Imatges de pàgina
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OFFICIAL CHANGES.

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more complicated by the sudden emigration of several thousands of Chinese subjects to the newly-discovered goldfields of California. There was not as much reason to entertain surprise at this movement as people seemed to think, seeing that the Chinese had shown, by their going to the Straits Settlements, the Philippines, and Siam, that they had no objection to seek profitable employment abroad.

Hienfung came to the throne at the time of great dearth and public suffering; but his administration energetically strove to alleviate the general distress, and by means of voluntary subscriptions-a very common mode of raising money in China-succeeded in supplying the more pressing wants of the population. The spring of 1850 proved to be exceedingly fine and propitious, so that abundant crops contributed to rapid recovery from the depressing condition to which a large part of the country had been reduced. The obituary ceremonies of the late Emperor shared with ministerial changes the attention of the capital. Muchangah and Keying were removed from their offices, the former because, as it was proclaimed, “his overthrow of those of a different policy from himself when the barbarian question was first raised is matter of the deepest indignation." Nor was Keying's crime less heinous in the eyes of his new prince. “The unpatriotic tendency of Keying, his cowardice and incapacity, are very greatly to be wondered at.” Both were only saved from death out of regard for their long services; but while Muchangah * was deprived of all his rank and offices, and forbidden to expect any future employment, Keying was reduced to the lowest grade, it is true, but left

Muchangah had been for a great many years employed in the public service. He was considered the oldest civilian in the service. As far back as the year 1818 he was a junior vice-president of the Board of Trade and General of the Manchu White Banner. In 1823 he became senior vice-president, and was then employed on several special commissions to different parts of the Empire. In 1836 he was appointed honorary tutor to the Heir Apparent, and in the same year he was rewarded with a seat in the Cabinet. He was soon made the Governor-General of Pechihliman office not so important then as it has appeared to be since the time of Li Hung Chang.

On the death of Changling, in 1838, Muchangah became premier, or, more correctly, first Grand Secretary.

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with the hope that he might regain his former position as well as the confidence of his sovereign. The fall of these two ministers, who had enjoyed a longer tenure of office than usually falls to the lot of Chinese officials, showed the instability of rank and reputation among the ministers of the Dragon Throne. Their policy had fallen out of favour, and as their views had become unpalatable, neither their age nor their services could avert their complete ruin and disgrace. The most powerful official in China can never feel certain as to where he will be to-morrow. One day he is the supposed arbiter of the Empire's destiny; the next he has often been reduced to a lower rank than the least important of his secretaries, and he may esteem himself fortunate if he manages to save his life.

The removal of Muchangah and Keying, who were the ministers principally identified with the pacific settlement of the foreign question, could not fail to be generally interpreted as signifying a change of view on the part of the new Emperor as to the mode of dealing with what he designated the affair of the outer barbarians. And whether Hienfung really meant his act to have that effect or not, it gave a fresh impulse to the sentiments hostile to Europeans, and encouraged those who hoped that the day of concessions had gone by.

Among no class did Hienfung's early proceedings produce greater excitement than among those literati who, having passed the necessary examinations, become aspirants to office and fame. These saw in the disgrace of Keying, and the exaltation of the Viceroy Su, the certain precursors of a return to that policy of superiority which not merely flattered their vanity, but was perhaps really necessary to the maintenance of their position among their own people.

The effects of this change were first revealed at Foochow, where in the summer of 1850 an attempt was suddenly made to prevent foreigners residing in that town. It was said that the foreigners had the right to come only to trade, and that, therefore, they could not claim to reside within the limits of the city. That privilege had been conceded with much reluctance to the consul, but the merchants were to reside at the mouth of the river. The immediate cause of

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disagreement was the acquisition by purchase of some land on the part of the missionaries who intended building a place of residence and a chapel. The matter had received the sanction of the local magistrate, when the mob, incited by literati of the town, and encouraged, it was more than suspected, by the exhortation of Commissioner Lin, who chanced to be living close to it, made a hostile demonstration in front of the missionaries' new residence. The officials of Foochow were fortunately actuated by more friendly feelings than the people, and in their hands the matter passed out of the sphere of mob violence into the more satisfactory region of regular discussion. It became clear that the Chinese had the best of the controversy. Reference to the treaty showed that the place of residence had been specified as the kiangkan, or mart, at the mouth of the river, and not at the ching, or town, itself. The Chinese were, therefore, shown to be within their right; and the question had to be left for future settlement as one of convenience and good-will.

The mention of Lin's name will serve to introduce the last passage of his eventful career. He had lived down the loss of office which had followed the failure of his plans at Canton, and it really looked as if the wheel of fortune were again turning in his favour. Certainly Hienfung was well disposed towards both the man and his policy, and when the rebels in Kwangsi grew more daring it was on Lin that his choice fell to bring them into subjection. It is far from clear that Lin was the best man for this kind of work, as his experience was altogether of a peaceful character ; but the result of the experiment could never be known, as he died on the 22nd of November, 1850, on his way to the scene of the struggle. Although Commissioner Lin failed to achieve any of the objects which he placed before himself, he was thoroughly convinced of the wisdom and necessity of the policy, despite the fact that he never made it successful.

His sincerity was above challenge, but he was always more of a moralist than of a statesman.

He has been called a statesman, but the claim will not be allowed at the bar of history. He was rather a typical representative of the order of literary officials to which he belonged. Statesmanship is in their eyes the

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carrying out of political plans in strict obedience to a groove of action laid down in antiquity, and the able man is he who can most eloquently enunciate great moral truths which he probably does not carry out in his own life, and which without practice and the demonstration of vigour will avail but little to keep an empire together, or to impose obedience to the laws upon a vast population. Nothing, perhaps, showed more clearly the direction in which the young Emperor was drifting than the fact that he conferred on this man, the High Commissioner Lin, the enemy of the English, the posthumous title of the Faithful Duke.

About the same time six portals of honour were erected at Canton to the Viceroy Su for his victory over the English, in having successfully resisted their attempt to force their claims of admission into the city. There was nothing in this to excite any surprise. The authorities felt that their hold upon the respect of the people rested on far too insecure a foundation to allow them to neglect so favourable an occasion of showing that the Government still retained some of its strength. The simple country-folk expressed their admiration for their rulers by attacking and maltreating two American gentlemen in the neighbourhood of Canton. The Viceroy replied that the Americans had brought their misfortune upon themselves by going into the country without a guard, but that he would do everything in his power to capture and rigorously punish those who were guilty.

The first years of Hienfung's reign witnessed what was an entirely novel event in Chinese history—the exodus on a large scale of the Chinese people to lands across the sea. There had in earlier stages of their history been emigrations to Siam, Malacca, and the islands of the Eastern Archipelago. The Philippines had owed no fleeting prosperity to their toil. Their trading-junks had passed the Sunda straits, and many of the Emperor's subjects enjoyed wealth and prosperity in lands then and now subject to the sway of England. The Chinaman only requires a sufficient inducement to attract him from his own country, and in 1852 that inducement had been supplied in a way that it had never before been by the discovery of the gold-fields in California and Australia.

THE GOLD FIELDS.

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Once the example was set, the people flocked across the Pacific in their thousands. Each emigrant vessel carried from 500 passengers to as many as 1000 ; and for a time it seemed as if the supply of these persistently industrious and never-desponding labourers was inexhaustible.

Within a few months of the first arrival nearly 20,000 Chinese had landed at San Francisco. Nor were they unable to take care of themselves, or to do justice to their own interests. They were bound together not only by their common race in a strange land, but by the terms of a labour association which afforded them a much more effectual protection than any possessed by their white fellow-labourers. Their chiefs, such as the great and prosperous Atti, no doubt took care to draw more than their share of the spoil ; but there were very efficient safeguards against any gross abuses.

Nor was Australia a less attractive spot to the adventurous sons of the southern provinces; and much of the prosperity of Queensland may be traced to the work done half a century back by the cheapest labourers in the world.

These emigrants were not lost to their own country. A certain number, possibly a high percentage, of them died; but even then their bodies were conveyed to their homes for burial. But a very large number returned carrying back with them their savings, which represented for their wants a sum by no means inconsiderable. China was so much the richer by the wealth they imported; she could hardly be said to have suffered from their absence. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to say what were the true views of the Chinese Government on the subject. They certainly did not interfere to check the emigration as they could easily have done. They seemed rather disposed to take the view that those who were willing to leave their country could not be of much use to her if they remained. When the movement attained its largest proportions the "Pekin authorities were too much occupied with other matters to give it the heed that the fact in itself deserved; but the regular return of the emigrants, after a more or less brief absence, with the results of their labour, gradually reconciled their rulers to the annual migration. It was satisfactory for them to perceive that they felt none the

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