Aleksei Evstaf´ev’s 1852 book, The Great Republic Tested by the Touch of Truth, is an early work in English by a native of Ukraine who identified as a Russian. Drawing from his years of Russian diplomatic service in the United States, Evstaf´ev presented a critique of American democracy as well as Russian despotism, preferring British constitutional monarchy instead. Writing from a conservative point of view, Evstaf´ev questioned whether people can govern themselves and argued that the fault lines of American politics would lead to a collapse.
The work presents an early example of a Russian critique of America. Particularly strong sections deal with the history of New York City before the Civil War and the problems of the American judicial system.
This annotated version provides the necessary context to understand the discussion of American and European politics and culture during the 1840s and 1850s. The Great Republic Tested by the Touch of Truth is a contribution to the history of Russian-American relations, Russian political thought, and New York City and American history.
Born in Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, in 1783, Evstaf´ev studied at the Kharkiv Ecclesiastical Seminary and then joined the Russian embassy in Britain as a churchman for services. His fluency in English and ability to write polemical booklets defending Russia advanced his career, and in 1808 he was named the Russian consul to Boston. There he spent his best-known years as a friend of the Federalist Party and an author of plays and books. With the collapse of the Federalist
Party, he declined into obscurity. He later served as a diplomat in New York City and died in 1857. He is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn.