Emperor Dong Khanh of Vietnam
       The success or failure of Emperor Dong Khanh depends on your political stance. To patriotic Vietnamese who favored a life or death fight to the finish against the French, his reign is a sad period most would rather ignore. Others however, view him favorably for his efforts to get along with the colonial government and in effect make the best of a bad situation.
        Dong Khanh was the son of Emperor Tu Duc and the older brother of Emperor Ham Nghi. He was passed over for the throne because the French thought the younger prince would be easier to manipulate. However, they were proven quite wrong and when Ham Nghi fled Hue and rebelled against the French, Emperor Dong Khaanh was promptly enthroned as the new Son of Heaven. The fact that he went immediately to the French Resident-General in Annam, Count Roussel de Courcy to express his thanks for their support did little to endear him to his subjects. After seeing the French throw their considerable weight around and witnessing the effects of his brother's rebellion, Emperor Dong Khanh was determined to be France's friend and work towards establishing Vietnam as a docile protectorate within the French Union.
        However, by this time most of the Emperor's people were not happy with the French presence in Vietnam and were determined to drive them out just as they had the Chinese and the Mongols before them. France "requested" that the Emperor tour his nation to promote Franco-Vietnamese friendship. Dong Khanh complied and began a journey throughout his realm to spread the word that the two nations had to learn to live together. Unfortunately for the Emperor, the patriotic people reacted somewhat violently to his pleas of peaceful coexistence and Dong Khanh had to quit his tour midway and retreat back to Hue City by water in an armed fleet of junks.
        In some ways though, Vietnam was rewarded for Emperor Dong Khanh's cooperation. In 1887 France returned the provinces of Binh Thuan Khanh Hoa. However, these territorial gains were not enough to make the people overlook the growing political influence the French had over their entire country. Still, it is important to note that Vietnam could not possibly have won in an open war against the French at this point in their history. As Ham Nghi discovered there were a number of Vietnamese who were willing to support the French rather than their homeland, some who were indifferent and those who would fight were primitive compared to the modern French army. The reign of Emperor Dong Khanh allowed a period for Vietnam to continue to grow and in effect, live to fight another day when the odds would be better. His cooperation was not popular but it was probably best.
        Due to a family history of mental illness the French refused to allow a descendant of Emperor Dong Khanh to take the throne. The Son of Heaven died on January 28, 1889 and the crown passed to the young Emperor Thanh Thai.
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