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THE CAUSE OF THE GREEKS.
-Λέγων, όσα εν τώ τοιούτω του καιρού όντες άνθρωποι, ού προς το δοκείν τινι αρχαιολογειν, φυλαξάμενοι, είπoιεν αν -αλλ' επί τη παρούσα και, εκπλήξει ωφέλιμα νομίζοντες επιβοώνται.
THUCYD. vii. 69.
It is now three years since the Greeks commenced that struggle against their ancient oppressors, which, after a series of conflicts, remains still undecided, and appears almost as far from a termination as ever. It was not to be imagined that a spectacle so novel and interesting should be viewed with indifference by the people of Europe. Of the feeling which it has excited among the better-informed part of our own community, we have a sufficient proof in the number of advocates, varying in degrees of talent and information, who have come forward to plead the cause of Greece before the British public. It might be supposed that such repeated discussion had altogether exhausted the subject. We think, however, that many of the arguments adduced are susceptible of being placed in a clearer light; and that others which have been slightly touched upon deserve a more full developement. It is certain, moreover, that owing partly to political prejudice, partly to the conduct of the Greeks themselves on particular occasions, and partly to the character of some of their partisans, their claims have not been so readily and universally acknowledged as they deserve to be. It is not to be concealed, that certain latent prejudices against the Greek cause exist among persons in many points respectable, but for whom we should entertain more unqualified respect, if they would on occasions like the present cast off the shackles of party predilection, and follow the dictates of their own good sense and right feeling. It is these prejudices which we would attempt to obviate. In a question like the present, indeed, where the affirmative evidence is so strong, and the weak points to be guarded so few, it is difficult for a writer to confine himself entirely to the defensive ; we have chosen, however, this line of argument, because the positive part of the question has already been treated by abler hands than ours, and because, until these previous misconceptions are removed, it is in vain to expect that arguments on the other side should have any effect.
It is, then, the opinion of many (if we may call that an opinion which appears to exist rather as a vague and indefinite notion) that the enterprise of the Greeks, however strong the inducements may have been which led to it, is unjustifiable, as Vol. I. PART II,
being an act of revolt against lawful authority; that it is part of a concerted plan for the general overthrow of law and public order; and that in advocating it, we are promoting the spread of anti-social principles, and patronising the cause of revolution throughout Europe. This, we think, (although we have seldom heard it expressed in so many words) is the argument which has principally contributed to estrange the minds of the political thinkers in question from the Greek cause; all the other considerations owing their chief force to the unconscious prejudice created by this prevailing opinion. We may be assured, at least, that had the Greeks been fighting in a quarrel which these persons considered as legitimate, neither the atrocities which have been occasionally committed, nor any other of the considerations alleged, would have affected their opinion of its substantial merits. It is the mere cant of party abuse to deny the possibility of such opinions being entertained, or to stigmatize them as the result of pure servility. They originate in a want of clear and intelligible principles ; in an inability to emancipate the mind from the tyranny of words, names, and associations ; in a natural horror excited by the enormous evils consequent upon certain former revolutions, and a confused impression, thence resulting, that all revolutions are criminal. With the great question of political right, which at present agitates the European community, we have no intention to meddle; it is one to which we feel ourselves utterly unequal; and, happily for the Greeks as well as for their advocates, it is one which needs not to be discussed here. That insurrection against an established government, except in particular circumstances, is unjustifiable, will probably be acknowledged by all who believe in the existence of social duties; that there are circumstances in which it is justifiable, or rather by which it becomes an act of duty, will be allowed, we think, by the most determined stickler for authority, at least in this country. What these circumstances precisely are, and whether they exist in any other case of modern times, we do not pretend to determine. It is enough for us, that no definition of a legitimate insurrection can be formed, in which the case of the Greeks shall not be included; and that if their revolt is not justifiable, no revolt ever was or can be such. The Grecian people are labouring under a tyranny intolerable in its kind, and from which there is no possibility of deliverance by any other means than by insurrection. We do not see how either of these propositions can be contested; 'and if not, the consequence is as clear and undeniable as any proposition can be—that they are warranted in throwing off the yoke; unless it is maintained, that all resistance to established authority is
in its nature unlawful; a proposition which no one with whom we have to deal probably thinks of asserting:
We have said thus much, at the risk of being considered by many of our readers as advancing self-evident propositions, or stale and hackneyed truths. But this is not all. The truth of the above reasoning may be allowed; it may be acknowledged, in general, that the conduct of the Turkish government has been such, as to place it out of that pale of sacredness by which all others are secured, and that the warfare in which the Greeks are now engaged is just and necessary; and yet, for want of a distinct and vivid idea of the nature of Ottoman domination-for want of bringing it home to our own minds, and placing it before the eye of the imagination in all its foul and dreadful reality, the acknowledgment may be attended with little practical effect. We hear of extortion, and cruelty, and insult, in the abstract; we read of particular instances in the pages of historians and journalists, and we are affected with temporary disgust and indignation; but we are not excited to reflection-we are too indolent to complete the picture, to reason from a part to the whole, to trace the system of crime and misery through all its revolting minutiæ, and to transfer our horror from particular instances to the state of things which they symbolize; the scene passes before us like the figures in a phantasmagoria, and leaves no distinct impression. It is not from ostensible authority, it is not from positive enactment, that the Greeks principally suffer. Much comfort, and even much substantial freedomi may consist with the forms of despotism, even a hard and unequal system of law; and the Greeks, to whatever other grievances they may be subjected, have, at least, the public exercise of their religion guaranteed to them by law, and are not taxed, by statute, at least, more heavily than many other European nations. It is in practice that the essential evil of the system is displayed ; it is in the license of private oppression, against which there is no remedy. It is in the insolent assumption by the Mohammedan, of a right to maltreat and oppress, and the habitual enforcement of that right. Every Mussulman considers himself the natural master of every Greek. This power is not a mere matter of tradition and statute ; is it not a dormant power bedridden with age and inactivity ; but a thing in active and constant operation. Neither the person of the Greek, nor his property, nor the privacy of his home, nor the sanctity of his domestic connexions, are, at any time, secure from injury and insult; it is an eating and a searching evil; it pursues him into every corner; it imbitters the peaceful intercourse of daily life ; it deadens the hopes of honest industry; it interferes with the
consolations of religion. Of what avail is it that his life is in some degree secured to him, if every petty tyrant is allowed an unlimited power of embittering it? To extort confession of an alleged crime, or to enforce payment of tribute, himself, and those dearest to him, are liable to be tortured, or mutilated, or outraged in any mode that the ingenuity of avarice or hatred may devise. If rich, his possessions may be wrested from him by the rapacity of a provincial despot, and himself imprisoned or driven into banishment. We have no wish to exaggerate, nor do we deny that there are some brighter points in the picture ; it is sufficient for us that what we have stated is fact, and that the concurring accounts of all, who have had opportunities of information, bear testimony to its accuracy. “ I have,” says Mr. Hughes, and we extract the passage on account of the impression which it made on our own mind, “I have rode over the ruins of large villages, scathed by the flames of destruction, because some reputable family had refused to deliver up a beautiful son or daughter, as the victim
of the tyrant's execrable lusts. I have seen part of the Turkish population in a large city, armed against its Frank inhabitants, cutting and maiming with swords and ataghans every Christian they met with, on account of a private quarrel. I have seen large towns professing the Mahometan faith, whose inhabitants had all to a man apostatized from that of their forefathers, to escape the inordinate exactions and oppressive cruelties to which as Christians they were subject. I have seen rich tracts of country turned into desert, fields languishing without culture, and cities fallen into decay, where misrule and injustice had combined with plague and famine against the constitution of society; and, as public immorality flourishes most and grows up to maturity under the reign of despotism, I have seen apostates, false witnesses, secret poisoners, open assassins, and all the other agents of unlimited tyranny, clothed in the spoils and rioting on the property of their unhappy-victims. In short, I have seen a nation humbled, degraded, and abased; I have seen man, made in his Maker's likeness, reduced below the standard of the brute creation, living without civil or political existence, plundered without remorse, tortured without mercy, and slaughtered without commiseration."
We need not expatiate upon the moral evils consequent on this state of insecurity and degradation, this perpetual presence of oppression, like the spectre in Lucretius,
super aspectu mortalibus instans,” darkening, and blasting, and chilling all beneath it; on the system of constant fraud and dissimulation which such a state
of things renders almost inevitable; on the prostration of manly feeling, and the entire denegation of that wapenola which the ancient Greeks prized as the crown and flower of liberty ; upon these, and the other points connected with these, we have not left ourselves time nor room to dwell; nor, we trust, will our readers think it necessary.
66 But the Greeks,” it is said, “are in league with the friends of revolution throughout the world—their own leaders are actuated by Jacobinical principles—and their partisans in this country are of the same school.” How is the first point proved? Is it inferred, from the coincidence in time of the Greek and Neapolitan insurrections, that the one was connected with the other ? Such a mode of reasoning would tend to prove a connexion between the conquest of Mexico by Cortes, and the deliverance of Sweden by Gustavus Vasa, both which events commenced nearly at the same time. Where are the documents--where even the presumptive evidence to establish this fact? or why should we resort to such a solution, when we have a satisfactory explanation ready at hand ? Surely the aggravated wrongs of the Greeks were sufficient to excite them to revolt, without the aid of jacobinical agitators to fan the flame.
We will grant, however, for the sake of argument, what is in itself probable enough, that the Greeks are in some measure infected with the anarchical principles so prevalent on the continent. That a half-enlightened people, and one which is but just emerging from despotism, should have no very accurate notions of liberty--that such a people should imbibe eagerly the wildest and most erroneous doctrines of political agitators--if true, cannot be surprising; and it is an evil which we trust the progress of knowledge will remedy. But how does this affect the goodness of their cause? Their leaders may be mistaken or ambitious men; they may be implicated in the plots of foreign countries ; but the wrongs of the Greeks are not on that account less real, or their claims less just. We do not see how the criminality of other enterprises of the same name (supposing, which we do for argument's sake, that they are criminal) can affect the merits of the present. Whoever is in the wrong, they are in the right. If future incendiaries choose to make their example a precedent for deeds to which it has no affinity, the guilt be on their heads. We cannot, we will not, believe that the triumph of justice can ever be productive of evil to mankind. Let the righteous cause prosper we will trust to Providence for the result.
As to the other allegation, that the friends of the Greeks in this country are confined to a certain class of politicians,