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Peter the Great, Russia had already begun to be regarded as a powerful nation; her population in 1689 being 15,000,000. At the accession of Catharine II., in 1762, it had increased to 25,000,000, and she added to it 11,000,000; so that at her death, in 1796, the population of the empire was over 36,000,000. A still greater increase was made in the reign of Alexander I., at whose death the population was over 58,000,000. At the death of the Emperor Nicholas, it had increased to 75,000,000; and, now that the extensive territory of the Amoor River has been annexed, the population of the whole empire cannot be less than 100,000,000 of souls.
This vast increase will seem the more wonderful, if we bear in mind that there are powerful antagonisms operating in Russia. In no other country are there more parties, or parties more violently opposed to each other. The principal of these are the native and German parties. The former, as the name implies, are opposed to all interference from abroad in the affairs of the empire. They protest against the employment of foreigners in any of the offices of honor or emolument under the government. In a word, they are quite as exclusive, in this respect, as were the Know Nothing party, in this country, some two or three years since. In this respect they are antagonistic to the Emperor as well as to the German party, because the Czar is always ready to avail himself of talent, let it come whence it may. No sovereign in the world is more liberal in this regard ; and it is a policy
which has not been confined to any particular occupant of the imperial throne, from the time of Peter the Great to the present. The German party is foreign only in name. No other party are more faithful, more attached to the sovereign, or more ready to devote their lives and fortunes to the aggrandizement of the empire. Indeed, all parties agree on this point; but they differ widely as to the means that ought to be used for its accomplishment. One will oppose a measure, if only because it originated with another; nor does the opposition always cease in time of war with foreign nations, but has often been the cause of disasters which would have proved the ruin of nations possessed of less recuperative energy.
The Czar is regarded as a despot; but, in reality, he is so only in the eyes of foreign nations. The great nobility consider themselves as the guardians of the sovereign, and hold that he must be guided by their wishes and advice. Sometimes, indeed, he has set both their wishes and advice at de
fiance, but seldom, if ever, with impunity. In proof of this, we need only refer to the several Czars put to death under one pretext or other ; for, even in the instance in which the Czarina is supposed to have murdered her husband, she would not have dared to attempt it had she not known that the allpowerful nobility were on her side. It is not strange, then, that the latter regard the Czar as little more than the nucleus and motive power of their own will. The moment he attempts to ignore this, his days are numbered—his career as a sovereign is nearly at an end. That the Czar not unfrequently sends one of the first nobles in the empire to the mines of Siberia, would seem to conflict with this view of the case ; but the fact is not the less true. In order to understand how this is done, it is only necessary to remember that, in sending a great duke or prince to the mines, the Czar is influenced more by the wishes of the rest of the nobility than by his
In other words, it is ten to one that the obnoxious noble is one who has excited the jealousy and hatred of his brethren, who denounce him to the sovereign, and claim that he should be punished. This is so well known in Russia, that the wife or friends of the disgraced noble almost invariably petition the leaders of the nobility for his pardon and liberation, before making any application for that purpose to the Czar.
Then there are, besides, the boyars, or rustic nobility, and the boors. The former are nearly the same now as they were in the time of Peter the Great ; always fond of barbaric magnificence, and imbued with a lively faith in the superiority of every thing Russian, to the best that any other nation in the world can boast of. They love their sovereign, because he is a Russian; but their devotion to him is always proportioned to the tenacity with which they can induce him to cling to ancient habits and customs. As for the boors, as long as they get enough to eat, and a Greek priest to prepare the way, for them, to heaven, they never give trouble to the government on their own account; they look upon the Czar, if not as God, at least as the most holy and most infallible of saints. But should he incur the displeasure of the nobility, their masters, they would very soon be taught to regard him in a different light-in short, as their enemy, rather than their friend ; as a traitor to Russia, and an apostate from the true religion, rather than as a saint, or one that deserved to be the Czar of all the Russias.
Those who examine the characters of the various antagonisms thus briefly glanced at, and see how much even the ministry are disposed to act independently of the sovereign, will be likely to change their mind as to the absolute power of the Czar. Perhaps, in point of fact, that he is as little absolute as our President. The former, as we have shown, is liable to be put out of the way any day, as soon as he ceases to command the confidence, or as soon as he excites the illwill, of whatever party happens to be in the ascendant-nay, as soon as he forfeits the regard of the nobility alone; whereas, no matter how unpopular our President may become, he is sure to continue the chief magistrate of the Republic for four years, except he dies in the mean time, or is proved guilty of high treason. But it is not the less true that all foreign nations may regard the Czar, in connection with any public document he may issue, as a true exponent of Russian feeling. For example, there need be no doubt but his recent letter to the Russian Minister at Washington, in reference to the difficulties in which we are at present involved, represented the sentiments of the large majority of the governing class. If our Secretary of State was not sufficiently acquainted with the history and politics of Russia to comprehend this, the document was not the less important in itself on this account; and, perhaps, we may add that, after all, it may not prove the less important in its results. If Mr. Seward were the only medium through which the American nation could indicate its appreciation of such friendly sentiments as were contained in the Czar's letter, then, indeed, the Russian government might well have felt hurt to find that that functionary had written a much more elaborate State paper in reference to the letters of Mr. Russell, of the London Times, than he did in reply to the friendly communication of one of the greatest powers in the world; and this at a time when almost every other power seemed to wish the disruption of the Union. But the Court of St. Petersburg is well aware that one may happen to be Secretary of State of the United States for three or four years, or even President, and yet be no true exponent of American feeling. If our principal public journals were never to reach St. Petersburg, as they regularly do, the Russian minister at Washington would hardly fail to explain to his government that, however thoughtlessly, not to say discourteously brief, was the reply of Mr. Seward, the American people fully appreciate the sympathy so kindly expressed on the part of the Czar.
What if it is not altogether for love of us the Russian government has expressed that sympathy. Assuming that the Czar had Russian interests in view, much more than American interests, when he caused the letter in question to be written—that he looked more to the Indus, and the Ganges, than to the Potomac, or the Mississippi, we should not value it the less on this account, as long as we had any reason to apprehend hostilities from another quarter, whence they seemed to be threatened. Nor should England have any blame to us for this; or infer from it any hostility on our part towards her. More than once she has herself avowedly entered into an alliance for no other purpose than to place a barrier between India and Russia, in order to protect the former against the aggressive spirit and cupidity of the latter. No fact in history is more universally known than that the policy of England towards Turkey, for the last sixty years, has had for its main object the plan of throwing obstacles in the way
of Russia on the road to India. Lord Castlereagh, Canning, Sir Robert Peel, and Lord Aberdeen, admitted in turn that were India in no danger from Russian ambition, the British government would give itself very little trouble in regard to the integrity of the Ottoman empire. Even the late war in the Crimea had much less to do with the interests of the Sultan or his people, so far as the intentions and feeling of England were concerned, than it had with the integrity of her own Eastern empire.
If we look to Persia, we shall find that the same policy is pursued there, nor is its introduction by any means of recent date. Several treaties have been entered into with the Shah, in which it was expressly stipulated that he should do all in his power to intercept the progress of Russia to India. Nay, it is notorious that enormous sums of money have been paid to him out of the British treasury for the sole purpose of opposing the onward march of the gigantic despotism of the North. We have abundant proof of this in the official dispatches of British ambassadors, but we need not go beyond the treaties which have been duly ratified by the courts of St. James and Tehran. So early in the history of British India and Russian intrigue in the East as 1809, England succeeded, after expending an enormous amount of money in presents to the Shah and his principal ministers, in inducing the court of Tehran to agree to a treaty, the spirit of which may be inferred from the third article, which we here transcribe.
“Art. 3. His Majesty, the king of Persia, judges it necessary to declaré that from the date of these preliminaries every 'treaty or agreement he may have made with any one of the powers of Europe, becomes null and void, and that he will not permit any European power whatever to pass through Persia, either towards India or towards the ports of that country.”
Lest this might not answer every purpose, another article is introduced to prevent future treaties with any other power save England.
"Art. 8. It is acknowledged that the intent and meaning of these preliminary articles are entirely defensive. (That is, defensive of India.) And it is likewise agreed that, as long as these preliminary articles remain in force, his Majesty the king of Persia shall not enter into any engagements inimical to his Britannic Majesty, or pregnant with injury or disadvantage to the British territories in India."
In consideration of this treaty, the Shah was to receive 200,000 tomans-about $800,000 annually. Every possible effort was made besides to extend British influence, and exclude that of Russia. The amount expended in presents, altogether independently of the subsidy, was not less than a million sterling for the first year after the preliminaries were agreed to. For a time this extraordinary liberality on the part of England had the desired effect. Not only the Persian government, but the Persian people were excited to the bitterest hatred of Russia. Matters went on in this way until 1829, when, in the month of February, M. Grybyadoff, the Russian envoy at the court of the Shah, and forty-four individuals belonging to his suite were massacred at the embassy, at Tehran, by the enraged populace. When this outrage was committed, the British government saw that for the present at least there was no need to be liberal with money, and, accordingly, Sir John Macdonald, the British Chargé d'Affaires, was instructed by Mr. Canning to purchase, as cheaply as he could, the erasure of those articles from the treaty which bound England to pay the subsidy. The Shah protested against the withdrawal of the latter, as a violation of the treaty, but was finally induced to accept one year's subsidy for the whole, promising to use his influence with