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"Our conversation led to a very curious anecdote of M. Merrier de la Riviere, a writer of distinguished talent. M. de la Riviere, formerly intendant of Martinique, had published at Paris a work, which is still esteemed, entitled, On the Natural and Essential Order of Political Society. This work obtained a brilliant success in consequence of its conformity with the principles of the economists, who were then much in vogue.
As Catherine the Second wished to know their system, she invited the author to visit Russia, promising him a fair recompense for his pains. It was just at the time when the Empress was about to make her solemn entry into Moscow; and she desired him to await her arrival in that capital.
'M. de la Riviere,' said the Empress tome, 'commenced his journey with promptitude; and, as soon as he had arrived, his first care was to engage three adjoining houses, the whole of the arrangements of which he speedily altered, converting the saloons into halls of audience and the rooms into offices.
The philosopher had taken it into his head that I had sent for him to assist me in governing the empire, and to rescue us from the darkness of barbarism by his enlightened instruction. Upon the doors of the numerous apartments he had wri'ten in large characters: department of the interior, department of justice, department of commerce, department of fmance, tnx^ffice, &c. At the same time, also, he invited many of '-he inhabitants, both natives and strangers, who had been represented to him as intelligent persons, to lay before him their pretensions, in order that he might judge of their capabilities for office.
All this made a great noise in Moscow, and, as it was known that it was by my orders he had been sent for, he had no difficulty in finding a number of credulous people who were eager to pay their court to him.
While these things were going on I arrived, and the comedy came to a close. I aroused this legislator from his dreams; I conversed with him two or three times respecting his work, upon which I'confess that he spoke extremely well, for he was not deficient in ability; vanity alone had for a moment disturbed his brain. I indemnified him properly for his expenses, and we parted good friends. He forgot the cares of the prime minister, and returned to his country satisfied as an author, but a little ashamed, as a philosopher, at the false step which his pride had caused him to commit.'"
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"M. de la Fayette had signified his intention of attending the court of Catherine, but, as he was nominated a member of the assembly of Notables, he could not execute his project. The Empress evinced to me a deep regret at the circumstance. She had a great desire to be made acquainted with him, for, at that time, all the world, even sovereigns themselves, were enthusiastic for the enfranchisement of America.
M. de la Fayette appeared to them a hero, because he had fought for the cause of liberty, only in another hemisphere; but, from the moment when he appeared willing to sustain the same cause in Europe, every sovereign regarded him as guilty of rebellion.
Interest produces a rapid change in opinions. When I was in Prussia, the ocean still separated the new divinity (Liberty) from the old divinity (Absolute Power), and I remember, that the decoration of the order of Cincinnatus, which I wore, and which at present would be regarded by many people, almost as a proof of one's being a demagogue, at that time excited the envy of all the young followers of kings.
The Empress received Edward Dillon with kindness, and particularly noticed M. Alexander de Lameth. Her feeling, as well as her ambition, loved to make a conquest wherever the person was worthy of being conquered: she was not ignorant, that men distinguished by their name, by their merits, by their actions, by their talent, by their writings, or by their success in the world, are excellent instruments to spread the renown of sovereigns who have flattered their self-love.
She made, however, a laughable mistake, one day, while conversing with M. de Lameth respecting his uncle, the Marshal de Broglie. After liaving paid a just tribute of praise to the exploits and capacity of that illustrious Marshal, she said: 'In truth, I have always seen with concern for the French nation, that so great a captain, who has been its glory and its ornament, should not have a child to perpetuate his name, and sustain its splendour in the camp.'
'Madam,' replied M. de Lameth, 'the regret you express is extremely honourable to him, but, happily, it is without foundation. Your Majesty is misinformed. My uncle has been as fortunate in marriage as in his military career; his family is very large; he is the father of twenty-two children.'"
• a • •
"The prince de Ligne did not permit our little circle to be at all incommoded with languor. He related a hundred pleasing anecdotes, and composed madrigals and songs extemporaneously. He alone, assuming the right to say every thing which occurred to him, mingled with his charades and sketches of character something of politics; and, although his gaiety occasionally degenerated into folly, he introduced at times, with the clattering of the bells, some useful and striking morals. He was a courtier by habit, a flatterer by system, good in his natural character, and a philosopher from taste; his pleasantries created laughter, but never wounded.
One day he hoaxed count Cobentzel and myself in a curious manner: we had been subject for some time, as well as himself, to a slight fever, which came upon us by fits. He soon reproached us with our carelessness and our refusal to adopt any remedies i he exaggerated the change in our appearance, exhibited much concern, and finally assured us that he had determined to set us an example, to be careful and to take every means to cure himself, in order that he might fee able to prosecute the journey.
Yielding to his importunities, Cobentzel, who suffered from a sore throat, was copiously bled, and I took one or two doses of physic. A few days afterwards we rejoined the empress, who said to the prince. 'You look very well to-day; I thought you were indisposed; has my physician been with you"—'Oh! no, madam,' he replied,'my complaints were not of long duration. I doctor myself in a peculiar way; as soon as I feel myself unwell, I call upon my two friends: I bleed Cobentzel and purge Scgur, and I am cured.' The empress congratulated him upon his receipt, which, she said, she was tempted to try, and she did not fail to rally us without mercy upon our docility."
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■ Before our arrival at Moscow, we passed through Serpoukoff and Podol, both commonplace towns. At length, we arrived, on the 4th of July, at Kolumensky, an elegant country-seat, belonging to the empress, situated two leagues from Moscow.
During the latter part of our journey, I had a short interview with Catherine, which I think I should relate, because it shows, in a few words, the energetic character of that extraordinary woman.
I was in her carriage with Mr. Fitz-Herbert: the extreme heat rendered the conversation dull and languid, Catherine was asleep, or at least appeared to b» so, and F'itz-Herbert and I were talking together.
Among various other subjects, we discoursed on the American war, and on the revolution, which had robbed England of thirteen flourishing provinces.
Mr. Fitz-Herbert asserted that this loss would prove more advantageous than hurtful to his country. Such a paradox amazed me; but he supported his opinion with as much obstinacy as talent, endeavouring to show that, in a short time, England, freed from the enormous expenses which the administration of her colonies cost her, would draw from her commerce with these provinces, immense advantages, without any expenditure, which would sufficiently compensate for the loss of an imaginary empire.
The discussion was long, and the Empress did not open her eyes until just as we were about to alight. The next day, being with her, in the company of the Prince de Ligne, she said to me: 'Y'ou had, yesterday, a most unaccountable conversation with Mr. Fitz-Herbert, and I cannot conceive how, with so much sense as he possesses, he can maintain so strange an opinion.'
• How, Madam,' answered I, 'you heard us, although you appeared to sleep m soundly!'—'1 was too curious,' she replied, 'to hear the end of your conversation to open my eyes before it was finished. I know not whether George the Third is of his mmister's opinion; but, for my own part, I am sure that if 1 had like him, lost, without the power of regaining it, one of the thirteen provinces, of which he has been deprived, I should have blown my brains out.'
'It really seems to me, Madam,' I replied, 'that your Majesty has made a compact with fortune.'—'I do not know that,' cried the Prince de Ligne, 'but it is very certain, that possessed of that firmness of character, which common people would call rashness, it is possible both to seize on the provinces of others and keep our own."
On the Count's*return to St . Petersburgh with the Empress, from this magical tour, so fertile in prodigies, and fond, instructive recollections, he remained there nearly two years in the same capacity, and in the enjoyment of the same regard. In this interval, Paul Jones, whom he styles the celebrated American, arrived in Russia, "seeking, as he had always done, fresh battles and adventures." Though he carried no letters of introduction to the French ambassador, the latter, considering every American as "a companion in arms," introduced him to the Empress, by whom he was most graciously received, and soon after appointed a rear-admiral in the Russian navy. The British officers in the service, declared, in consequence, that they would resign their commissions; and Segur mentions, that it required all the wisdom and authority of Admiral Greig to make them desist from such a resolution, "so indignant were they at finding that an elevated rank was conferred upon a warrior whom they styled a rebel, a pirate, and a felon." It is known, probably, to most of our readers, that Paul Jones was recalled from his Russian command, through the machinations of his enemies, and when again at St. Petersburgh, consigned to disgrace for a certain period. Americans cannot but cherish an interest in the reputation of one to whose valour and skill they were largely indebted in their revolutionary struggle: it is, therefore, with particular complacency, that we copy the following vindication from the pen of the Count de Ségur, whose evidence on the subject is irrefragable:— •
"I can cite an example which greatly contributed, by the sad reflections it suggested, to impress, more strongly than ever, upon my mind, the love of a noble liberty, in spite of all the storms which its enemies, and even its friends, have created, too frequently, around it.
Paul Jones, a sharer in the victories of the Prince de Nassau, had returned to Petersburgh; his enemies, unable to bear the triumph of a man whom they treated as a vagabond, a rebel, and a corsair, resolved to destroy him. This atrocity, which ought to be imputed to some envious cowards, was, I think, very unjustly attributed to the English officers in the Russian navy, and to the merchants who were their countrymen. These, in truth, did not disguise their animosity against Paul Jones; but it would be unjust to affix upon all a base intrigue, which was, perhaps, but the work of two or three persons, who have continued unknown.
The American Rcar-Admiral was favourably welcomed at court 5 often invited to dinner by the Empress, and received, with distinction, into the best society in the city: on a sudden, Catherine commanded him to appear no more in her nresence.
He was informed that he was accused of an infamous crime; of assaulting a young girl of fourteen, of grossly violating her; and that, probably, after some preliminary information, he would be tried by the Courts of Admiralty, in which there were many English officers, who were strongly prejudiced against him.
As soon as this order was known, every one abandoned the unhappy American; no one spoke to him, people avoided saluting him, and every door was shut against him. All those, by whom, but yesterday, he had been eagerly welcomed, now fled from him as if he had been infected with a plague; besides, no advocate would take charge of his cause, and no public man would consent to listen to him; at last, even his servants would not continue in his service; and Paul Jones, whose exploits every one had, so recently, been ready to proclaim, and whose friendship had been sought after, found himself, alone, in the midst of an immense population: Petersburgh, a great capital, became, to him, a desert.
I went to see him; he was moved, even to tears, by my visit. 'I was unwilling,' he said to me, shaking me by the hand, 'to knock at your door, and to expose myself to a fresh affront, which would have been more cutting than all the rest. I have braved death a thousand times, now I wish for it.' His appearance, his arms being laid upon the table, made me suspect some desperate intention.
•Resume,' I said to him, 'your composure and your courage. Do you not know that human life, like the sea, has its storms, and that fortune is even more capricious than the winds > If, as I hope, you are innocent, brave this sudden tempest: if, unhappily, you are guilty, confess it to me, with unreserved frankness, and I will do every thing I can to snatch you, by a sudden flight, from the danger which threatens you.'
'I swear to you, upon my honour,' said he, 'that I am innocent, and a victim of the most infamous calumny. This is the truth. Some days since, a young girl came to me, in the morning, to ask me if I could give her some linen or lace to mend. She then indulged in some rather earnest and indecent allurements. Astonished at so much boldness, in one of such few years, I felt compassion for her; I advised her not to enter upon so vile a career, gave her some money, and dismissed her; but she was determined to remain.
'Impatient at this resistance, I took her by the hand and led her to the door; but, at the instant when the door was opened, the little profligate tore her sleeves and her neck-kerchief, raised great cries, complained that I had assaulted her, and threw herself into the arms of an old woman, whom she called her mother, and who, certainly, was not brought there by chance. The mother and the daughter raised the house with their cries, went out and denounced me: and now you know all.'
'Very well,' I said, 'but cannot you learn the names of these adventurers?' 'The'porlcr knows them,' he replied; 'here are their names written down, but I do not know where they live. I was desirous of immediately presenting a memorial about this ridiculous affair, first to the minister, and then to the Empress, but 1 have been interdicted from all access to both of them.'
'Give me the paper,' I said; 'resume your accustomed firmness; be comforted; let me undertake it; in a short time we shall meet again.'
As soon as I had returned home, I directed some sharp and intelligent agents, who were devoted to me, to get information respecting these suspected females, and to find out what was their mode of life. I was not long in learning that the old woman was in the habit of carrying on a vile traffic in young girls, whom she passed off as her daughters.
When 1 was furnished with all the documents and attestations for which I had occasion, I hastened to show them to Paul Jones. 'You have nothing more to fear,' said I, 'the wretches are unmasked. It is only necessary to open the eyes of the Empress, and to let her see how unworthily she has been deceived; but that is not so very easy; truth encounters a multitude of people at the doors of a palace, who are very clever in arresting its progress; and sealed letters are, of all others, those which are intercepted with the greatest art and care.
• Nevertheless, I know that the Empress, who is not ignorant of this, has directed under very heavy penalties, that no one shall detain on the way, or look into any letters which are addressed to her personally, and which may be sent to her
Vol. t.—no. 2. 70
by post; therefore, here is a very long letter which I have written to her in your name: nothing of the detail is omitted, although it contains some rough expressions. I am sorry for the Empress; but since she heard and gave credit to a calumny, it is but right that she should read the justification with patienceCopy this letter, sign it, and 1 will take charge of it. I will send some one to put it in the post at the nearest town. Take courage; believe me, your triumph is not doubtful.'
In fact, the letter was sent and put in the post; the Empress received it; and, after having read this memorial, which was fully explanatory, and accompanied by undeniable attestations, she inveighed bitterly against the informers, revoked her rigorous orders, recalled Paul Jones to court, and received him with her usual kindness.
That brave seaman enjoyed, with a becoming pride, a reparation which was due to him; but he trusted very little in the compliments that were unblushingly heaped upon him, by the many persons who had fled from him in his disgrace; and shortly afterwards, disgusted with a country, where the fortune of a man may be exposed to such humiliations, under the pretence of ill health, he asked leave of the Empress to retire, which she granted to him, as well as an honourable order and a suitable pension."
As far as Count de Segur has proceeded in his Memoirs, his principal personage is Catherine II. When he reaches the era of Napoleon, whom he enjoyed a like opportunity of studying both as a man and ruler, we shall have another object still more splendidly imposing and anomalous. But what the lexicographers call gynarchy or gynecocracy—female or petticoat government—possesses a peculiar interest, which may preserve for his present sketches a measure of popularity greater than will remain with those to come, however skilfully and amply he may exhibit his hero. Of all the shining females who have sustained with glory the weight of empire, whether in ancient or modern Europe, Catherine, perhaps, is the most remarkable and eminent; and though she is the subject of many printed volumes, there is comparatively but little extant concerning her, of that kind of direct and adequate testimony upon which implicit reliance may be
t'laced. Tooke's "Life,' &c.,—much of which is a mere translation from Castera's, and which has been widely current—contains, no doubt, many authentic details and accurate views; yet, such of his statements as relate to her private deportment and character, and the chronicles of her court, cannot inspire the ablute faith due to those of our author, who passed five years in the centre, we may say, of that court, and in the closest inspection of her policy and demeanour. We are inclined to deem him the safest witness, besides being by far the best informed; for, without losing the urbanity proper to one of his nation and sphere, or forgetting the indulgence owing to her sex, he has not abstained from free strictures on her ambitious schemes and shameless amours.
We are tempted to hint, by the way, that the lords of the creation, who, whether as historians, biographers, or moralists, have treated of lady sovereigns independent in their rule, have been