« AnteriorContinuar »
energetie dispositions of Colonel Kalergis, was that of Hellenic nationality or citizenship.
The sittings continued to be stormy; and, by some intrigue of the Moreotes, a most illiberal decision was finally adopted. Thus the new constitution excluded from public service all Greeks who were not born within the narrow limits of the present pigmy kingdom of Hellas !-although by far the greater part of men of talent and education were Heterochtones, or Greeks, from other parts without the frontiers, from Turkey, Russia or Austria, who had hurried to liberated Greece either during the war of independence or after its termination, in order to take their part in the reorganization of that distracted country. Nearly all the lawyers, physicians and literary men belonged to this class; and twenty professors of the Othonian University, at Athens, were, according to this unjust article of the constitution, to be dismissed from their chairs, while only one Greek professor out of the whole number happened to be a a born Moreote, and consequently an Autochton, or native of Greece. Such a regulation would have been the ruin of the newly-established university, and of the excellent organization of the tribunals of the kingdom, which, with so great care and discrimination, had been instituted by Chevalier de Maurer. The ingratitude and narrow-minded egotism of such a law in a country, which had the greatest need of the joint effort of all her educated and intelligent sons to make a stand gainst the barbarity and ignorance of the lawless warriors and bigoted clergy, was felt by every impartial man; and yet the violent party-spirit of the time got the better, and the law passed by the joint majority of the numerous deputies from the Morea. All Greeks who were not born in the kingdom, and all foreign Philhellenes who had arrived in Greece later than the battle of Petra, on the Copaic Lake in Bæotia, in 1828, were to be considered as having no pretensions to be provided for by the state. They were to give up their offices to native Greeks and be dimissed from the public service. Yet the pernicious effects of this decree were in part neutralized by the remarkable amendment of the brave General Theodoros Grivas, from Acar
nania. He suddenly rose, and, in a simple and pithy discourse, proposed that men of science and literature, as well as artists, should be excepted from that sweeping law. This amendment touched the better feelings of the Greeks ; it was received with acclamation ; it saved the honor of the national assembly, and prevented the ruin of the literary establishments of the young kingdom. The statute of nationality thus in the practice became circumscribed to the military and the ministerial departments, while several foreign literary men and artists were replaced in their offices during the subsequent liberal ministry of Kolettis.
During the whole period of the debates on the constitution, Athens remained in a continual state of alarm. Colonel Kalergis and the Athenian garrison were day and night engaged in putting down boisterous assemblies or seditious demonstrations, and succeeded, by their discipline and vigilance, to secure the safety of the royal family and the capital. Bands of robbers, descending from the mountains, committed depredations on the frontiers, and were with some difficulty dispersed and driven back into Turkey. Four line-of-battle ships, British and French, with several steam.frigates, were anchored within the port of the Piræus, ready on the first signal to land a strong body of marines and sailors, with eighteen field-pieces, for the support of the king and government at Athens. But the thunderstorm passed over.
On the 30th of March, 1844, the king accepted, and swore to the constitution. The Constituent Assembly had thus happily terminated its labors to the satisfaction of the throne and the people. Its session had lasted four months, from November 20, 1843, to March 30, 1844, and may, upon the whole, be considered as highly honorable to Greece. The first excitement of the insurrection in September having died away, and the irregularly elected deputies been ejected, the discussions of the Chamber became more quiet, and were mostly circumscribed to the leading points of the constitution itself. Men of such talents as Kolettis, Trikoupis and Mavrokordatos therefore succeeded in introducing order and regularity. Many of the Greek deputies, though
illiterate, and unprepared for public oratory, soon began to form themselves into eloquent speakers by the natural pliancy and versatility of their genius. The ease and self-possession with which the mountaineers then would arise and speak some few words to the point, did not fail to strike the foreign embassadors present with astonishment and admiration. If, therefore, we compare the Greek Constituent Assembly of 1843– 244, with those which afterwards sprung up in Frankfort, Berlin and Vienna in 1848, and instead of establishing union, harmony and order, only tended to spread dissensions, disorder and rebellion, by their absurd revivals and their headlong encroachments on the prerogative of the executive governments, we certainly cannot but express our satisfaction with the innate tact of the Greeks, which prompted them to reject all desultory motions and dangerous firebrands which often were thrown in, and to keep up an austere and determined spirit of business, constantly directed to the main point in question—the fundamental laws of the young state. At the same time they showed their acknowledgement of the sincere intentions of King Otho; they often expressed their esteem for the personal character of the young sovereign; his remarks and proposed alterations in the constitution scheme were, with peculiar delicacy, discussed within closed doors, and the replies agreed upon the next day read over in the public sittings.
Another highly interesting subject is the astonishing progress which the modern Greek language had made. This we discover by comparing the text of the constitution of 1844 with the earlier legislations of Argos, Astros and Troczen, twenty years earlier. The former is written in a noble language, which, for terse perspicuity and accuracy of definitions, will challenge comparison with any similar document in the world.
According to the constitution of March 30, 1844, the person of the king is sacred and inviolable—his ministers being responsible ; he enjoys all the usual rights and prerogatives of constitutional monarchies.
The legislative power is exercised collectively by the king through his ministers, the chamber and the senate. All laws and regulations regarding the annual budgets, the income and expenditure of the state, &c., shall first be brought before and voted by the chamber. Both the chamber and the senate are to meet by right on the 1st (13th) of November every year, and the duration of each session will last for at least two months. The law election is liberal, but certain qualifications are required for the representatives. They are elected triennially, and their number cannot be less than eighty. They must have completed their 30th year, and receive, whilst in performance of their duties, from the public treasury 250 drachms, or 41 dollars and 75 cents, in monthly allowance during the sitting of the assembly. The king appoints senators for-life, their number is twenty-seven; but may be increased with the consent of the chamber. They must have completed their 40th year, and have distinguished themselves in the service of Greece. Their allowance is 500 drachms, or 85 dollars 25 cents per month whilst sitting. The Orthodox Church of Greece is united in its doctrinal union with the Patriarchal Church of Constantinople, but it is self-independent, or autokephalos, and exercises its supreme powers within itself, independently of the Eastern Church, and is governed by a holy synod of bishops, thus cutting short all the intrigues of the Constantinopolitan and Russian clergy, which have exercised such a pernicious influence on the Ionian Islands, and brought the English government into continual difficulties.
The press was given free, and censorship interdicted; trial by jury was retained from the earlier institutions, but extendded to all political offences, as well as to those of the press. One of the most important provisions of the constitution at that time, was the succession of the throne, which was only to be given to a Greek orthodox prince—no doubt, with the intention of excluding the Bavarian family, and making the people proclaim a Russian prince.
The ceremony itself took place in the octagonal hall of the old palace, and is described as being beautiful and touching in the highest degree. We were ourselves absent in Syria at the time, but letters from our Athenian friends describe the brilliant scene; more than 7,000 persons were crowding the hall and its avenues; the young king, with his charming Amelia, was received with enthusiastic acclamations, and when he had taken the oath of the constitution, and declared the Constituent Assembly dissolved, the members and thousands of citizens spontaneously accompanied the lovely couple back to their residence, and gave nine tremendous cheers, which rang back from the mountains. Greece had become a constitutional kingdom! So far all went on smoothly, far beyond expectation, but now the great difficulty arose at once—the practical application of the new system, at a time of great pecuniary distress, when the insurrectionary movement in the provinces, and the grasping hands of the revolutionary seven men, had deprived government of the last few thousand dollars which the Bavarian camarilla had left in the treasury.
The first legislative chamber was then elected in July. In the mean time, the greatest anxiety prevailed in Athens among all the politicians to know if the constitution really could work among the conflicting parties. The leading men, of course, were all hanging around King Otho, making low bows, and fair promises, in order to get his orders for putting together the first responsible ministry.
Otho, no doubt, sincerely wished to make the new form of government a reality ; but he had a difficult task to perform, in order to choose his ministry among men who enjoyed the confidence of the nation. By the strenuous exertions of the British embassador, Sir Edmund Lyons, the first constitutional ministry was taken from the English party, with Alexander Mavrokordatos at the head of the administration. But this triumph was short-lived ; it lasted only four months—from the 13th of April to the 17th of August, 1814. Kolettis, the most popular man in Greece, refused to support his old rival, and formed a secret coalition with Count Metaxäs of the Russian party. This strong opposition at the very outset exasperated the haughty Mavrokordatos. In order to strengthen his own administration, he, in the most arbitrary and unconstitu