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LIBERATION OF GREECE.
As he had demanded the liberty of the press, so the English Homer performed a filial duty in advocating the emancipation of Greece. Camoens had previously exclaimed: “And we leave Greece in slavery!” Milton wrote to Philaras that “he should delight to see the army and fleet of England engaged in delivering Greece, the native land of eloquence, from Ottoman tyranny:”—ad liberandam ab Ottomanico tyranno Græciam eloquentiæ patriam.
Had this wish been fulfilled, the finest monument of antiquity would still exist. It was not till 1682 that the Venetians caused the explosion which blew up part of the temple of Minerva ; Cromwell would have preserved the Parthenon, the ruins only of which were rifled by Lord Elgin. Here again Milton had one of those ideas which belong to the present generation, and which has produced its fruit in our own days.
The translator of Milton will take leave to pay him the homage of a few lines which paved the way to the deliverance of Greece.
“ The question is, whether Sparta and Athens shall be resuscitated, or whether they shall continue for ever buried in their dust. Woe to the age
which can be a passive spectator of an heroic struggle; which conceives that it can, without danger, as without penetration into the future, suffer a nation to be immolated! This error, or rather this crime, would be visited sooner or later by the severest punishment.
“ Narrow and detestable minds, which conceive, precisely because an injustice is consummated that it has no baneful consequence, are the pest of states. What was the first reproach addressed from abroad in 1789, to the monarchical government of France? It was that it had winked at the partition of Poland. This partition, by breaking down the barrier that separated the North and the East from the South and the West of Europe, opened the way for the armies which alternately occupied Vienna and Berlin, Moscow and Paris.
“An immoral Policy applauds herself for a transient success: she fancies herself clever, skilful, subtle ; she listens with ironical disdain to the voice of conscience and the counsels of integrity.
But, whilst she proceeds and deems herself triumphant, she feels herself suddenly detained by the veils in which she has wrapped herself: she turns her head, and finds herself face to face with an avenging revolution, which has silently followed her. You will not grasp the suppliant hand of Greece? Well then, her dying hand will mark you with a bloody stain, that future times may recognise and punish you*.”
In the Chamber of Peers I carried an amendment to prevent the victims transported from the Morea from being any longer sold in Egypt under the French flag.
“ Considered with reference to the affairs of the world,” I said, “ my amendment is free from every, even the slightest, inconvenience. The generic term which I employ applies to no particular nation. I have thrown over the Greek the mantle of the slave, that he may not be recognised, and that the signs of his wretchedness may render at least his person inviolable to the charity of the Christian.
“ I read yesterday a letter from a boy of fifteen, dated from the ramparts of Missolonghi. My dear comrade,' he wrote, in his simple manner, to
* Preface to the Author's "Travels in Greece, Palestine,” &c. in the edition of his “ Complete Works," 1826.
one of his young associates in Zante, “I have been wounded three times, but my companions and myself are sufficiently recovered to be able to resume our musquets. If we had provisions, we should defy an enemy thrice as numerous. Ibrahim is beneath our walls: he has sent us proposals and threats: we scorn both. Ibrahim has French officers with him. What have we done to the French to be thus treated ?'
“ Gentlemen, shall this youth be taken, and carried by Christians to the slave-market of Alexandria ? If he shall still have occasion to ask what he has done to the French, let our amendment step in to satisfy the inquiry of his despair, the cry
of his wretchedness, that we may have it in our power to reply, “No, it is not the flag of St. Louis that protects your slavery; much rather would it cover your noble wounds.'
“Peers of France, Ministers of the most Christian King, if we cannot assist unhappy Greece by our arms, let us at least separate ourselves by our laws from the crimes which are committed there : let us set a noble example, which will perhaps pave the way in Europe to a policy more elevated, more humane, more conformable to religion, and more worthy of an enlightened age; and it is to you, gentlemen, to France, that the honour of having originated this noble measure will be due*."