III. “Greek Fire” The Grass Roots Response A. Expression of Public Support for the Greek Cause
A4. Address of the Committee Appointed at a General Meeting, Held in Philadelphia for the relief of the Greeks
ADDRESS OF the Committee appointed at a General Meeting, held in Philadelphia, Dec'r 11, 1823, FOR THE RELIEF OF THE GREEKS; TO THEIR FELLOW-CITIZENS (Pamphlet: No date]
The Citizens of Philadelphia and its vicinity, convened for the purpose of devising means of evincing the public sympathy for the oppressed people of Greece, have assigned to is the duty of addressing you, our fellow citizens, on this most interesting subject. Under ordinary circumstances, we are aware, the necessity might not exist, of urging upon you considerations of humanity; because, so far from closing your ears to the voice of distress, or averting your eyes from her haggard form, you have always caught her slightest whisper, and sought her in her most secluded retirement; have, unasked, healed and clothed and fed the children of misfortune, and raised their hopes from the dust, and reared their dwellings from the ashes. Nor is it, we know, within the narrow circle of home only, that your philanthropy has been thus exerted: distant cities, even distant countries, have already tasted your bounty. It could not therefore be doubted, that the sympathy for suffering Greece, so universally felt and expressed, should also be productive of the fruit of charity. For, remote as she is, her cry has been echoed from the shores of these continents, and the blaze of her burning cities glared across intervening seas. You have viewed the destruction of her churches, and the murder of the ministers of her religion, and have shuddered as Christians; you have seen her soil devastated, and her sons trodden to earth, and have glowed as patriots; you have beheld her children massacred, her matrons and maids dragged to slavery and pollution, and have felt as men.
But there may be some among our fellow-citizens, who, from a conscientious adherence to religious obligations, might be scrupulous in bestowing the aid we solicit, lest it should be applied to the furtherance of warlike operations in Greece: while others might shrink from any participation in our lab ours [sic], because, in their opinion, the aspect of our political affairs, in relation to Europe, gives an importance to the act of any portion of the American public, having a tendency to urge the government to the adoption of a policy leading to hostilities with foreign powers. To these objections, however, a ready, and, we trust, a satisfactory answer, can be given. It need not, and it ought not to be concealed, that the fund contemplated to be raised, would be appropriated not only to the alleviation of the distresses of the non-combatants of Greece, but that her warriors also would receive their share of succour [sic]. But the arrangement made in reference to this subject, will, it is hoped, remove every difficulty. The committee have instructed those who collect donations, to make entries in books prepared for that exclusive purpose, of all sums or donations of whatever kind, received from those who at the time express their wish to that effect : and the money or articles thus distinguished, shall be remitted to Greece, for the sole purpose of contributing to the relief of private distress. In other countries, the estimable class of Christians to whom we now allude, have been liberal in their contributions in aid of the Greeks; with us they have ever been among the foremost in deeds of charity, and it may be hoped they will not find any impediment on this occasion, to a free exercise of their wonted beneficence.
It is true, likewise, that the meeting from which we derive our powers, has instructed us to address a memorial to the Congress of the United States, on the subject of a recognition of Grecian independence. But this measure can have no such tendency as seems to be apprehended. The memorial is but to pray the government to take into consideration the propriety of acknowledging the independence of the Greeks; and already a proposition, having the same object, has been submitted to Congress by one of its members, and may probably be acted on before our memorial reaches that body. And there is no doubt, the government will decide on this subject with its accustomed prudence, although without any abatement of its characteristic firmness. Our policy has been openly declared, and will not be lightly altered, if such alteration should incur the danger of exhausting the national strength abroad, while the concentration of all its energies might be required in this hemisphere. If, therefore, the recognition of Grecian independence take place, it cannot be by a departure from our policy : it will be because what is in accordance with the avowed sympathies of the government, and with the general sentiment of the people, is also found to be in strict conformity with the true policy of the nation.
No, fellow citizens! there is nothing which ought to prevent you, as men, as patriots, as Christians, from affording your assistance to the labour [sic] we are engaged in. For ages the unhappy Greeks have been trampled under the feet of their ferocious enslavers. They have at length turned upon their oppressors, and single-handed dared to contend for their natural inheritance. Surrounded by privations of every kind, amidst the smouldering ruins of their habitations, over the blackened corpses of their relatives, they still have fought, and still withstood the fearful odds against them, and at the end of their third campaign, remain masters of almost the entire Morea. The governments of Europe have witnessed their struggle with indifference, or with selfish jealousy. Their senates have been insulted, their blockades violated, their captures forced from them. Vessels under neutral flags have degraded themselves into transport ships for their enemies; and even government vessels of that power, looked up to as the bulwark of European freedom, have sailed by their blazing islands in frigid neutrality, within hearing of the supplicating shrieks of the female victim, almost within reach of her outstretched arms.
Greece expects nothing from European governments. Their entangling alliances, their involved policy, their chimerical balance of power, must at present, and perhaps forever, forbid their interference in her behalf; and another series of centuries may, for all they will do, behold this fairest portion of earth, hallowed by so many glorious recollections, this gallant and intelligent race, descendants of the bravest, the wisest and the most polished of their time, still groaning under the barbarous dominion of the scimitar.
But to the people of every Christian country, the Christian Greek confidently appeals, and does not, and shall not, appeal in vain. England, Germany, France, have seen their citizens, some of the highest rank, proud of arraying themselves under the banner of the Grecian cross; and money and munitions of war, food and clothing, have been liberally contributed by the generous people of these nations. And shall America alone do nothing? America, who should, in such a cause, do most, from whom Greece expects more than from nations less free and less generous, whom she, beyond all others, with reason, invokes! Can we read the Address from the Messenian Senate to the Citizens of the United States, and still shut our hearts to the appeal?
“We possess in you,” say they, “friends, fellow citizens, and brethren, because you are just, humane, and generous; just because free, generous and liberal because Christian. Your liberty is not propped on the slavery of other nations, not your prosperity on their calamities and sufferings. But, on the contrary, free and prosperous yourselves, you are desirous that all men should share the same blessings; that all should enjoy those rights, to which by nature equally entitled. It is you who first proclaimed those rights; it is you who have been the first again to recognize them, in rendering the rank of men to the Africans, degraded to the level of brutes. It is by your example that Europe has abolished the shameful and cruel trade in human flesh; from you that she receives lessons of justice, and learns to renounce her absurd and sanguinary customs. This glory, Americans, is your alone, and raises you above all the nations which have gained a name for liberty and laws.
It is for you, citizens of America, to crown this glory, in aiding us to purge Greece from the barbarians who for four hundred years have polluted the soil. It is surely worthy of you to repay the obligations of the civilized nations, and to banish ignorance and barbarism from the country of freedom and the arts. You will not assuredly imitate the culpable indifference, or rather the long ingratitude, of some of the Europeans. No! the fellow-citizens of Penn, of Washington, and of Franklin, will not refuse aid to the descendants of Phocion, of Thrasybulus, of Aratus, and of Philopæmen.”
No, we dare answer for you, fellow-citizens, No: the countrymen of Penn, of Washington, and of Franklin, will not refuse their aid. We do not ask much: and although we cannot, and would not, restrict the munificent in the measure of their voluntary offerings, we limit our solicitations to a sum within the means, we trust, of every citizens. There are, we know, theoretical philanthropists, who will sneer at humble and partial efforts to relieve extensive misery. But we also know how much, under certain circumstances, even a little may effect. There are veterans of our revolutionary war still alive, who could tell the true value of the coarsest meal, or the roughest garment, in the dark day of that conflict; there are childless matrons yet living, whose freezing and famished infants, in that dreadful trial, the scantiest blanket might have preserved from perishing, the smallest morsel saved from starving. We ask you, then, for what you can with perfect convenience bestow, and, on behalf of our brethren of Greece, we will be grateful for the smallest donation.
GEORGE M. DALLAS, WILLIAM MEREDITH, JOSEPH PARKER NORRIS, NICHOLAS BIDDLE, JAMES N. BARKER, MATHEW CAREY, JOSEPH R. INGER, SOLL, LANGDON CHEVES, RICHARD W. MEADE, CHANDLER PRICE, JOHN SERGEANT, HORACE BINNEY, JOHN M. SCOTT.
Source: Constantine G. Hatzidimitriou, Founded on Freedom and Virtue: Documents Illustrating the Impact in the United States of the Greek War of Independence, 1821-1829 (New Rochelle, New York: Aristide D. Caratzas, 2002).