What will they do with it?
Since Sir Bulwer Lytton
thought proper to publish his last novel, under the above caption, the question it propounds has received a good deal of additional significance, with but little additional illustration, in the capture of Peking
by the allied forces.
Like the lucky farmer who bought the elephant, the high contracting parties, of one side at least, seem to care but little for the price.
They have bought it low — there can be no doubt of that.
But as the elephant market was dull when the first named operator made his purchase, and there seemed no probability of an advance in the peculiar kind of stock of which it consisted — as, moreover, elephants eat a great deal, and cost in other ways a vast deal of money — it was not wonderful that holders should feel a little nervous, or that Behemoth should seem in a fair way to eat off his head.
Perhaps Lord Palmerston and the Emperor Napoleon have already begun to sympathise with the fortunate holder of the elephant, and may have found out that Mr. Toodles
was right when he protested that a bargain might be a very hard, and at the same time quite a cheap bargain.
Outsiders, at any rate, begin to ask, "What will they do with it?" with a pertinacity quite equal to that of Bulwer
, and the elephant man, all melted down and run into a solid mass.
We confess we are among the number of those anxious outside inquirers.
We find ourselves utterly unable to answer the question, though we ask it to ourselves whenever we open a paper and find "The Allies in Peking
," staring us in the face, in large capitals.
We can understand what was
done with the plunder
taken in the palace, and what will be done with all plunder hereafter to be taken under the same circumstances.
We believe it was Antolyckus who said, ‘Your true man's coat always fits your rogue.’
Even the robe of a long-tailed Chinaman is very apt to meet with some person whom it will fit, even among the "barbarians" of Europe
And as for money, if it be as it is called, a slave, it is an extremely popular slave, and cannot go far without meeting with a master.
The same may be predicated, we presume, of all moveables that can be converted into cash.
But what is to be done with the land?
It cannot be put in the purse, or carried on board a ship, or worn on the back.
It cannot be taken up and borne bodily off, as Samson
carried off the gates of Gaza
It will not be taken to Europe
, we presume, and it will not be settled by Europeans.
A man cannot put a temple in his pocket, or walk off with a city on his back.
Is a force to be left to hold possession?
We should think Algeria
might stand as two tolerably strong practical protests against that sort of policy.
Besides, the force necessary to secure such enforced possession would seem to us rather too large to be conveniently spared.
Moreover, we cannot exactly see what good purpose it would answer.
Would a garrison in Peking
make the Celestials behave any better in Canton
We must be allowed to have our doubts, unless it can be shown that the outlaws of California
are overawed by the garrison of Old Point
Comfort, or that the fortifications of Paris
exercise a salutary influence upon the mob of Boston
, Now, we understand China
to have many thousands of miles of sea-coast, exclusive of gulf, navigable river, canal and lake coast.
She is said to possess a population of 400,000,000.
men, boatmen, and watermen of all descriptions, are said to be as numerous as the whole population of Germany
How, then, is any garrison left there by the Allies to prevent them from interrupting the commerce of nations, whenever they may think proper?
We confess, we are even now skeptical of the good to come from the Allied method of dealing with the Celestials.