Page images

three of Tippoo's sons; Fatah Hyder, his eldest illegitimate son; Mohay ud Deen, called Sultan; and Moiz ud Deen. Time and events may add to these names a celebrity which they do not now possess.


Vie du Comte de Munnich. Life of Count de Munnich, general Field Marshal in the Service of Russia. A free Translation from the German of Gerard Anthoine de Halem. Paris. 8vo. pp. 264.

THE information usually conveyed by biography is more congenial to the general feelings of mankind, than the recital of those great events which change the face of empires, and in which so few individuals can take a leading and active part. On perusing the memoirs of eminent characters, which have achieved their own greatness, we delight in beholding a hero in his youth, in discovering the latent seeds of those brilliant qualities, pledges of his future elevation. We interest ourselves in his fortunes, and exult or lament as they are variously affected by the vicissitudes of a checkered life. Those failings inseparable from human weakness, which a faithful biographer never fails to record, endear still more the party to us, by bringing him on a level with ourselves, and at the close of the performance, the reader, not unfrequently, exclaims with a sentiment of self-exultation: "Such might have been my fate, had circumstances favoured me."

The life of count de Munnich is, besides, peculiarly interesting, as intimately connected with the history of Russia for half a century. He was a principal actor in most of the revolutions which took place in that empire, during his long life. To him the Russians are indebted for that noble inland navigation which connects the Caspian sea with the Baltick. The Oriental plan, as it is called in Russia, and to which that country owes its fairest provinces, also originated with him. The paramount influence of Russia over Poland was prepared by his success against Stanislaus, and his French allies; and lastly, it was Munnich who washed away the stain the Russian arms had suffered at the Pruth, in the ignominious capitulation with the Turks, and who, by his new tacticks and by his brilliant victories, gave the Russian eagle that superiority over the crescent which it has maintained ever since. In short, he fully deserved the opinion entertained of him by Catharine II. which she manifested by these emphatick expressions: "If Munnich is not one of the children of Russia, he is one of her fathers."

For the particularities of count de Munnich's birth, life, and parentage, we refer to the volume itself; but from the numerous and interesting details it contains, we shall extract the two following transactions. By the first, Munnich gained the favour of Peter the Great, which he preserved to the death of that monarch. By the second, he reached the height of power, from which he was soon after precipitated, and sent into Siberia.

Peter, at the recommendation of Menzikow, had intrusted the direction of the works of the Ladoga canal, to major general Gregory Pisarew, who had studied mathematicks at Berlin, at the emperour's expense. Finding, however, that the works proceeded but slowly, he determined to call in an abler engineer. Munnich was hereupon consulted; and after taking time to consider the subject, he declared, that, in his opinion, the plan was radically bad, and he pointed out, at the same time, the only one which seemed practicable. Great was the uproar raised against Munnich on the

occasion, by all the courtiers, with Menzikow at their head. The favourite even said, in his usual peremptory tone: "Munnich may be a good officer; but I do not think him fit to be intrusted with the direction of the Ladoga canal." Munnich, however, persisted in his opinion; and Peter, unable to determine between them, referred the matter to the senate. But the senators, overawed by the haughty Menzikow, remained silent; and at last declared, that they were not able to decide on the question. "Then I must see things myself," exclaimed the emperour. "That is what we all wish," was the unanimous answer

In the autumn of 1723, Peter carried his resolution into effect, although he already began to feel that his strength was declining. He went to the place where the Newa issues from lake Ladoga, and there getting on horseback, he waded, with much difficulty, through the circumjacent marshes. The situation of Munnich was critical. Attacked by Pisarew as a calumniator, exposed to the envy of Menzikow, and of several others, he well knew, that his fortune or his disgrace were [was] at a stake, on the result of this journey. Trusting, however, to the goodness of his cause, and to the sagacity of the emperour, he followed him, full of confidence ; and walking close by his side, convinced him, by the testimony of his own eyes, how possible it was to establish, in marshes, a canal seven or nine feet above the usual level of the water in the lake. At last Peter exclaimed: "Yes; I see it; Munnich, you are a worthy man." These words he spoke in Dutch.

The day was almost spent when the emperour arrived, quite fatigued, at the village of Tshorna, where he passed the night, which was rather cold, under a wretched tent. The main object of this visit was unaccomplished; and Pisarew, who knew it well, had his own reasons to wish that the emperour should not carry his observations further, lest he should be convinced, with his own eyes, of the imperfection of the works he had undertaken on the side of the Dubna. The empeTour's physician, Blumentrost, faithfully seconded his views. Assuming an anxious and important look, he went to Munnich, and told him: "It would be dangerous to take the emperour further on. He cannot go but on horseback; and he is weak. And if, after all, he should not find things as you have represented them, you might repent of it. Sir! take care of what you are about!"

But Munnich knew perfectly well what he was about. To prevent the physician from being before hand with him, he avoided contradicting him; but, on the contrary, proposed to go with him to the emperour. They found him preparing to dress." God be praised!" said Munnich, entering the tent," that your majesty has no objection to see the canal with your own eyes. You will know to day what you are to depend upon. Your majesty has seen nothing as yet. That you may give the necessary orders for the continuation of the canal, it is absolutely necessary that you should have the goodness to go as far as the Dubna."-" And why?" said the emperour, still fatigued, and with a look that did not denote him to be much inclined to prosecute the journey, “Why?”—“Because," said Munnich, not in the least_cast down, " every thing that has been done, from the first twelve wersts to Beloferko, cannot remain as it is, and must be entirely changed. Your majesty must be convinced of this by your own eyes; for the changes to be made will occasion considerable expenses, and if your majesty is not convinced that they are absolutely necessary, whoever is put at the head of the works is a lost man.” "Bring me my horse," said the emperour immediately, "I will go to the Dubna"-" God be praised," exclaimed Munnich, perfectly sure that his triumph was at hand.

Before he reached the Dubna, the emperour could see already that part of the canal, which, according to Pisarew's plans, was to be considered as completed. He remarked angrily, these pitiful works! Then, alighting from his horse, and lying flat on the ground, he pointed out with his hand, to Pisarew, that the banks of the pretended canal were falling away every where; that the bed was not of equal depth; that it formed many useless sinuosities; that in such a place a causeway was wanting, &c. &c. "Gregory" (that was the Christian name of Pisarew) "Gregory," said the emperour, with rising anger, "there are two kinds of faults; the first is when a man fails through ignorance; the second, and the most heinous is when he does not make use of his five senses. Why are not the banks of this canal kept up? Why is it so circuitous?"-"It is on account of the hills;" answered Pisarew trembling. The emperour stood up, looked round him, and said: “Where are these hills then? Verily, thou art nought but a rascal!" Every one present thought

that, at that moment, the emperour would beat Pisarew; and poor Gregory would have asked no better, might he have then been forgiven more easily. Peter did not give him that consolation; but kept his hands to himself.

From that moment the victory of Munnich was complete. The canal was continued according to his plans, and in the course of the following year (1724) four wersts of it were entirely finished. The emperour went to visit these new works, with much complacency. He called for a spade. Munnich took another, and there they went both hard to work, at digging through the causeway which prevented the water from flowing into the new canal. Three months before his death, Peter, returning on the canal from Staraja Russa to Petersburgh, was asked by the empress about the state of his health, which was then precarious, when he answered: "The works of my friend Munnich have cured me. hope yet to live long enough to embark with him at Petersburgh, and to cast anchor at the gardens of Golofkin in Moscow."

To some readers these details may appear trifling; yet we think that they give a better insight into the real character of Peter the Great, and of Munnich, than accounts of battles and of negotiations. We do not know which most to admire, the undaunted perseverance of a then little known individual and a foreigner, or the patience and sagacity of the sovereign, who suffered and encouraged it. But, in the mean time, we cannot but pity the fate of those princes, who nominally enjoy a despotick power, but in reality, are the dupes and the tools of designing courtiers. With any other man than Peter, the canal would probably have been abandoned, as impracticable; and Munnich would have been disgraced, for presuming to be right against the opinion of the favourite.

The other transaction that we shall quote is of a far different nature, and exhibits one of those revolutions so frequent in the government of Russia. Munnich's credit had stood, unimpaired, during the reigns of Catharine I. and of Peter II. Under that of Ann, which was graced by his triumphs over the Poles and the Turks, he had risen to the first situation in the state; and was considered as one of its supports. That princess had, on her demise, appointed as her successour the young prince Ivan, her grand nephew, then an infant; and had placed the regency in the hands of Biron, her favourite, to the exclusion of Prince Ulrick, of Brunswick, father to the young prince, whose ferocious disposition she dreaded. His wife, the Princess Ann of Mecklenburgh, was likewise excluded, as too much under the dominion of her husband. Munnich had seemingly consented to these arrangements which he had no power to oppose. But Biron soon proved unequal to his situation. Alarms and conspirations sprang up on every side. His authority was considered by the nation as a usurpation; and Munnich, who had personal reasons to complain of the regent, entertained, or feigned to entertain, fears for the safety of the young emperour.

Biron, surrounded with cares and alarms, had enjoyed his power twenty days, when, on the morning of the 8-19 of November, Munnich entered the apartment of the emperour's mother. In a few words he explained to her the grounds of his apprehensions. He represented, that, as a mother, it was her bounden duty to assume, herself, the reins of government. "As to me, madam," he added, "I take upon myself to put the regent into your hands the ensuing night; but you must cooperate with me. The presence of the emperour's mother will encourage the troops I want, and will deter the evil-minded." The princess, much surprised, and not a little confused, acknowledged that, in fact, she wished nothing better than to get rid of the regent; but she could not bring herself to witness the enterprise against Biron. Munnich then ceased to insist on that point. It was only agreed, that the princess should give the necessary order to the guards of the palace, that Munnich might come to her in the night; and that till then, she should not reveal the project to any one, not even to the prince, her husband.

It was not an easy matter to come at the regent; for all the officers of the guards on duty about him, had orders not to admit any person whatever, when once he had retired to rest; and all the sentries placed about his apartments had orders, likewise,

to stop any person offering to enter, and to kill such a one in case of resistance, But, it so happened, that on the night alluded to, the regiment of Preobraschenski guards was on duty, both about the emperour, and about the regent. Munnich, who was commandant of that corps, might hope, therefore, to find no obstacles; and he had, accordingly, fixed on that very night for the execution of his plan.

In order to remove every suspicion, he that day visited the regent, as usual, and not only dined with him, but, on his pressing invitation, returned also to supper.At eleven o'clock at night, they parted, as two friends usually do; but the blackest designs were hid, on both sides, under that appearance of mutual regard.

Munnich, on leaving the regent's palacé, told his adjutant general, lieutenant colonel Manstein, that he should want him very early in the morning; and accordingly sent for him at two o'clock. They went together into a coach, and drove to the winter palace, which had been fixed on as the place of residence of the emperour Ivan, and his parents, ever since the death of the empress Ann. Without being discovered, and by means of a back door, left open on purpose, they arrived at the princess's apartment. She had retired to bed with her husband; but she had desired her bosom confidant, Miss Julia Mengden, sister to Munnich's daughter-inlaw, to call her, without being perceived by her husband, as soon as the field marshal should arrive. The favourite went, accordingly, to call up her mistress, as gently as possible. However, the duke awoke, and asked why she was getting up. The princess pretended some indisposition; and the duke remained in bed; little suspecting that while he was asleep, his fate would be decided on.

When the princess appeared, Munnich attempted several times to persuade her to put herself at the head of the guards. He was unable to prevail on her :-“ But, you must, at least, madam," said Munnich, "give the necessary orders to the officers of the guards."-She consented to this; the officers were called; the princess represented to them, in a few words, the humiliations which the young emperour was daily experiencing from the regent. "It would be shameful," said she, "to bear any longer such insults. To put a stop to them it is absolutely necessary to arrest the regent. I hope that, as men of honour, you will not refuse this service to your emperour. Follow the field marshal, and support him in his enterprise. Your fidelity shall meet with due recompense."

They all expressed their readiness to follow the field marshal. The princess kissed him; gave her hand to kiss, to the officers; and ejaculated many prayers for the success of their undertaking. The guard was immediately turned out, and Munnich imparted his design to the soldiers. They unanimously promised to follow him wherever he would lead them. They were bid to load their arms; an officer with forty men was left in the guardhouse, with the standard; twenty others followed the field marshal to the summer palace, where the regent had fixed his residence. The troops halted about two hundred paces from the palace. Munnich sent Manstein forward, to apprize the officers of the guards of the princess's intentions, and to request them to remain quiet, while things were going on. What Mun nich had foreseen, took place accordingly. The guards, far from refusing the entrance of the palace, offered their assistance in arresting the regent.

Manstein was then ordered to go and arrest Biron; and he was directed to kill him on the spot, in case of the slightest resistance. He was to be supported by an officer and twenty men. But Manstein, wishing to avoid giving an alarm, left his troop behind him, and entered the palace alone.-He wandered, for a considerable time, in the several apartments, uncertain in which to find the regent: till at last he discovered a double folding door, which had been negligently fastened. This he casily burst open, and found himself in the bedroom of Biron, who was sleeping profoundly, as well as his wife, notwithstanding the noise Manstein had made in entering.

Manstein went to the bedside, drew the curtains, and said loudly, that he was come to speak to the regent. At his voice the couple started from their sleep, with exclamations of surprise and fear. Biron immediately rose; Manstein seized him, and held him fast, till the arrival of the guard, which easily got the better of him. An old soldier's great coat was thrown over his shoulders; he was conducted to a coach in waiting; an officer sat by him, and in that state he was brought to the winter palace His wife, in her shift, had followed him into the street. A soldier took her in his arms, and asked Manstein what he was to do with her. "Take her back into her bedroom," said Manstein; but the soldier, finding the load rather too heavy, dropped her in the snow. The captain of the guards found


her in that dismal situation, sent for her clothes, and brought her back to her apartOn the very same day, the whole of the regent's family were shut up in the fortress of Schlusselburgh; from whence they were transferred to Pelim in Siberia; while the princess Ann was proclaimed administratrix of the empire, under the title of Grand Dutchess of Russia.

Munnich might expect every thing, under the government of a princess who was indebted to him for her elevation; yet, in the course of a few months, he retired from the ministry in disgust, and in the month of November, of the following year, the power he had raised, was overthrown by a revolution exactly similar to that which had established it. The princess Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, who then ascended the throne of Russia, was the personal enemy of Munnich. He was therefore arrested, tried as a traitor, and, on the most absurd and frivolous pretences condemned to be quartered alive. A conditional pardon was, however, announced to him, at the foot of the scaffold, and he was exiled to Pelim in Siberia; the very place, where, a year before, he had sent his rival Biron; who now obtained a less uncomfortable habitation, and was removed to Jaroslaw. The sledges of the two enemies met, in one of the suburbs of Casan. They were obliged to remain some time before one another at the passage of a bridge. Biron and Munnich knew, and saluted each other. They parted without exchanging a word; but what reflections must have filled the minds of them both!

Munnich supported his exile, which lasted twenty years, with the same manly firmness as that which he had manifested at his trial, and at the foot of the scaffold. He found, moreover, in that religion, to which he zealously adhered during his whole life, a never failing source of consolation.

Munnich was accompanied by a chaplain, Martens, who was not banished, but followed his fortune. The greatest loss which Munnich experienced was that of this worthy man, who died after seven years of exile. The field marshal afterwards discharged the office of chaplain. His whole family met at prayers, twice a day, when he delivered discourses of his own composing, which edified his auditors, and strengthened himself. He also composed thoughts on the most important articles of the Christian faith, and hymns, which have been printed. He cultivated his garden; composed works on engineering; instructed youth in the study of geometry; drew up plans for the king of Prussia, and memoirs relative to the expulsion of the Turks out of Europe. Such are the effects of science and mental powers, in softening the rigours of banishment to the most barren wastes.

After the death of Elizabeth, Munnich was recalled by Peter III. her successour. On his return, he suffered neither complaint nor reproach to escape his lips; but devoted himself to the service of that ill fated monarch, with all the energy of his younger years. In the revolution which cost that prince his throne and his life, Munnich never abandoned him for a moment; but the veteran's advices were all defeated, by the silly presumption of Peter, and by the fears and pusillanimity of his courtiers. When, at last, news was brought that Catharine, at the head of 20,000 men, was marching against her husband, who had only 3000 Holsteiners, Munnich still wanted to try the fortune of a battle. "Take a crucifix in your hands," said he to the emperour: "they dare not touch you; and I shall take upon myself the danger of the battle." On that very day, the fall of Peter was completed without resistance, and the authority of Catharine was every where acknowledged. The day after, Munnich appeared at court. "You wanted to fight against me," said Catharine, on seeing

« PreviousContinue »