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the Emperor Nicholas in 1829, 1830, and 1831, did not furnish more than two hundred thousand soldiers, and have not filled up the deficit which the campaigns of Turkey and Poland have occasioned in the ranks of the army.
After the Ukase of the Emperor has determined the number of men to be furnished, the ministry fixes the contingent of every circle, and the governor, according to the instructions he receives, makes the distribution of them among the different classes of the population which are submitted to them.
The marshals of the nobility, in their turn, make, in each circle, the division of the contingent between the noble proprietors, who choose amongst their slaves the individuals whom they have to furnish. This care devolves on the agents of the crown for the peasants who belong to it. The freemen in the towns draw lots under the superintendence of the politzmeister.
The seigneurs on whom the recruiting devolves have no regard either to the age or to the social condition of the individuals subjected to the service, but only to their physical qualities; thus this mode of recruitment favours, in time of peace, the noble proprietors, who get rid of their ill-disposed people. Moreover, it permits them to tear away a father from his numerous family, an only son from his disconsolate mother, a husband from his wife, through any feelings of vengeance or avarice.
The men are received from eighteen to forty years of age. Some have been seen to reach the army as recruits, who were even above that age, which presents insurmountable difficulties in the way of instruction. If a seigneur wants money, it is sufficient for him to deliver to the governor of the province a serf fit for the service in order to obtain a receipt in anticipation of the next levy. This receipt has the value in the hands of the bearer of a bill of exchange, which is soon discounted by those who do wish to furnish men. In case of necessity, the Government may convert the obligation of service into a tax, which varies from eight hundred to two thousand paper roubles (francs) per man.
The recruits are collected in the chief place of the district and examined by a council of recruitment, composed of officers taken
in the battalions of the garrison, presided over by the governor of the province, or by the marshal of the nobility, and assisted by a physician. There every thing is venal. A great many individuals are thus received as recruits who are suffering under diseases or infirmities which ought to exempt them from service. The general-in-chief of the army may indeed reform the men unfit to serve, and summon to justice officers accused of prevarication; but this would occasion great expence, the recruits having already often marched more than a thousand miles, and cost the State a heavy disbursement.
Besides, the traffic is too general to be remedied by the punishment of a few individuals.
The period of the levies is critical, and pregnant with despair to the serfs, even to those who are most unfortunate. Some prefer death to the military service. They often mutilate themselves, cut off their fingers, pull out their teeth, or hide themselves in the woods, and one has only been able to diminish the number of those who seek to evade these extreme measures by rendering the villages responsible for these losses: when a man has mutilated himself, or fled, the inhabitants of his village must provide two in his stead.
When once the peasants have joined their regiments, they are dead to their native country and to their relations, with whom they have no longer the means of keeping up a correspondence, and whom they hardly ever see again, because, only a short time ago, they were obliged to remain a quarter of a century under their standards. And what soldier is there who, incurring the chances of war, can flatter himself with surviving twenty-five years of service? The small number of those who have outlived so many perils and fatigues have found, on returning to their firesides, their wives re-married and surrounded by another family, and they have esteemed themselves happy if by the decision of their seigneur they have been allowed to find shelter in the corner of the hovel which they had constructed with their own hands.
The military service is the greatest scourge that can be in
flicted upon the Russian people. The emperors know it so well that, in all delicate circumstances, he promises to diminish its duration. Alexander, in 1812, and in 1813, had engaged to do so; victory made him forget his promise. Nicholas, on his accession to the throne, renewed this promise; he reiterated it after the Turkish war; finally, after the subjugation of Poland, the length of service was limited in 1831 by a Ukase to twenty-two years in the line, and twenty in the guards; but as, by a regulation in favour of discipline, a soldier may lose his seniority for the most trivial fault, this diminution of the length of service is illusory, and confers no real change on the condition of the serfs subjected to the service. It must, however, be stated that the diminution in the duration of the service does not depend solely on the will of the emperors; the disbanded soldiers return to their homes, and, as they can no longer be attached to the glebe, the seignors would be obliged to provide double the quantity of men, if they were only retained eleven years under their standards, and this would occasion great losses to them, ruining their fortunes already so burthened by the frequency of the levies.
The sole conditions required in the men destined for the infantry are a good constitution, and the height of one metre, five hundred and ninety to six hundred and ninety millimetres.
The recruits, after joining their corps, are divided into companies. One may compare the arrival of a recruit at head quarters to the entrance of a convict into the bagnio; torn from his family, his head shaved, having suffered hunger, ill treatment, the fatigue of a long march, he is already morally and physically weakened; the very idea of his condition torments him more than the certainty of a cruel and speedy death. He is at first given over to an old soldier (dziatka) who begins by teaching him that automaton position which he is to maintain in presence of each of his superiors; he then paints to him, in colours calculated to augment the terror with which he is already imbued, the duties which are imposed upon him, and the punishments which await his neglect of them.
The man dressed and equipped goes through the manual exer
cise twice or three times a day; they then select a trade for him, the apprenticeship to which is the sole diversion allowed to the labours of his new situation. The captains are responsible for the double instruction of the recruits. However strict may be their surveillance, it may well be imagined that much time is required for their apprenticeship. There is no other channel of instruction than the fear of corporal punishment.
The cavalry is recruited with men of the highest stature. The choice is made among the strongest and tallest men of the levies for the heavy cavalry, and, in the absence of such men, they are taken from the infantry by the commandants of the corps, who, in general, have but little respect for the other qualities of the recruits, and for their aptitude in horsemanship.
The selection of the men destined for the artillery and the engineers is not made with greater care in Russia than that of the men enlisted in other branches of the service.
The recruits are treated, on arriving at their corps, as they are in the infantry. It often happens that several months elapse before they teach them, in the cavalry to bleed a horse; in the artillery, the service of the guns; and in the engineers, the labours of attack, and the construction of works for a campaign.
As all the garrison battalions are recruited with men of all arms, who, before they have attained the legal duration of their term, have no longer sufficient strength to continue in active service, there is no exception to this general rule, but for the batta lions stationed in the governments of Orenburg and Siberia.
The regiments of the guards which, at the period of their institution, were to take their men from the grenadiers, recruit from the regiments of the line, not by taking the bravest men, as was done in Napoleon's guard, but by choosing those who unite with vouth figure and appearance. The Autocrat requires fine men for his parades.
AFFAIRS OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL.
Paris, 19th Sept., 1836.
A month has elapsed since we first heard that disturbances were to break out in Portugal, and that it was intended to proclaim the Constitution of 1820 at Lisbon. I am enabled to assure you that this news was originally spread by the Miguelites residing at Paris, as well as by the agents of the Diplomacy of the North. At the same time our confidential correspondence with the North apprised us that Russia, and her ally Prussia, had the intention of pushing Portugal into a republican path, in order to prepare for the return of Don Miguel to that country. Letters from Rome contained similar indications, and gave reason to think that the Pope himself would promote republicanism in Spain as well as in Portugal, in order to further the ends of Don Carlos and Don Miguel. Finally, at the same period, we learnt that the regiments of Don Carlos had proclaimed the Constitution of 1812.
Last week vague rumours prevailed at Paris of the realization of these projects at Lisbon. It is possible that the Government was informed of them by the telegraph. Not much credit, however, was attached to them until to-day, when the fact is confirmed, and every one looks out for a remedy in this new crisis.
The public begins to be convinced that, under the pretext of the Constitution of 1820, the real question is the interest of Don Miguel. The public, therefore, cannot be opposed to intervention, under such circumstances; and they certainly would not compare an eventual expedition to the Peninsula with that which was undertaken in 1823 by the Duke d'Angoulême.