Изображения страниц

on any part of the Earth, which it appears never can Live in a sufficient degree of Harmony so as to carry on with success extensive schemes of Industry. 'Tis here alone that all these tribes by the benignity of the Laws wou'd anamalgam themselves together in few generations & become one People; there, under their present Gov't tis impossible; its Malignity wou'd Look on it as Imprudent & Impolitick.— What sort of Sentiment must that be which Inspires the strangest desire of richesses common to all civilised people, yet cannot conquer Lasiness & Indolence & Inactivity?What it produces in S. America I cannot Tell; here the first wou'd infallibly conquer the Second, it wou'd produce new schemes, it wou'd cause Sweats, Toyls & Endeavours; & these wou'd Infallibly bring not richesses (for happily this is the country of substantial ease) but Bread. What I mean by Bread: a House, some Land, cattle &c, the necessary Conveniencys of Life; exposed neither to improper unjust Taxes nor to the necessity of giving useless alms to useless Hermits or Fryars-'tis that alone which has Set every one to work here. The poor European, finding Room for the exertion of his Industry, Labours & is sure of a most ample Reward, that which Nature never fails to confer on Persevering Labour-In South America their oppressive Gov't is not at all calculated to raise, 'tis more Immediately adapted to Pull down. It looks on the obedience of Few as much more usefull than the ingenuity of the Many-the profound Ignorance in which they are Kept, feeds their antient Pride, diminishes their power of acting, cuts them of from all those modern Improvements, dayly invented in Europa. The confinement of their trade cuts off all spur of that Industry which they might now possess, In short, that Languor which corrodes & enervates their Mother country, enfeebles also those beautifull Provinces; the best fruits of their Toyls seems to be Intended more for the other world than for this, because more for the benefits of their churches than for that of their Families-Where in a generation there has appeared some vigor & prosperous Industry, it is very often extinct in the next by those enormous Legacies

by which they expect to purchase a Place in Heaven as they purchase a vault in their churches; their church grows richer still, & the succeeding Heir oppressed with Penury flys into the arms of superstition & Idleness as a consolation & Refuge.

Another very material consideration is, that there is a Necessary Purity of Manners araising from a close application to Rural Improvements. Debauched hands Polluted with Crimes, covered with the Filth of Idleness cannot make the earth to Team with yellow Harvest-If a society follow that salutary maxim & live alltogether by Tilling, if they are a people of cultivators & the other society do not, it is an easy task to ascertain which of the two people possess the least contaminated manners-In South Am'ca they are Learnt, on Relligious Accounts, to dispise other Nations; this & their Laws of trade cuts of that Necessary Intercourse which now constitutes the greatest glory of Europa & of the English colonies-their Gov't, Jealous, Tyrannical must inspire them with congenial sentiments; their cruelty to the Natives must perpetually cherish that spirit of arrogance & Pride for which they are so remarkable-They have been so long sheltered from the Ravages of war & have enjoyed so uninterruptedly the Sweets of Repose that they are no longer Spaniards. They live surrounded by so many slaves 'midst the greatest Threasures of Nature that they naturally must be more effeminate, less fit to undertake arduous Enterprises, commercial schemes or Rural Improvements. What will be their fate?-with them the most extensive superstition supplys the Place of almost every virtue; the very Reason & Instinct of man seems to be drowned in a sea of errors, which consumes all their time, absorbs great part of their wealth, lulls every generous sentiment.

An Incomprehensible Gov't permits but few branches of Industry to flourish-How can the Earth be tilled? How can manufactories araise? how can trade improve? how can population swell & Increase? how can a people become opulent & strong where so many canker worms gnaws the great vital Root of the National tree, suck & exhaust the Sap which was Intended to Vivify its numerous Branches.

Happy provinces these on the contrary now become the azilum of all the unfortunate from the old world, which can boast of the happiest Gov't, the Mildest Laws, the Simplest Relligion. How happy for Mankind that the Era of their different Foundations was that of Knowledge & science by which they were taught to divert themselves of those antient civil errors to which many had fell victims. Happy Regeneration for Mankind! Human Nature everywhere Insulted & oppressed, here can breathe the Purest air & boast of that which I believe no society ever cou'd before, of the full enjoyment of every Natural & necessary Right, consistent with a State of Society. I sincerely wish that the Spanish Colonies may one day become partakers of some of those great blessings by being placed so contiguous to these Provinces, that from the large & copious Source of Freedom which they contain some happy Sparks of it may be disseminated to all the world.



Spring poets! Let us laugh awhile
At vernal folk who yearly sing
About the beauty of the spring
And spin their verses by the mile

In praise of all the buds that burst
As if each blossom were the first!

Spring poets-let us laugh and laugh

No! Rather weep, if woman, man,
Or child has failed, since time began,
The wonder of the spring to quaff,
Joyless has seen the world a-bloom
With heart as silent as the tomb.



"The guns on the Senate Square awakened a whole generation." Thus A. I. Herzen, startled by the disaster, expressed himself concerning the revolt of the Decembrists. He was right, since the ground for that social and political development in Russia which in 1917 brought about the downfall of the monarchy, was prepared by the uprising of the Decembrists on the Senate Square in St. Petersburg, December 14, 1825. The cannon shots of this early political revolt aroused new contestants against the Russian autocracy, whose number became gradually larger and whose voice of protest grew ever louder. The event of December 14, 1825, scattered seeds which took root and subsequently grew into a strong revolutionary movement in Russia.

To give detailed characteristics of the activity of the Decembrists is beyond the limits of this essay. I wish merely to trace briefly the historical significance of their insurrection and sympathetically to commemorate the great men who staked their life for the political freedom of Russia.

The Decembrists belonged to the aristocracy of birth and intellect of their time. They were neither socialists, nor radicals, nor communists. Almost all of them were representatives of the Russian nobility who found it possible to stand above class prejudices and interests, who hated the institution of serfdom, and who aspired to civil and political freedom. For some of them the ideal régime was a constitutional monarchy; for others, a republic of the type of the United States of America. They were not at all like 1 A. I. Herzen, The Conspiracy of 1825 (Berlin, 1903), pp. 24-25.

the Russian Internationalists of our own day; on the contrary, they were extreme nationalists and loyal patriots, the great majority of them had taken an active part in the national war of 1812.

It is difficult for the present generation to picture the conditions under which the Decembrists had to conduct their activities. Although the autocratic régime remained in power until 1917, yet in economic, social, and cultural aspects the second half of the nineteenth century completely transformed Russia. The institution of serfdom fell, industrial capitalism developed, new classes—the bourgeoisie and the proletariat-were born, the intellectual and cultural level of the whole population, including the former serfs, rose significantly. The advanced ideas of the West found in the Russian intelligentsia, and in a measure in the Russian proletariat, an ever increasing group of confessed adherents. Under the pressure of this new common strength, the autocracy grew weaker; its pedestal swayed and was ready to collapse.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the stronghold of autocracy, serfdom, still remained firm. From top to bottom Russia was a country of slaves. The bondage of the peasants left its trace on the whole social and political structure. The nobility was the only educated class, but it was marked by all the vices of men who were both slaveowners and at the same time obedient slaves of the imperial authority. Russian noblemen who bore themselves arrogantly toward their subordinates, behaved like lackeys in their dealings with the sovereign power. Among persons with such standards as these, there could not, and did not, exist even the germ of social consciousness of a class interested in political freedom and capable of entering into a struggle for it.

As to the tsar's court, it was at that time a world by itself, separated from the rest of the people by a Chinese wall. No one outside of the court circle had the slightest influence over the country's administration. Just as in an Asiatic despotism, court cliques were able boldly to organize

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »