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The Fight For The Republic In China by B.L. Putnam Weale

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This volume tells everything that the student or the casual reader
needs to know about the Chinese Question. It is sufficiently
exhaustive to show very clearly the new forces at work, and to
bring some realisation of the great gulf which separates the
thinking classes of to-day from the men of a few years ago;
whilst, at the same time, it is sufficiently condensed not to
overwhelm the reader with too great a multitude of facts.

Particular attention may be devoted to an unique feature--namely,
the Chinese and Japanese documentation which affords a sharp
contrast between varying types of Eastern brains. Thus, in the
Memorandum of the Black Dragon Society (Chapter VII) we have a
very clear and illuminating revelation of the Japanese political
mind which has been trained to consider problems in the modern
Western way, but which remains saturated with theocratic ideals in
the sharpest conflict with the Twentieth Century. In the pamphlet
of Yang Tu (Chapter VIII) which launched the ill-fated Monarchy
Scheme and contributed so largely to the dramatic death of Yuan
Shih-kai, we have an essentially Chinese mentality of the
reactionary or corrupt type which expresses itself both on home
and foreign issues in a naively dishonest way, helpful to future
diplomacy. In the Letter of Protest (Chapter X) against the
revival of Imperialism written by Liang Ch'i-chao--the most
brilliant scholar living--we have a Chinese of the New or Liberal
China, who in spite of a complete ignorance of foreign languages
shows a marvellous grasp of political absolutes, and is a
harbinger of the great days which must come again to Cathay. In
other chapters dealing with the monarchist plot we see the
official mind at work, the telegraphic despatches exchanged
between Peking and the provinces being of the highest diplomatic
interest. These documents prove conclusively that although the
Japanese is more practical than the Chinese--and more concise--
there can be no question as to which brain is the more fruitful.

Coupled with this discussion there is much matter giving an
insight into the extraordinary and calamitous foreign ignorance
about present-day China, an ignorance which is just as marked
among those resident in the country as among those who have never
visited it. The whole of the material grouped in this novel
fashion should not fail to bring conviction that the Far East,
with its 500 millions of people, is destined to play an important
role in post-bellum history because of the new type of modern
spirit which is being there evolved. The influence of the Chinese
Republic, in the opinion of the writer, cannot fail to be
ultimately world-wide in view of the practically unlimited
resources in man-power which it disposes of.

In the Appendices will be found every document of importance for
the period of under examination,--1911 to 1917. The writer desires
to record his indebtedness to the columns of The Peking Gazette, a
newspaper which under the brilliant editorship of Eugene Ch'en--a
pure Chinese born and educated under the British flag--has fought
consistently and victoriously for Liberalism and Justice and has
made the Republic a reality to countless thousands who otherwise
would have refused to believe in it.





III. THE DREAM REPUBLIC (From the Manchu Abdication to the
dissolution of Parliament)

IV. THE DICTATOR AT WORK (From the Coup d'etat of the 4th. Nov.
1913 to the outbreak of the World-war, 1. August, 1914)





IX. THE MONARCHY PLOT 2 DEGREES Dr. Goodnow's Memorandum

Liang Chi-chao

XI. THE DREAM EMPIRE ("The People's Voice" and the action of the

XII. "THE THIRD REVOLUTION" The Revolt of Yunnan

Yuan Shih-kai









The revolution which broke out in China on the 10th October, 1911,
and which was completed with the abdication of the Manchu Dynasty
on the 12th February, 1912, though acclaimed as highly successful,
was in its practical aspects something very different. With the
proclamation of the Republic, the fiction of autocratic rule had
truly enough vanished; yet the tradition survived and with it
sufficient of the essential machinery of Imperialism to defeat the
nominal victors until the death of Yuan Shih-kai.

The movement to expel the Manchus, who had seized the Dragon
Throne in 1644 from the expiring Ming Dynasty, was an old one.
Historians are silent on the subject of the various secret plots
which were always being hatched to achieve that end, their silence
being due to a lack of proper records and to the difficulty of
establishing the simple truth in a country where rumour reigns
supreme. But there is little doubt that the famous Ko-lao-hui, a
Secret Society with its headquarters in the remote province of
Szechuan, owed its origin to the last of the Ming adherents, who
after waging a desperate guerilla warfare from the date of their
expulsion from Peking, finally fell to the low level of inciting
assassinations and general unrest in the vain hope that they might
some day regain their heritage. At least, we know one thing
definitely: that the attempt on the life of the Emperor Chia Ching
in the Peking streets at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century
was a Secret Society plot, and brought to an abrupt end the
pleasant habit of travelling among their subjects which the great
Manchu Emperors K'anghsi and Ch'ien Lung had inaugurated and
always pursued and which had so largely encouraged the growth of
personal loyalty to a foreign House.

From that day onwards for over a century no Emperor ventured out
from behind the frowning Walls of the Forbidden City save for
brief annual ceremonies such as the Worship of Heaven on the
occasion of the Winter Solstice, and during the two "flights"--
first, in 1860 when Peking was occupied by an Anglo-French
expedition and the Court incontinently sought sanctuary in the
mountain Palaces of Jehol; and, again, in 1900, when with the
pricking of the Boxer bubble and the arrival of the International
relief armies, the Imperial Household was forced along the stony
road to faroff Hsianfu.

The effect of this immurement was soon visible; the Manchu rule,
which was emphatically a rule of the sword, was rapidly so
weakened that the emperors became no more than rois faineants at
the mercy of their ministers.

[Footnote: As there is a good deal of misunderstanding on the
subject of the Manchus an explanatory note is useful.

The Manchu people, who belong to the Mongol or Turanian Group,
number at the maximum five million souls. Their distribution at
the time of the revolution of 1911 was roughly as follows: In and
around Peking say two millions, in posts through China say one-
half million,--or possibly three-quarters of a million; in
Manchuria Proper--the home of the race--say two or two and a half
millions. The fighting force was composed in this fashion: When
Peking fell into their hands in 1644 as a result of a stratagem
combined with dissensions among the Chinese themselves, the entire
armed strength was re-organized in Eight Banners or Army Corps,
each corps being composed of three racial divisions, (1) pure
Manchus, (2) Mongols who had assisted in the conquest and (3)
Nothern Chinese who had gone over to the conquerors. These Eight
Banners, each commanded by an "iron-capped" Prince, represented
the authority of the Throne and had their headquarters in Peking
with small garrisons throughout the provinces at various strategic
centres. These garrisons had entirely ceased to have any value
before the 18th Century had closed and were therefore pure
ceremonial and symbolic, all the fighting being done by special
Chinese corps which were raised as neccessity arose.]

The history of the Nineteenth Century is thus logically enough the
history of successive collapses. Not only did overseas foreigners
openly thunder at the gateways of the empire and force an ingress,
but native rebellions were constant and common. Leaving minor
disturbances out of account, there were during this period two
huge Mahommedan rebellions, besides the cataclysmic Taiping rising
which lasted ten years and is supposed to have destroyed the
unbelievable total of one hundred million persons. The empire,
torn by internecine warfare, surrendered many of its essential
prerogatives to foreigners, and by accepting the principle of
extraterritoriality prepared the road to ultimate collapse.

How in such circumstances was it possible to keep alive
absolutism? The answer is so curious that we must be explicit and

The simple truth is that save during the period of vigour
immediately following each foreign conquest (such as the Mongol
conquest in the Thirteenth Century and the Manchu in the
Seventeenth) not only has there never been any absolutism properly
so-called in China, but that apart from the most meagre and
inefficient tax-collecting and some rough-and-ready policing in
and around the cities there has never been any true governing at
all save what the people did for themselves or what they demanded
of the officials as a protection against one another. Any one who
doubts these statements has no inkling of those facts which are
the crown as well as the foundation of the Chinese group-system,
and which must be patiently studied in the village-life of the
country to be fitly appreciated. To be quite frank, absolutism is
a myth coming down from the days of Kublai Khan when he so proudly
built his Khan-baligh (the Cambaluc of Marco Polo and the forebear
of modern Peking) and filled it with his troops who so soon
vanished like the snows of winter. An elaborate pretence, a
deliberate policy of make-believe, ever since those days invested
Imperial Edicts with a majesty which they have never really
possessed, the effacement of the sovereign during the Nineteenth
Century contributing to the legend that there existed in the
capital a Grand and Fearful Panjandrum for whom no miracle was too
great and to whom people and officials owed trembling obedience.

In reality, the office of emperor was never more than a politico-
religious concept, translated for the benefit of the masses into
socio-economic ordinances. These pronouncements, cast in the form
of periodic homilies called Edicts, were the ritual of government;
their purpose was instructional rather than mandatory; they were
designed to teach and keep alive the State-theory that the Emperor
was the High Priest of the Nation and that obedience to the
morality of the Golden Age, which had been inculcated by all the
philosophers since Confucius and Mencius flourished twenty-five
centuries ago, would not only secure universal happiness but
contribute to national greatness.

The office of Emperor was thus heavenly rather than terrestrial,
and suasion, not arms, was the most potent argument used in
everyday life. The amazing reply (i.e., amazing to foreigners)
made by the great Emperor K'ang-hsi in the tremendous Eighteenth
Century controversy between the Jesuit and the Dominican
missionaries, which ruined the prospects of China's ever becoming
Roman Catholic and which the Pope refused to accept--that the
custom of ancestor-worship was political and not religious--was
FOREBEARS. The great efforts which the Manchus made from the end
of the Sixteenth Century (when they were still a small Manchurian
Principality striving for the succession to the Dragon Throne and
launching desperate attacks on the Great Wall of China) to receive
from the Dalai Lama, as well as from the lesser Pontiffs of Tibet
and Mongolia, high-sounding religious titles, prove conclusively
that dignities other than mere possession of the Throne were held
necessary to give solidity to a reign which began in militarism
and which would collapse as the Mongol rule had collapsed by a
mere Palace revolution unless an effective MORAL title were
somehow won.

Nor was the Manchu military Conquest, even after they had entered
Peking, so complete as has been represented by historians. The
Manchus were too small a handful, even with their Mongol and
Chinese auxiliaries, to do more than defeat the Ming armies and
obtain the submission of the chief cities of China. It is well-
known to students of their administrative methods, that whilst
they reigned over China they RULED only in company with the
Chinese, the system in force being a dual control which, beginning
on the Grand Council and in the various great Boards and
Departments in the capital, proceeded as far as the provincial
chief cities, but stopped short there so completely and absolutely
that the huge chains of villages and burgs had their historic
autonomy virtually untouched and lived on as they had always
lived. The elaborate system of examinations, with the splendid
official honours reserved for successful students which was
adopted by the Dynasty, not only conciliated Chinese society but
provided a vast body of men whose interest lay in maintaining the
new conquest; and thus Literature, which had always been the door
to preferment, became not only one of the instruments of
government, but actually the advocate of an alien rule. With their
persons and properties safe, and their women-folk protected by an
elaborate set of capitulations from being requisitioned for the
harems of the invaders, small wonder if the mass of Chinese
welcomed a firm administration after the frightful disorders which
had torn the country during the last days of the Mings. [Footnote:
This most interesting point--the immunity of Chinese women from
forced marriage with Manchus--has been far too little noticed by
historians though it throws a flood of light on the sociological
aspects of the Manchu conquest. Had that conquest been absolute it
would have been impossible for the Chinese people to have
protected their womenfolk in such a significant way.]

It was the foreigner, arriving in force in China after the capture
of Peking and the ratification of the Tientsin Treaties in 1860,
who so greatly contributed to making the false idea of Manchu
absolutism current throughout the world; and in this work it was
the foreign diplomat, coming to the capital saturated with the
tradition of European absolutism, who played a not unimportant
part. Investing the Emperors with an authority with which they
were never really clothed save for ceremonial purposes
(principally perhaps because the Court was entirely withdrawn from
view and very insolent in its foreign intercourse) a conception of
High Mightiness was spread abroad reminiscent of the awe in which
Eighteenth Century nabobs spoke of the Great Mogul of India.
Chinese officials, quickly discovering that their easiest means of
defence against an irresistible pressure was to take refuge behind
the august name of the sovereign, played their role so
successfully that until 1900 it was generally believed by
Europeans that no other form of government than a despotism sans
phrase could be dreamed of. Finding that on the surface an
Imperial Decree enjoyed the majesty of an Ukaze of the Czar,
Europeans were ready enough to interpret as best suited their
enterprises something which they entirely failed to construe in
terms expressive of the negative nature of Chinese civilization;
and so it happened that though the government of China had become
no government at all from the moment that extraterritoriality
destroyed the theory of Imperial inviolability and infallibility,
the miracle of turning state negativism into an active governing
element continued to work after a fashion because of the disguise
which the immense distances afforded.

Adequately to explain the philosophy of distance in China, and
what it has meant historically, would require a whole volume to
itself; but it is sufficient for our purpose to indicate here
certain prime essentials. The old Chinese were so entrenched in
their vastnesses that without the play of forces which were
supernatural to them, i.e., the steam-engine, the telegraph, the
armoured war-vessel, etc., their daily lives could not be
affected. Left to themselves, and assisted by their own methods,
they knew that blows struck across the immense roadless spaces
were so diminished in strength, by the time they reached the spot
aimed at, that they became a mere mockery of force; and, just
because they were so valueless, paved the way to effective
compromises. Being adepts in the art which modern surgeons have
adopted, of leaving wounds as far as possible to heal themselves,
they trusted to time and to nature to solve political differences
which western countries boldly attacked on very different
principles. Nor were they wrong in their view. From the capital to
the Yangtsze Valley (which is the heart of the country), is 800
miles, that is far more than the mileage between Paris and Berlin.
From Peking to Canton is 1,400 miles along a hard and difficult
route; the journey to Yunnan by the Yangtsze river is upwards of
2,000 miles, a distance greater than the greatest march ever
undertaken by Napoleon. And when one speaks of the Outer
Dominions--Mongolia, Tibet, Turkestan--for these hundreds of
miles it is necessary to substitute thousands, and add there to
difficulties of terrain which would have disheartened even Roman

Now the old Chinese, accepting distance as the supreme thing, had
made it the starting-point as well as the end of their government.
In the perfected viceregal system which grew up under the Ming
Dynasty, and which was taken over by the Manchus as a sound and
admirable governing principle, though they superimposed their own
military system of Tartar Generals, we have the plan that
nullified the great obstacle. Authority of every kind was
delegated by the Throne to various distant governing centuries in
a most complete and sweeping manner, each group of provinces,
united under a viceroy, being in everything but name so many
independent linked commonwealths, called upon for matricular
contributions in money and grain but otherwise left severely
alone. [Footnote: A very interesting proof--and one that has never
been properly exposed--of the astoundingly rationalistic
principles on which the Chinese polity is founded is to be seen in
the position of priesthoods in China. Unlike every other
civilization in the world, at no stage of the development of the
State has it been necessary for religion in China to intervene
between the rulers and the ruled, saving the people from
oppression. In Europe without the supernatural barrier of the
Church, the position of the common people in the Middle Ages would
have been intolerable, and life, and virtue totally unprotected.
Buckle, in his "History of Civilization," like other extreme
radicals, has failed to understand that established religions have
paradoxically been most valuable because of their vast secular
powers, exercised under the mask of spiritual authority. Without
this ghostly restraint rulers would have been so oppressive as to
have destroyed their peoples. The two greatest monuments to
Chinese civilization, then consist of these twin facts; first,
that the Chinese have never had the need for such supernatural
restraints exercised by a privileged body, and secondly, that they
are absolutely without any feeling of class or caste--prince and
pauper meeting on terms of frank and humorous equality--the race
thus being the only pure and untinctured democracy the world has
ever known.] The chain which bound provincial China to the
metropolitan government was therefore in the last analysis finance
and nothing but finance; and if the system broke down in 1911 it
was because financial reform--to discount the new forces of which
the steam engine was the symbol--had been attempted, like military
reform, both too late and in the wrong way, and instead of
strengthening, had vastly weakened the authority of the Throne.

In pursuance of the reform-plan which became popular after the
Boxer Settlement had allowed the court to return to Peking from
Hsianfu, the viceroys found their most essential prerogative,
which was the control of the provincial purse, largely taken from
them and handed over to Financial Commissioners who were directly
responsible to the Peking Ministry of Finance, a Department which
was attempting to replace the loose system of matricular
contributions by the European system of a directly controlled
taxation every penny of which would be shown in an annual Budget.
No doubt had time been vouchsafed, and had European help been
enlisted on a large scale, this change could ultimately have been
made successful. But it was precisely time which was lacking; and
the Manchus consequently paid the penalty which is always paid by
those who delay until it is too late. The old theories having been
openly abandoned, it needed only the promise of a Parliament
completely to destroy the dignity of the Son of Heaven, and to
leave the viceroys as mere hostages in the hands of rebels. A few
short weeks of rebellion was sufficient in 1911 to cause the
provinces to revert to their condition of the earlier centuries
when they had been vast unfettered agricultural communities. And
once they had tasted the joys of this new independence, it was
impossible to conceive of their becoming "obedient" again.

Here another word of explanation is necessary to show clearly the
precise meaning of regionalism in China.

What had originally created each province was the chief city in
each region, such cities necessarily being the walled repositories
of all increment. Greedy of territory to enhance their wealth, and
jealous of their power, these provincial capitals throughout the
ages had left no stone unturned to extend their influence in every
possible direction and bring under their economic control as much
land as possible, a fact which is abundantly proved by the highly
diversified system of weights and measures throughout the land
deliberately drawn-up to serve as economic barriers. River-
courses, mountain-ranges, climate and soil, no doubt assisted in
governing this expansion, but commercial and financial greed was
the principal force. Of this we have an exceedingly interesting
and conclusive illustration in the struggle still proceeding
between the three Manchurian provinces, Fengtien, Kirin and
Heilungchiang, to seize the lion's share of the virgin land of
Eastern Inner Mongolia which has an "open frontier" of rolling
prairies. Having the strongest provincial capital--Moukden--it
has been Fengtien province which has encroached on the Mongolian
grasslands to such an extent that its jurisdiction to-day envelops
the entire western flank of Kirin province (as can be seen in the
latest Chinese maps) in the form of a salamander, effectively
preventing the latter province from controlling territory that
geographically belongs to it. In the same way in the land-
settlement which is still going on the Mongolian plateau
immediately above Peking, much of what should be Shansi territory
has been added to the metropolitan province of Chihli. Though
adjustments of provincial boundaries have been summarily made in
times past, in the main the considerations we have indicated have
been the dominant factors in determining the area of each unit.

Now in many provinces where settlement is age-old, the regionalism
which results from great distances and bad communications has been
greatly increased by race-admixture. Canton province, which was
largely settled by Chinese adventurers sailing down the coast from
the Yangtsze and intermarrying with Annamese and the older
autochthonous races, has a population-mass possessing very
distinct characteristics, which sharply conflict with Northern
traits. Fuhkien province is not only as diversified but speaks a
dialect which is virtually a foreign language. And so on North and
West of the Yangtsze it is the same story, temperamental
differences of the highest political importance being everywhere
in evidence and leading to perpetual bickerings and jealousies.
For although Chinese civilization resembles in one great
particular the Mahommedan religion, in that it accepts without
question all adherents irrespective of racial origin, POLITICALLY
the effect of this regionalism has been such that up to very
recent times the Central Government has been almost as much a
foreign government in the eyes of many provinces as the government
of Japan. Money alone formed the bond of union; so long as
questions of taxation were not involved, Peking was as far removed
from daily life as the planet Mars.

As we are now able to see very clearly, fifty years ago--that is
at the time of the Taiping Rebellion--the old power and spell of
the National Capital as a military centre had really vanished.
Though in ancient days horsemen armed with bows and lances could
sweep like a tornado over the land, levelling everything save the
walled cities, in the Nineteenth Century such methods had become
impossible. Mongolia and Manchuria had also ceased to be
inexhaustible reservoirs of warlike men; the more adjacent
portions had become commercialized; whilst the outer regions had
sunk to depopulated graziers' lands. The Government, after the
collapse of the Rebellion, being greatly impoverished, had openly
fallen to balancing province against province and personality
against personality, hoping that by some means it would be able to
regain its prestige and a portion of its former wealth. Taking
down the ledgers containing the lists of provincial contributions,
the mandarins of Peking completely revised every schedule,
redistributed every weight, and saw to it that the matricular
levies should fall in such a way as to be crushing. The new
taxation, likin, which, like the income-tax in England, is in
origin purely a war-tax, by gripping inter-provincial commerce by
the throat and rudely controlling it by the barrier-system, was
suddenly disclosed as a new and excellent way of making felt the
menaced sovereignty of the Manchus; and though the system was
plainly a two-edged weapon, the first edge to cut was the Imperial
edge; that is largely why for several decades after the Taipings
China was relatively quiet.

Time was also giving birth to another important development--
important in the sense that it was to prove finally decisive. It
would have been impossible for Peking, unless men of outstanding
genius had been living, to have foreseen that not only had the
real bases of government now become entirely economic control, but
that the very moment that control faltered the central government
of China would openly and absolutely cease to be any government at
all. Modern commercialism, already invading China at many points
through the medium of the treaty-ports, was a force which in the
long run could not be denied. Every year that passed tended to
emphasize the fact that modern conditions were cutting Peking more
and more adrift from the real centres of power--the economic
centres which, with the single exception of Tientsin, lie from 800
to 1,500 miles away. It was these centres that were developing
revolutionary ideas--i. e., ideas at variance with the Socio-
economic principles on which the old Chinese commonwealth had been
slowly built up, and which foreign dynasties such as the Mongol
and the Manchu had never touched. The Government of the post-
Taiping period still imagined that by making their hands lie more
heavily than ever on the people and by tightening the taxation
control--not by true creative work--they could rehabilitate

It would take too long, and would weary the indulgence of the
reader to establish in a conclusive manner this thesis which had
long been a subject of inquiry on the part of political students.
Chinese society, being essentially a society organized on a
credit-co-operative system, so nicely adjusted that money, either
coined or fiduciary, was not wanted save for the petty daily
purchases of the people, any system which boldly clutched at the
financial establishments undertaking the movement of sycee
(silver) from province to province for the settlement of trade-
balances, was bound to be effective so long as those financial
establishments remained unshaken.

The best known establishments, united in the great group known as
the Shansi Bankers, being the government bankers, undertook not
only all the remittances of surpluses to Peking, but controlled by
an intricate pass-book system the perquisites of almost every
office-holder in the empire. No sooner did an official, under the
system which had grown up, receive a provincial appointment than
there hastened to him a confidential clerk of one of these
accommodating houses, who in the name of his employers advanced
all the sums necessary for the payment of the official's post, and
then proceeded with him to his province so that moiety by moiety,
as taxation flowed in, advances could be paid off and the
equilibrium re-established. A very intimate and far-reaching
connection thus existed between provincial money-interests and the
official classes. The practical work of governing China was the
balancing of tax-books and native bankers' accounts. Even the
"melting-houses," where sycee was "standardized" for provincial
use, were the joint enterprises of officials and merchants;
bargaining governing every transaction; and only when a violent
break occurred in the machinery, owing to famine or rebellion, did
any other force than money intervene.

There was nothing exceptional in these practices, in the use of
which the old Chinese empire was merely following the precedent of
the Roman Empire. The vast polity that was formed before the time
of Christ by the military and commercial expansion of Rome in the
Mediterranean Basin, and among the wild tribes of Northern Europe,
depended very largely on the genius of Italian financiers and tax-
collectors to whom the revenues were either directly "farmed," or
who "assisted" precisely after the Chinese method in financing
officials and local administrations, and in replenishing a central
treasury which no wealth could satisfy. The Chinese phenomenon was
therefore in no sense new; the dearth of coined money and the
variety of local standards made the methods used economic
necessities. The system was not in itself a bad system: its fatal
quality lay in its woodenness, its lack of adaptability, and in
its growing weakness in the face of foreign competition which it
could never understand. Foreign competition--that was the enemy
destined to achieve an overwhelming triumph and dash to ruins a
hoary survival.

War with Japan sounded the first trumpet-blast which should have
been heeded. In the year 1894, being faced with the necessity of
finding immediately a large sum of specie for purpose of war, the
native bankers proclaimed their total inability to do so, and the
first great foreign loan contract was signed.

[Footnote: (a) This loan was the so-called 7 per cent Silver loan
of 1894 for Shanghai Taels 10,000,000 negotiated by the Hongkong &
Shanghai Bank. It was followed in 1895 by a 3,000,000 pounds Gold
6 per cent Loan, then by two more 6 per cent loans for a million
each in the same year, making a total of 6,635,000 pounds sterling
for the bare war-expenses. The Japanese war indemnity raised in
three successive issues--from 1895 to 1898--of 16,000,000 pounds
each, added 48,000,000 pounds. Thus the Korean imbroglio cost
China nearly 55 millions sterling. As the purchasing power of the
sovereign is eight times larger in China than in Europe, this debt
economically would mean 440 millions in England--say nearly double
what the ruinous South African war cost. It is by such methods of
comparison that the vital nature of the economic factor in recent
Chinese history is made clear.]

Little attention was attracted to what is a turning-point in
Chinese history. There cannot be the slightest doubt that in 1894
the Manchus wrote the first sentences of an abdication which was
only formally pronounced in 1912: they had inaugurated the
financial thraldom under which China still languishes. Within a
period of forty months, in order to settle the disastrous Japanese
war, foreign loans amounting to nearly fifty-five million pounds
were completed. This indebtedness, amounting to nearly three times
the "visible" annual revenues of the country--that is, the
revenues actually accounted for to Peking--was unparalleled in
Chinese history. It was a gold indebtedness subject to all sorts
of manipulations which no Chinese properly understood. It had
special political meaning and special political consequences
because the loans were virtually guaranteed by the Powers. It was
a long-drawn coup d'etat of a nature that all foreigners
understood because it forged external chains.

The internal significance was even greater than the external. The
loans were secured on the most important "direct" revenues
reaching Peking--the Customs receipts, which were concerned with
the most vital function in the new economic life springing up, the
steam-borne coasting and river-trade as well as the purely
foreign trade. That most vital function tended consequently to
become more and more hall-marked as foreign; it no longer depended
in any direct sense on Peking for protection. The hypothecation of
these revenues to foreigners for periods running into decades--
coupled with their administration by foreigners--was such a
distinct restriction of the rights of eminent domain as to amount
to a partial abrogation of sovereignty.

That this was vaguely understood by the masses is now quite
certain. The Boxer movement of 1900, like the great proletarian
risings which occurred in Italy in the pre-Christian era as a
result of the impoverishment and moral disorder brought about by
Roman misgovernment, was simply a socio-economic catastrophe
exhibiting itself in an unexpected form. The dying Manchu dynasty,
at last in open despair, turned the revolt, insanely enough,
against the foreigner--that is against those who already held the
really vital portion of their sovereignty. So far from saving
itself by this act, the dynasty wrote another sentence in its
death-warrant. Economically the Manchus had been for years almost
lost; the Boxer indemnities were the last straw. By more than
doubling the burden of foreign commitments, and by placing the
operation of the indemnities directly in the hands of foreign
bankers by the method of monthly quotas, payable in Shanghai, THE
SETTLEMENTS. There is no denying this signal fact, which is
probably the most remarkable illustration of the restrictive power
of money which has ever been afforded in the history of Asia.

The phenomenon, however, was complex and we must be careful to
understand its workings. A mercantile curiosity, to find the
parallel for which we must go back to the Middle Ages in Europe,
when "free cities" such as those of the Hanseatic League
plentifully dotted river and coast line, served to increase the
general difficulties of a situation which no one formula could
adequately cover. Extraterritoriality, by creating the "treaty
port" in China, had been the most powerful weapon in undermining
native economics; yet at the same time it had been the agent for
creating powerful new counter-balancing interests. Though the
increasingly large groups of foreigners, residing under their own
laws, and building up, under their own specially protected system
of international exchange, a new and imposing edifice, had made
the hovel-like nature of Chinese economics glaringly evident, the
mercantile classes of the New China, being always quick to avail
themselves of money-making devices, had not only taken shelter
under this new and imposing edifice, but were rapidly extending it
of their own accord. In brief, the trading Chinese were
identifying themselves and their major interests with the treaty-
ports; they were transferring thither their specie and their
credits; making huge investments in land and properties, under the
aegis of foreign flags in which they absolutely trusted. The
money-interests of the country knew instinctively that the native
system was doomed and that with this doom there would come many
changes; these interests, in the way common to money all the world
over, were insuring themselves against the inevitable.

The force of this--politically--became finally evident in 1911;
and what we have said in our opening sentences should now be
clear. The Chinese Revolution was an emotional rising against the
Peking System because it was a bad and inefficient and retrograde
system, just as much as against the Manchus, who after all had
adopted purely Chinese methods and who were no more foreigners
than Scotchmen or Irishmen are foreigners to-day in England. The
Revolution of 1911 derived its meaning and its value--as well as
its mandate--not from what it proclaimed, but for what it stood
for. Historically, 1911 was the lineal descendant of 1900, which
again was the offspring of the economic collapse advertised by the
great foreign loans of the Japanese war, loans made necessary
because the Taipings had disclosed the complete disappearance of
the only raison d'etre of Peking sovereignty, i.e. the old-time
military power. The story is, therefore, clear and well-connected
and so logical in its results that it has about it a finality
suggesting the unrolling of the inevitable.

During the Revolution the one decisive factor was shown to be
almost at once--money, nothing but money. The pinch was felt at
the end of the first thirty days. Provincial remittances ceased;
the Boxer quotas remained unpaid; a foreign embargo was laid upon
the Customs funds. The Northern troops, raised and trained by Yuan
Shih-kai, when he was Viceroy of the Metropolitan province, were,
it is true, proving themselves the masters of the Yangtsze and
South China troops; yet that circumstance was meaningless. Those
troops were fighting for what had already proved itself a lost
cause--the Peking System as well as the Manchu dynasty. The fight
turned more and more into a money-fight. It was foreign money
which brought about the first truce and the transfer of the so-
called republican government from Nanking to Peking. In the
strictest sense of the words every phase of the settlement then
arrived at was a settlement in terms of cash.[Footnote: There is
no doubt that the so-called Belgian loan, 1,800,000 pounds of
which was paid over in cash at the beginning of 1912, was the
instrument which brought every one to terms.]

Had means existed for rapidly replenishing the Chinese Treasury
without having recourse to European stockmarkets (whose actions
are semi-officially controlled when distant regions are involved)
the Republic might have fared better. But placed almost at once
through foreign dictation under a species of police-control,
which while nominally derived from Western conceptions, was
primarily designed to rehabilitate the semblance of the authority
which had been so sensationally extinguished, the Republic
remained only a dream; and the world, taught to believe that there
could be no real stability until the scheme of government
approximated to the conception long formed of Peking absolutism,
waited patiently for the rude awakening which came with the Yuan
Shih-kai coup d'etat of 4th November, 1913. Thus we had this
double paradox; on the one hand the Chinese people awkwardly
trying to be western in a Chinese way and failing: on the other,
foreign officials and foreign governments trying to be Chinese and
making the confusion worse confounded. It was inevitable in such
circumstances that the history of the past six years should have
been the history of a slow tragedy, and that almost every page
should be written over with the name of the man who was the
selected bailiff of the Powers--Yuan Shih-kai.




Yuan Shih-kai's career falls into two clear-cut parts, almost as
if it had been specially arranged for the biographer; there is the
probationary period in Korea, and the executive in North China.
The first is important only because of the moulding-power which
early influences exerted on the man's character; but it is
interesting in another way since it affords glimpses of the sort
of things which affected this leader's imagination throughout his
life and finally brought him to irretrievable ruin. The second
period is choke-full of action; and over every chapter one can see
the ominous point of interrogation which was finally answered in
his tragic political and physical collapse.

Yuan Shih-kai's origin, without being precisely obscure, is
unimportant. He came of a Honanese family who were nothing more
distinguished than farmers possessing a certain amount of land,
but not too much of the world's possessions. The boy probably ran
wild in the field at an age when the sons of high officials and
literati were already pale and anaemic from overmuch study. To
some such cause the man undoubtedly owed his powerful physique,
his remarkable appetite, his general roughness. Native biographers
state that as a youth he failed to pass his hsiu-tsai
examinations--the lowest civil service degree--because he had
spent too much time in riding and boxing and fencing. An uncle in
official life early took charge of him; and when this relative
died the young man displayed filial piety in accompanying the
corpse back to the family graves and in otherwise manifesting
grief. Through official connections a place was subsequently found
for him in that public department under the Manchus which may be
called the military intendancy, and it was through this branch of
the civil service that he rose to power. Properly speaking Yuan
Shih-kai was never an army-officer; he was a military official--
his highest rank later on being that of military judge, or better,
Judicial Commissioner.

Yuan Shih-kai first emerges into public view in 1882 when, as a
sequel to the opening of Korea through the action of foreign
Powers in forcing the then Hermit kingdom to sign commercial
treaties, China began dispatching troops to Seoul. Yuan Shih-kai,
with two other officers, commanding in all some 3,000 men, arrived
from Shantung, where he had been in the train of a certain General
Wu Chang-ching, and now encamped in the Korean capital nominally
to preserve order, but in reality, to enforce the claims of the
suzerain power. For the Peking Government had never retreated from
the position that Korea had been a vassal state ever since the
Ming Dynasty had saved the country from the clutches of Hideyoshi
and his Japanese invaders in the Sixteenth Century. Yuan Shih-kai
had been personally recommended by this General Wu Chang-ching as
a young man of ability and energy to the famous Li Hung Chang, who
as Tientsin Viceroy and High Commissioner for the Northern Seas
was responsible for the conduct of Korean affairs. The future
dictator of China was then only twenty-five years old.

His very first contact with practical politics gave him a peculiar
manner of viewing political problems. The arrival of Chinese
troops in Seoul marked the beginning of that acute rivalry with
Japan which finally culminated in the short and disastrous war of
1894-95. China, in order to preserve her influence in Korea
against the growing influence of Japan, intrigued night and day in
the Seoul Palaces, allying herself with the Conservative Court
party which was led by the notorious Korean Queen who was
afterwards assassinated. The Chinese agents aided and abetted the
reactionary group, constantly inciting them to attack the Japanese
and drive them out of the country.

Continual outrages were the consequence. The Japanese legation was
attacked and destroyed by the Korean mob not once but on several
occasions during a decade which furnishes one of the most amazing
chapters in the history of Asia. Yuan Shih-kai, being then merely
a junior general officer under the orders of the Chinese Imperial
Resident, is of no particular importance; but it is significant of
the man that he should suddenly come well under the limelight on
the first possible occasion. On 6th December, 1884, leading 2,000
Chinese troops, and acting in concert with 3,000 Korean soldiers,
he attacked the Tong Kwan Palace in which the Japanese Minister
and his staff, protected by two companies of Japanese infantry,
had taken refuge owing to the threatening state of affairs in the
capital. Apparently there was no particular plan--it was the
action of a mob of soldiery tumbling into a political brawl and
assisted by their officers for reasons which appear to-day
nonsensical. The sequel was, however, extraordinary. The Japanese
held the Palace gates as long as possible, and then being
desperate exploded a mine which killed numbers of Koreans and
Chinese soldiery and threw the attack into confusion. They then
fought their way out of the city escaping ultimately to the
nearest sea-port, Chemulpo.

The explanation of this extraordinary episode has never been made
public. The practical result was that after a period of extreme
tension between China and Japan which was expected to lead to war,
that political genius, the late Prince Ito, managed to calm things
down and arrange workable modus vivendi. Yuan Shih-kai, who had
gone to Tientsin to report in person to Li Hung Chang, returned to
Seoul triumphantly in October, 1885, as Imperial Resident. He was
then twenty-eight years old; he had come to the front, no matter
by what means, in a quite remarkable manner.

The history of the next nine years furnishes plenty of minor
incidents, but nothing of historic importance. As the faithful
lieutenant of Li Hung Chang, Yuan Shih-kai's particular business
was simply to combat Japanese influence and hold the threatened
advance in check. He failed, of course, since he was playing a
losing game; and yet he succeeded where he undoubtedly wished to
succeed. By rendering faithful service he established the
reputation he wished to win; and though he did nothing great he
retained his post right up to the act which led to the declaration
of war in 1894. Whether he actually precipitated that war is still
a matter of opinion. On the sinking by the Japanese fleet of the
British steamer Kowshing, which was carrying Chinese
reinforcements from Taku anchorage to Asan Bay to his assistance,
seeing that the game was up, he quietly left the Korean capital
and made his way overland to North China. That swift, silent
journey home ends the period of his novitiate.

It took him a certain period to weather the storm which the utter
collapse of China in her armed encounter with Japan brought about
--and particularly to obtain forgiveness for evacuating Seoul
without orders. Technically his offence was punishable by death--
the old Chinese code being most stringent in such matters. But by
1896 he was back in favour again, and through the influence of his
patron Li Hung Chang, he was at length appointed in command of the
Hsiaochan camp near Tientsin, where he was promoted and given the
task of reforming a division of old-style troops and making them
as efficient as Japanese soldiery. He had already earned a wide
reputation for severity, for willingness to accept responsibility,
for nepotism, and for a rare ability to turn even disasters to his
own advantage--all attributes which up to the last moment stood
him in good stead.

In the Hsiaochan camp the most important chapter of his life
opens; there is every indication that he fully realized it.
Tientsin has always been the gateway to Peking: from there the
road to high preferment is easily reached. Yuan Shih-kai marched
steadily forward, taking the very first turning-point in a manner
which stamped him for many of his compatriots in a way which can
never be obliterated.

It is first necessary to say a word about the troops of his
command, since this has a bearing on present-day politics. The
bulk of the soldiery were so-called Huai Chun--i.e., nominally
troops from the Huai districts, just south of Li Hung Chang's
native province Anhui. These Kiangu men, mixed with Shantung
recruits, had earned a historic place in the favour of the Manchus
owing to the part they had played in the suppression of the
Taiping Rebellion, in which great event General Gordon and Li Hung
Chang had been so closely associated. They and the troops of Hunan
province, led by the celebrated Marquis Tseng Kuo-fan, were "the
loyal troops," resembling the Sikhs during the Indian Mutiny; they
were supposed to be true to their salt to the last man. Certainly
they gave proofs of uncustomary fidelity.

In those military days of twenty years ago Yuan Shih-kai and his
henchmen were, however, concerned with simpler problems. It was
then a question of drill and nothing but drill. In his camp near
Tientsin the future President of the Chinese Republic succeeded in
reorganizing his troops so well that in a very short time the
Hsiaochan Division became known as a corps d'elite. The discipline
was so stern that there were said to be only two ways of noticing
subordinates, either by promoting or beheading them. Devoting
himself to his task Yuan Shih-kai gave promise of being able to
handle much bigger problems.

His zeal soon attracted the attention of the Manchu Court. The
circumstances in Peking at that time were peculiar. The famous old
Empress Dowager, Tzu-Hsi, after the Japanese war, had greatly
relaxed her hold on the Emperor Kwanghsu, who though still in
subjection to her, nominally governed the empire. A well-
intentioned but weak man, he had surrounded himself with advanced
scholars, led by the celebrated Kang Yu Wei, who daily studied
with him and filled him with new doctrines, teaching him to
believe that if he would only exert his power he might rescue the
nation from international ignominy and make for himself an
imperishable name.

The sequel was inevitable. In 1898 the oriental world was
electrified by the so-called Reform Edicts, in which the Emperor
undertook to modernize China, and in which he exhorted the nation
to obey him. The greatest alarm was created in Court circles by
this action; the whole vast body of Metropolitan officialdom,
seeing its future threatened, flooded the Palace of the Empress
Dowager with Secret Memorials praying her to resume power.
Flattered, she gave her secret assent.

Things marched quickly after that. The Empress, nothing loth,
began making certain dispositions. Troops were moved, men were
shifted here and there in a way that presaged action; and the
Emperor, now thoroughly alarmed and yielding to the entreaties of
his followers, sent two members of the Reform Party to Yuan Shih-
kai bearing an alleged autograph order for him to advance
instantly on Peking with all his troops; to surround the Palace,
to secure the person of the Emperor from all danger, and then to
depose the Empress Dowager for ever from power. What happened is
equally well-known. Yuan Shih-kai, after an exhaustive examination
of the message and messengers, as well as other attempts to
substantiate the genuineness of the appeal, communicated its
nature to the then Viceroy of Chihli, the Imperial Clansman Jung
Lu, whose intimacy with the Empress Dowager since the days of her
youth has passed into history. Jung Lu lost no time in acting. He
beheaded the two messengers and personally reported the whole plot
to the Empress Dowager who was already fully warned. The result
was the so-called coup d'etat of September, 1898, when all the
Reformers who had not fled were summarily executed, and the
Emperor Kwanghsu himself closely imprisoned in the Island Palace
within that portion of the Forbidden City known as the Three
Lakes, having (until the Boxer outbreak of 1900 carried him to
Hsianfu), as sole companions his two favourites, the celebrated
odalisques "Pearl" and "Lustre."

This is no place to enter into the controversial aspect of Yuan
Shih-kai's action in 1898 which has been hotly debated by
partisans for many years. For onlookers the verdict must always
remain largely a matter of opinion; certainly this is one of those
matters which cannot be passed upon by any one but a Chinese
tribunal furnished with all the evidence. Those days which
witnessed the imprisonment of Kwang Hsu were great because they
opened wide the portals of the Romance of History: all who were in
Peking can never forget the counter-stroke; the arrival of the
hordes composed of Tung Fu-hsiang's Mahommedan cavalry--men who
had ridden hard across a formidable piece of Asia at the behest of
their Empress and who entered the capital in great clouds of dust.
It was in that year of 1898 also that Legation Guards reappeared
in Peking--a few files for each Legation as in 1860--and it was
then that clear-sighted prophets saw the beginning of the end of
the Manchu Dynasty.

Yuan Shih-kai's reward for his share in this counter-revolution
was his appointment to the governorship of Shantung province. He
moved thither with all his troops in December, 1899. Armed cap-a-
pie he was ready for the next act--the Boxers, who burst on China
in the Summer of 1900. These men were already at work in Shantung
villages with their incantations and alleged witchcraft. There is
evidence that their propaganda had been going on for months, if
not for years, before any one had heard of it. Yuan Shih-kai had
the priceless opportunity of studying them at close range and soon
made up his mind about certain things. When the storm burst,
pretending to see nothing but mad fanatics in those who, realizing
the plight of their country, had adopted the war-cry "Blot out the
Manchus and the foreigner," he struck at them fiercely, driving
the whole savage horde headlong into the metropolitan province of
Chihli. There, seduced by the Manchus, they suddenly changed the
inscription on their flags. Their sole enemy became the foreigner
and all his works, and forthwith they were officially protected.
Far and wide they killed every white face they could find. They
tore up railways, burnt churches and chapels and produced a
general anarchy which could only have one end--European
intervention. The man, sitting on the edge of Chinese history but
not yet identifying himself with its main currents because he was
not strong enough for that, had once again not judged wrongly.
With his Korean experience to assist him, he had seen precisely
what the end must inevitably be.

The crash in Peking, when the siege of the Legations had been
raised by an international army, found him alert and sympathetic--
ready with advice, ready to shoulder new responsibilities, ready
to explain away everything. The signature of the Peace Protocol of
1901 was signalized, by his obtaining the viceroyalty of Chihli,
succeeding the great Li Hung Chang himself, who had been
reappointed to his old post, but had found active duties too
wearisome. This was a marvellous success for a man but little over
forty. And when the fugitive Court at length returned from Hsianfu
in 1902, honours were heaped upon him as a person particularly
worthy of honour because he had kept up appearances and maintained
the authority of the distressed Throne. As if in answer to this he
flooded the Court with memorials praying that in order to restore
the power of the Dynasty a complete army of modern troops be
raised--as numerous as possible but above all efficient.

His advice was listened to. From 1902 until 1907 as Minister of
the Army Reorganization Council--a special post he held
simultaneously with that of metropolitan Viceroy--Yuan Shih-kai's
great effort was concentrated on raising an efficient fighting
force. In those five years, despite all financial embarrassments,
North China raised and equipped six excellent Divisions of field-
troops--75,000 men--all looking to Yuan Shih-kai as their sole
master. So much energy did he display in pushing military
reorganization throughout the provinces that the Court, warned by
jealous rivals of his growing power, suddenly promoted him to a
post where he would be powerless. One day he was brought to Peking
as Grand Councillor and President of the Board of Foreign Affairs,
and ordered to hand over all army matters to his noted rival, the
Manchu Tieh Liang. The time had arrived to muzzle him. His last
phase as a pawn had come.

Few foreign diplomats calling at China's Foreign Office to discuss
matters during that short period which lasted barely a twelve-
month, imagined that the square resolute-looking man who as
President of the Board gave the same energy and attention to
consular squabbles as to the reorganization of a national fighting
force, was almost daily engaged in a fierce clandestine struggle
to maintain even his modest position. Jealousy, which flourishes
in Peking like the upas tree, was for ever blighting his schemes
and blocking his plans. He had been brought to Peking to be tied
up; he was constantly being denounced; and even his all powerful
patroness, the old Empress Dowager, who owed so much to him,
suffered from constant premonitions that the end was fast
approaching, and that with her the Dynasty would die.

In the Autumn of 1908 she took sick. The gravest fears quickly
spread. It was immediately reported that the Emperor Kwanghsu was
also very ill--an ominous coincidence. Very suddenly both
personages collapsed and died, the Empress Dowager slightly before
the Emperor. There is little doubt that the Emperor himself was
poisoned. The legend runs that as he expired not only did he give
his Consort, who was to succeed him in the exercise of the nominal
power of the Throne, a last secret Edict to behead Yuan Shih-kai,
but that his faltering hand described circle after circle in the
air until his followers understood the meaning. In the vernacular
the name of the great viceroy and the word for circle have the
same sound; the gesture signified that the dying monarch's last
wish was revenge on the man who had failed him ten years before.

An ominous calm followed this great break with the past. It was
understood that the Court was torn by two violent factions
regarding the succession which the Empress Tzu-hsi had herself
decided. The fact that another long Regency had become inevitable
through the accession of the child Hsuan Tung aroused instant
apprehensions among foreign observers, whilst it was confidently
predicted that Yuan Shih-kai's last days had come.

The blow fell suddenly on the 2nd January, 1909. In the interval
between the death of the old Empress and his disgrace, Yuan Shih-
kai was actually promoted to the highest rank in the gift of the
Throne, that is made "Senior Guardian of the Heir Apparent" and
placed in charge of the Imperial funeral arrangements--a
lucrative appointment. During that interval it is understood that
the new Regent, brother of the Emperor Kwang-hsu, consulted all
the most trusted magnates of the empire regarding the manner in
which the secret decapitation Decree should be treated. All
advised him to be warned in time, and not to venture on a course
of action which would be condemned both by the nation and by the
Powers. Another Edict was therefore prepared simply dismissing
Yuan Shih-kai from office and ordering him to return to his native

Every one remembers that day in Peking when popular rumour
declared that the man's last hour had come. Warned on every side
to beware, Yuan Shih-kai left the Palace as soon as he had read
the Edict of dismissal in the Grand Council and drove straight to
the railway-station, whence he entrained for Tientsin, dressed as
a simple citizen. Rooms had been taken for him at a European
hotel, the British Consulate approached for protection, when
another train brought down his eldest son bearing a message direct
from the Grand Council Chamber, absolutely guaranteeing the safety
of his life. Accordingly he duly returned to his native place in
Honan province, and for two years--until the outbreak of the
Revolution--devoted himself sedulously to the development of the
large estate he had acquired with the fruits of office. Living
like a patriarch of old, surrounded by his many wives and
children, he announced constantly that he had entirely dropped out
of the political life of China and only desired to be left in
peace. There is reason to believe, however, that his henchmen
continually reported to him the true state of affairs and bade him
bide his time. Certain it is that the firing of the first shots on
the Yangtsze found him alert and issuing private orders to his
followers. It was inevitable that he should have been recalled to
office--and actually within one hundred hours of the first news of
the outbreak the Court sent for him urgently and ungraciously.

From the 14th October, 1911, when he was appointed by Imperial
Edict Viceroy of Hupeh and Hunan and ordered to proceed at once to
the front to quell the insurrection, until the 1st November, when
he was given virtually Supreme Power as President of the Grand
Council in place of Prince Ching, a whole volume is required to
discuss adequately the maze of questions involved. For the
purposes of this account, however, the matter can be dismissed
very briefly in this way. Welcoming the opportunity which had at
last come and determined once for all to settle matters
decisively, so far as he was personally concerned, Yuan Shih-kai
deliberately followed the policy of holding back and delaying
everything until the very incapacity marking both sides--the
Revolutionists quite as much as the Manchus--forced him, as man of
action and man of diplomacy, to be acclaimed the sole mediator and
saviour of the nation.

The detailed course of the Revolution, and the peculiar manner in
which Yuan Shih-kai allowed events rather than men to assert their
mastery has often been related and need not long detain us. It is
generally conceded that in spite of the bravery of the raw
revolutionary levies, their capacity was entirely unequal to the
trump card Yuan Shih-kai held all the while in his hand--the six
fully-equipped Divisions of Field Troops he himself had organized
as Tientsin Viceroy. It was a portion of this field-force which
captured and destroyed the chief revolutionary base in the triple
city of Hankow, Hanyang and Wuchang in November, 1911, and which
he held back just as it was about to give the coup de grace by
crossing the river in force and sweeping the last remnants of the
revolutionary army to perdition. Thus it is correct to declare
that had he so wished Yuan Shih-kai could have crushed the
revolution entirely before the end of 1911; but he was
sufficiently astute to see that the problem he had to solve was
not merely military but moral as well. The Chinese as a nation
were suffering from a grave complaint. Their civilization had been
made almost bankrupt owing to unresisted foreign aggression and to
the native inability to cope with the mass of accumulated wrongs
which a superimposed and exhausted feudalism--the Manchu system--
had brought about. Yuan Shih-kai knew that the Boxers had been
theoretically correct in selecting as they first did the watchword
which they had first placed on their banners--"blot out the
Manchus and all foreign things." Both had sapped the old
civilization to its foundations. But the program they had proposed
was idealistic, not practical. One element could be cleared away--
the other had to be endured. Had the Boxers been sensible they
would have modified their program to the extent of protecting the
foreigners, whilst they assailed the Dynasty which had brought
them so low. The Court Party, as we have said, seduced their
leaders to acting in precisely the reverse sense.

Yuan Shih-kai was neither a Boxer, nor yet a believer in
idealistic foolishness. He had realized that the essence of
successful rule in the China of the Twentieth Century was to
support the foreign point of view--nominally at least--because
foreigners disposed of unlimited monetary resources, and had
science on their side. He knew that so long as he did not openly
flout foreign opinion by indulging in barefaced assassinations, he
would be supported owing to the international reputation he had
established in 1900. Arguing from these premises, his instinct
also told him that an appearance of legality must always be
sedulously preserved and the aspirations of the nation nominally
satisfied. For this reason he arranged matters in such a manner as
to appear always as the instrument of fate. For this reason,
although he destroyed the revolutionists on the mid-Yangtsze, to
equalize matters, on the lower Yangtsze he secretly ordered the
evacuation of Nanking by the Imperialist forces so that he might
have a tangible argument with which to convince the Manchus
regarding the root and branch reform which he knew was necessary.
That reform had been accepted in principle by the Throne when it
agreed to the so-called Nineteen Fundamental Articles, a corpus of
demands which all the Northern Generals had endorsed and had
indeed insisted should be the basis of government before they
would fight the rebellious South in 1911. There is reason to
believe that provided he had been made de facto Regent, Yuan Shih-
kai would have supported to the end a Manchu Monarchy. But the
surprising swiftness of the Revolutionary Party's action in
proclaiming the Republic at Nanking on the 1st January, 1912, and
the support which foreign opinion gave that venture confused him.
He had already consented to peace negotiations with the
revolutionary South in the middle of December, 1911, and once he
was drawn into those negotiations his policy wavered, the
armistice in the field being constantly extended because he saw
that the Foreign Powers, and particularly England, were averse
from further civil war. Having dispatched a former lieutenant,
Tong Shao-yi, to Shanghai as his Plenipotentiary, he soon found
himself committed to a course of action different from what he had
originally contemplated. South China and Central China insisted so
vehemently that the only solution that was acceptable to them was
the permanent and absolute elimination of the Manchu Dynasty, that
he himself was half-convinced, the last argument necessary being
the secret promise that he should become the first President of
the united Republic. In the circumstances, had he been really
loyal, it was his duty either to resume his warfare or resign his
appointment as Prime Minister and go into retirement. He did
neither. In a thoroughly characteristic manner he sought a middle
course, after having vaguely advocated a national convention to
settle the matter. By specious misrepresentation the widow of the
Emperor Kwang Hsu--the Dowager Empress Lung Yu who had succeeded
the Prince Regent Ch'un in her care of the interests of the child
Emperor Hsuan Tung--was induced to believe that ceremonial
retirement was the only course open to the Dynasty if the country
was to be saved from disruption and partition. There is reason to
believe that the Memorial of all the Northern Generals which was
telegraphed to Peking on the 28th January, 1912, and which advised
abdication, was inspired by him. In any case it was certainly Yuan
Shih-kai, who drew up the so-called Articles of Favourable
Treatment for the Manchu House and caused them to be telegraphed
to the South, whence they were telegraphed back to him as the
maximum the Revolutionary Party was prepared to concede: and by a
curious chance the attempt made to assassinate him outside the
Palace Gates actually occurred on the very day he had submitted an
outline of these terms on his bended knees to the Empress Dowager
and secured their qualified acceptance. The pathetic attempt to
confer on him as late as the 26th January the title of Marquess,
the highest rank of nobility which could be given a Chinese, an
attempt which was four times renewed, was the last despairing
gesture of a moribund power. Within very few days the Throne
reluctantly decreed its own abdication in three extremely curious
Edicts which are worthy of study in the appendix. They prove
conclusively that the Imperial Family believed that it was only
abdicating its political power, whilst retaining all ancient
ceremonial rights and titles. Plainly the conception of a
Republic, or a People's Government, as it was termed in the native
ideographs, was unintelligible to Peking.

Yuan Shih-kai had now won everything he wished for. By securing
that the Imperial Commission to organize the Republic and re-unite
the warring sections was placed solely in his hands, he prepared
to give a type of Government about which he knew nothing a trial.
It is interesting to note that he held to the very end of his life
that he derived his powers solely from the Last Edicts, and in
nowise from his compact with the Nanking Republic which had
instituted the so-called Provisional Constitution. He was careful,
however, not to lay this down categorically until many months
later when his dictatorship seemed undisputed. But from the day of
the Manchu Abdication almost, he was constantly engaged in
calculating whether he dared risk everything on one throw of the
dice and ascend the Throne himself; and it is precisely this which
imparts such dramatic interest to the astounding story which




To describe briefly and intelligibly the series of transactions
from the 1st January, 1912, when the Republic was proclaimed at
Nanking by a handful of provincial delegates, and Dr. Sun Yat Sen
elected Provisional President, to the coup d'etat of 4th November,
1913, when Yuan Shih-kai, elected full President a few weeks
previously, after having acted as Chief Executive for twenty
months, boldly broke up Parliament and made himself de facto
Dictator of China, is a matter of extraordinary difficulty.

All through this important period of Chinese history one has the
impression that one is in dreamland and that fleeting emotions
take the place of more solid things. Plot and counter-plot follow
one another so rapidly that an accurate record of them all would
be as wearisome as the Book of Chronicles itself; whilst the
amazing web of financial intrigue which binds the whole together
is so complex--and at the same time so antithetical to the
political struggle--that the two stories seem to run counter to
one another, although they are as closely united as two assassins
pledged to carry through in common a dread adventure. A huge
agglomeration of people estimated to number four hundred millions,
being left without qualified leaders and told that the system of
government, which had been laid down by the Nanking Provisional
Constitution and endorsed by the Abdication Edicts, was a system
in which every man was as good as neighbour, swayed meaninglessly
to and fro, vainly seeking to regain the equilibrium which had
been so sensationally lost. A litigious spirit became so universal
that all authority was openly derided, crimes of every description
being so common as to force most respectable men to withdraw from
public affairs and leave a bare rump of desperadoes in power.

Long embarrassed by the struggle to pay her foreign loans and
indemnities, China was also virtually penniless. The impossibility
of arranging large borrowings on foreign markets without the open
support of foreign governments--a support which was hedged round
with conditions--made necessary a system of petty expedients under
which practically every provincial administration hypothecated
every liquid asset it could lay hands upon in order to pay the
inordinate number of undisciplined soldiery who littered the
countryside. The issue of unguaranteed paper-money soon reached
such an immense figure that the market was flooded with a
worthless currency which it was unable to absorb. The Provincial
leaders, being powerless to introduce improvement, exclaimed that
it was the business of the Central Government as representative of
the sovereign people to find solutions; and so long as they
maintained themselves in office they went their respective ways
with a sublime contempt for the chaos around them.

What was this Central Government? In order successfully to
understand an unparalleled situation we must indicate its nature.

The manoeuvres to which Yuan Shih-kai had so astutely lent himself
from the outbreak of the Revolution had left him at its official
close supreme in name. Not only had he secured an Imperial
Commission from the abdicating Dynasty to organize a popular
Government in obedience to the national wish, but having brought
to Peking the Delegates of the Nanking Revolutionary Body he had
received from them the formal offer of the Presidency.

These arrangements had, of course, been secretly agreed to en bloc
before the fighting had been stopped and the abdication
proclaimed, and were part and parcel of the elaborate scenery
which officialdom always employs in Asia even when it is dealing
with matters within the purview of the masses. They had been made
possible by the so-called "Article of Favourable Treatment" drawn-
up by Yuan Shih-kai himself, after consultation with the
rebellious South. In these Capitulations it had been clearly
stipulated that the Manchu Imperial Family should receive in
perpetuity a Civil List of $4,000,000 Mexican a year, retaining
all their titles as a return for the surrender of their political
power, the bitter pill being gilded in such fashion as to hide its
real meaning, which alone was a grave political error.

In spite of this agreement, however, great mutual suspicion
existed between North and South China. Yuan Shih-kai himself was
unable to forget that the bold attempt to assassinate him in the
Peking streets on the 17th January, when he was actually engaged
in negotiating these very terms of the Abdication, had been
apparently inspired from Nanking; whilst the Southern leaders were
daily reminded by the vernacular press that the man who held the
balance of power had always played the part of traitor in the past
and would certainly do the same again in the near future.

When the Delegates came to Peking in February, by far the most
important matter which was still in dispute was the question of
the oath of office which Yuan Shih-kai was called upon to take to
insure that he would be faithful to the Republic. The Delegates
had been charged specifically to demand on behalf of the seceding
provinces that Yuan Shih-kai should proceed with them to Nanking
to take that oath, a course of action which would have been held
tantamount by the nation to surrender on his part to those who had
been unable to vanquish him in the field. It must also not be
forgotten that from the very beginning a sharp and dangerous
cleavage of opinion existed as to the manner in which the powers
of the new government had been derived. South and Central China
claimed, and claimed rightly, that the Nanking Provincial
Constitution was the Instrument on which the Republic was based:
Yuan Shih-kai declared that the Abdication Edicts, and not the
Nanking Instrument had established the Republic, and that
therefore it lay within his competence to organize the new
government in the way which he considered most fit.

The discussion which raged was suddenly terminated on the night of
the 29th February (1912) when without any warning there occurred
the extraordinary revolt of the 3rd Division, a picked Northern
corps who for forty-eight hours plundered and burnt portions of
the capital without any attempts at interference, there being
little doubt to-day that this manoeuvre was deliberately arranged
as a means of intimidation by Yuan Shih-kai himself. Although the
disorders assumed such dimensions that foreign intervention was
narrowly escaped, the upshot was that the Nanking Delegates were
completely cowed and willing to forget all about forcing the
despot of Peking to proceed to the Southern capital. Yuan Shih-kai
as the man of the hour was enabled on the 10th March, 1912, to
take his oath in Peking as he had wished thus securing full
freedom of action during the succeeding years. [Footnote: The
defective nature of this oath of office will be patent at a
glance: "At the beginning of the Republic there are many things to
be taken care of. I, Yuan Shih-kai, sincerely wish to exert my
utmost to promote the democratic spirit, to remove the dark blots
of despotism, to obey strictly the Constitution, and to abide by
the wish of the people, so as to place the country in a safe,
united, strong, and firm position, and to effect the happiness and
welfare of the divisions of the Chinese race. All these wishes I
will fulfil without fail. As soon as a new President is elected by
the National Assembly I shall at once vacate my present position.
With all sincerity I take this oath before the people of China.
"Dated the tenth day of March in the First Year of the Republic of
China (1912)."

(Signed) Yuan Shih-kai.]

It was on this astounding basis--by means of an organized revolt--
that the Central Government was re-organized; and every act that
followed bears the mark of its tainted parentage. Accepting
readily as his Ministers in the more unimportant government
Departments the nominees of the Southern Confederacy (which was
now formally dissolved), Yuan Shih-kai was careful to reserve for
his own men everything that concerned the control of the army and
the police, as well as the all-important ministry of finance. The
framework having been thus erected, attention was almost
immediately concentrated on the problem of finding money, an
amazing matter which would weary the stoutest reader if given in
all its detail but which being part and parcel of the general
problem must be referred to.

Certain essential features can be very rapidly exposed. We have
already made clear the purely economic nature of the forces which
had sapped the foundations of Chinese society. Primarily it had
been the disastrous nature of Chinese gold-indebtedness which had
given the new ideas the force they required to work their will on
the nation. And just because the question of this gold-
indebtedness had become so serious and such a drain on the nation,
some months before the outbreak of the Revolution an arrangement
had been entered into with the bankers of four nations for a
Currency Loan of 10,000,000 pounds with which to make an organized
effort to re-establish internal credit. But this loan had never
actually been floated, as a six months' safety clause had
permitted a delay during which the Revolution had come. It was
therefore necessary to begin the negotiations anew; and as the
rich prizes to be won in the Chinese lottery had attracted general
attention in the European financial world through the
advertisement which the Revolution had given the country, a host
of alternative loan proposals now lay at the disposal of Peking.

Consequently an extraordinary chapter of bargaining commenced.
Warned that an International Debt Commission was the goal aimed at
by official finance, Yuan Shih-kai and the various parties who
made up the Government of the day, though disagreeing on almost
every other question, were agreed that this danger must be fought
as a common enemy. Though the Four-Power group alleged that they
held the first option on all Chinese loans, money had already been
advanced by a Franco-Belgian Syndicate to the amount of nearly two
million pounds during the critical days of the Abdication. Furious
at the prospect of losing their percentages, the Four Power group
made the confusion worse confounded by blocking all competing
proposals and closing every possible door. Russia and Japan, who
had hitherto not been parties to the official consortium,
perceiving that participation had become a political necessity,
now demanded a place which was grudgingly accorded them; and it
was in this way that the celebrated six-power Group arose.

It was round this group and the proposed issue of a 60,000,000
pounds loan to reorganize Chinese finance that the central battle
raged. The Belgian Syndicate, having been driven out of business
by the financial boycott which the official group was strong
enough to organize on the European bourses, it remained for China
to see whether she could not find some combination or some man who
would be bold enough to ignore all governments.

Her search was not in vain. In September (1912) a London
stockbroker, Mr. Birch Crisp, determined to risk a brilliant coup
by negotiating by himself a Loan of 10,000,000 pounds; and the
world woke up one morning to learn that one man was successfully
opposing six governments. The recollection of the storm raised in
financial circles by this bold attempt will be fresh in many
minds. Every possible weapon was brought into play by
international finance to secure that the impudence of financial
independence should be properly checked; and so it happened that
although 5,000,000 pounds was secured after an intense struggle,
it was soon plain that the large requirements of a derelict
government could not be satisfied in this Quixotic manner. Two
important points had, however, been attained; first, China was
kept financially afloat during the year 1912 by the independence
of a single member of the London Stock Exchange; secondly, using
this coup as a lever the Peking Government secured better terms
than otherwise would have been possible from the official

Meanwhile the general internal situation remained deplorable.
Nothing was done for the provinces whose paper currency was
depreciating from month to month in an alarming manner; whilst the
rivalries between the various leaders instead of diminishing
seemed to be increasing. The Tutuhs, or Military Governors, acting
precisely as they saw fit, derided the authority of Peking and
sought to strengthen their old position by adding to their armed
forces. In the capital the old Manchu court, safely entrenched in
the vast Winter Palace from which it has not even to-day been
ejected (1917) published daily the Imperial Gazette, bestowing
honours and decorations on courtiers and clansmen and preserving
all the old etiquette. In the North-western provinces, and in
Manchuria and Mongolia, the socalled Tsung She Tang, or Imperial
Clan Society, intrigued perpetually to create risings which would
hasten the restoration of the fallen House; and although these
intrigues never rose to the rank of a real menace to the country,
the fact that they were surreptitiously supported by the Japanese
secret service was a continual source of anxiety. The question of
Outer Mongolia was also harassing the Central Government. The
Hutuktu or Living Buddha of Urga--the chief city of Outer
Mongolia--had utilized the revolution to throw off his allegiance
to Peking; and the whole of this vast region had been thrown into
complete disorder--which was still further accentuated when Russia
on the 21st October (1912) recognized its independence. It was
known that as a pendent to this Great Britain was about to insist
on the autonomy of Tibet,--a development which greatly hurt
Chinese pride.

On the 15th August, 1912, the deplorable situation was well-
epitomised by an extraordinary act in Peking, when General Chang
Cheng-wu, one of the "heroes" of the original Wuchang rising, who
had been enticed to the capital, was suddenly seized after a
banquet in his honour and shot without trial at midnight.

This event, trivial in itself during times when judicial murders
were common, would have excited nothing more than passing interest
had not the national sentiment been so aroused by the chaotic
conditions. As it was it served to focus attention on the general
maladministration over which Yuan Shih-kai ruled as provisional
President. "What is my crime?" had shrieked the unhappy
revolutionist as he had been shot and then bayonetted to death.
That query was most easily answered. His crime was that he was not
strong enough or big enough to compete against more sanguinary
men, his disappearance being consequently in obedience to an
universal law of nature. Yuan Shih-kai was determined to assert
his mastery by any and every means; and as this man had flouted
him he must die.

The uproar which this crime aroused was, however, not easily
appeased; and the Advisory Council, which was sitting in Peking
pending the assembling of the first Parliament, denounced the
Provisional President so bitterly that to show that these
reproaches were ill-deserved he invited Dr. Sun Yat-sen to the
capital treating him with unparalleled honours and requesting him
to act as intermediary between the rival factions. All such
manoeuvres, however, were inspired with one object,--namely to
prove how nobody but the master of Peking could regulate the
affairs of the country.

Still no Parliament was assembled. Although the Nanking
Provisional Constitution had stipulated that one was to meet
within ten months i. e. before 1st November, 1912, the elections
were purposely delayed, the attention of the Central Government
being concentrated on the problem of destroying all rivals, and
everything being subordinate to this war on persons. Rascals,
getting daily more and more out of hand, worked their will on rich
and poor alike, discrediting by their actions the name of
republicanism and destroying public confidence--which was
precisely what suited Yuan Shih-kai. Dramatic and extraordinary
incidents continually inflamed the public mind, nothing being too
singular for those remarkable days.

Very slowly the problem developed, with everyone exclaiming that
foreign intervention was becoming inevitable. With the beginning
of 1913, being unable to delay the matter any longer, Yuan Shih-
kai allowed elections to be held in the provinces. He was so badly
beaten at the polls that it seemed in spite of his military power
that he would be outvoted and outmanoeuvred in the new National
Assembly and his authority undermined. To prevent this a fresh
assassination was decided upon. The ablest Southern leader, Sung
Chiao-jen, just as he was entraining for Peking with a number of
Parliamentarians at Shanghai, was coolly shot in a crowded railway
station by a desperado who admitted under trial that he had been
paid 200 pounds for the job by the highest authority in the land,
the evidence produced in court including telegrams from Peking
which left no doubt as to who had instigated the murder.

The storm raised by this evil measure made it appear as if no
parliament could ever assemble in Peking. But the feeling had
become general that the situation was so desperate that action had
to be taken. Not only was their reputation at stake, but the
Kuomingtang or Revolutionary Party now knew that the future of
their country was involved just as much as the safety of their own
lives; and so after a rapid consultation they determined that they
would beard the lion in his den. Rather unexpectedly on the 7th
April (1913) Parliament was opened in Peking with a huge Southern
majority and the benediction of all Radicals. [Footnote: The
Parliament of China is composed of a House of Representatives
numbering 596 members and a Senate of 274. The Representatives are
elected by means of a property and educational franchise which is
estimated to give about four million voters (1 per cent of the
population) although in practice relatively few vote. The Senate
is elected by the Provincial Assemblies by direct ballot. In the
opinion of the writer, the Chinese Parliament in spite of obvious
shortcoming, is representative of the country in its present
transitional stage.] Hopes rose with mercurial rapidity as a
solution at last seemed in sight. But hardly had the first
formalities been completed and Speakers been elected to both
Houses, than by a single dramatic stroke Yuan Shih-kai reduced to
nought these labours by stabbing in the back the whole theory and
practice of popular government.

The method he employed was simplicity itself, and it is peculiarly
characteristic of the man that he should have been so bluntly
cynical. Though the Provisional Nanking Constitution, which was
the "law" of China so far as there was any law at all, had laid
down specifically in article XIX that all measures affecting the
National Treasury must receive the assent of Parliament, Yuan
Shih-kai, pretending that the small Advisory Council which had
assisted him during the previous year and which had only just been
dissolved, had sanctioned a foreign loan, peremptorily ordered the
signature of the great Reorganization Loan of 25,000,000 pounds
which had been secretly under negotiation all Winter with the
financial agents of six Powers, [Footnote: The American Group at
the last moment dropped out of the Sextuple combination (prior to
the signature of the contract) after President Wilson had made his
well-known pronouncement deprecating the association of Americans
in any financial undertakings which impinged upon the rights of
sovereignty of a friendly Power,--which was his considered view of
the manner in which foreign governments were assisting their
nationals to gain control of the Salt Administration. The exact
language the President used was that the conditions of the loan
seemed "to touch very nearly the administrative independence of
China itself," and that a loan thus obtained was "obnoxious" to
the principles upon which the American government rests. It is to
be hoped that President Wilson's dictum will be universally
accepted after the war and that meddling in Chinese affairs will
cease.] although the rupture which had come in the previous June
as a forerunner to the Crisp loan had caused the general public to
lose sight of the supreme importance of the financial factor.
Parliament, seeing that apart from the possibility of a Foreign
Debt Commission being created something after the Turkish and
Egyptian models, a direct challenge to its existence had been
offered, raged and stormed and did its utmost to delay the
question; but the Chief Executive having made up his mind shut
himself up in his Palace and absolutely refused to see any
Parliamentary representatives. Although the Minister of Finance
himself hesitated to complete the transaction in the face of the
rising storm and actually fled the capital, he was brought back by
special train and forced to complete the agreement. At four
o'clock in the morning on the 25th April the last documents were
signed in the building of a foreign bank and the Finance Minister,
galloping his carriage suddenly out of the compound to avoid
possible bombs, reported to his master that at last--in spite of
the nominal foreign control which was to govern the disbursement--
a vast sum was at his disposal to further his own ends.

Safe in the knowledge that possession is nine points of the law,
Yuan Shih-kai now treated with derision the resolutions which
Parliament passed that the transaction was illegal and the loan
agreement null and void. Being openly backed by the agents of the
Foreign Powers, he immediately received large cash advances which
enabled him to extend his power in so many directions that further
argument with him seemed useless. It is necessary to record that
the Parliamentary leaders had almost gone down on their knees to
certain of the foreign Ministers in Peking in a vain attempt to
persuade them to delay--as they could very well have done--the
signature of this vital Agreement for forty-eight hours so that it
could be formally passed by the National Assembly, and thus save
the vital portion of the sovereignty of the country from passing
under the heel of one man. But Peking diplomacy is a perverse and
disagreeable thing; and the Foreign Ministers of those days,
although accredited to a government which while it had not then
been formally recognized as a Republic by any Power save the
United States, was bound to be so very shortly, were determined to
be reactionary and were at heart delighted to find things running
back normally to absolutism.

[Footnote: The United States accorded formal recognition to the
Republic on the election of the Speakers of the two Houses of
Parliament: the other Treaty Powers delayed recognition until Yuan
Shih-kai had been elected full President in October. It has been
very generally held that the long delay in foreign recognition of
the Republic contributed greatly to its internal troubles by
making every one doubt the reality of the Nanking transaction.
Most important, however, is the historical fact that a group of
Powers numbering the two great leaders of democracy in Europe--
England and France--did everything they could in Peking to
enthrone Yuan Shih-kai as dictator.]

High finance had at last got hold of everything it required from
China and was in no mood to relax the monopoly of the salt
administration which the Loan Agreement conferred. Nor must be the
fact be lost sight of that of the nominal amount of 25,000,000
pounds which had been borrowed, fully half consisted of repayments
to foreign Banks and never left Europe. According to the schedules
attached to the Agreement, Annex A, comprising the Boxer arrears
and bank advances, absorbed 4,317,778 pounds: Annex B, being so-
called provincial loans, absorbed a further 2,870,000 pounds:
Annex C, being liabilities shortly maturing, amounted to 3,592,263
pounds: Annex D, for disbandment of troops, amounted to 3,000,000
pounds: Annex C, to cover current administrative expenses totalled
5,500,000 pounds: whilst Annex E which covered the reorganization
of the Salt Administration, absorbed the last 2,000,000 pounds.
The bank profits on this loan alone amounted to 1 1/4 million
pounds; whilst Yuan Shih-kai himself was placed in possession by a
system of weekly disbursements of a sum roughly amounting to ten
million sterling, which was amply sufficient to allow him to wreak
his will on his fellow-countrymen. Exasperated to the pitch of
despair by this new development, the Central and Southern
provinces, after a couple of months' vain argument, began openly
to arm. On the 10th July in Kiangse province on the river Yangtsze
the Northern garrisons were fired upon from the Hukow forts by the
provincial troops under General Li Lieh-chun and the so-called
Second Revolution commenced.

The campaign was short and inglorious. The South, ill-furnished
with munitions and practically penniless, and always confronted by
the same well-trained Northern Divisions who had proved themselves
invincible only eighteen months before, fought hard for a while,
but never became a serious menace to the Central Government owing
to the lack of co-operation between the various Rebel forces in
the field. The Kiangse troops under General Li Lieh-chun, who
numbered at most 20,000 men, fought stiffly, it is true, for a
while but were unable to strike with any success and were
gradually driven far back from the river into the mountains of
Kiangse where their numbers rapidly melted away. The redoubtable
revolutionary Huang Hsin, who had proved useful as a propagandist
and a bomb-thrower in earlier days, but who was useless in serious
warfare, although he assumed command of the Nanking garrison which
had revolted to a man, and attempted a march up the Pukow railway
in the direction of Tientsin, found his effort break down almost
immediately from lack of organization and fled to Japan. The
Nanking troops, although deserted by their leader, offered a
strenuous resistance to the capture of the southern capital which
was finally effected by the old reactionary General Chang Hsun
operating in conjunction with General Feng Kuo-chang who had been
dispatched from Peking with a picked force. The attack on the
Shanghai arsenal which had been quietly occupied by a small
Northern Garrison during the months succeeding the great loan
transaction, although pushed with vigour by the South, likewise
ultimately collapsed through lack of artillery and proper
leadership. The navy, which was wholly Southern in its sympathies
and which had been counted upon as a valuable weapon in cutting
off the whole Yangtsze Valley, was at the last moment purchased to
neutrality by a liberal use of money obtained from the foreign
banks, under, it is said, the heading of administrative expenses!
The turbulent city of Canton, although it also rose against the
authority of Peking, had been well provided for by Yuan Shih-kai.
A border General, named Lung Chi-Kwang, with 20,000 semi-savage
Kwangsi troops had been moved near the city and at once attacked
and overawed the garrison. Appointed Military Governor of the
province in return for his services, this Lung Chi-kwang, who was
an infamous brute, for three years ruled the South with heartless
barbarity, until he was finally ejected by the great rising of
1916. Thoroughly disappointed in this and many other directions
the Southern Party was now emasculated; for the moneyed classes
had withheld their support to the end, and without money nothing
is possible in China. The 1913 outbreak, after lasting a bare two
months, ignominiously collapsed with the flight of every one of
the leaders on whose heads prices were put. The road was now left
open for the last step Yuan Shih-kai had in mind, the coup against
Parliament itself, which although unassociated in any direct way
with the rising, had undoubtedly maintained secret relations with
the rebellious generals in the field.

Parliament had further sinned by appointing a Special
Constitutional Drafting Committee which had held its sittings
behind closed doors at the Temple of Heaven. During this drafting
of the Permanent Constitution, admittance had been absolutely
refused to Yuan Shih-kai's delegates who had been sent to urge a
modification of the decentralization which had been such a
characteristic of the Nanking Instrument. Such details as
transpired showed that the principle of absolute money-control was
not only to be the dominant note in the Permanent Constitution,
but that a new and startling innovation was being included to
secure that a de facto Dictatorship should be rendered impossible.
Briefly, it was proposed that when Parliament was not actually in
session there should be left in Peking a special Parliamentary
Committee, charged with supervising and controlling the Executive,
and checking any usurpation of power.

This was enough for Yuan Shih-kai: he felt that he was not only an
object of general suspicion but that he was being treated with
contempt. He determined to finish with it all. He was as yet,
however, only provisional President and it was necessary to show
cunning. Once more he set to work in a characteristic way. By a
liberal use of money Parliament was induced to pass in advance of
the main body of articles the Chapter of the Constitution dealing
with the election and term of office of the President. When that
had been done the two Chambers sitting as an Electoral College,
after the model of the French Parliament, being partly bribed and
partly terrorised by a military display, were induced to elect him
full President.

On the 10th October he took his final oath of office as President
for a term of five years before a great gathering of officials and
the whole diplomatic body in the magnificent Throne Room of the
Winter Palace. Safe now in his Constitutional position nothing
remained for him but to strike. On the 4th November he issued an
arbitrary Mandate, which received the counter-signature of the
whole Cabinet, ordering the unseating of all the so-called
Kuomingtang or Radical Senators and Representatives on the counts
of conspiracy and secret complicity with the July rising and
vaguely referring to the filling of the vacancies thus created by
new elections. [Footnote: According to the official lists
published subsequent to the coup d'etat, 98 Senators and 252
Members of the House of Representatives had their Parliamentary
Certificates impounded by the police as a result of the Mandates
of the 4th November, and were ordered to leave the Capital. In
addition 34 Senators and 54 Members of the Lower House fled from
Peking before their Certificates could be seized. Therefore the
total number affected by the proscription was 132 Senators and 306
Representatives. As the quorums in the case of both Houses are
half the total membership, any further sittings were thus made
impossible.] The Metropolitan Police rigorously carried out the
order and although no brutality was shown, it was made clear that
if any of the indicted men remained in Peking their lives would be
at stake. Having made it impossible for Parliament to sit owing to
the lack of quorums, Yuan Shih-kai was able to proceed with his
work of reorganization in the way that best suited him; and the
novel spectacle was offered of a truly Mexican situation created
in the Far East by and with the assent of the Powers. It is
significant that the day succeeding this coup d'etat of the 4th
November the agreement conceding autonomy to Outer Mongolia was
signed with Russia, China simply retaining the right to station a
diplomatic representative at Urga. [Footnote: A full copy of this
agreement will be found in the appendix.]

In spite of his undisputed power, matters however did not improve.
The police-control, judiciously mingled with assassinations, which
was now put in full vigour was hardly the administration to make
room for which the Manchus had been expelled; and the country
secretly chafed and cursed. But the disillusionment of the people
was complete. Revolt had been tried in vain; and as the support
which the Powers were affording to this regime was well understood
there was nothing to do but to wait, safe in the knowledge that
such a situation possessed no elements of permanency.




With the Parliament of China effectively destroyed, and the
turbulent Yangtsze Valley dragooned into sullen submission, Yuan
Shih-kai's task had become so vastly simplified that he held the
moment to have arrived when he could openly turn his hand to the
problem of making himself absolutely supreme, de jure as well as
de facto. But there was one remaining thing to be done. To drive
the last nail into the coffin of the Republic it was necessary to
discredit and virtually imprison the man who was Vice-President.

It is highly characteristic that although he had received from the
hero of the Wuchang Rising the most loyal co-operation--a co-
operation of a very arduous character since the Commander of the
Middle Yangtsze had had to resist the most desperate attempts to
force him over to the side of the rebellion in July, 1913,
nevertheless, Yuan Shih-kai was determined to bring this man to
Peking as a prisoner of state.

It was just the fact that General Li Yuan-hung was a national hero
which impelled the Dictator to action. In the election which had
been carried out in October, 1913, by the National Assembly
sitting as a National Convention, in spite of every effort to
destroy his influence, the personal popularity of the Vice-
President had been such that he had received a large number of
votes for the office of full President--which had necessitated not
one but three ballots being taken, making most people declare that
had there been no bribery or intimidation he would have probably
been elected to the supreme office in the land, and ousted the
ambitious usurper. In such circumstances his complete elimination
was deemed an elementary necessity. To secure that end Yuan Shih-
kai suddenly dispatched to Wuchang--where the Vice-President had
resided without break since 1911--the Minister of War, General
Tuan Chi-jui, with implicit instructions to deal with the problem
in any way he deemed satisfactory, stopping short of nothing
should his victim prove recalcitrant.

Fortunately General Tuan Chi-jui did not belong to the ugly breed
of men Yuan Shih-kai loved to surround himself with; and although
he was a loyal and efficient officer the politics of the assassin
were unknown to him. He was therefore able to convince the Vice-
President after a brief discussion that the easiest way out of the
ring of intriguers and plotters in which Yuan Shih-kai was rapidly
surrounding him in Wuchang was to go voluntarily to the capital.
There at least he would be in daily touch with developments and
able to fight his own battles without fear of being stabbed in the
back; since under the eye of the foreign Legations even Yuan Shih-
kai was exhibiting a certain timidity. Indeed after the outcry
which General Chang Cheng-wu's judicial murder had aroused he had
reserved his ugliest deeds for the provinces, only small men being
done to death in Peking. Accordingly, General Li Yuan-hung packed
a bag and accompanied only by an aide-de-camp left abruptly for
the capital where he arrived on the 11th December, 1913.

A great sensation was caused throughout China by this sudden
departure, consternation prevailing among the officers and men of
the Hupeh (Wuchang) army when the newspapers began to hint that
their beloved chief had been virtually abducted. Although
cordially received by Yuan Shih-kai and given as his personal
residence the Island Palace where the unfortunate Emperor Kwang
Hsu had been so long imprisoned by the Empress Dowager Tsu Hsi
after her coup d'etat of 1898, it did not take long for General Li
Yuan-hung to understand that his presence was a source of
embarrassment to the man who would be king. Being, however, gifted
with an astounding fund of patience, he prepared to sit down and
allow the great game which he knew would now unroll to be played
to its normal ending. What General Li Yuan-hung desired above all
was to be forgotten completely and absolutely--springing to life
when the hour of deliverance finally arrived. His policy was shown
to be not only psychologically accurate, but masterly in a
political sense. The greatest ally of honesty in China has always
been time, the inherent decency of the race finally discrediting
scoundrelism in every period of Chinese history.

The year 1914 dawned with so many obstacles removed that Yuan
Shih-kai became more and more peremptory in his methods. In
February the young Empress Lun Yi, widow of the Emperor Kwang Hsu,
who two years previously in her character of guardian of the boy-
Emperor Hsuan Tung, had been cajoled into sanctioning the
Abdication Edicts, unexpectedly expired, her death creating
profound emotion because it snapped the last link with the past.
Yuan Shih-kai's position was considerably strengthened by this
auspicious event which secretly greatly delighted him; and by his
order for three days the defunct Empress lay in State in the Grand
Hall of the Winter Palace and received the obeisance of countless
multitudes who appeared strangely moved by this hitherto unknown
procedure. There was now only a nine-year old boy between the
Dictator and his highest ambitions. Two final problems still
remained to be dealt with: to give a legal form to a purely
autocratic rule, and to find money to govern the country. The
second matter was vastly more important than the first to a man
who did not hesitate to base his whole polity on the teachings of
Machiavelli, legality being looked upon as only so much political
window-dressing to placate foreign opinion and prevent
intervention, whilst without money even the semblance of the
rights of eminent domain could not be preserved. Everything indeed
hinged on the question of finding money.

There was none in China, at least none for the government.
Financial chaos still reigned supreme in spite of the great
Reorganization Loan of 25,000,000 pounds, which had been carefully
arranged more for the purpose of wiping-out international
indebtedness and balancing the books of foreign bankers than to
institute a modern government. All the available specie in the
country had been very quietly remitted in these troubled times by
the native merchant-guilds from every part of China to the vast
emporium of Shanghai for safe custody, where a sum not far short
of a hundred million ounces now choked the vaults of the foreign
banks,--being safe from governmental expropriation. The collection
of provincial revenues having been long disorganized, Yuan Shih-
kai, in spite of his military dictatorship, found it impossible to
secure the proper resumption of the provincial remittances. Fresh
loans became more and more sought after; by means of forced
domestic issues a certain amount of cash was obtained, but the
country lived from hand to mouth and everybody was unhappy. Added
to this by March the formidable insurrection of the "White Wolf"
bandits in Central China--under the legendary leadership of a man
who was said to be invulnerable--necessitated the mobilization of
a fresh army which ran into scores of battalions and which was
vainly engaged for nearly half a year in rounding-up this replica
of the Mexican Villa. So demoralized had the army become from long
license that this guerilla warfare was waged with all possible
slackness until a chance shot mortally wounded the chief brigand
and his immense following automatically dispersed. During six
months these pests had ravaged three provinces and menaced one of
the most strongly fortified cities in Asia--the old capital of
China, Hsianfu, whither the Manchu Court had fled in 1900.

Meanwhile wholesale executions were carried out in the provinces
with monotonous regularity and all attempts at rising ruthlessly
suppressed. In Peking the infamous Chih Fa Chu or Military Court--
a sort of Chinese Star-Chamber--was continually engaged in
summarily dispatching men suspected of conspiring against the
Dictator. Even the printed word was looked upon as seditious, an
unfortunate native editor being actually flogged to death in
Hankow for telling the truth about conditions in the riverine
districts. These cruelties made men more and more determined to
pay off the score the very first moment that was possible.
Although he was increasingly pressed for ready money, Yuan Shih-
kai, by the end of April, 1914, had the situation sufficiently in
hand to bring out his supreme surprise,--a brand-new Constitution
promulgated under the euphonious title of "The Constitutional

This precious document, which had no more legality behind it as a
governing instrument than a private letter, can be studied by the
curious in the appendix where it is given in full: here it is
sufficient to say that no such hocuspocus had ever been previously
indulged in China. Drafted by an American legal adviser, Dr.
Goodnow, who was later to earn unenviable international notoriety
as the endorser of the monarchy scheme, it erected what it was
pleased to call the Presidential System; that is, it placed all
power directly in the hands of the President, giving him a single
Secretary of State after the American model and reducing Cabinet
Ministers to mere Department Chiefs who received their
instructions from the State Department but had no real voice in
the actual government. A new provincial system was likewise
invented for the provinces, the Tutuhs or Governors of the
Revolutionary period being turned into Chiang Chun or Military
Officials on the Manchu model and provincial control absolutely
centralized in their hands, whilst the Provincial Assemblies
established under the former dynasty were summarily abolished. The
worship at the Temple of Heaven was also re-established and so was

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