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prosaic, practical House of Commons overheated enthusiasm cools, the retreat stand aghast, and the country has been begins, the imprudence of neglecting to periodically subjected to “revolutions secure firmly and methodically the posifrom above" such as are inconceivable tions gained becomes apparent, and the among a people accustomed to self-gov- great shadowy conquest collapses into ernment.
the most modest of acquisitions. This I have no intention of discussing here has been the history of the campaign in the various advantages and disadvan Asia Minor, and it has likewise been the tages of these two systems of government, political history of Russia since the time but I wish to point out one practical re- of Peter the Great-a fact which may be sult which is closely connected with the recommended to the consideration of subject of the present paper. In Eng- those who imagine that impulsiveness land the reform movement has been slow and spasmodic enthusiasm can flourish but steady, and where reformers have only in southern, climes. In the opening gained a new position they have general- chapter of Macaulay's history, it will be ly been able to hold it, for the simple remembered, there is an eloquent pasreason that a very large section of the sage in which national progress is compeople has been ready to support them. pared to the advancing tide. First the In Russia, on the contrary, the advance wave advances, and then it recedes, but has been rapid and spasmodic. It is only in order to gain new force to adeasy, of course, to make any number of vance further than before. To use this grand schemes on paper, and in a coun- metaphor, I should say that in a country try where an uncontrolled autocrat rules like ours the waves are mere ripples. If over a politically passive population it we have what may be termed periods of is not difficult to transform any bit of Liberal enthusiasm and periods of Con paper into a law; but it is a very diffi- servative reaction, the enthusiasm does cult thing, in Russia as elsewhere, to not drive us very far forward, and the make a grand legislative scheme work Conservatism simply stops us without well in real life among a people unpre- perceptibly pulling us back. In counpared for it. Unforeseen practical diffi- tries like Russia, on the contrary, the culties arise, unknown disturbing forces' tide advances in great rolling, foamare called into existence, the instruments crested waves, and the recoil is, of do not effect what was expected of them course, in proportion to the impulse. It -in a word, the plausible programme, is in these moments of recoil that Secret which looked so well on paper, cannot Societies are likely to appear. be carried out, and the consequent des- I say likely, because other conditions pondency is in proportion to the warmth are also requisite. If a people is in a of the preceding inordinate expectations. state of complete political passivity and Thus a period of violent reform is pretty indifference, there may be conspiracies sure to be succeeded by a period of among those who surround the throne, equally violent reaction.
but there cannot be secret societies in The history of the present campaign the proper sense of the term. It is only in Asia Minor has so far illustrated well when a certain portion of the public, exthe Russian character and habitual mode cluded from political influence, have imof action. First, great enthusiasm, inor bibed political aspirations which they are dinate expectations, and a haughty con- prevented from expressing freely, that tempt for difficulties; next, a rapid ad- the formation of secret societies becomes vance, obstacles surmounted with won- possible. This is well illustrated in the derful facility, difficult positions stormed history of Russia. Since the end of the with reckless, dashing gallantry; and as seventeenth century there have been a result of all this, overweening confi- four great reforming epochs, associated dence whispering to them that, as one respectively with the names of Peter the of their proverbs graphically and quaint- Great, Catherine II., Alexander I., and ly puts it, “if they tried to ford the Alexander II. Each of these violent ocean, the waters would not rise higher advances was succeeded by a correthan their knees.” Then comes a check, sponding recuil, but the first two proobstacles are met which no amount of duced no secret societies, because the dash and gallantry can surmount, the reform enthusiasm which produced them was confined to the rulers. There was to the ranks of private life, where he no outside public sharing the enthu- would enjoy, without the cares and resiasm, and excluded from the sobering sponsibilities of office, the love and veninfluence which experience and the pos- eration of his emancipated countrymen. session of authority naturally generate. These youthful dreams, I need scarceAll who moved forward in the impulsion ly say, were not destined to be realised. retreated voluntarily in the recoil, and Alexander was not of the stuff of which when the Emperor Paul, Catherine's son great reformers are made. His policy and successor, carried his reactionary did not proceed from vigorous natural policy ad absurdum, he was opposed, instincts, as in the case of Peter the not by secret societies, but merely by a Great, nor from keen political sagacity, little band of conspirators--men belong- as in the case of Catherine II. His poliing to the Court—who removed him by tical aspirations were the result of eduassassination. The two more recent cation on a weak impressionable charmovements had a very different charac- acier, and, as such, could ill bear the ter, and of them I must speak more in rough handling of real life. He had detail. Whilst resembling each other in been taught to believe that a sovereign their origin, they are very different in had merely to be virtuous, well-intentheir character and aim, and the points tioned, and animated with the liberal of similarity and contrast were reflected spirit of the time, in order to render his in the secret societies which they pro- people prosperous and happy. But graduced. Let us glance first at those in dually he discovered how different real the time of Alexander I.
life is from theory. By bitter experience In 1801, Alexander I. ascended the he learned that high aims, liberal conthrone after the violently repressive victions, and autocratic power do not reign of his father Paul, who had a fanati- suffice to make a successful reformer. cal hatred of everything which had the Looking back over a reign of more than least odor of liberalism. Alexander twenty years, he could not but feel that presented in almost every respect a
he had realised few of his youthful aspimarked contrast to his father. He had rations, and that his humanitarianism been trained under the eyes of the phi- and liberalism had proved a mistake. losophic Catherine II. by a Swiss tutor In the army he saw insubordination and called Laharpe, a man of high moral disaffection; in the civil administration character and imbued with the liberal- venality, theft, and abuses of every kind. ism then in fashion. Under the influ- “ These fainéants,” he said, speaking of ence of this teacher he had, at the age of the officials, “would steal my ships of nineteen, in spite of the reactionary spirit war if they had the chance, and if they that was then dominant at Court, learn- could draw my teeth without my noticed to hate despotism in all its forms, to ing it, I should have been long since withlove liberty as something to which every out a tooth in my head.” In his foreign human being had an inalienable right, policy he felt that he had been equally and even to rejoice at the success of the unsuccessful. The sovereigns whom he French Revolution ! He wished to see had saved in the hour of danger showed republics established everywhere, and themselves ungrateful, and the nations. regarded that form of government as the whom he had helped to free from the only one consistent with the rights of Napoleonic yoke now forgot their liberainan. For the first time in her history, tor and regarded him-not altogether Russia received as her legitimate, auto- without reason-with profound distrust. cratic Tsar, a young sentimental Repub. Even many of his own subjects, on aclican!
count of his Polish schemes and his reAs soon as this young Republican suc- fusal to aid the Greeks against the Turks, ceeded to the throne, he determined to regarded him as almost a traitor to his. put his philosophical principles into prac- country and to the national faith. As is tice on a grand scale. A boundless field often the case with ambitious natures of activity opened itself up to his imagi- who fail and have not the moral energy nation. He would make his subjects to begin anew, he sought consolation in free, civilised, prosperous, and happy, religious contemplation and mysticism and would then retire like Washington a world in which no energy is required, and in which there is no possibility of decidedly reactionary spirit of the Govdisappointment. Having lost his faith' ernment and the Emperor, drove these in Liberalism, he adopted the most en- men first into extra-legal and then into ergetic repressive measures, and sought positively illegal means of realising their to root out abuses by severe punish- reforming aspirations. At that time the ments. In a word, the young enthusias- most approved means of producing politic sentimental republican, who at first tical and social reform were secret politook Washington as his model, became in tical societies. So it was in Germany, the later years of his reign a victim to in France, in Italy, in Spain, and in religious melancholy and a devoted ad- Greece, and the young Russians naturalherent of Metternich,
ly followed the prevailing fashion. The events which produced this re- The first Russian secret society was markable change in the Emperor had a formed about the year 1816, under the title very different effect on a large section of "the Union of Salvation,” and was of the young noblesse. The study of composed chiefly of officers of the Guards, French literature, and all those intellec- Its professed aim was to struggle for the tual influences which had made him first common weal, to aid in carrying out all a sentimental Republican and then a beneficial measures of the Government believer in constitutional monarchy, had and all useful private undertakings, and affected them in a similar way, and their to oppose evil of every kind-especially enthusiasm was not, as in his case, coun- the malpractices of the officials. In teracted by the sobering influence of a 1818 it was reorganised on the model of responsible position. During the wars the German Tugendbund, and received with Napoleon, and the subsequent oc- the new name of “Union for Public cupation of France by the Allies, they Welfare.” Under this new form it probecame to some extent acquainted with posed to itself—besides the vague aim the social and political life of Western of assisting the Government in all beneEurope, and with the opinions and as- ficial measures-certain definite objects, pirations of the various political parties. the principal of which was the obtaining On returning home they were struck with of representative institutions. In the the contrast, and their excited patriotic years 1819 and 1820 its members rapidfeelings led them to seek the causes of ly increased, till nearly all the young this difference. Much that had former- nobles who had any pretensions to being ly seemed to them in the nature of civilised” and “liberal ” were in more things, now appeared barbarous and or less intimate relations with it. Though disgraceful for a nation that professed to it was in form and organization an illicit be civilised. The general air of pover- secret society, it had little or nothing of ty, the apathy and ignorance of the peo- the nature of a conspiracy, and the great ple, the corruption of the administra- majority of the members had certainly rion, the venality of the law-courts, the no illicit designs. They still believed in brutality of the police, the frivolity of the Emperor's liberal sympathies and inSt. Petersburg life, the want of energy tentions, and on more than one occasion in all classes of the nation—these, and a it was proposed to inform his Majesty of thousand little facts which had hitherto the aims and intentions of the society, passed unnoticed, made upon them now and to petition him to aid them in their a painful impression. What irritated work. them most of all was the talk of the Whilst the great majority of the memelderly men, who praised all that was
thus entirely innocent of old and condemned every attempt at re- treasonable or revolutionary designs-inform as a dangerous innovation. They dulging in impracticable, idealistic senfelt, as one of them afterwards said, that timentalism, and trusting to moral rather they had got a century ahead of their than political propaganda for bringing fellow-countrymen.
about the national regeneration,-there It is always a very dangerous thing was a small minority animated with a for a little group of people to get a cen- very different spirit, and this minority tury ahead of their contemporaries, and greatly increased when it became eviso it proved in this instance. The dent that the Emperor was adopting the apathy of those around them, and the policy of Metternich. Many came to see that they had nothing to hope from had no effect, and he was shot down by voluntary concessions on the part of his one of the officers. The two MetropoliMajesty, and concluded that the auto- tans made a similar attempt, but with cratic power must be abolished. Some as little success. At last, when all atwere in favor of constitutional monarchy, tempts at persuasion proved fruitless, the but this idea met with little favor. artillery fired a few round of grape-shot French writers had proved that all forms and cleared the square. A similar atof government in which the supreme tempt in one of the southern provinces power is hereditary must lead to despot- proved equally unsuccessful. The whole ism, whilst republican institutions pre- thing collapsed without any serious serve political liberty and insure a won- effort. A hundred and twenty-one offiderfully rapid development of the na- cers were tried for high treason. Of tional resources, all which was supposed these, five were condemned to the galto have been proved to demonstration lows and executed, and the others were by the history of Greece and Rome in transported to Siberia. Here ends the ancient times, and more recently by the first chapter in the history of Russian history of the United States.
secret societies. These differences of opinion caused the society to be broken up, and the The Emperor Nicholas was very difmore violent members formed a new so- ferent from his sentimental brother. At ciety, which took for its principle of ac- no period of his life did he ever show tion the French saying of its president even a Platonic affection for liberty in Pestel : "Les demi-mesures ne valent any form. He put his faith in military rien ; il faut faire maison nette !" What discipline-especially in drill—and conPestel understood by these words was to sidered it one of the chief duties of a raise a military insurrection, to anni- Tsar to stamp out what the Liberals hilate the Imperial Family, and to form a called “the spirit of the time." To provisional government under his own effect this, he adopted and pushed to its Presidency, after which the Empire extreme limit the Metternich system of would be transformed into a federation police supervision and repression, and of semi-independent provinces, resem- for
for a time the system served its purbling the United States of America.
pose. During his reign tranquillity When Alexander died, and Nicholas reigned in Russia. The administration succeeded in 1825, an attempt was made was incredibly corrupt, but there were to carry out the programme, but it no public expressions of disloyalty or failed most signally. On the morning liberalism-two words which were in when the oath of allegiance was to be his Majesty's mind synonymous and administered to the troops in St. Peters- no revolutionary movements even in the burg, several companies refused, and stormy times of 48. The police considcollected in the Senate Square. So far ered it necessary occasionally to send a the conspirators were successful, but few “restless" 'people to Siberia, and here their success ended. They had once they discovered,malicious ill-inrashly crossed the Rubicon without mak- tentioned people said invented-a poliing any plans for further action. The tical conspiracy; but there was nothing soldiers, deceived as to the point at that could be called, even in elastic offiissue, were ready to fight, but they had cial language, a secret society. Had no leader. The command was hastily Nicholas died in 1852, his last moments offered to several officers in succession, might have been comforted by the conand successively declined. Every one viction that he had fulfilled the whole commanded and no one obeyed. All duty of an autocrat, and that the system waited for something, they knew not he loved so well had proved a brilliant what, and in the meantime the troops success. That illusion was rudely diswhich had taken the oath were being pelled by the Crimean War. formed in front of them, under the com- In the history of England and France mand of Nicholas himself.' The Gov- that war is but an episode of second-rate ernor-General of St. Petersburg rode in importance; for Russia it was an event amongst the mutineers, and exhorted of the first magnitude, for it was the dithem return to their duty, but his words rect cause, as I have elsewhere explained, of all those great reforms which have ered that more land and less taxation made the present reign one of the most should have been given to the peasantimportant epochs of Russian history. ry, and after due consideration arrived
În many respects the present reign at the conviction that the best way to resembles that of Alexander I. Both mend matters was to write and disseminopen with a violent outburst of reform ate the most_terrifically seditious proenthusiasm, and in both cases the Em- clamations. Then there were the disorperor puts himself at the head of the re- ders in the universities, and above all there form movement. For a time all goes were the Nihilists. What are the Niwell. Great reforms are conceived and hilists ? That is a question which I partly executed, and many sanguine peo- have often put to men who ought to be ple believe that a national millennium is competent authorities, and I have never at hand. But gradually the enthusiasm received a satisfactory explanation, but cools under the influence of chilly expe- there is no difficulty in describing the rience. The chilling process naturally popular conception of them. According takes place more rapidly among those to popular opinion they were a band of in authority. The new institutions do fanatical young men and women-many not work nearly so well in reality as on of them medical students—who had depaper, and new forces appear which do termined to turn the world upside down not readily submit to control. The and to introduce “a new kind of social Government think it well to apply the order," founded on the most advanced curb, first in an intermittent, irritating principles, communistic and otherwise. way, and then in a more decided, sys- They had discovered that the two chief tematic fashion. This is naturally re- fountains of crime and human misery, sented by the enthusiastic, sanguine peo- viz. Iust and the desire of gain, might be ple, and the cry is raised that the reac- hermetically sealed by abolishing the obtion has set in. It is no longer possible, solete institutions of marriage and prithey say, to trust to the Government for vate property. When society would be the realisation of the expected millen- so organized that all the natural instincts nium. If it is to be realised, extra-legal of human nature would find complete means must be employed. In a word, and untrammelled satisfaction, there the stage is again prepared for the en- would be no inducement to commit trance of secret political societies. crime. That could not of course be
In the present reign the cooling pro- effected instantaneously, but something cess commenced almost as soon as the might be done at once. The adherents emancipation law began to be put in exe- of the new doctrines accordingly recution in 1861. Serf-emancipation- versed the traditional order of things in the conferring of liberty and civic rights the matter of coiffure : the males allowon forty millions of human beings--is ed their hair to grow long, and the of course a grand thing of which a na- female adepts cut their hair short, addtion should be proud, and with which ing occasionally the additional badge of every patriotic man with any pretensions blue spectacles. Their appearance nato being civilised and liberal must warm- turally shocked the aesthetic feelings of ly sympathise; but when this great event ordinary people, but to this they did not accidentally deprives you of all power object. They had raised themselves over one-half of your estate, and you above the level of popular notions, were find that your serfs are dissatisfied be- indifferent to so-called public opinion, cause they do not get the whole of it, despised Philistine respectability, and you will probably feel-especially if rather liked to scandalise people with your liberalism and patriotism be of the antiquated prejudices. Besides this, vaporing, rhetorical type—that really they had a special grudge against the worliberalism may be pushed a little too far. ship of æsthetic culture. Professing exSo, at least, thought many of the Russian treme utilitarianism, they explained that proprietors. On the other hand certain the shoemaker who practises his craft is youths, not amenable to sobering influ- in the true sense a greater man than a ences, held that the Emancipation law Shakspeare or a Goethe, because humanand the Government in general were not ity has more need of shoes than poetry. nearly liberal enough. These consid- Strange to say, the opera found favor in