World's Famous Foreign Statesmen:
Li Hung Chang
Read More Articles About: World's Famous Foreign Statesmen
Li Hung Chang
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
CHINA PEEPS OVER HER GREAT WALL
Li Hung Chang, the Chinaman who had gained a wider celebrity than any other native of the Flowery Kingdom, with the exception of Confucius, was born in 1822 at Hofei, in the province of Anhui, where his family had resided, we are told, "for countless generations." Their lot in life had not been remarkable, and the father of Li was not distinguished either for wealth or commanding intellect. He had, however, gone through the regular curriculum of Chinese education and was ranked among the Literati.
Of Li's early life, little has been recorded, beyond the fact that at an early age he had acquired facility in writing with beauty and exactness the complex characters of his country an accomplishment which in China is a ready title to advancement. While still young he took his bachelor's degree, competed successfully for the higher literary honors, both in the provincial capital and at Pekin, and finally rounded off his education in the Hanlin College an institution which holds much the same relation to literature in China as does among us the Royal Society to science. Ordinarily a graduate of the Hanlin College receives an appointment in the civil service. But events were happening which called Li out of the ordinary course into a field more active than commonly falls to the lot of a Chinese civilian.
The Southern Provinces of China had for years been in a perturbed condition through the machinations of a secret political society, known as the Hunghwui, or Triad Society, the purpose of which was to overthrow the Manchu dynasty and to place on the throne a representative of the Chinese people. By the agents of this society seditious opinions were scattered broadcast among the ignorant peasants, and frequent outbreak occurred, in which the Government troops were not always successful. In this condition of things all that was necessary to produce a formidable rebellion was the appearance of a capable leader, and such a one now arose in the person of a student in the Province of Kwangtung, who adopted the name of Hung, to mark his affiliation with the Society. Hung had obtained through the missionaries some rather crude notions of Christianity, and setting up as a prophet, had secured a considerable number of fanatical followers, whom he taught to believe that he had received a divine mission to take up arms against the Manchu rulers of the country.
Such was the origin of the Taiping Rebellion. Having won a number of small successes, which multiplied the number of his followers, Hung marched with an army of 10,000 men through the Province of Hunan, in the beginning of 1853, and captured Nanking, on the Yang-tsze-Kiang.
It was the occasion of this rebellion which first brought Li Hung Chang from the quiet of the literary world into the field of national politics. Having raised a small band of militia, Li harassed the Taipings as they marched northward, and though a brilliant victory was beyond his reach, he succeeded in doing such excellent work, that Tseng Kwofan, the viceroy of the district and generalissimo of the army, enlisted Li and his men among the troops under his immediate command.
Li rose rapidly in the service. In 1859 he was sent to Fuhkien in the capacity of Taotai, or intendant of the circuit. Here he discharged the duties of that important office with the same fidelity and vigor which he had displayed as a soldier in the field. At that time the rebellion seemed to be nearly crushed. Nanking was closely besieged, while other cities in the possession of the rebels were hard pressed by the imperial forces. The war with England and France in 1860, however, changed all this and gave a new impetus to the Taipings by paralyzing the efforts of the imperialists.
Li Hung Chang, who was now serving under his old leader Tseng Kwofan, and who had learned and recognized the superiority of foreigners both in. the field and in the workshop, though he still viewed them with a certain contempt as "barbarians" in all things else, advised that a certain number of foreigners should be enlisted to drill and lead a division of the imperial army. A threatened attack of the Taipings upon Shanghai furthered his views by inducing the foreign residents of the town to form an Association for Protection. They raised money, and, at Li's suggestion, engaged an American adventurer, named Ward, to lead a force in defense of the imperial cause. Thus originated the "Ever-Victorious Army" of Mandarin Ward. This American officer with his disciplined band, rendered excellent service against the Tai-pings; but his career was short. He was mortally wounded while leading an attack upon the town of Tseki. The news of his death occasioned profound regret among the imperialists, and great honors were paid to his memory. He served China well, and he served himself, too, naturally. Though he had held command but two years, Ward left a fortune of £15,000.
In 1862 Li Hung Chang was appointed Governor of Kiangsu, and took up his residence in Shanghai. With the approval of the Pekin authorities he made an arrangement by which a radius of thirty miles around Shanghai was kept clear of rebels by the English and French forces. After the death of Ward the command of the "Ever-Victorious Army" was conferred upon Henry Burgevine, of the same nationality. Of this man Li very soon became distrustful. It had, indeed, been hinted that Ward carried a regal scepter in his knapsack, which he was prepared to produce at the right moment, and Burgevine, in the opinion of the far-seeing Li, was an even more dangerous character than Ward. An occasion of a fallingout soon arose. Li and Burgevine were both engaged in winning a great victory over the Taipings and both laid claim to the chief merit. Added to this cause of trouble the Association of Shanghai, which paid the "Ever-Victorious," became also dissatisfied with the new commander and closed the purse. Burgevine took redress into his own hands; he marched into Shanghai, invaded the premises of Takee, a Shanghai banker, and the treasurer of the Association, and carried off a very considerable sum of money. This outrage furnished Li with a sufficient reason for demanding Burgevine's resignation, and on his refusal to resign, Li dismissed him and appointed in his place Major Gordon, an English officer.
Gordon's appointment put new life into the "Ever Victorious," and several successes were quickly obtained. Gordon was made a Tsung Ping, or Brigadier-General, on the recommendation of Li, who had readily recognized the superior caliber of his new colleague. Still, much as he admired Gordon, he hampered him greatly in one way. It had been the practice of the men of the "Ever-Victorious Ai my" to loot the towns which they conquered. Gordon wished to put a stop to this practice, and asked that Kiangsu, and took up his residence in Shanghai. With the approval of the Pekin authorities he made an arrangement by which a radius of thirty miles around Shanghai was kept clear of rebels by the English and French forces. After the death of Ward the command of the "Ever-Victorious Army" was conferred upon Henry Burgevine, of the same nationality. Of this man Li very soon became distrustful. It had, indeed, been hinted that Ward carried a regal scepter in his knapsack, which he was pre-pared to produce at the right moment, and Burgevine, in the opinion of the far-seeing Li, was an even more dangerous character than Ward. An occasion of a falling-out soon arose. Li and Burgevine were both engaged in winning a great victory over the Taipings and both laid claim to the chief merit. Added to this cause of trouble the Association of Shanghai, which paid the "Ever-Victorious," became also dissatisfied with the new commander and closed the purse. Burgevine took redress into his own hands; he marched into Shanghai, invaded the premises of Takee, a Shanghai banker, and the treasurer of the Association, and carried off a very considerable sum of money. This outrage furnished Li with a sufficient reason for demanding Burgevine's resignation, and on his refusal to resign, Li dismissed him and appointed in his place Major Gordon, an English officer.
Gordon's appointment put new life into the "Ever-Victorious," and several successes were quickly obtained. Gordon was made a Tsung Ping, or Brigadier-General, on the recommendation of Li, who had readily recognized the superior caliber of his new colleague. Still, much as he admired Gordon, he hampered him greatly in one way. It had been the practice of the men of the "Ever-Victorious Army" to loot the towns which they conquered. Gordon wished to put a stop to this practice, and asked that a gratuity be distributed among the troops after the capture of any town of importance. Li Hung Chang preferred the older and looser way. It seemed incredible to him that Gordon should not approve of it. The matter led to frequent differences between the two men, and finally, this, together with the treachery of one of the native commanders, so disgusted Gordon that he deter-mined to resign.
Burgevine meanwhile had been making considerable trouble. He refused to consider himself discharged, and took the matter to the headquarters at Pekin. He gained the support of Sir Frederic Bruce, the British Minister, who strongly recommended Prince Kung to reinstate him. But Prince Kung had already received word from Li as to his reasons for dismissing Burgevine and refused to restore him to the command. Burgevine made several futile attempts to overcome the opposition of Prince Rung, but failed. Burgevine now joined the ranks of the Taipings. When Gordon heard of this, knowing the discontent of the "Ever-Victorious Army" and fearing that the men, who were mostly adventurers, might be tempted to desert to the rebel ranks, he determined to resume his command conduct which failed to elicit any sign of gratitude from Li, who was mainly engaged in loudly denouncing the American Consul at Shanghai for permitting Burgevine to leave that port. With Gordon's help the Taipings were again vigorously pressed: town after town was taken from them, and finally Soochow, one of their strongest positions, was captured, when their cause became hopeless.
Now occurred an event which illustrates the treacherous nature of the Chinese, and which showed that Li Hung Chang, progressive and enlightened above his fellow-countrymen as he was, had not wholly shaken off the fetters of Oriental barbarity and cruelty. This was the murder of the Wangs the leaders of the Taiping rebellion. These unhappy men were beguiled into the presence of Li and Ch'eng, another General of the imperial army, and were congratulated by Li on their joining the imperial ranks, a matter which had but shortly before taken place. They were told of the buttons they were to receive as emblems of their future rank, etc. Then while they were engaged in conversation, they were summarily seized by executioners and beheaded.
Gordon, horrified by this foul murder, and feeling keenly the dishonor it would bring upon him, again decided to resign. Indeed, at first, so great was his anger that he determined to wreak vengeance on the malefactor Li. He set out, armed, to his home. But Li was warned of his approach and escaped-with an alacrity that showed that, however little value he put on other men's lives, he thought something of his own. Gordon, unable, to find Li, wrote him an indignant letter and resigned the command.
Li, in his letter to the Throne concerning the matter of the Wangs and the capture of Soochow, presented his side of the story in a most favorable light. Needless to say, his version was accepted by the Emperor, who conferred on him the honorary title of "Guardian of the Heir-Apparent" and presented him with the yellow jacket. Although Li's account was sufficient to satisfy his Prince, Gordon and his supporters were far from being satisfied. They demanded an investigation of the subject. Prince Kung regarded this as a case of "much ado about nothing," and intimated as much. Meantime the affairs of the army were at a standstill. Li became restless. Gordon finally was persuaded to become reconciled with him on the condition that he should issue a proclamation, explaining his own share in the outrage and exonerating Gordon from all blame.
Military operations were now continued until Chang-chow was captured and the rebellion was practically at an end. It was fortunate for Li that this was so, for he had to submit to the withdrawal of the Order in Council which had authorized Gordon to hold command under him.
How to disband the soldiers of the "Ever-Victorious Army" was the next question. Li realized that they were all soldiers of fortune, and there was a probability of their joining the ranks of the Taipings, as soon as they were dismissed from the Imperial army, and thus reviving the rebellion. Acting on Gordon's advice, Li gave gratuities, according to the rank and services of the men, and to the foreigners sufficient means to enable them to return to their respective countries, should they so desire. To the Chinese he gave money to return to their homes.
One man did not approve of this disbanding of the troops. This man was Sir Henry Parks. He considered that as the troops of Her Majesty's Government were to be withdrawn from Shanghai, Gordon's troops should have been kept. Li invited Sir Harry to meet him at Soochow and finally was persuaded to establish, at Shanghai, a military camp of instruction, to be commanded by British officers. Gordon was asked to take command. But Li did not wholly approve of the project, and by way of showing his displeasure, thwarted Gordon at every step, until finally the British officer was forced to resign. Sir Harry Parks again attempted to argue with Li; but while the Chinese statesman, as long as the rebels were in the field, was eager to enlist the foreigners in his service, when the Taipings were out of the way he regarded them as a very doubtful good. After his usual manner, he expressed his displeasure in a very disagreeable way, and the camp had to be abolished. His experience in the Taiping war had shown him, however, the superiority of foreign weapons, and he agreed to the founding of a shell and ammunition factory at Soochow.
The miserable condition in which Li found the Provinces after the war gave him a splendid chance to exercise those executive abilities he possesses in such a marked degree. He appealed to the Throne to remit a three years' tribute to the people, and persuaded the natives to return to the towns and villages. He rebuilt a number of the cities. With the recovery of Nanking the rebellion was finally and definitely crushed.
Li removed to Nanking the arsenal established at Soo-chow under the superintendence of Dr. Macartney. During the Taiping War a fleet of gun-boats had been purchased. But they had arrived when the war was on the wane, and had not been put to service. Li determined to send the fleet back to England to be sold. With them had been sent a considerable supply of machinery for the establishment of a naval dock-yard. Li was not willing that this should go out of his hands. He determined to erect a dock-yard at Nanking. In his negotiations concerning this matter he showed his usual distrust of foreigners. He is willing to use them for his purpose, but as soon as that is accomplished, throws them over. He will never trust them with power.
During times of peace Li devoted himself to the administration of his Province, Kiang-u. A man of less powerful will would have found the constant discontent and disorder a source of danger. Not so Li. He ruled with an iron hand, and the people submitted without a murmur.
In a short time the surviving Taipings appeared as banditti, under the name of Neinfei, on the shores of the Yangtsze, in the Provinces of Honan and Shantung. Li was appointed Imperial Commissioner to suppress the bandits. He again called to his aid the foreigners and determined to resume the policy pursued in the Taiping War to hem the Neinfei in against the seaboard and there to destroy them. But the Neinfei escaped in their native junks and marched off to "fresh fields and pastures new." Meanwhile Li had received another promotion. He was appointed Viceroy of Hukwang, to succeed Tseng Kwofan, with orders, however, still to continue his campaign against the Neinfei. Li was not very successful in crushing the bandits, and the indecisiveness of the campaign so exhausted the Imperial patience that in 1868 he was degraded for apathy, and ordered to take up his post as Viceroy of Woochang. Li, however, 'determined not to be set aside, and submitted to being degraded three steps rather than give up his post as Imperial Commander. He was able in a short time to report a decisive victory. His former rank was then restored to him, and he was given back his yellow jacket, of which he had been temporarily deprived.
Li was not long destined to be Viceroy of Hukwang. While occupying that position his treatment of foreigners was in strict keeping with his previous record. He was willing to make use of them; but he declined to give them any rights or privileges not assigned to them by treaty. This was plainly shown in his attempt to close the front gate of his Yamen to the British Consul, desiring him to gain admittance at the side way, on the plea that the Consul ranked as a Taot 'ai, and that Taot 'ais did not expect to use the front gate. Therefore why should the Consul? The Consul refused, however. to visit him on these terms, and Li was obliged to yield, and to receive his visitor in the way that courtesy called for.
In 1869 Li was made Tsai Hsaing, or Prime Minister, for his services against the Neinfei.
Li still kept his eye on the arsenal at Nanking which, although it was out of his province, was still regarded as his special care. In the same way he was looked upon as the chief power against war and disorder, and when a rebellion broke out in the Southern Provinces of Kweichow and Yunnan, Li received orders to proceed thither at once and quell the rebellion. He was on the point of setting out for this province when orders reached him to proceed to the Province of Shensi, also in revolt. He was appointed vice T'so, and in a short time reduced the province to submission.
Meanwhile had occurred the terrible tragedy at Tientsin the massacre of the French Priests and Sisters by an excited mob. At this crisis Li was appointed Viceroy of Chihli, which made him Viceroy of the Metropolitan Province, the most important province in the Empire. His appointment met with a marked success. The insurgents recognizing a strong hand were easily brought to order. Eighty people were arrested, of whom about thirty were made to suffer the extreme penalty of the law. The prefect and magistrate of the province were dismissed, and a special commissioner was sent to France to express in the name of the Emperor of China his regret at the unfortunate occurrence.
Li recognized the probability that France might make this an occasion for reparation at the point of the bayonet, and determined to prepare for war. He rearmed the Taku forts with Krupp guns, and added some well constructed and carefully concealed forts between Taku and Tientsin. He strengthened the earth-works at the mouth of the river and took counsel with Dr. Macartney as to the improvements to be made in the arsenal at Tientsin. Li had been made director of this arsenal by the Emperor and had also been appointed director of the three northern forts. By Imperial favor he was nominated an Honorary Imperial Tutor of the second class, Supernumerary Member of the Great Council of the Empire, was decorated with a peacock's feather with Two Eyes, and was made a noble of the first class.
Reports were circulated at this time that Li harbored designs on the throne a report which was false in every particular. Li has ever been a strong upholder of the Manchu dynasty. For years he has been the leading statesman of China; has managed both her internal and foreign affairs with consummate ability; has taken all he could get from ousiders and given nothing in return. Many a minister or government official has gone to Li with the intention of finding out his secret purposes, only to realize as he leaves that he has accomplished nothing, but has himself been most skilfully "pumped" by his astute host. But the foundation on which the Chinese official builds his political mansion is not very strong, and Li has several times had experience of this fact. In 1871, he was degraded again from office, because of his failure to compete successfully with the disastrous floods of that year; but soon after, having succeeded in the work of building up the banks of the Grand Canal, he was given back his honors with the addition of a "Flowered Peacock Feather."
Li's progressiveness above his fellowmen is shown by his establishment of the China Merchants' Steam Navigation Company, the first of the kind ever organized in China. The enterprise encountered many difficulties in spite of the patronage of Li.
Since the time of the Tientsin massacre Li had been haunted by the dread of war. He knew enough of his country to realize that it was totally unable to cope with foreign Nations. He determined to remedy this state of affairs, and decided to provide the Empire with as efficient an army and navy as possible. With this object in view he drilled a large force of Honan soldiers, whom he kept within his province, and acquired from time to time foreign gunboats for the protection of the coasts. He had watched with anxiety and distrust Japan's growing tendency to adopt foreign customs and systems. He was fearful that she would attempt to draw China into war. But Japan was not yet ready. She desired, on the contrary, to make a treaty with China, and sent a minister to accomplish that object. By the terms of the treaty which resulted, both countries were to aid and support each other in the case of foreign invasion, and ministers were to be sent from one capital to the other. Consuls were appointed to protect the interest of each country at the treaty port of both. Li was chosen to negotiate this treaty as representative of his imperial master.
In the year 1874, occurred a difficulty with Japan over Formosa. Li strongly desired war, for he believed that China was now in a better position to fight than Japan; and he saw, too, that the Japanese were moving faster than the Chinese toward improved methods of war-fare, and that the time might come when his countrymen would not be able to cope with them. But the peace party at Pekin was in the ascendant and the matter was settled amicably. China paid an indemnity to Japan.
Toward the end of the year the Emperor was taken ill with smallpox, and in the beginning of 1875 he died of that disease. The dowager Empress nominated as his successor the infant son of Prince Ch'un, a brother of the deceased Emperor.
Li was at this time in high favor with the Throne.
But the new reign began badly with respect to foreign affairs. At its very beginning occurred the murder of Mr. Margary, of the China Consular Service, at Yunnan. As soon as the news of this outrage reached Pekin, Sir Thomas Wade sought satisfaction at the Tsungli Yamen, demanding that a committee should be appointed to investigate the outrage. For months he was put off on the plea that no official report had been received of the murder, but finally Li Hung Chang entered into negotiations with him. Li showed a disposition to be conciliatory, but refused to draw Li Hsieh-t 'ai, the Viceroy of Yunnan, into the discussion. He had, like all Chinamen, a tender regard for officials of high rank. At last he consented to an investigation at Yunnan, which ended so unsatisfactorily that Sir Thomas Wade left Shanghai rather than be trifled with longer. The Chinese were thoroughly frightened at this turn of the affair, and Li finally met Sir Thomas at Chefoo. There the matter was settled by Li's agreeing to improved official intercourse and additional trading regulations between the two Nations. A convention, known as the Chefoo Convention, setting forth these terms, was drawn up and signed by both Li and Sir Thomas Wade. This document caused great discussion among the British merchants in both England and China. It was disapproved of by the Foreign Office, and did not receive official sanction until 1888.
Still further honors were given to Li for his success at Chefoo. Foreign matters having been disposed of, Li was now at leisure to devote more time to internal affairs. He still continued to improve his army and navy. Armed his soldiers with the newest weapons, urged the completion of the forts between Taku and Tientsin and established a torpedo college at the latter place, in order to defend it by water. The expense and trouble devoted to the college deserved better results than were shown during the late war. Li also turned his attention to the development of the commercial resources of his country. He formed a company to work the coal mines in the Metropolitan Province. This led to the first railway established in China. If Li had been all powerful he would have applied the same manner of working as that adopted at the coal mines in Chili to mines throughout the Empire. But the provincial system of government rendered this impossible. He, therefore, turned his attention to other schemes. A word has already been said of the China Merchant's Steam Navigation Company. Li Hung Chang hoped this might compete successfully with the foreign worked companies along the coast, and did all he could to further its success. But do what he might, that company never arrived at a very flourishing condition.
About this time, 1877, occurred a terrible famine, which lasted for over one year. Li did all he could to mitigate the sufferings of the people. He sent to foreign countries for rice, and urged that all distilling be stopped until the terrible scarcity of that grain was over. He opened soup kitchens at Tientsin, and is said to have fed a thousand refugees daily from his own purse. But do what he could, millions perished of want in the various provinces.
In 1878 events occurred which made it seem that China would be able to make use of all her warlike preparations. This was a difficulty with Russia over the occupancy of Kuldja. Russia had held Kuldja for ten years, in trust, we might say, for China, and now was adverse to giving the place up. Chung How, Superintendent of the Northern Ports, was ordered to proceed to St. Petersburg to negotiate with the Russians. But the treaty he arranged was not acceptable to Li Hung Chang. During this time there had grown up at Pekin a strong war party under Prince Ch'un and Tso Tsung-tang. Li was, however, strongly averse to going to this extreme with Russia, declaring the country was in no condition for war. Fortunately he was upheld in his position by Colonel Gordon, of whom so much has been said as leader of the "Ever Victorious Army," who spoke very openly of the military weakness of the Nation. Fin-ally, after many attacks from his enemies, Li's peace policy was carried out, with the able assistance of the Marquise Tseng, at St. Petersburg. The dispute was satisfactorily adjusted.
Again Li could turn his attention to his duties of provincial administration, but not for long. His active interest in provincial affairs was stopped by the death of his mother in 1882. Li mourned for her sincerely, and applied to the Throne for the usual time of mourning two years and a quarter. But he was too important a man to be allowed to retire from public life for that length of time, and his request was refused. He was allowed only too days in which to express his grief.
While Li was yet in mourning for his mother occurred an event of great political importance. He had for some time urged the King of Korea to enter into a treaty with foreign States for the protection of his Kingdom. The Anti-foreign party, at the head of which was the ex-Regent, opposed this policy, and in 1882 attacked the Japanese Legation established at Seoul. This brought on a collision between China and Japan. Both Nations sent a force to Seoul. But Li realized more than ever the inability of China to cope with Japan, whose military conditions were so much better than hers; and happily his efforts for peace were successful and the matter was amicably settled.
Foreign troubles seemed to follow thick and fast upon Li and the Chinese Empire. Since 1873 the French had been making hostile advances against the Province of Tongking. All proposals of China to cede fo France the country south of the Songkoi River had been rejected at Paris and Pekin. In 1884 the attitude of the French was still threatening. They even attacked and held two cities, Sontay and Bacninh. Li, as usual, desired to preserve peace. He was prepared, therefore, to discuss matters at once with Captain Fournier as soon as he should receive plenipotentiary powers from Pekin. His memorials to the Throne on the subject were at first coldly received. At a council at which Prince Ch'un, the father of the Emperor, and twenty-seven other officials took part, it was unanimously decided to reject Li's request. Fortunately, wiser counsel prevailed, and Li was authorized to take the best terms he could get from the French. Accordingly, on the 11th of May, 1884, Fournier and Li drew up a convention and signed it. The terms of the convention no sooner became known than Li was violently denounced by the Censors. So harshly was he reproached that he offered to resign his official duties. This proposition the Throne declined to listen to. Trouble again broke out and war was declared with France, which lasted until 1886, when a treaty was concluded between Li Hung Chang and M. Cogordan, a special envoy from France. Li's prescience was confirmed by the terms of this treaty. After a year's conflict, which had cost the country 60,000,000 taels, and the sinking of a fleet at Foo-chow, China accepted eventually the same terms which Li had obtained before the money had been spent or the fleet sunk.
More trouble with Japan now occurred. Again the subject of the dispute was Korea. Count Ito was sent to China to negotiate a treaty with Li Hung Chang, which should determine the position of the two countries in that Kingdom. The matter was settled amicably, a treaty was drawn up and signed by the two Ministers.
Another instance of Li's diplomatic shrewdness is his arrangement made with the British concerning the island known as Port Hamilton, over which the British had raised their flag. For while he obtained the promise of Great Britain to remove her flag from that island, he also received assurance from Russia that should the British control of Port Hamilton cease, she would not interfere with Korea, thus killing as it were, two birds with one stone.
Li's choice of foreign employés, with a few exceptions, seems always to have been a good one. As a rule they have served him well and faithfully.
His selection of native officials has not always turned out so well. One of his most intimate associates was thrown into prison on the charge of fraud; another, who was at one time exiled beyond the Great Wall, is his son-in-law. He, however, has since proved himself unquestionably a very able man. Honesty does not seem necessary to obtain Li's favor, and one of his prime favorites, it is said, a certain Shen, during the late war with Japan gained great notoriety by selling poor muskets and am-munition to the soldiers who were sent to the fore. The constant breaches in the Grand Canal are but instances of the lax way in which Li was served by his workmen. It is but another evidence of his greatness that he has accomplished so much for China with such poor aid.
It had long been evident to those who had watched the affairs in the Korea, that matters must soon be brought to a crisis. Both China and Japan feared the intervention of Russia. Japan wished to effect such reforms in Korea as would give strength and efficiency to that Kingdom. She proposed to China that they work these reforms together. Li was anxious to maintain peace, but he entirely misunderstood Japan's attitude and refused to coöperate with her, replying that China as the Suzerain State should effect all reforms in Korea. He demanded that all Japanese ships should leave the Chinese ports. Japan complied with the ultimatum, but warned China that any advance of the military of that country would be regarded by her as an act of war. China, paying no heed to this warning, sent a British ship loaded with troops and escorted by three men-of-war to Korea. They were met by the Japanese cruisers, Akitsusu, Yoshino, and Naniwa, and a battle was fought. The result is well known the sinking of the transport and the flight of the Chinese ships. Following this came the defeat of the Chinese at Asan and Pingyang. At first the news of these disasters was kept from the Imperial Throne. But at last the truth came out. Li, who had been held responsible for the campaign, was degraded in rank, and his yellow jacket was taken from him. Li saw, though not too late, the mistake he had made, and strongly advocated peace. The Throne was not to be convinced of its necessity, and the war continued. But the crushing disasters which followed brought the true situation only too clearly to the Imperial eye. In response to Li's urgent representations, he was authorized to send Mr. Deking, a Commissioner of Customs, to japan to arrange affairs with that country. The Mikado's Government refused to accept Mr. Deking as an Envoy. Finally Li Hung Chang, although the loss of his honors had been accompanied by a withdrawal from his control of the military affairs of his country, was appointed Imperial Commissioner to negotiate with Japan. His ability to cope with the situation had been recognized by the Throne, and his honors had been restored to him.
Li, though an old man and worn out with the affairs of the State, yet consented, at the request of the Throne, to visit for the first time in his life a foreign country and to undertake a humiliating mission. He set our for Japan with Oriental magnificence, accompanied by a retinue of 135 persons, and arrived safely in that country. The negotiations were proceeding favorably, when an incident occurred which seemed for a moment likely to bring them to a sudden termination. This was an attempt on Li's life by a fanatical member of the Soshi class, who, as the Chinese Commissioner was being carried through the streets of Shimonoseki in his sedan chair, rushed up to him and fired a pistol point-blank in his face. Fortunately, though Li was hit, the bullet did not penetrate very deeply, lodging under his left eye, and, barring the shock to his system, the effect of the wound was not serious. By none was this act more strongly condemned than by the Mikado and his Ministers. Count Ito called in person to express his profound sorrow for the occurrence, and the Mikado hastened to put at his service his own surgeon.
The principal terms of the treaty now agreed upon, and which was duly ratified by both China and Japan, were that within four months both powers should with-draw their troops stationed in Korea, and that they should unite in an invitation to the King of Korea to instruct and drill an armed force sufficient to assure her public security, employing for this purpose an officer selected from those of a third power. Neither China nor Japan should send any of her own officers for the purpose of giving this instruction.
In 1896 Li Hung Chang was sent to St. Petersburg as the Emperor's representative at the coronation of the Czar. On his way home he passed through the United States, where he was received with every demonstration, official and popular, due both to his eminent services to China and his high rank among the world's great men.
The Boxer trouble of 1900-1901 and the resulting intervention of the Powers afforded the old statesman his last opportunity to exhibit his fidelity to the Manchu government he had served so long. It was chiefly due to his efforts that the allies did not impose severer penalties on China and that the Dowager Empress and her advisers acceded to the demands which secured the evacuation of Peking by victorious Europeans, September 17, 1901. A few weeks later (November 7) he died in harness, so to speak, resisting to the utmost Russia's encroachments in Manchuria.
Li Hung Chang has been the subject of much discussion and criticism by those who have not always taken sufficient account of his nationality and of the peculiar circumstances both of his education and the conditions with which he had to deal. It is manifestly unjust to charge him with a lack of some of those virtues which in the advanced civilization of Europe have been fostered by centuries of culture. Take him for all in all, he is undoubtedly a man worthy of the highest admiration one of the most able of the world's great statesmen.