“Turkish & Grecian”

January 15, 1881

Thomas Nast

“Turkish & Grecian”

U.S. Foreign Policy;

No 'People' indexed for this cartoon.

Balkans; Greece; Turkey/Ottoman Empire;

John Bull would like U.S. to settle disputes that England is responsible for. "It (U.S.) looks on the struggles of the Old World with the half-amused glance of an indifferent spectator. It has the strongest, the freest, and the most prosperous of peoples within borders; but no nation in bonds looks upward to the Great Republic for aid, no struggling people turns to her fleet with longing, no perishing race so much as hopes that the Western rifle will drive away the oppressor." - London Spectator.

This Harper’s Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast reflects American reticence to arbitrate a border dispute between two longstanding enemies, Greece and Turkey.

In 1829, Greece won its independence from the Ottoman Empire of Turkey and its satellite territories. In the 1840s and 1850s, the Greek “Great Idea” developed of restoring a Christian Orthodox Byzantine Empire, with its capital once again in Constantinople, Turkey’s capital. Following Turkey’s defeat in the Russo-Turkish War, the Berlin Treaty of 1878 awarded the province of Thessaly and part of Epirus from Turkey to Greece.

In this Harper’s Weekly cartoon, artist Thomas Nast notes Britain’s request for American intervention as a neutral arbiter in the Greek-Turkish border controversy. The cartoonist places blame for the situation, which, in his opinion, pitted equal claimants to the land, on British meddling in the region. The implication of the cartoon is that the United States would be wise not to become involved in the entangling affair; advice heeded by the incoming administration of President James Garfield. Later in 1881, mediation of Europe’s Great Powers resulted in Turkey ceding the Ionian Islands to Greece. Today, relations between Greece and Turkey are still tense over Cyprus and other territorial issues.

Robert C. Kennedy

“Turkish & Grecian”
July 14, 2024

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