30 MARCH 1861, Page 6



"By the grace of God, we, Alexander II., Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russia*, King of Poland, Grand-Duke of Finland, &e., to all our faithful sub- jects make known:—

Called by Divine Providence and by the sacred right of inheritance to the throne of our ancestors, we took a vow in our innermost heart so to respond to the mission which is entrusted to 115 as to surround with our affection and our Imperial solicitude all our faithful subjects, of every rank and of every condition, from the warrior who nobly bears arms for the defence of the country to the humble artisan devoted to the works of industry ; from the official in the career of the high offices of the State to the labourer whose plough furrows the soil. "In considering the various classes and conditions of which the State is com- posed, we came to the conviction that the legislation of the empire' having wisely provided for the organization of the upper and middle classes, and having defined with precision their obligations, their rights, and their privileges, lias not attained the same degree of efficiency as regards the peasants attached to the soil (lore- postnye"), thus designated because, either from ancient laws or from custom, they have been hereditarily subjected to the authority of the proprietors, on whom it was incumbent, at the same time, to provide for their welfare. The rights of the proprietors have been hitherto very extended, and very imperfectly defined by the law, which has been supplied by tradition, custom, and the good pleasure of the proprietors. In the most favourable cases this state of things has established patriarchal relations, founded upon &solicitude sincerely equitable and benevolent on the part of the proprietors, and on an affectionate submission on the part of the peasants ; but in proportion as the simplicity of morals diminished, as the diversity of the mutual relations became complicated, as the paternal character of the relations between the proprietors and the peasants became weakened, and, moreover' as the seigneurial authority fell sometimes into hands exclusively occu- pied with their personal interests, those bonds of mutual good-will slackened, and a wide opening was made for an arbitrary sway, which weighed upon the peasants, was unfavourable to their welfare, and made them indifferent to all progress under the conditions of their existence. "These facts had already attracted the notice of our predecessors of glorious memory, and they had taken measures for improving the condition of the peasants; but among those measures some were not stringent enough, insomuch as they remained subordinate to the spontaneous initiative of such proprietors who showed themselves animated with liberal intentions ; and others, called forth by peculiar circumstances' have been restricted to certain localities, or simply adopted as an experiment. It was thus that Alexander 1. published the regula- tion for the free cultivators, and that the late Emperor Nicholas, our beloved father, promulgated that one which concerns the peasants bound by contract. In the Western Governments regulations called ' inrentairee had fixed the ten-i- torial allotments due to the peasants, as well as the amount of their rent dues; but all these reforms have only been applied in a very restricted manner. "We thus came to the conviction that the work of a serious improvement of the condition of the peasants was a sacred inheritance bequeathed to us by our ancestors,—a mission which, in the course of events, Divine Providence called upon us to fulfil.

" We have commenced this work by an expression of our Imperial confidence towards the nobility of Russia, which has given us so many proofs of its devotion to the throne, and of its constant readiness to make sacrifices for the welfare of the cvountry.

"It is to the nobles themselves, conformable to their own wishes, that we have reserved the task of drawing up the propositions for the new organization of the peasants—propositions which make it incumbent upon them to limit their rights over the peasants, and to accept the onus of a reform which could not be accom- plished without some material losses. Our confidence has not been deceived. We have seen the nobles assembled in committees in the districts, through the medium of their confidential agents, making the voluntary sacrifice of their rights as regards the personal servitude of the peasants. These committees, after having collected the necessary data, have formulated their propositions concerning the new organization of the peasants attached to the soil (krepostnye), in their relations with the proprietors. "These propositions having been found very diverse, as was to be expected from the nature of the question, they have been compared, collated, and reduced to a regular system, then rectified and completed in the superior committee instituted for that purpose; and these new dispositions thus formulated relative to the peasants and domestics (dvorovyi) of the proprietors have been examined in the Council of the Empire.

" Having invoked the Divine assistance, we have resolved to carry this work into execution.

"In virtue of the new dispositions above mentioned, the peasants attached to the soil (attaches h la glebe) will be invested within a term faxed by the law with all the rights of free cultivators. "The proprietors retaining their rights of property on all the land belonging to them, grant to the peasants for a fixed regulated rental the full enjoyment of their close (enclos); and, moreover, to assure their livelihood and to guarantee the fulfilment of their obligations towards the Government, the quantity of arable land is 'fixed by the said dispositions, as well as other rural appurtenances (ougodie). "But, in the enjoyment of these territorial allotments, the peasants are obliged, in return, to aoqutt the rentals fixed by the same dispositions to the profit of the proprietors. In this state, which must be a transitory one, the peasants shall be designated as ' temporarily bound' (temporairement obliges). "At the same time they are granted the right of purchasing their close (enclos), and, with the consent of the proprietors, they may acquire in full property the arable lands and other appurtenances which are allotted to them as a permanent holding (puissance). By the acquisition in full property of the quantity of land fixed the peasants are free from their obligations towards the proprietors for land thus purchased, and they enter definitively into the condition of free peasants—landholders (pavans libres—proprielaires). "By a special disposition concerning the domestics (pens de in domesticke- doorovye) a transitory state is fixed for them adapted to their occupations and

the exigencies of their position. On the expiration of a term of two years, dating from the day of the promulgation of these dispositions, they shall receive their full enfranchisement and some temporary immunities. "It is according to these fundamental principles that the dispositions have been formulated which define the future organization of the peasants and of the

domestics (droroeye), which establish the order of the general administration of this class, and specify in all their details the rights given to the peasants and to the domestics, as well as the obligations imposed upon them towards the Govern- ment and towards the proprietors.

"Although these dispositions, general as well as local, and the special supple- mentary rules for some particular localities, for the lands of small proprietors, and for the peasants who work in the manufactories and establishments (wines) of the proprietors, have been, as far as was possible, adapted to economical neces- sities and local customs, nevertheless, to preserve the existing state where it pre- sents reciprocal advantages, we leave it to the proprietors to come to amicable terms with the peasants and to conclude tranaactions relative to the extent of the territorial allotment and to the amount of rental to be fixed in consequence, observing at the same time the established rules to guarantee the inviolability of such agreements.

" As the new organization, in consequence of the inevitable complexity of the changes which it necessitates, cannot be immediately put into execution; as a lapse of time is necessary, which cannot be leas than two years or thereabouts, to avoid all misunderstanding and to protect public and private interests during this interval, the system (regime) actually existing on the properties of landowners (seigneurs) will be maintained up to the moment when a new system shall have been instituted by the completion of the required preparatory measures.

"For which end, we have deemed it advisable to ordain-

" 1. To establish in each district (yourtrnement) a special Court for the ques- tion of the peasants; it will have to investigate the affiars of the rural communes established on the land of the lords of the soil (seigneurs). " 2. To appoint in each district justices of the peace to investigate on the spot all misunderstandings and disputes which may arise on the occasion of the intro- duction of the new regulation, and to form district assemblies with these justices of the peace.

"3. To organize in the seigneurial properties communal administrations, and to this end to leave the rural communes in their actual composition, and to open in the large villages district administrations (provincial boards) by uniting the small communes under one of these district administrations.

"4. To formulate, verify, and confirm in each rural district or estate a charter of rules (une charts regiementaire—oustavnakt gramota), in which shall be enumerated on the basis of the local Statute, the amount of land reserved to the peasants in permanent enjoyment, and the extent of the charges which may be exacted from them for the benefit of the proprietor as well for the land as for other advantages granted by him.

"5. To put these charters of rules into execution as they are gradually con- firmed in each estate, and to introduce their definitive execution within the term of two years, dating from the day of publication of the present manifesto.

"6. Up to the expiration of this term the peasants and domestics (pens de kr domesticife) are to remain in the same obedience towards their proprietors, and to fulfil their former obligations without scruple. "7. The proprietors will continue to watch over the maintenance of order on their estates, with the right of jurisdiction and of police, until the organization of the districts (edosii) and of the district tribunals has been effected.

"Aware of all the difficulties of the reform we have undertaken, we place above all things our confidence in the goodness of Divine Providence, who watches over the destinies of Russia.

"We also count uponthe generous devotion of our faithful nobility, and we are happy to testify to that body the gratitude it has deserved from us, as well as from the country, for the disinterested support it has given to the accomplish- ment of our designs. Bussia will not forget that the nobility, acting solely upon its respect for the dignity of man and its love for its neighbour, has spontaneously renounced rights given to it by serfdom actually abolished, and laid the foundation of a new future, which is thrown open to the peasants. We also entertain the firm hope that it will also nobly exert its ulterior efforts to carry out the new regulation by maintaining good order, in a spirit of peace and benevolence, and that each proprietor will complete within the limits of his property the great civic act accomplished ny the whole body by organizing the existence of the peasants domiciliated on his estates, and of his domestics, under mutual advantageous conditions, thereby giving to the country population the example of a faithful and. conscientious execution of the regulations of the State. "The numerous examples of the generous solicitude of the proprietors for the welfare of their peasants, and of the gratitude of the latter for the benevolent solicitude of their lords, gives us the hope that a mutual understanding will settle the majority of complications, in some cases inevitable, in the partial application of general rules to the different conditions under which isolated estates are placed ; that in this manner the transition from the ancient order of things to the new will be facilitated ; and that the future will strengthen definitively mutual confidence, a good understanding, and the unanimous impulsion towards public utility.

"To render the transactions between the proprietors and the peasants more easy, in virtue of which the latter may acquire in full property their close (snake, homestead) and the land they occupy, the Government will advance assistance- according to a special regulation, by means of loans or a transfer of debts en- cumbering an estate.

"We thus confidently rely upon the upright feeling of the nation.

"When the first news of this great reform meditated by the Government be- came diffused among the rural populations, who were scarcely prepared for it, it gave rise in some instances to misunderstandings among individuals more intent upon liberty than mindful of the duties which it imposes. But generally the good sense of the country has not been wanting. It has not misunderstood either the- inspirations of natural reason, which says that every man who accepts freely the benefits of society owes it in return the fulfilment of certain positive obligations; nor the teachings of the Christian law, which enjoins that every one be subject unto the higher powers' (St. Paul to the Romans, sill); and to 'render to all their dries,' and, above all, to whomsoever it belongs, tribute, custom, respect, and honour. (ibid. 7 v.) It has understood that the proprietors would not be deprived of rights legally acquired, except for a fit and sufficient indemnity, or by a voluntary concession on their part ; that it would be contrary to all equity to accept this enjoyment of the lands conceded by the proprietors without ac- cepting also towards them equivalent charges. "And now we hope with confidence that the freed serfs, in the presence of the new future which is opened before them, will appreciate and recognize the con- siderable sacrifices which the nobility have made on their behalf. They will un- derstand that the blessing of an existence supported upon the base of guaranteed property, as well as a greater liberty in the administration of their goods, entails upon them, with new duties towards society and themselves, the obligation of juatifying the protecting designs of the law by a loyal and judicious use of the rights which are now accorded to them. For if men do not labour themselves to ensure their own well-being under the shield of the laws, the best of those laws- cannot guarantee it to them.

"It is only by assiduous labour, a rational employment of their strength and their resources, a strict economy, and, above all, by an honest life, a life con- stantly inspired by the fear of the Lord, that they can arrive at prosperity and ensure its development. "The authorities entrusted with the duty of preparing by preliminary mea- sures the execution of the new organization, and of presiding at its inauguration, will have to see that this work is accomplished with salmness and regularity, taking into account the requirements of the season., in order that the cultivator may not be drawn away from his agricultural labours. Let him apply himself with zeal to those labours, that he nisr be able to draw from an abundant granary the seed which he has to confide to that land which will be given him for permanent enjoyment, or which he has acquired for himself as his own property.

'• And now, pious and faithful people, make upon thy forehead the sacred sign ; of the cross, and join thy prayers to ours to nal -down the blessing of the Meet

High upon thy first free labours, the sure pledge of thy personal well-being and of the public prosperity. "Given at St. Petersburg, the 19th day of February (March 3), of the Year of Grace 1861, and the seventh of our reign.