The New International Encyclopædia/Koszta Affair
KOSZTA (kṓ'stȧ) AFFAIR. In American history the name applied to a diplomatic episode, involving the rights in foreign countries of emigrants to the United States as yet not fully naturalized. A certain Martin Koszta, of Hungarian birth, who had taken part in the political movement of 1848-49 for detaching Hungary from the dominion of the Emperor of Austria, and who had fled to Turkey upon the failure of that movement, emigrated to the United States after a short detention in Turkey, and in July, 1852, made a declaration under oath of his intention to become a citizen of the United States, at the same time renouncing all allegiance to any foreign power. After a residence of a year and eleven months he returned to Turkey on private business, and was placed under the protection of the United States by the American consul at Smyrna and the American chargé d'affaires ad interim at Constantinople. While waiting to return to the United States he was taken, by force, aboard the Austrian brig-of-war Huszár and confined there in chains. The American officials protested in vain both to the Turkish Government and to the Austrian officers, and finally on July 2, 1853, Captain Ingraham of the United States sloop-of-war Saint Louis, then lying in Smyrna harbor, threatened to open fire if Koszta was not surrendered to him by four o'clock. The Austrian consul-general then agreed that Koszta should be held by the consul-general of France until some agreement was reached. On August 29, 1853, Baron Hülsemann, the Austrian chargé d'affaires in Washington, wrote to Secretary of State Marcy, asking that the United States “disavow the conduct of its agents, . . . hasten to call them to a severe account, and tender to Austria a satisfaction proportionate to the outrage,” basing his request on the ground that Koszta had never ceased to be a citizen of Austria, and that Ingraham's threat was in violation of international law. Marcy replied, September 26, 1853, in a ringing letter, known as the Hülsemann letter, in which he defended the position of the United States throughout, on the ground that Koszta had ceased to be a citizen of Austria even by the law of Austria, “that Koszta when seized and imprisoned was invested with the nationality of the United States, and they had therefore the right, if they chose to exercise it, to extend their protection to him; that from international law — the only law which can be rightfully appealed to for rules in this case — Austria could derive no authority to obstruct or interfere with the United States in the exercise of this right, in effecting the liberation of Koszta; and that Captain Ingraham's interposition for his release was, under the extraordinary circumstances of the case, right and proper.” This letter was received with great enthusiasm throughout the United States, and the stand taken by Marcy with reference to the status of immigrants not fully naturalized has been indorsed by various well-known authorities on international law. Koszta was ultimately released and allowed to return to the United States. Consult Correspondence between the Secretary of State and the chargé d'affaires of Austria relative to the case of Martin Koszta (Washington, 1853).