Patriotism, Nation, and Masculinity in the Official Propaganda of the Hungarian Insurrectio during the War of the Fifth Coalition (1809)

Ágoston Nagy
University of Public Service, Budapest
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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 11 Issue 1  (2022):3-43 DOI 10.38145/2022.1.3

During the War of the Fifth Coalition (1809), the idea of “national war” was put into practice in the Austrian Empire. Not only the Habsburg military system was reformed, but the war was accompanied by an extensive propaganda campaign, implemented by intellectuals in the service of the Viennese Court. In Hungary, the palatine, Archduke Joseph was responsible for harmonizing the military innovations with the constitutional traditions of the country. The mobilization was carried out mainly by the partly modernized insurrectio, which obliged the masses of nobility to do personal military service in exchange for their privileges. This anachronistic means of defense tried to satisfy, lopsidedly, the demand of manpower in an age of mass warfare. Consequently, the imperial propaganda also had to be adapted to the particular Hungarian situation. This paper investigates this unique Hungarian situation, through analysing the relationship between the military mobilization of the nobility by the insurrectio and the efforts of the official propaganda to construct a valorous and patriotic self-image of the Hungarian nation. First, the study analyses the limited reforms concerning the traditional system of defence of the estates. Second, it presents how the official propaganda of the insurrectio shaped the ideal image of the “noble warrior” on national level in the periods of mobilization, war and demobilization. Third, it discusses the cult of heroes and the fallen of the insurrectio both on national and local (county) level. It argues that this cult proved short-lived in the long run because of the defeat of Austria, the shortness of the war, the uneven involvement of the counties in fighting, and so forth. The paper concludes that the insurrectio of 1809, which was the last great moment of the military mobilization and the valorous patriotic-national ideology of the nobility, did not fit the modern nation-building process and therefore has never incorporated into the Hungarian nationalism as a true “national war.”

Keywords: Patriotism, nation-building, nobility, Napoleonic wars, propaganda, Kingdom of Hungary, Austrian Empire, cult of heroes, mobilization

“Anyone who believes that this levy will also be
merely a ceremony is quite mistaken.”1
Ferenc Kazinczy


According to the passage cited above, Ferenc Kazinczy, the prominent writer, translator, literary figure, and language-reformer of his time, predicted the peculiarity of the Hungarian insurrectio, a kind of feudal levy, of 1809 some months before the war erupted again between the Austrian Empire and Napoleonic France. The insurrectio obliged above all the nobility, which made up almost 5 percent of the population of Hungary,2 to perform military service personally or by a substitute from time to time as a “blood tax” in exchange for their privileged status.3 The Kingdom of Hungary enjoyed considerable independence within the Habsburg Monarchy and had to be governed on the grounds of its laws and customs.4 The “constitutionalism of the estates” took shape during the eighteenth century when many major political issues (many of which were connected to military affairs) began to be interpreted as “constitutional.”5 Even if the ius ad bellum was reserved for the king, from the estates’ viewpoint, many military issues demanded diets.6 According to the practice of political dualism, the king was compelled to negotiate with the estates at diets on military issues.7 Consequently, in the first decades of the nineteenth century, the estates kept several military issues under tight control, including the amount of recruits and war tax (contributio) (paid by common people), the offering and regulation of the obsolete insurrectio for the king’s demand, and the provision of extraordinary and voluntary military aid (subsidium) by the nobility (and groups linked to them).8 The government had to be flexible enough to win over the consent and support of the estates for wars, which demanded diets, while also maintaining and using the political influence of the palatine. The palatine at the time was Archduke Joseph, a younger brother of King and Emperor Francis I. In the first decade of the nineteenth century, Joseph turned into an increasingly autonomous leader of the country in his intermediary role, and he tried both to meet the expectations of the Viennese court and to respect the constitutional traditions of Hungary.9 He was also the commander-in-chief of the insurrectio, and under his guidance, the troops were arranged by the counties. These counties enjoyed considerable autonomy and were led by the wealthy landowning gentry. Given the stalwart constitutional traditions of the country and the politically aware and active elites of the body politic of the nobility, it was essential for the government to develop effective persuasive techniques, and this included broadscale propaganda efforts.

Between 1792 and 1815, the insurrectio was called to arms four times: in 1797, 1800, 1805, and 1809. Kazinczy’s prediction soon proved prescient. While previously the troops had been assembled, compelled to do military exercises, and then disbanded ceremonially at most,10 in the War of the Fifth Coalition between the Austrian and the French Empires (from April 10 to October 14, 1809), they were deployed against the French and their allies and suffered moderate casualties in some smaller encounters and in the Battle of Győr on June 14.11 Members of the public administrative bodies and the civilian population of Western Hungary also experienced the upheavals and dangers of war and occupation for roughly six months. In 1809, though the Hungarian theater was not as significant militarily, mobilization, war propaganda, and the engagement of the units consisting of members of the nobility were experiences of vital importance for the estate polity (Ständestaat) and society.12

In the present study, I deal with three aspects of the relations between mobilization, war, and collective identities, focusing on the official propaganda concerning the insurrectio during the war of 1809. First, I demonstrate the significance of the insurrectio within the corporative defense system, as well as the interactions of traditionalism and innovation in military affairs. I then discuss the backbone of the official “propaganda machinery” on the national level, which was institutionalized to some extent. The official and semi-official propaganda concerning the insurrectio came into being due to Archduke Joseph, and it was produced and circulated by central authorities. While considerable propaganda activities and distinctive and even different local and imperial notions of patriotism were developed on the county and imperial levels, these remained subordinate to the national level. I then show how, based on these products of official propaganda, an all-pervasive patriotic-national collective identity concept was shaped, in the center of which was placed a hegemonic, ideal image of the “noble warrior” as a distinctive version of “patriotic-valorous masculinity.”13

The Austrian “Moment” of 1809 and Hungary

After the Peace of Pressburg (1805), Austria made considerable efforts to reorganize itself to wage a successful war to come against Napoleon. First, significant personal changes were carried out in the highest governmental circles. Second, further military reforms were introduced. The standing army was modernized by Archduke Charles and a new compulsory, selective militia14 formed on territorial grounds, the so-called Landwehr, came into being in June of 1808 thanks to the initiative of Archduke John.15 Closely intertwined with these changes, perceptions of the importance of public opinion also changed, and the government undertook propaganda efforts to develop and foster a strong pro-Austrian sentiment. These measures demonstrated the resilience of the Habsburg Monarchy. Regarding Austria, the exceptionality of the war of 1809 from the perspectives of the relationship between new forms of mobilization and extensive propaganda, and new patriotic-national leitmotifs have been identified as essential characteristics by the earlier and more recent German and international secondary literature.16 The arming of the people together with the dramatic increase in propaganda intended to shape public opinion proved significant not only for German and Austrian history in general (and for the provincial history of Tyrol in particular), but also from the broader European perspective of the Napoleonic Wars.

Propaganda activities were led, supported, and encouraged by the representatives of the highest governmental circles, including for instance people such as Count Johann Philipp Stadion and Archduke John, and they were carried out by well-known intellectuals in the German cultural space, such as writer Friedrich Schlegel, publicist Friedrich von Gentz, and historian Baron Joseph von Hormayr. This propaganda fashioned and promulgated a complex patriotic-national ideology which stretched from the ardent German nationalism of the “political Romantics” through imperial patriotism to provincial and local-regional patriotisms, in line with the emerging idea of “people’s” or “national wars” (Volks- or Nationalkrieg) in a multiethnic composite state, which intended to legitimize the war with reference to alleged patriotic-national interests.17 Domestically, the propaganda was aimed first and foremost at the literate middle classes with the intention of developing popular support for a future war and mobilizing as many people as possible by means of ideological incentives to join the Landwehr, also involving social groups and strata which had been remained intact from military service before.18 Abroad, the initiators tried to legitimize the war for the political elites and the educated public, and they also strove to curry the sympathies of people in French-occupied German territories. Nevertheless, the War of 1813–15 was fought on more traditional grounds again by Austria.19 All things considered, the arming of the people and the sudden flurry of propaganda could be treated as a “moment” in two ways: it turned out to be short-lived, but it was influential from a wider historical perspective.

During the era, in the Kingdom of Hungary, military mobilization and war propaganda played a role that was no less important, but peculiar, according to its constitutional and socio-political characteristics. In particular, the mobilization of the four insurrectio produced a vast corpus of propaganda efforts in various genres. In 1809, the need to persuade the masses of the privileged boosted the emerging production of short and simple printed matter which could easily accessed and distributed due to the steady rise of literacy even among the petty nobility. Both central and local authorities, acknowledged poets, writers, and occasional rhymers were actively involved in this tremendous production, which developed a distinct martial patriotic-national ideology of corporative character on national and local levels. The Hungarian case, however, was almost entirely ignored even within the most detailed German language and international narratives.20 Thus, these narratives offered only a partial picture. The Hungarian scholarship has largely neglected the field for a long time, despite the fact that the importance of the war of 1809 (and particularly the insurrectio) was (re)discovered as early as in the late nineteenth century, and some studies were also published on the political literature.21 Nevertheless, systematic research on war propaganda based on up-to-date methods (re)started a decade ago among literary historians.22

Military Mobilization and Limits of Reforms within the Estates’ System

In the early nineteenth century, the system of defense was still built on the traditional constitutional-legal structure of the country and organized along corporative dividing lines. According to some, the standing army was introduced into Hungary by Article VIII of 1715 into Hungary. Others have pointed out that the article merely legalized the former practice regarding military issues and funding, provided that the war tax had to be offered at diets or smaller ad hoc assemblies (concursus).23 In the course of the wars with France, three means of defense could be distinguished, one permanent and two extraordinary. The “Hungarian regiments” (the elite Hussar cavalry and the infantry of lower prestige) of the regular army, whose name referred to the territory in which the forces were recruited, were the first. Regarding their organization and deployment, these were not nationalized and were at the king’s disposal. The regiments were financed by and regularly recruited from the common people by voluntary recruitment or by drafting as an extraordinary measure.24 In the period, apart from Tyrol and Northern Italy, the only land where the Habsburg government could not introduce conscription (and with that the canton and furlough system) was Hungary due to the fierce resistance of the estates,25 so the period of military service remained indefinite, which meant it was practically lifelong.

The two extraordinary means were organized on the grounds of corporative privileges. First, the “free royal and mining cities” were expected to erect “burgher guards” (which had operated sporadically before) in 1805 as an option and in 1808 as an obligation. These communal militia-like units were responsible for the maintenance of public safety and order, as well as for city defense.26 Second, the insurrectio was also preserved after 1715. It consisted of people from different communities, groups and strata, but it was appropriated by the nobility, which considered themselves the body politic, the country (regnum), or the nation (natio) in its narrower corporative political sense.27 As historian Zoltán Tóth has pointed out, the “norm of estates” referred to certain communities based on moral judgments and expressed a segmented concept of society. Class stratification (based on financial circumstances) was also cut by a “dividing line” following from the legal status. So-called liberty (libertas) was reserved for the (landowning) nobility in its entirety (including exemption from taxes),28 which in exchange owed only periodical and temporary military service as part of the insurrectio. Noble status did not include strict financial and lifestyle requirements.29 This view was supported by the legal fictions of István Werbőczy’s Tripartitum (1517):30 the “one and same liberty” (una eademque libertas) of all noblemen (despite this alleged norm, for ages, the nobility was stratified not only by wealth and property but also by legal status) and the theory of subjugation, which justified the difference between nobles and serfs on the basis of a historical narrative. According to this narrative, the original equality of all Hungarians ceased after some had refused to perform military service and had been expelled from the political community. The norm attributed a free, militant, and morally superior character to the nation (natio or gens) as the exclusive political community of noblemen, which found expression in the insurrectio as the most superior form of military service.

In fact, the insurrectio was not subject to any permanent regulations, had no strength in times of peace, did not regular yearly exercises, and had no permanent officer staff, no magazines, etc. The conditions of its actual mobilization were regulated from time to time at the diets for a specified period. The blurriness of the related old articles and customary law provided considerable leeway for the two poles of the dualistic political system to present different, politically motivated interpretations of the same issues. In the era of the French wars, the king had no choice but to rely on the estates, and though both poles and several officers insisted on the need for urgent military reforms,31 the strong constitutional culture made it impossible to agree on and implement reforms, as they could have been pronounced unconstitutional by some party. Even if this political deadlock left little elbow room for substantial reforms, some limited measures were still introduced in Hungary to modernize its system of defense.32

The powerhouse of reforms was Archduke Joseph. He proposed the introduction of a modified version of the Landwehr system and published a plan for the king.33 This plan concerned the modernization of the insurrectio and the introduction of the reserve system, and it also included the extension of military service by different military institutions. The palatine argued that, “The forthcoming war […] has to be in its entirety a national war, [in which] the able masses of the nation have to fight totally or partly with armies to get the upper hand and to overcome.”34 This inventive draft was discussed in parallel with a traditionalist one (of the diet of 1807). In the end, significant if limited and provisional reforms were introduced: while the reserve system was abandoned, the regulations regarding extraordinary means of defense (Article II and III of 1808) proved more forward-looking than any earlier efforts.

In 1808, the estates offered to allow the king to call the insurrectio to arms “once and without any future consequences” for three years. At the same time, strong conditions were imposed: the insurrectio was to be mobilized only in case of war if the regular army was not able to hold off the enemy and the borders of the country were threatened by invasion. These measures limited the efficiency of the insurrectio, but they guaranteed the influence of the estates over the manner in which it might be used. Because of its political significance, its (de)mobilization “was a more complicated task and demanded much more work” than the (de)mobilization of a standing army of the same size would have required.

The norm of exceptionalism for the nobility found expression in the insurrectio in 1808 more strongly than it ever had before. Historically, in most cases the nobility did military service along with the common people: the insurrectiones were usually raised partly (mostly the officers, NCOs, and cavalry) from noblemen, this being their duty, and partly from non-nobles (mostly peasants as infantryman) by recruitment or pressure.35 This time, however, primarily the nobility and the groups attached to it were obliged to do personal military service. The county authorities conscripted members of the nobility who were between the age of 18 and 50. One person from each family with at least one member who was capable of performing service had to serve personally. Substitution (i.e., paying a fee in lieu of military service) was a standard and legitimate method of intervention in the compulsory selection process in every conscripted army of the age,36 much as it had been standard practice for the insurrectio, but this time it was made more difficult for one to avoid serving in person even in cases in which someone else could be provided as a substitute. Those who had been legally exempted from personal service could fulfil their duty by means of substitution.

This offer was narrower in its entirety than the former general levies, but it involved the nobility more deeply in person than any other had.37 It could be considered a kind of compulsory, selective, conscripted national militia of the nobility as a political community. However, its members were not conscripts in the traditional sense.38 This tendency in spirit could be regarded as a peculiar application of the idea of “citizen-soldier” to the estate polity.39 This sheds some light on two of the main characteristics of the institution: it was an embodiment of tendencies towards “nationalization” and “emancipation,” though remaining within the boundaries of the estates.

“Nationalization” in this context refers to measures which were intended to bring the insurrectio as a traditional, loosely organized corporative means of defense closer to the state-of-the-art national militia, which fit into the emerging conception of “national wars.” These measures indicated some overlap between the reformist ideas of the palatine (who sought to reinforce the military and the national character of the insurrectio) on the one hand and, on the other, the demands of the estates, which were increasingly committed to certain national issues which went beyond the traditional politics of grievances. From this perspective, the regulations of 1808 could be seen as a partial and temporary success of the nation-building process within the political world of the estates which served at the same time the immediate needs of the government.

In line with the prevailing constitutional traditions, the articles assured the independence of the insurrectio as a separate military body with the palatine as its commander-in-chief, a body which should not be mingled with the regular army. In the past, the troops were also deployed outside Hungary’s borders, for instance in 1741–42 during the War of Austrian Succession. However, in 1808 emphasis was placed on the stipulation that the insurrectio could only be used as means of national defense. The organizational structure of the insurrectio was built on the four districts of the kingdom (Transdanubian, Cisdanubian, Transtibiscan, Cistibiscan), each of which was headed by a district general and his staff. The parity of ranks with the regular army was also declared. The officer staffs were elected autonomously by the county assemblies and confirmed by the palatine, strengthening thus the local-regional character and patriotic engagement of each unit at the expense of military competence.

In the context of the emerging linguistic-ethnocultural elements in the patriotic-national thinking of the nobility, the introduction of Hungarian as the language of command was a significant success in the “Magyarization” process,40 which disgusted some people in Viennese governmental circles.41 A vernacular official military terminology was elaborated for the infantry and cavalry in a short time by a working group led by Count Joseph Beckers, the palatine’s chief adjutant, translated into Hungarian by military and civil experts and revised by a military committee.42 Troop training manuals were printed in early 1809 and sold to the counties. In practice, under time pressures, these measures made it difficult to communicate with transferred army officers and anyone who spoke Hungarian only badly or not at all. Since Hungary was a multiethnic kingdom, even within the nobility tens of thousands of people did not speak Hungarian as their native tongue and used Latin as the language of politics.43

As a part of this nationalization, a push towards uniformity was also of utmost importance. The palatine wanted the insurrectio to be clearly distinguished from the regulars and not to be treated as a “Landsturm” or “Volksaufstand” (as in the case of Tyrol) “by the enemy.” It had to be recognized as “eine Truppe,” a “troop force,”44 i.e., as legitimate combatants to whom the laws of war applied. For this reason, a central regulation was issued. The unified cavalry and infantry uniforms included some traditional national accessories and sartorial motifs, and the troops could be distinguished by the color of their lapels (for the infantry) and shakos (for the cavalry), which differed by district. These measures weakened the parochial character of the insurrectio, but the counties could continue to use their symbols (coats of arms), both local and national, as well as patriotic Latin slogans (e.g., “VITAM ET SANGUINEM” or “PRO REGE ET PATRIA”) and embroidered ribbons with inscriptions on their baroque-style flags.45

The aforementioned tendency towards “emancipation” bifurcated in two ways. First, a kind of limited compulsory military service was introduced for the nobility based exclusively on legal status. This could be considered an egalitarian step regarding military duties. Thus, the law obliged one able member of each noble family to perform military service personally, regardless of wealth and title, from the poor petty noblemen to magnates, including naturalized nobles who lived abroad. At the same time, it was intended to counterbalance the financial inequalities within the noble community. To this, a system of “progressive” rates was introduced based on declared annual incomes from 1807. While the wealthier had to mount and support themselves as cavalryman, the poorer could serve and be equipped in the infantry at public expense. A national fund was founded to compensate for differences among the counties (due to the size and wealth of their nobility) to which the wealthy had to contribute more, and local funds were also established.

In 1809, as a consequence of the reforms of the previous year, the masses of the nobility were mobilized in Hungary depending on the actual number of able-bodied noblemen of each county, while in Croatia and Slavonia mostly the forces consisted for the most part of non-nobles, for several reasons. The troops were organized into cavalry regiments and infantry battalions, in most cases cavalry squadrons and divisions, and infantry companies of two or more counties were added to reach the desired unit size. From February to April 1809, the Palatine and Prince Primate of Esztergom Archduke Charles Ambrosius were ordered by the king to tour the counties and exhort the nobility to provide even more men for the cavalry, which was considered more prestigious and effective than the infantry. Because of these efforts, more cavalry units were offered at the expense of wealthy local magnates and nobles than they originally had had to provide by law. According to historian István R. Kiss, 17,266 men were provided for the cavalry and 20,361 were sent to serve in the infantry in total, which were organized into 18 regiments in 19 battalions, together with later voluntary offers.46 Apparently, not all of them were conscripted from and maintained by the nobility, but the units that did consist of nobles made up a significant proportion of the forces. The nobility also made considerable financial and organizational contributions, as reflected in the total number of them in the Kingdom of Hungary.47

Archduke Joseph and the Official Propaganda Machinery

The products of German-language pro-Austrian, anti-Napoleonic propaganda were widely available in Hungary too, though the independence of the country, the mobilization of the insurrectio, and the persuasion of the estate society called for special measures. The propaganda on the national level was concentrated in the hands of a few confidantes of Archduke Joseph, who were both civilians and soldiers with or without official appointment. As in the Austrian part of the empire, in which military intendants were in service alongside every army,48 Hungarian intellectuals were also formally involved in the production of official propaganda as translators or authors.

Archduke Joseph’s work was supported by his office, to which a temporary military section was added during wartime, and he also had the help of a separate general staff of the insurrectio. The palatine managed, with the assistance of his office and that of Beckers, the production, translation, and dissemination of official and semi-official propaganda texts. Official and incoming non-official materials were also collected and assessed here.

Some longer semi-official pamphlets were prepared well in advance, shortly after the diet of 1808. These pamphlets were written by civilians and published anonymously in order to increase their persuasive effect. The archduke charged two literates whom he knew intimately with this task: Sándor Kisfaludy and Ferenc Verseghy. Kisfaludy, a wealthy landowning nobleman of Zala County and an army veteran and popular poet, was commissioned by Beckers at the end of 1808 to write a pamphlet to remind the Hungarian nobility of the value of their “obsolete privileges” without awaking animosity against the French. He finished the text some months later, and it was then blue penciled by his clients. This work was published in the spring of 1809, shortly before the outbreak of the war, in approximately 3,000 copies in Hungarian and a few hundred copies in German under the title Patriotic Appeal to the Hungarian Nobility. Verseghy, an ex-Pauline friar who had been discredited in the Hungarian Jacobin conspiracy in 1794–95, offered his services to the government and already worked for the Archduke as a Hungarian language teacher. He also took part in the translation of military manuals, and he translated the pamphlet (actually, a collection of documents) by Pedro Cevallos Guerra, the Spanish first secretary of state of Ferdinand VII from German (its preface was dated to March 20, 1809). It was a popular, internationally recognized anti-Napoleonic work which intended to shake confidence in the French emperor.

Others took part in the production of propaganda as translators of official texts. József Márton, professor of Hungarian at the University of Vienna, translated Gentz’s Manifest, which declared and legitimized officially the war as bellum iustum, as well as the general order of Archduke Charles, which was written by Friedrich Schlegel. Captain József Csohány, who served in the palatinal regiment, translated ex-officio several proclamations by an unknown author which were issued at the beginning of the war in the name of Archduke Joseph. During the spring of 1809, Csohány, Kisfaludy, and Count László Kolonics were appointed to serve as aides-de-camp of the palatine, and they joined his train and formed his “court” during the campaign. The propaganda was institutionalized on an additional level with the “instruction” of May 28, 1809, which established the duties of the adjutants. With this, Kisfaludy also formally became the central figure of the production of the official propaganda: he was responsible for the translation and publication of all proclamations, announcements, and general orders concerning the insurrectio.49

From February to December 1809, several short official printed products of propaganda were published in the name of the king and the palatine in great numbers which addressed the Hungarians, first and foremost the nobility and the members of the insurrectio. The German, Hungarian, and Latin newspapers also published them, which increased their availability. While some of the official Hungarian proclamations were printed in tens of thousands of copies (in Hungarian), they were only published in a few hundred or a few thousand copies in German. Some documents of legal weight (handwritten or printed copies), which were sent to the local authorities, were also of propagandistic value. The fact that Hungarian became the language of command and of official propaganda suited the broader efforts of Magyarization among some of the educated nobility, as well as of supportive intellectuals. It also fit well with the overall language distribution of the nobility, in which native speakers of Hungarian were the overwhelming majority. From the viewpoint of the longer process of the spread of cultural-linguistic nationalism, these measures could be seen as a moment when linguistic-ethnocultural elements were strengthened within the traditional, privilege-based collective identity of the nobility as an ethnically restrictive criterion. It bore, however, a significant potential to democratize the notion of nation by including culturally (and politically) the disenfranchised native masses and, in the long run, “Magyarizing” non-Hungarians.50

The official propaganda on the local and national levels was connected to the phases of war (mobilization, wartime, and demobilization), particularly to the laborious ritual of (de)mobilization of the insurrectio. First, the nobility was conscripted and then ordered to assemble for the first time by county authorities. Then, the assemblies elected the officers, and the arranged troops were mustered for the second time in their uniforms and equipment. This occasion was linked in most cases with the consecration of flags within a ceremonial civic-military ritual as a “rite of passage.” Soon after this, the troops were doing military exercises for a short time if all went well or they departed immediately for the battlefront if necessary. During demobilization in late 1809 – early 1810, the returning troops were received ceremonially in their home counties and then dismissed with a final muster as a farewell ritual.

Official military mobilization in Hungary began with the rescriptum of King Francis on nineteenth February 1809, which was connected to the tour of the young archdukes and urged the establishment of the insurrectio and recruitment and also requested more military aid and cavalry troops from the counties without the approval of the diet.51 On April 8, as Austrian emperor, Francis issued a proclamation to the Peoples of the Austrian Empire!. In this proclamation, he informed the entire population that he had left Vienna and traveled to see the troops, and he also thanked his subjects for responding to his call and showing their patriotism. The proclamation presented the idea of a just war (like Gentz’s Manifest), in which the ruler and his people (implicitly the Hungarians), united by mutual trust, were resisting the “conqueror” (i.e., Napoleon). It was intended not only to mobilize the combatants but also to motivate the population as a whole to act. On April 10, the king issued a rescriptum from Althan (near Vienna) to the “Hungarians” (i.e., the nobility and groups attached to it) which, referring to the Article II of 1808 and the emergency circumstances, officially announced the insurrectio and ordered its mobilization.52 This text was also propagandistic value beside its legal force.

On April 27, two proclamations were issued to the insurrectio through the palatine which fit into the course of general orders to certain military bodies. The shorter one referred generally to the “adverse events in Germany” and announced that the ruler had summoned the nobility to the western border of the country.53 The longer one provided more information about the battles fought by Archduke Charles between April 19 and 23, the casualties suffered by the K. u. K. army, and the withdrawal of the army to the other bank of Danube River on April 24.54 On May 16, in the name of Archduke Joseph, a longer proclamation was issued under the title Hungarians! which in word was addressed to all the inhabitants of the country but which was implicitly aimed first and foremost at the regnum or nation of the estates (nobility, burghers, etc.). It suited the series of official proclamations, which aimed at the inhabitants of certain provinces, territories inside and outside the Austrian Empire (to the “German nation,” to the Tyroleans, to the Italians, to the residents of Vienna, etc.). On April 29, the palatine sent his proclamations to the “Hungarian nation” and the “nobility of Hungary” to the Zensur- und Polizeihofstelle so that they could be included in German newspapers in order to demonstrate “how great the industry and desire of the Hungarian nation are to protect the Austrian Monarchy.”55

Kisfaludy started to formulate a counter-proclamation against Napoleon’s proclamation of Schönbrunn,56 which was issued on May 15, 1809 in two trilingual versions (in French–Latin–Hungarian and French–German–Hungarian) from Vienna, which had just been occupied.57 The French emperor offered independence and tried to persuade the noble body politic as “Hungarians” in a familiar manner to break off with the Habsburgs and summon a diet “on the Field of Rákos.” Nevertheless, Kisfaludy’s work was never finished, as authorities successfully hindered the spread of Napoleon’s proclamation, and it found no serious resonance, neither among the nobility nor among other groups. Only a handful of educated nobles and intellectuals (so-called “Hungarian Bonapartists”) became followers of Napoleon, for instance János Batsányi, a writer of non-noble birth who took part in the translation and proofreading of the Hungarian text of the Napoleonic proclamation, and Gergely Berzeviczy, a Hungarus Lutheran nobleman who wrote a shelved constitutional draft for the French emperor and later assessed the war and the situation of Hungary from a pro-French critical perspective.58

The official proclamations connected to the process of demobilization were written and/or translated by Kisfaludy after the Peace Treaty of Schönbrunn (October 14, 1809). Two short farewell speeches to the insurrectio were issued in the name of the king and the palatine on November 24 and December 18 (in Hungarian and German) which were printed in 34,000 and 36,000 copies in total in order to provide every member of the insurrectio with one copy. While the palatine’s speech was left almost unaltered, the original draft of the king’s general order was revised beyond recognition by state clerks, and this version was translated by Kisfaludy into Hungarian. The printing was managed by Kisfaludy, and the expenses were covered by the central fund of the insurrectio. On December 18, a longer handwritten Hungarian testimonial of the homecoming troops was also sent to the counties in the name of the palatine in translation by Kisfaludy. During the process of demobilization, an undated farewell speech was also written to the burghers of the free royal cities of Pest and Buda by Kisfaludy in a German and Hungarian version, but there is no evidence indicating that it was ever printed or sent.59

The Segmented View of the Estate Polity and the Dimensions of Patriotism

In general, the Hungarian propaganda of 1809 was structured around the existing legal categories and thus followed and mirrored the attitudes of the estates with regard to their legal status and their responsibilities with regard to the defense of the land. This effort to craft propaganda which addressed different segments of society was clear both in the general-purpose texts (which addressed a larger group) and in the particular texts (which addressed narrower segments of the population). From the overall viewpoint, within the limits of estate polity, the official propaganda tried to mobilize, involve and motivate to some extent as many people as it could (first and foremost the privileged) in the war efforts, while explicitly representing a hierarchical, segmented view of society. It indicated divergent duties based on legal grounds, i.e., different liberties and capabilities for various communities, and on the basis of financial (class) stratification, as well as of professions.

The general-purpose texts also respected this segmentation, but they tried to unite those addressed in a common endeavor. As the emperor’s proclamation to the Peoples of Austria! Stated, “Those who do not take up arms still participate in the defense of the country.” When addressing the “Hungarians,” the palatine’s proclamation translated the idea as a common project of the “Hungarian Nation,” by which it referred primarily to the privileged: “Glorious and sacred is the duty to shed blood for the country; besides, it is also necessary to make other sacrifices to help it.”60 This proclamation also emphasized that “in this challenging moment,” everyone could help the country without going beyond their duties. Thus, in an inclusive way, it drew the attention of all the estates as fellow “Hungarians” to “hold one another’s hands” and strive for a common goal as “true brothers.” According to this view, there were several respectable kinds of patriotic sacrifices, of which the personal military service performed by the nobility was of the greatest value, but other sacrifices were also valued, from pecuniary offers to certain public activities.

The Hungarian war propaganda was aimed above all at those communities which owed certain kinds of armed service: the burghers of the free royal and mining cities and their militias to a lesser extent and the nobility (and attached groups) and the insurrectio to a greater extent. The Hungarian regiments, the men of which consisted of common people, were involved in the imperial military propaganda and the means of popular recruitment.

In connection with this, three main levels of patriotism could be distinguished based on their territorial extent, though they were also segmented socially: imperial, national, and local-regional. From the perspective of the propaganda in general, these levels appeared with different emphasis and could be either complementary or competing. They each included two basic, parallel present aspects with different emphases. On the one hand, patriotism was cast as an active loyalty to the patria, focusing basically on a political-territorial entity that was more abstract than the notion of the native soil. The defense of more or less abstract entities was presented as a collective duty. On the other hand, the propaganda also contained references to narrower personal interests, such as the protection of household, family, and property. Thus, it also stressed individual concerns.

The new “imperial patriotism” was a kind of “state patriotism” with a predominantly German character. It referred to the empire as a whole as the common fatherland of all subjects of the Austrian emperor and was transmitted to Hungary by translations of general-purpose German texts. There were, however, very few in the texts that were written originally for the Hungarian public. The Hungarian “national patriotism,” which from an imperial perspective was seen as a parochial Landespatriotismus was given considerable emphasis in the governmental propaganda. There were different variants of this patriotism. In its all-pervasive form, as a “state patriotism,” it referred to the Kingdom of Hungary in its territorial-institutional sense as the “fatherland” and embraced every member of the population as a subject of the king. From the narrower perspective of the estates, it had a more exclusive layer which emphasized constitutional aspects from a segmented standpoint. In its most exclusive form, it applied to the nobility, which considered themselves the “nation” (natio or gens Hungarica), i.e., a free political community of common origin with distinctive ethnical features.

Local-regional versions of patriotism were developed on the basis of the highly autonomous territorial political-administrative units of certain communities as the essential space of their lifeworld, which was also the space in which mobilization was organized. In the case of the nobility, these versions of patriotism were connected to the counties, which embodied the local political community of nobleman, a narrower “fatherland” with territorial and institutional implications. Based on the general view on the estate polity, the patriotism of the counties was a subsidiary of a strong integrating “national patriotism” of noble character. The local patriotism of the predominantly ethnic-German “old burghers” of the free royal and mining cities (a patriotism which was generally attached to a particular city)61 and the local patriotism of the “free peasant” communities of the privileged Jászkun and Hajdú Districts proved more parochial in general. Nevertheless, the propaganda tried to involve with references to a broader imperial, as well as a Hungarian patriotism in the etatist sense. A further version was potentially also available, the emerging German-national patriotism, represented by Archduke Charles’ appeal To the German Nation, written by Schlegel, but this tendency was not strong enough to exert much of an influence on the ethnically German burghers and intellectuals of the kingdom.62

The “Noble Warrior” as the Hegemonic Image of “Patriotic-Valorous Masculinity”

According to the three main means of defense, three different and relational ideal images of “valorous masculinity” were in circulation in the era.63 They could be referred to as the “Hungarian hussar,” the “armed burgher,” and the “noble warrior.” The first term referred to generals, officers, and men who served in the hussar regiments as part of an elite “national branch” of the K. u. K. army. The second connected to the members of burgher guards. The last, in line with the personal military service of the members of the political community, was considered a true “national” type, which embodied the hegemonic ideal of superior moral quality in comparison with which the others counted as auxiliary or subordinate. While the first category involved (and indicated) a degree of professionalism, the latter two could be interpreted as particular kinds of “citizen-soldiers” of the estate polity on the basis of the legal grounds on which they were founded and the ways in which they were characterized in the propaganda. Essentially, the last two ideals embodied a particular civic and martial ethos. To these images belonged a segmented set of values, as well as different types of patriotism. In the discussion below, I consider only the last one, the “noble warrior” exhaustively.

From a general viewpoint, based on the idea of Anthony D. Smith, the Magyar nobility could be treated as a dominant “lateral ethnie,” i.e., an aristocratic ethnic community which formed the dominant “ethnic core” of the state. It proved able in the long run “to regulate and disseminate” its “fund of values, symbols, myths, traditions and memories that formed the cultural heritage” and “to define a new and broader cultural identity for the population.”64 The modern Hungarian nation was developed around the ethnically Magyar nobility during the long nineteenth century through the expansion (and extension) of its culture and rights to the masses, including those of different ethnicities.65 As Smith points out, war functioned “as a mobilizer of ethnic sentiments and national consciousness, a centralizing force in the life of the community and a provider of myths and memories for future generations.”66 The “warfare and a warrior ethos” traditionally played a central role in the Hungarian case,67 where the nobility had an exclusive, predominantly martial self-image which profoundly influenced its collective identity. To reconstruct the warrior ethos and ideal image connected to the insurrectio within the broader patriotic-national collective identity patterns of the nobility, three (in most cases closely intertwined) linguistic patterns could be distinguished: “ancient constitutionalism,” “noble nationalism,” and “classical republicanism.”68

Ancient constitutionalism formed a substratum of political debates in late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. By reading Montesquieu, the noble elites discovered “that they possessed a ‘constitution’ rather than just a collection of customary rights sanctified by immemorial tradition.” This constitution meant the “fundamental rules of the social and political order,”69 and it was treated as a heritage of the ancestors, which had to be handed down unscathed to the future generations. In this idiom, the regnum or nation meant the estates (above all the nobility) and the existence of the constitution was identified with the existence of the country.70 From 1790 onwards, it also referred to “a symmetrically linked and mutually recognized set of rights and duties” between the crown/king and the country/nation.71 Noble nationalism had appeared in the seventeenth century and referred to the “idealized noble values.”72 Its core idea was the norm of “true Hungarian-ness,”73 which consisted of the notions of “martial virtue,” the “true blood,” and the ideal national costume. Sometimes, it also referred to language usage and national consciousness, a component which was began emerging with increasing prominence in the late eighteenth century. It presented an idealized, normative past: the ancient times of better “old Hungarians,” a set of exemplary political and military leaders, as well as the desired idea of a national monarch (generally the rule of Matthias Corvinus). A certain variant of classical republicanism was universal due to the Latin-centered secondary education. This political idiom passed on the ideas and traditions associated with a collection of illustrious men and historical events and also provided a norm of vita activa as a certain way of life, a set of civic values (liberty, the common good, virtues, the notion of “love of the country,” etc.), and a particular view of history and politics which could be easily adapted to the lifeworld of the nobility. Apparently, in the propaganda of insurrectiones, the elements connected to the military issues of these three political languages came into the limelight. These shaped a coherent warrior ethos and image of the nobility.74

To reconstruct the ideal image of the “noble warrior” in the propaganda of 1809, we must pay particular attention to Kisfaludy’s Patriotic Appeal, since it was the most detailed exposition of the patriotic-national ideology of the mobilizational period of the insurrectio, which was approved by the palatine. It was written earlier than any products of the official Hungarian propaganda. This pamphlet offered a strict interpretation of the “norm of estates” following the spirit of the articles of 1808, and it represented an exclusive, aristocratic viewpoint of the wealthy landowning nobility. Nevertheless, this exclusive view was not totally closed, as Kisfaludy referred to the capacity of non-noble “Hungarians” to earn nobility through acts of valor and bravery (though he only did it once) and he also called on the noblemen to reinforce their inherited titles through such acts.

The pamphlet used a complex argument to bolster the necessity of personal military service and to awaken feelings of patriotism. This argument consisted of a popular national historical narrative written in the vernacular and legal-constitutional and moral elements. The text drew heavily on established political idioms and notions, but it also smuggled in some forward-looking ideas concerning cultural and institutional nation-building, and it made adaptive reflections on the military successfulness of the French. Kisfaludy praised the exclusive character of the personal insurrectio, and he presented all other forms of military service as morally inferior to it. Compared to the fair copy of the text, the printed versions were bowdlerized, and most of those paragraphs which either referred to the French model and Napoleon’s genius or presented the superior moral qualities of the nobility in an exaggerated and even offensive way proved sensitive enough to be blue penciled by the clients.75

Regarding the substance of ancient constitutionalism, the Appeal gave a precise definition: “The country, the king, and the constitution were inseparably one: one has to keep, embrace, protect the other in order that the spirit of both, the constitution, persist.” Kisfaludy demonstrated that the Hungarian nobility enjoyed an unparalleled status “in the known world” due to their “golden liberty,” which was made possible by the constitution: “Per capita we can say the Hungarian noble is like a petty king; the lawful, crowned Hungarian king on the other hand may be considered the most distinguished of all rulers, as he may justly be seen as the king and ruler of thousands upon thousands of kings.”76 In exchange for this status (of petty king), the members of the Hungarian nobility owed more than any others to their country and king and had to do personal military service. Thus, Kisfaludy proposed a norm of reflected patriotism of a constitutional character for the nobility (which mixed emotional and rational elements), as well as of pro patria mori when he glorified the heroism exemplified by Miklós IV. Zrínyi at his last stand in the battle of Szigetvár, alongside the Classical ideals.

The pamphlet emphasized the ancient warrior origins of the Hungarian nation, and presented it as a “grand, noble, free” one. Kisfaludy also stressed that the “genius” of Hungarians had a tendency for agriculture, rather than for commerce and he praised the agrarian way of life based on a maxim of Cicero.77 However, he pointed out that the Hungarians had to be valorous first to protect and maintain their constitution, which made it possible for them to farm and trade freely.78 He did not deny the emerging significance of commerce, or of politeness, but he warned his contemporaries against its dangers and cautioned them to take measures to prevent the spread of effeminacy and maintain the native martial fitness and valorous character of the noblemen to fight. By supporting government’s efforts to increase the number of people serving in the cavalry, he offered an argument based on references to historical and contemporary tactics and the innate Hungarian equestrian national character. However, as a veteran, Kisfaludy called for more modern means of advancing traditional Hungarian military culture. For instance, he welcomed the article on the establishment of the Ludovica Military Academy (1808), and he called attention to the necessity of the establishment of a genuine national military science, based on the military history of Hungary.79

Kisfaludy argued in support of the importance of the maintenance of the military duties of the nobility in a lengthy, non-linear historical narrative which presented the national history as a kind of military history of the political community’s own. In this aristocratic view of the past, warfare in general and particularly the insurrectio bore the utmost importance, and glory and decline were bound together with the public morals and martial character of the community. This narrative was divided into eight exemplary periods: four were qualified as glorious, four as declining. In connection with these periods, he enumerated memorable people and events.80 Concerning the glorious periods, the “Golden Age” of Hungary (both from the military and the broader political and cultural perspective) was the rule of Matthias Corvinus (1458–1490) as the idealized historical embodiment of the “national monarch.” Kisfaludy also presented a set of exemplary Hungarian statesmen and military leaders with “Hungarian virtue.” These statesmen and military leaders could be compared, according to Kisfaludy, with the great figures of the classical antiquity and the leaders of early modern times. Kisfaludy also referred to the myth of the offer of 1741, which was presented as a crucial experience of the “House of Austria” concerning “what a precious treasure the nobility was for the Hungarian king.”

The Patriotic Appeal not only created a powerful image of the “noble warrior,” but also tried to make this image more up to date on the one hand, and overly exclusive on the other. The bowdlerized parts modified this image in two ways. First, the original manuscripts compared the modern French revolutionary and Napoleonic army to the insurrectio, and in connection with this, they emphasized the significance of “enthusiasm” in military issues. Second, these texts distanced the noble levy both from the standing army and the military service performed by the common people in the insurrectio, which was a usual practice, particularly before 1809.

Kisfaludy interpreted the contemporary French case based on the analogy of the traditional Hungarian one, and he held it up as a model for the nobility of his time:

The French people is a vivid example of the efficiency of national enthusiasm, all sorts of members of which became soldiers in the revolution to protect themselves and theirs, and which could not been overcome by any of the allied powers of Europe. The whole French Army was no more than a national insurrectio, which became hardened from effeminacy in a short time, so much that each [of them] thought of themselves as Alexander the Great conquering the world.81

Kisfaludy was one of the few people in Hungary who explicitly interpreted the concept of “enthusiasm” in its new, positive meaning, which emerged due to the French revolutionary wars and spread through cultural transfers.82 By doing so, he also adapted implicitly the idea of the “citizen-soldier” and the citizen-soldier’s capacity for “enthusiasm” to the massive personal military service of the nobility, within the limits of the estate polity.

The original manuscripts of the pamphlet contained derogatory depictions of the soldiers of the standing army as mercenaries who served “in most cases either by necessity or by constraint for honor and soldier’s pay.” Thus, they looked “naturally at the defense of the country more cold-bloodedly.” In contrast, the nobility in the personal insurrectio fought pro aris et focis for their king, country, and constitution and also for their liberties, households, and property. Because of its patriotic motivations, the latter was qualified as morally superior and more suitable for national defense. Thus, in the Hungarian case, Kisfaludy reserved the capacity for patriotic-national “enthusiasm” for the nobility.

Even in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the popular ideal of the nobility was manifested actively in the norm of a martial patriotism with the virtus as its core value (which meant valor or bravery in this context),83 which could find form periodically in temporary military service in the insurrectio, ideally in person. Although, the importance of knowledge and reason as elements of patriotism was discussed for a long time84 and some people recognized the inevitable change of manners with the advent of the age of commerce (which also reshaped the character of wars),85 these views remained subordinate in the political discourse. From a wider historical perspective, the strong relationship between arms-bearing and membership in the community could make it possible to enlarge the concept of the nation and patria periodically (as had happened during the Ottoman wars and the Bocskai uprising).86 However, in the age of the French wars and particularly in 1808–09, due to its actual political value as the guarantee of the privileged status of the nobility, the duty to do ad hoc military service in defense of the country in the insurrectio, at least as a fiction of a “blood tax,” was appropriated by the nobility. Parallelly, the martial virtue and the ability to be moved by patriotic-national motives were also monopolized, with the support of a strict interpretation of the “norm of estates” according to which the noble body politic had an exclusive claim to superior moral qualities. While this notion became increasingly obsolete because of its exclusivity, the nobility and the intellectuals who supported it (as well as the palatine) tried to maintain it with lesser alterations through the propaganda to mobilize.

During the war, this exclusive ideology, which was based on solid institutional grounds, was stretched only to a certain extent in the state of emergency. In the summer of 1809, in need of manpower, the king ordered the counties to give tens of thousands more recruits to the regular army and to recruit voluntary divisions. The latter embodied a new form of temporary military service, a selective voluntary militia, which was open to anyone regardless of social-legal status. The recruitment of people into these voluntary militias was implemented by the county authorities, who used circulars that were transmitted by local opinion leaders (officials and members of the lower clergy). These circulars offered various material incentives (the promise of military decorations, money, exemption from regular military service, etc.) and also extended the social scope of the noble ideology vertically, without any significant changes, to enlarge temporarily the notions of patria and nation.

Official Proclamations to the Insurrectio

The proclamations, which were issued in the name of Archduke Joseph, basically appealed to a “constitutional patriotism” with their references to the political-institutional and territorial aspects of the country, as well as using an intensifying rhetoric of “noble nationalism.” The Hungarian official propaganda on the insurrectio during the mobilization before and in the beginning of war was intended basically to make the nobility aware of the unique value of their privileged status and their “ancient constitution” and their specific military duties. The hope was that this would render the military force they provided more effective. After the declaration of war, the propaganda also aimed to demonstrate that the military situation made necessary the deployment of the insurrectio according to the law. According to the imperial propaganda, the war was not only just, but it was also preemptive to secure the peace, given the tendencies towards the liberation of ex-Habsburg territories and Europe under Napoleonic rule. Concerning Hungary, as the insurrectio had been defined as a means of national defense in the related article and in the official propaganda, the war was understood in a narrower sense as a patriotic, defensive struggle on native soil.

The official rhetoric of national patriotism marked the main duties of the nobility according to the articles of 1808. In agreement with the printed rescriptum of Francis I from February 1809, which formulated this idea in the moderate legal register, the nobles had to mobilize themselves “for the defense of their king, country, and ancient constitution.” As Francis I pointed out on April 10, 1809, the nobility also had to fight for the defense of the “independence of the country.” The palatine used a more emotional tone and more current phrasing in his proclamations of April 27. The shorter one declared the state of exception and ordered the troops to the borders with reference to the “adverse events” in Germany, claiming that the enemy was threatening the “independence of the nation.” To stress the necessity, this proclamation combined the popular phrase of La Patrie en danger (originating from the French revolutionary language) with the imperative of pro patria mori: “The fatherland is in danger! If we cannot save it from the peril, we would rather die!” The proclamation openly admitted that the troops were insufficiently trained and equipped, but it emphasized that these obstacles had to be overcome by the “warrior soul” and “loyalty to the king.”

The longer proclamation captured essentially the same message with slightly different rhetorical means. It praised noble Hungarians as a “generous, valorous nation” which could again prove its allegiance to the “king” and “beloved fatherland” through its great deeds, and thus it could thwart the “pernicious purpose of our sworn enemy.” This proclamation drew on a popular historical myth according to which the valor of the nobility, which was allegedly known worldwide, had preserved the dynasty and the liberty of the nobility itself. It alluded implicitly to the offer of the insurrectio at the diet 1741 to Maria Theresa during the War of Austrian Succession. This narrower, national view of patriotism was expanded in the palatine’s letter, with which he sent his proclamations to the Viennese authorities. With this letter, the palatine tried to demonstrate that the “enthusiasm” of the nation and the nobility’s military morale was appropriate, and they wanted to sacrifice “their life and blood” for the preservation of the “Austrian Monarchy” in its entirety.87

On the occasion of the dissolution of the troops, the Palatine commissioned Kisfaludy well in advance to write a farewell speech in his name and a general order in the king’s name to be printed and distributed to each member of the insurrectio. The former was printed without serious modifications, while the fair copy of the latter was totally altered. These prints became the most popular of all because of their great number of copies, which were distributed at the ceremonies which were held when the forces were dissolved. The palatine’s letter of December 18, which was handwritten in Hungarian was also outstandingly valuable as a piece of propaganda, was received with a warm welcome by the counties. It was read aloud solemnly in the general assemblies, recorded into the protocols, and in some cases, was even printed and spread locally at the expense of the counties.

The palatine’s printed valediction constituted a community between the archduke as commander-in-chief and the insurrectio.88 According to this appeal, the insurrectio in general had been turned into “an army of heroes,” and its members had become “warriors” through their display of virtue during the war. However, this potential could be realized only by a narrower circle in battle due to the circumstances. With this, the palatine personally confirmed that some people had committed patriotic military deeds for the fatherland, and he also formulized the idea of a national political cult of the heroic dead89 who died for the “beloved fatherland” and “ancient golden liberty.” He promised them glory and a place in the “annals of the fatherland,” i.e., the collective memory of the nation. The members of the insurrectio were ensured that they became worthy of the legacy of the “heroic forefathers.” The palatine also guaranteed his, the king’s and the country’s satisfaction and respect. In the end, the archduke let them return to their counties, noting his expectation that they would be at the ready in the future were “the fatherland and the constitution to be endangered.”

The printed version of the general order, written in the name of the king, To the Hungarian Noble Insurgent Troops was formulated in a less personal and more moderate tone, though it emphasized almost the same points.90 It called upon the members of the insurrectio to preserve “national vigor” and ensure the survival of the military qualities of the nobility to deter the enemy and protect fellow citizens. However, this general order referred only to the nobility’s military duties to the king and the fatherland and contained no reference to their ancient constitution and liberty. It also failed to make any mention of the heroic deeds of the noblemen or the sacrifices of the soldiers who had fallen.

Both farewell speeches worded in the abstract, like the official proclamations which had been issued at the beginning of the war. In contrast, the palatine’s handwritten letter in Hungarian to the counties, which encouraged them to welcome the insurrectio, detailed the same topics in a more specific manner and with reference to concrete events. It aimed also at the maintenance of the morale and combat capability of the homecoming troops by peculiar means. On the one hand, it called on the counties to take measures to let the poorer members of the nobility keep the horses that had been purchased at public expense. On the other, it stipulated that the uniforms should be kept by the soldiers who had worn them not only for practical purposes, but also as a symbolic gesture that would strengthen, it was hoped, the sense of national character by promoting the national costume and also to stem interest in luxuries.

Demobilization and the Patriotic-National Cult of Heroes and Fallen Soldiers

The official propaganda of the demobilization was organized on a national and local (county) level, which strengthened each other. The intensity of local propaganda depended on how deeply certain units had been involved in the fighting, i.e., their losses and combat actions.91

The Battle of Győr on June 14, 1809 was the most remarkable engagement in the theater of war. The French victory proved devastating neither for Austria in general nor for the insurrectio. However, in the long run, the flight and disintegration of some unexperienced units still became a powerful symbol of the unsuitability of the nobility for their traditional role. This historical myth of defeat was exploited politically by aulic circles who sought to condemn the nobility and popularized decades later from a democratic nationalist viewpoint by the revolutionary poet Sándor Petőfi in his In the name of the people. It referred in a sarcastic manner to those “many legs, which ran there [at Győr].” The myth started to take shape immediately after the battle, partly as mere as rumors that were circulating and partly because of the indignant response of King Francis and Archduke John, who blamed the insurrectio for the defeat.

The king’s opinion, of which he made a public demonstration, soon changed, and the official and unofficial propaganda during the demobilization presented a generally positive image of the performance of the inssurrectio. The war was a serious defeat for the Austrian Empire, and the Kingdom of Hungary also lost some Croatian territories. Despite this, the propaganda in general emphasized that by thanks to the insurrectio, the nation had successfully performed its duties: the troops had been fit for action, even if they had not been able to show their skills because of the immediate peace. The propaganda also tried to build a cult around war heroes and the fallen on the national and local levels, an effort which harmonized with tendencies of nationalization and ideologization of wars across Europe at the time. In contrast to the abstract rhetoric of the official proclamations, the local products of the propaganda contained wording that was more concrete.

For having successfully completed military acts that could be confirmed, officers could earn the Military Order of Maria Theresa,92 and NCOs and common soldiers could be decorated with the Silver and Gold Medals for Bravery (Tapferkeitsmedaille).93 The Military Order of Maria Theresa originally intended to shape a class of “military nobility”, while the Medal for Bravery took an important step towards the “democratization” of recognition of military merits in general. During the war of 1809, these awards became potentially also available for those who served in militia-type units, like the Landwehr and the insurrectio. The promise of military awards was used by the propaganda machinery as a significant incentive, especially in efforts to attract voluntary recruits. During the war of 1809, a few hundred men in the insurrectio performed military deeds that were confirmed, and of them, more than 20 were awarded silver medals, and some officers applied for and were given the Military Order of Maria Theresa. The feats of arms and the rewards that were given were itemized as an appendix to the lengthy report for the king in the name of the palatine on the performance of the insurrectio, which was also written by Kisfaludy. The whole work remained in manuscript form, but some parts of the appendix were published in newspapers, and this contributed to the emergence of a short-lived cult of heroes and fallen soldiers, even on the imperial level.94

On the local level, the war heroes were also given awards by the counties in the form of various material benefits and symbolic gestures. Sometimes, these awards bore the promise of gradual social mobility within the estate society: veteran officers of the landowning wealthy gentry often applied for and were elected or appointed to serve in official positions. Others could rise through symbolic inclusion in the local society, and the war even offered opportunities to cross the legal “dividing line” for non-nobles (or dubious nobles) who took part voluntarily in the insurrectio. The local “political cult of the dead” and a rudimentary social and veteran aftercare were also developed to various extent, depending on the casualties suffered by a given county. To compensate the families of the fallen and those who had been wounded on the battlefield, fundraising campaigns were started at the general assemblies to get donations from the wealthy members of the local elites.95

Some uncommon initiatives launched by the local authorities offered examples of more state-of-the-art means of establishing a local collective memory and a patriotic-national cult of heroes and the fallen, for instance the efforts of Zemplén County to erect a monument to a handful of their honored war dead and heroes, shortly after the Battle of Győr. Kazinczy and his friend Count József Dessewffy drafted plans for a neoclassical monument (more specifically, a column) based on a contemporary French pattern. They originally planned to use Hungarian inscriptions, but the supremus comes insisted on Latin. In the end, the texts on the monument were in Latin and Hungarian. Kazinczy and Dessewffy used the network they had established through their correspondence and also a pamphlet to popularize the idea all over the country. The monument was only erected in 1821 in a radically modified form, and was unveiled as part of a ceremony on the main square of Sátoraljaújhely.96 Other counties did not imitate this initiative, and as collective memories of the War of the Fifth Coalition began to fade, the monument also lost its significance.


The insurrectio of 1809 was the last attempt to set the nobility in motion to perform military duty within the old defense system of the estates, even if it became modernized to a certain extent. The martial patriotic-national ideology of the estates also found general expression for the last time in the propaganda of the moment. This propaganda played a considerable role in the mobilization, since members of the nobility, as members of the body politic, were involved in it. These noblemen could be regarded as a kind of “citizen soldier” of the estate polity, who had to be persuaded of the legitimacy of the cause of mobilization and war and also adequately motivated in order compensate for shortcomings in training, equipment, and professional esprit de corps. In the end, the relative contemporary significance and the long-term irrelevance of the insurrectio of 1809 and its propaganda have to be considered.

Regarding the contemporary significance of the insurrectio, from an institutional perspective, despite its archaic character and social limits, it addressed a central problem of the epoch, at least to a certain extent. As social historian Károly Vörös has pointed out, while the French wars demanded the mobilization of vast swathes of the population, it proved impossible to keep these forces armed within the standing armies for a long time because of the enormous economic burdens. There were several ways to solve this problem, for instance by reforming the standing army or by introducing a kind of temporary militia, as was done in the French, Austrian, and later Prussian cases. In Hungary, certain elements (the insurrectio and the burgher guards) of the old but moderately reformed corporative system of defense were presented as solutions to this dilemma, despite their numerous shortcomings.97 From a political viewpoint, the Hungarian mobilization of 1809 contributed to the formation of a patriotic-national political language of the vernacular and also strengthened the cohesive tendencies within the noble body politic. Moreover, the military endeavor of the nobility proved that the country and, particularly, the counties were still able to provide thousands of “citizen soldiers” in a short time on old constitutional grounds, without a standardized-centralized public administration and absolutistic government, even in the age of mass warfare.

The reasons for the irrelevance, in the long-term, of the insurrectio are manifold. Even for the contemporaries in general, the war turned out to be too short, and the number of casualties was too low and disproportionate to foster the emergence of a patriotic-national cult of heroes and fallen soldiers. Despite propaganda efforts, the commemorative practices were not institutionalized on an imperial or national level, and they were only scarcely institutionalized on the local level. The fact that the counties were exempted from yearly military exercises in early 1810 made it even more difficult to introduce institutionalized commemorative practices. There was also no coherent national historical narrative of the events. Kisfaludy’s work, which should have provided such a narrative, was shelved for a long time. The war of 1809 and the insurrectio are both absent from modern national memory, apart from Petőfi’s canonical poem from 1847, which passed a withering judgement on the traditional martial ethos of the nobility. Because the general ideological mobilization was based on the old corporative system and values and attached to the privileged status of the nobility, the memory of this anachronistic defense institution did not fit into the emerging nation-building and modernization efforts of the Reform Era and the second half of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the cult of the insurrectio survived in the collective memory of former participants and noble families for a while.

The old corporative system of defense and its core institutions faded legally only as a result of the constitutional revolution. The increasingly nationalized and democratized idea of the “citizen soldier” found its way into two different institutions. According to the April Laws of 1848 (Article XXII), the nemzetőrség was created as a kind of militia in which compulsory military service was based on a class criterion (based on property or income) and general moral quality. Shortly thereafter, a regular honvéd army was also called into existence in response to the exigencies of the moment. This force was essentially a regular army.98 These two forces proved able to tie “masses of ordinary Hungarians to the nobility-based nation” during the Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–1849.99

Archival Sources

Magyar Nemzeti Levéltár Országos Levéltára [Hungarian National Archive, State Archive] (MNL OL)

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1 “Ferenc Kazinczy to József Szentgyörgyi, Széphalom, February 27, 1809.” In Kazinczy, Levelezése, vol. 6, 250.

2 Cf. Vörös, “The Insurrectio”, 20.

3 In the following, I consider only the Hungarian insurrectio. However, Croatia, Slavonia, and the Grand Principality of Transylvania had and mobilized their own insurrectio in 1809, which differed significantly from the Hungarian one for constitutional-legal and socio-political reasons.

4 This autonomy was cemented by the Article X of 1790–91. In the following, when I write about Austrian parts, Austria, etc., I refer only to the territories “on this side of the Leitha” (Cisleithania) from a Viennese perspective, i.e., the parts of the Habsburg Monarchy that were ruled by right of the hereditary title of the emperor of Austria.

5 Szijártó, A diéta II, 304.

6 Poór, Adók, katonák, 163–66.

7 On the political system in general, see Szijártó, A diéta; Szijártó, Estates and Constitution.

8 Poór, Adók, katonák, 99–194; Szijártó, A diéta,” 456–57.

9 On his political evolution, see Domanovszky, József nádor élete, vol. 1, 269–97.

10 In 1805, because of the immediate French threat, due to the careful political considerations of Palatine Joseph, only some of the counties were mobilized.

11 For an overview, see R. Kiss, “Az utolsó nemesi felkelés története”; Veress, Napóleon hadai.

12 For the repercussions of Napoleonic Wars on Hungarian politics and society in general: Kosáry, “The French Revolutionary”; Kosáry, “Napóleon és Magyarország.”

13 On the theoretical background and the Austrian and Prussian case, see Hagemann, “‘Be Proud and Firm, Citizens of Austria!’; Hagemann, “Celebrating War and Nation”; Hagemann, “Of ‘Manly Valor’, Hagemann, ‘German Honor’; Hagemann, Mannlicher Muth und Teutsche ehre.”

14 For a general typology of forms of defense (Wehrformen), see Metzger, Die Milizarmee, 65–81.

15 Zehetbauer, Die Landwehr.

16 On the Austrian case, first and foremost, see Langsam, The Napoleonic Wars; Hammer, Oesterreichs Propaganda; Rössler, Österreichs Kampf; Hagemann, “‘Be Proud and Firm, Citizens of Austria!’”; Bleyer, “… man dachte diesen Krieg…”; Bleyer, Auf gegen Napoleon!

17 Hagemann, “‘Be Proud and Firm, Citizens of Austria!’,” 43.

18 Bleyer, Auf gegen Napoleon!

19 Hagemann, “‘Be Proud and Firm, Citizens of Austria!’,” 45.

20 One of the few exceptions: Redl, Flugblätter und Flugschriften; Wecke, Österreichs Pressekampf.

21 See Császár, “Az utolsó nemesi felkelés.” Historian Mihály Horváth was the first person to call attention to the significance of propaganda in 1809.

22 For the poetry, see Porkoláb, “Szempontok.”

23 Szijártó, A diéta, 450–53.

24 In detail, see Lázár, “Army Recruitment.”

25 Hochedlinger, Austria’s Wars of Emergence, 291–329. On the age of French Wars, see Boerke, “Conscription in the Habsburg Empire.” In Hungary “the question of the supply of personnel for the army was a sensitive indicator of the state relations between the king and the estates”, that is, “the ruler’s claims came into a head-on collision with constitutionalism.” Haselsteiner, “King and Estates,” 354.

26 Molnár, “Polgárőrségek Magyarországon.”

27 The regnum as the “estates of Hungary” consisted of the prelates or the church estate, the magnates, the nobles, and the free royal cities, which represented it, as the members of the Holy Crown, at the diets versus the king. From late eighteenth century, “the pole opposite the king will start to be captured by the natio (nation).” Szijártó, Estates and Constitution, 11–28, 248. In the following, concerning the diet, I refer to the Lower Table, first and foremost the politically dominant county deputies of the lesser nobility, as the “estates.”

28 On the history of the concept, see Zászkaliczky, “The language of liberty.”

29 Tóth, “Rendi norma.”

30 Péter, “The Irrepressible Authority.”

31 A few reform-drafts were presented by officers to the palatine but were shelved in the end. Gyalókay, “A magyar nemesi insurrectio.”

32 Cf. Vörös, “The Insurrectio”, 25.

33 Domanovszky, József nádor iratai, vol. 3, 210–42 and 255–321.

34 Ibid., 280.

35 The forced peasant recruits mutinied a few times during the period: Vörös, “The Insurrectio,” 25.

36 Kestnbaum, “Birth of Conscription”, 134–35.

37 See Poór, Adók, katonák, 192.

38 Boerke, “Conscription in the Habsburg Empire,” 74.

39 The idea of citizen soldier constructed “an ideological link between military service and the exercise of citizenship.” See Hippler, “Citizens, Soldiers,” 27; Kestenbaum, “Birth of Conscription,” 121–23; Mjøset and Van Holde, “Killing for the State,” 29–39.

40 Markó, “Adalékok.” Cf. Péter, “Language, the Constitution,” 184–91.

41 For instance, Baron Anton von Baldacci, who called the attention of the king to the rise of “Hungarismus.” Domanovszky, József nádor élete, vol. 1, 210–13.

42 Lázár, “Bevezetés.”

43 E.g., the Slovak-speaking Hungarian nobility. See Demmel, Pánszlávok, 21–27.

44 Domanovszky, József nádor iratai, vol. 3, 227–28, 305.

45 Several examples from Fejér County: Vitek, Sigillum Comitatus, 65–67, 103–17.

46 R. Kiss, “Az utolsó nemesi felkelés,” 46–50.

47 Vörös, “The Insurrectio,” 20. That was around 400,000 overall, (from among almost were 200,000 male) according to the census of Joseph II (including Croatia, Slavonia and Transylvania, but without the military frontier).

48 Langsam, The Napoleonic Wars, 65.

49 MNL OL N 25 III Fasc. 3. Rot. 33. No. 422.

50 See Szijártó, Estates and Constitution, 256.

51 MNL OL N 25 III. Fasc. 1. Rot. 41. No. 45.

52 MNL OL N 25 III Fasc. 1. Rot. 32. No. 83. (No. 9.)

53 Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, Ő Császári Királyi Fő Herczegsége a’ Nádor Ispány; Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, Des Erzherzogs Palatinus.

54 Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, Ő Császári Királyi Fő Herczegsége Károly Fő Vezér; Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, Des Erzherzogs Generalissimus.

55 MNL OL N 25 III Fasc. 2. Rot. 2. No. 127.

56 Nagy, “Kisfaludy Sándor.”

57 Kosáry, “Napóleon és Magyarország”, 207–51.

58 Poór, “Berzeviczy Gergely.”

59 MNL OL N 25 III. Fasc. 8. Rot. 49. No. 2357.

60 Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, Magyarok!; Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, Ungarn!

61 On the collective identity discourses of Hungarian Germans, see Pukánszky, “Patrióta” és “hazafi”; Tarnói, “Patriotismus und nationale Identität.”

62 See Pukánszky, “Patrióta” és “hazafi,” 26–27.

63 See Dudink and Hagemann: “Masculinity in politics and war.” For the case of France, see Forrest, “Citizenship, Honour and Masculinity.” For the case of Austria, see Hagemann, “‘Be Proud and Firm, Citizens of Austria!’,” 46–54. For the case of Germany, see Hagemann, “Of ‘Manly Valor’ and ‘German Honor’.”

64 Smith National Identity, 54–55.

65 See Takáts, “A laterális útvonal.”

66 Smith, National Identity, 21.

67 Smith, “Why ethnic groups,” 448.

68 To the general frames and methodology of studying collective identity discourses in the early modern period: Trencsényi and Zászkaliczky, “Towards an intellectual history”; On the roots of republicanism and ancient constitutionalism in Hungarian political thought, see Varga, “Political Humanism.” To the four main political languages of the early nineteenth century Hungary: Takáts, “Politikai beszédmódok.”

69 Péter, “Language, the Constitution,” 191–96, 193.

70 Takáts, “Politikai beszédmódok,” 670–74.

71 Péter, “Montesquieu’s Paradox,” 158.

72 As a permissive definition, “nationalism” could be characterized as “an idea that defines future expectations for a community named nation by drawing on the idealized past,” which enables to “speak of early modernist nationalism.” Szabó, “True Hungarian Blood,” 142–43, 148.

73 Szabó, “True Hungarian Blood,” 148–49.

74 Cf. Kramár, “The Military Ethos.”

75 See: Fenyő, “Kihagyott részletek.”

76 [Kisfaludy], Hazafiúi Szózat. 12.

77 “Omnium rerum [...] ex quibus aliquid exquiritur, nihil est agricultura melius, nihil uberius, nihil dulcius, nihil homine libero dignius.” Cf. Cic. Off. 1,42,151.

78 [Kisfaludy], Hazafiúi Szózat. 90–91.

79 [Kisfaludy], Hazafiúi Szózat, 92–96.

80 [Kisfaludy], Hazafiúi Szózat, 51–52.

81 Fenyő, “Kihagyott részletek,” 275.

82 In 1801, Gentz presented the role of “Propagandism” in the French successes as a means of maintaining “enthusiasm” among soldiers. See Kontler, “Superstition, Enthusiasm and Propagandism.”

83 Varga, “Political Humanism,” 311.

84 Debreczeni, “Nemzet és identitás.” Attila Debreczeni distinguished the phenomenon of “scholarly patriotism” among the competing collective identity patterns of the late eighteenth century.

85 For instance, the proud nobleman and outstanding poet Dániel Berzsenyi: “Dániel Berzsenyi to Ferenc Kazinczy, Nikla, January 18, 1809” In Kazinczy levelezése, vol. 6, 187.

86 Varga, “Political Humanism,” 304–13.

87 MNL OL N 25 III Fasc. 2. Rot. 2. No. 127.

88 Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, Magyar Nemes Hazafiak!; Joseph, Palatine of Hungary, Ungarns Edle!

89 Jeismann, Westheider, “Wofür stirbt.”

90 Francis I, A’ Magyar Nemes; Francis I, An die adeliche.

91 Nagy, “Törekvések.”

92 Hochedlinger, “Mars Ennobled.”

93 It was introduced by Joseph II as Ehren-Denkmünze für Tapferkeit in 1789 and renamed by Francis I in 1809.

94 Kisfaludy, “[Freymüthige] Geschichte,” 260–325.

95 Nagy, “Törekvések,” 69–72, 78.

96 Nagy, “‘Elestjeink’ oszlopa mellett.”

97 Vörös, “The Insurrectio,” 23.

98 Urbán, “The Hungarian Army.”

99 Péter, “The Holy Crown,” 63.