Monday, 1 September 2014

THE MORAL OF THE KOSSUTH RECEPTION.

(From the Birmingham Journal, November 15)

. . . . . . 

The Times, after eighteen months' vilification,first of his private character, as an embezzler, and secondly, of his political repute, as a feudalistic oligarch, intent only on the domination of a sect and the aggrandisement of a class, has suffered the one charge to fall into oblivion, without ever having supported it by a single fact ; and in place of the other, now substitutes what it conceives to be the still more heinous one of determined Republicanism, taking as the ground-work of such accusations his declaration "that nothing now remains for Europe but Republicanism, based on universal suffrage." This ingenious satirist of Kossuth's disingenuousness says not a syllable, nor does it much matter in England, though it does on the continent, of the patriot having all along exempted Britain from his category of nations needing sweeping reform, because of its enjoying extensive municipal privileges, and being self-sustained by the spirit in which those institutions are founded and nurtured. His opinions on that head were sufficiently indicated by his very first speech on our shores, when, pointing to his honoured host, Mr. Andrews, whom the noble-spirited inhabitants of Southampton have just made Mayor for the third time, he exclaimed,"Happy, the country where such a man can become Chief Magistrate of such a community." Is such an expression, repeated in substance almost daily since, compatible with his belief that England needs to be revolutionised, or has a word fallen from him that would warrant any idea of the kind ?   

But then it appears that, by our now applauding his individual republican sentiments and accepting his assertion regarding the impossibility of present Governments existing on the continent, we alarm and offend those Governments and beget a spirit of exasperation and jealousy on their part towards us. And what if we do? There is nothing novel in that. We violate the amity of nations and ignore the obligations of diplomatic etiquette ? Be it so ;— Is there no precedent—good constitutional Parliamentary precedent—for so doing? One would think that the recent demonstration against continental tyranny was quite new to our people, simply because they have had an opportunity of imparting rather unwonted emphasis to it. "If we once suffer ourselves to be influenced by the apprehension of danger in revisiting unjust pretensions, we destroy the only bulwark, that of principle, which guards a nation. We live in an age of the most extravagant and monstrous pretensions, supported by tremendous force. A confederacy of despots claims the right of controlling the internal government of all nations. In the exercise of that usurped power they have already taken military possession of the whole continent of Europe. Continental Governments either obey their laws or tremble at their displeasure. England alone has condemned their principles, and is independent of their power. They ascribe all the misfortunes of the present age to the example of her institutions.

On England, therefore, they must look with irreconcileable hatred. As long as she is free and powerful their system is incomplete, all the precautions of their tyrannical policy are imperfect, and their oppressed subjects may turn their eyes to her, indulging the hope that circumstances will one day compel us to exchange the alliance of Kings for the friendship of nations." By whom were those words uttered ? Cuffey, O'Connor, Jones? And when and where? In the course of the past week, at some open air meeting of rampant Chartism? Nothing of the sort ; it is the language of a man who was as deservedly eminent for his constitutional erudition as for his eloquence in expressing it, Sir James Mackintosh. It was spoken in the House of Commons, soon after what he called the "conspiracy at Verona," which annihilated the liberties of continental Europe. It was applauded by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Canning, whose peculiar beast and chief glory it though not at the instant we are speaking of, that he had restored the political balance of the old world by calling into existence the new. The occasion was a motion for a recognition of the independence of the South American States whose case at that moment supplies an exact and most striking parallel to Hungary now. What is there in the personnel of the Austrian Monarchy, what is there in our relations to the Austrian Government now, that should make us more chary of sympathy with her revolted dependencies than we were with those of Spain and the Spanish Bourbons ? Perjury and oppression did their work in the one instance, as they are about to do in the other the humanity that recoiled upon its violaters on the Amazon and Orinoco now burns to avenge itself at once and for ever on the Danube and the Tiber, the Adige and the Po. Are we who cheered Bolivar and Miranda in resisting the open despotism of the heroic dynasty of Charles V.—a despotism founded an the right of conquest consolidated for three centuries—to be interdicted the expression of our cordiality towards Kossuth and Mazzini in antagonism to the cretin and degraded house of Hapsburg, who has no right of conquest to fall back upon, whose existence has been one prolonged lie—"A cut-purse of the empire and rule, that from a shelf the precious diadem stole, and put it in his pocket," but could not even do that without the aid of a more daring footpad, who will ultimately appropriate the booty to himself, if the voice of England do not scare him, and the right arm of Kossuth chastise the attempt.     

And observe how powerful was that voice is the instance cited, and learn how omnipotent it may be again, even without the departure by a hair's breadth from the purely moral-force principle which the opponents of Kossuth's mission in this country so much deride. Long before there was an official recognition of the independence of South American States we had accredited consuls to them. Did Spain, though backed not merely by Austria and Russia, but by France, dare to call Great Britain to account for doing so ? No; she and they contented themselves with an impotent protest, just as Russia and Austria would have done had Lord Palmerston sent English Consuls to Hungary during Kossuth's governorship, and as he will and must hasten to do the moment Kossuth shall be governor again. There is the whole essence of the moral force theory concentrated in one practical point.

Not a single regiment would have to be raised, not a ship manned, not a shot fired by England, were she to recognise Hungary just as she did the South American States. Does any body suppose that Austria or Russia would make that recognition a pretext for declaring war against England ? and does any body suppose that that recognition can be delayed beyond the first reasonable opportunity for rendering it, after the exposition of British feeling during the last three weeks ? What led to our first acceptance of the fact that these South American States really did exist ? Why the universal notoriety of the impossibility that Spain could ever retain them, because of her feebleness, her poverty, and, above all, her falsehood ;—because, in short, she was then what Austria is now, who, bankrupt alike in purse and character, paralysed and brutalised, dead to honour on her own part, false to faith in all else, acknowledging no emotion but the feline sting of a felon resentment, and without the one solitary element of nationality, which lent dignity even to the decrepitude of Spain, —totters to her fall, amidst the rejoicings of the populace of a whole continent, whom hatred of her iniquities have imbibed with the unanimity of one people. What, then, we repeat, is there in the position or the antecedents of Austria that should cause us to restrain our exultation at the approaching emancipation of Italy and Hungary from her fangs, seeing how we rejoiced at the dismemberment of the heritage of Ferdinand and Isabella ? Why should not the heart of England now throb responsive to the chord which Kossuth awakens in behalf of one of the most ancient and chivalrous nations of the world—for centuries the bulwark of Christianity against the Infidel, and still prepared to be against the Czar, seeing how it echoed the sentiment appealed to by Mackintosh on behalf of far off and semi-barbarous communities, without traditions, without history, without a definite country, and with nothing but the gallantry of their resistance and the cruelty of their persecution to recommend them to the interposition of their fellow men. "The reception of a new State into the society of civilised nations by those acts which amount to a recognition is," says the orator statesman, " a proceeding which, as it has no legal character, and is purely of a moral nature, must vary very much in its value according to the authority of the nations who, upon such occasions, act as the representatives of civilised men. I will say nothing of England, but that she is the only anciently free state in the World. For her to refuse her moral aid to communities struggling for liberty is an act of unnatural harshness that would deserve to recoil upon herself. The chance of liberty is worth the agitation of centuries. If any Englishman were to speak an opposite doctrine, the present power, and prosperity, and glory of England would expose his slavish sophistry. As a man, I trust that the virtue and future of these new States will spare them many of the sufferings which appear to be the price set on liberty ; but as a Briton I am desirous that we should aid them by early treating them with that honour and kindness which the justice, humanity, valour, and magnanimity they have displayed in the prosecution of the noblest object of human pursuit, have so well deserved.
This is the moral of the moral force of England's universal pronunciamento in favour of Kossuth. It will impel a tardy and compel an unwilling Government to concede the right status at the right time to Hungary and to Italy; and though that concession be but on paper, the paper will be " wax to receive and marble to retain," an impression which the might of all the landed monarchs or the earth will not obliterate. There are men still alive, men now in office, his cotemporary officials then, who remember when Mr. William Gardiner was Minister Plenipotentiary from his Britannic Majesty to the Republic of Poland. There are thousands, millions of men, aged men, who will yet live long enough to see another, many other Plenipotentiaries hence to the same Republic, and the Republic of Hungary, too; and it is the acceleration of that time that, will constitute the fruit of which our reception of Kossuth in the glorious blossom.

 Empire 22 March 1852,

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