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The Chinese Republic
Tenney, Charles Daniel

The Chinese Republic.
Introduction. Changes in China since
The U.S. was the first foreign country
to recognize the new Republic Govt. of
China in 1913. This act was an index
of the interest of the American people in
the welfare of the Chinese and it also
showed the interest which we take
in the success of the Republican
experiment on the western side of the
Pacific, On this side of the Great Ocean
we have made a success of the
experiment. Hitherto the Chinese have
posed as the oldest of all monarchies
and have been proud of their ancient
civilization and long history. As a
Republic however they hare junior to
us. We look upon them as our
imitators. I have a profound respect
for the good qualities of the Chinese,
and I wish that I might praise the
success of their nine years trial of the
new form of govt., and hold them up
as an example to their great sister
Republic on this side of the ocean.
I cannot do this, however, for the
Chinese are still feeling their way
through the dark forest. Given time,
I have great confidence in the common
sense of the nation and I believe that
they will find their way out of their
During the last years of the Manchu
Monarchy an attempt was made to
modernize the Monarchy. In 1908 a
scheme of gradual development was
announced by the throne according
to which all the necessary reforms
were to be carried out in a period of
tennine years. At the end of this period
the Monarchy was to become a
fully equipped Constitutional Monarchy
with a parliament to represent the
people and with a cabinet responsible
to that parliament. I think that all
sober-minded friends of China approved
of this method of gradual education and approach.
Radical young China found the
process too slow and an outcry
arose for a more rapid change.
Under this pressure the Court
in 1910 agreed to put the calendar
forward. The parliament which
according to the original program
was not to assemble until 1916
was to be organized in 1913.
But in spite of this concession
the radical element would no
be satisfied and the 1st Revolution
broke out in November of 1911. I was
among the moderates who would
have liked to see the change intro­
duced gradually according to the
program announced in 1908 but it
was not to be. I gave much thought
in 1911 and 1912 to the question of
the fitness of China for the sudden
change to a modern from of Govt.
and I will tell you the conclusions
at which I arrived.
On the one side we have the long
experience of the Chinese in local self­
government. This has prevailed in
China for ages. Every town and village
is managed by its elders chosen ratherin most cases rather by
common consent than by regular election.
The highest ambition of every community
is to be let alone by the Central Govt.
Except is certain definite matters like
the dyking of the Yellow River they
expect nothing from the Central Govt.
but consider the land lax as a solace
money in return for which each
community is to be left free to manage
its own affairs. Analogous to this
habit of self-government is the old
system of organizing the trades and
industries, especially the banking
system in guilds for mutual cooperation
and for mutual protection. On the whole
therefore the experience which the Chinese
have had in local self-government may
be counted to their credit as fitness to manage
the affairs of a Republic.
The only respect in which their
experience counts on the other side
is the absorption in local interests
involved in it. If the [illegible: unit] can be
enlarged to include the welfare of the
nation as well as that of the village
it will be well.
The second element of fitness to
manage a Republic I find in the
character of the Chinese people. They
are sober, thoughtful and resourceful.
They are capable if left to themselves of
adjusting themselves to a new set of
conditions. Just here I wish to say that
California has had almost no opportunity
to observe the real Chinese. The real true
Chinese entered China in ancient times
from the north west. They developed
their language and literature in the
northern portions of China, though they
spread over the whole country as
conquerors. The aborigines whom they
found in possession of the land were not racially
so different from their conquerors as were
the American Indians and the
Europeans and therefore easier to
assimilate, though large numbers of them
still live untouched by the Chinese civilization
on reservations in Yunnan, Kuangsi and
Kweichow. The Chinese of Kuang Tung who have come to
America in so large numbers
live on the border of the between the Chinese and the Malays
and no doubt represent a blend of the two bloods.
are a blend of Malay and Chinese. They are quite
different both physically and mentally
from the pure Chinese of North China.
They are sometimes brilliant, always
more emotional and more quarrelsome
than the pure other Chinese. Physically they
are smaller than the real pure Chinese
The qualities of sobriety and serious
mindedness, ability to think through
a new situation which I have attributed
to the Chinese will certainly make
for their success in managing the
affairs of the new form of government
which they have adopted.
Against the fitness of the Chinese to
succeed as citizens of a Republic the
conditions are more obvious. They are
1. The illiteracy of the masses. The Chinese
are burdened with a written language which
is not written phonetically and this
condemns the great majority of the people
to illiteracy. To read a modern newspaper
one needs to have memorized four or five
thousand symbols or characters and besides
that to be familiar with the phrases of
the literary style or semi-literary style
in which the average newspaper is written.
This is evidently impossible for the
ordinary working man. If you will only
compare this with the amount of labor
required to lean to read English you will
see what a different problem the Chinese
have. With us it takes time to acquire a
vocabulary, to learn to spell, and to learn
the art of expression, but many of us cannot
remember the time when we were unable
to read. It is my own opinion that the
masses in China can only become creditable
citizens of a Republic after a phonetic
system of writing the colloquial has been
generally adopted and a new literature in
the colloquial has been established.
Progress has been made in both these
The illiteracy of the masses must un­
doubtedly act as one of the handicaps
under which the Chinese suffer in
their attempt to run successfully a
An even greater obstacle to the success of
the Republic is the general inherited attitude of
the people toward the Central Govt.
I have already mentioned the fact that
the people do not expect much of the
Central Govt. except to leave them
alone. The feeling goes even further
than this. I am afraid that the
common people think of the Central
Govt. as a sort of brigand organization
which must be because it always
has been. The history of China is a
partial explanation of this. Every
dynasty has begun with strong men.
The virility of the rulers has steadily
and progressively disappeared under
the influences of harem, eunucks and
seclusion. When the court has entirely
lost the respect of the people, some
brigand chief begins his operations.
He deluges the land in blood, exter­
minates the supporters of the old
dynasty and many others besides, and
finally ends by making himself the
first emperor of a new dynasty. This
was the process that was going on in
the middle of the 19th Century, when the
foreigners interfered with it and suc­
ceeded in propping up the Manchu
Dynasty against the T'ai P'ing Rebels.
Only two years ago an ex-premier of
the Republic said to me reflectively
that the reason why the Republic is
unstable is because not enough
blood has been shed to effect a change
of government. He came to this
conclusion through his knowledge of
Chinese History. The combination of
lack of ability to read and this hereditary
conception of the Central Government
make the establishment of a real
republic very difficult. Three years
after the Republic had been established
one of my sons was travelling in Shensi
Province. One of the peasants finding
that he could speak Chinese came to
his room and asked him to explain
who the "Ta Tsung T'ung", President, was
He asked "Is he really a Chinese or a foreigner?"
It did not speak well for the standing of this
Shensi man as a citizen of the Republic that
after three years he should be uncertain
whether his president was a Chinese or a
I might go on to mention the lack of
experience in election methods as an
obstacle to the successful working of the
new form of government. I remember
meeting a Chinese literary graduate from
Lau Hsien in Chihli Province just after there
had been held an election for members of the
parliament provincial assembly and I asked for whom he had
voted. He replied that he had not voted at all.
He explained that a notice has been posted
summoning all eligible voters to meet at
the office of the district magistrate on a
certain day, but when they reported, the
magistrate said it was not necessary for
them to vote as he had selected someone
who would be satisfactory to everybody. My
friend seemed to see nothing wrong about
this manner of disposing of this business.
The time will not allow me to do more
than give an outline of the history of the
Chinese Republic from 1911 to the present
time. I will group what I have to say
around the "Three Revolutions".
The 1st Revolution, was, of course, against
the Manchu Court and led to the estab­
lishment of the Republic. A small
minority of radicals under the leadership of
Sun Wen, or as he is commonly called
"Sun Yat-sen" had undoubtedly planned to change
the government of China from a Monarchy to
a republic, but to the majority of those
concerned in the 1st Revolution the idea
had not occurred at the beginning of the
movement. They drifted into it.
The immediate cause of the 1st Revolution was
the dissatisfaction of the provinces with
the policy of the Manchu Govt. to centralize the control of
the railways, taking that control away from the
provinces. In this matter the Central govt. was
entirely right and the provinces were wrong.
The Manchu Court, however, had aroused the
disgust of the Chinese by its weakness, corruptions
and degeneracy and especially by its constant
yielding to foreign pressure in granting to foreigners
territory and the control of various enterprises
which the Chinese regarded as belonging to
themselves. Ssüch'uan first broke into revolt
and Hupei soon followed.
I remember that at
this time two young men called at my office
and expressed themselves as eager for the
establishment of a Republic. I said "Why are
you young men shouting so for a Republic?
Why are you not satisfied so by the Constitutional
Monarchy which has been offered to you?" They
replied "Dr. Tenney, you do not understand us.
We do not care whether the country is a
Republic or a Constitutional Monarchy, but
we insist on being rid of the Manchus. We
are in favor of a Republic only because that
seems the only alienation to the continuance
of Manchu rule." I think that these young
Chinese expressed the general sentiment.
The First Revolution was directed against
the Ta Ch'ing (or Manchu) Dynasty and its
primary object was this expulsion of the
Manchus rather than the change to a Republic.
Ssüch'uan first broke into revolt and
Hupei soon followed. At Wu Ch'ang, the
capital of Hupei, disorder commenced on
the evening of Oct. 10, 1911. The soldiers of
Li Yüan-hung revolted and insisted upon
Li Yüan-hung's acting as their leader.
Later on the well disciplined and well
equipped armies of the Northern govt. might
easily have suppressed the revolt if they
had not been held back by the then premier,
Yüan Shih-K'ai. During the next month
fighting began at Nanking, which was
captured by the revolutionaries Dec. 2nd, 1911.
I have not time to follow in detail the course
of events either at and near Wu Ch'ang nor
and Nanking. Wu Ch'ang is part of an
immense center of population consisting
of the three cities of Wu Ch'ang, Han Yang
and Hankou and is which are the commercial
center of Mid-China.
Nanking is regarded as the political
center of Mid-China it has several times
been the capital of the Empire. The name
means "Southern Capital" as distinguished
from Peking, the "Northern Capital."
I will mention two or three of the leaders
who came into prominence in that
year of 1911.
1. Sun Yat-Sun
Dr. Sun had been well known for many years
as the leader of the radical reformers. He stood
for the expulsion of the Manchus and the organiz­
ing of a Chinese Republic. Strange to say
he was not in China, but in Europe when
the 1st Revolution took place. He arrived at
Shanghai on the 27th of Dec, 1911 just as the
republican representatives were in conference
at Nanking on the organization of a new
government. They were in doubt whom to
choose as Provisional President and on
his arrival he was immediately chosen
to the office and inaugurated on New Year's
day of 1912. The Manchu Court abdicat­
ed on the 12th of Feby, 1912 and two days
later Dr. Sun resigned his post and Yuan
Shih-K'ai was elected in his place. As
Yuan Shih-K'ai controlled the northern
armies it was necessary that Dr. Sun
should retired in the interests of peace
between the Northern and Southern sections
of the country and his self-effacement
was certainly much to be praised.
[inline]At the same
time Yuan had a reputation as a reformer and much hope centered on him.

Subsequently he was disappointed in
Yuan Shih-K'ai and became implicated
in the 2nd Revolution and had to flee
to Japan where I found him in 190814 living
and dressing as a Japanese (my attempt to act as peacemaker) after the
death of Yuan Shih-K'ai and the establish­
ing of military dictatorships in the North
he organized a Southern Government at
Canton which finally collapsed and he
with his colleagues took refuge in Sh'ai
where I met him a year ago. His reestab­
lishing of the Southern government at
Canton has all taken place since I
returned to America. At the present time
in Canton govt. appears to be more
flourishing than ever before and it seems
that it will be a factor in the final settlement
of affairs.
My impression of Dr. Sun is that he
is rather an idealist than a practical man.
His influence is great among the
Cantonese, especially among those who
live abroad. He labors under the disadvant­
age of not carrying great weight with the
Chinese of the North and of the Interior
2. Yuan Shih-K'ai
To give you any insight into the character of
Yüan Shih-K'ai I must briefly trace his career
before the time of the 1st Revolution. Previous to
the Chinese-Japanese War of 1894 he was
Chinese resident in Corea. Judge [illegible: Decury], the
American advisor to the Corean government
has brought serious charges against him
in a pamphlet which he published in the
early nineties.
After his return from Corea he
undertook the foundation of a model corps for the
Chinese army at Hsiao Chan near Tientsin. In 1889
the young Emperor Kuang-hsü had assumed the
responsibilities of government. After the
disastrous war with Japan he came under the
influence of K'ang Yu-wei and other reformers
and soon commenced issuing reform edicts
of a very radical nature. Finding that the
Empress Dowager and her supporters were conspiring against him he sent
orders to Yuan Shih-K'ai at Hsiao-Chan to
march on Peking with his model army,
and emprison the Empress Dowager and
defend him from his enemies. Yüan declined to obey this order and
revealed the plot and Emperor's plan to the supporters of the Emp. Dowager. This lead to the resumption
of office by the Empress Dowager and the virtual
imprisonment of the Emperor Kuanghsü
until his death in 1908. The brother of
The brother of Kuanghsü became regent
for his infant son Hsüan T'ung after the
death of the Empress Dowager and of the
Emperor in 1908 and one of his first
acts was to dismiss Yuan Shih-K'ai, who
was then a member of the Cabinet. This
happened Jan.2, 1909. To avenge the betrayal
of his brother, the Prince Regent would have
decapitated Yüan Shih-K'ai had he dared.
After Jan, 1909 Yüan retired to his nation
Province, Honan and lived there in seclusion
until the outbreak of the 1st Revolution.
The Manchu Court being at its wits'
end saw no other way out of their
difficulties than to recall Yüan Shih-K'ai.
He delayed and made conditions and only
returned to Peking when he became the
defacto head of the Govt. as Premier. Through the control
of the modern army which he had organized
he could easily have beaten the ill-equipped
forces of the revolutionaries, but he held
back and allowed the Republican movement
to go forward until at last he found himself
President of the new Republic after the
abdication of the Manchus.
I have always felt that Yüan Shih-K'ai had
the power, had he so willed, to make
the the Republic a success. Unfortunate­
ly for the Republic their first President
was not a George Washington. Yüan's
energies were devoted to building up
his own power; to making himself
Dictator. I have always regretted that his
American advisor, President Goodnow,
gave him substantial aid in this policy.
Dr. Goodnow drafted the "Constitutional
Compact" which was promulgated May 1, 1914
to take the place of the "Provisional
Constitution" which was passed at Nanking
in Jan, 1912. By the Constitutional Compact
all real power was centered in Yüan
Shih-K'ai. Even this did not satisfy the
growing ambition of Yüan and he at last
tried to imitate Ta Yü the founder of the
Hsia Dynasty who changed the ancient
selective system over 2000 B.C. in order to
do what the Chinese historians call "Chia
t'ien hsia", make a family possession of
the country Empire. In December, 1915 The "Hung Hsien"
Dynasty was announced with Yüan Shih-K'ai
as the founder and first Emperor. He was
He was never enthroned however, He had misjudged his prestige. The
whole country rose against him. He
issued a mandate on the 22nd of March, 1915
cancelling the monarchy scheme and
on the 6th of June he died.
Circumstances have caused me to see a
great deal of Yuan Shih-K'ai during the
past twenty five years. Until his last
rush for Imperial honors I always
regarded him as a man of force and
great ability, though I always recognized
the fact that he had no conscience. and no regard for human life if that life stood between him and the satisfaction of his ambition
His career illustrates the danger that
brains without conscience in will fail
a man at some point in his career
however will highly developed that
brain may be.
I should like to give sketches of many
others who have been prominent in
China since the time of the 1st Revolution
such as Li Yuan-hung elected Vice President
with Yuan Shih-K'ai and by succession
President after the death of Yüan, Feng Kuo­
Chang, afterwards General of the Imperial
forces at Hankow and Han Yang, and Imp. Gov. of Nanking who
afterward became Vice President and President
of the Republic; T'ang Shao-i at first
associated with Yüan Shih-K'ai but later
allied with the Southern party. The time
will not allow this, however, and I must
go on with the history of the Republican
experiment in China. I have spoken of
the First Revolution which led to the
abdication of the Manchus and the estab­
lishment of the Republic in 1912. President
Yüan in 1913 negotiated what is called
the "Reorganization Loan" of £25,000,000.
with Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan
and Russia. Parliament which had been
convened in the spring of 1913 was bitterly
opposed to the terms of this loan, but
though the Provisional Constitution stipu­
lated that all measures affecting the
National Treasury must receive the assent
of Parliament, the President carried it
through in spite of the opposition of Parliament.
By this means he secured funds for making
firm his dictatorship. This led to what
is known as the "Second Revolution."
This was easily suppressed by President
Yüan whose modern troops soon captured both
Nanking and Canton. The Republican
leaders fled into exile. The Second Revolution
was the only phase of the struggle which I
did not personally witness. At the time of
the First Revolution when Dr. Sun set up his
government at Nanking, I had telegraphic
instructions from Washington to go to Nan­
king and report on the situation, but I had
returned home on leave when the outbreak
occurred in regard to Yüan's dictatorship
and his scheme for financing it.
Yüan followed up his suppression of the
revolutionaries by dissolving the Parliament
and his adoption of the Constitutional
Compact which suited him better than the
Provisional Constitution. passed at Nanking
in 1912.

Upon Yuan Shih-K'ai's attempt to make
himself Emperor in the winter of 1915 and 16,
the Southern Provinces rose again and this
time effectively. The insurrection started in
Yunnan Province under Gen. Ts'ai Ao and it
soon spread until
An ultimatum was sent to
Peking stating that the monarchy must be
cancelled and the chief monarkists
must be executed or Yunnan would take
such steps as were considered necessary.
Yunnan, Kweichow, Kuangsi, Kwangtung and
Chehkiang soon declared their independence
and eight other provinces were preparing to
follow suit. When the great province of
Ssüch'uan declared its independence, Yuan
suffered a nervous collapse which brought
on his death on June 6th. This constituted
the Third Revolution which came to an end
with the death of the would-be Emperor.
Li Yüan-hung became President, having been
elected Vice President in 1912. During the lurid
career of Yüan Shih-K'ai he had kept in the
back-ground. In fact he had practically
been a prisoner. after the 2nd Revolution He had saved his life by
remaining absolutely aloof from politics
and he had refused to accede to the
proposed chance from President to Emperor.
Though a military man his sympathies
had been with the constitutionalists and
his first act was to reconvene the
original Parliament that had been
dissolved by Yuan Shih-K'ai in 19134. We
entertained great hopes of the Republic
under the guidance of Li Yüan-hung
but difficulties soon arose. Following the
example of Yuan Shih-K'ai, the various
military leaders aspired to control the
government and jealousy soon arose between
them and the Parliament. This became
acute in 1917 over the question of the
declaration of war with Germany and
Austria. President Li was threatened into
dissolving Parliament again. Wu T'ing-fang
was premier at the time and he persist­
ently refused to sign the dissolution
mandate. Finally his resignation was
hurriedly accepted and Gen. Chiang, Chief
of the Peking gendarmeries was put in
his place, and signed the mandate.
This happened on June 13th, 1917.
Li Yüan-hung escaped to the foreign
Settlements of Tientsin and
shortly after this dramatic event
came the mid-summer madness of
Chang Hsün and his attempt to
restore the Manchus to power. On the
1st of July Chang Hsün taking advantage
of the confusion into which the governmental
affairs had been plunged marched
his army into Peking enthroned the
young Emperor, Hsüan T'ung and formed
a Cabinet, and attempted to start again
the old regime. This was, however, too
much for the stomachs of the military
leaders who had bullied President Li into
dissolving Parliament. Ex-Premier
Tuan Ch'i-jui marched on Peking and
after eleven days the republic was reestablished
and Chang Hsün sought asylum and the
members of his shortlived cabinet took
flight. [left]Restoration of Manchus impossible if Chinese remain their own masters. President Li Yüan-hung retired to
the Foreign Concessions in Tientsin and
refused longer to act as President. This
brought Feng Kuo-chang into the
Presidential chain, as he had been
chosen Vice President on the promotion
of the the former Vice President Li Yüan-
hung. From that time to the present, the
struggle has been between the advocates
of control by the military and the advocates
of civilian control through constitutional
means, and the end is not yet.
afterSince the death of Yuan Shih-K'ai there has also
been much rivalry between different military leaders,
and this has led to much strife in the
North. Tuan Ch'i-jui, the head of one faction
has been now relegated to the background
by another combination of generals.
The great war-lord at present in Chang
Tso-lin, who has the three provinces of
Manchuria under his jurisdiction
He was formerly chief of a band of
brigands but is now a high official of the
Republic. Since I left China last
autumn Dr. Sun Yat-sen and his
adherents have resumed the activities
of the Constitutionalists at Canton and
the reports that I receive of the success
of the venture are rather encouraging.
In the North after during the presidency of
Feng Kuo-chang another Parliament
was organized at Peking under the control of the military., the legality of
which is, of course, denied by Dr. Sun's
Presidency the present incumbent, Mr.
Hsü Shih-ch'ang. I have known President
Hsü for over 25 years and think highly
of him. Under the Empire he held the
high position of Viceroy of Manchuria.
He is not a military man and has
resisted a horror of civil war. He has resisted the
pressure of the military satraps to
settle with the Southern provinces by
and appeal to arms, and is always trying
to arrange differences by negotiations. In my
last interview with President Hsü before I left Peking he told me
that I might expect news of his success
in a few days. When I reached Honolulu
I saw by the telegrams that he had pro­
posed the dissolutions of both parliaments
and a new election. This was not accepted
by the radicals and now the division
between North and South seems more
marked than ever before. The lines on
which an agreement may probably be launched
are likely to be provincial autonomy
with a clean definition of the powers and
revenues to remain in the hands of the
Central Govt. As I said before I deeply
regret that I cannot give a more
encouraging view of affairs in our Sister
republic. In spite of the discouraging
features I am confident that, if only
[gap: worn_edge][guess (MKR): China] can be let alone; [gap: tear][guess (MKR): if] no other [gap: worn_edge][guess (MKR): people]
interferes to keep up strife by intimidation and corrupt
methods the good sense of the Chinese
people will certainly bring about a
solution of their difficulties, and the
military bullies will be crowded out.
Except when the people have been in
the immediate track of the armies, [gap: worn_edge][guess (MKR): they]
have certainly made progress during
the nine years of the Republic. Industry
has developed. Mills and factories
have multiplied. The new ideas of
road making and sanitation are meeting
always with greater favor, and China
is rapidly being modernized in the
true sense.
When we remember how long it took
France to get into her paces as a Republic
Indeed when we remember our own
long period of experimenting we need
not be impatient with the Chinese.
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