Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Pacifico, David

PACIFICO, DAVID (1784–1854), Greek trader, calling himself Le Chevalier Pacifico and Don Pacifico, was a Portuguese Jew by extraction, but was born a British subject at Gibraltar in 1784. From 1812 he was in business in the seaport of Lagos, Portugal; afterwards he resided at Mertola; but, owing to the aid which he rendered to the liberal cause, his property was confiscated by Don Miguel. On 28 Feb. 1835 he was named Portuguese consul in Morocco, and on 5 Jan. 1837 Portuguese consul-general in Greece; but the complaints against him became so numerous that he was dismissed from the service on 21 Jan. 1842. Soon after this period he settled at Athens as a merchant. In that city it was customary to celebrate Easter by burning an effigy of Judas Iscariot. In 1847, out of compliment to Baron Rothschild, then residing there, the annual ceremony was prohibited; but, Pacifico's house happening to stand near the spot where the burning usually took place, the mob in a state of excitement tore down and burnt the dwelling and its contents. Pacifico claimed compensation, not only for his furniture, &c., but also for lost papers relating to his claims on the Portuguese government, and laid his damages at the exaggerated sum of 26,618l. At the same period Dr. George Finlay [q. v.], the historian of Greece, had also a claim against the Greek government. The Greek ministry delaying to make compensation in these and other cases, Lord Palmerston, in January 1850, sent the British fleet to the Piræus, when all the Greek vessels and other ships found within the waters were seized. The French government, then in agreement with England, sent a commissioner to Athens to endeavour to arrange terms. This attempt at conciliation, however, resulted in a quarrel between France and England, and the French ambassador, M. Drouyn de Lhuys, withdrew from London. The House of Lords, on 18 June 1850, by a large majority, passed a vote of censure on Lord Palmerston for his conduct in this matter, but the resignation of the ministry was prevented by a vote of the House of Commons on 29 June, when there was a majority of 46 in favour of the government. Ultimately Pacifico received one hundred and twenty thousand drachmas for the plunder of his house, and 500l. sterling as indemnity for his personal sufferings. Thus ended an event which nearly evoked a European war, and disturbed the good relations between England and France.

Pacifico, who finally settled in London, died at 15 Bury Street, St. Mary Axe, on 12 April 1854, and was buried in the Spanish burial-ground, Mile End, on 14 April.

[Hansard's Debates, 1850, and particularly Palmerston's Speech on Pacifico's claims, 25 June 1850, col. 380–444; Correspondence respecting the demands made upon the Greek government in Parliamentary Papers (1850), Nos. 1157, 1179, 1209, 1211, 1226, 1230, 1233, (1851), Nos. 1297, 1415; Finlay's History of Greece, 1877, vii. 209–214; McCarthy's History of our own Time, 1879, ii. 41–62; Gordon's Thirty Years of Foreign Policy, 1855, pp. 412–25; Ashley's Life of Lord Palmerston, 1876, i. 176–227; Jewish Chronicle, 19 April 1854, p. 15; Gent. Mag. June 1854, p. 666.]

G. C. B.