In Greece with Don Pacifico – Civis Britannicus sum
Being a Brit while travelling around the world seems to have become a hazardous occupation. Brits have become fair game for any malcontent. Today we learn that Alan Johnston, the BBC correspondent in Gaza, has been murdered after being kidnapped, at least that is what is claimed by a jihadist group. We were also reminded that the death of another Brit, Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan cricket coach, is still unsolved in Jamaica.
It was quite a different matter in the 19th century.
“In 1847, a man called Don Pacifico, a Portuguese Jew living in Greece, had his house burned in an anti-Semitic riot. He appealed to the Greek government for redress (the sons of some ministers had been involved) and got nowhere. But he chanced to have been born on Gibraltar and thus was, technically, a British subject. And so he turned to the British government. . .
Lord Palmerston began a naval blockade of Greece — on the grounds that Don Pacifico was a British subject like any other — until the government in Athens backed down. In Palmerston's words, 'As the Roman in days of old held himself free from indignity when he could say Civis Romanus sum, so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong.' Civis Britannicus sum: that was all Don Pacifico had to say.”
It would be good if the citizens of every country felt the same security today.