1 JANUARY 1898, Page 9


THE rumours from China are still endless. One day the British fleet is going to Chemnlpoo, and the next it is on its way to Talienwan. On a third the Chinese are going to dismiss all British engineers, and on a fourth Pekin is broken-hearted because Great Britain does not come to her assistance. The Russians, it is believed, have seized a second port opposite Port Arthur: while the French, it is alleged, have occupied Hainan, the large island which commands the west of Tonquin. Now the Russian Government is going to lend China its guarantee for a loan of sixteen millions, and then the Government of Pekin discovers that it cannot raise the money anywhere. Amidst the confusion two facts, and only two, come out clearly. One is that all the Powers are a little frightened at the turn events have taken, and are calling on each other to intervene, England especially being taunted with the loss of her prestige; and the other is that the ruling group in Pekin feel the total powerlessness of their country very keenly. They are so unaccustomed to be roughly treated that they are bewildered, and seem to hope, like General Trochn, that help will come out of the sky. If this helplessness continues China is lost, but it is not quite safe to trust so confidently to its continuance. Nothing is so powerless as water till it gets into motion.

A report has been circulated this week that the French Admiral Bedolliere, who is cruising in those waters, has, without advancing any pretext, hoisted the French flag on the island of Hainan. The Foreign Office in Paris professes ignorance of the incident, but the fullest details are given in the Daily Mail, and the statement is a priori exceedingly probable. The great and fertile island, which is half as large again as Wales, completely dominates the Gulf of Tonquin, and is indispensable to the Cochin-Chinese Empire which the French purpose to create. The seizure is in one way the most remarkable incident which has yet occurred, because the French do not even plead provocation, but openly treat China as a derelict Empire from which any one who pleases may take slices. The present slice is an actual part of the great province of Kivangtung, from which it is separated by only fifteen miles of island-studded water. The French will find that they have got a handful, for Hainan, like Formosa, is inhabited by an ancient and intractable race of mountaineers whom the Chinese officials have never been able to subdue.

A kind of legal revolution has taken place in Japan. The people are profoundly irritated by recent events, and de.nd a more courageous policy. The Government has therefore resigned, and the Mikado, while dissolving Parliament, has appointed the Marquis Ito Premier and Count Ohms Foreign Secretary, or, in other words, has called a War Ministry tp

power. We have discussed elsewhere the policy which the new Premier may pursue ; but in all Japanese affairs there is a factor of which no European knows anything, while no Japanese will let out the truth. The Emperor is con- fessedly absolute, and this not merely in name, and is said to be a well-informed and judicious man, but of his policy, or action, or opinions we never hear a word. He is like that metaphysical substance without which nothing can be any- thing, yet which no one ever sees or hears, or, except by thinking, can grow conscious of.

There are two items of bad news from India this week and one of good. The latter is the recovery, without fighting or loss of life, of the Khyber Pass, which was found deserted. The former are that another hill expedition has been ordered, and that the Plague has again broken out in Bombay. The authorities, probably from a conscious- ness that unless they can win a victory of some sort they will have great difficulty in reconciling Parliament to the Frontier War, have ordered an expedition of eight thousand men to crush the Bonerwals, a clan supposed to be restive. All this while, if the Punjab Government were restored to its old position of responsibility for its own frontier, it would maintain peace at a tenth of the present regular expense. It was hoped that the Plague, which has, it is now ascertained, killed 11,882 out of the 14,257 citizens attacked, had disappeared from Bombay, but it has recommenced its ravages, the deaths from the disease having again risen to thirty-seven a day. The exodus, which so disorganises all business, and so reduces the rent-roll of the great city, has therefore recommenced. We trust that some local statist will yet tell us, with as much accuracy as the conditions allow, what the Plague has cost in money to the city of Bombay. Shall we say a year's earnings, or two years' P

Nothing whatever has as yet been settled as to the re- organisation of Crete, and the Cretan leaders declare that the island is slowly perishing, no class being really secure either in person or property. The Six Powers are unable to agree even upon the name of a candidate, the Montenegrin upon whom they seemed at last to have fixed having, at the request of Prince Nicholas, withdrawn his candidature. The Ambas- sadors have, it is true, drawn up an Organic Statute, but it has still to be submitted to their Governments, which will whittle most of it away, and to the Sultan, who will sum- marily reject it as fatal to his prerogative. This intolerable situation, so discreditable to the brains as well as to the dis- interestedness of the Kings and statesmen concerned, has been rendered almost comic by Russia formally suggesting that Prince George of Greece would make an excellent Governor of the island. The proposal, of course, though an admirable one, will not be accepted, and indeed is not in- tended to be. It is only a hint from Count Muravieff to the German Emperor that if he makes himself too officious in China he will receive rebuffs in Europe. As William II. is the great opponent of Greece, this is the clearest hint yet given that Germany and Russia are by no means in accord in the Far East.

The Emperor of Austria has practically suspended the Constitution in his Cisleithan States for six months. He has issued a decree for the collection of Customs-duties on the basis laid down in the agreement with Hungary until June 30th, and will, it is believed, not summon Parliament until that date. The Hungarians, it is said, will acquiesce, seeing that legality within their own kingdom will remain unimpaired, and will pass their corresponding Bill, perhaps with %protest, perhaps without one. The situation is curious, and might suggest to a non-practical observer that the easiest solution would be for the Emperor of Austria to cede Bohemia and the Hereditary States to himself as King of Hungary,

and so unite the whole Empire under the Hungarian Constitu- tion. The solution is, of course, impossible, but so is any other, except a mild and carefully restricted despotism. Representative government has failed in Austria, as it will in a good many other places.

On Thursday the Secretary of the United States Treasury issued regulations enforcing the new Act of Congress pro- hibiting the import of sealskins taken anywhere but on the Pribyloff Islands,—an example of Protection in excelsis, since the protection is afforded to a single wealthy corpora- tion. Henceforth no skins, raw, dressed, dyed, or otherwise manufactured, will be admitted unless certified by a United States Consul as not taken from seals killed in the waters mentioned in the Act. The certificate must state also where the skins were taken, from whom and when purchased. No skins may enter, even as passengers' personal effects, without such a cer- tificate. "All skins not certified shall be seized and destroyed." All articles in whole or in part of sealskin must be stamped with the name of the manufacturer, with his statement under oath that the seals were not killed within proscribed waters. Lastly, all linings must be removable to show the stamp. As the Times' correspondent remarks, the effect of the Act is to give the North American Commercial Company an absolute monopoly of the sealskin business of the United States, and to make the Government of the Republic its agent. What is more striking is that this private monopoly will be enforced with as much vigour and with as medimval a machinery as any Government monopoly on the Continent. The American ladies who buy hats and jackets in Paris with seal-trimmings will be justly indignant. Imagine an American girl's indig- nation at the idea of the Customs officials dictating the way in which her linings are to be made.

The Panama trials in Paris have ended in a comedy. The jury, angry, it is said, at the escape of more important personages, either believed, or affected to believe, that Arton's evidence, though supported by documents, was worthless, and acquitted all the accused, including M. Naquet, who, being a person out of favour with the Government, would, it was fancied, have been made a scapegoat. The Times' corre- spondent, who has throughout denounced all efforts to investigate the Panama scandal, now vituperates the in- vestigating Magistrates, whom he accuses of bidding for popularity. It is not probable that the Chambers will re- open the affair, as they will be told that it has been "judged ; " and the only person punished, therefore, will be M. Baihaut, the Minister who was sentenced early in the affair to five years' imprisonment. No one in France, we imagine, doubts that although Arton may be perjured and the particular persons tried quite innocent, there has been a singularly gross failure, apparently a deliberate failure, on the part of succes- sive authorities to out out this plague spot.

The shareholders in the Panama Canal are, naturally enough, disinclined to resign all hope of a mitigation of their losses, which exceeded, it is believed, sixty millions sterling, the greatest loss ever incurred by an industrial undertaking. They have formed a new company, apparently governed by respectable men, whose ideas, so far as we can make out from the half-yearly statements, are to report that the work, though difficult, is possible; to keep open all cuttings already made ; and if possible to sell their legal rights and their "works" to the American Government, which, however, so far inclines to believe in the Nicaragua route, though it is " inspecting " Panama. It is quite possible that if an honest Government., or, better still, two Governments, acquired the right to cut the canal, the work could be accom- plished, but no private company will ever complete it. The expense will be too great, and the death-rate among the labourers, which military discipline might reduce, will be too high. The best calculation we have ever seen of the fresh cost is thirty millions sterling and thirty thousand lives, negroes perishing in the isthmus as rapidly as white men. No race, in fact, seems as yet to have acquired immunity from tropical miasma, though in Europe large classes of workmen survive most horrible conditions.

A letter from Mr. Allen, the Secretary of the Anti-Slavery Society, shows that in the Zanzibar Protectorate the con-

dition of things in regard to slavery is still very unsatis- factory. It appears that in the island of Pemba predial slavery on the plantations is still a firmly-rooted institu- tion. A body of Quakers lately purchased a clove estate, and the slaves of the former owner wished to be allowed to remain there,- for they declared that so long as they could stay and work for the Quakers they did not care the least whether they were slaves or free. The former owner, however, claimed them all as his personal property. The result was that "a very disagreeable Correspondence took place between the English Commissioner of the Sultan in Pemba and Mr. Burtt," the missionary acting for the Quakers. Mr. Allen adds that, although every obstacle was placed in the way, instructions were at last issued freeing the slaves on the estate purchased by the "Friends." But he adds, "How about the rest of the one hundred and forty thousand slaves who have no Quakers to give them a helping hand ?" We confess to a sense of indignation and disgust at the supineness of the Foreign Office in the matter of slavery at Zanzibar. They make regulations in London, and then allow their officials at Zanzibar to disregard them with complete impunity. If the Foreign Office cannot maintain better discipline among its subordinates, it should, as soon as possible, be relieved of the work of governing distant de- pendencies, which is in any case an anachronism. The Foreign Office should manage foreign relations, not rule over savages.

The special correspondent of the Times, telegraphing on Wednesday from Kassala, announces that a defeat has been inflicted upon the Dervishes by the native auxiliaries whom we despatched to take Osobri, "the one important post between Kassala and Khartoum." After a determined siege, Osobri fell on the night of Tuesday last, the final fight being of a very severe character, the Dervishes making desperate efforts to reach the water which was in the hands of the besiegers. After they had been defeated in this attempt they broke out of their fort and fled, pursued by the camelmen of our auxiliaries ; but, adds the telegram, they will "find no water for a twelve hours' journey." Daring the siege both sides were several times reinforced. Bodies of Dervishes broke through the cordon with great spirit. Assabala, the head of the auxiliaries, sent repeated messages to Kassala asking for flour and ammunition to be sent him. He was too proud to ask for reinforcements, but Colonel Parsons (our Com- mandant) always sent them on his own initiative. This defeat of the Dervishes is of considerable importance. It will make the Khalifa and his people realise that they are being threatened from several sides at once. Not even the most savage of zealots can feel quite happy when there is a hostile force of unknown strength on his flank.

The Tines of Wednesday gives a curious account of a strike against taxes which is taking place among what the correspondent describes as "the Social Democratic peasantry of Hungary." In several villages in the Alfold, "the great Hungarian corn country," the peasants have refused to pay their taxes, and it has been found necessary to send strong detachments of gendarmerie to protect the collectors. As we have pointed out elsewhere, there is no likelihood of the strike effecting a revolution, though it may possibly prove a serious inconvenience to the Government, especially at the present juncture. It is to be feared that the condition of the agricultural labourers in Hungary is dangerously miserable. At a Socialistic Congress of Hungarian agricultural labourers lately held at Budapest, it was alleged that the principal food of the Hungarian agricultural labourer consists of bread and onions, and that his average daily wage for the greater part of the year is 8d. in some districts and 6d. in others, while it occasionally falls as low as 5d., or even 4d. During the harvest it rises to is. 4d., and at times Is. 8d., per day. Even allowing for the low price of food, these facts are most serious. It is curious to note that the small peasant pro- prietors are making common cause with the labourers, and that the movement is not confined to any one nationality, but is supported by Germans, Slovaks, Servians, and Magyars. Socialism seems to be the one thing on which the nationalities can agree.

On Wednesday Mr. Gladstone, who is at Cannes, kept his eighty-eighth birthday. In London a dinner to celebrate -the occasion was given at the National Liberal Club, and to this gathering of his party Mr. Gladstone sent a telegram expressing the hope that "the coming and every subsequent meeting may be addressed to the purposes of truth, justice, honour, peace, good faith, and all that is of good report,"—a sentiment to which not the bitterest opponent will want to take exception. Mr. Gladstone will have the congratulations of thousands who do not share his political views. The country, as a whole, undoubtedly feels no little admiration for the way in which Mr. Gladstone has borne himself since his retirement. In spite of his ardent temperament and natural liking for expressing himself on all burning questions, nothing could have been more becoming to a great man in retirement than has been his whole conduct. It has been entirely free from anything approaching either self-com- placency or posing,—the two pitfalls of great men in extreme old age.

The last Report of the United States Commissioners of Pensions shows that at the end of last Jane there were on the pension rolls 976,014 names, and that 5,336 had been added during the year. Of these, 16 were widows and daughters of soldiers who fought in the War of Indepen- dence. There were 7 survivors of the war of 1812, and 281 widows of soldiers who fought in that war. The Mexican War is responsible for 18,994 pensioners, and the Indian wars for 6,661. The survivors and widows and children of the soldiers of the Civil War number 438,064, and there are also 663 army nurses. The number of persons who were pensioned under the Act of June 27th, 1890, which allows pensions on account of death or disability not chargeable to the service, was 508,799. The amount paid out for pensions during the year was, roughly, £28,000,000. There are about 500,000 pension claims waiting adjudication, and it is estimated that nearly half these will be admitted, and will add another million sterling to the list. That a State should give reason- able pensions to those who served it so gallantly and so unselfishly as did many of the veterans of the war will be admitted by all, but it is notorious that thousands of the pensions are totally undeserved. With such a dead weight as a pension list of £28,000,000 a year, no wonder the United States Treasury is heavily burdened. But that was just what the devisers of the pension list wanted. If the Treasury were fall there would be no excuse for the Tariff.

The vote of the engineers on the new proposals ended in their almost unanimous rejection. The majority against accepting the masters' terms was about 85 to 1. It now remains to be seen what move will be made by the masters. In all probability their course will be to post up notices declaring that any men who like to do so may return to work on the terms already offered by the masters and rejected by the men. If they do so the men will probably return by twos and threes. The result will be a blow to col- lective bargaining, for it will mean that, the Union having failed to make a bargain, the men will act individually. We shall be sorry to see so severe a blow inflicted on any Union, for we believe that the Unions perform many useful functions, but defeat was inevitable on the lines chosen. A battle against machinery and cheaper methods of production could only have one end.

A visit to England is often recommended to Indians as a cure for disloyalty, but it does not seem to have precisely that effect. Azimoollah Khan, the original author of the Cawnpore massacre, knew England well, and the wildest recent denunciations of our rule were uttered on Tuesday at a meeting of Indians in Bloomsbury. The chairman, Mr. Naoroji, a Member of the last Parliament, permitted the meeting to pass resolutions affirming that every misfortune of India for the last hundred years was due to the "unrighteous and un-British system of government," which was bleeding India to death, and that the whole ex- pense of the British machinery in India ought to be borne by the British taxpayer. Mr. Naoroji declared that the government there was still "a foreign domination," which is true, kept up "for the benefit of the foreigners alone," which is false, while a Dr. Mullick actually proposed and carried a resolution that Indians ought to give England "another America in India, and another Boston Harbour in Bombay," where, we may observe, if the British flag were withdrawn, the Mussulmans would be at the throats of Mr. Naoroji's countrymen in forty-eight hours. There is some- thing fine, no doubt, in allowing such speeches to be made in London, and telegraphed thence to India ; bat they do not tend to the much desired reconciliation of the races, or make it easy to resist, as we have resisted, repressive Indian Press Acts.

Next Session Parliament is to be asked to-give its consent to the much-talked-of Westminster improvement scheme, under which the slums between the river and Vic- toria Street, the Abbey and the new Roman Catholic Cathedral, are to make way for a new residential quarter. Whether the scheme is a well-designed one, and whether the public interests are properly protected, we cannot, of course, determine at this stage of the proceedings ; but primci facie many of the proposals sound attractive. There is to be a new road 90 ft. wide from the Victoria Tower to Lambeth Bridge, and an embankment or river-wall, with a roadway of 40 ft. wide, along the foreshore of the Thames running also from the Victoria Tower to Lambeth Bridge. If the embank- ment is made, and we think it should be as it would be a great public advantage to have a wide, continuous thoroughfare running from Chelsea right into the City, care must be taken to follow the natural curves of the river. A well-built embankment with a good curve may be beautiful. A long, rigidly straight embankment is almost certain to be hideous.

The Unionists have chosen Lord Charles Beresford as their candidate at York, where there is a Parliamentary vacancy, caused by the death of Sir Frank Lockwood. On Thursday he addressed a meeting and unfolded his political ideas, the chief of which is the need that exists for defending our possessions and our interests all over the world. At present they were not adequately defended, though the Government was, he believed, taking up the matter seriously. With regard to the Army, no doubt the system had failed. This was due not to the men who worked it, but to the system itself, which was a bad one. For the first time since he remembered, they had got a Minister for War—Lord Lans- downe—who had represented the case of the British public, not in the usual "Rule Britannia" style---" Everything is all right, and you know nothing about it ; we are the authority, and we know all about it"—but in a good, round, honest way, allowing that there were things to be put right, and making one of the best statements he had ever seen. One of the great questions of the day was the manning of the mercantile marine. We are so short of men in the Navy that if we went to war we should have to take twenty-eight thousand men from the mercantile marine, and so entirely disorganise it. Again, over 40 per cent. of our mercantile sailors were foreigners, and might be withdrawn in case of war by the conscription in their own countries. Thus the mercantile marine would be dismanned by war. The foreign outlook Lord Charles Beresford thought very black. In regard to the Far East, he favoured a Japanese alliance and the taking of a naval station north of Hong-kong. The speech was, as a whole, characteristic of its maker,—frank, breezy, somewhat rash, and yet not without a saving element of common-sense.

We cannot say that we feel any very deep sympathy with the persons who have signed the petition addressed to the Queen by her Scottish subjects protesting against the official misuse of the national names in violation of the Act of Union. No doubt the petitioners are able to show a good many examples of official carelessness. The Queen, for example, is described as Queen of England in a Treaty between the Governments of India and Siam. It is, however, simply ludicrous to say, as does the petition, that these blunders are due "not to ignorance or to carelessness, but largely to an unfair and aggressive feeling of national vanity on the part of an influential portion of the English people." People have a feeling that " British " is a Latinised word, and therefore ugly, and so avoid it, but no dark design of swindling Scotland ever enters any one's head. When one says " English " one does not mean the inhabitants of the greater portion of the greater of the two islands, but all who speak the English tongue and are subjects of the Queen.

Bank Rate, 3 per cent. New Consols (2,1) were on Friday, 1131.