1.3. General Testimonies to Character.

Those, who have employed Chinese in Australasia, speak uniformly in praise of their plodding industry and general trust-worthiness. It is not judicious to repeat here the special praises I have heard in their favour, but they may all be summed up in the words often used—“I like the Chinese, because they give little trouble and you can depend on them to do the work.”

The famous and able Sir Robert Hart, who has been for more than 40 years Controller-General of the Chinese Maritime Customs, who has employed during that time many thousands of Chinese and others, and who still employs about 5,000 Chinese and 1,000 non-Chinese, composed (in the following order) of British, French, German, American, Russian, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Austrian, Spanish, Dutch, Danish, and Swedish, and has had more business experience with the Chinese race than any man in China, thus summarises their character—“They are well-behaved, law-abiding, intelligent, economical, and industrious; they can learn anything and do anything; they are punctiliously polite, they worship talent, and they believe in right so firmly that they scorn to think it requires to be supported or enforced by might; they delight in literature, and everywhere they have their literary clubs and coteries for learning and discussing each other's essays and verses; they possess and practise an admirable system of ethics, and they are generous, charitable, and fond of good works; they never forget a favour, they make rich return for any kindness, and, though they know money will buy service, a man must be more than wealthy to win public esteem and respect; they are practical, teachable, and wonderfully gifted with common-sense; they are excellent artisans, reliable workmen, and of a good faith that everyone acknowledges and admires in their commercial dealings; in no country that is or was, has the commandment ‘Honour thy father and thy mother’ been so religiously obeyed, or so fully and without exception given effect to, and it is in fact the keynote of their family, social, official, and national life, and because it is so ‘their days are long in the land God has given them.’ ”— (Fortnightly Review, February, 1901.)

The Straits Settlements, of which Singapore is the capital, contain more than 300,000 Chinese. When I was there in 1903, Sir Frank Swettenham, who is said, through his great opportunities, to “know more of the Chinese emigrant than any other Englishman,” in a valedictory speech referred to their value in very eulogistic terms. I tried to have a talk with him on the subject, but as he was leaving the country for Europe in a few hours he unfortunately could not spare the time, but a few weeks afterwards, in a letter to The Times, he referred to the Chinese as follows:—“I have heard a good deal of Chinese vices from those who wanted an excuse for excluding Chinese labour from what are called white men's countries. Personally, though I have lived for so many years amongst Chinese, I have seen amongst them no more evidence of vice than amongst other nationalities..... A certain proportion are smokers of opium, but those who smoke to excess are comparatively few, and I cannot remember having ever seen an intoxicated Chinese in the streets, or heard of a case of ‘drunk and disorderly’ being brought before the courts..... Those who regard the Chinese as a people of peculiar views, not fit to live in the same country with Europeans, can easily ascertain whether the records of the police and other courts justify the charge. I say they do not. On the contrary, the Chinese are honest, hard-working, thrifty, and sober as people go.”

The Hon. Chester Holcombe, in “The Real Chinese Question,” published in 1900, says—“Industry, economy, patience, persistency of purpose, democracy of spirit, and stability—all of these most excellent traits of character are notably developed in the Chinese..... A great capacity of endurance and a philosophic turn of mind enable the average Chinaman to submit, with complacency, to conditions which he would gladly see modified, and even to excuse and defend wrong ways and methods, in the correction of which he would heartily assist. When the time comes, and reformative measures are put into operation in the empire, the facility and readiness with which they are adopted, and the appreciation which they receive from the people, will surprise the world. And yet it will not be strange to those who know them. The great majority of the Chinese are honest, acute men of business. They realize that their traditional systems of finance are extravagant, expensive, and corrupt. These have been endured, but not enjoyed. As merchants, there are none better in the world than the Chinese; their word is as good as their bond, and their reliability and integrity are known and recognized by all who have had dealings with them. Honest and faithful in their dealings with each other, why should not such men welcome an honest governmental system, and aid in the establishment of it? What good reason is there for the assumption that they will not?”

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Ratzel, in his “History of Mankind,” says—“In a report of the Governor of Cochin-China towards the end of the 'sixties we read: ‘The Chinese have been and are of great use to us; they are temperate, powerful, intelligent, and hard-working.’ ”

Mrs. Archibaid Little, in her “Intimate China,” published in 1889, says—“There is hardly a European living in China, who has not one or more Chinese whom he would trust with everything, whom he would rely upon in sickness or in danger, and whom he really—if he spoke out, as we so seldom do— regards as the embodiment of all the virtues in a way in which he regards no European of his acquaintance. … A nation that, all through the land, produces men who so thoroughly satisfy their employers, cannot be called a decadent race; nor indeed are any of the signs of decadence with which I am acquainted to be discovered among the great Chinese people, who appear always hard-working, good-humoured, kindly, thrifty, law-abiding, contented, and in the performance of all duties laid upon them, astonishingly conscientious. I have never known a servant shirk any task imposed upon him, because he was tired or ill, or because it was late at night.”

Mr. Alexis Krausse, in his “China in Decay,” (1898), describes the Chinaman as “A good son, a fairly kind husband, and an abstemious liver. He does not drink to excess, nor does he squander his inheritance. He is the most trustworthy debtor in the world, always pays his dues, and can be trusted to keep his word in business relations.”

Mr. H. C. Sirr, in his “China and the Chinese,” says— “The characteristic good qualities of the Chinese are parental affection, fihal piety, veneration for learning, respect for age, submission to rule, hospitality, perseverance, and industry; the one especial trait in a Chinaman's character, which is worthy of being imitated by many professing Christians, is obedience to parents and filial duty.”

Mr. P. Leroy-Beaulieu, in “The Awakening of the East, published in 1900, says—“The Chinese have certain great qualities which are not precisely amiable, in spite of their extreme politeness, a matter rather of ceremony that of sincerity. These qualities are of a serious nature; patience, perseverance, hard work, the greatest aptitude for commercial pursuits, industry, economy, singular resistive power, and respect for parents and old age; to which may be added a remarkably contented frame of mind.”

Mr. Julian Thomas, in his “Occident and Orient,” writes— “One fact I wish to recall. The English gentlemen who command the police force here have nothing but a good word for the people whom, by the exigencies of their profession, they see the worst side of. Here, in Shanghai, they tell me the same as the late Inspector Clohesy, of Cooktown. The Chinese, as a people, are law-abiding, peaceable, hard-working—in many of the avocations of life not to be surpassed. Where does the cunning heathen conceal all those bad qualities with which he is endowed by American and Colonial agitators, when even police officials fail to discover them? Sober, frugal, industrious as he is, I would employ a Chinaman in my individual and selfish capacity. .... I respect their virtue, because in many things I think them so infinitely superior to our own people.”

Mr. C. K. Cooke, in his “Chinese Labour in the Transvaal,” (1904), referring to the characteristics of the North China labourers, says—“They are a fine class of men, temperate, frugal, well-conducted, and practically all married, many of whom have already worked under British and American engineers. Returning after three years' absence in a British colony, the experienced miners will be able to render service in the future when the vast undeveloped mines of China shall be opened.”

The author of “The Children of China” says—“The Chinese have many good qualities; they are gentle and peaceable, obedient to their rulers, very industrious, and always respectful to old people..... They are among the best-tempered people in the world, nearly always cheerful, however poor and hard-worked they may be, and are never ashamed of being poor, as English people sometimes are. The two things most respected in China are high position, if a man has gained it because he deserved it, and old age.”

Sir John F. Davis, at one time British Plenipotentiary to China, and later Governor of Hong Kong, in his book, “The Chinese,” says—“That excellent observer, Dr. Morrison, remarked also the cheerful character and willing industry of the Chinese. This is in fact a most invaluable trait, and, like most other virtues, it brings its own reward: the display is not, however, limited to their own country. The superior character of the Chinese as colonist, in regard to intelligence, industry, and general sobriety, must be derived from their education, and from the influence of something good in their national system. Their Government very justly regards education as omnipotent, and some share of it nearly every Chinese obtains. Their domestic discipline is all on the side of social order and universal industry.”

Mr. Pickslone, the well-known authority on Fruit Farms in South Africa, speaking from his long and intimate experience of the Chinese in California, says—“I speak as one who knows the Chinaman, as one who has worked with him, both as fellow employee and employer for some years, and I state at once that Mr. Gladstone was fully justified in stating that ‘it is not for his vices but for his virtues’ that the Chinaman is feared.”