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war. And I had only just got home when a tremendous
. conflagration broke out in the Balkan States. This was, indeed, a queer year in which to be looking for the means of promoting peace in the civilized and semi-civilized world. Nevertheless, the fact that I had that special errand, and in the East, added very much to the interest of my journey; because it brought me into contact with a considerable number of educated Chinese and Japanese whose desires tended strongly towards the promotion and the maintenance of peace throughout the world, and particularly between the eastern and the western peoples.
I landed at Hong Kong, and after a short stay there went to Canton. There I had my first interview with provisional republican officials, the group then in charge of the province of Kwang-Tung, the most turbulent province in China, and that province which earliest and most ardently embraced the cause of the Republic. Having a good opportunity there to ask what is for me a fundamental question with regard to any people, I asked the then governor-general, himself a soldier by profession, and recently in command of a division of the Republican army, “Will the Chinese coolie make a good soldier, brave, obedient, and patriotic?” (You may think this was a strange question for an advocate of peace;
; but such was the condition of China that it seemed to me the primary question.) The governor-general reflected for a time, and then made the following answer: “The Chinese coolie will fight well, provided he knows what he is fighting for, and that thing interests him.” That I thought a
, very good answer; and its accuracy I afterwards heard confirmed by many witnesses of the fighting which had lately taken place between the revolutionary and the imperial troops. The revolutionary armies were raw levies. An American woman of admirable qualities, who had already been twelve years in China, was at Hankow during the hard fighting that took place in and near that city; and she served for months as a Red Cross nurse in the hospitals of that vicinity. She told me that she always asked one question of the wounded who came under her care-boys most of them were, or very young men.
She would ask the sufferer,
“How long have you been in the army?” And the commonest answers were, “One week,” “Two weeks,” “Three weeks.” Brave, raw recruits fought with desperation, with dauntless courage, under the most trying conditions. They had hardly any experienced leaders, and did not know their commanders; but they were ready to die for their country.
That same day in Canton about two thousand Chinese soldiers passed me in a very narrow street, so narrow that my chair had to be jammed against the wall, and the men filed by, two and two, and no space to spare. I did not see a single man in that long line that had what we call a martial bearing. They were all fully armed, but not fully uniformed, and many of them had on the left arm a white band. I asked what these bands meant; and was told that these men all belonged to a society pledged to give their lives at any moment for the country. The answer of the governor-general of Kwang-Tung province, so far as I can judge, was an accurate
The Chinese coolie, or peasant, or mechanic will fight bravely, even desperately, if he knows what object he is fighting for, and that object interests him. These men who made up the revolutionary armies thought they were fighting for their country, for its freedom, for the coming of a just government; and that prospect interested them. Is not that just the spirit in which American youth are prepared to fight? Is not that just the spirit in which hundreds of thousands of young men went to our Civil War. Is not that just the spirit in which our Revolutionary armies were recruited? Our youth felt in both those epochs ready to die for the country, because they believed they knew what they were fighting for, and that thing appealed to them.
The young generations in China today seem to be the legitimate successors of the earlier generations (1860–81), whose fighting and marching qualities were so enthusiastically praised by such foreign observers as Swinhoe, Gordon, Wolseley, and Hamilton (British) and Ward (American). I started in China, therefore, with the conviction that the Chinese, though peaceable in their habits, will nevertheless make courageous, hardy, resolute fighters at need. There was a great need at the moment of a trustworthy public force; but the Republic was not competent to enlist and train that force, because it had no money. There were disorders in several parts of the country, because the troops were neither paid nor properly fed; and these suffering soldiers broke out repeatedly in riots and robbings. Gradually the revolutionary levies were disbanded, and order was restored, with the help of the provincial authorities; but the poverty of the central government prevents it from organizing an effective national army.
The next question I asked of officials in China was, “What are the means of unifying this great country?” It has enormous extent. It is divided into eighteen original provinces; and the interests of those provinces are diverse in many respects. There is a condition in China like what prevailed in our thirteen colonies when the war of the Revolution was over-very different interests in the north and the south, on the coast and in the interior. The provinces are not used to acting together; they have no common language except the literary; on the contrary, people on the opposite banks of the same river are often unable to understand each other. People in adjacent mountain valleys may be unable to understand each other; the whole people is used to provincial government, but not to feeling the pressure of any national, centralized government.
The answers to the questions, “How can this great country be tied together, how can its people be brought to maintain a strong central government, what are the means of unification?” came to me only slowly during my ten-week stay in China; and it is those answers that I propose to lay before you this evening. The means of unifying China? They are the means, with one exception, which have unified this country, and made us one people, north, south, east, and west. The first means is a common language; and that the American colonies had in the Revolutionary epoch, and have had ever since, until the recent invasion by millions of alien peoples not speaking English. The New Republic took immediate measures to remedy this great lack in China. I say, “took measures." They made projects; they wrote out on paper what they would do if they had the means. They have not had the means; they have not had the money which the measures they proposed must necessarily cost. A common language is the first unifying means China needs to employ. It is a great undertaking. It must be done through public schools all over the country, through making education universal in its elements. There have been provincial schools in China, few but good; there have been municipal and village schools; but except during the last years of the Manchu Empire there has been no attempt at universal education; and the Manchus got but little way with the project they formed. Only slowly can this need be met. Ten, fifteen, twenty years will be needed in order to diffuse throughout China among the children and young people a common language. And yet that must be accomplished before the varied populations of China can be brought, first, to a common understanding, and next, to such intercommunication that they gradually become more and more like each other, and come to enjoy the same literature.
The next means of unification that I inquired about is one which has proved to be unifying in high degree in many nations of the world. I mean a common system of taxation. You remember that the unification of Germany, which took place shortly after 1866, was preceded by common taxation methods. Duties were made the same by agreement among the many states into which the present German Empire was then divided. Posts or mails were operated by the same semi-public agency all over Germany. The same general system of taxation needs to prevail throughout a nation in order to unify its domestic habits and its industrial habits, to make them approximately alike all over the country. The condition in China has been, and is, almost such as would prevail in the United States if duties were levied at all our state boundaries on goods in transport. China collects provincial taxes on goods moving by rail or other conveyance from province to province. An English merchant in Shanghai who has long traded in the valley of the river Yangtse told me that the goods he sent from Shanghai often paid three, four, or even five duties before they arrived at their destination, and that he could never tell how many duties or how much in toto was going to be paid on a given invoice. You see how difficult communication and trade are under such conditions. You see, too, how the price of goods will be affected by the operation of these local taxes. It is impossible for the same goods to be sold at the same price in different localities. A uniform system of taxation regulated by law is an indispensable means of unifying China. When I ventured to broach this doctrine to Chinese statesmen and scholars it always aroused in their minds painful recollections, and apprehensions about centralized taxation methods for the future. There is one department in which uniform taxation exists for all China, namely, in the Imperial Maritime Customs Service. On all goods coming in by sea the customs, or tariff duties, are the same for all China. But how are they collected? By the organization established and carried on for many years by Sir Robert Hart, an admirable organization, the service perfectly performed with honesty and accuracy, and the receipts applied exactly where they should be applied in accordance with existing treaties. But what is the application? To pay the interest on bonds which represent debts China was forced by western powers to incur, in order to pay indemnities to western powers, and to pay to western powers the war expenses of those powers in carrying on war against China. No Chinese official today, or at any time within a generation in China, can bear to think of this uniform tax for all China, the customs. When I spoke to three of the members of the present government about this tax, my reference to it was received with visible impatience and dislike. They simply hate to think that they have mortgaged their entire customs revenue to pay the interest on debts and reduce the principals of debts which China incurred in consequence of wars which western powers waged against her. They encounter another great difficulty in connection with this uniform tax, which is the product of a low, sensible tariff for revenue. That difficulty relates to one result of Sir Robert Hart's administration. In all the great services of the customs, which include not only the collection of the customs, but also the