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The Cynosure

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who interpolated him, "that in politics the issue alone can decide which is a great action and what is a crime."


From August, 1849, to May, 1850, Bakunin was kept a prisoner in the fortress of Konistein. He was then tried and sentenced to death by the Saxon tribunal. In pursuance of a resolution passed by the old Diet of the Bund in 1836, he was delivered up to the Austrian Government and sent (chained) to Prague instead of being executed.

The Austrian Government attempted in vain to extort from him the secrets of the Slavonian movement. A year later, it sentenced him to death, but immediately commuted the death sentence to one of perpetual imprisonment. In the interval he had been removed from the fortress at Gratz to that of Almutz, as the government was terrified by the report of a design to liberate him. Here he passed six months chained to the wall. After this, the Austrian government surrendered him to the Russian. The Austrian chains were replaced by native irons of twice the weight. This was in the autumn of 1851, when Bakunin was taken through Warsaw and Vilna to St. Petersburg, to pass three wear years in the fortress of Alexis. At Vilna, in spite of the threats of the Russian Government, the Poles gathered in the streets to pay the last tribute of silent respect to the heroic Russian orator of four years before. As Bakunin drove past them in the sledge, they bowed their heads with an affection never assumed in the presence of Emperors. Bakunin maintained his fortitude during years of confinement in Russian dungeons, until the torture of his imprisonment produced the tragedy of his confessions, and showed that he was not unworthy of their devotion.

In Russia he was never tried; the Czar Nicholas I. considered him his property, like all his other subjects, and simply sent him to the fortress of Peter and Paul, at Petrograd, to moulder there to the end of his life. There were no charges, no fellow conspirators; he was a passive object in the hands of the Czar. The Czar, no doubt, felt proud to have this rebel at his mercy; he felt curious also about the secrets of the European revolution, which Bakunin, if anybody, was believed to possess; and, with the contempt of men that an autocrat, before whom all cringe, must feel, he may have expected to tame Bakunin, to win him over, perhaps to make him one of his tools.

So his henchman, Count Orloff, was sent to tell Bakunin that the Czar wished to receive a statement on his revolutionary doings, and that he might talk to the Czar with the same confidence which a penitent would exercise towards the priest in the confessional.


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