Page images

and battening on, their country. He was kept in office, they said, by Court favour, by the immense borough interest of a few grandees, and by the lavish exercise of bribery. What is more, the party system had not yet had time to root itself in public opinion, and still sat very loosely on the nation at large, by whom its relations to Parliamentary government were little understood. Whigs and Tories in the House of Commons seemed to have forgotten their ancient differences. Wyndham, Barnard, and Bromley, were working harmoniously with Pulteney, Lyttleton, and Pitt. If the scheme could not be floated with such a tide as this in its favour, when could it ever be? Yet, as we know, it utterly collapsed. Scarcely was the breath out of the body of Walpole's Cabinet before his successors began to quarrel over the booty, and tossed all these fine projects to the winds. Bolingbroke might have said with Mr. Gladstone, that he found himself. the last man upon the sinking ship.'

What Bolingbroke either failed to see, or for a long term affected not to see, was that his Whig allies had nothing to gain by throwing themselves into the melting-pot and coming out again as only one ingredient of a National party. They were more sure of place and power by remaining as they were. The breach between the two sections would soon be closed. They had the Crown and the boroughs on their side. The future, as they thought, was theirs. Why share with the Tories what it was possible to keep for themselves, or form a general coalition which would have to provide for many, when they might remain members of a select party, who, with the same number of loaves and fishes, would have only to provide for a few? They were in a strongly entrenched position, where they could defy a mere numerical majority; and their game was clearly to stay there.

So ended this first famous attempt to organize a connexion, which, under the name of a National party, should, as Bolingbroke said, virtually destroy party, and relieve Representative Government from the fetters which such a system imposes on it. A National party means either that or nothing, and notwithstanding the difficulties we have mentioned, the idea has never been lost sight of. George II. himself, in the midst of the party struggles which both preceded and followed the administration of Mr. Pelham, turned a wistful eye upon it. Through Pitt and Canning the torch was handed on ; Sir Robert Peel at more than one stage of his career seems to have been half unconsciously inspired by it; and some vague glimmering of its meaning Áickered across the brain of Cobden. Quite recently the phrase has been again heard ; and unquestionably


the almost intolerable evils which the party system has brought upon us during the last quarter of a century are enough to make men look in any direction for relief.* But for reasons which we have already assigned, and which need not be repeated, a project which failed in the reign of George II. will hardly succeed in the reign of Queen Victoria. It may be added that party organization, party divisions, and party sympathies and traditions, are all stronger instead of weaker than they were in the middle of the last century, and would require a more powerful agent to dissolve them. They have spread over the whole country, into every class in society, and are kept alive by the press and the platform in every little town and village. More than that, a National party, meaning practically no party, must necessarily be accompanied by personal government in some shape. In the middle of the last century, the revival of personal government would not have seemed nearly so strange as it would now; and we know that forty years after the failure of the Broad-bottom Administration, it was welcomed. Now, however, the bare suggestion of it would be either scouted with ridicule, or denounced as something monstrous and unnatural. Democracies, indeed, are not averse to Dictatorships; and we may be again approaching that bloodless revolution which, according to Lord Beaconsfield, was only prevented a hundred years ago by the French Revolution. But even supposing such an event possible, many things must happen before it casts its shadow before us; or five-sixths of the people, so long inured to faction, and steeped in party spirit, shall acquiesce contentedly in the government of any one man, be he King, Prime Minister, or President.

* See ‘Difficulties of good Government:'Quarterly Review, No. 332, p. 496.


ART. VIII.-1. Report of Mr. Davenport upon the Trading Capa

bilities of the Country traversed by the Yunnan Mission : presented to both Houses of Parliament by command of Her

Majesty. 1877. 2. Travels and Researches in Western China. By E. Colborne

Baber. Royal Geographical Society : Supplementary Papers.

London, 1882. 3. China. Report for the Year 1888 on the Trade of Ichang.

Foreign Office, 1889. 4. La Province Chinoise du Yunnan. Par Émile Rocher, de

l'Administration des Douanes Impériales de Chine. Paris,

1879. 5. The River of Golden Sand, the Narrative of a Journey through

China and Eastern Tibet to Burmah. By Captain William Gill, Royal Engineers, with an Introductory Essay by Colonel

Henry Yule, C.B., R.E. London, 1880. 6. Address of Mr. Holt S. Hallet, C.E., F.R.B.S., M.R.H.S.,

upon Burmah, our Gate to the Markets of Western and Central China : delivered before the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce

on the 26th May, 1887. London, 1887. 7. Through the Yangtse Gorges. By Archibald John Little,

F.R.G.S. London, 1888. 8. China : Skizzen von Land and Leuten mit besonderer Berück

sichtigung commerzieller Verhältnisse. Von A. H. Exner.

Leipzig, 1889. 9. Three Years in Western China. By Alexander Hosie.

London, 1890. 10. China. Imperial Maritime Customs. Returns of Trade and

Trade Report for the Year 1888. Published by order of the
Inspector-General of Customs. Shanghai, 1889.
ESTERN China is no longer the terra incognita from

which, until quite recently, rare travellers alone lifted the veil at long intervals, to be followed by relapses into absolute seclusion. Since the outbreak of the great Mahometan revolt in 1856, and the subsequent establishment of a Panthay Sultan in Tali-fu, up to the present day, public attention has been increasingly directed to this region, until now an extensive literature has grown up around it. Its latent resources and its actual trade not seldom form the theme of economists and news-writers, while the interest felt in the great Chinese race is now so general, that no apology is any longer needed for approaching what was once a recondite subject, and for presenting to the general reader fresh pictures of the varied regions that go to make up the Empire of China. If it cannot



be said literally of a lady of fashion of our day, as was said in Juvenal's Rome,

* Hæc eadem novit quid toto fiat in orbe,

Quid Seres quid Thraces agant,' at least the spirit of inquiry is abroad, and the metropolis of the modern world is as anxious for news from beyond the pale of European civilization, as it is dependent upon these outlying regions for the daily supply of its material wants. China alone rivals the wide British dominion in populousness and in the industry and activity of its inhabitants, and every step that brings us nearer together is deserving of careful record and attention. Progress in this direction is necessarily slow, but so far it has been persistent. We cannot force the ultra-conservatism of the Chinese with a rush ; we must make up our minds to a long siege, and be content to sit down before the walls watching for every opportunity, and not failing to make the most of each one as it occurs. China holds geographically a position on the Eurasian Continent analogous to that of the United States on the American Continent, while in actual area and in the extent of her natural resources she even exceeds the possibilities of the Great Republic. But her resources lie largely undeveloped, and her means of intercommunication are still lamentably deficient. With continued peace, and a consequent growth of confidence in the goodwill and in the aims of the European nations that now touch her frontiers, and with whom she has only so recently become acquainted, we may expect many changes in advance in the coming generation. What has been done in this respect in the past generation is told us in the works the titles of which we have placed at the head of this article.

Of the eighteen provinces of China proper, Szechuen is the largest and the finest, and, until quite recently, was the province least known to Europeans. Marco Polo was the first traveller who gave any description of Western China to the outside world, but his memoirs lay practically dormant and discredited until resuscitated, only a few years back, in the admirable edition of his travels published by the late Colonel Yule. The story of the adventurous journey of the Abbé Huc and Father Gabet in 1844 across China to Lhassa was the next to tell us of the richness and beauty of this distant land. In 1861, Captain Blakiston, in his attempted expedition from Shanghai to Thibet, traversed the province of Szechuen as far west as Ping-shan, the head of navigation on the Upper Yangtse, and incidentally gave us a peep into the wealth and populous


[ocr errors]

ness of the West. The late T. T. Cooper followed a few years later over the same ground, and, though foiled in his endeavour to get beyond Bathang, he has left us an amusing picture of the people in his · Pioneer in Pigtails and Petticoats.' The expedition of Margary in 1875 may, however, be said to mark the era of the real commencement of a practical interest in this region, and the rise of a sustained endeavour to render it available as a field for European enterprise. In that year the Indian Government, in a laudable anxiety to open up a trade route through Burmah to South-Western China, despatched an expedition, under Colonel Horace Browne, to proceed via Bhamo to Yunnan-fu. Margary, an officer in the British Consular service in China, was deputed to meet the expedition from the China side, and to act as its interpreter, and guide it across the frontier. He proceeded through the province of Yunnan in safety, and met Colonel Browne at his halt in the wild Kakhyen country, midway between Bhamo and Tali-fu, but on returning to China to announce the advent of the expedition, he was foully murdered at a place called Momein or Teng-yueh-chow, a town situated on the head waters of the Salween, some distance within the Yunnan frontier. The fact of his having been murdered by Chinese soldiers,—stabbed in the back without any quarrel or fracas,-coupled with that of the hostile attack by well-armed Kakhyens and Chinese on Colonel Browne's party on the following day, which was only saved from total destruction by the determined stand made by his Sikh guard, leaves little doubt that the Chinese Government instigated the opposition, leaving the local authorities to devise the means. This is an old story in our intercourse with the Chinese. The Central Government, driven into a corner, gives a reluctant assent to the general proposition, and then sets to work to defeat its consequences in detail. And in this case, as in many others, the tortuous policy has succeeded. Although Bhamo has since fallen into our possession by the conquest of Upper Burmah, and the British Indian frontier now marches coterminous with the Chinese, still no further steps to improve this route have yet been taken. The investigation into the facts of Margary's murder was undertaken by Messrs. Grosvenor and Baber, who, in accordance with the agreement entered into by our Minister in Pekin with the Chinese Government, were ordered to make inquiries on the spot. This expedition gave us further valuable knowledge of the country in their journals and in the Blue-books which resulted, while leaving little doubt that the murder was the result of an atrocious plot on the part of the Yunnan Viceroy. The demand of our Government for redress ended in

a meeting

« PreviousContinue »