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The Russo-Japanese Conflict Its Causes and Issues

The Russo-Japanese Conflict
Its Causes and Issues
Author: Asakawa K.
Title: The Russo-Japanese Conflict Its Causes and Issues
Release Date: 2018-09-18
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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Transcriber’s Note:

The cover image was created by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.



Lecturer on the Civilization and History of East Asia at Dartmouth College; author of the “Early Institutional Life of Japan,” etc.
Assistant Professor of Modern Oriental History in Yale University
The Riverside Press
The Riverside Press, Cambridge
Published November, 1904



The issues of the conflict that forms the topic ofthis little volume are bound inevitably to influencethe future of the civilized world for many years.Dr. Asakawa presents them with a logical thoroughnessthat reminds us of the military operations ofhis countrymen now in evidence elsewhere, and recallsvery pleasantly to my own mind the sane andaccurate character of his scholastic work while astudent at Yale. It is the sort of presentation whicha great subject needs. It is content with a simplestatement of fact and inference. It is convincingbecause of its brevity and restraint.

The generous and almost passionate sympathy ofour countrymen for Japan in this crisis of her careerhas aroused some speculation and surprise evenamongst ourselves. The emotion is, doubtless, theoutcome of complex causes, but this much is obviousat present: the past half-century has brought bothAmerica and Japan through experiences strikinglysimilar, and their establishment at the same momentas new world Powers has afforded both the sameview of their older competitors for first rank amongnations. Both have earned their centralized andeffective governments after the throes of civil war;both have built navies and expanded their foreignvicommerce; both have arrested the belated andrather contemptuous attention of Europe by successin foreign wars. No state of Christendom can appreciateso well as America the vexation of enduringfor generations the presumption or the patronageof those European courts who have themselvesbeen free for less than a century from the bondsthat Napoleon put upon the entire Continentalgroup; and Japan has suffered under the same observance.With the acknowledgment of the existenceof these two Powers of the first class on eithershore of the Pacific, the bottom drops out of thatsystem whereon was based the diplomacy of nineteenth-centuryEurope, and the jealousy with whichthey are both regarded establishes a certain rapprochementbetween the two newly arrived nations.

The attitude of the American people does notappear to me to be greatly influenced by prejudiceagainst Russia. It is likely, indeed, that we hadless to fear directly from the ambition of the GreatColossus than any other state. Yet we have beenamong the first to discern that Japan is doing theworld’s work if, by reducing the pressure of Russia’sassault upon Eastern Asia, she removes Chinain the crisis of her awakening from the list of thosederelict states whose present decrepitude offerssuch deplorable temptation to the military nationsof the West. There would seem to be fresh need,moreover, of convincing modern statesmen that apolicy of conducting diplomatic intercourse by meansof tergiversation and lies is unprofitable in the longviirun, and therefore unjustified by the most cynicalschool of political ethics. Without debating therighteousness of her pretensions, it is obvious thatRussia cannot proceed further in her headway withoutmaterially affecting the legitimate ambitions ofother peoples of proved vitality, nor can her characteristicdiplomacy secure success without debauchingthe political morality of Christendom. Whileapprehension of Russian aims need not involve dislikeof the Russian people, we have an abiding ideain this country that both alike lie under a necessityof chastisement, and that Japan, as the only nationnow really at home on the Pacific, is the hand tohold the rod.

In conclusion—if I may be allowed to extendthese reflections a little further—the situationbefore us suggests the possibility that Asia may atthis moment be passing the threshold of a renascencesimilar to that which awakened Europe atthe opening of the sixteenth century from the lethargyof her dark ages. As the able editor of theNorth China Herald has observed, native Asia fromKorea to Siam is to-day no more deeply immersedin the mire of poverty, ignorance, and superstitionthan was Europe in the Middle Ages, nor was thetask of relief and enlightenment less hopeless tohuman agencies then than now. Yet with the Ageof Discoveries came not only new worlds and newpaths of commerce, but the end of the tyrannies ofscholasticism, the church, and the despot. Withina century were laid all the foundations of theseviiipolitical and intellectual institutions that distinguishEurope and her children to-day. A like reconstructionmay be effected in Asia during the centuryjust begun. The parallel is not altogether inadmissible,and it may be pushed even further. For asthe newly awakened Europe of the sixteenth centurydeveloped one monster Power whose aggrandizementthreatened the liberties of all the rest, sohas the present era brought forth a monster fearfulin the same fashion to Asia. It was England, anaval folk and a new Power, that struck at Spainthree centuries ago, and by that brave adventurenot only won wealth and prestige for herself, butrid Europe of a great menace. It is Japan, also anaval race and a new—so far as Continental historyis concerned—that strikes at Russia and hopes byher success both to avert the undoing of the ancientstates about her and to establish herself as mistressin her own waters. Confident in their understandingof their great mission, we of America may rightfullybid the dazed Asiatic seek his salvation from thechildren of the Rising Sun, and declare in theSibylline utterance of the Psalmist, “The dew ofthy birth is of the womb of the morning.”

Frederick Wells Williams.
New Haven, Connecticut,
November, 1904.


This is an attempt to present in a verifiable formsome of the issues and the historical causes of thewar now waged between Russia and Japan. Powerfullyas it appeals to me, I would not have discusseda subject so strange to the proper sphere ofmy investigation, had it not been for the fact thatno one else has, so far as I am aware, undertakenthe task in the same spirit in which I have endeavoredto write these pages. Although I deeply regretthat I do not read the Russian language andcannot do full justice to the Russian side of thequestion, the impartial reader will observe, I trust,that this work is neither a plea for the one side nora condemnation of the other, but a mere expositionof the subject-matter as I comprehend it. When theauthor offers what he considers a natural explanationof a question, the reader should not read intoit a moral judgment. Indeed, I earnestly wish thatthe kind reader would thrash out of these pagesevery grain of real prejudice. Nor can I welcomea greater favor from any person than a more completeand just statement of Russia’s case than Ihave been able to make. After having said somuch, it is unnecessary to tell the reader how, whenthe substance of the introductory chapter to thisxvolume was published last May in the YaleReview, some of its critics ascribed to the writermotives utterly foreign to himself. One of thosealleged motives was that I had sought to provethat the American trading interest in Manchuriaand Korea would be better served by a final victoryof Japan than by that of Russia. I neither provednor disproved such a theme, but I did state thatJapan’s interest demanded the maintenance in thoseregions of the principle of the impartial opportunityfor all nations. Whether the result of this policywould prove better or worse for the interest of anyone nation than the effect of an exclusive policy, didnot concern me. It did not and does not belongto me to appeal to the commercial instinct of thereader, or even to his sympathy with, or antipathyto, either of the present belligerents. My only pleais that for truth.

The substance of the introductory chapter, as hasbeen said, and also a brief summary of the bodyof the volume have been published in the YaleReview for May and August of the present year.I am greatly indebted to the editors of the Reviewfor allowing me to use the material in thepreparation of this work. I also wish to expressmy sincere thanks to my friends who have encouragedme in the publication of this volume.

Hanover, New Hampshire,
August 30, 1904.


Introductory 1
  Economic issues: (1) Japan’s side; transition from an agricultural to an industrial stage, pp. 110; community of interest between Japan and Korea and Manchuria, 1032. (2) Russia’s side, 3247; comparison, 4748; political issues, 48–51; summary, 5153; conclusion, 5361.  
Supplementary Note 61
Chapter I. Retrocession of the Liao-tung Peninsula 65
  Primorsk and Sakhalien, 6567; intervention of 1895, 6877; its historical significance, 7778; its effects on Japan, 78–82.  
Chapter II. The “Cassini Convention” and the Railway Agreement 83
  The Russo-French loan and the Russo-Chinese Bank, 8385; the agreement of alliance, 8587; the “Cassini Convention,” 87–95; the railway agreement of September 8, and statutes of December 23, 1896, 95100.  
Chapter III. Kiao-chau 101
  The seizure of Kiao-chau, and the Agreement of March 6, 1898, 101105; the conduct of Great Britain, 106109.  
Chapter IV. Port Arthur and Talien-wan 110
  Russian warships at Port Arthur, 111112; British demand for the opening of Talien-wan, 113118; Port Arthur and Talien-wan, the British and Russian Governments, 118125; Wei-hai-Wei, 125129; the Agreement of March 27, 1898, and supplementary agreements, 129132; the administration of the leased territory, and Dalny, 132134.  
Chapter V. Secretary Hay’s Circular Note 135
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