Page images
PDF
EPUB

LOUIS KOSSUTH (1802-1894)
THE ELOQUENT ADVOCATE OF HUNGARY

N

EVER was there a more vigorous effort made for national inde

pendence than that of Hungary, under the leadership of her

great patriot, Louis Kossuth, in the revolutionary years of 1848 and 1849. The devoted struggle for liberty went down in blood and horror when Russia came to the aid of beaten Austria. The hand of the allied autocrats fell with cruel weight on the crushed nation, and Hungary seemed fallen never to rise again. Yet the Hungarians still undauntedly wrought for their ancient liberty, and the vanquished patriots had the satisfaction of seeing within twenty years their beloved country virtually independent, the equal associate of Austria in the combined kingdom of Austria-Hungary.

Kossuth, though an exile from his native land, wrought earnestly to win for it the sympathy of foreign countries, and aided to his utmost in keeping up its unyielding demand for home rule. Taking refuge in Turkey, he was released from prison there in 1851 by the united effort of England and the United States, and afterward traversed those countries, making speeches in the English language.

THE HAVEN OF THE OPPRESSED [Never has a visit by a refugee from the tyranny of Europe excited so much sympathy in the United States as when Louis Kossuth visited its shores and eloquently pictured the wrongs and sufferings of his native land. Everywhere he was received with enthusiastic popular demonstrations and excited the warmest sentiment. The following selection is from his address at a Congressional banquet in his honor at Washington on January 11, 1852.]

Sir, as once Cyneas, the Epirote, stood among the Senators of Rome, who, with an earnest word of self-conscious majesty, controlled the condition of the world and arrested mighty kings in their ambitious marching,

[blocks in formation]

thus, full of admiration and of reverence, I stand before you, legislators of the new capitol—that glorious hall of your people's collective majesty. The capitol of old yet stands, but the spirit has departed from it and come over to yours, purified by the air of liberty. The old stands a mournful monument of the fragility of human things; yours as a sanctuary of eternal rights. The old beamed with the red lustre of conquest, now darkened by oppression's gloomy night; yours beams with freedom's bright ray. The old absorbed the world by its own centralized glory; yours protects your own nation against absorption, even by itself. The old was awful with irresistible power ; yours is glorious with having restricted it. At the view of the old, nations trembled ; at the view of yours, humanity hopes. To the old, misfortune was only introduced with fettered hands to kneel at the triumphant conqueror's heels; to yours, the triumph of introduction is granted to unfortunate exiles, invited to the honor of a seat, and where kings and Cæsars will never be hailed for their powers, might and wealth, there the persecuted chief of a down-trodden nation is welcomed as your great Republic's guest, precisely because he is persecuted, helpless and poor. In the old, the terrible victis was the rule; in yours, protection to the oppressed, malediction to ambitious oppressors, and consolation to the vanquished in a just cause. And while out of the old a conquered world was ruled, you in yours provide for the common confederative interests of a territory larger than the conquered world of the old. There sat men boasting their will to be sovereign of the world ; here sit men whose glory is to acknowledge the laws of nature and of nature's God, and to do what their sovereign, the people, wills.

Sir, there is history in these parallels. History of past ages and history of future centuries may be often recorded in a few words. The small particulars to which the passions of living men cling with fervent zeal—as if the fragile figure of men could arrest the rotation of destiny's wheel,—these particulars die away. It is the issue which makes history, and that issue is always logical. There is a necessity of consequences wherever the necessity of position exists. Principles are the Alpha; they must finish with the Omega ; and they will. Thus history may be told often in a few words. Before yet the heroic struggle of Greece first engaged your country's sympathy for the fate of freedom in Europe, then so far distant, and now so near, Chateaubriand happened to be in Athens, and he heard from a minaret raised upon the Propylæan ruins a Turkish priest in Arabic language announcing the lapse of hours to the Christians of Minerva's town. What immense history in the small fact of a Turkish Imaum crying out : “ Pray, man, the hour is running fast, and the judgment draws near."

[blocks in formation]

Sir, there is equally a history of future ages written in the honor bestowed by you to my humble self. The first governor of independent Hungary, driven from his native land by Russian violence; an exile on Turkish soil protected by a Mohammedan Sultan against the blood-thirst of Christian tyrants; cast back a prisoner to far Asia by diplomacy; rescued from his Asiatic prison by America; crossing the Atlantic, charged with the hopes of Europe's oppressed nations; pleading, a poor exile, before the people of this great Republic, his down-trodden country's wrongs, and its intimate connection with the fate of the European continent; and with the boldness of a just cause claiming the principles of the Christian religion to be raised to a law of nations ;-—and to see, not only the boldness of the poor exile forgiven, but to see him consoled by the sympathy of millions, encouraged by individuals, meetings, cities and States, supported by operative aid and greeted by Congress and by the Government as the nation's guest, honored out of generosity with that honor which only one man before him received—and that man received it out of gratitude, -with honors such as no potentate can ever receive, and this banquet here, and the toast which I have to thank you for-oh, indeed, sir, there is a history of future ages in all these facts. . .

I dare confidently affirm, that in your great country there exists not a single man through whose brains has ever passed the thought that he would wish to raise the seat of his ambition upon the ruins of your country's liberty. If he could, such a wish is impossible in the United States. Institutions react upon the character of nations. He who sows the wind will reap the storm. History is the revelation of Providence.

The Almighty rules by eternal laws, not only the material but the moral world; and every law is a principle, and every principle is a law. Men, as well as nations, are endowed with free will to choose a principle; but that once chosen, the consequences must be abided. With self-goverment is freedom, and with freedom is justice and patriotism. With centralization is ambition, and with ambition dwells despotism. Happy your great country, sir, for being so warmly addicted to that great principle of selfgovernment. Upon this foundation your fathers raised a home to freedom more glorious than the world has ever seen. Upon this foundation you have developed it to a living wonder of the world. Happy your great country, sir, that it was selected by the blessing of the Lord to prove the glorious practicability of a federated Union of many sovereign States, all conserving their State rights and their self-government, and yet united in one. Every star beaming with its own lustre; but all together one constellation on mankind's canopy !

GIUSEPPE MAZZINI (1808-1872)

THE PIONEER OF UNITED ITALY

A

MONG those to whose labors was due the revolutionary move

ment that made Italy a united nation, Mazzini played a lead

ing part. He joined to some extent in military movements, as when he, as master spirit of the Republicans, defended Rome against the French in 1849, and took part in Garibaldi's victorious invasion of Sicily in 1860. But his work was done more largely with the pen than with the sword. In exile during the greater part of his life, he organized the “ Young Italy” association in 1831, and for many years unceasingly supported the cause by his writings. Mazzini has been characterized as "One of those rare men, numerable, unfortunately, but as units in this world, who are worthy to be called martyr-souls.” For fifty years he worked for the great object of his life, and lived to see Italy a united kingdom, laying down his life only after Rome had become the capital of United Italy.

THE MARTYRS OF COSENZA [Mazzini's power of oratory and loftiness of spirit are best shown in his oration at Milan on July 25, 1848, to the young men of Italy, its inspiring subject being the “Martyrs of Cosenza,” fellow-patriots who were deprived of their lives by the oppressors of their country.]

When I was commissioned by you, young men, to proffer in this temple a few words sacred to the memory of the brothers Bandiera and their fellow-martyrs at Cosenza, I thought that some of those who heard me might exclaim with noble indignation : "Wherefore lament over the dead? The martyrs of liberty are only worthily honored by winning the battle they have begun ; Cosenza, the land where they fell, is enslaved; Venice, the city of their birth, is begirt by foreign foes. Let us emancipate them, and until that moment let no words pass our lips save words of war.”

[blocks in formation]

But another thought arose : Why have we not conquered ? Why is it that, while we are fighting for independence in the north of Italy, liberty is perishing in the South? Why is it that a war which should have sprung to the Alps with the bound of a lion, has dragged itself along for four months, with the slow uncertain motion of the scorpion surrounded by a circle of fire? How has the rapid and powerful intuition of a people newly arisen to life been converted into the weary helpless effort of the sick man turning from side to side ? Ah! had we all arisen in the sanctity of the idea for which our martyrs died ; had the holy standard of their faith preceded our youth to battle : had we reached that unity of life which was in them so powerful, and made of our every action a thought, and of our every thought an action ; had we devoutly gathered up their last words in our hearts, and learned from them that Liberty and Independence are one, that God and the People, the Fatherland and Humanity, are the two inseparable terms of the device of every people striving to become a nation ; that Italy can have no true life till she be One, holy in the equality and love of all her children, great in the worship of eternal truth, and consecrated to a lofty mission, a moral priesthood among the peoples of Europe, -we should now have had, not war, but victory ; Cosenza would not be compelled to venerate the memory of her martyrs in secret, nor Venice be restrained from honoring them with a monument; and we, gathered here together, might gladly invoke their sacred names, without uncertainty as to our future destiny, or a cloud of sadness on our brows, and say to those precursor souls: “Rejoice! for your spirit is incarnate in your brethren, and they are worthy of you."

The idea which they worshipped, young men, does not as yet shine forth in its full purity and integrity upon your banner. The sublime program which they, dying, bequeathed to the rising Italian generation, is yours; but mutilated, broken up into fragments by the false doctrines, which, elsewhere overthrown, have taken refuge among us. I look around, and I see the struggles of desperate populations, an alternation of generous rage and unworthy repose ; of shouts for freedom and of formulæ of servitude, throughout all parts of our peninsula ; but the soul of the country, where is it? What unity is there in this unequal and manifold movement? Where is the Word which should dominate the hundred diverse and opposing counsels which mislead or seduce the multitude ? I hear phrases usurping the national omnipotence—“The Italy of the North-the league of the States-Federative compacts between Princes," but Italy, where is it? Where is the common country, the country which the Bandiera hailed as thrice Initiatrix of a new era of European civilization ?

<

« PreviousContinue »