Abbildungen der Seite

diligence. He ordered them entirely to forget that he was czar; and paid the utmost deference and submission to the commanding officers. He lived upon his pay only, and lay in a tent in the rear of his company. He was some time after raised to be a serjeant, but only as he was entitled to it by his merit; for he would have punished his soldiers, had they discovered the least partiality in his favoùr: and he never rose otherwise, than as a soldier of fortune. The strelitzes looked upon all this as the amusement of a young prince : but the czar, who saw thiey were too formidable, and entirely in the interest of the princess Sophia, had-secretly a design of crushing them; which he wisely thought could not be better effected, than by securing to himself a body of troops, more strictly disciplined, and on whose fidelity he could more fully rely.

At the same time, he had another project in view, of vast importance, and most difficult execution. · The sight of a small Dutch vessel, which he had met with on a lake, where it lay useless and neglected, made a wonderful impression on his mind, and he conceived thoughts of forming à navy ; a design, which probably then seemed next to impossible, even to himself*. His first care was to get Hollanders to build some small vessels at Moscow, aod afterwards four frigates, of four guns each, on the lake of Pereslave. : He had already taught them to combat one another; and in order to instruct himself in naval affairs, he passed 'two summers successively on board English or Dutch ships, which set out from Archangel. “In 1696, the czar John died, and Peter became sole master of the empire." He began his reign with the siege of Asoph, then in the hands of the Turks, but did not till 1697. He had already sent for Verietians, to build gallies on the river Don, which might shut up the mouth of that river, and prevent the Turks from relieving the place. This gave him a stronger idea than ever, of the importance and ne. cessity of a pával force'; yet he could have done, but foreign-ships,» none at least but what he was obliged to em: ploy foreigners in building. He was desirous of surmounting these disadvantages, but the affairs he projected were

[ocr errors]

* See

An Account of the Rise printed in the second volume of The and Naval Power of Russia, or, the Present State and Regulations of the story of the little Boat which gave Church of Russia." By Thỏ. Consett, rise to the Russian Fleet," said to be M. A. written by the czar Peter himself, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of too new and singulár a nature to be so much as con-
sidered in his council, nor were they proper to be commu-
nicated. He resolved therefore singly to manage this
bold undertaking ; with which view, in 1698, he sent an
embassy to Holland, and went himself incognito in the
retinue. He entered himself in the India admiralty-office
at Amsterdam, caused himself to be inrolled in the list of
ship-carpenters; and worked in the yard with greater assi-
duity than any body there. His quality was known to all;
and he was pointed at with a sort of veneration. King
William, who was then in Holland, paid him all the respect
that was due to his uncommon qualities; and the czar's
disguise freed him from that which was merely ceremonious
and troublesonie. The czar worked with such success, as
in a little time to pass for a good carpenter; and afterwards
studied the proportions of a ship. He then went into Eng-
land; where, in four months, he made himself a complete
master in the art of ship-building, by studying the princi-
ples of it mathematically, which he had no opportunity of
learning in Holland. In England he met with a second
reception from king William ; who, to make him a present
agreeable to his taste, and which might serve as a model of
the art he was so very desirous to learn, gave him a magni-
ficent yacht. He carried with him from England several
English ship-builders and artificers, among whom was one
whose name was Noy; but the czar took also upon

self the title of a master-builder, and was pleased to sub-
mit to the conditions of that character. Thus he and Noy
received orders from the lord high admiral of Russia, to
build each of them a man of war; and, in compliance with
that order, the czar gave the first proof of his art. He
never ceased to pursue it, but had always a ship upon the
stocks; and, at his death, left one of the largest ships in
Europe balf-built.

During the czar's absence, the princess Sophia, being uneasy under her confinement, and meditating to regain that liberty which she had forfeited by former insurrections, found means to correspond with the strelitzes, who were now quartered at a distance from Moscow, and to instigate them to a third rebellion in her favour. The news of this obliged him to basten home: and, arriving at Moscow about the end of 1699, he executed terrible vengeance upon the ringleaders ; yet took no other satisfaction of his sister the princess, than by continuing her confinement in

[ocr errors]

the nunnery, and hanging up the priest, who had carried her letters, on a gallows before her window. In 1700, he got together a body of standing forces, consisting of thirty thousand foot; and now the vast project which he had formed began to display itself in all parts.

He first sent the chief nobility of his empire into foreign countries, to improve themselves in knowledge and learning : be opened his dominions, which till then had been shut up, and invited all strangers who were capable of instructing bis subjects; and he gave the kindest reception to all land and sea officers, sailors, mathematicians, architects, miners, workers in metals, physicians, surgeons, and indeed operators and artificers of every kind, who would settle in his dominions. In the mean time, he had to do with a dull

, heavy, untoward people; so that it is no wonder, that proceedings so new and strange should raise many discontents and tumults, and it was sometimes almost impossible with all his power to suppress them.

One very singular reason, on which these discontents were grounded, was, that the Russians considered grandeur and superiority, the czar's great object, in no other light than as a power of doing evil. In. 1700, being strengthened by an alliance with Augustus king of Poland, he made war upon Charles XII. of Sweden; from continuing which, he was not deterred by the ill success of his first campaigns : for he used to say, “I know that my armies must be overcome for a great while; but even this will at last teach them to conquer.” Afterwards, however, he gained considerable advantages in Livonia and Ingria, provinces subject to the Swedes. His acquisitions here were so important, that they induced him to build a fortress, whose port, situated on the Baltic, might be large enough to receive a fleet; and accordingly, in 1703, he laid the foundation of Petersburgh, now one of the strongest cities in Europe, which was to him what Alexandria was to Alexander. He waged war with the Swedes for several years, and, without ever gaining any considerable advantage, was frequently most miserably beat by them. But firmness of mind and perseverance were qualities peculiarly eminent in him; and therefore at length, in 1709, he obtained a complete victory over them in his own dominions, at Pultowa. A great part of the Swedish army were made prisoners. The Swedish generals who were taken were constantly entertained at his own table; and one day, when he had drunk a health to his masters who had instructed him in the art of war, count Rinschild, a chief officer among the prisoners, asked him, “Who they were whom he honoured with so glorious a title ?” “ Yourselves, gentlemen," said he. “ Your majesty is very ungrateful then," replied the count, “to have su beaten your masters.” Upon which the czar, to make them some reparation for this ingratitude, immediately gave orders that their swords should be returned them; and treated them with the greatest generosity and goodness. Near 3000 Swedish officers, however, were dispersed up and down his dominions, and particularly in Siberia, a country of vast extent, and running as far as China ; and, having little

prospect of returning to Sweden, they soon formed a kind of colony, and began to apply themselves to the various professions with which they were acquainted. Thus they forwarded the czar's great purpose, in polishing and civilizing the ancient inhabitants of the country; and many arts, which, although established at Moscow and Petersburgh, might not have reached Siberia a long time, were thus suddenly established there.

In the mean time, Petersburgh had risen into a large and powerful city; and the king of Sweden having been obliged to fly from Pultowa to Bender in the Turkish dominions for refuge, the czar availed himself of his absence, by making a complete conquest of Livonia and Ingria; to which be added Finland, and a part of Pomerania. The Turks having broken a truce they had concluded with him, he was inclosed by their army in 1712, on the banks of the Pruth; and that in so disadvantageous a situation, that he seemed to be inevitably lost. While the army was under great consternation, the czarioa Catherine projected an expedient for its deliverance. She sent to negociate with the grand vizir, and let him privately know, that a great sum of money was at his service: he was tempted, and the czar's prudence completed the work. To perpetuate the memory of this event, he caused the czarina to institute the order of St. Catherine, of which she was declared sovereign, and into which none but women were to be admitted. The king of Sweden having at last quitted the Turkish dominions, in 1713, the czar found this formidable enemy advancing to oppose him : but he was now strengthened by an alliance with the king of Denmark. He carried the war into the duchy of Holstein, which was in alliance with the Swedes; and, in 17:14, obtained over them a victory at sea, near the coasts of Finland, upon which he entered triumphantly with his feet into the haven of Petersburgh.

All this while he continued his pursuits after all kinds of knowledge. He caused his engineers to draw the plan of every city, and to take designs of all the different machines which he had not in his own country. He instructed himself in husbandry, and in all sorts of trade, wherever he came. In 1716, he paid a visit, with his consort, to the king of Denmark at Copenhagen, where he spent three months. He visited there every school of the university, and all the men of letters : for, regardless of ceremony and pageantry, which he hated, it was indifferent to him, whether they waited on him, or he went to them. He coasted every day some part of the kingdoms of Denmark and Sweden, attended by two engineers ; surveyed all the windings, sounded every part of the straits, and afterwards had the whole so exactly described in charts, that not so much as the smallest shelf or bank of sand escaped his observation. From Copenhagen he went to Hamburgh, Hanover, Wolfenbuttle, and from thence to Holland. Here he left the czarina, and went to France in 1717 ; and, in June that year, visited the royal academy of sciences at Paris, where he was entertained by seeing the latest invented and most curious machines and experiments. He was no sooner returned to his own dominions, than he signified his inclination of becoming a member of that society and the academy having made their most respectful acknowledgments for the great honour he did them, he wrote them a letter with his own hand. These particulars may be seen in the history of that academy for 1720 : the academy sent him every year a volume of their proceedings, to which, as an academician, he was entitled; and he always accepted it with pleasure, as from his brethren.

It would be endless to enumerate all the various estabJishments, for which the Russians are indebted to this great emperor : Fontenelle has recorded some of the principal, which are, 1. A body of 100,000 foot, under as regular a discipline as any in Europe. 2. A navy of forty ships of the line, and 200 gallies. 3. Fortifications in all main towns, and an excellent civil government in the great cities, which before were as dangerous in the night, as the most unfrequented deserts. 4. An academy for naval

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »