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Lecture on the Corean War.


Yesterday at 12 o'clock in Boylston 9 Professor Hollis lectured before the members of Lieutenant Robinson's course in Military Science, on "The Late War between Japan and China."

The following is briefly the substance of the lecture:

The Coreans have received slight consideration from either Japan or China. Japan has invaded Corea repeatedly, and China has fought many battles upon her soil. For three hundred years Coreans have paid tribute to China and Japan, acknowledging the Chinese as the sovereign power. In 1875 a Corean fort fired upon a Japanese man-of-war and in reparation the government made a treaty of commerce with Japan. She stated in the treaty that Corea was a free and independent nation. Treaties with other nations followed.

This brings us to recent times and the events which precipitated war. We can readily understand Japan's policy. It was a kind of "Monroe Doctrine" that no other nation should control the future of Corea. Here we have the strongest motive in the war. There are other causes, such as the maintenance of her commerce and the traditional enmity to China; but the desire to hold the balance of power in the east is undoubtedly a certain cause of war ultimately. Certain party conditions in Japan undoubtedly have made war necessary. The party in power had to justify itself for great expenditures in the army and navy.

The train of recent events which brought about the landing of both Chinese and Japanese troops dates from 1882, the year of the treaties. A treaty was signed between the two countries stipulating that neither was to send troops to Corea without first notifying the other. In the spring of 1894 an agrarian rebellion broke out in Corea, and the king applied to China for help. The Japanese are accused of egging on the revolt to obtain a pretext for entering the country; if they were not guilty they were getting ready to take advantage of the very first opportunity. China landed troops at once without notifying Japan in accordance with their treaty. Japan landed a number of troops at Chemulpo, ready to advance on Seoul, the capitol, for the protection of her embassy and her people, and then offered to join the Chinese in reforming the Corean government and guaranteeing their independence. China's reply was a request for Japan to withdraw her troops and that she would then consider the question of reforms herself.

At the beginning of the war we find Japan ready to carry on a rapid campaign. Her men have been drilled in European and American methods. She has a military history that surprises the students who only lately have had access to her literature. The Chinese, on the other hand, have not been looking forward to war. Her people are traders and merchants, not soldiers. There is no system in the army, and the officers are thoroughly corrupt. The greater part of the funds appropriated for modern fortifications and ordnance has gone into the pockets of the mandarins. The outcome was almost self-evident to those who understood affairs in the East. It is not the Chinese soldier who is at fault, but the whole theory of the government. The Chinese have many of the traits to make good soldiers; they are more like us than we imagine.

China has a population of about 360,000,000 scattered over an enormous territory, without railroad communication, without roads, and without even a national feeling or spirit. Her army numbered about 350,000 available men, poorly equipped and poorly drilled. Her navy consisted of 5 battleships, 9 harbor defence vessels, 56 cruisers, and 43 torpedo boats scattered along the coast. The Japanese have a population of only 41,000,000, with an available army only slightly smaller than the Chinese. Their navy consists entirely of cruisers, about 35 in number. The whole of Japan was ready to launch itself into the war as a concentrated mass with high velocity.

The first overt act between the two countries was the sinking of the Kowshing in the Prince Jerome Gulf July 25. Some hard fighting followed on shore around Asan, and the Chinese retreated to a position north of the capital. The Japanese army immediately took full possession of Seoul and the King's person. Shortly afterwards followed the Japanese-Corean treaty of alliance. The Chinese collected forces south of Ping Yan, and the Japanese marched upon them from three directions, and crushingly defeated them. This practically gave the Japanese control of Corea. This victory will undoubtedly be reckoned among the decisive battles of the world. It served to correct with startling suddenness our vague ideas of China's strength. The next day, Sept. 17, the Japanese won the great naval victory off the Yaln. The attack by the Japanese was well planned. The evolution consisted simply in steaming in large circles, or spirals, and picking out two ships at a time, until the enemy's fleet was reduced to two ships, which escaped. This engagement does not teach much of a lesson, except to be ready when the time comes to fight. The Japanese were too feebly opposed to tell anything about the relative merits of different classes of ships. The effect of this battle, like that at Ping Yan, was very decisive, opening the way to an advance upon the Gulf of Pechili, as that at Ping Yan had cleared the approaches to Manchuria.

The limited time did not allow Professor Hollis to go through the history of the whole war, but he may be able to continue the subject at another time. The lecture was illustrated by some interesting stereopticon views.

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