CHAPTER XI
WITTE CONDEMNED TO DIE

ONE of the most repulsive sides of the reaction of 1906-7 and of the autocratic regime that engendered it was laid bare in the course of the investigations which took place in the latter year into the various attempts made on Witte's life. Incidentally the iniquity of the hidden workings of Tsarism burst fitfully into the light and caused even Witte's faith to waver in the viability of the regime. Those inquiries were both official and private, and the records of them passed through my hands. I knew the names and possessed photographs of the would-be assassins, and I telegraphed accounts of their misdeeds to London in the hope of having the penitent criminal sent to Russia for public trial, and for the exposure of the crimes of his employers--people in high places--in accordance with his own desire. The friends of the Tsar had come to the conclusion that the autocracy would wither and die unless the man who had concluded peace with Japan and constrained the Emperor to create the Duma were done to death.

Witte was the one statesman who had arisen in Russia since the days of Peter. He pursued a fairly coherent policy, just to the past, congruous with the present, anticipatory of the future. Its immutable postulate was peace in Europe and the world. In vain he had endeavoured to carry it out against the insurmountable difficulties created by the Tsar and the Tsar's environment, but even in the face of these he had prevented one war and ended another. Perceiving the impossibility of saving the Tsardom from anarchy or the population from ruin under the prevailing regime, he had worked hard and not unsuccessfully to modify it, and to him the credit or the blame of having extorted the October constitution from Nicholas II. was universally attributed. The achievements he had thus effected despite vast obstacles

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