CHAPTER XII. AMERICAN INFLUENCE IN THE FAR EAST
PRIOR to the advent of Cushing to China (1884) and of Perry to Japan (1852), while the British in the Far East were engrossed with their policy of forcing the opium trade on the Celestial Kingdom, an American merchant of Macao, Mr. C. W. King, was engaged, as we have seen in a previous lecture, on his own initiative and responsibility in an attempt to unlock the doubly- barred of the Japanese Empire so that foreign commerce might find entrance. This he was bent upon accomplishing by peaceful means, indeed by the most humane of means-by taking with him in his own ship, the Morrison, seven shipwrecked Japanese subjects, who had been thrown ashore on the Pacific Coast of the American continent.
Like a few previous attempts made by his countrymen, Mr. King's mission ended in failure- a failure, which was, as it were, but the repulse of a lesser wave in the ever-swelling tide of the ocean of history. On his return, he appealed to "the champions of his country's benevolence" not to despair of opening up intercourse with Japan, adding, in the most earnest tone, that Great Britain and the United States divide the maritime influence of the world and that "America is the hope of Asia beyond the Malay Peninsula, that her noblest effort will find a becoming theatre there." In his mind's eye, he could already discern, rising at the gateways of the sun, a grand scene of human probation, the vast colosseum of the moral world, as he called it. He predicted the time when Japan would more readily yield to and repay the efforts of America than China, and that the latter could best be reached through the channels of the former.
Such was the first audible utterance-albeit not so clearly recognised as it deserved-of an American citizen, and for aught I know it voiced the sentiment of his people as the avantcourier of Western progress.
A whole generation, as measured by the royal psalmist, has since passed away, and in these three-score years and ten, the sun has witnessed marvellous changes, such as it never before witnessed in its career around this planet- changes that have transformed the face and the spirit of the Far East. True to the traditions of their fathers and pressed by the necessity of self-preservation, both China and Japan have in that interval reverted more than once to the tactics of exclusivism and resorted to weapons of violence in order to close the doors they once opened.
No cannon-balls have done more effective work in the history of civilisation than those fired by the combined fleet of Great Britain, Holland, France, and the United States upon the forts and batteries of Shimonoseki, in the autumn days of 1863. That they did not fail to strike the defences of this harbour, is a matter of small concern. The balls pierced farther than the bulwarks of stone. They penetrated the very walls of exclusivism. Henceforth, there were apertures through which Western influence could find entrance. Civilisation is like a fluid that follows the law of osmosis. Cultures of different densities, when separated by a porous partition, flow each into the other for final equable diffusion. Inequalities in culture are not tolerated in modern civilisation. "America is not civil," says Emerson, "while Africa is barbarous."
Through the apertures made by the Shimonoseki bombardment, there flowed into Japan the ideas and ideals of the Occident. In China, owing to the magnitude of her territory and population, the process was not so simple. The more redoubtable walls of Chinese exclusion had to suffer repeated assaults, starting with the Opium War, through the vicissitudes of the Taiping Rebellion and the war with Japan and ending with the Boxer movement, before perforations were made large enough for osmosis freely to begin. Indeed, in the case of our great neighbour, instead of the steady influx of a regenerating stream effecting her deliverance, we see that her moss-grown ramparts are crumbling before the sudden and devastating torrent of a republican deluge.
The soul of Japan, quickly responding to the impulse from the West and rising to the consciousness of her destiny, adjusted her institutions, social and political, to the demands of the age, and set forth on a new career of what sociologists like to call telic progress. China is now fast following in the same path, though with more painful steps, paying higher toll for her long delay. She has but newly learned what Japan learned fifty years ago, that contact and communion with the West under external pressure bring no guarantee of safety or growth.
What part in this epochal interchange between the East and the West, between the Pacific and the Atlantic-the moulding influence of knowledge, ideas, and institutions-does the United States play? Are the conditions in the Far East so radically changed that the words of Mr. King no longer voice the attitude of the American people? Has the phenomenal growth of its Pacific Coast so estranged the higher interests of China and Japan from the heart of this nation, that it now throws stones instead of offering bread? Has the acquisition of the Sandwich Islands so turned the thoughts of America that she now looks upon us as possible intruders and enemies? Has the entrée of this country into the sphere of Asiatic politics brought about a deviation in public opinion from the viewpoint of a King to that of a Hobson? Is the Panama Canal, to the opening of which the Japanese and the Chinese are looking forward with great anticipations of trade-I ask, is the Panama Canal intended for a war-path or a trade route?
There are voices heard on the American side of the Pacific, shrill and alarming, that a conflict, and an armed one at that, is inevitable between the East and the West. The "Yellow Peril" scare, started by the Kaiser and the Czar, leaped over the British Islands, crossed the Atlantic, and found some adherents here. Managed by a paid propaganda, it has been preached and proclaimed by a host of minor prophets.
What a far cry from the time when King made his appeal to "the champions of his country's benevolence"; from the later time when Dr. Samuel Wells Williams concluded his account of the Perry expedition in these words: "In the higher benefits likely to flow to the Japanese by their introduction into the family of civilised nations, I see a hundred-fold return for all the expenses of this expedition to the American Government," and from the still later day when Townsend Harris, Minister Bingham, Secretary Seward, Minister Burlinghame, and General Grant enunciated in no uncertain words the ethical principles which should guide their country in its dealings with the Far East. No, I cannot believe that this nation, still in the prime of manhood, could so easily forget the pledges and ideals of youth. Its assurances of friendship and of good will were not uttered as idle words of diplomacy.
In 1851, at the time that Perry's expedition was still under contemplation, the English historian, Creasy, declared that American diplomacy in the East would be "bold, intrusive, and unscrupulous and that America would scarcely imitate the forbearance shown by England at the end of her war with the Celestial Empire." Of the prophet, Zadkiel's quaint Almanac, vaticinating dire misfortunes for Japan in the year 1852, we have already spoken. But the foreboding of historian and prophet alike, proved false. That its early spirit of justice and equity still guides this nation in its Oriental policy, is evidenced by the words of so recent and authoritative a writer as Captain Mahan. Speaking particularly of China, he says: "Our influence, we believe-and have a right to believe-is for good; it is the influence of a nation which respects the right of to shape their own destinies, pushing even to exaggeration its belief in their ability to do so."
American influence in Asia cannot be otherwise than wholesome as long as it is exercised in infusing the vast mass of humanity there with the consciousness of their own dignity and mission-a task which Europe not only neglected, but positively refused to perform on every occasion. Great and real progress must work from within, though its first impulse may come from without. Unless it can intensify the inner impulse, external pressure only ends in making for a while a shallow dent on the surface.
A culture that is forced upon an unwilling nation belongs to things of time "that have voices, speak and vanish." China knows this only too well. Spiritual power comes only through our own choosing. We are free to prefer a stone to bread, or a serpent to a fish. Men and nations are judged by the choice they make. The real difference between the culture-grades of individuals as of ethnic groups is the one difference between their voluntary and their involuntary activities,- between compulsory adoption and reflective choice, between mechanical imitation and judicious selection, between bondage and freedom. It has been said that Die Weltgeschichte ist das Weltgericht,- truly, though in a different sense of the term, may we not say that a nation's history is a nation's judgment?
Any outside influence, to be permanent, must strike at the root of inner consciousness-the very bottom of sentient existence; at the core of personality where man divests himself of every race distinction and stands on the ground common to the White and the Yellow, the Black and the Brown, and where there is "nor border, breed nor birth, though they come from the ends of the earth."
It is by awakening in the Far Eastern mind, the sense of personal and national, responsibility, that America has imparted energy to its inertness -by suggesting to it that power which so eminently characterises the American people and which Professor Münsterberg calls "the spirit of self-direction." It was this spirit of self-reliance and self-development which early passed through cannon holes into Oriental communities, and there leavening the leaders and the masses emancipated Japan from the iron shackles of convention and conformity, and which promises to put an end to the sleeping cycle of Cathay and lead that hoary nation to a new heaven and a new earth.
In so doing America has only acted in a manner true to her love of fair play, which among her sons is, as one of their exponents very happily puts it, "a kind of religion." It is a spirit of tolerance, or recognition of others' rights, which imposes on each the duty of regarding his fellow-men with impartiality and of taking the view, to borrow Dr. Henry Van Dyke's words again, that "any human system or order which interferes with this impartiality is contrary to the will of the Supreme Wisdom and Love."
Diplomacy, conducted in consonance with these high principles, shed radiance at once far-reaching and benignant. This great feat America has achieved and can achieve to a still greater degree. Her noblest labour in the Far East lay in the new evaluation of the individual, arousing self-respect and teaching personal as well as political liberty, with the result of the growth of national consciousness.
It is a well-known fact that their acquaintance with the Declaration of Independence of the United States, was the disclosure of a new mine of thought to the makers of new Japan. The idea of the present Chinese Revolution is a republic after the pattern of the United States.
In the light of the preceding statement, it is not difficult to perceive why European nations have found so little response among Eastern peoples. No wonder Mr. Meredith Townsend despairs of any lasting foothold of the West in the East. How many Christians would turn their left cheek when their right is struck! What people would willingly kiss the feet that tread upon them, be they never so beautifully shod!
The Roman god Terminus, in his palmiest days, drew a sacred circle around the Mediterranean, and its northern periphery touched the Black Forests; but in the course of a few centuries its charm was broken, and the august rule of divine Cæsars left behind traces which are now of interest chiefly to archæologists. When we compare the ruins of the Roman dominion, imposing as they are, with the immortal influence of Athens, which is carved deep upon the memory of Europe and is still exhibited in its noblest form, "wherever," to quote from the famous eulogy of Macaulay, "literature consoles sorrow and assuages pain, wherever it brings gladness to eyes which fail with wakefulness and tears, and ache for the dark house and the long sleep," we see that the influence won and exercised by the sword is destined to fade away as "the captains and the kings depart." Territorial domination upheld by the sword is guaranteed no long lease of life.
The best credential of American diplomacy in its early days in the Far East was the unsullied record of the United States in respect to territorial designs. In his day, Townsend Harris assured our Government in the following words:
"The policy of the United States is different from that of other countries. She has no territory in the East, neither does she desire to acquire any there. Her Government forbids obtaining possession in other parts of the world, and we have refused all the requests of distant countries to join our nation."
Though these words sound strange in view of the insular possessions of the United States, nevertheless, they were honest words then and true. China, Japan, and Siam felt perfectly safe in their dealings with the United States. While they had ample reason to suspect all the approachments of European Powers only as steps to ultimate encroachment, their offers of help as baits-a nation possessed of no greed for an inch of land, no thought for intervention in the internal order of a native community, was a pleasing discovery in Oriental eyes. Here lay the secret of the marvellous success of American diplomacy, and an Oriental Lothario could on his part exclaim: "Here or nowhere is America."
The disinterested position which the United States holds or has held in foreign politics, her freedom from European entanglements and complications, has placed her in an attitude of supreme independence in diplomacy. She can initiate a policy and act with little reference to European balance of power. The very possibility of the free exercise of will, sanctioned by a history which shows that she has never abused it, gives to her a preponderating moral advantage. Having deservedly gained a reputation for fair play, her judgment is summoned on occasions involving great issues. By the magic of her name, she can rally behind her a large following of European nations. We may recall in this connection names such as Seward, Grant, Cleveland, Hay, Foster, and Roosevelt. Mankind is always willing to follow a man or a nation in whose eyes there is no mud. America will continue to exercise this power as long as her eyes and her hands are clean; but the instant she stoops for a clod of earth, virtue will go out of her.
Has then her prestige waned with her dU+0000E9but into the Eastern Hemisphere? Has she sold her birthright of world-moderatorship and of Asiatic guardianship for a pottage of tropical islands? God forbid that a taste of new territory should infect her with the lust of milomania. Mr. Roosevelt set an example of a novel American principle of colonial policy in San Domingo, and the Filipinos, now passing through the American school for self- government, may, in the fulness of time, rejoice in the completion of their tutelage and celebrate the day of their graduation by a grand convocation.
With such a vision before us, we welcome the presence of the United States in Asiatic waters. We welcome her as she emerges from behind the rising sun and marches to her new seat under the mid-day sky. As far as China and Japan are concerned, they would rather see the Stars and Stripes float over those isles of fronded palms she now rules than any other flag. European nations are still trying to discover and devise suitable methods of administering their Asiatic possessions, and while none of them are satisfied with their own schemes and plans, it will be a valuable contribution to the science of politics and the art of government, if the United States should succeed with her "Holy Experiment" in the Philippines.
The United States may by her mere presence exercise a salutary influence on the Far Eastern situation. Her position as an Asiatic Power entitles her more than ever to a voice in the parliament of Asia. She may do nothing; but her mere presence will have a catalytic action for wholesome activity. It has latterly been broached in irresponsible quarters that Japan looks with jealousy upon the naval growth of the United States Why should we-as long as you have no designs upon us-and why should you have any? It has been suggested that Japan fears to lose control of the Chinese market and of the Pacific Ocean. Why should we be jealous of American trade in the Far East when it forms but a bagatelle of the whole amount of some two billion dollars, of which Great Britain's share is no less than a fourth? If our ambition were to monopolise the Celestial or any other Eastern market, as we are suspected of wishing to do, we would contest with more important rivals than the Americans.
Control of the Pacific! What does this high- sounding phrase mean, anyhow? May we not say with Professor Coolidge that the grandiloquent expressions "dominion of the seas," "mastery of the Pacific," and the like, are mere claptrap? If the control of an ocean means as much as was implied in the boastful message of Kaiser Wilhelm to Emperor Nicholas, in which he calls himself the Admiral of the Atlantic and the Czar the Admiral of the Pacific,-that phrase may be dispensed with as an empty bit of rhetoric. Who is the lord of the Atlantic? Who controls it, and who are debarred from its area of 35,000,000 square miles? What national flag or flags can attain so gigantic a size as to cover the vast expanse of the Pacific, which is twice as large as the Atlantic? Our school children are as familiar as are yours with the story of King Canute vainly commanding the waves to retire. Let the United States increase her navy to a size commensurate with her greatness,-it will accentuate her presence in Asia. Let her steamships plough the ocean lengthwise and crosswise, it will make possible a swifter and larger exchange not only of trade but of cultural influences between the East and the West. Let the Stars and Stripes dot the Ocean of Peace as constellations strew the firmament above,-and I assure you that they harmonise well with the sun-flags of Japan. Never will the sun and stars collide in their orbits.
The six hundred million souls, comprising one- third of the human race, living on the borders of this great Ocean, will hail the ensign of the Union- as long as it is unfurled in the cause of human freedom and universal justice and individual development,-in one word, of the moral principles for which America stands; for I believe, that, paradoxical as it may seem at first sight, it is through the young civilisation of the United States that the old East will receive the freshest moral impetus.
At present one perceives in the Orient two currents of thought flowing from the Occident, moulding the rising generation. One is derived from the continent of Europe, especially from Slavic and Romance literature and art, making for skepticism and decadence, often pessimistic, negative, and destructive; the other, derived from the indefatigable spirit of the Anglo-Saxon race, constructive, robust, forever ready to be up and doing with a "heart within and God o'erhead."
Nor are the introduction and spread of the moral sentiments of the Anglo-Saxon race in the Far East like "the grafting of a bamboo shoot upon the stock of a pine," as we term incongruities. Psychology shows, and experience demonstrates, that the theory of race antipodalism is untenable. There is a tie of brotherhood between an English gentleman and a Japanese samurai. By the introduction or adoption of an Occidental standard of ethics, is not meant a blind acceptance of alien culture. Its purport is to express in the more modern and universal terms of the West, the thoughts and feelings that have been the heritage of the Orient for centuries past.
A man of high reputation for scholarship and character, in summing up impressions of his recent travels in the East, stated his belief that neither China nor Japan will be Westernised. Professor Hart, when he so expressed himself, had chiefly in mind outward manners and customs and social institutions, and I concur largely in his judgment. But it is none the less true that even in these exterior manifestations of culture, the East can no longer defy the ascendency of the West, notably of America. How can it be otherwise? The perforations made in the walls of Asiatic exclusivism have been deliberately, carefully, and constantly enlarged from within. The very men who reared the ramparts have razed them with their own hands for the more rapid and voluminous inflow of the streams of Western culture. Osmosis on a gigantic scale has set in, and even though as Professor Hart says, the East and the West may never realise uniformity of social customs and institutions, they can and will attain to unity of purpose and unanimity of thought.
If until the advent of Cushing to China, and of Perry to Japan, the American advance in the East had been repulsed like a wavelet that dashes in vain against a rock, the great tide of Western civilisation has since then, "without rest, without haste," been rolling on, laving the shores of Asia, surging over her rocks, filling her rivers and creeks with the eternal freshness and irresistible force of the swelling sea. As in a few years the waters of the Atlantic will mingle with the waters of the Pacific, the civilisation conceived in the womb of Asia, born on the shores of the Mediterranean and brought to maturity by the denizens of the Atlantic coasts, will soon enrich the venerable civilisation of its primal home, and thus make complete its circuit.
The Pacific awaits with open arms the coming of the Atlantic. We shall greet her with the words of Byron:
"Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form Glasses itself in tempests; in all time, Calm or convulsed,-in breeze, or gale, or storm, Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime Dark-heaving; boundless, endless, and sublime, The image of Eternity,-the throne Of the Invisible!"