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remorse, you shall have it; but it is all I can promise CHAP. you.” On the following morning, when the troops were still bivouacked, as the evening before, on the Place of the 1826. 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,
1 Ann. Hist. words drew tears from the veterans, who declared them- ix.391, 392;
Schnitzler, selves ready to set out on the instant for their remote i. 242, 247. destination.
But although all must admit the justice of these senti- , ments—and indeed it was scarcely possible to act other- Appointwise with men who were merely misled, and who resisted commission the Czar when they thought they were defending him—a Doce 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
ent of a
CHAP. tigate the matter to the bottom, and on the 31st he VIII.
published a manifesto, in which, after exculpating the 1826.
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 Cher
nichef, Aide-de-camp General, and several other members, 1 Schnitzler, i. 268, 260.' nearly all military men. There were only two civilians,
Prince Alexander Gallitzin and M. Blondof.1
From a commission so composed, the whole proceedings 132. Its compo- of which were private, there was by no means to be exsition and report.
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, peu 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 âmes 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 fidèle 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 ; SCHNITZLER, i. 255-296—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 18 saved 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 Rapport, occasion repressed the treasonable designs which in such 1826; Ann.
Hist. ix. an empire could have terminated only in the worst excesses 79, 112. of anarchy. 1 Before the commission had well commenced their la
133. bours, 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. of the south. The 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- "Schnitzler,
ii. 9, 13; rators said it was only till he was permitted to exercise it Rapport,
May 30, himself. He was a declared republican, but Ryleif said of 1826, p. 74. him, “ He is an ambitious man, full of artifice-a Buona
of the west.
CHAP. parte, and not a Washington.” He had great resolution,
however, and power of eloquence, and these qualities had procured for him unbounded influence among his comrades.
In the first army, stationed on the Polish frontier, the 134. And in that conspiracy had ramifications not less extensive. At its
head, in that 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 Bestoujif
Rumine, an intimate friend of Pestel, and who formed 1 Schnitzler, ii. 17, 21, 'the link which connected the two Mouravieffs with the Ann. Hist ix. 329, 330. projects of the conspirators in the capital, and in the
army of the south.
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 Gbebel, whose painful duty it was to apprehend one of his dearest friends. Informed of their arrest, a number Arrest of
the Mouraof officers of the Society of United Sclavonians sur- vieffs, and rounded the house in which they were detained by Ghe-theo bel, and rescued them, after a rude conflict, in which racy
army of PoGhebel fell, pierced by fourteen wounds. Delivered in land. this manner, the Mouravieffs bad 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 ?” 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, Rapport “ Who is to be emperor-Constantine or Nicholas Paulo- May 30;.
1826, p.134; vitch ?” So strong was this impression, that Mouravieff, Schnitzler,
ii. 24, 26, 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 su been drawn into mutiny. Taking advantage of their fan: 12. 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
5 Hist. ix.