徐天嘯 Xu Tianxiao

“民權報一週紀年之宣言”

徐天嘯,民權報一週紀年之宣言,民權報 1913年三月二十八日

Xu Tianxiao, “Proclamation for the First Anniversary of People’s Rights”, People’s Rights, March 28th 1913


Xu Tianxiao
(Zhou Wenxiao, Xu Tianxiao yu Xu Zhenya yanjiu ziliao, Huhehaote, Yuanfang chubanshe, 2003)

To begin with, a non-literary piece that reflects the political tone of many early Butterflies writings. By stressing their political commitment to the Republic, I choose to explore another aspect of their life and work, which relates to the making of the Republic in the aftermath of the Xinhai Revolution. Commemorating the first anniversary of People’s Rights, stronghold of anti-Yuan Shikai activists regarded as extremists by mainstream Tongmenghui members, the proclamation (xuanyan宣言) written by Xu Tianxiao debunks long-held simplistic interpretations about Butterfly literature, as it enables us to discover the works written in their capacity as political journalists.

Times before the Revolution [of 1911] were those of monarchal autocracy in China. After the Revolution, China entered an era where democracy is expanding. Autocracy and democracy are two extremes which remain in complete opposition to each other. When this one diminishes, that one grows and vice versa. All the courageous men of our party [the Kuomintang] were afflicted by all the shortages of an autocratic country. In order to make our country able to survive in the world of the 20th century, we had no other means but to explain the Three Principles of the People. To advocate revolution and encourage the sacrifice of one’s precious life, we had to spill our brains and blood. More than ten insurrections took place, and more than ten failures happened before, at last, echoing the call of the Hubei’s army, each province joined the fight within a few months. And that is how autocracy was overthrown, and how the Republic was founded. From this day on, the almighty and sacred Republic of China is stranger to autocracy. That is why the age of revolution is the age of the overthrowing of autocracy. It is also the age of the founding of the Republic. Autocracy is overthrown when the power of the sovereign waned. The founding of the Republic lays the ground for a democracy to develop. However the age of the revolution is a transitional period between monarchy and democracy.

During this phase, our newspaper, People’s Rights, made its apparition right on time, as it emerges very timely in the world. Our newspaper is the mighty product of the Republic! All the mighty products that appear in the world must be equipped with an exceptional spirit, with which they can go through fire and water without altering themselves and never vary from the beginning to the end. It has just been a year since our People’s Rights made its first appearance in the world. Time passes, but the spirit of our newspaper never changes. The political situation might have undergone changes, but the spirit of our newspapers never altered. That is because even if it does not qualify as a mighty product of this world, the extraordinary spirit which it is equipped with certainly enables it to go through fire and water, from the beginning to the end, without altering itself. And this is already good enough! Here are the only words that matter, as we are celebrating today the first anniversary of our newspaper: we dare to proclaim the exceptional spirit of our newspapers before the citizens. This spirit is but the spirit of democracy. Isn’t the 20th century the age of the expansion of democracy? To assimilate new trends of both Western and Oriental civilizations in order to infuse them into the citizens is our sacred task. Wasn’t the Republic [established] after the Revolution the burgeoning era of democracy? Then our other sacred task is to get rid of the remaining traces of the poison of the autocratic era in order to defend this Republic. The two great tasks of our newspaper are then to protect its spirit and the views it conveys. For instance, regarding the nature of the political system, we favor the responsible cabinet regime; as for local government, we support the idea that local governors should be directly elected by the people of the localities. Any other proposition would not be democratic, and would betray the true democratic spirit. Another example: the Parliament, which represents the common people. We contend that it should be given the impeachment right, as well as the right to designate the cabinet members. By doing so, we would call to people’s sense of responsibility and enlarge the spectrum of its political participation. Any other proposition would deny parliamentary politics and would thus be unfaithful to the true spirit of democracy. In sum, the crux of the discourses advocated by our People’s Rights is but democracy, and so is its spirit. And that is what makes People’s Rights People’s Rights! Its only ideology and its only sacred task lie in advocating democracy, insuring democracy and protecting democracy. That is why our newspaper will inevitably rule out any repressive move undertaken by the government, and so will it do with any infringement of the citizens’ rights made by bureaucrats. As for all the violations perpetrated by ambitious [foreign] powers and the violent actions of petty thieves, as long as they repress and violate the rights of the people, our newspaper will inevitably make the full use of its spirit to eradicate them, regardless their strength or the nature of their motives – private or public. To attack them efficiently, here is the sacred task of our newspaper. But even if we fail performing it, we will not change our course of action, and will remain entirely committed to our sacred mission! Alas! All the great martyrs of the Revolution did not hesitate to give their precious lives away [for the cause]. And why did they do so? They just wanted to offer the Republic to the people; they just wanted to give them freedom. Republic, freedom, here are, to put it in plain words, the two principles of democracy. But today even if the Republic has been founded, the evil poison of autocracy has not been entirely swept away and people do not enjoy complete freedom. And what we call democracy remains at its burgeoning stage. Just like a child who has just born, if we hope that he will grow up and thrive, we must first wipe out all the dangers that might occur in the future. And, just like what we do with a child, in order to do prevent any danger, we must insure that we chose the good nanny. Since the spirit of our newspaper is democracy, its responsibility is to look after [the country] which is still in a burgeoning stage of democracy; it also has to wipe out any danger [that might threaten it]. Sooner or later the highly sacred democracy will reach its most developed and perfect stage, and the sacred mission of our newspaper will be completed. If not, how could the burgeoning democracy which runs it own course would be able to prevent itself from foreign encroachment? Here is the duty our newspaper must perform. Democracy is the favorite son of the 20th century; it is the newborn baby of our Republic. Glorious martyrs of the Revolution gave birth to it, and entrusted us with it. If we fail to protect it, we will be unworthy of this baby and even more unworthy of the martyrs. Our newspaper has already taken the responsibility to look after it just after its birth. Each day that does not see the progress of democracy is a day which witness our failure, and each day that does not seen the perfection of democracy is a day which witness our failure.

I love democracy, and I love even more our newspaper which is the guardian of this democratic spirit. That is why I do not fear to repeat it again and again: I hope that my fellow colleagues and I will fully carry out our sacred duty.

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