The aftermath of 1848

The harsh repression that followed the revolution sparked a negative reaction in the United States, whose population sympathized with the democratic aspirations of Hungary.

Although the Hungarian Revolution had been defeated and its leaders either executed or exiled, the idea of an independent Hungary had been planted. The harsh repression that followed the revolution sparked a negative reaction in the United States, whose population sympathized with the democratic aspirations of Hungary.

Kossuth and some of his associates fled to Turkey. When Austria and Russia demanded their extradition, the Ottoman Sultan instead imprisoned the men. At the request of Congress, President Millard Fillmore ordered its Minister in Turkey, George P. Marsh, to negotiate the release of Kossuth and his men. Marsh succeeded, and the Hungarians traveled to Great Britain on the U.S.S. Mississippi, and then to the United States.

On December 5, 1851, Kossuth arrived in New York to begin a tumultuous tour of the country, after which streets, squares, and even some towns and counties were named for him. His hundreds of speeches received wide press coverage, even on West Coast of the United States.

Kossuth found widespread and enthusiastic sympathy, but received no official U.S. support for Hungarian independence. Unwilling to change the policy of non-interference in European affairs that George Washington had advocated in his Farewell Address, President Fillmore gave instructions that Kossuth be met „sympathy, personel respect and kindness, but no departure from our established policy.”

Daniel Webster, Secretary of State nonetheless followed a slightly different way in his rethoric. During a banquet in Kossuth’s honor in Washington in January 1852, Webster said: „We shall rejoice to see our American model upon the Lower Danube and on the mountains of Hungary… That first prayer shall be that Hungary may become independent of all foreign power… I limit my aspirations for Hungary, for the present, to that single and simple point – Hungarian independence, Hungarian self-government, Hungarian control of Hungarian destinies.”

After the speech, Austrian Chargé Hulsemann complained directly to President Fillmore, and U.S. relations with Austria were strained until Webster died in October.

Source: U.S. Department of State (Paths of Diplomacy)