b. 1802 d. 1894
of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, Lawyer, Journalist and Statesman.
After being imprisoned by the Habsburg controlled government in
1837, on charges related to articles he wrote about the otherwise
secret proceedings of the Habsburg controlled Parliament, he was
released by popular demand in 1840. In 1841 he became editor-in
chief of the daily newspaper Pesti Hírlap, and because of its’ politically
reformist position it became very popular. The paper served to define
a united national interest and a set of republicanist goals. Because
of his succes at using his position to argue with Széchenyi István,
a well known member of the nobility, the core of Hungary’s political
opposition, most of whom were reformists, gathered behind this brave
editor. However, he was forced to leave the paper because of the
threatening activity of the Habsburg secret police. For a while,
thereafter, he worked with several insitutions involved in the creation
of Hungary’s early industrial base. In 1846 he wrote two articles
advocating equality of burden between the Hungarian nobility and
the average Hungarian.
In 1847 he returned to the national parliament and began the formation
of a serious opposition party. Then in the Spring of 1848 the Hungarian
Parliament brought about changes in the low that were the start
of a Republican system of government. A month later, following a
chain of revolutionary republicanist uprisings throught Europe,
the Hungarian revolutionary opposition, in an almost non-violent
uprising, took hold of the government and Kossuth was made Minister
of Finances. A year later, in the Spring of 1849, Kossuth advised
the government to pass a law prohibiting Emperor Franz Joseph from
claiming rights to the Hungarian throne. A little later he was elected
President of the transitional government, a position that gave him
almost full control of the nation.
Hungarian national forces were then forced into a war with Austrian
Imperial troops threatening their newly found independence. At first
thely were quite succesful. However, Kossuths’ efforts at uniting
the Hungarian nation and at trying Hungarianize the other ethnic
groups (giving priority to the Hungarian language and culture),
such as the Croats and other Slavic peoples, made these ethnic groups
fervent supporters of a return to Austrian rule. Following the crushing
of the Hungarian Revolutionary forces by Russian Tsarist forces
sent to intervene on behalf of Habsburg Emperor, a Hungarian military
officer was placed in charge of the government.
Thus Kossuth resigned and prepared to go into exile, first to
Turkey, then by invitation of the Congress of the United States
Kossuth was taken by an American steamship to do a tour of England
and the United States, where he was received with great enthusiasm
and where he raised public awareness to the cause of Hungarian independence.
For a decade he resided in England, and then, in 1859, while in
Paris, he founded the Hungarian government in exile. During the
remainder of his life he lived in Toronto, Italy, and though half
blind continued working till 1894. Hundreds of thousands attended
his funeral in Budapest. None of the official government were present
to honor him. He was the son of a noble and intellectual Protestant
family residing in Monok, Hungary (at the time part of Austria).
He began his political career in 1825, when got into the Hungarian
Habsburg-run parliament. Although he failed to establish a lasting
independent Hungarian Republic, his memory inspires many Hungarians.
Aside from hundreds of statues and monuments erected throughout
Hungary, there is one of Kossuth in the main rotunda of the U.S.
Capitol building in Washington, D.C.