Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 133.djvu/662

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656
THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

endeavored to answer these questions. The whole structure of Russian society, and the course of her internal and external policy, might be measured by the standard of finance, correctly applied. That alone can give us the secret of her weakness or her strength. Down to the smallest village community and the brandy-shop, it is, as we have seen, the operation of her fiscal system which retains men in shackles and in debauchery; and as if this were not enough to check the progress of a nation, she adds to it the most burdensome military establishment that ever existed. Mr. Wallace lays it down as an axiom that the finances of Russia are sound, though the peasantry are heavily taxed, and the revenue is inelastic. We wish he had favored us with the ground on which he rests this opinion; which is, we confess, exactly opposed to that we have been led to form.

We turned with some interest to Mr. Wallace's chapter on what he terms "the New Law Courts," by which he means, not any new edifices, but the new system of judicature established in the present reign, which is no doubt an improvement on that which previously existed. But we infer from the loose and inaccurate language in which Mr. Wallace describes legal proceedings, that he has but little acquaintance with the subject. Thus he uses the term "court of revision," instead of the familiar English term "court of review," and says he can find no better English expression to convey his meaning. It is clear, however, from his account of the matter that justice must be very imperfectly administered in a country where there is no bar, and that the persons who plead before these courts are ignorant and corrupt. Trial by jury has been introduced, but Mr. Wallace gives an amusing account of the manner in which a jury of Russian peasants takes the proceedings into its own hands, with a total disregard of the rules of evidence and the obligations of law, acquitting or condemning prisoners according to the view they may take of the general merits of each case.

Upon the whole, although we took up this book with great expectations, we have laid it down with considerable disappointment. Much more might have been made of the materials Mr. Wallace has taken pains to collect, part of which he still holds in reserve. The style is diffuse, and the work clumsily put together, with strange digressions, which, though sometimes amusing, are inappropriate. But we think highly of Mr. Wallace's candor and veracity — the more so as his statements of fact frequently destroy the effect of his reasoning and his opinions. In his zeal to study the peculiar condition of the peasantry, he has left untouched the principal elements of the power and policy of the Russian empire; and there still remains a wide field for his inquiries and observations before he can claim to have made Russia known to the British public.




THE MARQUIS OF LOSSIE.

BY GEORGE MACDONALD, AUTHOR OF "MALCOLM," ETC.

CHAPTER LVII.

THE SHORE.

It was two days after the longest day of the year, when there is no night in those regions, only a long twilight in which many dream and do not know it. There had been a few days of variable weather, with sudden changes of wind to east and north, and round again by south to west, and then there had been a calm for several days. But now the little wind there was blew from the north-east, and the fervor of a hot June was rendered more delicious by the films of flavoring cold that floated through the mass of heat. All Portlossie more or less, the Seaton especially, was in a state of excitement, for its little neighbor Scaurnose was more excited still. There the man most threatened, and with greatest injustice, was the only one calm amongst the men, and amongst the women his wife was the only one that was calmer than he. Blue Peter was resolved to abide the stroke of wrong, and not resist the powers that were, believing them in some true sense — which he found it hard to understand when he thought of the factor as the individual instance — ordained of God. He had a dim perception too that it was better that one, and that one he, should suffer, than that order should be destroyed and law defied. Suffering, he might still in patience possess his soul, and all be well with him; but what would become of the country if every one wronged were to take the law into his own hands? Thousands more would be wronged by the lawless in a week than by unjust powers in a year. But the young men were determined to pursue their plan of resistance, and those of the older and soberer who saw the uselessness of it gave themselves little trouble to change the minds of the rest. Peter, although he knew they were