Samuel M. (Samuel Mosheim) Smucker.

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

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existence in support of this assertion.

By his orders, the letters of all foreigners, re-
siding in Russia, were invariably opened by the
police, and their contents were reported to him, if
important. Some years since, a French officer
of distinction visited St. Petersburg. He had
been in the capital about two weeks, going
everywhere and seeing every thing, when, one
morning, a police officer suddenly entered his
apartment, and asked if he had the honour of
addressing Monsieur V. ? Being answered in the
affirmative, the officer continued : " The Emperor
of Russia, having learned indirectly that you
carry on an active correspondence with your re-
lations in Paris, in which you express, rather
freely, your unfavourable opinion of affairs in


Russia, charges me to inform you, that as your
letters might be lost upon the road, he thinks it
more prudent for you to take them yourself.
Here are your letters; a carriage and horses
await you at the door. In two hours you will
have your trunks packed, and we will set out."

The Frenchman, perceiving the ironical tone of
the officer, instantly, and with great presence of
mind, imitated it, and said, "His majesty only
anticipates my own wishes. I was on the point
of leaving his dominions ; my only regret will be,
that I shall leave without having had the pleasure
of seeing the czar." "For that matter," continued
the officer, " while we are preparing your trunks, I
will send to learn his majesty's orders." He in-
stantly wrote a note to the palace, and sent it by a
Cossack in attendance. In half an hour the Cos-
sack returned. The czar had written two lines at
the bottom of the note : " Granted ; to-morrow at
ten, in the Michael Riding School." On the mor-
row, the police officer returned with a carriage ; the
baggage was stowed away, and the Frenchman and
officer entered. The carriage was driven to the
riding-school. There the Frenchman saw the czar
inspecting a regiment of infantry. The review
being ended, the former was rapidly driven from
the capital to the frontier; and there deposited in



the middle of the road, together with his baggage,
at one o'clock in the morning, in the coldest wea-
ther of winter. The police officer then said, that his
Russian majesty had only undertaken the responsi-
bility of conveying Mons. V. to the frontiers of his
own dominions ; the King of Prussia must now see
that Mons. V. was conveyed farther toward Paris !
The Russian officer immediately drove off, and re-
turned to St. Petersburg, leaving the Frenchman
in his disagreeable position. The latter might, in
truth, have vehemently congratulated himself, that
he had escaped with so lenient a punishment, for
the rash utterance of his republican sentiments, in
the dominions of the despotic czar.









THERE are some writers who assert, that Nicho-
las I. was the ablest sovereign who has wielded the
sceptre of the czars since the reign of Peter the
Great. This opinion is absurd; because it must
not be forgotten that the mighty and comprehen-
sive genius of Catherine II. occupied and filled that
dizzy and dangerous eminence, with a degree of
success and triumph which far surpass any thing of
which Nicholas, in his most presumptuous mood,
could ever boast.

Nevertheless, Nicholas was a man of signal
ability, in one peculiar department of the science
of government, though that department is by no
means the highest or the most difficult. His ad-
ministrative talents were very great ; and the plain,
clear, and sagacious common-sense which he pos-


sessed, combined with his unyielding pertinacity,
obstinacy, and self-confidence, enabled him, dur-
ing the progress of his long reign of thirty years,
not only to carry forward his vast plans of ag-
gression against his weaker neighbours, but also
to introduce the utmost uniformity, order, and
regularity into the administration of every por-
tion of his heterogeneous empire. Hence it is
that he has, with considerable truth, been termed
the first policeman of his empire, and the first
drill-sergeant of his army. During his reign, the
commerce of Russia has been greatly increased.
The arts have been fostered and encouraged.
Public order and credit have been maintained.
Civilization has advanced and extended among
the lower, as well as among the higher, classes
of his subjects ; so that the stigma of " Russian
barbarism," which was once so universally applied
to that empire, is now scarcely an appropriate epi-
thet in reference to any considerable portion of its
present inhabitants.

Many of the evils which attended the reign of
Nicholas were attributable, not so much to any
defect of character in the sovereign, as to the
worthlessness of many of his most eminent and
influential servants, who successfully blinded their
master as to their own real turpitude. One of the



most reprehensible of these was Count Klein-
micliel; who is represented as being a person of
the most degraded character, yet who possessed,
for many years, the confidence of the czar. This
man obtained and held his post, by bowing most
obsequiously to the imperial will; by pandering
industriously to the pleasures of the monarch ; and
by the total absence of all honour and scruple in
his execution of the wishes of his despotic master.
The author of an able work on Russia,* in speak-
ing of this nobleman, narrates the following inci-
dent. It may be thought that the emperor waa
deceived in this man's character. Scarcely can this
be so. Kleinmichel, as he rose in influence, bit-
terly resented some insult which he had received
from Paskie witch. Afterward, on the elevation
of the latter to the rank of field-marshal, and
to the highest of the fourteen classes of no-
bility, (the Tchinn,) he came to St. Petersburg.
According to etiquette, it became the duty of
Kleiumichel to call on Paskiewitch ; and Nicholas,
in a familiar conversation with his favourite, re-
minded him of that duty. Kleinmichel imme-
diately replied, that he had already called on the
field-marshal that very morning. As Kleinmichel

* Eastern Europe, vol. iii. p. 47.


was taking his leave, however, Paskiewitch euterod
the imperial apartment; and during the conversa-
tion which ensued, the fact came out, that the fa-
vourite had not yet visited Paskiewitch. Nicholas
instantly sent for Kleinmichel ; demanded an ex-
planation ; and the latter, at once discovering that
he had been detected in falsehood, humbly replied,
"Vinabat, I have erred." Nicholas ordered him
under arrest for several days, and then, received
him again into his full favour and confidence.

This expression, vinabat, seemed to have been a
favourite with this nobleman ; for when secretary
to Arakchieff, the founder of the celebrated, but
unsuccessful, military colonies of the czar, an im-
portant document was lost, which had been con-
fided to the keeping of Kleinmichel. The anger
of Arakchieif was intensely aroused; he fiercely
abused Kleiumichel, and then commanding him to
come nearer, he spat into his face. Kleinmichel
bowed his head, calmly wiped his insulted vis-
age, and said, with the utmost humility, "Vino-

Another favourite of the Emperor Nicholas was
Count Kakoshkine, chief of the civil police office.
The following authentic incident, in this man's
life, will indicate his true character. A very re-
spectable Pole had the sum of ten thousand ru-


bles stolen from his private drawer, which the thief
had broken open. The latter was on good terms
with the police, and the produce of the robbery
was divided between them. The thief then
brought an accusation against the loser of the
money; and both the accuser and the accused
were imprisoned on their respective charges. In
a few days the thief was released; but the Pole
was detained in prison for a whole year, without
being able to obtain a trial. At length, after ex-
traordinary exertions, the case was examined by
the judge of the district. The police then in-
formed the Pole, that the man who committed the
robbery was dead; and he was then himself dis-
charged on bail, without being able to find . any
trace of his lost money; but discharged in such a
conditional way, that he was liable to be re-arrested
at any moment, in case he made an inconvenient
noise upon the subject. Such is Russian justice in
a great majority of cases !

We may cite another instance. Among the per-
sons who frequented the chief market of St. Pe-
tersburg, was a nobleman, who had contracted a
constant habit of pilfering. In one of the booths of
the market, a young woman vended a peculiar and
attractive style of handkerchief. The shopkeeper
soon began to find, that her stock of these hand-


kerchiefs mysteriously disappeared. Her opposite
neighbour an honest countryman, who sold pro-
visions gave her to understand that he knew
what became of her goods. From his position,
across the street, he had seen this nobleman se-
creting these handkerchiefs under the ample folds
of his garment. The countryman informed the
shopkeeper of this fact. The latter exclaimed,
" He is a prince ! Say no more about it ! "We
will only gel; into trouble!" "I not speak?"
answered the farmer. "But I will speak. I will
see if there is any justice in Russia!" Accord-
ingly, the next time the noble made his appear-
ance, the farmer watched him ; and as soon as he
had secreted another handkerchief, the farmer came
forward, denounced the thief, and pulled forth from
the place of its concealment the stolen article.
The affair, which had excited the attention of the
crowd, had become too public to be entirely over-
looked. Accordingly, the thief and his accuser
retired with the police to the place of hearing.
The witness briefly stated what he had seen, and
was then dismissed to his shop. Three days after-
ward the farmer disappeared, and was never seen
again ; and in a few days more, the young wo-
man, whose goods had been stolen by this titled
and polished robber, shared a similarly myste-



rious fate. This event occurred in the capital
itself, and not in some distant and ill-governed
province, where the sources of justice were remote,
but where the minister of police, and even the sove-
reign himself, were easily accessible.

A third favourite of Nicholas was Prince Tcherni-
chef, the minister of war. This man, when very-
young, first obtained distinction, as an attache of
the Russian legation at Paris, in 1812. He dis-
covered beforehand the meditated invasion of Russia
by Napoleon; and through the treachery of four
Jews connected with the foreign office in Paris, he
succeeded in obtaining a plan of the campaign, with
which invaluable treasure he instantly started for
St. Petersburg.

He was a relative of that Tchernichef, who was
implicated in the conspiracy against Nicholas at the
period of his accession ; and after the punishment of
that offender, the czar desired that the favourite
should be put in possession of his forfeited estates.
Accordingly, the sovereign requested the mother
of the culprit to adopt his namesake. The lady
replied, that she would willingly receive him as an
aide-de-camp of her emperor, but could never regard
him as a relative. During the Polish war, Tcherni-
chef was the undoubted cause of the failure of
General Diebitsch, in his movements and conflicts


with tlie heroic Poles. Tchernichef was the per-
sonal enemy of Diebitsch ; and as minister of war
he succeeded in thwarting all the wisest and ablest
efforts of that general. He withheld from him the
necessary reinforcements, both of men and of pro-
visions, at the most critical and important moments.
He was in fact the cause of the total discomfiture of
Diebitsch, of his grievous mortifications, and even-
tually even of his death ; which was either produced
directly by poison, administered by Count Orloff at
his instance, or by the drunkenness which was
superinduced by his despair. General Diebitsch
represented the German faction in the court and
capital. General Paskiewitch was the head of the
Russian. They were men of equal talent and expe-
rience. But the career of the one was cut off
prematurely in the midst of disgrace and ignominy,
by the deadly agency of malice invested with power ;
while the glory of the other was enhanced and pro-
longed, by the fortunate possession of official favour
and influence, in its nature equally partial and unde-

One of the peculiarities of Nicholas was his un-
flinching hostility to France. "While he admired
the martial traits of the character of the great Napo-
leon, he hated the French court and nation with a
"perfect hatred;" and never forgave the miseries


and indignities formerly heaped upon Russia, by tlie
French conqueror and his countrymen. On the
accession of Louis Philippe, it required all the in-
fluence of Nesselrode* to restrain the czar from

* The following remarks on the life of the celebrated Prince Nessel-
rode, so long the prime minister of Nicholas, may interest the reader :
Golovine tells us that he was born within sight of Lisbon, on board
an English ship, of German parents in the Russian service ; for which
reason he ironically observes that four powers might claim the glory
of possessing him among their subjects. He was first remarked at
the time of the Russian mission to the French First Consul, and ele-
vated to power during the invasion of Russia in 1812 ; and having so
long presided over the policy of a vast and ambitious empire, he
is ranked in general estimation throughout Europe among cabinet
celebrities with Talleyrand and Metternich. Nevertheless, says
that author, between the astuteness and talent of Metternich and
Nesselrode, and the power which each has exercised, there lies a
world of difference. While Metternich has governed, and governs,
an empire like a sovereign, Nesselrode has never been more than the
chief of his department. The knowledge acquired by a hard-work-
ing minister, during more than a quarter of a century, of all the
tortuous .secrets of his cabinet, and treasured by a retentive memory,
have made him too valuable a servitor to discard ; particularly when
adding, as he does, to this qualification a perfect pliancy to the will
of his master,.

Among the other favourites of Nicholas, Count Orloff held a promi-
nent place. There is a mistaken notion in the minds of many, that
Count Orloff, the friend and confidant of the emperor, was the grand-
son of the conspirator Gregory Orloff, the favourite of Catherine II.,
and one of the principal actors in the terrible tragedy of Peter III. ;
and the name being thus associated with treason and murder, it is
easy to imagine the effect produced on those who are not correctly
informed on the subject.

The present Orloff, of whom we have heard so much, was not the
grandson of Count Gregory Orloff, but a son of Count Foe'dor Grigorie-
vitch, a younger brother of the former, who died at Moscow in 1790,


sending to the French king a letter so insulting,
that it would have immediately produced a war
between the two countries. As it was, the missive
of Nicholas to Louis Philippe, acknowledging his
accession to the throne, was exceedingly haughty in
its style, and deficient even in the usual expressions
of formal courtesy. The letter of the French mon-
arch to Nicholas, began with the friendly and cus-
tomary phrase between sovereigns: Monsieur mon
Frere, (Sir, my Brother.) In his reply, Nicholas
omitted these words; and the whole tone of the
communication was sarcastic and contemptuous in
the extreme. Yet Louis Philippe had the good
sense to overlook the irritating conduct of the czar,
in order to secure to France the blessings of peace.

Even with regard to the domestic character of
Nicholas, in reference to which, it might be sup-
posed, there could be no difference of opinion,

without any legitimate heirs, but leaving several natural children, who
were ennobled by Catherine, the name of Orloff being also conferred
on them. The present Count Alexis Foedorovitch Orloff was born in
1787, and early obtained promotion in the army. In 1825, he was
the first to hasten to the place of the Winter Palace, with his five
regiments of horse-guards, on the day of revolt ; and this important
service laid the foundation of the favour he has since enjoyed. He is
said by many to combine with superior intelligence, great firmness of
mind, and the most honourable character; and, in that case, we may
believe that ho would treat lightly the title of poisoner which slander
has attempted to attach to his name.


conflicting sentiments really exist. It is generally
supposed that he was a most excellent father and
husband. A recent traveller, speaking of the im-
perial palace at St. Petersburg, describes what he
saw of the nursery of the Grand Duke, now the
Czar, Alexander. In 1841, he was married to a
princess of Hesse; and four sons are the fruit of
their union. In the imperial nursery, these- chil-
dren were at play. It was a large, lofty, and hand-
some room, containing little furniture, but filled
with all kinds of toys, carts, hobby-horses, sentry-
ooxes, wheels, soldiers, sledges, and every thing
which could interest the youthful princes. The
emperor Mcholas was present; and the deep in-
terest which he displayed in the sports and noisy
diversions of the children, indicated the possession
of a degree of sympathy and pleasure in the amuse-
ments of his grandchildren, which was highly credit-
able to the sovereign.

On the other hand, his domestic despotism is said
to have been as absolute as his political. He regu-
lated the dress, occupation, visits, and every thing
connected with the imperial family, with the utmost
rigour and minuteness, as if the palace was a
barrack. He kept the empress in a continual state
of representation ; compelling her to endure a con-
stant and wearisome round of stately ceremonies.


The Duke of Lcuchtenberg, his son-in-law, was
actually arrested several times, by the czar's com-
mand, for not having his coat buttoned according
to rule ! Nicholas also treated it as an act of lese-
majesti, for the young duke to enter the apartments
of his wife, and sit down beside her in his robe-de-
ckambre. The czar once became quite enraged
when" he beheld the duke smoking by the side of
the princess. He reprimanded him severely for this
heinous offence ; and in truth he governed his whole
family precisely as if he thought the imperial house-
hold to have been constantly On parade ! The Duke
of Leuchtenberg has left on record his opinion of
the condition of the members of the imperial family.
The proposition was discussed at one time, by the
court, of arranging a marriage between the Duke of
Bordeaux, and one of the daughters of the czar.
The project was soon thrown aside; and the Duke
of Leuchtenberg, in conversation with a French
nobleman shortly afterward, said: "Let the Duke
of Bordeaux thank heaven, that he has not been
fated to share the cage in which I vegetate !" The
marriage between the grand duchess, daughter of
Nicholas, and the Duke of Leuchtenberg, was one
of real affection between the parties. Nicholas
would have opposed and prevented it, had it not
been for the fact, that the desperate attachment of


the princess to the handsome and graceful Beau-
harnais, actually endangered her health and life;
and that the princess, upon her knees, and with
floods of tears, besought her father to bestow his
consent upon a union, on which her happiness, and
even her existence, depended.*

During the latter years of his life, the mind of
Nicholas became saddened by the various disap-
pointments which he had endured during his reign,
and by an increasing consciousness of many evils
existing among his subjects, which he had laboured
in vain to eradicate. He gradually became sombre
and morose. His mental faculties even were defi-
cient in power; and he did not display the same
sagacity and penetration which had characterized
his measures at an earlier period of his reign. The
bitter calumnies of his political enemies, and the
slumbering hostility of the nobles, which secretly

* The Grand Duchess Olga, born in 1822, was married in 1846 to
Charles, Prince Royal of Wurtemberg.

The young Grand Duke Constantino, who is high-admiral of the
Russian fleets, born in 1827, was married in 1848 to the Princess
Alexandra, daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Altenburg.

The younger grand dukes, Nicholas and Michael, have not as yet
contracted any matrimonial alliances. The elder grand duke, Michael,
brother of the emperor, is married to the Princess Helena, daughter
of the Prince Paul of Wurtemberg, brother to the king ; and their
daughter, the young Grand Duchess Catherine, was married in 1851
to George, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.


burned with the hidden intensity of a suppressed
volcano, disturbed and irritated him. Though a
man of dauntless fortitude, it was observed that he
was continually moving about from place to place.
He travelled a great deal, and very quickly. Rest
and delay appeared to be tiresome to him. Thought
and reflection seemed to be in danger of driving
him mad. The blood of his murdered predecessors
still deeply stained the steps of the throne, and
struck terror into his own soul, in apprehension
of meeting a similar fate. His sleeping apartment
was guarded at night by gigantic Cossacks ; and he
established a system of espionage, even within the
precincts of his own palace. The most terrible
apprehension, however, which distressed him during
his latter years, was the well-grounded fear of mad-
ness. Many members of the Romanoff dynasty
had been afflicted by this malady. The Emperor
Paul had become deranged, long before the occur-
rence of the fearful catastrophe which ended his life.
Peter ILL had been similarly afflicted during his lat-
ter years. Many other members of this illustrious
house had been more or less subject to the derange-
ment of their intellects. And Mcholas himself was
not without apprehensions that he too might even-
tually inherit their fate. Though he remained free

from madness, or .even derangement of mind, his



spirits became overclouded by a settled melancholy.
Severity and moroseness followed, as the result of
this trait ; and these, in their turn, threw back upon
him the repulsive shade produced by them upon the
minds of others.

In fact, Nicholas had become at length fully con-
scious that he had not reigned in such a manner as
to have won, or even to have deserved, the affection
of his subjects, however much he may have inspired
them with terror.

The truth of this assertion may be proved by re-
ference to his acts of general legislation, as well as
by those referring to individuals. Thus, for in-
stance, his treatment of the city of Abo, the re-
nowned and ancient capital of Finland, was such as
to turn each one of its inhabitants into a deter-
mined foe. Finland had once been a flourishing
and happy province of Sweden. Having been at
length transferred, by mingled force and fraud, to
the Russian sceptre, it became, from its contiguity
to Sweden, an object of suspicion and dislike to the
czar. Gustavus Adolphus had given to this ancient
city a gymnasium ; and Queen Christina had erected
there a university, endowed with ample funds, and
an extensive and valuable library. Nicholas de-
spoiled Abo of all her privileges as a capital, and
deprived her of her university, her library, of her


scientific collections, and of every thing which dis-
tinguished and adorned her. Helsingfors became
heir to the imperial favour, and to all the advan-
tages of which Abo had been robbed. The sole
reason for this conduct on the part of the czar was
the fact that Abo was too near to Stockholm ; that

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Online LibrarySamuel M. (Samuel Mosheim) SmuckerThe life and reign of Nicholas the First, emperor of Russia → online text (page 13 of 23)