File No. 1518/109–110.
[Peking Cheng Chih Kuan Pao, Dec. 24, 1907.]
On December 24, 1907, the grand secretariat received an imperial
edict, as follows:
We, the Emperor, have received from Her Imperial Majesty, the Dowager
Empress, these commands:
Last year we issued an edict that preparation be made for
constitutional government. At the same time warning was given that
the project was one of vast magnitude and infinite complexity,
necessitating thorough preparation of statutes by the higher
officials and a clear understanding on the part of the people of the
principles involved. For only in that way could a constitutional
government be instituted at an early date.
The present is a time of preparation. In Our edict we have repeatedly
said that the state of preparedness of the people should be
carefully studied, so that these constitutional forms may be
introduced as soon as the people are ready for them and may enjoy
their benefits to the fullest extent.
Every country constitutionally governed has relegated the ultimate
authority to the Throne. It is true that the affairs of the nation
are passed upon by the nation as a whole, but the final decision in
every case rests with the Throne. And in popular discussions,
whether oral or written, there are certain restrictions. No country
permits its citizens to transgress its laws under guise of bringing
about constitutional reform.
Our country has been especially strict in the observance of order and
decorum in society. Even if we adopt methods of government from
other countries, we must carefully guard our national ideals of
conduct. The Throne is most sincere in attempting these reforms.
There have, of late, been not a few among the governing classes, the
merchants, the literari, and the populace who have intelligently
performed their individual duties; but there have been also many
fickle, deceitful, ignorant ones entirely lacking in insight. People
have made these constitutional reforms a pretext for meddling with
the internal and foreign concerns of the Government. When one has
raised his voice a hundred have flocked to him and added their quota
to the general chorus of interference. One falsehood leads to
another. If this is not stopped it is to be feared that they will
soon swarm like bees, leading to inexplicable confusion. Inferiors
insult their superiors, and in consequence the higher classes are
becoming unworthy. The national ideals begin to be shaken. This all
serves to interrupt the laying of foundations for a constitutional
government. The peaceful rule of the country is disrupted and, most
important of all, the real establishment of a constitutional
government is postponed to an indefinite date, as is also the day
when the Empire will regain its strength.
The people must be allowed to understand these things and express
themselves, but they must not indulge in disorderly discussions.
Under constitutional forms of government ministers and people are
mindful of distinctions of rank and maintain peaceful relations.
Parliamentary bodies express public opinion; thus it is necessary
that both electors and representatives act under strict rules. The
assemblage and the dispersal of these bodies must take place in a
methodical manner. Their proceedings must be controlled by carefully
adjusted laws that will define their jurisdiction. There are matters
that lie outside of popular control.
There have already been established in Peking and the provinces the
Constitutional Assembly and the provincial deliberative assemblies,
respectively. These may be regarded very properly as the beginnings
of constitutional government. Hereafter the welfare of each province
will be minutely discussed by its deliberative assembly. If this
body arrives at any valuable opinion it will forward an expression
of its views through the high provincial authorities to the
Constitutional Assembly in the capital for consideration and
Due precedence must be observed in the order in which the two bodies
transact business. Futile discussions must not take place, for they
will disturb the smooth running of the Government.
In addition to commanding the boards of law and home affairs quickly
to settle upon rules for the control of the public press, the Throne
has ordered the bureau for the collation of administrative methods
and the board of home affairs, acting jointly, and keeping in mind
the laws of other countries for a similar purpose, to draw up rules
restricting public discussion of Government affairs. When they have
determined upon anything they shall recommend a course of action to
For such as gather their fellow citizens together and seduce them
from reason with wild fallacies the law of the Empire speaks a stern
interdict. For them there can be no leniency. They must without
mercy be rigorously suppressed.
Let all Government offices in Peking and the provinces in the range
of their respective jurisdictions cause this edict to be reverently
obeyed and scrupulously observed in every particular. If any
officers are too lenient in these respects, they will but nurse to
maturity untold calamity. Let not the injunctions of this edict be
evaded in the slightest regard. Respect this.