Revolt Of Hungary

Author: Vambery, Arminius

Revolt Of Hungary

1848

 

Deep interest throughout the civilized world was aroused by the

unavailing struggle of Hungary, in 1848, for national independence. The name

of Louis Kossuth, the Hungarian patriot and famous orator, became celebrated

in many lands; and in the various countries where he sojourned as an exile

from his own - especially in the United States (1851-1852) and in England -

his eloquent appeals awakened profound sympathy for his people's cause.

Vambery, however, regards Kossuth's compatriot, Count Stephen Szechenyi (born

in 1791) as "the greatest Hungarian of the nineteenth century." He was

descended from a distinguished family, which had given to its country many

champions of liberty. The great aim of his life was to revive the drooping

energies of the nation. As a youth he served in the army. Entering the

famous Diet of 1825, in which, by right of birth, he took his seat in the

Upper House, he distinguished himself by his liberal leadership, and as a

writer and an advocate of public endowments accomplished much for the

education of his people.

 

Up to the time at which Vambery, the celebrated historian of Hungary,

begins the present narrative, the growth of the national spirit had been more

and more evident each year since the end of the Napoleonic wars. For more

than two centuries Hungary had been under the oppressive rule of Austria.

Hungary had furnished soldiers to Austria in her struggle against Bonaparte,

and the Austrian Emperor had repeatedly promised to redress Hungarian

grievances; but after the fall of Napoleon these promises were repudiated.

Hungary so emphatically showed her indignation that the Emperor was compelled

to convoke the Diet in which Szechenyi distinguished himself. The subsequent

career of this leader, the character and aims of Kossuth, and the insurrection

they did so much to incite are powerfully described by Vambery, who writes not

only as an author fully versed in his country's annals, but also as a patriot

jealous of her liberties, proud of her heroic sons, and loyal to her fame.

For fifteen years, up to 1840, the popularity of Szechenyi extended over

Hungary, and his name was cherished by every patriot in the land. About this

time, however, the great statesman was destined to come into collision with a

man who was his peer in genius and abilities. The two patriots were

representatives of different methods, and in the contest produced by the shock

of antagonistic tendencies Szechenyi was compelled to yield to Louis Kossuth,

his younger rival. Although there was no material difference between their

aims - for both wished to see their country great, free, constitutionally

governed, prosperous, and advanced in civilization - yet in the ways and means

employed by them to attain that aim they were diametrically opposed to each

other.

 

Szechenyi, who descended from a family of ancient and aristocratic

lineage, and presented himself to the nation which connections reaching up

into the highest circles of the court, with the lustre of his ancient name,

and with his immense fortune, wished to secure the happiness of his country by

quite different methods from those adopted by Louis Kossuth, a child of the

people, who, although he was a nobleman by birth, yet belonged to that poorer

class of gentry who support themselves by their own exertions, and who, in

Hungary, are destined to fulfil the mission of the citizen-classes of other

countries. It is from this class of the gentry, for the most part, that are

recruited the trades-people, the smaller landowners, professional men,

writers, subordinate officials, lawyers, physicians, clergymen, teachers, and

professors. By virtue of their nobility, it is true, they belonged to the

privileged class of the country, and were not subjected to the humiliations of

the oppressed peasantry, yet they had to earn a living by their own work, and

were therefore not only accessible to, but were ready enthusiastically to

receive, the lofty message of liberty and equality which the French Revolution

of 1830 began to proclaim anew throughout Europe.

 

These doctrines formed a sharp contrast to the views of Count Stephen

Szechenyi, views which, owing to the social position of the man who held them,

were not devoid of a certain aristocratic tinge, and according to which the

most important part in the regeneration of the Hungarian nation was assigned

to the aristocracy. It was a part, however, which the Hungarian aristocracy

was itself by no means disposed to assume. Among its younger members, indeed,

could be found, here and there, enthusiastic men who were devotedly attached

to the person of the lordly reformer, but the great majority of his class were

hostilely arrayed against Szechenyi's aims, and, obstructing the granting of

even the most inoffensive demands of the nation, supported the Viennese

Government, which was rigidly opposed to political reforms and to any changes

in the public institutions of the country. This attitude of the aristocracy

compelled Szechenyi to avoid as much as possible all questions concerning

constitutionality and liberty, and to confine the work of reform chiefly to

the sphere of internal improvements.

 

The only way in which he could hope to obtain the support of the court of

Vienna and of the majority of the Upper House for his politico-economical

measures, was to remain as neutral as possible in politics. The idea which

chiefly governed his actions was that the country should be first strengthened

internally, and that afterward it would be easy for the nation to bring about

the triumph of her national and political aspirations.

 

After 1840, however, the bulk of the nation, and especially the small

gentry whose preponderating influence was making itself continually felt, were

unwilling to follow Szechenyi in his one-sided policy. The reformatory work

of Szechenyi during the preceding fifteen years had educated public opinion up

to new and great ideas, but the leaders of that public opinion were now to be

found in the House of Representatives in the persons of Francis Deak and Louis

Kossuth. They wished to obtain for their country both political liberty and

material prosperity. They knew the effect of political institutions upon the

material well-being and civilization of a nation, and they no longer deemed it

possible to attain these objects without a modern constitutional government.

Louis Kossuth, who was born in 1802, was the very incarnation of the

great democratic ideas of his age. He was entirely a man of work and entered

the legal profession, after he had completed his studies with great

distinction, for the purpose of supporting himself by it. Kossuth was present

at the Diet of 1832, when the Government, which conducted itself most brutally

and arbitrarily toward the press, refused to allow the newspapers to print

reports of the deliberations of the Diet in spite of the repeated urgings by

the Deputies for such an authorization, and it was owing to his ingenuity that

this prohibition was evaded. The censorship was exercised on printed matter

only and did not extend to manuscripts. Kossuth wrote out the reports of the

Diet himself, had numerous copies made of them in writing, and circulated

them, for a slight fee, in every part of the country, where they were looked

for with feverish expectation, and, owing to the spirit of opposition with

which they were colored, were read with the greatest eagerness.

This manuscript newspaper produced quite a revolutionary movement among

the people, frightening even the Austrian Government. The latter now

attempted to silence Kossuth by gentle means, promising him high offices and a

pension, but he refused the enticing offers and continued his work for the

benefit of the nation. Foiled in the attempt to lure Kossuth from his duty,

the Government resorted to violence, seized the lithographic apparatus by

means of which Kossuth planned to multiply his manuscript newspaper, and gave

directions to the postmasters to detain and open all those sealed packages

which were supposed to contain the reports. But these arbitrary proceedings

of the Government could not put an end to the circulation of the newspaper;

the country gentlemen, by their own servants, continued to send each other

single copies, and the matter was given up only when the Diet ceased to be in

session.

 

Then Kossuth, at the urgent request of his friends and, one might say, of

the whole country, started a new manuscript newspaper at Budapest, which

reported the deliberations of the county assemblies. The effect produced by

this new paper was fraught with even greater consequences than the first had

created, for it was instrumental in bringing the counties into contact with

one another, thus giving them an opportunity to combine against the

Government. The latter, however, soon prohibited its publication, but the

prohibition gave rise to a storm of indignation throughout the whole country.

The counties in solid array addressed protests to the Government against the

illegal act and in behalf of Kossuth, who continued to publish the paper in

spite of the inhibition. The Government at last resorted to the most

barefaced brutality. Kossuth, the brave champion of liberty, its eloquent pen

and herald, was dragged to a damp and dark subterranean prison-cell in the

castle of Buda, and detained there, while his father and mother and his

family, who were looking to him solely for their support, were robbed of the

aid of their natural protector.

 

Although at that period lawlessness was the order of the day, yet this

last cruel and illegal act of the Government greatly exasperated the public

mind, which was already in a ferment of excitement. But while the excited

passions raged throughout the country, the Government, nothing loth, caused

Kossuth to be prosecuted for high treason, and, having obtained his

conviction, had him sentenced to an imprisonment of three years. Kossuth

applied himself during his detention to serious studies, and acquired also,

while in prison, the English language to such an extent that he was enabled to

address in that language, during his exile, with great effect and

impressiveness, large audiences both in England and in the United States of

America. His imprisonment lasted two long years, after the lapse of which he

obtained, in 1840, a pardon in consequence of the repeated and urgent

representations of the Diet.

 

Kossuth returned to the scene of his former activity as the martyr of

free speech and the victim to the cause of the nation. He very soon found a

new field in which to labor. The Government perceived at last that violence

was of little avail, and that those questions which were occupying the minds

to such a degree could no longer be kept from being publicly discussed by the

press. Kossuth now obtained permission to edit a political daily paper. Its

publication was commenced under the title of Pesti Hirlap ("Newspaper of

Pest") in 1841, and may be said to have created the political daily press of

Hungary. It disseminated new ideas among the masses, stirred up the

indifferent to feel an interest in the affairs of the country, and gave a

purpose to the national aspirations. It proclaimed democratic reforms in

every department; the abolition of the privileges of the nobility and of their

exemption from taxation, equal rights and equal burdens for all the citizens

of the State, and the extension of public instruction, and it endeavored to

restore the Hungarian nationality to the place it was entitled to claim in the

organism of the State.

 

The wealth of ideas thus daily communicated to the country appeared in

the most attractive garb, for Kossuth possessed a masterly style, and his

leaders and shorter articles showed off to advantage so many unexpected

beauties of the Hungarian language that his readers were fairly enchanted and

carried away by them. His articles were a happy compound of poetical

elevation and oratorical power, gratifying common-sense and the imagination at

the same time, appealing by their lucid exposition to the reader's

intelligence, and exciting and warming his fancy by their fervor. Kossuth

always rightly guessed what questions most interested the nation, and the

daily press became, in his hands, a power in Hungary, electrifying the masses,

who were always ready to give their unconditional support to his bold and

far-reaching schemes.

 

The extraordinary influence obtained by Kossuth through his paper

frightened Szechenyi, and, to even a greater degree, those whose prejudices

were shocked or ancient privileges and interests were endangered by the

democratic agitations for reform. Kossuth was attacked in books, pamphlets,

and newspapers, but he came out victorious from all contests. In vain did

Szechenyi himself, backed by his great authority in the land, assail him,

declaring that he did not object to Kossuth's ideas, but that his manner and

his tactics were reprehensible, and that the latter were sure to lead to a

revolution. The great mass of the people felt instinctively that revolution

had become a necessity and was unavoidable if Hungary was to pass from the old

mediaeval order to the establishment of modern institutions and was to become

a state where equality before the law should be the ruling standard. The

masses were strengthened in this conviction by the unreasonable,

short-sighted, and violent policy pursued by the Government of Vienna, which

obstructed the slightest reforms in the ancient institutions and opposed every

national aspiration, and under whose protecting wing the reactionary elements

of the Upper House were constantly paralyzing the noblest and best efforts

made by the Lower House for the public weal, while the same Government

arbitrarily supported claims of the Catholic clergy, in flat contradiction to

the rights and liberties of the various denominations inhabiting the country.

The Government, in its antipathy to the national movement, went even

further. It secretly incited the other nationalities, especially the Croats,

against the Hungarians, and thus planted the seeds from which sprang the

subsequent great civil war. In observing the dangerous symptoms preceding the

last-mentioned movement, and the bloody scenes and fights provoked at every

election by the hirelings of the Government, in order to intimidate the

adherents of reform, the friends of progress became more and more convinced

that the period of moderation, such as preached by Szechenyi, had passed by,

and must give way to that resolute policy, advocated by Kossuth, which

recoiled from no consequences. Numerous magnates, all the chief leaders of

the gentry boasting of enlightenment and patriotism, and imbued with European

culture, rallied around Kossuth, until finally the public opinion of the

country and enthusiasm of which he was the centre caused him to be returned,

in 1847, together with Count Louis Batthyanyi, as Deputy from the foremost

county of the country, the county of Pest.

 

During the first months of the Diet of 1847-1848, which was to raise

Hungary to the rank of those countries that proclaimed equal rights and

possessed a responsible parliamentary government, it differed very little from

the one preceding it. The opposition initiated great reforms, as before, but

there was no one who believed that their realization was near at hand.

Kossuth repeatedly addressed the House, and soon convinced his audience that

he was as irresistible an orator as he had proved powerful as a writer. But

there was nothing to indicate that the country was on the eve of a great

transformation.

 

The revolution of February, 1848, which broke out in Paris, changed, as

if by magic, the relative positions of Austria and Hungary. Metternich's

system of government, which was opposed to granting liberty to the people,

collapsed at once. The storm of popular indignation swept it away like a

house built of cards. At the first news of the occurrences in Paris, Kossuth

asked in the Lower House for the creation of a responsible ministry. The

motion was favorably received, but in the Upper House it was rejected, the

Government not being yet alive to the real state of affairs, and still hoping

by a system of negation to frustrate the wishes of the people. But very soon

the revolution reared its head in Vienna itself, and the wishes of the

Hungarian people, uttered at Budapest, received thereby a new and powerful

advocate.

 

At that time the Hungarian Diet still met at Presburg, but the two

sister-cities of Buda and Pest formed the real capital of the country and were

the centre of commerce, industry, science, and literature. Michael

Vorosmarty, the poet laureate of the nation, lived in Pest, and there the twin

stars of literature, Alexander Petofi and Maurice Jokai, shone on the national

horizon. Jokai, who is still living (1886) and enjoys a world-wide fame as a

novelist, and Petofi, the eminent poet, who was destined to become the

Tyrtaeus of his nation, were then both young men, full of enthusiasm and

intrepid energy, and teeming with great ideas.

 

About these two gathered the other writers and youth of the University,

and all of them, helping one another, contrived, on hearing the news of the

sudden revolutions in Paris and Vienna, to enact in Budapest the bloodless

revolution of March 15, 1848, which obtained the liberty of the press for the

nation, and at the same time, in a solemn manifesto, gave expression to the

wishes of the Hungarians in the matter of reform. The only act of violence

these revolutionary heroes were guilty of was the entering of a printing

establishment, whose proprietor, afraid of the Government, had refused to

print the admirable poem of Petofi entitled Talpra Magyar ("Up, Magyar"), and

doing the printing there themselves. The first stanza of this poem, later the

war-song of the national movement, runs, in a literal translation, thus:

"Arise, O Magyar! thy country calls.

Here is the time, now or never.

Shall we be slaves or free?

That is the question - choose!

We swear by the God of the Magyars,

We swear, to be slaves no longer!"

 

This soul-stirring poem was improvised by Petofi under the inspiration of

the moment, and at the same establishment where it was first printed was also

printed a proclamation which contained twelve articles setting forth the

wishes of the people.

 

While the capital was resounding with the rejoicings and triumphant

shouts of her exulting inhabitants, the proper department of the Government

for the carrying through of these movements, the Diet, assembled at Presburg,

lost no time, and set to work with great energy to reform the institutions of

Hungary, constitutionally, and to put into the form of law the ideas of

liberty, equality, and fraternity. The salutary legislation met now with no

opposition, either from the Upper House or from the court at Vienna, and in a

short time the Diet passed the celebrated acts of 1848, which, having received

the royal sanction, were proclaimed as laws on April 11th, at Presburg, amid

the wildest enthusiasm, in the presence of King Ferdinand V.

 

By these laws Hungary became a modern state, possessing a constitutional

government. The Government was vested in a ministry responsible to the

Parliament, all the inhabitants of the country were declared equal before the

law, the privileges of the nobility were abolished, the soil was declared

free, and the right of free worship accorded to all. The institution of

national guards was introduced, the utmost liberty of the press was secured,

Transylvania became a part of the mother-country - in a word, the national and

political condition of the country was reorganized, in every particular, in

harmony with the spirit, the demands, and aspirations of our age. At the same

time the men placed at the head of the Government were such as possessed the

fullest confidence of the people. The first ministry was composed of the most

distinguished patriots. Count Louis Batthyanyi was the President; and acting

in conjunction with him were Francis Deak, as Minister of Justice; Count

Stephen Szechenyi, as Minister of Home Affairs; and Louis Kossuth, as Minister

of Finance.

 

The great mass of the people hailed with boundless enthusiasm the new

Government and the magnificent reforms. The transformation, however, had been

so sudden and unexpected, and the old aristocratic world, with all its

institutions and its ancient organization, had been swept away with such

vehement precipitation that even under ordinary circumstances, in the absence

of all opposition, the new ideas and tendencies could have hardly entered into

the political life of the nation without causing some confusion and disorder.

But, in addition to these natural drawbacks, the new order of things had to

contend with certain national elements in the population, which, feeling

themselves injured in their real or imaginary interests, were bent on

mischief, hoping to be able to rob the nation, in the midst of the ensuing

troubles, of the great political prize she had won. Certain circles of the

court and classes of the people strove equally hard to surround with

difficulties the practical introduction of the Constitution of 1848.

The court and the standing army, the party of the soldier class, feared

that their commanding position would be impaired by the predominating

influence of the people. The non-Hungarian portion of the inhabitants,

choosing to ignore the fact that the new laws secured, without distinction of

nationality, equal rights to every citizen of the State, were apprehensive

lest the liberal constitution would benefit chiefly the Hungarian element of

the nation. They, therefore, encouraged by the secret machinations of the

Government of Vienna, took up arms, in order to drag the country, which was

preparing to take possession of her new liberties, into a civil war. The

Croatians, under the lead of Ban Jellachich, and the Wallachs and Serbs, led

by other imperial officers, and yielding to their persuasions, rose in

rebellion against Hungary, and began to persecute, plunder, and murder the

Hungarians living among them.

 

Dreadful atrocities were committed in the southern and eastern portions

of Hungary, hundreds and hundreds of families were massacred in cold blood,

and entire villages and cities were deserted by their inhabitants, just as had

previously happened at the approach of the Turks, and thousands were compelled

to abandon their all to the rebels, in order to escape with their bare lives.

In the course of a few weeks, the flames of rebellion had spread over a large

part of the country, and the Hungarian element, instead of enjoying the

liberties won for the whole nation after a bitter struggle of many decades,

was under the sad necessity of resorting to armed force in order to

reestablish the internal peace. The Hungarians now had to prove on the

battlefield and in bloody engagements that they were worthy of liberty and

capable of defending it.

 

The Government, which, by virtue of the new laws, had meanwhile

transferred its seat to Budapest, displayed extraordinary energy in the face

of the sad difficulties besetting it. As it was impossible to rely upon the

Austrian soldiers who were still in the country, it exerted itself to create

and to organize a national army. A portion of the National Guard entered the

national army under the name of honveds ("defenders of the country"), a name

which became before long famous throughout the civilized world for the

brilliant military achievements connected with it. The Hungarian soldiers

garrisoning the Austrian principalities hastened home, braving the greatest

dangers, partly accompanied by their officers and partly without them. The

famous Hungarian hussars, especially, returned in great number to offer their

services to their imperilled country. But all this proved insufficient, and

as soon as the National Assembly, elected under the new constitution, met,

Kossuth, who had been the life and soul of the Government during this trying

and critical period, called upon the nation to raise large armies for the

defence of the country.

 

The session of July 11th, during which Kossuth introduced in the House of

Representatives his motions relating to the subject, presented a scene which

beggars all description. Kossuth ascended the tribune pale and haggard with

illness, but the long-continued applause that greeted him after the first few

sentences soon gave him back his strength and his marvellous oratorical power.

When he had concluded his speech and submitted to the House his request for

two hundred thousand soldiers and the necessary money, a momentary pause of

deep silence ensued. Suddenly Paul Nyary, the leader of the opposition,

arose, and lifting his right arm toward heaven, exclaimed: "We grant it!" The

House was in a fever of patriotic excitement; all the Deputies rose from their

seats, shouting, "We grant it; we grant it!" Kossuth, with tears in his eyes,

bowed to the representatives of the people and said, "You have risen like one

man, and I bow down before the greatness of the nation."

 

These sacrifices on the part of the country had become a matter of urgent

necessity. The Serb and Wallach insurrection assumed every day larger

proportions, while the Croats, under the leadership of Jellachich, entered

Hungarian territory with the fixed determination of depriving the nation of

her constitutional liberties. But the Hungarian Government was already able

to send an army against the Croatians, who were marching on Budapest,

plundering and laying waste everything before them. They were surrounded by

the Hungarian forces, and a part of their army, nine thousand men strong, was

compelled to lay down its arms, while Jellachich, with his remaining forces,

precipitately fled from the country. The young Hungarian army had thus proved

itself equal to the task of repelling the attack of the Croats, but the recent

events were nevertheless fraught with the gravest consequences.

The news of the Croatian invasion filled the Hungarians with deep

anxiety, and the extraordinary excitement caused by it cast a permanent cloud

over the soul of that great and noble man, Count Szechenyi. The mind of the

great patriot who had initiated the national movement gave way under the

strain of the frightful rumors coming from the Croatian frontier. He had been

ailing for some time, and his nervousness increased so greatly under the

pressure of the great events following one another in rapid succession, that

when the news came that the enemy had invaded the country he thought Hungary

was lost. His despair darkened his mind and he sought death in the waves of

the Danube. His family removed him to a private asylum near Vienna, where he

recovered his mental faculties, and even wrote several books. But he was

never entirely cured of his hallucination, and, exasperated by the vexations

he was subjected to by the Viennese Government, even in the asylum, the great

patriot put an end to his own life on April 8, 1860, by a pistol-shot.

 

Jellachich's incursion had other important political consequences. The

attack on Hungary had been made by Jellachich in the name of the Viennese

Government, and the intimate connection between the domestic disorders and the

court of Vienna became more and more apparent. This state of things rendered

inevitable a struggle between Hungary and the unconstitutional action of the

court. The Austrian forces were arming against Hungary on every side.

Vienna, too, rose in rebellion against the court, and now the Hungarians

hastened to assist the revolutionists in the Austrian capital. Unfortunately

the young national army was not ripe yet for so great a military enterprise,

and Prince Windischgraetz, having crushed the revolution in Vienna, invaded

Hungary.

 

A last attempt was now made by the Hungarians to negotiate peace with the

court, but it failed, Windischgraetz being so elated with his success that

nothing short of unconditional submission on the part of the country would

satisfy him. To accept such terms would have been both cowardly and suicidal,

and the nation, therefore, driven to the sad alternative of war, determined

rather to perish gloriously than pusillanimously to submit to be enslaved by

the court. They followed the lead of Kossuth, who was now at the head of the

Government, while Gorgei was the Commander-in-Chief of the Hungarian Army.

The two names of Kossuth and Gorgei soon constituted the glory of the nation.

While these two acted in harmony they achieved brilliant triumphs, but their

personal antagonism greatly contributed, at a subsequent period, to the

calamities of the country.

 

Windischgraetz took possession of Buda in January, 1849, thus compelling

Kossuth to transfer the seat of Government to Debreczin, while Gorgei withdrew

with his army to the northern part of Hungary; but the national army fought

victoriously against the Serbs and Wallachs, and the situation of the

Hungarians had, in the course of the winter, become more favorable all over

the country. The genius of Kossuth brought again and again, as if by magic,

fresh armies into the field, and he was indefatigable in organizing the

defence of the country. Distinguished generals like Gorgei, Klapka,

Damjanics, and Bem transformed the raw recruits, in a wonderfully short time,

into properly disciplined troops, who were able to hold their own and bravely

contend against the old and tried imperial forces whom they put to flight at

every point.

 

The fortunes of war changed in favor of the Hungarians in the latter part

of January, 1849. Klapka achieved the first triumph, which was followed by

the brilliant victory won by one of Gorgei's divisions commanded by Guyon in

the Battle of Branyiszko, and very soon the Hungarian armies acted on the

offensive at all points. In the course of a few weeks they achieved, chiefly

under Gorgei's leadership, great and complete victories over the enemy near

Szolnok, Hatvan, Bicske, Waitzen, Isaszegh, Nagy Sarlo, and Komarom.

Windischgraetz lost both the campaign and his office as commander-in-chief.

Toward the close of the spring of 1849, after besieged Komorn had been

relieved by the Hungarians, and Bem had driven from Translyvania not only the

Austrians, but the Russians who had come to their assistance, the country was

almost freed from her enemies, and only two cities, Buda and Temesvar,

remained in the hands of the Austrians. The glorious efforts made by the

nation were attended at last by splendid successes, and the civilized world

spoke with sympathy and respect of the Hungarian people, who had signally

shown their ability to defend their liberties, constitution, and national

existence.

 

It should have been the mission of diplomacy, at this conjuncture, to

turn to advantage the recent military successes by negotiating an honorable

peace with the humbled dynasty, as had been done before in the history of the

country, after similar military achievements by the ancient national leaders,

Bocskay and Bethlen. Gorgei, at the head of the army, was disposed to

conclude peace. But the Hungarian Parliament sitting in Debreczin, led by

Kossuth and under the influence of the recent victories, was determined to

pursue a different course. The royal house at Hapsburg, whose dynasty had

ruled over Hungary for three centuries, was declared to have forfeited its

right to the throne by instigating and bringing upon the country the

calamities of a great war. This act had a bad effect, especially on the army,

tending also to heighten the personal antagonism between Kossuth and Gorgei.

But its worst consequence was that it gave Russia a pretext for armed

intervention. The Emperor Francis Joseph entered into an alliance with the

Czar of Russia, the purpose of which was to reconquer seceded Hungary and

ultimately to crush her liberty.

 

One more brilliant victory was achieved by the Hungarian arms before the

fatal blow was aimed at the country. The fortress of Buda was taken after a

gallant assault, in the course of which the Austrian commandant bombarded the

defenceless city of Pest on the opposite bank of the Danube, and thus the

capital, too, was restored to the country. Yet after this last glorious feat

of war, good fortune deserted the national banners. The grand heroic epoch

was hastening to its tragic end. Two hundred thousand Russians crossed the

borders of Hungary, and were there reenforced by sixty thousand to seventy

thousand Austrians, whom the Viennese Government had succeeded in collecting

for a last great effort.

 

It was easy to foresee that the exhausted Hungarian army could not long

resist the superior numbers opposed to them. For months they continued the

gallant fight, and in one of these fierce engagements Petofi, the beloved poet

of the nation, lost his life; but in the month of August the Russians had

already succeeded in surrounding Gorgei's army. Gorgei, who was now invested

with the supreme power, perceiving that all further effusion of blood was

useless, surrendered, in the sight of the Russian army, the sword he had so

gloriously worn in many a battle, near Vilagos, on August 13, 1849. The

remaining Hungarian armies followed his example, and either capitulated or

disbanded. The brave army of the honveds was no more, and the gallant

struggle for liberty was put an end to by the Russian forces. Kossuth and

many other Hungarians sought refuge in Turkey.

 

Above Komorn, the largest fortress in the country, alone the Hungarian

colors were still floating. General Klapka, its commandant, bravely defended

it, and continued to hold it for six weeks after the sad catastrophe of

Vilagos. The brave defender, seeing at last that further resistance served no

purpose, as the Hungarian army had ceased to exist, and the whole country had

passed into the hands of the Austrians, capitulated upon the most honorable

terms. This was the concluding act of the heroic struggle of the Hungarian

people, the brave attitude of the garrison and their commander adding another

bright page to the honorable record of the military achievements of 1848 and

1849.

 

As soon as the Imperialists had obtained possession of Komorn, their

commander-in-chief, Baron Haynau, began to persecute the patriots, and to

commit the most cruel atrocities against them. Those who had taken part in

the national war were brought before a court-martial and summarily executed.

The bloody work of the executioner began on October 6th. Count Louis

Batthyanyi was shot at Pest, and thirteen gallant generals, belonging to

Gorgei's army, met their deaths at Arad. Wholesale massacres were committed

throughout the country, until at last the conscience of Europe rose up against

these cruel butcheries, and the court itself removed the sanguinary Baron from

the scene of his inhuman exploits. The best men in the country were thrown

into prison, and thousands of families had to mourn for dear ones who had

fallen victims to the implacable vindictiveness of the Austrian Government.

Once more the gloom of oppression settled upon the unhappy country.

 

Many of the patriots had accompanied Kossuth to Turkey or found a refuge

in other foreign countries, and for ten years a great number of distinguished

Hungarians were compelled to taste the bitterness of exile. Kossuth himself

went subsequently to England, and visited also the United States. In the

latter country he was enthusiastically received by the great and free American

people, who took delight in his lofty eloquence. During the Crimean War, and

the War of 1859 in Italy, Kossuth and the Hungarian exiles were zealously

laboring to free their country, by foreign aid, from the thraldom of

oppression. At last, however, the Hungarian nation succeeded in reconquering,

without any aid from abroad, by her own exertions, her national and political

rights, and made her peace with the ruling dynasty. But the Hungarian exiles

had their full share in the work of reconciliation, for it was owing to their

exertions that the nations of Europe remembered that, in spite of Vilagos,

Hungary still existed, and that again, at home, the people of Hungary were not

permitted to lose their faith in a better and brighter future.

 

Kossuth, the Nestor of the struggle for liberty, lives at present [1886]

in retirement in Turin, ^1 and, although separated from his people by

diverging political theories, his countrymen will forever cherish in him the

great genius who gave liberty to millions of the oppressed peasantry, and who

inscribed indelibly on the pages of the national legislation the immortal

principles of liberty and equality of rights.

 

[Footnote 1: Kossuth died at Turin, Italy, March 20, 1894. - Ed.]

 

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