The emancipation of 25,000,000 serfs at a single dash by the present Emperor
, is one of the boldest strokes of policy ever attempted.
Its effect is to reduce at once to beggary nearly the whole of the Russian
nobility, hitherto the ruling power in the State
It is understood that almost all of them are in debt, to several times the value of their whole estates, leaving out the serfs.
These constituted the principal capital of the whole country.
The emancipation act, therefore, destroys at a single blow so much capital, and so much credit.
This cannot be done, in any part of the world, without producing a shock which must be felt throughout the whole range of civilized society.
We know not at what value per soul the Russian
serf may be estimated.
We cannot suppose, however, that it is less than $200. At this rate, the Emperor
strikes dead, at a single blow, five thousand millions of capital in the hands of his subjects.
must stagger under such a blow.
The whole world must feel it. Commercial revulsions must inevitably ensue.
Credit must be tried to its utmost capacity of bearing a strain.
There never was such an experiment before upon the prosperity of a nation.
In round numbers, the entire superficial area of European Russia
is 2,200,000 square miles.
Every square mile contains 640 acres. Consequently the entire superficies of European Russian
is about 1,400,000,000 acres. The Czar has thus destroyed at a blow property equal in value to all the land in his European
empire at four dollars an acre; a price which we are assured it will not average.
The population of Russia
is about 65,000,000.--The Czar destroys property equal to about eighty dollars for every human being living in his dominions.
There is some recompense, we scarcely know what, for this enormous sacrifice of the property held by the Russian
It can be, however, but inconsiderable.
There is also some provision for exacting a certain amount of labor.
The hope is even entertained, that there will be no scarcity of labor.
The hope is a lost hope.
The example of the negroes in the West Indies
shows that men who have been slaves all their lives, will not work, when released from bondage.
We have been told that this is a peculiar trait of the African.
It is no such thing.
It is a trait just as much of the Russian
We have read many descriptions of the serf.
He is the laziest and most thoughtless of mortals.
He delights in nothing so much as sleep.
He will sleep upon the slightest opportunity, in the most dangerous situation, sometimes on the very caves of a house, or in a street where thousands of carriages are passing.
He can not be made to work, unless by some one having the authority of a master over him.--Money cannot induce him to do it, neither can good will or flattery.
Set him free, and get any work out of him if you can. If we be not mistaken, Alexander
will find this job the worst he ever undertook.
He will find his revenues falling off, agriculture neglected, manufactures brought to a dead halt, and his whole Empire threatened with ruin.
If revolution should come at the back of all this, he will have nobody to blame but himself.
serfs are white men, of the same blood with their masters.
We do not therefore pretend to say that they ought to be treated as African
slaves; that is, never to be emancipated at all. Far from it. We think they should be gradually absorbed into the class of free white men. Many of them are allowed to exercise their own talents by their masters.
They are merchants, lawyers, divines, and everything else that a man can be in Russia
A nobleman sometimes owns a wealthy merchant in Moscow
or St. Petersburg
They are of the same color, and the same blood with their masters, and therefore they ought to be emancipated.
But not after this fashion.
Not so suddenly as to produce a dearth of labor to cultivate the earth, and carry on the various avocations of civilized life.