Imágenes de página

soil. Accordingly the progress of Servia has been rapid. Institutions have been framed, peculiar in their character, but adapted to the manners of the people; the revenue is flourishing; the government is popular; and this province forms the strongest contrast to the general condition of the Empire. Possibly there may be in Servia the nucleus of an independent Christian state, for although the people are strongly hostile to the slightest approximation to Turkey, and would declare in favour of Russia if pressed to take part in this war, yet they are no servile adherents of Russia ; and the views of the leading Servians are much more directed to an extension of their own political rights over the neighbouring territories. In these provinces the same idea, under the name of the Illyrian kingdom, has been most earnestly propagated, and the elements of a revolution, or declaration of independence, exist there, alike opposed to Russian ascendancy and to Turkish authority.

These races, however, inhabit the least civilised portion of this quarter of the globe. They have frequently displayed their hereditary valour in the ranks of the imperial armies, and under different standards, but many centuries have passed away since their national existence was absorbed in the torrent of Mahomedan conquest, and they have yet to reconquer a place in the civilised world. Not so the Greeks. In spite of centuries of servitude and persecution, in spite of the oppression which has too often degraded them into the tools and sycophants of their masters, in spite of the vices which bad government has added to their natural failings, they remain, beyond all comparison, the most intelligent, enterprising, and energetic people of Eastern Europe, and they are hourly becoming more impatient for emancipation and independence. Thirty years have not yet elapsed since the sudden uprising of the Greek race filled the world with astonishment and enthusiasm. The most adventurous of our soldiers joined the Christian colours ; the most romantic of our poets wrote and died in their cause; and the heroic achievements of that band of patriots burst at last through all the obstacles of a Tory government and the Holy Alliance; the Greek revolution was recognised by Europe, - Europe declared that Greece should be free. When that memorable decision was taken the fate of the East of Europe was decided, and no subsequent wavering of policy will reverse the decree. It is true that on both sides much has occurred to shake the faith of Europe, and especially of this country, in the Greek cause. We ourselves are not the least culpable parties. We concurred in the selection of an incapable prince, foreign alike to the creed and the manners of the people; we surrounded his boyhood with

a regency of Bavarian councillors who quarrelled from the day they set foot at Nauplia; we encumbered his finances with a loan, small part of which was spent for the benefit of Greece; we narrowed the frontiers of the new kingdom so as to exclude from it many of the most famous and gallant champions of the national cause, such as Samos, Chio, and Suli, and to reduce its resources to the smallest limits. Having done all this, Athens has ever since been made the scene of contemptible intrigues between the three Powers, in which our envoys have not always played a conciliatory part. On the other hand, the conduct of the Greeks has frequently been unwise, sometimes scandalous. The Court has given its confidence to what is least honourable in the country; and the state of the kingdom of Greece is far below what it ought to be — below even the condition of some of the Greek islands still under the Turkish dominion.

But this temporary and partial failure of an experiment of twenty years, – a short fraction of time in the annals of a people which dates from Cecrops, --is a mere speck on the general question. The Greeks themselves, both within the frontiers of the kingdom and beyond it, think of King Otho and his court as we do, but they do not consider him as any permanent obstacle to their progress. At present the chief indication of that progress is their astonishing aptitude for commerce. Throughout the Levant an incredible activity prevails among the Greek traders. Towns have sprung up on islands depopulated by the war, vessels are built, large firms are established, and the entire business of the Levant is in their hands. Not content with these undertakings, they have thrown out their branches to the ends of the earth, with an energy which we can only compare to that of our fellow-countrymen in this portion of the island. More than sixty Greek houses now in London form a commercial colony of the first importance, which has possessed itself of the whole trade of the Levant, and of four-fifths of the foreign corn trade of England; and in spite of the equivocal character attached to the Greeks in the East, where every man lives more or less by plunder or fraud, it is worthy of remark that on English soil these houses have established a high character for honesty, and not one of them, we believe, has been wanting to its engagements. From London they have advanced to Manchester for their supplies of cotton goods; and, more recently, to Rio Janeiro, Calcutta, and Australia. Similar colonies have been formed at Marseilles, Trieste, and Odessa; and the operations of these houses, all retaining some connexion with Greece, are becoming an important element in the commerce of the world. What will occur in the next generation, when the sons of these merchants find themselves already rich by the labours of their family, educated in the arts and liberties of the West, yet attached by their lineage and their ambition to their Greek country? Already the monied resources of this class of Greeks furnish resources, not illiberally provided, for the future struggles of their country, since they are the only people of the East (except the Jews) who can be said to have wealth at their command. Nor are they deficient in the strongest feelings of patriotism. Not one of them looks with indifference to the time when the Christian races of the East will be free, and the Christian Church of the East mistress of her ancient domain. At this time, especially, throughout the Greek population of those lands, and amongst their countrymen all over the world, there is a deep-rooted conviction that the day of their great struggle and final victory is at hand. As opposed to the Turks, the hereditary enemies of their faith and their nation, the wishes of the Greeks are, we believe, almost to a man, with the Russians in the present contest. But it must not be imagined on that account that they are the more disposed to exchange the yoke of Turkey for that of Russia, or to accept any condition but that of national independence. Their commercial interests, based on freedom of trade, — their maritime pursuits, which connect them with the Western Powers, -- their Church government, which will never submit to recognise the supremacy of the Russian Synod, -and their geographical position, always accessible to the fleets and forces of England and France, are causes that sever them from the dominion of Russia; and we confidently affirm that no means of government Russia has yet exbibited to the world would retain her authority over the Greek people. Their own energy and the interests of the Western Powers will secure their independence; but not all the counsels and remonstrances of the allied powers will suffice to prolong their subjection to Turkey ; and the first opportunity afforded by a reverse of the Ottoman armies will probably be responded to from the Acroceraunian mountains to the Archipelago, by a people who have shown before this how they can fight for their freedom.

There is yet another characteristic of the modern Greeks, interesting at once from its analogy to their past history and as an indication of their rapid improvement. They are the only people of the Levant who attach a lively importance to education. We have seen that the attempts to instruct the Turks in the acquirements, the arts, and the military exercises of Europe end as they began, by the forced labours of a few im

ported masters and the superficial distinction of a few reluctant scholars. The Slavonian provinces are comparatively barbarous, or tinged only with the morality of French novels and the politics of French communism. But in Greece education is a passion in almost all ranks of society. The primary schools are excellent, and assiduously frequented. The university of Athens is already in possession of a distinguished body of professors. The Greek language is spoken and written with far greater purity and elegance than it was twenty years ago; the use of foreign corruptions is viewed with scorn by educated Greeks; and the original language of Homer and the New Testament may be said to be the basis of the instruction of this people. There are examples in Athens of peasants who have come in from the fields to take domestic service in the city without wages, asking no remuneration but leave to attend a school two hours a day. King Otho's government has done little or nothing to promote or assist this laudable enthusiasm, and amongst the favourites of the Court, and even the Ministers of the Crown, there are still men who can scarcely write their names. But in this, as in other respects, the government is a libel on the country, and it is easy to foresee what must be the ultimate consequence of this ardour of intelligence and this feverish activity of the Greek character, when opposed to races sunk in total apathy, and degraded by profound ignorance. It is doubtless in the interest of the Christian population of the East to check as far as possible any premature attempt to secure their emancipation, which might, if it failed, defeat the progress of measures calculated to improve their condition by pacific means. Indeed, the happiest solution of the Eastern question would be the gradual transformation of the Ottoman Émpire by the concession of equal rights to the Christians, until, to use the expression of a Prussian diplomatist, • Il ne resterait • plus qu'au Grand Seigneur de se faire Chrétien.' But the Turks are too well aware of their own inferiority in every particular except that of military force to place their ascendancy at the mercy of their Christian subjects. The Rayahs subjects are still too much exposed to every species of oppression and insult to endure this yoke one hour after they think they can shake it off. Habits of toleration and decrees of equality are a dead letter beyond the diameter of the capital; and we venture to affirm that more acts of cruelty and extortion are still perpetrated in the Turkish Empire than in all those countries of Europe which habitually inspire us with the strongest commiseration. Within the last ten years wholesale massacres of Christians have taken place in

Tarticular except thof their Christian to every specialiter they

Asia Minor. The slave-trade is still carried on upon a large scale, in spite of the prohibition of it by law; for the menial servants of Constantinople are negroes imported from Northern Africa, and the white slave-trade in Circassian girls still flourishes amongst the crimps and panders of Tophana. Nay, even the domestic hearth of the Greek subjects of Turkey cannot secure their daughters from the last insults, and many

Greek coure their hearth of the panders Orcassian girlofthern

The Bahes all the tion to Islamihat creeds renounced ptivity of

the Harem under the pretence that she has renounced the faith of her fathers, and embraced that creed which dooms her to perdition. A conversion to Islamism, whether forced or voluntary, extinguishes all the ties of nature itself.

The safety and the policy of all Europe require a barrier against Russia; and it is a maxim of permanent interest to the British Empire that she should not extend her territorial jurisdiction over the East, or acquire a maritime power continually threatening the Mediterranean states and the road to India. But of what materials is that barrier to be composed? Can we expect that any permanent resistance to one of the first military empires of the world will be offered by a state with an anomalous and corrupt government, a declining population, exhausted finances, and a half-organised army? The barrier against the encroachments and ambition of Russia or any other Power must undoubtedly be raised on the soil now possessed by the Turks, but it will never be secure until it be defended by a fresh, vigorous, and intelligent people. For, we repeat, the Christian populations of the East have no intention to change one oppressive form of government for another; and though they may borrow the aid of the Russians to shake off the yoke of the Turks, they are not more disposed to be the subjects of the Czar than of the Sultan. It is a common error to suppose that the analogy which exists between the Church of Russia and the Churches of the East is a powerful bond between these communities and

armyning populatican anoma Pires of the manent resis the com

ing the protectorate of Greek subjects of the Porte, as a right due to the ancient solicitude of the Czars for the whole Eastern Church, attempted to give weight to this delusion. But nothing can be further from the truth. The strongest characteristic of the Eastern Churches is their national spirit, in which they resemble our own; but they differ from the Church of England by the entire independence of their ecclesiastical authority, as exercised by the Patriarchs and Synods of Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, to which must now be added the Synod of Athens. These Churches assert,


« AnteriorContinuar »