The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 17 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 532 pages of information about The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 17.

On February 18, 1861, the first Italian Parliament, representing all the Provinces of Italy—­Venetia and the Roman patrimony alone excepted—­assembled in the Palazzo Carignano at Turin.  The title assumed by the King in concert with his ministers and Parliament was “Victor Emmanuel II, by the grace of God and the will of the nation, King of Italy.” [Footnote:  It was almost ten years later—­when Victor Emmanuel entered Rome, September 20, 1870—­that the emancipation and union of Italy were made complete.—­ED.]

(1861) EMANCIPATION OF RUSSIAN SERFS, Andrew D. White and Nikolai

By the act that freed the serfs in Russia, Alexander II, to whom it was in great measure due, obtained a place of unusual honor among the sovereigns that have ruled his nation.  It was the grand achievement of Alexander’s reign, and caused him to be hailed as one of the world’s liberators.  The importance of this event in Russian history is not diminished by the fact that its practical benefits have not as yet been realized to the full extent anticipated.  In 1888 Stepniak, the Russian author and reformer, declared that emancipation had utterly failed to realize the ardent expectations of its advocates and promoters, had failed to improve the material condition of the former serfs, who on the whole were worse off than before emancipation.  The same assertion has been made with respect to the emancipation of slaves in the United States, but in neither case does the objection invalidate the historical significance of an act that formally liberated millions of human beings from hereditary and legalized bondage.

In the two views here presented, the subject of the emancipation in Russia is considered in various aspects.  Andrew D. White’s account, being that of an American scholar and diplomatist familiar with the history and people of Russia through his residence at St. Petersburg, is of peculiar value, embodying the most intelligent foreign judgment.  White’s synopsis covers the entire subject of the serf system from its beginning to its overthrow.  Nikolai Turgenieff, the Russian historian, writing while the emancipation act was bearing its first fruits, describes its workings and effects as observed by one intimately connected with the serfs and the movement that resulted in their freedom.


Close upon the end of the fifteenth century the Muscovite ideas of right were subjected to the strong mind of Ivan the Great and compressed into a code.  Therein were embodied the best processes known to his land and time:  for discovering crime, torture and trial by battle; for punishing crime, the knout and death.

But hidden in this tough mass was one law of greater import than others.  Thereby were all peasants forbidden to leave the lands they were then tilling, except during the eight days before and after St. George’s Day.  This provision sprang from Ivan’s highest views of justice and broadest views of political economy; the nobles received it with plaudits, which have found echoes even in these days; the peasants received it with no murmurs which history has found any trouble in drowning.

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The Great Events by Famous Historians, Volume 17 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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