The Louis Kossuth Bust in the United States Capitol - March 15, 1990
A Gift to the People of the United States from the American Hungarian Federation
By Bryan Dawson - "The spirit of our age is Democracy. All for the people and all by the people. Nothing about the people, without the people. That is Democracy, and that is the ruling tendency of the spirit of our age." - Louis Kossuth, spoken before the Ohio State Legislature, February 16, 1852, more than a decade before Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.
Speaking to half the population of the United States at the time and witnessed by heroic welcomes across the country, Louis Kossuth's impact on the United States was nothing short of historic. Kossuth was the first foreign statesman since the Marquis de Lafayette to address a joint session of Congress.
To celebrate and commemorate the friendship and shared values between the people of the United States and those of Hungarian descent, The American Hungarian Federation commissioned a bronze bust of Lajos Kossuth and offered it to U.S. Congress. House Concurrent Resolution 251 (Introduced by Congressman Tom Lantos, cosponsored by Congressman William Broomfield and a Senate support motion by Sen. Pell) called for placement of the statue in the US Capitol. It was adopted on Feb 27, 1990 (House) and March 1 (Senate).
The dedication ceremony took place on March 15, 1990, Hungarian National Day, under the magnificent dome of the Capitol Rotunda. The bust is one of only two honoring non-Americans in the Capitol. The base reads, "Louis Kossuth, Father of Hungarian Democracy."
The welcoming text was delivered by Honorable Tom Lantos (D-CA) who also wrote the forward to the commemorative book wheer he remarked, "Placing a bust of this Father of Hungarian Democracy in the United States Capitol is an appropriate recognition of Kossuth's association with the history of our nation more than a century ago. At the same time, it is also a timely and most fitting gesture marking the historic victory of freedom and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, which we have witnessed in recent months." The commemoative book is available for download on the top right. Senator Robert Dole addressed the audience and reflected on the fall of communist regimes and the dramatic changes in Central and Eastern Europe underway by quoting Louis Kossuth: "There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy."
Rev. Bishop Tibor Domotor, President of the American Hungarian Federation, presented the Kossuth Bust to the People of the United States. He welcomed the audience and emphasized the historic ties between the two countries and Hungary's repeated fight for freedom and democracy, remarking, "[Kossuth] was greatly influenced by the Constitution and the republican form ofgovernment in the United States of America." He added, "In the name of the American Hungarian Federation, I hand over this bust of Lajos Kossuth to the Congress of the United States in the memory of the 1848-49 freedom fighters, heroes, and martyrs. At the same time, we wish to remember the 1956 freedom fighters, heroes, and martyrs who fought and died for the goals Lajos Kossuth set forth. We with to thank the American people for their committment to freedom and democracy."
The sculpture was unveiled by the renowned sculptor and AHF Board member, Csaba Kur of Youngstown, OH who passed away on Octrober 21, 2009 (Two days before the anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956). The "Father of the Rumanian Revolution," Rev. Tokes of Transylvania, the leader of the anti-Ceaucescu revolution in Rumania, also addressed the audience. The Rev. Imre Bertalan, AHF President Emeritus, delivered the closing Benediction.
After the Ceremonies there was a reception given by HRFA, the William Penn Association, and the Congressional Human Rights Foundation in the Statuary Hall of the US Capitol followed by the American Hungarian Federation dinner where we issued a declaration to commemorate the dedication. The declaration states:
Kossuth Lajos, was Regent-President of the Kingdom of Hungary and leader of the 1848 anti-Hapsburg, pro-Democracy revolution eventually crushed only by the combined royalist forces of Austria and Russia. Kossuth,freedom-fighter, visionary, and the "George Washington of Hungary" is the preeminent symbol of Hungarian national independence and democratic values.
Kossuth envisioned a "Danubian Federation" in the Kingdom of Hungary in which all nationalities participated in a vibrant democratic system based on fundamental democratic principles such as equality and parliamentary representation. Thebloody conflict eventually led to the "great compromise" known as the "Austro-Hungarian Empire," in which Hungary gained some internal autonomy, but Kossuth would have no part of demanding full indepependence until his death. He came to the United States to seek support and was greeted with wild enthusiasm across the country.
While his anti-slavery stance made some in Congress uncomfortable, Americans flocked to see and hear the man, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "whose extraordinary eloquence is seconded by the splendor and the solidity of his actions." The U.S. Postal Service issued Louis Kossuth stamps in 1958 as part of the "Champion of Liberty" series designed by AHF's renowned artist Gabriella Koszorus Varsa a recipient of AHF's highest honor, the Michael Kovats Medal of Freedom, for her lifetime achievements. Read more about Kossuth on the right column.
The Kossuth Bust has become a prime destination for annual commemorations of the 1848 War of Independence. On March 15th, 2006, President Bush Honored 1848 and "Hungary's Contributions to Democracy." President Bush remarked, “I believe the example of Hungary proves that freedom is universal. I believe everybody desires to live in freedom,” President Bush said. “It's an example that tyranny can never stamp out the desire to be free.”
U.S. Ambassador to Hungary George Walker, also speaking at the commemoration in Washington, paid tribute to “the freedom fighters of 1848 and 1956 who fought for independence, for a more democratic political system and for human rights.” He also noted that in 1989 “Hungarians opened their gates to East German citizens fleeing their country in large numbers and simultaneously, and at considerable risk, opened the doors to Austria and freedom, thereby defying the Warsaw Pact.”
The chair of the celebration was Hungarian-born U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos of California, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee. Bush praised Lantos as “a person who understands the difference betweenfreedom and tyranny,” and he thanked Lantos and his wife “for never letting anybody forget that freedom is precious and necessary in our world.” AHF Co-President Jules (Gyula) Balogh is seen here at the 2006 commemoration.
AHF 100 YEARS DISPLAY
3/16/2010 - 20th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Kossuth Bust in the US Capitol... To celebrate and commemorate the friendship and shared values between the people of the United States and those of Hungarian descent, the American Hungarian Federation commissioned a bronze bust of Lajos Kossuth and offered it to U.S. Congress in 1990. AHF leaders and members of the community joined Congress, the Hungarian Embassy, and the Lantos Foundation in a commemoration of the 20th anniversary of its unveiling in the US Capitol. [read more]
"the house of Habsburg-Lorraine, perjured in the sight of
God and man, had forfeited the Hungarian throne."
"All for the people and all by the people. Nothing about
the people without the people. That is Democracy, and that is the ruling
tendency of the spirit of our age."
Kossuth Lajos (b. 1802, d. 1894, pronounced co-shoot luh-yôsh) was Governor of Hungary during the 1848-1849 War of Liberation for independence and democracy which was eventually defeated by the union of the royalist Austrian Habsburg and Russian Czarist Armies (1848 - 1849). Kossuth envisioned a federation in the Kingdom of Hungary in which all nationalties participated in a vibrant democratic system based on fundamental democratic principles such as equality and parliamentary representation. The bloody conflict eventually led to a great compromise known as the "Austro-Hungarian Empire," in which Hungary gained some autonomy. although Kossuth would have no part in it and demanded full indepependence until his death.
His "all for the people" speech from which the above excerpt is taken was given over a decade before Lincoln's famed "for the people, by the people" speech given at Gettysburg in 1863. Kossuth was the first foreign Statesman officially invited to the US since the Marquis de Lafayette. His upcoming speech in the Congress of the United States made the pre-civil war joint house nervous due to his democratic views on equality of all men. Kossuth learned English while in prison and exile and spoke to half the population of the US who enthusiastically greeted and flocked to hear him. Despite Hungary's epic struggle and Kossuth's brave and noble efforts, the US, the "Bastion of Democracy" turned him away, empty handed. Hungary was alone again in its fight for democracy in 1956, and didn't regain freedom until 1989.
Today, there are many reminders of Kossuth's impact on America and the world. In North America, there is a Kossuth County in the state of Iowa, a town with his name in Indiana, Ohio and Mississippi, a settlement with a Kossuth Post Office is in Pennsylvania. In addition, there are Kossuth statues and plaques in New York, Cleveland, Akron, New Orleans, Washington, and Ontario, Canada. The Hungarian Reformed Federation's building on Dupont Circle, in Washington, DC is called Kossuth House with a memorial plaque commemorating his speech on democracy. See the picture gallery and memorials on Louis Kossuth in North America.
"[we] have been hungry to see the man whose extraordinary eloquence is seconded by the splendor and the solidity of his actions."
Kossuth was greeted with wild enthusiasm across the country. He was only the second foreign leader (second to Lafayette) to address a joint session of Congress.
Hear Louis Kossuth Speak! [Click Here] and follow the transcript below - This is the speech of Louis Kossuth which he gave for the dedication of the statue for the 13 Hungarian generals, who were executed at Arad, Hungary, on October 6, 1849 (Arad is in Rumania today after annexation due to the Treaty of Trianon in 1920 ). Louis Kossuth was exiled after the fall of the Hungarian Liberation Fight of 1848 and made his permanent home in Torino (Turin), Italy. He could not attend the dedication of the monument at Arad, without risking arrest, so he recorded his speech in Turin, and sent it to Arad using the new technology of sound recording, called the phonograph.
The recording was made on September 20, 1890, when Kossuth was 88 years old. It is a sad fact that the monument Kossuth sent his speech for was torn down by the Rumanian government when they annexed Transylvania, along with Arad, in 1920, after World War I.
The original recording on two wax cylinders for the Edison phonograph survives to this day, although barely audible due to excess playback and unsuccessful early restoration attempts. Lajos Kossuth is the earliest born person in the world who has his voice preserved. Since the audio is of such poor quality, here is it is transcribed in Hungarian and translated to English (special thanks to Louis Kossuth in North America)
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