No. 119.

Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 17.]

Sir: Tso Tsung T’ang, late viceroy at Nanking, superintendent of southern trade, &c., who, with Li Hung Chang, has for the last quarter of a century been the chief councillor of the Chinese throne, and one of China’s most liberal statesmen, shortly before his death, which occurred [Page 175] some weeks ago, drew up the inclosed memorial, which was presented to the throne.

The late war with France has unquestionably been of great advantage to China in many respects. It has shown her that her troops, well, or even indifferently drilled, might resist a foreign invader. She has, moreover, seen the inestimable advantage of telegraphic lines, which, as the Viceroy Tso remarks, “have become indispensable in China.” Moreover, in the war with France, China has been enabled to appreciate the superiority of foreign armaments and modes of warfare; for, not only did the European arms, with which her troops in Tongking were generally provided, enable them to resist and frequently to defeat the French, but the confidence which the arms gave her soldiers increased their courage tenfold. China’s war vessels, although not as successful as they might have been if more ably manned, still rendered her services which none of her older vessels could have possibly done.

China, however, does not want to be subject to foreign countries for the manufacture of her ironclads and her steel guns. She has had for some years an arsenal at Foo-Chow, and at Port Arthur and Taku she has also naval establishments, although on a smaller scale. The viceroy Tso had already, proposed to the throne to allow the iron mines of Hsüchow and Unyuen to be worked. Now he suggests that experienced chemists may be employed, for, as he pertinently remarks, “mining and the manufacturing of ships and guns always go together.”

The viceroy does not, however, limit his suggestions for the coast defenses to the manufacture of iron-clads and cannon; he adds that railroads must be modeled and built, “for trade is the backbone of the state.” The lines, the viceroy suggests, may have an extent of a thousand miles, but these, he remarks, are only as a trial, and when once they have proved a success, they can be extended. A line to the northwest (i. e., towards the China-Russian frontier) is, he says, especially inevitable in the future.

The memorialist requests the throne to sanction the creation of a ministry for coast defense, in whose hands may be centered the vast plans which he has referred to, and the decree of the 5th instant, which I forwarded in my dispatch No. 14, shows that Tso’s memorial is being acted upon.

The men who form the new ministry of coast defense are very liberal in their tendencies. The president, the father of the Emperor, known as the Seventh Prince organized an arsenal some years ago near Peking, where arms and ammunition of an approved pattern are manufactured, and where it is expected that foreign machinery will be largely introduced. He is also largely interested in coal mining, &c. Li Hung Chang and Prince I Ching, the president of the foreign office, are well known to you. The latter, however well disposed, will be most likely largely influenced by his colleagues, men of much larger experience than he.

The moment is a momentous one for China. Li Hung Chang stands now the most respected councillor of the throne. No doubt can be entertained that all his efforts will tend towards China taking such steps in the way of progress as may best tend to consolidate her power at home and abroad, increase the wealth and well-being of the state, and give her the position among nations which she has a right to bold. The first step is naturally in the way of improving her military and naval forces, and to attain this end there is no doubt that foreign aid will be eagerly sought there where China’s advisers think she can get the best. For the time being German army and naval officers are being nearly [Page 176] everywhere employed; the arsenals and powder mills are being equipped according to German plans, and ships and troops are under German instructors.

Modern warfare is a science which embraces many others, and which calls to its aid many branches of industry not originally connected with it. The Chinese know full well the importance for military purposes of railroads and telegraph lines, and there is no doubt that every effort will be made to have such railroad lines made as will tend to facilitate the concentration and provisioning of her troops. The working of her mineral resources which we gather from the very able reports of Baron Richthoffer are immensely large, will all require foreign assistance, at least in the first stages of the work.

China has not been standing, still; factories of glass, woolen goods, paper, &c., equipped in Western style, which are scattered over the country and owned by Chinese subjects, are proofs of her enterprise, and now, if the Government takes the question earnestly in hand, we may Look for the wide adoption in China of many of our appliance and modes of manufacture. That some of the above-mentioned enterprises have been unsuccessful proves nothing, for the Chinese know that the fault lies within themselves. New ventures in the same line are sure to follow, and when, success shall crown any of their efforts the whole progressive movement will receive an impetus which will insure its permanent establishment in the country.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 17.]

memorial on coast defense.

By the late Imperial Commissioner Tso Tsung-Tang.

The memorialist, in compliance with an imperial decree directing him to make propositions for the necessary coast defenses, prostrate requests the establishment of a special minister of coast defense, with full powers, so as to have the direction of affairs centralized and all the conditions of coast defense under one control; and begs their majesties’ sacred glance upon his memorial. The memorialist humbly states that on the 25th day of the 5th moon, 11th year of Kuang Hsü, he received from the cabinet ministers an imperial decree promulgated on the 9th day of the 5th moon:

“Although all the conditions of peace are completed, still there should be no laxity in preparing coast defense. Great and sincere exertions should be made for the future well-being, so that the defenses may be relied upon long and permanently. Obey this!”

The memorialist, looking upwards, perceives that their majesties are profound in their designs, caring for future contingencies, and showing deep solicitude for the coast provinces; all of which calls forth unspeakable admiration. The old age and the many ailments of the memorialist render him unfit to animadvert upon and take in every affair of state; still, if the memorialist discerns anything (beneficial to the state) how dare he disobey their majesties’ order? And he therefore presents the following propositions, which may their majesties be pleased to select from and approve.

The memorialist numbly finds that the western countries have modeled and manufactured constantly for tens and hundreds of years guns and ships, thereby becoming powers on the seas, and doing what they wished to do in all things. Were the military preparations of China of twenty years ago compared with those of the West, we should be in no position to face them (foreign armies and navies) in a single engagement. But during the last ten or more years China has begun to establish gradually dock-yards, arsenals, and naval academies; although things have not been carried to perfection, yet the fundamental principles have been acquired. From this fact a year ago when the French troubles were initiated the Chinese were able to join in battle with the enemy, who retreated before the fire of our tremendous guns at Chin-hai. The successful result of our military preparations is obvious. Taking the present condition of our navy into consideration, the memorialist is sincerely of the opinion that the Chinese are inferior to foreigners in drill and practice. Still, even foreigners admit [Page 177] that the Chinese are very clever and quick with eyes, ears, and thoughts; and if those who hold superior positions would learn in all sincerity, following the good points of the foreigners, it would be possible even to direct their destinies, not to speak of protecting our own country.

In another imperial decree the memorialist reverentially perused the following:

“We, in planning and preparing defenses, have built dock-yards and established a navy; yet the ships built are not strong, the arms manufactured are not perfect, the officers selected are not experienced, the funds devised are not sufficiently ample.”

The memorialist is of opinion that in building ships iron-clads should take the lead, and in manufacturing arms steel guns ought to be considered essential. A memorial proposing the building of large dock-yards and arsenals with all the particulars fully set forth has already been laid before the throne by the memorialist; since to purchase ships and guns is not so advantageous as to build and manufacture them. The Fuhkien arsenal is not so spacious as to admit the building of large iron-clads; and the request for establishing big dock-yards is of imperative importance, permitting no delay, The memorialist hears that the former acting governor-general of Hu-kuang, Pien Pao-ti, proposed starting an arsenal at the entrance of Fan-yaug Hu in Kiangsi. The Yangtze River below Hankow and Wuchang is nowhere so deep and so dangerous to navigation by the banks and indentations as this place (Fan-yang Hu), and the memorialist begs their majesties to order the governors of Hupei and Kiangsi to dispatch officials to have the place sounded, and to deliberate upon the advisability of carrying out the propositions. The breech-loading big guns are to be speedily manufactured as soon as the arsenal is finished. Perhaps it is more expedient, as the memorialist thinks, to order the arsenals in Kiangnan and Kuangtung to first try manufacturing (big breech-loading guns) as experiments, so as not to waste money and commit mistakes. All these should be taken into early consideration. The memorialist considers that the chief importance of organizing coast defense is to have a proper man to take charge of it. That the Chinese navy is ineffective some attribute to the want of exertion (on the part of the authorities); yet among the metropolitan and provincial officials patriotic and good men are not wanting. There must be some reason which accounts for the hindrance which interferes with every step that is taken (in naval affairs). The memorialist is acting as commissioner for the defense of the seaboard and adviser to the cabinet; and he humbly perceives that on account of the direction of affairs not being centralized everything is difficult of management. The reason is this: The power of the board ministers is great, because they receive direct decrees fom the throne to deliberate in unison; but in every matter, whether great or small, they mostly propose and follow out the requests of the high provincial authorities. The power of provincial viceroys and governors is limited to the territory under their control; even the high commissioners of the Northern and Southern Oceans are not at liberty to intrude into the matters of a province not under their jurisdiction.

As their majesties have truly said, to start and build ships and manufacture arms in a single corner of the Empire is not arranging a complete state of coast defense. If it is now desired to expunge the evil of orders not being executed effectively, it is necessary to select with care a virtuous and able man, and raise him to a high post, which is to be called either minister plenipotentiary for coast defense, or minister of the board of marine. In all matters relating to coast defense, the minister calculating upon the entire state of affairs under his control, can report to the throne and act. He should have full powers to select officers, drill soldiers, devise funds, and build ships. His permanent residence should be on the Yangtzŭ; but southward he should watch over Fuhkien and Kuangtung, and northward guard the seat of government. He should be at liberty either to perform his duties in his yamên or to make his tours of inspection about all places under his control, as circumstances demand, without being fettered in any respect. An assistant minister should also be chosen to give advice and help to his chief when in the yamên, superintend the works, and guard the office when the first minister is away on his tours. When powers are vested in a single person he cannot shirk his responsibilities; then success may be immediately looked for; but such a minister, occupying such a high position and shouldering such enormous responsibilities, must be a man of excellent character and repute, well versed in foreign studies (or affairs), arid respected by both foreigners and Chinese. As to the various details the memorialist cannot propose beforehand, lest a pre-established opinion may cause mistakes. The memorialist, enjoying high imperial favors without being able to repay a particle, tremblingly following the precept of the holy-philosophers of taking warning of the past and care of the future, and laying before their majesties his humble and limited experience, now presents the seven propositions which are possible to decide on for the imperial perusal, and awaits a decree for their execution and their majesties’ instructions.

The memorialist respectfully proposes seven propositions of coast defense, devised and framed according to the exigencies of the present times, and reverentially presents them for their majesties’ sacred perusal.

[Page 178]
War ships must be built in sufficient numbers. Foreign navies have fast-steaming cruisers; gunboats; fish torpedoes, to assist their strong and powerful iron-clads; transports, to carry provisions; steam-launches and gigs to facilitate every movement; just as the Chinese land forces, consisting of infantry, cavalry, battalions of gingals and shields, which combined form an army—because they are in need of each other they benefit one another. Since it is proposed to make a grand reorganization of the navy, it is necessary not only to have everything prepared, but to have everything perfect. The old-fashioned half-fighting and half-merchant vessels should be made to do duty as transports. The fast steaming cruisers of the latest pattern are capable to a certain extent to enter into battle, but they cannot fight alone. The entire length of the Chinese sea-coast is estimated to be over ten thousand li; and we must at least have ten large naval squadrons, well drilled, each squadron composed of several iron-clads and a sufficient number of auxiliary vessels, so that in case of war we may be able to meet the enemy.
The naval regulations must be deliberated upon and adopted. The conditions of the navy established in former times are different from those of the present. Besides the naval forces doing duty in the Yang-tsze and the inland rivers (which are to remain just as they are) the sea forces all along the coast should undergo a thorough uniform change. Moreover, the ships of the Nan-yang* and Pei-yang are not a well-organized squadron. Henceforth, since the sea forces are to be reorganized, they should be placed under the direction of the minister plenipotentiary for coast defense. Each squadron should have a commander, equivalent to the rank of general in land forces, and an assistant commander equivalent to the rank of commandant on land; then should come officers holding ranks equivalent to colonels and lieutenants in the military sense. All promotions, changes, dispatches for service, and bestowals of posts among naval officers are to be reported to the throne by the administrator of coast defense before being carried into effect. The territorial authorities are only to have control over land forces garrisoning the port. Unless extraordinary emergency demands, they are not at liberty to summon naval squadrons to their assistance. In performing all official journeys and business special boats must be requisitioned; the war ships cannot be indiscriminately employed.
Rules must be established for patrolling, guarding, drilling, and practicing, so as to constantly exercise the squadrons. If the ten squadrons were only doing the duties of defense without constantly cruising about, being drilled and kept in practice, they might be numerous, but they would be of no use. Therefore out of the ten squadrons, it is proposed that eight should be distributed at Taku for Tien-Tsin, Yun-chun for Nin-ku-ta, Chefoo for Shantung, Tsung-ming for Kiang-nan, Chin-hai for Che-kiang, Foochow for Fuhkien, Formosa and the Pescadores, and Kiung-chow (Hainan) and Canton for Kuangtung. Each squadron is to be stationed at the places assigned to it; Amoy, Swatow, Chinkiang, Peitang, and other places will have war ships stationed within their harbors, detached from the squadrons that are ordered to watch over the special provinces, and they must be kept in drill and practice morning and night. The eight squadrons stationed at different ports should exchange their posts once in every four months, at which time they should meet in a grand naval rendezvous. As regards the remaining two squadrons one should cruise about Japan (lit. Eastern Ocean), the other about the countries of the West (lit, Western Oceans), doing the same duty as the ships of other nations in China, protecting the merchants; they can also practice and learn to ride the storms, find out about sand-banks and shallows, become acquainted with the climate and habits of the people, discern the position and situation (of other countries’ coast), and study natural philosophy and manufactures. In case any two countries are at war with each other these two squadrons should go and watch the battles, and at the expiration of a year return to take their place among the squadrons of defense, out of which two others are selected to do duties abroad. A yearly report is to be drawn up by the squadrons for cruise and for defense, detailing the particulars of what they have learned and what they have practiced, and presented to the administration of coast defense for examination. The deportment of the officers in each ship is also to be reported and the throne petitioned to award rewards or penalties as cases may require.
The various administrations for various business should be co-operative. Formerly the memorialist petitioned the throne to allow the mines of Hsü-chow and Mu-yuen to be worked so as to furnish materials for the building of iron-clads and manufacture of steel guns. A decree was issued ordering the memorialist to deliberate as to which was the best place to start a foundry. According to ordinary circumstances the memorialist is of the opinion that the governments of Liang Kiang, Fuhkien, and Chekiang should devise and furnish funds to make an experiment; or that honorable, titled, and wealthy merchants should be requested to issue shares and start the enterprise. Experienced chemists should be employed to explain and find out the best methods of assaying, so that steel and iron may be speedily produced in order to meet [Page 179] all requirements. The fact is that mining and the manufacturing of ships and guns always go together. Now, as a minister plenipotentiary for coast defense is to be appointed, all guns, ships, mines, foundries, and ammunitions should be placed under his sole management; for thus duties can be performed in a more expeditious manner. The memorialist proposes to request the throne, as soon as a proper man is appointed to be minister of board of marine, to abolish the office of high commissioner in the Foochow arsenal, and to allow the minister to select a man to fill the post in the arsenal with the approval of their majesties. The arsenals of the other provinces are also to be under the minister’s general direction, so that there may be uniformity in very measure set on foot.
Funds must be generally devised. The memorialist perceives that informing the naval squadrons the expenses necessary must be enormous. The yearly expenditure will be about three or four millions.* Now, our treasury is in an embarrassed condition, and unless all China exert itself to bring forth its combined resources it is impossible to carry out the plan. The first method of devising funds is to reduce the army. If we decrease the regular army by six-tenths several millions can be gained. If one-tenth of the funds for recruiting soldiers were reserved it would bring in hundreds of thousands. Moreover, taxes on foreign goods (?) or opium (?) can be increased, and gun-junks along the coast can be done away with. This increase on the one hand and abolition on the other will result in procuring hundreds of thousands—even millions. May it please their majesties to instruct the boards of revenue and war to find out what are the present income and expenses, and what these would be after the reductions in the different branches of service are made, and how much funds can be devised thus, so that the yearly expenses for administration of the coast defense may be fixed, which sums should be considered as the revenue of the board, and no province be permitted to be short in its remittance. The various provinces in yearly subsidizing the arsenals and in purchasing foreign goods and foreign materials (for military and naval purposes) expand several tens of thousands. Whatever can be economized out of these every year should be handed over to the minister of the board of marine, who is to render an account of his expenditures to the throne.
Railroads must be modeled and built. In foreign countries trade is the backbone of the state, and China is different from them in condition and circumstances. But railroads are built by the merchants; military movements are benefited by the roads. Transportation is facilitated and made expeditious, and wherever the railroad extends there benefits accrue. Before the railroads were made many hindrances were thrown in their path, but when once they came into existence the people on that account grew rich, countries became powerful, and goods imported were multiplied. That there is every advantage and no detriment is only too obvious. The comments of the masses arc multifarious, but there is no necessity to argue with them and explain everything. As the Analects have it, “The people can be made to follow, but cannot be convinced.” Take, for instance, the telegraph and steam navigation, things China never had before; yet once they are initiated they become indispensable. If railways are introduced the benfits that will be derived are of still wider scope. The memorialist is of the opinion that the first railroad should be laid from Tungchow to Tsing-kiang-pu, so as to connect the pivots of the north and south. Transportation being made easy, the trade will become brisk; military movements being rendered expeditious, the army may be reduced to a great degree. Besides, the cost of the road is only several millions. If shares are purchased by mandarins and merchants to make this read as an experiment the plan can be carried into execution. Moreover, it interferes in no respect with the country, or the livelihood of the people. When this road is a success it can be extended. A railroad for the northwest is especially inevitable in the future. The memorialist proposes that as soon as the minister for the board of marine is appointed he is to be instructed to deliberate upon the subject, to devise methods for raising funds, to draw up proposals for carrying the plan into execution, and finally to report everything to the throne.
The ambition of the students must be encouraged. The Government, in selecting students, considers of the first importance morals and accomplishments; for morals are the motive principle, and accomplishments are for action. In the year previous Pan Yen-tung memorialized the throne to start a special examination for students who study arts and crafts, and the memorialists, obeying a decree, deliberated in unison [with Pan] and framed a circular to the effect that [Confucian] doctrine and arts or crafts are from the same origin and cannot be separated into two different objects; so that able and talented men are to be had even among those who pursue the latter studies. Now, the memorialist, having some personal experience in seaboard affairs, and having made minute inquiries in all matters, is of the idea that not only such a college as the one proposed by Li Hung-chang, where naval and military men [Page 180] can study polytechnics, manufactures, geography, and laws, so as to combine morals, with accomplishments, should be opened, but it is also necessary to start a Government school and to frame regulations in accordance with which scholars may be enabled to advance themselves. Foreign books are to be translated and carefully written out. The students and people are to be instructed so that they can teach each other. Then ability and talent will be inexhaustible. The best methods to be adopted to carry out this project will be proposed by the minister plenipotentiary fer coast defense.

The memorialist humbly awaits the imperial decision on these seven propositions.

  1. i. e., Southern Ocean.
  2. i. e., Northern Ocean.
  3. i. e., from $3,750,000 to $6,000,000.
  4. On the Pei-ho, 13 miles southeast of Peking, with which it is connected by a canal.
  5. On the Yang-tze, near Chinkiang. (?)