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Attention having been drawn to Corea by these varied events, a fresh incident occurred in 1868, which led (strangely enough) to the recent American demonstration in that country. In May of that year a steamer under the German flag returned to Shanghai, after a voyage to Corea; and the object of her visit thither, although for some time kept secret, at length oozed out. It appeared that a Mr. Jenkins, a son of the American Vice-Consul (formerly a missionary) at Shanghai, and himself long employed as consular interpreter, had proceeded in the steamer • China' to a point near the Corean capital, in company with a French priest and a needy Hamburgh trader, named Oppert, with the design of excavating the site of a royal mausoleum, pointed out by the priest, and of abstracting from it a coffin of gold containing the remains of a former sovereign which was supposed to be enshrined within. Apart from its value as bullion, the possession of this treasure would insure the consent of the Coreans, it was asserted by Mr. Jenkins' priestly confederate, to any demands that might be made upon them. A large number of Chinese and Manillamen formed the rank and file of this buccaneering expedition. On reaching the assigned spot the whole party, well armed, commenced their search for the buried treasure ; but an alarm was given, the Corean villagers turned out en masse, and the intending desecrators were driven back to their ship, with the loss of one or two men. Having put back to Shanghai, the China's' expedition could not long be kept from the knowledge of the public; and its leader, the worthy Mr. Jenkins, was arraigned by the United States Consul-General, Mr. Seward, on a charge of violating the United States neutrality laws, but was acquitted on technical grounds.
Nothing was heard for some time after this of Corea or the • General Sherman' affair, until at the end of 1870 it began to be rumoured that the United States Government had measures in contemplation for a diplomatic mission in that direction, to be supported by a strong naval force; and on the appearance in December of that year of the papers laid before Congress, it became known that a protracted correspondence had been carried on for some time past with reference to this subject. This correspondence had originated with a despatch written in April 1868, by Mr. Seward, announcing to his Government, on the authority of the above-mentioned Mr. Jenkins, the arrival at Shanghai of certain Corean ambassadors charged with a mission of inquiry, with whom, Mr. Jenkins represented, he was to visit Corea, for the purpose of
making arrangements for the despatch of a Corean embassy to the United States. This scarcely probable story does not appear to have aroused any suspicion in Mr. Seward's mind, and no impediment was placed in the way of Mr. Jenkins' departure—with the results already narrated above. The Consul-General subsequently wrote at great length to his superiors at Washington, dilating upon the advantages which, in his opinion, the opening of Corea to foreign commerce could not fail to insure; but in the month of July it became his duty to explain that the pretended embassy had proved to be a myth, and that Mr. Jenkins and his confederates had in fact been engaged in a body-snatching enterprise ; or, as he officially worded it, in an attempt to take from their tombs the remains of one or more sovereigns of Corea, for the purpose, it would seem, of holding them to ransom.
, Undignified, to say the least of it, as the position of the United States had become through this unlawful enterprise, the recommendations previously urged by Mr. Seward did not remain unheeded. It was decided that a naval force should be despatched to Corea, and the United States Minister at Peking, Mr. F. F. Low, was commissioned to accompany it, with full powers to open negotiations. The objects to be held in view were the conclusion, if possible, of a commercial treaty; but should this be found impracticable, a convention in the interests of shipwrecked seamen of the United States was to be accepted. The Minister was finally reminded that, while firmly maintaining the right of the United States to have
their seamen protected,' a conflict by force was to be avoided, unless it cannot be avoided without dishonour. No communication appears to have been made to any of the European Powers with reference to the intended expedition, notwithstanding the deep interest naturally taken in such a matter by all maritime nations; and it must be inferred that the honour of opening Corea to the commerce of the world was exclusively reserved to itself by the Government of General Grant. Strangely enough, however, with so practical a people as that of the United States, the means adopted for effecting this object were palpably inadequate. The squadron placed under Admiral Rodgers' command consisted of one heavy frigate, the · Colorado,' a vessel of the most antiquated type; two fine corvettes, the · Benicia’ and Alaska, whose only defect (a fatal one in this case) lay in their excessive draught of water ; one iron paddle-wheel gun-vessel, and a small tender formerly
* U.S. Diplomatic Correspondence, 1870. VOL. CXXXVI. NO. CCLXXVIII.
employed as a tugboat. The whole squadron mustered a force of some 1,300 men, but indifferently supplied with equipments for landing, or even with breech-loading firearms. On their arrival in the Chinese waters the American officers looked with feelings akin to envy upon the flotilla of light-draught gunboats flying the British flag, which they recognised as precisely the sort of craft most needed in an expedition of the kind they were about to undertake, in lieu of their own formidablelooking but in reality useless ships. The concurrence of the British naval forces would doubtless have been welcomed, when a nearer insight of the task about to be undertaken disclosed a portion of its difficulties; but, in the absence of any previous understanding between the Governments, cooperation was of course impossible.
After numerous delays arising from extraneous causes, the United States plenipotentiary, Mr. Low, at length reached the Corean coast on board Admiral Rodgers' flag-ship; and the squadron took up its position, at the end of May 1871, in the same anchorage where the vessels commanded by Admiral Roze had lain in 1866. Some petty officials shortly afterwards made their appearance, and were informed by Mr. Low's interpreters of the object of his arrival, being at the same time notified that, after a sufficient delay to allow the pacific nature of the mission to become known, the steam-launches of the squadron would proceed to effect a survey of the river higher up. Accordingly, on June 1, four steam-launches and the two lightdraught vessels of the squadron advanced up the stream. On reaching a point where the river narrows, at a distance of about twelve miles above l'île Boisée, the flotilla was suddenly greeted by a tremendous cannonade discharged from batteries commanding the channel, which were seen to be numerously manned. Not unprepared for a collision, and fortunately uninjured by the unskilful fire of the Coreans, heavy though it was, the Americans returned the salute in gallant style with their howitzers; and after an action lasting some fifteen minutes the batteries were swept clear of their
defenders, who lost thirty killed, while on the American side only two seamen were wounded. The little expeditionary force then retired to the anchorage; and after vainly waiting for ten days to receive an apology or explanation of this treacherous attack, a landing force was put in motion to take vengeance for the insult offered to the United States flag. A total force of 945 men was thrown on shore on Kang-hoa Island, and advanced to the attack of the batteries which had opened fire upon the surveying flotilla. Although numerously defended by a host of Coreans, evidently quite prepared for the conflict, who stood their ground with an unflinching steadfastness which won the admiration of their assailants, the batteries were captured without difficulty, after being swept by the fire of half-a-dozen howitzers ; and the citadel, a breastwork placed on the summit of a rocky eminence, was carried at the point of the bayonet, after frightful slaughter had been wrought among the Corean garrison by the fire of the American artillery: Three killed and seven wounded represented the total loss of the attacking party, whilst on the Corean side between four hundred and five hundred dead bodies were actually counted after the action terminated. Although in sight of the town of Kang-hoa, the victorious Americans were not tempted to follow the exanıple of the French in taking possession of this place; and after destroying the batteries and removing hundreds of the gingals with which they were armed, Admiral Rodgers withdrew his force to their ships-only to find that his demonstration of force had proved wholly ineffectual in overcoming the passive resistance of the Corean rulers. The only result of Mr. Low's overtures and Admiral Rodgers' vigorous blows was a communication in which the uncompromising defiance of the Regent was boldly expressed, and in a few laconic sentences the Americans were told that no persuasion would move him from his resolve to maintain the seal of exclusion upon his country. “Do you want our land ?' he wrote. 'not be. Do you want intercourse with us? That cannot • be either.' Whereupon, after a further stay of three weeks at Boisée anchorage, the American squadron, wholly incapable of pushing farther into the interior, turned its back on Corean waters, as Admiral Roze had done in 1866.
Two of the most powerful nations of the West have thus crossed swords with Corea, and it must be admitted that, comparing the initiatory pretensions with the results achieved, their efforts have wholly failed. What arrogance has been begotten in the minds of the Coreans by their repulse of the French in 1866 has been abundantly shown in their demeanour towards foreigners of late years in the person of members of their annual embassy to Peking; and this cannot fail to have become enhanced by the virtual success with which they have withstood the American endeavours to enter into relations with them. The task of bringing Corea within the pale of international obligations, whilst rendered all the more needful by the recent failures in that direction, has become from this very cause the more difficult of accomplishment. It is impossible, however, that the Maritime Powers
can much longer tolerate a state of affairs which places in jeopardy the lives of their seamen whom adverse winds may cast ashore in this inhospitable region, and which dictates the instant abandonment (as has lately happened in more than one instance) of valuable property when vessels are merely stranded within sight of the Corean coast. The numerous accidents incidental to navigation are sufficient to render nugatory those pretensions to a right to shut out all intercourse with the world which Corea alleges, and in which the self-satisfied judgment of a school of modern political philosophers is disposed to concur. But a question of graver importance than even that of enforcing in Corea a respect, at least, for civilised usages, so wantonly set at naught in the case of the General Sherman,' is involved in the unhappy impression produced in China by what is there considered the defeat of a foreign invasion. The hostile propensity with reference to European nations which culminated on the 21st of June, 1870, in the dreadful massacre at Tientsin, is believed to have gained its first serious impetus from the unfortunate issue of Admiral Roze's campaign in Corea ; and the virtual failure of a still more conspicuous expedition, to support which in its efforts to bring the Corean Government within the comity of nations Chinese aid had been fruitlessly invoked, is only too likely to strengthen the inclination towards overtly resisting European demands for the fulfilment of treaty provisions which has been strikingly betrayed of late at Peking. It is eminently desirable that Western prestige, seriously diminished by these two abortive expeditions, should be redressed in countries where prestige is but another name for the shadow of force in the background, which alone keeps life and property safe, and secures without perpetually recurring warfare the enjoyment of commercial rights. Equally necessary is it that some security be obtained for the proper treatment of shipwrecked mariners who, with the increasing growth of commerce in these Eastern seas, must from time to time be cast upon the shores of Corea ; whilst commerce itself looks to this necessary undertaking as the step which shall facilitate its introduction to supply the wants and develope the resources of the only remaining country whence it is now rigidly shut out. Accident, or the lapse of time alone, may possibly be trusted to as the means of overcoming that politic antipathy to intercourse with the outer world which is fostered by the despotic statecraft of Corea ; or on some favourable opportunity the longings manifested by Russia for the possession of this territory may be indulged to gratification ;