Early Ties

A short overview of the first phase of the relations between the United States and Hungary.

Relations between the United States of America and Hungary have a rich and multifaceted history. Early contects were sporadic and personal.

As we wrote in an article earlier, historian and poet István Parmenius of Buda accompanied Sir Humphrey Gilbert’sEnglish expedition to Newfoundland (in what is now Canada) in 1583. According to some accounts, Captain John Smith, one of America’s first settlers, traveled in Hungary in 1600-1602, and fought the Turks there before his excursions to the New World. Our article about John Smith can be found here.

When the American colonies declared their independence from Great Britain’s empire in 1776, Hungary remained part of the Habsburg Empire, and there were only a few hundred Hungarians living in North America. As estimated 140 Hungarians fought in the American Revolutionary War. We also worte about Colonal Commandant Michael de Kovats, who, as the officer of the Pulanski Legion, trained the first American cavalry unit in the tradition of the Hungarian hussars. Kováts was killed in Charlston, South Carolina in 1779, while fighting for American independence.

The peridod between the 1820s and 1840s also brought increased U.S.-Hungarian contacts. In 1831, Hungarian scholar Sándor Bölöni Farkas journeyed to the United States, and wrote about his encounters with Americans and their new form of government. In his book titled Journey in North America published in 1832 Bölöni Farkas wrote of a land of unlimited opportunity, and presented a rosy picture of the American political system. He translated the Declaration of Independence into Hungarian, noting that „It attributes all rights to the people and the people yields only some of them to the administration.” He described meeting President Andrew Jackson, a visit to the Philadelphia Mint, and the Americans’ commitment to public education. He commented ont he U.S. penal system, religious diversity, and slavery – the one fault he found.

Other Hungarian scholars traveled to the United States. In 1832, mathematician and astronomer Károly Nagy met with President Jackson, and estabilished links between zhe Hungarian Academy and the AmericanPhilosophical Society founded by Benjamin Franklin. Ágoston Mokcsai Haraszthy published a Hungarian book about his American travels in the mid-1800s; he founded a settlement (originally named for him, and now known as Sauk City) and a humanist society in Wisconsin, and later traveled to California, where he imported vine cuttings for the state’s emerging wine industry.

(Source: The United States and Hungary – Paths of Diplomacy)