Andrea Kökény is a Senior Assistant Professor of History at the Department of Modern World History and Mediterranean Studies, University of Szeged, Hungary. Her fields of research include modern European history, the history of westward expansion in the United States, and the formulation of American identity. Email:
In the 15th through the 17th century the Kingdom of Hungary lay in the buffer zone (borderlands) between the Habsburg and the Ottoman Empire. After more than a hundred years of skirmishes and raids along its southern border, Ottoman forces achieved a decisive victory at the Battle of Mohács in 1526. The Hungarian king, Louis II died after the battle, and the aristocrats elected Ferdinand I from the Habsburg dynasty their king hoping that with Habsburg help they would be able to withstand Ottoman expansion. In 1541, however, the Turkish army occupied the capital city, Buda, and gradually extended its influence over the central part of the country. It was organized into a province of the Ottoman Empire. The western part of the kingdom (present-day Slovakia, western Transdanubia, Burgenland, and western Croatia) was incorporated in the Habsburg Empire under the informal name of Royal Hungary. From then on the Habsburg Emperors were also crowned as Kings of Hungary. The eastern part of the kingdom (the so-called Partium and Transylvania) became at first an independent principality, but then was gradually brought under Turkish rule as a tributary state autonomous in its domestic affairs but dependent on the Ottomans in terms of foreign policy (Kontler 139-142). Turkish rule in Hungary lasted till the end of the seventeenth century when with the leadership of the Habsburgs, a European coalition of troops liberated Buda and expelled the Turks from the rest of the country in 16861 (Kontler 183). The Habsburgs reunited the western and the central part of Hungary, but treated Transylvania as a separate administrative unit. As a result, Transylvania became the preserver of Hungarian political and cultural identity, and in many cases the starting point for independence movements, whose aim was to liberate all of Hungary from Habsburg rule and reunite it with Transylvania (Kontler 183-189).
When the governor of New Mexico sent the first military and commercial expedition to Texas in 1650, Hungary was divided under the Habsburg and the Ottoman rule. When Mexico declared independence from Spain and Stephen F. Austin got permission to establish a colony in Texas in 1821, the Hungarians were preparing for their first Diet after almost a century of Habsburg absolute rule. When Mexico adopted a federal constitution in 1824 and a liberal colonization law in 1825 that opened up Texas to immigration, the Hungarian Diet of 1825 marked the beginning of the Age of Reforms. It was a series of liberal measures that finally led to the Revolution and War of Independence of 1848-1849, the abolishment of feudal bonds and privileges, the establishment of a Hungarian government, and an attempt to liberate the country from Habsburg rule.
In the meantime, as a result of the liberal colonization law and generous land policy of the Mexican government, thousands of Anglo-American emigrants left their mother country and settled down in the eastern and central parts of Texas. They were far from the core of government in Mexico City, had hardly any contacts with the Mexican population in Texas, and thus did not assimilate. What is more, they felt neglected by the Mexican government and started to look to their northern neighbor to establish new, or just maintain their old economic, social, and cultural ties there (Weber 247-248, 254-255). When Antonio López de Santa Anna, the Mexican president carried out a centralist turn in 1835 that endangered the prospects of self-government and economic prosperity for Texas, the inhabitants of the province, Anglo Americans as well as many Tejanos, revolted against him. After declaring their independence from Mexico on March 2, 1836,2 they drafted a constitution in two weeks,3 and applied for statehood in the United States of America (Perrigo 124, Kökény, Angol-amerikaiak Texasban, 70-75, 80, 88).
Santa Anna sent an army and led another one to regain control over Texas. His troops, however, were defeated in the Battle of San Jacinto on April 21, 1836, after which he acknowledged the independence of the Texas Republic in the Treaty of Velasco.4 Meanwhile, the American Congress discussed the question of annexation. Because many Northerners were afraid of the extension of slavery and upsetting the balance between free states and slave states, Texas was not admitted in the Union. Nevertheless, the American government recognized the Republic of Texas as a separate nation in 1837 and opened diplomatic relations with it (Fehrenbach 250-251). The annexation issue was reopened only years later, when the expansionist James K. Polk was elected president of the U.S. He proposed to negotiate with the British about ending the British-American joint occupation of the Oregon Country in the northwest, and admitting that territory into the Union together with Texas, and thus keepeing the delicate balance between North and South. A joint resolution was passed by the two Houses of the American Congress in 1845, and Texas became the 28th state of the United States of America (Meinig 142, Fehrenbach 265-267, Haley 130). The Oregon Treaty was signed with Great Britain in 1846. It extended the 49th parallel as the border between Canada and the United States all the way to the Pacific Ocean, thus acknowlidging American possession of the Oregon Country (Meinig 114-116).
The purpose of this essay is to examine what the Hungarians knew about the Texas Revolution and the history of the Texas Republic, and how they reflected on the events and changes in the Mexican-American borderland region through an important primary source of the period, the Hugarian press. The 1820s and the 1830s marked the beginning of a new era in the history of European newspapers. As a result of the successful bourgeois revolutions in Western Europe as well as a revolution in technology, the foundations of mass communication were laid down in the form of the so-called “penny magazines.” The publishers’ main aim was to produce an inexpensive paper and mediate useful information to people who were unable to obtain formal education or were interested in the latest scientific developments. For example, the Penny Magazine, published every Saturday from March 31, 1832 to October 31, 1845, was an illustrated British magazine commenced on behalf of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge and sold for only a penny (Secord 68). The German Pfennig Magazin and the French Magasin Pittoresque, and Magasin Universel served the same purpose.
In Western Europe these magazines were intended for the working class and the middle class. In Hungary the diffusion of useful knowledge was intended for the general public to bring about the creation of these social layers. After exploring other countries and cultures and realizing the backwardness of the country, Hungarian intellectuals of the Age of Reforms initiated the establishment of societies for the diffusion of useful knowledge and the publication of inexpensive texts to serve the same purpose. It was Sándor Bölöni Farkas, a famous Hungarian writer and traveller, who, returning from his trip in the United States of America, organized such a society in the Transylvanian town of Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) that supported the publication of a weekly paper, Vasárnapi Újság (Sunday News), published between April, 1834 and November, 1848. The editor was Sámuel Brassai, who adapted the style of Western European penny magazines to the reading public in Hungary and thus made Vasárnapi Újság a successful newspaper. The editor’s aim outlined in the announcement about the publication of the new issue was to publish “a new, cheap paper to inform the readers about the events of the world, the characteristics and habits of different peoples” (Vasárnapi Újság, the first week of April, 1834). Here, he intended to provide the public with “useful knowledge about nature, animals and plants, natural resources, and their use and harm” (translation mine) and planned to write about different countries informing Hungarians of “any kind of miscellaneous intelligence of note” thus making the paper “a window” through which to view events that might have an effect on their lives. Vasárnapi Újság consisted of eight pages, each divided into two columns; it also contained practical information for craftsmen and housewives, as well; the first three or four pages usually had an article with useful information for farmers or an article borrowed from another publication, while the remaining pages contained miscellaneous news, or pieces of literarature, while new, foreign items usually appeared on the last two pages or at the very end of the paper. Newspaper publishing in the 1830s was a labor-intensive and financially perilous undertaking, to say nothing of the difficulties of obtaining news to fill the pages. We do not know precisely where and how Sámuel Brassai gathered information for his paper but his most probable sources were British and German newspapers that arrived in the country.
The first issue was published on April 6, 1834 with information about different countries. Nevertheless, the first news item about Texas appeared in the February 14, 1836 issue and it discussed the origins of the Texas Revolution. It also contained a description of Mexico, the southern neighbor of the USA, seen as of almost the same size and having almost the same kind of government as the USA. The publication also noted that inspite of these positive facts, there was no proper order in Mexico, which instead, had constant quarrels and poverty. It also talked about the establishment of the United States of Mexico and its constitution that was adopted in 1824 on the basis of the American constitution of 1787. The article stressed that because of the remnants of Spanish colonial rule and the uncertain economic and political situation, it was very difficult to put liberal principles into practice in the newly established country. This article also gave an explanation for the chaotic situation arguing that the inhabitants of Mexico were not clever and moderate enough to make good use of their good laws and continued with the description of the situation in the American province across the border, Texas. The paper pointed out that it was mostly inhabited by Anglo Americans, who having had enough of the disorder, issued a proclamation blaming Santa Anna, the Mexican president for disregarding the constitution and abusing his power, which served as a reason for declaring their own independence. The editor of the Vasárnapi Újság also noted that Texas offered to help any other provinces that refused to endure Santa Anna’s tyranny any longer. According to the paper, the people of Texas established a provisional government and elected a governor and a vice governor, Henry Smith and James W. Robinson. The editor did not say where he got the information from and did not comment on the news (Vasárnapi Újság, February 14, 1836).
The next news item about Texas in this publication came in May the same year and was brief but contained an important piece of information: the inhabitants of Texas adopted a flag that carried the same colors as the American flag, but only one star and the word: Independence (Vasárnapi Újság, May 1, 1836). Then, the August 14, 1836 issue reported on the Battle of San Jacinto, and the capture of Santa Anna by the Texans. The news item recalled the reaction of the Mexican congress and their determination about not giving up a patch of soil and not bargaining with the Texan rebels, but deciding to elect a new leader and send an army against their enemies. The article also outlined the American government’s opinion on the matter and pointed out that the United States would only acknowledge the independence of Texas if it was made sure that the Texan government could maintain itself. It is worth mentioning that the editor’s comment revealed his sympathy with the Mexican government (Vasárnapi Újság, August 14, 1836).
At the beginning of October 1836, the paper devoted the first three pages to Mexico. It began by stating that ”this immense land is a living example of how human wickedness can change blessing for curse inspite of all the natural advantages and the best political and constitutional framework” (translation mine) and described Mexico’s natural resources, its landscape, climate, fauna and flora, as well as its size, provinces, and wrote about its inhabitants. It also discussed the history of the state from Spanish colonial rule through the movement for independence up to the Federal Constitution of 1824 stressing the fact that this important document was based on the text of the American constitution. The author blamed the Spanish colonial system for exploiting the region and not allowing the development of local industry, the building of ports, or schools. All these factors, he argued, became an obstacle in economic and cultural development and resulted in political unrest and repeated “military revolutions,” i.e. coup d’états (Vasárnapi Újság, October 2, 1836). The description continued in the next week’s issue with an analysis of the moral state of Mexico and its army, a “riff-raff mob” of untrained and cowardly soldiers (Vasárnapi Újság, October 9, 1836). It is interesting that these articles did not mention Texas as such, but in the latter issue there was a brief reference to the province among the foreign news items, which stated that “there are revolts in Mexico and Brasil. The Texans don’t mind the former one as they will gain time to grow stronger” (Vasárnapi Újság, October 9, 1836). Seven days later, the newspaper contained the third part of the report on Mexico; it described Santa Anna’s rise to power and his arbitrary rule by writing that “[T]he once respected president has become treacherous. He does not have too much intellectual capacity or courage, and only cares for women, gambling, and forged bills. […] Such is the character of the Mexican Napoleon, who would not be able to command two hundred soldiers in Europe,” the paper concluded (Vasárnapi Újság, October 16, 1836). This article also commented on the treatment of foreigners in Mexico stating that they were detested ”just like the Jews in Medieval Europe,” the reason behind this hatred being religious prejudice. This part of the article says that “[T]he Spanish once made the Mexicans believe that they were the only true Christians, and all the other nations were heretics and therefore had to be detested” (translation mine, Vasárnapi Újság, October 16, 1836).
Moreover, the November 6, 1836 issue reported that Mexico was threatened by partition. The paper stated that its northern provinces were determined to form a separate government and join Texas. It also added that the southern states of the USA, where slavery was “in fashion” wanted Texas to join them and become part of the U.S. so that their party would grow and have more votes in Congress (Vasárnapi Újság, November 6, 1836). Events were closely followed the next year, too. The first issue of 1837 called the readers’ attention to the fact that the Mexican government was making moves to reoccupy Texas saying that a few thousand troops were organized for this purpose and were mobilized by general Bravo on October 24th (Vasárnapi Újság, January 1, 1837). Three weeks later, the paper reported that Santa Anna, who was still a prisoner of the Texans, promised to restore the old constitution, on which condition the Texans promised to release him. The editor here noted that the former Spanish and Portuguese colonies had changed their form of government several times. One of the reasons for unstability, Brassai argued, was their ”bad political education” during the colonial times, as a consequence of which these provinces were still at the same economic and cultural level as a quarter of a century before (Vasárnapi Újság, January 22, 1837).
Closely following the events of the American continent, the February 5, 1837 issue argued that Texas would probably retain its independence as the latest Mexican expedition to reconquer it got halted in the preparatory phase. The article added that several newspapers discussed the reports about the Texans’ bargaining with the Mexicans on Santa Anna’s release as well as the acknowledgement of the independence of Texas and its possible annexation to the United States of America and informed the readers that the Texans had already elected a president, Sam Houston. According to Brassai, one of the most important conditions the Texans had to fulfill was the maintenance of slavery (Vasárnapi Újság, February 5, 1837). A week later the news about Santa Anna’s release was retold. According to the report, Santa Anna was taken to the U.S. so that he would be able to sign an agreement on his own free will, not in prison, under pressure. Hungarian readers now knew that he promised he would have Texas’s independence acknowledged by Mexico with the border at Rio del Norte [Rio Grande], as a result of which Texas would gain a territory “as big as half of France (4-5000 square miles).” The text also claimed that the Texans were ready to offer this piece of land to the United States if they got accepted into the union as a state with a constitution of their own. At the same time, the article pointed out that the American congress would not accept this union unless the Texans came to a final agreement with Mexico (Vasárnapi Újság, February 12, 1837). Two weeks later the paper told about Andrew Jackson’s message to Congress in which he argued that it would be reasonable for the U.S. not to get involved in the conflict between Mexico and Texas until the latter one had secured its independence and had it acknowledged by other nations. The editor’s comment drew attention to the fact that the Americans followed the same policy [that is, non-intervention] during the fight for Mexican independence as well (Vasárnapi Újság, February 26, 1837).
The April issues were still closely following the Texan events and one of them reported that Santa Anna arrived at the border of Mexico and was received with a warm welcome (Vasárnapi Újság, April 23, 1837). Moreover, at the beginning of May, Vasárnapi Újság further informed the readers that Martin Van Buren was inaugurated as president of the United States of America; but the last measure of the outgoing president, Andrew Jackson, was that he had the independence of Texas and its separation from Mexico acknowledged by the United States. The Americans had already sent an ambassador to Texas, and the Texan ambassador to the U.S. was present at the inauguration of Van Buren (Vasárnapi Újság, May 7, 1837, 151).
During the summer and fall of 1837 Vasárnapi Újság regularly reported on the desperate financial situation in the United States. It discussed the growing shortage of money, the critical conditions of commerce, and the fact that many banks went bankrupt in New York and in New Orleans (Vasárnapi Újság, May 21, June 11, June 25, October 8, October 22, 1837). Nothwithstanding, the paper had some ”good news” for the readers in connection with the situation in the Southern borderland region when it announced that Bustamente, the Mexican president proclaimed that he would change the foreign policy of the country, fulfill the wishes of the foreign powers, withdraw the Mexican army from the border, and abandon the plan about the reoccupation of the province of Texas (Vasárnapi Újság, July 9, 1837, 214). The first three pages of the November 12, 1837 issue were devoted to the Bank War in the United States; the article discussed the debates about the issue of rechartering the Second Bank of the United States and how Andrew Jackson vetoed it. It also outlined the operation of the institutions of the republic, the division of power between the federal, state, and local government, the differences in the program of the Whigs and the Democrats, and concluded that as a Democrat, Van Buren would probably continue Jackson’s policy (Vasárnapi Újság, November 12, 1837). Soon, the paper reported that the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress voted 122:89 against the rechartering of the National Bank (Vasárnapi Újság, November 26, 1837). Additionally, the November 12, 1837 issue also carried an item on the U.S. in the foreign news section according to which the American Congress debated whether to accept Texas into the union or not. It reported on John Quincy Adams’ suggestion that the question should not be decided by the legislation or the executive body, but by the whole nation. The editor’s comment pointed out that Texas was a slaveholding country and its annexation would strengthen the position of similar states in the union (Vasárnapi Újság, November 12, 1837).
In December, Vasárnapi Újság had a short news item about the consequences of the American financial crisis. According to the report, “many people left their homes in the densely populated coastal provinces and moved to the Western part of the United States, namely to Wisconsin” (Vasárnapi Újság, December 10, 1837). The fact that westward expansion was becoming an important topic was proven by the Christmas issue of 1837. The first five pages were devoted to Texas and the United States and here the editor explained (in a footnote) that the information was not taken from other newspapers that ”could be biased,” but was provided by “a sensible and impartial work” of a traveller, who had the opportunity and the curiosity to find out the truth, adding, however, that ”we don’t know who it was or what the title of his work was” (Vasárnapi Újság, December 24, 1837). This article provided an interesting overview of the history of Texas: the beginnings of Anglo-American immigration, the relationship of the province with Mexico and the United States. It started with a detailed description of the foundation of Austin colony:
Well before 1820 there were some adventurers, mostly traders, who slipped through the border (i.e. from the U.S.) […], then in 1820 Moses Austin gained permission from the Spanish authorities to settle three hundred honest, Catholic families in Texas. […] When he died, his son Stephen took over the enterprise. (translation mine)
The article gave a bird’s eye view account on American westward expansion claiming that most of the Anglo-American immigrants arrived in Texas from the slaveholding southern states with the aim to get a majority in congress through the acquisition of new territories. The newspaper text pointed out that the Mexican government refused the offer of the United States to buy Texas and took measures to prevent further immigration. The paper focused on the rising tensions between Texas and Mexico and the events of the Texas Revolution; in connection with Santa Anna’s defeat it stated that “the war is not over yet” and that Mexico still had a chance to reconquer Texas (Vasárnapi Újság, December 24, 1837).
The pro-Mexican tone of the paper was modified a year later when Vasárnapi Újság not only started to encourage immigration to Texas, but also published a “call” for the “beautiful ladies” of Hungary to volunteer and get married in Texas: “Every lady who offers to marry a Texan will get 4428 acres of good land as a wedding present. Just get on board!” (Appendix to the volume of 1839).
In the spring of 1839, the editor noted that “in every country, where the population is completely or largely of Spanish origin, there is a civil war,” and listed Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia as examples (Vasárnapi Újság, March 31, 1839), reporting that Texas and France signed a treaty of commerce. Another issue noted that the civil war continued in Mexico and Bustamente occupied Tampico (Vasárnapi Újság, June 16, 1839). A few months later the readres were informed that order had been restored in Mexico as Bustamente defeated the Federalists. What is more ‒ the Hungarian readers were told in this article ‒ he already started to consider the reoccupation of Texas and the editor’s comment reflected once again his strong opinion about the matter: “when one leg of the bird is still in the cage you can keep him back, but once it has flown away, the forest is wide” (Vasárnapi Újság, September 29, 1839). A month later the readers learnt that even though there was peace again in Mexico, three of its provinces were preparing to break away and join Texas, “or had already done so.” “This is dangerous,” the editor commented, as “the independence of Texas has already been acknowledged by some countries, among them France” (Vasárnapi Újság, October 27, 1839).
In 1840, there was only one news item that mentioned Texas, this time as a model for other regions; this reported that ”following the example of Texas” there was a revolt in the Yucatan peninsula (Vasárnapi Újság, August 16, 1840). The year of 1841 was a year of few reports: there was some news about the American presidential elections but nothing particular about Mexico or Texas. The fact that there was hardly any information in Vasárnapi Újság about the young republic in 1840 and 1841 was probably due to the considerably peaceful situation in the borderland region. Then, on May 22, 1842 the paper reported that the Mexicans had broken into Texas. The editor reminded readers of Santa Anna’s previous activity:
How much we spoke about Santa Anna’s valor a few years ago and the fact that inspite of his determination, the Texans defeated the Mexicans. He was kept in prison for fifty days, they even wanted to execute him, but in the end released him. Since then matters have been pending. Now Santa Anna resumed fighting with eight to fourteen thousand Mexicans and he did that in such a secret manner that the Texans only noticed his army when it was already in their country. Some places have already surrendered because the inhabitants were related to the enemy. The Texans are also making hasty preparations, and we can expect a decisive battle in a few days. (translation mine, Vasárnapi Újság, May 22, 1842)
It appears that Brassai did not get much news about Mexico or Texas for a few months, and when he did, in November 1842, he tried to provide an explanation for the previous lack: “We used to talk a lot about Mexico, but we have been silent about her lately. The reason is that it was in peace, but recently it has reoccupied one of its provinces, the Yucatan peninsula.” In the following, he was not sure though how long peace would prevail there (Vasárnapi Újság, November 6, 1842).
Yet in February 1843, the paper reported that the United States was re-considering the annexation of Texas. The editor’s comment repeated his previous argument about the American claims to the region:
It’s not that the Union was not big enough already; they wouldn’t even gain much population with Texas, because this province is really scarcely populated; the reason is that they want to gain a slave market. (Vasárnapi Újság, February 12, 1843)
Almost a year later Vasárnapi Újság anounced on the annual message of President Tyler. In December 1843, Brassai summed up the different domestic and foreign affairs of the year and empasized Tyler’s doubts about Mexico’s rights to Texas and his announcement to force the Mexican government to acknowledge the independence of Texas. The paper made a list of the president’s arguments outlined in the following:
God created men to live in peace.
Every war has to come to an end.
Mexico was unable to reconquer Texas for eight years, so now this plan must be abandoned.
This war is inconvenient for the United States.
Because of the geographical situation of Texas it belongs to the U.S. rather than Mexico.
The inhabitants of Texas mainly come from the U.S.
It would be best to end the issue by annexing Texas to the U.S.
The editor’s ironic comment reflected his opinion about the situation when he wrote here that “the lion did not have a more clever argument when he was dividing the prey” (Vasárnapi Újság, January 21, 1844).
At the beginning of the next year, the paper announced that the new president of the United States was a Democrat, James K. Polk (Vasárnapi Újság, January 5, 1845). Two weeks later the news report was about the outgoing American president’s [John Tyler] last message in which he recommended the annexation of Texas into the Unites States when he offered to pay ten million dollars for its debts by the U.S. treasury. According to the editor of the Hungarian newspaper, it was a nice offer, though some of the American states did not like the idea so much (Vasárnapi Újság, January 19, 1845). The same year in February, Vasárnapi Újság informed the Hungarian public about the end of Santa Anna’s dictatorship and the establishment of a new government in Mexico by José Joaquín Herrera: “This was the situation on December 12. Is it still the case? We wouldn’t swear on it” (Vasárnapi Újság, February 9, 1845). Then, as events unfolded on the American continent, there was a short news item according to which Santa Anna was put into prison and would have to stand for a trial (Vasárnapi Újság, March 30, 1845).
The April 13, 1845 issue gave a more detailed summary of the history of the Texas Republic and the road to annexation:
There is a beautiful, fertile land with a mild climate, called Texas that once used to belong to Mexico. If there is legitimate claim, Mexico did have that for Texas. But what happened? The province was scarcely populated. People moved there from the neighboring United States, were given land, and when they thought they were strong enough, they proclaimed that they did not only own private property there, but the whole land. They did not want to know anything about Mexico and broke away from the mother country that was vulnerable anyway because of the inner conflicts, and with treacherous help from the United States declared their independence. Having separated it, the United States are now reaching out towards Texas, and at the end of February both houses of Congress proclaimed that Texas should be annexed to the US.
The editor’s comment revealed his sentiments again:
As it is not fashionable to use arms to conquer a land any more, this is how territories are gained in our peace loving, moral, and just times. We do not know the consequences of this step yet, but it is certain that in the land of liberty, the fate of slavery is sealed for at least half a century. (translation mine, Vasárnapi Újság, April 13, 1845)
Meanwhile, the Joint Resolution of the Senate and the House of Representatives was signed by the outgoing president, John Tyler on March 1, 1845.5 Texas was admitted to the Union as one state, although the act made the formulation of four additional states possible. Texas could keep its public lands, and was assured of American military protection on its soil. Thus, the United States, as the parent government was to handle the growing tensions with Mexico. The only drawback was that Texas needed to retain responsibility for its public debt, although that was also to be taken over by the federal treasury in time (Perrigo, 133 and Haley, 130).
According to the next Hungarian report, the Mexican congress sent Santa Anna to exile and sentenced him to confiscation of property. The editor added that “we would not dare to say that it was the last act in the drama of Santa Anna’s life” (Vasárnapi Újság, May 4, 1845). After these, the July 27, 1845 issue contained two short, but important pieces of news. The first one reported that “Santa Anna embarked on a ship to Venezuela accompanied by his family. He took a lot of money with him, though most of his property was confiscated by the government;” the other one announced that “Mexico recognized the independence of Texas” (Vasárnapi Újság, July 27, 1845). It was not exactly true. When Santa Anna was captured, the British government immediately put pressure on the new president. Herrera’s government soon announced that they were ready to acknowledge the independence of the Texas Republic, on condition it agreed never to join another state. The agreement was outlined in a preliminary treaty.6 This treaty, however, was never ratified by the Mexican Congress. So, when the legislation of Texas convened in June, 1845, Anson Jones, the fourth president of the Texas Republic submitted two proposals: that of Mexico and that of the United States of America. Both houses of the Texas Congress voted almost unanimously for annexation. Then a special Convention, elected by popular vote and approved by the Texas Congress, met in Austin to reinforce the decision. This body also voted for annexation on July 4, 1845.7 After that a new, state constitution was drafted for Texas and accepted by plebiscite on October 13, 1845.8
In September 1845, Vasárnapi Újság carried the news about the decision on the annexation of Texas by the United States and reported on the drafting of its constitution (Vasárnapi Újság, September 21, 1845). President James K. Polk signed the Texas Admission Act on December 29, 1845 and Texas joined the Union as the 28th state. (Perrigo 133-134, Haley 131, Fehrenbach 263-267); the history of the Texas Republic ended, but the tensionate relationship with Mexico started to grow again. The former mother country never acknowledged the independence of Texas and tried by every means to take it back. The conflict led to the U.S.-Mexican War of 1846-1848. Vasárnapi Újság regularly reported on the events of this important war, on the critical situation in Mexico, and on the successes of the American army, subsequently (Vasárnapi Újság, January 10, February 28, May 9, June 6, October 17, October 24, 1847).
When Vasárnapi Újság gave detailed accounts on the sweeping American victories and the humiliating Mexican defeats, the paper often referred to the internal quarrels and unstable situation in Mexico (Vasárnapi Újság, May 31, 1846, May 30, 1847), and at the same time, praising their heroic struggle (Vasárnapi Újság, June 27, 1847, October 24, 1847). Plus, the editor expressed his doubts about the validity of the information in connection with the war: “We could write a lot about Mexico, but we cannot guarantee that the news items are true. We had better be silent” (Vasárnapi Újság, September 1, 1846).
On September 14, 1847, the American army captured Mexico City. Santa Anna resigned the presidency and fled to Venezuela and Mexico fell into anarchy (Kluger 469-471, Fehrenbach 489). The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on February 2, 1848. According to the peace treaty, Mexico dropped all its claims to Texas and agreed to its annexation to the Union. In addition, all the Mexican lands between Texas and the Pacific Ocean, including California, New Mexico, and most of the present states of Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, were handed over to the United States. In return, the American government paid Mexico 15 million dollars and assumed claims of the American citizens against Mexico of some 3 million dollars (Meinig 146; Kluger 472, 475-476; Fehrenbach 272, 493; Anderle 83; Kökény, Békeszerződés 4)
Vasárnapi Újság continued to provide Hungarian readers with information about the events of the war and the peace negotiations until the end of January, 1848. From February on the paper started to focus more on domestic events in Hungary and in Europe, giving a detailed account on the revolutionary wave in Paris, Sicily, Palermo, Naples, and the different German principalities (Vasárnapi Újság, February 20, March 12, March 19, 1848). At the end of March it narrated the news about the outbreak of the bourgeois revolution in Vienna, and then in Pest, Hungary (Vasárnapi Újság, March 26, 1848).
In June, 1848, the editorial team of Vasárnapi Újság, now including Sámuel Brassai and Áron Berde, notified Hungarian readers about important changes in the publication of the paper. They decided to print two issues per week, dividing each issue into two main parts: one section focused on “political news” about domestic affairs and the international situation, and the other carried “useful information” on nature and natural resources and advice for economic, especially industrial enterprises (Vasárnapi Újság, June 11, 1848). After the editors’ announcement of changes, there was only one news item about the United States of America. In the fall of 1848 the paper reported on the gold rush in California (Vasárnapi Újság, October 29, 1848). The most possible explanation for the scarcity of news in connection with the U.S. and Texas lay in the changes that occured in Hungary. After a successful revolution on March 15, 1848, a new Hungarian government came to power with a bourgeois constitution, drafted on April 11, 1848; and the results of the revolution were sanctioned by the Habsburg Emperor, Ferdinand V on April 11, 1848 (Kontler, 247-250).
During the summer of 1848, however, similarly to many revolutionaries rising in a number of other European countries, the Hungarian revolutionary forces were pushed back. The revolution grew into a war of independence on September 11 but on December 13, 1848 the Habsburgs sent troops against Hungary9 (Kontler 252-255). The Hungarian army did not only withstand the attack, but also carried out a successful counter-attack. At the peak of the so-called spring campaign, Lajos Kossuth announced the deposition of the House of Habsburg and the independence of Hungary on April 14, 1849 (Kontler 257). The Russian czar, Nicholas II, however, decided to help the Habsburgs and sent 200,000 troops to Hungary (Kontler 258). This lead to one of the final battles of the Hungarian war of independence fought in Transylvania, the region where Vasárnapi Újság had been published. The editors suspended the publication of the paper with the November 9, 1848 issue, and the last piece of news on Texas appeared in the January 30, 1848 Vasárnapi Újság. As a result, Hungarian readers could not be informed about the outcome of the U.S.-Mexican War any further.
Vasárnapi Újság regularly provided the Hungarian public with information about the early history of Texas and the Texas Republic for twelve consecutive years: from February, 1836 to January, 1848. Quite a few of the articles followed the example of the contemporary penny magazines and carried descriptive reports on the history, geography, population, and the economic, social, and political characteristics of the land. There were brief news reports as well as longer items with an explanation or comment on a particular event. In the period between 1836-1837, most of the Vasárnapi Újság articles about Mexico and the origins of the Texas Revolution depicted Spanish colonial rule and the early history of Mexico in a negative light. The editor emphasized the fact that it was the Mexican government that invited immigrants to the borderland region, but then was unable to integrate the territory economically or politically. The paper found the Texans’ response to the uncertain situation and Santa Anna’s centralist turn justifiable, and hence, supported the movement for independence.
The reports were much more critical in connection with the question of annexation. They shared the general view held in Europe and in the northern states of the American Union that the Texas Revolution itself and the proposed annexation of the country into the United States of America was the conspiracy of the sourthern states, whose main aim was to extend slavery. After the outbreak of the U.S.-Mexican War, the editor pointed out that it was a conflict of unequal powers, and praised the Mexicans’ for their heroic struggle.
During the 1830s and 1840s, Vasárnapi Újság was an important source informing the Hungarian public about the developments during the Age of Reform in more and more detail, but, unfortunately, it did not draw any parallels between the changes in the Texas-Mexico-United States borderland region and Hungary’s situation within the Habsburg Empire. The explanation for this may be that the editors did not intend to publish a political paper; their most important aim was to provide the Hungarian public primarly with useful knowledge in their everyday life and only secondarily, with general information about the larger world. In this context, it is obvious that the focus of attention shifted in 1848: when at the end of January, 1848, Vasárnapi Újság reported on the final phase of the U.S.-Mexican War, the Hungarians were getting ready to fight their own revolution.
- Hazai és Külföldi Tudósítások, February 22, 1834.
- Vasárnapi Újság, April 6, 1834 – November 9, 1848.
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1 The troops of the Holy League, an international Christian alliance organized by Pope Innocent XI of the Habsburg Empire, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the Venetian Republic included German, Hungarian, Croat, Dutch, English, Spanish, Czech, Italian, French, Burgundian, Danish and Swedish soldiers. ↩
2 ”The Texas Declaration of Independence”, March 2, 1836. In: Wallace, Ernest – Vigness, David M. (eds).: The Documents of Texas History. Austin, 1963. 98-99 ↩
3 ”The Constitution of the Republic of Texas,” March 17, 1836, In: Wallace – Vigness: The Documents of Texas History, 100-106. ↩
4 ”The Treaty of Velasco,” May 14, 1836, In: Wallace – Vigness: Documents of Texas History, 117-118. ↩
5 ”The Resolution Annexing Texas to the United States,” March 1, 1845, In: Wallace – Vigness: Documents of Texas History, 146-147. ↩
6 ”A Preliminary Treaty with Mexico,” May 19, 1845. In: Wallace – Vigness: Documents of Texas History, 147. ↩
7 ”The Annexation Offer Accepted,” July 4, 1845. In: Wallace – Vigness, Documents of Texas History, 148. ↩
8 ”The Texas Constitution of 1845,” August 28, 1845. In: Wallace – Vigness, Documents of Texas History, 149-159. ↩
9 On December 2, 1848, the Habsburg Emperor, Ferdinand V was replaced by his eighteen-year-old nephew, Francis Joseph, who was not bound by the measures sanctioned by his predecessor. Kontler, 255. ↩