CHINA AND JAPAN
Interesting features connected with departure of Embassy to Peking -- Mr. Ward's interviews with Hangfuh -- Chinese soldiery -- Pehtang -- Withdrawal of Allied forces from the Gulf -- Arrival of Governor-General of Siberia in Russian steamer America -- His visit to Pehtang in the Toey-wan -- Preparations for departure of the Embassy -- The names of those who composed it -- Chinese "chariots" -- Horrible roads -- The Embassy on the Pei-ho -- Tungehau -- Arrival at the Capital -- Interviews with the Commissioners -- Long discussion on the ceremonies of an audience with the Emperor -- Slight concession to Mr. Ward -- Changes from former usages -- Chinese estimation of the Emperor's character -- Mr. Ward's refusal to kneel before him -- The Kotau -- Chinese incredulity and duplicity -- The Russian Minister -- Disappointment -- Kweiliang's quandary -- Mr. Ward's solution -- The President's letter -- The Emperor's rescript -- Kweiliang and Hwashana -- Return of Embassy to Pehtang -- Exchange of the Treaty -- Death of Rev. Mr. Aitchison -- Sail for Shanghai -- "Short commons" during the absence of the Embassy.
So many exciting and really important incidents occurred during the month of July, 1859, when viewed in their immediate connection with the crowning event of all our two months' experience in the Gulf of Pecheelee; namely, the departure of the first American Embassy to Peking, that it will be necessary to resort to the form of a diary, in some measure, in order to give the reader a clear idea of the numerous delays and annoyances ever attending diplomatic negotiations with these singular people, upon whose ridiculous and formal dalliance the movements of our Minister and Flag-officer were necessarily dependent for the time.
Mr. Ward had sent a note by the junk which brought provisions to the ship on the 2d, to the Governor-General of the province, appointing the 5th as the day for their meeting to confer upon the subject of his visit to Peking, but through the tardy movements of the conveyance, the answer acquiescing in this failed to reach the ship in time for him to avail himself of the opportunity. Consequently, another appointment, with the same object, was made for the 8th, and an understanding being arrived at, the Toey-wan, on that day, conveyed the Minister and his suite, with the Flag-officer, toward the mouth of the Pehtang river, the Powhatan at the same time moving a couple of miles nearer to that point. As the steamer approached the shoal water, a pilot came on board and conducted her to the entrance, where the party was transferred to three large junks, handsomely fitted up for the occasion, and proceeded to the landing. The entire population of the village crowded the banks of the river, the boats and the streets, to witness the extraordinary advent of such a number of antipodean strangers, who, upon landing, found chariots in waiting to convey them to the place of meeting. Files of musketeers, spearmen, and bowmen, lined the route, and a large body of cavalry had been drawn up on the opposite bank of the river, to do further honor to the occasion. Although the dress of the soldiers and the equipage of the vehicles, were by no means of a character to excite the admiration of the Western "barbarians," it was certainly difficult to restrain their sense of the ludicrous within the limits of politeness, as they gazed upon the motley assemblage of bare-footed, long-tailed natives, each of whom consulted only "his own sweet will" as to the style of his dress; a liberal bespattering of the all-pervading mud, however, being one very decided mark of uniformity in their appearance. The "chariots" were nothing more nor less than long, narrow-bodied carts, without springs or seats, the occupant being expected to furnish his own cushions and make his own arrangements, to secure as many of his bones from breakage as possible, during the journey he may contemplate. They are usually driven tandem, and are covered by an awning, which extends over the shaft horse, and protects him and the driver, who sits upon the shafts, from the weather.
When the Minister and his suite reached the Governor-General's residence, they were received with every mark of distinction and courtesy, according to Chinese customs, and as soon as they had partaken of the little collation prepared for them, the principal personages were seated, and the conversation on business was commenced by Hangfuh, who inquired of Mr. Ward, "If he had heard that there had been a conflict at Taku with the English," and when he received an answer to this question, the next was, "Then you have heard people speak of it?" the intention being, I presume, either to convey to the Minister the idea that he was ignorant of the fact of the presence of the American steamer during the action, or wished to appear so, for the sake of removing any feeling of embarrassment on that account that might exist in his mind. But it is folly to attempt to fathom the unsearchable mysteries of Chinese negotiations, so I will not venture any further opinions on the subject, but leave the reader to draw his own inferences, after stating the facts within my knowledge.
After these singular interrogatories, the Governor-General remarked that, as the Imperial Commissioners had not yet reached Peking, and the treaty could not be exchanged until they came, he wished to know where the Minister preferred to wait until that time, offering voluntarily to obtain the necessary orders for him to remain in Peking if he desired, as he had no doubt of Kweiliang's arrival within the month. During the meeting, he introduced a stout officer, who, the moment he began to speak, was recognized as the spokesman on the jetty at the Taku forts, the day previous to the battle, and he was now brought forward to explain that he had there given correct information in all that he had stated. Late in the evening, the Toey-wan returned, with the Legation, to her anchorage near the Powhatan.
The town of Pehtang gives its name to the river which flows north of it, a stream in size and appearance similar to the Pei-ho. It lies on the coast, about six miles above Taku, and, from the numerous junks at its jetties, and the docks for building them, it must possess a large trade. The population is reckoned to be over 30,000, including the people of a few adjacent hamlets. They mostly dwell in houses made of the soil, a tenacious mud, that needs to be strengthened with millet stalks when made into walls. Whether from the saltiness of the soil, or other causes, almost no grass or grain, trees, or anything green, are seen near the place.
On the 10th, the Toey-wan was sent in shore to tow out to the ship two junks, which were seen struggling against the strong tide toward us, and when they arrived they were found to contain another supply of provisions, sent by the Governor as a further proof of his friendly generosity.
On the 11th, the English and French forces were withdrawn from the Gulf, leaving only one small steam sloop and a gun-boat, the Minister having sailed for Shanghai on the 6th. The two vessels that were left came the next day and anchored near us for a few hours, and then sailed for Chee-fou, a small port on the western shore of the Gulf, where there were one or two English opium-ships stationed, and where good water and provisions could be procured. On this day, also, a junk came out from the river to request the Toey-wan might be sent in on the 13th, to convey to the Minister the answer from the Emperor relative to his being allowed to visit the Capital, and asking, at the same time, that a medical officer should be sent to examine the two English prisoners who had been captured during the attack on the forts, toward whom their captors felt a good deal as the man who had won an elephant in a raffle. They were both suffering from the effects of the climate, and the confinement to which they had been subjected.
On the 14th the Russian steamer America arrived from the Amoor River, and anchored near us, having on board General Mouravieff, the Governor-General of Eastern Siberia, and a Caucasian Prince, who was in the service of the Russian Government. Visits and salutes were exchanged between the General and our Flag-officer, and the most friendly relations at once established. The Toey-wan returned from Pehtang with more provisions, and a letter from the Governor-General of the Province informing Minister Ward that he had received orders to escort him to Peking, and that the necessary arrangements for his journey would be completed in time for him to start on the 20th, if he desired to do so.
On the 15th the Toey-wan conveyed into the entrance of the river General Mouravieff and the Caucasian Prince, who was sent to Peking as bearer of despatches to the Russian Minister then residing in the city.
16th. -- The Toey-wan returned with a junk in tow, on board of which were two Mandarins, entrusted with another important communication from Hangfuh, relative to the preliminaries of the Minister's journey to Peking -- a wrong interpretation of which created terrible consternation on board for an hour or so, as it gave out that, in consequence of the Emperor's acquaintance with the fact that two hundred Americans had landed to assist in the attack on Takau, the Minister could not be permitted to visit the capital. Upon referring the document, however, to another interpreter, it was found to state that every preparation would be made for his comfortable conveyance, under suitable escort, and information was solicited as to the number of persons he desired to accompany him. This put an entirely different face upon the matter, and caused a degree of elation corresponding to the deep dejection and disappointment visible in every countenance before; feeling now that the penance we had been enduring in this wretched Gulf during the last month, was to be rewarded by success in the object with which it was undertaken.
The Governor-General informed Mr. Ward that he had appointed Tsunghau, a Manchu civilian, holding the office of superintendent of transportation, and a brevet commissioner of the gavelle, with Chang Pingtoh, a Chinese Colonel in the army, with the brevet rank of General, to be his escort. Associated with them was Li, a sub-prefect, and others still lower in rank, in all amounting to nearly twenty officials above the seventh grade.
Mr. Ward accordingly appointed the 20th of July as the day for starting, and mentioned that the number of his party would be twenty persons. Flag-officer Tattnall at first intended to go, but his health compelled him to decline the journey. The same cause deprived me of the opportunity I had so long coveted, of visiting the capital of the most populous empire in the world; and I am now compelled to draw from other sources the information herein contained relative to the experience of the Embassy, relying mostly upon the account published by S. Wells Williams, LL.D., and read before the North China branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, October 25th, 1859; Dr. W., it will be remembered, having been the principal interpreter, and one of the Secretaries, to the Embassy.
All was now bustle and confusion on board the Powhatan, the wants of the twenty "Peking-ites," in making preparations for their contemplated journey, bringing into requisition the combined services of a large portion of those who were necessarily resigned to the stupidities of another month's sojourn at our solitary anchorage, and furnishing an inexhaustible source of raillery among the less dignified portion of the travellers, as to the probabilities of the imprisonment or decapitation of the whole party, on their arrival at the Imperial City. Carpetbags, trunks, and overcoats, which had not seen the light of day for many months, were summarily hauled out of their hiding-places, and filled to repletion with every imaginable article that might be wanted during the journey, Revolvers were loaded and placed in their belts, to be buckled on, in the event of a treacherous attack, and baskets and boxes fitted with plates, knives, and forks, etc., not forgetting a reasonable supply of such fluids as might be necessary to "sustain the inner man" under all the trials of muscle and patience which they might naturally expect to encounter.
By dint of untiring perseverance, the party was prepared to leave the ship by the afternoon on the 19th; and as they were about starting in the Toey-wan, the Russian steamer "America" fired a salute of fifteen guns, as a farewell compliment to our Minister -- His Excellency General Mouravieff having previously gone on board to take leave of him, and hand him a letter for General Ignatieff, the Russian Minister at Peking.
The persons composing the Embassy were as follows:
His Excellency John E. Ward, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.
Dr. S. Wells Williams, W. Wallace Ward, Secretaries to the Legation.
Rev. W.A.P. Martin, Rev. Wm. Aitchison, Assistant Interpreters.
Lieut. S.D. Trenchard, Flag-Lieutenant.
John L. Fox, Surgeon (temporarily attached to the Powhatan).
B.F. Gallaher, Purser.
Lieut. A.W. Habersham.
William H. Shock, Chief Engineer.
A.S. Taylor, Captain of Marines.
Henry Wood, Chaplain.
John W. Sandford, Jr., Asst. Surgeon.
George W. Heard, Esq., John L. Lurman, Attach‚s.
John Allmand, Secretary to Flag-officer Tattnall.
In addition to these officials, three Marines accompanied the Embassy as orderlies to the Minister, and ten Chinese servants were taken to attend upon the party, among whom as an excellent cook, whose services were found to be essential to comfort.
The company landed the next morning, and were received by the escort, which had provided carriages to convey them across country, the style of which has been described under the name of chariots. Sedan chairs could have been obtained by the exercise of a little patience, but delays of any sort were not to be tolerated, when they could be prevented by any sacrifice of present convenience; and a few hours' experience of the horrible road, convinced the party that the Chinese were actuated by honest motives in objecting to their use, as it would have been almost impossible for the coolies to have borne them through the deep mud everywhere visible.
Leaving Pehtang at about 10 A.M., the cortege proceeded across a level, unbroken plain, to the village of Kiun-liang-ching, sixteen miles distant, without encountering a sign of cultivation, or of spontaneous vegetation, other than a few saline plants. The provincial treasurer, Wanhiuh, met Mr. Ward at this place, and begged him to remain till morning, as a large house had been prepared for the accommodation of the party, exhibiting a degree of superiority over the mud hovels of the neighborhood, which afforded sufficient proof of the poverty of the population in this region.
The unmerciful jolting of the chariots had so fatigued their occupants, that they were quite prepared to retire early, and to enjoy even the uncomfortable lodgings which the place provided. Rising early on the following morning, the company resigned their aching bones to the anticipated endurance of a still more terrible shaking than they had already experienced, having a distance of thirty miles to travel before reaching the village of Peh-tsang, on the Pei-ho, ten miles above Tientsin by the river. The heat of the weather, and the miry roads and half-deluged fields over which they had to pass, made the sight of the junks awaiting them at Peh-tsang, seems like an oasis in the desert to a thirty Arab. Twelve villages were passed on this day's journey, and twice that number seen; the country presenting some signs of cultivation, as crops of millet, sorghum, maize, beans, and other vegetables, were found growing on the level fields, but fruits and trees were extremely scanty.
Five boats of different sizes, and with good accommodations, were provided for the Embassy, and as many more for the escort -- the American flag designating those containing the former company. These boats had houses built upon their decks, under a substantial roofing of mats, with sleeping places arranged on wide shelves extending from each side, on which mattresses or blankets were laid, according to the taste, or rather forethought, of the occupant; and although somewhat rough, the passengers would not have objected to their sleeping arrangements, had it not been for the noisy Chinamen, who were pressed into service along the river banks to track the boats, keeping up such an infernal jabbering that it was quite impracticable for them to enjoy the balmy influence of "tired nature's sweet restorer," except in occasional naps, when the intolerable din of their guttural language would cease for a few moments. Five days were passed on the river in these floating houses, which were tracked along the banks at a tolerably rapid rate during the day, and secured to the bank during the night. The people living near the Pei-ho thronged the landings, when they were seen approaching, to see the "far-travelled strangers" -- their curiosity stimulated, no doubt, by the report of the late occurrences. On the 27th they reached the city of Tung-chau, which lies at the head of navigation, and is about twelve miles from Peking. It contains about 400,000 inhabitants, and has a handsome pagoda, which forms a conspicuous object in the approach to the city. Two tributaries flow into the Pei-ho near this place, and goods intended for the capital are landed here. Boats were seen extending in one unbroken mass, nearly three miles below the landing, and numerous grain junks were anchored below.
Carriages were here provided to convey the party to Peking next morning, but the stone road was so broken up, that a majority of them preferred riding on horseback or walking. The escort used the same style of vehicle as the Embassy, and they were the best the country afforded; no attempt was made to get sedans after leaving Pehtang. The country on either side of the road was well cultivated, but the fields and farmsteads, the mausolea, the public pavilions, and the temples, exhibited the same features of delay and neglect observable in the road itself. Well-built shops were seen, however, bordering the northern end of the road for half a mile before reaching the Cháu-yáng Mun, or Morning Sun Gate; their size and gilded exterior presenting a remarkable contrast to the mean continuation of the same avenue within the gate. Several fine honorary gateways added to the appearance of the row, but the wretched road took away all appreciation of their elegance.
The wall of the city near this gate is in good order, rising about sixty feet, and the five-storied guard-house over it nearly forty more; they presented altogether an imposing appearance, but not a man was seen in or upon them, nor any cannon. The avenue within is over a hundred feet wide, and unpaved, and the centre of it, in consequence of the recent rain, was now a quagmire, through which horses, carriages, and drivers floundered in great confusion. The scene was disappointing to all who had entertained high expectations of the glory of the metropolis of China; yet the vast crowds of men, women, and children, standing in dense multitudes in front of the houses, and lining the sides of the carriage-way in an unbroken row, most of them well dressed in white or blue garments, together with the yellow-tiled temples, honorary gateways, and shops ornamented with pillars and fancy sign-boards, rendered it an interesting and animated sight. The house prepared for the Embassy was situated in the old or Manchu portion of the city, about half a league from the gate, in 13th Street, and the neighborhood of Lau-kiun-táng. These quarters formerly belonged to the Prime Minister, Saishanga, and were confiscated on his disgrace in 1852. They contained altogether nineteen rooms, with intervening courtyards; the buildings were of one story, and the apartments plainly furnished. It was reported that the quarters fitted up for the English and French Legations were other palaces which had also belonged to this grandee.
The next day the Imperial Commissioners, who had reached the city on the 20th, were informed that the American Minister had arrived, and was ready to confer with them. It was deemed by Mr. Ward to be only a suitable mark of respect to the Chinese government, that until he had seen the Commissioners, the members of his suite should not go abroad. The letters for the Russian Legation were sent, and an acknowledgement from them received the same evening.
Sieh, the provincial judge of Kiangs£, whom we had met before as the Taoutai of Shanghai, and who had been appointed secretary to the Commissioners, Kweiliang and Hwashana, on account of his experience in treating with foreigners, now came to confer with Mr. Ward respecting the meeting with Kweiliang, and to speak of the presentation to the Emperor. He is a man of talent and craft, and the effect of the late victory was apparent in his altered bearing. He stated, that in consequence of the part taken by the Toey-wan, on the 25th ult., the Emperor was in some doubt respecting the peaceful professions of the Americans; and their movements on that day gave force to the hostile expressions used last year in one of Mr. Reed's dispatches, in which he spoke of being forced to join the Allies. The remark furnished an opportunity to state precisely what was done by Flag-officer Tattnall on that day, why the tender was there, and that though the Toey-wan had towed boats in and out, she had not landed a man, nor fired a gun. The impression had got abroad among the people, that the men in the boats she had towed into action were Americans; derived from the report of one of the English prisoners, who declared himself an American, and asserted that he had landed from those boats.
The next day after this visit, Mr. Ward, attended by three of his suite, repaired on horseback to the Kiá-hings , near the Hwang-ching, or Imperial Citadel, which surrounds the walled inclosure called the Forbidden City, in which the Imperial family lives. He was there met by the Commissioners, attended by about a hundred officials of every shade of button, all dressed in their easy summer costume, but none of them in full embroidery. The contrast between this meeting in the capital of China, where not a soldier, nor an implement of war was seen, nor even a musician, to the military parade which is common in European capitals and courts on such occasions, illustrating the different usages, in these particulars, in the governments at the east and west of this vast continent.
Kweiliang opened the conversation by a full expression of his feelings at the recent occurrences at Taku, and at having been refused an interview at Shanghai by the English and French Ministers, feeling, no doubt, that some vindication of his own policy was required under the circumstances. He was now in the presence of his fellow-courtiers, many of whom were opposed to his policy and watching for his fall; and from the free and easy conduct of some of them, it was inferred that they were of the Imperial household -- an inference which was afterwards confirmed.
It was some time before the Commissioners were ready to enter upon the principal object of the interview. They said that the Emperor wished to do honor to the American Minister, now that he had reached his capital, not alone to exhibit his friendly feeling to him personally, but to prove the respect he felt for the President; and therefore they had now only to discuss the mode and time for an audience. In speaking of the President, they used the terms, Ta Hwang-ti, or August Emperor, and Kiun-chu, or princely ruler; they have learned the word President, but it is an awkward combination of unmeaning syllables in Chinese, and they seldom employed it.
These are great changes from former usages, and in order to explain them, it will be well to refer briefly to the views entertained by the Chinese respecting the position of their Sovereign. They suppose that all the human race has been placed under the authority of one head by superior Powers. These Powers, including under the comprehensive names of Tien and Ti, or Heaven and Earth, have delegated the direct control of mankind to the One Man, who was and always has been the Emperor of China; it is he alone who makes with Heaven and Earth, the Trinity of Powers, Tien, Ti, Jin, i.e., Heaven, Earth, and Man. The Emperor of China has the position, therefore, of the Vice-regent or coordinate of Heaven, and it is a solecism in the mind of every true subject of his throne to suppose or admit of a second Ta Whang-ti. The claim to this title has in face been waived since the earliest times, by nearly all the other Asiatic sovereigns in favor of the Chinese. The Chinese are now beginning to learn that their Emperor is not the Sovereign Monarch of the human race, and the terms used in the conferences with Mr. Ward, in speaking of the chief ruler of a friendly and independent Power, evinced the progress of the change.
A long and animated discussion now ensued respecting the Court etiquette to be observed by the Minister in his audience with the Emperor, the Commissioners resorting to every argument to induce him to consent to the performance of what he regarded as degrading and humiliating observances, while he obstinately refused to exhibit any mark of respect for the Emperor which would not be expected of him in approaching the President of his own country. He assured them of the great respect he felt for his Majesty, in which he knew he likewise expressed the sentiments of the President, who had, also, made him known in the letter of which he was the bearer. He had now come to the capital to deliver that letter, and to exchange the treaty; and he would regard an audience with the Emperor as a mark of high favor to himself and respect to his country. But important, at this juncture as the reception at Court would be to China herself, he could not kneel when he came before the throne, for he never saluted his own ruler in that manner, nor did the representatives of the United States kneel when they came into the presence of any sovereign on earth. To kneel was, in his view, entirely a religious act, and he did so only in the presence of God. The treaty made no mention of an audience, he had not asked it; and now that they had spoken of it, he wished to state what his views on the point were, remarking that in other particulars he was ready to conform to the etiquette of the Chinese Court, when it was made known to him.
The Chinese were asked if they would willingly degrade their country abroad by doing anything derogatory to its honor, or in violation of their conscience; but as their conscience did not oppose these prostrations, and there was no immediate prospect of their going abroad, they unhesitatingly answered, that they would perform the Kotau, and do whatever else was required of them at an audience in Washington, they would even burn incense before the President if asked to do so. The judge added, "If we do not kneel before the Emperor, we do not show him any respect; it is that or nothing, and is the same reverence that we pay to the gods."
The Kotau consists of three kneelings and nine knockings of the head on the floor, but the considerate judge suggested that Mr. Ward would be let off with one kneeling and three knockings, as he represented a friendly power. Hwashana remarked to Mr. Ward, "You are a plenipotentiary, you have full powers, and can certainly do such an act," to which he replied, "I am not invested with powers sufficient to enable me to change the laws and usages of my country, and can do nothing to degrade it."
The first interview on this momentous subject concluded with a sumptuous repast, gotten up partly in foreign style, with table cloth, knives, silver forks, and napkins, which was quite unexpected, as an incidental evidence of the preparations which had been made to entertain the foreigners in Peking. While at table Mr. Ward requested that horses might be sent to the Legation for members of his suite to take exercise; but Kweiliang replied, that as soon as the audience had taken place, everything in the city and suburbs would be shown to them with the utmost pleasure.
Mr. Ward's visit was returned on the 2d of August, at the house of the Legation, by the Commissioners, who came in the same sort of carriages that had been furnished the Embassy on its journey. There was no military escort, and no parade in the dress or number of attendants upon the Prime Minister; it was a plain visit, characteristic of the little display usually seen among high Chinese officers, and, so far as is known, was the first one made by the Prime Minister within the capital, to a Western Embassador.
The subject of the audience was immediately brought forward, and after much of the same ground which had been discussed in the former interview had been gone over again, it was requested, in order to bring the matter to a point, that Mr. Ward should send the Commissioners a communication describing the ceremony he was willing to perform. He complied by stating that he would bow very low before the Emperor, more than once if he wished; he would stand uncovered, and not turn his back while in his presence; but he would not kneel or make the Kotau. Instead of the word bow, they wished to insert in the draft the phrase, "bend the right knee slightly, and stand still;" but this was considered inadmissible, after what had been said relative to the religious nature of the ceremony performed by native officials. They also urged that ministers at European courts were required to kneel at an audience with the sovereigns, citing the Pope especially as requiring that ceremony; but explanations were made to correct their erroneous impressions on that point. They remained unsatisfied, however, that such was not the case, and concluded this conference, which lasted five hours, by saying that they must report to His Majesty that the customs of the two countries were so unlike, it was better that no audience took place, much as he desired to do honor to the American nation in its representative. They had conducted their argument with patience and candor, and exhausted every fact and reason they had for its support, feeling that the debate was an important one, and the precedent now given could never be exceeded on future occasions; they were ready to give up their claims to supremacy over foreign ministers, but were unwilling to concede an audience to them with less than was required by European sovereigns.
It was agreed at this time, on Mr. Ward's proposal, that the business which had brought the Legation to the capital should be finished so that it could return to Pehtang on the 11th, and the Commissioners disclaimed all restraint upon its movements. They said that they had placed policemen in the neighborhood of the quarters occupied by the Legation, to restrain the crowd which would otherwise throng; but there was no possible reason for preventing a few peaceable foreigners from going where they pleased. They were apparently apprehensive, however, of some untoward collusion between the Russians and the Americans, if free intercourse was allowed, judging from the many questions Sieh asked about the dispatches sent to the Russian Minister, and from the detention for six days of the answers. The Chinese consider it beneath the dignity of the members of a diplomatic embassy to concern themselves about the trivialities of trade, at least until the chief has had his audience.
The wily judge now unexpectedly appeared with agitated mien, to suggest a plan of compromise on the audience question, which all the Chinese thought would succeed. This was that the Commissioners should address Mr. Ward a letter, stating that, as the Emperor had decided to grant him an audience, it was necessary beforehand that he should state to them what form of obeisance he would make in coming before the throne, and they would then make the necessary arrangements. He need only reply to this, that when he delivered the President's letter to His Majesty, he would render him every mark of respectful deference which he did to the President, without addition or diminution. The draft of the reply which was furnished to the judge was perfectly satisfactory, although it did not cover the undecided question of kneeling at European courts; and he went through the details of the presentation in the most confident and cheerful manner, remarking that it would probably take place on the following Monday (August 8th.) The particular compromise which had been contrived between Chinese court ceremonial, and the obduracy of republican independence, consisting in placing the table, on which the President's letter was to be laid, before the throne in such a manner that its embroidered cover would conceal most of the person of the Minister. As he approached it, he should then bow as low as he had already proposed, and a chamberlain would approach on either side as if to raise him up, crying out, "Don't kneel!" Those of his suite presented with him would then go through the same ceremony, after which he would respectfully present the letter by placing it on the table, from whence it would be taken by another courtier, who on his knees would hand it to the Emperor. In this singular manner was the character of the sovereign to be saved, in the eyes of his officers, by the Embassador being restrained, as it were, from completing a prostration which was not intended to take place.
This unexpected concession of the whole point was supposed to be chiefly due to the personal wish of the Emperor to see the foreigners himself, co-operating with the well-known desire of Kweiliang and Hwashana for the audience on political grounds; and when Sieh left the house of legation, with the drafts of the two papers to be submitted to the Privy Council, he seemed to have no doubt that the matter would be satisfactorily arranged.
The arrival of Kweiliang's dispatch was accordingly anxiously looked for, but, instead of it, the judge himself returned next day, more dispirited than ever with the information that affairs had taken another turn, and that his motion had been outvoted. How much hand he had in the matter himself, to get fame and promotion by his skilful diplomacy of a delicate question, is a point which admits some discussion. His Majesty's decision now was, that, unless Mr. Ward would either actually touch one knee, or the ends of his fingers, on the ground, he would not admit him to court. Of course this was refused, and the question of an audience was finally decided in the negative.
The next dispatch from Kweiliang indicated his unpleasant hesitation. His view required, as the necessary sequence of the arrival of an embassy in Peking, that its chief should see the Emperor, and deliver his letter of credence; but that chief had, in the present instance, "firmly maintained his own opinion when consulted upon the ceremonies to be observed at an audience;" and, jumping to his inference, he then says, "we are quite at a loss, therefore, to understand for what purpose your excellency has come to Peking;" and concludes with the dilemma, that "as the treaty of Tientsin must be exchanged somewhere, where is it to be?" The Minister was at the capital, and nothing could be done officially until he had seen his Majesty, which he declined to do, and yet the treaty must be exchanged.
The answer recapitulated the circumstances under which the American Minister had accepted the invitation of the Commissioners at Shanghai to come to the capital, and quoted the Imperial rescript made known to him by Hangfuh, confirming the invitation. Mr. Ward then proposed to deliver the President's letter to them, and afterward to exchange the treaty. In their rejoinder, the same difficulty was involved in their minds as in the previous letter; and this premise being granted, it would consequently be still more unsuitable for the treaty to be exchanged in the city itself. These difficulties, singular as they may appear to us, naturally grew out of the education and notions of these officers respecting national etiquette and the dignity of their sovereign. It is quite as well, perhaps, that this whole discussion took place with the American Minister, who in his visit was left free on one important point; for, not being ordered by his government to see the Emperor, he was not anxious about doing so.
A delay of thirty-six hours took place before answering this communication, and the reply was ready when Judge Sieh came in to learn the cause of the silence. The Chinese were now apprehensive that the President would be displeased at the non-reception of his Minister; and Sieh suggested that if Mr. Ward would express a wish for Kweiliang to receive the letter, it would be granted; or, if he would say where, out of the metropolis, he preferred the treaty to be exchanged, his proposal would be considered. Neither of these propositions was attended to, but there was no objection to add to the reply then ready to be sent, a disclaimer of want of respect to His Majesty, and the expression of sincere regret that the Minister had found himself unable to comply with the ceremonies of an audience at his court; for if he should fail of rendering him every mark of respect, not wholly inconsistent with the laws and usages of his own country, he would be rebuked by the President. This filled the record to their satisfaction. The next day a copy of the Imperial rescript, embodying the final decision of the government, was furnished.
It gave a summary of the proceedings at Taku at the time of the battle; and though it contained two or three important errors, it proved that the authorities on the coast had endeavored to open communications with the Allied Plenipotentiaries. It then proceeded: "At this juncture, the American Envoy, John E. Ward, in compliance with his engagements with Kweiliang, came to Pehtang in his ship, requesting that he might go to Peking, as he was the bearer of a letter from the President of the United States. Our permission was accordingly given for him to bring the letter up to the capital, where he arrived with it. This day, the Ministers Kweiliang and Hwashana have handed up the various dispatches received from him for Our examination, and from them it is clearly to be seen that his sentiments are exceedingly respectful, and indicative of the utmost sincerity and truthfulness.
"Let the letter which the American Envoy has brought be taken, and let Kweiliang and Hwashana be specially appointed to receive it for transmission to Ourself. In regard to the exchange of the treaty, it would be proper, indeed, to return to Shanghai to do it; but when we reflect that the Envoy has already come over the seas for this purpose, we now specially direct that the great seal be affixed to the treaty, and it be delivered to Hangfuh, the Governor-general, and let him exchange the ratifications with the American Minister at Pehtang. After this has been done, let lasting friendship and commerce continue between the two nations. This will show forth our great regard and kindness to people from afar, and clearly exhibit the deep respect we entertain for truth and justice. This from the Emperor."
In their note enclosing the above, the Commissioners appointed the hour for receiving the President's letter, and informed Mr. Ward that his escort would be ready on the 11th, as had been previously agreed. They then happily observed: "Hereafter we will cherish the same feelings of respectful regard toward the President, which you have now made known toward our Emperor; and let these sentiments be the expression of the friendly relations which shall hereafter exist between our respective nations."
Matters were now drawing to a conclusion, and on the 10th the letter was received by Kweiliang. He took the box as it was brought in, lifting it to his head as he delivered it to an attendant to place on the table. He then informed Mr. Ward that the functions of himself and Hwashana, as Plenipotentiaries, ceased with that interview, and they should soon render back their seal to His Majesty. Chosen, doubtless, for their well-known ability, these two men were appointed to negotiate at a critical period in the history of their country; and while we are able to judge the value of their concessions, we are not so able to estimate the obstacles they may have had to overcome in reaching them; and they are still less in good position fully to appreciate all their results. We are probably more disposed to be strict in our judgment of their errors and failings than to consider the misconceptions and disadvantages under which they have been nurtured, and the ignorance they are in of their own true interests.
Preparations were made for departure the next morning. Two convenient mule-litters were furnished for Dr. Sandford and Mr. Aitchison, who were too ill to ride in carriages. Letters were received from the Russian Minister, but no personal intercourse took place with any member of that Legation. While the Embassy was in Peking, the Chinese officials left its members to the quiet observance of the Sabbath, on which days public services were conducted by Chaplain Wood.
A few tradesmen brought their wares at various times for inspection. The state of currency at the capital is deplorably bad, and much of the traffic is carried on with paper money. The Mexican dollar is almost unknown, and the supply of copper and silver is inadequate even for the wants of the city, and nothing indicates a prospect of improvement in trade, or increase in the metallic currency. The Government supplied the Embassy liberally during the whole journey, and neither for boats, servants, or provisions, would they accept any recompense. The weather was charming, the thermometer seldom rising to 88° at noon; and the days were agreeably varied by showers and sunshine.
The Embassy arrived at Tung-chau, on the return journey, about sunset on the 11th; having stopped on the road three times for the sake of the invalids. The channel of the Pei-ho had fallen a foot during the fortnight, and it was found that the descent has difficulties as well as the ascent; but the boatmen showed their skill in avoiding the shallows, as the current swept them on from one side to the other in its tortuous course. The depth seldom reaches seven feet, and was frequently under three; the steep banks are constantly falling in on one side and increasing on the other, but absorption by the porous soil gradually diminishes the volume of water flowing out to sea, and reduces the capabilities of the stream. This river is more than a thousand miles in length, and with its affluents drains the greater part of the province of Chihli; but owing to the nature of the soil, and the contingencies of freshets and droughts, the navigation during the seven or eight months it is free from ice, is not altogether to be depended on. Since the traffic by the Grand Canal has been obstructed, the shipping on its waters has diminished.
On reaching Peh-tsang, it was found that the kind-hearted escort had sent forward the litters from Tung-chau, so that the invalids experienced no detention. Dr. Sandford had improved while in the boats, and he finally reached the frigate stronger than when he left Peking; but Mr. Aitchison was now weaker. He was placed in his litter with the faint hope that he would survive to reach the ship, but he died a few hours after leaving the boat. His body was carried to Pehtang and buried at the anchorage, from the Toey-wan. As a Chinese scholar his attainments were remarkably good, and his uniform kindness and Christian virtues had endeared him to a large circle of acquaintances during the five years of his residence in China.
The roads beyond Peh-tsang were now dry and smooth, and the travelling in carriages agreeable. A violent storm of rain that night flooded them, and the contrast next day was dismal; but the cortege was able to reach Peh-tang on the 16th, about 2 P.M., in time for the previous appointment with the Governor-General and Treasurer. They were surrounded by a large retinue of officials, and had lined the streets with files of spearmen and archers to receive Mr. Ward. Waiving all ceremony and preparation, they proposed to exchange the treaty before he went on board the Toey-wan, then lying in the river. This was accordingly done, and certificates of the exchange passed between the respective parties that same evening.
After the exchange, Hangfuh proposed to deliver one of the two prisoners taken from the English, and brought him forward for that purpose. The man, whose name was John Powers, had declared himself to be an American, but now said that he was a Canadian by birth; and it required considerable explanation to make the Governor-General understand how he was not an American citizen, though he was born in a territory adjoining the United States, and not in England. The Chinese were also informed that he would not be demanded of them if he had been. They were in some perplexity when they ascertained that he was an English subject, but after hearing all the points of the case, concluded to deliver him to Mr. Ward entirely on the ground of humanity, as he had consented to receive him only on these terms. The man and his fellow-prisoner had been well treated by the Chinese, but they were both ill at this time.
The three officers constituting the escort, Tsunghau, Chang, and Li, came on board in the evening to take leave of the Minister. The first had won the good opinion of all from the day they started, by his gentlemanly bearing and unremitted efforts to render the journey agreeable.
The next day the Toey-wan returned to the outer anchorage, four weeks after her passengers had landed at Pehtang. Her arrival was hailed by Flag-officer Tattnall and his officers, as a relief from the monotony of their anchorage, and on the evening of the 18th the Powhatan sailed for Shanghai, with the Toey-wan in tow.
The unusual quiet experienced by those who remained on board the ship during the absence of the Embassy, was most highly appreciated, notwithstanding the monotony and the failing supply of fresh provisions. The Russian steamer America sailed for Japan on the 22d of July, and on the same day, we got under way and stood directly out from the land until the depth of water increased to seven fathoms, by which time it was about twelve miles distant, no trace of it being visible. This removal afforded sufficient excuse for the discontinuance of the supplies, furnished up to this time, by the liberality of the Governor-General, and no friendly junk was seen approaching with the accustomed tribute of poultry, sheep, and vegetables. Our chicken coops became tenantless, and the last wretched inhabitant of the sheep-pen was slaughtered not many days after the departure of the Embassy. Resort was had with exultant confidence to the store-room, feeling that as long as the hams held out we were quite independent of the unfaithful junks, but to our horror and dismay, it was ascertained that only one small ham remained! This was cooked at once and sustained four tolerably hearty men a fortnight, by which time we received a most opportune visit from the Toey-wan, hailing her arrival as a certain source of relief to our almost starving condition, and indulging the confident hope that the Embassy was on board, as it had now been absent more than three weeks. We were disappointed, however, in both particulars, as she had come only to bring a letter from Mr. Ward, and out inquiry concerning the more important subject to the half-famished mess, was answered in the negative.
Learning afterwards, though, that there were two sheep on board, an irresistible appeal was made to the sympathies of the Captain, and he consented to kill one of them, and present us with half; but he soon felt that he had permitted his generosity to get the better of his discretion, and endeavored to retrieve his error by borrowing five pounds of sugar, of which we had an abundant supply. We gladly relieved him from the painful predicament in which his rash liberality had involved him, and ourselves, at the same time, of the weight of obligation under which we were suffering. The steamer then left to resume her attendance upon the Minister, and we managed to exist until her return to the ship on the 17th, when our coops were replenished with an ample supply of the feathered tribe, to last to Shanghai.
The weather was excellent during nearly the whole of the two months we spent in the Gulf, and the opportunity was improved to drill the crew in their exercises at target-firing, boat service, and small arms. They were marched and countermarched around the decks to the sound of martial music, and presented so formidable an aspect, that I doubt if five times their number of Chinamen would have ventured to attack them on shore.
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