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THE CHARACTER OF THE REBELLION.
of Tai-ping theology, and the want of reality in Tai-ping religion. They also show abundantly that the Rebels were essentially destroyers, and possessed no capabilities for reconstruction. In a sort of general way it is now very well known what the true character of this movement was, so I need only refer readers who wish more information on this part of the subject to the Blue-books, and to the volume of Commander Brine, * who is very far from being in any way prejudiced against the insurrection. The growing ferocity of Hung Sew-tsuen and of his attendant Wangs, the manner in which the exterminating decree was enforced, and the fluctuating fortunes of the Tai-pings, need only be referred to here.
The great internal difficulty which Hung Sew-tsuen had to contend with was his own aversion to guiding military operations, and the consequent danger of being superseded by one of his abler lieutenants. His cause lost much by the necessity under which he was placed in 1856, of having the Eastern King put to death; for that chief was not only his best fighting man, but also his best civil gorernor. Still, what else could have been done? The Eastern King, not contented with asserting that the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, was incarnated in himself, took to having trances, visions, and heavenly commands, in which he revealed that the Heavenly Father was so displeased with the Tien Wang (among other things for kicking his wives when they were enceinte!), that the latter was required to humble himself and receive forty lashes. Now this was going a little too far, even for Tai-pingdom. It became a question whether the Tien Wang or the Eastern King was to rule; and though the former very judiciously accepted the command for his punishment
* The Taeping Rebellion in China.' London, 1862.
without questioning at the moment, he soon took measures for abolishing the Eastern King and the Comforter both together; and the massacres perpetrated by the Northern King in carrying out this order, led to that prince also being killed. This rather awkward affair made the Tien Wang very jealous of another great fighting man, the Assistant King, who, in consequence, soon after broke off allegiance, and set up for himself in the distant province of Szechuen. Thus Nanking was left for some time without any able man either to carry on the government or to conduct military affairs ; and when the latter want was afterwards supplied in the persons of the Faithful King and the Heroic King, or the Four-eyed Dog, the Heavenly Monarch was too suspicious of them to rely upon their advice, and allowed them to be foolishly interfered with and directed by his half-brothers, the Hung Jens.
Nanking, while the capital of the Tai-pings, was never free from danger from Imperialist armies, and in 1855 it was closely invested, being blockaded completely on the north-east, and partially on the south, while its river-frontage to the west was commanded by Imperialist gunboats. At the same time the important Rebel position of Nganking, some distance up the Yangtsze, was closely laid siege to by Tseng Kwo-fan; and it was only by some very severe and fortunate fighting, that the Faithful and Heroic Kings managed to relieve these places. Even after this, at the end of 1859, the Taipings held only Napking, Lowhoo, Tungching, Hochow, Nganking, Woohoo, the Two Pillars, and Taiping fu; and the two most important places, Nanking and Nganking, were severely pressed by the Imperialists. According to the report of the governor of the province, the Imperialists had 100,000 soldiers round the former
place, besides a large fleet, and were determined to conquer the garrison by starvation. "The prospect of the Tai-pings,” says Commander Brine, “in the early spring of 1860, had become very gloomy. Pressed by want, the garrison of Nanking resorted to every possible means of sustaining life short of eating human flesh. The Imperial Government were highly elated, and the besieging force looked upon the fall of the city as a mere matter of weeks." Out of the lower portion of the Yangtsze valley, the Tai-pings proper had no footing, though the Assistant King was carrying on a small rebellion on his own account in the far west of China. The movement had ceased to prosper, partly owing to the action of Imperialist generals, who had succeeded in hemming it within a certain limited district, and partly from its destructive and exhausting nature, which, to continued vitality, constantly required new districts of country to exhaust and destroy.