All again hastened to the imperial palace; the great and the noble again brought out their state coaches for the purpose of throwing themselves at the feet of the new possessor of power and swearing a new allegiance; again nothing was heard but the sound of universal rejoicing, nothing seen but faces lighted up by ecstasy and eyes glistening with tears of joy. And this was, in fourteen months, the third time that they had done homage to a new ruler who had as regularly dethroned his predecessor, and they had each time gone through the same ceremony with the same evidences of joy, the same ecstasies, the same slavish humility, not commiserating the defeated party, but professing love and devotion to the victor!
And as the day dawned on St. Petersburg, as it gloriously beamed upon the young empress, as she saw these thousands of worshipping slaves at her feet, Elizabeth’s heart swelled with a proud joy, and looking down upon the masses of humble and devoted subjects, whose mistress she was, she felt herself momentarily overcome by a deep and holy emotion.
“I will be a mother to this people,” thought she; “I will love and spare them; I will govern them with mildness; they shall not curse, but adore me!”
Yielding to this first generous impulse of her heart, Elizabeth rose from the throne, and with uplifted hands loudly and solemnly swore that she would be a mother to her subjects—a mother who, when compelled to punish, would never forget love and forbearance!
“No one, however great his crime,” said she, with flashing eyes—“no one shall be punished with death so long as I sit upon this throne! From this day the punishment of death is abolished in my realm! I will punish crime, but I will spare the life of the criminal!”
When Elizabeth had thus spoken, the large hall again resounded with the rejoicing shouts of the great and noble—men breathed freer and deeper, they raised their heads more proudly; for centuries the all-powerful word of the czars had swept over the heads of Russians like the sword of Damocles—it now seemed to be removed, and to promise to each one a longer life, a longer unendangered existence. For where was there a subject of the czars who might not at any time be convicted of a crime—where an innocent person who might not at any moment be condemned to death? A glance, a smile, an inconsiderate word, had often sufficed to cause a head to fall! And now this eternally present danger seemed to be removed! What wonder, then, that they raised shouts of joy, that they embraced each other, that they loudly and solemnly called down the blessings of Heaven upon this noble and merciful empress!