IV. The “Greek Question” As An Issue of U.S. Foreign Policy

C1. Appointment of William C. Sommerville as First Agent of the United States to Greece

(Robinson, pp. 187–88)

To William C. Sommerville

Department of State
Washington, Sept 6, 1825.


The very deep interest which the people of the United States naturally feel in the existing contest between Greece and Turkey has induced the President to appoint you an Agent for the government of the United States to proceed to Greece. You will accordingly embark on board the United States frigate, Brandywine, which is to carry General Lafayette to France, and upon your arrival there, you will thence continue in that vessel or proceed without delay in such other manner as may appear to you most eligi-ble, to the point of your destination.

Upon reaching Greece you will repair to the actual seat of government and communicate to the existing authorities your arrival and your appointment.

You will let them know that the people of the United States and their government, through the whole of the present struggle of Greece, have constantly felt an anxious desire that it might terminate in the re-establishment of the Liberty and Independence of that Country and that they have consequently observed the events of the war with the most lively interest, sympathizing with Greece when they have been unfortunately adverse and rejoicing when they have been propitious to her cause. Nor ought any indifference, as to its issue, on the part of the United States, to be inferred, from the neutrality which they have hitherto prescribed, and probably will continue to prescribe, to themselves. That neutrality is according to the policy which has characterized this government from its origin which was observed during all the Revolutionary wars of France and which has been also extended to the contest between Spain and her Ameri, can Colonies.

It is better for both, the United States and Greece, that it should not be departed from in the present instance.

It is a principal object of your agency to collect and transmit from time to time, to this Department information of the present state and future progress of the war by land and at sea, the capacity of Greece to maintain the contest, the number and the condition of her armies; the state of her marine; of the Public Revenue, the amount, dispositions and degree of education of her population, the character and views of the chiefs, and, in short, whatever will tend to enable the government of the United States to form a correct judgement, in regard to the ability of Greece to prosecute the war, and to sustain an independent government.

Without any officious interference in their affairs, or obtruding your advice upon them, you will, whenever applied to, communicate all the information which may be desired, as to this country and its institutions and, you will, on suitable occasions lend your friendly office to deal with any difficulties or soothe any angry passions in the way to that harmonious concert between the Grecian functionaries and commanders without which their cause cannot prosper.

You will also render any aid that you can to our commerce and seamen, in the ports and harbours [sic] of Greece. Information which it is hoped is not correct has reached this Department of one or two American merchantmen having engaged in the Turkish ser-vice, to transport military men or means. If any such instances should fall within your observation, you will acquaint the parties concerned with the high displeasure of the President at conduct so unworthy of American citizens, and so contrary to their duty, as well as their honour [sic]; and that if they should bring themselves, in consequence of such misconduct, into any difficulties, they will have no right to expect the interposition of this government in their behalf.

The compensation which the President has determined to allow you is at the rate of four thousand five hundred dollars per annum. Your commission as charge d'affaires to Sweden, will be considered as terminating on your arrival in Europe, and as the salary which it carried along will then cease with it, the above compensation will begin on that day.

I have the honour [sic] to be your obedient servant

(Signed) H. CLAY [Secretary of State]

(Hatzidimitriou 258-260)

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).