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crush Rome. These are the Turks and Russians; but they are necessarily enemies; and besides, I cannot distinctly anticipate misfortunes so distant. Je ne sais point prevoir les malbeurs de si loin.
RACINE, Andromache, act i. scene 2.
PETER THE GREAT AND J. J. ROUSSEAU.
“ The czar Peter .... had not true genius—that which creates and makes all of nothing.
Some things which he did were good : the greater part were misplaced. He saw that his people were barbarous; he has not seen that they were not prepared for polishing; he would civilise them when they only wanted training. He wished at once to make Germans and English when he should have commenced by making Russians. He prevented his subjects from becoming what they might be, by persuading them that they were what they are not. It is thus that a French preceptor forms his pupil to shine for a moment in his childhood, and never afterwards to be anything. The empire of Russia would subjugate Europe, and will be subjugated itself. The Tartars, its subjects or neighbours, will become its masters and ours. This revolution appears to me unavoidable: all the kings of Europe labour together to accelerate it."* (Contrat Social, livre ii.
To judge of a prince, we must transport ourselves back to the time in which he lived. If Rousseau, by saying that Peter I. had not true genius, means, that this prince has not created principles of legislation and public administration-principles then absolutely uuknown in Europe, such a reproach does not tarnish his glory. The czar saw that his soldiers were without discipline, and he gave them that of the most warlike nations of Europe. His peo ple were ignorant of navigation, and in a few years he created a formidable fleet. For commerce, le adopted the principles of the people who then passed for the most enlightened in Europe. He felt that the Russians only differed from other Europeans from three causes: the first was the excessive power of superstition over their miuds, and the influence of priests over the government and subjects. The czar attacked superstition at its source, by destroyir the monks by the lest method, that of not permitting the vows until an age in which every man who had an inclination to take them was to a certainty an useless citizen.
He rendered priests subject to the law, and left them only:a9
chap. viii.) These words are extracted from a pamphlet entitled the “ Contrat Social,” or unsocial, of the very unsociable Jean Jacques Rousseau. It is not astonishing, that having performed miracles at Venice he should prophecy on Moscow; but as he well knows that the good time of miracles and prophecies has passed away, he ought to believe, that his prediction against Russia is not so infallible as it appeared to him in his first fit of divination. It is pleasant to announce the fall of great empires; it consoles us for our littleness. It authority subordinate to his own, in reference to objects of civil order, which the ignorance of our ancestors submitted exclusively to ecclesiastical power.
The second cause which was opposed to the civilization of Russia, was the almost general slavery of the peasants, whether artisans or farmers. Peter dared not immediately destroy servitude; but he prepared for its destruction, by forming an army which rendered him independent of proprietors of lands, and put him in a state to fear them no longer; and by creating in his new capital, by means of foreigners invited into his empire, a trading and industrious people enjoying civil liberty.
The third cause of the barbarity of the Russians was ignorance. He felt that he could only render his nation powerful by enlightening it, and this was the principal object of his labours. It is above all in this that he has shown a true genius: we cannot be sufficiently astonished at seeing Rousseau reproach him with not confining himself to training his nation; and it must be confessed, that the Russian who in 1700 perceived the influence of knowledge on the political state of empires, and could discover that the greatest good he could do to men was to substitute just ideas for the prejudices which governed them, had more genius than the Genevese who in 1750 wished to prove to us the great advantages of ignorance.
When Peter mounted the throne, Russia was nearly in the same state as France, Germany, and England in the eleventh century. The Russians, so far as the views of Peter have been followed, have made, in eighty years, more progress than we did in four centuries. Is not this a proof that these views were not those of an ordinary man?
As to the prophecy on the future conquests of the Tartars, Rousseau should have observed, that barbarians have never conquered civilised people, except when these latter have neglected tactics ; and that ihe former have always been too few to vanquish great pations which have armies. There is a wide difference between dethroning a despot; puting yourself in his place, imposing a tribute on him after having conquered him, and subjugating a people. The Romans conquered Gaul and Spain: the chiefs of the Goths and Franks only drove away the Romans, and succeeded them.
will be a fine gain for philosophy, when we shall constantly behold the Nogais Tartars, who can, I believe, bring twelve thousand men into the field, coming to subjugate Russia, Germany, Italy, and France. But I flatter myself, that the emperor of China, will not suffer it; he has already acceded to perpetual peace, and as he has no more jesuits about him, he will not trouble Europe. Jean Jacques, who possesses, as he himself believes, true genius, finds that Peter the Great had it not.
A Russian Lord, a man of much wit, who sometimes amuses himself with reading pamphlets, while reading this, remembered some lines of Molière, implying, that three miserable authors took it into their heads, that it was only necessary to be printed and bound in calf, to become important personages and dispose of empires :
Il semble à trois gredins, dans leur petit cerveau,
Qu'avec leur plume ils font le destin des couronnes. The Russians, says Jean Jacques, were never polished. I have seen some at least very polite, and who had just, delicate, agreeable, cultivated, and even logical minds, which' Jean Jacques will find very extraordinary.
As he is very gallant, he will not fail to say, that they are formed at the court of the empress of Russia, that her example has influenced them: but that prevents not the correctness of his prophecy--that this empire will soon be destroyed.
This good little man assures us, in one of his modest works, that a statue should be erected to him. It will not probably be either at Moscow or Petersburg, that any one will trouble himself to sculpture Jean Jacques.
I wish, in general, that when people judge of nations from their garrets, they would be more honest and circumspect. Every poor devil can say what he pleases of the Romans, Athenians, and ancient Persians. He can deceive himself with impunity on the tribunes, comitias, and dictatorships. He can govern in idea two or three thousand leagues of country, whilst he is incapable of governing his servant girl. In a romance, he can receive an acrid kiss” from his Julia, and advise a prince to espouse the daughter of a hangman. These are follies without consequence there are others which may
have disastrous effects. Court fools were very discreet; they insulted the weak alone by their buffooneries, and respected the powerful: country fools are at present more bold.
It will be answered, that Diogenes and Aretin were tolerated. Granted; but a fly one day seeing a swallow wing away with a spider's web, would do the same thing, and was taken.
May we not say of these legislators who govern the universe at two sous the sheet, and who from their garrets give orders to all kings, what Homer said to Calchas?
Os ede ta eonta, ta te essomena, pro theonta.
He knew the past, present, and future. It is a pity that the author of the little paragraph which we are going to quote knew nothing of the three times of which Homer speaks.
“Peter the Great,” says he, “ had not the genius which makes all of nothing." Truly, Jean Jacques, I can easily believe it; for it is said that God alone has this prerogative.
“He has not seen that his people were not prepared for polishing."
In this case it was admirable of the czar to prepare them. It appears to me, that it is Jean Jaques who has not seen that he must make use of the Germans and English to form Russians.
“He has prevented his subjects from ever becoming what they might be," &c.
Yet these same Russians have become the conquerors of the Turks and Tartars, the conquerors and legislators of the Crimea, and twenty different nations.
Their sovereign has given laws to nations of which even the names were unknown in Europe.
As to the prophecy of Jean Jacques, he may have exalted his soul sufficiently to read the future. He has all the requisites of a prophet; but as to the past and the present, it must be confessed that he knows nothing about them. I doubt whether antiquity has anything comparable to the boldness of sending four squadrons from the extremity of the Baltic into the seas of Greece-of reigning at once over the Egean and the Euxine seas of carrying terror into Colchis
, and to the Dardanelles-of subjugating Taurida, and forcing the vizier Azem to fly from the shores of the Danube to the gates of Adrianople.
If Jean Jacques considers so many great actions which astonished the attentive world as nothing, he must at least confess, that there was some generosity in one count Orloff, who having taken a vessel which contained all the family and treasures of a pacha, sent him back both his family and treasures. If the Russians were not prepared for polishing in the time of Peter the Great, let us agree that they are now prepared for greatness of soul; and that Jean Jacques is not quite prepared for truth and reasoning.
With regard to the future, we shall know it when we have Ezekiels, Isaiahs, Habakkuks, and Micahs; but their time has passed away; and if we dare say so much, it is to be feared that it will never return.
I confess that these lies, printed in relation to present times, always astonish me. If these liberties are allowed in an age in which a thousand volumes, a thousand newspapers and journals, are constantly correcting each other, what faith can we have in those histories of ancient times, which collected all vague rumours without consulting any archives, which put into writing all that they had heard told by their grandmothers in their childhood, very sure that no critic would dicover their errors?
We had for a long time nipe muses : wholesome criticism is the tenth, which has appeared very lately. She existed not in the time of Cecrops, of the first