CHAPTER FOUR Tseng's Mission to St Petersburg

IN June the Marquis Tseng at London acknowledged in a couplet of self-depreciatory verse1 his commission to act as Chung Hou's successor. It was not a task that many men would have cared to receive. If he was firm in St Petersburg it meant war. If he was not firm there was every likelihood of his following his predecessor towards the block.2 Chinese diplomats, sent abroad on impossible errands, resembled the mediaeval alchemist gaoled on bread and water and ordered to manufacture gold. In Russia Tseng was not credited with much skill, according to Koyander, who said Tseng was in the bad books of the Tsar for a speech he had once made at Hongkong.3 However, he had with him his English Secretary of Legation, Halliday Macartney; and Li was corresponding steadily with him, an auspicious fact (except that Shen Kuei-fen was plying him with entirely opposite orders).4 There were signs that Wade's adjurations were having some effect on the Yamen: Tseng called at the Foreign Office, before leaving London, to say that Sir Thomas was now looked upon at Peking as a friend to be consulted.5 The Foreign Office realised how much would hang on Tseng's mission. Giers was saying that the time might be at hand when he would have to discuss intervention in China with England, whose commercial interests, he admitted, would

____________________
1
Martin, Hanlin Papers, 387.
2
There was nothing very exceptional in Chung's rate. Nine years later Sir Edwin Arnold crossed the Pacific in company with some suave and composed mandarins who were returning from a failure at Washington, and whose heads were rumoured to be in imminent danger. ( Arnold, Seas and Lands, ch. x.)
3
Wade 39, 16.2. 80), 17. 830.
4
Cordier, Relations etc. 11, 219.
5
F.O. (to Wade) 86 conf., 2.6. 80), 17. 827.

-58-

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