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guilt haunting his home, with madness and crime thus tainting his blood, the assassination of his father suddenly made him autocrat. We do not believe that he participated in this murder, though he knew the deposition was to take place; but he profited by it; the murderers of Paul and their descendants were not excluded from the favour of his sons, but to their last hour the dark shadow of that event hung over the throne. Alexander wished his country well; he professed a desire to teach his people to be free — to be himself the leader of the opposition—the head of the reform party in Russia ;- but he was the sole member of it, and therefore he failed. His plans of reform were incomprehensible to his people;- they were not even expressed to them in intelligible terms; for a Czar, though omnipotent to repress license, is powerless to teach freedom: he was speechless, for the organs by which he communicated with his people were his officers ; and his officers cither misinterpreted his message of mildness, or appropriating it to themselves, took advantage of it to amass greater plunder by their misdoings. The chief fault of Alexander was the absence of energy of will; for this want of force made him descend to craft and duplicity. Defeated and disheartened by the conflict with evil at home, he resorted to mystical schemes for the attack of evil abroad, - Holy Alliances and the like, -schemes mystical to him, but turned into mighty instruments of material evil. During the latter part of his reign, when he was most engaged in foreign affairs, the internal government of the Empire was given over to unworthy instruments, so that his rule became almost as oppressive as that of his worst predecessors. Conspiracies, the natural consequence, were framed, and his last hours were embittered by the discovery that the hopes of political amelioration which at one time he had himself fostered, had become transformed into a plot for his own assassination. Immediately after his death this conspiracy broke out. With a cool courage and a determined energy, which it is impossible not to admire, Nicholas crushed the revolt. He seemed possessed by some superhuman impulse, as he tore himself away from the Empress, half paralysed with fear, - advanced almost alone against the insurgent leaders, who were at the head of several thousand armed men, baffled by a look the design of an assassin who raised a poniard against him, and mastered the excited populace by the words, and by a gesture more expressive than words,-On your knees, my children!' They obeyed, and Nicholas reigned. Almost at the same moment the artillery, under the Grand Duke Michael, which had remained faithful to the Imperial cause, opened upon the misguided troops, and ten rounds strewed the vast square before the Admiralty with the
wounded and the dead. Few escaped from the massacre which the night terminated. We are assured by an eye-witness that 15,000 persons were slain and were thrown by torchlight into the Neva. The next morning the pavement was already washed clean, and every vestige of slaughter removed. But the hand of the Czar hung heavy on the survivors to the day of their death, and amongst them Prince Troubetskoi, who had been one of the promoters of the liberal and philanthropic schemes of Alexander, was despatched to Siberia for life. The Emperor had given and had received a lesson which was never weakened or effaced. The assassins of Paul had haunted his cradle; the pretended partisans of Constantine inaugurated his reign. Those bloody and terrible scenes stamped his character and his life. • What a commencement of my reign !' exclaimed he, as he rejoined the Empress; yet the reverses and the errors which closed his life in gloom and danger, left unshaken to the last the fabric of absolute power.
The Grand Duke Nicholas had been apparently excluded by his birth from the succession to the imperial throne. His elder brothers, Alexander (who was eighteen years his senior) and Constantine, preceded him in their rights to that inheritance, and there was no reason to suppose that a complete failure of their issue would leave the crown to the third son of Paul. In early life, and even in the great struggle between Russia and France, when Nicholas was emerging from boyhood, no man discerned in that reserved and taciturn young prince a future Czar, whose reign would fill more than a quarter of the 19th century. He had not the graceful manners and accomplishments of Alexander- he had not the fierce and brutal disposition of Constantine- and before he could ascend the throne of Russia, it was necessary that one of them should expire childless and the other be set aside. The causes which led to the abdication of Constantine are so curious and so little known, that at the risk of a digression from our main subject, we shall here pause to relate them.
The marriage of Nicholas with a daughter of King Frederie William III. of Prussia and the beautiful Queen Louise, to whose memory Alexander attached the fondest regard, was an event of no common importance to the imperial family of Russia and to the relations of that empire with the German courts. It was the first time that a Princess of the House of Hohenzollern consented to renounce her faith and to leave her country for the stern grandeur of the Court of St. Petersburg. Frederic the Great used to say that he did sufficient honour to the Muscovite Princes when he allowed them to marry the daughters of his generals in Oldenbourg and in Anhalt. No greater proof could be given by Frederic William III. of his devotion to Russia than the fact that he consented to the marriage of his eldest daughter with a Russian Grand Duke removed two steps from the succession to the throne. Amongst the inducements held out by Alexander to promote the marriage, he gave at that time a promise that he would endeavour to bring the Grand Duke Constantine to abdicate in favour of his younger brother. Some years, however, elapsed before this scheme could be realised. Constantine had obtained, in 1820, the Imperial permission to divorce his first wife, and to marry the lady afterwards known as the Princess Lowicz, but it was not on this occasion that he surrendered the Crown. In the course of the following year, 1821, disturbances broke out in many parts of Europe; Spain and Italy were convulsed with revolutionary movements ; the Holy Alliance became the preventive service of absolutism; but even in the heart of the Continent threats of assassination were common, and Russia herself did not escape the infection of secret societies which had been brought back by the armies from France. Constantine, who knew that he was scarcely less detested than his father had been before him, lived in constant dread of his father's fate, and had been heard to anticipate that the men who made away with Paul would not allow him to reign. Alexander worked adroitly on his brother's fears, and drawing a frightful picture of the state of Europe and the cares of the Empire, he informed his heir apparent that he had himself resolved to abdicate, and to hand over to his next successor the burden of a crown which he found intolerable. Constantine received this communication with the utmost alarm, and care was taken to heighten his anxiety by reports of the most menacing character. At length Alexander suggested that the only mode for his reluctant and terrified successor to avoid the impending perils of the throne, was for him to execute a secret abdication in favour of his brother Nicholas, which was deposited in the Imperial Archives at St. Petersburg on the 14th January, 1822. This act was only known to Alexander, to the Empress-Mother, and to Constantine himself; and as the reigning Emperor had no real intention of abdicating, the document remained secret until the moment for using it arrived. Upon the death of Alexander, Constantine was at first proclaimed Emperor by the Senate, and Nicholas himself took the oath of allegiance to the new sovereign, who was still at Warsaw. But within a few hours the Empress-Mother revealed the existence of the secret abdication: the instrument was found in the Archives, and Constantine was required to give effect to the engagement he had been led to enter into by very different motives. This circumstance caused the interregnum of twenty-five days, which seemed at one moment to place the crown in jeopardy; but the plot of Alexander and the Empress-Mother succeeded, Constantine was bound by his previous abdication, the Grand Duke Nicholas ascended the throne, and established the close connexion which has since existed between the imperial family of Russia and the Prussian Court.
We have reason to believe in the accuracy of this singular anecdote. It was related to our informant by General Wlodek, who was in attendance on the Grand Duke Constantine at the time these events occurred, and had the particulars from that prince. Moreover, the mere passion of Constantine for his Polish wife does not suffice to account for an abdication signed two years after his marriage.
These circumstances explain in some degree one of the chief characteristics of the policy of Nicholas, - his ascendancy over the German Courts, and the extraordinary influence he exerted over the whole of Germany. On one occasion he even proposed to join the Germanic Confederation by including the Baltic provinces of Russia within its limits, and all the great measures of his life were calculated to subdue the German States or to divide their power. He thought that his success in this respect had been already complete; and until it was complete he knew that it was impossible to prosecute his designs against the Ottoman Empire. But whilst he was steadily accumulating the military materials for that great enterprise in Sevastopol, he was slowly tightening the fetters of his German allies. Never was Europe in greater danger from the preponderance of a single man; but from that danger the union of England and France, and the independence of the young Emperor of Austria, had, even in the lifetime of Nicholas, delivered the world. In spite of all these far-fetched schemes and artful influences these family alliances and these onerous obligations—he died at enmity with Europe; he died without an ostensible ally, and under circumstances denoting the exhaustion and anguish of body and mind brought on by his own intemperate policy. He fell suddenly from the orbit of his greatness, when no human power seemed able to compose the differences of the world, or to hold out a hope of peace to the nations. As this astonishing intelligence circulated with the rapidity of lightning through the haunts of men, it was as if we had beheld one of the visible interpositions of Heaven, and that the justice of Omnipotence had set bounds to a will which ackuowledged no other restraint. The language of Hebrew prophecy,
and the eloquent complaint of the Roman poet on the abuses and the fallacies of human grandeur, were invoked to express the deep emotion caused by so remarkable an event; but neither in the mystic volumes of primeval history, nor on the sternest page dedicated to the guilt and fragility of man, is there a passage of
, more startling effect than those words, - the Emperor Nicholas is no more. Is not this great Babylon that I have built for
the house of the kingdom by the might of my power and for • the honour of my majesty ?
While his word was in the • king's mouth, there fell a voice from Heaven saying, “ Oh! • “king to thee it is spoken, Thy kingdom is departed from 6 - thee.”
We have seen that by the uniform course of Russian history, the nation lives, acts, and thinks in the person of one man —that he is the sole depository of its interests and its glory and that the ideal of autocratic authority is perfect in him. Of such an authority the Emperor Nicholas was by far the most complete example known in our age, or possibly in the whole range of modern history. He combined something of the minute personal despotism of Asiatic princes with the systematic political absolutism of a Philip II. or a Louis XIV. But those sovereigns lived in countries and at a time when many of the great institutions of mediaval civilisation still retained some power in the continent of Europe. Nicholas reigned with no such barrier to his will; and the only element of resistance he ever had to deal with lay in the fanaticism of his subjects, which to some extent he shared, and in the barbarous condition of a large portion of the population of the Empire. He owed this amazing power to the causes which we have endeavoured to trace in these pages, from the earlier history of the Russian Empire down to the present condition of the Russian people. Perhaps at an earlier or at a later period Nicholas himself would have failed in the task, but his faculties and his character were admirably adapted to the nation he had to govern and the work he had to perform. For in his internal administration and his intercourse with his subjects he laboured to raise and to develop the Russian character. He despised the French philosophy of Catherine and the French manners or German mysticism of Alexander. These exotics had no hold upon him. He made the Russian language the language of the state. persecuting character to the Russian Church, and waged a war of sanguinary intolerance against the Roman Catholic faith in Poland and the Protestant communities of the Baltic. He knew, but he endeavoured to hide from all eyes but his own, the deep-seated corruption and mendacity which are the canker
He gave a