Demetrius Charles de Kavanagh Boulger.

The life of Gordon, major-general, R. E. C. B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titv (field-marshal) yellow jacket order online

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him to place the city in a proper state of defence, and removed the
Emperor and Court to a place of safety. When they expressed their
opinion that the Taku forts were impregnable, Gordon laughed, and
said they could be taken from the rear. The whole gist of his remarks
was that "they could not go to war," and when they still argued in the
opposite sense, and the interpreter refused to translate the harsh epithets
he applied to such august personages, he took the dictionary, looked out
the Chinese equivalent for "idiocy," and with his finger on the word,
placed it under the eyes of each member of the Council. The end of
this scene may be described in Gordon's own words : " I said make
peace, and wrote out the terms. They were, in all, five articles ; the
only one they boggled at was the fifth, about the indemnity. They said
this was too hard and unjust. I said that might be, but what was the
use of talking about it ? If a man demanded your money or your life,
you have only three courses open. You must either fight, call for help,
or give up your money. Now, as you cannot fight, it is useless to call
for help, since neither England nor France would stir a finger to assist

O -7 o

The Life of Gordon.

you. I believe these are the articles now under discussion at St
Petersburg, and the only one on which there is any question is the
fifth." This latter statement I may add, without going into the question
of the Marquis Tseng's negotiations in the Russian capital, was perfectly

Gordon drew up several notes or memorandums for the information
of the Chinese Government. The first of these was mainly military,
and the following extracts will suffice : —

" China's power lies in her numbers, in the quick moving of her troops, in
the little baggage they require, and in their few wants. It is known that men
armed with sword and spear can overcome the best regular troops equipped
with breech-loading rifles, if the country is at all difficult and if the men with
spears and swords outnumber their foe ten to one. If this is the case where
men are armed with spears and swords, it will be much truer when those men
are themselves armed with breech loaders. China should never engage in
pitched battles. Her strength is in quiet movements, in cutting off trains
of baggage, and in night attacks 7iot pushed home — in a continuous worrying
of her enemies. Rockets should be used instead of cannon. No artillery
should be moved with the troops ; it delays and impedes them. Infantry
fire is the most fatal fire ; guns make a noise far out of proportion to their
value in war. If guns are taken into the field, troops cannot march faster
than these guns. The degree of speed at which the guns can be carried
dictates the speed at which the troops can march. As long as Pekin is the
centre of the Government of China, China can never go to war with any first-
class power ; it is too near the sea."

The second memorandum was of greater importance and more
general application. In it he compressed the main heads of his advice
into the smallest possible space, and so far as it was at all feasible to
treat a vast and complicated subject within the limits of a simple and
practical scheme, he therein shows with the greatest clearness how the
regeneration of China might be brought about.

"In spite of the opinion of some foreigners, it will be generally acknow-
ledged that the Chinese are contented and happy, that the country is rich
and prosperous, and that the people are au fond united in their sentiments,
and ardently desire to remain a nation. At constant intervals, however,
the whole of this human hive is stirred by some dispute between the Pekin
Government and some foreign Power ; the Chinese people, proud of their
ancient prestige, applaud the high tone taken up by the Pekin Government,
crediting the Government with the power to support their strong words.
This goes on for a time, when the Government gives in, and corresponding
vexation is felt by the people. The recurrence of these disputes, the inevit-
able surrender ultimately of the Pekin Government, has the tendency of
shaking the Chinese people's confidence in the Central Government. The
Central Government appreciates the fact that, little by little, this prestige
is being destroyed by their own actions among the Chinese people, each
crisis then becomes more accentuated or difficult to surmount, as the Central
Government know each concession is another nail in their coffin. The

Minor Missions — India and China. 223

Central Government fear that the taking up of a spirited position by any-
pre-eminent Chinese would carry the Chinese people with him, and there-
fore the Central Government endeavour to keep up appearances, and to
skirt the precipice of war as near as they possibly can, while never intending
to enter into war.

"The Central Government residing in the extremity of the Middle
Kingdom, away from the great influences which are now working in China,
can never alter one iota from what they were years ago : they are being
steadily left behind by the people they govern. They know this, and
endeavour to stem these influences in all ways in their power, hoping to
keep the people backward and in ignorance, and to retard their progress
to the same pace they themselves go, if it can be called a pace at all.

" It is therefore a maxim that ' no progress can be made by the Pekin
Government.' To them any progress, whether slow or quick, is synonymous
to slow or C|uick extinction, for they will never move.

"The term 'Pekin Government' is used advisedly, for if the Central
Government were moved from Pekin into some province where the pulsa-
tions and aspirations of the Chinese people could have their legitimate effect,
then the Central Government and the Chinese people, having a unison of
thought, would work together.

" From what has been said above, it is maintained that, so long as the
Central Government of China isolates itself from the Chinese people by
residing aloof at Pekin, so long will the Chinese people have to remain
passive under the humiliations which come upon them through the non-
progressive and destructive disposition of their Government. These humilia-
tions will be the chronic state of the Chinese people until the Central
Government moves from Pekin and reunites itself to its subjects. No
army, no purchases of ironclad vessels will enable China to withstand a
first-class Power so long as China keeps her queen bee at the entrance
of her hive. There is, however, the probability that a proud people like
the Chinese may sicken at this continual eating of humble pie, that the
Pekin Government at some time, by skirting too closely the precipice of
war may fall into it, and then that sequence may be anarchy and rebellion
throughout the Middle Kingdom which may last for years and cause
endless misery.

" It may be asked — How can the present state of things be altered ?
How can China maintain the high position that the wealth, industry, and
innate goodness of the Chinese people entitle her to have among the nations
of the world? Some may say by the revolt of this Chinaman or of that
Chinaman. To me this seems most undesirable, for, in the first place, such
action would not have the blessing of God, and, in the second, it would
result in the country being plunged into civil war. The fair, upright, and
open course for the Chinese people to take is to work, through the Press
and by petitions, on the Central Government, and to request them to move
from Pekin, and bring themselves thus more into unison with the Chinese
people, and thus save that people the constant humiliations they have to
put up with, owing to the seat of the Central Government being at Pekin.
This recommendation would need no secret societies, no rebellion, no
treason ; if taken up and persevered in it must succeed, and not one life
need be lost.

"The Central Government at Pekin could not answer the Chinese
people except in the affirmative when the Chinese people say to the Central
Government — 'By your residing aloof from us in Pekin, where you are
exposed to danger, you separate our interests from yours, and you bring
on us humiliation, which we would never have to bear if you resided in the
interior. Take our application into consideration, and grant our wishes,'

2 24 The Life of Go7'don,

" I have been kindly treated by the Central Pekin Government and by
the Chinese people ; it is for the welfare of both parties that I have written
and signed this paper. 1 may have expressed myself too strongly with
respect to the non-progressive nature of the Pekin Government, who may
desire the welfare of the Middle Kingdom as ardently as any other Chinese,
but as long as the Pekin Government allow themselves to be led and
directed by those drones of the hive, the Censors, so long must the Pekin
Ciovernnient bear the blame earned by those drones in plunging China into
difficulties. In the insect world the bees get rid of the drones in winter."

There was yet a third memorandum of a confidential nature written
to Li Hung Chang himself, of which Gordon did not keep a copy, but
he referred to it in the letter written to myself which I have already

Having thus accomplished his double task, viz. : the prevention of
war between Russia and China, and of a rebellion on the part of Li
Hung Chang under European advice and encouragement, Gordon left
China without any delay. When he reached Shanghai on i6th August
he found another official telegram awaiting him : " Leave cancelled,
resignation not accepted." As he had already taken his passage home
he did not reply, but when he reached Aden he telegraphed as follows :
"You might have trusted me. My passage from China was taken
days before the arrival of your telegram which states 'leave cancelled.'
Do you insist on rescinding the same ? " The next day he received a
reply granting him nearly six months' leave, and with that message the
question of his alleged insubordination may be treated as finally settled.
There can be no doubt that among his many remarkable achieve-
ments not the least creditable was this mission to China, when by
downright candour, and unswerving resolution in doing the right thing,
he not merely preserved peace, but baffled the intrigues of unscrupulous
diplomatists and selfish governments.

With that incident closed Gordon's connection with China, the
country associated with his most brilliant feats of arms, but in con-
cluding this chapter it seems to me that I should do well to record
some later expressions of opinion on that subject. The following
interesting letter, written on the eve of the war between France and
China in 1882, was published by the Neiv York Herald: —

"The Chinese in their affairs with foreign nations are fully aware of their
peculiar position, and count with reason that a war with either France or
another Power will bring them perforce allies outside of England. The
only Power that could go to war with them with impunity is Russia, who
can attack them by land. I used the following argument to them when I
was there : — The present dynasty of China is a usurping one— the Alantchou.
We may say that it exists by suftcrance at Pekin, and nowhere else in the
Empire. If you look at the map of China Pekin is at the extremity of the
Empire and not a week's marching from the Russian frontier. A war with

Minor Alissions — India and China. 225

Russia would imply the capture of Pekin and the fall of the Mantchou
dynasty, which would never dare to leave it, for if they did the Chinamen
in the south would smite them. I said, ' If you go to war then move the
Queen Bee — i.e. the Emperor — into the centime of China and then fight ; if
not, you must make peace.' The two Powers who can coerce China are
Russia and England. Russia could march without much difficulty on
Pekin. This much would not hurt trade, so England would not interfere.
England could march to Taku and Pekin and no one would object, for she
would occupy the Treaty Ports. But if France tried to do so England would
object. Thus it is that China will only listen to Russia and England, and
eventually she must fear Russia the most of all Powers, for she can never
get over the danger of the land journey, but she might, by a great increase
of her fleet, get over the fear of England. I say China, but I mean the
Mantchou dynasty, for the Mantchous are despised by the Chinese. Any
war with China would be for France expensive and dangerous, not from the
Chines-e forces, which would be soon mastered, but from the certainty of
coi.-iplications with England. As for the European population in China,
write them down as identical with those in Egypt in all affairs. Their sole
idea is, without any distinction of nationality, an increased power over
China for their own trade and for opening up the country as they call it, and
any war would be popular with them ; so they will &%g on any Power to
make it. My idea is that no colonial or foreign community in a foreign land
can properly, and for the general benefit of the world, consider the questions
of that foreign State. The leading idea is how they will benefit themselves.
The Isle of Bourbon or Reunion is the cause of the Madagascar war. It is
egged on by the planters there, and to my idea they (the planters) want
slaves for Madagascar. I have a very mean opinion of the views of any
colonial or foreign community : though I own that they are powerful for
evil. Who would dare to oppose the European colony in Egypt or China,
and remain in those countries ? "

In a letter to myself, written about this time, very much the same
views are expressed : —

" I do not think I could enlighten you about China. Her game is and
will be to wait events, and she will try and work so as to embroil us with
France if she does go to war. For this there would be plenty of elements in
the Treaty Ports. One may say, humanly speaking, China going to war
with France must entail our following suit. It would be a bad thing in
some ways for civilization, for the Chinese are naturally so bumptious that any
success would make them more so, and if allied to us, and they had success,
it would be a bad look-out afterwards. This in private. Li Hung Chang
as Emperor, if such a thing came to pass, would be worse than the present
Emperor, for he is sharp and clever, would unite China under a Chinese
dynasty, and be much more troublesome to deal with. Altogether, I cannot
think that the world would gain if China went to war with France. Also I
think it would be eventually bad for China. China being a queer country,
we might expect queer things, and I believe if she did go to war she would
contract with Americans for the destruction of French fleet, and she would
let loose a horde of adventurers with dynamite. This is essentially her
style of action, and Li Hung Chang would take it up, but do not say I think

In a further letter from Jaffa, dated 17th November 1883, he
wrote finally on this branch of the subject : —

226 The Life of Gordon.

" I fear I can write nothing of any import, so I will not attempt it. To you
I can remark that if I were the Government I would consider the part that
should be taken when the inevitable fall of the Mantchou dynasty takes
place, what steps they would take, and how they would act in the break-up,
which, however, will only end in a fresh cohesion of China, for we, or no
other Power, could never for long hold the country. At Penang, Singapore,
etc., the Chinese will eventually oust us in another generation."

There was one other question about China upon which Gordon
felt very strongly, viz., the opium question, and as he expressed views
which I combated, I feel bound to end this chapter by quoting what he
wrote on this much -discussed topic. On one point he agrees with
myself and his other opponents in admitting that the main object with
the Chinese authorities was increased revenue, not morality. They
have since attained their object not only by an increased import duty,
but also in the far more extensive cultivation of the native drug, to
which the Emperor, by Imperial Edict, has given his formal sanction : —

"Port Louis, yd February 1S82.

" About the opium article, I think your article — ' History of the Opium
Traffic,' Times, 4th January 1884 — reads well. But the question is this.
The Chinese amour propre as a nation is hurt by the enforced entry of the
drug. This irritation is connected with the remembrance of the wars which
led to the Treaties about opium. Had eggs or apples been the cause of the
wars, i.e. had the Chinese objected to the import of eggs, and we had insisted
on their being imported, and carried out such importation in spite of the
Chinese wish by force of war, it would be to my own mind the same thing as
opium now is to Chinese. We do not give the Chinese credit for being so
sensitive as they are. As Black Sea Treaty was to Russia so opium trade
is to China.

" I take the root of the question to be as above. I do not mean to say
that all that they urge is fictitious about morality ; and I would go further
than you, and say I think they would willingly give up their revenue from
opium, indeed I am sure of it, if they could get rid of the forced importation
by treaty, but their action in so doing would be simply one of satisfying their
amour propre. The opium importation is a constant reminder of their
defeats, and I feel sure China will never be good friends with us till it is
abolished. It is for that reason I would give it up, for I think the only two
alliances worth having are France and China.

" I have never, when I have written on it, said anything further than this,
i.e. the Chinese Government -will not Jiave it., let us say it is a good drug or
not. I also say that it is not fair to force anything on your neighbour, and,
therefore, morally, it is wrong, even if it was eggs.

" Further, I say that through our thrusting these eggs on China, this
opium, we caused tlic wars with China which shook the prestige of the Pekin
(Government, and the outcome of this war of 1842 was the Taeping Rebellion,
with its deaths of 13,000,000. The military prestige of the Mantchous was
shaken by these defeats, the heavy contributions for war led to thousands of
soldiers being disbanded, to a general impoverishment of the people, and
this gave the rebel chief, Hung-tsew-tsiuen, his chance.

" A wants B to let hinj import eggs, B refuses, A coerces him ; therefore

Minor Missions — India and China. 227

I say it is wrong, and that it is useless discussing whether eggs are good or

" Can anyone doubt but that, if the Chinese Government had the power,
they would stop importation to-morrow ? If so, why keep a pressure like this
on China whom we need as a friend, and with whom this importation is and
ever will be the sole point about which we could be at variance ? I know
this is the point with Li Hung Chang.

" People may laugh at amour propre of China. It is a positive fact, they
are most-pigheaded on those points. China is the only nation in the world
which is forced to take a thing she does not want. England is the only
nation which forces another nation to do this, in order to benefit India by this
act. Put like this it is outrageous.

" Note this, only certain classes of vessels are subject to the Foreign
Customs Office at Canton. By putting all vessels under that Office the
Chinese Government would make ^2,000,000 a year more revenue. The
Chinese Government will not do this however, because it would put power in
hands of foreigners, so they lose it. Did you ever read the letters of the
Ambassador before Marquis Tseng ? His name, I think, was Coh or Kwoh.
He wrote home to Pekin about Manchester, telling its wonders, but adding,
'These people are wonderful, but the masses are miserable far beyond
Chinese. They think only of money and not of the welfare of the people.'

"Any foreign nation can raise the bile of Chinese by saying, 'Look at
the English, they forced you to take their opium.'

" I should not be a bit surprised did 1 hear that Li Hung Chang smoked
opium himself I know a lot of the princes do, so they say. I have no
doubt myself that what I have said is the true and only reason, or rather root
reason. Put our nation in the same position of having been defeated and
forced to accept some article which theory used to consider bad for the
health, like tea used to be, we would rebel as soon as we could against it,
though our people drink tea. The opium trade is a standing, ever-present
memento of defeat and heavy payments; and the Chinese cleverly take
advantage of the fact that it is a deleterious drug.

" The opium wars were not about opium — opium was only a cJieval de
bataille. They were against the introduction of foreigners, a political ques-
tion, and so the question of opium import is now. As for the loss to India
by giving it up, it is quite another affair. On one hand you have gain, an
embittered feeling and an injustice ; on the other you have loss, friendly
nations and justice. Cut down pay of all officers in India to Colonial allow-
ances above rank of captains. Do not give them Indian allowances, and you
will cover nearly the loss, I expect. Why should officers in India have more
than officers in Hongkong ? "

In a subsequent letter, dated from the Cape, 20th July 1882, General
Gordon replied to some objections I had raised as follows : —

"As for the opium, to which you say the same objection applies as to tea,
etc., it is not so, for opium has forages been a tabooed article among Chinese
respectable people. I own reluctance to foreign intercourse applies to what
I said, but the Chinese know that the intercourse with foreigners cannot be
stopped, and it, as well as the foixed introduction of opium, are signs of
defeat ; yet one, that of intercourse, cannot be stopped or wiped away while
the opium question can be. I am writing in a hurry, so am not very

" What I mean is that no one country forces another country to take a

2 28 The Life of Goi^don.

drug- like opium, and therefore the Chinese feel the forced introduction of
opium as an intrusion and injustice ; thence their feehngs in the matter.
This, I feel sure, is the case.

" What could our Government do in re opium ? Well, I should say, let
the clause of treaty lapse about it, and let the smuggling be renewed. Hong-
kong is a nest of smugglers.

" Pekin would, or rather could, never succeed in cutting off foreign inter-
course. The Chinese are too much mixed up (and are increasingly so every
year) with foreigners for Pekin even to try it. Also I do not think China
would wish to stop its importation altogether. All they ask is an increased
duty on it"



There was a moment of hesitation in Gordon's mind as to whether he
would come home or not. His first project on laying down the Indian
Secretaryship had been to go to Zanzibar and attack the slave trade
from that side. Before his plans were matured the China offer came,
and turned his thoughts in a different channel. On his arrival at Aden,
on the way back, he found that the late Sir William Mackinnon, a truly
great English patriot of the type of the merchant adventurers of the
Elizabethan age, had sent instructions that the ships of the British
India Steam Packet Company were at his disposal to convey him where-
ever he liked, and for a moment the thought occurred to him to turn
aside to Zanzibar. But a little reflection led him to think that, as he
had been accused of insubordination, it would be better for him to
return home and report himself at headquarters. When he arrived in
London at the end of October 1880, he found that his letters, written
chiefly to his sister during his long sojourn in the Soudan, were on the
eve of publication by Dr Birkbeck Hill. That exceedingly interesting
volume placed at the disposal of the public the evidence as to his
great work in Africa, which might otherwise have been buried in
oblivion. It was written under considerable ditificulties, for Gordon
would not see Dr Hill, and made a stringent proviso that he was not to
be praised, and that nothing unkind was to be said about anyone. He
did, however, stipulate for a special tribute of praise to be given to his
Arab secretary, Berzati Bey, " my only companion for these years — my
adviser and my counsellor." Berzati was among those who perished
with the ill-fated expedition of Hicks Pasha at the end of 18S3. To
the publication of this work must be attributed the establishment of

Online LibraryDemetrius Charles de Kavanagh BoulgerThe life of Gordon, major-general, R. E. C. B.; Turkish field-marshal, Grand cordon Medjidieh, and pasha; Chinese titv (field-marshal) yellow jacket order → online text (page 26 of 40)