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[Source: Henry M. De Puy, Kossuth and His Generals (Buffalo: Phinney & Co., 1852), pp. 317-44.]
Two years ago, by God's providence, I, who would be only an humble citizen, held in my hands the destiny of the reigning house of Austria.
Had I been ambitious, or had I believed that this treacherous family were so basely wicked as they afterward proved themselves to be, the tottering pillars of their throne would have fallen at my command, and buried the crowned traitors beneath their ruins, or would have scattered them like dust before a tempest, homeless exiles, bearing nothing but the remembrance of their perfidy, and that royalty which they deserved to lose through their own wickedness.
I, however, did not take advantage of these favorable circumstances, though the entire freedom of my dear native land was the only wish of my heart. My requests were of that moderate nature which, in the condition of Hungary and Europe, seemed best fitted
for my countrymen. I asked of the king, not the complete independence of my beloved country -- not even any new rights or privileges -- but simply these three things :
First: That the inalienable rights sanctioned by a thousand years, and by the constitution of my fatherland, should be guaranteed by a national and responsible administration.
Second : That every inhabitant of my country, without regarding language or religion, should be free and equal before the law -- all classes having the same privileges and protection from the law.
Third: That all the people of the Austrian empire that acknowledged the same person as emperor whom we Hungarians recognized as king, and the same law of succession, should have restored their ancient constitutional rights, of which they had unjustly been despoiled, modified to suit their wants and the spirit of the age.
The first demand was not for any new grant or concession, but simply a fresh guarantee. In the arrangement made with our ancestors, when, by their free will, they elevated the house of Hapsburg to the throne, a condition was made that the king should preserve the independence and constitution of the country. This independence and this constitution were the very vitality of our national being. During three centuries, twelve kings of the house of Hapsburg had sworn, in the presence of the eternal God, before ascending the throne, that they would preserve our independence and the constitution ; and their lives are but a history of perpetual and accursed perjury. Yet
such conduct did not weaken our fidelity. No nation ever manifested more faithfulness to their rulers. And though we poor Hungarians made endless sacrifices, often at the expense of our national welfare -- though these kings in times of peace drew their support from us, and in times of war or danger relied upon the unconquerable strength of our army -- though we ever trusted in their words -- they deceived us a thousand times, and made our condition worse.
While other nations were able to apply all their energies to promote the general welfare and to develop their means of happiness we had to stand on guard, like the watchmen mentioned in scripture, for three centuries, to prevent our treacherous kings from destroying entirely the foundation of our national existence -- our constitution and independence.
I, as the representative of my countrymen, asked nothing more than a constitutional ministry whose responsibility would prevent the king from violating his oath.
The second demand was still less for any political right. We asked for nothing more than a reform in the internal administration of the state -- a simple act of justice which the aristocracy owed the people. And in this how much the king would have gained! The strength of his throne would have been increased tenfold by thus winning the affections of his faithful people.
The third demand was prompted by humanity and fraternal feeling. It was the proper and holy mission of our nation, as the oldest member of the empire, and possessing a constitutional form of government, to
raise its voice in behalf of those sister nations under the same ruler, and who were united to us by so many ties of relationship. Lovers of freedom, we would not ask liberty for ourselves alone : we would not boast of privileges that others did not enjoy, but desired to be free in fellowship with free nations around us. This motive was inspired by the conviction that two crowns -- a constitutional and despotic crown -- could not be worn by the same head, no more than two opposing dispositions can harmonize in the same breast, or than a man can be good and evil at the same time.
The king and royal family granted these requests, appealing to the sanctity of their oaths as a guarantee of their fulfillment ; and I, weak in myself, but strong through the confidence of my countrymen and the noble sympathy of the Austrian people, proclaimed everywhere, midst the raging storm of revolution, that 'the house of Austria should stand ; for, by the blessing of the Almighty, it had begun to move in the right direction, and would be just to its people.' It stood, and stood, too, at a time when, whatever might have been the fate of Hungary, the revolutionary tempest, under my direction would have blown away this antiquated and helpless dynasty like chaff before the winds of heaven.
I not only preserved the house of Austria, but placed in its hands the materials of a long and glorious future -- the foundation of an indestructible power in the affection of thirty-two millions of people. I tendered them the fidelity and assistance of my own heroic Hungary, which alone was able to defend them against the assaults of the world. I afforded them the glorious
opportunity -- more glorious than had ever been presented before -- of establishing an impregnable barrier to protect freedom, civilization, and progress, against the Cossack power, which now threatens Europe. To attain this honor, this glory, one thing only was necessary -- that they should remain faithful to their oaths. But when was it that Austria was not treacherous? We look in vain for as much honor as is found even among robbers, in the Hapsburg family.
On the very day they signed the grant of those moderate demands of the Hungarian people, and solemnly swore before God and the nation to maintain them, they secretly resolved and planned the most cruel conspiracy against us. They determined to break their oaths, to desolate the land with insurrection, conflagration, and blood, till, feeble and exhausted under the burden of a thousand miseries, Hungary might be struck from the roll of living nations. They then hoped, by the power of the bayonet, and, if necessary, by the arms of Russia, to erect a united and consolidated empire, like the Russian, of sixteen various nations ; they hoped to realize their long conceived purpose of making themselves an absolute power.
Never were so many hellish arts used against a nation before. Not suspecting a counter-revolution or an attack, we were not prepared to defend ourselves, when suddenly we were surprised by danger. The perfidious Hapsburgs, destitute of all shame, and rejoicing in the anticipation of an easy victory, hesitated not to disclose before the civilized world their horrible plans -- to subjugate us by the force of arms, to excite hatred of race, to call in the aid of robbers, incendiaries, and reckless insurgents.
At this crisis of great danger, when many of our ablest men even were ready to yield themselves to this degree of destruction, I stood among those who called the nation to arms. And, confiding in a just God, we cursed the cowards who were preparing to abandon their native land, to submit to a wicked despotism, and to purchase a miserable existence by sacrificing liberty. I called the nation to arms in self-defense. I acted not with blind presumption; and emotions of despair found no place in my breast -- for he who despairs [sic] is not fit to guide a people. I estimated the valor and power of my country, and on the verge of a fearful struggle I had faith to promise victory, if Hungary would remain true to herself, and fortify her breast with the impulsive fire of a strong will.
To sustain the stern resolution to combat such an enemy, we were supported, first, above every thing, by our unshaken confidence in God, whose ways are past finding out, but who supports the right, and blesses the cause of an honest people fighting for freedom ; secondly, by a love of country and the holy desire of liberty, which makes the child a giant, and increases the strength of the valiant; and, thirdly, by your example, noble Americans! -- you, the chosen nation of the God of Liberty! My countrymen -- a religious, a God-venerating people -- in whose hearts burned the all-powerful feeling of patriotism, were inspired by the influence of your sublime example.
Free citizens of America! from your history, as from the star of hope in midnight gloom, we drew out confidence and resolution in the doubtful days of severe trial. Accept, in the name of my countrymen, this
declaration as a tribute of gratitude. And you, excellent people, who are worthy to be chosen by the Almighty as an example to show the world how to deserve freedom, how to win it, and how to use it -- you will allow that the Hungarians, though weaker and less fortunate than you, through the decaying influences of the old European society, are not unworthy to be your imitators, and that you would be pleased to see the stars of your glorious flag emblazon the double cross of the Hungarian coat-of-arms. When despotism hurled defiance at us, and began the bloody war, your inspiring example upheaved the nation as one man, and legions, with all the means of war, appeared to rise from nothing, as the tender grass shoots up after spring showers.
Though we were inferior in numbers to the enemy, and could not compare with their well trained forces -- though our arms were shorter than theirs -- yet the heroic sons of Hungary supplied the want of numbers by indomitable bravery, and lengthened their weapons by a step further in advance!
The world knows how bravely the Hungarians fought. And it is not for me, who was identified with the war -- who, obeying the wishes of the nation, stood faithfully at the helm of government -- to extol the heroic deeds of my countrymen. I may mention, however, that, while every day it became more evident that the heart of Europe beat to the pulsations of the Hungarian struggle, we maintained the unequal conflict alone, cut off from the rest of the world and all external aid, till a year ago we laid the haughty power of the tyrant house of Hapsburg in the dust ; and had
it not been for the intentional and traitorous disregard of my commands by one of our leaders, who afterward shamefully betrayed the country, not only would the imperial family have been driven from Vienna, but the entire Austrian nation would have been liberated ; and though by such treason this base family saved themselves from destruction, they were so far humbled in March, 1849, that, not knowing how to be just, they implored foreign aid, and threw themselves at the feet of the Czar.
The emperor hoped that the Hungarian people could be terrified by his threatenings, and would prefer slavery to death; but he was deceived. He sold his own liberty to Russia for aid to enslave his people. The choice of a coward is to purchase a miserable, ephemeral existence, even though at the cost of his honor and independence.
The Austrians fought against us not only with arms and by the aid of traitors, but with studied and unceasing slander. They never ceased to impeach our motives and falsify our conduct, and vaunt the pretended justice of their own cause before the judgment seat of public opinion. Efforts were constantly made to weaken, among the people of Hungary, and among the nations of the world, that sympathy and force which spring from a righteous cause.
Free citizens of North America! you have given, in spite of these slanders, the fullest sympathy for the cause of my country. We had no opportunity to explain to you our motives and conduct, and refute the libels against us; but we said -- and how truly your noble and magnanimous conduct showed it! -- that
such a nation knows how to defend a just and holy cause, and will give us its sympathy : and this conviction inspired us with more confidence. Oh, that you had been a neighboring nation! The old world would now be free, and would not have to endure again those terrible convulsions and rivers of blood which are inevitable. But the end is with God, and He will choose the means to fulfill his purposes.
Ye great and free people! receive the thanks of my country for your noble sympathy, which was a great moral support in our terrible conflict.
When the house of Austria sold itself to the Autocrat, we, who were fatigued with our hard-earned victory, but not subdued or exhausted, saw with apprehension the specter of Russian invasion -- an invasion which violated the laws of nations, which was openly hostile to the cause of civilization, the rights of man, of order, and even to that principle which the diplomacy of Europe calls 'the balance of power.' I could not believe that the governments of Europe would permit this invasion ; for I expected they would intervene to effect a treaty of' peace, if not so much on our account, yet to prevent Austria becoming the vassal of Russia -- to check the growing strength and influence of the latter power in the East.
We desired an honorable peace, and were willing to submit to any reasonable terms. We many times tendered the olive-branch. We asked the constitutional governments of Europe to interpose. They heard us not. The haughty imperial family, forgetting that they were the real traitors, rejected every proposition with the defying expression that they 'did
not treat with rebels.' Aye, more : they threw our ambassadors into prison, and one of them -- the noblest of Hungary's sons -- they cowardly and impiously murdered. Still we hesitated to tear asunder forever the bonds that united us. Ten months we fought, and fought victoriously, in defense; and it was only when every attempt to bring about an honorable peace failed -- when Francis Joseph, who was never our king, dared, in his manifesto of the 4th of March, 1849, to utter the curse 'that Hungary should exist no longer' -- when there was no hope of arresting the Russian invasion by diplomacy -- we saw that we must fight to save ourselves from being struck off the earth as a nation -- when the house of Austria, by its endless acts of injustice and cruelty, and by calling in the aid of a foreign power, bad extinguished in the hearts of the Hungarian people every spark of affection -- then, and then only, after so much patience, the nation resolved to declare its absolute independence. Then spoke the National Assembly the words which had been uttered by every patriotic tongue: 'Francis Joseph! thou beardless young Nero ! thou darest to say, Hungary shall exist no more? We, the people, answer, WE do and will exist; but you and your ever treacherous house will stand no longer! You shall no more be the kings of Hungary! Be forever banished, ye perfidious traitors to the nation!'
We were not only ready to accept any terms that were honorable, but we carefully abstained from doing any thing which would give the Czar a pretense, which he had long sought, to meddle with our affairs. The Hungarian nation loved freedom as the best
gift of God, but it never thought of commencing a crusade against kings in the name of liberty. In Hungary there were none of those propagandists who alarm so much the rulers of the old world. There were no secret societies plotting conspiracies. My countrymen were not influenced by the theories of communists or socialists, nor were they what the conservatives call anarchists. The nation desired justice, and knew how to be just to all, irrespective of rank, language, or religion. A people so worthy of freedom were generous enough to leave something to time, and to be satisfied with a progressive development. No violence was used ; no just right was attacked ; and even some of those institutions were left undisturbed, which, in their principle and origin, were unjust, but which, having existed for centuries, could not be abolished at once with impunity.
The Hungarian people did not wish to oppress any -- not even the aristocracy ; they were more ready to make sacrifices than to punish the descendants of nobility for the evils of misgovernment, and of those institutions which emanated from their ancestors ; nor would they let the many suffer for the sins of the few.
There was no anarchy among us. Even in the bloodiest of the conflicts, when the human passions are most excited, there was the most perfect order and security of property and person. How did the conduct of my noble countrymen compare with that of the 'order-making'Austria! Whenever the whirlwind of war ceased for a while, where the social elements were left in chaos, the instinctive moral feelings of this incurruptible people, in the absence of all government,
preserved better order and safety than legions of police. A common spirit animated the whole nation -- no secret aims, no personal or local attacks, but a bold and open defense in the face of the world. Following the example of your great Washington, we adopted, as our policy, conciliation, justice and legality, and scrupulously observed the laws of nations.
The Russians and Austrians made the soil of Wallachia the basis of military operations : and the Turkish government, which either knew not its own interests, or was unable to defend them, silently permitted this violation of treaties and the rights of nations, thus humbling itself and betraying its own weakness. Several times we drove our enemies across the Wallachian boundaries ; for it was only necessary for our victorious army to advance into the countries of the Lower Danube to rouse the inhabitants against the Russians, And to transfer the war to their own soil. But we respected the law of nations, and stopped our conquering forces on the confines of Wallachia. Her soil was sacred to us. Austria left Gallicia almost unprotected, and collected all her forces to attack us. Had we at this time sent a small portion of our army to Poland, it would have caused a general insurrection, and that heroic, but unfortunate nation, would have revenged herself by throwing the Russian empire into a state of revolution. But we acted in defense only, and we deemed it a sin to precipitate other nations into a terrible and uncertain war, and we checked our sympathies. Besides, we avoided giving the emperor of Russia a pretense for a war of retaliation against us. Oh, it was foolish -- for the despotic hypocrite made a
pretense! he called our own struggle the Hungarian Polish revolution, though the whole number of Poles in our armies did not exceed four thousand.
We doubted not that the European powers would negotiate a peace for us, or that they would, at least, prevent the Russian invasion. They said they pitied us, honored our efforts, and condemned the conduct of Austria; but they could not help us, because Europe required a powerful Austrian empire, and they must support it, in spite of its evils, as a balance against Russian central and eastern Europe. What a mistake! What diplomacy! Is it not as clear as the sun, that the Czar, in aiding Austria, would do it in such a manner as to obtain the greatest advantages for himself? Was it not manifest that Austria -- who had always, through the help of Hungary, strength enough to oppose Russia, would, when she destroyed Hungary by Russian bayonets, no longer be an independent power, but merely the avant-garde of the Muscovite? Yet Europe permitted the invasion! It is an indelible mark of blindness and shame. It is ever thus in the imbecile old world. They treated us just as they treat Turkey. They assert always that the peace of Europe and the balance of power require the preservation of the Turkish empire -- that Turkey must exist, to check the advance of the Cossack power. But, notwithstanding this, England and France destroyed the Turkish fleet at Navarino -- a fleet which never could have injured them, but which might have contended with Russia in the Black Sea.
Always the same worn-out, old, and fatal system of policy ! while Russia, ever alert, seizes province
after province from Turkey. She has made herself the sovereign of Moldavia and Wallachia, and is sapping the foundations of the Ottoman empire. Already Turkish officials are more dependent on the lowest Russian agents than upon their own Grand Vizier.
Oh that Hungary had received but a slight token of moral support from the European powers whose dreams are troubled with fear of the advance of the Cossack! Had only an English or a French agent come to us during our struggle, what might he not have done! He, too, would have seen and estimated our ability to sustain ourselves -- he would have observed the humanity, the love of order, the reverence for liberty, which characterized the Hungarian nation. Had these two powers permitted a few ships to come to Ossore, laden with arms for the noble patriots who had asked in vain for weapons, the Hungarians would now have stood a more impregnable barrier against Russia than all the arts of a miserable and expensive diplomacy.
There was a time when we, with the neighboring Poles, saved Christianity in Europe. And now I hesitate not to avow before God, that we alone -- that my own Hungary -- could have saved Europe from Russian dominion. As the war in Hungary advanced, its character became changed. In the end, the results it contemplated were higher and far more important - nothing less, in fact, than universal freedom, which was not thought of in the beginning. This was not a choice ; it was forced upon us by the policy of the European nations, who, disregarding their own interests, suffered Russia to invade and provoke us. Yes, we
were martyrs to the cause of freedom, and this glorious but painful destiny was imposed upon us.
Though my dear native Hungary is trodden down, and the flower of her sons executed, or wandering exiles, and I, her governor, writing from my prison in this Asiatic Turkey, I predict -- and the eternal God bears my prediction -- that there can be no freedom for the continent of Europe, and that the Cossacks from the shores of the Don will water their steeds in the Rhine, unless liberty be restored to Hungary. It is only with Hungarian freedom that the European nations can be free; and the smaller nationalities especially can have no future without us,
Nor could the united Russo-Austrian forces have conquered my heroic countrymen, had they not found a traitor to aid them, in the man whom, believing in his honesty, and on account of his skill, I raised from obscurity. Enjoying my confidence, the confidence of the nation and the army, I placed him at the head of our forces, giving him the most glorious part to perform ever granted to man. What an immortality was in his reach, had he been honest! But he betrayed his country. Cursed be his name forever! I will not open the bleeding wounds by the sad remembrance of this event, and will merely mention that the surrender at Vilagos was the crowning act of a long system of treachery secretly practiced -- by not using the advantages which victories put in his hands -- by not fulfilling my commands, under cunning pretenses -- by destroying national feeling in the army -- by weakening its confidence -- and by the destruction, through unnecessary exposures and dangers, of that portion of the army that
he could not corrupt in his base designs to make himself military dictator. God, in his inscrutable wisdom, knows why the traitor was permitted to be successful. In vain fell the bravest of men in this long war in vain were the exertions of my countrymen in vain did the aged father send, with pious heart, his only son, the prop of his declining years, and the bride her bridegroom -- in vain did all private interests yield to the loftiest patriotism -- in vain arose the prayers of a suffering people -- in vain did the ardent wishes of every friend of freedom accompany our efforts -- in vain did the Genius of Liberty hope for success. My country was martyred. Her rulers are hangmen. They have spoken the impious words that the liberty-loving nation 'lies at the feet of the Czar.' Instead of the thankful prayer of faith, of hope, and of love, the air of my native land is filled with the cries of despair, and I, her chosen leader, am an exile. The diplomacy of Europe has changed Turkish hospitality to me and my companions into hopeless bondage. It is a painful existence. My youthful children have begun the morning of their life in the bands of my country's destroyer, and I -- but no : desponding does not become me, for I am a man. I am not permitted, or I would say I envy the dead. Who is unfortunate ? I am in Broussa, where the great Hannibal once lived in exile, homeless like myself, but rich in services performed for his country, while I claim only fidelity to mine. The ingratitude of his nation went with him in his banishment, but the sorrowful love of my countrymen follows me to my place of exile. To thee, my God, I offer thanks that thou didst deem me worthy to suffer for my dear
Hungary. Let me suffer afflictions, but accept them as propitiatory sacrifices for my native land.
And thou, Hungarian nation, yield not to despair! Be patient: hope, and wait thy time! Though all men forget thee, the God of Justice will not. Thy sufferings are recorded, and thy tears remembered. The blood of thy martyrs -- thy noble sons -- which moistened thy soil, will have its fruits. The victims which daily fall for thee are, like the ever green cypress over the graves of the dead, the symbol of the resurrection. The races whom thy destroyer excited against thee by lies and cunning, will be undeceived; they will know that thou didst not fight for pre-eminence, but for the common liberty -- that thou wast their brother, and bled for them also. The temporary victory of our enemies will but serve to take the film from the eyes of the deceived people. The sentiment of sympathy for our sufferings will inspire among the smaller states and races, the wish for a fraternal confederation -- for that which I always urged as the only safe policy, and guarantee of freedom for them all.
The realization of this idea will hurl the haughty despots to the abyss of the past, and Hungary, free, surrounded by free nations, will be great, glorious and independent.
At the moment when I hardly hoped for further consolation on earth, behold the God of Mercy freed my wife, and enabled her, through a thousand dangers, to reach me in my place of exile. Like a hunted deer, she could not for five months find in her own native land a place of rest. The executioners of the beardless Nero placed a reward upon her head, but she has
escaped the tyrants. She was to me and my exiled countrymen, like the rainbow to Noah, for she brought intelligence of hope in the unshaken souls of the Hungarian people, and in the affectionate sympathy of the neighboring nations who had fought against us. They had aided the wife of the much-slandered governor of Hungary.
Although the sympathy of the world often depends upon the result of actions, and the successful are applauded, still Hungary by her noble bearing and trials has drawn the attention of the world. The sympathy which she has excited in both worlds, and the thundering curse which the lips of millions have pronounced against her destroyers, announce, like the roaring, of the wind before the storm, the coming retribution of Heaven.
Among the nations of the world, there are two which demand our gratitude and affection. England, no less powerful than she is free and glorious, supported us by her sympathy, and by the approving voice of her noblest sons and the millions of her people. And that chosen land of freedom beyond the ocean -- the all-powerful people of the United States, with their liberal government -- inspired us with hope, and gave us courage by their deep interest in our cause and sufferings, and by their condemnation of our executioners.
The President of the United States, whom the confidence of a free people had elevated to the loftiest station in the world, in his message to Congress, announced that the American government would have been the first to recognize the independence of
Hungary. And the senators and representatives in Congress marked the destroyers of my country's liberty with the stigma of ignominy, and expressed, with indignant feelings, their contempt for the conduct of Austria, and their wish to break the diplomatic intercourse with such a government. They summoned the despots before the judgment-seat of humanity ; they proclaimed that the world would condemn them; they declared that Austria and Russia had been unjust, tyranical and barbarous, and deserved to be reprobated by mankind, while Hungary was worthy of universal sympathy.
The Hungarians, more fortunate than I, who were able to reach the shores of the New World, were received by the people and government of the United States in the most generous manner -- yes, like brothers. With one hand they hurled anathemas at the despots, and with the other welcomed the humble exiles to partake of that glorious American liberty more to be valued than the glitter of crowns. Our hearts are filled with emotions to see how this great nation extends its sympathy and aid to every Hungarian who is so fortunate as to arrive in America. The sympathetic declaration of such a people, under such circumstances, with, similar sentiments in England, is not a mere sigh which the wind blows away, but is prophetic of the future. What a blessed sight to see whole nations activated by such sentiments!
Free citizens of America! you inspired my countrymen to noble deeds; your approval imparted confidence ; your sympathy consoled in adversity, gave a ray of hope for the future, and enabled us to bear the
I, who know Hungary so well, firmly believe she is not lost ; and the intelligent citizens of America have decided not only with impulsive kindness, but with reason and policy, to favor the unfortunate but not subjugated Hungary. The sound of that encouraging voice is not like a funeral dirge, but as the shrill trumpet that will call the world to judgment.
Who does not see that Austria, even in her victory, has given herself a mortal wound? Her weakness is betrayed. The world no longer believes that Europe needs the preservation of this decaying empire. It is evident that its existence is a curse to mankind ; it can never promote the welfare of society. The magic of its imagined power is gone ; it was a delusion which can deceive no longer. Among all the races of this empire -- not excepting the hereditary state -- there is none that does not despise the reigning family of Hapsburg. This power has no moral ground of support; its vain dreams of a united empire -- for which it has committed the most unheard-of crimes -- are proved to be mere ravings, at which the world laughs. No one loves or respects it ; and when it falls, not a tear of regret will follow it to the grave. And fall it surely will. The moment Russia withdraws her support, the decayed edifice will crumble to dust. A shot fired by an English or by an American vessel from the Adriatic, would be like the trumpet of the city of Jericho. And
this impious, foolish government thinks to control fate by the hangman's cord ! How long will Russia be able to assist? This Czar -- who boasts that his mission is to be the scourge of all the nations striving for liberty - will not the Almighty, whose viceregent he profanely assumes to be, blast the miserable boaster? The very character of his government is a declaration of war against the rights and interests of humanity, and the existence of other nations? Will the world suffer this long? Not long.
The Hungarian nation, in her war, has not only gained a consciousness of her own strength, but she has forced the conviction into the minds of other nations that she deserves to exist, and to be independent; and she can show justly that her existence and independence are essential to the cause of liberty in Europe. No, no! Hungary is not lost! By her faith, bravery, and by her foresight, which teaches her to abide her time, she will be yet among the foremost in the war of universal liberty!
You, noble Americans, we bless in the name of the God of Liberty! To you, who have summoned the murderers of my countrymen before the judgment-seat of the world to you, who are the first judges of this court -- I will bring the complaints of my nation, and before you I will plead her cause. When the house of Hapsburg, with the aid of a foreign army, invaded my country, and had destroyed, by their manifesto of the 4th of March, 1849, the foundation upon which the union with Austria rested, there remained for Hungary no alternative but the Declaration of Independence, which the National Assembly unanimously voted on
the 14th of April, l849, and which the whole nation solemnly accepted, and sealed with their blood.
I declare to you, in the most solemn manner, that all which has taken place, or that may hereafter take place, proceeding from individuals or government, contrary to this declaration, which is in prefect accord with the fundamental law of Hungary, is illegal and unjust.
Before you, I assert that the accusation that the Magyar race was unjust to the other races -- by means of which a portion of the Servians, Wallachians, Slavonians and Germans dwelling in Hungary were excited against us -- is an impious slander, circulated by the house of Hapsburg, which shrinks from no crime to weaken the united forces of our army, to conquer one race after another, and thus bring them all under the yoke of slavery.
It is true, some of the races in Hungary had reason to complain ; but these subjects of complaint were the inevitable consequences of the pre-existing state of things, and the Austrian interference. But the Croatians had no reason to complain. The race of half a million, in a separate province, had a National Assembly of its own, and enjoyed greater privileges than even the Hungarians. They contributed proportionally but half as much in taxes ; they possessed equal rights with Hungary; while the Hungarian Protestants, on account of their religion, were not suffered to own lands in Croatia. Their grievances and ours were the same in the perpetual violation of the constitution by the imperial government. But their own peculiar grievances arose from the evils of former times, and
from the Austrian system of government, which forcibly placed the Slavonian, Servian, and Wallachian boundary districts on the German military footing.
The moment, however, our people became free, and enjoyed their political rights, they became just, and placed all things upon a basis of freedom and perfect equality. But some of these races, blinded by the infernal slander and suggestions of Austria, took up arms against us. This people, who for centuries had endured slavery, fought against their own freedom! God forgive them! They knew not what they did.
In America, people of different languages dwell but who says that it is unjust for senators and representatives to use the English language in their debates, and to make it the official language of the government?
This was what the Magyar race asked in Hungary. There was this difference only -- that in America it was not necessary to establish this by law, for the original settlers had stamped their language in the country; but in Hungary a law was necessary to make the Magyar the official language. The use of the Latin tongue -- a bad relic of the middle ages, which the clergy and aristocracy preserved as something precious, imitating the ancient despots, who caused the laws to be written in small letters and placed upon high towers, that the people might not understand their rights -- had been retained among us. It was necessary to have a living, spoken, popular language. And what other could we have than the noble Magyar?
How often have I, and other leaders with me, said to my countrymen that they must be strictly just, and seek their future greatness not in the predominance of
one race, but in the perfect equality of all! My counsel was adopted and made the basis of the government. The same freedom, the same privileges, without regard to language or religion, the free development of each race under the protection of the law, were accorded to all. We not only guaranteed the right to use any language in the churches and schools, but we afforded aid for the education and development of each nationality. The principle we announced was, that either the state should protect no religion, no nationality -- leaving all to the free action of the people - or that it should protect all alike.
In the general administration, the predominance of our language, and consequently of the race that spoke it, was a necessity ; but in the administration of county affairs, which in some respects resembled that of the individual states in North America, the use of each language was granted. In the courts, in the trial by jury, in the right of petition, in the republication of all laws and ordinances, the various races had the right to use their own language. In one word, nothing was left undone which could tend to place all on a footing of the most perfect equality. True, we did not -- as Austria has done for political purposes solely, to enslave all the people and make the brave Hungarians a subordinate nation -- make a territorial division of the lands. We respected rights, and wished to progress, but were too honest to commence a system of spoliation. And who has been benefited by this policy of the Vienna bureaucracy? Not even those on whom the pretended favors have been conferred.
When those races clamored for national rights, I
boldly demanded what was wanting, and what could be granted without injury to the country. No one answered but reckless men, who spoke of territorial division. The Servians desired to have the comitat Bacs and the three counties of the Banat, as a separate Servian state. The Wallachians wished to have Transylvania. They (the Servians,) did not consider that they owned no separate portion of the land in Hungary, and that in the Bacs and the Banat were Wallachians, Germans and Magyars, who could not be made subordinate to the less numerous Servians. So, also, in Transylvania there were Magyars, Seklers and Saxons, who would complain of such a connection with Wallachia.
As there were various races, speaking different languages in Hungary, and divided into as many municipalities, who could blame us for laying the foundation of Government in a just equality to all? Croatia alone was a separate territory ; and how often have we said to her, that if she would remain in union with us, we would give her the hand of brotherhood ; but if she wisheed [sic] to separate we would not hinder her! We could not, however, permit such a division of Hungary as would have destroyed her as a nation. It was Austria who sowed the seeds of division and dissolution.
Citizens of America! to you I declare honestly that my aim in the federation of Hungary with smaller nations, was to secure the nationality and independence of each, and the freedom of all ; and had any thing been wanting which could have been justly granted to any or all of the races in Hungary, the Magyars had only to know it, and it would have been performed
with readiness ; for freedom, and not power was their desire.
Finally, I declare, that by the Declaration of Independence by which I was elected governor of Hungary, I protest, so long as the people do not by their free will release me from that office, that no one can legally control the affairs of government but myself. This protestation is not made in a feeling of vanity or desire to be conspicuous, but from respect to the inherent rights of my countrymen. I strove not for power. The brilliancy of a crown would not seduce me. The final aim of my life, after having liberated my dear Hungary, was to end my days as a private citizen and an humble farmer.
My country, in the hour of danger, called upon me to assist in the struggle for freedom. I responded to its call. Others, doubtless, were more able, who could have won more fame, but I will yield to none in the purity of my motives. Perhaps it was confidence in my ardent patriotism and honesty of purpose, which induced the people to give me the power. They believed freedom would be safe in my bands. I felt my weakness, and told them I could not promise liberty unless they were united as one man, and would lay aside all personal, all sectional interests. I foretold that, if the nation was divided it would fall. As long as they followed my injunctions, and were united, they were unconquerable -- they performed miracles of valor. The fall of Hungary commenced the day they began to divide. Not knowing the secret causes of this division, and not suspecting treachery, and wishing to inspire confidence, to give skill and all the elements of success to our army, and caring nothing for
my own fame, doing all for the good of my country, I gave command of the forces to another. I was assured in the most solemn engagement, by the man to whom I gave the power, that he would use it for the welfare and independence of the nation, and that he would be responsible to me and the people for the fulfillment of these conditions. He betrayed his country, and gave the army to the enemy. Had we succeeded after this terrible blow, he should have met his reward. And even now he is not freed from his accountability to the nation, no more than I, in the moral right and sense, cease to be the governor of Hungary. A short time may reverse again the fate of all. The aurora of liberty breaks upon my vision, even at Broussa!
I have, therefore, intrusted [sic] to Ladislas Ujhazi, Obergespann of the Saros comitat, and civil governor of Komorn, the mission to be my representative, and through me, the representative of the Hungarian nation, to the people and government of the United States, hoping and believing that so generous a people will not judge the merits of our cause by a temporary defeat, but will recognize Governor Ujhazi and his companions, with their accustomed kindness.
May God bless your country forever! May it have the glorious destiny to share with other nations the blessings of that liberty which constitutes its own happiness and fame! May your great example, noble Americans, be to other nations the source of social virtue ; your power be the terror of all tyrants -- the protector of the distressed ; and your free country ever continue to be the asylum for the oppressed of all nations.
Written at my place of banishment, Broussa, Asia Minor, 27th March, 1850.
Governor of Hungary.
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