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Kossuth and Louis Napoleon[370]

Karl Marx

London, Sept. 5, 1859

You will recollect that about a year ago I made, through the columns of the Tribune[a], some curious revelations in regard to a certain Bangya, his mission to Circassia and the squabbles hence arising between the Hungarian and Polish emigrations at Constantinople. Although the facts then stated by me afterward found their way into the European press, no attempt to dispute their accuracy has ever been ventured upon. I have now to call the attention of your readers to another secret chapter of contemporaneous history; I mean the connection between Kossuth and Bonaparte: It cannot longer be tolerated that the same men should receive with the one hand the pay of the assassin of the French Republic, and in the other hand hoist the banner of liberty; that they should play the part of both martyrs and courtiers; that, having become the tools of an atrocious usurper, they should still exhibit themselves as the organs of an oppressed nation. I think the moment the more opportune for revealing facts long known to me, as Bonaparte and his sycophants, Kossuth and his partisans, are equally busy in throwing a vail over transactions which could not fail to compromise the one before the monarchs, and the other before the peoples of the world.

It will be admitted by the most prejudiced admirers of Mr. Kossuth that, whatever his other accomplishments may be, he has always sadly lacked one great quality—that of consistency. During the whole course of his life he has more resembled the improvisatore receiving his impressions from his audience than the author imprinting his own original ideas upon the world. This inconsistency of thought could not but reflect itself in duplicity of action. A few facts may illustrate the truth of this assertion. At Kutaya, Mr. Kossuth entered into an intimate liaison with Mr. David Urquhart, and, accepting at once the prejudices of that romantic Highlander, he did not hesitate to pass sentence on Mazzini as a Russian agent. He formally pledged himself to keep aloof from Mazzini. But he had hardly arrived at London when he formed a triumvirate with Mazzini and Ledru-Rollin[371]. The incontestable proofs of this double-dealing have been laid before the British public in the correspondence carried on between L. Kossuth and David Urquhart, which the latter gentleman has printed in the London Free Press[b]. In the first speech Mr. Kossuth made on landing on the English coast, he called Palmerston the friend of his bosom. Palmerston, through the instrumentality of a well-known member of Parliament[c], intimated to Kossuth his desire to receive the latter at his mansion. Kossuth demanded to be received by the British Minister as Governor of Hungary, a request which, of course, was at once scornfully rejected. Mr. Kossuth, on his part, now gave, through Mr. Urquhart and other acquaintances of his, the British public to understand that he had rejected Palmerston's invitation because he had made sure, from a close study at Kutaya of the Blue Book relating to Hungarian affairs[d], that Palmerston, the "friend of his bosom," had, in secret understanding with the Court of St. Petersburg, played the traitor to "dear Hungary." In 1853, when a Mazzinian émeute[e] broke out at Milan, there appeared on the walls of that town a proclamation addressed to the Hungarian soldiers, calling upon them to side with the Italian insurrectionists[f], and bearing the signature of Lajos Kossuth[372]. The émeute turning out a failure, Mr. Kossuth, through the medium of the London newspapers, hastened to declare the proclamation a forgery, thus giving a public démenti to his friend Mazzini. Nevertheless, the proclamation was genuine. Mazzini had acted in concert with Kossuth.

Proceeding upon the settled conviction that to subvert Austrian tyranny the united action of Hungary and Italy was indispensable, Mazzini for some time tried to replace Kossuth by a more trustworthy Hungarian leader, but his efforts splitting on the dissensions of the Hungarian emigration, he magnanimously pardoned his uncertain ally, and spared him an exposure that would have ruined Kossuth's position in England.

To draw nearer to present times, I may call to your recollection that, in the Autumn of 1858, Mr. Kossuth made a tour through Scotland, delivering lectures in different towns, and solemnly warning the British against Louis Bonaparte's treacherous designs. Take, for instance, the following extract of a lecture delivered at Glasgow, on Nov. 20, 1858:

"I have," said Mr. Kossuth, "already alluded, in my other lecture, to the broth of national hatred which Louis Bonaparte is brewing. I do not mean to insinuate that he is meditating an invasion of this country: no doubt he would; only, like the fox in the fable[g], he does not like sour grapes. It is not long ago that, with the exception, perhaps, of the gentlemen of St. Petersburg, who very likely know all about the mystery, Louis Bonaparte put the whole diplomacy of the world to their wits' end by his gigantic preparations at Cherbourg, pushed on to the last shilling of his empty treasury, and with a haste as if his existence was depending on a minute gained.... Cherbourg remains a structure solely against England.... He meditates a new conflict in the East, in company with Russia. In this conflict he means to check the free movement of the English navy by binding a goodly portion of it to your shores, while he proposes to strike a deadly blow at your vital interests in the East.... The Crimean war—was it concluded according to the interests of Great Britain and Turkey? Wallachia and Moldavia got a constitution devised in the den of secret diplomacy, that curse of our age; a constitution devised by Bonaparte with the concurrence of Russia and Austria—each and all of them ardent friends of popular freedom, forsooth! It is in reality no more nor less than a charter granted to Russia for the purpose of disposing of the Principalities.... Nay, more; has not Bonaparte, the dear ally, sent his officers to Montenegro to teach rifle practice to the wild mountaineers!... His mind is bent on a new treaty of Tilsit, if he has it not already in his pocket."[h]

Such were Kossuth's public strictures on Bonaparte, his dear ally, in the Autumn of 1858. Still more; in the beginning of 1859, when Bonaparte's plans for his Italian crusade of liberty had begun to take shape and figure, this same Kossuth, in Mazzini's Pensiero ed Azione, denounced the Dutch trickster in glowing language, and warned all true Republicans—Italians, Hungarians, and Germans even—from making themselves the cat's-paws of the Imperial Quasimodo. In a word, he reechoed Mazzini's views, which the latter again proclaimed in his manifesto of the 16th of May[i], which he clung to during the Bonaparte crusade, and repeated victoriously at the end of the war in another manifesto reprinted by the Tribune.

Kossuth then, in January, 1859, not only saw through the Bonapartist sham, but did all in his power to lay it bare before the world. He goaded "the liberal press" into that direction afterward wondered at by Bonaparte's tools as "a sudden outbreak" of "anti-Napoleonic rage," and stigmatized by them as a symptom of morbid "sympathy for Austria." But, in the interval, between January, 1859, and May, 1859, a strange revolution occurred in the feelings and ideas of the grand improvisatore. He who, to warn the British against Bonaparte's atrocious designs, had made a lecturing tour through Scotland in the Autumn of 1858, set out in the month of May, 1859, on another lecturing tour, from the London Mansion House to the Free-Trade Hall at Manchester[373], to preach confidence in the Man of December, and, under the false pretense of standing up for neutrality, inveigle the British over to the side of the Imperial blackleg. His own neutrality he soon after evinced in a manner not to be misunderstood.

Now, these recollections, which I might multiply at pleasure, ought to raise some misgivings in the minds of Kossuth's honest admirers—such men as are neither blind worshipers of a name, nor bound to the democratic grandee by sordid interest. At all events, they will not deny that the facts I am now about to relate appear by no means incompatible with the past of the presumed hero of liberty. There were three Hungarian leaders at Paris, paying court to the illustrious Plon-Plon, alias the Prince Rouge, the scion of the Bonapartist family, upon whom has fallen the lot of coquetting with revolution, in the same way that his bigger cousin dallies with "religion, order, and property." Those three men were Col. Kiss, Count Teleki, and Gen. Klapka. Plon-Plon, be it said, en passant, is a Heliogabalus as to morals, an Ivan III for personal cowardice, a real Bonaparte for falsehood; but, with all. that, an homme d'esprit, as the French say. These three gentlemen prevailed upon Plon-Plon, who, probably, was not at all taken by surprise, to enter into negotiations with Kossuth, to summon him to Paris, and even to hold out the promise of presenting the ex-Governor of Hungary to the insidious ruler of the Tuileries.

Accordingly, Mr. Kossuth, having been provided with an English passport wherein he was designated as Mr. Brown, left London for Paris in the beginning of May. At Paris he had at first a long interview with Plon-Plon, to whom he exposed his views about insurging Hungary by landing 40,000 Frenchmen, to be backed by a corps of Magyar refugees, on the coast of Fiume, and a point that seemed uppermost in his patriotic mind, of forming, if only for appearance sake, a provisional Government with Mr. Kossuth at its head. In the evening of May 3, Plon-Plon, in his own carriage, conducted Mr. Kossuth to the Tuileries, there to introduce him to the Man of December. During this interview with Louis Bonaparte, Mr. Kossuth for once refrained from using his great rhetorical powers, and allowed Plon-Plon to act as his spokesman. He afterward paid a gracious compliment to the almost literal fidelity with which the Prince had reproduced his views.

Having attentively listened to the exposition of his cousin, Louis Bonaparte declared that there was one great obstruction to the acceptance on his part of Mr. Kossuth's projects, viz., the latter's Republican principles and Republican connections. It was then that Mr. Kossuth most solemnly abjured the Republican faith, declaring that he neither was nor ever had been a Republican, and that political necessities only, and a strange combination of circumstances, had compelled him to side for a while with the Republican part of the European emigration. Simultaneously, in proof of his anti-Republicanism, he, in the name of his country, offered the Hungarian crown to Prince Plon-Plon. It is true that the crown he thus disposed of had not yet become vacant, while his power of attorney to barter it away was altogether wanting; but whoever has carefully watched Mr. Kossuth's proceedings in foreign countries, must have become aware that he has long been used to speak of "dear Hungary" somewhat in the way in which a country gentleman speaks of his estates.

As to Mr. Kossuth's repudiation of Republicanism, I consider it to have been sincere. A civil list of 300,000 florins, which he claimed at Pesth for keeping up the splendor of the Executive; the patronage of the hospitals, transferred from an Austrian Arch duchess[j] to his own sister[k]; the attempt to give his name to some regiments; his desire to surround himself with a camarilla; the tenacity with which, when on foreign soil, he clung to the title of Governor, although resigned by him at the epoch of the Hungarian catastrophe; the airs assumed by him of a pretender, rather than an exile—all this points to tendencies the reverse of Republicanism. However that may be, I positively affirm that Louis Kossuth abjured Republicanism before the French usurper, and in the presence of the Man of December offered the Hungarian crown to Plon-Plon, the Bonapartist Sardanapalus. Some rather loose gossip about this incident of his interview with Bonaparte at the Tuileries may have given rise to the notoriously false rumor that Kossuth had betrayed the secret plans of his Republican ex-confederates. He was not called upon to reveal their supposed secrets, nor would he have listened to such an infamous proposal. Having succeeded in completely destroying Louis Napoleon's apprehensions as to his Republican tendencies, and having pledged himself to act in the dynastic interest of the Bonapartes, a bargain was struck, by which three millions of francs were placed at Mr. Kossuth's disposal. There would appear nothing strange in this stipulation, since, to organize militarily the Hungarian emigration, money was wanted, and why should Mr. Kossuth not receive subsidies from his new ally, the same as all the despotic powers of Europe had received subsidies from England during the whole course of the Anti-Jacobin war? However, I cannot suppress the fact that, of the millions thus put at his disposal, Mr. Kossuth at once appropriated for his own personal expenses the rather handsome figure of 75,000 francs, stipulating, besides, in case the Italian war should end without leading to the invasion of Hungary, for one year's pension for himself. Before he left the Tuileries, it was agreed that Mr. Kossuth was to counteract the suspected Austrian tendencies of the Derby Ministry, by opening a neutrality campaign in England. It is generally known how, on his return to perfidious Albion, the spontaneous support of the Whigs and the Manchester school[374] enabled him to successfully perform this preliminary part of his engagement.

Since 1851, the greater part of the Hungarian exiles of any distinction and political standing had separated from Mr. Kossuth, but what with the vista of an invasion of Hungary by the aid of French troops; what with the logical horse-power of three millions of francs—the world, as the real Napoleon in one of his fits of cynicism said, being governed by "le petit ventre"[l], save some honorable exceptions the whole of the Hungarian emigration in Europe flocked to the Bonapartist banners hoisted by Louis Kossuth. That the transactions which he entered upon with them had some Decembrist smack of corruption cannot be denied, since, to bestow a greater lot of French money upon his new-fangled partisans, he promoted them to higher military grades: lieutenants, for instance, being advanced to the rank of majors. In the first instance, every one received his traveling expenses to Piedmont, then a rich uniform (the cost of a major's costume amounted to £150), and six months' pay in advance, with the promise of pay for one year's service on the conclusion of peace. The so-called Commander-in-Chief received a salary of 10,000 fr., the Generals 6,000 fr. each, the Brigadiers 5,000 fr., the Lieutenant-Colonels 4,000 fr., the Majors 3,000 fr., and so forth.

The names of the more prominent individuals who associated themselves with Kossuth and pocketed Bonapartist money are the following: Generals Klapka, Perczel, Vetter, Czecz; the Colonels Szabó, Imre and István; Kiss, Count S. Teleki, Count Bethlen, Mednyánszky, Ihász, and some lieutenant-colonels and majors. Among the civilians I may mention Count L. Teleki, Puky, Pulszky, Irányi, Ludvigh, Simonyi, Henszlmann, Veress, and others—in fact, all the Hungarian refugees residing in England and on the Continent, with the single exception of S. Vukovics (at London or Axminster), Rónay (at London, a Hungarian savant), and B. Szemere (at Paris, formerly President of the Hungarian Ministry).

Now, it would be unjust to think that all these men acted from corrupt motives. The majority probably consist of simple dupes— patriotic soldiers who cannot be supposed to possess distinct political principles, or the acumen to look through diplomatic webs. Some, like. Gen. Perczel, withdrew as soon as events had shed light upon the Bonapartist imposture. Louis Kossuth, however, who as late as January, 1859, by his articles in Mazzini's Pensiero ed Azione, had shown himself a competent judge of Bonaparte's schemes, can by no means be exculpated in the same way.

Written on September 5, 1859
First published in the New-York Daily Tribune, No. 5748, September 24, 1859;
reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 1496, September 27, 1859
and the New-York Weekly Tribune, No. 942, October 1, 1859
Reproduced from the New-York Daily Tribune


[a] See this volume, pp. 21-27.—Ed.

[b] Lajos Kossuth's letter to David Urquhart of January 22, 1852, Pittsburg, and Urquhart's reply to Kossuth of February 14, 1852, London, The Free Press, No. 16, May 12, 1858.—Ed.

[c] Dudley Stuart.—Ed.

[d] See Correspondence Relative to the Affairs of Hungary 1847-1849.—Ed.

[e] Revolt.—Ed.

[f] L. Kossuth, "In the Name of the Hungarian Nation. To the Soldiers Quartered in Italy, February 1853", The Times, No. 21348, February 10, 1853.—Ed.

[g] Aesop, "The Fox and Grapes".—Ed.

[h] L. Kossuth, L'Europe, l'Autriche et la Hongrie.—Ed.

[i] See this volume, pp. 354-59.—Ed.

[j] Sophia.—Ed.

[k] Zsuzsánna Meszleny.—Ed.

[l] "Belly." See Las Cases, Mémorial de Sainte-Hélène, Vol. 5, p. 32.—Ed.

[370] This article is first mentioned in Marx's letter to Engels of September 5, 1859: "I have written today ... about Italy and Hungary." In a letter to Engels written on September 28, 1859 Marx gives more details about this subject: "'The particulars about Kossuth' in The Free Press are mine. (I have made two articles out of it for the Tribune and shall see whether it accepts them)" (see present edition, Vol. 40).

The item for The Free Press mentioned by Marx was published on September 28, 1859 (issue No. 10) under the title "Particulars of Kossuth's Transaction with Louis Napoleon" (unsigned). The facts given in this item were used by Marx in an article in the New-York Daily Tribune whose editors probably combined Marx's two articles into one.

Later, in his letter to Bertalan Szemere of October 8, 1859, Marx wrote: "I received today the New-York Daily Tribune ... which, under the title 'Kossuth and Louis Napoleon', brings an elaborate article of mine, filling two and a half columns ... this publication is a real success."

In a letter to Engels, of November 19, 1859, Marx described the reaction of the Hungarian refugees in America to this article as follows: "The Hungarians in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, etc., have held meetings at which they resolved to send Kossuth a letter citing my article in the New-York Daily Tribune and suggesting he vindicate himself" (see present edition, Vol. 40).

[371] This refers to Kossuth's participation in the Central Committee of European Democracy set up in London in June 1850 on Mazzini's initiative. The Committee united bourgeois and petty-bourgeois refugees from different countries. Extremely heterogeneous in its composition and ideological stand, the organisation only survived for a short time. It virtually ceased to exist by March 1852 because of the strained relations between Italian and French democratic refugees.

[372] The insurrection at Milan on February 6, 1853 was raised by the followers of the Italian revolutionary Mazzini and supported by the Hungarian revolutionary elements in the Austrian army. Marx analysed it in a number of articles (see present edition, Vol. 11, pp. 508-09, 513-16 and 535-37). The landing at Sapri (province of Salerno) of a small detachment for the purpose of raising a revolt in the south of Italy took place late in June 1857. The republican uprising in Châlon-sur-Saône took place on the night of March 5, 1858. This attempt on the life of Napoleon III was made by the Italian revolutionary Orsini on January 14, 1858.

[373] Mansion House—residence of Lord Mayor in London.
Free-Trade Hall—a hall in Manchester where Free Traders met.

[374] The Manchester school—a trend in economic thought reflecting the interests of the industrial bourgeoisie. It advocated Free Trade and non-interference by the state in economic affairs. In the 1840s and 1850s the Free Traders constituted the Left wing of the Liberal Party in England.

Source: Marx and Engels Collected Works, Volume 16 (pp.497-503), Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980
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