صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

cesses of detail. The thirst for universal systems of morality or politics, is exactly like the thirst for an absolutely perfect system of theology dropped straight out of the clouds; and as it has always been a fatal objection to the one notion that no one can tell which system is the true one, so it ought with reasonable men to be considered a fatal objection to the other, that no recognized system of international law or morals will enable us to deal satisfactorily with any other problems than those which arise out of the state of things on which any given system was founded. International law will enable us to steer our way pretty well through the questions, or at least through some —though not all--of the questions, which the conflict of European interests present; but it fails us altogether when we come to apply it to such a country as Japan. At best it supplies nothing more than weak analogies, which fail just in the points where we require guidance.

The only sensible, and indeed the only possible course, under these circumstances, is to fall back upon a direct consideration of the probable consequences of the course which we propose to take-the consequences to ourselves and the consequences to the Japanese-and to guide our conduct accordingly. Till the state of our knowledge on moral subjects has made great advances, we shall not be able to get much beyond this, or to lay down any general principles or systematic rules by which the conduct of such nations as our own to such states as China and Japan, ought to be regulated.

It would be a sort of impertinence in any one who had not means of knowledge of a very special kind, to offer observations of much weight on this subject. Sir R. Alcock's book and his despatches supply some remarks upon it which are worth weighing and reporting, but which do not clear the matter up. In the first place, it is perfectly clear that a treaty of amity, and even a treaty

of what may be called advice and influence, is altogether a different thing from a treaty of commerce; and that we not only might secure the first without causing any irritation to the Japanese, but have the strongest reasons for doing so. It is not to be supposed for a moment that any one people will permit any other to treat its shipwrecked sailors, for instance, as wild beasts. To do so is to commit an act of hostility of the worst kind, and it would be well worth while to compel by force the renunciation of a practice which we should assuredly prevent by force if it were ever acted upon. It is also quite true that if we do not interfere with the Japanese other nations will; and it is quite possible that the Russians might acquire a position there which, in case of war, would be to the last degree dangerous to our interests throughout the East and the Pacific. The Japanese have abundance of harbours; they have also plenty of stores of every description, and large coal mines. To see these resources placed at the disposal of foreign powers without doing what we can to secure our own interests, would be to give up our position in the East. On the other hand, the existence of mere diplomatic relations with us can do the Japanese no harm. It cannot affect their institutions, or, if it does, they must take the consequences of setting up institutions so strange and inconvenient to others. It would appear, therefore, that there are obvious and solid reasons why we should, if necessary, compel them to receive our representatives, to allow our ships of war to use their harbours, and to purchase what they may require.

As to commercial relations, the question is by no means so simple. A vague notion appears to have come to prevail in the world that there is a sort of right divine in all merchants to buy and sell in every part of the world without let or hindrance, and that we ought to be prepared to enforce this right, especially against the weaker part of the

world, at the cannon's mouth. This is a great absurdity. No doubt it does not follow that because an Eastern people does not like us we are not to trade with them, but immediately to withdraw and leave them to themselves. By a judicious mixture of firmness and good temper it is possible to overcome these dislikes, and set on foot relations both pleasant and profitable to both parties; but though this is possible it is a very delicate task, and it is also a task which is not always worth performing. Sir R. Alcock inclines apparently to the opinion that our trade with Japan will never be worth the expense to which we should have to go in order to keep up a squadron for the purpose of protecting it and enforcing our treaty rights. He says, 'In proportion to the whole import and export trade of Great Britain, nothing Japan is likely either to take or give can be considered otherwise than trifling. One, or a half per cent., on the whole of our export trade is much too small a proportion to induce us lightly to incur unnecessary risks in preserving or in resorting to any very costly or serious efforts to extend it. . . . not all the merchants, with all the consuls and ministers combined, can make any essential change in the system of the Japanese authorities, high and low. This can only come with time or political and social revolutions.'

It is in political and social revolution that our hope of extending trade with Japan appears to reside. If we stringently assert our treaty rights, and punish all who trespass on them as we punished Prince Satsuma, we may get into an endless and shapeless contest with the country itself, and may very possibly break up the government of the Tycoon, as we have shaken and injured that of the Emperor of China, and so throw the whole country into a series of revolutions and civil wars, of which we cannot even conjecture the result. This appears to be the possible, even the probable consequence to them of the course we are pursuing; though of course it is

possible that we may be misinformed upon the matter, and that the bulk of the people, and even the nobility, would be willing enough to trade with us, if they could arrange the trade in their own way. The consequence to us is a small increase in the vast total of our existing trade. Weigh the one against the other, and is it worth while to follow our present course? This is the real question to be considered, and it has the merit of admitting of something like a solution.

It is, however, impossible not to feel that in the main it is a question of curiosity. That we shall persist in our present line of conduct is perfectly certain. 'Vestigia nulla retrorsum' is the motto of our career; and, right or wrong, there is no doubt at all that we shall stick to our point, and carry out our views, even if the result should be to revolutionize the whole structure of Japanese society. If so it must be, so be it; but let us, at all events, have the face to speak plainly. Let us say as little as may be about civilization and Christianity. The plain truth is, that we are strong and they weak. We are determined to have our way, and we hope it may be for their advantage; but have it we will whether or no. It is not just to call this outrageous iniquity and tyranny, for it is no doubt possible that our conduct may be for the benefit of all parties, and it is a question of consequences altogether; but it is just to say that we are in the habit of regulating our conduct as if no consequences, except those which affect ourselves, were of the least importance. The iron pot swims gaily down the stream, and swamps or cracks its earthen companions. This may be the course of nature, but it is nothing to be proud of; and least of all is it a just cause for singing psalms about the spread of Christianity and civilization.

We do not affect to give, or to have the necessary grounds for giving, a strong opinion on the course which ought to be taken; but of one point the general public

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]


OME men's geese, it has occa

Read this page, intelligent person; and you shall be informed about an Ugly Duck, and what it proved in truth to be.

Rather, you shall be reminded of what you doubtless know already. The story is not mine: it was originally devised by somebody much wiser and possibly somewhat better. I propose to do no more than tell afresh, and briefly, what has been told at much greater length before. No doubt it has touched and comforted many to read it. For there may be much wisdom and great consolation in a Fairy Tale.

Amid a family of little ducks, there was one, very big, ugly, and awkward. He looked so odd and uncouth, that those who beheld him generally felt that he wanted a thrashing. And in truth, he frequently got one. He was bitten, pushed about, and laughed at, by all the ducks, and even by the hens, of the house to which he belonged. Thus the poor creature was quite cast down under the depressing sense of his ugliness. And the members of his own family used him worst of all. He ran away from home and lived for a while in a cottage with a cat and an old woman. Here, likewise, he failed to be appreciated. For chancing to tell them how he liked to dive under the water and feel it closing over his head, they laughed at him, and said he was a fool. All he could say in reply was, 'You can't understand me! Not understand you, indeed,' they replied in wrath; and thrashed him.

But he gradually grew older and stronger. One day he saw at a distance certain beautiful birds, snowwhite, with magnificent wings. Impelled by something within him, he could not but fly towards them: though expecting to be repulsed and perhaps killed for his presumption. But suddenly looking into the lake below him, he beheld not the old

ugly reflection; but something large, white, graceful. The beautiful birds hailed him as a companion. The stupid people had thought him an ugly duck, because he was too good for them. They could not understand him: nor see the great promise of that uncouth aspect. The ugly duck proved to be a Swan!

He was not proud, that wise bird: but he was very happy. Now, everybody said he was the most beautiful of all beautiful birds: and he remembered how, once upon a time, everybody had laughed at him and thrashed him. Yes: he was appreciated at his true value at last!

Possibly, my friendly reader, you have known various Ugly Ducks. Men who were held in little esteem, because they were too good for the people among whom they lived. Men who were held in little esteem, because it needed more wit than those around them possessed, to discern the makings of great and good things under their first unpromising aspect. When John Foster, many years ago, preaching to little pragmatic communities of uneducated, stupid, and self-conceited sectaries, was declared by old women and young whipper-snappers to be a PERFECT FOOL; he was an Ugly Duck of the first kind. When Keats published his earliest poetry; and when Mr. Gifford bitterly showed up all its extravagance and mawkishness, and positively refused to discern under all that, the faculties which would be matured and tamed into those of a true poet; Keats was an Ugly Duck of the second kind. John Foster was esteemed an Ugly Duck at the time when he actually was a Swan, because the people who estimated him were such blockheads that they did not know a swan when they saw one: Keats was esteemed an Ugly Duck, because he really was an awkward, shambling, odd animal; and his critic had not patience, or had not insight, to discern something about him that pro

« السابقةمتابعة »