Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/772

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766
A CHINESE STATESMAN.

wished they were hearing better, and those who wanted to talk have wished they were hearing none.

If a girl plays fairly well, or sings even but a little, her accomplishment may give real pleasure in the home circle, especially if her brothers and sisters are musical too. The young people get up duets and trios and choruses together, fearless of difficulties, and each too self-intent to be unkindly critical of the others; the elders listen in their easy-chairs, and if they do not exactly think their geese all swans, feel that such cheery melodious geese as theirs are pleasanter to hear than any swans in the world.

And yet are even these family evenings made wiser and merrier with well-timed music always worth the cost? Think of the hours and hours of practising. Think of the next-door neighbors.




From The Pall Mall Gazette.

A CHINESE STATESMAN.

A recent mail from China brought an account of the funeral in Manchuria of a statesman who for the last sixteen years has taken a leading part in the administration of foreign affairs at Peking. Wǎn Seang, as his name testifies, was a Manchoo by birth. At an early age he gained literary honors at the Chinese examinations, and shortly afterwards accepted office under the government. His promotion was as rapid as his abilities were great, and in 1860 we find him a vice-president of the board of revenue and a trusted adviser of Prince Kung. Though a man of a liberal turn of mind, he was a thorough Chinaman, and at the outset was not free from some of the prejudices of his adopted countrymen against foreigners, nor from the contempt for them which the history of their early commercial intercourse with China was perhaps sufficient to justify, and which was at all events universally shared in by the official classes. One of the first questions of international interest on which, on the approach of the allies to Pekin, he was called upon to advise was the fate of the prisoners taken at Tung Chow. "Shall we behead them or send them back?" was the question discussed between himself and Prince Kung. Fortunately the latter course was finally adopted, and months afterwards Wǎn Seang had many long conversations with one of those whose life he at this time helped to prolong.

After the conclusion of the treaties, Wǎn Seang was appointed one of the commissioners of foreign affairs at the Tsung-le-Yamun, and in his intercourse with the foreign ambassadors he gained their esteem by his, invariable courtesy and by the comprehensive grasp of his intellect. In all matters relating to foreign trade he displayed a remarkable clearness of perception, and was never tired of studying the systems of political economy practised in Europe; but he by no means accepted without question the statements laid before him. He fully recognized the advantages to be derived trom such innovations as railways, telegraphs, etc., but he held that their introduction would have then been surrounded with insurmountable difficulties. At a later period of his career he still maintained this opinion, and in a conversation with Sir Rutherford Alcock on the revision of the treaty in 1869 he said, in reply to a proposal that the coal mines should be worked by foreign capital and machinery, "You want us to move too fast. We have had some bitter experience already of what comes of it. We were urged — I don't care to say how or by whom, for the thing is done, and I wish to blame no one — to engage in large works for an arsenal and docks at Foochow, and we have only burned our fingers. Nor is this the first or only lesson we have had of the same kind." (" And here it is impossible not to see he had the Lay-Osborn fleet in his mind," adds Sir Rutherford Alcock.) "It would be the same," he continued, "with railroads and mines and all the rest. We are not ready yet for such great innovations — or improvements, if you will. We are not prepared, and cannot handle with safety all the conditions. Nothing but loss and humiliations and danger could cope of our attempts. The time for these things may come no doubt, as you desire; but not yet. We cannot move as fast as you would have us, nor at all in some directions, without manifest loss and danger." These are the words of one of the ablest and most enlightened Chinese statesmen of modern times, of one who was thoroughly acquainted with the condition of the country and who was free from all ignorant bias against foreigners. They are words also of sound practical common sense, and may be studied with advantage by those foreigners who are ever trying to goad China into rash enterprises.

To return to the year 1861. On the death of the emperor Heenfung, Wǎn Seang