The hasty blow which deprived the son of Ivan of life was also fatal to the father. He never recovered from the effects. After a few months of anguish and remorse, Ivan IV. sank sorrowing to the grave. Penitent, prayerful and assured that his sins were forgiven, he met death with perfect composure. The last days of his life were devoted exclusively to such preparations for his departure that the welfare of his people might be undisturbed. He ordered a general act of amnesty to be proclaimed to all the prisoners throughout all the empire, abolished several onerous taxes, restored several confiscated estates to their original owners, and urged his son, Feodor, who was to be his successor, to make every possible endeavor to live at peace with his neighbors, that Russia might thus be saved from the woes of war. Exhausted by a long interview with his son, he took a bath; on coming out he reclined upon a couch, and suddenly, without a struggle or a groan, was dead.
Ivan IV. has ever been regarded as one of the most illustrious of the Russian monarchs. He was eminently a learned prince for the times in which he lived, entertaining uncommonly just views both of religion and politics. In religion he was tolerant far above his age, allowing no Christians to be persecuted for their belief. We regret that this high praise must be limited by his treatment of the Jews, whom he could not endure. With conscientiousness, unenlightened and bigoted, he declared that those who had betrayed and crucified the Saviour of the world ought not to be tolerated by any Christian prince. He accordingly ordered every Jew either to be baptized into the Christian faith or to depart from the empire.
Ivan was naturally of a very hasty temper, which was nurtured by the cruel and shameful neglect of his early years. Though he struggled against this infirmity, it would occasionally break out in paroxysms which caused bitter repentance. The death of his son, caused by one of these outbreaks, was the great woe of his life. Still he was distinguished for his love of justice. At stated times the aggrieved of every rank were admitted to his presence, where they in person presented their petitions. If any minister or governor was found guilty of oppression, he was sure to meet with condign punishment. This impartiality, from which no noble was exempted, at times exasperated greatly the haughty aristocracy. He was also inflexible in his determination to confer office only upon those who were worthy of the trust. No solicitations or views of self-interest could induce him to swerve from this resolve. Intemperance he especially abominated, and frowned upon the degrading vice alike in prince or peasant. He conferred an inestimable favor upon Russia by causing a compilation, for the use of his subjects, of a body of laws, which was called “The Book of Justice.” This code was presented to the judges, and was regarded as authority in all law proceedings.