By George Allen White — December, 1901
My brothers, sisters, you who long for the reign of Truth and Right.
Does it seem that the world is ruled by wrong, and that error is Infinite?
Does it seem that the light of to-day is caught through the dim, low-windowed past?
Yet know that Truth is the king of thought, and shall reign in his realm at last.
—J. A. Edgerton
Framingham, Mass: Is there any civilization? Any morality? Any justice? Any Christianity? Let us see.
A good many decades ago, when this republic was becoming known as the “home of the brave,” where the poor of other lands might have a chance to turn their hopeless faces from the sod to the sunlight, Chinamen got the idea that they would test us. Our pretensions were great. What of our acts?
Well, these Orientals came. They took up life in our far West. They asked only the privilege of working for their white brethren at wages that would keep the spirit in the land of the living—in the body that was ready to work so hard and take so little. Their simple pleasures, their simple life, would appeal to the heart of any jury possessing a drop of patrician blood like that which flowed on Calvary or drenched the soil of immortal Bunker Hill. Their morality was excellent. They were meek and gentle and kind and long-suffering. They were law-abiding.
What was the greeting accorded them? Was it hospitable? Was it just? No. It was a greeting that for injustice and sheer bestiality has rarely or never been exceeded since mankind sloughed off the cerements of barbarism and started on the thorny path to glory. The right to slave and starve, to toil for their masters, was denied them. The anathema, the torch, and the bullet made the Pacific coast hot and lurid with brute-born hate until that memorable day when the Congress of the United States decided that the only way to suppress riot and murder was—to jail the rioters and hang the murderers? No! By eternal justice, no! To promise that never again should a yellow man be permitted to emulate the lowly life of an ideal Jesus Christ in this country. That was the decision. It amounted to a standing notice given the Chinese nation that a Chinaman had no rights here which white brutes, having on them the label of the twentieth century before Adam breathed, were bound to respect. Anno Barbari 1870.
The Chinese are better than we Americans. No one of intelligence who has given any considerable time to observation can doubt that were he whom Christendom pretends to worship, as constituting in his anthropomorphic self the karma of perfection, to take up a residence on earth again, the crown would be given by him to the Celestial, out of whose very eyes shines the proof of greater nearness to whatever was noble and good in the life of the Nazarene peasant who died nineteen hundred years ago. And it was on such as these, our peers and our superiors in everything except selfishness, greed and arrogance, that we heaped the deadly insults. China never received any restitution for the murder of her subjects; and the Chinese exclusion act became a fitting climax to a dark page in our history.
Briefly stated, then, people who in reality could not compare in the ideal qualities with those Orientals whom they trampled upon and led to slaughter simply for aspiring to an abstemious life in the Occident, are suffered to go free by a government which patted the murderers on the back, advised the inoffensive victims still alive to get out, refused any satisfaction to the Chinese Empire, slapped it in the face by an exclusion act, and demanded free access to Oriental territory for all Americans.
Talk about anarchists all you will, and inculcate in the minds of children the lesson that law must be respected; but if there remains any desire to be consistent it will not be well to refer to our treatment of the Chinese thirty years ago. The American people are the great anarchists. They represent the supreme Anarch par excellence. Respect for “law” forsooth! Respect rather for swine and the swine-trough.
Two Cartoons by Thomas Nast: (Left) Presidential Candidate James G. Blaine supports the blatantly unconstitutional “Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882” in favor of votes from the Tammany Hall Irish. (Right) “Here’s a Pretty Mess!” (In Wyoming). Chinese Satirical Diplomat: “There’s no doubt of the United States being at the head of enlightened nations!”
This chapter of events took place in a country whose political creed has ever been, “All men are created equal.” Were all “equal” then? It was in a country which elevated into the most conspicuous place as its religious mottoes, “Do unto others as you would that others should do unto you,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Is this, then, a Christian nation? It is astonishing that some among us are so anxious to get God in the constitution and so willing to get God’s subjects out of a country with a God-injected constitution!
It is said that the meek are the chosen ones. “Blessed are the meek,” we are told. It is a lie. “For they shall inherit the earth.” It is a lie. The meek never did, do not now, and never will inherit the earth, or anything else—not in a Christian country. The man with the Roman nose and the Juggernaut personality is the one who does the inheriting—in Christian countries; while debauched louts with titles derived from the wild, buccaneering bastards who flocked around William the Conqueror in the olden days are secretly or openly idolized by the great body of the American upper classes, if not the lower strata. The meek will inherit what the Chinese have inherited, and nothing more or less.
As the years and centuries and millenniums pass over this earth with their mystic, noiseless tread, they will carry down with them to oblivion the memory of China and China’s wrongs, of America and America’s shame—someday by and by, perhaps; some day, when martyrdom has no place on the escutcheon of humanity; some day, when men drink Lethe-draughts from the crystal fountains in the fields of Asphodel; some day, when the sun has set, when dark mists brood and twist over the flickering wraiths of worlds forevermore.
But let us turn to the relations between the white and the yellow men, as exhibited in China. We find that ever since foreigners gained admittance there, nothing but overbearing insolence and callous indifference to the feelings of the Chinese has characterized European and American treatment of them. The man-hunt is a case in point; when the white “devils” gather on either side of a lonely road, awaiting the approach of a Chinaman in order to get a shot at him and see who can kill him first. Mandarins are bribed to condone even the worst of foreign offenses against the native population; and when a foreigner has sustained some trifling injury it is often that half a dozen probably innocent Chinamen are decapitated to pay for it. Not being a self-assertive race, the Chinese are open to all kinds of injustice. It is an old saying that if you give a man an inch he will take a mile; and the yellow man, moral, justice-loving, and easy-going as he is, naturally becomes the prey of western races whose creed—really nothing but a mockery, a screed—comprehends love and mercy, but whose minds are the minds of vultures eager to take a league if you give them a barleycorn. Effrontery matched against effrontery is the only way to deal successfully with western peoples; not honor or justice against effrontery. The latter will not work.
Count Tolstoi says: “Show me the white man who ever sought to establish amicable relations with the common people of China. He shows himself a hard, uncompromising despot in all his dealings.”
Thus not only was the Chinaman maltreated in the United States almost beyond belief, but in his own native land he was the butt of western malevolence. He did not retaliate for injuries done his countrymen here. He tried to be peaceable and honorable. But he was imposed upon even at home in return for his good-will. He suffered for decades in his private everyday life, and without complaining, treatment that only a so-called “civilization” could inflict. A charity and long-suffering on his part without parallel in purely Christian lands, only furnished new ground for aggression; and the destruction of the Chinese race was determined upon by the ghoul-like thing known as organized Christendom.
Thousands of years before Christianity was born the Chinese lived their placid lives in the far East. Thousands of years before the swinish militant civilization of our day obtruded its filthy carcass into this world’s activities; a morality as yet never surpassed was preached and lived by this race of the Orient. And now, like a stately shade in the everlasting panorama of sentient existence, the yellow man gathers up his races and, stabbed to the heart by the hand he licked, spit upon even in death, prepares to sink into a martyred grave.
But “civilization” is marching on.
England and France long ago forced the opium trade upon China. For Christianity is the enemy of bad habits!
In 1885 France demanded of the Chinese government an indemnity of $16,000,000 because certain Chinese citizens had crossed to Tonquin and tried to help resist French encroachments there. China refused to pay; and a French fleet proceeded to Foochow, where, without any declaration of war, it massacred 1,000 Chinese sailors inside of half an hour—in the name of that “Prince of Peace” who said, “Love your enemies!”
In 1897 Germany seized the fort of Kiaochow in retribution for the deaths of two of her missionaries, while subsequently she compelled a lease to be granted her for a term of ninety-nine years of that port and adjacent territory. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth;” “Vengeance is mine; I will repay”—these must have been the mottoes which Christian Germany had on tap at this time!
In 1898 Port Arthur, and other districts were apportioned to Russia as her share in the Chinese grab-bag, and later she acquired Manchuria.
In the same year Great Britain obtained control over Weihaiwei for ninety-nine years, occupation being effected on May 24th; while on, June 9th control was acquired over two hundred square miles opposite Hong Kong.
France was then granted the harbor of Twang Chouwan, and Italy received as her portion sovereignty over San Mun.
Dr. George B. Smyth says in Leslie’s Weekly: “For the last two years China has been subjected to a series of insults, any one of which would have driven a western country to war.”
Count Tolstoi says: “This revolt is the consequence of long-continued, of perpetual, persistent and seemingly endless oppression. The Chinese body politic has risen to shake off the yoke of that civilization which bored its dirty fangs into China’s very flesh. Cruel, nasty fangs different in every respect from the white hand of brotherhood of which we hear so much.”
Religion and the sweet reasonableness of the Gospel began to flow over China. Incarnate greed, alias Christianity, alias Benevolent Assimilation, alias “God’s Way,” strutted through the streets of the empire, and lorded it wherever human beings were found to lord it over.
Conceive that when the first Chinese were put to death by rioting over on the Pacific coast, the Chinese government had demanded and secured San Francisco and a large part of California as rightfully coming under its jurisdiction; that the next trouble should have occasioned the cession of a sphere of influence over Boston and some of New England; that because a Chinaman of importance stubbed his toe in Michigan, New Orleans had been annexed; that in consequence of the refusal of our people to allow Confucian, Buddhist, and Mohammedan votaries on every street corner, or to allow our children to attend schools representing those religions, St. Louis had been turned into a Chinese pig-pen;—but that, although the Chinese minister and his suite were killed in cold blood, even the Emperor of China had declined to soil his yellow hands with municipalities like New York, Philadelphia and Chicago.
Under such circumstances a hamlet could not be found in the United States where indignation and fury would not be given full vent. It would not be a week before a million troops would be marching and counter-marching to the music of “Our Country, ‘Tis of Thee;” before the American flag would be waving defiance from every flag-pole, and eighty millions of people would be shouting for America against the world and for the preservation intact of the republic that flashed out of a tyrannous past at Philadelphia.
And yet who is there here who comes to the defense of the maltreated Chinaman, and ventures to hint that possibly a little justification can be found for the uprising of two years ago?
After a long series of insults, interspersed with hellish crime by the representatives of civilization, some of the Chinese race, in whom still remained a sense of justice, a desire for independence, an intelligence and strength above that of their fellows, thought that the time had come for a movement to protect themselves and their countrymen—for a movement to keep them all on top of this globe, if possible. They inspired a feeling of wrong in sundry parts of the empire. They held meetings and drilled with arms. Knowing that Christendom would not listen to reason or soften her stony heart at the behest of a meekness like that of their race, these patriots, these liberators fit to stand apotheosized forever with the followers of Garibaldi and John Hampden and Washington, on the sublime heights of heroism, rushed upon the representatives of the arch-enemy with the intention of destroying the last vestige. They were children. They knew no better way. There was no better way. With wildly waving arms and eyes aflame with insane fire they contended for what they imagined right.
Two European Views: (Left) Helpless Christian missionaries are violently attacked by the Chinese “Boxers” in this painting by an unknown artist. (Right) Europeans gleefully trample babies and carry Boxer heads on a pike. Cartoon by Hermann Paul for L’assiette au Beurre.
Christendom was caught unawares; but soon gathered herself together and began her journey—a journey that will fester in memory for aye—through a medieval charnel-house of her own making. She called them “Boxers”—these Chinamen who dared to strike against the mailed fist that was big with crime; and all you have to do to-day in order to bring the look of contempt, of revenge, to the face of the ordinary Christian, is to say “Boxer.” That is enough. “The powers” resolved to have a taste of “Consommé Celestial,” and when the allied forces reached the scene of conflict, they got it, and have been supping on it ever since.
“O, breasts of pity void, t’ offer the weak,
To point your vengeance at the friendless head,
And with one mutual cry insult the fallen:
Emblem too just of man’s degenerate race.”
What the allied army did and has been doing in China is too familiar to require description.
The New York World says: “Not since the awful sack of San Sebastian by British soldiers on August 31, 1813, in Wellington’s Spanish campaign, has the soldiery of a civilized power engaged in such a carnival of base passions as is described in the following story of the scenes after the taking of Tien-tsin.”
The New York Tribune says: “It is worse than the tales of Boxer ravages; it is a hideous spectacle, from which the world must turn away sick at heart.”
Mark Twain says: “I bring you the stately matron named Christendom, returning bedraggled, besmirched and dishonored from pirate raids in Kiaochow, Manchuria, South Africa and the Philippines, with her soul full of meanness, her pocket full of boodle, and her mouth full of pious hypocrisies. Give her soap and a towel, but hide the looking-glass.”
Charles Reade once declared that “the circumstances under which the human mind could not excuse or delude or justify itself have never yet occurred in the huge annals of crime;” but although there has been an immense amount of special pleading in our politics for two or three years past, it seems incredible that, with the facts clearly before him, anybody should have the hardihood to applaud the dealings of Christian Europe and America with Pagan China in recent years.
Here is our treatment of the Chinaman: A man visits a neighbor; and although more exemplary than any in the latter’s household, he is set upon, abused, ejected from the grounds, and he and all his relatives forbidden by these militant swine to show themselves there again. The neighbor justifies his anarchistic subordinates, refusing all satisfaction to the injured man. Members of the former’s family, however, demand and are granted free entrance to the estate of the latter, and carry things with a high hand, as swine usually do. They treat whoever they encounter with contempt. Their recognized head seizes first one part and then another of the injured man’s estate, and turns them into “spheres of influence” for himself. Finally, the weaker party protests and tries to expel the aggressors, whereupon they gather an armed band, yell “Boxer,” make the sign of the cross, and begin the extermination of the former. Then, to cap the climax, instead of paying for their crimes, they demand a heavy indemnity in recompense for the attempt to expel them from what was not theirs, and declare that civilization has once more triumphed through the providence of god.
The Albigenses suffering the tortures of the damned for conscience’s sake; the Incas cringing before Pizarro; the Aztecs under Montezuma going up against Benevolent Assimilation by Cortez; Poland stamped out by a Russia whose iron hand never relents; the Pride of South Africa engulfed in the mouth of that Lion which resembles the jackal—all the black, inhuman crimes committed in the history of the world, in the name of God Almighty, contain no more horrid thing than the barbaric oriental orgies of a civilization whose filthy face is set full and fair on the back track toward primeval slime.
And the voice of the press is silent.
The voice of the pulpit is silent.
From the platform comes no protest—no sound.
But so long as the breath of life is given me, I propose to be of that tiny band of reformers whose voice has never yet been stilled so long as the feeble wail of the weak ascended to the starry skies; that has never yet grown less in the presence oi the mightiest battalion that a hell world could throw against the eternal right; that never will sink to rest until the ship of state shall spread sail in a nobler and better day far away on the fathomless ocean of love.
There is no civilization. What we have is Barbarism touched with emotion.
There is no morality. Morality is dead, and everything bearing that name to-day is a posthumous article.
There is no justice. Her scales are melted into weapons of war, and the is blind and deaf and dumb.
There is no Christianity—only an insolent mongrel, full of hypocrisy and selfishness here, and, fearsome and contemptible, whining for an endless life beyond the grave.
Still the flux of the eons goes on. Still is there hope that in the ceaseless processes of evolution a day will dawn when mankind will see things as they are.
In the words of Whittier:
“Shall tongues be mute when deeds are wrought
Which well might shame extremist hell?
Shall freemen lock the indignant thought?
Shall pity’s bosom cease to swell?
Shall honor bleed-shall truth succumb?
Shall pen, and press, and soul be dumb?
No-by each spot of haunted ground
Where freedom weeps her children’s fall—
By Plymouth’s rock and Bunker’s mound,
By Griswold’s stained and shattered wall—
By Warren’s ghost—by Langdon’s shade—
By all the memories of our dead!
“By their enlarging souls, which burst
The bands and fetters round them set—
By the free Pilgrim spirit, nursed
Within our inmost bosom yet—
By all above—around—below—
Be ours the indignant answer—NO!