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cattle:;. they might be sold with the estate to which they belonged, but they were no longer to be handed over from master to master, as forming of themselves an article of commerce. The peasants naturally thought that, where this had been granted, more was intended; they wished to be placed on the same footing with their brethren in the German provinces; they were misled, perhaps, by political agitators, for a much worse purpose; and they asserted that an ukase, decreeing their complete emancipation, had been prevented only by the sudden death of Alexander. These feelings and ideas daily gained ground; the peasants on the crown lands believed that they had been released from taxes which were still exacted from them, and the peasants of the landowners, that they were freed from absolute obedience to the will of their lords. Numerous petitions, founded upon these suppositions, were addressed to Nicholas; and just about the time when the investigations of the commission of inquiry into the plot of December had discovered a perseverance and extent of conspiracy to which such a spirit in the peasantry would have bean a most useful ally, a decree was issued, correcting the errors of the peasantry upon both points, ascribing them to the machinations of seditious and evildisposed persons, but threatening, if they were acted on, to punish with the whole rigour of the law. All further petitioning on such matters was prohibited; and it was ordered, that the authors of such petitions should be delivered over to the tribunals, and severely punished, as disturbers of the public tranquillity. It wasaharsh measure topunish subjects for addressing peaceable peti-,
tions to their sovereign; but expectations wouldhavebeenentertained, and the assertions of the peasantry would have been thought to he acquiesced in, so long as petitions were received without censure. To crush all hope, and repress every expression of discontented feeling was, at the moment, the policy of the government.
After an investigation, which lasted nearly five months, the commission of inquiry into the conspiracy which had led to the events of the 26th December, terminated its labours; and, in a long report, developed the origin, the constitution, and the objects of the secret societies in which the conspiracy had originated. This report was founded almost entirely ou docn)>ments belonging to these societies themselves, and on the evidence and confessions of the accused, who seem all to have been willing to reveal every thing they knew. The first idea of such associations had been imported by some young military men in 1814 and 1815, who had become acquainted with them as they existed in Germany, and who, believing in their infallible tendency to create liberty and happiness, had resolved to transport them into Russia. The first persons who proposed the plan were Alexander Muravicv, a captain on half-pay, captain Nikita Muravicv, and colonel prince Trubetsky. These original conspirators were soon joined by others, almost all officers of disbanded regiments; and they proceeded to organize the first secret association, under the name of " The Union of Safety, or, the true and faithful Sons of the Country." This society included three classes, that of brethren, that of men, and that of boyqrSf From the last class?
superior to the other two, were chosen every month the elders and directors, namely the president, the superintendent, and the secretary. The admission of members was accompanied with solemn ceremonies. The candidates took an oath to preserve secresy in every thing that should be confided to them, even when their opinions should «ot agree with those of the society; they bound themselves to proceed towards the object of their union, and to submit to the decision of the supreme council of boyars, although the boyars were to remain unknown to all the individuals of the inferior classes. At this time, the society consisted of Alexander, Nikita, Serg, and Matthew Muraviev, Prince Serg Trubetsky, Novikov (formerly director of the office of governorgeneral of little Russia), Michael Lounine, and three other members, who subsequently abandoned it at diflerent periods, and broke off all connexion with their more ardent colleagues. Its object, from the beginning, was a change in the existing institutions of the empire. Such were the unanimous declarations of Alexander, Serg, Matthew, and Nikita Muraviev, as well as Pestel. Prince Trubetsky affirmed that, aware of the weakness and temerity of their enterprise, they discussed at their meetings the means of promoting the good of their country, and of furthering the accomplishments of every useful design. Their principal object was to increase the force of their society by the acquisition of new members, whose talents and moral qualities v/ere to be supported upon good testimony, as a qualification for their admission. In the mean time they secured the accession of M. Yakuehkinej and major-gee
neral Orloy, who was employed along with Ccunt Mamonov, and the counsellor of State, Nicolas Turguenev, in the formation ot another society, which was to bear the title of the Russian Knights. Major-general Michel Orlov, and Alexander Muraviev, tried to effect a junction of their respective societies, but they could not agree upon the terms of the union. The plan failed, and an association, of which the general had conceived an idea, namely, to prevent the erection of a kingdom in Poland, was not formed. The original society made no progress. Some of its members, particularly one Pestel, left Petersburg; others discovered inconsistency in its views, and inconvenicncies in its laws. Others again, and especially those who had simply consented to fraternize with the Union of Safety, required that the society should limit itself to acting slowly on the public mind, that it should change its statutes, which had for their basis the principle of blind obedience, and the employment of violent means, and that it should adopt, in place of them, regulations to be drawn principally from the code of the German Tugend-Bund, or association of virtue. The primitive members of the society opposed the alteration for a long time; and it was during the deliberations upon this subject that, in 1817, the assassination of the emperor Alexander was first broached, and that too upon suppositions which almost implied frenzy in those who entertained them. One of the members had received a letter from Troubctsky, announcing that the emperor had the intention of restoring to Poland all the provinces conquered by Russia, and that, foreseeing on
the part of the Russians, discontent and opposition, he intended to retire to Warsaw with his court, and leave the country a prey to anarchy. This intelligence, of which the conspirators themselves acknowledged the absurdity, produced upon them an effect scarcely credible. They cried out that an attempt upon the life of the emperor had become an object of urgent necessity. Prince Theodore Schakousky proposed not to delay the execution of it longer than the day on which his regiment was to mount guard. They even wished to draw lots who should be the assassin, when, excited by the agitation of his companions, and inflamed by their discourses, Yakouchkine offered his arm for regicide. Even in his madness he seemed to
-feel the enormity of the crime which he meditated. "Fate," said he, "has marked me for its victim. Having become a criminal, I shall no longer be able to live. I shall strike the blow first, and then kill myself." The proposal, however, was at that time carried no further; because they were convinced that the crime would be useless, and Yakouchkine, who seems to have been really mad, broke off all connexion with the society. • .
<■■["The association having hitherto
• enjoyed so little prosperity, changed its name into that of " The Union of the Public Weal," and adopted a new constitution, and new regulations. By the first part of these regulations the members declared that they entertained no intentions of injuring government, and that they pursued their labours in secret only to avoid the perverted constructions of malevolence and ha
ttretk<i The members were divided into four classes. The first had
for its object philanthropy and beneficence, public and private. The second had for its object, intellectual and moral education, the establishment of schools, particularly on the Lancasterian system, and, in general, co-operation in the instruction of youth. To the members of this section was confided the inspection of all schools. The third had for its object, to watch over the proceedings of the tribunals. Its members bound themselves not to refuse any judicial appointment that should be offered, to fulfil their duties with zeal and exactness, to encourage persons of integrity employed about the tribunals, and to denounce to the government those who betrayed their trust. The members of the fourth class were to devote themselves to political economy, to encourage industry, to consolidate public credit, and to oppose monopolies. The interior organization of the society was as follows :— Its founders were to form the central union. From this union was drawn the central council, composed of a president and four assessors. When the members of the central union joined this council, the assembly took the name of the Central Direction. The central council exercised the executive, and the central direction the legislative, power. The direction had, besides, the power of nominating a temporary chamber of legislation to examine, explain, and complete, the laws of the union without changing their object. Thus the whole authority of the society, and the power of directing it towards any object, was wielded by its founders, members of the original association. It belonged to them to receive new members by establishing each a direction. These directions were called effective, secondary, and principal. They took the title of effective directions, as soon as they were composed of ten members. Every effective direction could establish a secondary one, which had no relation but with it. But if the secondary direction established, in its turn, another composed of ten members, it became independent of its founder. The title of principal direction was given to those which had established three free societies. The principal direction had the prerogative of receiving the second part of the regulations. In every direction there was elected a council, composed of an overseer or two chiefs, according as the direction consisted of ten or twenty members. All affairs, both in the directions and central union, were decided by a plurality of votes. The names of the members who had merited well of the union were inscribed in a book of honour, and those who had been expelled, in a book of ignominy. They had the right of leaving the union, but were bound to secresy on every idling which they had learned while in it. There was no particnlar ceremony of admission. The new member put in a written declaration, which was afterwards burnt without his knowledge. Every member was bound to give to the treasury the twenty-fifth part of his annual income; but this regulation was so little observed, that only five thousand roubles were collected in all, and these were spent for purposes unconnected with the objects of the society. -" •■■ •;,'' -'■>>
"■ Such was the character, and such were the ostensible objects of the first part of the regulations of the society. But these were, so
to speak, only the doctrines of the exoteric school; there was an esoteric school, into which only the more select conspirators were admitted, and in which their practical political schemes for the regeneration of Russia were discussed, almost every conceivable plan of reform being proposed, and no distinct course ever resolved upon or adopted. Some wished to establish a government, in which the supreme authority should be concentrated in a triumvirate, of which they flattered themselves they would make a part: others intended to divide Russia into several independent administrations, united by a federal bond, to be called states, of which they hoped they would be constituted the heads: others dreamed of detaching different provinces of the empire, either to give them complete independence, or to cede them to neighbouring powers: and others still were willing to retain monarchy, transferring the crown from Alexander, to his wife the empress Elizabeth. There was no unity of sentiment or design, no steadiness of purpose: what had been unanimously agreed to was frequently unanimously altered a few hours afterwards. The assassination of the emperor was again spoken of, and steps towards its perpetration were actually taken; but whether by the mad zeal of individuals, or in execution of resolutions of the whole body, was very doubtful. In 1823, two members went for that purpose to Bobronisk, through which the emperor was to pass, but the non-appearance of their accomplices discouraged them from making the attempt. In 1825, it was once more resolved upon: a man who had been loaded with favours by the emperor, strenu* ously manifested an eager desire to be the assassin, objecting to all delay i and it was deckled that the regicides should proceed to Taganrog, where his imperial majesty resided: but, upon further deliberation, it was agreed to delay the enterprise till the month of May, 18%6, when the conspirators supposed he would review the troops in the neighbourhood of Bela Tserkoff. In the autumn, too, of 1825, another conspirator arrived at Petersburgh, from the extremities of Russia, and, having been affiliated in the northern association, offered his arm to assassinate the emperor.
It is impossible to conjecture what might have happened, if Alexander had lived to review his troops at Taganrog, where such discoveries had already been made to the emperor of the machinations that were going on, as led to the immediate adoption of measures of precaution, and gave the first information of the plot to the government at St. Petersburg. His unexpected death, however, took them altogether unprepared, and, joined to the knowledge that part of the plot had been already detected, induced them to act rashly, in the hope that the confusion of the moment might supply the want of means and foresight. The submission of Constantine deprived them of one great hold upon the army. Batenkov, who, when the attempt was actually made, was one of the first to desert his party, exclaimed— "That the opportunity which they had suffered to escape would not recur in fifty years; that if there had been any wise heads in the council of state, Russia would, at that moment, have been taking an
oath of fidelity to a new sovereign, and to new laws; but that all was irreparably lost." The intelligence, however, that the grand duke Constantine persisted in his refusal of the crown, gave fresh life to the hopes of the conspirators'; they flattered themselves that they could deceive the troops and the people, by persuading them that the grand duke never had renounced the crown, and, under this pretext, excite them to overturn the government. The faction was then to take advantage of the confusion, to establish a provisional government, which should order chambers to be formed throughout the provinces for the election of deputies. Two legislative chambers were to be instituted, the highest to be composed of permanent members. They were next to proceed to form provincial chambers, which were to have a local legislation; to convert the military colonies into a national guard; and place the citadel of St. Petersburg in the hands of the municipality. According to another plan, developed by Batenkov, the conspirators were to separate, some proclaiming the grand duke Constantine, and others Nicholas; and if the majority should be in favour of the former, the latter was either to have consented to the re-modelling of the public institutions, and to the establishment of a provisional government, or to have postponed his accession to the throne; and then the conspirators, declaring such postponement to be an abdication, were to have proclaimed the grand duke Alexander, his son, as emperor. Batenkov assumed that, at the moment of this revolutionary explosion, an attempt would be made against