The Third National Assembly
The Third National Assembly, also known as the Troezen Assembly, convened in three different locations - Nea Epidaurus, Hermione and Troezen - between March 19 and May 5 1827. On April 14 1827, the assembly elected Ioannis Kapodistrias as the “Governor of Greece” for a seven-year term and endorsed the “Political Constitution of Greece”. The Assembly established a democratic regime based on liberal principles and declared the sovereignty of the people (popular sovereignty): "Sovereignty lies with the people; every power derives from the people and exists for the people". This declaration has been included in all subsequent revisions since 1864. The Constitution consisted of 150 articles. It introduced a clear separation of powers by assigning executive power to the Governor and legislative power to the representatives of the people that formed the parliament (Vouli).
The Governor was only granted suspending veto powers on the bills and no prerogative to dissolve the parliament. Even though the Governor enjoyed immunity for his actions, the Secretaries of State, i.e. the Ministers, were accountable for his public actions (signaling the start of the parliamentary principle). It is also worth mentioning that the Constitution of 1827 was quite progressive in its treatment and protection of human rights, being one of the most comprehensive constitutions of its time when it came to safeguarding civil rights.
The Constitution of Troezen tried to combine the need for a centralized powerful authority and the existence of democratic institutions and practices. However, the constitution only remained valid until 1828, shortly after the arrival of Ioannis Kapodistrias.
The Third National Assembly during the Greek War of Independence had begun deliberating on April 6 1826 in Epidaurus. A few days later, the assembly was interrupted due to altercations and discord among its members. The administrative committee (Andreas Zaimis as president, the politician and doctor from Chios Georgios Glarakis as general secretary, and members D. Tsamados, P. Mavromichalis, S. Trikoupis, P.D. Dimitrakopoulos, A.X. Anargyrou, A. Monarchidis, K. Zotos, I. Vlachos) went to Aegina claiming that only the administrative committee had the right to designate a place for the meeting of the assembly. Hence, the committee invited all the delegations to Aegina.
Moreover, the committee supported that it had the right to acknowledge as representatives of the nation only those members that took part in the Third National Assembly in Epidaurus. Following this syllogism, the assembly in Aegina would be considered as a continuation of the assembly in Epidaurus and therefore only those present in Epidaurus could participate in the second one in Aegina.
Portrait of Theodoros Kolokotronis, work by Karl Krazeisen, 1828.
A large group of representatives disagreed with all this. Theodoros Kolokotronis also objected to Aegina as the place for the assembly, but at the same time he kept urging the committee not to waste time. In October 1826, Kolokotronis writes the following to the assembly committee: “As the assembly committee, now is the time to call for a national assembly to finish what we started last April. We should not waste time. Now is the time. It is winter. We are not fighting and neither is Ibrahim.” In response to a question posed by the committee regarding which place Kolokotronis considered suitable for the assembly, Kolokotronis responded: “In the Peloponnese; to keep an eye on Ibrahim and be ready to help our army, if need be, because the enemy is at our door.” And the places he proposed were: “Lenidi, Kranidi, Kastri, and Piada. From these four locations, choose one”. Kolokotronis continues: “They answered that we should ask the administrative committee. The assembly and the administrative committee discussed the issue further and concluded that the assembly was to be held either on Poros or on Aegina”. One more thorny issue between Kolokotronis and the opposing camp was that of the recognition of representatives. Kolokotronis maintained that the National Assembly should recognize and welcome representatives from newly liberated Greek territories. On the other hand, the representatives that opted for Aegina opined that the only representatives that could take part in the forthcoming assembly sessions were the ones that had already taken part in the Assembly in Epidaurus.
Kolokotronis was only one person but he had gathered the support and the vote of many. He had come into contact with the leading politicians and army men of revolutionary Greece.
The Assembly in Hermione
After several failed attempts to come to an agreement, Kolokotronis decided to go to Hermione. Upon learning the news, the other group headed for Aegina and declared the start of the assembly. Kolokotronis did the same in Hermione.
Most of the representatives gathered in Hermione (according to the records of Mamouka, 141 representatives gathered in Hermione - Kolokotronis’ rough estimation was 90). Apart from the representatives that had been present in Epidaurus, several others that had fought against the Turks and had been liberated were also accepted to take part. These were the representatives to whom the assembly committee did not want to grant participatory status.
Both sides were adamant. The representatives in Aegina did not waver in their claim that Aegina was the best choice or in their belief that additional representatives should not be allowed to take part. On the other hand, the representatives gathered in Hermione maintained that this was neither legal nor fair.
This conflict shook the people and the army all over the country. The situation was critical. Missolonghi had fallen. The Acropolis in Athens was in danger. The army was exhausted and war and food supplies were dwindling. Even the peace negotiations taking place in Constantinople between the Turks and the European ambassadors were at a standstill as no messages were relayed from Greece. Disappointment prevailed among the people and the situation worsened due to the dispute among the representatives of the Nation. The threat was looming that all that was achieved in the struggle for the liberation and the salvation of the homeland would be destroyed. Under these dismal circumstances and at the instigation of Kolokotronis, the Third National Assembly convened anew in Hermione.
The Third National Assembly in Hermione held 10 preliminary sessions beginning January 18 1827 and ending February 11 1827. 17 regular sessions followed, which began February 11 and ended March 17 of the same year.
During these preliminary sessions, a document arrived from Aegina. It was a proposal to convene the National Assembly at a third neutral location. The representatives in Hermione sent a reply – invitation calling them to go to Hermione and stating that based on the majority rule they had decided on Hermione as the place for the assembly. From the camp of Distomo at Leivadia, Georgios Karaiskakis – Army Chief General of the administrative region of Sterea Ellada (English: Central Greece) - also sent a letter urging all sides to come together in unity and brotherhood and proposing the island of Salamis as a third neutral location. The Hermione representatives replied negatively and asked Karaiskakis to urge the representatives of Sterea Ellada to go to Hermione.
A second document arrived from Aegina. This time the document invited the Hermione representatives to join them in Aegina and stressed that no record proceedings or decisions made in Hermione would be considered legal. The representatives in Hermione did not send a reply. Instead, they opened the first regular session and began deliberations. The first decision that was taken was to reject the claim of the Aegina delegates as legitimate representatives of the people.
During these regular sessions, a decision was made for Kolokotronis to set out for Athens in order to reinforce the Athens camp with 4,500 additional men. The second decision that was made concerned the British ambassador in Constantinople. The assembly resolved to send a letter to the ambassador, Stratford Canning, expressing the gratitude of the Greek people towards him and towards the ambassadors of the other Great Powers for their wholehearted support during the peace negotiations with the Turks.
A lot of topics were covered in the Hermione sessions and many decisions were made. For example, they passed a resolution which stated that after the end of the war all those who fought in the war of independence and suffered harm or losses would be compensated. In addition, requests for aid were received. These included provisions of war supplies, food supplies, sheep and goats, as well as animal feed.
In the 13th session, a letter was sent to Lord Thomas Cochrane, who was in the Mediterranean Sea, requesting his arrival to the Greek seas in order to help in the fight for liberation. In the same session, it was decided that the cornerstone of the Greek system of government would be parliamentary.
In the 16th session, a document by Kolokotronis was read out, in which he proposed the English General Richarch Church as Commander-in-chief of the Greek land forces and Lord Cochrane as Admiral of the fleet. Moreover, he proposed the election of a Governor of Greece and pointed to politician and diplomat Ioannis Kapodistrias as the best candidate.
The English tried again and again to unify the two groups, but the majority of the representatives in Hermione were determined to continue the sessions there and all attempts to convince them otherwise were fruitless.Under these circumstances, a plea for help reached the Hermione Assembly. The town of Athens required immediate assistance. Admiral Cochrane and Commander-in-chief Church proceeded to Hermione with the purpose of uniting the representatives and finding a third location for the assembly. That location was Troizina (Damala).
Eventually, the efforts to coalesce the factions were successful and all representatives met in Troizina. The much desired and long awaited unification brought relief to the people and to the army after months of agony.
The Third National Assembly continued and ended in Damala (Troizina). It was there that Ioannis Kapodistrias was voted Governor. Despite their satisfaction that the representatives had finally united, the people of Hermione were saddened by the fact that they would no longer hear the bells calling the assembly members to the Bouleuterion (Council House) and that the town would no longer be bustling with activity.