“The Liberal Revolution: Short Notes on the Greek War for Independence of 1821”
Prof. Aristides Chatzis’s short notes will be posted here regarding the Revolution of 1821.
Aristides Chatzis is Professor of Philosophy of Law and Institutional Theory at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and member of the KEFiM’s Academic Board. His books Liberalism (2nd edition 2017), Arguments of Freedom (2017) and Institutions (2018) are published by Papadopoulos Publishing. His monograph on the liberal character of the Revolution of 1821 will be released in the US. in early 2021. He gives thanks to KEFiM for its support.
You know, of course, that Patriarch Gregory the Fifth condemned the Revolution and the Revolutionaries in March 1821. The synodal aphorism was also signed by the Patriarch of Jerusalem and 22 Metropolitans. Among them, Thessaloniki’s Joseph. In the aphorism, the Revolutionaries are described as ungrateful with a “wicked spirit” because they betrayed the benevolent Ottoman Empire.
Of course, Gregory, with the aphorism, tried to protect the Christian populations of Asia Minor and the Balkans. This is a very interesting issue, but here it doesn’t concern me. What I want to show in this note is that Gregory (very conservative and against enlightenment), regardless of his motives, finds an opportunity to attack liberal ideas. Let me also note that these ideas are unknown to the Ottomans. As a good Turkish colleague, Yusuf Karabicak, recently assured me at a conference, no works of the enlightenment had been translated into Turkish until 1821.
The main targets of the aphorism were, of course, Alexander Ypsilantis and Michael Soutsos. They are characterized as audacious, arrogant, ignorant, malicious, monsters, praying, malignant, foolish, rash, notorious, without conscience, liars, wicked, catastrophic, satanic, unrespectful, fugitives, unmerciful, cursed, unforgivable, etc.
Who else would cooperate with such people? Why, the liberals, of course! These “liberal co-operatives” to be more accurate.
The aphorism is one of the first texts of the Greek secretariat where you can find a negative reference to the liberals that is additionally conspiratorial. Of course, it was preceded by the “Dhidhaskalia Patriki” (1798) of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Anthimus. It states there regarding liberalism that:
“This new system regarding freedom is nothing more than a confusion and overthrow of good administrations, a road bearing loss and to put it simply, an appealing ambush by the devil against Orthodox Christians.”
In that text, Adamantios Korais, the first Greek liberal intellectual, responded in a harsh way:
Since he tried, with statements and lies and misinterpretation of holy scripture, in a fraudulent manner to teach us the hatred of freedom, he transformes unexpectedly from a theologian to a philosopher and tries to convince us only with tangible evidence that political freedom is intangible. Until this point we saw nothing beyond the theologian’s malevolence. Now he also wants to see the philosopher’s complete lack of intellect. “(Adamantios Korais, Fraternity Teaching, Paris, 1798). But we will talk about Korais again some other time.
We return to Gregory. The difference here is that Gregory understands that the word liberal cannot have a negative meaning in the Greek language. So, he decides to call them “unliberal”.
They tried to act unreasonably, and without caution, because they wanted to disturb the peace and quiet of our faithful slaves of the active kingdom, which they enjoy with so many privileges of freedom, that no other submissive nation enjoys, living undisturbed with women and children with their property and with their honor and with the privileges of religion, which has been preserved to this day for our spiritual salvation. Instead of being liberal, they appear to be unliberal, and instead of seeming to protect their nation and religion, they are against the nation, religion and god.
If the arguments and methods of Gregory and Anthimus remind you of arguments against the liberalism and methods (eg “straw man argument”) that are still used today, you are right. Because liberal ideas disturb the defenders of tyranny in precisely the same way.
[In the picture a lithography of 1861 or 1862 depicting Gregory.]
[Aristides Chatzis, The Liberal Revolution, Note 1]