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Judge Augustin Haidusek’s Bohemian Day Address

On November 15, 1910, Judge Augustin Haidusek delivered an address in Waco, Texas.  The occasion was Bohemian Day, a day set aside in the festivities scheduled for the reopening of the Cotton Palace.  Fortunately for today’s generation his address was printed in full in the Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune (November 19, 1910, pp. 6, 12).

The purpose of Judge Haidusek’s address was, no doubt, twofold.  On the one hand it was a pep talk for the hundreds, even thousands of Czechs who had assembled in Waco for the occasion.  On the other it was an opportunity to familiarize the population of Texas with Czech history and culture and to introduce the Texas Czechs to their Anglo-American neighbors.

Throughout his oration Judge Haidusek referred to the Czechs as “Bohemians” and to the language that they spoke as “Bohemian.”  This was a common practice at the time.  The local newspapers that covered Bohemian Day, the Waco Daily-Times Herald and the Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune, followed the same practice.

Judge Haidusek acknowledged the fact that Czech settlement in Texas was largely Moravian: “While we are generally known as Bohemians, yet more than 75 per cent of those that came here, came from Moravia, the others are from Bohemia.”  He did not, however, acknowledge the existence of a separate Moravian language: “The Bohemian is spoken by both the Bohemians and Moravians.”  And Judge Haidusek was a Moravian by birth, native to the village of Mnisi.

Judge Haidusek took the opportunity to paint the glories of the Czech past in the brightest colors.  Of the age of Charles IV, Bohemia’s greatest king, who ruled from 1346 to 1378, Judge Haidusek quoted an unidentified historian, saying that “Bohemia then stood first in the world in power, wealth, progress, literature, science, art and liberty.”  Judge Haidusek added in his own words, that “About the time of John Huss the Bohemian literature was superior to that of any other nationality….”

Judge Haidusek had good words to say about Jan Hus, Czech priest and reformer who was burned at the stake on charges of heresy in 1415: “John Huss, the reformer, was a Catholic priest, very pure and an avowed Catholic.”  Judge Haidusek continued, “Besides he was a true patriot, striving to revive the glory of Bohemia and remove the shackles of tyranny from the general people.”

Although Judge Haidusek gave the Germans credit for the sometimes negative role that they played in Czech history, he did not vilify them.  He was not so kind to Bohemia’s Habsburg rulers, however.  Judge Haidusek noted that King Ferdinand I, who ruled Bohemia from 1526 to 1564, “treated the people in a most despotic manner….”  Of Ferdinand II, Bohemia’s king from 1619 to 1637, and the victor of White Mountain in 1620, Judge Haidusek said, “But when Ferdinand of Syria [Styria] took charge of Bohemia, he capped the climax in despotism and tyranny.  He made an era in history and caused more bloodshed, ruin and devastation than any other ruler in modern history.”  It might be remembered that Judge Haidusek delivered this address in 1910, some years before the nightmares that haunted the world in the mid-twentieth century and beyond.

Although Judge Haidusek’s 1910 Waco address was remarkable for its time and context, he did commit some historical mistakes.  Again with respect to Bohemia’s Charles IV, Judge Haidusek said, “In 1348 he founded the University of Prague, it being the first in Europe.”  Prague’s university was the first one founded East of the Rhine and north of the Alps, but other universities were founded in Italy, France and England considerably earlier.  Judge Haidusek also misplaced the First Defenestration of Prague, which occurred in 1419, putting it in ‘the King’s palace” instead of in the New Town Hall.  He presented the Moravian Brethren emigration to Pennsylvania and North Carolina as part of the expulsions after the Battle of White Mountain, instead of as part of a renewed religion’s efforts to evangelize the far corners of the world over a hundred years later, in the 1730s.  Judge Haidusek also presented early Czech legends, including those surrounding the establishment of the Premyslid dynasty and the founding of Prague, as historical fact.

Admittedly Judge Haidusek’s address contained some exaggerations and a few historical errors, but Judge Haidusek was not an historian, and his address was not a paper being delivered at a scientific conference.  He was a politician speaking to his constituents; he was a newspaperman telling a good story;  he was a patriot professing the glories of the country of his birth to his country of adoption.

Besides the enhanced panorama of Czech history that he painted, Judge Haidusek presented a valuable snapshot of the contemporary Texas-Czech community.  He noted that the first Czechs came to Texas in the 1850s, and he estimated the current number of Czechs to be 80,000.  He broke the Czech population of Texas into its constituent groups.  Over 75% were Moravian, the rest being of Bohemian origin.  Over 75% were Catholic; the rest were primarily Protestant, but there were some atheists as well.  Over 95% were farmers, who chose to settle in close-knit communities.  And almost all Texas Czechs at that time were Democrats.  According to Judge Haidusek, “They believe that democracy is based upon principles, permitting every man to do what he pleases so long as he does not injure others, and securing to him the fullest measure of his liberties.”

Judge Haidusek did admit one vice that plagued some members of the Texas-Czech community: drunkenness, which he noted “creates strife among friends, destroys peace and happiness in families, destroys property, causes wives and children to live in dread, creates divorces, and in some instances even bloodshed.”

Judge Haidusek did exaggerate and he did commit some historical errors, but his address met its purposes and it was well received.  According to a report in the Waco Semi-Weekly Tribune (November 19, 1910, page 8), “Judge A. Haidusek of La Grange delivered a most eloquent address in the English language and, as is usually the case with the judge, he made a profound impression upon all the audience and was given the closest and best attention throughout his address.  Judge Haidusek is one of the prominent citizens of Texas, not only among the Bohemians, but is recognized as an intelligent and influential man by all classes of citizens within the borders of Texas.”

The address that Judge Haidusek delivered in Waco on Bohemian Day 1910 was part of the culmination of a remarkable manifestation of Czech consciousness.  In his address Judge Haidusek gave the citizenry of Texas a positive view of Czech history and culture.  He made the Texas-Czech community feel good about itself, applauding its glorious past, yet warning it of one of its weaknesses.  And for those of us of future generations, Judge Haidusek preserved a glimpse of Czech Texas of his day.

Note: a copy of Judge Haidusek’s Bohemian Day address can be found in the CHS Library in Houston.

– Robert Janak

“Judge Augustin Haidusek’s Bohemian Day Address,” printed in the series Czech Connections, Cesky Hlas (Newsletter of the Czech Heritage Society of Texas), February 2004, pages 10-11.

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