OREALD.COM - An Old Electronic Library
eng: a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Reign of George III. (continued.) page 9


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9>

Mirovitch was beheaded, the soldiers who had acted ignorantly were barbarously punished, and, to prevent any mistake as to the actual death of Ivan now, his body was publicly exhibited in only a shirt and pair of drawers. But though the murderous Catherine had freed herself of Ivan, she was beset by a whole tribe of impostors, in one part or other, who pretended to be Peter III., who, they said, had escaped. The chief of these was Pugatchef, a Cossack of the Don, who, from 1771 to 1774, continued to harass her: He completely convinced the Cossacks of his identity; at one time he was at the head of seventy thousand men, took town after town, and even menaced Moscow.

But, before Catherine had freed herself from her pretenders, she became involved in war with the Turks, on account of Poland, and her successes against them awoke in her mind the most extensive ideas of aggrandising Russia at the expense of both Poland and Turkey. Peter, called the Great, is said to have sketched in his will a most stupendous scheme of enlargement of Russia by conquest, which was only to terminate when the seat of empire was transferred to Constantinople, and the Russian fleets commanded the Mediterranean; and he laid it as a sacred duty on all his successors to do their utmost towards the advance of this great plan. Whether the will be genuine or not, every Russian ruler since has steadily exerted himself by arms and the most unprincipled diplomacy to such an end. Catherine, equally celebrated for her ability and her numerous lovers, led the way in this direction with wonderful success.

Poland, lying contiguous to Russia, had for ages been in a condition calculated to attract the cupidity of ambitious neighbours. Its nobles usurped all authority. They kept the whole mass of the people in hopeless serfdom; they usurped the whole of the land; they elected their own king, and were too fond of power themselves to leave him more than a puppet in their hands. To make the condition of the country worse, it was violently divided on the subject of religion. One part of the nobles consisted of Roman catholics, another of what were called dissidents, made up of members of the Greek church, and protestants, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Arians. Although by what was called the Pacta Conventa the dissidents had been admitted to an equality of rights, this was totally disregarded by the overbearing catholics; and in 1736 the Pacta Conventa was formally abolished. Every dissident was, by this measure, for ever excluded from government, and from all interest in it. The dissidents were shut out from all affairs of state; from all courts of judicature; and might be vexed and oppressed, without any chance of redress. The catholic church was declared to be the religion of the state; any one who voted for the election of a prince, not a catholic, was declared an enemy of the country, and condemned to death. Whoever quitted the church was branded as an apostate, and was condemned to perpetual exile.

Thus the whole country was torn by violent religious animosity; the nobles were insolent to the crown, and the people were nothing. Such was the condition of Poland, which led to its dismemberment. All nobility of mind was destroyed; pride and oppression were the inseparable consequences of such a system. There was no middle class, no popular class; it was a country of lords and slaves - of one class domineering over the other. The catholics were the dissidents, and the dissidents, seeking aid from Russia - which was also Greek in religion - and, to insure this aid, condescending to the lowest arts of solicitation, - to the practice of fawning, stooping, and cringing to the great barbarous power of Russia on one side, and to the equally barbarous power of Turkey on the other. The nobles could bring large bodies of cavalry into the field, as many, at times, as a hundred thousand; but as they had no free people, and dreaded to arm their slaves, they had little or no infantry, except such as they hired, and even this was in no condition to withstand the heavy masses of Russian infantry, much less such armies as Prussia or Austria might be tempted to bring against them.

The contending religionists formed themselves into two hostile confederations: the confederation at Radom was that of the dissidents; the confederation at Bar was that of the catholics. Russia, glad to have a pretence for getting a footing in Poland, supported the confederation of Radom; France supported the confederation of Bar; and it was at the instigation of France that Turkey, in 1768, was induced to declare war on Russia, and to support the catholic confederates of Bar.

From the moment that Russia was called in, she became, or aimed to become, the dominant power there. She pressed on the whole line of the Polish frontier with her armies, inundated the kingdom with her troops, and levied contributions for their support as if she had been in a conquered country. The fierce warfare that raged betwixt the dissidents and catholics was more fiercely embittered by the catholics claiming the character of patriots, and branding the dissidents as traitors, for bringing in a foreign power. From that hour, too, the kings were elected rather by foreign armies than by the Poles themselves. Stanislaus Poniatowski, the present king, was the nominee of Catherine of Russia, whose lover he had been till superseded by Orloff. She had placed him on the throne by force of arms, and he was incapable of doing anything except through her power.

This modern Messalina incited the Zaporavians - a savage race of Cossacks, inhabiting a wild region east of Poland - to pour down in legions on that devoted country. They were told that the catholic Poles, urged on by France, were intending to massacre all the Poles of the Greek church, to which these marauders belonged. They poured in fierce fanaticism into the country, laying it waste with fire and sword. The Russians armed the Polish peasants to guide and assist the flaming zealots from the Borysthenes, and, amid the most terrible barbarities, they are said to have destroyed fifty thousand of the wretched inhabitants.

The inroad of Russians, Cossacks, Calmucks, and Zaporavians induced the catholic Poles to call in the Turks. " To bring in the Turks to drive out the Russians," said one of the Polish catholic bishops, " is like setting fire to a house to drive away vermin." The Turks were at first 10th to engage in such a struggle, but, encouraged by France, they committed that fatal error. The Russians defeated them, and, pursuing them to Bar, thence followed them into Turkey. They defeated the grand vizier and the khan of Tartary; took the towns of Balta, Chocim, and Bender, opening their way into Moldavia and Bulgaria. The Russians were now triumphant over the confederate Poles, and their generals, counts Repnin and Valkonski, were now masters of the greater part of the country.

Some faint endeavours were made to shake off the yoke. Encouraged by France, the confederates again rushed down from the Carpathian mountains, to which they had fled, and cut to pieces several detachments of the Russians. They proclaimed Poniatowski deposed, and called on the people to aid them to drive out the invaders. But the people, long used to oppression from their own lords, did not answer to the call. In France, Choiseul had been hurled from power, and France left the Poles to their fate. It was now that Frederick of Prussia proposed to Austria to combine with Russia and share Poland between them. At this robber proposition, so in character \\ith Frederick, who had all his life been creating a kingdom by the plunder of his neighbours, Maria Theresa at first exclaimed in horror. She wrote to her celebrated minister, Kaunitz, who urged her to accede. " When all my lands were invaded, and when I did not even know where I could in quiet give birth to my child, then I firmly relied on my own good right and on the help of God. But in this present affair, when public right cries even to heaven against us, and when against us, also, are justice and sound reason, never in my whole life before did I feel so anxious, or was ashamed to let myself be seen. Consider what an example we shall be giving to the whole world, if, for a wretched piece of Poland or Wallachia, we give up our honour and fair fame."

But Maria Theresa was now old and failing, and she gave way, declaring that, long after she was dead and gone, people would see what would happen from their having broken through everything which had, till then, been deemed just and holy. Frederick of Prussia took the surest way to compel the Austrians to come in for a share of the spoils of Poland. He marched a body of soldiers out of Silesia - the territory which he had rent from Austria - into Posen, and Austria, not to be behind, had marched another army into the province of Starosty, or Zips, in the Carpathian mountains.

In vain did Poniatowski remonstrate; he had no means of resistance. The Turks could no longer defend themselves from Russian invasion, much less assist Poland. They applied to Frederick to intercede with Catherine for peace for them. Nothing could so entirely suit Frederick's plans. He sent Prince Henry of Prussia to negotiate with Catherine, who took the opportunity to represent to her the advantages to the three great powers, Russia, Prussia, and Austria, to strengthen themselves by appropriating portions of Poland. Whilst he was discussing this infamous plan, the Prussian emissaries were busy in Poland persuading the dissentients that as the Prussians, like them, were protestants, or opposed to Rome, they had better make common cause with them. At the same time, the catholic confederates, blind to their greater enemies through their hatred to their protestant countrymen, made a failing attempt, in November, 1771, to carry off the king Poniatowski.

In the spring of the present year, 1772, the confederates, under general Zaremba, now aided by two French officers - Viomenil and Choisi - made a fresh attempt and became masters of Cracow. Frederick advanced against them and defeated them. At this time arrived the news of the confederacy of Austria, Russia, and Prussia; fresh Austrian troops were on the march from Hungary through the Carpathian mountains, and the confederation broke up in consternation and despair. The Russians, relieved from contention with the Poles, now pushed on their victories against the Turks;

drove them over the Danube, and seized some of their most fertile provinces. To complete their ruin, they, aided by England, attacked and destroyed their fleet in the Mediterranean.

When Louis XV. heard of the union to divide Poland, he exclaimed, "This would not have been, had Choiseul still been here." But England, with a blindness inconceivable had not only not seen the effect of allowing Russia and her greedy allies to break up Poland, and thus expose Turkey, and, through it, the Mediterranean, but committed the same error as she did in our day at Navarino: she had enabled Russia to annihilate the Turkish fleet. By English aid, the very last that should have contributed to such an end, the Russian flag floated in the Mediterranean; and, under its auspices, all the robber tribes of Greece and her islands - Maniotes, Candiotes, Samiotes, Ragusans, Montenegrins, Dalmatians, and all the pirates of Italian as well as Grecian ports - swarmed forth in their brigantines and misticos, attacking and plundering every merchant vessel that appeared. The commerce of every maritime country of Europe in the Mediterranean was at an end, of England as well as the rest; and it was to enable our fleet to reduce the elements of mischief which we had raised, by promoting the lawless schemes of Russia on Poland and Turkey, that our imbecile ministers had to call for fresh taxes and fresh ships.

The treaty betwixt Russia, Prussia, and Austria for the first division of Poland was signed at Petersburg on the 5th August, 1772. The three robber powers now promised to rest satisfied with all their booty; to respect the rights and remaining territories of Poland - words hollow and worthless as they who used them. The invaders divided at this time about one-third of Poland betwixt them. Prussia appropriated the whole of Pomerelia, part of Great Poland, the bishopric of Warmia, and the palatinates of Marienburg and Culm; with complete command of the lower part of the Vistula. The whole of this territory did not exceed eight hundred square miles, but it was a territory of vast importance to Prussia, as it united Pomerania with the rest of that kingdom. Russia and Austria acquired immensely more in extent. Russia took nearly the whole of Lithuania, with the vast country betwixt the rivers Dwina and Dneister. Austria secured the country along the left bank of the Vistula from Vielicza to the confluence of the Vistula and the Viroz. But Russia had Galicia, the palatinate of Belz, and a part of Volhynia.

Thus began the absorption by these three powers of that vast country, which, had it been maintained in its integrity, would have curbed the gigantic ambition of Russia, and nipped in the bud those aggressions on Turkey which threaten the peace, and have demanded torrents of the blood of Western Europe already. But no one, not even Chatham, then seemed to have the least idea of the vast importance of this violation of the laws of nations. From that moment the three allied powers dictated, by their armies, to Poland; compelled its diet to subscribe to this infamous amputation of the limbs of their country; and dispersed the patriots, as exiles, into all countries, some of whom, by a remarkable Nemesis, became the ardent assailants of our claims in the American colonies under general Washington.

To complete this subject, we may pursue the aggressive progress of Russia a little beyond the present moment. Russia, at the intercession of Prussia and Austria, listened to the proposals of Turkey for peace. A congress was agreed to be held at Foczani, in Wallachia, in July; there came Gregory Orloff, as the representative of Catherine, attended by a retinue of one hundred and sixty domestics in splendid liveries, and by troops of hussars in equally splendid uniforms; his own costume was one blaze of jewels and orders, and on his breast he wore a portrait of his royal mistress set in diamonds; but his demands were so extravagant, and his demeanour so haughty and dictatorial, that the Turks, anxious as they were for peace, indignantly rejected his propositions, and the congress broke up. Orloff, on his return to St. Petersburg, found himself supplanted in the royal favour by the still more showy Potemkin; and a new attempt at negotiation was made betwixt general Romanzoff and the grand vizier at Bucharest, in March, 1773. This was equally in vain; the Russians had meantime agreed with the Tartars for the virtual sovereignty of the Crimea, and they again crossed the Danube and renewed hostilities. The Russians, however, were thoroughly beaten by the Turks, and glad to retreat across the Danube in July, with the loss of ten thousand men. This severe check induced them to listen to fresh terms of peace, and the treaty of Kainardji took place in July, 1774. By this, notwithstanding their late defeats, the Russians obtained most advantageous terms; they obtained the Crimea, under pretence of its being considered an independent state under its khans; Kilburn, Kerche, Jenickala, and the whole region betwixt the Bug and Dnieper were ceded to them. Russia kept Taganrok and Asoph, the two best ports on the Black Sea; and her merchant vessels had free passage of the Dardanelles, with all the privileges of the most favoured nations. Besides these, Russia had established connections with the Greeks in Jassy and Bucharest, which opened the future way for her into Wallachia and Moldavia.

<<< Previous page <<<
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 <9>

Pictures for Reign of George III. (continued.) page 9

Tumult in the House of Lords
Tumult in the House of Lords >>>>
Tea riot at Boston
Tea riot at Boston >>>>
Lord Mayor Beckford
Lord Mayor Beckford >>>>
Charles James Fox
Charles James Fox >>>>
The castle of Cronborg
The castle of Cronborg >>>>
Arrest of Queen Caroline Matilda of Denmark
Arrest of Queen Caroline Matilda of Denmark >>>>
Burning of the Gaspee Schooner
Burning of the Gaspee Schooner >>>>
Imperial throne of Russia
Imperial throne of Russia >>>>

Home | Privacy Policy | Copyright | About