Today’s installment concludes The Boxer Uprising,
the name of our combined selection from Chuan-sen and William A.P. Martin. The concluding installment, by William.A.P. Martin from The Siege in Peking, was published in 1900. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
If you have journeyed through all of the installments of this series, just one more to go and you will have completed ten thousand words from great works of history. Congratulations!
Previously in The Boxer Uprising.
In the batch of Peking Gazettes were several decrees of considerable interest. One of them referred to the murder of the Japanese Chancellor on June 11th. He had gone to the railway station in the hope of getting news of Seymour’s relief column. He was there set upon by soldiers and Boxers, dragged from his cart, and slain. This being nearly a week before the capture of the forts, the Empress-Dowager, wishing still to shun responsibility, issued a decree in which she said: “On hearing this intelligence we were exceedingly grieved. Officials of a neighboring nation stationed in Peking ought to be protected in every possible way. We now order all the Yamens concerned to set a limit of time for the arrest of these criminals, that they may suffer the extreme penalty of the law.”
A colored print, extensively circulated in Shanghai and elsewhere, depicts this event with a view to firing the loyal heart, representing the murder not as the act of a mob, but as an execution by court-martial, with Boxers drawn up in one file and soldiers in another; the whole presided over by General Sung, a high commander of the imperial forces.
On June 21st, two days after the declaration of war, the Dowager sent forth a manifesto, in the name of the Emperor, for the purpose of announcing her action and justifying it to her subjects : “Ever since the foundation of the dynasty, foreigners coming to China have been kindly treated. In the reign of Tao Kwang and Hien Fung they were allowed to trade and to propagate their religion. At first they were amenable to Chinese control, but for the past thirty years they have taken advantage of our forbearance to encroach on our territory, to trample on the Chinese people, and to absorb the wealth of the empire. Every concession made only serves to increase their insolence. They oppress our peaceful subjects, and insult the gods and sages, exciting burning indignation among the people. Hence the burning of chapels and the slaughter of converts by the patriotic braves. The Throne was desirous to avoid war, and issued edicts enjoining protection of legations and pity toward converts, declaring Boxers and converts to be equally the children of the State. With tears have we announced in our ancestral shrines the outbreak of war. Better it is to do our utmost and enter on the struggle than to seek self-preservation involving eternal disgrace. All our officials, high and low, are of one mind. There have also assembled, without official summons, several hundred thousands of patriotic soldiers (Boxers). Even children carry spears in the defense of their country.”
On June 24th the Board of Revenue was ordered to give Kang Yi two hundred bags of rice as provision for general distribution among the Boxers.
A decree of the same date appointed one of the princes to be the official head of the Boxer organization.
Nothing could show more distinctly the complicity of the Government in the Boxer movement — and its responsibility for the outrages perpetrated by the Boxers — than these documents. Yet our admirals, in demanding the surrender of the forts, took care to announce their purpose as that of coming to the aid of the Government against the Boxers !
About the middle of July a white flag, or rather a white sheet of paper, was displayed on the upper bridge, announcing to us, in large letters visible with the aid of a telescope, that “We have received orders to protect the foreign Ministers.” The same day a small supply of melons, vegetables, and flour was sent in to us, accompanied by overtures for an armistice, and proposing that Princes Tuan and Ching be admitted to an interview. The melons and vegetables were eaten with gusto, but the flour was shunned as probably not conducive to health. The proposed meeting with the princes was conceded, though regarded with suspicion. But when the time came, they failed to appear, excusing themselves on the ground that we had not observed the armistice, and had killed a vast number of their people. The fact is that, the very day on which they showed the decree evening, and through the night they were seen preparing for a general assault, which our people averted by a successful sortie.
During this time the good offices of our Government, as well as those of the courts of Europe and Japan, were solicited by China. The Secretary of State replied by demanding a communication from Minister Conger as a condition indispensable to compliance with that request. Our Minister was accordingly permitted to send a dispatch in cipher, which, so far from tending to stop the advance of the army of relief, set forth our peril, and had a mighty influence in quickening their movements.
This ends our selections on The Boxer Uprising by two of the most important authorities of this topic:
- His Account included George Lynch’s ‘The War of the Civilizations’ by Chuan-sen published in 1901.
- The Siege in Peking by William A.P. Martin published in 1900.
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