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were assembled in their house of exercise when the Emperor arrived; he commanded his aide-de-camp, Count Orloff, to wait for him, and in spite of all remonstrance, proceeded alone to address the soldiers. Count Orloff, and the other attendants, waited for a time in the utmost suspense, and then approaching the building, and looking in at a window, unable to restrain their anxiety, they were not a little surprised to see the whole body of men on their knees, and the commanding form of the Emperor alone erect and addressing them; such had been the effect of their habitual fear and respect for him, and of his unexpected appearance among them, that they had immediately prostrated themselves before him and sued for pardon. It must be owned that Nicholas the First, on all occasions, displays the highest order of courage, namely, that which induces a man deliberately, and in cold blood, to incur imminent peril for the sake of an important end.
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 to work for his master, he probably would not be more industrious for his own maintenance.
At any rate, during the period of the convulsion, the land of the master would not be cultivated, 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 reaction came, multitudes must have perished from the neglect of husbandry, and the consequent deficiency of crops, if it were but for one season. Russia has no external resources, she depends upon herself to supply food for her population, and if that supply fails, 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 it. These have always either commenced or been intended to commence by murder and bloodshed; and it has never appeared that those engaged in them had any rational or feasible system of Government to propose, if they had succeeded in destroying the dynasty. Were it practicable, therefore, to bring about a revolution, it would be doing certain evil without any assurance of future good ;— the pros
pect, on the one hand, of advantage being so remote and so doubtful, and the evils on the other hand to be incurred so imminent and so dreadful.
While the present Emperor remains on the throne in health and vigour, his vigilance and activity, and the respect attached to his name (for where he is not loved by his subjects, he is feared) will, it may be hoped, preserve the Empire in tranquillity. Should Russia, however, have the misfortune to lose her present sovereign before his successor, who is now (in 1838) twenty, attains an age of greater maturity and experience, a dangerous crisis might arise, and the elements of disturbance, which are at present held in a state of repose, might not improbably be roused into activity, as was the case at the time of his present Majesty's accession: he scotched, but could not kill the snake.
The character of the Emperor Nicholas is much calumniated when he is called a tyrant who delights in human suffering. Nothing can be a greater misrepresentation than this: when any calamity occurs, he is always the foremost to aid the sufferers; he is extremely tender and affectionate to his own family, and nothing can be better than the example which he sets to his subjects in domestic life as a father and a husband. It is very evident that he does not dread his subjects, but relies on their personal attachment, since he may be seen every day when he is at Petersburg, sometimes with the
Empress, or one of the Grand Duchesses, and more often alone, driving, if in winter, in a small sledge with one horse, and, if in summer, in a small calêche with a pair, wrapped up in his cloak, and without any servant or attendant, but his coachman.
To ordinary criminals he is frequently even too lenient; to political offenders he is uniformly and inexorably severe; but however this severity may be lamented, however erroneous it may in many
instances have been, and to whatever extent it
may have been carried, it appears evidently to be always inflicted under a firm conviction, whether just or not, of its necessity.
The Emperor is a man of a firm and resolute mind, and it is obvious that he has laid it down as a fixed and fundamental principle to maintain united the Russian Empire, and, if possible, to allow no political changes to disturb its tranquillity; and that for this grand object he holds that any amount of individual suffering must be disregarded, or rather must be considered as a painful sacrifice necessary for the preservation of the state.
The Emperor Alexander did not understand the character of his people ; he slacked the curb till he brought Russia to the brink of a revolution, and the country was only saved from a state of anarchy and bloodshed by the iron mind and iron hand of Nicholas.