The most enduring influence of the 1838 flood is symbolic. In a time of crisis a member of Hungary's tided nobility made a decision to rescue needy souls, regardless of their social status. A prominent national figure manned a boat to save imperiled lives rather than simply occupy space on the national stage. Wesselényi's conduct during the flooding reflects the congruence between his thoughts and actions. His liberal principles were guiding forces of action which directed him in a time of trouble. At a time when his own life was on the line and when he was racked with bodily pains he opted not to focus on his own personal woes, but repeatedly rowed out into the watery darkness to rescue his fellow men.
Kardos, vol. 1, 329, Wesselényi-Rubinyi, 17. In Széchenyi's diary entry of March 13, he indicated that the ice originally began to move around 2:30 in the aftenoon. Széchenyi, 857.
Kardos, vol. 1, 329; Wesselényi-Rubinyi, 17-18; Elek Benedek, Nagy Magyarok Élete (Budapest: Holnap Kiadó, 1995), 217-218. The original optimism in Wesselényi's diary entries of March 13 is in sharp apparent contrast to that of Széchenyi's diary of the same date. The latter wrote of water up to the second stories of houses in some places, of water levels rising throughout the evening, and of "chaos in the city." Széchenyi, 857. It is possible that Széchenyi may have telescoped the evening hours of March 13 and the wee morning hours of March 14, when by all accounts flooding had become acute.
Széchenyi, 859. His diary entry for March 19, 1838 noted: "When I awoke, I was in great pain. I suffered until about 4 o'clock I am no longer a man of action. Every ambition has slipped away."
Wesselényi-Rubinyi, 51-52; Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 396-397. Széchenyi's own diary contains no entry, which mentions the flood relief plan he presented at the Casino.
Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 397.
Kerényi, 176. The Public Prosecutor was the rough equivalent of an American Attorney General or Prosecuting Attorney.
Wesselényi-Rubinyi, 53-54. Perhaps because of his illness, Széchenyi's diary contains no entry for March 23, 1838.
Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 397. Széchenyi, 861. Diary entries for March 28 and March 30, 1838.
Széchenyi, 861, entry for March 28, 1938.
Széchenyi, 860 entry for March 25, 1838.
Széchenyi, 858, entries for March 14 and 15, 1838.
Bácskai, 160-161. ("Igen, a híd ügye most már pompásan áll."). (Széchenyi's letter to Sína dated March 27, 1838)
Vera Bácskai and Lajos Nagy, eds., Széchenyi pesti tervei [Széchenyi's plans for Pest], trans. Iván Bába, et al. (Budapest: Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó, 1985), 155 (Széchenyi's letter of March 21, 1838 to Baron Georg Sína).
The Széchenyi Lánchíd, or Chain Bridge was erected between 1839 and 1849 and is regarded by many as a symbol of the union of Buda, Pest and Óbuda into the metropolis now known as Budapest.
Ferenc Kerényi. "Az árvizi hajós' és Vörösmarty Mihály" [The boatman of the flood and Mihály Vörösmarty], Előadások és tanulmányok Wesselényi Miklósról. Erdélytörténeti könyvek (Debrecen: Felelős Kiadó 1997), 171-178, 176; Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 397; Katona, 124.
Mihály Vörösmarty, Vörösmarty Mihály költői művel [The lyrical works of Mihály Vörösmarty], ed. András Martinkó (Budapest: Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó, 1987), vol. 1, 311-315. A very rough translation of the cited passage reads: Hold me in your thoughts On this night of destiny: I am your self-regard, Whose name is Charity.
The term "Casino" refers primarily to a gentlemen' club, more than to a purely gambling kind of establishment. Széchenyi founded the Casino in Pest as a place where people of high social station and/or education could meet to discuss political topics, read domestic and foreign newspapers, and review scholarly periodicals. See George Barany, Stephen Széchenyi and the Awakening of Hungarian Nationalism, 1791-1844 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1968), 167-173.
According to Trócsányi, the only city officials who played an active role in relief efforts during the flooding itself were Havas and Trattner. In contrast to the majority of the city representatives, a number of the Pest county leaders were much more active in dealing with both the flood rescue actions and reconstruction efforts. Prónay, originally criticized by Wesselényi for his inactivity during the first days of the deluge, afterwards rendered excellent service. And Dubraviczky, the court appointed vice lord lieutenant [alispán] of Pest County, also worked diligently. Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 394-395.
Wesselényi-Rubinyi, 37; Lajos Mangold and Cyrill Horváth, eds., Tolnai Világtörténelme: A legújabb kor 1815-1908: A szabadságharcok és a nemzeti újjáébredés kora [Tolnay's world history. The most recent era, 1815-1908: the age of wars of liberation and national revival], vol. 2, (Budapest: Magyar Kereskedelmi Közlöny Hírlap- és Könyvkiadó [date unclear]), vol. 2, 144, (two vols); Széchenyi, 859.
Miklós Wesselényi, Szózat a magyar és szláv nemzetiség ügyében (Budapest: Europa Könyvkiadó, 1992), 15 (reprint).
Wesselényi, Szózat, 15.
John Lukács, Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture, (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988), 67.
Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 397.
Miklós Wesselényi, Balítéletekől [On misjudgments], ed. and intro. Dániel Veress (Bucuresti: Kriterion Könyvkiadó, 1974), 120, 123, 234-236.
Miklós Asztalos, Wesselényi Miklós az első nemzetiségi politikus [Miklós Wesselényi, the first politician of the nationalities] (Pécs: Karl Könyvesbolt Kiadása, 1927), 16.
Katalin Czellár and Ferenc Somorjai, Magyarország (Budapest: Panorama, 1998), 211. (3rd ed.)
Samuel Kardos, Báró Wesselényi Miklós: Élete és Munkái, vol. 1 (Budapest: Légrády Testvérek Könyvnyomdája, 1905), 328. (Two vols.)
Zsigmond Kemény, "A két Wesselényi Miklós", Báró Kemény Zsigmond munkáiból (Budapest: Franklin Társulat, 1905), 60; George Barany, Stephen Széchenyi and the Awakening of Hungarian Nationalism, 1791-1841 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), 104-105; Kardos, vol. 1, 87.
Zoltán Jókai, Metternich und die Frage Ungarns, trans. Erzsébet Andics (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1973), 70-72. See also László Csorba and Ferenc Velkey, Reform és forradalom (1790-1849) [Reform and Revolution, 1790-1849], (Debrecen: Csokonai Kiadó, 1998), 107.
Gyula Mérei, ed., Magyarország története, 1790-1848 [The history of Hungary] vol. 2, (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1983), 756, 1269-1270. (2 vols.) Zsolt Trócsányi, Wesselényi Miklós (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1965), 317. But see also Béla Köpeczi, ed., History of Transylvania, trans. Adrienne Chambers-Makkai (Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1994), 463. One possible reason for differences of opinion among scholars may be that documents of the royal high court of Transylvania in the Magyar Országos Levéltár were destroyed by a fire in 1945. Trócsányi, 317 (footnote).
Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 397.
Bácskai, 155, Széchenyi's letter of March 21, 1838 to Baron Georg Sína; Wesselényi's letter dated March 24, 1838 to Ferenc Kölcsey, cited in G. Zoltán Szabó (ed.). Kölcsey Ferenc levelezése (Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó, 1990), 290.
Kardos, vol. 1, 328; Veress, 140; Lajos Mangold and Cyrill Horváth, eds., Tolnai világtörténelme: A legújabb kor 1815-1908; A szabadságharcok és a nemesi újjáébredés kora (Budapest: Magyar Kereskedelmi Közlöny Hírlap- és Könyvkiadó, no date), vol. 2, 144-145.
Mangold, vol. 2, 145.
László Kontler, A History of Hungary, (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2002), 237.
E.g. Kardos, vol. 1, 328.
Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 397.
March 24, 1838 letter from Wesselényi to Kölcsey, cited in G. Zoltán Szabó, ed., Kölcsey Ferenc levelezése. Válogatás [Selections from the correspondence of Ferenc Kölcsey] (Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó, 1990), 290.
Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 397.
Jókai, Kárpáthy Zoltán, vol. 1, 157.
Trócsányi, Pere, 83
Trócsányi, Pere, 99-100; Mérei, vol. 2, 1275.
Fónagy, 43. See also Zsolt Trócsányi, Wesselényi Miklós hűtlenségi pere (Budapest: Helikon Kiadó, 1986), 9-10.
Ferenc Kerényi, "Az árvizi hajós' és Vörösmarty Mihály" [The boatman of the flood and Mihály Vörösmarty], Előadásokés tanulmányok Wesselényi Miklósról [Lectures and studies on Miklós Wesselényi], Erdélytörténeti könyvek 1, (Debrecen: Felelős Kiadó, 1997), 171-178, 176.
The Hungarian expression used by Wesselényi is "halott-kísérű pofával" (literally "with death attendant face").
One of Wesselényi's remote ancestors was a Count Palatine of Hungary who lost his life in the seventeenth century "Wesselényi Conspiracy". Kardos, vol. 1, 15-16.
István Széchenyi, Hitel (Pest: Trattner & Károlyi Könyvnyomtató, 1830); Miklós Wesselényi, Balítéletekről (Bucharest-Leipzig: Farkas & Ferentz, 1833).
C. M. Knatchbull-Hugessen, The Political Evolution of the Hungarian Nation, vol. 1, (New York: Arno and New York Times, 1971), 1295-1296 (two vols., reprint); Mérei, vol. 1, 756. Literally, the alleged statement was that the government had "sucked the fat out of the peasantry" (… a kormány szivja egyfelől a parasztság zsírját …)
Zoltán Fónagy, Wesselényi Miklós, Válogatta, a bevezetést és a jegyzeteket írta Fónagy Zoltán; Magyar Szabadelvűek (Budapest: Új Mandátum Könyvkiadó, 1999), 41-42 (citing Magyar Országos Levéltár, Wesselényi Levéltár, VA 666).
The primary source containing Wesselényi's impressions of and actions during the March flooding (and its immediate aftermath) are found in portions of his diary which were printed in Kardos, vol. 1, 329-340 and in a later work containing Wesselényi's diary entries for and commentaries about the period of the flood by other writers. Miklós Wesselényi, Báró Wesselényi Miklós: Az árvizi hajós naplója [Baron Miklós Wesselényi: The diary of the boatman of the flood], ed. Mózes Rubinyi and a preface by Lajos Bankó (Budapest: Királyi Magyar Egyetemi Nyomda, 1938 [?]). Unfortunately, the greater part of Wesselényi's extant diaries have not yet been published.
István Széchenyi, Széchenyi István: Napló, ed. Gyula Viszota, (Budapest: Gondolat Kiadó, 1978), 846. See also Széchenyi diary entry of June 20, 1837: "I was with Wesselényi, who already has a strong prison odor about him. The poor devil. He has suffered severely for his conceit." Széchenyi napló, 836.
Kardos, vol. 1,327; Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 392.
Mór Jókai, Kárpáthy Zoltán, Jókai Mór Művei series, vol. 6, part 1 (Budapest: Franklin Társulat, 1925), pt. 1, 116.
Veress, 138-140; Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 391.
Hungarian politicians at the time and scholars since have debated the issue. Years after the trial, Wesselényi claimed that the root cause of the treason charge was not his statements at Szatmár, but his support of peasant land reforms. He denies ever having made the treasonous remarks with which he was charged. To the contrary, he wrote that he was, and always had been, a loyal servant of his country and sovereign. Miklós Wesselényi, Szózat a magyar és szláv nemzetiség ügyében [Manifesto in the matter of the Magyar and Slav nationalities] (Budapest: Európa Könyvkiadó, 1974), 15-16 (footnote). Reprint. Wesselényi's accusers claimed that a declaration against the government is an attack on the ruler himself, citing portions of Werbőczy's sixteenth-century Tripartitum, which asserted that since a government received its authority from the king, one who attacked his representatives thereby challenged the monarch himself. Dániel Veress, Wesselényi Miklós (Budapest: Móra Ferenc Könyvkiadó, 1983), 133-134. But Gábor Klauzál (later a minister in Hungary's 1848 cabinet) responded that Wesselényi's accusers misinterpreted the law. Klauzál argued that there are two Latin terms for government. One means the king's realm (regimen), the other (gubernium) a mere representative of the government. Klauzál claims treason requires that a statement must be made directly against the king or his kingdom, and not just against his political agents, who implement a debatable policy. Veress, 134.
Katona, vol. 1, 328; Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 392-393; Tamás Katona, "Az árvíz szerepe Pest-Buda világvárossá fejlődésében", Előadások és tanulmányok Wesselényi Miklósról, Erdélytörténeti Könyvek 1 (Debrecen: Felelős Kiadó, 1997), 124.
In 1871 the traditional towns of Buda, Pest and Óbuda were consolidated into a single city unit called Budapest. However, during Wesselényi's lifetime Pest and Buda were still separate municipalities. But even during the first half of the nineteenth century, and particularly after the construction of the Chain Bridge, which connected the two towns, some writers had begun to refer to Pest-Buda as a single metropolitan area, even though each maintained its own separate local government.
Average temperatures in Pest-Buda were significantly lower than normal. December average temperature was 4.1 Fahrenheit degrees (2.3 degrees Centigrade), January 9.7 Fahrenheit degrees (5.4 degrees Centigrade), February 7.4 Fahrenheit degrees (4.1 degrees Centigrade) lower than usual. Trócsányi, Wesselényi, 391.