LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
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The Last Days of Lord Byron
Chapter VIII

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Chapter IV
Chapter V
Chapter VI
Chapter VII
‣ Chapter VIII
Chapter IX
Chapter X
Chapter XI
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“Lord Byron awoke in half an hour. I wished to go to him, but I had not the heart.
Mr. Parry went, and Byron knew him again, and squeezed his hand, and tried to
express his last wishes.”—Count Gamba’s Narrative.



His injunctions to speak the truth as to Greece—His anxiety not to be instrumental in deluding the people of England—Claims the cause of Greece has on our sympathy—Country and people of Greece—Disadvantage of their character as insurgents—No plan or system amongst them—What form of government they should adopt—A federation of states—People give energy to government—Presidents of the Greek government—Peasantry—Poverty and intelligence of the Greeks—Greece might spread a revolution to Hindostan—Character of the Greek chiefs—Lord Byron’s final intentions as to Greece—Purity of his ambition.

One of the sentiments constantly uppermost in Lord Byron’s mind, and affording decisive evidence how deeply he felt his own disappointment, was caution in not lending himself to deceive others. Over and over again did he, in our conversations, dwell on the necessity of telling the people of England the truth as to Greece; over and over again did he condemn the works which had been published on the state of Greece. Lying, hypocritical publications he was accustomed to call them, deceiving both the Greeks
and the English. To tell the truth on every thing relating to Greece, was one of his most frequent exhortations. It was his opinion that without English assistance, more particularly as to money, the Greeks could not succeed; and he knew that if the English public were once imposed on to a considerable amount, no assistance could afterwards be expected, and Greece would either return under the Turkish yoke, fall under the sceptre of some other barbarian Power, or remain for many years the prey of discord and anarchy. While the loan was negotiating, and after it was contracted for, he frequently congratulated himself that he had never written a single line to induce his countrymen to subscribe to it; and that they must hold him perfectly guiltless, should they afterwards lose their money, of having in any way contributed to delude them. “I hope,” he was accustomed to say, “this government which has enough on its hands, will behave so as not to injure its credit. I have not in any way encouraged the people of England to lend their money. I don’t understand loan-jobbing, and I should make a sorry appearance in writing home lying reports*.”

* This cautious conduct may perhaps excite some suspicions in the mind of those who have subscribed to the Greek loan; or who are now holders of Greek bonds. Lord Byron, even when his existence was of such material service in assisting


Lord Byron undertook to instruct me in the nature of Greek society, and his opinions being intended to guide my conduct, on which his own welfare, in some measure, depended, there can be no doubt of his perfect sincerity. He, of all modern English travellers, was probably the best capable of giving a correct opinion on this subject; and what he said is therefore particularly deserving of attention. It is so much opposed also to what might be expected from the poet of Greece, so completely free from all

the Greeks, concluded, I suppose, that the chances for the payment either of the principal or the interest of the loan were not great, and therefore he congratulated himself that he had been in no wise instrumental in persuading, by any sort of representations, the people of this country to lend their money to the Greeks. Since Lord Byron’s death, however, though they have met with some terrible disasters, their government seems to have triumphed over its domestic opponents, and to be now more than ever in a fair way of uniting all the Greeks in the pursuit of the one great object. The Turkish power also is evidently growing weaker, and cannot sustain even against this feeble opponent a protracted contest. When we see the ill-organized state of Turkey, the anarchy of its councils, the discontent of its soldiers, and the rebellion of its chiefs, our wonder is rather excited that so much time should have elapsed before the Greeks have completely achieved their independence! than that they should have struggled so long. This is partly explained by the division among their chiefs; and by some circumstances, not to the honour of some individuals in our country, which will be adverted to subsequently.

romance and delusion, that it was plainly the dictate of close observation and mature reason.

J. G. Lockhart, “Last Days of Lord Byron”

“The cause of Greece,” said Lord Byron, “naturally excites our sympathy. The very name of the country is associated in our minds with all that is exalted in virtue, or delightful in art. From it we have derived our knowledge, and under the guiding hand of its wisdom, did modern Europe make its first tottering and feeble steps towards civilization. In every mind at all embued with knowledge, she is regarded with the affection of a parent. Her people are Christians contending against Turks, and slaves struggling to be free. There never was a cause which, in this outline view of the matter, had such strong and commanding claims on the sympathy of the people of all Europe, and particularly of the people of England. But we must not at the same time forget what is the present state of the Greek population.

“We must not forget, though we speak of Greece and the Greeks, that there is no distinct country and no distinct people. There is no country, except the Islands, with a strongly-marked boundary separating it from other countries, either by physical properties, or by the manners and language of the people which we can properly call Greece. The boundaries of ancient Greece are not the boundaries of modern Greece,
or of the countries inhabited by those to whom we give the name of Greeks. The different tribes of men, also, to whom we give this one general name, seem to have little or nothing in common more than the same faith and the same hatred of the Turks, their oppressors. There is the wily money-making Greek of the islands, the debased, intriguing, and corrupted Greek of the towns on the continent, and there is the hardy Greek peasant, whose good qualities are the redeeming virtues of the whole population. Under their chiefs and primates, under their captains and magistrates, they are now divided by more local jealousies, and more local distinctions, than in the days of their ancient glory, when Greece had no enemies but Greeks. We must not suppose under our name of Greeks, an entire, united, and single people, kept apart from all others by strongly-marked geographical or moral distinctions. On the contrary, those who are now contending for freedom are a mixed race of various tribes of men, having different apparent interests, and different opinions. Many of them differ from and hate one another, more even than they differ from and hate the Turks, to whose maxims of government and manners some of them, particularly the primates, are much attached. It is quite erroneous, therefore, to
suppose under the name of Greece, one country, or under the name of Greeks, one people.

“The people whom we have come to assist have also the name of insurgents, and however just their cause, or enlightened their own view of the principles on which they contend, they must and will be considered by the government of Europe as insurgents, with all the disadvantages belonging to the name, till they are completely successful. At the beginning of the insurrection, all the Turks in authority and their adherents were indiscriminately massacred, their property plundered, and their power, where-ever the insurrection was successful, annihilated. Their places of worship were destroyed; the storks, a bird they reverence with a sort of idolatry, were everywhere shot, that no remembrance except hatred of the Turkish name, should exist in the country. Such acts are the natural consequences of long-suffering, particularly among men who have some traditional knowledge of the high renown of their ancestors; but they have not contributed to soften the Greek character; nor has the plunder of their masters failed to sow for the time the seeds of dissension and ambition among themselves. The insurrection was literally a slave breaking his chains on the head of his oppressor; but in es-
caping from bondage, the Greeks acted without a plan. There was no system of insurrection organized, and the people, after the first flushing of their hatred was over, were easily stirred up to animosity against each other, and they fell again under the dominion of some ambitious chiefs, who had before been either the soldiers or the civil agents of the Pachas. They now want all the energy and the unity derived from an organized system of government, taming some of the passions and directing others to the public good. Time will bring such a system; for a whole nation can profit by no other teacher. A system of government must and will arise suitable to the knowledge and the wants of the people, and the relations which now exist among the different classes of them.

“I do not mean to say that they are not to profit by the experience of other people; on the contrary I would have them acquire all the knowledge they can, but they cannot be a book-learned people for ages;—they cannot for ages have that knowledge and that equality amongst them which are found in Europe, and therefore I would not recommend them to follow implicitly any system of government now established in the world, or to square their institutions by the theoretical forms of any constitution. I am still so much attached to the constitution
of England personally, that were it to be attacked,—were any attempts made by any faction or party at home to put down its ancient and honourable aristocracy, I would be one of the first to uphold their cause with my life and fortune. At the same time I would not recommend that constitution to another country. It is the duty of every honourable man to assist every nation and every individual, as far as he can, in obtaining rational freedom, but before we can do this we must know in what freedom consists.

“In the United States of America there is more practical freedom, and a form of government both abstractedly better and more suited to the situation of the Greeks than any other model I know of. From what I have already said of the different interests and divisions which prevail in Greece, it is to me plain that no other government will suit it so well as a federation. I will not say a federation of republics; but a federation of states; each of these states having that particular form of government most suitable to the present situation and wishes of its people. There is no abstract form of government which we can call good. I won’t say with Pope, that “whate’er is best administered is best;” but I will say, that every government derives its efficiency as well as its power from the people. Despotism cannot exist where they are not sluggish,
inert, insensible to political rights, and careless of any thing but animal enjoyment. Neither can freedom flourish where they confide implicitly in one class of men, and where they are not one and all watchful to protect themselves, and prevent both individual and general encroachment.

“In the Islands and on the Continent wealth and power are very differently distributed, and the governments are conducted on different principles. It would be absurd, therefore, and perhaps impossible, to give the islands and the continent the same sort of government. I say, therefore, the Grecian confederation must be one of states, and not of republics. Any attempt of an individual or of any one state to gain supremacy will bring on civil war and destruction. At the same time the federation might have a head like the United States of America. Each state might be represented in a congress, and a president elected every four years in succession, from one of the three or four great divisions of the whole federation. The Morea might choose the first president, the second might be elected by the Islands, Western Greece might select the third, and should Candia be united with Greece, which is necessary for the permanent independence of the whole, its inhabitants should in their turn elect a fourth president. On some plan of this kind a federation of the States of Greece might
be formed, and it would be recommended to the Greeks by bearing some faint resemblance to the federation of their glorious ancestors; but any attempt to introduce one uniform system of government in every part of the country, however excellent in principle, will only embroil the different classes, generating anarchy, and ending in slavery.

“No system of government in any part of Greece can be permanent, which does not leave in the hands of the peasantry the chief part of the political power. They are warmly attached to their country, and they are the best portion of the people. Under a government in the least degree equitable, they must increase rapidly both in numbers and wealth; and unless they are now placed, in a political point of view, on an equality with other classes, it will soon be necessary to oppress them. They are not now sensible of their own importance, but they soon will be under a Greek government, and they can only be retained in obedience by gaining over their affections.

“Though the situation and climate of Greece are admirable, it has been impossible for the country to prosper under the yoke of the Turks. Their idleness, ignorance, oppression, and hostility to improvement, have nearly excluded the Greeks from any participation in the general progress
of civilization. Where they have had the least opportunity of gaining either knowledge or wealth, they have eagerly embraced it. The inhabitants of the Islands are much better informed than those of the continent, and they are the most skilful as well as the boldest seamen, and the most acute traders, to be found in the whole course of the Mediterranean. The people are naturally as intelligent as their ancestors, but they have been debased and brutified by the tyrannical government of the Turks. Now there is some hope of their living under a better system, they will soon become both industrious and enterprising. Not only will they be more happy and flourishing as a nation, but having within them the elements of improvement, they must increase in power as the Turkish empire decays. There are numerous tribes in Asia connected with them by language and manners; which would be incorporated with them in their progress, and they might extend European civilization through the ancient empire of
Cyrus and Xerxes, till they again met on the borders of Hindostan with those people who held out to them the right hand of fellowship in their first struggles for freedom and independence. This is what Greece might do, what in fact she formerly did. Not that I want to see the Greeks gaining power by conquest, they have territory
enough; but, as I have said, the divisions among her different tribes, the want of unity in their views, the discord of her chieftains, are now so great that I am afraid all we can rationally hope for is, that by dint of hard fighting against the Turks in summer, and quarrelling among themselves in winter, they may preserve a troublesome sort of national independence till the Turkish empire crumbles into ruins. They may then have a chance of forming a distinguished province of some one of those mighty European monarchies which seem destined gradually to supplant the despotisms of Asia with a more regular and milder despotism.

“The Greek chiefs taken collectively,” said Lord Byron, “are a very respectable body of men. With one of them, Londa, I am particularly acquainted. I stopped at his house for some time when I was formerly in Greece, and he would not accept of a para for the trouble and expense I put him to. He presented me also with a very pretty horse at my departure. (This I shall not forget). The only chiefs who are particularly suspected of ambitious views are Colocotroni and Ulysses. Colocotroni, I am informed, was a captain in the Greek light infantry in the Ionian Islands; and at the commencement of the Greek contest, went over to the Morea with a number of adventurers. Whilst there was Turkish property to plunder, and whilst he could exact supplies from the poor
peasantry, his force was respectably kept up. Of himself he has taken good care, having forwarded to the Islands, for his own private use, all the plunder he has been able to amass. He is said to have acquired great wealth. Except the power this may give him, and it will keep him afloat for some time, he will soon exhaust his resources. The peasantry are now bare: he has swept their houses cleaner than ever the Turks did; and his mercenary followers, finding they can get nothing more under his standard, will soon leave him. Mark my word, Napoli di Romania will soon be evacuated by him; and either the Greek cause will not flourish, or he will fail.

Ulysses is suspected by the Greek government. A short time back two messengers were sent to him with orders from the government, and he put them both to death. He has been a robber, and was brought up in the service of Ali Pacha; both which circumstances excite suspicion. These difficulties will probably be surmounted when the government gets funds, for it is quite true in Greece that he who has money has power. I have experienced this since my arrival, and have had offers* that would surprise you were I to tell

* I should have left this part of the subject in the obscurity of the text, had I not seen it stated in the “London Magazine,” I think, that Lord Byron had a bad motive for his exertions in the cause of Greece. It is insinuated that he was ac-

you of them, and which would turn the head of any man less satiated than I am, and more desirous of possessing power than of contributing to freedom and happiness.

“To all these offers, and to every application

tuated by the vulgar ambition of a conqueror, and wished to be something like a king in Greece. No insinuation was ever more unfounded. He had offers of this kind made to him, but he refused. With his pecuniary resources, such is the mercenary disposition of the Greeks, it was, I am persuaded, only necessary for him to have devoted his fortune to the purpose, and he could have formed an army that would have incorporated in it all that was brave and ambitious in Greece. No single chieftain could have resisted; and all of them would have been obliged, because they could not trust one another, to join their forces with his. The whole of the Suliotes were completely at his beck. He could have commanded and procured the assassination of any man in Greece for a sum too trifling to mention. The task would have been full of danger undoubtedly, but what attempt to gain such power is not? It was not however beyond his abilities, had his inclination inclined him to undertake it. He was too certain of commanding the respect of mankind by his admirable talents, to hunt after their admiration by any kind of vulgar atrocity. He never wished to possess political power in Greece, though he fought for her freedom; and he might have been the head man of the country, had he chosen to oppose the government.

That he was sensible of his power is quite evident from what he frequently said to me. “Any man who had money,” he said, “may arrogate consequence to himself. What prevents me, if I were so minded, from forming a large military force in Greece. I might send to England and procure a set of veteran practical non-commissioned officers and practical mechanics, by whose

made to me, which had a tendency to provoke disputes or increase discord, I have always replied, I came here to serve Greece; agree among yourselves for the good of your country, and whatever is your united resolve, and whatever the government commands, I shall be ready to support with my fortune and my sword. I am here to act against the external enemies and tyrants of Greece and will not take part with any faction in the country. We who come here to fight for Greece have no right to meddle with its internal affairs, or dictate to the people and government; since I have been here, I have seen and felt quite enough to try the temper of any man, but I will remain here, while there is a gleam of hope.

“Much is expected from the loan, and I know that without money it is impossible to succeed, but I am apprehensive this foreign assistance will be looked on by each of the chiefs, as a prize to be obtained by contention, and may lead to a civil

means, and my own resources, I could set many things in motion. If I had only men to teach the Greeks some of the necessary arts, and were able to supply their want of warlike stores, I could find plenty of men; and an army might be at my command. The fortifications I could repair so as to make them secure against all attacks. The navy I could set afloat, and if I liked, have my own way in Greece; but I repeat I came here to serve the Greeks on their own conditions and in their own way, and I will not swerve while life remains from this intention.”

war. The government, which has contracted for the loan, looks with no favourable eye on
Colocotroni and Ulysses, and yet they are, probably, two of the bravest and most skilful of the military chieftains. I have advised Mavrocordato to recommend the government to supply these chiefs with money, but to keep them as short as possible. I have also recommended him, and if this advice is followed, much good may be effected, immediately on the receipt of the loan, to pay up the arrears of the troops, particularly of the Suliotes, and to take care that their families are provided for. They are the best mountain-soldiers in Greece, and perhaps in the world; but they are without a country, and without a home. I know that an offer has been made, to restore them to their former country, if they will forsake the Greek cause, and I see no means of firmly attaching them to it, but to pay them regularly, and, by providing for their families, to secure hostages for their continued services.

Mr. Canning may do much for Greece; I hope he will continue in office. He is a clever man, and has an opportunity beyond all his predecessors, of effecting great things. The ball is at his feet, but he must keep a high hand, and neither swerve to the right nor left. South America will give him an opportunity of acting on sound principles; on this point he will not be shackled. The
great mechanical power of England, her vast ingenuity, gives him the control of the world; but the very existence of England’s superiority hangs on the balance of his decision. This minister bears all the responsibility. With respect to Greece it is different. The Turkish empire is our barrier against the power of Russia. The Greeks, should they gain their independence, will have quite sufficient territory in the Morea, Western Greece, and the islands.

“It will take a century to come, to change their character. Canning I have no doubt will proceed with caution—he can act strictly honourable to the Turks. I have no enmity to the Turks individually, they are quite as good as the Greeks; I am displeased to hear them called barbarians. They are charitable to the poor, and very humane to animals; their curse, is the system of their government, and their religion or superstition.

“I hope England will keep possession of the Ionian Islands; with them and Malta, she may preserve her naval superiority for ages to come.”

As the advances which Lord Byron had made to the Greeks were to be paid out of the loan, he was on this account also anxious that the money might arrive; otherwise his own resources and his own projects would be crippled. When the money arrived, he would be at liberty, he said, to follow his own plans. He could obtain what
supplies he pleased from Ancona, and then with his own brigade, the Suliotes, and the force to be put under his orders, we should be fully competent to invest Lepanto, and take both it and Patrass. “This shall be my first object,” he said, “at the beginning of the campaign; Patrass and Lepanto being in our possession, the Morea will be secure, and we may think of more offensive warfare.” For this particular service, his own brigade was to be ready, as I have already stated, by May 7th.

“My future intentions, as to Greece may be explained in a few words; I will remain here, till she is secure against the Turks, or till she has fallen under their power. All my income shall be spent in her service, but unless driven by some great necessity, I will not touch a farthing of the sum intended for my sister’s children. Whatever I can accomplish with my income, and my personal exertions, shall be cheerfully done. When Greece is secure against external enemies, I will leave the Greeks to settle their government as they like. One service more, and an eminent service it will be, I think I may perform for them. You shall have a schooner built for me, or I will buy a vessel; the Greeks shall invest me with the character of their ambassador or agent; I will go to the United States, and procure that free and enlightened government, to set the example of
recognising the Federation of Greece, as an independent state. This done, England must follow the example, and then the fate of Greece will be permanently fixed, and she will enter into all her rights, as a member of the great commonwealth of Christian Europe.”

This was Lord Byron’s hope, and this was to be his last project in favour of Greece. Nothing, I think, within the power of an individual to accomplish, could be better conceived, or would have tended more to the advantage of Greece, than this simple and noble plan. Into it no motive of personal ambition entered, more than that just and proper one, the basis of all virtue and the distinguished characteristic of an honourable mind; the hope of gaining the approbation of good men. As an author, he had already attained the pinnacle of popularity and of fame; but this did not satisfy his noble ambition. He hastened to Greece, with a devotion to liberty, and a zeal in favour of the oppressed, as pure as ever shone in the bosom of a knight, in the purest days of chivalry, to gain the reputation of an unsullied warrior, and of a disinterested statesman. He was her unpaid, but the blessings of all Greece, and the high honours his own countrymen bestow on his memory, bearing him in their hearts, prove that he was not her unrewarded, champion.