THE most important events which have occurred in Hungary since the period of our travels are the inundation of the Danube, and partial destruction of Pest; the condemnation of Baron Wesselényi, and the assembling of the present Diet.

The inundation took place on the 13th, 14th, and 15th of March 1838, and exceeded by many feet any within the memory of man, or recorded in history. No less than 2281 houses in Pest and Buda were destroyed, and several hundred lives lost. In the lower streets the water was seven and eight feet deep. The loss of lives would have been still greater had not a number of gentlemen, -- among whom Baron Wesselényi distinguished himself as the most successful, -- gone to every part of the town in boats, and by that means rescued many hundreds from destruction.

Large subscriptions were raised in Hungary and Germany, but particularly in Vienna, in aid of the chief sufferers; and Government advanced a loan of four million florins, at two per cent., to be employed in rebuilding the capital.

With respect to Baron Wesselényi's condemnation, [549] I can only give such information as the public prints have already made known; for it would be absurd to attempt to correspond on political subjects through the Austrian post. The offence of Baron Wesselényi, of which we have spoken in the commencement of our travels, was committed in the spring of 1835. Sentence was not pronounced till 1839! Itcport says that even then his judges had determined to acquit, when a very influential person employed himself in communicating to them the certain displeasure of Government should such he the issue of the affair. Without vouching that sucli is the fact, it is certain that an impression has gone ahroad that the judges have neither decided legally nor honestly; and it must be allowed their verdict bears very much the appearance of a compromise between conscience and interest. They find him guilty of mitiqated high treason ! Nor are the reasons which they have assigned in their verdict likely to remove this impression. They condemn him for saying,70 "That the Government sucks out the marrow of nine millions of men (the peasantry); that it will not allow us nobles to better their condition by legislative means; but, retaining them in their present state, it only waits its own time to exasperate them against us, -- then it will come forward to rescue us. But, woe to us ! from freemen we shall be degraded to the state of slaves:" and the wicked animus with which all this has [550] been said is considered especially proved from an expression of Wesselényi in a, private note, "That all his life had been passed in pounding pepper under the German's nose."

70 I copy from the Morning Chronicle of March 30. 1839.

The Austrian Government lias had the good sense to show itself less disposed to cruelty than its judges -- perhaps, too, the execrations of all civilized Europe against the gaolers of Pellico, Confalioneri, and Andrynane, have not been without their effect, -- and in consideration of Baron Wesselényi's state of health, it has allowed him every alleviation of which the prison is capable. Baron Wesselényi has been permitted even to leave Pest for six months in company of an officer, only to place himself under the care of a celebrated physician, whose advice was considered necessary for him. The good-hearted Arch-duke Palatine is said to have used his influence to accomplish this end.

The Diet was again called together this summer; and after the reception of the Royal Propositions, recommending the Diet to complete the Hungarian regiments by a new levy of troops, it soon became evident that there were several grievances to be dealt with before that was likely to be agreed to. One of the first difficulties, was the refusal of Government to admit Count Ráday, who had been elected deputy for the county of Pest, to take his seat; because, in a county meeting, he had spoken strongly against the conduct of the judges in the case of Baron Wesselenyi, and a prosecution had [551] been commenced against him in consequence. A new writ was accordingly issued, but the county refused to elect under it, and petitioned the Chamber to desist from all further proceedings till their deputy was admitted. As the judges are members of the Lower Chamber, or rather have seats in it, and do not deliver judgment as long as the Dictal session lasts, of course this cause could not be decided till after the close of the Diet; if therefore the principle were once admitted, that any man against whom the Government chose to commence a prosecution previous to the meeting of the Diet, should, on that account be excluded, the freedom of election was at an end, -- the Government might exclude whom it pleased.

The Diet lias taken up the matter most warmly ; but I cannot do better than quote a passage from an excellent letter, dated Prcsburg, July 25th, of The Times.

"The present Chamber of Representatives, at the opening of this Diet, unanimously determined to act in even a more decided resistance to late occurrences than was proposed by the electors of Pest; and their attention having been directed to a necessary grant of soldiers, contained in the speech from the Crown, refused, in a message to the Upper Chamber, to consider the proposition, unless the original judgments against both Wesselényi and Ráday were reversed; at the same time praying that Chamber to join with them in a [552] message to the throne. The result was a series of very bold speeches from a coinciding party in the magnates. For three weeks the greatest excitement prevailed in both Chambers, in which time the question was negatived in the tipper by a small majority; and at length the Palatine, upon a formal complaint from the judges (who, being ex officio members of the Lower House, heard their characters very roughly handled), prorogued the Chambers at the pleasure of the king. After eight days the Diet was again convoked, and a message read from the Crown, complaining of the resistance offered by a party in the Chambers, and hoping that such resistance would no longer be continued ; but no terms of compromise were offered by the Government, and the Chambers have assumed the same position as before -- the same warfare between the Government and the demanding party, and on either side an apparently equal disinclination to give way. It is difficult to pronounce upon the probable upshot of these proceedings. The ten years' service of the last grant of military is expiring, and the necessity, on the part of Government, for the assistance of the Chambers consequently urgent; but the Government cannot yield without offering a compromise of their own acts and policy, and the Lower Chamber considers that upon their present determination depends the future integrity of the nation."

Still later reports bring word, that Count Ráday [553] has himself resigned, rather than keep up any longer a state of ill-will between the Diet and Government. How far he may have been right in his determination it is difficult to say, with the slight knowledge we have of the merits of the case; but it would appear a dangerous precedent to allow the Government to commence a prosecution against any one it chooses, and by these means condemn an obnoxious individual to a political death while yet innocent of any crime in the eye of law: -- at least, it is totally opposed to everything which we are taught to consider common justice or political right.


Printed by S. & J. BENTLEY and HUBBY FLEY,
Bangor House, Shoe Lane.

Chapters 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 P.S.

Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents