« ForrigeFortsett »
Chap. open fields, during the greater part of the winter, he is
L_ doomed to inactivity during eight months in the year by
8 6" three or four feet of snow upon the ground, and compelled to make the most of a brief summer to gather stock to live on during a long and dreary winter. How are animals to be fed, the wages of freemen paid, markets found, or freemen to exist, under such circumstances? Withdraw the capital of the landowners; throw the slaves upon their own resources, or the imaginary wages of labour in the present state of society, and the human race would perish, in a great part of Russia, as fast as, from the want of «enTi78 some s'muarly protective system, it has recently melted 190.' 'away in Ireland. The first winter would gather many millions to their fathers.1 32 M. Haxthausen, whose very interesting work has thrown opinion of such light on the rural economy and agricultural populahausen on tion of Russia, has enumerated three particulars in which and their the peasants of that country differ from those of western enfranchue- Europe, and which render any general and compulsory enfranchisement of the serfs extremely perilous, if not impossible. 1. The mass of disposable capital available to carry on cultivation by means of free labourers, paid by day's wages, bears no sort of proportion either to the wants of the inhabitants or the immense extent of arable land which requires to be cultivated. 2. In a great part of the empire the existing value of the product of the soil, if sold, so far from enabling the cultivators to pay any rent, would not even cover the expenses of cultivation. 3. In the remoter provinces, or where seaports are distant and money scarce, the only possible mode of paying a rent is by rendering forced labour legal, for there are no means of turning the rude produce into money. A similar necessity has been felt in similar circumstances in other countries. Witness the services in kind, and obligations to render rent in labour, formerly universal, still known in tbe remoter parts of Scotland. Accordingly, it has been often found in Russia that peasants whom the proprietors, from motives of humanity, or in imitation of the emperor, Chap. have put under the obrok system, and who enjoy the entire YI1L fruits of their labour after paying a certain annual sum, 1816j are much less at their ease than the old serfs, and they in general leave the cultivation of their fields to seek a less laborious existence in towns. In many instances, such has been their suffering from having incurred the destitution of freedom, that they have returned to their masters, and requested to be again made serfs. In general, it has been observed that emancipation has not succeeded, except in circumstances where easy modes of earning subsistence in other ways exist; and hence M. Haxthausen judiciously 1Haxthau concludes that the liberation of the serfs should never be i. 174, made a general or compulsory measure in Russia, but JUs,^.' should be left to the wants and interests of each locality.1
It is not to be supposed from this, however, that slavery in Russia is not both a very great social evil, and emi-Evils of the nently dangerous to the rest of Europe, and that he would mf ^stem. not be the best friend of both who could devise and establish a method for its gradual and safe abolition. Probably that method is to be found only in the progressive rise of towns and spread of manufactures, which, by rendering the obrok system more general, should give the slaves the means of purchasing and the masters the desire of selling freedom to them. It is not easy to see, however, how this safe and wise method, which is analogous to the way in which it imperceptibly died out in the states of western Europe, is to spread generally in a country of such enormous extent as Russia, possessing eighteen times the area of Britain and Ireland, in Europe alone, intersected by few rivers, and for the most part so far distant from the sea-coast. Its inhabitants seem chained by their physical circumstances to the system of compulsory labour for an indefinite course of years. This system provides amply, and better than any other under such circumstances could, for their subsistence, and the gratification of the animal wants of life; but it provides for
Vol. n. K
Chap. nothing more. No gradation of rank can exist among the vm' labouring classes while it continues; all are equally well 1815, fed, and equally ill civilised. The spread of knowledge, the extrication of genius, the growth of artificial wants, are alike impossible. If this state of matters is a great evil to the inhabitants of this empire, what is it to the rest of Europe, when it promotes the growth of a population of sixty millions, doubling every seventy years, and all nearly equally supplied with the physical, and destitute of the intellectual food of man 1 Perhaps the only safeguard "against the encroachments of such a colossus, directed in politics and war with consummate ability, is to be found in the growth of a similar colossus, similarly directed, on the other side; and it would be a curious object for the contemplation of philosophy in future times, if the barbarism of infant could be stopped only by that of aged civilisation, and the ambition of the Czar, heading the strength of the desert, was first checked by the ambition of the emperor leading forth the forces induced by the Communist doctrines of Paris.
Marquis Custine says, that in Russia we are perpeForeign tually reminded of two things—the absence of the Sun ev«foreed and the presence of Power. Both are equally important aSby^tT au^e in tne'r social and external effects; perhaps the last climate. is necessary consequence of the first. A very simple reason makes, and ever must make, the Russians desirous above all things of escaping out of their own country; it is the severity of its climate. Those who live in a country where the snow covers the ground for eight months in the year, and the long nights of winter are illuminated only by the cold light of the aurora borealis, long with inexpressible ardour for the genial warmth and sunny hills of the south, where the skies are ever blue, the sun ever shines, and nature teems with the luxuriance of tropical vegetation. The shores of the Bosphorus, the Golden Horn, the dome of St Sophia, are not only the secret dream of ambition to every Russian, but the undoubted object of their expectation. "I do not wish Constantinople," said Nicholas; "my empire is already Chap.
too large; but I know that I or my successors must have 1_
it: you might as well arrest a stream in its descent from 1815a mountain, as the Russians in their advance to the Hellespont."1 The habits which necessity has given to 'Schnitzler, them, permanently fit, and ever must fit them for foreignlu 247conquest. Their life is a continual conflict with the severity of nature; actual warfare, as to the Roman soldiers, is felt chiefly as a relaxation from the rude but invigorating discipline of peace. What are the hardships of a campaign to men who never knew the luxury of beds, whose food is black bread and water, who sleep ever on the hard bench or cold ground, and know no pleasure save the simple ones of nature, and the exciting ones of conquest 1 When the north ceases to communicate vigour to the frame, hardihood to the habits, and ambition to the soul, Russia will cease to be a conquering country, but not till then.
The presence of Power is not less universally felt in Russia than the absence of the sun. It is not merely Fearthe that the Czar is despotic, that his will constitutes law, pl^juof and that he is the master without control of the lives, j£ReTMTMnt liberties, and fortunes of all his subjects — the same system is continued, as is always the case in such circumstances, through every inferior grade in society. What the emperor is in his council or his palace, every inferior prefect or governor is within the limits ef his territory, over his vast dominions. Despotism is the general system, force the constant weapon of authority, fear the universal basis of government. Gross acts of maladministration, indeed, are often made the subject of immediate and terrible punishment; the efforts of government are unceasing to find them out, and the justice of the Czar implacable when they are clearly established. But it may easily be conceived that in a country of such enormous extent, where the machine of government is so complicated, and no free press exists to signalise its abuses, these instances are the exception, not the rule. Power is,
Chap. in general, undetected in its abuses, or supported in its
measures. So universal is the dread of authority in
181s. Russia, that it has moulded the national character, determined the national tastes, and even formed the national manners. Obedience is universal, from the Empress on the throne to the humblest serf in his log-house. All do not what they like, or what they would have themselves chosen, but what they are ordered and expected to do. Dissimulation is universal: if they are not happy, they protend to be Bo, to avoid the reality of sorrow which awaits expressed discontent. The present Empress—a woman of high spirit and the most captivating manners— is sinking under the incessant labour of amusing and being amused; the fortunes even of the greatest nobles or highest functionaries are wasting away under the enormous expenses imposed on or expected of them by the court. All , „ . must exert themselves incessantly, and to the uttermost,
1 Custine, -lii t *
vou. i.,ii., to keep up with the demand of authority, or conceal the passim!' ennui or discontent which, in reality, is preying upon their bosoms.1
Clark, the celebrated English traveller, says that there Gen^i is not a second in Russia, during the day or night, that P^aifch«£ a blow is not descending on the back or shoulders of some tiwment. Russian peasant. Notwithstanding a considerable softening of manners since the time when the description was given, it is still precisely applicable. Corporal chastisement of their slaves is permitted to masters, without any other authority but their own; and, except in the classes in the Tchinn, who are exempt from that penalty, it is the great engine of authority with all intrusted with judicial power. The punishment of death is abolished by law in all cases except high treason; but such is the severity of the corporal inflictions authorised, that it would be a mercy if it was restored. When a man receives the sentence of above a hundred strokes with the knout, the executioner understands what is meant; by striking at a vital place, he in mercy despatches him at the third or fourth. The police officers lay hold of disorderly persons or malefactors in