Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/147

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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?[1] 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

  1. 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.