Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

its sagacious founder intended it to be, the emporium of Russian commerce with Europe, in the short space of little more than a century, is equally manifest. A visit to that city, however short, will convince every stranger of both these facts. He will there also acquire a knowledge of the immense extent of traffic carried on in the interior of the country, of the means adopted for encouraging it, and of the manner in which the Government seems disposed to favour it on purely national principles. Russia is perhaps the only country of such an extent which, without exportable manufactures, can carry on, year after year, an increasing import and export trade, the active balance of which is invariably in her favour.

But with the more general question of Russian trade I can have nothing to do; my task is much more simple, and must be confined to the observations I made during my short stay in St. Petersburgh on the buildings and a few of the institutions in that city, that have a reference to commerce. In regard to the former the Imperial Exchange first claims our attention. To its situation on the eastern point of the Vassileiostroff I have already alluded. The building was finished in 1811 after the plans of Monsieur Tonon, a French architect of great merit, but was not opened until the year 1816. Commerce was not likely to flourish during the eventful period that elapsed between the former and the latter of these dates. The building is in the form of a parallelogram, fifty-five toises long, forty-one wide, and fifteen high. A noble peristyle, of forty-four columns of the Doric order, surrounds it, forming an open gallery or piazza, raised on a stylobate of considerable height, to which a very wide and bold flight of steps in front and at the back of the building affords an easy ascent. The interior consists of a single hall, 126 feet long, and sixty-six wide, ornamented with emblema

tical sculptures, of colossal dimensions, lighted from above, and warmed by four stoves placed in symmetrical order, so as to form corresponding embellishments to the room. There are four entrances into the hall, and on each side of these, two smaller chambers serve for a variety of purposes connected with the establishment. Altogether the interior of this beautiful building is very striking, and only inferior to the new Bourse at Paris. In this place the Russian and foreign merchants meet daily at three o'clock, and as a French traveller has well observed, “Là le moindre mouvement est calculé, le moindre geste a son prix, le moindre sourire, doit rapporter quelque chose."

The Exchange is insulated on all sides; a very handsome semicircular open space lies in front of it, terminated by a granite quay, with two circular descents to the water's edge; and at each extremity rise the two colossal rostral columns already alluded to, composed of granite, ornamented with allegorical statues in bronze at their bases; the shaft interspersed with representations of the prows of vessels of the same metal projecting considerably; decorated with the emblems of trade, and surmounted by a group of three figures of Atlas, bearing hollow semi-globes, which are intended to receive fires on every occasion of public illumination.

It is well known how the Imperial Reformer of Russia received the first foreign vessel which arrived here in 1703. Dressed in a sailor's garb, and accompanied by the lords of his suite similarly clothed, the Emperor went to meet her in a boat, and piloted her from Cronstadt to St. Petersburgh, near to the very spot on which stands the New Exchange. The Governor of the town, Prince Menschikoff, received with great pomp the skipper and the; pilot and the surprise of the former must have been considerable, when, at the repast which followed his arrival, he recog

nized in his skilful conductor, Peter himself, the Sovereign of the country, who wished thus to hail commerce to the shores of his new empire.

An equal degree of consideration for those who are engaged in commerce, was manifested by the late Sovereign in a like condescending manner. On the laying of the foundation stone of the New Exchange, Alexander took the opportunity of conferring a most honourable and flattering distinction on the British merchants resident in, and trading to St. Petersburgh. He attended the ceremony, and every English merchant in the place was invited. The first stone of the projected structure was laid with due solemnity; and when the ceremony was concluded, his Majesty requested the attendance of the English merchants at a splendid entertainment, given upon an event so auspicious to the country. The Emperor presided in person, and condescended to perform the honours of the feast. He deported himself with such easy and familiar conviviality, that his English guests might have imagined themselves seated at the hospitable board of their most intimate friend.* After numerous toasts had gone round, and success had been drunk to the new undertaking, his Majesty unfolded a packet containing a quantity of gold medals, each equal to about six guineas in weight, on one side of which was the bust of the Emperor, a striking and accurate likeness; and on the reverse, the elevation of the Imperial Exchange, precisely as it now stands. His Majesty presented one with his own hands to every British merchant, in the possession of some of whom I had the pleasure of seeing the medal, and desired them at the same time to preserve it as a memorial of his respect for the first commercial nation in the world, and as an indication of that strict

See "Anecdotes illustrative of the Character of Alexander, Emperor of Russia." New Month. Mag. 1813.

[blocks in formation]

friendship which it was his wish to manifest towards England.

New and very extensive magazines, built in excellent taste, and with a solidity that will defy the elements for ages to come, have been erected at some distance on each side of the Exchange. These are intended to receive the transit goods from foreign countries, as well as those for the consumption of the capital, on which a duty is levied. The merchants stood greatly in need of this additional accommodation, as the Imperial warehouses of the Customhouse, situated not far from the Exchange, and of which I have given a short account elsewhere, were insufficient to the rapidly increasing trade of this metropolis. There are two sets of such magazines on each side. They have a basement and a principal story. The elevation of the former is fifteen feet, arched over, and protected from the smallest degree of humidity. That of the latter is twentyeight feet, and will contain from 250 to 300 poods of sugar, (10,800lbs.) One of these buildings is 210 feet long, and thirty feet wide; the other is only fifty feet in length, and twenty-five feet wide, being like the former divided into two stories, the upper of which is internally surrounded by a gallery, for the purpose of facilitating the exposition of merchandise of Russian manufacture. These buildings are constructed in such a manner, that even their basement and sub-basement stories will not be exposed to the effects of inundation.

All vessels on their arrival undergo a strict examination, both at Cronstadt and St. Petersburgh, and are obliged to unload at the Custom-house. To that part of the river therefore must the vessels be piloted, through a rather intricate navigation, owing to the different depths, and the shallows of the Neva. It is a curious fact, that the masters of vessels, or any persons on board, are not allowed to take sound

« AnteriorContinua »