Ackermann’s Repository of Arts/Series 1/Volume 1/February 1809/Chinese Imperial Edict

CHINESE IMPERIAL EDICT.

It is well known that the Romans seldom employed generals who had been once unfortunate, and the Carthaginians usually punished them without enquiring whether the misfortunes which happened to them arose from ignorance, misconduct or cowardice. Undoubtedly, the public opinion has completely settled the degree of estimation in which some of our generals concerned in a recent event ought to be held, but we think that "those to whom it belongs" may receive a lesson of no slight importance from the conduct of the Chinese government, upon an occasion which might also justify our saying—"Mutato nomine de te fabula naratur." We shall therefore make no apology for laying before our readers an extract from the Pekin gazette, 5th and 6th of the 14th moon, or 28th and 29th of April, 1800.

IMPERIAL EDICT.

Whereas in the preceding year, Quay-lung, when at court, and in our presence, very earnestly requested that a command might be given him to fight against the rebels, as (having formerly been employed in the province of Se-chuen) he possessed much local knowledge and experience in that part of the country, and boasted very much of his capacity of overcoming and subduing the rebellion.

Though we placed little confidence in these extravagant assurances, yet as we were at that time in want of an officer properly qualifed to fill the vacant vice-royalty of Se-chuen, we granted to him the temporary possesion of that office. At first he discharged the duties of his office with some show of ability; and latterly, if he had found himself really imcompetent to the task of carrying on the war, he ought to have given up the command of the army to the general Ge-le-teng-pa-o, or have given us timely notice to appoint some other officer to that service. On the contrary, after intimitation had been received of the passage of the rebels across the boundaries of Se-chuan and Kanloo, he remained eight days with the army in inaction at the city of Kia-lin-kiang, and committed considerable damage. Quay-lung then ordered a detachment to proceed against them under the command of an inferior officer, and did not himself take the field, but remained with the rest of the army at Tachew. The detachment not being followed up or supported by the remaining forces, was unsuccessful, and the officer at its head unfortunately cut off by the enemy. After these effects of his negligence and timidity, al; that remained in his power was to defend and secure the banks of the Tungho. The rebels having effected a passage across the Kia-lin-kiang, had laid the way open for thier march to the capital of the province, and which they might at that time have easily reached, had they not fortunately been diverted from that object by the approaching birth-day of one of their leaders, which they resolved to celebrate with great festivity.

It was also a fortunate circumstance at this juncture, that we had issues orders to the general Te-lin-tay to pass over with his army from Shensy to Se-chuen, to assist in the defence of the latter province.—Te-lin-tay lost no time in obeying our commands, and a succession of victories, as well as the capture of two of the most considerable rebel leaders, Tsay-tien-tay and Ly-pin, were the consequence of his entry into the province of Se-chuen. The former neglect and misconduct of Quay-lung was very unpardonable, but might in some measure have been retrieved by an able defence of the river Tungho; for the rebels must inevitably have surrendered, has their progress been opposed from that quarter while they were driven forward by the army of Te-lin-tay on the other.

Considering also the services formerly rendered by Quay-lung, we did not entirely disgrace him on this occasion, but merely changed his rank from the first to the third degree, and left him in possession of his office, and spared him and further examination of his conduct: giving him notice, however, that on the activity and diligence with which he should defend the banks of the Tungho, his life and fortune must ultimately depend.

Notwithstanding all these circumstances, we now receive accounts of the rebel having reached the city of Tay-pin, and possessed themselves of the distruct of Vang-chu-tray, in consequence of their having effected the passage of the river Tungho, above-mentioned.

From this grievous intelligence, we were somewhat relieved by satisfactory accounts from the general Te-lin-tay who, having night and day exerted his utmost endeavours in our service, has, since his entry into the province, taken above 1300 prisoners, put an equal number to the sword, and liberated above 20,000 of the country people from the oppression of the rebels. Four considerable stations of the rebels surrendered to his army: so that we may now look forward with confidence to a speedy restoration of peace in that province. But since that, Quay-lung, by his unparalleled remissness and neglect, suffered the rebels in the first place to gain a passage across the Kian-lin-Kiang, and afterward across the Tungho, whereby the damage and injury which arose to the people, was like poison infused in their tea; and to leave it unpunished or unrevenged, would be a manifest violation of public justice.

We direct that Quay-lung be divested of all dignities and employments whatsoever; that Le-pao shall be substituted as the temporary viceroy of Se-chuan, and who shall examine into the offence of Quay-lung, and give us notice of the result; and the said Quay-lung shall, meanwhile, be strictly confined in the prison of Ching-tu-foo, the metropolis of Se-chuen, and his three sons divested of their respective dignities and employments.