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Pacifico, David


PACIFICO, DAVID (invariably called "Don Pacifico "; 1784–1854), merchant and diplomat. Born in Gibraltar, Pacifico was a British subject. In 1812 his business activities took him to Lagos, Portugal, where he was appointed Portuguese consul to Morocco (1835–37) and to Greece (1837–42). In 1847 the Greek minister, Coletti, in deference to one of the Rothschilds who happened to be in Athens at the time, prohibited the populace of Athens from burning a wooden effigy of Judas Iscariot on the Friday before Easter as was the yearly custom. Riots broke out and Pacifico was attacked and his house destroyed. Pacifico demanded a sum of 800,000 drachmas (then equivalent to £26,618) as compensation. The Greek government refused to consider his claim and even confiscated Pacifico's real estate. In order to defend his interests as a British subject, the British Admiral Park – upon the instruction of the foreign minister, Lord Palmerston – blockaded the port of Piraeus and captured 200 Greek ships. The Greek government was compelled to pay 120,000 drachmas and £500. Pacifico retired to London, where he died. The incident was important in its time as Palmerston had to defend himself for having supported the lawsuit of a Jew. Palmerston replied that it was not right that because "a man is of Jewish persuasion" he should be outraged. In the British Parliament, Palmerston made a celebrated speech (June 25, 1850) which concluded that all British subjects ought to be able to say, as did citizens of ancient Rome, "Civis Romanus sum" ("I am a citizen of Rome"), and thereby receive protection from the British government. Palmerston's resolute assertion of British super-patriotism helped to make him prime minister five years later. The "Don Pacifico" affair was one of the most famous such incidents of mid-Victorian Britain.


Hansard Parliamentary Reports (June 25, 1850), cols. 380–444; M. Molho, in: Joshua Starr Memorial Volume (1953). add. bibliography: odnb online; A.M. Hyamson, "Don Pacifico," in: jhset, 18 (1953–55), 1–39.

[Simon Marcus /

William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]

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