Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/148

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

142

THE HELLENIC FACTOR IN THE EASTERN PROBLEM.

Lord Russell proposed, and his cabinet promptly agreed, to make arrangements for the surrender of the protectorate, and the incorporation of the seven islands with the continental state. This was a practical witness to the judgment passed by that cabinet, and especially of Lord Palmerston and Lord Russell, on the hopefulness of the future for Greece. Had they not had confidence in her prospects, they could not have deemed it wise and right to promote the transfer of the Ionian population from British protection to the rule of the young king.

But this was not all. It is within my knowledge that they were most desirous, even at that late period, to retrieve the error committed at the inception of the Hellenic State by the deplorable restriction of its territory. In no spirit of unfriendliness to the Porte, they wished for the assignment of Thessaly and Epiros to Greece, subject to the conditions of sovereignty and tribute, Our own surrender of the protectorate gave us, in a measure, occasion to consider what arrangements might be most conducive to the general tranquillity of the East. Happy would it have been for all concerned if these opinions could have taken practical effect. But even with governments the most advanced in civilization, the standard of wisdom as to territorial questions is not uniformly high. As gold for individuals, so land has for States, a meretricious fascination.

Nothing could at that time have been gained by a public discussion of the subject. Indeed, it would have been ungenerous to Turkey, then, as was still hoped, seriously engaged in giving effect to the reforms she had so solemnly promised in 1856, to disturb the slumbering Eastern question by mooting a plan of which a refusal, if made known, would have placed her in an invidious position. The position is now wholly different. She has herself trodden under foot those promises, bought from her with such an effusion of Western blood and treasure. She has completely liberated for free discussion both friends and foes, and also such as, disclaiming either enmity or admiration, believe that her best chance of continuing to hold a position in Europe depends upon the speedy adoption of large and liberal arrangements for the virtual self-management of internal affairs in some or all of her European provinces. But I deem it also important to redeem, during the lifetime of his fellow-laborer, Earl Russell, the memory of Lord Palmerston from the wrong done it by those, who believe or argue that, if now alive, he would have been found to plead the obligation of maintaining the integrity of the Ottoman power as paramount to the duty of granting to her afflicted subjects simple, broad, and effective guarantees for their personal and civil liberties.

Mr. Finlay, publishing in 1861 the "History of the Greek Revolution," has complained that the progress of the country in industry and population had not then answered to the expectations formed of it. But he has nowhere uttered a word to imply that its emancipation was other than a great good conferred upon the Hellenic race, as well as a gain for Europe by the extinction of a flaming element of discord. I have adverted at various points to the faults, in Greece and out of it, which have restricted, but not destroyed, the fruits of the Canning policy. Yet let us not conceal from ourselves, that real and most important progress has, after all, been achieved.

At the time of the revolution, not only did the whole dominant class, or rather the collected fragments of a dominant class, present, as their leading features, weakness, selfishness, and venality, but the people was partially barbarized, both by servitude, and by the professions of the pirate and clepht; so that the war which they waged was terribly defaced by acts of cruelty. But the revolutions which they made, and justly made, in 1843 and in 1862, did them honor by their freedom from the taint of blood. Greece, internally considered, is now an element, not of disturbance, but of stability, in the Levant. As the country does not molest Europe, so the people, always sound at heart, do not molest the government; but obey the laws, which, indeed, are borne better, perhaps, than they deserve. The evil of transitory ministries and shifting majorities is but a secondary symptom; and has often found its parallel in our own substantially well-governed, and always orderly, Australian colonies. Brigandage has, indeed, been greatly favored both by the nature of the country, and by the strong countenance it received from traditions anterior to the revolution, when it wore the guise of patriotism. But it had long since become occasional and limited, at the time when England was shocked and harrowed by a deplorable but single outrage, of a kind from which Italy has been but lately purged, and Sicily, we must fear, is not yet purged altogether. The venality, unblushing and almost uni-