WHETHER, 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." With these words as a culmination the Foreign Secretary, Palmerston, speaking without notes in a speech that lasted almost from darkness to dawn of a summer night in June 1850, despite the eloquence of the foremost men in the House?Peel, Disraeli, Cobden, Graham and Cockburn?converted members of all parties in a very critical if not hostile House of Commons ; and not only secured himself in office but paved the way to his accession to the premiership five years later. The occasion was a vote of confidence in him and his policy as mani? fested in his action towards the Greek Government: the motion was moved by John Arthur Roebuck, an outstanding Independent member of the House of Commons during the middle years of the nineteenth century.
The centre of the drama, before it shifted to the House of Commons, was Athens and the hero, one David Pacifico. Pacifico, known generally in English history as Don Pacifico?he himself preferred the title "The Chevalier D. Pacifico" with which as a rule he signed his letters?was a British subject. The works of reference give as his place of birth Gibraltar and the year 1784.1 According to a passport issued to him on the 1st March, 1833 by the Lieutenant Governor of Gibraltar, he was then forty-four years of age, having been born at Oran in Algeria, the centre of a Jewish Community for many centuries, of British parents ; and the information on which these statements wrere based was presumably furnished by him. On a later occasion2 Pacifico himself stated that he was born in Gibraltar and, still later, in August 1848, repeating this statement, he added "My family has been English upwards of a century."3 Whatever the place of his birth, the question of Pacifico's nationality was further complicated, the Greek authorities suggested, by his appointment to a salaried office in the Portuguese consular service in 1839 as a Portuguese subject, and alternatively by his application in Athens in 1847 to the Spanish Consul for assistance, on the ground that he was of Spanish nationality,4 and by the acceptance of that claim. Whatever his nationality, Pacifico certainly did enter the Portuguese salaried consular service. His first office was in Morocco and he was later transferred to Athens as Consul-General. In 1842 his services were dispensed with, but he continued to reside in Athens, being apparently engaged in business.
The Pacifico family is of Italian Jewish origin. David Pacifico's parents were Asser Pacifico and Bella, daughter of Moses Rieti, also a member of a Venetian Jewish family. They were married in London under the auspices of Bevis Marks in 1761. Another contemporary Anglo-Jewish family, emanating from Venice, was that of dTsraeli,