Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 eBook

John Lord
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 311 pages of information about Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14.

At Peking, calling on the genial old Kweiliang, who had signed the treaty in 1858, Mr. Ward was astonished at his change of tone.  “You wish to see the Emperor.  That goes as a matter of course; but his Majesty knows you helped the British, and he requires that you go on your knees before the throne in token of repentance.”  “Tell him,” said Mr. Ward to me, “that I go on my knees only to God and woman.”  “Is not the Emperor the same as God?” replied the old courtier, taking no notice of a tribute to woman that was unintelligible to an Oriental mind.  “You need not really touch the ground with your knees,” he continued; “but merely make a show of kneeling.  There will be eunuchs at hand to lift you up, saying ‘Don’t kneel!  Don’t kneel!’” The eunuchs, as Mr. Ward well knew, would be more likely to push us to our knees than to lift us up; and he wisely decided to decline the honor of an audience on such terms.

Displeased by his obstinacy, the Emperor ordered him to quit the capital without delay, and exchange ratifications at the sea-coast.  A report was long current in Peking that foreigners have no joints in their knees; hence their reluctance to kneel.  Thus vanished for Mr. Ward the alluring prospect of winning for himself and his country the beatitude of the peacemaker.

The summer of 1860 saw the Peiho forts taken, and an allied force of thirty thousand men advancing on Peking.  The court fled to Tartary, and the summer palace was laid in ashes to punish the violation of a flag of truce, the bearers of which were bound hand and foot, and left to perish within its walls.  For three days the smoke of its burning, carried by a northwest wind, hung like a pall over the devoted city, whose inhabitants were so terrified that they opened the gates half an hour before the time set for bombardment.  No soldiers were admitted, but the demands of the Allies were all acceded to, and supplementary treaties signed within the walls by Lord Elgin and Baron Gros.  Peking was opened to foreign residence.  The French succeeded in opening the whole country to the labors of missionaries.  Legations were established at the capital, and a new era of peace and prosperity dawned on the distracted empire.

VI.

THE WAR WITH FRANCE.

If the opening of Peking required a prolonged struggle, it was followed by a quarter-century of pacific intercourse.  China had at her helm a number of wise statesmen,—­such as Prince Kung and Wensiang.  The Inspectorate of Customs begun under Mr. Lay took shape under the skilful management of Sir Robert Hart, and from that day to this it has proved to be a fruitful nursery of reforms, political and social.

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Beacon Lights of History, Volume 14 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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