CHAPTER XXII. THE REIGN OF KWANGSU

The news of this outrage did not reach Pekin until a month later, when Mr. Wade at once took the most energetic measures to obtain the amplest reparation in the power of the Pekin government to concede. The first and most necessary point in order to insure not merely the punishment of the guilty, but also that the people of China should not have cause to suppose that their rulers secretly sympathized with the authors of the attack, was that no punitive measures should be undertaken, or, if undertaken, recognized, until a special Commission of Inquiry had been appointed to investigate the circumstances on the spot. Mr. Margary was an officer of the English government traveling under the special permission and protection of the Tsungli Yamen. The Chinese government could not expect to receive consideration if it failed to enforce respect for its own commands, and the English government had an obligation which it could not shirk in exacting reparation for the murder of its representative. The treacherous killing of Mr. Margary was evidently not an occurrence for which it could be considered a sufficient atonement that some miserable criminals under sentence of death, or some desperate individuals anxious to secure the worldly prosperity of their families, should undergo painful torture and public execution in order to shield official falseness and infamy. Although no one ever suspected the Pekin government of having directly instigated the outrage, the delay in instituting an impartial and searching inquiry into the affair strengthened an impression that it felt reluctant to inflict punishment on those who had committed the act of violence. Nearly three months elapsed before any step was taken toward appointing a Chinese official to proceed to the scene of the outrage in company with the officers named by the English minister; but on June 19 an edict appeared in the "Pekin Gazette" ordering Li Han Chang, governor- general of Houkwang, to temporarily vacate his post, and "repair with all speed to Yunnan to investigate and deal with certain matters." Even then the matter dragged along but slowly. Li Han Chang, who, as the brother of Li Hung Chang, was an exceptionally well-qualified and highly-placed official for the task, and whose appointment was in itself some evidence of sincerity, did not leave Hankow until August, and the English commissioners, Messrs. Grosvenor, Davenport and Colborne Baber, did not set out from the same place before the commencement of October. The intervening months had been employed by Mr. Wade in delicate and fluctuating negotiation with Li Hung Chang (who had succeeded Tseng Kwofan as Viceroy of Pechihli and who had now come to the front as the chief official in the Chinese service) at Tientsin and with the Tsungli Yamen at Pekin. It was not till the end of the year that the commission to ascertain the fate of Mr. Margary began its active work on the spot. The result was unexpectedly disappointing. The mandarins supported one another. The responsibility was thrown on several minor officials, and on the border-tribes or savages. Several of the latter were seized, and their lives were offered as atonement for an offense they had not committed. The furthest act of concession which the Chinese commissioner gave was to temporarily suspend Tsen Yuying the Futai for remissness; but even this measure was never enforced with rigor. The English officers soon found that it was impossible to obtain any proper reparation on the spot.

Sir Thomas Wade, who was knighted during the negotiations, refused to accept the lives of the men offered, whose complicity in the offense was known to be none at all, while its real instigators escaped without any punishment. When the new year, 1876, opened, the question was still unsettled, and it was clear that no solution could be discovered on the spot. Sir Thomas Wade again called upon the Chinese in the most emphatic language allowed by diplomacy to conform with the spirit and letter of their engagements, and he informed the Tsungli Yamen that unless they proffered full redress for Mr. Margary's murder it would be impossible to continue diplomatic relations. To show that this was no meaningless expression, Sir Thomas Wade left Pekin, while a strong re-enforcement to the English fleet demonstrated that the government was resolved to support its representative. In consequence of these steps, Li Hung Chang was, in August, 1876, or more than eighteen months after the outrage, intrusted with full powers for the arrangement, of the difficulty; and the small seaport of Chefoo was fixed upon as the scene for the forthcoming negotiations. Even then the Chinese sought to secure a sentimental advantage by requesting that Sir Thomas Wade would change the scene of discussion to Tientsin, or at least that he would consent to pay Li Hung Chang a visit there. This final effort to conceal the fact that the English demanded redress as an equal and not as a suppliant having been baffled, there was no further attempt at delay. The Chefoo Convention was signed in that town, to which the viceroy proceeded from Tientsin. Li Hung Chang entertained the foreign ministers at a great banquet; and the final arrangements were hurried forward for the departure to Europe of the Chinese embassador, whose dispatch had been decided upon in the previous year. When the secret history of this transaction is revealed it will be seen how sincere were Li Hung Chang's wishes for a pacific result, and how much his advice contributed to this end.