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

CHINESE IMPERIAL EDICT.

In our last number we presented our readers with an edict of the Emperor of China, extracted from the Pekin Gazette. As we understand that this curious article has excited considerable interest in this quarter of the globe, we shall introduce another of the same stamp, and derived from the same source, which, we have no doubt, will afford equal gratification.

We have respectfully examined the records of our imperial ancestor Camhi in which is contained the following edict addressed to the tribunal of arms:

"When this empire was first established on its present foundations, martial laws and military discipline were observed with rigour and precision. The enemies of the state were attacked with unanimity and driven from their fortresses. The operations of each campaign, together with the merits and demerits of the respective commanders, were faithfully and exactly reported, without any disgraceful evasions, or credit to themselves unworthily assumed. But at present, when an army is sent on any military service, every report that is made of their operations contains an account of a victory, of rebels dispersed at the first encounter, driven from their stations, killed and wounded to a great amount, or to the amount of some thousands, or in short, that the rebels slain were innumerable.

"These and similiar reports are made to us by the commanders, in the hopes of extending the fame of their own achievments, and procuring presents and promotion. We therefore hereby issue our strict injunctions to all general officers, viceroys, governors, and colonels, to report to us with sincerity and a scrupulous attention to truth and preclusion, the accounts of their future military operations; and we further declare, that should this corrupt custom above described, or claims of undeserved credit, recur in their future reports, the utmost rigour of military law shall be exerted in punishing the offence."

In consequence of the desire of our imperial ancestor Camhi, to restore the vigour and promptitude of military discipline, we indeed find, since the establishment of our empire, the most respectable instances of vlour, sincerity, and diligence among our Tartar officers. By these the three foreign tribes were subdued, and the pacification of the seven purovinces accomplished (alluding probably to the subjugation of China by the Tartars). Tu Hay, and Chang Yung, and other other generals manifested an unshaken fidelity and determined valour, which, when accompanied by activity and diligence, can scarcely fail to accomplish the designs it undertakes. Military operations were at that time faithfully reported,and all attempts at extenuation or amplification strictly prohibited.

At present the Pe lin Kiao are merely a turbulent portion of our own people, the facility of restoring order among whom, compared with the difficulty of subduing the three foreign tribes, are as wide asunder as heaven and earth.

Had we at the head of our troops generals equal to Tu Hay and Chang Yung, the present contest would not long remain undecided. Five years are now elapsed since our troops have been employed on this service, and they have not yet been able to accomplish the object of their enterprize.

Were the present leaders of our armies sent against the three foreign tribes, how would they be able to complete the conquest by a given day? They indeed make a great shew and ostentation of their strength and activity, in all of which they are left so far behind by the officers who established our empire; and with respect to the faithlesness of their representations, and reports of victories and captures, merely with a view of acquiring credit and rewards, the dfference is still more remarkable. We have frequently issued our order and admonitions, that victories or defeats should be reported to as with equal fidelity; notwithstanding which this Corrupt custom still prevails, and it only remains for us to oppose the evil by stronger prohibitions and severer penalties.

In future therefore a strict enquiry will be made into the military operations of each department, and if the most trifling circumstance in their reports is found to be false or misrepresented, if they follow the steps of their predecessors, their offences will be referred to the examination of the tribunal of arms, whose sentence pronounced against them will be presented for our approbation. And though there may be offences which the tribunal is not competent to investigate, yet as the events of a campaign cannot easily be concealed from the eyes and ears of individuals, the generals may rest assured, that we shall proceed with equal rigour against them when we become acquainted with their misconduct by private hands.

These general orders are more particularly addressed to the general officers commanding our armies in Shen sy, Kan soo, and Hoo Quang, as well as to the viceroys and tooyuens of the said provinces.