Page images


[Comte de Novosiltzoff, President du Conseil de L'Empereur de Toutes Les Russies, Conseiller intime actuel, Conseiller President du Comité des Ministres, Membre de la Commission des Requêtes, &c., &c.

Such is the official title of the keeper of the conscience of the Emperor of Russia, who has recently arrived in England, with Admiral Mordwinoff, a Member of the Ministerial Council at St. Petersburgh, charged with a special Mission to this country.

The communications we have received on the subject of this eminent functionary sufficiently attest the importance attached to his Mission by the different Courts of Europe.

We sincerely trust that there may be no mistake in the manner of his reception here.

Lord Durham in his letter of the 5th of May informs us that the Emperor is determined" to act spontaneously and cordially with us in the maintenance of the peace of Europe."

His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs proceeds to preserve the peace of Europe by cordially separating England from Russia, at the same time that he is determined spontaneously to support the Russian Faction in Greece with the third instalment of the loan.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer exhibits his proficiency in the Diplomacy which he has learnt from Lord Durham, by his ingenious reply, on Thursday night, to the Noble Member for Arundel.

In the midst of these difficulties, we can only cordially and spontaneously recommend the Chancellor of Russia to the hospitable attentions of that straightforward and liberal statesman, the President of the Board of Trade.]

Extract from" Coup d'Eil sur l'Etat politique du Royaume de Pologne sous la Domination Russe, par un Polonois." Paris, 1832. p. 115.

We know not the motive that induced Alexander to call precisely Novosiltzoff a second-rate diplomatist, conjointly with Lanskoy, to the function of member of the provisional government of the Duchy of Warsaw, in 1813. A dissolute spendthrift, inexhaustible in trickery, clever at subterfuges, he had all the vices

of a corrupt courtier and a harsh satrap. After the erection of the kingdom, he was the only one of the Russians who remained about the new government. His character of imperial commissioner was never ostensibly announced to the public, from motives which we have stated elsewhere, and it was only under the colour of favour, of concession to the wishes of the Polish government, that permission to sit in the council of the ministers was granted to that emissary.* For six years he never ceased to exercise a decisive influence over all the branches of the administration, and the indolent lieutenant of the kingdom, Prince Zayonczek, as well as his weak colleagues, did not hesitate to yield submissively to his opinions and his will, whenever he pretended to express the sentiments of the sovereign. At soon as Lubecki had contrived to withdraw from him one of the most important branches of the administration-that of the finances-Novosiltzoff, either out of revenge or from a desire to prove that he was of some use, fell, with all the fury of his malignity, upon the system of public instruction and police; and as he could no longer be an active minister, he coveted the paltry glory of those ancient proconsuls of Russia, who, during the long period of the death-struggle of Poland, bowed down both king and nation under their iron yoke.

There was a time when his baleful plans obtained the confidence of Alexander; and it was just then that this ambitious sovereign, alarmed by the events of which the west of Europe was the theatre, resolved to throw off his mask of liberalism, and to stop the alarming progress of civilization. Accordingly, Novosiltzoff received carte blanche to seek out the germs of revolution, of the existence of which he had had the hardihood to assure him.


The following is the tenor of the official note addressed to him on this subject by Count Grabowski, the minister secretary of state, in the name of the Emperor, dated Petersburgh, June 29, 1816.

"The lieutenant of the kingdom having communicated to his majesty the unanimous wish of the administrative council that you, sir, should be authorised to be present at the meetings of the said council, to watch its labours and to assist it with your intelligence, his majesty has ordered me to inform you, sir, that he grants you the authority requisite for this purpose,"

most heinous attacks were made on individual liberty; gloomy dungeons rang with the groans of the victims of suspicion; but the results of these horrors did not answer the expectations of authority, which reaped from them nothing but disgrace and universal indignation. This first check of Novosiltzoff's deprived him of great part of his ascendency over the mind of the sovereign. "I do not believe," wrote the minister secretary of state to Lubecki, under date of August 2, 1823, "all those grand revelations of Novosiltzoff's; they have so often proved false, that certainly they are no better this time. He is striving with all his might to render himself indispensable, and it is by these means alone that he in some measure retains his influence; but he possesses no esteem, and is not therefore to be feared: at any rate he can do no mischief, and which he labours to do with all his power."

In proportion as Novosiltzoff lost the favour of the Emperor, he contrived to make himself amends for it by insinuating himself more and more into the good graces of Constantine; and he at length gained such an ascendency over that prince that he fancied he was not safe without his presence and support. What, in fact, is easier than to excite terror in a despot, to torment his mind with the shades of immolated victims, to raise their vengeful daggers against him! Such were precisely the means employed by Novosiltzoff to secure the entire confidence of the master of the Belvedere, and the office of grand inquisitor of the kingdom. His perfidious and underhand dealings were, nevertheless, still without satisfactory success. Soured by continual reverses, alarmed at the great responsibility for which he foresaw that he should soon have to account, he took the desperate resolve to declare himself openly the sworn enemy of the nation. It was no longer merely against suspected persons, against public disturbers, but against the whole Polish race and nation, that he now directed his attacks. There were no reproaches, however absurd, no calumnies, however infamous, but what he dared to launch against us. According to him, our schools, though watched by hosts of spies, were but revolutionary nurseries, our

professors, Jacobins, our relatives, factious people; the very blood that circulated in our veins, the milk that we sucked from our mothers' breasts, were infected with a poison, that prevented us from ever being loyal subjects, friends of order, citizens worthy of enjoying all the blessings of the civilization and liberty of a representative government. It was by means of such accusations that he aimed at the overthrow of the constitutional edifice, at the transformation of the kingdom into a Russian province, in order to reap exclusively the fruit of such a change and to gratify his shameful rapacity. The extensive national domains had still an irresistible attraction for him; and when Lubecki solicited from the Autocrat the authority requisite for their sale, it was not in the charter which guaranteed the inviolability of the public property, it was not in the chambers, but in Novosiltzoff that he encountered the strongest opposition to such a measure. With what zeal and with what anxiety did he not inquire into the arrangements of the law which seemed to condemn this design! With what energy did he not appeal to the respect due to the attributes of the national representation, to the liberties guaranteed by the charter! Lastly, with what skill did he not paint the despair of the peasantry, and the dangers which would result to the throne from a just indignation of the people! And yet the sole motive of so obstinate a resistance was but the fear of letting slip the object of a good salary for the projected immolation of our name and our liberties. It must be confessed that if the emperor Alexander, towards the conclusion of his reign, paid Novosiltzoff by evident marks of his coldness, Nicholas wholly deprived him of his confidence. What most contributed to this effect was the rapid and the more and more frequent triumphs of Lubecki, as well as the unexpected result of the great trial instituted against the patriots, which only served to compromise the sovereign.

The aversion of Nicholas for Novosiltzoff was carried to such a pitch, that, though he allowed him to retain his post of imperial commissioner in Poland, and guardian of the privileges of the tarone, after his accession, he never once summoned him to St.

Petersburg, or granted him a single confidential audience-conduct which, towards a person charged with so important a mission, did not fail to astonish the public. And it was merely out of a remnant of respect for the grand duke, that he endured his presence in receptions of ceremony.* Novosiltzoff was not only the sworn enemy of the order of things in the kingdom, but likewise the executioner, the commissioner, of the wretched] Lithuanian provinces, where, after the disgrace of Prince Adam Czartoryski, he seized the supreme direction of the department of public instruction, and where a vicious administration opened a wider field for his abuses. It is to Novosiltzoff that the Poles must attribute the most baneful obstructions to the progress of knowledge; the introduction of an odious police authority into the schools; the most arbitrary censorship; the organization of the most infamous espionage; the prevotal courts; the demoralization and degradation of the high public functionaries; the numberless insults offered to the national honour; the distrust kept up between the government and the governed; the tears of innumerable victims, the curses of mothers, and the despair of citizens. Such are his claims to their affection!




In other countries the welfare of the nation depends, in a great measure, on the more or less happy composition of the administration with us, as we have already remarked, the Ministers were but the organs of a foreign and secret power, of which, in

* During the coronation, the whole imperial family was assembled at Warsaw. A ball was one day given, at which the empress, after dancing the Polonaise with all the chief dignitaries of state, designedly forgot Novosiltzoff. This circumstance did not escape Constantine, who feeling himself hurt, and trembling with rage at the mere idea of the gratification which this slight humiliation would afford to the Polish public, abruptly grasped Novosiltzoff by the hand, led him to the empress, and thus addressed her: "Madam, I bring you my best friend; be pleased to honour him with your favour." The empress could not refuse the invitation of so powerful and so importunate a patron; and the supple diplomatist obtained permission to present his hand to her- a favour for which he would at the moment have sacrificed half his life.

« PreviousContinue »