Diplomatic Relations Of The Western Powers To China And Japan -- By: J. B. Angell

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 042:165 (Jan 1885)
Article: Diplomatic Relations Of The Western Powers To China And Japan
Author: J. B. Angell


Diplomatic Relations Of The Western Powers To China And Japan

J. B. Angell

When, more than forty years ago, British cannon battered down the gates which had so long shut China against foreigners, and when, a few years later, at the request of an American commodore, the doors of Japan under gentler compulsion turned slowly on their hinges, creaking with the rust of centuries, the western world waxed eloquent in welcoming those hermit nations of the East into the great brotherhood of states. Mandarins and daimios were puzzled and perplexed by the freedom with which naval and military and diplomatic representatives from Europe and America offered to flood those oriental lands with the blessings of western civilization. Our ungraceful costume, our cookery, our domestic customs, our telegraphs and railways and newspapers, our labor-saving machines, our religion, our political ideas, including that valuable discovery that a national debt is a national blessing, were all pressed upon them with such precipitancy and urgency that it is not surprising that they were for a time somewhat dazed. But especially we undertook to initiate them into the mysteries of the law of nations. They were told that as they had so long lived in isolation they could not know the rules which govern the intercourse of states; that though according to their ideas of propriety they were excelled by no people in courtesy, yet they must learn from the strangers from the West what are the rights and duties of states with respect to each other. They were assured that justice is the informing spirit of international law, and that the golden rule is

the ideal principle which shapes Christian civilization. We have indeed given them excellent treatises on international law, and in the main have fairly kept our treaty stipulations. But, as the acute Chinese and Japanese scholars peruse their Wheaton, it is not surprising that they begin to inquire whether there are no discrepancies between the teachings of the western manuals of international law and the policy of western nations in their relations with the East. Especially is it natural that they should ask how long the exercise of sovereign power by their states is to be limited, as it now is, by the treaties which they made with us under more or less compulsion and when they were unfamiliar with our international doctrines and usages.

In order to judge of their own acts and to guide their own policy, western nations may well consider on what principle of justice they have asked and, in fact, compelled China and Japan to surrender in part their sovereignty by granting foreigners extra-territorial judicial jurisdiction on their soil, and by limiting their tariff on imports, while the sovereignty of no we...

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