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carry her off to
practising some of the few tunes with which she was acquainted. “ I will teach her another kind of Mazourka,” said he : prison; she shall learn Mazourkas there.” It is reported, (though we trust falsely,) that, with puerile anger, worthy of a Nero, he once ordered a little bull-finch to be destroyed for piping this favorite air which it had been taught. No Polish gentleman is allowed to retain a fowling-piece, even to indulge his favorite sport; whilst any petty Russian officer may enter his house, command his cellar, - if house or cellar be spared, - and treat him with every species of insolence. Should the boiling blood of the Pole burst the valve of prudence under the high pressure of such indignities, he is denounced, and Siberia or death may be his portion.
Nor is the conduct of Russia blameless towards others who fall into her hands. During the war with Turkey many of the Bulgarians were persuaded to revolt against their own government, and were offered an asylum in the dominions of the czar. Accordingly, some thousands were induced to leave home and to take ship for Odessa, where numerous vessels deposited their living freight. An expectation had been raised that, previous to
SERFS AND SEIGNEURS.
their arrival, arrangements would be made for their support and protection; but nothing had been done. No one was prepared to inform them where they should go or what they should do. A Russian winter set in, and inultitudes perished of hunger, cold, and fatigue. At length, the survivors were dispatched into the interior, and suffered to depend on what little subsistence they could glean from the poor inhabitants of the steppe, only less destitute than themselves, till summer supplied them with crops, the result of their own labor. Many entreated to be allowed to return to their country ; but having once placed themselves under Russian protection, they and their descendants were doomed to be Russians.
The system under which the seigneurs and serfs are connected very much resembles the feudal, to all the evils of which it is subject; but the Russian noble is kind, and excess of anger is not his characteristic; so that his slave fares better than that of the Spaniard or Portuguese. Wretched as is the serf's condition, if estimated by our ideas of happiness, it is less so in reality, because he sees and knows no other. His master is raised too far above him to excite jealousy or ambition; and between them there is no third class :
SERFS AND SEIGNEURS.
so long as he can satisfy the cravings of nature, he wishes for nothing more: devoid of forethought, he has no anxiety for the future; the stripe inflicted one moment is forgotten the next, and not dreaded for the following; and when old or disabled, he is supported by his lord, and serves to swell the train of his attendants in the city, where each decrepit slave contributes to form a class of idle and dissolute dependents. Still, the case of the Russian peasant is a hard one: the noble is extravagant and therefore poor; and his steward is ordered to drain all he can out of the serfs, who are consequently oppressed. They either pay a certain abrok, or rent, according to their average gains, or else the seigneur is entitled to their labor during three days in the week: these services may be required at any time, and the serf's own crop may be rotting on the ground while he is working for his master; or his task may be appointed at the distance of a day's journey from his house, and the hours spent on the road are not carried to his credit; or rain may interfere with his threshing, which is always executed in the open air, and thus another day is lost. As an appendage to the soil, he cannot legally be alienated from it; yet the law is often evaded. He may be beaten
SERFS AND SEIGNEURS.
or imprisoned ; but, happily, the master's interest is intimately connected with the slave's; and an abuse of this power is therefore checked by selfishness. Nevertheless, isolated cases of extreme cruelty must, and do, occur; and whatever the practice, the principle remains indefensible. No man ought to be trusted with absolute dominion over his fellow-man. There is now a lady in Odessa, under the surveillance of the police, some of whose female servants have been disposed of in a suspicious manner; and there are others of noble blood and tender sex who will stand by while their women are beaten, and order more lashes to be inflicted.
It is, however, in moral rather than in physical effects that the baneful influence of slavery, and of that degradation which it promotes and perpetuates, is manifested.. All that a serf possesses, even his wife, is the property of his lord; and though the conviction that an infringement of the sanctity of wedlock would lead to his own murder may act in most cases as a check on the superior, in the absence of law; yet the mere existence of the power alluded to, however little abused, weakens that sacred tie on which rests the whole fabric of social charities, and carries with it the evils inseparably connected with
MORAL EFFECTS OF SLAVERY.
the insecurity of the first and strongest bond of society. Nor is this the only channel through which slavery infuses a moral poison into the character of the serf. As his abrok will be raised with prosperity, he conceals his gains ; and the first lesson he is taught with the dawn of reason is to deceive his master. To effect this, he must deceive his fellow-slaves; thus, low cunning and a habit of daring falsehood are engendered. Again, self-interest is usually the main-spring of exertion; and as the labor of the vassal enriches chiefly his lord, the motive to industry is removed; he is habitually indolent; and determined idleness becomes a leading feature of his character, which nothing but physical compulsion will overcome. Again, he has no reputation to lose; and, unrespected by others, he respects not himself; when, then, he has an opportunity of thieving, what should prevent him? If discovered, he is beaten ; but he is accustomed to the lash; and his enjoyment of the stolen goods suffers no diminution from remorse of conscience or violated principle. This is a sad picture, but a true one; and such the original must remain till liberty and the light of truth dawn on this benighted land.