Look on the Map of the World at Hungary. It is a fair and fertile country, inhabited by a brave and intelligent people. Sixty years ago it was enslaved, as is Ireland. To-day it stands, a free and prosperous nation, in the front rank of European States. Within the lifetime of men not yet too aged, the Eagles of Austria, bathed in Hungarian blood, flew in triumph over a vanquished land. Ireland, at the end of the great Artificial Famine, looked not so hopelessly crushed as Hungary at the close of the same year 1849. Ireland after Aughrim seemed a nearer parallel. Therefore, when gazing out from Ireland to-day you behold Hungary as free, as prosperous, as strong, and as renowned as the Austria which, less than seventy years ago, erased the name of Hungary from the map, you may well rub your eyes, remembering that Hungary never once sent a Party “to fight for Home Rule on the floor of the House” in Vienna never once admitted the right of Austria to rule over her never once pretended to be loyal to the Power that manacled her and, notwithstanding, forced Austria to her knees and wrung from her unwilling hands the Free Constitution that has made the potent Hungary we see to-day.

Before we tell the story of how it was done, we must briefly sketch the history of Hungary to the day of Vilagos in 1849, when Europe wagged its head and said: “Hungary is no more!”

In the eighth century of our era the warlike Magyars burst in upon the rich plains ringed by the Carpathians, and raised their standard above the fertile land. Christendom, alarmed, went forth to drive the infidels back through the Eastern Gates of Europe, but got the worse of the attempt, and Hungary remained a nightmare to Christendom until a miracle happened and a Ring arose the good King Stephen, whose Iron Crown each King of Hungary must don in Budapest before the Hungarian owes him allegiance who converted the invincible Magyar warriors to the Christian faith. Thenceforward Hungary from being the menace became a sentinel of Christendom, standing by the Asiatic Gate, and holding it against the unbelievers who sought to force an entrance with the sword. John Hunyadi, by the cunning of his brain and the skill of his sword, hurled back the Turks from Europe and raised Hungary to the pinnacle of glory. But a tragic night followed Hunyadi’s blazing day. Seeming secured forever against their enemies, the Hungarians quarrelled noble and burgher and peasant among themselves, and in the height of their division the old enemy broke in again upon them. This time there were no wise and gallant Kings and no united people, and at the fatal battle of Mohacs the flag of Hungary went down for the first time in centuries.

For two hundred years thereafter Hungarian history was a humiliation and a tragedy. But at length the Turkish power in Europe was broken, under the walls of Vienna, by the Poles and the French, and the Hungarians with the Austrians, flung themselves upon their old enemy. Turkey was vanquished, and Hungary, in 1718, was again free – free, but desolated.


Began now the connection with Austria as a free and equal union of two independent nations. In time the fascinating Maria Theresa wept beauty’s tears over her “chivalrous Hungarians,” and drew the Hungarian magnates to the Austrian capital, where she smiled and gushed over them. In turn the flattered magnates could do no less than expend in Vienna the revenues of their estates and adopt the dress and manners, and finally the language, of the Austrians. In a space of time these Hungarian magnates, degenerated like the Irish peers, and renegade to their manhood and nationality became contemners of their own country, sycophants of Austria, and cultivators of Imperial souls. Josef II., Maria Theresa’s son, carried on with greater vigour and less discretion his clever mother’s denationalising policy. He ignored the rights of Hungary, refused to wear the crown of King Stephen, and schemed to suppress the national language. His vigour caused a national reaction, and his successor, Leopold, conformed outwardly to the Hungarian Constitution. But the monarch who followed Leopold reverted to the policy of Josef, and thus forced a section of the Hungarians into secret conspiracy to destroy the connection. The conspirators were detected and executed or imprisoned, and for a time Hungary became subservient to Austrian rule. But when, after the fall of Napoleon, Austria openly ignored the Constitution and governed Hungary at its will, there was virtue found in a few men to set out upon the seeming hopeless task of re-kindling national spirit in the listless land. For five years they cried aloud that Hungary was still Hungary, and that the King of Hungary must govern through the Hungarian Constitution. The people shook their heads “Hungary was!” they said, and passed along. But after a while one mused, and a second paused, and another lingered; and the thought that, after all, Hungary was not dead, ripened in the land. Austria determined to put an end to the folly by conscripting the thinkers and the taught. So the Emperor of Austria ordered a levy of troops on Hungary, and an amazing thing happened. Hungary declined to recognise his authority and refused to obey his command.

“The King of Hungary is alone entitled to our allegiance while he governs through the Constitution. To the Emperor of Austria Hungary owes no allegiance. Convoke the Diet of Hungary and let the levy of troops be decided by it, or decided not at all.” This was the reply of Hungary to the Emperor Franz. For five years the contest briskly waged Franz seeking to impose Austria’s will as the law in Hungary, and the awakened Hungarians resisting any will but the will of Hungary as their law. In the end Franz was beaten, and after the lapse of eleven years the Diet, in 1825, was convoked to discuss and settle the affairs of Hungary. It is from this date the history of Hungary that nearly concerns us begins.


The opening of the Diet of 1825 was marked by an incident that created great excitement throughout the country and resentment in the highest circles. A member of the Upper House, rising from his seat, addressed the -august assembly of Hungarians in the Hungarian tongue.

It was a daring act. Indignation prevailed amongst the members at this outrage on respectability. The insult was accentuated by the fact that it came from one of themselves, for Stephen Szechenyi was one of the greatest of the nobles. He was remonstrated with by the older magnates. They pointed out to him that the speaking of the Hungarian language was all very well for serfs and boors, “but entirely unfit for gentlemen. They counselled him, being older and sager, not to excite the derision of enlightened Europe, and particularly of Vienna, the hub of the Universe, at the very outset of his career. He listened to them in silence he was a man of great silences and thanked them for the kindly interest they took in him. Then the old nobles went back to their fellows and comforted them, telling them all was set right. “Of course,” said they, “he saw the absurdity of his position when we had it pointed out to him, and how irretrievably he would compromise himself if he continued this native language nonsense. After all, we must remember we were young like himself once, and apt to do foolish things. So let us say no more about it.”

And when the forgiving nobles reassembled in the Upper Chamber, and Szechenyi arose again to address them, they received him with courteous applause. For they wished to encourage the repentant sinner lest he might falter in his apology.

For a moment the young noble stood silent in the centre of the House. Then fixing his eyes on the leader of his advisers, he opened his mouth, and lo! out of it slowly rolled Hungarian periods. As the astonished and deceived nobles sat spellbound, his voice rose and rang and swelled with passion and triumph and exultation through the Chamber, chanting, in the despised tongue of the nation, the story of Hungary’s woe, and foretelling her resurrection. When he ceased, the old men sat dazed, but many of the younger nobles, stirred in their hearts, stricken in their consciences, set up a shout of applause.

The country was astounded and pleased, the denationalised nobles dumbfounded. They could find words scarce strong enough to express their indignation at Szechenyi. Szechenyi was immovable. One day he walked into the Lower House and sat listening to a discussion on the ways and means of fostering the national language. Paul Nagy rose and testily told his brother deputies that the discussion was mere babble. “You know,” he said, “the Government is hostile to the language and you know it will not permit us to levy taxes for the purpose of placing it in a position to compete with German. To enable our language to compete with that of our rulers to enable us to stem the flood of denationalisation, the obvious course is to establish a Hungarian Academy of Sciences. Now that costs money we have not got it the Government will not provide it. The nobles should do so, but they are Germanicised, and will not do so. If by any miracle they set the example, others would follow, but why discuss impossibilities?” and Nagy, having silenced the babblers, sat down.

Szechenyi rose in the House, and begged its permission to hear him for one minute. The permission was accorded, and Szechenyi delivered a short speech in Hungarian. This was the whole of it: “I am a noble. I shall contribute the entire of one year’s income from my estates to found a National Academy of Sciences.” The House was moved to enthusiasm. “I will contribute a thousand florins,” cried one member, “And I two thousand,” “And I and I,” and so-forth, and in a few minutes’ time the respectable sum of 150,000 florins was guaranteed, and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences became a reality. At present it flourishes, famed through Europe, and its funds amount to some two and a-half million florins result of a forty-word speech.

The country rang with the name of Szechenyi, and before peasant, burgher, or noble understood very well what had occurred, Szechenyi was leader of the nation. Nobody thought it strange. It seemed as if they had been waiting for him and he had arrived at the appointed time. The reason was simple enough. He was the one man in Hungary just then who knew his own mind and his country’s needs, and was equipped by study, observation, and character to lead her. Szechenyi was at this period thirty-four years old. He was of an ancient family, ennobled for centuries, and for a Hungarian an extremely wealthy man. As a youth he had fought against Napoleon, and after the close of the Napoleonic wars he travelled over Europe, studying and noting the social and political conditions of each country. When he returned to Hungary his mind was shocked at the contrast it presented to most of the other countries of Europe. Its nobles, spiritless and corrupt, anxious only to retain their privileges and extort their rents or the equivalent of rents from the people; the people ignorant, the whole country decaying. Szechenyi dreamed of making Hungary happy and prosperous, and rendering the relations between Austria and his country amicable by other means than political agitation or armed insurrection. “Revive your language, educate yourselves, build up your agriculture and your industries,” this was the basis of his teaching[1]. He taught rather by example than by precept that politics were of small account, and rarely interested himself in them, but he laboured unceasingly to implant love of country in his people’s hearts to improve their intellectual and industrial condition. His busy brain was ever devising new schemes to benefit the country, his iron will surmounting the obstacles that barred their path, his steady hand pointing the way to their realisation. He strove to unite the nation peasant and noble in a common brotherhood of affection and awaken them to a recognition that the interests of one were the interests of all to make them realise that whether they were gentle or simple, they were first of all Hungarians. The people followed him unquestioningly and enthusiastically. They witnessed the wonderful and beneficent changes this one man’s genius was making in the land, and to them he seemed almost a god; but the nobles, save a small and enlightened minority gazed on him askance. Too stupid to understand he was their best friend, they regarded him as an enemy, a revolutionary, and when he published his famous work on Credit, which may be said to have thoroughly awakened Hungary to national consciousness, the stupid magnates could see in it, not their guide to salvation, but the subtle teachings of a ruthless Jacobin. “Do not,” he exhorted the people in this work, “pass your time in lamentations over the glories of former days. Look forward and let your patriotism aim at restoring the prosperity of our fatherland. Do not say with the doubters, ‘Hungary has Been’; say with me, ‘Hungary shall Be!’ ‘ “Treason, revolution,” muttered the denationalised nobles.


The tireless patriotism of this remarkable man aroused in Hungary a real national life. The country became instinct with vitality, and those who visited it after a few years stood amazed at the change. The political Nationalists sought to persuade him to accept their leadership, but Szechenyi declined to place himself at the head of a political movement. Francis Deak, a Catholic country gentleman, and Louis Kossuth, a Protestant barrister, two younger men, became the political leaders. Deak was thirty years of age and Kossuth thirty-one when they met for the first time in the Diet of 1833, and were drawn together by a common patriotism and a common faith in the efficacy of political action. But they differed widely in many ways. Kossuth was imbued with French revolutionary principles, and dreamed of the Universal Republic. He hated Austria, and his secret ambition was to see Hungary an independent Republic. Deak did not share the principles of the French Revolution. Neither did he hate Austria, only Austrian oppression. He was willing to see Hungary linked with Austria, provided the link were one of friendship not of steel. Here is Deak’s programme in Deak’s own words: –

“Hungary is a free country, independent in its whole system of legislation and administration. It is subordinate to no other country. We have no wish to oppose the interests of our country to the unity of the Monarchy or the security of its existence; but we consider that it is contrary to law or justice that the interests of Hungary should be made subordinate to those of any country whatsoever… We will never consent that it shall be sacrificed to the unity of the system of government… Our Constitutional life is a treasure which we cannot sacrifice either to foreign interests or to material advantages, howsoever great. Our first duty is to pre- serve and strengthen it.”

Deak stood on the Pragmatic Sanction. That is, very much as if we in Ireland took our stand on the Settlement of 1782, and denied the validity of the Act of Union and of all legislation made in England for this country. Kossuth equally exhorted Hungary to uphold the Pragmatic Sanction and insist on Austria doing likewise; but to Kossuth this was but a political weapon.

Again and again the voice of Deak thundered in the Diet in denunciation of its subserviency to Austrian tyranny. The slavish asked “What can we do? We cannot fight Austria with the sword what then is there left but to submit and be silent?” “Your laws are violated, and you shut your mouths,” Deak responded, “Woe to the nation which raises no protest when its law is outraged. It contributes of itself to impair the respect due to its laws. The nation which submits to injustice and oppression in cowardly silence is doomed.” He sometimes desponded, but he did not because of his despondency cease to fight. “The feeling of patriotism,” he said in one of his speeches,” is not kept alive in Hungarians to the same degree as it is in the men of other nations, either by the inspiring memories of the past or by sentiments of vanity and self-esteem. Our history can look back to nothing but “disastrous civil wars and bloody struggles for the preservation of our very existence. Europe scarce knows that we live. Alas, it looks upon our father- land as but a fertile and uncultivated province of Austria. Yet I hold him for no true Hungarian to whom this poor, suffering country is not dearer than the most brilliant Empire in Europe.”

There spoke the true patriot, and in that spirit Deak fought every abuse and every evil. He fought for the right of the Hungarian’s house to be his castle, for the right of the tiller of the soil to own his land. And when he was told that such a right was repugnant to the Constitution, he withered up his opponents with the scornful words: “Repugnant to the Constitution! What a thing is the Constitution if it forbids us to seek the well-being of millions of our countrymen the strength of our nation. Justice demands that we should do so the law directs we should do so. The Constitution cannot be opposed to justice and law.” And when the opponents’ of right solemnly laid it down that all property in land belonged to the lords of the soil, Deak pulverised the humbug with a sentence: “The gods of old claimed but a share in the ownership of the woods and fields and hills and vales and streams have ye grown greater than the gods?”

The fearless bearing and convincing logic of Deak, backed as he was by the County Councils, which sturdily refused to carry out the arbitrary ordinances of the Austrian Government, inspirited the Diet and even impelled the nobles to agree to agrarian reform. Then the Austrian Government intervened. It would permit no agrarian reform – not it.

Ferdinand IV filled the throne, but Metternich was the real ruler of the Empire. His was the fatal mind that can- not distinguish between Reform and Revolution, and begets, according to circumstance and environment, the Reactionary or the Anarchist. Metternich would rebuild the Bastille, and on every road Deak advanced he spied the busy masons. Szechenyi saw and said: “The Nation must depend to some extent upon Vienna.”

“The Nation must depend upon itself alone,” answered Deak, marching forward. “Come back. Let us have peace and we shall have prosperity,” Szechenyi called after him. “Can you not see,” retorted Deak, as he grappled with the masons, “that it is dread of our prosperity impels the Austrian Government to seek to bar Hungary’s progress?” and then the Tyrtaen Magyars twanged their harps and blew great trumpet-blasts that echoed around the Carpathians. So when the Diet of 1833 came to an end, there was a mighty hubbub in the land, the people noisily asking: “Who are these Austrians that they should rule us?” and “Why should we respect these nobles of ours since they are but the dogs of our enemies?” Intelligent village ruffians thumped the tables of the village inns to emphasise the fact that Hungary was a very great country, and the Magyars a very great people, and seditiously refused to doff their caubeens when the awful Austrian officials passed by. “Why should we take off our hats to the fellows who stole our Pragmatic Sanction?” they asked of the village fathers. “And what was our Pragmatic Sanction that they stole?” asked the village fathers. “What was our Pragmatic Sanction?” echoed the ruffians. “Why it was – it was – it was – our country and everything, don’t you see!” The village ruffians were perfectly right, although they were not certain themselves on that point. Now all this was a great victory, since it gave the Magyars a good conceit of themselves – without which, until Tibb’s Eve, Hungary would never have regained a doit of her stolen right.


The Diet of 1836 was the most unlike thing to a mothers’ meeting that the finite mind of man could conceive. The patriots demanded that the people should be provided with a first-class education. The Government explained that to educate the people would inevitably lead to anarchy, communism, murder, rape, robbery, pillage, and atheism. There – upon the patriots fell to debate the matter and incidentally express their views on Austria and things Austrian. The thoughtful Louis Kossuth wrote painfully accurate reports of (1) What the supporters of Austria in the Diet said about the people of Hungary, and (2) What the supporters of Hungary in the Diet said about Austria, the Austrian Government, the Austrian officials, and the Hungarian seoinini. These reports he lithographed and circulated through the country, at six florins a month. The country read them feverishly and began to roar out its indignation. So the Austrian Government thought it high time to square Kossuth. He was a poor man with a large family, and it suggested to him that it would be a good thing for him to employ his considerable talents in a quiet position at a handsome salary under the Empire. The offer was declined brusquely.

 And so the Government “struck terror.” Szechenyi, Kossuth, Wesselyeni, a noble who was one of his friends and sympathisers, and some others were arrested and indicted for treason, and they were condemned to several years’ imprisonment[2]. The deputy, John Balogh, was arrested afterwards. John was a blunt man, and had spoken his mind of the “striking terror” policy with a frankness that left not a shred to the imagination. As a result of his arrest, his seat in the Diet was declared vacant, and a Government candidate full of smiles and promises issued his address to the electors. The electors promptly re-nominated John Balogh. And the Government thereupon instructed the Lord Lieutenant of the county to present each free and independent elector with a five-florin note and invite him to come up to the Government stores and choose such goods as he might yearn to possess on the day of the poll. On the day of the poll the electors returned John Balogh by a sweeping majority, after which they hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him in triumph to the County Council Rooms, each elector bearing in his fist a stout stave on the top of which was stuck the generous Government’s five-florin note. In the Council Chamber they found the Lord Lieutenant, and moved him to the chair. When he was in it, each free and independent elector advanced in turn and stated his opinion of the Lord Lieutenant’s action. When the man sought to escape, he was held in the chair by main force, and for four hours compelled to listen to the condemnation by his countrymen of his treachery. At the end the five-florin notes were torn up and flung in his face. Though Kossuth was in prison, the “striking terror “policy had abjectly failed, and the Government abandoned its prosecution.


Two years passed ere the Diet was convoked. It met again in 1840, and its first act was to demand the release of Kossuth and his companions. “Let us make a deal,” said the Government; “we release Kossuth you moderate your opposition.” “No,” said Deak nobly, “our duty to our country is greater and holier than a sympathy for our friends. Liberty gained at such a price would be more painful to them than all their sufferings.” The Government surrendered, and Kossuth was released.

Now, Kossuth was a journalist, and understood the power of the Press. Returned from prison, he founded the “Pesth Gazette,” and taught a simple creed. Firstly- That Hungary was a very great nation; secondly, that none but the Hungarian nation had right or claim to Hungary; and thirdly, that Austria and Austrian institutions and language had no manner of right in Hungary. The “Pesth Gazette” became a dominant influence in Hungary. When in doubt the Hungarian began to ask, “What does Louis Kossuth say?” and what Louis Kossuth said was what most of Hungary echoed. There were stormy times in the Diet. The patriots demanded equality of taxation and official recognition of the Hungarian language. They won the Language fight by two votes they lost the Taxation battle. “This must not endure” said the “Pesth Gazette,” and Louis Kossuth founded the Hungarian League of Industry and Commerce[3].

This League came into collision with the Austrian Government. That was what Kossuth designed it to do. A glorious fight ensued. Kossuth pinned his faith on the County Councils, and he did not err. When the Hungarian League accepted the Government’s challenge, and the Government came swooping down, the Government was tripped up, kicked, buffeted, and banged about the head by the fifty-five County Councils of Hungary. In its blind rage the Government did what Kossuth yearned it should do deposed the nobles from their position as Chairmen of the County Councils, and appointed paid Austrian officials in their stead. “Now nobles of Hungary will ye be men?” asked Louis Kossuth. The Austrian insult proved too much for those nobles who had not ceased to remember they were also men. They came over to Kossuth by the score and consented to renounce their feudal privileges and bear their share of the burdens of their country. The Diet of 1847 was convoked, while the land palpitated with excitement. The Government nominee issued his address to the electors of the “Loyal County of Pesth,” and Louis Kossuth flung down the gauntlet to Metternich by entering the list against the Austrians’ candidate for “The Loyal County.” Metternich foresaw that the return of Kossuth for Pesth would make Kossuth master of the Diet, and then. The end no man could foresee. So the full machinery of Austrian corruption and Austrian intimidation was turned upon the electors of Pesth. And in its teeth Kossuth was carried triumphantly into the Diet on the shoulders of nobles and peasants.


The Diet demanded the Restoration of Hungary’s Independence. The people stood behind it, virile and determined; and in the early days of 1848 Austria yielded. The Emperor Ferdinand came to Hungary and agreed to the claim of the Nation. The Laws of 1848 were passed and sanctioned, and a Hungarian Government, sovereign in Hungary, and responsible to the Hungarian people, came into being, with Louis Batthyany as Premier, Szechenyi as Minister of Public Works, Francis Deak as Minister of Justice, and Kossuth as Minister of Finance. Kossuth was satisfied. He moved a loyal address to the Throne, and the Hungarian nation, freed from all foreign interference and empowered to form a national army, threw up its cap and huzza’d for the re-birth of Hungary.

But a Court Camarilla in Vienna had determined that there would be no free Hungary. Scarcely had the country started on its career of freedom when Wallach and Serb and Croatian swarmed over the borders, fed with stories of Hungarian designs to oppress and destroy them, and instigated to pillage and massacre. The Hungarian Government ordered the Austrian troops in garrison forward to repel the marauders, and the Austrian troops marched out and fraternised with the marauders. Then great men began to lose their heads in Budapest, and proposals of measures tending to Absolutism were made. Deak saw the danger to the newly-free State, and dryly reminded the Parliament that troops and artillery, not the hangman and the gallows, would repulse the marauders. Later Deak, with the Premier, Batthany, journeyed to Vienna, but the King received them coldly and dismissed them with evasion. The Lord Lieutenant of Croatia, secretly supported by the Vienna prototypes of the patrons of the Curragh mutineers, advanced into Hungary, but the improvised Hungarian militia defeated him with heavy loss, and the Austrian Lord Lieutenant of Hungary thereupon fled, leaving behind him proofs of his complicity in the treacherous attempt to again subjugate Hungary. Ferdinand nominated Count Lemberg as the new Viceroy, and attempted to revoke the Constitution of Hungary. But it takes two to revoke a Constitution. The Hungarian Parliament declined to recognise Lemberg, and declared any who gave him aid, comfort or advice enemies of the State. Nevertheless, Lemberg insisted on coming to Budapest, where the mob murdered him upon his arrival. Next the Emperor or rather the camarilla in whose hands he was a tool nominated Jellachich, Ban of Croatia, as Lord Lieutenant of Hungary, at the same time ordering the Austrian Grenadiers to march on Budapest. The moment was chosen by the Viennese Republicans for a revolt, in which the Grenadiers and the National Guard joined, and seized Vienna. Jellachich, Windischgratz and Ausperg assaulted the city, and the defenders appealed to the Hungarians for aid. Kossuth, who dominated in the Hungarian Parliament, induced it, after a prolonged discussion, to send the half-armed and undisciplined national array to the aid of the Austrian Revolutionaries. The city fell, and the Hungarians, badly defeated, were driven back towards Budapest, swiftly followed by Windischgratz at the head of his victorious army. Kossuth had made his first great political mistake, and committed a military blunder.

Deak and Batthyaiiy had kept the Austrian Government deprived of any shadow of justification to plead to Europe for making open war upon Hungary, or for treating the Hungarians as rebels. “Defence and the Laws of 1848” was the motto inscribed upon the banner of the Hungarian army. The despatch of the army by Kossuth to the aid of the Austrian revolutionists and its invasion of Austrian soil gave the Austrian camarilla its first plausible pretext for use against Hungary abroad and at home. Windischgratz proclaimed the Hungarians “Rebels.” He approached the capital of Hungary on the morning of the 2nd January, 1849, and Deak and Batthyany went forth to meet him. Kossuth and his other colleagues in the Government had crossed the Danube with the Great Seal and the Crown of St. Stephen, and proceeded to Debreczin. Said Deak to Windischgratz, “Hungary seeks nothing which is not hers by law.” “I make no terms with rebels,” quoth Windischgratz. Vainly Deak strove for terms of peace which would ensure Hungary her Constitution. “I make no terms with rebels,” was the triumphant reply. Then Deak declined to use his influence to persuade Kossuth and his colleagues to unconditional surrender, and, with Batthyany, was placed under arrest. The Austrian forces entered the Hungarian capital, and Windischgratz wrote to his master, now Francis Josef – “I have conquered.”

Francis Josef was the nephew of Ferdinand, who, after the Vienna Insurrection, abdicated without troubling to obey the Constitution by seeking the consent of the Hungarian Parliament. The Parliament pointed this out, and pointed out, moreover, that the monarch must come to Budapest and be crowned there, and swear to protect the Constitution before Hungary would owe him allegiance. The new monarch curtly declined, and Kossuth retrieved his political mistake. “We have rebelled against no Government,” he wrote; “we have broken no allegiance; we have no desire to separate from the Austrian Empire; we desired no concessions and no innovations; we are satisfied with what is ours by law.” The Catholic Bishops of Hungary hurried to the monarch and entreated him to remember his Coronation Oath. But they appealed in vain. The Austrian army was in Budapest, and all looked dark for Hungary.


Then the fortunes of war turned. Arthur Gorgei, a young Hungarian who had been a junior officer in the Austrian army, evinced a surpassing military genius. Out of a more or less armed mob he made an army, with which he fell upon the Austrians and smote them. Before his brilliant strategy the Generals of the Empire failed. Gorgei’s name rang round the world, and to his soldiers he became almost a demigod. There are no demigods. All men are human. For all time the names of Szechenyi, Kossuth, Deak and Gorgei will be associated with the struggle of Hungary for her freedom. Impartial History will record that Szechenyi relaid the foundations of the nation; that Kossuth inspired the enthusiasm without which no nation can be rebuilded; that Gorgei gave the war the measure of military success that made Hungary’s name respected and implanted the feeling of national superiority in the Hungarian heart; and that Deak, steadfast and wise out of the ashes of defeat kindled the fire of victory. But that same impartial history will record that, while patriotism was the animating motive of the four men, vanity was present in two Kossuth and Gorgei. Kossuth beheld Gorgei’s dazzling victories and rise into popular idolatry with some jealousy. Gorgei, on his side, irritated by Kossuth’s interference in matters of military strategy, spoke lightly of Kossuth. The collision might have had no serious consequences for Hungary had it not been for Kossuth’s mistake in decreeing the deposition of the House of Hapsburg, and raising the flag of a Republic.

This time Kossuth’s political blunder was fatal. Gorgei had brought the war to the point of success, but the war that Hungary waged up to the 14th of April was a War of National Defence. Hungary had taken up arms not to dethrone the King, but to defend the Constitution. Kossuth’s action changed its character into a revolution. ‘The step was taken without consultation with Gorgei, and was bitterly resented by him and the bulk of the army. The Hungarians are Royalist, not Republican, by instinct. The English Premier’s confidential agent at Vienna – Magenis – wrote to him at the time that Kossuth’s action had lost him the confidence of the army. But a graver consequence followed the intervention of Russia. Gorgei had Austria beaten. Austria now appealed to Russia on the ground that the movement was merely revolutionary; and Russia, apprehensive of what might happen in Poland or professing so much, with an eye on Transylvania crossed the Carpathians to Austria’s assistance. Gorgei, in the circumstances, accepted the Republic, and for a space the world was thrilled by the gallant fight the Hungarians, under Gorgei’s brilliant leadership, put up against two Great Powers. But it was obvious there could be only one result in arms. Kossuth, realising his blunder, submerged his Republicanism and planned to offer the crown of Hungary to one of the Russian Imperial House. But this time he was too late to retrieve his error. When all hope was gone Kossuth renounced the ‘dictatorship to Gorgei, who surrendered three days later, with his army, to the Russians at Vilagos. Klapka, in the fortress of Komorn, held out for a space, seeking for terms involving amnesty and the restoration of the 1848 Constitution, but it was in vain. Kossuth and some of the other leaders escaped to Turkey; many fell into Austrian hands, and were executed or imprisoned. There was sympathy for Hungary among the Nations sympathy without works being cheap. Freedom-loving England, through the mouth of her Premier, declared that the hearts and souls of the English people were with the Hungarians; but their bodies and purses were, as usual in such cases, absent. The Heart-and-Soul Premier of England wrote to Austria, in the friendliest fashion, that it would be most desirable if Austria ceased to oppress Hungary and restored her her Constitution. Whereupon Austria replied to England, without any pretence of friendliness whatever, that England knew how to play the tyrant better than any Power in the world, and instanced the case of “unhappy Ireland.” After which Old England dropped the correspondence.

Thus it was that, 68 years ago, the flag of Austria was raised above the land, and the Austrian Dragoon was the law in Hungary her Constitution trampled, her Parliament closed, her institutions uprooted, her lands confiscated, her language banned, her affairs administered by Austrian officials, her country parcelled out into “military districts,” and her name erased from the map of Europe. “Hungary is dead,” said Europe. But we shall see how, by the steadfast patriotism and genius of Francis Deak, she was brought to a glorious resurrection.


General Gorgei surrendered with 22,000 men the main body of the Hungarian army to the Russians at Vilagos. Kossuth stigmatised Gorgei’s surrender as treason, and for many years Gorgei’s name was execrated by most of his countrymen. When in 1904 I wrote the “Resurrection of Hungary” I accepted the Kossuth view of Georgei’s action as true. Since then I have had opportunity of studying the anti and pro-Gorgei literature which grew up in Hungary. It is sufficient to say that the majority of Hungarians do not now believe that Gorgei was guilty of treachery; but many hold that Gorgei could have insisted on terms of capitulation. The Hungarian army, however, was outnumbered 7 to 1, and, militarily, the position of Hungary was hopeless. Had Kossuth resigned the dictatorship to Gorgei after Russia joined forces with Austria, it is possible that Gorgei, as an opponent of Kossuth’ s mistaken proclamation, could have made terms. But Kossuth, great and patriotic man as he was, had not mastered the art of self-renunciation, and only resigned the dictatorship to Gorgei when the country was in extremis. It is due to General Gorgei or rather to his memory, for he died in 1916, at the age of 98 that I should insert this note. – A. G.

[1] The so-called National Education System in Ireland was suggested by the system established by Austria in Hungary, but was much better adapted to its primary purpose of denationalisation. The system under which “education” was administered in Hungary during the Austrian dominance was thus described: “In one word Stultification. If a student obtains a first-class certificate, you may be sure he is a fool; if a second, he may not be more than ordinarily ignorant; but if he gets only the lowest he runs a fair chance of being a clever fellow. The course of study is so laborious and at the same time the books to be read, the comments to be listened to, and all things to be learned, are so adapted to shut out every idea of what is good or great or beautiful that one who has followed out the system is not only less wise than before for what he has learned; but from the time that has been occupied it is impossible also that he should have devoted any attention to the acquisition of better things.”

[2] Baron Wesselenyi was found guilty of treason for saying: “The Government sucks out the marrow of nine million peasants, and will not allow us nobles to better their condition by legislative means; but retaining them in their present state, it only awaits its time to exasperate them against us then it will come forward to rescue us. But woe to us! From freemen we shall be degraded to the state of slaves.” It is fair to the Austrian Government to add that it treated the Hungarian political prisoners as political prisoners, and not as felons.

[3] The Protective System advocated by Kossuth was based on Freidrich List’s National System. List visited Hungary in 1844, where he was enthusiastically received by the Hungarian leaders, Kossuth hailing him as the “Economic Teacher of the Nations.” “The splendid natural advantages with which a benign Providence had so liberally endowed it,” said a Hungarian writing in 1850 of Hungary, “were looked upon with hatred and envy by its benighted rulers; they feared lest it should grow too strong for them, and therefore directed all their ingenuity to choke the springs of its industry; and to prevent the development of its commerce it was determined that Hungary should become a granary to Vienna, Bohemia, and Moravia, whose manufacturing population it was to supply with raw materials, and to pay double for the necessaries it received in return. A system of revenue regulations was also established between Austria and Hungary which prevented the transmission of any manufactures from the latter to the former, by a heavy prohibitive duty, and subjected all commercial transactions between the two countries to an oppressive taxation.”