Read CHAPTER XVIII. ASPECTS OF AMERICA TOWARD ENGLAND of Select Speeches of Kossuth, free online book, by Kossuth, on

[Speech at the Anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, Ja.]

F.P. Blair, Esq., in the name of the Democratic Association, pronounced an elaborate address, vindicating the interposition of the King of France to aid the American Colonies when they revolted from England, and pointing out that America, in defence of her institutions, may be called on to support the masses of the European nations as a breakwater between herself and Despotism. He showed the certain danger to which English freedom would be exposed from the triumph of despotism, and asked:

What have we to expect from neutrality? We may anticipate the treatment which we received from both belligerents when Napoleon pressed on to empire over all the nation as Russia does now.... Can we hope, that when the war is intended to exterminate the principle of which our government is the great exemplar, our people will be allowed the immunity of free trade with the belligerents to grow rich and strong by their calamities?... The impending danger can only be averted from us by the ability of the people of Europe, now kept down by military mercenaries, to rise and assert their own rights. To encourage such efforts is the duty of every free people, and of all that would be free.... Shall our government hesitate to denounce, as a violation of the law of nations, the intervention of the Czar? Shall it hesitate to declare it a justification of a counter-intervention?... Our countrymen will not assent to the one-sided doctrine. They will intervene to lift up those stricken down by intervention,

The exiles from Europe Liberty and Louis Kossuth.

The band struck up the well-known Marseilles Hymn, and Kossuth, rising to respond, was received with prolonged cheers. The music having ceased, three hearty cheers were given, and Louis Kossuth responded to the toast and the address in the following remarks, which were received with warm enthusiasm:

Gentlemen: I feel sincerely gratified with the honour of being invited to be present on this solemn occasion, dedicated to the memory of a glorious as well as highly responsible fact in your history.

There is high political wisdom in the custom yearly to revive the memory of civil virtue and national glory in the mind of the living generation, because nothing else is so efficient to keep alive the spirit of patriotism that powerful genius, which, like the angels of Scripture, guards with flaming sword the Paradise of national liberty and independence. Happy the land where the history of the past is the history of the people, and not a mere flattery of kings; and doubly happy the land where the rewards of the past are brightened by present glory, present happiness; and where the noble deeds of the dead, instead of being a mournful monument of vanished greatness which saddens the heart, though it ennobles the mind, are a lasting source of national welfare to the age and to posterity. But where, as in this your happy land, national history is the elementary basis of education where the very schoolboy is better acquainted with the history of his country than in monarchies almost the professors are in such a country it would be indeed but a ridiculous parading of vanity for a stranger to dwell upon facts which every child is better acquainted with than he can be. Allow me therefore, gentlemen, rather briefly to expound what is the practical philosophy of that great victory which you are assembled to celebrate what is the moral of the strain as it presents itself to the inquirer’s mind.

As a man has to pass through several periods of age, each of them marked with its own peculiarities, before he comes to a settled position in life, even so a nation. A nation has first to be born, then to grow; then it has to prove its passive vitality by undergoing a trial of life. Afterwards it has to prove its active force to rise within its own immediate horizon. At last, it must take its proper seat amongst the nations of the world as a power on earth. Every one of these periods of national life must be gone through. There is no help for it. It is a necessary process of life. And every one of these life-periods has its own natural condition, which must be accepted as a necessity, even if we should not be pleased with it.

Gentlemen, having passed through the ordeal of an earnest life, with the prospect of yet having to steer through stormy gales, it is natural that, while I grasp my helm, I gaze at History, as my compass. And there is no history more instructive than yours, because you have concentrated within the narrow scope of a few years that natural process of national life, which elsewhere was achieved only through centuries. It would be a mistake, and a mistake not without danger, to believe that your nation is still in its youth because it has lived but seventy-five years. The natural condition of nations is not measured by years, but by those periods of the process of life which I have mentioned. And there is no nation on earth in whose history those periods were so distinctly marked as in yours. First, you had to be born. That is the period of your glorious struggle for independence. Endless honour be to those who conducted it! You were baptized with blood, as it seems to be the destiny of nations; but it was the genius of Freedom which stood god-father at your baptism, and gave to you a lasting character by giving you the Christian name of “Republic.” Then you had to grow, and, indeed, you have grown with the luxuriant rapidity of the virgin nature of the American soil. Washington knew the nature of this soil, fertilized by the blood of your martyrs and warmed by the sun of your liberty. He knew it, when he told your fathers that you wanted but twenty years of peaceful growth to defy any power whatsoever in a just cause. You have grown through those twenty years, and wisely avoided to endanger your growth by undertaking a toil not becoming to your growing age; and there you stood about another twenty years, looking resolutely but unpretendingly around, if there be anybody to question that you were really a nation. The question was put in 1812, and decided by that glorious victory, the anniversary of which you celebrate to-day. That victory has a deeper meaning in your history than only that of a repulsed invasion. It marks a period in your national life the period of acknowledged, unshakeable security of your national existence. It is the consummation of your declaration of independence. You have proved by it that the United States possess an incontestable vitality, having the power to preserve that independent national position which your fathers established by the declaration of independence. In reality, it was the victory of New Orleans by which you took your seat amongst the independent nations of the world never to be contested through all posterity.

If the history of New Orleans showed the security of your national existence, the victorious war against Mexico proved that also your national interests must be respected. The period of active vitality is attained. It remains yet to take your seat, not amongst the nations of the earth, for that you have since the day of New Orleans, but amongst the powers on earth. What is the meaning of that word “power on earth?” The meaning of it is, to have not only the power to guard your own particular interests, but also to have a vote in the regulation of the common interests of humanity, of which you are an independent member in a word, to become a tribunal enforcing the law of nations, precisely as your supreme court maintains your own constitution and laws. And, indeed, all argument of statesmanship, all philosophy of history, would be vain, if I were mistaken that your great nation is arrived at this unavoidable period of life.

The instinct of the people is in the life of a nation precisely that which conscience is in the life of man. Before we, in our private life, arrive at a clear conviction what course we have to adopt in this or that occurrence, the conscience that inexplicable spirit in our breast tells us in a pulsation of our heart what is right or what is wrong. And this first pulsation of conscience is very trustworthy. Then comes the reflective operation of the mind: it now and then lulls conscience to sleep, now and then modifies particulars, and now and then raises it to the degree of conviction. But conscience was in advance of the mind. So is the instinct of the people the conscience of nations. Nor needs the highest intellectual power of individuality to feel offended at the idea that the instinct of the people is always the first to feel the right and wrong. It is the pulsation of the heart of the nation; it is the advertisement of conscience, which never heaves without reason, without necessity.

Indeed, gentlemen, it is not my presence here which elicited that majestic interest for national law and international rights. Nay, I had not been here, but for the pre-existence of this interest. It raised glorious interpreters during the struggles of Greece, when, indeed, I was yet too young to be in public life. It flashed up, kindled by Poland’s heroic struggles, and it blazed high and broad when we were fighting the sacred battle of independence for the European continent. Had this interest and sympathy not existed long ago, I were not now here. My very freedom is the result of it.

And may I be permitted to mention that there were several concerns quite unconnected with the cause of Hungary, which have much contributed to direct public opinion to feel interested in the question of foreign policy, so naturally connected with the question, What is international law?

Your relations with Mexico and Central America; the threatened intervention of European powers in the possible issue of a recent case which brought so much mourning into many families in the United States; the question about the Sandwich Islands, which European diplomacy appeared to contemplate as an appropriate barrier between your Pacific States and the Indian and Chinese trade; the sad fate of an American citizen now condemned to the galleys in Africa; and several other considerations of pressing concern, must necessarily have contributed to excite the interest of public opinion for the settlement of the question, What is and what shall be law amongst nations? law not dictated by the whims of ambitious despots, but founded upon everlasting principles, such as republics can acknowledge who themselves live upon principles.

The cause of Hungary is implicated with the very questions of right, in which your country in so many respects is concerned. It happens to lie so broad across the principles of international law, as to occupy not only the instinct of the people but also the calm reflection of your statesmen, conspicuous by mature wisdom and patriotism; and herein is the key, besides the generosity congenial to freemen, why the cause which I plead is honoured with so rapid a progress in public sentiment.

And let me entreat your permission for one topic more. I received, during my brief stay in England, some one hundred and thirty addresses from cities and associations, all full of the same warm sympathy for my country’s cause, which you also have so generously testified. That sympathy was accorded to me, notwithstanding my frank declaration that I am a republican, and that my country, when restored to independence, can be nothing but a republic. Now this is a fact gratifying to every friend of progress in public sentiment, highly proving that the people are everywhere honourable, just, noble, and good. And do you know, gentlemen, which of these numerous addresses were the most glorious to the people of England and the most gratifying to me? It was one in which I heard your Washington praised, and sorrow avowed that England had opposed that glorious cause upon which is founded the noble fame of that great man; and the addresses (numerous they were indeed) in which the hope and resolution were expressed, that England and the United States, forgetting the sorrows of the past will in brotherly love go hand in hand to support the eternal principles of international law and freedom on earth.

Yes indeed, sir, you were right to say that the justice of your struggle, which took out of England’s hand a mighty continent, is openly acknowledged even by the English people itself. The memory of the day of New Orleans must of course recall to your mind the wrongs against which you so gloriously fought. Oh, let me entreat you, bury the hatred of past ages in the grave where all the crimes of the past lie mouldering with the ashes of those who sinned, and take the glorious opportunity to benefit the great cause of humanity.

One thing let me tell you, gentlemen. People and Governments are different things in such a country as Great Britain is. It is sorrowful enough that the people have often to pay for what the government sinned. Let it not be said in history, that even the people of the United States made a kindred people pay for the sins of its government. And remember that you can mightily react upon the public opinion of Britain, and that the people of Britain can react upon the course of its own government. It were indeed a great misfortune to see the government of Great Britain pushed by irritation to side with the absolutist powers against the oppressed nations about to struggle for independence and liberty. Even Ireland could only lose by this. And besides its own loss, this might perhaps be just the decisive blow against liberty; whereas if the government of England, otherwise remaining as it is, do but unite with you not to allow foreign interference with our struggles on the continent this would become almost a sure guarantee of the victory of those struggles; and, according as circumstances stand, that would be indeed the most practical benefit to the noble people of Ireland also, because freedom, independence, and the principles of natural law could not fail to benefit their cause, which so well merits the sympathy of every just man and they have also the sympathy I know it of the better half of England itself.

Hatred is no good counsellor, gentlemen. The wisdom of love is a better one. What people has suffered more than my poor Hungary has from Russia? Shall I hate the people of Russia for it? Oh never! I have but pity and Christian brotherly love for it. It is the government, it is the principle of the government, which makes every drop of my blood boil and which must fall, if humanity is to live. We were for centuries in war against the Turks, and God knows what we have suffered by it! But past is past. Now we have a common enemy, and thus we have a common interest, a mutual esteem, and love rules where our fathers have fought.

Gentlemen, how far this supreme duty toward your own interest will allow you to go in giving life and effect to the principle which you so generously proclaim, and which your party (as I have understood) have generously proclaimed in different parts that you will in your wisdom decide, remaining always the masters of your action and of your fate. But that principle will rest; that principle is true; that principle is just; and you are just, because you are free. I hope therefore to see you cordially unite with me once more in the sentiment “Intervention for non-intervention.”