ROBERT HART'S LETTERS
From: The I.G. In Peking, Letters of Robert Hart, Chinese Maritime Customs, 1868-1907, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England, 1975.
Author's Note: Only a few letters and the passages that mention Tibet are posted here. Robert Hart first mentioned Tibet in letter #540 in October 1885. In all, Tibet is mentioned in fifty-three of Hart's letters. These letters are all addressed to Campbell, Hart's agent in London.
If you have visited the Website for "Separatist Movements", you've seen that there are one hundred thirty-two listed worldwide (sixteen for the United States, twenty-one for Britain and nine in China); many have been around longer than the four in Tibet. A good question to ask: What is the one single, "individual" factor that has catapulted the Tibetan movement for freedom onto the world stage so that it has become such a Politically Correct, popular issue in the West--an issue that has even brought together America's radical conservatives and liberals (for different reasons--one hates and fears the Communists; the other loves and worships the Dalai Lama, a charismatic and noted public speaker.)? I recommend the documentary "10 Questions for the Dalai Lama (2006)" to see how wonderful this individual is.
7 October 1888
[Rcd. November 18, 1888]
...We have just heard that Graham has thrashed and dispersed the Tibetans.* I consider this most lucky and most opportune. China was sending men, 15,000, from Szechuen to Tibet "to coerce the refractory tributary", but if those men had found the Tibetans in form and in line while facing the British, they would have most probably tried their luck by taking part with them, and then England and China would have been enemies; whereas this opportune thrashing has given China the right cue--the troops will act against the Tibetans, and, instead of an enemy, China will regard England as an ally and helper in reducing trouble-some tributaries to a proper sense of position! ...
* Footnote: General Graham's forces had driven 11,000 Tibetan troops out of Sikkim, where they had been occupying a fort at Lengtu for well over a year. Sikkim, whose rajah was Tibetanized and whose religion was Lamaism, regarded itself as a dependency of Tibet, and was so considered by Tibet. But early in the nineteenth century the government of British India had become lords paramount of Sikkim in order to protect it from Nepalese marauders. Britain therefore viewed Sikkim as British soil. Britain had requested China, as Tibet's suzerain, to oblige the Tibetans to withdraw....
23 July 1893
[Rcd September 12, 1893]
… Also Sikkim will be off our hands soon; they are just arranging to go to Rinchigong to sing. Out of this negotiation will come a new post for the Service—a Commissionership in Tibet, and I shall probably give it to Taylor. It’s curious how I have laid my “fiscal” fingers on so many places—H’kong, Macao, Corean ports, Mengtzu, Lunchow, Chungking, and now Tibet! I am also on the warpath as regards post and I hope to start it before I move off. There are difficulties in the way; when foreigners could have been managed Chinese held back, and now that Chinese seem really disposed to act, there is a foreign difficulty—the result of Chinese delay. Necessity for successful combinations deprives on of the powerful aid of the true “psychological moment.” …
Siam is being watched by China: I have been doing all I can to hold some fire-eaters back—they despise France and think they could “jump down her throat”—and, if they did, they might not come up again! …
8 January 1894
[Rcd. March 5, 1894]
… “It’s amusing to have in my time planted the Customs at Hongkon (England), Macao (Portugal, Mengtszu (Yunnan), Lung chow (Kwangsi), Chunking (Scechuan), Seoul, etc. (corea) and now Yatung (Tibet)! We have to keep China quiet and the dynasty on its legs, and I hope this is something: for otherwise I don’t see much return for all the work done and thought expended on it-except that the thought produced the work, and the work has succeeded as work! Our forty years of existence is now a part of history and our doings are woven into the web of the Universe—
16 January 1894
[Rcd. March 6, 1894]
… Jem has got his leave and Taylor is to be the first Com. In Tibet—at Yatung. Taylor will have a chance for notoriety-if not fame, but life at Yatung will be dreadful!@ However he will only have three years of it I suppose, and then somebody else will relive him.
My investments all alarm me; even Consuls seem doubtful with so many rocks ahead—foreign wars, home changes, etc.!
19 May 1895
[Rcd. July 3, 1895]
… There’s trouble in Tibet: the Tibetans refuse to allow Sikkim delimitation unless the ante-treaty boundary is maintained! The Amban is helpless, and all the Yamen can do is to wire to him to admonish the natives; possibly the first step this to a march on Lhassa. No time for a home letter.
23 August 1896
[Rcd. October 3]
…, and the Russian Minister being likely in consequence to land marines to protect his people! Loan, Foreshore, Post, Manufactures, Steamers at non-treaty places, new Japanese ports, territorial encroachments, Tibetan difficulties, transit developments, and a host of minor matters keep me busy, I can tell you! It’s hard work—but it’s great fun, and fortunately I can always see the humorous side of everything, and my spirits always rise when difficulties increase. …
4 August 1902
[Rcd. September 26]
… British doings in Sikkim-Tibet seem likely to cause some friction—(footnote: British attempts to prevent the spread of Russian influence near the borders of India resulted in the expedition to Lhasa led by Colonel Francis E. Younghusband in 1904)
[Rcd. August 10]
Manchuria still an unsettled question. I fancy China and Russia will make their own arrangements, but Japan may possibly wax angry and then war could not easily be staved off: what would England do? In Tibet, too, the outlook grows stormy; the Chinese have really little power there and India will probably consider it better to settle with Lhassa than with Peking….
Here’s a footnote for letter 1404
6 May 1906
Footnote 11: Because of China’s acknowledged suzerainty (the right of a country or leader to rule over another country) over Tibet, Britain needed her signature to the Adhesion Agreement, which T’ang Shao-i cleverly promoted to be a Convention, signed at Peking in April 1906.