by Alexis Papadopoulos

The two letters sent from Ioannis Capodistrias to his Swiss philhellene friend Jean-Gabriel Eynard presented here are of considerable interest not only due to the names themselves of the two correspondents but also due to their contents. Both letters are included in Correspondance du comte J. Capodistrias, président de la Grèce comprenant les lettres diplomatiques, administratives et particulières, écrites par lui depuis le 20 Avril 1827 jusqu’au 9 Octobre 1831, recueillies et mises en ordre par les soins de ses frères et publiées par E. A. Bétant, l’un de ses secrétaires, Abraham Cherbuliez et Cie, Libraires, Genève 1839, [Correspondance of count J. Κapodistrias, president of Greece, including diplomatic, administrative and private letters, written in the period from 20 April 1827 to 9 October 1831, collected and sorted out by his brothers, and published by E. A. Bétant, one of his secretaries, Abraham Cherbuliez & Cie, Geneva 1839].

In 1839, the brothers of John Capodistrias, after taking good care of the copies of the letters of the Governor’s archive, with the help of Α. Betant, one of Ioannis’ secretary, they published in Geneva a four-volume work which contained his correspondence from the day he accepted the responsibility of the government in 1827 right up to his assassination in 1831. This work was then translated in Greek by M. G. Schinas and published in Athens in 1841. The two letters are written in French by Capodistrias’ secretary, save for the short closing paragraphs and the signatures which are in the Governor’s handwriting. They are written in a most crucial period for the fate of the newly formed Greek state and this fact is reflected on their contents. The Greek translation shown here is the original Schinas’ text, except the parts translated into Greek by Alexandre Galinos as these parts were previously unpublished in both the 1839 and 1841 works. 1828 was a difficult and decisive year for the successful outcome of the Greek uprising. Capodistrias had already arrived in Greece in January 1828 as Governor and tried to organize a state on scorched earth. Apart from the severe financial difficulties, there was always the danger of the uprising being suppressed by Ibrahim’s presence in the Peloponnese. The French expeditionary mission in the Peloponnese in late August forced Ibrahim’s troops to retreat and leave Greece. Shortly after, at the Poros Conference (September-December) where the Ambassadors of the Great Powers met, Capodistrias tried to secure larger boundaries for the newly formed Greek state.


fig. 1: The first letter


First letter (fig. 1)

To Chevalier Eynard, in Geneva Aegina, 15/27 August 1828

A few days ago I wrote to you my dear friend, and today as opportunity offers I am writing again to let you know that I drew a check on Messieurs Odier & Co for the amount of 51,000 francs for which you have credited me. As soon as Mr. Marinoglou acknowledges that he received the aforementioned sum, I shall credit the honorable lender (Schinas’ note: the King of Bavaria) and Mr Carnot. The bank should release the moneys at the agreed time, which is at the end of the year. The same will apply with yours as well. The contributions offered by the generous Kings of France and Russia still do not allow us to be financially content, so we cannot turn down offers of any additional help. I hope that it will not be long that we will be better off financially.

For the moment, I give to Mr. Odier the sum of 20,000 francs as stated in your letter of 21 July, a sum donated by the benefactors for the education of poor children. You can assure them that their wishes will be fulfilled with the greatest precision. It is impossible for me to tell you all about the things that have been happening at this most important period for the regeneration of Greece. I only have time just to tell you that we are working hard every day. The things that we do, if we want them to be of substance and to have a permanent effect, should not be improvised. At the time that I am writing to you, I am receiving three very important pieces of news. You know all about the French expeditionary mission in Greece. You should be pleased to know that on the 9th of August, Mehmet-Ali signed a treaty with admiral Codrington in which he promises to free all the Greek prisoners of war in Alexandria and to order his son to leave the Messinia fortresses.

Finally, the plenipotentiary ambassadors of the allied royal courts are on their way to the Aegean archipelago to prepare their efforts for the peace settlement entrusted to them. I will be expecting them in Poros in eight or ten days time. For this reason, please put on hold until further notice any action in regard with the mercenaries’ contracts (Schinas’ note: capitulations), for which I wrote to you on 12/24 June via Paris. [transl. in Greek by A. Galinos – start] I am telling you to refrain from any such action because I would like first to be better informed and to gather all the necessary information before taking my final decision. I hope that in a few days things will clear-up and I will tell you: carry on with the negotiations and get them finalized. Two days ago I wrote directly to our friend in Paris so that he warns you. I hereby enclose two numbers of the Government Gazette and a printed circular. Young men bearing your letters of recommendation arrive daily. You should stop here. As I had already the honor to inform you, whoever does not speak Greek is absolutely not eligible to become a public servant. In a few cases and just for those that have some abilities, they can only be enlisted in the army. [transl. in Greek by A. Galinos – end] [by Capodistrias’ handwriting] I shake your hand and I beg you to remind me to your ladies, and to give my best to Madame Eynard.

I am all Yours, I. Capodistrias [signature]


fig. 2: The second letter


Second letter (fig. 2)

To Chevalier Eynard, in Geneva Poros, 7/19 September 1828

My dear Eynard,

I have just returned from the bay of Messinia, where I had gone to regulate the future relations between the chief general Marquis Maison and the locals of the place that he will set free from the Turks. Ibrahim Pacha embarks and sets sail for Alexandria. The three plenipotentiary ambassadors of the allied powers are here. Therefore, do not get at me if I keep this letter short. I received your letters of 15 and 28 July. I directly reply to count Hoogendrop thanking him for the 15,000 francs that I received through you. Your observations on the possible ways to reduce Greek debt and what to do next are excellent indeed, but it is not the proper time to implement them. Perhaps, in a few days I would be able to write to you more on this matter. Please be assured that I wish to act in the way you suggest, but for now I cannot do anything more.

In my last letter I wrote to you to put on hold the big issue of recruiting German and Swiss mercenaries, but also to keep the negotiations open, so as to when we have the desired outcome I will immediately notify you to finalize the issue. I received the note regarding the various tools that are needed for the agriculture and education, I very much thank you for this; Mr. Bazin has already dealt with them. The regular soldiers, the ones already drafted and those coming in will now enjoy their military music, the farmers will have their farming tools, and not least the orphans will have blackboards for their education. [transl. in Greek by A. Galinos – start] I read count de Bourg’s letter and have put it in the archives. It is impossible for me to reply to the entire world. [transl. in Greek by A. Galinos – end] [by Capodistrias’ handwriting illegible closing paragraph mentioning Mme Eynard]

I. Capodistrias (signature)


Postal history

At the time these two letters were written there was no postal services in the new Greek state, let alone postal treaties signed with other states. The postal communication relied on the good services offered by merchants, sailors, travelers etc.

The first letter, written in Aegina on 15/27 August 1828, was privately carried probably aboard a British merchant vessel, which made a stop at Malta where disinfection took place (red wax seal reading QUARANTINE OFFICE MALTA with the coat of arms of King George IV of Great Britain). When the ship called in Genoa, the letter was handed over to Nicolaos Petrokokkinos forwarding agency, and this is where the letter was posted (red straight-line GENOVA) on 6 October, according to the handwritten date on the reverse of the folded letter. Eynard was not a Geneva resident, his mansion was in the nearby town of Rolle in Lake Geneva, where the letter was readdressed. The handwritten charges of 12 and 16/ 20 most probably mean that the letter was charged 4 centesimi for the Italian part of the trip, 12 decimes by the French postal service for the French transit (a total of 16 currency units), 2 kreuzers were charged by the Fischer Post (which provided all mail service for the Canton of Geneva in 1828) and 2 kreuzers by the Canton of Vaud (where Rolle belonged), making a grand total of 20 currency units.

The second letter written in Poros on 7/19 September 1828 was privately carried all the way to Geneva, where it was posted and then readdressed to Rolle. The ship on which this letter traveled, called at some point in Ancona where it was treated for disinfection and received the rectangular boxed Lazzaretto Ancona / Netto Dentro E Fuori cachet. The handwritten postal charges of 2/4 means that 4 kreuzers were paid in total, half of it credited to the Fischer post, the other half to the Canton of Vaud.

My sincere thanks to Harlan Stone of the American Helvetia Philatelic Society for his help in “deciphering” the postal rates, and to my good friend Alexandre Galinos for translating from French to Greek the previously unpublished parts of the two letters.