should be declared owners of the land on which they worked. His political ideal was a federative republic similar to the United States of America, instead of Russian Czardom. Pestel and his friends were not opposed to the independence of Poland. They even attempted to fraternise intimately with the Polish revolutionaries. For that they were criticised severely by their northern sister organization.
The above-mentioned men were conspicuous not only through their intelligence. They were great and noble characters. In the year 1820, all three died on the scaffold in St. Petersburg. A few hours before his execution, Pestel received a visit from his father, the Governor-General of Siberia. The old man was an indescribably corrupt creature, a monster, a thief, a murderer. In a word, all that usually is meant by a servant of the Czar. He came with the pretext of taking leave of his son, but really, he wanted only to rub salt into the latter's wounds. Pestel did not want to receive him, but he had no choice.
Amongst other things, he asked him in his impudence: "Now tell me, my son, how high do you think you would have risen if you had succeeded in overthrowing Czardom?" "First of all," said Pestel unhesitatingly, "we would have liberated Russia of devils incarnate of your type."
As the punishment of strangulation was not then in use, the gruesome procedure went off clumsily. They were true martyrs of liberty, forerunners of the world liberated, as one day it will be, who were executed. The rope slipped over Pestel's face, and he fell heavily to the ground where he remained, badly injured. During the moments in which the hangman re-adjusted the rope, the dying man exclaimed, "They cannot even hang you properly in Russia."
It was the birth of a new era. Hitherto, the Russian aristocracy had been the voluntary slaves of the Czar, and the brutal, terrible proprietors of serfs who had to till their land. Until then, the aristocracy had been nothing more than a brutal beast, shut off from every ideal and saturated by the most nonsensical prejudices.
The Western European civilization, which had been introduced by Peter the Great, and developed by Catherine, was no longer a dead thing. Although the historian, Karamatin, sent as a young man to Europe to study, returned to Russia to betray his patrons, civilization and knowledge advanced by his reaction. He created official Russian patriotism and rhetoric. Even art leads to morality. And the students, in their secret circles, developed knowledge from his writing.
Napoleon's invasion, in 1812, turned Russia upside down. Czarism, instead of defending itself was forced to beg the aristocracy, the clergy, the bourgeoisie, and the serfs for their help. Each