Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

ST. PETERSBURGH IN 1827.

PART SECOND.

(CONTINUED.)

PICTURE OF ST. PETERSBURGH.

CHAPTER V.

THE IMPERIAL FAMILY-THE IMPERIAL

GOVERNMENT.

I APPROACH the following subject with great diffidence and hesitation. On the illustrious individual now at the head of the Russian nation—on his personal character, and political principles-the entire faith and reliance of the European Cabinets repose, at this moment, for a continuation of that system of universal peace amongst them, which has been purchased at the price of so many recent sacrifices. Towards him the eyes of all Europe are at present turned. A young and powerful sovereign-full of health and energy-beloved by his subjects, to whom he is attached in return-esteemed and looked up to, as their natural leader, by one of the finest and most numerous armies in the world-surrounded by a galaxy of generals, whose

[blocks in formation]

names have been entwined with the laurels of the last memorable war,-Nicholas the First, quits the luxuries of the gorgeous palaces I have described, and stands even now on the threshold of that Empire, between which and Russia there are fearful accounts to settle. On his assurances, therefore, that there are no ambitious views connected with his present actions; on his disclaiming all desire of conquest and aggrandizement, must, for a short time, depend the chance of undisturbed peace, or of inevitable war, among those friendly nations that have agreed to remain tranquil spectators of the events which are about to take place beyond the Balkansky Chain, or Bulgarian Alps. Fortunately those assurances have been given, as it is generally understood; and by a monarch, whose political life, brief as it has yet been, has never belied any of those strict principles which in private life have, by general acknowledgment, been known to guide his conduct.

The education which the present Emperor of Russia received in his youth-the example of an elder brother, whom all Europe recognised as an upright prince-the experience of passing events, added to information sought and obtained in foreign countries, while yet removed from the throne, are so many guarantees of the safety of that confidence which other sovereigns have placed in him. Were it even only his character as an eminently dutiful and affectionate son to a surviving parent, herself the acknowledged pattern of every virtue, Nicholas would still have the strongest claim to an implicit belief. But that prince has other and equally strong titles to the utmost reliance of his own subjects, and that of foreign nations; for both which reasons he may safely rest his expectations of a full approbation of his conduct.

Nicholas the First was thirty-two years of age on the 7th of July last. He was born in the same year in which

Catherine the Second closed her long and glorious reign; and did not therefore, like his more fortunate brothers, Alexander and Constantine, experience the influence of that great mind in the care of his early education. Nature, however, had provided him with a mother, who stood in less need than any reigning princess, of the counsels and assistance of others, to lead her child in the path of virtue. At an early age he was placed under the guidance of General Count Lamsdorff, an officer of distinguished merit, who had served his sovereign with great reputation, both in the field, and as Governor of Courland. The Count had previously enjoyed a high degree of well-merited confidence at Court, as Cavalier de Service, with the Grand Duke Constantine, during a period of ten years; and likewise as director of the first corps of cadets. He enjoyed the patronage of the present Empress-mother, then reigning Empress; and it was under her direction that he conducted the education of the Grand-duke Nicholas, and that of his brother the Grand-duke Michael, from the time of the former of those two Princes completing the fourth year of his age. No choice could have been more fortunate. The qualities of the Governor's heart were precisely such as affectionate parents would wish to see appreciated by their children; and those of his mind were strictly of that cast which were required to direct the studies of his illustrious pupils, under the instructions of proper masters. The Count is no more: he terminated his long and honourable career, at the age of eighty-three, on the 4th of April last; and from his character, as portrayed in the Court Gazette, it is fair to conclude, that the principles which he doubtless endeavoured to instil into the bosom of his Imperial pupil, must have been consonant with those which marked his own conduct through life. "Une integrité à toute épreuve," says the writer, "une

modestie et un désintéressement rare, une volonté essentiellement dirigée vers le bien, et la plus religieuse exactitude dans l'accomplissement de ses devoirs, tels étaient les traits distinctifs de son caractère. Dans son intérieur la simplicité de ses mœurs et de ses gouts, l'exercice constant de toutes les vertus privées, une sensibilité exquise, ses habitudes eminemment patriarcales, auxquelles il ne dérogea jamais, et cette aménité bienveillante dont l'expression se lisait encore dans ses traits au moment de la mort, le rendaient au plus haut point venerable. Calme et resigné dans ses dernièrs momens, et conservant toutes ses facultés, sa mort a été celle du juste."

As Nicholas grew in years, preceptors for the higher branches of learning were selected from among the most eminent men of the country; and it is but justice to make particular mention of one of them, Monsieur Balouhiansky, who had the honour of instructing the Grand-duke in the principles of the art of government, and of practical science; and the continuation of whose services Nicholas has since secured to himself, as Emperor, by placing him in his private Chancellerie in the situation of state-secretary.

Too young at the time of the invasion of his country to take a prominent part in that war of defence, which was soon followed by another, and the last campaign, Nicholas has not had opportunities of acquiring that degree of experience in warlike operations, which would be required of him were he intended for a mere military conqueror. But the art and science of military operations, without which experience itself is frequently of no avail, he studied under very able masters and veteran officers.

In the year 1816, travelling in foreign countries was deemed expedient by the Grand-duke, with a view to acquire more enlarged notions respecting those nations which were acting the most conspicuous parts in Europe. Among these

« AnteriorContinua »