Alexandros Mavrokordatos

Summary

Alexandros Mavrokordatos (Constantinople, 3 February 1791 – Aegina, 6 August 1865) was a dominant figure in the ranks, a diplomat and politician who played an important role in the political life of the country during the Revolution and in the first post-revolutionary decades. He was first active in the Danubian principalities, taking political positions alongside his uncle John Karatzas, settled in Pisa (being an elite member of the circle of the same name) and then descended to Greece to take part in the 1821 revolution. He rose to the highest offices in a short time, becoming, successively, president of the First National Assembly, the Executive and then the Parliament. After the revolution he led the opposition against Kapodistrias as a spokesman for English politics and actively participated in the political life of Greece, serving four times as Prime Minister between 1822 and 1844.

Mavrokordatos is one of the most controversial public figures of the Revolution.

He was born on 3 February 1791 in Mega Stream (now Arnavutköy in Turkish), a suburb of Constantinople, and was the son of the scholar and official (postulant) of the Paradunavian Principalities, Nikolaos Mavrokordatos (1744-1818) and Smaragda Karatzas. On his father”s side, he was descended from the powerful Fanarian Mavrokordatou family, and was a great-grandson of the famous Alexander Mavrokordatou of the ”Ex Apocreton” family, while on his mother”s side he was from the Fanarian Karatzas family. The distant origin of his father”s family is from Chios. He was taught his first letters by a governess and learned early to speak Turkish and French with great fluency. In the period 1807-1811 he studied at the Great School of Genius.

In 1812 his uncle John Karatzas was appointed to the office of the ruler of Wallachia and hired him as his secretary. Soon, however, Mavrokordatos distinguished himself and was promoted to the office of postholder. In 1818, specifically on 29 September, John Karatzas, fearing for his life, left Bucharest, accompanied by his family and various courtiers, among whom Mavrokordatos.

The fugitives” first stop was Geneva, Switzerland, where they stayed for six months. There Mavrokordatos attended fortification courses, which he would later apply in Messolonghi. They then left for Pisa, Italy, where they met Metropolitan Ignatius of Hungary, in whose house they settled. During his stay he attended medical courses at the University and took part in revolutionary processes, creating the so-called “Circle of Pisa”, which played a behind-the-scenes role in the development of the revolution of the 21st century. In 1819 Mavrokordatos was initiated into the Society of Friends by Tsakalov, who had visited him in Pisa with Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos.b The ”Circle of Pisa” believed that the revolution required more time and more preparation, and was opposed to the appointment of Alexander Ypsilantis to the leadership of the Society of Friends. In Pisa, Alexander Mavrokordatos developed close friendships with the English poet Percy Shelley and his wife, the writer Mary Shelley, to whom he taught ancient Greek. Through his acquaintance with Shelley, he channelled two letters to the British press commenting on the Greek Revolution, which were published in the Morning Chronicle, the most widely circulated newspaper of the time, and the Examiner magazine. This friendly relationship seems to have played an important role in his gradual withdrawal of his devotion to the role of Russia and his cautious turn to British interests. Shortly after Mavrocordato”s flight to rebellious Greece, Shelley dedicated the poem ”Hellas: To His Excellency Prince Alexander Mavrocordato”, published in November 1821, to him as a token of ”admiration, sympathy and friendship”.

During his stay in the Italian peninsula he wrote in French the work “Coup d”oeil sur la Turquie” (Coup d”oeil sur la Turquie), which he did not publish because of the liberal ideas he expressed, but he sent copies to various personalities.

With the outbreak of the revolution of 21, Mavrokordatos equipped a ship, sailed from Livorno to Marseilles, took with him Greeks from Europe and philhellenes and sailed to Patras believing that he had been liberated. On the way, however, he learned that he was still in the hands of the Ottomans so he settled in Messolonghi; there he immediately began to work for local political organization. He met with Dimitrios Ypsilantis in August 21, was appointed his proxy and convened the “Assembly of Western Hersos Greece” of which he was elected president. His disagreement with Demetrios Ypsilantis and his subsequent alliance with the prefects gave him the opportunity for rapid advancement: he was elected president of the first National Assembly of Epidaurus (which on 1 January 1822 passed the “Provisional Constitution of Greece” and on 15 January issued the famous “Declaration of Independence of the Greek Nation”), president on the same day of the Executive and later of the Parliamentary Assembly. The short Declaration prefixed to the “Provisional Constitution” (“quintessence of the principle of nationalities”) was drafted by Alexander Mavrokordatos and his close associate Anastasios Polyzoidis.

But institutions and offices were not what Greece primarily needed. So Mavrokordatos, in order to strengthen his position and implement his ideas of centralized power, decided to take military action.

But the success in the military sector was not commensurate with that in the political sector. Alexandros Mavrokordatos, who believed that if he achieved a resounding victory against the Turkish troops he would be able to outshine the chieftains and gain even more prestige, organised a campaign in Epirus, which led to the unsuccessful battle of Peta.He is, however, the only prime minister who personally took an active part in (three) military operations.

Battle of Peta

In the spring of 1822 Hursit Pasha, following an order from the Gate, left for the Peloponnese and Epirus; Omer Vryonis was appointed leader of the Turkish forces with orders to besiege Souli. Long before the Turkish attack against the Souliotes, the government was receiving calls from Epirus for reinforcements. At the head of the campaign was Mavrokordatos himself, who gathered an army of 3,000 men and a corps of Philhellenes, the command of which was entrusted to the German officer Charles Norman. The first victorious battle was fought at Kompoti in Arta on 10 June. Three weeks later at the heights of Peta the two troops came into decisive conflict but at the crucial moment of the battle the chieftain Gogos Bakolas, as he was later accused, let the Turks pass and the Greeks found themselves in a precarious position. Mavrokordatos, being 6 hours away from the battlefield, could not give instructions for an organized retreat (and even those he had given were not heeded) and as a result Greeks and Philhellenes suffered a rout. Two thirds of the Philhellenes, half of the Ionian and one third of the Taktiko, which was the first regular Greek army, were annihilated. The mistakes of Mavrokordatos, combined with the treachery of Bakola, led not only to the defeat of the Greeks but also to the disintegration of the organized Greek forces in the region, with the result that the Turks advanced as far as Messolonghi, which they besieged.

First siege of Messolonghi

There Mavrokordatos had already taken refuge and there he proved happier. The city was poorly fortified and had no more than 360 defenders according to Thomas Gordon and far fewer according to others. Among them were Marcos Bottsaris and Demetrius Makris. He organised the defence, used all the methods of the art of fortification and all the tricks he could devise, and assigned Markos Botsaris to hold surrender talks with the besiegers in order to gain time, he stirred up the rivalry between the Pasha”s and finally, with the help of the arriving Peloponnesian troops, the Turks were repulsed on Christmas night 1822, resulting in the first siege of Messolonghi being resolved with heavy losses. It was a personal success of Mavrokordatos that compensated for the defeat of Peta, and was recognized even by his enemies.

It has been proven that Athanasios Razis-Kotsikas was the one who organized the fortification of Messolonghi. Mavrokordatos appropriated it and with the contribution of Spyridon Trikoupis, friendly to him, who wrote the “History of the Greek Revolution” and making sure to “forget” any reference to the name Athanasios Razis – Kotsikas or Razikotsikas https:el. wikipedia.orgwindex.php?title=Athanasios_Razi_-_Kotsikas&gettingStartedReturn=true&veaction=edit

Mavrokordatos and the chieftains

In the context of Mavrokordatos” actions to strengthen central power and abolish the autonomy of the chieftains, his conflicts with Varnakiotis in 1822, who finally fled to Omer Vryonienė, and later, in 1824, also in Messolonghi, with Karaiskakis, who only after this conflict, according to Paparrigopoulos, ”began to become conscious of some discipline”. In April 1823, Mavrokordatos was elected by the Second National Assembly of Astros as secretary of the Executive and then president of the Parliamentary Assembly with 41 votes, overwhelmingly defeating the president Anagnostis Deligiannis.

In the summer of the same year an open conflict broke out between the Parliamentary and the Executive, controlled by Alexander Mavrokordatos and the islanders on the one hand, and Theodoros Kolokotronis, the military and the Peloponnesians on the other. This conflict combined with the election of Mavrokordatos to the presidency angered Theodoros Kolokotronis, who threatened him by saying “I tell you this, Mr. Mavrokordatos… do not sit down as president because I am coming to drive you out with lemons, with the dart you came with”. It is noteworthy that Kolokotronis” not at all cool behaviour is also mentioned critically by Kolokotronian writers. After this warning, Mavrokordatos departed for Hydra, cooperating closely with the Kountouriotis. At the Astros assembly a conflict between heterochthonous and autochthonous people broke out for the first time, the protagonists being the group of eccynchronists on the one hand, to which Mavrokordatos belonged, and the preachers on the other.

In December 1823 Mavrokordatos went again to Messolonghi as Director, put things in order, laid the foundations for the glorious defence of the second siege and finally attracted Byron and the eyes of all Europe to the place where the tragedy would culminate with the Exodus. The heroic death of Markos Bottsaris and the sudden death of Byron deprived Mavrokordatos of two valuable supports. During this period the civil wars were raging in the Peloponnese. Mavrokordatos belonged to the government faction, which eventually prevailed, but he remained uninvolved and even protected the anti-government Andreas Zaimi, Londo and Nikitaras who fled to Messolonghi.

Fall of the Slaughterhouse

In March 1825 Mavrokordatos accompanied the president of the Executive, George Kountouriotis, in the badly organized and worse executed campaign against Ibrahim in Messinia. After the inevitable defeat at Kremidi, Mavrokordatos went to the theatre of operations in the Bay of Pylos (i.e. Navarino-April 1825), sent by Kountouriotis to see if he could coordinate the uncoordinated efforts and save the fortresses and the Sfactoria. But in spite of his efforts, nothing was saved-except, of course, the honour of some. Many fled “being born rips, they sought to be saved… Those who had taken the credit, including Alexander Mavrokordatos”, could not, of course, endure. So when the Egyptians flooded the island and everyone was trying to save himself, the one of those who had been born, Mavrokordatos, barely escaped death or capture and was able to be rescued on the “Mars” of Chamados. It goes without saying that he was accused of everything despite the advocacy of his enemies even. In the Third National Assembly he was completely sidelined.

Diplomacy

The area in which almost all writers, even the most hostile to Mavrokordatos Vernardakis, acknowledge Mavrokordatos” valuable contribution is diplomacy. It is noteworthy that he acted in this field alone and almost arbitrarily; his 1820 treatise on Turkey has already been mentioned. And in this and in his other contacts he explained that the fall of the Ottoman Empire was not only inevitable but also beneficial to the European powers. In the Declaration of Independence he took care to reassure the European governments by separating the positions of the Revolution from the Carbonarians, Comuneros, etc., by abolishing the symbols of the Society of Friends and by establishing the blue and white as the flag. And in the end he was the only one, along with Metternich, who realized that something had changed when George Canning became Foreign Secretary of England. It was from that point in time that Mavrokordatos became an Anglophile. It is typical what Kapodistrias himself mentions: “Prince Mavrokordatos and Mr. Pantazoglou (envoys of the rulers of Wallachia and Moldavia) endeavoured to prove to me that the maintenance of peace with the Turks was impossible, and that, as Greeks, they were impatient to learn that the Russian troops were about to cross Prothon. But from 1818 when this meeting took place until 1828 the Russians did not move. The Greeks had to find someone else.

He arranged the English loan for which he was heavily accused. Even though, due to London”s predatory and Greek-like management, the loan did not perform as expected and was considered by many as the cause of the civil war (which would have happened even without the loan, which only helped the party that took it to prevail), the main purpose was achieved: “to incriminate, so to speak, England in the Greek revolution” and to give rise to “the initiation of mutual relations” between Greece and England, as Mavrokordatos himself said in his instructions.

The huge volume of his correspondence includes letters in all directions, even to Gents, Metternich”s adviser. But of course of greatest importance were the letters to Canning, who eventually replied as government to government.

Mavrokordatos was convinced that external help was necessary for the liberation of Greece. John Petropoulos in his book “Politics and State-building in the Hellenic Kingdom, 1833-1843″ (MIET, Athens, 1985) describes him as a flexible (non-dogmatic) and pragmatic man, who assessed situations on a case-by-case basis and acted independently of his personal likes or dislikes. We saw above that in 1818 he called for the Russians to invade the Ottoman Empire. This not having been done, he turned to England, now using Russia as a fear: the Revolution, continued at all costs, would so wear down the forces of Turkey that it would make her (together with Greece) easy prey for Russia, who would one day decide to move on any pretext. Canning understood the threat (possibly blackmail): England was in danger of being excluded from the eastern Mediterranean and her route to the Indies cut off. Metternich also saw with horror the possibility of Austria”s then neighbouring Russia swallowing up the entire Balkans and in desperation, between two evils, he chose the lesser of two evils and proposed the complete independence of Greece. All this manipulation, which had the results we know, explains the rage of the Russophile writers against Mavrokordatos.

In July 1825, after Ibrahim”s invasion and the disasters at Sfaktiria and Maniaki, the Greeks signed the deed requesting to be placed under British protection. This is one of the most serious charges against Mavrokordatos, that he tried to make Greece an English protectorate. He has strongly denied that he had the slightest involvement, and there are indeed doubts, but the final handling is probably his own. It now remains to be seen whether this petition had the expected results, i.e. whether it further involved England in the whirlpool of the Greek question and led her, together with her anxiety about the loan and fear of complications, to Navarino.

With the arrival of Kapodistrias (Third National Assembly of Troizina) in 1828, Mavrokordatos was appointed a member of the Panhellenic and in March of the same year a member of the General Education Centre, responsible for naval affairs. He did not participate in the 4th National Assembly of Argos and did not accept his appointment to the Senate. Soon Mavrokordatos resigned all his positions and retired to Hydra.

He also played a leading role in the Hydra mutiny, which culminated with the burning of the Greek fleet at the naval station of Poros. On 14 July 1831 Andreas Miaoulis and Kriezis with 200 Hydra soldiers occupied the naval station at Poros, where Mavrokordatos immediately arrived to coordinate the actions as political adviser to the former. Miaoulis and Mavrokordatos took part in the fruitless negotiations with the government and the counter-representatives as representatives of the rebels. In order to neutralize the mutiny, Kapodistrias planned to blockade Hydra (the center of the opposition) with the ships of the fleet, which were at Poros, but Miaoulis got ahead of him and captured them. Kapodistrias requested the help of the leader of the Russian squadron, Admiral Ricord, who attempted to retake the fleet. On August 1, 1831, Miaoulis blew up the frigate “Hellas” and the corvette “Hydra”.Mavrokordatos, although he returned to Hydra before the “great crime” according to Alexander Rizo Ragavis, was considered to be the perpetrator of the disaster even by his sympathizers and later historians. However, the relevant statements of writers who are contemporary to the event raise many doubts about his guilt.In 1833 he was appointed by the Regency as Minister of Finance (25 January) and Minister of Military Affairs (3 April). In the same year he was appointed Secretary of State for the Royal Household and Foreign Affairs and President of the Cabinet. He disagrees with the death sentences of Kolokotronis and Plapoutas and is sent as ambassador to Munich in honorary exile. In 1841, while ambassador in London, he was invited by Otto to form a government. Mavrokordatos set conditions for radical regime, economic and administrative reforms and for the removal of the Bavarians. Otto resented for a month, then accepted in principle, and Prime Minister now Mavrokordatos submitted a report on applicable reforms which was tacitly rejected, and then resigned. After the Revolution of 1843 he became vice-president of the Constituent Assembly and in March 1844 prime minister. In August, however, he resigned to prevent the civil war into which the Colletti party had dragged the country.

On 19 September 1850 King Otto, in his attempt to neutralize the opposition, appointed Alexander Mavrokordatos as ambassador of Greece in Paris with the rank of envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary. He was recalled on 15 May 1854 and returned to Greece, where he again formed a government, succeeding in alleviating the consequences of the Anglo-French occupation imposed during the Crimean War, when Greece, led by Otto, wanted to realize the Great Idea by fighting alongside Russia against Turkey and the British and the British. Eventually, both popular sentiment – which first manifested itself in favour of Otto – and the British turned against him, and he was forced to resign in September 1855 after opposing Otto”s demand for the dismissal of the Minister of Military Affairs, Demetrios Kallergis.During this government of Mavrokordatos, Makrygiannis, who was serving a life sentence – converted to a death sentence – was pardoned and released. In 1863 he was elected chairman of the committee for the drafting of the Constitution.

During his premiership the first Greek passenger steamships were purchased. Mavrokordatos himself went to London where he ordered three ships for 24,000 pounds. The ships were christened “Queen of Greece”, “Hydra” and “Panhellenion” and formed the core of the “Hellenic Steamship Company” based in Syros.

In 1863 he retired to his country residence (formerly Finley) in Aegina, where he died in 1865, blind and poor. This country house is still preserved and until the late 1990s it belonged to his descendant Nikolaos Roque-Mela. He was married to Charikleia Argyropoulou (1808 – 1884), daughter of the great interpreter of the High Gate, Iakovos Argyropoulos. The marriage took place on 20 January 1830 in Aegina. They had the following children together:

The three-year period 1835-1837 was the most painful in the life of Mavrokordatos. He lost four children-one in Munich in 1835 and three together in Trieste in December 1837. His sister Catherine was married to Spyridon Trikoupis, with whom they had the future Prime Minister, Charilaos Trikoupis.

He was fluent in eight languages including Turkish, French and English.

“although he was under the rule of a philarchy, he was nevertheless competent, intelligent and stubborn” (p. 54)

“to education he acquired both sharpness of mind and experience of things and a fever of energy without sleep.And he also had the power of comprehension and the power of understanding and of complex matters, and he had the virtue of expanding them… and of communicating them clearly to others” (Vol. A p.27).

“Mavrokordatos was… the most outstanding political man produced by the revolution, having influenced the fate of the nation as no one else did, through his virtues and his faults” (p.37)

“the better thinking mind, and…the better conductor of the political affairs entrusted to him…of the race” (Vol. F p. 195)

^ α: Here is a summary of the accusations hurled against him: he pushed D. Ypsilantis, allied with the kojabasis (precrites), incited Gogos Bakolas and Varnakiotis to betray, persecuted Karaiskakis, incited to betrayal and assisted in the murder of Odysseus Androutsos, acted for the English loan, had the idea for the petition for English protection and misled Kolokotronis to sign it, persuaded Miaoulis to burn the fleet, usurped the title of prince, established an unworkable constitution, opposed the arrival of Kapodistrias, opened the gates of the Peloponnese to Ibrahim, murdered Karaiskakis, murdered Kapodistrias, wanted to change the religion of the nation, was an agent of Metternich, was ready to desert from Messolonghi, deserted from Sfactoria, was a “cicada of Constantinople”, was abysmal, scheming, cunning, schemer, instrument of the Turks, enemy of the popular masses, the black man of the revolution who seduced Trikoupis, Marko Botsaris, Polyzoidis, Praidis, Dragoumis, Miaoulis, Kountouriotis, Calvo, Shelley, Mary Shelley, Byron, he was a Fanarioteer, he wore a dart,

^ b: In 1819 he seems to have been initiated by Tsakalov into the Philiki, in the plans of which were “His Holiness Saint Ignatius of Hungary and the Archon Postelnikos Mavrokordatos… “to retire to Greece”

^ c: According to Trikoupis, Demetrios Ypsilantis refused to grant a power of attorney and the Aetolokarnans self-consciously offered to Mavrokordatos the leadership of “that place which was completely disorganized and in complete anarchy”. “The Aetolians welcomed with joy the presence of Mavrokordatos”

^ d: “But if every heroic captain remained the absolute master of his region, how could Greece pass from the chariots to a unified state… Many who were, as captains, ostensibly with the people, were undemocratic and authoritarian.”

Secondary

Sources

  1. Αλέξανδρος Μαυροκορδάτος
  2. Alexandros Mavrokordatos