Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 5, 1892
Mr. Denby to Mr. Blaine.
Peking , March 14, 1892 . (Received May 5.)
Sir: At the request of the consular body at Shanghai, I have the honor to inclose a report of the proceedings of a public meeting held at that city the 25th ultimo, to consider “the Hunan publications.”
The meeting indorsed the petitions which have been forwarded to the President and Lord Salisbury from Hankow and Kiukiang. I thoroughly agree that the influence of these publications is bad and that they ought to be suppressed.
Nothing has been left undone by the foreign representatives to secure that result, still it seems to be desirable that direct representations should be made by the home governments to the Government of China on the subject.
I fear, however, that the causes of discontent among the Chinese are deeper than antagonism to the Christian religion. There can be no doubt that there is a widespread belief in China that international intercourse is injurious to her interests. The more intelligent among her people cite as grievances the importation of opium, the import of foreign manufactured goods, the introduction of steamers, the loss of Burma and Annam, extra territoriality, the presence of missionaries, and many other things.
The decline in the tea and silk trade aggravates the prevailing unrest and bad feeling.
It is not worth while to inquire whether the matters complained of do produce the injury which is alleged. Opinions thereon would largely differ.
The chart that guides the foreign representative is the treaty. He has only to see that its provisions are complied with. If those provisions work injury to China he can not help it. She must find her own methods of relief.
I have, etc.,
The Hunan publications.
A public meeting of residents in Shanghai was held yesterday afternoon at the Lyceum Theater, at the invitation of the Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce, to take such steps as might appear desirable in regard to the antiforeign publications by the Chinese. The chair was taken by Mr. J. G. Purdon, president of the chamber and chairman of the municipal council, and there was a large attendance.
The chairman opened the proceedings by saying:
Ladies and gentlemen: This meeting of the community is called for the purpose of taking such steps as may seem advisable with regard to the abominable antiforeign [Page 93] publications that are issued in various parts of China, particularly in the province of Hunan. The subject has been so fully and powerfully laid before us all by the Rev. Griffith John and other missionaries whose position enables them to speak with authority, and so well treated in the local press, that I do not propose taking up your time by going at any length into it here. There can be no question but that these publications have had the effect intended of embittering the minds of the natives against all foreigners, and while we in Shanghai have escaped any trouble it is because the natives are aware that we have men-of-war in port and a very efficient body of volunteers and police who could and would speedily put down any local riot. This does not make us indifferent to the sufferings that our fellow countrymen at other ports have gone through, or to the probability that they may have again to suffer, unless some very decided measures are taken by the treaty powers to show the Chinese that the present state of affairs can not be permitted to continue; and it is to back up the efforts that have been made to this end, by the residents at other places, and to strengthen the hands of our consular representatives in the steps that we may be sure that they have taken to bring the matter before the home governments, that we are met here to-day. As I said, we in Shanghai have escaped actual outbreak, but it is evident to any one carefully observant that the antiforeign feeling is by no means absent. Straws show how the wind blows, and the greatly increased obstructiveness of the Chinese officials in every matter connected with these settlements, and their evident desire to interfere in the affairs of the settlements, unquestionably arise from feelings antagonistic to all foreigners; while at the same time any complaint against their own countrymen laid before the officials is contemptuously ignored. I may add that I sent one of these publications, one of which I have in my hand, some mails ago, to the secretary of the China association in London, to be made such use of as that body may see fit. The meeting is now ready to receive any resolution that may be offered.
Mr. R. W. Little. Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen: I wish, as I have no doubt you wish, that the moving of this resolution, copies of which have been distributed throughout the theater, had been placed in stronger hands than mine; but the importance of the subject will, I hope, make up for my deficiencies. Most of you, I imagine, have copies of this resolution, but perhaps it will be in order if I read it to you. It is as follows:
“That this general public meeting of Shanghai desires to express its full indorsement of the petitions sent to the Marquis of Salisbury and the President of the United States by the Hankow and Kiukiang communities on the subject of the recent anti-foreign riots in the Yangtze Valley, and to support them in drawing the attention of the representatives of all the treaty powers at Peking and their respective governments to the wide diffusion in Central China of virulent and antiforeign literature in the shape of placards, cartoons, pamphlets, and books, whereby the good relations that would otherwise subsist between China and foreigners have been and are seriously endangered; and to the unwillingness displayed by the Chinese authorities to put down this manifest evil by stopping this diffusion and punishing its promoters, although the authors and disseminators of the objectionable publications are perfectly well known to them. This meeting, therefore, hereby requests the chairman to send a copy of the record of the proceedings to-day to the doyen of the diplomatic body at Peking, requesting him to communicate the same to his colleagues, and beg them to join with him in laying this protest before his and their governments, that steps may be promptly taken to mitigate the evil complained of and avert the serious consequences that may be otherwise expected.”
I do not imagine that any exception can be taken to the general drift of this resolution, though perhaps there might be beneficial alterations in the wording of it. The main object of this meeting is to back up what has been done in Hankow and later in Kiukiang. We owe to Hankow, and especially to the energy of Dr. Griffith John [applause], the detection of the source of these placards, pamphlets, and books. The book which has been published in Hankow, containing a large number of these placards, was chiefly intended to be sent home to the governments and leading people there, so that they may realize what this antiforeign propaganda is; and there have been, I understand, very few copies reserved for China. Through the kindness of the British and Foreign Bible Society here, I have been handed a large number of the placards, which perhaps some of you would like to vary the monotony of my speaking by looking at meanwhile; and I think you will see on looking at them, that none of the language which has been used in describing these publications, of which these few are only a sample, has been exaggerated. If we were not concerned at all in this propaganda and its effects, I think it would still be our duty to support Hankow in what it has done. Not only are the river ports offshoots from ourselves, hut they are bound to us by all kinds of ties. They are dependent upon us commercially as we are more or less upon them; and the efforts Hankow has made through Dr. Griffith John, through Consul Gardner, and through the public meeting which it held, certainly deserve our support and our indorsement. We have been, as the [Page 94] chairman has said, fortunately free from any actual outbreak, and We are likely to continue so as long as we are as well defended as we are; but we must remember that, in the words of the Roman poet, it becomes our business when our neighbor’s house is on lire. Last summer, perhaps, many of you will remember, the riots came very near to us, within 25 or 30 miles. It is quite possible—indeed it is more than possible, it is very probable that if something is not done, similar riots will break out again this year. Without going so far as to believe with the Viceroy Chang Chih-tung, that there is a spirit of rebellion, and more that an organized rebellion existing in the Yangtze valley, it is very certain there is an immense amount, among a certain class of the people, of unrest and readiness to break out in outrages. There is no doubt that if these publications of Chou Han and his accomplices have not caused these riots, they have been in many cases the spark which has set fire to material already prepared. In any civilized country as the Hankow petition to lord Salisbury pointed out, such publications as these would be stopped at once by the Government, and although the Throne and Viceroys fulminate against them and declare that their authorship is punishable with death, and that they will be repressed with the whole energy of the Government, we do not see that anything has been really done to stop Mr. Chou Han’s work and that of his accomplices. It is our duty, both on account of Hankow and ourselves and general civilization and progress in China, to do what we can to get this propaganda put down. We are not, in forwarding the minutes of this meeting, if this resolution is passed, as I hope it will be, throwing or intending to throw any slight whatever on the exertions of our representatives at Peking. We know they have done and are doing their best, and we have every reason to believe that anything we do here will only strengthen their hands, and should not be received by them as throwing any blame upon them. So much has been already said, as the Chairman remarked, in the press particularly and generally about this propaganda, about what it has done and what it will do if it is not stopped, that you will not expect me to go on at great length. I can only say I hope this large and representative meeting will pass this resolution, amending it if it likes by acclamation, and that our action will not only be a satisfaction to our friends up the river, but be of benefit to the cause of civilization in China and the safety of our fellow countrymen throughout the Yangtze Valley. With these few words, gentlemen, I place this resolution in your hands. [Applause].
Mr. E. G. Low. In rising to second the resolution proposed by Mr. Little I do not intend to say more than a few words. The situation has been so clearly put in the forcible letters of the Hankow and Kiukiang communities that it is only left to us to give them our fullest and most unqualified indorsement, and this we do by the resolution before us. The thanks of all foreigners in China are greatly due to Dr. Griffith John for his ability and tenacity in ferreting out the true source of the publications which have caused so much evil. Hoping that our home governments will no longer remain blind to the necessity of taking the strong stand which their ignorance of the true state of affairs has hitherto prevented them from taking, I have much pleasure in seconding the resolution.
Rev. Timothy Richard. I heartily support the resolution, both in the interest of foreigners and that of the Chinese—in the interest of foreigners, because innocent, law-abiding, useful, and philanthropic residents, scattered widely throughout China, should no longer be left at the mercy of lawless mobs, still guided, unstopped, by such mandarins as Chou Han and his associates; in the interest of the Chinese, because delay in giving full protection and security to foreigners is the surest and speediest way of bringing about what the Chinese fear most: foreign war and all its consequences. I therefore sincerely hope that this motion will be carried unanimously.
Mr. Herbert Smith. This important matter has been so ably dealt with by the previous speakers that it is unnecessary for me to say anything further. It is certainly a subject of such grave moment to all sections of the foreign residents in China that our protest can not be too strongly brought to the notice of the diplomatic body at Peking. I heartily support the resolution.
Mr. A. McLeod. The able manner in which the proposer of this resolution brought the matter before this meeting leaves very little for me to say. I am only qualified to speak on the matter before us from one point of view, a merchant’s, and I think we all admit that the prosperity of this place depends in a very large measure upon the peaceful course of trade. If these riots such as disturbed the valley of the Yangtze during last autumn are carried on, it is perfectly hopeless to expect trade to flourish, and from that point of view alone I think that, in a commercial community like Shanghai, the committee of the chamber of commerce have acted very wisely in calling this meeting. I do not think I can add anything to what the proposer of the motion said. He went so fully into the subject that it leaves little else to say. I will therefore conclude by saying I have much pleasure in supporting the resolution. [Applause.][Page 95]
Rev. W. Muirhead. I think we have ground for serious complaint in the occasion of our meeting here this afternoon. The riots that have taken place in the interior of the country may well excite our deepest feelings; and we here express our sympathy with those who have been in the greatest danger. These riots I believe to be owing to the papers now referred to. Who is the author of them? Only a few parties, I believe, are engaged in the work; Hunanites they are called. But the Chinese are like a flock of sheep, easily led by those in a position of authority over them; and the Hunanese at large are ready to follow in the wake of Chou Han and his colleagues. These papers speak for themselves. They are against all morals and propriety. They are full of lies as well as vile aspersions on foreigners and on missionaries in particular. It behooves us to take action in the matter. As has been already said, those in the interior of China look to Shanghai as the hub of the whole country, and very much will depend upon the course which we take and upon the influence that we exert. Are we not moved by the deepest concern for the welfare and safety of our countrymen and of our countrywomen in the interior? [Applause.] We know what has taken place in consequence of these papers, and, as has been already remarked, we know not what may follow as a still further consequence. To a very large extent it is in our hands to put down these vicious and vile publications. If we use the influence which it is in our power to exert I am sure Chou Han and his companions can be easily laid hold of and brought to a very severe issue in regard to punishment for the vile conduct which he has shown. Not that we are anxious to be avenged in any way; but in view of the high interests at stake it would be well for this community unanimously to follow in the wake of this resolution, and do our very utmost to influence the authorities at home and the authorities at Peking to suppress these publications, that we may live here and elsewhere: in peace and quietness. Speaking as a missionary, I would do nothing at all. It is very strange that in the early days of Christianity charges similar to those which have been brought against missionaries and others in the papers referred to were universally made; but they were answered by those whom we have the honor of calling the early Christian Fathers. I suggest that the missionaries should answer these charges in a similar manner. But we are not all missionaries, and we are on a pleasant and agreeable footing with the government of this country. We have entered into friendly relations with it, and it behooves us to show in a strong and determined way that we will not submit to the publication and diffusion of such unprincipled, immoral, and untrue papers as seem to be so widely circulated. [Applause.] I hope that this gathering of friends in Shanghai will support the missionaries in the interior and the friends who are there at large, in order to put down these vicious and vile papers; and I hope ere long we shall hear no more about them. [Applause.]
Rev. Geo. Hunter (China Inland Mission). I should not have risen to-day had not Mr. Muirhead used a word that included me in what he said. He said we were unanimously of opinion that the steps proposed should be taken. I differ from that, and, having an opinion on the matter, can not content myself with giving a silent vote. One of the gentlemen said he could only speak as a member of the mercantile community in this matter. I can only speak here as a missionary; as one who has come out in the interests of the gospel, to spread that gospel. I agree of course with every word that has been said about the character of these publications. They are vile and untrue beyond all characterizing, but we cannot but remember that we come out to take these things cheerfully. We come out to love and to bless them that curse us and to pray for them that despitefully use us. We are called upon hereto urge the authorities to take steps to stay the evil and have its promoters punished, and Mr. Muirhead hinted at that in no very indirect terms. The newspaper this morning gave us a reminder as to what that meant. There was one very excellent article supporting the object of this meeting, and another told us what punishment of offenders meant in Chinese eyes. The danger is that if we take this step we are leading ourselves into these consequences. I represent a mission that has a great many members in the interior, and we do not take the position Mr. Muirhead suggests at all, and that our friends at Hankow and elsewhere suggest. We believe that, in the interests of the gospel and in spite of dangers to ourselves, this evil is better left as it is. I do not move an amendment, not having seen the resolution before; but for the sake of the gospel and missionaries and for the winning even of Hunan, when this resolution is put I shall certainly say “no.”
The chairman then put the resolution and it was carried, Mr. Hunter alone holding up his hand in dissent.
The meeting terminated with a vote of thanks to Mr. Purdou for his able and courteous conduct in the chair.