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Ion Ghica

Ion Ghica (1817-1897) Descendant of a Romanian noble family (nine ruling princes), prominent Romanian writer and political leader, and one of the founders of modern Romania. Ghica was born in Bucuresti and educated at St. Sava School, where his classmates included Nicolae Balcescu and C. A. Rosetti. He studied law and literature in Paris where he met Vasile Alecsandri, leading members of the Polish emigration, and David Urquhart getting degrees in letters and mathematics from the Sorbonne and an engineering degree from the Ecole Royale des Mines. It was in Paris that Ghica (along with an entire generation of Romanians) became advocate s of the union of Moldova and Muntenia, realizing that "we were neither Muntenians nor Moldovans. We were all Romanians." He was greatly influenced by his uncle Ion Cimpineanu, one of the prime movers of the Romanian national awakening in Muntenia and organizer of the failed 1840 conspiracy.

Ghica taught at Iasi's Academia Mihaileana (1842), subsequently delivering a celebrated inaugural as Romania's first political economist (1843), and was named a school inspector. For a time he lived at the home of Alecsandri, who was to be a lifelong friend and cultural collaborator. He was a founder, primary funder, and collaborator in the activities of the Fratia revolutionary nationalist group, the direct precursor of the 1848 uprising in Muntenia (1843), and helped edit the Moldovan nationalist review Propasirea (1844). As a result of official reaction to a series of his articles on reform in Propasirea and his public statements in favor of unionism, Ghica resigned his posts. He travelled in England, Italy, and France, settling down once more in Paris, where he attended the courses of Michelet, Edgar Quinet, and Adam Mickiewicz. With Balcescu, Rosetti, Kogalniceanu, and others, he was active in planning for revolutionary change in the Romanian principalities in the Romanian Student Society (Ghica served as a founder and president; the poet Lamartine was the society's patron). It was at this time that Ghica and Balcescu became intellectually and politically inseparable (when Balcescu died, he left all his manuscripts to Ghica).

In 1847-1848, Ghica continued to be active in the executive committee of Fratia. When the Moldovan movement was quashed in March 1848, he provided refuge and monetary assistance for several fleeing potential revolutionaries, including Alecu Russo. Fratia decided in April to draw up a list of revolutionary principles which became the basis for the Proclamation of Islaz. Ghica was a close collaborator of Balcescu and a mediator between the radical wing of the Romanian national movement and the more conservative group led by Ion Heliade-Radulescu. He seems to have also been responsible for gaining the adherence to the revolution of Major Christian Tell. Ghica served, as well, as a link between the Muntenians and the revolutionary French regime, especially Lamartine, whose counsel was responsible for delaying the uprising in Bucuresti from April to June.

In May, Ghica was sent as an agent to Constantinople to prepare the way for the uprising of June. He was appointed official representative to the Ottomans in June. At the same time, he worked to gain the support of the revolutionary French regime through their representative at Constantinople, General Aupick. These efforts proved unsuccessful in the end, though Ghica developed considerable standing and rapport with Ottoman authorities, including Ahmed Wefyk Pasha, commissioner for the Romanian Principalities in 1850 and sometime Grand Vizier.

Ghica was an advocate of armed resistance to the bitter end, an option not pursued by the last military leader of the Muntenian revolution, Gheorge Magheru. He initiated and supported the efforts in 1849 by Balcescu (who consulted with him in Constantinpol) and others to find common ground with the Magyars in Transylvania, while continuing to exert influence at the Ottoman capital on behalf of the Romanian exile. His memoirs on the exile are a primary source for our knowledge of the Romanian 1848 generation and their subsequent travails and infighting (in which Ghica played a key role).

From 1854 to 1858, he served as governor of Samos for the Porte (on the suggestion of Stratford Canning). Because of his success in suppressing piracy and developing the island, in 1856 the Sultan named him Prince of Samos. In 1858 he returned to participate in the unionist agitation that resulted in the eventual creation of the first Romanian national state. He was numerous times prime minister, ambassador, and cabinet member from 1859 onward, though he acquired a not-undeserved reputation for ambition and deviousness. (It was often alleged that Ghica had personal designs on the throne.) He also served as president of the Romanian Academy, as a reformist director general of the national theater, wrote numerous books (including a series of writings that pioneered economic liberalism in Romania), and was the creator of an entire genre of Romanian literature with his elegant Letters to Vasile Alecsandri (1887), which traced the life and history of the 1821-1859 epoch in Romania.
Paul E. Michelson


Ion Ghica, Amintiri din pribegia dupa 1848 Bucuresti, 1889.

N. Georgescu-Tistu, Ion Ghica scriitorul Bucuresti, 1935.

Nicolae Liu, ed., Catalogul corespondentei lui Ion Ghica Bucuresti, 1962.

Ion Roman, Viata lui Ion Ghi ca Bucuresti, 1970.

Dan Bogdan, Pe urmele lui Ion Ghica Bucuresti, 1987.

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