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[1704 A.D.]

with the blood of the citizens but of his own soldiers, which he had shed to save their lives.

These victories were decisive of the position of Peter. He was now master of all Ingria, the government of which he conferred upon Menzikov, whom he created a prince of the empire and major-general in the army. The elevation of Menzikov, through the various grades of the service, from his humble situation as a pastrycook's boy to the highest dignities in the state, was a practical reproof to the indolent and ignorant nobility, who were now taught to feel that merit was the only recommendation to the favour of the czar. The old system of promotion was closed. The claims of birth and the pride of station ceased to possess any influence at court. The great body of the people, impressed with the justice that dictated this important change in the dispensation of honour and rewards, began for the first time to be inspired with a spirit of emulation and activity; and exactly in proportion as Peter forfeited the attachment of the few, whose power was daily on the decline, he drew around him the mixed wonder and allegiance of the many, whose power he was daily enlarging. Thus were laid the foundations of a mighty empire in the hearts of a scattered population, as various in habits and in language as it had always been discordant in interests and disunited in action.

Having acquired this valuable possession, and secured himself in St. Petersburg against the Swedes, it was the profound policy of Peter to keep up the war between Charles and Augustus, with a view to weaken by diversion the strength of the former. He accordingly made a great offer of assistance to the dethroned king, and despatched General Repuin with six thousand horse and six thousand foot to the borders of Lithuania; while he advanced in person into Courland at the head of a strong force. Here he received a severe check, having fallen in with the Swedish general Lewenhauft, who defeated the Russians after an obstinate battle, in which the czar's troops lost between five thousand and six thousand men, and the Swedes no more than two thousand. Peter, notwithstanding, penetrated into Courland, and laid siege to the capital, which surrendered by capitulation. On this occasion the Swedes degraded themselves by committing an extensive pillage in the palace and archives of the dukes of Courland, descending even into the mausoleums to rob the dead of their jewels. The Russians, however, before they would take charge of the vaults, made a Swedish colonel sign a certificate that their sacrilegious depredations were the acts of his own countrymen.


The greatest part of Courland, as well as the whole of Ingria, had now been conquered in detail by Peter, and, as Charles was still engrossed by his operations in Poland and Saxony, he returned to Moscow to pass the winter; but intelligence of the approach of the Swedish king at the head of a powerful force towards Grodno, where the combined armies of Russia and Saxony were encamped, recalled him from his repose. Peter immediately hastened to the field, and found all the avenues occupied by Swedish troops. A battle ensued near Frauenstadt, in which the flower of the confederated battalions, under the command of General Schullemberg, to the number of eighteen thousand men, six thousand of whom were Russians, suffered a complete defeat. With an insignificant exception, they were nearly all slain. Some authorities attribute this disaster to the treachery of a French regiment, which had the care of the Saxon artillery; but it is certain that the most sanguinary atroci


[1704 A.D.]

ties were committed on both sides, in a contest upon the issues of which two crowns appeared to be dependent.

The consequences of this overthrow would have been immediately fatal to Augustus, but for the energy of the czar, who, rapidly organising an army of twenty thousand men, urged that wavering prince to take advantage of

the absence of Charles in Saxony, and throw himself once more into Poland. A revolt in Astrakhan called Peter into that part of his territories; but he deputed General Patkul, a brave Livonian, who had formerly made his escape from the hands of Charles, and had passed from the service of Augustus into that of the czar, to explain the necessity of the measure. Augustus yielded to the advice of his ally, and marched into Poland; but he had no sooner made good his progress than, suddenly panicstruck by the increasing successes of Charles, he resolved to sue for peace upon any terms at which it could be procured. He accordingly invested two ambassadors with full powers


to treat confidentially with Charles, and had the temerity to cast Patkul into prison. While the plenipotentiaries were negotiating this shameful treaty at the camp of Charles XII, Menshikov joined the forces of Augustus at Kalish with thirty thousand men. The consternation of Augustus at this unexpected reinforcement was indescribable; and his confusion amounted almost to despair upon the receipt of intelligence that ten thousand Swedes, under the command of General Meierfeldt, were on their march to give him battle.


In this dilemma he transmitted a private message to General Meierfeldt to inform him of the negotiation he had opened with his master; but that general, naturally treating the whole affair as a mere pretext to gain time, made preparations for hostilities. The superior force of the Russians decided the fate of the day, and, after having defeated the Swedes with great slaughter, they entered Warsaw in triumph. Had Augustus relied upon the energy and friendship of his ally, he would now have been replaced upon his throne; but the timidity that tempted him to cast himself upon the mercy of Charles was prolific of misfortunes. He had scarcely entered Warsaw as a victor when he was met by his own plenipotentiaries, who placed before him the treaty they

[1707 A.D.]

had just concluded, by which he had forfeited the crown of Poland forever. His humiliation was complete. Thus the weak and vacillating Augustus, fresh from a triumph that ought to have placed him upon the throne of Poland, was a vassal in its capital, while Charles was giving the law in Leipsic and reigning in his lost electorate.

His struggles to escape from the disgrace into which his folly and his fears had plunged him only drew down fresh contempt upon his head. He wrote to Charles a letter of explanation and apology, in which he begged pardon for having obtained a victory against his will, protesting that it was entirely the act of the Russians, whom it was his full intention to have abandoned, in conformity with the wishes, of Charles; and assuring that monarch that he would do anything in his power to render him satisfaction for the great wrong he had committed in daring to beat his troops. Not content with this piece of humility, and fearing to remain at Warsaw, he proceeded to Saxony, and, in the heart of his own dominions, where the members of his family were fugitives, he surrendered in person to the victorious Swede. Charles was too conscious of his advantages not to avail himself of them to the full, and not only made the timid Augustus fulfil all the stipulations of the treaty, by which he renounced the crown of Poland, abandoned his alliance with the czar, surrendered the Swedish prisoners, and gave up all the deserters, including General Patkul, whom Augustus had arrested by a violation of good faith, but he forced him to write a letter to Stanislaus, congratulating him on his accession to the throne. The unfortunate Patkul was no sooner delivered into the hands of Charles than he condemned him to be broken on the wheel and quartered.

The timid and treacherous conduct of Augustus and the deliberate cruelty of Charles drew from Peter expressions of unbounded indignation. He laid a statement of the whole circumstances before the principal potentates of Europe, and declared his determination to use all the means in his power to drive Stanislaus from the throne of Poland. The first measure he adopted was the holding of a conference with several of the Polish grandees, whom he completely gained over to his side by the suavity of his manners. At a subsequent meeting it was agreed that the throne of Poland was in fact vacant, and that a diet should be summoned for the purpose of electing a king. When the diet assembled, Peter urged upon their attention the peculiar circumstances in which the country was placed, and the impossibility of effecting any substantial resistance against the ambitious intrigues of Charles, unless a new king were placed upon the throne. His views were confirmed by the voice of the assembly, who agreed to the public declaration of an interregnum, and to the investiture of the primate in the office of regent until the election should have taken place.


But while these proceedings were going forward at Lublin, King Stanislaus, who had been previously acknowledged by most of the sovereigns of Europe, was advancing into Poland at the head of sixteen Swedish regiments, and was received with regal honours in all the places through which he passed. Nor was this the only danger that threatened to arrest the course of the proposed arrangements for the settlement of the troubles of Poland. Charles, whose campaign in Saxony had considerably enriched his treasury, was now prepared to take the field with a well-disciplined army of forty-five thousand men, besides the force commanded by General Lewenhaupt; and he did not affect

[1707 A.D.] to conceal his intention to make Russia the theatre of war, in which purpose he was strengthened by an offer on the part of the Porte to enter into an offensive alliance with him against Peter, whose interference in the affairs of Poland excited great jealousy and alarm in Turkey. Charles calculated in some degree upon the support he might receive from the Russians themselves, who, he believed, would be easily induced to revolt against Peter, in consequence of the innovations he had introduced and the expenses that he would be likely to entail upon them by a protracted war.

But the people of Russia were well aware that mere personal ambition did not enter into the scheme of Peter, and that, although he had broken through many antiquated and revered customs, yet he had conferred so many permanent benefits upon the empire as entitled him to their lasting gratitude. Whatever prospects of success, therefore, Charles might have flattered himself upon deriving from the dissatisfaction of the great mass of the community were evidently vague and visionary. But the argument was sufficient for all his purposes in helping to inspire his soldiers with confidence. About this time the French envoy at the court of Saxony attempted to effect a reconciliation between Charles and the czar, when the former made his memorable reply that he would treat with Peter in Moscow; which answer being conveyed to Peter produced his equally memorable commentary - "My brother Charles wishes to play the part of Alexander, but he shall not find a Darius in me."

Rapid preparations were made on both sides for the war which had now become inevitable. In the autumn of 1707 Charles commenced his march from Altranstädt, paying a visit to Augustus at Dresden as he passed through that city, and hastening onwards through Poland, where his soldiers committed such devastations that the peasantry rose in arms against them. He finally fixed his winter quarters in Lithuania. During the time occupied by these movements Peter was wintering at Moscow, where, after an absence of two years, he had been received with universal demonstrations of affection. He was busily occupied in inspecting the new manufactories that had been established in the capital, when news reached him of the operations of the Swedish army. He immediately departed, and with six hundred of the guards established his headquarters in the city of Grodno. Charles no sooner heard of his arrival at that place than, with his usual impetuosity, he hastened forward with only eight hundred men to besiege the town.

By a mistake, the life of Peter was nearly sacrificed. A German officer, who commanded the gate towards which Charles approached, imagining that the whole Swedish army was advancing, fled from his post and left the passage open to the enemy. General consternation prevailed throughout the city as the rumour spread; and the victorious Charles, cutting in pieces the few Russians who ventured to contest his progress, made himself master of the town. The czar, impressed with the belief that the report was true, retreated behind the ramparts, and effected his escape through a gate at which Charles had placed a guard. Some Jesuits, whose house, being the best in the town, was taken for the use of Charles, contrived in the course of the night to inform Peter of the real circumstances; upon which the czar re-entered the city, forced the Swedish guard, and contended for possession in the streets. But the approach of the Swedish army compelled him at last to retire, and to leave Grodno in the hands of the conqueror.

The advance of the Swedes was now marked by a succession of triumphs; and Peter, finding that Charles was resolved to pursue him, and that the invader had but five hundred miles to traverse to the capital, an interval unprotected by any places of consequence, with the exception of Smolensk,

[1707 A.D.]

conceived a masterly plan for drawing him into a part of the country where he could obtain neither magazines nor subsistence for his army, nor, in case of necessity, secure a safe retreat. With this design he withdrew to the right bank of the Dnieper,' where he established himself behind sheltered lines, from which he might attack the enemy at an advantage, preserving to himself a free communication with Smolensk, and abundant means of retreat over a country that yielded plentiful resources for his troops.

In order to render this measure the more certain, he despatched General Goltz at the head of fifteen thousand men to join a body of twelve thousand Cossacks, with strict orders to lay waste the whole province for a circle of thirty miles, and then to rejoin the czar at the position he had taken up on the bank of the Dnieper. This bold movement was executed as swiftly as it was planned; and the Swedes, reduced to immediate extremity for want of forage, were compelled to canton their army until the following May. Accustomed, however, to the reverses of war, they were not daunted by danger or fatigue, but it was no longer doubtful that both parties were on the eve of decisive events. They regarded the future, however, with very different hopes. Charles, heated with victories, and panting for further acquisitions, surveyed the vast empire, upon the borders of which he now hung like a cloud, as if it were already within his grasp; while Peter, more wary and self-possessed, conscious of the magnitude of the stake for which he fought, and aware of the great difficulties of his situation, occupied himself in making provision against the worst.c


Meantime there were foes at home that had demanded the attention of the czar. The strelitz were not the, only military body belonging to old Russia whose existence had become incompatible with the requirements of a modern state. The undisciplined Cossack armies, which had hitherto formed a rampart for Russia against barbarian hordes, were also to undergo transformation. The empire had many causes of complaint against the Cossacks, particularly those of the Ukraine and the Don who had formerly sustained the usurper, Dmitri, and from whose ranks had issued the terrible Stenka Radzin.

In 1706 the Cossacks of the Don had revolted against the government of the czar because they were forbidden to give asylum in their camp to refugee peasants or taxpayers. The ataman Boulavine and his aids, Nekrassov, Frolov, and Dranyi, called them to arms. They murdered Prince George Dolgoruki, defeated the Russians on the Liskovata, took Tcherkask, and menaced Azov, all the while proclaiming their fidelity to the czar and accusing the voyevods of having acted without orders. They were in turn defeated by Vasili Dolgoruki, Bulavin was murdered by his own soldiers and Nekrassov with only two thousand men took refuge in the Kuban. After clearing out the rebel camps Dolgoruki wrote: "The chief traitors and mutineers have been hung, together with one out of ten of the others; and all the bodies have been placed on rafts and allowed to drift with the current that the Dontsi may be stricken with terror and moved to repent."

Since the disgrace of Samoilovitch, Mazeppa had been the hetman of the Little Russian Cossacks in Ukraine. Formerly a page of John Casimir, king of Poland, he had in his youth experienced the adventure made famous by

'The ancient Borysthenes.

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