Imágenes de página

trespassing too far on our limits; and we must therefore omit many of the minor charges, even at the hazard of being ourselves accused of slurring over such of them as we knew to be unanswerable. One of the charges, scarcely worth repeating, is that of the Lord High Commissioner having, by transfer of the commerce in grain to the collector of the customs, raised the price of bread 30 per cent, higher at Corfu than on the opposite continent, only six miles distant. A monopoly of grain! What a fertile subject of abuse! And accordingly the agents of the Carbonari in Italy wrote a circular, to say, 'You have now a fine subject to descant upon! Do not lose the opportunity of showing to the whole world, what the poor Ionian people have to expect from this most cruel, most oppressive and grinding monopoly of com, in the hands of the government.' Mr. Hume was undoubtedly favoured with one of these circulars; but the price of bread ' on the continent, only six miles off,' must have been excogitated by himself, to show that, among his various acquirements, he is not unacquainted with geography! his discovery in this line, that the mountain Albanians feed on wheaten bread, is equally novel and important. This monopoly in grain,—which vfas confined to Corfu,—which was restricted to wheat not eaten generally by the inhabitants,—which was a temporary measure to save the islands from famine, at a time when there was only three days' corn on the island;—certainly took it out of • the hands of forestallers and regraters, who had it in their power to raise the price at pleasure, and at any time to create a famine; but so far from creating, it was the means of abolishing a monopoly, and of throwing open the market for grain, though at a very considerable loss to the government of the country, in the same manner as Sir Thomas Maitland has thrown open the trade at Malta to the merchants. The immediate effect of this measure was, that prices, instead of constantly fluctuating, became steady; and that, instead of 30 per cent.' dearer than on the opposite continent,' and iu the other islands, the common rate of twenty-four pounds of bread was one obolo (not quite a halfpenny) more in Corfu than in Zante, and one obolo less in Corfu than in Cefalonia; and considerably less than in all the other islands; and the ultimate consequence of 'this destructive monopoly' has been, that supplies of grain for the last two years have been sent from Corfu to Zante and Cefalonia, by which the price of bread has been kept down in both islands.

We pass over the absurd and contemptible accusations respecting the disturbance of property by unjust laws, (of which, however, the senate and representatives of the people are the framers;) of converting mortgages into simple contract debts j of discon>,. , C 4 tinningtinuing the system of advances from the landlord to the tenant; and of Sir Thomas Maitland, in forming the new charter, paying no attention to the provisions of the matchless constitution of 1803, so greatly admired by Mr. Hume. We know indeed that the good effects of the alterations are felt and acknowledged by all ranks. In the speech of the President Manzaro, we observe an allusion to the happy change—' Unlawful loans, usury, fraudulent contracts, and transactions ruinous to the patrimony of the poor, which left the indigent to perish, which converted to odious riches the tears and agonies of the widow and orphan, and which, taking advantage of dissipation and vice, proved the ruin of society; all these scourges have, by one law of parliament, entirely disappeared.'

The administration of justice and the legal proceedings were, of all others, the most difficult and delicate matters which the Lord High Commissioner had to regulate. The difficulty did not so much consist in providing remedies for absurd laws, as in finding the means of carrying those remedies into effect, from the habits of the judges, the character of the people addicted beyond measure to litigation,* and the multiplicity of separate courts in the several islands. The sound principle on which Sir Thomas Maitland acted in this respect was that of keeping the executive, the legislative and judicial authorities, as distinct from one another as possible. It was too evident that, in many of the judicial proceedings, whether civil or criminal, corrupt judgments were given, partly owing to the evils inherent in all legal proceedings in small societies, where all the parties are known to each other, and partly to the nature and character of the people themselves.

To correct these party decisions, and to make the judges of the inferior courts more cautious, a supreme court of justice was instituted, consisting of two British and two Ionian judges, who were to have a general superintending power over all the courts of the islands, and to whom an appeal might lie from the several local jurisdictions. The result has been a complete and salutary chatage in the whole mode of legal proceedings. Many of the laws themselves are extremely absurd; but the method adopted by the Lord High Commissioner, of having the whole proceedings, with the sentence of every case which may fall under any objectionable law, laid before the supreme court, to be by them reported on to the executive, is well calculated to get rid of such laws; and though the operation may be slow, silent and unostentatious, it will be attended with many eminent benefits— first, it will make the correction of such laws emanate from the

• * I have heard of an individual,' says Mr. Goodisson, 'who was defendant in one hundred and fifty law-suits at one time.'

report report of the law officers of the highest description in the islands, and not from the government itself. Secondly, it will be effected with the least possible danger of hurting either the feelings or the prejudices of the people. Thirdly, the evident evil, which arose out of the law itself, will of itself reconcile the people to the change.

If it were true that the protecting government had laid upon the people of the Ionian islands great additional burdens, and that they were suffering, as has been falsely asserted, under a grievous and grinding taxation unknown under former governments, we should be most ready to admit that they had a reasonable ground for complaint; but so much is the contrary the case, that the Ionian people are in point of fact at this moment the least oppressed by taxation of any people under the sun, who are living under a civilized government. The only additional tax, and that laid on by the legislative assembly after due discussion, is one of about half a dollar a barrel on oil exported; but they took off at the same time a variety of oppressive taxes, eleven or twelve at least, which fell heavy on the poorer orders of the people; so that what the assembly effected was rather a modification of the existing taxes than additional taxation; and in this way it was considered by the people themselves. 'So far,' says the President Manzaro, 'from the constitutional government having imposed any new taxes, it has in reality effected a diminution of the old ones.' Such, however, has been the system of misrepresentation, that an honourable member of the House of Commons gravely asserted that Sir Thomas Maitland had actually subjected the 'pumps and wells' in the island of Santa Maura to an inordinate tax! But the absurdity of such charges, and the true causes of the insurrection at Santa Maura, have been so completely exposed by Mr. Petrizzopulo in his letter to Lord Lauderdale, which has appeared in the public prints, as to require nothing further from us.

But while the blundering advocate of the discontented knot of patriots bewails the grinding oppression and taxation under which the Ionian people labour, he complains that Great Britain, and not the Ionians, as he asserts they ought to do, pays the enormous expenses of the troops, the number of which is, according to his military and political sagacity, unnecessarily large. The number is 3,000, as fixed by the constitution, and is the same precisely as that in the happy era of the septinsular republic. The whole of the military staff, the quartering of the troops, the erections and repairs of the barracks and hospitals, the repairs of the fortresses, the providing of military stores, and all the incidental military charges, are paid out of the Ionian revenues; the

pay pay of the troops only being defrayed by Great Britain, amounting to about .£70,000 a year; which would have been paid whether these troops were stationed at Malta or Gibraltar, or nearly to the same amount if disbanded and pensioned. But we are disposed to extend the view somewhat farther: we will suppose any other power, Russia for example, having, as she once had, 3,000 troops in the Ionian islands; where, we would ask, could we place 3,000 men that would not create a far greater annual expenditure than ,£70,000? Or, if we were not in military possession of the Ionian islands, could we leave Gibraltar with 2,000 men fewer (as it actually is at present) than it had in 17i)'i, that golden era of whig idolatry, of which we are so often reminded, and to the standard of which every thing must be referred?

But then this expense, we are told, might be diminished, if an enormous civil establishment, and a lavish expenditure in point of salaries, did not absorb a great part of the revenues. Having been furnished from the colonial office with every document on this head, Mr. Hume found he could make nothing of his gratuitous assertions, and wisely, for once, he let them fall to the ground. In fact, the salaries are so low, and the expense of living so high, that there is not a British individual employed in the Ionian islands who can do more than barely exist on the pay he receives; and his labour is constant and severe.

With regard to the Ionian functionaries, Sir Thomas Maitland certainly did increase their nominal salaries three and four-fold, but this was by no means in proportion to the peculations and extortions practised under the Venetian and the 'happy septinsular republic' In fact, in those days the pay of the functionaries was divided into two branches; the first was the nominal pay, denominated certi; and the second, whatever the individual could collect in fees, perquisites, and in various ways, called incerti. Instances are without end where the incerti exceeded the certi ten times over at least. When Marshal Schulemberg visited the vast depots of Corfu, he was surprised at the great confidence reposed in a single individual storekeeper, and asked him what his salary was f On being informed that it was only six zechins a month, he tapped him on the shoulder, saying, 'my friend, you ought to steal at least fifty more:' a hint, as it turned out, which was not at all necessary, the ill-paid storekeeper being the wealthiest man in the island.

The only remaining accusation against Sir Thomas Maitland which we shall notice, and it is one of the most serious, as it involves the faith and honour of the British government, is that of the alleged frequent breaches of that neutrality which his Majesty's government has pledged itself to observe in

the the present contest between the Greeks and Turks, and always, of course, in favour of the latter! this however is altogether false. Situated as the Ionian islands are, almost within speaking distance of Greece, and peopled by Greeks, it was next to impossible, and required the utmost temper and vigilance on the part of the government, to prevent a constant breach of neutrality: but when we consider the nature and character of the Ottoman government on the one hand, and the effect of those early associations connected with ancient Greece on the other, and couple with these the enthusiastic attachment of Englishmen to the cause of liberty, we might almost venture to assure ourselves, without any direct and positive knowledge of the fact, that if any favour has been shown, it has inclined to that side, to which the common feelings of our nature, and every other circumstance, strongly prompted; and doubtless the preponderance has been on that side, and the Turks have felt it to be so; but the Turks have no agents to spread their complaints over Europe; while the Greeks publish their imagined grievances, and their misrepresentations in every part of the world.

The first step taken by Sir Thomas Maitland, was to issue a proclamation, interdicting the armed vessels of either party from all the ports of the Ionian states. Even this was a grievance to the Turks. An ancient ally, with whom we have treaties, to whom we send an ambassador, an acknowledged European power, is denied the usual intercourse, because a portion of its subjects is in a state of insurrection against the government, and because by it we acknowledge, in fact, an unknown and unrecognized flag as a belligerent power. It likewise so happened that the Ottoman flag was that against which the proclamation first operated, A Turkish frigate anchored in the night iu the port of Corfu, and the moment she was perceived in the morning, was forced out. The Capitau Bey of a squadron, in want of provisions, requested to be received into a port of Corfu, on the score of the long subsisting friendship between the Sultan, his master, and his Britannic Majesty; to his utmost surprize and indignation he met with a positive refusal. Part of the squadron had actually anchored in the roadstead of Zante, when his Majesty's, ships of war commenced a fire on them, and drove them out. On one occasion the Turkish seraskier lodged a sum of money in the hands of the British consul-general of Previsa, for the purchase of grain in the Ionian islands, and application was made to Sir Thomas Maitland for permission to do so, but he positively refused; and once the Turkish pasha attempted to procure a quantity of biscuit, through the Ottoman consul-general at Corfu, but so far from succeeding, he lost the money sent to this agent.


« AnteriorContinuar »