File No. 1518/109–110.

Chargé Fletcher to the Secretary of State.

No. 804.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose translation of an imperial edict which has appeared recently on the subject of the preparation of the people for the introduction of constitutional government and explaining that public discussion of affairs of State must be conducted by regularly authorized bodies, and that local agitators and agitations on public concerns must be suppressed as unlawful. The edict is credited to Chang Chihtung and was called forth by the popular meetings which have lately been held in the provinces to protest against certain policies of the imperial Government in connection with railway loans, policing of the West River, etc.

I have, etc.,

Henry P. Fletcher.

Imperial edict.

[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.

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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 action.

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 the Throne.

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.