Read CHAPTER XV. INTEREST OF AMERICA IN HUNGARIAN LIBERTY of Select Speeches of Kossuth, free online book, by Kossuth, on

[Baltimore, Deth.]

On the 27th December Kossuth reached Baltimore, and was met by an immense concourse of citizens and a long line of military, who escorted him to his quarters with much enthusiastic demonstration. In the evening he addressed the citizens in the Hall of the Maryland Institute, which was densely crowded, great numbers standing outside the building, when unable to get admittance.

After an apologetic introduction, Kossuth proceeded to say:

Gentlemen! It is gratifying to me to receive this spontaneous welcome. I was already grateful, during my stay in New York, to receive the expression of your sentiments, and your generous resolutions. They become the more beneficial to me, because I am on my way and very near to Washington City, where the elected of your national confidence stand in their proud position, as conservators of those lofty interests, which bind your thirty-one stars of Sovereign States into one mighty constellation of Freedom, Power, and Right; where the Congress and Government of this vast Republic watch over the common weal of your united country, and hereby make you a Power on earth, a fullgrown member of that great Family of Nations, which, having One Father in heaven, are brethren, and should act as brethren.

Among the interests intrusted by you to the Congress and Government, your foreign policy is nearly the most important. This, in a great and powerful nation, can have no other basis than Eternal Law and Christian Morality. Even your peculiar interests are, in my belief, best served, when your foreign policy rests, not on transitory considerations, but on everlasting principles. Even in private life no man can entirely cut himself off from others. A man willing to attempt it would be an exile in his own country, an exile in his own city, an exile in his family. Just so with nations, which in the larger family of man are individual members. If a nation seclude itself, it is an exile in the midst of humanity. No man, ladies and gentlemen, is independent of his fellow-man; no nation, however powerful, is independent of other nations. Put the richest, the strongest man for a single week wholly apart from family, city, country, and he will quickly learn his essential weakness. In a nation, the consequence of total isolation is not felt as soon, but it will at length be felt as surely. The hours of nations are counted by years; yet the secluded nation, self-exiled from mankind, dwindles away. Woe to the people, whose citizens care only for their own present, and not for the future of their country! the future, in which they have to live immortally by children and children’s children, with whose glory and happiness and power they ought now to sympathize. Men or nations secluded are like the silk-worm, which secretes itself in a self-woven case, and at length creeps out to die. So will it at length be with the nation which is wrapped up in self.

It is one of your glories, that some portions of your united republic are farther from other portions than Hungary is from Baltimore: mere distance is therefore no reason why you should be unconcerned about our fate. You are not too far for commercial intercourse with the most distant coasts of Europe; and especially since the invention of one of your citizens has been brought to higher perfection, the ocean rather unites you to us, than separates you. Would you have the advantages of the connection, without the duties which spring out of it? Disregard of duty sooner or later kills advantage. I need not remind you what a link of nature, blood, language, science, industry, religion, civilization, exists between you and us, and binds us ever tighter. You cannot help feeling at home our condition in Europe. Our peace or war, our civilization or barbarism, our freedom or oppression, our wealth or starvation, progress or retrogression, must act upon you, just as your condition reacts upon us. The link between the destinies of Christendom cannot be cut asunder. In fact, there never yet was a time when Europe more demanded that you should have some policy towards it; and indifference is none at all. At this moment it is under universal oppression of social, political, and religious liberty, the three treasures which make your glory and happiness. This oppression is ordered by Russia, and executed by her satellites. The elected President of France has impiously stabbed the constitution, to make himself Emperor. The Austrian Ministry has openly declared that the absolutist powers will maintain him. Thus the impulse of revolution has been given; its vibration will be felt throughout Europe and in my fatherland. Never will you have an opportunity more glorious for you, and more favourable to mankind, for adopting a real policy founded upon principles.

The people of Hungary have abundant motives to risk life for freedom and independence. Once we had a nationality; now we have none. Once we had a constitution; by the blessing of God we succeeded to transform it three years ago from an aristocratic to a democratic one; now Hungary has no constitution at all. For a thousand years we were a free people; we are now so no longer. Like a flock of sheep, we are appropriated, not by the Austrian empire, not by the nation, but by a despotic ambitious family. We had freedom of the press. Not nineteen years ago, I began the struggle, and endured three years imprisonment for it; but we won that great right of mankind free expression of thought. Now there is no press at all in Hungary; there is only the hangman and martial law. We established equal protection for every religion; now there is equal oppression for all. The Protestant Church had its own self-government for its churches and schools, won by victorious arms and secured by a hundred laws; now the laws are torn down, and the freedom of church and school is gone. The Catholic Church had control of its own estates; now, day by day, the nearly bankrupt Austrian government is overgrowing that property by the poisonous weeds of a new loan, on which it vegetates, a curse to every nation on the continent. Such is the condition of the Catholic Church, concerning which I a Protestant, not only by birth, but also by conviction declare, that during a whole lifetime, when Hungary was struggling for religious liberty, that Church contended in the foremost rank for the rights of us Protestants. So much do we value the freedom of conscience, that the very thought was repugnant to us all, that there should be unequal rights of citizenship between Protestants and Catholics and professors of the Faith of Moses. Zeal for religious freedom will kindle Magyars to struggle, as long as there is blood in our veins. As during three centuries, so the late war was for religious independence as well as civil; indeed, still earlier, we were the barrier of Christendom against the invading Mahommedan. We succeeded lately in freeing the agriculture of Hungary, and transforming peasants into freeholders; now the Austrian dynasty is stealthily bringing back feudal rights. In freeing the peasants, we provided for indemnification of landlords; Austria taxes the peasants very heavily, and does not (for she cannot) indemnify the landlords; because her violence and wastefulness does not know how to turn our public estates to account. She favours a few landlords only, who are faithful tools of her oppression. During our struggle, we issued paper-money, it was called the Kossuth-bank-note; Austria disavowed it, and commanded its surrender, yet twenty millions are firmly held by the people, as valuable after a new revolution. Before we fell under the stroke of Russian interference, the taxation permitted by our Parliament was only four and a half millions of dollars; Austria now imposes SIXTY. Our people burn their tobacco-seed and cut down their vines, rather than endure her tax. Such are the motives which Austria gives to Hungary not to make a new revolution! There is not a single interest which she has not mortally wounded. The mind, the heart, dignity, conscience, self-esteem, hatred, love, revenge, besides every material interest of every class, is engaged to the struggle.

The oppression of Hungary has ratified the oppression of all our continent. Since she has fallen, Italy has been completely crushed, the moderate freedom of Germany has been put down by Austria with the support of Russia; lastly, the usurpation of Louis Napoleon has been made possible. Without the restoration of Hungary Europe cannot be freed from Russian thraldom; under which nationalities are erased, no freedom is possible, all religions are subjected to like slavery. Gentlemen! the Emperor Napoleon spoke a prophetic word, when he said that in fifty years all Europe would be either republican or Cossack. Hungary once free, Europe is republican; Hungary permanently crushed, all Europe is Cossack. And what does Hungary need for freedom? Not that other nations should fight our proper battle against our immediate oppressor. We have hearts loving freedom and ready to shed their blood for it; we have armies fully equal to Austria, we want only “FAIR PLAY.” Let the United States feel itself to be as it is, a Power on earth, bound to aid in the police of the nations, and in the name of violated right let it say to the Russian intruder, “Keep back, hands off, let the brave Magyars fight their own battle, else we must take their part.” For centuries, perhaps, you will have no more glorious opportunity than now. Hitherto, the word Glory has been connected with conquest and oppression. Take the New Glory for yours, by assuring to all nations exemption from the conspiracy of tyrants. That is what I first humbly request and hope.

[Kossuth proceeded, as in former speeches, to explain his other requests, viz. secondly, free commerce with America, whether Hungary was in war with Austria or not; thirdly, that when the suitable moment arrived, the Government should recognize the legitimate character of the Declaration of Independence made by Hungary in April, 1849. He added]:

These requests I have very often explained since I have had the honour to be in the United States. I explained them yesterday in Philadelphia the cradle of your Declaration of Independence. There I was answered, not only by the unanimous adoption of these resolutions on the part of the city of Harrisburg the capital of Pennsylvania, but also by the people of Philadelphia, at a great and important meeting. Nor was that enough. I received more in Philadelphia. I was told that, besides the granting of these my humble requests, whenever war breaks out for Hungary’s freedom and independence I shall find brave hearts and stout arms among the twenty-four millions of the people of the United States ready to go over to Europe and fight side by side in the great battle for the freedom and independence of the European continent. I was told that it was not possible, when the battle for mankind’s liberty is fought, for the sword of Washington to rest in its scabbard. That sword, which struck the first blow here on this continent for the republican freedom of this great country, must be present there, where the last stroke for all humanity will be given. Now, gentlemen, I will not abuse your kind indulgence and patience, which you have bestowed in your crowded situation. I will only say, that should this be the generous will of the people of the United States, in the name of the honour of my nation I can give the assurance that the Hungarians will be found worthy to fight side by side with you for civil and political freedom on the European continent, and to take care, with the sword of Washington, that no hair of that lock which I received as a present in Philadelphia, and which I promised to attach to that very standard which I will bear to decide the victory against despotism that no hair of that lock shall fall into the hands of tyrants. And now may the ladies who have honoured me with their presence graciously allow me to express to them my most humble thanks and one humble prayer. The destinies of mankind the future of humanity repose in the hands of womanhood. The mark which the mother imprints upon the brow of the child remains for his whole life. Ladies of the United States, when the wandering exile passes away from your presence, take to your kind care the great cause of the liberty of the world with the tenderness with which a mother takes care of her child; and when you take care of this great cause, the sympathy of the people of the United States will not vanish like the passing emotion of the heart, but will become substantial, active, and effectual.

The speaker then took his seat, with three times three from the audience.

Judge Legrand followed and proposed the Harrisburg resolutions, which were adopted. They are as annexed:

Resolved, That the citizens of Harrisburg, the seat of government of Pennsylvania, in town meeting assembled, hereby approve and endorse the three propositions promulgated by Louis Kossuth, Governor of Hungary, in his great speech before the Mayor and authorities of the city of New York, viz.:

“First. That feeling interested in the maintenance of the laws of nations, acknowledging the sovereign right of every people to dispose of its own domestic concerns to be one of the laws, and the interference with this sovereign right to be a violation of these laws of nations, the people of the United States resolved to respect and to make respected these public laws declares the Russian past intervention in Hungary to be a violation of these laws, which, if reiterated, would be a new violation, and would not be regarded indifferently by the people of the United States.

“Second. That the people of the United States are resolved to maintain its right of commercial intercourse with the nations of Europe, whether they be in a state of revolution against their government or not; and that, with the view of approaching scenes on the continent of Europe, the people invite the government to take appropriate measures for the protection of the trade of the people with the Mediterranean.

“Third. That the people of the United States should declare their opinion in respect to the question of the independence of Hungary, and urge the government to act accordingly.”

Resolved, That the people of Hungary are, and ought to remain a free and independent nation; that Louis Kossuth is their lawful governor, and that the Hungarian people should not be prevented from exercising the rights of freemen by the tyranny of Austria and Russia.

Resolved, That we extend to Louis Kossuth, Governor of Hungary, and the Hungarian nation, that has made such a noble stand in the cause of freedom, that sympathy, aid, and support, which freemen alone know how to grant.

Resolved, That a committee of fifteen, including the officers of this meeting, be appointed to repair to Philadelphia, and invite the Governor of Hungary to visit the capital of Pennsylvania at such times as may suit his convenience.