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In our last lecture we showed what causes produced the rise of monarchical power in Russia, and tried to prove that, powerful as was the autocracy of the Czars of Moscovy, it was limited by the political rights of the higher nobility. The exercise of these rights was entrusted to the Douma or Council, and similar powers in matters ecclesiastical were vested in a High Commission, often mentioned by the authors of the time under the name of the consecrated Sobor. This body was composed of the Metropolitan, Archbishops, Bishops, Archimandrites or vicars of the bishops, and the heads of the black clergy, the abbots or chiefs of monastic congregations.
In the year 1550 these two assemblies of which the one was an almost complete representation of the higher nobility and bureaucracy, and the second of the higher clergy, were changed into a more democratic parliament by the addition of representatives of the lower nobility, the regular military force, and the inhabitants of cities and rural districts. We have very little information as to the reason which induced the Government to appeal to these "men of the people," as the members of this assembly were galled by contemporary writers. We are totally ignorant of its composition, and of the nature of the business it was called upon to perform. The speech which Ivan the Terrible delivered in its first session is, however, well known. In it he accuses the boyars of the misgovernment which characterised the first years of his reign and throws on them the whole responsibility for the miseries of the people. He acknowledged at the same time the impossibility of redressing old wrongs by judicial means and entreated all classes of the people to compound for them by means of compromises. The meaning of this was that all the judges who were accused of illegal decisions, and officials responsible for administrative wrongs, were authorised to treat within a fixed time directly with those who had complained to the Czar of their misrule. So far as appears from later documents the wish of the Czar was complied with by all classes of the people. Vast reforms followed this first essay of representative assemblies; the principle of election, which had formerly prevailed in the organisation of the commune and the lower courts of justice, was reintroduced in the form of elected judges and aldermen (goubnii starosti and zelovalniki). It is very probable that those men were convened to the first Russian parliament who had acknowledged the necessity for such reforms, although we have no contemporary documents to establish this fact.
The amount of information we possess about the second Russian parliament, which was summoned in the year 1566 is much greater. We know the number of persons convened to it, the different classes of the people to which they belonged, and the kind of business they had to perform. We may even guess with a certain degree of probability the way in which they exercised their consultative and deliberative functions. In the year 1558 the Russian military forces were engaged in a war with Poland. This war had its rise in the disputes of the Teutonic Knights settled in Livonia, with the growing power of Russia. Losing one after another their chief fortresses, the Order, through their Grand Master Gotthard Kettler, entered into correspondence with the Polish king, Sigismund, and proposed to accept his suzerainty on condition that he should with his army oppose the further encroachments of Russia. This offer was accepted, and Russia had to decide whether she should withdraw from the Livonian strongholds which were already in her power or go to war with Poland. Under these circumstances Ivan the Terrible, before coming to a decision, wished to take the advice not only of the higher clergy, the members of his Douma, and the high officers of State, with the treasurers and secretaries at their head. but also of the lower nobility, the class directly engaged in military service, and those of the third estate, whose business it was to collect the taxes from the urban population.
If we scrutinise the composition of this second Russian Parliament, we are startled by the fact that with the exception of three gentlemen from Toropeczk, six from Louczk, and twenty-two citizens from the city of Smolensk, all its members were persons residing in Moscow Russian historians have generally explained this anomaly by saying that the Government, having no time to await the arrival of deputies from the provinces, contented itself with consulting such military men as were then present at Moscow, exception being made only as to the inhabitants of some western cities and districts whose interests were directly engaged in the impending war. Such was the case with Smolensk, Louczk, and Toropeczk. If this was so, the Assembly of 1566 would have no right to figure in the list of Russian Parliaments, being nothing but a local Assembly, something like those "etats generaux fractionnes," which were known in France during a great part of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. But such is not really the case.(1*) The way in which the military class was represented at the Parliament of 1566 finds its explanation in the organisation of the army at that time. It was then composed of five regiments, quartered in different provinces, each regiment containing a greater or smaller number of "district hundreds." The hundred was not a numerical, but a local division. As a rule, the headship of every hundred was entrusted, not to a local military man, but to some Moscovite nobleman, residing in the metropolis, but possessing estates in the district to which the hundred belonged. Under the circumstances I have described, the Czar, before going into the new war, was naturally desirous of consulting the men who had the local command of his army, those Moscovite noblemen who were placed at the head of the local hundreds. Their usual place of abode being the metropolis, it is easy to understand why inhabitants of Moscow were almost the only men summoned to attend the Parliament. When the Sobor was convened the army had just returned from its last expedition against Lithuania and all the military chiefs would then be in Moscow. These chiefs, as has been already mentioned, were paid for their services not by a fixed salary, but by donations of land granted for the term of service, which practically amounted to a life tenure, and were known by the name of pomestie.(2*) The quantity of land corresponded to the position held in the ranks of the army. Some received only one hundred and fifty desiatin,(3*) some two hundred and twenty-five, some even three hundred, and these differences led to the division of the military classes into three groups called statii. The Sobor of 1566 contained ninety-seven members from the first class and ninety-nine of the second; among the lower group we find only thirty-five from Toropeczk and six from Louzck.
As to the third estate, it was represented by seventy-five men, all belonging to the Moscovite trading class. The reason of this must be sought in the contemporary organisation of the Russian bourgeoisie. During the second part of the sixteenth century we find in Moscow two different classes of tradesmen: one known under the name of "hosts" (gosti), the other under that of "merchants" (koupzi). Both classes contained in their ranks not only Moscovite tradesmen, but also tradesmen from other cities. The wealthy and influential merchants of the whole empire were inscribed in the list of the "hosts," the rest composed that of the "merchants." This latter class was sub-divided into Moscovite and Smolensk merchants, the latter being those, whose commerce was chiefly confined to the western provinces of Russia and its natural head Smolensk. In the sixteenth century these same sub-divisions re-appear under somewhat different names, the one being called the hundred of "hosts" (gostinnaia sotnia) and the other the hundred of "drapers" (soukonnaia sotnia). The divisions I have mentioned were the work of the central government, which regarded the wealthier merchants as its direct helpers in the difficult task of collecting customs and excise duties.
No person belonging to the Guild of "hosts" could refuse to perform these heavy and responsible duties. The man, on whom the choice of his companions fell, was obliged to remove to the city whose taxes he had to collect. So that the exercise of such functions might be entrusted to persons of great local influence, the election fell, as a rule, on a merchant possessing estates or large stocks of merchandise in the city which he was called to administer. Like the guild of hosts, the guilds of Moscovite and Smolensk merchants were called upon to assist the Government in the exercise of its financial authority and accordingly elected among themselves the officers of the excise and customs administration of the smaller urban districts.
It is easy to understand that before engaging in a new war, which would necessarily cause new and heavy expenses, the Czar would desire to obtain information as to the pecuniary resources of the country from those persons whose duty it would be to collect the taxes. He, therefore, summoned to the Sobor the tradesmen of the Guild of hosts and also the Moscovite and Smolensk merchants, or, in other words, all those who had the charge of collecting the revenues of indirect taxation, not only in the metropolis, but throughout the empire. Composed as it was of the high officials, the members of the council, the archbishops, bishops, archimandrites, abbots, and the local heads of the military and financial administration, the Sobor of 1566 was not so much the representative of the people as of the governing class. It is, therefore, difficult to speak of its analogy with the representative assemblies of Western Europe, though some of the elements of which it was composed, are to be found both in the Swedish and the German parliaments. In Sweden the army was called upon to send its generals, colonels, and even its majors to the sittings, at least from 1598 to 1778.(4*) In the German Landestande, as well as in the Swedish States-General, the cities were regularly represented by their officers, the Rathmanner, members of the city council, or Ratta borgare, as they were called in Sweden, just as the French cities and boroughs were usually represented in the Etats Generaux, not by elected deputies, but by their maires, echevins and consuls.(5*)
Now that we are acquainted with the manner in which the first Sobor, this real assembly of notables, was composed, let us take a look at its proceedings. The question on which the Czar wanted advice was whether he should engage in a new war with Poland, or whether it would be better for him to restore to Kasimir the cities which he had conquered in Lithuania. Each estate had to give a separate answer. The clergy declared itself in favour of war. They maintained that Livonia had always belonged to Russia, a preposterous claim which was plainly contradicted by history. Whilst insisting on the impossibility of concluding peace on the terms proposed by Kasimir, they declared themselves incapable of judging what means the Government ought to take for the safety of its new conquests. "The Czar alone must decide the matter. It is not our business to advise him on such questions, but to pray God for the success of his undertakings." This plainly meant that they feared a new imposition of subsidies, and had no desire to take on themselves the initiative of this taxation.
The boyars gave a similar answer. "It is impossible," said they, "to leave in the hands of the Polish king the newly conquered German cities, for in that case the important Russian fortress of Polozk situated on the Dvina, would remain surrounded by the lands of the enemy." They also declared themselves ready to serve the Czar whatever might be his decision. "God alone and the Czar," such was their conclusion, "ought to have the last word in this matter." Some dissentient members of the Douma presented their own opinion in writing. The noblemen of the first and second class or statii, also expressed their opinions in two different papers and were unanimous in their desire to retain the Livonian cities. Those of Toropeczk and Louczk, who were more directly concerned in the matter, declared that they would sacrifice their lives for a single "dessiatine" of the cities surrounding Polozk which were claimed by the Polish king. The hosts and merchants of Moscow and Smolensk were not less patriotic in their sentiments, the latter particularly insisting on the impossibility of leaving Polozk without a territorial district attached to it. "A village cannot exist without its own district and still less a fortress," said they. "If the king of Poland gets the territory of Polozk that city will be of no use to the Russians, and nothing will prevent the king building a new fortress just opposite the Russian fortress."
The general result of the conference was that the Czar decided on war.
We find no other General Assembly in the reign of Ivan the Terrible, but we must not infer from that fact that the Czar altogether forbore to apply to the people. On two different occasions we find him addressing the mob of Moscow, once in 1564, in order to get their approval of the prosecution of the boyars for their supposed treason against the State and open plundering of the people; and a second time to ascertain their feelings on the occasion of a fresh discomfiture of the Russian troops by the Poles and the loss, not only of Livonia, but of Polozk and Smolensk. This last convention was in the year 1597 and was the occasion of a long and patriotic speech delivered, in the name of the Czar, by his secretary Schelkalov. This speech, which announced the loss of thousands of Russian soldiers, produced a great impression, chiefly on the women, who, fearing their husbands were dead, went crying through the streets and asking for new ones. Whereupon the secretary made a second speech in which he threatened to have them flogged if they did not cease their lamentations. We thus find the experiment of admitting the people to the discussion of public affairs degenerating, either into appeals to the Moscow mob to sanction, by its consent, acts of cruelty towards the members of the higher nobility, or into threats of flogging made to poor weeping women in their bereavement.
It is difficult to discover in the facts which I have just related any resemblance to a regular consultation of the people in Parliament assembled. The meetings are more like a parody of the ancient folkmotes, the veche.
The representative system remained unknown to Russia throughout the sixteenth century. The Assembly which in 1584 confirmed the right of the eldest son of Ivan, Theodor, to occupy the Russian throne, although called "a parliament" by the English Resident Hoarsav was, according to the same author, composed of nothing but the chief clergy and members of the higher and lower nobility. Another assembly, that of 1585, called to deliberate on the question of clerical immunities and the necessity for subjecting the lands of monasteries to general taxation, contained in its ranks only the higher clergy, the chief officers of the State, and the members of the Council or Douma.
The Rurik family became extinct on the death of the Czar Theodor, and a new dynasty had to be chosen. The higher nobility seized this opportunity to impose certain limitations on the exercise of the Sovereign power. But the nearest candidate to the throne, Boris Godounov, not being willing to consent to such limitations, refused to accept the throne offered him by the boyars and insisted on the necessity of summoning the cities to decide who should occupy the throne of the Rurik family. He did this in the expectation that the people would oppose any measure limiting the principle of autocracy. The Sobor, which was called together according to his wish, was widely different from the ideal of a truly National Assembly. Of the 457 members who were present at its sittings, 83 belonged to the higher clergy, and 338 to the bureaucracy and the higher and lower nobility. As to the third estate, it was composed of only 21 hosts, of the head of the Guild of hosts and of 13 deputies from the rural districts. This assembly was presided over by the Patriarch, the Chief of the Russian clergy,and unanimously expressed itself favourable to Boris Godounov, to whom the Russian throne was offered unconditionally.
Representatives of the lower classes of the city of Moscow appeared in 1605 at the Sobor to which the false Demetrius entrusted the right of judging the boyar and future Czar, Basilius Schouisky, on account of a rebellion which he had instigated. The Sobor condemned Schouisky to death, but the Czar Demetrius commuted this punishment to perpetual banishment to the City of Viatka, whence he soon returned at the gracious order of the monarch.
The Assembly which in 1606, after the death of the false Demetrius, elected Schouisky as the Czar of Russia, was not a Sobor in the true sense of the word, for it was chiefly composed of the boyars. The Moscow mob nevertheless sanctioned the election, and the new Czar was eagerly proclaimed at the so-called "read place," in front of the palace.
This election of Schouisky has some claim to our attention, as it was the first at which constitutional limits were imposed on Russian autocracy. The newly elected Czar had no immediate relation with the dynasty of Rurik, and was but the equal of the other boyars. He was known to be vindictive and to have a great number of relations and friends who would be ready enough to make use of his power for their own advantage. All this induced the boyars to protect their own interests by the creation of rules which their nominee was obliged to accept. According to Strahlenberg, the well-known author of the "historical and Geographical Description of the Northern and Eastern parts of Europe and Asia" (a book written in German and published at Stockholm in the year 1703), the constitutional limitations imposed were as follows: "No new law was to be made and no innovations were to be introduced in the old legislation without the consent of the Douma. (Strahlenberg calls it senatus.) No new contributions were to be levied unless previously discussed and accepted by the same Council."(6*) These constitutional limitations as you may easily perceive, were exactly the same as those established in England by the Magna Charta and the statute of Edward the First, de tallagio non concedendo, but whilst the English people entrusted the care of their liberty to the lords, gentlemen, and citizens in Parliament assembled, the Russian boyars wanted to keep to themselves the exclusive control of the sovereign power. This caused the failure of their constitution, and was the chief reason why, on the occasion of a new election, the control of the Constitutional compromise entered into by the people and the Czar, was no longer entrusted to the Douma of the boyars, but to the representative Assembly of the whole nation -- that is to the Sobor.
Schouisky reigned only a few years. In 1610 he lost the crown by the decision of a new Assembly which assumed the title of Zemski Sobor, although it was chiefly composed of the boyars and the Moscow mob. This took place in the middle of July. A month later a treaty was signed by the boyars and the chief of the Polish army, by which Vladislas, son of Sigismund, king of Poland, was called to the throne of Russia. Like his predecessor, the new Czar accepted certain constitutional limitations, amongst others that of administering justice according to the existing customs and the rules by law established. No alterations in the latter could be made, except with the consent of the Council (Douma) of "the whole land." These last words meant the Zemski Sobor, the States-General or Parliament of Russia.
I shall not attempt to narrate the events which prevented the accession of a Polish and Catholic prince to the throne of Russia. It will be enough for my purpose to state that the people and the clergy were unanimous in their dislike to this foreign and "heretical" ruler. The folkmotes, or veches, not only in Novgorod, but also in those parts where they had hitherto been quite unknown, as in Kasan, or Nijni Novgorod, entered into correspondence with each other, local militia united, and an army, called into existence by the patriotic sentiments of simple burgesses like Minin, marched from Nijni Novgorod to Moscow, under the command of Pojarsky. At the same time a correspondence was begun with the object of forming a new Sobor, which was to be a really representative body, composed of delegates sent by all the estates. The writs of summons sent out by the head of the army, Pojarsky, have fortunately been preserved, so that we can get a clear notion of what was meant at that time by the term "General Council of the land," a term employed more than once in the documents of the time. Addressing the people of Poutivl or of Wichegodsk, the commander-in-chief insists on the necessity of sending to Jaroslav, the place selected for the meeting of the new Assembly, two or three men from each of the estates (chinov) of the nation. From Jaroslav the Sobor, following the army, removed to Moscow, where it sat in common with the boyars of the council, the high commission of the clergy (osviaschenini Sobor), and the representatives of the regular and irregular military forces, that is, the Strelzi and the Cossacks. It was this Assembly which elected Michael Theodorovich Romanov to be Czar of Russia.
Before proceeding to the election of the Czar, the Sobor called on all the inhabitants of the country to fast for three consecutive days. It then passed a law, due mainly to the influence of the popular section of the Assembly, prohibiting the election of any foreign prince. The nobility would have had no objection to the placing of a Swedish or Polish pretender on the vacant throne. The higher and lower orders differed widely as to the man they wished to choose from among the Russian boyars; the names of Golitzin, Vorotinsky, Troubezkoy, and even that of the dethroned Basilius Schouisky, were, for a time, to be found on the list of candidates supported by the nobility. The first to declare himself in favour of the young Romanov was one of his relations named Scheremetiev, and his proposal was favourably listened to by the lower nobility, the Cossacks and the burgesses. His election, however, was so unexpected an event that his own father, a bishop then closely imprisoned by the Poles, was the first to suggest, in a letter written to Scheremetiev, that certain constitutional limits should be imposed On the power of the future Czar. Strahlenberg(7*) is quite correct in his statement that the idea of these limitations was borrowed from Poland where already in the middle of the sixteenth century, under Stephen Bathory, the States-General, or Seim, and the Council possessed considerable rights. The reasons which operated in favour of the young Michael Romanov were, first of all, his relationship with the extinct dynasty of Rurik through his great aunt, Anastasia Romanov, who was one of the wives of ivan the Terrible; secondly, the small number of relations which was looked upon as a safeguard against further depredations on the demesne lands in the form of beneficiary donations; and thirdly, the popularity of his family, which had been persecuted by the boyars from the time of Boris Godounov. His father, Philarete, who had been forced to become a monk, was especially endeared to the nation by his virtues; he had attained a high position among the clergy, having been made Bishop of Jaroslav.
The late Patriarch Germogen, who had been much beloved by the people, had also been favourably disposed towards the election of young Romanov, and this fact contributed greatly to secure him the sympathy of the clergy. At the time of his election Michael was but a boy of fifteen, and his father being a prisoner in Magdeburgh, Scheremetiev and the members of his party looked upon it as highly probable that the real government would pass into their hands.
The Sovereign power which was offered to young Romanov was far from being the same as that enjoyed by Ivan the Terrible. Autocratic power had had to yield before the new theories of constitutional limitations directly imported from Poland. That Michael had to sign a compromise is a fact briefly mentioned by Russian eye-witnesses, such as Kotoschichin, as well as by foreigners then residing in Russia. The chronicles of the city of Pskov speak of it in contemptuous terms. It was not enough, say they, for the boyars to have reduced the country to the miserable state to which they had brought it. They wanted to go on in the same way of pillage and oppression; they had no regard for the Czar, did not fear him on account of his youth, and all the more so since they had induced him, at the time of his accession to the throne, to take an oath, by which he renounced the right of inflicting capital punishment on persons belonging to the higher nobility. Capital punishment was to be superseded by close imprisonment. No mention is made in the chronicles of any further limitation of the Sovereign power of the Czar.
The well-known Kotoschichin, who was alive at the time, speaking of the accession of the Czar Alexis, son of Michael Romanov, notices the fact that, "contrary to the custom established by his predecessor, the new Czar signed no charter by which he undertook to inflict capital punishment only in accordance with law and justice, and to consult the boyars and men of the Douma on each and every question concerning the government of the land, so that no decision might be come to without their assent." Although Kotoschichin speaks more positively as to the constitutional character of the limitations imposed on Russian autocracy in the first quarter of the seventeenth century, we must notice the fact that he says nothing of the part which the Sobor or Parliament was called upon to play in this experiment in limited monarchy. He mentions only the boyars and the men of the Douma, not "those of the land," a phrase used at that time when speaking of the members of the Zemski Sobor.
The Swedish writer, Fokkerodt, is more explicit when he affirms that in the compromise signed by Michael, the young Czar promised to give free course to the judicial proceedings of the courts, so as to inflict no punishment on his own authority, to introduce no new law without the consent of the Sobor, to abstain from levying any tax without the consent of this representative Assembly, and to begin no war without its counsel and approbation.
As to Strahlenberg, his statement is as follows: Before the coronation Michael was forced to accept the following conditions: He promised to (1) uphold and protect the existing creed of Russia; (2) to keep no memory of injuries inflicted on his family, to forget and to forgive all past animosities; (3) He took also the obligation to make no new laws or alter old ones, and to take no important measure which might contradict the existing laws, or suspend the legal proceedings of the court of justice. (4) He promised as well to begin no wars and to make no peace by his own will.(8*)
This view of the power of the Sobor is confirmed by the fact of its quasi-permanent presence at Moscow during the whole reign of the first Romanov. The laws and proclamations issued at that time generally contain the following characteristic expression: "According to our order (oukas) and the decision of the whole land (po vsei zemli prigovorou)." The whole land cannot mean anything else than the representatives in Parliament assembled.
Many important questions were discussed and settled by the Sobor. In the first years of the reign want of money obliged the Czar more than once to have recourse to forced loans and benevolences. These were levied side by side with the regular taxes on the goods of merchants and peasants (torgovii i soschnii liudi); the taxes received the consent of the Sobor, the benevolences were endorsed by it. The nomination of a new Patriarch in 1619 was also their work. The annals of the time tell us that the boyars, the dignitaries of the Court, and all the people of the "Moscovite State" called on Michael and asked him to induce his father Philarete to accept the primacy of the Russian church. Two years later, in 1621, a new Sobor was consulted on the question as to whether Russia should go to war with Poland. The Estates gave an answer in the affirmative, but the want of money and soldiers forced the Government to postpone the execution of this decision.
From 1622 the Sobors lose their character of quasi-constant assemblies, each remaining in session for several years and begin to be called only on special occasions, whenever their services were required for the settlement of important questions of State.
In 1632 war with Poland necessitated the levying of new subsidies. The Sobor Was accordingly assembled and gave its consent to the imposition of a general tax on all the estates of the empire, on the tradesmen as on the "men of service." The amount of money to be demanded from the latter was not fixed; each person could pay what he liked. The sums produced by the tax were intended for the payment of the army. During the next two years we find the Sobor consulting the Czar on matters of war and taxation, on the relations of the land with Poland and the Tartars of the Crimea. The Czar complained of the ill-treatment to which his envoy was subjected by the Khan. The superior clergy, whose answer alone has been preserved, insisted on the necessity of building fortresses on the Southern boundaries of the Moscovite empire, in those cities of the Ukraine, which like Belgorod or Voroneg, remained for centuries the pioneers of Christianity and culture in the southern steppes of Russia, and which were periodically plundered by the Tartars.
Two years later the military occupation of Asov by the Cossacks of the Don and the impending necessity of a war with the Crimean Tartars for the preservation of the conquest, caused a new Sobor to be convened. This Assembly was in favour of war and accordingly ordered the levy of military forces, "even from the villages belonging to the crown land and the lands of the clergy." In 1642 matters concerning the fortress of Asov again became the immediate cause of a new assembling of the Russian Estates. As the Turks had no intention of leaving Asov in the hands of the Cossacks, who were not able to hold it themselves, the question of annexing it to the Russian state suggested itself to the Government, though it involved the risk of incurring the responsibility of a new and almost imminent war. The Czar finding it necessary to know the feeling of the nation, summoned one hundred and ninety-five persons elected by the Estates, besides the Douma or Privy Council and the superior clergy, to Moscow. Nearly all classes of society sent representatives, each class gave its opinion or advice separately on papers bearing the signatures of all the members of the same Estate, while the dissentients sent in their opinions on separate and private papers.
The superior clergy, faithful to their old habits, assured the Czar that they were quite unable to advise him on the question; it was not, they said, their custom to do So, for it was the Business of the Czar and his Douma; their sole duty was to invoke God's blessing on the Czar's undertakings. Should the Czar, however, want military aid, they declared themselves ready to make the necessary sacrifices in order to pay the soldiers, and that according to their means. The majority of the Moscovite nobility expressed themselves in favour of annexation. The Czar ought to hold the newly acquired fortress, but he should merely
order the Cossacks to continue their occupation of it. Volunteers alone ought to be necessary to give help and assistance. Some advised that soldiers should Be sent to Asov, not only from the cities of the Ukraine, but even from Moscow. All sorts of men, with the exception of serfs and such as had lost their liberty through not having paid their debts, ought to be selected for that purpose. If money were wanted, each Estate ought to nominate two or three persons whom the Czar might authorise to levy subsidies from all persons and goods, from officers (prikasnii) and the Czar's suite, from widows and orphans, from "hosts" and merchants, and from each and every person not engaged in military service.
Some of the nobility, amongst others those of Vladimir, simply promised to obey the Czar's orders, pointing at the same time to the miserable state of their cities and country, which they said was wellknown to the Czar and to the boyars of his Douma. Much more peremptory was the advice given by the local nobility of certain larger cities, such as Sousdal, Juriev (the modern Dorpat), Novgorod, and Rostov. They were of opinion that the surrender of Asov would bring down the wrath of God: "The Czar cannot leave in the hands of the infidels," said they, "the holy images of John the Baptist and of St. Nicholas." If the army wanted victuals they might be taken out of the magazines belonging to the cities of the Ukraine. Military aid could be given from Moscow and the expenses for the victualling of the army ought to be laid upon the whole land, without exception. Complaining of the great quantity of land given in benefices to the boyars and of the large amount of money got by bribes and extortions by the officers of the State (prikasnii), who afterwards invested it in vast buildings and palaces, the burgesses insisted on the necessity of laying part of the burden of the future war on the shoulders of that class, and of obliging them to arm the soldiers; they maintained, moreover, that their fortunes should be taxed like those of all other classes of the State. The same measures ought also to be taken with the clergy, the bishops and abbots being equally called on to equip warriors, according to the number of serfs they possessed. The Czar ought to issue an ukase, stating the number of serfs a soldier ought to possess, or rather the proportion existing between the number of his serfs and the service required of him. This proportion should be strictly maintained in future, and those who had not serfs enough ought to receive new gifts of serfs from the government. Money for purposes of war, they also insisted, might be taken out of the treasuries of the Patriarch and the monasteries.
The lower nobility, or what is the same thing, the men-of-war of the cities of Toula, Kolomna, Serpouchov, Riazan, Kalouga, etc., were even more precise in their demands that the proportion of military service should tally with the number of serfs which each man-of-war or knight possessed. Those who had over fifty serfs ought to serve without pay, and also contribute to the expenses of the war by supplying food to the army, whist those who had not more than fifty ought to be free from the latter obligation.
If we turn our attention to the "written opinions" given in by the members of the third estate, we find them complaining of the miserable state into which they had recently fallen, partly because all the commerce of Moscow was in the hands of foreigners, and partly because of the oppression of the voivodes, or Governors of provinces, who had superseded the freely elected heads of districts (the goubnii starosti of the sixteenth century). The delegates of the hosts and merchants of Moscow nevertheless insist on the necessity of holding Asov, pointing out at the same time that they receive no lands from the Crown, and have more trouble than profit in the levying of taxes and excise duties, and generally suggesting to the Czar the impossibility of increasing their payments.
The "memorial" of the hundredmen and headmen of the black hundreds and townships, under which name must be understood the representatives of the rural population, contains more or less the same complaints and similar desires. The people are exhausted by taxes, forced labour, military service, etc.; they have also suffered much from fire; the voivodes have ruined them by their exactions; so miserable is their condition that many of them have run away, leaving their houses and lands. The conclusion of this very interesting document has unfortunately not come down to us.
Our general impression on reading the memorials or petitions of this Sobor is that, although all Estates were unanimous in their patriotic desire to keep their hold on the newly conquered fortress, they still felt themselves scarcely in a position to bear the expense of a new war with the Turks; and sharing in these apprehensions the Czar did not dare to incur the responsibility, and sent orders to the Cossacks to withdraw from Asov.
The Sobor of 1642 was the last general Assembly convened by the first of the Romanovs.
Although the direct successor of Michael, Alexis Michaelovich, ascended the throne without entering into any covenant with his people, nevertheless the Sobor was called to confirm the act of his coronation. This happened in 1645. Four years later the Sobor was called upon to aid in the important business of codification. Modern inquirers have brought to light the fact that the petitions presented at this Assembly more than once furnished important materials for the reformation of the Russian law, and that their influence may be traced through the whole code of Alexis (known under the title of Oulogenie). During the following year the Sobor was again convened at Moscow in order to advise the Government as to the suppression of insurrectionary movements in different parts of the empire, and especially at Pskov. The Assembly advised lenient treatment of the insurgents, and the Government acted accordingly.
In 1651 and 1653 the Sobor on two different occasions declared itself in favour of the annexation of Little Russia. This country had been liberated from the Poles by the "Hetman" of the Cossacks, Bogdan Chmelnizky, who soon afterwards offered it to the Czar of Russia. It was feared that the acceptance of this offer might involve Russia in a new war with Poland; therefore the advice of the Sobor of 1651 was only conditional. If Poland acquiesced in the demands of the Czar, Russia was to abstain from annexation; if not, the risk of a new war ought not to be avoided, and Christian brethren were to be taken under the protection of the orthodox Czar. Three years later, when the Polish king Jan Kasimir entered into direct alliance with the ancient enemies of Russia -- the Swedes and the Crimean Tartars -- and when therefore no doubt could be entertained as to the necessity for war, the Sobor openly invited the Czar to take the Hetman and the Cossacks of the Dnieper "under his high hand, together with their cities and lands, and that in order to preserve the true Orthodox Church." The delegates spoke of their readiness to fight the Polish king and to lose their lives for the honour of the Czar.
The Sobor of 1653 was the last general Assembly called in the time of Alexis. Following the example of bis predecessors, the Czar on several occasions also convened representatives of one single estate to consult with them on matters directly concerning their order. Such an assembly of notables sat in Moscow in the year 1617. It consisted chiefly of Moscovite merchants. It was convened to hear the opinion of Russian tradesmen as to the desirability of granting to English merchants trading in Moscow, and to their chief agent, John Merrick, the right of making explorations in search of a new road to China and India "by way of the river Ob." The majority of the delegates were opposed to the project.
The same feeling of animosity towards foreigners found its expression in 1626, when on the demand of English merchants to be allowed to trade with Persia, the members of the guild of guests and the Moscow merchants insisted on the necessity of upholding the monopoly which the Moscovite tradesmen enjoyed in going to Astrachan to buy Persian goods. The majority of the merchants declared themselves unable to compete with foreign merchants, and even the minority were of opinion that if free trade were permitted to English traders in return for large payments made by them to the crown, this liberty ought not to be extended to the traffic in Russian commodities. Half a century later, in 1667, the same Moscovite merchants, consulted by Alexis, stoutly opposed the demand of Armenian merchants for free trade in Persian commodities, and begged the Government not to endanger their own trade by foreign competition. Ten years later the Moscow tradesmen, together with the delegates of the black hundreds and villages, were called together to give their opinion as to the causes which tended to raise the price of corn. They complained of engrossers and asked that their practices might be forbidden in future. They also spoke of the great damage agriculture had sustained through recent wars. The increase in the number of distilleries was also mentioned as one of the principal reasons for the dearness of corn.
In 1681-2 the "men of service" were convened together with the Douma to reform the military administration. it was this memorable Assembly which abolished the old custom of appointing men to the chief posts in the army, not according to their personal merit, but to the rank of their family, and the length of time it had served the State; and which also ordered the heraldic books to be burnt.
The last instances we have of the convening of the Russian Sobors belong to the period of Eternal trouble which followed the death of the Czar Theodore. In 1682 a Sobor to which the inhabitants of Moscow alone were summoned, pronounced itself in favour of the occupation of the vacant throne by the youngest son of Alexis, the future emperor, Peter the Great. A new Assembly, which in its composition answered even less than its predecessor to the idea of a general representative council, was convoked a few months later by the party that favoured the political designs of the Princess Sophia, sister to Peter the Great. It insisted on the division of the sovereign power between the two brothers of Theodore, Peter and John. Princess Sophia became from that time the real ruler of the empire. Again Moscow alone was represented though the Acts speak of the presence of delegates from all the provinces and cities of the empire.
It was in 1698 that the Sobor was convoked for the last time. It was called together to pronounce judgment on the Princess Sophia who, during the absence of Peter the Great in the Western States of Europe, had tried by the help of the strelzi (a kind of Life-Guards) to seat herself on the Russian throne. The only contemporary writer who mentions this Assembly is a German of the name of Korb, who was secretary of the German Legation. According to him the young monarch insisted on this occasion on the presence of two delegates from each of the Estates, beginning with the highest and ending with the lowest. Unfortunately no information has come down to us as to the decision arrived at by this quasi-general representative body of the Russian people.
One fact especially merits our attention: The Sobors were never abolished by law. They simply ceased to exist just as did the States-General of France from the beginning of the seventeenth (1613) to the end of the eighteenth century. No legal act, therefore, lies in the way of a new convocation of the representatives of the empire. Should the present Emperor convoke them, in so doing he would be in perfect accord with the first founders of his dynasty, and also with the promises contained in the Magna Charta of the first Romanov.
Turning from the political history of the old Russian Parliaments, we will now consider their internal constitution. As we have seen, the seventeenth century introduced a complete change in their composition. During the reign of Ivan the Terrible the administrative and military classes had alone been represented; from the time of the interregnum they became meetings of delegates from all the different Estates. The following were the classes of the people who were represented: the superior clergy, the higher nobility, the lower clergy, and the lower nobility, or what is the same thing the ministerial or knightly class as they were called at that time, the three Guilds of Moscovite merchants, the citizens of the different urban districts and, on two different occasions, in 1614 and 1682, the black hundreds and villages, which meant in the technical language of the time, the peasants established on the lands of the State. Serfs, and persons who had lost their personal liberty on account of debts or any other reason, were never admitted to the right of representation. The army was very often represented by delegates from the regular regiments, such as the strelzi, and some irregular troops, the Cossacks for instance. The large extent of the Russian dominions and the consequent remoteness of certain places from the metropolis, was a natural barrier to the appearance of certain delegates at the Sobor. It was for this reason that the cities of Siberia remained without representation. Other places less remote got exemption from the duty of choosing delegates on account of the bad state of the roads and the difficulty and even danger connected with travelling. Some few considered it a great burden, on account of the expense of the journey and the maintenance of the delegates. In this they acted like those mediaeval English cities and boroughs, which under the Plantagenets did their best to shirk the duty of representation. The number of persons sent by each electoral circuit was not strictly fixed. Generally the writs of summons speak of two or three delegates.
The electoral district was, as a rule, the city and its outlying parts. Larger cities, as Novgorod, constituted by themselves several districts; in Novgorod there were no less than five such districts. The Metropolis (Moscow) was largely represented by delegates from the lower nobility, by those of the three classes of Moscovite traders and the representatives of the black hundreds and villages.
The writs of summons were addressed to the voivodes, or Governors of provinces, and to the goubnii starosti, or elective district heads.
To give you a clear notion of the mode in which the elections were managed, I will translate one of these writs. The writ in question was issued on the 9th of September, 7128, counting from the beginning of the world (that is the year 1619): "In the name of the Czar Michael, the voivode of Oustujna, named Boutourlin, is ordered to elect among the clergy, one man or two, and from the nobility (the sons of boyars) two persons, and two more from the inhabitants of the urban district (posadskii liudi). The persons must be well-to-do and intelligent, capable of narrating the wrongs they have sustained, and the oppression and destruction which they have suffered. The election rolls must be sent by the voivode to Moscow, and should be received not later than on St. Nicholas's day."
The voivode, or goubuoi starosta, as soon, as the writ was in his hands, summoned the electors and ordered them to proceed to the nomination of their delegates. Each estate or order acted separately. In answer to the writs they had received, the voivodes sent in a detailed account of the election proceedings. Several of these very interesting documents have been found in the archives of the Ministry of Justice in Moscow. Professor Latkin has published a great many of them in his valuable "Materials for a history of the Sobors," and, in reading them, the conclusion is arrived at, that the election as a rule was
made by the Estates themselves, without the intervention of the voivode or oubnoi storasta. "The nobility of voroneg," states the voivode of this place, Prince Alexis Krapotkin, in the year 1651, "have elected from among themselves two persons, the one called Trofim Michnev, and the other Theodor Philoppof. The citizens only one person named Sacharof, and I, your Majesty's slave (cholop), have sent you these three men to Moscow." The action of those voivodes, who, instead of consulting the electors, proceeded to a direct nomination of the delegates, was sometimes disavowed. Such was, for instance, the case of the voivode of Kropivna, a certain Astafiev. In the letters sent to him in the name of the Government, he was greatly blamed for having misunderstood the orders given to him, "the nobility were asked to elect a good nobleman from among themselves, and you had no justification for making the nomination of the delegate yourself."
The delegate belonged, as a rule, to the same estate as his elector, but it sometimes happened that on account of the small number of persons capable of supporting the burden of representation, a person of another order was intrusted with the duty of delegate. The voivodes and starostas mention more than once such facts as the following. In 1651 the starosta of Zvenigorod, Elizar Marcov, declares in a letter addressed to the Czar, that it was impossible for him to nominate a delegate from among the inhabitants of the city district (posadskii liudi), for the best of them were engaged in masonry work at the Storojevoy monastery, accomplishing their "hedge duty," which they owed to the crown (ograduaia povinnost). Another starosta from Kropivna wrote at the same time, that in his district the number of city residents was not more than three. They were all very poor and gained their livelihood by going from one household to another to work at cleaning the court-yards. Therefore, he found it more suitable to name a gentleman to represent them at the Sobor.
The delegates, as a rule, received instructions called Nakasi, in which the electors stated their opinions on the chief subjects to be discussed at the General Assembly. Unfortunately no documents of this kind have been preserved, and we know of their existence only through their being by chance mentioned in some contemporary documents. Speaking of the delegates summoned to the Sobor of 1613, the charters of the time directly state, that they brought with them from Moscow "complete instructions" (dogovori) concerning the election of the Czar. The delegates received from their electors the supply of victuals (zapassi), which they would need during their stay in Moscow. Nevertheless they very often made an application to the Government for money to cover their expenses. This fact is mentioned more than once in the documents of the time. The writs of summons establish no rule as to the amount of fortune which a delegate was required to possess; they only recommend the election of "good sensible, and wealthy persons, accustomed to treat of matters of State." This did not imply that the delegates were required to know the rules of grammar or to be able to sign their names on the rolls of the Sobor correctly. The number of illiterate persons was rather large even at so late an Assembly as that of 1649, and they were to be found, not only among the lower nobility and the representatives of cities, but also in the ranks of the boyars; not, however, in those of the higher clergy.
The ordinary place of meeting was the palace in the Hall called the granovitaia Palata. Sometimes the Sobor sat in the palace of the Patriarch, or in the Cathedral (Ouspenski Sobor). The session was opened either by the Czar in person, or, as was more often the case, by one of his secretaries, who, in a written paper or in a speech, declared the reason for which the Assembly was called together, and the questions it had to discuss. The reading of this address was listened to by all the delegates and all the members of the Douma, and of the clerical synod. The division by Estates took place immediately after, and each order deliberated separately on the questions which the Government had proposed. The result of the discussions was presented to the Czar in writing separately by each Estate. The documents were drawn up by secretaries, specially attached for this purpose to the Assemblies of the different Estates. On two occasions only, in 1649 and 1682, were the members of the Sobor assembled in two different chambers, a higher and lower. The Upper House was formed by the Douma and the higher clergy, and the lower by the delegates of the lower orders But the custom according to which each Estate deliberated separately, prevailed even on these two occasions, the higher and lower chambers being subdivided into as many sections as there were Estates.
In answering the demands of the Government, the delegates very often expressed their own sentiments as to the course of Russian politics. They complained bitterly of the wrongs done to the people by the officers of the State and judges; they pointed to the necessity of amending the whole executive and military administration; and by written petitions (chelobitnia), they insisted on the necessity of introducing certain amendments into the existing laws. The large part which these petitions played in the work of codifying the laws of Russia, a work which rendered illustrious the reign of Alexis Michaelovitch, has been amply recognised by recent inquirers, and especially by Ditiatin, Zagoskin, and Latkin.
The decisions to which the different Estates arrived were at the end of the session condensed into one single document, known under the name of Zemskii prigovor, which means the general verdict of the land. Several documents of this kind have been preserved. They are sealed, as a rule, with the seals of the Czar, of the Patriarch, and of the higher orders. As to the lower orders, their members kissed the cross in sign of approval.
Having thus considered the political history and internal constitution of the Sobors we will now examine the functions which they discharged. Foreign residents, and among them the well-known Fletcher, have noticed certain weak points in their organisation which prevented our representative Assemblies from rising to the level of English Parliaments. Fletcher makes the ingenious observation that the members of the Sobor had no right to present bills. This does not imply that the initiative of all reforms could proceed only from the Government; more than once the Estates complained of wrongs which were not mentioned in the address from the crown and asked for reforms which had not been thought of by the Government. But their right to petition the crown did not go further than that of the French Estates-General. Like them the Sobors were unable to provide for the fulfilment of their demands, and for the same reason which prevented the Estates-General of France from getting into their own hands the legal power. The right of initiating reforms, which the English Parliament began to exercise under the Lancastrian kings remained totally unknown in France as well as in Russia. At the time when the English Parliament were replacing petitions by bills, the French Estates continued to present their cahiers de doleances, leaving to the Government the right of taking in its ordonnances no notice whatever of their demands. The same was also the case in Russia, where new laws were directly decreed by the Czar and his Douma and the "general verdict of the land" remained for years and years inoperative.
If the Sobors only played a secondary part in matters of legislation, the control that they exercised over the executive machinery of the State was even less efficacious. I cannot mention a single case, in which royal councillors were removed and new persons appointed in their stead at the express desire of the Sobor. The Moscovite Government was, it is true, in no way a Parliamentary Government. Nevertheless the fact does not prove that the Sobors had nothing in common with English Parliaments or French States-General. We must not forget that medieval Europe was, as a rule, ignorant of Parliamentary Government, and that Assemblies, like the Mad Parliament of Oxford or the revolutionary French Estates of 1355, both of which tried to establish a kind of cabinet, were but exceptions. Although the Sobor had no right to impose on the Czar the obligation of calling certain persons to his counsels, the part it took in the general politics of the country was a large one. We have had occasion to show that questions of war and peace were settled by its advice. Both the surrender of Asov and the annexation of Little Russia took place in compliance with its desires. And though the Sobor was denied the right of choosing the Ministry, it had a much higher right, that of choosing the Czars. On this point it had no grounds to envy either the English Parliaments, or the States-General of France.
So long as the new dynasty of the Romanovs remained faithful to the engagements entered into by the Czar Michael, that is to say during the first part of the seventeenth century, the voting subsidies was as much the function of the Russian representative Assembly as it was of the representative Assemblies of England, France, Germany, or Spain. During the greater part of the reign of the first Romanov no subsidy was levied, no benevolence extorted without the consent of the Sobor. This scrupulous observance of its financial authority required its periodical convocation just as much as the meeting of the English representatives was needed many years before the introduction of triennial and septennial parliaments. Excepting during the period just mentioned, the Sobors were summoned at irregular periods and only when the needs of the Government required their help. Like other representative Assemblies they were convened and dissolved by the sovereign, and had no right to assemble according to their own will.
If we would know what good they have done to Russia we must study the part they have played in the removal of public grievances and the reform of justice. We must remember that more than once they opposed the oligarchical Government of the boyars, the local despotism of provincial Governors or voivodes, and the bribery and exactions of the bureaucracy of Moscow. We must remember how often they were the champions of justice and equality in opposing the system of judicial immunities, the extravagant donations of crown lands, and the exemption from taxation of the nobility and clergy. We shall then have no difficulty in acknowledging that their influence was truly beneficial. On several occasions they had the honour of participating in large administrative and judicial reforms, such as the codification of the law and the abolition of the abnormal custom by which offices in the army were held, not by men of ability and talent, but by those of aristocratic birth. Foreign politics were more than once treated by the Sobors with discernment and practical good sense. Their patriotic and religious feelings did not keep them from recognising the danger of a new war and the necessity of relinquishing a conquest which had been easily made. On the other hand their natural dislike of new taxes did not prevent them from stretching out a helping hand to their orthodox brethren in their endeavours to emancipate themselves from the religious persecution of Catholic Poland. Though they opposed on one occasion the annexation of Asov, nevertheless on another occasion these representatives of the people of Great Russia openly manifested their desire for union with Little Russia, notwithstanding the possibility of a new war that would necessarily be followed by an increase in taxation, In the so-called period of troubles they stood forth as the champions of the national idea by the opposition which they made to every political combination which might have resulted in the submission of Russia to a foreign prince. In those unhappy days when so many provinces were occupied by Polish and Swedish soldiers, and the boyars were half gained over to the interests of Vladislas, the son of the Polish king, when Novgorod made a separate peace with the Swedes, and was on the point of recognising the doubtful rights of a Swedish pretender, the political unity of Russia found champions only in the ranks of the lower orders represented at the Sobor.
The history of these old Russian Parliaments presents certainly a less dramatic interest than the history of English Parliaments or French States-General. Cases of conflict between the different orders convened to the National Councils occur very seldom. We read of no vehement invectives, like those which the deputies of the nobility thundered forth against the third estate at the etats generaux of 1613. We hear also of no compacts or associations between estates, like those, which more than once allowed the English barons and burgesses to achieve a manifest victory over the king. The language employed by Russian representatives in speaking to their sovereign is moderate, and sometimes even servile. They like to call themselves the "slaves of his Majesty," but, in so doing, they never forget their obligations towards their electors, to open the eyes of the Government to "all the wrongs, depredations, and oppressions, committed by its officers." They are subjects, conscious of their duty towards sovereign and country, ready to sacrifice their life and estates for the defence of its essential interest; they are not slaves, afraid of opening their mouths or of offending the ear of the monarch by a truthful description of their wrongs. Their loyalty towards the Czar finds a parallel in that which they entertain towards the Greek Church. They are orthodox, and, therefore, ready to shed. their blood in the defence of their creed, simply represented, as it sometimes is, by the images of the saints; but they have no inclination towards clericalism, and no objection to imposing taxes on the clergy and even to secularising their estates for the good of the country and the advantage of the military class. Illiterate as were their members, it is not surprising that the Sobors took no measure to increase the number of schools and educational establishments. They are probably the sole representative Assemblies which never uttered a word about science or scholarship. It was chiefly due to their ignorance that their opinions about commercial intercourse with foreign countries were so little rational. it is not surprising if the whole policy of trade reduced itself, according to their understanding, to the elimination of the competition of the Eastern and Western merchants.
With such helpers as these no general reform, like that of Peter the Great, was likely to be accomplished. It may be easily understood, therefore, why this greatest of Russian revolutionists never tried to associate the Sobors in his work. The reforms at which he aimed: the subversion of the civil and military organisation, the introduction of a totally new provincial administration, copied from Swedish originals; of a standing army, like those of the French and German autocrats; the opening of Russian markets to the competition of foreign merchants; the establishment of technical schools and such like innovations, were not to be carried out by "the decision of the whole land," to employ the consecrated term for Russian legal enactments during the period directly preceding that of Peter the Great. "Enlightened despostism" found in Russia the same difficulty in going hand in hand with the old Assemblies of estates, as it did in Austria at the time of Joseph the Second.
Fully to understand the reasons which prevented the Wither development of the Russian national councils, we must also bear in mind that the period in which Russia, by the genius of Peter, was thrown into active intercourse with European powers, was far fr
om being the golden age of representative Government. When the Sobors began to take root in the Russian soil, Parliaments and States-General were rapidly advancing to a state of complete annihilation or temporary suppression. What importance can we attach to the deliberations of the English Parliaments under the Tudors, or even under the Stuarts, up to the year 1640? What National Assembly can we mention in France after the year 1613? The fall of representative institutions, which we notice both in England and in France, was a common fact of European history. The German Reichstag and the Landstande of the different States which composed the Holy Roman Empire had fallen into the same state of political insignificance during the period following the treaty of Munster. The same fate had overtaken the Cortes of Castille and Aragon, and the provincial estates of Hungary and Bohemia. All over Europe monarchical power was steadily increasing, and autocracy becoming the ruling principle of the day. Was it likely, therefore, that Peter, who declared that he would willingly have given to Richelieu a good moiety of his dominions on condition of being taught by him how to rule the remainder, was it likely, I ask, that that same Peter should bring home from his long voyages in the West any particular respect for representative institutions? It is, therefore, easily understood why, from the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Sobors, without being abolished, should have ceased to be convened.
It was not until there was a general revival of representative institutions throughout Europe that Russian statesmen were found once more occupied with the question of the Sobors.
Alexander I, to judge by the liberality with which he endowed the Poles with a representative assembly, was, at least in the first part of his reign, not directly opposed to the idea of re-calling to life those venerable institutions of the past. Among the papers of his most intimate Councillor, Speransky, there has been found the project of a constitution, according to which the Council of State, this natural heir of the old Russian Douma, was to be strengthened by the introduction of representatives and notables, chosen from the different Estates of the Empire. In much more recent days a similar project was presented by Loris Melikoff to Alexander II, and an imperial ukase summoning this new Assembly of notables was already signed, when the premature death of the Emperor put an end to the expectations of the Liberal party. In the first weeks of his reign Alexander III himself was not opposed to the idea of reviving the old national institution of the Sobors, and his first two ministers for Home Affairs, Loris Melikoff and Ignatiev, were both in favour of such a reform. It was only from the day when Count Dimitri Tolstoi took upon his shoulders the burthen of the home politics of Russia, that all thoughts were given up of convoking a representative assembly. The Government then entered on the fatal task of the subversion of all recent reforms. Nobody can tell how long will be the duration of the period of reaction upon which we have entered; but on the other hand nobody can doubt that the convocation of a national council is the most natural way of satisfying the wishes of the constantly increasing party of malcontents -- a body of men which has been nick-named by its opponents "the Intelligent Party" (intelligentia) -- a nick-name, which certainly cannot offend those on whom it is conferred.
The convocation of a national representative assembly would no doubt close the era of misunderstanding between the Russian people and the imperial power of the Czars; it would unite the Russian past with the present and future; and would once more open a large field to the co-operation of society for the redress of old wrongs and the establishment of personal liberty and social justice.
8. "Vor dem Cronungs Act hat Michael folgende Puncte und conditiones acceptirt und unterschrieben, nahmlich: (1) Die Religion zu erhalten und zu schutzen: (2) alles was semem Vater widerfahren zu vergessen und zu vergeben, und keine particulare Feindschaft, sie moge Nahmen haben wie sie wowlle zu gedenken; (3) keine neue Gesetze zu machen, oder alte zu undern, hohe und wichtige Sachen nach dem Gesetze und nicht allein vor sich selbst, sondern durch ordentlichen Procez urtheilen zu lassen; (4) weder Krieg noch Frieden allein und vor sich selbst mit dem Nachbar vorzunehmen und; (5) seine Guter zur Bezeugung der Gerechtigkeit und Vermeidung aller Procesz mit particularen Leuten, entweder an seine Familie abzutreten oder solche denen Kron-Guthern einzuverleiben." (p. 209). Return to the Text