« AnteriorContinuar »
But it has been stated that the unfortunate Greeks, driven from their own country, were refused admittance within the Ionian states, and were in consequence thrown back, upon the enemy, and murdered; and this accusation, so likely to awaken our sympathies, has been industriously circulated all over Europe. It is not, however, the less false on that account. Neither the Greeks nor their agents are over scrupulous in violating truth; and in this instance they have taken advantage of what strict policy and a rigid line of duty would have prompted us to do, and assert that it was done. The fact is, they have always been received, though it has put the Ionian government to no little expense and inconvenience, and subjected the inhabitants to the risk of contagion. At one time upwards of 10,000 Greeks were received into the islands in two days, all fugitives from the Turks, to the imminent danger of importing the plague, and of embroiling the British government with that of the Turks. Nor were they sent away until it could be done without danger to themselves, and when their countrymen had obtained the upper hand in the Morea; then, indeed, as was his duty, Sir Tho. Maitland dismissed them from the islands. At another time no less than 6000 persons from Acarnania threw themselves into the Ionian islands; and, notwithstanding this violation of the quarantine law, as well as of the neutrality we professed, Sir Frederick Adam not only received them, but made immediate preparations for their residence, until the threatened danger was past, when they were sent back to their own country. The brave and hardy Suliots, when pressed by a large Turkish force, prayed to be admitted into the Ionian islands, as the only chance of preserving themselves, their wives, and their children; ships were accordingly sent for the purpose, and, notwithstanding the great risk of the plague, which is generally prevalent in Albania, they were received into Cefalonia.
Such is the neutrality we have observed in favour of the Turks! In order, however, to give some colour to these unfounded assertions, the calumniators of the Ionian and the British governments have selected a case on which peculiar stress is laid. We are glad of this, for when they condescend to particulars, we find no difficulty in exposing their falsehood and malevolence. The case is that of a family of the name of Perouka, or Birouka, which is said to have been seized by the Turks when on their voyage from Ithaca, from which place they were driven by order of the Ionian government. Such an occurrence, and the name of such a family, was first heard of at Corfu, from a London newspaper, and an inquiry was immediately instituted as to the fact, when it was learnt, from one of the Levant consuls, that this family was one of the Moreot insurgents, who had fled to
Ithaca, Ithaca, where they were allowed to remain six months; that they proceeded from thence to Messalongi, where they remained five months; that in going from thence, of their own free will, to the Morea, they fell in with, and were taken by, an Algerine cruizer— the contrivance, no doubt, of Sir Thomas Maitland! But the propagators of the falsehood do not tell us, what however is the fact, that Captain Hamilton, of the Cambrian frigate, on hearing that a Greek family had been carried by the Algerines to Alexandria, made a peremptory demand for their restitution, and obtained it, on the debateable ground that they were on board a vessel bearing the Ionian flag; and the said family, which we are left to suppose had been butchered by the Turks through the inhumanity of a British governor, is now living in Zante, under British protection.
Thus every circumstance which has furnished matter for abuse and vituperation, has turned out on examination to be directly the reverse of what has been circulated through Europe; and so far from any disposition to deal harshly or unfairly by the Greeks, the path of humanity has invariably been smoothed in their favour, even at the expense of violating that neutrality which the government professed and wished to observe. The Turkish authorities on the spot, and the Ottoman government at Constantinople, could not be blind to these facts; and made many grievous complaints that the Ionian islands were places of refuge and protection for the persons and property, the wives and children, of their rebellious subjects. Far from blaming Sir Thomas Maitland, or those under him, for what has been done on this score, it appears to us that, considering the difficult situation in which he was placed, he has, on all occasions, acted as fairly and as impartially between the two parties as circumstances would admit—ready to interpose his good offices wherever common humanity required. And the members of the Greek provisional government, sanguine as their hopes at first were that Great Britain would give them actual assistance, have never been bold enough to deny that her neutrality, as far as regarded them, was observed with the utmost fairness.
Having stated thus much, let us for a moment inquire what has been the conduct of the two contending parties towards the Ionian government. The Turks in general have manifested the utmost deference towards the British and Ionian flags; whilst, on the part of the Greeks, there is no end to the acts of petty piracy and robbery which our cruizers have been compelled to redress, and ■which, to the credit of the officers of the navy, they have effected with great temper, and without firing a single shot in anger. We shall mention but two instances which come within our own
knowledge, knowledge, of the bad conduct of the Greeks; but they Suffice to show the spirit in which they act. In March, I8'22, the Greek fleet, being off Santa Maura, landed several armed men, who drove away the shepherds and carried off" the flocks of the natives, which was not only an insult and violation of territory, but also of the sanitary laws.
The other instance is that of a Turkish brig of war taking shelter in a bay of Zante, after fighting her way through sixteen or seventeen Greek cruizers. The whole of the population of the neighbouring villages had assembled, to witness this engagement, with upwards of a thousand refugees from the Morea; and being all armed, according to custom, they attacked the King's troops, consisting of a small detachment of an officer and twenty men, sent by Colonel Duffy to ensure the observance of the sanitary laws, and to conduct the surviving Turks to the lazaretto. In marching them to this spot, the populace, amounting nearly to 5000, at the instigation of the Moreots, fell upon this little band of British soldiers, who, notwithstanding, fulfilled the duties of humanity by rescuing fifty-seven Turks from the wreck, and conveying them safely to the lazaretto. Yet these Moreots, in return for the hospitality they had received, renewed their attack at night, carried off an unfortunate soldier, and committed the most atrocious barbarities on the dead body. Would it be credited, that this simple transaction has been converted into a large military force sent by Sir Thomas Maitland for the purpose of assisting the Turks against the Greeks?
This affair determined Sir Thomas Maitland instantly to carry into execution a measure which, from the first, he had resolved oil —that of disarming the population of the Ionian islands. These people had been in the habit of going about armed to the very throat in all the ordinary occupations of life, the consequence of which was that murders were almost daily committed. To get rid of this barbarous custom, and to organize a permanent national militia, it was therefore ordered that all arms should be taken out of the hands of the general mass, and restored to those who really possessed landed property in the islands; and this measurd, which neither the Russians nor the French, desirous as they were of carrying it into effect, could ever succeed in, and whose partial attempts always raised commotions, was accomplished in a few days throughout the islands, without the interference of the military, and without the least disturbance, or displeasure.
To show that our conduct has been guided solely by the dictates of humanity between the two contending parties, we may mention that Captain Hamilton received 300 Greeks on board
his his ship at Smyrna, and saved them from being massacred; and, actuated by the same generous and humane motives, rescued the unfortunate Turks who were compelled to surrender the fortress of Napoli di Romania, having received on board his own ship no less than 480 men, women and children, and taken hostages for the remainder sent away in Greek vessels ;* an act no less beneficial to the Greeks themselves than to the immediate objects of his protection, by having prevented them from adding to the indignation and horror excited by their conduct at Tripolizza, Athens and some other places.
There is not a doubt, but for his timely arrival, that the whole population would have been butchered; as a vast multitude of JVIoreots anxious for plunder, and people from Argos thirsting afteit revenge for relations killed during the siege, were waiting to force their way into the town the moment it became dark. The Turkish pasha exhibited a noble trait of heroism: he refused to quit the place until the last of his people should have left it, and only requested that Captain Hamilton would represent to his master the defence he had made of the fortress; that he and his garrison had for some time subsisted on the remains of their unfortunate' companions, two-thirds of whom had died. This brave man, it afterwards appeared, had refused to sign the capitulation, and remained behind to meet the fate which awaited him, and which could not be doubtful.
When, therefore, we hear of the atrocities committed by the Turks at Scio, which are industriously circulated through a thousand channels, we must not suppose that they are the only butchers in this barbarous warfare. It is the universal opinion of our best informed naval officers, who have seen much of both contending parties, that they are nearly alike blameable in this respect, but that, if there be a shade of difference, it is in favour of the Turks. We beg to be understood that, in making these statements, we are influenced by no unfriendly feeling towards the unfortunate Greeks, and that we make them solely for the sake of truth. We are well aware that their prevailing vices are those which characterize slaves in every part of the globe; and the Greeks can only be expected to relinquish them, when they shall have escaped from the galling fetters in which they have been bound for so many centuries.
If, as is not impossible, we should eventually be called upon to go a step beyond what we have hitherto done in order to mitigate the severity of a strict neutrality, in favour of these unfortunate people, and in support of those principles of humanity
* We can vouch for the truth of this, which we were not aware of when the Article in our last Number,—on the-* Cause of the Greeks,' was printed off. •
for for which Great Britain has ever been distinguished among nations, we are confident that no calculations of policy will prevent the Ionian authorities from lending them a helping hand, when it can be done with safety and propriety; and that no endeavours will be wanting to soften, by every fair means, the bitterness of that fate which must inevitably attend them when they can no longer sustain the present contest. It will then be the pleasing duty of the Ionian government not to consider them in the light of belligerents or insurgents, but as mere fellowcreatures, who, whatever their conduct may have been, demand our commiseration and every possible relief that we can afford them. That the government has not been unmindful of this probable issue, nor neglected to provide for it, would appear by their having appropriated the island of Calamos, a dependency of the Seven Islands, as an asylum for the Greeks when pressed by actual danger, on which they are permitted to land at once, without performing the usual quarantine, and where there are actually, at this time, numbers of these unfortunate refugees residing, many of whom will no doubt ultimately become subjects of the Ionian government.
If, on the other hand, the Greeks should be fortunate enough to bring the contest to a successful issue, or should be contented with the Morea, the two naval islands of Hydra and Spezzia and some others which they possess, and make their peace, on the condition of holding them in independence, the proximity of the Ionian Islands would afford them constant opportunities of witnessing the happy effects arising out of a sound practical representative government, and teach them to despise the theoretical and delusive doctrines of a set of itinerant constitution-mongers, whose only object is to create confusion in order that they may profit by it. For we shall now show that, in spite of the misgovernment on one hand, and the exertions of the patriots on the other, and of the ' tyranny and oppression under which the poor Ionians are groaning,' that they consider themselves to be happy, prosperous and free. After so many changes of constitutions and governments, they doubly feel the value of one that is steady in its proceedings and regulations, to which, after a trial of eight years, they are not only perfectly reconciled, but express themselves grateful for the benefits it has conferred on them. These benefits will be more extensively felt and understood when that article in the Constitutional Charter shall be carried into full effect, which provides that the sole recognized language for all official proceedings shall be Greek, and the only other language, in copies and translations, that of the protecting power. By this regulation they will not