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which arose in the following twenty-five years. They served, however, to introduce the principle of mediation into Far Eastern questions, and they revealed the disposition of the United States at a time when all of the Oriental states were receiving from western powers lessons in diplomacy and international relations of a much less elevated sort.
In the events which occurred after 1872, the United States stood out preeminently as a disinterested peace-maker. This role suited the American spirit as it was being exhibited in domestic affairs and in trans-Atlantic relations; it was, moreover, the cornerstone of American policy in Asia. It was clearly seen that the interests of the United States could be only injured by war. War between Japan and China would result in the weakening of both nations, and would probably lead to the intervention of European powers in their own interests. The United States desired above all else strong and progressive native governments in Asia. War would paralyze progress and further impoverish the nations which joined in it. War between any western and any eastern power would be even more disastrous. American national interests, therefore, happily coincided, as they do today, with the highest welfare of the Asiatic states.
Indeed, one may indulge at this point in a very sweeping generalization. There were, and are, two possible general policies for the foreign powers in the Far East. One is to keep the Asiatic states in as weakened a condition as possible, with a view to making commercial conquest easy. The other policy is to assist these nations to achieve the greatest possible national strength, with a view to the building up of strong self-supporting and self-governing sovereign states. The American policy in Asia has uniformly been of the latter sort, and at times the United States has stood absolutely alone in the advocacy of such a course. Even today there are not a few whose proposals of policy in Asia rest upon the assumption that a weak East will help in the maintenance of a strong West. Furthermore, it is between these two policies that Japan, preferring to count herself as a power rather than as an Asiatic state, is halting. The question before Japan is: Does her national well-being require a weak or a strong China? This is but another phase of the older question asked by the western powers when they inquired whether their well-being required a weak or a strong Asia in which Japan was considered as an integral part.
Perhaps the best proof of the sincerity of this characteristic American policy of strengthening Asia has been its repeated and long continued efforts to introduce mediation and arbitration into the ominous Asiatic disputes.
One other general consideration is important for the understanding of the peace-making role of the United States in Asia. When the foreign powers appeared in the Far East in force after the Crimean War, Eastern Asia was, politically, in a nebulous state which might be compared to that of a solar system before the orbits of the planets had become fixed or the satellites properly distributed. There were certain central masses with a moderate degree of specific gravity, and there were also smaller masses which swung on irregular orbits in between the larger spheres, influenced in their movements by each of the larger masses, but still not wholly attached to any larger neighbor. The large spheres were China, Russia in Asia, England in Asia, and Japan. The potential satellites were the islands off the coast of Asia—Sakhalin, Yesso, Tsushima, the Bonin Islands, the Lew Chew group, Formosa—and, the so-called tributary states surrounding China—Burmah, Annam and the regions near it, Tibet and Korea. Before the Europeans came and attempted to apply the rules of international law, these regions and islands had given to the larger Asiatic states only a moderate degree of trouble. Communications were difficult before the arrival of the steamship and the cable and both China and Japan were quite content with the political status quo. But the entrance of the Europeans and their modern contrivances radically changed the situation. Immediate reasons appeared for a closer organization of the politically nebulous East. The result was a consolidation of Japan and China, respectively, and then a proportionate increase in the power of gravitation by which these masses pulled upon the intervening islands and the outlying regions. The laws of physics operated in international matters. The pull upon Formosa, the Lew Chews," Korea, Burmah, Annam, etc., was in direct ratio to the specific gravity of the neighboring masses, and in inverse ratio to the distance. In this process of organization, China fared badly because, while its mass was great, it was also nebulous and loosely, organized, whereas Japan, Russia in Asia, England in Asia, and France in Asia, although relatively small, were more compact and of greater political specific gravity. It was, of course, inevitable that between these pulls and counter-pulls collisions would be inevitable. In these collisions the interests of the United States were seldom benefited. War of any sort meant the impoverishing of peoples, the sequestration of territory, the upsetting of markets, and presumably the closing of doors. While it is undeniable that the United States has received some benefits from some of the wars in Asia since 1839, it seems more reasonable to believe that the best interests of the United States in every case where there has been a conflict of arms would have been better served by peace. At any rate, the assumption that this would be true underlay American policy in the Far East from the very beginning.
In 1874, Japan and China came into collision over the Island of Formosa. Many Japanese had already ear-marked the island for Nippon, for it commanded one avenue of the trade route to north China and Japan. Indeed, Japanese had already laid out, somewhat informally, a plan of
"Also spelled Loo Choo, Liu Chiu; Japanese, Biu Kiu.
annexation or conquest of territory from the mouth of the Amur southward, which included practically all that has in the last fifty years been obtained.18
In 1874, Japan finding it necessary to make war to avert a revolution chose between Korea and Formosa and preferred the latter because of its warmer climate and its sugar cane. Japan confronted China with the principle of international law that sovereignty over territory was not to be recognized where the power claiming sovereignty did not exercise the functions of government. To this claim China replied with a quotation from her classics which she understood better than international law. Thus wrote Prince Kung to the Ministers of the Japanese Department of Foreign Affairs, May 14, 1874:
Formosa is an island lying far off amidst the sea and we have never restrained the savages living there by any legislation, nor have we established any government over them, following in this a maxim mentioned in the Ret Ri: "Do not change the usages of a people, but allow them to keep their good ones." But the territories inhabited by these savages are truly within the jurisdiction of China.19
Japan found a pretext for her war on Formosa in the murder by the aboriginal inhabitants of the island of some ship-wrecked Lew Chew Island sailors. Unfortunately, the American Minister in Japan, who greatly sympathized with the Japanese in their aspirations, was sufficiently compromised in the planning of the expedition so that his recall became necessary. Three Americans were engaged by the Japanese to assist in the expedition and an American steamer was chartered as a transport. However, before the expedition left Nagasaki the Americans were ordered to be detached from the party, and the American steamer was returned to its owners. The action of the American government was somewhat embarrassed by the fact that no formal declaration of war existed, but the Chinese government expressed satisfaction at the measures taken to restrain American citizens from assisting Japan.
In October, 1874, a Japanese envoy arrived in Peking to settle the Formosan dispute. There was a war of words and then a rupture of the negotiations. As the Japanese envoy was about to leave Peking, Dr. S. Wells Williams, suggested arbitration but the envoy stated that the matter was "too complicated" for arbitration and was very unlike the Maria Luz affair.20
But the Japanese were not to be permitted to settle the Formosan affair in their own way. Sir Thomas Wade, the British Minister, had already, so it is believed, intimated to the Japanese that Great Britain would not view
is The evidence for this statement is to be found in Walter Wallace McLaren, A Political History of the Meiji Era, p. 195 ff.; Stead, op. tit., Chap. XI. "China Despatches, Vol. 36, No. 55, Aug. 22, 1874, Williams to Fish. 20 China Despatches, Vol. 37, No. 70, Oct. 29, 1874, Williams to Fish.
the Japanese occupation of Formosa with satisfaction owing to the close trade relations of Formosa with the British merchants in China, and now he intervened and became the mediator of the dispute. An agreement was signed October 31, 1874.21
Lew Chew Islands, 1879
Closely associated with and intimately related to the Formosan dispute, was the controversy over the possession of the Lew Chew Islands, which lie north of Formosa, and command another avenue to the sea-borne trade with China.
The Lew Chews were one of those satellite states like Korea, Annam, Siam, and Burmah. The Lew Chewians had their own king, but he received investiture from the Emperor of China, and further testified to his dependence by sending periodical tribute-bearing embassies which handed over their gifts to the customs tautai at Foochow, by whom they were sent to Peking.22
The American relation to the Lew Chew controversy was more intimate than to the Formosan question. In 1854, Commodore Perry had made a treaty with the King of the Lew Chews in which the suzerainty of China was not recognized except by the fact that the treaty was dated according to the Chinese calendar and was written in Chinese. Perry regarded the Lew Chews as of great strategic importance and it is to be feared that his plan for the future of the Lew Chews contemplated something very like an American protectorate over the islands. He saw in Great Lew Chew a possible American "Malta," or "Colombo," or "Hong-kong." In these days it is difficult for Americans to realize the force of the arguments which Perry used, but at that time American ambitions in the Pacific, while by no means a part of official American policy, were most pronounced.23
The Japanese also had a claim upon the Lew Chews because of the fact that the inhabitants of the islands had been accustomed to pay tribute yearly to the Prince of Satsuma. When feudalism was abolished in Japan, this claim of Satsuma upon the islands was vested in the Mikado, and the Japanese, who had not overlooked the strategic value of the islands, as well as the attention which Commodore Perry had paid to them, proceeded to assert their authority over the Lew Chews to the exclusion of the historic
21 Parliamentary Papers, China No. 2 (1875), Correspondence respecting settlement of the difficulty between China and Japan in regard to the Island of Formosa. Further Correspondence presented Mar. 9, 1875. Foreign Gelations, 1875, p. 221, Williams to Fish, Nov. 12, 1874.
22 For a discussion of this most complicated question of the exact status of the Lew Chews vis a vis China, see Foreign Relations, 1880, p. 194, Dec. 11, 1879, Seward to Secretary of State.
23 Perry Correspondence, Sen. Ex. Doc. 34; 33-2, pp. 12 ff., 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 66, 81, 108-110, 112, 174.
Chinese claim of suzerainty. The conflicting claims of China and Japan were a subject of discussion for many years. In the treaty between China and Japan in 1874, for the settlement of the Formosan trouble, Japan cleverly inserted the following sentence: '' The raw barbarians of Formosa once unlawfully inflicted injury on the people belonging to Japan, and the Japanese Government, with the intention of making the said barbarians answer for their acts, sent troops to chastise them." The treaty also stated that Japan had acted justly in the matter. Thus Japan cut the ground from under the Chinese claim of suzerainty over the Lew Chews, for the people referred to as belonging to Japan were Lew Chew sailors.24 The Chinese claim, in the judgment of the Japanese, no longer had a standing in international law, and when the Chinese discovered the way in which they had been outwitted, they fell back on sullen defiance. In 1879, the Lew Chew king was deposed by the Japanese because his emissaries had been seeking the good offices of the American and other ministers in Tokio, with a view to having the old relationship to China restored. The United States had contented itself, when Japan formally annexed the islands, with receiving assurances from Japan that American rights in the islands would in no way be disturbed, and never interfered with the program of Japan, regarding the controversy as purely between China, the King of the Lew Chews and Japan.
The points of irritation between China and Japan multiplied after the Formosan affair in 1874, and when General Grant visited Peking in 1879, the two nations were on the point of war. Grant saw very clearly that the European nations might seize the opportunity to enhance their own interests. It was, therefore, a matter of satisfaction to General Grant when the Chinese proposed and the Japanese agreed to submit the Lew Chew question to mediation.
After many conferences with the Chinese in Peking and a thorough review of the question in Tokio, General Grant wrote a letter, August 18, 1879, to Prince Kung, practically Prime Minister of China, which, before being sent, was shown to the Emperor of Japan and received his approval.18 In this letter Grant submitted the following proposals: (1) China to withdraw certain threatening and menacing dispatches which had been addressed to Japan on the subject; (2) each country to appoint a commission, and the two commissions to confer on the subject; (3) no foreign power to be brought into the discussion, but in case the commissions could not agree they might appoint an arbitrator whose decisions should be binding on both Japan and China.28
« Stead, op. oit., p. 171.
25 China Despatches, Vol. 61, No. 33, Oct. 9, 1882, Young to Frelinghuysen.
26 John Russell Young, Men and Memories, Vol. 2, pp. 294-5. John Russell Young, Around the World with General Grant, Vol. 2, pp. 410-412, 415, 543-46, 558-60.