previous next

The Chinese and the Yankees.

It is not till one has read Monsieur Hue's "Recollections of a Journey through Tartary, Thibet, and China," that we understand with what propriety the Yankees are sometimes styled the Chinese of America. This intelligent traveller could not but admire the industry, ingenuity, and agricultural talents of the Chinese, yet that he considers the savage Tartars their superiors in all manly virtues is evident on every page of his book.

A Tartar thus described to M. Hue the Chinese manner of getting possession of his section of country; "They appear good at first," said the honest Tartar, "but it does not last long. Twenty years ago some families came to us to ask hospitality. As they were poor, we allowed them to cultivate the earth about here, on condition that every year after the harvest they would pay a little oatmeal. By degrees there came other families, who at first were mild and peaceable. They soon became wicked and deceitful. Instead of contenting themselves with what had been given to them, they took possession of as much ground as they liked, and when they were rich they would not any longer pay the oatmeal they had agreed for. Every year when we went to ask for it they overwhelmed us with abuse and maledictions. And they stole all the goats and sheep that wandered away from our flocks into the hollows among the mountains."--This combination of hypocrisy and villainy, of abjectness in poverty, and insolence and injustice in prosperity, is as essentially Yankee as Chinese.

The Chinese robbers, it must be admitted, are more polite than the raiders of Kantz, Hunter, and Sheridan, but not more than the nation in general, when, before the war, they were robbing us under the forms of trade. They do not put a pistol to your head and cry roughly, "Your money or your life!" but they say in the most courteous tones, "My eldest brother, I am weary of walking on foot. Be so good as to lend me your horse;" or, "I am without money — will you not lend me your purse?" or, "It is very cold to-day — be kind enough to lend me your coat." If the eldest brother does not comply, the request is enforced by the Yankee mode of restoring commerce, and, unless he is strong enough to prevent it, he loses both his property and his life.

Anything more iniquitous and revolting, says M. Huc, than the traffic between the Chinese and the Tartars can hardly be imagined. Probably M. Huc had never witnessed a similar process in old times between the Yankees and Southerners. "When the Tarters, simple and ingenuous beings, if there are such in the world, arrive in a trading town, they are immediately surrounded by Chinese, who almost drag them into their houses. They unsaddle their cattle, prepare tea, render them a thousand small services; caress, flatter, and, as it were, magnetize them. The Tartars, free from duplicity themselves, and never suspecting it in others, are generally completely duped by all this apparent kindness. Aware, besides, of their own want of address in business, they are enchanted to find friends who will transact it for them; a good dinner gratis given them in the back shop is sure to convince them of the good faith of their Chinese brothers. At this dinner, all the corruption and dishonesty of the Chinese come into full play. Having once got a hold on the poor Tartar, they never let him go; they intoxicate him with brandy; they keep him two or three days in their houses, never losing sight of him; they make him eat, drink, and smoke, whilst the clerks of the establishment sell, as they well know how, his cattle, and supply him in return with the articles of which he stands in need. These goods are generally sold at double and often triple the current prices; yet they have the internal talent of persuading the unhappy Tartar that he is making an excellent bargain. Thus, when the victim returns to the 'Land of Grass' he is full of abuses about the irresistible generosity of the Chinese."

One day M. Huc encountered an enormously fat traveller, with a jolly physiognomy, on his way to Tartary. The traveller said he was from a great commercial house in Pekin, and had been sent to collect debts from the Tartars. "You, I suppose," said he, addressing M. Huc and his companions, "are, like me, eaters of Tartars. " "Eaters of Tartars! What is the meaning of that?"--"Ah, we eat them by traffic. They are simple — why should we not profit by them to get a little money? For my part, if it was not for money, I would never set foot in Tartary. We merchants, we do, to be sure, gnaw them to the bone. We give them goods on credit, and then of course they must pay rather high. When people take away goods without leaving the money, of course there must be a little interest of thirty or forty per cent. Then, by degrees, the interest mounts up, and you come to compound interest. A Tartar debt is never paid — It goes on from generation to generation; every year one goes to get the interest, and it's paid in sheep, oxen, camels, horses. All that is a great deal better than money. We get the beasts at a low price, and we sell them at a very good price in the market. Oh! it's a capital thing — a Tartar debt! It's a mine of gold." If the Tartars, after being fleeced for generations in this way, should "secede," would it not be "the most wicked rebellion under the sun," except that in America?

The Chinese do not know the name of hospitality. In Tartary, every door stands open to the stranger. After their fashion, the Tartars are honestly religious. The Chinese are not sincere in their own idolatry. They are cold, sneering, and sceptical of all religious; yet the most bitter persecutors of Christians. In licentiousness, they surpass all belief. Nothing approaching them in the iniquity of uncleanliness can be found, except in the United States.

M. Huc has something to say of Chinese soldiers. An immense caravan which he accompanied to Thibet was escorted by three hundred Chinese soldiers and two hundred brave Tartars. "The Chinese soldiers," says he, "acquitted themselves of their duty like true Chinese. For fear of any disagreeable reencounter, they kept themselves prudently at the rear of the caravan, and there sung, smoked, and amused themselves, quite at their case, without disturbing themselves at all about the brigands. They could also pick up many stray articles which had been unintentionally left behind at the different encampments. Very different was the behavior of the Tartars. They might be seen continually galloping in advance, and at the flanks of the caravan — up the bills, and down into the deepest ravines, to see if there were any robbers lying in embossed."

The parallel might be continued in other particulars, but our limits forbid. The supple submission of the Yankee mind to all the behests of power is only equalled by the abjectness of the Chinese to their imperial master. A distinguished Chinese official said to M. Huc, "Our Emperor cannot know everything; yet he is the judge of everything, and no one dares to find fault with any of his actions. Our Emperor says, 'That is white;' and we prostrate ourselves and say, 'Yes, it is white.' He shows us afterwards the same object and says, 'That is black; ' and we prostrate ourselves again and answer, 'Yes, it is black.'"

"But suppose you were to say that an object cannot be black and white at the same time? "

"The Emperor would perhaps say to one who had that courage, 'You are right;#x0027; but, at the same time, would have him strangled or beheaded."

We mean no disrespect to the Chinese by this parallel. Though in so many respects the "elder brother" of the Yankees, it may be said in their favor that they have never pretended to be either free or Christian.

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.
China (China) (10)
United States (United States) (1)
Peking (China) (1)

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.
M. Huc (5)
M. Hue (2)
Sheridan (1)
Kantz (1)
Hunter (1)
Probably M. Huc (1)
Christian (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: