily on the heart of her greatest son, --by the sacrifice of the interests or the freedom of any other portion of the race. “When,” said the friend who told me this anecdote, in conclusion,--“when there were no more than two or three of us in the House of Commons, O'Connell would leave any court or any meeting to be present at the division, and vote on our side.” That is the type of a man who tries by its proper standard the claims of all classes upon his sympathy. He did for Ireland all that God had enabled him to do; but there was one thing which God had not called upon him to do, and that was to speak a falsehood, or to belie his convictions. He did not undertake to serve his country by being silent when he knew he ought to speak, or by speaking in language that should convey a false impression to his hearer.

Kossuth is filled with overflowing love for Hungary, which lies under the foot of the Czar. Now let us suppose a parallel case. Suppose that Lafayette were now living, and that the great Frenchman had seen his idea of liberty for France go down in blood. We will suppose that, despairing of doing anything at home, he had concluded to appeal to some foreign nation for aid; that Fayette, with his European reputation, considered the great apostle of human liberty, and his voice the seal and stamp of republican principles,--Fayette goes to Vienna for help. He goes to Austria for help on his [55] side in French politics, as Kossuth comes here for help on his side of Hungarian politics,--to Austria, with Hungary bleeding at her feet, and Kossuth in exile.

After all, it is national politics in which he asks us to interfere at whatever hazard. What is Hungary? Twelve millions of people under the iron foot of the Russian Czar, by means of his puppet, the Emperor of Austria. What says he to America? “I do not wish to be entangled with American politics.” As one of our own citizens said to me the other day, “What comes this fellow here for? I do not wish to meddle with Austrian politics.” The question of the liberty of twelve millions in Hungary is as much a question of Austrian politics, as the question of the three millions of slaves under the United States Constitution, and the human beings sent back as chattels under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1851, is a question of American politics.

Do not think either that I am so far out of the way in sending Fayette to Austria. Let me turn aside before I finish the illustration. What is Austria? Who is Haynau? The culminating star of Austrian atrocity, --the general whose name recalls everything that is most monstrous in Austria's treatment of down-trodden Hungary. Haynau! What was it that the European press charged upon him as his greatest atrocity? Why, he whipped one woman,--a countess; he whipped one woman at the public whipping-post. The press of Europe, from the banks of the Volga to the banks of the Seine, from the Times up to Punch, denounced him as a libel on the civilization of the nineteenth century, as a brute who had disgraced even the brutality of the camp, when he dared, in the face of Europe, in the nineteenth century, thus to outrage the common feeling of the world. That is Haynau; but he followed the example of half the States of this Union. There, woman-whipping is [56] the law and custom of the land. There are a hundred thousand men and women in this nation who have a right by law to whip a million and a half of women in fifteen of the Southern States. “One murder makes a villain; millions a hero.” To whip one woman makes a monster; but to whip millions by statute is to make a country in regard to which it is the highest wish of Kossuth that Hungary may be like her.

In view of this and similar facts, I say, there is not a word of the language which he applied to Austria that is not equally applicable to the land which imprisons Drayton and Sayres in the jails of its capital, that pursues Shadrach without mercy (a land where women are whipped by statute),--and there is not a word of all this eloquent eulogy of ourselves which is not equally applicable to Austria.

I send Fayette, therefore, to Austria. Kossuth, sheltered by the Crescent, hears of the coming of Fayette to Vienna. How his heart beats! Now, in that voice, venerable with its age, strong in the millions that wait its tones, I shall hear the voice of a deliverer. Now the heart of every down-trodden Hungarian is to leap for joy; now a sunbeam shall light up the dungeons of my old comrades,--for Fayette has entered Vienna. Listen! The first note that is borne to him down .the waters of the Danube is that of Fayette speaking to Haynau of his “glorious entry into the capital of Hungary,” as Kossuth speaks of the entrance of the Americans into the capital of Mexico. He listens, and every word of the eloquent Frenchman is praise of the Austrian emperor and Austrian institutions; and he says,--words Kossuth has used to the Americans,--“Cling to your Constitution and your institutions. Cling to them! Let no misguided citizen ever dream of tearing down the house because there is discomfort in one of the [57] chambers.” And suppose he heard him say, “Let no misguided Magyar ever dream of tearing asunder this beautiful empire of Austria, because there is discomfort in that one chamber of Hungary.” What would have been his tone in answering Fayette? He would have said, “Recreant! What right have you to purchase safety for France by sacrificing the people of Hungary, and by eulogizing tyrants?” [Tremendous cheering.]

Just such is the message that the American slaves send back to Kossuth, “Recreant! If you could not speak a free word for liberty the wide world over, why came you to this land stained and polluted by our blood? What right had you to purchase with your silence aid for Hungary, or throw the weight of your great name into the scale of our despair?” “Oh, no,” said O'Connell, “I will never tread that American strand, until she removes the curse of American slavery from her statute-book.” It was well he did not. Hardly any man can stand against the temptations of our great political iniquity.

Kossuth has come here on the glorious mission of redeeming Hungary. God speed him in every step — in every honest step — that he takes to lift up the Magyar, that he may raise the nations of Europe! But, oh, if he only lift her up by using for his fulcrum the chains of the slave; if he only lift her up by using language which shall strengthen the hearts of the oppressor in this land, which shall make those who love this Union lay the flattering unction to their souls, “Kossuth is an experienced man, he understands our institutions, and sees nothing to blame in them,” --then perish Hungary before he succeed!

The very Congress that invited this man to our shores, and passed a resolution placing a national vessel at his service, is the very Congress that passed the Fugitive [58] Slave Bill. He knows it. The very man who sent for the Hungarian exile, condemned to hopeless bondage hundreds who, but for that law, might have been saved. Why, if you had stood, as some of us have done, by the domestic fireside of hundreds of fugitive slaves who had been happy at the North for ten, fifteen, aye, twenty years, and had seen the utter wretchedness of those persecuted men when they felt that father or mother or wife or child must be borne away to the Southern plantation, or must make themselves exiles by going to Canada, or even to England, and reflected that these scenes are wrought by the very men who have welcomed the great Hungarian to this country, and then, when he came, that he had no words but words of eulogy,--how should you judge his spirit?

Bear with me in yet one illustration more. Men are known by the company they keep. It seems to me right to judge Kossuth so in this instance. Suppose a friend of liberty had gone across the water six months ago. Would he have sought the society of the illustrious free spirits that were the apostles of the great ideas of that country, or would he have gone to the court of the Caesar? Would he have gone to the palace of Vienna, or to Metternich? Would he have gone to the country-seat of Haynau, or to any other name recognized the world over as an apostate to principle, to humanity, to equal rights? Or would he have gone to that Kossuth, that Dembinski,--to the men who are now exiles or imprisoned throughout the length of the Austrian empire, to the graves of those who have been murdered on battlefield or in Haynau's camp? Would not their prisons have been the first scenes of his visit, that he might give his sympathy to the men who were suffering in a cause so dear to his heart? Certainly. We go where we are magnetically drawn; [59] we cannot resist rushing into the arms of those whose hearts beat responsive to our own. If a Socialist visits Paris, he goes to Prudhomme. If an Antislavery man goes to Paris, he goes to De Broglie. As Dr. Jackson said of his lamented son, who died recently in Boston, in whatever company he went he nailed his flag high, that all men might know his principles. [Cheers.] Now, I say, that Louis Kossuth did not nail the flag of his principles high to the mast; if he had, Hangman Foote would never have invited him to Washington. The world-wide love of man, the burning enthusiasm, the hatred of all oppression, that gathered two hundred thousand living hearts in Hungary; melted them into one giant mass by the magnetism of his great nature; and hurled them like an awful thunderbolt against the throne of the Caesars,--all that has not crossed the Atlantic; if it had, the pro-slavery divines of New York --the men who say they dare not utter even a prayer for the three millions of blacks-would never have gathered around it. He will go to Washington, and to whom? To Daniel Webster and to Hangman Foote. Had he been the Kossuth of Pesth,--the Kossuth whom Gorgei betrayed,--he would have gone to the prison of Drayton and Sayres to see the men who have been made a sacrifice for the crime of loving their brother-man as they loved themselves. He would have said, “No matter what your laws are, I broke the laws of Austria for the Magyar.” The European who has rent parchments to rags when they stood in the way of liberty, who has trampled on laws a thousand years old when they stood in the way of humanity and justice; that man, who comes to America and goes not to the prison of Drayton and Sayres, to the court-house where the men are being tried for the Christiana riots, as our press calls them,--has lowered the tone of his spirit, [60] and compromised that great fame which came over before him.

This is the indictment that the Abolitionists bring against him. It is not that he does not love Hungary. It is not that he is a coward and that his philanthrophy shrinks before the public opinion of America. No! We do not know that he was ever afraid of anything below God. Though no coward, he is selfish,--just as selfish as all patriotism is. He loves his own land, and to that land he is willing to sacrifice the duty he owes to truth. “An advocate,” said Lord Brougham, defending Queen Caroline, “by the sacred duty which he owes his client, knows in the discharge of that office but one person in the world,--that client and none other. To save that client by all expedient means; to protect that client at all hazards and costs to all others, and among others to himself,--is the highest and most unquestioned of his duties; and he must not regard the alarm, the suffering, the torment, the destruction which he may bring upon any other.” Now that, in another form, is Kossuth's patriotism. “I love Hungary,” says he; “stand aside all ye other races! I will so mould my language, I will so pour out my eulogy, I will so lavish my praise, that I will save her; let other races take care of themselves.”

This, then, is the criticism of the Antislavery reformer: Whoever strengthens the American Union strengthens the chain of the American slave; whoever praises the policy of this country since the Constitution began, whether in Florida or Mexico, strengthens the public opinion which supports it; whoever strengthens that opinion is a foe to the slave. Louis Kossuth has thrown at the feet of the Union party the weight of his gigantic name, and every conscience that had begun to be troubled is put to sleep: “Kossuth is free from American prejudices, unbiassed and disinterested. He tells me to love [61] the Union. So I will observe the laws; so I will banish the slave from my thoughts, as Kossuth does. Kossuth saves Hungary by subserviency to the South; I will save the Union in the same way.” This is the same old principle the world round, How much truth may I sacrifice in order to save some little Zoar in which God has given me a being? How much silencing of the truth is permitted us here by God, in order that we may help him govern the world? How many noble instincts may we stifle, how many despot hearts may we comfort, to help God save America? None! [Great cheering.] No, he did not send us into the world to free the slave. He did not send Kossuth into the world to save Hungary. He sent him into the world to speak his whole truth, for the white man and for the black man; to feel as a man for his brother-man; and to speak what he felt,--then, if Hungary is saved, to join in the jubilee with which all would celebrate her salvation. [Loud cheers.] Oh, men are so ready to take upon themselves the great responsibility of doing some great work in the world! I have got to save the Union, and therefore I must return fugitive slaves. I have got to redeem Hungary, and therefore I may be an American dough-face, instead of a European patriot.

This is the verdict that history shall bring. When, hereafter, the historian is telling the story of some great man who has done service to his kind, if he be one who loved only his own race or color or country, and stopped there,--who loved a Frenchman because he was himself born in Paris; or, born in London, was ready to serve all Englishmen,--if he were one who has rendered some great service to a single nation, or loved his own race and hated all others, he shall say, “This was a great man; he was the Kossuth, the Webster of his day.” But when he shall dip his pen in the sunlight, [62] to immortalize some greater spirit than that,--one whose philanthrophy, like the ocean, knew no bounds; the eagle of whose spirit, towering in its pride of place, looked down upon the earth, and saw blotted out from the mighty scene all the little lines with which man had narrowed it in, and took in every human being as a brother, and loved all races with an equal humanity; who never silenced the truth that the white man might longer trample on the black, or thought the safety of his own land cheaply bought at the price of lavish eulogies laid on the footstool of petty tyrants,--he shall dip his pen in the gorgeous hues of the sunlight and write, “This was a greater man yet; he was a Garrison, an O'Connell, a Fayette.” [Loud and continued cheers.]

Now, this is the exact difference which the Antislavery world recognizes in Kossuth. He is the man who has been content to borrow his tone from the atmosphere in which he moved. He has offered American patriotism the incense of his eulogy, and has by that course consented to do service to the dark spirit of American slavery. We find no fault with any expression of his gratitude; but gratitude to the administration of the country was not necessarily eulogy of all its institutions. A man may thank a benefactor without endorsing his character! He came to a land where every sixth man is a slave, and where the national banner clings to the flag-staff heavy with blood, and the lips which proclaimed the freedom of the Hungarian serf have found no occasion but for eulogy! He came to a land where the Bible is prohibited, by statute, to three millions of human beings; to whom, also, the marriage institution is a forbidden blessing,--and the eminently religious Hungarian can find no occasion but for eulogy! He came to a land where almost every village in the free States has more than one trembling fugitive who dare not tell his true [63] name, and the great martyr for personal liberty can find no occasion but for eulogy! He came to a land, of the fundamental arrangement of whose government John Quincy Adams says: “It is not in the compass of human imagination to devise a more perfect exemplification of the art of committing the lamb to the custody of the wolf,” and to “call whose government a democracy would be to insult the understanding of mankind,” and the apostle of civil liberty sees only a “glorious republic, . . great, glorious, and free, . . . the pillar of freedom;” and all he prays for his own country is, that “she may be as free and as happy in the establishment of the same great principle” !!

He comes to a land where, according to the same indisputable authority, “a knot of slave-holders give the law and prescribe the policy of the country;” and the indignant foe of Austrian rule, “his eyes sharpened by a tempest-tossed life,” finds no occasion but for eulogy! He comes to a land where, says the same venerable statesman, “the preservation, propagation, and perpetuation of slavery is the vital and animating spirit of the National Government,” and where, since 1780, “slavery, slave-holding, slave-breeding, and slave-trading have formed the whole foundation of the policy of the Federal Government;” and “the sharpened eyes” of the European patriot, whose baptism of liberty was in the damps of an Austrian dungeon, sees only “a glorious country, . . . great, glorious, and free; . . . a glorious republic;” her “glorious flag the proud ensign of man's divine origin;” “the asylum of oppressed humanity ;” her welcome “the trumpet of resurrection for down-trodden humanity throughout the world;” her language “the language of liberty, and therefore the language of the people of the United States.” His confidence of ultimate success springs from the thought that “there is a God [64] in heaven and a people like the Americans on earth.” He makes haste to declare how easy it is to read the heart of this slave-holding, slave-breeding, and slave-trading people, because “it is open like Nature and unpolluted like a virgin's heart;” that others may “shut their ears to the cry of oppressed humanity, because they regard duties but through the glass of petty interests” ! But this slave-holding and slave-trading people “has that instinct of justice and generosity which is the stamp of mankind's heavenly origin; knows that it has the power to restore the law of nations to the principles of justice and right; and is willing to be as good as its power is great” !!! Does the great statesman-like heart of Kossuth believe all this? If he does not, is the most devoted lover of liberty ever bound to lay on her altar the sacrifice of hypocrisy? Or was any cause ever yet strengthened by lips that belied the heart?

In his last speech at Philadelphia, he goes, for the first time, further, explains his plan, and pledges himself distinctly to silence. There are two words which one would think Kossuth had never conquered, even in his marvellous mastery of the English tongue,--“slavery” and “slave-holding;” and even here, while necessarily alluding to them, he cannot frame his lips to speak their syllables. Some one had forged the following letter to him, warning him of his nearness to the slave-holding States:--

December 23, 1851.
Hon. Louis Kossuth:
Respected Sir,--It is my unpleasant duty to apprise you that the intervention or non-intervention sentiments that you have promulgated in your speeches in the city of New York, are unsuitable to the region of Pennsylvania, situated as she is on the borders of several slaveholding States; and after a conference with my distinguished [65] uncle the Hon. John Sargent, the Hon. Horace Binney, and other distinguished counsellors, who concur with me in the sentiment, I feel, most reluctantly I assure you, that such sentiments are incendiary in their character and effect; and as the conservator of the public morals and peace of the country, having sworn to comply with the Constitution of the United States and the State of Pennsylvania, on taking upon myself the office of Attorney-General of the County of Philadelphia, I shall be obliged to bring any such sentiments to the notice of the Grand Inquest of the county for their action and consideration.

Respectfully, W. B. Reed, Attorney-General.

Kossuth thus comments on this letter:--

Now, such a letter, and yet a forgery, indeed, is a despicable trick; but though it is a forgery, still there is one thing which forces me to some humble remarks, precisely because I know not whence comes the blow. I am referring to these words: “ Your intervention or non-intervention sentiments are unsuited to the region of Pennsylvania, situated as she is on the borders of several slave-holding States.” I avail myself of this opportunity to declare once more that I never did or will do anything which, in the remotest way, could interfere with the matter alluded to, nor with whatever other domestic question of your united Republic, or of a single State of it. I have declared it openly several times, and on all and every opportunity I have proved to be as good as my word. I dare say that even the pledge of the word of honor of an honest man should not be considered a sufficient security in that respect. The publicly avowed basis of my human claims, and the unavoidable logic of it would prove to be a decisive authority.

What is the ground upon which I stand before the mighty tribunal of the public opinion of the United States?

It is the sovereign right of every nation to dispose of its own [66] domestic concerns. [Great applause.] What is it I humbly ask of the United States? It is that they may generously be pleased to protect this sovereign right of every nation against the encroaching violence of Russia. It is, therefore, eminently clear that, this being my ground, I cannot and will not meddle with any domestic question of this Republic. [Applause.] Indeed, I more and more perceive that, to speak with Hamlet, “there are more things in heaven and earth than were dreamed of in my philosophy.” [Laughter and applause.] But still, I will stand upright, on however slippery ground, by taking hold of that legitimate fence of not meddling in your domestic questions.

What, then, is the shadowy line by which, while he claims our sympathy and aid for Hungary, he separates the slave's claim from his own? Simply this, Hungary asks for rights which ancient charters secured to her; the slave has no charters, no parchments to show,--therefore, we ought to love and aid the Magyar; therefore, Douglass can claim nothing of Kossuth! And can the soul of Kossuth rise no higher than the level of human parchments? Or can he plead for liberty with such bated breath and whispered humbleness, that to serve his purpose he can remember always to forget the self-evident rights which God gave,--to which the slave has as much right as the noblest Magyar of them all? More than this, can he find it in his heart to strengthen by his silence, by his example, and his name, the hands of the ruthless violator of those rights; cry “glorious” and “amen,” while the black is robbed of his hard toil, of the Bible, of chastity, wife, husband, and child,--only to persuade slave-holders to aid in securing for the Magyar peasant the right to vote, and for the Magyar noble the right to legislate. The world thought his lips had been touched by a coal from the altar of the living God,--and lo! he has bargained away his very [67] utterance, and presents himself before us thus cheaply bought and gagged!

His parallel of the non-intervention of States is not a just one. No one asks England to interfere with our slave question. But, on the other hand, she pronounces no opinion on our government in general; she does not expend herself in glowing, unqualified, and indiscriminate eulogy of our institutions, or strengthen the hands of their friends by holding them up to the world as the first hope of redemption to oppressed nations, and the fairest model of republican perfection. The same is true of Kossuth. While at home, all the world asked of him was to stand in his lot, and do gallant battle for his land and people. When he comes here, and gives the listening world his judgment of our institutions,--mingling himself thus, whether he will or no, with our great national struggle,--he owes it to truth, to liberty, and the slave, that such judgment should be a true, discriminating, and honest one. If the opinion he has pronounced be his honest judgment, what will men say of that heart whose halting sympathies allowed him to overlook a system of oppression which Wesley called the “vilest the sun ever saw,” and which made Jefferson “tremble for his country, when he remembered that God was just” ? If it be not his honest judgment, but only fawning words, uttered to gain an end, what will men say of the Jesuit who thought he owed it to Hungary to serve her, or, indeed, imagined that he could serve her, by lips that clung not to the truth? When Rome's ransom was weighing out, the insolent conqueror flung his sword into the scale against it. So at the moment when the fate of the slave hangs trembling in the balance, and all he has wherewith to weigh down the brute strength of his oppressor is the sympathy of good men and the indignant protest of the world, Kossuth, [68] with the eyes of all nations fixed upon him, throws the weight of his great name, of his lavish and unqualified approbation into the scale of the slave-holder, crying out all the while, “Non-intervention!”

Truly these eyes that see no race but the Magyar, and no wrongs but those of Hungary, may be the eyes of a great Hungarian and a great patriot, but God forbid they should be the eyes of a mall or a Christian!

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Every heart responds to the classic patriot, and feels that it is indeed good and honorable to die for one's country; but every true man feels likewise, with old Fletcher of Saltoun, that while he “would die to serve his country, he would not do a base act to save her.”

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