The Aberdeen Journal
July 9, 1856 - report of Kossuth's two lectures given in Aberdeen, Scotland.
(Kossuth's words are italicised here)


This illustrious visitor arrived here from the south on Friday afternoon, having been invited to deliver two public lectures to our citizens. The first of these was given in the Hall of the Mechanics’ Institution on Saturday evening. A crowd was waiting on the street and, as he entered, accompanied by the members of Committee in charge of the lectures, gave a hearty cheer. The meeting in the Hall was numerous.
Kossuth, on entering, met with an enthusiastic reception. He was accompanied by his former aid-de-camp, Lieut. Col. Ihasz, and by Sheriff Watson, Baillie Henderson, Councillor Oswald, Professor Clark, Messrs Macallan, N. Smith, McCombie (of Free Press), &c.

On the motion of the sheriff, Baillie Henderson was called to the chair.

The Chairman said he had the honour of introducing one of the most distinguished men in Europe – (cheers) – Louis Kossuth, ex-Governor of Hungary. (Renewed applause). Our illustrious visitor had kindly complied with our request, and had come to tell us of those noble struggles in which his country had been engaged, as well as of the present danger which he thinks, and which many others think, menaces Europe. (Cheers).

Kossuth then rose, and was loudly cheered, the cheering being succeeded by a profound silence. He is a little above the medium size. There is combined ease, grace and dignity about his movements, as of one “born to command”. His head, according to the usual marks, is intellectual, the expression of the countenance frank, pleasing, and almost benevolent, with a tinge of pensiveness, and the eye, large and lustrous, betokens genius.

In speaking, the foreign accent is marked, which renders the opening sentences difficult to understand: soon, however, the speaker establishes a sympathy between himself and his audience. He takes a grasp of his subject remarkable for comprehensiveness, and evinces an extraordinary acquaintance with history, as well as human nature. His oratory stands by itself: the imagery and comparisons are striking, often startling – the style and language equal to the great masters of former days.

The voice is sonorous, yet musical – the action calm and majestic. All is natural; or, if there is art, it is of the highest kind – that which “conceals art”. Slight as is the above sketch, it will prepare the reader for being told that any report which could be given of the lecture would convey but a faint idea of the reality; but though it were otherwise, there is a kind of copyright attaching to such lectures, of which it would be unjust, as well as ungenerous, that the distinguished author should not have the full benefit. This, however, does not apply to the introduction, which, as having a reference to the locality, as well as to the personal history of the speaker, we subjoin:-

“Chateaubriand, on hearing a Mohamedan muezzin announce the hour of prayer at Athens, was led to exclaim – What a strange history is in that voice of a Turkish priest who, from a minaret raised on the ruins of the Parthenon, announces the lapse of time, in Arabian language, to the Christian inhabitants of the city of Minerva! What a strange history of gigantic events is in that voice. Sir, if a stranger were listening this evening to my broken accent, with which I profane the language of Shakespeare before a highly cultivated assembly in the northern metropolis of Scotland, he might well exclaim – What a strange history is in that voice!

A German and a Russian emperor conspire for crushing the constitutional life and national existence of Hungary, and the chosen chief of the Magyars, of pure Asiatic descent, driven from his native Pannonia by treason combined with Russian arms; saved by the magnanimity of a Mohamedan sultan from the blood-thirst of Christian Emperors; confined to an Asiatic fortress by European diplomacy; released by the intercession of Republican America; honoured in his fall as no conqueror has ever been honoured, with popular ovations along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, on the banks of the Thames, in the halls of the Capitol at Washington, and on the banks of the Mississippi – now acting the part of an English lecturer in the far north of Scotland, discoursing on the Austrian Concordat in the language of Shakespeare, before the protestant Caledonians of the ancient devana of Julius Agricola. (Cheers). What a strange history in the voice of that homeless wanderer, listened to by the citizens of Aberdeen!

And who could tell what is to be the end of that strange life? Who could tell in what soil the tempest-tossed head of that homeless wanderer is to be laid down to eternal rest? Will it be in the soil with which the dust of his father is mingled, or is his longing heart doomed to break in the lingering agony of homelessness, before the sun of resurrection shall have risen over his native land? (Applause). Like as the imponderable atom partakes of the substantial character of the infinite worlds, just so my own fate depends on the fate of whole nations. The Continent of Europe remaining oppressed, I have to die in exile or on the scaffold. The Continent of Europe free, and I see my own dear native home in freedom again. (Cheers.)

Sir, I love my country with all the ardour of a patriot’s heart – (cheers) – and I would not want the inducements of personal happiness to devote my life to its freedom and prosperity – (renewed cheers) – but since all the hopes of the man and the father are thus identified with the longings of the patriot, you will find it but natural that all my feelings and all my thoughts should eternally be bent on the liberation of my country.
Call it virtue, call it fragility, approve of it, or blame me for it, it is a fact that Time, unsparing to all, to me loaded with the burden of protracted adversity, may bend this decaying frame – the shadow of baffled expectations may cast its gloom over my spirits; but, as long as this poor heart has but one throb, as long as one spark of self-conscious intellect glimmers in my mind, my heart can feel nothing, my mind can think of nothing but of freedom and fatherland. (Cheers.)

Owing to this singleness of purpose, I do not hesitate to confess that with me the task of a lecturer is a hard one. Not because in my position the task is that of a plain labourer. I hold labour to be an honour and a blessing, not degradation or a curse. (Applause.) And, besides, I may be allowed to say, that I have a right to be proud of doing a plain labourer’s work, that the homeless children of the exiled father may have education and bread, earned by honourable toil. (Cheers.) I have had all the treasures of my country under my disposition; and I went to exile with a plain walking-stick under my right hand, and with a light carpet-bag on my left arm. Seeing my country shattered to ruins by a flagrant violation of Divine and human laws, I would have considered it a desecration to save even my own fortunes from amongst the ruins of my fatherland. Sir, I glory in my honest poverty, and I glory in this, my humble work. (Applause.)

Therefore, it is not from being a plain labourer’s work that the task of a lecturer is a hard one to me; it is a hard one because such are the unconquerable pre-occupations of my soul, that, howsoever I may strive I cannot succeed in mustering such a composure as might enable me to come up, in the capacity of an English lecturer, to the legitimate expectations of such a distinguished assembly. This thought makes me uneasy, ladies and gentlemen, because I am incapable of trifling with any obligation. (Cheers.) I owe you gratitude for your kindness, liberality, and sympathy. I owe you gratitude for the balm of consolation you are pouring on the sorrows of the father and the grief of the patriot. I owe you intense gratitude for the cheering fact – sure to extend its beneficent influence far beyond the sphere of the humble lecturer – I owe you gratitude for the cheering fact that, notwithstanding the disadvantages of the political situation of the moment, even the indifferent incident of my presence amongst you was sufficient to elicit such manifestations of public opinion in Scotland as will convince the oppressed nations on the Continent that the British people never has ceased, and never will cease, to take the warmest interest in the cause of liberty abroad.

These manifestations are the more significant, the less they are owing to any stirring incident. Such as they are, they are the spontaneous result  of the deeply rooted love of liberty – at the same time a cheering revelation of the spreading ascendency of the principle of that solidairty upon which the hopes of humanity rest. (Cheers.) I have a strong unfaltering faith in the paternal designs of Providence. I consider it a valuable progress in the onward course of the destinies of mankind that the heart-stirring wrongs and noble misfortune of my country, and in consequence of it, the familiar public intercourse to which I have been admitted, both by the people of Great Britain and America, were not without influence towards awakening a livelier attention for foreign affairs – consequently towards developing that sentiment of active brotherhood between nations, the want of which has undoubtedly much contributed in the past to the instability to which the isolated efforts of freedom have been subject.

Therefore, Sir, feeling myself under so manifold obligations of gratitude, I certainly would most fervently wish to testify my appreciation of the kindness of this assembly, by endeavouring to perform, in an acceptable manner, my present task: however, as from the reasons I have alluded to, I cannot hope to come up to the legitimate expectations of this assembly, allow me to entreat you, ladies and gentlemen, that you will crown the work of your liberality by lowering your expectations to a level with my present position; and that, instead of letting me walk in the shadow of great expectations, you will allow me to stand in the warming rays of your indulgence, while I perform the plain labourer’s work, on which I now enter as in duty bound.”

He then proceeded with the lecture, the subject of which was the recent Concordat between the Pope and the Emperor of Austria. He laid down the principle that every nation has a right to manage its own domestic affairs, and should assert that right; and, referring to the grasping ambition of the Papacy, said the Magyars and the Scotch were the only nations which (though the majority of the former were Roman Catholics) had never allowed the Pope to meddle with their domestic concerns. With regard to religious liberty, he wished to “do to others as he would that they should do to him.” 

Religion, however, was one thing – priestcraft and papal power another. He quoted from the Treaties of Paris 1815, and Verona, 1822, to show that the continental nations avowedly aimed at destroying representative government and the freedom of the press, and warned the people of this country not to allow the influence of Great Britain to be used in support of these principles. On this point he quoted a despatch of Lord Normanby, dated April 19, 1849, showing that Great Britain had approved of the restoration, through French intervention, of the Pope (in the expectation, apparently, of an improved form of government). He stated the opinion that if Great Britain had prevented Russia from interfering to aid Austria in crushing the independence of Hungary, the Eastern War would have been saved – and he enforced the duty of the people taking an interest in foreign affairs, so that he policy of Great Britain might answer to the sentiment of Great Britain. (Loud cheers).

A vote of thanks to Baillie Henderson, on Mr Oswald’s motion, with three enthusiastic cheers for Kossuth, concluded the proceedings.

On Monday evening, the hall was crammed by a respectable audience, who gave the illustrious Magyar an enthusiastic greeting. He was accompanied to the platform, in addition to the gentlemen mentioned above as present on Saturday evening, by Baillie Smith, Councillor Ross, Dr Daun, Mr Leslie, Architect, Rev. Mr. Ireland of Ellon, Mr Jasdowski, &c.

Professor clark was, on the motion of Baillie Henderson, called to preside, and, in a spirited speech, introduced M. Kossuth, who delivered his lecture on Hungary, with special reference to its Protestantism. The Protestantism of Hungary had been in existence before the Reformation, in fact, ever since the introduction of Christianity into the country; and both Roman Catholics and Protestants had united successfully to resist Papal encroachment in the country. Their maxim had always been that Papal interference is “a wind that blows nobody good.” (Cheers and laughter). He referred again to the recent Concordat between the Pope and the Emperor of Austria, dwelling on the design of the Concordat, and the means of its accomplishment. After eloquently urging unity among Protestants to resist the encroachments of papal despotism, M. Kossuth concluded, amid deafening applause, with a thrilling apostrophe to Hungary.

The Chairman again addressed the meeting, and concluded by moving (seconded by Sheriff Watson) a vote of thanks to M. Kossuth, which was responded to enthusiastically, the mass of the audience rising to their feet and cheering heartily.

M. Kossuth responded briefly.

A vote of thanks, moved by Councillor Ross, was passed to the Chairman, and the assembly separated, after giving three cheers for Hungary.
After the meeting, a deputation of gentlemen of the Committee, and others, waited on Madame Kossuth, at Douglas’ Hotel, when Mr Oswlad, on behalf of a few warm friends, in a neat and feeling address, presented her with a splendid granite bracelet and shawl pin, mounted with silver – of Aberdeen manufacture – and made specially in testimony of respect and sympathy. M. Kossuth warmly acknowledged the compliment, and remarked that the manifestations with which they had been greeted from one end of Scotland to the other, by men not led away by a sudden emotion, induced him to believe that the cause which he had at heart had a future.

M. Kossuth left for the south by the mail train yesterday at eleven o’clock.

This newspaper report was found in the Historical Collection at Aberdeen University Library.
Old copies of newspapers are often to be found in your local library, sometimes on microfiche.
The library will have a copying facility of some kind.