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- Round the World - 10/46 -


walking forward, I saw dense volumes of smoke issuing from the walking-beam pit, and in a few moments I heard the cry of fire from below. All was in a bustle at once, but the crew got finely to work. Fortunately, although there was no steam in the main boilers, the small donkey boiler was full, and the pumps were put to work. Meanwhile boats from the various men-of-war in the harbor with hand fire-engines came to our assistance. The steamer is an old wooden craft, and I knew her cargo was combustible. Were the smoke ever to give place to flame, panic was sure to ensue, and not one of the small native boats that had until now been clustering around us could then be induced to approach; indeed, they had already all rowed off. There was one lady on board, Mrs. McK., a veritable Princess of Thule from the Island of Lewes, and I decided that she had better be taken off with her sick child at once; so, bribing a greedy native by the immense reward of a whole dollar (a large fee here, small as it seems at home) to come alongside, I grasped the baby and followed the mother down the gangway, and remained at a safe distance until the danger was over. A few minutes more, and the Costa Rica would have followed her sister ship, the America, which some years ago took fire under similar circumstances in the harbor of Yokohama, and was completely destroyed. Fortunately we are about done with wooden steamships; otherwise they should not be permitted to run as passenger vessels.

The post-office department of Japan is of recent origin, having been established in 1871; yet in 1881, after only ten years' growth, it carried ninety-five millions of letters, newspapers, books, etc. Thirty millions of these were post-cards. Three millions of telegrams were also transmitted in that year. Perhaps no statement will give one a clearer idea than this of the rapid progress of this strange country in the ways of the West.

Japan has only two short lines of railway for thirty-six millions of people--a population nearly equal to that of Great Britain: one eighteen miles from Yokohama to Tokio, the other seventy miles from Hiogo to Kioto. This seems a scanty allowance; nevertheless it is not probable that more than a few hundred miles of rail will be built for centuries. The habits and poverty of the people, and in many districts the topography of the country, are such as to render railways unsuitable. The main highways are, however, kept in admirable order. I was amused with the classification of these. Those of the first class are such as lead from the capital to the treaty ports; of the second class those lines leading to the national shrines. Commerce has thus usurped the first place. Both the first and the second class roads are maintained by the General Government as being national affairs. Various grades of roads follow, some being maintained by large districts; others, of local importance, by taxes upon a smaller area; but all under the strict supervision of central officials at Tokio.

Not the least surprising feature in the revolution going forward so peacefully in Japan is the prompt adoption of the newspaper as one of the essentials of life. A few years ago the official Gazette, read only by officials and containing nothing of general interest, was the only publication in the Empire; to-day several hundred newspapers are published, many of them daily. A censorship of the press still exists, however, and leads to the usual mode of evasion. Pungent political articles are conveyed under cover of criticisms ostensibly upon the blunders of lands not so enlightened as Japan. Here is a specimen: "In America during the Civil War paper currency was issued and made legal tender. At every successive issue the premium rose higher and higher till the currency was not worth more than a third of its face. The Southern States followed in the same path, but they kept on till their issues were found to be good for about one purpose only--to line trunks withal--such fools these Americans be. Happy Japan! blessed with rulers of preeminent ability, who keep the finances of our land in such creditable form."

The fact was that Japanese currency was then at 22 per cent, discount and rapidly declining in value under successive issues, just as it had done in America. Such articles are no doubt far more effective than open, undisguised assaults could possibly be, for the cleverness of the evasion gives additional zest to the attack. The Press is a hard dog to muzzle, and, like dogs in general, only vicious when muzzled. The Japanese will soon find it safer to "let Truth and Error grapple" in the full face of day, for they are not slow to learn.

* * * * *

TUESDAY, December 3.

The turbulent China Sea has passed into a proverb. The Channel passage in a gale, I suppose, comes nearest to it. We started to cross this sea at daylight, and surely we have reason to be grateful. It is as smooth as a mirror, the winds are hushed, and as I write the shores of Japan fade peacefully from view. I cannot help thinking how improbable that I shall ever see them again; but, however that may be, farewell for the present to Japan. Take a stranger's best wishes for your future.

Our cargo shows something of the resources of the country. It amounts to eight hundred tons, comprising seaweed--a special kind of which the Chinese are fond--ginseng, camphor, timber, isinglass, Japan piece-goods, ingot copper, etc. Every week this line takes to China a similar cargo, and the trade is rapidly extending. This steamship company is worth noting as an evidence of what Japanese enterprise is doing. The principal owner, the Commodore Garrison of Japan, had a small beginning, but now runs some thirty-seven steamers between the various Japanese ports. Under the management of Mr. Krebs, a remarkable Dane, this company beat off the Pacific Mail Company from the China trade, and actually purchased their ships. There are many things found on these vessels which our Atlantic companies might imitate with advantage.

I believe I mentioned that Japan, not to be behind her Western neighbors, had created a public debt, which now amounts to about $300,000,000, but $250,000,000 of this was used in payment of the two hundred and sixty-six daimios and their numerous retainers, when government took over the land to itself. Each of these potentates had vested rights in a certain proportion of the yield of the soil of his district, and this was commuted by the government into so much in its bonds, a fixed land tax being substituted for the irregular exactions of former landlords. On every side I hear that this has greatly improved the condition of the population--made the people more contented, and at the same time vastly augmented the products of the soil. Not less than three millions of the population shared in this operation.

The nationalization of the land is under discussion in England, and it is conceded that some change has to be made. Here is Japan proving the results of nationalization, while Denmark shows what private ownership of small pieces of land can do under a system of cumulative taxation in proportion to the size of the estate held. One of these two systems is likely to prevail in England some day. Meanwhile, here is food for thought for the British tax-payer: out of seventy-five million yens (15,000,000) of revenue raised by Japan, forty-three million comes from the land tax. The tax on alcoholic liquors yields about seventeen millions more.

Since my visit to Japan an imperial decree has been published, promising that a national assembly shall meet in 1890; so we have the foundations of representative government almost at hand. Surely no other nation ever abandoned its traditions and embraced so rapidly those of a civilization of an opposite character. This is not development under the law of slow evolution; it seems more like a case of spontaneous generation. Presto, change! and here before our very eyes is presented the strange spectacle of the most curious, backward, feudalistic Eastern nation turning into a Western one of the most advanced type.

That Japan will succeed in her effort to establish a central government, under something like our ideas of freedom and law, and that she has such resources as will enable her to maintain it and educate her people, I am glad to be able to say I believe; but much remains to be done requiring in the race the exercise of solid qualities, the possession of which I find some Europeans disposed to deny them. They have travelled, perhaps, quite fast enough, and I look for a temporary triumph of the more conservative party. But the seed is sown, and Japan will move, upon the whole, in the direction of progress. And so, once more, farewell, Japan; and China, now almost within sight, all hail!

* * * * *

CHINA.

In one respect at least pilgrims from other lands must bow to the empire we are about to visit. It is the oldest form of civilized government on earth. While the English monarchy boasts its uninterrupted course of eight hundred years, and America has just celebrated its first century of existence, this remarkable people live under a government which has been substantially unchanged for four thousand long years. The first authenticated dynasty dates from 2345 B.C., and what is now China has been under one central government for nearly two thousand five hundred years. Even the Papacy, the most venerable of existing Western institutions, is young compared to this. There was something in the reply of the mandarin to the boast of one of our people as to the superiority of our system: "Wait until it is tried!" To a Chinaman a thousand years or so seems too short to prove anything. Theirs alone has stood the test of ages. That the Chinese are a great race goes without saying. Four hundred millions (nearly one-third of the human race) existing for thousands of years under one unchanging government, riding out the storms which have overwhelmed all other nations; nay, even absorbing into themselves the Tartar hordes, who came as conquerors, and making them Chinese against their will. Such a record tells a story indeed! At a date so remote that Egypt and Assyria were the great Western powers, when Athens and Troy had just been founded, and Rome was not even thought of, these people were governed much as they are now, and since A.D. 67 have published a daily Peking _Gazette_, of which (thanks to our intelligent "host of the Garter," Mr. Janssen) we have secured a copy. We are all but of yesterday compared to the Heathen Chinee, and it is impossible to sit down and scribble glibly of such a people. In Japan there is no record. It is a new race appearing almost for the first time among civilized nations. It has given the world nothing, but how widely different here! It is to China the world owes the compass, gunpowder, porcelain, and even the art of printing, and to her also alone the spectacle of a people ruled by a code of laws and morals embracing the most minute particulars, written two thousand four hundred years ago, and taught to this day in the schools as the rules of life. It is an old and true saying that almost any system of religion would make one good enough if it were properly obeyed; certainly that of Confucius would do so. I have been deeply impressed with his greatness and purity. Dr. Davis writes in his work on China:


Round the World - 10/46

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