to Mr. Evarts.
St. Petersburg , November 18, 1880. (Received December 8.)
Sir: In my No. 51, of the 8th instant, I reported the beginning of the trial of sixteen Nihilists before the military tribunal of this city.
The proceedings have been pushed forward with more expedition than was generally anticipated, and the conclusion was reached on the 16th instant, resulting in the conviction of all of the accused. Five were sentenced to capital punishment, and the remaining eleven to imprisonment and labor in the mines for life and different terms of years, or banishment to Siberia. The sentence of three of those condemned to death has been commuted to hard labor for life, and the other two have already been executed.
The investigations made public and the trials have not developed any wide-spread or very alarming conspiracy against the government. So far as has appeared, it would seem that all the attempts upon the life of the Emperor, the assassination of officials, the publication of clandestine revolutionary sheets, and other acts of this nature, have been the work of a mere handful of persons inspired by extreme socialistic views, and without any prominent or influential standing in society; and, further, that the authorities have succeeded, by the confessions of a few of the conspirators, in ascertaining the members of the party, and have in a great measure broken up the organization, at least for the present.
It does not appear that this socialistic party has been supported by any considerable portion of the Russian people, or that they have manifested any sympathy with their extreme views and high-handed and violent measures. On the other hand, it is not to be inferred that there exists no serious discontent with the present state of affairs. This discontent is not alone influenced by political considerations, but is greatly increased by the bad state of the exterior commerce, the depreciation of the currency, the high price of the prime necessaries of life, and the danger of famine which appears to be imminent in some provinces consequent on the failure of the crops. The energetic action and prudent measures of the government, as shown in Count Loris Melikoff’s administration, have had a beneficent effect in quieting the discontent, but it still exists.
I am, &c.,