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[1697 A.D.] long employed in foreign courts. Their retinue consisted of two hundred persons. The czar, reserving to himself only a valet de chambre, a servant in livery, and a dwarf, was confounded in the crowd. It was a thing unparalleled in history, either ancient or modern, for a sovereign of five-and-twenty years of age to withdraw from his kingdoms, only in order to learn the art of government. His victory over the Turks and Tatars, the splendour of his triumphant entry into Moscow, the multitude of foreign troops attached to his interest, the death of his brother Ivan, the confinement of the princess Sophia to a cloister, and the fearful example he had just made of the conspirators might naturally encourage him to hope that the tranquillity of his dominions would not be disturbed during his absence. The regency he entrusted to the boyar Strecknev and Prince Romadonovski, who in matters of importance were to consult with the rest of the nobility.
The troops which had been trained by General Gordon continued at Moscow, with a view to awe the capital. The disaffected strelitz, who were likely to create a disturbance, were distributed on the frontiers of the Crimea, in order to preserve the conquest of Azov and check the incursions of the Tatars. Having thus provided against every contingency, he gave a free scope to his passion for travelling, and his desire of improvement. He had previously sent threescore young Russians of Lefort's regiment into Italy, most of them to Venice and the rest to Leghorn, in order to learn the art of navigation and the method of constructing galleys: forty more set out by his direction for Holland, to be instructed in the art of building and working large ships: others were ordered to Germany, to serve in the land forces and to learn the military discipline of that nation.
At that period, Mustapha II had been vanquished by the emperor Leopold; Sobieski was dead; and Poland was hesitating in its choice between the prince of Conti and Augustus of Saxony; William III reigned over England; Louis XIV was on the point of concluding the Treaty of Ryswick; the elector of Brandenburg was aspiring to the title of king; and Charles XII had ascended the throne.
Setting out from Novgorod, Peter first visited Livonia, where, at the risk of his liberty, he reconnoitred its capital, Riga, from which he was rudely repulsed by the Swedish governor. Thenceforth he could not rest till he had acquired that maritime province through which his empire was one day to be enriched and enlightened. In his progress he gained the friendship of Prussia, a power which, at a future time, might assist his efforts; Poland ought to be his ally, and already he declared himself the supporter of the Saxon prince who was about to rule it.
The czar had reached Amsterdam fifteen days before the ambassadors. He lodged at first in a house belonging to the East India Company, but chose afterwards a small apartment in the yards of the admiralty. He disguised himself in a Dutch skipper's habit, and went to the great shipbuilding village of Zaandam. Peter admired the multitude of workmen constantly employed; the order and exactness observed in their several departments; the prodigious despatch with which they built and fitted out ships; and the vast quantity of stores and machines for the greater ease and security of labour. He began with purchasing a boat, and made a mast for it himself. By degrees he executed every part of the construction of a ship, and led the same life all the time as the carpenters of Zaandam — clad and fed exactly like them; working hard at the forges, at the rope-yards, and at the several mills for sawing timber, extracting oil, manufacturing paper, and wire-drawing. He entered himself as a common carpenter, and was enrolled in the list of workmen by the name
of Peter Michaelov. They commonly called him Master Peter, or Peter-bas; and though they were confounded at first to behold a sovereign as their companion, yet they gradually accustomed themselves to the sight.
Whilst Peter was handling the compass and axe at Zaandam, he received intelligence of the division in Poland, and of the double nomination of the elector Augustus and the prince of Conti. Immediately the carpenter of Zaandam promised King Augustus to assist him with thirty thousand men. From his shop he issued orders to his army in the Ukraine, which had been assembled against the Turks.
His troops obtained a victory over the Tatars, in the neighbourhood of Azov; and a few months after became masters of the town of Orkapi, or Perekop. For his part he persisted in making himself master of different arts. With this view he frequently went from Zaandam to Amsterdam, in order to hear the anatomical lectures of the celebrated Ruisch. Under this master he made such progress as to be able to perform some surgical operations, which, in case of necessity, might be of use, both to himself and to his officers. He likewise studied natural philosophy, under Vitsen, celebrated for his patriotic virtue and for the noble use he made of his immense fortune.e
Peter in Holland, England, and Austria
Besides shipbuilding Peter also turned his attention to machinery, factories, and industry of every kind. Sometimes he was to be found sitting at the weaver's loom, sometimes handling the sledge-hammer, axe, and plane. He could truthfully write to the patriarch Adrian concerning himself: "We act obedient to the word of God to our first parent Adam and are working not beceuse it is necessary, but in order that we may have a better insight into naval affairs and be the more able to go against the enemies of Jesus Christ's name and conquer by his grace.'
On the 9th of September Peter, accompanied by Vitsen and Lefort, journeyed to Utrecht for a conference with the hereditary stadholder William of Orange, king of England. On his return he visited the whale-fishing fleet which had shortly before arrived, so as to become acquainted with everything concerning whale-fishing that important branch of the seaman's activity.
Peter always took note of everything new and important that he saw. Vitsen had to take him everywhere to the hospitals, the foundling asylums, and the prayer meetings of different religious sects. He found great pleasure in the anatomical cabinet of the celebrated Ruisch, who had greatly advanced the art of preserving corpses from decomposition by injections. It was with difficulty that the czar could be got out of the room. He stood there transfixed and as it were unconscious, and he could not pass before the body of a child, that seemed to smile as if it were alive, without kissing it. His taste for being present at surgical operations went so far that at his request a special door was made in the wall of the St. Peter Hospital, by which he could enter it with Ruisch from the embassy, unobserved and unmolested by the curious. It was this doctor who recommended to him the surgeons for the new Russian naval and military troops.
After a stay of two months the Russian embassy went to the Hague, where it had long been expected. The entry was even more magnificent than at Amsterdam. Peter wished to attend the formal audience of his embassy in strict incognito. Vitsen, accompanied by two gentlemen, fetched him in his carriage. The czar wished to take along his dwarf, and
when told that space was lacking, he replied: "Very well, then, he will sit on my lap." At his command a drive was taken outside the town. At every one of the many mills that he passed, he asked what it was for; and on being told that one before which there were no stores was a grinding-mill, he jumped out of the carriage, but it was locked. On the road to Haarlem he observed a small water-mill for irrigating the land. It was in vain that they told him it was encompassed by water. "I must see it," was the reply. The czar satisfied his curiosity and returned with wet feet. Twilight was already setting in, and the Dutch escort of the czar were rejoicing that the sight-seeng was at an end. But alas! before entering the Hague, Peter felt the carriage give a sharp jolt. "What is it?" he inquired. He was told that the carriage had driven on to a ferry-boat. "I must see it," said he, and by lantern light the width, length, and depth of the ferry-boat had to be taken. Finally, at eleven at night, one of the best hotels in the Hague was reached. The czar was given a beautiful bedroom with a four-post bed. He preferred a garret. After midnight it occurred to him to spend the night at the hotel where his ambassadors were. Looking there for a place to sleep in, he found a Russian servant snoring on a bear skin. With a few kicks he awakened him. "Go away, go away, I am going to sleep here." At last he found a comfortable resting place.
On the day of the audience, Peter dressed himself as an ordinary nobleman in a blue garment not overladen with gold lace, a large blond wig, and a hat with white feathers. Vitsen led him to the anteroom of a hall where soon the members of the states general and many distinguished spectators assembled. As some time passed before the retinue of his embassy arrived, and meanwhile all eyes in the hall were turned towards the ante-chamber where the czar was, he became extremely restless. "It takes too long," he said and wanted to depart. But Vitsen represented to him that he would have to pass through the hall where the states general were already assembled. Thereupon he demanded that the lords should turn their backs to him as he passed through the room. Vitsen replied that he could command the lords nothing, as they were the representatives of the sovereignty of the land, but that he would ask them. The reply brought back was that the lords would stand up as the czar passed through the room, but would not turn their backs. Peter then drew his great wig before his face and ran at full speed through the assembly room and down the porch.
In the Hague also Peter had several informal meetings with the stadholder, King William; he became personally acquainted with the eminent statesmen Heinsius, Van Slingerland, Van Welde, Van Haven, and with the recorder of the states general, Franz Flagel. He besought the latter to find him someone who would know how to organise the Russian chancellery on the Dutch model. He also entered into connection with the celebrated engineer, General Coehorn, and on his recommendation took many Dutch engineering officers into the Russian service.
As Peter next undertook a journey to Leyden, the great scientist Leeuwenhoek had to come on board his yacht. He brought some of his most beautiful apparatus and a microscope with him. Peter conversed with him for two hours, and manifested much pleasure in the observation of the circulation of the blood in fishes. Boerhaave took him to the Botanical Gardens and to the anatomical lecture-room. On observing that one of his suite could not hide his aversion for a body which seemed to him particularly worthy of observation on account of its exposed sinews, he ordered him to tear out one of these sinews with his teeth.
From Leyden, Peter returned to Amsterdam. Here he often joined in the work on the galley which had been commenced at his request. In the name of the town Vitsen requested the czar to accept this ship as a present. Peter gave it the name Amsterdam, and in the following year, laden with wares bought by Peter himself, it started on its first journey to Archangel. From Amsterdam Peter often made excursions to Zaandam, ever keen and confident, although his Russian attendants trembled and quaked at the threatening dangers. On market days he was greatly entertained by the quacks and tooth drawers. He had one of the latter brought to him, and with great dexterity soon acquired the knack necessary for this profession. His servants had to provide him with opportunities for practising the newly acquired art.
Through Vitsen the Dutch Jews petitioned the czar to permit their nation, which had been banished by Ivan IV from Russia, to re-enter it, and they offered to prove their gratitude by a present of 100,000 gulden. "My good Vitsen," replied Peter, "you know my nation and that it is not yet the time to grant the Jews this request. Tell them in my name that I thank them for their offer, but that their condition would become pitiable if they settled in Russia, for although they have the reputation of swindling all the world in buying and selling, I am afraid they would be greatly the losers by my Russians.
During his sojourn in Amsterdam Peter received the joyful news of two successful engagements against the Tatars in July and August. To celebrate this victory he gave a brilliant fête to the authorities and merchants of the town. The brilliant victory of Prince Eugene at Zenta was yet more decisive for the issue of the war against the Turks.
On the 9th of November Peter, accompanied only by Lefort, returned to the Hague, where he informed King William III of his desire to see England. The king preceded him, and sent three men of war and a yacht under the command of Admiral Mitchel to conduct the czar. On the 18th of January, 1698, accompanied by Menshikov and fifteen other Russians of his suite, he set sail at Hellevoetsluis. Soon after the first days of his arrival in England, he exchanged the dwelling assigned to him in the royal castle of Somerset for the house of Mr. Evelyn at Deptford in the neighbourhood of the admiralty works, whence he could enter the royal construction yards unseen. There he learned from the master builders how to draw up the plan according to which a ship must be built. He found extreme pleasure in observing the cannon at the Tower, and also the mint, which then excelled all others in the art of stamping.
In his honour Admiral Carmarthen instituted a sham sea fight at Spithead on the 3rd of April which was conducted on a greater scale than a similar spectacle given for him in Holland. He often visited the great cathedrals and churches. He paid great attention to the ceremonial of English church worship; he also visited the meeting-houses of the Quakers and other sects. At Oxford he had the organisation and institutions of the university shown him. As in Holland, he preferred to pass most of his time with handicraftsmen and artists of every kind; from the watchmaker to the coffin maker, all had to show him their work, and he took models with him to Russia of all the best and newest. During his stay he always dressed either as an English gentleman or in a naval uniform.
In Holland the English merchants had presented the czar with a memorial through the Earl of Pembroke on the 3rd of November, in which they had petitioned for permission to import tobacco (which had been so
[1698 A.D.] strongly forbidden under the czars Michael and Alexis), and offered to pay a considerable sum of money for the privilege. The marquis of Carmarthen now again broached the subject, and on the 16th of April a treaty was signed with the Russian ambassador Golovin for three years, which authorised Carmarthen's agents to import into the Russian Empire in the first year three thousand hogsheads (of five hundred English pounds each), and in each of the following two years four thousand hogsheads, against a tax of 4 kopecks in the pound. Twelve thousand pounds were paid down in advance. This money placed the czar in a position to make still greater purchases, as well as to engage a greater number of foreigners in his service; amongst them the astronomer and professor of mathematics Fergsuon of Scotland, the engineer Captain Perry, and the shipbuilders John Dean and Joseph Nev.f
King William made Peter a present of the Royal Transport, a very beautiful yacht, which he generally used for his passage over to Holland. Peter went on board this vessel, and got back to Holland in the end of May, 1698. He took with him three captains of men-of-war, five-and-twenty captains of merchant ships, forty lieutenants, thirty pilots, thirty surgeons, two hundred and fifty gunners, and upwards of three hundred artificers. This colony of ingenious men in the several arts and professions sailed from Holland to Archangel on board the Royal Transport; and were sent thence to the different places where their service was necessary. Those whom he engaged at Amsterdam took the route of Narva, at that time subject to Sweden.
While the czar was thus transporting the arts and manufactures from England and Holland to his own dominions, the officers whom he had sent to Rome and Italy succeeded so far as also to engage some artists in his service. General Sheremetrev, who was at the head of his embassy to Italy, made the tour of Rome, Naples, Venice, and Malta; while the czar proceeded to Vienna with the other ambassadors. All he had to do now was to observe the military discipline of the Germans, after seeing the English fleet and the dockyards in Holland. But it was not the desire of improvement alone that induced him to make this tour to Vienna, he had likewise a political view; for the emperor of Germany was the natural ally of the Russians against the Turks. Peter had a private audience of Leopold, and the two monarchs stood the whole time of the interview, to avoid the trouble of ceremony.
During his stay at Vienna, there happened nothing remarkable, except the celebration of the ancient feast of "landlord and landlady," which Leopold thought proper to revive upon the czar's account, after it had been disused during his whole reign. The manner of making this entertainment, to which the Germans gave the name of Wirthschaft, was as follows: The emperor was landlord, and the empress landlady; the king of the Romans, the archdukes, and the archduchesses were generally their assistants; they entertained people of all nations, dressed after the most ancient fashion of their respective countries. Those who were invited as guests drew lots for tickets; on each of which was written the name of the nation, and the character to be represented. One had a ticket for a Chinese mandarin, another for a Tatar mirza, another for a Persian satrap, or a Roman senator; a princess might happen to be allotted the part of a gardener's wife, or a milkwoman; and a prince might act the peasant or soldier. They had dances suited to these different characters; and the landlord and landlady with their family waited at table. On this occasion Peter assumed the habit of a Friesland boor, and in this character was addressed by everybody, at the same time that they talked to him of the great czar of Muscovy. "These indeed are trifles," says Vol