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displayed on many occasions during the history of the Chinese Empire, was never greater or more incontestably revealed than in the time of the youthful ruler Tuduc. It formed a strong, and in the result, an irresistible inducement to France to assert the protectorate which she had claimed in a vague and indefinite manner ever since the landing of a small naval force under Admiral de la Grandière at Hué had saved Tuduc's grandfather and averted a dynastic crisis. The reports of every explorer added to the attraction of the subject, and as the world began to attach increased importance to the opening out of the rich provinces of Yunnan and Szchuen, so did the value of the alleged route to this region by the Songcoi or Red river acquire more attractiveness in the eyes of the French authorities. These were the conditions that led to an extraordinary revival of French colonial activity, and the inexcusable apathy of England in her relations with both Burmah and Siam afforded an additional incentive to the French to act quickly. Their undertaking was in the first place given the modest character of an intention to render definite the proposed protectorate over Tonquin, and as the first step in the enterprise the occupation of the towns of Hanoi and Haiphong—the one the capital and the other the port of the Songcoi delta-was decided upon. The execution of this plan was attended with no difficulty, and before the end of the year 1882 a small French force was in occupation of these places and the conquest of Tonquin may be said to have commenced.
Among the neighbouring states of China, Tonquin, like the others, was ranked as a vassal of the Middle Kingdom. Many passages might be recalled from past history of China's interfering for the defence of Tonquin or for the settlement of internal domestic strife, and on some occasions Tonquin had been ruled as a Chinese province. The enforcement of the feudal tie was no doubt lax, and in the eyes of Europeans the rights of vassalage yielded to China by it and such states as Nepaul, Siam, and Burmah were too vague and meaningless to constitute a legal right or to command respect. Such as they were, they could only be made valid by an appeal to arms, and even in Chinese eyes many of them were not worth
a struggle. Still, none the less the opinion was held at Pekin that the French seizure of Hanoi was an infraction of China's rights. At least such was the current report ; but if so, they were careful not to show it, for the Chinese authorities took no steps to arrest the development of the French policy in Tonquin. That, indeed, could only have been done by proclaiming Tonquin a Chinese possession and by announcing the intention to defend it. If the Chinese had promptly taken this step at the moment that the diplomatic success at St. Petersburg was still fresh in all men's minds, there is no knowing but that France might have given way, and abandoned the enterprise.
But decision and the courage requisite to maintain strong resolutions were precisely the qualities in which the Chinese were lacking, and while Li Hung Chang and the other members of the Chinese Government were deliberating what course to pursue, the French were acting with great vigour in Tonquin and committing their military reputation to a task from which, once it was involved, their honour would not allow them to draw back. During the whole of the year 1883 they were engaged in military operations with the Black Flag irregulars, a force half piratical and half patriotic, who represented the national army of Tonquin. These men were not actually in the pay of the State. They fought, however, under regular chiefs, and were supplied with funds by public subscriptions. Their military training was very slight, but they were skilled in irregular warfare, the form of the country was in their favour, and they were as formidable on water as on land. Even when beaten they did not cease to be dangerous, and in the alternations of the struggle they often reappeared ready for the contest when they were thought to have been crushed.
The length and pertinacity of their resistance suggested the view that the Black Flags of Tonquin were paid and encouraged by the Chinese. Subsequent evidence established the fact that the Chinese did not take even an indirect part in the contest until a much later period. After the capture of Hanoi, the French were constantly engaged with the Black Flags, from whom they captured the important town of Sontay. The obstinacy of the defence suggested the idea
that the place was held by Chinese Imperial troops, but after it was captured it was clearly seen that the statement was untrue. Up to that point the Chinese had carefully abstained from showing their hand, and indeed their councils were torn by conflicting views. While one faction was all in favour of asserting the extreme rights of China at every cost, another, and the more powerful in that it was led by Li Hung Chang, supported diplomatic measures, and dreaded the subjection of China's newly-acquired naval and military strength to the test of practical experience. Matters were in this state when the French arms experienced a severe reverse in the Tonquin delta.
The French fully believed that the conquest of Tonquin would be achieved without difficulty and without much cost. Even the Black Flags were regarded as little better than robbers, who, in the course of a little time, would all be shot down. The thought that they might be a formidable enemy never seems to have presented itself to any one. The French were entirely of this belief when a serious reverse obliged them to admit that the task was not so easy as they had imagined, and that it was not wholly free from risk. A considerable detachment under the command of Captain Henri Rivière, who was one of the most able and enterprising pioneers of French commerce and authority in the delta, was surprised near Hanoi. The French were defeated with considerable loss, Rivière himself was killed, and the fruits of previous success were lost. Under these circumstances it became necessary for France to make a great effort to retrieve the ground she had lost. The necessity for this was more clearly established when the French suffered a second reverse at Phukai. The Black Flags claimed this affair as a victory because the French were obliged to retreat. Under these circumstances it was inevitable that France should send out to the Far East troops and men-of-war to redeem the honour of her arms and attain the objects of her policy.
Up to this moment the operations of the French had been restricted to Tonquin, and the delta of the Songcoi. Having thoroughly coerced Tuduc, the young Emperor of Annam, the French felt secure against any diversion from that side,
but very soon after the affairs at Sontay and Phukai this prince died, and the Annamese, encouraged perhaps by the occurrences in Tonquin and the delay in the arrival of reinforcements from Europe, openly proclaimed their hostility. It became necessary to extend the operations to Annam, and as the preliminary to a renewed attack on the Black Flags, Hué was occupied in August, 1883, a ruler of French proclivities was placed on the throne, and a French Resident installed. These conditions were set forth in a treaty which made Annam more clearly the tributary of France than it had ever been of China.
Some months elapsed before the French found themselves in sufficient force to resume operations in Tonquin, and it was not until December, 1883, that Admiral Courbet, to whom had been entrusted the command of the expedition, thought it would be safe to attack Sontay, which the Black Flags had reoccupied after the death of Henri Rivière and strongly fortified. Admiral Courbet attacked this place on the rith December, and after a desperate resistance succeeded in driving out the Black Flags. The French suffered considerably, but they were to some extent recompensed by a very large quantity of spoil, including a considerable sum of money. Even after the fall of Sontay, the Black Flags did not disperse, and they engaged the French in repeated skirmishes. They took up a fresh position at Bacninh, which rumour declared they were making more formidable than Sontay, and owing to the slow progress made by the French force Admiral Courbet was superseded in the command by General Millot.
A new commander has always to justify his appointment, and General Millot determined to signalize his command with an attack on Bacninh. For this purpose he disposed of the very considerable force of 12,000 men, but General Millot was prudent as well as brave, and when he reconnoitred the strong position held by the Black Flags he declined to risk a front attack. He decided on threatening the rear and line of retreat of the enemy, well knowing that few or no Asiatics will stand under such circumstances. The circuitous march necessary to accomplish this object occupied four days, but complete VOL. II.
success attended the manæuvre, for the Black Flags abandoned their formidable positions after little or no resistance. They were unable to remove the Krupp guns which were found in position, but this was the only spoil left in the hands of the victor. These guns were the first evidence that the Chinese had so far departed from their passive attitude as to assist the defenders of Tonquin. This was very far short of the open declaration of war which the Marquis Tseng had advised and threatened as the consequence of any attack on Sontay.
Bacninh was occupied in March, 1884, and then a lull followed on the scene of operations while diplomacy resumed in Paris and Pekin the task of concluding a pacific arrangement between France and China. The relations of the two States were still in name amicable. China had ostensibly done nothing, and in reality very little to invest her suzerain claims over Tonquin with reality. The party in power at Pekin showed that they did not attach any importance to those claims, that peace was their sole object, and that France might possess a free field for expansion in the Songcoi Valley. Whatever merit this course had on the score of putting off the evil day, it was certainly not the right policy to invest with actuality the shadowy pretensions of China in vassal states. These pretensions could only be maintained by the sword; as China did not intend to draw the sword, and as, moreover, its temper was brittle, they should have been promptly relegated to the receptacle for the abandoned claims of nations. The overthrow of the Black Flags at Sontay and Bacninh was quickly followed therefore by a treaty of peace negotiated by Commander Fournier with Li Hung Chang, who in this, as in many other similar matters of external policy, represented the Chinese Government. The treaty was signed on the 11th May, 1884, and while it waived all China's claims on the old Empire of Annam, it also assigned to France a larger part of Tonquin than she had absolutely acquired. The success of the French in establishing a definite protectorate over Tonquin seemed thus to have been attained with equal completeness and facility.
The Fournier treaty, instead of being a bond of union, was