Page images
PDF
EPUB

stones. Here, again, I signalised my arrival by setting free several prisoners who were confined for offences against our religion.

After this he informs us that having arrived at Gan Choueyfoo, all the chief insignia of authority were placed at the door of the house, besides cannon announcing the nightly guard,' and each time that I left my house or returned three rounds of cannon announced the fact. In the interior of the residence ceremony was not banished, for he adds, 'I always eat alone. The principal chiefs in full dress stand round the table to serve me, while musicians attend at the door and commence their harmony.' And so it goes on, with an account which reads more like the text of a burlesque play than anything else. It is easy to understand how exasperatingly offensive this must have been to the high authorities, whose state and official attributes were thus usurped and travestied, but it is needless to speculate on what the Chinese Government and its provincial authorities think of such procedures, and what they feel on the subject. No Treaty Power is ignorant, for a remarkable document was received by all the foreign representatives at Peking, some time after the massacre at Tientsin, addressed by the Prince of Kung and his colleagues at the Tsung-li-Yamên (in charge of foreign affairs), and on this subject there is the following paragraph :

In trade there is no cause of serious quarrel between native and foreigner. But connected with the missionary question there is a vast amount of mischief on the increase, the fact being that, while propagandism starts with the announcement that its object is the exhortation of people to virtue, Romanism as propagated in China has the effect of setting the people against it; and, inasmuch as this is the result of the unsuitableness of the modus operandi now in vogue, it is essential that there be devised, without loss of time, such remedial measures as will bring things to a satisfactory condition. The missionary question affects the whole question of peaceful relations with foreign Powers—the whole question of their trade."

After this preliminary exordium, so earnestly stated, the writers proceed to describe in detail what are the abuses which they conceive are the chief cause of trouble in regard to missionaries :

As the Minister addressed cannot but be well aware, ill-feeling begins between them (the missionaries) and the people. In earlier times they say it was not so; but since the exchanged ratifications in 1860 the converts have in general not been of a moral class, and the religion has in consequence become unpopular; and the unpopularity is increased by the conduct of the converts, who, relying on the influence of the missionaries, oppress and take advantage of the common people (the non-Christians), and yet more by the conduct of the missionaries themselves, who, when collisions between Christians and the people occur, and the authorities are engaged in dealing with them, take part with the Christians, and uphold them in their opposition to the authorities. This undiscriminating en

• Memorandum of the Tsung-li-Yamên upon the missionary question, circulated October 9, 1871, among the Foreign Representatives at Peking. Parliamentary Papers, China, No. 1, 1872, pp. 4-14. VOL. XX.-No. 117.

Y Y

listment of proselytes has gone so far that rebels and criminals of China, and suchlike, take refuge in the profession of Christianity, and covered by this position create disorder. This has deeply dissatisfied the people, and their dissatisfaction being felt grows into animosity, and their animosity into deadly hostility. The populations of different localities are not aware that Protestantism and Romanism are distinct. They include both under the latter denomination, or under the one denomination of foreigners, and thus any serious collision that occurs equally compromises all foreigners in China. In the provinces doubt and misgiving are certain to be largely generated. Under such circumstances, how is it possible but there should be irritation, and that this should show itself in serious outbreaks? Be it that the troubles connected with propagandism come of the resentment of the people, roused at last to wrath, it is not the less a fact that the Christians have given them cause of exasperation.

The Ministers then go on to state that the hostility of the

people is

particularly roused by the conduct of the Romanist missionaries themselves, who go beyond all bounds in assuming an attitude of arrogant importance and of overbearing resistance to the authorities, and in every province interfering at the offices of the local authorities in lawsuits in which native Christians are concerned (citing in proof many individual instances].

This interference with the jurisdiction of the Chinese authorities is plainly shown to be one of the most serious grounds of protest, and in connexion with it the assumption of official titles-seals or other insignia of rank and authority in use in China. One case among others is cited of a missionary in Shantung assuming the title of

Sinn-fu' (Governor of a Province.) This,' it is observed, “is not only encroachment upon the authority of the local officials, but usurpation of the authority of the Chinese Government, and it is asked, 'How is it possible that all these improprieties should not arouse general indignation ?'

III.

We cannot now feel any doubt that the missionary question is the main cause of disturbance in our relations with China, and of danger to the Chinese Government itself no less than to all foreigners resident in the country, missionaries and laymen alike, and whatever their nationality—a danger all the more serious that, as the Prince himself has truly stated, the missionary question affects the whole question of pacific relations with foreign Powers and the whole question of their trade.' Whether it be desired or not, a community of danger, if not of interests, does exist, and must be taken into account in considering by what means the persistent and ever-increasing hostility of the Chinese of all classes can best be met, and an ever-present danger averted; and M. de Lavalette, the French ambassador in London, when the intelligence arrived of the attack on the French settlement at Tientsin, based his first com

munication to her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs on the recognition of a solidarité of interests, as well as of dangers, in the following terms:

Bien que les victimes de ces attentats soient presque exclusivement des Français, on ne saurait contester que des faits pareils révèlent l'existence de dangers qui menacent indistinctement tous les étrangers résidant en Chine. Whence he draws the conclusion, so true in fact, but so little regarded in practice

C'est en considérant leurs intérêts comme solidaires dans ces contrées de l'extrême Orient que les Puissances européennes peuvent arriver à assurer à leurs nationaux les garanties et les sécurités stipulées dans les traités. From this principle, so promptly and frankly invoked by the French ambassador in the disaster that had befallen the French settlement, the question naturally suggests itself, how far, in this missionary question more particularly, and dominating all others, the relations of the French Government with China and their independent action under special conventions can be reconciled with a common interest and a common policy for their advancement.

This evidently occurred to Lord Granville, for, writing to Lord Lyons in Paris in reference to the expressed desire of the French Government for united action, he pointed out, while agreeing in the community of interests, a certain difficulty in the different nature of the treaty provisions as affecting the position of Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries in China, and that in consequence there were difficulties in the way of a collective note to the Chinese Government on the subject.' And this is the first obstacle to unity of action in all that concerns the Treaty Powers and a common policy, as a means of defence against the danger that threatens all. Where the acts of one may, or must of necessity, bring equal danger on all, divergencies in policy or action are incompatible with united effort, and therefore fatal to the very principle of such solidarité as the French Minister invokes. While sharing unavoidably in a solidarité as regards the danger it entails, it cannot be invoked to secure safety in practice. To show this more clearly, we have to inquire what are the divergences in the treaty provisions of France and England bearing upon the missionary question. The treaty of Great Britain made in 1842 had no stipulations about missionaries as such. They had a right of residence in common with other British subjects at the open ports. France made her first treaty in 1846, negotiated by M. Lagrené, without any special provision beyond a stipulation for the toleration of Christianity and liberty to teach. But M. Lagrené induced Keying, the Chinese plenipotentiary, to memorialise the Emperor, and obtained a decree in reply to the effect that “the religion of the Lord of Heaven, differing widely from that of the heterodox sects, and

[ocr errors]

the toleration thereof, has been already allowed.' In another paragraph it goes on :

Let all the ancient houses throughout the provinces which were built in the reign of Káng-hí (1661-1772), and have been preserved to the present time, and which on personal examination by the proper authorities are clearly found to be their bona fide possessions, be restored to the professors of their religion in their respective places, excepting only those churches which have been converted into temples and dwelling-houses for the people.

Without the right of circulation in the interior, however, which was only acquired by foreign officials, missionaries, or merchants under the treaties of 1858, the restitution clause of 1846 proved of little value. But in 1858, after a second war, ending in Chinese defeat, the four Powers all obtained certain privileges for the missionaries of their respective nationalities, and the French in Article VI. of their Convention a clause confirming the above right to exact restitution.

To realise the feeling of the people on learning that they were to be called upon by foreign missionaries to give up property which for a couple of centuries had passed into Chinese hands, and been inherited from generation to generation under the laws of the land, we must try to imagine what would follow in our own country in similar circumstances.

We must suppose a French army could succeed in entering London and there dictating the conditions of peace, and among others one that all the Church property confiscated after the Reformation by Henry VIII. should forthwith be restored to the Roman Catholic Church by the present holders, however acquired, and without compensation, and that the French Government could be appealed to in order to enforce the rigorous execution of the stipulation. What would be the result ? Would it be peace and harmony or revolt and a general insurrection ?

As regards the obnoxious and invidious position of the French Government, and its action in support of these missionary claims, some judgment may be formed by the refusal recently to allow the French cathedral built in the precincts of the palace and overlooking the Imperial domain to be removed by mutual agreement between the vicar apostolic of Peking and the Chinese Government, at the cost of the latter, to a more eligible site. And yet past experience might show, apart from the equity and fitness of such a measure, that, in its present offensive position, a gathering of students leading the populace might at any moment reduce it to ashes without any power in the French Legation to prevent it, if happily the missionaries and legations together might escape from an infuriated mob, not prone to discrimination and no respecter of persons.

Precisely in the same spirit of contempt for the susceptibilities

of a great people among whom they have to live, and of the Imperial authorities, has been the act of roofing with yellow tiles, reserved to the Emperor's sole use, a church built at Chung King, the scene and the occasion of the last outrage on the Roman Catholic mission, and the rest of the community as a sequence. And how should it be otherwise with such arrogant and wanton provocations ?

How different has been the policy adopted by the Protestant Powers in missionary matters could easily be demonstrated if space would permit. And as regards the British Government more especially, the instructions sent to their representatives have invariably, from the beginning, enjoined on all their missionary subjects 'to abstain with a steady purpose from exciting suspicions, to conduct their operations with the utmost prudence, and to insist upon their proselytes not looking upon their conversion to Christianity as releasing them from their general duties as subjects of China.' 5

As regards our treaties it is known that Lord Elgin, the negotiator of the Treaty of 1850 and the subsequent Convention of 1860, had serious doubts as to the expediency of inserting an article upon the subject of the Christian religion at all. And Sir Thomas Wade, who was acting as official interpreter at the time, has stated his belief that it was Lord Elgin's opinion that, while the enforcement of treaty stipulations affecting the propagation of Christianity was offensive to our own feelings and outraging to the feelings of any other nation which might be compelled to accept such conditions, the cause of Christianity itself could be advanced by nothing so little as political support. And from the same authority we learn that two years later, after the Convention of Peking, a Romish father, long resident in the country, in conversation admitted of his own accord that the personal position of Romish priests in China was anything but ameliorated by the support they now received from the French Government. The comparatively amicable relations previously existing between the missionaries had been disturbed. The mandarins and men of the lettered class who had been formerly friendly stood aloof.5

In reference to the clause of the French Convention of 1860 stipulating for the restitution of Church property, we are left in no doubt as to the feeling with which it is regarded by the Chinese Government and people. In the memorandum of Prince Kung, already cited, the following paragraph conveys this very plainly. Thus :

5 See Parliamentary Papers, China, No. 3, 1871, relating to the massacre of Europeans at Nankin, June 21, 1870.

* China, No. 5. Correspondence respecting the revision of the Treaties of Tientsin.

« PreviousContinue »