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ensign, who called on them to submit. But although Chap. strongly influenced by religious feelings, the experiment TI11' failed on this occasion : the rolling of drums drowned the lff26, voice of the Archbishop, and the soldiers turned his grey hairs into derision. Meanwhile the leaders of the revolt, deeming their victory secure, began to hoist their real colours. Cries of "Constantine and the Constitution!" broke from their ranks. "What is that V said the men to each other. "Do you not know," said one, "it is the j^J"^' empress (Constitoutzia)?" "Not at all," replied a third : gTMTM"*.' "it is the carriage in which the emperor is to drive at his 127.' coronation."1 *
At length, having exhausted all means of pacification, the emperor ordered the troops to act. The rebels were The emj>eattacked in front by the horse-guards and chevalier guards, thefktory. while the infantry assailed them in flank. But these noble veterans made a vigorous resistance, and for a few minutes the result seemed doubtful. Closely arrayed in column, they faced on every side: a deadly rolling fire issued from the steady mass, and the cavalry in vain strove to find an entrance into their serried ranks. The horsemen were repulsed: Kakhofski with his own hand slew Colonel Strosler, who commanded the grenadiers; and Kuchelbecker had already uplifted his arm to cut down the Grand-duke Michael, when a marine of the guard on his own side averted the blow. Jakoubovitch, charged with despatching the emperor, eagerly sought him out, but, in the melee and amidst the smoke, without effect. The resistance, however, continued several hours, and night was approaching, with the rebels, in unbroken strength, still in possession of their strong position. Then, and not till then, the emperor ordered the cannon, hitherto con
* "The leaders of the revolt, however, had different ideas of what they, at aU events, understood by the movement. On loading his pistols on the morning of that eventful day, Boulatoff said, 'We shall see whether there are any Brutuses or Riogos in Russia to-day.' Nevertheless, ho failed at the decisive moment: he was not to be found on the Place of the Senate."—Rapport >ur Us EtintmcnU, &c, 26 Dt!c, p. 125; and Schnitzleb, i. 232, note.
Chap. cealed by the cavalry, to be unmasked. The horsemen ^'"' withdrew to the sides, and showed the muzzles of the guns
1826. pointed directly into the insurgent square: they were again summoned to surrender, while the pieces were charged with grape, and the gunners waved their lighted matches in the now darkening air. Still the rebels stood firm; and a first fire, intentionally directed above their heads, having produced no eflFect, they cheered and mocked their adversaries. Then the emperor ordered a pointblank discharge, but the cannoneers refused at first to fire on their comrades, and the Grand-duke Michael, with his own hand, discharged the first gun. Then the rest followed the example, and the grape made frightful gaps in the dense ranks. The insurgents, however, kept their ground, and it was not till the tenth round that they broke and fled. They were vigorously pursued by the horse-guards along the quays and through the cross streets, into which they fled to avoid their bloody sabres. Seven hundred were made prisoners, and several hundred bodies "Schniuier, remained on the Place of the Senate, which were hastily Ann7H?st.; buried under the snow with which the Neva was overGoTM'TM0' spread- By six o'clock the rebels were entirely dispersed; Laitussio and the emperor, now firmly seated on his throne, reias L, i.C2<3. turned to his palace, where the empress fell into his arms, and a solemn Te Deum was chanted in the chapel.1 jso Of all the conspirators during this terrible crisis, JakouSeizure of bovitch had alone appeared at the post assigned him. ouwon- Troubetzkoi, whose firmness had deserted him on this occawnI^oyu'*and sion, sought refuge in the hotel of the Austrian ambassador,
conduct of Count Libzeltern, but, on the requisition of the emperor,
theprivatcs. he was brought from that asylum into his presence. At first he denied all knowledge of the conspiracy ; but when his papers were searched, which contained decisive proof not merely of his accession to it, but of his having been its leader, he fell at the emperor's feet, confessed his guilt, and implored his life. "If you have courage enough," said Nicholas, "to endure a life dishonoured and devoted to
remorse, you shall have it; but it is all I can promise Chap. you." On the following morning, when the troops were NUi still bivouacked, as the evening before, on the Place of the Senate, and the curious crowds surveyed at a distance the theatre of the conflict, the emperor, accompanied by a single aide-de-camp, rode out of the palace to review those who had combated for him on the preceding day. Riding slowly along their ranks, he thanked them for their fidelity, and promised them a considerable augmentation of pay, as well as the usual largesses on occasion of the accession of a new emperor. He then proceeded to the regiments which had revolted, and granted a pardon alike politic and generous. To the marines of the guard, who had lost their colours in the conflict, he gave a fresh one, with the words, "You have lost your honour; try to recover it." The regiment of Moscow, in like manner, received back its colours, and was pardoned on the sole condition that the most guilty, formed into separate companies, should be sent for two years to expiate their fault in combating the mountaineers of the Caucasus. The emperor promised to take their wives and children under his protection during their absence. These generous 1Ann words drew tears from the veterans, who declared them- ix.39j,392i selves ready to set out on the instant for their remote i. 242,247. destination.1
But although all must admit the justice of these sentiments—and indeed it was scarcely possible to act other- Appointwise with men who were merely misled, and who resisted "mmusfon the Czar when they thought they were defending him—a Dmi's?' very different course seemed necessary with the leaders of the revolt, who had seduced the soldiers into acts of treason through the very intensity of their loyalty. All the chiefs were apprehended soon after its suppression, and the declarations of the prisoners, as well as the papers discovered in their possession, revealed a far more extensive and dangerous conspiracy than had been previously imagined. The emperor appointed a commission to inves
VOL. II. Q
Chap. tigate the matter to the bottom, and on the 31st he published a manifesto, in which, after exculpating the
i826, simple and loyal-hearted soldiers who were drawn into the tumult, he denounced the whole severity of justice against the leaders, " who aimed at overturning the throne and the laws, subverting the empire, and inducing anarchy. " * A commission was accordingly appointed, having at its head the Minister at War, General Talischof, president; the Grand-duke Michael; Prince Alexander Gallitzin, Minister of Public Instruction; General Chernichef, Aide-de-camp General, and several other members, i. 258,' m' nearly all military men. There were only two civilians, Prince Alexander Gallitzin and M. Blondof.1
From a commission so composed, the whole proceedings iu eompo- of which were private, there was by no means to be exreport!"1'1 pected the same calm and impartial inquiry which might be looked for from an English special commission which conducted all its proceedings in public, and under the surveillance of a jealous and vigilant press. But nevertheless their labours, which were most patient and uninterrupted, continuing through several months, revealed the
* "Deux classes d'hommes ont pris part à l'événement du 14-16 Décembre, événement qui, pou important par lui-même, ne l'est que trop par son principe et par ses conséquences. Les uns, personnes égarées, ne savaient pas ce qu'ils faisaient ; les autres, véritables conspirateurs, voulaient abattre le Trône et les lois, bouleverser l'empire, amener l'anarchie, entraîner dans le tumulte les soldats des compagnies séduites, qui n'ont participé à ces attentats, ni de fait, ni d'intention: une enquête sévère m'en a donné la preuve; et je regarde, comme un premier acte de justice, comme ma première consolation, de les déclarer innocents. Mais cette même justice défend d'épargner les coupables. D'après les mesures déjà prises, le châtiment embrasserait dans toute son étendue, dans toutes ses ramifications, un mal dont le germe compte des années ; et j'en ai la confiance, elles le détruiront jusque dans le sol sacré de Russie; elles feront disparaître cet odieux mélange de tristes vérités et de soupçons gratuits, qui répugne aux fimes nobles ; elles tireront à jamais, une ligne de démarcation entre l'amour de la Patrie et les passions révolutionnaires, entre le désir du mieux et la fureur des bouleversements; elles montreront au monde, que la nation Russe, toujours fidôlo à son souverain et aux lois, repousse les secrets efforts de l'anarchie, comme elle a repoussé les attaques ouvertes de ses ennemis déclarés; elles montreront comme on se délivre d'un tel fléau; elles montreront que ce n'est point, pourtant, qu'il est indestructible."—Proclamation, 29th December 1825 ; Schnitzleh, i. 256-296—said to have come from the pen of the celebrated historian Karamsin, who died shortly after.
magnitude and frightful perils of the conspiracy, and the Chap.
abyss on the edge of which the nation had stood, when —
the firmness of Nicholas and the fidelity of his guards 1826saved them from the danger. Their report—one of the most valuable historical monuments of the age, though of necessity, under the circumstances in which it was drawn up, one-sided to a certain degree—unfolds this in the clearest manner: and although no judicial investigation can be implicitly relied on which is not founded on the examination of witnesses on both sides, in public, yet enough which cannot be doubted has been revealed, to demonstrate how much the cause of order and real liberty is indebted to the firmness which on this momentous Ma^lT'' occasion repressed the treasonable designs which in such Ann. an empire could have terminated only in the worst excesses 79,112/ of anarchy.1
Before the commission had well commenced their labours, a catastrophe occurred in the south which afforded Leaders of confirmation strong of the extent of the conspiracy and in the army the magnitude of the danger which had been escaped.ofthesouthThe great armies both of the south and west were deeply implicated in the designs of the rebels, and it was chiefly on their aid that the leaders at St Petersburg reckoned in openly hoisting the standard of revolt. It was in the second army (that of the south) that the conspiracy had the deepest roots, and Paul Pestel was its soul. He was son of an old officer who had been governor-general of Siberia, and had gained his company by his gallant conduct at the battle of Arcis-sur-Aube, in France, in 1814. He was colonel of the regiment of Vicitka in 1825, when the revolt broke out, and his ability and pleasing manners had made him an aide-de-camp of the commander-in-chief, Count Wittgenstein. He was inspired with a strong horror at oppression of any kind; but the other conspi- j;Sc9nj'-f?er* rators said it was only till he was permitted to exercise it *£wa*, himself.2 He was a declared republican, but Ryleif said of 18^6, p/74. him, "He is an ambitious man, full of artifices—a Buona