Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 80.djvu/606

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
602
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE PRACTICAL BASIS FOR REPUBLICAN INSTITUTIONS FOR CHINA
By GUSTAVUS OHLINGER, A.B., LL.B.

TOLEDO, OHIO

RECENT issue of a Chinese daily published in Shanghai records this incident: The venerable teacher Chang, a man well known and respected in his community, was stricken with a mortal disease. Three days before his death he requested his eldest son to shear off his queue, explaining that "though he had worn this badge of servitude to the Manchu usurpers for over three score years, now that the day of freedom was at hand, he desired to appear in the other world, not as a slave, but as a free son of Han." The native press, which is almost entirely revolutionary in its sympathies, refers to the contending armies as the "patriots of Han" and the "Manchu slaves." The revolutionary manifestoes run in the name of the "People of Han," and some bear date from the "founding of the Han Dynasty."

These references all hark back to the golden age of Chinese history, when the house of Han, of pure Chinese blood, wielded the vermilion pencil in the ancient capital of Nankin. Their pertinency in the present struggle for constitutional liberty is further emphasized by the fact that under this dynasty the Chinese received their first charter of rights. In 206 B.C. the emperor Han Kao Ti, as wise, far-seeing and gracious as our own King John was stubborn and recalcitrant, made what is known in Chinese chronicles as "the Tripartite Bargain with the Elders of the People." This oriental Magna Charta is summarized in the terse Chinese ideographs as follows: "(1) Death for homicide; (2) compensation and imprisonment for wounds and robbery; (3) all else left to the people."

From that day to this the "bargain," particularly the "all else left to the people," has epitomized the Chinese conception of the functions of government. There have been many codifications of the laws of the empire, nearly every dynasty having signalized its accession by a new code. One feature, however, characterizes all this legislation—the entire body of the law is criminal. What concerns the people in their business and social relations has, in the words of the charter, been left to the people. Search the "Ta Tsing Leu Lee," or the "General Laws of the Imperial Dynasty of Tsing," as the present code is known, and there will be found a most careful classification of crimes, one, moreover, which faithfully reflects the ethical standards of the people. In