The Boxer Rebellion: The Dramatic Story of China's War on Foreigners That Shook the World in the Summer of 1900

By Diana Preston | Go to book overview

4
Rats in a Trap

We fight by order of the Emperor and for the salvation of the Dynasty. -- Boxer Proclamation

Thank God you've come. Now we're safe. -- Edwin Conger

THE ministers met the next day, 20 May, to discuss Bishop Favier's stark warning. It was an anxious debate. Did circumstances really justify swift, decisive action or would their respective governments suspect them of panicking? Sir Claude MacDonald was frankly skeptical about "the gloomy anticipations of the French Father." Just a few days earlier he had told Morrison that he feared the priest was far from cool-headed and that his reports during the reform crisis of 1898 had been "most sensational and unbalanced." Morrison agreed, writing emphatically that "we cannot feel this peril in the air." Monsieur Pichon, described by Morrison in a dismissive cameo as plump, nervy, in his early forties, and an associate of Clemenceau, was, however, worried. Events were "simmering" in a way that reminded him uncomfortably of the prelude to the Paris Commune. While prepared to concede that Favier was an alarmist, Pichon argued that this did not necessarily mean he was wrong in the present circumstances. However, after an acrimonious debate amply justifying Morrison's view that "unanimity is not the predominant characteristic of the Diplomatic Body in Peking," the ministers agreed not to send to Tientsin for guards. Instead they decided to demand, once again, that the Chinese government should suppress

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