A shiver of impotent rage passed over the country when the nature and acceptance of the Japanese Ultimatum became generally known. The Chinese, always an emotional people responding with quasi- feminine volubility to oppressive acts, cried aloud at the ignominy of the diplomacy which had so cruelly crucified them. One and all declared that the day of shame which had been so harshly imposed upon them would never be forgotten and that Japan would indeed pay bitterly for her policy of extortion.
Two movements were started at once: one to raise a National Salvation Fund to be applied towards strengthening the nation in any way the government might decide; the other, to boycott all Japanese articles of commerce. Both soon attained formidable proportions. The nation became deeply and fervently interested in the double-idea; and had Yuan Shih-kai possessed true political vision there is little doubt that by responding to this national call he might have ultimately been borne to the highest pinnacles of his ambitions without effort on his part. His oldest enemies now openly declared that henceforth he had only to work honourably and whole-heartedly in the nation's interest to find them supporting him, and to have every black mark set against his name wiped out.
In these circumstances what did he do? His actions form one of the most incredible and, let it be said, contemptible chapters of contemporary history.
In dealing with the origins of the Twenty-one Demands we have already discussed the hints the Japan Representative had officially made when presenting his now famous Memorandum. Briefly Yuan Shih-kai had been told in so many words that since he was already autocrat of all the Chinese, he had only to endorse the principle of Japanese guidance in his administration to find that his Throne would be as good as publicly and solidly established. Being saturated with the doleful diplomacy of Korea, and seeing in these proposals a mere trap, Yuan Shih-kai, as we have shown, had drawn back in apparent alarm. Nevertheless the words spoken had sunk in deep, for the simple and excellent reason that ever since the coup d'etat of the 4th November, 1913, the necessity of "consolidating" his position by something more permanent than a display of armed force had been a daily subject of conversation in the bosom of his family. The problem, as this misguided man saw it, was simply by means of an unrivalled display of cunning to profit by the Japanese suggestion, and at the same time to leave the Japanese in the lurch.
His eldest son, an individual of whom it has been said that he had absorbed every theory his foreign teachers had taught him without being capable of applying a single one, was the leader in this family intrigue. The unhappy victim of a brutal attempt to kill him during the Revolution, this eldest son had been for years semi-paralyzed: but brooding over his disaster had only fortified in him the resolve to succeed his father as legitimate Heir. Having saturated himself in Napoleonic literature, and being fully aware of how far a bold leader can go in times of emergency, he daily preached to his father the necessity of plucking the pear as soon as it was ripe. The older man, being more skilled and more cautious in statecraft than this youthful visionary, purposely rejected the idea so long as its execution seemed to him premature. But at last the point was reached when he was persuaded to give the monarchy advocates the free hand they solicited, being largely helped to this decision by the argument that almost anything in China could be accomplished under cover of the war,-- SO LONG AS VESTED FOREIGN INTERESTS WERE NOT JEOPARDIZED.
In accordance with this decision, very shortly after the 18th January, the dictator's lieutenants had begun to sound the leaders of public opinion regarding the feasibility of substituting for the nominal Republic a Constitutional Monarchy. Thus, in a highly characteristic way, all through the tortuous course of the Japanese negotiations, to which he was supposed to be devoting his sole attention in order to save his menaced fatherland, Yuan Shih- kai was assisting his henchmen to indoctrinate Peking officialdom with the idea that the salvation of the State depended more on restoring on a modified basis the old empire than in beating off the Japanese assault. It was his belief that if some scholar of national repute could be found, who would openly champion these ideas and urge them with such persuasiveness and authority that they became accepted as a Categorical Imperative, the game would be as good as won, the Foreign Powers being too deeply committed abroad to pay much attention to the Far East. The one man who could have produced that result in the way Yuan Shih-kai desired to see it, the brilliant reformer Liang Chi-chao, famous ever since 1898, however, obstinately refused to lend himself to such work; and, sooner than be involved in any way in the plot, threw up his post of Minister of Justice and retired to the neighbouring city of Tientsin from which centre he was destined to play a notable part.
This hitch occasioned a delay in the public propaganda, though not for long. Forced to turn to a man of secondary ability, Yuan Shih- kai now invoked the services of a scholar who had been known to be his secret agent in the Old Imperial Senate under the Manchus--a certain Yang Tu--whose constant appeals in that chamber had indeed been the means of forcing the Manchus to summon Yuan Shih-kai back to office to their rescue on the outbreak of the Wuchang rebellion in 1911. After very little discussion everything was arranged. In the person of this ex-Senator, whose whole appearance was curiously Machiavellian and decadent, the neo-imperialists at last found their champion.
Events now moved quickly enough. In the Eastern way, very few weeks after the Japanese Ultimatum, a society was founded called the Society for the Preservation of Peace and hundreds of affiliations opened in the provinces. Money was spent like water to secure adherents, and when the time was deemed ripe the now famous pamphlet of Yang Tu was published broadcast, being in everybody's hands during the idle summer month of August. This document is so remarkable as an illustration of the working of that type of Chinese mind which has assimilated some portion of the facts of the modern world and yet remains thoroughly reactionary and illogical, that special attention must be directed to it. Couched in the form of an argument between two individuals --one the inquirer, the other the expounder--it has something of the old Testament about it both in its blind faith and in its insistence on a few simple essentials. It embodies everything essential to an understanding of the old mentality of China which has not yet been completely destroyed. From a literary standpoint it has also much that is valuable because it is so naive; and although it is concerned with such a distant region of the world as China its treatment of modern political ideas is so bizarre and yet so acute that it will repay study.
It was not, however, for some time, that the significance of this pamphlet was generally understood. It was such an amazing departure from old precedents for the Peking Government to lend itself to public propaganda as a revolutionary weapon that the mind of the people refused to credit the fatal turn things were taking. But presently when it became known that the "Society for the Preservation of Peace" was actually housed in the Imperial City and in daily relations with the President's Palace; and that furthermore the Procurator-General of Peking, in response to innumerable memorials of denunciation, having attempted to proceed against the author and publishers of the pamphlet, as well as against the Society, had been forced to leave the capital under threats against his life, the document was accepted at its face- value. Almost with a gasp of incredulity China at last realized that Yuan Shih-kai had been seduced to the point of openly attempting to make himself Emperor. From those August days of 1915 until the 6th June of the succeeding year, when Fate had her own grim revenge, Peking was given up to one of the most amazing episodes that has ever been chronicled in the dramatic history of the capital. It was as if the old city walls, which had looked down on so much real drama, had determined to lend themselves to the staging of an unreal comedy. For from first to last the monarchy movement had something unreal about it, and might have been the scenario of some vast picture-play. It was acting pure and simple--acting done in the hope that the people might find it so admirable that they would acclaim it as real, and call the Dictator their King. But it is time to turn to the arguments of Yang Tu and allow a Chinese to picture the state of his country:
A DEFENCE OF THE MONARCHICAL MOVEMENT
Mr. Ko : Since the establishment of the
Republic four years have passed, and upon the President depends the preservation of order at home and the maintenance of prestige abroad. I suppose that after improving her internal administration for ten or twenty years, China will become a rich and prosperous country, and will be able to stand in the front rank with western nations.
Mr. Hu: No! No! If China does not make any change in the form of government there is no hope for her becoming strong and rich; there is even no hope for her having a constitutional government. I say that China is doomed to perish.
Mr. Ko: Why so?
Mr. Hu: The republican form of government is responsible. The Chinese people are fond of good names, but they do not care much about the real welfare of the nation. No plan to save the country is possible. The formation of the Republic as a result of the first revolution has prevented that.
Mr. Ko: Why is it that there is no hope of China's becoming strong?
Mr. Hu: The people of a republic are accustomed to listen to the talk of equality and freedom which must affect the political and more especially the military administration. In normal circumstances both the military and student classes are required to lay great emphasis upon unquestioned obedience and respect for those who hold high titles. The German and Japanese troops observe strict discipline and obey the orders of their chiefs. That is why they are regarded as the best soldiers in the world. France and America are in a different position. They are rich but not strong. The sole difference is that Germany and Japan are ruled by monarchs while France and America are republics. Our conclusion therefore is that no republic can be strong.
But since the French and American peoples possess general education, they are in a position to assume responsibility for the good government of their nations which they keep in good order. On that account, although these republics are not strong in dealing with the Powers, they can maintain peace at home. China, however, is unlike these countries, for her standard of popular education is very low. Most of the Chinese soldiers declare as a commonplace; "We eat the imperial food and we must therefore serve the imperial master." But now the Imperial family is gone, and for it has been substituted an impersonal republic, of which they know nothing whatsoever. These soldiers are now law-abiding because they have awe-inspiring and respectful feelings for the man at the head of the state. But as the talk of equality and freedom has gradually influenced them, it has become a more difficult task to control them. As an example of this corrupt spirit, the commanders of the Southern troops formerly had to obey their subordinate officers and the subordinate officers had to obey their soldiers. Whenever there was an important question to be discussed, the soldiers demanded a voice and a share in the solution. These soldiers were called the republican army. Although the Northern troops have not yet become so degenerate, still they never hesitate to disobey the order of their superiors whenever they are ordered to proceed to distant localities. Now we have come to the point when we are deeply satisfied if the army of the Republic does not openly mutiny! We cannot expect any more from them save to hope that they will not mutiny and that they will be able to suppress internal disturbances. In the circumstances there is no use talking about resistance of a foreign invasion by these soldiers. As China, a republic, is situated between two countries, Japan and Russia, both of which have monarchical governments, how can we resist their aggression once diplomatic conversations begin? From this it is quite evident that there is nothing which can save China from destruction. Therefore I say there is no hope of China becoming strong.
Mr. Ko: But why is it that there is no hope of China ever becoming rich?
Mr. Hu: People may not believe that while France and America are rich China must remain poor. Nevertheless, the reason why France and America are rich is that they were allowed to work out their own salvation without foreign intervention for many years, and that at the same time they were free from internal disturbances. If any nation wishes to become rich, it must depend upon industries for its wealth. Now, what industries most fear is disorder and civil war. During the last two years order has been restored and many things have returned their former State, but our industrial condition is the same as under the Manchu Dynasty. Merchants who lost their capital during the troublous times and who are now poor have no way of retrieving their losses, while those who are rich are unwilling to invest their money in industrial undertakings, fearing that another civil war may break out at any moment, since they take the recent abortive second revolution as their warning. In future, we shall have disquietude every few years; that is whenever the president is changed. Then our industrial and commercial condition will be in a still worse condition. If our industries are not developed, how can we expect to be strong? Take Mexico as a warning. There is very little difference between that country and China, which certainly cannot be compared with France and America. Therefore I say there is no hope for China ever becoming rich.
Mr. Ko: Why is it that you say there is no hope for China having a Constitutional Government?
Mr. Hu: A true republic must be conducted by many people possessing general education, political experience and a certain political morality. Its president is invested with power by the people to manage the general affairs of the state. Should the people desire to elect Mr. A their president today and Mr. B tomorrow, it does not make much difference; for the policy of the country may be changed together with the change of the president without there being any danger of disorder of chaos following such change. We have a very different problem to solve in China. The majority of our people do not know what the republic is, nor do they know anything about a Constitution nor have they any true sense of equality and freedom. Having overthrown the Empire and established in its place a republic they believe that from now on they are subservient to no one, and they think they can do as they please. Ambitious men hold that any person may be president and if they cannot get the presidency by fair means of election they are prepared to fight for it with the assistance of troops and robbers. The second revolution is an illustration of this point. From the moment that the Emperor was deposed, the centralization of power in the government was destroyed; and no matter who may be at the head of the country, he cannot restore peace except by the re-establishment of the monarchy. So at the time when the republic was formed, those who had previously advocated Constitutional Government turned into monarchists. Although we have a Provisional Constitution now and we have all kinds of legislative organs, which give to the country an appearance of a constitutional government, China has a constitutional government in name only and is a monarchy in spirit. Had the government refrained from exercising monarchical power during the last four years, the people could not have enjoyed one day of peace. In short, China's republic must be governed by a monarchy through a constitutional government. If the constitutional government cannot govern the republic, the latter cannot remain. The question of constitutional government is therefore very important, but it will take ten or twenty years before it can be solved.
Look at the people of China today! They know that something terrible is going to come sooner or later. They dare not think of the future. The corrupt official lines his pocket with unrighteous money, preparing to flee to foreign countries or at least to the Foreign Settlements for safety. The cautious work quietly and do not desire to earn merit but merely try to avoid giving offence. The scholars and politicians are grandiloquent and discourse upon their subjects in a sublime vein, but they are no better than the corrupt officials. As for our President, he can remain at the head of the State for a few years. At most he may hold office for several terms,--or perhaps for his whole life. Then questions must arise as to who shall succeed him; how to elect his successor; how many rivals will there be; whether their policies will be different from his, etc., etc. He personally has no idea regarding the solution of these questions. Even if the president is a sagacious and capable man, he will not be able to make a policy for the country or fix a Constitution which will last for a hundred years. Because of this he is driven merely to adopt a policy so as to maintain peace in his own country and to keep the nation intact so long as he may live. In the circumstances such a president can be considered the best executive head we can have. Those who are worshippers of the constitutional government cannot do more than he does. Here we find the reason for the silence of the former advocates of a constitutional administration. They have realized that by the formation of the republic the fundamental problem of the country has been left unsolved. In this wise it happens that the situation is something like this. Whilst the country is governed by an able president, the people enjoy peace and prosperity. But once an incapable man assumes the presidency, chaos will become the order of the day, a state of affairs which will finally lead to the overthrow of the president himself and the destruction of the country. In such circumstances, how can you devise a general policy for the country which will last for a hundred years? I say that there is no hope for China establishing a truly constitutional government.
Mr. Ko: In your opinion there is no hope for China becoming strong and rich or for her acquiring a constitutional government. She has no choice save ultimately to disappear. And yet is there no plan possible whereby she may be saved?
Mr. Hu: If China wishes to save herself from ultimate disappearance from the face of the earth, first of all she must get rid of the republic. Should she desire wealth and strength, she must adopt a constitutional government. Should she want constitutional government she must first establish a monarchy.
Mr. Ko: How is it that should China desire wealth and strength she must first adopt the constitutional form of government?
Mr. Hu: Wealth and strength is the object of the country, and a constitutional government is the means to realizing this object. In the past able rulers could accomplish their purpose without a constitutional government. We refer to Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty and Emperor Tai Chung of the Tang Dynasty. However, when these able rulers died their system of administration died with them. This contention can be supported by numerous historical instances; but suffice to say that in China as well as in Europe, the lack of a constitutional government has been the cause of the weakness of most of the nations in ancient times. Japan was never known as a strong nation until she adopted a constitutional government. The reason is this: when there is no constitutional government, the country cannot continue to carry out a definite policy.
Within comparatively recent times there was born in Europe the constitutional form of government. European nations adopted it, and they became strong. The most dangerous fate that can confront a nation is that after the death of an able ruler the system of administration he has established disappears with him; but this the constitutional form of government is able to avert. Take for instance William I of Germany who is dead but whose country continues to this day strong and prosperous. It is because of constitutional government. The same is true of Japan, which has adopted constitutional government and which is becoming stronger and stronger every day. The change of her executive cannot affect her progress in respect of her strength. From this it is quite clear that constitutional government is a useful instrument for building up a country. It is a government with a set of fixed laws which guard the actions of both the people and the president none of whom can overstep the boundary as specified in the laws. No ruler, whether be he a good man or a bad man, can change one iota of the laws. The people reap the benefit of this in consequence. It is easy to make a country strong and rich but it is difficult to establish a constitutional government. When a constitutional government has been established, everything will take care of itself, prosperity following naturally enough. The adoption of a constitutional government at the present moment can be compared to the problem of a derailed train. It is hard to put the train back on the track, but once on the track it is very easy to move the train. What we should worry about is not how to make the country rich and prosperous, but how to form a genuine constitutional government. Therefore I say that if China desires to be strong and prosperous, she should first of all adopt the constitutional form of government.
Mr. Ko: I do not understand why it is that a monarchy should be established before the constitutional form of government can be formed?
Mr. Hu: Because if the present system continues there will be intermittent trouble. At every change of the president there will be riot and civil war. In order to avert the possibility of such aweful times place the president in a position which is permanent. It follows that the best thing is to make him Emperor. When that bone of contention is removed, the people will settle down to business and feel peace in their hearts, and devote their whole energy and time to the pursuit of their vocations. It is logical to assume that after the adoption of the monarchy they will concentrate their attention on securing a constitutional government which they know is the only salvation for their country. As for the Emperor, knowing that he derives his position from the change from a republic, and filled with the desire of pacifying the people, he cannot help sanctioning the formation of the constitutional form of government, which in addition, will insure to his offspring the continuation of the Throne. Should he adopt any other course, he will be exposed to great personal danger. If he is broadminded, he will further recognize the fact that if no constitutional form of government is introduced, his policy will perish after his death. Therefore I say that before the adoption of the constitutional form of government, a monarchy should be established. William I of Germany and the Emperor Meiji of Japan both tried the constitutional form of government and found it a success.
Mr. Ko: Please summarize your discussion.
Mr. Hu: In short, the country cannot be saved except through the establishment of a constitutional form of government. No constitutional government can be formed except through the establishment of a monarchy. The constitutional form of government has a set of fixed laws, and the monarchy has a definite head who cannot be changed, in which matters lies the source of national strength and wealth.
Mr. Ko: What you have said in regard to the adoption of the constitutional monarchy as a means of saving the country from dismemberment is quite true, but I would like to have your opinion on the relative advantages and disadvantages of a republic and a monarchy, assuming that China adopts the scheme of a monarchy.
Mr. Hu: I am only too glad to give you my humble opinion on this momentous question.
Mr. Ko: You have said that China would be devastated by contending armies of rival leaders trying to capture the presidency. At what precise moment will that occur?
Mr. Hu: The four hundred million people of China now rely upon the President alone for the protection of their lives and property. Upon him likewise falls the burden of preserving both peace and the balance of power in the Far East. There is no time in the history of China that the Head of the State has had to assume such a heavy responsibility for the protection of life and property and for the preservation of peace in Asia; and at no time in our history has the country been in greater danger than at the present moment. China can enjoy peace so long as His Excellency Yuan Shih- kai remains the President, and no longer. Should anything befall the President, every business activity will at once be suspended, shops will be closed, disquietude will prevail, people will become panic-stricken, the troops uncontrollable, and foreign warship will enter our harbours. European and American newspapers will be full of special dispatches about the complicated events in China, and martial law will be declared in every part of the country. All this will be due to the uncertainty regarding the succession to the presidency.
It will be seen from the first section of this long and extraordinary pamphlet how the author develops his argument. One of his major premises is the inherent unruliness of Republican soldiery,--the armies of republics not to be compared with the armed forces of monarchies,--and consequently constituting a perpetual menace to good government. Passing on from this, he lays down the proposition that China cannot hope to become rich so long as the fear of civil war is ever-present; and that without a proper universal education a republic is an impossibility. The exercise of monarchical power in such circumstances can only be called an inevitable development,--the one goal to be aimed at being the substitution of Constitutional Government for the dictatorial rule. The author deals at great length with the background to this idea, playing on popular fears to reinforce his casuistry. For although constitutional government is insisted upon as the sole solution, he speedily shows that this constitutionalism will depend more on the benevolence of the dictator than on the action of the people. And should his advice be not heeded, when Fortune wills that Yuan Shih-kai's rule shall end, chaos will ensue owing to the "uncertainty" regarding the succession.
Here the discussion reaches its climax--for the demand that salvation be sought by enthroning Yuan Shih-kai now becomes clear and unmistakable. Let the author speak for himself.
Mr. Ko: But it is provided in the Constitutional Compact that a president must be selected from among the three candidates whose names are now kept in a golden box locked in a stone room. Do you think this provision is not sufficient to avert the terrible times which you have just described?
Mr. Hu: The provision you have mentioned is useless. Can you find any person who is able to be at the head of the state besides His Excellency Yuan Shih-kai? The man who can succeed President Yuan must enjoy the implicit confidence of the people and must have extended his influence all over the country and be known both at home and abroad. He must be able to maintain order, and then no matter what the constitution provides, he will be unanimously elected President. He must also be able to assure himself that the two other candidates for the presidency have no hope for success in the presidential campaign. The provision in the constitution, as well as the golden casket in which the names of the three candidates are kept which you have mentioned, are nothing but nominal measures. Moreover there is no man in China who answers the description of a suitable successor which I have just given. Here arises a difficult problem; and what has been specified in the Constitutional Compact is a vain attempt to solve it. It is pertinent to ask why the law-makers should not have made the law in such a way that the people could exercise their free choice in the matter of the presidential successor? The answer is that there is reason to fear that a bad man may be elected president by manipulations carried out with a masterly hand, thereby jeopardizing the national welfare. This fear has influenced the constitution-makers to settle upon three candidates from among whom the president must be elected. Then it may be asked why not fix upon one man instead of upon three since you have already deprived the people of part of their freedom? The answer is that: there is not a single man whose qualifications are high enough to be the successor. As it is, three candidates of equal qualifications are put forward for the people to their selection. No matter how one may argue this important question from the legal point of view, there is the fact that the law makers fixed upon three candidates for the presidency, believing that we do not possess a suitable presidential successor. The vital question of the day setting aside all paper talk, is whether or not China has a suitable man to succeed President Yuan Shih-kai. Whether or not the constitutional compact can be actually carried out in future I do not know; but I do know that that instrument will eventually become ineffective.
Mr. Ko: I desire a true picture of the chaos which you have hinted will ensue in this country. Can you tell me anything along that line?
Mr. Hu: In a time of confusion, the soldiers play the most important part, virtuous and experienced and learned statesmen being unable to cope with the situation. The only qualification which a leader at such a time needs to possess is the control of the military, and the ability to suppress Parliament. Should such a person be made the president, he cannot long hold his enviable post in view of the fact that he cannot possess sufficient influence to control the troops of the whole country. The generals of equal rank and standing will not obey each other, while the soldiers and politicians, seeing a chance in these differences for their advancement, will stir up their feelings and incite one another to fight. They will fight hard among themselves. The rebels, who are now exiles in foreign lands, taking advantage of the chaos in China, will return in very little time to perpetrate the worst crimes known in human history. The royalists who are in retirement will likewise come out to fish in muddy waters. Persons who have the qualifications of leaders will be used as tools to fight for the self-aggrandizement of those who use them. I do not wish to mention names, but I can safely predict that more than ten different parties will arise at the psychological moment. Men who will never be satisfied until they become president, and those who know they cannot get the presidency but who are unwilling to serve others, will come out one after another. Confusion and disturbance will follow with great rapidity. Then foreign countries which have entertained wild ambitions, availing themselves of the distressful situation in China, will stir up ill-feelings among these parties and so increase the disturbances. When the proper time comes, various countries, unwilling to let a single country enjoy the privilege of controlling China, will resort to armed intervention. In consequence the eastern problem will end in a rupture of the international peace. Whether China will be turned at that time into a battleground for the Chinese people or for the foreign Powers I cannot tell you. It is too dreadful to think of the future which is enshrouded in a veil of mystery. However, I can tell you that the result of this awful turmoil will be either the slicing of China like a melon or the suppression of internal trouble with foreign assistance which will lead to dismemberment. As to the second result some explanation is necessary. After foreign countries have helped us to suppress internal disturbances, they will select a man of the type of Li Wang of Korea, who betrayed his country to Japan, and make him Emperor of China. Whether this man will be the deposed emperor or a member of the Imperial family or the leader of the rebel party, remains to be seen. In any event he will be a figurehead in whose hand will not be vested political, financial and military power, which will be controlled by foreigners. All the valuable mines, various kinds of industries and our abundant natural resources will likewise be developed by others. China will thus disappear as a nation.
In selecting a man of the Li Wang type, the aforesaid foreign countries will desire merely to facilitate the acquisition of China's territory. But there can be easily found such a man who bears remarkable resemblance to Li Wang, and who will be willing to make a treaty with the foreigners whereby he unpatriotically sells his country in exchange for a throne which he can never obtain or keep without outside assistance. His procedure will be something like this: He will make an alliance with a foreign nation by which the latter will be given the power to carry on foreign relations on behalf of his country. In the eyes of foreigners, China will have been destroyed, but the people will continue deceived and made to believe that their country is still in existence. This is the first step. The second step will be to imitate the example of Korea and make a treaty with a certain power, whereby China is annexed and the throne abolished. The imperial figure-head then flees to the foreign country where he enjoys an empty title. Should you then try to make him devise means for regaining the lost territory it will be too late. For China will have been entirely destroyed by that time. This is the second procedure in the annexation of Chinese territory. The reason why that foreign country desires to change the republic into the monarchy is to set one man on the throne and make him witness the whole process of annexation of his country, thereby simplifying the matter. When that time has come, the people will not be permitted to make any comment upon the form of government suitable for China, or upon the destruction of their country. The rebels who raised the standard of the republic have no principles and if they now find that some other tactics will help to increase their power they will adopt these tactics. China's republic is doomed, no matter what happens. If we do not change it ourselves, others will do it for us. Should we undertake the change ourselves we can save the nation: otherwise there is no hope for China to remain a nation. It is to be regretted that our people now assume an attitude of indifference, being reluctant to look forward to the future, and caring not what may happen to them and their country. They are doomed to become slaves after the loss of their national independence.
Mr. Ko: I am very much frightened by what you have said. You have stated that the adoption of a constitutional monarchy can avert such terrible consequences; but is there not likely to be disturbance during the change of the republic to monarchy, since such disturbance must always accompany the presidential election?
Mr. Hu: No comparison can be formed between these two things. There may be tumult during the change of the form of government, but it will be better in comparison with the chaos that will some day ensue in the republic. There is no executive head in the country when a republic endeavours to select a presidential successor. At such a time, the ambitious try to improve their future, while the patriotic are at a loss now to do anything which will assist in the maintenance of order. Those who are rebellious rise in revolt while those who are peace-loving are compelled by circumstances to join their rank and file. Should the form of government be transformed into a monarchical one, and should the time for change of the head of the state come, the successor having already been provided for, that will be well-known to the people. Those who are patriotic will exert their utmost to preserve peace, and as result the heir-apparent can peacefully step on the throne. There are persons who will contend for the office of the President, but not for the throne. Those who contend for the office of President do not commit any crime, but those who try to seize the throne are rebels. Who dares to contend for the Throne?
At the time of the change of the president in a republic, ambitious persons arise with the intention of capturing this most honourable office, but not so when the emperor is changed. Should there be a body of persons hostile to the heir-apparent, that body must be very small. Therefore I say that the enemies of a succeeding Emperor are a few, whilst there are many in the case of a presidential successor. This is the first difference.
Those who oppose the monarchy are republican enthusiasts or persons who desire to make use of the name of the republic for their own benefit. These persons will raise trouble even without the change of the government. They do not mind disturbing the peace of the country at the present time when the republic exists. It is almost certain that at the first unfurling of the imperial flags they will at once grasp such an opportune moment and try to satisfy their ambition. Should they rise in revolt at the time when the Emperor is changed the Government, supported by the loyal statesmen and officials, whose interests are bound up with the welfare of the imperial family and whose influence has spread far and wide, will be able to deal easily with any situation which may develop. Therefore I declare that the successor to the throne has more supporters while the presidential successor has few. This is the second difference between the republic and the constitutional monarchy.
Why certain persons will contend for the office of the President can be explained by the fact that there is not a single man in the country whose qualifications are above all the others. Succession to the throne is a question of blood-relation with the reigning Emperor, and not a question of qualifications. The high officials whose qualifications are unusually good are not subservient to others but they are obedient to the succeeding Emperor, because of their gratitude for what the imperial family has done for them, and because their well-being is closely associated with that of the imperial household. I can cite an historical incident to support my contention. Under the Manchu Dynasty, at one time General Chu Chung-tang was entrusted with the task of suppressing the Mohammedan rebellion. He appointed General Liu Sung San generalissimo. Upon the death of General Liu, Chu Chung-tang appointed his subordinate officers to lead the army, but the subordinate officers competed for power. Chu Chung-tang finally made the step-son of General Liu the Commander-in-Chief and the officers and soldiers all obeyed his order as they did his father's. But it may be mentioned that this young man was not more able than any of his father's subordinate commanders. Nevertheless prestige counted. He owed his success to his natural qualification, being a step-son to General Liu. So is the case with the emperor whose successor nobody dares openly to defy--to say nothing of actually disputing his right to the throne. This is the third difference between the republic and the monarchy.
I will not discuss the question: as to whether there being no righteous and able heir-apparent to succeed his Emperor-father, great danger may not confront the nation. However, in order to provide against any such case, I advocate that the formation of a constitutional government should go hand in hand with the establishment of the monarchy. At first it is difficult to establish and carry out a constitutional government, but once it is formed it will be comparatively easy. When the constitutional government has been established, the Emperor will have to seek his fame in such useful things as the defence of his country and the conquest of his enemy. Everything has to progress, and men possessing European education will be made use of by the reigning family. The first Emperor will certainly do all he can to capture the hearts of the people by means of adopting and carrying out in letter as well as in spirit constitutional government. The heir- apparent will pay attention to all new reforms and new things. Should he do so, the people will be able to console themselves by saying that they will always be the people of a constitutional monarchy even after the succession to the throne of the heir- apparent. When the time comes for the heir-apparent to mount the throne the people will extend to him their cordial welcome, and there will be no need to worry about internal disturbances.
Therefore, I conclude that the successor to the presidential chair has to prevent chaos by wielding the monarchical power, while the new emperor can avert internal disquietude forever by means of his constitutional government. This is the fourth difference between the republic and the monarchy. These four differences are accountable for the fact that there will not be as much disturbance at the time of the change of emperors as at the time when the president is changed.
Mr. Ko: I can understand what you have said with regard to the advantages and disadvantages of the republic and the monarchy, but there are many problems connected with the formation of a constitutional monarchy which we have to solve. Why is it that the attempt to introduce constitutional government during the last years of the Manchu Dynasty proved a failure?
Mr. Hu: The constitutional government of the Manchu Dynasty was one in name only, and as such the forerunner of the revolution of 1911. Towards the end of the Manchu Dynasty, the talk of starting a revolution to overthrow the imperial regime was in everybody's mouth, although the constitutional party endeavoured to accomplish something really useful. At that time His Excellency Yuan Shih-kai was the grand chancellor, and realizing the fact that nothing except the adoption of a constitutional government could save the throne of the Manchus, he assumed the leadership of the constitutional party, which surpassed in strength the revolutionary party as a result of his active support. The people's hearts completely turned to the constitutional party for salvation, while the revolutionary party lost that popular support which it had formerly enjoyed. Then it seemed that the imperial household would soon adopt the constitutional monarchy and the threatening revolution could be averted. Unfortunately, the elaborate plans of His Excellency Yuan Shih-kai regarding the adoption of the constitutional government were not carried out by the imperial household. A great change took place: His Excellency retired to his native province; and after losing this powerful leader the constitutional party was pitilessly shattered. A monarchist party suddenly made its appearance on the political arena to assist the imperial family, which pretended to do its very best for the development of a constitutional government, but secretly exerted itself to the utmost for the possession and retention of the real power. This double-dealing resulted in bringing about the revolution of 1911. For instance, when the people cried for the convening of a parliament, the imperial family said "No." The people also failed to secure the abolition of certain official organs for the imperialists. They lost confidence in the Reigning House, and simultaneously the revolutionary party raised its banner and gathered its supporters from every part of the country. As soon as the revolt started at Wuchang the troops all over the country joined in the movement to overthrow the Manchu Dynasty. The members of the Imperial Senate, most of whom were members of the constitutional party, could not help showing their sympathy with the revolutionists. At last the imperial household issued a proclamation containing Nineteen Articles--a veritable magna carta--but it was too late. The constitutional government which was about to be formed was thus laid aside. What the imperial family did was the mere organization of an advisory council. A famous foreign scholar aptly remarked: "A false constitutional government will eventually result in a true revolution." In trying to deceive the people by means of a false constitutional government the imperial house encompassed its own destruction. Once His Excellency Yuan Shih-kai stated in a memorial to the throne that there were only two alternatives: to give the people a constitutional government or to have them revolt. What happened afterwards is a matter of common knowledge. Therefore I say that the government which the imperial family attempted to form was not a constitutional government.
Mr. Ko: Thank you for your discussion of the attempt of the imperial household to establish a constitutional government; but how about the Provisional Constitution, the parliament and the cabinet in the first and second years of the Republic? The parliament was then so powerful that the government was absolutely at its mercy, thereby disturbing the peaceful condition of the country. The people have tasted much of the bitterness of constitutional government. Should you mention the name of constitutional government again they would be thoroughly frightened. Is that true?
Mr. Hu: During the first and second years of the Republic, in my many conversations with the members of the Kuo Ming Tang, I said that the republic could not form an efficient method of control, and that there would be an over centration of power through the adoption of monarchical methods of ruling, knowing as well as I did the standards of our people. When the members of the Kuo Ming Tang came to draw up the Provisional Constitution they purposely took precisely the opposite course of action and ignored my suggestion. It may, however, be mentioned that the Provisional Constitution made in Nanking was not so bad, but after the government was removed to Peking, the Kuo Ming Tang people tied the hand and foot of the government by means of the Cabinet System and other restrictions with the intention of weakening the power of the central administration in order that they might be able to start another revolution. From the dissolution of the Nanking government to the time of the second revolution they had this one object in view, namely to weaken the power of the central administration so that they could contend for the office of the president by raising further internal troubles in China. Those members of the Kuo Ming Tang who made the constitution know as well as I that China's republic must be governed through a monarchical administration; and therefore the unreasonable restrictions in the Provisional Constitution were purposely inserted.
Mr. Ko: What is the difference between the constitutional government which you have proposed and the constitutional government which the Manchu Dynasty intended to adopt?
Mr. Hu: The difference lies in the proper method of procedure and in honesty of purpose, which are imperative if constitutional government expects to be successful.
Mr. Ko: What do you mean by the proper method of procedure?
Mr. Hu: The Provisional Constitution made in Nanking, which was considered good, is not suitable for insertion in the future constitution, should a constitutional monarchy be established. In making a constitution for the future constitutional monarchy we have to consult the constitutions of the monarchies of the world. They can be divided into three classes which are represented by England, Prussia and Japan. England is advanced in its constitutional government, which has been in existence for thousands of years, and is the best of all in the world. The English king enjoys his empty title and the real power of the country is exercised by the parliament, which makes all the laws for the nation. As to Prussia, the constitutional monarchy was established when the people started a revolution. The ruler of Prussia was compelled to convene a parliament and submitted to that legal body a constitution. Prussia's constitution was made by its ruler together with the parliament. Its constitutional government is not so good as the English. As to the Japanese constitutional monarchy, the Emperor made a constitution and then convened a parliament. The constitutional power of the Japanese people is still less than that of the Prussian people. According to the standard of our people we cannot adopt the English constitution as our model, for it is too advanced. The best thing for us to do is to adopt part of the Prussian and part of the Japanese in our constitution-making. As our people are better educated now than ever before, it is decidedly unwise entirely to adopt the Japanese method, that is, for the Emperor to make a constitution without the approval of the parliament and then to convoke a legislative body. In the circumstances China should adopt the Prussian method as described above with some modifications, which will be very suitable to our conditions. As to the contents of the constitution we can copy such articles as those providing the right for the issue of urgent orders and appropriation of special funds, etc. from the Japanese Constitution, so that the power of the ruler can be increased without showing the slightest contempt for the legislative organ. I consider that this is the proper method of procedure for the formation of a constitutional monarchy for China.
Mr. Ko: Can I know something about the contents of our future constitution in advance?
Mr. Hu: If you want to know them in detail I recommend you to read the Constitutions of Prussia and Japan. But I can tell you this much. Needless to say that such stipulations as articles guaranteeing the rights of the people and the power of the parliament will surely be worked into the future constitution. These are found in almost every constitution in the world. But as the former Provisional Constitution has so provided that the power of the parliament is unlimited, while that of the president is very small the Chief Executive, besides conferring decorations and giving Orders of Merit, having almost nothing to do without the approval of the Senate, it is certain that nothing will be taken from that instrument for the future constitution. Nor will the makers of the future constitution take anything from the nineteen capitulations offered by the Manchu Government, which gave too much power to the legislative organ. According to the Nineteen Articles the Advisory Council was to draw up the constitution, which was to be ratified by the parliament; the Premier being elected by the parliament; whilst the use of the army and navy required the parliament's sanction; the making of treaties with foreign countries have likewise to be approved by the parliament, etc., etc. Such strict stipulations which are not even known in such an advanced country in matters constitutional as England were extorted from the imperial family by the advisory council. Therefore it is most unlikely that the makers of the future constitution will take any article from the nineteen capitulations of "confidence." They will use the Constitutions of Japan and Prussia as joint model and will always have in their mind the actual conditions of this country and the standard of the people. In short, they will copy some of the articles in the Japanese constitution, and adopt the Prussian method of procedure for the making of the constitution.
Mr. Ko: What do you mean by honesty?
Mr. Hu: It is a bad policy to deceive the people. Individually the people are simple, but they cannot be deceived collectively. The Manchu Government committed an irretrievable mistake by promising the people a constitutional government but never carrying out their promise. This attitude on the part of the then reigning house brought about the first revolution. As the standard of our people at the present time is not very high, they will be satisfied with less power if it is properly given to them. Should any one attempt to deceive them his cause will finally be lost. I do not know how much power the people and the parliament will get in the constitutional monarchy, but I would like to point out here that it is better to give them less power than to deceive them. If they are given less power, and if they want more, they will contend for it. Should the government deem it advisable to give them a little more, well and good. Should they be unfit for the possession of greater power, the government can issue a proclamation giving the reasons for not complying with their request, and they will not raise trouble knowing the true intention of the government. However, honesty is the most important element in the creation of a constitutional monarchy. It is easy and simple to practise it. The parliament must have the power to decide the laws and fix the budgets. Should its decision be too idealistic or contrary to the real welfare of the country, the Government can explain its faults and request it to reconsider its decision. Should the parliament return the same decision, the Government can dissolve it and convoke another parliament. In so doing the Government respects the parliament instead of despising it. But what the parliament has decided should be carried out strictly by the Government, and thus we will have a real constitutional Government. It is easy to talk but difficult to act, but China like all other countries has to go through the experimental stage and face all kinds of difficulties before a genuine constitutional government can be evolved. The beginning is difficult but once the difficulty is over everything will go on smoothly. I emphasize that it is better to give the people less power at the beginning than to deceive them. Be honest with them is my policy.
Mr. Ko: I thank you very much for what you have said. Your discussion is interesting and I can understand it well. The proper method of procedure and honesty of purpose which you have mentioned will tend to wipe out all former corruption.
Mr. Ko, or the stranger, then departed.
On this note the pamphleteer abruptly ends. Having discussed ad nauseam the inadequacy of all existing arrangements, even those made by Yuan Shih-kai himself, to secure a peaceful succession to the presidency; and having again insisted upon the evil part soldiery cannot fail to play, he introduces a new peril, the certainty that the foreign Powers will set up a puppet Emperor unless China solves this problem herself, the case of Korea being invoked as an example of the fate of divided nations. Fear of Japan and the precedent of Korea, being familiar phenomena, are given a capital in all this debate, being secondary only to the crucial business of ensuring the peaceful succession to the supreme office. The transparent manner in which the history of the first three years of the Republic is handled in order to drive home these arguments will be very apparent. A fit crown is put on the whole business by the final suggestion that the Constitutional Government of China under the new empire must be a mixture of the Prussian and Japanese systems, Yang Tu's last words being that it is best to be honest with the people! No more damning indictment of Yuan Shih-kai's regime could possibly have been penned.