The Boxer Uprising: A Background Study

By Victor Purcell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
TRIUMPH AND FIASCO

The preceding chapters describing the 'pro-' or 'anti-dynastic' nature of the Boxers have been, comparatively speaking, in slow-motion cinematography; this chapter, intended merely as a sequel to our main inquiry, will be in quicker motion, attempting to reduce an intricate complex of events to a short, generalized narrative. The time-scale will now be about fifteen minutes of reading to a year of historic time.

In the last months of 1899, the depredations of the Boxers in killing Christian converts and burning churches now became the subject of a protest from the French Minister in Peking to the Tsungli Yamen. As a consequence Yü-hsien was called to Peking for consultation and Yuan Shih-k'ai was appointed to Shantung as Acting-Governor. The new Acting-Governor actively suppressed the Boxers, executed Chu Hung-têng, and drove his followers from Shantung into Chihli.I

Meanwhile, Boxer activities had so increased in the districts of Fuch'êng, Ch'ingchou, Kuch'êng, Wuch'iao and Tungkuang that the five magistrates of these districts called a conference and resolved that the programme of six points recommended by Lao Nai-hsüan for the suppression of the Boxers be adopted and submitted to the Viceroy of Chihli for approval. On 13 December Yü-lu ordered that Lao Nai‐ hsüan's pamphlet on the origin of the Boxers be printed and distributed in the districts where the Boxers were active. Yü-lu, however, found Lao's six points too drastic for his taste and made no effort to implement them. When pressed by Yüan Shih-k'ai to memorialize the Throne to issue a decree explicitly ordering the suppression of the Boxers, he replied evasively and remarked that they could not cause any great trouble. Yü-lu was being subjected to pressure from the reactionary party in Peking, and was not in any case a man of great resolution so that his neglect to memorialize the Throne at this juncture gave the reactionaries a chance to weight the scales in favour of the Boxers. But he did, nevertheless, make an effort to crush the insurgents by force and sent an expedition of six battalions against them.

In the meantime Yü-hsien's reports and advice in Peking had been producing the results he had hoped for. His general attitude had already

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