4 NOVEMBER 1905, Page 4



WE greatly fear that the Czar's Manifesto, over which .so many people both in Russia and. the West have been throwing up their caps with joy, is only a step in a revolution which, for good or for evil, is still on its road to some destined but obscure end. We write without any of the prejudice which seems to be excited by the very name of Russia. We desire a liberalised Russian Monarchy, and not a Russia blown into fragments, with consequent misery to a hundred and fifty millions of white people, and still less a Russian Republic, which would in all probability end in the rise of some great soldier of the Suvoroff type, who, supported by a most ignorant peasantry, would almost certainly try to solidify his position by the conquest of the civilised nations of Central and Western Europe. We are all familiar with the workings of that process a century ago, and, though Russia is not France, the Russian people have an immovable confidence in the greatness of their future position in the world. Nor, we must add, do we entertain quite the contempt for the present occupant of the Russian throne which it is in so many quarters the fashion to express. He is not equal to his position ; but that is a misfortune, not a crime, and we do not think it quite fair to ascribe everything he does to want of personal courage. Bemused as every modern Bing is by the precedent of the French Terror, it is not unreasonable that he should provide means of escape for his family by sea ; be has no intention of departing himself, and he may well have been moved to his recent " surrenders " by causes other than the fear of any personal consequences. Just think of it for a moment. Here is the head of the greatest Monarchy in the world, who believes that he holds his power from God, who is entirely unconscious of any illwill towards his people, and who at the end of a sanguinary war, in which, to his own utter amazement, he was defeated by what he had thought an inferior Asiatic State, is suddenly told by a moral explosion as sharp and as unexpected as the outburst of a volcano that his people of all grades, all professions, and all positions abhor a regime which to himself must have seemed God-derived. Think what we ourselves should feel if on some day of vast excitement every dumb creature spoke, and spoke in accents of hatred to our- selves. It would be something other than fear, surely, that would induce us to reconsider everything, and attempt, with such dim light as we had, to remove the grievances of which those voices complained. The Czar, his vague ideas, his vacillations, the cruelties which he sanctions, and which seem to him as necessary as a death- sentence to an English Red Judge, we accept as facts, and subjects for pity rather than for scorn. The first lesson to be learned from them, as we have repeated ever since the Japanese War began, is the want of ability among the ruling groups of Russia. An entire people has risen to demand. that the system under which they and their fathers have lived shall come to a summary end, and those who have administered that system cannot comprehend the prayer, are simply bewildered, and unable to decide whether they ought to resist or to yield. The want of ability is positively astounding. Not one of them all is able to speak plain,—a power which Mirabeau at least possessed. The Czar himself maunders over his so Tows, as if in the death-throes of a nation the sorrows even of a Monarch mattered to mankind ; the reactionary statesmen recom- mend volleys, as if bullets could stop water from flowing; and the Liberal statesmen concede everything in words, quite honestly, but with a complete want of perception that when the house is on fire it is no use to talk about what you will do to-morrow. The Czar's Manifesto, if he means it, if be does not withdraw it, and if the Army and the bureaucracy will allow him to carry it out, does "terminate the autocracy," for he surrenders the power of legislation, concedes to the Duma a veto: onlegislation —that is, on the first essential "right" of the autocracy— and agrees, in the supplement to his proclamation, that the Duma shall grant the "four liberties" as they are called : the right of speech, freedom of the Press, the right of meeting, and the "inviolability of the person," which means, we presume, that the practice of punishing by administrative-decree shall be abolished. But notbing is actually done, or intended to be done until the Dump, meets; and the very basis of that body is made uncertain, for the electoral law is to be altered, and there is nothing whatever in the shape of a guarantee. A Cabinet has, it. is true, been appointed, with Count Witte as its Premier. But Count Witte's policy is extremely nebulous ;- there is a threat in the first portion of the Manifesto which. would allow of almost unlimited repression by the bayonet ; while Count Witte himself in his numerous chats with municipalities and interviewers. always contents himself with saying that the things they want are "coming," even the removal of General Trepoff, which could have been decreed at once. The only clear sign that the old regime has ended is that the Procurator of the Holy Synod, Pobiedonostzeff, who really understands when words mean acts, has finally resigned.

It is evident that the extremists are not content. They repeat the assertion—which, it will be remembered, was made at the very beginning of the conflict—that no Dump, will have power enough to control the Monarchy unless it is based upon universal suffrage ; they demand a national Militia, which in the confused condition of Russian pro- vincial life, -with its racial and class difficulties and the enormous area over which it spreads, no wise Sovereign would grant ; while there are many signs that the con- servative class—which exists, though it is practically frightened into inaction—the whole body of the police— an enormous force in Russia—and a very large section of the officers of the Army think themselves abandoned and are furiously angry. The claims of the peasantry will be brought forward the moment the Duma is elected, and. there is no evidence whether the first Duma will assist the Monarchy in restoring order and creating hope—for it is the hopelessness of ages which is at the bottom of the present explosion—or whether by declaring itself " Constituent " it will once more throw everything into the melting-pot, or whether the provinces on the fringe of the Empire will take the opportunity to declare themselves partially independent. If we may judge by the news from Finland, Poland, Courland, and the Caucasus, that is their present intention. The revolution has undoubtedly been advanced a step, for the Autocrat has ceased to insist on his autocracy ; but that it has ended, or that such a new base has been laid for it that its end can be foreseen, we are utterly unable to believe. If it has, we join heartily in the congratulations of Europe both to the Czar and to the Russian people ; but as yet the evidence of stability in the new regime is wanting, and though we must not be deluded by the history of the French Revolution, it is impossible not to recollect that Louis XVI. granted much more, than Nicholas II. has conceded, and that the Revolution, as if driven by some supernatural force, marched on to results which the counsellors of Louis XVI. would have considered chimerical. There are many among us, some of them grave men, who secretly hope that it may be so in Russia also ; but we repeat that we do not believe Russia to be ready for a Republic, or that Europe could. witness the extinction of that great Monarchy without a feeling of dismay lest the balance-weight in the machine of European equilibrium should have suddenly dis- appeared. So long as the "four liberties" are delayed —liberties which in India, for instance, are completely granted, though the Government remains absolute—we cannot be conservative in regard to Russian affairs ; but once they are solidly established there are other things as important to the world as the wishes of the Russian people. The boiling pot, if not watched by those com- petent to recognise the moment of danger, may yet boil over, and that would be the signal for a conflagration such as even France never saw,—a conflagration which must spread.