Cyclopædia of Political Science, Political Economy, and the Political History of the United States
ASIA. Asia is reputed to be the cradle of the human race. Certain it is, that it is the region whose history goes farthest back into the past; and this is true whether we make history begin with the traditions of the Bible or accept the millions of years of which the Chinese annals boast.
—Asia is, after America, the largest of the five divisions of the globe. This immense region includes such countries as Siberia and Kamtschatka, where the cold of winter reaches the greatest intensity, as well as countries in which spices, cocoa-nuts, tea, and all the products of the torrid zone flourish. But it is not our task to give the geography of Asia. Let us rather glance at the political organization of the states within its boundaries.
—Asia has always been considered par excellence the home of despotism: but if a despot be an absolute master who enjoys and abuses an authority without limit or control, we scarcely find such despots anywhere in the advanced states of Asia. Religion, manners, ancient customs, prejudices, put obstacles in the way of despotism which are often more of a check to it than written provisions. From the former, tyranny can not free itself except by exposing itself to destruction through its own violence. The monarchs of Asia have been taken for tyrants before whom everything bends or breaks. It is usual to approach them in a very suppliant manner. A rajah of India, however, has power neither to levy taxes on a Brahmin, even if dying of hunger himself, nor to make a merchant of a laborer, nor to infringe in the least on a code which passes for revelation, and which governs in civil and religious matters. The emperor of China, a sovereign reputed omnipotent, can not choose a lieutenant governor of a province outside the list of candidates trained by the learned men of the empire. If he neglects to fast on the day of an eclipse, and recognize publicly the faults of his ministry, a hundred thousand pamphlets will recall him to the observance of ancient usage. Let any one read the too little known journal of van Braam Houckeest, and he will see what a net-work of moral bonds involves the existence of him whom his subjects call the son of heaven.
—There are many nations in Asia whose governments might be compared to those of the feudal empires of the middle ages; such, for example, are the Afghans, the Beloochees, the Mongols, the Calmucks, the Mantchoos, many Turkish peoples, and several nations of the Caucasus; but especially Japan, whose daïmios are true feudatories of the emperor, or were, at least, before the reforms effected about 1870.
—The Bedouin Arabs, the Kurds, and several small peoples of the Caucasus region and of Syria, are entirely free. Small nomad nations and several Arab tribes have a pastoral or patriarchal government, hereditary for the most part in certain families. Others are governed by a council of old men, and form a kind of republic, such as the town and territory of Antsoug, in the region of the Caucasus.
—The empire of the Wahabites afforded quite recently an instance of a singular mixture of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Thibet, Bootan, and a part of Arabia, are governed theocratically, this last by the imams of Sana, of Muscat, and by the sherif of Mecca, a dependent of the porte whom he almost never obeys; Thibet and Bootan by absolute but elective pontiffs, who have the titles of Dalai-Lama, Boghdo-Lama and Dharma-Lama, and are considered as an emanation of the divinity itself.
—In general, it may be said that Asia presents almost every form of government from a republic to a theocracy, in which the sovereignty is attributed to God himself or, more correctly, to a person considered as a real incarnation of the divinity.
—Asia may be divided into nine great regions. Ottoman Asia, which comprises Asia Minor, Armenia and Kurdistan, Mesopotamia, Irak-Araby, Syria, and a part of Arabia; Arabia, subdivided into several states, of which Yemen and Muscat are now the most important; the Persian region, subdivided into three kingdoms: Persia, properly speaking Kabyl and Herat, and comprising also the confederation of the Beloochees; Turkestan, comprising Bokhara, Khiva, Khokan, and the Kirghizs countries; India, subdivided into several states, of which the Anglo-Indian empire, the kingdom of Scindia, Nepaul and Lahore are the principal, (to this region belong small territories possessed by France and Portugal); India beyond the Ganges, of which the principal states are Burmah, with the kingdoms of Siam and Anam: the Chinese empire, which embraces China, Thibet, Bootan, Corea, Mongolia, Eastern Turkestan (Little Bokhara), and the country of the Mantchoos; Japan, which is divided into Japan proper, and that portion of territory called by geographers the Government of Matsmai; Asiatic Russia, which comprises Siberia, and the southern slope of the Caucasus.
Return to top