Senior Orations, Dickinson College
Russia Today
A senior oration delivered in June 1899 by Douglas C. Appenzellar1
Transcribed and annotated by Amy Hanners, October 1999

The powers of Europe have long viewed each other with the greatest envy and jealousy.  Ever since the breaking up of original Communism2 in the present highly civilized continent, have the different governments struggled for supremacy.  Not alone have the governments vied with each other, but actions within governments, advocates of different forms of government3, and the respective social classes of the people of which the different nations are composed, have been engaged in ceaseless intrigue and strife for existence, recognition, or supremacy.

Government, as shown and illustrated by history, sweeps like a feudalism through the different forms, from the chaos of savagery to Democracy, from there to aristocracy, there to Monarchy, to Despotism, there back to Anarchy.  Thus in all countries and in all climes, history is continually repeating itself.

In Russia the close observer will undoubtedly perceive the same ceaseless motion, however slow it may be.  But the slower the motion the more surely will the results be manifest.

For centuries the government of Russia has been what is called an absolute monarchy4.  It has been the mainstay of the institutions of monarchy in Europe during all the surging rebellions and revolutions of the various nations of the Old World5.  It has been the menace of free government ever since it became a power in the politics of the nations.  At no time during her history has the government of Russia been other than a Despotism6.  The will of one individual, the Czar, has been the law and his edicts have been supreme.  No written law, no courts of equity or law above his commands, no appeal to higher powers for either the wage warden7 or the noble8.  There is no law but that of God to curb him and that he seldom recognizes. "Cringe poor slave and let your chiefest glory be that the chain is on you neck."9  This is Russia from her earliest record to the present day.  Will it ever be thus?  Will she not some day be a land of the free.  Ay!  we can hear to-day the echoes of the clamours of the last four centuries.  We can even at our great distance from that stronghold of tyranny, hear the protests and wails of a people who have toiled in the darkness of ignorance through hundreds of years.

To-day Russia has encamped on her frontier-a standing army of fourteen hundred thousand men.10 What for!  Not to repel invasions.  Europe knows too well the history of Napoleon's11 March to Moscow12.  Russia, with her nine millions of square miles of territory, and her long and frigid winters, needs no protection against invasion except that supplied by nature.  She maintains a standing army, the largest in the known world, to menace and to crush out, if need be, any attempt of the people to gain their rights.  Why has Russia the largest prison territory in the world13?  Because her government is absolute - and she must provide some place for political offenders.  Years ago she beheaded; now she banishes.  There has always been that reaction from violence, as a punishment for advanced social religions, and political thought, which has made it a dangerous weapon for tyranny to wield.  The Russian government in full realization of this fact quietly removes the offender to Siberia14.  Thus thought in all its advanced stages is crushed out.  Education is neglected or wholly prohibited.  Internal improvements are few.  With all her vast area - and her hundred millions of people she has less railroad communication mileage than the little state of Maryland.15 She has fewer telegraph facilities than the state of Pennsylvania16.  The arts - and the sciences of all kinds have had a very limited place in her civilization.  This is Russia to-day.  This is the great check which Despotism places upon enlightenment.17

Russia cannot always remain thus.  The pendulum has swung outward, outward, outward for centuries, but it has reached the turning point.  Education and enlightenment move on apace despite all attempts to strangle them.  Learning diffuses itself by processes incomprehensible, and when learning gets a foot hold, philosophy follows.  Revolution of ideas must produce Nihilism18 through nothing more nor less than Anarchism19 sounds the sentiment of the people and the death knell of Despotism, as surely as did John Browns bloody invasion sound the knell of cruel slavery20.  Such men as Garibaldi21, Kosicisco22and Louis Kossuth23, though immediate failures in the attainment of their causes, have given the world an impetus on the road to political liberty that all succeeding centuries cannot counteract.

Education and liberty, mother and son, like the wandering Jews in the legend wander on and on and on through the ages24.  No fortress or standing army can bar their approach - no despot crush them.  As surely as the planets make their periodical cycles around the sun, will education and civil and political liberty visit those who keep open house and earnestly toil for their entertainment.  And as surely as the hurricane and the tempest are necessary to remove the miasmas which arise from material corruption, so surely is the thunder bolt in the form of political revolution necessary to remove the more subtle power of political corruption.

Liberty follows revolution and is the front of a tree of years in growth.  The young shoots transplanted from american soil have spread their branches, not alone among the constitutional monarchies25, but over all the countries of the world and all the islands of the sea.  Ay!  When the institution of Monarchy with all its pomp and pride and arrogance shall be buried in oblivion, when throwns (sic) shall have crumbled and dynasties shall have been forgotten; when the despotisms of four thousand years shall have faded away - may that benighted nation, Russia rejuvenated, reorganized, and redeemed beneath a government of the people, for the people and by the people, stand forth amid the regal ruin and national desolation towering triumphant like the last mountain in the deluge, immutable, magnificent, sublime a land of the free - a home of the brave26.


1. Donald C. Appenzellar:  Donald Cameron Appenzellar was born in 1877.  A  Dickinson graduate with a Latin Science Bachelor's degree with the class of 1899, listed as being from Chambersburg, Pa, Senior class president, member of the Alpha Sigma chapter of Beta Theta Pi, member of Raven's Claw, played first violin in the College orchestra, member of "I Am" club, member of Union Philosophical Society; Toastmaster at the senior banquet, the business manager of the Microcosm,  winner of sophomore oratorical contest with topic "The
Revival of the Water Wheel," made speech entitled "Dickinson" at annual banquet. He moved to New York City around 1900.  Where he worked as a lawyer with several law firms before becoming a member of the New York Stock Exchange in 1933.  In 1906, he married Miss Katherine E. O'Gorman.  They had three children:  Elizabeth Rose, Donald Cameron Junior, and David.  He died in 1941 of  "acute indigestion."  (Dickinson College Living Alumni 1899, 1900, 1908, 1915 & Microcosm 1899, 1900)

2. Communism:  originally meant that all citizens enjoyed a state of commonwealth because all wealth was owned by all members of the community.  It was later associated with Karl Marx's Socialism in The Communist Manifesto (1848) meaning that goods would be distributed on the basis of community need instead of on the basis of individual reward for work done.  Appenzellar may be discussing the "original communism" of the Communist Manifesto by which history develops in movements beginning with "primitive communism," by which all people work together for a common goal and share the spoils, moves on to a labor-based society, to a feudal state, to capitalism, and on to a more perfect communism.  ("Communism" Encyclopedia Britannica Online

3. advocates of different forms of government:  there were different political movements in Europe during the 19th century, among those were populism, led in Russia by Aleksandr Herzen.  It was considered the beginning of a future socialist society.  It argued that Russian socialism could skip the stage of capitalism and build a commonwealth.  It idealized the peasantry and included them in the revolutionary action.  Later in the century, the populists started to turn to terrorism because the peasant movement was too slow.  Another political movement of the time was socialism, led in Russia by Georgy Plekhanov, a converted Marxist, in the 1880's.  He founded a  Russian Marxist organization, the Osvobozhedenie Truda.  This society rejected the idea of power to the peasants and began to push the ideals of the bourgeois middle class. ("socialism" Encyclopedia Britannica Online. < artcl=109587&seq_nbr=1&page=n&isctn=15>)

4. absolute monarchy:  a state in which the monarch is envisioned as a servant of God, therefore having no checks on his power.  The czar in Russia was known to have such power, which was accepted by the noble class as long as the noble class was received favors from the higher power. ("political system"
Encyclopedia Britannica Online. <>)

5. surging rebellions and revolutions of the Old World: due to an increase in nationalism in Europe after the Napoleonic Wars, many nationalist peoples encouraged rebellion in order to assert their statehood, such as the 1830 rebellion in Belgium that proclaimed its independence. Appenzellar could also be discussing the fact that Russia is behind in development at this point because despite revolutions in other countries in which democracy or constitutional monarchy have been imposed, Russia still remains a nation ruled by a despot.  ("Europe, Concert of"  Encyclopedia Britannica Online. <> )

6. Despotism: (absolutism) a political doctrine that puts unchecked authority into the hands of a single leader.
("absolutism" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.  <> )

7. wage warden: unable to find a definition

8. noble:  these are people of a higher class/social status.  They are often only slightly below the monarch in rank.  Most have money, but some only have a noble title or land or family influence.  They most often hold government jobs and are often immune to laws such as taxes or despotic laws.  ("Europe, history of" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.  <>)

9. "Cringe poor slave and let your chiefest glory be that the chain is on your neck." - unable to find author of quote

10. fourteen hundred thousand men:  during the 19th century, Russia began to move her frontier
eastward, conquering Siberia, making room for freed serf settlers, and searching for warm water ports.
Russia kept a standing army in Siberia since it planned to invade Korea.  It also used the army as a
defense from eastern attack by China and Japan.  It was much like the "Manifest Destiny" seen in the United States at the time, but the Russians, instead of replacing the indigenous population, merged with them. ("colonialism" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

click on picture for larger view

11-12. Napoleons March to Moscow:
    11.  probably "Napoleon's" but there was no apostrophe on the original document
    12.  Napoleon's army invaded Russia and entered Moscow on September 14, 1812.  Due to the Russian "scorched earth" policy, Moscow was abandoned and set ablaze.  French retreat became necessary. Because of the harsh Russian winters, fewer than 10,000 of the original 453,000 men returned to France after recrossing the harsh Russian terrain.

("Napoleon I" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

13. largest prison territory in the world  Siberia, an area in eastern Russia approximately 3 to 6 millions of square miles in area was largely used as a land of exile for criminals.  Most of these were political criminals, but many other types were also sent there to labor camps and various prisons.  ("Siberia" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.  <>)
After serving their term of imprisonment, they were most often exiled from the main area of Russia and forced to live in a small town in Siberia that was made up of former prisoners, soldiers, and governing nobles. (Dostoevsky, Theodor.  Notes from the House of the Dead.  Macmillan Company: New York, 1915.)

14. Siberia:  see andante 12

15. less railroad communication than the little state of Maryland.   I am still searching for the amount of railroad communication in both areas.  The Trans-Siberian railroad system, Russia's largest, was begun in 1891 and not finished until 1904.  At approximately 6,000 miles long, this was the only main rail system in Russia at that time.  ("Trans-Siberian Railroad" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
Also, considering that at this time Russia had over 49,870 sq. miles of railroad it hardly seems likely that Maryland's railroad system was larger than Russia's.  (Carlo M. Cippola (editor).  Economic History of Europe: Emergence of Industrial Society.  William Collisons and Co. Ltd. Glasgow; 1977.)

16. fewer telegraph facilities than the state of Pennsylvania.  I have been unable to find the amount of telegraph facilities for each area at the time.  However, considering that telegraphs were most likely built alongside the railroads, then it seems highly unlikely that Pennsylvania had more telegraph line than Russia.  See # 15.

17. enlightenment:  a movement in beginning in the 17th century that emphasized scholasticism and reason.  It encouraged political and philosophical thought among the masses.  It produced many secularized theories.  It also emphasized democracy.  ("Enlightenment" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.  <>)

18. Nihilism:  (from Latin "nihil" meaning nothing) An old term applied to heretics in the Middle Ages.  It was later used to mean skepticism.  It also became synonymous with revolution, constituting a social menace by a negation of all moral principles.  Nihilists of the 1860's and 1870's were considered unruly and disheveled men who rebelled against the social order.  In the 1880's it was applied to the assassins of Alexander II and the political term that was used against absolutism.  In 1863 it was defined as the symbol of struggle against all forms of tyranny, hypocrisy and artificiality, and for individual freedom. ("nihilism" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.  <>)

19. Anarchism:  a sociopolitical doctrine that criticizes the hierarchical society and is against coercion in society, believing that if all are on an equal basis, then all would cooperate.  It is a rejection of political authority.  ("anarchism"  Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

20. John Brown's bloody invasion : December 2, 1859, John Brown raided a federal arsenal Harper's Ferry Virginia, intending to arm and lead slaves into rebellion.  He was apprehended before an damage was done, but he became a martyr for the antislavery cause when he was later executed for treason ("Brown, John"  Encyclopedia Britannica Online. <>

21. Garibaldi:  Guiseppe Garibaldi (1807-1902).  An Italian nationalist and revolutionary, he was a leader in the struggle for Italian unification and independence. ("Garibaldi"  Encarta Online. <>)

22. Kosicisco:  misspelled in document, actual Koshciuszko, a polish officer who led a national uprising in response to the second partition of Poland.  ("Poland, Partitions of"  Encyclopedia Britannica Online.<>)

23. Louis Kossuth: (1802-94) A Hungarian revolutionary hero.  Pushed for Hungary to be declared a separate government from Austria.  ( "Louis Kossuth" Columbia Encyclopedia Online. <

24. wandering Jews in the legend wander on and on through the ages.  A Christian legend in which a the Jewish character is must live until the end of the world as a punishment for taunting Jesus at the Crucifixion.  ("wandering Jew"  Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

25. Constitutional monarchies:  a monarchy in which the monarch's powers are checked by some other element involving a constitution.  In most cases the monarch becomes merely the ceremonial head of the state while a legislature, such as Britain's Parliament, controls the government.  ("monarchy" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.  <>)

26. a land of the free - a home of the brave:  from the last line of the first verse of the "Star Spangled Banner", the present national anthem of the United States, though not at the time of this address. ("Star Spangled Banner, The" Encyclopedia Britannica Online.  <>)