Address of His Excellency the Lord High Commissioner on the 7th March, 1820, to the Legislative Assembly of the United Ionian States
I have to congratulate the Assembly upon the clear and explicit Declaration obtained by his Royal Highness the Prince Regent from the sultan of the Ottoman Empire, by which the arrangement, placing these Islands for ever under the sole and exclusive protection of my Royal Master, is acknowledged and confirmed; and by which the Ottoman Porte not only withdraws any pretension it might have advanced in regard to these States, under the treaty of the 21st March, 1800, but concedes to every native of these Islands the same safety, protection, and privileges, throughout the wide range of the Turkish dominions, which are granted to British subjects. [p.21] Is there any man so grossly misinformed as to believe that any commerce can exist in a Government, similar to that of the Ionian States, consisting of several different Islands, where heavy duties of transit exist between Island and Island, - where speciall protection is attempted to be given to the inhabitants of each to the detriment of the general merchant, and where the levying of such duties is left to the arbitrary will of a nominal contractor? If there be any man who can imagine that commerce can flourish, or that your own commodities can find export at their reasonable value under such a system, he must maintain his opinion in opposition to every principle, which the wisdom and experience of ages has recognised and established. I am therefore convinced that the very act of simplifying the duties to which I have alluded (though the amount of them for the moment has thereby become less) and above all the improved mode in which they are now collected, have conferred not i trifling advantage, but the greatest possible benefit on the people of these States. But independent of this, Gentlemen, adverting to the tax upon the exportation of oil, you must recollect that there was at the same time laid on a heavy duty on the importation of foreign wine, which was extended to those of a common quality, particularly from the Eastward. This was intended to operate as a prohibition against their introduction, which was stated at the time; and therefore this measure cannot be viewed as a tax on the people for the purpose of encreasing the revenue, - but as tending in an immediate and essential manner to the encouragement of the cultivation of the vine, by encreasing the price of your own wines, one of the staple commodities of these States. This then, as I have said, was not a tax laid on for the benefit of the revenue, as it tended to reduce it, and did in fact reduce it. - But it was essential to advance the interests of these Islands; and what has been the result? Has not the cultivation of the vine encreased in consequence to a greater extent that has hitherto erxisted? [p.23] I wish to learn from you whether owing to all these combined measures the spirit of agriculture in each and in all the Islands has not been displayed in a manner never before seen? I wish to know whether the facilities given to your commerce has not led to a more general communication between Island and Island? I wish particularly to ask the respectable Members of your body belonging to Cephalonia, whether, within their memory, there ever has been so great an extent of encreased cultivation, of building, and of general imrpovement, as is now to be seen in that Island, since the establishment of the present Constitution? and though these results may be more striking in that Island owing to its extent, yet i am persuaded it will be found, that the same effects are to be observed in all the other islands.