• Secret History of the Court and Government of Russia under the Emperors Alexan-
der and Nicholas. By J. H. Schnitzler. In two volumes Bentley. 411LUIPZUDICNCE,
A Treatise on the Conflict of Laws of England and Scotland. By John Hosack, of
_ the Middle Temple, Barrister at-law. Part I Blackwood. FICTION,
The Convict ; a Tale. By G. P. R. James, Esq., Author of "The Smuggler."
"Darnley," "Richelieu," &c. &c. In three volumes South and Elder •
SCHNITZLER'S SECRET HISTORY OF RUSSIA.
M. SCHNITZLER is known, at least to Continental readers, as the author of La Russie, La Polande, et La Finkinde, and as the compiler of an Encyclopedia: he has also been suspected as a favourer of the Rus- t* Government, if not engaged on its side. As this is an employ- aunt no man would own, his disclaimers may pass for nothing; but his tone, as well as his views, would countenance the charge of partiality for Russia. His tone, in fact, is more questionable than his views, for they are in the main reasonable enough on the Autocratic side of the question ; but his style very frequently smacks of the official publicist, or those "reporters," half literary half diplomatic, who are extensively employed by the Russian Government.
The point, however, is of no great importance; for the subject of the "Secret History of the Court and Government of Russia under the Em- perors Alexander and Nicholas" is not of great interest to English read- ers, nor has it for any one an importance at all proportioned to the length of its treatment. The subject announced in the imposing terms of the title is simply the Liberal conspiracy that, formed during the closing days ef .Alexander, burst forth on the accession of Nicholas, and was put down by the Emperor in person, after an affair in the streets of St. Peters- burg. This narrative is prefaced by an outline of Russian history, and a sketch of Alexander's reign, in order to understand his character and the causes of the conspiracy : interspersed with the narrative, there are also many matters indicative of the government, people, courtiers, and employes of Russia ; but the whole is minute, discursive, and dis- quisitional, not to say occasionally rigmarole. Less than one half of either of the two volumes would have contained a sufficient account of all that M. Schnitzler has to tell ; and a general idea of the leading subject can be put into much smaller compass.
Although giving in to the general estimate of the character of Peter the Great, M. Schnitzler sees distinctly that his efforts were violent and premature, and the results forced and artificial. The civilization he pro- duced was unnatural and superficial; extending only to manners and ex- ternals, while the mass of the people and the spirit of society were left as barbarous as ever. The policy of unnatural forcing was carried on by his successors till the accession of Alexander. The education of this mo- narch was more cultivated and liberal than that of any Russian ruler ; and his natural disposition really inclined him to advance mankind. But, though well-intentioned, he was weak and vain. The last idea and the last word were always the strongest with him : he wanted genius to com- prehend the exact condition of Russia, and mental power to undertake its improvement in a right direction : like most imperial improvers, too, he wanted patience. Hence, at the earlier part of his reign he professed and encouraged lip Liberalism to a somewhat imprudent extent; his position, alter the failure of Napoleon's invasion, as the head and animating mind of a war which appealed to the peoples to rise against the French, com- pelled him to have recourse to Liberal words ; and the results that followed this necessity, by elevating him to the rank of liberator of Europe, flattered his vanity ; while the ideas suggested to the Russian officers by a view of freer governments and a more advanced state of things were encouraged by the Emperor. When things returned to their old courses, and Alex- ander found the unfitness of this raw Liberalism for the Russians, he began to be alarmed at his own work, and, not satisfied with stopping, tried to turn back. This created displeasure in the minds of many officers educated in French ideas, and teeming with the new notions they had picked up in their Western campaigns. They looked upon Alex- ander as a sort of traitor to the cause of Russian good government, and formed several conspiracies against him, or rather, a long-continued con- spiracy, which was ripening at his death.
The resignation of the throne by Constantine in favour of Nicholas, and the apparent scruples of Nicholas to accept it, were rather favourable to the plot. The interregnum caused delay and uncertainty, and enabled the conspirators to delude the soldiers with an idea that Nicholas was usurping his brother's rights, and to cloak their revolutionary objects under a cry for Constantine. The opportunity, however, was not wade the most of: the greater part of the conspirators were unequal to the task they had undertaken ; and when they had got up the insurrection at St. Petersburg, some of the leaders wanted either the moral or the physical courage to head their troops. What M. Schnitzler calls the conspiracy of the South--meaning that ramification of the plot which prevailed amongst the army located in the Southern provinces—might have been more dangerous from the unscrupulous and daring character of some of its leaders ; but it was discovered before any outbreak, and means were taken to avert the mischief. A despatch giving an account of it reached Taganrog when Alexander was dying; but General Diebitsch immediately acted with a promptitude and decision which were not displayed at St. Petersburg. He instantly sent off orders on his own responsibility to arrest Pastel, the soul of the conspiracy, with the other officers implicated as leaders; and directed the general in command of the district to separate the suspected regiments as much as possible, and be prepared to eel against them should need be. The consequence was, the entire failure of the scheme. Some officers who escaped arrest persuaded some soldiers to revolt, still under the idea that they were supporting Constantine ; and though by marching about the open country their overthrow took more time than that of the revolters at the °spite], they were even more quickly overthrown when they were once overtaken. A discharge of grape and a charge of cavalry settled the affair.
The plans of the conspirators were as wild as they were unsuccesafni. In fact, beyond assassinating whomsoever might be Emperor, and over- turning all government, they had no plan; some, indeed, stopped short of assassination, and others were for killing the whole family. Pastel had draws up a sort of projet of a constitution, and others were in favour of a republic ; but there was no definite plan either to overturn the existing. Government or to establish a new one. So thoroughly unfit were their schemes for the atmosphere of Russia, that they could only get up an in- surrection by deceiving the troops. An officer who had much influence over the soldiers lost it as soon as he let out his real objects, or rather a& goon as the soldiers could perceive them. The incident took place in the South, with one of the officers who had escaped from arrest by assailing his superior officer. " Sergias, ever intrepid, but still uncertain in what direction he should march, gave the signal of departure on the 12th, at noon. It was doubtless the hope of rallying the other companies of his regiment that induced him to take the road to Broussiloff; whence he could have gained, according as circumstances required, Kief or Jitomir (Volbynia) in one day's march. Accordingly, he met on Ins road the first company of grenadiers, and the first of fusiliers, in the village of Moto- vilofka. Both seemed disposed to follow him, thinking they should thereby re- main faithful to the oath taken to the Emperor Constantine. The company of fusiliers did so without much hesitation; but an imprudent speech alarmed the grenadiers; to whom, according to his custom, Muuravieff could not help speak- ing of democracy and a republic. 'In fact, comrades,' said he, flippantly, what need have we of Constantine? We can do without him as well as without the other. It is a republic we want. Come, let us all shout A republic for ever !' The word liberty conveyed at least its own meaning; but that of republic was totally devoid of signification to these men, excellent in resisting, like a wall, the shock of war, and in standing the enemy's fire without flinching, but very bad politicians, and utterly ignorant of history: the word excited an extraordinary as- tonishment among them. Whilst they were ransacking their brains, vacant of all those notions which are heard in the streets in the more advanced countries of Europe, trying to get at the meaning of that singular word, an old grenadier of the company, leaning on the barrel of his grin, ventured to come to an explanetioq with his Colonel. We will shout ".k,xpriblie for ever!" if it so please your' grace,' said he; 'but who, after all, is tote dip?' There is none in a republic.' Oh! in that case, your grace, it will not do 'in-Bassin!' The whole company was of the same opinion: no matter about the republic, thought they, but at all event& we must have a Czar! "Blouravieff then perceived the blunder he had committed; but it was too late; Captain Kozluff, concealed in the ranks in a private's uniform, hastened to take ad- vantage of it. He was amass of lofty stature, with a prepossessing exterior, and, like Mouravieff, beloved by the soldiers. He instantly began haranguing the company, representing to them that they were being imposed upon, and led astray to commit crimes; that Nicholas L was the lawful Czar, and that there was no reason to doubt it; that to refuse obedience to him was to be wilfully blind to their welfare; that such an order could only be given by traitors. The grenadiers listened to hint attentively, and were not slow in testifying their ap- probation. 'Lead us on, Captain!' cried they all with one voice; 'we will obey your orders!' And, taking him among them, they withstood all Mouravieff's so- licitations; and to the threats of the factious they replied, that they were not afraid of death. "Mouravieff had too small a party, and was not sufficiently sure of his men, to risk a fight: with despair in his heart, and foreseeing that all his endeavours would be unavailing, he allowed this chosen company.to depart."
Upwards of a hundred persons were condemned.; but as the trials were secret, the evidence against them and. the degrees of their guilt are unknown. The punishments do not seem to have been particularly severe—for Russia. The Emperor commuted the capital senterice in all the cases excepting five, where the parties were probably more disliked than the rest, rather than more guilty ; and a touch of Autocratic spite was visible in the mode of execution. They were neither beheaded nor shot, but hanged, which is not a Russian punishment. The feelings of their accomplices were also needlessly pained and humiliated. The author was in St. Petersburg at the time, and witnessed the whole pro- ceeding which he thus describes.
"On the 25th of July, workmen were employed, as early as two o'clock in the morning, to erect a gibbet large enough to contain five bodies in a row, on the rampart of the fortress opposite the small decayed wooden church dedieated to the frmity, situated on the banks of the Neva, at the entrance of the quarter of the town called Old St. Petersburg. ht this season, night in that Northern lati- tude is, as the reader knows, only twilight prolonged till the dawn of morning, which is much less backward than in our regions. Every object, therefore, was even at that early hour perfectly distinguishable. A faint rolling of drums, and the distant notes of a few trumpets, were heard in several distinct parts of the town; for each regiment of the garrison was to send a single company to witness the dismal scene that was to take place at sunrise. The hour of execution had been intentionally left in uncertainty. Accordingly, the city was still buried in sleep: a few spectators had arrived one after the other; but, even at the end of an hoar, their number was hardly sufficient to line the military cordon which was placed between them and the actors in this terrible drama. Deep silence pre- vailed everywhere; and when the rolling of the drums of all the assembled de- tachments was at length heard, the rumbling sound died away without interrupt- ing the tranquillity of the night or awakening a single echo. "About three oclock, the same drums announced the arrival of those among the culprits whose lives had been granted. After being stationed in groups in front of the rather extensive circle which covered the glans before the rampart on which the gibbet was erected, and placed each in face of the corps to whicla be belonged, they were obliged to kueed down, after hearing the reading of their sen- tence. Their epaulets, badges and uniforms were then taken from them, and a sword was broken above the held of each as a token of degradation; after which, being dressed in common grey capotes, they filed off before the gibbet, whilst brazier, kindled close by, consumed their uniforms, the ensigns of their rank, and their badges of honour. "Scarcely had they reentered the fortress by the usual door of communication, near which the instrument of death had been erected, when the five condemned criminals made their appearance upon the rampart. At the distance at which the public were placed, it would have been difficult to distinguish their features; besides which, they were muffled in grey capotes, the hoods of which concealed their faces. They ascended the platform and the benches, placed in front under the gibbet, one by one, in the order allotted to them by their sentence: Pastel first, occupying the right side, and Kakhufski the left. The fatal noose was then passed round their necks, and no sooner had the exe- cutioner stood aside than the platform fell from under their feet. Pastel and Kakhfski were strangled immediately; but death refused, as it were, to reach the three others placed between them. f he spectators then beheld a, horrible scene: the rope, being badly adjusted, slid over the hoods of those unfortunate men, WO fellJtogether into the hole under the scaffold, pell-mell with the trap-door and thebenches. Horrible contusions must have been the consequence; but as this lamentable accident caused no alteration in their fate, for the Emperor was ab- sent at Tsarsko2S41o, and nobody ventured to grant a respite, they had to suffer the agony of death a second time. As soon as the platform was replaced, they were again brought under the gibbet. Although stunned at first by his fall, By- waif walked with a firm step, but could not help uttering this painful exclama- tion= Must it be said that nothing succeeds with me, not even death !' Accord- ing to some witnesses, he also exclaimed, Accursed country ! where they know neither how to plot, to judge, nor to hang!' but others attribute these words to sergius MouraviefeApostol, who like Byleleff, courageously reascended the scaf- fold, Be,stoujeff Eumine, doubtless more injured than the others, had not strength enough to support himself: it was necessary to carry him under the gibbet. A second time the fatal noose was placed round their necks, and this time without slipping. After a few seconds, a roll of the drums announced that human justice had been satisfied."
Many of those whose lives were spared were sent-to Siberia ; and their banishment served to display the devotion of the female sex.
"However, as we have said, the conspirators who expiated their crimes by re- ceiving death on the scaffold were not those who were the most to be pitied. Was not the most dreadful exile reserved for all the others? Stowed four together in Wages or two-wheeled carts, without any other seat than bundles of straw, fifty- two of them were immediately sent on their long and painful journey; and, in the most humble conve.yance, passed through Novogorod, Tver, Moscow, Vladimir, Nyni-Novogorod, Kasen, Jekaterinenbarg, and Tobolsk ; often hooted by the people, against whose indignation the Cossacks who escorted them were even obliged sometimes to defend them. It was on the 5th of August that Tronbetz- kdi's family and that of Sergius Volkonski took a painful leave of -these unfortu- nate men at the first stage beyond St. Petersburg, where the Emperor had per- mitted the interview to take place. Troubetzkol was ill; but he departed at least with the consolatory certainty of•being soon rejoined by his heroic wife; who was resolved not to forsake him in his misfortune, to share the ignominy and priva- tions of his exile, and to undergo all the consequences of her resolution whatever they might be. Madame Alexander Mouravieff, Madame Nicetas Moumvieff, (whose maiden name was Tchernychefe) Madame Naryschkin, (whose maiden name was Konovnitsyn,) likewise understood their duty as faithful companions; and it is well known that Prince Sergius Volkonski's charming wife (whose maiden name was Ralefski) deceived her parents, whom she adored, to perform it likewise. So joyfully did these noble women sacrifice themselves, that a foreigner, a travelling companion of one of them, heard this strange threat uttered by a mother in speaking to her somewhat petulant daughter, 'Sophia, if you do not behave well, you shall not go to Siberia!'
"It is the duty of history to preserve the names of these voluntary exiles; for examples of self-abnegation, becoming less and less common every day, exalt noble sentiments in the seals of youth, and guard them from the cold shafts of selfish- ness, that almost universal disease of our age. In order to become inured to ad- versity, these ladies began a few weeks before their departure to accustom their delicate soft hands to the task of the most humble menials in their opulent esta- blishments: laying aside their silks and velvet, they wore dresses of the most common materials, habituated their palate to the food of the people, and, in one word, renounced completely the comforts and luxury to which they had been ac- customed ever since their childhood. In the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread,' was henceforth to be the lot of these virtuous women: they knew it, but their resolution never relaxed. They were informed that when once they had passed Irkontsk they would be no longer in free possession of their baggage; that they would have nobody to wait upon them; that at the utmost, they would be allowed to engage one or two old convicts, male or female, who would consent to serve them for wages; that they could not return to Europe without the Empe- ror's permission; and that shame and degradation would ever prevent their chil- dren from quitting the land of exile. They knew all this, and yet they remained perfectly resigned."