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amount at present to considerably more than a million; and as cach is worth as property, taking men and women together, at least a thousand roubles, the question of their emancipation must be one of much difficulty. Were civilized England the party concerned, the thing of course would be
easy. We should have no long years of struggles--no purchased howlings against God and nature-not a single whisper of compensation to the slave-owner. We should say at once to the slave, * Be free !” and he would be free. But what can we expect from the Barbarians of the North?
The case of the two women was closely inquired into when I was present, by Dr. Haas, a gentleman whose name it would be unpardonable to omit, since I have mentioned incidentally the charities of Moscow. Among the noblest of these charities, there is an institution sanctioned, if not established by government, which charges itself with the inspection of the gaols, and particularly of the depôt where the convicts assemble to commence their pilgrimage to Siberia. Dr. Haas is the secretary of the institution, and he gives himself up, soul and body, to the duties of the office, with an enthusiasm of benevolence which has never been equalled since the days of Howard. Day and night he is at his post. In the middle of a meal, or in the middle of his sleep, he is at the command of the humblest or basest criminal who calls for his assistance. Some years ago he was engaged in a manufacturing speculation, which failed, and swept away the whole of his little fortune. Among the creditors, Mr. E- a respectable English gentleman, thought himself peculiarly unfortunate, and solicited the insolvent to give him at least a small portion of the debt, since it was his all.
“That I cannot do,” replied the doctor, “ for I have it not to give. You have indeed lost your all, and, for my part, I am glad of it. The circumstance is, no doubt, intended by Providence as a trial, and I am only too highly honoured in having been the instrument !”
The doctor once undertook a very long journey-a journey of eight or nine hundred miles, for the purpose of meeting his sister whom he had not seen for fifteen years, and who was on her way from Germany in order to pay him a visit. When he arrived at Narva, the place where he was to intercept her on her route, he found that the diligence did not arrive for some hours, and he walked up to the observatory to pass the time. There is here one of the finest telescopes I ever saw; and the doctor, who knows a little of astronomy, was so delighted with it, that the moon and stars appeared in the heavens, and then faded away
before the beams of the next day's sun, ere he thought again of his sister ! The lady in the meantime arrived at Narva, and passed on, unconscious of his having left Moscow.
Under the inspection of this old man, the prisoners of the Barbarians of the North are as well attended to—and, in some respects, more comfortably situated-than those of the most civilized nations in Europe. The benevolent feelings, however, which are the basis of this system owe their origin to the present century:
“Little provision,” says a traveller in 1784, "is made in this country for prisoners; and a poor wretch, without friends or money, confined in a Russian gaol
, runs some hazard of starving. I have sometimes visited those mansions of misery; and if famine, chains, nakedness, and filth are shocking, the scenes I beheld were shocking.” At the present day
the prisoners, who have plenty to eat, and who are sometimes supplied even with delicacies by private charity, complain occasionally of the quality of their bread, but of nothing else. In the case of the only complaint of this kind which came under my personal observation, I know they were wrong; for my opinion of the bread was taken by Dr. Haas, and I found it to be quite as good as that eaten by the peasantry out of doors.
This kind of bread is black and sour, but extremely nutritive. A peasant, indeed, although he relishes white bread as a child does cake, would be apprehensive of starving if confined to it as his ordinary diet. I have seen persons even of the highest rank eat black bread at dinner by preference; and often, in a pedestrian excursion, I have myself regaled upon it with much gusto, when accompanied by the rich thick milk with which the wanderer may be supplied at almost every peasant's hut. Unfortunately, however, the preparation of this essential article does not always receive equal care. It is frequently so full of sand, that it must infallibly affect the health of the consumer; and I have no doubt that the frequency of an agonizing complaint is chiefly owing to this cause. In a statistical table which happens to be before me, I find that in the year 1822 sixty-two operations for the stone were performed in one general hospital in Moscow, and thirty-four in another.
Dr. Haas's customers of course consist not only of peasants, but occasionally of persons of every other class. They in fact form an epitome of Russian society; and I now propose showing, in a few words, in what manner that society is constituted, beginning at the lowest moral link in the social chain, but without including the military, the clergy, and the nobles.
First, then, we have the slaves—men who have neither souls nor bodies of their own—who are sometimes attached friends, and sometimes assassins, just as they are treated, but whose reasoning faculties are in general employed in the exercise of that ingenuity by which a man seeks to perform, at the least possible cost of labour, a task for which he is not paid, and in which he can have no possible interest. The number of this class, as compared to that of the great body of the PEOPLE, is small, hardly exceeding that of the nobles! I was told by one of the high officers of government, who I trust will have an opportunity of seeing this page, that men and women ceased to be sold like cattle in Russia fifteen years ago. He perhaps intended to say that such sale was at that period forbidden by law; but unfortunately, owing to the defective state of the executive department, many of the best laws are a dead letter. To the present Emperor, who possesses a vigour of determination almost equal to that of his great predecessor Peter, and who is besides beloved even to idolatry by a mighty majority of his people, Europe looks, not for a superficial, but a radical reform of this monstrous abuse. Let his Majesty remember that Russia is a new country, whose headlong pace has never yet been measured, either in power or civilization, by that of the old kingdoms of Europe ; let him forget the late tardiness of England in a similar question; and above all things, let him look down with imperial disdain upon the existing example of the soidisant republicans of America.
The second class consists of those peasants of the nobles who are not slaves, but serfs of the glebe. This is by far the most numerous body
of society; it is in fact the bulk of the nation. The obrok they pay to their lord is in general a mere trifle compared with the value of the land they enjoy; and if you only give it the name of rent, you might conclude that they are the most fortunate people on the face of the earth. But the serf, unhappily, has no liberty of action or motion; if he is happy at all, it is upon compulsion. His condition depends entirely upon the character of the lord of the land. He cannot remove from one farm to another; he cannot marry without permission; the very amount of his obrok is fixed by the arbitrary will of his feudal chief.
This is his condition in theory, so to speak; but if it was so in practice, nothing could prevent a political convulsion but the bayonet. The proprietors of land are, generally speaking, well educated and intelligent men, who are perfectly aware that their own interest and respectability depend upon the prosperity of their peasants. The power, therefore, either accorded to them by the laws, or inherited from their ancestors in defiance of law, is rarely used to any odious extent; and the instances of tyranny, so current in Europe, either relate to an earlier day than this, or form an exception to the rule. The author quoted above, Mr. Richardson, tells us that, when he was in Russia, “ the peasants no sooner arrived at puberty than they were compelled to marry whatever female the proprietor chose.” At the present day the proprietor gives himself very little trouble about the matter, but allows the course of true love to run rough or smooth as it will.
When on a visit to Mademoiselle B-, of Ismailof, I remarked one day to her amiable charge, the Princess that I was very desirous of witnessing a peasant's marriage; when the young lady turned laughingly to an heiress in the company, and begged her to get up one for me on purpose, since her estate was at no great distance. On my asking the fair tyrant-herself
, I believe, about to become “ a youthful blooming bride”-how she could manage this, she replied, that nothing was easier, and ridiculed very successfully the idea entertained by foreigners of the cruelty supposed to be practised on such occasions. Among other examples of this cruelty, she told me, that a few days before, a young man had come to her guardian, and, lamenting his hard fate in being without anybody to “mend his shirts," besought him to give him a wife, and some trifle to begin the world with. The gentleman immediately looked round amongst the female peasantry, and, selecting one who in appearance, habits, &c., seemed to be his equal, asked her whether she had any objection to a husband ? Whereupon the delighted fair one, unable to speak from the suddenness of the joy, threw herself down at his feet, and knocked her forehead upon the ground; and on the very same day this interesting pair entered into the holy and indissoluble bonds of matrimony.
The third class in my arbitrary division of society, and the next in numbers to the foregoing, consists of the crown peasants. Their obrok is the property of the emperor, and assumes the form, therefore, of a tax upon their lands; while their villages may be said to be small communes governed by individuals of their own body. They are, however, the property of the crown, in the same sense as the preceding class may be said to be the property of the nobles, and with this further drawback upon their freedom, that they may be transported in whole colonies wherever the emperor chooses. But the system, like the other, is much
better in practice than in theory; and, so far as my own observation goes, I can say that the crown peasants of the barbarians are to all intents and purposes as free, as comfortable, and as happy as any peasantry in Europe.
The fourth class consists of the Corps des Bourgeois, comprehending the artisans of every description. When they choose to become sellers of the articles they have hitherto assisted to manufacture, and are able to declare themselves possessed of a suitable capital, they advance a step higher, and belong to the fifth class.
The fifth class is the merchants, subdivided into three guilds, according to the amount of capital they declare, and on which, independently of the obrok they pay to their lord, supposing them to be still serfs, a tax is charged by the government of four and three-quarters per cent. The lowest capital is 8000 roubles, or about 3371., which empowers a merchant to retail his goods in the town and arrondissement to which he belongs; the next is 20,000 roubles, or about 8421., involving the right to traffic in the whole empire ; and the third is 50,000 roubles, or about 2,1041., the merchants declaring which may import and export, and establish manufactories.
When a merchant acquires sufficient money, he generally buys his freedom, and thus relieves himself from the obrok ; but if his lord does not choose to sell, the serf has no right to compel him to do so. Thus the extraordinary spectacle is sometimes seen, of a peasant serf rolling along in his own carriage, and living as expensively as any noble in the land.
The petty merchants of Russia are liars, cheats, and swindlers, almost to a man. This is owing to the arbitrary nature of the obrok, and their other burthens as feudal tenants. From their very infancy, they were accustomed to petty trickery, in order to deceive their lord or his steward ; and it is not surprising that they carry about with them into the world the lessons which they received almost in the cradle. At the same time it must be confessed the system is carried on too long. Even after they become freemen, and acquire some very tolerable notions of their own dignity as men and citizens, they continue to cheat in their business as before-to call their god (who hangs up in the shop, with a lamp burning before him) to witness the lie—and when detected, to own the perjury with the blandest smile in the world. This is not so much the fault of their education, as of the ignorance, stupidity, and corruption existing in the administration of the laws. The injury it does to their trade is incalculable; people are afraid to go into a Russian shop, and prefer trusting therefore to foreign competitors, who, when naturalized, enjoy all the privileges of natives. The greater merchants, the military officers who have risen from the ranks, and the nobility in general, are as honourable people as can be found in Europe. Dishonesty, therefore, is not, as some writers have imagined, a part of the national character. The radical cure would be, to get rid of the system of servage; but as this cannot be managed in a day, something else should be tried : if the dishonesty of the shopkeepers cannot by fair means be brought at least within the bounds of moderation, let it be torn out of their backs with the knout!
I am at some loss whether or not to class the above among the vices of barbarians! What say ye to the question, ye stock-selling-off tradesmen of London !-0 ye prix-fixe shopkeepers of Paris !-ye who
teach your assistants to cheat as a part of their business, and who hang them, when taught, if they practise the accomplishment upon yourselves! As for that fixed national character, which seems born in the blood, look for it among the Turks, who have hardly advanced a single step in civilization since their establishment in Europe--look for it in the Indians of America, who are to this day wild men of the woodslook for it (but here I speak doubtfully) among the negroes of Africa ; but look for it not among the Russians. Russia has sustained a greater change in the course of one century than any other nation of Europe in the course of eight. There is more difference between Russia of today and Russia of forty years ago, than between England of the Tudors and England of the Guelphs.
One day, when in conversation on this subject with Mr. Wilkins, the American ambassador at the court of St. Petersburg, he told me an Indian anecdote, which has probably not before been in print. With this I shall for the present conclude ; with the intention of endeavouring next month to present a nearer view of the Barbarians of the North, in their huts, their walks, their occupations, and their pastimes.
The son of a Delaware chief was brought up from infancy as the playmate and friend of Mr. Wilkins. No difference whatever was made between the two boys; their dress, their meals, their beds, their education--all were alike; and the lads themselves regarded one another as brothers. When young Wilkins arrived at the years when it was necessary for him to go to college, his companion was in every respect-in appearance, in language, in feelings—an Anglo-American boy; and the two friends parted in the hope of meeting again, unchanged except in the addition of four years to their age, and a corresponding number of inches to their stature.
In four years, young Wilkins returned to the parental home; and while crossing the threshold of the house, his tumultuous thoughts were perhaps fully as much occupied by the friend into whose arms he was about to rush, as by any member of his father's family. He caught the eye, however, of a naked Indian sitting on the bench before the door, and paused as he was about to enter. The object, though picturesque, was common, and he turned his head, without knowing why, to look again at the face of the savage. The red youth then smiled; and his question “ Do you not know me ? ” explained all.
After his friend went to college, and when he was thus thrown back, as it were, upon his own mind, the Delaware boy, as he said himself, was beset by strange wild thoughts, which he could neither understand nor describe. He felt an unconquerable longing for the liberty of the woods-a thirsting after the air of the desert; and, after struggling long and fiercely against a propensity which his habits of civilization persuaded him to be evil, and for the existence of which he could not in any manner account, he at length tore off his European dress, and fled into the wilderness. I cannot call to mind the name of this Indian ; but he became a distinguished chief in the wars with the English, and was celebrated not only for bravery but for cunning. He was at length suspected of playing false on both sides; and Mr. Wilkins, in riding through a wood, saw accidentally the body of his early friend lying dead, and horribly mangled, at the foot of a tree. The Delaware had been murdered by his own countrymen.