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herself to be associated with her brothers in the regency; but this did not satisfy her. She aimed at an exclusive possession of the sovereignty, and for that purpose formed a conspiracy against the life of Peter, which terminated in her own ruin. The young Peter assembled some troops, severely punished the conspirators, confined Sophia in a monastery, and, leaving only an empty title to his brother Ivan, made himself master of the empire in the year 1689.

The rudeness and imperfection of Peter's education, and some early habits of intemperance and debauchery, did not prevent him from very soon exhibiting proofs of that genius by which he was so remarkably characterised. An acquaintance

with a young foreigner of the name of Le Fort, by birth a Swiss, and a man of penetrating genius, infused those first ideas of improvement into the mind of the czar, and gave birth to a variety of designs for the cultivation and refinement of his people. The first objects of his attention were the army and the marine. The Strelitzers, a body of militia consisting of about thirty thousand men, like the Turkish Janizaries, had frequently embroiled the empire by their seditions. Peter determined to abolish entirely this dangerous body, and for that purpose began with the formation of a regiment which, by degrees, he increased to the number of twelve thousand men. To set an example of subordination to his nobility, he served himself in the quality of a private soldier; thence advancing gradually to the rank of captain and general officer. In the formation of this first body of regular troops, he owed a great deal to the

assistance of an able person, of the name of Gordon. He at the same time, with the help of foreign workmen, constructed a small fleet, and resolved to make an early experiment of his power, by laying siege to Azoph, then a Turkish settlement, at the head of the Black Sea, upon the mouth of the Don or Tanais. The enterprise was successful; he defeated the Turkish fleet, and made himself master of Azoph-upon the reduction of which he celebrated a triumph at his return to Moscow.

.. The genius of Peter was soon sensible, that it was not at home he was to learn those arts which were necessary for the cultivation of his empire. He resolved, therefore to travel in search of knowledge through the different countries of Europe, and thence to bring home whatever might be of use or importance towards the prosecution of his great design. He named three ambassadors Le Fort, and two of his nobility, who were to be the ostensible characters at the several courts which he intended to visit, while he himself appeared as a private man in their suite. He began his journey by Livonia and from thence, passing through Germany, took up his residence for some time in Holland, where he applied himself, with the assiduity even of a common mechanic, to the acquisition of those useful arts in which his country was most deficient. He studied the art of ship-building by working in the docks with his own hands. He lived with the ship-carpenters, clothed himself like them, and confined himself to the same diet and the same hours of labour. To the practice of these arts, he joined the knowledge of their



theory, by studying with great attention the principles of mathematics and mechanics. He attended the lectures given at Amsterdam in natural philosophy, and the schools of anatomy and surgery; in short, he laboured with unremitting industry to acquire a knowledge of all the useful arts and sciences. Russia, indeed, was very late in being civilised; but as the civilisation of this empire was not owing, as in other nations, to a gradual progress of society, but was effected, at once, by the genius of a single man, who introduced the arts and sciences among them in their highest perfection; it has hence happened, that the Russians have made more progress in a century, than any other nation seems ever to have done in double, or even treble the space of time. Ship-building, at the period in question, had been brought to greater perfection in England, than in any other nation in Europe. Thither Peter went, in the year 1693, still as a private man, in the suite of his ambassadors. He was there employed, as he had been in Holland, in the constant observation and acquirement of every thing that might tend to the improvement of his empire. The founding of cannon ; the art of printing; of paper-making; the construction of clocks and watches; every thing attracted his attention. During his residence, both in Holland and in England, he engaged several ingenious artists to accompany him at his return to his own dominions. He cultivated a particular acquaintance with Mr. Ferguson, an excellent geometrician, and Mr. Perry, not less eminent as an engineer. The former he employed in the institution of the Marine Academy at Petersburg, and the

latter in the construction of navigable canals, and many noble bridges in various parts of his dominions.

Meantime the absence of the czar had given occasion to some disturbances in the empire. The spirit of innovation which he had already shown, and the further fruits expected from his foreign travels, gave great disgust to a barbarous people wedded to their ancient manners. The ambition

of Sophia fomented these disquiets, and the Strelitzes had determined to place that princess upon the throne. At this important juncture, Peter returned to Russia; he found it necessary to make a most severe exertion of his power; and he took that opportunity of entirely annihilating that dan. gerous body of the Strelitzes, who by this revolt furnished him with a just pretext. They had marched in arms to Moscow. The regular troops of the czar, headed by Gordon, and another foreign officer, attacked and totally defeated them; a vast number were slain: their leaders who were taken prisoners were broken upon the wheel; two thousand were hanged upon the walls of Moscow and on the side of the high roads, and the rest banished with their wives and children into the wilds of Siberia. Thus the whole of this formidable body was destroyed, and their name abolished for ever. The astonished Russians beheld this dreadful example with silent terror, which paved the way for an easy submission to all those innovations which the czar afterwards made in the constitution, police, laws, and customs of his empire.

He now levied regular regiments upon the German model; taught the soldiers a different form of

exercise, gave them new arms, and a commodious uniform. The sons of the boyars, or nobility of Russia, before arriving at the rank of officers, were now obliged to rise step by step from the rank of common soldiers, and the same became the law of his marine promotions. He established a new system of the finances, and introduced a thorough reformation into the church, suppressing the dignity of patriarch, which had frequently struggled for an authority superior to the crown. He took from the bishops all civil and criminal jurisdiction, and established a new set of ecclesiastical canons and regulations; one of the most useful of which was, that no man or woman should embrace a monastic life before the age of fifty.

While this truly great genius was thus employed in new-modelling the most extensive, and polishing and refining the most barbarous empire in the world, a competitor was arising, who was to dispute with him the dominion of the North, and who rivalled the fame of the most celebrated conquerors of antiquity. This was Charles XII., King of Sweden.

This monarch had succeeded his father in the year 1697, when only fifteen years of age. The most striking feature of his disposition at that time was a most impetuous, haughty temper. He was averse to all manner of study, and, consequently, had very little of the benefits of education; yet the situation of his kingdom very soon unveiled his talents and temperament.

Three powerful enemies joined in a league to oppress him. Sweden was then in possession of the territories of Estonia and Livonia; and Charles XI., his father, had violated the privileges of the

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