Слике страница

and degradation, but by those models of eloquence, poetry, statuary, and architecture, which, judging by the past, seem to have reached an elevation, which human genius is destined never to surpass. The Greece, so elevated and so venerated, has ceased to exist for more than two thousand years, save only in her books, her statues, her temples, and her history; but so long as these remain, nothing can ever despoil her of the sublime attributes of greatness. Nay, were she annihilated, her islands and her continent—the whole civilized world is filled with monuments, which would preserve and perpetuate her glory. The sentiment, therefore, which creates this deep sympathy in the struggles of the descendants of such a race, is natural and praiseworthy, so far as it originates in this generous admiration of intellectual superiority.

Associated with this reverence for an illustrious antiquity, is another feeling, equally dignified and disinterested. The people, may we not say the philosophers and more enlightened classes, in all parts of Europe, begin to feel a strong sympathy in the struggles of nations for the attainment of freedom. They view, with anxious solicitude, the sacrifices and the triumphs of the oppressed, and rejoice in the humiliation and discomfiture of the oppressor, as if recognising, in these examples, the probability of future benefits to themselves. This sentiment is gaining, every day, additional force and power, insomuch that the wary instinct of absolute sovereigns begins to do it an indirect homage, by seeking, in redressing wrongs abroad, impunity for inflicting them at home. The general and growing sentiment in favour of freedom, is exemplified in the anxious solicitude manifested by the different nations of Europe, and by the people of the United States, in the successful issue of the Greek contest.

A third, and perhaps still more powerful principle, is in operation, to strengthen our veneration for antiquity, and our ardour for freedom. We mean religious antipathy. The Greeks are Christians, the Turks Mahometans. The sentiment which originated the crusades, and precipitated Europe upon Asiawhich deluged Egypt, Syria, and Palestine with blood, and gave rise to deeds of valour and examples of disinterested sacrifice, almost without a parallel, is not yet extinguished. The Turk still calls the Christian a dog; and the Christian imbibes, with his earliest lessons of history and fiction, the idea of Turkish barbarity and despotism. At one period, Asia bled and trembled under the foot of Europe ; at another, Europe narrowly escaped the malignant influence of the baleful Crescent. The battle of Aquitaine and the sword of Charles Martel possibly decided whether the Christian or the Mahometan religion should prevail in Europe. Since that period, frequent and bloody wars have been waged between the Cross and the Crescent, and waged, too,


The Greeks and Turks.



without much regard to those humane maxims, which prevail among people of the same faith, and who profess allegiance to the laws of nations. The Turks inflicted the most rigorous slavery on their prisoners, and only spared their lives in the anticipation of their services or their ransom. The Christians retaliated, by similar or perhaps more severe treatment of the Mussulmen; and thus religious antipathy, mutual hatred, mutual fears, and mutual injuries, inflicted and endured for a succession of

all bined to engender and perpetuate a feeling of most bitter hostility on both sides. They are the two most powerful sects of the earth; they have disputed the political and religious empire of the world with each other; their respective creeds more nearly approximate in fundamental principles, than those of any two sects of equal power and numbers, and the natural result is what it ever has been, and, we fear, ever will be, in this world.


When we consider that principles of such universal force and operation combine to inspire a sympathy in favour of one party, and an antipathy to the other, it is no longer to be wondered at, that a struggle, in a remote region, between two nations with which we have scarcely any intercourse, and with whose interests we have no immediate concern, should have so strongly excited the feelings of Europe, and of the people of the United States. The same causes have produced that confused and contradictory mass of reports, letters, travels, and memoirs, in which truth and falsehood are so dovetailed into each other, that to this day, in the seventh year of the struggle, we remain in a great measure as ignorant of the real state of things, as at the moment of its commencement. The generous enthusiasts, from different Christian countries, who went to lend a helping hand to the cause of freedom, in their zeal to excite the sympathy of the world, or perhaps deceived by the ardour of their own hopes, have too often given a brilliant colouring to triling successes of the Greeks, and exaggerated the disasters of their proud oppressors. There is also reason to believe, that the same persons have either been mistaken themselves, or wilfully shut their eyes to the disunion, the jealousies, and antipathies, religious, interested, and political, subsisting between the different leaders of the Greeks, and the total absence not only of all regular co-operation, but of the power to enforce, and the disposition to adopt, a system either civil or military.

Others, on the contrary, finding their expectations of employment, influence, or success, thwarted and disappointed, have taken the opposite extreme; and, perhaps, nay, too certainly, represented the cause and its supporters, in colours which they did not deserve. Indeed, almost all that has been written of Greece, since the commencement of her struggles with the Ottoman, ought to be taken with great allowance, as receiving its colouring

from sympathy, passion, or prejudice. Of the religion, character, manners, modes of life, agriculture, arts and commerce of the Greeks, we know as little, nay, perhaps less, exactly, than we did before their struggles for independence began to excite our attention. At this moment, when so much has been written on the subject, whoever wishes for a picture of Greece and its people, must resort to Tournefort, Dapper, and De Guys, or to travellers who have only repeated after them. In questions which agitate the passions or interests of mankind, nothing is so desirable, and nothing so difficult to attain, as truth. It is seeking in the dark for a treasure, which, even when found, eludes detection. We put our hands upon it, but cannot be sure that it is within our grasp; and it is only when we bring it to the test of the light, that we know we have found the object of our search. It is our intention, in this article, to enter upon a summary and temperate inquiry, with a view to place before the reader, such facts as may enable him to judge for himself. There will be nothing new in these ; but it is often more salutary to recall the recollection of old truths, than to inculcate new opinions. It is now more than twenty-five hundred years, since Greece lost her independence, and with it those free institutions which contributed so much to that intellectual superiority she had so long maintained over the nations of antiquity. The dominion of Macedonia, was shortly followed by that of Rome, founded on the destruction of the celebrated Achæan League. On the division of the empire; Greece followed the fortunes of the eastern Emperors; and the taking of Constantinople, by Mahomet the second, in 1453, led the way to the iron yoke of Turkish despotism, which, with the exception of some few short intervals, has ever since been on her neck. In the subsequent wars between the Cross and the Crescent, the Genoese succeeded in establishing themselves, for a time, in some parts of Greece and Asia Minor; and the Venetians obtained possession of some of the islands, which gave the title of Duke of the Archipelago to a Venetian family. During the ages of chivalry, Greece was the scene where the enterprising adventurers often made war against the Turks, on their own account, and not unfrequently succeeded in establishing little independent states. The crusaders also, on their way to the Holy Land, took occasion to wrest Cyprus, and some other islands, from the hands of their oppressors; and the romances of chivalry are full of princes and dukes, taking their titles from the different states and isles of Greece. It was here, too, that the Knights of Rhodes, of the Teutonic order, and of St. John, displayed their heroic valour and invincible fortitude, in sustaining attacks and sieges, to which the history of succeeding times affords no parallel. But these fitful struggles, ended at last in the establishment of the Turkish despotism, which has now subsisted, without interruption, for centuries, VOL. III.-.NO. 5,


That freedom is the great nurse of manly virtues and intelleetual excellence, is verified by all experience. Almost every characteristic that ennobles our nature, may be traced to the freedom of the will, exercised under the salutary restraints of good laws, and an enlightened religion. Without this, there is no room for the display of manly and heroic virtues, since to coerce a man into a good deed, or a great action, is to convert him into the beast of burthen, who performs his daily duties under the bridle, the yoke, and the lash. A people subjected to a severe, jealous, prying, and petty despotism, ever under the eye of the oppressor, must necessarily, so long as they submit to this, adopt habits of thinking and acting, more or less debasing to the character of man. If they cannot oppose or disobey, they will resort to deception, falsehood, trickery, and all those lesser, meaner vices, which every where degrade the character of the slave. Necessity imposes the law in this case, and it is scarcely possible, in the nature of things, or in the nature of man, to bear up for any great length of time, against the debasing effects of slavery.

The weight of the Macedonian and Roman sceptres, was comparatively light, and lasted no great time. The latter, such was the reverence in which the Romans held the Greeks, voluntarily relinquished their authority, and, by a solemn public act, declared that Greece was free. Yet, we do not find that the Greeks ever again attained to their former bright eminence; whether it was that they had degenerated, previously to the loss of liberty, or that the loss of liberty had produced degeneracy. Historians agree, in combining the influence of both these causes. But no Christian, no enlightened nation, according to our ideas of civilization, religion, manners, morals, and literature, can long abide the despotic, stern, inflexible bigotry of Turkish sway, without feeling its effects in the degradation of character. The Turks despise the Greeks, as conquerors, and hate them as Christians. Every species of oppression is heaped upon them, at the pleasure of arbitrary, needy, and avaricious bashaws, or meaner dignitaries; and, as if these were not sufficient, every external insult, and every mark of contempt, are added with wanton exuberance. Speaking of the island of Naxos, which, having no port, is seldom visited by the Turks, Tournefort says, that, notwithstanding, “upon the arrival of the meanest commander of a galliot, neither Latins nor Greeks dare appear, but in red caps, like common galley slaves, humbling themselves before the pettiest officers.” One of the least reprehensible, yet, at the same time, most ridiculous effects of this temporary mortification, is, “that as soon as the Turk is gone, nothing is heard but tables of genealogy ; some deducing their pedigree from the Paleologi, or Compeni, others from the most noble Venetian families.”

Centuries of enforced submission to a system of robberies,

stripes and insults, would degrade any people, however brave and enlightened, from the rank they once occupied. That it has had a most unfavourable influence on the character of the Greeks, cannot be denied. That they are not what they once were, is certain. It would be a miracle if they were. Yet some have believed in the miracle; while others have gone to the opposite extreme, and pronounced them barbarians, because they are not as of old. Both are equally wrong.

The Greeks are Christians; and the Christian faith was never the religion of barbarians. It is essentially the religion of an enlightened and civilized state of man. It addresses itself to feelings, and to a comprehension humanized and enlarged by habits of social life, and the pursuit of knowledge. A barbarian could neither comprehend its principles, nor practise its tenets, without debasing them to a level with his own ignorance. The leading principle which it inculcates, of forgiveness of injuries, could only be practised among a people, protected by a system of laws, from force and fraud. But it cannot be denied, that the effects of slavery and oppression, are strikingly visible in the superstitious observances which have crept into the service of the Greek and Latin churches, among these people. The Greeks early embraced the doctrines of Christianity, agreeably to the tenets of what has been called the Greek church. In process of time, the Latins mingled among them, and established a powerful sect, differing in some degree from the other; and looking to Rome, instead of Constantinople, for their religious Pontiff. So strong was the antipathy engendered by the variations in their respective creeds, that, in the crusade of Louis XI., it is related, that the Greek clergy washed and purified the altars, on which the Latins had administered the rites of their religion. The history of the crusades, and of the subsequent wars with the Turks, abounds in examples of this deep-rooted hatred; and we are assured, that much of the difficulty in uniting the Greeks of the present day, in a general system of resistance, and under one civil polity, originates in the long-cherished rivalry of the Greek and Latin churches. The former values itself upon its Nicene and Athanasian creeds; while the latter has more than once fulminated its sentence of excommunication against the patriarch of Constantinople. Without undertaking to decide between the two, it may be observed, that the Latin church has partaken, in some degree, in the progress of philosophy and knowledge; while the Greek church has acquired an additional taint of ignorance and superstition, in consequence of the decline of literature, and the deterioration of character sustained during a long succession of slavery and dependence. Since the reception of Christianity in the east, the Greeks have retrograded in knowledge, but the west has recovered from the ignorance of its

« ПретходнаНастави »