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ART. III. — THE POLITICAL CONDITION AND
PROSPECTS OF GREECE.
The independence of Greece is one of the most glorious events in the European history of the nineteenth century. The success of the revolution against Mohammedan domination reflects honor both on the Greek nation and on the human race; but the actual political condition of the Hellenic kingdom is the disgrace of European statesmanship. France, Great Britain, and Russia combined to transform a republic into a monarchy, and their creation commenced in misgovernment, and promises to end in anarchy.
The discordant statements published from time to time concerning the condition of the Greek people, and the adverse opinions offered on the conduct of the Greek government, induce us to believe that we can render some service to our fellow-citizens by presenting them with an impartial description of the new monarchy, freed from the false coloring of French and English diplomacy. (To us, the cause of Greece is one of the deepest interest, but, separated as we are from the political intrigues of eastern Europe, we cannot feel any very lively concern about the party contests at the Greek court. This very circumstance may perhaps enable us to establish some landmarks of truth amidst the haze of misrepresentation which hangs over Greek affairs. To us, King Otho, General Colletti, Prince Mavrocordato, Monsieur Piscatory, Pair de France, and Sir Edmund Lyons, Baronet the five leading political characters in Greece — are only interesting as their actions affect the political and social condition of the Greek people. Pisistratus, Themistocles, Phocion, Æmylius Paulus, and Mummius only occupy a different position in our minds because their reputations cast a wider and brighter light.
It is not our intention to say any thing at present concerning the Greek revolution.* The citizens of the United States
* The best work on the subject of the war with the Turks is the “ History of the Greek Revolution, by Thomas Gordon, F. R. S.” 2 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh. 1832. Mr. Gordon of Cairness was a gentleman of considerable fortune, who had spent much of his youth in the east, and was well acquainted with Turkish as well as Greek literature. He repaired to join the Greeks with a supply of arms and ammunition as soon as the revolution broke out. He died in 1842, at his estate of Cairness in Scotland, holding the rank of Major-General in the Greek service. His work is universally regarded as the best authority on Greek affairs, on account of his freedom from all party feelings.
gave substantial proofs of their good wishes for the cause, by the abundant aid they furnished to Greece in the hour of her greatest peril. Alany fought and several perished in her service ; and in 1827, the supplies of provisions poured into Greece from America, cargo after cargo, contributed to prolong the desperate struggle until the tardy assistance of European diplomacy terminated the war. Those who wit nessed the utter destitution of the people at the period when the American supplies reached the country, can alone form an idea of the dreadful state of misery to which the population was reduced. Thousands of families were saved from starvation,—and we here mean, not from a lingering death brought on by want and its concomitant diseases, - but literally, — from perishing by immediate and absolute starvation. Even in spite of the arrival of these supplies, famine had already made such progress, that the fearful spectacle of death from hunger has been witnessed by more than one of our countrymen who visited the provinces of Greece to distribute these cargoes. Our present task is only to review the state of affairs from the time the three great powers of Europe, France, Great Britain, and Russia, determined to assume the protection of Greece; and to examine in what manner they have executed the trust they assumed. The work of the most celebrated ministers in Europe is a study worthy of profound attention.
The first interference of the three protecting powers was to assume an authority to mediate with Turkey, by a treaty signed at London on the 6th of July, 1827. That treaty was followed by the battle of Navarino, in which the allies destroyed a considerable part of the Turkish fleet, and frightened the British ministry to such a degree, by the damage inflicted on their old friend the Sultan, that the victory was called in a fit of remorse "an untoward event.” The dictatorship of Capodistrias, the election of Prince Leopold of Saxe Coburg (now King of Belgium) to be prince sovereign of Greece, his sudden resignation, and the perplexities of a mass of protocols, kept Greece for some years in a state of political disorder as injurious to the population as the war itself.*
* The treaties and protocols, as well as some financial papers and correspondence, have been printed for the British Parliament. This collection of papers on the affairs of Greece, from 1827 to 1844, embraces five folio volumes. The most important documents, from 1827 to 1833, were printed at the Greek Gov. ernment press. This small but valuable collection is entitled Rccueil des Traités, actes, et pièces concernans la fondation de la Royauté en Grèce. Nauplie. 1833. 8vo.
In the year 1831, the assassination of Count Capodistrias converted disorder into anarchy. Insurrection spread over the whole country, and the authority of the existing government was confined to the walls of Nauplia. Civil war laid waste the rest of Greece. Each military leader endeavoured to collect round him a band of followers strong enough to retain possession of a province capable of nourishing his troops. The dispossessed united to attack the successful. The sufferings of the agricultural population amidst this scene of anarchy, were dreadful; for the poor peasantry, cheered by the comparative tranquillity of Capodistrias's administration, had recommenced cultivating the soil; and they now saw the relics of their property, after escaping the Turks and Egyptians, destroyed by their own countrymen. While the irregular troops were engaged in destroying the resources of the Greek state, the three protecting powers were searching in all the royal nurseries of Europe to find a king for the Greeks.
It cannot be supposed that the fate of the Greek people was really a matter of indifference to the governments of France, Great Britain, and Russia, but still, we may doubt whether three statesmen more indifferent than Prince Talleyrand, Lord Palmerston, and Prince Lieven, to the sufferings of a rude peasantry, ever assembled to decide on the fate of nations. At all events, it is quite certain that they took no direct steps to prevent the civil war in Greece from thinning the population and diminishing the resources of the monarchy they were engaged in founding; though nothing could have been easier.
On the 7th of May, 1832, a convention between the three powers and the king of Bavaria was signed, appointing his second son, Prince Otho, king of Greece. This treaty is a singular document. It gives the king of Bavaria power to nominate a regency of foreigners, to send a corps of foreign troops and a host of foreign officials to Greece.
Yet it was notorious that Greece possessed statesmen fit enough for regents, though not for legislators or organizers: Colletti, Mavrocordato, and Metaxas were just as well known then, as now ;—and that there were far too many armed men and hungry officials in the country, was attested by the unceasing civil war and incessant intrigues. Every body exclaimed that Greece wanted nothing but order, and the three powers deliberately set to work augmenting the causes of disorder. To guard against the evil effects of the failure of their speculation recoiling upon themselves, France, Great Britain, and Russia NO. I.
imposed on the Greek people, by the twelfth article of this treaty, (to which it is to be observed that Greece was not directly a party,) a debt of sixty millions of francs, which was to be disposed of by the parties to the convention; and they created in their own favor an hypothecation of the revenues of the new kingdom for the payment of the interest to fall due on this debt. The whole transaction was utterly illegal, according to every principle of public or common law; and it is strange to find the ministers of France and England, in the very act of founding a new monarchy, trampling under foot the most indispensable characteristic of free states; namely, that no financial burdens shall be imposed on the people without their express consent. To increase the illegality of the imposition, the expenditure of these millions was placed at the disposal of Bavarians ignorant both of the wants and resources of Greece; and the Greeks were excluded from any knowledge of the manner in which it was proposed to employ it. We must further observe, that in this treaty founding the Greek kingdom, not one word is said concerning the lives and property of the Greeks, their civil institutions, or political constitution. Greece and the Greeks were placed at the absolute disposal of a despotic regency.
As it was suspected by the protecting powers that the Greek people would make a vigorous protest against this disposal of their lives and fortunes without their consent, instructions were transmitted to the representatives of the allies in Greece, ordering these gentlemen to obtain a ratification of the treaty as quickly as possible from some body of men having the usual characteristics of a government de facto. In order to show our readers into what a labyrinth of diplomatic tergiversation the illegal provisions of the convention involved the allies, we must transcribe one article of these instructions verbatim. The residents of France, Great Britain, and Russia, are ordered to declare that the choice of Prince Otho was made by the three courts in virtue of a formal and unlimited authorization on the part of the Greek nation; that consequently, the three courts had a right to make that choice, and are all strictly obliged and firmly resolved to maintain it.”* The fact, however, is, that no such formal and unlimited authorization ever existed; if it had, the three courts would have been eager to quote it, in authentic form, in the convention. The necessity of the case was their real warrant for interfering in Greek affairs, and the idea of converting the Greek republic into a German kingdom originated in their own political sagacity. It would, on the whole, have been wiser and more statesmanlike to have told the plain truth in the official papers, instead of seeking to veil their folly in diplomatic fables.
* The instructions will be found in Protocols of Conferences held in London, relative to the affairs of Greece, presented to both houses of Parliament by command of His Majesty. 1832. Annex A to the protocol (51) on the conference of the 25th of July, 1832, p. 178.
When the Greeks heard that their country had been transformed into a kingdom, they formed a national assembly, which met at Pronia, the suburb of Nauplia, in July, 1832. The deputies displayed so much respect for the constitutional liberties of their country, that the representatives of the three powers were alarmed at their proceedings. These gentlemen consequently addressed a collective note to the secretary of state for foreign affairs in the de facto government, which is preserved in the archives of Greece as a proof of the contempt of France and Great Britain for constitutional liberty.* The activity of Mr. Dawkins, the English minister, and the desertion of their country's cause by the great statesmen of the English party, enabled the members of the provisional government to dissolve the national assembly of Pronia by military violence. When it was found that a majority of the members were determined to defend the liberty of their country with firmness, a band of irregular troops was excited to enter the assembly and eject the deputies. Even after this act of military violence, sixty-two deputies had sufficient courage to assemble in another place and publish a protest against the conduct of the provisional government. This protest represents with great force the danger Greece incurred from the continuance
of anarchy, and pointed out with justice that the intrigues of the residents of the allied powers were as much the cause of the existing disorders as the lawless violence of the irregular soldiery. The deputies had been allowed time to ratify the election of King Otho, but they had neither ratified nor approved of the other articles of the convention.
* The letter of the residents is printed in the excellent work of Professor Thiersch, of Munich, - De l'etat actuel de la Grèce, et des moyens d'arriver à sa restauration. Leipsig. 1838. 2 vols. 8vo.— See Vol. I., p.
407. † This document, which is of some length, will be found translated in Thiersch, Vol. I., p. 421.