File No. 893.00/2641

Minister Reinsch to the Secretary of State

No. 1525

Sir: I have the honor to transmit for the information of the Department a copy of a declaration of the President’s policy issued by him on May 31.

There is also enclosed a newspaper account of the conflict between the republican and military parties.4 The main points in the situation as it stands at the present time are as follows:

The revolutionary Tuchuns (military governors) are gaining confidence through a more complete organization of their party and on account of the inaction of the President. The seat of their counsels is in Tientsin; the leaders of the military party, of the Chin Pu Tang, of the pro-Japanese party, as well as Liang Shih-yi and his followers, are at present congregated there. They are trying to form a provisional government. As far as personnel is concerned they could probably form a stronger government than any other combination.

The present plan of the militarists is directed toward the object of isolating and strangling Peking. They are in control of the railways leading here. They are preventing the shipment of foodstuffs. They are planning to send troops to be stationed at Fengtai, outside of Peking.

Meanwhile the President and what remains of the constitutional Government are paralyzed, through the lack of military and financial support. As the declaration of the President shows, he has taken a conciliatory and pacific attitude, being firm only when it came to resisting illegal measures. He has relied largely upon the advice of General Wang Shih-chen, Chief of Staff, who is a quiet, just-minded and highly respected man. The President has at no time used tactical advantages through which he might have overthrown the Tuchuns and confounded their counsels. He has quietly relied on the justice [Page 52] of his cause but has not been supported by an organized group of men. The Government itself is thoroughly disorganized; the Ministries are in charge of inferior officials; there are only two substantive Ministers left, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister of the Navy.

Should the militarists be successful in entirely overthrowing the President and his Government, no permanent solution will be afforded. The southern provinces are all opposed to the militarist action and would probably create a separate republic. Even in the north the action of this party would offend the senses of the people and would have the support only of the men actively engaged therein. No permanent government can therefore be expected of the reactionary policy represented by the militarist organization. As they are, however, the only existing powerful organization in China, they have to be reckoned with in any settlement to be made.

I have [etc.]

Paul S. Reinsch

declaration by the president of his policy

President Li Yuan-hung has made his attitude clear in regard to the present situation in a long telegram, which he sent to the provinces last night. He reviews the past events and repudiates one by one the accusation brought against him and Parliament and then takes the Tuchuns soundly to task. Attention is called particularly to the closing part of the telegram, in which the President announces what he would do if the Tuchuns should insist on provoking hostilities. The following is a full translation of the said telegram:

Extra urgent. To the Vice President, Tuchuns, Governors, Inspector General Chang Hsun, Inspector General Lu Yung-ting, etc., etc., and all newspaper offices. Recently baseless rumors have been diligently spread and unscrupulous people have tried to fan up ill feelings. It is a great surprise to me that high provincial officials could have been misled by such rumors into taking arbitrary steps without considering the correctness or otherwise of the same. Provincial authorities are trustees of the Central Government, with which they are closely and vitally connected for the defence of the country and the protection of the homesteads. There is no reason why they should not plainly give their views if they have any doubts to clear. Yet they have sought to further swell the wave and stir up the already troubled seas by joining in the same cry. Can anyone imagine what the dangerous consequences will be?

Against my wishes I have been thrown into the troublous times at an old age. The reason why I did not refuse to accept the great responsibilities that were thrust on my shoulders was because that after the great disturbances the people were looking for a new lease of life, that the military men were all my bosom friends and that the Premier was my colleague in tribulations. In view of such intimate relationships how could it be possible for there to be any partitions between us? During the last year I have been humbling myself to listen to the advice of others. Even when difference of opinion arose between my office and the Kuo Wu Yuan regarding administrative questions I have never refused to stoop down and accept others’ views in order to bring about harmony. I used to say that the straightforwardness of Chih-chuan (Tuan Chi-jui) should prove an excellent counterpart for my sincere appreciation.

Upon the diplomatic rupture suddenly taking place political Crises have followed one another. Cabinet Ministers broke up from inside while Parliament pressed from without. The cries for the reorganization of the Cabinet increased in volume but according to my own conscience it should not have been so. On the other hand I vainly looked for methods to maintain the situation or settle the dispute. My fear was that if the tension be allowed to last too long the difficulty would increase in intensity. The arbitrary behaviour of one person finally caused cries to arise from every quarter. If the steps were retraced at a critical [Page 53] point, confidence and prestige would have been damaged, while if I had departed from the regular track discipline and order would have been cast to the winds. No matter in which direction I should turn I was bound to place Chih-chuan in a difficult position, which would be contrary to my intention of love and sympathy for the ex-Premier. I believed therefore that it would be preferable to remove him temporarily from office in order to enable him to retain and increase his prestige. Since his merits would then remain in the memory of the people it would not be long before we would hear his golden advice once more. Furthermore, it was my duty to see that the old vacated their office and was succeeded by new. It would be better for me to bear the responsibility of slightly offending my friend as it would not be difficult to amend in the future. It is my view that in truthfulness and sincerity your affection for Chih-chuan does not come up to that of mine.

As to the question of counter-signature by Cabinet Ministers, it was merely following precedents. And since Parliament had already lodged an interpellation, the reply of the Cabinet should be waited for. As it was a point of law a solution could certainly be arrived at. It is unfair therefore to insist that it is a violation of law. Again, the dismissal of the Premier vacated also the post of the Minister of War. And since all eyes are turned to the capital, where peace and order must be maintained, it was necessary to have a person, who possessed high prestige and commanded real respect, to act as the head of the troops and to pacify the minds of the people. The establishment of the Office of Precautionary Measures was an emergency step. It would be promptly abolished as soon as the Cabinet could be organised. What suspicion could there be between the Central Government and the provinces so that it has necessitated the latter to send troops to watch the former at a distance? There is really no need for argument in this connection.

Ever since the reassembly of Parliament numerous political banners have been set up. Little has been achieved but a good deal of quarrel has taken place. Recently on account of the excessive restrictions for the making of the Constitution, certain persons have endeavoured to pass measures by utilizing special opportunities. People became exceedingly indignant and considered Parliament to be the source of trouble. The Tuchuns, being unwilling to allow laws to be made for prejudiced purpose, asked to have the same amended. The far sighted views of the veteran statesmen agreed perfectly with that of mine. How could I have differed with you since I was directed by my patriotism? My view was that there were still a good many wise persons in Parliament, and as the discussion of the Constitution was still proceeding, there was hope of attaining our view if we simply endeavoured to exchange views. So long as we could compel the members to reconsider their views even at the eleventh hour there was no need to rob their cow because it treaded a field. It was for this reason that I shelved the petition (of the Tuchuns). I made this clear personally to Tuchuns. Tsao Kun and Meng En-yuan. Yet I am insistently accused for partiality to the M.P.s and slighting the provincial officials. When law is tied down how could the administration proceed? Can you imagine that I am so stupid as this?

Rumors whispered at roadsides even go farther than this. They allege that it was my intention to inflict punishment on those who disobeyed my words and to dismiss half of the provincial authorities. In relationship with you I am officially a public servant but privately a member of the same family with you. I am not only bound to you by the duties of the State but also by the tie of brotherhood. What was harmful to you must be harmful to me and what was beneficial to you must also be beneficial to me. In addition to this it must be remembered that you came from a far distance to give me advice. Your words might have been too hot but they were sincere and patriotic. At this time of world war I must rely on you like the Great Wall. How then could I have entertained the idea of cutting you off like severing my limbs for no reasons whatsoever, and on whom should I rely if this were done? You say the mandate was given to the Bureau for publication: then it will not be difficult to ascertain the truth by looking up the registry. If you say the mandate was kept at my office, pray how came it to be known to people outside? The saying is that rumors stop at the door of the wise. I am surprised to know that such high and responsible persons like the Tuchuns could have been misled by a few unscrupulous people.

Dangers lurk in every corner as the diplomatic question is not yet decided. Wide stretches of land lie scorched like a desert between the Huai River and the Yangtse. Famine sufferers are to be seen everywhere while robbers in hiding [Page 54] still lurk here and there. These facts alone are sufficient to tell us what the situation is before us. The reason why the State employs officials is for the benefit of the people. It is impossible for us to do too much even if we worked to our very best ability and perfect harmony. How are we to explain ourselves if we indulge in selfish war against all sense of order and discipline? How can we depend on our military force as support and use baseless rumors as war cry? The members of Parliament are accused of being desirous of dividing the country into federal states, yet you are literally occupying each a province for the purpose of defying the Government. You accuse the cabinet of violating law, yet, with the assistance of a military force, you endeavour to disobey the orders of the Government. The only goal such acts can lead to is partition of the country like the five Chi and making the country a protectorate like Korea. In which case both restoration of the monarchy and the establishment of the Republic will be an idle dream. You may not care for the black records that will be written against you in history but you ought certainly to realize your own fate. The uprising at Kiangsi and Nanking were for the purpose of uniting China. The revolution started in Yunnan was for the protection of the Republic.

Now if your declaration for independence is to uphold the constitution then I must remind you that the said law is yet in the stage of the second reading. If your declaration is against the Chief Executive then you must confess that I have committed no acts of treason.

If on the other hand the declaration of war by the several commanders of troops has been made for the reason that a single person has been removed from office, then the war is without a just cause and the honour of the person who has vacated office will surely be blackened. It is not only a crime against the public but also returning good with evil. What is there in it that you are so willing to harm yourselves as well as others? Is it possible to believe that you are so unwise?

I am an old man. Like the bean stalk under the leaf I have always been watching for any possibility of not seeing and understanding aright. Yea, I walk day and night as if treading on thin ice. I welcome all for giving me advice and even admonition. If it will benefit the country I am ready to apologize.

But if it be your aim to shake the foundations of the country and provoke internal war, I declare that I am not afraid to die for the country. I have passed through the fire of trial and have exhausted my strength and energy from the beginning to the end for the Republic. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I will under no circumstance watch my country sink into perdition, still less to subject myself to become a slave to another race.

Of such acts I wash my hands in front of all the elders of the country. These are sincere words from my true heart and will be carried out into deeds.

Li Yuan-hung
  1. Not printed.