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of which it is a pity to rob the world; for those occasional romantic aberrations from the rule of modern rights, seem necessary to keep us above the matter-of-fact level to which men seem to be sinking. The sacredness of historical truth may be urged against this reasoning; but we doubt very much whether, even on that score, the great catastrophe in question might not have been advantageously left in its original wild and impressive reputation. The real benefit of history is to give good lessons to mankind. A fiction received as fact, is just as effectual for that purpose as fact itself, and it may be well that we cannot sist the truth of many of those examples which probably owe their assumed veracity to the forbrarance of individuals more considerate towards posterity thac is Count Rostopchin. The destruction of their capital city by a great population to insure the defeat of an invading enemy, would have been an electrifying stimulant in after-ages—but Moscow reduced to ashes by a combination of inglorious accidents, lets us down from our elevation, and instead of an imposing spectacle of human virtue, presents a humiliating picture of common-place calamity. It is the latter which Count Rostopchin holds up to our view; and it is on this account, independent of weightier reasons, that we look with an evil eye upon him and his pamphlet.
It would not, however, be fair wholly to identify the author with his work. As far as personal conduct went, he acted with unexceptionable firmness and devotion. He commanded the burning of his castle, and he does not deny the report which gave him the credit of applying the torch with his own hand. He was certainly, by his vigorous tueasures, the chief instrument of the ruin which burst upon the French army; and he may be contented to go down to posterity unlike the incendiary of Ephesus, whose fame or infamy is borne to us on the flames of a conflagration. We still think that nothing derogatory would have attached itself to the author of an act so consistent with the desperate circumstances of the Russian empire, or the semicivilized spirit of the contest. But the Count's ambition makes itself evident throughout his pamphlet-as far advanced before the actual progress of his own country, as it is lamentably behind that of others.' Count Rostopchin has unequivocally enrolled himself in the ranks of French Ultraism, and would be gladly placed, we must believe, within the limits of its retrograde refinement. He has lugged, head and shoulders, into his brochure a confession of political faith, uncalled for and insignificant, having no connexion with his main subject, and being in nothing distinct from the ravings of his prototypes. He has a fling to at the memory of Napoleon. But for this we cannot blame him. The dead lion lay across his path, and the kick was an obvious consequence.
It is not a little curious to observe the reciprocal pertinacity with which Napoleon strove to fix on the Count, and the Count to shake off, the responsibility of this remarkable event. It was natural that the baffled Emperor should wish to hold up the Governor to the odium of the world ; but it was a rare instance of his mistaking the estimate of public opinion. It would, on the other hand, be quite gratifying to remark the Count's anxiety in the cause of truth, were it not evident that he had a notion that he was clearing himsejf from a foul imputation, instead of robbing himself of a glorious fame. But neither Rostopchin nor Napoleon seems to have understood that what would have been in the latter a flagrant atrocity, was in the other a sublime duty,
But the motives of these chief actors are trifling in Paris et rest to the drama itself: and our great object is, if possible to come the rohole truth (which the Count's pamphlet cannot give us) as to the most wonderful and interesting event. Much lighB[emains to be thrown on the real circumstances. The Count's example fall beend followed. Two other pamphlets have appeared subsequently to his, and others may follow them. Since we are not to be allowed unlimited belief in the magnificent romance, we may be pat enabled to establish the details of the yet unexplained reality.
The accusation preferred against Count Rostopchin by Napoleon was contained in the twentieth bulletin of the French army, dated at Moscow, September 17th, 1812. It was, in that remarkable document, unequivocally stated and frequently repeated in others, that « Trois à quatre cents brigands ont mis le feu dans la ville en cinq cents endroits à la fois par l'ordre du gouverneur Rostopchine.” This main charge was followed by many collateral accusations ; such as having abandoned the sick in the hospitals, reduced the citizens to beggary, retarded the Russian empire a century in its advances to civilization, &c. T'hese concomitant effects neither add to nor detract from the force of the chief charge. Such a deed was not to be done without terrible attendant evils. It was in itself either magnificent or atrocious. It moved, like a great magician, surrounded by familiars both of good and ill; and we note those after charges merely to shew how the attack of Napoleon varied on this tremendous subject from his usual condensed and isolated energy.
Several minor points of evidence were adduced in support of the charge; but the most material of these corroborative proofs was the asserted confession of the 300 incendiaries, said to have been taken with torches in their hands, as to their having been employed by Rostopchin, and the fact of his having caused the fire-engines to be removed from the city.
With regard to the confession of the incendiaries, our author exclaims,
“Voici une preuve qu'on a présentée comme certaine et convaincante, car elle est revêtue d'un jugement, des aveux des condamnés et de l'exécution des incendiaires. Napoléon annonce, dans son vingtième bulletin, qu'on a pris, jugé et fusillé des chauffeurs ; que tous ces malheureux avaient été pris sur le fait, munis de matières combustibles et mettant le feu par mon ordre.
“ Le vingtième bulletin annonce que c'étaient trois cents malfaiteurs qui avaient mis le feu en cinq cents endroits à la fois. Ce qui est matériellement impossible. Peut-on d'ailleurs supposer que j'eusse donné la liberté aux malfaiteurs, détenus dans les prisons, à condition d'incendier la ville, et que ces gens eussent exécuté mes ordres pendant mon absence, devant toute une armée ennemie ? Mais je vais convaincre tous ceux qui se rendent à l'évidence, qu'il n'y a jamais eu de malfaiteurs employés.
“A mesure que dans sa marche l'armée de Napoléon s'approchait d'une ville de gouvernement, les gouverneurs civils vidaient les prisons et expédiaient les malfaiteurs pour Moscou, sous l'escorte de quelques soldats. Il arriva de là qu'à la fin du mois d'août, les prisons de Moscou renfermaient les prisonniers des gouvernemens de Witepsk, de Mohilow, de Minsk et de Smolensk. Leur nombre, compris ceux du gouvernement de Moscou, montait à huit cent dix individus, qui, sous l'escorte d'un bataillon pris dans un régiment de garnison, furent envoyés à Nigenr-Nowgorod, deux jours avant l'entrée de l'ennemi à Moscou. Ils arrivèrent au lieu de leur destination ; et, au commencement de l'année 1813, le sénat, pour éviter l'incon
vénient de renvoyer tous ces accusés dans leurs gouvernemens respectifs, donna ondre aux tribunaux civils de Nigeny-Nowgorod, de faire et de finir leurs procès.
"Mais le procès fait aux incendiaires, qui fut imprimé (et dont j'ai encore an exemplaire), annonce qu'on avait fait comparaitre trente individus, dont chacun est nommé, entre lesquels treize, étant convenus avoir mis le feu à la ville par mon ordre, furent condamnés à mort. Cependant, selou les vingtième et vingt-unième bulletins, on en a fusillé d'abord cent, et après encore trois cents A mon retour de Moscou, j'ai trouvé et parlé avec trois des malheureux du nombre des trente désignés dans le procès : l'an était domestique d'un prince Sibirsky, et qui avait été laissé dans sa maison ; l'autre, un vieux balayeur du Kreml; le troisième, un gardemagasin.
“Tous les trois, questionnés séparément, m'ont dit la même chose en 1812 et deux ans après, c'est-à-dire qu'ils furent arrêtés les premiers jours de septembre (vieux style), l'un peodant la nuit dans la rue, les deux autres au Kreml, en plein jour. Ils restèrent quelque temps au corps-de-garde, dans le Kreml même ; ensuite un matin on les conduisit avec dix autres Russes aux casernes du quartier qui se nomme le Champ-des-Demoiselles On leur adjoignit dix-sept autres individus ; et, ils furent amenés sous une forte escorte, devant le couvent de Pétrowsky, qui est sur le boulevart. Là ils attendirent à peu près une heure, après quoi beaucoup d'officiers arrivèrent à cheval, et mirent pied à terre. On rangea les trente Russes sur une ligne, et après en avoir compté treize par la droite, on les plaça contre le mur du couvent, et on les fusilla. Leurs corps furent attachés aux réverbères, avec un écriteau qui annonçait, en russe et en français, que c'étaient des incendiaires. Les autres dix-sept s'en allèrent, et ils ne furent point inquiétés depuis.- Le récit de ces gens (s'il est vrai) ferait croire que personne ne les a interrogés, et que les treize ont été fusillés PAR ORDRE SUPREME.
We have particularly marked the last member of this concluding sentence, for we think it should be read and commented on with considerable emphasis. It will be observed, that Count Rostopchin admits, that he possesses a copy of the printed trial of thirty individuals accused of burning the city; that they are severally designated by name, that thirteen were found guilty and condemned to death; that on his return to Moscow he saw and spoke with three of the men designated in the indictment (if we may so call it), and we request our reader's attention to their verbal statement. They say that one of them was arrested in the night, the two others in broad day; that they remained for some time in the guard house of the Kremlin; that they were removed one morning to a certain barrack, where they were rejoined by seventeen other prisoners, and finally conducted to the place destined for the execution of the criminals. Here they remained for about an hour, where several officers arrived on horseback. Having dismounted, the dreadful ceremony of death commenced. The prisoners were ranged in line. The thirteen found guilty were shot, and the remaining seventeen were sent about their business, and not afterwards molested.
Now, if there ever was a case of combined justice, legal formality, and civil right apparent, we think that this is most eminently such, even on the shewing of Count Rostopchin himself. We are quite certain that, considering the circumstances of irritation, fury, and almost despair, to which the French army must have been then reduced, this process, so distinguished by all we have stated, could find no parallel. In the whole remaining population of the city (which is stated by Count Rostopchin at 12,000 or 13,000 after its general abandonment) only thirty were singled out as objects of accusation—not of vengeance; and of these but thirteen were, after a solemn trial, executed. The remaining seventeen, for want of evidence, were fairly acquitted and discharged. That this is the truth, no one can doubt. Every word uttered by the three persons spoken to by Count Rostopchin, gives positive proof of it. There is not a shadow of accusation against the French army or their chief, of precipitation or cruelty. Several days elapsed between the arrestation of the seventeen innocent men, and the executions of the thirteen convicted. The execution was attended by a group of mounted officers, evidently some general and his staff. The condemned individuals were formally taken from the line and executed, and the other individuals immediately set at liberty. The utmost proved by the recital of Count Rostopchin's three informants is, that they were not brought to trial, from want of evidence against them. As to the exaggeration of the bulletin, which said three hundred instead of thirteen, it does not at all surprise us. Napoleon never boggled at trifles of this kind. His object at that particular moment was to appear terrible rather than accurate. He did not object to run the risk of appearing cruel, for he knew the truth would come out one day-and here it breaks on us from a quarter the least to be looked to. But what must we think of Count Rostopchin's inference, after ten years consideration of the subject, “ that the thirteen put to death were shot by supreme orders,” which is nothing more nor less than an accusation against Napoleon of wanton, barbarous, wholesale murder ! We have given a good deal of space to the exposure of this calumny. We think the character of the greatest man of the age had enough of actual infirmity to prevent its floating too buoyantly down the stream of Time, and it is therefore that we felt it a duty not to suffer this slander to go out unrefuted into the world. Count Rostopchin is very desirous to shake off the imputation of having been an incendiary. We would suggest to him, that besides the only meaning which he attaches to the epithet, it bears another, which we will explain to him by a quotation from Addison, that appears to us extremely applicable. “ Incendiaries of figure and distinction, who are the inventors and publishers of gross falsehoods, cannot be regarded but with the utmost detestation.” And having now got rid of the Count in his capacity of accuser, we will turn to him once more in his position as the accused, and examine whether Napoleon had not more apparent reason for the charge he made, than probable criminality in reference to that preferred against him.
In the whole of the pamphlet there is no attempt to deny the assertion, that the persons executed at Moscow threw the blame (supposing it to be such) of the conflagration upon the governor. Every thing seemed to bear testimony against (or for) Rostopchin. He took every means in his power to embarrass the hostile occupiers of the city. He removed, with the great mass of the citizens, every thing that could be useful to the enemy,-bread, wine, and provisions of all kinds, as well as the ninety-six fire-engines. Supposing that the removal of provisions might have had for its object the service of the Russian, as well as the privation of the French army, why were the fire-engines carried off? They could have been of no possible use in the open country to which the population was retreating. They must, on the contrary, have been a considerable difficulty to the flight of a multitude of both sexes and all ages. As to the 2100 organized soldiers with their Vol. X. No. 57.-1825.
corps of officers, attached to the engines, they might have been advantageously employed in the Russian army, had they left the engines behind them ; and it is remarkable that the only observation made by the Count on this specific and all-important charge of having carried off the engines to forward the conflagration is, that “ he did not think it proper to leave this corps of officers for the service of Napoleon, having removed all the civil and military authorities from the city.” Now the fact is, that Napoleon would not have given a fig for these officers, but would have bartered all the jewels of his crown, and half the conquests of the campaign, for one quarter of the engines. The Count must have known this well, and we really cannot help suspecting, even after the perusal of his pamphlet, which he so solemnly protests to be “ la verité, et rien que la verité,” that some lingering notion which he may now forget, whispered him that Moscow might be set fire to by some accident after his departure. Napoleon, at all events, must have believed such a catastrophe to have been in the governor's views—seeing that it did actually take place, that every remedy for the calamity was premeditatedly removed, and that Count Rostopchin had shewn, by setting fire to his own house, that propensity for burning which he now would fix upon Napoleon, founded upon the order given by the latter to put flames to the house of an enemy.
6 Napoleon aimait à brûler," says the Count, preuve, l'ordre au Marechal Mortier d'avoir soin de mettre le feu à mes deux maisons à Moscou." - Page 39.
Upon the whole, we think no one will hesitate to say that Bonaparte had good cause for believing Rostopchin to be the author of the conflagration; and our oniy astonishment is, as we have said before, that he did not appreciate the honourable nature of the act which he first endeavoured to constitute a crime, and afterwards utterly acquitted the Count of, by asserting him to be mad—(23d Bulletin, 9th October 1812). For our own parts, our opinion is, that Count Rostopchin was quite incapable of the grand conception and unhesitating execution of such a deed. As to the French having deliberately performed it for their own destruction, it is preposterous. We think it not at all unlikely, and hope it will still turn out to be the fact, that some heroic Russians did conceive the project, though no regularly concerted plan was laid. There is evidence from the Count's own statement, that such an intention was generally entertained before the French entered the city; and we are borne out in saying that the governor must unquestionably have been influenced by a suspicion of those intentions, before he took the troublesome and embarrassing measure of removing the fire-engines. But in conclusion, we must say, that we think such a man quite unfit to bear the burthen of the glory that was so long placed upon him; and that such a work as his pamphlet is a proper record of his unfitness.
The two pamphlets which followed the Count's, are meant as refutations of his statement, and have for their object to fix on him the whole responsibility of the burning. In this point of view, the “Reponse” is incomplete, and the “ Lettre" an utter failure. The author of the first, reasons as we do, on probabilities, but establishes nothing. The production of the Abbé possesses abundance of fire, but affords no light. It is a pathetic account of the conflagration, such as might be expected from a benevolent parish priest, an eye-witness of the