CHINA’S ONLY HOPE

CHAPTER II. THE INCULCATION OF LOYALTY

No Dynasty since the Han [about the beginning of the Christian era] and T’ang has exhibited a greater benevolence toward its subjects than this our Holy Ts’ing. Among many advantages conferred upon the people by this beneficent Government we enumerate several below.

There has been a marked decrease in taxation. The old system under which the people were required to labor gratis at certain times, and to pay a poll-tax, has been abolished; and only land is assessed. Formerly the taxes were remitted in certain localities; now the people of whole provinces and, on many occasions, of the whole Empire, are, by an act of grace on the part of the sovereign, exempted from this burden. In times of adversity, such as floods and famine, our sovereigns have displayed a generosity far greater than their predecessors, contributing millions of taels to the suffering multitudes. The laborers employed by the Government on public works always receive pay. Then, there is a clemency shown to the merchant class that was unknown to the earlier Dynasties, who forced these men to sell at “mandarin ” prices, below the market value. In Soochow and Hangchow the Imperial looms weave silk for the use of the Court, and in Canton and other places wood-work is produced. The weavers and artificers all receive good profit on their outlay. Laws that formerly exacted heavy tribute of precious things, food-stuflfs, etc., exist now only in name. Our Dynasty receives such things as ink-slabs, wood, incense, oranges, lichees, etc., from Canton; paper, fans, pencils, ink, medicine, etc., from Kiangsu; and bamboo shoots, mugwort, yellow cloth, etc., from Hupeh. But these are all amply paid for, and the merchants in these provinces are not burdened on account of the tribute.

It was once the case that when the prince went abroad on his travels throughout the Empire, the people were put to great inconvenience and expense, and all within the four seas were in a flutter of excitement. Now the sovereign never leaves the capital except to observe the river works, or to witness and relieve the ravages of famine. On these occasions, instead of being a burden to the people, he remits their taxes, and the expenses of his journey are borne by the officials, or the salt gabelle.

Our people are not forced to serve as soldiers. Enlistment is a voluntary act, and the troops are paid for their services. Our Dynasty acts in accordance with the exigency of affairs, and to-day the laws are equitably carried into effect, and where other Emperors have been cruel, the kindness of this Dynasty may be likened to that of Heaven. The penal laws are against the extermination of whole tribes, the mutilation of criminals, and extortions of confession by torture. [2] If these laws are infringed, the delinquent official loses his position. A discrimination is made between clear and circumstantial evidence. Doubtful cases are referred to higher authority, with recommendation to mercy. The infliction of one hundred blows of the bamboo has been changed to forty, and in summer to thirty-two. The young and the old are leniently dealt with, and if a criminal be an only child he is spared the clutches of the law in order to support his parents. Laws relating to banishment with hard labor and privation have been abolished; and the family of capital criminals is not extirpated. The females in an offending official’s family are allowed to redeem themselves.

Our Government cares for the Chinese abroad. Some years ago a special minister was sent to look after the interest of the coolies who had been kidnapped to Cuba, and the Chinese laborers who were being oppressed in America. A convention in which the Chinese were to be protected from further cruelty was agreed to. This Dynasty has never been ambitious of conquest by murder and rapine. It holds scholars in high esteem, repeals unjust laws and encourages the people to loyalty, by honoring the posterity of officials who lose their lives in the service of their country. The Holy Emperors have for more than two hundred and fifty years preserved intact the laws which relate to the family and the heart, and have handed them down to us. The ministers and people daily bask in the smiles of Imperial favor, and to the present day receive their never-failing supplies from our sovereign’s bounty. Examine the history of China for 2,000 years back and then compare it with the Western history of fifty years! Does the government of these foreign countries present such a record of generosity, benevolence, loyalty, and honesty as ours?

Although China is not so wealthy and powerful as the West, her people of whatever condition, rich or poor, high or low, all enjoy a perfect freedom and a happy life. Not so all the inhabitants of Western lands. Their governments may be strong, but the lower classes of the people are miserable, unhappy, and maliciously wronged. Their liberties are restrained, and there is no redress. They rise in rebellion on every opportunity, and not a year passes without an account of the murder of some king or the stabbing of some minister. These governments certainly cannot be compared with our China.

Let us then, the grateful officials and the virtuous people of the Emperor, remain loving and loyal in these times of danger, and let each man consider the Empire as a part and parcel of himself. Let us not heed, but on the contrary oppose most strenuously, all the incendiary talk of violence which is heard nowadays, and is in itself a crime against the Emperor, and which, if persisted in, will inaugurate a reign of anarchy. Let us avoid it as we do some defilement; let us hate it as the birds hate the kites and hawks which pursue them. Heaven will protect a nation obedient the wishes of its sovereign. And have we a people devoid of conscience like those satirized in the Book of Poetry?[3]

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