Since the conclusion of the Ausgleich and the restoration of the Hungarian Constitution Hungary has outstripped many of the European countries in material progress. Like a strong man long bound who regains his freedom, exulting in his re-awakened strength, Hungary has used its strength to the full and with enthusiasm.
The latest full official statistics of Austria and Hungary available are those dealing with the year 1910. In that year the population of Austria was 28,324,940, and the population of Hungary 20,886,847. Hungary’s progress not only in agriculture, but in mining and manufacturing industries, since the restoration of her national Constitution, might be, with small exaggeration, called marvellous. Her output of iron before she regained her freedom was infinitesimal – like our own. She is now turning out half-a-million tons yearly. Her output of coal before she regained her freedom amounted to a couple of hundred thousand tons annually. It is now 7,000,000 tons per annum. But one single fact will suffice to give the reader some conception of the giant strides Hungary has made in her liberty. In Austria, to-day, there are thirty thousand steam-boilers in Hungary there are twenty-nine million. And forty years ago the Austrian Press and the Austrian statesmen assured the world, as the English Press and the English statesmen assure it now about Ireland – that the people of Hungary were a very interesting people, brave enough and with some rude notion of the arts, but fickle, inconstant, lacking in application – in a word, devoid of the great Teutonic virtues of sobriety, patience, and industry. Hungary has shown the world how Austria lied. In Ireland, Irishmen have been found to believe the libel and to agree with England that fine fellows though we be in many ways, we yet lack the staying power of the Saxon. So men have risen to tell us, as Belcredi told the Hungarians fifty years ago, that our own defects of character, not the government of our country by foreigners, is the root-cause of our misery. However, Belcredi found few Hungarians base enough or foolish enough to credit him. Hungary believed in itself and relied on itself, Ireland did neither, and of the two nations both seemingly helpless and utterly crushed in 1849 – the one that believed in itself has since become a nation among the nations of the world – the one that sought succour from its masters is still the most oppressed in Europe. The difficulties the Hungarians had to overcome were little less than those which confront the Irish in Ireland. Ireland was several times “planted” with English and Scotch families. Hungary was again and again “planted” with Austrians. As in Ireland, the bulk of the descendants of these Austrians became in time at one with those among whom they dwelt, but a minority remained unabsorbed. As in Ireland, there were diverse creeds in Hungary. As in Ireland the bulk of the people were Catholic, but there was a strong Presbyterian or Calvinist minority, and a considerable number of Lutherans and Greek Catholics. As in Ireland, while a proportion of the Nationalist leaders came from the non Catholic ranks, the bulk of the Nationalists were the Catholics. The Calvinist, Lutheran, and Greek Catholic Hungarians were long apprehensive – an apprehension the Viennese Government lost no opportunity of exciting – that in an independent Hungary where a majority of the voting power would necessarily belong to the Catholics, they would be intolerantly treated. The history of independent Hungary has proved how baseless the apprehension was. From the day the Constitution of Hungary was restored, the fullest equality has reigned, and sectarian intolerance is utterly unknown in the kingdom. But Hungary had to contend with difficulties which Ireland can never have to overcome. Hungary was surrounded on all sides by people hostile or inimical to her – not alone Austrians and Russians, but the Slav hordes who had been taught by unscrupulous and cunning statesmen to regard Hungary as an enemy to them. These “hordes” were used again and again to raise frontier questions which however settled, injured Hungary. If settled in her favour, the hatred of the “hordes” for the Hungarians was increased; if settled against her, she lost part of her territory. The frontier of Ireland has been fixed by nature. Whatever British statesmen may do, they can never use the frontier question to raise up enemies for this country other than Great Britain itself.
Nor were the potent weapons of calumny neglected by Austria. Austria, like England, had the ear of the world, and into it for generations she poured what tale she pleased about the Hungarians. In her Press, in her theatre, in her society, the Magyar was ever held up to ridicule. His history was declared to be invention, useful only to burlesque, his traditions formed material for the wits of Vienna to exercise their humour on, his character was drawn in the grossest colours – he was a drunkard, a lazy ne’er-do-well, a blundering ignoramus, an ingrate who bit the hand of his Austrian would-be benefactor. In the Austrian beer-gardens the equivalent of the English music-halls – vulgar beings, clad in grotesque imitation of the Hungarian costume, who sang songs reflecting on the Hungarian character, were the popular buffoons. The Austrians called them “Magyar Miska,” or “Hungarian Michaels” – Michael being the popular peasant-name in Hungary – as the English call their music-hall Irishmen “Irish Micks” or “Irish Paddies.” Nor was there at one time wanting in Hungary the equivalent of the Irish seoinini – debased Hungarians who, anxious to conciliate the strong ones, applauded the libels on their race, affected to despise the customs, traditions, history and language of their country, to consider everything Hungarian vulgar and all things Austrian polite. “Fertaly-magnas” Kossuth called them in bitter satire – “quarter-gentlemen.” The English language cannot quite convey the significance, but at all events, it was the Hungarian nickname for what we call the seonini.
The Magyar peasant, when he rendered the soil he laboured at more productive and thus increased its value, was rewarded by an addition of taxation – in bitterness then he let his land go wild and “See,” said the Austrians, “what a villainously lazy lot these Hungarians are!” In Ireland, in our time, the peasant who reclaimed the waste was rewarded by having his rent increased and was evicted from his home when unable to pay it. His neighbours, warned by his fate, let the waste lie waste. “See,” said the English, “what a lazy lot these Irish are!” The Magyar peasant who kept his house decent and trim and brightened it as far as in him lay, was assessed for heavier taxation. Then, when he let his house go half to ruin, the Austrian called the attention of the world to the uncleanly and slovenly Magyar. So the English have held us up to the world as “the dirty Irish,” so, too, they, having made education among us penal for generations, deplore to Europe our ignorance. So did the Austrians when they had denied Hungary a National system of education or a university – though, indeed, unlike the English, they never put a price on the head of a teacher – lament to Europe the trouble they had in dealing with so barbarous and ignorant a people. And for generations Europe believed that one of the most gallant, interesting, and gifted people of the world were, indeed, nothing better than ignorant boors, drunken, immoral, and intractable, whom Austria was compelled to occasionally punish in the best interests of civilisation.
The world has forgotten the Austrian calumnies since Hungary has become free. It half, where it does not wholly believe the charges made against Ireland and the Irish. England has poisoned the world’s ear against us, and we have allowed the world to drink in the poison, because we have raised up as our leaders in these latter times, not Szechenyis and Kossuths and Deaks, but men of mean mind to whom notoriety was dearer than truth and honour and gold or title or social recognition of value exceeding principle – compromisers, when they were not corrupt, timid in action and boastful in words. In Mitchel – a better man – Ireland had a half parallel to Kossuth – she never had a Deak.
To-day we are fighting precisely the same fight in Ireland as the Hungarians did in the early Forties. As it was in Hungary when Szechenyi, and Deak. and Kossuth were beginning, so it is in Ireland to-day. Our rich men are pro-English as the rich Hungarians were pro-Austrian – our people are divided as the people of Hungary were divided. As Szechenyi, a non-Hungarian-speaking Hungarian, realised the value of the language which had become in Hungary in those days, as it is in Ireland in modern times, to be deemed a lingua rustica – so non-Irish-speaking Irishmen in our time have realised the value of the Irish language and thrilled it again with life. Szechenyi throughout his life could never speak Hungarian without effort or without an Austrian accent – some of his lieutenants in the revival could never speak three sentences of it – but they taught all Hungary to be proud of it, and taught all young Hungary to speak it, so that to-day the Hungarian language is the only language of millions in Hungary whose grandfathers spoke no word of it. Public spirit, enterprise, and national self-consciousness were the outcomes of the language revival in Hungary, and these in time made Hungary free. Hungary built a National University herself, and in it educated her most brilliant sons to teach her people in the arts of peace and war, and train them in the virtues. But first of all she trained them in patriotism – trained them to see in Austria the enemy. Out of the university came the “Redcaps,” who fought Austria on the battlefield, and the political leaders, thinkers, artists, scientists, and captains of industry who fought Hungary’s battle in other spheres. Her literary men made Buda-Pesth her literary capital. They did not go to Vienna. Her people bought books and papers printed in Hungarian, which thousands of them could not read, because they were printed in Hungarian. Her journalists drove out the Austrian beer-garden, with its stage-Magyar, from Hungary, and in its place created a National Theatre, where the past glories and future greatness of Hungary were made familiar and prophesied to the eyes and ears of the people. Greater than all the patriotic resolutions of Ireland are the monuments of Hungary’s patriotism that to-day stand in the capital of Free Hungary – the National University, the National Museum, and the National Theatre, built in despite of Austria, by the pence, shillings, and pounds of the people of Hungary.
In the same spirit of patriotism the Hungarians cast from them the garb they wore, since it was similar to the garb worn by the Austrians, and clad themselves after the fashion of their ancestors, thus stamping their individuality upon the foreigner – in the same spirit, they banished the dances of Austria, the songs of Austria, and the amusements of Austria from their social entertainments and refused to sit in the same restaurant or wineshop with a soldier wearing the Austrian uniform. It was in this spirit that the inhabitants of Pesth, most of whom were descended from Austrians, answered when twitted by the Austrians with that fact – “What our ancestors were in ages past is not to the purpose. We are Hungarians now.” A French writer tells us of a peasant who when answering the interrogatories of an Austrian official stated his nationality to be Hungarian, but stated it in the German language. “How can you call yourself a Hungarian when you speak German?” said the official sneeringly. “If your master declines to register me as a Hungarian because I do not speak Hungarian,” replied the peasant promptly, “tell him that although I am ninety years old, I am not too old to learn.”
The temptation to dwell upon the striking parallel which the Hungary of the early decades of the nineteenth century affords to the Ireland of to-day, has led us into being discursive, but the “Visionaries” who look forward to an Irish-speaking Ireland in the near future will be comforted by this passage from the book of Patterson on the Magyars, written in 1869, two years after the restoration of Hungary’s independence:
Few travellers who are now whirled by the railway or the steamboat to Pesth, where they find a gay modern capital, with its large booksellers’ shops lull of Hungarian books, with its National Museum, and its Palace of the Academy, suspect how new all this is. In 1820 there was no museum, there was no Academy, nay, there was not even a capital. The idea that Hungary ought to have a capital had not yet arisen, or was as yet confined to the brains of a few poetical visionaries. There was then scarcely any Hungarian literature, much less any booksellers’ shops for its sale. The very language in which the present literature is written was then in the process of making.
And the same author, speaking of the early days of the language revival, writes:
The establishment of a sporting newspaper was regarded as a matter of almost national interest, and its editor, in consideration of the services he thus rendered to the literature of his country, was made a member of the Hungarian Academy. In a similar spirit to subscribe to a journal of fashions, written in the Hungarian language, is spoken of as an act of patriotism. All this seems to us very absurd, but from the standpoint of the Hungarians themselves it is quite intelligible. The most mindless and frivolous of women, even if she have neither husband nor child, has still some influence in society. Why, then, should she be left uncared-for by the literary patriots? Why should she be left to perpetuate the traditions of the days when as yet Hungarian journalism was not? Refusing to consider the question: “Of what use are the perfumed fláneurs of the Vaczi Utcza?” – it is thought better that they should make their bets in Magyar, rather than in German or French.
There is in this a hint for the Gaelic League. The Hungarian Gaelic Leaguers cast their net broadly, and if they could not turn sinners from their pet sin, they saw to it that the sin did not help the foreigner.
 Since this was written in 1904 matters have improved.