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- The Fight For The Republic In China - 30/86 -




Although this extraordinary pamphlet was soon accepted by Chinese society as a semi-official warning of what was coming, it alone was not sufficient to launch a movement which to be successful required the benign endorsement of foreign opinion. The Chinese pamphleteer had dealt with the emotional side of the case: it was necessary to reinforce his arguments with an appeal which would be understood by Western statesmen as well as by Eastern politicians. Yuan Shih-kai, still pretending to stand aside, had kept his attention concentrated on this very essential matter; for, as we have repeatedly pointed out, he never failed to understand the superlative value of foreign support in all his enterprises,--that support being given an exaggerated value by the public thanks to China's reliance on foreign money. Accordingly, as if still unconvinced, he now very naively requested the opinion of his chief legal adviser, Dr. Goodnow, an American who had been appointed to his office through the instrumentality of the Board of the Carnegie Institute as a most competent authority on Administrative Law.

Even in this most serious matter the element of comedy was not lacking. Dr. Goodnow had by special arrangement returned to Peking at the psychological moment; for having kicked his heels during many weary months in the capital, he had been permitted in 1914 to take up the appointment of President of an American University on condition that he would be available for legal "advice" whenever wanted. The Summer vacation gave him the opportunity of revisiting in the capacity of a transient the scenes of his former idleness; and the holiday-task set him by his large-hearted patron was to prove in as few folios as possible that China ought to be a Monarchy and not a Republic--a theme on which every schoolboy could no doubt write with fluency. Consequently Dr. Goodnow, arming himself with a limited amount of paper and ink, produced in very few days the Memorandum which follows,--a document which it is difficult to speak of dispassionately since it seems to have been deliberately designed to play into the hands of a man who was now openly set on betraying the trust the nation reposed in him, and who was ready to wade through rivers of blood to satisfy his insensate ambition.

Nothing precisely similar to this Goodnow Memorandum has ever been seen before in the history of Asia: it was the ultramodern spirit impressed into the service of mediaeval minds. In any other capital of the world the publication of such a subversive document, following the Yang Tu pamphlet, would have led to riot and tumult. In China, the home of pacifism, the politicians and people bowed their heads and bided their time. Even foreign circles in China were somewhat nonplussed by the insouciance displayed by the peripatetic legal authority; and the Memorandum was for many days spoken of as an unnecessary indiscretion. [Footnote: It is perhaps of importance to note that Dr. Goodnow carried out all his studies in Germany.] Fastening at once on the point to which Yang Tu had ascribed such importance--the question of succession--Dr. Goodnow in his arguments certainly shows a detachment from received principles which has an old-world flavour about it, and which has damned him forever in the eyes of the rising generation in China. The version which follows is the translation of the Chinese translation, the original English Memorandum having been either mislaid or destroyed; and it is best that this argument should be carefully digested before we add our comments.


A country must have a certain form of government, and usually the particular form of government of a particular country is not the result of the choice of the people of that country. There is not any possibility even for the most intellectual to exercise any mental influence over the question. Whether it be a monarchy or republic, it cannot be the creation of human power except when it is suitable to the historical, habitual, social and financial conditions of that country. If an unsuitable form of government is decided upon, it may remain for a short while, but eventually a system better suited will take its place.

In short, the form of government of a country is usually the natural and only result of its circumstances. The reasons for such an outcome are many, but the principal one is Force. If we study the monarchical countries we will find that usually a dynasty is created by a person who is capable of controlling the force of the entire country and overthrowing other persons opposed to him, working towards his goal with an undaunted spirit. If this man is capable of ruling the nation and if he is a rare genius of the day, and the conditions of the country are suited for a monarchical government, he as a rule creates a new dynasty and his descendants inherit the same from generation to generation.

If this is so, then the solution of a difficult position of a country is to be found in a monarchy rather than a republic. For on the death of a monarch no doubt exists as to who shall succeed him, and there is no need of an election or other procedure. Englishmen say, "The King is dead, Long live the King." This expresses the point. But in order to attain this point it is necessary that the law of succession be definitely defined and publicly approved; otherwise there will not be lacking, on the death of the monarch, men aspiring to the throne; and as no one is qualified to settle the dispute for power, internal disturbance will be the result.

Historically speaking no law of succession is so permanently satisfactory as that used by the nations of Europe. According to this system the right of succession belongs to the eldest son of the monarch, or failing him, the nearest and eldest male relative. The right of succession, however, may be voluntarily surrendered by the rightful successor if he so desires; thus if the eldest son declines to succeed to the throne the second son takes his place. This is the rule of Europe.

If instead of this law of a succession a system is adopted by which the successor is chosen by the monarch from among his sons or relatives without any provision being made for the rights of the eldest son, disturbance will be the inevitable result. There will not be a few who would like to take possession of the throne and they will certainly plot in the very confines of the palace, resulting in an increase of the sufferings of an aged monarch; and, even if the disaster of civil war be avoided, much dispute will arise owing to the uncertainty of the successor--a dangerous situation indeed.

Such is the lesson we learn from history. The conclusion is, speaking from the viewpoint of the problem of transmission of power, that the superiority of the monarchical system over the republican system is seen in the law of succession,--that is the eldest son of the ruler should succeed to the throne.

Leaving out the nations of ancient times, the majority of countries in Europe and Asia have adopted the monarchical system. There are, however, exceptions such as Wen-ni-shih (Venice) and Switzerland, which adopted the republican form of government; but they are in the minority while most of the great nations of the world have adopted the monarchical form of government.

During the recent century and a half the attitude of Europe has undergone a sudden change and the general tendency is to discredit monarchism and adopt republicanism. The one great European power which first attempted to make a trial of republicanism is Great Britain. In the Seventeenth Century a revolution broke out in England and King Charles I was condemned to death by Parliament and executed as a traitor to the nation. A republic was established and the administration was called republican with Cromwell as regent, i.e. President, Cromwell was able to control the power of government because at the head of the revolutionary army he defeated the King. This English republic however, only existed for a few years and was finally defeated in turn. The reason was that the problem of succession after the death of Cromwell was difficult to solve. Cromwell had a desire to place his son in his place as regent after his death, but as the English people were then unsuited for a republic and his son had not the ability to act as chief executive, the republic of England suddenly disappeared. The British people then abandoned the republican system and readopted the monarchical system. Thus Charles II, the son of Charles I, was made King not only with the support of the army but also with the general consent of the country.

The second European race which attempted to have a republic was the American. In the Eighteenth Century the United States of America was established in consequence of the success of a revolution. But the American revolution was not at first intended to overthrow the monarchy. What it sought to do was to throw off the yoke of the monarchy and become independent. The revolution, however, succeeded and the circumstances were such that there was no other alternative but to have a republic: for there was no royal or Imperial descendant to shoulder the responsibilities of the state. Another factor was the influence of the advocates of republicanism who came to America in the previous century from England and saturated the minds of the Americans with the ideas of republicanism. The minds of the American people were so imbued with the ideas of republicanism that a republican form of government was the ideal of the entire race. Had General Washington--the leader of the revolutionary army--had the desire to become a monarch himself he would probably have been successful. But Washington's one aim was to respect republicanism and he had no aspiration to become King. Besides he had no son capable of succeeding him on the throne. Consequently on the day independence was won, the republican form of government was adopted without hesitation, and it has survived over a hundred years.

There is no need to ask whether the result of the establishment of the American Republic has been good or bad. The republican form of government is really the making of the United States of America. But it should be remembered that long before the establishment of the republic, the American people had already learned the good laws and ordinances of England, and the constitution and parliamentary system of England had been long in use in America for over a hundred years. Therefore the change in 1789 from a colony into a Republic was not a sudden change from a monarchy to a republic. Thorough preparations had been made and self- government was well practised before the establishment of the republic. Not only this, but the intellectual standard of the

The Fight For The Republic In China - 30/86

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