Posts tagged 1861
We just finished running a series of six articles on the 1872 Council of Constantinople, published contemporaneously in the Methodist Quarterly Review. The following article is from about a decade earlier, and describes the early stages of the Bulgarian split from the Patriarchate of Constantinople. This piece is from an American journal called The Independent, March 28, 1861:
Separation of the Bulgarians from the Greek Church – The Hopes of the Protestant and the Roman Missionaries – Establishment of a United Bulgarian Church.
An actual separation from the Greek Church has already been commenced on the part of the Bulgarians, a tribe which counts a population of about four millions, living mostly in the province of Bulgaria Proper and in the northern part of the provinces of Macedonia and Thrace, and in which of late a special interest has been awakened in America by reports of the missionaries of the American Board and of the Methodist Episcopal Church, who have been laboring among them, if not with great actual results, at least with good prospects for the future. The Bulgarians have been engaged for several years in a struggle against the heads of the Greek Church, for the recovery of their national ecclesiastical rights, which only needs to be more generally known in order to enlist the liveliest sympathy of all friends of religious liberty.
The Bulgarian Church was free from any dependence on the Patriarch of Constantinople up to the year 1767, when, by the intrigues of the then Patriarch Samuel, backed by the Greek archons, the Turkish Government was induced to abolish the Bulgarian archiepiscopal see of Ochrida [sic], and to place all the Bulgarian people under his jurisdiction. From that time, the Greek prelates have imposed on the Bulgarians the same odious yoke which the Church of Rome has so successfully laid on all the churches of Western Europe. They have introduced into their churches the use of a language which the people do not understand, and have sent them bishops who have always shown themselves hostile to its cultivation in church and school.
Since the issue of the Hatti-Houmayoun in 1856, the Bulgarians have urgently demanded the restoration of their ancient rights. There seems to be no difference of opinion among them on this point; bishops, priests, and laity appear to be perfectly unanimous, and the national movement, in this respect, is as strong and sound as the one which has been recently so successful in Italy. They demand the erection of an independent Bulgarian patriarchal see, and the appointment of only Bulgarian bishops, and in support of their demand they instance the fact that the Greeks themselves have four patriarchal sees, viz., those of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch, and one archiepiscopal see, (that of Cyprus,) all independent of each other. The justness of these claims becomes the more apparent, if it is remembered that the Bulgarians are by far more numerous in European Turkey than the Greeks.
Nevertheless, the higher Greek clergy have made to such reasonable demands the most obstinate and defying resistance. Not only did they turn a deaf ear to all the appeals for the restoration of the Bulgarian language at Divine service, but when the new ecclesiastical constitution was being framed, they treated the Bulgarians with utter neglect, and almost ignored their existence. The Bulgarians, therefore, very properly refused to be represented in the assembly electing a new Patriarch of Constantinople, either by laymen or ecclesiastics, saying that it was a matter in which they had no concern, as they would no longer acknowledge the Patriarch as their spiritual head.
The Turkish Government has unfortunately sided in this question with the Greek clergy, and not with the Bulgarians. It has believed the insinuation that the Bulgarian movement has been set on foot by agents of the Russian Government, and that the latter was using the ecclesiastical agitation as a means for effecting a closer union of all the Sclavonic [sic] tribes of Russia among themselves, and with Russia. When thus all the attempts of the Bulgarian churches had failed, a part of the people have at length listened to the cunning advice which the Roman Catholic missionaries, aided by French diplomacy, have given them. The Roman priests suggested to the leading men among the Bulgarians that, by only acknowledging the Pope as the Supreme Bishop of the Church, they might obtain their independence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, or constitute themselves after the example of the United Greeks, United Armenians, United Copts, the Chaldeans (i.e., United Nestorians,) and the Catholic Syrians, (United Jacobites,) as an Independent National Bulgarian Church, and thus be at once put in possession of all their ancient rights, including the use of the Bulgarian language at divine service. The leaders of the movement seem, at first, to have used this expedient as a means of forcing the Greek clergy into compliance with their wishes; and a memorial, holding out the probability of a union of the entire people with Rome, if the national wishes were not gratified, was very numerously signed. It was on the strength of this memorial that, a few months ago, the Roman Catholic papers of Europe and this country prematurely announced that the union had been actually consummated.
This, as yet, is far from being the case. But a beginning has been made. A correspondence from Constantinople in the Presse of Paris, gives the following description of it: “It was on Sunday morning, (Dec. 30th,) immediately preceding high mass, that the formal act of abjuration was received. The national deputation numbered 200, and consisted of two archimandrites, three priests, and twenty esness, (chief magistrates,) who bore an address containing signatures, and were supported by a body of civic officers. They were received by Monsignor Brunoni on the part of the Pope, and Monsignor Hassoun, the Primate of the United Armenians. The following transaction then took place between Mr. Ivanoff, the spokesman to the party, and Mgr. Brunoni: ‘We petition to be admitted into union with the Church of Rome.’ ‘Do ye yield to the dogma of the said Church, that she alone is one and true?’ ‘We so believe it.’ ‘Are ye prepared to sign this declaration as an act of your faith?’ ‘We are so prepared, and we ask you to present the same as our united deed to the head of the Church — the Pope, at Rome. We would also add that we wish to retain our liturgy.’ Hereupon the Bulgarian deputies annexed their names to an official document — the clergy taking precedency in the signing. After this, the Archimandrite Macariog stood forth and pronounced an address in the Bulgarian tongue, which was full of fire. The oath of the Gospels was next received, and then the Armenian Archbishop pontificated. On the conclusion of the high mass the kiss of brotherhood was exchanged between the members of both bodies, clerical and lay, beginning with the Primate as he descended from the altar.”
The Monde of Paris reports some additional details. According to its correspondent, the Bulgarians of Constantinople on the same day issued a manifesto to the entire nation, announcing that December 30th would henceforth be celebrated as the greatest national festival. The Grand Vizier is said to have declared on the next day to a Bulgarian deputation that the Government would lay no obstacles to this new movement. The United Bulgarians have purchased a building which is to serve as a school and the dwelling of their future Patriarch.
The Roman Catholic papers are of course again very sanguine, and expect that the majority of the nation will speedily join the union. Other reports, however, ill accord with such expectations. It is maintained that all the chief Bulgarians in Constantinople, including several bishops and priests, have published a protest against the seceders, declaring them to be men of no influence or character, and unworthy to lead the Bulgarian nation. They have, moreover, appealed to the Constantinople branch of the Evangelical Alliance for aiding them in securing the recognition of their ecclesiastical independence, and the Evangelical Alliance have called the attention of the Protestant Embassadors [sic] at Constantinople, viz., those of Great Britain, United States, Prussia, Denmark, Holland, and Sweden, to the interesting movement, and begged them to exert their friendly influence in favor of the just demands of the Bulgarians. The movement thus has entered upon a new stage, and greatly increases in interest and importance.
Again, this is from 1861 — more than a decade before the Council of Constantinople. Some key takeaways, for me:
- I don’t know a lot about Bulgarian Church history, but if in fact the Bulgarians more or less governed themselves until the 1760s, and only after that were subjected to ecclesiastical control by the Greeks, then it makes a lot of sense that they would resent that control.
- It’s particularly notable that the Bulgarians and other Slavs outnumbered the Greeks in the European part of Turkey. Yes, there were a lot of Greeks in Asia Minor, but from the Bulgarians’ perspective, Constantinople was an elite minority that was imposing its own Greek language and practices in a region that was mostly Slavic.
- The Bulgarians were hardly alone in their predicament. Over in Syria, the Arab Orthodox were governed by a Greek hierarchy — this was referred to as the “Greek captivity” of Antioch. Same thing in Jerusalem. I don’t know about the ethnic makeup of the Patriarchate of Alexandria (I suspect it was largely Greek), but still, that’s two ancient Arab patriarchates that were governed by, essentially, puppets of Constantinople. And St. Raphael, writing against this a generation later, got kicked out of the Patriarchate of Antioch for his views.
Soon, I’ll try to write something to tie this whole Bulgaria / 1872 Council / phyletism thing together, at least preliminarily. To be honest, I’m still trying to make sense of it all myself, but it does seem to me that what the Bulgarians were guilty of wasn’t necessarily “phyletism” so much as it was the desire to have bishops from their own region, familiar to and with their own people, and friendly to their indigenous culture. Which, come to think of it, is exactly what most Orthodox people want, everywhere, and in every age. That’s not to justify what the Bulgarians did, which seems to be pretty clearly uncanonical. But there’s a difference between uncanonical, schismatic acts and heresy.
Oh, and one final thing: I’ll be a guest on Kevin Allen’s live call-in show “Ancient Faith Today,” on Ancient Faith Radio, this Sunday, December 9. The topic is “ethnocentrism,” and among other things, I’ll be talking about the 1872 Council that condemned phyletism. The show begins at 5 PM Pacific / 6 Mountain / 7 Central / 8 Eastern, and you can listen live at this link: http://ancientfaith.com/ancientfaithtoday. You can also download the show after it’s finished and listen later. If you do listen live, feel free to call in with a question. I’d love to hear from some of our readers!
This is about as unlikely a title for an article on American Orthodox history I ever expected to come up with! But a visit to a used bookstore in Canada a week ago has thrown up some whole new avenues for research. I found a slender volume entitled “Lincoln and the Russians.” (Woldman, Albert A., Lincoln and the Russians. New York: Collier Books, 1952. ) I haven’t finished reading the book yet but it already underscores to me how essential it is to research the history of Orthodoxy in the Americas within the wider context of the relationship between the “Great Powers” of the world stage from the fifteenth century to the present. (More on this theme at a later date, God willing.)
The story I want to recount today is not found in this book: rather a search suggested itself to me after I started reading the book. So here is the headline:
An Orthodox Christian fired the First Shot in the American Civil War!
How could this be you ask? Well, truth is, there seem to be a number of different understandings of what constitutes the first shot of the Civil War and who it was that fired it. But I want to share one of the most common ones here as it relates to a fascinating detail of Orthodox history in the USA. In 2011 we are remembering the one hundred and fiftieth outbreak of the civil war, which is generally dated to April 12, 1861. That was the day the Confederates opened fire on the Union controlled Ft. Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. (Some people reckon the date back to January 9, 1861 when the ship “The Star of the West” was sent to re-supply the Union forces in Charleston harbor and was driven away by Confederate fire.)
According to Southern folklore, it was the young daughter of the Governor of South Carolina who was given a lighted taper to fire the first cannon, by her father the Governor. (Some versions place this in January, some in April 1861.) What is well documented is that the Governor of South Carolina was Francis W. Pickens. He became Governor only weeks before South Carolina became the first state to secede form the Union on December 20, 1860. His daughter was also given the name Francis, although she was more commonly referred to as “Douschka. “ (That’s Russian for “Little Darling.) The little girl’s Russian connection is also suggested by her full legal name: Francis Eugenia Olga Neva Pickens.
So what was Francis W Pickens doing before he became the sixty-ninth Governor of South Carolina? (As an aside it is interesting to note that Philip Ludwell I is officially listed as the ninth.) Pickens was the US Ambassador to Russia. Whilst there, he and his third wife, Lucy Petway Holcombe, became intimate friends of the Russian Czar Alexander and his German born wife Marie of Hesse. Such close friends that when the Pickens’s daughter was born they agreed that she would be baptized as an Orthodox Christian and the Czar and Czarina stood as her Godparents. It was the Czarina who insisted she take the names “Olga” and “Neva.” The Czar simply took to calling her “Douschka.” The baptism took place in the Imperial palace in St. Petersburg in 1859.
I have found no evidence thus far to suggest that Governor Pickens or his wife Lucy embraced Orthodoxy. However, they are said to have studied the differences between Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant doctrine. There is also a very beautiful account of their attending the Easter Night service in St. Petersburg.
Lucy Pickens went on to be known as “The Queen of the Confederacy” and she is the only woman depicted on the currency of the Confederate States of America. The “Holcombe Legion” of the Confederate Army was named after her and she reputedly funded it by the sale of diamonds given her by the Russian Czar. Douschka likewise went on to live a colorful life and became known as “The Joan of Arc of Carolina.” This was for her leadership in the post Civil War “Red Shirt” movement which fought openly to defeat Republican political candidates and limit the civil rights of the newly freed black population. All very ironic, given that it was her Godfather, Alexander II who liberated the serfs in Russia!
To conclude, here is the Douschka Pickens Civil War story as recounted in a book from the beginning of the twentieth century:
“It is said that General Pickens on the twelfth day of April, 1861, at Charleston, took his little daughter in his arms and placed in her tiny hand the lighted match that fired the first gun of the war on Ft. Sumter. Mrs. Pickens held all through her life the friendship of the Imperial Family of Russia, and on the marriage of their daughter, ‘Douschka,’ a silver tea service was sent to her by the Imperial Family.” (Logan, Mrs. John A, The Part Taken by Women in American History, Wilmington, Delaware: The Perry-Nalle Publishing Co., 1912.)
Copyright – Nicholas Chapman, Herkimer, New York, June 27, 2011
In 1861, the Greeks living in New Orleans organized their own volunteer militia regiment to fight on the Confederate side in the Civil War. From Fr. Alexander Doumouras, in the 1975 book Orthodox America: 1794-1976:
Government records show an unofficial memorandum mentioning “Greek Company A,” Louisiana Militia, 1861. The company included a captain, three lieutenants, eight non-commissioned officers and twenty privates. Although it was called “Greek,” the list included other Orthodox people residing in New Orleans after 1860.
A few months ago, I mentioned this fact to the pastor of Holy Trinity Greek Cathedral in New Orleans. He’d never heard such a story; nevertheless, it’s all true. Here’s a note from the May 28, 1861 issue of the Daily True Delta, an old New Orleans newspaper:
Our Greek fellow citizens are emulating the public spirit of other nationalities, and are organizing a company. The old blood which animated the heart of heroic Greece will be found yet strong in the veins of her children resident among us.
Within only a few days, there was trouble. And, in a precursor to the next 150 years of American Orthodox history, this dispute was all about nationality. From the Daily True Delta on June 1:
The Greek company recently formed, for lack of other employment, has become split into parties, and the excitement of internal feuds supplies the place of more legitimate hostilities. One party strenuously opposes the entrance into the company of any but [illegible] Pure Greeks, while the other favors the admission of men of all nationalities. An embittered contest of factions led to personal collisions, in which the sharp logic of steel was used by the opposing parties, as the only argument which would convince obstinate doubters on either side. Chartres street, near Madison, was this morning the scene of the last animated debate between the opponents. Three or four of the contenstants were considerably worried by “gentlemen on the other side,” one of whom was sent to the hospital, one is lying at the company’s armory and two were conducted to the Second district lock-up.
Just a few days after that incident, another member of the Greek regiment, Alexandro Philipuso, “was attacked and severly wounded with knives, by some persons [...] who from their language are supposed to have been Sicilians.”
The last news I’ve found of the Greek regiment comes from June 20, 1861. The Daily True Delta reported simply,
There has been some trouble in the Greek company of volunteers, and five of them have been arrested on a charge of larceny, proferred, as we understand, by some of their own officers. This is bad for the Greeks.
Yes, it was bad for the Greeks. I don’t know what became of the Greek regiment, but it sure doesn’t sound like they would have been very useful in battle.
 Fr Alexander Doumouras, “Parish Development” in Constance J. Tarasar, gen. ed., Orthodox America 1794-1976 (Syosset, NY: The Orthodox Church in America Department of History and Archives, 1975), 38.
 “A Greek Company,” Daily True Delta (May 28, 1861), 1.
 “Greek Meets Greek,” Daily True Delta (June 1, 1861), 1.
 “Recovering,” Daily True Delta (June 12, 1861), 1.
 “The Greeks,” Daily True Delta (June 20, 1861), 1.