I. Aspects of American Philhellenism:
Edward Everett, Thomas Jefferson and Adamantios Korais; Albert Gallatin and The Marquis de Lafayette
C1. The Jefferson-Korais Correspondence: The First Letter from Korais to Jefferson.
(Stratakis, pp. 155-57) July 10, 1823
You will perhaps remember a Greek who was introduced to you a few years ago by the late Mr. Paradise, and who even had the pleasure of dining with you at Challiot. It is this same Greek, already greatly advanced in age, who is taking the liberty of writing you this letter at a time when his homeland s experiencing a rebirth.
It is not within the power of our tyrants to prevent this rebirth; but it is precisely because our freedom is still only an infant that its education requires great care and assistance, lest it perish in its cradle. One can hope for such aid only from truly free man.
It is a misfortune for us that we have revolted at a time when our publication has only begun. We are emerging from a very poor school, a Turkish school, which is to say everything; it is true that modern Greece has unexpectedly produced some Leonidases and Mitiadeses; but having emerged from lengthy oppression, it could not suddenly produce legislators such as appeared among the ancient habitants or such as have been seen in our times among you.
It is a further misfortune for us that we are neighbors of the so-called enlightened Euro-pean nations at a time when they find themselves in a crisis: even should this crisis end with the triumph of the small amount of freedom which they enjoy, it is to be feared that they will leave Greece only as much thereof as is convenient for their interests. The English like to embrace our cause and are starting to give us assistance, but you know the nature of the embraces of your dear fathers, who in no way resemble their children. They have already started calling our public officials excellencies, and will end up perhaps by recommending to us an upper house, which, in the condition in which our political body finds itself at the present time, can be composed only of all its corrupt parts.
What is to be done in such a situation? I do not know. To return to the Turkish yoke appears to me physically impossible; but I also regard it as practically impossible that our dear friends, the neighbors of Peloponesus, will ever permit us to form a government such as we desire; it is not in their interests to leave such a bad example at the door and within sight of the Seven Isles which they are already treating in an unliberal manner.
You can see, Sir, the perplexity in which all those Greeks who desire the good fortune of their nation must be. I am the dean of those Greeks and for thirty years, seeing the present era approach, I have not ceased to exhort my compatriots to prepare thems elves for it by education. The benevolence with which they have honored my exhortations has served me as encouragement to continue them up to the present time. But what can I do at the very advanced age that I am, stricken by various infirmities. Mavrocordatos, whom various bootlickers have begun to call Prince and will end up perhaps by making many imbeciles believe it, has just written me for the first time. His style, far from setting up as a prince, presents a person who is working in good faith for the well-being of his fatherland. I felt his letter to be sincere, and I have just replied to it accordingly.
That letter renewed my regrets not to have you for a neighbor and suggested to me, at the same time, the idea of writing you in order to consult your superior knowledge. Since the distance which separates us scarcely permits you to assist us physically, at least permit me to ask you these questions:
- Would it not be possible for you to send to Greece two or three respected persons under the name of negotiators for commercial affairs? And indeed, for your own interests I do not believe that you could find a time more favorable for such negotiation. These persons, entrusted with your affairs, could, at the same time, by their superior knowledge and zeal for their liberty, strengthen those Greeks who are at the head of affairs in their noble resolution to retain their independence, by advising them on all means directed at forming a good government. The presence of these persons on the very spot could serve us as antidote to neutralize all the pernicious influences which come to us from the enemies of our freedom.
- In the event that you do not plan to send negotiators or that you do not believe that the time for this has come as yet, could you, or one of your compatriots enjoying the same respect as you, not insert in one of your newspapers an advisory letter on the affairs of Greece? This letter would have to be a reply addressed to an anonymous Greek who asks your advice; and I could, if you would be so kind as to send me a copy of the newspaper which publishes the letter, translate it into modern Greek. Either I deceive myself greatly or such a letter would produce a salutary effect on the minds of my compatriots, a considerable number of whom know and revere your name.
If I ask you not to identify me, it is because my position requires this precaution. Furthermore, you are not limited to the form of a letter; you can present you recommendations in the form of reflections, suggested by the interest which you have in the welfare of Greece.
I take the liberty, Sir, of sending you with this letter the Ethics and Politics of Aristotle which I published a short time ago. I would appreciate your acknowledging receipt thereof to me, sending your letter, in a envelope, to my home, Rue Madame No. 5, derrière le Luxembourg. Help us, O happy Americans; it is not alms which we are asking from you; it is rather an occasion to increase your happiness which we are affording you. Please accept, Sir, the assurance of the deep respect with which you have always inspired me.
Paris, July 10, 1823
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).