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“L'ingannare, il mentir, la frode, il furto,
Son le virtù de quella gente infida.” Censure is, indeed, as it has been well remarked, the tax which almost every one who occupies a large space in the public eye, must pay for his eminence.
“Oh! place and greatness, millions of false eyes
Are stuck upon thee ! volumes of report
And rack thee in their fancies.” The statesman or politician who should not pursue the even tenor of his way, heedless of the obloquy which his very station must excite, but should endeavour to regulate his conduct by the observations and comments made upon it by ignorance or malignity, would soon find it necessary to abandon his post.
For proofs of the truth of this assertion it is only requisite to refer to the political history of England, where they are furnished in the accounts given of the career of almost all the ministers who have had a voice in her national councils. The opposition and difficulties they have been obliged to encounter,
generally been of so formidable a kind, as to warrant the apology made for their conduct by Pope, even when it might be liable to animadversion.
“Our ministers like gladiators live ;
'T'is half their business blows to ward, or give :
Dies between exigents and self-defence.” Perhaps the strongest case is that of Sir Robert Walpole, who, during his entire political course, suffered as much obloquy of every species, as could possibly be heaped upon a single individual. If we were to form our estimate of his character from the Dissertation on Parties, or the philippics that were delivered against him in Parliament, we should be induced to consider him as one of the most unprincipled and profligate intriguers whose names sully the historic page. How different is the opinion to be conceived of his qualities, if we credit the descriptions given of them, even by his most virulent enemies, after death had caused a cessation of that envy and ill-will which distorted his every act and word! Even Lord Chatham, perhaps the most vehement of his antagonists, lived to acknowledge the extent and importance of his services, and the benefits which accrued from his long and pacific ministry. Thus Rufus King, the great rival for a long time of Mr. Clinton, in the political discus
sions which agitated the state of New York, confessed, when ambassador at the court of St. James, in the course of some remarks upon the grand cànal celebration, the exalted opinion he entertained of the talents and public usefulness of the latter. “He rejoiced,” says Mr. Carter, in a letter to Dr. Hosack contained in the Appendix," that Mr. Clinton had outlived the prejudices and passions of his opponents, and was in the full enjoyment of that popularity and public confidence which he had so justly merited. In a word, Mr. King spoke of the late governor in terms of the most liberal and unqualified praise."
It may not, perhaps, be here altogether irrelevant to adduce one instance of the manner in which the expressions of Walpole were perverted from their original sense, and made to bear a meaning wide of that which he intended to convey. Every one is doubtless acquainted with the sentiment attributed to him, that “all men have their price,” which has engendered so much contumely, and to which allusion has been so often made, both in prose and verse, especially by Pope in the lines
“Would he oblige me? let me only find,
He does not think me what he thinks mankind.” But. Coxe in his Memoirs has explained in the most satisfactory manner the signification of what Sir Robert originally uttered, and yindicated him from the stigma of casting a universal slur
upon his fellow-creatures. His real phrase was entirely altered by the omission of the word those, which related to the pretended patriots of the day, of whom he expressed his opinion by saying, “all those men have their price,” which words were eagerly seized upon by his enemies, and perverted in such a way, as to give thein an indiscriminate application.
We cannot conclude this imperfect outline, without making the most formal acknowledgments to Dr. Hosack, for his beautiful volume. His Memoir is copious, but not tedious, and his gene. ral panegyric so sustained by his documents, that he may be said to have spoken as well from the convictions of his own enlightened judgment, as from the impulses of generous friendship. We could have wished to bring our readers more particularly acquainted with the nature and value of the materials which he has accumulated in his Appendix; but we may the less lament the want of space for this purpose, since we can be confident that no inquirer into the life of Clinton, or the history of the New York canals, will fail to consult the whole of his meritorious work. The quarto is truly magnificent; a splendid specimen of typography, and altogether, considering the time in which it was prepared and issued, a sort of literary phenomenon. It might be difficult, at first, to conceive the bare possibility of the execution of such a task, so speedily, by an eminent physician, who is not
only largely engaged in the practice and study of his profession, but involved in much of the literary and scientific action of NewYork. His example is a fresh illustration of the truth of Madame Roland's remark—“Leisure will always be found by persons who know how to employ their time. Those who want time, are the people who do nothing.”
Art. X.---System of Geography, by M. MALTE-BRuN. Vol. VI. Book civ-cxiy. Russia. Boston: Wells & Lilly. 1828.
The origin of the Russian nation is involved in the obscurity which hangs over most events belonging to a remote antiquity. Even the question, to what race of men the first inhabitants of European Scythia or Sarmatia belonged, is one, which the investigations of modern inquirers have never been able to answer. “Of Russia, strictly so called,” says Schlözer, the most indefatigable of inquirers, "the ancients, from Herodotus to Charlemagne, knew as little as of Otaheite." The names of Sarmatia and Scythia are but vague appellations, applied to unknown regions in the North.
It is, therefore, impossible for the historian to trace the descent of the Russian nation from any race of the continent of Asia. Whatever may have taken place in the period, to which no Russian annals ascend, and respecting which no allusions of a decisive nature are to be found in foreign historians, to us the Russians appear in the light of aboriginal inhabitants of the provinces, which now constitute the centre of the great northern empire. From the earliest period they have had a distinct language and character; they have no community with the Tartars, or with the Goths; they were distinct from the Huns, though they may have served under the banners of Attila, in the time of his glory, and may afterwards have received among themselves the remains of a nation, whose season of power had been so short, and yet so destructive. Indeed it is possible to trace to the central provinces of Russia, the remains or the exiles of other nations. But the emigrants seem never to have subverted or even impaired the nationality of the original inhabitants; but rather to have become incorporated with them, with the entire loss of theirown distinctive character. The Russian, therefore, is of all the present European nations the one, which may lay the safest and best grounded claims to antiquity of residence in its present abodes. In the darkness of ancient centuries, extended over vast plains, into which the genius of Greece and the arms of Rome never penetrated, this
people were slowly ripening to nationality during the ages of classic splendour. They were still immature, when Solon gave laws to the Athenians, and Rome strove after principles of public justice and liberty. If the Rhoxolains* were a branch of them, they were not wholly unknown in the period of the wars of Mithridates; and in the times of the Roman emperors they sometimes appeared at the mouths of the Danube, sometimes scaled the Carpathian mountains; and the province of Moesiat was not safe against their precipitate and careless valour.
The period, when the Russians first appeared in authentic history, cannot be determined with precision. Till the middle of the ninth century, it is on all hands agreed that their history has no authentic existence. But even this earliest season in which some facts appear supported by various testimony, is yet involved in a degree of uncertainty, which nothing but the most careful criticism can in any degree dispel. The original manuscript of the chronicles of Nestor is no longer to be found ; and there are so many alterations and interpolations in the work as it now exists, that it is difficult to separate the genuine from the false. Besides, who was this monk of the eleventh century, to whom Providence has conceded the singular honour of being almost the sole depositary of the regular history of the early period of his nation? The accounts of the monk of Kiew coincide in many things with those of the Byzantine historians. Did he then draw his information exclusively from original sources, or was he guided in his inquiries by the writers of the eastern empire? Could there have been any written document in existence among the Russians on which he may have founded his narrative? Does not the time which intervened between the age of Nestor and the period assigned for the foundation of the Russian empire, leave room to doubt the security of oral tradition? And could a monk of Kiew be accurately informed of what passed at Novgorod? It is evident, that Nestorg was not unacquainted with foreign literature. Are we to infer from it, that his mind was more cultivated, was better able to register the course of events? Or
* The x is to be pronounced as ss, and the name of Russians may therefore be the same with that of the Rhoxolani, or Rhossolani of antiquity. Such is Malte-Brun's theory.
7 Taciti Hist. I. 79.
* The work of greatest critical value on Nestor is undoubtedly that of the learn. ed and most industrious Schlözer; Nestor's Russische Annalen in ihrer Slavonisben Ursprache verglichen, von Schreibfehlern und Interpolationen möglichst gereinigt, erblärt und übersetzt, 1802-1809. No man surpassed Schlözer in power of application, in energy of will, as displayed in literary exertions, or in independ. ence of mind. His character was sternly singular.
$ M. Levesque urges the coincidence in the narrative of Nestor and the By. zantine historians, as an evidence of the accuracy of the former. We consider it far more probable, that the monk had read the account of the Byzantine wri: ters.
shall we suppose, that he was led by the influence of foreign forms to give to Russian history an aspect of greater certainty than belonged to it? The accounts of Nestor may therefore be of doubtful credit, as it respects the events, which were furthest removed from his own age; but while they have great value for the whole period through which they extend, they are of less questionable credibility in all that relates to the period immediately preceding * the times in which he lived.
Tradition traces the foundation of Kiew to the middle of the fifth century; the historians of the eastern empire, not less than Nestor, have preserved the accounts of an expedition, which is said to have been made by its princes against Constantinople in the ninth century. Nor does the commercial republic of Novgorod lay claim to a less ancient existence. Established on the banks of the Volchova and not far from Lake Ilmen, its situation explains its commerce with the North along the coasts of the Baltic; and its merchants exchanged at Constantinople their furs and honey and wax, the produce of their fisheries, and perhaps also slaves, for the wines and cloths of Grecian manufacture. The power and the wealth of the republic were conspicuous even in these earliest times. Their successors reduced many of their neighbours to subjection: and of the surrounding nations, whom they inspired with terror, they proudly demanded—“Who will dare to attack God and the great Novgorod ?”
But a change was impending, which seems to have proceeded from those domestic grievances and defects, which are the result of age. What an idea of the antiquity of the Russian nation do we thus receive? Its first distinct historical celebrity is connected with the downfal of a republican state ; the new dynasty of princes elevated its grandeur on the ruins of liberty. It is said, that in some of the oldest temples of Egypt, the materials, used in building the fabrics, which are now standing, show evident signs of having been previously used for some architectural purpose; the oldest buildings of the oldest civilized country are then constructed of ruins. So too in Russia ; the history of the modern principality begins with the subversion of an ancient constitution; and that, not by any concussion from external violence, but by a domestic revolution.
The constitution of Novgorod is not known; but prosperity produced divisions, and divisions terminated in weakness. The Varagians, the pirates of the Baltic, men who seem rather to
Nestor was born 1056, and lived at least till 1116. When an example of writing had once been given, followers were not wanting.
fTbe account may be found in Gibbon's History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chap. LV. He calls this the first of four attempts made by the Russians of that age to plunder the treasures of Constantinople. It is very doubt. ful, if this expedition belongs to the history of the Russians.