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CHAP. enjoyed by the one below it: the lowest class, which is
immediately above the serfs, is invested with the single privilege of not being beaten except by judicial authority ; and to insure the enjoyment of this privilege, and prevent strangers from in ignorance invading it, every person in that class is obliged to have his number placarded above his door. All the inferior employés of government, and persons charged with subaltern duties in the administration, belong to this class. Every person who becomes a soldier acquires its privileges when he puts off
his uniform and obtains his discharge. As to the serfs, 1 Custine, ii. 311, 312; they are left in the condition that our peasants were Malte Brun, vi. 415,417. by Magna Charta—any one may beat them at plea
This singular organisation of society, which pervades Greatpower all ranks in Russia, from the Czar downwards, augments the Tchinn, to a most enormous degree the power of the sovereign,
for it places the personal rank and privileges of every individual in the realm at his disposal. By a stroke of the pen the Czar can degrade every individual in the empire, whatever his descent, or family, or titles may be, from his rank, deprive bim of all the privileges belonging to it, and cast him down to the very lowest class immediately above the serfs. With equal facility he can elevate any person to a class in which he was neither born, nor to which he is entitled by any distinction or services rendered to the state, and thus place him in a rank superior to any, even the very highest noble in the land. The rank thus conferred is personal only ; it does not descend with the holder's titles or estates to his heirs; it is given by the sovereign, held of, and may at any moment be resumed by him. An awful example of the exercise of this power by the Czar is sometimes given, who, in flagrant cases, degrades a colonel at the head of his regiment, or a civil governor in the seat of his authorityhas him flogged in presence of those so recently subjected to his authority, and instantly sent off in one of the
the Almich18 mandates tead of the need manner, this
cars provided for convicts to Siberia. It is these terrible CHAP. instances of severe, but, in so despotic a state, necessary justice, often falling like a flash of lightning on the highest functionaries, and in the most unforeseen manner, which inspires so universal a dread of the power of the Czar, and causes his mandates to be obeyed like the laws of the Almighty or the decrees of fate, which mortals must accept and submit to in trembling silence. It has given rise to the common opinion that rank in Russia is military only, and depends on the position held in the army. This is in appearance true, but not really so ; for in no country are civil gradations more firmly established or scrupulously observed than in Russia. They are abreast of the steps in military rank, and confer the same rights, but they do not confer steps in the army; hence a hairdresser or tailor sometimes has the rank of a majorgeneral, but he could not command a company. At the head of the Tchinn was long placed Field-marshal Malte Paskewitch, the conqueror of Persia and Poland, and 409, 412;.
* Custine, ii. governor of Warsaw ; at its foot the whole postilions 312, 315. and couriers in the empire.1 This organisation of society betrays its Eastern origin :
25. it recalls the castes of Egypt and Hindostan, with this dif- Caste of the
want nobles. ference, that the rank is personal, and entirely dependent " on the emperor's will—not hereditary, as with them, and naturally descending, like the colour of the skin, from parent to child. As such, it confers an influence on the sovereign unknown even on the banks of the Nile or the Ganges. The class of nobles is very numerous ; it embraced in 1829 no less than 389,542 individuals. It need hardly be said that a great proportion of this class are destitute of property ; but such as are so, for the most part find a refuge in the ample ranks of the army. Some of them are possessed of enormous fortunes, and when not trained to civil or military duties in the diplomatic or military line, they for the most part spend their lives in St Petersburg or Moscow, where a great proportion of
Malte Brun, : vi. 413.
CHAP. them, even to the most advanced age, are engaged in an
incessant round of profligacy and pleasure. It exceeds 1815.
anything witnessed, at least on the surface, either in Paris or London ; for passion, relieved from the pressure of public opinion, and too distant to fall under the coercion of the emperors, riots without control, and to a degree which would not be tolerated in the societies of western Europe. Democratic desires, with all their inconveniences, have this good effect, that they provide for the decorum of society, and check those gross instances of license which at once degrade and corrupt it. They render every man a spy on his neighbour, and the espion
age of no arbitrary sovereign is so willingly and effectu1 Castine, iii.357,361; ally exercised; for though no man likes to have a restraint vi. 413."'imposed on his own passions, every one is willing to have
it fastened upon those of his neighbour.1
The trading or bourgeois class, which composes several 26. of the ranks of the Tchinn, is made up in Russia, so far as the bourgeois and trad- higher persons in it are concerned, for the most part, of
foreigners. The portion of it drawn from the nation is composed of persons entirely emancipated, or of those who, still serfs, are not attached to the soil, and have commuted their obligation of personal service into the payment of a certain annual sum called the obrok, generally ten or twelve rubles a-year (£1, 12s. 6d. or £1, 18s.) This latter class is very numerous; it contains no less than 14,000,000 of souls, including the families of the semi-emancipated serfs. They cannot, however, leave their trade or force the purchase of their freedom on their master against his consent, and the obrok is generally raised as their supposed gains augment. This is perhaps the very best way in which the step, always difficult, sometimes dangerous, can be made from slavery to freedom, because it makes the gaining of the habits of industry precede the cessation of its compulsion, and renders man capable of being free before he becomes so. The peasants on the domains of the Crown, though
engaged in the labours of agriculture, are substantially in CHAP. the same situation ; they pay their obrok or capitationtax, and enjoy the whole remaining fruits of the soil they have cultivated, or of the manual labour. Their number is very great ; it amounts to no less than 7,938,000 individuals of the male sex. The trading classes are all arranged in separate guilds or corporations, in which they enjoy considerable privileges—in particular, those of being exempt from personal chastisement, and the obligation to serve in the army, and to pay the capitation-tax, and having courts of their own, where their matters in dispute are determined, as in the Saxon courts of the Heptarchy, by a jury of their peers. This arrangement of the trading classes in separate guilds or fraternities, enjoying certain privileges, and bound together by community of interest, is the very best that human wisdom ever devised to improve the condition and habits of the industrious classes, because it tends to establish an aristocracy among them, which at once elevates their caste and protects their labour, and tends to prevent that greatest of all social evils, equality among the poor; which, as it de- Malte
Brun, vi. stroys their influence, inevitably ends in the equality of 412, 415. despotism.1
The last class in Russia is that of the SERFS or peasants, the property of their masters, who are "by law The serfs :
: their numattached to the soil, and, for the most part, engaged in ber and the labours of agriculture. Their number is immense : they amounted in Russia in Europe alone to 10,865,993 males in 1834, and in 1848 they had increased to 11,938,000, being as nearly as possible one-half of the entire population engaged in the cultivation of the soil.*
* Peasants in Russia slaves in 1848, .
Free peasants and Odnovostry, :
--TEGOBORSKI, i. 320.
the Southern West India ishonch the negroes
ii. 272: Cus
CHAP. It is a total mistake, however, to suppose that this im
- mense body of men are slaves in our sense of the word 1815.
—that is, in the state in which the negroes till recently were in the West India islands, or as they still are in the Southern States of America. They are the property, indeed, of their masters ; they are sold with the estate, and cannot leave it without his consent; and the pro
perty in them, as in the West Indies till of late, consti1 Schnitzler, tutes the chief part of its value. But they enjoy several
Hius- important immunities, which go far to assuage the bitter371, 380; ; ness of servitude, and render it doubtful whether, in the i. 311, 312. existing state of Russian society, they could be so well
off under any other circumstances. 1
They are sold with the estate, but they cannot, without 28. Privileges their own consent, be sold without it—a privilege of inand advantages they calculable value, for it prevents the separation of husband enjoy.
and wife, parent and child, and the tearing up of the slave from the home of his fathers, which constitutes the last drop in the cup of his bitterness. By a ukase of the Emperor Paul in 1797, who, in this instance at least, proved himself a real father to his people, every slave or peasant subject to forced labour on his master's account, is permitted during three days in the week to work on his own. By a ukase of the present emperor, slaves are even permitted to hold small pieces of land on their own account, though in their master's name ; and if he attempts to interfere with their enjoyment of the fruits, he is liable to be restrained by an order from the governor of the province. In addition to this, the master is obliged to maintain the slave in sickness or old age—an obligation which is al
ways and willingly discharged, for a very sufficient reason, 2 Schnitz i. 216, 220, vho
gler, that the great extent of waste land in his possession, or Tegoborski, surplus produce in his hands, in general enables the masi. 326, 329 Studien 'ter to discharge the duty without feeling it as a burden.2 hausen It results from these circumstances that the condition of land, i. 174. the serf is, generally speaking, so far as rude comfort goes,
equal or superior to that of any peasantry in Europe, and