THE LAST STATESMEN OF THE TSARDOM
THOSE who still imagine that individuals rather than the character of the Tsarist State were responsible for those predatory habits and the uniform bad faith which so long rendered a trustworthy covenant between Russia and any other government virtually impossible, would do well to remember that, however widely individual ministers might differ from each other, the system invariably over-ruled the best intentions and vitiated the most straightforward conduct of the statesman in charge. Thus Count Lamsdorff was known to be a loyal and veracious man, of whom it could be predicated that his assertions were true and his promises sincere. But the former were always liable to be belied and the latter to be violated by his master or his colleagues. And he could not legally resign because the theory, in the Tsardom, to which the practice inflexibly conformed was that a minister is a civil officer whose commander-in-chief is the Emperor and that without the Emperor's permission-- or in other words until he is dismissed from office--he may not lay down his functions.
Lamsdorff was an admirable Foreign Secretary, through whose hands all the important State papers and into whose ears all the momentous State secrets passed. He had served under Giers who often consulted him, and under Lobanoff- Rostoffsky and Shishkin. During Muravieff's tenure of office he held the post of assistant minister. By them all he was noted as a discreet, steady, hard-working, conscientious official, whose thorough knowledge of French and extraordinary habits of seclusion--Lamsdorff never married-- rendered him incomparably more useful than any of his colleagues. On Muravieff's sudden death the Emperor seemed inclined to give the succession to Izvolsky, who was then Minister in Tokio, but had been in somewhat strained