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China Relief Expedition

China Relief ExpeditionWith the advent of the Manchurian Ching dynasty (1644-1912) which overthrew the Han Chinese Ming dynasty, thousands of patriotic secret societies were formed to preserve traditional Chinese culture, including the martial art of "Kung Fu", or "Chinese boxing." During the "Boxer Rebellion" thousands of red-clothed, wild and uneducated "Boxers" rebelled against the European powers. In Peking, foreign legations from several nations were besieged by members of the secret anti-foreign society known as the Righteous, Harmonious Fists--the Boxers. British Admiral E.H. Seymour headed an unprecedented coalition of eight major military powers -- Britain, Germany, Russia, France, America, Japan, Italy, and Austria -- to rescue the foreign legations. The US contingent commanded by MG Adna R. Chaffee was composed of two infantry regiments, a cavalry regiment, a Marine battalion, and a field artillery battery. The multinational force eventually forced the Boxers out of Peking. Anti-foreign sentiment resulted in the rapid growth of a Chinese secret society (which had existed for centuries) known as the I Ho Ch'uan (Righteous Harmonious Fists), but referred to by the Westerners as `Boxers.' The Boxers called for the expulsion of the `foreign devils' and their Chinese Christian converts. The society stressed the ritualistic use of the martial arts and traditional Chinese weapons. Anti-foreign incidents, including the burning of homes and businesses, increased dramatically in 1898 and 1899, and was primarily directed at Chinese Christians. The number of killings by the Boxers continued to grow, and on 30 December 1899 included a British missionary. Western governments lodged strong protests with the Chinese Dowager Empress, Tzu Hsi. She responded on 11 January 1900, with a declaration that the Boxers represented a segment of Chinese society, and should not be labeled a criminal organization. Her unenthusiastic support for the Chinese Army's attempts at quelling the violence and the influence of Boxer sympathizers at the Imperial court, led Western governments to deploy military forces on the Chinese coast to protect their citizens and interests. By spring 1900, Boxer violence was virtually unchecked by Chinese authorities. On 30 May, the foreign ministers at Peking (today known as Beijing, but at the time referred to as Pekin) called for troops to protect the legations at Peking. Four hundred and thirty Sailors and Marines (including fifty-six Americans from USS Oregon and USS Newark) from eight countries arrived at the legations on 31 May and 4 June. On 9 June, the Boxers began attacking foreign property in Peking, and the senior foreign minister, Great Britain's Sir Claude MacDonald, requested a sizable relief force just before the telegraph lines were cut. In June 1900, the Boxers surrounded the legations in Peking and began a two-month siege. The first attempt to relieve the foreign legations at Peking consisted of over 2,100 men (mostly Sailors and Marines) from Great Britain, Germany, Russia, France, the United States, Japan, Italy, and Austria. The allied force departed the city of Tientsin on 10 June, under the command of British Admiral Sir Edward Seymour. However, strong Boxer and Imperial Chinese opposition forced Seymour to return his battered column to Tientsin on 22 June. The USS Newark and USS Monocacy stood off Taku Bar. Both warships landed Marines and bluejackets to help with the retaking of the walled city of Tientsin from the Boxers and continued to provide logistic support to the multinational force fighting to relieve Peking. The allied powers worked to assemble a stronger force, and on 5 August 1900, it departed Tientsin with 20,000 men, including 2,000 Americans (over 500 of these were U.S. Navy Sailors and Marines). After fighting two major battles against huge Chinese forces, the relief force reached the foreign legations at Peking on 14 August. Over the next several months, the forces of the Western powers and Japan in China continued to grow. They completed their occupation of Peking and spread out into the countryside of northern China, breaking up concentrations of Boxers. On 1 February 1901, the Chinese authorities agreed to abolish the Boxer Society, and on 7 September signed the Peace Protocol of Peking with the allied nations, officially ending the Boxer Rebellion. China suffered a devastating blow to her prestige and power, which allowed foreign nations to consolidate their interests and previous territorial gains. The weakened Chinese state could not interfere in the war (1904-1905) between Russia and Japan that secured Japanese dominance in the Far East. The United States was able to play a significant role in suppressing the Boxer Rebellion because of the large number of American ships and troops deployed in the Philippines as a result of the US conquest of the islands during the Spanish American War (1898) and subsequent Philippine insurgent activity. In the minds of many American leaders, the Boxer Rebellion reinforced the need to retain control of the Philippines and to maintain a strong presence in the Far East. The twelve demands made by the powers on China, the accomplishment of which was deemed necessary for the restoration of normal relations with that country and which were embodied in the joint note of December 22, 1900, may be classified under four principal heads: (1) Adequate punishment for the authors of and those guilty of actual [Page 5]participation in the antiforeign massacres and riots; (2) the adoption of measures necessary to prevent their recurrence; (3) the indemnification for losses sustained by States and foreigners through these riots; and (4) the improvement of our relations, both official and commercial, with the Chinese Government and with China generally. As soon as the chief culprits had been punished, considering the terrible losses in life and property sustained by China, not only through the Boxers and their adherents, but by the destruction of Tientsin, Peking, and the military occupation of a large portion of the Province of Chih-li, the United States threw the weight of its influence on the side of moderation and the prevention of further bloodshed. As regards the equitable indemnification of the various states for the losses and expenses incurred by them in China and in sending expeditionary forces to relieve the legations and foreign residents at Peking and restore order, and also the securing of indemnities to societies, companies, and individuals for their private losses through the anti-foreign riots, the Government of the United States advocated that the sum total of these indemnities should not exceed a reasonable amount, well within the power of China to pay. After careful inquiry you reached the conclusion that with her present resources and liabilities, China could not pay as indemnities to the powers more than two hundred millions of dollars, and that the exaction of any larger amount would not only entail permanent financial embarrassment on the country, but might possibly result in either international financial control or even loss of territory.

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Page last modified: 17-03-2021 18:02:58 ZULU