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Austria page 7


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An unhappy difference in principle of the most fundamental character occurred between Kossuth and Görgei at this time, which brought ruin on the Hungarian cause, now on the verge of complete success. The situation has been described by both these extraordinary men in speeches recorded by Görgei himself, and no doubt authentic. On the 7th of April they met at Godolo to discuss the future of Hungary. " Now," said Kossuth, "is the time when it becomes us to answer the pretended constitution of 4th March, 1848, by the declaration of our independence. Austria was encouraged to publish that burlesque of a constitution by the victory of Kapolna; let us celebrate that of Isaszeg by the open shaking off of their yoke. The patience of the nation is exhausted; if it would show itself worthy of liberty, it cannot, for a moment, tolerate that pretended constitution. The people of Europe will judge of the people of Hungary according to the answer which it gives to their insidious proposal. England, France, Italy, Turkey, Germany itself, not excepting even the hereditary states of Austria, are only waiting for? Hungary to proclaim itself' independent, to lend his their material aid, and that the more abundantly, that hitherto they have been so sparing in affording it. The sore- tried, oppressed nation of the Poles will unite with us, and will find a powerful ally in the Turks, who have so often suffered from the policy of Austria and Russia. With the freedom of Hungary the freedom of Europe will fall; with its triumph there will be as many insurrections against hated tyranny as there are oppressed peoples in Europe. Our victory is certain; but we have it in our power to do much more than for ourselves alone. We can and must fight for the freedom of the world - for all who wish us victory. Our words, however, must precede our deeds; our cry of victory, the precursor of triumph, must anticipate our successes; they must announce its approach to all enslaved people, in order that they may be watchful and vigilant, and not allow the golden opportunity of universal liberation to pass away. We must not permit our enemies - the enemies of freedom in every land - to assemble again, after having been scattered, and to gather strength anew. We can no longer remain silent after the pretended constitution has destroyed our very existence. Our silence would be a passive recognition of our enemies' claims - a repudiation of all our victories. We must, therefore, declare ourselves. A declaration such as I wish will at once raise the nation in its own esteem, destroy all the bridges behind the wavering and yet undivided part of the nation, and by the overwhelming force of a common object, satisfying every wish, embracing every interest, drive into the shade all mere party interests, and thus facilitate and ensure our common victory."

" I by no means see things in the same light," replied Görgei; " words will not make Hungary free- deeds alone can do that. No arm out of Hungary will be raised to perform those deeds; rather armies will be raised in foreign states to prevent their execution. Even supposing that Hungary, at the present moment, were strong enough to detach itself from Austria, would it not be too weak to maintain itself as an independent power in a neighbourhood in which the Porte, with a much more favourable position, has already been reduced to an existence by sufferance only? We have lately, it is true, repeatedly beaten the enemy; but it has taxed our utmost strength to do so. The consciousness that our cause was just has alone enabled us to do so. If Hungary is separated from Austria, our cause is no longer just. Our struggle would no longer be for, but against the law. We should not be fighting for, but against the country: we should be engaged in an assault on the united Austrian monarchy. In doing so, we should mortally wound innumerable ancient interests and sympathies; we should conjure up against our country the consequences of a revolution uncalled-for under any circumstances. We should force the old troops, the very kernel of the army, to violate their oaths, and thus shake their fidelity. We should become weaker every day; while, at the same time, every neighbouring state would rise up against us, the disturbers of the balance of power in Europe. We cannot, it is true, acquiesce in the pretended constitution of the 4th of March; but can we repudiate it more derisively than by the victories we have gained? Battles won for the legitimate King, Ferdinand V., and the constitution sanctioned by him, are the best answer that Hungary can give to the chimeras of the Austrian Ministers. Of what other use was my proclamation from Waitzen, immediately after the evacuation of the two capitals? It was issued by me because it was the only means of retaining t<5 their colours the old soldiers, the bone and muscle of the army, to whom it has been principally indebted for its successes. What was the object of that demonstration which my corps, without my knowledge, proposed to make against Dembinski, in Kaschau, but their anxiety not to lose a commander who respected their military oaths? I have shared prosperity and adversity with these troops. I know their feelings. And should King Ferdinand stand before us now, I would, without a moment's hesitation, invite him, unarmed and unprotected, to follow me into the camp to receive their homage, certain that no one would refuse to render it to him."

Kossuth, however, had taken his course before consulting Görgei - a fact which, no doubt, embittered the spirit of the latter. The Hungarian Assembly, at his suggestion, had voted the independence of Hungary, with the deposition and banishment for ever of the House of Hapsburg Lorraine for its treason, perjury, and armed aggression on the Hungarian nation, and many other gross crimes and enormities. Therefore the said House was "declared, in the name of the nation, to have forfeited the throne, and to be excluded, and disowned, and banished." After this declaration of independence, the Hungarian forces increased rapidly. The highest hopes still pervaded the nation. They gained several advantages over the enemy, having now in the field 150,000 men. Field-Marshal Weiden, the Austrian Commander-in-Chief, dispirited and broken down in health, resigned the command, and was succeeded by the infamous Haynau - the "woman ilogger." It were bootless to attempt here to follow the varying progress of a desultory warfare maintained by several armies traversing the whole of the country. The fate of Hungary was decided by Russian intervention. It would have successfully defended itself against Austria; but when her beaten armies were aided by 150,000 Muscovites coming fresh into the field, success was no longer possible, and the cause was utterly hopeless. The reasons which induced the Czar to intervene are set forth in the following manifesto: - "St. Petersburg, April 27."

" The insurrection in Hungary has, of late, made so much progress, that Russia cannot possibly remain inactive. A temporary insufficiency of the Austrian forces, divided as they are on many points, has favoured the progress of the insurgents from Theiss to the Danube. They occupy almost the whole of Upper Hungary and of Transylvania. Their revolutionary plans have swollen in magnitude in proportion to the success of their arms. The Magyar movement has been adulterated by the presence of Polish emigrants, forming whole corps of the Hungarian army, and by the influence of certain persons, as Bern and Dembinski, who make plans of attack and defence; and it has come to be a general insurrection, especially of Poland. That insurrection was to break out in Galicia, and in our own provinces afterwards. The intrigues of these insurgents undermined Galicia and Cracow; they endeavoured to foil our endeavours to throw off Turkey, to restore tranquillity in the Danubian principalities, by encouraging the Moldavians and Wallachians to resistance; and they still keep the vast extent of our frontier in a perpetual state of excitement and ferment. Such a state of things endangers our dearest interests, and prudence compels us to anticipate the difficulties it prepares for us. The Austrian Government being, for the moment, unable to oppose a sufficient power to the insurgents, it has formally requested His Majesty the Emperor to assist in repression of a rebellion which endangers the tranquillity of the two empires. It was but natural that the two cabinets should understand one another on this point of common interest; and our troops have, consequently, advanced into Galicia, to co-operate with Austria against the Hungarian rebellion. We trust the Governments that are equally interested in the maintenance of tranquillity will not misunderstand our motives of action. The Emperor is sorry to quit the passive and expectant position which he has hitherto maintained; but still he remains faithful to the spirit of his former declarations, for, in granting every state the right to arrange its own political constitution according to its own mind, and refraining from interfering with any alterations of their form of Government, which such states might think proper to make, His Majesty reserved to himself his full liberty of action, in case the reaction of revolution near him should tend to endanger his own safety, or the political equilibrium on the frontier of his empire. Our safety is endangered by what is now doing and preparing in Hungary. This is clearly proved by the insurgents' own plans and endeavours; and any attack of theirs against the existence and the unity of the Austrian monarchy would also be an attack upon those territorial possessions which His Majesty, according to the spirit and letter of the treaties, deems necessary for the equilibrium of Europe and the safety of his own states. Let it even be granted that passing circumstances might give a short-lived existence to an independent Hungary, it must be clear to every one who is acquainted with the vast powers and resources of Austria, that such a state cannot have any hope of duration. But raised on the basis of anarchy, and imbued with that hostile spirit which the Hungarian chiefs have against Russia, there is, nevertheless, a great danger for us in the movement, at the extension of which we dare not connive. In protecting his Polish and Danubian provinces from the scourge of a propaganda which means to convulse them, and by granting the assistance which the Austrian Government claims at his hands, the Emperor flatters himself that he acts in his own interest, and also in the interest of European peace and tranquillity. "Nesseleode."

On the 31st of July General Luders, haying effected a junction with Puckner, attacked Bern, and completely defeated him. The illustrious Pole narrowly escaped being taken prisoner; he was pursued by the Cossacks and wounded with one of their lances. His travelling carriage fell into the hands of the Russians, who did not act like Görgei in the case of the Austrian general. They opened his letters and published the contents, from which it appeared that the Hungarian treasury was empty; they also contained bitter complaints of the ambition and disobedience of Görgei, coupled with an offer to Bern of the command of all the Magyar forces. Görgei and Klapka, however, encountered Haynau, with a large body of Russian infantry, near Komorn. An obstinate battle was fought, without any decided result on either side. On the 5th of August another great battle was fought, when the Magyars retreated upon Temesbar, the capital of the Banat. On the 9th another battle was fought, when the Hungarians under Bern and Dembinski were utterly routed by Haynau.

In June, the Emperor of Austria joined the headquarters of the army before Raab, and was anxious to head a storming party. The Emperor of Russia also visited the head-quarters of his army at Dukla. They came to encourage their troops, and, of course, were received with enthusiasm. But Kossuth had a grander ovation than either. Buda, the citadel of Pesth, had been strongly garrisoned by the Russians. Görgei was disposed to leave them in possession, and to march on Vienna; but the orders of Kossuth, now Governor of Hungary, were imperative - that the enemy should be dislodged from Buda. It required, however, a protracted siege, repeated assaults, and great loss of life, to succeed in this object. At length, the Russian Governor, Hentgy, a brave soldier, capitulated on honourable terms, notwithstanding the unwarrantable bombardment of Pesth, of which he had been guilty. When the enemy had thus been expelled, the Government and the Parliament took possession of their capital. On the 4th of July, Kossuth, with his wife sitting on his right hand, made a triumphal entry into the city, in an open chariot, drawn by four splendid horses, his head crowned with laurel, attended by a magnificent cortčge of Magyar nobles, on foot and on horseback, and by the whole of the troops, amidst the enthusiastic cheers of the multitude, and thunders of artillery from both sides of the Danube.

The sun of national glory, which shone so brightly on the Hungarian capital then, was destined to be soon overclouded and extinguished. Considering the state of feeling in the country, and its historical associations, Kossuth acted unwisely in proclaiming a republic, which necessarily revolutionised everything. The better course would have been to elect a king to wear the crown of St. Stephen's, which the Austrian Emperor had justly forfeited. In principle, therefore, Görgei was probably right in his dissent from Kossuth. Their differences, however, hastened the catastrophe. The people began to despair of the cause; disturbances broke out at Pesth; again the Government abandoned that city and retired to Szegedin, and the capital was once more occupied by the Austrians. The Governor endeavoured to keep up the drooping spirits of the Hungarians, by assuring them that the brave French, and the not less brave English, would march to their support, and would not suffer them to be crushed in an unequal contest. But Görgei was not deceived by such fond illusions. At a council of war, he declared his conviction, saying - "Before long the converging march of the imperial armies will bring us into a situation in which we must either capitulate or be killed to the last man. The loss of Hungary is now only a question of weeks; but if Hungary is to fall, it is of little importance whether it is to sink before Austria or Russia; whether Haynau or Paskievitch is to deal out the last blow." Görgei states that secret proposals were made to him from the Czar to capitulate on honourable terms, to which he replied, that if he alone were concerned he would listen to the proposal; but as the salvation of Hungary was at stake, he would fight until either his countrymen were saved from the danger of subjugation, or until he and his men perished in the struggle. "This," said he, "is my answer as a soldier and the commander of the troops entrusted to me by the State." Kossuth, however, greatly distrusting Görgei, seized the opportunity of his being wounded in battle to appoint him minister of war, as a pretext for giving the command of the army to another. He had, as we have seen, offered that post to General Bern, which the latter refused. But neither the officers nor the army would tolerate this treatment of their general, and Görgei was immediately restored. It was under such disheartening circumstances Görgei still carried on the war, which he continued to do with consummate ability. At length was fought a great and decisive battle between the Hungarians and the Russians, in front of Debreczin, on the 2nd of August. The Hungarians were terribly cut up by the Russian artillery, and their overwhelming masses of cavalry. They were driven into the town, chased by Circassian and Mussulman horse through the streets, and into the country on the other side. They lost 1,500 killed and wounded, 300 prisoners, and their own baggage; the whole Russian loss being only 980. Next day a Te Deum was sung in the church in which the dethronement of the king had been proclaimed. Görgei was not present at this battle, and he was so indignant at the mismanagement of the troops, that he deprived his lieutenant of his command. All the Hungarian generals had made stupendous exertions against almost overwhelming forces, that seemed inexhaustible. But it was difficult now to keep their armies together, so demoralised had both the Hungarians and the Poles become by a succession of defeats. The two armies of Görgei and Dembinski were hopelessly separated by the forces of Paskievitch and Haynau, which were interposed between them. Even Kossuth now despaired of the cause of Hungarian independence. He, therefore, issued a proclamation, in which he stated that everything depended on the general who was at the head of the army, and that the prolonged existence of the present Government would not only be useless to the nation, but might be attended with serious evils. He, therefore, retired, and invested General Görgei with supreme military and civil power. "I can no longer," he said, "be of use to the country by my actions; if my death be of any service to it, I willingly give it the sacrifice of my life. May the God of justice and mercy be with the nation! " Görgei accepted the dictatorship, avowedly for the purpose of making the best terms he could with the conquerors. In an order of the day, addressed to the nation, he said: "Hungarians! the Provisional Government has ceased to exist; the Government and the Ministry have voluntarily relinquished their posts, and the direction of public affairs. In these circumstances, a civil and military dictatorship is indispensable. I accept it. Everything which is possible in war or in peace for the good of the country shall be attempted; everything which can put a period to the cruelties, the persecutions, the assassinations. My sole advice to you is to retire and remain quietly in your dwellings: abandon all thoughts of combating or resisting. God, in his infinite wisdom, has decided on the fate of our country. Let us accept his decree with a manly resolution, and a firm conviction that the good cause is not lost to all eternity. Hungarians: God be with you!"

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