Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

refinement had never penetrated the interior—the deli- Chap. cacy and graces of polished manners were on the surface VIIL only. His countenance, which was strongly characterised 1815, by the Tartar features, and severely marked by the smallpox, was ill-favoured and ungainly ; but his manners were polished in society, and no one, when so inclined, could be more winning and attractive. But the real disposition was widely different; he had nothing mild or gentle in his temperament. He rivalled Richard Coeur-de-Lion in his valour in the field, but he surpassed him also in the vehemence with which he ruled the cabinet, and the acts of tyranny by which both his public administration and private life were characterised. Violent, capricious, and irritable, he could never brook contradiction, and when inflamed by passion, indulged his vehement disposition by frightful and disgraceful acts of cruelty. He was an untamed savage, armed with the power and animated by the imperious disposition of an Eastern sultan, imperfectly veiled over by the chivalrous manners of modern Europe. Yet was the savage not destitute of generous sentiments; he could occasionally do noble things; and though the discipline he maintained in his troops was extremely severe, yet it was redeemed, and their affections won, by frequent acts of kindness. The close of his public career was very remarkable, and afforded a memorable proof of what is the real vanquisher of the savage dispositions of man, and how love can melt even the most ferocious bosoms. Such was the influence which a Polish lady of charming and fascinating manners acquired over him, that he sacrificed for her the most splendid prospects which the world could offer; and it will appear in the sequel that "all for love, or Hs?*v" the world well lost," was, to the astouishment of Europe, realised by an Oriental prince, the heir to the greatest knowledge, empire in Christendom.1

As might have been expected from a prince of such a character and habits, his chief attention was concentrated on the army. On the 11th December 1815, when the anChap. nexation of Poland to the Russian crown was seriously con

VIII t* »

'— tested in the Congress of Vienna, Constantine addressed to

1815, it an animated proclamation, in which he recounted with His fi«t truth and deserved pride their glorious deeds in arms, their mfoiîtn- fidelity in misfortune, their inextinguishable love of their tSngd°f country, and called on them to rally round the emperor the »rn.y. as its oia\y bulwark.* On the 24th of the same month Dec . 24. he presided at a solemn meeting of the Senate, at which the new constitution was read, and proclaimed with great solemnity. The prospect of the restoration of their country, of its resuming its place in the family of Europe, the known affection with which the emperor regarded Poland, and the generous deeds towards it by which his reign had already been signalised, the hope of the restoration of their liberties by means of the constitution which had been promulgated, diffused a universal enchantment,

Homgv1t" and ^or a b"e^ season made the Poles forget the longii. 228. 'continued misfortunes of which their country had been the theatre.1

Great material prosperity followed the junction of the Polish and Russian crowns, and vast advantage to both countries. The very cessation of the jealousy and hostility which had so long subsisted between them, and the opening of the vast market of Muscovy to Polish industry, was of itself au immense advantage.

""Réunissez-vous autour de votre drapeau; armez vos bras pour défendre votre Patrie, et pour maintenir son existence politique. Pendant que l'Empereur Alexandre prépare l'heureux avenir de votre pays, montrez-vous prêts à soutenir ses nobles efforts. Les mêmes chefs qui, depuis vingt ans, vous ont conduits sur le chemin do la gloire, sauront vous ramener l'Empereur apprécier votre valeur. Au milieu du désastre d'une guerre funeste, il a vu votre honneur survivre à des événements qui ne dépendaient pas de vous. De hauts faits d'armes vous ont distingués dans une lutte dont le but souvent vous était étranger; à présent que vos efforts ne seront consacrés qu' à la Patrie, vous serez invincibles. Soldats et guerriers de toutes les armes, donnez les premiers l'exemple de l'ordre qui doit régner chez tous vos compatriotes. Dévouement sans bornes envors l'Empereur, qui ne veut que le bien de votre Patrie, amour pour son auguste personne, obéissance, concorde: voilà le moyen d'assurer la prospérité de votre pays, qui se trouve sous la puissante Égide de l'Empereur. C'est par là que vous arriverez à l'heureuse situation, que d'autres peuvent vous promettre, mais que lui seul peut vous procurer. Sa puissance et ses vertus vous en sont garant."—Biographie det Homme» Vivant», ii. 229.

Add to this the termination of the long anarchy of Polish Chap. democracy, and the substitution of the steady rule of a VIIL regular government, which, however despotic, was strong, 1®I6uniform, and consistent, for the ceaseless dissensions and Great adsenseless jealousies of their stormy national assemblies, p^dtnm Warsaw, which, in 1797, contained only 66,572 inhabi-'^"ru,. tants, and at the accession of Alexander less than 80,000,«iarapidly increased in splendour and opulence, and in 1842 numbered 140,000 souls. The industry of the countrymade sensible progress with the preservation of peace, and the steady market opened for agricultural produce both in the warehouses of Dantzic and in the consumption of the capital. Its revenue had augmented before 1830 by more than a third, and the seeds even of manufacturing prosperity had begun to germinate on its soil. The entire kingdom, which in 1815 could number only a hundred weaving looms, had come, in 1830, to contain six thousand, which manufactured annually seven million yards of cloth. All other rude fabrics had advanced in a similar proportion ; but capital was still chiefly accumulated in the hands of the Jews, who amounted in Warsaw alone to twenty-seven thousand, and were to be found at the head of nearly all the industrial establishments in the kingdom. Nor was public instruction neglected; on the contrary, it was extended in the most remarkable manner during the pacific rule of the Russian emperor. Schools of every description had been established at Warsaw, and in various parts of the kingdom, which were crowded by the ardent youth of that impassioned land. The scholars, who were only a few hundreds in 1815, had risen in the 1Malt* capital alone in 1830 to 3700, and over the whole king- Bn,n,Geog.

* Univ. vi.

dom to 35,000, which was in the proportion of 1 to 130 528,530; souls, while in the neighbouring realm of Russia it was i.*f^.°TM'' only 1 to 280.1

But as it was to the military force of this new kingdom that the attention of the viceroy and the government was chiefly directed, so it was there that the most Chap. rapid changes and the most extraordinary progress took

1- place. It would pass for incredible, were it not attested

^o'5 ^y undoubted evidence, and accounted for by the singular Great in- aptitude of the Poles for military instruction, and the its military extraordinary skill of the Russians in military organisastrength. ^e Polish army, though it never exceeded forty

thousand men—less than one in a hundred of the entire population—soon became, under the tuition of Constantine, one of the most formidable in Europe, from its incomparable state of discipline and equipment. The viceroy was extremely anxious on this subject, and rigorous to a fault in exacting the most ceaseless attention to the smallest minutiie of dress and discipline. Though second to none in the hardihood with which he headed his chivalrous guards in a charge, it was on the trifling splendour of pacific display that he was chiefly set. He ofteu said, after seeing his guards defile before him, "What a pity it is to go to war!—it dirties their dress; it spoils soldiers." To such a degree of perfection did he bring them in these respects, that when, in October 1816, the Emperor Alexander passed them in review at Warsaw, he was so struck with their martial air, exact discipline, and splendid appearance, that he embraced his brother several times in their presence. But they were not mere carpet knights who thus charmed the greatest military monarch in the world by their appearance: none showed, when the hour of trial arrived, that they were more equal to the duties and penetrated with the spirit of real soldiers. When the disastrous revolt of 1830 arrived, and the little kingdom of Poland strove to detach itself from its colossal neighbour, its fortresses of Modlin and Zamosc were in such a state of defence, and its army so efficient, that for ten months it , Biog des maintained a doubtful conflict with its gigantic foe, and in HoTM8Viv- the end was only subdued by the aid of Prussia1—a meMa^Bnu1! morable instance of devoted though mistaken patriotism, 530.' and of the glorious destiny which awaited Poland, if its sons had had the sense to establish a stable government, and their heroic courage and military spirit had not been Chap. rendered nugatory by the insane divisions and democratic Y1U' selfishness of former times. 1815,

The powers of western Europe acted naturally and in a liberal spirit in stipulating, for the fragment of the Failure of Polish nation embraced in the new kingdom, constitutional sensitive privileges and a representative government, and the Foi^."* Emperor Alexander not less so in conceding them. But they proved worse than useless in practice; and their entire failure adds another to the numerous instances which history afFords of the extreme danger of transplanting institutions suitable to one race and state of society to men inheriting a different blood, and in a different stage of political existence. Not less stormy and unmanageable by ordinary means, or any appeals to reason, than their ancient diets, where eighty thousand horsemen discussed the affairs of state in the plains of Volo, the new Assembly united to it the ^selfishness, interested motives, and corruption which are the gangrenes of the representative system, even in the most highly-advanced and polished societies. They were seldom convoked, and, when assembled,more than once abruptly dissolved. Poland flourished under the Russian rule prior to the calamitous revolt in 1830, not in consequence of her representatives, but in spite of them. No salutary or useful measures are to be traced to their influence; and they drew forth from no common man, the Emperor Nicholas, the following, it is to be feared, as applied to that people, just condemnation: "I understand a republic; it is a clear and sincere government, or at least it may be so: I understand an absolute government, since I am the chief of such an order of things ; but I do not understand a representative monarchy. It is the government of falsehood, fraud, and corruption: I would retreat to the wall of China rather than adopt it. I have been a representative monarch; and the world knows what it has cost me declining to submit to the exigencies of that infamous government.

« ForrigeFortsett »