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.

VII.

WAR WITH JAPAN.

Both in its inception and in its tragic ending the notable conflict with Japan connects itself with the name of Li Hung Chang.  The Island Empire on the East had long been known to the Chinese, though until our times no regular intercourse subsisted between the two countries.  It is recorded that a fleet freighted with youth and maidens was despatched thither by the builder of the Great Wall to seek in those islands of the blest for the herb of immortality; but none of them returned.  It was to be a colony, and the flowery robe by which its object is veiled is not sufficient to hide the real aim of that ambitious potentate.  Yet, through that expedition and subsequent emigrations, a pacific conquest was effected which does honor to both nations, planting in those islands the learning of China, and blending with their native traditions the essential teachings of her ancient sages.

For centuries prior to our age of treaties, non-intercourse had been enforced on both sides,—­the Japanese confining their Chinese neighbors, as they did the Dutch, to a little islet in the port of Nagasaki; and China seeing nothing of Japan except an occasional descent of Japanese pirates on her exposed sea-coast.

To America belongs the honor of opening that opulent archipelago to the commerce of the world.  Our shipwrecked sailors having been harshly treated by those islanders, a squadron was sent under Commodore Perry to Yeddo (now Tokio) in 1855, to punish them if necessary and to provide against future outrages.  With rare moderation he merely handed in a statement of his terms and sailed away to Loochoo to give them time for reflection.  Returning six months later, instead of the glove of combat he was received with the hand of friendship, and a treaty was signed which provided for the opening of three ports and the residence of an American charge d’affaires.  In the autumn of 1859 it was my privilege to visit Yeddo in company with Mr. Ward and Commodore Tatnall.  We were entertained by Townsend Harris and shown the sights of the city of the Shoguns when it was still clothed in its mediaeval costume.  The long swaddling-garb of the natives had a semi-savage aspect, and the abject servility with which their todzies (interpreters) prostrated themselves before their officers excited a feeling of contempt.

Like the mayors of the palace in mediaeval France, the Shoguns or generals had relegated the Mikado to a single city of the interior; while for six hundred years they had usurped the power of the Empire, practically presenting the spectacle of two Emperors, one “spiritual” (or nominal), one “temporal” (or real).  Little did we imagine that within five years the Shoguns would be swept away, and the Mikado restored to more than his ancient power.  The conflagration was kindled by a spark from our engines.  The feudal nobles, of whom there were four hundred and fifty,

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