Littell's Living Age/Volume 132/Issue 1701/The Hellenic Factor in the Eastern Problem
From The Contemporary Review.
THE HELLENIC FACTOR IN THE EASTERN PROBLEM.
Probably for the first time during two thousand years, the silence of the Pnyx at Athens was broken a few weeks ago by the stir of an assembly comprising, as we are told, about ten thousand persons. It had been preceded elsewhere, for example in Zante, by a similar and not much smaller meeting. It is interesting for us Englishmen to observe both the Greeks and the Romans of to-day following, like ourselves, the traditions of their remote forefathers, and handling matters of prime public interest in public assembly. In the millennium preceding the long term which I began by naming, such a proceeding would have been regular and familiar in any part of Greece.
The object of this rather notable gathering was to put forward a claim on behalf of the Hellenic provinces still in servitude, and not permitted even to speak authentically for themselves. The claim is for an equal share in the emancipation, which has been demanded in various quarters on behalf the Slavonic subjects of the Ottoman power. The meeting was first addressed by the professor of history in the University of Athens, who advanced this among his claims to speak on the occasion — that he had seen his brother and his brother-in-law beheaded, his father and his uncle hung. He noticed the general grounds, on which those of his own race are entitled to no less favorable consideration than their brethren in misfortune farther north. He noticed also the great distinction between them: "The Slavs have risen this year, the Greeks have not." And the distinction is most important. Repudiating heartily the doctrines of the supreme right of overbearing might, which still appear to find some countenance among us, I must still admit a material difference between those who show that their enfranchisement is required for the general tranquillity and those who do not. It is much, if right be done in the first-mentioned class of cases; for human justice is ever lagging after wrong, as the prayers of Homer came limping after Sin. Even to the great Healer, during his earthly walk, the "sick folk" were brought. Gratuitously to search out all the woe of those who suffer in silence and inaction, desirable as it might be, is scarcely within the conditions of human strength.
But this is not disputed by the Greeks of, or beyond, the kingdom. It appears to be met by a plea of fact which, if it can be made good, is relevant and important. It is thus stated by Professor Papparrhigopoulos: —
- The powers have made use of every means to repress the disposition of the Greeks to war, by promising that the Greek nation, which for the time refrained from complicating the situation, should at the settlement obtain the same advantages as the Slavs.
Professor Kokkinos, following in the discussion, says that free Greece, loyal to, the powers of Europe, had encouraged their brethren still in servitude to rely on those powers, and that Europe had praised the prudence and patience which were exhibited accordingly. The minister Coumoundouros, in reply to a deputation appointed by the assembly, encourages them to hope that the enlightenment of the Porte, and the humanity of Europe, will not drive them to embrace the belief that the gates of justice may be shattered, but opened never.
Of the steps thus alleged to have been taken by the European governments, the public, and also the Parliament, of this country, are, I apprehend, up to this time in ignorance. It does not appear to me that such steps, if taken, were necessarily wrong, or that, in the midst of the existing complications, it must have been wrong to postpone a statement of their nature. We have indeed, in the Parliamentary Papers of 1876, a communication from the consul at Caneia, affirming the existence of general and deep-seated discontent in Crete, together with the draft of a large measure of change proposed by the Christians; but there is no indication of opinion, or account of any steps taken, at the Foreign Office.
I have thus stated the claim put forward by the Greeks themselves to a hearing at the conference of the powers on Eastern affairs, if such a conference should be held. There are signs which render it more or less probable that they may proceed to substantiate their claim by votes de fait. In any alternative it is not wise to attempt to get past the present disturbance without giving their existence even a thought.
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place.
For months the Christians of Turkey, other than Slav, have been out of sight and out of mind. It certainly is not too early to examine a little into their cases.
There are four Christian races under the dominion of the Porte. The question of the Slavs is going to the conference, or the sword. The case of the Wallachs of Roumania is happily disposed of; one of the greatest and best results of the Crimean war. The case of the Armenians, who, like the Wallachs, are stated to be four millions, is presented argumentatively in a Mémoire dated October, 1876, and laid before each of the great powers. The more proximate case of the Hellenic provinces of European Turkey is that which I shall now endeavor to unfold. And this not only because it is the portion of the house next to the present conflagration, and most likely to be caught by it; but also because the history of the proceedings, through which the kingdom of free Greece was established, affords most interesting precedents, and an admirable guidance for any government, or representative of a government, desirous to deal with the great Eastern problem in the spirit of the best traditions of his country. On their title to be dealt with by the conference I do not presume absolutely to pronounce. We may see applied to these populations the maxim, —
The voice of any people is the sword
That guards them; or the sword that beats them down.
I cordially hope that it will be deemed wise and just to consider their case. But without prejudging the point, I proceed to sketch in outline the most material parts of an interesting history.
In common with the Italians, but in a still more conspicuous degree, the Greeks have been remarkable among men alike for the favors and the spite of fortune. And it is no wonder if, amidst many difficulties and discouragements, and even such discouragements as arise from defects and vices of their own, they cling to the belief that the severity of their trials is in truth a presage of a happy and distinguished future, acting like the flame of the furnace on the metal which is to issue from it. The fall of the race was indeed from so great a height, and to such a depth of misery, as is without parallel in history. The first stage of their descent was when they came under the Roman dominion. But Græcia capta ferum victorem cepit. This first reverse was mitigated by the majesty of the power to which they succumbed, and by a continuous intellectual reign; such that, when Christianity went forth into the world, no sooner had it moved outwards from its cradle in Jerusalem, than it assumed the aspect of a Greek religion. That aspect it bore for centuries. In the Greek tongue, and by minds in which the Greek element predominated, was moulded that creed, which still remains the intellectual basis of the Christian system. In the second century, it was still the ruling Christian tongue in Rome, where Pope Victor was the first who wrote in Latin on the business of the Church. Perhaps the greatest measure, ever accomplished by a single man at a single stroke, was the foundation of Constantinople; whose empire survived, by a thousand years, that of the elder Rome. Here, too, Greek influences acquired ascendancy: and we ought to wonder, not so much at the final fall of the great city, as at its long survival; a survival, only brought to its term by the appearance on the stage of foes far more formidable than those, before whom Italy and its proud capital had licked the dust.
But, all this time, numerosa parabat excelsæ turris tabulata. When still the exclusive mistress of the most refined learning of the world, she was called to bear, in common with other not yet patrician races, the fearful weight of the Ottoman yoke. By the far-sighted cruelty of Mohammed II., the aristocracy of the Greek lands was completely swept away. They exhibited, indeed, no case like that of the general apostasy of the landholders in Bosnia: the repetition of this infamy on a smaller scale in Crete took place at a much later period. Greeks were not only deprived of their natural leaders; they were assailed at every point, and in the very citadel of the family life, by the terrible exaction of the children-tribute. Not only was the system indicated by that phrase a most cruel and wicked one on the part of the conquerors who invented it, but it carried with it an amount of degradation to the sufferers who bore it, such, perhaps, as never was inflicted even on African slaves. Endured at first in the stupidity of terror, it laid wide and deep, during the two centuries for which it lasted, the foundations of baseness, and it is probably not too much to say that two centuries since its cessation have not yet everywhere effaced its effects. Nor is effeminacy, especially where thus engendered, a guarantee for humanity. The fathers who gave over the bodies and souls of their children to the tyrant were, thus far, sunk into the region of the brutes, and acquired of necessity something of that habit of mind which is as ready upon occasion to enforce the law of violence, as to cringe before it.
While such was the condition of the Greek race, considered on the side of their Ottoman masters, their horizon was not a whit less black in every other quarter. There is no chapter of history more disgraceful to western Christendom, than that which exhibits the conduct of its various governments with respect to the entrance of Turkish rule into Europe, and its continuance there. It made, indeed, vigorous and even noble efforts to repel the invaders; but this was when the Turks, having overrun that portion of the south of Europe which adhered to the Oriental Church, began at length to menace, and to some extent to occupy, European ground within the precinct of the Latin communion. These efforts were ultimately successful; but it was only towards the close of the seventeenth century, that the danger could be said to have passed away from western Europe. And it was during the same period, which witnessed the great overthrows of the Turks at Vienna (1685) and Peterwaradin (1717), that they were allowed to add to their empire by wresting Crete from the Venetians, and by finally recovering the Morea. The efforts made by Venice were remarkable as proceeding from so small a state, confident only in maritime resources; but they were neither liberating nor crusading efforts, so far as the Christian populations were concerned. They were commercial and territorial; and if the civil yoke which they imposed were lighter than that which they removed, it was sometimes found that they carried with them a new stumbling-block in the shape of religious rivalry, whereas the Turks were, as a rule, in regard to questions between one form of Christianity and another, supremely impartial. At all events we find that, when the long war waged in Crete ended in 1669 with its surrender to the Porte, the Greek population of the island, who might have given the victory to Venice, did not think it worth their while to bestir themselves for the purpose. In general, either Europe was indifferent to the subjugation of eastern Christendom, or at any rate, governed by their selfish jealousies, the powers could not agree on the division of so rich a spoil, and therefore they suffered a very unnatural oppression to endure.
But even political jealousy was not so keen and sharp-eyed an enemy as ecclesiastical ambition. Of this we have the most extraordinary proof in the letter addressed by Pope Pius II. to Mahomet II. shortly after the capture of Constantinople. The pontiff exhorts the victorious sultan (1461) to embrace Christianity, and not only promises, upon that condition, to confer on him, by virtue of his own apostolical authority, the legitimate sovereignty of all the countries he had conquered from the Greeks, but engages to use him for the re-establishment over those countries of the supremacy of the papal chair. "Tuum brachium" he says, "in eos imploraremus, qui jura Ecclesiæ Romanæ nonnunquam usurpant, et contra matrem suam cornua erigunt" Such was the consolation administered, on the Christian side and from the highest quarter, to those crushed under the calamity of Ottoman domination. It was their peculiar fate to be smitten on one cheek because they were Christians, and on the other because they were not Latin Christians. Had it not been, says Dr. Pichler, the learned historian of the schism, for the religious division of East and West, the Turks never could have established their dominion in Europe. Finlay tells us that Greeks, prosecuting their calling as merchants in the West, used actually to assume the disguise of Turks, in order to secure for themselves better treatment than they could have received as Eastern Christians. And yet we learn from the same author, that they suffered heavily for their supposed identity of religious profession with the Latins. The Moors, expelled from Spain, and taking refuge in the East, might not unnaturally pay off, when they found themselves in the ascendant, some of their old scores; part, at least, of what they had suffered from the victorious Christians of Spain. But the Jews also migrated in large numbers at the same time to the same quarter, and took a very high social position in the East as merchants, bankers, and physicians.
- They were eager [says Finlay] to display their gratitude to the Ottomans, and the inhuman cruelties they had suffered from the Inquisition made them irreconcilable enemies of the Christians.
Nor was this all. The Turks did not long enjoy a maritime superiority corresponding with their military power by land. They had not nautical in the same high degree as soldierly aptitudes, and they were greatly dependent for manning their ships on the Greeks, of whom they had twenty-five thousand in the fleet defeated at Lepanto. Therefore the seas afforded the means of constant irregular attack on Turkey. They were covered with pirates; and the religious orders of St. John and St. Stephen found it a meritorious as well as profitable occupation to pursue buccaneering practices on the coasts of the countries and islands, which were mainly inhabited by the Greek race; as in so doing they were assailing the territories of the infidel, and diminishing his power. The Greeks were commanded into Turkish, and kidnapped into Christian, galleys. Barbary competed in these lawless practices. Devastation was spread over the coasts of Greece, which often became uninhabitable; and this plague was not extirpated, until the epoch of political redemption came.
Nor was this singular complication of calamities materially relieved by the fact, that Greek intelligence had been largely drawn upon to bring up to par the scantier supply of Turkish brains. Among the viziers and other governing Turks no small numbers were of Greek extraction or mixed blood, but no trace of this relationship seems easily perceivable in their conduct. Still more remarkable was the creation of the class of Phanariots, so called from the Phanar, a quarter of Constantinople which they inhabited; an artificial aristocracy, in whom selfish interests left little room for the growth of traditional feelings, so that their services to themselves were boundless, but to their nation rare. The opening for promotion tended to stir the desire for education so congenial to Hellenes, but as tax-gatherers the official Greeks were often the instruments of tyranny in detail; and a numerous body, possessed of influence, while on the whole they used it somewhat to alleviate oppression, at least in Greece, yet acquired an interest in supporting that Ottoman domination, upon which they personally throve.
To the Greek race at large, these calamities were not only of an afflicting, but also of a most corrupting character. The song of Homer witnesses that the mild slavery of the heroic ages took away half the manhood of a man. But the slavery (for this it really was) imposed by the Ottoman Turk, not only substituting will for law, but mutilating the sacred structure of the family, and clothing the excesses of tyrannical power with the awful sanctions of religion, was such as to take away even half the remaining virtue of a slave. It seems indisputable that the effect was to corrode very seriously the character of the race. The fetter that eats into the flesh eats also into the soul. God made man free, yet doubtless in foresight of the mischiefs that would result from the abuse of freedom. The abuse of it is fault and guilt, but the loss of it is mutilation. Under Ottoman rule, and in exact proportion as it was unqualified and unresisted, together with intellectual, moral, and domestic life, the sense of nationality, and the desire of recovery, sank to the lowest ebb.
One treasure only remained to the Greek through the long night of his desolation; it was "the pearl of great price." Setting aside the involuntary victims of the children-tribute, only a most insignificant minority of the Christain races, or at least of the greater part of them, submitted to purchase by apostasy immunity from suffering, with free access to the pleasures and advantages of life; especially to that most intoxicating and corrupting pleasure, the power of simple domineering over our fellow-creatures. That faith, which ought to bear fruit in the forms of all things fair and noble and humane, shrank into itself, as it often shrinks in cases less unhappy; and slept through the icy winter of many generations. But a twinkling light still marked the habitation it had not deserted; and it abode its time, bearing within itself the capacity and promise of a resurrection to come. While we admit and deplore the deep gloom of ignorance, and the widespread ravages of demoralization, let there also be a word of tribute rendered to the virtue of one heroic endurance and persistency, which is without parallel in the history of Christendom.
If we look to the means by which this great result was achieved, I cannot but assign the utmost value to the fact that even the popular services of the Eastern Church appear to be profusely charged with matter directly drawn from Scripture, and that access was thus given to a fountain of living waters, even where the voice of the preacher was unheard, and books were almost unknown. Thus the ministration of the Christian rites was kept in some relation with that action of the human intelligence, which they encourage and presuppose. But I think that the impartial student of history must also admit that, in these dismal circumstances, the firmly knit organization of the Christian clergy rendered an inestimable service, in helping the great work of conservation. And it is not without interest to remark how many circumstances favor the belief that in this work the largest share belonged not to the monk in his cloister, or the bishop on his throne, but to the secular, or, as they are now called, the working clergy. The institution of marriage made and kept them citizens as fully as the members of their flocks: and "chill poverty," if it "repressed their noble rage," removed them from the temptations, to which the higher clergy were exposed by their often close and questionable relations with Constantinople. Mr. Finlay, who has exposed the results of this contact with, to say the least, an unsparing hand, has nevertheless placed upon record the following remarkable judgment: —
- The parish priests had an influence on the fate of Greece quite incommensurate with their social rank. The reverence of, the peasantry for their Church was increased by the feeling that their own misfortunes were shared by the secular clergy. . . . To their conduct we must surely attribute the confidence, which the agricultural population retained in the promises of the gospel, and their firm persistence in a persecuted faith. The grace of God operated by human means to preserve Christianity under the domination of the Ottomans.
Let us now consider how the door of hope was opened, and the opening gradually widened, for the race. The decay and extinction of the children-tribute, in the seventeenth century, is to be considered as the removal of an insurmountable obstacle to all recovery. The contact with Venice, even in political subordination, maintained variously at various times and never wholly lost in the (so-called) Ionian Islands until the extinction of the long-lived republic, may at least have tended to maintain some sense of a common life, and common interests, with the rest of Christendom. The gradual loss by the Turks of their military supremacy was at least a negative advantage, a remote source of hope, to those whom they held in servitude. Some admissions, too, must be made on behalf of Turkey. Whether to avoid trouble, or for whatever reason, in certain districts, as in the Armatoliks, in Maina, in Sphakia, a more or less wild local independence was permitted to subsist. And candor compels us to confess that the gradual inroads of Russia, with its rising power, upon the Ottoman empire, and its active interference in the Danubian principalities, suggested in idea the figure of a deliverer rising on the far horizon.
In the peculiar case of Chios, the large principles of local self-government, established under the Genoese trading company of the Giustiniani, were respected by the sultans after the conquest of the island in 1566. It became the home of comparative security and prosperity. It retained this character until the epoch of the Greek revolution, when all, or nearly all, was quenched in blood by a massacre even more sanguinary, though apparently in some respects less fiendish, than the Bulgarian massacres of the present year. By this condition of relative freedom, continued through generations, the inhabitants of the island rose to a superior level of intelligence; and it is indeed a remarkable fact, that Chios has supplied the chief part of those mercantile families, so full of intelligence, enterprise, and shrewdness, who have given in our day to Grecian commerce its very prominent and powerful position in the west, as well as in the east, of Europe. What a lesson, on the comparative results of servitude on the one hand, and even a very modest share of freedom with order on the other!
When the Morea returned, by the peace of Passarowitz in 1718, under Turkish dominion, the cessation of the children-tribute had for some time removed a powerful check upon the growth of the population, and the system came at least partially into vogue of commuting the personal services of the rayah, and exactions in kind, for money payments of fixed amount. In the eighteenth century, and the nineteenth down to the time of the revolution, the population of the Morea would appear to have increased from two hundred thousand (1701) to twice that number.
The consequence of this rising energy was soon exhibited in the activity of Russian influence, and in the readiness with which welcome was accorded to the rather selfish plans of Catherine II. In 1770, her agents procured a revolt in the Peloponnesos and in Crete, but with the avowed intention of bringing them under the crown of the empress. The result, as might be expected, was discouraging; and in the peace of Kainardji, which did so much to extend Russian power and influence over the Christians of Turkey in general, no other care was taken of the Greeks than the insertion of a clause of amnesty, which was left to execute itself; a process which requires no exposition in detail. They shared, however, in principle, and they had qualities enabling them to turn to peculiar account, the strange but very valuable privileges of the barat, under' which Ottoman subjects, residing in Ottoman territory, obtained a charter of denaturalization, and the privileges of the subjects of some friendly power, to whom their allegiance was transferred. But the time soon arrived when the Greeks began to feel the moral influence of the French Revolution, of growing commerce, and of the improvements effected in their language by progressive approximations to the ancient standard. By the time of the treaty of Vienna, they had so far imbibed the spirit and sense of nationality, that it is said disappointment was felt on its being found that nothing was done for the Greek race. The influence of the mischievous combination, which daringly assumed the name of the Holy Alliance, was undisguisedly adverse to them. The Congress of Laybach, at the outset of the revolution, declared its hostility to every struggle for freedom. The Congress of Verona, which followed closely upon the great massacre of Chios, was not roused by sympathy or horror to authorize any positive measure or policy against Sultan Mahmoud; and the religious sympathies of the emperor Alexander were upon the whole overborne, in the direction of Russian policy, by his horror of democracy.
But the opinion and sense of communities had now a larger influence than formerly on the course of affairs, and even on the action of governments. The Greeks were advancing in education and in wealth, whilst the process of decay had visibly attacked the proud empire of the Ottomans. Courage had revived among them, fostered partially by piracy and brigandage, but also by the formation of regular military bands, composed from the armatoli, or local Christian militia, who, in the strange and anomalous condition of the Turkish empire, had been allowed to exercise great power in parts of the peninsula, until in later times the centralizing operations of the sultans, endeavoring to circumscribe their action, threw them into an attitude of resistance to the government, and sometimes into habits of absolute rapine. From the materials thus supplied, several regular corps had been constructed in connection with various governments. On the sea, there had been formed a race of hardy mariners, who manned the Greek trading ships, and knew how to work the guns, that they carried for defence against the piracy still infesting their coasts. All these separate materials were brought into the possibility of combination by the Philikè Hetairia; a secret society of considerable value, in whose bosom lay the seeds of the revolution, waiting the day when they should burst from the surface. This combination grew out of or replaced a literary institution called the Philomuse Society, which, like the agricultural gatherings at a more recent period in Italy, appears to have cloaked its aims under a title calculated to avert suspicion. The Hetairia had a decided relation to Russian influence, as well as to Greek independence, but to influence of a popular kind, such as we have witnessed in very energetic operation during the present year. All the European governments were alike hostile at the time. Still in the case of Russia there was this difference, that the Hellenes might not irrationally regard her as the natural enemy of their enemy. The ramifications of this society were wide, and its uses, at least its preliminary uses, would seem to have been considerable.
It was not, however, by the advised counsel of the conspirators that the time of the outbreak was finally determined; but by the war between Sultan Mahmoud and his formidable vassal, Ali Pacha of Joannina in Albania, which appeared to offer an opportunity for action too tempting to be slighted. It was in the year 1821, and in the region of the principalities, that the movement began; but it was essentially Greek, and could only live and thrive on its own soil. In southern Greece it commenced, with fatal energy, in a widespread massacre of the dispersed Mussulman population. It rose to nobler efforts, and to great exploits; but I am not required to attempt, for the present purpose, the details of military history. It offers in detail a chequered picture of patriotism and corruption, desperate valor and weak irresolution, honor and treachery, resistance to the Turk and feud one with another. Its records are stained with many acts of cruelty. And yet who can doubt that it was upon the whole a noble stroke, struck for freedom and for justice, by a people who, feeble in numbers and resources, were casting off the vile slough of servitude, who derived their strength from right, and whose worst acts were really in the main due to the masters, who had saddled them not only with a cruel, but with a most demoralizing yoke? Among the propositions, which seem to be applicable to the facts collectively, are these: first, that it lay beyond the power of Turkey to put down the rebellion, without the aid of Ibrahim's ability and of the Egyptian forces: secondly, that gratitude for what Greece had once been and done produced much foreign aid, especially in the noble forms of individual devotion, as from Byron, Church, Gordon, Hastings, and others: thirdly, that the efforts made would have been ineffectual to achieve a complete deliverance, without foreign assistance of another sort.
Every traveller in Greece and its islands will speedily learn that upon the list of virtues obliterated from, or rather impaired in, the general Hellenic mind, the sense of gratitude is not included. Nowhere is it more lively.
One of the most brilliant names of our political history is also one of the names dearest to the heart of Greece. It is the name of George Canning. Let us now see by what wise and bold action that place in the fond and tenacious memory of a country and a race was obtained.
The war of the revolution reached at first very widely over the range of territories inhabited by the Hellenic race, from Macedonia to Crete; but after a time came to be contracted, as far as land operations were concerned, within limits narrower than those of the historical Greek peninsula. The moderate capacity and indifferent morality, but too observable among the Greek leaders, convinced the acute and penetrating mind of Lord Byron that the difficulties of the enterprise were vast. In August, 1824, before Ibrahim with his Egyptian forces had taken part in the quarrel, the Greek government entreated England to take up the cause of independence, and frustrate the schemes of Russia. Mr. Canning received this letter on November 4th, and answered it on the 1st of December. In his reply he only promised that Great Britain would mediate, on the request of Greece, with the assent of the sultan, a friendly sovereign who had given to this country no cause of complaint. The chief importance of this answer lay, first, in the fact that it included the recognition of a government authorized to act for the Greeks, and thus of their latent right to form themselves into a State: secondly, that it indicated a step on which, when taken by them, he would be prepared to found further proceedings. He had indeed already, in 1823, by a recognition of the Turkish blockade of the Greek ports, given to the insurgents the character of belligerents. But it seems plain on grounds of common sense, although in 1861 the question came to be clouded by prepossessions, that a measure of this nature is properly determined by considerations of fact, rather than of principle.
In August, 1825, the military pressure, through the invasion of the Peloponnesos by the Egyptian force, had become severe: and an act, as formal and authoritative as the condition of a State still in embryo would permit, then declared that "the Greek nation places the sacred deposit of its liberty, independence, and political existence, under the absolute protection of Great Britain."
Mr. Canning at once perceived the full significance of the step; and entered upon perhaps the boldest and wisest policy which has been exhibited by a British minister during the present century. It did not consist in empty but offensive vaunts of the national resources, or loud proclamations of devotion to British interests, of which Britons, like other nations in their own cases respectively, have little need to be reminded. Neither did it rest on those guilty appeals to national fears and animosities, which it is too much to expect that the body of a people can withstand when they come to them with the sanction of authority. On the contrary, its leading characteristic was a generous confidence in the good sense, and love of liberty, which belonged to his countrymen, and a brave and almost chivalrous belief that they would go right if their leaders did not lead them wrong. Before Mr. Canning took office in 1822, the British government viewed the Greek rebellion with an evil eye, from jealousy of Russia. According to Finlay, its aversion was greater than that of "any other Christian government." Its nearest representative, Sir Thomas Maitland, well known in the Ionian Islands as King Tom, after breaking faith with the people there by the establishment of a government virtually absolute in his own hands, endeavored (but in vain) to detect by the low use of espionage the plans, yet in embryo, of the revolution. Nor had any individual more temptation to indulge feelings of hostility to the despotic governments of Europe, than a minister, who was more hateful in their eyes than any secretary of state who before or since has held the seals of the Foreign Office. But he saw that the true method of preventing the growth of an exorbitant influence, of disarming Russian intrigue, and shutting out the power of mischief, was for England to assume boldly her own appropriate office as the champion of freedom, and thus to present her figure in the eyes of those who were struggling to attain the precious boon. Invested with a sole authority by the address of the Greeks, and thereupon at once tendering, through Mr. Stratford Canning, his distinguished cousin, the mediation of England to the Porte, he at the same time sought to associate with himself as partner in his office that power, who, as he well knew, had it in her hands either to make or mar his work. The circumstances were, in some respects, propitious. Alexander, who had been perplexed with perpetual balancing between his orthodox sympathies and his despotic covenants or leanings, died before the close of 1825: and Nicholas, his successor, expended the first fruits of his young imperial energies in repelling the mediation of England as to his own quarrel with the Porte, but also in accepting, with all the energy of his nature, that partnership in the patronage of the struggling Greeks, which was tendered to him by the Duke of Wellington on the part of the British government. In Greece itself, the effect is described by Tricoupi in few words: ή Ελλας ήγγιζεν όλη: all Greece became English.
Had Mr. Canning been a man of infirm purpose, or of narrow and peddling mind, he might readily have found excuses for disclaiming special concern in the quarrel between the sultan and his subjects. The party by which Lord Liverpool's government was supported did not sympathize with that or with any revolt. The Philhellenes of England were but a sect, limited in numbers and in influence. But, above all, there had been then no ground to fear lest Russia, by an affected or real protection, should shut out this country from her proper office. Russia had surrendered herself, in the main, to the debasing influence of Metternich. She had, in 1823, in the character of an advocate for the Greek cause, produced a plan for dividing the country into three hospodariates, to be governed by native rulers, with the fortresses in the hands of Ottoman garrisons; and had even alleged, as a ground for its adoption, that it highly favored the principal families, and would detach them from the interests of the insurrection. Its single merit was, that it covered the entire range of the Hellenic lands; but it seemed to give ground for the accusation of Finlay, that its aim was to keep Greek feeling in a state of chronic irritation, and thus to perpetuate the need of Russian intervention. At the outset of the war, the attitude of this great State had been one of undisguised hostility. It not only dismissed Hypsilantes, who commanded in the principalities, from the Russian army, and gave the necessary consent for the entry of Turkish troops into those provinces to put down the insurrection, but it ejected from Russian territory, under circumstances of great severity, a hundred and fifty Greeks, who were refused admission into Austria, and into the Sardinia of that day, and who only, by means of private alms: were enabled to return to their country. But Russia had also controversies of its own with the Porte, arising out of the articles of the Treaty of Bukharest (1812), and indirectly those controversies favored the cause of the insurrection, by requiring Turkish troops to be moved upon the northern frontier of the empire.
It was under these circumstances that Mr. Canning made his far-sighted appeal to the czar. And it was by the concurrence of the two countries that the work received an impetus such as to secure success. In the month of April, 1826, an important protocol was signed at St. Petersburgh, of which the leading terms are as follows. Greece shall be a tributary State, governed by authorities of its own choice, but with a certain influence reserved to the Porte in their appointment. The Greek people shall have the exclusive direction of their foreign relations. The lands of Turkish proprietors shall be purchased by the State. The second article provides for an offer of mediation with the Porte; and the third for the prosecution of the plan already declared, should the Porte refuse the offer. The delimitation of territory is reserved. The two governments renounce, by a happy covenant, imitated in 1840, and again at the outbreak of the Crimean war, all exclusive advantages, and all territorial aggrandizement. Lastly, the concurrence of the other three great powers is to be invited.This protocol was followed, through the aid of British and French influence, by the treaty of Akerman, which settled the outstanding differences between Russia and the Porte, made further provision respecting the principalities, and re-established in principle the autonomy of Servia.The offer of mediation agreed on in the protocol was refused by the Porte, which now relied on its military successes, and which had not to deal with an united Europe; though the France of the Bourbons, much to its honor, had associated itself with the courts of England and of Russia. The refusal brought about the signature, in July, 1827, of the Treaty of London. This treaty was the great ornament of the too short-lived administration of Mr. Canning, as the policy, which it brought to decisive effect, was the crown of all his diplomacy. It provided for a renewed offer of good offices to the Porte, and for compulsory measures to give practical effect, in case of a renewed refusal, to the protocol of 1826. But, after not many days, Mr. Canning was no more.
Then followed in rapid succession the declaration of a compulsory armistice, the consequent destruction of the Turkish fleet by the battle of Navarino in November, the dismissal of the ambassadors from Constantinople, the war declared in April, 1828, on Russian grounds, by the czar, and the advance of his conquering armies to the conquest of Adrianople in August, 1829. At that point the emperor Nicholas perceived from many signs, and doubtless among them from the attitude of England, the prudence of a halt. But to him and to his country, aided by the good offices of Prussia, redounded the final honor of including in the Russian treaty of peace the provisions of July, 1827. The tenth article of the Treaty of Adrianople is the international charter of the independent existence of Greece. Though the sultan had vaguely agreed to the concession before the treaty, at the instance of England and France, yet his willingness to comply may be set down, in the main, to the formidable nearness of the Russian army.
A British subject can, as such, find little pleasure in tracing the later stages of the history. It is indeed easy to understand why in 1829, with Constantinople opened to the Russian armies, the British government should have been disturbed; but it is not so easy either to comprehend or to justify the rapid change of tone and feeling which followed the accession of the Duke of Wellington to power in January, 1828; and which stigmatized the battle of Navarino, in the royal speech at the commencement of the session, as an untoward, though it was certainly an unexpected, event. An error, not perhaps more striking, but yet more grievous in its consequences, was the narrow amount of territory accorded to the new kingdom, as if to abate at once the high hopes and rebuke the noble daring of its people, and to condemn the infant State to a deplorable weakness and perpetual tutelage.
Finlay says with truth that the revolution of Greece was the people's revolution. They exhibited a tenacity and valor, not less than that of the American colonists in their famous revolt, which some despotic sovereigns showed themselves very ready to assist. We need not resent that assistance. It brought to a sharper and speedier crisis a war, which would otherwise have been interminable between the two most tenacious and self-reliant races in the world. The same service was done to Turkey by the three powers; and from higher motives. Their abstinence would not have replaced the sultan in a real sovereignty. Fortresses taken, armies discomfited, would have seemed to be, but would not have been, the end. The mountain and the flood would have given refuge to their hardy children, and the contest would have been dispersedly but resolutely maintained by a race, to whom as yet, except in the Black Mountain, no equals in valor have appeared among the enslaved populations of the East. But if this was a notable resemblance, there was another yet more notable contrast, between the cases of America and Greece. The populations directly interested were not very different in number. Of quick and shrewd intellect there certainly was no lack in either. But the solid statesmen, the upright and noble leaders, who sprang forth in abundance to meet the need in the one case, were sadly wanting in the other. The colonists of America had been reared under a system essentially free, and they rose in resentment against an invasion of freedom but partial and comparatively slight; the revolted Hellenic population had for four centuries been crushed and ground down under a system, far from uniform in a thousand points, yet uniform only in this, that it was fatal to the growth of the highest excellence. It is in and by freedom only, that adequate preparation for fuller freedom can be made.
The uneasiness of Greece in its provisional condition, under Capodistrias as the president of a republican government, was extreme; and diplomacy still did it a service, greater than perhaps it knew, in offering, or promoting the offer of, its crown to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, first among the statesman-kings of his day, or perhaps his century. He accepted the Hellenic throne; but the intrigues of Capodistrias, in representing difficulties, and also in creating them, appear to have so far darkened the prospect as to have brought about his resignation. With that resignation passed away the hope of a brilliant infancy for Greece. The small number of princes, disposable for such a purpose as filling the Hellenic throne, was probably further reduced by the jealousies of reigning families and their States; and though the average capacity of the members of royal houses may be considerably above that of the community at large, but a very small part, out of a very small total, can be expected to rise to the standard of faculty and character required in order to meet the arduous calls of the situation. King Otho was neither a depraved nor a neglectful sovereign. But he had no conception of free government; the stage on which he had to act admitted only of its exhibition in Lilliputian proportions: there were no indigenous statesmen suited to supply his deficiencies. Strangers were brought in for ministers; the spirit of faction, and, worst of all, of foreign faction, prevailed at the centre; absolutism was the medicine applied to the infirmities of the country; weakness and disorder were the result. And when a constitution was established in 1843, it was alike premature and defective, both in itself, and in that it had to be worked by a sovereign incapable of comprehending it. In 1862 the patience of the people was finally exhausted, and King Otho disappeared. Perhaps it is only as from that year, that free Greece ought to be considered as put upon its trial. And even when the stage was thus cleared, and a sovereign of promise was at length secured for the country, it was the promise of boyhood only, and more years had to pass before the young king George attained the years of action.
This outline, so general and so slight, would require, of course, correction as well as development if made applicable to details. But some review of the past is necessary, in order to secure a fair chance of judging rightly of the present. And here we encounter a school of thought, whose maxim it is that the emancipation of Greece has resulted in a total failure. Let me now first show that competent judges have not thought so, and afterwards ask, whether this sentence of sweeping condemnation is warranted by the facts.
The seven islands, which bore the name of the Septinsular Republic, are scattered along the coast from Epirus to the extreme south of the Morea. They are independent in thought and feeling of one another, and in the partition of the offices of government, under the British protection, a keen rivalry prevailed. No one probably will be found to hold, that that chapter of our history is worthy of its general strain. Sometimes, when we preached constitutional doctrine to Continental sovereigns, the case of the Ionian Islands was cast in our teeth. It was at one time my duty to study carefully the history of the connecticn, and I must say that, though the general intentions of the protecting power were good, the reproach was in various respects well deserved; even down to a period, when King Tom and his system had been apparently repudiated. To share a common subordination is not a principle of common life. The islands had no other principle, except one, that of their Hellenic nationality. And this, which was a reality and an honor, some Englishmen were led absurdly to deny, because the Italian language was in use among the ruling class, with a very limited infusion, if any, of Italian blood. Why did we not, on the establishment of a free Greece, seize the opportunity of putting an end to a relation manifestly provisional, and relieving them and ourselves from a position false from the root upwards, by allowing them to take their natural place as part of the newly constituted State?
The question appears a reasonable one; yet we have no reason to suppose that even Mr. Canning contemplated such a measure. It is probable, that he found himself bound hand and foot by a military tradition, supposed to draw its origin from the great Napoleon. If Napoleon did indeed teach, as is said, the great military value of Corfu, it would be interesting to observe at what period of his career he promulgated the doctrine. Was it after, or was it before, six or eight thousand of his veteran troops under Berthier were neutralized, for all the years from the French conquest to his abdication, by a couple (I believe) of small British vessels? Even in the times of sailings ships, and of an artillery which has since been not so much improved as transformed, and with reference also to the monopolizing schemes of an aggressive power, it may be asked, what element of strength did Corfu secure for a possessor who had not the command of the sea? and what real addition did it make to the military resources of one who had it? Of the military burden, for a country like this, of maintaining garrisons of six or eight thousand men, whether in Corfu or in the islands collectively, it is needless that I should speak.
No man was more keenly sensitive than Lord Palmerston on subjects connected with military power, or more alive to the defective state and qualified progress of free Greece. Yet, in 1862, when first the prospect of free government in an effective form was opened for that country, he with Lord Russell proposed, and his cabinet promptly agreed, to make arrangements for the surrender of the protectorate, and the incorporation of the seven islands with the continental state. This was a practical witness to the judgment passed by that cabinet, and especially of Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell, on the hopefulness of the future for Greece. Had they not had confidence in her prospects, they could not have deemed it wise and right to promote the transfer of the Ionian population from British protection to the rule of the young king.
But this was not all. It is within my knowledge that they were most desirous, even at that late period, to retrieve the error committed at the inception of the Hellenic State by the deplorable restriction of its territory. In no spirit of unfriendliness to the Porte, they wished for the assignment of Thessaly and Epiros to Greece, subject to the conditions of sovereignty and tribute, Our own surrender of the protectorate gave us, in a measure, occasion to consider what arrangements might be most conducive to the general tranquillity of the East. Happy would it have been for all concerned if these opinions could have taken practical effect. But even with governments the most advanced in civilization, the standard of wisdom as to territorial questions is not uniformly high. As gold for individuals, so land has for States, a meretricious fascination.
Nothing could at that time have been gained by a public discussion of the subject. Indeed, it would have been ungenerous to Turkey, then, as was still hoped, seriously engaged in giving effect to the reforms she had so solemnly promised in 1856, to disturb the slumbering Eastern question by mooting a plan of which a refusal, if made known, would have placed her in an invidious position. The position is now wholly different. She has herself trodden under foot those promises, bought from her with such an effusion of Western blood and treasure. She has completely liberated for free discussion both friends and foes, and also such as, disclaiming either enmity or admiration, believe that her best chance of continuing to hold a position in Europe depends upon the speedy adoption of large and liberal arrangements for the virtual self-management of internal affairs in some or all of her European provinces. But I deem it also important to redeem, during the lifetime of his fellow-laborer, Earl Russell, the memory of Lord Palmerston from the wrong done it by those, who believe or argue that, if now alive, he would have been found to plead the obligation of maintaining the integrity of the Ottoman power as paramount to the duty of granting to her afflicted subjects simple, broad, and effective guarantees for their personal and civil liberties.
Mr. Finlay, publishing in 1861 the "History of the Greek Revolution," has complained that the progress of the country in industry and population had not then answered to the expectations formed of it. But he has nowhere uttered a word to imply that its emancipation was other than a great good conferred upon the Hellenic race, as well as a gain for Europe by the extinction of a flaming element of discord. I have adverted at various points to the faults, in Greece and out of it, which have restricted, but not destroyed, the fruits of the Canning policy. Yet let us not conceal from ourselves, that real and most important progress has, after all, been achieved.
At the time of the revolution, not only did the whole dominant class, or rather the collected fragments of a dominant class, present, as their leading features, weakness, selfishness, and venality, but the people was partially barbarized, both by servitude, and by the professions of the pirate and clepht; so that the war which they waged was terribly defaced by acts of cruelty. But the revolutions which they made, and justly made, in 1843 and in 1862, did them honor by their freedom from the taint of blood. Greece, internally considered, is now an element, not of disturbance, but of stability, in the Levant. As the country does not molest Europe, so the people, always sound at heart, do not molest the government; but obey the laws, which, indeed, are borne better, perhaps, than they deserve. The evil of transitory ministries and shifting majorities is but a secondary symptom; and has often found its parallel in our own substantially well-governed, and always orderly, Australian colonies. Brigandage has, indeed, been greatly favored both by the nature of the country, and by the strong countenance it received from traditions anterior to the revolution, when it wore the guise of patriotism. But it had long since become occasional and limited, at the time when England was shocked and harrowed by a deplorable but single outrage, of a kind from which Italy has been but lately purged, and Sicily, we must fear, is not yet purged altogether. The venality, unblushing and almost universal among public men at Constantinople, hides its head in Athens, much as it did in England under Sir Robert Walpole. Recently detected in the gross transactions between certain ministers and certain bishops, it was brought to trial, and severely punished by the regular unbiassed action of the courts. In this small and almost municipal State, the independence of the judiciary appears to be placed beyond question; of itself an inestimable advantage. The higher clergy live in harmony with the State, the lower with the people; and the correspondence of our Foreign Office would show instances of their liberal feeling, such as are likely to exercise a beneficial influence upon Eastern Christendom at large. Their union with the people at large makes them an important element of strength to the social fabric. It was indeed an union cemented by suffering. On Easter Day, in April, 1821, the patriarch Gregorios was arrested in his robes, after divine service, and hanged at the gate of his own palace in Constantinople. After three days he was cut down, and his body delivered to a rabble of low Jews, who dragged it through the streets, and threw it into the sea. Gordon enumerates about twenty bishops, who were massacred or executed by the Turks in the early stages of the revolution. As for the priests, they suffered everywhere, and first of all.
The statistical record, moreover, of the progress of Greece, drawn from public sources, is far from being wholly unsatisfactory.
The population, which stood in 1834 at 650,000, had risen in 1870 to 1,238,000; that is to say, it had nearly doubled in thirty-six years; a more rapid rate of increase than that of Great Britain, and far beyond the ordinary European rate. With the Ionian Islands, Greece must now contain a number of souls considerably beyond a million and a half.
In 1830, Greece had no schools, with 9,249 scholars. In 1860, it had 752 schools, with 52,860 scholars. The University of Athens, which in 1837 had 52 students, in 1866 could show 1,182.
The revenue, which was £275,000 in 1833, was £518,000 in 1845, and £1,283,000 in 1873; or probably about a million, after allowing for the Ionian Islands.
For the shipping and trade of Greece, the figures, though imperfect, are not unsatisfactory. The number of Greek seamen, augmented by the addition of the Ionian Islands, was in 1871 no less than 35,000. But before that annexation they were 24,000: or almost three times as many, in proportion to population, as those of the United Kingdom. The tonnage is over 400,000 for 1871. Before the union with the Ionian Islands, the imports and exports averaged for 1853-7, ;£1,546,000; but for 1858-62, £2,885,000. For 1867-71 they had risen to £4,662,000. That portion of Greek trade which is carried on with the United Kingdom, and which was in 1861 £923,000, had risen in 1871 to £2,332,000.
Neither, then, in a material, nor in a political and social view, is there any ground to regret the intervention of the powers on behalf of Greece.
I will now resume the argument on the future of the Hellenic subjects of the Porte.
The title of the Armenians, and of the Hellenic provinces of the Ottoman empire, to have their case considered at the approaching conference, is not, as I have already stated, analogous to that of the Slavonic countries. For these have exhibited their claim in the most effective form, by rising against the sultan, and by defeating, in two of them at least, his efforts to pacify them through desolation. Perhaps, in reason, the identity of grievance might be taken for granted; but the Hellenes may justly be put to the proof. Will their locus standi so far be admitted at the conference, as to allow them the opportunity of making good their case? Without prejudice to the general merits, it is plain that this admission cannot be withheld, if they are able to sustain, by adequate proof, the statements which were boldly assevered at the meeting in the Pnyx, but for which the evidence has not been disclosed to the world. Let us suppose, now, the question to stand for decision, at a meeting of the conference, whether its care is to extend to any other than the Slavonic provinces. I will proceed to state some reasons, which might well give bias to an Englishman in favor of the affirmative; and especially to an Englishman slightly tinctured with Russophobia, or the kindred, but more advanced, disease of Turcomania.
In the first place, it is the judgment of the Ottoman government that the changes it may be required to make shall extend to all the provinces of the empire. It will not be easy for that government to claim that, when the immediate and primary case of the Slavs has been disposed of, the door shall be closed against others, whose equality of title she has herself asserted. Next as to Russia. It may be doubted whether her interests will render her anxious to widen the field of interposition. What generosity may prompt her to attempt, I dare not at present conjecture; but, as I believe she cannot always be exempt from the selfishness of which we ought sometimes to be very conscious in ourselves, so it has been well proved that the emperor and his people are open, certainly not less than we are, to the generous emotion which has recently, and I believe effectively, thrilled through this island.
With some very limited exceptions on the Austrian frontier, I apprehend it to be beyond doubt, that the hopes of the Christians in European Turkey have been directed either to this country or to Russia. As between the two, there are a variety of circumstances which might conceivably direct their hopes either to the one or to the other. It is too often and too hastily assumed, that they all work in the same line, the line leading towards Russia. My own belief is that these populations would all prefer aid from England, if it were to be had: all, even including Slavs and Wallachs. It is true that they both are united to Russia by a double tie; the Slavs by those of religion and of race, the Wallachs by the tie of religion and perhaps of recollection; for, though Russia may have used them in her own interest as tools against the Porte, it was to her power that they owed those local immunities, which put them in a condition to become, after the Treaty of Paris, a free state. But both even of these races have other ties with England: first, in the possession or desire of popular institutions; secondly, in that they have not to fear from her, even as possible, either absorption or aggression. But the Wallachs are happily out of the question; and as to the Slavs, I feel that it is vain to pursue the discussion with special reference to England, after the course which affairs have taken in 1875 and 1876.
The present inquiry is as to the Hellenic races; and here the matter stands very differently. Only in a single point have they sympathies which would lead them by preference towards Russia: it is the point of religion. Were these countries within the Latin Church, community of religion might greatly weigh, for it would imply some antagonism to all other forms of Christianity. Within the Greek Church this is not so, because it is constituted on the original principle of local distribution, rejects the doctrine and practice of supremacy, and claims no jurisdiction beyond its own borders. Mr. Finlay speaks of the strong leaning of the Ionian population to Russia, This may have been true, and with very good reason for it, in the time of Sir Thomas Maitland; or in the island which, according to Gordon "groaned for years under the iron rod of a wretch, whose odious tyranny would have disgraced a Turkish pacha." But, by degrees, the treatment of the islanders by the English was greatly altered for the better. Eighteen years ago, I was engaged in a mission to the islands, and became convinced that the notion of the prevalence of Russian leanings there was altogether visionary; that the desire of the people was to be Greeks in polity, as they were Greeks in blood and feeling, but that as long as they could not be politically Greeks they preferred an association with the British crown to any other association whatsoever.
Since that time events most important in their bearing on the present inquiry have occurred in the department of ecclesiastical affairs. If, on the score of religion, there was then a qualified affinity with Russia, there is now a positive antagonism. The four or five millions of Bulgarians, who were then in their traditional intercommunion with the patriarchal see of Constantinople, are now severed from it by an ecclesiastical schism; and of that schism Russia is believed by the Hellenic race to have been, through its ambassador, General Ignatieff, the most active and powerful fomentor. And this although it has been alleged that, a master of the finesse of diplomacy, and knowing the blind hostility of Ali Pacha to everything proposed or supported by Russia, he put the Porte on the side of the Bulgarians by advisedly taking himself the side of the patriarch.
It is remarkable that so little has been said or heard on this important subject in the West. The reason is that its direct consequences have been purely negative. The hundred eyes and hundred hands of the Curia were directed from Rome to the Balkan peninsula, in the hope of profiting by the quarrel; but in vain. It is hardily asserted that M. Bouree, the French ambassador, supported with all the influence, if not with the wealth, of his country, the papal operations; but in vain. The eighty or ninety millions of the Oriental communions, though partially severed in communion, and even to a very small extent in doctrine, among themselves, form an united and impregnable phalanx as against the claims of the papacy.
In the original outbreak of the Bulgarian quarrel we may recognize, on the part of that people, a genuine aspiration of nationality. Under color of obtaining more learned and competent men than could be found among an uninstructed population, a practice had grown up, dating from about a century and a half ago, of appointing Greek Fanariote bishops to Bulgarian sees. The demand of Bulgaria was, to take into its own hands the appointment of its bishops, and of a chief prelate with the title of exarch. If I am correctly informed, it happened in the course of this controversy, as of many others, that right changed sides as it went on. The patriarch offered that the Church of Bulgaria, like that of Russia and of Greece, should become an independent national Church; but stipulated that, like them, it should be limited within local boundaries. On the Bulgarian side it was contended that wherever there were Bulgarians, constituting a local majority, the jurisdiction of the national Church should extend. This claim directly traverses the principle of local distribution, on which the Oriental Church claims, in conformity with the Ante-Nicene Church, to be founded. The claim was refused. Excommunication followed. The Russian Church declined to support the sentence of the see of Constantinople. Another of the patriarchs took the same view, and was deposed. Russia, having the means in her power, took an active part against the successor who was appointed. In a word, although the religion of the Bulgarians remains in doctrine and rites precisely what it was before, the tranquil East has been thrown into the abyss of ecclesiastical disturbance; and with a chief share in producing such a state of things the Russian influence is, whether justly or unjustly, credited. It is even stated that, by confiscating the proceeds of estates in Bessarabia, Russia has deprived the patriarch, and the Greek establishments in Roumelia, of a large part of their means of subsistence; not to mention the crowning allegation of this fierce Hellenizing adversary, which is that she desires to define an ecclesiastical Bulgaria reaching beyond the Balkans, in order that she may thus herself eventually control the mountain passes.
Now it is with Constantinople that the whole Hellenic race feels itself in matters of religion to be inseparably associated; it is in the strictest sense, notwithstanding the undue subserviency to the overweening pressure of the Porte which has at tunes and in certain respects lowered the dignity of that great see, an ecclesiastical centre to the Hellenic race, which resents every disparagement inflicted on it. So far therefore as religion is concerned, it is at this moment a ground of real and strong revulsion from Russia, not of attraction to it.
No full and accurate view of the questions connected with the Christian subjects of Turkey can be obtained without taking into count the dualism that subsists among them, as between Hellene and Slav. They are sharers in a common religion, and this bond of sympathy is primary. They are also sharers in their sufferings; but they are to some extent rivals in their dreams. Between them, they conceive themselves to have the heirship of eastern Europe, and have some tendency to clash about the inheritance before the day of possession has arrived. The Slav is stronger in numbers: the Hellene feels that, during the long and rough night of the great calamity, the remaining genius of his race supplied the only lamps of light which flickered in the storm and in the gloom. As between Hellene and Turk, the czar has borne the aspect of a champion: as between Hellene and Slav, he has rather the position of a possible adversary; and all the circumstances of the present moment accentuate and sharpen the outlines of that position. Only when the place of advocate has been altogether vacant, has the Hellenic race been disposed to give to Russia that position. The prospect of Russian predominance in the Levant is just as oppressive to their rising hopes, as that of a Greek empire at Constantinople is distasteful even to the mighty and wide-ruling emperor of all the Russias.
I am arguing for others, rather than myself. I find abundant reasons, altogether apart from those which I have last advanced, for desiring that the opportunity of the present crisis should be used, after meeting its primary necessities, to act more broadly on ideas such as were unquestionably and strongly held by Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell in 1862, and to arrange with the Porte for the concession to the Hellenic provinces of all that may be found reasonable. I am firmly convinced that the antagonism of interests between them and the ruling power, which many assert and assume, does not in truth exist. The condition of Turkey is bad as matters now are: what would it have been if the festering sore of the Greek revolution had been permitted to pass, by neglect, into a gangrene? I believe that suzerainty over a large range of country would then have been better for both parties, than independence in a very small one: but that either the one or the other was better than the doctrine that we have no more to do with a quarrel between the sultan and his subjects than with any other similar quarrel, and than a practice in accordance with that doctrine. Why should we be alarmed at the sound of suzerainty? It is a phrase of infinite elasticity. Even in the present Turkish empire, suzerainty exists in half-a-dozen different forms, as over Tunis, Egypt, Samos, Roumania, and Servia. What it implies is a practical self-management of all those internal affairs on which the condition of daily life depends, such as police and judiciary, with fixed terms of taxation, especially of direct and internal taxation, and with command over the levy of it. Where these points are agreed on, there is little left to quarrel about.
There is, therefore, for any who think in this way, ample ground for belief and action without reference to the position of this or that European power. But, in the minds of many, the actors have, as to the Eastern question, a larger place than the acts. To them I desire to point out that, if they think it urgently required for England, in the face of Russia, to establish an independent position and influence in the Levant, by some more enduring means than vaunting menace or mere parade, or proclaiming schemes of the most unmitigated selfishness, they have now such an opportunity as never before was offered. Of that people who still fondle in their memories the names of Canning and of Byron, there are in the Levant we may safely say four millions, on whose affections we may take a standing hold, by giving a little friendly care at this juncture to the case of the Hellenic provinces. They want, not Russian institutions, but such a freedom as we enjoy. They want for their cause an advocate who is not likely to turn into an adversary; one whose temptations lie in other quarters; who cannot (as they fondly trust) ask anything from them, or in any possible contingency, through durable opposition of sympathies or interests, inflict anything upon them.
The recollections of Lord Byron have been recently revived in England by a well-meant effort. Among them there is one peculiarly noble. It is that of his chivalrous devotion to the Greek cause; a devotion, of which his unsparing munificence was far from being the most conspicuous feature. In the days which preceded the revolutionary war, when Greece lay cold and stark in her tomb, her history and her fate drew forth from him some precious utterances of immortal song: —
They fell devoted, but undying:
The very gale their names seemed sighing:
The waters murmured of their name;
The woods were peopled with their fame;
The silent pillar, lone and grey,
Claimed kindred with their sacred clay :
Their spirits wrapped the dusky mountain;
Their memory sparkled o'er the fountain:
The meanest rill, the mightiest river,
Rolled mingling with their fame forever:
Despite of every yoke she bears,
That land is glory's still and theirs.
These lines are from "The Siege of Corinth," published in 1816. More beautiful still, if more beautiful be possible, were the lines of 1813 in "The Giaour" from the image of a dead body, which began, —
So fair, so calm, so softly sealed,
The first, last look by death revealed.
And his ever-wakeful muse stood ready to greet the first effort of resuscitation. In "The Age of Bronze," written in 1823, he hailed the revival thus: —
'Tis the old aspiration breathed afresh
To kindle souls within degraded flesh,
Such as repulsed the Persian from the shore
When Greece was — no! she still is Greece once more.
But Lord Byron brought to this great cause, the dawn of emancipation, for the East then all in grave-clothes, not only the enthusiasm of a poet, or the reckless daring of a rover. He treated the subject, which both shaped and absorbed the closing period of his life, with the strongest practical good sense, and with a profound insight, which has not been shamed by the results. It is not unnatural to suppose, that the knowledge of the lofty part he played may have been among the encouragements which brought into action the bold policy of Canning; nor to hope, that the contemplation of it may yet supply a guiding light to some British statesman called to open its capabilities, as well as to encounter its embarrassments,
in una selva oscura
Che la diritta via era smarrita.
- Compte Rendu de l'Assemblée, etc. Athènes, 1876.
- II., ix. 498.
- Compte Rendu, p. 6.
- Ibid., p. 14.
- Compte Rendu, p. 22.
- No. 3, p. 284.
- Hamlet, iii. 4.
- Mémoire sur la situation actuelle des Arméniens et sur leur avenir. Dated from 74, Lancaster Gate, London.
- Tennyson's Harold.
- Döllinger, Hippolytus und Kallistus, chap, i., p, 28. Plummer's translation, p. 25.
- Finlay's Greece, from 1453 to 1821, pp. 194, 195.
- Gordon's History of the Greek Revolution,, i., p. 9.
- Finlay's Greece, p. 132.
- Pichier, Geschichte der Kirchlichen Trunnung, i. 500.
- Pichler, i,, 501.
- Ibid., i. 498.
- Finlay's Greece, p. 186.
- Ibid., p. 132.
- Ibid., pp. 106-118.
- "A fictitious and servile noblesse." — Gordon, Greek Revolution, i. p, 34.
- Ibid., 293-296.
- Od., xvii. 322.
- Gordon's History of the Greek Revolution, i. 32, 33.
- Ibid., i. 33.
- Finlay's Greece, p. 181.
- Finlay's Greece, p. 281.
- Ibid., p. 237.
- Ibid., p. 308.
- Gordon, i. 31.
- Finlay's History of the Greek Revolution, i. 131.
- Ibid., ii. 162.
- A different view, to some extent, is taken in Joyneville's "Life and Times of Alexander I.," vol. iii., chapters vi. and vii.
- Gordon, i. 42 ; Finlay, i. 120.
- Finlay and Gordon seem to differ much in their estimates of the efficiency of the Hetairia.
- Finlay, i. 169.
- See, on this subject, a noble passage from Lord Russell's "Memoirs of the Affairs of Europe," which is cited by the Bulgarian deputies at p. 25 of their recent pamphlet.
- Gordon, ii. 171.
- Finlay's Greek Revolution, ii., 166; Gordon, 283.
- Tricoupi, Hellenikè Epanastasis, vol. iii., p. 193.
- La Russie et la Turquie, par Dmitri de Boukharow. Amsterdam.
- Greek Revolution, ii. 161; Gordon, i. 315. Also compare Tricoupi, Hellenikè Epanastasis, i. 339, seqq.; ii. 219; iii. 267. On the change in the English policy, and its effect, see Tricoupi, iii. 191-194. The majority of Mr. Canning's cabinet did not sympathize with him: but he had the advantage of a thoroughly loyal chief in Lord Liverpool.
- Compare Tricoupi, Hellenikè Epanastasis, iii. 278.
- Ibid., iv. 2, 3.
- Ibid., iii. 267.
- La Russie et la Turquie, p. 82.
- Greek Revolution, ii. 165.
- Ibid,, i. 155, seqq.
- Ibid., ii., p. 166; Gordon, ii., p. 82.
- La Russie et la Turquie, pp. 92-94.
- Ibid., p. 95-101.
- Finlay, Greek Revolution, ii. 222; La Russie et la Turquie, pp. 102-113.
- Finlay, ii. 224; Tricoupi, iv. 380, 381.
- These troops returned to France in 1814; and I found it currently stated in the islands, though I have never been able to ascertain the facts, that they were among the very first to join his standard on the arduous occasion of his return from Elba.
- Gordon, i. 187. Finlay, i. 230. Tricoupi, Hellenikè Epanastasis, vol. i., pp. 102-107, chap, vi.
- Gordon, i. 187, 188, 190, 194, 306.
- Ibid., i. 193.
- Vol. i , p. 318.
- Attention aux Balkans: Bucharest, 1876. p. 14.
- Ibid., p. 15.
- Attention aux Balkans, p. 21.
- The Greek conception of Russian policy is pointedly expressed by Tricoupi, in reference to the project of 1823. -— Hellenikè Epanastasis, iii. 189, chap, xii. Also in. 263.
- In the Times of November 18, will be found a report, copied from the Kölnische Zeitung, of a conversation, held by the reporter, with General Ignatieff. The degree of reliance due to it may be a question. But the sentiments towards the Greek provinces ascribed to that diplomatist were of the cold and discouraging character, which I should have anticipated.
- Dante, Inf. i. 2.