There is one wise act to record in the reign of Paul—although it was probably prompted not by a desire to benefit the future so much as to reverse the past. Peter the Great, probably on account of his perverse son Alexis, had set aside the principle of primogeniture; a principle not Slavonic, but established by the Muscovite Princes. Peter, the ruthless reformer, placed in the hands of the sovereign the power to choose his own successor. Paul reestablished this principle, and thereby bestowed a great benefit upon Russia.
NAPOLEON IN RUSSIA—HOLY ALLIANCE
A youth of twenty-five years was Tsar and Autocrat of All the Russias. Alexander had from his birth been withdrawn entirely from his father’s influence. The tutor chosen by his grandmother was Laharpe, a Swiss Republican, and the principles of political freedom were at the foundation of his training. It was of course during the period of her own liberal tendencies that Alexander was imbued with the advanced theories which had captured intellectual Europe in the days before the French Revolution. The new Emperor declared in a manifesto that his reign should be inspired by the aims and principles of Catherine II. He then quickly freed himself from the conspirators who had murdered his father, and drew about him a group of young men like himself, utterly inexperienced, but enthusiastic dreamers of a reign of goodwill which should regenerate Russia. With the utmost confidence, reforms of the most radical nature were proposed and discussed. There was to be a gradual emancipation of the serfs, and misery of all sorts to be lifted from the land by a new and benign system of government which should be representative and constitutional. Many changes were at once instituted. The old system of “colleges,” or departments, established by Peter the Great was removed and a group of ministers after the European custom constituted the Tsar’s official household, or what would once have been called his Drujina. In the very first year of this reign there began an accession of territory in Asia, which gravitated as if by natural law toward the huge mass. The picturesque old kingdom of Georgia, lying south of the Caucasus between the Black and Caspian seas, was the home of that fair and gifted race which, fallen from its high estate, had become the victim of the Turks, and, with its congener Circassia, had long provided the harems of the Ottoman Empire with beautiful slaves. The Georgians had often appealed to the Tsars for protection, and in 1810 the treaty was signed which incorporated the suffering kingdom with Russia.