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• Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed by the Chair to wait on Louis Kossuth, Governor of Hungary, and introduce him to the Senate.”
December 9th, Mr. Berrien, of Georgia, addressed the Senate at length in opposition to action by Congress, and, in closing his speech, moved the following amendment: -
“ And be it further Resolved, That the welcome thus afforded to Louis Kossuth be extended to his associates who have landed on our shores; but while welcoming these Hungarian patriots to an asylum in our country, and to the protection which our laws do and always will afford to them, it is due to candor to declare that it is not the purpose of Congress to depart from the settled policy of this Government, which forbids all interference with the domestic concerns of other nations.
The final question was not reached till December 12th, when the amendment of Mr. Berrien was rejected : yeas 15, nays 26. The question then recurred on the resolution of Mr. Seward, which was adopted : yeas 33, nays 6. The resolution passed the House of Representatives, and was signed by the President.
On the 10th of December Mr. Sumner spoke. It was his first speech in the Senate., He rose to speak late in the afternoon of the day before, but gave way to an adjournment, which was moved by Mr. Rusk, of Texas. The next day, on motion of Mr. Seward, the Senate proceeded to the consideration of the resolution, when Mr. Sumner took the iloor.
The following characteristic letter from Mr. Choate, one of his predecessors as Senator from Massachusetts, illustrates the reception of the speech in the country, besides being a souvenir of friendly relations amidst political differences.
“Boston, December 29, 1851. “MY DEAR MR. SUMNER,
“I thank you for the copy of your beautiful speech, and for the making of it. All men say it was a successful one, parliamentarily expressing it; and I am sure it is sound and safe, steering skilfully between cold-shoulderism and inhospitality, on the one side, and the splendid folly and wickedness of coöperation, on the other. Cover the Magyar with flowers, lave him with perfumes, serenade him with eloquence, and let him go home alone,
- if he will not live here.- Such is all that is permitted to wise states, aspiring to the True Grandeur.'
“I wish to Heaven you would write me de rebus Congressus. How does the Senate strike you ? The best place this day on earth for reasoned and thoughtful, yet stimulant public speech. Think of that. “Most truly yours — in the Union,
R. PRESIDENT, – Words are sometimes things; V and I cannot disguise from myself that the resolution in honor of Louis Kossuth now pending before the Senate, when finally passed, will be an act of no small significance in the history of our country. The Senator from Georgia [Mr. BERRIEN] was right, when he said that it was no unmeaning compliment. Beyond its immediate welcome to an illustrious stranger, it will help to combine and direct the sentiments of our own people everywhere; it will inspire all in other lands who are engaged in the contest for freedom; it will challenge the disturbed attention of despots; and will become a precedent, whose importance will grow, in the thick-coming events of the future, with the growing might of the Republic. Therefore it becomes us to consider well what we do, and to understand the grounds of our conduct.
I am prepared to vote for it without amendment or condition of any kind, and on reasons which seem to me at once obvious and conclusive. In assigning these I shall be brief; and let me say, that, novice as I am in this hall, and, indeed, in all legislative halls, nothing but my strong interest in the question as now presented, and a hope to say something directly upon it, could prompt me thus early to mingle in these debates.
The case seems to require a statement, rather than an argument. As I understand, the last Congress requested the President to authorize the employment of a national vessel to receive and convey Louis Kossuth to the United States. That honorable service was performed, under the express direction of the President, and in pursuance of the vote of Congress, by one of the best appointed ships of our navy,—the steam-frigate Mississippi. Far away from our country, in foreign waters, on the current of the Bosphorus, the Hungarian chief, passing from his Turkish exile, first pressed the deck of this gallant vessel, first came under the protection of our national flag, and for the first time in his life rested beneath the ensign of an unquestioned Republic. From that moment he became our guest. The Republic ---which thus far he had seen only in delighted dream or vision - was now his host; and though this relation was interrupted for a few weeks by his wise and brilliant visit to England, yet its duties and its pleasures, as I confidently submit, are not yet ended. The liberated exile is now at our gates. Sir, we cannot do things by halves; and the hospitality, which, under the auspices of Congress, was thus begun, must, under the auspices of Congress, be continued. The hearts of the people are already open to receive him; Congress cannot turn its back upon him.
I would join in this welcome, not merely because it is essential to complete and crown the work of the last Congress, but because our guest deserves it. The distinction is great, I know; but it is not so great as his deserts. He deserves it as the early, constant, and incorruptible champion of the Liberal Cause in Hungary, who, while yet young, with unconscious power, girded himself for the contest, and by a series of masterly labors, with voice and pen, in parliamentary debate and in the discussions of the press, breathed into his country the breath of life. He deserves it by the great principles of true democracy which he caused to be recognized,
representation of the people without distinction of
rank or birth, and Equality before the law.1 He deserves it by the trials he has undergone, in prison and in exile. He deserves it by the precious truth he now so eloquently proclaims, of the Fraternity of Nations. As I regard his course, I am filled with reverence and
I see in him, more than in any other living man, the power which may be exerted by a single, earnest, honest soul in a noble cause. In himself he is more than a whole cabinet, more than a whole army. I watch him in Hungary, while, like Carnot in France, he “organizes victory"; I follow him in exile to distant Mahometan Turkey, and there find him, with only scanty band, in weakness and confinement, still the dread of despots; I sympathize with him in his happy release; and now, as he comes more within the sphere of immediate observation, amazement fills us all in the contemplation of his career, while he proceeds from land to land, from city to city, and, with words of matchless power, seems at times the fiery sword of Freedom, and then the trumpet of resurrection to the Nations, -
" Tuba mirum spargens sonum." 2 I know not how others are impressed; but I call to mind no incident in history, no event of peace or war, - certainly none of war, — more strongly calculated, better adapted, to touch and exalt the imagination and the heart than his recent visit to England. He landed on the southern coast, not far from where William of Normandy, nearly eight centuries ago, had landed,-- not far from where, nineteen centuries ago, Julius Cæsar had landed also; but William on the field of Hastings, and Cæsar in his adventurous expedition, made no conquest
1 This important phrase is thus early introduced. 2 Dies Iræ, st. 3.
comparable in grandeur to that achieved by the unarmed and unattended Hungarian. A multitudinous people, outnumbering far the armies of those earlier times, was subdued by his wisdom and eloquence; and this exile, proceeding from place to place, traversing the country, at last, in the very heart of the Kingdom, threw down the gauntlet of the Republic. Without equivocation, amidst the supporters of monarchy, in the shadow of a lofty throne, he proclaimed himself a republican, and proclaimed the republic as his cherished aspiration for Hungary. And yet, amidst the excitements of this unparalleled scene, with that discretion which I pray may ever attend him as a good angel, the ancient poet aptly tells us that no Divinity is absent where Prudence is present," -- he forbore all suggestion of interference with the institutions of the country whose guest he was, recognizing that vital principle of self-government by which every state chooses for itself the institutions and rulers it prefers.
Such a character, thus grandly historic, — a living Wallace, a living Tell, I had almost said a living Washington, - deserves our homage. Nor am I tempted to ask if there be any precedent for the resolution now under consideration. There is a time for all things; and the time has come for us to make a precedent in harmony with his unprecedented career. The occasion is fit; the hero is near; let us speak our welcome. It is true, that, unlike Lafayette, he has never directly served our country ; but I cannot admit that on this account he is less worthy. Like Lafayette, he perilled life and all; like Lafayette, he did penance in an Austrian dungeon ; like Lafayette, he served the cause of Free
1 “Nullum numen abest, si sit Prudentia.” - JUVENAL, Sat. X. 365.