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This article appears in the October 28, 2011 issue of Executive Intelligence Review.

Sun Yat-sen's Legacy and
the American Revolution

by Robert Wesser and Mark Calney

[PDF version of this article]

Editors' introduction: The People's Republic of China and the Republic of China are currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of China's republican revolution, which in 1911 overthrew the Manchu Qing dynasty, ending 2,000 years of autocratic monarchy in that vast land. The leader of that revolution was Dr. Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), a great statesman who well deserves to be honored for his vision of the industrial development of China, as well as for his passionate commitment to the ideals of the American Revolution.

Lyndon LaRouche has often stressed the present-day importance of U.S. collaboration with China and other Eurasian nations, as the core of an alliance to topple the bankrupt British/Brutish imperial system and bring about a new global credit system, in the interests of all mankind. Most recently,[1] he wrote that the U.S.A., Russia, and China "are the leading partners on which the world's people must rely for [the] immediate years now ahead ... in bringing humanity into a system of emerging world-wide initiatives expressed as sovereign nation-states of our planet and expressed as what must also emerge as the role of mankind in the Solar system and beyond."

A U.S.-China partnership today is not an option, but an historic necessity for the survival of this nation and civilization as a whole. Yet most Americans today have little, if any, idea of the actual role of U.S. patriots, mainly based in Hawaii, in supporting Sun Yat-sen and helping to organize the national liberation cause of the Chinese people.

The very feasibility of a modern sovereign Chinese Republic grew out of a global strategic battle, led by the fiercest proponents of the American Revolution. The success of the American Revolution ultimately depended on liberating the entire planet from London's empire of usury, colonial exploitation, and slavery. The creation of a world-wide alliance of sovereign nation-states thus became a strategic necessity, if the inalienable rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" were in fact to be secured for all of mankind.

It may come as a surprise to Americans that Dr. Sun's program for China, the "Three Principles of the People" (Nationalism, Democracy, and People's Livelihood), was inspired by Abraham Lincoln's dedication to "government of the people, for the people, by the people," in his Gettysburg Address. (See box, below, for Sun's 1912 appeal to the American people.)

Sun wrote in his 1917 Vital Problem of China that the wealth of the British Empire was dependent on the brutal exploitation of abundant slave-labor and extractable resources of the countries of South and East Asia: If one could break this slave-labor empire through the liberation of these countries and the creation of modern sovereign nation-states in Asia, then this oligarchical system could be crushed. This was precisely what the 1911 Chinese Revolution was all about.

In his 1919 book The International Development of China, he outlined his plans for transforming the nation. Sun wanted to use the most advanced technologies available, making China a modern industrial state. He called for building 160,000 kilometers of new railways, 1.6 million kilometers of paved roads, and many new cities, including two new "Grand Port" cities the size of London and New York. China's hinterlands were to be colonized and developed.

His aim was also to eliminate what he understood to be the economic roots of a new world war. "The recent World War," he wrote, "has proved to Mankind that war is ruinous to both the conqueror and the conquered, and worse for the Aggressor. What is true in military warfare is more so in trade warfare. I propose to end the trade war by cooperation and mutual help in the Development of China. This will root out probably the greatest cause of future wars. The world has been greatly benefitted by the development of America as an industrial and commercial nation. So a developed China, with her 400 millions of population, will be another New World in the economic sense."

Dr. Sun's life and work were commemorated by the Beijing government on his 130th birth anniversary in 1996,[2] when then-President Jiang Zemin declared that "the goal of invigorating China he sought all his life and the prospects of a modern China that he had in mind are bit by bit becoming a reality that has even exceeded his expectations in many ways.

"Dr. Sun Yatsen left the Chinese nation and the Chinese people many valuable ethical assets, particularly a rich legacy of patriotic ideas, revolutionary will, and an enterprising spirit—a heritage that is worthy of our efforts to always learn, inherit and carry forward."

The following report is abridged from the articles by Robert Wesser, "The American Roots of the Republic of China, New Federalist, March 22, 1999; and Mark Calney, "Sun Yat-sen and the American Roots of China's Republican Revolution," New Federalist, March 30, 1990.

An American Outpost in the Pacific

In 1879, the 13-year-old Sun Yat-sen arrived from China at the Hawaiian or "Sandwich" Islands (henceforth referred to here as "Hawaii") to stay with his brother, who had emigrated there to become a planter and landowner. That is where our story begins.

In 1879, this isolated archipelago was a battlefield in the war between the British Empire's slave-labor apparatus and Benjamin Franklin's international American Revolution project. By the time Sun arrived there, this "crossroads of the Pacific" had become a strategic outpost of this project, deployed through a series of American missionary excursions.

This missionary project was organized by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missionaries (ABCFM), established at Farmington, Conn., in 1810. A key figure of the ABCFM was Franklin ally Rev. Jedediah Morse who, after the British takeover of Harvard College, had set up the Theological Seminary at Andover in 1805, which served as the recruitment and educational base of operations for this international missionary project.

Along with Morse, other founding board members of the ABCFM included The Federalist papers author and former Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay, and Congressman Elias Boudinot IV, the leading House member of President George Washington's inner circle, who had helped secure the appointment of Alexander Hamilton as first Secretary of the Treasury. Boudinot's father, Elias Boudinot III, had been a member of Ben Franklin's junto in Philadelphia, and had built Philadelphia's Second Presbyterian Church with Franklin in the 1750s.

Most of the leadership of the ABCFM grew out of a fierce battle between the Americans and the British over the control of the New York State frontier. The British (as well as the French) were notorious for their brutal corruption and exploitation of native Americans, organizing and in many cases participating in massacres of pro-independence frontier settlements. By contrast, the principled American approach was typified by missionary leader Samuel Kirkland, who established a highly successful school for Oneida Indians in 1793 in Clinton, N.Y. Later, the school become known as the Hamilton-Oneida Institute (today Hamilton College), named for its trustee Alexander Hamilton.

On March 30, 1820, the American mission-ship Thaddeus landed in Hawaii, carrying a group led by Hiram Bingham and went to work. Within two years, after the arrival of Scottish missionary Rev. William Ellis, a written Hawaiian language using five vowels and seven consonants was created. By January 1822, mission printer Elisha Loomis ran off the first Hawaiian-language book, an eight-page speller. For 20 years (1822-42), Loomis's press never rested, printing Bibles, spellers, psalters, and primers. With a written language established and the presses rolling, the Hawaiian mission, augmented with reinforcements from Boston, transformed the people of Hawaii forever.

By 1824, the ABCFM missionaries had over 2,000 pupils enrolled in their schools. By 1826, they had trained 400 native teachers, who assisted in teaching over 25,000 students, and by 1831, 1,100 schools were educating 40% of the entire population of the Islands. By 1843, the mission had converted 27,000 Hawaiians to Christianity.

Although none were quite as successful as those in Hawaii, American missions ultimately reached Thailand, Africa, the Middle East, Armenia, Greece, India, Ceylon, and China.

Fighting the British Slave System

While the British Empire and its North American Confederate allies plotted the dismemberment of the American Union, the countries and peoples of the Pacific and Far East likewise came under brutal assault by the British/French-led colonial powers. At the conclusion of the First Opium War and the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing, the policy of the British Crown was clear: If you resist the British East India Company's dope-slavery "free-trade" empire, you will be crushed by the full force of the Her Majesty's gunboats.

As the Royal Navy bombarded China's relatively defenseless coastal cities to ruin, Hong Kong was forcibly ceded to the Empire, and the port of Shanghai forced open to foreign (i.e., British) control. The British ultimately seized four major Chinese cities (in addition to Canton), while their French allies gobbled up Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

It was precisely in this period (1842) that Andover Theological Seminary graduate Rev. Samuel Chenery Damon arrived on the scene in Hawaii. Damon will be a key figure in our story.

In 1833, at the request of American mission leader Hiram Bingham, the ABCFM had established a Seaman's Friends Society to counter the influence of British Consul General Richard Charleton's personal organization of pirates and sailors deployed in terrorist gangs to carry out violent attacks and assassination attempts on American missionaries.

In 1842, Damon was sent to Hawaii to run a project, and he proceeded to carry out this critical American intelligence function for the next 40 years, during the period encompassing the American Civil War. Using the missionary presses, Damon established a newspaper called The Friend, which became the source of Pacific news and intelligence, as well as a major vehicle through which to promote the American cause throughout Asia. Damon became the center of an extensive American Pacific intelligence network and, through constant communication with American merchant and Naval captains, received and passed on critical news and intelligence.

After an unsuccessful attempt by the Royal Navy to seize Hawaii by force in 1843, the British escalated their "free-trade" warfare on the islands, through the promotion of a Chinese slave labor-based plantation system, cartel land-grabbing, and opium. British and Confederate agents also played the "ethnic card," constantly fomenting racial tensions between the Americans and the native Hawaiians and other ethnic populations of the Islands. Samuel Damon, fully conscious of this British/Confederate project to bust up the racial harmony in Hawaii, wrote on the eve of the American Civil War:

"We shall continue to [live in racial harmony] in our confident belief, if we continue to treat man as man, irrespective of color or race; but a war will come when the wicked doctrines of the London Times" are allowed to prevail.

To counter these "wicked doctrines of the London Times," Damon and others launched a campaign to promote the cause of the American Union in its battle against the British Empire and the Confederacy.

A Union Flank

The Union battle against the Confederacy in Hawaii took the form of a war on the British slave system of the Pacific: the purchasing and selling of "stocks" of Chinese coolies. The powerful and highly organized sugar cane interests in Hawaii (the "planters") were organized by the British-run Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society to pass a "Masters and Servants Law" allowing mass "importation" of Chinese slave labor. Ultimately, almost 2,000 Chinese coolies (virtually all men) had been brought to Hawaii as part of this "trade."

In the spirit of Alexander Hamilton, Hawaiian Treasury Secretary Garrit Judd initiated a government-sponsored project to provide land and cheap credit to all "commoners" who wished to settle and develop agriculture. Judd's "Great Mahele" (division of land) was aimed at busting up the land monopolies of the planters, and eradicating the Chinese slave-labor system in Hawaii.

Damon, to implement this program, initiated a project of organizing the newly arrived Chinese population on the Islands. In 1868, at Damon's request, an ABCFM-sponsored Chinese organizer arrived in Hawaii and began travelling with the Americans from island to island, to visit all of the Chinese coolie "communities." For those who "desired to be taught, and whenever teachers [mostly Hawaiian] could be found," they organized makeshift schools and study sessions.

In the United States, the unprecedented nationalist mobilization of military and economic power required to defeat the British-backed Confederate insurrection against the American Union, unleashed one of the greatest explosions of scientific and economic progress in modern history. The Union victory demonstrated to the world that the principles of American System economics, applied under republican constitutional law, were capable not only of crushing oligarchical attacks, but could also generate unprecedented rates of scientific and technological advances in "promoting the general welfare" of mankind.

The impact of the Union victory was soon felt in Hawaii. After the Civil War, in 1872, the first Hawaiian King travelled to the United States to sign a "reciprocity" treaty with President Ulysses S. Grant. It is important to know that the tactic of "reciprocity treaties" was the American System's answer to British free trade. Instead of undercutting a targeted nation with cheap goods and slave labor, the reciprocity treaties were negotiated to organize a "community of principle," whereby nations could trade on the basis of bolstering each other's economies. The 1872 treaty was aimed directly at the British, as it included a clause whereby Hawaii promised never to lease or sell any port or land in the kingdom to any power but the United States!

In 1876, the year of America's Centennial, Lincoln ally and economist Henry Carey articulated the American System approach to China and other countries under the British boot. He circulated his pamphlet Commerce, Christianity and Civilization Versus British Free Trade: Letters in Reply to the London Times, which is striking for its scathing attack on the British East India Company's murderous opium-pushing policy against China, as demonstrative of the actual nature of British free-trade, and so-called "Christian" principles.

Comparing the barbarity of the British Empire to that of ancient Rome, Carey identified the Union victory over the Confederacy and slavery as an effective liberation of the United States from "British free-trade despotism," creating in America "a growth of internal commerce that places the country fully on a par with any other nation of the world."

Sun and the Americans

In 1883, Sun Yat-sen, then 17 years old, entered Oahu College (on whose board sat Samuel Damon) in his final year of a four-year stay in Hawaii. He had spent the three previous years at the Iolani Bishops School in Honolulu, run by the Anglican Church, where he learned English, military exercises, music, and mathematics, and was introduced to Christianity. He also was most certainly introduced to heavy anti-American British propaganda by the school's principal, Bishop Willis, a staunch monarchist and outspoken opponent of the U.S. annexation of Hawaii. Sun's decision to attend the American-missionary-run Oahu College in 1883 (children of American missionaries also attended this school) was his first "break" with the British Empire.

At Oahu, Sun was introduced to Western medicine and the principles of American government, and considered going to the United States for future study. This ended abruptly, however, when his brother Sun Mei became upset at Sun's leaning toward Christianity and the West, and sent him back to China. At the Hong Kong-based Church of England Diocesan School, Sun met another young American missionary of the ABCFM, who baptized him a Christian.

In 1886, Sun Yat-sen returned to Hawaii and, through discussions with Frank Damon, the son of Samuel Damon, and others, decided to return to Hong Kong for further study, possibly of medicine. Frank Damon raised the necessary money from his American/Hawaiian networks for Sun's return voyage to China.

In 1887, Sun entered the newly opened Hong Kong Medical School, where he studied for the next five years. It was here that he held extensive discussions with his fellow Chinese students, including Lu Hao-tung (the first martyr of the revolution, killed in the Canton uprising of 1895), on the necessity of a republican revolution in China. Now a man in his early 20s, Sun became so notorious for his anti-monarchist views, that he and four fellow medical students were labelled the "four arch rebels."

In 1875, 120 Chinese students from Canton had been sent to Hartford, Conn., to master modern American industrial and military engineering. Organized by a group of Confucian Chinese nationalists (the "reformers"), in collaboration with American missionary W.A.P. Martin and others, this U.S.-Chinese exchange program was part of a much broader project to establish "polytechnic" academies adjacent to military arsenals and sovereign Chinese-run industrial projects throughout China.

By the late 1880s, some of these polytechnic schools had become military academies staffed by American and German instructors, to train Chinese cadre in military strategy, industrial sciences, astronomy, chemistry, and physics.

The Chinese organizer of this program was the famous Confucian scholar Li Hungchang, who in 1887 was designated by American Careyite Wharton Barker to head up an American project to create a Chinese National Bank. Barker was an outspoken proponent of the dismemberment of the British Empire and was a key operative of the "Philadelphians," the American "national party." He proposed that the Chinese-American national bank be established in order to finance the rapid modernization of China's infrastructure.

Earlier, in 1880, Barker had been involved in negotiations with the Russian Imperial Government to assist in building warships for the Russian Navy in "immediate preparation on the part of Russia for a maritime war with England and closer political relations with the people and the Government of the United States."

Barker's "China modernization project" included a system of Chinese-run national railways and telegraphs, in which "the advantages resulting from such a system readily suggest themselves. Among the most obvious of these may be named the greater commercial prosperity of the nation, the improvement in the general condition of the population that must result from inter-communication between the inhabitants of the village sections...."

Barker concluded that only the creation of a sovereign Chinese National Bank could generate the required credit to finance "all government loans for such public purposes as the construction of railways, the working of mines, and the contracting for supplies needed for such undertakings."

Barker's National Bank project was aborted in 1888 by pressure from the British on the Manchu Chinese government. Nonetheless, many Chinese political and military leaders allied with Sun's 1911 Revolution came out of this operation, and its many participants lay the basis for Sun's later publication of these infrastructure projects in detail in his 1919 National Reconstruction of China.

The Eve of Revolution

On Aug. 1, 1894, war broke out between Japan and China over Korea. Sun and his co-conspirators saw that a defeat for the Manchus by Japan offered the perfect opportunity for a revolutionary overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. Accordingly, Sun immediately left for Hawaii to raise the money from Chinese nationals there to finance the revolution.

During this period, however, Hawaii had descended into a virtual state of civil war between Damon's pro-Union networks and a British-Confederate operation organized by ex-Caribbean gun-runner Walter Murray Gibson. By 1882, Gibson had weaseled his way into the confidence of the Hawaiian King, convincing him that his destiny lay not with the Americans, but rather in leading a racially defined, British-backed "Polynesian Empire" throughout the Pacific. Showing its true colors, the Gibson "ethnic Polynesian Empire" gang rammed laws through the 1886 Hawaiian Assembly "regulating" (i.e., legalizing) the opium trade. Within months, the opium traffic on Hawaii grew leaps and bounds.

To counter this operation, a small but vigorous opposition called the Reform Party was formed by Lorrin Thurston (grandson of the first ABCFM missionary, Asa Thurston) and another "missionary child," Sanford Dole. Through their multinational Hawaiian League, established in January 1887, the Americans rapidly organized "rifle clubs" all over Hawaii, bracing for confrontation with Gibson and his dope-pushing syndicate. By 1887, after ten years of constant political mobilization, combined with the firepower of the American rifle clubs, the Reform Party and the Hawaiian League succeeded in running Gibson out of the Kingdom.

Finally, in 1894, the year of Sun's return to the Islands, the Reform Party seized the entire government directly by force of arms and established the Republic of Hawaii, with Sanford Dole sworn in as the first President.

In this environment, the Americans, and especially the Hawaiian Chinese community (educated and organized for over 25 years by Samuel and Frank Damon), were predisposed more than ever towards the promotion of republicanism internationally. Upon Sun Yat-sen's return to Hawaii, he lost no time in organizing his family and friends to support the revolutionary overthrow of the Manchus in China.

On Nov. 24, 1894, a meeting of approximately 30 people took place in Honolulu, establishing the conspiratorial Hsing Chung Hui (Restore China Society). All members were required to take an oath, placing their hands on the Bible while calling for the "overthrow of the Manchus, the restoration of China to the Chinese, and the establishment of a republican government."

The Restore China Society had an initial Hawaiian membership of just over 100 people, but it spread like wildfire among the Damon-organized Hawaiian Chinese. Some of Sun's closest collaborators, such as his lifelong confidant and bodyguard Chang Chau, came from among the Hawaiian Chinese. Even Sun's brother was finally convinced, and helped to finance the Chinese Revolution. Local chapters quickly sprang up all over the Islands, organized anywhere there were 15 people who were willing to join the Society. This mode of organizing became the model for similar chapters on the Mainland, as well as among overseas Chinese in Europe, the continental United States, and elsewhere in Asia.

According to Sun collaborator Chung Kun Ai, it was Frank Damon who suggested that the Restore China Society "take up military training to fit ourselves for leading the revolution in China." Using wooden rifles, former Danish captain Victor Bache began military drill instruction twice a week for Society members, on the lawn of the home of Frank Damon.

By the end of 1894, with major setbacks to the Manchus by the Japanese in southern Manchuria, the time was ripe for an uprising. In January 1895, after receiving a letter from revolution financier and publisher Charlie Sung, Sun Yat-sen sailed from Honolulu for Hong Kong. Accompanying him from Hawaii to join the revolution were core members of the Restore China Society recruited from among the Hawaiian Chinese, along with several Western "specialists" and "military men," who were recruited to participate in the uprising in Canton. Henceforth, Hong Kong became the headquarters for the Restore China Society.

Although the 1895 Canton uprising failed, and Sun was forced to flee to Japan, a 16-year international organizing drive was undertaken by him and his collaborators to establish a Republic of China. During this period, he travelled throughout Europe, Asia, and the United States, establishing Restore China Societies (later re-named Teng Meng Hui, or, loosely translated, "the Common Oath Society"), all modelled on the original chapters in Hawaii.

Exile and Return, to Victory

After a successful escape from kidnapping by the Chinese Legation in London, Sun spent two years in exile in Europe, the first six months of which were devoted to studies of history and literature. This is when he developed the key principles of the Chinese revolution: the San Min Chu I or "Three Principles of the People," derived from Abraham Lincoln's concept of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people."

In October 1903, as the prospects improved for revolution in China, Sun returned to Hawaii, making a speech on Dec. 13 which declared that nothing short of a revolution would save China.

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser newspaper covered the event:

"... Dr. Sun believes that the Chinese nation will rise in the might of four hundred millions of people and overturn the Manchu dynasty forever. It is his hope also that upon this Far East revolution a republic will be erected, for Dr. Sun likens the vast provinces of the Chinese Empire to the States of the American Union, needing only a president to govern all alike."

Sun's plans to go to Japan were altered when Japan declared war on Russia on Feb. 10, 1904. Instead, he organized a trip to the United States. In order to circumvent the Geary Exclusion Law—prohibiting Chinese immigration of any kind!—he took advantage of the fact that Hawaii was now a U.S. Territory and became a citizen of the United States of America! (Through the assistance of his American friends in Honolulu, on March 9, 1904, he signed a deposition certifying that he was of Hawaiian birth.) He departed for San Francisco from Honolulu on March 31, on another organizing tour.

His seventh and last trip to Hawaii was in early 1911, during his third world tour. From there, he traveled back to the U.S. and was in Kansas City when word arrived that Gen. Li Yuenhung had secured Wuchang and Hankou on behalf of the republican Revolutionary Army. Within a few months, most of the country fell to the republicans.

On Jan. 1, 1912, Sun Yat-sen returned to China and was inaugurated the first President of the Republic of China.

His Chinese friends in Hawaii immediately cabled Prince Kuhio, the Delegate to the U.S. Congress from the Territory of Hawaii, to assist in procuring U.S. recognition of the Republic of China. The United States was the first nation to give the new nation formal diplomatic recognition.

Recommended Reading

Edward D. Beechert, Honolulu: Crossroads of the Pacific (Columbia, S.C.: 1991)

Anton Chaitkin, "The 'Land-Bridge': Henry Carey's global development program," EIR, May 2, 1997

Gavan Daws, Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands (Honolulu: 1974)

Ralph S. Kuykendall, Hawaii: A History, from Polynesian Kingdom to American State (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: 1961)

Toy Len Chang, et al., Sailing for the Sun: The Chinese in Hawaii, 1789-1989 (Honolulu: 1988)

Nancy Bukeley Webb, The Hawaiian Islands, from Monarchy to Democracy (New York: 1956)

[1] Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., "Three Steps to Recovery?" EIR, Oct. 14, 2011.

[2] Mary Burdman, "Beijing Celebrates Legacy of Sun Yat-sen, EIR, Dec. 6, 1996.

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