Louis Kossuth

1802–1894

Louis Kossuth was a liberal activist who strove for Hungarian independence from neighboring Austria. He was a brilliant journalist and clever politician, and for a short time he came close to achieving his goal of freedom and self-government. He is widely credited as the hero of the Hungarian Revolution, and during his life, he was honored throughout Europe and the U.S. as a dedicated freedom fighter.

At the time of Kossuthís birth, his native Hungary was under the strict rule of Austria and its chief minister, Metternich. At nineteen, Kossuth entered into his fatherís legal practice but was fired over a mishap, and he instead earned his keep as deputy to a member of the National Diet, a formal assembly whose aims opposed that of the Austrian government. Under his new title, Kossuth was expected to secretly publish written accounts of the Dietís meetings in order to arouse popular support. Hearing of his practices, the Austrian government arrested him on grounds of treason and held him in prison for two years, until the Diet demanded his release. Once free, he married his close friend and started again on his writings, this time for a Liberal party newspaper. He lost his job after a dispute with his employer, however, and he remained jobless for three years before being elected to the Diet. Shortly afterward, and following the Revolution in Paris, a mob overthrew Metternich and Kossuthís close friend became leader of the new government, making him Minister of Finance. After the newly created government fell several months later, Kossuth assumed full control, effectively resisting dangers from the Croats and Serbs as well as the Viennese Reaction. He issued the Hungarian Laws of Independence and was subsequently elected Governor-President. He was no match for the Russians, however, and following their intervention on the side of Austria, he was captured and held under house arrest before escaping aboard a frigate.

He sailed to England and America in order to gain support and intervention on the side of Hungary, but despite the great acclaim with which he was received in both countries, his pleas came too late to be effective. Other Hungarian exiles attacked him for claiming sole responsibility for the revolution, and he was widely accused of arrogance and cowardice. Further attempts to form a Hungarian legion, this time with the aid of Napoleon III, were ultimately fruitless, and he refused to participate in negotiations for the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867. Instead, he remained in Italy and was deprived of his Hungarian citizenship due to his absence. He died in Turin, and several statues of his image now stand in various European countries.


Key events during the life of Louis Kossuth:


Year
Event
1802
Born into Hungarian nobility
1821
Entered his father's legal practice
1825, 1832
Asssisted the National Diet in Hungary by secretly writing of its proceedings
1837
Austrian government arrested him on grounds of treason
1839
Diet demanded his release, Austrians obliged
  Married close firend Teresa Meszleny
1841
Was appointed editor of a popular Liberal newspaper
1844
Lost his job after a dispute with his employer
1847
Was elected to the Hungarian Diet and became chief leader of the Extreme Liberals
1848
Mob overthrew Austrian minister Metternich and instated new government
1849
Became Governor President of Hungary
1851
Left Ottoman Empire aboard an American frigate, visited UK and America
1859
Negotiated with Napoleon III to organize Hungarian legion but was unsuccessful
1867
Elected to Diet but did not take position
1879
Government revoked his citizenship because of his extended absence
1894
Died in Turin

Other Resources


Story Links
Book Links
Louis Kossuth and Hungary  in  Growth of the British Empire  by  M. B. Synge


Contemporary
Short Biography
Napoleon III Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.
Klemens von Metternich Austrian politician, strong adovcate of conservatism who formed the Holy Alliance to repress liberalism
Otto von Bismarck Prussian statesman and mastermind of German Unification. Strategically provoked wars against Austria and France.
Elizabeth of Barvaria Empress of Austria who was influential in 19th century society and known as a free spirit.