Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Greene meets Kossuth, Springfield, MA, April 26, 1852

From Kossuth in New England : a full account of the Hungarian governor's visit to Massachusetts with his speeches, and the addresses that were made to him, carefully revised and corrected, with an appendix (1852).

Soon after entering the hotel, Kossuth was introduced to each member of the legislative committee. Immediately afterwards, and while the committee were yet in the reception-room, General Wilson introduced to Kossuth the Rev. William B. Greene, of Brookfield, who presented him with a purse of one hundred dollars, the subscription of certain inhabitants of Brookfield to the Hungarian fund, and then addressed him as follows:

"Sir: knowing your high regard for municipal institutions, and your dislike to all centralization, the selectmen of Brookfield, local officers chosen by the people of that town, have taken the liberty to send you the following letter, which they request me to read to you. As it is advertised in the newspapers that you will stop ten minutes at the West Brookfield station, the selectmen have instructed me to request you—if it suits your convenience—to defer any remarks you may be pleased to make, in reply to their letter, until they have the honor to meet you at that place. They send their letter to Springfield, in order that no moment may be lost, and that you may have the whole time at your own disposal, when you arrive at Brookfield; for it is natural to suppose that the people would prefer to hear you speak, rather than to hear their own letter read."

"Brookfield, April 25th.

"To LOUIS KOSSUTH, Governor of Hungary de jure:
"Money is strong, iron is strong, calumny is strong; but truthful thought, which appeals to the conscience,—that mightiest element of man's nature,—and human speech, which is the vehicle of thought, are stronger than these. Human thought and human speech are the levers upon which God lays his hand, when he wills to upheave the nations. Your words recall to the mind of this people the days of its first love. Amid the glare of material interests, we were in danger of forgetting, for a time, the high destiny to which we have been called by Divine Providence; we were in danger of forgetting that we stood at the head of the advance guard of liberated nations; but liberty, which is the righteousness of states, is, like all righteousness, revealed from faith to faith; and. the spirit of the American Revolution, reflected back again from the revolutions of Europe, comes to consciousness of itself, and can never again forget itself Yet our hearts became glad, notwithstanding all this, when we heard of your saying, in New Jersey, that you should make not many more speeches, because the time for action was drawing nigh; we rejoice to think that even your voice, powerful as it is, may soon give place to an equally authentic voice, that shall speak in the thunder of Hungarian artillery. For we believe (because you have said it) that the day of Hungary's resurrection is even now at hand; though we knew well, before you said it, that God would not suffer your down-trodden country to remain always in her living tomb.

"We are all peace men here; we are all waiting for the descent of the New Jerusalem from God out of Heaven. But we know that the world is wicked, and that despotism, which lives by violence, must perish by violence; we know that our Lord came, not to bring peace to those who profit by iniquity, but a sword; we know that he said, ' I am come to kindle a fire in the world, and what would I that it were already kindled!' So long as the Austro-Russian despotism shall bear sway in the world, punishing women by the scourge, imprisoning, torturing and slaughtering men, corrupting the moral sentiment of the leaders of opinion,—yea, even in republican America,—the kingdom of the God of peace cannot be established on the earth; for it is written, 'There is no peace, saith my God, for the wicked.'

"No man can isolate himself from other men; no nation can isolate itself from other nations. The nation that wraps itself in its own selfishness begins to suffer moral death. That which interests the welfare of the human race interests every particular man.

"We are not of the number who say, What is Hungary to us, or we to Hungary? for we recognize that whatever relates to man, and especially to man aspiring after freedom, relates to us also. We honor ourselves in our own hearts, we rise in our own estimation, because we are conscious of being able to commune with you, and with the spirit of Hungary, in sympathy, if not in action.

"Certain individuals in Brookfield have subscribed small sums to the Hungarian fund. We have to request, if it would suit your pleasure, that you would be so good as to touch with your hand the notes they will receive in exchange for their subscriptions. So shall our children, when they touch those notes, touch that which you also have touched; and thus will they be able to establish a certain solidarity between themselves and you, and, through you, a certain solidarity with the Hungarian people. Who knows but what some magnetic influence may thus be transmitted to them, which shall strengthen their aspirations for freedom, and thus increase the love of liberty in the world?








Kossuth, in reply to Mr. Greene, addressed him personally, as clergyman, in some very impressive remarks on the subject of peace, which, unfortunately, were not reported at the time, as they were entirely extemporaneous and unexpected. He promised to reply to the letter of the selectmen when he should arrive at North Brookfield. To Kossuth's remarks upon peace, Mr. Greene replied substantially as follows:

"Sir: The sentimentalism which passes under the name of 'peace doctrine' is evidently unscriptural; and you have shown it to be irrational. It is true our Lord said, 'Resist not evil;' and also, 'If a man smite thee on the right cheek, turn unto him the left;' but these commands have no absolute application; for, if they were of absolute application, they would not have been subsequently repealed. It is written, 'Jesus said unto his disciples, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing. Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip; and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.' Thus it appears that when our Lord was illegally arrested by the self-constituted force to whom he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, Simon Peter was armed, in accordance with the express command of his Master; for the words here quoted were uttered in reference to that occasion. We read, a few verses further on, 'And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.' Enough for what? Not enough to insure success in a contest with the creatures of the high-priest, and of the rulers; but enough to vindicate the principle that, when kings, emperors, high-priests, judges,—like those of Russia and Austria, for example,—assume tyrannical powers, their illegal usurpations may be lawfully resisted by the sword, and this whether the occasion presents itself in Judea or in Hungary. Our Lord did not suffer his servants to proceed in their resistance; and he explains his conduct by saying that he proposed to establish his kingdom, not visibly, at first, but rather in the hearts and consciences of men; but he remarks that his servants would have fought, if it had been his object to establish a visible kingdom in the world. Now, I take it that the republic of Hungary proposes to exist actually and visible on the face of the earth; and that it is, therefore, a political organization, for which the servants of Christ may lawfully fight. It is your duty, sir, to serve God in your heart, and to do all in your power to hasten the triumph of the Prince of Peace; but you have duties toward Caesar, as well as duties toward God; that is, duties in this existing world of political relations, as well as duties in that kingdom which exists now spiritually, but which shall hereafter exist politically also. It is written, 'There were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.' Your present duty towards Caesar—that is, your duty, as a Christian man, in your relations with the political powers which are soon to disappear and make way for Christ's kingdom—appears to me, sir, to be, this,—to attack the Austro-Russian despotism, as soon as occasion offers, with the sword. Any person who reads the Scriptures without prejudices must, I think, see that the so called 'peace doctrines' are not taught there.

"The religion of the New Testament is opposed to everything which tends to isolate man from man, and nation from nation. Wars are of two kinds: wars of tyrants against the nations, for the purpose of creating division, scission, enmity, between nation and nation, between town and town, between man and man; such wars are condemned by the gospel: and wars of the people against the tyrants,—wars which have for their object to establish harmony, peace and brotherhood, between nation and nation, town and town, man and man: such wars are holy. It is written, mystically, that, to further the purposes of a holy war of the people against their tyrants, the waters of the great rivers shall be dried up, to prepare a way for the kings of the east; and that the tyrants and their creatures shall be gathered together in a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon, there to undergo a final defeat at tho hands of God, and of the Lamb, and of the children of the heavenly kingdorn. All the prophets and apostlcs foretell this holy war, which is predetermined in the immutable counsel of God. It is for us to take care that, when the bridegroom comes, we may not he found sleeping.

"Isolation reigned under all the old religions; but solidarity, which is the opposite of isolation, will reign in the world when the religion of Christ triumphs. The Jews contradistinguished themselves frorn the Gentiles, the Greeks from the Barbarians, and the Romans conceived themselves to be, by mere right of birth, supreme over all other men. But how does the apostle characterize the New Dispensation? He says, 'There is neither Jew nor Grcek, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all ONE in Christ Jesus. There is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; for Christ is all, and in all. Through Christ, we have access by one spirit unto the Father. Now, therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.' The apostle speaks of a 'mystery' that had been kept secret in the counsels of God from the foundation of the world; a mystery that angels had desired to look into, but had not been able until after it was revealed in the operation of the constitution of the church. What is the mystery which was revealed, 'to the intent that unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be made known the manifold wisdom of God'? It is this: 'that in the dispensation of the fulness of times, God might gather together in one all things in Christ, both things which are in heaven and things which are on earth.' So the bond of solidarity takes hold of heavenly as well as of earthly things,—as, indeed, Wesley sings, in the hymn commencing, 'The saints above and saints below in one communion join.' Thus the principles of the gospel are identified in express terms with the principle of solidarity, that fundamental principle of all genuine democracy. Thus democracy, when received in its truth, is shown to be identical with religion.

"The doctrine of the apostle does not differ from that of his Master. Our Lord said, in the most solemn moment, perhaps, of his life, when he instituted the communion service (that sacrament of solidarity), and just before he was destroyed, 'I pray, Father, that they all may be ONE; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they may be ONE in us.' And, in the same connection, he intimates that the solidarity of his disciples is to be the evidence to the world of the reality of his mission. 'I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in ONE; that the world may know that thou hast seet me.' A Christianity that forgets the doctrine and the practice of solidarity is no Christianity; for it fails to present the requisite characteristics: it is something against which the gates of hell continually prevail."

At North Brookfield a large crowd had collected on the further side of the depot. Kossuth left the cars to reply to the letter of the selectmen, which, he said, was one of the most gratifying addresses he had received since his arrival in America." I am told," said he, " that you are an agricultural people. I love agriculture. O, that it might be given me to have the tranquillity of a country life in my own dear land, during my few remaining years! You say you are men of peace. I am a man of peace. God knows how I love peace. But I hope I shall never be such a coward as to mistake oppression for peace. So long as there is oppression, there must be strife; and so long as my country is oppressed, I must be a man of strife. But you hear the democratic locomotive. That waits for no man, and I must bid you farewell."

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