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servants, on which they were so soon to enter. “ Thou CHAP. shalt eat thy bread with the sweat of thy brow” became their resolution, as it is the ordinary lot of humanity.
1826. The Princess Troubetzkoi, the Princess Serge Volkonsky, Madame Alexander Mouravieff, Madame Nikitas Mouravieff (née Tchencichef), and Madame Narisichkine (née Ronovnitsyne), the two last of the noblest families in Russia, were among the number of those who performed,
ou 1 Schnitzler, this heroic sacrifice to duty. History may well preserve ii. 309, 311
Custine, iii. 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
142. self-sacrifice did not even in this world go without its Condition
of the exiles reward. A sense of duty, the courage which often springs in Siberia. 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 behave better, you shan't go to Siberia."-SCHNITZLER, ii. 310.
ii. 311, 318: bey, "contentedly togethether of five chilan
conduct of the emperor to the relatives of the
CHAP. the regular routine of humble life, if it deprived them of
-_ the excitement, at least saved them from the torment of 1826.
enpui, 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 mis1 Schnitzler,
fortune did that which prosperity had failed to effectii. 311, 313, they 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
for their political offences. So far from involving them
the in 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 virtucs. 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 might obtain the rudiments of education for their children, and 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 you venture to speak to me," said he to the lady who iii. 31, 41; ventured to present it, “ in favour of a family which has ii. 313, 316. 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 co the on? had signalised the emperor's accession to the throne. “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 annihịlate the conspiracy of which it was the consummation.”* In conformity with these ideas, the whole garrison of St
of the Senate.
* The address contained these words, applicable to all ages and people : “May the fathers of families by this sad example be 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 we are to ascribe that licentiousness of thought, that vehemence of passion, that half knowledge, so confused and so perilous, that thirst after extreme theories and political visions, wbich begin with demoralising and end by ruining. In vain will the Government make generous efforts, in vain will it exhaust itself in sacrifices, if the domestic education of the people does not second its views and intentions, if it does not pour into the hearts the germs of virtue." - Journal de St. Pétersbourg, July 24, 1826, No. 86; and SCHNITZLER, ij. 316.
CHAP. Petersburg, sixty thousand strong, was on the morning after
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 1 Schuitzler, Pepie, anu no parci
people, and the pavement of the square. When the ii. 318, 320 purification was completed, the bands of all the regiments Journal de St. Peters- struck up a hallelujah; and the discharge of a hundred bourg, July
guns announced that the expiation was concluded and the crime effaced.1
Nicholas made, in one important respect, a noble use of Great re- his victory. During the course of the long investigation forms in all
which took place into the conspiracy, great part of which ments introduced
was conducted by the emperor in person, ample revelations by the em
were made, not merely in regard to the extent and ramificaperor,
tions 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 see 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 in the attempt to cleanse out so vast and frightful an Augean stable; 1826. and 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
1 Ann. Hist. culties with which he was environed, and boldly set about ix. 331; applying a remedy, in the only true and safe method, by ii, 135, 138. cautious and practical reform.1 His first care was to despatch circulars to all the
146. judges and governors in the empire, urging them in the Great legal most earnest way to the faithful discharge of their duty, the under the severest penalties, and inculcating in an especial ror. 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 be avenged." The emperor was so 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; and if I felt assured you would prove a faithful servant, I would gladly do 80.” “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 such sentiments in such language.-SCHNITZLER, ii. 134, 135.