Generation of Hellenes
Who Brought About
March 25, 1821
The First Inspirer Of A United Europe
thou hast return'd alone,
(Prepared by Dimitri Staikos PhD for inclusion in the Web Page of The HELLENIC LINK,
with permission by the author )
The first inspirer of a United Europe
The present article is the English translation of a monograph written in Greek by Professor Helen Koukkou, University of Athens, Department of History. In this article, the author attempts a brief but still quite thorough examination of the political struggle of Ioannis Capodistrias in the European diplomatic arena in the early 19th century, under the status of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire. Her main target is to prove a very important thesis: that Ioannis Capodistrias has been the first "European" politician who introduced the idea of a "United Europe" and used his diplomatic skills and dynamic political profile in order to prepare the ground for the fulfilment of this vision. Throughout the article, the detailed reference to actual historical resources and their subsequent evaluation by Professor Koukkou, arose the interest of the reader, who is, at the same time, enchanted by the novelty of the thesis.
Moreover, it is an article that contributes to a further understanding of the role that Capodistrias played as a prominent figure of the political intelligenzia of that period, a short time before the Greek Revolution against the Turks broke out.
Finally, I hope that the present translation at the very least succeeds in maintaining the interest of the reader and in inviting him/her to a further consideration of the thesis in question.
THE FIRST INSPIRER OF A UNITED EUROPE
If we attribute the term "European" to a modern diplomat, we commit ourselves to a characterization which is rather a common place. However, if this term - in its narrow sense - is attributed to a diplomat of the early decades of the 19th century, this is certainly regarded as a historical event. And this event concerns entirely the great Greek diplomat and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, and later on, the first Governor of the Greek State, Ioannis Capodistrias. The idea of a united Europe, which has been a major issue in the diplomatic arena, is, now, at our doorstep, and, let us all hope that the turmoil that exists in the Balkan peninsula - something that has reasonably caused a deep concern in our country and in wider Europe - will not affect its fulfilment. Nevertheless, although this vital issue of the United Europe became an object of serious concern and discussions for the politicians of Europe at the last decade of the 20th century, it had activated the mind of the Greek-European diplomat, Capodistrias, since 1812, that is, 180 years ago. And this took place during the time of the Pact of Bucharest, according to which, Europe was left again divided and the Balkan people remained enslaved by the Turks.
Capodistrias had kept a close eye on the unsuccessful attempts of the leaders of the European powers to form peaceful alliances, under the promising names of "Great Alliance", "Fourfold Alliance", "Fivefold Alliance", "Holy Alliance", or even "The Supreme Courts of Europe", followed by a state of unity and co-operation amongst themselves. However, all those alliances aimed towards the unity and the co-operation of only the four and, later on, the five European powers, in order to reinforce their already strong position, and th impose their domination or "protection" on the small European states and their people.
In confronting this reality, Capodistrias had also to face a serious dilemma, due to his superior position: he was the Minister of the Foreign Affairs of the most powerful Empire of that period, while, he also came from a small conquered country: Greece, whose independence he was longing for. This was the dilemma he faced when he accepted the invitation of the Russian Tsar Alexander A' to serve him as a diplomat. After all, when the Tsar proposed to him the position of the Minister of the Foreign Affairs, he categorically stated: "Your Majesty, whenever I face the tragic dilemma of which country I should serve, Russia or my enslaved people, I hereby declare with honesty that I will support my country".
Capodistrias answered to this tragic "challenge of his historical destiny" not only by committing himself to procrustean solutions (1), but also serving his double mission in admirable scrupulousness and remarkable acuteness. He struggled to open channels towards the formation of a new European system that would unite the whole of Europe, in accordance with its times and the application of righteousness to the weak states.
Ever since 1812 - as it is attested in his memorandum (2) - he had made certain proposals concerning the national and political future of Bessarabia, which should be based on "the preservation of the laws and the customs, the language and the interests of the country". The administrative system should reflect "the national spirit of the people, their needs and their customs".
In 1813, the Tsar, appreciating the Capodistrean diplomatic capacities, assigned to him one of the most difficult European cases: the unification of Helvetia, which was divided into small independent cantons, thus, it was an obstacle to the unification of central Europe. Such a unification was necessary for the rest of Europe in order to deal with the Napoleontean wars. Other European diplomats before Capodistriaas, had failed to achieve this unification due to the reluctance of the rich cantons to be united with the rural areas.
And when the Greek diplomat expressed the fear that he did not possess a thorough knowledge of the issue of Helvetia, the Tsar categorically stated: "You love democracies ... Helvetia should be rescued from the French conquest inspired by Napoleon. I am sure you will succeed in this mission better than any other diplomat would do" (3). In fact, despite the enormous reactions he confronted, he succeeded in combining "the Helvetian Confederation with the restoration of the European system", achieving her complete neutrality and reforming her constitution on a more democratic basis (4).
On September 10th, 1814, once satisfied with the results of his attempts and struggles, he wrote to his father (5): "The issues concerning Helvetia are over. The "Diet" has finally defined the Confederational Constitution ... such a difficult negotiation caused me a lot of trouble and traveling and writing up documents and giving speeches and forming constitutions and plans ... those illustrious people embraced me with friendship and sincere warmth". The people of Helvetia being grateful to Capodistrias, honoured him in the most celebrated way (6). In April of 1814, he wrote to Roxandra Stourza: "The Helvetians consider me to be a good democrat. After all, you know that this is the only role I can play in the most persuasive way, because this reflects my real self" (7).
Another important action of Capodistrias, under the status of the diplomat and the Minister of Foreigh Affairs sent to the Helvetian Confederation - as he himself states in his memorandum in 1826 (8) - was his contribution to the achievement of two Pacts: the first one in the small and unknown French city of Chaumont, in upper Morn, 253 Km. Southeastern of Paris on March 1st 1814, and the second one, in Paris on May 30th 1814. The former was an international Pact whose significance could very well be related to the Atlantic Charter, or Nato's Agreement in 1949.
This Pact stated that the allies would go on fighting against Napoleon until their targets were achieved, namely, the independence of Holland (which was part of Belgium), the political transformation of Germany into a Confederation, the restoration of the old Italian states, and the granting of Spain to Bourbons. The Pact stated that each of the four great powers (9) - the term "great power" (or powerful state), is used for the first time - should support the rest of them (three), in case France became an obstacle to the European unification, which should be established in accordance with the Pact's proposals, that should last for twenty years.
The common target of both these diplomatic Pacts - of Chaumont and Paris (10) - in which Capodistrias played a protagonistic role by representing the greatest power of that period, namely Russia - was the achievement of a wider allied European co-operation and unity concerning every issue. With the Tsar's approval, Capodistrias presented an important memorandum to the summit in Paris, where he explained his views concerning the future relations of the European states. The document seemed to favor Britain more than France, and it did not satisfy the proposals by Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Consequently, in the immediate future, there was a danger of an unbalancing situation with regard to the interests of the four allies and those of the weak states, thus, of a failure to secure a stable co-operation amongst the allies, which could strengthen the European unity, in the name of which the Greek diplomat had made so many efforts (11).
After some time, at the Congress of Vienna, in January of 1815, the discovery of a secret English-French-Austrian Pact against Russia, and to a certain extent, against Prussia, justified Capodistrias' fearful predictions concerning the methodology of the international relations (12). It was during that period when he told the Tsar to attribute an official character to the negotiations and the decisions with regard to the future system of a united Europe. Capodistrias very often denounced the methods of secret diplomacy, and he insisted - as usual - on the right of the common opinion to be expressed (13), "since the period during which secret alliances existing only in hypothesis, used to save empires, was over". The only policy that could save empires was the development of alliances and a strong European Union, which should be regarded as a public event ... and not a mere secret issue".
Capodistrian' liberal attitudes concerning the rights of all the states and their people, would be stated even more emphatically with regard to other issues later on. Those issues concern the problem of his enslaved country together with the future of Poland. After the Congress of Vienna, a new division of the long-suffered land of Poland took place amongst the victorious nations of the alliance. Russia received the land of the Great Dukedom of Warsaw, which constituted a separate kingdom governed by the Tsar of Russia, Alexander A', under a peculiar state of independence. When the Tsar visited Poland in March 1818, in order to inaugurate the first Constitutional Diet, he asked Capodistrias to accompany him, and to commend on the speech he would present to the people of Poland. Capodistrias disagreed with the division of Poland and the attachment of the Great Dukedom of Warsaw to Russia. Unfortunately, his liberal attitudes could not bring positive results. However, he managed to achieve the administrative autonomy of the Dukedom and the granting of democratic rights to its people by using his astute diplomatic strategies. According to his memorandum of 1826, we receive the following information: "I made the required corrections on the speech ... while at the same time, I made another plan, according to which ... I left out or altered certain parts, which seemed to me that could create a false impression of the Tsar's inclinations, to the eyes of the Russian people and to the neighbouring countries". He did not also hesitate to say that some parts of the Tsar's speech were "completely unreasonable" (14).
Unfortunately, the Tsar, being an irresponsible and indecisive man, did not adopt all the important changes and more liberal suggestions of his Greek Minister of the Foreign Affairs,when he gave his speech on March 27th 1818. Nevertheless, as it is attested by the secret reports of Lebzeltem, the Austrian ambassador in Petroupolis, Capodistrias managed to persuade the Tsar to establish a "representative political system" in the Polish kingdom, the so called "Kongresowka" (kingdom of the Congress) by the poles themselves. That political system was developed and established further by the granting of a too liberal Constitution of that period (15).
Similarly, Capodistrias was quite concerned with the organization of the German Confederation which caused problems in the unification of the European states. In the well-informed memorandum that he presented to the Congress of Vienna, on February 9th 1814, under the title "Considerations sur l'Empire Germanique" (16), he developed his views concerning this difficult and unsolved issue, exhibiting a remarkable knowledge of the potential consequences that this could cause to Europe in the future. He reacted against the powerful states that aimed at the political manipulation of the German nation and its subsequent attachment to Austria and Prussia. Instead, he suggested that there should be a radical reconstruction of the Old Germanic Empire within a wider European system, under the leadership of Austria. This, however, presupposed loss of land for Prussia, and, above all, the gradual detachment of Italy from "the threat of the Austrian domination against Italy's independence".
By using convincing arguments, Capodistrias insisted that the German leaders should provide their citizens with a Constitution, which would establish the freedom of their people, restore the "national feeling" in the country, and lead it towards a state of euphoria and progress. The granting of constitutional rights to the people of the German states, would be the only permanent guarantee of their freedom, and most important, it would provide Europe with the strong foundation together with the necessary criteria for the structure of a unified European system in the future.
The memorandum's conclusion stated categorically: "The confederational Pact, which was planned by the European powerful states, was not only against the territorial security and independence of Germany, but also, it was a barrier to the political balance in Europe, to the development of stable relations amongst the European countries, and even more, to the unification of Europe".
However, Austria and Prussia reacted against Capodistria's proposals. When the special conditions concerning the German Confederation were signed on June 8th 1814, his radical and democratic changes for the reconstruction of Germany were rejected by the authoritarian Austria and Prussia. Similarly, England refuted it, proving once again that she favours a Parliamentary Democracy, when her interests are concerned. Despite those rejections, however, when those conditions of the unification of 41 German Confederal States were signed, Capodistrias managed to include part of his very important proposals, such as the recognition of the autonomy of each subject of every state.
Unfortunately, the authoritarian Austria sought the opportunity to violate those conditions. The assassination of the German poet, August Kotzebue (17) on March 23rd 1819, provided the Austrian Chancellor, Metternich, with the necessary pretext for the manipulation of the German leaders. During that period, the liberal German leaders reacted so much against the patronization of Metternich, that Vienna took harsh measurements, characterizing "the constitutionalists" as enemies "of the established state of affairs and its ability". This characterization was also attributed to the liberal nationalists of Prussia, and even more, to the governments of the small German states. In the same year, Capodistrias, who had predicted this dramatic route of events due to his unique diplomatic intuition, pointed out to the Austrian ambassador in Petroupolis, Lebzeltern, the reasons for this turmoil, which did not allow the democratization and the unification of Europe to take place: the root of all this lied exactly in the undemocratic German constitutions, which had been established with the permission of the authoritarian Austria. "What is the meaning of those constitutional documents, which reflect only the Austrian principles? I can only discern the monarch's authoritarianism on everything that was granted ... he is the one who orders and acts and not the people", Capodistrias protested. Moreover, he added that those Constitutions of Bavaria and Butemberg were just a way of deceiving people, and "they were granted in an unfaithful way, under the pretext that they would satisfy and please the nations, while, in fact, they were deceiving them. However, neither the monarch nor the people of the small states and their struggle for democracy can be benefited by such a behaviour" (18).
Another important stage of Capodistrias diplomatic career, was his struggle for the future of France after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, on June 18th 1815. In the memorandum that he presented to the Congress in Paris (19), on July 28th 1815, he emphasized that the targets of the four victorious powers were fulfilled by the defeat of Napoleon, by France's adaptation to the new status quo that was established after the Paris Agreement, and by her subsequent occupation by her allies. Although there were strong reactions on behalf of the other three allies: Prussia, Austria, England, Capodistrias managed to impose his proposals on them, thus, saving the country from a territorial division and its subsequent financial disaster. The final conclusion of his memorandum was: "the victorious powers should by all means deal with the defeated country in a friendly way, and France should remain a powerful state, because, in this way only, it could contribute to a balance between the new political attitudes and the old authoritarian establishments, so that the new political state of affairs could be secured, peace could be achieved, and a powerful European system could be formed " (20). His supreme target was the establishment of the small and weak states, and, above all, a United Europe.
It was during that time, when the political figures of France, King Leopold IH', the Prime Minister Richelieu, and the diplomats, expressed their gratitude towards the Greek politician, and stated that "the maintenance of France's territorial rights, is owed entirely to the struggle of the Greek Minister Capodistrias". "I know that count Capodistrias went beyond the orders he had received", Richelieu wrote to the Tsar. Another French historian wrote: "Count Capodistrias is the one who contributed to the political restoration of France without any serious repercussions more than anyone else". Capodistrias also reduced the number of 1200 millions that Prussia wanted for compensation to the amount of 700 millions (21).
At the Aachen Congress (Aix-la-Chapelle), in September 1818, Capodistrias was acknowledged by everyone as one of the most prominent personalities (22). The main target of his activities was the defence of the weak European states - or, secondary European states, as they used to call them - and their detachment from the suffocating embrace and the deceiving overprotection offered to them by the powerful states, which deprived their people of their rights. Amongst those people there was also the Greek one, to which Capodistrias belonged, and which was enslaved by the most violent state: Turkey.
On October 8th 1818, Capodistrias presented an important memorandum (23) to the whole of the Congress, the so called "rough plan for a Paneuropean co-operation". Capodistrias regarded the social revolutions caused by the authoritarian and undemocratic activities of the powerful states against the weaker ones, as fundamental dangers. He also criticized the constant interference of the powerful states with the rights of the weaker ones, and the forceful domination of the former's interests on the ones of the latter. The danger of such a predominance of one or more than one of the powerful states, which would be a form of "tyrants", could be avoided by the establishment of an international Organization - what we nowadays call "the United Nations" - with a view to the preservation of unity and the performance of peaceful negotiations amongst the various states whenever a problem arose.
The "Fourfold Alliance" should be expanded by the acceptance of all the European states without any exception, so that the internal and external stability of Europe, would be secured (24). Capodistrias' main target was the recognition of the right of the weak states to participate in the diplomatic dialogues, and to seek themselves the solutions of their national problems in accordance with their rights and in co-operation with the powerful states. Moreover, the powerful states should not impose their political attitudes on them, since such attitudes served their interests only. Having won the support of everyone for his diplomatic methods, he prepared the ground for the independence of Greece.
At the Aachen Congress, Capodistrias, a great personality of a humane disposition, gave difficult battles in the diplomatic arena for the abolition of the slave market (the black people), a fact that is, unfortunately, unappreciated by the Europeans and the Americans nowadays (25).
His diplomatic career reached its peak during the two European Congresses that took place in Troppau and in Laibach, from the autumn of 1820 until the end of Spring of 1821, during which he played a protagonistic role. At those Congresses, the five powers (26) gathered in order to deal with the turmoil that existed throughout Europe due to the social revolutions in Spain, in Naples and in Pedemont. The cassandrean predictions of Capodistrias were once again proven to be true in astonishing accuracy, because of the unwillingness of the powerful states to understand the meaning of his proposals at Aachen.
Capodistrias knew everything concerning the revolutionary spirit in Greece and the movement directed by Dimetrios Hypselantes. As a result, he was afraid of the possibility that the Greek Revolution might break out during that difficult period in the international relations, since the powerful states had decided to suppress any revolutionary movement. Also, he had to fight against his terrible opponent, Metternich, who favoured suppression and violence. On the contrary, Capodistrias supported that the social revolutions should be dealt with gradual reforms, which should take into account the national and human rights of the various nations. "The predominance of the liberal and democratic ideas, the respect of the rights of the weak states as opposed to the old conservative conventions, should be accepted so that peace and accord could be achieved amongst the European states", he wrote in the memorandum that he presented to the Congress of Troppau (27). The historian Ch. Webster (28) wrote: "the Congress of Troppau is transformed into a fight between the authoritarian Metternich and the liberal Capodistrias. Metternich could not understand Capodistrias' argumentative points concerning the issue of Naples: freedom of the people ... and political and national independence should be granted to Naples".
"The new state of affairs" that Capodistrias was dreaming for Europe should necessarily accept the granting of "a constitution and constitutional rights" even limited with regard to the weaker states, so that it could survive. He supported the view that "Constitutions and constitutional freedom prevent the breaking-out of social revolutions from taking place".
Capodistrias believed that the granting of a Constitution to weak states, would play the role of a "bodyguard" against the despotism of the stronger ones, which prevent the European countries from the wishful Unification. He wrote: "the nations fight for freedom and independence based on laws and customs and not on a passive submission"; "the Constitutions should provide the nations with political stability, because, on the one hand, they would limit the despotism of the powerful states, and, on the other, they would define the legal rights of the citizens, so that the social revolutions could be prevented".
Henry Kissinger, who supports the political theories of Mettenich, regards the diplomatic struggle that Capodistrias went through, as what gives him the right "to be defined as a constitutional referee of Europe by inviting stronger and weaker states to Paneuropean conferences". The truth is that Capodistrias tried to eliminate the threatening possibility of "a new political methodology" which would anticipate the political and financial development of the European states, and, particularly, the weaker ones. He criticized his colleagues for lacking moral strength and political justice, and for being incapable of understanding what he believed to be "the new spirit of the century, the new state of affairs which would be established sooner or later (29)".
While fighting against the traditional political attitude of Metternich, he insisted on the necessity for an overall gathering around "a common country: Europe". For Capodistrias, the cornerstone of the unity of a Paneuropean or even international organization was not the despotism of the powerful states, but rather, the security of the independence and the rights of the weaker ones.
And this is, in fact, the great message that even nowadays this unique Greek diplomat and politician - "the most European" Greek politician - sends to us, being himself the real forerunner, the pioneer, and the great visualizer of a United Europe that is so much needed in our times as well.
(1). Cf. ,., , __ vol. I: , 200 (Year of Capodistrias, 200 years after his birth), Athens (1978) p. 59.
(2). Cf. Lahovary, C., Memoires de L'Armiral Paul Tchitchagof en 1812, Paris (1909) pp. 406ff.; Koukkou, Helen, , - , seventh edition, Athens (1991) pp. 42ff.
(3). Capodistrias Archives, A', Corfu (1976) p.15.
(4). Ibid., p. 19; cf. , ., . , Athens (1975) pp. 270ff.
(5). , ., . , 176 , 1809'1829, Athens (1972) p. 182.
(6). By means of honourary votes, they declared him "honourary citizen" of their city. Cf. Koukkou, Helen, , , second edition, Athens (1986) pp. 158ff.
(7). Tergestes' New Day, newspaper (1901) No: 1390.
(8). Capodistrias Archives A', p. 19.
(9). Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia.
(10). Concerning the bibliography on these two diplomatic Pacts, cf., ., . , 1814'1831, Thessaloniki (1974) 40, note 2.
(11). Capodistrias Archives A', 20.
(12). Ibid., p.25.
(13). Ibid., p. 26.
(14). Capodistrias Archives, A', pp. 43-44, and E', pp. 262ff, 268ff, 272ff.
(15). For further information in this issue, cf. Gentz, F., Depeches inedites, Paris (1876) pp. 380ff.; Schwartz, W., Die Heilige Allianz. Tragik eines europaischen Friedenbunden, Stuttgard (1935) pp. 10ff; Capodistrias Archives, E', p. 262ff.
(16). Considerations sur l'empire germanique par le Comte de Capodistria. The memorandum is published by Pertz, G., Das Leben des Ministers Frieheren vom Stein, Berlin (1850-55) IV, pp. 735-39.
(17). The student Sand assassinated the German poet Von Kotzebue (1761-1819), during the revolutionary movements that took place in the German Universities. Cf. everything that Capodistrias wrote in his memorandum in 1826. Capodistrias Archives, A', p. 54; Cf. Koukkou, H., 19 , , XXXIII, 1980, pp. 91ff.
(18). Cf. Lebzeltern's memorandum of 17th September 1820, presented to Metternich, Entretien avec Mr le comte de Capodistrias sur les affaires de la Confederation, Vienna's Archives, Russland iii, Bezichte 1820 Fsz 23, 35-43; , .,(cf. above) p. 103, note 31. In all these documents, there is evidence that Lebzeltern was impressed by the Greek diplomat throughout their dialogue.
(19). Capodistrias' memorandum itself. Cf. Comte de Angeberg, Le Congres de Vienne et les traites de 1815, Paris (1863) II, pp. 1470-6; Capodistrias Archives, E', Corfu (1984) pp. 258ff., 261ff.
(20). Cf. More on this, , ., , Athens (1936) pp. 23ff.; , .(cf. above) pp. 295ff.
(21). Cf. Duc de Richelieu, Correspondence et Documents; Cf. , ., , 16, p. 15.
(22). Cf. Hoetzsch, O., Peter von Meyendorff...1923, A'2: Huiller, De la sainte Alliance...1954, A'28; Patricia Grimsted-Kennedy, Capodistrias and a "New Order" for the restoration of Europe, 'The "liberal ideas" of a Russian foreign Minister', The Journal of modern history, 40 (1968) pp. 247ff.
(23). Vienna's Archives, Aachener Kongressakten, Fsz30, , ., (cf. above) p. 95 note 10; Capodistrias Archives, E', pp. 284ff.
(24). Concerning the astute diplomatic movements of Capodistrias, cf. . Edling, Memoires, Moscou (1988) p. 247; Cf. Capodistrias Archives, E', Corfu (1984) - , and particularly, pp. 254ff.
(25). Koukkou, Helen (cf. above) pp. 81. Also, Koukkou, Helen, "Memoire de Jean Capodistrias sur la suppression du trafic des Maures", , , 25 (1982) pp. 123ff.
(26). France was considered to be the fifth protective power.
(27). Vienna's Archives, St. K. Kongressakten, Troppau (1820) Fsz38, fol. 32-48. Concerning the main points, cf. , .(above) pp. 109-112.
(28). Webster, Ch., The foreign policy of Castlereagh, 1815-1822, London (1947) p. 288.
(29). Capodistrias' letter to Alexander Stourza, 28th December 1820 (Archives). Cf. Patricia Grimsted (above) p. 180 and note 44.
Turn no more imploring eyes
(From: The song of Freedom)
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