Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
Welcome to Louis Kossuth
By William Henry Seward (18011872)
[Speech in the U. S. Senate, 12 December, 1851.]
YOU say that you were willing to give Kossuth a welcome, but that he demanded more. How did you know that he demanded more? How did you learn that Kossuth demanded more than a cordial welcome? Where did he ask of you even so much as a welcome? Was it in your capital? To whom did he address his extravagant and offensive reclamation? Was it to your President? to your Ministry? to your Congress? No; all alike refused to receive him, refused even to hear him speak, and yet you say he demanded too much. You closed his mouth before he had time to tell you what he thought, and what he wanted, or whether he wanted anything. But you reply, he was overheard to say that he expected arms, men, money, material aid, and intervention. Overheard? What! did you deliver Kossuth from Russian surveillance in Turkey to establish an espionage over him of your own? Shame! shame to the country that so lightly regards the sanctity of the character of a stranger and an exile! But you say that he would have demanded intervention. Suppose he should have demanded intervention? Would you have been less able to have met that unreasonable demand after having accorded to him the exact justice which was his due, than you are now when you have done him injustice, and thus clothed him with the sympathies of your people and of mankind? But you aver that he spoke irreverently of your authority: he was overheard to say, in the outgushing of his gratitude to the generous people who received him on Staten Island, that the people were the sovereigns of the Government of the United States, and you cannot pardon that offence. What if he did say that? Are not the people the sovereigns of the Government of the United States? Which one of your senators or representatives dare deny in his place that the people are his sovereigns? But you say that you had a precedent; that you once took offence at a minister of France who assumed the same position. You refer to Genet. But there is no parallel. Genet was a minister of a government actually hostile, almost belligerent. He was in negotiation, and his demands were denied. He took an appeal from the decision of your government to the people. But Kossuth is no minister. He is your guest. He went to you not to negotiate, or to demand a right. He went by your invitation to enjoy your hospitalities. You have decided nothing against him. He has submitted no appeal. I do not say that you ought to have granted intervention had it been demanded. But I do say this, that the Hungarian would have demanded no more of you than, in a strait less severe than his, I solicited and obtained for the United States of America from the Bourbon of France. Could you not have pardoned him for asking what you had once asked and obtained for yourselves? Was it so great a fault in him to suppose that now, in the day of your greatness, prosperity, and power, you might not be unwilling to do for Hungary what, in the day of your infancy, poverty, and weakness, France had done for yourselves? You say you stand upon precedent. Precedent? By whom established? By yourselves. Was Hungary concluded by such a precedent? And what precedent? The precedent of the reception given to Lafayette? Was not even that reception grudgingly given by the Congress of the United States? If the ashes of Lafayette could be reanimated, and he could present himself again upon your shores, would you not now willingly accord him a greater than the welcome he before received at your handsa welcome such as it was proposed to give to Kossuth? Wherein does the parallel between Kossuth and Lafayette fail? Lafayette began his career as a soldier of liberty in the cause of your country; but he pursued it through life in an effort to establish a republic in his own beloved land. Kossuth found the duty which first devolved upon him was to wage a struggle for freedom in his own country. When overborne there, he became, like Lafayette, a champion of liberty throughout the world. You say that the Russian might have taken offence. Is America, then, brought so low that she fears to give offence when commanded by the laws of nature and of nations? What right had Russia to prescribe whom you should receive and whom reject from your hospitalities? Let no such humiliation be confessed.