Chap. parte, and not a Washington." He had great resolution, VI1L however, and power of eloquence, and these qualities had m6' procured for him unbounded influence among his comrades. In the first army, stationed on the Polish frontier, the And in th»t conspiracy had ramifications not less extensive. At its of the weat, in force; were two brothers, Serge and Matthew

Mouravieff-Apostol, the first of whom was a colonel of the regiment of Tchernigof; the second a captain in that of Semonof. Their father, who was nephew of the preceptor of Alexander, had been educated with that prince, by whom he was tenderly loved; and he was one of the few Russians of family, at that period, who engaged in literary pursuits. He had translated the Clouds of Aristophanes • into Russian; and his Travels in Tauris, published at St Petersburg in 1825, revealed the extent and accuracy of his classical knowledge. He had composed a beautiful sonnet, in Greek verse, on the death of Alexander, which he had also translated into Latin. His two sons, on whom he had bestowed the most polished education, had been brought up abroad, where they had imbibed the liberal ideas, and vague aspirations after indefinite freedom, at any that period so common in western Europe. They returned to Russia deeply imbued with republican ideas, and in good faith and with benevolent views, but without any practical knowledge of mankind, or any fixed plan of reform, or what was to be established in its stead, entered into the project for the overthrow of the government. A third leader was a young man named Michel BestoujifRumine, an intimate friend of Pestel, and who formed it i7,2i;' the link which connected the two Mouravieffs with the ia?3»,330- projects of the conspirators in the capital, and in the army of the south.1

When the papers of the persons seized at St Petersburg, on the 26th December, were examined, it was discovered that the two Mouravieffs were deeply implicated in the conspiracy, and orders were sent to have them immediately arrested. The orders, however, got wind, and they sought safety in flight, but were arrested, on Chap. the 18th January, in the burgh of Trilissia, by Colonel

Ghebel, whose painful duty it was to apprehend one of J826his dearest friends. Informed of their arrest, a number Arrest of of officers of the Society of United Sclavonians Sur- vieffi, and rounded the house in which they were detained by Ghe- "he

outbreak of

[ocr errors]

bel, and rescued them, after a rude conflict, in which ^-'"/pV Ghebel fell, pierced by fourteen wounds. Delivered in laa°this manner, the Mouravieffs had no safety but in a change of government. Serge Mouravieff succeeded in causing his regiment to revolt, by the same device which had proved so successful at St Petersburg, that of persuading them to take up arms for their true Czar, Constantine. The leaders of the conspiracy, amidst the cries of " Hourra, Constantine!" tried to introduce the cry of "Long live the Sclavonic Republic!" but the soldiers could not be brought to understand what was meant. "We are quite willing," said an old grenadier, "to call out, 'Long live the Sclavonic Republic but who is to be our emperor f" The officers spoke to them of liberty, and the priests read some passages from the Old Testament, to prove that democracy was the form of government most agreeable to the Almighty; but the soldiers constantly answered, omdJi0* "Who is to be emperor—Constantine or Nicholas Paulo- fgls 3°i34vitch?" So strong was this impression, that Mouravieff, ^cl^n]tf)1°r' by his own admission, was obliged to give over speaking 29; Ann.' of liberty or republics, and to join in the cry of " Hourra, 329,330. Constantine !"1

It was now evident that the common men were at heart loyal, and that it was by deception alone that they had its EuPpresbeen drawn into mutiny. Taking advantage of their j1TM- i2. hesitation, Captain Koglof, who commanded the grenadiers, harangued his men, informing them that they had been deceived, and that Nicholas was their real sovereign. "Lead us, captain," they exclaimed; "we will obey your orders." He led them, accordingly, out of the revolted regiment, without Mouravieff venturing to oppose any

Chap. resistance. Reduced by this defection to six companies, VIXI' that regiment was unable to commence any offensive 1826. operations. Mouravieff remained two days in a state of uncertainty, sending in vain in every direction in quest of succour. Meanwhile, the generals of the army were accumulating forces round them in every direction; and though numbers were secretly engaged in the conspiracy, and in their hearts wished it success, yet as intelligence had been received of its suppression at St Petersburg, none ventured to join it openly. The rebels, obliged to leave Belain-Tzerskof, where they had passed the night, were overtaken, on the morning of the 15th, on the heights of Ostinofska. Mouravieff, nothing daunted, formed his men into a square, and ordered them to march, with their arms still shouldered, straight on the guns pointed at them. He was in hopes the gunners would declare for them; but he was soon undeceived. A pointblank discharge of grape was let fly, which killed great numbers. A charge of cavalry quickly succeeded, which completed their defeat. Seven hundred were made prisoners, among whom were Matthew and Hippolyte Mouravieff, and the chief leaders of the revolt; and a conspiracy, which pervaded the whole army, and threatened to shake the offl^fePurt empire to its foundation, was defeated by the overthrow me 384 of s'x compames and fifty men killed and wounded. The i?-°:'A0n'": unhappy Mouravieff, father of the rebels, saw himself

Hist. lo2o,

p. 84,130; deprived of his three sons at one fell swoop. "Nothing H.30,34.'' remained," he said, "but for him to shroud his head under their ashes."1

The commission which had been appointed to try the Sentcniw insurgents at St Petersburg extended its labours to the .pir'atoraT conspiracy over the whole empire, and traced its ramifications in their whole extent. It cannot be said that their proceedings were stained with unnecessary cruelty; for of so great a number of conspirators actually taken in arms against the Government, or whose guilt was established beyond a doubt, five only, viz., Colonel Pestel, Ryleif, Colonel Serge Mouravieff, Bestougif-Rumine, Chap. and Kakhofski, were sentenced to death. While thirty- Ym' one otbers, originally sentenced to death, had their sen- 1826tences commuted to exile, accompanied with hard labour, for life or for long periods, in Siberia. They formed a melancholy list; for among them were to be found several men of the highest rank and noblest feelings in Russia, the victims of mistaken zeal and deluded patriotism. Among them were Prince Troubetzkoi, Colonel Matthew Mouravieff-Apostol, Colonel Davidof, General Prince Serge Volkonsky, Captain Prince Stchpine Boslowsky, jjj"ygjTMent' and Nicholas TourgunofF, councillor of state. One hun- i826; Ann. dred and thirty others were sentenced to imprisonment 112,1T3!' and lesser penalties.1

The conspirators who were selected for execution met


their fate in a worthy spirit. They faced death on the Their conscaffold with the same courage that they would have done ^fofdeuh. in the field. Their original sentence was to be broken on the wheel; but the humanity of the emperor led him to commute that frightful punishment, and they were sentenced to be hanged. This mode of death, unusual in Russia, was keenly felt as a degradation by men who expected to meet the death of soldiers. Ryleif, the real head of the conspiracy, and the most intellectual of all its members, acknowledged that his sentence was just, according to the existing laws of Russia; but he added, that, having been deceived by the ardour of his patriotism, and being conscious only of pure intentions, he met death without apprehension. "My fate," said he, "will be an expiation due to society." He then wrote a beautiful letter to his young wife, in which he conjured her not to abandon herself to despair, and to submit, as a good Christian, to the will of Providence, and the justice of the emperor. He charged her to give his confessor one of his golden snuff-boxes, and to receive fM from him his own last blessing from the scaffold.2 Nothing ii. 303,305. shook Pastel's courage; he maintained to the last his

Chap. principles and the purity of his intentions. All received VII1 ' and derived consolation from the succours of religion, law. There had been no capital sentence carried into execuThcir e'xe- tion in St Petersburg for eighty years ; and in all Russia Juij°25. but few scaffolds had been erected for death since the reign of the Empress Elizabeth, a century before. The knowledge that five criminals, all of eminent station, were about to be executed, excited the utmost consternation in all classes; and Government wisely kept secret the exact time when the sentence was to be carried into effect. At two in the morning of the 25th July, however, a mournful sound was heard in every quarter of the city, which presaged the tragedy which was approaching: it was the signal for every regiment in the capital to send a company to assist at the melancholy spectacle. Few spectators, save the military, were present, when, on the edge of the rampart of the citadel, was seen dimly through the twilight which preceded the morning, a huge gallows, which froze every heart with horror. The rolling of drums was soon heard, which announced the approach of the thirty-one criminals condemned to death, but whose lives had been spared, who were led out, and on their knees heard their sentence of death read out. When it was finished, their epaulettes were torn off*, their . uniform taken off their backs, their swords broken over their heads, and, dressed in the rude garb of convicts, they were led away to undergo their sentence in the wilds of Siberia. Next came the five criminals who were to be executed: they mounted the scaffold with firm steps, and in a few minutes the preparations were adjusted, and the fatal signal was given. Pestel and Kakhofski died immediately; but a frightful accident occurred in regard to the other three. The ropes broke, and they were precipitated, while yet alive, from a great height into the ditch beneath. The unhappy men, though severely bruised by their fall, reascended the scaffold with a firm step. The spectators hoped they were about to be pardoned; but

« ForrigeFortsett »