previous next


Lord Elgin in China.

It is not greatly over a year since the London Times, and all the lesser journals of the metropolis, were engaged in a furious war upon the American Minister to China, (Mr. Ward,) because he had the good sense to settle matters after a quiet fashion with the Chinese government, without resorting to the last argument of Kings and nations. We were called sneaks, cowards, jackalls, seizing the prey which the lion had disdained to touch.--Europe learned through the Times that our Minister had been carried in a cage to Peking — that after having submitted to any number of indignities he had signed a treaty which was disdainfully flung to him, as a bone is thrown to a dog. We were told that the approach of the Allies would be managed in altogether a different way. Their Ambassadors were to enter Peking at the head of a Victorians army, and were to teach the Emperor what it was to break treaties, and insult the two foremost nations of the earth. Loud and long was the preparation for war, and fearful were the threats of vengeance for the defeat on the Peiho.

Well, the mighty fleet and the mighty army have gone forth, and they have gained a mighty victory. Thousands of Chinese have been slaughtered, after fighting as bravely as men ever fought in defence of fatherland.--And, after all, what has been gained? Lord Elgin has gotten to Tien-tsin, where he might have gone without a fight, and not a step farther. The talk is, only, now of negotiation and peace. With all their fleets and armies, the commissioners of the Allies are about to do the very thing Mr. Ward did, without a fleet and without an army. Lord Elgin writes that he is at Tien-tsin, that proposals have been sent to him from Peking, and that he is negotiating. Not a word about dictating peace in Peking.

The London Times is furious, and deals thus with Lord Elgin:

‘ "We confess ourselves to be utterly disappointed with the conduct of our diplomacy in this affair, so far as it has yet been indicated by the fragments of dispatches to which we are now treated. It is not thus that a permanent peace is to be obtained with China. We went to China thus strong in arms, not in order to obtain a treaty alone, but in order to punish a perfidy as well. If we have aught of manly honor in our policy, we went there to inflict punishment, not upon the wretched soldiery whom we found defending the mud-banks upon the sea-coast, nor upon the poor trembling underlings who, in their duplicity, were but obeying the orders they had received from their superiors, and who were acting under fear of immediate ruin; we went there to strike at the directing head in which the treachery from which we suffered was planned, and to humiliate in the face of the Empire the Government which had perfidiously shed the blood of our countrymen. To this end there was but one proper course, and that course was to refuse to accept again promise which already have proved so worthless; sternly to refuse, instead of eagerly to solicit, oil overtures for peace until the avenging army had reached the walls of Peking, and there to exact the most public apologies for the breach of faith publicly committed and public assurances that the treaty of Tien tsin should be faithfully fulfilled. This. with the smart of the payment of the expenses of the war — which in no other way will ever be obtained — would be at once humane, honorable, and effective — Such a signal humiliation would be felt to the uttermost ends of the great Empire. It could not be explained away or falsified, and all China would come to know that the Emperor himself had no choice in this matter, and that the only safe policy was to keep faith with foreigners. That course was open to Lord Elgin. He had an army and a fleet behind him which could carry him from one end of China to the other He had plenty of time for his work, for when Lord Macartney quitted Peking, in October the weather had only just begun to be pleasantly cool. Will he use his opportunity? We can but hope he may. But what honor will this expedition bring if it should end only in the battering down a Chinese fortification? What advantage will the Embassy secure if it results only in a ratification of the Treaty of Tien-tsin? The treaty itself has been broken; of what greater value can be a ratification condescendingly granted to an Ambassador who may or may not be subjected to any amount of indignities and delays? What success can be deserved by an Ambassador who should choose to go up as a suppliant to an insolent enemy, and who should willingly leave behind him the army which ought to be around him to give weight to his mission, and to impress upon the people of Peking his country's power? If Lord Elgin has really acted thus, he is as inveterate a Chinaman as old Yeh himself."

’ All this Lord Elgin may deserve, for aught we know or care; but would it not have been as well to have spared the lives of the brave men who have perished in this war? And will not the Times apologize for its abuse of the Americans?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Peking (China) (7)
China (China) (7)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
William H. Ward (2)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
10 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: