File No. 1518/359.

Chargé Fletcher to the Secretary of State.

No. 1354.]

Sir: In continuation of my No. 1317 of December 6, 1909, on the subject of constitutional reform in China, I have the honor to inclose translation of an interesting and important edict issued on the 30th ultimo in answer to a memorial presented by certain delegates from the provincial assemblies praying for the opening of the Imperial Parliament in advance of the time fixed in the original program.

The prayer of the memorial is refused on the ground that the time is not ripe and the firm purpose of the Throne to adhere strictly and consistently to the constitutional program is declared.

I have, etc.,

Henry P. Fletcher.
[Page 330]

imperial edict.

[Reverently received by the grand secretariat Jan. 30, 1910.]

The censorate has memorialized for Sun Hung-yin and others of the Chihli and other -provincial assemblies asking that the Imperial Parliament may be speedily opened. We have read carefully the memorial and are greatly pleased with the sincere spirit of patriotism that is displayed therein. We reverently received from our predecessor the heavy responsibility of preparing for constitutional government, and in the beginning of our reign we notified all the court and provincial officials that the eighth year of Hsuan-t’ung would be the end of the period of preparation, and we fixed clearly the national program. We thus fulfilled our obligation to the sacred purpose of our predecessor left incomplete, and satisfied the aspirations of the reformers throughout the Empire.

Her Imperial Majesty the Empress Dowager Hsiao Ch’in Hsien and His Imperial Majesty the Emperor Te Tsung Ching (Kuang-hsü) formerly promulgated an edict containing the imperial decision that there should be nine years of preparation for the imperial constitutional régimé of the Ta Ch’ing Empire. The edict of our predecessors states that while all power is in the hands of the court, all governmental affairs may be discussed by the people. This has been seen and heard by all the officials and people of the Empire. Now the court is toiling day and night, striving earnestly to attain a high ideal. Already the yamens of Peking and the Provinces have been repeatedly urged to keep to the program prescribed, in the hope that the parliament might be soon opened, to the strengthening of the foundations of the Empire. But our Empire is of wide extent. The measures of preparation are not complete. The intelligence and attainments of the people have not been made uniform. If the parliament should be hastily opened confusion and dissension might result, which would hinder the success of constitutional Government in its early stages. If so, we could not satisfy the spirit of our predecessor, now in Heaven, and how, we ask, would you delegates answer to the myriad myriads of the common people?

We are acting in a straightforward manner, without any concealment or pretense. Constitutional government shall be established, a parliament shall be opened. But care must be taken about the preparation and impatience restrained about the successive steps to be taken. Those who aim to travel far must tread firmly. Those who aspire to great things must not wrangle over small gains.

At present the provincial assemblies have all been established. During the next year the imperial senate (tzu Cheng Yuan) will be opened. These constitute the base of the pillar of parliament. We only desire our officials and people to be zealous in fulfilling their duties day by day, not losing the substance in clutching at the shadow. We now proclaim clearly that when the preparatory work of the nine years has been completed; when the education of the common people has been extended; at the proper time we will issue a resolute decree fixing the date for convening a parliament. Careful preparation is an essential part of zeal for good government. Let this be widely proclaimed.