A freedom-fighter's fight for freedom on American soil - Louis Kossuth's trip
to the United States in 1851-1852

Many are the ones who do not know about the existence of the Vasváry Collection. Many are the ones who are not aware of this unique treasure hidden on the third floor of the Somogyi Library in Szeged. Many are the volumes and much is the care dedicated to the maintenance of the collection.

In order to write my MA thesis, I have departed on an exploration into the 19th century. To be more specific, I wanted to gain a closer insight into Louis Kossuth's trip to the United States in 1851-1852. All books and relevant documents, most of them dating back as far as the middle of the 19th century, revealed a journey full of controversies and diplomatic gunfires.

Throughout this discovery, I could rely on the never-ending support of the librarians. The catalogue of the collection is very precise and up-to-date as is the on-line catalogue. By using the latter one, I found it easier to complete the bibliography attached to the thesis.

All books and folders are handled with great care?thus providing an appropriate framework for Vasváry's heritage. As I have been examining sources often times more than 150 years old, I could experience first-hand what it is like to provide the 'attention' needed for these members of this prestigious collection.

As for my investigation related to the thesis itself, I was focusing primarily on the reasons for Kossuth's ultimate failure. Although he was enthusiastically received by the public, Kossuth did not manage to gain neither the approval of the government nor the greatly anticipated financial resources of leading financial circles. Still, this trip to the United States had numerous long-term consequences since it is one of the most notable Hungarian-American endeavors up to this very day.

Defining the ultimate cause leading to Kossuth's diplomatic failure is similar to solving a puzzle. In other words, it is a relatively complex picture framed not only by domestic concerns in the United States but by the international situation of the era as well. On the one hand, it is true that one of Kossuth's biggest mistakes was his neutral standing on the issue of slavery. On the other hand, however, he could simply not do otherwise given the highly controversial situation in the United States.

As a result, instead of focusing merely on this controversy over the issue of slavery, I have investigated the journey from a diplomatic standpoint. I have examined what the major reasons were for the fact that Kossuth had to modify his original goals. The results he achieved were nothing else but these 'modified' goals. This holds true for all diplomatic missions: both participants have clearly defined aims and priorities at the beginning which are subject to change before reaching the final consensus.

The factors having a direct influence on Kossuth's ultimate failure are numerous. First and foremost, by taking a neutral stand on the issue of slavery, he alienated not only the advocates of the anti-slavery movement but leading Southern circles as well. Second, the international situation was such that the United States, not being unified as a nation, was not a world-power and as such was not able to have a direct and long-lasting influence on Central-European politics. Third, Kossuth did not manage to overcome the tensions and personal rivalries already present in Hungarian-American circles. As a result, this group, of crucial importance from Kossuth's standpoint, was not unified under the egis of the Hungarian patriot's cause. Fourth, Kossuth did not take into account the significance of the non-interventionist policy in the United States. By advocating that intervention into Austro-Hungarian affairs would undoubtedly contribute to the ultimate rise and glory of the United States, Kossuth was echoing nothing else but a highly illusionistic plan.

Few are the ones who can have direct influence on a nation's present and thus future. Kossuth has been one such figure without a shadow of a doubt. Still, his American trip did not bear precious fruits?in terms of dollars and weapons at least. In terms of public enthusiasm, though, it has remained an outstanding effort: many are the streets, statues and names given to public places that honour the unforgettable Hungarian patriot.

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Teréz Kerekes