Greek Declaration of Independence

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Greek Declaration of Independence  (1822) 
by Anastasios Polyzoidis
THE GREEK DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (1822)
(Η ΔΗΛΩΣΗ ΤΗΣ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗΣ ΑΝΕΞΑΡΤΗΣΙΑΣ (1822))



While Metternich and his allies were intervening to check reform in southern Europe, the Greeks rose against their masters and declared themselves a free and independent state. This was a source of deep sat­isfaction to the liberal parties in the West, who had suffered so many disappointments since the opening of the Congress of Vienna. A constitutional assembly was convoked in Greece, and, having completed a provisional constitution, it issued the following manifesto.]

We, descendants of the wise and noble peoples of Hellas, we who are the contemporaries of the enlightened and civil­ized nations of Europe, we who behold the advantages which they enjoy under the protection of the impenetrable aegis of the law, find it no longer possible to suffer without cowardice and self-contempt the cruel yoke of the Ottoman power which has weighed upon us for more than four centuries,- a power which does not listen to reason and knows no other law than its own will, which orders and dis­poses everything despotically and according to its caprice. After this prolonged slavery we have determined to take arms to avenge ourselves and our country against a frightful tyranny, iniquitous in its very essence, - an unexampled despotism to which no other rule can be compared.

The war which we are carrying on against the Turk is not that of a faction or the result of sedition. It is not aimed at the advantage of any single part of the Greek people; it is a national war, a holy war, a war the object of which is to reconquer the rights of individual liberty, of property and honor, - rights which the civilized people of Europe, our neighbors, enjoy to-day; rights of which the cruel and unheard-of tyranny of the Ottomans would deprive us-us alone - and the very memory of which they would stifle in our hearts.

Are we, then, less reasonable than other peoples, that we remain deprived of these rights? Are we of a nature so degraded and abject that we should be viewed as unworthy to enjoy them, condemned to remain crushed under a per­petual slavery and subjected, like beasts of burden or mere automatons, to the absurd caprice of a cruel tyrant who, like an infamous brigand, has come from distant regions to invade our borders? Nature has deeply graven these rights in the hearts of all men; laws in harmony with nature have so completely consecrated them that neither three nor four centuries - nor thousands nor millions of centuries - can destroy them. Force and violence have been able to restrict and paralyze them for a season, but force may once more resuscitate them in all the vigor which they formerly enjoyed during many centuries; nor have we ever ceased in Hellas to defend these rights by arms whenever opportu­nity offered.

Building upon the foundation of our natural rights, and desiring to assimilate ourselves to the rest of the Christians of Europe, our brethren, we have begun a war against the Turks, or rather, uniting all our isolated strength, we have formed ourselves into a single armed body, firmly resolved to attain our end, to govern ourselves by wise laws, or to be altogether annihilated, believing it to be unworthy of us, as descendants of the glorious peoples of Hellas, to live henceforth in a state of slavery fitted rather for unreasoning ani­mals than for rational beings.

Ten months have elapsed since we began this national war; the all-powerful God has succored us; although we were not adequately prepared for so great an enterprise, our arms have everywhere been victorious, despite the power­ful obstacles which we have encountered and still encounter everywhere. We have had to contend with a situation bristling with difficulties, and we are still engaged in our efforts to overcome them. It should not, therefore, appear astonishing that we were not able from the very first to proclaim our independence and take rank among the civilized peoples of the earth, marching forward side by side with them. It was impossible to occupy ourselves with our political existence before we had established our independence. We trust these reasons may justify, in the eyes of the nations, our delay, as well as console us for the anarchy in which we have found ourselves….

EPIDAURUS, January 1822: the First Year of Independence.