Modern Greek History

About the Don Pacifico Affair – Diplomatic Incident of Modern Greece

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By the mid 1800’s, Greece was a fairly new country because they had only just won their independence from the Ottoman Empire. In the aftermath of the War of Independence, the country struggled to find their way on the world stage. Their first attempt at developing a government ended with the assassination of the governor. After that in 1832, the Kingdom of Greece was established.

The early days of modern Greece also brought with it some interesting challenges. One of those is referred to as the Don Pacifico Affair, which turned out to be one of the first diplomatic tests that the new country was faced with. Here’s more information about it:

About the Don Pacifico Affair

This diplomatic situation, which happened in 1847, primarily involved a man named Don Pacifico, a man who was from Portugal but who ultimately settled in the Greek port city of Piraeus. Don Pacifico owed money to a British citizen and resident named Daniel de Lisle Brock, who owned a large company called J.B. Henriques & Company. Brock loaned Pacifico a large sum of money, and Pacifico did not pay it back as promised. The situation escalated the British government appealed to the Greek government to pay Pacifico’s debt.

When the Greeks failed to repay the debt, Brock pursued repayment through diplomatic channels by asking for his money back from Greece’s new government. The Greek government replied that it had no jurisdiction over transactions between private citizens and that Pacifico was not a British citizen.

It Escalated to a Diplomatic Issue

The Greeks were in this position because the United Kingdom and Greece had no formal relations. Brock then turned to diplomatic channels, asking British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston for help with getting his money back. Palmerston agreed that Pacifico should receive his money back but recognized that Brock came to him after failing to get it from Greece, which was not under British jurisdiction.

Palmerston’s decision not to help Brock is sometimes criticized by modern historians, who see the issue as one of anti-Semitism. However, Dave Wetzel notes that Greece had very limited success with its citizens in courts of law due to corruption and lack of a judiciary system. In addition, he says that Palmerston was likely concerned about stability in the region and the effect of a “ruinous war” on England’s economy.

He was unwilling to antagonize Greece, particularly as it would have been difficult for Brock to prove that he was not acting as a private citizen but as a representative of his company. As time went on, relations between Portugal and Britain became more cordial. The Portuguese government later agreed to repay Pacifico’s debt, much larger because of accumulated interest.

Diplomatic Test for Greece

The affair is seen as one of the first major diplomatic tests for Greece, recognized as an independent kingdom only four years earlier. In this capacity, it rapidly learned to defend its interests on a national stage and demonstrated that it could play a responsible role in international politics. The Don Pacifico Affair would be among the first of many diplomatic disputes Greece would have with Britain. The Crimean War soon overawed the affair, which further increased Greece’s standing among European powers. As for Brock, he later received his money back from Portugal despite his failure with Palmerston.

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This post was written by Greek Boston

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