The Hungarian revolution of 1848 started on 15 March, when young Hungarian patriots, inspired by the news of the revolution in Vienna, decided to organize mass demonstrations in Pest and Buda (today Budapest.) They marched around the city of Pest, announcing the political demands from their declaration titled the “12 points,” and reciting the revolutionary poem “Nemzeti Dal” (National Song) written by renowned poet Sándor Petőfi who was also one of the key figures and organizers of the demonstration.
By the afternoon, the rally of the young revolutionaries gathered thousands of supporters and forced the imperial governor to accept all of their demands. This was the first and one of the greatest days of the Hungarian Civic Revolution and War of Independence of 1848–1849.
Here are the 12 demands of the young Hungarian revolutionists, along with a short explanation of their importance.
What the Hungarian nation wants.
Let there be peace, liberty, and concord.
1. We demand the freedom of the press, the abolition of censorship.
Freedom of the press is still one of the fundamental symbols of civil rights. In contemporary Hungary, censors monitored print media and prevented the publication of unwanted writings.
2. Independent Hungarian government in Buda and Pest. (All ministries and the government must be elected by the parliament)
In 1848, Hungary did not have its own government or ministries, but operated instead through a governing body subordinate to the direct authority of the Habsburgs.
3. Annual national assembly in Pest. (The abolition of the old feudal parliament based on feudal estates in favor of democratic parliamentary elections)
The parliament met rather irregularly at that time and it could only be convened by the ruler, but nothing regulated its frequency or length.
4. Civil and religious equality before the law.
At the time Hungarian nobility held significantly more privileges than commoners. There was no religious equality either. Since the Habsburgs were traditionally allies of the Vatican, Catholics enjoyed greater privileges than people of other religions and denominations. This fourth demand called for the abolition of separate laws for commoners and nobility, as well as the abolition of the nobility’s legal privileges. Absolute religious liberty was called for, which included the abolition of Catholicism as the state religion.
5. National army.
At that time, Hungary did not have its own military force, a basic requirement for any kind of sovereignty.
6. Universal and equal taxation. (Abolition of the tax exemption of the aristocracy)
Tax exemption was one of the cornerstones of the nobility’s privileges. This demand aimed to oblige nobles to pay taxes.
7. The abolition of socage.
Socage was one of the feudal duties and land tenure forms in feudal systems. Serfs held land in exchange for clearly defined, fixed payments made to feudal lords at specified intervals.
Thus, this was a demand for the abolition of feudalism, and with it the abolition of serfdom.
8. Juries and courts based on equal legal representation.
-In Feudal Hungary, feudal lords had judicial rights over serfs living on their lands, but the civil norms of the period called for legislation to be independent and equal for all. This demand called for common people to be allowed to be elected as juries at legal courts, and for all people to be eligible as government officials, even at the highest levels of public administration and judicature (if they have the necessary education).
9. A national bank.
At the time, Hungary did not have an independent central bank that could regulate and supervise its finances.
10. The army must take an oath on the Constitution, our soldiers must not be sent abroad, foreign soldiers must be sent away.
There was no independent Hungarian army within the Habsburg Empire, Hungarian regiments belonged to the unified imperial army. Hungarian soldiers served all over across the empire, not just within Hungary’s borders.
11. Free all political prisoners.
In the absence of democratic rights, the imperial court made the operation of the political opposition impossible and imprisoned many of its members.
12. Union [with Transylvania].
As a result of the Ottoman occupation of late medieval Hungary, the country was torn into three separate parts following Transylvania’s secession in 1541. After the Ottomans were expulsed, the Habsburgs did not return Transylvania to Hungary, but treated it as a separate principality.