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1848-49 Hungarian Revolution & War of Independence

Imagine a Nation: Unstained - This Blog series highlights the plight of people fleeing danger in order to expose centuries of sameness. It does notr seek to encourage apathy and acceptance of them in any form.

Hungary, during the middle of the 19th century was controlled by Vienna. Persecution and censorship were a normal part of life and Hungarians or Magyars, were powerless to change this.

A national movement began in the 1830s, propagating ideas that threatened old systems.

On March 1, 1848 news of the French Revolution reached the Hungarian State Assembly.

On March 3 leadership calls for reform increased.

Hungarian insurgents called for press freedom, civil rights and responsible government.

"The Twelve Points" of the reformers

The twelve points served as basis for the later April laws. They were as follows:[26]

  1. Freedom of the Press (The abolition of censorship and the censor's offices)

  2. Accountable ministries in Buda and Pest (Instead of the simple royal appointment of ministers, all ministers and the government must be elected and dismissed by the parliament)

  3. An annual parliamentary session in Pest. (instead of the rare ad-hoc sessions which were convened by the king)

  4. Civil and religious equality before the law. (The abolition of separate laws for the common people and nobility, the abolition of the legal privileges of nobility. Full religious liberty instead of moderated tolerance: the abolition of (Catholic) state religion)

  5. National Guard. (The forming of their own Hungarian national guard, it worked like a police force to keep the law and order during the transition of the system, thus preserving the morality of the revolution)

  6. Joint share of tax burdens. (abolition of the tax exemption of the nobility, the abolition of customs and tariff exemption of the nobility)

  7. The abolition of socage. (abolition of Feudalism and abolition of the serfdom of peasantry and their bondservices)

  8. Juries and representation on an equal basis. (The common people can be elected as juries at the legal courts, all people can be officials even at the highest levels of public administration and the judiciary, if they have the prescribed education)

  9. National Bank.

  10. The army to swear to support the constitution, our soldiers should not be sent abroad, and foreign soldiers should leave our country.

  11. The freeing of political prisoners.

  12. Union. (with Transylvania, including the re-union of the Hungarian and Transylvanian parliaments, which became separate during the Ottoman wars)

On March 15, A bloodless revolution began in Vienna and Emperor Ferdinand was obliged to promise change.

An uprising spread quickly.

In April 1848, Hungary became the third country of Continental Europe (after France, in 1791, and Belgium, in 1831, to enact law about democratic parliamentary elections. The new suffrage law (Act V of 1848) transformed the old feudal parliament into a democratic representative parliament. This law offered the widest suffrage right in Europe at the time [Wikipedia]

On April 11 Hungary became a constitutional monarchy and power passed to the national government.

The crucial turning point of events was when the new young Austrian monarch Franz Joseph Iarbitrarily revoked the April laws (ratified by King Ferdinand I) without any legal competence. This unconstitutional act irreversibly escalated the conflict between the Hungarian parliament and Franz Joseph.

An Austrian military campaign against the Kingdom of Hungary resulted in the fall of the pacifist Batthyány government (who sought agreement with the court) and led to the sudden emergence of Lajos Kossuth's followers in the parliament, who demanded the full independence of Hungary.

The Austrian military intervention in the Kingdom of Hungary resulted in strong anti-Habsburg sentiment among Hungarians, thus the events in Hungary grew into a war for total independence from the Habsburg dynasty. Around 40% of the private soldiers in the Hungarian Revolutionary Army consisted of ethnic minorities of the country [Wikipedia].

Opponents found allies among surrounding nations who, under Vienna’s orders, invaded Hungary but were thwarted.

Hungarians held their own until Austria aligned with the Russian Tsar and they were forced to surrender.

On January 1, 1849, the Hungarian revolutionary government was forced to evacuate from Pest-Buda, and moved to Debrecen, bringing with it the crown of St. Stephen. Fighting continued throughout the spring, and on April 14, Hungary proclaimed itself an independent republic. The Parliament then elected Kossuth as its President. In early May, the Habsburg ruler appealed to the Russian Tsar for military assistance, which came int he form of 200,000 Russian troops [Hungarian Foundation]

Martial law and vicious reprisals forced waves of refugees to seek asylum across Europe, the Ottoman Empire and the United States.

Refuge in Ottoman nations

One of the neglected areas of Hungarian historiography isthe life of the Hungarian emigrant in Turkey following their leaving Hungary after the 1848/49 War of Independence... the international struggle and relations concerning the issue of refugees are well known,' we only know little about the life of hundreds of Hungarians who stayed in the Ottoman Empire ... though many of them made significant careers. [Csorba].

... The exact number of the emigrants cannot be fixed as the population of the Vidin camp changed day by day due to the arrival of new refugees, and the casualties of illnesses or epidemics. However, according to Turkish sources, their number is estimated at 5000-5500, as at the end of October, 3156 people returned to Hungary, at the beginning of November 1690 refugees were registered, 400-600 people died in the camp of illnesses, and besides these a few successful escapes are also known [Csorba].

Refuge in the United States

Many Americans were sympathetic towards Hungary’s revolt against Austrian rule, and some Hugarian leaders cited the American War of Independence as an inspiration. The U.S. Minister in Vienna offered to serve as an intermediary in pursuit of an armistice between Austria and Hungary during the winter of 1848-49, but Secretary of State James Buchanan feared that it could bring the United States into a European conflict. In June 1849, President Zachary Taylor appointed A. Dudley Mann, a Virginian working with the U.S. Legation in Paris, as a special and confidential agent of the United States to the Government of Hungary. Mann was to travel to Hungary and present a letter of introduction. He was authorized to recognize the new government if Hungary appeared „able to maintain the independence she had declared.” Mann had gotten no farther than Vienna when Austrian and Russian armies defeated the Hungarians in the Battle of Temesvár on August 9, and the Hungarian forces surrended at Világos on August 13.

Taylor met with Hungarian refugees in January 1850.

The leaders of Hungary’s defeated independence movement faced execution, prison and exile. Kossuth and some of his associates fled to Turkey; when Austria and Russia demanded their extradition, the Ottoman Sultan instead imprisoned the men. The harsh repression that followed the revolution sparked a negative reaction in the United States, whose population sympathized with the democratic aspiration of Hungary [Hungarian Foundation]

Is there a Nation Unstained by bloodshed? Is there a Nation Unstained that has never dehumanised,

maligned or persecuted a people group crushing them under foot?


All images are AI generated

Heléna Tóth’s An Exiled Generation: German and Hungarian Refugees of Revolution, 1848–1871, explores the daily lives and struggles of refugees forced to leave their countries after the failed revolutions.

The character of political exile Toth is right in assuming that "the prevailing assumptions about the character of political exile" changed in the aftermath of the revolutions. She asserts that asylum in mid-nineteenth-century Europe was not designed for very large groups; rather, it was geared toward "small, politically and socially homogeneous groups that could be relatively easily absorbed by the politically

sympathetic states that granted them asylum" [CUP 2014].

The dynamics of exile in 3 social settings What is really new in this book is the analysis of dynamics of exile in three social settings: the family, the professions, and social networks. These settings are shown in various forms of migration focusing upon two case studies: the German southwest and the Kingdom of Hungary [CUP 2014].

Before there was Budapest Pest, a German commercial centre in Hungary and by then part of the Habsburg empire of Austria, had begun to grow in the late 18th century. Buda, where in the early 18th century only German Roman Catholics were allowed to settle, remained an imperial garrison town and developed once more under the eye of the monarch [].

The character of Buda under the Habsburgs remained aristocratic and distinctly alien. Pest, into which the gentry and intelligentsia moved, became wedded to the national cause; the Széchenyi Chain Bridge, linking Buda with Pest, was a metaphor for unity. The town of Pest was still partly German, but the nobility of Pest megyeled the campaign for Hungarian home rule [].


Csorba, György, Hungarian Emigrants of 1848-49 in the Ottoman Empire

CUP - Heléna Tóth. An Exiled Generation: German and Hungarian Refugees of Revolution, 1848–1871. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. Pp. 310, maps, tables, illus.


Revolutions of 1848,

Hungarian Revolution of 1848

The Great Immigration (1870-1920) - Hungarians\

The nationalities of Hungary

The US and the 1848 Hungarian Revolution, The Hungary Foundation

Wikipedia, The Hungarian Revolution of 1848 or fully Hungarian Civic Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–1849

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