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Kossuth in New England

Brownson's Quarterly Review, October, 1852

1. Kossuth in New England: a full Account of the Hungarian Governor's Visit to Massachusetts.0 With his Speeches, and the Addresses that were made to him, carefully revised and cor­rected. With an Appendix. Boston: Jewett & Co. 1852. 8vo. pp. 343.

"As for Kossuth, we care not for him. He is not the man, unless we are greatiy mistaken, to make any lasting impression upon Yankees. He is eloquent and clever, and, like all our modern revolutionists, has a great command of words, vulgarly termed 'the gift of the gab'; but he is not a man of the higher order of intellect. He lacks the ingredient of downright honesty of purpose, has too much to say of himself, and wears his principles quite too loosely. He will not elect our next President, nor induce us to engage in a war either with Austria or Russia. We shall have a good time with him, feast ourselves, have our own jollification, let him laugh a little in his sleeve at us, while we laugh a good deal in ours at him, and then--cast him off."

It was with these words that we closed an article last January, written but a few days after Kossuth's landing at New York. The result has verified our prediction. He landed amid salvos of artillery and the shouts of congregated thousands, and proceeded to his quarters, as a nation's guest, with a half-regal train, and amid the pomp and honors due to a conquering hero. He was hailed as the champion of liberty, the confessor, almost the martyr of humanity, termed the great representative man of the age, and by some, - we shudder to write it, - a new Messiah come to regen­erate and save mankind. Religious and secular presses, aside from the Catholic journals, were, with singular unanimity, loud, even vociferous, in his praise; only the New York Courier and Enquirer and the Boston Daily Advertiser having from the first the courage to maintain the truth against him. A few short months passed away, and the nation's guest, - welcomed by President, Cabinet, and Congress, feasted and toasted by members of tho Senate and House of Representatives, by State governors and legislatures, by cities, towns, and committees, - under the assumed name of Alexander Smith, crept stealthily on board a steamer at New York bound for England, leaving his board bill to his landlady unpaid. The country had played out its play, had enjoyed all the excitement, fun, and frolic he could furnish them, and thought it time to break up the masquerade. He embarked from New York last June, amid the perfect indifference of the American people, and there is now a very general conviction that he really is - what his Grace, the Archbishop of New York, so opportunely pronounced him - a humbug. Greeley's Tribune of New York and Raymond's Times are the only journals of any note that still make a show of adhering to him. The Kossuth plume has drooped, the Kossuth hat will soon go, if it has not already gone, out of fashion, and there will be few willing to remember that they ever shouted a welcome to the Magyarized Sclave, All this we foresaw last January, and, knowing him and our countrymen as we did, we could easily foresee it.

The great man, or the great humbug, has gone, and we are not upon the whole sorry that he made us a visit. Our people have seen a live revolutionist, a little above the ordinary grade of those who seek refuge in this country, and they have heard the plans, purposes, methods, and resources of the European liberalists de­tailed by one of the ablest of their chief, and have had an oppor­tunity of hearing the very best that could be said in their favor. This is much. And having heard, they have, to an extent we did not anticipate, condemned; and this is more. The present generation will welcome no morc Kossuths. Three or four years must pass away before another such farce can be got up, and three or four years constitute an age in our history, for we live fast. Foreign revolutionists and demagogues have also learned a lesson of some importance to them, that American sympathy with them is not very deep, and spends itself in words, - that we give them good words, because we find it easier than to give them hard words, and because we like to see kings deposed, thrones overturned, and nations convulsed, but that we as a people are not disposed to go out of our way to aid those who are engaged in throwing the world into confusion or back into barbarism. If they succeed, well and good; if they fail, why, if they come amongst us, we will feast them, toast them, make speeches to them, as long as we find such things interesting to us and not interfering with our ordinary business, for such things look generous, and enable us to have a good time for ourselves, which is a great relief to it people who seldom have a holiday; but when they expect us to do more, to make any real sacrifices to help them, or to secure the triumph of their cause, they must remember that we regard liberty as a boon only for those who have the might and the courage to win it, and that we are de­voted to it - on paper and in our words only.

The visit of Kossuth must have done something to establish the untrustworthiness of our secular American press in regard to for­eigners and foreign affairs. The writer of this two years ago last January in a public address in New York denounced Kossuth and the Hungarian rebellion, and was rewarded with a hiss; last June he did the same thing in the same city, and was applauded to the echo, Time has proved the truth of what the Catholic journals as­serted from the first. The whole country now know that they were corrcctly informed, and simply told the truth. Yet the secu­lar journals had all the means of arriving at the truth that we had, and had before them all the facts and statements that we had before us, and might just as well have ascertained and told the truth. But they sympathized with and believed the revolutionists, - and were deceived; they pronounced all the statements of the governments and their party false, and misled their readers. We knew beforehand that it was difficult for European liberalists to tell the truth, We knew they had for years been filling the world with lies, es­pecially about Austria and Russia; we rejected their statements, and relied on those of the governments they were fighting against, and do not recollect an instancc in which we were deceived. The Austrian and Russian bulletins during the Hungarinn campaign were pronounced by our sapient editors to be lies, and yet every one of them turncd out to be true. These editors chose to rely on tho statements sent them through the Cologne Gazette, nearly all of which turned out to be forgeries for that radical journal, and all of them to be falso or at least grossly exaggerated. We adopted in the outset the rule, that tho fact that a statement comes from a lib­eral source is prima facie evidence that it is untrue, and follow­ing this rule, and relying on official information, we were rarely misled. The conductors of the secular press generally believed in the sincerity, purity, and worth of the European Liberals; we regarded them as a set of Iyillg, profligate villains and cutthroats fit only to bc hung. The press regarded their cause as the cause of humanity, of liberty, justice, truth; we as the cause of the Devil, of licentiousness, irreligion, anarchy, demagoguism, und social des­potism, deserving the execration of every honest man. Here is the reason why the secular press were deceived and deceived the American people, and why we neither deceived nor were deceived. The most unfavorable estimate you can form of a European Liberal, or Revolutionist, you may always be sure, is the truest. It has turned out so, and the people must now see and know it. They will hereafter know where to look for trustworthy information, if they desire it, and save themselves, if they wish, from being hum­hugged.

Recent events have also demonstrated how utterly false arc the views which have prevailed with regard to the discontent in Hungary. Almost at the moment Alexander Smith - no, Ludwig Kossuth­ - was predicting here a new rising in Hungary, or speaking of the old as still living and acting, and soliciting "material aid" in throwing off the Austrian yoke, the young Emporor of Austria was making the tour of Hungary, everywhere welcomed, every­where received with enthusiasm, and with all that intense and chiv­alric loyalty which belongs to the noble Hungarian character, and proving to demonstration that the Hungarian people have no deep or wide-spread dissatisfaction with the house of Hapsburg. Events have everywhere proved that the strength of the revolutionists in 1848 and 1849 throughout all Europe was greatly overrated on all sides, and consisted in the panic of the governments. The appearance anywhere of a single strong man, of a clear head, a bold heart, and a firm will, was at any time sufficient to arrest and drive them back to their native obscrurity. The governments fell because they were alarmed, because they temporized, because they could not bear to give the order to shoot the rebels down, and because they hoped by prudent concessions to win their revolleu subjects back to their allegiance. All rebels are cowards, and become im­potent when authority meets them with an unquailing eye and a firm assertion of its rights, and refuses the slightest concession while they have arms in their hands. "A whiff of grape-shot" from authority in the outset is an act of humanity. Louis Philippe needed but to give the order to fire, and the disasters of the con­temptible revolution of February would never have occurred. We need but look at what Prince Louis Napoleon has done, in order to see that the revolution was powerless in itself, and that throughout all Europe, with a little manliness or energy on the part of author­ity, it might have at once been put down. The coup d'etat of last December proved the impotence of the whole party, and that your Mazzinis and Kossuths, your Lamartines and Ledru-Hollins, are but soap-bubbles, which burst and vanish as soon us touched with the point of the lance, We hope the Europoan sovereigns have learned from the recent experiment how to treat hereafter an insurrection stirred up by demagogues in the name of tho people.

Kossuth's visit here has revealed the fact that there is after all a strong conservative element in the American character, which though depressed has not been destroyed by the wild democratic theorizing so much in vogue for the last few years. Every politi­cal aspirant who hoped to make Kossuth, through tho popular en­thusiasm he might kindle, a stepping-stone to the Presidential chair, has been disappointed. Not one of the politicians who publicly sympathized with Kossuth and his policy has ueen able even to obtain a nomination to the Presidency. Webster, Cass, Walker, Douglas, all have failed, and the candidates selected are both gentlemen, who, if they have any sympathies of the sort, have not expressed them. Mr, Webster owes his failure to his Huselmann letter and his after-dinner speech and toast at the Kossuth ban­quet, which turned against him the whole influence of Henry Clay and his friends. Mr. Clay has since died amid the regrets of his countrymen, and we are bound in justice to his memory to say, that his public courage during the last two or three years of his life was not unworthy of an American statesman. But he had for a long time two great objects, - the first and foremost was to be himself, and the other was to prevent Mr. Webster from being President of the United States. Ho failed in the first; Mr. Webster's espousal of the cause of Red Republicanism abroad enabled him to suc­ceed in the sccond, which he could not have done if Mr. Web­ster had not foolishly given him so fair a chance. When such a man as Mr. Webster condescends to court tho mob, he is sure to fail. Had he placed himself, as we trusted in March, 1850, he would, at the head of the conservative party both in reference to domestic and foreign politics, he would at least have been the can­didate of his party, and most likely have been elected. But if he had failed, he would still have had the honor and consolation of knowing that he had organized a truly American party, one which every honost and intelligent citizen could with a good conscience support.  We hoped this much from him, and we were sadly dis­appointed when we read his Huslemann letter.

General Cass we have been glad to see laid upon the shelf, for we can never support a man who turns radical only in his old age. We can pardon radicalism in a young man, and can forgive one following a "progressive democrat" any time before forty, but not for being one after that age, much less for turning one for the first time after sixty. When Minister at the Court of France in 1840, General Cass wrote well against the European revolutionists; in 1848, he begged pardon for having done so, and became their warm partisan. A man like him does not change his convictions on such a subject at his age, and hence we regard his profession of "progressive democracy" and his sympathy with European radicals as merely a bid for tho Presidency. Walker, Mr. Polk's Sec­retary of the Treasury, has for ever blasted his prospects by his preachment in England of the "Anglo-Saxon alliance," or "Eng­land and America against the world." A proposition to fight against England would be much more popular here than a propo­sition to fight with her against the continental nations of Europe. We shall never as a people consent to an alliance with England for the spread of constitutionalism or democracy till we have com­pelled her to acknowledge our superiority. both on the land and the sea. Moreover, an Anglo-Saxon alliance would be under present circumstances an alliance of the Protestant world against the Cath­olic, and therefore an alliance which our government has no right to form; for it is not a Protestant government, and is bound to respect our religion and refrain from all acts prejudicial to it. It cannot make war on the Catholic religion in Europe without making war on the religion of every Catholic in the country, and giving every Catholic citizen the full right to resist it. The law of God is above the law of the state, and I have the full right to resist the state when it makes war on my religion. Douglas is still young, and has been rather a favorite with us personally; he may possibly recover, by prudent conduct hereafter, the character he has lost by his sympathy with Kossuth anu the Filibusters; but he can never expect to regain the full confidence of the Catholic public.

We are well aware that this is not a Catholic country, but neither is it a Protestant country. The government is neither Protes­tant nor Catholic; it is bound to extend equal respect to every pro­fessedly Christian form of religion embraced by its citizens. Prot­estants may be more numerous, but they have no more rights than we, and the government is as much bound to respect our religion, and refrain from whatever is repugnant to its teaching and interests, as it is to respect theirs, and to refrain from whatever might injure it. We do not insist that to receive our votes a man must be a Catho­lic,- far from it, - but we do insist that he shall not be our avowed enemy, and resolved to use his place against us in favor of Protes­tantism. If he has leagued himself with foreign conspirators, and makes common cause with those who are plotting by revolution and physical force to overthrow the Church, we mark him, and hold him up as one whom no Catholic can conscientiously support. This is the case with every public man who has avowed himself the friend and supporter of Kossuth.

Kossuth was received in this country as the champion of Prot­estantism, and we were told expressly that the cause of Protestant­ism was identified with him, and must stand or fall with him. The liberty of the party he represents is liberty from the Catholic Chmeh, liberty to deprive her of her visible head, and to elect her com­plete destruction, This is what Mazzini is sworn, in unison with the Protestant Alliance, to effect; this is the object of the party which he represents in Europe, and Kossuth when here told us expressly that we could serve the cause of liberty in Europc only by sup­porting the party headed hy Mazzini. The whole government, un­der pretext of love of liberty and hatred of tyranny, is a move­ment directed primarily against the Catholic religion, or the Cath­olic Church as divinely commissioned to teach and govern the faithful. How, then, can we be expected to do otherwise than op­pose them? How, then, can a man who has sided with them and struck hands with Kossuth expect us not to vote against him?
Our politicians would do well not to take the Lowes, the Shieldses, the Mallorys, and certain custom-house Catholics, as reprenta­tives of the Catholic voters of the United States. Those Catholics you find in office have been elevated by Protestant votes, and they feel that they depend on the good-will of Protestants. They me consequently in constant fear that their religion may be thought to have some influence on their official conduct, and are specially on their guard against suffering it to do so. They have heard it said that their religion is hostile to popular institutions, and in their anx­iety to refute this silly charge, and to prove that they can be as good democrats as Protestants, they prove very satisfactorily that they can be a great deal worse. Poor men! they have yet to learn that Protestantism is incompatible with popular liberty, be­cause it must itself follow public opinion and is never able to give a man the moral courage and strength to withstand popular error or injustice; and that Catholicity is favorable to such liberty pre­cisely because it elevates a man above the world, and infuses into him strength and courage to adhere to the truth, to what is wise und just, though he stand alone, opposed by the whole com­munity. Alas! they do not see that by their shouts of democracy, and their servility to the mob, they are doing all in their power to prove the charge against their religion to be well founded.
The sorriest sight to us is a Catholic in this country throwing up his cap, and shouting, "All hail Democracy!" Perhaps we love liberty, perhaps we are attached to republican institutions, and could ourselves, if need were, hurrah for republicanism as loudly as any of our countrymen, for few of them have stronger lungs; but we cannot believe it wise or prudent to flourish our arms against an imaginary enemy, and to make common cause with the real enemy, of republieanism. It was, no doubt, a pleasant conceit on the part of the present Hellenic government to employ noted robbers to protect travellers from Athens to the Piraeus against robbery, but its wisdom is somewhat questionable. The only danger republicanism has to fear in this country is from its own excess, and therefore it seems to us that it is against the danger of this excess, of exaggerated republicanism, that the true republican will be on his guard, and be specially anxious to warn his countrymen. This is what our office-holding and office-seeking Catholics do not seem to understund, and hence they are at best no better than their Protestant countrymen, ordinarily even worse. We want no Cath­olics in office, unless they can prove themselves as republicans and statesmen superior to Protestants. We want no Catholic deme­gogues, Catholic radicals, Catholic liberalists, to extend official sympathy to the men banded together for the destruction of our holy religion, as well as the peace and order of society. Over such Catholics angels weep, and devils laugh. Politicians must not judge the great body of American Catholics, whether of Cel­tic or Teutonic descent, native born or emigrants from Ireland, France, or Germany, by these office=holding and custom-house Catholics; for, once let us see that a policy is really hostile to our religion, and we will die a thousand deaths sooner than support it. Catholics as a body understand now very well that to prove them­selves true Americans it is not necessary to take extreme demo­cratic views, and push tbe radical tendencies of the country to anarchy or social despotism, and that they can best prove their Americanism, their devotion to freedom, hy taking their stand on the conservative side, and using their whole influence to restrain the radical tendencies so generally appealed to by our demagogues. It is well for our political aspirants to understand this, and not suppose, because Catholics love liberty, they are so mad as to sacrifice it by pushing it to an imprac­ticable extreme, and by uniting with foreign or domestic demagogues to weaken the influence of the Catholic Church, the only support of either civil or religious freedom.

We are at present a feeble minority, but nevertheless not wholly without influence. We proved last autumn and winter that we have influence, and but for us the "Nation's Guest" had received a far more cordial welcome than was given him. The unanimous voice of three millions of our population cannot speak without bringing an echo. Our numbers arc daily increasing, and the time is not far distant when our influence will be incomparably greater. It is well for all parties to understand this; but while we under­stand this, it is especially necessary that we also understand that we must look, not to the popular sentiment of the country, but to our holy religion, to learn on what side we are to cast our influence. If we take our politics from either American or European radicalism, we shall introduce no conservative element into American politics, and the fact that we are Catholics will not make our influ­ence one whit more salutary. A Catholic radical, a Catholic supporting political atheism, can do no more for the preservation of American institutions than a Protestant radical. We must save the country, but we can save it only by adhering to those great politi­cal principles, and pursuing that wise and just policy, enjoined by our religion. Political atheism is as dangerous when professed by a Catholic people, as when professed by a Protestant people.

As a general thing, the American people behaved far better, during the stay of Kossuth amongst us, than could have been ex­pected. The result has given us a confidence in their practical good sense which we had not previously entertained, and inspires something approaching to a hope that our radical tendencies may yet be arrested before it is too late. We are quite sure they could be, if any way could be contrived to neutralize the influence of the European radicals and revolutionists, who, defeated at home, flock hither to urge us on to excesses quite foreign to our American nature. In all our principal cities are gangs of these fugitives from justice, - victims of tyranny they call themselves, - who gather round the press and determine its tone. It is from those - unhap­pily, the very class of foreigners whom we most warmly welcome and most readily press to our hearts - that our greatest danger is to be apprehended. Still the visit of Kossuth has proved that these, united as they are in secret societies extending all over the country, and affiliated to similar societies in the countries from which they have fled or been driven, are not all-powerful, and that out of Massachusetts and the large towns they have comparatively little influence. It is pretty manifest now that the Southern Slates are, to a great extent, conservative. It is beginning to be pretty well understood that radicalism, revolutionism, Abolitionism, and fanaticism are all at bottom one and the same thing. The great West, too, has proved itself far less radical than we supposed it to be. Kossuth's success was arrested at Cincinnuti, and was very trifling even in that noble city. lndeed, the great valley of the Mississippi is upon the whole conservative, In a trip last winter to St. Louis and back, we were most agreeably surprised at what we saw and heard. We heard more sound doctrine on govern­ment west of Cincinnati than we had ever heard discoursed before in our whole life; and we returned home with the conviction that the real hotbed of radicalism and ultraism of all sorts is our own New England, and that the influences which are ruining the conntry, so far us they are indigenous, are exerted by New Eng­land and New-Englanders. In no part of the Union was Kossuth so cordially received as in Massachusetts, and it must be remem­bered that he visited this Commonwealth only after his character had been fully unmasked, and the danger and iniquity of his plans fully exposed. This is a painful admission on our part. We are ourselves New England born, though not New England bred, and we have loved and honored Massuchusetts as our mother. But alas! the virtues of our Puritan uncestors lie buried with them in their graves, and only their vices, their errors, their objectionable qualities, survive! In practice New York and Pennsylvania may have run to greater extremes than Massachusetts; but if the Coalition, which now misrules the State, remain in power another year, this can be no longer said. Her practice will then be as radi­cal as her speculations. Wo have in this Coalition the spirit of the Genevan Reformer and the Old French Convention, John Calvin and Jean Jacques Rousseau, combined.

We could easily find, in the volume before us, both in the speeches of Kossuth and the addresses made to him, matter for sev­eral articles, but we have neither space nor inclination to review oither. The volume is well got up, and it will be prized by many. To us it is a sad book,- sad as disgraceful to our State, - sad as showing the prostitution of splendid talents to base and ignoble pur­poses, - sad as well fitted to exert a mischievous influence on the generation soon to succeed the one now on the stage. Nobody can read it without recognizing in Kossuth a magnificent declaimer. In some of his speeches there are passages that even we cannot read with a perfectly tranquil pulse. They compel us to award him a higher order of talent than we had before been disposed to concede him, although they only make us the more determined in our utter condemnation of the man. He is undeniably an orator, but his elo­quence is not of the highest order. He has a lively fancy, a bril­liant imagination, and great tact in adapting himself to the peculiar passions, foibles, and prejudices of his auditory; but his speeches are made up of the commonplace declamations of all ages in be­half of liberty. All he says is familiar to those of us who have studied the orators of tho old French Revolution, and the language and policy of the modern European liberalists. What he tells us of his own country and Austria that is new is not true, and what he says that is true, we knew by heart long before he said it. As a reasoner, as a statesman, as a liberator, he is below criticism. No man of real genius, of genuine intellect, of emi­nent practicul ability, ever, after the days of his boyhood, espouses the side of the question he docs. There is not and never has been a genuine man on the side of his party in Europe, or in any other country. A man on his side of the question has no chance for the exercise of great abilities, no scope for enlarged and practical views, or free and lofty speculation. He has no sphere for his mind in its integrity, for the development and application of great and permanent principles. He must narrow his soul down to a point, he must intrigue, and lie, and palter, and cower, work in the dark with foul conspirators whom he despises and cannot trust, appeal to the lowest and dirtiest passions of human nature, be strong only for evil, and be remembered only for tho ruin he suc­ceeds in spreading around him. We blush to say that we were once weak enough to be of the same party, but when we came to man's estate we could not but feel its littleness, and demand something more worthy of the noble aspirations of the soul, something less unsuitable to God's image in which we were created. Bah! the very littleness of the objects of the party, the pettiness of its means, the punyness of its thoughts, the narrowness of its views, disgust us, It is only men of feeble parts and selfish passions, fantastical young men or sentimental young ladies, that can really have any native tendency to espouse the cause of modem liber­alism. The very fact, then, that Kossuth is only a liberal, only a colleague of Muzzini, is of itself ample proof that he is not and never can be a great man. He may be great of his class, but his class is the lowest in the scale of humanity, the least removed from the animal world. Let no man who would bo thought to havo sound judgment honor it, for if he does he will have no occasion to repeat Dogberry's request, -"Write me down an ass." Kossuth will rank in history only with Wat Tyler or Jack Cade, at best only with Catiline or the "Brewer King."

Still Kossuth's speeches have sown some bad seed amongst us, that may yet spring up and bear poisonous fruit. It becomes us to be on our guard. His appeal to the German residents and citizens of the country may have fatal consequences. The Catholic Germans, a numerous body amongst us, are generally conserva­tive, and may be relied on as inferior in loyalty to no class of our citizens; but a large portion of the Protestant Germans settled here are thorough-going radicals and revolutionists of the very worst sort. These Kossuth has labored to band together as a foreign party, to be governed solely in their political action by his foreign policy. If they are mad enough to follow his advice, they will make trouble for themselves and the country. They will compel the formation of a Native American party, which no lover of his country wishes to see formed. It becomes us to be on our guard.