Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. Volume 2.
Lincoln, Abraham, 1809-1865.

Resolutions in Behalf of Hungarian Freedom

January 9, 1852

Whereas, in the opinion of this meeting, the arrival of Kossuth in our country, in connection with the recent events in Hungary, and with the appeal he is now making in behalf of his country, presents an occasion upon which we, the American people, cannot remain silent, without justifying an inference against our continued devotion to the principles of our free institutions, therefore,

Resolved, 1. That it is the right of any people, sufficiently numerous for national independence, to throw off, to revolutionize, their existing form of government, and to establish such other in its stead as they may choose.

2. That it is the duty of our government to neither foment, nor assist, such revolutions in other governments.

3. That, as we may not legally or warrantably interfere abroad, to aid, so no other government may interfere abroad, to suppress such revolutions; and that we should at once, announce to the world, our determinations to insist upon this mutuality of non-intervention, as a sacred principle of the international law.

4. That the late interference of Russia in the Hungarian struggle was, in our opinion, such illegal and unwarrantable interference.

5. That to have resisted Russia in that case, or to resist any powerPage  116 in a like case, would be no violation of our own cherished principles of non-intervention, but, on the contrary, would be ever meritorious, in us, or any independent nation.

6. That whether we will, in fact, interfere in such case, is purely a question of policy, to be decided when the exigency arrives.

7. That we recognize in Governor Kossuth of Hungary the most worthy and distinguished representative of the cause of civil and religious liberty on the continent of Europe. A cause for which he and his nation struggled until they were overwhelmed by the armed intervention of a foreign despot, in violation of the more sacred principles of the laws of nature and of nations---principles held dear by the friends of freedom everywhere, and more especially by the people of these United States.

8. That the sympathies of this country, and the benefits of its position, should be exerted in favor of the people of every nation struggling to be free; and whilst we meet to do honor to Kossuth and Hungary, we should not fail to pour out the tribute of our praise and approbation to the patriotic efforts of the Irish, the Germans and the French, who have unsuccessfully fought to establish in their several governments the supremacy of the people.

9. That there is nothing in the past history of the British government, or in its present expressed policy, to encourage the belief that she will aid, in any manner, in the delivery of continental Europe from the yoke of despotism; and that her treatment of Ireland, of O'Brien, Mitchell, and other worthy patriots, forces the conclusion that she will join her efforts to the despots of Europe in suppressing every effort of the people to establish free governments, based upon the principles of true religious and civil liberty.

Annotation

[1]   Illinois Journal, January 12, 1852. Lincoln spoke to the meeting on the 8th in favor of sympathy but non-intervention. Following considerable debate, a committee composed of Lincoln, Samuel S. Marshall, Ebenezer Peck, Lyman Trumbull, Archibald Williams, William I. Ferguson, and Anson G. Henry, was appointed to report resolutions the following evening, and the meeting adjourned. Lincoln reported the resolutions the next evening. Interventionists objected to the resolutions and added the following amendments, which were also adopted:

``Resolved, That it is the duty of the United States not to do any act, or lay down any principle in regard to non-intervention, that shall prevent this Nation at any time, from interfering in favor of any people who may be struggling for liberty in any part of the world, when a proper occasion shall arrive.

``Resolved, That the people of Ireland are as much entitled to the sympathies of the people of the United States, as the people of Hungary; and we here cordially tender to the people of Ireland, and to all other oppressed people who are struggling for liberty, the sincere sympathies of this meeting.''

A further resolution was adopted instructing the officers to have the resolutions published and copies sent to Louis Kossuth and to each Illinois member of Congress.