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Among the less serious embarrassments of his position at this period may be mentioned the struggle maintained against him by his colleague, Colonel Stanhope, —with a degree of conscientious perseverance which even while thwarted by it, he could not but respect,on the subject of a Free Press, which it was one of the favourite objects of his fellow-agent to bring instantly into operation in all parts of Greece. On this important point their opinions differed considerably; and the following report, by Colonel Stanhope, of one of their many conversations on the subject, may be taken as a fair and concise statement of their respective views.
a Lord Byron said that he was an ardent friend of publicity and the press; but that he feared it was not applicable to this society in its present combustible state. I answered that I thought it applicable to all countries, and essential here, in order to put an end to the state of anarchy which at present prevailed. Lord B. feared libels and licentiousness. I said that the object of a free press was to check public licentiousness, and to expose
libellers to odium. Lord B. had mentioned his conversation with Mavrocordato ' to show that the Prince was not hostile to the press. I declared that I knew him to be an enemy to the press, although he dared not openly to avow it. His lordship then said that he had not made
his mind about the liberty of the press in Greece, but that he thought the experiment worth trying.”
· Lord Byron had, it seems, acknowledged, on the preceding evening, his having remarked to Prince Mavrocordato, that « if he were in his situation, he would have placed the press under a censor,» to which the Prince had replied, « No; the liberty of the press is guaranteed by the Constitution.»
That between two men, both eager in the service of one common
cause, there should arise a difference of opinion as to the means of serving it, is but a natural result of the varieties of human judgment, and detracts nothing from the zeal or sincerity of either. But by those who do not suffer themselves to be carried away by a theory, it will be conceded, I think, that the scruples professed by Lord Byron with respect to the expedience or safety of introducing what is called a Free Press into a country so little advanced in civilisation as Greece, were founded on just views of human nature and practical good sense. To endeavour to force upon a state of society, so unprepared for them, such fullgrown institutions; to think of engrafting, at once, on an ignorant people the fruits of long knowledge and cultivation-of importing among them, ready made, those advantages and blessings which no nation ever attained but by its own working out, nor ever was fitted to enjoy but by having first struggled for them,-to harbour even a dream of the success of such an experiment, implies a sanguineness almost incredible, and such as, though, in the present instance, indulged by the political economist and soldier, was, as we have seen, beyond the poet.
The enthusiastic and, in many respects, well founded confidence with which Colonel Stanhope appealed to the authority of Mr Bentham on most of the points at issue between himself and Lord Byron, was, from that natural,antipathy which exists between political economists and poets, but little sympathized in by the latter; —such appeals being always met by him with those sallies of ridicule, which he found the best-humoured vent for his impatience under argument, and to which, notwithstanding the venerable name and services of
Mr Bentham himself, the quackery of much that is promulgated by his followers presented, it must be owned, ample scope. Romantic, indeed, as was Lord Byron's sacrifice of himself to the cause of Greece, there was in the views he took of the means of serving her not a tinge of the unsubstantial or speculative. The grand, practical task of freeing her from her tyrants was his first and main object. He knew that slavery was the great bar to Knowledge, and must be broken through before her light could come; that the work of the sword must therefore precede that of the pen, and camps be the first schools of Freedom.
With such sound and manly views of the true exigencies of the crisis, it is not wonderful that he should view with impatience, and something, perhaps, of contempt, all that premature apparatus of printing-presses
, pedagogues, etc., with which the Philhellenes of the London Committee were, in their rage
for « utilitarianism,» encumbering him. Nor were some of the correspondents of this body much more solid in their
spe. culations than themselves; one intelligent gentleman having suggested, as a means of conferring signal advantages on the cause, an alteration of the Greek alphabet.
Though feeling, as strongly, perhaps, as Lord Byron, the importance of the great object of their mission,that of rousing and, what was far more difficult, combining against the common foe the energies of the country,--Colonel Stanhope was also one of those who thought that the lights of their great master, Bentham, and the operations of a press unrestrictedly free, were no less essential instruments towards the advancement of the struggle, and in this opinion, as we have seen, the poet
and man of literature differed from the soldier.
But it was such a difference as, between men of frank and fair minds, may arise without either reproach to themselves, or danger to their cause, –a strife of opinion which, though maintained with heat, may be remembered without bitterness, and which, in the present instance, neither prevented Byron, at the close of one of their warmest altercations, from exclaiming generously to his opponent, « Give me that honest right hand,» nor withheld the other from pouring forth, at the grave of his colleague, a strain of eulogy' not the less cordial for being discriminatingly shaded with censure, nor less honourable to the illustrious dead for being the tribute of one who had once manfully differed with him.
Towards the middle of February, the indefatigable activity of Mr Parry having brought the artillery brigade into such a state of forwardness as to be almost ready for service, an inspection of the Suliote corps took place, preparatory to the expedition; and after much of the usual deception and unmanageableness on their part, every obstacle appeared to be at length surmounted. It was agreed that they should receive a month's
in advance; --Count Gamba, with 300 of their corps, as a vanguard, was to march next day and take up a position under Lepanto, and Lord Byron with the main body and the artillery was speedily to follow.
New difficulties, however, were soon started by these untractable mercenaries; and under the instigation, as was discovered afterwards, of the great rival of Mavrocordato, Colocotroni, who had sent emissaries into Missolonghi for the purpose of seducing them, they
· Sketch of Lord Byron.-See Colonel Slanhope's « Greece in 1823, 1824, etc.»
now put forward their exactions in a new shape, by requiring of the Government to appoint, out of their number, two generals, two colonels, two captains, and inferior officers in the same proportion :-u
u in short, says Count Gamba, « that, out of three or four hundred actual Suliotes, there should be about one hundred and fifty above the rank of common soldiers.», The audacious dishonesty of this demand, -beyond what he could have expected even from Greeks,-roused all Lord Byron's
rage, and he at once signified to the whole body, through Count Gamba, that all negotiation between them and himself was at an end; that he could no longer have any confidence in persons so little true to their engagements; and that though the relief which he had afforded to their families should still be continued, all his agreements with them, as a body, must be thenceforward void.
It was on the 14th of February that this rupture with the Suliotes took place; and though, on the following day, in consequence of the full submission of their Chiefs, they were again received into his lordship’s service on his own terms, the whole affair, combined with the various other difficulties that now beset him, agitated his mind considerably. He saw with pain that he should but place in peril both the cause of Greece and his own character, by at all relying, in such an enterprise, upon troops whom any intriguer could thus seduce from their duty; and that, till some more regular force could be organised, the expedition against Lepanto must be suspended.
While these vexatious events were occurring, the interruption of his accustomed exercise by the rains but increased the irritability that such delays were calculated