Hungarian Civic Revolution of 1848

Hungarian Civic Revolution of 1848

The Hungarian Revolution of 1848, also known as the 1848–49-es polgári forradalom és szabadságharc (Hungarian: 1848–49-es polgári forradalom és szabadságharc), was one of many European uprisings of 1848, and was closely linked to other upheavals in the Habsburg regions. Despite its failure, the revolution remains one of the most important events in Hungary's modern history, providing the foundation of modern Hungarian national identity.

Hungary became the third country in Continental Europe (after France (1791) and Belgium (1831) to pass legislation establishing democratic parliamentary elections in April 1848. Following that, it established a representative kind of parliament to replace the previous feudal estate–based parliamentary system.

The April laws (ratified by King Ferdinand I) were cancelled unilaterally by the new young Austrian ruler Franz Joseph I, who acted without any legal authority. The rift between the Hungarian parliament and Franz Joseph was irreparably exacerbated by this unlawful measure. The pacifist Batthyány government (who sought agreement with the court) fell to the pacifist Stadion Constitution of Austria, the revocation of the April laws, and the Austrian military campaign against the Kingdom of Hungary resulted in the sudden emergence of Lajos Kossuth's supporters in the parliament, who demanded Hungary's full independence. The Austrian military intervention in Hungary sparked considerable anti-Habsburg sentiment among Hungarians, and the country's events morphed into a battle for total independence from the Habsburg dynasty. Around 40% of the Hungarian Revolutionary Army's private troops were from the country's ethnic minorities.

The Austrian Empire was on the verge of collapsing after a series of humiliating setbacks in 1849. In the name of the Holy Alliance, the youthful emperor Franz Joseph I had to appeal to Russia for assistance. Tsar Nicholas I responded by dispatching a 200,000-strong army, as well as 80,000 auxiliary troops. Finally, the Hungarian soldiers were crushed by a united army of Russian and Austrian forces. Hungary was placed under martial law with the restoration of Habsburg sovereignty.

The 15th of March, the anniversary of the Revolution's start, is one of Hungary's three national holidays.

Hungary before the Revolution

Even after the Austrian Empire was founded in 1804, the Kingdom of Hungary maintained a separate legal system and parliament, the Diet of Hungary. Unlike other Habsburg-ruled countries, Hungary had a long-standing historic constitution that, since the 13th century, has limited the Crown's power and considerably strengthened the authority of the parliament.

The administration and government of the Kingdom of Hungary (until 1848) were largely unaffected by the broader Austrian Empire's government structure. The central government of Hungary was kept distinct from the imperial administration. The Hungarian Royal Court Chancellery in Vienna and the Council of Lieutenancy of Hungary (the Gubernium) in Pozsony (now Bratislava) and later in Pest controlled the kingdom.

While in most Western European countries (such as France and England), a king's rule began immediately following the death of his predecessor, in Hungary, the coronation was vitally necessary because the Kingdom would remain "orphaned" if it was not correctly carried out. Even throughout the long personal union between the Kingdom of Hungary and other Habsburg ruled countries, Habsburg kings needed to be crowned as King of Hungary in order to issue laws or exercise royal prerogatives on the Kingdom of Hungary's realm. Since the Golden Bull of 1222, all Hungarian monarchs have been required to take a coronation oath during the coronation ceremony, in which the new monarch agreed to uphold the country's constitutional arrangement, to protect its subjects' liberties, and to maintain the realm's territorial integrity.

From 1526 to 1851, the Kingdom of Hungary had its own customs borders, which distinguished it from the Habsburg-ruled areas' unified customs system.

The Hungarian Jacobin Club

Enlightened reforms in Hungary ended after the death of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II, in February 1790, infuriating many reform-minded francophone intellectuals who were adherents of new radical ideas based on French philosophy and enlightenment. Until 1792, Ignác Martinovics operated as a secret agent for Leopold II, the new Holy Roman Emperor. He openly says in his Oratio pro Leopoldo II that only authority arising from a social contract should be accepted; he considered the aristocracy as mankind's adversary since they stopped people from getting educated. He stated in another of his books, Catechism of People and Citizens, that citizens are generally opposed to repression and that the people have sovereignty. He also became a Freemason and advocated for Hungary's formation of a federal republic. Some saw him as an idealistic forerunner of revolutionary thought, while others saw him as an unscrupulous adventurer as a member of the Hungarian Jacobins. He was in charge of inciting the Hungarian serfs to revolt against the nobles. Martinovics and his supervisor, Ferenc Gotthardi, the former chief of the secret police, were sacked by Francis II, the Holy Roman Emperor, for their subversive activities. In May 1795, he was executed together with six other notable Jacobins. Over 42 members of the republican secret society, including poet János Batsányi and linguist Ferenc Kazinczy, were arrested.

Though the Hungarian Jacobin republican movement had no influence on the policies of the Hungarian Parliament or parliamentary parties, it had strong ideological ties with extra-parliamentary forces, including radical youths and students such as poet Sándor Petfi, novelist Mór Jókai, philosopher and historian Pál Vasvári, and journalist József Irinyi, who sparked the revolution in the Pilvax coffee palace on March 15, 1848.

Era of Reforms

The Hungarian Diet had not met since 1811.

The frequent diets conducted in the early half of the reign dealt mostly with military subsidies; from 1811, they were no longer summoned. The gloomy shadow of Metternich's "stability" policy fell throughout the country in the final years of Francis I's reign, and reactionary absolutism reigned supreme everywhere. However, a strong popular current was beginning to move in the opposite direction beneath the surface. Hungarian society was preparing for future emancipation, influenced by western liberalism but without direct assistance from abroad. Without any prior cooperation or visible link, writers, savants, poets, painters, noble and plebeian, layman and cleric, were laboring towards that ideal of political liberty that was to unify all the Magyars. Mihály Vörösmarty, Ferenc Kölcsey, Ferencz Kazinczy and his associates, to name just a few of many great names, were, consciously or unconsciously, carrying out a political mission as representatives of the renaissance national literature, and their pens proved no less effective than their forefathers' swords.

Following the Napoleonic wars, Emperor Francis II called the Diet in 1825 in response to growing complaints among the Hungarian nobility about taxation and the deteriorating economy. The Reform Period began with this, as well as the backlash to Joseph II's reforms (Hungarian: reformkor). The Nobles, on the other hand, kept their privileges of not paying taxes and not allowing the populace to vote.

Count István Széchenyi, a powerful Hungarian politician, understood the need to bring Hungary up to speed with the more developed West European countries, such as England.

It was a frontal attack on the constitution that "startled the nation out of its unhealthy sleep," as István Széchenyi put it. When the reactionary powers were preparing a combined effort to put down the revolution in Spain in 1823, the government imposed a war-tax and called out the recruits without consulting the diet. The county assemblies immediately condemned this illegal measure, and Francis I was forced to repudiate his ministers' actions in the 1823 diet. The estates, on the other hand, believed that the preservation of their privileges required more than the lifeless letter of ancient laws.

Széchenyi was the acknowledged head of all those who aspired to establish a new Hungary out of the old, having lived abroad and educated at Western schools. For years, he and his associates educated the public by publishing a slew of booklets in which the new liberalism was eloquently articulated. Széchenyi argued, in particular, that the people should not turn solely to the government, or even the diet, for the essential reforms. By tearing down barriers of class exclusivity and resurrecting a healthy public spirit, society must take the lead.

The impact of this teaching was evident during the 1832 legislative session, when the Liberals in the Lower Chamber had a significant majority, led by Ferenc Deák and dön Beothy. However, in the Upper House, the magnates joined forces with the government to form a conservative party that was adamantly opposed to any reform scheme, thwarting the Liberals' efforts.

Lajos Kossuth, a rising political star in the mid-1830s, began to challenge Szécheny's popularity as an orator in the liberal fraction of the parliament. Broader parliamentary democracy, quick industrialization, general taxation, economic expansion through exports, and the end of serfdom and aristocratic privileges were among Kossuth's demands (equality before the law). The government's fear of the Liberal party's power and popularity prompted it to try to suppress the reform movement soon after the accession of the new king, emperor Ferdinand I (1835–1848), by arresting and imprisoning the most prominent agitators, Lajos Kossuth and Miklós Wesselényi. The nation, on the other hand, was no longer to be frightened.

While the reforming majority in the Lower Chamber was stronger than ever, a Liberal group was formed in the Upper House under the leadership of Count Louis Batthyány and Baron Joseph Eotvos, who refused to proceed with work until the political prisoners were released.

Latin was the official language of administration, legislation, and education in the Kingdom of Hungary from 1000AD to 1844.

This session enacted two important progressive measures: one established Magyar the official language of Hungary, and the other exempted peasant holdings from all feudal responsibilities.

The results of the 1839 diet did not please the advanced Liberals, and the government's and Upper House's opposition further added to the general anger. The Pesti Hirlap, Hungary's first political journal, was launched in 1841 by Kossuth, whose articles, encouraging armed retaliation if necessary, enraged the extremists but alienated Széchenyi, who openly challenged Kossuth's views. The debate was heated on both sides, but as is customary, extreme ideas won out, and by the time the 1843 diet convened, Kossuth was more popular than ever, while Széchenyi's influence had waned. This diet took on a fiery tone, with the government being roundly chastised for interfering with the elections. To counter the conservatives, a new party named the Opposition Party was formed, which brought together reform-minded Liberals. The Liberals have scored new victories (the Opposition Party). Magyar was now declared the official language of the legislature, schools, and law courts; mixed marriages were recognized; and non-nobles were allowed to hold official positions.

"Long Debate" of Reformers in the Press (1841–1848)

Between the 1843 and 1847 legislative sessions, the numerous political groups completely disintegrated and transformed. Széchenyi joined the administration openly, while the moderate Liberals split from the extremists and founded the Centralists, a new political party.

Count Széchenyi evaluated Kossuth's policy and replied to Kossuth's reform suggestions in his 1841 pamphlet People of the East (Kelet Népe). To avoid the potentially fatal danger of aggressive intrusion from the Habsburg family, Széchenyi argued that economic, political, and social reforms should be implemented slowly and carefully. Széchenyi was aware of Kossuth's beliefs spreading throughout Hungarian society, which he mistook for a lack of concern for the Habsburg dynasty.

Kossuth, on the other hand, despised the aristocracy's position and questioned social status conventions. In contrast to Széchenyi, Kossuth argued that it would be difficult to restrain civil society in a passive role during the process of social transformation. He warned against attempting to remove broader social movements from political life, and he defended democracy, rejecting elite and government primacy. He called Széchenyi a liberal elitist aristocrat in 1885, while Széchenyi thought Kossuth was a democracy.

Széchenyi was an isolationist politician, but Kossuth believed that strong ties and engagement with international liberal and progressive forces were critical to liberty's success.

Széchenyi's economic policies were founded on the laissez-faire ideas of the British Empire, but Kossuth favored protective tariffs due to Hungary's very small manufacturing sector. Unlike Kossuth, who intended to build a swiftly industrialized country, Széchenyi desired to keep the country's traditionally strong agricultural industry as its core feature.

"The Twelve Points" of the Reformers

The conservatives, who were normally opposed to most reforms, believed they could keep a tiny majority in the old feudal parliament because reformer liberals were split between Széchenyi and Kossuth's ideas. However, just before the elections, Deák was able to bring all of the Liberals together around the "Twelve Points" platform. The later April laws were based on the twelve points.

  • Press Freedom (the removal of censorship and censorship offices)
  • Buda and Pest have accountable ministries. (Rather than being appointed by the monarch, all ministers and the government must be elected and removed by parliament.)
  • Pest has a yearly parliamentary session. (rather than the king's sporadic ad-hoc gatherings)
  • Before the law, civil and religious equality are guaranteed. (The repeal of distinct laws for the ordinary people and the nobility, as well as the repeal of nobility's legal rights.) The eradication of (Catholic) state religion) instead of tempered tolerance: full religious liberty
  • The National Guard is a military force that protects the country (The formation of their own Hungarian national guard, which functioned as a police force to maintain law and order during the system's transition, thus safeguarding the revolution's morals)
  • Tax costs are shared equally. (abolition of the nobility's tax exemptions, customs exemptions, and tariff exemptions)
  • Socage is being phased out. (the eradication of feudalism and peasant serfdom, as well as their bondservices)
  • On an equal footing, juries and representation. (If they have the required education, ordinary people can be elected as juries in legal courts, and all people can be officials at the highest levels of government and the judiciary.)
  • National Bank is a financial institution in the United States.
  • Our military should not be sent overseas, and foreign soldiers should leave our nation, according to the constitution.
  • Political prisoners are being released.
  • Union. (includes the reunification of the Hungarian and Transylvanian parliaments, which had split throughout the Ottoman wars)

The Progressives won the legislative elections that followed with a landslide victory. This was also the last election held under the old feudal estates' parliamentary system. All attempts to reach an agreement between the government and the opposition were futile. Not only did Kossuth demand the solution of present grievances, but he also wanted a liberal reform that would make future grievances impossible. The dissolution of the diet appeared to be the only solution in the highest circles; however, news of the February revolution in Paris reached Pressburg on the 1st of March, and Kossuth's motion for the appointment of an independent, responsible ministry was accepted by the Lower House on the 3rd of March. The moderates attempted to interfere again, but the Vienna revolution broke out on March 13th, and the Emperor, succumbing to pressure or panic, appointed Count Louis Batthyány premier of the first Hungarian responsible administration, which comprised Kossuth, Széchenyi, and Deák.

The One Day Bloodless Revolution in Pest and Buda

Revolution in Vienna

The crisis came from abroad, as Kossuth had predicted, and he took full advantage of it. On March 3, 1848, just after the news of the revolution in Paris reached him, he demanded parliamentary government for Hungary and constitutional governance for the rest of Austria in a speech of unprecedented strength. He called to the Habsburgs' greatest hope, "our beloved Archduke Franz Joseph" (then seventeen years old), to continue the dynasty's ancient greatness by meeting half-way the ambitions of a free people. His address was read aloud in the streets of Vienna to the mob that overthrew Metternich (13 March), and when a commission from the Diet went to Vienna to secure Emperor Ferdinand's acceptance to their petition, it was Kossuth who received the most applause.

On March 13, the arrival of news of the revolution in Paris, as well as Kossuth's German speech about freedom and human rights, roused the Austrian crowd in Vienna. While the Viennese crowds hailed Kossuth as a hero, revolution erupted in Buda on March 15th, prompting Kossuth to return home.

Revolution in Pest

We can see that the process of commodity production and capitalization not only gradually transformed the social conditions and worldview of the nobles, who began to campaign for human and civil rights in Hungary during the reform period. Recent social history research has also argued that the so-called "youth of March," the plebeian intelligentsia, should be viewed as an intellectual vanguard of an emerging sociological layer known as the petty bourgeoisie, rather than a separate phenomenon in and of itself. In compared to the aristocracy, they did not represent a measurable political and economic power on a national level, but in historically essential moments, particularly in more developed, larger urban areas, they may nevertheless prove to be a substantial or even dominant factor. Politically, the small bourgeoisie, like the French and German political events, was the carrier of radical, republican ideals.

In the 1840s, the revolution began in Pest's Pilvax coffee palace(hu), which was a popular meeting place for young extra-parliamentary radical liberal intellectuals. Sándor Petfi rushed to the Pilvax café early that morning, where the young people had assembled. He met Pál Vasvári and Gyula Bulyovszky there and invited them to Mór Jókai's flat, where a declaration for the 12 points was edited. Petfi and his pals arrived at the Pilvax café at 8 p.m., but only six people (Petfi, Jókai, Bulyovszky, Seb, Ern Gaál, and Dániel Hamary) arrived on time. Jókai read the 12 points and the proclamation at this point. Petofi recited the National Song, a new poem he'd written.

They headed to the University of Law on University Street first, pursuant to a preliminary agreement. Petfi and Jókai were seated in the yard by a group of students who had been waiting for them. Petfi performed his poetry, the National Song, which he had composed the night before, and Jókai read the 12 points. They then proceeded to the Medical University on jvilág Street, where the students similarly disrupted university lectures and acted similarly in the courtyard, as well as in front of students from the Faculty of Engineering and Philosophy; the same choreography was also performed in the University Square. Not only were they encircled by a large gathering of young people by this point, but they had also been joined by a large audience from the street, which had grown. Petfi decided, on his own authority, that the people would satisfy the first of the 12 demands, press freedom, which he did. They arrived at 10 a.m. at the Landerer Publishing and Press company on Hatvani Street (the city's largest). Petfi renamed Hatvani Street to Street of the Free Press after seeing the crowd's enthusiasm. " The print owner caved in, and after quickly translating the needed documents into German, thousands came out of the fast press a few moments later, copies of which were distributed endlessly to a growing audience despite the pouring rain."

The enraged mob dispersed at noon, agreeing to travel to Buda in the afternoon to release political prisoner Mihály Táncsics. A three-colored Hungarian cockade was presented to the throng as a symbol of Petfi's legendary day.

Thousands of copies of the National Song and the 12 points were distributed at a mass rally at Museum Square in front of the Hungarian National Museum at 3 p.m.; from there, they marched to the town hall, urging the adoption of the 12 points. The crowd decided to march to town hall, where they petitioned the city council to sign their petition. The council hall was opened, and the program items were presented to the council, which were accepted by the council members and signed by the town clerk as well.

They formed a regular commission, of which Petfi was a member, right away. The people, in appointing their interim committee, expressed their desire for the political prisoner Mihály Táncsics, who had been detained in Buda by censorship agents, to be released. To achieve this request, he traveled to Buda at 5 p.m., gathered his battalion in the official building's courtyard, and stubbornly stuck by his wishes, while his constituency declared: the election of a press court from among the people; Táncsics was immediately released by Ferenc Zichy, who carried his car from Buda to the National Theater Square with his own hands and entered the theater.

On this day's afternoon, the people asked József Bajza, the national theater's deputy director, to perform the prohibited opera Bánk bán in the theater with full lighting for the day's celebration. Gábor Egressy sung the National Song, the choir sang the Hungarian Hymn, and the actors entered the stage with cockades of national color. The bulk of the audience wanted Táncsics to emerge on stage, but he gave up his wish when he learned of its deterioration. The crowd eventually withdrew, leaving the Rákóczi runner-up alone. The standing committee, on the other hand, sat together till the morning.

Pál Nyáry, the deputy mayor of Pest County, Lipót Rottenbiller, the deputy mayor of Pest, and others took command of the movement the next day, on March 16, and the events took on national significance. The troubled people's first priority was to demand the National Guard's rapid entry, and at this time, they had began collecting signatures, and thousands of signatures had been obtained in just a few hours. The weapons were requested by the masses. Because the rest of the guns were moved to Komárom, the military administration reported that it could only provide 500 weapons. People below, who had swelled to over 20-25 thousand, demanded the weapons and threatened to destroy the arsenal if they did not receive them. After an hour of deliberation, Deputy Mayor Rottenbiller comforted the people assembled in the hall, and Jókai reassured the throng by announcing a bill to alternately serve as national guards at night to maintain peace and order.

The two sister cities were fully illuminated in the evening, and a mass of ecstatic people shouted through the streets, yelling, "Long live independence!" National flags embroidered with the word "freedom" hung from the windows. Order and tranquillity were maintained throughout the night, with raiding national guards apprehending wanted criminals, vagrants, and looters hiding in various spots to take advantage of the chaotic situation of the day.

The Imperial governor was obliged to fulfill all twelve of their demands after bloodless mass rallies in Pest and Buda.

Due to its own troubles with the Vienna revolution that year, Austria originally recognized Hungary's administration. As a result, working on behalf of the King, the Governor-officers General's appointed Hungary's new parliament, with Lajos Batthyány as its first Prime Minister. Other concessions were made by the Austrian monarchy to control the Viennese masses: on March 13, 1848, Prince Klemens von Metternich was forced to retire as Chancellor of the Austrian Government. For his own protection, he then went to London.

Last updated: 2022-March-06
Tags: History War Europe Hungary
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