Harper’s Weekly, May 15, 1886, page 315 (Article)
Chinese exclusiveness—a Chinese policy—was once almost a by-word; like many other Chinese productions and ideas far less hurtful, it has been imitated in American and Australia. Chinese are driven from San Francisco, and massacred in Washington Territory. They are suffering from unjust and illegal discriminations under both the English and American governments. Chinese merchants of high standing complain that they have difficulty in entering American harbors, and that our national prejudices place an unnatural limit upon the course of trade. Their protest is well founded. The civilized races of the West now practice the policy once held peculiar to China or Japan.
Yet the Chinese writers deny that in the earlier period of their history they were ever opposed to free intercourse with other nations. With the Arabs and the Hindoos they long held an extensive trade. It was only, they assert, when the Portuguese and the Dutch visited their coast as robbers and pirates that the imperial government closed its ports to the ships of the West. The lawless cruelty of the first foreigners who penetrated the Eastern seas was certainly a sufficient excuse for Chinese retaliation and contempt. But with the Arabs and the Hindoos it was different. The first account we have of China is that of an Arab traveller in the ninth century. Ibn Wahab, or whatever was the traveller’s name, found the Chinese in a high state of civilization. Their cities were splendid; their harbors crowded with ships. Commerce was active, the people prosperous. They wore rich coverings of silk; every one learned to read and write, and schools abounded; they drank the infusion of leaves called Tteha and lived in health and ease. Their officials were chosen for their intelligence and worth; their judges were noted for their integrity.
A thousand years ago the Chinese our traveller describes almost as the Chinese of our own day. The potter produced his rare porcelain, transparent as glass. The farmer cultivated his mulberry-trees, his tea-plant, and his rice. The Chinese scholars filled the countless schools. The Chinese painters excelled in that fine technique that marks the painters of modern Paris. Politeness was a national trait. The bankrupt was punished with extreme severity. The sick poor were aided from the public dispensary. The aged were pensioned. The Chinese, said the Arab, are generally fine-looking, of good height, fair complexion, their hair blacker than that of any other people. The women, he adds, wear it curled. Marco Polo and all later travellers confirm the story of the Mohammedan.
The early Chinese showed nothing of that hostility to strangers that has marked their later policy. All sects and creeds flourished under the liberal emperors. Christians (chiefly Nestorians), Jews, Mohammedans, Buddhists, Confucians, were mingled together in the Chinese cities. Good roads, canals, and bridges abounded. In Europe all was savage waste when our record begins. China was the land of toleration and philosophy, poetry and art, when our ancestors were rude barbarians. Captain Gill, in his recent travels, relates that in the interior of the empire he found in some districts a generous welcome and a happy and prosperous people. The hostility to foreigners was strongest near the coast.
Seated on the opposite shores of the Pacific, American and China would seem natural friends and allies. The immense empire, just awakening to the value of Western progress, will afford the most extensive market for American trade. American railroads, steamers, and telegraphs should give life to its hundreds of millions of people. American farming implements—ploughs, reapers, mowers—might be spread over its immense territory. Its teas and silks should be paid for with American goods. England and Germany are already reaching forward toward that extensive traffic which China offers in the future, while we are driving it from us. The Chinese adopted their exclusive policy only to shut out Western pirates and robbers. They may be won by justice and conciliation.
Eugene Lawrence.
Harper’s Weekly, May 15, 1886, page 315 (Article)

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