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THE GREEK INSURRECTION.. On the 5th of January last, the Greek insurrection broke out, and our readers will doubtless still bear in mind the feeling of pained surprise which the news of this precipitate movement excited through the whole of Europe. At a moment of the gravest complications, Greece, who owed so much to the two great European Powers, was so headstrong and ungrateful as to commence a rebellion and create new difficulties for England and France. After all that had been done for her to maintain that species of prestige with which she has been invested, and which she will never entirely lose, it might naturally have been anticipated that Greece: would range her forces on the side of civilisation, in order to repel the violence and tyranny of the Tsar.
Still, no one was for a moment mistaken as to the origin and intention: of the Greek insurrection. It was soon seen to be a direct emanation from the Russian party, or rather it was known that in Greece there was only one influence, one rallying cry-Russia--which maintained in the Greek territory the ancient feeling of disturbance and insurrection. Russian gold was lavishly expended from one end of Greece to the other; her agents, openly moving everywhere, supplied arms, organised bands, and excited the people to rise against the Turkish government. At the precise moment, then, when Russia had turned the whole of Europe, against herself, when she had accumulated so many acts of violence and bad faith-80 worthily crowned by the massacre of Sinope-Greece thought proper to declare herself Russian, to attach herself to the cause of the Tsar by all her sympathies and active strength, and to draw up her combatants in the rear and on the flank of the Muscovite armies, as tirailleurs, or a. species of Hellenic Cossacks, intended to harass the troops of the allied powers.
The Greek insurrection, then, was in principle impolitic, imprudent, and unjust; it took the part of the bad cause and proved the Hellenic population to possess a great share of ignorance and ingratitude. Greece threw herself blindly into Russia's arms, determined to play her game without having studied or comprehended it; she risked, in the dangerous chances of revolt and battle, a fragile nationality which had been so fre. quently compromised, and which had only been saved by the greatest sacrifices on the part of her supporters. We will proceed to examine the nature of this Hellenic insurrection in its development, and see whether the details will in any way compensate for the folly and disgrace which marked its outbreak. · The Græco-Turkish provinces, Epirus and Thessaly, formed the principal focus of the insurrection. Through the traditions and the manners of the inhabitants, who are pre-eminently addicted to piracy and klephtism -through the natural disposition of the terrain, which is filled with narrow valleys and defiles, forming a multitude of natural fortresses the factious movements and attacks of the insurrectionaries have ever found
* Die orientalische Frage in ihrer geschichtlichen Entwickelung, von Dr. Richard Roepell. Breslau, 1854.
La Grèce et ses Insurrections. Par Edmond Texier. Paris, 1854.
full scope in the plains of Epirus and Thessaly. In order, therefore, to form a correct idea of the insurrection, and to appreciate its importance and character, it is indispensably necessary to be acquainted with the theatre on which the tragedy was played, more especially as Epirus and
Thessaly have been rarely visited by travellers, who generally traverse Greece for archæological purposes.
The picturesque country which we propose to describe is situated be tween the Hæmus, the Adriatic, and the Gulf of Salonichi. A chain of mountains separates Epirus and Thessaly, Macedonia and Thrace. There are few points in Europe that have been so rarely explored. For four hundred years, that is to say, since these countries have been subjected to the Turks, they have been entirely neglected by travellers, so much so, that it is still a question of discussion whether these mountains, form one chain or so many distinct plateaux. “ The whole of Epirus, or Lower Albania,'' says Malte Brun, “is a chain of mountains, generally calcareous, intersected by deep valleys, and inclosing very few plains.” Epirus is bounded, in the direction of Thessaly and Macedonia, by the peaks celebrated in the old poetic myths, Pindus and Pelion, whose names, however, possess but very slight attraction for the ears of the present inhabitants. On the sea side it is defended by walls of rock, stronger than any which could be built with human hands. It is supposed that traces may still be found in. these fortifications of the handiwork of the Cyclopeans—those fabulous workmen, who selected these rude countries for the centre of their earliest labours. The principal ports of Epirus are Parga, Butrinto, Salagora, Prevesa and Aulona. Fleets may blockade these ports and disembark troops, and still the assailants could not render themselves masters of the country, or even surmount the line of rocks. It is only necessary to cast. a glance at these formidable defences to see that it would be labour in vain to attempt a regular siege ; the assailants would expose themselves. to a loss of time as considerable and fruitless as that which Massena underwent before the famous lines of Torres Vedras.
The Turks acquired possession of Thessaly and Thrace in 1390. They did not penetrate into Epirus till forty years later, fearing that race of Epirotes, already so well known for their warlike habits and love of plunder. The Greek empire was dissolved, and the Mussulman power, then at its zenith, everywhere excited astonishment and terror. History agrees in confessing that the Epirotes did not display, in these contests with the Mussulmans, that energy and intrepidity which they have since revealed. They yielded without a blow.
Epirus at the present day is divided into a number of small cantons, forming, as it were, so many separate states, enjoying their own government and administration, and only communicating with the pacha, who represents the Sultan, and receives the annual taxes which the different villages pay, or are assumed to pay. The different chains of mountains which intersect Epirus have been the cause of this multitude of districts, which all possess their own peculiar character, and which could only with great difficulty be subjected to a uniform and regular mode of government. At the extreme limit of Epirus is situated the canton of Mezzovo, which may be regarded as one of the principal seats of Greek fanaticism. In this canton there are several tribes, who live in a state of entire independence, bordering upon savageness, without laws or any other notion of the manners and customs of other nations. The next point worthy of mention is the celebrated valley of Sarrina, which plays so great a part in the history of the War of Independence. This valley is reached by four roads bordered by deep precipices. A very small number of troops is sufficient to guard the outlets. The canton of Souli has also gained an historic name; it is equally difficult of access. It is an inextricable labyrinth, a collection of Thermopylæ, in which only the inhabitants can find their way. Behind the chain of mountains, serving as a rampart to the country of the Souliotes, are situated Paramitia, Parga, and Butrinto, all places rendered famous by the heroic resistance of the fathers of the present insurgents. The Turks have built above Arta a fortress, which is far from being perfect in a strategic point of view, and which could not hold out long against regular troops having at their command the means of attack which science has created for modern sieges.
Of all the provinces over which Turkey has extended her dominion, Epirus was by far the most difficult to conquer, and it cannot even yet be said that it has ever been in a state of entire subjugation. The Mussulman armies took possession of certain important positions-plateaux or defiles, which they regarded as the strategic keys of the country ; but it was long ere they could establish communications between the fortresses and different points of defence. The possession of the maritime towns has given the Turkish government greater access to, and importance in, Epirus, but it has never effected that military union which is so necessary for the administration of this province, and especially for its subjugation in a time of revolt. Thus, Janina, which is in the centre of the mountans, is never entirely safe against a coup-de-main on the part of the insurgents, because all the defiles which surround it, and hitherto regarded as impregnable, only form subterraneous passages by which the rebels can always find their way into the very heart of the country. It has often been regarded as a matter of surprise that the Turks have not constructed a regular chain of forts, which should enclose the whole of Epirus and put an end to the present dangerous partition into detached cantons.
These works will undoubtedly be executed sooner or later, for the entire subjugation of the province can only be purchased at that price, but for the present they have been impeded by the natural repugnance of the Turkish troops to undertake any building, and to the carelessness of the pachas, who are notorious for their lax mode of government.
We are now acquainted with the terrain upon which the Hellenic insurrection broke out, and it is easy to understand that a people so little advanced in civilisation, and placed in such peculiar positions, both of manners and territory, would easily be persuaded to revolt as soon as they felt the impetus of another power which animated and encouraged them. On the 5th of February last, the revolt, which had been in agitation for some time previously, and which had announced its existence by certain precursive symptoms, broke out definitively on the Turco-Grecian frontier. They were not merely nameless bands of adventurers who set in motion this dangerous outbreak ; distinguished men, belonging to the highest ranks of the Greek army, did not hesitate to place themselves at its head, and to summon the whole Christian population of the Ottoman empire to revolt. It was soon seen that this was not one of those fortuitous events which take place contrary to the expectations and previsions
of the whole world : the design was formed, and the details were arranged prior to the outbreak.
Lieutenant Karaïskaky, bearer of a name celebrated in the annals of modern Greece, was in garrison at Larissa. He left that town escorted by a few intrepid and resolute comrades. He carried off with him the government chest, containing 20,000 drachmæ, and which was absolutely necessary for the accomplishment of his enterprise, and appeared in arms upon the Turkish territory. Two villages belonging to the district of Arta rose at his summons, and formed the nucleus of the insurgent band. Karaïskaky summoned all the people of the country through which he passed to join him. He declared that the hour of deliverance had arrived for all the Christian population subjected to the yoke of Turkey; the time was come for them to regain their independence and their nationality: the Græco-Turkish provinces could rely on the powerful assistance of the men and money Greece was about to send in a short time to second their efforts and favour the general rising.
Karaïskaky, in spite of his efforts and his zeal, made but slight progress in the districts to which he had proceeded. He was only followed by the inhabitants of two villages, who had been previously gained over, and a few individuals who had with great reluctance joined the insurrectionary forces. Still, daily proofs were obtained that the Greek government was either in overt communication, or, at the least, in avowed and actual connivance with the insurrection which had just broken out on the Græco-Turkish frontier. In the principal towns of Greece insurrectionary committees were organised before the very eyes of the authorities, who, far from attempting to put them down, lent them their assistance ; while every one was eager to aid in the cause by equipping and arming the combatants for this war, which they sought to exalt to the dignity of a crusade.
The diplomatic agents of the various powers, among others, M. ForthRouen, French minister at Athens, thought it their duty to make the Hellenic government acquainted with their views as to all that was taking place, but they only obtained vague and unsatisfactory answers. When the ministers of King Otho were pressed to act against the insurrection, and to take repressive measures, they explained their inactivity through the small body of troops Greece had at her disposal just at that moment, and the demonstrations they had hitherto made, far from being decisive, assumed, on the contrary, the appearance of ill-will and derision. All that had been done was to remove the prefect of police, a person of no importance, and who had no influence over the manifestations ; and among the officials of higher rank they arrested—the director of the military band. · The Court no longer dissembled the joy and hopes excited by the progress of the insurrectionary movement: they already fancied themselves once more masters of the provinces Turkey held in her power, and they openly mentioned, with all sorts of enthusiastic demonstrations, the names of the deputies, secretaries, and ministers, who communicated directly with the insurrection. These persons did not cease sending ammunition and subsidies; and they had written to Tyro and Scyra, ordering volunteers to be enrolled, in order that there might be no delay in invading the Turkish territory. The names of these gentlemen were MM. Prathè, Paximidi, and Drosso. Christidi Prathè, the brother of the deputy, had been seen-like a new Peter the Hermit-declaiming in the public square, and employing all the resources of his eloquence to excite the fanaticism of the mob. Generals, whose names were popular, among them Theodore Grivas, Tzavellas, and Tissaminos, had already gone to the frontier for the purpose of fomenting the insurrection. In order to increase the number of their adherents, they had forced every one they met to join them, and they had succeeded in collecting a species of army composed of the most discordant elements. It was even stated that they had already formed a provisional government. Circumstances of great gravity, and for which the Greek government would have eventually to be answerable to the other powers, had occurred at Patras, Missolonghi, and Chalcis ; the doors of all the prisons were opened, and the criminals set at liberty, in order that they might proceed into Turkey and join the rebels. It was easy to foresee the consequences which such a step must infallibly entail for the public security and morality, whenever the war was at an end, or even during its progress.
In the face of such demonstrations, the Turkish government did not remain inactive. Seeing that the enrolment of volunteers took place in the public squares and streets of Athens, the head of the Ottoman legation protested, in most energetic language, against all the acts which were taking place in his presence, and held the Greek government Tesponsible for the consequences. These protestations remaining without effect, the government of the Sultan was obliged to take defensive steps in order to stop at once all that was being done in Greece against the security and integrity of their territory. The Governor of Janina, as soon as the news of the movement reached him, sent off a body of five hundred irregular Albanians, and a battalion of regular troops. From Birac and Monastir three battalions also set out for Janina, in readiness for any event, and Hassan Bey marched froin Larissa with one hundred Albanians and one field-piece. These forces appeared to the Ottoman government more than sufficient to disperse the bands of the insurgents, who were regarded as a collection of adventurers and vagabonds. We must, however, add that the insurrection was still in its bud, and its extent and possible development could not yet be decided.
On the 18th March, Amiral Le Barbier de Tinan sailed from Constantinople, with one English and one French frigate, and it was stated that he was commissioned to make the most energetic representations to Otho and his ministry on the subject of what was taking place in Greece. The admiral even received secret instructions, authorising him to inform the king that, if he had not sufficient strength to recal his subjects to their duty, and to prevent them from any participation in the Epirote insurrection, the allied powers were determined to act, and put a stop to the hostile demonstrations on the part of the Greeks. It was in vain, however, that the representatives of the four powers united to give the king, and more especially the queen, the benefit of their counsel : unfortunately, their advice and representations remained, as before, without any effect. The ministers continued, as they had always done, to evince their lively desire to break off all connexion existing between Greece and the revolted Turkish provinces; but, despite their assurances, matters went on precisely in the old way. Daily fresh desertions were announced of men belonging to the royal army, and who abandoned their flag to enrol themselves beneath the banner of the insurrection, and