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- History of Modern Europe 1792-1878 - 100/202 -


between the two governments led English Ministers to speak, certainly in exaggerated and misleading language, of the mutual hostility of the English and the Russian nations. From 1815 to 1821 the Czar had been jealously watched. It had been rumoured over and over again that he was preparing to invade the Ottoman Empire; and when the rebellion of the Greeks broke out, the one thought of Castlereagh and his colleagues was that Russia must be prevented from throwing itself into the fray, and that the interests of Great Britain required that the authority of the Sultan should as soon as possible be restored throughout his dominions.

[Fears of new period of warfare.]

[Metternich and the Greeks.]

Both at London therefore and at Vienna the rebellion of Greece was viewed by governments only as an unfortunate disturbance which was likely to excite war between Russia and its neighbours, and to imperil the peace of Europe at large. It may seem strange that the spectacle of a nation rising to assert its independence should not even have aroused the question whether its claims deserved to be considered. But to do justice at least to the English Ministers of 1821, it must be remembered how terrible, how overpowering, were the memories left by the twenty years of European war that had closed in 1815, and at how vast a cost to mankind the regeneration of Greece would have been effected, if, as then seemed probable, it had ranged the Great Powers again in arms against one another, and re-kindled the spirit of military aggression which for a whole generation had made Europe the prey of rival coalitions. It is impossible to read the letter in which Castlereagh pleaded with the Czar to sacrifice his own glory and popularity to the preservation of European peace, without perceiving in what profound earnestness the English statesman sought to avert the renewal of an epoch of conflict, and how much the apprehension of coming calamity predominated in his own mind over the mere jealousy of an extension of Russian power. [367] If Castlereagh had no thought for Greece itself, it was because the larger interests of Europe wholly absorbed him, and because he lacked the imagination and the insight to conceive of a better adjustment of European affairs under the widening recognition of national rights. The Minister of Austria, to whom at this crisis Castlereagh looked as his natural ally, had no doubt the same dread of a renewed convulsion of Europe, but in his case it was mingled with considerations of a much narrower kind. It is not correct to say that Metternich was indifferent to the Greek cause; he actually hated it, because it gave a stimulus to the liberal movement of Germany. In his empty and pedantic philosophy of human action, Metternich linked together every form of national aspiration and unrest as something presumptuous and wanton. He understood nothing of the debt that mankind owes to the spirit of freedom. He was just as ready to dogmatise upon the wickedness of the English Reform Bill as he was to trace the hand of Capodistrias in every tumult in Servia or the Morea: and even if there had been no fear of Russian aggression in the background, he would instinctively have condemned the Greek revolt when he saw that the light-headed professors in the German Universities were beginning to agitate in its favour, and that the recalcitrant minor Courts regarded it with some degree of sympathy.

[Alexander adheres to policy of peace.]

[Capdostrias retires, Aug 1822.]

The policy of Metternich in the Eastern Question had for its object the maintenance of the existing order of things; and as it was certain that some satisfaction or other must be given to Russian pride, Metternich's counsel was that the grievances of the Czar which were specifically Russian should be clearly distinguished from questions relating to the independence of Greece; and that on the former the Porte should be recommended to agree with its adversary quickly, the good offices of Europe being employed within given limits on the Czar's behalf; so that, the Russian causes of complaint being removed, Alexander might without loss of honour leave the Greeks to be subdued, and resume the diplomatic relations with Constantinople which had been so perilously severed by Strogonoff's departure. It remained for the Czar to decide whether, as head of Russia and protector of the Christians of the East, he would solve the Eastern Question by his own sword, or whether, constant to the principle and ideal of international action to which he had devoted himself since 1815, he would commit his cause to the joint mediation of Europe, and accept such solution of the problem as his allies might attain. In the latter case it was clear that no blow would be struck on behalf of Greece. For a year or more the balance wavered; at length the note of triumph sounded in the Austrian Cabinet. Capodistrias, the representative of the Greek cause at St. Petersburg, rightly measured the force of the opposing impulses in the Czar's mind. He saw that Alexander, interested as he was in Italy and Spain, would never break with that federation of the Courts which he had himself created, nor shake off the influences of legitimism which had dominated him since the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. Submitting when contention had become hopeless, and anticipating his inevitable fall by a voluntary retirement from public affairs, Capodistrias, still high in credit and reputation, quitted St. Petersburg under the form leave of absence, and withdrew to Geneva, there to await events, and to enjoy the distinction of a patriot whom love for Greece had constrained to abandon one of the most splendid positions in Europe. Grave, melancholy, and austere, as one who suffered with his country, Capodistrias remained in private life till the vanquished cause had become the victorious one, and the liberated Greek nation called him to place himself at its head.

[Extension of the Greek revolt.]

[Central Greece.]

[Fall of Ali Pasha, Feb., 1822.]

[Chalcidice.]

An international diplomatic campaign of vast activity and duration began in the year 1821, but the contest of arms was left, as Metternich desired, to the Greeks and the Turks alone. The first act of the war was the insurrection of the Morea: the second was the extension of this insurrection over parts of Continental Greece and the Archipelago, and its summary extinction by the Turk in certain districts, which in consequence remained for the future outside the area of hostilities, and so were not ultimately included in the Hellenic Kingdom. Central Greece, that is, the country lying immediately north of the Corinthian Gulf, broke into revolt a few weeks later than the Morea. The rising against the Mohammedans was distinguished by the same merciless spirit: the men were generally massacred; the women, if not killed, were for the most part sold into slavery; and when, after an interval of three years, Lord Byron came to Missolonghi, he found that a miserable band of twenty-three captive women formed the sole remnant of the Turkish population of that town. Thessaly, with some exceptions, remained passive, and its inaction was of the utmost service to the Turkish cause; for Ali Pasha in Epirus was now being besieged by the Sultan's armies, and if Thessaly had risen in the rear of these troops, they could scarcely have escaped destruction. Khurshid, the Ottoman commander conducting the siege of Janina, held firmly to his task, in spite of the danger which threatened his communications, and in spite of the circumstance that his whole household had fallen into the hands of the Moreot insurgents. His tenacity saved the border-provinces for the Ottoman Empire. No combination was effected between Ali and the Greeks, and at the beginning of 1822 the Albanian chieftain lost both his stronghold and his life. In the remoter district of Chalcidice, on the Macedonian coast, where the promontory of Athos and the two parallel peninsulas run out into the Ægæan, and a Greek population, clearly severed from the Slavic inhabitants of the mainland, maintained its own communal and religious organisation, the national revolt broke out under Hetærist leaders. The monks of Mount Athos, like their neighbours, took up arms. But there was little sympathy between the privileged chiefs of these abbeys and the desperate men who had come to head the revolt. The struggle was soon abandoned; and, partly by force of arms, partly by negotiation, the authority of the Sultan was restored without much difficulty throughout this region.

[The Ægæan Islands.]

The settlements of the Ægæan which first raised the flag of Greek independence were the so-called Nautical Islands, Hydra, Spetza, and Psara, where the absence of a Turkish population and the enjoyment of a century of self-government had allowed the bold qualities of an energetic maritime race to grow to their full vigour. Hydra and Spetza were close to the Greek coast, Psara was on the farther side of the archipelago, almost within view of Asia Minor; so that in joining the insurrection its inhabitants showed great heroism, for they were exposed to the first attack of any Turkish force that could maintain itself for a few hours at sea, and the whole adjacent mainland was the recruiting-ground of the Sultan. At Hydra the revolt against the Ottoman was connected with the internal struggles of the little community, and these in their turn were connected with the great economical changes of Europe which, at the opposite end of the continent, and in a widely different society, led to the enactment of the English Corn Laws, and to the strife of classes which resulted from them. During Napoleon's wars the carrying-trade of most nations had become extinct; little corn reached England, and few besides Greek ships navigated the Euxine and Mediterranean. When peace opened the markets and the ports of all nations, just as the renewed importation of foreign corn threatened to lower the profits of English farmers and the rents of English landlords, so the reviving freedom of navigation made an end of the monopoly of the Hydriote and Psarian merchantmen. The shipowners formed an oligarchy in Hydra; the captains and crews of their ships, though they shared the profits of each voyage, were excluded from any share in the government of the island. Failure of trade, want and inactivity, hence led to a political opposition. The shipowners, wealthy and privileged men, had no inclination to break with the Turk; the captains and sailors, who had now nothing to lose, declared for Greek independence. There was a struggle in which for awhile nothing but the commonest impulses of need and rapacity came into play; but the greater cause proved its power: Hydra threw in its lot with Greece; and although private greed and ill-faith, as well as great cruelty, too often disgraced both the Hydriote crews and those of the other islands, the nucleus of a naval force was now formed which made the achievement of Greek independence possible. The three islands which led the way were soon followed by the wealthier and more populous Samos and by the greater part of the Archipelago. Crete, inhabited by a mixed Greek and Turkish population, also took up arms, and was for years to come the scene of a bloody and destructive warfare.

[The Greek leaders.]

Within the Morea the first shock of the revolt had made the Greeks masters of everything outside the fortified towns. The reduction of these places was at once undertaken by the insurgents. Tripolitza, lately the seat of the Turkish government, was the centre of operations, and in the neighbourhood of this town the first provisional government of the Greeks, called the Senate of Kaltesti, was established. Demetrius Hypsilanti, a brother of the Hetærist leader, whose failure in Roumania was not yet known, landed in the Morea and claimed supreme power. He was tumultuously welcomed by the peasant-soldiers, though the Primates, who had hitherto held undisputed sway, bore him no good will. Two other men became prominent at this time as leaders in the Greek war of liberation. These were Maurokordatos, a descendant of the Hospodars of Wallachia--a politician superior to all his rivals in knowledge and breadth of view, but wanting in the faculty of action required by the times--and Kolokotrones, a type of the rough fighting Klepht; a mere savage in attainments, scarcely able to read or write, cunning, grossly avaricious and faithless, incapable of appreciating either military or moral discipline, but a born soldier in his own irregular way, and a hero among peasants as ignorant as himself. There was yet another, who, if his character had been equal to his station, would have been placed at the head of the government of the Morea. This was Petrobei, chief of the family of Mauromichalis, ruler of the rugged


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