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Chap. Petersburg, sixty thousand strong, was on the morning after VIIL the execution of the conspirators assembled on the Place of 1826- the Senate, where the mutineers had taken their station. The emperor issued from the Church of the Admiralty, which is the centre of St Petersburg, led by the Metropolitan Archbishop, clad in his pontifical robes, and accompanied by the Empress and Prince Charles of Prussia, her brother. A solemn thanksgiving was then performed at the altar, and the priests, descending from the steps, scattered holy water over the soldiers, the ischuitjier People> aQd the pavement of the square. When the journal3*?; purification was completed, the bands of all the regiments st. Peters- struck up a hallelujah; and the discharge of a hundred aTM'8^?1* guns announced that the expiation was concluded and the crime effaced.1
Nicholas made, in one important respect, a noble use of Great ie- his victory. During the course of the long investigation depart? *" which took place into the conspiracy, great part of which "odice'd 'was conducted by the emperor in person, ample revelations peror*em were made,u0* merely in regard to the extent and ramifications of the conspiracy, but to the numerous social and political evils which had roused into such fearful activity so large a portion of the most intrepid and patriotic of the higher classes. The leaders, who were examined by the emperor, unfolded without reserve the whole evils which were complained of, in particular the dreadful corruption which pervaded every branch of the administration, and the innumerable delays and venality which obstructed or perverted the course of justice in every department.* He
* While the conspirators avowed that their designs ultimately involved the destruction of the emperor and his family, and expressed the deepest contrition for that offence, they at the same time portrayed with courage and fidelity the social evils which consumed their country, and had induced them to take up arms. Many of them, Ryleif and Bestoujif in particular, evinced a noble spirit in misfortune. "I knew before I engaged in it," said the former to the emperor, "that my enterprise would ruin me, but I could no longer bear to sec my country under the yoke of despotism: the seed which I have sown, rest assured, will one day germinate, and in the end bear fruit." "I repent of nothing I have done," said Michel Bestoujif; "I die satisfied, and
was so horror-struck by the revelations which were made, Chap. that for a long time he despaired of success iii the attempt YIIL to cleanse out so vast and frightful an Augean stable; 1826and his spirits were so affected by the discoveries made, that gloom pervaded the whole court for a long time after his accession. But at length he rose superior to the diffi- x culties with which he was environed, and boldly set about i*- 3si; applying a remedy, in the only true and safe method, by a. 135, isa cautious and practical reform.1
His first care was to despatch circulars to all the judges and governors in the empire, urging them in the Great i'»g*i most earnest way to the faithful discharge of their duty, Jh£0TMPtf under the severest penalties, and inculcating in an especial manner the immediate decision of the numerous cases in arrear before them, both in regard' to persons and property. With such success was this attended, that out of 2,850,000 processes depending in the beginning of 1826, nearly all had been decided before the end of that year; and out of 127,000 persons under arrest, there remained only 4900, in the beginning of 1827, in custody. The change was so great and satisfactory, that it was with reason made the subject of a special congratulation from the emperor to the Minister of Justice. Some of the laws which pressed with most severity on the Cossacks and the southern provinces were repealed. But the grand defect, which struck the emperor in the internal administration of Russia, was the want of any regular code of laws in the hands of all the judges, accessible to all, according to which justice might be uniformly adminis
soon to bo avenged.-' The emperor was Bo struck with the courage of his answers, and the hideous revelations which he made in regard to the abuses of the public administration, that he said to him, " I have the power to pardon you j and if I felt assured you would prove a faithful servant, I would gladly do so." "That, sire!" said he, "is precisely what we complain of; the emperor can do everything, and there is no law. In the name of God, let justice take its course, and let the fate of your subjects not in future depend on your caprices or the impressions of the moment." They were noble men who, in presence of the emperor, and with the axe suspended over their heads, could express Buch sentiments in such language.—Sohnitzleb, ii. 134,13S.
Chap. tered in all the governments. This was the more essenV1I1' tial, since, as already noticed, in a great proportion of 1826- the governments the ukases of the emperors had never reached the judges. Great part, indeed, were what may be termed private ukases, being addressed to individuals, not the Senate, and yet binding on the whole community. They formed, as was well observed at the time, "a hidden code of laws yet ruling the empire." To remedy this great defect, a complete collection of the ukases, which formed, like the rescripts of the Roman emperors, the laws of Russia, was formed, printed, and codified by the order of Nicholas. The great work proved to be one of immense labour; but by the vigilant attention and incessant energy of the emperor, it was completed in a surprisingly short space of time. The printing commenced on 1st May 1828, and was concluded on 1st April 1830. It then embraced 35,993 ukases or acts, of which 5075 had been pronounced since the accession of the present emperor, and the collection which was sent to all the judges amounted to fifty-six large quarto volumes. In addition to this, Nicholas undertook, and successfully carried through, a still more difficult undertaking—viz., the construction of a uniform code, forming a complete system of law, out of the enormous and often heterogeneous materials. This gigantic undertaking, akin to the Institutes and Pandects of Justinian, was completed in seven years more, and now forms the "sood" or body of Russian law. Thus had Nicholas the glory, after having rivalled Caesar in the courage with which he had suppressed military revolt, of emulating Justinian in the zeal with which he prosecuted legal reforms. Yet must ,Ann Hist his antagonists not be denied their share in the honour ix 342; due to the founders of the august temple; for if the emii. 134,140. peror raised the superstructure, it was the blood of the martyrs which cemented the foundations.1
Yet was the crime of these generous but deluded men great, and their punishment not only necessary, but just. The beneficial results which followed their insurrection Chap.
were accidental only, and arose from its defeat; had it !_
been suppressed by other hands, or proved successful, it TM' could not have failed to have induced the most terrible crime of calamities. Met and crushed by Ivan the Terrible or gents, the Empress Catherine, it would have drawn yet closer the bands of tyranny on the state, and thrown it back for centuries in the career of real freedom. No man had a right to calculate on the suppression of the revolt being immediately followed on the part of the conqueror by the compilation of the Pandects. It was utterly impossible that a military revolt, of which a few officers only knew the object, into which the private soldiers had been drawn by deceit, and to which the common people were entire strangers, could, if successful, terminate in anything but disaster. Even the Reign of Terror in France would have been but a shadow of what must have ensued in the event of success; the proscriptions of Marius and Sylla, the slaughter of Nero, the centralised unmitigated despotism of the Lower Empire, could alone have been looked for. Benevolent intentions, generous self-devotion, patriotic spirit, are neither alone sufficient in public men, nor do they afford, even in the light of morality, an adequate vindication of their acts, if the laws are infringed. It is the first duty of those who urge on a movement to consider in what it must terminate, and whether the instruments by which it is to be accomplished are capable of performing the new duties required of them, if successful. Nations have seven ages, as well as man ; and he is their worst enemy, who, anticipating the slow inarch of time, inflames childhood with the passions of youth, or gives to youth the privileges of manhood.
The coronation of the emperor and empress took place, with extraordinary pomp, at Moscow on the 22d August (3d September) in the same year. The youth and beauty of the two sovereigns, the dreadful contest which
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Chap, had preceded their accession to the throne, the generous YIU' . abnegation of self by which the mutual renunciation of '^6* the throne by the two imperial brothers had been chacoronation ractcrised, gave an extraordinary interest to the august pcrorand spectacle, and crowds of the most distinguished strangers Moscow, from every part of Europe nocked together to witness it. (sSptl). The entry of their imperial majesties took place on the 5th August (17th), the emperor riding between the Grand-duke Michael and Prince Charles of Prussia; the empress followed in a magnificent chariot, drawn by eight horses, having her son, the heir of the empire, by her side. Enthusiastic acclamations burst from the immense crowd, which advanced several miles on the road to St Petersburg to meet them. Moscow exhibited the most splendid spectacle. All traces of the conflagration of 1812 had disappeared, magnificent buildings had arisen on every side, and the quarters which had suffered most from its ravages could now be traced only by the superior elegance and durability of the stone structures, by which the former wooden palaces and buildings had been replaced. On the 15th, when, according to the custom of Russia, a great religious ceremony took place, an unexpected event threw the people into transports of joy. The emperor appeared, holding with his right hand the Grand-duke Constantine, who had arrived the evening before in Moscow, and with his left the Grand-duke Michael. Shouts of joy arose from the assembled multitude, but the cry which resounded above all, "Hourra, Constantine!" at first startled the emperor; he had heard it on the Place of the Senate on the 26th December. It was but for a moment, however, and his countenance was soon radiant with joy, when that prince was the first to do him homage, and threw himself into his arms. The universal acclamations now knew no bounds, the reality of the self-sacrifice was demonstrated ; future concord was anticipated from the happy union in the imperial family. Splendid reviews of fifty thousand of the guards