§ SIR HENRY LYTTON BULWER
said: I have always considered this case to be one between the Government of Greece and ourselves, on account of very peculiar circumstances which rendered that Government responsible to our own. For this reason, fully acknowledging the excellent intentions and abilities of Mr. Erskine, acknowledging also that, under the painful circumstances under which he was placed, it was almost impossible to preserve a calm and steady judgment, I have always regretted that his honourable and confiding nature allowed him to be drawn into those conversations and consultations from which the Greek Government now tries unhandsomely to draw arguments for their defence; and that he did not simply say to M. Zaïmis and his colleagues—"I hold you answerable for the lives and liberty of the British subjects who have been made prisoners. They were captured through your negligence. I know they can be delivered by means at your disposal. I do not wish to ask or name the course you will pursue; but I merely tell you that if they suffer injury you shall not escape unpunished." Had such language been 1413 held, our position would have been clear; and I am one of those who are not over scrupulous in making use of power when it is to serve the ends of justice. This course was not pursued; but I still adhere to the principles which would have made me adopt it. If we have any case against Greece, it is against the Government of Greece; and what I wish to know from Her Majesty's Government is, whether it considers that Government without reproach, or whether, if it thinks it gravely culpable, it is prepared to demand from it any specific reparation? For my own part, my opinion was formed on the first Papers that were submitted to this House. Since that time an inquiry has been going on. From that inquiry we have learned all the horrid particulars of our countrymen's massacre, all the disgusting details of the execution of three or four of the poorer and inferior bandits, and the escape of their chief, who, it would appear, had found security in the wealth which in the course of his profession he had accumulated. We have not been able to ascertain who were the mysterious strangers who visited the robbers' haunts, nor does it appear to me that we should have gained much if we had done so. In short, Sir, whilst speaking of the inquiry with considerable hesitation, because it was instituted by a statesman whose every sentence spoken or written on this subject was marked by that dignity of mind and that kindness of heart which gave such grace to his abihty—whilst saying that, if my opinion differs from his, I should be disposed to consider my opinion erroneous—I am bound to add, reserving my ultimate opinion until its close, that this inquiry, as far as it has gone, has rather tended to attract our attention to questions which more immediately concern the Greek Government and its subjects, and to withdraw it from those which more immediately concern that Government and our own. And this brings me to the case of Colonel Théagénis, whom my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Wight accused me the other evening of treating harshly and unjustly. Now, Sir, it would appear that Colonel Théagénis has a property at Thebes, that he is the father of an amiable family, and that he distinguished himself in the War of Independence. All this may be; I know no- 1414 thing about it, nor about Colonel Théagénis, except that his name is affixed to certain documents which have been submitted to me as a Member of Parliament for the purpose of forming an opinion upon them. Well, the part which we were given to understand that Colonel Théagénis was to play was that of the saviour of the captives. It was supposed that he was given a mission for that purpose; and what I have said and repeat is, that according to his own despatches—for I only judge of his conduct by these—he deliberately pursued a course which was necessarily as fatal to Mr. Herbert, Mr. Lloyd, and Mr. Vyner as if he had shot those gentlemen dead with his own hand. And here I will read two short extracts from the Papers laid before Parliament, which, in my opinion, fully bear out this assertion. The first, which I have once before alluded to, is this—It appears that their plan (that of the brigands) is to advance towards Bœotia, and an attack directed against them cannot but expose the lives of the prisoners to inevitable danger. To-morrow I communicate to Captains Apostolidis and Liacopoulo the determination of the Government to prevent by force their advance into Bœotia.In other words, I am going to order the lives of the prisoners to be put into inevitable peril. Can anything be stronger than this? Yes; what I am now going to read is stronger. The Colonel is describing the measures he had taken to surround the bandits, and he gives his motives—To be able effectually to surround Oropos we needed the co-operation of all the troops, so as to surround the village and make every attempt of the brigands to escape vain, after having, according to their custom, killed their prisoners.Thus not only did Colonel Théagénis order an attack when he had failed in surrounding the brigands, which was certain to end in the murder of the gentlemen in their power, even at the time he contemplated surrounding the brigands he foresaw that this would end in putting our countrymen to death, and all that he aimed at was securing the assassins after the murder was completed. Those remarks force me to notice a Paper which appears amongst those recently presented to us. General Church's name is, in a certain sense, historical; and it gives me pain to see him emerge from a retirement, which his services render honourable, by so ill-advised a letter 1415 as that which he addressed to you, Sir [addressing Mr. Gladstone], and which you have placed before us. Here is a gentleman who was not a witness of the scone which he undertakes to describe, and who thinks he is to impose his statement on you because he is General Church, and who thinks that you can impose it on us because you are Prime Minister. The General is an Englishman, but it is evident that he has lived long out of England; and that he does not know what an English Minister is, nor, whoever may be Minister, let me add, what an English House of Commons is. But what is his story? Why, that the soldiers of Colonel Théagénis pursued the wolves of brigands with the placid philosophy of lambs; that, now and then, they fired a shot, but that was merely in the air; and that until Mr. Herbert was slain they were in the most perfect good humour. Now, Sir, this story differs from almost all the testimony we have. But supposing it was correct? These gentle soldiers did not follow the brigands for the purpose of giving them backsheesh. They followed them with the intention of capturing and then executing them; and it was quite certain—and Colonel Théagénis must have known it was quite certain—that, under such circumstances, these brigands would murder their prisoners and attempt to escape themselves. Thus, Sir, I cannot think that any doubt can exist as to the conduct of Colonel Théagénis, or as to its consequences; but, in saying this, I am not saying anything personal against Colonel Théagénis. He was a soldier, and bound to obey instructions. Count Ségur, I think, relates that the First Napoleon, just previous to delivering the battle which gave him possession of the southern capital of Russia, observed that he should lose 20,000 men, but enter Moscow on the following day. Colonel Théagénis, with the same military sublimity, may have said—"I shall sacrifice the lives of these unfortunate foreigners, but I shall fulfil my instructions." And here is the important point to know, whether Colonel Théagénis did act according to instructions or not? That is the question above all others which I wish to put to Her Majesty's Government. Now, Sir, when I last addressed the House on this subject I made some observations on the general state of Greece. I do not do so now, 1416 because any measures we might take in that respect must be taken in conjunction with our allies, and this is not the moment when we can address ourselves to them. But I will just notice an observation made on that evening by my right hon. Friend in answer to my remarks, in which he seemed generally to agree, but observed, nevertheless, that he hoped that order and good government might be established in Greece without any injury to those doctrines of constitutional government so popular in this country. I hope so too; but I would just wish to observe that the doctrines of constitutional government popular in this country are not those popular in Greece; and that, if the facts were reversed, and that we had the happiness of being under the protection of Greece instead of the misfortune of having Greece under ours, she would soon put our constitutional doctrines into her pocket. The notion which a Greek politician at present entertains of a good Government is a Government that offers him a good place. The Greeks have great abilities, but they have a Government which renders those abilities sterile. In any other country we should have no right to interfere with its Government. But Greece owes its existence to its guardians; it is they who protect its existence now; and I think they might exact, as a return for their protection, such a Government as would not render their protectorate profitless to the nation they protect, and discreditable to themselves as protectors. This is a subject which my love for the Greek people will one day induce me again to bring forward; but at present I merely ask for those explanations I have pointed out, and of my request for which I have given notice.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he would follow the example of his right hon. Friend in being brief in his observations, knowing the value of the time of the Government at that period of the Session. But as he was not a Member of the House when the late Greek debate occurred, and as he had always taken a great interest in Greece and had charge of its interests for some years, he hoped he might be allowed to make a few remarks on that most painful and distressing question. He thought his right hon. Friend was quite right in bringing it forward, because they were 1417 entitled to ask Her Majesty's Government what satisfaction they had demanded, or would demand, from the Greek Government. He also believed it would be grateful to the feelings of the surviving relatives of those unfortunate men to know that because greater or more important events might have since happened their sad fate was not a kind of nine days' wonder, but still claimed and received the deep sympathy of the House of Commons. Now that the cry, the righteous cry, for punishment or vengeance that at first arose from the length and breadth of the land had subsided they could approach that question in a more moderate and, he would add, a more just frame of mind, without bringing a bill of indictment against a whole nation. There were passages in the speech to which they had just listened which had deeply grieved him; for he had thought his right hon. Friend would have taken that opportunity of retracting some of the observations he made in a former speech, which inflicted the greatest pain on honourable men. But, instead of retracting, his right hon. Friend had renewed his attacks on Colonel Théagénis, although certainly he had not that day applied the term "assassin" to him as he did in a previous debate Still he had attacked Colonel Théagénis most cruelly, and also attacked another man, General Sir Richard Church, whose name was dear both to England and to Greece. General Church, who was about 90 years of age, had fought in the war of Greek independence, assisting Lord Cochrane, Lord Byron, and other distinguished Englishmen who took part in that enterprize, and there was no more gallant and no more honourable man than General Church, as he believed the Prime Minister could testify. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hoar, hear.] Yet his right hon. Friend (Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer) had attacked that gallant gentleman, and implied that he was a more partizan of his aide-de-camp, Colonel Théagénis. That being the first part of his right hon. Friend's case, he must take his stand on the character of Colonel Théagénis. Who was that officer, what was his responsibility, and how did he act under it? And, in claiming justice for Colonel Théagénis, let it not be supposed that he did not feel as acutely as any man the sad loss sustained by this country in 1418 the massacre of these captives, although he did not think Englishmen should allow themselves to be led away by their laudable feelings into being guilty of absolute injustice. Under what circumstances was Colonel Théagénis appointed to that painful mission? In his first letter—dated April 21—to Lord Clarendon, Mr. Erskine said—I persuaded M. Zaïmis—the Greek Primo Minister—to send off Colonel Théagénis, the aide-de-camp of General Church, a gentleman of high character, who is intimately acquainted with the country and with the peculiarities of the people with whom he will have to deal.It was Mr. Erskine who invited Colonel Théagénis to go there; and Mr. Erskine said in the same letter—Before starting, Colonel Théagénis received his instructions from the whole Cabinet in my presenceWas an officer to obey his instructions or not, or to follow his own private opinion as to what he ought to do when he got to a particular place? His instructions were thus described by Mr. Erskine—In addition to his letter of credence and the verbal directions I have already mentioned, Colonel Théngénis is to be guided by an instruction, of which I enclose a translation, and which authorizes him to warn the brigands that they will not be allowed to carry off the prisoners from Oropos. A reasonable time will be given for negotiation, but they will be told very positively that the impunity I they have hitherto enjoyed must not be considered I as indefinite; and M. delta Minerva and I did not think that we should be justified in requiring the Government to persist in the conciliatory course they have hitherto pursued after it had proved abortive. The weather is so unfavourable that I fear the captives would be exposed to such severe privations white being dragged about the country day and night in wet clothes that we were reluctantly compelled to admit that a firmer tone must now be taken with these miscreants.In their instructions to Colonel Théagénis the Greek Government directed him to go to Oropos and give to the Arvaniteï these assurances and explanations—firstly, that the ransom was held at their disposal, and that they might leave Greece either by land or on board an English man-of-war; secondly, that it was impossible to grant them an amnesty; thirdly, that unless they took care that not the least harm befell any of the prisoners the Government would treat them with the utmost rigour of the law; and, fourthly, that they must not on any pretence go away from Oropos, and if they did so the Government would hold itself relieved from the promise 1419 made to the foreign Ministers to suspend all pursuit of the Arvaniteï. In a subsequent despatch, which arrived too late, Colonel Théagénis was directed by his Government to concentrate certain detachments at Sykamino, to invest the village, and prevent any of the brigands from escaping from it, and if they should try to escape he was to attack them. With such distinct instructions as those was Colonel Théagénis to say—"If I attack the brigands should they attempt to escape I shall risk the lives of the prisoners, and, perhaps, a great diplomatic difficulty may arise?" He did what any British officer would have done—he obeyed the instructions given to him. Was it fair, then, to say he had been, in fact, the assassin of the prisoners? And if Colonel Théagénis was cleared General Church certainly was so. Colonel Théagénis imperilled his life by offering to go as a hostage among the brigands, and the result had been that an amount of abuse had been heaped on his head which he felt as the grossest injustice. The Greek Government had been much blamed, with strange inconsistency, for not granting an amnesty to the brigands. No doubt, at times, the acts of brigands might have been connived at; but that was a very different matter from a distinct amnesty granted and signed by the King. It was one thing to feel sorrow for the loss of these invaluable young lives; but it was another thing to consider the political aspect of the question. If an amnesty had been granted to the brigands, and for others in prison, how could people afterwards complain should brigandage prevail all over Greece. Would they, in the case of any great Power, ask the Government to amnesty such men? It seemed to him that the calmer sense of the country would conclude that, under a natural feeling of indignation at the horrors which had occurred, too much had been asked of Greece. Mr. Erskine, than whom no man could have acted better, had since the catastrophe borne testimony to the conduct of Colonel Théagénis. With regard to the conduct of the King, every gentleman who spoke during the late debate did justice to it, and Mr. Erskine, on April 14, wrote—I cannot as yet say very positively by whom the ransom will eventually have to be paid; but I have had the honour of an interview with His Hellenic Majesty, at which he said that he had 1420 desired M. Zaïmis to take any sum that might be necessary, from the bank or elsewhere, to pay the ransom. His Majesty even showed the most eager wish to go and place himself in the hands of the brigands, rather than that any of their prisoners should suffer harm.It appeared that the Greek Government did all they could for the protection of the prisoners, and he agreed with his right hon. Friend that the attack of the troops led to the sacrifice of the valuable lives they now had to deplore. He quite agreed with his right hon. Friend that the adoption of that active measure was a false step; but, nevertheless, a bill of indictment ought not on that account to be presented against the whole country. He was glad that the matter had been brought before the House, and he believed that it would now be viewed in a calmer and more generous spirit by the people of England. It was not proper language to apply to Greece, which had fought so gallantly for liberty, to call it a nation of brigands. For 40 years, since so much money and blood were lavished for the purpose of establishing the independence of that country, it had been the chess-board of modern diplomacy; English, French, and Russian influences having been fighting together there. But the people themselves were a generous, hardworking, and patient people. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] The revenue had risen from £150,000 to £1,000,000, and schools had increased from 100 to 1,500. The people of the country had improved, and all they now wanted were the blessings of a good Government. How were they to obtain it? No one took a deeper interest in the country than the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone), and he would earnestly direct his attention to the fact that morally and financially we had a right to interfere, and in his (Mr. B. Cochrane's) opinion the wisest course would be to send out Commissioners to superintend the financial arrangements of the country, and to see that all the money raised by taxes was devoted to the improvement of the country. In making those observations, he wished to guard himself from being supposed for a moment not to sympathize with all his heart and soul with those who had been so unhappy as to lose their relatives by the hands of the brigands. In conclusion, he would ask the House and the country to approach this case in the same generous and magnanimous spirit 1421 displayed by the captives in their last moments, who, if they could speak now, would proclaim that their noblest memorial would be the regeneration of the country where they suffered.
§ SIR HENRY LYTTON BULWER
said, that one part of his observations had been grossly misrepresented by the hon. Gentleman. He had never made any personal attack on Colonel Théagénis. The attack he made upon that officer was as the agent of the Greek Government, and what he had desired to ascertain was whether Colonel Théagénis was acting on his own account, or, as he still believed, upon the instructions of the Greek Government. Neither had he meant to attack General Church; but he merely replied to a very unqualified attack which General Church had directed against those who took the part of persons whom they believed to have been injured. So far from speaking with severity of General Church, all he said of him was complimentary.
With respect to the three individuals whose names have been mentioned, and with regard to whom I was questioned whether they had been censured or not, without entering into the controversy, I feel it to be an absolute duty to refer to each of them. With respect to Mr. Erskine, although I think my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) is perfectly justified in coming to the conclusion, aided by his great experience, that anyone acting in this most difficult matter would be liable to counsel what might turn out to be a false step—and the course taken had certainly an unfortunate result—yet, I must say that Mr. Erskine has done nothing to discredit the name of the country or his own high character—nothing that could possibly expose him to censure, or to any diminution of the confidence reposed in him. With respect to General Church, he is a man who, after 70 years of active service, requires no vindication from any person in this House; and if he has been led to use strong language in the letter which has been printed in those Papers, I beseech my right hon. Friend (Sir Henry Lytton Bulwer) to reflect that he has made no apparent personal application, and that he has used it when his feelings were 1422 deeply wounded on account of imputations which were cast by many on the character of one of his friends and associates, who was combined with him in the same honourable profession, and who had been associated with him in military efforts and distinction; and to whom, after a score of years of intimate association, he found himself bound to bear testimony. As to Colonel Théagénis, much animosity was excited in this country against that gentleman. It arose from the universal feeling of sorrow and indignation to which those horrible murders gave rise; yet the evidence shows incontestably that he was most faithful in carrying out the instructions he received; and though that circumstance would not acquit the Government who gave those instructions if they ought not to have been given, the character of Colonel Théagénis for integrity and honour stands beyond imputation, and will bear comparison with the character of any Gentleman within those walls. Nor do I rely wholly upon the testimony of General Church, which I think quite sufficient. Another person, a surviving member of the family of Sir Thomas Wyse, who had the most ample means of personal acquaintance with Colonel Théagénis, has rendered to me her testimony also of the fact that he is an honourable man among honourable men, one of a singularly susceptible spirit of honour, and of the highest sense of duty, and of whom it might be taken for granted that any commission entrusted to him would be executed with the most scrupulous fidelity. As regards the question itself, I now come to the points which have been put by my light hon. Friend, who says, not unfairly—if you think the Greek Government blameless in these transactions, declare it; and, if not, what satisfaction are you about to obtain? I am sorry to say that we are not prepared to give an opinion that the Greek Government is innocent of these transactions. There are those holding high Office in Greece who certainly have, according to the best of our knowledge, lent the most energetic assistance in the investigations which have been going on. But with regard to the Greek Government as a whole, it is impossible to pronounce any general sentence of that kind until we have come to a termination of our inquiries. As regards the non-conclusion of the inquiry, that circum- 1423 stance may of itself suggest suspicion; but it is fair to say that it is owing to our agency and intervention that the inquiry has not yet been concluded. The truth is, that the various stages of it which have been gone through, have tended to open up more and more of what is painful and what is shameful in the present condition of Greece. I join my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) in the character he has given of the Greek people generally. I think there has been great precipitancy on the part of many persons in charging to the nation that which is due to a comparatively few. My hon. Friend says, borrowing the language of Mr. Burke, that he will not frame a bill of indictment against the nation, and I join with him in that view; but as regards the operation of those views, I am bound to make these two confessions—In the first place, the prevalence of brigandage in Greece, at the epoch at which we recently arrived, was lamentable and disgraceful. It was not due, however, to the general disposition of the people, who—I agree with my hon. Friend—I think are simple, frugal, patient, and industrious, and gifted with a singularly laudable desire for self-improvement. But we cannot refuse to recognize that this prevalence of brigandage has been connected with the events which took place in Candia. The war in Candia was largely participated in by wild spirits, and that war ended in the wholesale expatriation of so many of those spirits as belonged to the kingdom of Greece, who carried back into their own country—where but too much temptation prevailed for pursuing lawless habits of existence—that recklessness which they had learned during the war. But that is not all. Undoubtedly there are secret threads and ramifications connecting these lawless men with others in higher stations and more responsible positions. The careful and patient following out of all the secret paths of intrigue and clandestine communication, by which those facts are to be established, has been a task of no common difficulty. Hence it is that the inquiry has occupied so much time. It may have seemed to some in this country who were not aware of the difficulty, that it has occupied too much time; but it is absolutely necessary to proceed to the end with the same fidelity if we would accomplish the ob- 1424 ject we have in view. The change of Ministry which has taken place in Greece has not been an event, I am sorry to say, favourable to the fulfilment of our wishes. At the time that change occurred we thought it our duty carefully to avoid the appearance of dictation with respect to the choice of individuals; but we as clearly intimated that, whatever Government might come into Office, from that Government we should expect the fullest discharge of the obligations which the Greek Government made to us with respect to these deplorable transactions. Since that time, and since the last Papers were laid upon the Table of the House, I regret to say the Government has made an objection to the continued presence of English agents at the inquiries which have been conducted in Greece; and, in fact, if I understood the communication aright, for the moment that presence was forbidden. I need not say that we have declined to acquiesce in that prohibition. We have protested against it in the strongest terms; and, come what may, I can assure the House we will not forget what is due to the feelings and the rights of this country. I hope I may say that it cannot for a moment be supposed that Government are indifferent upon this question. No one with feelings of common humanity could be indifferent on such a subject, even if there were no more than the circumstances of the assassination itself; but the characters of the victims in this deplorable tragedy, as indicated by documents known to the whole world, were such as to raise the sympathy entertained for them to the highest point of which the human breast is capable And if anything could have been wanting to have enlisted the good feelings of the Government in particular in the prosecution of their task, it was the fact that one, and perhaps the one who, for all the touching and beautiful manifestations of character, would have been selected even from the rest, was the near relation of one of our most attached and valued Colleagues. Therefore, I assure my right hon. Friend that whatever has happened elsewhere in Europe, whatever shocks there may be on the Continent, and however it may shake under those shocks, we shall not consider that events happening nearer home should in the slightest degree affect our obligations with respect to Greece. Those events 1425 may interpose or may not interpose temporary difficulties. It may be difficult to draw the attention of one or both of the co-guaranteeing Powers to Greece in the same manner that we could undoubtedly have done at a period of less absorbing interest for a French Administration; but I am quite certain that even France herself will continue to feel the most friendly interest in the work which we have in hand. Upon the whole, though I cannot say that the general aspect of affairs in respect of Greece wears an improved appearance in our eyes; though, on the contrary, the magnitude of the task to be performed in the extirpation of brigandage rather grows upon us than otherwise, yet there is not the slightest reason to pretend that there will be any diminution of energy and earnestness in the attempt to obtain that great object. My right hon. Friend asks me what satisfaction we intend to ask from the Greek Government? My right hon. Friend knows that, as regards one of the principal sufferers by the outrages which have been committed—I refer to Mrs. Lloyd—it will be our duty to obtain for her a pecuniary satisfaction from the Greek Government. Those who know the duties which have to be performed by a Foreign Minister, and the capacity of Lord Clarendon for the performance of those duties, will readily understand how much we have felt his loss in connection with this Greek affair as well as in that of many other matters. His death has caused some delay in respect of this claim for compensation; but it is one which is being followed up by the Foreign Office. As regards satisfaction in any other and wider sense, no doubt our first duty is to endeavour to determine exactly the degree of responsibility which is to be charged upon the Greek Government in power at the time of these outrages. With respect to the failure of the measures for preventing them, one thing I would say to my right hon. Friend, and it is this—I am not going at all to pronounce an opinion that the measures taken were wise measures; but I think it would be a fallacy at once to assume that satisfactory results would have been obtained by a prolongation of what I may call the inactive policy, by recognizing a title on the part of these brigands, who were evidently men of a depraved order of 1426 mind and character, to take their prisoners wherever they pleased, to drag them about over the country under the pretext of fears for their own safety, to subject them to all the hardships of exposure, to a diet that was irregular and totally unsuited to their wants, and any other vicissitudes they might have to encounter; and, perhaps, to inflict upon them in the end a death far more pain-fid through a prolonged suffering than that which unhappily they had to meet. It is but fair to recollect on the part of Mr. Erskine that he had all these dangers to take into his view, and that the question between the methods of procedure which might have been adopted, was not so entirely a one-sided question as now, after the catastrophe, we may be only too apt to assume. Passing on from that question of the responsibility of the Greek Government, I ask my right hon. Friend what satisfaction are we to obtain? If satisfaction were to be sought in this case, as it was sought in the case of Abyssinia—if all we had to say was to tell the Government that, having sacrificed the lives of our countrymen, they should now feel the weight of our vengeance, there would be no difficulty in crushing that feeble plant which, with so much trouble, we have reared. I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not desire that description of satisfaction. In crushing them, we should but damage ourselves—damage our own fame and credit, which are much involved in the past transactions, and which will be involved both in present and future transactions with respect to Greece, and which, I am bound to say, likewise would strike a blow at the hopes of mankind. The best satisfaction we can obtain would be good government in Greece—the establishment of peace, order, regular institutions, regular habits, good laws, and the faithful execution of them. But that task is a difficult one. I am by no means as yet prepared to admit that it is not to the popular part of the institutions of Greece, and to the influence of the people upon the Government, that we are to look for the achievement of these objects. There are, as I know, some in this country, and an abundance of people out of it, that are perfectly ready to jump to that conclusion—who think that if you will only establish a despotic Government in Greece, you will have everything that could be 1427 desired. I do not as yet see that there is proof of that opinion. This monster evil of brigandage is an evil which has recurred from time to time, and commonly in connection with special circumstances. Brigandage has not always prevailed in Greece to this distressing extent since the time when popular institutions have existed there. It may ultimately prove to be our duty to recommend or concur in changes to be made in Greece; but we ought not, except on proof—we ought not on any vague surmise, to admit or believe that it is to the influence of the people, whom my hon. Friend opposite described as in the main a good people, that the existence of these horrors is to be ascribed. It is in the upper, and not in the lower, classes that the seat of the principal vice is to be found. It is the want of a properly constituted upper class that forms the greatest calamity and the greatest defect of Greece; and the cause of that want is to be found not in the circumstances of the moment, but in its history through many long centuries past; in its history probably even before the period of the Ottoman dominion; and in its history during that dominion, which, reducing the people to the dead level of servitude, ill, indeed, prepared it for the state of political freedom which it has now got. Some of our duties in respect to Greece are perfectly clear. One is to enforce upon that country a clearer observance of international obligations. Greece ought to expect no encouragement, no indulgence, and no toleration from the other European Powers if, while unable to fulfil her own duties within her own borders, she makes herself an apostle of political propagandism. That is a duty perfectly clear, and from the execution of that duty we shall not, under any circumstances, shrink. With regard to the rest, it will be incumbent upon us to endeavour, in every way in our power, to substitute a system of peace, order, industry, and security for life and property, both for the people themselves and for the strangers in the country, for that deplorable condition of affairs which has of late prevailed. Beyond that, I am afraid it is not possible for me to go. Details it is not in my power to communicate. My right hon. Friend will recollect the position of embarrassment, at least the position of delicacy, in which we are placed by the 1428 necessity of combined action with other Powers entitled to regard these matters from their own point of view. I have given him assurances in terms which, though general, are such as are in harmony with the purposes to which we conceive ourselves to be bound by duty, and I can assure him that we shall not desist nor slacken our efforts until that purpose is carried out.
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, before the debate closed he should like to say a few words on the general question, as he knew something of Greece, and should be sorry if, in consequence of the righteous indignation which this abominable crime had aroused, we should commit the injustice of confounding the innocent with the guilty. That brigandage received toleration and even encouragement from persons of political eminence in Athens, either those who are, or those who hoped to be, members of the Government, no one who know anything of Greece would for a moment doubt. Among the various modes of evincing and exciting discontent against the ruling powers, those of Turkey and Greece were not a little remarkable. In Constantinople a quarter of the town was sot on fire, as a hint to the Sultan that his subjects had a grievance In Greece an act of brigandage more flagrant than usual, which might involve the country in expense and in disputes with foreign Powers, was committed in order to bring about a change of Government. It was said even that more sordid motives were not wanting, and that the ransom of captives did not pass into the hands of a brigand chief without certain deductions. All this had long been matter of notoriety. Hon. Members might recollect that during the Crimean War France and England had each a regiment in the Piræus, for the purpose of checking the Russian proclivities of the Queen and the natural anti-Turkish feeling of the Greeks. While he was in Athens, in 1855, soon after the fall of Sebastopol, a French officer was carried off in full uniform, in open day, between Athens and the Piræus, which was something like kidnapping a man between London and Greenwich. At that time Attica and the Morea were considered safe for ordinary travellers. He had visited Marathon without risk, and the morning after that abduction he rode through the Pass of Daphne, on his 1429 way to Megara and Corinth, at the time that the gallant officer and his captors were concealed there. A ransom of 30,000 drachmæ (about £1,100) was demanded, and immediately paid by King Otho, who was afraid that the French would make it a pretest for occupying Athens. No one doubted that this was a political move on the part of the Opposition for the purpose of embarrassing the Government. It had been said that half the National Assembly were representatives of the brigands; that might be so; but if so it only showed that they were not representatives of the people. The Greek representatives, who were paid for their services, sometimes made a trade of politics—as, perhaps, some future Members of that House might do when the Member for Leicester carried his Motion. Like some nearer home, they were not always very scrupulous about the means of winning an election, and even intimidation was not wholly unpractised in Greece. He did not believe that the brigands were a large or a popular section of the community. In Northern Greeco, especially in Ætolia and Acamania, the mountaineers were a wild predatory race, much like the Highlanders and Borderers of Scotland in former times; like them, they followed their hereditary chiefs to a foray without question. They were as cruel and unromantic a set of ruffians as ever drove off a poor farmer's cattle, or harried a peaceful village; just as those worthies were universally supposed to be before the magic pen of Scott did for them what Fenimore Cooper did for the Red Indians, by throwing around them a halo of fiction for which their descendants ought to be infinitely obliged. During the Crimean War Sta Maura was kept in anxiety, lest Grivas should lead his Palikars across the shallow lagoon and plunder Amanichi. Elsewhere the professional brigands were disbanded soldiers, such as those described by Hobart Pasha, outlaws, and vagabonds of all kinds. He had ridden into Zebadda one evening, and found the place in a state of excitement, on account of a neighbouring small town, the name of which he had forgotten, having been sacked that day by 40 brigands and the demarch murdered. It would be absurd to suppose that these robbers, torturers, and murderers of the country people should be popular with the country 1430 people. During the Turkish dominion, indeed, they enjoyed some share of popularity as representing resistance to the common enemy; but that had all gone by. True, it was, that in Greece, as in some parts of Italy, none dared move his tongue against them, and whoever had read About's Roi des Montagues need not be told the reason. The vengeance of the brigand was sure and unrelenting; the protection of the Government worthless. The Greek peasant, farmer, or country gentleman hated both; but he feared one, and despised the other; therefore, while he openly denounced the Camarilla at Athens, he spoke with bated breath of the brigand chief whose long arm he knew could reach him in his defenceless homestead, even from the mountain side of Æta to the plains of Bœotia or Achaia. It would be, in his opinion, most unfair to confound the Greek people with Greek brigands or Greek politicians. The people were a brave, industrious, temperate, frugal race, with great intelligence and desire for knowledge. In quite small towns, such as Sparta, might be seen schools where ancient as well as modern Greek, French, and English were taught. Their merchants were examples of success in every capital in Europe, and such success could not be general or lasting without probity as well as energy. Their sailors almost monopolized the carrying trade of the Levant. During the war of liberation there were actions by land and sea worthy to be classed with Salamis and Thermopylae; but, unfortunately, there was no Æschylus or Herodotus to record them. The country people cared little about politics. They regarded the Government in Athens much as their predecessors did the deities of Olympus, as a body with whom it was best to have as little to do as might be, with whom they had no sympathies, from whom they expected no good, and could only hope to suffer as little harm as possible. They thought, with some reason, that intrigues of foreign Ambassadors had too large a share in the politics of Athens. A gentleman in Argos had said to him that there were in the Government of Athens the Russóphron, the Gallóphron, and others. There was only one element wanting—namely, the Hellenóphron. The public man in Greece, even when honest, was unpractical and inconsistent. He lived in a 1431 dream of a Greek Empire with a Byzantine capital, and yet during the Crimean War his sympathies were wholly with that Power whose success would have made the realization of his dream absolutely hopeless. He abounded in tirades against the removal of the Parthenon Frieze by Lord Elgin, and he left the marble lion of Chæronea lying in a thicket beneath the famous mound in the three fragments into which it was blown by his favourite partisan chief Odysseus. He grasped at the shadow and neglected the substance. The Greek Constitution was scarcely fitted for the people. It was an artificial manufacture, like those of which we were, perhaps, a few years ago fonder than we were now, and more desirous of recommending to or forcing upon other people. He had heard Greeks say that there was much of the Oriental in their composition, and in their admiration of force coupled with justice; that they would prefer an absolute monarch with these qualities, who would sit in judgment in the market-place, reward one and punish another, like an Eastern Cadi. King Otho was scarcely the ruler for such a people. He did his best probably. He was a scholar, and he worked hard and successfully to restore the "great old tongue" to something like its original purity. He also set on foot a model farm, for the purpose of teaching improved agriculture; but Greece was scarcely ripe for such things. She wanted her old Hercules to clear the country side of robbers before it was fit for Apollo and the Muses. If, instead of lavishing large sums on a wretched German palace, and on a perfectly useless Army and Navy, whose only act of vigour was driving him from the throne, Otho had spent every drachma in making roads and maintaining a military police, something like the Irish constabulary, something better than the orophúlakes, or guardians of the Marches, between whom and the brigands there was rather too much resemblance, he might have left behind him a really renovated Greece—a Greece which might look forward to a future worthy of her past—a Greece into which foreign settlers would have brought their capital and enter-prize; as, in fact, they did, especially in Eubœa, where several English families settled until their lives and property were rendered unsafe by the brigands, 1432 and Eubœa became as insecure as Westmeath. And, sorely, if this horrible scourge could be removed, that fertile soil, magnificent scenery, and glorious climate, with its grand associations, within a week of England, would be more attractive for certain classes of emigrants than the six months' winter of Quebec, or the dust storms and cast-iron foliage of Australia on the other side of the globe. It had been said that those brigands were Turkish subjects; if so, they must pass out of Tux-key in order to commit their crimes with impunity. A few years ago he was on a shooting excursion in Albania, close to the scene of the battle of Actium, and near the frontier of independent Greece. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Do Grey), who was not far off, would confirm his statement as to the perfect security with which they wandered over the country. The ladies of his party used to walk to them with their luncheon as they would on an English manor, without the slightest apprehension; but they were told that they would not be as safe across the border. Indeed, it was about that time that a party of English were captured opposite Zante, near the historic plain of Olympia. It was indeed time that, for the sake of Greece itself, this state of things should cease. He thanked the House for having tolerated those few observations, which nothing but a sense of justice would have induced him to make at a time when England was still mourning for her gallant sons who had so recently laid down their young lives on a soil which was not worthy of them, with a resignation and unselfishness the simple grandeur of which, he would venture to say, had never been surpassed in the most heroic age of that or any other country.
§ MR. STRUTT
said, he wished to offer a few observations, having himself had practical experience of brigandage in Greece some years ago, when he was placed in a predicament very similar to that which had ended in the calamity they all now so much deplored. If anybody could show that the Greek Government, earnestly and to the best of their ability, had endeavoured to put down brigandage, or, when their attention was called to particular acts, had even tried to bring the offenders to justice, he was perfectly willing to admit that this would 1433 go far to relieve them from responsibility for the recent massacres. But looking at the history of Greece for the last seven years, he could not believe that they had ever really and honestly attempted to remove this scourge from the country. The condition of the districts nearest the capital and under the very eye of the Government had been notorious; they were the most unsafe in the whole country. Among the peasants there was no sympathy with brigandage, for they suffered more from it than any other class; it found no favour again with the commercial and agricultural classes; its continuance, therefore, could only be ascribed to sympathy and forbearance shown to it by those high in authority. He had no wish to bring charges against particular individuals; but he could not believe that the 30 Ministries of the last seven years would not have had the power among them to put down brigandage in Greece if the disposition to do so really existed. The telegraphic accounts of brigands put to death week by week in all parts of the country since the attention of Europe had been painfully excited contrasted strongly with the state of things previously existing. Several years ago there was a scoundrel upon whose head a price had been put in consequence of the murders which he had committed; five years ago this same man surprised the party to which he and his friends belonged, and since that time this brigand had gone on committing atrocities all over the country with impunity. But the moment attention was drawn to the state of affairs in Greece, without any increase of military force, the Greek Government showed themselves able to catch not only this brigand, but many others, whose names before had scarcely ever been heard of. That fact was sufficient to prove that brigandage had not previously been treated seriously in Greece. It was easy to be wise after the event, and to say what ought not to have been done; but clearly troops ought never to have been sent into the vicinity of the brigands, for the result of a collision must have been foreseen. Colonel Théagénis knew it very well, the unfortunate prisoners know it also, Mr. Noel knew it, and the Greek Government had sufficient experience of brigandage to know it likewise. Brigandage in Greece was an institution. It had driven out 1434 the trade of the country, and taken its place; and it was founded upon as fixed laws as any other institution. Of these rules the first was never to give up prisoners without a ransom being paid; and the next, if attacked, if possible to escape with their prisoners, but if this were impossible then to resort to the most extreme measures. He wished to take that opportunity of testifying to the kindness and energy shown by Mr. Erskine in carrying out the wishes of the party to which he belonged when made prisoners; desires which consisted in having the troops withdrawn, while their ransom was paid to the brigands. The present case, however, differed from all previous cases, as the Greek Government themselves had undertaken the negotiations with the brigands, and thus made themselves directly responsible for what had occurred. There was one point to which attention had not been sufficiently pointed, and that was the course pursued and the language held by former Governments of Her Majesty with respect to acts of brigandage in Greece. They could not fairly judge of this question without knowing what views were held by former Governments, and what efforts were made by them to impress those views upon Greece. He believed the only direct precedent with respect to the present case was furnished by the event in which he happened to be concerned. He did not wish to call in question the action of the Government on that occasion, for they were never pressed to take action or to recover the ransom that was paid, because the question was one of policy, and must very much depend upon precedent. But what he wished to point out was that, whatever communications were made by Her Majesty's Government to the Government of Greece, they produced a very different effect from what was intended, because the district of Acarnania, where he and his friends were taken, immediately afterwards, and for the next year or two, was in a worse state than before. He would not express any opinion as to the course which England, as one of the protecting Powers, ought to have pursued with regard to Greece; but he regretted when such an occasion for remonstrating offered that our remonstrances were of no avail whatever, and that the state of the country went on from bad to worse, until attention 1435 was at last directed to it by the sacrifice of English lives. Mr. Herbert, in a Report written in 1869, at a time when he could have no anticipation of suffering from the system which he condemned, expressed a decided opinion that the suppression of brigandage and the construction of roads would produce such a change in the country that in a few years she would be able to lead the way in the progress of the East. That such a change might take place he, for one, earnestly hoped; but he could not approve of anything in the nature of military occupation or unjust interference with the internal affairs of Greece. He earnestly trusted that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would be able to give an assurance that the investigation which was now going on would be carried out without respect to persons, would go fully into all the circumstances of the case, and that the exertion lately made to put an end to brigandage might prove no spasmodic effort when the eyes of Europe would be turned in another direction.