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ADVANCE ON THE SEABOARD. 75
Yangtsze, down upon the seaboard lying between Shanghai and Ningpo. The fall of Nanking seemed only a question of time, and the Imperialist theory of sweeping them into the sea had about it some appearance of feasibility. But then, on the other hand, had they been permitted to take possession of Shanghai and Ningpo, their cause would, in all probability, have gained a new lease of life, and caused not only China, but also Foreigners in China, a great deal of trouble for a much longer period than that which actually served for its final extinction. Had the Tai-pings been allowed to take Shanghai and Ningpo, they would not only have been able to secure European arms and ammunition to an extent before impracticable, but might also have largely reinforced their strength from the hardy maritime population of China. It would have been difficult also, in such circumstances, to prevent European and American adventurers from taking service with them ; and, once in occupation of the cities at these consular ports, the Taipings, in the event of any collision with the Foreign authorities, would have held the residents in their power, and would have been almost certain to apply to them also the system of cruel intimidation which had been continually practised throughout the Tien Wang's exterminating career. This would, of course, have directed the arms of Foreign powers against the ruthless sectaries of the Great Peace, but only after a most lamentable loss of life and bloodshed had occurred. Tai-ping sympathisers have naturally felt and expressed themselves very bitterly about this matter of our defending Shanghai and Ningpo, because it led to events which were speedily very disastrous to the Rebel cause; but in their zeal for the Tien Wang's Christianity and their grief at having lost a grand opportunity for making fortunes by the sale of bad firearms, they quite ignore not only the DEATH OF THE EMPEROR HIEN-FUNG. 77
necessity which the right of self-protection imposed upon us, but also the fact that it was the distress of Tai-pingdom which drove it into the neighbourhood of the Foreign settlements. It had the remainder of all the vast empire of China in which to beat the Imperialists, nor up to this
period had the latter availed themselves of Foreign arms
any more than the Rebels had done. Abhorred wherever
line. He would have to speak of trouble, rebellion, and
change through all the years of his reign, over all the vast plains of the Celestial Empire, from the gutturalvoiced tribes of Mongolia and the blue-capped Mohammedans of Shensi, down to the innumerable pirates of Kwangtung; he might complain that, east and west, north and south, his people had been disobedient and rebellious; the administration of his empire had been set at defiance, and his sacred decrees had been imperfectly carried out by weak and corrupt viceroys, much more intent upon their own aggrandisement than upon the welfare of the people. Year after year great bands of marauding rebels had moved across the once happy Flowery Land, marking their progress in the darkness of night by the glare of burning villages, or shadowing it in the day by the rolling smoke of consuming towns. A maniac usurper had not only sought to ascend the dragon throne, but had nearly done so, and had claimed divine honours; while invading armies of the outside barbarian had humiliated the empire, had visited the once inviolate city of Peking, and had burned the palace of the Son of Heaven. But we, who now know more of the meaning of these events which caused the Emperor Hien-fung so much distraction, can see that they were the necessary accompaniments of a period of extraordinary, of quickening, strengthening, and, it may be hoped, purifying change. Even the death of the Emperor was a signal for a great advance. The regency appointed to take care of the new boy-emperor consisted of Su Shu-en and the Princes of I and Ching, members of the extreme anti-Foreign party, and men who had been responsible for the cruel murders of Captain Brabazon, Mr Bowlby, and others, taken under a flag of truce in 1860. The Supreme Council was opposed to carrying out the distasteful conditions of the Treaty of Tientsin, and of the Convention of Peking. Prince Sankolinsin still held by the delusion that he would in time be able to resist Foreign demands at the point of the sword or the mouth of the cannon; and when a brother of the late Emperor, the more enlightened Prince of Kung, who had signed the Convention of Peking, was invited to the Jehol, there was no very sanguine expectation that he would ever come back alive, or that the invitation meant anything more than the permission, politely granted to erring members of the Imperial family, of despatching himself in private by swallowing gold-leaf, or by strangulating himself with a silken cord. Fortunately, however, as it turned out, the disposition of events was to a great extent in the hands of a woman of intelligence and strength of character. The Dowager Empress of China was the head of the regency; and she had wisdom enough to perceive that the Prince of Kung understood the interests of the country better than did her late lord's advisers, and was the statesman for the situation. So when every one expected to hear of his self-extinction, he suddenly reappeared in Peking; and though he said nothing, so far as has transpired, yet there was sufficient evidence in his countenance that he felt satisfied and secure. The result was that the entry of the youthful Emperor into Peking was accompanied by the Prince of Kung's famous coup d'état of the 2d Nov. 1861, which
overthrew the anti-Foreign party at the capital, and led
to the execution of its leaders a few days after.” This event consolidated friendly relationships between the Foreign Ministers and the Imperial Government; it gave an important impetus to the policy of strengthen* See Dr Rennie's ‘Peking and the Pekingese, vol. ii. chap. v.
PRINCE KUNG'S COUP D’ETAT. 79
ing the hands of that Government; and it gave security for a healthier and more reasonable central power in China than had existed for a long period. Many things, as we see, were thus working together for the destruction of Tai-pingdom, and for the restoration of the Celestial Empire to a state of comparative order and peace.