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this was not so, for the emperor was absent at Tsariko- Chap. Velo, and no one else ventured to give a respite. "Can VII1nothing, then, succeed in this country," said Ryleif—" not 182cieven death V "Woe to the country," exclaimed Serge Mouravieff, "where they can neither conspire, nor judge, nor hang!" Bestoujif-Rumine was so bruised that he had to be carried up to the scaffold; but he, too, evinced no symptoms of trepidation. This time fortunately the rope ^4'^: held good, and in five minutes a loud rolling of drums custin'e, a.'
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announced that justice was satisfied, and the insurrection 29,31. terminated.1
It is impossible to recount these details without the most melancholy feelings—feelings which will be shared Reflections to the end of the world by all the generous and humane, event.'* who reflect on capital executions for political offences. The peculiar and harrowing circumstance in such cases is, that the persons upon whom the extreme punishment of the law is thus inflicted are sometimes of noble character —men actuated by the purest patriotism, who, in a heroic spirit, sacrifice themselves for their country, and, as they conceive, the good of mankind. Even when, as in this, as in most other instances, such conspiracy could terminate only in disaster, and its suppression was a blessing to humanity, and a step in the march of real freedom, it is impossible to avoid feeling respect for the motives, however mistaken, of the persons engaged in it, and admiration for the courage with which they met their fate. The ends of justice, the cause of order, is more advanced by the humanity which, in purely political offences, remits or softens punishment, than by the rigour which exacts its full measure. The state criminal of one age often becomes the martyr of the next, the hero of a third; and the ultimate interests of society are never so effectually secured as when, by depriving treason of the halo of martyrdom, it is allowed to stand forth to the memory of futurity in its real colours.*
* Ryleif, who was a man of fine genius, in his rcuinrknble poem, entitled
Chap. But if the fate of these gallant though deluded men NUI* must ever excite very mixed feelings in every generous
182e- bosom, there is one subject connected with their comNobit con- panions in suffering, which must ever awaken the most Princess11* unbounded interest and admiration. The convicts who kound'the were banished to Siberia were for the most part of high other wives rank an(j noble family; many of them were married, and
of the con- ,.. „ ." . Z . . , , , .
vict*, their wives, of equal station m society, had moved in the very first circles in St Petersburg. The conduct of these ladies, on this terrible crisis, was worthy of eternal admiration. When their husbands set off on their long and painful journey of three thousand miles into the interior of Siberia, seated on wooden chariots without springs, and often exposed to the insults and assaults of the populace, they did not go alone. These noble women, who were themselves entirely innocent, and were offered the protection of the emperor, and all the luxuries of the elevated circles in which they had been born and lived, if they would remain behind, unanimously refused the offer, and insisted upon accompanying their husbands into exile. They bore without repining, even with joy, the mortal fatigues of the long and dreary journey in open carts, and all the insults of the populace in the villages through which they passed, and arrived safe, supported by their heroic courage. To accustom themselves to the hardships they were to undergo, they voluntarily laid aside in their palaces at St Petersburg, some weeks before their departure, the splendid dresses to which they had been accustomed, put on instead the most humble garments, and inured their delicate hands to the work of peasants and
Yoinarofaki, expressed his firm confidence in tho irresistible march of freedom in these words, which he put into tho mouth of an Ataman of the Cossacks: "That which in our dream seemed a dream of heaven, was not recorded on high. Patience! Let us await till the colossus has for some time accumulated its wrongs—till, in hastening its increase, it has weakened itself in striving to embrace the half of the earth. Allow it: the heart swollen with pride, parades its vanity in the rays of the sun. Patience! the justice of Heaven will end by reducing it to the dust . In history, Ood if retribution: He does not permit the seed of sin to pass without its harvest."—Schnitzler, ii. 309.
servants, on which they were so soon to enter. "Thou Chap. shalt eat thy bread with the sweat of thy brow" became vI1I" their resolution, as it is the ordinary lot of humanity. 1826The Princess Troubetzkoi, the Princess Serge Volkonsky, Madame Alexander Mouravieff, Madame Nikitas Mouravieff (nte Tchencichef), and Madame Narisichkine (n6e Ronovnitsyne), the two last of the noblest families in Russia, were among the number of those who performed ,„. . ,
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this heroic sacrifice to duty. History may well preserve «. 309,sn"; their names with pride; it is seldom that in either sex 29,30.' it has such deeds to recount.1
It is some consolation to know that the generous self-sacrifice did not even in this world go without its Condition reward. A sense of duty, the courage which often springs i£ Siberia-TM up with misfortune, the consciousness of suffering together, softened the horrors of the journey to such a degree that before it was concluded they had come to be contented, even happy, and it would have been deemed a misfortune to have been turned back.* Their ultimate destination was the village of Tchitinsk, on the Ingoda river, beyond the lake Baikal, and not far removed from the frontiers of China. The climate there is somewhat less severe than in the same latitude in other parts of Siberia; and the humanity of the emperor permitted a few articles of comfort to be introduced, which softened the asperities of that deep solitude. Tchitinsk, where they were all assembled, became a populous colony, an oasis of civilisation in the midst of an immense desert. The forced labour of the convicts extended only to a few hours a-day; some slender comforts, and even luxuries, were stealthily introduced; and a library containing a few books, permitted by the police, enlivened the weary hours of solitude by the pleasures of intellectual recreation. But the simple duties of their situation left them little leisure for such amusements, and
* One of the travelling companions of one of those mothers overheard her say to her daughter, who had been petulant on the journey, " Sophie, if you don't bchavo better, you shan't go to Siberia."—Scuhitzler, ii. 310.
Chap, the regular routine of humble life, if it deprived them of the excitement, at least saved them from the torment of
ennui, the bane and punishment of civilised selfishness. Many of them tasted a happiness, in this simple and patriarchal existence, to which they had been strangers amidst all the splendours of St Petersburg. The Princess Troubetzkoi had been on distant terms with her husband before his banishment, and she had no family; but misfortune did that which prosperity had failed to effect— c'ustVnV^i' were drawn together by suffering in common; they 29,31.' lived contentedly together in their humble cottage, and she is now the happy mother of five children.1
The emperor behaved generously to the families and Generous relations of such as had suffered either death or exile theemperor for their political offences. So far from involving them twesoftfc m any species of responsibility, he in many cases did convicts, much to relieve them from the consequences of that which they had already undergone in the punishment of those who were dear to them. He gave 50,000 rubles (£2500) to the father of Pestel, with a valuable farm on one of the domains of the crown, and appointed his brother, a colonel in the chevalier guards, one of his own aides-de-camp. He was extremely anxious to relieve the distresses of Ryleif's widow, who had been left in very destitute circumstances, and sent repeatedly to inquire into her necessities; but this high-minded woman, proud of her suffering, refused all his proffered kindness, and said the only favour she asked of him was to put her to death, and lay her beside her husband. Unknown to her, he caused relief to be conveyed to her children, with whose maintenance and education he charged himself. But to the women who had accompanied their husbands into exile he showed himself inexorable; he thought that by so doing they had adopted their crimes, instead of extenuating it by the opposite virtues. After undergoing fifteen years of exile in their appointed place of banishment, the Princess Troubetzkoi earnestly
petitioned the emperor for a removal, not into Russia, Chap. but to a place where the climate was milder, and she YiI1* might obtain the rudiments of education for their children, 1826and be near an apothecary to tend them when ill. She wrote a touching letter to the emperor, which concluded with the words, " I am very unhappy; nevertheless, if it was to do over again, I would do the same." But her petition was sternly refused. "I am astonished that
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you venture to speak to me, said he to the lady who in. si, 4i; ventured to present it, "in favour of a family which has ii°3i3,Vi6. conspired against me."1
According to an established usage in Russia, a solemn religious ceremony was performed on the termination of Expiatory the great contest with the principles of anarchy which °*7hTpkco had signalised the emperor's accession to the throne, g^ate. "On the spot," said the emperor in another proclama-July 21 • tion, "where seven months ago the explosion of a sudden revolt revealed the existence of a vast conspiracy which had been going on for ten years, it is meet that a last act of commemoration—an expiatory sacrifice—should consecrate on the same spot the memory of the Russian blood shed for religion, the throne, and the country. We have recognised the hand of the Almighty, when He tore aside the veil which concealed that horrible mystery: it permitted crime to arm itself in order to assure its fall. Like a momentary storm, the revolt only broke forth to annihilate the conspiracy of which it was the consummation."* In conformity with these ideas, the whole garrison of St
* The address contained these words, applicable to all ages and people: "May the fathers of families by this sad example bo led to pay proper attention to the moral education of their children. Assuredly it is not to the progress of civilisation, but to the vanity which is the result of idleness and want of intelligence—to the want of real education—that wo are to oscribo that licentiousness of thought, that vehemence of passion, that half-knowledge, so confuted and to perilous, that thirst after extreme theories and political visions, which begin with demoralising and end by ruining. In vain will the Government make generous efforts, in vain will it exhaust itself in sacrifices, if tho domestic education of the people does not second its views and intentions, if it does not pour into tltc hearts the germs of virtue."—Journal de St. Pttcrsbour</, July 24, 1826, No. 86; and ScnNiTZLEn, ii. 316.