Imatges de pÓgina

the army, and the extortions he made upon the foldiers *. Every one, from the peculiar favourite to the lowest in employ, confidered the property of the ftate as an harveft to be reaped, and grasped at it with as much avidity as the populace at an ox given up to be devoured. The Orlofs, as well as Potemkin and Panin, filled their places with fome dignity. The firft difplayed talents, and an inordinate ambition: Panin had befides confiderable fhare of knowledge, patriotifm, and many virtues. In general, during the laft years of Catharine, none were fo little as the great. Without knowledge, without penetration, without pride, without probity, they could not even boaft of that falfe honour which is to loyalty what hypocrify is to virtue: unfeeling as bafhaws, rapacious as tax-gatherers, pilfering as lacqueys, and vain as the meanest abigails of a play, they might truly be called the rabble of the empire. Their creatures, their hirelings, their valets, and even their relations, did not accumulate wealth by the gifts of their bounty, but by the extortions committed in their name, and the traffic made of their authority they alfo were robbed themfelves, as they robbed the crown. The meaneft fervices rendered to thefe men were paid by the ftate; and the wages of their buffoons, fervants, muficians, private fecre


taries, and even tutors of their children defrayed out of fome public fund, of which they had the management. Some few among them fought out men of talents, and appeared to efteem merit: but neither talents nor merit acquired a fortune under their protection, or partook of their wealth; partly from the avarice of thofe patrons, but ftill more from their total want of beneficence. The only way of gaining their favour was by becoming their buffoon, and the only method of profiting by it was by turning knave.

Thus, during this reign, almoft all the people in office and authority were lucky adventurers. At the galas given by the emprefs, fwarms of new-created counts and princes made their appearance, and that at a time when in France all titles were about to be abolished. If we except the Soltikofs, we fhall find at this period no family of diftinction in favour. To any other country this would have been no evil; but in Ruffia, where the rich nobility is the only clafs that has any education, and, generally fpeaking, any principles of honour, it was a ferious calamity to the empire. Befides, all thefe upftarts were fo many hungry leeches, who must be fed with the beft blood of the state, and fattened with the hard earnings of the people. A frequent change of kings is often not b rthenfume to a frate, which continues to be

"The colonel was the defpot of his regiment, of which he had the exclufive management, in the whole and in the detail. The Ruffian army, wherever it may be fituated, whether in a fubjected territory, the territory of an ally, or that of an enemy, always living at free quarters, the colonels regularly take to themselves nearly the whole of the money deft nea for ts fupport. By way of indemnification, they turn the horfes into the fields, and the men into the houfes of the pealants, there to live free of expence. The pay of a colonel is from seven to eight hundred rubles (70/. or 801) only a year; but the profit he derives from a regiment amounts to fifteen or twenty thoufand (1500 or 2000/) A minifter afking one day fome favour of the emprefs for a poor officer, the replied, If he be poor, it is his own fault; he has long had a regiment. Thus robbery was privileged, and probity ridiculed and defpifed. "



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their heir: but an inceffant change of favourites and minifters, who muft all fill their coffers and carry off their treasures, is enough to ruin any country except Ruffia. How many millions must it have coft to fill fucceflively the rapacious maws of about a dozen peculiar favourites? how many, to render rich and noble the Befborodkos, the Zavadoffkys, the Markofs, and the vast number of others who might be named? Have not the Orlofs, the Potemkins, the Zubofs, acquired revenues greater than thofe of kings; and their underlings, agents in the fale of their fignatures, and managers of their petty traffic, become more wealthy than the most fuccefsful merchants?

"With respect to the government of Catharine, it was as mild and moderate, within the immediate circle of her influence, as it was arbitrary and terrible at a distance. Whoever, directly or indirectly, enjoyed the protection of the favourite, exercised, wherever he was fituated, the moft undisguised tyranny. He infulted his fuperiors, trampled on his inferiors, and violated juftice, order, and the ukafes, with impunity.

"It is to the policy firft, and next to the weaknefs of Catharine, to which in part must be attributed the relaxed and diforganized ftate of her internal government; though the principal caufe will be found in the depraved manners and character of the nation, and efpecially of her court. How was a woman to effect that which the active difcipline of the cane, and the fanguinary axe of Peter I. were inadequate to accomplish? Having ufurped a throne, which the was defirous to retain, she was under the neceffity of treating her accomplices with kindness. Being a foreigner in the

empire over which the reigned, the ftrove to identify herself with the nation, by adopting and even flattering its taftes and its prejudices. She often knew how to reward, but never could refolve to punish; and it was folely by fuffering her power to be abufed that the fucceeded in preferving it.

"She had two paffions, which never left her but with her laft breath: the love of the other sex, which degenerated into licentioufnefs; and the love of glory, which funk into vanity. By the former of thefe paffions, fhe was never fo far governed as to become a Meffalina, but he often difgraced both her rank and her fex, and continued to be by habit what he had been from conftitution: by the fecond, fhe was led to undertake many laudable projects, which were feldom completed; and to engage in unjust wars, from which the derived at least that kind of fame which never fails to accompany fuccefs.

"The generofity of Catharine, the fplendor of her reign, the magnificence of her court, her inftitutions, her monuments, her wars, were precifely to Russia what the age of Louis XIV. was to Europe; but, confidered individually, Catharine was greater than that prince. The French formed the glory of Louis, Catharine formed that of the Ruffians. She had not, like him, the advantage of reigning over a polifhed people; nor was the furrounded from infancy by great and accomplished characters. She had fome fubtle ambaffadors, not unfkilled in the diplomatic art, and fome fortunate generals; but Romanzof, Panin, and Potemkin excepted, fhe could not boast a single man of genius: for the wit, cunning, and dexterity of certain of


lance, as they formed no part of her character, were never perceived in her conduct. I will not decide whether he were truly great, but fhe was certainly beloved.

her minifters, the ferocious valour of a Suvarof, the ductile capacity of a Repnin, the favour of a Zubof, the readiness of a Besborodko, and the affiduity of a Nicholas Soltikof, are not worthy of being mentioned as exceptions. It was not that Ruffia did not produce men of merit; but Catharine feared fuch men, and they kept at a diftance from her. We may conclude, therefore, that all her meafures were her own, and particularly all the good fhe did.

"Let not the misfortunes and abufes of her reign give to the private character of this princefs too dark and repulfive a fhade! She appeared to be thoroughly humane and generous, as all who approached her experienced: all who were admitted to her intimacy were dehighted with the good-humoured fallies of her wit: all who lived with her were happy. Her manners were gay and licentious, but fhe ftill preferved an exterior decorum, and even her favourites always treated her with refpect*. Her love never excited difguft, nor her familiarity contempt. She might be deceived, won, feduced, but the would never fuffer herself to be governed. Her active and regular life, her moderation, firmness, fortitude, and even her temperance, are moral qualities which it would be highly unjust to afcribe to hypocrify. How great might he not have been, had her heart been as well governed as her mind! She reigned over the Ruffians lefs defpotic than over herself; fhe was never hurried away by anger, never a prey to dejection, and never indulged in tranfports of immoderate joy. Caprice, ill-humour, and petu

"Imbued, from her youth, with the corrupt maxims by which courts are infected; enveloped, on her throne, in a cloud ofincenfe, through which it was hardly poffible for her to fee clearly, it would be too fevere to apply at once the fearching torch of reafon to her character, and try its defects by fo ftrict an inqueft. Let us judge her now as we should have done fome twenty years ago, and confider that Ruffia, as to the people, is ftill in the age of Charlemagne. The friends of liberty ought to render to Catharine the fame juftice as is rendered by all rational theologians to thofe great and wife men who did not enjoy the light of revelation. Her crimes were the crimes of her station, not of her heart: the terrible butcheries of Ifmail and of Praga appeared to her court to be humanity itself. All the wanted was to have once known misfortune, and she would perhaps have poffeffed the purest virtues; but he was fpoilt by the unvaried profperity of her arms. Vanity, that fatal rock to women, was fo to Catharine; and her reign will ever bear the diftinguishing characteristic of her fex.

"Meanwhile, in whatever light he is confidered, fhe will ever be placed in the first rank among those who, by their genius, their talents, and efpecially their fuccefs, have attracted the admiration of mankind. Her fex, giving a bolder relief to the great qualities e difplayed on the throne, will place her above all comparifon in hiftory;

"The reports circulated in Europe concerning her intemperance in champagne and brandy, and a number of other extravagancies, are down-right calumnies." A 4


and the fabulous ages of an Ifis and a Semiramis must be reforted to, to find a woman who has executed, or rather undertaken, fuch daring projects.

tier himself, who fold her watches and knitted stockings for her; and ideas and compliments in a hunwho repeats in his letters the fame dred different forms, and excites her continually to drive the Turks out of Europe, instead of advising her to render her own fubjects free and happy. If the code of laws drawn up by Catharine befpeak a mind capable of enlarged views and a found policy, her letters announce the wit, graces, and talents of a woman of ftill greater merit, and lead us to regret that he was an autocrate and an ufurper.

"When she published her Inwith her applaufe, and ftyled her ftructions, all Europe refounded by anticipation the legiflatrix of the north. Catharine convened deputies from the different nations of that they might hear this celebrated her vaft empire; but it was only performance read, and that she might receive their compliments: for, as foon as this was done, they were all fent back to their distant homes, fome in difgrace for their firmness, others decorated with medals for their fervility. The manufcript was depofited in a magnificent cafket, to be exhibited to the curi ofity of ftrangers. A fort of com

cordingly wrote her celebrated Imittee was appointed to compile fructions for a Code of Lars; fe- thefe laws; and if a favourite or veral moral tales and allegories for minifter had any dependent for the education of her grand-child- whom he wished to provide, or any ren; and a number of drama ic buffoon whom he wanted to mainpieces and proverbs, which were tain free of expence, he was apacted and admired at the Hermi- pointed a member of this committage. Her grand and futile under- tee, in order to give him a falary. taking, of collecting a number of Yet all Europe vociferated that Rufwords from three hundred different fia had laws, becaufe Catharine had languages, and forming them into written a preface to a code, and had a dictionary, was never executed. reduced a hundred different nations to the fame fyftem of bondage.

"Catharine was neither fond of poetry nor of mufic; and the often confeffed it. She could not even endure

"Catharine never effectually patronised letters in her country. It was the reign of Elizabeth that had encouraged them; which was diftinguished by many productions capable of proving to Europe that the Ruffians may lay fair claim to every fpecies of excellence. Catharine, indeed, purchafed libraries and collections of pictures, penfioned flatterers, flattered fuch celebrated men as might be inftrumental in fpreading her fame, and readily fent a medal or a fnuff-box to a German author who dedicated fome encomiaftic work to her: but it must have come from afar to please her, and have already acquired a great name to be entitled to her fuffrage, and particularly to obtain any recompence. Genius might be born at her feet without being noticed, and ftill more without being encouraged; yet, jealous of every kind of fame, and efpecially of that which Frederic the unique had obtained by his writings, the was defirous of becoming an author, that he might share in it. She ac

"Of all her writings, her letters to Voltaire are certainly the best. They are even more inter fting than thofe of the old philofophical cour

endure the noife of the orchestra between the acts of a play, and therefore commonly filenced it. This defect of taste and feeling in a woman, who appeared in other refpects fo happily conftituted, is aftonishing, yet may ferve to explain how, with fo extraordinary a capacity and genius, he could become fo impaffable and fo fanguinary. At her Tauridan palace the conftantly dined with the two pictures of the facking of Otchak of and Ifmail before her eyes, in which Cazanova has reprefented, with hideous accuracy, the blood flowing in ftreams, the limbs torn from the bodies and fill palpitating, the demoniac fury of the laughterers, and the convulfive agonies of the flaughtered. It was upon thefe fcenes of horror that her attention and imagination were fixed, while Gasparini and Mandini were difplaying their vocal powers, or Sarti was conducting a concert in her prefence.

"Previous to the death of Catharine, the monuments of her reign refembled already fo many wrecks and dilapidations: codes, colonies, education, eftablishments, manufactories, edifices, hofpitals, canals, towns, fortreffes, every thing had been begun, and every thing given up before it was finished. As foon as a project entered her head, all preceding ones gave place, and her thoughts were fixed on that alone, till a new idea arose to draw off her attention. She abandoned her code, to drive the Turks out of Europe. After the glorious peace of Kaïnardgi, fhe appeared for a while to attend to the interior administration of her affairs; but all was prefently forgotten, that he might be queen

of Tauris. Her next project was the re-eftablishment of the throne of Conftantine; to which fucceeded that of humbling and punishing the king of Sweden. Afterwards the invafion of Poiand became her ruling paffion; and then a fecond Pugathef might have arrived at the gates of Petersburg without forcing her to relinquith her hold. She died, again meditating the deftruction of Sweden, the ruin of Pruffia, and mortified at the fucceffes of France and republicanism. Thus was the incefiantly led away by fome new paffion fill ftronger in its influence then the preceding, fo as to negle&t her government both in its whole and its parts.

"Medals are in being that were truck in honour of numerous edifices that have never yet been built; and, among others, the marble church, which, undertaken fome twenty years ago, is ftill on the ftocks. The thells of other edifices, which have never been completed, are falling into ruins; and Peterburg is encumbered with the rubbish of a variety of large manfions fallen to decay before they have been inhabited. The projectors and architects pocketed the money; and Catharine. having the plan or medal in her cabinet, concluded the undertaking to be finished, and thought of it no more.

The Peterburg aimanac gives a lift of upwards of two hundred and forty towns founded by Catharine, -a number interior, perhaps, to what have been deftroyed by her armies; but thefe towns are merely fo many paltry hamlets, that have change their name and quality by an immennoi ukaje t, the fupreme

"The emperor Paul has fince caufed it to be finished of brick." "An edict under the fign manual.”


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