Peter the Great

PETER, Czar, or Emperor of Russia, usually styled THE GREAT, was one of the most remarkable persons in the history of modern times. A sketch of his life may therefore prove interesting, as furnishing an example of what may be accomplished for the benefit of mankind by one enterprising mind. But first as regards the country over which it was his fortune to rule.

Russia is a territory of vast extent in the northern part of Europe and Asia. Presenting every variety of climate, this extensive region, which is really an aggregation of various countries, was inhabited in the seventeenth century by a barbarous people, having little intercourse with the more civilized nations of the earth. The degree of advancement in knowledge or social usages was very much that of Turkey in recent times.

The Russian people knew little or nothing of the useful arts, were rude in manners, dressed in cumbrous garments, and the men wore long beards, according to the ancient Asiatic custom. There was scarcely any kind of school-learning or education; even the priests were grossly ignorant and superstitious. For one thing, they believed and taught that the world was created in autumn, when the fruits were ripe; unconscious that, when it it autumn in one hemisphere, it is spring in the other.

At the period to which we refer - the middle of the seventeenth century, or about the time of the Commonwealth in England - the Russia! people might have been divided into four classes: the Boyards or noblemen who estimated their wealth by the number of serfs or slaves upon their estates - these wretched serfs, of course, by far the most numerous body of all; and the military, a turbulent set, who, as we shall see, often resorted to the most violent means to obtain their ends. Indeed so common and revolutionary had been revolts of the Strelitzes, or soldiery of the capital, that the government has been epigrammatically called a despotism tempered by assassination.' The fourth class, and one which often took part in the factions of the time, were the priesthood, the established religion being the form of the Greek church. The monarchy was absolute, the will of the sovereign being law; but it was not, as Poland was, an elective monarchy. The male issue, however, of the ancient sovereigns failing, and several pretenders to the throne having miserably perished, the chief Boyards assembled a council, at which they elected a youth, named Michael Romanow, to be czar. He was the son of a powerful nobleman, and related, by the mother's side, to the ancient czars. This took place in 1613, at the period when his father was detained a prisoner by the Poles, with whom the Russians were at war. An exchange of prisoners, however, was soon after effected; and it is thought that, during the life of the old man, he governed, though in his son's name. It is not our purpose to enter into the wars or troubles of this reign. Michael Romanow made no alteration in the state, either to the improvement or corruption of the administration. He died in 1645, and was succeded by his son Alexis Michaelowitz (or son of Michael), who ascended the throne by hereditary right.

Alexis, who was the father of Peter the Great, appears to have been more enlightened than any of his predecessors. He introduced manufactures of silk and linen; and, though unable to keep them up, he had the merit of their first establishment. He endeavored to form something like a code of laws, imperfect though they were; and he peopled the deserts about the Wolga and the Kama with Polish and Tartarian families, whom he had taken prisoners in his wars, employing them in agriculture - before his reign, prisoners of war being the slaves of those to whose lot they fell. But he had little time to perfect his plans, being snatched away by a sudden death in 1677, at the age of forty-six. Alexis had been twice married. By his first wife, the daughter of the Boyard Meloslauski, he left two sons, and either four or six daughters. By his second wife, who was the daughter of the Boyard Nariskin, and who survived him, he left Peter and the Princess Nathalia, the former having been born at Moscow on the 30th of May 1672. Alexis had caused his eldest son, Theodore, to be acknowledged his successor a year before his death, and he ascended the throne at the age of fifteen: this prince inherited his father's abilities and disposition, but was of a sickly, feeble constitution. The second son was Ivan, or John, who was miserably infirm, being almost blind and deaf, and subject to convulsions. Of the six daughters, we need only mention Sophia, who was less remarkable for her great talents than for the wicked and mischievous use she made of them.

Peter was but four years old at the time of his father's death, and was for a while little regarded. But the czars married without regard to birth, and had likewise the power of choosing a successor; and, conscious that his brother Ivan was incapacitated by his infirmities for governing, Theodore, on his deathbed, nominated his youngest brother Peter heir to the crown. This occurred when Peter was in his tenth year, but not before his promising abilities had aroused the jealousy of his sister Sophia. Probably from the difficulty of finding suitable husbands for them, it had been the custom for the daughters of the czars to retire into a monastery; but this designing princess had no such inclination; and on the death of Theodore, she found herself almost the natural guardian of two brothers, one of whom was, from his infirmities, incapable of governing; and the other, on account of his youth, she believed it possible to depose. In a word, she aimed at sovereignty, although pretending to advocate the claim of Ivan, and representing that she desired only to hold the reins for him.

A succession of revolts was the consequence of her stratagems and intrigues; and the most savage cruelties were perpetrated by all parties. Sophia evidently sought some pretense for deposing Peter, and accordingly she employed emissaries to stir up the soldiery against the Nariskin family, especially the two uncles of Peter, spreading a report that one of them had put on the imperial robes, and had attempted to strangle prince John; adding, moreover, that the late czar, Theodore, had been poisoned at their instigation by a Dutch physician. Finally, she made out a list of forty noblemen, whom she denounced as enemies to the state, and deserving of death. The mutineers began by attacking two nobles, named Dalgorouki and Matheof, whom they threw out of the palace windows. These unfortunates were received by the Strelitzes on the points of their spears, and speedily despatched, their dead bodies being afterwards dragged into the great square. Soon after this, meeting with Athanasius Nariskin, brother to the young czarina, and one of the uncles of Peter, they murdered him in like manner, and, breaking open the doors of a church where some of the proscribed had taken refuge, they dragged them from the altar, and stabbed them to death. But it would be a horrible task to narrate the atrocities which followed - the murder of the innocent physician and of the other Nariskin, and the dreadful tortures by the knout, and other forms which were practiced on the wretched victims.

Finally, Sophia succeeded in associating the name of her imbecile broth er in the sovereignty; the two princes, John and Peter, being proclaimed joint czars in 1682, and herself denominated co-regent with them. She then publicly approved of the outrages which had been committed, and rewarded the perpetrators of them, confiscating, for this purpose, the estates of the proscribed; and so completely did she enjoy all the honors of a sovereign, that her bust was engraven on the public coin. She signed all despatches, held the first place in the council, and exercised unlimited power. But new insurrections broke out; and finally, she was induced to strengthen her authority by admitting to her councils her favorite and lover, prince Basil Galitzin, whom she created generalissimo, minister of state, and lord-keeper. This new minister was a man of distinguished abilities, and had received a much better education than the rest of his countrymen. One of his prudent measures was to distribute the most mutinous of the Strelitzes among different regiments, situated at distant parts of the empire.

While Galitzin was engaged with the army, Sophia governed and acted at Moscow as if altogether independent of her brothers the czars. A circumstance, however, soon took place which put an end to her intrigues and interference. In 1689, Peter's marriage with Eudoxia Federowna Lapuchin, effected through the influence of his prudent mother, withdrew him in a great measure from those dissipating vices which Sophia had done all in her power to encourage, and thus gave him a new hold on the affections of the people. Sophia having desired to be present as regent, at a religious celebration at which czars themselves were commonly present, Peter opposed it in vain; and a few faithful Strelitzes having betrayed to him her intention to assassinate him, with his wife, mother, and sister, he took refuge with them for a while in the convent of the Trinity. Here he summoned to his aid General Gordon, a Scotchman, who, with all the foreign officers, immediately hastened to Peter. The young czar soon found himself surrounded by numerous friends; and these, animated by his personal bravery, and encouraged by his affable and generous demeanor, quickly put him in a position to resist the machinations of his sister. He accordingly compelled Sophia to take the veil, while Galitzin and a few others were banished to Siberia. Peter now hastened to Moscow, into which he made a solemn entrance, and in sight of all the people embraced Ivan, who left the whole of the power in the more able hands of his brother. From this instant he began to reign in reality as Peter I, although the name of the infirm Ivan remained as joint czar till his death in 1696.

One of the most cruel wrongs Sophia had committed on her brother, was that of keeping him in ignorance, and surrounding him, at the very age when character is formed, with every temptation to excess and dissipation. It cannot be supposed that he escaped the contamination of such lures; but most truly has it been said, that his virtues were all his own, his vices those of his education and country.' He early evinced one quality of a great mind the comprehension of his own ignorance, joined to the most ardent thirst for knowledge. His, too, was that faculty inseparable from the man born for a great ruler that quick and certain appreciation of the character and talents of others, which always enabled him to know the fit instrument with which to work out his plans. Thus, happening to dine one day at the house of the Danish minister, he was struck with the manners and conversation of the private secretary, at once perceiving the superiority of his mind. This was a youthful Genevese, named Le Fort, who had been educated for a mercantile profession; but being of an adventurous disposition, and early displaying decided military talents, had enlisted as a volunteer, and served in the low countries. After encountering several dangers, and having a narrow escape of transportation to Siberia, though for what offense we cannot discover, he found his way to Moscow, and obtained employment in the capacity we have mentioned.

Le Fort had received the advantages of a European education, and possessed great powers of observation. It was he who explained to the czar the wonderful superiority of the trained and disciplined troops of western Europe over the wild soldiery of Russia; and now it was that Peter conceived the daring plan of annihilating the Strelitzes, who had so often been instrumental in setting up and deposing monarchs. But his measures were at present cautious and secret. Soon after his friendship for it deserved the name - with his young adviser, the czar formed a regiment on the European system, to which he appointed Le Fort colonel; and, to give his people a lesson of subordination, he entered himself as drummer I Indeed, as we shall see, it was his custom to aim at the root of all knowledge, and thoroughly master the subjects he took in hand; and he knew that he could not more thoroughly acquire a knowledge of military affairs than by passing through all the gradations of the profession.

It was through the same individual that Peter became acquainted with another person, who, in the sequel, exercised scarcely less influence in the empire than Le Fort himself. This was Menzikoff, a youth of the very humblest origin, who sought his fortune in Moscow at the age of fourteen, and became apprentice to a pastry-cook. He used to hawk cakes and pies about the streets, recommending them in a kind of song of his own composing. It was while engaged in this occupation that he attracted the attention of Le Fort, who entered into conversation with him. and, pleased with his ready wit, brought him to the czar. On Peter he must have made an equally favorable impression, for we find him mentioned as a royal page soon afterwards.

About the same time that Peter organized the body-guard under Le Fort's direction, he commenced building some vessels, with which he purposed sailing down the Don, and attacking Azoph, which was then in the hands of the Turks. A reference to the map of Europe will show the importance of this place, which is in fact the key to the Black Sea; and nothing proves more completely the genius of Peter the Great; than the intuitive knowledge he possessed of the importance of maritime power, and the wants of his vast empire. Hemmed in by enemies - for in those days neighboring states were commonly such the Black Sea commanded by the Turks, and the Baltic by the Swedes, he felt that his country could never be great till seaports were wrested from them. Former czars had issued edicts forbidding their subjects to travel beyond the empire. Peter saw that the great difficulty was, not to keep people in, but for anybody to get out; and he knew there was no better method of enlightening the ignorant, and of removing prejudices, than to encourage the influx of civilized strangers, and to afford facilities for his own people to travel in other countries. We are the last who would find merit in the exploits of mere military heroes or conquering rulers, but it is impossible to withhold our admiration from the youthful czar at this period of his career. The Ottoman empire was then one of the most powerful states in the world. A very few years before, Vienna had been besieged by 200,000 Turks, and the Emperor Leopold compelled to flee from his capital; and Sweden. was a country greatly superior in the scale of civilization, possessing disciplined and experienced troops soon to have Charles XII, the most warlike monarch in Europe, at their head. But it was not from any love of the game of war' that Peter contemplated aggressions on his neighbors, but as the necessary means to a great end. He could not humanize his people without seaports; so seaports he was determined to have.

It is said that, in his childhood, Peter I had an absurd dread of water; indeed to such an extent, that crossing a river would throw him into convulsions. A story is told of his having narrowly escaped drowning when about five years old, the fright received on that occasion being the origin of this future antipathy; but, for our own part, we have very little faith in the tradition of the czar's hydrophobia.' He was subject all his Fe to epileptic fits; but as his brothers had been afflicted with something similar, they were most probably hereditary. Perhaps the story of his dread of water was invented, to heighten the wonder of his achievements on that element. At all events, if it ever existed, it must early have been conquered; for in his boyhood he appears to have amused himself by paddling about the river Yausa, which passes through Moscow, in a little Dutch skiff, which had attracted him, from its being so superior to the flat-bottomed boats with which alone he was acquainted. Even when he had never seen the ocean, and was five hundred miles distant from the sea, he comprehended the wants of his vast unwieldy empire, and resolved that it should become a maritime power.

Accordingly, in 1695, he sailed down the Don, and attacked Azoph; but this first campaign was unsuccessful, chiefly in consequence of the desertion of an artillery officer named Jacob, who nailed up the Russian cannon, turned Mohammedan, and, going over to the Turks, defended the town against his former master. The czar, however, was not likely to be discouraged by a single failure. He renewed his attack the following year; and as the death of his brother John just at this time had thrown into his treasury the income which had maintained the dignity of the nominal czar, he had the means of strengthening and supplying his forces in a more efficient manner. The new ship-yard at Woronetz, on the Don, furnished him in the summer of 1696 with a fleet of twenty-three galleys, two galleasses, and four fire-ships, with which he defeated the Turkish fleet off Azoph. All relief by sea being now cut off, he pushed the siege with renewed vigor, and in two months - July 29 - the Russians entered Azoph. To secure the possession of this key to the Black Sea, he enlarged and strengthened the forts, constructed a harbor capable of admitting heavy vessels, and gave orders for fifty-five war-ships to be built, at the same time keeping in view the construction of a canal whereby to connect the Don and the Volga.

A year or two before these events Peter had divorced himself from his wife, whom he had married in his boyhood - a wife chosen for him, not a partner of his own choice. Many reasons have been assigned for this step; but the true one appears to be, that she was a woman of mean intellect, a slave of superstition and bigotry, the mere creature of the priests, and that, consequently, she opposed herself to all his plans of reformation; for the priests, knowing that their power would melt away before the torch of knowledge, lost no opportunity of vilifying the czar, and thwarting his schemes if possible. Peter certainly committed an error of judgment in leaving his son Alexis under her care, as the result proved; but to our mind it was a proof of kindness and consideration to the mother, which reveals a more feeling heart than historians generally allow him to have possessed.

A desirable seaport acquired, and an unsuitable wife got rid of, Peter's next step was to send a number of young Russians to finish their education in Italy, Germany, and Holland. Hitherto Russia had been without an official representative in any of the states of Europe but the czar fitted out a splendid embassy to the States-General of Holland, of which Le Fort and Menzikoff were the principal plenipotentiaries, Peter himself accompanying them, though simply as an attache to the mission. The ease and security with which he left his vast empire to the government of deputies, prove how firmly established was his power. Passing through Riga, on his way to Holland, he sought permission to visit the fortifications; but was refused by the Swedish governor - an indignity which Peter resolved to punish by and by. Proceeding through Prussia, he was received by the king with great respect, and with all the pomp and circumstance of royalty. Here Peter separated himself from the embassy, and proceeded to Holland, traveling privately, and as fast as possible. He arrived at Amsterdam fifteen days before his ambassadors, and engaged a small apartment in the dockyard belonging to the admiralty. He soon afterwards adopted the habit of a Dutch skipper, and in that dress proceeded to Saardam, where he enrolled himself as a journeyman carpenter, under the name Of Peter Michaeloff, in the employment of a ship-builder named Calf. Here he lived in a little shingle hut for seven weeks, made his own bed, and prepared his own food - corresponded with his ministers at home, and labored at the same time in ship-building.

Such was the manner in which Peter the Great proposed to acquire the art of ship-building; as willing to work as a carpenter for this purpose, as he had been for another to do a drummer's duty in his model regiment. Truly does one of his earliest biographers remark, that many sovereigns have laid down their authority from weariness of the cares and troubles of empire, but he alone quitted his dominions in order to study the art of governing them.' What a picture of Peter the Great presents itself to the contemplative mind at this period; and what a meeting must that have been which accidentally took place between him and the duke of Marlborough at Saardam! For the English noble was well aware that, in the workman Peter Michaeloff,' he beheld the undisputed proprietor of a quarter of the globe, the autocrat who had the power of life and death over all its inhabitants; in short, the czar of Muscovy. Peter was at this time, 1697, twenty-five years of age, and is described as a large, powerful man, with bold and regular features, dark-brown hair, that fell in natural curls about his neck, and a dark, keen eye, which glanced from one object to another with singular rapidity. He was dressed on that occasion in a red woolen shirt and duck trousers, and a sailor's hat, and was seated, with an adze in his hand, upon a rough log of timber which lay upon the ground. He was conversing with great earnestness and much gesticulation with some strangers, his countenance displaying, by its strong and varying expression, the interest he took in their discourse. The soldier-duke - is it not easy to imagine the contrast of costume and character - approached, and opened a slight conversation by some remarks on the art of ship-building. While they were thus engaged, a stranger in a foreign costume appeared, bearing an enormous letter:his hand; the journeyman started up, and snatching the packet, tore off the seals, and eagerly perused it, while the stately Marlborough walked away unregarded.

Who can tell what this very despatch contained! Most probably life or death, freedom or slavery, fame or fortune, of one or many of his subjects hung upon the word of that foreign journeyman.' It was while handling the compass and the adze at Saardam that the confirmation was brought him of the double, or rather rival, nomination of Augustus, elector of Saxony and prince of Conti, to the vacant throne of Poland; and Peter, al ready assuming the right to be a king-maker, promised to assist Augustus With thirty thousand troops. Meanwhile his army was gaining fresh victories near Azoph; but Peter had a nobler ambition than the desire of military glory. He continued to improve himself in different arts, passing frequently from Saardam to Amsterdam to hear lectures on anatomy; and he made himself capable of performing several operations in surgery. He also mastered the Dutch language, and made considerable progress in mathematics, civil engineering , and the science of fortification; besides visiting every literary, charitable, or scientific institution, and the papermills, saw-mills, and all manufacturing establishments, which he examined carefully, with the intention of introducing similiar ones into his own empire.

What is that?' was his constant exclamation at beholding anything new nor would his inquiring mind rest for a moment till he obtained an explanation. We can fancy the astonishment of the quiet, lethargic Hollanders at this energetic prince, who, though choosing to work as a carpenter, took no pains to conceal his rank; flying about the country with an activity of mind and body equally incomprehensible to them, and seeking knowledge with more ardour and avidity than other princes had ever sought even pleasure.

Peter spent about nine months in the Netherlands, during which time a sixty-gun ship was completed from his own draught and model, and at much of the carpentry of which he worked with his own hand. This vessel, said to be an admirable specimen of naval architecture, he sent to Archangel - for as yet the czar had not a seaport on the Baltic. He then crossed over to England, where he was received with great attention by William III, who deputed the Marquis of Caermarthen to attend him, and devote himself to the service of the czar. Peter's chief object was to examine the dockyards and maritime establishments of England as he had done those of Holland; but though he still preserved his incognito, he no longer worked as a journeyman. Yet, according to an old writer, 'he would often take up the tools and work with them; and he frequently conversed with the builders, who showed him their draughts, and the method of laying down, by proportion, any ship or vessel.' At first he lodged in York Buildings, while in London; and the last house next the river, on the east side of Buckingham Street, near the Strand, is said to have been inhabited by him; but afterwards, that he might be near the sea, he occupied a house belonging to the celebrated John Evelyn at Deptford.

Under the date of January 30, 1698, we find in Evelyn's diary as follows The czar of Muscovy being come to England, and having a mind to see the building of ships, hired my house, Saye's Court, and made it his court and palace, new furnished by the king.' And just about this time Mr. Evelyn's servant writes to his master thus: - 'There is a house full of people, and right nasty. The czar lies next your library, and dines in the parlour next your study. He dines at ten o'clock, and at six at night; is very seldom at home a whole day; very often in the king's yard, or by water, dressed in several dresses. The king is expected there this day: the best parlour is pretty clean for him to be entertained in. The king pays for all he has.' What a glimpse one gets at the past through such gossip as this!

Though the czar did not now carry his enthusiasm so far as to work as a carpenter, yet his fondness for sailing and managing boats was as eager here as in Holland. Sir Anthony Deane and the Marquis of Caermarthen were almost daily with him on the Thames, sometimes in a sailing yacht, and at others rowing in boats an exercise in which both the czar and the marquis are said to have excelled. The Navy Board received directions from the Admiralty to hire two vessels, to be at the command of the czar whenever he should think proper to sail on the Thames, to improve himself in seamanship. In addition to these, the king made him a present of the Royal Transport, with orders to have such alterations and accommodations made in her as his czarish majesty might desire; and also to change her masts, rigging, sails, etc. in such a way as he might think proper, to improve her sailing qualities. But his great delight was to get into a small-decked boat belonging to the dockyard, and taking only Menzikoff, and three or four others of his suite, to work the vessel with them, he being the helmsman. By this practice he said he should be able to teach them how to command ships when they got home. Having finished their day's work, they used to resort to a tavern in Great Tower Street, close to Tower Hill, to smoke their pipes, and to drink beer and brandy. The landlord had the czar of Muscovy's head painted, and put up for his sign, which continued till the year 1808, when some one took a fancy to the old sign, and offered the then occupier of the house to paint him a new one for it. A copy was accordingly made from the original, which maintains its station to the present day, as the sign of the Czar of Muscovy.'

While in England, Peter also directed his attention to engineering; and, what is curious, received a doctorate from the university of Oxford. He took into his service upwards of five hundred persons - officers, engineers, cannoneers, surgeons, etc; in particular, a body of skillful engineers and artificers, whom he despatched to Russia, for the purpose of carrying out a great project which he had already arranged in his own far-seeing mind. This was to open a communication, by locks and canals, between the rivers Volga and Don and the Caspian Sea. And it may convey an idea of the ignorance and superstition with which . Peter had to contend, that this noble scheme raised an outcry among the priests and nobles, who declared it was a piece of impiety to turn the streams one way which Providence had directed another.' Ferguson, the celebrated engineer and geometrician, entered into his service, and was the first person who brought arithmetic into use in the exchequer of Russia. Previously, they had made use only of the Tartarian method of reckoning, by balls strung upon a wire.

In the latter end of 1698, Peter returned to Holland on his way home; and on taking leave of King William, he presented him with a ruby of the value of £10,000, drawing it from his waistcoat pocket, wrapped up in a bit of brown paper.' It was truly a royal present, though not given after a very royal fashion; but Peter had a great contempt for forms and ceremonies, and William III was far too sensible a man to stand very greatly upon them. Peter also, in return for the attentions bestowed on him by the Marquis of Caermarthen, conferred on that nobleman the right to license every hogshead of tobacco exported to Russia, and to charge five shillings for each license. This must have brought a large revenue, for an English company had thought it worth while to pay L15,000 for the monopoly of the exportation. While in London, his attention was forcibly attracted to the magnificent building of Greenwich Hospital, which, until he had visited it, and seen the old pensioners, he had some difficulty in believing to be anything but a royal palace. King William having asked him one day how he liked his hospital for decayed seamen, the czar answered, If I were the adviser of your majesty, I should counsel you to remove your court to Greenwich, and convert St. James' into a hospital.'

From Holland, Peter traveled to Vienna, most probably to have an interview with the emperor of Germany, who was no doubt very glad to obtain an ally against his old enemies, the Turks. He was received with great pomp; but, in the midst of the festivities which marked his arrival, news reached him that an insurrection had broken out in Moscow, though it had already been quelled, by the energy and decision of General Gordon, whom he had left in authority. This intelligence, however, induced him to give up a visit to Italy, which he had intended; and traveling with his usual speed, he hastened back to his capital. He soon discovered that the Strelitzes had been instigated to rebellion by the Princess Sophia, who, taking advantage of her brother's absence, had hoped to resume her authority. Several of the ringleaders were hanged within sight of Sophia's window, and others condemned to a more cruel death, and broken on the wheel. Certainly, when we consider how sanguinary the laws were at that period, even in the most civilized states of Europe, we cannot consider this retaliation undue severity on the part of Peter; indeed it appears to have been a necessary step to secure his own authority. As for the absurd stories which were current at the time, and which we are sorry to find repeated by many respectable writers, no credit should attach to them. We mean the stories of the wholesale massacres which took place Peter and his chief officers turning butchers themselves, and reveling in this preappointed slaughtering with as little compunction as sportsmen when they find themselves in a preserve of game. A closer examination of facts and authorities dispels the whole as an idle report, exaggerated as it traveled from mouth to mouth, and quite out of keeping with the real circumstances of the case. It is true that Peter had already done a great many things with his own hand' that sovereigns had seldom done before; but then they were things which no one but himself was clever enough to do. His indifference to war (except as the means to his greatends), commented on with evident astonishment by an English churchman, whom he conversed with when he visited Oxford, is a proof that he was not of a sanguinary disposition; and besides this, he wanted men so much both for soldiers and workmen, that he could not spare the two or three thousand subjects who are said to have been beheaded, or otherwise slaughtered, for after-dinner pastime. It is much more likely that he should have set them to work in the hardest and meanest capacity on the canals and bridges he was already forming.

In 1699, Peter experienced a severe loss in the death of his friend and counselor, General Le Fort, on whom he bestowed funeral honors similar to those awarded to former sovereigns. He assisted, himself, in the procession, marching after the captains as a lieutenant, which rank he held in Le Fort's regiment. It was also about this time that he lost his able general, Gordon, whose soldierly qualities had been so essential to him in the reformation of his army. Menzikoff, who had risen from obscurity by his talents and activity, now became the favorite and counselor of Peter. The Strelitzes those instruments of insurrection and turbulence were now supplanted by twenty-seven new regiments of infantry and two of cavalry, who, within three months, were disciplined and brought into marching order. Nothing but merit and length of services was regarded in the appointment of officers. Besides the reconstitution of the military, Peter now devoted himself with incessant activity to the internal regulation of . his empire, which assumed, by degrees, the appearance of a new creation.

It was now that the czar turned his attention to change the inconvenient customs of his people. To do this, he began by levying a tax upon long beards and petticoats patterns of closebodied coats being hung up in public places. But so attached were they to old customs, that his revenue was increased, instead of their dress being altered. His next proceeding savors somewhat of the ludicrous. He stationed tailors and barbers at each of the gates of Moscow, whose duty it was to cut the beard and whiskers of every man who entered, and 'to cut his petticoats all round about.' In the process of the latter mutilation, the victim was made to kneel down, when his garments were clipped on a level with the ground. An anecdote is told which has something almost affecting, in the proof it affords of the earnestness with which these poor people clung to their unclean and inconvenient habits. The czar on one occasion met an old man coming from the barber, and addressed him, saying that he looked like a young man, now he had lost his beard upon which the man put his hand into his bosom, and drew forth the beard which had been cut off, telling the czar he should preserve it, in order to have it put into his coffin, that he might be able to produce it to St. Nicholas in the other world!

About this time the czar altered the commencement of the year from the 1st of September to the 1st of January - a proceeding which gave almost equal offense to his people, who thought he was undertaking to change the course of the sun. He next instituted assemblies for the encouragement of social intercourse between the sexes, that people might have a reasonable opportunity of forming suitable marriages. Hitherto wives had been sought in the Asiatic manner - the bride being given away or sold by her parents, without being previously seen by the intended bridegroom. And while all these social and moral reformations were going on, Peter was building a fleet on the Don, connecting that river with the Volga, and planning to wrest a sea-coast territory from a warlike nation, on which to build a new metropolis - St. Petersburg.

Hitherto the capital of Russia had been Moscow, which, being inland, was ill adapted for commerce. With a view to remedy this defect, Peter fixed on a site for his new capital at the mouth of the river Neva, and ad joining the Gulf of Finland. But the land in this quarter was not his own it belonged to Sweden. His object was therefore to seize upon one or two provinces, add them to Russia, and then commence building his town. It is distressing to have to relate such a circumstance of a man whom, on other grounds, we are inclined to respect. According to the way in which history is usually written, the commission of such acts is not only not reprobated, but in some cases is commended. We, however, cannot unite in glossing over acts of injustice, even though they be done by kings. Peter was guilty of rapacity, and the only excuse that can be found for him is, that he did nothing more than what all sovereigns of his time considered it no crime to commit. To attain his desired end in this and other respects, Peter, in 1700, entered into a political alliance with Augustus, king of Po-. land and elector of Saxony, and the king of Denmark. These three potentates combining against the youthful Charles of Sweden - who, by a sort of miracle, proved himself, at eighteen years of age, the greatest general in Europe - the car determined to take from him the provinces of Ingria and Carelia; Augustus desired to regain Esthonia and Livonia, ceded by Poland to Charles XI; and Denmark wished to regain Holsten and Sleswick. Peter invaded Ingria at the head of 60,000 men; and, desirous to find some pretext for his aggressions, could choose no better one than that his ambassadors had been charged exorbitant prices for provisions while passing through that province on their way to Holland; though he also reminded them that he himself had been insulted by being refused a sight of the citadel of Riga!

At the latter end of September Peter laid siege to Narva, a fortified town on the river Narowa, just at the time that Charles was engaged with the Danes, and putting an end to the war in Denmark. This, however, was accomplished in a few weeks; and then, at the head of only 9000 troops, he came to the relief of Narva. Peter, probably astonished that the place had held out so long, but never doubting of ultimate success, left the army encamped before Narva to meet a body of nearly 30,000 men, whom he had sent for. The reason of this proceeding cannot be easily explained; for certainly the presence of the czar was most required with the main body, already 60,000 strong, at the scene of action. Probably he went forth to meet the reinforcement only from the restlessness of mind and impatience of delay which were part of his character. It was a false step, however. During his absence, on the 19th of November, Charles came up to Narva, and taking advantage of a tremendous snow-storm, which beat directly in the faces of the Russians, fell upon them, and with his 9000 men completely routed or captured an army of nearly seven times the number. The prisoners taken were nearly 40,000; and the inconvenience of the long petticoats was at last discovered, since they hindered a great number from - running away! Never was a more ignominious defeat, though the czar bore it with the greatest philosophy know very well,' he said, 'that the Swedes will have the advantage of us for a considerable time; but they will teach us at length to beat them.'

On the occasion of this defeat, the priests composed a prayer to St. Nicholas, which was publicly offered up. It besought his assistance against those terrible, insolent, furious, dreadful, invincible destroyers,' who had fallen upon them like lions and bears deprived of their young frightening, wounding, and killing them by thousands ' - and declaring that such calamities could only have befallen them from witchcraft and sorcery.' Peter, however, did not wait for the help of St. Nicholas. He entered into negotiations with the kings of Denmark and Poland to assist him with troops, and to keep up the quarrel with Charles XII; at the same time he melted the church and convent bells of Moscow to found cannon, and made every preparation for his intended campaign in the ensuing spring. But amid all his preparations for war, Peter never lost sight of those projects which were to bring forth their fruits in peace. At this period he was founding hospitals and schools, erecting linen and paper factories, and importing sheep from Saxony, gathering together smiths, braziers, and artificers of every description, and having the mines of Siberia explored for ore.

It is not our purpose to detail the battles and sieges which took place in the course of the following year or two, although we must mention one of them more particularly, as it was the occasion of introducing to Peter a person who henceforth took part in his fortunes. Marienburg was a little town on the confines of Ingria and Livonia, which, besieged by Peter's army, surrendered at discretion. Either through accident or design, the Swedes who defended it set fire to the magazine, which so incensed the Russians, that they destroyed the town, and carried away all the inhabitants. Among the prisoners was a young girl of about sixteen years of age, a Livonian by birth, who had been brought up from charity in the house of a Lutheran minister. There is no reason to suppose she had occupied any higher station than that of servant in his family; but it is said that she had been married to a Swedish soldier, who fell in the siege, the very day before it took place. This widowed orphan was taken to the camp of one of the Russian generals. Precisely how or when Peter first saw her, can never be known; but the best authenticated and most likely story is, that while engaged in handing round dried fruits and liquors at the house, or in the tent of Prince Menzikoff, the Livonian slave, known only by the name of Martha, first attracted the attention of the czar. According to his invariable custom, when pleased by the manners or countenance of any one, he entered into conversation with her, and soon discovered that she possessed a mind of more than ordinary intelligence. To this she joined, as events proved, a cheerful and lively disposition, a kind heart, and an amiable temper. No doubt Peter had penetration enough to see that she was precisely the woman who could share his enthusiasm, sympathise in his plans, and be, in short, the wife he wanted. The meanness, or indeed obscurity of her birth, was no obstacle to him; he had absolute power to raise her to the loftiest condition in his empire; and, accordingly, by the name of Catherine, which she now adopted, he married her at first privately, but a few years afterwards with the state and ceremony of public nuptials. Thus was chosen the partner of his throne, and his successor upon it.

It was soon after these events-1700 - that the death of the patriarch,' or supreme head of the Russian church, afforded the czar an opportunity of beginning some wholesome reforms in that quarter. He had thought it necessary to commence his military career by fulfilling the humblest duties of a soldier, and we have seen that he set about learning the art of ship-building by working with his own hands; but when he boldly annihilated the office of patriarch, and placed himself, without any preparatory steps, at the head of the church, he probably thought there was nothing the priests could teach him which he desired to learn. Certainly a set of men who believed that sanctity dwelt in a beard, and who were in the habit of placing letters of introduction to their patron saint in the hands of deceased persons when laid in their coffins, were not likely to meet with much respect from a great reformer like Peter I: and the few whose glimmer of intelligence raised them above the gross superstition and corruption of the mass, must have experienced all the temptations of self-interest to oppose themselves to the projects of the czar; for they must have known that the nation once enlightened, their power would be gone.

Let us however, not be misunderstood in the use we may make of the words nation' and people.' As a nation - as a people - the Russians are not to this day sufficiently enlightened to choose their own legislators and enjoy a constitutional form of government; and, sunk in the ignorance and barbarism from which Peter partially raised them, a perfect despot, such as he was, was the only ruler that could have had power enough to help them.

The printing-press, which Peter had introduced, vomited forth libels of various sorts upon him; and he was denounced as Antichrist by the priests. A few, however, defended him from this charge, but only because the number six hundred and sixty-six was not to be found in his name, and he had not the sign of the beast.'

It was about this time that the czar took an excellent opportunity of showing that new customs are generally better than old ones. On the occasion of the marriage of one of his sisters, he invited the principal Boyards and ladies of Moscow to celebrate it, requiring them to appear dressed after the ancient fashion. The dinner was served up in the manner of the sixteenth century. By an ancient superstition, it was forbidden to kindle a fire on a wedding day; accordingly, though it was winter, no fire was permitted. Formerly, the Russians never drank wine, so none was provided; and when the guests murmured at any of the unpleasant arrangements, Peter replied, 'These were the customs of your ancestors, and you say old customs are the best.' A practical lesson of more force than wordy arguments, and one that might afford a useful hint in much more recent times.

Having obtained the provinces he required, Peter set about building St. Petersburg.; in the execution of which work he overcame difficulties which would have discouraged any other man. The spot he fixed upon was a miserable morass, half under water, without wood, or clay, or stones, or building materials of any kind; with a barren soil, and a climate of almost polar severity. The resolution to build this city has always been spoken of as an act of extreme rashness; for, to its other disadvantages, it was liable to be flooded by the waters of the gulf on the prevalence of a southwest wind, more particularly if the wind should blow at a time when the ice of the Neva was breaking up in the summer thaws.

Whether Peter was aware of all these disadvantages, is not clearly as certained. It is only certain that, notwithstanding every drawback, he continued the building of St. Petersburg, which, under his marvelous energy, soon became a splendid city, adapted for commerce with all the world. What he began, his successors have finished; and . St. Petersburg now vies in grandeur with any city in Europe. Although never seriously injured by flooding, as was anticipated, it has on divers occasions been exposed to great alarm, and the safety of the inhabitants has been endangered. Indeed inundations are so frequent in many of the low parts, that water is as much dreaded in St. Petersburg as fire in many other cities; accordingly, precautions have been taken to guard as much as possible against any such calamity. When an inundation is anticipated, a cannon is fired from the Admirality, and signal-flags hoisted on the steeples, and the alarm-gun is repeated every hour until the danger appears at an end.

When the river rises so high as to lay the lowest streets under water, the alarm-gun is fired every quarter of an hour; and in proportion as the peril increases, the cannons are more frequently fired, until minute-guns are understood to be a cry of despair, summoning boats to the assistance of the drowning people.

The highest inundation of which there is any record occurred on the 17th of November 1824; and in every street there is a painted mark, showing the height to which the waters rose. The Russians speak with a shudder of the sufferings which took place on that occasion. The rise of the river was at first gradual and stealthy; but, impelled by a furious west wind, it soon came streaming through the streets, lifting some of the carts and equipages from the ground, but drowning many horses, which were unable to extricate themselves from the heavier vehicles to which they were attached. A description is given of the trees in the public squares being as much crowded with human beings as they had ever been seen with sparrows; and a story is told of a gardener who, having been engaged in clipping some trees on an acclivity, had not observed the rise of the water until it was too late to seek any other refuge than the roof of a garden pavilion. But here he was joined by such a host of rats and mice, that he was in no small danger of being devoured by them. Fortunately, however, a dog and a cat sought refuge in the same spot, and, with such powerful allies, he remained in safety all night. The river subsided to its accustomed channel the next day; but, dreadful as the loss of life and property had been, the worst effects had still to follow. Many houses fell in from the injury they had received, and it was long before the damp could be expelled from those which remained. Almost universal sickness was the consequence, and a fearful mortality from the epidemics which raged for weeks afterwards.

To return, however, to Peter. His chief antagonist was Charles XII of Sweden, one of the greatest soldiers of his age. Charles had evidently nothing more dignified in his nature than might belong to a gladiator or prize-fighter. He lived as if men came into the world to fight, and for nothing else. He had no idea of such a condition as peace. He laughed at all social and domestic ties, and made a jest of the severest trials of human affections. He had not a heart capable of love or friendship himself, and despised all those who had. He was simply destructive; no fertilizing or humanizing influence followed his career; and when, at a later period, his absence on a disastrous expedition had been protracted for years, and his neglected and impoverished subjects besought him to return home, his answer was, that he would send 'one of his boots to govern them'-a sorry jest, but one that sufficiently showed his nature.

'His was a name at which the world grew pale, 
To point a moral, or adorn a tale.'

Peter, on the other hand, never encouraged war, except for the furtherance of some great object. While fighting battles, he was at the same time planning cities, founding hospitals and scholastic institutions, forming canals, building bridges, and traveling about to superintend everything himself, under all circumstances, and in all seasons; and by such means undermining his constitution, and sowing the seeds of disease, which carried him off in the prime of life. In his early years his habits were intemperate, it is true; but though he is reported to have said, I can reform my people, but I cannot reform myself,' he didreform those pernicious habits which had been systematically inculcated by the machinations of the infamous Sophia, and in the latter part of his life lived abstemiously. Peter was a creator, constructor, and reformer among his people, and well deserved the title of Great.

While Charles was busy elsewhere, Peter took the opportunity of again attacking Narva. He laid siege to it by sea and by land, although a large body of his troops were still in Poland, others defending the works at St. Petersburg, and another detachment before Derpt. But after several assaults on one side, and a most determined resistance on the other, Narva was at length taken, the Czar being among the first to enter the city sword in hand. His behavior on this occasion must have gained him the respect and even the affection of his new subjects. The besiegers had forced their way into the town, where they pillaged and exercised all the cruelties so common with an infuriate soldiery. Peter ran from street to street, rescued several women from the brutal soldiers, and endeavored by every means to put an end to violence and slaughter, killing with his own hand two of the ruffians who had refused to obey his orders. He entered the town-hail, whither the citizens had run in crowds for shelter, and, laying his reeking sword upon the table, he exclaimed, This sword is not stained with the blood of your fellow-citizens, but with that of my own soldiers, which I have spilt to save your lives! '

As soon as Peter had acquired the provinces he wished, he became anxious for peace; but violence always suggests reprisals; and Charles was by no means inclined to lose a portion of his territory without further fighting. He in fact determined on undertaking an inroad into Russia, and dictating a treaty of peace at Moscow. Peter, who knew the nature of the Russian territory and population, was not alarmed at this decision of his rival. His clear intellect perceived the difficulties which the rigorous climate and vast extent of country to be traversed must present to an invading army, and he took measures quietly to increase these impediments. The army of Charles ravaged the country wherever they went, and put to death, without remorse, hundreds of the peasantry, whom they suspected of concealing from them grain or other provisions. It may convey some idea of the demoralizing influence of war, and the strange distorted notions which prevailed, to mention that the chaplain of the king of Sweden praises these executions as acts of justice on the part of his master!

The Czar, with his army, retreated slowly before the advancing enemy - thus drawing them on, step by step, into the heart of a barren country, until the northern monarchs and their followers were lost to the world among the wildernesses of ancient Scythia. But the circumstances of the Czar were very different from those of the invader. He was at home, knew even the wilderness, and was in safe and convenient communication with his own cities and magazines. His hundred thousand men were well provided, and, before the snows of winter set in, were in comfortable quarters. About this time Mazeppa, the hetman of the Cossacks, deserts from Peter to Charles, and so far changes the purpose of the latter, that instead of proceeding direct to Moscow, he resolves first to reduce the Ukraine, which is a fertile territory lying between ancient Poland and Moldavia, and was then, as now, belonging to Russia. Some of the Swedish officers implored their king to halt, and go into the best quarters they could find for the winter. But no; he would go on; and after the loss of thousands of his men from cold, hunger, disease, and misery of all sorts, he laid siege to Pultowa, a town of the Ukraine, in the month of May, 1709, with the remnant of 80,000 men, now numbering less than 20,000!

On the 15th of June the Czar came up to assist his besieged town; by a feint, which deceived the Swedes, he succeeded in throwing 2000 men into the place; and a few days afterwards the famous battle of Pultowa took place, at which the Swedish army was completely routed and destroyed. Both sovereigns appeared in the front of the battle, although Charles, having received a wound a few days before, which had broken the bones of his foot, was carried about in a litter, to give directions; and the litter being shattered by a cannon-ball, he was then supported on the pikes of his soldiers, several of whom fell in this dangerous service. However, when all was over, desperation lent him strength; for he was able to make his escape on horseback. In its results, this battle was one of the most important ever fought in Europe. Had the Czar fallen, there can be no question his people would have sunk back into the barbarism from which he was striving to draw them, and Denmark, Poland, and Russia, must have received laws from the brutal Swede. By the mercy of Providence these horrors were averted; and henceforth Charles became an object of pity rather than dread.

After the battle, Peter invited the Swedish officers taken prisoners to dinner, and drank to their health as his masters in the art of war.' His prophetic words at Narva were now verified: the Swedes had indeed taught the Russians to beat them. However, the greater part of these `masters ' - officers, subalterns, and privates - were sent to Siberia; for Charles had refused an exchange of prisoners previous to the battle, and now Peter would not grant it. Meanwhile Charles escaped to Bender, and took refuge among the Turks. By his emissaries he represented to the sultan the growing power of Russia, revived in him the desire to recover Azoph, and to expel the Russians from the Black Sea; and finally succeeded in bringing about a declaration of war from Turkey against the Czar. The Turks commenced hostilities by imprisoning the Muscovite ambassador, upon which Peter levied an army, and marched to the frontier of Turkey at the head of 40,000 men. Before setting out, however, he made a public proclamation of his previous marriage with Catherine, who insisted upon accompanying him in this campaign.

It is a singular circumstance that, in this expedition, Peter fell into an error almost identical with that which had led to the overthrow of his rival. Charles had trusted to the representations of the double traitor Mazeppa, who promised to supply him with food and men; and Peter allowed himself to be led into a hostile and barren country, relying on the faithless hospodar of Moldavia, who had promised him similar assistance. On reviewing the coincidence, one cannot help fancying that perhaps, after all, there might be less of stratagem on the part of the czar than chance movements, which led the Swede on to his ruin, or surely he would not have been blind to the consequences of conduct so similar. To be brief: when Peter had crossed the river Pruth, he found himself near Jassy, hemmed in between an army of Turks and another of Tartars, with a rapid river rolling between him and his dominions, with scarcely any provisions, and without perceiving the means of procuring them; and in this manner were the 40,000 Russians held at bay by enemies whose numbers were said to amount to 200,000. Still they fought desperately; a sort of protracted battle going on for three days, during which time 18,000 men were lost. The situation of the czar was dreadful. One can imagine the agony of mind he must have endured at the thought of perhaps himself being paraded as a captive at Constantinople: yet retreat was impossible; and escape from death or capture seemed equally hopeless.

In this hour of torture and distress the czar shut himself up in his tent, either to take counsel of himself, or to hide his deep mortification. He gave strict orders that no one should disturb him; but the wife who had shared his perils, and knew his heart, ventured to transgress these commands, and made her way to his side. She found him in terrible convulsions - an attack of the fits to which he was subject having been brought on by the agony of his mind. Catherine, who possessed an extraordinary power of calming him on these occasions, applied the usual remedies; and, assuming a cheerful manner, described the idea which had suggested itself to her mind as a means of escaping the threatened ruin.

Certainly this idea was so simple and natural a thing, under the circumstances, that the only marvel is, that it had not occurred to Peter himself and his entire staff. She proposed that a negotiation should be attempted; and, to comply with the custom of approaching the grand vizier with presents, she stripped herself of her jewels, and ransacked the camp for every article of value that might make a suitable offering. It is not likely that, on this military tour, she had encumbered herself with any costly ornaments, and two black foxes' skins are the only articles we find specially mentioned.

She it was who chose the officer she considered most intelligent and trustworthy for the important mission to the vizier, and she it was who gave him his instructions. Some hours having elapsed after his departure, it was feared that he had been killed, or was detained a prisoner; and a council of war was held, at which we find Catherine was present. At this council it was resolved that, if the Turks refused to enter into a treaty of peace, rather than lay down their arms and throw themselves on their mercy, the Russians would risk their lives by attempting to cut their way through the enemy. During this interval, Peter, despairing of any favorable results from the mission, and reduced to despondency, wrote to the senate at Moscow - ' If I fall into the hands of the enemy, consider me no longer as your sovereign, and obey no commands which shall proceed from the place of my confinement, though it should be signed by my own hand. If I perish, choose the worthiest among you to succeed me.'

The return of the messenger, however, prevented these desperate measures, for he brought the intelligence that an honorable treaty had been agreed to by the vizier. The partisans of Charles XII have always up braided what they call the cowardice of the Turkish governor on this occasion; but it seems to us that he behaved in a dignified and enlightened manner, and, in consenting to put an end to the war, consulted the interests of his country, a hundred times more than if he had sacrificed fresh troops in opposing the czar, and driving the Russian army to desperation. Hostilities were suspended immediately; and soon afterwards articles were signed, by which Azoph was surrendered to the Turks, the czar excluded from the Black Sea, the Russian army withdrawn beyond the Danube, and the promise given of a free passage to Charles XII through Russia to his own dominions. Much as this seems for Peter to have sacrificed, that Catherine's services were considered extraordinary is proved beyond question; and several years afterwards, on the occasion of her being crowned empress, Peter again publicly acknowledged them, referring to that desperate occasion ' in these words - ' She signalized herself in a particular manner by a courage and presence of mind superior to her sex, which is well known to all our army, and to the whole Russian empire.'

The fury of Charles on hearing of this treaty knew no bounds. He sought the Turkish camp, and insulted the vizier to his face, who retorted only by some bitter sarcasms on his own prostrate condition. He refused to take advantage of his right to return home; and, still nourishing the insane hope of being able to attack Moscow, he lingered at Bender till 1714, when the Turks, heartily tired of their troublesome guest, sent an army to dislodge him, and he made his way to Sweden in the disguise of a courier.

Of Charles XII of Sweden we need only further say that he fell from a chance ball, which entered his temple, and killed him on the spot, on the 11th of December 1718, while conducting the siege of Frederickshall, a small town in Norway; just in time, according to some historians, to prevent a union with his old opponent the czar to disturb the government of Great Britain. If the mere existence of such a scourge as Charles XII were not in itself too grave a subject for mirth, one might be amused at the acknowledgments of his panegyrist Voltaire, who, in summing up his character, alludes to his great qualities, of which he says - ' One alone would have been enough tor immortalize any other prince;' and yet admits that they caused the misery of his country. And that his firmness, become obstinacy, led to the sufferings of his army in the Ukraine, and its detention in Turkey; that his liberality degenerated into profusion, and ruined Sweden; that his justice sometimes ' - we should say very often' approached to cruelty; and that the maintenance of his authority verged upon tyranny.' Moreover, that he gained empires to give them away.' Yes; for the mere pleasure, to him, of fighting and slaughtering! What a pity he was not born a butcher instead of a king! If an admirer ac knowledged thus much, what was the truth likely to have been?

Meanwhile Peter had been going on with his mighty reforms, notwithstanding the opposition of the ignorant and superstitious priesthood, who worked on the people by every means in their power. They taught them that all these alterations were in direct opposition to the will of Heaven; and among other tricks, persuaded them that the pictures of the saints wept at their transgressions. This deception was contrived by making a cavity behind the head of the picture, and filling it with water; then, when the occasion arrived that it was proper for the tears to flow, a little fish was put into the water, which, splashing about, forced out the water at the eyes of the painting.

In 1715-16, Peter indulged himself by making a second tour in Europe, taking Catherine with him. He visited Saardam, where, eighteen years before, he had worked as a ship-builder; and where he was now received with every demonstration of honor and regard. It is related that be showed the czarina, with much interest, the little cabin in which he had worked and lived. There were some political reasons which detained Peter for nearly three months in Holland. He was nearer the centre of intelligence than at home concerning the purposes of other powers, some of whom were plotting against him. However, after conducting a correspondence, and drawing up a treaty with France, he returned to St. Petersburg, traveling by way of Berlin.

We come now to a dark and mysterious passage in the life of Peter the Great. Alexis, Peter's son by his divorced wife, appears to have possessed naturally but an inferior intellect, joined to that species of low cunning which often belongs to it, without any moral qualities to counterbalance such defects; and unfortunately his mistaken education had confirmed him in his vices and follies. We have already mentioned that, on his marriage being dissolved, Peter allowed his son to remain with his mother. The consequence was, that from an early age he was placed under the control of the priests, who not only instilled into his mind their own superstitious notions, but taught him that the changes in the government and manners of the people effected by the czar were acts offensive to God. It is impossible to help sympathizing with Peter in the disappointment he must have felt at finding his only son a stupid, and yet mischievous and profligate creature; for the only son which Catherine brought him died a mere infant. Remembering that the Russian succession was vested in the will of the autocrat, who was supposed to have a perfect right to bequeath the sovereignty to whomsoever he pleased, every candid reader will acknowledge that Peter was quite justified in disinheriting his unworthy son, whose first act, on gaining the reigns of government, would have been to undo, to the best of his ability, the great works of his predecessor. But it is impossible to justify the extreme severity of the czar, although we can comprehend the excuses which might be offered for it. Not that historians do offer them, for they seem, almost without exception, to dwell on the darkest side of the question, almost without remembering the provocatives to his wrath. The simple truth is a deep enough tragedy.

When Alexis was about twenty years of age, which appears to have been as soon as Peter discovered the mischief that was done, he tried to repair it, by placing a different order of persons about him, and sending him to travel. When he came back, he married him to an amiable and intelligent princess of the house of Brunswick, who died in less than four years, literally of a broken heart, from the neglect, cruelty, and profligacy of her brutal husband. After her death, Peter wrote a letter to his son, which concluded with these words I will still wait a little time to see if you will correct yourself; if not, know that I will cut you off from the succession as we lop off a useless member. Don't imagine that I mean only to frighten you; don't rely upon your being my only son; for if i spare not my own life for my country and the good of my people, how shall I spare you? I would rather leave my kingdom to a foreigner who deserves it, than to my own son who makes himself unworthy of it. And in a subsequent letter, Peter said--' Take your choice; either make yourself worthy of the throne, or embrace a monastic state.'

But Alexis seemed not at all inclined to do either; although, during fits of pretended penitence, he was willing to do anything. There is no doubt, however, that the terror of the Czar was, that even if his son entered a monastery, he might still at his death be placed at the head of that party who were opposed to reform, and so recover the throne. It seems to us that this dread of future ruin to the country is the true explanation of Peter's severity; for, taking into account the barbarism of the times, and the sanguinary laws all over Europe, we can find no evidence of a cruel disposition in the history of Peter the Great.

Before the Czar set out for Germany and France, he visited his son who was then on a bed of sickness. On this occasion Alexis solemnly promised that, if he recovered, he would embrace a monastic life; but his father was no sooner out of Russia, than the prince became suddenly well, and entered upon his former life of riot and dissipation. Some intelligence of what was occurring at home reached the Czar, and he wrote a peremptory letter to his son, desiring him either to enter a monastery without delay, or join him at Copenhagen. Upon this Alexis declared his intention of going to Copenhagen, and drew money from Menzikoff for his traveling expenses. But, apparently frightened at the thought of meeting his father - and really it is easy to fancy the incensed czar an object of great terror to the culprit - he proceeded to Vienna, there to concoct some treasonable schemes with the emperor of Germany, who, however, alarmed at the probable consequences, got rid of him; and from Vienna he turned, his steps to Naples. His plan seems to have been to get out of his father's way as far as possible, and wait the chances of life and death that might place him in some new position. But Peter I, either as a sovereign or a father, was not a personage to be treated in this manner. Accordingly, we find him despatching two messengers to Naples, to bring Alexis back to Moscow by fair means or foul. There is evidence that he accompanied them, on the solemn assurance of his father's forgiveness; and this deception certainly gives the darkest hue to the trial and condemnation which followed.

As soon as Alexis arrived at Moscow, which was in February, 1718, a council was called, at which he was publicly disinherited; and after a long private conference with the czar, the particulars of which never transpired, Alexis was arraigned as a criminal, and tried for conspiring against his father's life and throne by a body of 'ministers and senators, estates military and civil.' Peter was so accustomed to make his own will the law, that in this array of judges there is clear evidence that he wished in some measure to throw the responsibility from his own shoulders, or rather to seem to do so; for no doubt the judges only strove to decide in the manner which should best please their master. After all, the condemnation chiefly rested upon the confession of Alexis himself, and the acknowledgments of his mistress, his companions, and his confessor; and the words of these were wrung from them on the rack. Certainly Alexis made himself out to be much more guilty than any other evidence proved; and yet the czar's only excuse for revoking his pardon was, that it had been promised on condition that he confessed everything.'

There can be no doubt that this weak and vicious young man had been quite ready to lend himself to any plot; or, according to his own words, 'If the rebels had asked me to join them in your lifetime, I should most likely have done so - if they had ben strong enough.' And in answer to another question, he said that he had accused himself in confession of wishing the death of his father;' but that the priest had replied that God would pardon it, as they all wished it as much.

At last he is found guilty. A council of clergy, who are among those referred to for a sentence, quote from the Bible, and especially Absalom's case, and recommend mercy. But further transgressions are said to have come to light, and the ministers, senators, and generals unanimously condemned him to death, without stating the manner or time of the same, and of course well knowing that the breath of the czar could revoke their edict.

Whether Peter intended to save his son, or really to permit his execution, is among those secrets which history can never pierce. The sentence alone literally terrified Alexis to death! On hearing it read, he fell into a fit, from the effects of which he never recovered, although he regained his senses sufficiently to implore the presence of his father. An interview was granted, at which it is said both father and son shed tears; and finally, after receiving the pardon of the czar, and the consolations of religion, the miserable Alexis breathed his last in prison on the 7th of July.

The most absurd stories were current for a long time, and repeated from mouth to mouth, and copied by one biographer after another. They are still to be found in many otherwise grave authorities. The very number and variety of these tales falsify them all. The czar was accused of poisoning his son (sending openly one messenger after another for the poison); other accounts say that he knouted him to death with his own hands; others, that he cut off his head himself, and had it privately stitched on again. The best argument against such fables is, that if Peter really wished his son's death, he had only to let the so-called course of justice ' have its way. Besides, the circumstance of his receiving extreme unction, when on the point of death, is a fact authenticated and established.

As may be imagined, Catherine did not escape her share of these accusations; but all the evidence which remains tends to prove that, so far from meriting them, she endeavored to incline her husband to the side of mercy.

We are drawing near the close of the active and eventful life of Peter the Great. We need not dwell upon his Persian campaign, in which, after having found a pretext for a quarrel, because he wanted one, he acquired those sunny provinces to the south of the Caspian, which compensated for the loss of Azoph. It is not land I want, but water,' was his frequent exclamation, when studying the requirements of his vast empire. The ruler who had first evinced his love of maritime affairs by paddling a skiff upon the Yausa, and who had inherited only a wild and barbarous inland country, was now the master of a respectable navy, the lord of the sunny Caspian and of the icy Baltic.

After his return from Persia in 1722, we find him, as usual after any lengthened absence, instituting examinations 'for mal-administration. The vice-chancellor Schaffiroff, one of his favorites, was condemned to death; but on the scaffold his punishment was commuted to banishment. Menzikoff was sentenced to pay 200,000 rubles into the exchequer, and was deprived of a great part of his income, and flogged by the emperor's own hand. For the infliction of this punishment Peter used his dubina - a cane of thick Spanish reed. Several others were disgraced, flogged, or heavily fined - thus at once showing the czar's impartiality, and proving how well he knew the impossibility of reforming the masses while corruption existed in high places.

In July 1724, Peter again conducted a fleet against Sweden, to enforce his claims on Sweden and Denmark in behalf of the duke of Holstein. Having effected this purpose, he returned to Cronstadt, where he celebrated, by a splendid parade, the creation of his navy, which now consisted of forty-one ships of war, with 2106 cannon, and 14,960 seamen. It was on this occasion that he caused the little skiff we have mentioned to be brought from Moscow, and to be consecrated by the name of the Little Grandsire - the father of the Russian navy. This little shallop is still preserved at St. Petersburg with almost religious veneration.

The last years of this great monarch's life were employed in providing against the inundations to which his new capital was exposed in the autumn, in continuing the Ladoga canal, and in the erection of an academy of sciences. He turned his attention next to the examination and punishment of state criminals; to the promotion of the labors of the legislative body; and the establishment of the order of Alexander Newsky;' the improvement of the condition of the monks; the banishment of the Capuchins from Russia; and a new commercial treaty with Sweden. He also betrothed his favorite daughter Anna to the duke of Holstein in 1724, having already placed the crown, with great pomp, upon the head of his wife Catherine on the 18th of the preceding May, in token of his love and gratitude. He likewise provided that an education should be given to the surviving son of the unhappy Alexis, such as would become a future emperor of Russia - his only son by Catherine having died, as before mentioned, when a child, in 1717.

Peter had been for a considerable time in a weak state of health; but he owed the acceleration of his death to an act of humanity. Late in the autumn of 1724, going to visit the forge and manufactory of arms at Systerbeck he saw a boat filled with soldiers and sailors stranded, and sent a shallop to assist, but which failed in the attempt. Determined to gain his end, he set out for the spot himself; and as his vessel could not quite reach the spot, he leaped into the water, and waded to the boat, which he aided in getting off. A severe cold followed this dangerous but humane act, and this, in addition to the painful disorder from which he had long been suffering, brought on the most fatal symptoms. These came on so suddenly at last, and his sufferings were so great, that he was unable to make his last wishes perfectly intelligible. There is, however, little or no doubt that he intended to appoint his wife his successor. His words, so far as they could be understood, expressed this; and on the very day of his death she succeeded him without opposition. Catherine watched by his bedside, without quitting him, for the last three nights of his life; and he breathed his last in her arms January 28, 1725, being only in his fifty-fourth year.

The reader of this brief biography may sum up the character of Peter the Great more satisfactorily than we can do it for him; for different minds will estimate differently his services to his country. That he was a man of powerful and original genius, who did everything himself, and was never the instrument of others, must be conceded on all hands. His ardor was joined with prudence and resolution. His violent passions and sensual excesses were the fruits of the barbarism of his nation, his imperfect education, and uncontrolled power. His services to a people so ignorant and barbarous were of the greatest possible value; indeed all of good that Russia now enjoys may, without much exaggeration, be ascribed to him. But, for him, or such as him, they might have remained till now as rude and powerless as when he found them. Among the Russians his name is venerated as it deserves to be. St. Petersburg, the city of his love and of his creation - ' the western portal of the empire ' - is now a magnificent metropolis, with palaces, arsenals, quays, bridges, academies, and temples, rising one beyond another; albeit that the severity of its climate must forever be a drawback to its many advantages.