"The people in China are getting ready for something": Sun Yat-Sen recommends Ma Su, alias "Mr Fraser", to Mabel Cantlie, and prepares for the future Republic of China

Sun Yat-sen, Chinese revolutionary, first president and founding father of the Republic of China (1866-1925). Autograph letter signed ("Yours very sincerely / Sun Yat Sen").

Reinanzaka (Tokyo), 17. III. 1914.

4to. 4 pp. on 4 ff. In English. With autograph envelope marked "Via Siberia!!" and addressed to "Mrs Cantlie / 14a Harley Street / London W. / England". With one enclosure (see below).


To "my Dear Mrs. Cantlie", expressing his thanks for the many letters which "brought me much comfort and happiness", and giving news that his former Private Secretary and later editor of the China Republican, "Mr. Fraser", who had previously "abandoned the idea of working for the cause", considering it a lost one, had after all left for England from Singapore, apparently re-invigorated by the enthusiasm of Sun Yat-sen's people there, and sensing "that the people in China are getting ready for something". Explaining that he had raised the funds to finance Fraser's trip to London, Sun goes on to ask for Mrs. Cantlie's valued help regarding Fraser ("Will you please render him the friendly support if you think he is still loyal to the cause. I am writing you these confidential facts about my former Secretary and without any reserve knowing exactly how you will take it"), and asks her to pass on this news to Mr. Diosy in France (an incomplete letter from whom is included, see below).

The letter was written during Sun Yat-sen's second period of exile in Japan, this time following the failed Second Revolution of July 1913, when Sun and the Kuomintang (KMT) military forces tried to overthrow President Yuan Shikai, who had plotted the assassinations of Song Jiaoren and Chen Qimei, founders of the Kuomintang. The KMT was dissolved, and Sun was forced to flee to Japan, where he began to seek to rebuild his support base and broaden international acknowledgement of his cause. It was at this time that Sun began to develop his vision for the world's first socialist republic, and three months after the date of this letter he established the Chinese Revolutionary Party. The following year, which marked the beginning of the chaotic "Warlord Era" in China, both Sun and Xu Shichang were to be proclaimed President of the Republic of China.

Ma Su (or Soo, "Mr. Fraser") attended St Joseph College in Hong Kong and in 1911 joined Sun Yat-sen as his Private Secretary in Shanghai. He took part in the attack on the Kiangnan Arsenal with Chen Chi-mei during the First Revolution, and afterwards he accompanied Sun to Nanking in the capacity of English Secretary. The following year he was entrusted with the editorship of Sun's new weekly English-language organ, The China Republican, which was set up in Shanghai to argue the case against Yuan Shikai. The paper was closed by the authorities of the French Concession on 6 November 1913 on account of its extreme views on politics, whereupon Ma Su was deported to Singapore, stating his intention to abandon politics and go into business there.

Nonetheless, it was in Singapore that Ma Su underwent the change of heart referred to in the letter. After a year in London (where he presumably met the Cantlies), he went on to study at Columbia and New York universities, playing an important role as Sun Yat-sen's man in the United States from 1911 to 1922, and serving as a special delegate of the Kuomintang at the Washington Conference in 1921-22. He also edited the New York periodical, "China Review", and at the same time turned his hand to dealing in Chinese art.

Included in the lot is the second half of a 4-page letter from Alfred Diosy telling the Cantlies that Sun "is taking precautions to ensure complete success this time! Let us imitate his hopeful patience and wait steadfastly for the Great Day [...] by increasingly holding up Yuan's Dictatorship to the contempt it deserves". Diosy (1856-1923) founded the Japan Society in 1891, wrote several books including "The New Far East", and was also a close friend of Sun. According to James Cantlie, "no one is in a better position to declare his opinion than Mr. Diosy, for he has [...] alone enjoyed with my wife and myself the privilege of an intimate acquaintance with the great reformer".

Provenance: Sir James and Mabel Cantlie; acquired from their heirs.