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exaggeration afford excellent materials for rejoinder; and with such writers and critics as are to be found among the more intellectual Russians scattered throughout Europe, we shall be surprised if the Marquis is not severely handled. One lash has already been smartly applied to him, in the Piece entitled Un Mot sur l'Ouvrage de M. de Custine, par un Russe. This consists of about a hundred pages of repartee and sarcasm, conveyed in very good French ; and is in itself very amusing. It pretends to no argument, but is at best an exposé of the comical contradictions to which we have alluded already; and of the exceptious manner in which historical events and national characteristics are applied to the disadvantage of Russia ; which a Russian might just as easily dwell upon to the discredit of France. With the horrors of the reign of Ivan IV. the Russian contrasts those of Louis XI. and Charles IX.-with the massacres of the peasants, the Jacquerrie and the day's of September—with the anecdotes of the imperial police, the Memoirs of Vidocqwith the puerilité en grand,' the fortifications of Paris-with the monotonous features of Northern Muscovy, the general aspect of la belle France, as exhibited in Beauce and Picardy, in the marshes of Bordeaux, and the chalk fields of Champagne.
This tu quoque style of argument must be taken for what it is worth, and no more. It is a just reproof of the vague kind of premises from which M. de Custine draws many of his conclusions; and reminds us that the same political and moral elements are common to nations and states of society apparently the most diverse. But to many of the most important of M. de Custine's positions, the Russian critic himself offers a strong, because perhaps involuntary, testimony. He seems, at once, to accept the Oriental character of the Russian state and people in the line of defence he adopts with regard to their habits of imitation; he compares Russia with Turkey-taking the latter as an example of what the former would have become if left to its own internal development and resources, instead of appropriating to itself the advantages of western civilization; he considers that Peter the Great, at the one right moment, linked on Russia to the great chain of progressive humanity; while the tardy and broken efforts of Sultan Mahmoud and modern eastern reformers have failed both in vigour and in opportunity. Again, the patriotic pamphleteer has given an additional instance of that adoration of mere power, distinct from moral considerations, on which we have previously commented : thus, and not without some force, he hurls his vindicating lance against the dilettante Frenchman, who has blasphemed the name of the national hero of Russia: Men of letters and of wit cannot be too careful in the phrases they apply to men of action ; when one's life has been passed in travelling about agreeably and at ease; when one has done nothing which can • influence the destinies of the human race for good or for evil ; * when one's exertions have been limited to casting some few
additional leaves, as I am doing now, on the heaps of dead * paper which the wind of ages tosses about at pleasure—it is well • to think twice, before throwing one's inkstand against the • brazen front of one of those colossi, who have made the world • tremble with terror and admiration; and if, in the lives of these rare beings is found some mysterious and bloody page, if some of their actions cannot be reduced within the common • rules, we should take into account the time and manners, the
education and temperament of these men; we should refrain • from insult even when we are compelled to blame; we should • rather rest dumb with fear at the feet of these gigantic • Sphinxes, and retire at last with bowed and humble heads, if
the secret of their enigma still remains undecipherable.' — (P. 53.)
What is this but a mode of expressing the sentiment—'God is God, and the Czar is bis prophet ?' There is a mere cubic greatness of mind and heart, as well as of body, which implies neither beauty, nor strength, nor any thing really admirable: the Russians and their admirers are always forgetting this. It is, indeed, one of the last, and perhaps best, results of civilization, to bring great men to a moral standard: we do not mean that a man may not be really great who has done many bad things, any more than that a poet may not be great who has written many bad verses; but we do now feel, that the only heroes whom our hearts can venerate—the only human idols now possible among men educated as we are—are those who in large proportions combine goodness with greatness, who win and subdue us, not by physical terror and superstitious awe, but by enlightened affection and intelligent admiration.
If all writers on Russia were as modest as the author of Un Mot, in their pretensions as to the extent of Russian civilization, M. de Custine's book would never have been written, or at least would never have been read with avidity. One has perhaps no right to demand of any nation that it should seem to itself exactly as it seems to others. If patriotism is a passion and a virtue, it must and ought to blind some eyes; and we are not sure that this writer's comparison of Russian barbarism to water which becomes by slow degrees commingled with the wine of civilization that is poured in at the top, will be very welcome to the majority of his countrymen. If, again, all notions of aggressive schemes on the part of Russia were as futile as he would represent them to be, M. de Custine's remarks on the weakness and defects of Russian power would be regarded as a mere impertinent dissection of a political body, in whose well-being we have merely a common human interest ; but it is certain that such an attitude of humility is assumed neither by the Russian people themselves nor by their favourers and advocates. The mighty destiny of this young race is, as we have already remarked, prominently urged on the attention of Europe; and is the staple of many German works of no mean order. Visions of universal empire are evoked in the humblest Sclavonic cottage; and although we believe that, so far as Europe is concerned, the fate of Napoleon has shown that all conquest by mere force is impossible in our state of civilization, yet it is well that these noxious dreams should as speedily as possible be dispelled; and that the Russian government and educated classes should be made to feel that they cannot be at once objects of fraternal interest and of terror—that if they really wish to meet other nations on terms of familiarity; they must disabuse their people of these ambitious longings; they must contract the spirit of political intrigue which infests the whole fabric of society-corrupting the mind of youth and the heart of woman; and, above all, they must mitigate that severity of political punishment, which contrasts so strongly with the improved humanities of the period in which we live—a severity which can doom to civil death a Russian and his family on mere suspicion that he entertains some forbidden opinions and sentiments.
Encore quelques Mots is a Review on the Russian side, of no particular merit. It sets M. de Custine right in some matters of fact of no great importance,—such as that Perm is not in Siberia nor Kazan in Asia; that Petrovski and Isaakski are not two different squares in St Petersburg, but different names for the same square, and that the Greek Priests do frequently deliver sermons from the door of the sanctuary, although there are no pulpits in the churches, We have attached so little importance to M. de Custine's accuracy in such matters, that our opinion of the book is little altered by such blunders. The Russian Reviewer cites a great many hard names as proofs, and probably just ones, of the development of a national spirit and power in Russian literature, The novel of The Heretic, by Lajétchnikoff, has, we are glad to see, been well translated, and has attracted attention in this country. Nobody doubts the ability of the Sclavonic race, if properly directed towards its improvement and elevation; nobody denies the great and beneficent future that awaits this people, if not seduced by vague dreams of national aggrandizement, to waste itself in the exercise of brutal force or debasing intrigue.
Returning to M. de Custine, we have one more political suggestion to make, and this rather to France than Russia. The Marquis states, that he began bis Tour with a strong feeling in favour of the advantages of an intimate alliance between Russia and his own country; but that he came away convinced that such a connexion is impossible. We may find fault with parts of the process by which he arrived at this conclusion; but it is not the less important and just. A Russo-French alliance, defensive and offensive, would be the calamity of the civilized world. It would be founded on the real interests of neither nation; it could only be sustained by pandering to the worst passions and most dangerous inclinations of each ; it would be a measure of bad expediency for the attainment of bad ends. We have rejoiced to see the party in France which advocated this connexion rapidly diminishing; and we doubt whether M. Mauguin himself would now advocate it as he did when he returned to Paris in 1840; dazzled by the graces of imperial condescension, and exacerbated by the successes of “perfidious Albion’in the East. However fantastical, or sentimental, or fanatical, M. de Custine may be, he is no Republican, he is no abstract lover of revolution ; he venerates public order, he respects the dominion of law, and, therefore, his opinion upon this point is worth having. He would not, perhaps, equally agree with us in the conviction, that it is to Constitutional countries alone that Constitutional France can look for just, and stable, and honourable alliances; that only nations, which have themselves experienced the heats and chills of public freedom, can appreciate her struggles and excuse her excesses; and that the security and regularity of her social progress mainly depends on her friendly relations with those powers which have a common interest with her in the development of unlicentious liberty, and whose hopes of the future fortunes of the human race coincide, in all great principles, with her own.
ART. III.- Some Account of the Trade in Slaves from Africa,
as connected with Europe and America. By JAMES BANDINEL, Esq. Foreign Office. 8vo. London : 1843.
T. his unpretending volume has, we believe, been published un
der the auspices of the present Government-more immediately of Lord Aberdeen, as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and his Lordship is unquestionably entitled to the thanks of the public for having thus secured to it an authentic History of the Slave Trade. He was fortunate enough to have in his own Office a gentleman willing to devote the little leisure allowed
by official duties to its composition; and who has shown that he possesses all the accuracy, fidelity, and method which the task required. But he has shown a great deal more. He bas presented the world with a work composed in a fashion and style which the pretension and affectation of the times but rarely permit us to see ;—a work, where the sole object, from the first page to the last, has been, to dispose of the facts amassed, or to which access had been obtained, in a narrative at once clear, compendious, and comprehensive—wholly untainted by any tawdry attempts at fine writing, any fantastic displays of sentiment, or any straining after reflections, other than such as naturally arise in an intelligent and unsophisticated understanding The time, thank Heaven, has long passed, when any thing remarkable or striking in composition could be necessary either to interest the feelings, or to enlighten the judgments, of British readers in regard to the deep atrocity of the African Slave Trade. That crime which, fifty years ago, found advocates upon the Woolsack, the bench of Bishops, and the steps of the Throne, has now no avowed defender or apologist. Touching expositions of its unspeakable cruelties, and debasing results, are not now therefore required. But a history of its progress and fate was most desirable. Accuracy, perspicuous statement, and lucid arrangement, are the only recommendations which such a work required : it was to these alone that the present author permitted himself to aspire; and what he aimed at he has satisfactorily accomplished.
He has divided his Memoir into three parts. The first relates, in chronological order, the introduction and subsequent progress of the Trade. The second details the circumstances attending its suppression throughout the British dominions. And the third contains a sketch of the efforts which have since been made to procure its abolition by foreign nations, and of its present condition.
The African Slave Trade owed its origin to those magnificent Princes, and enterprising Navigators, who raised Portugal to, and for some generations maintained her in a very high rank among the nations of Europe. It was in 1442 that Gonzales Baldeza, commander of an expedition fitted out by Prince Henry, third son of John I., brought to Lisbon ten negro slaves, the first ever seen in Western Europe. Feudal slavery, or vilenage, was still common at this period in many European states, and was recognised by the laws of almost all. The kidnapping of a few savages from an unknown coast, was therefore unlikely to attract much sympathy or attention; and the example of Baldeza was followed with so little scruple, that an association was formed, only two years