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General Grant then took the opportunity to point out to China the necessity for peace. His language is interesting for its earnestness and as an indication of General Grant's conclusions on the impending conflict in Asia. He wrote:
In the vast East, embracing more than two-thirds of the human population of the world, there are but two nations even partially free from the domination and dictation of some one or other of the European Powers, with intelligence and strength enough to maintain their independence— Japan and China are the two nations. The people of both are brave, intelligent, frugal, and industrious. With a little more advancement in modern civilization, mechanics, engineering, etc., they could throw off the offensive treaties which now cripple and humiliate them, and could enter into competition for the world's commerce. . . .
Japan is now rapidly reaching a condition of independence, and if it had now to be done over, such treaties as exist could not be forced upon her. What Japan has done, and is now doing, China has the power—and I trust the inclination—to do. I can readily conceive that there are many foreigners, particularly among these interested in trade, who do not look beyond the present and who would like to have the present condition remain, only grasping more from the East, and leaving the natives of the soil merely "hewers of wood and drawers of water" for their benefit. I have so much sympathy for the good of their (the foreigner's) children, if not—for them, that I hope the two countries will disappoint them.
It has been stated, and probably correctly, that General Grant went even so far as to recommend that Japan and China form an alliance against the western powers.
The Government of the United States, fearing that the good offices of the United States were being accepted by the two powers under a misapprehension that General Grant in some way officially represented the United States, instructed its representatives to make clear that he had acted in an entirely personal capacity.27
Both nations accepted General Grant's proposal and the two commissions met in Peking. After three months' discussion, they arrived at a settlement according to which the islands were to be divided.28 However, on the day fixed for the signatures, China suddenly withdrew the question from the commission and referred it to Chinese superintendents of trade at the northern and southern districts.29
"A glaring instance of international treachery" on the part of China, the North China Daily News (Jan. 27, 1883) called it, but it was subse
« Foreign Relations, 1881, p. 243, Apr. 4, 1881, Blaine to Angell.
2« It has been frequently stated (cf. Robert P. Porter, Japan, the Rise of a Modern Power, p. 119; H. B. Morse, op. tit., Vol. II, p. 322) that General Grant himself proposed the partition of the islands between China and Japan. As a matter of fact, the most important point in the mediation by General Grant was that China and Japan should, if possible, settle their own disputes without the admission of any European into the controversy.
29 Foreign Relations, ibid., p. 229, Jan. 25, 1881, Angell to Secretary of State. See 1873, pp. 188, 553, 564; 1879, p. 637; 1880, p. 194, for details of entire controversy. quently discovered that Japan, not content with the settlement of the Lew Chew question by itself, had, at the last minute, insisted upon the inclusion in the agreement of some additional provisions conferring new ports and trading privileges in China upon Japan.
China had been predisposed to settle the matter in 1880 because of the then strained relations with Russia, although the surrender of Chinese territory to a foreign power during the minority of the Emperor was a risk such as few Chinese statesmen would have dared to assume. As soon as the trouble with Eussia was settled, the Lew Chew question again became the subject of great irritation. Li Hung Chang outlined China's position as follows: China would not under any circumstances consent to the destruction of the autonomy of the islands, or the division of them between Japan and China. He desired that the islands should be restored to their original condition of tributary states to both China and Japan. Failing this, he thought China would agree to enter into treaty stipulations with Japan, by which both powers would guarantee the absolute independence of the Lew Chews.30
In 1882, Li Hung Chang was prepared to fight Japan for the possession of the islands and war seemed imminent. The international situation remained the same. A war between China and Japan would be destructive to the best interests of both nations, and also detrimental to the interests of the United States. John Russell Young, then American Minister in Peking, who, as a newspaper correspondent, had accompanied General Grant around the world, and who was on very intimate terms with Li Hung Chang, strongly urged the Viceroy not to enter into hostilities with Japan. The question had passed beyond the stage where it might be controlled by considerations of justice. China had signed away her rights in the treaty of 1874. Japan had formally annexed the islands and had been administering them for several years. But more important even was the fact that China was in no condition to enter a war. Peace at any price was the only safe policy for the Empire.
The Lew Chew question was soon lost in the greater problem which confronted China in the aggressions of France upon her southern border, and the annexation of the Lew Chews by Japan became a fait accompli.
The Franco-chinese War
While China was engaged in the controversy with Japan over the Lew Chews, other and even more serious problems arose with the foreign powers —with England over Burmah and the murder of Margery in 1874, with France over Tonquin, at about the same time, with Russia over Kuldja in 1879, and then again with France over Annam in 1884. Indeed, it was these distractions, probably, which diverted China from making war on
so China Despatches, Vol. 58, No. 19, Nov. 24, 1881, Holcombe to Secretary of State. Japan on account of the Formosan affair, or the Lew Chews, or Korea. To none of these larger disputes except the one with France was the United States in any way related.
At one time France appears to have selected Korea as a field for exploitation and even for annexation. In 1866, the French Charge d'Affaires in Peking even announced to the astonished Yamen that France was ahout to annex Korea, but this representation was unauthorized by France, and a few years later France would seem to have concluded to seek territorial expansion only in the south. France made a treaty with Annam in 1862, and made a second one twelve years later in which France recognized the complete independence of Annam, and also acquired Cochin-China. China protested because the treaty, in effect, made France rather than China the suzerain over Annam. The matter remained in dispute until the latter part of 1883, when Li Hung Chang signed a convention with France according to which the Chinese troops were to be withdrawn from Annam, and the two nations were, jointly, to guarantee the independence of this territory which for two centuries had paid tribute to Peking. There was a sudden change of government in France and the convention was repudiated at Paris. The new French cabinet proposed an expedition to China, and a liberal credit was voted. Then a French officer, Riviere, was killed in an engagement with the Black Flags, an irregular company of troops which were supposed to be more or less supported by the Chinese government. War became all but inevitable. Indeed, it seems quite plain that France was seeking to provoke war for the sake of securing more territory in the South.
China, stung by the charges of bad faith, defiant and unhumbled, still quite ignorant of the weakness of the Empire, perhaps misled by encouragements from Germany and England, and quite underestimating the strength of France, was determined to yield no territory to France, and also not to yield suzerainty over Annam. At this point, John Russell Young, the American minister, whose relations with Li Hung Chang had become very intimate and confidential, and whose relations with the Tsung-li Yamen were cordial, pleaded for peace. The question was, as he tried to explain, not whether China was in the wrong or in the right, but whether she could afford a war with a foreign power. She had relatively few troops with a modern training, and they were in the North. There was no railroad to transport them to Annam, and the Chinese navy could not protect them by sea. France was studiously cultivating Japan, with a view to securing joint action against China. Russia was an eternal menace to the Chinese northern frontier. England was busy in Egypt, and presumably not unwilling that France should become involved in China. For China itself, war could only end in disaster.31
31 Mr. Young refers to this conference in Men and Memories, op. cit., p. 308.
At length, the councils of Mr. Young had their effect and he was asked to invite the good offices of the President to secure a mediation of the dispute.
To this request, Secretary of State Frelinghuysen replied, by cable, July 12, 1883:
This government cannot intervene unless assured that its good offices are acceptable to both. In such case would do all possible in the interests of peace. The United States Minister at Paris has been directed to sound French Government, and ascertain if it will admit our good offices in the sense of arbitration or settlement.
The answer was not long delayed. France declined to accept the good offices of the United States.32
The French, forthwith, proceeded to declare a blockade of Tonquin and Annam, and although negotiations continued at Shanghai, the troops of the two nations came into active conflict in December, 1883. On May 11, 1884, Li Hung Chang signed with Commandant Fournier a convention which was intended by the Chinese to be the protocol to a treaty. In the Fournier Convention, France waived a claim for indemnity in return for the acknowledgment of her territorial and commercial claims in Annam. There was entire disagreement between the Chinese and the French as to the interpretation of this protocol, and even as to its authorized text, and on June 23rd, 1884, Colonel Dugenne and twenty-two French soldiers were killed in an engagement at Bade.33
Again China appealed to the good offices of the United States, and again (July 20, 1884) Minister Young referred the matter to Washington. China wished to submit to arbitration the question as to whether she had acted in bad faith with reference to the Fournier Convention.
Again France declined to admit the good offices of the United States.
China was thus brought face to face with war. The American Minister renewed his efforts to find a peaceful solution, feeling that peace at any price which France might demand would be better than conflict. At length Prince Kung asked Mr. Young to go to Shanghai, see M. Patenotre, the French representative, and obtain a settlement. China was even willing to agree to any indemnity which Young might recommend. The American Minister referred the request to Washington for approval, but Secretary of State Frelinghuysen was wary, having already been twice repulsed by France, and withheld his approval. On August 5th, Admiral Lespes at
Cordier, Relations de la Chine avec les puissances occidentales, II, p. 399. « H. B. Morse, International Relations of the Chinese Empire, Vol. II, pp. 353-57, who was present at the Li Hung Chang-Fournier negotiations and saw the documents, gives personal testimony as well as evidence to prove that the French Government was guilty of extremely bad faith in the observance of this convention. His verdict is: "It is only on the ground that an Asiatic nation has no rights which the white man is bound to respect that the course of France is to be explained." For the French statement of the case, see Cordier, op. cit., II, pp. 435 ft.
tacked Keelung in Formosa. After this attack, all hopes of peace vanished. The Chinese were aroused. Prince Kung was retired, and the retirement of the Prince meant the eclipse of Li Hung Chang who had clearly realized the folly of resisting the French.
Early in September, the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company which had been purchased a few years before from an American firm, Russell and Company, was resold to the former owners, and the American flag raised over the fleet of steamers. France, thus deprived of the opportunity of making a most profitable reprisal upon China, was now even less than ever willing to accept any good offices from the United States. However, the American Government kept in very close touch with the rapidly developing situation, and on several subsequent occasions was the medium of communication between Paris and Peking. Sir Robert Hart also undertook the task of mediation and after more than a year of work succeeded in bringing about the signing of a protocol, April 4, 1885."
Mr. Young, although his efforts at mediation between China and France had failed, was determined to demonstrate the good faith of the United States in its advocacy of arbitration as a means of settling disputes, and was able to secure the consent of the Chinese Government to the arbitration of the "Ashmore Fisheries Case" by the British and Netherlands consuls at Swatow. The case involved the action of the Chinese officials in depriving Dr. W. Ashmore, an American missionary at Swatow, of a fishery which he had purchased in connection with a mission. An award of four thousand six hundred dollars ($4,600) was made to Dr. Ashmore, June, 1884.35 Earlier in the same year, Mr. Young had proposed that the claims of the foreigners arising out of the riot at Canton in September, 1883,36 be submitted to arbitration, but he was unable to secure the consent of the Chinese to such a statement of the disputed points as would have satisfied the British authorities.87
The Sino-japanese War, 1894-5
Although the "good offices" clauses in both the Chinese and the Korean treaties with the United States had been placed there by the Chinese, it
s4 Morse, op. tit., pp. 364-7.
as Moore's Arbitrations, Vol. 2, p. 1857-59.
»« Foreign Relations, 1883, p. 209; 1884, p. 46; Morse, op. tit., p. 320.
"For the more important details of Mr. Young's negotiations in the French controversy, see China Despatches, Vol. 65, No. 230, Aug. 8, 1883, No. 232, Aug. 16, 1882, No. 252, Sept. 7, 1883, No. 268, Oct. 8, 1883; Vol. 67, No. 308, Dec. 24, 1883; Vol. 68, No. 318, Jan. 6, 1884; Vol. 71, No. 496, Aug. 21, 1884, No. 501, Sept. 4, 1884; Vol. 73, No. 569, Dec. 9, 1884, No. 583, Dee. 22, 1884. It is difficult to explain the omission of all of these very able despatches from Foreign Relations. Perhaps the failure of Frelinghuysen's negotiations with France, together with the fact of a change of administration in 1885, explains it. There are few finer chapters in the history of arbitration than the Young-Frelinghuysen efforts in 1883-4.