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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 acknowledged 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 ""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 medieval 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. He gave a 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
worms of the Empire. For he also had his notions of reform: from political reformers he turned away in disgust, considering them both conspirators and, as Napoleon called them, ideologists; but in the cause of social reform, as he understood it, he was not inactive. The confessions of the conspirators against his brother, and the very existence of the conspiracy, convinced him that there must be much that was wrong in the working of the statemachine; he looked, and he found every wheel out of order. There was corruption, injustice, rottenness, everywhere: the rule was, that every man in office should use his power to oppress those below him, and to cheat the government above him; the exception was, to cease this oppression and this cheating during the few moments that the eye of the Emperor could rest upon him. Two memorable internal improvements will mark his reign. We have heard it estimated that whereas when Nicholas became Emperor there were but ten millions of free men in his empire, these ten millions have now become twenty,-partly, doubtless, by natural increase of population, partly by conquest, but in great part from the emancipating efforts of the imperial government. Another work he has performed which may hand his name down to the reverence of Russians of after ages, despite the burdens and disgrace which his obstinacy and his ambition have entailed upon them. Before his time, Russia had no code of laws, only a collection of conflicting ukases, some of them not even written. After years of energetic labour, he obtained for her a code; but though he succeeded in giving the laws, he failed in causing them to be kept. He also, like his brother, discovered how mighty is the power of an autocrat for evil, how little for good. When he gave way to a gust of passion, his fault entailed misery on Europe for years. When he strove to perform an act of beneficence, it often became a deception or a fraud.* If he spoke a few words of sympathy to some serfs,
*On the occasion of one of his last visits to Berlin, the Emperor wished to present a painter, who was in the employment of the Royal family, with a watch. A watch was offered to the artist by His Majesty's Chamberlain, but it corresponded so ill with the lofty reputation of the Imperial donor, that the painter ventured to remark to a friend that it was not a very Imperial gift. The observation was repeated to the Czar, and it was perceived that the officer charged with the execution of His Majesty's intention had received the value of a high-priced watch from the Treasurer to his Household, sent a worthless watch to the painter, and kept the difference for himself. The Czar frowned when this story came to his knowledge: then with a look in which sadness and disgust were more visible than anger, he took his own watch from his pocket, and said, 'Give this one to the
they replied by massacring their masters; he decreed a levy of these same serfs, and they went like sheep to the slaughter. If he made a mistake, millions suffered; if he devised a wise plan, almost any rogue in his service might mar it. In the few parting sentences said to have been addressed by the late Czar from his death-bed to the nation he had governed so long, we read the mournful confession of the weakness of absolutism:-' I ' regret that the condition of all classes of my subjects has not 'been more effectually improved; but I had not the power to 'do more.'
It would seem, indeed, as if nature avenged herself upon this monstrous attempt of one man to gather into himself the wills of so many millions of his fellow-men, by making it fearfully easy for him to magnify million-fold his vices and his follies, while he is less able to make his virtues or his wisdom felt throughout his country, than the private citizen of a free commonwealth. Nay more, his virtues become his vices; that endurance, and courage and perseverance, which enabled him to do more at home than any Czar had done before, also induced him to adhere to enterprises of aggression in spite of opposition and defeat, to the dishonour of his name, -to the death or misery of millions who were given to him to care for, to the incalculable injury of his country and of the world.
Under circumstances of unexampled interest to Russia and to Europe a new reign commences, and this mighty power of the Autocrat of the North passes into the hands of another and a younger man. Of the personal character of Alexander II. little is known with certainty even by his own subjects, for the test of a capacity for empire is only to be found in the exercise of power. In earlier life, his father has been heard to say that the Cesarewitch was not fit to govern Russians from the mildness of his disposition and the moderation of his views; and the character of the present Grand Duke Constantine is more congenial to that of the Emperor Nicholas. But mildness and moderation do not always mean weakness, even in Russia; and the part which the Cesarewitch had taken in public affairs during his father's lifetime had already deservedly raised his reputation. He has succeeded to the throne without the slightest impediment, and no Czar ever assumed the reins of government with a more undisputed and absolute power. Even the perils which surround his dominions, and the sacrifices im
painter, and for the rest say nothing about it, if you please.' The offender was one of the most confidential attendants on his own person!