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Guest Viewpoints

Celebrating the Bicentennial of Greek Independence

March 9, 2021
By Konstantinos Ganias

Although Greek Independence Day is usually associated with March 25, 1821, it was on January 27, 1822, that the Greek Declaration of Independence was formally issued in Epidaurus by the Greek National Assembly, declaring Greece a free and independent state. The War of Independence lasted until 1830.

Author Kostantinos Ganias of Worcester, MA, submitted his thoughts on the Declaration in honor of the bicentennial of Greek Independence. The full text of the 1822 Declaration appears below and Ganias’ article follows.

THE GREEK DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (1822)

“We, descendants of the wise and noble peoples of Hellas, we who are the contemporaries of the enlightened and civilized nations of Europe, we who behold the advantages which they enjoy under the protection of the impenetrable aegis of the law, find it no longer possible to suffer without cowardice and self-contempt the cruel yoke of the Ottoman power which has weighed upon us for more than four centuries – a power which does not listen to reason and knows no other law than its own will, which orders and disposes everything despotically and according to its caprice. After this prolonged slavery we have determined to take arms to avenge ourselves and our country against a frightful tyranny, iniquitous in its very essence – an unexampled despotism to which no other rule can be compared.

The war which we are carrying on against the Turk is not that of a faction or the result of sedition. It is not aimed at the advantage of any single part of the Greek people; it is a national war, a holy war, a war the object of which is to reconquer the rights of individual liberty, of property and honor – rights which the civilized people of Europe, our neighbors, enjoy to-day; rights of which the cruel and unheard-of tyranny of the Ottomans would deprive us – us alone – and the very memory of which they would stifle in our hearts.

Are we, then, less reasonable than other peoples, that we remain deprived of these rights? Are we of a nature so degraded and abject that we should be viewed as unworthy to enjoy them, condemned to remain crushed under a perpetual slavery and subjected, like beasts of burden or mere automatons, to the absurd caprice of a cruel tyrant who, like an infamous brigand, has come from distant regions to invade our borders? Nature has deeply graven these rights in the hearts of all men; laws in harmony with nature have so completely consecrated them that neither three nor four centuries – nor thousands nor millions of centuries – can destroy them. Force and violence have been able to restrict and paralyze them for a season, but force may once more resuscitate them in all the vigor which they formerly enjoyed during many centuries; nor have we ever ceased in Hellas to defend these rights by arms whenever opportunity offered.

Building upon the foundation of our natural rights, and desiring to assimilate ourselves to the rest of the Christians of Europe, our brethren, we have begun a war against the Turks, or rather, uniting all our isolated strength, we have formed ourselves into a single armed body, firmly resolved to attain our end, to govern ourselves by wise laws, or to be altogether annihilated, believing it to be unworthy of us, as descendants of the glorious peoples of Hellas, to live henceforth in a state of slavery fitted rather for unreasoning animals than for rational beings.

Ten months have elapsed since we began this national war; the all-powerful God has succored us; although we were not adequately prepared for so great an enterprise, our arms have everywhere been victorious, despite the powerful obstacles which we have encountered and still encounter everywhere. We have had to contend with a situation bristling with difficulties, and we are still engaged in our efforts to overcome them. It should not, therefore, appear astonishing that we were not able from the very first to proclaim our independence and take rank among the civilized peoples of the earth, marching forward side by side with them. It was impossible to occupy ourselves with our political existence before we had established our independence. We trust these reasons may justify, in the eyes of the nations, our delay, as well as console us for the anarchy in which we have found ourselves.”

Commemorating the 200th Anniversary of Greek Independence

The above is the second Greek Declaration of Independence in Epidaurus, in January 15,1822 only 10 months after the first Declaration which was on March 25, 1821.

This March 25th marks the 200th anniversary of Greek Independence. Celebrated in 2021, it will recall the Greek Fever that spread throughout Europe, mainly France, England, and in the United States, during the decade from 1821-1830, when the Greeks rose to free themselves from Ottoman rule.

These are but a few examples of how this second Declaration of Independence helped the Greek cause through Philhellenism.

France did help Greece by many ways. Rigas Feraios – a notable Greek in Paris – who had studied the French Revolution, loved the ideas and the reasons for it. Therefore, through his writings in poems and letters, he transplanted the seed of freedom and the ideas of liberty to Greece whose people not only opened their hearts and minds to them but also took up arms and tried to copy the French. The French Revolution which preceded that of the Greek played an important part towards that of the newly awakened Greeks. 

Lord Byron whose "my Greece I have given you everything – now I give you my life" had inspired not only learned men but even the most common people.

The ‘Greek Fever’ had spread to many other people – such as the Austrians, Hungarians, Poles, Russians and most importantly – the American people. 

Thanks to some very influential people like Daniel Webster, President James Monroe, Henry Clay, President John Q. Adams, D. Cook, and most of all Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe, the American people were well informed of the Greek Cause and their response was great.

The voice of the Greek Declaration was heard very well in the United States of America. U.S. cities were given Greek names, including Greece, Navarino, Ypsilanti, Athens, Troy, Solon, Sparta, Laconia, etc., among many other names.

Committees of every kind were formed. Some to collect money, some for clothing, medicine, ships, and volunteers to go and fight along with the Greek rebels. 

Truly, the second Greek Declaration of Independence at Epidaurus of 1822 had more ‘punch’ behind it because a whole year had passed from the first in 1821 and the Greek people had shown to the world that they finally had awakened to rid themselves of the “sick man of Europe,” the Ottoman Empire.

No other declaration has done so much to attract more aid, economical and psychological, and most of all to inspire Philhellenism.

The 200th anniversary of Greek Independence in 2021 recalls the words of James Monroe – the fifth President of the United States, who had retired in New York, and said “that Greece will become again an independent nation; that she may obtain that rank is the object of our most urgent wishes.”

Konstantinos Ganias is the author of Kostas, My Story and Towards a New Life. His books are available online.

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