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and efficient mode of proceeding to work on the occasion. Good humour, and a gay obliging disposition, are among the leading traits of his character; while his aptitude to acquire any art, and his genius for imitation, are sufficiently attested by the manufactories which are carried on in every part of the country by the hands of the peasants born on the spot. Like all uncivilized men, the Russian peasant is inclined to pilfer; but open robbery or acts of violence are very rare, and one may travel unarmed in perfect security through the empire.
The ordinary Russian tradesman is apt to be mean, dishonest, and tricky, asking for his goods twice what he eventually takes, and whenever it is possible imposing an inferior article on his customer, trying to make the most at present, instead of tempting the purchaser, by fair dealing, to return another time to his shop. A spirit of trade runs through all ranks of the community. The peasant is forced to be a trader, because he is paid for his labour in land, of which he must sell, to the best advantage, the superfluous produce. The class above the peasant consists of traders by profession; and the noble endeavours to increase his fortune, and to make up for the small returns of his land, by establishing the rural manufactories of which I have often spoken.
It is difficult to perceive how Russia, under her present circumstances, can advance much further in civilization. Her iron despotism, her superstition, and her system of slavery are suited only to a state of darkness and semibarbarism among the mass of the people. Yet it is hardly to be desired that they should emerge from this condition, since with light would of necessity arise a keener perception of grievances and a thirst for change ; while it seems impossible that the country should attain to the blessings of freedom and of liberal institutions without passing through the ordeal of a fierce and bloody revolution. If the present order of things were once shaken, it must be very long before the government of the empire and before public credit could be re-established on a firm and stable footing. In fact, Russia appears to contain no elements for a free government on sound principles, and a revolution would be likely to produce nothing but a state of anarchy and confusion, such as that of the South American Republics. There
is no independent class in the country, unless the traders may be so considered; but they are uneducated, narrow-minded, and superstitious in the extreme; and they form, moreover, numerically, but a very small proportion of the community. Influence or authority, not conferred by the Emperor's commission, is an idea which few Russians at all comprehend; the empire is indeed but a vast army, of which the Emperor is General-in-Chief, unless, parvis componere magna, it be regarded as a great school, of which he is Head Master. This indeed, though the comparison may not be very dignified, is really much the light in which his Imperial Majesty appears to be regarded in his dominions. Wherever he is expected to pass, institutions are put in order, roads are repaired, and bridges mended, on which the rest of the world might have broken their necks unnoticed. In short, the same sort of effect is produced as that which, in a school-room, generally follows the intimation that 66 is coming !” when noise ceases, books are opened, every one slips quietly into his place, endeavouring to look as if he had never been out of it, and the most disorderly are of course most careful to put on a studious and attentive demeanour. In Russia, where public opinion is almost unknown, public spirit cannot be expected to show itself on ordinary occasions, though that it does exist, and that it only requires circumstances to call it into play, was sufficiently proved at the period of the French invasion. Functionaries, therefore, of all classes, military and civil, high and low, must generally be expected to act, not so much with a view to the public good, or even to the attainment of popularity and reputation, as with the object of attracting the favourable notice of the Emperor, the only source of honour, promotion, and reward.
The Government perpetually betrays an apprehension of revolt and conspiracy, which would seem to show that the basis is not felt to be very secure on which the internal
peace and tranquillity of the empire rest.
I have heard it asserted, on good authority, that some time ago four general officers, namely, Marshal Marmont in France, the Archduke Ferdinand in Austria, General Wrede in Bavaria, and the Duke of Wellington in England, were requested to furnish to their respective Governments their opinions as to the power of Russia, offensive and defensive, as invading Europe or resisting invasion at home. The opinions of these four distinguished personages were unanimous, to the effect that Russia as an invader would be weak, from the impossibility of organizing a sufficient commissariat, or of maintaining her troops when beyond her own territory ; but that, on the other hand, if invaded, she would be impregnable, from her immense extent of frontier, and from the very large bodies of men which she could immediately oppose to the invaders at whatever point the attack were made, her climate being also an insurmountable obstacle.*
To return from this digression : it is not surprising that the Russian Government should be apprehensive of political disturbances, for the country has a formidable body of natural enemies to the present order of things in her twenty-two millions of male serfs, who are indeed, at present, exceedingly tranquil, like the contents of a well-guarded powder-magazine, but who may some day, by a sudden explosion, overthrow the empire. Nor are there wanting those who would willingly seize an opportunity to fire the train. There are discontented nobles to raise the standard of rebellion, and there are sectarians as well inclined to subvert the established government as the established religion. Let these at a favourable moment proclaim freedom to the serfs, and it is hardly to be expected that they will refuse the offer. The Russian peasant is too unenlightened to appreciate the real blessings of liberty, but he would readily comprehend the advantage of not being compelled to labour three days in the week for his master; although, in point of fact, by so doing, he merely paye the rent of the land which he occupies himself. Great, however, as this temptation would be, a greater still might be held out to him in a release from the terrors of the conscription, which is, in truth, the most pressing evil of his lot, and the one most dreaded by him.
It is to him what, according to the old Scotch superstition, " the teind to hell” was to the fairies; and as, in their case, the victim was “ fat and fair of flesh,” so the conscript must be young, strong, and healthy, and, in short, one of the most able and useful members of his family. Every domestic tie is severed, even in time of peace, for him who becomes a Russian soldier. His home is lost; his wife is a widow; his children are orphans; his parents are childless as much as if he were dead; and he himself is twice as much a slave as he was before. The Emperor is become his master; and when he is enlisted, he knows not where or what his service will bewhether by sea or by land—whether that of a soldier or of a sailor. The generality, it is true, of the recruits soon become reconciled to their lot, for their disposition is easy, and, being fatalists, they consider that they are only fulfilling their destiny. Nevertheless, the diseases which they counterfeit, * and still more, the mutilations which they often inflict upon themselves, in the hope of being thus incapacitated for the service, prove their dread of being forced into it.
* These opinions obviously apply to an inland invasion like that of the French in 1812, not to operations supported by the command of the sea, like those of the allied armies in the Crimea in 1854 and 1855.
Should any inducements be successful in exciting the people to revolt, the first result of the overthrow of the present order of things would undoubtedly be a reign of terror, in the massacres and other acts of violence which must be expected from a population in the depths of ignorance, suddenly freed, not only from their fetters, but from the ordinary restraints of law and subordination. Their worst passions would naturally be roused against their late masters, whom they would be taught to regard as their enemies and oppressors. A man's foes would truly be those of his own household ; for the domestic servants suffer naturally more than the peasants from the authority of a good master and the tyranny of a bad one. They would consider that they had the most injuries to avenge, and their vengeance would be the most terrible. The consequences which might be looked for if the slaves rose against their masters, and the soldiers against their officers, may be judged of by the revolt of the military colonies which took place soon after the accession of the present Emperor, and which was repressed entirely by his personal intrepidity in proceeding immediately to the spot, appearing unguarded amongst the rioters, and asserting his authority at the risk of his life. On that occasion no atrocity was omitted, and the unhappy officers who had incurred the fury of their men were not merely murdered, but tortured with the utmost barbarity.
* This is a very common plan with the conscripts: they pretend to be subject to fits, and counterfeit other attacks, the existence of which is not easily disproved; and men have been known to chop off their fingers with an axe, and even to inflict upon themselves still more dreadful mutilations, in order to escape the conscription.
After the murders and acts of violence which must be expected, the next result to be apprehended from a revolution in Russia would be a fearful and general famine ; for utter improvidence is one leading characteristic of the peasant, and, if he found himself suddenly relieved from the obligation of working for his master, he probably would have little forethought for himself,
At any rate, during the period of the convulsion, the land of the master would be uncultivated, and half the country would be unproductive; the other half being, to say the least, very generally neglected. This evil would, of course, be remedied by time; the proprietors would, as in other countries, employ hired labourers for the cultivation of their land; and the peasant would learn that, whether slave or freeman, he must equally earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. Before, however, the period of re-action came, multitudes must have perished from the neglect of husbandry, and from the consequent deficiency of crops, even if it were but for one season. Russia has no external resources, she depends entirely upon
herself to supply food for her population, and, if that supply were to fail, the population must perish for want.
On the whole, odious and bad as the present Government and system of things in Russia is, and iron as is the despotism which prevails, the country, it must be allowed, is morally unfitted for liberal institutions. Were this doubtful, the character of the different conspiracies which have been brought to light would be sufficient to prove the fact. These have always either commenced or been intended to commence by murder and bloodshed ; and it has never appeared that those engaged in revolutionary projects had any rational or feasible system of Government to propose, if they had succeeded in overthrowing