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Chap, xxiil: Tsze-kung asked, saying, "Is there one word which 
may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" The Master 
said, "Is not Reciprocity such a w(yrdf What you do not 
want done to yourself, do not do to others." 



















Reminiscences of the Far East called up by the 
death of Sir Rutherford Alcock in November 1897 
prompted the writer to send a contribution on the 
subject to ' Blackwood's Magazine.' Being appreci- 
ated by the family, the article suggested to them 
some more substantial memorial of the deceased 
statesman, a scheme with which the writer fell in 
the more readily that it seemed to harmonise with 
the task which friends had been already urging upon 
him — that of writinof some account of occurrences in 
the Far East during his own residence there. For 
there was no other name round w^hich these events 
could be so consistently grouped during the thirty 
years when British policy was a power in that part 
of the world. As Consul and Minister Alcock was 
so interwoven with the history of the period that 
neither the life of the man nor the times in which 
he lived could be treated apart. And the personal 
element renders his connection with Far Eastern 
affairs particularly instructive, for, combining the 
highest executive qualities with a philosophic grasp 
of the problems with which he had to deal, he at 


the same time possessed the faculty of exposition, 
whereby the vital relation between the theoretical 
and the practical sides of Far Eastern politics was 
made plain. The student may thus draw his lessons 
equally from the actions and the reflections of this 
great official. 

The life history of Sir Kutherford Alcock is that of 
the progressive development of a sterling character 
making in all circumstances the most of itself, self- 
reliant, self-supporting, without friends or fortune, 
without interest or advantage of any kind whatso- 
ever. From first to last the record is clear, without 
sediment or anything requiring to be veiled or 
extenuated. Every achievement, great or small, is 
stamped with the hall-mark of duty, of unfaltering 
devotion to the service of the nation and to the 
interests of humanity. 

A copious and facile writer, he has left singularly 
little in the way of personal history. The only 
journal he seems ever to have kept was consigned 
by him to oblivion, a few early dates and remarks 
having alone been rescued. When in recent years 
he was approached by friends on the subject of auto- 
biography, he was wont to reply, "My life is in my 
work ; by that I am content to be remembered." 
We must needs therefore take him at his word and 
judge by the fruit what was the nature of the tree. 

In the following work the reader may trace in 
more or less continuous outline the stages by which 
the present relation between China and foreign nations 
has been reached. In the earlier portion the course 
of events indicated is comparatively simple, being con- 
fined to Anglo-Chinese developing into Anglo-Franco- 


Chinese relations. In the latter portion, corresponding 
roughly with the second volume, the stream becomes 
subdivided into many collateral branches, as all the 
Western nations and Japan, with their separate in- 
terests, came to claim their share, each in its own 
way, of the intercourse with China. It is hoped that 
the data submitted to the reader will enable him to 
draw such conclusions as to past transactions as may 
furnish a basis for estimating future probabilities. 

The scope of the work being restricted to the points 
of contact between China and the rest of the world, 
nothing recondite is attempted, still less is any enigma 
solved. It is the belief of the author that the so-called 
Chinese mystery has been a source of needless mysti- 
fication ; that the relation between China and the 
outer world was intrinsically simple ; and that to 
have worked from the basis of their resemblances 
to the rest of humanity would have been a shorter 
way to an amicable understanding with the Chinese 
than the crude attempt to accommodate Western 
procedure to the uncompreh ended differences which 
divided them. It needed no mastery of their sociology 
to keep the Chinese strictly to their written engage- 
ments and to deter them from outrage. But discussion 
was the invitation to laxity ; and laxity, condoned and 
pampered, then defiant and triumphant, lies at the root 
of the disasters which have befallen the Chinese Empire 
itself, and now threaten to recoil also upon the foreign 
nations which are responsible for them. This responsi- 
bility was never more tersely summed up than by Mr 
Burlingame in his capacity of Chinese Envoy. After 
sounding the Foreign Ofiice that astute diplomatist was 
able to inform the Tsungli-Yamen in 1869 that *'the 

viii PREFACE. 

British Government was so friendly and pacific that 
they would endure anything." The dictum, though 
true, was fatal, and the operation of it during thii'ty 
subsequent years explains most that has happened 
during that period, at least in the relations between 
China and Great Britain. 

A word as to the orthography may be useful to the 
reader. The impossibility of transliterating Chinese 
sounds into any alphabetical language causes great 
confusion in the spelling of names. A uniform system 
would indeed be most desirable, but common practice 
has already fixed so many of them that it seems 
better, in a book intended for general reading, not 
to depart too much from the conventional usage, 
or attempt to follow any scientific system, which 
must, after all, be based upon mispronunciation of 
the Chinese sounds. 

As regards personal names, it may be convenient 
to call attention to the distinction between Chinese 
and Manchu forms. In the case of the former the 
custom is to write the nomen, or family name, separ- 
ately, and the pre-nomen (which by Chinese practice 
becomes the post-nomen) by itself, and, when it con- 
sists of two characters, separated by a hyphen — e.g., 
Li [nomen) Hung-chang (post-nomen). In the case 
of Manchus, who are known not by a family name, 
but by what may be termed, for want of a better 
expression, their pre-nomen, it is customary to write 
the name in one word, without hyphens — for example, 
Kiying, Ilipu. As the Chinese name usually consists 
of three characters or syllables, and the Manchu 
usually of two, the form of name affords a p)rima 
facie indication of the extraction of the personage 


referred to. Polysyllabic names, as San-ko-lin-sin, 
are generally Mongol. 

The sovereign is not referred to by name, the terms 
Kwanghsu, Tungchih, and so forth, being the Chinese 
characters chosen to designate, or, as we might say, 
idealise the reign, in the same way as impersonal titles 
are selected for houses of business. 

I desire to express my deep obligation to Sir Ruther- 
ford Alcock's stepdaughter Amy, Lady Pelly, without 
whose efficient aid the book could not have been 
compiled. It is a subject of regret to all concerned 
that Lady Alcock herself did not live to see the 
completion of a task in the inception of which she 
took a keen and loving interest. 

To the other friends who have in different ways 
helped in the production of the book, and particularly 
to Mr William Keswick, M.P., for the loan of his 
valuable Chinnery and Crealock drawings, my best 
thanks are due. 

A. M. 

London, November 2wc?, 1900. 

Postscript. — The legend on the front cover is a paraphrase of Chapter 
xxiii,, Book xv., of the Analects of Confucius, Dr Legge's translation of 
which has been adopted by me as the motto of these volumes. 





II. THE PENINSULA, 1832-1837 . 
III. ENGLAND, 1838-1844 .... 







V. THE TREATY OF 1842 ..... 







I. TEA . 



































II. LORD Elgin's second mission . 










19, 1849 411 


BONHAM, JANUARY 13, 1852 ..... 428 


17, 1852. (extract) 432 

1846. (extracts) 439 




From ail oil-painting by himself. 


TREATY ........ 





From a drawing by L. A. de Fabeck. 
MACAO ......... 

BATTERIES ........ 






















Birth at Ealing — Motherless childhood — Feeble health — Irregular schooling 
— Medical education— Student days in Paris — Wax-modelling — Admis- 
sion to College of Surgeons — House Surgeon at Westminster Hospital. 

Born in the same year as Mr Gladstone, May 1809, 
John Rutherford Alcock^ predeceased that statesman 
by only six months. His birthplace was Ealing, and he 
died in Westminster, after a residence there in retire- 
ment of twenty-seven years. Being a delicate infant, 
he was baptised in Ealing church when one day old. 
His childhood was deprived of its sunshine by the loss 
of his mother, and it does not appear that his father, a 
medical man of some note, and an artist to boot, was 
equal to filling the void in the young life. Consequently 
boyhood had for him none of the halo of a golden age, 
but was, on the contrary, a grey and cheerless memory, 

1 He dropped the " John " so early in life that he was never known by it. 
VOL. I. A 

2 YOUTH. [chap. I. 

furnishing tests of hardihood rather than those glowing 
aspirations which generally kindle young ambitions. 

His early life was passed with relatives in the north 
of England, and he went to school at Hexham, where 
he had for companions Sir John Swinburne and Mr 
Dawson Lambton. 

Of his school-days there is little to remark. Indeed 
his early education seems to have been most irregular, 
having been subject to long and frequent interruptions 
on account of ill-health, which necessitated sea- voyages 
and other changes of air. Nevertheless the diligence 
which was part of his nature compensated for these 
drawbacks of his youth, and set its seal on his whole 

On returning to his father's house at the age of 
fifteen, the boy began his medical education, being, 
according to the fashion of the day, apprenticed to his 
father, and at the same time entered as a student at 
the Westminster Hospital and the Eoyal Westminster 
Ophthalmic Hospital under that distinguished surgeon, 
G. J. Guthrie. His passion for art had already asserted 
itself, and he was enabled to indulge it by constant 
visits to Chantrey's studio, where, ''amid the musical 
sounds of the chisel on the marble, with snatches of 
airs from the workmen, where all breathed a calm and 
happy repose, he passed delightful hours." His half- 
holidays were spent at Chantrey's in modelling. 

In the following year he visited Paris, and seems 
ever after to have looked back on the gay city as a 
kind of paradise, for there the world first really opened 
to the young man of sixteen. Then began that life of 
work and enjoyment, so blended as to be inseparable, 
which continued without intermission for more than 
seventy years. In the stimulating atmosphere of Paris, 



and its free and independent life, the boy's faculties 
rapidly developed. He seemed, indeed, to expand 
suddenly into full manhood. Destined for the medical 
profession, he worked hard at anatomy, chemistry, and 
natural history, while taking also a keen interest in 
artistic and literary subjects ; mastered French and 
Italian ; and, in short, turned his twelve or eighteen 
months' sojourn to highly practical account. 

From a small pocket-book containing notes of the 
journey to France, and part of his work in Paris, we 
give some extracts illustrative of the boy's character 
and powers of observation. 

It was on the 17th of August 1825 that the party 
embarked at the Custom-House Stairs for Calais, the 
voyage occupying fourteen hours. On landing the lad 
" amused himself by observing the effects in the sky 
and the sea, and by picking up shells, bones of birds 
and animals, which having remained in the sea until 
perfectly clean, looked beautiful and white as ivory." 
Simple things interested him, and after dinner at the 
Hotel Meurice in Paris he " listened with much plea- 
sure to a man playing airs on what he called an Ameri- 
can flute" — which he goes on to describe : "The tones 
were mellow in the extreme, and the airs he played 
I think were much superior in sweetness to any I have 
ever heard from an instrument so clear," and so on. 
Obviously a subjective impression ; it is his own eman- 
cipation that beautifies the simplest things and inspires 
the simplest sounds. Like the convalescent in Gray — 

" The meanest floweret of the vale, 
The simplest note that swells the gale, 
The common sun, the air, the skies, 
To him are opening Paradise." 

Od his first Sunday in Paris he was " much struck 

4 YOUTH. [chap. I. 

with the beauty of the paintings and a great number 
of pieces sculptured in has-relief." Then he walked in 
the gardens of the Tuileries, "which in extent, in 
statues and in fountains, in the appearance of it taking 
it altogether, far exceeded anything my imagination 
had conceived concerning it." 

At Versailles he was " highly delighted with many 
of the paintings. The gardens are extremely extensive 
and the fountains very numerous ; . . . but it is all 
extremely artificial, and therefore soon fatigues the 
eye." In these slight observations are perceptible 
the artistic instinct and sense of fitness, faculties 
which served him so admirably in his future work, and 
mifi-ht have won him distinction in other fields than 
those in which his lot was ultimately cast. 

He was in Paris for a serious purpose, the study of 
medicine and surgery, and seriously he followed it. 
At the same time he mixed freely in the artistic and 
literary society of the French capital, and left none of 
his talents uncultivated. A characteristic incident in 
his educational career was his mastering the art of 
modelling in wax and in plaster. Following up his 
experiments in Chantrey's studio, he took regular 
lessons in Paris, and attained such proficiency that, 
young as he was, he was able to maintain himself 
while in that city by the sale of his anatomical models. 
For one of these he mentions receiving fifty guineas, 
and a few years after " for two arms and two legs the 
size of life" he notes receiving 140 guineas.. These 
also won for him distinctions at home, for in the year 
1825 he was awarded the "Gold Isis Medal" of the 
Society of Arts, and in the following year the " laro"e 
gold medal" of that society, for original models in 


coloured wax. And it may be mentioned as character- 
istic that although in later years an active member of 
that society, Sir H. T. Wood, the secretary, who knew 
him well, was unaware of Sir Rutherford Alcock's 
having so early in life received the society's medals. 
"The fact is an interesting one," he says, "and I am 
glad to have had my attention drawn to it." Some of 
these works were preserved in the Museum of the 
College of Surgeons, while others, prepared in special 
wax, were bought by Government for the use of the 
Indian medical schools. 

From the small pocket-book to which we have al- 
ready referred, and which contains concise notes of his 
course of instruction in modelling under a M. Dupont, 
we extract the note of his first lesson. It shows 
thoroughness of mind, keenness of observation, and 
the instinct for accuracy which enabled him so soon 
to attain to excellence in the art, and led to success 
in all the other pursuits of his life : — 

Sept. 1. — To-day my first lesson in modelling began. I saw 
M. Dupont work upcm a mask of a little boy's face in wax. 
He opened the eyes, but did not in my opinion make them 
quite correct. The only thing I observed in particular was his 
using oil very freely with his tool. I afterwards saw three 
moulds of a thigh near the hip after amputation, cast in wax. 
One was soaked in water, another was rubbed with soft-soap, 
and a third was well oiled. The one that was oiled produced 
the most perfect cast, but I should have thought both water, 
soap, and oil were used much too freely. They were all cast in 
wax of a deep red colour, and one of them was placed in the 
stump of one of the thighs of the model on which M. Dupont 
was engaged. It was not quite large enough for the thigh in 
some places, and too large in others. This he altered without 
scruple, so that when the stump was finished, though it looked 
extremely natural, it was by no means accurate. 

6 YOUTH. [chap. I. 

Before quitting the life in Paris the following sample 
of its popular amusements as they presented themselves 
to the young student may be interesting to readers, and 
it is unfortunately the last entry in the pocket-book, 
and almost the last assistance we shall get from jour- 
nals during the seventy years of crowded life which 
followed : — 

I went yesterday [Sunday, September 10, 1826] to the 
Swiss Mountain, very extensive gardens on the Boulevards, 
where the most respectable part of the pleasure - seeking 
Parisians assemble on Sunday : you pay ten sous admittance. 
Here there is a large establishment for dinners where you may 
dine as at the restaurateurs, in a public room, or there are a 
long suite of apartments for parties of four, six, or twelve each, 
looking out into the gardens, and immediately before the 
windows was the space enclosed by trees, which form a canopy 
over it, and which is allotted to dancing. On one side is the 
orchestra; and when I heard it there was a very excellent 
band of musicians in it. It was rather unfavourable weather, 
as there were in the course of the day several very heavy 
showers, yet there seemed to be a very great number of ele- 
gantly dressed females and respectable-looking men ; and some 
even highly-dressed, which is a wonder, I think, for the gentle- 
men in Paris seem to dress as much inferior to us as the French 
ladies dress better than the English. Indeed it is quite delight- 
ful to see the great taste with which they dress and the 
elegance of contour in all their figures. I don't know how it 
happens, but I never recollect seeing a French woman that was 
at all above the lowest class of society that was a slovenly or 
slattern figure, and very few that were not really elegant, 
though their faces are, generally speaking, plain. 

After having dined I went to see the Swiss Mountain, which 
had made a noise whilst I was at dinner that very much 
resembled distant thunder. I had no idea what it was ; my 
surprise may therefore be conceived when, on coming suddenly 
in sight of it, I saw a man, apparently sitting on a chair, whirl 
past me with a velocity more resembling the speed of lightning 
than anything I had before seen, — so much so, that though 
from the top to the bottom where they drop might be about 


200 feet, I had merely time to perceive that there was a man 
seated on some sort of vehicle like a chair. 

The mountain consisted of boards raised at an angle of about 
from 60° to 70° with the ground, and gradually becoming level. 
The distance from where they set off to where they stop I have 
before stated, I think, to be about 200 feet. 

This platform is sufficiently broad to allow three of the 
vehicles to go down and one to return up at the same time — 
that is to say, there are four iron grooves accurately fitted to 
the small wheels on which the vehicles move. There are 
horses as well as chairs for both ladies and gentlemen. I saw 
several gentlemen on horseback and one lady. The horses 
appear to me to be real horses' hides, perhaps covering a wooden 
horse. They are accoutred with saddle, stirrups, and bridle. 
One person who came down on one of these horses rose and 
fell in his stirrups as though riding a real horse ; it created much 
laughter, and the people surrounding immediately called out 
" Un Anglais ! un Anglais ! " I believe he was an Englishman. 
It had a ridiculous effect to observe the anxiety depicted on the 
countenances of the heroes, and compare them, with the know- 
ledge of their perfect safety, with the laughing groups that 
surrounded them. Sometimes a veteran hero would mount one 
of the horses and come down with triumph in his countenance ; 
the effect then became still more ridiculous, for he seemed like 
a great baby mounted on a hobby-horse proportionately large. 
But so it is through life, I think ; one sees people capable of 
being elated as much by actions little in themselves, but en- 
larged for the instant by circumstances, as, for instance, in this 
case — the rapidity of motion, the gay crowd, and the distant 
music — as they would have been by an action really great in 
itself but unembroidered by outward show. 

Hearing the music and wishing to see the dancing I had 
heard so much of, I approached the dancers. We read that the 
French enjoy dancing with great zest ; certes, to see them dance 
a quadrille, one would not say so : 'tis true it is a dance in 
which custom has forbidden much exertion, still the entire 
listlessness they show induced me to think it was a task rather 
than a pleasure. But when a lively waltz struck up and the 
waltzing began, I . . . 

Here the notes break off. 


Of the student's life of four years from 1828 to 1832 
there is little which can or need be said. For two 
years and a half out of the four he was house surgeon 
at the Westminster Hospital and the Ophthalmic 
Hospital, having received, at the age of twenty- 
one, the diploma from the Royal College to practise 
surgery. During this period he continued modelling, 
and took pupils in that art. Writing for periodicals 
also occupied some of his leisure time. 

No sooner was his student career ended than an 
opening presented itself which determined the future 
course of his life, but in a way very different from 
what could possibly have been anticipated. 

II. THE PENINSULA, 1832-1837. 

Dynastic quarrel in Portugal — Foreign legion — Mr Alcock enters the 
service, 1832 — Character of the force and its leaders — Colonel Shaw 
— Incidents of the campaign — Important medical services of Mr 
Alcock — Joins the Spanish Foreign Legion, 1836 — Termination of the 

There were troubles in Portugal. The usurper Dom 
Miguel was on the throne. It was proposed to seat 
the rightful sovereign. Donna Maria, there — her father, 
Dom Pedro, ex-Emperor of Brazil, who assumed the 
title of Duke of Braganza, heading the movement. 

Sympathy was excited in France and England, in 
both of which countries irregular forces were levied 
to co-operate with the constitutional party in Portugal 
led by his imperial majesty. It was a kind of service 
which tempted alike young bloods and old soldiers who 
had been languishing in peace and idleness since 1815, 


and a small army of "Liberators" was got together 
in England, with a corresponding naval force. 

It has been mentioned that young Alcock had 
studied under the eminent army surgeon Guthrie. 
Feelings of regard had sprung up between the two 
which extended far beyond the professional sphere. 
Not only had the boy been a favourite pupil whose 
aptitude reflected credit on his teacher, but it is 
quite evident that a personal affection which lasted 
their respective lifetimes was rekindled during the 
years they subsequently spent together in West- 
minster. When, therefore, Mr Guthrie was applied 
to by Mr O'Meara, who had been in attendance on 
Napoleon at St Helena, to recommend a surgeon for 
the British - Portuguese force, Guthrie sent at once 
for Alcock and discussed with him his professional 
prospects. The upshot was that as, considering his 
youth, — he was then only twenty-two, — it was useless 
for him to think of beginning practice in London, a 
few years might be most advantageously passed in 
military service abroad. The young man was only 
too eager to close with the offer then made to him, 
which not only afforded the prospect of active pro- 
fessional work, but seemed to open the way for ad- 
ventures such as the soul of a young man loveth. 
Within twenty - four hours of accepting the offer 
Alcock was on the way to Portsmouth and the 
Azores. For some time after his arrival there he 
did duty on board ship. His ambition being 
cramped by this restricted service, however, he was 
anxious to be transferred to the military force. He 
accordingly applied to Colonel Hodges, who com- 
manded the marine battalion, to be taken on his 

10 THE PENINSULA. [chap. i. 

staff. The colonel looked at him with some hesita- 
tion owing to his extremely youthful appearance, but 
on hearing that he had been specially recommended 
by Guthrie, said, "Oh, that is a different matter ; come 

Of the Peninsular expeditions of 1832-37 the interest 
for the present generation lies less in their origin, aims, 
and results, than in their conduct and incidents. They 
were episodes which have left no marks on the general 
course of history visible to the ordinary observer, and 
are memorable chiefly for their dramatic effects, the 
play of character, the exhibitions of personal courage, 
capacity, and devotion ; of jealousy, intrigue, and in- 
capacity ; of love and hate ; and of the lights and 
shadows that flit across the theatre of human life. 
Interferences in other people's quarrels naturally bring 
to the surface all the incongruities. The auxiliaries 
are sure to be thought arrogant whether they are 
really so or not, and the proteges are no less certain 
to be deemed ungrateful. Each party is apt to under- 
estimate the exploits of the other and to exaggerate 
his own. They take widely different views of the 
conditions under which their respective services are 
rendered ; they misconstrue each other's motives, as- 
sessing them at their lowest apparent value. Each 
side looks for certain sentimental acknowledgments 
from the other, while daily frictions and inevitable 
misunderstandings continually embitter the disappoint- 
ment felt at their absence. And there are not two 
parties, but many. There are wheels within wheels ; 
sections playing on each other tricks which savour 
of treachery on the one side, while on the other side 
there may be sulks which are constructive mutiny. 


The question of pay is naturally a constant source of 
bitterness, for countries that need foreign assistance 
are impecunious and dilatory. Few of them would be 
entitled to the certificate which Dugald Dalgetty gave 
to his excellent paymasters, the Dutch. Yet in spite 
of drawbacks, there is a kind of method in the whole 
business, a movement towards a goal, though at a 
maximum of cost, with the greatest waste and the 
most poignant regrets over mismanagement. 

But what in these irregular campaigns is so remark- 
able as to be almost repugnant to common reason is 
the devotion of the mercenary soldier. This inspirit- 
ing sentiment, which springs up spontaneously like 
a wild-flower in desert places, seems to put patriotism 
in the shade as a motive for sacrifice. The hired 
soldier, though an alien, is often indeed more faithful 
than the son of the soil, perhaps for the reason that 
his allegiance is of a simpler nature, more categorical 
and explicit. The direct personal character of such 
alien allegiance and its transferability are exemplified 
in the lives of soldiers of fortune in general : never 
better, perhaps, than in the wild and dangerous career 
of Alexander Gardner, colonel of artillery in the 
service of Maharaja Eanjit Singh, whose Memoirs 
have been recently edited by Major Hugh Pearse. 
Is it the fighting instinct, hereditary heroism, or 
military discipline that makes the soldier? Is it the 
cause that inspires him, or is it only devotion to 
his immediate leader ? Explain it how we may, the 
British Legion both in Portugal and in Spain main- 
tained the character of their race for pluck and ten- 
acity as well as if they had been fighting for their 
own king and country. And this is rendered stiU 

12 THE PENINSULA. [chap. i. 

more remarkable when the promiscuous manner of 
their muster is considered. Clandestine engagements 
in the slums of Soho, under the guise of labour or 
emigrant contracts, in evasion of the Foreign Enlist- 
ment Acts ; surreptitious journeys, as " hop-pickers," 
to Gravesend ; secret embarkations under cover of 
night ; and the disciplining of a mob composed of 
the dregs of the streets, afford subject of some 
graphic and humorous descriptions on the part of 
the officers concerned in raising the squad and lick- 
ing them into shape. It must have required a very- 
sanguine faith in the radical qualities of the stock 
for any officer of repute to consent to " march 
through Coventry" with such a herd of scalliwags. 

The officer who seems to have had a principal 
share in collecting these raw levies, and distinguished 
himself in both campaigns in the Peninsula, in which 
he bore a leading part, has left us some racy de- 
scriptions of the force and its experiences in the field. 
Sir Charles Shaw was himself a typical soldier by 
nature and by practice. Circumstances alone would 
determine whether it should be as a soldier of fortune, 
a patriot defending hearths and homes, or as an 
Ishmaelite adventurer, that his sword would be un- 
sheathed. The sporting and adventurous instinct 
scents danger afar, like the war-horse in the book of 
Job which laughs at the spears. The manner in 
which he came to embrace the profession of arms 
was itself so characteristic as to deserve mention. 

As a youth he was passionately devoted to sport, 
and when that momentous question the choice of a 
profession came up for consideration, sport decided 
it in favour of law, for the somewhat original reason 


that the young gentleman had observed that lawyers 
seemed to enjoy the longest holidays ! He had begun 
his studies, and was on his way to St Andrews to 
enter on a new course when an incident occurred 
which diverted the current of his thoughts. He met 
a batch of French prisoners of war being removed 
from one garrison to another, whose misery affected 
him so much that he was instantly seized with the 
idea of becoming a soldier. The particular form in 
which the inspiration took him was that he put 
himself in the position of one of these prisoners and 
imaofined himself the hero of his own and his 
comrades' deliverance. 

His studies at St Andrews, perturbed by the new 
passion, made indifferent progress. The historic golf- 
links afforded some relief, acting as a kind of neutral 
soothing medium between antagonistic aspirations. 
But the final solution of his troubles came from a 
famous piece of water which is there, called the 
Witches Pond. The virtue of this water was great 
in the barbaric age when the curse of witchcraft lay 
heavy on the land. The suspected person was thrown 
into the water. If she floated, her guilt was proven 
and she was incontinently burned ; if she sank, it 
proved the high specific gravity of flesh and bone. 
Happy thought ! The young man would subject 
his life's destiny to this convenient ordeal. He 
would jump into the pond, and either sink as a 
lawyer or emerge as a soldier ! 

After this original form of baptism, initiation into 
the mysteries soon followed, and the young soldier 
saw much active service during the Napoleonic wars 
in the Peninsula and in the Low Countries. He 

14 THE PENINSULA. [chap. l. 

missed Waterloo through being on other duty, and 
in the piping times of peace which followed that 
decisive battle an idyllic life at Eichmond seemed 
to bound the horizon of his unsatisfied ambition for 
some fifteen years. From a totally unexpected 
quarter the call to arms reached him in his retreat, 
and suddenly roused all his sleeping energies. The 
offer of a commission in the service of the young 
Queen of Portugal met with an eager response, and 
Shaw entered heart and soul into the service of 
Donna Maria. 

As well as being an active soldier. Major Shaw 
was a lively correspondent, and it is from his letters 
to his family that we get the most brilliant flash- 
lights on the incidents of his military career generally, 
and more particularly on that exciting portion of it 
which most concerns the subject of these volumes. 
These letters were edited and published by himself 
at the close of the operations in Spain. 

Colonel Hodges, who commanded the foreign brigade 
in Portugal, and seems to have left the queen's service 
in a huff, also published a narrative of the campaign, 
of which, however, the historical value is not enhanced 
by its apologetic and explanatory motive. 

From the contemporary notes of these two officers 
we get generous and emphatic testimony to the 
manner in which Mr Alcock acquitted himself under 
the ordeal of severe military service. Indeed his 
comrades and commanding officers, first in Portugal 
and afterwards in Spain, seem to have vied with 
each other in spontaneous eulogy of the conduct of 
the young surgeon, none of them more flattering 
than General De Lacy Evans, who commanded in 


Spain. It is the record of a hero and a philan- 
thropist, of high mihtary ardour subordinated to still 
higher duty both to the cause he was serving and 
to the comrades whose lives were under his care. 
The valour of a non-combatant makes no less a 
demand on the virile stamina than the valour of the 
soldier, — oftentimes indeed more, since he lacks the 
stimulus of active conflict and confronts danger passive 
and unarmed. A few extracts from these really re- 
markable testimonials may still be read with pleasure 
after the lapse of sixty years. 
Shaw writes to his family : — 

A peasant led the way (they wear no shoes and their feet 
are like hands). I took off my shoes, and after getting down 
about fifty yards, I looked up and saw a favourite soldier of 
mine close above me, and an intimate friend of Eamus, the 
assistant-surgeon Alcock (a nice young fellow), following. I 
ordered the soldier to halt ; but his answer of, " I'll follow your 
honour to death, captain," made me silent. I tried military 
authority with young Alcock, as I saw he was much excited ; 
but no, his professional services were, he thought, required, and 
follow he would. Every moment expecting he would roll 
down, I clasped my toes and fingers close to the precipice, 
that he might fall without sweeping me with him : such is 
selfish nature ! Two or three times I determined to return, 
but the soldier's speech forced me on. We reached the 
bottom in about half an hour, and, believe me, I returned 

I proceeded along the rocky beach, and there found poor 
Ramus lying on a rock, in a sleeping position, with all his 
clothes torn, and a dreadful gash in his head; his body all 
broken ; but with an expression of countenance indicating he 
had suffered no pain. I was astonished to see him without his 
shoes ; but in ascending a sharp rock I found them, with the 
marks where his heels had caught as he tumbled backwards 
head foremost. Finding that our descent had been useless, I 
told those who had come down that I would not allow them 

16 THE PENINSULA. [chap. I. 

to risk their lives in ascending, and sent off a peasant to get a 
boat ; but lie failed both in this and in getting ropes to pull 
us up. Self again stepped in, and as senior I led the way — 
one great reason being that no one could tumble back on me ! 
I reached the top — hands torn and feet bruised ; and to my 
joy young Alcock made his appearance, but so faint that I 
was obliged to supply him liberally with my brandy. 

The duty which now had to be performed by the medical 
men was of the most arduous character. The surgeon of the 
British battalion, Souper, carried away by the military spirit 
instilled into him by being an actor in the " Three Days of 
July," resigned his commission as surgeon, and on this day 
commenced and finished his military career, being killed at 
Hodges' side while carrying orders to the French battalion. 
His place was filled up by Mr Eutherford Alcock, who had 
the same love for "fire," but for a different object — that of 
being close at hand to give prompt assistance to any one who 
was wounded. Although young, Alcock was old in know- 
ledge and experience : he was highly respected by all who 
knew him, and beloved by those who entered into action, as 
they felt assured that he thought not of his own safety when 
his services could be of benefit to them. In the most exposed 
situations I saw him this day, dressing officers and men with 
the same coolness as if he were in a London hospital ; and I 
cannot refrain from expressing envy at the gratified feeling he 
must ever possess when he thinks of the number of human 
beings he has saved by his knowledge, experience, bravery, and 
activity, both at Oporto, Vittoria, and St Sebastian. But his 
trials after the fight of the 29th of September were great. 

Owing to the fights of Pennafiel, Ponte Fereira, and the 
different affairs on the Lugar das Antas, the wards allotted to 
the British in the general hospitals were full ; therefore, one 
may form some idea of the misery of the British when scat- 
tered among the different hospitals, speaking a language which 
was not understood. Measures were taken by Hodges and 
Alcock to gather the wounded foreigners together, but the 
Minister of War threw every impediment in the way of this ; 
almost making one suspect, that now that the soldier had done 
his work and was useless, the sooner he died the better. 

Truth compels me to state a fact I should wish to avoid, 
but it is right that those who are to be soldiers should know 


the value that is sometimes put upon their services. The 
words were made use of by Dom Pedro, but from what I have 
seen of him, I think others must have at the moment prompted 
him. The medical man was mentioning that it would be 
necessary to amputate the legs and arms of some of the British. 
" No, no," said Dom Pedro, " you British are fond of amputa- 
tions, because your men are to have pensions, and that is 

No application from myself as commanding the battalion ; 
from Alcock, as senior medical officer ; nor from Hodges, as 
the representative of the foreigners, had any effect on August- 
inho Jos^ Freire : thus the poor fellows, crowded together, 
without beds, without nurses, without clothes, and even with- 
out medicines, died in numbers. 

The references to Alcock's services are so frequent in 
these letters, so unconventional and spontaneous, as to 
prove the deep and lasting impression the young sur- 
geon had made on his companions in arms. " I am 
glad for all your sakes to tell you that my wounds 
have healed in an extraordinary manner. ... I con- 
sider myself greatly indebted to Alcock both for his 
skill and attention." And at the close of the Por- 
tuguese campaign : "I wonder if Alcock knows that 
he has got the decoration of the Tower and Sword? 
No man in the service deserves it more, both for 
bravery^ and kindness to the wounded." " The scarcity 
of medicines was dreadful ; but with the active and 
willing assistance of Alcock, and the Portuguese medi- 
cal gentlemen, it is quite wonderful what has been 

The bad condition of the hospitals at Oporto is 
the burden of many references in both Shaw's letters 
and Hodges' more formal narrative ; and as the only- 
records of the campaign from Alcock's own pen 
happen to be in official documents connected with 

VOL. I. B 

18 THE PENINSULA. [chap. i. 

the medical service, we give in extenso one of his 
despatches, showing in an inexperienced boy of twenty- 
three a maturity of judgment and a broad grasp of 
duty, with, what is perhaps more important, a mastery 
of work, that would not discredit a veteran. 

Oporto, Sept. 20, 1832. 

Sir, — The danger to which the patients were found to be 
exposed by the fire of the enemy caused their removal to a 
place of greater safety, where they might at least have nothing 
to fear from the enemy's shells. This change in the arrange- 
ments, however, has been in other respects extremely disadvan- 
tageous to the sick and wounded men. They are now crowded 
from the higher parts of the building into the corridors and 
ground-floors — a situation well known to be unfavourable to 
the recovery of sick men, from the air being so much less pure. 
Our own men, including the English sailors, have been placed 
in one ward, which, though of tolerably large dimensions, is 
very far from affording the necessary space and quantum of air 
required for forty-eight or fifty patients, which for some time 
has been the average — an average which we may rather expect 
to see increased than diminished during the approaching wet 
season. Moreover, from peculiar localities, it is quite impossible 
efficiently to ventilate the room, or to ensure a free circulation 
of air, which is as essential as any other means employed for 
the recovery of health. 

It is under these circumstances that I feel not only author- 
ised, but bound in duty, to draw your attention to the subject ; 
assured that in any measures proposed for the benefit or well- 
being of the men under your command it is only necessary to 
show they are really required to meet your cordial support. 
Many difficulties, and many disadvantageous arrangements, 
have always attended the treatment of the patients in the 
present establishment ; but these last compulsory changes, 
when added to the former state, place my patients in too 
dangerous a position to allow me to be silent or inactive. 
Situated as we are, I cannot promise the speedy recovery of 
any of the gunshot wounds, nor indeed of the sick generally, 
and their liability to any of the epidemics unfortunately so 
common in crowded hospitals renders me exceedingly anxious 


to have some steps taken to place them in a more favourable 

The means I have to submit for your consideration and 
approval are, I believe and hope, extremely feasible. I desire 
to have some large dwelling-house appropriated for the reception 
of all English and French sick and wounded, by which means 
the General Hospital would be relieved of nearly a hundred 
patients, and of those, moreover, who, from the difference of 
language, are a fruitful and constant source of trouble and 
inconvenience — nay, more, of irregularity as prejudicial to the 
patients as it is discreditable to a military establishment of 
such importance. Many houses well adapted for this purpose 
might easily be mentioned, already at the disposal of the 
Government by the flight of the owners. One I could point 
out at this moment which, from a superficial inspection, I 
believe might be advantageously appropriated — a corner house 
in the Praga de St Ildefonso, adjoining the church. 

The advantages which would accrue from this arrangement 
cannot for a moment be counterbalanced by the trouble or 
difficulty of first organising the separate establishment. The 
patients could then be classed and placed in different rooms, 
and not, as now, promiscuously crowded together — surgical and 
medical, fevers and amputations ; by which arrangement their 
liability to any epidemic would be exceedingly diminished, 
w^hile the patients would be more immediately under the eye 
and control of the medical attendants. Both surgeon and 
patient would thus be placed under more favourable circum- 
stances, and the general service much facilitated by the 
removal of foreign troops from an establishment entirely 

In glancing at the advantages, I should omit one of very 
great importance if I did not submit to you the facility it 
would afford for the good treatment of wounded and sick 
officers. Instead of being attended at their own quarters, often 
just within the first line, to their own great risk and the 
inconvenience of the surgeon, they would be removed to a 
place of safety, and where, moreover, from being entirely 
under medical command, their rank would procure them none 
of those injurious indulgences in the way of diet, &c., which 
even the wisest of us are apt to risk the enjoyment of when 
in our power. They might easily enjoy every necessary 

20 THE PENINSULA. [chap. i. 

comfort, while they would be carefully guarded from all im- 
prudent excess. 

The chief difficulties I foresee, and which I have no doubt 
will immediately present themselves to your mind, appear to me 
very far from insurmountable. I require the assistance of no 
Portuguese officer whatever, except a commissary or purveyor, 
on whom I csmfidly depend, for the due and regular supply of 
fuel, meat, wine, fowls, and such other articles as are required 
for the good treatment of the patients, and which are daily 
supplied to the General Hospital. This is of the greatest im- 
portance, as any irregularity in this branch of the service would 
not only cripple my efforts, but be of serious injury to all under 
my care. In addition to this I should require one Portuguese 
domestic to every fifteen cases, for the purpose of cooking, wash- 
ing the linen, keeping the wards clean, and such other menial 
duties as are independent of those appertaining to the orderlies. 
The expense of a separate establishment ought to be, and would 
be, of the most trifling kind. The same beds, trussels, and 
utensils, now exclusively appropriated to us, would be equally 
serviceable in any other hospital. Two or three boilers, and a 
few cooking utensils, with a slipper bath, are really the chief 
and most expensive things required. I may safely leave it to 
you, sir, to decide if this can cause any grievous outlay. 

Should it be any convenience, or be deemed by you, sir, 
advantageous to the service, to the English and French might 
be added the wounded Portuguese soldiers of your brigade. I 
have little more to add, but should you require further detail, I 
beg to refer to a letter addressed to Major Shaw on this subject. 
I am fully conscious and aware of the labour I am entailing on 
myself, and that which is still more irksome, the heavy respon- 
sibility, but I have a duty to perform. I neither court the 
labour nor desire the responsibility ; but if they come as a con- 
sequence of my efforts to do that duty I can look steadfastly on 
them, and I trust I have energy and perseverance enough to do 
all that depends upon me in spite of them. My most ardent 
wish is to prove myself worthy of the confidence you have 
honoured me with, and the trust conferred upon me. — I have 
the honour to be, sir, your obedient humble servant, 

To Colonel Hodges, 

commanding Foreign Brigade, &c., &c. 


As the campaign in defence of the Queen of Por- 
tugal closed, that in defence of the Queen Christina 
of Spain opened, and their rough experiences in the 
former did not deter either Colonel Shaw or Sur- 
geon Alcock from accepting service in the Spanish 
Legion organised and commanded by De Lacy Evans. 
"On my arrival in London," writes Shaw in 1836, 
"you may suppose how delighted I was to find my 
friend Alcock at the head of the medical depart- 
ment, as his experiences in difficulties made him 
decidedly the most proper man." As it is no part 
of our plan to trace the operations, we give one 
characteristic letter from Colonel Shaw. It is dated 
San Sebastian, 2 o'clock, May 6, 1836 :— 

My dear Mother. — The steamer is detained, so I write to 
you once more. I and my brigade are so fatigued and cut up 
that we have been allowed to return here for the night. We 
had a terrible morning's work of it, the brigade having lost, in 
killed and wounded, about 400 men and 27 officers; others not 
so much. How I escaped I know not ; kind Providence was my 
protector. My watch is smashed, the ball having cut through 
cloak, coat, trousers, drawers, and shirt, and only bruised me. 
A spent ball hit me on the chest, and my gaiter was cut across 
by another. We had dreadful lines to force : very steep, vomit- 
ing fire ; and the clay up to our ankles made us so slow that 
they picked as they chose. The enemy not only behaved well 
behind their lines, but charged out, and twice or thrice put us 
for a moment in confusion. Alcock is slightly wounded. 

And as an agreeable pendant to the severe stric- 
tures on the state of the Portuguese hospitals, the 
following may fitly close our extracts from these 
racy records of arduous military adventure : — 

Bayonne, September 1836. 

When you land, introduce yourself to my friend Alcock, and 
beg him to take you through the hospitals. You will, or I am 

22 THE PENINSULA. [chap. i. 

greatly mistaken, be agreeably surprised by the prevailing 
cleanliness and regularity, as also the care and attendance 
bestowed on the sick and wounded. Alcock has had a most 
difficult card to play. He knows well that there are many 
disabled poor fellows who, if they were in the British service, 
would be sent to England, certain of receiving their pensions ; 
but he is also aware that a poor fellow sent to England from 
the service of Queen Christina, instead of receiving his pension, 
is generally left to starve. It is therefore from a praiseworthy 
charity that he keeps many in hospital, under his own eye, in 
order that they may in this manner get as much as will keep 
body and soul together. 

Mr Alcock retired from military service in 1837 
with the rank of Deputy - Inspector of Hospitals, 
having received the Order of the Tower and Sword 
together with the war medal of the three years' 
service in Portugal, and the Cross of the Order of 
Charles III. and Commander's Cross of Isabella the 
Catholic, with medals for the two principal actions 
against the Carlists. 

The six years of Peninsular experiences he declared 
to have been "the most stirring and attractive of 
his life," and in some portions of that period he 
had " more complete personal gratification and ma- 
terial happiness than could be safely anticipated in 
the future." He was now to have six years of quite 
a different experience, which led up to the turning- 
point in his life. 


III. ENGLAND, 1838-1844. 

Returns to England, 1838— Alcock resumes professional work — Prize essays 
and publications — Sir James Paget's testimonial — A Commissioner for 
adjusting Peninsular claims — Appointed Inspector of Anatomy, 1842 
—Imperfections of the Anatomy Act— Marriage to Miss Bacon, 1841 — 
His enforced abandonment of a surgical career. 

On his return to England in 1838 Alcock at once 
resumed the work of his profession. In that year he 
published in a small 8vo volume ' Notes on the Medical 
History and Statistics of the British Legion of Spain ' ; 
and in 1839, and again in 1841, he carried off the Jack- 
sonian prizes of the Royal College of Surgeons awarded 
for the best essays on subjects selected by the Council. 
The first of these was " On Concussion or Commotion 
of the Brain " ; the second, " On Injuries of the Thorax 
and Operations on its Parietes " ; and naturally the 
value of the papers lay in the extent to which the 
author was able to draw on his own observation and 
experience of gunshot wounds during his seven years 
of Peninsular service. 

Of these contributions to medical literature Sir James 
Paget remarks that " they may make one regret that 
he was ever induced to give up the study of surgery. 
For they show an immense power of accurately observ- 
ing and recording facts, and of testing his own and 
others' opinions by the help of all the knowledge of 
the facts possessed by others at that time. ... I 
doubt whether in the first half of this century better 
essays on gunshot wounds of the head and of the 
thorax had been written." 

And the small volume dealing with hospital ex- 

24 ENGLAND. [chap. i. 

periences in Spain has drawn from the same eminent 
authority the comment that " it tells in a most graphic 
and clear manner the difficulties which, sixty years 
ago, beset the practice of surgery and the care of 
troops during war. These difficulties may have been 
greater at that time in Spain than in any other 
country in Western Europe, and may be thought now 
impossible, but they may be read with great interest, 
and one cannot doubt that Sir Rutherford Alcock's 
true account of them helped to remedy them, . . . 
contributed to the improvement of the medical depart- 
ment of the army in this country." 

Mr Alcock joined the Royal Medical and Chirurgical 
Society in 1839, and was appointed Lecturer in Sur- 
gery at Sydenham College, where he delivered a series 
of lectures on complicated injuries, amputations, &c. 

His professional labours were soon diversified by an 
employment which could scarcely have been consistent 
with a large practice, though in the beginning of his 
surgical career it might not seem to involve much 
sacrifice except of time. But it was arduous, onerous, 
and absolutely gratuitous. Great trouble had arisen 
between the Spanish Government and the Foreign 
Legion in regard to pay. No settlement could be 
obtained, and eventually a commission was appointed 
to examine ^ and adjudicate the numerous claims, to 
which commission Mr Alcock was appointed by express 
and unanimous request of the general and the field 
officers of the corps. His qualifications for such an 
office were quite exceptional, for to first-rate business 
capacity, which had been shown in the campaign, he 
added a knowledge of the language and the country 
which was not common, and a character which com- 


manded universal confidence. His work on this com- 
mission extended over two years, and was brought to a 
satisfactory termination in 1839. 

No sooner were the labours of the Spanish com- 
mission concluded than Mr Alcock was, in 1840, 
appointed by the Foreign Office to a similar duty in 
an Anglo -Portuguese commission constituted by the 
two Governments to adjust the claims of British 
subjects who had served in the Miguelite war of 
1832-35. The work of that commission also was 
satisfactorily accomplished in 1844, and, as in the 
Spanish commission, Mr Alcock's labours were given 
without remuneration, in order, as he said, that his 
judgment might be unbiassed.^ 

During the course of the Spanish commission Mr 
Alcock was, in 1842, appointed, on the strong recom- 
mendation of Sir Benjamin Brodie, to a post under the 
Home Office, that of Inspector of Anatomy. It would 
be distasteful and of no utility to rake up the circum- 
stances which set on foot an agitation culmmating in 
the passing of an Act of Parliament in 1832 known as 
" The Anatomy Act." Like many other Acts of legis- 
lature in this country, it was a compromise by which 
difficulties were sought to be evaded by cunningly 
devised phrases whereby the thing that was meant 
was so disguised as to appear to be something else. 
" The Act failed in two most important points ; it failed 
in honesty, and was wanting in the extent of the 
powers conferred." In short, after ten years' trial 
the Act was becoming unworkable, and a reform in 

^ The only valuable consideration he received for these labours was 
bestowed some years later, when his entry into the service of the Foreign 
Office was ante-dated to 1840, so as to include the period of the Peninsular 

26 ENGLAND. [chap. i. 

its administration was imperatively demanded. It 
was at that critical moment that Mr Alcock was 
nominated as one of the two inspectors under the 
Act, and he entered on his duties with his well- 
proved practical energy. Before the end of the first 
year a long and interesting report was sent in by 
the inspectors, and we may judge by the sample of 
the Hospital Report in Oporto how thoroughly they 
exposed the difficulties and how practically they 
proposed to overcome them. A second report fol- 
lowed in 1843. But Government is a lumbering 
machine, always waiting for some stronger compul- 
sion than a mere demonstration of what ought to be ; 
and we are not surprised, therefore, to find fifteen 
years later, and fourteen after his connection with 
the Home Department had ceased, Mr Alcock still 
writing the most lucid and matter-of-fact memoranda 
on the conditions under which competent inspectors 
might be induced " to w^ork a very imperfect Act of 

It was during the period under review that the most 
interesting episode in a young man's life occurred. On 
the 17th of May 1841, Avhen he had just completed his 
thirty-second year, he was married to Miss Bacon, 
daughter of the sculptor of that name. The ceremony 
took place at St Margaret's, Westminster, Dean Mil- 
man, then a Canon of Westminster, officiating. His 
domestic bliss was unruffled, the couple being pro- 
foundly congenial. 

But now " a change came o'er the spirit of his 
dream." The career which opened before the young 
surgeon was full of promise. So far as the personal 
factor was concerned, no man could have started 


with a better equipment. There were efficiency, 
thoroughness, enthusiasm, courage, and common-sense ; 
there were, as we have seen in the student days, 
manual dexterity and exactness and artistic power of 
no contemptible order ; there was, in short, every 
attribute of an accomplished surgeon, who must in 
the course of nature rise to eminence. A chair of 
military surgery was ready for him at King's College, 
and an assistant-surgeonship at Westminster Hospital. 
All that, however, had to be sacrificed and a new de- 
parture taken, in consequence of an illness which left its 
mark in the form of paralysis of hands and arms, and 
thus put an end to " all dreams of surgical practice." 

This malady was a legacy from the Peninsula. Like 
Caesar, " he had a fever when he was in Spain," a rheu- 
matic fever of a particularly severe type contracted at 
the siege of San Sebastian. This entailed indescribable 
pain and misery during many months, and, in spite of 
partial recoveries, seems to have left its after-effects 
seven years later in what he calls the "mysterious" 
affection in his hands. It was indeed considered 
remarkable that he should have survived an attack 
of so formidable a character. He never recovered 
the use of his thumbs, which marred the legibility 
of his writing to the. end of his life. 

His professional career being thus rudely closed, it 
might well have appeared to a man of thirty-five that 
his life was shipwrecked ere the voyage was well begun. 
It would have been in accord with the short-sighted 
judgment which men usually form of their own for- 
tunes. But 

" There's a divinity that shapes our ends, 
Rough-hew them how we will ; " — 




and Alcock learned, what many before and since have 
learned, that prosperity and adversity oft visit men in 
disguise, and are liable to be mistaken the one for 
the other. Providence employs for its favourites an 
alchemy whereby the very ashes of their misery may 
be transmuted into pure gold ; and what looks like 
disaster is but the rending of the veil which concealed 
a world of richer promise than that which they abandon 
with regret. 




Importance of appointment — New position created by Treaty of Nanking 
— Exceptional responsibility of the new consuls — The evolution and 
scope of foreign intercourse — Pioneer traders — Mutual experiences 
of Chinese and foreigners — Results — English inheritors of the 
record — An intolerable state of things — Drastic remedy — Where 
it failed — Chasm between Eastern and Western ideas — Commerce 
alone supplied a safe medium of intercourse — Its healing qualities 
— But social and political concomitants created friction — Arbitrary 
interferences of Chinese Government — Their traditional mode 
of treating barbarians — Denial of human rights — Absence of law 
in their intercourse — Spasmodic resistance to Chinese tyranny 
aggravated the evils — East India Company submitted for the sake 
of gain — Close of the Company's charter — Followed by endeavour 
of British Government to establish official intercourse — Determined 
resistance of Chinese — Lord Napier, first British envoy, not received — 
Loaded with insults — Contradictory instructions given by British 
Government — To conciliate Chinese as in days of Company, and at 
same time to open diplomatic relations — Lord Napier's appeal to 
experience — His death at Macao — Captain Ellis, a third envoy, reverts 
to the policy of submission — Has no success. 

When thus thrown upon his beam-ends in 1844, an 
appointment was conferred on Mr Alcock which was 
not only honourable to him but creditable to the 
Government which selected him. He was among the 
five chosen to fill the oflfice of consul in China under 
the treaty of Nanking, which had been concluded in 
1842. And if any event in human life be deserving of 


such distinction, the opening thus provided for the 
talents of Mr Alcock is on many grounds entitled to 
rank as providential. To the end of his days he him- 
self recognised that his previous training had not been 
thrown away, but " had been unconsciously preparing 
him for the great work of his life." The Minister 
responsible for the appointment may be excused if, 
while selecting a man of proved capacity for a post of 
unknown requirements, he did not realise the full value 
of the service he was rendering to his country. Govern- 
ments are not always so perspicacious in gauging the 
merits of the uncovenanted, and other nominations 
made under circumstances not dissimilar have shown 
how easily the efficiency of the candidate may be 
subordinated to considerations extraneous to the public 

The China consulates were a new creation, a venture 
into the unknown, a voyage without landmarks or 
chart, w^here success depended on the personal qualities 
of the pioneer navigators — their judgment, resource- 
fulness, and faculty of initiative. Great issues hung 
upon the opening of the new world of the Far East, 
the success of which was largely in the hands of the 
agents who were employed, for they were practically 
beyond the reach of instructions. There was no tele- 
graph, and the so-called Overland Route to India was 
just beginning to be exploited for the conveyance of 
mails and passengers. Nor was it possible for even the 
wisest Government to frame general instructions pro- 
viding for eventualities out of the range of common 
experience. The conditions of service were therefore 
such as to constitute an ordeal under which a bureau- 
cratic official would shrivel into uselessness or worse, 


while to a strong man they were a powerful stimulant, 
the very breath of life. 

It was therefore a matter of serious consequence who 
should be intrusted with the actual inauguration of the 
new relations with China ; and in the course of the 
present narrative it will probably appear that it was 
a happy accident by which the country lost one dis- 
tinguished surgeon among many and gained in exchange 
a political representative whose services must be con- 
sidered unique. 


To understand fully the state of our relations with 
China created by the treaty of Nanking, the whole 
history not only of our own commercial intercourse, 
but of that of the nations who were our forerunners 
in the Far East, would have to be kept in mind. For 
much as we tried and hoped then, and ever since, to 
confine the international question to a few bald pro- 
positions respecting trade, personal protection, and so 
forth, it is impossible to eliminate the historical, the 
human, and the general political elements from the 
problem. For both good and evil we are the neces- 
sary outcome of our own antecedents, as are the 
Chinese of theirs, and if we had acquired a stock of 
experience of the Chinese, no less had they of us ; 
indeed, if we fairly consider the matter, theirs was 
the more comprehensive. For to the Chinese we re- 
presented not ourselves alone, nor the East India 
Company, nor a generation or two of timid traders, 
but Christendom as a whole — our Spanish, Portuguese, 


and Dutch precursors, the Romish propaganda, and all 
the abortive missions to Peking. 

For three centuries and more what may be called 
the foreign education of the Chinese had been pro- 
ceeding : their habits were being formed in so far as 
their dealings with strangers were concerned, and their 
judgment was being trained by the authentic data with 
which they had been plentifully supplied. European 
intercourse, in short, had been one long lesson to the 
Chinese in the art of managing men from the West. 
Without meaning it, we had been teaching them how 
to treat us, just as we train animals to perform tricks ; 
and the worst we can say of the Chinese is that they 
have bettered the instruction, to their loss perhaps as 
well as ours. 

In the chronicles of that long history there are 
many deeds worthy of remembrance, as well as many 
of another hue, neither being confined to one side. 
There were good and bad among the early adven- 
turers, as there are at all times in every other 
section of mankind. Of two brothers, for example, 
connected with the very early times, the first comer 
ingratiated himself with the Chinese, and left such a 
good impression behind him that the second was re- 
ceived with open arms : very soon, however, he abused 
the liberality of the natives, committing outrages upon 
them, which led ultimately to his forcible expulsion 
from the country and to restrictions on the outlets 
for trade. Taking it as a whole, the record of 
the pioneers in China is rather a despicable one, in 
which violence, cupidity, and cowardice formed large 

The English, as latest comers, being served heirs to 


the turpitudes of all Europe, paid the penalty for the 
misdeeds and shortcomings of their predecessors and 
their neighbours, as well as for their own. The penalty- 
was the intolerable degradation they had been made 
to endure, with ever-increasing aggravation, at the only 
port where they were permitted to trade — Canton. 

As there are forms of impurity which can only be 
cleansed by fire, so there was no possible remedy for 
the miseries of Anglo-Chinese intercourse short of open 
war. The hostilities begun in 1839, and brought to 
a conclusion by the treaty of Nanking in 1842, were 
naturally held as a drastic liquidation of long-standing 
grievances and the harbinger of a new era of peace 
and mutual respect. Why even the decisive and one- 
sided war should have proved an inadequate solvent 
of the perennial strife may partly appear as our story 

The chasm between the Chinese and the Western 
world, as then represented by Great Britain, was in 
fact much too deep to be bridged over by any con- 
vention. Intercommunion between bodies so alien was 
as the welding of heterogeneous metals, contact with- 
out fusion. From one point of view, indeed, circum- 
stances were highly favourable to a sympathetic 
attachment, for there is no safer medium of inter- 
course between nations than the commerce which 
blesses him that buys and him that sells. It was 
the pursuit of commerce alone that drew men from 
afar to the Asiatic coasts, and the reciprocal desire 
on the part of the natives which opened for the 
strangers, be it ever so little, the gates of the 
Chinese empire. The purely commercial relation left 
little to be desired on the side of mutual good- 

VOL. I. c 


will. The impression of it left on the mind of old 
residents in Canton is thus recorded by Mr W. C. 
Hunter, an American merchant, who lived there from 
1824 : " From the facility of all dealings with the 
Chinese who were assigned to transact business with 
us, together with their proverbial honesty, combined 
with a sense of perfect security to person and property, 
scarcely a resident of any lengthened time — in short, 
any ' Old Canton ' — but finally left them with regret." 

Mr Hunter goes further and testifies to the " vigilant 
care over the personal safety of strangers who came to 
live in the midst of a population whose customs and 
prejudices were so opposed to everything foreign." 

Why, then, was it that on the ground - level of 
common material interest, and under the sunshine of 
the protection spontaneously accorded by authority, 
the parties failed in two hundred years to evolve 
between them a modus vivendif The solution of 
this riddle can only be found in a patient survey 
of events both before and after the war. 

It would carry us far beyond our limits even to 
summarise the history of foreign intercourse with 
China. Nor is such a task necessary, since our con- 
cern lies mainly with those later developments which 
culminated in the war of 1839-42, a glance at which 
seems essential to any fair appreciation of the sequel. 

That there was no material cause of difference 
between the Chinese Government and people on the 
one hand and the foreign traders and their repre- 
sentatives on the other was made manifest by the 
persistence and continuous growth of their mutual 
commerce. And their common appreciation of the 
advantages of the trade is shown by the readiness 


of each in turn to resort to the threat of stopping 
business as a means of pressure on the other side. 
It is not therefore the substance, but the accidents 
and conditions, of the intercourse that generated the 
friction which led through outrage to reprisals ; and 
the two conditions most fruitful in conflict were the 
necessary absence of law and the inevitable incom- 
prehension of each other's status. 

Left to themselves, the traders on either side, though 
without law, would have been a law to themselves, 
both parties having been habituated to a discipline of 
custom more potent within its sphere than any code, 
commercial or penal. But as no problem in life can 
«ver be isolated, so in this case the twofold inter- 
ference of the State and the populace constantly 
obstructed the genial flow of commercial intercourse. 

The interference of the Chinese bore no resemblance 
to the restrictions imposed on trade by Western 
Governments, for these, even when most oppressive, 
are usually specific and calculable. There is a tarifl* 
of duties, there are harbour and police regulations, 
and there are tho laws of the land. The peculiarity 
of the Chinese ofiicial supervision of foreign trade 
was that it was incalculable and arbitrary, governed 
by cupidities and jealousies, and subject to individual 
caprice. Having barbarians to deal with, the Chinese 
authorities followed the maxims of their ancient kings 
and "ruled them by misrule, which is the true and 
the only way of ruling them." And finding the 
barbarians submissive, they grew accustomed to prac- 
tise on them such indignities as a wanton schoolboy 
might inflict on a captive animal, unrestrained by 
any consideration save the risk of retaliation. The 


Chinese had no conscience to be shocked by the 
persecution of foreigners, for in relation to them 
justice and injustice were meaningless terms. Such 
arrogance was not so much the result of any formu- 
lated belief as of a traditional feeling lying at the 
bottom of their moral conceptions ; and just as the 
Chinese people to-day speak of foreigners, without 
consciousness of offence, as "devils," so did the best 
educated officials in the days before the war sincerely 
regard strangers as an inferior, if not a degraded, 
race. As late as 1870 a British representative 
writing to the Chinese Prime Minister complained 
that " the educated class, both by speech and writ- 
ing, lets the people see that it regards the foreigner 
as a barbarian, a devil, or a brute." And there has 
been no change since except what is enforced by 
prudence. To the absence of law in their inter- 
course was therefore superadded a special negation 
of human rights, naturally accompanied by an over- 
bearing demeanour on the side of the natives. The 
strangers were in effect outlawed. The attempts 
made from time to time to assert their independence 
resembled the spasmodic kicking of the ox against 
the goad which led rather to aggravation than amelior- 
ation of the pain. The prevailing tone was that of 
submission, inviting more and more aggression, until 
the cup overflowed and war ensued. 

If we ask how it could happen that Britons of any 
class came to submit to such ignominy, the only answer 
forthcoming is that they did it for the sake of gain. 
And if, further, we try to press home the responsibility 
to any particular quarter, there is very little doubt 
that the principal blame must be laid at the door of the 


East India Company, which ruled and monopolised the 
English trade with China until the expiration of their 
charter in 1834. The Board of Directors in Leadenhall 
Street demanded remittances, and cared nothing for 
the indignities which their distant agents might be 
forced to undergo in order to supply these demands. 
*' The interests at stake were too valuable to be put at 
issue upon considerations of a personal nature, . . . 
and the Court leave the vindication of the national 
honour to the Crown." Such was their unchanging 
attitude. The agents on their side, balancing the pros 
and cons, concluded that at any cost they must retain 
the favour of the omnipotent Board. By this course of 
procedure the prestige which would have protected 
British subjects from outrage was bartered away ; the 
Chinese were induced by the subservience of the Com- 
pany's officers to practise constantly increasing insol- 
ence, and small blame to them. The demeanour of the 
Company's representatives was that of men carrying 
out instructions against their better judgment. Occa- 
sionally, indeed, their judgment got the better of their 
instructions, and they would attempt to make a stand 
for their rights. A case occurred in 1831 when new 
restrictions on the export of silver were imposed by the 
Chinese authorities. Mr H. H. Lindsay, head of the 
Company's committee, resented the proceeding, and 
threatened to stop the trade. In the event, however, 
the committee gave way, and in token of surrender 
delivered the keys of their factory to a Chinese 

The process which had been consecrated by time 
naturally did not stop when the principal cause of it 
was removed. It continued uninterrupted after the 


monopoly of the Company had ceased. Indeed the case 
became much aggravated when the British agents, begin- 
ning with Lord Napier, became representatives of the 
Crown instead of the Company. And so little was the 
position understood by the authorities in Great Britain 
that, yielding to considerations of convenience, they 
appointed some of the very men whom the Chinese had 
been long accustomed to treat with contumely to be the 
representatives of the King. But the Chinese had a 
true presentiment of the nature of the changes which 
this new departure threatened. They had learned from 
Captain Weddell, Commodore Anson, and others what 
were the pretensions of the commander of a King's ship; 
and then justly inferred that a King's representative 
would stand on a wholly different footing from a 
Company's superintendent. They resolved, therefore, 
to nip in the bud every effort to open international re- 
lations, employing to that end all the weapons which 
were familiar to them. The viceroy of Canton not only 
declined communication with the British envoy, but 
imprisoned him and intercepted his letters, so that a 
naval force was required to release him from captivity. 
Yet it was not malevolence but policy that guided the 
hand of the Chinese authorities — the settled policy of 
keeping foreigners at arm's-length at all costs. 

The rule of conduct enjoined by the British Govern- 
ment on the first representatives of the Crown in China 
was emphatically conciliation, as in the time of the East 
India Company and its superintendents. They were to 
" cautiously abstain from all unnecessary use of menac- 
ing language, or from making any appeal for protection 
to our military or naval force (except in extreme cases), 
or to do anything to irritate the feelings or revolt the 


opinions or prejudices of the Chinese people." That 
article of the " Sign-manual Instructions to the Super- 
intendents of Trade in China " was faithfully carried 
out ; while the one ordering the envoy to " take up 
your residence at the port of Canton " could not be 
obeyed because the Chinese provincial authorities placed 
their veto on it. The conciliatory demeanour of the 
British representative was met by the refusal, accom- 
panied by the grossest insults, of the Chinese to receive 
or acknowledge him. And not by insults only, such as 
perverting the phonetic rendering of his name by the 
substitution of characters bearing odious meanings, and 
by various indignities offered to his person, but by inter- 
ference with his domestic servants, and even cutting off 
his food-supply, did they coerce him into abandoning 
his post at Canton. Their conduct evoked the opinion 
from Lord Napier, in reporting the incidents to his 
Government, that " the viceroy of Canton was guilty of 
an outrage on the British Crown calling for redress," 
which drew from the Duke of Wellington (February 2, 
1835) the chilling comment that "it is not by force and 
violence that his Majesty intends to establish a com- 
mercial intercourse between his subjects and China, but 
by the other conciliatory measures so strongly incul- 
cated in all the instructions which you have received." 
Lord Napier's despatches prove that he understood the 
situation perfectly. " What advantage or what point 
did we ever gain," he wrote, " by negotiating or 
humbling ourselves before these people, or rather before 
their Government ? The records show nothing but 
subsequent humiliation and disgrace. What advantage 
or what point, again, have we ever lost that was just 
and reasonable, by acting with promptitude and vigour ? 


The records again assure us that such measures have 
been attended with complete success." And he recom- 
mended his Government " to consult immediately on 
the best plan to be adopted for commanding a com- 
mercial treaty, or a treaty which shall secure the just 
rights and embrace the interests, public and private, 
of all Europeans, — not of British alone, but of all 
civilised people coming to trade according to the 
principles of international law.". 

Driven to death by Chinese ofBcial barbarities, and 
by the discouragement of his own Government, Lord 
Napier was succeeded first by one then by another of 
the East India Company's old staff, who could only 
maintain themselves by sinking their character as 
British national envoys and submitting to the indigni- 
ties which the Chinese more than ever delighted in 
imposing on them, increasing in virulence in proportion 
as the resistance to them grew weaker. 

The line of policy inculcated upon Lord Napier 
was, in fact, scrupulously followed after his death, 
notably by Captain Charles Elliot, the third in suc- 
cession, who received the King's commission in 1836. 
That officer indeed went far beyond his instruc- 
tions in his efforts to conciliate the Chinese ; for 
though repeatedly ordered by Lord Palmerston to 
communicate with the authorities direct, and not 
through the Hong merchants ; ^ and not to head his 
communications with the word " petition " ; and not- 
withstanding his own reiterated opinion in the same 
sense. Captain Elliot entirely yielded to the Chinese 

1 These were a syndicate appointed by the Chinese Government to con- 
duct the foreign trade and be responsible to the Government for the pro- 
ceedings of the foreign merchants. 



pretensions. He communicated through the Hong 
merchants, and explicitly received the "commands" 
of the authorities with "reverence." As was natural, 
the more he conceded the more was exacted from 
him, until conciliation reached the point of exhaus- 
tion and there was nothing left to give up. Matters 
had nearly reached this stage when the British 
envoy could thus address the Governor of Canton 
(through the Hong merchants) in 1837 : " The 
undersigned respectfully assures his Excellency that 
it is at once his duty and his anxious desire 
to conform in all things to the imperial pleas- 
ure." The result of this extreme humility was that 
Captain Elliot was forced to strike his flag at Can- 
ton and withdraw to the Portuguese settlement of 
Macao, on the ground that he was unable to main- 
tain intercourse with the authorities on the conditions 
prescribed for him by her Majesty's Government. 





Its iuciease caused alarm to Chinese Government by throwing the balance 
of trade against China — English manufacturers deplored the same fact 
— Drain of silver — Government opposition to the importation of opium 
— Official participation in the trade — The reign of sham — Illustrated 
by Mr Hunter — Captain Elliot volunteers to prevent smuggling — 
Rebuffed by Canton authorities — The principal patrons of the opium 
trade — Imperial Government and the opium traffic — Proposals to 
legalise it — The Empress — Commissioner Lin appointed to suppress 
trade — His uncompromising proceedings at Canton — Imprisonment of 
the foreign merchants, and of the British envoy — Surrender of opium 
by Captain Elliot. 

Commerce itself had also for some time been a 
source of disquietude, and it is an interesting cir- 
cumstance that it was the same feature of it which 
caused anxiety to both sides. The balance of trade 
was against China, which in the year 1838 had to 
provide bullion to the amount of upwards of 
£2,000,000 sterling to pay for the excess of imports 
over exports. English manufacturers deplored the fact 
that the purchasing power of China was restricted 
by the paucity of her commodities suitable for foreign 
markets, while the Chinese authorities saw with 
genuine alarm a yearly drain of what they deemed 


the life-blood of their national wealth ; for not only 
was silver and gold bullion exported in what to 
them were large amounts, but the vessels which 
brought raw cotton and opium from India were fre- 
quently ballasted for the return voyage with the 
copper coinage of the country. Crude, arbitrary, and 
quite ineffectual devices were resorted to by the 
Chinese for the arrest or mitigation of the leakage 
of the precious metal. Opium, being the commodity 
which the people most imperatively demanded, was 
always paid for in hard cash, while ordinary mer- 
chandise might be bartered against Chinese produce. 
It is not therefore difficult to understand how, with- 
out prejudice to moral or political considerations, the 
article opium should have become so conspicuous a 
factor in the agony which preceded the war. 

In characterising the relations then subsisting be- 
tween the Chinese and foreigners as lawless, it is not 
meant that China is a country governed without law, 
although it is true that even in the purely domestic 
administration of the State legality is systematically ^ 
travestied. But in connection with foreign relations, 
and almost as a necessity of the case, every trace of 
legality was obliterated in practice, and the merchants 
were constantly entangled in a labyrinth of illusions 
and pitfalls. No regulation was, or was ever intended 
to be, carried out as promulgated ; it was generally 
something quite different that was aimed at, and it is 
literally true that the law was more honoured in the 
breach than in the observance. 

Many Chinese eagles swooped on the carcass of 
foreign trade ; various authorities competed for the 
spoil ; and the constantly changing orders were often 

44 THE OPIUM TRADE. [chap. hi. 

merely stratagems by which one set of officials sought 
to steal an advantage over another. The rules of the 
game were perfectly understood, and the loftiest pro- 
fessions of public duty were the invariable concomitant 
of the most corrupt practice. 

The two principal trade authorities in Canton were 
the viceroy of the two provinces, and the hoppo, who 
held an independent commission from Peking as super- 
intendent of the customs. Smuggling was of course 
systematic. Though there were severe dormant laws 
against it whereby unwary individuals might on occa- 
sion be entrapped, yet the practice was openly carried 
on in every department of traffic, its chief patrons being 
the viceroy and the hopp>o. The importation of opium 
was officially prohibited, but no branch of trade was so 
effectually protected. The depot ships lay in what was 
regarded as the outer waters of China — that is, the 
archipelago in the estuary of the Canton river. But 
the drug was brought to land in the viceroy's own 
boats and to his profit. The traffic was conducted 
under a fluctuating arrangement between the native 
merchants and the authorities, the latter taking 
frequent occasion to pick quarrels with the former in 
order to have a pretext for extortion. The fees levied 
upon the opium - dealers were divided among the 
officials, but they could never trust each other to 
deal fairly in the distribution of the takings. By way 
of check on sharp practice a Chinese war-vessel was 
in the habit of visiting the receiving ships, taking from 
them an account of their deliveries, and at the same 
time making a small levy for the commander's personal 
behoof, for which a formal receipt was granted. 

A new hoppo came to Canton in 1837, and, as had 


been the custom with his ^predecessors, he inaugurated 
his commission by issuing drastic edicts, in concert 
with the viceroy, against the sale of opium, even going 
through the form of arresting some of the dealers. 
This demonstration, like all that had gone before, was 
merely intended to cover a heavier exaction than had 
yet been levied. The dealers and boatmen refused 
the terms, and by way of protest the latter burned 
their boats. Whereupon the two high officers built 
boats of their own, which, with the Government ones 
already employed in the business, brought the whole 
of the opium to Canton. In this manner was the trade 
resumed after a temporary stoppage caused by the 
strike of the dealers and boat -owners against the 
extortions of the viceroy and liojypo. Nor was there 
ever any secret in Peking respecting these proceedings. 
Indeed the occasion of any high official travelling to 
the capital was always marked by a great enhancement 
of the market price of opium, of which the official or 
his retinue invariably carried a large quantity for sale 
there. This circumstance was published in the trade 
circulars printed in Canton, without the least conceal- 
ment of the name of the mandarin under whose pro- 
tection the drug was transported. The lioppo was, 
and still is, an imperial 'protege, and it was, and 
is still, perfectly understood that he divides the 
proceeds of his Canton harvest with his patrons. 
It is for that purpose that he receives the appoint- 
ment. And this was a trade proscribed under extreme 
penalties by imperial edict ! It is needless to trace 
the network of elusion in which the administrative 
ingenuity of Chinese officialdom was exercised, and the 
specimen given above may be taken as typical of the 

46 THE OPIUM TRADE. [chap. III. 

system. "Nevertheless, during the year 1838 very 
serious and determined measures began to be adopted 
by the Chinese authorities, directed generally against 
the trade in opium ; and imperial edicts threatened 
death as the punishment for both the dealers in and 
smokers of the drug." 

It is hardly possible outside of China to realise the 
systematic make-believe under which public affairs are 
carried on. 

Life and business in Canton, says Mr Hunter,^ was a con- 
undrum as insoluble as the Sphinx ; everything worked 
smoothly by acting in direct opposition to what we were told 
to do. Certainly we were told to " listen and obey," to 
" tremble and not by obstinacy and irregularity to court the 
wrath of the imperial will " ! We were reminded from time to 
time that we were " sojourning in the land on sufferance." We 
were threatened and re-threatened with the " direst penalties if 
we sold foreign mud to the people ; truly forbearance could no 
longer be exercised." Yet we continued to sell the drug as 
usual. Our receiving ships at Lintin must no longer loiter 
at that anchorage, but " forthwith either come into port or 
return to their respective countries." The heart of the ruler 
of all within the Four Seas was indeed full of compassion and 
had been indulgent to the barbarians. But now no more delay 
could be granted, " cruisers would be sent to open their irre- 
sistible broadsides " upon the foreign ships. Yet in spite of 
these terrors the ships never budged. We were " forbidden to 
wander about except three times a-month, and that not without 
a linguist," but we walked whenever we pleased, and the 
linguist is the last person we ever saw. 

And so on through a long catalogue of prohibitions to 
the disregard of which the officials themselves were 
always parties. 

We get an exact description also of the mode in 
which the opium trade was carried on from the pen 

1 Bits of Old China. Kegan Paul. 


of Mr Hunter, himself an actor as well as an eye- 
witness. It furnishes a perfect illustration of the reign 
of sham which prevails generally in China : — 

We anchored on the inside of the island of Namoa close by 
two EngHsh brigs, the Omega and Governor Findlay. Inshore 
of us were riding at anchor two men-of-war junks, with much 
bunting displayed ; one bore the flag of a foo-tscang or commo- 
dore. Knowing the " formaUties " to be gone through with 
the mandarins, we expected a visit from one, and until it was 
made no Chinese boat would come alongside, nor would a junk, 
not even a bumboat. We had no sooner furled sails and made 
everything shipshape, when his " Excellency " approached in 
his gig — a sort of scow as broad as she was long. . . . He was 
received at the gangway by Captain Forster. His manner and 
bearing were easy and dignified. When cheroots and a glass of 
wine had been offered, the " commodore " inquired the cause of 
our anchoring at Namoa. The shroff ga^wQ him to understand 
that the vessel, being on her way from Singapore to Canton, 
had been compelled, through contrary winds and currents, to 
run for Namoa to replenish her wood and water. Having 
listened attentively, the great man said that " any supplies 
might be obtained, but when they were on board, not a moment 
must be lost in sailing for Whampoa, as the Great Emperor did 
not permit vessels from afar to visit any other port." He then 
gravely pulled from his boot a long red document and handed 
it to his secretary, that we might be informed of its purport. 
It was as follows : — 

An Imperial Edict, 

As the port of Canton is the only one at which outside 
barbarians are allowed to trade, on no account can they be 
permitted to wander about to other places in the " Middle 
Kingdom." The " Son of Heaven," however, whose compassion 
is as boundless as the ocean, cannot deny to those who are in 
distress from want of food, through adverse seas and currents, 
the necessary means of continuing their voyage. When sup- 
plied they must no longer loiter, but depart at once. Kespect 

Tao-kuano, nth year, 6th moon, ith sun. 

48 THE OPIUM TRADE. [chap. hi. 

This " imperial edict " having been replaced in its envelope 
and slipped inside of his boot (for service on the chance of 
another foreign vessel " in distress "), his Excellency arose from 
his seat, which was a signal for all his attendants to return to 
the boat, except his secretary. The two were then invited to 
the cabin to refresh, which being done, we proceeded to busi- 
ness. The mandarin opened by the direct questions, " How 
many chests have you on board ? Are they all for Namoa ? 
Do you go farther up the coast ? " Intimating at the same 
time that there the officers were uncommonly strict, and were 
obliged to carry out the will of the " Emperor of the Universe," 
&c. But our answers were equally as clear and prompt, that 
the vessel was not going north of Namoa, that her cargo con- 
sisted of about 200 chests. Then came the question of ciimsha, 
and that was settled on the good old Chinese principle of " all 
same custom." Everything being thus comfortably arranged, 
wine drunk, and cheroots smoked, his Excellency said " Kaou- 
tsze " (I announce my departure). . . . Chinese buyers came 
on board freely the moment they saw the " official " visit had 
been made. A day or two after, several merchant junks stood 
out from the mainland for the anchorage. As they approached 
we distinguished a private signal at their mastheads, a copy of 
which had been furnished to us before leaving Capshuymun. 
We hoisted ours, the junks anchored close to us, and in a 
surprisingly short time received from the Eose in their own 
boats the opium, which had been sold at Canton, and there 
paid for, deliverable at this anchorage. It was a good illus- 
tration of the entire confidence existing between the forei^ifn 
seller in his factory at Canton and the Chinese buyers, and of 
a transaction for a breach of any of the conditions of which 
there existed no leojal redress on one side or the other. 

From his asylum in Macao Captain Elliot thought 
he saw an opportunity for making a fresh attempt to 
ingratiate himself with the Chinese authorities. Dis- 
regarding the fact that the only return for his 
previous efforts at conciliation had been accumulated 
insult and odious accusations against himself person- 
ally, Captain Elliot resolved on trying once more. 

14M|', ,.-, 


So, when the opium agitation broke out in 1838-39, 
he volunteered his assistance in suppressing smuggling 
in the river. The viceroy, being the head and front 
of the abuse, spurned the offer, saying, what was 
perfectly true, that he could stop the traffic himself 
by a stroke of the pen. 

Ignoring the rebuff. Captain Elliot did nevertheless 
issue an order that " all British-owned schooners, or 
other vessels habitually or occasionally engaged in 
the illicit opium traffic, ivithin the Bocca Tigris, 
should remove before the expiration of three days, 
and not again return within the Bocca Tigris, being 
so engaged." And they were at the same time 
distinctly warned, that if " any British subjects were 
feloniously to cause the death of a Chinaman in con- 
sequence of persisting in the trade within the Bocca 
Tigris, he would be liable to capital punishment ; 
that no owners of such vessels so engaged would 
receive any assistance or interposition from the British 
Government in case the Chinese Government should 
seize any of them ; and that all British subjects 
employed in these vessels would be held responsible 
for any consequences which might arise from forcible 
resistance offered to the Chinese Government, in the 
same manner as if such resistance were offered to 
their own or any other Government, in their own or 
in any foreign country." This gratuitous assumption 
of the functions of the Chinese executive plunged 
Captain Elliot into still greater difficulties, and pre- 
pared the way for the tragic events which were to 
follow a year later. In vulgar parlance he " gave 
himself away" to the Chinese, for in professing to be 
able to stop opium traffic within the river he tacitly 

VOL. I. D 

50 THE OPIUM TRADE. [chap. III. 

accepted the responsibility of stopping it also in the 
estuary, where the British depot ships lay at anchor. 
It was, in fact, the driving home of this responsibility 
by the Chinese which was the apparent occasion of 
the war. For it is certain that during his three 
years of office as representative of the Crown of 
England Captain Elliot had given no provocation to 
the Chinese, nor had he in any way withstood their 
aggression. ^ 

But a sudden change now came over the scene. 
The opium question had been for some time debated 
in the imperial counsels with considerable earnestness, 
the issue turning on the alternatives of suppressing 
or legalising the traffic. It seems likely that in 
those deliberations the reigning emperor, Tao-kuang, 
played a very secondary part ; indeed as an active 
factor in the government of the country he appears 
to have been of little more account than his successors 
have been. He is described as an amiable but weak 
man, sensible of the difficulties of his country, but 
misinformed with regard to them by the favourites 
around him. The most interesting personality about 
the Imperial Court at that time appears to have 
been the empress, who had raised herself to that 
exalted position by her talents as well as by her 
fascinations. Though her career was a very short 
one, she exercised a potent influence on affairs 
throughout the whole empire. She was credited 
with a rare power of judging men and of selecting 
them for offices of trust. She was a reformer of 
abuses and a true patriot ; but what was most 
remarkable, considering the order of ideas which 
surrounded her, she held liberal views as to the ex- 


tension of foreign intercourse, and was at the head 
of the party which was in favour of legalising the 
opium traffic. A memorial addressed to her urging 
this measure was submitted by the emperor to the 
governor of Canton, Tang, who with his colleagues 
reported on it favourably. The success of the 
empress's policy enraged her enemies and stirred 
them to the most strenuous efforts to compass her 
fall. The emperor, it is said, remained neutral in 
this strife. The opposition party prevailed, gaining 
over the emperor to their side while he was smart- 
ing from the grief caused by the death of his own 
son from opium, an event which enlisted his personal 
feelings against the drug. 

So far, however, had the question been carried, 
that the legalisation of the opium trade was fully 
anticipated by Captain Elliot up to the very hour 
that the storm burst. 

The final decision of the Government was to put 
an end to the trade, for which purpose they sent an 
imperial commissioner to Canton, armed with full 
authority to carry out the emperor's edicts. He 
arrived at his post, March 10, 1839. Commissioner 
Lin, the best known character, with the exception of 
Captain Elliot himself, in connection with the war, 
was a man of uncommon energy and resolution, and 
was therefore in some respects well chosen for the 
extraordinary task which was imposed upon him. 
He was a native of Fukien province, an official of 
high standing, having been Governor- General of the 
Central Provinces, the Hu Kwang. He was now 
appointed Governor-General of the Two Kwang and 
Imperial Commissioner for dealing with the opium 

52 THE OPIUM TRADE. [chap. hi. 

question. As a Chinese administrator he had been 
popular, and was no doubt possessed of many high 
qualities.-^ It is possible that had he taken time to 
study the foreign question with which he had to deal, 
and had he not been betrayed by his too easy initial 
successes, he might have been the means of placing 
the foreign relations of his country on a footing of 
mutual accommodation. A reasonable man would 
have perceived the utter impossibility of preventing 
the Chinese people from purchasing a commodity for 
which they had an overmastering desire. CHe showed 
great ignorance of human nature in proposing to 
break his countrymen of opium - smoking within a 
year, after which time offenders were to be be- 
headed.^ \ This was but a sample of his violence 
and of his incapacity to see two sides of a question. 
It must be remembered, however, that he had under- 
taken to carry out the emperor's instructions, and 
it is difficult to pronounce what amount of latitude 
he might have allowed himself in the interpretation 
of them. 

His proceedings were of an uncompromising character 
most unusual with Chinese. Possessing full authority, 
he exercised it to the utmost, terrorising all the local 
officials into absolute subservience. The governor of 
Canton, himself deeply implicated in the opium 

^ When he visited Macao later in the year 1839 — after the events — 
there were public demonstrations in his honour, whether prompted by 
public respect for his despotic power or approval of the use he had just 
made of it, or merely a recognition of his previously established reputa- 
tion, may very well remain an open question. 

2 Possibly, however, this was but a specimen of the hyperbolic diction 
which is habitual with the Chinese. An official will threaten his servant 
with instant decapitation for a trifling offence, meaning nothing whatever 

lin's uncompromising action. 53 

traffic, a fact well known to the Imperial Commis- 
sioner, was constrained to save himself by affecting 
the utmost zeal in executing the commissioner's be- 
hests. Having thus disposed of all the opposition 
with which Chinese high officials have usually to 
reckon from their subordinates, Lin gave the rein to 
his headstrong temper, and instead of effecting reform, 
plunged his country into a war which shattered the 
imperial prestige. 

Within three weeks of Lin's arrival in Canton the 
drastic measures against foreigners, and particularly 
against the opium trade, culminated in his imprisoning 
the whole of the merchants within their factories at 
Canton, menacing them with further outrages on their 
person. At this crisis Captain Elliot, having left his 
residence at Macao, made his way under difficulties 
to Canton, that he might share the captivity of his 
countrymen and act as their head and mouthpiece. 
Having thus got the superintendent of trade into his 
power. Commissioner Lin preferred most extravagant 
demands upon him, including the delivery to the 
Chinese of all opium owned by British merchants, 
which amounted to 20,000 chests valued at upwards 
of £2,000,000. The imprisoned merchants had no 
choice but to yield to the demand made upon them 
by the representative of the British Crown ; and as 
the recent agitations had interfered greatly with the 
course of trade, their assent to the terms was no doubt 
soothed by the reflection that they were making a 
clearance sale of their goods to a solvent purchaser, 
her Majesty's Government. They issued their delivery 
orders for the opium on the 27th March 1839. It is 
to the credit of Commissioner Lin that in a memorial 

54 THE OPIUM TRADE. [chap. ill. 

to the throne he commended the loyalty of certam of 
the British merchants.^ 

This grand concession to the demand of Commis- 
sioner Lin was but the climax of all the antecedent 
steps of British submission. There was no haggling, 
but a prompt and unconditional surrender in the fol- 
lowing terms : — 

Elliot to the Imperial Commissioner. 

Canton, March 27, 1839. 

Elliot, &c., &c., has now the honour to receive for the first 
time your Excellency's commands, bearing date the 26 th day of 
March, issued by the pleasure of the Great Emperor, to deliver 
over into the hands of honourable officers to be appointed by 
your Excellency all the opium in the hands of British subjects. 

Elliot must faithfully and completely fulfil these commands, 
and he has now respectfully to request that your Excellency 
will be pleased to indicate the point to which the ships of his 
nation, having opium on board, are to proceed, so that the whole 
may be delivered up. 

The faithful account of the same shall be transmitted as soon 
as it is ascertained. 

Captain Elliot did not even give himself time to 
verify the figures, and in his haste committed himself 
to the delivery of more opium than was actually in 
being. The consequence was that he could not de- 
liver until fresh importations arrived, when he was 
obliged to enter the market as an opium merchant 
and purchase sufficient to enable him to fulfil his 

1 As in its commutation for the surrender of slave property, so now the 
British Government inflicted serious injustice on the owners of the opium. 
Captain Elliot's drafts on the Treasury were dishonoured, he having had no 
authority to draw, and the merchants had to wait four years for a most 
inadequate payment. 



Captain Elliot complains of his lengthened imprisonment — The continued 
cruelties of Commissioner Lin — Subservience of the Portuguese — 
English merchants driven from their homes in Macao to seek refuge 
on shipboard — Pursued by the vengeance of the Commissioner — 
Chinese claim absolute jurisdiction over person and property — Demand 
for an English seaman for execution. 

The interesting question in all this is how the 
Chinese authorities were impressed with the magnani- 
mous sacrifice of over £2,000,000 sterling worth of 
private property as a ransom for the liberties of British 
subjects. They were certainly not impressed favour- 
ably, for Captain Elliot, together with the whole com- 
munity, was detained for many weeks after the delivery 
of the opium close prisoners in Canton, and cut off from 
all outside communication. A week after the surrender 
Captain Elliot wrote to Lord Palmerston, " The block- 
ade is increasing in closeness. . . . This is the first 
time in our intercourse with this empire that its 
Government has taken the unprovoked initiative in 
aggressive measures against British life, property, and 
liberty, and against the dignity of the British Crown." 
On the same day the Imperial Commissioner threatened 
to cut off the water-supply from the beleaguered mer- 
chants. A week later Captain Elliot wrote, "The 
blockade is not relaxed, . . . the reverse is the case ; " 
and he was constrained, though with evident reluctance, 
to characterise " the late measures as public robbery and 
wanton violence." Commissioner Lin's " continuance 
of the state of restraint, insult, and dark intimidation, 
subsequently to the surrender, has classed the case 
amongst the most shameless violences which one nation 


has yet dared to perpetrate against another." And 
there is a forlorn pathos in his confession, a fortnight 
later, of the futility of " remonstrances from a man in 
my present situation to a high Chinese officer deter- 
mined to be false and perfidious." 

Nor did the Chinese appetite for cruelty cease to 
grow by what it fed upon even after the crisis of the 
Canton imprisonment was over. The British com- 
munity, w^hen forced to seek safety on board of their 
ships, were pursued from anchorage to anchorage by 
the implacable vengeance of the Imperial Commis- 
sioner. The natives were by proclamation ordered 
to " intercept and wholly cut off all supplies " from 
the English, some of whom " had gone to reside on 
board the foreign ships at Hongkong, and it was to 
be apprehended that in their extremity some may land 
at the outer villages and hamlets along the coast to 
purchase provisions," in which case the " people were 
to drive them back, fire upon or make prisoners of 
them." " Even when they land to take water from the 
springs, stop their progress and let them not have it in 
their power to drink." Another proclamation stated 
that " poison had been put into this water ; let none 
of our people take it to drink." During the summer 
of 1839 many murderous outrages were perpetrated 
by the Commissioner's orders on English small craft 
wherever they were found isolated or defenceless. 

It is not necessary to pursue these barbarities in 
detail. Sufficient has been advanced to illustrate the 
spirit in which the Chinese Government, in a time of 
peace and without a vestige of provocation, drove the 
retreating and absolutely submissive English to des- 
peration. And their characteristic manner of recom- 


pensing servility was illustrated with cynical humour 
in a long memorandum drawn up during the progress 
of the war by Commissioner Lin, the author of the 
savage proceedings just referred to. " Since," he says, 
** the English are so eager for the recommencement of 
their traffic, let us couple the grant with another stipu- 
lation, that they present us with the head of Elliot, the 
leader in every mischief, the disturber of the peace, and 
the source of all this trouble " — the last statement con- 
taining more truth than probably the writer himself 
fully realised. 

Under such conditions it was obviously impossible 
to place the persons and property of British subjects 
at the mercy of Chinese officials. Yet this is what 
the authorities at Canton insisted upon, — " full sub- 
mission to Chinese penal legislation, involving capital 
punishment by Chinese forms of trial." This was no 
new claim. The Chinese were simply following the 
precedents. English, French, and Americans had each 
in turn given up their men to be strangled on the 
demand of the Chinese authorities, and though the 
right had not been exercised for nearly twenty years, 
Lin evidently thought the occasion favourable for 
reviving it. He furnished a clear explanation of 
what a Chinese trial would be by demanding of the 
British representative the unconditional surrender for 
execution of the alleged murderer of a Chinese. To 
Captain Elliot's almost penitential protestations, that 
he had been unable to discover the assumed murderer 
among the numerous liberty men of ships of more 
than one nationality who had been in the scuffle, 
the Chinese authorities paid no regard whatever. 
The Queen's representative was publicly denounced 


in scurrilous language by Commissioner Lin for con- 
cealing and failing to deliver up an offender, and for 
criminal violation of the laws of China as " shown 
by our reiterated proclamations and clear commands." 
This truculent proclamation being followed by an 
ultimatum giving ten days for the surrender of the 
unknown murderer under threat of the extermination 
of the British community, the latter had to escape in 
a body from Canton to seek refuge in Macao, whence 
they were expelled by the authorities of that settlement 
at the behest of the Chinese commissioner. This act of 
loyalty on the part of the Portuguese was duly acknow- 
ledged by the Imperial Commissioner's reply, through 
his subordinate officials, in the following terms : — 

We have received from his Excellency the Imperial Com- 
missioner a reply to our representation that the English 
foreigners had, one and all, left Macao, and that the Portuguese 
Governor and Procurador had ably and strenuously aided in 
their expulsion, and faithfully repressed disorder. The reply is 
to this effect : — 

That the Portuguese Governor and Procurador having thus 
ably obeyed the commands for their expulsion, evinces the 
respectful sense of duty of those officers, and merits commenda- 
tion. I, the High Commissioner, in company with the 
Governor, will personally repair to Macao to soothe and 
encourage. And you are required to pay instant obedience 
hereto, by making this intention known to them. 

Captain Elliot, in a despatch to the Portuguese 
governor, characterised his act as a participation " in 
measures of unprecedented inhospitality and enmity 
against British subjects." ^ 

^ "By the treaty of 1703," wrote Sir Anders Ljunstedt, the last chief of 
the Swedish Company's factory, " Portugal placed herself, as it were, under 
the protection of Great Britain. This Power never failed to render her 
ally the assistance she stood in need of either in Europe or her ultramarine 
dominions." The English had defended Macao against the French in 1803. 


Into the merits of the opium question itself, or of 
that unique transaction, the surrender of £2,000,000 
sterling worth of the commodity by a British agent on 
the mere demand of a Chinese official, it would be im- 
possible to enter within the limits of space assigned to 
us. But it is obvious that such a demand, made within 
two years of the time when the viceroy of Canton was 
building a flotilla to carry the merchants' drug from 
the receiving ships to his provincial capital, was some- 
thing so extravagant that compliance with it must be 
followed either by open war or by complete submission 
and the abandonment of China as a trading field. It 
is of course conceivable that had the ordinary Chinese 
canon been applied to the case, and the proclamations 
of Commissioner Lin been interpreted, like those that 
had gone before, as the inaugural bombast of a new- 
comer, the demands might have been evaded with im- 
punity. The Portuguese, in fact, did evade them by 
the simple expedient of sending their opium to sea for 
a time and bringing it back again. There is some 
ground for the surmise that the High Commissioner 
himself reckoned -on evasion, and was even embarrassed 
by his unexpected success in having such an enormous 
amount of property frankly thrown on his hands. Our 
collision with China may thus be said to have "been 
brought about by a breach in the continuity of pre- 
cedents on both sides, — we reckoning up to a certain 
point, on the continuance of sham, and the Chinese on 
the continuance of submission. Both were misled, and 
there was no way of reconciliation but by the arbitra- 
ment of force. 



THE FIRST CHINA WAR, 1839-1842. 

Captain Elliot despatches his only ship to India with a report of the situa- 
tion — The helplessness of the British community and persecutions by 
the Chinese during three months — Arrival of two ships — The Chinese 
attack them and are defeated — Expedition from India and England 
arrives — Canton river blockaded — Attempts to appeal to Central 
Government rebuffed — Squadron sent to the Peiho — Kishen appointed 
to treat — Expedition returns south — Negotiations opened near Canton 
— Bogue forts destroyed by British ships — Illusory negotiations — River 
blockaded, but commerce partially resumed — Extensive war prepara- 
tions by Chinese — Captain Elliot's confidence in the Chinese — Hostili- 
ties carried on — Canton commanded and ransomed — Triumph of the 
populace — Operations extended to northern coasts — Agreement be- 
tween Captain Elliot and Kishen repudiated by both sovereigns — 
Arrival of Vice-Admiral Sir "William Parker — War vigorously prose- 
cuted — Towns and forts taken — Nanking threatened — Commissioners 
Ilipu and Kiying appointed to treat — Treaty concluded at Nanking, 
August 29, 1842— The character of Ilipu. 

Captain Elliot, after the severities to which he and 
his countrymen had been subjected, despatched a vessel 
to Calcutta with a report on the situation to the Gover- 
nor-General of India, making a corresponding report at 
the same time to London. The departure of this, the 
only vessel at the disposal of the British agent, left him 
and the mercantile community in a helpless predicament 
during three critical months, and it was natural that 
the Chinese should take advantage of so favourable an 
opportunity to fill the cup of their cruelties fuller than 


ever. The only form of reprisal which was left to the 
unfortunate Captain Elliot was his intimation to the 
merchants that he had moved both the British and 
Indian Governments to forbid the admission of tea and 
other Chinese produce into their territories — an an- 
nouncement which is said to have irritated Commis- 
sioner Lin excessively. On September 11, 1839, how- 
ever, her Majesty's ship Volage appeared on the scene. 
Her commander. Captain Smith, considered that the 
least he could do in defence of his countrymen was 
to blockade the Canton river by way of retaliation 
for " the stoppage of the supplies of food by order 
of the Chinese Government, and for the Chinese 
people having been ordered to fire upon and seize 
her Majesty's subjects wherever they went ; and that 
certain of them had been actually cut off." 

This slight evidence of vitality on the part of the 
English produced an immediate effect on the Chinese : 
their violent proclamations against Elliot were with- 
drawn ; provisions were no longer prohibited ; and 
certain negotiations were inaugurated for the resump- 
tion of trade outside the Barrier ; whereupon Captain 
Smith promptly raised the blockade. 

Before long, however, the Chinese resumed their 
offensive attitude, endeavoured to compel British trad- 
ing ships to enter within the Bogue, and renewed 
their demands for the murderer of a Chinaman, failing 
which the foreign ships were ordered to depart within 
three days on pain of immediate destruction. They 
accordingly withdrew to the anchorage of Tongku, 
which became the rendezvous of all the ships of war. 
Difficulties continued to increase on both sides, without 
prospect of any solution, until the 29th of October, 



[chap. IV 

when another British man-of-war, the Hyacinth, arrived 
and joined the Yolage. These vessels proceeded to 
Chuenpee, with Captain ElHot on board, for the pur- 
pose of eUciting from the Commissioner some expHcit 

II 'ai/:ir€rCo.:kereU SC. 


declaration of his intentions. They were at once 
attacked by the Chinese admiral with a fleet of twenty- 
nine war-junks, which they beat off; and thus occurred 
the first hostile encounter between the armed forces of 
the two nations. 


Of the operations which followed, extending over 
nearly three years, full accounts were given at the 
time, none better than the ' Narrative of the Voyages 
and Services of the Nemesis from 1840-43,' by W. D. 
Bernard, with which may be profitably compared Dr 
Eitel's concise history,^ published forty years later, 
with all the documents before him. 

The British Government came to the conclusion that 
the limits of forbearance had been overstepped. The 
action of the Chinese authorities during 1839 forced on 
it the choice of two alternatives, to abandon British 
subjects and their interests or to exact reasonable 
treatment for them from the Chinese. The latter was 
selected, and it was resolved to demand a commercial 
treaty under which foreign trade might be carried on 
with security to person and property. In support of 
this decision military and naval forces, equipped in 
England and in India, assembled on the coast of China 
during the spring of 1840. Among the novelties of this 
equipment were a number of small light -draught iron 
steamers, the most famous of which was the Nemesis, 
built for the Honourable Company by Mr Laird of 
Birkenhead, drawing only six feet laden. This exceed- 
ingly mobile little craft, under her energetic com- 
mander, W. H. Hall, performed almost incredible 
services as the maid -of- all -work of the expedition. 
The blockade of the Canton river, which had been 
established and withdrawn several times, was finally 
declared on the 28th of June 1840, as a first step in 
the regular war programme, by Commodore Sir Gordon 
Bremer. A few days later the command of the fleet 
was assumed by Hear- Admiral the Hon. George Elliot^ 

* Europe in Asia. Luzac & Co. 

64 THE FIRST CHINA WAR. [chap. iv. 

who was also appointed joint-plenipotentiary with Cap- 
tain Charles Elliot. 

Before commencing a general war upon the Emperor 
of China every resource was exhausted for opening 
communications with the Imperial Government through 
other channels than that of Canton. The frigate 
Blonde was despatched for this purpose to the harbour 
of Amoy, where the local officials not only refused to 
receive a letter from the English admiral, but ordered 
an attack upon the boat conveying it on shore. The 
frigate retaliated for this insult by opening fire upon 
the Chinese batteries and war-junks, after which she 
returned to Hongkong to report, proceedings to the 
admiral. About this time, early in July 1840, the 
island of Chusan was taken and occupied. The attempt 
to deliver a letter from Lord Palmerston addressed to 
the Cabinet at Peking, by way of Ningpo, having been 
frustrated by the authorities at that port, a blockade 
was established of Hangchow Bay and the mouth of 
the Yangtze. It had been Captain Elliot's favourite 
device, as it came to be that of all his successors, to 
apply pressure to the Court of Peking by means of a 
blockade of this the main artery of the Chinese empire, 
and it was by following up this scheme that the war 
thus commenced in 1840 was actually brought to a 
successful issue in 1842. 

The attempts to gain access to the Court through 
the southern seaports having failed, the venue was 
shifted to the neighbourhood of the capital itself A 
heavy squadron of ships accordingly anchored off the 
mouth of the Peiho — a demonstration which was suf- 
ficiently menacing to the capital to induce the Court to 
appoint an official to parley with Captain Elliot, and 


also to receive the undelivered letter from Lord Pal- 
merston. Kishen, a Manchu of high rank, was chosen 
for this service by the emperor. The first, perhaps the 
sole, object of Kishen's diplomacy was to relieve the 
apprehensions of the Court by procuring the prompt 
withdrawal of the foreign forces. This end was achieved 
in one short conference with Captain Elliot, when 
Tientsin was pronounced to be too near the emperor's 
palace for negotiations, and it was decided that the 
scene should be shifted back to Canton, a new com- 
missioner being appointed to supersede Lin, the imprac- 
ticable. The squadron thereupon, about the end of 
September, withdrew to Chusan. It was generally 
believed that an armistice had been arranged pending 
negotiations, but it was soon discovered that the only 
truce made applied exclusively to the island of Chusan, 
where it had been declared. The two English pleni- 
potentiaries repaired to Macao in November. 

All this while extensive preparations for hostili- 
ties were vigorously prosecuted in the neighbourhood 
of Canton. Attempts to communicate under flag of 
truce were repelled by force, and it was remarked 
that the Chinese were sufficiently well versed in the 
significance of the white flag to make free use of 
it for their own protection, while disregarding its 
employment by the other side. The Imperial Com- 
missioner, Kishen, reached Canton at the end of 
November, his arrival coinciding in point of time 
with the invaliding of Admiral Elliot, the co-pleni- 
potentiary, thus leaving the British negotiations once 
more in the sole hands of Captain Elliot until such time 
as Sir Gordon Bremer was appointed as his associate. 

Of the two diplomatists who had now to confront 
VOL. I. E 

66 THE FIRST CHINA WAR. [chap. iv. 

each other it would be difficult to say whether the 
English or Chinese was the more anxious to avert 
hostilities. To avoid precipitating a conflict negoti- 
ations were not pressed home by either party, nor 
were any steps taken to give eflect to the conference 
which had been held between them at Tientsin. 

The hostile demonstrations of the Chinese, and the 
extraordinary exertions they were putting forth to 
place themselves in a position to bar the entrance 
to the river, compelled the British naval commander- 
in - chief to assume the offensive by attacking the 
outer defences at its mouth. The forts and guns 
were destroyed as well as the Chinese fleet of war- 
junks, native Indian troops and Royal Marines form- 
ing an important part of the attacking force. There 
remained extensive fortifications within the embouch- 
ure, and every preparation was made on both sides 
for resuming the contest on the following morning ; 
but just as the British guns were about to open 
fire a small sampan, with an old woman and a man 
on board, was sent off by the Chinese admiral pro- 
posing a cessation of hostilities. This unpromising 
overture did actually eventuate in an armistice, hold- 
ing out the prospect of a treaty of peace, but with 
the details as usual carefully kept in the back- 
ground. During the period of truce granted by Cap- 
tain Elliot the Chinese continued as active as ever 
in strengthening and extending their defences. This 
necessitated continued precautions on the British side, 
for it is to be noted throughout all the proceedings 
that the naval and military commanders never shared 
the illusions of Captain Elliot as regards the con- 
ciliatory intentions of the Chinese. They formed their 


opinions upon what they saw with their eyes, and not 
by what any Chinese official professed with his lips. 

On January 20, thirteen days after the attack on 
Chuenpee forts. Captain Elliot announced from Macao 
that " prelimininary arrangements had been concluded. 
Hongkong was to be ceded, and an indemnity of 
§6,000,000 to be paid by the Chinese ; direct official 
intercourse on terms of equality, and trade to be 
resumed, within ten days." This good effect, he added, 
was " due to the scrupulous good faith of every 
eminent person with whom negotiations are still 
pending." The British plenipotentiary did not lose 
an hour in carrying out his part of the incomplete 
compact, which was the substantial one of rendering- 
back to the Chinese their captured forts. The cere- 
mony of the rendition of the Chuenpee forts was 
performed on the 21st, when the British flag was 
formally struck and the Chinese hoisted in its place 
under a salute from the flagship. On the other side 
the occupation of Hongkong by the British forces 
proceeded just as if the arrangements between the 
plenipotentiaries had been definitive. 

Serious conferences then ensued between the British 
and Chinese plenipotentiaries within the river, at a 
point known as the Second Bar. The blockade was 
nevertheless maintained, so that a French corvette 
which arrived to watch the course of events was 
unable to enter the river. Captain Elliot, however, 
invited her commander to accompany him and " assist " 
at his interview with Kishen. In the meanwhile the 
conciliatory attitude of the Chinese commissioner was 
severely denounced from the throne, and while these 
conferences were proceeding, messengers of war were 

68 THE FIRST CHINA WAR. [chap. iv. 

on their way from Peking charged with nothing less 
than the extermination of the barbarians. Kishen 
was degraded, and instead of peaceable negotiations, 
a proclamation w^ placarded on the walls of Canton 
offering $50,000 each for the heads of the British 
plenipotentiary and the commodore. 

After the expiration of this one - sided truce open 
hostilities were re-entered upon. The Bogue forts had 
to be once more captured, and the British flag re- 
hoisted. That accomplished, the blockade of the river 
was raised. This somewhat remarkable step was no 
doubt due to the overmastering anxiety shown through- 
out by Captain Elliot for the immediate resumption 
of trade, he having learnt in the Company's school 
to place the current season's business above every 
other consideration. It appears certain that the quite 
disproportionate value attached by him to this one 
object obscured his perspective, if indeed it did not 
vitiate his whole policy. Trading vessels were per- 
mitted to proceed up-river, but under the peculiar 
reservation that the stakes, chains, and barriers placed 
by the Chinese to obstruct navigation should first be 
removed. The fleet, nevertheless, had still to fight 
its way up to Canton, Captain Elliot meanwhile never 
ceasing to make overtures of peace to the Chinese. 
There were truces and suspensions of hostilities, all 
of the same nature, binding only on one side, and 
such a medley of peace and war as seemed rather 
to belong to the middle ages than to the nineteenth 
century. Trade was pushed on all the more briskly 
for the general fear that the duration of peace was 
likely to be brief; and as both parties were alike 
interested in getting the season's produce shipped. 


the Chinese authorities were not ill - pleased to see 
commerce thus carried on while they employed the 
interval in hurrying forward their grand preparations 
for the crushing of the invading force. Hostilities 
were suspended by an agreement on March 20, 1841, 
and Captain Elliot, after residing some time in the 
foreign factory, where he had opportunities of sound- 
ing the disposition of the new commissioners, declared 
himself perfectly satisfied with their " assurances of 
good faith," which he repeated in the same public 
manner a fortnight later — that is, a month after the 
suspension of hostilities. On leaving the Canton fac- 
tory Captain Elliot, strong in the faith he professed, 
urged on the senior naval officer the propriety of 
moving his ships away from the city in order to 
show our peaceful disposition, the guard of marines 
which had been stationed for the protection of the 
factories to be at the same time withdrawn. 

The mercantile community by no means participated 
in the confidence of the plenipotentiary, nor, as we 
have said, did the naval commanders. Indeed so 
little satisfied were they with the turn of affairs, 
that Sir Gordon Bremer left in a Company's steamer 
for Calcutta to lay the situation before the Governor- 
General of India. ^ This occurred in the middle of 
April. In the beginning of May troops were seen 
pouring into the forts near the city. An immense 
number of fire-rafts in preparation to burn the fleet 

^ Commodore Senhouse, who succeeded temporarily to the command, was 
so mortified by the coui'se of diplomacy that his death at Hongkong in the 
month of June 1841 was believed to have been hastened thereby. His 
dying request was that his body should be taken to Macao, for burial, as he 
feared that further conciliatory measures might result in Hongkong being 
given back to the Chinese. 

70 THE FIRST CHINA WAR. [chap. iv. 

could not be concealed, while placards of a most 
menacing character were posted about the city walls. 
Captain Elliot, whether he was shaken in his belief 
in the pacific assurances of the Chinese authorities 
or not, returned to the scene, on board the Nemesis, 
on the 10th of May, and it is said that, in order to 
show the Chinese that he still believed in their 
good faith, he was accompanied on this one occasion by 
his wife, probably the first European woman who had 
set foot in Canton. 

Several weeks more elapsed before the British 
plenipotentiary allowed himself to be finally dis- 
illusioned. Then he issued a proclamation to the 
merchants warning them to be prepared to leave 
the factories at a moment's notice, while the inevit- 
able Nemesis was moved close up for the protection 
of the foreign community generally. The Chinese 
had employed the greatest ingenuity in masking 
their warlike preparations, and even at the last, 
when they saw that concealment was no longer 
possible, they attempted to allay the a23prehensions 
of the foreigners by issuing an edict in order *' to 
calm the feelings of the merchants and to tran- 
quillise commercial business," — their object being, as it 
was confidently alleged, to take the whole community 
by surprise and completely annihilate them. 

Although thus attempting to lull the foreigners, 
the Chinese authorities had previously warned the 
natives, through the elders, to remove their families 
and effects from the neighbourhood of the river. On 
the very day after the soothing proclamation. May 
21, the signal for the renewal of the war was given 
by the launching of a number of ingeniously con- 

1839-42.] ATTACK BY FIRE-RAFTS. 71 

trived fire-rafts, which were dropped down by the 
tide upon the EngHsh vessels with the design of 
burning them at their anchors. This scheme failed 
in its object, partly from miscalculation, — only ten 
or twelve out of about a hundred being ignited, — 
and partly from the intrepidity of the British officers 
and seamen in grappling with those they could reach 
in their boats, and towing them out of their intended 
course. Indeed the destructive effects of these elab- 
orate engines were turned on the Chinese themselves, 
some of the rafts taking the ground close to the city 
and setting fire to the suburbs. This fiasco was 
followed on the one side by an attack on the forts 
and the destruction of a very large fleet of war-junks, 
and on the other by the demolition and pillage of the 
foreign factories, not however without some curious 

The attack on Canton was now undertaken in 
earnest. On the 26th May the heights in rear of 
the city had been captured and were held in force, 
so that the whole Chinese position was completely 
commanded. Everything was ready for the assault, 
which would have been a bloodless affair, an elevation 
just within the wall affording a military vantage- 
ground from which the whole city could have been 
dominated without the least risk by a very small 
force. At this critical moment Captain Elliot appeared 
to stay the hand of Sir Hugh Gough and Commodore 
Senhouse, the commanders of the military and naval 
forces respectively. Captain Elliot had, in fact, granted 
a truce in order to discuss, not the terms of peace 
with China, but merely the conditions on which the 
British forces should retire from Canton. The principal 

72 THE FIRST CHINA WAR. [chap. iv. 

of these were that the city should be evacuated by 
all the Chinese and Manchu troops, estimated at 
45,000, over whom the authorities proved that they 
had perfect control ; and that the authorities should 
pay the ransom of $6,000,000, in consideration of which 
all the river forts were to be restored to the Chinese, 
under the proviso that the forts below Whampoa 
were not to be rearmed until the final conclusion of 
peace. From first to last 1200 pieces of cannon had 
been captured or destroyed in these river forts, which 
would in any case have taken some time to replace. 

The incident which closed this transaction having 
an important bearing upon future events, it merits 
particular attention. Two days after the agreement 
was concluded the armed Braves of the city and 
locality began to assemble in great numbers on the 
heights threatening the British position, and they 
even advanced to the attack. Fighting ensued, which 
lasted two days, during which the Chinese force was 
constantly augmenting, and, though more than once 
dispersed by the British, it was only to reassemble 
in greater numbers and renew the attack. Thus the 
ransoming of the city seemed to be but the beginning 
of strife. At length the British commander insisted 
upon the prefect of Canton going out to the Braves 
and causing them to disperse, after which the British 
force re-embarked. The incident left on the minds 
of the Cantonese the conviction that they were in- 
vincible, for they took to themselves the whole credit 
of expelling the barbarians.^ This belief was destined 
to bear much bitter fruit in after-days. 

^ In a proclamation issued in 1844 it was said, "Remember how our 
people were persuaded not to fall upon and massacre your soldiers." 


The emperor repudiated all these pacific arrange- 
ments, and ordered that as soon as the English ships 
had withdrawn new and stronger forts were to be 
erected and armed. After the anomalous episode of 
Canton the war was transferred to the northern coasts. 
Hongkong, with its capacious and well-sheltered har- 
bour and facilities for ingress and egress, was found 
to be an admirable naval and military base, and the 
island soon became a scene of intense activity afloat 
and ashore. The Chinese were attracted to it in great 
numbers. Tradesmen, mechanics, builders, carpenters, 
servants, boatmen, market-people, and common labour- 
ers flocked into the island, where one and all found 
profitable employment both under the British Govern- 
ment and in connection with the commercial establish- 
ment which had already been set up there. It is 
estimated that during the year 1841 not less than 
15,000 natives from the mainland had taken up their 
quarters in the new possession of Great Britain, and 
were naturally of material assistance in the fitting out 
of the great expedition which was about to invade the 
eastern seaboard. One drawback, unfortunately, soon 
showed itself in the sickness and mortality of the 
troops, who were attacked by a fever attributed, 
rightly or wrongly, to the breaking up of the soil, 
which was composed of decomposed granite. Possibly, 
however, the hardships of campaigning in the un- 
healthy delta of the Canton river predisposed the 
men, when the excitement was over, to attacks of 
the diseases associated with the name of Hongkong. 
This disastrous epidemic left to the colony an evil 
reputation, which survived many years of hygienic 

74 THE FIRST CHINA WAR. [chap. iv. 

The agreement concluded between Captain Elliot 
and Kishen, repudiated by the emperor, was no less 
emphatically disapproved of by the Government of 
Great Britain. Captain Elliot was recalled, and 
quitted China on August 24, Sir Henry Pottinger, the 
new plenipotentiary, having arrived, in company with 
Vice- Admiral Sir William Parker, on the 10th, to the 
great joy of every one. The war was thereupon pur- 
sued systematically and with vigour. 

The twelve months over which these operations ex- 
tended will not seem long if we consider that the coast 
of China, with its marvellous archipelago, was then 
scarcely known to navigators ; that the ships were 
propelled by sails ; that they had to operate nearly 
1000 miles from their base — and that a place of which 
they held precarious possession ; and that the greatest 
caution was required in moving a squadron of fifty 
vessels, besides transports and store-ships. Indeed 
the real matter for surprise — and it reflects the highest 
credit on the officers concerned — is that in an expedi- 
tion of such magnitude, including the advance of 200 
miles up the Yangtze, a river till then quite unknown, 
so few casualties occurred. It should also be remem- 
bered that in this war against China precautions of 
quite unusual stringency were observed for the pro- 
tection of private property and the avoidance of injury 
to the population. 

The Chinese Government was allowed ample time 
for reflection between each step in the hostile advance, 
yet neither the capture of the coast forts and cities 
nor the incursions which were made from convenient 
points into the interior sufficed to bring the Court 
of Peking to sue for terms. Amoy, Chinhae, Chapu, 



Ningpo, Wusung, and Shanghai were taken in succes- 
sion, and Chusan was reoccupied. The Chinese defence 
of these various places was far from contemptible, ex- 
cepting only as regarded the antiquity of its methods 
and the inefficiency of its weapons. The fortifications 
at the various ports were very extensive, and were 
mounted with an immense number of guns. The 
troops in most cases stood bravely the attack by su- 
perior weapons and skill, in several cases waiting for 

fVa/Jter 6- Coc/tertii ic. 


the bayonet charge before abandoning their earth- 
works. It was not until the fleet had made its way 
up the Yangtze, secured the Grand Canal which 
connects the rich rice -growing provinces with the 
northern capital, and had taken its station in front 
of Nanking, the southern capital, that the strategic 
centre of the empire was reached. 

At Nanking, therefore, commissioners were appointed 
to treat with Sir Henry Pottinger, and as they had 

76 THE FIRST CHINA WAR. [chap. iv. 

nothing to do but acquiesce in his demands with the 
best grace, while at the same time saving the face of 
the Imperial Government as much as the circumstances 
of such a surrender would allow, the long -desired 
treaty of commerce was at last concluded on August 
29, 1842. 

The two Imperial Commissioners intrusted with the 
negotiations were men of the highest distinction and 
rank, Ilipu and Kiying. Of the latter it was said 
that he was the first high officer who since the com- 
mencement of the war had dared to tell the naked 
truth to his imperial master. Their joint memorial to 
the throne, on which the imperial instructions for sign- 
ing the treaty were based, was remarkable for its clear- 
ness, simplicity, and outspokenness, contrasting in 
these respects strongly with the customary tone of 
flattery, evasion, and bombast. Of Kiying we shall 
hear further in the sequel. 

Ilipu was already an old man and infirm. His name 
is never mentioned by contemporary writers without 
respect amounting almost to veneration. Governor- 
general in Nanking, he had been appointed Imperial 
Commissioner and ordered to Ningpo to get the de- 
pendent island Chusan cleared of foreigners. He had 
thus been brought into communication with the foreign 
commanders in connection with the occupation of 
Ningpo and the capture of Chapu, out of which a 
correspondence ensued alike honourable to both sides. 
A number of Chinese prisoners, after having their 
wounds attended to and their wants provided for, with 
a small present of money, were restored to liberty by 
the British commander. This unexpected action 
seemed to impress Ilipu, who in return sent down 




to Chapu a number of English prisoners, who had 
been for some time incarcerated at Hangchow, treating 
them handsomely, according to his lights. The de- 
spatch of the prisoners was accompanied by a respect- 
ful letter to Sir Hugh Gough and Sir William Parker, 
probably the first communication deserving to be so 
styled that ever passed between a high Chinese officer 
and a foreigner. These circumstances augured well 
for the success of future intercourse. Ilipu was sent 
to Canton as High Commissioner to arrange details 
as to the carrying out of the treaty. He died there, 
and was succeeded by Kiying, who brought the rati- 
fication of the treaty to Hongkong in June 1843. 





A one-sided bargain — Not deemed by Chinese obligatory — Condemned by 
powerful parties — The Chinese conscience against it — Fulfilment there- 
fore could not be voluntary — The Chinese and Manchus compared — 
Repugnance to treaty common to them both — Much determination 
needed to obtain fulfilment. 

Out of such antecedents in peace and war it was a 
moral impossibility that normal international relations 
between Chinese and foreigners should follow the con- 
clusion of peace. 

The treaty signed at Nanking by Sir Henry Pottinger 
in 1842, simple and explicit in its grammatical con- 
struction, and fulfilling as far as words could do so all 
the conditions of a charter of fair trade, was tainted 
with the vices of a one-sided bargain. Undeed the 
Chinese did not regard it in the light of a bargain 
at all, but as a yoke temporarily imposed on them 
which it was their business to shake off. Sir John 
Davis has told us that " at Peking almost every 
Chinese of rank and influence was opposed to the 
fulfilment of the stipulations of the treaty. The 
negotiators of it shared in the odium of the cowardly 
generals who had deceived their sovereign by false 
representations of their powers of defence." The 


obligations of the treaty, in fact, sat so lightly on 
their consciences, that only so far as they were held 
rigorously to its provisions would they observe them. 

The open-mouthed denunciation of the treaty in high 
quarters was but the textual confirmation of what was 
obvious in the nature of the case, that the Chinese 
Government regarded the treaty of Nanking as a i^se 
de guerre, a mere expedient for purchasing present 
relief, *' a temporary arrangement in order to recover 
from our losses." 

The official animus and the political conscience were 
thus entirely on the side of what we call bad faith, 
a state of things which has come down unabated to 
our own time, though prudence on the one side and 
pressure on the other have generally toned down the 
outward manifestation of it. 

Fulfilment of the treaty under these circumstances 
could only be hoped for by the actual employment of 
the coercive agency which had secured its signature, 
or by the conviction, firmly rooted in the minds of the 
Chinese, that such agency was always ready to be 
invoked. But as perpetual coercion on the part of 
Great Britain was not to be thought of, the establish- 
ment and maintenance of satisfactory working relations 
demanded on the part of the British agents responsible 
for the execution of the treaty a rare combination of 
personal qualities. They had, in fact, to assume a 
power which they did not possess, to trade upon the 
prestige which their country had gained by the success 
of its arms, trusting that their pretensions might be 
tacitly acquiesced in. Had this attitude been con- 
sistently maintained, in small as well as in great 
things, from the very outset, there is no telling 

80 THE TREATY OF 1842. [chap. v. 

whether the observance of the treaty might not have 
become a matter of Chinese routine, and in time ac- 
quired the sacred authority of custom. But the con- 
trary was the case, and it was not the observance but 
the non-observance of the treaty that was allowed to 
acquire the sanction of custom. 

The conduct of the war offered conclusive evidence 
that thouD^h certain individuals, from either better 
knowledge or higher principle than their contempor- 
aries, were inclined to meet their enemies fairly, yet 
the conscience of the State, as authoritatively repre- 
sented in the emperor's edicts, rejected as absurd 
the notion of keeping any kind of faith with the 
barbarians. Hence the barren result of all appeals 
to the binding authority of the compact, unless when 
backed by force ; hence also the efficacy of every 
application of force in the dealings of foreign nations 
with China whether before or after the treaty of 
1842. This consideration is indeed of the essence of 
our Chinese relations, though habitually ignored in 
the conduct of our intercourse. 

As reo;ards the attitude of the Chinese Government 
towards foreigners in connection with the war and the 
peace, an interesting and suggestive distinction has 
been drawn by Sir John Davis between the two ele- 
ments in the Government, the Chinese and the 
Manchu, — a distinction which has been independently 
made by other observers. It is therefore a point well 
worthy of being kept in view both in the conduct 
of official intercourse and in speculations as to the 
future of the Chinese empire. Sir John Davis, who, 
first as a Company's agent in China, then for a short 
time as British envoy before the war, and eventually 


chief superintendent of trade for some years after that 
event, had much experience in dealing with officials 
of the two races, is emphatic on the point that 
moderation and humanity were always found on the 
side of the Manchus, while implacable ferocity allied 
with treachery distinguished the Chinese officials. The 
war, he says, was solely the work of the latter, the 
peace, of the former. " New Tajin was a thorough 
Chinese, and, like the rest of his tribe, vociferous for 
war while it was absent, but unable to sustain its 
presence ; while the Tartars were generally advocates 
for peace, though they did their duty in an emer- 
gency." The antithetic character of the two races 
shown collectively and individually has been a matter 
of general remark by foreigners acquainted with both. 
" Ilipu," says Davis, " a Manchu by birth, possessed 
the un - Chinese quality of straightforwardness and 
honesty of purpose. ... As an early adviser of the 
sovereign, he had endeavoured to dissuade him from 
risking a foreign quarrel in making the English a 
party to the question of restricting the consumption 
of opium among his own subjects." 

The Manchu Kishen, who replaced Commissioner 
Lin on the failure of the latter, was also a man of 
good faith. He did his best first to avoid and then 
to terminate the war, and in the middle of it concluded 
a convention with Captain Elliot by which Hongkong 
was ceded and six millions of dollars were to be paid 
as ransom for Canton. Yet havinof been admonished 
by the emperor " to arouse the patriotism of the nation 
and send the heads of the rebellious barbarians to 
Peking in baskets, for to treat them reasonably is out 
of the question," he had to excuse himself by resort 

VOL. I. F 

82 THE TREATY OF 1842. [chap. v. 

to a false pretence of treachery. The convention he 
represented as a ruse, because " his reinforcements were 
yet far off"; but he declared that, "bearing the bar- 
barians many a grudge," he only abided his time " for 
exterminating them whenever it can be done." In the 
impeachment of that capable statesman one of the 
charges was, " You gave to the barbarians Hongkong 
as a dwelling-place, contrary to our law of indivisi- 
bility," to which he was fain to answer, " I pretended 
to do so, from the mere force of circumstances, to put 
them off for a time, but had no such serious intention ; 
... a mere feint to avert the further outrages of the 

He took up similar ground in apologising for the 
conduct of Admiral Kwan, a brave and respectable 
officer, who had asked and obtained an armistice in 
the Canton river : " He has agreed to a truce with the 
barbarians merely to gain time and be in a state to 
resist them." 

The courtesy of the Manchus was no less conspicuous. 
Lord Jocelyn, as quoted by Mr Hunter, remarked, after 
a meeting with Kishen : " He rose at our entrance and 
received the mission with great courtesy and civility. 
Indeed the manners of these high mandarins would 
have done honour to any courtier in the most polished 
Court of Europe." A French envoy was similarly im- 
pressed in an interview with Kiying : "I have visited 
many European Courts," he said, " and have met and 
known many of the most distinguished men belonging 
to them, but for polished manners, dignity, and ease 
I have never seen these Chinese surpassed." 

While the noblest of the officials were thus driven to 
assume a perfidy which was not really in their heart 


ill order to accommodate themselves to the prevailing 
temper, the baser minds were clamouring open-mouthed 
for meeting honour with dishonour. For it is instruc- 
tive to recall that the most truculent officials — Com- 
missioner Lin, for example — based their slippery 
strategy on the known good faith of the barbarians, 
'' which made their engagements sacred," as the Roman 
generals took advantage of the Sabbatical prejudices 
of the Jews. The Chinese could afford to play fast 
and loose with their end of the rope, knowing the 
other end to be secured to a pillar of good faith. The 
commissioners who signed the treaty in their report to 
the throne also testified that " the English had acted 
with uniform sincerity." 

The confiding spirit of the English tempted the 
common run of Chinese officials to practise systematic 
deception. Thus a disreputable Tartar, who was gover- 
nor of Canton, reported that he had " resolved to get 
rid of them by a sum of money, as by far the cheapest 
way. . . . But once having got rid of them, and blocked 
up all the passages leading to Canton, we may again 
cut off their commerce, and place them in the worst 
possible position," thus anticipating almost to the letter 
what took place at the Taku forts in the second war 
between 1858-59. A pamphlet, attributed to Com- 
missioner Lin, whose wanton atrocities had provoked 
the war, after testifying to the habitual good faith 
of the barbarian, urged the Government ** never to 
conclude a peace : an armistice, a temporary arrange- 
ment for the present, in order to recover from our 
losses, is all we desire." 

The Manchu and Chinese races are the complement 
of each other in the economy of the State. The 

84 THE TREATY OF 1842. [cHAP. V. 

Manchus, with their military heredity, were best fitted 
for the imperial role, while the Chinese are by tradition 
rather men of business than administrators. From 
which it may be inferred that the material progress 
of the country will rest more with the Chinese with 
all their faults than with the Manchus with their 
governing instincts. The Peking Court, indeed, has 
been long under the numerically preponderant influ- 
ence of the Chinese, and except in matters of dynastic 
interest they are Chinese rather than Manchu ethics 
which govern the acts of State. The counsels of such 
men as Lin and the Chinese party generally prevailed, 
as we have seen, over those of the distinguished 
Manchus, some of them belonging to the imperial 
family, who had to do with the foreign imbroglio, 
and it was in full accord with Chinese sentiment that 
the Emperor Tao-kuang was brought to declare that 
such a nation as the English should not be allowed 
to exist on the earth. 

Much of the hostility to the treaty may no doubt be 
fairly referable to the military humiliation of a Govern- 
ment to whom war was rebellion and rebellion parri- 
cide. Nor is the exasperation of the Chinese against 
their conquerors to be measured by those chivalrous 
standards which have been evolved from the tradi- 
tions of nations accustomed, even in war, to meet as 
equals. They were playing the game under a different 
set of rules. But when every such allowance has been 
made, the moral principle governing Chinese official 
conduct cannot be designated by any word in Western 
vocabularies but perfidy. Belligerency as understood 
by Western nations did not enter into their conception, 
and their war tactics of kidnapping, poisoning the 



water, torturing and massacring prisoners, and so forth, 
differed little from their procedure in time of peace, 
being in either case based on the implicit negation of 
human rights in connection with foreigners. 

It may thus be seen what difficulties had to be 
encountered, even under the treaty, in guiding the 
intercourse between Chinese and foreigners into safe 
and peaceable channels ; how much depended on the 
tact and capacity of the newly appointed consuls, and 
how little assistance they could hope for from the 
department which commissioned them. For no matter 
how perspicacious the Home Government might from 
time to time be, they were as much in the hands of 
their representatives after as they had been before 
the war. The distance was too great and the com- 
munication too slow for the most vigilant ministry 
to do more than issue general instructions. " The 
man on the spot" would act as his judgment or his 
feelings or his power prompted as emergencies might 
arise, and we have seen how even the clear intentions 
of Lord Palmerston were thwarted by the idiosyncrasies 
of some of his agents in China. 




Pretensions of British and Chinese irreconcilable — International equality 
inconceivable by Chinese — British aims as set forth by merchants — 
The inadequacy of their demands — Clearer insight of their Government 
— Unsteadiness of British policy — Consistency of Chinese policy — Treaty 
to be observed so far as needful to obviate another war — Canton irre- 
concilable — Ransoming the city in 1841 the cause of much subsequent 
trouble there. 

The pretensions of the contending parties being absol- 
utely irreconcilable, no spontaneous accommodation was 
possible between them. The Chinese could never ac- 
knowledge, or even comprehend, equality among nations, 
the single relationship of victor and victim being the 
beginning and the end of their international ethics. If, 
therefore, they ever set before their minds the issue to 
be decided by a war, it must have assumed the brutal 
but simple oriental form, Whose foot is to be on the 
other's neck ? The question, then, to be submitted to 
the ordeal of battle between Great Britain and China 
was. Which should be the uppermost ; which should 
henceforth dictate to the other? In justice to the 
Chinese, it must be admitted that they realised more 
clearly than their adversary what the quarrel really 
signified. What disconcerted them and led to chronic 
misunderstanding in the sequel was the after-discovery 


that the victor was slack in claiming the fruits of his 
victory. Whether they really expected success to 
attend their arms may be an open question, for their 
ingrained habit of boasting of their prowess may have 
deceived even themselves. With this caveat the tem- 
per in which the Chinese entered on hostilities may be 
gathered from a proclamation of the High Commissioner 
and the viceroy of Canton in September 1839: — 

Let it be asked [they say], though the foreign soldiers be 
numerous, can they amount to one tenth-thousandth part of 
ours ? Though it be allowed that the foreign guns are 
powerful and effective, can their ammunition be employed for 
any long period and not be expended ? If they venture to 
enter the port, there will be but a moment's blaze and they will 
be turned to cinders. If they dare to go on shore, it is per- 
mitted to all the people to seize and kill them. How can these 
foreigners then remain unawed ? 

From the British point of view the object of the 
China expedition was set forth with conspicuous 
moderation by the merchants of London and of the 
great industrial centres. And here it seems not un- 
fitting to remark upon the lively and intelligent in- 
terest which the commercial community of that period 
was wont to take in the affairs of China. The trade of 
Great Britain and of British India with that country 
had not reached the annual value of £12,000,000 ster- 
ling including treasure, yet we find in the years 1839 
and 1840 a series of ably drawn memorials to Govern- 
ment bearing the signatures of all the important houses 
in the kingdom, showing the most intimate acquaint- 
ance with everything that was passing in China, even 
though they failed to apprehend the full signification 
thereof The signatories of these papers pointed out 

88 THE FRUITS OF THE WAR. [chap. vi. 

without circumlocution the measures necessary to be 
taken in order to place the commercial interests of 
her Majesty's subjects on a satisfactory footing. It 
would appear, therefore, that it was from the inde- 
pendent merchants and manufacturers of Great Britain 
and British India that the true inspiration came to 
Lord Palmerston, who was then Foreign Minister ; and 
not the inspiration only, but the courage which was 
needed to throw over the pusillanimous traditions of 
the Honourable East India Company, and to apply 
the maxims of common - sense to our relations with 
the Chinese authorities. 

Among the memorials addressed to, and by request 
of, the Foreign Secretary, that from the East India 
and China Association, representing the merchants of 
London interested in the Far East, gives perhaps the 
clearest exposition of the whole case from the com- 
mercial point of view. After a succinct historical 
resume of our successes and failures in China, each 
traced to its cause, the memorialists state their opinion 
that " submission will now only aggravate the evil, 
and that an attempt should be made, supported by a 
powerful force, to obtain such concessions from China 
as would place the trade upon a secure and permanent 
footing." And they conclude with an outline of the 
commercial treaty which they think would conduce to 
that result. 

First. Admission not only to Canton, but to certain ports to 
the northward — say Amoy, Fuh-cho-foo, Ningpo, and the 
Yang-che-keang and Kwan-chou — situated between 29° and 
32° north latitude, near the silk, nankin, and tea districts, and 
it is on this coast that the chief demand for British woollens, 
longells, and camlets exists. 


Secoiid. Commercial relations to be maintained at these 
places, or at Canton, generally with the Chinese natives; but 
if the trade be limited to certain hongs, which we must strongly 
deprecate, then the Government to be guarantees of the solvency 
of such parties so chosen by it. 

Third. That British subjects in China carrying on a legiti- 
mate trade shall not be treated by the Government or its 
officials as inferiors, but be left free in their social and domestic 
relations to adopt European customs, to possess warehouses, and 
to have their wives and families with them, and to be under the 
protection of the Chinese laws from insult and oppression. 

Fourth. That a tariff of duties, inwards and outwards, be 
fixed and agreed upon by the British and Chinese Governments, 
and no alteration be made but by mutual consent. 

Fifth. That the Queen's representative, as superintendent 
of the trade, be allowed direct communication with the Emperor 
and his Ministers, as well as with the local authorities ; and 
that he be permitted to reside at Peking, or at a given port, 
for the protection of British subjects and the regulation of the 

Sixth. That in the event of any infraction of the Chinese 
laws, the punishment for the same shall be confined to the 
offender; and British subjects shall not be considered 
responsible for the acts of each other, but each man for his 
own — the innocent not being confounded with the guilty. 

Seventh. That supposing the Chinese to refuse opening their 
ports generally, the cession by purchase, or otherwise, of 
an island be obtained, upon which a British factory could be 

Upon terms such as these the British trade with China could, 
we think, be carried on with credit and advantage to this 
country ; and if force must be used to obtain them, we cannot 
believe that the people of Great Britain and the European 
community in general would offer any objection to its exercise ; 
at least we humbly suggest that the adoption of this course is 
worth the trial, for if it be not followed, the only alternative 
seems to be the abandonment of this important and growing 
commerce to smugglers and to piracy. — We have, &c., 

G. G. DE H. Larpknt. 
John Abel Smith. 
W. Crawford. 

90 THE FRUITS OF THE WAR. [chap. vi. 

These stipulations, and the hypothetical form in 
which they were advanced, show how imperfect, after 
all, was the grasp which the mercantile community had 
as yet taken of the situation. While fully recognising 
the necessity of force and urging its employment, they 
yet seem to have clung to the hope that in some way 
or another the expected treaty was to be the result of 
amicable negotiation. They did not clearly realise that 
as without force nothing could be obtained, so with 
force everything could be. 

And from what an abyss the status of British subjects 
had come to be regarded when it could be deemed a 
boon that they be placed under the protection of 
Chinese law — instead of being kept for ever outside 
the pale of law and of common human suffrages I For- 
tunately the Government, profiting by past experience 
and better versed in political science, held a more 
consistent course than that marked out for it by the 
merchants, and went far beyond them in the conces- 
sions demanded of the Chinese Government. Instead 
of trusting to Chinese law, protection for the persons 
and property of British subjects was provided for under 
the laws of Great Britain, a stipulation in the treaty 
which has been the palladium of the liberties of all 
nationalities in China for sixty years. The ambiguity 
which characterised the public appreciation of the 
China question, even when expressed through the most 
authoritative channel, deserves to be noted here on 
account of the influence it was destined to exercise on 
the future conduct of affairs ; for though the British 
Government was perspicacious in the conduct of the 
war and in arranging terms of peace, yet, lacking the 
sustained support of a well-instructed public opinion, 


its Chinese policy was subject to many backslidings. 
During protracted intervals of inadvertence the per- 
nicious influences which it was the purpose- of the war 
to suppress were allowed to regain lost ground, with 
the result that during the whole sixty years our 
Chinese intercourse has been marred by the chronic 
recrudescence of the old hostile temper which inspired 
the outrages before the war. 

On the part of the Chinese Court there was un- 
doubtedly a desire for such substantial fulfilment of the 
treaty as might obviate the risk of a renewal of the 
war. The final instruction of the Emperor Tao-kuang 
while the negotiations were proceeding w^as, " Be 
careful to make such arrangements as shall cut off for 
ever all cause of war, and do not leave anything incom- 
plete or liable to doubt." And so long, at least, as the 
material guarantee of Chusan was retained by Great 
Britain — that is, until 1846-'— no open violation was to 
be apprehended. The Chinese war party, however — as 
distinguished from the more reasonable Manchus — were 
furious in their denunciations of the treaty ; and it was 
the opinion of Sir John Davis that the situation wa^ 
only saved by the financial exhaustion of the country: 
"the ordinary taxes could not be collected." There 
would in any circumstances have been a strong pre- 
sumption of covert evasion being resorted to, a presump- 
tion which was reduced to a certainty by the indulgence 
extended to that ancient focus of mischief. Canton. By 
one of those aberrations of judgment w^hich it is scarcely 
unfair to call characteristic, Captain Elliot desired to 
save Canton, of all places in the Chinese empire, from 
the pressure of war, and in 1841, in the midst of 
hostilities on the coast, he accepted ransom for the city, 

92 THE FRUITS OF THE WAR. [chap. vi. 

a transaction so inexplicable that her Majesty's Treasury, 
at a loss what to do with the money, after much ex- 
planatory correspondence declared itself unable to 
appropriate the fund in the manner intended by her 
Majesty's representative. The arrogance of the 
Cantonese had been so immeasurably puffed up by this 
misguided clemency that the peace left the populace of 
the city and district absolutely convinced of their 
invincibility. As the eradication of this dangerous 
delusion was among the primary purposes of the war, so 
the pandering to the pride of Canton proved, as was 
inevitable, the malignant root of all subsequent 

^ It is impossible to review, however summarily, the events of that period 
without free reference to the officer who was during the time charged with 
the care of British interests in China. But no pretence is made in these 
pages to pass a verdict on the public record of Captain Elliot. His acts 
involved too many solecisms in finance, for one thing, to have escaped the 
attention of Parliament ; but, like others who come before that tribunal, he 
was neither attacked on his merits nor defended on his merits. None could 
question the sincerity of the encomiums passed by the Duke of Wellington 
and Lord Melbourne on his " courage, coolness, and self-devotion " ; to 
which might well be added a quite exceptional fearlessness of responsibility. 
But the first representatives of the British Crown in China were doomed to 
failure by the nature of their commission. The terms of their instructions 
were more than contradictory — they were mutually destructive. To con- 
ciliate the Chinese while opening official relations with them was to mix 
the ingredients of an explosive. A dilemma was, in fact, presented un- 
wittingly by the British Government to their agents. Lord Napier impaled 
himself on one horn — that of claiming a diplomatic status ; Captain Elliot 
on the other — that of gaining over the Government by conciliation ; and no 
earthly skill could have saved either of them. 




The fundamental diflEiculty of giving eflfect to the treaty — Necessity for 
thoroughness — Character of Kiying, Imperial Commissioner — His 
amicable relations with British Superintendent of Trade — Turbulence 
of Canton — Outrages on British merchants — Condoned by Chinese 
Government, if not encouraged both by imperial and pro\^ncial 
authorities — Sir John Davis's testimony — His passive treatment — 
False policy of allowing Chinese Government to screen itself behind 
the mob — Postponement of entry into city — Climax in affair — Evacua- 
tion of Chusan — Increase of insults at Canton — Sir John Davis palliates 
and then asks for redress — Sudden reaction in his policy consequent on 
Lord Palmerston's becoming Foreign Secretary — His clear despatches 
— Sir John Davis makes a raid on the river defences — Has the city at 
his mercy — But makes an unsatisfactory agreement — Withdraws pro- 
tection in spite of remonstrance of merchants — Massacre of six English- 
men in 1847 — Redress — Whole question of British protection brought 
up — Canton consul objects to ship of war at factories — Palmerston 
orders one to be there — Agreement to defer entry into city till 1849 — 
People intoxicated with their success — The potency of the people — Its 
limitations — Interesting correspondence — Final agreement dictated by 
people and signed by Sir John Davis and Kiying. 

To carry out a treaty which was odious to Chinese 
officials in general, most of all to the bureaucracy and 
populace of the main centre of intercourse, Canton, 
required an effort analogous to that of maintaining a 
body of water at an artificial level — success in either 
case depending on completeness. It is easier to keep 
the reservoir intact than to compromise with leakages, as 
in certain conditions of the human will total abstinence 

94 THE NEW INTERCOURSE. [chap. vii. 

is less irksome than moderation. To carry out the treaty, 
the whole treaty, and nothing but the treaty, would 
seem, therefore, to have been the obvious course for 
British agents to follow, a course suited equally to 
strong and to weak characters. This was, no doubt, 
understood by some, though not by all, of the British 
staff, — fifty years ago, as in our own day ; but in 
the distribution of the personnel it fell out that the 
fundamental condition of success was least realised 
just where it was most imperatively needed — to 
wit, at that intermittent volcano. Canton. For even 
the close proximity of the chief superintendent — only 
120 miles distant — at Hongkong was insufficient to 
keep the cistern of our Canton relations water-tight. 
Sir John Davis, on the whole a competent official, 
shared to some extent in the common human imper- 
fection of knowing what was right without always 
doing, or being able to do, it. He is indeed him- 
self the most candid witness to the breakdown of 
the patchwork policy which he permitted to grow 
up in Canton, perhaps because he could not do 

The first British plenipotentiaries under treaty were 
exceptionally fortunate in their Chinese colleague, the 
High Commissioner, Kiying. He being a near kins- 
man of the emperor, and, with Ilipu, the principal 
instrument in promoting the conclusion of peace, his 
appointment must have been considered the best 
recognition the Court could accord of the validity 
of the treaty. " Kiying," says Sir J. Davis, " was 
by far the most remarkable person with whom Euro- 
peans have ever come in contact in that part of 
the world ; the most elevated in rank as well as 


the most estimable in character." Intercourse with 
Kiying, therefore, was pleasant, and conducive to self- 

Both officials were unfortunate in having to reckon 
with an intractable peace-disturbing element in their 
mutual relations. This is the name which, for want 
of a more exact designation, must be given to the 
people of Canton, " who, through every event since 
1839, remained incorrigible in the real hatred and 
affected contempt for foreigners." 

It has always been, and still is, the practice of the 
Chinese authorities to make use of the populace in 
their aggressions on strangers. There is at all times 
in China, as in most countries, an inexhaustible fund 
of anti-foreign sentiment ready to be drawn upon by 
agitators, whether within the Government circle or not, 
and subject also to spontaneous explosion. By working 
on these latent passions, and inflaming the popular 
mind by the dissemination of odious calumnies, Govern- 
ment could at any moment foment an anti-foreign raid. 
It was a political engine in the use of which Chinese 
officialdom had become thoroughly expert. It was 
tempting by its cheapness, and it had, moreover, the 
special fascination for them that in the event of being 
called to account for outrage they could disavow the 
excesses of the "poor ignorant people." Such a force, 
however, is not without its drawbacks to those who 
employ it. Like a fire, which is easy to kindle but 
hard to control, the popular excitement was apt to 
extend beyond the limits assigned by its instigators, 
and many an engineer has thus been hoist by his own 
petard. " Otho had not sufficient authority to prevent 
crime, though he could command it," says Tacitus ; and 

96 THE NEW INTERCOURSE. [chap. vii. 

the observation fits the case of successive generations 
of Chinese rulers as if it had been written for each one 
of them separately. 

The rowdy population of Canton enjoyed special 
immunity from official control. Not only had they 
been habitually pampered for two hundred years, and 
diligently taught to tyrannise over and despise for- 
eigners, but during the war they were allowed to 
organise themselves independently of the authorities, 
and to claim the honour of driving the invaders off on 
the occasion when the city was admitted to ransom. 
On the mendacious reports of these transactions reach- 
ing him, the emperor not only bestowed rewards on the 
leaders but encouraged the populace to further hostile 
measures against the foreigners. The liberal distribu- 
tion of arms during the war proved afterwards a power- 
ful incentive to crimes of violence, of which outrages on 
foreigners were but one development. 

The self-organised, self- trained bands of Canton were 
by no means disposed to submit tamely to the new 
order of things, in the settlement of which they had 
had no voice. They had bettered their official instruc- 
tion in the storing up and practising of hatred and 
contempt for foreigners, and they did not choose sud- 
denly to recant merely because their Government had 
been coerced into making a treaty in a distant pro- 
vince. Consequently, within three short months of its 
signature notices were placarded inciting the people to 
violence ; very soon an organised attack on the British 
factories was made, and the buildings were burned 

So far from attempting to repress such outrages, the 
governor of Canton, " while the ruins were still smok- 


ing," reported to the throne that the people " in their 
natural indignation had committed some excesses 
against the grasping barbarians," and a very gracious 
answer was vouchsafed to an offer of the people of 
certain outlying villages to join the armed bands of the 
city. The Imperial Government as well as the pro- 
vincial government was thus identified with the 
popular hostility to foreigners, and opposition to the 
fulfilment of the treaty. " The excesses of the Canton 
mob," writes Sir John Davis, " were perpetually and 
annually resumed, up to the public decapitation of the 
four murderers of the Englishmen in 1847, with the 
subsequent punishment of eleven more." 

But this is surely remarkable testimony from the 
Minister of Great Britain who was charged with the 
protection of his nationals ^ from wrong ? With British 
garrisons in occupation of Kulangsu and Chusan, a 
military and naval force in Hongkong, and a Chinese 
commissioner professedly willing to afford protection 
and redress to foreigners, the acquiescence of the British 
authorities in these recurrent outrages seems to stand 
in need of explanation. The native authorities, it was 
clear, would not, even if they dared, coerce the Canton 
populace. Kiying himself, though meaning to be just, 
and ready to enforce redress against individual culprits, 
recoiled before the mob. So it would appear did the 
British representative, who, though vigilant in requiring 
compliance with the treaty in minor respects, seemed to 
be paralysed whenever the Cantonese were in question. 

1 This convenient term, borrowed from the French, saves many peri- 
phrases and sometimes an ambiguity. Neither "fellow-countrymen," 
"fellow-subjects," nor "fellow-citizens" fully expresses the relationship 
between an official in an extra-territorialised country and those whom he 
protects and governs. 

VOL. T. G 


He had been too long accustomed to their practices not 
to be aware of the cumulative quality of these outrages, 
and he was too practical a philosopher not to know the 
wisdom of arresting the virulent stream at its fountain- 
head. Yet " the miserable policy of the Chinese 
Government . . . had permitted the populace of 
Canton ... to reach the culminating-point of organ- 
ised misrule in 1846," British merchants being the 
sufferers. Why was nothing done to protect them at 
least from the consequences of this misrule ? 

The intricacies of the relation between the criminal 
rabble of Canton and the authorities there it would be 
hopeless to unravel, just as it would be vain to make 
such an attempt with regard to analogous cases which 
are to this day of constant recurrence. But no special 
penetration is needed to discover the falsity of a policy 
of allowing an organised government to plead its 
inability to control its own populace. Once admit 
such a plea and the security of the stranger is gone, 
for he has relinquished his hold on the Government 
without being compensated by any alternative security. 
Such was the state of things which had been allowed 
to grow up in Canton, producing the only fruit possible 
— outrage, ever increasing in violence and ending in 

The postponement of the right of entry into the city 
conferred by treaty was a test case which gave the 
Chinese the clue to the weakness of British policy. 
The consequences would have been less pernicious had 
the right been frankly surrendered from the first, for 
to have it merely deferred from time to time on the 
avowed ground of the populace not being ready to 
acquiesce in it was to flatter the mob beyond measure 


while feeding their passion for violence. It was in this 
manner that the British Government had " given itself 
away " to the lawless rowdies of Canton. 

The " climax " referred to by Sir John Davis occurred 
at an interesting juncture of time, for it was in 1846 
that the last British soldier quitted Chinese soil, and 
Sir John Davis testifies that the restoration of Chusan 
had produced a change for the worse in the tone of the 
Chinese authorities. Kiying himself forgot his ur- 
banity and acted " with a degree of hrusquerie, not to 
say insolence, never before exhibited by him." 

A riotous attack on the foreign factories broke out in 
July 1846, in which the merchants were compelled in a 
body to defend themselves against an immense number 
of assailants. For this outbreak Sir John Davis blamed 
one of the English merchants, and got him irregularly 
fined by the consul. A murderous assault was com- 
mitted on two British seamen in the city of Canton in 
October following. In the ordinary routine he reported 
the occurrence to the Foreign Ofiice in a despatch of 
seven lines. " Two English merchant seamen," he said, 
" having strayed into the town, had been violently ill- 
used by the populace" ; adding that he ** considered it 
to be the duty of the consul to prevent seamen wander- 
ing through Canton." He at the same time instructed 
the consul to find some means of punishing the master 
of the ship for allowing his men liberty, and proposed 
placing greater power in the hands of the consul for the 
restraint of British subjects generally. Above this level 
the plenipotentiary seemed unable to rise. 

In March 1847 an English party of six, including 
Colonel Chesney, commanding the Royal Artillery in 
Hongkong, narrowly escaped murder at the hands of a 

100 THE NEW INTERCOURSE. [chap. vii. 

riotous mob during an excursion up the Canton river. 
They strayed much farther than the two sailors had 
done, and if they did not fare worse it was due to the 
almost miraculous interposition of a Chinese officer with 
his followers, he himself being roughly handled by the 
mob. It would not do to apply to Colonel Chesney's 
case the homoeopathic treatment which was thought 
appropriate to the others, and Sir John Davis made 
a formal demand on the Chinese authorities for the 
punishment of the aggressors. The cup of Chinese 
iniquity was deemed full, and the avenger was at last 
let loose. 

Whence, it is pertinent to ask, came this sudden 
access of vigour in the British representative ? 

The juncture of time above referred to was inter- 
esting from another point of view, for coincidently 
with the evacuation of Chusan and the renewed 
arrogance of the Chinese, a political event took place 
in the western hemisphere which had an important 
bearing on the whole attitude of Great Britain. 
There was a change of Government, Palmerston 
succeeding Aberdeen at the Foreign Office. The 
influence of Lord Palmerston on Chinese affairs dur- 
ing his long public career was so remarkable, that 
the ebb and flow of British prestige may be traced 
as closely by his periods of office as the course of 
the oceanic tide by the phases of the moon. Let 
any patriotic Englishman ransack the records of the 
sixty odd years of that statesman's full activity, and 
he will find no despatch or speech on the subject of 
China, even down to our own day, that will afford 
him such genuine satisfaction as those emanating from 
Lord Palmerston. They are so much the embodiment 


of common -sense that they might sometimes be con- 
sidered commonplace ; practical, true, clear as a 
bugle-note. He had been barely six months in 
oiBce when one of his terse despatches to Sir John 
Davis turned that cautious official for the time being 
into a hero. The astonishment of Sir John may be 
imagined when, in reply to his placid report of the 
outrage on the two seamen, he received a curt com- 
munication from the Foreign Office in which his 
attention was directed to the punishment, not of the 
victims, but of the perpetrators, of the outrage. 

I have [wrote Lord Palmerston, January 12, 1847] to 
instruct you to demand the punishment of the parties guilty 
of this outrage ; and you will, moreover, inform the Chinese 
authorities in plain and distinct terms that the British Govern- 
ment will not tolerate that a Chinese mob shall with impunity 
maltreat British subjects in China whenever they get them into 
their power ; and that if the Chinese authorities will not by 
the exercise of their own power punish and prevent such 
outrages, the British Government will be obliged to take the 
matter into their own hands. 

Sir John Davis was the more ready to respond to 
this stirring appeal that it reached him just as he 
had entered on a correspondence with the Chinese 
respecting the attack on Colonel Chesney's party. 
The turn of the tide was marked with unusual dis- 
tinctness in a single sentence of the plenipotentiary's 
despatch dated March 27, 1847. "The records of 
the Foreign Office," wrote Sir John, "will convince 
your lordship that during the last three years I 
have been rigidly tied down by my instructions to 
the most forbearing policy. . . . The time has, in 
my opinion, certainly arrived when decision becomes 

102 THE NEW INTERCOURSE. [chap. vii. 

necessary and further forbearance impolitic." The 
inspiration of these instructions may be inferred from 
a speech of Lord Stanley's in 1845, in which he said, 
speaking of China, " I believe, so far as our later ex- 
perience has gone, that there is no nation which more 
highly values public faith in others; and up to the 
present moment I am bound to say there never was 
a government or a nation which more strictly and 
conscientiously adhered to the literal fulfilment of 
the engagements into which it had entered." This 
from a Minister of the Crown, after three years of 
continuous outraores in Canton and of refusal to ful- 
fil a specific article in the treaty, reflects either on 
the superintendent of trade in China as having with- 
held information from the Government, or on the 
Government itself in arriving at conclusions dia- 
metrically opposed to the tenor of their agents 
despatches. If it be any justification of the Govern- 
ment theory to say so, the sentiments expressed by 
Lord Stanley were echoed by the newspapers of the 
day. " The Chinese," said one of them, " have acted 
with exemplary good faith, nor is there the least 
probability of their failing in future to do so." 

Under the new af&atus, and backed handsomely by 
the naval and military commanders, Sir John Davis 
proceeded to prick the bubble of mob lawlessness 
and to reduce the Anglo- Chinese relations to working 
order. This he did by a sudden raid on the Canton 
river defences, without apparently any diplomatic 
preliminaries. By a brilliant feat of arms General 
D'Aguilar with a detachment from the Hongkong 
garrison, conveyed by three small steamers of the 
China squadron, swept the defences of the Canton 


river, blew up the magazines, spiked 827 pieces of 
heavy cannon, and placed the city of Canton "en- 
tirely at our mercy, ... all without the loss of one 
British life." Under the intoxication of such a 
triumph the plenipotentiary might be pardoned the 
illusion that the Canton troubles were now at an 
end. ''The Chinese yielded in five minutes what 
had been delayed as many months." And yet it 
proved to be a fool's paradise after all in which he 
found shelter, for the old fatality of half-measures 
that has marred so many British victories over- 
shadowed Sir John Davis's first essay in diplomacy. 
The agreement in seven articles concluded with Ki- 
ying on April 6, 1847, contained such blemishes as 
the British negotiator could perceive clearly enough 
when the work of other officials was in question. 
Having laid down broadly that the good faith of 
the Chinese Government bore a direct relation to 
the hostages they had given, yet the plenipotentiary, 
when he came to business on his own account, 
abandoned the securities which were actually in his 
hands, and, either from misgivings of some sort, or 
under the impulse of a sudden reconversion, he 
threw himself unreservedly on the good faith of the 
Chinese without any guarantee whatever. 

With regard to the protection to be affi)rded to the 
merchants and the prevention of attacks upon them. 
Lord Palmerston wrote in December 1846 : " Wherever 
British subjects are placed in danger, in a situation 
which is accessible to a British ship of war, thither a 
British ship of war ought to be, and will be ordered, 
not only to go but to remain as long as its presence 
may be required. I see no reason for cancelling the 

104 THE NEW INTERCOURSE. [chap. vii. 

instructions given to you for the constant presence of 
a ship of war within reach of the factories at Canton." 
This promise of Lord Palmerston's was the sheet- 
anchor of the merchants' security. The question of 
having a ship of war close to the factories divided 
the mercantile from the local official view, and as the 
Home Government had so clearly adopted the former, 
the merchants took courage to stand up for what they 
deemed their rights. Learning that Sir John Davis, 
in the plenitude of his military success, had resolved 
to withdraw all her Majesty's forces from Canton, they 
ventured to make a strong remonstrance against such 
a step. Sir John, however, while consenting to the 
retention of a portion of the force, never allowed him- 
self to be convinced of the need of any such measure. 
Writing to his Government in August 1847, he de- 
clared that " the Canton factories were never less in 
need of the presence of such a vessel than at present," 
— an opinion frequently reiterated until November 20, 
when "for the first time since the peace it may be 
confidently predicated that a steamer will not be re- 
quired." This was within sixteen days of the most 
cruel and revolting massacre of six young Englishmen 
at Hwang-chu-ke, within three miles of the city. The 
absence of a ship of war at that moment was deeply 
deplored, because several of the victims were kept alive 
long enough to have been rescued had there been any 
British force at hand. 

This massacre naturally produced a profound im- 
pression on the Canton community, who felt that their 
warnings and petitions had been cruelly disregarded. 
The resident British merchants, in a memorial to Lord 
Palmerston, quoted his lordship's own instruction as to 


the stationing of a British ship of war at Canton, and 
said " it was with the utmost surprise and regret they 
beheld that officer [Sir J. Davis] shutting his eyes to 
the danger that menaced us, . . . and withholding 
the protection he had been directed to afford." " The 
heavy calamity which has befallen us," they add, ** is 
the result of this infatuation." 

So much for the protection of life and property 
resulting from the armed expedition of 1847. The 
value of the new agreement, purely local in its bear- 
ing, which was the result of the successful invasion, 
was esteemed but lightly by the merchants. In their 
memorial, written in the month of August, they said : 
" If it is not deemed expedient to carry out a general 
measure in the manner contemplated by the 4th article 
of the new agreement, it would be much better that 
the merchants be again left to themselves " ; while 
respecting the military raid and its consequences, 
they represented that "the just alarm occasioned by 
the expedition four months ago, and the excitement 
kept up by these fruitless negotiations, have done in- 
calculable injury. to the trade without bettering the 
position of foreigners in the least." 

Such diverse views of policy held by the principal 
parties concerned are typical of the relations which 
have subsisted between the protectors and the pro- 
tected throughout a great part of the period which 
has elapsed since the British Government established 
relations with China in 1834. 

These occurrences at Canton and the decided action 
taken by the British Government brought up in a 
definite form the whole question of the safety of 
British interests in China, and the means by which 

106 THE NEW INTERCOURSE. [chap. vii. 

it was to be secured. The conversion of Sir John 
Davis, though much, was not everything. The aim 
of Lord Palmerston's policy was still liable to be de- 
flected by the perturbing influence of a minor planet in 
the system. The consul in Canton gave him almost 
as much trouble in his day as the famous Tiverton 
butcher did afterwards in his ; and the patience with 
which his lordship endeavoured to enlighten his agent 
on the most elementary principles of human action 
was admirable. It had been the practice of the 
consul " to report to your Excellency another wanton 
and unprovoked attack on the part of the populace 
upon a party of Englishmen," and at the same time 
to deprecate any measures of defence, whether by 
organising volunteers among the residents or having 
a British ship of war stationed where she could be 

The consul's object in all this was to avoid exciting 
suspicion in the minds of the Chinese populace. Sir 
John Davis, who had all along agreed with the con- 
sul, had now to tell his subordinate that ** Viscount 
Palmerston was of opinion that we shall lose all ad- 
vantages which we have gained by the war if we 
take the low tone which has been adopted at Canton." 

We must stop [continued his lordship] on the very threshold 
any attempt on their part to treat us otherwise than as their 
equals. . . . The Chinese must learn and be convinced that if 
they attack our people and our factories they will be shot. . . . 
So far from objecting (as the Consul had done) to the armed 
association, I think it a wise security against the necessity of 
using force. . . . Depend upon it that the best way of keeping 
any men quiet is to let them see that you are able and deter- 
mined to repel force by force, and the Chinese are not in the 
least different in this respect from the rest of mankind. 



In the light of the history of the subsequent fifty 
years, one is tempted to say that Lord Pahnerston's 
dictum puts the eternal China question in a nutshell. 

But when we reflect on the consequences of a man 
" of great experience " needing such lectures and yet 
left for years undisturbed at a centre of turbulence like 
Canton, can we greatly wonder at the periodical harvest 
of atrocities which followed ? 

The one important article in the April agreement was 
that suspending for a definite period of two years the 
operation of the article of the treaty of Nanking con- , 
ferring the right of entering the city of Canton and the 
other ports of trade. Sir John Davis demanded either 
permission to ''return your Excellency's visit in the 
city, or that a time be specifically named after which 
there shall be general free ingress for British subjects." 
To which Kiying replied, " The intention of entering 
the city to return my visit is excellent. The feelings 
of the people, however, are not yet reconciled to it." 
And Kiying easily had his way. Sir John thereupon 
explicitly sanctioned a definite delay of two years in 
the exercise of this treaty right, representing the 
privilege in his report to Lord Palmers ton as of little 

Such, however, was not the view either of the Chinese 
or the British community of Canton. The throwing 
open of the city was by the latter considered the 
essential object of the recent expedition, and in their 
memorial to Lord Palmerston the merchants stated 
that the Braves having declared their determination 
to oppose the English at all costs, the withdrawal of 
our troops re infectd " intoxicated all ranks of the 
people with an imaginary triumph." Exclusion from 

108 THE NEW INTERCOURSE. [chap. vii. 

the city thus remained as a trophy in the hands of the 
reactionaries, to become in 1856 the crux of a new 
dispute and a new war. 

It was no imaginary, but a very real, triumph for 
*^ the people"; and even looking back on the trans- 
action with the advantage of fifty years' experience, it 
is difiicult to avoid the conclusion that it was an in- 
version of judgment to have a city entirely at your 
mercy and then yield to the city instead of making the 
city yield to you. The least that could have been 
expected was, that while the troops were on the spot 
they should have vindicated the treaty of Nanking once 
for all by opening the city gates and thus eliminating 
the most pregnant source of future strife. 

On one point Sir John Davis was in agreement with 
the memorialists — namely, in " tracing back the con- 
duct of the Canton populace to the operations of 1841, 
on which occasion they were spared by our forces at the 
rear of the city." But the merchants were pointing 
out to Lord Palmerston that Sir John Davis was him- 
self implicitly following that very precedent. 

The China career of Sir John Davis was destined 
to a tragic finale, for in the midst of a series of de- 
cidedly optimistic despatches he was startled by the 
news of the Hwang-chu-ke murders. Expiation was as 
prompt as could have been reasonably expected, the 
High Commissioner not daring to afford provocation for 
a further punitive expedition which might not have 
ended quite so easily as that of the previous April. 

The Canton imbroglio of 1847 threw into strong 
relief the potency of the Chinese demos and its relation 
to the Central Government. The pretensions of the 
populace and the stress of events drove the Imperial 


Government into a corner and forced it to show its 
hand, with the result that the occult combination which 
had been the despair of British officials for fourteen 
years was resolved into its elements, and for a time 
made amenable to treatment. It was demonstrated by 
this experiment that though the Imperial Government 
dared not, except in extremity, oppose any popular 
movement, yet when necessity required the authorities 
assumed an easy mastery. Sir John Davis wrote in 
one of his latest despatches, " Kiying had clearly 
proved his power over the people when he chooses to 
exercise it." Coerced themselves, the authorities ap- 
plied corresponding coercion to the people, even at the 
behest of foreigners, " truckling" to whom was equally 
disgraceful to both the Chinese parties. The inter- 
action of the two Powers exemplified in a memorable 
way the principle of all Chinese intercourse, that bold- 
ness begets timidity and gentleness arrogance. When 
the people asserted themselves the authorities yielded 
and fell into line with them, and when the authorities 
asserted themselves the people succumbed. Such were 
the lessons of the Canton operations of 1847, lessons 
since forgotten and relearned again and again at ever- 
increasing cost. 

But the relations between the Government and the 
people bore also a quasi-diplomatic character. They 
dealt with each other as if they were two Estates of 
the realm having parallel or concurrent jurisdiction. 
The most remarkable phase, however, of the popular 
pretensions which was evolved under the unaccustomed 
pressure of the British Minister was the attempt of the 
populace to diplomatise direct with him. So curious 
an incident may still be studied with profit. The new 

110 THE NEW INTERCOURSE. [chap, vil 

departure of the people was the more startling in that 
they had been hitherto known only as a ferocious and 
lawless mob addicted to outrage, whose hatred of 
foreigners gained in bitterness by a long immunity 
from reprisals. Now that they had felt the " mailed 
fist " of a man of fact, and were almost in the act of 
delivering up their own heroes for execution, they 
sought to parley with the Power they had despised. 

The elders of the murderous villages, in the midst of 
his stern demands, sent a memorial to Sir John Davis 
full of amity and goodwill. *' Come and let us reason 
together" was the burden of this novel address. The 
elders proposed a convention for the suppression of 
outrages, somewhat on the lines of the Kilmainham 
Treaty, to supersede the law of the land. " The former 
treaty drawn up in Kiangnan was not well understood 
by the common people " ; in other words, it was want- 
ing in validity, for " the resolutions of Government are 
in nowise to be compared to those self-imposed by the 
people. . . . Were not this preferable to the fruitless 
proclamations and manifestos of government ? " "It 
has, therefore," they say, " been resolved to invite the 
upright and influential gentry and literati of the whole 
city to meet together, and, in concert with the wealthy 
and important merchants of your honourable nation, 
establish a compact of peace." 

Though he could not receive such a communication 
officially. Sir John Davis forwarded a copy to the 
Foreign Office, to whom he imparted his belief that 
the author was no other than Kiying himself — a sur- 
mise which was soon confirmed. The paper was exten- 
sively circulated ; its arguments and phraseology were 
adopted by Kiying in his official correspondence with 


Sir John Davis. " The compact of peace " which closed 
their negotiations amounted to no more, indeed, than 
police protection for foreigners in their country walks, 
which, however, was counterbalanced by a new re- 
striction excluding them from the villages as they had 
already been from the city. The interesting point is 
that, such as it was, it was the proposal of the people 
ratified by the two plenipotentiaries. 

From this hurried sketch of affairs at Canton during 
the first five years of the new intercourse we see that 
the secular policy of China had undergone no change as 
a result of the treaty. The settled determination of 
the Government to exclude foreigners from the country 
and keep them in strict subjection at the farthest mari- 
time outpost of the empire had been overcome by 
violence ; but the Chinese never abandoned the hope 
of retrieving their position in whole or in part, nor did 
they forego any opportunity of avenging their military 
defeat. A frontal attack being out of the question, the 
invader could be perpetually worried by guerilla tactics, 
his sentries caught napping, his chiefs bamboozled : 
what had been lost through force might thus be won 
back by force and fraud judiciously blended, for craft is 
the natural resource of the weak. The conditions of 
the contest have varied with the international develop- 
ments of fifty years, but time has worked no change in 
the nature of the struggle East v. West. 




Visit of Chinese commissioners to Hongkong — A supplementary treaty 
negotiated — Chinese thereby obtain control of junk trade of colony — 
Vain efforts to recover the lost ground — New ports criticised — Amoy 
— Alcock's temporary residence there, 1844 — Interpreter Parkes — 
Foochow — Bad beginning — Insolence of mandarin and mob — Lost 
ground recovered during Alcock's consulate — His family arrive — Little 
trade — Difficulties of diverting the Bohea trade from old routes — 
Alcock's commercial reports — Their grasp of salient points in a fresh 
range of subjects. 

It accorded with the fitness of things that the negoti- 
ator of the treaty should remain to carry out its 
provisions. Sir Henry Pottinger was appointed the 
first Governor of Hongkong, Chief Superintendent 
of Trade, and Minister Plenipotentiary for Great 
Britain ; Kiying and two associates Imperial Com- 
missioners for China. Intercourse between them was 
of the most agreeable character. Though the wound 
to the pride of China was deep and still fresh, the 
Imperial Commissioners' acceptance of the new state 
of things exceeded what the most stoical philosophy 
could call for. They came in person, on invitation, 
to the alienated island, there to exchange the rati- 
fications of the Nanking treaty ; entered heartily into 
the life of the community, showed great interest in 


their nascent institutions, and "returned to Canton 
charmed with English civilisation." China then was 
really converted, and Kiying the patron saint of 
the young colony ! That adroit Manchu, however, 
had a purpose to serve by his effusive bonhomie: it 
was nothing less than to undermine the treaty of 

So long as Sir Henry Pottinger was negotiating 
under the guns of her Majesty's ships he was master 
of the situation, but when pitted against the Chinese 
in the open field the position was reversed, for they 
had definite aims and knew how to gain them. 
Arrangements were found necessary for the conduct of 
trade at the five consular ports ; the relations be- 
tween the colony of Hongkong and the empire of 
China, as regards criminals, debtors, &c., required 
definition ; and, more important still, the native ship- 
ping frequenting its harbour had to be regulated. 
The negotiations required for these purposes afforded 
Kiying a favourable opportunity for giving effect 
to the reactionary policy of the Chinese Government. 
The supplementary treaty was negotiated at the 
Bogue between Sir Henry Pottinger and Kiying in 
October 1843. The Chinese version seems to have 
been signed by the British agent without his hav- 
ing before him a textual English translation : by its 
provisions the Chinese authorities engaged to protect 
the junk traffic in colonial waters. Sir Henry Pot- 
tinger did not realise the kind of weapon he had 
thus placed in the hands of his friends until its 
damaging effects were demonstrated by experience. 
Then what had been lost by diplomacy was sought 
to be partially regained by persuasion. To this end 

VOL. I. H 

114 THE NEW TREATY PORTS. [chap. viii. 

strenuous efforts were made by successive governors 
of Hongkong to induce Kiying to forego some of 
the powers which had been inadvertently conferred 
on him, as their exercise was proving ruinous to the 
trade of the island. But as this result was precisely 
what had been intended by the Chinese, nothing short 
of another war would have moved them to yield a 
single point. 

His hesitation to exercise the right of entry into 
the city of Canton conferred by the treaty of Nan- 
king, while allowing the Chinese the full advantage 
of the concessions gained by them under the sup- 
plementary treaty, must likewise be held as a blemish 
on the policy of Sir Henry Pottinger. The best pal- 
liation of these errors of the first treaty -maker is 
perhaps to be found in the fact that his successors, 
with many years of actual experience to guide them, 
have fallen into the same errors of both omission 
and commission. 

In other respects Sir Henry Pottinger's arrange- 
ments for giving effect to the treaty seem to have 
been as practical as the untried circumstances would 

The opening of the new ports, with the exception 
of Shanghai, was unfavourably commented upon by 
a section of the English press, not perhaps unwilling 
to score a point against the '* Tory Government, which 
was alone answerable for the treaty of Nanking." 
They denounced the opening of so many ports on 
the ground that it would only multiply points of 
collision with the Chinese. Three years later the 
'Times' pronounced "Amoy, Foochow, and Ningpo 
as good for nothing as places of trade," while Hong- 


kong itself was equally despised as a commercial 
colony. Some of the journals resuscitated the idea 
which had been freely discussed during the years 
preceding the war, and advocated the acquisition in 
sovereignty of islands as emporia instead of ports on 
the mainland, and it is worthy of remark that the 
same idea was again revived by Mr Cobden twenty 
years later. *' Get two other small islands," he said 
in 1864; "merely establish them as free ports" on 
the model of Hongkong. And this with a view to 
superseding the treaty ports on the coast, where trade 
had been established for twenty years. 

Three of the new ports — Shanghai, Ningpo, and 
Amoy ^- were opened under Sir Henry Pottinger's 
auspices in 1843; Foochow in 1844. These places, 
distributed at approximately equal intervals along the 
coast-line of 1000 miles between Shanghai and Canton, 
were not chosen at random. They had all been at 
one time or another entrepots of foreign commerce 
with either Europe, Southern Asia, or Japan. Foo- 
chow had been many years before strongly recom- 
mended by one of the East India Company's tea-tasters 
as most desirable for the shipment of tea. An ex- 
pedition equipped by the Company under Mr Hamilton 
Lindsay, who, like the other servants of the Company, 
was versed in the Chinese language, visited the north- 
ern coast in the chartered ship Amherst in 1832, and 
gained the first authentic information concerning the 
commercial capabilities of Shanghai. Mr GutzlafF, 
who acted as secretary and coadjutor to Mr Lindsay's 
mission, made several adventurous voyages, including 
one in Chinese disguise, in a native junk, to Tientsin. 
Though the coast had not yet been surveyed, and 

116 THE NEW TREATY PORTS. [chap. viii. 

navigation was in consequence somewhat dangerous, 
a good deal of fairly accurate information, some of it 
already obsolete, was by these means placed at the 
disposal of those who made the selection of the treaty 
ports. Ningpo was noted for its literary culture, for 
the respectability and intelligence of its inhabitants, 
and their friendly disposition towards foreigners. But 
although it was the entrepot of a flourishing coasting 
trade, the shallowness of its river, the want of anchor- 
age at its embouchure, and its vicinity to Shanghai, 
combined to preclude the growth of foreign commerce 
at the port of Ningpo. 

It was to Foochow that Mr Alcock was appointed 
in 1844, by Mr Davis (as he then was), who had 
recently succeeded Sir Henry Pottinger. The new 
consul, however, made his actual debut at Amoy, 
where he was detained for four months, from No- 
vember 1844 to March 1845, acting for the titular 
consul at that port. There he at once displayed 
that energy and clear-sightedness which were to be- 
come so conspicuous in his subsequent career. Two im- 
portant matters had to be arranged within the period 
named — the evacuation of the island of Kulangsu by 
the British garrison and the future residence of the 
consul. Trifling as this last may seem, it was a matter 
of no small consideration in China, where, to paraphrase 
Polonius, the dwelling oft proclaims the man. It was 
one of the innumerable devices of the Chinese authori- 
ties for degrading new-comers in the eyes of the popu- 
lace to force them to live, as at Canton, within a con- 
fined space or in squalid tenements. Mr Alcock knew 
by instinct the importance of prestige, while his Benin- 


sular training had taught him the value of sanitation. 
Following these two guiding stars, he overbore the 
obstruction of the officials, and not only obtained a 
commodious site but had a house built to his own 
specification during his temporary incumbency of the 
office. That, and his general bearing towards the 
authorities, stamped on the Amoy consulate the im- 
press of dignity which has never been wholly effaced. 
He was most fortunate, it must be allowed, in his in- 
struments, chiefly in the interpreter whom he found at 
Amoy, a man, or rather a boy — for he was only sixteen 
— entirely after his own heart. That was Harry 
Parkes, one of the bravest and best of our empire- 
builders. It is indeed to the journals and letters of 
Sir Harry Parkes, edited by Mr Stanley Lane-Poole, 
and to notes supplied for that biography by Sir Puther- 
ford Alcock himself in 1893, that we are chiefly in- 
debted for the record of their joint proceedings at 
Amoy, Foochow, and to some extent also Shanghai, 
from 1844 to 1848. The consul made a favourable 
first impression on the young interpreter, who described 
him in a family letter as " tall but slimly made, stand- 
ing about six feet in his boots ; . . . very gentle- 
manly in his manners and address, and exceedingly 
polite." It was not, however, till he reached his proper 
post, Foochow, that the mettle of the new consul and 
interpreter was seriously tested. 

Foochow was of superior rank to the other two ports, 
being, like Canton, at once a provincial capital and the 
seat of a governor-general or viceroy of two provinces 
— namely, Fukien and Chekiang — and possessing a 
Manchu garrison. The Chinese Government was be- 
lieved to have been most reluctant to open Foochow 

118 THE NEW TREATY PORTS. [chap. viii. 

as a trading port at all, which seemed reason enough 
for the British negotiators insisting on its being opened. 
Its trade was small, which perhaps rendered the port 
the more suitable for the experimental purpose of test- 
ing the principles which were to govern the new 

As the leading occurrences there have been set forth 
at some length by Mr Stanley Lane-Poole in the above- 
mentioned work, there is the less reason for us to linger 
over details. We find that on arrival at the end of 
March 1845 Mr Alcock discovered that he had not to 
maintain, but to regain, the prestige which had already 
been lost at Foochow. Canton was, in fact, repeating 
itself both as regards the arrogance of the Chinese and 
the acquiescence of British officials. Exclusion from 
the city and various other indignities had been imposed 
on the consul, who, on his part, had followed the course 
which had proved so fatal at Canton of currying favour 
by submission. Living in a shed,^ where Mr Davis on 
a flying visit was ashamed to receive return calls from 
the native authorities, keeping up no great state, afraid 
even to hoist his consular flag for fear of hurting the 
feelings of the Chinese, the consul soon brought upon 
himself and his nationals the inevitable consequences of 
his humility. Mob violence and outrages, encouraged 
at first by the authorities in order to cow the foreigners, 
had attained dimensions which at last alarmed the 

^ " Mr Lay, who has been officiating as consul for some weeks, has been 
located in a miserable house built on piles on a mud flat, apart from the 
city, and above the bridge, where the tide, as it ebbs and flows, daily sweeps 
up to his door ; and all efi'orts to obtain even decent accommodation in the 
city, where he is entitled to demand it, or in any but this pestilent 
locality, have been in vain." — ' Times ' Correspondent, Hongkong, October 
22, 1844. 


authorities themselves, all within two years of the 
opening of the port. Mr Alcock set himself sternly 
to oppose this downward current, but a year elapsed 
before the violence of the people and the studied rude- 
ness of the officials were finally stamped out. For, 
curiously enough, as Mr Lane-Poole has so well pointed 
out, every outrage in Canton found its echo at Foochow, 
showing clearly where lay the " centre of disturbance," 
as our meteorologists express it. 

In the end, however, the ascendancy of the British 
authority was completely achieved. The consul and 
the interpreter between them succeeded in getting 
proud Tartars put in the common pillory and lesser 
ruffians severely flogged, while before they left Foochow 
in 1846 they had extorted from the authorities sub- 
stantial pecuniary compensation for injuries sustained 
by British subjects. The credit of these vigorous 
measures no doubt belonged in the first instance to 
Sir John Davis, the chief superintendent, who had 
been so struck with the deplorable condition of things 
on his first official visit to the port in 1844 that he 
empowered the new consul to find the remedy. The 
effect of this resolute policy on the mandarins was as 
prompt and natural as the effect of the submissive 
policy had been, and it is instructive to read the testi- 
mony of Sir John Davis that, after redress had been 
exacted, " the consul was on the best terms with the 
local authorities," which is the perpetual lesson taught 
in all our dealings with the Chinese. 

Foochow is distinguished among the coast ports of 
China by the beauty and even grandeur of its scenery 
and the comparative salubrity of its climate. The city 
itself contains above half a million of people, covers an 

120 THE NEW TREATY POETS. [chap. viii. 

extensive area on the left bank of the river Min, and is 
connected with the foreign quarter by a stone bridge of 
forty-five *' arches," which are not arches but spaces 
between the piers on which huge granite slabs are laid 
horizontally, forming the roadway. The houses and 
business premises of the merchants, the custom-house 
and foreign consulates, are all now situated on Nantai, 
an island of some twenty miles in circumference, which 
divides the main stream of the Min from its tributary, 
the Yungfu. In the early days the British consulate 
was located within the walled city, in the grounds of a 
Buddhist temple, three miles from the landing-place 
and business quarter on Nantai, and approached 
through narrow and exceedingly foul-smelling streets. 
Mrs Alcock joined her husband as soon as tolerable 
accommodation could be prepared for her, and being 
the first foreign lady who had set foot in the city, her 
entry excited no small curiosity among the people. A 
year later Mrs and Miss Bacon, Mrs Alcock's mother 
and sister, were added to the family party, and though 
curiosity was still keen, they were safely escorted 
through the surging crowd to their peaceful enclave 
in the heart of the city. The situation was suggestive 
of monastic life. Being on high ground the consulate 
commanded a superb mountain view, with the two 
rivers issuing from their recesses and the great city 
lying below forming a picturesque foreground, while in 
the middle distance the terraced rice-fields showed in 
their season the tenderest of all greens. The circum- 
stances were conducive to the idyllic life of which we 
get a glimpse in the biography of Sir Harry Parkes, 
who shared it. He speaks in the warmest terms of the 
kindness he received from Mr and Mrs Alcock, who 


tended him through a fever which, but for the medical 
skill of the consul — no other professional aid being 
available — must have ended fatally. They helped him 
with books, enlarged his field of culture, and there is 
no doubt that daily intercourse with this genial and 
accomplished family did much to supply the want of 
that liberal education from which the boy had been 
untimely cut adrift. The value of such parental influ- 
ence to a lad who had left school at thirteen can hardly 
be over-estimated, and he did not exaggerate in writing, 
** I can never repay the Alcocks the lasting obligations 
I am under to them." 

During the first few years there was practically 
no foreign trade at Foochow except in opium, which 
was conducted from a sea base beyond port limits, 
a trade which was invisible alike to Chinese and 
British authorities in the sense in which harlequin 
is invisible to clown and pantaloon. The spasmodic 
attempts which were made to open up a market for 
British manufactures met with no encouragement, for 
only one British merchant maintained a precarious 
existence, and the question of abandoning the port 
was mooted. The prospect of commercial develop- 
ment at Foochow depended on its vicinity to that 
classic centre of the tea cultivation, the famous 
Bohea range, about 250 miles to the westward, 
whose name, however, was used to cover many in- 
ferior products. Ten years more elapsed before this 
advantageous position was turned to practical account, 
owing to the serious obstacles that stood in the way 
of changing the established trade route to Canton 
and the absence of aggressive energy sufiicient to 
overcome them. Through the enterprise of an Amer- 


ican merchant in alliance with Chinese, Foochow began 
to be a shipping port for tea about the year 1853, 
growing year by year in importance until it rivalled 
Canton and Shanghai. But as its prosperity has 
always rested on the single article, the fortunes of 
the port have necessarily fallen with the general 
decay of the Chinese tea trade. 

Apart from the task of putting the official inter- 
course on a good working basis, of maintaining order 
between the few foreigners, residents, and visitors, 
and the native population, the consular duties at 
a port like Foochow were necessarily of the lightest 
description. But it was not in Mr Alcock's nature 
to make a sinecure of his office. He was a stranger 
to the country, about which he had everything to 
learn. He was surrounded by problems all of great 
interest, and some of them pressing urgently for 
solution, and he had to make a success of his port 
or " know the reason why." Among the fruits of 
his labours during the latter part of his term at 
Foochow are a series of commercial reports, partly 
published by Government, which bear witness to 
exhaustive research into every circumstance having 
any bearing on the genesis of trade, and applying 
to those local, and to him absolutely novel, conditions 
the great root principles which are of universal validity. 
Considering how alien to his previous experience was 
the whole range of such subjects, his at once grappling 
with them and firmly seizing their salient features 
showed a mind of no common capacity. For there 
was nothing perfunctory about those early treatises ; 
on the contrary, they were at once more polished 
and more profound than most things of the same 



kind which have appeared during the subsequent 
half century. The principal generalisations of recent 
commentators on the trade of China were in fact set 
forth in the three Foochow consular reports of 1845-46, 
while many supposed new lights which the discussions 
of the last few years have shed on Chinese character 
and methods had been already displayed, and in a 
more perfect form, in the buried records of the super- 
intendency of trade in China. 




Shanghai — Importance of its situation — Consul Balfour — Germ of municipal 
institutions — The foreign settlements — Confidence and civility of the 
natives — Alcock appointed consul, 1846 — Excursions into the country 
— Their limitations — Responsibilities of consuls. 

Of the four new ports, Shanghai, by far the most 
important, had been fortunate in the selection of its 
first consul. This was Captain George Balfour of 
the Madras Artillery, who, like a wise master-builder, 
laid the foundations of what is now one of the 
greatest emporia in the world. Captain Balfour had 
managed the beginnings of the settlement so judici- 
ously that the merchants enjoyed the fullest facilities 
for prosecuting their business, while the consul main- 
tained good relations with the native authorities and 
no hostile feeling existed between the foreign and 
native communities. The circumstances of the place 
were favourable to all this : the foreign residents 
were not, as at Canton, confined to a narrow space ; 
they had abundance of elbow-room and perfect free- 
dom of movement in the surrounding district, which 
was well provided with footpaths and an excellent 
system of waterways. The people of that part of 
the country are of a peaceable and rather timid dis- 
position. Altogether, a healthy condition of things 


'- ^1 



had grown up, there seemed to be no grievance felt 
on either side, while the material prosperity of the 
natives rapidly increased as a result of a great and 
expanding foreign trade, to which they had never 
been accustomed. The regulation of business accom- 
modation and residence was very simple and worked 
automatically. A certain area, ample for every pur- 
pose that could be foreseen, was set apart by the 
Chinese Government for the residence of foreigners, 
the location having been indicated by Sir Henry 
Pottinger on his way from Nanking after the signing 
of the treaty. The rights of the native proprietors 
were in no w^ay interfered with, the merchants and 
others who desired to settle were at liberty to deal 
with the natives for the purchase of building lots, and 
as the prices paid were so much above the normal value 
of the land there was no essential difficulty in effecting 
purchases. But there being so many interested parties, 
several years elapsed before the whole area had passed 
into the possession of foreign occupants. The land 
remained the property of the Crown, held under per- 
petual lease, subject only to a small ground-rent, which 
was collected through the consulates, as at this day. 
Roads were gradually marked out and jetties for boats 
were built on the river frontage, and what is now a 
municipal council served by a large secretarial staff 
and an imposing body of police, and handling a budget 
amounting to £130,000, came into existence under 
the modest title of a " Committee for Roads and 
Jetties." In the beginning there seems to have been 
an idea of forming separate reservations of land for the 
subjects of the three treaty Powers — Great Britain, 
France, and the United States ; but the exigencies of 

126 SHANGHAI. [chap. ix. 

business soon effaced the theoretical distinction as 
between England and America, whose separate ideal 
settlements were merged for all practical purposes 
into one cosmopolitan colony, in which the Powers 
coming later on the scene enjoyed the same rights 
as the original pioneers. 

To ground thus wisely prepared Mr Alcock succeeded 
in the autumn of 1846. His four months at Amoy 
and eighteen at Foochow were only preparatory for the 
real work which lay before him in the consulate at 
Shanghai, whither he carried in his train the interpreter 
Parkes, with whom he had grown accustomed to work 
so efficiently. Shanghai by this time was already 
realising the position assigned to it by nature as 
a great commercial port, and the resident community, 
120 Europeans all told, was already forming itself into 
that novel kind of republic which is so flourishing to- 
day, while its commercial interests were such as to give 
its members weight in the administration of their own 
affairs as well as in matters of public policy. 

The level country round Shanghai was, as we have 
said, very favourable for excursions by land and 
water, affording tourists and sportsmen congenial re- 
creation. The district was in those days remarkably 
well stocked with game. Pheasants of the "ring- 
necked" variety, now so predominant in English pre- 
serves, abounded close up to the city wall, and were 
sometimes found in the gardens of the foreign resi- 
dents. Snipe, quail, and wildfowl were plentiful in 
their season, the last named in great variety. All 
classes of the foreign community took advantage of 
the freedom of locomotion which they enjoyed. Newly 
arrived missionaries, no less than newly arrived sports- 

'*■ .#, ,, 


men, were encouraged by the ease and safety with 
which they could prosecute their vocation in the towns 
and villages accessible from Shanghai. Within the 
radius authorised by treaty the foreigners soon be- 
came familiar objects in a district which is reckoned 
to support a population as dense as that of Belgium. 
Not only did friendly relations exist, but a wonderful 
degree of confidence was established between the 
natives and foreign tourists. It was not the custom 
in those days for foreigners to carry money, the only 
coinage available being of a clumsy and non - port- 
able character. They paid their way by " chits " or 
orders upon their comprador, and it was not un- 
common for them in those early days to pay for sup- 
plies during their excursions into the interior by a 
few hieroglyphics pencilled on a scrap of paper, which 
the confiding peasant accepted in perfect good faith, 
and with so little apprehension that sometimes a con- 
siderable interval would elapse before presentation of 
these primitive cheques — until, perhaps, the holder 
had occasion to make a journey to Shanghai. 

But although the foreigner in his proper costume 
moved freely within the prescribed area, it was con- 
sidered hazardous to venture beyond these limits. It 
was also, of course, a nominal contravention of the 
treaty, for the consequences of which the traveller 
must take the whole risk. Those, therefore — and they 
were exceedingly few — who could not repress the 
desire to penetrate into the interior adopted as a 
disguise the costume of the natives. It was thus that 
Fortune made his explorations into the tea districts 
of China. The notion that either difficulty or danger 
attended these distant excursions gradually disap- 

128 SHANGHAI. [chap. ix. 

peared, and about the year 1855 sportsmen and 
travellers began to explore the forbidden country 
without any disguise at all, to the great amusement 
of the populace, and to the profit of the priests of 
the temples where they found accommodation. 

The consular authorities occupied a peculiar and 
highly responsible position in China. Their nationals 
being exempt from native jurisdiction, and subject only 
to the laws of their own country, promulgated, inter- 
preted, and, when occasion arose, executed, by the 
consul, that functionary was morally answerable to the 
people and the Government of China for the good 
behaviour of his countrymen. On the other hand, it 
was his primary duty to defend them against all ag- 
gression of the Chinese. Between these two opposite 
duties the consul needed all the discretion, courage, 
and good judgment that he could command ; and it 
was but natural that individual temperament or the 
pressure of local circumstances should cause diversity 
in the mode in which the consuls interpreted their 
instructions and balanced the different claims of their 
public duty. As has been said before. Captain Balfour 
had shown himself most judicious in all his arrange- 
ments for the protection and advancement of his 
countrymen in Shanghai. Foreseeing, notwithstand- 
ing the peaceable disposition of the natives, that risks 
might attend unfettered intercourse with the interior, 
he had thought it prudent to restrict the rambles of 
British subjects to the limits of a twenty-four hours' 
journey from Shanghai, — a limit which coincided with 
curious exactness with the " thirty -mile radius " of 
defence against the rebels which was laid down by 
Admiral Hope eighteen years later. 



Attack on three missionaries — Redress extorted by Consul 
Alcock — Its lasting eflfect. 

Affairs in Shanghai had followed a placid and un- 
eventful course until an incident occurred which 
brought into sudden activity the latent forces of dis- 
order. Within little more than a year after the arrival 
of Mr Alcock at his new post an outrage was per- 
petrated on the persons of three English missionaries, 
which led to the first and the last important struggle 
between the British and Chinese authorities in Shang- 
hai. The assailants of Messrs Medhurst, Lockhart, 
and Muirhead, the three missionaries concerned, were 
not the peaceably disposed natives of the place, but 
the discharged crews of the Government grain-junks, 
who had been cast adrift by the officials and left to 
shift for themselves after the manner of disbanded 
soldiers. The attack took place at a small walled town 
called Tsingpu, within the authorised radius, and the 
three Englishmen came very near losing their lives. 
Mr Alcock lost not a moment in demanding full redress 
from the Chinese authorities, who instinctively shel- 
tered themselves under the old evasive pleas which 
had proved so effective at Canton. It happened that 
the highest local official, the Taotai, had had ex- 
perience of the southern port, and, entirely unaware 
that he was confronted in Shanghai with a man of 
very different calibre from any he had encountered 
before, he brought out all the rusty weapons of the 
Canton armoury, in sure and certain hope of reducing 

VOL. I. I 

130 THE TSINGPU AFFAIR. [chap. ix. 

the consul's demands to nullity. Evasion being ex- 
hausted, intimidation was tried, and the consul and his 
interpreter were threatened with the vengeance of an 
outraged people, quite in the Canton manner. But 
intimidation was the very worst tactics to try on two 
Englishmen of the stamp of Alcock and Parkes, and 
when that card had been played the Chinese game 
was up. 

The situation was one of those critical ones that 
test moral stamina, that discriminate crucially between 
a man and a copying-machine. It was also one which 
illuminated, as by an electric flash, the pivotal point 
of all our relations with China then as now, for the 
principle never grows old. It is therefore important 
to set forth the part played by the responsible officer, 
the support he obtained, the risks he ran, and the 
effective results of his action. An absolutely unpro- 
voked murderous outrage had been perpetrated on 
three Englishmen ; the Chinese authorities refused 
redress with insolence and evasion ; acquiescence in the 
denial of justice would have been as fatal to future 
good relations at Shanghai as it had been in the 
previous decade in Canton. What was the official 
charged with the protection of his countrymen to do ? 
He had no instructions except to conciliate the 
Chinese ; there was no telegraph to England ; com- 
munication even with the chief superintendent of 
trade at Hongkong, 850 miles off", was dependent 
on chance sailing vessels. Delay was equivalent to 
surrender. Now or never was the peremptory alter- 
native presented to the consul, who, taking his official 
life in his hands, had to decide and act on his own 
personal responsibility. Had time allowed of an 


exchange of views with the plenipotentiary in Hong- 
kong, we know for certain that nothing would have 
been done, for the first announcement of Mr Alcock's 
strong measures filled Mr Bonham (who had just suc- 
ceeded Sir John Davis) with genuine alarm. 

Considering the instructions [he wrote] with which you have 
been furnished from the Foreign Office, dated December 18, 
1846, and the limited power and duties of a consul, I cannot 
but express my regret that you should have taken the steps 
you have seen fit to do without previous reference to her 
Majesty's plenipotentiary, as undoubtedly, under the peremptory 
orders recently received from her Majesty's Government, I 
should not have considered myself warranted in sanctioning, 
&c., &c. 

Fortunately for the consul and for the peaceful 
development of British trade, one of Palmerston's 
specific instructions had been obeyed in Shanghai. 
There was a British ship of war in port, the 10-gun 
brig Childers, and, what was of still more importance, 
a real British man on board of her, Commander Pit- 
man, who shared to the full the Consul's responsibility 
for what was done. 

The measures adopted by Consul Alcock — when 
negotiation was exhausted — were to announce to the 
Chinese authorities that, until satisfaction had been 
obtained, no duties should be paid on cargo imported 
or exported in British ships : furthermore, that the 
great junk fleet of 1400 sail, laden and ready for sea 
with the tribute rice for Peking, should not be allowed 
to leave the port. The Childers, moored in the stream 
below the junk anchorage, was in a position to make 
this a most effective blockade. The rage of the Taotai 
rose to fever heat, and it was then he threatened, and 



[chap. IX. 

no doubt attempted to inflame the populace and the 
whole vagabond class. The Taotai ordered some of the 
rice-laden junks to proceed ; but though there were 
fifty war-junks to guard them, the masters dared not 

Scale of Miles 
o lo 20 3p 

ll'alker <&• Cockerell sc. 

attempt to pass the ideal barrier thrown across the 
river by the resolute Captain Pitman. 

The outrage took place on the 8th of March. On 

the 13th the consul presented an ultimatum to the 

Taotai giving him forty-eight hours to produce the 


criminals. This being disregarded, the measures above 
referred to were enforced, with the full approval, it 
may be mentioned, of the consuls of the two other 
treaty Powers. At the same time Vice-Consul Robert- 
son, with Parkes for interpreter, was despatched to 
Nanking on board her Majesty's ship Espiegle to lay 
the whole case before the viceroy of Kiangnan. The 
matter was there promptly attended to, full redress 
was ordered, and the culprits punished exactly three 
weeks after the assault. The embargo on the rice- 
junks was removed, and affairs resumed their normal 
course.^ The effect of this lesson has never been 
effaced, harmony having prevailed between British 
and Chinese officials and people in Shanghai and the 
province from that day to this. 

The circumstances were of course very unusual 
which placed such ready means of bloodless coercion 
in the hands of the British consul. The fortuitous 
coincidence of the time of the outrage with the period 
of departure of the grain fleet placed a weapon in 
the consul's hands which of itself would have event- 
ually brought the Chinese to terms, should the 
matter in the mean time not have been taken out 
of the hands of the consul and dealt with from Hong- 
kong by the plenipotentiary, whose views have been 
given above. So soon as the detention of the grain 
fleet became known to the Government of Peking, 
orders of a very drastic nature would undoubtedly 
have been despatched to the viceroy of the province, 
and both he and his subordinate would have been 
made answerable for their incompetence in imperilling 

1 See this whole transaction described in his characteristic manner by Do 
Quincey in his brochure on China, originally published in Titan, 1857. 

134 THE TSINGPU AFFAIR. [chap. ix. 

the supply of rice for the Government. But the 
pressure was doubly intensified by the appearance 
of a foreign ship of war under the walls of Nanking. 
Six years had not elapsed since a similar demonstration 
had brought the Government to its knees, and to 
have allowed such an invasion a second time would 
have drawn down the imperial wrath on the luck- 
less provincial authorities. For Nanking differs from 
the other provincial capitals, such as Canton and 
Foochow, inasmuch as it is near the strategic centre 
of the empire, commanding the main artery of com- 
munication with the interior of the country, at the 
point of intersection of the Yangtze river by the 
famous Imperial Canal which connects the capital 
with the richest region in the Yangtze valley. A 
blockade of the sea-going grain fleet with a simul- 
taneous blockade of these inland waters, so easily 
effected, would have throttled China. The viceroy, 
who sent a report on the transaction to the throne 
by special express, explained away his own hasty 
action by saying '' that the appearance of the bar- 
barian chiefs at the provincial city may have caused 
anxiety in the sacred breast." 

The verdict of the Home Government on the 
episode was substantially the same as that on Sir 
John Davis's brilliant expedition on the Canton 
river the year before : " Gratified with your success, 
but don't do it again ; " in other words, " Do it at 
your peril, leaving us to applaud or repudiate according 
to the event." Perhaps it would be more just to say 
that there were then, as always, conflicting views in 
the British Cabinet, the apparent vacillations of the 
Government depending a good deal on which of its 


members happened, for the moment, to have the 
parole, — whether the Foreign Secretary, the Colonial 
Secretary, or other Minister indited the despatch. 

Commenting some years later on the general question 
of our relations with China, Mr Alcock wrote as 
follows : "A salutary dread of the immediate con- 
sequences of violence offered to British subjects, 
certainty of its creating greater trouble and danger 
to the native authorities personally than even the 
most vigorous efforts to protect the foreigners and 
seize their assailants will entail, seems to be the 
best and only protection in this country for English- 
men." Palmerston himself could not have laid down 
the law and common-sense of the case with greater 


Taiping rebellion — Rebel occupation of Shanghai — Encroachment of invest- 
ing force on foreign settlement — Driven off by Anglo-American forces 
— The French quarrel with insurgents — Consequent enlargement of 
French concession — The assumption of self-government by the Anglo- 
American community — Exemplary conduct of Chinese authorities after 
their defeat — French belligerency — Difficult question of neutrality — 
Treatment of native refugees. 

Affairs went smoothly and prosperously in Shanghai 
for another five years, when the greatest calamity 
that has visited China in modern times cast its 
shadow on the province and on the city. The ap- 
palling ravages of the Taiping rebellion, which, 
originating in the southern province of Kwangsi, 
followed the great trade-routes to the Yangtze-kiang 
and down the course of that stream, leaving absolute 
desolation in its wake, reached the southern capital, 

136 REBELLION. [chap. ix. 

Nanking, on March 8, 1853. The city was paralysed, 
and surrendered on the 19th, apparently without a 
struggle ; the whole Tartar garrison, numbering 20,000, 
were put ruthlessly to the sword, not a soul being 
spared. The whole country, officials and people alike, 
was thrown into a state of abject fear. The ease 
with which such Government forces as there were suc- 
cumbed to the onslaught of the rebel hordes may very 
well have prompted the rowdy element, which exists 
more or less everywhere, to make raids on their 
own account. Such a band, belonging as was supposed 
to certain secret societies, but without any connection 
with the main body of the Taipings, who were at 
the time applying fire and sword to the populous 
towns on the Yangtze, surprised and captured the 
walled city of Shanghai. " The news," says an eye- 
witness, " came like thunder from a clear sky ; " there 
was no thought of the city being in danger either 
from within or without. The people were panic- 
stricken at first, but fear with them seemed near 
akin to criminality, and the scene enacted was what 
was repeated thousands of times and over a wide 
area — one of general pillage and destruction. " Several 
hundred of the usually innocent and simple country- 
folk — who must have scented their prey as the eagle 
does the carcass, for as yet it was early morning — fell 
upon the custom-house, whence they carried off chairs, 
tables, windows, doors, everything that was portable, 
leaving the floor littered with books and papers, w^hich 
were being kicked about and trodden on in a most 
unceremonious way. 

For a period of eighteen months, beginning in Sep- 
tember 1853 and ending in February 1855, these rebels 


held possession of the city. It took a little time before 
the authorities were able to gather any force to expel 
them. But they did commence a species of siege which 
ultimately succeeded in its object. There would be 
no interest in tracing its progress. What we have 
to note is the effect which the interregnum produced 
on the relations between the foreign officials and 
community and the Chinese. 

The first was of a very remarkable character, being- 
nothing less than an armed collision between such 
foreign forces as could be mustered and the im- 
perialist troops who were investing the city. The 
Chinese soldiers were in camp at a short distance 
outside of the foreign settlement, which was exempt 
from the operations of the war. But the discipline 
of Chinese troops is never very efficient, and unruly 
stragglers from the camps kept the foreigners in the 
settlement in constant hot water. It became, in 
fact, dangerous for them to take their recreation in 
the open ground at the back of the settlement, 
which was used as a racecourse. Immunity from 
reprisals produced its invariable result, and the 
aggressions of the soldiery became more persistent 
and better organised. The foreigners were at last 
driven to retaliate in their own defence. After a 
formidable inroad of the Chinese troops, the three 
treaty consuls met hastily and decided on sending 
a demand to the Chinese general for the withdrawal 
of all his soldiers from the vicinity of the settle- 
ment, failing which, his position would be attacked 
at four o'clock the same afternoon by all the avail- 
able foreign forces. These were, marines and blue- 
jackets from her Britannic Majesty's ships Encounter 

138 REBELLION. [chap. ix. 

and Grecian, marines and sailors from the United 
States ship Plymouth, some sailors from the merchant 
ships in port, and about 200 of the residents as 
infantry volunteers. The English force was com- 
manded by Captain O'Callaghan, who was accom- 
panied by Consul Alcock ; the Americans were led 
by Captain Kelley, who was accompanied by Consul 
Murphy ; while the volunteers were commanded by 
Vice-Consul Wade, subsequently her Majesty's Min- 
ister to China. The attack on the Chinese position 
was completely successful ; indeed there was appar- 
ently very little resistance, a circumstance which was 
attributed by Mr Wetmore, who was in the action from 
beginning to end, to the uncovenanted co-operation 
of the rebels within the city. It was, nevertheless, 
according to him, writing nearly forty years after, " a 
hazardous, if not a reckless, undertaking." 

Her Majesty's Government, in a despatch from the 
Foreign Office dated June 16, "entirely approved of 
Mr Alcock's proceedings, and they considered that he 
displayed great courage and judgment in circum- 
stances of no ordinary difficulty " ; while the British 
community unanimously conveyed their warmest thanks 
to Consul Alcock, Vice-Consul Wade, and the naval 
officers concerned, for " saving their lives and property 
from the most imminent jeopardy." And they add 
that " any symptoms of hesitation and timid policy 
would inevitably have led to serious consequences 
and far greater loss of life." 

It is to be remarked that the French took no 
part in this common defence of the settlement, in 
explanation of which it must be noted that they 
had never fallen kindly into the cosmopolitan system, 


but as years went on kept themselves more and 
more apart, expanding what was a mere consular 
residence until it covered two populous suburbs 
embracing half of the circuit of the walled city, and 
what began as a settlement came to be spoken of 
as a " concession." 

In this situation it was not difficult for them to 
pick a quarrel on their own account with the rebels, 
which led to an ineifectual bombardment of the city 
by French ships of war moored close under the walls. 
Guns were then landed in the suburb, which was 
thereafter embraced within the limits of the French 
concession, the houses being demolished to give play 
to the artillery. A cannonade lasting many days 
resulted in a practical breach in the city wall, which 
was followed up by a combined assault by the French 
and the imperialist troops, with whom they had 
allied themselves. The attack was repulsed with 
severe loss to the assailants. 

Among the results of these operations and of the 
lapse of organised government during eighteen months 
the most direct was perhaps the establishment of the 
French on the ground where their batteries had been 
placed. For reasons military or otherwise, a tabula 
rasa was made of an immense populous suburb, the 
ground then admitting of easy occupation and the 
laying out of streets and roads. The area thus occu- 
pied by the French is separated from the cosmopolitan 
settlement of Shanghai by a tidal creek. 

Results less showy, but more important in the in- 
terests of humanity and international commerce, were 
very soon apparent in the cosmopolitan settlement. 
The first of these was the assumption by the foreign 

140 KEBELLIOX. [chap. ix. 

community of the function of self-government and 
self-protection, and the foundation of that important 
municipality, which has established as fine a record of 
public service as any such body has ever done. The 
inroads of vagabondage and crime would, without the 
protective measures extemporised for the occasion, have 
swamped the foreign quarter and reduced it to the 
desolate condition of the native city. And this neces- 
sity of relying on their own strength has no doubt 
given to the community of Shanghai that tone of 
self - confidence which has characterised successive 
generations of them. 

The effect of the collision on the relations between 
the foreign and Chinese authorities can hardly be under- 
stood without some explanatory words. In countries 
where the soldier, sudden and quick in quarrel, seeks 
the bubble reputation in the cannon's mouth, there is 
a psychological figment called military honour, which 
may be symbolised in various ways, as, for example, by 
a rag at the end of a stick for which brave men will 
cheerfully die. The warlike traditions which have 
evolved European codes of honour have no existence in 
China. Revanche, therefore, did not enter into the 
heads of the defeated Chinese commanders, who con- 
tented themselves with posting placards about their 
camps stating that " the barbarians were about to be 
annihilated, but that they had ransomed themselves for 
300,000 taels, and that an additional 300,000 would be 
required." Their conduct, however, was quite exem- 
plary during the remainder of the siege, their chief 
solicitude being to avoid encroaching on the foreign 
quarter. Whatever be the explanation, the fact is that 
the Chinese were on better terms with the foreign 


officials after than they had been before the battle of 
"Muddy Flat," fought on the 4th of April 1854. 
Within ten days they were amicably settling in concert 
the ground for a new camp, which would not hamper 
the military operations of the besiegers nor yet com- 
promise the sanctity of the foreign settlement. 

Thus there was no obstacle whatever in the way of 
concerting with the nearest representatives of the 
Government of China all those measures which were 
demanded by the position of neutrality assumed by the 
British Government between the insurgents and im- 
perialist forces, and also for the regulation and control 
of the Chinese refugees, who poured into the foreign 
settlement to escape the rapine of savage war. The 
neutrality of the British representative was difficult to 
maintain : by force of circumstances it took a benevo- 
lent form towards the beleaguered rebels, who w^ere 
dependent for their continued existence upon supplies 
received from and through the foreign settlement. The 
situation was complicated by the action of the French, 
who, having quarrelled with the insurgents, entered on 
the stage as a third belligerent. Thereupon the French 
authorities made a grievance of " the scandal of supplies 
being furnished to the declared enemies of the French 
in the sight and under the protection of our English 
guard," France being at the time allied with Great 
Britain in prosecuting the war in the Crimea. Consul 
Alcock, whose sense of propriety had already been con- 
siderably shocked by the facilities which the position 
of the cosmopolitan settlement affiDrded for conveying 
supplies into the city, treated the appeal of his French 
colleague with respect, and made it the text of a rep- 
resentation to the senior naval officer, urging him, if 

142 REBELLION. [chap. ix. 

possible, to devise means in conjunction with the mea- 
sures which were already being adopted in the settle- 
ment for enforcing British neutrality, so that " we may 
be able to give an honest answer to all three bel- 
ligerents — imperialists, insurgents, and French." This 
policy was at the same time proclaimed by a unanimous 
resolution of the largest meeting of residents ever, up 
to that time, assembled in Shanghai. 

The question of the influx of refugees seems not to 
have met with such a prompt solution, but that was 
due rather to the British plenipotentiary's caution than 
to the obstruction of the Chinese. In a despatch to Sir 
John Bowring, dated June 5, 1854, the consul thus 
describes the evil in question : — 

As regards the strange and altogether unsatisfactory position 
in which we are placed by the pouring in of a large Chinese 
population, who have squatted down within our limits contrary 
to the standing edicts of their own authorities, and run up 
whole streets of wooden and brick tenements, giving cover to 
every species of vice and filth, I have only to remark that a 
walk through the settlement [the governor was expected on a 
visit] will, I am convinced, satisfy your Excellency that the 
evil is already too great and increasing at too rapid a rate to 
be overlooked. The health of foreign residents, the security of 
their property, and the very tenability of the place as a foreign 
location, alike render it imperative that a jurisdiction of some 
kind should be promptly and energetically asserted. 

The important negotiations which, within three 
months, issued in the birth of the Foreign Maritime 
Customs, must be regarded as by far the most im- 
portant outcome of the rebel episode of 1854-55. 



Extent and audacity of smuggling — Alcock's determination to suppress it — 
His report on the position — Corruption of the Chinese customs service 
— Efforts of the British Government to co-operate in collecting dues — 
Nullified by treaties with other Powers — Consequent injury to all 
foreign trade — Unexpected solution of the difficulty during the inter- 
regnum — Impetus given to trade by the Taiping rebellion — Alcock 
with French and American consuls takes over the customs and collects 
all dues in trust for the Chinese Government — Promissory notes em- 
ployed — Conditions which made it impossible to enforce payment — 
Notes ultimately cancelled. 

Certain crying evils in foreign intercourse having 
arrested the attention of Consul Alcock from the day 
of his arrival in China, he bent himself strenuously to 
the task of overcoming or mitigating them. They 
formed the subject-matter of many anxious reports to 
his superiors, for Mr Alcock always took both a serious 
and a comprehensive view of his duties. For many 
years there seemed little hope of a successful issue to 
these labours ; but at last a rift in the clouds opened 
up the prospect of coping with at least one of them,, 
and that was smuggling. So universal was this prac- 
tice that it seemed a necessary and natural feature of 
all commercial dealings in China. As its roots lay deep 
in the Chinese character and civilisation, no stigma 
attached to the venality of the officials charged with 
the collection of the maritime revenues. Although the 
practice was in extent universal, it was by no means 
wholesale in degree, and where the facilities for evad- 
ing duties were so tempting, merchants must often 
have been astonished at their own moderation. 

Among the legends of the coast, it is true, there were 
certain tou7^s de force in the way of smuggling which 


made good topics for walnuts-and-wine conversation 
among a community which was rather lacking in sub- 
jects of general interest, — as of an apocryphal ship 
clearing from China in ballast or with coal which would 
mysteriously land in England a full cargo of tea, which 
had been taken on board without being passed through 
the custom-house. Conversely, a shipload of manufac- 
tured goods taken on board in England would melt on 
the passage to China like a cargo of ice, so far as the 
records in the Chinese custom-house would show. One 
special feat was kept alive, post-prandially, for many 
years as the acme of audacious smuggling. British 
goods were entered at the custom-house " for re-expor- 
tation," and no duty paid. The merchant packed the 
empty cases with silk, which was thus shipped under 
the original English marks, and was described as cali- 
•coes, on which a "drawback" was claimed of import 
duties w^hich had never been paid at all. Such racy 
anecdotes belongfed to the order of Rabelaisian humour 
which inspired the boast of a certain Lancashire manu- 
facturer at the time when, owing to the scarcity and 
high price of cotton, the "filling" of shirtings with 
plaster of Paris and other substances to make up the 
required weight of the piece was raised to almost the 
dignity of a fine art. Complaints being made by the 
consumer that the cloth so compounded would not 
wash, this genial Lancastrian declared that for his part 
he would never rest satisfied until he could turn out his 
calicoes without any cotton in them at all. 

' Shanghai, of course, was the great centre of the 
smuggling trade. What smuggling was done at 
Canton, being the only other important entrepot, was on 
a system which was regulated by the customs authori- 


ties themselves, and the testimony of Mr Alexander 
Matheson before the House of Commons Committee 
was to the effect that their tariff was so light that it 
was not worth the merchant's while to smuggle. Such, 
however, was not the view taken by Mr Consul Alcock, 
who regarded the smuggling system as a very serious 
evil, against which he waged a relentless war. He not 
only compelled, as far as lay in his power, the British 
merchants to comply with the letter of the treaty in 
their dealings with the customs, but he further con- 
sidered himself bound to enforce on the Chinese officials 
themselves the proper discharge of their duty. In 
these efforts to abolish irregular practices, which all 
deplored, many of the British merchants were only too 
willing to co-operate with the consul's efforts, and the 
Foreign Office was repeatedly moved to take some 
action in the reform of these abuses. The difficulties 
and anomalies of the situation were fully set forth by 
Mr Alcock in many reports made to his superior, the 
chief superintendent of trade, as the following extract, 
written in 1851, will exemplify: — 

How the commercial and custom-house system of the West 
and the very opposite principles and practice of the East might 
be combined so that both should work together with the least 
possible friction and prejudice, was a difficult problem, no doubt, 
for those who had the framing of existing treaties. How even 
the trading operations of foreign merchants, based upon good 
faith and honesty, could be in any way associated with the 
corrupt and inept administration of the Chinese custom-house, 
so that the revenue of the latter alone should be liable to 
suffer and not the foreign trade, though apparently a simpler 
task, seems to have presented to the negotiators insuperable 
difficulties. For one or other of these problems, nevertheless, 
it was essential they should find some adequate solution, or 
whatever treaties might be signed their real mission was un- 

VOL. I. K 


fulfilled, and the basis of all future trading relations left 
unstable and unsatisfactory. 

We cannot suppose this important fact was overlooked by 
the British Government, which, on the contrary, appears to 
have sought earnestly to meet the difficulty by undertaking in 
good faith to co-operate with the Chinese authorities in col- 
lecting the duties on British trade. I^either is it clear that 
failure would have attended such a course had not a dis- 
turbing element been speedily introduced from without for 
which adequate provision does not seem to have been made. 
We allude to the ratification of treaties with other Govern- 
ments which should repudiate all obligation on this point to 
contribute to the protection of the Chinese revenue. It might 
have been supposed that the Chinese Government, having 
obtained so great and unquestionable an advantage from the 
Power they had most to fear, would scarcely have been so 
foolish as to throw it away upon the first occasion, yet such 
proved to be the fact, and some credit was taken by the United 
States commissioner for the omission of all co-operative clauses. 
Two treaties in consequence came into operation, founded upon 
different principles — the one subversive of the other in a very 
essential point. So much was this the case that no fair trial 
could be given to the provisions of the British treaty respecting 
the payment of duties, and any attempt to act upon the system 
contemplated in it became altogether unpracticable so soon as 
the alteration of our navigation laws opened our ports to 
foreign shipping. 

We found that to secure the essential objects of these 
treaties as they now stand there is one thing plainly wanting 
and yet essential, an honest and efficient custom-house, and 
who does not see that this is unattainable in China ? Too 
much or too little has been done, therefore. We should either 
have refused to concede a right to levy maritime duties, or 
obtained as the condition some better guarantee for its im- 
partial exercise. It should have been remembered that al- 
though a foreign Power might give this right to the Emperor 
of China, it could not so easily give him honest and faithful 
servants, without which custom-house duties cannot be fairly 
levied. The very attempt to profit by such a right partially, 
and with manifestly imperfect means, could not fail to prove 
injurious to the trade it was the great object of the treaties to 


develop and protect. It is superfluous now to say that against 
this evil no sufficient provision was made, and the result has 
been perpetual and irreconcilable antagonism. From the first 
day the American treaty came into operation the contracting 
parties, Chinese and foreign, have been placed in a false position 
in regard to each other and to the permanent interests of both. 
The emperor had obtained a right he could not unaided duly 
exercise, and the foreign merchant was laid under a legal obliga- 
tion which under such circumstances tended to make his trading 
privileges nugatory. The former was daily exposed to the loss 
of the whole or a part of a revenue to which he was by treaty 
legally entitled, as the price of commercial privileges to the 
foreigner ; and the latter, in so far as he recognised his obliga- 
tion to pay to such revenue, was debarred from trading with 
advantage or profit. 

Loss to the custom-house is palpably only one of the mis- 
chiefs resulting, and injury to foreign trade is the direct con- 
sequence in a far more important degree. There may be some dis- 
posed to question this, but when no man can calculate on entering 
into an operation within 15 or 20 per cent of the prime cost of 
his merchandise before it shall leave his hands, and his next- 
door neighbour may gain advantage over him to this amount, 
while the ordinary margin of profit seldom exceeds that range, 
it is difficult to arrive at any other conclusion. And when we 
consider that the natural tendency of partial smuggling is to 
raise the price in the buying and to lower it in the selling 
market, its disastrous influence on the general prosperity of the 
trade must be too plain to admit of contradiction. However it 
may temporarily enrich a few, it must eventually impoverish 

The British plenipotentiary may have thought that smug- 
gling, so far as the interests of trade were concerned, would 
affect only the Chinese revenue : the American commissioner 
clearly must have concluded so, and on this supposition acted. 
But experience has abundantly proved such a conclusion erron- 
eous, and based upon a partial view of the whole case. 

The solution of all these difficulties, and the end of 
the apparently hopeless struggle to set things right, 
came about in a way that must have been totally unex- 


pected by all parties. It was through the capture of 
Shanghai by the rebel band in 1853. 

The day the city fell the functions of the custom- 
house ceased, but trade continued without interruption ; 
indeed the export trade was naturally stimulated by 
the eagerness of the natives to convert their produce 
into money, and by the desire of the foreign merchants 
to get their purchases safely on board ship. But there 
was no one in a position to collect the dues. Mr 
Alcock, never timid when he had a case for action 
which satisfied his own mind, proposed to his French 
and American colleagues, who also never seemed to 
hesitate to follow his lead, a method of bridging over 
the interregnum of the Chinese authority and at the 
same time establishing for the first time the precedent 
of collecting full duties. The plan was that the consuls 
should themselves perform the functions which the 
Chinese officials had never performed — take a rigid 
account of the goods landed and shipped, and receive 
the amount of the duty on them, to be held in trust for 
the Chinese Government when it should once more be 
resuscitated in Shanghai. Not in coin, however, but in 
promissory notes payable on conditions which were 
complicated by the necessity of maintaining equality of 
treatment between the various nationalities concerned. 
The contingencies were, in fact, such that it would 
never have been possible to enforce payment of the 
notes, and in the end they were all cancelled and 
returned to the merchants, so that during the ten 
months between September 1853 and July 1854 there 
were no duties collected at all at the port of 



The provisional system — British and American ships pay full dues — Other 
nations enter and clear free — Americans follow the same course — 
Alcock's strict views of neutrality — Danger of infringing it by estab- 
lishment of Government officials within the foreign colony — Breakdown 
of the provisional system — Alcock calls upon the Imperial Government 
— Custom-house re-established by the Taotai Wu — Reappearance of all 
abuses — Alcock's remonstrances — Antecedents of Wu — He makes 
private arrangements and admits vessels free of dues — Alcock allows 
British ships to do likewise — Shanghai thus becomes a free port — Al- 
cock's efforts to meet the difficulty — First idea of the foreign customs — 
Conditions of success — Conference with the Taotai — Delegates appointed 
— New custom-house inaugurated July 12, 1854 — Mr H. N. Lay ap- 
pointed Inspector-General — Conditions and essential features which 
caused immediate and permanent success of the foreign customs. 

The " provisional system," as it was called, worked 
smoothly for four months, but not equally, for while 
British and American ships paid full duties (in con- 
ditional promissory notes), those of other nationalities, 
having mercantile consuls, were entered and cleared 
exempt from all duty. One Prussian, one Hamburg, 
two Siamese, one Austrian, three Danish, and two 
Spanish — in all ten vessels — were so cleared between 
September and January, which was, of course, a serious 
injustice to the competing merchants on whose ventures 
full duties were levied. In vain might the British 
consul argue that the cargoes of these defaulting ships 
bore no larger a proportion to the whole trade than in 
normal conditions the smugglers would bear to the 
honest traders. The American consul, sympathising 
with the latter, notified on January 20, 1854, his seces- 
sion from the provisional compact, to which decision he 
gave immediate effect by allowing two vessels, the 
Oneida and Science, to depart without payment or 


security of any kind. It was impossible after this for 
the British authorities to continue to lay a burden on 
their nationals from which competitors were thus 
freeing themselves, the more especially as on broader 
considerations their collecting duties at all for the 
Chinese had been, three years previously, pronounced 
inexpedient by the British Government. However 
commendable, therefore, on political and moral grounds, 
and however convenient as a stop-gap, the provisional 
system was doomed. The next move was by some 
means or other to procure the re- establishment of a 
legal Chinese custom-house. 

This would have been done at an earlier period but 
for the strict views held by Mr Alcock on the question 
of neutrality between the belligerents. The soil of the 
foreign settlement had been declared sacred and neutral. 
To permit any Chinese authority to use it even for 
fiscal purposes seemed a violation of its neutrality. 
Besides, native officials exercising their functions there 
would have had either to protect themselves by mili- 
tary force, however small, or to be protected by the 
foreigners, in either case compromising the neutrality of 
the settlement. When the Chinese officials pro230sed 
as an alternative to discharge customs functions afloat 
in the river, the same objections presented themselves. 
The foreiofners must in that case also have defended 
the revenue collectors from attack by the rebels. The 
customs authority therefore remained dormant. 

But on the breakdown of the provisional system 
whereby the three treaty consuls acted as trustees for 
the Chinese Government, there was no alternative left 
between making Shanghai absolutely a free port and 
setting up some sort of native custom-house. As the 


lesser evil — to say no more — Mr Alcock chose the latter, 
and within three weeks of the lapse of the provisional 
system he had " called upon the imperial authorities to 
re-establish a custom-house in some convenient locality," 
offering at the same time to afford them the necessary 
facilities for working it. The custom-house was, in 
fact, re-established by the Taotai Wu on February 9, 
when the provisional system of collecting duties, a 
system never favoured by the British Government, was 
finally and officially terminated. 

The reinstatement of the custom - house under the 
superintendency of the Taotai Wu was the signal for 
the prompt reappearance of all the worst irregularities 
in an exaggerated form. 

The admonitions that official received from Mr Alcock 
on his treaty rights and on the necessity for strictness 
and impartial accuracy were completely thrown away. 
The Taotai had been formerly a merchant in Canton, 
under the name Samqua ; and whether it was the 
passion for a " deal " inspired by early training, or 
the corruption of good manners by subsequent associ- 
ation with official life, or, as is most likely, a double 
dose of both, without the checks appropriate to either, 
he, the superintendent of customs, fell at once to mak- 
ing private bargains with individual merchants. By 
arrangement with him a Bremen ship, the Aristides, 
was allowed to enter and clear without complying with 
a single customs or port regulation or the payment of 
any dues, save what may have been paid to Wu himself 
by way of douceur. Two American ships and one 
British were dealt with in similar fashion. These facts 
being brought to the notice of Mr Alcock, he called the 
Taotai to account, and on receiving only subterfuges 


instead of explanation, he thenceforth allowed openly to 
British ships the same privileges that the Chinese 
authorities had voluntarily, though secretly, conferred 
on those who chose to make corrupt bargains with them. 
That is to say, Shanghai became now — from April 1854 
— absolutely a free port. 

At last, then, there was a real tabula rasa inviting a 
fresh experiment ; and Mr Alcock immediately applied 
his mind to devising some new expedient to meet the 
difficulty. The Chinese superintendent, however willing 
to compound to his own advantage for the customs' 
dues, was as little pleased with its complete abolition as 
the foreign authorities themselves, and he had made 
sundry alternative proposals, based on his experience at 
Canton, for the effective collection of duties. It seemed, 
however, that in the hands of such a facile official, or 
any one likely to succeed him, his remedies against 
smuggling were worse than the disease, and the 
necessity of a new departure began seriously to occupy 
the minds of the treaty consuls. The outcome was a 
novel scheme, which was mooted in a despatch to Sir 
John Bowring, dated May 1, 1854, in which Consul 
Alcock, while recognising that " the attempt will not be 
unaccompanied by serious difficulties," declared that he 
" did not relinquish all hope of success if the collection 
of duties can in any way he brought under the effective 
cont7^ol of the three treaty Powers as to the executive of 
the custom-house administration ^ 

" On any other basis," he added, " I believe every 
effort to benefit the Chinese revenue and at the same 
time protect the honest merchant must in the nature of 
things prove nugatory." The idea took further shape 
in a memorandum of suggestions drawn up by Mr 


Alcock on 15th June, when he stated that *' the sole 
issue out of the difficulties by which the whole subject 
is beset under existing treaties is to be sought in 
the combination of a foreign element of lorohity and 
vigilance with Chinese authority T 

He adds as the first condition of success the " free 
concurrence of the Chinese authorities " in any scheme 
which may be concocted, and then proposes " the 
association with the Chinese executive of a responsible 
and trustworthy foreign inspector of customs as the 
delegate of the three treaty Powers, to be appointed by 
the consuls and Taotai conjointly at a liberal salary." 
This is put down at $6000 per annum, the whole 
foreign staff to cost §12,000, and various details of 
administration follow. 

It argues well for the absence of international 
jealousy in those days that Mr Alcock proposed that a 
French gentleman of the name of Smith, in the French 
consular service, should be the inspector whom he 
and the American consul agreed to recommend to the 
Taotai. In a despatch to M. Edan on the 27 th of 
June 1854 he solicited his official sanction to the 

The next step was a conference where the three 
treaty consuls — Alcock, Murphy, and Edan — received 
the Taotai, who discussed with them and then adopted 
substantially, though with some modifications, the 
"suggestions" above quoted. 

Instead of one delegate from the three consuls, it was 
decided that each was to appoint one, the three dele- 
gates then forming a " board of inspectors with a 
single and united action." As many questions of 
national and international jurisdiction were likely to 


arise out of the executive functions of the inspectors, 
provision was made for dealing with them, and as far as 
human ingenuity could foresee without any experience 
to guide, every contingency, down to the minutiae of 
internal administration, was considered in the instruc- 
tions given to the inspectors. The announcement of the 
newly-constituted Customs Board was formally made 
by the consuls on July 6, and the new custom-house was 
inaugurated on the 12th, the three inspectors being Mr 
T. F. Wade, British ; Mr Lewis Carr, American ; and 
M. Smith, French. 

The new custom-house was an immediate success : 
it fulfilled every purpose for which it was created, 
yielding its full revenue to the Chinese Government, 
and putting an end to the temptations of traders to 
seek illicit advantages over each other. It says much 
for the soundness of the principles on which it was 
established that not only has the custom-house of 1854 
survived the shock of rebellion and war, of extended 
treaties, of the multiplication of trading-ports from five 
to thirty and of treaty Powers from three to thirteen, 
but its roots have struck deep and its branches have 
spread wide over every portion of the empire, and that 
in spite of the opposition of powerful provincial officials, 
whose revenues it curtailed by diverting them into the 
imperial channel. The triumvirate Board under which 
the institution was launched was little more than 
nominal, the direction of the customs being a one-man 
power from the outset, one only of the three inspectors 
possessing either the knowledge, capacity, or zeal 
needed to infuse life into the new department. 

The first English inspector, who was only lent for a 
time to start the new enterprise, was replaced in a few 


months by Mr H. N. Lay, interpreter to the consulate, 
who definitively retired from the British in order to 
enter the Chinese service, while Mr Wade returned to 
his vice-consular duties. The functions of the Board 
of Inspectors were soon consolidated in the office of 
Inspector- General, which was conferred upon Mr Lay, 
and held by him until 1863, when he was obliged to 
resign the service of the Chinese Government in con- 
sequence of their failure to ratify his engagements in 
connection with the Osborn flotilla. 

It only remains to mention in this place that coin- 
cident with the establishment of the maritime customs 
in Shanghai came the instructions from her Majesty's 
Government to cancel the promissory notes, amounting 
to a million of dollars, which had been given by the 
British merchants for duties during the interregnum, 
the conditions attached rendering them legally invalid. 

Although the organisation of the foreign customs 
was an expedient to meet an emergency never likely 
to recur, the transaction, nevertheless, forms a brief 
epitome of the ideal foreign relations with China, and 
it is useful therefore to note what were its essential 
features and the conditions of its creation. 

First. The Chinese Government w^ere reduced to 
helplessness and were amenable to advice. 

Second. Corruption and laxity were inherent in their 
nature and ineradicable except by external force. 

Third. The external force, to be savingly applied, 
must not be subversive of Chinese authority, but must 
supply the element in administration in which the 
natives are absolutely wanting, and which is so tersely 
summarised by Mr Alcock as " vigilance and probity." 

Fourth, This combination of Chinese authority with 

156 ALCOCK's departure from shanghai. [chap. IX. 

foreign vigilance and probity, which has rendered the 
Chinese customs service a kind of miracle of reform, 
was capable of renovating the whole Chinese adminis- 
tration. Why it has not been extended into the other 
departments of state is only another form of lament 
over lost opportunities. 

Fifth. That the system was established on the 
broadest cosmopolitan basis. 


Promoted to Canton — Impression he had made upon the European colony 
of Shanghai — Their confidence in his integrity and ability — His 
domestic life — First literary work — Condition of affairs at Canton — 
Difficulties and obstructions — Alcock leaves for home before the out- 
break of 1856. 

With these distino^uished services Mr Alcock's career 
in Shanghai was brought to a close. He was promoted 
to the senior consulate at Canton, but he remained 
long enough in his northern post to see the city of 
Shanghai once more in possession of the constituted 
authorities and the restoration of peace in the vicinity 
of the port. Being practically starved out, the insur- 
gents set fire to the city and made the best escape 
they could during the night, which happened to be the 
last night of the Chinese year, 17th February 1855. 
Some may have escaped, but the greater part fell into 
the hands of their enemies, and for weeks afterwards 
many a ghastly trophy in the neighbourhood attested 
the ruthless treatment which the fugitives received, 
recalling the realistic picture in a certain epitaph of 


On his departure from Shanghai in April of that 
year Mr Alcock received a flattering testimonial from 
the British residents, who were cordially joined by both 
French and Americans. This compliment had the 
special value of being practically unanimous, while yet 
by no means undiscriminating. As a curious character- 
istic of the social relations of the community at that 
time, it may be mentioned that the document was 
presented in two parts, substantially the same, but 
differently worded. The explanation of the dual pre- 
sentation is to be found in the etiquette which was 
commonly observed between the Montagues and the 
Capulets of the period, it being considered a point of 
honour that neither should follow the signature of the 
other ; hence the two leading members of the commun- 
ity had each to head a separate list. 

It was impossible for an officer of such strict views 
and such' an uncompromising character to live for eight 
years in the midst of an independent population whom 
he had to treat as his subjects without provoking oc- 
casional resentment, and creating friction in carrying 
out the details of his administration. Moreover, his 
public acts were of too decisive a quality to commend 
themselves to universal approval. Yet, frankly recog- 
nising all this, the memorialists state, " In whatever 
degree as individuals we may have approved or dissented 
from any of your acts of public policy, we are all ready 
to do justice to the singleness of purpose and sense 
of public duty under which you have uniformly acted. 
We believe that you have throughout held in view 
your conscientious convictions of what was right and 
just, and that no undue external influence has at any 
time operated to divert you from them." In fact, the 

158 ALCOCK's departure from shanghai. [chap. IX. 

Shanghai community — quorum pars fui — were proud 
of their consul, and looked up to him as soldiers do 
to a commander in whom they have absolute confi- 
dence. They felt themselves ennobled by contact with 
a character sans peur et sans i^eproche. Above all, he 
represented before the Chinese authorities the dignity 
of his country in a manner which has rarely been 
equalled, and gratitude for that patriotic service would 
of itself have covered a multitude of sins. The feeling 
of respect so generated reconciled the residents to that 
which in another man might have been held to savour of 
coldness, for in social life he was reserved, if not some- 
what haughty in his bearing, — partly no doubt from 
temperament, but chiefly from absorption in the duties 
and responsibilities of his office, in researches into all 
the matters which concerned his work, and in the study 
of subjects which were congenial to his mind. It may 
also be said, without reflection on either I3arty, that 
those robust recreations which engrossed the leisure 
of younger men — and the community was very young 
— were not of a kind with which the consul had much 
personal sympathy. His own distractions were more 
of a literary and reflective order. He did not unbend 
to gain popularity. 

His domestic life left him nothing to desire in the way 
of society. To his wife he was most devoted, and to 
her he addressed, in half soliloquy, a series of thoughts 
on religious subjects which reveal more than anything 
the deep earnestness of his nature. When this loving 
helpmeet was snatched from his side in March 1858, 
the calm exterior was little disturbed ; but having to 
face that immense gap in his life, he was thrown more 
than ever on his mental resources. His isolation was 


the more keenly felt when he was relieved from the 
heavy demand which the affairs of Shanghai had made 
on his energies, and it was in the comparative leisure 
of Canton that he composed his first serious political 
contribution to periodical literature, an outlet for his 
thoughts which proved such an attraction to him to 
the end of his life. His first essay was an article in 
the ' Bombay Quarterly Review ' on " The Chinese 
Empire and its Destinies," published in October 1855. 
It was soon followed by a second, entitled " The Chinese 
Empire and its Foreign Relations," a paper which fills 
no less than seventy-eight pages of the 'Review.' The 
two together form an able disquisition on the state 
of China which has not become obsolete by lapse of 

It was during the same period also that he composed 
that series of short essays which were published anony- 
mously under the title of ' Life's Problems.' Instead of 
attempting any appreciation of that little volume, we 
prefer to quote the impression it made on one reader 
many years afterwards. In a letter of Dora Green well, 
published in her Memoirs, she says : ''I have met with 
a friend, a book that seems to take my whole rational 
nature along with it. I have seen no such book now 
or at any former time ; and it is a book I have often 
longed for, yet never hoped for — a book contemplating 
life as it is in a Christian spirit, yet from the natural 

The consulate in Canton during the year that Mr 
Alcock occupied the post presented nothing of sensa- 
tional interest. There was a superficial lull there, the 
lull before the storm which burst in October 1856, 
after Mr Alcock had left for home on his first well- 

160 ALCOCK's departure from SHANGHAI. [chap. ix. 

earned furlough. The chronic obstruction to business 
and the old difficulties in communicating with the 
Chinese authorities formed the burden of his reports 
to his chief, Sir John Bowring. The question of direct 
intercourse and of access to the city, which had been 
put off from time to time, was still unsettled. The 
definitive postponement of the treaty right of entry 
till 1849 had not rendered the solution of it one whit 
easier. On the contrary, the concession had only 
served to confirm the Chinese officials and people in 
their determination to resist the claim for ever. On 
the accession of Lord Palmerston to the Premiership 
in 1855 the dormant claim was revived, and Sir John 
Bowring was instructed by the Government to obtain 
unrestricted intercourse with the native authorities and 
the full exercise of the right of admission to all the 
cities which were opened to trade. Canton included. 
To repeated applications of this tenor the Viceroy Yeh 
replied by the traditional evasions, thus laying the 
train for the explosion which soon followed. 

Mr Alcock being personally severed from the chain 
of events which led to the outbreak of hostilities in 
the autumn of 1856, it will be convenient here to 
suspend the narrative and glance at some of those 
general questions which form the subject - matter of 
our relations with China. 




Essays on international relations — Foresight — Its connection with succeed- 
ing events — The Canton city question resuscitated. 

Among serious students of the international problems 
arising out of the forced intercourse of the Western 
nations with China, Sir Rutherford Alcock occupies 
the first rank. In the long roll of consular and diplo- 
matic agents employed by the British Government 
since 1833 he stands alone in the effort to evolve 
a reasonable working scheme out of the chaos of 
blunders and misunderstandings which marked the 
opening of China to foreign trade. Mr Taylor 
Meadows, another consular officer, though equally 
far-sighted, was perhaps too philosophical for the 
exigencies of current business. Consul Alcock's 
political philosophy, on the other hand, grew en- 
tirely out of the facts with which he had to deal 
from day to day, and was therefore essentially 

It might seem that fifty-year-old disquisitions on 
what we now call the " China question " must have 
too much of the musty odour of ancient history 
about them to afford profitable reading to a gener- 

VOL. I. L 

162 ALCOCk's views on general policy. [chap. X. 

ation which has only been aroused by the thunder 
of events to take an interest — and that as yet per- 
functory — in the affairs of the Far East. But as 
Mr Alcock had the faculty of getting to the heart 
of things, of seizing the principles which do not 
change, his early studies have lost neither validity 
nor value through the lapse of years. On these 
well - digested observations, accordingly, modern in- 
quirers may confidently rely as on a corner - stone 
of Anglo- Chinese politics well and truly laid. And 
the lapse of time, so far from detracting from the 
utility of these opinions, enhances their value. For 
by extending the base of observation over a long 
period, errors due to personal equation, change of 
circumstance, and other temporary causes, are elim- 
inated from the survey, and the seeker after truth 
is thus furnished with a trustworthy criterion by 
which he may verify his conclusions. The forecast of 
1849, realised in the developments of 1900, affords 
strong proof that the earlier generalisations were not 
the result of ingenious speculation. 

It seems reasonable, therefore, here to introduce 
some of the reflections of Consul Alcock while he 
was as yet comparatively new to China. These occur 
in various forms, as in confidential despatches, in 
private memoranda, and notes for literary articles 
apparently never extended. One of these notes, 
dated January 19, 1849, summing up the results of 
six years' working of the treaty of Nanking, may 
well serve as a landmark in the record of foreign 
intercourse with China. 

Some extracts from this and other papers are printed 
for the convenience of the reader in an Appendix to the 


present volume.^ Though bearing directly on the policy 
of the 'time when they were written, they are no less 
applicable to present circumstances. They show that 
nothing had changed then, as nothing has changed 
since, in the attitude of the Chinese to foreign nations. 
" The same arrogant and hostile spirit exists, and their 
policy is still to degrade foreigners in the eyes of the 
people. . . . Without the power [on our part] of com- 
manding attention to any just demands, there is every 
reason to believe the Chinese rulers would still be the 
most impracticable of Orientals. . . . We cannot hope 
that any effort of ours or of the emperor would suffice 
to change at once the character and habits of the 
people or even the population of a city." 

While advocating a resolute policy in maintaining all 
British rights granted by treaty, the far-sighted consul 
uttered a timely caution against pushing demands for 
concessions too far. In this he was in accord with the 
policy, often enunciated by the British Government, of 
not imperilling what we already possessed by striving 
after more. Mr Alcock indicates clearly the danger 
which threatened British interests from the pros- 
pective influx of Western Powers pressing through 
the doors which Great Britain might be constrained 
to open : — 

Powers who, having no such great interests to jeopardise, are 
without this beneficial and most needful check, and may there- 
fore be induced to repeat at a semi-barbarian Court the in- 
trigues and counter-projects for the destruction of our influence 
and the injury of our trade in the East which are at work in 
our own times in every capital in Europe, as formerly in India 
and the Eastern Archipelago. 

1 See Appendix I. 

164 ALCOCK's views on general policy. [chap. X. 

Nor could a much more accurate description of the 
state of affairs now existing be given than the picture 
of the future drawn by Consul Alcock : — 

Russia, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and America, with 
their several jealousies and united rivalry with England, their 
missionary enterprises or commercial and political schemes 
clashing in their aim and development, are all capable of 
creating such turmoil, strife, and disturbance throughout the 
empire, if free access to the Court and the provinces were 
insisted upon by Great Britain, as could only end in the ejection 
of Europeans from China as formerly from Japan, or an intestine 
war in which European force would probably be involved on 
opposite sides, and to their mutual destruction as States with 
commercial interests in the country. These, again, might lead 
to attempts at territorial possession, suggested in the first in- 
stance, as in India, in self-defence, and afterwards continued 
from necessity. With Russia spreading her gigantic arms to 
the north and east. Great Britain on the south and west, Spain, 
Holland, and Portugal with their colonies in the Chinese and 
Indian seas, a struggle for superiority on the soil of China for 
exclusive advantages or predominant influence might be centred 
in Peking and embroil the whole of Europe in hostile relations. 

An interesting feature in the prognostications of 
both Mr Alcock and Mr Meadows in those early 
days was the ignoring of the Power which is now 
assuming such an active part in the rearrangement 
of the Far East. Germany was not even thought of 
as a world Power, but her entry on the stage has 
only added confirmation to the soundness of all these 

The more immediate significance, however, of the 
elaborate exposition of the Anglo - Chinese situation 
which we are now considering, lay in its connection 
with the chain of events which followed within a few 
years, and its coincidence with the progress in the 


views of the British Government, which might almost 
be traced back to the date of the paper. The year 
1849 was one of the critical epochs in foreign inter- 
course with China, for it was then that the last 
promissory note as to the opening of Canton became 
due, and was dishonoured. The years of grace suc- 
cessively granted to the Chinese authorities to enable 
them to prepare for the execution of the treaty 
stipulation had been used by them, or at any rate 
by the populace, to render its execution permanently 
impossible. Mr Bonham, who proceeded up the river 
to apply for the fulfilment of the agreement of 
1847, which promised admission to the city within 
two years, was received, not with the suave evasion 
of Kiying but with the coarse rebuff of Governor- 
General Seu, who amid popular enthusiasm caused a 
memorial arch to be erected to commemorate the 
third repulse of the barbarians. The turning-point 
of affairs had been now reached ; the scales fell 
from the eyes of the British Government. Reluct- 
antly they were driven to the conclusion that they 
had for seven years been trifled with, that their 
agents, one after another, had been duped ; that 
while they deluded themselves by imagining that by 
their concessions they were pouring oil on water, 
they were, in fact, throwing that inflammable sub- 
stance on fire. Such systematic blunders could not 
be made with impunity. It began, in short, to be 
perceived that the ground so weakly surrendered at 
Canton could not be recovered without, in the pro- 
phetic words of Lord Palmerston, "coming to blows" 
once more with the Chinese. 

The attention of the British Government being thus 

166 ALCOCK's views on general policy. [chap. X. 

seriously directed to China, they entered into cor- 
respondence with their plenipotentiary, the governor 
of Hongkong, as to the best means of arresting the 
decline of British prestige and of placing the in- 
terests of trade and residence on a satisfactory 
footing. The plenipotentiary had no resource but 
one for obtaining either information or advice on 
such large questions, and that was always Consul 
Alcock at Shanghai, a thousand miles from the seat 
of trouble, who had not then even seen Canton. 
Mr Alcock was alert to respond to the invitation of 
his chief, copiously, fearlessly, and with masterly 
lucidity as well as comprehensiveness. In a despatch 
to Sir George Bonham dated January 13, 1852, the 
development of the new policy may be traced.^ And 
the whole situation is fully laid bare in a further 
despatch of June 17, 1852.2 

This confidential official correspondence,^ carried on 
for a number of years, constitutes a natural introduc- 
tion to the chapter of history which was about to 
open. In the transactions which led to a second 
rupture with China Consul Alcock had personally no 
part, for he was on leave in England, but there also 
his voice was heard in the discussion of the causes 
and objects of the war. 

In a series of letters to the press, during 1857-58, 
commenting on the progress of events, Mr Alcock 
endeavoured to keep the British public informed of 
what was transpiring in China, the reasons for it, and 
the probable consequences. These letters were repub- 
lished in pamphlet form, of course anonymously. 

1 See Appendix II. - See Appendix III. 

3 See Appendices I., II., and III. 




Trade the sole motive in all British and American dealings with China — 
Simplicity of this trade — Chief staple imports and exports — Data for 
any review of Chinese trade — Mutual alarm caused by excess of im- 
ports — Peculiar conditions of British trade — Entailing a loss of over 
30 per cent, yet steadily maintained — System of barter — Consequent 
impossibility of clear accounts — And ignorance of position at any given 
moment — Trade also hampered by traditions of the East India Com- 
pany — Such as that of keeping large stores on hand — Gradual improve- 
ment on these methods — Advantages of landed investment in China 
— Perceived and acted on by the Jesuits — And later by foreign mer- 
chants — The American trade — Similarity of currency — Excess of 
Chinese exports met by shipments of specie — And later by credits on 
London banks. 

Whatever may be said of that of other nations, the 
intercourse of Great Britain and the United States 
with China, from the earHest period to the latest, 
whether in peace or war, has had no other object than 
trade between the nations, and therefore all the steps 
in that intercourse must be judged in their relation to 
the promotion of international commerce. War and 
diplomacy, geographical exploration and reforms, even 
literary researches and mutual instruction, being all 
ancillary to the main purpose, it seems fitting to con- 
sider as briefly as may be what manner of thing it was 
which set, and still keeps, all these auxiliary forces in 


From its first introduction till now one feature has 
characterised the Chinese foreign trade, and that is its 
simplicity. Both on the export and the import side a 
few staple commodities have made up its whole volume, 
and in this respect the statistics of to-day differ but 
little from those of fifty years ago. The leading 
Chinese imports at the conclusion of the first war 
were : From India, opium and raw cotton, to which has 
been added, since the development of steam factories, 
cotton yarn. From England, plain bleached and un- 
bleached cotton goods, cotton yarn, some descriptions 
of woollens, iron and lead, account for nearly the whole 
value. The trade from the United States and the 
continent of Europe in those days did not greatly affect 
the general aggregate. The exports of Chinese prod- 
uce were at the period in question almost confined to 
the one article — tea. Subseqently silk grew into im- 
portance, and soon exceeded in value the great speci- 
ality of China. Rhubarb was a commodity on which, 
next to tea, the Chinese affected to lay much stress, on 
the ground that foreigners were dependent upon it for 
the preservation of their health, and that stopping the 
supply might offer an easy means of coercing them. 
But the article never assumed any important com- 
mercial value. Sugar, camphor, and matting were also 
among the exports, the last named being much in 
demand in the United States. It is only of recent 
years, however, that anything like assorted cargoes 
of produce have been sent away from the Chinese 
ports. The trade has passed through many vicissitudes, 
has had its periodical ebb and flow, but has on the 
whole been prosaically progressive. And this has been 


especially the case with the imports of British and other 
Western produce. 

It would be instructive to review the circumstances 
of the Chinese trade at successive stages of its progress, 
and to note the grievances of merchants and manufac- 
turers at different epochs and the obstacles to com- 
mercial development as they were felt from time to 
time. It would be more interesting to do this were it 
possible to discriminate between permanent causes and 
temporary accidents. But it is not always what is of 
the most lasting importance that makes the strongest 
impression upon those who are actively engaged in the 
struggle for life. The trader does not greatly differ 
from the world at large in his love of a whipping-boy — 
that is to say, in the common tendency to attribute 
mischances to objective rather than to subjective causes. 
Prosperity, like good health, is, to those who enjoy it, 
its own sufficient explanation, the normal reward of the 
merit each one takes to himself as a matter of course. 
Adversity, on the other hand, is assigned to demonic 
origin, its victims being martyrs to the powers of nature 
or the hostile combinations of men. For these reasons 
it would be as difficult to gather from their own 
accounts what were the real helps and what the real 
hindrances to the traders' progress, as to draw general 
conclusions on the state of agriculture from conversa- 
tions with working farmers. The commercial circular 
is a familiar product of the modern era of open trade. 
It undertakes to record the actual state of markets and 
to give the reasons why they are not otherwise. If 
one were to circumnavigate the globe and compare the 
ordinary run of these reports issuing from the great 


emporia, one feature would be found common to them 
all — it is the bogy. Everything would be for the best 
— but for certain adverse influences. It may be the 
vagaries of some Finance Minister or Tarifi" Commission, 
the restraint of princes, war, pestilence, or famine — 
inundations here and droughts there ; but a something 
there must always be to explain away the moral ac- 
countability of the individual traders, manufacturers, 
or planters. China and Japan have seldom been with- 
out such fatalistic obstacles to commerce. For many 
years the rebellion was the hete noire of merchants, then 
the mandarins, and smaller rebellions ; the scarcity 
of specie at one period, at another the superabundance 
of cheap silver. In Burma the King of Ava stood for 
long as the root of all commercial evil. In Japan the 
Daimios and the currency served their turn. India 
is never without calamities sufficient to account for 
perhaps more than ever happens there. All such draw- 
backs, however, though real enough as far as they go, 
are never exhaustive, and seldom even reach to the core 
of the problem. They are as atmospheric phenomena, 
to be observed, taken advantage of, or provided against, 
and are extremely interesting to the individuals imme- 
diately affected by them. But as regards the general 
course of trade, such incidents are but as storms on the 
surface of the deep oceanic currents : it is the onward 
sweep of the great volume of traffic that alone possesses 
public interest. Of the circumstances which influence 
the course and direction of that beneficent current a 
collation of the utterances of traders would yield but a 
refracted account. So that in order to appreciate the 
progress of commerce we have to fall back on the un- 
adorned columns of statistical tables, which themselves 


leave something to be desired on the score of com- 

With regard to certain periods of the China trade 
we have rather full data, as, for instance, in the decade 
following the war, when the working of the trade 
exercised the minds both of British merchants and of 
their Government in a degree which has scarcely been 
equalled since. The same may be predicated of the 
Chinese Government also, and, as has been observed in 
a previous chapter, it was an interesting coincidence 
that during that critical period it was the self-same 
grievance that pressed on both sides — namely, the 
insufficiency of the Chinese exported produce to pay 
for the goods imported. The effect of this on the 
Chinese Government was to excite unfeigned alarm at 
the steady drain of silver required to pay for the excess 
of their imports. On the British side the grievance 
came home to the manufacturers in the form of the 
incapacity of the Chinese to take off an adequate quan- 
tity of the products of English looms. The remedy 
proposed from the two sides was thoroughly character- 
istic of their respective traditions. On the Chinese side 
it was negative, obstructive, prohibitory, and absolutely 
vain. On the British side the proposal was positive, 
expansive, and in accord with the spirit of modern com- 
merce. The Chinese remedy was to forbid the export 
of silver and the import of opium, which, being the 
article in most urgent demand, was usually paid for in 
bullion or in coined dollars. The English remedy was 
to stimulate the export of Chinese produce. But here 
a paradox stands in the way of a clear perception of the 

1 The annual value of the whole foreign trade with China, imports and 
exports, is now about £70,000,000. 


position. The British trade was being carried on at a 
loss, which some of the merchants estimated at 33 per 
cent on the round venture. That is to say, manufac- 
tured o^oods were sold in China at a loss of 15 to 20 
per cent, and the proceeds, being invested in Chinese 
produce, realised a further loss on sale in England of 
17 or 20 per cent. 

To account for this unremunerative trade being 
carried on voluntarily year after year, it is necessary 
to remember the great distance of the two markets in 
the days before the introduction of steam and the 
shortening of the voyage by the piercing of the Suez 
Canal. We have to allow also for the gambling or 
speculative element which animates all commerce, 
and the " hope-on-hope-ever " spirit without which no 
distant adventure would ever be undertaken. The 
rationale of the phenomenon was reduced to a very 
simple expression by Mr Gregson, who, when asked by 
the Committee of the House of Commons if he could 
explain " the singular proceeding of continuing the 
trade for a series of years with perpetual losses on 
it," replied : " The manufacturers reason that as the 
losses have been considerable the exports will fall 
off, and therefore they may export again. They are 
generally deceived, because their neighbours taking 
the same view, the exports are kept up and the loss 

The case thus bluntly stated by Mr Gregson was not 
such a temporary phase as might naturally have been 
concluded. The same remarkable features continued for 
many years afterwards more or less characteristic of 
the China trade, so that had another commission been 
appointed to consider the subject they would have been 


surprised to find the old riddle still awaiting solution, 
Why so regular and simple a trade should be carried on 
apparently without profit ? The data of supply and 
demand being well ascertained, prices remunerative to 
the merchant might have been expected to arrange 
themselves automatically. Further explanations seem, 
in fact, required to supplement Mr Gregson's, and some 
of these must appear somewhat whimsical and far- 
fetched to the general reader. The peculiar method in 
vogue of stating accounts was not perhaps without its 
influence in obscuring the merchants' perceptions of the 
merits of their current operations. The trade being 
virtually conducted by barter, the sale of a particular 
parcel of goods did not necessarily close the venture. 
A nominal price was agreed upon between buyer and 
seller for the convenience of account-keeping, but this 
almost always had reference to the return investment 
in tea or other produce. So that British goods were 
regarded as a means of laying down funds in China for 
the purchase of tea, while tea was regarded as a return 
remittance for the proceeds of manufactured goods, and 
as a means of laying down funds in England for further 
investments in the same commodity for shipment to 
China. The trade thus revolving in an eternal circle, 
having neither beginning nor end, it was impossible to 
pronounce definitely at what particular point of the 
revolution the profit or loss occurred. A bad out-turn 
of goods exported would, it was hoped, be compensated 
for by the favourable result of the produce imported, 
and vice versa, ad infinitum. Thus no transaction stood 
on its own merits or received the unbiassed attention of 
the merchants. Their accounts did not show the actual 
amount of loss or gain on a particular invoice, the 


formula simply recording the price at which the venture, 
as an operation in exchange, "laid down the dollar." 
The par value of that coin being taken at 4s. 4d., the 
out-turn of a sterling invoice which yielded the dollar at 
any price below that was of course a gain, or anything 
above it a loss. But the gain or loss so registered was 
merely provisional. The dollar as such was never 
realised : it was but a fiction of the accountant, which 
acquired its substantial value only when reinvested in 
Chinese produce. The final criterion, therefore, was 
how much the dollar invoices of Chinese produce would 
yield back in sterling money when sold in London, and 
how that yield compared with the " laid-down " cost of 
the dollar in China. But even that finality was only 
provisional so long as the circuit of reinvestment was 

Merchants were not called upon to face their losses as 
they were made, nor could they realise their profits as 
they were earned. Long before one years account 
could be closed, the venture of one or two subsequent 
years had been launched beyond recall, and the figures 
of the newest balance-sheet related to transactions 
which, having already become ancient history, were but 
a dry study compared with the new enterprises bearing 
the promise of the future and absorbing the whole 
interest of the merchant. Business was thus carried on 
very much in the dark, the eyes of the trader being 
constantly directed forward, while past experience was 
not allowed its legitimate influence in forming the 
judgment. A blind reliance on the equalising effect 
of averages was perhaps the safest principle on which 
such a commerce could be carried on. The merchants 
themselves were wont to say that after drawing the 


clearest inferences from experience, and making the 
most careful estimates of probabilities, the wisest 
man was he who could act contrary to the obvious 
deductions therefrom. Business thus became a kind 
of concrete fatalism. 

The China trade was, moreover, much hampered by- 
certain traditions of the East India Company which 
long clung to its skirts. One of these relics of con- 
servatism, transmitted from the days of the maritime 
wars, was the principle of storing up merchandise at 
both termini. It was an understood thing that the 
Company should never keep less than two years' supply 
of tea in the London warehouses, and long after the 
Company ceased to trade stocks of that commodity 
often amounted to nearly twelve months' consumption. 
Similarly, manufactured goods were accumulated, 
whether of set purpose or from the mere force of 
habit, in the China depots. The merchant seemed to 
have inherited the principle of holding merchandise 
for some ideal price, locking up his own or his con- 
stituents' capital, incurring cumulative charges on 
commodities which were all the while deterioratinof 
in value, and eventually perhaps selling under some 
financial or other pressure. A certain satisfaction 
seems to have been derived from the contemplation 
of a full " go -down," as if the merchandise there 
stored had been realised wealth instead of a block 
to such realisation. 

That primitive state of affairs is now a thing of the 
past, since the progress of the world during the last 
thirty years has revolutionised not the foreign trade of 
China, but the peculiar system on which it was car- 
ried on. The distribution of capital and the services of 


Exchange banks exploded many conservative doctrines. 
The first merchants who, perceiving the necessity of 
reforming the habits of the trade, boldly resolved to 
" sell and repent " on the arrival of their merchandise, 
were pitied by their more antiquated neighbours, and 
thought to be likely to stand much in need of repent- 
ance. But in their case wisdom has been justified of 
her children. 

This bald sketch of the trade customs inherited from 
the East India Company, though typical, is by no 
means exhaustive. There were, both before and after 
the treaty of Nanking, many byways and specialities 
and exceptions by which the vicious circle was broken 
with happy results to the individuals. Indeed at all 
points there have been collateral avenues to fortune, 
contributory enterprises more profitable than those 
which were purely commercial. The various ways of 
taxing commerce, as by insurance, freightage, storage, 
lighterage, packing, financing, &c., have afibrded, on 
the whole, safe and good returns on capital. In 
countries where family improvidence is prevalent, and 
where capital is scarce and dear, as is the case gen- 
erally in the Far East, both the opportunity and the 
inducement to invest in real estate are afibrded to 
those who are in a position to take advantage of 
them, — for the same conditions which bring property 
into the market provide the tenants for the new 
proprietors. By following with that singleness of 
purpose which distinguishes all their proceedings 
the line of financial policy so obviously suggested by 
this state of things, the Jesuits, Lazarists, and other 
religious orders have gradually accumulated in every 
locality where they have settled a very large amount of 


house property in and around populous centres. By 
this means they have laid whole communities of natives, 
and even foreigners, under permanent tribute to the 
Church, and have thereby rendered their missions 
independent of subventions from Christian countries. 
Many of the foreign merchants, following this worldly- 
wise example, have in like manner rendered themselves 
independent of mercantile business. 

The American trade was for the most part exempt 
from the drawbacks as well as the advantages of 
the circuit system. The similarity of currency helped 
to simplify American commerce with China, and 
though from an early period the United States ex- 
ported manufactures to that country, these went but a 
little way in payment for the products which they 
imported from China. Hence large shipments of specie 
had to be made to purchase their cargoes. No 
statistics exist, but Mr Hunter incidentally mentions 
one ship carrying amongst other cargo 8350,000, and 
three other vessels carrying between them 81,100,000, 
which may be taken as typical of the course of trade 
prior to the abolition of the East India Company's 
monopoly. This mode of paying for produce was 
succeeded in after-years by credits on London banks, 
drafts under which supplied the most convenient 
medium of remittance to shippers of opium and other 
produce from India. The circuit was trilateral, and 
to a considerable extent remains so. 

VOL. I. M 

178 TEA. [chap. XI. 

I. TEA. 

Causes of bad state of trade — Failure of hopes built on " free " trade — 
Efforts for improvement — Select Committee of 1847 — Excessive dutie§ 
in England — Irregularities in valuation — Annual consumption at this 
time — Revenue from the duties — Beginnings of the India tea trade — 
Mr Robert Fortune — Lord William Bentinck, Governor-General, in- 
troduces tea culture, 1834 — Assam Company founded 1839 — Fortune's 
missions to China — Tea-plant indigenous in India — Progress of scien- 
tific culture — Vicissitudes of the trade — Ultimate success of the India 
and Ceylon trade — An example of Western as against Eastern methods 
— Tea-planting introduced in Ceylon — Rapid increase there — Why 
China has been supplanted in the market — Ingenuity and enterprise 
of the Indian planters — A victory of race and progress — Obstructive 
measures of the Chinese Government. 

There was an apparent inconsistency in the outcry 
for larger quantities of Chinese produce to balance the 
trade, while the small quantity that did come forward 
could only be sold at a loss. The explanation may 
partly be found in the " boom " which naturally ensued 
on the emancipation of the China trade from the 
oppressive monopoly of the East India Company, and in 
the disappointment which, no less naturally, succeeded 
the boom. To some extent also the onerous imposts 
laid upon the principal article of export — tea — by the 
British Exchequer might be held responsible for the 
anomaly ; for the English duties were a mechanical 
dead-weight on the trade, impeding the free play of 
the other economic factors. There was a practically 
unlimited supply of tea in China, and a growing de- 
mand for it in England, and yet some £2,000,000 in 
specie was annually sent away from China as the 
balance of trade. How to commute that amount of 
silver into tea for the benefit of both countries might 


be said to be the problem before the merchants and 
their Governments. 

The only means which appeared to them feasible 
to effect this object was to lower the British import 
duty. Among many interesting particulars concern- 
ing the actual state of the Chinese trade at that 
time, we get from the report of the Select Committee 
of the House of Commons on " Commercial Relations 
with China," of 1847, an insight into the difficulties, 
such as in our day can scarcely be imagined, which 
stood in the way of any reduction of the tea duties. 

On the opening of what was called free trade with 
China — " free," that is to say, of the East India Com- 
pany's monopoly — the duty was 96 per cent ad valorem 
on all teas sold at or under 2s. a pound, or 100 per cent 
on all above that price. These ad valorem duties 
worked iniquitously for both the Government and the 
merchants, the Customs levying the higher rate when 
the lower was appropriate, and the merchants redress- 
ing the injustice in their own fashion when occasion 
served. An attempt was made to remedy this re- 
grettable situation by the reduction of tea to three 
classifications, and the conversion of the ad valorem 
duties into specific duties ranging from Is. 6d. to 3s. 
per pound on these classifications. The arrangement 
was still found unworkable, and the most glaring 
irregularities were common. The same parcel of tea, 
absolutely uniform in quality, divided between London 
and Liverpool, would be assessed in one port on the 
lower, and in the other on the higher, scale of duties, 
and the Customs would grant no redress, though the 
overcharge might be ruinous to the trader. 

This impossible state of things was remedied in 1836, 

180 TEA. [chap. XI. 

when the duties were converted to one uniform rate of 
2s. per pound on all teas. Subsequently 5 per cent was 
added to this, so that the duty in 1847 was 2s. 2Jd. 
The object to which the Government inquiry was 
primarily directed was to gauge the effect on the con- 
sumption of tea of the raising or lowering of the duties, 
on which depended the ultimate retail price. The ad- 
mission of competition in the Chinese trade in 1834 
had the immediate effect of reducing the "laid-down" 
cost of tea, which promptly reacted upon the consump- 
tion of the article in England. But as the import duty 
remained unaltered, while the prime cost of the tea was 
much lowered, the Exchequer derived the whole benefit 
from the increased consumption. 

The annual consumption at that time in Great Britain 
was 1 lb. 10 oz. per head, or 46,000,000 lb. in total, and 
it was shown that in every instance where the duty was 
lower the consumption was proportionately greater. In 
the Isle of Man, where the duty was Is. per pound, the 
consumption quickly rose, when the restriction on the 
quantity allowed to be imported there was removed, to 
2 lb. 10 oz. per head. In the Channel Islands it was 
4 lb. 4 oz. per head. " In Newfoundland, Australia, 
and other colonies the consumption is very much larger 
per head than it is in this country." The Australian 
colonies have maintained to the present day their pre- 
eminence as tea-drinkers, their consumption averaging 
no less than 10 lb. per head. Consumption in Bussia 
and the United States is estimated at a little over 1 lb. 
per head of the population. 

The colonists have always been the most intelligent 
consumers of the article. Forty years ago they substi- 
tuted good black teas for the pungent green which had 


supplied the wants of the mining camps and primitive 
sheep stations, and within the last few years they have 
shown their appreciation of the flavoury Ceylon leaf by 
taking every year a larger quantity in relative displace- 
ment of the rougher qualities which come from India. ' 
The " geographical distribution " of the taste for tea 
presents some rather curious facts. In the United 
Kingdom, for example, dealers find that Irish con- 
sumers demand the best quality of tea. The United 
States remained faithful to their green tea long after 
that description was discarded in Australia ; and even 
when black tea came to be in part substituted, it was 
not the Ceylon or Chinese Congou, but the astringent 
Oolong kinds, such as are so largely supplied from 
Japan, which met the taste of American consumers. 

The cost price of tea had been so much reduced by 
the abolition of the East India Company's monopoly 
that the fixed rate of duty, instead of being equivalent, 
as it had been when originally fixed, to 100 per cent 
on the value, was estimated to average 165 per cent 
on Congou tea, which was much beyond what the 
Legislature intended when the tariff was decided ; 
for while they reckoned on getting a revenue of 
£3,600,000, the increase in the quantity had been so 
considerable that the yield of the duty had risen 
to £5,000,000. The arguments and the evidence in 
favour of reducing the duties were unanswerable from 
every point of view. Yet the utmost which the advo- 
cates in 1847 seem to have hoped for was that it might 
be reduced to Is. per pound, which they considered 
would entail a temporary loss to the revenue. But 
we see in our day that the Government draws nearly 
£4,000,000 from the article on a tariff rate of 4d. 

182 TEA. [chap. XI. 

per pound, while the consumption per head of popu- 
lation has risen to 6 lb., or a total of 235,000,000 lb. 
per annum. 

While the mercantile community were thus strain- 
ing after means of developing the tea trade from 
China there were causes at work, of which they 
seemed to have no suspicion, which have completely 
revolutionised that trade, reducing China to a quite 
secondary position as an exporter. Among the wit- 
nesses examined before the Committee of 1847 there 
was one who may almost be said to have held the 
fate of the Chinese tea trade in his hands, though 
probably he himself was unaware of it. This was 
Mr Robert Fortune, curator of the Physic Gardens 
at Chelsea, who had travelled in some of the tea 
districts of China as agent of the Horticultural 
Society of London, being also commissioned by the 
East India Company to investigate the processes of 
the growth and manufacture of tea in China, and to 
bring to India seeds and plants as well as skilled 
workmen to manipulate the leaves. The idea of 
cultivating tea in India had long been entertained 
by the Company. The plant itself had been found 
indigenous in Upper Assam twenty years before 
Fortune's day, but no practical notice was taken of 
the discovery until 1834, when the Government of 
India resolved to attempt the culture of the leaf 
The scheme received its first embodiment in a Minute 
of Lord William Bentinck, the first Governor-General 
of India,^ in 1834. The plan he laid down was to 
" select an intelligent agent, who should go to Penang 
and Singapore and in conjunction with authorities 

1 His predecessors had been governors of Fort William in Bengal. 

fortune's researches. 183 

and the most intelligent of Chinese agents should 
concert measures for obtaining the genuine plant, and 
actual cultivators." The state of affairs in China at 
the time did not favour the prosecution of such an 
enterprise. The native resources of India, however, 
began at once to be utilised. The Assam Company, 
the pioneer of tea-culture, was established in 1839, 
and continues its operations to our own day. After 
the treaty of peace and the successful establishment 
of trade at the new ports in China, Lord William 
Bentinck's ideas were realised in the two missions 
of Fortune, who succeeded in conveying to India 
nearly 20,000 plants from both the black and green 
tea countries of Central China. Although, judging 
from subsequent experience, India might by her un- 
aided efforts have developed this great industry, yet 
it can hardly be doubted that the enterprise of 
the practical Scottish gardener applied the effective 
stimulus which raised tea-growing to the rank of a 
serious national interest. Hybridisation between the 
imported Chinese plants and those of indigenous 
growth proceeded actively, no less than one hundred 
varieties being thus produced. Planters now con- 
sider that the native plant would have served all 
their purposes without any intermixture, but probably 
nothing short of practical experience would have 
persuaded them of this. 

The vicissitudes of tea-growing in India have been 
so sharp that they would form of themselves an in- 
teresting episode of industrial history. Mania and 
panic alternated during the experimental stages of 
the enterprise, with the inevitable result of whole- 
sale transfers of property, so that of the early 

184 TEA. [chap. XI. 

pioneers comparatively few were destined to enjoy 
the ultimate reward of their sacrifices. Difficulties of 
many kinds dogged the steps of the planters, among 
these being the unsatisfactory land tenure and the 
supply of labour. The mortality among the imported 
coolies was for many years so heavy that the Govern- 
ment was eventually obliged to interfere with severe 
regulations, which were imposed in 1863. These and 
other difficulties being successfully grappled with, the 
prosperity of the industry flowed as smoothly' as the 
Niagara river below the Falls,.. ^until the supply of 
tea from India and Ceylon had completely swamped 
that from the original home of the trade. 

The supplanting of Chinese by Indian tea in the 
markets of the world — for even Russia is now an 
importer of the latter — is an interesting example of 
the encroachment of Western enterprise on the 
ancient province of Eastern habits. These are of 
course only general terms, for from all such com- 
parisons Japan must be either excluded or classed 
rather among the foremost of the progressive nations 
than among her nearest geographical neighbours. 
When tea - cultivation was once shown to be " pay- 
able" in British Indian territory the energy of the 
Western people was quickly brought to bear on the 
industry, and through several cycles of success and 
failure, and over the dead bodies, so to sj)eak, of 
many pioneers, the production available for and dis- 
tributed in the English market has steadily grown 
from nothing up to 154,000,000 lb. per annum. 

The cultivation of tea was introduced at a much later 
period into Ceylon, where it most opportunely took the 
place of coflee, which had been ruined by disease, and 


already the deliveries of tea from that island press 
hard on that from India itself, having reached 
90,000,000 lb., or more than half of the Indian supply. 
The rate of progress in Ceylon has been most remark- 
able. In 1883 the most experienced residents in the 
island considered themselves sanguine in predicting that 
the export of tea would eventually reach the total of 
20,000,000 lb.— it being at that time under 1,000,000 lb. 
While the products of India and Ceylon have thus been 
advancing by leaps and bounds, the import from China 
has dwindled down to 29,000,000 lb., — about one-tenth 
part of a trade of which forty years ago she held an 
easy monopoly. 

How has such a gigantic displacement been brought 
about ? Primarily, no doubt, from the vigorous follow- 
ing up of the discovery that tea could be profitably 
grown in India. But beyond that it is a victory of 
race over race, of progress over stagnation, of the spirit 
of innovation and experiment over that of conservative 
contentment. The Indian planters have made a per- 
sonal study of all the conditions of tea-culture, have 
selected their plants, invented machinery to do all that 
the Chinese have done for centuries by manipulation, 
have put ample capital into the enterprise, and used the 
utmost skill in adapting their product to the taste of 
their customers. Moreover, they have by dint of adver- 
tising all over the world, attending exhibitions, and 
many other devices, forced their commodity into 
markets which would never have come to them. There 
was, on the other hand, no one interested in the success 
of Chinese tea-growers, whose plantations are in the 
interior of the country, subdivided into garden-plots, 
with no cohesion among their owners for aggressive 

186 TEA. [chap. XI. 

purposes. For though the Chinese can and do combine, 
it is usually in a negative sense, to obstruct and not to 
promote action, whereas the tea-growers of India have 
shown examples of intelligent co - operation of the 
aggressive and productive kind, not wasting power in 
seeking to impede rivals, but devoting their whole 
energies to the prosecution of their own business. 
And they have their reward. 

The short - sightedness of the Government has no 
doubt contributed to the decline of the Chinese tea 
trade, through the excessive duties of one kind and an- 
other which they have continued to levy on the article 
from the place of growth to the port of shipment. 
It is fair to remember, however, that their exactions 
bear most heavily on the low grades, which, notwith- 
standing, continue to be shipped in quite as large 
quantities as is desirable in the interest of consumers ; 
while the superior qualities, which are quite able to 
bear the taxes, have almost ceased to be imported 
into Great Britain, the whole supply finding its way 
to Kussia. That country has long been celebrated, 
and justly so, for the excellence of its tea, for which 
fantastical reasons are wont to be given. The true 
reason is very simple. Russian merchants purchase 
the fine Chinese teas for which no market can now be 
found in England, the public taste having run so ex- 
clusively on the product of India and Ceylon that a 
cup of good Chinese tea has become a luxury reserved 
for those who have facilities for obtaininof the article 
outside the ordinary channels of trade. 



Balance of trade adjusted by Shanghai silk trade — China the original silk 
country — Silk chiefly exported from Canton — Advantages of the new 
port of Shanghai — Disease attacks the silkworm in Europe — Shanghai 
supplies the deficit — Efforts in Italy and France to obtain healthy seed 
from China and Japan — Disease overcome by M. Pasteur — Renewed 
prosperity of the European producers shared by the Chinese. 

Within six years of the time when the merchants 
of England were earnestly seeking a remedy for the 
crying evil of the balance of trade against China, the 
whole difficulty had disappeared through the operation 
of natural causes. The great factor in bringing about 
the change was the rapid growth of the trade of 
Shanghai, and more particularly the large exportation 
of raw silk from that port. " The noble article," as 
the Italians fondly call it, already in 1853 represented 
a larger value than the tea exported ; the turn of the 
tide had come ; the balance of trade had shifted ; and 
in a very few years silver flowed into the country more 
copiously than it had ever flowed out. 

Of all the materials of commerce silk is perhaps the 
most classical. A fibre so lustrous, so pure, and so 
durable, has been the desire of all nations ancient 
and modern, and the peculiar interest excited by its 
humble origin enveloped the subject in myths and 
legends during the earlier intercourse between Europe 
and Asia. China was known to the ancients as the 
cradle of sericulture, deriving, in fact, from its most 
famous product the name Serica, by which it was 
known to the Greeks and Eomans. There is not a 
silk-producing country in the world which is not 

188 SILK. [chap. XI. 

directly or indirectly indebted to China for the seed 
of the insect, if not also for the introduction of the 
white mulberry -tree, upon the leaves of which the 
caterpillar is fed. Though rivals have sprung up in 
many countries both in Europe and in Asia, China 
has not lost its reputation, or even its pre-eminence, 
as a producer of the article. 

The vicissitudes of the silk trade and cultivation 
would afford more varied interest than the com- 
paratively simple annals of the displacement of tea. 
Though the subject falls outside the scope of the pres- 
ent work, the changes that have taken place in Chinese 
commerce cannot be intelligently followed without some 
reference to the animated competition which has been 
going on for more than forty years among the great 
silk -producing countries. The first in rank among 
these was Italy, France following at a considerable 
distance. The wants of Europe had been mainly sup- 
plied during centuries by the product of these countries, 
India and the Levant and some others contributing 
also their share. Japan had been growing silk for her 
own use during all the time that intercourse with the 
rest of the world was prohibited by severe laws, and 
she came later into the field as an exporter. 

The quantity obtained from China previous to the 
opening of the five ports was all derived from the 
southern provinces, and was exported from Canton. 
In nothing was the pre-eminence of the new port of 
Shanghai over its older rival destined to be more 
marked than in the development of the silk trade. 
Its position within an easy canal journey of the richest 
silk-growing districts in the whole empire gave to the 
northern port advantages which were promptly turned 


to account in co-operation between the foreign and 
the native merchants, resulting before many years in 
the growth of a healthy and most satisfactory trade. 
The supply of the article having up to that time been 
regulated by the home demand, the entry of an outside 
customer had a very stimulating effect upon the Chinese 
growers. Some years elapsed before the product of 
the newly opened districts could be fully tested and 
appreciated by the manufacturers in Europe. This 
time was well employed by the Chinese cultivators 
and traders in maturing their arrangements for bring- 
ing larger supplies to the foreign market, suited to 
the requirements of the new purchasers, as far as they 
were understood. The supply and demand had pro- 
gressed evenly, admitting of good profits to both sides, 
until a stage was reached when the trade and cultiva- 
tion were both ready to respond to a new stimulus, and 
just then the new stimulus was applied. 

Disease began to attack the silkworms in Europe ; 
the production of Italian and other silk became pre- 
carious, and inadequate to the demands of the manu- 
facturing trade. Into the vacuum thus created sup- 
plies from China were ready to pour in, and highly 
remunerative prices awaited them. The export from 
Shanghai for the year 1856 was very large, and the 
result encouraged growers and native and foreign mer- 
chants to put forth still greater efforts in the following 
year, when the shipments from that port reached 
90,000 bales, worth probably £10,000,000 sterling. 
These shipments, thrown on the market during the 
money panic of 1857, resulted disastrously, but the 
impetus given to the trade continued to be felt during 
many subsequent years. 

190 SILK. [chap. XI. 

The Italians in the meanwhile, driven to their 
wits' end to save so valuable an industry, tried first 
to obtain healthy seed from China and Japan. The 
first experiments being unsuccessful, the eggs having 
hatched during the voyage, steamers were specially 
chartered and carefully fitted up with conveniences for 
preserving the precious commodity. Experiment was 
also made of sending the seed by the caravan route 
through Siberia to save the risk of premature in- 
cubation. In fact, Jason's quest of the Golden Fleece 
was scarcely characterised by more varied adventures 
than that of the Italians — the French also joining to 
a certain extent — after a healthy breed of silkworm. 
After many years of anxious and almost desperate 
efforts, some success was obtained in introducing 
Chinese and Japanese seed into Europe ; but the prod- 
uce of the exotic seed also in time became liable to 
attacks of the parasite, and it was not till science came 
to the aid of the cultivators that the true remedy was 
finally applied, and an important item in the national 
wealth of Southern Europe was saved. It was M. 
Pasteur who eventually furnished the means of de- 
tecting in the egg the germ of the destructive parasite ; 
so that by sorting out the infected eggs and destroying 
them the race was purified. Thus the way was opened 
for the restoration of European culture to more than 
its pristine prosperity ; for the many valuable lessons 
which the cultivators learnt in the school of their 
adversity have stood them in good stead now that 
fortune has again smiled upon them. 

Notwithstanding the revival of European silk-culture, 
the silks of China and Japan and other Eastern 
countries still hold their own in the Western markets, 


and continue to form an important constituent of the 
export trade of the Far East.^ The European markets 
to which they are consigned are no longer indeed Eng- 
lish, but French, German, American, and others, the 
last forty years having witnessed a revolution in the 
silk industries of Great Britain, and a virtual transfer- 
ence of the old industries of Spitalfields, Norwich, 
Macclesfield, and other districts to her manufacturing 


The largest and most interesting Chinese import — Peculiarities of the trade 
— Nominally contraband — But openly dealt in — Ships anchored in the 
Canton river — Or near the trading-ports — Wusung — Opium cargoes 
discharged into old hulks before entering Shanghai port — Importance 
of the opium traffic as a factor in foreign intercourse — The opium 
clippers — The opium market liable to much variation — Piracy — The 
clippers were armed — Occasionally attacked — Anomalous position — 
Alcock's aversion to the opium traffic — His reasons — Experience at 
Shanghai modifies his opinion — The trade being bound up with our 
Indian and Chinese commerce — No attempt to stop it could do other 
than aggravate the mischief — Still wishes to see the trade modified or 
abolished — Despatch to Sir J. Bowring — His desire to devise some 
scheme — His last proposal of 1870 — Ambiguous attitude of the British 
Government — Inheritors of the East India Company's traditions — 
These forbad the carrying of opium in their ships — Question of legalis- 
ing the traffic — 1885 Chinese Government trebles the import duty and 
asks the help of the Hongkong Government for its collection. 

The most interesting constituent of trade in China 
has always been opium, especially since the product of 
British India was so much improved and stimulated by 
the Government as practically to supersede in the China 
market the demand for the production of other countries. 

^ Eastern countries send to Europe half of the whole consumption of the 
West — China yielding 35 per cent to 40 per cent of the entire supply, Japan 
12 per cent. 

192 OPIUM. [chap. XI. 

The value of the opium imported exceeded that of all 
other articles, the figures being returned at $23,000,000 
and $20,000,000 respectively for the year 1845. As 
the exports of Chinese produce were at that time 
estimated at $37,000,000, it is evident that opium 
played a most important part in the adjustment of the 
balance of trade ; and as it came from India and the 
returns from it had to go thither, opium and raw cotton, 
which also came from India, formed the pivot of ex- 
change. As the opium was paid for in silver and not 
by the barter of produce, it was natural to charge it 
with the loss of the silver which was annually shipped 
away from China, and which was assumed to reach the 
amount of £2,000,000 sterling, though that seems to be 
an exaggeration. 

The trade in this commodity differs from all ordinary 
commerce in the conditions under which it has been 
carried on, and in the sentiments which have grown up 
concerning it. Until the treaty made by Lord Elgin 
in 1858 the importation of opium had been for many 
years nominally contraband, while yet the trade in 
it was as open as that in any other commodity and 
was as little interfered with by the Government. 
Laxity and connivance being the characteristics of 
Chinese officialdom, there would be nothing extra- 
ordinary even in the official patronage of a traffic 
which was forbidden by the State, so that it would 
not be safe to infer from the outward show what the 
real mind of the responsible Government was on 
that or any other subject. The necessity of saving 
appearances, an object always so dear to the Chinese 
heart, necessitated a special machinery for conducting 
the trade in opium. Before the war, as has been 


already said, the ships carrying the drug anchored at 
certain rendezvous in the estuary of the Canton river, 
where they delivered their goods on the order of the 
merchants who were located in Canton or Macao. The 
vessels also made excursions up the coast, where they 
had direct dealings with the Chinese, the master acting 
as agent for the owners. And when the northern ports 
were opened, after the treaty of Nanking, the opium 
depot ships were stationed at convenient points on the 
coast in the vicinity of the trading-ports. The most 
important of these stations was at Wusung, on the 
Hwangpu river, nine miles by road from Shanghai. 
There were sometimes a dozen, and never less than 
half-a-dozen, hulks moored there, dismantled, housed- 
in, and unfit for sea. The supply was kept up in the 
earlier days by fast schooners and latterly by steamers, 
which in the period before the treaty of 1858 dis- 
charged their opium into these hulks without surveil- 
lance of any kind, and then proceeded up the river to 
Shanghai with the rest of their cargo, which, though 
often consisting of but a few odd packages, was taken 
charge of by the custom - house with the utmost 
punctilio, while the valuable cargo of opium was 
ignored as if it did not exist. 

The opium trade was a ruling factor in the general 
scheme of foreign intercourse and residence in China. 
The postal communication, for example, on the coast 
and between India and China was practically de- 
pendent on it ; for, being a precious commodity, it 
could afford to pay very high charges for freight, and 
the opium clippers could be run regardless of expense, 
as will be more fully described in the Chapter on 
" Shipping." 

VOL. I. N 

194 OPIUM. [chap. XI. 

The high value of the article influenced the con- 
duct of the trade in a variety of ways, one in par- 
ticular being that the vessels carrying it had to go 
heavily armed. The coast of China before the war 
and after swarmed with pirates, to whom so portable 
an article as opium offered an irresistible temptation. 
The clippers on the coast were usually small schooners 
from 100 to 200 tons burthen, and though with their 
superior sailing powers they could always take care 
of themselves in a breeze, they would have been 
helpless in a calm unless prepared to stand to their 
guns. It was sometimes alleged by those opposed 
to the traflic that these vessels were little better 
than pirates themselves, inasmuch as they were 
forcing a trade prohibited by the laws of the empire, 
and were armed to resist the authorities. The opium- 
carriers were not un frequently attacked by pirates, 
sometimes captured and destroyed by them ; but 
there never seems to have been any interference 
or complaint on the part of the Government, even 
when prompted thereto by British consuls. Never- 
theless it was an anomalous state of things, though 
one far from unusual in the first third of the century, 
that European vessels should ply their trade armed 
like privateers. 

The attitude of Consul Alcock towards the opium 
trade was, from the earliest days of his consulship in 
Foochow until his final departure from China in 
1870, one of consistent aversion, so decided, indeed, 
that in some of the arguments adduced in his 
Foochow reports against the trade the conclusion 
somewhat outran the premisses, as he in after years 


acknowledged by marginal notes on those earlier 
despatches : — 

A trade prohibited and denounced alike as illegal and in- 
jurious by the Chinese authority constitutes a very anom- 
alous position both for British subjects and British authorities, 
giving to the latter an appearance of collusion or connivance at 
the infraction of the laws of China, which must be held to 
reflect upon their integrity and good faith by the Chinese. 

No small portion of the odium attaching to the illicit traffic 
in China falls upon the consular authorities under whose juris- 
diction the sales take place, and upon the whole nation whose 
subjects are engaged in the trade ; and the foundations of the 
largest smuggling trade in the world are largely extended, 
carrying with them a habit of violating the laws of another 

The opium is of necessity inimical and opposed to the en- 
largement of our manufacturing trade. 

That which has been said of war may with still greater force 
apply to the illicit traffic in opium, " It is the loss of the many 
that is the gain of the few." 

Whichever way we turn, evil of some kind connected with 
this monstrous trade and monopoly of large houses meets our 

In order to do justice to the agents in the traffic, 
he adds in the same report on the trade for 1845 — 

While the cultivation and sale of opium are sanctioned and 
encouraged for the purposes of revenue in India, and those who 
purchase the drug deriving wealth and importance from the 
disposal of it in China are free from blame, it is vain to 
attempt to throw exclusive opprobrium upon the last agents in 
the transaction. 

These were the impressions of a fresh and presum- 
ably unprejudiced mind taking its first survey of 
the state of our commercial intercourse with China. 
They were reflections necessarily of a somewhat ab- 

196 OPIUM. [chap. XL 

stract character, formed on a very limited acquain- 
tance with the actualities of a trade which did not 
yet exist in Foochow. A few years' experience at 
the great commercial mart of Shanghai widened the 
views of the consul materially, and showed him that 
there was more in this opium question than meets 
the eye of the mere philosopher. A confidential re- 
port on the subject made in 1852 treats the matter 
from a more statesman-like as well as a more business- 
like point of view. In that paper he does more than 
deplore the evil, and while seeking earnestly for a 
remedy, fully recognises the practical difficulties and 
the danger of curing that which is bad by something 
which is worse. 

The opium trade [he observes in a despatch to Sir John 
Bo wring] is not simply a question of commerce but first and 
chiefly one of revenue — or, in other words, of finance, of 
national government and taxation — in which a ninth of the 
whole income of Great Britain and a seventh of that of British 
India is engaged. 

The trade of Great Britain with India in the year 1850 
showed by the official returns an export of manufactures to the 
value of £8,000,000, leaving a large balance of trade against 
that country. A portion of the revenue of India has also to be 
annually remitted to England in addition, for payment of the 
dividends on Indian stock and a portion of the Government 
expenses. These remittances are now profitably made vid 
China, by means of the opium sold there ; and failing this, 
serious charges would have to be incurred which must curtail 
both the trade and the resources of the Indian Exchequer. 

In China, again, scarcely a million and a half of manu- 
factured goods can find a market ; yet we buy of tea and silk 
for shipment to Great Britain not less than five millions, and 
the difference is paid by opium. 

A trade of £10,000,000 in British manufactures is there- 
fore at stake, and a revenue of £9,000,000 — six to the British 
and three to the Indian Treasury. 


Which of these is the more important in a national point of 
view, — the commerce, or the revenue derived from it ? Both 
are, however, so essential to our interests, imperial and com- 
mercial, that any risk to either has long been regarded with 
distrust and alarm, and tends to give a character of timidity to 
our policy and measures for the maintenance of our relations 
with China — the more disastrous in its results, that to the 
oriental mind it is a sure indication of weakness, and to the 
weak the Chinese are both inexorable and faithless. 

That the opium trade, illegal as it is, forms an essential 
element, interference with which would derange the whole 
circle of operations, must be too apparent to require further 

Eeference to the practical details of the colossal trade in 
which it plays so prominent a part shows that it is inextricably 
mixed up with every trading operation between the three 
countries, and that to recognise the one and ignore the other is 
about as difficult in any practical sense as to accept the ac- 
quaintance of one of the Siamese twins and deny all knowledge 
of his brother. 

No attempt of the British Government to stop or materially 
diminish the consumption could possibly avail, or be otherwise 
than productive of aggravated mischief to India, to China, and 
to the whole world, by giving a motive for its forced production 
where it is now unknown, and throwing the trade into hands 
less scrupulous, and relieved of all those checks which under 
the British flag prevent the trade from taking the worst 
characters of smuggling, and being confounded with other acts 
of a lawless and piratical nature affecting life and property, to 
the destruction of all friendly or commercial relations between 
the two races. It is also sufficient to bear in mind that it is a 
traffic, as has been shown, which vitalises the whole of our 
commerce in the East ; that without such means of laying 
down funds the whole trade would languish, and its present 
proportions, colossal as they are, soon shrink into other and 
insignificant dimensions ; that the two branches of trade are 
otherwise so inextricably interwoven, that no means could be 
devised (were they less essential to each other) of separating 
them. And finally, although Great Britain has much to lose, 
China in such a quixotic enterprise has little or nothing to 

198 OPIUM. 


Notwithstanding all these weighty considerations, 
Mr Alcock never swerved in his desire to see " the 
opium trade, with all its train of contradictions, 
anomalies, and falsifying conditions," modified, if not 
done away with. In a careful despatch to Sir John 
Bowring dated May 6, 1854, reviewing our whole 
position in China, he thus expresses himself: — 

Any modification for the better in our relations must, I 
believe, begin here. We must either find means of inducing 
the Chinese Government to diminish the evil by legalising the 
trade, or enter the field of discussion . . . with a stone wall 
before us. . . . The legalisation would go far to diminish the 
obstacle such an outrider to our treaty creates ; but far better 
would it be, and more profitable in the end in view of what 
China might become commercially to Europe, America, and to 
Great Britian specially, if the Indian Government abandoned 
their three million sterling revenue from the cultivation of 
opium, and our merchants submitted to the temporary prejudice 
or inconvenience of importing silver for the balance of trade. 

Nearly twenty years afterwards we find Mr Alcock 
still engaged on the problem how to diminish the 
trade in opium without dislocating both the trade 
and finance of India, his last act on retiring from 
China in 1870 having been to propose a fiscal scheme 
of rearrangement by which the opium trade might 
undergo a process of slow and painless extinction.^ 

The attitude of the British Government towards the 
opium trade has always been ambiguous. Succeeding 
to the inheritance of the East India Company as the 
great growers of opium, they had to carry on its 

^ It is worth notice that this consistent opponent of the opium trade 
during fifty active years should have come under the ban of the Anti- 
Opium Society in England when the discussion of this important question 
degenerated into a mere polemic. 


traditions. These had led the Company in its trading 
days into some striking inconsistencies, for though they 
cultivated the poppy expressly for the China market, 
employing all the intelligence at their command to 
adapt their product to the special tastes of the Chinese, 
they yet refused to carry a single chest of it in their 
own ships which traded to China. By this policy they 
thought they could exonerate themselves in face of the 
Chinese authorities from participation in a trade which 
was under the ban of that Government. The im- 
portation of the drug was thus thrown upon private 
adventurers, and whenever the subject was agitated 
in Canton and Macao, none were so warm in their 
denunciations of the trade as the servants of the 
East India Company. This was notably the case 
with Captain Elliot, who, after leaving the Company's 
service and becoming representative of the Crown, 
never wearied in his strictures on the opium traffic. 

The question of legalising the traffic had frequently 
before been considered by the Chinese Government,^ 
and it was fully expected that this was the policy 
which would prevail in Peking in 1837. The pen- 
dulum swung to the opposite side, namely, that of 
prohibition, and legalisation was not adopted until 
1858. But once adopted, the idea made such progress 
that in 1885 the Chinese Government made a suc- 
cessful appeal to the British Government to be allowed 
to treble the import duty authorised in 1858, and that 
the Colonial Government of Hongkong should render 
them special assistance in collecting it. 

* Import duty had been regularly levied on opium for a hundred years, 
the prohibition of importation having been decreed after 1796 (Eitel). 

200 CHINESE EXPORTS. [chap. xi. 


Efforts of the consuls to stimulate trade — Alcock's work at Foochow — His 
despatches — Exhibition of 1851 — Exhibits of Chinese produce sent by 

The continuous efforts made by the consuls in the 
first decade after the treaty to stimulate the action 
of foreign merchants in laying hold of all the oppor- 
tunities offered to them for extending their connec- 
tions with the Chinese trade ought not to be passed 
over without notice. It was the burden of Consul 
Alcock's labours while in Foochow to gather informa- 
tion from every source, to digest it as well as he 
was able, and to lay it before his countrymen ; and 
if he, in his despatches to the plenipotentiary, some- 
times reflected on what seemed to him the apathy 
and want of enterprise of the merchants, that must 
be set down to a laudable zeal to make his office 
fruitful of benefit to his country. The same spirit 
animated his proceedings in Shanghai. The demand 
made for exhibits for the Great Exhibition of 1851 
found Mr Alcock and his lieutenant Parkes eager to 
supply samples of Chinese products of every kind 
likely to be of commercial interest. On applying to 
the mercantile community of Shanghai for their co- 
operation in collecting materials, he found them not 
over-sanguine as to the results of such an effort, and 
in his despatch of December 1850 to the plenipo- 
tentiary he remarks that " the British and foreign 
residents in Shanghai appeared to feel that the impos- 
sibility of gaining access to the great seats of manu- 


facture or the producing districts for raw material 
placed them in too disadvantageous a position to do 
justice either to themselves or the resources of the 
empire, which could only be very inadequately repre- 
sented, and in a way more calculated to mislead than 
instruct." " The conclusion," he goes on to say, " at 
which the mercantile community has arrived has gone 
far to paralyse all exertion on my part." Neverthe- 
less, with the restricted means at his disposal, he set 
to work to collect specimens of Chinese produce and 
industry and to transmit them to the Board of Trade 
for the use of the Commissioners. Of objects of art 
he sent a great variety in bronze, inlaid wood, 
porcelain, soapstone, and enamels, and the fancy 
articles which have since acquired such great repu- 
tation in the world that dealers in European and 
American capitals send out commissions every year 
to make extensive purchases. Colours used by the 
Chinese for dyeing purposes in twenty shades of blue, 
silk brocades, and many valuable products of the 
Chinese looms, were well represented, and the com- 
moner utensils, such as scissors, needles, and razors, 
some of which were within the last few years specially 
recommended in consular reports to the notice of 
English manufacturers, as if the suggestion were 
made for the first time. Of raw material, samples 
were sent of hemp, indigo, and many other natural 
products ; and when it is considered how eager the 
British mercantile community appeared to be to in- 
crease their importation of Chinese produce — be it 
tea, silk, or any other commodity — in order to balance 
the export trade, it is interesting to observe that in 
those early days a number of articles of export were 

202 CHINESE EXPORTS. [chap. xi. 

described and classified, with an account of the districts 
of their origin, which have only taken their place in 
the list of exports from China within the last twenty- 
years or so. These were sheep's wool of six different 
descriptions, and camels' hair, which are now so ex- 
tensively dealt in at the northern ports of China. 
Perhaps these articles were not seen in bulk by 
foreigners "until after the opening of the new^ ports 
in 1861, and it is worthy of remark that even after 
this discovery, and sundry experimental shipments, 
many years elapsed before the special products of 
Northern China became recognised articles of foreign 
trade. These now include straw plait, sheep's wool, 
goats' wools, goats' skins, dogs' skins, camels' hair, 
horses' tails, pigs' bristles, and a number of other 
articles of export which might perfectly well have 
been brought to the foreign market of Shanghai even 
before the opening of the northern ports. What was 
wanted was the knowledge that such products were 
procurable and the organisation of a market for their 
disposal in China, in Europe, and the United States. 
To stimulate inquiry into these matters was an object 
of the consular reports of the early days, and the 
fact that the seed then sown seemed to have been 
buried in sterile soil for thirty years affords a reason- 
able prospect that from the more advantageous basis 
on which commercial men now stand still larger de- 
velopments of international commerce may be reserved 
to future adventurers. 



Slow increase — Turn of the scale by the Shanghai silk trade — Consequent 
inflow of silver to China — Alcock's conament on the Report of Select 
Committee — His grasp of the true state of affairs. 

This department of trade presents little else but a 
record of very slow improvement, with some rather 
violent fluctuations due to obvious and temporary 
causes. In the first year after the treaty of Nanking 
the value of shipments to China from the United King- 
dom was £1,500,000; in 1852, £2,500,000; in 1861, 
£4,500,000, decreasing in 1862 to £2,300,000, and 
rising in 1863 to £3,000,000; after which period it 
steadily increased to £7,000,000, at which it has prac- 
tically remained, with the exception of two or three 
years between 1885 and 1891, when it rose to 

The theory of the merchants who gave evidence 
before the Committee of 1847, that an increase in the 
exports from China was all that was needed to enable 
the Chinese to purchase larger quantities of manufac- 
tured goods, has by no means been borne out by 
the subsequent course of trade. For although the 
Chinese exports have been greatly extended since 
then, that of silk alone having more than sufiiced 
to pay for the whole of the imports from abroad, 
there has been no corresponding increase in the 
volume of these importations. What happened was 
merely this, that the drain of silver from China, 
which was deplored on all sides up till about 1853, 
was converted into a steady annual inflow of silver 

204 BRITISH EXPORTS. [chap. xi. 

to China. ^ Consul Alcock, having been requested by 
her Majesty's chief superintendent of trade to make 
his comments on the Report of the Select Committee, 
dealt comprehensively with the whole question of the 
trade between Europe, India, and China, and evinced 
a wider grasp of the true state of the case than the 
London merchants had done. In a despatch dated 
March 23, 1848, the following passages occur : — 

Nearly the whole of the evidence furnished by the 
witnesses on our trade is calculated to mislead those imper- 
fectly acquainted with the details. The existence of this 
relation [the importation of opium and raw cotton from India] 
is kept out of sight, and conclusions are suggested which could 
only be maintained if the Indian imports into China did not 
form a part of our commerce, and did not come in direct com- 
petition with the import of staple manufactures. 

To counteract as far as may be in my power the erroneous 
tendency of the partial evidence which the Blue-Book contains 
on this part of the subject, I have ventured for the information 
of her Majesty's Government to bring forward such facts and 
inferences as seem to me to place in the strongest light the 
fallacy of the argument mainly insisted upon before the Com- 
mittee — viz., that we have only our own consumption of tea to 
look to as indicating the extent to which we can exchange our 
manufactures — that this is the only limit of our imports into 
China. But imports of what ? Xot certainly of cotton and 
woollen goods, for we already export of tea and silk from China 
to the value of some four millions sterling, and cannot find a 
profitable market for manufactured goods to the amount of two 
millions ; and a somewhat similar proportion, or disproportion 
rather, may be traced during the monopoly of the East India 
Company, during the free-trade period prior to the commence- 
ment of hostilities, and since the treaty. Say that from a 

1 During the last two decades important factors — such as foreign loans, 
armaments, and the like — have so influenced the movements of gold and 
silver that they bear no such simple relation to the " balance of trade " 
properly so called as was formerly the case. 


reduction of the tea duties or any other cause we double our 
exports from China as we have already done since 1833, from 
what data are we to infer that in this same proportion the 
export into China of British manufactures will increase ; or in 
other words, that for every additional million of tea there will 
be an equivalent value expended upon our cotton fabrics ? 

The anticipated result is contradicted by all past experience 
in China, and a moment's reflection must show that the 
essential elements have been overlooked. 1st, That there is a 
balance of trade against the Chinese of some $10,000,000, 
which must adjust itself before any increase of our exclusively 
British imports into China can be safely or reasonably expected, 
for which an additional export of 20,000,000 lb. of tea and 
10,000 bales of silk is required. 2ndly, That if such increase 
of our exports hence restored the balance of trade to-morrow, 
the proportion in which an increased import of our goods would 
take place must depend upon the result of a competition of 
cotton goods against opium and raw cotton — all three objects in 
demand among the Chinese ; and the proportion of each that 
may be taken under the assumed improvement depends upon 
the relative degree of preference exhibited by our customers for 
the different articles. The two latter have proved formidable 
rivals to our manufactures, nor is there any reason to anticipate 
beneficial change in that respect. 

The argument, therefore, that the only limit to our imports 
into China is the consumption of tea and silk in Great Britain, 
if meant to be applied, as it appears to be in the evidence, 
exclusively to British imports — that is, to cotton and woollens 
— is fallacious, and can only be sustained by dropping the most 
important features of the import trade, by treating opium and 
raw cotton as though they had neither existence nor influence 
upon our British staple trade. 

The influence of this mode of reasoning is calculated to be 
the more mischievous that it comes from gentlemen of practical 
mercantile information, and purports to suggest a remedy for 
an evil which is, in truth, of our own creating, and must recur 
as often and as certainly as the same causes are in operation. 
The trade in China during the last three years has been a 
losing, and in many instances a ruinous, trade, not because the 
English do not drink more tea, or the Chinese do not find it 
convenient to wear more cotton of our manufacture, but simply 

206 BRITISH EXPORTS. [chap. xi. 

because in such market the supply has not been carefully 
regulated by an accurate estimate of the probable demand. 
Our merchants at home have unfortunately been led by such 
reasoning as I have quoted to assume that in proportion as we 
purchase more tea the Chinese would lay out more money in 
cotton goods, and that the one might be taken as a true 
estimate of the other. Hence came shipments after the treaty 
so disproportioned to the actual wants or state of demand in 
the Chinese market that an immediate glut, with the conse- 
quent and necessary depreciation in price, followed. Nor did 
the evil end here : a return was of necessity to be made for 
this enormous over-supply of goods, hence more tea was shipped 
than the legitimate demand of the English markets would have 
suggested or justified, and at the other end of the chain the 
same depreciation and ruinous loss was experienced. . . . 

I have submitted in this and the preceding Keports my strong 
conviction that other conditions than a mere increase in our 
exports hence are essential. Of these I have endeavoured to 
show the principal and most important are access to the first 
markets, the removal of or efficient control over all fiscal 
pretexts for restricting the free circulation of our goods in the 
interior and the transit of Chinese produce thence to the 
ports, and, finally, the abolition of all humiliating travelling 
limits in the interior, which more than anything else tends to 
give the Chinese rulers a power of keeping up a hostile and 
arrogant spirit against foreigners, and of fettering our commerce 
by exactions and delays of the most injurious character. 

The conditions of the trade were, in fact, simpler 
than the merchants had imagined. The Chinese 
entered into no nice estimates of the balance of imports 
and exports, but purchased the goods which were 
offered to them so far as they were adapted to their 
requirements — and there is no other rule for the guid- 
ance of foreign manufacturers in catering for the great 
Chinese market. 



Inter-provincial trade — Advantages of the employment of foreign ship- 
ping — China exports surplus of tea and silk — Coasting - trade — 

The great reservoir of all foreign commerce in China 
is the old-established local inter-provincial trade of the 
country itself, which lies for the most part outside of 
the sphere of foreign interest excepting so far as it has 
come within the last forty years to supply the cargoes 
for an ever-increasing fleet of coasting sailing-ships and 
steamers. This great development of Chinese com- 
merce carried on in foreign bottoms was thus fore- 
shadowed by Mr Alcock as early as 1848 : — 

The disadvantages under which the native trade is now 
carried on have become so burdensome as manifestly to curtail 
it, greatly to the loss and injury of the Chinese population, 
enhancing the price of all the common articles of consumption : 
any measures calculated, therefore, to exempt their commerce 
from the danger, delay, and loss attending the transport of 
valuable produce by junks must ultimately prove a great boon 
of permanent value, though at first it may seem the reverse. 

In a political point of view the transfer of the more valuable 
portion of their junk trade to foreign bottoms is highly desir- 
able, as tending more than any measures of Government to 
improve our position by impressing the Chinese people and 
rulers with a sense of dependence upon the nations of the West 
for great and material advantages, and thus rebuking effectually 
the pride and arrogance which lie at the root of all their 
hostility to foreigners. 

In a commercial sense the direct advantage would consist in 
the profitable employment of foreign shipping to a greater 
extent : it would also assist the development of the resources of 
the five ports — more especially those which hitherto have done 

208 NATIVE TRADE. [chap. xi. 

little foreign trade. I have entered into some details to show 
how the carrying trade may work such results, particularly in 
reference to sugar, which promises to pave the way at this port 
to large shipments in this and other articles for the Chinese. 

A more effective blow will be given to piracy on the coast 
by a partial transfer of the more valuable freights to foreign 
vessels than by any measures of repression which either 
Government can carry out, for piracy will, in fact, cease to be 
profitable. . . . 

A further extension of the trade between our Australian 
settlements and China, and our colonies in the Straits with 
both, may follow as a natural result of any successful efforts in 
this direction, — the addition of a large bulky article of regular 
consumption like sugar alone sufficing to remove a great 
difficulty in the way of a Straits trade. . . . 

If this can be counted upon, I think it may safely be predi- 
cated that at no distant period a large and profitable employ- 
ment for foreign shipping will be found here totally exclu- 
sive of the trade with Europe. 

It has been said with regard to tea that the quantity 
sold for export is but the overflow of what is produced 
for native consumption, and to silk the same observa- 
tion would apply. Essentially a consuming country, it 
is the surplus of these two articles that China has been 
able to afford which has constituted the staple of export 
trade from first to last. It is an interesting question 
whether there may not be surpluses of some other 
Chinese products to be similarly drawn upon. If the 
foreign trade has been distinguished by its simplicity, 
being confined to a very few standard commodities, 
such cannot be predicated of the native trade, which is 
of a most miscellaneous character. It is impossible to 
give any statistical account of the coast and inland 
traffic of China. Any estimate of it would be scarcely 
more satisfactory than those which are so loosely made 
of the population. In the early days, when the ports 


opened by the treaty of 1842 were still new ports, 
great pains were taken by the consuls to collect all the 
information they could respecting purely Chinese com- 
merce, which they not unnaturally regarded as the 
source whence the material of an expanded foreign 
trade might in future be drawn. Especially was this 
the case at Foochow under the consulship of Mr Alcock 
and the assistantship of his energetic interpreter, 
Parkes. We find, for instance, among the returns 
compiled by that industrious officer of three months' 
trading in 1846, the quantities and valuations of over 
fifty articles of import and as many of export given in 
great detail : imports in 592 junks of 55,000 tons, and of 
exports in 238 junks of 22,000 tons. Of the sea-going 
junks he gives an interesting summary, distinguishing 
the ports with which they traded and their tonnage, 
with short abstracts of the cargoes carried. These 
amounted for the year to 1678 arrivals from twenty 
difierent places, and 1310 departures for twenty-four 
places ; and this at a port of which the consul wrote in 
1847, " No prospect of a British or other foreign trade 
at this port is apparent in the very remotest degree." 
Every traveller in every part of China is astonished 
at the quantity and variety of the merchandise which 
is constantly on the move. It is this that inspires 
confidence in the boundless potentialities of Chinese 
commerce, which seems only waiting for the link of 
connection between the resources of the empire and 
the enterprise of the Western world. 

Besides the sea-borne trade of which it was possible 
to make these approximate estimates, there is always 
in China an immense inland trade ; and at the time 
when piracy was rampant on the coast, and before the 

VOL. I. O 

210 NATIVE TRADE. [chap. xi. 

aid of foreign ships and steamers was obtained, all the 
goods whose value enabled them to pay the cost of 
carriage were conveyed by the inland routes, often 
indeed from one seaport to another, as, for instance, 
between Canton and Foochow, Ningpo, Shanghai, &c. ; 
and it is still by the interior channels that much of the 
trade is done between Shanghai and the provinces to 
the north of it, which would appear, geographically 
speaking, to be more accessible from their own seaports. 

The relation of the Government to the inter -pro- 
vincial trade is, in general terms, that of a capricious 
tax-gatherer, laying such burdens on merchandise as it 
is found able and willing to bear. The arbitrary im- 
positions of the officials are, however, tempered by the 
genius of evasion on the part of the Chinese merchant, 
and by mutual concession a modus vivendi is easily 
maintained between them. 

The item of trade in which Government comes into 
most direct relation with the trader is the article salt, 
which is produced all along the sea-coast, and is likewise 
obtained from wells in the western provinces. Like many 
other Governments, the Chinese have long treated salt 
as a Government monopoly. As the manner in which 
this is carried out illustrates in several points the ideas 
that lie at the root of Chinese administration, some 
notes on the subject made by Parkes at Foochow in 
1846, and printed in an appendix to this volume, 
may still be of interest.^ 

^ See Appendix IV. 




The East Indiaman — Opium clippers — Coasting craft — Trading explora- 
tions — Yangtze — Japan — Ocean trade — American shipping — Gold in 
California — Eepeal of British Navigation Laws — Gold in Australia — 
Ocean rivalry — Tonnage for China — Regular traders — Silk — British 
and American competition — The China clipper — Steam — The Suez 
Canal — Native shipping — Lorchas. 

Next in importance to the merchandise carried was 
the shipping which carried it. That stately argosy, 
the East Indiaman, was already invested with the 
halo of the past. Her leisurely voyages, once in two 
years, regulated by the monsoons, landing the "new" 
tea in London nearly a year old, and her comfortable 
habits generally, were matters of legend at the time 
of which we write. But a parting glance at the old 
is the best way of appreciating the new. The East 
Indiaman was the very apotheosis of monopoly. The 
command was reserved as a short road to fortune for 
the proteges of the omnipotent Directors in Leaden- 
hall Street, and as with Chinese governors, the tenure 
of the post was in practice limited to a very few 
years, for the Directors were many and their cog- 
nates prolific. So many, indeed, were their privi- 
leges, perquisites, and "indulgences" that a captain 
was expected to have realised an ample independence 

212 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

in four or five voyages ; the officers and petty- 
officers having similar opportunities, proportionate to 
their rank. They were allowed tonnage space, the 
captain's share being 56 tons, which they could either 
fill with their own merchandise or let out to third 
parties. The value of this, including the inter- 
mediate " port - to - port " voyage in India, may be 
judged from the figures given by one captain, who 
from actual data estimated the freight for the round 
voyage at £43 per ton. The captains enjoyed also 
the passage-money, valued by the same authority at 
£1500 per voyage. There were other "indulgences," 
scarcely intelligible in our days, which yet yielded 
fabulous results. These figures are taken from a 
statement submitted to the Honourable Company by 
Captain Innes, who claimed, on behalf of himself and 
comrades, compensation for the loss they sustained 
through the cessation of the monopoly. The captain 
showed that he made, on the average of his three 
last voyages, £6100 per voyage — of which £180 was 
pay! — without counting ''profits on investments," for 
the loss of which he rather handsomely waived com- 
pensation. £8000 to £10,000 per voyage was reckoned 
a not extravagant estimate of a captain's emoluments. 
The Company employed chartered ships to supplement 
its own, and the command of one of them was in 
practice put up to the highest bidder, the usual 
premium being about £3000 for the privilege of the 
command, which was of course severely restricted to 
qualified and selected men. 

That such incredible privileges should be abused, 
to the detriment of the too indulgent Company, was 
only natural. The captains, in fact, carried on a 


systematic smuggling trade with Continental ports 
as well as with ports in the United Kingdom 
where they had no business to be at all, though 
they found pretexts, a la Cliinoise, such as stress of 
weather or want of water, if ever called to account. 
The Channel Islands, the Scilly Islands, and the Isle 
of Wight supplied the greatest facilities for the illicit 
traffic, and their populations were much alarmed when 
measures were threatened to suppress it. The inspect- 
ing commander reported officially from St Mary's, in 
1828, "that these islands were never known with so 
little smuggling as this year, and the greatest part 
of the inhabitants are reduced to great distress in 
consequence, for hitherto it used to be their principal 
employment." ^ The ships w^ere also met by accom- 
plices on the high seas which relieved them of 
smuggled goods. What is so difficult to understand 
about such proceedings is that the Court of Directors, 
though not conniving, seemed helpless to check these 
irregularities. Their fulminations, resolutions, elaborate 
advertisements, and measures prescribed for getting 
evidence against offenders, bore a curious resemblance 
to those futile efforts which are from time to time put 
forth by the Chinese Government, which is equally 
impotent to suppress illicit practices in its adminis- 
tration. One cause of this impotence was also very 
Chinese in character. The smugglers had friends in 
office, who supplied them with the most confidential 

The East India Company, nevertheless, in one im- 

^ For interesting details of the smuggling organisation which lasted up 
to the middle of the present century, see ' Smuggling Days and Smuggling 
Ways,' by the Hon. Henry N. Shore, R.N. 

214 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

portant respect received value for its money — in the 
competence of its officers. The greatest pains were 
taken to secure the efficiency of the service, for the 
ships were more than mere carriers or passenger- 
boats. They were maintained on a war-footing, and 
were manned by thoroughly disciplined crews. Many 
gallant actions at sea, even against regular men-of- 
war, stand to the credit of the Indiamen. 

But what conceivable freight -money or profits on 
merchandise could support a trade carried on under 
such luxurious conditions 1 It was magnificent, in- 
deed, but it was not business, and no surprise need 
be felt that the East India Company, while furnish- 
ing its employees with the means of fortune, made 
very little for its shareholders by either its shipown- 
ing or mercantile operations. The Company was a 
standing example of that not uncommon phenomenon, 
the progressionist become obstructionist, blocking the 
door which it opened. For many years it had played 
the part of dog - in - the - manger, keeping individual 
traders out while itself deriving little if any benefit 
from its monopoly. Whenever independent merchants 
succeeded — under great difficulties, of course — in gain- 
ing a footing, they invariably proved the superiority 
of their business methods ; and it is to them, and not 
to the Company, that the development of trade in 
the Far East is due. English shipowners had con- 
stantly agitated for a share in the traffic round the 
Cape, and there were many Indian-owned ships en- 
gaged in the China trade, the Company's ostenta- 
tious abstention from carrying the opium which it 
grew afibrding this favourable opening for private 


It is somewhat surprising that the seafaring nations 
of the world, who were free from the restrictions which 
so cramped the British shipowners, should have suffered 
to endure so long a monopoly so baseless as that of 
the East India Company. The fact seems to prove 
the general depression of maritime energy in the 
early part of the century. But succeeding to such a 
patriarchal regime, it is little wonder that the common 
merchantmen, reduced to reasonable economical con- 
ditions, should have reaped a bountiful harvest. The 
Company's terms left a very handsome margin for 
shrinkage in the freight tariff, while still leaving a 
remunerative return to the shipowner. The expiration 
of the Company's charter, therefore, gave an immense 
stimulus to the common carriers of the ocean ; though, 
starting from such an elevated plateau of profits, 
the inducements to improvements in the build and 
management of ships were not very urgent. 

The size of the ships and their capacity for cargo 
underwent slow development in the first half of 
the century. The East Indiamen averaged about 
1000 tons, some ships being as large as 1300, while 
those chartered by the Company seem to have run 
about 500 tons. All were bad carriers, their cargo 
capacity not exceeding their registered tonnage. In 
the ordinary merchant service which succeeded large 
ships were deemed unsuited to the China trade, 300 
tons being considered a handy size, until the expansion 
of trade and necessity for speed combined with eco- 
nomical working forced on shipowners a larger type 
of vessel. 

Of quite another class were the opium clippers, which 
also in a certain sense represented monopoly in its long 

216 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

struggle with open trade — the monopoly of capital, 
vested interests, and enterprise. The clippers, first 
sailing craft and then steamers, were able by means 
of the advantages they possessed to prolong the con- 
test into the 'Sixties ; indeed the echo of it had scarcely 
died away when the Suez Canal and the telegraph 
cable revolutionised the whole Eastern trade at a 
single stroke. The precious cargoes they carried, and 
scarcely less valuable intelligence, supplied the means of 
maintaining the opium- carriers in the highest efficiency. 
Every voyage was a race, the rivalry being none the 
less animated for the smallness of the competing field. 
Indeed, when reduced to a duel, the struggle became 
the keenest. It was only towards the close of the 
period that the opium - clipper system attained its 
highest organisation. The great China houses of 
Jardine, Matheson, & Co., and Dent & Co., then ran 
powerful steamers — the former firm chiefly between 
Calcutta and Hongkong — their time of departure from 
the Indian port being regulated so as to enable them to 
intercept the English mail-steamers on their arrival in 
Singapore, where they received on board their owners' 
despatches, with which they proceeded at once to 
Hongkong before the mail-steamer had taken in her 
coal. They had speed enough to give the P. and O. 
steamer two days on the run of 1400 miles ; and making 
the land in daylight, they would slip into one of the 
snug bays at the back of the island at dusk and send 
their private mail-bag to the merchant-prince to digest 
with his port, and either lie hidden under the cliffs 
or put to sea again for a day or two with perhaps a 
number of impatient passengers on board. 

The rival house of Dent & Co. devoted their ener- 


gies more especially to the China coast. Their fast 
steamers would start from Hongkong an hour after 
the arrival of the Indian and English mail, landing 
owners' despatches at the mouth of the Yangtze, 
whence they were run across country to Shanghai. 
To gain exclusive possession of a market or of a 
budget of news for ever so brief a period was the spur 
continuously applied to owners, officers, and men. 
How the public regarded these operations may be 
inferred from a note in Admiral KeppeFs diary of 
1843: "Anonymous opium - clipper arrived from Bom- 
bay with only owners' despatches. Beast." 

All this of course presupposed a common ownership 
of ship and cargo, or great liberties, if not risks, taken 
with the property of other people. In the years before 
the war this common management of ship and cargo 
was a simple necessity, for opium had to be stored 
afloat and kept ready for sailing orders. The 20,000 
chests surrendered in 1839 might have been all sent 
away to Manila or elsewhere had that course of pro- 
cedure been determined on. Captain John Thacker, 
examined before the Parliamentary Committee of 1840, 
being asked what he would have done in case the 
Chinese had ordered away the opium, answered, " I 
would have sent mine away to the Malay Islands, to 
exchange it for betel-nut and pepper. ... I had a 
ship at Canton that I could not get freighted with tea, 
and I intended to send her away with the opium." A 
kind of solidarity between ship and cargo was thus an 
essential of the trade at that time, and what originated 
in necessity was continued as a habit for many years 
after its economical justification had ceased. 

The ambition of owning or controlling ships became 

218 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

a feature- of the China trade, the smaller houses emu- 
lating the greater. It seemed as if the repute of 
a merchant lacked something of completeness until 
he had got one or more ships under his orders, and 
the first use the possession was put to was usually 
the attempt to enforce against all comers a quasi- 
monopoly either in merchandise or in news. To be 
able to despatch a vessel on some special mission, like 
Captain Thacker, had a fascination for the more enter- 
prising of the merchants, which may perhaps be re- 
ferred back to the circumstance that they were men 
still in the prime of life. 

The passion was kept alive by the inducements 
offered by a series of events which crowded on each 
other between the years 1858 and 1861. Before that 
time the spread of rebellion, the prevalence of piracy, 
and the general state of unrest and distrust which pre- 
vailed among the Chinese commercial classes, threw 
them on the protection of foreign flags, and the de- 
mand for handy coasting craft was generously re- 
sponded to by all maritime nations, but chiefly by 
the shipowners of Northern Europe. Such a mosquito 
fleet was perhaps never before seen as that which flew 
the flags of the Hanse Towns and of Scandinavia on 
the China coast between 1850 and 1860; and many a 
frugal family on the Elbe, the Weser, and the Baltic 
lived and throve out of the earnings of these admirably 
managed and well-equipped vessels. The vessels were 
mostly run on time-charters, which were exceedingly 
remunerative ; for the standard of hire was adopted 
from a period of English extravagance, while the ships 
were run on a scale of economy — and efliciency — 
scarcely then dreamed of in England. A schooner of 


150 tons register earning $1500 per month, which was 
a not uncommon rate, must have paid for herself in a 
year, for the dollar was then worth 5s. Yet the 
Chinese also made so much money by subletting their 
chartered tonnage that foreigners were tempted into 
the same business, without the same knowledge or 
assurance of loyal co-operation at the various ports 
traded with. 

The habit of handling ships in this way, whether 
profitably or not, had the effect of facilitating the 
despatch of reconnoitring expeditions when openings 
occurred, and they did occur on a considerable scale 
within the period above mentioned. The year 1858 
was an epoch in itself It was the year of the treaty 
of Tientsin, which threw open three additional trading- 
ports on the coast, three within the Gulf of Pechili, and 
three on the Yangtze. Of the three northern ports, 
excepting Tientsin, very little was known to the 
mercantile community, and the selection of Teng-chow 
and Newchwang by the British plenipotentiary shows 
what a change has in the interval come over the 
relative intelligence of the Government and the 
merchants ; for in those days, it would appear, the 
Government was as far in advance of the merchants in 
information about China as the merchants of a later 
period have been in advance of the Government. 
These unknown, almost unheard-of, ports excited much 
interest during the year that elapsed between the 
signing of the treaty and its ratification. Information 
about them from Chinese sources was therefore diligently 
sought after. 

Within a couple of miles of the foreign settlement of 
Shanghai — and it was the same thing in the Ningpo 

220 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

river — compact tiers of large sea -going junks lay- 
moored head and stern, side to side, forming a con- 
tinuous platform, so that one could walk across their 
decks out into the middle of the river. Their masts, 
without yards or rigging, loomed like a dense thicket 
on the horizon. Of their numbers some idea may be 
formed when we remember that 1400 of them were 
found loaded at one time in 1848 with tribute rice. Of 
this enormous fleet of ships and their trade the foreign 
mercantile community of Shanghai was content to 
remain in virtual ignorance. They traded to the north, 
and were vaguely spoken of as "Shantung junks" 
— Shantung then standing for everything that was 
unknown north of the thirty - second parallel. The 
map of China conveyed about as much to the mercantile 
communities on the coast in those days as it did to the 
British public generally before the discussions of 1898. 
These junks carried large quantities of foreign manu- 
factured goods and opium to the unknown regions at 
the back of the north wind, of which some of the doors 
were now being opened. How was one to take advan- 
tage of the opening, and be first in the field? Time 
must be taken by the forelock, and a certain amount of 
commercial exploration entered into in order to obtain 
data on which to base ulterior operations. Accordingly 
in the spring of 1859, a few months before the period 
fixed for the exchange of ratifications of the treaty, 
several mercantile firms equipped, with the utmost 
secrecy, trading expeditions to the Gulf of Pechili. 
Their first object was to discover what seaport would 
serve as the entrepot of Tengchow, since that city, 
though near enough to salt water to have been bom- 
barded for a frolic by the Japanese navy in 1894, 


possessed no anchorage. The several sets of argo- 
nauts, among whom was the writer of this book, 
seeking for such an anchorage, found themselves, in the 
month of April, all together in the harbour of Yentai, 
which they misnamed Chefoo, a name that has become 
stereotyped. Obviously, then, that would be the new 
port, especially as the bay and the town showed all the 
signs of a considerable existing traffic. It was full 
forty miles from Tengchow, but there was no nearer 
anchorage. The foreign visitors began at once to 
cultivate relations with the native merchants, tenta- 
tively, like Nicodemus, making their real business by 
night, while the magnificent daylight was employed in 
various local explorations. These were full of fresh 
interest, the Shantung coast being the antithesis of the 
Yangtze delta ; for there were found donkeys instead of 
boats, stony roads instead of canals, bare and barren 
mountains instead of soft green paddy- or cotton-fields, 
stone buildings, and a blue air that sparkled like 

Our own particular movable base of operations was 
one smart English schooner, loaded with mixed mer- 
chandise, and commanded by a sea - dog who left a 
trail of vernacular in his wake. Soon, however, we 
were able to transfer our flag to a commodious house- 
boat, of a hybrid type suited to the sheltered and 
shallow waters of the Lower Yangtze, but not, strictly 
speaking, seaworthy. Next, a Hamburg barque came 
and acted as store-ship, releasing the English schooner 
for more active service. The master of that craft was 
also a character, full of intelligence, but rough, and the 
trail of tobacco juice was over all, with strange pungent 
odours in the cuddy. 

222 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

Having thus inserted the thin end of the wedge, 
pegged out mentally the site of the future settlement, 
and trifles of that sort, the pioneers of commerce waited 
for the official announcement of the port being opened. 
Meantime there was the unknown Newchwang to be 
discovered, at the extreme north-east corner of the 
Gulf of Liaotung, and for this purpose the boat afore- 
said presented a very tempting facility. The trip was 
accomplished, not without anxiety and detention on 
the way by stress of weather, and the British flag was 
shown in the Liao river, to the best of our knowledge, 
for the first time in May 1859. Many other ports and 
harbours in the gulf were visited during the summer 
and autumn. Weihai-wei became very familiar, not as 
a place of trade, which it never was, but as a convenient 
anchorage better sheltered than Chefoo. How blind 
were the pioneers to the destinies of these gulf ports 
and the gulf itself ! How little did they dream of the 
scenes that peaceful harbour was to witness, the 
fortifications which were to follow, the Chinese navy 
making its last desperate stand there like rats caught 
in a trap ; and finally, the British flag flying over the 
heights ! 

The treaty of course was not ratified, though the 
news of the repulse of the British plenipotentiary at 
Taku only reached the pioneers in the form of 
tenebrous Chinese rumours with an ominous thread of 
consistency running through their various contradic- 
tions. The most conclusive evidence, however, of the 
turn affairs had taken was the interference of the 
officials with the native merchants and people at 
Chefoo, whom they forbade intercourse with the 
foreigners, and made responsible for the presence of 


the foreign ships. The ships, therefore, had to move 
out of sight, and it was in this predicament that 
the harbour of Weihai - wei offered such a welcome 

To put an end to the intolerable suspense in Chefoo 
the Hamburger .was got under weigh and sailed to the 
westward. On approaching the mouth of the Peiho 
the situation at once revealed itself : not one English 
ship visible, but the Russian despatch-boat America, 
and one United States ship, with which news was 
exchanged, and from which the details of the Taku 
disaster were ascertained. This news, of course, 
knocked all the commercial adventures which had been 
set on foot in the gulf into " pie." Nothing remained 
but to wind them up with as little sacrifice as possible, 
— a process which was not completed till towards 

The three ports to be opened on the Yangtze 
stood on quite a different footing. They had not been 
named, and their opening was somewhat contingent on 
the position of the hostile forces then occupying the 
river-banks. The navigation, moreover, was absolutely 
unknown above Nanking, and it was left to Captain 
Sherard Osborn to explore the channel and to Lord 
Elgin to make a political reconnaissance at the same 
time in H.M.S. Furious, of which cruise Laurence 
Oliphant has left us such a delightful description. It 
was not, however, till 1861 that the great river was 
formally opened by Admiral Sir James Hope. Trade 
then at once burst upon the desolate scene like the 
blossoms of spring. On the admiral's voyage up to 
Hankow, on the 600 miles of stream scarcely a rag of 
sail was to be seen. Within three months the surface 

224 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

of the river was alive with Chinese craft of all sorts 
and sizes. The interior of China had for years been 
dammed up like a reservoir by the Taipings, so that 
when once tapped the stream of commerce gushed out, 
much beyond the capacity of any existing transport. 
The demand for steamers was therefore sudden, and 
everything that was able to burn coal was enlisted in 
the service. The freight on light goods from Hankow 
to Shanghai commenced at 20 taels, or £6, per ton for 
a voyage of three days. The pioneer inland steamer 
was the Fire Dart, which had been built to the order 
of an American house for service in the Canton river. 
She was soon followed by others built expressly for the 
Yangtze, and before long regular trade was carried on. 
Again the tradition asserted itself of every mercantile 
house owning its own river steamer, some more than 
one. Steamers proved a mine of wealth for a certain 
time. Merchants were thereby enticed into a technical 
business for which they had neither training nor 
aptitude, and the natural consequences were not very 
long delayed. 

While on the subject of river steamers, it is interest- 
ing to recall that in the beginning English merchants 
sent their orders for the Yangtze to the United States. 
The vessels were light, roomy, and luxurious, admir- 
ably adapted to their work. In the course of a few 
years, however, the tables were turned, and the Ameri- 
cans themselves came to the Clyde builders with their 
specifications, and had their river steamers built of 
iron. Many economies and great improvements have 
been made in the construction and management of 
these vessels since 1861, but we need not pursue the 
matter into further detail here. 


The opening of the Yangtze made a revolution in 
the tea trade, for the product of Central China, which 
formerly was carried on men's backs over the Meiling 
Pass to Canton, could now be brought by water cheaply 
and quickly to Hankow, which in the very year of its 
opening became a subsidiary shipping port — subsidiary, 
that is, to Shanghai, where the ocean voyage began. 
Before long, however, this great central mart became 
an entrepot for ocean traffic. To the steamer Scotland, 
owned by Messrs W. S. Lindsay & Co. and commanded 
by Captain A. D. Dundas, R.N., belongs the honour 
of being the first ocean steamer to ascend the river 
to Hankow, and thereby opening the interior of 
China to direct trade with foreign countries. And 
within two years a sailing vessel was towed up the 
river and loaded a cargo of the new season's tea for 

But the most interesting item in the budget of that 
annus mirahilis 1858 was the opening of Japan to 
foreign intercourse. To contemporaries it was the dis- 
covery of a new world of activity, intelligence, beauty 
— an elaborate civilisation built on strange foundations. 
Could the veil of the future have been withdrawn for 
the men of that day, how their imaginations would 
have been staggered before the unrolling of an epic 
transcending in human interest all the creations of 
fiction ! But before all things there was trade to be 
done with awakening Japan, nobody knew what or 
how ; while the seductive novelties of the life, the art, 
the scenery, and the laws contested the supremacy of 
the claims of mundane commerce. Here was an ideal 
opening for the commercial pioneer. What kind of 
merchandise would the Japanese buy, and what had 

VOL. I. p 

226 SHIPPING. [chap. xii. 

they to sell, were naturally the first objects of inquiry. 
For this purpose ships with trial cargoes had to be 
sent hither and thither to explore, and there was work 
here for the kind of handy craft that had had such a 
run on the China coast. By their means was the 
foreign trade of the Japanese ports opened to the 
world. The clipper ship Mirage, laden with Manchester 
goods in which the late Sir John Pender was inter- 
ested,^ lay several days in Shanghai waiting orders to 
proceed on an experimental trip to Japan as early as 
1858, but the owners wisely concluded that the venture 
would be premature. 

So far we have dealt only with what may be consid- 
ered as the outriders of the host, and the subject 
would be very incomplete without giving some account 
of the main body, the common carriers of the inter- 
national trade, filling by far the most important place in 
the economical system of the countries of their origin. 
While endeavouring to confine our attention as much 
as possible within the limits of the field embraced 
by the China, developing later into the Far Eastern, 
trade, the progress of the merchant shipping employed 
therein cannot be fully understood except from a stand- 
point more cosmopolitan. For the history of the East- 
ern shipping is intimately bound up with events which 
were taking place in other and widely-separated quar- 
ters of the globe in the middle of this century. With- 
in the space of three to four years events happened of 
a world-moving character, forming the basis of the 
commercial revolution that has set its mark on the 
second half of the century. The catholicity of com- 
merce and its unfailing inventiveness in supplying 
human wants were wonderfully illustrated at this time. 


Events so different in their nature as the potato blight 
in one hemisphere, the production of gold in another, 
and the abrogation of the Navigation Laws in England, 
combined within these few years to revolutionise the 
world's shipping trade. 

In the year 1847 the world was first startled by the 
definitive announcement of gold discoveries in Cali- 
fornia, and four years later a similar phenomenon 
appeared in Australia. Coincidently with these events 
the first Universal Exhibition of the industries of all 
nations was held in Hyde Park, and whatever we 
may think of the relative influence of that and of 
the gold discoveries, there can be but one opinion 
as to the splendid advertisement which the Expo- 
sition lent to the golden promise of the Antipodes 
and the East Pacific. Thenceforth the whole world, 
industrial, commercial, and financial, beat with one 
pulse, a fact which has received constantly accumulat- 
ing illustrations until the present day. It was as if 
the sectional divisions of the globe had been united in 
one great pool, forced to maintain a common level, 
subject only to disturbances of the nature of rising and 
falling waves. The new supplies of gold, by making 
money plentiful, inflated the price of all commodities 
and stimulated production in every department of 
agriculture and manufacture ; but the time-worn yet 
ever - new passion for wealth, disseminated afresh 
throughout the civilised world, probably acted more 
powerfully on the material progress of mankind than 
the actual possession of the new riches. The rapid 
peopling of desert places created a demand for the 
necessaries of life — food, clothing, housing, tools, and 
appliances of every description. In a word, the tide 

228 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

of humanity, rushing to America for food and to the 
goldfields for the means of buying it, made such calls 
on the carrying powers of the world as could not be 
satisfied without a stupendous effort. 

Of all nations the most responsive to the stimulus 
was beyond doubt the United States : it was there 
that shipbuilding had been making the most gigantic 
advances. The total tonnage afloat under the Ameri- 
can flag bade fair at one time to rival that of Great 
Britain. The attention of the American shipping in- 
terest had been particularly directed towards China, 
where excellent employment rewarded the enterprise, 
not only in the ocean voyage out and home, but also 
in the coasting trade, which included the portable and 
very paying item of opium. English merchants and 
shipowners did not, of course, resign their share in the 
China trade without a struggle ; but they were fight- 
ing on the defensive, and under the disadvantages 
incidental to that condition of warfare. Every im- 
provement they introduced in the efficiency of their 
ships in order to cope with the advances of their rivals 
was promptly followed by a counter-move which gave 
the wide - awake Americans again the lead. About 
1845 an important step forward was taken in the 
despatch of a new type of vessel from the United 
States to China which surpassed in speed the newest 
and best English ships. The British reply to this was 
the building of clippers, initiated in 1846 by Messrs 
Hall of Aberdeen. The first of these, a small vessel, 
having proved successful in competing for the coast- 
ing trade of China, larger ships of the clipper type 
were constructed, and so the seesaw went on. 

Then emigration to the United States, chiefly from 


Ireland, made demands on the available tonnage which 
was indifferently met by vessels unfit for the work, 
and the American builders were not slow to see the 
advantage of placing a superior class of vessel on this 
important Atlantic service. 

Following close on this salutary competition — East 
and West — came one of the epoch-making events just 
alluded to, the gold-mining in California, which more 
decisively than ever threw the advantage in the ship- 
ping contest on the side of the United States. The 
ocean was the true route to California for emigrants 
and material ; but the voyage was long, and impatience 
of intervening space being the ruling temper of gold- 
seekers, the shortening of the time of transit became 
a crying want for the living cargoes, and scarcely less 
for the perishable provisions which the new ships were 
designed to carry. Speed, comfort, and capacity had 
therefore to be combined in a way which had never 
before been attempted. The result was the historical 
American clipper of the middle of the century, beauti- 
ful to look on with her cloud of white cotton canvas, 
covering every ocean highway. These were vessels of 
large capacity, carrying one - half more dead - weight 
than their registered tonnage ; ^ built and rigged like 
yachts, and attaining a speed never before reached on 
the high seas. The pioneer of this fine fleet made the 
voyage from New York to San Francisco, a '* coasting 
voyage" from which foreign flags were excluded, and 
returned direct in ballast, the owners realising a 
handsome profit on the outward passage alone. The 
Americans not only had the Californian trade practi- 

^ The modern ship carries 70 to 75 per cent of dead-weight over her 
registered tonnage, and of weight and measurement combined about double. 

230 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

cally in their own hands, but were prompt to turn 
the advantage which that gave them to profitable 
account in the competition for the trade of China. 
The ships, when empty, sailed across the Pacific, load- 
ing, at Canton or Shanghai, tea and other produce for 
London or New York, the three - cornered voyage 
occupying little more time than the direct route to 
China and back to which English ships were then con- 
fined. As the American clippers earned on the round 
about a third more freight than English ships could 
obtain on their out-and-home voyage, competition bore 
very hard on the latter. Larger and finer ships were 
constantly being added to the American fleet until 
they almost monopolised the trade not only between 
New York and San Francisco, but also between China 
and Great Britain. British shipping was, in fact, 
reduced to the greatest depression, the falling off in 
the supply of new tonnage being almost commen- 
surate with the increase of that of the United States. 
A phenomenal advance was recorded also in the entries 
of foreign ships into British ports to the displacement 
of British-owned tonnage. 

It was at this most critical juncture that the heroic 
remedy of repeal of the Navigation Laws in 1850 con- 
signed British shipowners to absolute despair ; for if 
they could not hold their own while protected by these 
laws, how were they to survive the removal of the 
last barrier from the competition of the whole world ? 
But the darkest hour was, as often happens, that 
before the dawn. The withdrawal of protective legis- 
lation proved the turning-point in the fortunes of the 
British shipowner. . In part it was an efficient cause, 
inasmuch as it threw the shipowner entirely on his 


own resources for his existence. He had to look to 
improvements in the efficiency and economy of his 
ships, for which it must be admitted there was con- 
siderable room. There were many conservative pre- 
judices to be got rid of — that one, for example, which 
held it dangerous to have less than one foot in breadth 
to four in length, the adherence to which rendered 
British ships oval tubs compared with the American, 
which had for many years been proving the superiority 
of five and even six to one. The English axiom, which 
had so long resisted plain reason, had at last to yield 
to necessity. And so with many other antiquated 
conditions, including the quality and qualifications of 
masters, officers, and seamen. 

The exertions made in Great Britain to improve 
merchant shipping were at once stimulated and im- 
measurably assisted by the gold discoveries in Aus- 
tralia, an island in the South Pacific more absolutely 
dependent on sea communication than San Francisco 
on the American continent had been. It was, more- 
over, in British territory, where no exclusive privi- 
leges could be enjoyed, and where competition was 
entirely unfettered. Of course the clipper fleet of 
the United States was prepared to do for Australia 
what it had done so well for California ; but the 
prospect of the carrying trade between Great Britain 
and her colonies falling into alien hands aroused 
the spirit of the English to make a supreme effort 
to at least hold their own, if not to recover lost 

The seven seas soon became alive with rival clipper 
ships of great size and power, and the newspapers 
chronicled the runs they made to Australia and Cali- 

232 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

fornia in days, as they now record the hours con- 
sumed on steamer voyages across the Atlantic. 
Ancient barriers seemed to be submerged, and fusion 
of the ocean traffic of the world into one great 
whole opened the way to a new dispensation in the 
history of merchant shipping. Tonnage was tonnage 
all the world over, and became subject to the 
comprehensive control in which the gold and silver 
produced in distant countries was held by the great 
financial centres. But the ocean telegraph was not 
yet, and for twenty years more many gaps were 
left in the system of ocean communications, whence 
resulted seasons of plethora alternating with scarcity 
in particular lines of traffic. 

There was probably no trade in which the over- 
flow of the new output of tonnage was more quickly 
felt than in that of China. It became a common 
custom for vessels of moderate size which had carried 
goods and emigrants to Australia and California, 
whence no return cargoes were at that period to be 
had, to proceed to India or China in ballast — 
" seeking." This was a source of tonnage supply 
which the merchants resident in those countries had 
no means of reckoning upon, though such a far- 
reaching calculation might not be beyond the powers 
of a clear head posted at one of the foci of the 
commercial world. An example may be quoted illus- 
trative of the local tonnage famine which occasionally 
prevailed during that transition period. An English 
ship arrived in ballast at Hongkong from Sydney 
in 1854. The owner's local agent, or "consignee," 
recommended the captain to proceed at once north 
to Shanghai, where, according to latest advices, he 


would be sure to obtain a lading at a high rate 
of freight. The cautious skipper demurred to taking 
such a risk, and refused to move unless the agent 
would guarantee him £6, 10s. per ton for a full 
cargo for London. This was agreed. The ship 
reached the loading port at a moment when there 
was no tonnage available and much produce waiting 
shipment, and she was immediately filled up at about 
£7 or £8 per ton. It fell to the lot of this par- 
ticular vessel, by the way, to carry a mail from 
Hongkong to Shanghai, the P. and O. Company's ser- 
vice being then only monthly, and no other steamer 
being on the line. It was just after the outbreak 
of the war with Russia. About a couple of days 
after the departure of the Akbar — for that was her 
name — when it was considered quite safe to do so, 
a resident American merchant, unable to contain him- 
self, boasted of having sent by this English vessel 
the despatches of the Russian admiral under sealed 
cover to a sure hand in Shanghai. The recipient of 
this confidence, like a good patriot, reported the cir- 
cumstance promptly to the governor of the colony, 
and he to the senior naval officer, who with no less 
promptitude ordered a steam sloop, the Rattler, to 
proceed in chase of the ship. The pursuit Avas suc- 
cessful ; the Russian despatches were taken out and 
brought back to Hongkong, where they were sub- 
mitted to the polyglot governor. Sir John Bowring. 

Another incident of the same period will show 
how it w^as possible for a bold operator to exploit 
the tonnage of the world on a considerable scale 
without the aid of the telegraph, or even of rapid 
communication by letter. One such operator in Lon- 

234 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

don, reckoning up the prospective supply and de- 
mand of tonnage throughout the world, foresaw this 
very scarcity in China of which we have just given 
an illustration. He thereupon proceeded to charter 
ships under various flags and engaged in distant 
voyages to proceed in ballast to the China ports, 
there to load cargoes for Europe. The wisdom of 
the operation was far from clear to the charterer's 
agents in China when they heard of ships coming 
to them from the four quarters of the world at a 
time when freights were low, with but little pros- 
pect of improvement, so far as they could see ; but 
their outlook was circumscribed. Though as the ships 
began to arrive the difiiculty of providing profitable 
freightage seemed to presage the ruin of the ven- 
ture, yet subsequent arrivals justified the prevision 
of its author by earning for him highly remunerative 
freights. The tide had really risen as it had been fore- 
seen ; but it soon receded, and before the last charter 
had been fulfilled the time-factor, which is fatal to 
so many well-laid schemes, interposed, and probably 
caused the early profits to be swallowed up in the 
final losses. 

The bulk of the China traffic, however, was carried 
not by these erratic outsiders but by the regular traders, 
which loaded in London, Liverpool, or New York with 
manufactured goods, coal, and metals, and returned 
from China with tea, silk, and other produce. It must 
have been a profitable business, for the average freight 
homeward in the 'Forties and 'Fifties seems to have 
been about £5 per ton ; and if we allow even one- 
third of that for the outward voyage, it would give 
the shipowner somewhere about £7 for the round 


voyage, which was accomplished with ease within the 
twelve months. It must be remembered, how^ever, 
that the expenses of running were proportionately 
high on the small vessels which were then in the trade. 
In the course of time, when speed and facilities of 
despatch at home and abroad had been further im- 
proved, the clippers from London took in Australia 
in the outward voyage by way of filling up the time 
until the tea crop was brought to market. 

"When the great increase in the export of silk took 
place a special rate was paid on it to favourite ships on 
account of its high value. But though this precious 
article could afford, when necessary, extreme rates of 
freight, its total bulk was too small — about one-tenth 
of that of tea — to affect seriously the general carrying 
trade of China. A certain quantity was regularly 
shipped by the " overland route " — that is, by P. and 
O. Company's steamers to Suez, and thence by rail to 
Alexandria, to be there reshipped for its ultimate des- 
tination, Marseilles or Southampton. But the capacity 
of the steamers was so small that only a pro rata allot- 
ment of space was made to applicants, and the freight 
charged for it was at the rate of £25 per ton. Under 
exceptional conditions one sailing ship in the year 1856 
carried a silk cargo of 6000 bales, valued at £750,000 
sterling, which was said to be the largest amount ever 
ventured, up to that time, in any merchant vessel. It 
was so unexpectedly large that the shippers were unable 
fully to cover their risk by insurance. A singular fatality 
attended the outset of this voyage, showing the falli- 
bility of human judgment even under the most favour- 
able circumstances. The commander of this ship had 
been perhaps the most successful in the China trade, 

236 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

and it was the extraordinary confidence that was placed 
in his judgment that induced the merchants to intrust to 
his care merchandise of such enormous value. Thouo:h 
much impressed with the sense of personal responsi- 
bility for its safety, he was yet tempted by a fine starlit 
night to break ground from the anchorage at Shanghai 
and drop down the river to Wusung, where he touched 
on the well-known bar, and was passed by the outward- 
bound mail-steamer the following morning. The ship 
was of course reported " on shore," and so the letters 
ordering insurance which the mail-steamer carried were 
rendered useless. The master, though the ship had 
lain but a few hours on soft mud, dared not proceed to 
sea with such a valuable cargo without examining the 
ship's bottom. To do this he had to be towed back to 
Shanghai, fourteen miles by river, discharge, strip off 
the copper, replace it, reload the cargo, and recommence 
the voyage. It proved much the longest she had ever 
made, and there was great anxiety among the mer- 
chants, especially among those of them who were only 
partially insured. But as fate would have it, while 
the ship was on the high seas her cargo was growing in 
value, the silk famine in Europe having in the mean 
time clearly declared itself; so that what with the delay 
of a month or two at the start and several weeks more 
on the passage, a time was gained for sufficient profit to 
accrue on the silk to lay the foundation of several 
respectable fortunes, and the commander, to whose 
error of judgment the result was due, was received in 
London with acclamation and with substantial gratu- 
ities from some of the fortunate owners of his cargo. 
The lucky craft was the Challenger, Captain Killick, 
which had distinguished herself in racing against the 


American clipper Nightingale in 1852 and 1863, and 
was the first sailing-vessel to load tea at Hankow in 
1863, — a historic ship. 

During the time of the deepest gloom in shipping 
circles, consequent on the repeal of the Navigation 
Laws, at a meeting where the ruin of the industry was 
proclaimed in chorus by the shipowners present, one 
man had the courage to rise up and stem the current of 
depression. ^' The British shipowners have at last sat 
down to play a fair and open game with the Americans, 
and, by Jove ! we will trump them," were the words of 
Mr Richard Green, the eminent shipbuilder of Black- 
wall, as quoted by Mr W. S. Lindsay in his ' History of 
Merchant Shipping.' Mr Lindsay adds that Mr Green 
was as good as his word, for shortly after he built, to 
the order of Mr Hamilton Lindsay, a China merchant, 
the ship Challenger, of 600 or 700 tons, expressly to 
match the American Challenge, more than double her 
size, and thought to be the fastest ship then afloat. 
Though the two never met, the performances of the 
English, whether for speed or for dry carrying, quite 
eclipsed the American ship. It was with another com- 
petitor that the pioneer Blackwall clipper tried con- 
clusions, and the circumstance suggests a somewhat 
whimsical association of the evolution of the China 
clipper with the Great Exhibition. A ship of exquisite 
model and finish had been built in America for the 
purpose of conveying visitors to that great gathering. 
She was put into the China trade, for which by her size 
she was well suited. Whether by prearrangement or 
not, she met the Challenger in 1852 in Shanghai, where 
they were both laden with tea simultaneously. Im- 
mense excitement was aroused, which took the usual 

238 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

form of heavy wagers between the respective partisans 
on the issue of the race to London. It was a close 
thing, as sportsmen say, the British ship coming in two 
days ahead of her rival. Dissatisfied, as the owner of 
a yacht or of a racehorse is apt to be with his defeat, 
certain changes were made by the owners of the Night- 
ingale in her equipment for the next year s voyage. 
The race was again run from the same port, on the 
same conditions — and with the same result, only still 
more in favour of the English ship. 

A general excitement about such a trivial matter as 
the relative speed of two ships was only to be accounted 
for by the awakening consciousness of the significance 
of the English shipping revival which was then be- 
ginning. The interest extended much beyond the circle 
of those directly concerned. The deck of a mail 
steamer, to take an instance, became suddenly animated 
as the signals of a sailing-vessel were read out. Speak- 
ing a ship at sea was no such unusual occurrence, but 
when the name of Challenger was passed round, pass- 
engers and crew rushed to the side, gazing intently on 
the shapely black hull and white sails reflecting the 
morning sun. She was in the Straits of Malacca, on 
her way back to China to run her second heat. A 
young man among the passengers betraying ignorance 
of the cause of the commotion felt as small as if unable 
to name the last Derby winner. The world at that 
time seemed to have grown young. Imagination was 
directed to a dawn gilded with promise which the 
sequel has surely not belied ! 

Thus the China Sea became a principal battle-ground 
whereon the struggle for ascendancy between the ships 
of Great Britain and the United States was most 


strenuously fought out. It was, as Mr Green said, a 
fair and open contest, alike creditable to both sides, 
and an unmixed benefit to the world at large. The 
energy of the English shipping interest was thoroughly 
aroused, and the shipowners and shipbuilders of Scot- 
land came speedily to the front. In a few years after 
the issue was joined between the United States and 
Great Britain, the shipbuilders of the latter country 
found a potent auxiliary in iron, which began to be 
used for sailing-ships.^ The vessel that led the way in 
this innovation, combining great speed with the other 
conditions of success, was the Lord of the Isles, Captain 
Maxton, of Greenock, which distinguished herself by 
beating two of the fastest American clippers of twice 
her size in the run from Foochow to London in 1856. 
The gradual introduction of steam on long voyages, 
which followed the free use of iron, was also to the 
advantage of the British competitors ; and thus from 
a combination of favouring circumstances and dogged 
efforts to turn them to account, the ascendancy of 
British shipping was finally established. 

In sketching the performances of these vessels we 
have somewhat anticipated the advent of that famous 
fleet of tea clippers which commanded the traflic of the 
Far East for something like fifteen years. For the 
beginnings of that struggle we have to go back to the 

* The American and British clippers were originally built of wood 
sheathed with metal. After that came trial of iron ships coated with 
tallow, but finally at the climax of the sailing clippers' notable races they 
were all of composite construction — i.e., iron frames planked with wood 
and sheathed with yellow metal. This type of vessel (now out of date) 
was the essential feature of the fastest sailing China clippers. Thereupon 
followed the iron and steel steamship as the permanent carrier, and the 
white-winged argosies were no more ! 

240 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

year 1851, when the Leith clipper Ganges raced two 
Americans, the Flying Cloud and Bald Eagle, from 
China to London, finishing up with an interesting 
tack -and -tack contest up Channel from Weymouth, 
the English ship passing Dungeness six hours ahead. 
At that period the odds in mere numbers were so over- 
whelming against the English vessels that such occa- 
sional victories as the above were calculated to inspire 
the builders with courage to persevere. The Aberdeen 
clippers, Stornoway, Chrysolite, and Cairngorm, worthily 
followed the London-built Challenger in disputing the 
prize of speed with the best of their American contem- 
poraries ; and after the race of 1856, won, as has 
been mentioned, by the iron ship Lord of the Isles of 
Greenock, the American flag was practically eliminated 
from the annual contest. Competition, however, by no 
means slackened on that account, but rather increased 
in intensity. Past achievements opened the eyes of 
those interested to the possibilities of indefinite im- 
provement in the build, rig, and equipment of ships, so 
that the idea took root and became a passion. Each 
year brought forth something new, giving birth in the 
following year to something still newer, until a type of 
ship was evolved which seemed to be the acme of design 
and execution. British clippers raced against each 
other for the blue ribbon of the ocean with as great 
zest as they had ever done when other flags were in the 

The competition for speed received a great stimulus 
from the opening of Foochow as a regular tea-shipping 
port in 1856. The port had been hindered by official 
restrictions from enjoying its natural advantages at an 
earlier period, and it was mainly due to the enterprise 


of the leading American house that these obstacles were 
at last removed and the produce of the Bohea hills 
diverted to its proper outlet. The event marked an 
epoch in the tea trade ; for Foochow being so much 
closer to the plantations than the other two ports, it 
became possible to put on board there the first growth 
of the season with a prospect of landing the new teas in 
London a couple of months earlier than the trade had 
been accustomed to. It may be mentioned as one of 
the curiosities of conservatism that this very circum- 
stance was used to the commercial prejudice of ship- 
ments from the new port. It was revolutionising the 
established routine of the trade, would interfere with 
the summer holidays, and it was gravely argued that 
October was the very earliest time when the London 
buyers could be induced to attend to the tea-market. 
But the fragrance of the new tea was irresistible in 
dispersing such cobwebs. So far from its coming too 
early to market, the best shipbuilders in the world 
were soon engaged in constructing ships that would 
accelerate the arrival of the new tea by as much as 
a couple of days. And so hungry was the trade that 
special arrangements were made to facilitate the brokers 
obtaining samples to sell by before the vessel passed 
Gravesend, and he would be an obscure grocer who was 
not able to display in his shop window a tea-chest 
bearing the name of the clipper on the day following 
her arrival in the dock. The annual tea-race from 
Foochow thus became one of the events of the year. 
Premiums were paid to the winner, and sliding scales 
of freight were in course of time introduced, graduated 
by the number of days on passage. 

No better proof could be adduced of the high excel- 
VOL. I. Q 

242 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

lence of the ships as well as of the good seamanship 
of their commanders than the exceeding closeness of the 
running on that long ocean voyage of twelve thousand 
miles. Several times it happened that vessels starting 
together would see nothing of each other during the 
hundred days' passage until the fog lifting in the Downs 
would reveal them close together, from which point the 
winning of the race depended on the pilot or the tug. 
Of the great race of 1866 Mr W. S. Lindsay, from 
whose valuable work on Merchant Shipping we have 
drawn freely for these details, says : " This race excited 
extraordinary interest among all persons engaged in 
maritime affairs. Five ships started — the Ariel, Tae- 
ping, Serica, Fiery Cross, and Taitsing. The three first 
left Foochow on the same day, but lost sight of each 
other for the whole voyage until they reached the 
English Channel, where they again met, arriving in 
the Thames within a few hours of each other." Very 
fast passages continued to be made after that time. 
The Ariel and Spindrift raced in 1868, and the Titania 
made a quick run in 1871 ; but Mr Lindsay awards 
the palm to the Sir Lancelot and Thermopylae as 
** the two fastest sailing-ships that ever traversed the 
ocean." The former vessel, 886 tons register, made 
the run from Foochow to London in ninety days 
in 1868, and an interesting fact is recorded by the 
owners of that fine ship bearing on the propelling 
power of sails. Many experienced navigators had 
during the clipper-racing entertained misgivings as to 
the value of the excessive amount of sail and the 
heavy rig which were deemed necessary to the equip- 
ment of a clipper. The ships, they said, " buried 
themselves under the press of canvas." Writing seven 


years after the performance just mentioned, the owner 
of the Sir Lancelot said : '* After the mania for 
China clipper-sailing I had 8 feet cut off from all the 
lower masts, and reduced the masts aloft and the 
yards in proportion. Yet with that (and no doubt 
a proportionately reduced crew) she maintained her 
speed undiminished." This was not an uncommon 

It is not to be supposed that the produce of China 
or the imports into the country were all carried by 
clipper ships. Theirs was a special service reserved 
for the most valuable produce and for the first few 
weeks of the season. After that fitful fever the trade 
of the year settled down to what may be called daily- 
bread conditions, when ships with moderate speed, 
large capacity, and frugally sailed, made steady and 
substantial profits for their owners. It is a commonly 
accepted maxim that the race — for profits, at all events 
— is not always to the swift. It was a saying of Mr 
Green, whose firm owned a large fleet of ships in the 
Australian and Indian trade, that in his balance-sheet 
for the year he found that his slow ships had paid 
for his fast ones. Nor did this economic rule lose its 
validity when steam came to supersede sail. 

The clippers proper had not had a clear run of 
fifteen years when steamers began to trespass on 
their preserves. The possibility of a successful steam 

* Mr James MacCunn of Greenock says that all these racing clippers, 
which were practically the same size, carried double crews, numbering 
about thirty-three all told, equal to that of a 2500-tons merchantman of 
to-day. The Sir Lancelot, besides the shingle ballast below the tea, carried 
100 tons titted kentledge in the limbers stowed between skin and ceiling, 
whereby great " stiffness " was ensured — a factor of much value in beating 
down the China Sea against the monsoon, and at other times in "carrying 
on " under a heavy press of canvas. 

244 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

voyage round the Cape began to be proved in 1864, 
and was demonstrated in 1866, when Mr Alfred Holt 
of Liverpool first established his " blue-funnel " line, 
beginning with the Ajax, Achilles, and Agamemnon. 
But though sailing clippers were displaced, the sport- 
ing element in the China trade was not extinguished. 
The opening of the Yangtze revived the interest in 
early arrivals of tea by bringing the ** black leafs" of 
Hunan and Hupeh to the sea nearly as soon as the 
" red leafs," whose outlet was Foochow. The produce 
of the central provinces up till 1861 was conveyed by 
a slow and expensive route, a considerable portion of 
it on the backs of porters, to Canton. Hankow when 
opened became at once the entrepot for these teas, 
and sea-going ships began to load their cargoes in the 
very heart of the Chinese empire. For some years 
there had been two sets of races — one from Foochow 
and one from Hankow — which took the wind out of 
each other's sails, and the sport became somewhat 

It was the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, and 
the consequent improvements in the construction of 
steamships, that gave its full value to the Yangtze 
as a trade route. For then ocean steamers loaded at 
Hankow with all the advantages of the short route 
and convenient coaling-stations, and the old excitement 
of the Foochow racing was revived under a still higher 
pressure. Every year witnessed some new design for 
combining the maximum cargo and coal stowage with 
the maximum speed, so that new tea, which but a 
few years before was landed in November, now came 
to market early in July. The last great race occurred 
in 1883 between the Glenogle and Stirling Castle. By 


that time Indian tea was rapidly gaining the ascendant 
in the great consuming marts, displacing the Chinese 
article, which could no longer afford the prestige of 
being carried by steamers built and run regardless of 
expense. Thenceforth all Far Eastern produce found 
an everyday level ; merchandise was carried to and 
fro by regular lines, with measured intervals of sailing, 
all the year round, freights were fixed by common 
agreement, and the trade assumed a character of an 
omnibus traffic on a large scale. 

The Suez Canal produced an immense lateral exten- 
sion of trade with China by bringing the Black Sea, 
Mediterranean, and North Sea ports into direct com- 
munication with the ports of the Far East. The 
Russian volunteer fleet, composed of very large and 
swift steamers, each capable of conveying 2000 troops, 
carried tea direct from Hankow to Odessa. Trade 
with Marseilles and Genoa was developed by British 
and German enterprise as well as by the Messageries 
Maritimes of France. Antwerp, Bremen, and Ham- 
burg became the terminal ports for important lines 
of steamers. The mercantile navy of Japan had not 
risen into general notice during the earlier time with 
which we are principally concerned, and it would de- 
serve a treatise by itself 

By a process of natural selection native shipping in 
China and Japan has been extensively superseded by 
foreign, and an immense dislocation of capital has in 
consequence taken place. The effect of this has been 
severely felt on the China coast, especially in such 
large shipping ports as Taku, Shanghai, and Ningpo, 
where there were in former days large and prosperous 

246 SHIPPING. [chap. XII. 

shipowning communities. The disturbance has prob- 
ably been much less marked in Japan, owing to the 
greater agility of the people in adapting themselves to 
inevitable changes. Certain it is that in both countries 
there is still a large junk fleet employed in the coasting 
trade, being protected against foreign as well as steam 
competition by their light draught and their privilege 
of trading at ports not opened to foreign trade. 

The temptation to evade the prohibition of foreign 
flags led in former days to sundry bizarre effects on the 
coast of China. The natives, finding it to their* advan- 
tage to employ foreign vessels, exercised their ingenuity 
in making them look like Chinese craft. This would at 
first sight appear no easy matter, seeing that the 
Chinese junks carried no yards and their hulls were of 
a construction as different from that of a modern ship 
as was possible for two things to be which were in- 
tended for the same purpose. The junks possessed 
certain qualities conducive to buoyancy and safety, 
such as water-tight bulkheads, which at once strength- 
ened the hull and minimised the danger of sinking. 
But their sailing properties, except with the wind 
** free," were beneath contempt. Their weatherly and 
seaworthy qualities commended vessels of foreign con- 
struction to the Chinese traders, while the talisman of 
the flag was deemed by them a protection against 
pirates, and perhaps also, on occasion, against official 
inquisition. Probably what on the whole the native 
owner or charterer would have preferred was that his 
ship should pass for foreign at sea and for native in 
port. To this end in some cases resort was had to 
hermaphrodite rigging, and very generally to two 
projecting boards, one on each side of the figurehead. 



bearing the staring Chinese eye, such as the junks 
south of the Yangtze carry. The open eye on the 
ship's bow was to enable the Chinese port officials to 
close theirs to the unauthorised presence of strangers, 
and thus everything was arranged in the manner so 
dear to the Chinese character. 

In the south of China the advantage of the flag was 
sought without the foreign appearance of the vessel. 
The foreign flag was hoisted on native-built small craft, 
a large fleet of which hailed from Macao under Portu- 
guese colours, and were from time to time guilty of 
great irregularities on the coast. The Chinese of 
Hongkong, British subjects born and bred, registered 
their vessels and received colonial sailing letters, renew- 
able at frequent intervals, as a check on bad behaviour. 
With these papers short trips were made along the 
south coast, and a local trade was carried on in the 
estuary of the Canton river. These vessels of about 100 
or 200 tons burthen were called "lorchas,'' of which 
we shall hear more in subsequent chapters. 




Their relations to their official representatives — And to the trading in- 
terests of their own countries — Their unity — High character — Liber- 
ality — Breadth of view. 

In the preceding portions of this narrative it has been 
shown how much the character of the principal officials 
on both sides influenced the progress of events. There 
was, however, yet another factor which contributed in 
a lesser degree and in a different manner to the general 
result which ought not to be entirely omitted from 
consideration, and that was the personal qualities and 
traditional characteristics of the two trading communi- 
ties, foreign and Chinese. It was they who created 
the subject-matter of all foreign relations, and stood 
in the breach in all the struggles between foreign and 
native officials. It was their persons and their fortunes 
which were ever at stake ; it was they who first felt 
the shock of disturbance, and were the first to reap 
the fruits of peace. 

The relation of the foreign mercantile community 
to their official representatives was not always free 
from friction, because the same high authority which en- 


joined on the officials the protection of the persons and 
the promotion of the interests of the lay community 
empowered them also to rule over these their proteges, 
and to apply to them an arbitrary discipline in accord- 
ance with what they conceived to be the exigencies of 
the time. Duty in such circumstances must often have 
assumed a divided aspect, and rules of action must fre- 
quently have been put to a severe strain ; nor is it 
surprising that, owing to these peculiar relationships, 
the resident communities should not have been able 
on all occasions to see eye to eye with the agents of 
their Governments. 

In their national and representative character the 
China merchants were wont at different crises to have 
moral burdens laid on them which did not properly fit 
their shoulders. They were little affected by the shallow 
moralism of the pulpit, which, taken literally, would 
have counselled general liquidation and the distribution 
of the proceeds among the poor, leaving the common 
creditor out of account ; but official sermons also were 
on certain occasions preached to, or at, the merchants, 
implying some obligation on their part to sacrifice indi- 
vidual advantage to the greater good of the greater 
number. Were there no other answer to such altruistic 
monitions, it would be sufficient to plead that under 
such theories of duty commerce could not exist, and its 
political accessories would become superfluous. No 
road to commercial prosperity has been discovered 
which could dispense with the prime motive for the 
exertion which makes for progress — to wit, individual 
ambition, cupidity, or by whatever term we choose to 
designate the driving power of the complex machine of 
civilised life. Mammon is, after all, a divinity whose 

250 THE TRADERS — FOREIGN. [chap. xiii. 

worship is as universal as that of Eros, and is scarcely- 
less essential to the preservation of the race. Nor is it 
by collective, but by strictly individual, offerings that 
these deities are propitiated, and the high purposes of 
humanity subserved. It is no reproach, therefore, to 
the China merchants that they should have seized 
every opportunity for gain, totally irrespective of the 
general policy of their country. It was not for them 
to construe portents, but to improve the shining hour. 
And if it should at any time happen that the action 
of private persons, impelled by the passion for gain, 
embarrassed a diplomatist in his efforts to bring about 
some grand international combination, the fault was 
clearly his who omitted to take account of the ruling 
factor in all economic problems. The trade was not 
made for Government policy, but the policy for the 
trade, whose life-blood was absolute liberty of action 
and a free course for individual initiative. The success 
of British trade as a whole could only be the aggregate 
of the separate successes not otherwise attainable than 
by each member of the mercantile fraternity performing 
his own part with singleness of purpose. Nothing 
certainly could ever justify any trader in foregoing a 
chance of gain for the sake of an ideal benefit to the 
community, even if it were likely to be realised. A 
distinction must be drawn between the tradesman and 
the statesman. Though their functions may sometimes 
overlap, their respective duties to the State are of a 
different though complementary character. 

To the charge which from time to time has been 
levelled at the China merchants, that they were too 
narrow and too selfish, it may be plausibly replied 
that, on the contrary, they were if anything too 


broad ; for their individual interests were not so 
bound up with general progress as are the interests 
of colonists in a new country, where co-operation is 
essential. Progress meant, to the China merchants, 
the admitting of the flood of competition, which they 
were in no condition to meet. The general interests 
of the country required the opening of new markets ; 
in a lesser degree the interests of the manufacturing 
section required the same thing ; but the interests of 
the merchants, albeit they appeared to represent their 
country and its industries, were in fact opposed to 
expansion. Yet so strong in them was the race in- 
stinct for progress that their private advantage has 
oftentimes actually given way to it, so that we have 
seen throughout the developments of foreign inter- 
course with China the resident merchants placing 
themselves in the van in helping to let loose the 
avalanche which overwhelmed them and brought fresh 
adventurers to occupy the ground. 

Nor has the relation of the merchants, even to the 
operations in which they were engaged, been always 
clearly understood. Although they personified their 
national trade in the eyes of the world, the merchants 
were never anything more than the vehicles for its 
distribution, having no interest in its general exten- 
sion, though a powerful interest in the increase of 
their individual share. The productions which pro- 
vided the livelihood of many thousands of people in 
China, and perhaps of a still larger number in Great 
Britain and other manufacturing countries, did not 
concern them. A percentage by way of toll on mer- 
chandise passing through their warehouses was the 
limit of their ambition. A clear distinction should 

252 THE TRADERS — FOREIGN. [chap. xiii. 

therefore be drawn between the merchant and the 
producer or manufacturer ; on which point some obser- 
vations of Wingrove Cooke ^ are worth quoting : — 

" The calculations of the merchants do not extend 
beyond their own business. Why should they ? 
Fortunately for himself, the merchant's optics are 
those of the lynx rather than those of the eagle. 
An extremely far-sighted commercial man must always 
run risks of bankruptcy, for the most absolutely 
certain sequences are often the most uncertain in 
point of time." The same writer, however, comments 
on the ignorance and narrowness of both British 
traders and manufacturers, and their failure to avail 
themselves of the opportunities offered to them of 
exploiting the trading resources of the Chinese. 
" There is no spirit of inquiry abroad," he says, " no 
energy at work, no notion of distracting the eye for 
a moment from watching those eternal shirtings, no 
thought whether you cannot make better shift with 
some other class of goods. Manchester made a great 
blind effort when the ports were opened, and that 
effort failed. Since then she has fallen into an 
apathy, and trusts to the chapter of accidents." As 
for the merchants on whom manufacturers relied to 
push the sale of their wares, " they come out here," 
he says, " to make fortunes in from five to seven 
years, not to force English calicoes up into remote 
places. Their work is to buy Chinese produce, but," 
he goes on, " if the English manufacturer wants 
extraordinary exertion, carefully collected information, 
and persevering up-country enterprise — and this is 
what he does want — he must do it himself The 

1 China in 1857-58. Routledge. 


British export trade will not maintain mercantile 
houses, but it would pay for travelling agents acting 
in immediate connection with the home manufacturers, 
who should keep their principals at home well in- 
formed, and who should work their operations through 
the established houses here. The evil is that British 
goods are not brought under the eyes of the China- 
man of the interior cities." 

The inaccuracies of some of these comments need 
not obscure the shrewd and prophetic character of 
the general advice tendered to the British manufac- 
turers. After an interval of forty years they have 
begun to act upon it, and though their progress has 
as yet been slow, they are taking to heart another 
portion of Mr Cooke's advice, that "all dealing with 
the interior of China is impossible unless your agents 
speak the language of the people." 

A certain divergence between the official and non- 
official view of affairs had begun to show itself in the 
period before the war. Before the close of the East 
India Company's monopoly the independent merchants 
perceived that their interests, as well as those of the 
Company itself, were prejudiced by the truckling tactics 
of its agents, and though few in number, the mercan- 
tile community began to give utterance to their griev- 
ances and to show they had a mind of their own on 
public commercial policy. As the whole position of 
foreigners in China rested on premisses which were 
essentially false, disappointment, irritation, and alarm 
were chronic. Every one concerned, official and un- 
official, was aggrieved thereby, while no one was dis- 
posed to accept blame for the grievance. A tendency 
to recrimination was the natural consequence. When 

254 THE TRADERS — FOREIGN. [chap. xiii. 

their representatives failed to protect them against the 
aggressions of the Chinese the merchants complained, 
while the officials in their turn were not indisposed 
to retort by alleging provocative or injudicious conduct 
on the part of the merchants themselves as contrib- 
utory to the ever-recurrent difficulties. Through the 
retrospective vista of two generations it is easy now to 
see where both parties were at fault — the merchants 
in making too little account of the difficulties under 
which their representatives were labouring, and the 
officials in failing to perceive that the causes of their 
disagreements with the Chinese lay altogether deeper 
than the casual imprudence of any private individual, 
even if that could be established. The despatches of 
the earlier " superintendents," notably those of Sir 
George Robinson, betray a certain jealousy of the 
political influence supposed to be wielded by the mer- 
cantile community of Canton working through their 
associations in England, and the superintendents 
seemed therefore concerned to cast discredit on mer- 
cantile opinion. It would have been strange enough, 
had it been true, that an isolated community of a 
hundred individuals should be torn by faction, yet it 
is a fact that on their assumed disagreements an argu- 
ment was based for invalidating the representations 
which they occasionally made to the Home Govern- 
ment. Their views were disparaged, their motives 
impugned, and their short-sighted selfishness deplored. 
The note struck in 1835 has been maintained with 
variations down almost to our own day, — a circum- 
stance which has to be borne in mind by those who 
aim at a fair appreciation of British relations with 
China during the last sixty years. 


Far, however, from being a disunited flock, the 
mercantile body in China generally have on the 
whole been singularly unanimous in their views of the 
political transactions with which their interests were 
bound up ; while as to the old community of Canton, 
no epithet could be less appropriate than one which 
would imply discord. Concord was the enforced effect 
of their circumstances. Imprisoned within a narrow 
space, surrounded by a hostile people, exposed to a 
constant common peril, the foreign residents in Canton 
were bound to each other by the mere instinct of self- 
preservation. They became, in fact, what Nelson called 
his captains, a '^band of brothers." The exclusion of 
females up till 1842, and the deterrent conditions of 
married life there even under the treaty, made it 
essentially a bachelor community, living almost like 
one family, or as comrades in a campaign. Of the 
disinterested hospitality and good-fellowship which 
continue to this day, even in the maturity of their 
domestic development, to characterise the foreign 
communities in China, the germ is doubtless to be 
discovered in that primitive society which oscillated 
between Canton and Macao during the thirty years 
which ended in 1856, in which year their factories 
were for the last time destroyed, and the old life 
finally broken up. 

But there is something more to be credited to these 
early residents than the mutual loyalty prescribed for 
them by the peculiar conditions of their life. They 
exemplified in a special degree the true temper and 
feelings of gentlemen, — a moral product with which 
local conditions had also, no doubt, something to do. 
They lived in glass houses, with open doors ; they 

256 THE TRADERS — FOREIGN. [chap. xiii. 

could by no means get away from one another, or 
evade a mutual observation which was constant and 
searching. Whatever standards, therefore, were rec- 
ognised by the community, the individual members 
were constrained to live up to them in a society where 
words and deeds lay open to the collective criticism. 
And the standard was really a high one. Truth, 
honour, courage, generosity, nobility, were qualities 
common to the whole body ; and those who were not 
so endowed by birthright could not help assuming the 
virtue they did not possess, and, through practice, 
making it eventually their own. Black sheep there 
were, no doubt, but being never whitewashed, they 
did not infect the flock, as happens in more advanced 

These intimate conditions favouring the formation 
of character were powerfully reinforced by the one 
feature of European life in China which was external 
to the residents, their contact with the surrounding 
mass of Chinese. The eflect of intercourse with so- 
called inferior races is a question of much complexity, 
and large generalisations on such subjects are unsafe, 
each case being best considered on its proper merits. 
In their intercourse with the Chinese, certain points 
stood out like pillars of adamant to fix the principles 
by which the foreign residents were obliged to regu- 
late their bearing towards the natives. In the first 
place, the strangers formed units hemmed in and 
pressed upon by thousands ; therefore they must 
magnify themselves by maintaining an invincible 
prestige, they must in the eyes of that alien world 
always be heroes, and they must present a united 
front. Extending the same principles from the 


material to the moral sphere, the foreigners must 
maintain the reputation of their caste for probity, 
liberality, and trustworthiness. Their word must 
be as good as their bond ; they must on no account 
demean themselves before the heathen, nor tolerate 
any temptation from a Chinese source to take unfair 
advantage of their own kind, the Caucasian or 
Christian, or by whatever term we may indicate 
the white man. Whatever their private differences, 
no white man must permit himself to acquiesce in 
the disparagement of his own people in the view 
of the people of the country. They must be, one 
and all, above suspicion. Such were some of the 
considerations which were effective in maintaining 
the character of Europeans in China. Although 
association with a race so alien as the Chinese, with 
such different moral standards, must have had the 
usual deteriorating effects of such contact, yet the 
positive gain in the formation of character from 
the practice of such maxims of conduct as those 
above indicated probably left a balance of advan- 
tage with the China merchants. 

The case would be imperfectly stated were mention 
not made of the process of natural selection which 
constituted the merchants a body of picked men. 
China was a remote country. It offered neither 
the facility of access nor the scope for adventure 
which in more recent times have attracted such 
streams of emigration to distant parts of the world. 
The mercantile body was a close corporation, automati- 
cally protected by barriers very difficult to surmount. 
The voyage itself occupied six months. Letters were 
rarely answered within a year. Hence all the ma- 

VOL. I. R 

258 THE TRADEES — FOREIGN. [chap. xiii. 

chinery of business had to be arranged with a large 
prescience. Even after the opening of the overland 
route to Suez communication with China was main- 
tained by sailing-ships up till 1845, when the Lady 
Mary Wood, the first steamer of the P. and O. 
Company, reached Hongkong, with no accommodation 
for more than a few passengers, and carrying no more 
cargo than a good - sized lighter. And later still, 
when steamers carried the mails fortnightly to China, 
the expense of the trip was so great that only a 
chosen few could afford it. It took £150 to £170 
to land a single man in Hongkong, and in those 
days when extensive outfits were thought necessary, 
probably as much more had to be laid out in that 
way. The merchants who established themselves 
in China after the opening of the trade were either 
themselves men of large means, or they were the 
confidential representatives of English and American 
houses of great position. There were no local banks, 
operations extended over one or two years, an immense 
outlay of capital was required, and credit had to be 
maintained at an exceedingly high level, not only 
as between the merchants in China and their corres- 
pondents in London, Liverpool, New York, and Boston, 
but between both and the financial centre of the 
world. Through such a winnowing - machine only 
good grain could pass. It was a natural result that 
the English and American merchants both in China 
and India should have been superior as a class to 
the average of other commercial communities. And 
what was true of partners and heads of houses was 
no less so of their " assistants." There were no 
" clerks," as the term is commonly used in England, 


except Portuguese hailing from the neighbouring 
settlement of Macao. The young men sent from 
England were selected with as much care as it was 
possible to bestow, for they were precious. Not only 
were they costly, but it might take a year to 
make good casualties. Besides, in countries situated 
as China was then, where contingencies of health 
were never out of mind, it was not worth while to 
send out one who was a clerk and nothing more. 
There must be potential capacity as well, since it 
could never be foreseen how soon emergencies might 
arise which would require him to assume the most 
responsible duties. Hence every new hand engaged 
must enjoy the fullest confidence both of his immediate 
employers and of the home firm to which they were 

As might be expected under such circumstances, 
family connections played a large part in the selection, 
and the tendency of the whole system was to mini- 
mise the gulf which in advanced societies separates 
the master from the man. In education and culture 
they were equals, as a consequence of which the reins 
of discipline might be held lightly, all service being 
willingly and intelligently rendered. The system of 
devolution was so fully developed that the assistant 
was practically master in his own department, for 
the success of which he was as zealous as the head. 
The " mess " regime under which in most houses the 
whole staff, employers and employees, sat at one table, 
tended strongly in the direction of a common social 

What still further contributed much to raise the 
position of assistants was the tradition which the 

260 THE TRADERS — FOREIGN. [chap. xiii. 

merchants both in India and China inherited from 
the East India Company of what may be called 
pampering their employees. They were permitted 
to carry on trade on their own account, in the same 
commodities and with the same buyers and sellers, in 
which they possessed advantages over their employers 
in having all the firm's information at command 
with the privilege of using its machinery free of cost. 
The abuses to which such a system was liable are 
too obvious to be dwelt upon ; but to be himself a 
merchant, sometimes more successful than his prin- 
cipal, though without his responsibilities, certainly did 
not detract from the social status of the assistant. 

Sixty years ago the China community was com- 
posed of men in the prime of life. The average age was 
probably not over thirty — a man of forty was a grey- 
beard. In this respect an evolutionary change has 
come over the scene, and the averaw ao^e of the adult 
residents must have risen by at least ten years. But 
the China community in all its stages of development 
has maintained the colonial characteristic of buoyancy 
and hopefulness. Reverses of fortune never appalled 
its members. Having been early accustomed to the 
alternations of fat years and lean, a disastrous season 
was to them but the presage of a bountiful one to 
follow ; while a succession of bad years made the re- 
action only the more certain. This wellspring of 
hope has often helped the China merchants to carry 
the freshness of spring even into the snows of winter. 
The nature of their pursuits, moreover, fostered a com- 
prehensive spirit. Trained in the school of wholesale 
dealing, and habituated to work on large curves, the 
China merchants have all through felt the blood of the 


merchant princes in their veins, and it has even been 
alleged to their disadvantage that, like the scions of 
decayed families the world over, the pomp and circum- 
stance were maintained after the material basis had in 
the natural course of affairs vanished. Nay, more, 
that the grandiose ideas appropriate to the heirs of a 
protected system have disqualified them for the contest 
in small things which the latter days have brought 
upon them. 

Of that restricted, protected, quasi-aristocratic, half- 
socialistic society some of the traditions and spirit 
remain ; but the structure itself could not possibly 
withstand the aggression of modern progress, and it 
has been swept away. New elements have entered 
into the composition of the mercantile and general 
society of the Far East, its basis has been widened and 
its relations with the great world multiplied. In in- 
numerable ways there has been improvement, not the 
least being the development of family life and the more 
enduring attachment to the soil which is the result of 
prolonged residence. Living, if less luxurious, is vastly 
more comfortable, more refined, and more civilised, and 
men and women without serious sacrifices make their 
home in a country which in the earlier days was but a 
scene of temporary exile. Charities abound which were 
not before needed ; the channels of humanity have 
broadened, though it cannot be said at the cost of 
depth, for whatever else may have changed, the 
generosity of the foreign communities remains as 
princely as in the good old days. 

Yet is it permissible to regret some of the robuster 
virtues of the generation that is past. The European 
solidarity vis-a-vis the Chinese world, which continued 

262 THE TRADERS — FOREIGN. [chap. xiii. 

practically unbroken into the eighth decade of the 
century, a tower of moral strength to foreigners and an 
object of respect to the Chinese, has now been thrown 
down. Not only in private adventures have foreigners 
in their heat of competition let themselves down to the 
level of Chinese tactics, but great financial syndicates 
have immersed themselves in intrigues which either 
did not tempt the men of the previous generation or 
tempted them in vain ; and even the Great Powers 
themselves have descended into the inglorious arena, 
where decency is discarded like the superfluous 
garments of the gladiator, and where falsity, ultra- 
Chinese in quality, masquerades in Christian garb. 
The moral ascendancy of Christendom has been in a 
hundred ways shamelessly prostituted, leaving little 
visible distinction between the West and the East but 
superior energy and military force. 

Take them for all in all, the China merchants have 
been in their day and generation no unworthy repre- 
sentatives of their country's interests and policy, its 
manhood and character. Their patriotism has not been 
toned down but expanded and rationalised by cosmo- 
politan associations, and by contact with a type of 
national life differing diametrically from their own. 
Breadth and moderation have resulted from these 
conditions, and a habit of tempering the exigencies of 
the day by the larger consideration of international 
problems has been characteristic of the mercantile 
bodies in China from first to last. And though 
statesmanship lies outside the range of busy men of 
commerce, it must be said in justice to the merchants 
of China that they have been consistently loyal to an 
ideal policy, higher in its aims and more practical in 


its operation than that which any line of Western 
statesmen, save those of Russia, has been able to 
follow. It had been better if the continuous prog- 
nostications of such a compact body of opinion had 
been more heeded. 


Business aptitude — High standard of commercial ethics — Circumstances 
hindering great accumulations. 

As it requires two to make a bargain, it would be an 
imperfect account of the China trade which omitted 
such an important element as the efficiency of the 
native trader. To him is due the fact that the foreign 
commerce of his country, when uninterfered with by 
the officials of his Government, has been made so easy 
for the various parties concerned in it. Of all the 
accomplishments the Chinese nation has acquired 
during the long millenniums of its history, there is 
none in which it has attained to such perfect mastery 
as in the science of buying and selling. The Chinese 
possess the Jews* passion for exchange. All classes, 
from the peasant to the prince, think in money, and 
the instinct of appraisement supplies to them the 
place of a ready reckoner, continuously converting 
objects and opportunities into cash. Thus surveying 
mankind and all its achievements with the eye of 
an auctioneer, invisible note -book in hand, external 
impressions translate themselves automatically into 
the language of the market - place, so that it comes 
as natural to the Chinaman as to the modern Ameri- 
can, or to any other commercial people, to reduce all 

264 THE TRADERS — CHINESE. [oHAP. xiii. 

forms of appreciation to the common measure of the 
dollar. A people imbued with such habits of mind are 
traders by intuition. If they have much to learn from 
foreigners, they have also much to teach them ; and 
the fact that at no spot within the vast empire of 
China would one fail to find ready-made and eager men 
of business is a happy augury for the extended inter- 
course which may be developed in the future, while at 
the same time it affords the clearest indication of the 
true avenue to sympathetic relations with the Chinese. 
In every detail of handling and moving commodities, 
from the moment they leave the hands of the producer 
in his garden-patch to the time when they reach the 
ultimate consumer perhaps a thousand miles away, the 
Chinese trader is an expert. Times and seasons have 
been elaborately mapped out, the clue laid unerringly 
through labyrinthine currencies, weights, and measures 
which to the stranger seem a hopeless tangle, and elab- 
orate trade customs evolved appropriate to the re- 
quirements of a myriad - sided commerce, until the 
simplest operation has been invested with a kind of 
ritual observance, the effect of the whole being to cause 
the complex wheels to run both swiftly and smoothly. 

To crown all, there is to be noted, as the highest 
condition of successful trade, the evolution of commer- 
cial probity, which, though no monopoly of the Chinese 
merchants, is one of their distinguishing characteristics. 
It is that element which, in the generations before the 
treaties, enabled so large a commerce to be carried on 
with foreigners without anxiety, without friction, and 
almost without precaution. It has also led to the 
happiest personal relations between foreigners and the 
native trader. 


When the business of the season was over [says Mr Hunter] ^ 
contracts were made with the Hong merchants for the next 
season. They consisted of teas of certain qualities and kinds, 
sometimes at fixed prices, sometimes at the prices which should 
be current at the time of the arrival of the teas. No other 
record of these contracts was ever made than by each party 
booking them, no written agreements were drawn up, nothing 
was sealed or attested. A wilful breach of contract never took 
place, and as regards quality and quantity the Hong merchants 
fulfilled their part with scrupulous honesty and care. 

The Chinese merchant, moreover, has been always 
noted for what he himself graphically calls his large- 
heartedness, which is exemplified by liberality in all his 
dealings, tenacity as to all that is material with com- 
parative disregard of trifles, never letting a transaction 
fall through on account of punctilio, yielding to the 
prejudices of others wherever it can be done without 
substantial disadvantage, a " sweet reasonableness," if 
the phrase may be borrowed for such a purpose, which 
obviates disputation, and the manliness which does not 
repine at the consequences of an unfortunate contract. 
Judicial procedure being an abomination to respectable 
Chinese, their security in commercial dealings is based 
as much upon reason, good faith, and non-repudiation 
as that of the Western nations is upon verbal finesse 
in the construction of covenants. 

Two systems so diametrically opposed can hardly 
admit of real amalgamation without sacrifice of the 
saving principle of both. And if, in the period imme- 
diately succeeding the retirement of the East India 
Company, perfect harmony prevailed between the 
Chinese and the foreign merchant, the result was 
apparently attained by the foreigners practically falling 

^ The Fankwae at Canton. 

266 THE TRADERS — CHINESE. [chap. xiii. 

in with the principles and the commercial ethics of the 
Chinese, to which nothing has yet been found superior. 
The Chinese aptitude for business, indeed, exerted a 
peculiar influence over their foreign colleagues. The 
efficiency and alacrity of the native merchants and 
their staff were such that the foreigners fell into the 
way of leaving to them the principal share in managing 
the details of the business. When the venerable, but 
unnatural, Co-hong system of Old Canton was super- 
seded by the compradoric, the connection between the 
foreign firm and their native staff became so intimate 
that it was scarcely possible to distinguish between the 
two, and misunderstandings have not unfrequently 
arisen through third parties mistaking the principal 
for the agent and the agent for the principal. 

Such a relationship could not but foster in some 
cases a certain lordly abstraction on the part of the 
foreign merchant, to which climatic conditions power- 
fully contributed. The factotum, in short, became a 
minister of luxury, everywhere a demoralising influ- 
ence, and thus there was a constant tendency for 
the Chinese to gain the upper hand, — to be the 
master in effect though the servant in name. The 
comprador was always consulted, and if the employer 
ventured to omit this formality the resulting trans- 
action would almost certainly come to grief through 
inexplicable causes. Seldom, however, was his ad- 
vice rejected, while many of the largest operations 
were of his initiation. Unlimited confidence was the 
rule on both sides, which often took the concrete 
form of considerable indebtedness, now on the one side 
now on the other, and was regularly shown in 
the despatch of large amounts of specie into the 


far interior of the country for the purchase of tea 
and silk in the districts of their growth. For many 
years the old practice was followed of contracting for 
produce as soon as marketable, and sometimes even 
before. During three or four months, in the case of 
tea, large funds belonging to foreign merchants were 
in the hands of native agents far beyond the reach 
of the owners, who could exercise no sort of super- 
vision over the proceedings of their agents. The 
funds were in every case safely returned in the form 
of produce purchased, which was entered to the 
foreign merchant at a price arbitrarily fixed by the 
comprador to cover all expenses. Under such a 
regime it would have needed no great perspicacity, 
one would imagine, to foretell in which pocket the 
profits of trading would eventually lodge. As a 
matter of fact, the comprador generally grew rich at 
the expense of his employer. All the while the sin- 
cerest friendship existed between them, often de- 
scending to the second or third generation.^ 

It would be natural to suppose that in such an 
extensive commercial field as the empire of China, 
exploited by such competent traders, large accumu- 
lations of wealth would be the result. Yet after 
making due allowance for inducements to conceal- 
ment, the wealth even of the richest families prob- 
ably falls far short of that which is not uncommon 
in Western countries. Several reasons might be ad- 
duced for the limitation, chiefly the family system, 
which necessitates constant redistribution, and which 

^ Apart from their liberality in the conduct of business, the generosity of 
the Chinese mercantile class, their gratitude for past favours, are so re- 
markable as to be incomprehensible to the Western mind. An account 
of them would read like a " fairy tale." 

268 THE TRADERS — CHINESE. [chap. xiii. 

subjects every successful man to the attentions of a 
swarm of parasites, who, besides devouring his sub- 
stance with riotous living, have the further oppor- 
tunity of ruining his enterprises by their malfeasance. 
Yet although individual wealth may, from these and 
other causes, be confined within very moderate limits, 
the control of capital for legitimate business is ample. 
Owing to the co-operative system under which the 
financiers of the country support and guarantee each 
other, credit stands very high, enabling the widely 
ramified commerce of the empire to be carried on 
upon a very small nucleus of cash capital. The bank- 
ing organisation of China is wonderfully complete, 
bills of exchange being currently negotiable between 
the most distant points of the empire, the circula- 
tion of merchandise maintaining the equilibrium with 
comparatively little assistance from the precious 

The true characteristics of a people probably stand 
out in a clearer light when they are segregated from 
the conventionalities of their home and forced to ac- 
commodate themselves to unaccustomed conditions. 
Following the Chinese to the various commercial 
colonies which they have done so much to develop, 
it will be found that they have carried with them 
into their voluntary exile the best elements of their 
commercial success in their mother country. The 
great emporium of Maimaichen, on the Siberian 
frontier near Kiachta, is an old commercial settle- 
ment mostly composed of natives of the province of 
Shansi, occupying positions of the highest respect 
both financially and socially. The streets of the 
town are regular, wide, and moderately clean. The 


houses are solid, tidy, and tasteful, with pretty little 
courtyards, ornamental door - screens, and so forth, 
the style of the whole being described as superior to 
what is seen in the large cities within China proper. 
The very conditions of exile seem favourable to a 
higher scale of living, free alike from the incubus of 
thriftless relations and from the malign espionage of 
Government officials. 

In the Philippine Islands and in Java the Chinese 
emigrants from the southern provinces have been the 
life and soul of the trade and industry of these 
places. So also in the British dominions, as at 
Singapore and Penang, which are practically Chinese 
Colonies under the British flag. Hongkong and the 
Burmese ports are of course no exceptions. 

The description given by Mr Thomson ^ of the Chinese 
in Penang would apply equally to every part of the 
world in which the Chinese have been permitted to 
settle : — 

Should you, my reader, ever settle in Penang, you will be 
there introduced to a Chinese contractor who will sign a 
document to do anything. His costume will tell you that 
he is a man of inexpensive yet cleanly habits. He will build 
you a house after any design you choose, and within so many 
days, subject to a fine should he exceed the stipulated time. 
He will furnish you with a minute specification, in which 
everything, to the last nail, will be included. He has a 
brother who will contract to make every article of furniture 
you require, either from drawings or from models. He has 
another brother who will fit you and your good lady with all 
sorts of clothing, and yet a third relative who will find 
servants, and contract to supply you with all the native and 
European delicacies in the market upon condition that his 
monthly bills are regularly honoured. 

^ The Straits of Malacca, &c. By J. Thomson. 

270 THE TRADERS — CHINESE. [chap. xiii. 

It is, indeed, to Chinamen that the foreign resident is in- 
debted for almost all his comforts, and for the profusion of 
luxuries which surround his wonderfully European -looking 
home on this distant island. 

The Chinese are everywhere found enterprising and 
trustworthy men of business. Europeans, worried by the 
exhaustless refinements of the Marwarree or Bengali, 
find business with the Chinese in the Straits Settle- 
ments a positive luxury. Nor have the persecutions 
of the race in the United States and in self-o^overn- 
ing British colonies wholly extinguished the spark of 
honour which the Chinese carry with them into dis- 
tant lands. An old " 'Forty - niner," since deceased, 
related to the writer some striking experiences of his 
own during a long commercial career in San Francisco. 
A Chinese with whom he had dealings disappeared 
from the scene, leaving a debt to Mr Forbes of several 
thousand dollars. The account became an eyesore in 
the books, and the amount was formally " written 
off" and forgotten. Some years after, Mr Forbes 
was surprised by a visit from a weather - beaten 
Chinese, who revealed himself as the delinquent Ah 
Sin and asked for his account. Demurring to the 
trouble of exhuming old ledgers, Mr Forbes asked 
Ah Sin incredulously if he was going to pay. *' Why, 
certainly," said the debtor. The account was there- 
upon rendered to him with interest, and after a care- 
ful examination and making some corrections, Ah Sin 
undid his belt and tabled the money to the last cent, 
thereupon vanishing into space whence he had come. 




Two British landmarks — Chinese customs and Hongkong — Choice of the 
island — Vitality of colony — Asylum for malefactors — Chinese official 
hostility — Commanding commercial position — Crown Colony govern- 
ment — Management of Chinese population — Their improvement — 
English education — Material progress — Industrial institutions — Acces- 
sion of territory. 

The past sixty years of war and peace in China have 
left two landmarks as concrete embodiments of British 
policy — the Chinese maritime customs and the colony 
of Hongkong. These are documents which testify in 
indelible characters both to the motives and to the 
methods of British expansion throughout the world. 
For good and for evil their record cannot be explained 
away. Both institutions are typically English, inas- 
much as they are not the fulfilment of a dream or 
the working out of preconcerted schemes, but growths 
spontaneously generated out of the local conditions, 
much like that of the British empire itself, and with 
scarcely more conscious foresight on the part of those 
f^ho helped to rear the edifice. 

The relation of the British empire to the world, 
which defies definition, is only revealed in scattered 
object-lessons. India throws some light upon it — the 
colonies much more ; and though in some respects 

272 HONGKONG. [chap. xiv. 

unique in its character, Hongkong in its degree stands 
before the world as a realisation of the British ideal, 
with its faults and blunders as well as with its excel- 
lences and successes. 

The want of a British station on the China coast had 
long been felt, and during the ten years which pre- 
ceded the cession innumerable proposals were thrown 
out, some of which distinctly indicated Hongkong 
itself as supplying the desideratum. But as to the 
status of the new port the various suggestions made 
neutralised each other, until the course of events 
removed the question out of the region of discussion 
and placed it in the lap of destiny. 

The earliest English visitors to the island described 
it as inhabited by a few weather-beaten fishermen, who 
were seen spreading their nets and drying their catch 
on the rocks. Cultivation was restricted to small 
patches of rice, sweet-potatoes, and buckwheat. The 
abundance of fern gave it in places an appearance of 
verdure, but it was on the whole a treeless, rugged, 
barren block of granite. The gentlemen of Lord Am- 
herst's suite in 1816, who have left this record, made 
another significant observation. The precipitous island, 
twelve miles long, with its deep-water inlets, formed 
one side of a land-locked harbour, which they called 
Hongkong Sound, capable of sheltering any number 
of ships of the largest size. Into this commodious 
haven the English fugitives, driven first from Canton 
and then from Macao, by the drastic decree of the^ 
Chinese authorities in 1839, found a refuge for their 
ships, and afterwards a footing on shore for themselves. 
Stern necessity and not their wills sent them thither. 
The same necessity ordained that the little band, once 


lodged there, should take root, and growth followed as 
the natural result of the inherent vitality of the organ- 
ism. As Dr Eitel well points out, this small social 
body did not originate in Hongkong : it had had a 
long preparatory history in Macao, and in the Canton 
factories, and may be considered, therefore, in the light 
of a healthy swarm from the older hives. 

During the first few years of the occupation the 
selection of the station was the subject of a good 
deal of cheap criticism in the press. A commer- 
cial disappointment and a political failure, it was 
suggested by some that the place should be abandoned. 
It was contrasted unfavourably with the island of 
Chusan, which had been receded to China under the 
same treaty which had ceded Hongkong to Great 
Britain; and even as late as 1858 Lord Elgin ex- 
claimed, " How anybody in their senses could have 
preferred Hongkong to Chusan seems incredible." 

But, in point of fact, there had been little or no 
conscious choice in the matter. The position may be 
said to have chosen itself, since no alternative was 
left to the first British settlers. As for Chusan, it 
had been occupied and abandoned several times. The 
East India Company had an establishment there in 
the beginning of the eighteenth century, and if that 
station was finally given up either on its merits or 
in favour of Hongkong, it was certainly not without 
experience of the value of the more northerly position. 
Whatever hypothetical advantages, commercial or other- 
wise, might have accrued from the retention of Chusan, 
the actual position attained by Hongkong as an em- 
porium of trade, a centre of industry, and one of the 
great shipping ports in the world, furnishes an un- 

VOL. I. s 

274 HONGKONG. [chap. xiv. 

answerable defence both of the choice of the site and 
the poUtical structure which has been erected on it. 
Canton being at once the centre of foreign trade and 
the focus of Chinese hostihty, vicinity to that city 
w^as an indispensable condition of the location of the 
British entrepot, and the place of arms from which 
commerce could be defended. And it would be hard 
even now to point to any spot on the Chinese coast 
which fulfilled the conditions so well as Hongkong. 

The course of its development did not run smooth. It 
was not to be expected. The experiment of planting 
a British station in contact w4th the most energetic 
as well as the most turbulent section of the population 
of China was not likely to be carried out without mis- 
takes, and many have been committed. Indeed, from 
the day of its birth down to the present time domestic 
dissensions and recriminations respecting the manage- 
ment of its affairs have never ceased. 

This was inevitable in a political microcosm having 
neither diversity of interest nor atmospheric space to 
soften the perspective. The entire interests of the 
colony were comprised within the focal distance of 
myopic vision. Molehills thus became mountains, and 
the mote in each brother's eye assumed the dimensions 
of animalcula seen through a microscope. The bitter 
feuds between the heads of the several departments of 
the lilliputian Government which prevailed during the 
first twenty years must have been fatal to any young 
colony if its progress had depended on the wisdom of 
its rulers. Happily a higher law governs all these 

Freedom carried with it the necessary consequences, 
and for many years the new colony was a tempting 


Alsatia for Chinese malefactors, an asylum for pirates, 
who put on and off that character with wonderful 
facility, and could hatch their plots there fearless 
of surveillance. When the Taiping rebellion was at 
its height, piracy became so mixed with insurrection 
that the two were not distinguishable, and it required 
both firmness and vigilance on the part of the authori- 
ties to prevent the harbour of Hongkong becoming 
the scene of naval engagements between the bellig- 
erents. During the hostilities of 1857-58 a species 
of dacoity was practised with impunity by Chinese, 
who were tempted by rewards for the heads of English- 
men offered by the authorities of Canton. 

It cannot, therefore, be denied that the immigrants 
from the mainland in the first and even the second 
decade of its existence were leavened with an undesir- 
able element, causing anxiety to the responsible rulers. 

The Chinese authorities, as was natural, waged re- 
lentless war on the colony from its birth. Though 
compelled formally to admit that the island and its 
dependencies were a British possession, they still 
maintained a secret authority over the Chinese who 
settled there, and even attempted to levy taxes. As 
they could not lay hands on its trade, except the 
valuable portion of it which was carried on by native 
craft, they left no stone unturned to destroy that. 
By skilful diplomacy, for which they are entitled to 
the highest credit, they obtained control over the 
merchant junks trading to Hongkong, and imposed 
restrictions on them calculated to render their traffic 
impossible. By the same treaty they obtained the 
appointment of a British officer as Chinese revenue 
agent in Hongkong — a concession, however, disallowed 

276 HONGKONG. [chap. xiv. 

by the good sense of the British Government. But 
the Chinese were very tenacious of the idea of making 
Hongkong a customs station, never relaxing their 
efforts for forty years, until the convention of 1886 
at last rewarded their perseverance by a partial 
fulfilment of their hopes. 

For reasons which, if not very lofty, are yet very 
human, the diplomatic and consular agents of Great 
Britain have never looked sympathetically on the 
colony — indeed have often sided with the Chinese in 
their attempts to curtail its rights. 

Nor has the Home Government itself always treated 
the small colony with parental consideration. Before 
it was out of swaddling-clothes the Treasury ogre 
began to open his mouth and, like the East India 
Company, demand remittances. A military establish- 
ment was maintained on the island, not for the 
benefit of the residents, but for the security of a 
strategical position in the imperial system. The col- 
onists were mulcted in a substantial share of the 
cost, which the governor was instructed to wring 
out of them. The defences themselves, however, were 
neglected, and allowed to grow obsolete and useless, 
and, if we mistake not, it was the civil community, 
and not the Government, that insisted on their being 
modernised. The compromise eventually arrived at 
was, that the colonists provided the guns and the 
imperial Government the forts. An interesting paral- 
lel to this was the case of Gibraltar, which pos- 
sessed no dock until the civil community by sheer 
persistence, extending over many years, at length 
overcame the reluctance of the British Government 
to provide so essential an adjunct to its naval estab- 


lishment. The colony had suffered much from the 
war with China, but the Home Government refused 
it any participation in the indemnity extorted from 
the Chinese. 

But these and other drawbacks were counter- 
balanced, and eventually remedied, by the advantages 
offered by a free port and a safe harbour. Stand- 
ing in the fair way of all Eastern commerce, which 
pays willing tribute to the colony, Hongkong at- 
tracted trade from all quarters in a steadily increas- 
ing volume, and became the pivot for the whole 
ocean traffic of the Far East. ^ The tide of pros- 
perity could not be stayed — it invaded every section 
of the community. The character of the Chinese 
population was continuously raised. The best of 
them accumulated wealth : the poorest found remun- 
erative employment for their labour. Crime, with 
which the colony had been tainted, diminished as 
much through the expulsive power of material pros- 
perity as from the judicious measures of the ex- 
ecutive Government, for the credit must not be 
denied to successive administrators for the improve- 
ment in the condition of the colony. Among those 
none was more deserving of praise than Sir Richard 
MacDonnell (1865-72), who on catching sight, as he 
entered the harbour, of an enormous building, which 
he was told was the jail, remarked, " I will not fill 
that, but stop the crime ; " and he was nearly as 
good as his word, — a terror to evil-doers. 

A Crown colony is the form of government which 
challenges the most pungent criticism. The elected 

1 The tonnage entered and cleared for the year 1898 amounted to 
17,265,780, of which one-half was under the British flag. 

278 HONGKONG. [chap. xiv. 

members of its legislature, being a minority, can 
only in the last resort acquiesce in the decisions of 
the official majority who constitute the executive 
Government. Such a minority, however, is by no 
means wanting in influence, for it is, after all, pub- 
licity which is the safeguard of popular liberty. 
The freedom of speech enjoyed by an Opposition 
which has no fear of the responsibility of office be- 
fore its eyes widens the scope of its criticisms, and 
imparts a refreshing vigour to the invective of those 
of its members who possess the courage of their 
convictions. It reaches the popular ear, and the 
apprehension of an adverse public opinion so stimu- 
lated can never fail to have its effect on the acts 
of the Administration. Under such a regime it 
seems natural that, other things being equal, each 
governor in turn should be esteemed the worst who 
has borne rule in the colony, and in any case 
his merits are never likely to be fairly gauged 
by any local contemporary estimate. King Stork, 
though fair and far-seeing, may be more obnoxious 
to criticism than King Log, who makes things 
pleasant during his official term. 

Hongkong being established as a free port, the 
functions of Government were practically limited to 
internal administration, and the question of greatest 
importance was the control of the Chinese popula- 
tion which poured in. This was a new problem. 
Chinese communities had, indeed, settled under for- 
eign rule before, as in the Straits Settlements, in 
Java, and in Manila, but at such distances from 
their home as rendered the settlers amenable to any 
local regulations which might be imposed on them. 


Distance even acted as a strainer, keeping back the 
dregs. But Hongkong was nearer to China than 
the Isle of Wight is to Hampshire. Evil - doers 
could come and go at will. It could be overrun 
in the night and evacuated in the morning. Spies 
were as uncontrollable as house-flies, and whenever 
it suited the Chinese Government to be hostile, 
they proved their power to establish such a reign 
of terror in the colony that it was dangerous to 
stray beyond the beat of the armed policeman. 
Clearly it was of primary importance to come to 
terms with the native community, to reduce them 
to discipline, to encourage the good and discourage 
the bad among the Chinese settlers. As their num- 
bers increased the public health demanded a yet 
stricter supervision of their habits. Sanitary science 
had scarcely dawned when the colony was founded, 
and its teachings had to be applied, as they came 
to light, to conditions of life which had been al- 
lowed to grow up in independence of its require- 
ments. To tolerate native customs, domestic habits, 
and manner of living, while providing for the gen- 
eral wellbeing of a community in a climate which 
at its best is debilitating, taxed the resources of 
the British executive, and of course gave rise to 
perpetual recrimination. But the thing has been 
accomplished. Successive conflagrations have co-oper- 
ated with the march of sanitary reform and the 
advance in their worldly circumstances in so im- 
proving the dwellings of the population, that their 
housing now compares not unfavourably with that 
of the native cities of India. The Southern Chinese 
are naturally cleanly, and appreciative of good order 

280 HONGKONG. [chap. xiv. 

when it is judiciously introduced among them, even 
from a foreign source. 

A more complex question was that of bringing an 
alien population such as the Chinese within the moral 
pale of English law, for law is vain unless it ap- 
peals to the public conscience. The imposition of 
foreign statutes on a race nursed on oral tradition 
and restrained from misdoing by bonds invisible to 
their masters was not an undertaking for which 
success could be safely foretold. The effect of a 
similar proceeding on the subtle natives of India 
has been described as "substituting for a recognised 
morality a mere game of skill, at which the natives 
can give us long odds and beat us." " The mercan- 
tile and money-lending classes in India," says Mr S. 
S. Thorburn, " delight in the intricacy and surprises 
of a good case in court." With the Chinese it has 
been otherwise. The population of Hongkong have 
80 far assimilated the foreign law that, whether or 
not it satisfies their innate sense of right, it at least 
governs their external conduct, and crime has been 
reduced very low : as for litigation, it is compara- 
tively rare ; it is disreputable, and has no place in 
the Chinese commercial economy. 

The best proofs of their acceptance of colonial rule is 
the constantly increasing numbers of the Chinese resi- 
dents ; the concentration of their trading capital there ; 
their investments in real estate and in local industries ; 
their identification with the general interests of the 
colony, and their adopting it as a home instead of a 
place of temporary exile. The means employed to con- 
ciliate the Chinese must be deemed on the whole to 
have been successful. There was first police super- 


vision, then official protection under a succession of 
qualified officers, then representation in the Colonial 
Legislature and on the commission of the peace. The 
colonial executive has wisely left to the Chinese a 
large measure of a kind of self-government which is far 
more effisctive than anything that could find its expres- 
sion in votes of the Legislature. The administration of 
purely Chinese affairs by native committees, with a 
firm ruling hand over their proceedings, seems to fulfil 
every purpose of government. The aim has been 
throughout to ascertain and to gratify, when prac- 
ticable, the reasonable wants of the Chinese, who have 
responded to these advances by an exhibition of public 
spirit which no society could excel. It is doubtful 
whether in the wide dominion of the Queen there are 
250,000 souls more appreciative of orderly government 
than the denizens of the whilom nest of pirates and 
cut-throats — Hongkong. 

As an educational centre Hongkong fulfils a function 
whose value is difficult to estimate. From the founda- 
tion of the colony the subject engaged the attention of 
the executive Government, €is well as of different sec- 
tions of the civil community. The missionary bodies 
were naturally very early in the field, and there was 
for a good many years frank co - operation between 
them and the mercantile community in promoting 
schools both for natives and Europeans. In time, 
however, either their aims were found to diverge or 
else their estimate of achievement differed, and many 
of the missionary teaching establishments were left 
without support. 

After an interval of languor, however, new life was 
infused into the educational schemes of the colony. 

282 HONGKONG. [chap. xiv. 

The emulation of religious sects and the common desire 
to bring the lambs of the flock into their respective 
folds inspired the efforts of the propagandists, their zeal 
reacting on the colonial Government itself with the 
most gratifying results, so far at least as the extension 
of the field of their common efforts was concerned. 

The Chinese had imported their own school systems, 
while taking full advantage of the educational facilities 
provided by the Government and the Christian bodies. 
Being an intellectual race, they are well able to as- 
similate the best that Christendom has to offer them. 
But the colonial system contents itself with a sound 
practical commercial education, which has equipped 
vast numbers of Chinese for the work of clerks, in- 
terpreters, and so forth, and has thus been the means 
of spreading the knowledge of the English language 
over the coast of China, and of providing a medium 
of communication between the native and European 

The material progress of Hongkong speaks volumes 
for the energy of its community. The precipitous 
character of the island left scarcely a foothold for 
business or residential settlement. The strip which 
formed the strand front of the city of Victoria afforded 
room for but one street, forcing extensions up the 
rugged face of the hill which soon was laid out in zig- 
zag terraces : foundations for the houses are scarped 
out of the rock, giving them the appearance of citadels. 
The locality being subject to torrential rains, streets 
and roads had to be made with a finished solidity which 
is perhaps unmatched. Bridges, culverts, and gutters 
all being constructed of hewn granite and fitted with 
impervious cement, the storm-waters are carried off as 


clean as from a ship's deck. These municipal works 
were not achieved without great expense and skilfully- 
directed labour, of which an unlimited supply can 
always be depended on. And the credit of their 
achievement must be equally divided between the 
Government and the civil community. 

The island is badly situated as regards its water- 
supply, which has necessitated the excavation of 
immense reservoirs on the side farthest from the town, 
the aqueduct being tunnelled for over a mile through a 
solid granite mass. These and other engineering works 
have rendered Hongkong the envy of the older colonies 
in the Far East. No less so the palatial architecture in 
which the one natural product of the island has been 
turned to the most effective account. The quarrying 
of granite blocks, in which the Chinese are as great 
adepts as they are in dressing the stones for building, 
has been so extensive as visibly to alter the profile of 
the island. 

A great deficiency of the island as a commercial site 
being the absence of level ground, the enterprise of the 
colonists has been incessantly directed towards supply- 
ing the want. Successive reclamations on the sea-front, 
costing of course large sums of money, have so enlarged 
the building area that the great thoroughfare called 
Queen's Road now runs along the back instead of the 
front of a new city, the finest buildings of all being the 
most recent, standing upon the newly reclaimed land. 
It is characteristic of such improvements, that, while in 
course of execution, they should be deemed senseless 
extravagance, due to the ambition of some speculator 
or the caprice of some idealist, thus perpetually illus- 
trating the truth of the Scottish saying, " Fules and 

284 HONGKONG. [chap. xiv. 

bairns should never see a thing half done." Hongkong 
has been no exception to so universal a rule. 

The industrial enterprise of the colony has fully 
kept pace with its progress in other respects. The 
Chinese quarter resembles nothing so much as a colony 
of busy ants, where every kind of handicraft is plied 
with such diligence, day in and day out, as the Chinese 
alone seem capable of The more imposing works con- 
ducted by foreigners occupy a prominent place in the 
whole economy of the Far East. Engineering and 
shipbuilding have always been carried on in the 
colony. Graving - docks capable of accommodating 
modern battleships, and of executing any repairs or 
renewals required by them as efficiently as could be 
done in any part of the world, constitute Hongkong 
a rendezvous for the navies of all nations. Manu- 
factures of various kinds flourish on the island. 
Besides cotton - mills, some of the largest sugar- 
refineries in the world, fitted with the most modern 
improvements, work up the raw material from 
Southern China, Formosa, the Philippines, and other 
sugar-growing countries in the Eastern Archipelago, 
thus furnishing a substantial item of export to the 
Australian colonies and other parts of the world. 
The colony has thereby created for itself a commerce 
of its own, while its strategical situation has enabled 
it to retain the character of a pivot on which all Far 
Eastern commerce turns. 

This pivotal position alone, and not the local 
resources of the place, enabled the colony to found one 
of the most successful financial organisations of the 
modern world. The Hongkong and Shanghai Bank 
has had a history not dissimilar from that of the 


colony as a whole, one of success followed by periods 
of alternate depression and elation. Now in the 
trouofh of the wave and now on its crest, the bank 
has worked its way by inherent vitality through all 
vicissitudes of good or bad fortune, until it has gone 
near to monopolising the exchange business of the Far 
East, and has become the recognised medium between 
the money-market of London and the financial needs of 
the Imperial Chinese administration. 

It should not be overlooked as a condition of its 
success that the great Hongkong Bank, like all other 
successful joint -stock enterprises, whether in Hong- 
kong or in China, has from its origin borne a broad 
international character. Though legally domiciled in a 
British possession, representative men of all nation- 
alities sit on its board and take their turn in the 
chairmanship as it comes round. The international 
character, indeed, may be cited as one of the ele- 
ments of the success of the colony itself. No dis- 
ability of any kind attaches to alien settlers, not 
even exclusion from the jury panel. They are free to 
acquire property, to carry on business, to indulge their 
whims, and to avail themselves of all the resources of 
the colony, and enjoy the full protection of person and 
property which natural-born British subjects possess. 
They come and go at their pleasure, no questions 
asked, no luggage examined, no permits required for 
any purpose whatever coming within the scope of 
ordinary life. Nor are they even asked whether they 
appreciate these advantages or not ; in fact they are 
as free to criticise the institutions under which they 
live as if they had borne their part in creating them, 
which, in fact, they have done, and this it is which 

286 HONGKONG. [chap. xiv. 

marks the vitality of the British system, whether in 
the mother country or in its distant dependencies. 

The exceedingly cramped conditions of life on the 
island having proved such an obstacle to its develop- 
ment, the acquisition of a portion of the mainland 
forming one side of the harbour was at an early period 
spoken of as a desideratum for the colony. The idea 
took no practical shape, however, until the occupation 
of Canton by the Allied forces under the administration 
of Consul Parkes ; and it is one of the most noteworthy 
achievements of that indefatigable man that, during the 
time when Great Britain was in fact at war with the 
Government of China, he should have succeeded, on his 
own initiative, in obtaining from the governor of the 
city a lease of a portion of land at Kowloon, which was 
subsequently confirmed by the convention of Peking in 
1860. The improvement of artillery and other means 
of attack on sea-forts left the island very vulnerable, 
and the measures taken by the various European 
Powers to establish naval stations on the Chinese 
coast, together with the efforts which the country 
itself was making to become a modern military Power, 
rendered it a matter of absolute necessity, for the 
preservation of the island, that a sufficient area of 
the adjacent territory should be included within its 
defences. Following the example set by Germany 
and Russia, the British Government concluded an ar- 
rangement with the Government of China by which 
the needed extension was secured to Great Britain 
under a ninety - nine years lease. A convention em- 
bodying this agreement was signed at Peking in 
June 1898. 




Contrast with Hongkong — An interesting survival — Trading facilities — 
Eelations with Chinese Government — Creditable to both parties — 
Successful resistance to the Dutch — Portuguese expulsion from Japan 
— English trading competitors enjoy hospitality of Macao — Trade with 
Canton — Hongkong becomes a rival — Macao eclipsed — Gambling, 
Coolie trade, Piracy — Population — Cradle of many improvements — 
Distinguished names. 

The three hours' transit from Hongkong to Macao 
carries one into another world. The incessant scream 
of steam - launches which plough the harbour in all 
directions night and day gives place to the drowsy 
chime of church bells, and instead of the throng of 
busy men, one meets a solitary black mantilla walking 
demurely in the middle of a crooked and silent street. 
Perhaps nowhere is the modern world with its clamour 
thrown into such immediate contrast with that which 
belongs to the past. 

The settlement of Macao is a monument of Chinese 
toleration and of Portuguese tenacity. The Portuguese 
learnt at an early stage of their intercourse the use 
of the master-key to good relations with the Chinese 
authorities. It was to minister freely to their cupidity, 
which the Portuguese could well afford to do out of the 
profits of their trading. To '* maintain ourselves in 

288 MACAO. [chap. XV. 

this place we must spend much with the Chinese 
heathen," as they themselves said in 1593 in a letter 
to Philip I. Macao is, besides, an interesting relic of 
that heroic age when a new heaven and a new earth 
became the dream of European adventurers. The spot 
was excellently well suited for the purposes, commercial 
and propagandist, which it was destined to serve ; for 
in spite of the crimes and cruelties of the sixteenth 
century argonauts, the religious element was strongly 
represented in all their enterprises.^ Situated outside 
the river proper, though w^ithin its wide estuary, and 
open to the sea, the settlement yet communicates by 
an inner passage or branch of the Pearl river with the 
city of Canton. It possesses two sheltered harbours 
adequate to the nautical requirements of the Middle 

The small peninsula of Macao combined business 
conveniences with salubrity of climate in a degree ab- 
solutely unrivalled in the torrid zone. Its picturesque 
scenery was always found refreshing to the eye wearied 
by long contemplation of brick walls, malarious swamps, 
or the monotonous glare of the melancholy ocean. From 
the Chinese point of view, also, it was an ideal loca- 
tion for strangers, since they could be thus kept out of 
sight, isolated like a ship in quarantine, and put under 

1 Nomenclature alone sufficiently attests this fact — whether of the ships 
that carried them or of the lands they christened, as Natal, Trinidad, &c. 
The gigantic cross carved in the granite face of Table Mountain (it is said) 
by Vasco da Gama proclaimed to the wide ocean the sanctity of his mission. 
English adventurers were strongly imbued with the same pious spirit. 
Down to our own day marine policies open with the words, " In the name 
of God, Amen " ; while the bill of lading, which within the past generation 
has become packed with clauses like a composite Act of Parliament — all 
tending to absolve the owner from responsibility as carrier — formerly began 
with the words, " Shipped by the grace of God," and ended with the prayer 
that " God would send the good ship to her desired port in safety." 


effective restraint. The situation lent itself to the 
traditional Chinese tactics of controlling barbarians by 
stopping their food-supply, a form of discipline of which 
the efficacy had been proved at an early period in the 
history of the colony. The Chinese adopted all the 
measures they could think of to confine traders to 
Macao, where certain indulgences were held out to 
them, subject to good behaviour. 

The Portuguese adventurers of the early sixteenth 
century, to whom the modern world owes so much, 
did well in pitching on this "gem of the orient earth 
and open sea" as a link in their chain of trading 
stations, which extended from the coasts of Africa to 
the Japanese islands. To trade as such the Chinese 
Government never seem to have had any objection, 
nor, would it appear, to foreigners as such. So long 
as there was nought to fear from their presence, the 
ancient maxim of cherishing men from afar could be 
followed without reserve, for the Chinese are by nature 
not an unkindly people. Tradition, indeed, claims for 
the settlement of foreigners in the Cantonese archi- 
pelago a purely hospitable origin, a storm-beaten vessel 
having in the year 1517 received permission from the 
local authorities to repair damages and dry her cargo 
there. The Portuguese frequented several harbours 
before they settled at Macao, their principal station 
being the island of Sanchuan, where Xavier was buried. 
About the middle of the sixteenth century, the city of 
Canton being besieged by a large piratical force whose 
base of operations was Macao, the high provincial 
authorities in their extremity sought the aid of the 
Portuguese, who came promptly to the rescue of the 
city, defeated the pirates, and captured their strong- 

VOL. I. T 

290 MACAO. [chap. XV. 

hold. Moved by mixed feelings of gratitude and policy, 
the Canton authorities thereupon sanctioned the Portu- 
guese occupation of Macao, not ill-pleased to set up at 
that strategic point so effective a counterpoise to the 
native* pirates. 

It said as much for the tact of the Portuguese 
as for the forbearance of the Chinese authorities that 
such an isolated position as that of Macao should 
have been held without force, and only on the prestige 
of past achievements, on terms of mutual amity, for 
nearly four hundred years. The Portuguese squatters 
paid to the Chinese Government a ground - rent of 
about £150 per annum, in consideration of which 
they enjoyed practical independence. " The mer- 
chants, fully aware that their settlement at Macao 
was due neither to any conquest, nor as a return for 
services by co-operating in destruction of pirates, bore 
in mind two principles — to be on good terms with the 
provincial authorities, and to improve as much as 
possible their exclusive trade with China." The forms 
of administrative authority were indeed maintained 
by the Chinese, their permission being required to 
reside and to build houses and so forth — regulations 
which were more vexatious, perhaps, in theory than 
in fact. The exercise of Chinese jurisdiction over 
the person was asserted with moderation as regards 
the Portuguese, though full authority was maintained 
over the native population. The Portuguese, how- 
ever, became dissatisfied with the relationship which 
had worked smoothly for three hundred years, and 
when the treaty - making era arrived they sought 
means to improve their status. By persistent efforts 
they gradually freed themselves from the overlord- 


ship of China, this object being finally attained by 
good diplomacy in 1887, when the Imperial Govern- 
ment ceded to Portugal sovereign rights over Macao 
in consideration of assistance rendered by the colony 
in the collection of the Chinese opium revenue. 

Macao did not escape the fortunes of the long war 
of commercial supremacy which was waged between 
Holland and Portugal, but the colony successfully 
resisted two attempts to reduce it in 1622 and 1627. 
Its resources at that period enabled the diminutive 
settlement even to play some part in the game of 
empire in China itself, for we are told that a force of 
400 men from India, under the command of two Portu- 
guese officers, proceeded by land to Peking to support 
the last Ming emperor in his struggle with the invad- 
ing Manchus. These auxiliaries returned whence they 
came without seeing active service. 

Although the Dutch failed to take military pos- 
session of Macao, they took other trading colonies, 
and succeeded eventually in wresting from the Portu- 
guese their Asiatic commerce. They supplanted them 
entirely in Japan, whose "gold and spoils" had greatly 
enriched the colony. Being expelled, not without 
reason, in 1662, the Portuguese fugitives from Japan 
retired to Macao. 

Other competitors also began to appear and to 
assert their right to participate in the trade of the 
Far East, and Macao became the hostelry for mer- 
chants of all nations, who carried on business with 
the great Chinese emporium. Canton. Chief among 
these guests were the Dutch and English East India 
Companies, both of which maintained establishments 
at Macao for some two hundred years. 

292 MACAO. [chap. XV. 

The English Company had made use of the Macao 
anchorage first under a treaty with the viceroy of 
Goa, and subsequently under Cromwell's treaty with 
the Portuguese Government in 1654, which permitted 
English ships to enter all the ports in the Portuguese 
Indies. Before the close of the seventeenth century 
ships were despatched direct from England to Macao. 
The English adventurers were not satisfied with the 
privilege of anchoring so far from the great emporium, 
but direct trade with Canton had yet to be fought 
for. The energetic Captain Weddell, commanding the 
ship London, in 1655 met the obstructive tactics of 
the Cantonese authorities by bombarding the Bogue 
forts and forcing his way up the river, after which 
he was received in friendly audience by the viceroy, 
and was granted full participation in the Canton trade, 
much to the chagrin, it is said, of the jealous Macao 

The loss of its own direct commerce was thus com- 
pensated for by the tribute which the Portuguese 
colony was able to levy upon the general trade of 
China, by whomsoever carried on. Massive houses, 
with immense verandahs running all round them, 
and spacious and cool interior recesses, attest to 
this day the ancient glory of Macao. Though 
now neglected, and perhaps converted to baser uses, 
they afibrd a glimpse of the easy life led by the 
Company's agents and the merchants in the days 
before the treaty. During the business season, which 
was in the cool months, the whole mercantile com- 
munity repaired to the factories at Canton while the 
ships lay at the deep-water anchorage of Whampoa, 
and between these two points the work of the year 


was done — arduous enough, no doubt, while it lasted. 
In spite of some contemporary testimony to the con- 
trary, one can hardly conceive the quasi- imprisonment 
within the Canton factories as a kind of life to be en- 
joyed, but only as one to be endured for an object. At 
any rate, when the last cargo of tea had been shipped 
off the scene was like the break-up of a school. The 
merchants and their whole establishment betook them- 
selves to their sumptuous river barges, and glided 
down the stream to Macao, where the luxury of a 
long holiday awaited them. Once at least in every 
year the foreigners were in full accord with the 
Chinese authorities, who sternly forbade loitering, 
and kept up the form of peremptorily sending the 
merchants away as soon as their business had been 
done. Nevertheless, those who desired to remain 
found no difficulty. 

The Portuguese colony, whether or not under com- 
pulsion, played an ungracious part in the troubles 
which preceded the outbreak of war between Great 
Britain and China. To evict from their houses a 
company of helpless people and drive them to sea, 
even at the bidding of an oriental tyrant, was a 
proceeding little in keeping with the traditions 
of Lusitanian chivalry. But Englishmen may very 
well forgive the Portuguese this act of inhumanity, 
since it compelled the fugitives to seek a home of 
their own in the Canton waters, destined to eclipse 
the fading glories of "la cidade do nome de Deos da 

The treaty of 1842, which enabled British merchants 
to set up house for themselves, deprived Macao of a 
large portion of its revenue ; but even under this eclipse 

294 MACAO. [chap. XV. 

the era of its prosperity did not then come quite to 
an end. 

The occupation of Hongkong supplied to British 
traders all the wants which Macao had previously 
furnished, accompanied by a security which the 
Portuguese Administration was unable to confer. Its 
harbour was incomparably superior, fulfilling all the 
requirements of a modern seaport. These advantages 
were irresistible ; nevertheless, the merchants vacated 
with evident reluctance the roomy mansions in which 
the pleasantest part of their lives had been spent. 
Several of them retained possession of their Macao 
homes, using them for purposes of recreation. " Dent's 
comfortable quarters at Macao " afforded an agreeable 
retreat for Admiral Keppel, and no doubt many others 
of the nautical brotherhood before and after his time ; 
for the sea-breezes of Macao were almost as great a 
relief to the denizens of Queen's Road as to the 
community which, after the treaty, was permanently 
quartered in the Canton factories. To this day Macao, 
well served by fast and commodious steamers, remains 
a favoured resort for week-end tourist parties, picnics, 
honeymoons, and the like. 

The population of Macao is estimated at 75,000 
Chinese and under 4000 Portuguese, of whom the 
percentage of pure blood is not large. The so-called 
Portuguese of the Chinese coast differ from those of Goa 
as the Chinese differ from the Indian natives. They 
supply a want in the general economy : in China, as 
clerks, for whose work they have, like the indispensable 
babu, a natural aptitude ; in India, as domestic and 
personal servants. With the increase of typewriting 
and the practice of dictation in mercantile establish- 


merits the clerical services of the Macaese are likely 
to assume less importance. They are good Catholics, 
smoke cigarettes, and are harmless. 

Though for many years Macao suffered depression 
from the loss of its foreign trade, its natural advantages 
in course of time attracted to it new branches of 
industry, which to some extent revived its drooping 
prosperity. Foreign and native merchants found it 
convenient to conduct a certain portion of their trade 
in tea and silk and other articles in the quiet old city, 
where burdens were light and labour abundant. Traffic 
of a less desirable character found also its natural 
domicile in the colony. It became the headquarters 
of the lucrative coolie trade, which there for many 
years found an asylum where it feared no law, human 
or divine. To the credit of the Portuguese Govern- 
ment, however, this traffic was abolished in 1874. 
Opium and gambling licences now provide the chief 
contributions to a colonial revenue, the surplus of 
which over expenditure furnishes a respectable annual 
tribute to the needy mother country. 

There is yet another species of enterprise historically 
associated with the colony which cannot be altogether 
omitted, though it should be mentioned with the ex- 
tenuating circumstances. Piracy, as we have seen, 
was rampant on the coasts of Asia, as it was also 
in Europe, before Yasco da Gama doubled the Cape ; 
and it was not to be expected in an age when 
successful buccaneers in the Atlantic were earning 
distinction by harassing the common enemy Spain, 
that an isolated colony in remote Asia, detached 
from Europe a century and a half earlier, should 
have anticipated the ethical refinements of the 

296 MACAO. [chap. XV. 

awakening conscience of Christendom. Slavery it- 
self was tolerated among the most enlightened races 
until the middle of the present century, and if the 
Macaese did feel a sneaking toleration for mitigated 
forms of it, as well as for other species of criminality 
which flourished all round them, it must be admitted 
the temptation lay very near to their hand. They had 
been brought up for centuries in close familiarity with 
the practices of the sea-rover. Though it cannot be 
said that piracy ever took rank as a domestic institution 
in patriarchal Macao, yet the openings for young men 
were much restricted by family custom, and instances 
have been reported of improvident sons laying unfilial 
hands on their fathers* junks on the coast with a view 
to rectifying the balance of the family finance. 
Whether or not such modes of redress were ever 
actually carried into effect, the fact that legends of 
this character should have woven themselves into the 
tissue of local gossip within comparatively recent 
times, and in connection with well - known names, 
indicates a state of feeling which should be allowed 
for in considering the relation of Macao to Chinese 

The influence of Macao on the history of foreign 
relations with China extended much beyond the sphere 
of mere commercial interests. For three hundred years 
it was for foreigners the gate of the Chinese empire, 
and all influences, good and bad, which came from 
without were infiltrated through that narrow opening, 
which also served as the medium through which China 
was revealed to the Western world. It was in Macao 
that the first lighthouse was erected, a symbol of the 
illuminating mission of foreigners in China. It was 


there also that the first printing-press was set up, 
employing movable type instead of the stereotype 
wooden blocks used by the Chinese. From that press 
was issued Morrison's famous Dictionary, and for a long 
series of years the Chinese Repository, a perfect store- 
house of authentic information concerning the Chinese 
empire, conducted chiefly by English and American 
missionaries. The first foreign hospital in China was 
opened at Macao, and there vaccination was first prac- 
tised. It was from Macao that the father of China 
missions, Matteo Ricci, started on his adventurous 
journey through the interior of the country in the 
sixteenth century, ultimately reaching the capital, 
where he established an influence over the Imperial 
Court scarcely less than miraculous, thus laying the 
foundation-stone of the Catholic propaganda in China. 
The little Portuguese settlement has therefore played 
no mean part in the changes which have taken place 
in the great empire of China. 

Of the personages associated with its history, the 
most brilliant, or at least the best known, was St 
Francis Xavier, the apostle of the Indies, — a man of so 
magnetic a character that he was credited with the 
miraculous gift of tongues, while as a matter of fact he 
seems not to have been even an ordinarily good linguist, 
speaking to the natives of the Far East only through 
an interpreter. Xavier died and was buried in the 
neighbouring island of Sanchuan, whence his remains 
were transferred first to Macao itself and afterwards to 
Goa. The names of Xavier and Ricci cast a halo over 
the first century of the existence of Macao. Another 
of the earlier residents of world-wide fame was the 
poet Camoens, who in a grotto formed of granite blocks 

298 MACAO. [chap. XV. 

tumbled together by nature, almost washed by the 
sea, sat and wrote the Portuguese epic ' The Lusiad,' 
celebrating the adventures of the great navigator Yasco 
da Gama. Of names belonging to the present century, 
or the English period, two only need be mentioned 
here. One was Robert Morrison, the father of English 
sinology, who was sent to China by the London 
Missionary Society in 1807. This remarkable man 
had mastered the initial difficulties of the Chinese 
language before leaving England. This he accom- 
plished by the aid of a young Cantonese, and by 
diligent study of MSS. in the British Museum, and of 
a MS. Latin-Chinese dictionary lent to him by the 
Royal Society. His teacher accompanied him on the 
long voyage to China, during which Morrison laboured 
" from morning to midnight." In Canton a Pekingese 
teacher, a Catholic convert, was obtained, and the 
study of Chinese was carried on assiduously. The 
most enduring monument of these labours was the 
Chinese-English dictionary, which was printed by the 
East India Company at a cost of £15,000. This 
standard work has been the fountain from which all 
students of Chinese have drawn since his time. 

Art has had but one representative, an Irish gentle- 
man named George Chinnery, who resided in Macao 
from 1825 till his death in 1852. Of Mr Chinnery s 
drawings and paintings there are many scattered collec- 
tions, on some of which we have been able to draw for 
the illustrations in these volumes. 

{From an oil-painting by himself.') 




Association with Hongkong and Macao — Activity of British navy in sup- 
pressing piracy — Its historic importance — Government relations with 
pirates — The convoy system — Gross abuse — Hongkong legislation 
— Progress of steam navigation — Fatal to piracy. 

A FACTOR which has done so much to shape commer- 
cial intercourse with China as piracy cannot be properly- 
ignored in a survey like the present. The settlements 
of Hongkong and Macao were forced into contact 
with this time-honoured institution, for these places are 
situated as near to the piratical centre as they are to 
that of the typhoon zone. From the time of the first 
war down to quite recent years the British squadron 
on the China station was almost engrossed in the two 
duties of surveying the coast and rivers, and of re- 
pressing piracy, — services which were not interrupted 
even during the progress of a war with the Imperial 
Government. Both proceedings were anomalous, being 
a usurpation of the sovereign functions of the Chinese 
Government. That Government, however, never 
evinced more than a languid interest in operations 
against its piratical subjects. Piracy, as such, seems 
indeed to have enjoyed that fatalistic toleration which 
the Chinese Government and people are wont to ex- 

300 PIRACY. [chap. XVI. 

tend to every species of abuse, on the principle that 
what cannot be cured must be endured. Nor is China 
the only country where banditti have established with 
their future victims a conventional relation like that of 
certain predatory animals which are said to live on easy 
terms with the creatures destined to become their prey. 
Successful leaders, whether of brigands or of sea-rovers, 
have from time to time attained high political status in 
the empire. Wingrove Cooke says : — 

Whenever anything occurs of historic importance we always 
find that some bandit has had a hand in it. The land was 
always full of them. When the Tartars possessed themselves 
of China, one of these bandit chiefs had just possessed himself 
of Peking, and the last of the Ming race had just hanged him- 
self. It was a pirate who drove the Dutch out of Formosa ; 
the son of a " celebrated pirate " who helped the Cantonese to 
defend their city against the Tartars ; and it was a pirate who 
the other day destroyed the Portuguese piratical fleet at Ningpo. 
In all ages and at all times China has been coasted by pirates 
and traversed by bands of robbers. 

In the ' Peking Gazette,' which he quotes, the Im- 
perial Government itself thus describes the rule of 
the robbers : — 

They carry off persons in order to extort ransoms for them ; 
they falsely assume the characters of police officers ; they build 
fast boats professedly to guard the grain-fields, and into these 
they put from ten to twenty men, who cruise along the rivers, 
violently plundering the boats of travellers, or forcibly carrying 
off the wives and daughters of the tanka boat people. The 
inhabitants of the villages and hamlets fear these robbers as 
they would tigers, and do not offer them any resistance. The 
husbandman must pay these robbers a charge, else as soon as 
his crop is ripe it is plundered, and the whole field laid bare. 
In the precincts of the metropolis they set tire to places during 
the night, that, under pretence of saving and defending, they 
may plunder and carry off. 


When it suits the Government to enlist rebels or 
robbers in its service it condones their misdeeds, and 
confers on them rank and honour. The chief of the 
Black Flags, who kept up a guerilla war against 
the French in Tongking, was a recent case in point, 
as was also, if report speaks truly, the late gallant 
Admiral Ting, who perished in the Chinese forlorn-hope 
at Weihai-wei in 1895. The relationship between 
the authorities and the freebooters is often of so 
equivocal a character, that foreign naval officers in 
their crusade against pirates may have failed at times 
to make the proper discrimination. Vessels seized as 
pirates occasionally escaped the fate which should 
have awaited them by proving themselves revenue 
protectors. But if the Government ever suffered from 
cases of mistaken identity, the balance was hand- 
somely redressed ; for piracy and smuggling being 
ingeniously blended, the forces of the British colony 
might in their turn be induced, by information sup- 
plied by the Chinese authorities, to act as revenue 
cruisers, under the belief that they were being led 
against pirates. The hard fights resulting in the 
destruction of piratical fleets bearing all the evidences 
of criminality were, however, too frequent to permit 
any doubt as to the general character of the craft 
so treated. 

But the anti-piratical agency was not confined to 
the commissioned officers of her Majesty's navy. 
Foreigners of all nations were drawn into the coast- 
ing traffic, in various capacities, as an antidote to 
piracy, with benefit, no doubt, to legitimate trade, 
yet not without some serious drawbacks. Dr Eitel 
tells us that during the first decade after the war 

302 PIRACY. [chap. XVI. 

the waters of Hongkong swarmed with pirates, that 
the whole coast-line was under the control of a black- 
mailing confederacy, and that the peaceful trading 
junk was obliged to be heavily armed, so that ex- 
ternally there was nothing to distinguish a trader 
from a pirate. During this period European seamen 
took service with the native pirates who made Hong- 
kong their headquarters, whence they drew their 
supplies, and where they kept themselves informed 
as to the movements of valuable merchandise and of 
war -vessels. Foreigners were enlisted also in the 
service of the honest trader ; Chinese merchants be- 
gan to charter small European sailing - vessels for 
coasting voyages, whereby they gained the protection 
of a European flag, the prestige of a European crew, 
and the better sea - going qualities of a European 
vessel. Steamers also began to be employed to con- 
voy the native junks. 

The extension of the convoy system brought in its 
train the most terrible abuses, the class of foreigners 
so employed being as ready to sell their services to 
the pirates as to the merchants, and to turn from pro- 
tector to oppressor of the honest trader with as much 
facility as Chinese fishermen and pirates interchange 
their respective parts. Many tragedies were enacted 
along the coast and rivers of China — many more, no 
doubt, than ever became known to the foreign public. 
Mr Medhurst, consul at Shanghai, said that the 
foreigners employed by the Chinese to protect their 
property on the water were guilty of atrocities of 
all kinds in the inner waters, which the Chinese 
authorities and people were unable to prevent. And 
Mr Adkins, consul at Chinkiang on the Yangtze, 


reported in the same year, 1862, a series of brutal 
murders committed by foreigners on the river, with 
which the native authorities declined to interfere. 
The criminals, not being amenable to any jurisdiction 
but their own, were thus left free to commit their 
outrages, unless some representative of their own 
country happened to be on the spot. The Taiping 
rebellion attracted desperate characters from all 
quarters, to whom it was a matter of indifference 
under what flag they served — pillage being their 
sole inducement. The only conspicuous case of trial 
of a foreigner for piracy was that of a young 
American, Eli Boggs, who was condemned in the 
Supreme Court of Hongkong in 1857, and sentenced 
to transportation for life. From such experiences it 
is to be apprehended that should any part of the 
Chinese empire become disorganised, lawless foreigners 
will be a more terrible scourge to the inhabitants 
than even the native pirates and bandits. 

Of the abuses developed by the convoy system, and 
of the character of the foreigners concerned therein, 
a graphic yet matter-of-fact account is given by 
Wingrove Cooke. As the state of rampant lawless- 
ness which prevailed at the time on the China coast, 
and the traditional attitude of the Government to- 
wards freebooters, are so perfectly illustrated in his 
concise narrative of the destruction of a Portuguese 
convoy, no apology is needed for quoting a passage 
or two from Mr Cooke's letter dated Ningpo, August 
24, 1857 :— 

The fishing-boats which ply off the mouth of the river Yung 
pay convoy duties to the extent of 50,000 dollars a-year ; and 
the wood-junks that ply between Ningpo and Foochow, and the 

304 PIRACY. [chap. XVI. 

other native craft, raise the annual payment for protection to 
200,000 dollars (£70,000) annually. These figures are start- 
ling, but I have taken pains to ascertain their correctness. 

The vessels employed in this convoy service were Portuguese 
lorchas. These vessels were well armed and equipped. There 
were no mandarin junks and no Portuguese ships of war to 
cope with them or control them, and they became masters -of 
this part of the coast. It is in the nature of things that these 
privateers should abuse their power. They are accused of the 
most frightful atrocities. It is alleged that they made descents 
upon villages, carried off the women, murdered the men, and 
burnt the habitations. They became infinitely greater scourges 
than the pirates they were paid to repel. It is alleged, also, 
that complaints to the Portuguese consul were vain ; that Por- 
tuguese sailors taken red-handed and handed over to this consul 
were suffered to escape from the consular prison. Kightly or 
wrongly, the Chinese thought that the consul was in complicity 
with the ruffians who were acting both as convoy and as pirates. 
. . . The leader of the pirate fleet was — I am going back now 
to a time three years ago — a Cantonese named A'Pak. The 
authorities at Ningpo, in their weakness, determined to make 
terms with him rather than submit to the tyranny of the 

A'Pak was made a mandarin of the third class ; and his 
fleet — not altogether taken into Government pay, for that the 
Chinese could not afford — was nominally made over to A'Pak's 
brother. . . . After a few of these very sanguinary provoca- 
tions, A'Pak — not, it is believed, without the concurrence of 
the Taotai of Ningpo — determined to destroy this Portuguese 
convoy fleet. 

For this purpose A'Pak's brother collected his snake-boats 
and convoy junks from along the whole coast, and assembled 
about twenty of them, and perhaps 500 men. The Portuguese 
were not long in hearing of these preparations, but they seem 
to have been struck with panic. Some of their vessels went 
south, some were taken at the mouth of the river. Seven 
lorchas took refuge up the river, opposite the Portuguese 
consulate. The sailors on board these lorchas landed some 
of their big guns, and put the consulate in a state of defence, 
and perhaps hoped that the neighbourhood of the European 
houses and the character of the consulate would prevent an 

Hongkong's measures against piracy. 305 

attack. Not so. On the day I have above mentioned the 
Canton fleet came up the river. The Portuguese consul immed- 
iately fled. The lorchas fired one broadside at them as they 
approached, and then the crews deserted their vessels and 
made for the shore. About 200 Cantonese, accompanied by 
a few Europeans, followed these 140 Portuguese and Manila- 
men ashore. A fight took place in the streets. It was of 
very short duration, for the Portuguese behaved in the most 
dastardly manner. The Manila-men showed some spirit, but 
the Portuguese could not even persuade themselves to fight 
for their lives behind the walls of their consulate. The forti- 
fied house was taken and sacked by these Chinamen, the 
Portuguese were pursued among the tombs, where they sought 
refuge, and forty of them were shot down, or hunted and 
butchered with spears. . . . 

Merciless as this massacre was, and little as is the choice 
between the two sets of combatants, it must be owned that 
the Cantonese acted with purpose and discipline. Three trad- 
ing Portuguese lorchas which lay in the river with their flags 
flying were not molested ; and no European, not a Portuguese, 
was even insulted by the infuriated butchers. The stories 
current of Souero and his Portuguese followers rivalled the 
worst of the tales of the buccaneers, and public opinion in 
Ningpo and the foreign settlement was strongly in favour of 
the Cantonese. 

But if Hongkong was the centre of piratical 
organisation, it was also the centre of effort to put 
it down. The exploits of her Majesty's ships, de- 
stroying many thousands of heavily-armed piratical 
junks, were loyally supplemented by the legislation 
and the police of the Colonial Government, which 
were continuously directed towards the extermination 
of piracy. These measures, however, did not appear 
to make any material impression on the pest. As 
part of his general policy of suppressing crime, the 
most drastic steps were taken by Sir Richard Mac- 
Donnell against pirates. He struck at the root of 

VOL. I. u 

306 PIRACY. [chap. XVI. 

the evil within the colony itself by penalising the 
receivers of stolen goods, and by a stricter surveil- 
lance over all Chinese vessels frequenting the har- 
bour. He also endeavoured to secure the co - oper- 
ation of the Chinese Government, without which no 
permanent success could be hoped for. This was not, 
indeed, the first time that Chinese co-operation had 
been invoked. In one of the hardest fought actions 
against a piratical stronghold — that of Sheipu Bay, 
near Ningpo, in 1856 — her Majesty's brig Bittern 
was towed into action throuo^h the bottle - neck of 
the bay by a Chinese-owned steamer. But the as- 
sistance rendered to the Government of Hongkong 
by the steam-cruisers of the Chinese customs service 
was of too ambiguous a character to be of real 
use, smugglers rather than pirates being the object 
of the Chinese pursuit — smugglers of whom the high 
Chinese officials had good reason to be jealous. 

The result of the police activity and of regula- 
tions for the coast traffic was a great diminution 
in the number of piracy cases brought before colonial 
magistrates. This, however, by itself was not con- 
clusive as to the actual decrease of the crime, for 
it may only have indicated a change of strategy 
forced on the pirates by the vigorous action of the 
Colonial Government. Foreign vessels were by no 
means exempt from the attentions of the piratical 
fleets, though they seldom fell a prey to open as- 
sault at sea. A different form of tactics was re- 
sorted to where foreigners were the object of attack : 
it was to embark as passengers a number of the 
gang with arms secreted, who rose at a signal and 
massacred the ship's officers. Even after steam ves- 


sels had virtually superseded sailers on the coast 
this device was too often successful through want 
of care on the part of the master. These attacks 
were carried out with great skill and daring, some- 
times on the short passage of forty miles between 
Hongkong and Macao, and in several instances almost 
within the harbour limits of Hongkong itself 

While awarding full credit to the indefatigable 
exertions of the British squadron in China — the 
only one that ever troubled itself in such matters 
— and to the unremitting efforts of the colony of 
Hongkong, the reduction, if not the extinction, of 
armed piracy on the coast of China must be attrib- 
uted largely to the commercial development, in 
which the extension of the use of steam has played 
the principal part. Organised by foreigners, and em- 
ployed by Chinese, lines of powerful steamers have 
gradually monopolised the valuable traffic, thus render- 
ing the calling of the buccaneer obsolete and profitless. 
Foreign traders, however, do well not to forget the 
debt they owe to the institution which they have 
superseded. But for the pirates, and the scarcely 
less piratical exactions of officials, the Chinese would 
not have sought the assistance and the protection 
of foreign men, foreign ships, or foreign steamers. 
Piracy has thus not only worked towards its own 
cure, but has helped to inaugurate an era of pros- 
perous trade, based on the consolidation of the 
interests of Chinese and foreigners, such as may 
foreshadow further developments in which the same 
elements of success may continue in fruitful com- 



THE ARROW WAR, 1856-1860. 

Lorchas — Outrage on the Arrow — Question of access to city — Tone of 
British Foreign Office — Firm tone of British Government — Destruc- 
tion of Canton factories and flight of foreign residents — Operations in 

From the earliest days of the British occupation it 
had been the aim of the Canton authorities to de- 
stroy the "junk" trade of Hongkong by obstructive 
regulations, for which the supplementary treaty of 
1843 afforded them a certain warrant. But as the 
Chinese began to settle in large numbers on the 
island the claims of free commerce asserted them- 
selves, and gradually made headway against the re- 
strictive schemes of the mandarins. The Govern- 
ment fostered the legitimate commercial ambition 
of the Chinese colonists by passing ordinances w^here- 
by they were enabled to register vessels of their 
own, sail them under the British flag, and trade to 
such ports as were open to British shipping. Certif- 
icates of registry were granted only to men of sub- 
stance and respectability who were lessees of Crown 
land in the colony. The class of vessel for which 
colonial registers were granted was of native build and 
rig, more or less modified, of good sea-going qualities. 


known by the local name of lorcha. Naturally the 
Canton authorities looked askance at any measure 
aimed at the liberation of trade, and so truculent an 
imperial commissioner as Yeh was not likely to miss 
an opportunity of wreaking vengeance on the " native- 
born" who dared to exercise privileges derived from 
residence in the hateful colony. 

One of these reo:istered vessels was the Arrow, com- 
manded by an Englishman and manned by Chinese. 
This vessel was in the course of her traffic boarded at 
Canton at midday on October 8, 1856, by order of 
the Chinese authorities, with marked official osten- 
tation, her crew forcibly carried off on a charge, 
according to a Chinese version, " of being in collu- 
sion with barbarians," and her ensign hauled down. 
How this outrage on the British flag was perpe- 
trated, how resisted, and what came of it, have been 
so often set forth that there is no need to dwell 
upon the details here. The traditional insolence of 
the Chinese was reasserted in all its virulence, as in 
the days of Commissioner Lin, and once more the 
British agents were confronted with the dilemma of 
aggravating past griefs by submission or of putting 
their foot down and ending them. A single-minded 
and courageous man was in charge of British interests 
in Canton, and, left with a free hand, there could be no 
doubting the line Mr Parkes would take. The decision, 
however, lay with Sir John Bo wring, governor of 
Hongkong, her Majesty's plenipotentiary and super- 
intendent of trade, and with the naval commander-in- 
chief, Sir Michael Seymour. 

We have seen that the likelihood of sooner or later 
having to clear accounts with the authorities of Canton 

310 THE ARROW WAR. [chap. xvii. 

had not been absent from the mind of her Majesty's 
Government for some years previously, though by no 
initial act of their own would they have brought the 
question to a crisis. If the governor entertained 
doubts whether the Arrow insult furnished adequate 
provocation, his decision was materially helped by 
the deadlock in relations which followed. A simple 
amende for the indignity offered to the flag was asked 
for, such as the Chinese were adepts in devising 
without "losing face" ; but all discussion was refused; 
the viceroy would not admit any foreign official to a 
personal conference. The small Arrow question thus 
became merged in the larger one of access to the city, 
and to the provincial authorities, which had on various 
pretexts been denied to the British representatives in 
contravention of the treaty of 1842. 

It happened that the question had lately assumed 
a somewhat definite place in the agenda of the British 
plenipotentiary. Lord Clarendon had in 1854 in- 
structed Sir John Bowring to take any opportunity 
of bringing the "city question" to a solution, and Sir 
John addressed a long despatch to Commissioner Yeh 
on the subject in April of that year. It had no effect, 
and was followed up a few months later by an effort in 
another direction. The turbulent character of the Can- 
tonese people and the impracticable arrogance of the 
imperial officers who successively held office there had 
often prompted an appeal to Caesar, and more than 
one attempt had been made in times gone by to sub- 
mit the Canton grievances to the judgment of the 
Imperial Court. These attempts w^ere inspired by a 
total misconception of the relations between the pro- 
vinces and the capital. In the year 1854, however. 


it was decided to renew the effort to open direct com- 
munications with the Imperial Government. And 
circumstances seemed to promise a more favourable 
issue to the mission than had attended preceding ones. 
The time had come when a revision of the tariff and 
commercial articles of the treaties might be claimed, 
and besides the standing grievance at Canton there 
were sundry matters in connection with the fulfil- 
ment of the treaties which together constituted a 
justifying pretext for an unarmed expedition to the 
Peiho. The chances of a favourable reception were 
thought to be strengthened by the combination of the 
Treaty Powers. Sir John Bowring and the American 
Minister, Mr McLane, accordingly went together, with 
a competent staff of interpreters, to Tientsin, where 
they were soon followed by the French secretary of 

High officials were appointed to treat with them, 
because it was feared that if some courtesy were not 
shown them the barbarians would return south and 
join the rebels, who were then threatening the 
southern provinces. But the net result of the mission 
was that it was allowed to depart in peace. Lord 
Elgin, commenting on the proceedings, sums up the 
instructions to the Chinese officials, gathered from the 
secret reports afterwards discovered, as, " Get rid of 
the barbarians," which would be an equally exhaustive 
rendering of all the instructions ever given to Chinese 
plenipotentiaries. On the occasion of this visit to the 
Peiho the foreign plenipotentiaries resorted, as had 
been done on sundry previous occasions, to the oriental 
custom of approaching a great man gift in hand. In 
the depleted condition of the imperial treasury they 


calculated that the recovery of the duties unpaid dur- 
ing the recent interregnum at Shanghai would be a 
tempting bait to the Peking Government. The offer, 
however, could not, it would appear, be intelligibly 
conveyed to the minds of the northern functionaries : 
unacquainted with commercial affairs, and misconstru- 
ing the proposal as a plea for the forgiveness of arrears, 
they at once conceded the sop to Cerberus, pleased to 
have such a convenient way of closing the mouths of 
the barbarians. 

In December following a favourable opportunity 
seemed to present itself for renewing the attack on 
the exclusiveness of Canton. The Taiping rebels had 
blockaded the river, and in a " pitched battle " defeated 
the imperialist fleet and were actually threatening the 
city. In this emergency Yeh implored the aid of the 
English forces. Sir John Bowring thereupon pro- 
ceeded to Canton with a naval force of five ships to 
protect the foreign factories, the presence of the 
squadron having at the same time the desired deter- 
rent effect on the rebels, who withdrew their forces. 
Now at last the governor felt confident that the bar- 
rier to intercourse was removed, and he applied to 
the viceroy for an interview ; but Yeh remained 
obdurate, refused audience as before, and with all 
the old contumely. Precisely the same thing had 
happened in the north in 1853, when the governor of 
Kiangsu applied through Consul Alcock to the super- 
intendent of trade. Sir George Bonham, for the assist- 
ance of one of her Majesty's ships in defending Nan- 
king against the expected attack of the Taipings. 
Divers communications of like tenor had, during several 
months, led up to this definite application. The appeal 


was most urgent, and yet in the title given to her 
Majesty's plenipotentiary the two important characters 
had been omitted, indicating that his power emanated 
from the ruler of an *' independent sovereign state." 
"Such an omission," remarked Mr Alcock, ** is char- 
acteristic of the race we have to deal with, for even 
in a time of danger to the national existence they 
cannot suppress their arrogance and contempt for bar- 
barians." Arrogant and contemptuous of course they 
were, and yet it may perhaps be questioned whether 
such terms fully explain the mutilation of the pleni- 
potentiary's official titles. Although they had been 
compelled by mechanical force to accord titles implying 
equality to foreign officials, yet in the innermost 
conviction of the Chinese an independent sovereign 
State was at that time almost unthinkable, and could 
only be expressed by a solecism. If, therefore, we ask 
how an imperial commissioner could demean himself 
by soliciting protection from the barbarians to whom 
he was denying the scantiest courtesy, we have to 
consider the point of view from which China had from 
time immemorial and without challenge regarded all 
the outer States. For it is the point of view that is 
paradoxical. To Yeh, considering barbarians merely 
as refractory subjects, there was no inconsistence in 
commanding their aid, while denying their requests. 
The position is analogous to that of Ultramontanes, 
who claim tolerance for themselves in heretical com- 
munities by a divine right which excludes the idea of 
reciprocity. This key to the history of foreign inter- 
course with China is too often forgfotten. 

Nothing daunted, Sir John returned to the charge 
in June 1855, on the occasion of the appointment of 

314 THE ARROW WAR. [chap. xvii. 

the new consul, Mr Alcock, whom he asked permission 
to introduce to the Imperial Commissioner. His letter 
was not even acknowledged for a month, and then 
in the usual contemptuous terms. 

So far, indeed, from Yeh's being mollified by the as- 
sistance indirectly accorded to him in defending the 
city from rebel attack, or by the succession of respect- 
ful appeals made to him by Sir John Bowring, a new 
campaign of aggression was inaugurated against the 
lives and liberties of the foreio^n residents in Canton. 
This followed the traditional course. Inflammatory 
placards denouncing foreigners, and holding them up 
to the odium of the populace, were extensively posted 
about the city and suburbs in the summer of 1856. 
These, as usual, were followed by personal attacks on 
isolated Englishmen found defenceless, and, follow- 
ing the precedents of ten years before, the outbreaks 
of anti - foreign feeling in Canton found their echo 
also in Foochow, where an American gentleman met 
his death in a riot which was got up there in July. 
So serious was the situation becoming that Mr Consul 
Parkes, who had succeeded Mr Alcock in June, sol- 
emnly warned the Imperial Commissioner that such 
acts, if not promptly discountenanced by the authori- 
ties (who of course were well known to be the 
instigators), must inevitably lead to deplorable con- 
sequences. The Chinese reply to this remonstrance 
was the outrage on the lorcha Arrow. To isolate that 
incident, therefore, would be wholly to miss the sig- 
nificance of it : it would be to mistake the match 
for the mine. 

Those who were on the spot and familiar with 
antecedent events could have no doubt whatever that. 


in condoning the present insults, the British au- 
thorities would have invited greater and always 
greater, as in the days of Lin. The tone of recent 
despatches from the Foreign Office fortified the gov- 
ernor in taking a strong resolution ; the clearness 
of Consul Parkes' view made also a deep impression 
on him ; and yet another factor should not be al- 
together overlooked which contributed its share in 
bringing the two responsible officials to a definite 
decision. It was not an unknown phenomenon in 
public life that two functionaries whose co-operation 
was essential should mistrust each other. This was 
distinctly the case with Sir John Bowring and Sir 
Michael Seymour. They needed some connecting 
medium to make them mutually intelligible, and it 
was found in the influence of local public opinion. 
The mercantile community, which for twenty years, 
or as long as they had had utterance, had never 
wavered in the conviction that in strength alone 
lay their safety, were to a man for vigorous meas- 
ures at Canton. And it happened that, scarcely per- 
ceived either by themselves or by the other parties con- 
cerned, they possessed a special channel for bringing 
the force of their views to bear on the two responsible 
men. Sir John Bowring had himself deplored "the 
enormous influence wielded by the great and opulent 
commercial houses" when adverse to his projects. 
He was now to experience that influence in another 
sense, without perhaps recognising it, for when the 
wind is fair it makes slight impression on those whose 
sails it fills. 

Among the business houses in China two stood 
pre-eminent. One had a son of the plenipotentiary 

316 THE ARROW WAR. [chap. xvii. 

for partner ; both were noted for their princely hos- 
pitaUty, especially to officers of the navy. " Those 
princely merchants, Dent & Co., as well as Matheson," 
writes Admiral Keppel in his Diary, " kept open 
house. They lived in palaces." One of the two 
buildings occupied by the former firm, " Kiying 
House," which some twenty years later became the 
Hongkong Hotel, was as good as a naval club for 
all ranks, while admirals and post-captains found snug 
anchorage within the adjoining domain of the seniors 
of the firm. The two great houses did not always 
pull together, but on this occasion their separate 
action, converging on a single point, was more efiectual 
than any half-hearted combination could have been. 
Night after night was the question of Canton dis- 
cussed with slow deliberation and accumulating em- 
phasis in the executive and the administrative, the 
naval and the political, camps respectively. Convic- 
tion was imbibed with the claret and cheroots, and 
it was not altogether without reason that what fol- 
lowed has sometimes been called the " Merchants' 

The die was cast. The great Canton bubble, the 
bugbear of a succession of British Governments and 
representatives, was at last to be pricked, though 
with a delay which, however regrettable at the time, 
perhaps conduced to greater thoroughness in the long- 
run. Those of our readers who desire to trace the 
various operations against Canton during the twelve 
months which followed cannot do better than con- 
sult Mr Stanley Lane -Poole's 'Life of Sir Harry 
Parkes,' the volume of ' Times ' correspondence by that 
sage observer and vivacious narrator, Mr Wingrove 


Cooke, and the delightful sailor's book recently pub- 
lished by Vice -Admiral Sir W. E. Kennedy. The 
campaign unfolded itself in a drama of surprises. The 
force at the admiral's disposal being too small to fol- 
low up the initial movement against the city, which 
gave no sign of yielding by first intention, Sir Michael 
Seymour had to content himself with intimating to 
the Viceroy Yeh that, notwithstanding his Excel- 
lency's interdict, he had, with a guard of bluejackets, 
visited the Viceregal Yamen ; and with keeping hos- 
tilities alive by a blockade of the river while awaiting 

The Arrow incident occurred in October. In De- 
cember the foreign factories were burned by the 
Chinese, and the Viceroy Yeh issued proclamations 
offering rewards for English heads. The mercantile 
community retired to Hongkong, a few to the 
quieter retreat of Macao. The vengeance of Com- 
missioner Yeh pursued them exactly as that of Com- 
missioner Lin had done in 1839. Assassinations were 
not infrequent on the outskirts of the city of Vic- 
toria ; and in January 1857 the principal baker in 
the colony was induced to put a sack of arsenic into 
his morning supply of bread, which only failed of 
its effect through the excess of the dose acting as an 

The early portion of the year 1857 was enlivened by 
active operations in hunting out Chinese war-junks in 
the various creeks and branches of the river, com- 
menced by Commodore Elliot and continued on a bril- 
liant scale by Commodore H. Keppel, who arrived 
opportunely in the frigate Raleigh, of which he speaks 
with so much pride and affection in his Memoirs. That 

318 THE AREOW WAR. [chap. xvii. 

fine vessel, however, was lost on a rock approaching 
Macao, sinking in shallow water in the act of saluting 
the French flag, a war vessel of that nationality having 
been descried in the anchorage. The commodore and 
his officers and crew, thus detached, were soon accom- 
modated with small craft good for river service, and 
in a very short time they made a memorable cutting- 
out expedition as far as the city of Fatshan, destroying 
formidable and well-posted fleets of war-junks in what 
the commodore described as " one of the prettiest boat 
actions recorded in naval history." Sir W. Kennedy 
served as a midshipman in those expeditions, and his 
descriptions supply a much-needed supplement to that 
of the Admiral of the Fleet, correcting it in some par- 
ticulars and filling in the gaps in a w^onderfully realistic 
manner. No adequate estimate can be formed of the 
importance of the year's operations in the Canton river 
without reading Admiral Kennedy s brilliant but simple 

The Canton imbroglio made the kind of impression 
that such occurrences are apt to do in England. The 
merits of the case being usually ignored, the bare inci- 
dents furnish convenient weapons with which to assail 
the Government that happens to be in office. Under 
such conditions statements can be made and arguments 
applied with all the freedom of a debating club. The 
Arrow trouble occasioned a temporary fusion of the 
most incongruous elements in English politics. When 
Lord Derby, Lord Lyndhurst, Bishop Wilberforce, Mr 
Cobden'; Mr Bright, Mr Gladstone, and Mr Disraeli 
were found banded together as one man, it was neither 
common knowledge nor any sincere interest in the ques- 
tion at issue, but " unanimosity " towards the Premier, 

1866-60.] "THE CHINA DISSOLUTION." 319 

that inspired them. The Opposition orators took their 
brief from the published despatches of Commissioner 
Yeh, which they assumed as the starting-point of the 
China question, and found no difficulty whatever in 
discovering all the nobility and good faith on the 
Chinese side, the perfidy and brutality on the side 
of the British representative. Though successful in 
carrying a vote of censure on the Government, the 
attitude of the Coalition did not impress the public, 
and Lord Palmerston's appeal to the electorate was 
responded to by his being returned to power by a 
large majority. 

How very little the question itself affected public 
men in England may be inferred from the notices of 
it in the Memoirs, since published, of leading statesmen 
of the period. The fate of China, or of British com- 
merce there, was not in their minds at all, their hor- 
izon being bounded by the immediate fate of the 
Ministry, to them the be-all and end-all of national 
policy. What deplorable consequences all over the 
world have arisen from the insouciance of British 
statesmen as regards all matters outside the arena 
of their party conflicts ! 

Sir John Bowring w^as made the scapegoat of the 
war. A philosophical Radical, he had been president 
of the Peace Society, and his quondam friends could 
not forgive a doctrinaire who yielded to the stern 
logic of facts. As consul at Canton he had had 
better opportunities of studying the question of in- 
tercourse with the Chinese than any holder of his 
office either before or since his time. No one had 
worked more persistently for the exercise of the 
right of entry into Canton. Superseded in the office 

320 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

of plenipotentiary by the appointment of the Earl of 
Elgin as High Commissioner for Great Britain, Sir 
John Bowring remained Governor of Hongkong, and 
it fell to him to " do the honours " to his successor, 
from whom he received scant consideration. Indeed 
Lord Elgin made no secret of his aversion to the 
colony and all its concerns, and marked his feeling 
towards the governor by determining that he should 
never see the city of Canton — that Promised Land so 
soon to be opened to the world through Sir John's 


Capture of Canton — The Treaty of Tientsin — Comments on the treaty — 
Sequel to the treaty — Omission to visit Peking — Comments thereon — 
How to deal with Chinese — Commissioners to Shanghai to negotiate 
the tariff — Two pressing questions to be settled — Delay of Commis- 
sioners' arrival — Resentment of Lord Elgin and change of tactics re 
Canton — Canton question same as Chinese question — Chinese demand 
for abandonment of Resident Minister — Lord Elgin's assent — Com- 
ments thereon — Treaty with Japan — The Taku disaster. 

The transports bringing the troops from England 
were meanwhile hurrying at top speed — not in those 
days a very high one — round the Cape of Good 
Hope, and the navy was being reinforced by several 
powerful ships, including the mosquito squadron of 
gunboats which were destined to play so useful a 
part, first in the operations of war, and subsequently 
in patrolling the coast and rivers for the protection of 
peaceful traders. Lord Elgin's arrival in Hongkong, 
coinciding in time with that of the frigates Shannon, 
commanded by Sir William Peel, and Pearl, Captain 


Sotheby, put heart Into the long - suffering British 
community at the port. But sinister news from India 
had reached Lord Elgin on his voyage to China, in 
consequence of which, and on the urgent request of 
the Governor- General, he took on himself to intercept 
the troopships wherever they could be met with, and 
turn their course to Calcutta. Before he had been 
many days in Hongkong, foreseeing an indefinite period 
of inaction in China, and being obliged in any case 
to wait the arrival of his French colleague, without 
whom no French co - operation could be had, Lord 
Elgin determined to proceed himself to Calcutta, 
taking with him the two frigates Shannon and Pearl. 
This welcome reinforcement not only arrived oppor- 
tunely in India, but, as is well known, did heroic 
service in throwing back the tide of mutiny. 

Fortune seemed in all this to be favouring the 
Chinese, nothing more hurtful threatening them than 
a passive blockade of the Canton river and its branches. 
But a fresh expedition was promptly despatched from 
England to take the place of that which had been 
diverted to India. A body of 1500 marines arrived 
in the autumn, and on them, supplemented by the 
Hongkong garrison, devolved the duty of bringing 
China to terms, the navy, of course, being the essential 
arm in all these operations. 

Lord Elgin returned to China in ample time to 
meet the French plenipotentiary. Baron Gros. His 
lordship's policy had from the first been an inter- 
esting theme for speculation, not less so as the time 
for putting it in force drew near. It had been sur- 
mised that his object would be to leave Canton alone, 
and set out on another wild-goose chase to the north. 

VOL. I. X 

322 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

That SO futile a scheme should not be carried out with- 
out at least a protest, the mercantile community met 
Lord Elgin on his arrival in June with an address 
couched in the following terms : — 

We venture upon no opinion at present respecting the 
readjustment of our relations with the empire at large, though 
always prepared to hold our advice and experience at your 
lordship's command ; but upon that branch of the question 
which we distinguish as the " Canton difficulty " we would 
take this, the earliest opportunity, of recording our opinion — 
an opinion founded upon long, reluctant, and, we may add, 
traditional experience — that any compromise of it, or any 
sort of settlement which shall stop short of the complete 
humiliation of the Cantonese, — which shall fail to teach them 
a wholesome respect for the obligations of their own Govern- 
ment in its relations with independent Powers, and a more 
hospitable reception of the foreigner who resorts to their shores 
for the peaceable purposes of trade, — will only result in further 
suffering to themselves and further disastrous interruptions 
to us. 

Many of us have already been heavy sufferers by the present 
difficulty. It must be apparent to your lordship that our 
best interests lie upon the side of peace, and upon the earliest 
solid peace that can be obtained. But, notwithstanding this, 
we would most earnestly deprecate any settlement of the 
question which should not have eliminated from it the very 
last element of future disorder. 

The meaning of these weighty words, as interpreted 
by Wingrove Cooke, was, " You must take Canton, 
my lord, and negotiate at Peking with Canton in your 
possession." And he adds, " Such is the opinion of 
every one here, from the highest to the lowest." We 
learn from his private letters that it was by no means 
the opinion of the new plenipotentiary. " The course 
I am about to follow," he writes, " does not square 
with the views of the merchants." Yet his reply to 


their address was so diplomatic that he was able to 
say '* it gave them for the moment wonderful satis- 
faction." The editor of Lord Elgin's letters suppresses 
the rest of the sentence. The new plenipotentiary 
hoped even '* to conclude a treaty in Shanghai, and 
hasten home afterwards," — a hope which could only 
coexist with an entire disregard of our whole previous 
experience in China ; almost, one might argue, with 
an entire ignorance of the record. ^ 

On his return from India, however, and on the as- 
sembling of the Allied forces, he found that the course 
prescribed by history and common-sense was, after all, 
the only practical one to follow, and that was to com- 
mence hostilities at Canton. Yet Lord Elgin seems to 
have submitted to the inexorable demands of circum- 
stances with no very good grace. Indeed his attitude 
towards the Canton overture and his mission generally 
was decidedly anomalous. The two leading ideas 
running through the published portion of his corres- 
pondence were, " It revolts me, but I do it " ; and, 
"Get the wretched business over and hurry home." 
Lord Elgin's mental constitution, as such, is of no in- 
terest to us except as it affected his acts and left its 
impress on the national interests in China. From that 
point of view, however, it is public property, and as 
much an ingredient in the history as any other quality 
of the makers of it. First, we find him at variance 
with the Government which commissioned him, in that 
he speaks with shame of his mission : " That wretched 
question of the Arrow is a scandal to us." Why ? 

^ " Verily,' writes Wingrove Cooke, " Sir John Bowring, much abused 
as he is both here and at home, has taken a more common-sense view of 
these matters than the high diplomatists of England and France." 

324 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

Her Majesty's Government had deliberated maturely 
on the Arrow question, had referred it to their law 
officers, had concluded it was a good case, and had 
written unreservedly in that sense to their represent- 
ative in China. Was it, then, greater knowledge, or 
superior judgment, that inspired Lord Elgin to an 
opposite opinion ? And in either case would it not 
have been better to have had the point cleared up 
before undertaking the mission ? 

But, in point of fact, the Arrow question was not 
the question with which Lord Elgin had to deal, as 
it had long before been merged, as we have said, 
into the much larger one of our official relations 
with China. 

The truth seems to be that Lord Elgin came to 
China filled with the conviction that in all our dis- 
putes the Chinese had been the oppressed and we 
the oppressors. Of our intercourse with them he 
had nothing more complimentary or more definite to 
say than that it was " scandalous." For his own 
countrymen he had never a good word, for the Chinese 
nothing but good — until they came into collision with 
himself, when they at once became " fools and trick- 
sters." Having assembled a hostile force in front of 
Canton, he writes, December 22, 1857, "I never felt 
so ashamed of myself in my life. . . . When I look 
at that town I feel that I am earning for myself a 
place in the Litany immediately after ' plague, pesti- 
lence, and famine.' " Becoming gradually reconciled to 
events, however, he writes, "If we can take the city 
without much massacre I shall think the job a good 
one, because no doubt the relations of the Cantonese 
with the foreign population were very unsatisfactory." 

1856-60.] COMPUNCTIONS. 325 

But why "massacre," much or little? It was but a 
phantasy of his own he was thus deprecating. The 
curious point is, however, that Lord Elgin imagined 
that everybody was bent on this massacre except him- 
self, and when all was over, and " there never was a 
Chinese town which suffered so little by the occupation 
of a hostile force," he appropriates the whole credit 
for this satisfactory issue ! *' If," he writes, " Yeh had 
surrendered on the mild demand made upon him, I 
should have brought on my head the imprecations both 
of the navy and the army, and of the civilians, the 
time being given by the missionaries and the women." 
An insinuation so purely hypothetical and so sweeping 
would not be seriously considered in any relation of 
life w^hatsoever ; but no one who knows either the 
navy or the army would hesitate to affirm that the 
humanity of every officer and man in these services 
was as much beyond reproach as Lord Elgin's own, 
albeit it might assume a different form of expression. 
When the city, " doomed to destruction from the folly 
of its own rulers and the vanity and levity of ours," 
had been occupied, and the bugbear of massacre had 
vanished, the object of Lord Elgin's sympathies became 
shifted : " I could not help feeling melancholy when I 
thought that we were so ruthlessly destroying " — not 
the place or the people, but — " the prestige of a place 
which has been for so many centuries intact and un- 
defiled by the stranger." Had he written this after 
witnessing some of the horrors of the city described by 
Wingrove Cooke, possibly these regrets for its defile- 
ment might have been less poignant. But though 
reverence for the mere antiquity of China is a most 
salutary lesson to inculcate in these our days, it is 

326 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

pathetic to see the particular man whose mission was 
to humble her historical prestige tortured by com- 
punctions for what he is doing. One is tempted to 
wish the "job" had been intrusted to more common- 
place hands. 

Some of those English officials by whose vanity and 
levity the " city was doomed to destruction" were also 
writing their private letters, and this was the purport. 
" I confidently hope," wrote Mr Parkes, before Lord 
Elgin's first arrival in China, " that a satisfactory 
adjustment of all difiiculties may be attained with a 
slight effusion of blood. Canton, it is true, must fall. 
I see no hope of any arrangement being arrived at 
without this primary step being effected, but I trust 
that with the fall of that city hostilities may end, and 
that the emperor may then consent to receive a repre- 
sentative at Peking." However, as soon as he gets to 
actual business with the Chinese, Lord Elgin finds 
that he also has to be stern even as others. As early 
as January 10, 1858, a week after the occupation of the 
city, " I addressed the governor in a pretty arrogant 
tone. I did so out of kindness, as I now know what 
fools they are, and what calamities they bring upon 
themselves, or rather on the wretched people, by their 
pride and trickery." But what the novice was only 
beginning to find out the veterans had learned years 

His attitude to his countrymen generally Is scarcely 
less censorious than towards the officials who had borne, 

1 Before the conclusion of his second mission Lord Elgin's opinion of at 
least one of those whom at the outset he disparaged had undergone con- 
siderable modification. "Parkes," he wrote in 1860, "is one of the most 
remarkable men I ever met for energy, courage, and ability combhied. I 
do not know where I could find his match." 

1856-60.] THE ONE RIGHTEOUS MAN. 327 

and were yet to bear, the burden and heat of the day 
in China. From Calcutta he wrote : — 

It is a terrible busineSvS being among inferior races. I have 
seldom from man or woman since I came to the East heard a 
sentence which was reconcilable with the hypothesis that 
Christianity had ever come into the world. Detestation, 
contempt, ferocity, vengeance, whether Chinamen or Indians 
be the object. 

From China : — 

The whole world just now is raving mad with a passion for 
killing and slaying, and it is difficult for a person in his sober 
senses, like myself, to keep his own among them. 

Again : — 

I have seen more to disgust me with my fellow-countrymen 
than I saw during the whole course of my previous life. ... I 
have an instinct in me which loves righteousness and hates 
iniquity, and all this keeps me in a perpetual boil. . . . The 
tone of the two or three men connected with mercantile houses 
in China whom I find on board is all for blood and massacre 
on a great scale. 

The perennial fallacy that underlies the "one- 
righteous -man" theory from the days of Elijah the 
Tishbite downwards, and the ineptitude of all indis- 
criminate invective, would be sufficient answer to such 
sweeping maledictions. Below these ebullitions of the 
surface, however, there lay a grave misgiving in Lord 
Elgin's mind concerning his mission as a whole, in which 
many thoughtful people must have shared: "Whose 
work are we engaged in when we burst thus with 
hideous violence and brutal energy into these darkest 
and most mysterious recesses of the traditions of the 
past ? " This was written at Tientsin after the passage 
of the forts, and it is well worth recalling, now that the 

328 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

vultures of Europe are wheeling round the moribund 

Canton city was occupied by the Allies on January 2, 
1858. Commissioner Yeh was captured, carried on 
board the paddle - sloop Inflexible, and conveyed to 
Calcutta, where he eventually died. His absence made 
it easier to deal with the other authorities. He is 
perhaps the only Chinese official who has ever been 
made personally responsible for attacks on foreigners. 

A provisional government was established under three 
commissioners nominated by the Allied commanders-in- 
chief, though in fact the labour and responsibility 
rested solely on one of the three, Mr Parkes. Having 
induced the native governor, Pikwei, to resume his 
functions and administer the aflairs of the city, under 
supervision, order was partially established, and the 
chiefs, diplomatic and military, withdrew — much too 
abruptly, it was generally thought — to prepare an 
expedition to the north. 

But the commissioners were left with inadequate 
forces to maintain order, fettered as they were by 
instructions which rendered them immobile. The 
British admiral, after nearly a year and a half's ex- 
perience in the river, might have known something of 
the Canton problem, while the Allied plenipotentiaries 
apparently understood nothing of it. This was shown 
by what contemporary opinion designated Lord Elgin's 
"first symptom of weakness." When the figurehead 
Pikwei was brought from his prison to be invested 
with authority under the Allied commanders he coolly 
claimed precedence of the English admiral and general, 
and Lord Elgin, contrary to his own pre -arrangement of 
seats, &c., conceded the claim, thereby striking the key- 


note of the relations which were to exist between the 
Allied commissioners and the Chinese officials. Lord 
Elgin had occasion to remember this when, in 1860, 
Prince Kung tried to lead him into a similar trap, 
whereby he himself would have been relegated to a 
second place. The result of these arrangements was 
very much what might have been expected. Finding 
the foreign garrison passive, the turbulent elements in 
the city and the surrounding villages soon began to fan 
the embers of their former fires. They refused to con- 
sider themselves conquered, and set about reorganising 
their forces as they had done on previous occasions, 
and, beginning with secret schemes of assassination, they 
became emboldened by impunity, and by-and-by mus- 
tered courage to attack and annoy the garrison of the 
city, which was as helpless to repel insults as the 
mounted sentries at the Horse Guards. The army of 
occupation was besieged, the prestige of the capture of 
the city was in a few months wholly dissipated, and 
the officials and gentry affected to believe that the 
barbarians were only in the river, their presence in the 
city being ostentatiously ignored in public correspon- 
dence. During the whole of the year 1858 the cry 
went up continuously from the commissioners and 
military commanders, but it remained practically un- 
heeded by the chiefs in the far north, except in so 
far that they drew still shorter the tether of the 
beleaguered force, in order that they might avoid all 
possible collision with their Chinese assailants. Lord 
Elgin at first deemed the turbulence at Canton a good 
reason for effecting a speedy settlement with the Im- 
perial Government ; but, as we shall see presently, that 
settlement when made had no influence at all upon 

330 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

either the Government officials or the gentry and 
populace of that city. The solution of the Canton 
problem was found in an entirely different direction. 

It may be mentioned here that besides the adminis- 
tration of the city, several important matters of business 
were arranged during the commissionership of Mr 
Parkes. There was the question of the site at Shameen 
for the future residence of foreigners ; and the regula- 
tion of coolie emigration, which had been carried on in 
an unsatisfactory manner ; and last, not least, the first 
lease of Kowloon, on the mainland facing Hongkong, 
and forming one side of the harbour. This important 
concession, as already said, was negotiated on the sole 
initiative of Mr Parkes, the military authorities being 
talked into it afterwards. It was the first response to 
the demand of Wingrove Cook, Why we had not taken 
possession of the peninsula of Kowloon, for '4f any other 
Powers should do so — and what is to prevent them — the 
harbour of Hongkong is lost to us." Several important 
exploratory expeditions w^ere also undertaken in 1859, 
in which Parkes was everywhere warmly received by 
officials and people, one of these excursions being far up 
the West river, the opening of which, however, to foreign 
trade remained in abeyance for forty years thereafter. 

The next object of the plenipotentiaries, of course, 
was to negotiate at Peking, or wherever properly 
accredited negotiators could be met with, Canton being 
held in pledge. Progress was slow, because the fleet 
was so largely composed of sailing-vessels, which must 
wait for the fair monsoon ; and the plenipotentiaries 
did not assemble within the river Peiho — the forts at 
its mouth having been silenced and the guns captured — 
until June. There followed Lord Elgin to Tientsin the 




French, American, and Russian Ministers, all bent on 
making treaties and on observing each other. The 
resources of Chinese resistance having been provi- 
sionally exhausted, imperial commissioners came to 
arrest the further progress of the foreigners by nego- 
tiations, or, to speak with strict accuracy, to concede 

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the minimum that was necessary to induce them to 
depart. Such, we may be sure, was the beginning 
and the end of their instructions then, as it was 
afterwards. The work of negotiation, so far as the 
form went, seems to have fallen to Mr H. N. Lay, 
whose place was very soon to know him no more ; 


but, in the words of Lord Elgin, '' anybody could have 
made the treaty." 

The contents of the treaty, signed June 26, 1858, 
fulfilled the instructions of Lord Clarendon, and the 
commercial articles which constituted its main body 
corresponded substantially with the desiderata of the 
merchants as set forth in their memorials in response to 
the invitation of Lord Elgin, the treaty going in ad- 
vance of their demands on certain points and falling 
short of them on others. Opium was not mentioned, 
but was afterwards placed on the tariff; and a tolera- 
tion clause for the Christian religion was inserted, 
without much apparent consideration for the conse- 
quences involved in it. A special memorandum from 
Consul Alcock, called for by the Foreign Office, had 
dwelt mainly on the precautions which should accom- 
pany the exercise of such new privileges as promiscuous 
residence in the interior ; but, excepting in the case of 
merchants, where little or no risk was involved, the 
warnings of Mr Alcock were, unheeded alike in the 
text of the treaty and in the subsidiary regulations. 

" The most important matter gained by the treaty," 
however, in the opinion of Lord Elgin, was " the resident 
Minister at Peking," "without which," wrote Mr Parkes, 
" the treaty was not worth a straw." And substituting 
"lost" for "gained," such, was also the opinion of the 
Chinese negotiators. It was, indeed, the universal 
opinion. Diplomatic representation at Peking might be 
fairly considered to have been the primary object of the 
war of 1857-58, as commercial extension and access to 
Canton had been that of 1839-42. And when "the 
miserable war was finished " and " his liberty regained " 
Lord Elgin cleared out his force, bag and baggage, as if 

1866-60.] TREATY OF TIENTSIN, 1858. 333 

he had been escaping from something, leaving not a 
trace behind. 

As this move constituted a veritable crisis in Anglo- 
Chinese relations, it seems advisable for a moment 
to consider its bearings. Judging after the event, it 
is of course easy to perceive the fatal error of Lord 
Elgin in hurrying away from the Peiho. A fair 
criticism of his policy will confine itself strictly to 
the circumstances as known at the time. His experi- 
ence had so closely resembled that of his predecessors, 
that he was aware that the Chinese were "yielding 
nothing to reason and everything to fear." He had 
seen with his own eyes the Queen's ratifications of 
previous treaties exhumed from a collection of mis- 
cellaneous papers in Canton, they being, as Commis- 
sioner Yeh remarked, not worth sending to Peking; 
he knew that the treaty of Nanking had been 
observed by the Chinese only as far as force or fear 
compelled them, and that its crucial stipulation had 
been for many years evaded, and then with unmasked 
arrogance repudiated ; he knew that the very war in 
which he had been engaged, and his whole mission to 
China, were caused and provoked by the refusal of the 
provincial authorities to admit his predecessors or him- 
self within the walls of Canton. In his own ultimatum 
to Commissioner Yeh, Lord Elgin had asked no more 
than the execution of the treaty of Nanking, which 
included access to the city of Canton, and compensation 
for damage to British property. Yet the Chinese 
Government, dreading war as they did, had notwith- 
standing incurred its hazards rather than open the 
gates of a distant provincial city. How, then, were 
they likely to regard the, to them, infinitely greater 

334 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

outrage of resident foreign Ministers in the sacred 
capital itself? This demand was practically the only- 
one against which the Chinese commissioners made a 
stand. When everything had been written down ready 
for signature they drew back, saying it was as much as 
their heads were worth to subscribe such a condition. 
The answer was a peremptory threat to march on 
Peking, whereupon the commissioners signed the paper 
without another word. The crisis did not last twenty- 
four hours. No one could believe that a miracle of 
conversion had been wrought in that time, or that the 
enforced signature of the Imperial Commissioners had 
changed a fundamental principle of Chinese policy. 
What, under these circumstances, was the " present 
value " of the treaty ? Was it so much as conceivable 
that it would be voluntarily carried out ? Was it not 
evident rather that it was signed under duresse solely 
with the immediate view of getting the barbarians out 
of doors and leaving the key within ? What said the 
imperial decree published in the ' Peking Gazette ' ? 
" The barbarians ^ had come headlong with their ships 
to Tientsin. Moved by the commands of Kweiliang 
and his colleagues, they have now weighed anchor and 
stood out to sea." If our former treaty needed a 
material guarantee for its execution, how much more 
this one ? The test of good faith was in Lord Elgin's 
own hands ; he should clearly have applied it, and pre- 
sented himself at Peking for audience of the emperor. 
Perhaps it would have been refused, in which case he 
would have at least known where he stood. A cam- 

1 Lord Elgin protested against the use of this tabooed term, but took no 
exception to the statement as to his having obeyed the commands of the 
Imperial Commissioners. 


paign against Peking would have been easy with the 
handy force he possessed, or at the worst he could have 
occupied Tientsin and the Taku forts until all questions 
were settled. 

This was the view generally held at the time both by 
officials and the lay community in China, before any 
untoward consequences had revealed themselves. It 
was strongly expressed by Parkes, who deplored " the 
ominous omission that Lord Elgin had gone away 
to Japan without entering Peking or having an aud- 
ience with the emperor." We have not the advantage 
of knowing what Wingrove Cooke would have said of 
it, but we may infer the prevailing opinion by what 
another newspaper correspondent wrote from Shanghai 
on the receipt of the first news of the signing of the 
treaty : — 

Shanghai, July 13, 1858. ^ 

The " Chinese War," properly so called, has now reached its 
termination, and the fleet in the Gulf of Pechili is dispersing. 
Lord Elgin arrived here yesterday with the new treaty, which 
his brother, the Hon. F. Bruce, carries home by the present 
mail. The document will not be published until it is ratified 
by the Queen, but in the mean time the chief points of it may 
be tolerably well guessed at. The diplomatists are confident 
that the new treaty will "give satisfaction." That is saying 
a good deal, but how could it be otherwise than satisfactory ? 
The emperor was so terror-struck by our audacious advance 
on Tientsin, that he was ready to concede everything we wanted 
rather than see us approach any nearer to his capital. There 
could have been but little discussion — the ambassadors had 
simply to make their terms. The new treaty, then, provides 
for indemnification for losses at Canton, a contribution to- 
wards the expenses of the war (for which Canton is held as a 
guarantee), the opening of more ports for trade, freedom of 
access to the interior, toleration for Christians, and a resident 

1 *The Scotsman,' September 18, 1858. 

336 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

Minister at Peking. The only omission seems to be that 
Lord Elgin did not himself go to Peking ; for unless the right 
of residence at the capital receives a practical recognition from 
the Chinese Government at once, it will certainly lead to 
vexatious discussion whenever we wish to exercise it. The 
right of entry into Canton, conceded by the treaty of Nanking, 
but not insisted on through the timidity of our representatives, 
ought to have taught us a useful lesson. While the emperor is 
in a state of alarm anything may be done with him, but when 
the pressure is removed and the fleet dispersed, Pharaoh's heart 
will certainly be hardened, and then Chinese ingenuity will be 
employed in evading as many of the provisions of the treaty as 
they dare. Let us hope, however, that when the weather cools 
a little and the thing can be done comfortably. Lord Elgin may 
still pay a friendly visit to his new allies at their headquarters 
[which he more than once threatened to do]. 

Such was contemporary opinion unbiassed as yet 
by visible effects. When the tragedy took place a 
year later, of course people spoke out more clearly. 
Parkes then wrote : — 

The Chinese Government never intended, nor do they intend, 
if they can avoid it, to carry out the Elgin treaty. It was 
granted by them against their will, and we omitted all pre- 
cautions necessary to ensure its being carried out — I mean, 
in quitting Tientsin as we did in July 1858, instead of re- 
maining there until the treaty had been actually carried into 
effect. You will recollect in what a hurry the admiral and 
Lord Elgin, one and all, were to leave and run off to recreate 
in Japan and elsewhere. By that step they just undid all they 
had previously done. 

Writing eighteen months after the event, and six 
months after the Taku repulse, Laurence Oliphant fully 
confirmed the views of Parkes. " The political im- 
portance," he observed, " of such an achievement " — 
i.e., a march to Peking — "it is impossible to overesti- 
mate. The much-vexed question of the reception of a 


British Minister at the capital would have been set at 
rest for ever." He then goes on to give a number of 
exculpatory reasons for the omission, which would have 
been more convincing had they been stated by Lord 
Elgin himself in despatches written at the time. 

Nor was Lord Elgin's own explanation to the House 
of Lords any more satisfying. " In point of fact/' he 
said, *' I was never charged with the ratification of the 
treaty. The treaty was never placed in my possession. 
I never had the option of going to Peking." If his 
lordship had had a better case he would never have 
elected to rest his vindication on a piece of verbal 
finesse. Yet this speech gave their Lordships for the 
moment "wonderful satisfaction."^ 

The omission to consummate the treaty was followed 
a few months later by an act of commission of which it 
is difficult to render any clear account, and which Oli- 
phant in his ' Narrative ' makes no attempt to explain, 
merely reproducing the official despatches. Before 
leaving China Lord Elgin pulled the key- stone from 
the arch of his own work, reducing the treaty to that 
condition which Parkes had described as "not worth a 
straw." At the instance of the Chinese commissioners 
he moved her Majesty's Government to suspend the 
operation of "the most important " article in it, the 
residence of a British Minister in Peking. It is need- 
less to follow the arguments, utterly unreal and having 
no root either in history or in experience, by which this 
fatal course was urged upon the Government, for they 
were of the same species as those which had induced 

^ It seems to have been a general opinion at the time that Lord Elgin 
was deterred from proceeding to Peking by the protestations of his learned 
advisers, who declared that his doing so would " shatter the empire." 
VOL. I. Y 

338 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

her Majesty's Ministers to tolerate for fourteen years 
the exclusion of their representatives from Canton, the 
right to enter which city had just been recovered by 
force. It is most instructive to mark, as the key to 
many failures, how, like successive generations of 
youth, successive British agents in China have failed 
to profit by the experience of their predecessors, and 
have had in so many cases to buy their own at the 
expense of their country ; for we see still the same 
thing indefinitely repeating itself, like a recurring 
decimal. Even at this the end of the nineteenth 
century we seem as far off as ever from laying hold of 
any saving principle, though it stares at us out of the 
whole panorama of our intercourse. Lord Elgin's pro- 
cedure afforded at once the best example what to do 
and the clearest warning what to avoid in China, and 
it is the most useful for future guidance for the reason 
that effect followed cause as closely as report follows 
flash. It was his fate, much against his will appar- 
ently, to wage war on China in order to revindicate a 
right which had lapsed through the weakness and 
wrong-headedness of certain British representatives ; 
yet in the closing act of a perfectly successful war he 
commits the self-same error on a more comprehensive 
scale, entailing on some future Government and pleni- 
potentiary the necessity of making yet another war on 
China to recover what he was giving away. What is 
the explanation of this continuous repetition of the 
same mistake ? It would seem that, knowing nothing 
of the Chinese, yet imagining they know something, 
the representatives of Great Britain and of other 
Powers, notably the United States, have been in the 
habit of evolving from their own consciousness and 


keeping by them a subjective Chinaman with whom 
they play " dummy," and of course " score horribly," as 
the most recent diplomatic slang has it. Their de- 
spatches are full of this game — of reckoning without 
their host, who, when brought to book, turns out to be 
a wholly different personage from the intelligent auto- 
maton kept for Cabinet use. Then, under the shock 
of this discovery, denunciations of treachery — black, 
base, and so forth — relieve the feelings of the foiled 
diplomat, while the substance of his previous triumph 
has quite eluded him. To this kind of illusion Lord 
Elgin was by temperament more predisposed than per- 
haps any of his predecessors save Captain Elliot. 
Though convinced by his first encounter that Chinese 
statesmen were " fools and tricksters," the simulacrum 
soon asserted supremacy over the actuality of ex- 
perience, and to the honour of the very persons so 
stigmatised he committed the interests of his country, 
abandoning: all the securities which he held in his 

But what, then, is the secret of dealing with the 
Chinese which so many able men, not certainly in- 
tending to make failures, have missed ? This interesting 
question is thus partially answered by Wingrove Cooke. 
" The result of all I hear and see," he wrote, " is a 
settled conviction that at present we know nothing — 
absolutely nothing — of the nature of those elements 
which are at work inside China. Crotchets, &c., are 
rife, but they are all the offspring of vain imaginings, 
not sober deductions from facts. . . . Treat John 
Chinaman as a man, and exact from him the duties of 
a civilised man, and you will have no more trouble with 
him." Which is but a paraphrase of Lord Palmerston's 

340 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvil. 

prescription to consider the Chinese as " not greatly- 
different from the rest of mankind." Such, however, 
has always been too simple a formula for the smaller 
minds. They would complicate it by trying, with 
ludicrous effect, to get behind the brain of the Chinese 
and play their opponent's hand as well as their own. 
Probably it matters less on what particular footing we 
deal with the Chinese than the consistency with which 
we adhere to it. To treat them as proteges, and excuse 
them as minors or imbeciles while yet allowing them 
the full licence and privileges of the adult and the sane, 
is manifestly absurd. To treat them as dependent and 
independent at the same time can lead to nothing but 
confusion and violent injustice. To allow engagements 
with them to become waste paper is the surest road to 
their ruin and our discomfiture. To let our Yea be Yea, 
and our Nay, Nay, is as much the Law, and the Prophets 
in China as it is throughout the world of diplomacy. 
To this simplicity Lord Elgin had attained, at least in 
theory, when he told the merchants of Shanghai that 
in dealing with Chinese officials he had ** been guided 
by two simple rules of action. I have never preferred 
a demand which I did not believe to be both moderate 
and just, and from a demand so preferred I have never 

What misgiving troubled the repose of Lord Elgin as 
to the good faith of the Imperial Government on which 
he had ventured so much, may be partly inferred from 
his avidity in catching at any straw which might sup- 
port his faith. Hearing that " his friends the two 
Imperial Commissioners" who had signed the treaty 
were appointed to meet him in Shanghai to arrange 
the tariff. Lord Elgin welcomed the news as " proof 


that the emperor has made up his mind to accept the 
treaty." But as the emperor had already, by imperial 
decree dated 3rd July, and communicated in the most 
formal manner to Lord Elgin, expressly sanctioned the 
treaty before the plenipotentiary left Tientsin, wherefore 
the anxiety for further proofs of his good intentions ? 
" This decree was forced out of the emperor," Mr 
Oliphant tells us, " by Lord Elgin's pertinacity " — and 
the threat of bringing up to Tientsin a regiment of 
British soldiers then at the mouth of the river ! As a 
matter of fact, the mission of the two Imperial Com- 
missioners was of quite another character from that 
assigned to it by Lord Elgin. The two men were 
sent to complete their task of preventing by every 
means the advent of the barbarians to Peking, just 
as Lord Elgin himself was, two years later, sent back 
to China to finish his work, which was to bring the 
said barbarians into the imperial city. Between two 
such missions there could be neither reconciliation nor 

There is authority for stating that the Imperial 
Commissioners were expressly sent by the emperor 
to Shanghai (l) to annul the whole treaty of Tientsin, 
and (2) failing the whole, as much of it as possible, but 
especially the article providing for a Minister at Peking. 
The ostensible purpose of the mission, from the foreign 
point of view, was the settlement of the tariff and trade 
regulations, — about which, however, the Chinese cared 
very little, — and delegates were appointed for this pur- 
pose. The labour was conscientiously performed, on one 
side at any rate, and the result was highly creditable 
to the delegates. It was by insertion in the tariff of 
imports that opium became recognised, chiefly, it would 

342 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

appear, at the instance of the United States Minister, 
Mr W. B. Reed, who was on the spot. 

Apart from the tariff two principal questions occupied 
the minds of the negotiators of the treaty — the actual 
situation at Canton on the part of the English, and 
the prospective residence in Peking on the part of 
the Chinese. Lord Elgin hoped, by an appeal to the 
treaty of peace, to put an end to the hostile proceed- 
ings of oflScials and people which had harassed the oc- 
cupying force in Canton with impunity for nine months. 
But it was the treaty itself against which officials, 
gentry, and braves were making war, just as they 
had done in the case of the treaty of 1842. There 
was no ambiguity about the movement. The Govern- 
ment was carried on not in Canton but in the neigh- 
bouring city of Fatshan, where the Governor-General 
Huang, who had been appointed to succeed Yeh, held 
his court and issued his decrees. Two months after 
the occupation of Canton the puppet whom the Allies 
had installed there admitted that the object of the 
assemblage of braves was to retake the city. Two 
months after the signature of the treaty and its ac- 
ceptance by the emperor the Governor- General Huang 
was publicly offering a reward of §30,000 for the head 
of Parkes, and was stimulating the people in every 
way to expel the foreigners from the city. All this 
was in perfect accord both with imperial policy and 
with Chinese ethics. It had the full sanction of the 
emperor, just as similar operations had formerly had of 
his father. For the grand purpose of destroying or 
impairing the treaty there was no distinction in the 
Chinese mind between legitimate and illegitimate, 
honourable or treacherous, methods. 


Lord Elgin, who had returned from Japan to Shang- 
hai to meet the Imperial Commissioners in September, 
disappointed at their non - arrival, opened communi- 
cations with them by a threat of returning to Tientsin 
and thus saving them the trouble of completing their 
slow journey to Shanghai. On their eventual arrival 
there he opened a diplomatic campaign against Canton 
by a demand (October 7) to know under what authority 
Huang and the military committees were organising 
attacks on the Allies. In reply the Imperial Com- 
missioners naively proposed to promulgate the treaty. 
This frivolous answer provoked the rejoinder (October 
9) that the treaty had been three months before 
publicly sanctioned by imperial decree, that some- 
thing more than " documents and professions " were 
required to satisfy Lord Elgin on a question of " peace 
or war," and he demanded the removal of the Governor- 
General Huang. The commissioners then said they had 
denounced Huang to the throne, and hoped for his re- 
moval at no very distant date. They would also move 
his Majesty the Emperor to withdraw his authority 
from the hostile militia. Canton being thus disposed 
of, as he supposed, Lord Elgin proceeded to other 
business. But the hostilities at Canton continued 
without the least abatement for three months longer, 
until something more strenuous than diplomatising 
with the Imperial Commissioners was resorted to. 
The British Government had at last become exasper- 
ated, and the Foreign Secretary, Lord Malmesbury, 
wrote on October 14 to Lord Elgin, "The most severe 
measures against the braves are the only ones which 
will obtain the recognition by the Cantonese of the 
treaty of Tientsin." It was not long before Lord 

344 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

Elgin himself became converted to the same belief, 
for on January 20, 1859, he wrote to General van 
Straubenzee, after some successful reprisals he had 
made on the village braves, that " advantage should 
be taken of the cool weather to familiarise the rural 
inhabitants of the vicinity of Canton with the presence 
of our troops, and to punish severely braves or others 
who venture to attack them.'' By this time also he 
had realised that the promise on which he relied in 
October had been evaded, and he told the Imperial 
Commissioners on January 22 that he would " have 
nothing more to say to them on Canton matters, 
— that our soldiers and sailors would take the braves 
into their own hands." 

The effect of the new tactics was immediate and 
satisfactory. When the Allied troops began to move 
about they were welcomed in the very hotbeds of hos- 
tility. " At Fatshan," writes General van Straubenzee 
on January 28, "we were received most courteously 
by the authorities and respectfully by the people." 
A five-days' excursion to Fa Yuen, the headquarters 
of the anti-foreign committee, was likewise a perfect 
success ; and so everywhere throughout the Canton 
district. Lord Elgin was now able to assume a 
bolder tone with the Imperial Commissioners and 
address them in still plainer terms. 

" The moderation of the Allies," he wrote to them 
in February, " has been misunderstood by the officials 
and gentry by whom the braves are organised. . . . 
This habit of insult and outrage shall be put down 
with the strong hand. ... It shall be punished by 
the annihilation of all who persist in it." There was 
no need for any such extreme remedy, for as soon as 

1856-60.] THE STRONG HAND TELLS. 345 

the burglars realised that the watch -dog had been 
loosed they ceased from troubling the household, and 
fell back on peaceful and respectable ways of life. 
" With the cessation of official instigation," Lord Elgin 
wrote in March, " hostile feeling on the part of the 
inhabitants appears to have subsided," thus falling 
into line with Consul Alcock, who wrote : " Clear 
proof was furnished that the long-nurtured and often- 
invoked hostility of the Cantonese was entirely of 
fictitious growth, due exclusively to the inclinations 
of the mandarins as a part of the policy of the Court 
of Peking." And then, too, the difficulty of removing 
the Governor -General Huang disappeared. He had, 
in fact, been unsuccessful in expelling the barbarians, 
just as Yeh had been, and the imperial decree super- 
seding him naturally followed. His presence or absence 
had then become of no importance to the Allies, as, had 
he remained, he would have accepted the accomplished 
fact of the foreign supremacy with as good a grace 
as the gentry and their braves had done, for they 
never contemplated endangering their lives by fight- 
ing. Outrages on stragglers, assassination, kidnap- 
ping, and bravado filled up the repertory of their 
militant resources, and when these were no longer 
effective they retired into private life as if nothing 
had happened. The officials were no less acquiescent 
once they realised that they had a master. 

The interest of this Canton episode lies in its relation 
to the Chinese question generally. Foreign intercourse 
with China is marked by a rhythm so regular that any 
part of it may be taken as an epitome of the whole, like 
a pattern of wall-paper. From Canton we learn that 
calculation of national advantage or danger, argument 


from policy, even threats which are not believed, are so 
much " clouds and wind," not profitable even as mental 
exercises. What alone is valid is concrete fact ; not 
treaties, but the execution of them. 

The Imperial Commissioners had in good time 
presented their own demand on Lord Elgin, and 
in most becoming terms, for between preferring and 
meeting a request there is all the difference in the 
world. The two Chinese signatories of the treaty 
frankly avowed that they had signed without scrutiny 
under military pressure, and that certain stipulations 
were highly inconvenient to the Imperial Government, 
particularly the right of keeping a Minister in residence 
in Peking. Lord Elgin agreed to move his Govern- 
ment, and the Government consented to waive the 
right, conditionally. Lord Elgin laid stress on the 
retention of the right as a right, forgetting that in 
China a right conditionally waived is a right definitely 
abandoned. Nor only so, but so far from consolidating 
what remains, it constitutes a vantage - ground for 
demanding further concessions, and in other fields of 
international relations besides that of China. Nothing 
therefore could have been wider of the mark than 
any expectation that " the decision of her Majesty's 
Government respecting residence in Peking would 
induce the Chinese Government to receive in a becom- 
ing manner a representative of her Majesty when he 
proceeds to the Peiho to exchange the ratification." 
Experience pointed to quite the opposite effect. 

These critical remarks are by no means intended 
either to belittle Lord Elgin's good work, to depreciate 
his real statesmanship, or to scoff" at his sensibility and 


high-mindedness. But his errors being like a flaw in a 
steel casting, pregnant with destruction, and as the 
same kind of flaw continues to vitiate many of our 
smaller diplomatic castings, the China question could 
not really be understood without giving proper con- 
sideration to them. For the rest, as a despatch writer 
Lord Elgin was both copious and able — he did not take 
a double first at Oxford for nothing. Still, his writings 
and orations are scarcely the source whence one would 
seek for light and leading on the Chinese problem. 
They are vitiated by self-vindication. Many of them 
are elaborate efibrts to make the worse appear the 
better reason, while their political philosophy is based 
too much on speculative conceptions where ascertained 
data were available. 

On the last day of July 1858 Lord Elgin with his 
suite set out on their memorable voyage to Japan, the 
narrative of which has been so skilfully woven by 
Laurence Oliphant. This episode will claim our 
attention later. His lordship came, saw, and con- 
quered — returned to China in a month crowned with 
fresh laurels. At Shanghai he saw the tariff settled, 
and then performed another pioneer voyage of pro- 
digious significance. This was up the Yangtze as far 
as the great central emporium Hankow. Captain 
Sherard Osborn was the Palinurus of that original 
and venturesome voyage. After that. Lord Elgin bent 
his steps towards England; but before leaving China 
the ghosts of things done and undone haunted him. 
" A variety of circumstances lead me to the conclusion 
that the Court of Peking is about to play us false," was 
the melancholy epitaph he wrote on his mixed policy, 
on his honest attempt to make war with rose-water, 

348 EARL OF ELGIN AND HIS MISSION. [chap. xvii. 

and his subordination, on critical occasions, of judgment 
to sentiment. 

Meantime his brother Frederick, who had carried the 
Tientsin treaty to London, was returning with it and 
the Queen's ratification and his letter of credence as 
British Minister to China. The denoHment of the 
plot was now at hand. The real mind of the Chinese 
Government was finally declared in the sanguinary 
reception the new envoy met with at the entrance 
of the Peiho in June 1859. Frederick Bruce was 
generally considered a man of larger calibre than his 
elder brother. " In disposition he was a fine, upright, 
honourable fellow," writes Sir Hope Grant, " and in 
appearance tall and strong made, with a remarkably 
good expression of countenance." But it took even 
him a long time to fathom the new situation. After 
his disastrous repulse from thfe Taku forts he wrote 
in August, " I regret much that when the permanent 
residence was waived it was not laid down in detail 
what the reception of the Minister at Peking was 
to be." But it was no question of detail that barred 
his passage to Peking. It was the settled determina- 
tion never to see the face of any foreign Minister ; 
and it seems strano^e that it should have taken not 
only another year but another war finally to convince 
the British plenipotentaries and their Government that 
the message of China from first to last, from Peking 
and Canton, had been to fling the treaty in their 


1856-60.1 THE ALLIED FORCES. 349 


Invasion of Peking — Convention of Peking — Establishment of the British 
Legation — Russian and British, a contrast. 

The Chinese perfidy at Taku had of course to be 
avenged. A formidable expedition was equipped by 
the Allied Powers, Lord Elgin and Baron Gros being 
reappointed as plenipotentiaries. The history of the 
famous Pekin campaign of 1860, with its tragic inci- 
dents, has been impressed on the world by so many 
writers, military and civil, most of them actors in the 
scenes they depict, that the barest outline of events 
may suffice in this place. 

In the preliminary agreement between the two 
Governments, the British military force was limited to 
10,000 effectives; but the number actually placed in 
the field exceeded that figure by the consent of the 
French, whose forces were between 6000 and 7000. 
The British contingent was commanded by General 
Sir Hope Grant, the French by General Montauban, 
afterwards created Count Palikao, — "a fine, hand- 
some, soldier-like man, apparently under sixty years 
of age." 

The naval forces were commanded respectively by 
Vice- Admiral Sir James Hope, '*a tall, noble-looking 
man, with a prepossessing and most gentlemanlike 
appearance,"^ and by Admiral Page, "a superior man 
with a great deal of dry humour, but bad-tempered."^ 

The friction arising between Allies working together, 
waiting for each other, consulting at every step, tak- 

1 Sir Hope Grant's Journal. ^ Ibid. 

350 LORD Elgin's second mission, [chap. xmi. 

ing precedence of each other on alternate days, at 
first vexatious, was in the end overcome by the tact 
of the commanders on both sides. 

The first operation of war was to occupy the harbour 
of Chusan as an intermediate base. After that the 
British force was conveyed in transports to Talien-wan, 
where they were disembarked, while the French were 
landed at Chefoo, on the opposite shore of the Gulf of 
Pechili. At these points preparations were made for 
the intended descent on the coast of the province of 
Chihli, between 200 and 300 miles to the westward. 
The British force included 1000 cavalry in splendid con- 
dition, and a battery of Armstrong guns, then for the 
first time used in active service. The French had no 
cavalry, the attempts to import horses from Japan were 
not successful, and the scarcity of draught-animals on 
their side caused great delay in the sailing of the 
expedition from the temporary depots. At length on 
July 26 a fleet of over 200 sail — a magnificent spectacle 
— carried the two armies to within twenty miles of the 
Peiho, where they anchored, waiting for favourable 
weather and a minute reconnaissance. 

The one piece of strategy in the campaign was the 
choice of a landing-place. The Taku forts, which had 
been strong enough to repulse Sir James Hope with 
severe loss a year before, had been further strengthened, 
for to the Chinese it was a matter of life and death to 
bar the entrance to the Peiho. The chain barrier across 
the mouth of the river could not be forced under the 
concentrated fire of the forts ; only the lightest draught 
vessels could approach within five miles ; and a frontal 
attack was not to be thought of But a decided difier- 
ence of opinion between the Allied generals had dis- 

1856-60.] THE PEKING CAMPAIGN. 351 

closed itself as to the mode of procedure. The French 
commander was determined to land on the coast to the 
southward of the forts ; the English was still more 
resolute in selecting as a landing-place the mouth of 
the Peitang river, eight miles northward of Taku. So 
irreconcilable were their views that it was agreed that 
each should go his own way, only starting simultane- 
ously. After more careful study, however, General 
Montauban came to think better of his own scheme, 
and proposed to Sir Hope Grant to join him in the 
landing at Peitang. 

So on August 2'^the first detachments of 2000 
from each army were disembarked, and the campaign 
proper commenced. The forts at Peitang were easily 
occupied, "a kind old man" pointing out where there 
were loaded shells which would explode on foot 
pressure on a gun-lock laid so as to fire a train. 
By means of a raised causeway leading through a 
sea of " briny slush," positions were reached whence 
the Taku forts could be attacked from the rear. 
Though bravely defended, the forts on the left bank 
were captured, and as they commanded those on the 
opposite bank no resistance was offered by the latter. 
The Peiho was thus opened for the conveyance of 
troops and stores to Tientsin, which was made the 
base of operations for the advance of the Allied 
armies on Peking^. 

The military movements were hampered by the pre- 
sence of the two plenipotentiaries, who stopped on the 
way to negotiate with the unbeaten foe. Delay was 
not the only untoward consequence of these pro- 
ceedings. At one moment a military disaster seemed 
to have been narrowly escaped. Taking advantage of 

352 LORD Elgin's second mission. [chap. xvn. 

the singular credulity of the Allies, the Chinese, while 
engaging them in friendly negotiations, had planned 
to decoy the army into a convenient camping-ground 
at Changchia - wan, towards which the troops were 
marching, when, ** To my surprise," writes the com- 
mander-in-chief, " we found a strong Tartar picket, 
who retired on our approach ; and a little farther on 
were seen great bodies of cavalry and infantry, the 
latter drawn up behind a large nullah to our right front, 
displaying a number of banners." In the meantime 
the envoys, Parkes, Loch, and other officers, who had 
been negotiating with the higher mandarins at Tung- 
chow, a couple of miles off, were seized and made 
prisoners with their escort, all being subsequently 
cruelly tortured, and most of them massacred, in 
accordance with Chinese practice in war. 

Sir Hope Grant, finding his army of 4000 men in 
process of being hemmed in, attacked and routed the 
Chinese troops on September 18, resuming his march 
on the 21st, when the remainder of his force had 
joined him. He had not gone far, however, when 
the way was again barred, and another action had to 
be fought at the bridge Pali - chiao, ten miles from 
Peking, where General Montauban distinguished him- 
self, and whence he derived his title. 

Far from owning themselves defeated, the Chinese 
on the morrow resumed negotiations as between equals. 
The Imperial Commissioners who had mismanaged the 
affair were replaced by Prince Kung, a brother of the 
emperor, who sent letters under a flag of truce, saying 
he was ready to come to terms, but "said nothing 
about our poor prisoners." The Allied plenipotentiaries 
declined to treat until the captives should be returned, 

1856-61.] PEKING ATTACKED. 353 

whereupon Prince Kung sent another letter saying 
they were safe, but would only be sent back on the 
restitution of the Taku forts and the evacuation of the 
river by the Allied fleets. 

Lord Elgin had demanded that he should deliver 
the Queen's letter in person to the emperor. Prince 
Kung refused this demand, which Lord Elgin incon- 
tinently abandoned. Waxing bolder, Prince Kung 
next threatened that the entry of the Allied forces 
into the capital would be followed by the instant 
massacre of the prisoners. The plenipotentiaries re- 
torted by intimating that the surrender of prisoners 
was a necessary condition of the suspension of hos- 
tilities. A week having been wasted in this vain see- 
saw, an ultimatum was sent into Peking on September 
30. This was answered by the Chinese inviting the 
Allies to retire to Changchia-wan, the scene of the 
great defeat of their army, offering to sign the treaty 
there. And so the contest was maintained until the 
Allied artillery was planted within sixty yards of the 
north gate, and the hour was about to strike when the 
wall was to be battered down. 

Most valuable information — the topography of the 
city — had been supplied by General Ignatieff, who ac- 
companied the Allies. A map which he lent to Sir 
Hope Grant showed every street and house of im- 
portance in Peking, laid down by a scientific member 
of the Russian mission in the city. The data had been 
obtained by traversing the streets in a cart, from which 
angles were taken, while an indicator fixed to the wheel 
marked the distances covered. Without this plan the 
attack would have been made from the south side, as 
proposed by General Montauban, which would have 

VOL. I. z 

354 LORD Elgin's second mission. [chap. xvn. 

involved a march through the commercial or Chinese 
quarter, and the surmounting first of the Chinese and 
then of the Tartar wall. The map made it clear that 
from every point of view the north side offered the 
most eligible point of attack, where nothing intervened 
between a great open plain and the wall of the Manchu 

Passing over the dramatic incidents of the destruction 
of the Summer Palace, an act of calculated vengeance 
for the murder and maltreatment of envoys and prisoners, 
the flight of the emperor on a hunting tour to Jeho, 
whence he never returned, the release of the prisoners 
and their account of the captivity, the new treaty 
was signed at the Hall of Ceremonies on October 22, 
1860, by Prince Kung, *' a delicate gentlemanlike 
man, evidently overcome with fear," and his coadjutor, 
Hangki. The treaties of Tientsin were ratified, and 
some further indemnities exacted. The special pro- 
visions introduced into the French treaty will be 
referred to in a subsequent chapter.^ 

The closing scene was marked by a degree of haste 
somewhat recalling Tientsin in 1858. The very slow 
advance on Peking brought the climax of the campaign 
unpleasantly close to the season when communication 
by water would be shut off by ice ; " the weather 
became bitterly cold, some of the hills being covered 
with snow." And Sir Hope Grant's never-failing coun- 
sellor, Ignatieff, with " his usual extreme kindness," 
furnished him with the most important information 
that the Peiho would soon become frozen up and it 
would be unsafe to linger in Peking. Mr Loch's gallop- 
ing off with the treaty, as shown in the illustration, 

1 Vol. ii. p. 224. 



was rather typical of the whole business. The treaty 
as such was of little consequence — the fulfilment of its 
provisions was everything. 

Some lessons, nevertheless, had been learned in the 
school of diplomatic adversity. Peking was not left 
without a locum tenens of the Minister, Tientsin was 
not left without a garrison, and the Taku forts were 
occupied by the Allies for a couple of years after the 
final conclusion of peace. 

" Ring out the old ; ring in the new." There seemed 
a natural fitness in the Hon. Frederick Bruce succeed- 
ing the Earl of Elgin as Minister plenipotentiary, and 
there was a dramatic finish in the farewell ceremonial 
when the retiring representative of the Queen vacated 
the seat of honour, placing therein his younger brother, 
whom he introduced to Prince Kung as the accredited 
agent of Great Britain. The new era was inaugurated ; 
a real representative of her Britannic Majesty was in- 
stalled in the capital of the Son of Heaven. 

The season was late, and though two palaces had 
been granted on lease for the residences of the British 
and the French Ministers, many alterations and re- 
pairs were needed to render them fit for occupation, 
which could not be effected before the closing of the 
sea communication by ice. The Ministers therefore 
resolved to withdraw from Peking for the winter, 
placing their respective legations in charge of a junior 
consular officer, Mr Thomas Adkins, who volunteered to 
hold the post until the return of the plenipotentiaries 
in the following spring. 

Mr Adkins was not the only foreign sojourner in the 
Chinese capital. There was a French Lazarist priest, 
Mouilli by name, who, having successfully concealed 

356 LORD Elgin's second mission, [chap. xvn. 

himself among his native Christians during the mili- 
tary advance of the Allies, emerged from his hiding- 
place on the triumphant entry of the ambassadors, 
and showed himself in the streets in a sedan chair 
with four bearers. There was the permanent Russian 
establishment within the city, with its unbroken record 
of 173 years. Originally composed of prisoners taken 
at the siege of Albazin, it had become a seminary of 
the Orthodox Church and a political vedette of the 
Russian empire, invaluable to the two masterful 
diplomatists who appeared suddenly on the scene in 
the years 1858 and 1860. The mission served as 
a speculum through which Russia could look into 
the inner recesses of the Chinese State, while to 
the Chinese it was a window of bottle-glass through 
which the external world was refracted for them. The 
Russian Government selects its agents on the principle 
on which we select university crews or All -England 
elevens — namely, the most fit. So important and 
far-sighted a scheme as the Peking mission was not 
left to chance or the claims of seniority, but was main- 
tained in the highest efficiency. Its members — six 
ecclesiastical and four lay — were changed every ten 
years. All of them, from the Archimandrite down- 
wards, were accomplished linguists, speaking Chinese 
like the natives, and masters also of the Manchu 
and Mongol languages. Their relations with the 
Chinese officials were unostentatious, yet brotherly. 
Few secrets, either of administration, dynastic poli- 
tics, or official intrigue, no communications between 
the Government, provincial or imperial, and any 
foreigners, escaped record in the archives of the 
Russian mission. The personnel were protected from 


1856-61.] M. POPOFF. 357 

outrage or insult by their own tact and their tra- 
ditional prestige ; and as the Daimios of Japan in 
their anti - foreign manifestoes declared that every 
foreigner could be insulted with impunity except the 
Russians, so in China the name was a talisman of 
security. While the Anglo - French expedition was 
marching towards Peking the Russian Secretary, M. 
Popoff, had occasion to leave that city and pass the 
night at a native inn on the road to Tientsin. The 
place became filled with the retreating Chinese sol- 
diery, and M. PopoiF had the pleasure of hearing 
their excited conversation respecting himself They 
were for dragging him out and killing him on the 
spot, when the landlord interposed. " That foreigner 
is a Russian," said he ; "it will be dangerous to lay 
a hand on him." 

M. Popoff 's errand was to meet General Ignatieff, 
who was making his way to Peking with the Allied 
forces. It was of the utmost importance that he 
should arrive simultaneously with the French and 
English plenipotentiaries in order to save China from 
her doom. China's extremity was Russia's opportunity 
for showing the sincerity of her long unbroken friend- 
ship. The foreigners had come to possess themselves 
of the empire and destroy the dynasty. Their ruthless 
character was soon to be shown in the burning and 
pillage of the Summer Palace. The Chinese Court's 
apprehension of the impending calamity was proved 
by the flight of the emperor to a quasi- inaccessible 
retreat. In that terrible crisis no sacrifice would 
have been deemed by the imperial family too great 
to "get rid of the barbarians." Confirming their 
own worst fears as to the designs of the invaders. 

358 LORD Elgin's second mission. [chap. xvn. 

General Ignatieff revealed to them the only way of 
salvation. Nothing would arrest the schemes of 
the Allies but the intervention of a strong Power 
friendly to China. He had it in his power to 
make such representations to Baron Gros and Lord 
Elgin as would induce them to withdraw their 
troops. This essential service he offered to the Chinese 
for a nominal consideration. Only a rectification of 
frontier by inclusion of a sterile region inhabited by 
robbers and infested by tigers, where no mandarin 
could make a living, fit only for a penal settlement, 
with a rugged sea-coast where no Chinese sail was ever 
seen. Prince Kung jumped at the providential ofiPer of 
deliverance, and so that great province called Primorsk, 
with its 600 miles of coast-line, which gave to Russia 
the dominion of the East — " Vladivostock " — was 
signed away by the panic-stricken rulers of China. 
A year later this transaction cropped up in conversa- 
tion over the teacups, after the business of the day had 
been disposed of, between Prince Kung and a certain 
foreign diplomatist, who remarked that there was 
never the remotest intention on the part of the Allies 
of keeping a single soldier in China after the treaty 
was made. The Prince looked aghast, then said 
solemnly, " Do you mean to say we have been de- 
ceived?" " Utterly," replied the other; and then the 
dejection of the Prince was such as the foreigner, 
who lived to enjoy a twenty-years' acquaintance with 
him, declared he never saw in his or any other Chinese 
countenance. Thus General Ignatieff, without any 
force, in the vulgar sense, of his own, was adroit 
enough and bold enough to wield the forces of his 
belligerent neighbours so as to carry off the only 

1856-61.] GENERAL IGNATIEFF. 359 

solid fruit of the war, while fulfilling the obligations 
of friendship for China and denouncing her spoilers. 

The Russian envoy had not the same incentive to 
hurry away from Peking as the other treaty-makers 
had, for the ice which would imprison them would 
afford him the most expeditious road for travel 
homewards through Siberia. He was nearly as much 
relieved as Prince Kung himself at getting rid of these 
" barbarians," for then he had the field of diplomacy all 
to himself He made his treaty, and departed during 
the winter by the back door, across Mongolia. 

Ignatieff was a man well known in English society, 
and thoroughly conversant with England. Like most 
educated Russians, he was affable and sympathetic — a 
" charming fellow." He was courteous and companion- 
able to the locum tenens of the English Legation, and 
in taking leave of Mr Adkins expressed the opinion 
that he would be all right in his isolation so long as 
the emperor did not return to Peking, but in that 
event his position would not be an enviable one. 
However, " if you fear any trouble, go over to the 
Russian mission : they will take care of you." 

The winter of 'I860 left the statesmen of China some 
food for reflection. The thundering legions had passed 
like a tornado which leaves a great calm behind it. 
The " still small voice " had also departed, with a 
province in his chemaddn, gained without a shot or 
even a shout. Two strongly contrasted foreign types 
had thus been simultaneously presented to the 
astonished Chinese. Can it be doubted which left 
the deeper impression? 

Preparations were made during the winter for 
receiving the foreign Ministers in the spring. A 


LORD Elgin's second mission, [chap. xvh. 

department of Foreign Affairs was created under the 
title of "Tsung-li Koh Kwoh She Yu Yam^n," or 
briefly, " Tsungli-Yam^n," the three original members 
being Prince Kung, Kweiliang, and Wdnsiang. The 
Yamen was established by imperial decrees in January; 
Mr Bruce and M. Bourboulon arrived in March 1861, 
when diplomacy proper began, the thread of which will 
be resumed in a later section. 





Spontaneous fulfilment of treaties not to be expected — Retreating attitude 
of foreign Ministers — Repression of British tourists — Hostility of 
Pekingese — Conciliation fails — Chinese refuse to conclude treaty with 
Prussia — Glimpse of the real truth — Rooted determination to keep out 
foreigners — Absence of the sovereign — Female regents — Diplomatic 
forms in abeyance — Foreign Ministers' task complicated by assumed 
guardianship of China — Pleasant intercourse with Manchu statesmen. 

When Mr Bruce and M. Bourboulon took up their 
residence in Peking on March 22, 1861, diplomacy was 
as yet a white sheet on which it was their part to trace 
the first characters. The treaty — for all the treaties 
were substantially one — was their charter ; its integral 
fulfilment their only safety. For as it had not been a 
bargain of give-and-take between equals, but an im- 
position pure and simple by the strong upon the weak, 
there would be no spontaneous fulfilment of its obliga- 
tions, rather a steady counter - pressure, as of water 
forcibly confined seeking out weak spots in the dam. 
Moreover, the two parties to the treaty, foreigners and 
Chinese, were not acquainted with each other : aims, 
incentives, temper and character, and the nature of the 

362 THE DIPLOMATIC OVERTURE. [chap, xviii. 

considerations by which they respectively would be 
influenced, were all obscure. It was an uncertain 
situation, calling^ for vio^ilance and caution. There can 
be no doubt the pregnant importance of the first steps 
was realised by the representatives on both sides. 
The thoughts of the Chinese on that critical occasion 
can only be inferred from their acts. Of what was 
uppermost in the minds of the foreigners, or at least of 
the English Minister, we have some slight indications 
from the pen of a member of his staff, who, though not 
himself in the diplomatic circle, claims to be the 
authorised chronicler of the early days of the mission. 
This pretension is implicitly indorsed by the fact that 
the preface to Dr Rennie's book ^ was written in Govern- 
ment House, Calcutta, whither he followed Lord Elgin 
in the capacity of physician. When the Ministers 
had only been five days in Peking Dr Rennie wrote 
as follows : " Now is commencing perhaps the most 
difficult part of a permanent English residency at 
Peking — namely, the satisfying the Chinese that we 
are a tolerably harmless and well-intentioned people, 
inclined to live with them on terms of amity rather 
than the contrary, and that the desire of our Govern- 
ment is that its subjects should respect, as much as 
is consistent with reason, their national prejudices." 

Such an immaculate sentiment placed in the very 
forefront of an ambassadorial programme, ushered in 
at the cost of two wars which shook the foundations 
of the Chinese empire, leaves something to be desired 
as a justification for being in Peking at all. But Dr 
Rennie indicates no other purpose for which foreign 
legations were established there. He does not get 

1 Peking and the Pekingese. 


beyond the mere " residency." A viceroy of India pro- 
claiming at each stage of a "progress" that he was a 
man of peace, a bride hoping to lead a passably 
virtuous life, would scarcely be more naive than a 
foreign Minister's pious aspiration to behave tolerably 
well to the Chinese. For where was the " difficulty," 
one is tempted to ask ? It is explained by Dr Rennie. 

Two English officers, it appears, had made an excur- 
sion to the Great Wall without the necessary consular 
and local authorisation, and had further shown *' the 
bad taste, at a date so recent to its destruction," to 
visit the Summer Palace. A formal complaint of these 
indiscretions met Mr Bruce on his arrival, and credit 
must be given to the Chinese for their appreciation of 
the tactical value of w^hat Scotswomen call " the first 
word of flytin'." They moved the first pawn, and put 
the British Minister at once on the defensive. He 
responded by an arbitrary exercise of authority where- 
by Englishmen were prohibited from visiting Peking. 
The restriction possessed little direct importance, 
since few persons were then affected by it ; but as the 
opening act of the new diplomacy, its significance could 
hardly be overrated. Though "only a little one," it 
was a recession from the right conferred on the subjects 
of all treaty Powers to travel for business or pleasure 
not only to Peking, but throughout the Chinese empire. 
It was as the tuning-fork to the orchestra. 

It is not permissible to suppose that the British 
Minister had not good reasons for swerving from the 
principle of exercising rights, great and small, for which, 
as he well knew, experience in China had been one 
long, unbroken, cogent argument. Dr Rennie furnishes 
his readers with the reason. " The Chinese," he 

364 THE DIPLOMATIC OVERTURE. [chap, xviii. 

observes, " would seem to be very sensitive " ; and 
"taking all the circumstances into consideration, . . . 
the fear that casual visits on the part of strangers 
. . . may prove antagonistic to the establishment of a 
harmonious feeling at the opening of a new era in our 
intercourse with the Chinese," the Minister resolved to 
keep Englishmen (and only them) out of the capital. 

This explanation, like that of the purpose of the 
Legation itself, leaves on us a sense of inadequacy. 
These hyper- sensitive people had been engaged, only 
six months before, in torturing and massacring foreign 
envoys and prisoners, for which atrocities the destruc- 
tion and sack of Yuen-ming-yuen was thought to be not 
too severe a reprisal. That the high officials who had 
committed these cruelties and endured the penalty 
should suddenly become so delicate that they could not 
bear the thought of a harmless tourist looking upon the 
ruins of the palace seems a somewhat fantastical idea. 
As for the sensitiveness of the townspeople, Dr Rennie 
himself had some experience of it three days after 
penning the above remarks. " A good deal of shouting 
and hooting," he says, was followed by " stones whizzing 
past me." Then "my horse was struck by a stone" 
and bolted. A similar experience befell another member 
of the Legation on the same day in another part of the 
city. Dr Rennie believed the stones to have been 
thrown by boys, which is probable enough. The 
favourite Chinese official palliation of outrages on 
foreigners is to attribute them to youths and poor 
ignorant people, which, however, in nowise softens the 
impact of the missile. Let us give the Chinese full 
credit for the virtues they possess — and they are many 
— but no one familiar with the streets of Peking 

1861-65.] FIRST BLOOD. 365 

would consider delicacy their predominant charac- 
teristic. View the diplomatic incident how we please, 
it cannot be denied that the Chinese drew first blood 
in the new contest, and at the same time practically 
tested the disposition of the invading force. 

Another *' straw" from Dr Rennie's journal maybe 
noticed as indicating the set of the current. Aproi^os 
of the first commercial case that had been sent up from 
the ports to the Minister, he records the conclusion 
that " in almost every dispute which arises between 
ourselves and the Chinese we are in the first instance 
in the wrong ; but, unfortunately [for whom ?], the 
Chinese equally invariably adopt the wrong method of 
putting matters right," so that " the original wrong 
committed by us is entirely lost sight of." The observa- 
tion refers exclusively to mercantile affairs, and it was 
a rather large generalisation to make after a month's 
experimental diplomacy in Peking. 

The Minister soon found that his efforts to placate 
the Chinese Government were not producing the in- 
tended effect. It was not the " casual visitor " that in 
any special way annoyed them, but the foreigner in all 
his moods and tenses, most of all Mr Bruce himself, his 
colleagues and their staff*, medical and other, and all 
that they stood for. General Ignatieff* had not, after 
all, conjured away the foreign plague, nor were the 
Chinese statesmen entirely reassured even as to their 
immunity from the military danger. In the month of 
April Admiral Hope, Brigadier- General Staveley, and 
Mr Parkes visited Peking, and were courteously re- 
ceived ; but Prince Kung was visibly relieved, Dr 
Rennie tells us, when assured that the admiral was not 
to remain there. As for the general, his presence in. 

366 THE DIPLOMATIC OVERTURE. [chap, xviii. 

the vicinity was inevitable so long as a considerable 
British and French force remained in garrison in Tien- 
tsin and Taku. Like the Ministers themselves, he was 
an unpleasant necessity to be endured as well as may 
be. But being thus obliged to tolerate the greater evil, 
it would appear to Western reasoning that an admiral 
more or less in an inland town need not have so greatly 
upset Chinese equanimity. Prince Kung, however, was 
not yet able to look on such matters with Western 
eyes. Every foreigner kept at arm's-length, no matter 
what his rank or condition, was a gain, as every locust 
destroyed is a gain to the peasant. 

So when the Prussian envoy. Count Eulenberg, pre- 
sented himself, the British Minister vouching for his 
respectability, for the purpose of making a treaty on 
the lines of those already made and ratified, his efforts 
were frustrated by every plausible device. The envoy 
was relegated to the most distant point at which it was 
deemed feasible to stay his progress — namely, Tientsin, 
where negotiations were vexatiously protracted during 
four months. The first and final sticking-point was the 
claim to residence in the capital, which the Chinese 
absolutely refused to concede. Eventually they agreed 
to compound for a deferred entry ten years after signa- 
ture. This by haggling was finally reduced to five 
years, and the treaty was thereupon concluded in 
August 1861. The old Canton tactics were thus re- 
vived, as if nothing had happened since 1857. 

As the echo of Mr Bruce, Dr Bonnie's comment on 
the proceeding is worth noting. " Looks very like 
merely gaining time, in hopes that, before that period 
expires, all foreign residence in the capital will be at 
an end." Here we catch a glimpse of the fundamental 


truth underlying all Chinese diplomacy from first to 
last — the purpose, never relaxed for an instant, of some 
day expelling foreigners from the country. No for- 
eigner could hope to unravel the tangle of Chinese 
reasoning so as to comprehend in what manner the 
exclusion of one State was to assist in the eviction of 
the representatives of four Great Powers already estab- 
lished in the capital ; but it may be inferred from the 
above remark that Mr Bruce was beginning to perceive 
that good behaviour towards the Chinese was not the 
be-all and end-all of the functions of a British repre- 
sentative in China. There was another side. We 
know, in fact, though Dr Rennie does not record it, 
that Mr Bruce began to see the necessity of making a 
stand against the reactionary pressure of the Chinese ; 
that he was resolved on bending the Ministers of the 
Yamdn to his will — being satisfied he could do it — 
instead of yielding to theirs in the vain hope of gaining 
their confidence. 

The grand desideratum had been at last obtained, 
access to the capital ; but how different the realisation 
from the anticipation ! There was no sovereign and no 
Court, only the shell of the nut without the kernel. 
And as diplomacy began so it continued, in successive 
illusions, partially dispelled, yet clung to with slow- 
dying hope. 

At first sight, no doubt, the task of the foreign repre- 
sentatives seemed an easy one : they had but to lay down 
the law to a defeated Power, to hammer the softened 
metal. This course would have been as simple in fact 
as it was in principle had they been united, and had it 
been possible for them to take a simple view of their 
mission ; but from the first their duty to their respec- 

368 THE DIPLOMATIC OVERTURE. [chap, xviii. 

tive countries was complicated, and in varying degrees, 
by what they conceived to be their duty towards China. 
It was inevitable that the attempt to follow two lines 
of policy divided by such cleavage should result in a 
fall into the crevasse. China, in fact, was too large a 
subject for either the treaty Powers or their agents to 
grasp. She made huge demands on the humanity, the 
indulgence, and the protection of the Powers who had 
broken down her wall of seclusion, and she had nothing 
in kind to offer them in return — neither gratitude nor 
co-operation, nor even good faith. For this China 
could be blamed only in so far as her own welfare was 
hindered by her irresponsiveness, for her statesmen 
were not far wrong in attributing to any motive rather 
than pure philanthropy the obtrusive solicitude of the 
Western Powers. International relations even between 
kindred peoples are in the nature of things selfish, or 
worse ; and the more they assume an altruistic mask 
the more they lie open to suspicion. In this cynical 
view of the attitude of her neighbours China has never 

Yet it was not all illusion and Dead Sea apples. 
Something had been gained by diplomatic access to 
the capital. The elaborate insolence of the Chinese 
mandarin had been exchanged for the urbanity of the 
well-bred Manchu. It became possible to converse. 
Foreigners were listened to with attention, and answered 
with an open countenace. The change was incalculable. 
It recalled the days of Lord Macartney and the Em- 
peror Kienlung, of Sir John Davis's pleasant intercourse 
with Kiying, and of the agreeable impression left by 
the Manchu statesmen who were concerned from 1841 
onwards in the conduct of war or the conclusion of 

1861-65.] NEW COAST PORTS. 369 

peace. If to the kindly personal relations which charac- 
terised the earlier years of Peking diplomacy no per- 
manent tangible result could be definitely ascribed, who 
can tell what evils were staved off or calamity averted 
by these friendly amenities ? 

In order, however, to appreciate the state of affairs in 
Peking in 1865, it is necessary to fill the gap in our 
narrative by an outline of events following the ratifica- 
tion of the treaty of Tientsin and Convention of Peking 
in October 1860. 


Seven new coast ports — Admiral Hope's Yangtze expedition — His relations 
with Taiping rebels — Hankow, Kiukiang, and Chinkiang opened to 
trade — Panic in Hankow, and exodus of population for fear of 

The new ports opened to trade — Tientsin, New- 
chwang, and Chefoo in the North ; Swatow, and two 
Formosan ports ; Kiungchow in Hainan — added con- 
siderably to the range of foreign commerce, and ne- 
cessitated a large extension of the foreign customs 
and of the consular services. But the most import- 
ant feature in the new arrangements was the effective 
opening of the river Yangtze. It was interesting, as 
giving access to the commercial centre of the empire ; 
and as bringing foreigners into direct contact, possi- 
bly conflict, with the Taiping rebels. For the banks 
of the great river were at the time checkered with 
the alternate strongholds of rebels and imperialists. 
Trade must therefore either be carried on on suffer- 
ance from both, or be efficiently protected from the 

VOL. I. 2 A 

370 OPENING OF THE YANGTZE. [chap, xviii. 

interference of either belligerent. Obviously this was 
a matter to be gone about discreetly. 

The course and capabilities of the great waterway, 
and the disposition of the military forces on its banks, 
had been w^ell reconnoitred by Lord Elgin himself in 
1858 ; and the ports to be opened, which were left 
unnamed in the treaty, were pretty definitely indicated 
in the survey then made. There were to be three in 
all. Chinkiang, which had been recently recovered 
from the rebels, situated at the intersection of the 
Imperial Canal and the Yangtze- kiang, was definitely 
fixed. The two others farther up river remained to be 

The opening of the river was by treaty made con- 
tingent on the restoration of imperial authority on its 
banks ; but as there was nothing more likely to acceler- 
ate that consummation than commercial traffic on the 
river, the Chinese Government acquiesced in the British 
authorities making the experiment, at their own risk 
as regarded possible trouble with the insurgents. The 
object was to " throw open the general coasting trade 
of the river " ; and Lord Elgin, on his departure from 
China, left the undertaking in the hands of Admiral 
Hope, to whom he attached Mr Parkes, withdrawn 
for the occasion from his duties as commissioner in 

The admiral started from Shanghai in advance of Mr 
Parkes, with a squadron of light-draught steamers, on 
February 11, 1861. He carried an exploring expe- 
dition composed of Colonel Sarel, Captain Blakiston, 
Mr Shereshewsky, and Dr A. Barton, whose proceedings 
are reported in Blakiston's ' Five Months on the Upper 
Yangtze ' ; several American missionaries ; two French- 

1861-65.] APPROACH TO NANKING. 371 

men, afterwards distinguished, MM. Eugene Simon and 
A. Dupuis, the latter proving the means of eventually 
giving Tongking to France ; a French military attache ; 
Lieut .-Colonel Wolseley, D.A.Q.-M.G. ; and a delega- 
tion from the Shanghai Chamber of Commerce, with 
several private persons. Whether the pilots pre- 
sumed upon light draught and steam power, or whether 
the course of the river had changed so much since the 
previous surveys were made, the vessels got stranded, 
one after another, in the estuary ; and as each grounded 
a companion was told off to stand by her, so that before 
they had got clear of what is known as the Langshan 
Crossing (the home of the famous breed of black poultry) 
the admiral's tender, the Coromandel, was the only 
vessel left in a mobile condition. Not to lose time, 
the admiral determined to push on in that non-com- 
batant craft to Nanking, the rebel capital, and test the 
temper and intentions of the Taipings. 

As the steamer slowly approached the landing- 
place, in bright sunshine and a still atmosphere, the 
batteries on the river front were crowded, but re- 
mained silent. 

*' What will you do, sir, if they fire ? " the admiral 
was asked. 

"Oh, I will just drop down out of range, and send 
and ask them what they mean by it," he replied, with 
deep deliberate utterance, not unlike Beaconsfield's. 

An officer was sent ashore to parley, some rebel 
officers came on board, and the prospect of an amicable 
understanding appeared to be satisfactory. It was a 
critical juncture in the history both of the Taiping 
movement itself and of foreign relations with it and 
with China. Without exaggeration, it may be said 

372 OPENING OF THE YANGTZE. [chap, xviii. 

that the proximate fate of the Taipings then lay hidden 
within the brain of Sir James Hope, and each occasion 
of contact between him and them during the next few 
months added its definite contribution to the data on 
which the momentous decision was ultimately taken. 
Although he had then no higher opinion of the Taipings 
than that they were " an organised band of robbers," 
the admiral was resolved to give them fair play ; and 
since no diplomatic intercourse could be held with in- 
surgents, he determined to take relations with them 
under his own supervision (March 8, 1861). " The 
principle I shall adopt being that in the .district of 
country of which they hold possession the Taiping 
authorities must be regarded as those of the de facto 
Government, . . . and this principle being likely to 
lead to the payment of double duties (to rebels and 
imperialists) on all trade conducted at places in their 
possession, I am desirous of definite instructions on the 

The first point to be settled with the rebel authorities 
at Nanking was the non-molestation of British traffic 
passing up and down the river within range of their 
batteries or otherwise, to secure which object it had 
been determined to station a ship of war abreast of the 
city. The sanction of the Taiping chiefs was wanted 
to this arrangement, which, however, without such 
sanction, it would have been all the more necessary to 
insist upon. The second point affected the general 
relations between foreign trade and the rebel move- 
ment. The next aim of the admiral was to arrive at an 
understanding with the leaders for the neutralisation of 
Shanghai and Wusung within an area of thirty miles 
round these two places. 


Not being prepared to enter into definite negotiations 
until the arrival of Mr Parkes, who had not yet joined 
the expedition, Sir James Hope returned to the 
squadron which he had left aground in the lower 
reaches of the river. But thinking the time and the 
opportunity might be usefully employed in gathering 
some acquaintance with the Taipings at their head- 
quarters, he landed three volunteers at Nanking, whose 
presence he ascertained would not be unwelcome to the 
authorities there. They were to remain in the city as 
the guests of the rebels till the admiral's return. The 
party consisted of Lieut. -Colonel Wolseley, Mr P. J. 
Hughes, vice-consul designate of Kiukiang, and one of 
the Shanghai delegates. They were joined on shore 
by the E-ev. William Muirhead, missionary, who had 
reached Nanking by land from Shanghai. The party 
was thus a thoroughly representative one. On the 
return of the admiral a week later, accompanied by Mr 
Parkes, the arrangements for a guard-ship were satis- 
factorily settled after some puerile obstruction, and 
the expedition proceeded on its way up the river to 
Hankow, where, as also at Kiukiang and Chinkiang, 
consular officers were established ; and the Yangtze 
was declared open by notification in Shanghai on March 
18, 1861. 

The expedition was fruitful in information concerning 
the rebels, all tending to confirm the purely destructive 
character of the movement. Certain incidents of the 
voyage were also most instructive to the visitors. 
While the expedition was still at Hankow the Taipings 
had captured a walled city, fifty miles distant, which 
had been passed by the squadron on its way up a few 
days before. The news created a universal panic 

374 OPENING OF THE YANGTZE. [chap, xviii. 

throughout the three cities, Wuchang, Hanyang, and 
Hankow, and the scene which followed could not be 
paralleled. It is thus laconically referred to in the 
report of the delegates of the Chamber of Commerce : 
** The abandonment was most complete, not a house nor 
a shop was open, and it became equally impossible 
to purchase goods, to check quotations, or pursue 

One day the deep Han river was so packed with 
junks that one might almost walk from bank to bank 
over their mat coverings. The next day everything 
that could float was crowded with fugitive families with 
their household stuff huddled precariously on the decks, 
and such a fleet as, for number and picturesqueness, was 
probably never seen, covered the broad bosom of the 
Yangtze, making slow headway under sail against the 

Mr Parkes, eminently a man of fact, thus describes 
what he was witness to : — 

Darkness fell upon crowds of the people lying with their 
weeping families, and the debris of their property, under the 
walls of Wuchang, anxious only to escape from defences that 
should have proved their protection. . . . The noise and cries 
attending their embarkation continued throughout the night, 
but daylight brought with it a stillness that was not less im- 
pressive than the previous commotion. By that time all the 
fugitives had left the shore, and the river, as far as the eye 
could reach, was covered with junks and boats of every de- 
scription bearing slowly away up-stream the bulk of the 
population of three cities, which a few days before we had 
computed at 1,000,000 of souls. 

Of what came of this and many such another melan- 
choly exodus of humanity, without resources, ready 
to brave any death rather than fall into the hands 


of the destroyers, there is no record ; and the scene 
at Hankow, magnified a hundred times, would give 
an inadequate conception of the havoc of the fifteen 
years of the Taiping rebellion. 


Devastation only to be expected of them — Enforces neutrality and respect 
for foreign property — Thirty-mile radius round Shanghai — Hesitancy 
of British Minister and Foreign Office — Overcome by firmness of Ad- 
miral — Capture of Ningpo by rebels — Arrangements for trade there — 
Bad faith of rebels — Shanghai to be defended — Its dangerous position 
— Ravages of rebels — Offensive movements against them — Clearing of 
the thirty-mile radius — Cordial relations between English and French 
admirals — Mr Bruce won over — The campaign — Recapture of Ningpo 
— Chinese raise foreign force — Ward — Burgevine — Chinese statesmen 
who organised the suppression of the rebellion — General Gordon takes 
command of the " Ever- Victorious Army." 

None of the spectators was more profoundly im- 
pressed than Admiral Hope, and the spectacle 
undoubtedly helped to mature his views on the 
demerits of the rebellion. On April 6 he wrote to 
the Admiralty : "A period of anarchy, indefinite in 
duration, appears likely to ensue, in which the com- 
mercial towns of the empire will be destroyed, and 
its most productive provinces laid waste. For this 
state of things, so destructive to foreign trade, I see 
no remedy except the recognition by both parties, if 
practicable, of the neutrality of the consular ports, 
which would then become places of security in which 
the Chinese merchants and capitalists could take 
refuge." And towards the realisation of this scheme 
the first step was the obligation laid upon the rebel 
Government at Nanking that their forces should not 

376 hope's policy towards insurgents. [chap. XVIII. 

approach within thirty miles of Shanghai or Wusung. 
This idea, however, was but slowly assimilated by her 
Majesty's Minister at Peking and by the Government 
at home, and Lord Russell, while approving generally 
of the admiral's policy, stipulated that no force be 
used except in direct defence of British property. Mr 
Bruce wrote able despatches from Peking, in which 
the pros and cons, the contingencies and risks, of alter- 
native courses were so well balanced, that the only 
practical conclusion that could possibly issue therefrom 
was that eventually arrived at, — to leave the decision 
to the admiral with a promise of support, whatever 
course he might adopt. The Foreign Office and the 
Peking Legation, in fact, faithfully represented the 
orthodox view of affairs, whereby national policy is 
primarily reduced to a game of safety for officials, 
and to the application of theories and general prin- 
ciples often having little bearing on the actualities 
of the case. The admiral's mind was cast in a 
different mould. To him the exigencies of the situa- 
tion were everything, the official balance very little, 
the fear of responsibility nothing. The man on the 
spot, seeing clearly the right thing to do and resolved 
to do it, was bound in the end to gain the Government 
to his side, for Governments like a strong arm to lean 
on. . With men like Sir James Hope there was no risk 
of complications arising, for complications arise mostly 
from the nervous dread of them, never from going 
straight and clear to the objective point. It needed 
a visit of the admiral to Peking, however, and the best 
part of a year's correspondence, to convert the British 
Government point by point to his views. 

Meantime the Taiping rebels advanced to Ningpo, 


the defence of which Mr Bruce had refused to sanction, 
and they captured the city on December 9, 1861, after 
engaging not to do so. The leaders there were inter- 
viewed by the French Admiral Protet and the English 
Captain Corbett with a view to gaining a comprehen- 
sion of their plans, and " to prevent the atrocities of 
which they have hitherto been guilty, and to en- 
deavour to effect an arrangement by which trade can 
be conducted from the town. The French Rear- 
Admiral Protet will act in concert with me," wrote 
Admiral Hope to Corbett, December 7. 

After the capture of the city the admiral instructed 
Captain Corbett that if the rebels wished to levy 
any duties, he was to see that in amount they did 
not exceed those stipulated in the imperial tariff. 
Arrangements were also made by the three treaty 
Powers for the protection of foreign life and the 
safety of the foreign quarter. The position was, 
however, a very difficult one, as the rebels had no 
idea of order or of keeping faith. Indeed the problem 
of protecting British subjects while observing Lord 
Bussell's neutrality instructions was fast becoming 
impossible, for tiie conventions made with the Tai- 
ping authorities in Nanking were disregarded by them, 
and Shanghai itself was threatened. 

The admiral's conception of what was required, for 
the protection of British interests was all the while 
undergoing steady development, and in January he 
wrote that Kiukiang and Hankow had become as 
essential to our trade as Shanghai. Writing a month 
later, he pressed his plans still more definitely upon 
the Admiralty. " On every occasion," he said on 
February 21, 1862, "on which I have reported the 

378 hope's policy towards insurgents, [chap. XVIII. 

state of Shanghai since my return here, it has been 
my duty to bring the devastation and atrocities com- 
mitted by the rebels in its immediate vicinity very 
prominently under their Lordships' notice. These pro- 
ceedings have been conducted at a distance much too 
close to be consistent with the respect due to the 
occupation of the town by French and EngUsh forces, 
or to leave its supplies of provisions and native trade 

The tension was at length relieved by the relaxation 
of Earl Russell's restrictions. He had already said that 
"it might be expedient" to protect the treaty ports, 
and that he was " of opinion that we ought to defend 
Shanghai and Tientsin as long as our forces [the garri- 
son left from the Peking campaign] occupied these 
ports." But now, on March 11, 1862, he took a more 
practical view of the whole situation, and issued her 
Majesty's commands that " Admiral Hope should not 
only defend Shanghai and protect the other treaty 
ports, but also the British flag and the Yangtze, and 
generally that British commerce is to have the aid of 
her Majesty's ships of war." 

During the winter of 1861-62 matters had become 
very critical in Shanghai. The rebel chiefs sent an 
intimation to the foreign consuls that it was their 
intention to capture the town, and they proceeded 
to burn the villages and ravage the country on both 
sides of the river within gun-shot of the military lines. 
Special local measures of defence were adopted by the 
residents, and fugitives in thousands flocked into the 
only asylum where their lives were safe. The pressure 
of these events led to yet more definite action on the 
part of Sir James Hope, who perceived that the eflec- 


tive defence of Shanghai and its sources of supply 
involved aggressive movements against the rebels in 
order to drive them out of all the places they occupied 
within the thirty-mile radius. In all these proceedings 
the admiral went hand in hand with his French col- 
league, and with the commanders of the French and 
British military forces. An agreement signed by the 
four on February 13, 1862, settled the immediate 
question of the defence of the city of Shanghai. An 
appeal to the British Minister completed his conver- 
sion to a " forward policy." " I strongly recommend," 
wrote the admiral on February 22, " that the French 
and English commanders should be required by your- 
self and M. Bourboulon to free the country from 
rebels within a line " — specified ; and the reply was 
as hearty and free from ambiguity as could be 
wished : " We can no more suffer Shanghai to be 
taken by famine or destroyed by insurrection than we 
can allow it to be taken by assault ; and it requires 
but little experience in China to be assured that the 
effect of remaining on a strict defensive within the 
walls is to convince our assailants that we are unable 
to meet them in the field." 

The plan of campaign was settled in an agreement 
signed by Sir James Hope, Admiral Protet, and Briga- 
dier Staveley, April 22, 1862, and was carried out to 
the letter during the early summer and the autumn 
following. At an early period of the operations 
Admiral Protdt was killed : his loss was deeply la- 
mented, most of all by his British colleague, with 
whom relations of exceptional intimacy had sprung up. 
" The extent to which I enjoyed his confidence and 
regard will ever prove a source of unmingled satis- 

380 hope's policy towards insurgents. [chap. XVIII. 

faction to me," wrote Sir James Hope on the day of 
the admiral's death, May 17, 1862, himself at the 
time confined to his cabin by wounds. 

The rebel forces in Ningpo, who had been on their 
good behaviour for a short time, became aggressive and 
insulting, even going the length of offering rewards for 
foreign heads in the good old mandarin fashion. It is 
well to remember that even in their unkempt condition, 
and with everything to gain from the goodwill of 
foreigners, the Taiping rebels lacked nothing of the 
most arrogant of Chinese assumptions. The preten- 
sions of the chief far exceeded those of the Emperors of 
China. The Taipings required foreigners to be subject 
to their jurisdiction, and they habitually applied de- 
rogatory terms to foreign countries. Such things were 
regarded much as the eccentricities of a lunatic might 
be. Nevertheless they were a faithful reflex of what 
is rooted in the Chinese mind. 

The position of foreigners and the foreign ships 
there having thus been rendered intolerable, the city 
was recaptured from the rebels by Commander Roderick 
Dew in the same month — a brilliant feat of arms. 
After the capture he wrote : "In the city itself, once 
the home of half a million of people, no trace or vestige 
of an inhabitant could be seen. . . . The canals were 
filled with dead bodies and stao-nant filth." The 
recapture of Ningpo was the beginning of an x^LUglo- 
Franco- Chinese campaign against the rebels in Che- 
kiang which was carried on simultaneously with that 
round Shanghai. 

It is needless to follow in detail the operations 
which culminated two years later in the final suppres- 
sion of the Taiping rebellion ; but the relations which 


grew up between the British and French commanders 
on the one side, and the Chinese military forces which 
were being organised on the other, were so fruitful in 
results as to merit their being held in particular 
remembrance. Though the history has been many 
times written, it may still not be considered super- 
erogatory to trace some of the points of contact be- 
tween the native and foreign motives and plans of 
action, and the evolution of the defensive idea which 
was the product of the combination. 

The Taiping rebellion had devastated the central 
and southern provinces many years before the Chinese 
Government roused itself to a serious effort to resist it. 
The movement of repression originated with the Gover- 
nor-General of the Hu provinces, whose chief lieutenant 
and successor was Tseng Kwo-fan, Governor- General 
of Kiangnan at the time of which we now speak. 
His brother, Ts6ng Kwo - chuan, the Governor of 
Chekiang province, was the military leader, and Li 
Hung-chang, the most capable and energetic of them 
all, was governor of the province of Kiangsu. The 
imperialist forces had been gradually closing on 
Nanking, and it was thought probable that this 
hemming-in process forced the rebels to seek outlets 
and new feeding-grounds in the populous districts of 
Kiangsu and Chekiang. The rebels had enlisted a 
number of foreigners in their ranks, and made great 
efforts to supply themselves with foreign arms and 
ammunition, for which purpose, among others, com- 
munication with the sea was most important for them. 
lA.futai (governor), also began to enlist foreigners and 
raise a special corps, drilled and armed in foreign 
fashion, and led by foreign officers. The foreign agent 


in this enterprise on the imperialist side was Frederick 
Ward, to whom Mr Bruce referred in May 1861 as 
''a man called Ward, an ex - Californian fillibuster." 
Within a year Mr Bruce wrote, " In the Chinese force 
organised and led by Mr Ward I see the nucleus of a 
military organisation which may prove most valuable in 
the disturbed state of China." The truth is, " Ward's 
force," which became known by its high-flown Chinese 
title of the '' Ever -Victorious Army," was seized on 
from its origin by Sir James Hope, whose encourage- 
ment and support were essentially serviceable to it in 
its early days. The admiral treated Ward as a com- 
rade, fighting by his side, and thus giving the new 
levy a military status. While the Chinese troops were 
yet raw he co-operated with them by capturing posi- 
tions from the rebels and trusting Ward's men to hold 
them, on the assurance of their leader that they were 
equal to that duty. Ward himself was an unpreten- 
tious, cool, and daring man, reckless of his own life. 
During his brief campaign he was riddled with bullets, 
one of which entering his mouth destroyed the palate 
and impaired his speech, and before long the fatal 
missile reached its mark. He was succeeded in the 
command by his second, Burgevine, who, though a good 
soldier, lacked Ward's tact and moderation, and got 
into trouble with his paymasters, to whom he used 
violence and threats. He was deposed from the com- 
mand by Governor Li, which brought about a serious 
crisis, for the disciplined force of foreigners and Chinese 
was left without a head. In this emergency Li applied 
to the British authorities for the loan of an ofiicer to 
command the disciplined force. The responsibility of 
the British representatives, naval and military, became 

1861-65.] GORDON. 383 

thus extended to finding a suitable Englishman to 
replace Burgevine. Their first selection was Captain 
Holland, KM., who held the post for a short time, 
and was succeeded by Captain C. G. Gordon, E..E. 

Gordon had arrived in China in 1860 in time to share 
in the last act of the Peking campaign ; he passed the 
year 1861 at Tientsin, where he was highly esteemed 
as a model man and meritorious officer. In the winter 
of 1861 he had conferences with Mr Bruce and Prince 
Kung on the question of suppressing the rebellion ; but 
none of their ideas, nor the policy of the British Govern- 
ment, were then sufficiently advanced to lead to any 
practical result. Gordon accompanied his corps to 
Shanghai in the spring of 1862, and was engaged in 
the operations for clearing the thirty-mile radius under 
General Staveley, who spoke warmly of his daring 
reconnoitring services, for which Gordon had been 
already distinguished in the Crimea. In the following 
winter he was busy surveying and mapping the country 
which had been reconquered from the rebels, and in 
the spring of 1863 he was offered by his chief the 
leadership of Ward's force. Gordon's was no doubt the 
best selection that could have been made, having regard 
only to the abilities which were then recognised in him ; 
for though General Staveley knew him well both in 
Tientsin and Shanghai, it is not claimed for him, or any 
one else, that he had prescience of those transcendent 
qualities and that magnetic power which the subsequent 
campaign against the rebels was the means of bringing 
to light. When Gordon took command of the " Ever- 
Victorious," the force had had two years' training and 
regular campaigning, and the men were entitled to rank 
as veteran troops. Gordon, however, was to infuse new 

384 hope's policy towards insurgents, [chap. XVIII. 

life into the corps by his dynamic personality and by 
the diligent use of the regenerative agency of " Ser- 
geant What's -his -name." The number of foreigners 
actually employed in the force is doubtful, but detailed 
returns of killed and wounded in the course of a year's 
operations gave a hundred names. Gordon's faculty of 
control was probably more severely tested by his man- 
agement of that motley foreign crew than of the whole 
indigenous force ; but the best of which it was capable 
was got out of this fortuitous concourse of men, and 
under the inspiration of the commander several names 
of distinction emerged from the cosmopolitan group. 

When Gordon took over the command in March 
1863 it was six months since the thirty-mile radius 
had been entirely cleared of rebels, and the first duty 
of the " Ever- Victorious " was to keep that area clear ; 
its second to carry the war as far as it was able into 
the regions beyond. Its efficiency, especially for this 
latter purpose, depended on the support and co-oper- 
ation of the British and French commanders, whose 
troops remained in occupation of the treaty port of 
Shanghai. For a time there was danger of a lapse in 
this co-operation. The dismissed General Burgevine 
carried his grievances to Peking, and made such an im- 
pression by his plausible address on the American and 
British Ministers there, that Mr Bruce espoused his 
cause and wrote strong despatches to the British com- 
mander, Staveley (April 10, 1863), urging the rein- 
statement of Burgevine and the suppression of Gordon, 
to whom it was to be explained that the step was no 
reflection on him, &c. Again and again the Minister 
returned to the charge, both to the commander in 
Shanghai and to the Foreign Office at home ; but the 

1861-65.] MAJOR-GENERAL BROWN. 385 

Governor Li was firm, and adduced such cogent 
reasons for the dismissal of Burgevine that Major- 
General Brown, who had just succeeded to the British 
command, joined Li in resolutely protesting against 
the removal of Gordon, whom, it may be remarked, the 
English general had never yet seen. The men on the 
spot prevailed against the man who was theorising 
from a distance, and on the worst data conceivable, 
the culprit's own account of himself Mr Bruce, who, 
as we have seen, was well acquainted with Gordon, 
must have had reasons for his policy not given in his 
official despatches, for these were inadequate and 
narrow for a man of his large capacity. 

We have said Major-General Brown had not then 
seen Gordon. He had arrived from India in April to 
relieve General Staveley of the command of the British 
troops in China. He was a wiry man and of an active 
temperament, and rapidly mastered the situation. 
Probably to him is due the credit of the first true per- 
ception of what manner of man this young engineer 
officer was. General Brown was for a few days after 
his arrival a guest in one of the spacious hongs in the 
Shanghai settlement, which had a wide verandah, 
giving access to all the bedrooms. One morning very 
early the general, excited by a message that had just 
reached him, rushed round in deshabille calling for his 
host with a piece of coarse Chinese paper in his hand. 
" Do you know Major Gordon ? " he said. " Why, yes, 
a very nice fellow, and reported to be a first-rate offi- 
cer." " But," exclaimed the general, " he is a genius ! 
Just look what I have received from him from the 
front," and he unfolded the whitey-brown paper with 
some rough diagrams, and a few not very legible pencil 

VOL. I. 2 b 

386 hope's policy towards insurgents. [chap. XVIII. 

notes indicating his position and plan of attack on 
Taitsan (where Captain Holland had been repulsed) 
and Kuensan,^ both cities on the line of communication 
with the provincial capital, Soochow. *' The man is a 
genius," reiterated the general, "and must be sup- 
ported." A few days later another of these cryptic 
missives arrived, when a similar scene was repeated 
with redoubled emphasis. *' I tell you that man is a 
military genius ; that's what I call him, a military 
genius," said the dapper little soldier in his vivacious 
reiterative manner. " I'll support him for all I am 
worth." And then he developed his own plan of re- 
lieving the " Ever- Victorious " of garrison duty, leav- 
ing the whole force — secure of its base — free to engage 
in aggressive operations. This plan of giving effective 
support to Gordon's force was carried out to the letter, 
as subsequently described by the general in his official 
despatches reporting the capture of Taitsan and Kuen- 
san: "I had a field force acting in conjunction, as a 
support, moving on the extreme edge of our boundary, 
. . . which was of great assistance to Major Gordon 
in his operations." He adds : " Kuensan having fallen. 
Major Gordon now proposes to make it his head- 
quarters ; . . . and as the fatal intends to make 
Taitsan his headquarters, I shall bring it within the 
boundary, thus giving the imperialists every confidence 
to hold it, knowing they could receive support from me 
at any moment." How vital to the fortunes of the 
" Ever- Victorious Army " was this decided action of 
General Brown s was seen when, three months later. 
General Burgevine had gone over, with a certain 
following of malcontents, to the Taipings, a movement 

^ Kuiishan or Quinsan. 


which suggested to Gordon serious misgivings as to the 
loyalty of the foreigners remaining in his own force. 
Burgevine, however, had no success in the rebel camp, 
and soon, in a secret interview with Gordon, sued for 
safe -conduct and amnesty. Improving his acquaint- 
ance, however, with the new commander of the *' Ever- 
Victorious," Burgevine's next proposal was the bold 
one of eliminating as between themselves all questions 
of conflicting loyalty to the respective belligerents by 
throwing over both, and by joining forces on their own 
account, to capture Soochow, and there raise an army 
to march on Peking. It was a partnership which did 
in nowise commend itself to Gordon, but the proposal 
served to show how shrewd Li Hung-chang had been 
in his estimate of the deposed leader. 


Orders sent through Mr Hart to Mr Lay — Fleet equipped under Captain 
Osborn, R.N. — Ratification of their agreements refused in Peking — 
Government would not place foreigners in a position of authority — 
Misunderstandings and final sacrifice of Mr Lay — Ships paid ofi" and 
sold — Crucial question the recapture of Nanking. 

The invincible distrust of foreign auxiliaries which 
dominates Chinese policy and prevents the empire from 
ever having an army or a navy, received another signal 
illustration in the same year in the great fiasco of the 
Lay- Osborn flotilla. Mr H. N. Lay, Inspector-General 
of Chinese Maritime Customs, was in England on leave 
in 1861, his locum tenens in Peking being Mr (now 
Sir) Bobert Hart. Conferences with the Chinese Min- 
isters on the naval weakness of the empire resulted in 

388 THE LAY-OSBORX FLOTILLA. [chap, xviii. 

a very important decision, in consequence of which Mr 
Hart was empowered to send to Mr Lay orders for 
certain armed vessels to be officered and manned by 
Englishmen. Mr Lay executed the rather " large 
order" according to his lights, engaging Captain 
Sherard Osborn to command the fleet, which was 
equipped on a war-footing. The foreign enlistment 
difficulties of the British Government were overcome, 
as the Government was by that time ready to go to 
any length in assisting the Government of China. The 
fleet duly arrived in China, and Mr Lay and Captain 
Osborn presented themselves in Peking to obtain rati- 
fication of their agreements from the Imperial Govern- 
ment. This was refused, the force was disbanded, and 
the ships sold, at a heavy pecuniary sacrifice to the 
Chinese, for they made no demur about payment. 

The rock on which the scheme seemed to split was 
the contention of Mr Lay that the fleet was imperial, 
and that the commodore should take no orders from 
viceroys or provincial authorities, but only from the 
emperor, and through Mr Lay himself This was a 
shock to the very edifice of Chinese Government, 
conceived of as feasible only under the belief that in 
its helpless condition the Government must accede 
to anything. But the scheme was really impossible. 
So also, however, was the alternative of provincial- 
ising the naval force, as has been shown by subse- 
quent failures in the attempt to use the services of 
British officers in the Chinese navy. Such an instance 
of reckoning without your host was never heard of be- 
fore or since. It was like a practical joke on a titanic 
scale. The ships were actually there, manned, officered, 
and armed. It was a dangerous knot, which had to be 


promptly cut or untied. Following the line of least 
resistance, Mr Lay was made the scapegoat, on whose 
head the Minister " laid both his hands " — rather 
heavily — '* confessing over him the iniquities of all," 
and sending him away into the wilderness. In the 
general interest the sacrifice of Mr Lay was perhaps 
the safest way out of the imbroglio, for he was a 
pugnacious little man in whose hands despotic power 
might have been attended with inconvenience. Never- 
theless, the blame of the failure belonged to all the 
parties concerned — to Prince Kung, Wensiang, Mr 
Hart, Mr Bruce, and the British Government. They 
each entered into the scheme with different ideas, 
more or less vague, except Mr Lay's own, which had 
perforce to be reduced to the definite when he came 
to draw up contracts with British naval officers, and 
to meet the strict requirements of British law. The 
Chinese Ministers of course could have no conception 
what a foreign- equipped navy really meant, nor had 
they probably fully divulged what was really in their 
mind ; Mr Lay and Mr Hart were young men with 
large ideas, but without experience ; Mr Bruce was 
a man of the world who had seen service, and was, 
from his position, the most responsible of them all, 
and therefore the most culpable in deceiving himself, 
and allowing the British Government to be misled. He 
approved of the project, or it could never have been 
carried out. But what was it precisely that he ap- 
proved of? He "saw with pleasure that Captain 
Osborn was about to reorganise the preventive service" 
(October 6, 1862), and as late as February 8, 1863, he 
wrote to Prince Kung of the '' speedy arrival of the 
steam flotilla which your Imperial Highness has so 

390 THE LAY-OSBORN FLOTILLA. [chap, xviii. 

wisely ordered " — as if it were a pair of official boots ! 
Yet on the arrival of the flotilla it was found that 
everybody concerned was at cross-purposes, and the 
question naturally suggests itself, what steps her 
Majesty's Minister had taken to satisfy himself as 
to the real intentions of Prince Kung, whether they 
had been properly transmitted by Mr Hart and cor- 
rectly interpreted by Mr Lay and fully communicated 
to her Majesty's Government. It appears that Mr 
Bruce had, in fact, undergone a change of mind — 
induced, no doubt, by cogent considerations — during 
Mr Lay's final sojourn in Peking. Having received 
a message from the Minister urging a stiff attitude 
with the Chinese Government and promising the full 
support of the Legation, Mr Lay proceeded to the 
Yamen and laid down the law strongly, as his manner 
was, in the full assurance that he had the British 
Minister at his back. But after thus burning his 
boats he found himself abandoned, for reasons of State 
which he was unable to appreciate. Such was the 
account of the crisis given at the time by Mr Lay 
himself to a confidential friend then residing in Peking. 
For the Chinese Government the scheme was neces- 
sarily a leap in the dark. For the British Government 
it involved a violent reversal of recently declared 
policy, and on a most important issue. It was con- 
sequently a case where extreme and minute precautions 
against possible misunderstandings would not have 
been superfluous, yet — so far as has yet been made 
public, for there is doubtless a missing link in the 
record — such seem to have been wholly absent from 
the inception of the enterprise. 

The crux of the question, no doubt, was the position 

1861-65.] LI HUNG-CHANG PROTESTS. 391 

of Nanking. The lever Mr Lay employed to secure 
acceptance of his conditions was the prospect of the 
immediate capture of the Taiping capital, against 
which the provincial Government, represented by the 
Viceroy Tseng, his brother, and the governor of 
Kiangsu, Li, were expending their forces. The 
temptation was exceedingly strong to close with Lay 
and secure the services — probably much overrated 
for that particular object — of the new flotilla, were 
it even by recourse to some ambiguous phrase which 
might leave a loophole of escape from the agreement 
when its immediate object had been served. Some- 
thing like this might have been attempted but for 
the uncompromising attitude of Li Hung-chang, for 
it was he who smashed the flotilla scheme. It was 
true, he allowed, that the assistance of the ships 
would enable the viceroy's forces to capture the city 
at once ; but, he added confidently, we shall succeed 
in time by our own resources, and it were better to 
lose the city and the province, and even the empire 
itself, than to place such power as Lay demanded 
in the hands of any foreigner. Burgevine was fresh 
in the futai's mind — was indeed at that very time 
in the rebel camp near him. Li's arguments clinched 
the matter. The flotilla was never commissioned. 
The whole chapter of experiences of the campaign in 
Kiangsu has left a vivid impression on the mind of 
Li Hung-chang : it was the most interesting period 
of his life, but no incident of it imparts such vivacity 
to his reminiscences as that of the Lay-Osborn fleet. 
Nothing warms him to dramatic locution like a ref- 
erence to that episode. 

392 THE END OF THE REBELLION. [chap, xviii. 


Gordon's brilliant campaign — His quarrel with Li Hung-chang — And 
reconciliation — Other French and English officers co-operate in sup- 
pression of rebellion — Russian aid offered. 

Gordon's campaigning lasted one year : it was 
marked by great successes, sundry reverses, more 
than one crisis, and many discouragements. The 
famous quarrel with the futai Li was illustrative of 
several points of great utility to be borne in mind in 
considering the working relations of Eastern and Wes- 
tern peoples ; but perhaps its chief interest lay in its 
revelation of the independent and dominating character 
of Gordon himself, which was his distinguishing mark 
through life. After a confused and scarcely intelligible 
bargain with the rebel chiefs at Soochow, by which 
their lives were to be spared, they were beheaded by 
order of Li. Gordon resented this, and, like another 
Achilles, withdrew to his tent. For this he was 
warmly applauded by General Brown, Mr Bruce, and 
the Foreign Office, who all denounced Li as the most 
odious criminal, with whom no further communication 
should be held. When, two months later, Gordon, 
without consultation with any of these parties, but not 
without friendly advice, changed his mind, resumed his 
friendship with the governor and active operations in 
the field, the same chorus of approval greeted his action 
as had previously been pronounced of his inaction. 
Mr Bruce wrote on February 10, 1864, to Prince 
Kung, among other things, that " Major Gordon is to 
be relieved from any communication with Governor 


Li." Within a week Gordon, of his own motion, had 
abandoned that position, leaving to the Minister to ex- 
plain the change of attitude in any way he pleased, 
which he did by resort to that token coinage of dip- 
lomatic fiction which serves the domestic purposes of 
the craft, but has no market-value outside its conven- 
tional domain. An able explanatory letter from Mr 
Hart, the new Inspector- General of Customs, who in- 
vestigated the transaction on the spot, would have 
afforded to the Minister colourable grounds for " re- 
vision " of the earlier judgment, had he been allowed time 
to avail himself of it. But Gordon's action forced his 
hand, and left him no choice but to acquiesce first and 
find his reasons afterwards. The Foreign Office, how- 
ever, being at a distance, could not be swung back 
again so quickly, and they had, on the impulse of the 
first advices, withdrawn their sanction for Major Gor- 
don's serving the Chinese at all. This order reached 
him after he had, on his own motion, definitely re- 
signed the service, so that there was no further 
clashing of authorities. Though the force contributed 
materially to the suppression of the rebellion, the 
final act, the capture of Nanking, was left to the 
unaided resources of the Viceroy Tseng. 

Not the least of Gordon's successes was the peaceable 
dissolution of the force when it had done its work ; for 
the establishment was, for its size, enormously costly, 
and it was a two-edged sword in the hands of the 
Chinese. The "Ever-Victorious Ai^my" was happy in 
the opportuneness of its death. A prolonged existence 
might easily have dispelled the wonderful prestige it 
had gained in its short career and limited scope. Per- 
haps, after all, its place in history owes everything to 

394 THE END OF THE REBELLION. [chap, xviii. 

the personality of its last leader, whose legacy to man- 
kind is not so much a catalogue of achievements as a 
life — immortal. 

The renown of Gordon and the brilliancy of his 
exploits have thrown unduly into the shade the 
Anglo-Chinese and Franco-Chinese campaign in the 
neighbouring province of Chekiang, which had Ningpo 
for its sea base. In their degree these operations were 
no less essential to the ultimate overthrow of the rebel- 
lion than those in the province of Kiangsu, and, among 
many others, the names of Prosper Giquel, who after- 
wards managed the arsenal at the Pagoda anchorage, 
Foochow, and of the large-hearted bishop, Mgr. Dela- 
place, afterwards translated to the metropolitan see, 
where he died, deserve to be had in remembrance. 
Sundry risings in other provinces caused trouble and 
apprehension ; but we may, for the purposes of this 
narrative, consider that the year 1864 witnessed the 
closing scene of the great rebellion. 

It would be impossible, within any reasonable space, 
to follow even in outline the course of that stupendous 
devastation, exceeding in its wanton waste of human 
life the horrors of the Thirty Years' War in Germany : 
our concern has been only with that side of the move- 
ment with which foreign nations were forced into con- 
tact, with its political bearing, and its influence on the 
position of the Chinese Government. It happened that 
only two of the Powers were directly concerned in of- 
fensive operations against the rebels, but in the task of 
suppression they had the moral support of them all. 
Indeed, but for the French and English activity it 
seems probable that Hussia was ready single-handed to 
undertake the whole business. The Hussian Govern- 

1861-65.] BUSSIA's ATTITUDE. 395 

ment from time to time signified its approval of the 
action taken by the French and EngHsh in assisting 
the Chinese Government to put down the rebellion. 
Russia was included in the thanks of the Chinese to 
their foreign allies ; she had at least furnished material 
in the shape of " 10,000 rifles and several cannons." 
These arrived in Peking, after a protracted journey, 
at a time when the Russian Minister deemed it 
expedient to explain to his British colleagues that 
the arms had reference only to the rebellion. More- 
over, Russia had, or professed to have, serious inten- 
tions of sending a large force of her own to co-operate 
in its suppression. M. Petchroff, a member of the 
Russian Legation, spent a month in Shanghai in the 
autumn of 1862 in frequent conferences on this 
subject with the Chinese authorities, the report of 
which he carried in person to Admiral Popoff, who 
was at the time in Japan. M. Petchroff called upon 
the British admiral while in Shanghai, and informed 
him of this project. It was not carried out, as Prince 
Gortchakoff explained to Lord Napier, because the 
Russian Government had not force enough available 
to render effective assistance, but they wished to show 
the Chinese that they were in hearty sympathy with 
the Anglo-French policy, and might, for moral effect, 
show their flag in co-operation, so far as prudence 
would allow. 

The importance of putting an end to the rebellion, 
and the value of foreign aid in doing so, were fully 
realised by the Peking Government. Of this the 
abortive, but costly, Osborn flotilla furnished proof 
enough ; and the honours bestowed on Gordon by 
imperial decree were an expression of the unspeakable 

396 EVACUATION OF CANTON. [chap, xviii. 

relief which was felt in the palace at the dispelling of 
the hideous nightmare. A final decree summing up 
the movement, in a tone of restrained sincerity not 
usual in these conventional documents, says : " Words 
cannot convey any idea of the misery and desolation 
he [the Taiping chief] caused ; the measure of his 
iniquity was full, and the wrath of both gods and men 
was roused against him." 


Good feeling and compliments on both sides — Mr Parkes's able 
administration of the city. 

An event which passed off without the slightest 
sensation, because without hitch, was the evacuation 
of Canton by the Allied troops in October 1861. 
Were it only for one clause in the proclamation issued 
by the high Chinese authorities on the occasion, 
this transaction would form a valuable historical 
landmark : — 

During the occupation of Canton by the allied troops of 
England and France during a period of four years, their con- 
duct has never been otherwise than friendly towards the 
military and people of the whole city, and the military and 
people having also corresponded with courtesy and friendship, 
harmony has been maintained from first to last. Now that 
the troops are being withdrawn, the consuls of England and 
France will continue to reside within the city, while the 
merchants and people of all nations will constantly pass in 
and out, or reside therein at their pleasure. It remains the 
duty of yourselves, the military and people, to continue to 
them the same respectful and courteous relations that have 
prevailed during the occupation. 


Compare this with the state of things existing only 
three years before ! Much of the success of the 
occupation and its good permanent results were un- 
questionably due to the high qualities of Parkes, the 
British commissioner, who thus modestly refers to the 
matter in his despatch : " The confidence of the people 
in a strong and inoppressive Government, added to 
their own governable character, materially facilitated 
the task of maintaining order in a vast and most 
intricate city containing a population of upwards of 
1,000,000 inhabitants." The "Canton question" was 
thus finally disposed of to the satisfaction of all 


His flight from the capital — Succession of his son — Regency of the two 
empresses — Prince Kung's sanguinary coup d'etat. 

Next in importance to the suppression of the 
Taiping rebellion, the death of the Emperor Hsienfeng 
marked the period we are now considering. That 
unfortunate monarch, who deserted his capital against 
the strongest remonstrances of his advisers, on the 
approach of the Allied forces, died at his hiding-place 
in August 1861, and his only son was proclaimed in 
his stead under the style of Tungchih. The new 
emperor was a child, and provision had to be made for 
a regency. How this regency fell into the hands of 
two empresses — one the mother of the young emperor, 
the other the true widow of the deceased — was not 
very well understood by the foreigners then in the 
capital. Prince Kung's coup d'etat, by which the 

398 INFLUENCE OF THESE EVENTS. [chap, xviii. 

three male members of the regency were elaborately 
arraigned and then assassinated, was not organised to 
get rid of any imaginary " anti-foreign faction," as was 
too easily assumed at the time, but simply and solely 
to place the empire at the feet of himself and the 
emperor's mother. " Parties " in Peking have always 
been, and are to this day, a puzzle to foreigners, 
who, having seldom at the moment any trustworthy 
means of informing themselves, are apt to be carried 
away by '' cries," sometimes got up for the purpose of 
misleading them, — for the Chinese are not at all averse 
from turning to account the half knowledge on which 
foreigners are prone to form their opinions. 


Inadequacy of foreign diplomacy — Absence of sovereign — Allies committed 
to protection of China — Coercion impossible — Large outlook of Mr 
Bruce — The provincial versus imperial administration — Attempt to 
force Central Government to coerce provincial — Contemptuous attitude 
of Chinese Ministers — Sir F. Bruce's despair — He clutches at various 
straws — General reaction of Chinese. 

How did these various occurrences influence the 
progress of diplomatic relations with the Government ? 
We have seen that diplomacy in Peking was a venture 
launched on imported capital, which, meeting with no 
indigenous support, was doomed from the first to feed 
upon itself. There was no dialect through which the 
foreign idea could translate itself to Chinese compre- 
hension, no medium by which Chinese political concep- 
tions could be made intelligible to the foreigner. When 


Gordon could not get his meaning filtered through 
an interpreter, he called for a dictionary and put his 
finger on the word "idiotcy" — and the most orthodox 
interpreting could not get much beyond this point 
in establishing a common currency for the interchange 
of national ideas. The initial difficulty in imposing 
foreign forms, foreign terms, foreign procedure — of 
revolutionising at a stroke a system of administration 
petrified by ancient usage — would have existed even 
if the statesmen of China had been sincere converts to 
the innovation. The contrary was, of course, the case : 
they were as much opposed to the new relations as 
they had been to the military invasion itself No 
help, therefore, was to be expected from the Chinese 
side in creating a workable scheme of international 
intercourse. They desired nothing of that kind, their 
ambition soaring no higher than the creation of a 
buffer against which external impulsion might ex- 
pend its force. That buffer was the Tsungli-Yamen. 
Foreign diplomacy, therefore, if it were to subsist at 
all, must subsist on its own resources, the foundation 
of which was force. The force that brought foreigners 
to Peking must, either in esse or in posse, for an 
indefinite time keep them there and render them 
efficient. Force no doubt would have enabled the 
foreign Ministers to bring about even those structural 
changes in the Chinese system which were necessary 
to clear the ground for the operation of their diplomacy. 
But if there was one thing more than another of which 
Western Governments were determined to convince 
themselves, it was that the law of force was finally 
abrogated in China ; that on a certain day at a certain 
hour, coincident with the signing (by force) of a sheet 

400 INFLUENCE OF THESE EVENTS. [chap, xviii. 

of paper, the spirit of hostility had departed from the 
Chinese mind ; and that the law of love and reason 
was, without preamble, to take the place of that 
which had brought about the new relations. Whether 
believed in or not, this curious paradox was to be the 
rule of all future action. 

The game that opens with the " king " off the board, 
and is afterwards continued with the " queen " pro- 
tected, is an obviously impossible one. The foreign 
Ministers had to do with a Government of irresponsi- 
bility, and instead of teaching its members from the 
outset to recognise their new obligations — training 
them as children, which as regards foreign matters 
they really were — the foreign Ministers began by 
treating the Chinese Government rather as an infant 
too delicate for discipline, with the familiar results 
of such treatment. The diplomats betrayed so much 
anxiety to lure the sovereign back to his palace, that' 
the Chinese Ministers soon learned to exploit this 
feeling for their own ends. That such and such a 
concession " would have a good effect at J^ho " was 
inducement enough to the foreign representatives to 
waive one point after another in the transaction of 
public business. When the emperor died, after six 
months of this regime of indulgence, the position was 
changed materially for the worse, — for the diplomats 
had now a veritable infant on their hands, with a 
female regent " behind the curtain." No prospect 
thenceforth of even the initial formality of delivering 
letters of credence until the child should grow up, 
by which time many things might happen. Thus the 
European scheme of diplomacy, which was to have 
been imposed bodily on the Court of Peking, stumbled 


heavily on the threshold, and never recovered Itself. 
But the Chinese recovered. Their fear of the " fierce 
barbarians " disappeared as they saw them throw away 
their weapons, and the process was resumed by which 
the fruits of the war and of the treaties of peace were 
gradually nibbled away. 

And of course the whole idea of coercing the Im- 
perial Government, even had it ever been entertained, 
was openly reduced to nullity when the foreign Powers 
interfered for the suppression of the rebellion. The 
Allies could not knock down with one hand what 
they were propping up with the other, and thus 
the Imperial Government not only enjoyed immunity, 
but knew that they possessed it, — that their late con- 
querors were now fully committed to the upholding 
of the integrity of China and the maintenance of the 
dynasty. Any liberties might consequently be taken : 
remonstrances from the foreigfners would be loud in 
proportion to their hollowness, but the barbarians 
could not attack a citadel full of their own hostages. 

Although remoteness from the scene of action and 
imperfect acquaintance with local requirements were 
apt to invalidate his conclusions on points of detail, 
and to compel him occasionally to follow^ where he 
might have been expected to guide the action of 
his subordinate executive, yet whenever Sir Frederick 
Bruce delivered his mind on the position of China 
and her foreign relations as a whole, his views were 
large, luminous, and statesmanlike. He foresaw from 
the first what the degradation of the Chinese Gov- 
ernment must inevitably lead to. His outlook is re- 
vealed in a brief sentence in one of his earlier de- 
spatches : "The weakness of China rather than her 

VOL. I. 2 c 

402 INFLUENCE OF THESE EVENTS. [chap, xviii. 

strength is likely to create a fresh Eastern question 
in these seas." There need be little doubt that that 
idea dominated his Chinese diplomacy. Severity, or 
even strictness, may well have seemed on the face 
of the matter inconsistent with the pious wish to 
strengthen China, yet we now know that what she 
then most needed was to be braced up to the fulfil- 
ment of her obligations as a necessity of her own 

The field of diplomacy in the orthodox sense being 
closed, and there being no foreign interests in Peking, 
the subject-matter for the Ministers' activity was fur- 
nished entirely from the trading-ports. Of these there 
were fifteen open in 1861. The kind of questions 
which arose may be generally defined as claims arising 
out of breaches of treaty by provincial ofiicials, for 
which redress was sought from the Central Govern- 
ment. This was a reversal of Chinese methods, which, 
even had the Government been well disposed, would 
not have been easy to effect ; and as the Government 
was hostile, difiiculty became impossibility. The Brit- 
ish Minister after a year's trial began to realise the 
magnitude of his Sisyphean task. "In a country 
like China," he wrote to the Foreign Ofiice in July 
1862, "where the principles of administration differ 
entirely from those practised by us, the conclusion 
of a treaty is the commencement, not the termination, 
of difficulties." 

To a consul he wrote at the same time : "The 
important result to be gained by the establishment 
of direct relations with the Government of Peking 
is the avoidance of local acts of violence. . . . Time 
will elapse before the new system will work smoothly 

1861-65.] HIS "IDEAL POLICY." 403 

and efficiently, . . . but you must not go beyond 
pacific efforts to remedy the abuses complained of." 
A few months later, in a general circular to consuls, 
he thus carefully recapitulated the instruction : — 

The object to be attained is that of forcing the local officials 
to observe the treaty . . . through the pressure brought to 
bear upon them by the Peking Government, and thus escape 
from the false position in which we have hitherto been placed 
of coercing the local authorities and people, and thus doing the 
work of the Imperial Government. To initiate this new 
system of relations is a task which can only be effected 
gradually and patiently; but the attempt must be steadily 
and perseveringly made, in order that the Chinese Government 
may be forced to teach its people, &c. 

And at the same time he summed up the situation to 
the Foreign Office in these words : " Our relations with 
China cannot be put upon a safe footing until the 
Imperial Government itself compels its local officers 
to observe treaties" — a matter in which the Central 
Government itself most needed compulsion ! 

But all this about "forcing" the local officials and 
"forcing" the Imperial Government, without using any 
force, recalls the ancient Chinese maxim of " ruling 
barbarians by misrule." The world rested securely 
enough on the tortoise, but what did the tortoise itself 
rest on? With grim satisfaction must the Chinese 
Ministers have watched the foreigners entering on a 
desert campaign where they would exhaust their 
strength without reaching the enemy. The warnings 
and threats which alone the Minister allowed himself 
to use to enforce his demands or his admonitions, as 
the case might be, were to the Chinese mere blank 
cartridge. Prince Kung, replying to one of those 

404 INFLUENCE OF THESE EVENTS. [chap, xviil. 

minatory despatches, " imagines that his Excellency 
uses this outspoken language for the purpose of 
stimulating the Chinese Government to activity. His 
Highness is sure that it is not his Excellency's desire 
to act in the manner indicated." And so on in- 
definitely. The impression made on the Chinese 
Government by the force of foreign diplomacy was 
likened by an American Minister twenty years after- 
wards to " boxing a feather-bed." The policy above 
described, inaugurated by Mr Bruce and followed 
consistently by the British Government, was pithily 
termed by Lord Salisbury, when in Opposition, as an 
" ideal policy " in pursuit of which the concrete inter- 
ests of the country were allowed to lapse. 

It would be tedious to trace in detail the process of 
disintegration of treaty rights which followed these 
interesting overtures. It will be more to the purpose 
to cite the British Minister s review of the results 
twelve months later in a despatch to Prince Kung. 
This despatch and the reply to it were deemed so 
important at the time that they were separately called 
for by the House of Commons, and were published as 
independent Blue Books (Nos. 6 and 8, 1864) : — 

Sir Frederick Bruce wished the Prince of Kung to under- 
stand that he had reason to be greatly dissatisfied 

1. With the general disregard of treaty provisions mani- 

fested at the ports. 

2. With the tone of the Government generally towards 


It is entirely due to the exertions of the Allied forces that 
Shanghai and Ningpo are not now in rebel possession. Had 
Shanghai fallen, the imperial authority would have received a 
blow from which it could never have recovered. 

Sir F. Bruce did not look for any extraordinary demon- 


stration of gratitude for these services, but he had hoped that 
the Central Government would at least have insisted on the 
faithful observance of the treaty at the ports. He had hoped 
also that it would have addressed itself with some increase of 
vigour to the organisation of a competent executive. 

These expectations have not been realised. At several of 
the ports the treaty is daily broken in matters great and small ; 
and the Central Government, if not unwilling, shows itself 
unable to enforce a better order of things. The orders sent 
by the Foreign Board, when Sir Frederick Bruce complains, 
are not carried out, either because the local authorities do not 
stand in awe of the Foreign Board or because they do not 
believe the Foreign Board issues them in earnest. 

The Foreign Board has gone through the form of issuing 
instructions, but the causes of complaint remain as they were, 
either because the local authorities do not fear or because the 
Foreign Board does not care. Seeing that none of the author- 
ities complained of have been punished or removed, that officials 
notoriously hostile to foreigners have been appointed to places 
in which they have increased opportunity of indulging in their 
anti-foreign tendencies, while officials of friendly disposition 
have been withdrawn, Sir Frederick Bruce is induced, how- 
ever reluctantly, to infer that if the Imperial Government be 
not adverse to friendly intercourse, it is, at all events, indis- 
posed to do what is necessary to teach the people and local 
authorities that China is sincerely desirous of friendly relations 
with foreign Powers. 

It is for the Chinese Government to consider whether it will 
listen to these warnings, &c. 

Prince Kung's Reply, l^th June 1863. 

With reference to the proposition on which the British 
Minister's note insists, that the treaty should rank with the 
law, the Prince has to observe that the principle that the 
treaty is identical with the laws of the Imperial Government, 
and that breach of treaty is the same thing as violation of the 
law, is the principle on which the Government of China pro- 
ceeds, and its only desire is that foreign nations should regard 
the treaty in the same light. 

As regards the cases still undetermined in the provinces, 

406 INFLUENCE OF THESE EVENTS. [chap, xviii. 

the Prince hopes that the British Minister will refer to the 
record and inform him, case by case, of the particulars of each, 
and the Yamen will at once write to the Provincial Govern- 
ments concerned to hurry them with the cases enumerated. . . . 

Sir Frederick Bi^lccs Ueyly, July 2, 1863. 

Your Imperial Highness states in explicit terms that the 
Government of China recognises the treaties as the law of the 
empire in its relations with foreigners, and that breaches of 
treaty are considered violations of those laws. But the 
despatch of your Imperial Highness contains nothing to show 
that this principle will be carried out in practice. I stated 
instances in which the authorities, in spite of the remonstrances 
of her Majesty's consul, had deliberately set aside the letter 
of the treaty for no other object than to curtail the privileges 
of her Majesty's subjects. Your Imperial Highness in your 
reply does not allude to these cases, nor do you inform me that 
any steps have been taken to remedy these grievances or to 
prevent a repetition of such conduct. I am simply requested 
to send in a list of the grievances complained of ; and I am 
informed that the local authorities will be urged to settle them 
with speed. Such a proposal is entirely unsatisfactory ; for 
what reason have I to suppose that the instructions now to 
be sent by your Imperial Highness will be attended to, when 
I see that the orders which I am assured were given by your 
Imperial Highness for the redress of outrages such as . . . 
have been disobeyed ? 

In these State Papers the relations present and 
prospective between China and the outer world are 
accurately represented. Putting aside local and tem- 
porary questions, the despatches might be dated 1873, 
1883, or 1893, for the position remained substantially 
the same during the three decades. 

The attitude of the British Minister we see to be 
one of hopeless pleading and vague admonition ; of the 
Chinese Ministers, elastic resistance. One wonders 
how far, under the mask of dull decorum, the Chinese 

1861-65.] "co-operative" POLICY. 407 

entered into the real humour of the situation : for- 
eigners chafing impotently, but with their teeth drawn, 
occupying themselves largely with the preservation 
of China and the dynasty ; urging reforms, military, 
financial, and administrative, while putting up with 
the non-fulfilment of the commonest obligations. 

Sir F. Bruce was much too wise a man not to be 
perfectly conscious of the negative result of foreign 
diplomacy in Peking. His private letters, some of 
which were published by Mr Lay in 1864, are more 
emphatic on the point than his public despatches. He 
saw it was a case for desperate remedies, but unfortun- 
ately he had no remedy except such as aggravated 
the disease. Like a drowning man. Sir Frederick 
Bruce clutched at one straw, then another — first at 
the inspectorate of customs, then at the collective body 
of his colleagues — to redress the balance which lay so 
heavily against him. We see in the despatch of June 
12, 1863, the inception of what became known as the 
" co-operative policy." That was an arrangement by 
which the cause of one foreigner was to be made the 
cause of all, so that the treaty Powers might present 
a solid front to the Chinese. Unfortunately such a 
policy bears no fruit, since half-a-dozen Powers with 
separate interests, and of varying tempers, can only 
unite in doing nothing. The co - operative policy, 
therefore, by tying the hands of all the Powers, ren- 
dered the Chinese more secure than ever from outside 

From Sir Frederick Bruce's despatches it may be 
gathered that the reason for the non- success of the 
Peking diplomacy was, that it was not founded on fact. 
It assumed that the Government of China was cen- 

408 INFLUENCE OF THESE EVENTS. [chap, xviii. 

tralised instead of decentralised ; that the administra- 
tion of the empire hinged on the initiative of Peking, 
from which distant point the resident Ministers could 
protect their respective national interests throughout 
the empire. This hypothesis, which might have 
graced an academic debate, was acted upon as if it 
was a reality, and the struggle to make it so has 
absorbed the resources of diplomacy for forty years. 
The real fact, however, was quite otherwise. The 
distinctive character of Chinese Government is, not 
autocracy, but democracy and provincial autonomy. 
The springs of action work from below, not from 
above, and to reverse this order of the ages was to 
convert a court of appeal into a court of first instance : 
to sue for a tradesman's debt before the Lord Chan- 
cellor, requiring the legal machinery to be first turned 
upside down. Diplomacy in China has thus been a 
disheartening effort to drive in a wedge by its thick 
end without adequate leverage. It is possible, indeed, 
that force might have accomplished even as much as 
that, but force was the one thing the use of which 
was proscribed. 

The redress of grievances being sought not where 
it could have been exacted, at the point affected, but 
in the capital, the Central Government was called on 
to exercise over the provincial officials a kind of con- 
trol which had never been exercised before. The 
provincial officials, relieved from the local pressure 
which they respected, easily evaded the novel and 
unconstitutional interference of the capital, and vio- 
lated the treaties with an impunity unknown in the 
days before the admission of the foreign Ministers 
to Peking. The treaties, no doubt, had become the 

1861-65.] FAILUEE OF DIPLOMACY. 409 

**law of the land" so far as a mere barbarian phrase 
could make them so, but a full - grown tree of 
Western legality could not so easily transplant itself 
to an alien and refractory soil. The argument from 
legality appealed, therefore, to the ear only. The 
practical conclusion to which Sir Frederick Bruce was 
led is very simply stated in two paragraphs of his 
letters to Prince Kung : " My object has been to seek 
redress through the Imperial Government, and to do 
away with the necessity of seeking redress by forcible 
demonstrations at the ports. But it is evident that 
the reluctance of your Imperial Highness to enter 
frankly into this policy renders my efforts ineffectual." 
*' Either the Imperial Government is unwilling to use 
its influence to cause the treaties to be fairly carried 
out, or it has not the power to cause its orders to be 
obeyed." Sir Frederick would have hit still nearer 
the mark if he had omitted the " either," "or," and said 
simply the Imperial Government was hoth unwilling 
and unable. 

Notwithstanding these definite views, the experi- 
ment of forcing a centralisation which would have 
been a revolution on the unintelligible Government 
of China had to be continued through many weary 
years that were to follow, during which time the rights 
conferred by treaty on foreigners fell more and more 
into abeyance. 

The progress in that direction made in the two first 
years is thus summarised by Mr H. N. Lay, the first 
Inspector-General of Customs, on his return to China 
in 1863 :— 

When I left China the emperor's Government, under the 
pressure of necessity, and with the beneficial terror established 

410 INFLUENCE OF THESE EVENTS. [chap, xvili. 

by the Allied foray to Peking in 1860 fresh in their recol- 
lection, was in the best of moods, willing to be guided, grateful 
for help, and in return for that help prepared to do what was 
right by the foreigner. What did I find on my return ? The 
face of things was entirely changed. There was the old in- 
solent demeanour, the nonsensical language of exclusion, the 
open mockery of all treaties. ... In short, all the ground 
gained by the treaty of 1858 had been frittered away, and we 
were thrust back into the position we occupied before the war, 
— one of helpless remonstrance and impotent menace; . . . 
the labour of years lost through egregious mismanagement. 
The Foreign Board looked upon our European representatives 
as so many rois faineants. . . . Prince Kung was no longer 
accessible. ... He professed to be engaged with more im- 
portant matters. 


19, 1849. 

Section I. 

The lesson of the past is very legibly written in the history 
of our relations, — oppression in the Chinese, increased by sub- 
mission in the English. Eesistance of the latter followed by 
concession in the former may be read in every stage, and the 
influence of the late war, beyond the tangible effects embodied 
in the provisions of the treaties, has been limited very much 
to outward forms : there is reason to suspect that the policy of 
the Chinese has been masked, not changed. 

The same arrogant and hostile spirit exists, and their policy 
is still to degrade foreigners in the eyes of the people, and to 
offer every obstacle which may with safety be interposed to any 
extended intercourse, — objects which they seek to carry out by 
various covert and indirect means. In this sense the letter of 
the treaty is often quoted, but any large interpretation can only 
be secured under a moral compulsion, as the least objectionable 
alternative. This may not, perhaps, be wholly owing to bad 
faith, for distrust and fear of foreigners probably influences the 
result. Hence all the principal advantages enjoyed under the 
treaty are only held by a species of personal tenure of pre- 
carious character, and a consul at one of the ports may lose 
more in a week than her Majesty's Government may find it 
easy to recover with costly and embarrassing efforts in a year. 
Our present relations consist in a never-ceasing struggle, under 
veiled appearances of amity ; and the treaty extorted by force 
is generally sought to be eluded by cunning. They have no 
objection to the foreign trade as one of the elements of their 


own prosperity, though they much underrate its importance ; 
but to make it wholly acceptable [to them], the former humili- 
ating conditions are wanting. 

The whole effort of the Chinese rulers seems to be limited to 
preserving peace as the first object, and, so far as may be 
compatible with this, to assimilate our present to our ancient 
position as the second. 

From the general bearing of our relations in connection with 
the past and the future, the nature and extent of the dis- 
advantages under which we labour may be easily deduced : — 

1. Local insecurity to person and property at Canton. 

2. Want of access to the first markets and of the means of 

pushing and verifying the consumption of our manu- 
factures in the interior. 

3. Ill-adjusted rates of duty on several important articles. 

4. Want of reciprocity and equality in our political relations, 

and a certain inferiority in our position social and 

By the first we are menaced with perpetual danger of fatal 
collision and interruption to our commerce, while our general 
position is at the same time prejudiced. By the second we are 
deprived of any large market for our goods, and pay dearer for 
native produce. By the third the Straits, Indian, and the 
native carrying trade are all impeded in their growth and 
dwarfed in their proportions ; and by the fourth insuperable 
difficulties in remedying abuses or amending our relations are 
encountered, our only means of action being upon Canton and 
its governor, acting as an imperial commissioner. 

The full and rapid development of our commerce, a new and 
profitable field for our manufactures, and a better guarantee for 
the maintenance of our friendly relations, are the chief ad- 
vantages to be sought in the removal of these disabilities. 

The practicability of maintaining our relations on their 
present unsatisfactory footing in the south must be very 
doubtful, nor is there much hope that any of the essential 
advantages above specified may be gained incidentally in the 
natural progress of time, and still less that the grounds of 
alarm should of themselves disappear. The causes of all that 
is bad in our position spring from too deep a source, and may 
be traced too far back, to admit of any such hope : a rooted 
conviction in the minds of a whole population, derived from 


traditional knowledge of the humiliating and derogatory posi- 
tion voluntarily accepted by foreigners, cannot be effaced by a 
treaty, or even a short successful war which passed over the 
city that was the offending cause almost harmless. How far it 
may be possible to convert popular contempt and dislike into 
respect and fear, we cannot judge from experience : hitherto, in 
the steps taken to that end, either too much or too little has 
been attempted. 

There are practical difficulties of a peculiar and altogether 
local character [it is obvious] to any immediate amelioration of 
our position at Canton which do not exist elsewhere. Setting 
aside these considerations, it will be found that all that is most 
valuable and important in the advantages to be desired are of 
a nature to be granted by the sole exercise of the emperor's 
will : greater freedom of access, the modification of half-a-dozen 
items in the tariff, even the exchange of envoys between the 
two Courts, if this were deemed expedient, are all matters to 
be decided by a stroke of the vermilion pencil. No hostile 
populations interpose a practical negative to concessions such 
as these. The grounds upon which we may claim the revisal 
of some of the provisions of existing treaties are derived from 
the well-established conditions of all permanent relations of a 
friendly and commercial character between sovereign States in 
the civilised world. 

We may claim of right a modification of the basis of our 
relations on the injury resulting to our interests from the bad 
faith or impuissance (it matters little which) of the Chinese 
Government in giving execution to the treaties in force. We 
may insist upon prejudicial limits being abolished, since they 
have plainly failed in their ostensible object to secure freedom 
from molestation or injury which was the condition of their 

If it be the traditional policy of the Tartar dynasty to keep 
foreigners at the outer confines of the empire and in a de- 
grading position, it may with better justice be the policy of 
Great Britain to obtain a direct action upon their centre, and 
freedom from idle and vexatious restrictions. The right of a 
nation to interdict intercourse and commerce, and therefore to 
determine upon what conditions it shall exist, is but an im- 
perfect right, and subject to such modifications as the rights of 
other nations to the use of innocent objects of utility dictate i 


and the refusal of a common right is an abuse of the sovereign 
power, and an injury to be resisted. 

China, however disposed its rulers may be to deny the fact, 
is one of a community of nations with common rights and 
obligations, and any claim to exemption from the recognised 
terms of national intercourse is inadmissible in the interest of 
all other countries. To admit such a right of exemption would 
be to allow the arrogated superiority in power and civilisation, 
and to pamper the hostile conceit of her people. 

So long as the sovereign States of Europe will permit so 
obvious an inference it cannot be matter of surprise, and 
scarcely subject of reproach, to the Chinese, that they should 
be so ready to assert and so pertinacious in acting upon it. 

But even if exclusion from the territories, from all trade and in- 
tercourse, were an absolute right in the first instance, the Chinese 
have forfeited all claim to its exercise — first, by voluntarily 
entering into relations political and commercial in ages past with 
other States and people, by exchange of embassies, by opening 
their ports and territories and encouraging trade ; and secondly, 
by aggressive wars and invasion of the territory of Europe by 
the Tartar and Mongolian races who have ruled the country. 

China preserves her undoubted right of self-preservation as 
a political society and an empire, but this does not involve the 
incidental right of interdicting intercourse, because her own 
history shows that danger does not necessarily follow unlimited 
access, since as late as the seventeenth century such free com- 
munication existed with foreigners ; and secondly, because the 
right of decision must be shared by the interdicted party. 

Section II. 

It is not enough, however, to determine the abstract prin- 
ciples upon which a policy may be founded — that which is just 
may not always be most expedient, and if both the one and the 
other, it may not be practicable. 

The chief difficulties to be encountered in any attempt to 
place our relations on an improved basis may be traced to three 
principal sources : — 

The Canton popular traditions and hostility. 

The treaties in force. 

The contraband trade in opium. 


The characteristic features of our position at Canton and 
their origin are too well known to require illustration. To our 
political relations before the war, and the humble and in every- 
way derogatory attitude assumed towards the Chinese, is clearly 
to be traced their present insolence, assumed superiority, and 
hostility on finding it questioned. 

The principle of narrow boundaries and restricted limits 
confirmed by the Treaty of Nanking virtually sanctioned the 
tradition of the past, which no mere verbal assertion of equality 
thus practically contradicted can modify. The repudiation of 
this principle and the establishment of a different footing seem 
to be essential to our political equality, which would form the 
best foundation of an improved social and commercial position, 
most especially in the south. Were our chief political relations 
with the Chinese Government not centred at Canton, it is very 
evident that that port would lose much of the importance 
which now attaches to the sayings and doings of its turbulent 
mob and impracticable authorities. Were the centre of our 
political action anywhere else, the local difficulties, troublesome 
as they are, must soon merge into comparative insignificance, 
and such a measure as this would seem an easier task to 
accomplish than to change the habits and the prejudices of a 
whole population. 

If we turn from Canton and its unsatisfactory history of 
oriental insolence and presumption on the one side, and undue 
submission to their exigencies on the other, and consider the 
exemption from all such characteristics at Shanghai, the respec- 
tive infiuences of the treaties and of local circumstances may be 
deduced by a comparison of the two chief ports. 

The various concurring circumstances terminating in the 
Tsingpu outrage, which threatened to approximate the position 
of the British at Shanghai to that occupied at Canton, have 
been detailed in the correspondence of the period. The position 
was seriously affected by the comparative immunity of whole 
villages participating in the murders at Canton in the previous 
year, by the atrocious features of the crime itself, and by the 
assumed necessity of the consul's inaction pending a reference 
to her Majesty's plenipotentiary, occupying several weeks. 

Prompt redress was imperiously demanded by the interests 
at stake and the sinister aspect of affairs, and to enforce this 
coercive means were employed, leaving nothing to be desired. 


The most important of the results obtained was the demon- 
stration of a power to shift the centre of action from a port 
where no progress could be made to a vulnerable point nearer 
to Peking where immediate attention could be commanded, and 
this was supplied by the mission to Nanking. 

From these two circumstances — the serious deterioration of 
our position, and the prompt and efficacious remedy provided — 
an important conclusion may be drawn as to our means of 
effecting any required change in our relations. 

In an empire vast in area as China, with an overflowing 
population, it is no slight advantage to be enabled, without 
a single battle, to invest and vigorously blockade the capital ; 
and this it is in our power to effect by a small squadron at 
the mouth of the Grand Canal in the early spring, when Peking 
is dependent for its supplies for the year on the arrival of the 
grain and tribute junks by that channel. A more effective 
means of coercion this than the destruction of twenty cities 
on the confines of the Chinese territory or on the coast. With 
a starving Court and population around him, flight or concession 
appears to be the emperor's only alternatives. 

The facility and the certainty with which this object may 
be attained are important considerations. The insurmountable 
obstacles to the advance of a European army into the interior 
are rendered nugatory and altogether unimportant by the know- 
ledge of this highroad to the heart of the empire. 

The maintenance of our present relations is probably in no 
slight degree due to the secret consciousness of their weakness 
at this point. 

In any future policy that may be adopted, therefore, these 
facts and views are calculated to supersede the necessity for 
active hostilities, and must tend to avert from a peaceful and 
industrious population all the worst calamities of war, at the 
same time that they free her Majesty's Government from the 
embarrassment of a costly and protracted war in prospectu. 

A simple and ready resource for commanding attention to 
any just demands is indeed invaluable in China, and without it 
there is every reason to believe the Chinese rulers would still 
be the most impracticable of Orientals. With such a power, no 
insuperable obstacles exist to the satisfactory solution of diffi- 
culties without either costly effort or interruption to the trade 
of the five ports ; and it was the long-matured conviction of our 


powerful action, by means of a command over the necessary 
supplies for Peking, that dictated the course followed in the 
Tsingpu affair. 

The Chinese view of the opium trade and our agency in it 
forms perhaps the chief obstacle to our taking that high ground 
with the rulers, and good position with the people, which the 
extension of our commercial interests demands. Let us look, 
then, to this opium traffic and the influence it actually exercises 
upon our position in China. 

It is no question here whether opium should be classed in 
the category of medicines, stimuli, or fatal poisons ; the Chinese 
have decided that for themselves, and regard it only as a poison, 
and the British as the great producers, carriers, and sellers of 
the drug, to our own great profit and their undoubted im- 
poverishment and ruin. Nor does their conviction end here : 
they believe to maintain this traffic we made war and dictated 
a humiliating peace, and that we are prepared to do so again, if 
they ventured on any interference to its prejudice. 

These opinions may be false or true in their foundation, that 
is not the question, but. What is the influence they are cal- 
culated to exercise ? Hostility and distrust can alone be 
traced to this source. No other feelings flow from it, and the 
consequences will meet us at every turn of our negotiations, in 
our daily intercourse, and every changing phase of our relations. 
As it overshadows with a sinister influence the whole field of 
our political action, so must it be seriously taken into account 
and calculated upon as an adverse element in all we attempt in 

Accepted as un fait accompli, the best means of neutralising 
and counteracting its bad effects are alone to be considered, 
since the enormous capital, large revenue, and inseparable con- 
nection of our legitimate trade with opium, as a means of laying 
down funds in China, involved in the traffic, precludes all idea 
of its cessation or removal. 

The effective protection lent to the chief opium-dealers, in 
their capacity of British merchants, resident at the ports under 
the provisions of the treaty, and the manifest inability of the 
Chinese either to bring the legal proof we should require against 
these principals, or of attacking by force their agents in the 
glaring infraction of the Chinese laws, at the opium stations, 
no doubt flings an air of insincerity over all our protestations 

VOL. I. 2d 


of non-intervention, while there is mockery in the invitation 
to assail large fleets of heavily-armed European vessels. Even 
if the Chinese for a single moment believed in the honesty 
of our declarations, they know the utter futility of any means 
of attack they possess against such superior force as the opium 
fleets present. This is the view taken by the Chinese, who, 
though they do not confess their own weakness, do not disguise 
or deny it to themselves. 

The obstacles which these opinions create and fling in our 
path whenever advantages are sought at the hands of the 
Chinese in furtherance of our national interests are to be 
overcome before any progress can be made. There are three 
modes of dealing with them : — 

1. By arguments to prove the fallacy of their assumption 
that we were either the original cause of this traffic, or have 
now tlie power to put an end to it, or finally, that it is an 
unmixed evil. 

2. By a modification in the demands we should, without this 
consideration, be entitled to insist upon. 

3. By a mixture of kindness and decision, of instruction and 
intimidation, and, in last resort, by coercion for the attainment 
of all just and necessary concessions. 

And as we should naturally begin with the first, and may 
eventually find ourselves compelled to resort to the last, so 
no doubt it will be expedient many times to combine all the 
different methods of overcoming the active or inert resistance 
we encounter in the Chinese rulers. 

As to any remedy to be applied to the evils of the opium 
trade, tliere seems to be none open to either Government but 
its legalisation, which would strip it of its contraband character, 
and remove from the emperor the open reproach to his autho- 
rity, while it might be made to yield a large revenue to his 

If on a question of national policy or morality, this measure, 
as the lesser of two evils, is declined, there seems to be no help 
for the mischief which must accrue to us from being the chief 
agents in the traffic. But it is useless to disguise from our- 
selves the injurious influence it will unfailingly exercise upon 
our political action, when any rights on our part are weighed, 
and it is this which may entail the necessity of our flinging 
the weight of the sword into the opposite scale — sheathed 


it may be, but not the less significant and compulsory in 
its effect. 

The opium grief and the Canton hostility thus work together 
and dovetail into each other to our manifest prejudice, that 
port continuing to enjoy its old privilege of being the great 
exponent and centre of both. There we meet in their least 
veiled form the national adverseness to foreigners concentrated 
and localised — the conviction of injury and loss at our hands 
from opium, heightened into asperity and bitterness by the 
arrogance of their tempers and the consciousness of their 

In no other port does it seem likely the same overt expres- 
sion and concentration of adverse feelings will ever be experi- 
enced. It would appear the more important, therefore, to modify 
the virulent form they assume at Canton, and remove the bad 
precedent and example incessantly furnished by the Cantonese. 

The entrance into the city is obviously a question of prin- 
ciple, not of any direct practical advantage in a commercial 
sense. The freedom from annoyance, and security to property, 
are more truly so, and of these two the latter, by far the most 
essential and important to our interests, seems only to require 
more storage room for goods, away from a dense Chinese suburb 
which renders insurance from risk of fire impossible, and entails 
upon our merchants all the additional danger of fraud in the 
Chinese warehouse-keepers, who are of necessity the custodians 
of our goods. 

We cannot hope that any effort of ours or of the emperor 
will suffice to change at once the character and habits of a 
people, or even of the population of a city. But the last war 
has shown that with us it rests to bring at any time the preten- 
sions of the Chinese rulers down to a nearer level with their 
military power ; and if they cannot from inherent weakness do 
all that may be desirable, neither are they in a position to refuse 
any concession, clearly at their option to grant, and such are 
these which it would seem most important to Great Britain to 
secure : the nature of our demands and the circumstances under 
which they shall be preferred are considerations of policy and 
expediency. But the real question, and by far the most im- 
portant, it will be obvious, is rather what it may be wise to 
demand, than what it may be possible to obtain. The danger 
of collision between the rival civilisations of the East and West 


has long been foreseen, instinctively felt by the Chinese, and 
more clearly discerned by Europeans in the result of the late 
war ; and the larger commercial interests growing up under, and 
in spite of, the present system of restrictions, has only tended, 
by partially extending the points of contact without placing our 
relations on a plain basis of reciprocity and equality, to increase 
the chances. It can only be hoped that the gradual introduc- 
tion of European arts and ideas and their fructification may in 
some degree fuse and harmonise the discordant elements before 
the course of events which otherwise tend to precipitate a 
violent and disastrous collision are beyond our control. To 
such a peaceful and beneficial termination of the difficulties 
which unavoidably beset our relations with China, the efforts of 
all Western Powers should in the common interest be directed. 

These considerations must act as the most powerful checks to 
any initiative measures of a large and comprehensive character 
for the improvement of our position and the more rapid develop- 
ment of our commerce. 

In this point of view the two greatest obstacles to any 
advance are the large commercial interests and national revenue 
at stake, and the danger of being followed by the envoys of 
other foreign Powers who, having no such great interests to 
jeopardise, are without this beneficial and most needful check, 
and may therefore be induced to repeat at a semi- barbarian 
Court the intrigues and counter-projects for the destruction of 
our influence and the injury of our trade in the East which are 
at work in our own times in every capital in Europe, as formerly 
in India and the Eastern Archipelago. 

Eussia, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, and America, with 
their several jealousies and united rivalry with England, their 
missionary enterprises or commercial and political schemes 
clashing in their aim and development, are all capable of 
creating such turmoil, strife, and disturbance throughout the 
empire, if free access to the Court and the provinces were 
insisted upon by Great Britain, as could only end in the ejection 
of Europeans from China as formerly from Japan, or an intestine 
war in which European power would probably be involved on 
opposite sides, and to their mutual destruction as States with 
commercial interests in the country. These, again, might lead 
to attempts at territorial possession, suggested in the first in- 
stance, as in India, in self-defence, and afterwards continued 


from necessity. With Russia spreading her gigantic arms to 
the north and east, Great Britain on the south and west, Spain, 
Holland, and Portugal with their colonies in the Chinese and 
Indian seas, a struggle for superiority on the soil of China for 
exclusive advantages or predominant influence might be centred 
in Peking and embroil the whole of Europe in hostile relations. 
The same objection applies to all efforts to enlarge our inter- 
course and remove limitations, and has ever prevailed. It was 
recognised as an objection to the last war. The course of events 
urged on by the opium trade left but little alternative at the 
last, or there can be no doubt, with the additional fear of the 
uncertain result of a struggle with a vast empire like China, 
the resources of which were so imperfectly known, the British 
Government would have been deterred from any onward step, as 
these motives did in effect prevent any hostile aggression, so long 
as it was possible to avoid it, without the sacrifice of our trade. 
The war over, it again prevailed, and we are once more in 
a position to accept as final the increased but limited advan- 
tages resulting, or to try for more, and by our policy to avert 
or provoke disturbing causes which must lead to change. The 
moderation which marked, and the policy which dictated, our 
treaties carried us back to the old ground of a nation trading 
by sufferance, under limitations and restrictions which kept 
us at the boundaries of the empire, and with us the rest of 
the Western world, the only difference being enlarged facilities 
and better guarantees for the pursuit of trade on the coast-line, 
and within the restricted limits of the five ports selected. It 
is now for the British Government to determine whether we 
should rest content with the revenue derived from an import 
of some 60 million lb. of tea and the export from India of 
40,000 chests of opium, netting together some 7 millions 
sterling to the British and Indian Government, together with 
the incidental advantage of the raw produce of silk, promising 
to render us independent of Europe and the adjoining markets 
for the supply of this staple of an important branch of our 
manufactures at a cheaper rate, and the market for Indian 
cotton, the circumstances which lend to China nearly all its 
importance ; or take measures, not free from danger and 
difficulty, of great prospective magnitude, both in a political 
and commercial sense, to make China a great market for our 
manufactures also. At present the Chinese take considerably 


less than 2 millions sterling in annual value out of an aggregate 
production of sorae 70 millions. In this respect they are of 
less importance to us as customers than the West India colonies, 
the Italian States and islands, or one of the larger European 
States, so small a fraction do they absorb. The prospect that 
would urge us on should be the hope of seeing China take 
of our manufactures as large a share as all Europe, and instead 
of a couple of millions, create a demand for more than twenty. 
The produce of tea and silk we have, the market for opium 
and Indian cotton is ours. We want an equally large and 
beneficial market for our manufactures — our cotton fabrics, 
woollens, linen, and cutlery, for which our powers of production 
are all but unlimited. 

Two questions suggest themselves, therefore, on the solution 
of which the decision should depend, it being assumed as 
unquestioned that something of risk and danger to that which 
we have must attend all effective efforts to win that which 
is as yet wanting. 

To the first four great commercial objects involved in our 
relations with China, as above specified, shall we sacrifice the 

Or shall we peril all for the attainment of the fifth, by the 
endeavour to create a market for our manufactures which at 
present exists only in its rudiments, and to a small fractional 
value ? 

If the extreme exiguity of the market for manufactures be 
not held to justify the voluntary incurrence of great risk or 
danger to our tea, silk, opium, and raw cotton trade, which 
form the great bulk of our commerce as it exists at the present 
day, British and Indian, it will only remain to be determined 
what are the various secondary means at our disposal for the 
improvement of this fifth or manufacturing branch as the 
primary object, and their respective chances of success on the 
one hand and dangers attending their adoption on the other. 
For the dangers, it must be well understood, are of two kinds 
— those attending failure, and those which may be consequent 
upon, and the ulterior results of, success in the first instance. 

It being borne in mind that whatever we ask and obtain 
will be claimed and enjoyed by others, it is necessary to 
consider to what use they are liable to be turned by foreign 
Powers over whom we can exercise no control, and whose 


interests or national jealousies may clearly be adverse to our 
position in China and the advancement of our commerce. To 
these various heads of a subject in every point of view great 
and important, and surrounded by doubts and difficulties of 
the most embarrassing character, the best information that can 
be brought by any one individual is insufficient for a perfectly 
satisfactory solution of the questions which must be discussed. 
All that can be attempted is to throw some additional light 
upon the general bearing of the whole, and to contribute such 
data and practical inferences, illustrative of our present position 
and its future prospects, as may help to suggest a safe con- 
clusion as circumstances develop new phases in our relations 
and call for action. 

Section III. 

Assuming the present basis of our relations to continue, the 
best course to be pursued in actual circumstances, more especially 
for the maintenance of our advantageous position in the north, 
is worthy of consideration. The instructions lately received 
from her Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs are of 
a nature to suggest inquiry under the three heads to which 
they refer : — 

1. Eecourse to the authorities by British subjects in danger 
of popular violence. 

2. Eeference in all cases to her Majesty's plenipotentiary for 

3. The verification of the punishment awarded to Chinese 

In reference to tlie instructions under the first of these heads, 
it is to be observed that even with such unusual facilities as 
some of the older missionaries possess who speak the dialect, 
and are often familiar with the localities they visit, the resource 
indicated cannot be counted upon as available. 

In the Tsingpu affair, as soon as they actually became 
sensible of danger, it was clearly impossible, nor in one case 
in a hundred is it probable, that such a resource will be in their 

In these cases the authorities keep out of the way, they and 
all their ragged staff of runners and police ; and if otherwise, 
moved by a fear of worse consequences from the acts of the 
nearest British authority, the means they take to rescue a mal- 


treated foreigner are miserably ineffective and uncertain in their 
results. Whoever will read the details of the species of rescue 
effected in the Tsingpu business will see that it was by the 
merest chance the three Englishmen had not their brains beaten 
out, either before the arrival of the disguised runners or while 
they were waiting an opportunity of stepping in to render the 
unfortunate sufferers any service. 

It must be clear, therefore, that access to the authorities in 
emergencies of this nature must always be difficult and generally 
impracticable for a foreigner. Retreat to a boat or other place 
of safety is as little likely to be attainable. 

A salutary dread of the immediate consequences of violence 
offered to British subjects, the certainty of its creating greater 
trouble and danger to the native authorities personally than 
even the most vigorous efforts to protect the foreigner and seize 
their assailants will entail, seems to be the best and only pro- 
tection in this country for Englishmen. When the Chinese 
authorities of all ranks, from the viceroy at Nanking to the 
lowest police runners, are thoroughly imbued with this feeling, 
it will not only rouse them to greater energy but find its way 
to the populace by certain steps, and render such exertion un- 
necessary, and the nationality of an Englishman will become 
his safeguard. Hence the impolicy, not to say impossibility, of 
treating instances of personal outrage such as that of Tsingpu 
as police cases, and leaving redress to the ordinary administra- 
tion of Chinese laws. Where justice exists only nominally, and 
her image should be represented not only blind but deaf, deplor- 
able consequences would result from such a course. There 
seems to be a democratic spirit among the Chinese which 
renders the authorities especially averse to risk collision with 
the populace or any popular feeling. The Chih-hsien is himself 
exposed to insult and violence if he attempt to enforce the 
collection of the taxes in a bad season, and but lately he was 
besieged here in his own yamen. Not ten days ago the Taotai paid 
1600 taels of silver to secure a piece of building-ground at the 
urgent demand of the French consul, rather than exert his 
authority to compel the owners to take the fair value of $400 
offered, and upon the posts put up to mark the boundaries these 
parties did not hesitate to prohibit its appropriation. The 
principal check upon the people, and safeguard for the authori- 
ties in cases of popular disturbance, seems to be the conviction 


under which every Chinese quails, of the terrible vengeance that 
may pursue them and their families, the tumult once over, if 
they should have been marked or recognised. In proportion 
as the magistrate is helpless before numbers, is his power 
large of wreaking summary and vengeful punishment upon each 
of the individuals that may form the mob, once separated from 
each other. 

Considerations such as these necessarily influence her 
Majesty's consul on the spot, who each day has under his eyes 
these significant details, national and administrative. Where 
danger threatens to involve the persons or the property of 
British subjects, his sole direct resource is to fall back upon the 
treaty, and to cover with the aegis of national inviolability 
individual interests. By any other course he falls inevitably 
into the hopeless condition of one waiting for such redress as 
the common course of justice in China usually affords, where 
everything assuming its form is venal and arbitrary. 

The result of all efforts made to secure the apprehension of 
thieves or the recovery of property stolen from foreigners is 
conclusive as to the kind of security to be obtained for British 
subjects where infractions are dealt with as affairs of police in 
which justice is to take its ordinary course. In scarcely one 
instance has any redress been obtained since the port was 
opened. If thieves are overtaken, it is only that they may 
disgorge their booty for the benefit of the police sent after 
them, and the larger the amount the less chance is there of 
either apprehension or restitution. Witness Mr Hubertson's 
robbery, where his servant went off with nearly $10,000 in 
gold and silver, and he was promptly traced and pursued. 

Then in reference to the standing orders that, in case of 
difficulty arising, reference shall invariably be made to her 
Majesty's plenipotentiary for instructions. Instances have been 
very numerous showing the nullity of any means of action on 
the local authorities here through the Imperial Commissioner at 
Canton, not only in these matters, but in those treated on 
higher grounds, and affecting our political position. Last year 
(1847) not only a list of cases where no satisfactory exertion 
had been made to obtain redress for property stolen was for- 
warded, but the consul urged upon Sir John Davis, her Majesty's 
plenipotentiary at the time, the urgent necessity for the removal 
of the then acting magistrate at Shanghai, who had openly 


reviled a consulate servant for taking the service of the 
barbarians, and dismissed him without redress. The only- 
answer to be obtained from his Excellency Kiying was to the 
effect that the Chih-hsien, as a territorial officer, was not under 
his jurisdiction. Fortunately he was removed very shortly for 
misconduct in the management of Chinese affairs, — for however 
injurious his proceedings to the British, it was obvious neither 
redress nor assistance was to be obtained from Canton and the 
Imperial Commissioner. 

The paramount necessity of protecting its subjects in distant 
countries is of course well understood by her Majesty's Govern- 
ment, and in an oriental State this can only be effected by 
letting it be known and felt that whoever attacks one of the 
solitary subjects will be held to have attacked the sovereign 
and the nation. By this policy a firman, far more potent than 
the Grand Seignior's in his own territory, is given to every 
Englishman abroad, ensuring his freedom from injury all over 
the world. 

The treaty viewed in this light becomes a real and efficient 
bulwark against encroachments, and without such safeguard, 
with Chinese management, it would at no distant period in all 
its most important provisions become null and void. No doubt 
inconvenience results from the necessity of treating casualties of 
collision between subjects of different countries as infractions of 
a solemn treaty ; but the oriental, and in some respects very 
peculiar, character of the Chinese, and our relations with them, 
must be borne in mind, and the lesser of two evils chosen with 
such discretion and judgment as the circumstances imperatively 

At a distant and isolated port like Shanghai, where a brig of 
war is by no means permanently stationed, the consul is left to 
his own resources, separated by an interval of many weeks from 
the assistance of her Majesty's plenipotentiary. When difficul- 
ties and emergencies supervene, it is only by prompt demands 
for redress, and firm resistance to any virtual negation of the 
rights and privileges guaranteed by treaty, that he can hope 
successfully to defend the very important interests confided to 
his charge. 

As regards the practicability and expediency of verifying the 
punishments of any Chinese offender by the presence of a 
British officer when a sentence is carried into execution, the 


iustruction received could only have been partially applicable to 
the Tsingpu offenders had it been earlier received, for the most 
serious punishment was banishment to a penal settlement in 

But the whole subject is one of peculiar difficulty, nor can 
any hope be entertained of submitting in this place a satis- 
factory solution. It has long been felt that of all the provi- 
sions of the two treaties, that which provided for the due 
administration of the laws on Chinese offenders was the most 
nugatory. The chief difficulty consists in a British officer 
being present at all during a trial in a Chinese court, assuming 
the right were to be granted by treaty. Where the ordinary 
mode of questioning is by torture, a process utterly repugnant 
to our notions of justice and our sense of what is due to 
humanity and truth, are we by our presence to sanction and be 
made parties to such proceedings ? Or are we to interfere and 
insist upon justice being administered not according to their 
usages, but ours ? The objection to both courses seems equally 
valid, and yet without the presence of an efficient officer there 
is no guarantee whatever for the due administration of justice. 

As regards the presence of an officer at punishments, unless 
he is in a position to identify the criminal, which must often 
from the circumstances of the case be impossible, it may be 
questioned whether our national character is not in danger of 
being compromised without the real object of such risk being 
attained. Nothing could more effectually tend to lower us in 
the opinion of the Chinese than to be imposed upon by the 
jugglery of a substituted criminal, or the punishment of an 
innocent man at our instigation, or even the illegal and excess- 
ive punishment of a real offender. Yet to all these we are 
exposed when we take upon ourselves to watch the course of 
justice and verify the execution of the sentences. It may 
finally be observed that there are punishments recognised in 
the Chinese code revolting for their brutality, which an English 
officer could scarcely sanction with his presence without dis- 
credit to our national feeling. A lesser objection exists in the 
frequency of minor punishments for theft and petty misde- 
meanours, so that an interpreter would be required for this 
duty alone. 

These are some of the practical difficulties to the effective 
exercise of any check upon the proceedings of the Chinese 


authorities in criminal informations against Chinese subjects, 
and to devise a remedy may require more consideration than 
has probably yet been given to the subject. 

From this review of our actual position at the most favourably 
situated of the northern ports, and the means by which it has 
been preserved from deterioration, and in many essential points 
materially improved, a correct inference may be drawn of the 
injurious consequences of any retrograde influence from Canton, 
direct or indirect. 


BONHAM, JANUARY 13, 1852. 

I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your 
Excellency's confidential despatch of the l7th ultimo, and 
although the departure of the Audax within three days of its 
receipt leaves me but little time for consideration or inquiry, I 
have devoted so much time and thought to the subject during 
the last five years that I venture to reply without delay. 

On the general scope of coercive measures adapted to ensure 
success in any negotiations with the Chinese Government, and 
more especially on the blockade of the Grand Canal as a very 
cogent means, I have already in my confidential report of January 
19, 1849, and subsequently in another of February 13, 1850, 
submitted the opinion I had formed after long and careful study 
of our position in China ; and further inquiries and experience 
of the people we have to deal with have only served to confirm 
the views contained in those reports. 

I took the responsibility of sending Mr Vice- Consul Eobert- 
son with the Espiegle to Nanking in the spring of 1848 with 
the strong conviction that at that particular season, with the 
tribute of grain uncollected and a thousand of these grain-junks 
actually under an embargo at Shanghai, any demonstration of 
force in the neighbourhood of the Grand Canal would command 
immediate attention, and the result went far to establish the 


accuracy of the conclusion. Circumstances since then have, 
however, altered both in a favourable and an adverse sense. 
Taokuang, with his humiliating experience of the superiority 
of our arms and his known and acknowledged desire to avoid 
any further collision during his reign, is no longer on the 
throne ; and his young successor, untaught by the experience 
of his father, has given very unequivocal signs of disposition to 
enter upon a different policy. On the other hand, a protracted 
and serious insurrection in the southern provinces has drained 
his treasury, weakened his authority, and now threatens, unless 
he finds means by force or bribery to put the insurgents down, 
at no distant period to afifect the stability of his throne. If 
the arrogance of youth in the new sovereign should therefore 
dispose him on the one side to venture on a crusade against 
Western Powers, his perilous position in regard to his own 
provinces cannot fail to impress upon him the prudence of at 
least temporising until a more convenient season. I am led to 
think, therefore, from all I can learn, that the two contrary 
forces will go far to neutralise each other, and that Hsienf^ng, 
with all his hostile feeling, will be at the present moment as 
accessible to reason, from the peculiarly embarrassing position 
in which he is placed, if backed by coercive means, as was his 
predecessor at the conclusion of the war. 

From this your Excellency will perceive that I deem the 
present time, from the political condition of China, more 
favourable than any later period may be for the success of 
coercive measures. As regards the season of the year to be 
selected, both in reference to the navigation of the Yangtze- 
kiang and the transmission of the grain tribute, the blockading 
should not be commenced later than April. During the summer 
the sun melts the snow on the mountains and sends down the 
freshets, swelling the river until it overflows its banks with great 
accession of violence to the current. When the fleet sailed up 
in July 1842 many of the soundings taken were over paddy- 
fields, and altogether out of the bed of the river, as the sound- 
ings and observations of the Espi^gle clearly demonstrated. 
The tribute also begins to be sent up to Peking from some parts 
as early as April. A fleet of grain-junks were at the mouth of 
the canal when the Espiegle made her appearance at the end of 
March in 1848. 

How far a blockade at the present time would have the desired 


effect — that is, if made effective before the month of May — is a 
question upon which I cannot feel any doubt. Much would of 
course depend upon the suddenness of the descent, and therefore 
upon the previous secrecy observed ; much upon the available 
nature of the force employed. Besides two or three large-class 
vessels, I am strongly persuaded there should be at least two 
small steamers of light draught of water, and one or two brigs, 
which would be quite as effective against any force the Chinese 
could bring to bear, and far more manageable and serviceable, 
as well as less costly, than larger vessels. If the result aimed 
at were not very promptly attained, it might be necessary to 
retake Chinkiang-fu as a base of operations, and to detach two 
or three small-class vessels to watch the entrances of water- 
courses and canals nearer the moutli of the Yangtze-kiang, of 
which there are at least four, and through them junks with 
tribute might otherwise pass to the north and into the Grand 
Canal at some point above the Yangtze-kiang, and between it 
and the Yellow river. There is also a very free communication 
with all the lowland districts south of the Yangtze-kiang and 
the north above Nanking by means of the Seu ho, which runs 
from Soochow west into tlie Yangtze-kiang at W^t Hu and 
Taiping. But from this point northward there does not appear 
to be any good water communication leading to the Grand Canal 
without descending the Yangtze-kiang as far as Iching and 
Kwachow on the two mouths of the Grand Canal at its junction 
with the Yangtze-kiang below Nanking. These secured would 
therefore stop the main traffic by the Seu ho route to the north 
for the relief of Peking. My own impression is that if no 
warning were given, nor time allowed for previous preparation, 
our demands would be granted within one month of the com- 
mencement of the blockade. If from any unforeseen cause, 
however, the negotiations were protracted, and the Chinese 
Government had leisure to recover from its panic and adopt 
plans for obtaining tribute and grain by circuitous routes, it 
would be in that case that Chinkiang-fu might be required, 
together with a good watch on the various tributaries of the 
Yangtze-kiang below and eastward of Nanking already referred 
to ; and perhaps on the coast towards the Yellow river and the 
Peiho two or three cruisers might be required to intercept junks 
sent hy sea with tribute. Such in effect is the intention of the 
Chinese Government at the present moment, without any refer- 


ence to us. The grain to be collected from the eight provinces, 
divided into upper and lower, consists of the common grain and 
of white rice, the latter for the consumption of the emperor and 
his Court, which it is intended shall be sent this season by sea 
from Shanghai, — a circumstance peculiarly favourable to the 
success of any blockading measures, since, as it would be neces- 
sary under any contingencies to cover Shanghai and our large 
interests there with an effective force, the same means would 
enable her Majesty's Government to lay an embargo on a large 
and especially important portion of the tribute already collected 
in the port. I do not imagine it would be contemplated to 
abandon Shanghai, and I am far from thinking it would be 
either necessary or expedient — though at Ningpo, Foochow, and 
perhaps Amoy, it might be considered well — to withdraw the 
few foreigners for a time. At Canton, no doubt, it would be 
imperative either to give adequate protection or to abandon the 
place. On this point I am scarcely called upon to offer an 
opinion. It probably does not enter into any plans contem- 
plated to strike a blow at Canton, or to adopt any measure 
necessarily entailing bloodshed and heavy loss : were it other- 
wise, no doubt the fall of Canton and the humiliation of the 
Cantonese would in itself go far to read a salutary lesson 
throughout the empire, and especially at Peking, where there 
is reason to believe they look upon Canton and the Cantonese 
as affording the great barrier to our progress, from our inability 
to make any impression either upon the city or the people. 

I do not, of course, presume to offer these suggestions on the 
general measures which might be found needful for the protec- 
tion of British interests along the coast, and the distribution and 
economising of our forces while a blockade on the Yangtze-kiang 
was being effected, as better informed than your Excellency on 
such points, but merely refer to them incidentally as necessary 
parts of any plan for demanding redress by coercive measures 
at the mouth of the Grand Canal. 

For the better illustration of the points touched upon in this 
despatch in reference to the different points of access to the 
Grand Canal, either coastwise or by tlie Yangtze-kiang below 
Nanking and the two mouths of the canal, which will have to 
be borne in mind, I beg to enclose a very rough and hasty plan 
of the main channels, taken chiefly from the elaborate map of 
the empire published under the Jesuits, and which Mr Medhurst, 


when my last confidential report was in hand, was good enough 
at my suggestion to work at on an enlarged scale, availing him- 
self of all the additional information, by comparison of maps, 
itineraries, &c., that was accessible. 

I shall be glad if in this somewhat hasty reply to your 
Excellency's despatch I have been able to afford such informa- 
tion as you have desired ; but if not, or upon any other points 
it should appear that further inquiries can be prosecuted advan- 
tageously and without creating suspicion, I shall be happy to 
give my best efforts to carry out your Excellency's instructions. 


JUNE 17, 1852. (EXTRACT.) 

If I might without presumption express an opinion on our 
general policy in China, I should add that it seems in danger of 
being paralysed by the two antagonistic forces [alluded to in 
the preamble], and by necessities difficult to reconcile. The 
magnitude and extreme importance of our interests in the East 
— in commerce and revenue (for, as I have shown, the China 
trade is the connecting-link between Great Britain and India, 
and necessary to complete the circle of trading operations) — 
suggest on the one hand the necessity of avoiding all measures 
that may rashly jeopardise such interests, yet nevertheless make 
it imperative on the other to adopt firmly and unhesitatingly 
whatever steps may be necessary to prevent loss or deteriora- 
tion. How these can best be reconciled is the problem to be 
solved. As late as the last war, throughout all our previous 
intercourse the attempt had been made to arrive at the solution 
by a system of temporising and concession, even to that which 
was unjust and injurious, and this steadily carried out, with a 
few rare and brief exceptions. Our policy since the treaty has 
manifested a tendency to an opposite course, encouraged no 
doubt by the result of the first determined stand made. It has, 


nevertheless, been so hesitatingly developed that we appear to 
halt between the two. In words we have asserted resistance to 
insult or wrongful treatment, but in acts we have not seldom 
temporised and submitted. The fruit of this policy we now are 
beginning to reap. Principles of action have sometimes been 
asserted and then abandoned, instead of being persisted in until 
the end was accomplished. In dealing with the Chinese, how- 
ever, nothing appears to be so necessary as to keep the ground 
once assumed. If this be true, there cannot be too much 
caution used in first asserting or contending for a right ; but 
that step once taken, there is no safe halting-place between it 
and full success. A course of alternate opposition and submis- 
sion cannot do otherwise than end in defeat ; and defeat in this 
country is never limited to its immediate consequences. It has 
appeared, on looking back through the ten years which have 
now elapsed since the termination of the war, that the first half 
of the period was passed in comparative security under the 
strong influence its events were calculated to exercise on the 
Chinese mind ; but, true to their invariable policy, they have 
never ceased to seek by every means in their power to make 
the British authorities develop under what instructions they 
were acting and to penetrate into their true spirit, in order to 
ascertain the limits to which our sufferance would extend and 
the nature of the powers of resistance or retaliation her 
Majesty's Government were ready to authorise. I think it 
cannot be matter of doubt to any one resident in China 
throughout this period, that during the latter portion the 
Chinese have felt assured of the essentially pacific determina- 
tion of our Government and the policy of endurance and suffer- 
ance in all cases of minor wrongs. And, assured under such a 
system (with the known impossibility of any direct action in 
Peking), they have, during the last two years more especially, 
felt emboldened, systematically, by a series of apparently small 
encroachments and aggressions, to undermine our position, and 
to restore, as nearly as may be, the state of things existing be- 
fore the war, extending the system to all the ports. 

With this conviction I have thought it desirable to bring be- 
fore her Majesty's plenipotentiary in detail many illustrations 
of the deteriorating influences at work at this port, and now 
venture to pass these rapidly in review, that their collective 
evidence may not be wanting. And in order that I may be 

VOL. I. 2 E 


brief, I shall merely note in the margin the number and dates of 
various despatches bearing upon similar matters, without further 
reference to their contents. By these I think it will be seen 
that the general current and tendency of all the official acts for 
the last two years upon which I have frequently commented as 
they occurred has been distrust, and strongly adverse alike to 
our trade and the stability of our position. 

Evidence, I think, will be found in these records to establish 
the fact that the present Taotai Wu (or Samqua, as he is more 
familiarly known, of Canton trading memory) has been especially 
selected as the chief agent to initiate, and the fit instrument for 
carrying out, a retrograde policy : his character, means, and the 
general direction of his efforts to damage our local position, 
territorial and social — to cripple and restrict our trade, and to 
Cantonise the whole of our relations both with people and 
authorities in the north — are all in keeping with this mission, 
and incomprehensible on any other supposition. 

The steps of his progress have been carefully watched, and 
in the despatches noted in the margin traced, together with 
their effects — neither very apparent on the surface. These may 
perhaps best be considered by aid of a somewhat arbitrary 
division as to subjects rather than chronologically, for they 
have generally run on conterminous and parallel lines. Starting 
from the Tsingpu affair, in the spring of 1848, and his baffled 
efforts to pluck from us the best fruit of the risks incurred to 
vindicate an important principle, from which date he hung 
about the place — in the background it is true, but not the less 
busy as a spy from Nanking, between which place and Shanghai, 
occasionally acting Taotai, at others absent, he oscillated until 
the fit time appeared to have arrived. After the accession of 
the new emperor, Lin was displaced from the Taotai office, and 
he was finally installed by " imperial appointment " to put his 
hand to the work before him. His steps may be traced in the 
sinister influences and obstruction brought to bear upon all our 

The land tenure and regulations under which a foreign colony 
had rapidly risen covering more than a hundred acres of land, 
as an element of strength and independence to the British more 
especially, seems to have excited both the jealousy and the fears 
of the Chinese authorities. There seemed no limit to its pro- 
gress and development ; each year saw more and more land 


occupied, while houses of a large and costly description rapidly 
filled up the vacant spaces. 

Before Wu came ostensibly upon the scene some progress 
had been made in the creation of difficulties, and the authorities 
having in the spring of 1849 granted a large and absurdly 
disproportionate tract to the French, over which the French 
consul claimed a territorial jurisdiction, the national suscepti- 
bilities of the Americans gave the opportunity of bringing French 
and Americans, and the latter and the English, into collision, 
and they were not slow to profit by it to set the land regulations 
practically aside while officially appearing to uphold them. 

The desire of the community to carry out an extravagant and 
not very practicable scheme for a new park or exercise-course 
that should enclose nearly the whole arable ground and villages 
within our limits afforded the next opportunity, and the arrogant 
humour and superstitions of the Fukein clans supplied the ready 
instruments for inflicting a second blow upon the rights and 
security of the foreigner at Shanghai connected with the occu- 
pation of land. 

These attacks and aggressions have since been perseveringly 
followed up — popular commotions, abusive and menacing placards, 
having all been used in turns to the damage of our position, 
and the result has been discredit, broken regulations, divided 
and antagonistic pretensions between the two most numerous 
classes of foreign residents — the British and American — and 
between all foreigners and the Fukein clans, the most turbulent 
and aggressive of the native population at the port, — a result 
of which, looking to all the present embarrassment and future 
danger to our interests it is calculated to produce, I am bound 
to say I think Samqua may well be proud. The national vanity 
of the French leading them to an absurd and useless acquisition, 
the love of exercise of the British leading the equestrians to 
press an ill-advised and impracticable scheme for a three-mile 
racecourse, and the national susceptibilities of the Americans 
leading them to dispute the land tenure which hitherto had 
been the condition of their own security, — all have been adroitly 
turned to the greatest advantage, to the profit of the Chinese 
and the serious detriment of the foreigner. 

The progress made in creating obstacles to our commerce has 
been not less worthy of remark. For a system of total laxity 
in the custom - house administration under Lin a capricious 


alternation of vigilance and neglect, under which oppressive acts 
of partiality and injustice are frequently perpetrated, has been 
substituted, to the great derangement of operations in trade. 
The carrying trade has been harassed and impeded, and the 
Taotai is now actively engaged in efforts to get the cargo- boats 
under his exclusive control, and to organise a cohong of five 
firms on the model of the ancient establishments at Canton, 
while already — I believe at his suggestion (indeed he scarcely 
denies it) — information has reached me that a new transit duty 
of seven mace per picul has been levied at Chung- An on the 
produce proceeding thence from the Black Tea districts to 
Shanghai. A duty of over 7 per cent, in violation of one of the 
most important of our treaty stipulations, with a monopoly of 
cargo-boats, a right to levy new transit duties, and a cohong — 
the three leading advantages secured by the treaty vanish. It 
is vain to disguise the fact, for nothing can be clearer or 
more certain. On these points I have been collecting detailed 
information, and shall shortly be enabled to write more fully on 
the subject. I beg your Excellency in the meantime to rest 
assured that the main facts have already been placed beyond 
doubt. In connection with these, freedom of access to different 
points in the interior and with Ningpo by the inland route as 
advantages long enjoyed have also attracted attention, and some 
more feeble effbrts have been made to throw obstacles in the 

In the administration of justice perhaps more than in any 
other directions adverse influences have been brought to bear 
with complete effect. Eedress for any injury inflicted on a 
foreigner, protection from frauds, or recovery of debts, are all 
wholly unattainable. The action of the Chinese tribunals in 
our behalf is null and void, and the course taken by the 
authorities in all cases referred to there amounts to a total 
denial of justice. The act of the Taotai in seizing and flogging 

Mr 's boatmen was only wanting to withdraw from the 

foreigners all protection dependent upon the Chinese laws and 
their administration under our treaties. 

Under these three heads, therefore, I would sum up the 
progressive and evident deterioration in our position here. The 
tenure of land, the operations of trade, the administration of 
justice, have all been objects of attack, and with serious pre- 
judice. That, however, which is at present evident as the 


effect of the steps taken, forms but a small part of the injury 
which will in a very short period be too manifest to be over- 
looked if no determined steps are taken to reverse the policy 
now pursued. The time, I am firmly persuaded, has arrived 
for meeting by energetic action these insidious attacks — as the 
least dangerous course — if our most important interests here are 
really to be defended with any effect. 

How this may best be done I feel your Excellency is entitled 
to demand from the officer who seeks so earnestly to impress 
you with a conviction that action is necessary, and I have no 
wish to shrink from the responsibility of suggesting measures 
by which I conceive some positive good may be effected, to 
repair the mischief, and much impending evil at all events 

In reference to the land, also, it would seem very desirable 
that some understanding should be come to with the United 
States charge d'affaires by which any participation in the 
advantages of the British location, consistent with the security 
of all, should be freely conceded, while anything incompatible 
with this condition must be as certainly resisted, in their interest 
not less than ours. If Dr Parker prove impracticable I see no 
resource but a reference home, when I trust all the real im- 
portance of the questions at issue to the interests of British 
trade and the British position at this fort will be steadily kept 
in view ; nor should it be forgotten that in its maintenance all 
foreign States are deeply interested, whatever the Americans 
for the moment may think. Any injury to our position must 
recoil with double force upon so weak and small a minority 
as they are when left to stand alone. 

As regards the measures now in progress for organising a 
cohong, levying new transit duties, and creating a monopoly of 
cargo- boats, all tending in the most serious degree to fetter 
our trade, in indirect violation of the express stipulations of 
our treaty, I confess there seems to be but one course con- 
sistent with the credit of our Government or the defence of 
our interests, and that is resolutely and firmly to resist them 
as infractions of treaty. Two modes of doing this, however, 
suggest themselves. The one is by active proceedings — prohibit- 
ing the payment of any maritime duties by British subjects until 
satisfaction is obtained, and a distinct intimation that if this 
does not suffice other and more determined measures should 


follow. The other involves a system of negatimi that would 
be peculiarly embarrassing to the Chinese local authorities, and 
eventually to the Government at Peking. This may be carried 
out by simply holding the treaty to be in abeyance by their 
own acts, and declining to take any steps with British subjects 
to enforce the conditions — whether as regarded customs, access 
to the interior, the purchase of land, or the administration of 
justice — so long as the measures objected to were persisted in. 

In reference to these two courses, I will not hesitate to say 
that, if left to my discretion, I should adopt the first; but the 
condition of ultimate success would be the certainty that, if the 
object was not attained by such means, her Majesty's Govern- 
ment would feel pledged to send a squadron to the mouth of 
the Grand Canal next spring with an imperative demand for 
the Taotai's disgrace and the reversal of all this obnoxious 
policy, and authority to resort to coercive measures if not 
listened to. 

If, however, it should be deemed preferable to incur the 
risk of doing nothing — or what, I confess, appears to me even 
more dangerous, to make protests, or demonstrations which 
there is no serious intention of following up to their legitimate 
conclusion — the negative policy is of course the only one to 
be attempted. The responsibility of the initiative would then 
be thrown upon the Chinese themselves. The tables would be 
turned, and the Chinese will be left to right themselves as they 
best could, while a large revenue will slip through their hands 
and manifold complications and embarrassments in their rela- 
tions with foreigners arise to their confusion. The task, in 
fine, they now assign to us w^ould devolve upon them, and 
their sole remedy, if they did not choose to give way, would be 
to stop the trade ; but as that would be a plain and ostensible 
casus belli, they will not attempt it. 

If, on the other side, nothing effective be done, I must 
frankly state my conviction that our position in the north 
will rapidly deteriorate, and our relations be embroiled, if not 
irreparably injured. I believe means for the amelioration of 
both may be safely taken, and have long been required ; but I 
feel still more strongly convinced that at no distant period they 
miist be taken, and the longer they are delayed the greater will 
be the ultimate cost, and the more imminent the hazard to our 
future trade and relations with China. 


If I am correct in these inferences, the conclusion of the 
whole must be that the time has arrived when it will be no 
longer safe to defer strong and effective measures in defence of 
our interests, and that there is a clear necessity for present 
action to avert at no distant period a costly war and a shock 
to this empire it is so ill capable of sustaining, that it must 
of necessity be attended with great peril not only to the 
present dynasty but to the existing social organisation of the 



They have constituted the sale of salt a monopoly, which 
they place in the hands of a set of merchants whom they hold 
liable for the payment of a fixed amount of tax. This, in some 
instances, falls ratlier heavy upon them, but proves an easy 
measure to the authorities, who have thus but little trouble 
or expense of collection. All the supplies of salt are drawn 
from the sea-shore, and consequently there is an appointment 
of salt inspector in every maritime province, who superintends 
everything connected with the gabelle : he holds a high rank 
and receives good emoluments from the Government, 3000 
taels per annum. It also forms one of the duties of the 
governor-general of the province to act as chief superintendent 
of salt excise. 

Most of the supplies from Fukien have to be sent into 
the interior and the adjacent province of Kiangsi vid Foochow. 
The salt is made all along the shore to the southward. . . . 

The salt is made at these places by people belonging to the 
various localities, and the manufacture gives employment to 
numbers of individuals, who in those sterile districts have few 
other means of subsistence. The general method of manu- 


facture is to collect the saturated loam from the beach in 
heaps, and thence to draw off the brine by drainage into large 
but shallow-built vats, when crystallisation is effected by expo- 
sure to the natural heat of the sun. The brine being all 
extracted from the heap, it is removed to the beach, and the 
same earth, having been immersed in the salt-tide, can again 
be used. In fine weather great quantities can thus be expe- 
ditiously manufactured, but a succession of rain stops the works, 
and a scarcity in the supplies is the consequence. The pro- 
ducers are exempted from all taxes or charges on the part of 
the Government, on the consideration tliat they are in mean 
labouring circumstances, though many of the salt-farms are 
very extensive, and some of their conductors possessed of better 
competence than the merchants, on whom the whole burden 
of taxation falls. Junks are despatched to these places by the 
salt merchants for freights. 

The Government system of exacting a fixed annual amount 
of gabelle is very defective, and places the trade, which might 
prosper under other management, on an unhealthy basis. When 
the trade is dull, it becomes still more depressed by the nature 
of the liabilities that the merchants have at all times equally 
to bear, and which then become burdensome ; and again, on 
the other hand, in case of a thriving season, the revenue is in 
no way advantaged. Their wretched executive, however, pre- 
vents any improvement. They therefore content themselves 
with fixing a stated sum, upwards of 300,000 taels per annum ; 
and if they can secure the requisite number of persons to under- 
take to dispose of a certain quantity of salt that will yield 
excise to this amount, they are content. Thus each merchant 
is bound to conduct the sale of the quantity that he undertakes, 
or rather is held responsible for the amount of duty due on 
such quantity, and having once paid this up, should he be so 
disposed, he is at perfect liberty to transport and sell more 
salt on his own account, duty free ; whilst, on the other hand, 
should he, from a glut in the market or other circumstances, 
not be able to dispose of the quantity of which he had under- 
taken the sale, he has still to pay duty on the whole at a fixed 
unalterable rate. 

It is therefore the imminent risk attending salt speculations 
that causes people of property to be so averse towards entering 
them. They involve a great outlay of capital, with continual 


liability but uncertain remuneration. Thus, if a man embarks 
the whole or greater part of his means in speculations which 
do not succeed, he becomes instantly embarrassed with the 
Government, and, with no incomings to relieve him, may per- 
haps not succeed in recovering his first failure. Most of the 
merchants being men who are selected merely on account of 
their capital, the management of their business is entirely in 
the hands of those they employ, for whose honesty or capacity 
they are mainly dependent for success. The charges and 
expenses connected with carrying on a salt business are very 
great. Yet there are several instances of old merchants employ- 
ing good managing men, and possessing plenty of supporting 
capital, having amassed large fortunes in the trade, though, on 
the contrary, cases are much more numerous of speculators 
having suffered losses and contracted debts with the Govern- 
ment. A debt to the State of no less than 1,450,000 taels by 
the salt dealers of Foochow has thus gradually collected. 

The nomination of salt merchants is almost invariably com- 
pulsory, and no one can retire from the business without he is 
totally unable from want of means to continue in it. In these 
cases the reflection that they were obliged to undertake the 
transactions that led to their ruin must add increased poignancy 
to their losses. When once, however, they have undertaken a 
transaction, they are much favoured by the authorities, who give 
them entertainments and confer honours and distinctions upon 
them. There are head merchants appointed, who hold some 
control over the proceedings of the others. To be a head 
merchant a man must be of known character and not owing 
anything to the Government. They are responsible for all 
the other merchants, who, however trustworthy, have all to 
be secured by the head merchants. In case of any merchant 
becoming in arrears with the payment of his duties, the salt 
inspector orders the head merchants to limit him to a certain 
time in which to liquidate all charges. According as the case 
needs, the head merchants convene and consult as to whether 
they should pray for an extension of the term or require some 
of the other merchants in substantial circumstances to lend the 
necessary amounts, or perhaps they may proceed to pay it 
themselves. If also they find that any of the other merchants 
are incompetent, from want of means, to manage their business, 
they represent the same to the salt inspector, that they may be 


allowed to retire. At present there are four head merchants 
out of a total of sixty-one. . . . 

Smuggling is also carried on to some extent. As this, how- 
ever, affects the vital interests of the salt merchants, they show 
great vigilance in investigating and reporting to the authorities 
any instances that may come within their knowledge, and for 
this purpose fit up and maintain several small vessels which 
keep up a constant watch against contraband proceedings. 

There are a multiplicity of fees and charges which prove 
very onerous to the merchants. [Here follows a list of forty- 
seven separate fees, dues, and charges, amounting to 15,300 
taels, or about £5000 sterling, on 900,000 lb. weight, or about 
one-eighth of a penny per lb.] 





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