Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

surrounding seas;' and Naranzi is directed, lastly, to impress on the mind of his Imperial Majesty, ' that, in short, the inhabitants of the Seven Islands, who have thus attempted to establish a republican form of government, are neither born free, nor are they instructed in any art of government, npr are they possessed of moderation so as to live peaceably under any government formed by their own countrymen.'

Nor is this all. A most deplorable picture of the wretched condition of the people of the Ionian Islands, under the Venetian, the Septinsular, and the French government is also drawn, by the president of the Primary Council and Advocate General, Calichiopulo Manzaro, in a speech delivered before the Legislative Assembly in April, 1822, (and since published,) in which he brings down historically the situation of the islands, to the moment at which they were taken under British protection. 'At that period,' he says, 'the public buildings were in a state of ruinous dilapidation, the monies voted for their repairs having gone into the pockets of those who had the charge of them;' the finances were swallowed up by the farmers of the revenue—the public treasury was so exhausted, that when Sir Thomas Maitland sent to ascertain the balance, 'his messenger returned,' says the President, 'with three pieces of copper coin, the whole of the cash remaining;' that it was, besides, burthened with considerable debts;—that the plague was raging over one-third part of the island;—that civil discord and party-spirit prevailed among all classes of citizens;—that the course of justice was corrupted;— and the public oppressed by exactions of the public functionaries, and indirect taxation ;—that the churches were neglected, and suffered to go to ruin, the church revenues plundered without distinction, and religion totally neglected ;—that criminal proceedings were of the worst description, and so arbitrary, that it was at any time in the power of the court to procure ' the escape of the guilty, the punishment of the innocent, and the sacrifice of individual liberty, honour, and fortune to private revenge.' To these lively pictures of happiness, we shall add one more, on the testimony of an English gentleman, who has resided five years on the island of Corfu.

'The morality of the Greeks has been proverbially bad, and they still retain their character for cunning and duplicity. The corruption introduced by the Venetians, in the exactions of the needy proveditori (governors) and their followers, has not a little tended to fix the demoralization of this people: the excesses committed by those gave rise to a regular system of plunder, peculation, and deceit amongst them; money was borrowed of the Jews at Venice, for the purpose of traffic by these merciless usurers: fifty per cent, was the interest exacted at

the the end of the year, and the sum remaining unpaid was doubled each succeeding year. These "affreux exces," as a French writer calls them, were denominated, prostichii; every tiling was venal, and nothing could satisfy their avidity; the hiring of assassins was sanctioned as a means of tilling their coffers. Such a system of depravity prevailing in the government of a people naturally prone to deceit, it may well be imagined, that centuries will not suffice to assimilate their morals to those of other European nations. Nothing sets in a clearer point of view the dereliction of every thing virtuous and honourable amongst them, than the total disregard to truth, in which they are brought up; they seem to take as much pains to discourage ingenuousness and candour, as a people of more elevated principle would, to detect and punish prevarication and falsehood: the probability is, that a young Greek will deceive you, even in matters of the greatest indifference; although he gains no immediate advantage by this sacrifice of candour, yet he considers that, by holding you in ignorance, he is ready to profit by his craft at some future emergency. Calumny and detraction are extremely common amongst them, nor is it at all unusual to see two persons, apparently on the most friendly terms, who, when separate, will mutually accuse each other of every thing that is base and dishonourable; but, as a just value is generally fixed upon this friendship reciprocally, neither party incurs much risk from yielding too much to the weakness of self-love: a delusion which, with a people of more simplicity, is always a dangerous tool in the hands of the designing. The means of directly prosecuting their revenge being removed by the complete extirpation of the knife and stiletto, that dreadful passion to which they are so prone, must be gratified by other means; hence the many criminal informations and prosecutions, the various perjuries and prevarications, and the never-ending disputes at law.'—Goodisson, p. 194 —197.

. Happily, the British, government lias succeeded beyond all expectation in putting an end to this vaunted 'career of prosperity and improvement.' The first step towards the accomplishment of so desirable an object, on the part of the Lord High Commissioner, immediately on his arrival at Corfu, was a recommendation to his Majesty's government to dispense with the duties of four out of the five senators, who, not being natives of the island of Corfu, could have no right, according to the Treaty of Paris, to sit in the senate of Corfu; but who, contrary to that treaty, had set up the arrogant pretension of being senators of the Ionian Islands generally; the great principle of the constitution being, that each of the large islands should be represented by one senator. There might be other reasons, but this alone would have demanded the measure which he adopted. It was to be expected, from the well known character of the Greeks for intrigue, that every kind of misrepresentation would be resorted to by the dismissed senators; and accordingly, we find

that that one of the charges brought against Sir Thomas Maitlaud is, that of having got rid of the best and most respectable persons in the islands, for his own purposes, and selected others of bad character and no consideration. Of the latter description, the foremost is 'one Emanuel Theotoky, a man versed in all the arts of intrigue, and bearing the worst character;' who, they are pleased to add,' was made president of the senate, in the place of Prince Comuto, a man of high rank, who was turned out.'

It is whimsical enough to see how little scrupulous these patriots are in deceiving each other with false information so easily to be refuted! for it happens, in the present instance, that Prince Comuto resigned, and Emanuel Theotoky (Baron Theotoky) had been appointed his successor, and continued to hold the situation under the French government, about eight years before Sir Thomas Muitland set foot in the Ionian Islands; and even before this, under the Russian government of 1807, he had been a senator of Corfu. Thus, this man,—this ' creature of Sir Thomas Maitland,—'of no family'—' of no talents,'—was employed by the Russians as a senator, was selected by the French as a chief person in the government, and is universally recognized as a person of eminent talent and tried integrity! he is besides a near relation of Prince Spiridion Theotoky, an able and highly distinguished character, who was at the head of the government during the blissful period of the ' Septinsular Republic'

We shall now bring forward one of those meritorious personages who is stated to have incurred the displeasure of Sir Thomas Maitland, and to have been dismissed from his office. His name is Vincenzo Verviziotti; he is said, by Mr. Hume, to be a justice of peace of the district of Leftimo, and his crime, according to this authentic gentleman, is that of having refused his signature to a certain paper which the above mentioned Theotoky tried to induce the people of Corfu to sign, delegating some extraordinary power or other not specified to the Lord High Commissioner. Now we have the case of this person before us: he was dismissed, after a most full and impartial inquiry, for various mal-practices, and among others, for extortion and receiving bribes, proved by his own letters produced, and read in court; but he was not a justice of peace of Leftimo; nor was there ever such a paper in existence as that which Mr. Hume says he refused to sign!

The charge next in succession is one of a very extraordinary nature. It is that of a plot, said to be contrived by Sir Thomas Maitland, against himself, with a view to intimidate the people of the Ionian Islands, and to bend them to his own views in

the the formation of the constitutional charter about to be established. There was a sort of sham plot, it is true, got up by means of a person of the name of Lepignietti, whose manoeuvres were so artfully contrived, and supported by forgeries so skilfully executed, that the persons whose hand-writing had been imitated were unable to discover which were the forged and which were die real signatures. Mr. Goodisson says,

'One of the most extraordinary and artful impositions ever attempted to be practised upon a government, was by a young Greek under twenty years of age, in 1817; he contrived to put all the wheels of government in motion, and to have a number of the most respectable inhabitants of Corfu apprehended, under a suspicion of conspiracy against the state. Amongst his intended victims was his uncle, to whom the monster had been indebted for his maintenance and education when an orphan. With the assistance of an accomplice he forged letters and proclamations, purporting to be of a treasonable nature, between the individuals accused; letters were found in the possession of several, which they could not account for; one man particularly was pointed out as having a treasonable paper in a certain book in his library, which was actually found. A pretended plot was disclosed to the agents of government, by which it was intended, that the citadel of Corfu was to have been attacked and taken possession of during the absence of the regiment which garrisoned it; for at that season it was customary to march out the corps alternately for exercise into the country: the march was countermanded, and the soldiers were absolutely kept under arms, until the ominous hour of attack was passed. The whole proved to be a fabrication, most ingeniously contrived, and a ludicrous story of the conspiracy appeared afterwards in the Paris papers.'—pp. 197, 198.

Ludicrous however as it might be, and contemptibly absurd as the notable discovery is, of a man plotting against himself, it became in Mr. Hume's hands the subject of a grave and solemn charge against Sir Thomas Maitland, and was put forward as an instance of flagrant misrule in the Ionian government. This wretched man, Lepignietti, being convicted as an impostor, was sentenced to death by a regular course of law, but the Lord High Commissioner softened the sentence to that of banishment to the island of Cerigo; for which his family, (one of the first in the island,) to the present hour, has expressed, and continues to express, its deepest sense of gratitude.

But the Lord High Commissioner is accused not only of dismissing from their employments men of the first rank, talents and character, but also of appointing those of no estimation as members of the primary council, for the purpose of considering and framing the constitutional charter. In reply, we need only say, that

a very a very considerable majority of those old nobles, who had, under every government, held the highest situations in the country, were the first to be selected; that the rest were chiefly nobles of the second class, whose good character and wealth gave them the greatest weight with their fellow-countrymen. That 'military officers were appointed to preside over the electoral body,' is so notoriously false, that nothing but the old propensity to fable, or the most barefaced impudence, and a reliance on the total want of information in England, could have prompted so groundless an accusation. Of the same description is that which follows—' that the members elected for the Constituent Assembly were all friends, either of Sir Thomas Maitland's secretary, of his officers, or of his counsellors;'—that ' one who was elected, had till then occupied the post of Custade delle Prigioni, (i. e. jailor) and, on being named, did not hesitate to say, that he was unfit for the situation, as he could neither read nor write: but,' adds Mr. Hume, with a complacent smile at his own archness,' he had the merit of being the father-in-law of Sir Thomas Maitland's secretary.'

Major Nicolo Varlatno of Corfu is the person thus calumniated: he must, we believe, plead guilty to the crime of being father-inlaw of Sir Thomas Maitland's secretary; but every other part of the charge is utterly false. He never was a member of the Constituent Assembly. He subsequently became a member of the Legislative Assembly, having beat his opponent Count Barbati by 219 votes, at a public election. He never was Custode delle prigioni, but Maggiore delta Piazza, (town-major of Corfu, under the Septinsular government too,) and was afterwards promoted to the rank of major of the line in 1802, in reward for long and faithful services; and this member of the Assembly, who confessed that he could neither read nor write, is a nobleman of an ancient and respectable family of Corfu, universally honoured and beloved.

Count Anino, Prytano, or head of the local government of Cefalonia, a most respectable gentleman, is another of those against whom the shafts of calumny have been aimed. In 1802, under the Septinsular Republic, he was called from his official situation to head a military (orce against some desperate rebels, whom he defeated, taking about twenty or thirty prisoners. Among them was Count Cesare Metaxa, and a few others who had been banished the preceding year for a former rebellion; when it was declared by proclamation from the general government, signed by Count John Capo D'Istria, that' any of the persons named therein, who should be found within the territories of

VOL. xxix. No. Lvii. G the

« AnteriorContinuar »