British Protectorate 1814-1864
Russia recommended the independence and the neutralism of the State of the Ionian Islands, under the protection of Great Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia. Austria suggested that the Ionian Islands should be included in its possession as with all the Venetian lands. After the defeat of Napoleon, the British asked for total possession of the Ionian Islands, but the Russians were still supporting the independence of them. Eventually, on the 17th of November 1815, the proxies Castlereagh and Wellington of Great Britain and Razoumovski and Kapodistrias of Russia signed a Treaty, in which the Ionian Islands would become an independent and free State, named as the “United States of the Ionian Islands”, under the exclusive and direct protection of Great Britain. The lord great Commissioner would be responsible for the general administration. The British would also keep military garrison in the islands. Thomas Maitland arrived on the Corfu in 16th of February 1816 and became the first Commissioner. He was high-handed, very nationalist with the only purpose to serve the interests of Great Britain, having a contempt attitude to the Greek population. He stopped the Liberal opposition and he ordered the Constitution of 1817. According to this, there would be a Senate and Parliament, but the Commissioner would have the total control of the authorities. The flag would be the same old one of the Ionian State; the Greek language would be the official language.
The establishment of the illiberal character of the* institute and the tyrannical governing of Maitland caused a big disaffection. Ioannis Kapodistrias wrote a protest document to the British Minister of the colonies, Lord Barthurst, but Maitland was justified. On 23rd of February 1821, 57 eminent Zakynthians from the Liberal part reported to the king of England, George IV, asking for the change of the Constitution. The movement was put down and the British General Sir Frederick Adams, (who was the next Commissioner until 1831 after Maitland died), ordered a military law. The leader of the military forces, Alexander Whittford, took in charge temporarily as Commissioner. In November of 1832, the liberal and philhellene, Lord Nugen, came after but he resigned in 1835. Afterwards, the next Commissioner, General Baron Sir Howard Douglas, was conservative and conflicted against the Liberal Ionian politics. In 1839, Andrew Moustoksidis, a Deputy of Parliament, sent a petition asking for the freedom of the press and the system of the elections. The British Minister of the colonies, Russell, rejected the requests of Moustoksidis, but he suggested proceedings for a better liberal governing. In 1841, Sir Alexander Stewart Makenzie took charge but he resigned in 1843. Seaton followed, who was liberal and an expressionist of the new line of the British policy. He allowed the establishment of political clubhouses, political gatherings, the typing houses and he allowed the import of the Greek newspapers in the Ionian Islands. He was also interested in the education and agriculture and established the corps of the field guards. The most important decision was the establishment of the liberty of the press, on the 22nd of May 1848. During the liberal changes, Seaton divided the islands in municipalities and ordered Local Boards. In 1849, Eric George Ward replaced Seaton, but he was reactive. He obligated the Ionian State to pay 25.000 pounds sterling for the preservation and salary of the British garrisons and minimized the 15.000 to 13.000 pounds sterling for the expenses of the Commissioner. In the meantime, the political turbulence had started. In 1846, the Ionians organized the national anniversary of the 25th of March. On the 3rd of September, organized movements motivating the people against the British. The inexperience and bad organization, the betrayal of the plans and the direct reaction of the deputy Evorton resulted in the failure of the movement. The British reduced the circulation of the newspapers; they exiled and sentenced to death a lot of fighters. During the political introduction of the Ionian Islands, three parts were being created due to the different political position and ideas. The “Infernals”, as the people were calling them, had identified their interests with the British protection. The “Reformers” believed that the Ionian State had little chance of conflict and the British protection was a necessity. They also believed that the constitution should be changed and reformed with more liberties. The “Radicals” believed in the total independency of the Ionian Islands and the union with Greece. The establishment of the democracy, the national liberation and the social justice, were the only purpose. In April 1852, the British Deputy Hume, accused the Commissioner Sir Henry Ward for the violence, also the stop of the liberty of press and the exile of the people. The Minister of the colonies, Pakisgton, defended Ward, saying that the Ionian Islands could not have a better attitude as the liberties that Seaton gave them and was the result of the difficult situation. In 1855, Sir John Young replaced Ward. At the end of 1856, the selection declared for a vote of the 11th Parliament. On 4/16th of February 1857, the new Parliament started. All the Deputies were shocked, when they heard that Great Britain was preparing a plan, in which the islands of Corfu and Paxos would remain under the British protection and the rest of the Ionian Islands would be united with Greece. In 1858, the British government decided to send Guillelmo Ewart Gladstone, a famous man of letters and qualified politician, in order to investigate the political situation and suggest a solution. On 24th of November 1858, Gladstone arrived in Corfu; he called the Senate and published the cause of his arrival. He also asked the people and the authorities to co-operate for the reform of the Constitution. He made a tour of the Ionian Islands, where people welcomed the union and disapproved of the protection. Young called the Parliament and announced Gladstone as the new Commissioner and the fact that the Queen Victoria believed in the necessity of the reform of the Constitution. On 5th of February 1859, Gladstone announced to the Parliament of Corfu, the refusal of the Queen regarding the union of the Ionian Islands and presented the reform of the Constitution. On 4/16th of February, the Parliament voted negatively and the mission of Gladstone ended. Sir Eric Storks was appointed the new Commissioner and was the last Commissioner of the Ionian Islands. The Parliament did not recognize the right to begin the speech, but only to the president of the Senate. Then Storks stopped the works of the Parliament for 6 months. He also found unconstitutional the demand of the union. The Parliament reacted again and he stopped its works once more. The British started to discuss and make decisions for the situation in the Parliament of Lords and the House of Commons. Some of them agreed and some disagreed with the union. In the Parliament of Lords, Lord Gray said that the protection was no longer advantageous and in the House of Commons, the Deputy Maguire said that the system was not right and they could not drawn the free voice of the people, since they signed the Treaty in order to protect them. On the other hand, the British did not want the union, as the British policy was focused to the neutralism of Turkey and worried about the extension of the Greek kingdom. It was opposite to the external policy that king Othon of Greece used. In the meantime, the friends of British in Ionian suggested the establishment of the “Eptanesian Seigniory” which would include the Ionian Islands, Epirus and Thessaly, under the seigniory of the Queen’s Victoria son, Alfred. In the beginning of 1862, the British Prime Minister, Palmerston, informed the Greek Charge d’affaires in England, Harilaos Trikoupis, that as long as Othon was reigning, the Ionian Islands would not be united with Greece. On 10th of December, after an official announcement of the British Minister of External Affaires, -Russel- Harilaos Trikoupis acknowledged to the Greek Government that the Queen would accept the union as long as the king of her preference would be selected. So, Great Britain secured its influence in Greece while succeeding in the guarantee for the neutralism of the Turkish Empire. Eventually, after a lot of negotiations, in 22nd of January, the B’ National Assembly decided to declare Alfred, the son of Queen Victoria, as the King of Greece. Victoria suggested that they could not select Alfred, since the Treaty of the 3rd of February 1830 did not permit the descendants of the royal families of the protective alliances to be selected. On 18th of March 1863, the National Assembly of Athens decided to declare the son of the prince of Denmark, George, to accept the crown. On 21st of May 1863, George did accept the Greek crown under the terms of the Union of the Ionian Islands with Greece. On 1/13th of July 1863, the Treaty between Great Britain, Russia, France and the King of Denmark was signed, promising the annexation of the Ionian Islands. Eventually, on 14th of November 1863, the representatives of the 5 forces, Great Britain, France, Russia, Austria and Prussia, signed in London the Treaty, for the resignation of the protection of the British, and was accepted the recognition of the Union of Ionian Islands with Greece, under neutrality, was a reality. Accordingly the protocol of 25th of January 1864 stopped the minimizing of the military forces that Greece was keeping and also the neutrality in Corfu and Paxos. On 11/29th of March 1864, Greece and Great Britain, France and Russia signed a Treaty in London validating the terms of the Treaty of 1863 and settled all the matters. On 21st of May / 2nd of June 1864, the Commissioner Eric Storks gave the Ionian Islands to Thrasivoulo Zaimi. The Greek flag was raised on the Fortresses. On 24th of April 1864, the royal decree was issued for the elections of the Ionians, who would participate in the National Assembly. Eighty-four Ionians were being selected under a secret and total vote; they took the oath and they started participating in the Parliament.
At the beginning of the British protection, the Commissioner was living in the Old Fortress of Corfu. Maitland asked that the Commissioner should be living in an imposing building. The decision for the construction of the Palace was made on the 30th of November 1818, according to the records of the Ionian Senate. In April of 1818, the Battalion of Saints Michael and George was established in Great Britain as the Order of the Ionian Islands, Malta and the British, who they would serve the interests of Great Britain. The Palace is called by the name of the two Saints. The architect, Sir George Whitmore, took over the supervision and construction of the building in Corfu, as well as the design of Upper and Lower Square and the Cistern of Maitland in Upper Square. The stones were being transferred from Malta and the wood was transferred from Italy. The foundation stone was walled on the 23rd of April 1819, the Celebration day of Saint George. The official inauguration took place in April of 1823, when also the Commissioner moved into his new residency.
In 28th of October 1818, the Parliament of the Ionian State decided on new coins of the State. The new national bronze coins were equivalent to the British coins and they had on one side the emblem of the Ionian State with the cyclic inscription “Ionian State 1819” and on the other side the nymph Brittannia sitting and watching on the left with the cyclic inscription “Brittannia”. In 1819 the president of the Ionian Senate, Emanuel Theotokis, accepted the proposal of presidency of the Biblical Company of London to establish the Biblical Company in Corfu. In 1821, Lord Guilford organized a Botanic Garden in Corfu, with 4.000 Corfiot species, in the place where the old Monastery of the Catholic nuns of Saint Justine was. After the establishment of the Ionian Academy, in 1824, the Botanic Garden was moved to Mon Repo. During the British protection, Corfu started to develop the public works. The roads were being extended to the most of the villages, having 700 km of roads. Corfu had the thickest net of roads in the Balkans.
The Corfiots were also using the water from the water tanks. The drilling of water started in Benitses and the tubes were used for the transfer of the water to the houses.
The production of olive oil was profitable and a lot of merchants got rich. The Post office of the State was also organized, under the law of 5th of June 1827 of the Parliament.
In 1826, the first Greek orthodox school for priests was established. Maitland did not allow the request by the Ionians for a University in Ithaca. On 24th of May 1824, the Senate decided for the legal establishment of the University, consisted of 4 sections: Theology, Medicine, Law and Philosophy. Lord Guilford managed the free use of the Greek language in the Ionian Academy and the School of the priests. The municipality of Corfu honored the phillelene Guilford (he was also baptized into Orthodoxy by the name of Dimitrios) for his offer, with a statue in Boscetto. After Guilford died, the use of the Greek language was minimized and the lessons were taught in Italian. In 1836, the Greek language was established again in the courts and also the records of the Parliament.
On 22nd of March 1833, the Parliament decided to create the Home for the aged, which still exists.
In 1836, three societies were been established: the Reading Society, the Agricultural Society and the Philharmonic Society of Corfu. The Reading Society was the first Greek association, which still exists. The president was the great Greek, middle classed, philosopher, Peter Knight Vrailas-Armenis, professor of the Philosophic School of the Ionian University. A lot of remarkable people of literature became members such as Dionysios Solomos, Andreas Moustoksidis, Adonios Polylas, Andreas Kalvos, Lorenzo Mavilis and Markoras. The Agricultural Society had been established for a few years aged after Greece stopped the Ionian University, but there were no people to continue the work.
The Philharmonic Society of Corfu educated the residents in music for 1 and a half century, showing the way for other new orchestras, such as the New Orchestra or the Orchestra of Manzaro, the Orchestra of Gastouri, the Orchestra of Skripero, the Orchestra of Sinarades, the Orchestraof Lefkimmi etc.
On 17th of January, the declaration of the Ionian State Bank for public recording took place in the City of London. The Ionian Bank started to work on the 2nd of March 1840. The architect Yannis Hronis constructed the building in 1845 in Corfu. In October 1981, the upper floor became a museum of the paper money.
The seventh Parliament established the Land Registry.
The eighth Parliament voted for the freedom of Press.
The most important technical and social work of the Commissioner Douglas was the reformatory (Correctional Institution). The Column of Douglas in Garitsa is a work of honor to him.