HotFreeBooks.com
China
by Demetrius Charles Boulger
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

The accession of Prince Yihchoo—who took the name of Hienfung, which means "great abundance," or "complete prosperity"—to the throne threatened for a moment to be disturbed by the ambition of his uncle, Hwuy Wang, who, it will be remembered, had attempted to seize the throne from his brother Taoukwang. This prince had lived in retirement during the last years of his brother's reign, and the circumstances which emboldened him to again put forward his pretensions will not be known until the state history of the Manchu dynasty is published. His attempt signally failed, but Hienfung spared his life, while he punished the ministers, Keying and Muchangah, for their supposed apathy, or secret sympathy with the aspirant to the imperial office, by dismissing them from their posts. When Hienfung became emperor he was less than twenty years of age, and one of his first acts was to confer the title of Prince on his four younger brothers, and to associate them in the administration with himself. This was a new departure in the Manchu policy, as all the previous emperors had systematically kept their brothers in the background. Hienfung's brothers became known in the order of their ages as Princes Kung, Shun, Chun, and Fu, and as Hienfung was the fourth son of Taoukwang, they were also distinguished numerically as the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth princes. Although Hienfung became emperor at a time of great national distress, he was so far fortunate that an abundant harvest, in the year 1850, tended to mitigate it, and by having recourse to the common Chinese practice of "voluntary contributions," a sufficiently large sum was raised to remove the worst features of the prevailing scarcity and suffering. But these temporary and local measures could not improve a situation that was radically bad, or allay a volume of popular discontent that was rapidly developing into unconcealed rebellion.

An imperial proclamation was drawn up by the Hanlin College in which Hienfung took upon himself the whole blame of the national misfortunes, but the crisis had got far beyond a remedy of words. The corruption of the public service had gradually alienated the sympathies of the people. Justice and probity had for a time been banished from the civil service of China. The example of the few men of honor and capacity served but to bring into more prominent relief the faults of the whole class. Justice was nowhere to be found; the verdict was sold to the highest bidder. The guilty, if well provided in worldly goods, escaped scot-free; the poor suffered for their own frailties as well as the crimes of wealthier offenders. There was seen the far from uncommon case of individuals sentenced to death obtaining substitutes for the capital punishment. Offices were sold to men who had never passed an examination, and who were wholly illiterate, and the sole value of office was as the means of extortion. The nation was heavily taxed, but the taxes to the state were only the smaller part of the sums wrung from the people of the Middle Kingdom. How was honor, or a sense of duty, to be expected from men who knew that their term of office must be short, and who had to receive their purchase money and the anticipated profit before their post was sold again to some fresh and possibly higher bidder? The officials waxed rich on ill- gotten wealth, and a few individuals accumulated enormous fortunes, while the government sank lower and lower in the estimation of the people. It lost also in efficiency and striking power. A corrupt and effeminate body of officers and administrators can serve but as poor defenders for an embarrassed prince and an assailed government against even enemies who are in themselves insignificant and not free from the vices of a corrupt society and a decaying age, and it was only on such that Hienfung had in the first place to lean against his opponents. Even his own Manchus, the warlike Tartars, who, despite the smallness of their numbers, had conquered the whole of China, had lost their primitive virtue and warlike efficiency in the southern climes which they had made their home. To them the opulent cities of the Chinese had proved as fatal as Capua to the army of the Carthaginian, and, as the self-immolations of Chapoo and Chinkiangfoo proved to have no successors, they showed themselves unworthy of the empire won by their ancestors. For the first time since the revolt of Wou Sankwei, the Manchus were brought face to face with a danger threatening their right of conquest; yet on the eve of the Taeping Rebellion all Hienfung could think of to oppose his foes with was fine words as to his shortcomings and lavish promises of amendment.

Among the secret societies the Triads were the first to give a political and dynastic significance to their propaganda. The opening sentence of the oath of membership read as follows: "We combine everywhere to recall the Ming and exterminate the barbarians, cut off the Tsing and await the right prince." But as there were none of the Mings left, and as their name had lost whatever hold it may have possessed on the minds of the Chinese people, this proclaimed object tended rather to deter than to invite recruits to the society. Yet if any secret society shared in the origination of the Taeping Rebellion that credit belongs to the Triads, whose anti-Manchu literature enjoyed a wide circulation through Southern China, and they may have had a large share in drafting the programme that the Taeping leader, Tien Wang, attempted to carry out.

The individual on whom that exalted title was subsequently bestowed had a very common origin, and sprang from an inferior race. Hung-tsiuen, such was his own name, was the son of a small farmer near Canton, and he was a hakka, a despised race of tramps who bear some resemblance to our gypsies. He was born in the year 1813, and he seems to have passed all his examinations with special credit; but the prejudice on account of his birth prevented his obtaining any employment in the civil service of his country. He was therefore a disappointed aspirant to office, and at such a period it was not surprising that he should have become an enemy of the constituted authorities and the government. As he could not be the servant of the state he set himself the ambitious task of being its master, and with this object in view he resorted to religious practices in order to acquire a popular reputation, and a following among the masses. He took up his residence in a Buddhist monastery; and the ascetic deprivations, the loud prayers and invocations, the supernatural counsels and meetings, were the course of training which every religious devotee adopts as the proper novitiate for those honors based on the superstitious reverence of mankind which are sometimes no inadequate substitute for temporal power and influence, even when they fail to pave the way to their attainment. He left his place of seclusion to place himself at the head of the largest party of rebels, who had made their headquarters in the remote province of Kwangsi, and he there proclaimed himself as Tien Wang, which means the Heavenly Prince, and as an aspirant to the imperial dignity. Gradually the rebels acquired possession of the whole of the territory south of the Canton River, and when they captured the strong and important military station at Nanning the emperor sent three commissioners, one of them being his principal minister Saichangah, to bring them to reason, but the result was not encouraging, and although the Taepings were repulsed in their attempt on Kweiling, they remained masters of the open part of the province. One of the Chinese officers had the courage to write and tell the emperor that "the outlaws were neither exterminated nor made prisoners." Notwithstanding the enormous expenditure on the war and the collection of a large body of troops the imperial forces made no real progress in crushing the rebels. Fear or inexperience prevented them from coming at once to close quarters with the Taepings, when their superior numbers must have decided the struggle in their favor and nipped a most formidable rebellion in the bud. That some of Hienfung's officers realized the position can be gathered from the following letter, written at this period by a Chinese mandarin: "The whole country swarms with rebels. Our funds are nearly at an end, and our troops few; our officers disagree, and the power is not concentrated. The commander of the forces wants to extinguish a burning wagonload of fagots with a cupful of water. I fear we shall hereafter have some serious affair—that the great body will rise against us, and our own people leave us." The military operations in Kwangsi languished during two years, although the tide of war declared itself, on the whole, against the imperialists; but the rebels themselves were exposed to this danger—that they were exclusively dependent on the resources of the province, and that these being exhausted, they were in danger of being compelled to retire into Tonquin. It was at this exceedingly critical moment that Tien Wang showed himself an able leader of men by coming to the momentous decision to march out of Kwangsi, and invade the vast and yet untouched provinces of Central China. If the step was more the pressure of dire need than the inspiration of genius, it none the less forms the real turning-point in the rebellion.

Tien Wang announced his decision by issuing a proclamation, in the course of which he declared that he had received "the Divine commission to exterminate the Manchus, and to possess the empire as its true sovereign"; and, as it was also at this time that his followers became commonly known as Taepings, it may be noted that the origin of this name is somewhat obscure. According to the most plausible explanation it is derived from the small town of that name, situated in the southwest corner of the province of Kwangsi, where the rebel movement seems to have commenced. Another derivation gives it as the style of the dynasty which Tien Wang hoped to found, and its meaning as "Universal peace." Having called in all his outlying detachments and proclaimed his five principal lieutenants by titles which have been rendered as the northern, southern, eastern, western and assistant kings, Tien Wang began his northern march in April, 1852. At the town of Yungan, on the eastern borders of the province of Kwangsi, where he seems to have hesitated between an attack on Canton and the invasion of Hoonan, an event occurred which threatened to break up his force. The Triad chiefs, who had allied themselves with Tien Wang, were superior in knowledge and station to the immediate followers of the Taeping leader, and they took offense at the arrogance of his lieutenants after they had been elevated to the rank of kings. These officers, who possessed no claim to the dignity they had received, assumed the yellow dress and insignia of Chinese royalty, and looked down on all their comrades, especially the Triad organizers, who thought themselves the true originators of the rebellion. Irritated by this treatment, the Triads took their sudden and secret departure from the Taeping camp, and hastened to make their peace with the imperialists. Of these Triads one chief, named Chang Kwoliang, received an important command, and played a considerable part in the later stages of the struggle.

The defection of the Triads put an end to the idea of attacking Canton, and the Taepings marched to attack Kweiling, where the Imperial Commissioners still remained. Tien Wang's assault was repulsed with some loss, and, afraid of discouraging his troops by any further attempt to seize so strong a place, he marched into Hoonan. Had the imperial commanders, who had shown no inconsiderable capacity in defense, exhibited as much energy in offensive measures, they might then and there have annihilated the power of the Taepings. Had they pursued the Taeping army they might have harassed its rear, delayed its progress, and eventually brought it to a decisive engagement at the most favorable moment. But the Imperial Commissioners did nothing, being apparently well satisfied with having rid themselves of such troublesome neighbors. The advance of the Taepings across the vast province of Hoonan was almost unopposed. The towns were unprepared to resist an assailant, and it was not until Tien Wang reached the provincial capital, Changsha, that he encountered any resistance worthy of the name. Some vigorous preparations had been made here to resist the rebels. Not merely was there a garrison in the place, but it so happened that Tseng Kwofan, a man of considerable ability and of an influential family, was residing near the town. Tseng had held several offices in the public service, and, as a member of the Hanlin, enjoyed a high position and reputation; but he happened to be at his own home in retirement in consequence of the death of a near relation when tidings of the approaching Taepings reached him, and he at once made himself responsible for the defense of Changsha. He threw himself with all the forces his influence or resources enabled him to collect into that town, and at the same time he ordered all the militia of the province to collect and harass the enemy. He called upon all those who had the means to show their duty to the state and sovereign by raising recruits or by promising rewards to those volunteers who would serve in the army against the rebels. Had the example of Tseng Kwofan been generally followed, it is not too much to say that the Taepings would never have got to Nankin. When the rebels reached Changsha, therefore, they found the gates closed, the walls manned, and the town victualed for a siege. They attempted to starve the place into surrender, and to frighten the garrison into yielding by threats of extermination; but when these efforts failed they delivered three separate assaults, all of which were repulsed. After a siege of eighty days, and having suffered very considerable losses, the Taepings abandoned the attack, and on the 1st of December resumed their march northward, which, if information could have been rapidly transmitted, would have soon resulted in their overthrow. On breaking up from before Changsha they succeeded in seizing a sufficient number of junks and boats to cross the great inland lake of Tungting, and on reaching the Yangtsekiang at Yochow they found that the imperial garrison had fled at the mere mention of their approach. The capture of Yochow was important, because the Taepings acquired there an important arsenal of much-needed weapons and a large supply of gunpowder, which was said to have been the property of Wou Sankwei. Thus, well equipped and supplying their other deficiencies by celerity of movement, they attacked the important city of Hankow, which surrendered without a blow. The scarcely less important town of Wouchang, on the southern and opposite bank of the river, was then attacked, and carried after a siege of a fortnight. The third town of Hanyang, which forms, with the others, the most important industrial and commercial hive in Central China, also surrendered without any attempt at resistance, and this striking success at once restored the sinking courage of the Taepings, and made the danger from them to the dynasty again wear an aspect of the most pressing importance.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the effect of this success on the spirits of the Taepings, who had been seriously discouraged before they achieved this gratifying result. The capture of these towns removed all their most serious causes of doubt, and enabled them to repay themselves for the losses and hardships they had undergone, while it also showed that the enterprise they had in hand was not likely to prove unprofitable. After one month's rest at Hankow, and having been joined by many thousands of new followers, the Taepings resolved to pursue their onward course. To tell the truth, they were still apprehensive of pursuit from Tseng Kwofan, who had been joined by the Triad loader, Chang Kwoliang; but there was no ground for the fear, as these officials considered themselves tied to their own province, and unfortunately the report of the success of the imperialists in Hoonan blinded people to the danger in the Yangtse Valley from the Taepings. The Taepings resumed active operations with the capture of Kiukiang and Ganking, and in March, 1853, they sat down before Nankin. The siege continued for a fortnight, but notwithstanding that there was a large Manchu force in the Tartar city, which might easily have been defended against an enemy without artillery, the resistance offered was singularly and unexpectedly faint-hearted. The Taepings succeeded in blowing in one of the gates, the townspeople fraternized with the assailants, and the very Manchus who had defied Sir Hugh Gough in 1842 surrendered their lives and their honor to a force which was nothing more than an armed rabble. The Tartar colony at Nankin, numbering 2,000 families, had evidently lost the courage and discipline which could alone enable them to maintain their position in China. Instead of dying at their posts they threw themselves on the mercy of the Taeping leader, imploring him for pity and for their lives when the gate was blown in by Tien Wang's soldiery. Their cowardice helped them not; of 20,000 Manchus not one hundred escaped. The tale rests on undoubted evidence. A Taeping who took part in the massacre said, "We killed them all, to the infant in arms; we left not a root to sprout from, and the bodies of the slain we cast into the Yangtse."

The acquisition of Nankin at once made the Taepings a formidable rival to the Manchus, and Tien Wang a contestant with Hienfung for imperial honors. The possession of the second city in the empire gave them the complete control of the navigation of the Yangtsekiang, and thus enabled them to cut off communications between the north and the south of China. To attain this object in a still more perfect manner they occupied Chinkiangfoo at the entrance to the Grand Canal. They also seized Yangchow on the northern bank of the river immediately opposite the place where Sir Hugh Gough had gained his decisive victory in 1842. Such was the terror of the Taepings that the imperial garrisons did not attempt the least resistance, and town after town was evacuated at their approach. Tien Wang, encouraged by his success, transferred his headquarters from Hankow to Nankin, and proclaimed the old Ming city his capital. By rapidity and an extraordinary combination of fortunate circumstances, the Taepings had advanced from the remote province of Kwangsi into the heart of the empire, but it was clear that unless they could follow up their success by some blow to the central government they would lose all they had gained as soon as the Manchus recovered their confidence. At a council of war at Nankin it was decided to send an army against Pekin as soon as Nankin had been placed in a proper state to undergo a protracted siege. Provisions were collected to stand a siege for six or seven years, the walls were repaired and fresh batteries erected. By the end of May, 1853, these preparations were completed, and as the Taeping army had then been raised to a total of 80,000 men, it was decided that a large part of it could be spared for operations north of the Yangtsekiang. That army was increased to a very large total by volunteers who thought an expedition to humble the Manchus at the capital promised much glory and spoil. The progress of this northern army very closely resembled that of the Taepings from Kwangsi to Nankin. They overran the open country, and none of the imperial troops ventured to oppose them, but when any Manchu officer showed valor in defending a walled city they were fain to admit their inadequate engineering skill and military capacity. They attacked Kaifong, the capital of Honan, but were repulsed, and pursuing their former tactics continued their march to Pekin. Having crossed the Hoangho they attacked Hwaiking, where, after being delayed two months, they met with as signal a repulse as at Kaifong. Notwithstanding this further reverse, the Taepings pressed on, and defeating a Manchu force in the Lin Limming Pass, they entered the metropolitan province of Pechihli in September, 1853. The object of their march was plain. Not only did they mystify the emperor's generals, but they passed through an untouched country where supplies were abundant, and they thus succeeded in coming within striking distance of Pekin in almost as fresh a state as when they left Nankin. Such was the effect produced by their capture of the Limming Pass that none of the towns in the southern part of the province attempted any resistance, and they reached Tsing, only twenty miles south of Tientsin, and less than a hundred from Pekin, before the end of October. This place marked the northern limit of Taeping progress, and a reflex wave of Manchu energy bore back the rebels to the Yangtse.

The forcing of the Limming Pass carried confusion and terror into the imperial palace and capital. The fate of the dynasty seemed to tremble in the balance at the hands of a ruthless and determined enemy. There happened to be very few troops in Pekin at the time, and levies had to be hastily summoned from Mongolia. If the Taepings had only shown the same enterprise and rapidity of movement that they had exhibited up to this point, there is no saying that the central government would not have been subverted and the Manchu family extinguished as completely as the Mings. But fortunately for Hienfung, an unusual apathy fell upon the Taepings, who remained halted at Tsing until the Mongol levies had arrived, under their great chief, Sankolinsin. They seem to have been quite exhausted by their efforts, and after one reverse in the open field they retired to their fortified camp at Tsinghai, and sent messengers to Tien Wang for succor. In this camp they were closely beleaguered by Sankolinsin from October, 1853, to March, 1854, when their provisions being exhausted they cut their way out and began their retreat in a southerly direction. They would undoubtedly have been exterminated but for the timely arrival of a relieving army from Nankin. The Taepings then captured Lintsing, which remained their headquarters for some months; but during the remainder of the year 1854 their successes were few and unimportant. They were vigilantly watched by the imperial troops, which had expelled them from the whole of the province of Shantung before March, 1855. Their numbers were thinned by disease as well as loss in battle, and of the two armies sent to capture Pekin only a small fragment ever regained Nankin. While these events were in progress in the region north of Nankin, the Taepings had been carrying their arms up the Yangtsekiang as far as Ichang, and eastward from Nankin to the sea. These efforts were not always successful, and Tien Wang's arms experienced as many reverses as successes. The important city of Kanchang, the capital of the province of Kiangsi, was besieged by them for four months, and after many attempts to carry it by storm the Taepings were compelled to abandon the task. They were more successful at Hankow, which they recovered after a siege of eighty days. They again evacuated this town, and yet once again, in 1855, wrested it from an imperial garrison.

The establishment of Taeping power at Nankin and the rumor of its rapid extension in every direction had drawn the attention of Europeans to the new situation thus created in China, and had aroused opposite opinions in different sections of the foreign community. While the missionaries were disposed to regard the Taepings as the regenerators of China, and as the champions of Christianity, the merchants only saw in them the disturbers of peace and the enemies of commerce. To such an extent did the latter anticipate the ruin of their trade that they petitioned the consuls to suspend, if not withhold, the payment of the stipulated customs to the Chinese authorities. This proposed breach of treaty was emphatically rejected, and the consuls enjoined the absolute necessity of preserving a strict neutrality between the Taepings and the imperial forces. But at the same time it became necessary to acquaint the Taeping ruler with the fact that he would be expected to observe the provisions of the Treaty of Nankin as scrupulously as if he were sovereign of China or a Manchu viceroy. Sir George Bonham, the superintendent of trade and the governor of Hongkong, determined to proceed in person to Nankin, in order to acquaint the Taepings with what would be expected from them, and also to gain necessary information as to their strength and importance by personal observation. But unfortunately this step of Sir George Bonham tended to help the Taepings by increasing their importance and spreading about the belief that the Europeans recognized in them the future ruling power of China. It was not intended to be, but it was none the less, an unfriendly act to the Pekin government, and as it produced absolutely no practical result with the Taepings themselves, it was distinctly a mistaken measure. Its only excuse was that the imperial authorities were manifesting an increasing inclination to enlist the support of Europeans against the rebels, and it was desirable that accurate information should be obtained beforehand. The Taotai of Shanghai even presented a request for the loan of the man-of-war at that port, and when he was informed that we intended to remain strictly neutral, the decision was also come to to inform the Taepings of this fact. Therefore in April, 1853, before the army had left for the northern campaign, Sir George Bonham sailed for Nankin in the "Hermes" man-of-war. On the twenty-seventh of that month the vessel anchored off Nankin, and several interviews were held with the Taeping Wangs, of whom the Northern King was at this time the most influential. The negotiations lasted a week, and they had no result. It was soon made apparent that the Taepings were as exclusive and impracticable as the worst Manchu mandarin, and that they regarded the Europeans as an inferior and subject people. Sir George Bonham failed to establish any direct communication with Tien Wang, who had by this retired into private life, and while it was given out that he was preparing sacred books he was really abandoning himself to the pursuit of profligacy. There is nothing to cause surprise in the fact that the apathy of Tien Wang led to attempts to supersede him in his authority. The Eastern King in particular posed as the delegate of Heaven. He declared that he had interviews with the celestial powers when in a trance, he assumed the title of the Holy Ghost or the Comforter, and he censured Tien Wang for his shortcomings, and even inflicted personal chastisement upon him. If he had had a following he might have become the despot of the Taepings, but as he offended all alike his career was cut short by a conspiracy among the other Wangs, who, notwithstanding his heavenly conferences, murdered him.

At this period one of the most brilliant military exploits of the Taepings was performed, and as it served to introduce the real hero of the whole movement, it may be described in more detail than the other operations, which were conducted in a desultory manner, and which were unredeemed by any exhibition of courage or military capacity. The government had succeeded in placing two considerable armies in the field. One numbering 40,000 men, under the command of Hochun and the ex-Triad Chang Kwoliang, watched Nankin, while the other, commanded by a Manchu general, laid close siege to Chankiang, which seemed on the point of surrender. The Taepings at Nankin determined to effect its relief, and a large force was placed under the orders of an officer named Li, but whom it will be more convenient to designate by the title subsequently conferred on him of Chung Wang, or the Faithful King. His energy and courage had already attracted favorable notice, and the manner in which he executed the difficult operation intrusted to him fully established his reputation. By a concerted movement with the Taeping commandant of Chankiang, he attacked the imperialist lines at the same time as the garrison made a sortie, and the result was a decisive victory. Sixteen stockades were carried by assault, and the Manchu army was driven away from the town which seemed to lie at its mercy. But this success promised only to be momentary, for the imperialist forces, collecting from all sides, barred the way back to Nankin, while the other Manchu army drew nearer to that city, and its general seemed to meditate attacking Tien Wang in his capital. An imperative summons was sent to Chung Wang to return to Nankin. As the imperialist forces were for the most part on the southern side of the river, Chung Wang crossed to the northern bank and began his march to Nankin. He had not proceeded far when he found that the imperialists had also crossed over to meet him, and that his progress was arrested by their main army under Chang Kwoliang. With characteristic decision and rapidity he then regained the southern bank, and falling on the weakened imperialists gained so considerable a victory that the Manchu commander felt bound to commit suicide. After some further fighting he made good his way back to Nankin. But when he arrived there the tyrant Tung Wang refused to admit him into the city until he had driven away the main imperialist army, which had been placed under the command of Hienfung's generalissimo, Heang Yung, and which had actually seized one of the gates of the city. Although Chung Wang's troops were exhausted they attacked the government troops with great spirit, and drove them back as far as Tanyang, where, however, they succeeded in holding their ground, notwithstanding his repeated efforts to dislodge them. Heang Yung, taking his misfortune too deeply to heart, committed suicide, and thus deprived the emperor of at least a brave officer. But with this success the Taeping tide of victory reached its end, for Chang Kwoliang arriving with the other imperialist army, the whole force fell upon Chung Wang and drove him back into the city with the loss of 700 of his best men, so that the result left of Chung Wang's campaign was the relief of Chankiang and the return to the status quo at Nankin. It was immediately after these events that Tung Wang was assassinated, and scenes of blood followed which resulted in the massacre of 20,000 persons and the disappearance of all, except one, of the Wangs whom Tien Wang had created on the eve of his enterprise. Chung Wang seems to have had no part in these intrigues and massacres, and there is little doubt that if the imperialist commanders had taken prompt advantage of them the Taepings might have been crushed at that moment, or ten years earlier than proved to be the case.

While the main Taeping force was thus causing serious danger to the existing government of China, its offshoots or imitators were emulating its example in the principal treaty ports, which brought the rebels into contact with the Europeans. The Chinese officials, without any military power on which they could rely, had endeavored to maintain order among the turbulent classes of the population by declaring that the English were the allies of the emperor, and that they would come to his aid with their formidable engines of war if there were any necessity. Undoubtedly this threat served its turn and kept the turbulent quiet for a certain period; but when it could no longer be concealed that the English were determined to take no part in the struggle, the position of the government was weakened by the oft-repeated declaration that they mainly relied on the support of the foreigners. The first outbreak occurred at Amoy in May, 1853, when some thousand marauders, under an individual named Magay, seized the town and held it until the following November. The imperialists returned in sufficient force in that month and regained possession of the town, when, unfortunately for their reputation, they avenged their expulsion in a particularly cruel and indiscriminating fashion Many thousand citizens were executed without any form of trial, and the arrest of the slaughter was entirely due to the intervention of the English naval officer at Amoy. The rising at Shanghai was of a more serious character, and took a much longer time to suppress. As the European settlement there was threatened with a far more imminent danger than anywhere else, preparations to defend it began in April, 1853, and under the auspices of the consul, Mr. Rutherford Alcock, the residents were formed into a volunteer corps, and the men-of-war drawn up so as to effectually cover the whole settlement. These precautions were taken in good time, for nothing happened to disturb the peace until the following September. The Triads were undoubtedly the sole instigators of the rising, and the Taepings of Nankin were in no sense responsible for, or participators in it. They seized the Taotai's official residence, and as his guard deserted him, that officer barely escaped with his life. Other officials were not so fortunate, but on the whole Shanghai was acquired by the rebels with very little bloodshed. In a few hours this important Chinese city passed into the hands of a lawless and refractory mob, who lived on the plunder of the townspeople, and who were ripe for any mischief. The European settlement was placed meantime in a position of efficient defense, and although the Triads wished to have the spoil of its rich factories, they very soon decided that the enterprise would be too risky, if not impossible.

After some weeks' inaction the imperialist forces, gathering from all quarters, proceeded to invest the marauders in Shanghai, and had the attack been conducted with any degree of military skill and vigor they must have succumbed at the first onset. But, owing to the pusillanimity of the emperor's officers and their total ignorance of the military art, the siege went on for an indefinite period, and twelve months after it began seemed as far off conclusion as ever.

While the imperialists laboriously constructed their lines and batteries they never ceased to importune the Europeans for assistance, and as it became clearer that the persons in possession of Shanghai were a mob rather than a power, the desire increased among the foreigners generally to put an end to what was an intolerable position. On this occasion the French took an initiative which had previously been left to the English. The French settlement at Shanghai consisted at this time of a consulate, a cathedral, and one house, but as it was situated nearest the walls of the Chinese city it was most exposed to the fire of the besiegers and besieged. In consequence of this the French admiral, Laguerre, determined to take a part in the struggle, and erecting a battery in the French settlement, proceeded to bombard the rebels on one side of the city while the imperialists attacked it on another. Although the bombardment was vigorous and effective, the loss inflicted on the insurgents was inconsiderable, because they had erected an earthwork behind the main wall of the place, and every day the Triads challenged the French to come on to the assault. At last a breach was declared to be practicable, and 400 French sailors and marines were landed to carry it, while the imperialists, wearing blue sashes to distinguish them from the rebels, escaladed the walls at another point. But the assault was premature, for, although the assailants gained the inside of the fortification, they could not advance. The insurgents fought desperately behind the earthworks and in the streets, and after four hours' fighting they put the whole imperialist force to flight. The French were carried along by their disheartened allies who, allowing race hatred to overcome a temporary arrangement, even fired on them, and when Admiral Laguerre reckoned up the cost of his intervention he found it amounted to four officers and sixty men killed and wounded. Such was the result of the French attack on Shanghai, and it taught the lesson that even good European troops cannot ignore the recognized rules and precautions of war. After this engagement the siege languished, and the French abstained from taking any further part in it. But the imperialists continued their attack in their own bungling but persistent fashion, and at last the insurgents, having failed to obtain the favorable terms they demanded, made a desperate sortie, when a few made their way to the foreign settlement, where they found safety, but by far the greater number perished by the sword of the imperialists. More than 1,500 insurgents were captured and executed along the highroads, but the two leaders of the movement escaped, one of them to attain great fortune as a merchant in Siam. The imperialists unfortunately sullied their success by grave excesses and by the cruel treatment of the unoffending townspeople, who were made to suffer for the original incapacity and cowardice of the officials themselves. At Canton, which was also visited by the Triads in June, 1854, matters took a different course. The Chinese merchants and shopkeepers combined and raised a force for their own protection, and these well-paid braves effectually kept the insurgents out of Canton. They, however, seized the neighboring town of Fatshan, where the manufacturing element was in strong force, and but for the unexpected energy of the Cantonese they would undoubtedly have seized the larger city too, as the government authorities were not less apathetic here than at Shanghai. The disturbed condition of things continued until February, 1855, when the wholesale executions by which its suppression was marked, and during which a hundred thousand persons are said to have perished, ceased.

The events have now been passed in review which marked the beginning and growth of the Taeping Rebellion, from the time of its being a local rising in the province of Kwangsi to the hour of its leader being installed as a ruling prince in the ancient city of Nankin. But from the growing Taeping Rebellion, which we have now followed down to the year 1856, our attention must be directed to the more serious and important foreign question which had again reached a crisis, and which would not wait on the convenience of the Celestial emperor and his advisers.



CHAPTER XIX

THE SECOND FOREIGN WAR

The events which caused the second foreign war began to come into evidence immediately after the close of the first; and for the sake of clearness and brevity they have been left for consideration to the same chapter, although they happened while Taoukwang was emperor. After the departure of Sir Henry Pottinger, who was succeeded by Sir John Davis, and the arrival of the representatives of the other European powers, who hastened to claim the same rights and privileges as had been accorded to England, the main task to be accomplished was to practically assert the rights that had been theoretically secured, and to place the relations of the two nations on what may be called a working basis. The consulates were duly appointed, the necessary land for the foreign settlements was acquired, and the war indemnity being honorably discharged, Chusan was restored to the Chinese. With regard to the last matter there was some maneuvering of a not altogether creditable nature, and although the Chinese paid the last installment punctually to date, Chusan and Kulangsu were not evacuated for some months after the stipulated time. It was said that our hesitation in the former case was largely due to the fear that France would seize it; but this has been permanently removed by the expressed assertion of our prior right to occupy it. A far more gratifying subject is suggested by the harmony of the relations which were established in Chusan between the garrison under Sir Colin Campbell and the islanders, who expressed deep regret at the departure of the English troops. The first members of the consular staff in China were as follows: Mr. G. T. Lay was consul at Canton, Captain George Balfour at Shanghai (where, however, he was soon succeeded by Sir Rutherford Alcock), Mr. Henry Gribble at Ainoy, and Mr. Robert Thorn at Ningpo. Among the interpreters were the future Sir Thomas Wade and Sir Harry Parkes. Various difficulties presented themselves with regard to the foreign settlements, and the island of Kulangsu at Amoy had to be evacuated because its name was not mentioned in the treaty. At Canton also an attempt was made to extend the boundaries of the foreign settlement by taking advantage of a great conflagration, but in this attempt the Europeans were baffled by the superior quickness of the Chinese, who constructed their new houses in a single night. These incidents showed that the sharpness was not all on one side, and that if the Chinese were backward in conceding what might be legitimately demanded, the Europeans were not averse to snatching an advantage if they saw the chance.

The turbulence of the Canton populace, over whom the officials possessed but a nominal control, was a constant cause of disagreement and trouble. In the spring of 1846 a riot was got up by the mob on the excuse that a vane erected on the top of the flagstaff over the American Consulate interfered with the Fung Shui, or spirits of earth and air; and although it was removed to allay the excitement of the superstitious, the disturbance continued, and several personal encounters took place, in one of which a Chinese was killed. The Chinese mandarins, incited by the mob, demanded the surrender of the man who fired the shot; and that they should have made such a demand, after they had formally accepted and recognized the jurisdiction of consular courts, furnished strong evidence that they had not mastered the lessons of the late war or reconciled themselves to the provisions of the Treaty of Nankin. The fortunate arrival of Keying to "amicably regulate the commerce with foreign countries" smoothed over this difficulty, and the excitement of the Canton mob was allayed without any surrender. It was almost at this precise moment, too, that Taoukwang made the memorable admission that the Christian religion might be tolerated as one inculcating the principles of virtue. But the two pressing and practical difficulties in the foreign question were the opening of the gates of Canton and the right of foreigners to proceed beyond the limits of their factories and compounds. The Chinese wished for many reasons, perhaps even for the safety of the foreigners, to confine them to their settlements, and it might be plausibly argued that the treaty supported this construction. Of course such confinement was intolerable, and English merchants and others would not be prevented from making boating or shooting excursions in the neighborhood of the settlements. The Chinese authorities opposed these excursions, and before long a collision occurred with serious consequences. In March, 1847, a small party of Englishmen proceeded in a boat to Fatshan, a manufacturing town near Canton which has been called the Chinese Birmingham. On reaching the place symptoms of hostility were at once manifested, and the Europeans withdrew for safety to the yamen of the chief magistrate, who happened unfortunately to be away. By this time the populace had got very excited, and the Englishmen were with difficulty escorted in safety to their boat. The Chinese, however, pelted them with stones, notwithstanding the efforts of the chief officer, who had by this time returned and taken the foreigners under his protection. It was due to his great heroism that they escaped with their lives and without any serious injury.

The incident, unpleasant in itself, might have been explained away and closed without untoward consequences if Sir John Davis had not seized, as he thought, a good opportunity of procuring greater liberty and security for Englishmen at Canton. He refused to see in this affair an accident, but denounced it as an outrage, and proclaimed "that he would exact and require from the Chinese government that British subjects should be as free from molestation and insult in China as they would be in England." This demand was both unreasonable and unjust. It was impossible that the hated foreigner, or "foreign devil," as he was called, could wander about the country in absolute security when the treaty wrung from the emperor as the result of an arduous war confined him to five ports, and limited the emperor's capacity to extend protection to those places. But Sir John Davis determined to take this occasion of forcing events, so that he might compel the Chinese to afford greater liberty to his countrymen, and thus hasten the arrival of the day for the opening of the gates of Canton. On the 1st of April all the available troops at Hongkong were warned for immediate service, and on the following day the two regiments in garrison left in three steamers and escorted by one man-of-war to attack Canton. They landed at the Bogue forts, seized the batteries without opposition and spiked the guns. The Chinese troops, whether surprised or acting under orders from Keying, made no attempt at resistance. Not a shot was fired, not a man was injured among the assailants. The forts near Canton, the very batteries on the island opposite the city, were captured without a blow, and on the 3d of April, 1847, Canton again lay at the mercy of an English force. Sir John Davis then published another notice, stating that "he felt that the moderation and justice of all his former dealings with the government of China lend a perfect sanction to measures which he has been reluctantly compelled to adopt after a long course of misinterpreted forbearance," and made certain demands of the Chinese authorities which may be epitomized as follows: The City of Canton to be opened at two years' date from April 6, 1847; Englishman to be at liberty to roam for exercise or amusement in the neighborhood of the city on the one condition that they returned the same day; and some minor conditions, to which no exception could be taken. After brief consideration, and notwithstanding the clamor of the Cantonese to be led against the foreigners, Keying agreed to the English demands, although he delivered a side-thrust at the high-handed proceedings of the English officer when he said, "If a mutual tranquillity is to subsist between the Chinese and foreigners, the common feelings of mankind, as well as the just principles of Heaven, must be considered and conformed with."

Keying, by the terms of his convention with Sir John Davis, had agreed that the gates of Canton were to be opened on April 6, 1849, but the nearer that day approached the more doubtful did it appear whether the promise would be complied with, and whether, in the event of refusal, it would be wise to have recourse to compulsion. The officials on both sides were unfeignedly anxious for a pacific solution, but trade was greatly depressed in consequence of the threatening demeanor of the Canton populace. There was scarcely any doubt that the Chinese authorities did not possess the power to compel obedience on the part of the Cantonese to an order to admit Europeans into their city, and on the question being referred to Taoukwang he made an oracular reply which was interpreted as favoring the popular will. "That," he said, "to which the hearts of the people incline is that on which the decree of Heaven rests. Now the people of Kwantung are unanimous and determined that they will not have foreigners enter the city; and how can I post up everywhere my imperial order and force an opposite course on the people?" The English government was disposed to show great forbearance and refrained from opposing Taoukwang's views. But although the matter was allowed to drop, the right acquired by the convention with Keying was not surrendered; and, as Taoukwang had never formally ratified the promise of that minister, it was considered that there had been no distinct breach of faith on the part of the Chinese government. The Chinese continued to cling tenaciously to their rights, and to contest inch by inch every concession demanded by the Europeans, and sometimes they were within their written warrant in doing so. Such a case happened at Foochow shortly after the accession of Hienfung, when an attempt was made to prevent foreigners residing in that town, and after a long correspondence it was discovered that the Chinese were so far right, as the treaty specified as the place of foreign residence the kiangkan or mart at the mouth of the river, and not the ching or town itself. It was at this critical moment that the Chinese were attracted in large numbers by the discovery of gold in California and Australia to emigrate from China, and they showed themselves well capable by their trade organization and close union of obtaining full justice for themselves and an ample recognition of all their rights in foreign countries. The effect of this emigration on Chinese public opinion was much less than might have been expected, and the settlement of the foreign question was in no way simplified or expedited by their influence.

The position of affairs at Canton could not, by the greatest stretch of language, be pronounced satisfactory. The populace was unequivocally hostile; the officials had the greatest difficulty in making their authority respected, and the English government was divided between the desire to enforce the stipulation as to the opening of the Canton gates, and the fear lest insistence might result in a fresh and serious rupture. Sir George Bonham, who succeeded Sir John Davis, gave counsels of moderation, and when he found that some practical propositions which he made for improved intercourse were rejected he became more convinced that the question must wait for solution for a more convenient and promising occasion.

In 1852 Sir George Bonham returned to England on leave, and his place was taken by Dr. John Bowring, who had officiated for a short period as consul at Canton. His instructions were of a simple and positive character. They were "to avoid all irritating discussions with the authorities of China." He was also directed to avoid pushing arguments on doubtful points in a manner that would fetter the free action of the government; but he was, at the same time, to recollect that it was his duty to carefully watch over and insist upon the performance by the Chinese authorities of their engagements. The proper fulfillment of the latter duty necessarily involved some infringement of the former recommendation; and while the paramount consideration with the Foreign Office was to keep things quiet, it was natural that the official on the spot should think a great deal, if not altogether, of how best to obtain compliance to the fullest extent with the pledges given in the treaty and the subsequent conventions. Dr. Bowring was not an official to be deterred from expressing his opinions by fear of headquarters. He sent home his view of the situation, expressed in very clear and intelligible language. "The Pottinger treaties," he said, "inflicted a deep wound upon the pride, but by no means altered the policy, of the Chinese government.... Their purpose is now, as it ever was, not to invite, not to facilitate, but to impede and resist the access of foreigners. It must, then, ever be borne in mind, in considering the state of our relations with these regions, that the two governments have objects at heart which are diametrically opposed, except in so far that both earnestly desire to avoid all hostile action, and to make its own policy, as far as possible, subordinate to that desire." At this point a Liberal administration gave place to a Conservative; but Lord Malmesbury reiterated in stronger language the instructions of Lord Granville. "All irritating discussions with the Chinese should be avoided, and the existing good understanding must in no way be imperiled." One of Dr. Bowring's first acts was to write a letter to the viceroy expressing a desire for an interview, with the object of suggesting a settlement of pending difficulties; but the viceroy made his excuses. The meeting did not take place, and the whole question remained dormant for two years, by which time not only had Sir John Bowring been knighted and confirmed in the post of governor, but the viceroy had been superseded by the subsequently notorious Commissioner Yeh. Up to this point all Sir John Bowring's suggestions with regard to the settlement of the questions pending with the Chinese had been received with the official reply that he was to abstain from all action, and that he was not to press himself on the Canton authorities. But, in the beginning of 1854, his instructions were so far modified that Lord Clarendon wrote admitting the desirability of "free and unrestricted intercourse with the Chinese officials," and of "admission into some of the cities of China, especially Canton."

Encouraged by these admissions in favor of the views he had been advancing for some time, Sir John Bowring wrote an official letter to Commissioner Yeh inviting him to an early interview, but stating that the interview must be held within the city of Canton at the viceroy's yamen. It will be noted that what Sir John asked fell short of what Keying had promised. The opening of the gates of Canton was to have been to all Englishmen, but the English government would at this point have been satisfied if its representative had been granted admission for the purpose of direct negotiation with the Chinese authorities. To the plain question put to him Yeh returned an evasive answer. All his time was taken up with the military affairs of the province, and he absolutely ignored the proposal for holding an interview within the city. The matter had gone too far to be put on one side in this manner, and Sir John Bowring sent his secretary to overcome, if possible, the repugnance of Commissioner Yeh to the interview, and in any case to gain some information as to his objections. As the secretary could only see mandarins of very inferior rank he returned to Hongkong without acquiring any very definite information, but he learned enough to say that Yeh denied that Keying's arrangement possessed any validity. The Chinese case was that it had been allowed to drop on both sides, and the utmost concession Yeh would make was to agree to an interview at the Jinsin Packhouse outside the city walls. This proposition was declared to be inadmissible, when Yeh ironically remarked that he must consequently assume that "Sir John Bowring did not wish for an interview." It was hoped to overcome Chinese finesse with counter finesse, and Sir John Bowring hastened to Shanghai with the object of establishing direct relations with the viceroy of the Two Kiang. After complaining of the want of courtesy evinced by Yeh throughout his correspondence, he expressed the wish to negotiate with any of the other high officials of the empire. The reply of Eleang, who held this post, and who was believed to be well disposed to Europeans, did not advance matters. He had no authority, he said, in the matter, and could not interfere in what was not his concern. Commissioner Yeh was the official appointed by the emperor to conduct relations with the foreigners, and no other official could assume his functions. Sir John Bowring therefore returned to Hongkong without having effected anything by his visit to Shanghai, but at this moment the advance of the rebels to the neighborhood of Canton seemed likely to effect a diversion that might have important consequences. In a state of apprehension as to the safety of the town, Yeh applied to Sir John Bowring for assistance against the rebels, but this could not be granted, and Sir John Bowring only proceeded to Canton to superintend the preparations made for the defense of the English settlement at that place. All the consuls issued a joint proclamation declaring their intention to remain neutral. The prompt suppression of the rebellion, so far as any danger to Canton went, restored the confidence of the Chinese authorities, and they reverted to their old position on the question of the opening of the gates of Canton.

In June, 1855, Sir John Bowring returned to the subject of official interviews, and made an explicit demand for the reception if not of himself, then at least of the consul at Canton. Yeh took his time before he made any reply, and when he did send one it was to the effect that there was no precedent for an interview with a consul, and that as Sir John had refused to meet him outside the city there was an end of the matter. Mr. Harry Parkes succeeded Mr. Alcock as consul at Canton, and no inconsiderable amount of tact was required to carry on relations with officials who refused to show themselves. But the evil day of open collision could not be averted, and the antagonism caused by clashing views and interests at last broke forth on a point which would have been promptly settled, had there been direct intercourse between the English and Chinese officials.

On October 8, 1856, Mr. Parkes reported to Sir John Bowring at Hongkong the particulars of an affair which had occurred on a British-owned lorcha at Canton. The lorcha "Arrow," employed in the iron trade between Canton and the mouth of the river, commanded by an English captain, and flying the English flag, had been boarded by a party of mandarins and their followers while at anchor near the Dutch Folly. The lorcha—a Portuguese name for a fast sailing boat—had been duly registered in the office at Hongkong, and although not entitled at that precise moment to British protection, through the careless neglect to renew the license, this fact was only discovered subsequently, and was not put forward by the Chinese in justification of their action. The gravity of the affair was increased by the fact that the English flag was conspicuously displayed, and that, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the master, it was ostentatiously hauled down. The crew were carried off prisoners with the exception of two men, left at their own request to take charge of the vessel. Mr. Parkes at once sent a letter to Yeh on the subject of this "very grave insult," requesting that the captured crew of the "Arrow" should be returned to that vessel without delay, and that any charges made against them should be then examined into at the English consulate. In his reply Commissioner Yeh justified and upheld the act of his subordinates. Of the twelve men seized, he returned nine, but with regard to the three whom he detained, he declared one to be a criminal, and the others important witnesses. Not merely would he not release them, but he proceeded to justify their apprehension, while he did not condescend to so much as notice the points of the insult to the English flag, and of his having violated treaty obligations. Yeh did not attempt to offer any excuse for the proceedings taken in his name. He asserted certain things as facts which, in his opinion, it was sufficient for him to accept that they should pass current. But the evidence on which they were based was not sufficient to obtain credence in the laxest court of justice; but even if it had been conclusive it would not have justified the removal of the crew from the "Arrow" when the British flag was flying conspicuously at her mast. What, in brief, was the Chinese case? It was that one of the crew had been recognized by a man passing in a boat as one of a band of pirates who had attacked, ill-used, and plundered him several weeks before. He had forthwith gone to the Taotai of Canton, presented a demand for redress, and that officer had at once given the order for the arrest of the offender, with the result described. There is no necessity to impugn the veracity of the Chinaman's story, but it did not justify the breach of "the ex-territorial rights of preliminary consular investigation before trial" granted to all under the protection of the English flag. The plea of delay did not possess any force either, for the man could have been arrested just as well by the English consul as by the mandarins, but it would have involved a damaging admission of European authority in the matter of a Chinese subject, and the mandarins thought there was no necessity to curtail their claim to jurisdiction. Commissioner Yeh did not attempt any excuses, and he even declared that "the 'Arrow' is not a foreign lorcha, and, therefore," he said, "there is no use to enter into any discussion about her."

The question of the nationality of the "Arrow" was complicated by the fact that its registry had expired ten days before its seizure. The master explained that this omission was due to the vessel having been at sea, and that it was to have been rectified as soon as he returned to Hongkong. As Lord Clarendon pointed out, this fact was not merely unknown to the Chinese, but it was also "a matter of British regulation which would not justify seizure by the Chinese. No British lorcha would be safe if her crew were liable to seizure on these grounds." The history of the lorcha "Arrow" was officially proved to be as follows: "The 'Arrow' was heretofore employed in trading on the coast, and while so employed was taken by pirates. By them she was fitted out and employed on the Canton River during the disturbances between the imperialists and the insurgents. While on this service she was captured by the braves of one of the loyalist associations organized by the mandarins for the support of the government. By this association she was publicly sold, and was purchased by a Chin-chew Hong, a respectable firm at Canton, which also laid out a considerable sum in repairing her and otherwise fitting her out. She arrived at Hongkong about the month of June, 1855, at which time a treaty was on foot (which ended in a bargain) between Fong Aming, Messrs. T. Burd & Co.'s comprador, and Lei-yeong-heen, one of the partners in the Chin- chew Hong, for the purchase of the lorcha by the former. Shortly after the arrival of the vessel at Hongkong she was claimed by one Quantai, of Macao, who asserted that she had been his property before she was seized by the pirates. Of course, the then owner disputed his claim; upon which he commenced a suit in the Vice-Admiralty Court. After a short time, by consent of the parties, the question was referred to arbitration, but the arbitrators could not agree and an umpire was appointed, who awarded that the ownership of the lorcha should continue undisturbed. The ownership of the vessel was then transferred to Fong Aming, and in his name she is registered. These are the simple facts connected with the purchase of the lorcha by a resident of the colony at Hongkong and her registry as a British vessel, and it is from these facts that the Imperial Commissioner Yeh has arrived at an erroneous conclusion as to the ownership of the boat." As the first step toward obtaining the necessary reparation, a junk, which was supposed to be an imperial war vessel, was seized as a hostage, and Mr. Parkes addressed another letter to Yeh reminding him that "the matter which has compelled this menace still remains unsettled."

Had there been that convenient mode of communication between the governor of Hongkong and the Chinese officials at Canton which was provided for by the Nankin Treaty and the Keying Convention, the "Arrow" complication would, in all probability, never have arisen, and it is also scarcely less certain that it would not have produced such serious consequences as it did but for the arrogance of Yeh. He even attempted to deny that the "Arrow" carried the English flag, but this was so clearly proved to be a fact by both English and Chinese witnesses that it ceased to hold a place in the Chinese case. As it was clear that Commissioner Yeh would not give way, and as delay would only encourage him, the admiral on the station, Sir Michael Seymour, received instructions to attack the four forts of the Barrier, and he captured them without loss. Thus, after an interval of fourteen years, was the first blow struck in what may be called the third act of Anglo-Chinese relations, but it would be a mistake to suppose that the "Arrow" case was the sole cause of this appeal to arms. A blue book, bearing the significant title of "Insults to Foreigners," gives a list and narrative of the many outrages and indignities inflicted on Europeans between 1842 and 1856. The evidence contained therein justifies the statement that the position of Europeans in China had again become most unsafe and intolerable. Those who persist in regarding the "Arrow" affair as the only cause of the war may delude themselves into believing that the Chinese were not the most blameworthy parties in the quarrel; but no one who seeks the truth and reads all the evidence will doubt that if there had been no "Arrow" case there would still have been a rupture between the two countries. The Chinese officials, headed by Yeh, had fully persuaded themselves that, as the English had put up with so much, and had acquiesced in the continued closing of the gates of Canton, they were not likely to make the "Arrow" affair a casus belli. Even the capture of the Barrier forts did not bring home to their minds the gravity of the situation.

After dismantling these forts, Sir Michael Seymour proceeded up the river, capturing the fort in Macao Passage, and arriving before Canton on the same day. An ultimatum was at once addressed to Yeh, stating that unless he at once complied with all the English demands the admiral would "proceed with the destruction of all the defenses and public buildings of this city and of the government vessels in the river." This threat brought no satisfactory answer, and the Canton forts were seized, their guns spiked and the men-of-war placed with their broadsides opposite the city. Then Yeh, far from being cowed, uttered louder defiance than ever. He incited the population to make a stubborn resistance; he placed a reward of thirty dollars on the head of every Englishman slain or captured, and he publicly proclaimed that there was no alternative but war. He seems to have been driven to these extremities by a fear for his own personal safety and official position. He had no warrant from his imperial master to commit China to such a dangerous course as another war with the English, and he knew that the only way to vindicate his proceedings was to obtain some success gratifying to national vanity. While Yeh was counting on the support of the people, the English admiral began the bombardment of the city, directing his fire principally against Yeh's yamen and a part of the wall, which was breached in two days. After some resistance the breach was carried; a gate was occupied, and Sir Michael Seymour and Mr. Parkes proceeded to the yamen of the viceroy, but as it was thought dangerous to occupy so large a city with so small a force the positions seized were abandoned, although still commanded by the fire of the fleet. After a few days' rest active operations were resumed against the French Folly fort and a large fleet of war junks which had collected up the river. After a warm engagement the vessels were destroyed and the fort captured. Undaunted by these successive reverses, Yeh still breathed nothing but defiance, and refused to make the least concession. There remained no alternative but to prosecute hostilities with renewed vigor. On the 12th and 13th of November, Sir Michael attacked the Bogue forts on both sides of the river and captured them with little loss. These forts mounted 400 guns, but only contained 1,000 men.

Notwithstanding these continuous reverses, the Chinese remained defiant and energetic. As soon as the English admiral left Canton to attack the Bogue forts the Chinese hastened to re-occupy all their positions and to repair the breaches. They succeeded in setting fire to and thus destroying the whole foreign settlement, and they carried off several Europeans, all of whom were put to death and some of them tortured. The heads of these Europeans treacherously seized and barbarously murdered were paraded throughout the villages of Kwangtung, in order to stimulate recruiting and to raise national enthusiasm to a high pitch. Notwithstanding their reverses whenever it became a question of open fighting, the Chinese, by their obstinacy and numbers, at last succeeded in convincing Sir Michael Seymour that his force was too small to achieve any decisive result, and he accordingly withdrew from his positions in front of the city, and sent home a request for a force of 5,000 troops. Meantime the Chinese were much encouraged by the lull in hostilities, and for the time being Yeh himself was not dissatisfied with the result. The Cantonese saw in the destruction of the foreign settlement and the withdrawal of the English fleet some promise of future victory, and at all events sufficient reason for the continued confidence of the patriot Yeh. Curiously enough, there was peace and ostensible goodwill along the coast and at the other treaty ports, while war and national animosity were in the ascendant at Canton. The governor-generals of the Two Kiang and Fuhkien declared over and over again that they wished to abide by the Treaty of Nankin, and they threw upon Yeh the responsibility of his acts. Even Hienfung refrained from showing any unequivocal support of his truculent lieutenant, although there is no doubt that he was impressed by the reports of many victories over the English barbarians with which Yeh supplied him. As long as Yeh was able to keep the quarrel a local one, and to thus shield the central government from any sense of personal danger, he enjoyed the good wishes, if not the active support, of his sovereign. But, unfortunately for the success of his schemes, only the most energetic support of the Pekin government in money and men could have enabled him to hold his own; and as he did nothing but report victories in order to gain a hearing for his policy, he could not grumble when he was not sent the material aid of which he stood most in need. His unreasonable action had done much to unite all foreign nations against China. French, American and Spanish subjects had been the victims of Chinese ignorance and cruelty, as well as English, and they all saw that the success of Yeh's policy would render their position untenable.

On the receipt of Sir Michael Seymour's request for a force of 5,000 men, it was at once perceived in London that the question of our relations with China had again entered a most important and critical phase. It was at once decided to send the force for which the admiral asked; and, while 1,500 men were sent from England and a regiment from the Mauritius, the remainder was to be drawn from the Madras army. At the same time it was considered necessary to send an embassador of high rank to acquaint the Pekin authorities that, while such acts as those of Yeh would not be tolerated, there was no desire to press too harshly on a country which was only gradually shaking off its exclusive prejudices. Lord Elgin was selected for the difficult mission, and his instructions contained the following five categorical demands, the fourth of which was the most important in its consequences:

Those instructions were conveyed in two dispatches of the same date, April 20, 1857. We quote the following as the more important passages: "The demands which you are instructed to make will be (1), for reparation of injuries to British subjects, and, if the French officers should co- operate with you, for those to French subjects also; (2) for the complete execution at Canton, as well as at the other ports, of the stipulations of the several treaties; (3) compensation to British subjects and persons entitled to British protection for losses incurred in consequence of the late disturbances; (4) the assent of the Chinese government to the residence at Pekin, or to the occasional visit to that capital, at the option of the British government, of a minister duly accredited by the queen to the emperor of China, and the recognition of the right of the British plenipotentiary and chief superintendent of trade to communicate directly in writing with the high officers at the Chinese capital, and to send his communications by messengers of his own selection, such arrangements affording the best means of insuring the due execution of the existing treaties, and of preventing future misunderstandings; (5) a revision of the treaties with China with a view to obtaining increased facilities for commerce, such as access to cities on the great rivers as well as to Chapoo and to other ports on the coast, and also permission for Chinese vessels to resort to Hongkong for purposes of trade from all ports of the Chinese empire without distinction." These were the demands formulated by the English government for the consent of China, and seven proposals were made as to how they were to be obtained should coercion become necessary. It was also stated that "it is not the intention of her Majesty's government to undertake any land operations in the interior of the country."

An event of superior, and, indeed, supreme importance occurred to arrest the movement of the expedition to Canton. When Lord Elgin reached Singapore, on June 3, 1857, he found a letter waiting for him from Lord Canning, then Governor-general of India, informing him of the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny, and imploring him to send all his troops to Calcutta in order to avert the overthrow of our authority in the valley of the Ganges, where, "for a length of 750 miles, there were barely 1,000 European soldiers." To such an urgent appeal there could only be one answer, and the men who were to have chastised Commissioner Yeh followed Havelock to Cawnpore and Lucknow. But while Lord Elgin sent his main force to Calcutta, he himself proceeded to Hongkong, where he arrived in the first week of July, and found that hostilities had proceeded to a still more advanced stage than when Sir Michael Seymour wrote for re-enforcements. The Chinese had become so confident during the winter that that officer felt bound to resume offensive measures against them, and having been joined by a few more men-of-war, and having also armed some merchant ships of light draught, he attacked a main portion of the Chinese fleet occupying a very strong position in Escape Creek. The attack was intrusted to Commodore Elliott, who, with five gunboats and the galleys of the larger men-of-war, carried out with complete success and little loss the orders of his superior officer. Twenty-seven armed junks were destroyed, and the thirteen that escaped were burned the next day. It was then determined to follow up this success by attacking the headquarters of Yeh's army at Fatshan, the place already referred to as being some distance from Canton. By road it is six and by water twelve miles from that city. The remainder of the Chinese fleet was drawn up in Fatshan Channel, and the Chinese had made such extensive preparations for its defense, both on land and on the river, that they were convinced of the impregnability of its position.

The Chinese position was unusually strong, and had been selected with considerable judgment. An island named after the hyacinth lies in midstream two miles from the entrance to the Fatshan Channel, which joins the main course of the Sikiang a few miles above the town of that name. The island is flat and presents no special advantages for defense, but it enabled the Chinese to draw up a line of junks across the two channels of the river, and to place on it a battery of six guns, thus connecting their two squadrons. The seventy-two junks were drawn up with their sterns facing down stream, and their largest gun bearing on any assailant proceeding up it. On the left bank of the river an elevated and precipitous hill had been occupied in force and crowned with a battery of nineteen guns, and other batteries had been erected at different points along the river. There seems no reason to question the accuracy of the estimate that more than 300 pieces of artillery and 10,000 men were holding this position, which had been admirably chosen and carefully strengthened. The force which Sir Michael Seymour had available to attack this formidable position slightly exceeded 2,000 men, conveyed to the attack in six gunboats and a large flotilla of boats. The English advance was soon known to the Chinese, who began firing from their junks and batteries as soon as they came within range. Three hundred marines were landed to attack the battery on the hill, which was found not to be so strong as it appeared; for on the most precipitous side the Chinese, believing it to be unscalable, had placed no guns, and those in position could not be moved to bear on the assailants in that quarter. The marines gained the top with scarcely any loss, and as they charged over the side the Chinese retired with little loss, owing to the ill-directed fire of the marines.

Meantime the sailors had attacked the Chinese position on the river. The tide was at low water, and the Chinese had barred the channel with a row of sunken junks, leaving a narrow passage known only to themselves. The leading English boat struck on the hidden barrier, but the passage being discovered the other vessels got through. Those boats which ran aground were gradually floated, one after the other, by the rising tide, and at last the flotilla, with little damage, reached the line of stakes which the Chinese had placed to mark the range of the guns in their junks. At once the fire from the seventy-two junks and the battery on Hyacinth Island became so furious and well-directed that it was a matter of astonishment how the English boats passed through it. They reached and pierced the line of junks, of which one after another was given to the flames. Much of the success of the attack was due to the heroic example of Commodore Harry Keppel, who led the advance party of 500 cutlasses, and who gave the Chinese no time to rest or rally. Having broken the line of junks, he took up the pursuit in his seven boats, having determined that the only proof of success could be the capture of Fatshan, and after four miles' hard rowing he came in sight of the elaborate defenses drawn up by the Chinese for the security of that place. At the short range of a quarter of a mile the fire of the Chinese guns was tremendous and destructive. Keppel's own boat was reduced to a sinking state, and had to be abandoned. Some of his principal officers were killed, three of his boats ran aground, and things looked black for the small English force. At this critical moment, the Chinese, thinking that they had checked the English attack, and hearing of the magnitude of their reverse down stream, thought their best course would be to retire. Then the few English boats resumed the attack, and hung on to the retreating junks like bull-dogs. Many junks were given to the flames, and five were carried off under the teeth of the Fatshan populace; but Keppel's force was too small to hold that town and put it to the ransom, so the worn-out, but still enthusiastic force, retired to join the main body under Sir Michael Seymour, who was satisfied that he had achieved all that was necessary or prudent with his squadron. In these encounters thirteen men were killed and forty wounded, of whom several succumbed to their wounds, for it was noticed that the Chinese shot inflicted cruel injuries. The destruction of the Chinese fleet on the Canton River could not be considered heavily purchased at the cost, and the extent of the trepidation caused by Commodore Keppel's intrepidity could not be accurately measured.

Lord Elgin reached Hongkong very soon after this event, and, although he brought no soldiers with him, he found English opinion at Hongkong very pronounced in favor of an attack on Canton with a view of re-opening that city to trade. But the necessary force was not available, and Lord Elgin refused to commit himself to this risky course. Sir Michael Seymour said the attack would require 5,000 troops, and General Ashburnham thought it could be done with 4,000 men if all were effective, while the whole Hongkong garrison numbered only 1,500, and of these one-sixth were invalided. Lord Elgin decided to go to Calcutta, and ascertain when Lord Canning would be able to spare him the troops necessary to bring China to reason. He returned to Hongkong on September 20, and he found matters very much as he had left them, and all the English force was capable of was to blockade the river. To supplement the weakness of the garrison a coolie corps of 750 Chinese was organized, and proved very efficient, and toward the end of November troops, chiefly marines, began at last to arrive from England. A fleet of useful gunboats of small draught, under Captain Sherard Osborn, arrived for the purpose of operating against the junks in shallow creeks and rivers. At the same time, too, came the French embassador, Baron Gros, charged with a similar mission to Lord Elgin, and bent on proving once for all that the pretensions of China to superiority over other nations were absurd and untenable.

On December 12 Lord Elgin sent Yeh a note apprising him of his arrival as plenipotentiary from Queen Victoria, and pointing out the repeated insults and injuries inflicted on Englishmen, culminating in the outrage to their flag and the repeated refusal to grant any reparation for their wrongs. But Lord Elgin went on to say that even at this eleventh hour there was time to stay the progress of hostilities by making prompt redress. The terms were plain and simple, and the English demands were confined to two points—the complete execution at Canton of all treaty engagements, including the free admission of British subjects to the city, and compensation to British subjects and persons entitled to British protection for losses incurred in consequence of the late disturbances. To this categorical demand Yeh made a long reply, going over the ground of controversy, reasserting what he wished to believe were the facts, and curtly concluding that the trade might continue on the old conditions, and that each side should pay its own losses. Mr. Wade said that his language might bear the construction that the English consul, Mr. Harry Parkes, should pay all the cost himself. If Commissioner Yeh was a humorist he chose a bad time for indulging his proclivities, and, a sufficient force being available, orders were at once given to attack Canton. On December 15 Honan was occupied, and ten days were passed in bringing up the troops and the necessary stores, when, all being in readiness, an ultimatum was sent to Yeh that if he would not give way within forty-eight hours the attack would commence. At the same time every effort was made to warn the unoffending townspeople, so that they might remove to a place of safety. The attacking force numbered about 5,000 English, 1,000 French, and 750 of the Chinese coolie corps, and it was agreed that the most vulnerable point in the Chinese position was Lin's fort, on the eastern side of the city. When the attack began, on December 28, this fort was captured in half an hour, and the Chinese retired to the northern hills, which they had made their chief position in 1842. The destruction of Lin's fort by the accidental explosion of the magazine somewhat neutralized the advantage of its capture. On the following day the order was given to assault the city by escalade, and three separate parties advanced on the eastern wall. The Chinese kept up a good fire until the troops were within a short distance, but before the ladders were placed against the wall they abandoned their defenses and fled. The English troops reformed on the wide rampart of the wall and pursued the Chinese to the north gate, where, being joined by some Manchu troops, the latter turned and charged up to the bayonets of an English regiment. But they were repulsed and driven out of the city, and simultaneously with this success the fort on Magazine Hill, commanding both the city and the Chinese position on the northern hills, was captured without loss. In less than two hours the great city of Canton was in the possession of the allies, and the Chinese resistance was far less vigorous and worse directed than on any occasion of equal importance. Still, the English loss was fourteen killed and eighty-three wounded, while the French casualties numbered thirty-four. The Chinese had, however, to abandon their positions north of the city, and their elaborate fortifications were blown up.

Although all regular resistance had been overcome, the greater part of the city remained in possession of the Chinese and of Yeh in person. That official, although in the lowest straits, had lost neither his fortitude nor his ferocity. He made not the least sign of surrender, and his last act of authority was to order the execution of 400 citizens, whom he denounced as traitors to their country. From his yamen in the interior of the city, when he found that the English hesitated to advance beyond the walls, he incited the populace to fresh efforts of hostility, and, in order to check their increasing audacity, it was resolved to send a force into the city to effect the capture of Yeh. On January 5, 1858, three detachments were sent into the native city, and they advanced at once upon the official residences of Yeh and Pihkwei, the governor. The Chinese were quite unprepared for this move, and being taken unawares they offered scarcely any resistance. The yamen was occupied and the treasury captured, while Pihkwei was made prisoner in his own house. The French at the same time attacked and occupied the Tartar city—a vast stone-built suburb which had been long allowed to fall into decay, and which, instead of being occupied, as was believed, by 7,000 Manchu warriors, was the residence of bats and nauseous creatures. But the great object of the attack was unattained, for Yeh still remained at large, and no one seemed to know where he ought to be sought, for all the official buildings had been searched in vain. But Mr. Parkes, by indefatigable inquiry, at last gained a clew from a poor scholar whom he found poring over an ancient classic at the library, undisturbed in the midst of the turmoil. From him he learned that Yeh would probably be found in a yamen situated in the southwest quarter of the city. Mr. Parkes hastened thither with Captain (afterward Admiral) Cooper Key and a party of sailors. They arrived just in time, for all the preparations for flight had been made, and Captain Key caught Yeh with his own hand as he was escaping over the wall. One of his assistants came forward with praiseworthy devotion and declared himself to be Yeh, in the hope of saving his superior; but the deception was at once detected by Mr. Parkes, who assured Yeh that no harm would be done him. The capture of Yeh completed the effect of the occupation of Canton, and the disappearance of the most fanatical opponent of the foreigners insured the tranquillity of the Canton region, which had been the main seat of disorder, during the remainder of the war. The government of Canton was then intrusted to Pihkwei and a commission of one Frenchman and two Englishmen, and the Chinese admitted it had never been better governed. Yeh himself was sent to Calcutta, where he died two years later, and, considering the abundant evidence of his cruel treatment of defenseless prisoners, he had every reason to consider his punishment lenient.

Having thus settled the difficulty at Canton, it remained for Lord Elgin to carry out the other part of his task, and place diplomatic relations between England and China on a satisfactory basis by obtaining the right of direct communication with Pekin. A letter dated February 11, 1858, was sent to the senior Secretary of State at Pekin describing what had occurred in the south, and summarizing what would be required from the Chinese government. The English and French plenipotentiaries also notified that they would proceed to Shanghai for the purpose of conducting further negotiations. This letter was duly forwarded to Pekin by the Governor of Kiangsu, and when Lord Elgin reached Shanghai on March 30 he found the reply of Yu-ching, the chief adviser of Hienfung, waiting for him. Yuching's letter was extremely unsatisfactory. It was arrogant in its terms and impracticable as to its proposals. Lord Elgin was told that "no imperial commissioner ever conducts business at Shanghai," and that it behooved the English minister to wait at Canton until the arrival of a new imperial commissioner from Pekin. The only concession the Chinese made was to dismiss Yeh from his posts, and as he was a prisoner in the hands of the English this did not mean much. Lord Elgin's reply to this communication was to announce his intention of proceeding to the Peiho, and there negotiating direct with the imperial government. Lord Elgin reached the Gulf of Pechihli about the middle of April, and he again addressed Yuching in the hope of an amicable settlement, and requested that the emperor would appoint some official to act as his plenipotentiary. Three minor officials were appointed, more out of curiosity than from a desire to promote business, but on Lord Elgin discovering that they were of inferior rank and that their powers were inadequate, he declined to see them. But Yuching refused to appoint any others; stating curtly that their powers were ample for the adjustment of affairs, and then Lord Elgin announced that he would proceed up the Peiho to Tientsin. Some delay was caused by the non-arrival of the fleet, which was not assembled in the Gulf of Pechihli, through different causes of delay, until the end of May, or about three weeks after Lord Elgin announced his intention of forcing his way up to Tientsin. There is no doubt that Sir Michael Seymour was in no sense to blame for this delay, but unfortunately it aroused considerable irritation in the mind of Lord Elgin, who sent home a dispatch, without informing his colleague, stating that the delay was "a most grievous disappointment," and attributing it to the supineness of the admiral.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13     Next Part
Home - Random Browse