Samuel M. (Samuel Mosheim) Smucker.

The life and reign of Nicholas the First, emperor of Russia online

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assembled in St. Isaac's Square, vowing greater
vengeance against the supposed authors of the


calamity. Nicholas, from his palace windows, ba-
lield the infuriated multitude approaching, and in-
stantly he entered a droschky, and dashed into the
midst of them. Standing up in the vehicle, he
addressed the crowd in a loud voice, whose power
and volume were well known : " Where are you
going, wretches?" he exclaimed. "You are about
to murder innocent men. Strike your own breasts
rather, and ask pardon of God for your sins, which
have drawn this scourge upon your heads. On
your knees !" he continued; and immediately the
whole assembly obeyed him and then dispersed.

In December, 1837, the "Winter Palace caught
fire. Nicholas was at the theatre, at the moment
the information was brought to him. He arose,
gave his arm to the empress, conducted her to her
carriage, and ordered the coachman to drive to the
Anitchkoff Palace. He then repaired to the scene
of the conflagration. A sea of fire illumined the
heavens, and enveloped the home of his cliildhood.
He immediately entered the palace, and beheld the
frightful dangers which surrounded the workmen,
who had received orders to remove a portion of the
furniture. They all obeyed the command of the
czar to escape from the falling building except four,
to whom had been intrusted a magnificent mirror.
These refused to leave the palace without rescuing


the precious article. Seeing their dangerous deter-
mination, Nicholas rushed forward in the midst of
the falling fragments, and by a blow with the hilt
of his sword, shattered the mirror to fragments.
Scarcely had he and the workmen passed the
threshold before the roof fell in with a terrible crash.
He had, at least, saved four lives, if he had wasted
myriads elsewhere, and in a less noble cause !

The conduct of Nicholas, as a father, and as a
husband, is indeed the highest merit of which he
can boast. He is universally admitted to have
been tender and affectionate toward the empress,
and gentle and kind toward his children ; though
always keeping them at a respectful and awe-struck
distance. As to his faithfulness as a husband, con-
tradictory rumours are in existence. There are
some persons who assert that, unlike every other
prince of the Romanoff family, and, indeed,
strikingly unlike princes in general, his nature
was too cold to be attracted or influenced in the
slightest degree, by female charms. One of the
most fascinating and beautiful ladies of his court
said of him: line pent pas tire leger; il vous dit
tout crfiment qu'il vous trouve jolie, mats rien de plus /*

* He cannot trifle : he tells you quite bluntly, that he finds you

handsome, but nothing more.



It has, however, been asserted by others, that
Nicholas possessed different mistresses. Some
scandal to that effect, has certainly had currency
in St. Petersburg ; and he has been also charged, in
several instances, with the unprincipled seduction
of married women, who were connected with the
court. But whatever may have been the truth in
regard to this subject, it is certain, that Nicholas
was not very much given to licentiousness ; and
that the indulgences, of which he may have been
guilty, were so carefully concealed by him from
the observation and scrutiny of his subjects, as to
leave the question of their existence a matter of
impenetrable obscurity. It is related, as illustra-
tive of his caution in this respect, that one -snowy
night, about midnight, issuing from the palace
incognito, he entered a sledge ; then drove to a re-
mote quarter of the city, and disappeared amid the
labyrinth of streets. He had ordered the istworsts-
ckick, or driver, to wait for him. As the gray
tints of morning began to illumine the east, he
returned to the sledge, and ordered the driver to
proceed. Arrived near the "Winter Palace, he
directed the man to stop. Nicholas dismounted
from the sledge; and turning to the driver, 'he
said, "Do you know me?" The man shrewdly
answered, "No." Nicholas, taking his purse from


his pocket, emptied its contents into the hands
of the driver, turned away, and re-entered the
palace. The adroit ignorance of the man had ob-
tained an ample and unexpected reward !

People will surmise, with facts like these before
them, that the conduct of the stern czar, with re-
ference to the fairer sex, was not, to say the least,
entirely immaculate !










WHATEVER may have been the peculiarities of
Russian society, manners, and government, during
the last thirty years, they can with justice be as-
cribed to the plastic and creative power of Nicho-
las; for had they not been precisely in harmony
with his wishes, we may readily believe, that his
resistless and arbitrary will would have altered and
moulded them perfectly to his liking.

Hence a very brief survey of the manners, so-
ciety, and government of Russia is indispensable
to a proper conception of the dominion exercised
by the czar, and of the nature of his reign.

Society in Russia may be correctly divided into


three classes. These are : first, the hereditary no-
bility; second, those who are in the employment
of the government ; and third, the peasantry, whe-
ther they are private serfs, serfs of the crown, or

The hereditary nobles are more polished than
they are civilized, exceedingly licentious in their
morals, and extravagant in their habits. Many
of them yearly become reduced, by their lavish
wastefulness, to poverty; and their property
usually passes into the possession of the imperial
family. Thus, as already stated, hundreds of
thousands of slaves had, from time to time, been
mortgaged to Nicholas by the nobles; and, being
usually unable to redeem their pledges, they fell
into the all-devouring vortex of the czar's pos-
session. This class, therefore, of the Russian nation
hate the autocrat. It was among this class, that
nearly all the conspirators, who undertook to over-
turn the throne at the accession of Nicholas, be-
longed. But they are a conquered race, and are,
therefore, harmlessly hostile to the omnific su-
premacy of the czar.

The second class, or the nobility of office, are a
peculiar race, and, at the same time, a very nume-
rous one. This class comprises all the govern-
ment officials throughout the empire, and they



constitute the various ranks of the great Order
of the Tchinn. The members of this order are
termed the Tchinnovnicks. It was founded by-
Peter the Great, and the order contains fourteen
classes. The first class of these is the highest,
and is said to number but one single member,
who is Marshal Paskiewitch. The fourteenth class
is the lowest, and the most numerous. It comprises
all the government clerks, clerks of the post-office,
and the post-men ; and the rank answers to that
of a sub-officer in the imperial army. All the
classes of the Tchinn correspond to as many mili-
tary grades, and the hierarchy of the army is
parallel with the ranks which prevail in the civil

This second class in the nation are despised by
the hereditary nobles ; against whom they retaliate
by every species of persecution. The emperor
alone advances the members of the Tchinn.
They are the most corrupt race of beings in the
world. Bribery is universal among them, even
to the very highest functionaries. They possess
vast power in the state ; because, by becoming
informers, they can bring the most eminent no-
bles under the suspicion of the government, by
the use of false and malicious representations.
And in a despotic government, to become sus-


pected is almost equivalent to being mined.
The Tchinn wears the imperial button; and that
single badge is a talisman of fearful power and
consequence, however base, or despicable, or con-
temptible the wretch may be, who succeeds in
securing the office which it designates. He is
: always addressed by the title vashe blagarodie, "your
nobility." He receives a salary of fifteen pounds
per annum ; but he makes up by bribery and ex-
tortion, an immense sum, on which he lives in
opulence and luxury. The illegal perquisites of
some of the higher orders of these officials are said
to amount to $100,000 per year.

The serfs constitute the third class of the nation,
and their condition is one of mingled misery and
prosperity. Some of the wealthiest men in St.
Petersburg are known to be serfs either private
serfs or freed-men. By the law, the serf, if he can
acquire property without defrauding his master of
his time and services, is permitted to do so ; and his
master cannot despoil him of his possessions, so
obtained. Those few serfs who are rich are the
favourites of benevolent masters, who take an in-
terest in them, and protect them in their acquisi-
tions. But the millions who are in bondage in
Russia, and who constitute the great mass of the


nation, are in a state of the most deplorable poverty
and wretchedness.

It has been asserted, that Nicholas made consider-
able exertions to free the serfs of his empire ; but
we have been able to discover little evidence of the
amelioration of their condition, through his instru-
mentality. It is a notorious fact, that three-fourths
of the eventualities, which release the serf from the
yoke of his private master, convey him directly into
the domain of the crown. There is no country in
the world, in which it may be said with equal truth,
as in Russia, that every man has his price. The
minister, the judge, the general, the priest, down
even to the public executioner, all have their
prices, in gold ; and in such a land it would be ab-
surd to expect, that so benevolent and disinterested
a project as the enfranchisement of the serfs could
ever be seriously proposed and executed. The
serfs of the Russian Empire will doubtless re-
main as they are, either until the end of time, or
until the growing light and freedom of these latter
ages, shall at length overturn a despotism even
as gigantic and rockbuilt, as is that of the czars of

In regard to the organization of the government,
throughout the empire, some idea of its arrange-
ment may be derived from the following details,


which are obtained from the most authentic works
on the subject.*

Though, strictly speaking, there is but one author-
ity, that of the emperor, in Russia, yet he employs
a very complicated machinery as the instrument of
his purposes. The three principal councils of the
empire are 1. The Council of the Empire ; 2. The
Holy Synod ; 3. The Directing Senate.

The Council of the Empire was established by
Alexander I. in 1810, and its functions are, to exa-
mine the administrative measures relating to the
home policy submitted to it by the emperor. It
consists of all the imperial princes, and of states-
men, generals, and admirals who are appointed by
the sovereign. Its complement of members is
forty. This council is divided into five depart-
ments. These refer 1. To Laws; 2. The Army
and Navy; 3. Civil and Ecclesiastical Affairs; 4.
Public Economy and Commerce ; 5. Poland. The
members of the council meet in common or in de-
partments, according to the subject to be discussed.
When it meets in common, the emperor presides ;
when it meets apart, a president is appointed.

The Holy Synod attends to all ecclesiastical affairs.

* The following details respecting the organization of the czar's
government, are derived from the works of Golovin and Morrell,
with an occasional fact from the Marquis de Custine.


It only depends on the emperor, who is represented
by an attorney. This attorney was recently a ca-
valry officer, General Protasoff. The number of its
members is not determined, but they must all be
ecclesiastics. It generally consists of a metropolitan,
three archbishops, one bishop, the confessor of the
emperor, an archimandrid, the general almoner of
the army and navy, and a protopope. One section
of the synod remains at Moscow ; but capital cases
are all decided at St. Petersburg.

The Directing Senate, was founded in 1711 by
Peter the Great. It contains about one hundred
members, who are chosen by the emperor from the
three first classes of the state. The ministers have
a right to four members in it, as also generals of
the army when at St. Petersburg.

The Directing Senate is the highest legislative
authority in the state ; but the emperor can confirm
or annul its decisions. It watches ovef the execu-
tion of the imperial mandates. It answers the pur-
pose of a court of final appeal in civil and criminal
matters. It scrutinizes the expenditures of the
state, and suggests measures for the relief of the
p&ople. It has eleven departments, six at St. Peters-
burg, three at Moscow, and two at Warsaw. The
emperor is its president, and can annul all its pro-
ceedings. The emperor is as absolute now, as in


the times of Ivan the Terrible. All the guarantee
which the privileges of the nation possess, is the
pleasure of the monarch, who may grant and abro-
gate whatever he pleases. In order to prevent the
youth of the empire from studying in the univer-
sities of Europe, Nicholas promulgated a ukase
which declared all who did so incapable of after-
ward holding office under his government.

After these councils there are the Committees of
Ministers, presided over by the emperor. Alexan-
der I. created ministries independent of each other,
with no other connecting link than the emperor.
The ministries are nine in number: the Imperial
Household; the Interior or Home Department;
Foreign Affairs ; War ; the Navy ; the Army ; Edu-
cation ; Finance ; Justice. There are also three
general Directions : the Imperial Post ; the High-
ways; the Board of Control, for auditing all the
expenses of the empire.

On the ministry of Foreign Affairs depend the
envoys to foreign countries, who are divided into
three classes : three ambassadors of the first class
are at Vienna, Paris, and London ; seventeen mi-,
lusters plenipotentiary are at Berlin, Stockholm,
Copenhagen, the Hague, Brussels, Lisbon, Turin,
Rome, Naples, Constantinople, Munich, Dresden,
Stuttgard, Frankfort, Washington, Rio Janeiro, and


Teheran; seven Charges-d'Affaires are in Switzer-
land, Carlsruhe, Florence, Weimar, Hamburg,
Athens, and Lucca. There are also many consuls-
general and consuls residing at points of minor

Passing on to the internal government of the
empire, we find in every provincial capital a cham-
ber of regency, which attends to matters of general
administration. The civil governor is the presi-
dent. The chamber is composed of four counsel-
lors, named by the czar. Every district has its tri-
bunal of police, which does not possess any judicial
authority. It has to attend to inquiries into political
and criminal affairs. The principal agents of the
government in the provinces are the governor-
general and the local governors. They inflict the
penalties of all criminal offences.

There is also in each town a common municipal
council, and a council of six, presided over by the
chief of the burghers. They are renewed every
three years. The first of these attends to the com-
mercial interests, and to the good order of the
parish. The other keeps in repair the buildings,
and superintends the finances of the parish. Each
town has also a commandant, named by the govern-
ment. Each province has a chamber of finance,
composed of a president and several counsellors,


-\vlio superintend the manufactures, the exports, and
imports. ,

The institutions connected with state credit are
four in number: the Commission for liquidating
the national debt ; the Bank for the issue of paper
money ; the Loan Bank, to make advances from the
public funds; the Commercial Bank, making dis-
count and advancing money on goods.

In judicial matters, each province has a Civil
Chamber and a Criminal Chamber. An attorney,
dependent on the Minister of Justice, resides in
each province, to represent the government. There
are three degrees in the Russian courts of law : the
District Court; the Government Court; the Depart-
ments of the Senate. In all judicial proceedings,
however, there are seven jurisdictions to which
appeals may be successively made : the Attorney-
General of the Departments of the Senate; the
Commission of Petitions, to refer matters to the
General Assembly of the Senate; the Assembly;
the Minister of Justice ; the Commission to transfer
affairs to the Council of the Empire ; the Depart-
ment of the Council of the Empire ; the emperor
himself, before whom every litigation may be
brought as its final arbiter, without the possibility
of appeal.

Having thus detailed the machinery of the Rus-



sian government, as administered by Nicholas, let
us glance at the next great department .of the na-
tional fabric, the Greek Church, as established by
law throughout the empire.*

The emperor is the acknowledged head of the
Russian church. The influence of the Patriarchs
of Constantinople has always been slight in Russia.
After the fall of Constantinople, the Patriarchs
passed under Turkish and Mohammedan control,
which, however, was scarcely more injurious than
that of the Russian autocrat would have been.
Under tyrants like Ivan IV. the authority of the
Patriarchs which were afterward appointed in
Russia, became powerless.

Golovin says : "I know the Russian clergy, and I
assert that their authority is not at all preferable to
that of the czar. Peter I. abolished the oflice of
Patriarch in Russia, and substituted the Holy Synod
in its place. Theoretically, this synod is a laudable
institution ; but its usefulness is greatly impaired
by the blind obedience which it renders to the
orders of the czar. The Holy Synod judges of the
changes suitable to be introduced into the adminis-
tration of the cle'rgy ; but its real power is limited

* The following details in reference to the Greek Church, as esta-
blished in Russia, are derived from Morell, Golovin, and de Custine,
writers referred to in a previous note.


to signing the orders that emanate from the attor-
ney of the emperor, General Protosoff. The finan-
cial matters of the convents are the only questions
on which the synod can deliberate freely; and it
is besieged with innumerable complaints on this

There are three degrees of jurisdiction in the
Russian church : 1. The Holy Synod ; 2. The Con-
sistory; 3. The Prastenie or Goubernium. The
priesthood is divided into two sections, the regular
and the secular priests. The Consistory is an ad-
ministrative and judiciary court, but the bishop
exercises absolute control over it. It is said that
indulgence, moderation, and even justice, are un-
known in this court ; and that the accused priests
generally prefer to be judged by the civil courts.

The Prastenie exists in most district towns. The
superior of the most important convent in the dis-
trict is usually at its head. Archpriests, and some
ordinary priests, are appointed to sit in these bodies.
Infractions of discipline are judged and punished
in them. It is only in cases of thefts committed
by members of the superior clergy, that the bishop
refers the matter to the Holy Synod. Strange as
it may appear, these cases are by no means rare.
Ecclesiastical delinquencies among the priests are
judged by the ecclesiastical courts, and civil delin-



(juencies among them are judged by the civil courts.
"When priests are thus tried and convicted, the
healthy and strong men are sent into the army, the
others, to the colonies or manufactures. Despotism
is the basis of ecclesiastical, as well as of civil,
authority in Russia. Each bishop is a despot in his
diocese ; each priest is a petty tyrant in his parish.

Archbishops, metropolitans, and bishops, are ap-
pointed by the emperor, from the candidates pre-
sented by the synod. The bishop, in his turn,
appoints the superiors of convents, protopriests, and
other subordinates, with the confirmation of the
Holy Synod. All the higher ecclesiastical orders
are forbidden to marry ; the lower orders of priests
may marry once. Hence the proverb, "Happy as a
priest's wife," from the good care the priests take
of their consorts. It is forbidden even to the lower
clergy to marry after ordination; hence it is the
usual custom for them to marry immediately before
that ceremony is performed.

The Russian Greek church condemns the use of
images ; yet its members pay idolatrous homage to
relics and religious paintings. The nobles, as well
as the serfs, prostrate themselves before the most
wretched daubs, and pray to them with devout fervor.
Some of these vile pictures possess a widely-spread
reputation for working miracles. The virgins of


Kasan, of Smolensk, and of Sikhwen, are cele-
brated for their achievements in this benevolent
way. As may well be supposed, the pious frauds
perpetrated in connection with these pictures, upon
the deluded devotees, are of the most outrageous
and disgusting description. Once a priest conceived
the idea of planing away the reverse of a picture
painted on wood, leaving the wood so thin at a cer-
tain point, that the flame of a lighted candle was
visible through it from the rear. This was pro-
claimed as a vast miracle, and a whole province
was thrown into excitement in reference to it. 2To
trade in relics is openly permitted, though a frag-
ment of a saint's garment, or his great toe, will
command a handsome price !

The churches of the Greek faith very much re-
semble Jewish synagogues in their structure, being
divided into three parts the sanctuary, the parvise
or space in front of the sanctuary, and the nave.
The sanctuary contains the tabernacle over the
altar. The gospel, the cross, and the chalices, to-
gether with the missal, which is not a consecrated
book, remain upon the altar. The sanctuary is
separated from the nave by the royal gate, with two
lateral doors and a suspended curtain. A platform,
raised slightly above the body of the church, called
the ambon, serves as a pulpit and a reading-de^k.



From it, and not from the altar, the communion is
administered. A profusion of tapers is used in the
services of the Russian church, and the Domine
Salrum fac Eegem is eternally repeated through the
celebration of the mass.

Some choirs in the Russian churches are excellent;
but the service is usually recited in a mumbling
tone, and in a slovenly manner. The Miserere nobis
is also continually repeated; and in one instance it
occurs forty times in succession. A certain profane
priest on one occasion undertook to shorten the in-
fliction by saying, " Lord ! save us forty times !"

The Russian service is performed in the old
Slavonic language, which is, in a great measure, a
dead language to modern worshippers. There are
fifteen communion loaves, shaped like balls, one
joined to the other. One is the loaf of Christ, two
of the Virgin Mary, three of the saints, four of the
living, and five of the dead. These unfortunate
loaves are tortured and mutilated in every possible
manner. Pieces pulled from them go through va-
rious destinations in the progress of the communion

Baptism is performed with warmed water, and
never with cold. The priest expels the devil from it,
by blowing over it, or at it, three times, and making
the sign of the, cross the same number of times. At


burials, the dead are made to hold a wax taper in
their hands. All heretics are cursed with singular
earnestness and bitterness.

The moral condition of the Russian clergy, is a

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Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Mosheim) SmuckerThe life and reign of Nicholas the First, emperor of Russia → online text (page 10 of 23)