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THE NEW HOLY ALLIANCE FOR CHINA
By Albert Bushnell Hart, LL.D., Professor of Government in
From present day amenities we turn to speak of the Holy Alliance, a subject not precisely relevant to the addresses of the morning, or likely to fit with the addresses that are to follow. I come as an amateur to speak to persons already better informed, to those who know what they are talking about. It is the peculiar province of the scholar first to appropriate the materials laboriously collected by other people; second, to generalize upon those materials, but in a spirit different from that of those who have collected them; and third, to promulgate what he hopes may be the eventual truth.
The historical criticisms of the closet scholars have ages ago attracted the attention of the great writers of an older race. One of the early Chinese classics remarks that "scholars teach men what is contrary to your laws. When they hear that an ordinance has been issued, everyone sets to discussing it with all his learning. In the court they are dissatisfied in heart; out of it they keep talking on the streets. While they make a pretence of vaunting their Master, they consider it fine to have extraordinary views of their own. And so they lead the people on to be guilty of murmuring and of evil speaking.” As such a discontented scholar, I feel too much like the schoolboy who was called upon to define figure of speech, and to give an example. This was the result: “A figure of speech is when you say what you do not mean and yet mean what you say. Example: 'He blows his own horn.' That does not mean that he has a horn, but that he blows it."
In 1815 was founded by three great European powers through their sovereigns, Francis the First, Frederick William, and Alexander the First, a solemn league which they called the Holy Alliance. In course of time all of the European powers gave it their adhesion except three-the Papacy, the Ottoman Porte, and Great Britain, though the Prince Regent, caused it to be remarked that England was in sympathy with the combination. If the Holy Alliance had only been sincere there would have been no more wars, no pestilences, no strikes, no duns—it was a great universal sedative, a mutual political insurance company. The purpose was that there never should be any more disturbances of the then existing international status.
The sovereigns held several congresses, at Aix-la-Chapelle in 1818; at Troppau and Laybach in 1820 and 1821; and at Verona in 1822. They issued to the world some remarkable statements of their high moral purposes. Thus in 1820 they declared that the “Powers are exercising an incontestable right in taking common measures in respect to those states in which the overthrow of the government may result in an hostile attitude toward all continuous and legitimate government.” In the next year at Laybach they solemnly announced that "useful and necessary changes in the legislation and administration of states must emanate alone from the free will and enlightening impulse of those whom God had rendered responsible for power," that is, from themselves. This lofty spirit reminds one of the remark of a great railroad president a few years ago, that the commercial affairs of the country should be carried on by those to whom God had given authority over the property of the country.
The Holy Alliance very soon found its opportunity when revolutions broke out in Spain, in Naples, and in Portugal, and it set itself to restore the monarchs whose faithful subjects did not appreciate them. The most striking thing about the Holy Alliance is not so much that it existed, as that its whole effort was an abject failure. To be sure Austria as the representative of the Holy Alliance crushed out the revolution in Naples; but Naples eventually became a part of the free and united Italy. France restored absolutism in 1823; but Spain, after a period of ninety years is still going through a process of protest against absolutism. A revolution broke out in Greece in 1821, and then and there
began that century-long process which through the arms of four of the Balkan Christian powers is apparently just reaching its end. The attempt to subvert free thought was absolutely hopeless. That is the Holy Alliance assumed to determine what should be the proper type of government and political thought in Europe: it absolutely failed in maintaining its cherished type of government; and it became a laughing stock for the nations.
In the year of grace 1912 we observe a combination of European powers partly operating in China, partly operating at the headquarters of their governments in Europe, which is fairly comparable to the Holy Alliance in its form, in its purposes, and, we trust, in the eventual failure of its aims. The basal idea of the combination of European powers is that six associated foreign nations can better decide than the Chinese themselves what shall be the future government and the destiny of that great empire. This principle is not a new one. I see before me people who have lived for years in China, and they can tell you better than a visitor for a few months about the general relations of diplomats and commercial men to the Chinese government and people. They will however all agree that from the time that the European powers first broke into China, which was in 1840, the Europeans have in general adhered to the idea that their presence in China was not based on advantage to the Chinese, but on their own purposes, and for their own benefit. Thus Burlingame wrote in 1868: “Yet, notwithstanding this manifest progress, there are people who will tell you that China has made no progress, that her views are retrograde, and they will tell you that it is the duty of the Western duty powers to combine for the purpose of coercing China into reforms that they may desire and which she does not desire-who undertake to state that these people have no rights which they are bound to respect. In their coarse language they say, "Take her by the throat. Using the tyrant's plea they say they know better what China wants than China herself does.” That, you see, was many years ago, nearly half a century, in a period of impatience with China.
One reason for this attempt on the part of the Europeans to control China is an ignorance of the real character of the Chinese. Of all the people who visit China and even who spend years there, few really become sufficiently acquainted with the Chinese to put them within the possibility of understanding the conditions of the Chinese mind or the ultimate purposes of the Chinese government. It is a standing criticism upon foreign business men that they associate so little with the Chinese; that so few of them ever acquire the language, that so very few qualify themselves to give an expert opinion on what is going on in China. Many years ago an English consul said, “There is perhaps no country in the world frequented by the English-speaking race in which merchants are so lamentably ignorant of the customs and resources of the locality in which they live as they are at this moment in China, and this is entirely to be attributed to a want of familiarity with the language.
Perhaps there has been a similar ignorance on the part of the Chinese. Thus Wo Jen, grand secretary of the imperial library in 1868 wrote, “As to observing the customs of the foreigners and learning from them—their customs are nothing but lasciviousness and cunning, while their inclinations are simply fiendish and malignant.” Of course that is brutally insulting for an Oriental to say of an Occidental, but when we say similar things of the Chinese it is only a needed rebuke to an inferior people.
In 1868 or thereabouts a man named Robertson wrote in an English review: "If China will assent to progress and development of her resources under a system of well-considered pressure by the foreign ministers; even if its rulers are under fear of armed compulsion if they refuse, we cannot see that the exercise of this pressure in a reasonable manner by the foreign governments is objectionable. Any improvement in China is possible only under such a system. We have no desire to be unjust or unreasonable toward the Chinese
but we strongly object to any assurance being given the Chinese authorities that the time and manner of their progress are left to their own discretion, and that therefore, they need no longer fear to
disregard the demands of the British minister at Pekin.
The judgment of the Chinese themselves on the perils that beset their future course is utterly worthless.”
That, of course, is exactly in line with the present attempt of foreign powers to decide the destiny of China. I quote it simply to illustrate the underlying idea held by many of the diplomats, that China exists chiefly to furnish opportunities for the application of the advanced principles of the West, that God created that people, not in order that there might be a Chinese nation, but that they might furnish a field for Chinese investment.
The European powers were a long time, three centuries in fact, in obtaining access to the Chinese ports, because of an obstinate Chinese determination not to trade with exterior nations. Under great pressure the Chinese were prevailed upon to open up a certain number of their ports as points of contact between themselves and the outside world. Then began a system of European regulation of these ports, and then the ticklish business of a European power undertaking to say, “You must make even your customs duties to suit us." We must not forget that the bottom idea of all the treaty stipulations as to extraterritoriality, customs rates and intercourse is not the welfare of the people in Asia, but the profit and ease of doing business by the people in the West, and the prestige of the governments that thus intervene.
As soon as a foothold in the treaty ports was gained, began the process of seizing territory. Most of the powers wanted
. to push up into the country as far as they could back of the treaty ports. They were always demanding more privileges of intercourse, and of late years have made a determined and concerted campaign for concessions from the Chinese. The Chinese are not held competent to decide on their own means of transportation. And foreigners are eager to build railroads, not because they think the Chinese need railroads, but because the European and American bankers need the profit of the railroads. The imperial government was very ill-organized to resist such pressure; at the start it was not accustomed to relations with foreign