Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 81.djvu/464

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raise the funds for its construction. Considerable sums were raised, but were neither wisely managed nor well spent, and as time passed the funds gradually melted away without any material return in the form of roadbed and rolling-stock. Meanwhile, centralization of power in the Peking government was increasing with rapid strides, and finally the Peking authorities began to negotiate with England, France and Germany a loan for the construction of this and other railways. The means by which the United States claimed and secured the right of participation in this loan, while of importance to China as well as the banker powers, is outside the present question. It was evident from the first that there was great popular opposition to the loan, and foreigners, who knew the popular temper, prophesied that it could never be consummated. Finally the negotiations were concluded, however, and the terms were announced. Among other provisions it was announced that for the sum already spent by the people of the provinces, stock in the railway enterprises to half its par value would be allotted. The pot of revolution, which is always seething in southern China, at once boiled over. The Chinese people had suffered an incompetent government by alien officials as long as it did not greatly trouble them. When it began to waste their money they promptly revolted.

It is generally agreed that war is hell. It is also expensive. Bombardments, bloody combats, fire and looting figure in the head-lines of the daily journals, but the real work of the revolution was done in the financial council chamber. At the beginning of the outbreak neither side was provided with adequate funds, for the revolutionists were unable to secure any considerable sums, though able to cut off a large part of the normal income of the Peking government, and the imperial household with business caution refused to give up their store of private treasure for what bade fair to be a losing contest. The struggle at once resolved itself, therefore, into a competition to secure foreign financial assistance.

Perhaps some day the true history of the negotiations at Peking and Nanking will be made known. But from a business standpoint it was at once evident that the Peking government had immensely the more advantageous position. It had for some time been in negotiation with representatives of the banker nations in regard to loans, and was easily able to continue its negotiations. Bankers seek for stability and naturally preferred to deal with a government whose peculiarities had been learned through years of experience, rather than to take a chance with an oriental republic, of which it would be safe only to prophesy that it would do the unexpected. The revolutionists were out of touch with the financiers, many of them were young and inexperienced, and they were unable to make any impression except upon the Japanese and Russians, who hoped that after a new deal in China they might hold a better hand.