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HUNGARIANS IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
REPRINTED FROM „DONG0". TENTH
Although the Hungarian has but recently become an "element" in the great American "melting pot," he has been by no means a stranger on this continent. He seems to have even preceded here all European races except the Norsemen, for the Tyrker, or Turk, who, according to the Icelandic saga, discovered grapes at Vinland about the year 1000 A. D., could have been no other than an Hungarian1. In Sir Humphrey Gilbert's illfated expedition to New Foundland in 1583 we find an Hungarian humanist, Stephanus Parmenius Budseus, who had been selected by Sir Humphrey, on account of his learning and his elegant Latin verse, to be the historian of the expedition. Even the "fake" Hungarian nobleman appeared quite at the beginnings of colonial history, the first known example of this, fortunately not very numerous, species being no less a personage than the redoubtable Captain John Smith, President of Virginia, Admiral of New England, etc. He alleged to have received a patent of nobility, or grant of arms, from Sigismund Bathory, Prince of Transylvania, a copy of which is on file in the College of Arms in London. Hungarian historians, however, pronounced it to be a forgery, and a very clumsy one at that.
1 Most of the latter translators and commentators of the Heimskringla take Tyrker to have been German. The question hinges on the translation of the Icelandic words "a thyrsku." It is difficult to see how they can be translated with "in German" instead of "in Turkish." (Turk and Turkish were then the appellations given to the Hungarians and their language.)
There are records of Hungarian settlers and travelers all through the colonial period and the first half-century of the United States. But they are only sporadic instances, as the Hungarians were not a sea-faring people and have never made any systematic attempt at colonization; in fact, all the energy they possessed was needed in their own country to hold their own against the encroachments of the Habsburgs on their liberties. Of the Hungarian travelers who visited the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century, the most prominent was Alexander Farkas de Bolon, whose book, first published at Kolozsvar in 1834, and particularly his observations on the political institutions of the American republic, made a deep impression on the Hungarian mind, the more so as they had a direct bearing on the political reforms then advocated in Hungary. Farkas's book was, no doubt, also one of the causes that induced an ever increasing number of Hungarians to emigrate to the American Land of Promise in the thirties and forties of the nineteenth century; they were, however, still too few to engage the attention of the statistician.
Hungary was then in the ferment of a grand liberal movement, in which the three greatest Hungarians of the century, Szechenyi, Kossuth and Deak, took a leading part. This movement culminated in the upheaval of 1848, which, starting in France, swept over the whole continent of Europe. It was successful only in France. The liberals of the German and Italian countries, with the exception of Venice, soon had to drop their swords. Hungary alone kept up the struggle for a year and a half, and was finally overcome only by the combined efforts of the two greatest military powers of the age. It was not merely the traditional military prowess and patriotic selfsacrifice of the Hungarians, admirable as they were, that made their magnificent struggle possible; in these qualities the other peoples may not have been much behind them. It was their inbred constitutional instinct; it was their possession of a constitution which, alone on the Continent, was not a single written instrument based on the experiences of others, or the gift of a benevolent ruler, but was—like the English constitution—the natural growth of many centuries, making the sovereign nation the source of all legitimate authority; it was their experience in self-government in the counties which—when the rest of Europe was groaning under the weight of feudalism —were semi-independent little republics; in short, it was their possession of free institutions and the memories of the blood and treasure which their fathers had spent in securing and defending them, that enabled the Hungarians to rally around their leader and to keep the banner of liberty flying long after the others had failed.
The glorious Hungarian Honved Army was the hope and the object of admiration of the whole civilized world, and nowhere more so than in the United States. President Taylor acted only in accord with public sentiment when he dispatched Ambrose Dudley Mann, of Virginia, as special and confidential agent to Hungary to ascertain the true state of affairs with the view of recognizing her independence. Mann's reports, published only recently2 are eloquent testimonials of American sympathy for the Hungarian cause, and offer a refreshing contrast to the reports of Lord Ponsonby, the British ambassador to Vienna, who appears to have been the dupe of Prince Schwarzenberg.
Hungary, at last, had to yield to the overwhelming power of Russia. Some of the patriots went into exile at once; others fell the victims of Austria's insane vengeance; still others, seeing the
2 Senate Document No. 279, 61st Congress, 2nd Session. See also Senate Dwnjment No. 43. 31«t Congress. 1st Session.