CHAPTER XXII. THE REIGN OF KWANGSU

While the origin of the famine may be attributed to either drought or civil war, there is no doubt that its extension and the apparent inability of the authorities to grapple with it may be traced to the want of means of communication, which rendered it almost impossible to convey the needful succor into the famine districts. The evil being so obvious, it was hoped that the Chinese would be disposed to take a step forward on their own initiative in the great and needed work of the introduction of railways and other mechanical appliances. The viceroy of the Two Kiang gave his assent to the construction of a short line between Shanghai and the port of Woosung. The great difficulty had always been to make a start; and now that a satisfactory commencement had been made the foreigners were disposed in their eagerness to overlook all obstacles, and to imagine the Flowery Land traversed in all directions by railways. But these expectations were soon shown to be premature. Half of the railway was open for use in the summer of 1876, and during some weeks the excitement among the Chinese themselves was as marked as among the Europeans. The hopes based upon this satisfactory event were destined to be soon dispelled by the animosity of the officials. They announced their intention to resort to every means in their power to prevent the completion of the undertaking. The situation revealed such dangers of mob violence that Sir Thomas Wade felt compelled to request the company to discontinue its operations, and after some discussion it was arranged that the Chinese should buy the line. After a stipulated period the line was placed under Chinese management, when, instead of devoting themselves to the interests of the railway, and to the extension of its power of utility, they willfully and persistently neglected it, with the express design of destroying it. At this conjuncture the viceroy allowed the Governor of Fuhkien to remove the rails and plant to Formosa. The fate of the Woosung railway destroyed the hopes created by its construction, and postponed to a later day the great event of the introduction of railways into China. Notwithstanding such disappointments as this, and the ever present difficulty of conducting relations with an unsympathetic people controlled by suspicious officials, there was yet observable a marked improvement in the relations of the different nations with the Chinese. Increased facilities of trade, such as the opening of new ports, far from extending the area of danger, served to promote a mutual goodwill. In 1876 Kiungchow, in the island of Hainan, was made a treaty port, or rather the fact of its having been included in the Treaty of Tientsin was practically accepted and recognized. In the following year four new ports were added to the list. One, Pakhoi, was intended to increase trade intercourse with Southern China. Two of the three others, Ichang and Wuhu, were selected as being favorably situated for commerce on the Yangtse and its affluents, while Wenchow was chosen for the benefit of the trade on the coast. Mr. Colborne Baber, who had been a member of the Yunnan commission, was dispatched to Szchuen, to take up his residence at Chungking for the purpose of facilitating trade with that great province. The successful tour of Captain Gill, not merely through Southwest China into Burmah, but among some of the wilder and more remote districts of Northern Szchuen, afforded reason to believe that henceforth traveling would be safer in China, and nothing that has since happened is calculated to weaken that impression.