LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

Memoirs of the Affairs of Greece
Chapter II

Chapter I
‣ Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
Chapter XII
Chapter XIII
Chapter XIV
Chapter XV
Chapter XVI
Chapter XVII
Chapter XVIII
Chapter XIX
Chapter XX
Chapter XXI
Chapter XXII
Chapter XXIII
Chapter XXIV
Chapter XXV
Chapter XXVI
Chapter XXVII
Chapter XXVIII
Chapter XXIX
Chapter XXX
Chapter XXXI
Chapter XXXII
Chapter XXXIII
Chapter XXXIV
Chapter XXXV
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Arrival of Colonel Stanhope—German Philhellenes—their disappointment and ill treatment by the Greeks—their distress—Negotiations for a loan—Divisions among the Greek chiefs—Design of Colocotrone against the government—Lord Byron defers his departure for the Morea.

Towards the end of November, Colonel Stanhope landed at Argostoli. Anxious to reach as soon as possible the scene of action, he hastened to embark for Peloponnesus. Before his departure, Lord Byron, though far from agreeing with him in opinion, relative to the affairs of Greece, furnished him with letters of recommendation to the Greek government and to Mavrocordato; which, though highly interesting, as being the most authentic documents to illustrate the feelings, which then animated their noble writer, I shall omit here; the public being already in possession of them.

By the same ship, which conveyed the colonel from Ancona to Cephalonia, several poor Greek, Chiot, and Aïvaliot refugees arrived, whose passage had been paid for by this humane officer, and two German Philhellenes. Of these two, one was a personage, already mentioned, of the name of Bellier, who, after serving several years as a subaltern in a Prussian regiment, had been expelled from it. During a first trip to Greece, where, though he had not heard even the report of a Turkish gun, he performed, according to the narrative he published, the most chivalrous exploits in the himmelhohen bergen von Acarnanien,
and, like many others, obtained for his pretended services the rank of colonel, and was made a knight of the order of Minerva, which, except in the imagination of men of his cloth, never existed. These marks of distinction—the title of marquis, which he assumed on his way to London, his swaggering language and bold assurance—gained him a ready introduction to the Greek Committee, whose confidence he at length so completely engrossed, that, implicitly relying on his statements, they were led into numberless errors, of which they must afterwards have bitterly repented: so completely is the judgment of the wisest men sometimes overruled by their wishes.

His success with the Prussians, whom the Committee sent out with him to Greece, was not equally flattering. When the proposal of proceeding to that country, under the orders of Bellier, was made to them by its secretary, they formally declared, that, so far from obeying, they would not even associate with a man, who bore at home so equivocal a character. His companion was a young Bavarian of the name of Kolbe, who was on his return from Darmstadt to the Greek Committee, to which place he had been deputed by the unfortunate remains of the small regiment, which had been despatched to Greece from Marseilles in 1822, at the expense of the German and Swiss Philhellenic committees, who placed that corps under the command of Cephalas. Kolbe had been charged to represent to them the unfavourable reception, his companions in arms had met with, their complete disappointment in their fondest expectations, and to pourtray the miserable and forlorn position, in which they languished at Anapli, worn out by sickness and privation, and destitute even of daily bread; lastly, to solicit from
the charity of their countrymen the funds, necessary to enable them to leave a country, where their services were considered as superfluous. It was truly lamentable, and of most inauspicious augury, to see the Greeks neglect to avail themselves of so valuable a present from the German committee, and not turn to their advantage the military talents and enthusiasm of individuals who had volunteered so generously in this corps. Their conduct in this instance speaks volumes against their patriotism. A corps of two thousand men might have been fully equipped with the materials brought to Greece on this occasion; nothing being wanting, not even the band. The inlistment of private soldiers was the only task left to the government; and it was not unreasonable for Swiss or Germans, judging from their own feelings, and those which, in like circumstances, would animate every nation in Europe, to expect that the Greeks would vie with one another for the honour of being the first to join hand in hand with an establishment, from which their country might expect to derive the most signal advantages. Under the guidance of a wise and patriotic administration, this regiment might have served as a preparatory school both for Greek soldiers and officers. It would gradually have spread discipline through every province, and thus have created a force, owing to the absence of which the authority of the government had been, and still remained, as perfectly illusory at home as its efforts were unavailing elsewhere.

As soon as Cephalas’ arrival at Hydra was known at Anapli, masking their unpatriotic fears under the apprehension of the danger, that might possibly ensue from the importation of so many muskets, &c. into a fortress, the executive sent immediate orders to the
colonel to place whatever military stores, he had brought with him in depot on the island, till the senate should determine their future employment; and he and his officers were directed to proceed to the seat of government. Arriving there, they presented themselves to the legislative and executive bodies, explained the object of their mission, and commented on the advantages, that would accrue to the nation from the formation of a disciplined army. Unfortunately, most of the men, to whom they addressed their observations, were the very individuals, who, enemies to good order and the consolidation of the constitution, had already established themselves like autocrats in their respective provinces, and sought, by perpetuating anarchy, freely to indulge under its auspices their unjust and avaricious dispositions. They had assumed the reins of constitutional authority, to keep them out of the hands of the true patriots; and to thwart the more easily every measure, which the wiser part of the nation might adopt, for the purpose of subverting their power, which hung perhaps more heavily on the neck of the people than even the Turkish yoke they had just thrown off. In this state of things, it must occasion little surprise, that these and so many other Philhellenes of merit were unwelcome to men, to whom their discourses only opened more fully the eye of suspicion, already too much awake. They could not be expected to allow themselves to be guided by projects which would hasten their own ruin. Unwilling, barefacedly, to state the true motives, which influenced their conduct, they assumed the cant of patriotism, and coloured their selfish fears by the plea of poverty, although they were rolling in wealth. Indeed, had the booty, found at Tripolitza, or in any other of the Turkish fortresses,
been deposited in the national coffers, a corps, not of two, but of twenty thousand soldiers, might easily have been organized and maintained for years. The unwillingness, however, of the chiefs was perhaps the least difficulty to surmount; since, if surmounted, the general and profound aversion of the population for every thing in the shape of discipline would have proved invincible. So much delight did every Greek experience, after so many years of galling slavery, in following, uncontrolled, the bent of his inclinations—in displaying, with childish vanity, the rich silver arms, the costly furs, and the showy embroidered dresses of his vanquished oppressors—in parading, like a pasha, on his caparisoned steed, and rioting in the midst of plunder and the beauties of Turkish harems;—that nothing could have prevailed upon him to renounce a life so full of pleasure and profit, to submit to the endless drudgery of that of a Frank soldier. The capitano, whom he now followed, was one of his own liking: bound to him by no tie, he was responsible for no kind of duty, and still less liable to punishment. Being his equal and his relative, he lived with him on the footing of the greatest familiarity; left or followed him whenever it suited his caprice or his interest; and even on the day of battle might desert the standard of his chief, without that chief having it in his power to censure him for his conduct.

Passing under silence the aversion, entertained by the Greeks for this and every other plan suggested by Franks (against whom they nourished a hatred little inferior to what they felt towards Mussulmen), it may be noticed, that the unfortunate affair of Petta contributed not a little to throw discredit on regular troops; though, had prejudice allowed them to exa-
mine the question with more judgment, the gallant bearing of the small corps of Philhellenes and the skeleton regiment, commanded by
Dania and Tarella, which kept their ground for two hours against numbers infinitely superior to their own, and repeated charges of cavalry, could not but have excited the admiration of the Greeks, and produced on their minds the very contrary effect. But, with the multitude, even of the most civilized nations, success is the sole criterion of merit.

Cephalas was requested by the executive to assure his officers, that the Greek government felt grateful to them for their generous and disinterested offers of service; but was painfully compelled to let them know, that, labouring under considerable pecuniary difficulties, it could not, for the present, avail itself of their talents and the valuable present made by the committees to the nation. As soon, however, as the finances of the commonwealth should be in a more flourishing condition, their proposed plans would be carried into execution. A Turkish house was set apart for them, and orders given for the delivery of a daily ration of bread to each officer. Miserable as was this pittance, it was shortly after retrenched; and on complaints being made to the senate, it was hinted to them, that, under existing circumstances, no one who had not the means of maintaining himself should have ventured out to Greece. Had they been invited by the government, the case would be different, it was said, and their claims to rations and monthly pay well founded; on the contrary, they had come of their own accord, and should therefore seek support and assistance from those who had sent them; especially as there was no immediate need of their services.


On hearing this, all those, who were awake from their erroneous dreams, and had sufficient funds for the purpose, prepared to return home; persuaded that, otherwise, nothing but starvation and misery would await them. Several, however, found their pecuniary resources too scanty to permit them to undertake so long and expensive a journey; and it was in this emergency they resorted to the project, as stated above, of sending for aid to Germany. After the departure of Kolbe, they soon found, with all their economy, their purses empty; and their misery became at last so great, that they had nothing on which to depend for subsistence but the game and land-tortoises, which fortunately were found in great abundance in the neighbourhood of Anapli. Their numberless privations during several months, the despondency which had now succeeded to those enthusiastic feelings, which animated them when they first landed, and the extreme insalubrity of the town, predisposed them to contract the typhus, which raged within its walls from the moment the place was given up by the Turks: many died of the complaint, and hardly an individual escaped the contagion. Among those to whom it proved fatal was the Greek, Cephalas, whom it carried off after a few days’ illness. This man had witnessed the sufferings of the Philhellenes, but, masking with hypocrisy the selfishness of his heart, he lamented his incapacity any farther to relieve them; pretending, by the large sums he had disbursed, to have reduced himself also to poverty. Yet, after his death, no less a sum than 10,000 francs were found in his possession; which had been given him secretly by the committees to be applied, in case of any unforeseen exigency, to the use of this very expedition.

Kolbe succeeded in obtaining at Darmstadt a sum
which, though not very considerable, was sufficient to enable his countrymen to return to their native homes; and he hastened to cross over to Missolonghi, whither he invited them all to repair. On their arrival we witnessed the melancholy picture, presented by these deluded young men: sickness, want, and fatigue, had worn them to the bone; and of the original number scarcely a fifth remained. Of these several joyfully quitted Greece; while others, hearing that
Lord Byron had engaged to take them under his protection, continued at Mesolonghi, and were afterwards employed in the artillery brigade and his lordship’s staff; and it was from their lips I gathered these details.

In a few days Mr. Hamilton Browne arrived at the Lazaret of Argostoli; bringing with him two commissioners, who were to be the agents for negotiating a loan in England in the name of the Greek government. A thousand difficulties and ever-recurring delays were to be surmounted before they could be appointed; and had the manner in which they were chosen been known in England, there can be little doubt, that the appointment would have been considered as illegitimate. The president and two principal members of the executive, two-thirds of the senate, and the capitani, in whose hands were the very lands and Turkish properties given in as security for repayment of the money, and whose consent was consequently essential, loudly protested against the loan. The nomination was entirely due to the influence of Mavrocordato, then president of the senate, among the Hydriots. He devolved the office on Orlando, himself a Hydriot, and Luriotti, a merchant, entirely devoted to his interests; leaving every thing else to Lord Byron’s management. Before their departure for England, they had numerous conferences
with Lord Byron, received from him every necessary instruction, and letters of recommendation to all his friends; urging them to afford every assistance in their power to the deputies, in the attainment of an object, on which the welfare of Greece was supposed entirely to depend.

Meanwhile, nothing appeared more likely to preclude the possibility of negotiating a loan, than the news, which Mr. H. Browne had brought with him from Peloponnesus. The din of civil war had made itself heard in the mountains of Caritena; and by those best acquainted with the previous state of things, the sound was felt as the knell of Greek liberty. The feeble party, that sought to establish the constitution, destitute alike of money and of troops, seemed wholly at the mercy of the all-powerful capitani. And what hopes besides could be entertained for the triumph of a government, the principal members of which were its chief enemies? Early in November, after the most tumultuous altercations, the senate, which, driven out of every town of note by the capitani, held its sittings in the half-burnt village of Argos, fulminated a decree against Andrea Metaxa and Pervuca, expelling them from the executive body. It bitterly reproached them with the numerous abuses and iniquities, they had practised while holding that high situation; and especially with having imposed taxes on the people without warrant, and among others a heavy one on salt. Enraged at this affront, these individuals hastily repaired to the capitani, with whom they had long formed a conspiracy to subvert the constitution, and warmly represented to them, that the day had at last arrived for striking the decisive blow, and vindicating their authority. Pano, the eldest son of Colocotrone, who was then master of Anapli, and Tennaio, his brother, both faithful inter-
preters of their father’s will, instantly listened to their proposals; and, followed by
Nikitas, a man whose judgment was far short of his bravery, they marched on the 13th with a considerable corps to Argos. They unexpectedly entered the place where the senators were assembled; but the bold and inflexible manner in which the bishop of Mistra, Theodore Vresteni, asked what they meant by daring to present themselves with an armed force before the representatives of the nation, so disconcerted them, that they shrunk from the execution of the plan, they had formed, of apprehending the senators in general, and laying violent hands on those who had given them most umbrage. After a few threats and insults they departed; but proceeded to the place in which were the archives of the assembly, of which they took possession. These were, however, speedily recovered by Capitan Zaccharopoulo, an Argive, who conveyed them to the house of the bishop we have mentioned, who was then vice-president of the assembly. For a few hours the rebels besieged this house; but disunion arising among them, they at length withdrew; contenting themselves with plundering the habitations of the most obnoxious of the members. Perceiving the danger of remaining in a spot, where they were likely to become the daily sport of an insolent and lawless soldiery, headed by capitani yet more barbarous; the senate resolved to remove the next day to Cranidi, where the population was more in their favour, and where they would have, in case of emergency, greater facility for crossing over to Hydra.

These tidings proved highly annoying to Lord Byron, and for several days powerfully agitated his mind. On the one hand, he was apprehensive that, on the intelligence reaching England, every hope of
obtaining a loan would thereby be crushed; and, thus deprived of its only chance of salvation, the constitutional party would inevitably sink under the force of military despotism; while he feared, on the other, that, should the loan be effected before its arrival, the shadow remaining of government—for it was only a shadow—might have ceased to exist, and the reign of anarchy be confirmed; or, what was no less to be dreaded, that, on its being known to the chiefs of Peloponnesus, that pecuniary subsidies had been received, they would form the resolution, in order to thwart the plans of the constitutionalists, of bringing forward each a contingent in men and money, affording an aid far more considerable than could have been done by several loans, similar to the one about to be raised.

Should any of these events take place, Lord Byron felt how heavy would be his responsibility to the British public, for having lent the authority of his name to a power on the brink of destruction; the invalidity of whose guarantees, it would be said, he must himself have been fully aware of at the time; and it appeared in the sequel, that his apprehensions were neither gratuitous nor chimerical: for the insurrection of the capitani miscarried solely through an inconceivable avarice, which blinded them to their most vital interests; and, strange to say, led them to prefer losing the whole of their influence, to risking for a while a trifling portion of their wealth.

In consequence of the disagreeable intelligence, brought from the Morea, Lord Byron felt himself under the necessity of renouncing for the moment his intentions of proceeding to that country. He could no longer interfere as a mediator; for the views of the contending parties had become too diametrically opposite to admit of the slightest approximation; and
having come to Greece with a very different purpose from that of taking part in civil war, he wished to avoid acting openly with the constitutionalists, although he made no secret of his wishes for their triumph. Thus resolved, Mesolonghi, the only town in Greece not under the control of the capitani, fixed his regard; and he determined, on the arrival of the Greek division in its waters, to cross over to that town; and, awaiting the arrival of the loan, put into execution the various schemes, he had formed for the general welfare of the country, without giving umbrage to either party.