The Ever-Victorious Army: A History of the Chinese Campaign Under Lieutenant-Colonel Gordon, and of the Suppression of the Taiping Rebellion

By ANDREW WILSON. Blackwood and Sons : Edinburgh. 1868.
THE Taiping rebellion, which was imagined to be opening China to Christianity, and which promised at one time to revolutionize the empire, grew out of the contact with foreigners and the loss of Imperial prestige by collisions with England. The distress of the rebels hurled their armies upon the neighborhood of the European settlements, and compelled the English and French to fence them out from the neighborhood of Shanghai by force of arms. Before the American adventurer, Ward, had organized the little army which, under Gordon, gave the finishing stroke to the civil war, the Taipings had proved their incapacity to hold their conquests, or to substitute a better government for that which they would overthrow. Great bands of marauders had swept over the Flowery Land, and marked their progress in the night by the glare of burning villages, in the day by the smoke of consuming towns. When the pretender died, at the capture of Nanking, he must have felt that he had changed busy cities into heaps of ruin, fruitful fields into utter wilderness. The success of the Europeanized army led by Colonel Gordon, after the fall of General Ward at the capture of Tseki, was due to its compactness, alertness, and enterprise, — its steamers and its artillery,—its taking the initiative everywhere, — and the intuitive perception of its commanding officer. This remarkable man was no adventurer, but a regular officer of engineers, perfectly calm, thoroughly in earnest, and so absolutely disinterested, that he was discharged at his own request from the service poorer than when he entered. His genius multiplied his three thousand men tenfold without a commissariat; under a scorching sun, he burst through vast lines of fortification, utterly routed a relieving army of immense numbers, forced his steamers through every impediment; and displayed such gallantry to the resisting, and such mercy to the vanquished, such neglect of personal advantage, and such singular regard to the interests of the Imperial government, that the very highest honors the Chinese can bestow were heaped upon him.
No doubt this Taiping rebellion has worked for the development of China, and led remotely to the liberal measures by which it is now entering into commercial and fraternal relations with the rest of the world. It is a sad reality, however, that the multiplication of free ports does not affect the tea question favorably at first. Since the opening of the Chinese ports tea has deteriorated in quality and expanded in price ; so that the third rates fifteen years ago were equal to the first quality now. The quantity demanded by commerce has doubled ; the old trees have been plucked too freely, and the same kind is not only one half dearer than ever before, but is raised by the intense competition to a higher rate at times in China than in London. Still, this must be only temporary ; trade inevitably finds a healthy level; and increase of international intercourse ameliorates the condition of the world at large.