Project Canterbury

Charles Perry Scott
First Bishop in North China

By the Right Reverend Bishop Montgomery, D.D.

[London] Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, 1928.

Chapter VI. Boxer Troubles. Sorrow. Loss, Bereavement.

We pass from calm to storm.

The Boxer Risings.--This is not the place to enter fully into the unrest in China during 1899 and 1900. Those who desire to read graphic accounts of those days in the North China diocese are referred to two books: The Siege of the Peking Legations, by the Rev. Roland Allen (Smith, Elder), and the The Story of the Siege Hospital in Peking, by Deaconess Jessie Ransome (S.P.C.K.).

The following facts are taken from Mr. Roland Allen's book.

The Rev. Sidney Brooks was murdered near Ping-Yin by a wandering band, on December 31, 1899. Yuan Shih kai, the Governor of the Province, punished the murderers, and in due time paid for the fine memorial to Brooks, erected on the spot where he was killed.

The Chinese unrest had been "roused into new vigour by the aggressive attitude of the foreign nations, and the semi-political propaganda of the Roman Catholic Church." "They saw that the Roman Catholic Bishops had begun to assume the style of great mandarins; that they were supported in all their actions by the foreign governments, and that the Chinese who entered this Church became members of a powerful guild."

They could not be expected to differentiate between Christians and Christians. No Anglican bishop ever dreamt of asking for official position, and in conference in Shanghai, on September 1, 1899, the bishops of our Communion passed the following resolution: "We have no wish to complicate our spiritual responsibilities by the assumption of political rights and duties such as have been conceded to the Roman Catholic hierarchy--but we cannot view without alarm, both on behalf of our own flock and the Chinese population generally, the rapidly growing interference of French and other Roman Catholic priests with the provincial and local government of China."

The same line of action was taken by all other non-Roman Christian Missions in China.

There had also been famine in 1899, and Boxer preachers proclaimed that the drought was owed to foreign doctrines.

Sir Claude Macdonald was the able British Minister Plenipotentiary in Peking. Bishop Scott expressed his anxieties about the situation to him, on January 30, 1900. Finally, en April 18, he started on tour through Shantung, leaving Roland Allen in charge in Peking. Norris was with the bishop.

As troubles increased, Scott and Norris hurried back, reaching Tientsin on Saturday, June i, and met Mrs. Scott there: she had arrived an hour before, having come down from Peking to stand godmother to Mrs. Iliff's baby, and the bishop was to lay the foundation stone of All Saints' Church, Tientsin, on the next day, Sunday. On Monday, Norris went on to Peking, the bishop and Mrs. Scott, after concluding their business, were to follow on the Tuesday, June 3. Alas! they were prevented by the military authorities; Norris had gone to Peking by the last train. No foreigner approached Peking, eighty miles distant, after that date, till after the siege. The Rev. Roland Allen sent away all members of the Mission Staff to Tientsin, except Deaconess Jessie Ransome and her sister Edith, and Miss Marian Lambert, to act as nurses. Norris and Allen and the three ladies did splendid work all through the siege which lasted from June 12 to August 14. The whole story is of a miracle. A handful of foreigners in their legations held out successfully against thousands of Chinese soldiers. The Anglican Mission compound in the West City, some two miles from the legations was totally destroyed with all it contained. The bishop lost all his possessions of every kind except what he carried on his travels.

Tientsin.--We ought to be glad that the bishop was not after all beleaguered in Peking. He would have wished to have been in the forefront of the battle where the danger was greatest. So a general has often felt; yet he knows that if he is to direct the whole operation he must be with his staff in order to communicate with all portions of the battlefield. In this case, there were Christian stations at Tai-an-fu, Ping-yin, Yung-ching, Chefoo, and half-a-dozen other places. There was also Tientsin, which was to be very fully in the war area. Iliff and his wife were in the parsonage at Tientsin; Mathews was at Ping-yin; Brown and Jones at Tai-an. These had to make their way to Chefoo as best they could, and with the utmost difficulty they succeeded. Burne was in charge of Chefoo, and Griffith at Wei-hai-wei. Three lady missionaries were teaching in All Saints' School at Tientsin, and these, with all other foreign women and children, had to take hasty refuge in the cellars of the Gordon Hall, when the foreign settlement was suddenly bombarded on Sunday, June 17. After the first fury of the bombardment was over, many women and children were got away in ships, and the bishop sent his wife to Wei-hai-wei. Surely he was right. Very soon the huge Chinese city of Tientsin was in a state of anarchy, and the Boxers, reinforced now by Imperial troops continued to shell the foreign settlements.

In whatever direction the bishop turned he was faced with loss of lives and property. Norman and Robinson were killed on successive days at Yung-ching, June 3 and 4, Whit-Sunday and Monday. Among the losses in the burning of the mission compound in Peking, I must place high--for the sake of this memoir at least--the destruction of Bishop Wilkinson's letters, written from time to time for the past twenty-six years to one who was to him as a son.

After sending Mrs. Scott away in a man-of-war the bishop lived at Taku for a few days on board one of the naval ships.

I have been allowed as a great privilege to read thirty-four letters written during these anxious weeks by Scott to his wife. Sacred, indeed; but as years pass we may be permitted for our own spiritual profit and for the history of the time, to possess a few extracts from this moving correspondence, as well as a few letters of Bishop Wilkinson's, written since 1900.

The year 1900 was indeed, central from almost every point. It was the last year of his wonderful married life; it saw the temporary ruin of the Mission by the murder of three of his priests and of many Chinese Christians; the total destruction of all his own possessions, alongside of the loss of the whole mission premises in Peking; the anguish of waiting in Tientsin for news from the capital for six weeks, and from other mission stations of his; coupled with this, his necessary separation from his wife; and it culminated in the death of Mrs. Scott from dysentery, induced by anxiety and exhaustion, and the terrible conditions existing round Tientsin.

We have but one or two extracts from Mrs. Scott's letters. The bishop's own were prized by himself as recalling days which, without doubt, were spiritually fruitful. He records six dates in the next few years when he read over the whole of this correspondence.

I give dates of letters, with short extracts, and without comments:--

June 20.--The bishop writes (at Tientsin) that they are at war there with Imperial troops. Shells burst round them, and they were advised to go into the cellars of the Gordon Hall, and that Mrs. Scott was with him. On June 24, Captain Jellicoe (Mrs. Scott's cousin) was wounded in the lung, and of course Mrs. Scott was nursing the wounded. On July 7 she was on her way to Wei-hai-wei.

From Scott's letters to his wife:--

"July 7, TAKU.--Chefoo is not a safe place: the ladies are being sent away.

"Patience of Hope," the St. Faith's motto, has been haunting me to-day. How I wish I could send in a man with the motto inside his shoe lining to Sister Jessie (Ransome).

"July 8, TIENTSIN.--I came off this morning in a tug with Keyes to run it (now Sir Roger Keyes), and a lighter behind it, which made us take eleven hours getting up. It was wearisome, and only diversified by a junior marine being swept off the top of the cabin into the river by an unruly hawser, and being followed like lightning by Keyes, who only got off his cap and jacket, and took a magnificent header from the bridge. It was lucky he did it, for the poor fellow had been hit and flurried by his fall, and might easily have been drowned. The quickness and readiness of Keyes filled me with delight. Jack Jellicoe (now Lord Jellicoe) met us on the Bund. 'And Jacob was left alone'--that keeps coming to me as I think of having left you all on the other side of the ford Jabbok.

"July 10, TIENTSIN.--The shelling here yesterday was frightful. Centurion was hit again and again: one man killed, two wounded. We were told that the big guns brought up yesterday would fire lyddite at that abominable fort. There were twelve guns playing on the settlement. Happily they were mostly from one direction.

"July 12, TIENTSIN.--This is one of those terrible days when it wants to rain and thunder, and cannot; flies crawl over one's steaming hands, and one's clothes are saturated.

"July 13.--We were woke at 4.15 by our guns attacking the city (Tientsin). About 6.45 a tremendous explosion, much fuss and alarm; no harm done. I ponder what may be going on in the Chinese city here, and pray God to hasten the end. It is all so wonderful that only thus can all the prayers and labours for China find a fulfilment. It is such a help to me to think how you pray for me in this hard bit of my missionary life.

"July 14.--This morning a great load is lifted off us; though, alas! I have to bury two English officers and four or five men. The attack on the city was made successfully, though with heavy losses, and now there is a great feeling of relief. The Americans have suffered heavily. The whole day we were pounding that city . . . the streets are full of dead, but I have not heard that there has been any massacre. Now it is Peking! . . . I mean to go on hoping about Peking, but it is depressing to hear the same remark: 'not a ghost of a chance for them.' I do not believe it myself. (He constantly mentions celebrations of Holy Communion, and services on Sundays--six services.)

"July 15.--There are any number of thousands of dead Chinese lying in the narrow streets of that doomed city (Tientsin). How can we escape pestilence? . . . . are killing women and children. The Japanese scrupulously following English and Americans in avoiding brutalities. Your dear loving letters do me much good. It helps me to think that if all else fails, I have at least made one dear woman 'happy in her lot.'

"July 17.--All the Christians have come back here, and we have daily Matins and Evensong. I have just begun an 'Augean' work--the cleaning of the school-house. . . . The Japanese seem to have behaved simply splendidly in all matters they have taken in hand. In their quarter of the city no looting and no shooting. It is most remarkable how they seem to have risen in one bound to the highest level of modern warfare.

"July 18.--I wish I could get a little certainty about the advance on Peking. I might get down (to Wei-hai-wei) for ten days and come back, but I don't like to leave with no data.

"July 19.--I am getting the school-house into decent order in case our dear people should some day turn up from Peking.

"July 21.-A bad night for heat last night, and I had strange waking dreams of St. Hilary's and every scene of our life in the Peking compound. Yet what trivial loss of mere toys when one thinks of those dear ones in Peking.

"July 23.--We have had two letters from Sir Claude on two following days. The first, written July 4, had expected the attack of the troops, and if not more severely attacked could just hold out ten days: this only reached Tientsin on the 21st. . . . Then the next, dated the 9th, had repulsed the troops again, but four civilians killed, and 30 more casualties among the Guard. . . . Our troops are already fifteen miles from here. No outward signs of a general advance. . . . it is purposely being kept very dark. . . . I think I ought to be here, and I thank God for giving me sufficient strength to do it.

"July 24.--The breathless interest intensifies daily now. How people must be praying for us that we can bear it at all! ... Think of Peking in mid-July. . . . and yet we cannot start. If our dear people are murdered just a day or two before our troops get up, 'Gordon' will be nothing to it. ... Some speak as if vengeance wreaked on Peking would make it quite all right: but who wants vengeance? ... I am not giving up hope. I know about 'God's opportunity,' but it seems more and more clear that 'man's extremity' has come.

July 25.--(He worries over what had best be done for his wife . . .--Not Tientsin; perhaps Corea, or Yokohama, or Tokyo.)

"July 29---They talk of starting every day now, but they don't start. ... I am quite hopeful that they are alive now in Peking, but there seem to be so many unknowns.

"July 31.--The expedition is timed to start to-morrow.

"August 1.--I go to Taku to take a room for you, and then you are to come up the first opportunity. Advance postponed. More frequent messages from Peking, mostly good: . . . It is rumoured that on 28 July an Edict forbade food to be taken to the legations. . . . Here I have no doubt the conflict of nationalities makes the position very trying indeed. Oh! may God not punish us for our 'unhappy divisions' by sacrificing those precious lives. . . Perhaps this will reach you on our wedding day. May God accept the sacrifice of our separation, which after all seems a little more in keeping with the desperate condition of our dear fellow workers.

"August 4.--At length I have seen the expedition start for Peking. What an interesting sight in itself; and tenfold more when one thought what it meant to us, to our dear ones, to China, to the whole world. . . . The Bengal Lancers were delightful to behold. ... A war correspondent said to me: 'One of your palaces has been destroyed.'

"August 6.--Great victory yesterday. Chinese flying before the Allies.

"August 7.--I feel very bad to-day, not ill physically, but as if I could wait and bear very little more. . . . God have mercy upon us and put an ending to this dreadful suspense when and how it pleases him. ... I want you sadly and always; but I do, for all that, feel a little thankful that, while the Mission is passing through the valley of the shadow of death, you and I have to give up that which we value most in life--the support and comfort of each other's society. ... I feel, as we have so often said of late, that we have had a most blessed and happy time these last few years, and have, as it were, earned a period of unrest and sorrow and distress. This latter may or may not be intended to prepare us for the end either of Peking or of China, or of life. Anyway we must thank our Father that he does not let us go sauntering always on the smooth paths, which nevertheless we have tried to enjoy in him.

"August 9.--It is said the Force will be there on the 12th (Sunday). What will it find?

"August 10.--I suppose thirty-six or forty-eight hours more may see the forces up at Peking. I do not think I could bear it if I were there. I sent up to Norris a rather full account of all that had happened to the rest of us. I enclosed later a line by Thompson to the dear women and to Allen.

"August 13.--They were at Tungchow last night, but the fearful weather and the rain has knocked up the troops. . . . The Consul sent a message last night as to our capacity for receiving refugees from Peking. . . . We can fill the school-house with women if necessary.

It seems useless to talk about 'afterwards.' We can frame little idea of who survive, who will be wrecked temporarily or permanently, what is left in Peking and what will be the condition of foreigners there.

I think of that army at Tungchow looking for Peking, unable to see it till they run up against it. . . . Inside, it has held these ghastly horrors for two months. Shall we ever see it again? Do we want to? God knows. . . . My mind is too full to express itself. I am glad I am here--not further away. . . . You see, I want to pour out myself a bit. I do not know that anyone here now has quite such a stake in it as we have, i.e. of such a personal nature.

"August 15.--Once more it is the day they ought to reach Peking. ... As you say, 'God is nearest' to them, as to you and me. I feel as if I could hardly bear the news, whatever it is. . . . Words fail me. I feel as if I could scarcely pray any more. Thank God for the continued solemn offerings and prayers at home.

August 16.--(This letter and five others on subsequent days never reached Mrs. Scott. She had started for Tientsin.)


"August 17.--'When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, then were we like unto them that dream.' These words run through me with the refrain: 'Peking relieved.' Glory be to God for his faithfulness and mercy, for keeping us strong in hope and for not letting us be 'disappointed of our hope.' We know nothing but the fact, but at any rate, we may feel secure that the dreaded massacre has been averted.

"August 20.--I am wiring home to Mackwood Stevens: 'Peking all five well. Inform Society.' The rest is a matter of history.

August 17.--Mrs. Scott wrote to the Bishop: "The 'patience of hope' is still the word . . . we can only wait and speculate, and above all pray. ... I have been so wonderfully guided through difficulties; but, oh! that it might be his will to bring us together again. The text that runs in my head is: 'Bind the sacrifice with cords.'"

The same day the news of the relief reached her, and she started for Tientsin.


The bishop gives the account in a printed paper which I have utilised. Mrs. Scott came prepared to nurse and care for the refugees, but it was she who had to be nursed. The day after the arrival from Peking of the Rev. Roland Allen and the two deaconesses she was ill, and on September 1 she was sent to Nagasaki with Sister Edith: the bishop, Roland Allen and Jessie Ransome accompanying them. On Sept. 7, Mrs. Scott passed away. The next day they laid her in the beautiful cemetery in the evening, under a full moon. Captain Jellicoe was there, after having been nursed by Mrs. Scott, at Wei-hai-wei.

I have found the following in the bishop's handwriting, signed G.W. It is headed "New Year." In a sense a "year" of the bishop's life had now ended. The opening year of a new century pointed forwards. Forward, indeed, he went, more fitted than ever for the "office of a bishop in the Church of God."

Love has touched the vanished years
With transfiguration's glow:
Through a rainbow mist of tears,
Shine the dreams of long ago:
Dreams fulfilled or unfulfilled--
As God willed.

All the bygone journey lies
As a mystic map outspread;
But the crowning, sweet surprise,
Waits a little way ahead:
Till the hands that cannot fail--
Lift the veil.

In November, on reaching home, he wrote: "As you predict, God is answering abundantly the many earnest prayers for me. I am, and have been, for the most part, not only calm, but very happy. The memory of the past is too sweet, too beautiful to be let go; the prospect of the future too bright to ignore, because of the temporary interruption which death brings. Still, you know the old lines:

'His inner day can never die,
His night of loss is always there.'

In her first present to me (In Memoriam), she marked Canto LXV, and now I can give it back with even more meaning than when we were both 'in the body.' "


I give extracts only. They all begin--"My dearest Charlie."

"August 24, 1900.--Now, at last, the certain announcement has come that dear Norris and all of them are not only alive, but well. I was holding an intercession service in the Cathedral yesterday. No words can express what it is to us to know they were spared.

(Referring to the murdered missionaries.) How little we expected that all this was to be the outcome of the first day of intercession, that our Mission was to give these three young lives. . . . Who can tell what may be the issue to the Chinese of all through which you are passing; how many children of God may be won from the land which has thus been watered with the martyrs' blood.

"September 19.--Almost the last words dear Norris spoke to me (when on furlough) were to tell me what a help and comfort dear Frances was to them all. . . . But my mind goes out to you. . . I have gone through it all.

"October 14.--It is an awfully solemn time, dear Charlie, but it has not come in anger, but in love: new power, new life, comfort which the world cannot give shall be yours after awhile. I cannot explain it, but by degrees one begins to realise what it is to have a pure and spotless spirit, part of oneself and yet within the veil. One almost seems to hear him saying to her: 'Ask what thou wilt for thy husband, for the Mission, and it shall be given, that thy joy may be full.' . . . You know this is a real home to you and you will come when you are able, and I will go anywhere to see you."

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