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Russian statesmen are like vultures. They do not wait till their victim has rendered his last sigh, but they scent from afar the taints of weakness, instability, bankrnptcy, and decay in any country or government. They mean eventually to tear the carcase piecemeal, and to pick its bones, but they begin by hovering overhead. Before indicating conquest they make tributaries, clients, debtors, and partisans, and before proceeding to partition and to the annihilation of race, language, and creeds, they will offer freely sympathy, subsidies, and help. They intrigue, they foment insurrection, they remove landmarks, separate families, abduct rulers, browbeat regents and palatines, suggest candidates, bribe electors, and sow the land with Russian roubles, which are as dragon's teeth; so that in the end they reap the crop they had long desired, red ruin, and the breaking up' of treaties, if not of laws. Catherine, whose policy was of this stealthy sort, bad her left hand busy in Georgia. One struggle more, and hers would then be the sceptre of the famous Queen Tamara, and her's the inheritance of the oldest Christian dynasty in the world. Nor was one such intrigue sufficient for her ambition. With the right hand she had for long manipulated Polish elections, and she it was who in 1764 procured the nomination of her sometime lover, Stanislaus Poniatowski.
To Adam-Casimir Czartoryski that election was every way antipathetic. He at once proposed himself as a rival, and failed; but four years later the Catholic, national, and anti-Muscovite party, to which he belonged, and which was headed by Krasinski, formed itself into the so-called Confederation of Bar. Its first act was to ignore Catherine's nominee, and to declare the throne vacant. A civil war was inaugurated, and on it followed what is termed the first partition of Poland. From that moment the sorrows of the Poles have become matters of European interest. Stanislaus Poniatowski made some futile efforts to reorganise the fragments of the country, but his hand was eminently unfitted for the task, and the Diet of Grodno, like the Confederation of Targovice, provoked fresh expressions of the antagonism existing between the two parties. A second war led to a second partition (1772), and, after the triumphs of Souvaroff and the abdication of a king who was one in name only, Poland was, in 1793, finally dismembered.
To none of these scenes had the Czartoryski and their heir, Prince Adam, been strangers. The young man was present at the diet of 1782. There he saw the power of his family receive a heavy blow. His father, sure of the sympathy of the Lithuanians, had hoped to carry by a majority the measures he advocated, and to promote to power the men of whom he was the head. But the royal and Muscovite party proved too strong for him. Russia scored another victory, and the stubborn old Starost retired to his estates in Podolia. His son says that the time passed there in hunting, coursing, fencing, and studying. The family next moved across Galicia to their estate of Pulavy, beyond Jaroslav. There their house served as a rendezvous for all who in politics and religion shared their views, and the young men had Polish and French professors, went to Carlsbad, and made a tour in Germany, visiting Goethe in Weimar. The Diet of 1781 saw them again at Warsaw; but the tide set strongly against nationalism, and in 1789 Prince Adam travelled, joined his married sister in Würtemberg, and went with his mother to England. He stayed with Lord Lansdowne, and made, both in London and in the industrial centres of England and of Scotland, valuable studies of our social and commercial systems. In Edinburgh his name is not yet forgotten, though the group of men who founded this Review, and who were his personal friends, have now all gone over to the majority.
The year 1791 was an important one to the young politician. He went through his drill under his brother-in-law, Louis of Würtemberg, and when, after the confederation of Targovice, Russian troops again broke into Poland, he fought at Polomna.
Now occurs a blank in the memoirs. Possibly the missing pages have been destroyed by the writer, or for him. At all events he does not explain how he came to be in England when Kosciuscko fell (1793), nor how he came to be arrested in Brussels, when on his way home to carry arms under the hero of Macziewice. It was the Austrian police who stopped him, and as after the close of the campaign he went to join his parents in Vienna, it is only fair to suppose that the Austrian Emperor, judging the Polish cause to be hopeless, had begged his old servant and Marshal, Adam-Casimir Czartoryski, to restrain the patriotic ardour of his son. The heir was kept for some time longer in Vienna, out of harm's way, and thus prevented from further endangering the family fortunes. The same imperial friend it was who next opened a negotiation with Catherine to get the Czartoryskiestates restored. The Czarina had confiscated them to render her great opponents powerless, but now that she had carried every position, and ruled over a dismembered and prostrate Poland, it was her policy to rally, and as it were russify, as many of the great Polish nobles as she could win over to her side. Humbler houses might perish, unpitied because unnoticed, but the Czartoryski were the observed of all observers, therefore it would be well to exhibit them in her train. She accordingly replied that she would consider their case, but that as hostages for future good behaviour she should first require to see both the young princes, Adam and Ladislaus, at her court. At such a demand the blood of all these palatines, old and young, rebelled. But the Emperor advised a more conciliatory demeanour, and pointed out that ruin, and obliteration through ruin, stared them in the face if they persisted in asking for favours while they conceded nothing to the haughty and victorious sovereign whom they had so long withstood, in the cabinet as in the field. Perhaps the old Marshal, Prince AdamCasimir, had a vague hope that this might be a case of reculer pour mieux sauter. At any rate, he gave in; a confidential tutor, named Gorski, was selected to accompany them, and on this strange errand the young men departed. Their heads were full of curiosity as to the career along which Providence and the Czarina had unexpectedly started them. Their hearts were not less full of wounded pride and patriotism, to say nothing of aversion to Catherine, whose crimes and indecorums, monstrous as they really were, had assuredly lost nothing when rehearsed in their ears by Polish tongues. Their position was painful enough, but on reaching St. Petersburg they found that it was not singular.
The struggle being over it was to be expected that Catherine would make some arrangement of the vast confiscated estates of the malcontent Polish aristocracy. Many hastened up to the capital to assist at the curée. Some hoped to enrich themselves in the general scramble, some to gratify an old grudge, and some, like the young Czartoryski, to save a little out of this vast wreck.
Russian society was then, as it is to-day, the mere reflection of the Court. This is Prince Adam's first impression of it:
'It might be compared to the vestibule of a temple where all present had only ears and eyes for the divinity before whom they burned incense. The Einpress Catherine, the immediate author of the ruin of Poland—Catherine, whose very name disgusted us, cursed as she was by every one who carried a Polish heart in his breast, this Catherine, who if judged out of her capital had neither virtue nor even the decency required in a woman, had gained none the less, in her own country, and above all in its capital, the veneration, nay even the love, of her subjects. Through the long years of her reign, the army, the privileged classes, and the administrators had had days of lustre and of prosperity. It is beyond a doubt that ever since her accession the Muscovite empire had gained in consideration both at home and abroad, and that order was established at home as it had never been during the preceding reigns of Anne and of Elizabeth. Men's minds were still full of the ancient fanaticism of a base adoration for their autocrats, and the Russians had been confirmed in this servility by the prosperous reign of Catherine, and this although some gleams of European civilisation had already pierced among them. Thus the whole nation, the great folk just as much as the small, and the poor just as well as the rich, felt themselves to be in no way scandalised at her depravity, nor at the crimes and murders committed by their sovereign. To her everything was permitted—her luxury wore a halo; and men no more thought of criticising her debaucheries than did the pagans who respected the crimes and obscenities of their Olympian gods and Roman Cæsars. . . . As for this Muscovite Olympus, it was in three stages. The first and lowest was occupied by the young princes and princesses, grandchildren of the Empress, who, full of graces, all promised the fairest futures. The solitary tenant of the second sphere was Grand Duke Paul, whose gloomy temper and fantastic disposition inspired all sorts of terrors, and some contempt. At the summit of the edifice sat Catherine the Great, in all the prestige of her victories and of her prosperity ; secure in the love of the subjects whom she led about at her good will and pleasure. All those hopes to which the sight of the young court gave rise could only have their fruition in a distant future, and they in no way took off from the general affection for the Czarina, or from her supreme authority : nay, the
young court was considered as an emanation or creation of the reigning power. And in truth Catherine reserved to herself the exclusive education of her grandchildren. Any influence of either father or mother was forbidden. From their birth the princes and princesses had been withdrawn from parental hands, and thus grew up under the eyes of Catherine, to whom alone they seemed to belong. The Grand Duke Paul served as a mere shadow which only heightened the effect of this picture. The very terror which he inspired strengthened the general attachment to the government of Catherine, for all must desire that the reins of government should long remain in the strong hands of his mother. Just as every one was afraid of Paul, so all admired the capabilities of a mother who was able to keep him in subjection to herself, and far from a throne which belonged to him by right.'
This is a masterly sketch, and it is followed by many more, all equally well drawn, of Catherine's minions the brothers Zubow, and of despotic proconsuls like Toutoulmine, of Bezborodko, of the Vice-chancellor Ostermann, and of Poles like his kinsman Lubomirski, come up to recover their fortunes, or of travellers like De Ségur and the Prince de Ligne, come to hear the wisdom and see the splendours of this Semiramis of the North.
Prince Adam does not mention Grimm. Perhaps the proud young Polish officer secretly despised the factotum who was flatterer-in-chief to the Czarina, and who busied himself now with her literary efforts, now with her lace ruffles, and now with the marriages of the eligible young grand dukes and duchesses in Germany and all the Russias. The two men certainly looked at her from very different points of view. Both felt the originality of her character and the strength of her will; but Prince Adam, sick at heart from her tyranny, was blind to the gaiety and power of pleasing which she possessed, and which she herself valued as her strongest points. This is how she and the young Polish officer met: • It was long before she would see us; but when we were presented to her she met us with her fixed smile, but was gracious enough to add, “ Your age recalls that of your « « father when I first saw him. I hope that you enjoy your606 «« selves in this country.”! A Capua for Polish spirits she hoped that St. Petersburg might prove, and accordingly that evening the young men were admitted to dine in her presence at one of those dinners with which Grimm has made us familiar.
"There, in front of the imperial sofa and of the sovereign of All the Russias, we talk and chat of things gay, serious, or frivclous; often gaily of grave things, often gravely of trifles. The entrée to the Hermitage makes everyone equal, and one leaves one's rank with one's hat and one's sword at the door. In the dining-room there are two tables, placed side by side, each with ten covers. The service is done mechanically, no servants wait, and the lieutenant de police is sold, for he can never send a single report to her Majesty of what passes at those dinners. The places are drawn by lot, and it sometimes happens that the Empress finds herself placed at a corner of her own table, and that M. Grimm, or some other man of his value, occupies the centre.'*
To be so entertained was indeed a mark of favour, and the brothers accordingly received next day from flatterers many compliments on the step which they had made in her imperial good graces. As to their estates, Catherine long observed a diplomatic and cruelly tantalising silence. She had exhibited the hostages in her triumph, but they had as yet received nothing from the supposed clemency of their conqueror. At last she sent to let them know that it was im
* Melchior Grimm, par Edinond Scherer, p. 263.