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consider how this can be put into execution, and to submit my words to the noblesse for their consideration."

These words were intended, it is said, to sound the noblesse, and induce them to make a voluntary proposal. If such was the intention, the speech had not the desired effect. The magnates of Moscow had very little Abolitionist enthusiasm, and those who really wished to see serfage abolished considered the Imperial utterance too vague and oracular to justify positive action. The excitement caused by the incident soon subsided, and as no further steps were taken for some time, many people assumed that the consideration of the question had been indefinitely postponed. "The Government," it was said, "evidently intended to raise the question, but on perceiving the indifference or hostility of the landed proprietors, became frightened and drew back."

The Emperor was in reality disappointed. He had expected that his "faithful Moscow noblesse," of which he was wont to say he was himself a member, would at once respond to his call, and that the ancient capital would have the honour of beginning the work. And if the example were thus given by Moscow he had no doubt that it would soon be followed by the other provinces. He now perceived that the fundamental principles on which the Emancipation should be effected must be laid down by the Government, and for this purpose he created a secret committee composed of the great officers of State.

This "Chief Committee for Peasant Affairs," as it was afterwards called, devoted six months to studying the history of the question. Proposed Emancipation was by no means a new phenomenon in Russia. Ever since the time of Catherine II. the Government had attempted to improve the condition of the serfs, and on more than one occasion a general Emancipation had been contemplated. These efforts, though they led to small practical results, had at least the good effect of ripening the question, and of bringing out certain fundamental principles which would necessarily form the basis of all future projects. The chief of these principles was that the State should not consent to any project which would uproot the peasant from the soil and allow him to wander about at will; for such a measure would certainly render the collection of the taxes impossible, and in all probability produce the most frightful agrarian disorders. And to this general principle there was an important corollary: if severe restrictions were to be placed on the free migration of the peasantry, it would be necessary to provide them with land in the immediate vicinity of the villages; otherwise they must inevitably fall back under the power of the proprietors, and a new and worse kind of serfage would thus be created. But in order to give land to the peasantry it would be necessary to take it from the proprietors; and this expropriation seemed to many a most unjustifiable infringement of the sacred right of property. It was this consideration that had formerly restrained Nicholas from taking any decisive

measures with regard to serfage; and it had now considerable weight with the members of the committee, who were nearly all great landowners.

Notwithstanding the strenuous exertions of the Grand Duke Constantine, who had been appointed a member for the express purpose of accelerating the proceedings, the committee did not show as much zeal and energy as was desired, and orders were given to take some decided step. A convenient opportunity soon presented itself.

In the Lithuanian Provinces, where the nobles were Polish by origin and sympathies, the miserable condition of the peasantry had induced the Government in the time of Nicholas to limit the arbitrary power of the serf-owners by so-called Inventories, in which the mutual obligations of masters and serfs were regulated and defined. These Inventories had caused great dissatisfaction, and the proprietors now proposed that they should be revised. Of this the Government determined to take advantage. On the somewhat violent assumption that these proprietors wished to emancipate their serfs, an Imperial rescript was prepared, approving of their supposed desire, and empowering them to form committees for the preparation of definite projects.* In the rescript itself the word emancipation was studiously avoided, but there could be no doubt as to the implied meaning, for it was expressly stated in the

This celebrated document is known as "The Rescript to Nazímof." More than once in the course of conversation I did all in my power, within the limits of politeness and discretion, to extract from General Nazímof a detailed account of this important episode, but my efforts were unsuccessful.

supplementary considerations that "the abolition of serfage must be effected, not suddenly, but gradually." Four days later the Minister of the Interior, in accordance with a secret order from the Emperor, sent a circular to the Governors and Marshals of Noblesse all over Russia Proper, informing them that the nobles of the Lithuanian Provinces "had recognised the necessity of liberating the peasants," and that "this noble intention" had afforded peculiar satisfaction to his Majesty. A copy of the rescript and the fundamental principles to be observed accompanied the circular, "in case the nobles of other provinces should express a similar desire."

This circular produced an immense sensation throughout the country. No one could for a moment misunderstand the suggestion that the nobles of other provinces might possibly express a desire to liberate their serfs. Such vague words, when spoken by an autocrat, have a very definite and unmistakable meaning, which prudent loyal subjects have no difficulty in understanding. If any doubted, their doubts were soon dispelled, for the Emperor, a few weeks later, publicly expressed a hope that, with the help of God and the co-operation of the nobles, the work would be successfully accomplished.

The die was cast, and the Government looked anxiously to see the result.

The periodical Press-which was at once the product and the fomenter of the liberal aspirations— hailed the raising of the question with boundless

enthusiasm. The Emancipation, it was said, would certainly open a new and glorious epoch in the national history. Serfage was described as an ulcer that had long been poisoning the national blood; as an enormous weight under which the whole nation groaned; as an insurmountable obstacle, preventing all material and moral progress; as a cumbrous load, which rendered all free, vigorous action impossible, and prevented Russia from rising to the level of the Western nations. If Russia had succeeded in stemming the flood of adverse fortune in spite of this millstone round her neck, what might she not accomplish when free and untrammelled? All sections of the literary world had arguments to offer in support of the foregone conclusion. The moralists declared that all the prevailing vices were the product of serfage, and that moral progress was impossible in an atmosphere of slavery; the lawyers asserted that the arbitrary authority of the proprietors over the peasants had no firm legal basis; the economists explained that free labour was an indispensable condition of industrial and commercial prosperity; the philosophical historians showed that the normal historical development of the country demanded the immediate abolition of this superannuated remnant of barbarism; and the writers of the sentimental, gushing type poured forth endless effusions about brotherly love to the weak and the oppressed. In a word, the Press was for the moment unanimous, and displayed a feverish excitement which demanded a liberal use of superlatives.

This enthusiastic tone accorded perfectly with the

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