III. “Greek Fire” The Grass Roots Response A. Expression of Public Support for the Greek Cause

A5. Letter by the Students of the Theological Seminary at Andover: "Founded on Freedom and Virtue" An Appeal by Students

(Robinson, pp. 170-73.) New York Commercial Advertiser, December 23, 1823: Cause of the Greeks.

We take great pleasure in laying before our readers the following circular letter, addressed by the students in the Theological Seminary at Andover, to their fellow students in all the colleges and higher seminaries in our country. It augurs well in favor of the ultimate triumph of the Greeks to find their cause awakening such a sympathy in the breasts of our youth of that generation which is just now entering upon the stage of action, and which is therefore to constitute the sinew and strength of our nation for many years to come. It augurs well, too, that this strong sympathy is kindling up more particularly in the hearts of those, from whom are to come the future leaders of public sentiment and of public virtue, who are to be the guardians of our civil rights, the dispensers of our laws, the ministers of every youth who shall pursue it so that Greece, though Delphi has become silent and a voice from her temples or her caverns no longer serves to inspire her exertions, may yet hear her cry answered from beyond the waters, in the united voice of the youth of America, urging her onward to victory and liberty.

The object embraced in the third resolution will meet, we think, with general approbation. The youth of our seminaries are early led to an acquaintance with the literature of that country, on whose soil Homer sung and Demosthenes launched his thunders, and Paul proclaimed the everlasting gospel; and from which Rome borrowed all her intellectual greatness, and modern nations still derive their noblest models of eloquence and taste. It is natural for these youth to turn from the habitual contemplation of what "Athens was,” to the unwelcome conviction of what “Athens is,” to feel a deep interest in the descendants of those to whom we owe so much; and to yield, not only their good wishes, but their mite, towards advancing to glorious consummation the heroic struggle in which that people are now engaged. What though their tribute be not large it is yet one of those streams which will serve to swell the tide of effort; and if, when the eagle of victory and of liberty shall have perched upon the Parthenon, the Government should see fit to appropriate this offering in the manner proposed, it may constitute such a token of sympathy and friendship between Greece and the American people, as shall link them together in the closest bonds, and thus promote the mutual and highest interests of either nation. It will at least afford the novel and interesting spectacle of Greece, the mother of free institutions, and the nurse of intellect, receiving, in her fallen state, the sympathies, the encouragements, and the aids of a land, which, in her prime, she never knew; and which, inheriting from her both freedom and literary treasures, regard her with filial veneration, and claims to be the latest born of her posterity.

To the members of ...

In behalf of the members of the Theological Seminary in this place, we beg leave to address you on a subject, which we are confident has already excited your attention.

To Americans, any brave and generous nation, struggling for civil and religious freedom, is a spectacle never to be regarded with indifference; but when a people, inheriting a spirit which ages of suffering have not subdued, and professing the same Christian faith with ourselves - breaking the chains of their oppressors, not only look to us as the chosen people of freedom, gathering strength from our example, and hope from our history; but call on us as Freemen and as Christians to aid them in their hour of peril; — if we should turn away from that appeal, and refuse to hear their cry, we should prove ourselves unworthy of the name in which we glory.

The case is not imaginary. It is this day before us. The Greeks, to whom learning is a birthright, and freedom peculiarily [sic] an inheritance, have broken the fetters of their bondage, and in their struggle they have looked to America as the sanctuary of liberty and religion, and they have besought us by all the sympathies of freemen and fellow Christians, not to let them perish in so noble a conflict. Nor has their voice been disregarded. Throughout our country but one sensation has been felt. The public expression of the sentiments of our beloved Chief Magistrate has given a new impulse to that sensation, and the measures recently adopted in the city of New York are directing it into a channel of powerful efficiency.

But we have been led to address you on this occasion, because we feel that Greece has some peculiar claims on us and you. As men of letters, we have formed an acquaintance with her historians and philosophers, her orators and poets. For ourselves, we have looked at this contest from the beginning with no ordinary emotion. We have regarded it as a means which the wise Governor of Nations is using to bring to nought [sic] the dominion of the false prophet. As we pursued our course in the various departments of study, we were perpetually reminded of the Greeks, and we have felt ourselves under some personal obligations to the countrymen of Homer and Xenophon, and the descendants of Socrates and Plato; and when we saw our fellow citizens coming for ward with their contributions, we thought it a privilege to offer our mite, and we felt that it would enhance our satisfaction if we might contribute in such a way that it should be made a simple and enduring monument of our gratitude. Under the influence of such impressions, the members of this Seminary, in the evening of the 19th instant adopted the following Resolutions:

  1. Resolved: That the members of this Seminary deeply sympathize with the Greeks in their present struggle.
  2. That a Committee, consisting of one from every college and state, represented here be appointed to confer with our Professors on the subject; to take up a contribution, and receive subscriptions here; and to propose a Circular for the various colleges and professional seminaries in this country.
  3. That if the members of the other literary institutions concur in the plan, it be represented to the government of Greece, as our wish, that the money contributed in these institutions, be devoted, after the establishment of Grecian freedom, to the promotion of literature in that country, in some such way, so that it may become a permanent token of the respect and esteem with which the Greeks are regarded by the American youth devoted to study.

We have been led to present these Resolutions for your consideration, from a persuasion, that the emotions which we feel, must be common to all engaged in literary pursuits. The consideration too, that representatives from twelve colleges, and as many different states, are found in our number, relieved us from some part of the diffidence, which we might otherwise have felt. In concluding, we remark, that the object to be gained by the plan proposed, is not so much the pecuniary aid, we may afford the Greeks, as the public testimony, which in this way will be given to our fellow-citizens and to the Greeks that the young men in all our seminaries of Education, have heard and regarded the cry of a Christian civilized people, struggling with their persecutors - a civilized people, contending with their savage oppressors, and a people whose ancestors were the highest in the course of human improvement, driving forth an nation of untutored barbarians, from the land where learning and refinement once had their abode, and where the muses still love to linger. Most respectfully yours, etc.

JACOB ABBOT, Be. Bodwin College, GEORGE D. BOARDMAN, Waterville, Col.
GEORGE W. BLAGDEN, Dist. Columbia., LEONARD BACON, Theol. Sem. Andv.
SAMUEL H. Cowles, Conn., PINDAR FELD, Amhearst College.
ORRAMEL S. HINCKLEY, N.H. Dart. College., GEORGE Howe, Penn. Mid. College.
WM. W. HUNT, Wm. College., T. S. W. MOTT, Nova Scotia.
JAS. MUENCHER, R. I. Br. University., EDWARD PALMER, S. C.
ROYAL WASHBURN, Vt. University, Vt., WILLIAM WITHINGTON, Harvard University.

N.B. The money contributed here will be forwarded to the Committee in behalf of the Greeks in the city of New York, accompanied with our third Resolution. Should you cooperate with us, we would suggest the propriety of forwarding your contributions to the same Committee, accompanied with a similar resolution. Editors, generally are requested to republish the Circular.

(Hatzidimitriou 147-149)

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).