Read CHAPTER XXXIX. KOSSUTH’S DEFENCE AGAINST CERTAIN MEAN IMPUTATIONS of Select Speeches of Kossuth, free online book, by Kossuth, on

[Jersey City.]

Kossuth was here welcomed with an address by the Hon. D. S. Gregory, whose guest he became. Great efforts had been made to prejudice the public against him; notwithstanding which he was received with enthusiasm. In the evening, in his speech at the Presbyterian Church, he alluded to the attacks of his opponents as follows:

Mr. Mayor, and Ladies and Gentlemen, There have been some who, to the great satisfaction of despots, and their civil and religious confederates, have moved Heaven and Hell to lower my sacred mission to the level of a stage-play; and to ridicule the enthusiastic outburst of popular sentiments, by defaming its object and its aim.

That was a sorrowful sight indeed. To meet opposition we must be prepared. There is no truth yet but has been opposed: the car which leads truth to triumph must pass over martyrs; that is the doom of humanity. Mankind, though advanced in intellectual skill, is pretty much the same in heart as it was thousands of years ago if not worse; for wealth and prosperity do not always improve the heart. It is sorrowful to see that not even such a cause as that which I plead, can escape from being dragged down insultingly into the mud. With the ancient Greeks, the head of an unfortunate was held sacred even to the gods. Now-a-days, with some, but let us be thankful! only with some few degenerate persons, even calamity like ours is but an occasion for a bad joke. Jesus Christ felt thirsty on the cross, and received vinegar and wormwood to quench the thirst of his agony. Oh ye spirits of my country’s departed martyrs, sadden not your melancholy look at mean insult. The soil which you watered by your blood will yet be free, and that is enough! Ye will hear glad tidings about it when I join your ranks.

But now, as for myself. When I was in private life, I despised to become rich, and sacrificed thousands to the public, and often saw my own family embarrassed by domestic cares. I refused indemnifications, and lived poor. When raised to the highest place in my country, and provided with an allowance four times as great as your President’s, I still lived in my old modest way. I had millions at my disposal, yet I went into exile penniless. Who now are ye, or what like proof have ye given of not adoring the “Almighty Dollar,” who dare to insult my honour and call me a sturdy beggar, and ask in what brewery I will invest the money I get from Americans? And why? because I ask a poor alms to prepare the approaching struggle of my country; because I cannot and may not tell the public (which is to tell my country’s enemy), how I dispose of the sums which I receive. And Americans, pretending to be republicans, pretending to sympathize with liberty, and wield that light artillery of Freedom, the Press, try to put on me mean stigmas, in order to make it impossible for me to aid the contest of Hungary for its own and mankind’s liberty.

Indeed, it is too sad. The consul of ancient Rome, Spurius Postumius, was once caught in a snare by the Samnites, and was ordered to pass under the yoke with all his legions. When he hesitated to submit, a captain cried to him: “Stoop, and lead us to disgrace for our country’s sake.” And so he did. The word of the captain was true: our country may claim of us, to submit even to degradations for its benefit. But I am sorry that it is in America I had to learn, there are in a patriot’s life trials still bitterer than even that of exile.

Well: I can bear all this, if it be but fruitful of good for my beloved fatherland. But I look up to Almighty God, and ask in humility, whether unscrupulous and mean suspicion shall succeed in stopping the flow of that public and private aid to me, from republican America and from American republicans, without which I cannot organize and combine our forces.

Mr. Mayor and citizens of Jersey, I indeed apprehend you will have much disappointed those who endeavoured by ridicule to drive our cause out of fashion. You have shown them to-day that the cause of liberty can never be out of fashion with Americans. I thank you most cordially for it; the more because I know that long before yesterday sympathy with the cause of liberty has been in fashion with you. I am here on the borders of a state noted for its fidelity and sacrifices in the struggle for your country’s freedom and independence: to which the State of New Jersey has, in proportion to its population, sacrificed a larger amount of patriotic blood and of property, than any other of your sister states. I myself have read the acknowledgment of this in Washington’s own yet unedited hand-writings. And I know also that your state has the historical reputation of having been a glorious battle-field in the struggle for the freedom you enjoy.

There may be some in this assembly with whom the sufferings connected with one’s home being a battle-field, may be a family tradition yet. But is there a country in the world where such traditions are more largely recorded than my own native land is? Is there a country, on the soil of which more battles have been fought and battles not only for ourselves, but for all the Christian, all the civilized world? Oh, home of my fathers! thou art the Golgotha of Europe.

I defy all the demoniac skill of tyranny to find out more tortures, moral, political, and material, than those which now weigh down my fatherland. It will not bear them, it cannot bear them, but will make a revolution, though all the world forsake us. But I ask, is there not private generosity enough in America, to give me those funds, through which my injured country would have to meet fewer enemies, and win its rights with far less bloodshed; or shall the venom of calumny cause you to refuse that, which, without impairing your private fortunes or risking your public interests, would mightily conduce to our success?

Allow me to quote a beautiful but true word which ex-Governor Vroom spoke in Trenton last night. He said: “Let us help the man; his principles are those engrafted into our Declaration of Independence. We cannot remain free, should all Europe become enslaved by absolutism. The sun of freedom is but one, on mankind’s sky, and when darkness spreads it will spread over all alike.” The instinct of the people of Hungary understood, that to yield at all to unjust violence, was to yield everything; and to my appeals they replied, Cursed be he who yields! Though unprepared, they fought; our unnamed heroes fought and conquered, until Russia and treachery came. And though now I am an exile, again they will follow me; I need only to get back to them and bring them something sharper than our nails to fight with for fatherland and humanity; then in the high face of heaven we will fight out the battle of freedom once more. This is my cause, and this my plea. It is there in your hearts, written in burning words by God himself, who made you generous by bestowing on you freedom.