Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung April 1849

From the Theatre of War — Windischgrätz’s Comments on the Imposed Constitution

Source: MECW Volume 9, p. 261;
Written: by Engels about April 12, 1849;
First published: in the Neue Rheinische Zeitung No. 271, April 13, 1849.

As the Breslau and Vienna letters and journals did not arrive tonight, little material is available today on the events of the Hungarian war. The imperial side once again speaks of victories which it claims to have won over the Hungarians. Jellachich is said to have captured 17 guns from the Magyars at Szegléd, Jablonowsky is again said to have advanced to Losoncz, Schlick to have thrown back the Magyars all along the line at Hatvan etc. This was reported to the Augsburg Allgemeine Zeitung from Pest on April 4. Other reports of the same date say nothing of this and assert that the Austrian army is still in full retreat and that the Magyars of Pest have never been more cheerful than they are at present. Certainly, the Magyars’ resolute advance has remarkably thwarted Windischgrätz’s well-intentioned plan to impose a four weeks’ truce on the Hungarians until he had received reinforcements of 50,000 men. Windischgrätz realises that he cannot avoid a decisive battle now, decisive for the imperial side if he is beaten, but not at all decisive if the Magyars are beaten. The Hungarians can always retreat into the impassable swamps and the pusztas [214] on the Theiss, behind which they are entrenched as in the most formidable fortress; the imperial troops, who have no basis of operations, having behind them 60 miles of hostile country, must retreat in a rout towards Vienna in case of defeat, just as Napoleon had to retreat towards the Rhine after the battle of Leipzig.[215] Few escape, and those who do will no longer form an army.

Moreover, the sole definite advantage which the imperial troops have gained by their concentration at Pest appears to be that Gargey, since he has been joined by Klapka and his corps, which had been roving in Slovakia till then, has given up his plan to advance to Komorn by the side of the mountains. He has marched a little further south, so as to meet Schlick’s corps head-on, jointly with the main Magyar force which is at Hatvan and Gyöngyös. The victory of the Magyars in this area is of course much more important than a passing raid, even a highly successful one, against the Komorn siege force.

In the south, the Magyars have gained decisive advantages at the points where fighting is still in progress, namely in the Bacska. The alleged victory of the Serbs at Zenta has vanished into the martial-law-thin air. Moreover, we learn now that the Magyars have moved from Theresiopel and Szegedin to the south with irresistible force, driving the Serbs before them; that they have occupied Zombor and Verbasz, conquered the entire Bacska etc. and are threatening the siege area of Peterwardein. Verbasz lies, in fact, only a few miles from Peterwardein, and we shall receive important news from this area shortly. It was Vetter-Damjanich’s corps which carried out this surprisingly rapid march, having left behind an observation brigade against Jellachich, who was retreating to the north. This march is of the greatest importance, not only for the relief of Peterwardein, but particularly because of the Serbs. It is known that they are already on very strained terms with the imperial side and have threatened several times to negotiate with the Magyars. And nothing would be more likely to bring these negotiations to a rapid conclusion than just such a sudden and surprising display of strength by the Magyars in the Voivodina.

In the north, General Hammerstein, who is in command in Lemberg, is said to have started for Hungary with 15 battalions. We recall that news of his departure was carried once before in all the papers; he was reported to have crossed the Theiss and to have advanced to Nyiregyhaza, 8 miles from Debreczin, and there was not a word of truth in it. We refer the reader, by the way, to our report from Lemberg of the day before yesterday, which indicated no such rapid departure.

According to the Lloyd of April 7, 20,000 Russians have already started for Transylvania and General Muraviev is approaching in haste from Bessarabia with a corps of 20,000 men. The Turks too have marched to the border to guard Wallachia. The Turkish troops, about 6,000 men who hitherto were garrisoning Galatz and Ibrail, made for Bucharest on March 21 and in a few days a new Turkish garrison is expected in Galatz.

Needless to say, these reports are again purely martial-law rumours.

From the Bukovina we learn that Malkowsky, whom various martial-law papers had already drawn up between Bistritz and Maros-Vásárhely, is not on Transylvanian soil at all. So far from advancing, he has, on the contrary, had to send a considerable part of his troops from the Bukovina to Galicia. These are now at Delatyn, about 15 miles from the border of the Bukovina, where a Magyar invasion is feared.

We conclude with a document which the Pest Figyelmezö quotes with the following introductory remark:

“The following explanation of the Austrian Constitutional Charter [216] with reference to Hungarian conditions has been issued. Although it has not reached us officially, it has however been communicated to the Royal Commissioners for distribution in the country, therefore we shall not delay its publication.”

The document itself reads:

“By order of His Majesty Our Emperor and King Francis Joseph I, I, as Plenipotentiary of His Majesty, make hereby known the following declarations and explanations relating to the constitutional Charter in force throughout the Empire from March 4, as far as the Charter concerns Hungarian conditions. His Majesty Our Most Gracious Emperor and King has deigned to issue and to publish a constitutional Charter for the one and indivisible monarchy which intimately links the whole realm in a mutual connection, bestows unity upon the whole while maintaining the independence and capacity for development of the individual parts and at the same time guarantees equal rights to every nation. His Majesty wishes this Charter, accompanied by the Manifesto to His peoples issued by His Majesty, to be made known without delay also to the inhabitants of the Kingdom of Hungary in their language. His Majesty is fully confident in the belief that the peoples of Hungary will recognise the enlargement and guarantee of their political rights, vouched for by this constitutional Charter under which they are authorised to take their constitutional share in the common affairs of the realm, which in future will embrace with the bond of common rights the peoples united under a single ruler by the Pragmatic Sanction. [217] His Majesty expects that His peoples will see in this Charter a strong guarantee of their permanence, of their well-being and of a constitutional future, and will know how to appreciate those beneficial fruits which are bound to result from the welding together of material interests and the community of truly liberal political institutions. In carrying out this great work, which has become the task of His life, it has been the endeavour of the Emperor duly to consider Hungarian conditions; it is His supreme desire that this great work of unification, which commends itself to all the peoples for their own good, should come into force with just consideration of the existing conditions and careful thought for those institutions which time and experience have proved to be beneficial to the community and vitally necessary; that accordingly the legally guaranteed freedom of religious belief be maintained, while the free sphere of action for Hungarian national law should remain untouched and limited only by the power necessary to maintain the unity of the realm and its strong government, and handled in the constitutional spirit; a sphere of action which makes necessary the passing of an internal national reform taking cognisance of the concessions which Our illustrious predecessors in government made to the agricultural class in the spring of 1848. No sooner will peace and order be restored and the armed uprising, which unfortunately is still in existence in part of the realm, put down, than His Majesty will assign to Hungarian national law its legal sphere of action. It is for the joint co-operation of His order — and peace-loving peoples with His Majesty and His troops to restore the desired state of affairs with all speed. Until then, His Majesty will regard it as His duty and His right to employ every means with the help of which order, peace and a settled internal administration can be achieved, the numerous wounds inflicted on the unfortunate country can be healed, and a renewal of revolutionary ventures can he made impossible. His Majesty will know how to live with their rights and how to respond to their profession, and He confidently expects that all men of goodwill will endeavour to support Him in this, so that they and their compatriots may participate in the benefits which they must extend to everyone by helping in the rebirth of a great realm and the unification of all forces towards a great aim.

Given at my headquarters in Ofen, March 20, 1849.
Prince Windischgrätz, Field Marshal.”