DINNER IN HONOUR OF SIR THOMAS JACKSON
May 8th, 1900 New York. Host – The American Asiatic Society
NOTE: This dinner in honour of Sir Thomas JACKSON was planned for 80 subscribers, but the response was so strong that it was expanded to 115 subscribers and 4 guests and the venue was changed from the Metropolitan Club to Delmonicos.
The following notes of the event are taken from the Journal of the American Asiatic Association Vol. I, Number 10. Monday June 4, 1900
[After letters of regret were read] The regular order of toasts and speeches in honor of the occasion were then proceeded with as follows:
The President[Everett Frazar]: Gentlemen, our first toast of the evening is to His Excellency, the President of the United States. I will not detain you by any address. I will simply ask you to rise, fill your glasses and drink to the honor of the President of the United States. (Applause.)
Music.—"The Star Spangled Banner."
The President: Gentlemen, our second toast will be, Her Britannic Majesty, the Queen of Great Britain and Empress of India. (Immense applause.)
Music.—"God Save the Queen."
The President: Gentlemen, I have a very few remarks to make in introducing our guest of the evening. I think it is right that I should be brief. He is known to most of you, as is the great institution over which he presides. I will just make a few remarks on matters that have come under my own cognizance, going back to the first formation of the Bank at Shanghai, and give a few figures that I think nay be of interest to you.
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation was originally formed in Shanghai in 1866—34 years ago—by the well known old China firms of Russell & Co., Jardine Matheson & Co., Augustine Heard & Co., Dent & Co., Olyphant & Co. and others.
Among the earlier managers who have rendered distinguished services, and will be held in very kindly remembrance by many here present—who are still valuable constituents of the bank, are David McLean, Ewen Cameron and our distinguished guest of the evening. (Applause.)
Sir Thomas Jackson joined the service of the bank in t866, has been manager in Yokohama and London, and manager in chief at its head office in Hong Kong for the past twenty-three years. He also had the honor of serving in the Legislative Council of Hong Kong for three years. He has always been recognized both inside and outside the bank's service as the right man in the right place, (applause), and that means at the helm of this great and influential financial institution.
As most of you are doubtless aware, by far the bulk of its business has been, and still is, in connection with the development of the trade of the Far East, of India, and of Australia, while with the United States, the value of its services going back to 1880 and down to date, in the assistance and accommodation it has invariably rendered to our merchants in the opening of our comparatively new and rapidly growing trade between this country, the Far East, India and Australia, to which may now be added South Africa, has been of the highest importance.
To our accommodating and genial friend, and manager of the bank at this port for many years past—a valued member of our Asiatic Association—Mr. Townsend, I desire to add, en passant, just a kindly word of appreciation. (Great applause.)
To Sir Thomas Jackson's personality and sound judgment is largely due the great success of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, and he is not only honored on that account, but every one who has the pleasure of his acquaintance or knows the East, is well aware that Sir Thomas Jackson has always been in the front in all works for the public good, as well as liberal and responsive in all benevolent efforts. (Applause.) His hospitality, as many of us here know, assisted by his charming wife and daughters, has always been on a princely scale.
The history and steady growth of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank has indeed been phenomenal. Perhaps my position as a brief historian in this case may be acceptable to you, my experience going back to 1858 in Shanghai, being present upon the bank's formation in 1866, and as one of its earliest constituents continued down to the present time, in my firm's transactions in all these years, with China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines and India.
In its present position the bank is a monument to the worth and talents of our guest of this evening. (Applause.) It stands alongside of the greatest financial institutions of the world, its branches encircling the globe. It has always played a very important role, and will continue so to do, in the development of the trade, as well as in the civilizing influences, which so naturally follow such development in our relations with the people of the Orient.
The members of the American Asiatic Association, and many of your American, English and Continental constituents, merchants at this port as well as prominent bankers, church and collegiate dignitaries and others here assembled, are much pleased, Sir Thomas, to meet you and to extend to you a cordial welcome to this the great metropolis of the Western World. (Applause.)
The President: Gentlemen, fill your glasses and drink to the health of our distinguished guest of the evening.
Music.—"Wearing of the Green."
The President: Gentlemen, I have much pleasure in introducing Sir Thomas Jackson. (Great applause.)
RESPONSE- BY SIR THOMAS JACKSON:
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I am deeply grateful for the high compliment paid. me to-night in asking me here. I had no idea that there was nearly so much old cracked china about as I find here this evening. (Laughter.) The honor you have been so good as to bestow so freely upon me is only worthy of the name by which the bank is known, H. S. B. C: Heavenly Society of Benevolent Christians. (Laughter.) Sir, it would really require a literal translation to be worthy of all our excellent chairman has said about me.
Well, gentlemen, I arrived a short time ago in Canada. I came along through various cities, and finally found myself here, and then I went to Washington. I can assure you that nothing has ever impressed me more than my visit to Washington. The dignified calm and the splendor of that place are the greatest monument that I have vet seen of any race, considering the short time from which your history dates. Walking through the cemetery at Arlington--I think it is one of the most impressive things that I have ever yet witnessed, with its monuments to statesmen, soldiers and others—I could not help thinking, truly this is an imperial race; truly this race is worthy to occupy that great portion of the world called the United States. (Applause). At the same time I flattered myself that I, although a poor relation, could claim kindred with this great people. (Cries of "Hear! Hear.") I glory in being a subject of Her Majesty, Queen Victoria. (Great applause). But I can assure you that in every State in this Union that I have yet been in I have found myself quite as much at home as I ever could possibly be in my own native county of Armagh. (Applause.) This, sir, is as it ought to be. We are of the same race. We speak the same language. We are of the same religion. Our views are one, I hope, in every important respect. I hope that on every great occasion, when the great mind of the nations has to be spoken, the very best and the truest souls of the respective countries will be in the front. (Applause and "Hear! Hear!"). At every period of the history of the American nation, commencing with George Washington, down to the present time; at every great crisis noble men, nature's own heroes, have stepped into the breach and have done valiant service. I believe that the statesmen of the present day, if they were called upon in emergencies would be equal to their predecessors. I also have faith in the future race of men on this continent, that it will be equal to any and every emergency that great men may be called upon to tackle. (Applause.) Lord Salisbury, in speaking of the `"alliance," made some very witty and happy remarks. He said: `"Well, you may be very great friends with your neighbor, but at the same time you don't want to pay his dentist bill and his apothecary bill, or anything of that kind." He probably wanted to minimize by throwing a little cold water on the extra enthusiasm that was being engendered. But I prefer to take the view of the expectant mother-in-law: "You know there is no engagement between the young people, but there is just a little understanding." (Laughter.) Well, sir, I think that is about really what there is—an understanding. (Applause.)
You are an Asiatic Association, and I think I can best employ the few moments at my disposal by telling you something of the great nation that His Excellency belongs to, my friend Wu Ting-Fang. (Applause.) We hear all kinds of things about rebellion here and uprising there, and "Boxers' Associations" and things of that kind. But after all, surely this kind of thing has existed in China for all time. These are not the pains of a second childhood, or anything of that kind; they are nothing of the sort. I think if you can get hold of 330,000,000 of people and govern them with greater ease than the Chinese are governed at the present time, you will perform one of the greatest feats that civilization has known. (Applause.)
China is a marvelous country. I need not tell you what it represents—almost a quarter of the globe. Its men are equal to any climate. They can work as well with the temperature below zero as they can when it is a hundred in the shade. Surely a nation of this kind cannot be stamped out in a hurry. We hear a great deal of the breakup of China. It is described as if a little bit of earthenware had fallen from our hands. Well, considering the many, many centuries that the Chinese nation has gone on, I do not think it requires much faith on our part to expect that it will go on for a considerable time more.
I rejoice in the prosperity that has come over the United States. I think 1899 was the most prosperous year in the whole history of America. I can equally say that in the trade with which I am connected, the Chinese trade, the year 1899 was one of the most prosperous years that China has ever had. It may astonish some of you gentlemen to know that the trade of China just doubled between the years 1890 and 1900. Now, this is a very serious thing to consider. It also means that there is no very great possibility of an imminent breakup of China. My good friend, Lord Charles Beresford  , I think made a great mistake when he entitled his book The Breakup of China." I consider that we are on the eve of a great development in China. We only want to have that vast country intersected with railways, as this great continent is. We want its rivers and waterways opened up. Then it will show a development that will astonish the nations. China is a country to which railways are particularly applicable. A great portion of it is very flat; all of it is densely populated. The other day coming over the Canadian Pacific I saw that they had first to make the line and trust to traffic subsequently; but with China it would be quite the reverse; they have the traffic there now, but they want to make the line. This is an important factor. Another thing is this: China has great waterways, great rivers. It is intersected by canals from one end of the country to the other, but unfortunately these canals have been allowed to get into disrepair. Of roads there are practically none; they are hardly worthy of the name of roads. Therefore, the way is open for the iron road, and I take it that of all the countries on the face of the earth at the present time the one showing the best field for railway enterprises is China. (Applause.) When Lord Charles Beresford addressed you here some time ago he spoke to you about the open door. Well, the principles that he then advocated have since been adopted, I am glad to say, by the United States, as well as by Great Britain. Secretary Hay deserves the thanks of all the trading communities in the East for the action that he has recently taken. (Applause.) Secretary Hay's position is right. He wants nothing for America that he does not want for all the nations trading with China. (Applause.) This is Great Britain's attitude also. It is one that will last. All ideas of special advantages—special privileges for trade—I believe they will all disappear like mist before the rising sun. That sort of thing is not on a proper foundation. Another advantage from the introduction of railways into China will be that it will break down all the impositions, the little squeezes on the part of the petty mandarins. It is easy to stop an ordinary boat going along, manned by a dozen coolies, but not to stop a train. If we are to have railways all over China, with trains such as we see on the great lines on this continent, we must have proper tariffs, that will prevent all misunderstanding as to what goods have to pay in going from one part of the country to the other. This is a very important thing. On many of the rivers in China piracy is rife. If these inland waters were thrown open to steam traffic all such piracies would soon cease. It is one thing to attack one little boat going along, manned with Chinamen, and quite another thing to attack a steamer that you know to be armed, and you know there will be great risk in attacking it.
The Chinese Government has been most liberal in granting concessions for railways and for mining rights, but I regret to say that the concessionaries have not been quite so equal to the opportunities that have been offered to them. They have been jumping over each other to get the concessions, but they have run behind in carrying them out. Well, the conditions of the world are such at present that matters are a little bit upset in Europe, but these conditions will pass away; and I am sure in the course of a very few years there will be a great deal of attention paid to railway making in China.
There are a few more words that I will address to you as traders with China. Fortunately for China, being an Eastern nation, they have not been hampered with anything else than their own national currency of silver. I am afraid this is a little matter for discussion. But it will give China a great pull over all other Eastern nations, in having their silver currency, in the price for which they can lay down their products in the markets of the world. It will stimulate their exports. The first principle of trade is barter. Before you can buy goods you must sell your goods. And I think, given we have railways, given we have the waterways of the country properly opened up and a proper fiscal administration of the duties—I really fail to set bounds to the magnitude of the China trade. (Applause.) Gentlemen, there is another thing! I don't want to raise hopes about the future of this trade, because, although I believe thoroughly in the expanding trade. I am equally convinced that there will be tremendous competition for this trade. Now I will give a reason that I have never seen in print, and it is my own. The reason is in the present vast augmentation of the budgets of the world. One after another of the nations of Europe have doubled their budgets for the army, navy and civil service, and everything of that kind. How are they to pay for these budgets? Very few of these countries can, like the United States, from their natural products make immense shipments of grain, cotton and the like. Some of the countries of Europe cannot live without importing these things. Therefore, the nations will have to devote their best brains and all the ingenuity they can command to manufactures. No nation, with the exception perhaps of this great continent, whose resources I look upon as unlimited, can ever be in the front rank of commerce by selling raw materials. They must manufacture. It is not the produce of the ground they are selling; it is the produce of the mind and of the brain.
This means a sort of coming struggle for commerce. It means a strife for existence among the nations. Some nations which now aspire to be great powers, if their commerce falls away, will surely have to take second place, or at all events not reach the pinnacle among nations to which they aspire. In the future, I have no doubt, nearly all the trouble that will arise will be in connection with commerce. I believe that dynastic and religious wars have come to an end. But people must be fed; markets must be kept open. And in this connection, can anything be more laudable, can anything be more in keeping with the common interests of Great Britain and America than that we should stand shoulder to shoulder and keep the markets of the world open to us? (Great applause.) Every treaty to be lasting must be equitable. In every bargain there must be boots on both legs, not on one. This is a question on which there can possibly be no distinction, no separate interests between Great Britain and America, absolutely none. (Applause.) I hope, I very sincerely hope, that in all future discussions that may arise we shall be together on these matters. I equally hope that the might of the two nations will never be exercised except absolutely in the cause of right. (Applause.) Might without right might possibly, nay probably would be a curse of civilization, but might with right, properly exercised, must be a blessing to all mankind.
Gentlemen, I thank you. (Great applause.)
The President: Gentlemen, I have much pleasure in calling upon our friend, the Right Reverend Bishop Potter. (Great applause.)
REMARKS OF BISHOP POTTER.
Mr. President and Gentlemen: I confess to considerable embarrassment this evening, for I have had the good fortune to eat Sir Thomas Jackson's salt, and that naturally places me under a distinct restraint. (Laughter.) I have also during the past six or seven months had a very wide and varied experience with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Company, whose processes, I am bound to say, with great respect to Sir Thomas, have often impressed me as extremely mysterious. (Laughter.) I carried with me when I went into China a letter of credit from a banking house of high repute in New York, and I had occasion both to buy and to sell exchange; sometimes to pass gold over the counters of the banking establishments in Yokohama, Manila, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and sometimes to ask for it. I discovered that in all these transactions whatever advantage I supposed myself to possess in the beginning of the negotiation, I came out distinctly in the vocative mood at the end of it. (Great laughter.) I presume you all know my venerable and very attractive friend, Mr. Marcellus Hartley, who, in the confidence of this room I may say I occasionally meet on horseback in Central Park. I was repeating to Mr. Hartley some of these experiences and telling him of the curious fact that when I had a banknote of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Company in Shanghai it meant one thing, and in Hong Kong another, and in Manila another, but it always meant something against me. (Laughter.)
Sir Thomas Jackson (sotto voce): It was in Lent.
Bishop Potter: "Why, Bishop," said Mr. Hartley, "that is banking." (Great laughter.) So, gentlemen, I came home a sadder and wiser man. But I have no doubt there is underneath it all an equity which was not intelligible to my uneducated mind. (Laughter.) And I can at any rate bear testimony to the unwearied courtesy with which a traveler is everywhere received in the houses of this great corporation, and, as I need not say in this presence this evening, the delightful acquaintances that he is privileged to make. Seriously, gentlemen, the value of a great corporation, such as that which is represented here this evening by our distinguished guest, is of quite a different character. That thing for which the Englishman or the American stands when he is found representing great business interests in the East, I hope, is that pre-eminent quality to which my friend, if I may call him so, has just referred, when he says that all business, whether of State or nation or individual, must find its basis, if it is to be of permanent value and benefit, upon the strong foundation of equity; and it is because this has prevailed in the history of this great corporation in its dealings with Eastern nations that it has found there so strong a place in the faith and in the confidence of those people. (Applause.) Sir Thomas Jackson, gentlemen, has not exaggerated the vastness of the opportunities or the greatness of the responsibilities which belong to the nations which are represented in this room to-night. Whatever one may think of the East, however he may undervalue its intelligence, its business capacity, or its resources, no thoughtful man I think can fail to recognize the enormous importance of the doors which are being opened on the right and on the left to those who are represented in this room, and to the great constituencies and the capital and the civilization and the character which I rejoice to believe are behind them. I consider we have greatly mistaken the conditions of the country represented here in the person of His Excellency, the Ambassador from China, if we suppose we could go to China or anywhere else in the East without learning a great deal from them. For myself, as a student, I venture to say what I think my friend, the President of Columbia University, will agree with me in saying, that it is the unique distinction of China, over all the peoples of the world, that her aristocracy is an aristocracy of learning; not of wealth, not of lineal descent, but of scholarship. And believe me, gentlemen, a people that is founded upon such a conception as that, however the horizon is colored, must surely sooner or later have before it a great future. (Applause.)
I congratulate the State of New York, therefore, that it has represented in the men who are here this evening an Asiatic society, a society whose interests are not merely those of commercial intercourse, but of intelligent and mutual understanding. The very first thing that you and I, and a great many people whom we represent, need to learn about China is that we very imperfectly know and very imperfectly recognize the great qualities that are in that nation, that I believe are germinant in her, if we can touch her as my friend on my left has said, with something of our Western spirit; for all your railroads, in the last analysis, gentlemen, stand for the intercourse of people and the exchange of views and ideas. If we are permitted in any wise to quicken those great populations with something of Western thought and Western energy and high moral purpose, then most surely we may rejoice that God, as I believe He has and is, has opened and is opening the doors of China to the world, and of the world to China. I wish you every success in the aims of this society, and I rejoice that it is your privilege to-night to consolidate your purposes and endeavors around the charming and delightful and distinguished personality of our honored and distinguished guest. (Great applause.)
The President: Gentlemen, we have with us tonight a distinguished representative of that great nation, China, and I am very sure you will take pleasure in hearing our good friend, Mr. Wu Ting-Fang, Minister from China. (Great applause. )
REMARKS OF WU TING-FANG.
Mr. President and Gentlemen: It is a great surprise to me that I should be called upon to address you this evening. I understood it was an informal dinner, given to do honor to our worthy guest, Sir Thomas Jackson; that it was to be a dinner given exclusively to him, and a toast given to him, and he was to respond. Upon that understanding, when I received the kind invitation of the American Asiatic Society, and entertaining a high admiration and respect for our honored guest, whom I have known for a great many years, though not an intimate friend, I put aside my official duties, though they were pressing, to come here to join you in doing honor to him. (Great applause.) Sir, it is a great surprise to me, and an agreeble surprise to me, to be called upon to respond to this toast. (Applause.) I feel greatly honored on this occasion. Gentlemen, I heard with great admiration and approval the remarks made by Sir Thomas Jackson. To most of his sentiments I subscribe, with very little exception. (Laughter.) It is a popular notion that my country would be broken up; but I am glad to see that an old China hand, in the person of Sir Thomas Jackson, is here to deny that unfounded assertion. (Great applause.) China has existed for many centuries, and has stood many storms and aggressions, and she is still China. (Great applause.) And I hope she will last many, many centuries to come, as long, I hope, as this great nation will exist. (Applause.)
Gentlemen, I am pleased to be here this evening to join you in giving honor to Sir Thomas Jackson. He is all around a good man (Great laughter)—from every point of view. As the president has said, he is one of the ablest managers in that bank of which he is an ornament. There have been of course one or two chief managers, but I remember this incident, and if I am wrong I am subject to correction by Mr. Townsend or by Sir Thomas, but I think I am pretty correct. After serving the bank as chief manager, Sir Thomas, for domestic reasons, resigned the chief managership in Hong Kong and returned home and became a manager in the London branch; but soon after his departure the affairs in the East, I mean the especial business of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, were not in such flourishing condition as during his regime, so that the Board of Directors were at their wits' ends, and the shares of the bank went down in value, and they didn't know what to do. Everybody was alarmed, because the shares were owned by many people; and at last it was decided to request Sir Thomas to sacrifice his own interest and to go back to Hong Kong and resume his former post; and no sooner did he go back than the shares went up. (Laughter.) Why, there was a tantum pro quo. Because there was a good dividend; there was a handsome dividend every year at the half yearly meeting. He went there only just to put the bank in proper condition; I think it was for a stated term; for one or two years; certainly not more than three years; but he was found to be so valuable that after the term was over he was requested to remain at his post, and he is there yet, up to this day. So you see that Sir Thomas not only is the founder of that institution, but is also the pillar of that bank. And if he should not go back, of course there may be good men—I am speaking of the staff under him; many of them are very good and able who can succeed him—but, being a Chinaman, I have this presentiment. A man may be able, may be very clever and able, but still he must be lucky. (Laughter.) A purely lucky man without ability is not good, but if a man is able and talented, and with luck, that is the man we want (Great laughter), and there is the man we have (pointing to Sir Thomas Jackson) in the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. Since he has been there the shares have been rising year after year in value, and the bank depends greatly upon him for his ability and for his prestige to carry on the bank. Now he is on his way home for a holiday—a well-deserved holiday. I hope after he has rested he will go back to Hong Kong with renewed health. I say this not only for the interest of the bank but also from a selfish motive, because I happen to own a few shares myself (Great laughter), and I hope he will go back and live there many years more to manage that bank, for if he should go home for good and sever his connection with the bank I fear I shall have to sell my shares. (Laughter.) Gentlemen, now a man of that character and of that ability, like Sir Thomas Jackson, and with such luck (Laughter), is but rarely met with in this world, and when you have such a man of course you keep him there as long as you can. But I have one fault to find with him: that is to say, he has been residing too long in Hong Kong. I wish he could give us the benefit of his talents and experience in our service. We want such a man in our service. I mean in the Imperial service of China. If we could have such a man for our Imperial Bank he would be a great boon to us; if we could have such a man to finance our commercial dealings, our treasury, I am sure the treasury would be managed in an admirable manner with his talents and with his luck. (Laughter.) But, of course, this is mere assumption, because I don't suppose the Board of Directors would part with him, not for any consideration. Therefore, I can only wish now, before concluding, that he will have a pleasant journey home and a happy reunion with his friends and relations, and after his leave of absence will go back to China and Hong Kong in renewed good health and spend many more years in China; and when he finds that the time is come that he will have to retire from the bank, I hope the Board of Directors will find a successor to him who is equally able, and equally lucky as he has been for so long. (Great applause.)
The President : Gentlemen, we have with us here at our table to-night a worthy representative of our oldest and most distinguished American house engaged in the China trade between this country and that great Empire. I am sure it will delight your hearts to hear about the good old firm name of A. A. Low & Brother. (Applause.) It carries back my recollections with very great pleasure. Unfortunately, it is so late, and I was only able to compare just a few notes with my friend on the right, that I hardly feel I can do justice to the situation or the occasion but will be as brief as possible, bringing same to your minds, and seeing about me a few of the old merchants who I think can go back to the time when the good old sailing vessels owned by that firm composed the majority of the fleet of ships that went to China and conducted that business, long before the steamer or the cable was thought of, or at any rate, before they were used for that trade. The worthy father of this gentleman here, I look upon not only as a pioneer merchant, but as one of the most honorable, successful and high-minded merchants we ever had in this city of New York, or in the China trade, from its commencement to the date of his death. (Applause.) His two partners, a brother and Mr. E. H. R. Lyman, were connected with that firm before our friend was in active work. I remember them well, back in the fifties and in the sixties. You will pardon me for taking a few minutes in bringing to your minds the class of business, and the ships, that were engaged in the China trade in 1830, 1840 and 1850, before I landed in China myself. You will remember the names of the old China sailers. the "Howqua", "Golden State", " Jacob Bell ", " N. B. Palmer", "Contest " " Benefactor" " Benefactress" " Samuel Russell", Yokohama" and the " Great Republic". I had the pleasure of seeing this last ship of over four thousand tons register (built by Donald McKay) launched in East Boston in about 1856. This ship was purchased and subsequently used by the Messrs. Low, The "Contest" en route from Japan to New York, with a cargo of Japan rags was captured and burned by the Confederate Cruiser "Alabama". I recall the time vividly in Shanghai, when the American flags were tied up to their anchors. I had some fifteen or eighteen American ships at that time to my consignment. We could do nothing with them whatever, no insurance companies or shippers would take risks or place cargo under the American flag owing to the presence of the "Alabama" in China waters. The ships of Messrs. Low & Brother in those early days, were loaded from New York to China with cargoes of cotton domestics, lumber and silver dollars on owner's account. Their import cargoes were sold to pay for return cargoes. These ships took out their own mail advices of arrival in, and departure from, China, the Masters reporting same to Messrs. Low here, as I said before, long before steamers were running regularly, or the cable was thought of. Our friend on my right, was an active member of that firm. The modern system of conducting the China trade and the very rapid changes that have taken place, could be dilated upon, but it is now familiar reading to you, filling reports from Washington, and in the newspapers, so that it seems hardly necessary to go into details, but, I have thought these little reminiscences were perhaps worth calling to your attention. One other brief fact showing the kind and generous sympathy of our friend Mr A. A. Low. You will remember in 1889 the fearful loss of life from the famine in the North of China. One of the first gentlemen here to respond and come forward was Mr. Low. Our friend Mr. Townsend of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, Mr. Low and myself, formed a Committee of three, and making Mr. Low our Chairman. He took the greatest interest and subscribed liberally, while quite a large sum was collected and sent to China to its starving and dying people. I think my friend on the left (Minister Wu) will remember those circumstances in 1889. I could take your time much longer but do not dare to do so. I have now great pleasure in calling upon our good friend the Honorable Seth Low to address you. (Great applause.)
REMARKS BY HON. SETH LOW.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I came here this evening expecting to have the pleasure of meeting the distinguished manager of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. 1 am glad also to have had the opportunity to meet its mascot. (Laughter.) I remember to have heard my father say one day, in speaking of China, that he often thought of that country in connection with the Fifth Commandment: "Honor thy father and thy mother that thy days may he long in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." He said of all nations on the earth that had a continuous existence, he supposed China was one of the oldest; and certainly in China more than in any other land of which he knew reverence and regard for one's parents is habitually one of the characteristics of the race. (Applause.) In the presence of the Asiatic Society, therefore, I may be permitted to speak to you somewhat of my father. He went to China in 1833 on the Golconda. I have often heard him say that his worldly wealth was measured by a $5 gold piece that he had in his pocket. It was all that he had in the world, except the promise of a clerkship in the house of Russell & Co. when he reached Canton. Arriving there he was welcomed by the late John C. Green, whom many of you may have known. Mr. Green said to my father, soon after his arrival: "Now, Low, at mail times you will have all that you can do, but between the mails you will have plenty of time on your hands. My advice to you is to form the habit of reading books that are worth while. Don't throw away your time on things that are not worth reading." I think my father had the wisdom and character to profit by that advice; and perhaps for that reason, as well as for others, he always entertained to the end of his life, the most high regard for John C. Green. I have always thought it was founded on his sense of obligation to Mr. Green for that counsel. It is rather an interesting thing that upon the ground now occupied by Columbia University there stand two buildings, one erected in memory of John C. Green and the other in memory of A. A. Low. (Great applause.) Strange it is that these two lives that touched each other for the first time in 1833 on the other side of the world should be commemorated within a stone's throw of each other in the city of New York. My father stayed in China until 1840. The last three or four years of his stay he was a partner in the old house of Russell & Co., then the only American house, I fancy; certainly the most famous. When he was about to come home in 1840 he went to the famous merchant of that day in Canton, How Qua,* and said to him: "How Qua, I am going home to America. I never expect to come back. There is a ship in the harbor here that is empty. I think it is a good time to ship tea. If you will load her I will sell the cargo and pay 12 per cent. interest for your loan." How Qua said: "Can do." That is all there was of it. I have often heard my father remark on the splendid quality of faith showed by this man in putting so much trust in a man of a different race, knowing that he was going to the other side of the world, where he might never be heard from. I think it is an interesting circumstance that the foundation of my father's fortune and the commencement of his trade with China in a sense depended upon that trust reposed in him by this old Chinese merchant. (Applause.) It will not surprise you, therefore, to hear that when my father built the first of those clipper ships, to which Mr. Frazar has referred, he gave to it the name of “How Qua.”* The portrait of the old mandarin hangs still in the office where my father spent the greater part of his business life. It is one of the choicest possessions of my elder brother, who inherited it from my father. The second ship which my father built. I think, he named "Samuel Russell," after the head of the firm of which he had been a member. He went on building ships, one after another, employing them not only in the East, but in the California trade, after 1849; and not with China only, but with Japan and also with the Philippines. The first cargo of Japanese tea that was ever brought to the United States came in the "Benefactor," one of his vessels; and it shows something, I think, Mr. chairman, of the quality of my father's spirit when I say that the "Benefactor" was named for his father. That was his conception of what his father had been to him and to all who knew him. During the war, as has been said, the "Contest" was captured and also the "Jacob Bell;" the "Contest" by the "Alabama" and the "Jacob Bell" by the "Florida." It may be that many American vessels lay idle in Hong Kong for the time being; but the ships of A. A. Low & Brothers never kept the harbor, and they never flew any other than the American flag. (Applause.)
It was natural to a firm whose relations to the sea had been so intimate, that we should consider whether under modern conditions it was possible to change our fleet of sailing ships into iron steamers. I remember going in the early 70's, soon after the opening of the Suez Canal, to make inquiry as to what it would cost to build a steamer here in the United States available for the Suez Canal traffic. I did not find the conditions such as to make the building of a ship possible, but I did have one reply made to me that I often have recalled. I went to one of the members of the Clyde firm, and asked them which of the shipbuilding firms of that day—John Roach & Co. or the Cramps—was the better firm, in his judgment, to consult upon that subject. His reply was: "Well, Mr. Low, Roach is an iron man who has taken to building ships. Cramp is a ship-builder who has taken to using iron. Now you can make your own choice."
In 1870 I was graduated from Columbia College, and became an office boy in my father's establishment. In 1895 I was admitted to the firm, and from that time on until the firm went out of business, in 1888, I remained with an active interest, although for four years during my service as Mayor of Brooklyn I gave no attention to the business. In the Summer of the year in which we retired from business I happened to look at a manifest of a Pacific Mail steamship then arriving in port, and I found that tea was coming then to sixty different cities of the United States besides New York and Chicago, and we made up our minds that there was no further use in the tea business for A. A. Low & Brothers. We remained in the business, however, long enough to have drafts drawn upon ourselves and purchased by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, payable in New York, at the same rates that drafts were bought on Baring Brothers in London, who at that time held an unchallenged place. We felt, therefore, that we had succeeded not only in maintaining the reputation of the old firm, but in helping to bring about such financial relations between China and New York as would certainly grow in importance year after year. I had the desire in 1892 to visit China, for at that time our firm had its houses in Yokohama, in Shanghai, in Hong Kong and in Canton, but it was not my father's wish, so that I never have seen the East. I only know that I have inherited from him, and have acquired in my own business life, the highest respect for the character of the Chinaman as a merchant. (Applause.) We have sold goods to arrive and the Chinaman has taken them, though the market went against him. We have bought goods for future delivery and the Chinaman has delivered them, though the market went against him. (Applause.) It is natural, therefore. that in meeting with the Asiatic Society to-day to do honor to the manager of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, it has been a sincere pleasure not only to be once more in the midst of so many of my old business friends, but also to pay this tribute to the character of the men of China, with whom we hope the United States will have such large dealings in the years to come. (Applause.)
The President: Gentlemen, one of the gentlemen to address us this evening will not be able to accommodate us, but we have here present a gentleman most closely allied to our association: one who, I may say, has done almost more than anyone else connected with it, except our good friend, the secretary, whose work is unlimited and of the greatest importance to us. I would like very much before we separate to call upon our good friend, Mr. Clarence Cary. (Applause.) Many of you may not be aware that he is the chairman of our Executive Committee, and has much care and responsibility on his shoulders, particularly since the death of Mr. Brice, in connection with the American China Development Company, in regard to the railway to be built from Han-Kow to Canton, making a road of nearly 800 miles. The chief engineer of that road is also present here to-night, and it is possible, if our time will permit, that we may hear a few words from him. I know you will be pleased to hear from Mr. Cary, and get a little of his experience in the East in the matter of railways in China. (Applause.)
REMARKS BY CLARENCE CARY.
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen: I am absolutely unprepared for this call upon me. No notice has been served upon me, no suggestion has been made. I, however, am so much engrossed with this association that anything that it wishes is as a command to me, and this is enough to now urge me to respond. I do not know that I need fatigue you with details of railways in China. I would prefer to speak, at first at least, about the genesis of this our now important association in the few minutes at my disposal. It was my fortune a little more than two years ago to write a letter to the Evening Post (at the time that the Germans had taken the port of Kiao-Chow), having been then just back from China and fully impressed with the enormous interests and considerable risks of our trade there. I pointed out—and I was not the originator of that idea, because Mr. Charles Denby, Jr., had led the way in the Herald—I pointed out, however, that our treaty rights were not automatic and self supporting; that they would not stand upon their own hind legs and protect themselves against invasion or foreign aggression, and that work was needed in their behalf. As soon as that letter was published I was met by my friend, Mr. John Foord, one of the chief editors of the Journal of Commerce, and now our secretary, who sits over there in the back part of the room in a modest position, and who, with Mr. Cordes and others, has had the chief labor of the committee work of this dinner. Mr. Foord called on me and said: "I am glad that there is at least one other man in the United States who is seeking to protect American trade rights in China." Mr. Foord, who had himself written much on this subject, added that there were fifteen or twenty merchants of his acquaintance who wanted to do something or other; and then followed the natural question as to what there was best to do. We agreed to adhere to the usual custom of our race and, when in difficulties, call a meeting, appoint a chairman and pass a resolution. We then met Mr. Frazar, our worthy president, whom we found in the same mind, and at the proposed meeting there turned un some twenty prominent merchants, or representatives of business interests in China. The resolution then adopted took the shape of an appeal by a numerously signed memorial to the New York Chamber of Commerce, which body was in turn asked to memorialize the State Department. Our then Secretary of State, Mr. John Sherman, had recently been quoted in a newspaper interview to the effect that it made little difference to our trade whether China was going to pieces, and was to be partitioned, and that American trade could take care of itself in any case. This, I must add, in the face of the fact that the French had acquired adjacent territory and had established in Tongking and Annam a wall of tariff which absolutely excluded our goods. The result was that the Chamber of Commerce, with that public spirit which distinguishes it, promptly memorialized the State Department, and then, chiefly out of those who attended the first meeting, we formed this association, which I think now numbers some 225 individuals, firms or corporations, and keeps the door wide open for more supporters to add to its healthy and promising growth. Our motive in the association is obvious and simple. It is to safeguard and protect American trade interests in the far East; that is the chief object of the association, and perhaps consular and colonial service reform will be considered later. In all these respects we should work great benefit to ourselves and to the community at large; become, in short, a power for good.
Mr. Frazar has spoken to you about American railways in China. It was my fortune to go out there twice in my function of a lawyer, the last time to meet Mr. Parsons, our chief engineer, who had recently made a survey through a considerable section of China; and I may say, in parenthesis, that if you could not get that gentleman to come upon this platform and give you a lecture that he has sometimes delivered, with his beautiful magic-lantern slides, you would find the result far better than most speeches. The American railway project in brief concerns a line from Han-Kow, which is the chief inland distributing point on the Yang-tze-Kiang, some 600 or 700 miles back from the coast, down southerly, on a little east of south to Canton, which, as you all know, is a great commercial centre near the important British port of Hong Kong. That is to say, a road as the crow flies and as the survey runs of about 700 miles, but with its branches some-thing over 600. As a railway project it is impressive. It is supposed that the population at and between its termini numbers some 100,000,000, but if you think that this is too large, lop off a quarter of the estimate and make it 75,000,000, and you will still confront 700 miles of trunk line with a greater population than there is in the United States. These people we are here concerned with are ready, alert and eager for business. They, I may add—and I suppose my good friend, His Excellency Wu Ting-fang, whom I had the honor to first meet in a fine temple in Shanghai, will not contradict me—are among the most industrious, frugal and temperate people in the world. We have built railways in the United States and have waited for population to come, but in China the population and the business await the railroad. It was my fortune to go over the existing line in the north, from Tientsin to Peking, of some 70 or 80 miles, at various times. There one may see the traffic, the warehouses and station equipment generally, increasing by leaps and bounds, although the railway has not long been opened. While I was there a new section of some 60 miles of railway, which now belongs to the Belgian La Han line, was opened. It was immediately crowded with business. A Belgian engineer told me that they had begun the opening day by having a guard of troops to protect the railway; but that before the day was over they had withdrawn the guard. There was more danger, he added, of an interruption of a railway in Belgium than there was in China. I saw the trains come and go on this and the main line subsequently. In each case they were crowded with people and goods. I may say, finally, as to American rail-ways and other enterprises which are properly introduced in China—and mind you there are some unworthy ones proposed by rank speculators—in all properly introduced and well-founded enterprises you will meet with nothing but cordial aid and welcome, and you may rely upon the uniform support of the local authorities, and, as well, their steadfast adherence to any contracts they have once settled and agreed upon.
And now, to conclude, may I add a word to Sir Thomas, the guest we have assembled to honor? No one who has been in the Far East, or around the world, and encountered the many stately establishments of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, or met the uniform courtesy of its able staff, can fail to be impressed with the magnitude of the great enterprise of which our guest is the head, or fail to wish it and himself a long continuation of their great and deserved success.
The President: Gentlemen, I don't know that we should consider the evening as far spent. It is not 11 o'clock. This is the third occasion on which I have had the pleasure of presiding at meetings of this Asiatic Association, and I have always wanted to get our friend, Mr. Foord, to stand on his feet and say a few words. His objections have been accepted from time to time, but I don't feel to-night that I ought to accept them any longer. I have much pleasure in calling upon our friend, Mr. Foord, to give you a little address. (Applause.)
REMARKS OF JOHN FOORD.
Mr. President and Gentlemen: It is not so much my business to know things as to interpret things that other people know, but I find myself becoming so familiar with the great Chinese question that I feel as if I ought to be an old China hand. My friend, Archibald Little, whom our guest knows very well, when he came here and talked with me—I interpreted him, I believe, in a luminous interview—said: "Foord, you know more about China than any man I ever met who had not been there." I propose to go on knowing a lot about China, and interpreting to the best of my knowledge and belief and ability all those great questions that the previous speakers have referred to. The genesis of this association, as Mr. Cary has said, has been from small beginnings. When it started it addressed a somewhat ignorant constituency, now it addresses a very fairly informed one. The difference between, Mr. John Sherman's attitude and Mr. John Hay's attitude is something enormous, and something of which the American Asiatic Association has been a part; not everything, but of which it has been a large part. It is the difference between a man who could say, It does not matter whether China is cut up into any number of sections; we shall do business with her anyway," and the man that says China shall not be cut up to the detriment of our trade, and who stands for the integrity of the Empire and for the integrity of our treaties. That, gentlemen, I think you will recognize as a tremendous stride. How much or how little this Asiatic Association has been influential in that regard it is not for me to say, but we have done our fair share of the work, and we have done our share of the popular education that is so necessary a part of the work in a government like ours. We are keeping up the education of the American voter and we are doing something else. We are having children. We have the American Association of China at Shanghai. We have the American Asiatic Association of Japan, in Yokohama and Kobe. We are multiplying ourselves in the Far East. We are establishing the bonds of connection on the basis of community of interest. We are forming the kind of ties that are calculated to unite us more closely with the Oriental customers, who are our nearest neighbors, and are going to make the people of the United States appreciate the fact that they are very close to the Eastern shores of the Pacific. That is a fact which some of our English friends have failed to recognize. Some of them have an idea that the Monroe doctrine is incompatible with the introduction of our influence in the Far East. It seems to me the two things are mutually related and mutually interdependent. The Monroe doctrine was simply a declaration of the open door for this continent. It was an intimation that the Colonial system of Europe should cease to exist in this hemisphere, and that we should not be indifferent to the entrance of any European power in South America or Central America, with any differential tariffs, or any system of closed doors against the commerce of the United States. That doctrine is all we are claiming for Eastern Asia. It does not seem to me that we are in Eastern Asia with any less title than Germany or Great Britain, France or Russia. Russia, of course, has a closer territorial propinquity, but of commercial propinquity and commercial interest less than we have. And we are there as an influence to establish that equilibrium, without which there would unquestionably be a disturbance in the development of this great Chinese Empire and the development of the trade of the world. Therefore, I think the Association, of which Mr. Cary has spoken so interestingly and so well, and of which I am the humble executive instrument, has a tremendous work to do, not only in educating our American people, but also in educating our natural co-workers, the English people. Our English friends are sympathetic and intelligent, but they have their lapses, and I think that our guest, after what has taken place here to-night, might go back and tell the editor of the "Economist" and the editor of the ''Outlook," who have said that the United States can only attend to its own business by attending solely to the two divisions of the great Western world, that it is not for the interest of Great Britain that such an idea should be literally accepted. If our friends of the China Association should be moved to do a little education on their hook, with their own newspapers, as we have done, I think our exchange of ideas will not have been entirely in vain. (Applause.)
The President: If I promise to let you off by a quarter past 11, I think you will be pleased to have a few words from our friend, Mr. Parsons, who has had a similar experience to that of Mr. Cary. (Applause.) His name is very familiar to you in connection with rapid transit in this city. We have often wished to have him come before us and give us a little of his experience in China. It all tends to open up and develop our ideas and to teach us some-thing of the interior of that great country. My 40 years finds me learning something every day. How long can it go on? As long as I live. I always like to take advantage of the experience of those who have just returned from the East, especially those who have been through the interior of that country.
REMARKS OF WILLIAM BARCLAY PARSONS.
Mr. Chairman and Members and Guests of the Asiatic Association: When I came here to-night I came with the expectation of simply being one of you to do honor to our guest, Sir Thomas Jackson, and I did not expect to be honored myself by being called upon to make any remarks. Sir Thomas Jackson mentioned in his address the possibility and the desirability of building railroads in China; and Mr. Clarence Cary spoke to you about what could be done and how the Chinese could be taught to build railways. From my experience, I do not think the Chinese need any teaching at all. I went to China on behalf of the American China Development Company, and made a survey journey of something over 1,000 miles in the interior, between points of civilization. When I got down into Hunan, the most conservative of all the provinces, a country where no white man had been before, I entered the jurisdiction of a certain Chinese magistrate, who had been instructed, as the other magistrates had been, by the Viceroy to accompany me on my journey through his district. He began asking me questions as to the nature of a railroad, knowing nothing whatever about one. Probably he had never seen one at all, unless he might have seen the little one from Peking to Tien-Tsin, but even that is doubtful. He desired information as to what a railroad was, how it was built and what it was to do. One evening he came to in and asked where the station was going to be near his capital. I looked at my friend and I wondered whether he knew what he was asking. I told him that I did not know, but it was of course a matter of no consequence. He said he was sorry that I did not know, because he would very much like to have the information, and would like to have it alone. (Laughter.) I asked what possible good the information could be to him. Mind you, he knew nothing at all about a railroad, not a thing. He was one of the people I had been sent out there to teach. In reply he said he merely wanted to know where the station was going to be. I told him I was very sorry that I could not tell him. He said he regretted that, because it would be to my interest as well as his if he could know. (Laughter.) Evidently our conversation was progressing; so it began to be my turn to ask questions. I asked how it was to my interest to have him know where the station was going to be. "Well," he said, "you see it is this way. I being a magistrate, according to Chinese law, I can fix the value of property around the station. Now I have been thinking a good deal the last few days over what you told me, what your railroad was going to be, and I have come to the conclusion that the important feature of that railroad will be the station, and the business of the city will be done around the station. Now, being a magistrate and being the one who can fix the value of property, I will buy that property at my own valuation, on joint account, you and me alone, and then you will fix your station in the center of the tract; then, having done so, you and I will sell it back to the men we bought it from at our own price."
Bishop Potter has told you about his experience with the banking regulations of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank. I have experienced the same thing; everybody does. But there was one experience that I had with the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank that was possibly unique. When I got to Han-kow, the last fringe of civilization. and I was about to start on my overland journey across an unknown country, a distance as great as from here to Milwaukee, I was met with the dilemma of getting money on the route or carrying with me in silver bullion enough to provide the expense of my whole expedition, amounting to some 600 men. I went to Mr. Oxley, the manager of the Han-kow branch, and asked him if it was possible for him to arrange in any way to draw money in the province to which I was going, the only province in China where foreigners were not known, and where no white man had been before. He said he did not know how it would be, so he sent for his "compradore," and he said, as did the man of whom President Low spoke: "Can do." So I went back to the bank the next morning and they presented me with a Chinese letter of credit, the first Chinese letter of credit ever issued to a white man in the province of Hunan. Mr. Oxley said: "Here is a letter of credit for 1i,000. All you have to do is to go to a banker and draw the money on it." I said: "How?" He said: "Simply draw cheque on our bank." "But," I said, "they don't know me. They don't know whether I have credit with this bank." "That will not make any difference," he said; "they know the cheque of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank, and they know we never yet have failed to pay one of those cheques. So remember that you take with you into the interior the credit of this institution. We will be obliged to pay almost any draft that you make upon us, because at all hazards we must maintain our credit. Perhaps there will come a day when somebody will draw upon us a false cheque, and the managers of this institution will be called upon to decide whether to protect their faith with China or to save themselves from loss. That hour has not yet come. We hope it never will. So far the credit of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank stands unbroken with China in the interior." Some day I hope there will be a Chinese-American bank in China as great and as powerful as the institution over which Sir Thomas Jackson presides, and the greatest wish for good that I can give to that bank is that when it is founded it will be able to say, as the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank manager said to me, that not only has it never yet broken faith, but has secured an implicit native confidence in the mere form of its obligations.
A call was made for Mr. Gojuro Nagasaki to address the meeting, but he declined.
The President: Gentlemen, Mr. Nagasaki asks to be excused.
I want to thank you, gentlemen, for this very full attendance here to-night to meet our friend, the guest of the evening. I suggest that we take a parting glass of wine, wishing him godspeed to his native land, and hoping with our friend Mr. Wu that "good luck" may ever attend him. (Applause.)
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