§ Sir J. Graham
said, when he considered the magnitude and difficulty of the subject which it was now his duty to bring under the consideration of the House, when he thought also of the immense national interests which were involved in the question, and of the perilous condition in which those interests were placed at this moment, he confessed he almost shrank from the task he had imposed on himself, not so much on account of his conscious inability to discharge it even to his own satisfaction, as from the apprehension lest any inadvertent expression or imprudence on his part should add to the difficulties of the present emergency, or place in still greater jeopardy the mighty interests which were at stake. But he thought it was impossible, considering the present state of our relations with China, as evinced in the papers which had been laid on the table, that the House could with advantage to the public interests any longer delay—though not invited by the Crown—to express its opinion on this subject. He therefore conceived that he was discharging a public duty when he brought this question under the notice of the House, and he should most faithfully discharge it by giving utterance to the feelings and impressions which a careful and attentive consideration of the subject had produced on his own mind. He feared he should not be able to command the attention of hon. Members during the whole time he must occupy in bringing under their notice the details of this great question; but at all events, he should best deserve their patient forbearance if, without any laboured exordium, he at once proceeded to the subject-matter upon which he desired to engage their attention. In the first place, he must beg to call to the serious and most attentive consideration of the House the magnitude of the inter- 670 ests involved in our relations with China. He was guilty of no exaggeration when he stated that one-sixth of the whole united revenue of Great Britain and India depended on our commercial relations with that country. Last year the revenue paid into the Exchequer of this country on account of tea amounted to no less a sum than 3,660,000l. Besides that, there were other receipts arising from imposts on imports into that country, making the British revenue derived from our intercourse with China no less than 4,200,000l. per annum. Then again with respect to India, where our difficulties were principally financial, he begged to call the attention of the House to the large proportion of the revenue which India derived from China. The gross income was stated somewhere about 20,000,000l. annually, and, unless he was greatly mistaken, the income derived by India from China was no less than 2,000,000l. annually, and the chief inconvenience of our intercourse with India arising from the difficulty of remittance, China had afforded this remarkable facility, that year by year, since the trade was opened, there had been an annual influx from that country into India of specie averaging 1,300,000l., and amounting last year to 1,700,000l. He thought he had stated enough to induce the House to give its attention to this subject, which must appear a most important one, considering that at the present moment, whether at home or in India, our difficulties were chiefly financial. But he should not be doing justice to this subject if he did not in a single sentence refer to the peculiar character, the vast importance, the great strength of the Chinese empire. If unhappily we were now on the verge of a rupture with that country, nothing could be less wise than to despise an enemy; it was prudent in time well to consider what were the resources, and what the strength, of that country with which we were about to engage in a hostile struggle. He must say he thought a general fallacy prevailed in this country with respect to China. Our intercourse being restricted to a single port, public opinion with regard to that great empire was formed with reference to Canton alone. If he wished in the plainest manner to illustrate the extent of this error, he should say it was exactly as if a foreigner, who was occasionally permitted to anchor at the Nore, and at times to land at Wapping, being placed in close 671 confinement during his continuance there, were under such circumstances to pronounce a deliberate opinion on the resources, genius, and character of the British empire. He begged just to call the attention of the House to what was the real truth with respect to the Chinese empire. It was inhabited by 350,000,000 of human beings, all directed by the will of one man, all speaking one language, all governed by one code of laws, all professing one religion, all actuated by the same feelings of national pride and prejudice, tracing back their history not by centuries but by tens of centuries, transmitted to them in regular succession under a patriarchal government without interruption; and boasting of their education, of their printing, of their civilzation, of their arts, all the conveniences and many of the luxuries of life existing there, when Europe was still sunk in barbarism, and when the light of knowledge was obscure in this western hemisphere. But, apart from their numbers, apart from what he had mentioned with respect to that unity which was strength, he called the attention of the House to their immense wealth. They possessed an annual revenue of 60,000,000l., regularly collected; they had no debt, they inhabited the largest and fairest portion of Asia; more than one-third of that country they cultivated, under the finest climate, with unwearied industry—the soil is most fertile, watered by vast rivers, and intersected by a canal 1,200 miles in length, one of the standing wonders of the world; and in every portion of that immense empire there was one uniformity of system, one jealous suspicion of strangers, evinced both on the shores of the Yellow Sea, and all along on the confines of Ava, Nepaul, and Bokhara. Surely, then, he was justified in the outset in asking the House whether it were not wiser to trade than to quarrel with such a people—whether it were not better to conciliate them by the arts of peace than to vex them with the threats and cruelties of war? There was one remarkable characteristic of this people, to which he had already alluded—their extreme jealousy and suspicion of strangers. This was their general policy; and he could well understand that with respect to Great Britain this policy was with more than ordinary strictness observed. He would only glance for a single moment at what he conceived to be the natural cause 672 of this policy on the part of the Chinese. If they looked across the Himalaya mountains they saw Hindostan prostrate at the feet of England, and they were not so ignorant as not to be aware of the policy which had led to that result. Hardly a century had elapsed since from a small beginning that British empire had arisen. And how? We commenced our connexion with India under the pretence of trading and semblance of commerce. Scarcely a century had passed since the first English factory was established there. A single warehouse was at first built; it was then surrounded by a wall. We next added a ditch, armed the labourers, and increased the number of Europeans. A garrison was thus formed, and then we began to treat with the native powers. Having discovered their weakness, we seized on Arcot, triumphed at Plessey; and what a Clive began the Wellesleys completed—Seringapatam was stormed, the Mysore was conquered, and the Mahrattas fell under our dominion. These successes terminated in the battle of Assaye, when India became ours. Nor was this all. He did not mean to enter into the more disputed questions of modern policy, but the Indus and the Ganges no longer contained the limits of the British empire. The Hydaspes had been crossed, Candahar and Cabul had witnessed the march of the British troops, and Central Asia trembled at our presence. Was it not natural, then, for the Chinese, seeing what had passed in India, to feel jealous of allowing any permanent settlement of a British factory within their territory? But, whatever was the cause, the fact was certain, that the policy of the Chinese turned on two cardinal points—the exclusion of strangers from residence as of right within their territory, and the denial of any direct communication with their viceregal authorities. We had carried on successfully commerce with that people for upwards of two centuries, but a great change took place in the manner of its management in 1833, when the trade was thrown open, and the control and administration of it were removed from the East India Company. He hoped the House would permit him to read some passages from an admirable letter written in the year 1832, by the directors of the East India Company to their superintendent, resident at Canton. The letter was written in answer to a 673 communication received from the superintendent during the preceding year, stating the circumstances of a misunderstanding which had occurred between the superintendent and the authorities at Canton. He would not enter at length into the points of that misunderstanding, but would merely state to the House, that it arose out of a want of proper attention to the prejudices of the Chinese, and to the regulations which they had established respecting the admission of British females into the factory at Canton, and from the enlargement of the esplanade in front of that factory by a few feet. He quoted this letter with the greater confidence, because he knew that the matter of it was the subject of great deliberation to the Ministers, and he believed that it was submitted to the head of the Government at that period, and met with his entire approval. At all events it was a document which, at the present time more especially, was well worthy the attention of the House. The right hon. Baronet read a despatch from the Board of Director to the British supercargoes at Canton, dated the 13th January, 1832, in which the board stated, that the trade to China had originally been sought by themselves, and that the advantages which it yielded them were great, and that, notwithstanding the attempts which had been made to adopt a belligerent policy, they were convinced that a pacific course was best to be pursued in their intercourse with the Chinese, and that they could not refuse to China what our own country claimed—the right exclusively to regulate the grounds on which any intercourse would be permitted with other countries. They impressed on the supercargoes the fact that China was perfectly free to regulate her own affairs, without the intervention of any other person. They regretted that any misunderstanding should have taken place, and stated, that it was their desire that the superintendent should sedulously avoid entering into any discussion with the Chinese government, except when absolutely necessary, and that, in such a case, the discussion should be carried on with temper and moderation, and closed at the earliest possible period. The directors stated further their desire to correct a dangerous notion, which was but too common with the merchants who inhabited Canton, which was, that nothing was to be gained from the Chinese by at- 674 tention to their laws, but that every thing was to be gained by intimidating them.You may, for a moment, said the Court of Directors, set the government of China at defiance, but not only do they take the first moment to assert their dominion, but may take also the first moment to deprive you of some advantage which either tacitly or openly you have heretofore enjoyed.They stated that they were borne out in this opinion by the events of 1829, and state, that they are struck with the contempt exhibited by the supercargo for the authorities of China, and his unwarrantable freedom in commenting on the laws and institutions of that empire. The real and sound principle of the management of our intercourse with China, and of our trade with that country, had been laid down with explicit strength and truth in this document. Two hundred years' experience of a policy which ended in the most successful manner, bear testimony to the wisdom of those views. In the same paper a reference is made to the opinion of a revered and noble Friend of mine, now no more. Application had been made to Lord William Bentinck by parties who sought for certain demonstrations against China, and his answer to them was, that it was quite impossible to doubt that the discontinuance of trade with China would be one of the greatest calamities which could befall the East India Company and the nation. Lord W. Bentinck added, that it was the bounden duty of the Company to give their best aid to the establishment of so great a source of revenue and commerce to this country. He could not lend himself without the sanction of a superior authority to any change in the pacific policy which had been hitherto invariably and successfully followed towards China. He would not detain the House by reading any more of these documents, the publication of which preceded the change in our trade with China. He had the honour of being a servant of the Crown, and a colleague of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, when the Chinese Trade Act was introduced. He was, therefore, responsible for every portion of the act, and he held himself responsible also for the instructions issued by the British Government at that time, as well as for every thing which then took place with reference to China, till it was his misfortune to differ with those 675 who were his colleagues on other grounds. It was vain to dissemble that the great change introduced with respect to the China trade was attended with considerable danger. It was felt to be so at the time, and those who had an experience and knowledge of the Chinese, of their character, and of the mode in which the trade was conducted, expressed in a very marked and decided manner their dissent from the course which Lord Grey's Government adopted. It was impossible for him to refer to any authority more entitled to weight and respect than that of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Portsmouth. Wisdom après coup was of very little value, but that foresight which anticipated the future must be regarded with admiration, when subsequent events had demonstrated the accuracy of the prediction. Sir G. Staunton, before the China Trade Act was introduced, and when the question of the renewal of the East India Company's Charter was under consideration, and the Government had announced their intention of throwing open the China trade, took occasion to move certain resolutions. These resolutions were not treated with much respect or attention at the time. He did not know whether the hon. Member for Bridport made his usual motion for adjournment, but one of the sheriffs of London proposed that the House be counted, and the resolutions of Sir G. Staunton were not at that time put on record. Subsequently the hon. Baronet moved them, and the prudence which dictated them was now manifest. He would read two of the most important, as bearing on the present state of affairs. The right hon. Baronet read the 6th and 7th resolutions, as follows:—That this influence, being the sole existing check now in operation for the control and counteraction of the corrupt local administrators of the peculiarly arbitrary and despotic government of China, it is indispensably necessary to the security of our valuable commerce with that country, that whenever any change shall be made in the British commercial system, having the effect of putting an end to this influence, an equal or greater instrument of protection be at the same time created and substituted for it under the sanction of a national treaty between the two countries, without which previous sanction any attempt to appoint national functionaries at Canton for the protection of trade would, in the present state of our relations with China, not only prove of little advantage to the subject, but also be liable, in a serious degree, to 676 compromise the honour and dignity of the Crown.That notwithstanding the failure, in this respect, of all complimentary embassies to the court of Pekin, however otherwise beneficial they may have been in raising and producing the due recognition of the national character, the evidence of the treaties which have been repeatedly negotiated by the Chinese government with that of Russia, through the medium of the commissioners duly appointed on both sides, not only for the adjustment of boundaries, but for the regulation of trade, prove that there is no insurmountable obstacle to such an arrangement."*Now, the House would observe that Sir G. Staunton regarded previous communication with the imperial authorities at Pekin as an indispensable preliminary to the establishment of a representative of the British Government at Canton. With respect to the latter part of the resolution, attention was paid to it in the act which was introduced, but the hon. Baronet's advice with respect to communications with Pekin was not followed, and had not up to the present time been acted upon. He thought it would lead to a more clear comprehension of this part of the subject, as a very considerable portion of this case turned upon one clause in the China Trade Act, if the House would allow him—it would lead them to understand more clearly what he should think it his duty to say before he sat down, to read the clause which was inserted according to the recommendation of Sir G. Staunton, for the trial of British subjects, even in the waters of Canton. He might appeal to his hon. and learned Friend, the Judge of the Admiralty Court, if this clause was not at least a straining beyond international law. But it was under the peculiar circumstances recommended by Sir G. Staunton, and adopted by Lord Grey's Government. He prayed the attention of the House to the very large powers which are given by that clause. The right hon. Baronet read the clause:—That it may be lawful to her Majesty, by an Order in Council, to give to the superintendents, or any of them, power over the trade and commerce of her Majesty's subjects in any part of the Chinese dominions, and to make regulations for the government of her Majesty's subjects in their dominions.Thus not only the very largest powers for regulating the trade and commerce of her subjects in the Chinese dominions were* Hansard, Third Series, Vol. xviii p. 649.677 given to the superintendent; but it was also enacted:—That he should certainly have the power to impose penalties, forfeitures, and imprisonment, and to make such regulations as may be necessary in the manner specified by the Order in Council, and that it might be lawful to her Majesty in Council to establish courts of judicature in those dominions, or in the ports, harbours, and havens thereof, and in the seas beyond one hundred miles of the Chinese coasts.He was not misrepresenting that clause, when he said that it was not possible for any terms to be larger than the terms there employed. It gave to her Majesty's council (so long as she chose to exercise it) an arbitrary power over her subjects in the dominions of China, and on the waters of that empire limited only to 100 miles from the coast. This brought him to the appointment of Lord Napier, and he should draw the attention of the House to the more material parts of his instructions. Previous warning and subsequent experience proved to demonstration that two points in those instructions were erroneous. One of the points which he considered erroneous was the imperative order, to be found in page 2 of the Chinese correspondence, given to Lord Napier to take up his residence at Canton, and discharge his duties there. It was thus worded:—In execution of the said commission you will take up your residence in the port of Canton, in the dominion of the Emperor of China; and you will discharge the several duties confided to you by the said commission and orders in council respectively at Canton aforesaid.The House would observe that no previous communication had been made with the imperial government at Pekin. The next point which he considered erroneous was the order, to be found in page 4, to Lord Napier, to announce his arrival by a letter to the Viceroy. These two orders were entirely adverse to the feelings and policy of the Chinese, who denied us the right of residence at Canton and the right of direct communication with the vice regal authority, and yet all this was done without previous communication with the government at Pekin. In the course of what he had to address to the House he should show that the noble Lord and he agreed that there was a defect in the original orders in council. The point where the instructions were defective arises as to 678 the mode in which the power was exercised by the 6th clause of the China Trade Act, whereby a transfer was made of the power enjoyed by the supercargoes of the East India Company to the superintendent. It subsequently came to the knowledge of the noble Lord, as is stated in the dispatch to which he should hereafter refer, that there was an error in that. When the China Trade Act was passed, the power vested in the supercargoes had ceased to exist under an act anterior to it. The power vested in the supercargoes was the power of withdrawing the licenses from those who traded on the waters of China. An absolute and arbitrary power of withdrawing the license gave, therefore, unlimited power to the supercargoes; it was an ample power, and the attempt to convey to the superintendent the power exercised by the supercargo was an entire failure of the power, inasmuch as the authority which was sought to be conveyed had been rescinded by an act of Parliament anterior to the Chinese Trade Act. Now the portion of the instructions to which he wished to call particular attention is to be found in the third page in which there is that most solemn direction to the superintendent to the utmost of his ability to protect British subjects. Now observe these words, "not in all their commercial speculations, not in their trade in general without limitation, but in the peaceable prosecution of all lawful enterprises in which they may be engaged in China"—and it then tells the superintendent that he is to observe all possible moderation:—Cautiously to abstain from all unnecessary use of menacing language, or from making any appeal for protection to our military or naval forces, unless in any extreme case the most evident necessity shall require that any such menacing language should be holden, or that any such appeal should be made; and we do further command and require you, in the general discharge of your duties, as such superintendents, to abstain from and avoid all such conduct, language, and demeanour, as might needlessly excite jealousy amongst the inhabitants of China;" and it goes on, "we do require you constantly to bear in mind, and to impress, as occasion may offer, upon our subjects resident in, or resorting to, China, the duty of conforming to these instructions.Now, his first allegation against the Government was, that they committed two errors, as demonstrated by experience; and foretold, by competent authority, first, by 679 directing the residence of a British officer at Canton; and next, by holding communication with the viceregal government. His next point was, that that portion of the Royal sign manual instructions to the superintendent which directed him to protect all subjects of Great BritainIn the peaceable prosecution of all lawful enterprises in which they may be engaged in China,Had not been enforced by her Majesty's Government up to that moment. He wished to pass lightly over that part of the correspondence which related to Lord Napier and the part taken by him in these transactions. Lord Napier he knew to have been a gallant, upright, and honest man, and he believed him to have acted according to the best of his judgment upon his instructions; still he believed Lord Napier had committed great indiscretions, but his life was the forfeit of those indiscretions; and in an assembly of generous Englishmen, he was sure that not a harsh expression would be used respecting him. Nevertheless, he must say, he thought that Lord Napier had committed two or three palpable errors. First, on turning to page 11 of the correspondence, it would be seen that Lord Napier, in his first communication to the viceroy of Canton, put prominently forward the fact, that he was charged both with political and judicial functions, to be exercised according to circumstances. Now, he could not think that any course more alarming to the Chinese Government than this could have been adopted. He thought, also, that it appeared from these despatches, that Lord Napier betrayed great violence in calling for the interference of two British traders, and in leaving his residence, instead of waiting for the regular passports. But, passing this matter, he now came to that which was most important. Her Majesty's Government had before them the warning delivered by the East India Company on the transference of the trade from their hands to those of private individuals, with their statement of the principles on which it had been carried on; they had also the advice which had been given by the hon. Baronet, the Member for Portsmouth, (Sir G. Staunton), that provision should have been made for the recognition of the superintendent at Canton previously to his going out, by means of a communication to the court of Pekin and the imperial authority. Then 680 they had access to that extraordinary memorandum at page 51, which had been addressed by the Duke of Wellington to his colleagues in the year 1835. It had been the good fortune of the noble Duke to leave upon record throughout his life that which, after all, would be the foundation of the opinion which future ages would form of the hidden springs of his conduct, in exposing to the gaze of the admiring multitude all the motives which had stirred him to all his acts. The noble Duke had, however, prepared this memorandum for the guidance and information of his colleagues, just as he was leaving office, just on the occasion when an ordinary man would have taken care not to stand committed on such a difficult question. Nevertheless, the noble Lord (Palmerston), feeling that an emergency was at hand, and that a crisis in our affairs with China was approaching, neglected to avail himself of this advice, thus left upon the records of the Foreign-office by the noble Duke, in order to give his successors the benefit of his opinion, and show them how he was prepared to meet the difficulties of the crisis, and give them all the benefit of his advice, experience, and knowledge. Mark how the noble Duke spoke on the subject. With that instinctive intuition and manly grasp of mind which enabled him to see the whole of a subject, he put his finger upon the two defects which he had already-touched upon. The noble Duke said,It is quite obvious, from the reports and proceedings, that the attempt made to force upon the Chinese authorities at Canton an unaccustomed mode of communication with an authority, with whose powers and of whose nature they had no knowledge, which commenced its proceedings by an assumption of powers hitherto unadmitted, had completely failed; and as it is obvious that such an attempt must invariably fail, and lead again to national disgrace"—What were the remedies which the noble Duke proposed to apply? He said, that it was obvious the real reason for the jealousy on the part of the Chinese of Lord Napier and his commission was, not his high-sounding titles, butHis pretension to fix himself at Canton without previous permission or even communication, and that he should communicate directly with the viceroy.By the way, these were the two points which had been distinctly adverted to by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir G. 681 Staunton) in a communication with Lord Napier before his departure for Canton, and which had been stated to be of the most critical importance by the East India Company, and on these points the conduct of Lord Napier had been in direct violation of the known prejudices of the Chinese. What then did the Duke of Wellington give as his advice?—The commissioner must not go to Canton without the permission of the Chinese. He must not depart from the accustomed mode of communication.There was the receipt of the Duke of Wellington to restore peace and security to British interests at Canton. Yet the noble Lord up to that day had rejected all advice, pertinaciously adhering to his instructions to the commissioner to go to Canton, and to the position he had taken on what was known as the "pin" point, on which the noble Lord was the most pertinacious, insomuch so, that up to the last despatch of the noble Lord, in 1839, he still adhered to this "pin" point, enjoining carefully on the superintendent that he was not to affix the degrading character to any letter which he might write to the Chinese authorities. But what further said the Duke of Wellington? He recommended a mode of proceeding according to which, he said, that the whole plan could be carried into execution without altering the Act of Parliament. This related more particularly to the creation of a court of justice, of which he pointed out how the machinery might be made perfect, and then went on to say, thatIf the Cabinet should be disposed to adopt this plan, and would give immediate directions for the draught of the proposed Order in Council, to make the necessary alterations and arrangements.Now, he believed, that he was not exceeding the bounds of propriety, when he said, that he had the best authority for stating, that within a fortnight from the date of that memorandum an Order in Council would have been passed, giving the superintendent all necessary powers, even over the moral conduct of British subjects on the Canton waters, as well as the means of protecting their interests. Well, not one of the noble Duke's suggestions had been attended to, and the Order in Council remained as it was in 1833. The noble Duke had made another suggestion.— 682I would recommend that till the trade has taken its regular peaceable course, particularly considering what has passed recently, there should always be within the Consul-general's reach a stout frigate and a smaller vessel of war.Before he sat down, the House would see how this advice had been treated. He was very unwilling to detain the House at greater length than was necessary, but he hoped they would pardon him if he endeavoured to present as complete a view as possible of the subject as it presented itself to his mind. The first point which he should now proceed to notice was an incidental point, but it was very important. He ought to have stated, that the noble Duke reserved the question ad referendum to his Colleagues of a communication with the Court at Pekin. He said,It will be in the power of the Government hereafter to decide whether any effort shall be made at Pekin or elsewhere to improve our relations with China, commercial as well as political. What we require now is, not to lose the enjoyment of what we have got.In approaching the subject, he felt that the papers were really so voluminous, so formidable, from the immense number of the despatches, and from the size of the volume, that he had found the greatest difficulty to make out what was the general effect of the whole. In fact, the correspondence was a labyrinth of inextricable confusion, without a clue. There was not an index, there was no chronological arrangement; it was, in short, hardly possible to unravel the web of the inextricable confusion of these papers. He knew that this point of a mission to Pekin had been much canvassed, and that the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir G. Staunton) had been favourable to it. Next to the hon. Baronet, he knew no higher authority on the subject than Lord Strathallan, and he had his authority for stating that he had warned Lord Napier several times not to leave England without an autograph letter to the Emperor of China from the King of England. The hon. Baronet had also, he believed, recommended the same. Now he (Sir J. Graham) held then in his hand, and he could produce, if it became necessary in the course of the discussion, irrefragable evidence to show that Mr. Davis, who succeeded Lord Napier, that Sir G. Robinson, who succeeded Mr. Davis, and that Captain Elliot, who succeeded Sir G. Robinson, had all insisted 683 in the strongest manner on the propriety of opening some communication with the Imperial Government at Pekin, and yet in the correspondence, which reached over five years, there was not a trace of an answer to these repeated representations to be found—not one trace of any intention to take into consideration the suggestion of an embassy to Pekin; except, indeed, it were at page 258, where a passage occurred which, perhaps, might refer to this part of the subject, and in which the noble Lord said, that theGovernment did not see their way in such a measure with sufficient clearness to justify them in adopting it at the present moment.That was the only appearance of an answer on the part of the noble Lord, during five years, to the representations of all these authorities, made in the strongest manner. But passing these two points, in which he thought that the instructions were erroneous, he now came to the questions of the residence of the commissioner at Canton, and of the channel of communication. On these points it was sufficient to say, that the noble Lord had never receded from his original instructions, but that Mr. Davis as well as Sir G. Robinson, finding that it was impossible to execute those instructions, had determined to remain in the outer waters, and for two years and a half did so remain, and did not depart from the accustomed channel of communication. Well, everything went on peaceably, and the experience of these two years and a-half after the noble Lord's return to power, if nothing that occurred before could do it, ought to have shown the noble Lord the complete impossibility of carrying out his instructions, especially as he was repeatedly urged by the superintendents for fresh instructions. Sir G. Robinson said plainly in one despatch, that he could not guess the probable object of her Majesty's Government. He said, that he had acted advisedly contrary to his instructions, and that he did not go to Canton, but remained in the outer waters, and that he did not communicate with the Chinese Government by any other than the ordinary channels. He was curious to know what had led to the recall of Sir G. Robinson, for he could not find a trace of a reason in the despatches. If his success justified his removal, they must remember that it was a departure from his instructions which insured his success. But what 684 were the reasons the noble Lord had never blamed him for violating his instructions, though when he asked for fresh ones the noble Lord did not send them? But his conjecture as to the real cause was confirmed by what he found at the bottom of page 117, where Sir G. Robinson let slip what was his maxim of conducting affairs—To use the common but applicable maxim," said he, "of' letting well alone;' I shall carefully avoid all danger and risk of any change of a doubtful nature in its prospective effects.This he conceived was so decidedly hostile to the policy of her Majesty's Government, that when an agent, even at Canton, declared, that 'to let well alone' was the maxim of his policy, he forfeited altogether the confidence of her Majesty's Government. But Captain Elliot gave effect to his instructions—what was the effect? From that very moment increased irritation was perceptible, and the quiescent state of things which had been enjoyed under Sir G. Robinson disappeared and terminated altogether. Violence, discord—he might almost say agitation—visited that peaceful region. Captain Elliot became on bad terms with the Government of Canton, and from that moment might be dated the beginning of the present unhappy distresses. Captain Elliot, nevertheless, felt his powers defective, and repeatedly asked for higher powers. At page 232 he says,I would in this place, my lord, express a respectful but earnest hope, that no time may be lost in the formation of adequate, judicial, and police institutions for the government of the King's subjects in this empire; and I have no hesitation in assuring your Lordship that it is in my power to secure from the provincial authorities the most formal sanction to their operation. For several months in the year there are not less than 2,000 of his Majesty's subjects at Canton, Whampoa, Macao, and the immediately adjacent anchorages; and your Lordship is aware, that, except in cases of homicide, the Chinese Government do not interpose at all for the preservation of peace between them and their own people, or between his Majesty's subjects themselves. Your Lordship will conceive the exceeding risk and unsuitableness of the absence of defined means of sufficient control.But was this all? In pages 339 and 340, Captain Elliot stated—There is a spirit active among British subjects in this country, which makes it necessary, for the safety of momentous concern 685 ments, that the officer on the spot should be known to stand without blame in the estimation of her Majesty's Government, and it is not less needful that he should be forthwith vested with defined and adequate powers for the reasonable control of men whose rash conduct cannot be left to the operation of Chinese laws without the utmost inconvenience and risk, and whose impunity is alike injurious to British character and dangerous to British interests.But the noble Lord admitted this necessity himself in the strongest possible terms in his letter of November 8, 1836, at page 129, which perhaps it would be desirable that he should read:—Foreign-office, Nov. 8,1836.I have observed that in your minute of the 15th of October, 1835, relative to the case of Mr. Innes, you express an opinion that the powers given by the act 26th of George 3rd, c. 57", sec. 35, to the supercargoes of the East India Company to arrest and send to England persons resident at Canton, may now be lawfully exercised by the superintendents of British trade in China, by virtue of the order in Council of the 9th of December, 1833, which transfers to the superintendents all the powers and authorities which were by law vested in the supercargoes, at the date of the termination of the exclusive rights of the East India Company.The superintendent, Captain Elliot, in the extreme difficulty he found to put down this traffic, which, at that time, tended to disturb the lawful trade in that country, had been compelled to interfere brevi manu on this very authority. The noble Lord pulled him up shortly, and told him that he had done wrong. He said,As a misconception, on this point, might give rise to much embarrassment, both to his Majesty's Government and to the superintendents personally, I have to state to you for your guidance, that the clause of the act of 26 George 3rd, upon which you rest your opinion, was repealed by the 146th clause of the act 33rd George 3rd, c. 52; and further, that the only power exercised by the supercargoes was that of removing unlicensed persons. But, as no license from his Majesty is now necessary to enable his Majesty's subjects to trade with or reside in China, such power of expulsion has altogether ceased to exist with respect to China.Now, surely it would be thought that naturally when the noble Lord had pointed out to him that power which he had not, he would have told him that an order in Council was passed which gave to him the power of confining and imprisoning 686 British merchants doing wrong. But nothing like it. Captain Elliot at a later period, in his despair, when smuggling of opium was carried to such an extent that armed boats landed in front of the Custom-house, not having the powers desired, but still with an honest desire of preventing that which he thought incompatible with British interests, issued directions for organizing a police for the inner waters of Canton, and sent home an account of what he had done to the noble Lord, and he entreated them to listen to what the noble Lord said to this in page 318, in a letter dated March 23, 1839. He said—Your despatch of the 18th of April last, relating to certain regulations which you had thought it advisable to establish with a view of controlling the conduct of the crews of British merchant-vessels trading with Canton, has been submitted to her Majesty's law officers, with a request that they would take the same into consideration, and report their opinion, whether those regulations are in any way at variance with the laws of England, or inconsistent with the territorial rights of China. The law officers have accordingly reported, that the regulations in question are not in any way at variance with the law of England, provided they be duly made and issued by her Majesty, according to the act of the 3rd and 4th William 4th, ch. 93, sec. 6, but that you have no power of your own authority to make any such regulations.Now, mark what the noble Lord told the superintendent—that he "has no power to make such regulations." Was not that a self condemnation on the part of the noble Lord? Ought not the noble Lord to have given that power? And what was the ground assigned? The letter went on to state—With respect to the territorial rights of China, the law officers are of opinion, that the regulations, amounting in fact to the establishment of a system of police at Whampoa, within the dominions of the Emperor of China, would be an interference with the absolute right of sovereignty enjoyed by independent states, which can only be justified by positive treaty, or implied permission from usage.Now, that was the very question which the noble Lord and he in the Grey Cabinet discussed when the China Trade Act was under discussion, that it was pro tanto an interference with international law. But the extreme peril of the case was deliberately held by Lord Grey's Government to be the excuse for the clause of the bill providing this. This objection ought not, therefore, to be urged by the 687 noble Lord, when he had deliberately put a similar provision on the Statute-book. But the noble Lord then went on to give him an instruction hard to be executed; and he thought the noble Lord must have been aware that Captain Elliot could not, at that time, execute it. He said,Under these circumstances, I have to instruct you to endeavour to obtain the written approval of the Governor of Canton for these regulations, and as soon as that approval is received in this country the proper steps shall be taken for giving force to those regulations, according to the provisions of the act of Parliament.Now, it was very extraordinary, that the noble Lord had produced evidence that the Chinese themselves had expressed the greatest surprise at the absence of some such authority. They would find at page 334 the following instructions from the Prefect and Commandant of Canton, jointly to Captain Elliot:—The said superintendent came, I find, to Canton, in obedience to commands received from his sovereign, to exercise control over the merchants and seamen; to repress the depraved and to extirpate evils. Having such commands given to him, he must needs also have powers.Actually, this was the opinion of the Chinese.It is very inexplicable, then, that these boats having, in violation of the laws, entered the river, he should now find it difficult to send them out again, owing to his not having the confidence of all.He could conceive that it would be argued by the noble Lord that an application was made to Parliament for an extension of powers. The hon. Member for Lambeth would recollect the part they took in a bill introduced in 1838. The noble Lord did introduce a bill in 1838, which he had resisted. The object of that bill be could not state so shortly. The noble Lord thought it expedient that these courts should, in addition to criminal and admiralty jurisdiction possess civil jurisdiction. He (Sir J. Graham's) argument was, that the 6th section of the China Trade Act gave unlimited jurisdiction (it gave no civil authority whatever) for criminal purposes or for Admiralty purposes. No fresh power whatever was wanted. The power sought by the noble Lord was an extension of power from criminal jurisdiction to civil jurisdiction. That further stretch of power he thought highly dangerous, ex- 688 tending beyond the limits of national law, giving to the superintendent the power to exercise not only criminal jurisdiction, but to try actions of debt between British subjects and the Chinese. He thought he stated the argument correctly, and what was the ground taken by the hon. Member for Lambeth and himself, in opposition to the arguments urged on the other side? Here was on record what he said on that occasion, and with the permission of the House, to prevent all taunt against himself personally, he would read what he said on that occasion. The noble Lord reminded him, that that was a part of the China trade, and thought by using that argument, that he would be induced to give civil jurisdiction. He replied—He never regretted having taken part in the measure of 1833 (that was in the China Trade Act),because that measure had the effect, notwithstanding all that had been said against it, of opening the China Trade. But he found himself bound to say, that experience had convinced him that the clauses were unnecessary, and he now considered that it would be highly inexpedient to extend their operation. It was clear that Lord Napier, leaving this country with an erroneous impression of the powers intrusted to him, did so demean himself to the Chinese authorities, as seriously to endanger our commercial relations with that country, and exposed himself to such annoyances as he fully believed cost him his life. Those who accompanied him, being taught by experience, so modified their course of proceeding as to be able to renew our intercourse. The Chinese never allowed us to fix ourselves at Canton, and in place of having three superintendents resident there, we had only one officer exercising the powers of a consul. He had no doubt but that the Chinese would take every advantage of the court as plaintiffs, but they would never submit to its jurisdiction as defendants, so that it would prove to be a gross hardship on British subjects."*It was on that ground that he had resisted that bill—that it was giving a power of trying actions for debt and civil processes. It did not touch in the slightest degree the criminal jurisdiction given by the Act of 1833. To the one he agreed; to the other he offered his resistance, and his successful resistance. But in case the noble Lord should rely on this point, he now came to what he thought was a very grave charge against the noble Lord. The noble Lord founded his ap-* Hansard, vol. xliv., p, 750.689 plication to Parliament for the introduction of the bill, giving the extension of the jurisdiction which he had stated, on the papers the noble Lord had presented to the House. Those papers were now before them. He would not trouble the House by going into them at any length. It was sufficient for him, in the present instance, to state, that they were extracts (and extracts which they now had an opportunity of comparing with the extended correspondence as it really existed) which presented to the House a very imperfect and unfair view of our relations with China at that period. He would ask the hon. Member for Lambeth whether it was not understood that our relations with Canton at that time were completely amicable; so much so, that it was thought that this extension of criminal to civil jurisdiction would not be unacceptable? The noble Lord had said nothing of a serious misunderstanding which existed with the Chinese. So far from our understanding with the Chinese authorities being good at that time and amicable, there were serious interruptions to it. Not one word of this did the noble Lord open to the House. The House might have been betrayed into passing that Act, which would have been a very great additional cause of irritation; and it was only now, for the first time, that the opium question presented itself in all the aggravated and difficult circumstances which he was now going to present to them. It appeared that as early as the 3rd of March, 1834, warning was given by the Imperial Government with respect to the trade in opium. If they looked at page 77 they would find the Imperial edict as transmitted by Mr. Davis to Lord Palmerston, in which distinct notice was given by the Chinese authorities, that if there were any vessels selling opium, or any contraband trade whatever carrying on in opium by foreign merchants, they were to be driven out.Let the Hong merchants, said the edict, likewise be commanded to enjoin commands on the English barbarian merchants, that they are mutually to examine and inquire, and that if one vessel smuggle and evade the duties, all the vessels shall be immediately prohibited trading; that thus they may themselves be caused severally to investigate and adopt preventive measures, which will be a plan more sure and perfect,He must now be allowed to say, as he had opened this question of the opium 690 trade, that as with regard to threats used against the Chinese, very strong language was used by the East-India Company also, and a very important and decisive warning was put on record by the officers of the East-India Company. It was in a paper moved for by the hon. Member for Buckingham, and at page 21 there would be found an extract to this effect:—A most flagrant case of violence had arisen on the part of the captain of one of the East India ships on a quarrel arising with a smuggling boat; he had landed some of his crew, and taken more than one prisoner; both parties had fired, and several were wounded, and it was a case of extreme violence.What was the conduct of the supercargoes? They said,—We are fully impressed how cautious we must be, lest by connivance on our part we become involved with the Government. It has hitherto been our policy to profess our ignorance of all that passes without the Bogue.Now, mark this,—But we say the time has been gradually approaching (this is 1833) when this system of non-interference has encouraged a lawless and piratical mode of procedure which it is absolutely incumbent on us to put down. If we, the supercargoes, take no cognizance of these things, it is impossible to say to what extent these acts may be carried, and whether the very existence of the trade may not be endangered.Now, there was ample and positive warning given by the supercargoes to her Majesty's Government. He should like to contrast with this the conduct of her Majesty's Government, page 121, No. 65, It appeared that a vessel of the name of the Jardine, an ominous name, in the opium trade, had, contrary to the wish of Captain Elliot, insisted on proceeding up the river to Canton to trade, and Captain Elliot had interfered to stop it. He begged the House to listen to the terms in which the noble Lord dealt with that interference. He said—With reference to that part of your minute of the 27th of December, 1835, enclosed in Sir George Robinson's despatch of the 18th of February last, in which, for the reasons therein stated, you advised that the commander of the steam-boat Jardine should be enjoined, on the king's authority, by no means to proceed up the river to Canton, I think it necessary to recommend to you great caution in interfering in such a manner with the undertakings of British merchants, In the present state of our relations whith China, it is especially incum- 691 bent upon you, while you do all that lies in your power to avoid giving just cause of offence to the Chinese authorities, to be at the same time very careful not to assume a greater degree of authority over British subjects in China than that which you in reality possess.[Hear, hear, from Lord Palmerston.] The noble Lord cheered; but he begged the noble Lord to bear in mind, that the despatch to which he had just referred, was written after he had received repeated warnings, that unless the illicit trade in opium was put down, the continuance of the legitimate trade would he endangered. Speaking upon this part of the subject, he must observe, that up to a certain period there was reason to believe that a part, at least, of the Chinese authorities connived at the trade in opium. He did not find, however, that the Imperial authority at Pekin ever receded from a positive prohibition of the importation of the drug. But, as he had stated, up to a certain period there was every reason to believe that, from corrupt motives, the viceregal authorities at Canton connived at it. It appeared, however, that a great discussion took place in the Chinese Cabinet, as to whether prohibitory law or protecting duties should be imposed upon the importation of opium. The question was very ably discussed on both sides. He thought that the free traders had the best of it; but there were close divisions, even in the Chinese Cabinet, and a prohibitory law was carried by a majority of one. The consequence of this was a marked difference in the conduct of the Chinese authorities at Canton; and a strong disposition was evinced to put a total stop to the trade. Was the noble Lord ignorant of that change of policy? On the 15th of May, 1838, a despatch, alluding to this edict, was received by the noble Lord. It was dated the 19th of November, 1837, and was in page 241. This despatch stated to the noble Lord several facts which had followed the changes in the policy of the Chinese Cabinet. He states—Native boats have been burnt, and the native smugglers scattered, and the consequence is, as it was foreseen it would be, that a complete and very hazardous change has been worked in the whole manner of conducting the Canton portion of the trade. In fact, weighing the whole body of circumstances as carefully as I can, it seems to me that the moment has arrived for such active interposition Upon the part of her Majesty's Government as can properly be afforded, and that it cannot 692 be deferred without great hazard to the safety of the whole trade, and of the persons engaged in its pursuit.That despatch was received in May, 1838, and1 he begged to remind the hon. Member for Lambeth that it was in the hands of the noble Lord at the time they were engaged in the discussion of the China trade. Then again, in a despatch dated the 18th of April, 1838, and which was received on the 10th of December in the same year, Captain Elliott wrote—That every season of opening the trade was marked with constant scenes of most disgraceful riots at Whampoa—that the number of British boats employed in illicit traffic had greatly increased—that, the deliveries of the opium were attended with conflicts, in which fire-arms were used—that dozens of natives were executed by strangulation for their traitorous intercourse with foreigners—that the place of execution was unusual, and was adopted with the view of intimidating foreigners there engaged in the opium trade—that the prisons were full of persons charged with similar offences, and that, in short, the illicit trade carried on was daily assuming a very serious aspect by connecting itself with the regular trade and intercourse with China.Again, in a despatch dated 20th April, 1838, Captain Elliot said:In the course of the last two months, the number of English boats employed in the illicit traffic between Lintin and Canton has vastly increased, and the deliveries of opium have frequently been accompanied by conflict of fire-arms between those vessels and the government preventive craft. Connected with this subject, it is necessary I should report to your Lordship a striking and painful event which has just taken place at Macao. About a week since an unfortunate Chinese was executed immediately without the walls of this town, by strangulation, as the sentence inscribed over him bore, for traitorous intercourse with foreigners, and for smuggling opium and Sycee silver. This is the first proceeding of this nature which has been taken by the Chinese government in this part of the empire. The place of execution (quite unusual), and indeed the terms of the sentence, plainly indicate that it was adopted mainly with a view to the intimidation and for an example to the foreigners. It is also stated, (and probably with truth) that this execution, and the manner of it, were by the special command of the court. But, be that as it may, with the prisons full of persons charged with similar offences, and with public executions for them, it is not to be supposed that the provincial government can venture much longer to permit the delivery of opium out of British armed-boats, almost under the walls of the governor's? palace at Canton; neither is it likely that they 693 will succeed in driving them out without bloodshed. Even putting all higher considerations out of view, I must remark that this last seems to me to be a very unfortunate turn for such a trade to have taken. That it is advantageous to the individuals immediately concerned in such a channel, there can be no doubt, but it is at the same time a state of circumstances which must necessarily, sooner or later, force itself under the active treatment of the Chinese government. And whenever that result does take place, it cannot fail to be extensively mischievous to the whole traffic. I take the liberty to observe to your Lordship that I never advert to this subject without extreme reluctance; but it is daily assuming so very serious an aspect, and connecting itself so intimately and so unfortunately with our regular trade and intercourse with this empire, that I feel it is my duty to keep her Majesty's Government informed of the general course of events in relation to it.These warnings were constantly repeated by Captain Elliot in a series of despatches, even in stronger and more forcible language, down to the month of April, 1839. To quote one passage in a despatch, dated the 2nd of January, 1839, to be found at page 327, Captain Elliot stated:—It had been clear to me from the origin of this peculiar branch of the opium traffic, that it must grow to be more and more mischievous to every branch of the trade, and to none more than to that of opium itself. As the danger and shame of its pursuit increased, it is obvious that it would fall by rapid degrees into the hands of more and more desperate men; that it would stain the foreign character with constantly aggravating disgrace in the sight of the whole of the better portion of this people; and, lastly, that it would connect itself more and more intimately with our lawful commercial intercourse, to the great peril of vast public and private interests.Such were the series of cautions, from the despatches of Captain Elliot, conveying warnings to her Majesty's Government as distinctly as they possibly could be conveyed. Now, were there any additional instructions sent out to Captain Elliot by the noble Lord? Nothing like it, Were any additional powers given to the British superintendent? Nothing of the sort. Were the powers exercised by Captain Elliot, in his endeavours to restrain this illicit traffic, improved? The reverse. Captain Elliot had made a vigorous effort to restrain the opium trade, and, as he had already stated, he had effected to a considerable extent his purpose by the establishment of a system of police. He would 694 not trouble the House by again reading the despatch in which the noble Lord repudiated the course which Captain Elliot had taken, and in which he stated that no such powers and regulations, without the written consent of the Chinese authorities, could stand. But if the noble Lord had not given Captain Elliot the power of suppression, had he authorized him to make any communication to the British traders to observe greater caution, and to exhibit more respect for the Chinese laws? All the noble Lord had ever done, as far as he could discover, was contained in one short despatch, which would be found at page 258, in which the noble Lord said—With respect to the smuggling trade in opium, which forms the subject of your despatches of the 18th and 19th of November, and 7th of December, 1837, I have to state that her Majesty's Government cannot interfere for the purpose of enabling British subjects to violate the laws of the country to which they trade.[Lord Palmerston "hear "] This was as much as to say that the noble Lord would not give any countenance to this violation of the laws of China by illegal traffic, but that he would not do that which would amount to an absolute discountenance of it. And the noble Lord now cheered him when he read that which showed that when his own officer announced to him the dangerous character which this illegal traffic was assuming with respect to the interests of our own commerce with China, all he did was to tell the parties engaged in it that which they knew before. He was going to read the remainder of the paragraph, in order to see the extent of warning which the noble Lord had given. The noble Lord simply said—Any loss, therefore, which such persons may suffer in consequence of the more effectual execution of the Chinese laws on this subject, must be borne by the parties who have brought that loss on themselves by their own acts.Now on this subject there was another most remarkable fact—namely, that no order whatever had been made by Captain Elliot for the suppression of the opium trade in the outer waters. He found that a curious distinction was made with respect to the inner and the outer waters; and at page 333 it would be found that Captain Elliot used vigorous efforts to suppress the trade in. the inner waters, and 695 that the words of his public notice to her-Majesty's subjects were full and satisfactory. He says—I, the said chief superintendent, do further give notice and warn all British subjects employed in the said schooners, cutters, and otherwise rigged small craft, engaged in the illicit traffic in opium within the Bocca Tigris, that the forcibly resisting of the officers of the Chinese Government in the duty of searching and seizing is an unlawful act, and that they are liable to consequences and penalties in the same manner as if the aforesaid forcible resistance were opposed to the officers of their own or any other Government in their own or in any foreign country.Now, that was the language used—used rather late it was true—with respect to the trade in the inner waters. But contrast it with the language used by the same authority in relation to ships in the outer waters. By a public notice dated March 22, 1839 (to be found at page 363) it is staled—The chief superintendent of the trade of British subjects in China having received information that her Majesty's subjects are detained against their will in Canton, and having other urgent reasons for the withdrawal of all confidence in the just and moderate dispositions of the provincial government, has now to require that all the ships of her Majesty's subjects at the outer anchorage should proceed forthwith to Hong Kong, and hoisting their national colours, be prepared to resist every act of aggression on the part of the Chinese Government.Thus the right of search was to be resisted in the outer, but submitted to in the inner waters. Having now gone through all the prominent points which he had stated at the commencement of his speech, he came to that which he conceived to be a most material part of this subject, he alluded to the absence of a naval force. It would be remembered that among other recommendations made by the Duke of Wellington, there was one that at all times there should be, with a view of enforcing a system of police among the British subjects, a stout frigate and a smaller vessel of war at the command of the superintendent; and in a despatch of the noble Lord opposite, which he found at page 192, the noble Lord with great perspicuity stated the objects of such a force. Though somewhat late in the day, the noble Lord adopted the advice given by the Duke of Wellington in 1835, and wrote to the Lords of the Admiralty to direct the Ad- 696 miral commanding in the East Indies to send ships to China. The noble Lord stated in his despatch of the Lords of the Admiralty—The purposes for which such ships would be stationed are—first, to afford protection to British interests, and to give weight to any representations which her Majesty's superintendent may be under the necessity of making in case any of her Majesty's subjects should have just cause of complaint against the Chinese authorities; and secondly, to assist the superintendent in maintaining order among the crews of the British merchantmen who frequent the port of Canton.Nothing could be more clear than this instruction; but he (Sir J. Graham) begged to ask the noble Lord the difference as to the necessity of such a force when the noble Lord came into office in 1835, and that which existed when the noble Lord sent these orders to the Admiralty in 1837. The noble Lord was not ignorant of the powerful effect the appearance of a naval force would have on the arrangement of affairs with China, for in his despatch of 1839 the noble Lord stated that—The appearance of the British Admiral in the river of Canton must bring about an arrangement of the matters in dispute.Therefore, the noble Lord fully appreciated the objects for which a naval force might be sent, and the moral influence the appearance that force would have on the Chinese government. Now, the dates in the matter were important. The memorandum of the Duke of Wellington was dated March 24, 1835; the first order in which the noble Lord expressed a wish that a ship of war should be constantly present in the waters of Canton he found at page 132, and it was dated March 23, 1836. The instructions to the Admiralty, which were the official document to give effect to the letter of March 1836, bore date the 20th of September, 1837. What was then the fact? The Duke of Wellington intimated the necessity of a naval force on the 24th of March, 1835; but the noble Lord never requested that force to be furnished by the Admiralty until September, 1837, that was to say after a lapse of two years and a-half. But were there during that time no urgent representations made to the noble Lord of the necessity of the presence at Canton of such a force? He held in his hand various representations made at various times by 697 the superintendent, all urging upon the noble Lord in the strongest manner the danger which would be incurred from the continued absence of a naval force. He knew it would be said, that while the trade with China was in the hands of the East India Company, standing orders, which he thought most prudent, existed, prohibiting ships of war from going into the Chinese seas. The principle upon which that prohibition proceeded was proper and right. The presence of ships of war was not then required, because, from the character of the East India Company's ships, no force in addition to them, under another authority, was necessary or desirable. They were sufficiently manned for warlike purposes. A divided authority might have led to collision, and instead of acting as a salutary check over the Chinese, the presence of two different forces might have produced an opposite effect. If hon. Members would turn to page 109, they would see the statement of Sir George Robinson as to the usual extent of the force of the East India Company in the Chinese sea—a force, generally, of between 3,000 and 4,000, and quite sufficient for all purposes. But to return to the representations made by Captain Elliot. He began in 1836 to state—That a man-of-war would have the effect of relaxing the spirit of the provincial Government.Again, in February, 1837, he urged the same point upon Lord Auckland in the strongest terms. In June, 1836, he urged the critical posture of the opium trade and his regard to other traffic as a justification for soliciting the presence of a man-of-war in the Chinese seas, and in a despatch, dated December, 7, 1837 (at page 250), he states such a force was necessary for protection to British interests. He does the same again on the 31st of May, 1838. The necessity of such a force was thus fully pointed out—the hopes which such a presence inspired were clearly defined, and, without wearying the House with the repeated importunities with which that force was asked for, what were the facts as they now appeared? He had no official return, but from the papers on the table of the House he was enabled to make the conjecture; that from March, 1835, to September, 1839, fifty-three months elapsed, and during that time there was no ship of war at Canton, except for the space of eight months. On 698 this point there was one little circumstance which crept out of these papers, and which in his mind, spoke volumes. Such was the anxiety during the critical period when Captain Elliot was in close confinement, yet from circumstances still unexplained Captain Elliot wrote home expressing his regret, that Captain Blake and the Lame did not remain until he had been released. It appeared, that Captain Blake left Canton under peremptory orders just at that critical period. Could anything more clearly mark the utter destitution in which British subjects were left at that juncture than the despatch addressed by Captain Elliot to the noble Lord on the 6th of May, 1839, in which, after describing the desertion by the Lame, he attributed his hope of release to the appearance of two American frigates—the Colombia and the John Adams? So that after the warning of the Duke of Wellington in 1835, the only hope in need was the accidental presence in the Canton river of two American frigates But was this all? How notorious the destitution of the British subjects was, was evidenced by another collateral circumstance more conclusive than any direct proof. He entreated the House to attend to the terms of gratitude in which Captain Elliot spoke of the conduct of Captain Douglas, commanding the Cambridge, who, hearing of the almost fatal emergency in which Captain Elliot was placed, and in the hope of saving his fellow-countrymen, purchased, at his own charge, at Singapore, twenty-two 18-pound guns, and came up to Canton.I have no doubt (said Captain Elliot) the imposing appearance of the vessel thus armed and manned with a strong crew of Europeans discouraged the attempts made on the British fleet for at least two months.Captain Elliot then expressed a hope, that her Majesty's Government would be pleased to pay the expenses which Captain Douglas had incurred during the time he had performed this valuable service. He joined in that hope, for he was sure, if ever a Government owed a debt of gratitude to any individual, it was the Government which now sat opposite to him, to Captain Douglas. He was bound to say, that up to this period it seemed to him, that Captain Elliot, in this complicated transaction, considering the extreme difficulties in which he was placed, acted on the whole with great energy and discretion. 699 But be now came to a period in these events when he could not speak of Captain Elliot in the same terms of commendation. As to the question of the introduction of the opium, he would not then enter into it, but would come to the subsequent transactions, which were more important, and which involved this country in the imminent risk of a war with China, if indeed that war had not already begun. He would first refer to the unfortunate transaction mentioned in Captain Elliot's letter of the 5th of September, 1839. He called it unfortunate, for it was admitted to be so by Captain Elliot himself. The circumstance to which he alluded was the attack on the three war junks, which was one which he considered peculiarly unfortunate. In the despatch which related to this affair, Captain Elliot admitted, that he had fired the first shot, and he justified his gallant impulse by stating his belief, that an insult had been offered to the British flag. His words were these—The violent and vexatious measures heaped upon her Majesty's officers and subjects will, I trust, serve to excuse those feelings of irritation which have betrayed me into a measure that I am sensible, under less trying circumstances, would be difficult indeed of vindication.The gallant officer, however, on more mature consideration, appeared to regret the course which he had adopted. His words were—I can assure your Lordship, that though I am responsible for causing the first shot to be fired, I did not anticipate any conflict when we left, and went accompanied solely for purposes of sufficient defence against insult or attack.The proceeding was altogether unwise, for the gallant captain did not anticipate a conflict—but he converted his visit into a hostile one at the same time that he went without sufficient preparation to make that hostility effective. With such a people as the Chinese, it was of the very highest importance that the first step taken should be productive of a moral effect. But it appeared, that not only had the first shot been fired by Captain Elliot, but also that the contest lasted for a considerable time. His own words were,I opened fire from the pinnace, the cutter, and the other vessels, upon the three junks. It was answered both from them and the battery with a spirit not at all unexpected by me, for I have already had experience that the Chi- 700 nese are much under-rated in that respect. After a fire of almost half an hour against this vastly superior force, we hauled off from failure of our ammunition,There was also evidence in the despatch that an attempt had been made to board the junks. This appeared by the following passage:—The only casualty I have to report on this occasion is a flesh wound in the arm to Capt. Douglas, of the ship Cambridge, in a gallant attempt to carry one of the junks at the close of the day.Thus then it appeared from the despatch, first, that Captain Elliot commenced the attack; next, that he attempted to board one of the junks; and then, notwithstanding that he was the aggressor, he was compelled, to use his own words, "to haul off." Such a course, though perhaps, rightly intended, was the most unfortunate that could possibly be adopted. The course pursued was wrong in the first instance; but that course having been taken, had Captain Elliot followed it up successfully, the intended moral effect might have been produced. Though the fact of causing the first shot to be fired was in itself blameable, yet that, course having been adopted, it should have been vigorously followed up, so as to ensure success. What was the next step taken in this unfortunate transaction? Without any declaration of war, a belligerent step was decided on, and a blockade was declared. Between him and the noble Lord opposite there was not likely to be a difference of opinion as to the circumstances under which a blockade should be declared. The circumstances of the case might warrant Captain Elliot in laying an embargo, but he should not have declared a blockade unless there had been a previous declaration of war. There was one document connected with this part of the transaction which, though the noble Lord had been asked for it, had not been furnished to the House. The noble Lord said, he had no official cognizance of the paper. He must quote it therefore from the usual source of information. The document he would read, was the remonstrance made against the blockade by the American merchants. It was as follows:—The undersigned citizens of the United States of America, merchants, and shipmasters at present at Hong Kong Bay, in the waters of China, having heard a report that it is your intention, at the requisition of the chief super- 701 intendent of British trade in China, to blockade, after the expiration of six days from this date, the river and port of Canton; and that the force to be employed, it is understood, will consist of her Britannic Majesty's ship Volage, under your command, and such merchant vessels as can be conveniently armed for the occasion.We therefore beg leave most respectfully to present to you, and through you, to her Majesty's chief superintendent of trade in China, that the right of such a blockade cannot be recognized by the undersigned, and, if attempted to be carried into effect to their injury, or the injury of the American shipping and interests; will be considered by the undersigned, and by their countrymen, an infringement of their legal and just rights; it being contrary to the laws of nations, existing treaties, illegal, and without precedent.We hereby enter our most solemn protest, and do now solemnly protest against such a blockade, as we understand from report is now proposed to be enforced.And we do hereby give notice, that we shall hold her Britannic Majesty and her Government responsible in the fullest manner for whatever lives may be sacrificed, and other losses that may be sustained by American citizens, in consequence of said blockade and sudden proceedings of her Majesty's officers in China, and we shall further hold you personally, and all persons acting under your authority, responsible for whatever lives may be lost, or injury sustained, in person or property, by any American citizen.Now, bow did the case stand? The blockade was declared in the presence of the Chinese by the officer in command. The notoriety of the remonstrance made against it by the American merchants was universal, and immediately after this remonstrance the blockade was raised. What was the inference which the Chinese would naturally draw from this course of proceeding? Why, they attributed it to fear, and the result was, that it served to increase their boldness and violence. Then ensued the attack on the vessel in which Mr. Moss was mutilated, and the Lascars killed. In this matter it appeared that Captain Elliot, at first, was of opinion that the Chinese were not to blame, though he afterwards seemed to think otherwise. Under all the circumstances of the case—the commencement of the attack by our ships, the declaration of the blockade, and its subsequent withdrawal—it was impossible for the Chinese to attribute the course pursued to any other cause than fear; and to this was to be attributed all the consequences which followed. The course taken was a most unjustifiable one, 702 more especially when it was taken into account that no impending danger threatened the British shipping. It was notorious that Alison's Bay was the usual harbour of the Chinese shipping, and the junks were always there. Under those circumstances, two English ships sailed up as if in defiance. On this the Chinese junks drew out. They were directed to retire, and they did so, and then they were ordered to withdraw. Now see how this would be in the case of civilized nations, and let the question be tried by that test. Suppose a squadron of French vessels from St. Helen's were to come to Spit-head, and order our force there to retire, at the same time coming to anchor without. Was it to be endured, u0nder such circumstances, that the French should call upon the British to retire? Let hon. Members look at the despatches, and they would find that the case was exactly similar. For his own part, he could not conceive any attack more unwarranted and unjustifiable. Captain Elliot, in one of his despatches, expressed great satisfaction at the renewal of the trade which was now entirely cut off. But what was the trade which afforded Captain Elliot so much satisfaction? It was one in which the American vessels were the carriers, and by which they levied a toll of five per cent, on every hundred pounds' worth of goods which came out of Canton, and which was to that extent a loss to British commerce. For his part, he could not concur in the satisfaction expressed by Captain Elliot. He did not see anything so very gratifying' in having the alarm of British subjects allayed by the appearance of an American frigate, or in paying a toll of five per cent, to American vessels. It was strange that the gallant captain should find cause of satisfaction in a renewal of the trade under such circumstances, more especially when in a former despatch he recommended that bulk should not be broken, except on the exhibition of a manifesto signed by himself. He would beseech the House to afford to this subject its most attentive and deliberate consideration. He might be deceived, but, to his apprehension, it appeared that this would be no little war—nor one which, as some appeared to think, would be terminated by a single campaign. It was one which would be attended with circumstances no less formidable than the magnitude of the interests which were at 703 stake. If a war with China were to take place, it should be remembered that it was a contest which should be carried on at the remotest part of the habitable globe, and where the monsoons would materially interfere with the communications which must be had with this country. It was to be carried on at an immense distance from all our naval stations. The squadrons which should be sent out would be exposed to various dangers. They would arrive at their destination after a long voyage, pent up in crowded transports, and wearied with the fatigues of an element which our land forces abhor, they would come to the scene of action with abated Strength and diminished energies. If, indeed, war with China had been rendered inevitable—if the House believed that the Government wished for peace, and had done all in its power by resorting to every accessible means of averting hostilities—if he could believe that we were called upon to enter into this war, not only to punish those who slighted us, but in the necessary defence of our national honour, he was persuaded that the whole martial spirit of the country would gird itself up for the conflict, and meet the danger without fear or anxiety. But, on the contrary, when they saw on the part of her Majesty's advisers the most pertinacious adherence to the erroneous course repudiated, both by experience and reason—when they saw that they attempted to force on a proud and powerful people a mode of proceeding to which the weakest would not tamely submit—when they saw that the advice of one of the greatest and most prudent of our statesmen, who himself had warned them, was disregarded and rejected—when they saw repeated warnings given by the servants of the same Administration equally unattended to—when they saw that branch of the trade which the confidential servants of the Administration had declared to be piratical, not put down by the interference of her Majesty's Government—when they saw nothing done or attempted to be be done, whilst her Majesty's superintendent was left without power, without instruction, and without force to meet the emergency which must have been naturally expected to follow—he could not help asking the House whether they did believe that the people of this country would patiently submit to the burden which this Parliament must of neces 704 sity impose. And whether that people could repose confidence in an Administration that, by a mismanagement of five years, had destroyed a trade which had flourished for centuries, and which, in addition to the loss which the country had already undergone, had almost plunged it into a war into which success would not be attended with glory, and in which defeat would be our ruin and our shame. The right hon. Baronet concluded with moving that—It appears to this House, on consideration of the papers relating to China, presented to this House, by command of her Majesty, that the interruption in our commercial and friendly intercourse with that country, and the hostilities which have since taken place, are mainly to be attributed to the want of foresight and precaution on the part of her Majesty's present advisers, in respect to our relations with China, and especially to their neglect to furnish the superintendent at Canton with powers and instructions calculated to provide against the growing evils connected with the contraband traffic in opium, and adapted to the novel and difficult situation in which the superintendent was placed.
§ Mr. Macaulay
said, that if the right hon. Baronet, in rising as the proposer of an attack, owned that he felt overpowered with the importance of the question, one who rose in defence, might certainly, without any shame, make a similar declaration. And he must say, that the natural and becoming anxiety which her Majesty's Ministers could not but feel as to the judgment which the House might pass upon the papers which had been presented to them, had been considerably allayed by the terms of the motion of the right hon. Baronet. It was utterly impossible to doubt the power of the right hon. Baronet, or his will to attack the proceedings of the present Administration; and he must think it a matter on which her Majesty's Ministers might congratulate themselves, that, on the closest examination of a series of transactions so extensive, so complicated, and on some points so disastrous, such an assailant could produce only such a resolution. In the first place, the terms of the resolution were entirely retrospective, and not only so, but they related to no point of time more recent than a year ago; for he conceived that the rupture between this country and China must date from the month of March, 1839, and there had been no omission 705 and no despatch of a later date that could have been the cause of the rupture of our friendly relations. He conceived, therefore, that the present resolution was one which related entirely to past transactions, and while he did not dispute the right of the right hon. Baronet to found a motion, or the right of the House to pass any vote censuring any bygone misconduct on the part of her Majesty's Ministers, he must at the same time feel gratified that the right hon. Baronet did not censure any portion of the present policy of the Government, and that he did not think fit in the present motion to raise any question as to the propriety of the measures which, since the year 1839, her Majesty's Ministers had adopted. He saw, also, with pleasure that the right hon. Gentleman charged the Administration with no offence of commission; that he imputed to them no impropriety of conduct, no indiscretion, no step which had either lowered the national honour or given to China any just cause of offence. All the complaint was, that they had not foreseen what circumstances might by possibility arise, and that they had not given power to the representative of her Majesty to meet any such unforeseen circumstances; and he must say that such a charge was one which required, and which ought to receive, the most distinct, the fullest, and the most positive proof, because it was of all charges the easiest to make, and the easiest to support by specious reasoning, and, at the same time, it was one of the most difficult to refute. A man charged with a culpable act might defend himself from that act, but it was not possible in any series of transactions that an objection might not be made, that something might not have been done which, if done, would have made things better. The peculiarity of the case then before them was, that a grave charge had been brought against her Majesty's Ministers, because they had not sent sufficient instructions, and because they had not given sufficient power to a representative at a distance of fifteen thousand miles from them; that they had not given instructions sufficiently full, and sufficiently precise, to a person who was separated from them by a voyage of five months. He was ready to admit, that if the papers then on the table of the House related to important negotiations with a neighbouring state, that if they related, for instance, to negotiations carried on in 706 Paris, during which a courier from Downing-street could be dispatched and return in thirty-six hours, and could be again dispatched and again return in as short a period; if such were the nature of the facilities for the parties negotiating, he would say without hesitation that a foreign secretary giving instructions so scanty and so meagre to the representative of the British Government was to blame. But he said, also, that the control which might be a legitimate interference with functionaries that were near, became an useless and a needless meddling with the functionaries at a distance. He might with confidence appeal to Members on both sides of the House who were conversant with the management of our Indian empire, for a confirmation of what he had stated. India was nearer to us than was China; with India, we were better acquainted than we were with China, and yet he believed that the universal opinion was, that India could be governed only in India. Indeed, the chief point which occupied the attention of the authorities at home was to point out the general line of conduct to be pursued; to lay down the general principles, and not to interfere with the details of every measure. If hon. Members only thought in what a state the political affairs of that country would be if they were placed under the sole guidance of a person at a distance of even less than 15,000 miles, they would at once see how absurd such a proposition was. They would see a despatch written during the first joy at the news of the peace of Amiens received while the French invading army was encamped at Boulogne. They would find a despatch, written while Napoleon was in Elba, arriving when he was the occupant of the Tuilleries; and they would have positive instructions sent whilst he was in the Tuilleries to come into operation when he was removed to St. Helena. In India, also, occurrences were continually and rapidly taking place, so that the state of things in Bengal or in the Carnatic would have changed long before the specified instructions could have arrived, and they all knew that the great men who had retained for us that country, Lord Clive and Lord Hastings, had done so by treating particular instructions from a distance as so much waste paper; if they had not had the spirit so to treat them, we should now have no empire in India. But the state of China made a 707 stronger case still. Nor was this all. With regard to India, a politician sitting in Leadenhall-street, or in Cannon-row, might not know the state of things at the distance of India, but he might be acquainted with the general state of the country, its wants, its resources; but with regard to China it should be recollected that that country was not only removed from us by a much greater distance than India, but that those who were permitted to go nearest knew but little of it; for over the internal policy of China a veil was thrown, through which a slight glimpse only could be caught, sufficient only to raise the imagination, and as likely to mislead as to give information. The right hon. Baronet had honourably told the House that the knowledge of Englishmen residing at. Canton resembled the notions which might be acquired of our government, our army, our resources, our manufactures, and our agriculture, by a foreigner, who, having landed at Wapping, was not allowed to go further. The advantages of literature even which in other cases presented an opportunity of holding personal intercourse a. well as looking into the character and habits of remote ages, afforded but little help in the case of China. Difficulties unknown in other countries there met the student at the very threshold; so that they might count upon their fingers those men of industry and genius, one of whom had been referred to that night, who had surmounted those difficulties, which were unequalled in the study of any other language which had an alphabet. And under these circumstances, with a country so far removed, and yet as little known to the residents at Canton itself as the central parts of Africa—under these circum. stances, he said, in spite of the jeers of hon. Gentlemen opposite, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs could not be expected to give the same precise instructions to the representative of his Sovereign as he could to our Ministers at Brussels or the Hague. This was evidently the feeling of the Government of Earl Grey, of that Government to which the right hon. Baronet belonged, and for the acts of which he claimed, and rightly claimed, a full share of responsibility. The instructions, to which the right hon. Baronet was a party, did not go into detail—they laid down the broadest general principles—they simply told the represen- 708 tative of her Majesty to respect the usages of China, and to avoid by all means giving offence to the prejudices or the feelings of the Chinese. As for precise instructions, they never gave any. When the Duke of Wellington came into office, that great man, well versed as he was in great affairs, and knowing as he did, that even a man of inferior ability on the spot could judge better than the ablest man at distance of 15,000 miles, in the only despatch which he addressed to a resident at Canton, contented himself with referring the Superintendent to the instruction of Lord Palmerston. Now, what he wished to impress on hon. Gentlemen was, that when charges were brought against the Government of omitting to give instructions, or omitting to empower our representative, or that by this omission had been produced a great and formidable crisis in the relations between this country and China, this charge ought to be sustained by the clearest, by the fullest, and by the most precise proof that such was one of the causes, if not the principal cause of such a crisis, and that proof the right hon. Baronet in the course of his long and elaborate speech had altogether failed to give. He had selected from the evidence on the table a great mass of information that was interesting, and much that was by no means applicable to the only point on which the present motion could rest. What were the omissions in the instructions and in the power given to our representative? The right hon. Baronet had read some despatches of the East India Company in 1832; and he had also discussed the conduct of Captain Elliot subsequent to the rupture; but he conceived that neither the one nor the other was before the House; that he had entirely forgotten to notice what act the Government might have done which it had not, and which might have prevented the present unfortunate position of affairs. What, however, were the omissions of which the right hon. Baronet complained? They were four in number. First, that the Government had omitted to correct a point in the Order in Council, which directed the Superintendent to reside in Canton; secondly, that they had omitted to correct the Order in Council on the point which showed the Superintendent a new channel of communication with the Chinese government; thirdly, that they 709 had omitted to act upon the suggestion of the memorandum made by the Duke of Wellington to keep a naval force in the neighbourhood of Canton; and, fourthly, what was most important of all, that they did not give sufficient power to the superintendent to put clown the illicit trade. He believed that there was not one other omission specifically mentioned in the able speech of the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to the first omission, the answer was simple. It was true that the order in council, directing the superintendent to reside at Canton, had not been revoked by her Majesty's Government. But it was also true, that no dispute as to the residence of the superintendent had anything to do with the unfortunate rupture; it was true that that dispute was perfectly accommodated. Captain Elliot said, in a letter dated Macao, March 18, 1837;—My Lord—A ship upon the point of sailing for Bengal, affords me a prospect of communicating rapidly with your Lordship, by the means of an overland mail of May. I seize this opportunity to transmit the translation of an edict, just procured through a private channel, containing the imperial pleasure, that I shall be furnished with a passport to proceed to Canton for the performance of my duties. The official notification may be expected from Canton in the course of a few days. For the first time in the history of our intercourse with China, the principle is most formally admitted, that an officer of a foreign sovereign, whose functions are purely public, should reside in a city of the empire. His Majesty's Government may depend upon my constant, cautious, and earnest efforts to improve this state of circumstances." I have, &c.(Signed) "CHARLES ELLIOT.Therefore, this point of omission which the right hon. Baronet made an article of charge against the Government, was no charge at all; for two years before the rupture the point had been fully conceded in the most formal and honourable manner by the Chinese authorities. And he would venture to say, that in no subsequent letter was there any document which indicated that the place of residence of the superintendent was any point in question. Therefore, he said with confidence, that the first of the right hon. Baronet's omissions had not any groundwork on which it could rest. The second charge was, that the Government did not alter the order in council to direct the superintendent as to his future communi- 710 cations with the Government, and did not tell him not to communicate as the supercargos used to do with the Chinese Government. To that alleged case of omission the answer was, that the Chinese Government had fully conceded the point. Negotiations had taken place between Captain Elliot and the Chinese authorities, and the dispute was, in fact, at an end. As to the question which arose, it was about the use of the word "Pin;" the point was easily answered, because Captain Elliot did not adhere to the construction which was put upon it. He must say, that Captain Elliot, acting under the discretion which it was absolutely necessary that every Government should give to their officers at a distance, had given up the point of superscription, and, therefore, the second omission imputed to the British Government by the right hon. Baronet had nothing to do with the present state of affairs. The third charge brought forward was, that the Government had not provided a vessel of war to be stationed upon the Chinese coast to be ready to act upon any emergency which might arise. What was the recommendation of the Duke of Wellington, in reference to this very subject? It was, that a vessel of war should be oft' Canton ready to act until the trade of the British merchants should return to its proper channel. He wrote in reference to the state of things which existed at that time, but there was not one syllable in the despatch of the noble Duke which showed that that advice should extend beyond the continuance of the existing circumstances. His Grace said, that he should recommend that, until trade should resume its ordinary course, there should always be within reach of Canton a stout frigate or vessel of war ready to act in case of necessity; but this charge was not made until four years after that advice was given, in the course of which Sir George Robinson had declared that affairs had been restored to their usual condition. The Duke of Wellington recommended that the frigate should be there only until trade should take its regular course. The right hon. Baronet had told the House that, subsequently to that, Sir George Robinson had brought about a peaceable state of affairs; and then, after that, when circumstances had occurred which he would venture to say no human mind could have foreseen, it 711 was wondered at, and fault was found, that no vessel was at the spot pointed out. He was confident that nothing was contained in any of the Duke of Wellington's prior despatches which could be taken to exhibit any desire on his part that there should be a naval force constantly upon the Canton station, to await any calamitous event which might take place. Then he came to the fourth charge, which he thought was the most important, for those to which be had already referred he conceived that there existed no ground whatsoever. The fourth point was, that the English Government, having legal authority to do so, had omitted to send to the superintendent at Canton proper powers for the purpose of suppressing the illicit trade which they knew was carried on there. In the first place, during a considerable portion of time since the present administration had been in office, there were stronger reasons in existence than there had been in the time of Lord Grey, or when the Duke of Wellington was Minister for Foreign Affairs, against sending over such powers. There was this plain and obvious reason, that down to the month of May, 1838, the Foreign Secretary had very strong reasons to believe that it was in the contemplation of the government of China immediately to legalize the opium trade, which had undoubtedly been carried on in disobedience to the existing law. It was quite clear from these papers, though it was not easy to follow all the windings of Chinese policy that in 1836, the attention of the government of that country was called in a very peculiar manner to the opium trade. The system under which that trade had been carried on was this—it had been prohibited by law, but connived at in practice. The Chinese government appeared to think that a worse state of things could not exist; that it produced all the evils of a contraband trade; that it gave rise to as much intemperance as if there were no prohibition; and, what they looked upon with equal regret, that the exportation of silver was likewise as great as if there was no prohibition upon it. That the then existing system could not last, seemed to have been the opinion of the Chinese authorities. Tang-Tzee, the able and ingenious President of the Sacrificial Offices, whom he was sorry to perceive had been dismissed, because dismissal in China, he believed, was a much more severe punish- 712 ment than in England, had argued that it was unwise to prohibit the introduction of the drug; that if it were desired by the people, whatever might be the abuse of it by intemperance, no prohibition could keep it out; and that as both the revenue and the morals of the people would suffer by the continuance of a contraband trade, it was desirable to make the trade legitimate, and tax the importation of the article. But Tchu-Sung appeared to be one of that class of statesmen who, when they found that the laws were rendered nugatory, and that it was impossible to carry them into execution by altering their machinery, and by opposing public feeling, made them more stringent. Tchu-Sung informed the Emperor that he had discovered in the course of his ministerial studies that the mode in which Europe had established her empire in several parts of Asia was, by the introduction of opium, which so weakened the intellect and enervated the bodies of the inhabitants, that they were easily pounced upon and made prisoners of by the Europeans. The opinion that the trade would be legalized was entertained by Captain Elliot, and he could himself vouch for the fact, that the mercantile community of Calcutta, during a part of the year 1837, decidedly believed that notification of the authorisation of the traffic by the Chinese government might be expected from day to day. It was not until the month of May, 1838, that a despatch arrived at the Foreign-office, interfering with, or putting an end to that expectation. That being the case, it was not strange that his noble Friend, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, should have hesitated to send out an order to put clown a trade which he had every reason to believe would have been made legitimate before such order could have reached the Chinese seas. But he (Mr. Macaulay) did not think it would have been at all desirable or right that such an order should have been sent out even in 1838. He thought that that House would have required of the Government a very clear account indeed, a very strong proof of the necessity or policy of such order, and that if they could not have furnished that proof the House would have been justified in calling them to a sharp reckoning for sending out powers to the Superintendent authorising him to seize and send home any British subject who should have been found carrying on a 713 trade which that Superintendent might have prohibited. Without meaning to deny that there were extreme cases which authorised extreme powers, he must say, that he conceived such powers as these were not to be lightly granted by any British Minister. He certainly should be convinced, before he agreed to a vote of censure upon any Government for not granting them, that, in the first place, there were grounds for supposing them to have been absolutely necessary; and in the next, that their having been withheld was the cause of the unfortunate circumstances in which we were now placed with regard to China. He, however, felt satisfied, that whether their powers had been granted or withheld, those unfortunate circumstances would have taken place; nay, more he ventured to say, that if those powers had been granted we should now find ourselves involved in hostilities with China under circumstances of peculiar calamity and national dishonour. With regard to the practicability of carrying the order, if it had been given, into effect, he must say, that it would have been impossible to put down the trade, except by the exertions of the Chinese themselves. The right hon. Baronet was far too experienced a member of the Government to suppose that, to suppress a lucrative trade, it was only necessary to issue a written edict. In England we had a preventive service, which cost half a million of money, which employed 6,000 effective men, and upwards of fifty cruisers, and yet every one knew well that every article which was reasonably portable, which was much desired, and on which severe duties were imposed, was smuggled to a very great extent. It was known that the amount of brandy smuggled had been ordinarily 600,000 gallons every year, and of tobacco an amount not much less than the whole quantity regularly imported through the Customhouse, was conveyed into the country by clandestine means. It had been proved, also, before a Committee of the House that no less than 4,000,000lbs. of tobacco had been smuggled into Ireland in opposition to the most effective preventive laws which existed in the world. Knowing this—knowing that the whole power of King, Lords, and Commons could not put an end to a lucrative traffic; could the House believe that a mere order could put a stop to the trade in opium? Did 714 they suppose that a traffic supported on the one hand by men actuated by the love of a drug, from the intoxicating qualities of which they found it impossible to restrain themselves; and on the other, by persons actuated by the desire of gain, could be terminated by the publication of a piece of paper signed "Charles Elliot." There never was a stronger proof of the impotence of Chinese power to keep out an article of traffic than that afforded by the year 1839. If the trade could have been stopped by them, it was impossible to suppose that Mr. Commissioner Lin would have caused the seizure of certain individuals, against some of whom there existed mere suspicion, whilst against others there was no hesitation in supposing that there was not the slightest ground for believing them implicated in the traffic which had been, carried on. Could it be supposed even that if the orders of Elliot had failed, the preventive service of China, had it been as effectual and as trustworthy as our own, would have been able to overcome the affection of the opium eater for the drug upon which he feasted, or the longing of the merchant for the profit which he obtained. If it could not be supposed to produce so good a result, he would ask whether it were to be considered that it would produce no effect at all? He believed that it would, and that the effect would have been this—that it would have driven the opium trade from Canton; but would have spread it throughout the coast of the whole country. The traffic would not have been carried on, indeed, any longer under the very eye of the commissioner, or in such a manner as that the traders might afterwards be called upon to answer for their offences in some English court, but they would remove from Canton, where an English society being collected, their proceedings would be watched with unremitting jealousy, but they would have found that the lawless trade would have been carried on along-the coast, by means infinitely more lawless than those which had been already adopted. The traders would have gone to a distance from the great port, the whole east coast would have been covered with smugglers, and in their efforts to secure the object which they had in view, they would have undoubtedly come in contact with the local authorities, who would be unaccustomed to deal with Eu- 715 ropean traders; the mala prohibita of a contraband traffic would be converted into the mala per se, and smuggling would be turned into piracy, a crime of a much more heinous description. If under the eye of an English society—consisting certainly of persons, some of whom were suspected of being concerned in the trade but many of whom were of the highest respectability—the traffic could not long be carried on without producing acts having some appearance of piracy, what could they expect when no man would have any judge of his own conduct but himself? It would be found that men being congregated in vessels for the purpose of carrying on the trade, would land for the purpose of procuring fresh supplies of provisions; that their demands would be refused; that they would attempt to seize them; wells would be poisoned, or four or five sailors, perhaps, going to fill their water casks, would be captured, and that the demand for their liberation not being complied with, their comrades would proceed to burn and sack the neighbouring village. Similar circumstances had occurred in former instances, and he saw no reason why, at the present time, scenes of equal atrocity should not occur. He believed, therefore, that if the smuggling trade had been removed from Macao, and scattered along the coast in the manner which he had described, hostilities with China would have been the speedy and the inevitable consequence. What did they see in the proceedings of the Chinese government, or of Mr. Commissioner Lin, to induce them to suppose that those hostilities would not have taken place? Commissioner Lin had not hesitated to inflict severe punishment upon men whose characters were totally unsuspected, and was it likely, that if the events which he had endeavoured to describe, had occurred along the coast of China, Lin would have been more scrupulous? Would he not have published some proclamation, setting forth, that Captain Elliot had undertaken to put a stop to the contraband trade, but that he had deceived him; that he had pretended to command the discontinuance of the traffic, but that he had issued false edicts—for that it had been carried on along the whole coast, to an extent even greater than that to which it had before gone, and and that therefore be would hold all Englishmen, who ought to have had the power to prevent all this, whether blameable or not blameable, as hostages, until the 716 wrong which had been committed should have been remedied. That would have been the spirit of Mr. Commissioner Lin; and therefore he said that, so far as he had been able to form a judgment, he believed that the positive prohibition of the opium trade by Captain Elliot, unsupported by physical force, would have been inadequate to put the trade down. Did the right hon. Baronet mean, that this country should pay the expense of a preventive service for the whole coast of China? He knew that it was impossible that he, or any one else, could for one moment advocate a doctrine so absurd; and he could not but repeat his firm belief, that if any course but that which had been adopted, the exising evils would only have been aggravated, and the rupture which had taken place would have been brought about in a manner still more calamitous, and still more dreadful. He had now gone, he thought, through the four charges on which the right hon. Baronet rested his case; and he declared most solemnly, that it did not appear to him that, according to the terms of the motion which was before the House, to any one of the four omissions which were alleged to have been made, was to be attributed that interruption of our friendly relations which was so deeply and so universally deplored. If he could believe that hon. Gentlemen would vote, keeping in mind really what the proposition was, he should not have the smallest hesitation as to the result; but he could not refrain from saying, that some persons, for whose feelings of humanity he entertained the highest respect, might possibly imagine, that in giving their assent to the motion, they were marking their disapprobation of the trade, which he regretted as deeply as they did. They had seen it asserted over and over again, that the Government was advocating the cause of the contraband trade, in order to force an opium war on the public; but he thought that it was impossible to be conceived that a thought so absurd and so atrocious should have ever entered the minds of the British Ministry. Their course was clear. They might doubt whether it were wise for the government of China to exclude from that country a drug which, if judiciously administered, was powerful in assuaging pain, and in promoting health, because it was occasionally used to excess by intemperate men—they might doubt whether it was wise policy on the part of that Go 717 vernment to attempt to stop the efflux of precious metals from the country in the due course of trade. They learned from history—and almost every country afforded proof, which was strengthened by existing circumstances in England, to which he had already alluded—that no machinery, however powerful, had been sufficient to keep out of any country those luxuries which the people enjoyed, or were able to purchase, or to prevent the efflux of precious metals, when it was demanded by the course of trade. What Great Britain could not effect with the finest marine, and the most trustworthy preventive service in the world, was not likely to be effected by the feeble efforts of the mandarins of China. But, whatever their opinions on these points might be, the Governor of China alone, it must be remembered, was competent to decide; that government had a right to keep out opium, to keep in silver, and to enforce their prohibitory laws, by whatever means which they might possess, consistently with the principles of public morality, and of international law; and if, after having given fair notice of their intention, to seize all contraband goods introduced into their dominions; they seized our opium, we had no right to complain; but when the government, finding, that by just and lawful means, they could not carry out their prohibition, resorted to measures unjust and unlawful, confined our innocent countrymen, and insulted the Sovereign in the person of her representative, then he thought, the time had arrived when it was fit that we should interfere. Whether the proceedings of the Chinese were or were not founded on humanity, was not now to be decided. Let them take the case of the most execrable crime which had ever been dignified by the name of a trade—the African slave trade. The prosecution of that trade was made a misdemeanor, a felony, and finally piracy. We made treaties with foreign powers and paid large sums of money to secure the object which we had in view; and yet it was perfectly notorious, that notwithstanding all the efforts which we had made, slaves had been introduced from Africa into our colony of the Mauritius. Undoubtedly it was our duty to put down the traffic which had so long Been carried on with rigour, and to bring all persons engaged in it to punishment; but suppose a ship under French colours 718 was seen skulking under the coast of the island, and that the Governor had his eye upon it, and was satisfied that it was a slaver, and that it was waiting for an opportunity by night to run its cargo; suppose the Governor, not having a sufficient naval force to seize the vessel, should send and take thirty or forty French gentlemen resident in the island, some of them perhaps, suspected of having been engaged in the trade, and some who had never fallen under any suspicion, and lock them up. Suppose amongst others, he had laid violent hands on the Consul of France, saying they should have no food till they produced the proprietor of the vessel, would not the French government be in a condition to claim reparation, and, if so, would not the French government have a right to exact reparation if refused by arms? Would it be enough for us to say, "Oh, but it is such a wicked trade, such a monstrous trade, that you have no right to quarrel with us for resorting to any means to put it down?" The answer would be, "Are you not trampling upon a great principle by doing so?" If such would be the answer of France, was it not fit and right that her Majesty should demand reparation from China? They had seen the success of the first great act of injustice perpetrated by that government produce its natural effect on a people ignorant of the relative places they and we held in the scale of nations. The Imperial Commissioner began by confiscating property; his next demand was for innocent blood. A Chinese was slain; the most careful inquiry had been made, but was insufficient to discover the slayer, or even the nation to which he belonged; but it was caused to be notified that, guilty or not, some subject of the Queen's must be given up. Great Britain gave an unequivocal refusal to be a party to so barbarous a proceeding. The people at Canton were seized; they were driven from Macao, suspected or not. Women with child, children at the breast, were treated with equal severity, were refused bread, or the means of subsistence; the innocent Lascars were thrown into the sea; an English gentleman was barbarously mutilated, and England found itself at once assailed with a fury unknown to civilized countries. The place of this country among nations was not so mean or ill ascertained that we should trouble ourselves to resist every 719 petty slight which we might receive. Conscious of her power, England could bear that her Sovereign could be called a barbarian, and her people described as savages, destitute of every useful art. When our Ambassadors were obliged to undergo a degrading prostration, in compliance with their regulations, conscious of our strength, we were more amused than irritated. But there was a limit to that forbearance. It would not have been worthy of us to take arms upon a small provocation, referring to rites and ceremonies merely; but every one in the scale of civilized nations should know that Englishmen were ever living under the protecting eye of their own country. He was much touched, and he thought that probably many others were so also, by one passage contained in the dispatch of Captain Elliot, in which he communicated his arrival at the factory at Canton. The moment at which he landed he was surrounded by his countrymen in an agony of despair at their situation, but the first step which he took was to order the flag of Great Britain to be taken from the boat and to be planted in the balcony. This was an act which revived the drooping hopes of those who looked to him for protection. It was natural that they should look with confidence on the victorious flag which was hoisted over them, which reminded them that they belonged to a country unaccustomed to defeat, to submission, or to shame—it reminded them that they belonged to a country which had made the farthest ends of the earth ring with the fame of her exploits in redressing the wrongs of her children; that made the Dey of Algiers humble himself to her insulted consul; that revenged the horrors of the black hole on the fields of Plessey; that had not degenerated since her great Protector vowed that he would make the name of Englishman as respected as ever had been the name of Roman citizen. They felt that although far from their native country, and then in danger in a part of the world remote from that to which they must look for protection, yet that they belonged to a state which would not suffer a hair of one of its members to be harmed with impunity. All were agreed upon this point of the question. He had listened with painful attention to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, but he had not detected in it one word which implied that 720 he was not disposed to insist on a just reparation for the offence which had been committed against us. With respect to the present motion, whatever its result might be, he could not believe that the House would agree to a vote of censure so gross, so palpable, or so unjust as that which was conveyed in its terms; and he trusted that even if there was to be a change of men consequential upon the conclusion of the debate, there would at all events, be no change of measures. He had endeavoured to express his views and his opinions upon this subject, and he begged in conclusion to declare his earnest desire that this most rightful quarrel might be prosecuted to a triumphant close—that the brave men to whom was entrusted the task of demanding that reparation which the circumstances of the case required, might fulfil their duties with moderation, but with success—that the name, not only of English valour, but of English mercy, might be established; and that the overseeing care of that gracious Providence which had so often brought good out of evil, might make the crime which had forced us to take those measures which had been adopted the means of promoting an everlasting peace, alike beneficial to England and to China.
§ Sir W. Follett
ought to apologise to the House for offering himself to their notice so immediately after the powerful and eloquent speech of the right hon. Gentleman; but he could not help thinking, that, powerful and eloquent as that speech was, the effect of it was, to draw off the attention of the House from the real question it was called upon to decide. He admitted that the topics were well chosen; that if the question related to the barbarities of the Chinese towards our countrymen and their insults towards our Sovereign, he agreed, that in any defender of her Majesty's Government, the topics would be well chosen. They would excite attention and sympathy in every breast, and he should be ready to agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that no portion of the people of this country could hear with apathy of the cruelty inflicted by the Chinese upon our countrymen, and the insults offered to our Sovereign. But the question which the House had now to discuss was a very different one; and if it were true, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to announce on the part of her 721 Majesty's Government, that we were now embarked in a war with China, if it were true, that our trade with that country had been entirely cut off and likely to be diverted into other channels—if they were to have costly expeditions, and if they were to plunge into hostilities against that country, then the question which the House of Commons was bound to entertain and decide was this, what had been the cause of this unfortunate position of our affairs? The right hon. Gentleman had complained of the resolution of his right hon. Friend as retrospective; but surely they had a right to inquire into the cause, and if it arose from circumstances against which the prudence and foresight of the Government could not guard, that was one state of things; but if it arose, as he thought he could demonstrate, not from any unforeseen circumstances, but from the culpable conduct, the unjustifiable neglect of her Majesty's Government, the House of Commons would be bound to affirm the resolution of his right hon. Friend. He would undertake to demonstrate, that from the opening of the trade with China in 1834 down to the present time there had been a total and an unjustifiable neglect on the part of the noble Lord, and, that with the short exception of the Administration of his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel), which gave rise to the invaluable memorandum of the Duke of Wellington, there was no trace to be found in the papers upon the table, that the affairs of China had occupied the attention of her Majesty's Government even for an hour. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh appeared to have totally misunderstood the charge made by his right hon. Friend. He agreed with him in thinking, that the most serious part of the charge made against the Government was this—that they sent out a person, under the name of superintendent, professing to be the representative of the Sovereign of this country, and to have control over the commerce and conduct of British subjects in China, without power and without authority: that they kept him there without power and without authority during all those years, in spite of repeated remonstrances from every officer who had been in China, and who constantly pressed the want of any authority, and the absolute necessity of some authority, upon the notice of the Government. The charge was, not that the Government had failed to 722 employ a preventive force to check the trade in opium; the charge was this, that notwithstanding the increase of that trade, which, in the language of Captain Elliot, had become absolutely piratical, attended with danger not to the smuggler in opium, but likely to bring loss on the whole British trading community, her Majesty's Government, in the altered circumstances of the country, left their officer not only without powers, but absolutely without instruction and advice. That was the charge—could it be proved? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, admitted, if there were despatches to be sent to Paris or Brussels, they were so meagre as to be absolutely nonsensical; but the case was different when they were dealing with an empire at so great a distance as China. India, said the right hon. Gentleman, was best governed in India, and perhaps it was true, that British interests would be better provided for in China than in Downing-street. But if India was to be governed in India, the party governing must have some authority and control; if he was to exercise control over the commerce and conduct of British subjects in Canton, without waiting for instructions and directions from England, it was important, that at least he should have power to carry any regulations he might make into effect. Was this so or not? The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, called the Chinese half civilised and barbarous; he did not know whether they deserved that character; but at least it was well known, and should have been acted on in this country, that they did not acknowledge the ordinary international laws of Europe; that they would not enter into commercial treaties, or allow the residence of the representative of foreign powers in their dominions; and that the intercourse we had carried on with them, owing to this peculiar feeling with respect to foreigners, was always of a most delicate description, being often subject to sudden stoppages, and every collision which took place endangering the lives and property of those who took part in it. If the Government had neglected every precaution which it was essential should have been taken in such circumstances, would the House say they were free from blame? If, as he would further show from these papers, that that very defect of power and that want of instructions had been the 723 cause which led to the present unhappy state of affairs in China, then the resolution of his right hon. Friend must be affirmed. Before the opening of the trade the East India Company found it necessary, for the purpose of regulating the trade and preserving anything like a fair and proper intercourse with China, to have in that country a board or council of officers, a committee or council of supercargoes, always resident there, with an absolute power, a complete control over the shipping, the residents, and sailors in the port of Canton. But how had they that control? They were merchants—they excited no jealousy on the part of the Chinese; representing a commercial body, they were permitted to reside at Canton in their mercantile capacity. And what were their powers? It would seem that the noble Lord was, at one time, unaware of the mode in which the supercargoes acted. The power they had, they derived entirely from the East-India monopoly. The East-India Company took from their own ships and officers a bond that they would obey the orders of the supercargoes. This gave them control over the East-India ships and officers. But there was another class of persons frequenting China requiring much more control than the ships and officers of the East-India Company—those trading from the different ports of India to China, and many of them engaged in the contraband trade of opium. How were they placed under the control of the Company? No 6hip could trade to China at all without having a license from the East-India Company, which was always accompanied with a proviso that the license should be void if the ship or its officers did not obey the orders of the supercargoes. What was the consequence? By an Act of Parliament, if any ship entered Canton whose license had been revoked or forfeited, it was liable to be sold; and any person resident in China without a license or with a license revoked, might be arrested by the supercargo, sent as a prisoner to England, tried, convicted, fined, and. imprisoned for that offence. The supercargoes had, therefore, complete and positive control. That power, which was necessary before the trade was opened, became doubly so when ships were allowed to go from any port in the British dominions. The supercargoes exercised their authority, not only over the ships in the port of Canton, 724 but actually over the smugglers in the outer waters, and prevented them doing any act which was likely to be injurious to British trade. His right hon. Friend had read an extract from a despatch contained in the printed papers to the effect, that although the supercargoes in their communications with the Chinese authorities, declined mixing themselves up with the opium trade, they did exercise power over the sailors, captains, and ships engaged in it. If these orders were not strictly obeyed, they at once declared the captain had forfeited his indenture and the ship its license. Seeing, then, that the supercargoes had this power, it became important to observe how they exercised it, because it was under colour of the superintendent having the same authority as the supercargoes that he had been allowed to remain during all these years of anxiety and trouble and disturbance of the trade with China without any authority, power, or instructions—that was the real charge against the Government. What had they done in the present case? When the monopoly was abolished, it seemed to be the deliberate opinion of the Legislature that probably some collision might arise from opening the trade, the effect of which might be to interrupt or destroy it, and therefore, in order to give the requisite control to the British officer who should act as superintendent in Canton, the Legislature armed the Government with power to grant him such authority over the ships and commerce of that port as might be considered necessary. But no power at all was granted by the Act. The order in Council might have been only a provisional order, but he would show that the noble Lord (Palmerston), almost immediately afterwards, was fully informed of its defects. He was repeatedly told that the superintendent had no power, that it was necessary he should have power, and yet he had done nothing whatever to invest him with power, or supply him with instructions. Sir George Robinson attempted to exercise control over an English resident, who he thought had behaved unjustly to a Chinese, and ought to make some reparation, but he set his authority at defiance, and the superintendent wrote thus to the noble Lord, p. 96—In the Act of Parliament to regulate the trade to India and China, it is, amongst other things, enacted, 'That it shall and may be 725 lawful for his Majesty, by such an order as to his Majesty in Council shall appear expedient and salutary, to give to the superintendents in the said act mentioned, or any of them, powers and authorities over, and in respect of, the trade and commerce, and for the direction of his Majesty's subjects within the dominions of the Emperor of China.' In the first order passed by his Majesty in Council on the 9th of December, 1833, it was thereupon ordered, 'that the superintendents should be clothed for these purposes with all the powers and authorities heretofore vested in the supercargoes of the East-India Company, save so far as the same were repealed or abrogated by the Act of Parliament.' In the same order it is then set forth, that all the regulations which were in force on the 21st of April, 1834, were thereby confirmed; and it was further directed, 'that they should be compiled and published.' Now, my Lord, it is respectfully submitted, that there were no regulations in existence of the nature contemplated in that order in Council; the supercargoes had been unaccustomed to interfere in commercial disputes between the very few private traders here; and whenever affairs involving either political or commercial difficulty with the Chinese presented themselves, they possessed abundant means of doing as much as was needful. No English subject was here without a license from the Company; and the committee, in any case of emergency, had it in their power to apprise the Chinese authorities, that the license had been suspended, and that they would in no respect interfere for the adjustment of any debts the parties complained of might contract subsequently to the date of that notice. The British shipping which resorted to China was under the complete control of the committee; they either belonged to the Company, or were chartered by it; and the country ships were furnished with licenses by the Indian Governments, withdrawable at pleasure, either by these authorities, or, in cases of exigency, by the commits tee itself. There had been no need, therefore, for any body of regulations having respect to the general direction and control of British subjects in China. It has certainly been the anxious desire of this commission, upon every ground of consideration, to interfere as little as was possible, till further instructions should reach them from England.That letter was written on the 1st of July, 1835, and no further instructions—no further information—at any time was given to Sir George Robinson, or any other superintendent, respecting the degree of power or control they possessed. Was it fair to the superintendent to leave him thus in total ignorance of the power he possessed and the control he might exercise? They gave him an Order in Council pretending to rest him with enormous 726 powers, while, in fact, it deluded him, and gave him none. Sir George Robinson's letter was received in London on the 28th of January, 1836. The noble Lord (Palmerston) did not answer it till the 8th of November, 1836. The noble Lord then took no notice of the defect of the order in Council; he did not tell Sir George Robinson what his powers were; the only thing he said was, that he did wrong to pay the money to Mr. Keating. Now, with respect to the powers with which the superintendents were invested. The first instructions informed Lord Napier that he had no power to prevent vessels trading to the north-east coast of China. The noble Lord was then aware that Lord Napier had no authority to arrest such traders, and the noble Lord was also aware of the importance attached to the attempt of the steam-vessel, the Jardine, to proceed to Canton, and the consequent dangers of the interruption of the trade. Let him, then, ask whether the Government was justified in leaving their Minister in China without power to stop the passage of this steam-vessel in its projected passage, under circumstances in all probability calculated to lead to the stoppage of the trade, and to create most serious public inconvenience? The noble Lord was aware of these circumstances on the 22nd of July, 1836, and then he wrote a letter cautioning the superintendent not to assume a greater degree of authority over British subjects than that which he possessed. With such advice, he, of course, found no fault; but what he asserted was, that if the superintendent had not authority to stop this steam-vessel, he ought to have had it. The order in Council unquestionably intended that the superintendent should have this power, because the supercargoes had possessed it; but the Government, on consulting the law officers of the Crown, discovered the defect of the order in Council in this particular. This correspondence took place in 1836, and yet the noble Lord had done nothing to give the superintendent the requisite power. When regulations were issued to prevent collisions between English sailors and the Chinese, the noble Lord again told the superintendent that he had not adequate power. Then, was it right, proper, and just in the noble Lord, who always left the superintendent to suppose that he possessed some power, not to specify the particular power he had 727 to exercise? And did this want of power lead to no inconvenience? He begged the attention of the House to some of these letters, for it might not be aware of the many remonstrances made on the subject. In page 326, there was a letter dated subsequently to some of these disturbances—namely January 2nd, 1839,and it was received in London on the 13th of May. Captain Elliot, in that letter, stated that,The difficulty that remained to be removed before the trade could be opened, was the illicit traffic in opium, carried on in small craft within the river, a considerable number of which were stationary at Whampoa, receiving their supplies from time to time in other vessels of a similar description from the opium ships at Lintin or Hong Kong.Now, if Captain Elliot had had the power to carry into effect the order which he issued to prevent English boats smuggling in opium, a great part of the embarrassment in which the lawful trade was now involved would have been prevented. Captain Elliot went on to say,That as the danger and shame of the illicit trade increased, it was obvious that it would fall by rapid degrees into the hands of more and more desperate men, and that it would stain the foreign character with constantly aggravating disgrace in the sight of the whole of the better portion of this people, and, lastly, that it would connect itself more and more intimately with our lawful commercial intercourse, to the great peril of vast public and private interests. Till the other day there was no part of the world where the foreigner felt his life and property more secure than in Canton.And yet they were told by the right hon. Gentleman that the Chinese were barbarians? In another place, Captain Elliot observed that the smugglers were exempted from all law, both British and Chinese. Why was this? Why had not the Government given sufficient controlling power to its representative? Was the House aware that in respect of the smuggling trade nothing would induce Captain Elliot to give up to the Chinese any Englishman, under whatever charge he might labour? The Chinese, then, could not punish them; and was it fair to let loose on the Chinese a set of persons who, according to Captain Elliot, were not subject either to British or Chinese law? What was the cause of the last rupture of the trade with the Chinese? They refused to allow the British to conti- 728 nue the trade, unless the captain of every ship at Whampoa would bind himself by a bond to give up to the Chinese authorities every person they might consider amenable to the Chinese laws. Captain Elliot directed the captains not to sign such a bond, and his firmness had almost induced the Chinese to yield, when an English vessel, the Thomas Coutts, which came from India, appeared in the Chinese waters. It seemed that the captain of this vessel had taken a legal opinion at Calcutta, and had received advice that the superintendent at Canton had no power to prevent his going into that port, and in consequence, the captain preferring his own private interest to the benefit of the commercial community at Canton, entered and signed the bond required by the Chinese. The consequence was, that the Chinese, previously inclined to yield, now insisted on the signature of a similar bond by all the British merchants. This serious inconvenience and embarrassment had consequently arisen from the deficiency of the powers possessed by the superintendent. Captain Elliot observed, that if commanders of vessels had power to enter into separate negotiations with the Chinese authorities, the British trade with China must soon cease to exist. Could there be a stronger censure cast upon the Government? So long ago as the affair of the Jardine, the noble Lord was aware that every captain of a British vessel had full power to do as he pleased at Canton, and still no steps had been taken by the Government to remedy this evil. The right hon. Gentleman had stated, that at one time it was reasonable to suppose that the opium trade would be legalized. There was no evidence to this effect in the despatches. It was true that a proposition had been made to the Government for that purpose, but it was also true, that that proposition was negatived. It was certain, too, that the superintendent made remonstrances to her Majesty's Government, that he demanded sufficient powers and instructions; and it appeared he had been left without either. At page 155, there was a letter of the 2nd of February, 1837, in which Captain Elliot said—In a few weeks the produce of the first opium sales of the year in Bengal must arrive here, and then, if the restrictions continue, this trade will, in all probability, immediately assume a different character. From a traffic 729 prohibited in point of form, but essentially countenanced and carried on entirely by natives, in native boats, it will come to be a complete smuggling trade.The noble Lord was aware of the edict that was passed by the Chinese government in 1834, that the opium trade in Chinese boats had been put a stop to, and that it was obliged to be unloaded into English boats, and that these proceeded armed up the river to Canton. That was what Elliot alluded to in the following passage,—'The opium will be conveyed to parts of the coast previously concerted in Canton, in British boats, and thence be run by the natives;' thus throwing our people into immediate contact with the inhabitants on shore, and certainly in other respects vastly enhancing the chances of serious disputes and collision with the Government officers. It seems probable that this state of things would either hasten forward the legalization edicts or in the event of any check to our boats defer it to some indefinite period, and in other ways very inconveniently alter the whole position of circumstances in this country.Then there came the edict of the governor and lieutenant-governor of Canton against the opium receiving ships outside the port of Canton, at page 234, which was forwarded to the noble Lord, and which he received May 15th, 1838. That was followed by Captain Elliot's despatch of the 19th November, 1837, in which was a passage which it seemed to him (Sir W. Follett) to be almost impossible that the noble Lord could have read. At page 242 Captain Elliot wrote,In fact, my Lord, looking around me and weighing the whole body of circumstances as carefully as I can, it seems to me that the moment has arrived for such active interposition upon the part of Her Majesty's Government as can be properly afforded; and that it cannot be deferred without great hazard to the safety of the whole trade, and of the persons engaged in its pursuit.The superintendent here, it would be noticed, meant not the opium trade, but the general trade. Then he proceeded—That the main body of the inward trade (about three-fifths of the amount) should be carried on in so hazardous a manner to the safety of the whole commerce and intercourse with the empire, is a very disquieting subject of reflection; but I have a strong conviction that it is an evil susceptible of easy removal.He followed up this by a memorandum of the necessity that something should be 730 done, and pointed out, at page 245, the course which he would suggest.Upon the whole, it seems to me that the time has fully arrived when her Majesty's Government should justly explain its own position with respect to the prevention or regulation of this trade; give its own counsels, or take its own alternative course.Could it be said, then, that the Government had not full notice of the real state of things, and of the emergencies of the case; that they were not aware that some steps were necessary? But this was not the whole of the case; for at page 250, was another representation, bearing date December 7, 1837, which was almost as s rong as the former; for Captain Elliot said,Perhaps your Lordship may be of opinion that the menaces to stop the regular trade, and to expel me from the empire involved in this edict, strengthens the reasoning submitted in the memorandum inclosed in my despatch of the 19th ult., in the advocacy of immediate and earnest approaches to this court by her Majesty's Government. The whole state of circumstances, however, connected with this opium question is in a condition of such uncertainty, that it is impossible to divine what is meant, and, indeed, it is not difficult to conceive that the Government itself does not know what it means, but is, in point of fact, wandering without fixed purpose from project to project, or, it might more properly be said, from blunder to blunder.The House would observe he was not stating that the Chinese government had not been varying in the course which they intended to take, but if there was any vacillation, or any want of energy on the part of that government, he had still to learn that that was an excuse for her Majesty's Government. He had read so much to show the House what it was that the noble Lord had to answer. It was no matter with reference to this, whether the Chinese meant to stop the trade or not. Captain Elliot said, that whether they meant to stop the trade in a month or not, he could not tell, but that it was absolutely necessary to take some steps. Captain Elliot went on to say,In the midst of this incoherent conduct, it seems to me to be highly necessary, for the protection of British interests, that a small naval force should immediately be stationed some where in those seas.One more fact, before he read the noble Lord's answer, he would produce from the despatch of the 5th of February—and 731 here he must say, that being unaccustomed to the correspondence of the Foreign-office, he was surprised enough at it—namely, that the noble Lord should have received all these letters before ever he sent an answer to the superintendent. What, then, was the noble Lord's answer to the representation of Captain Elliot in that despatch?In my judgment (said he) the interruption of trade is less likely to ensue from the commands of the court than from some grave disaster arising out of collision between the Government craft and our own armed boats on the river.That was the danger which had been repeatedly pointed out to the Government. What was the noble Lord's answer? It had been read by his right hon. Friend, but as he had not called attention to the whole of the information of which the noble Lord was in possession, perhaps he might be excused for reading part of it again. The noble Lord said,With respect to the smuggling trade in opium, which forms the subject of your despatches of the 18th and 19th of November, and the 7lh of December, 1837.The noble Lord had also received the despatch of the 5th of February,I have to state that her Majesty's Government cannot interfere for the purpose of enabling British subjects to violate the laws of the country to which they trade. Any loss, therefore, which such persons may suffer in consequence of the more effectual execution of the Chinese laws on this subject must be borne by the parties who have brought that loss on themselves by their own acts.[A cheer.] That letter also excited a cheer, did it? Would, then, hon. Gentlemen say, that this was a proper letter for the Secretary of Foreign Affairs to write when appealed to by our officer placed in such peculiar circumstances? Hon. Members might have cheered if the letter had been written about the smuggling trade with France or Holland to the British consul in either of the countries. But was it on the smugglers of opium that the principal loss arising from an interruption of the trade would fall? Was it for them that Captain Elliot was anxious? What was the noble Lord's course? He had been told of the nature of the emergency, of the edicts of the Chinese government, of the smuggling in armed boats, and of the dangerous consequences of collision; and he had been told that it was absolutely indispensable that 732 her Majesty's Government should do something, and then the noble Lord said,We cannot interfere for the purpose of enabling British subjects to violate the laws of the country with which they trade.Why, Captain Elliot had said nothing of this kind. His proposition was quite of a contrary character; he said, I want powers to prevent this smuggling trade, and he entreated to have some powers extended to him. What, then, did the noble Lord mean Captain Elliot to do; or did he mean him to do nothing—to stand passive? If the noble Lord meant Captain Elliot to take upon him that responsibility, that surely ought to have been so stated, that ought to have been done openly. When Captain Elliot wrote for power to put a stop to smuggling, it was not an answer to say,We can do nothing for the purpose of enabling British subjects to violate the laws of the country to which they trade.What answer was that to the British merchants; to all who had suffered losses in consequence of the stoppage of the trade; to those who were expelled from Canton, and who had suffered so much inconvenience? This, in fact, was not an answer to Captain Elliot's inquiry, and he must say, that the noble Lord was open to censure for not having replied, by forwarding definite instructions. Would the House believe, that after all that had been said upon the opium trade, there was not a trace of it in the noble Lord's despatches?—not one of them alluded to it, or mentioned the word opium, or said anything to Captain Elliot about the opium trade, except the letter which he had read. Would it be said that here was no neglect—that there was not culpable neglect in this way of conducting business? Was it any answer to say, as the right hon. Member for Edinburgh had said, that this was in truth a meagre despatch, and that if it had been written to Paris, the noble Lord would have been censurable, but that as it was written to China, so many thousand miles off, the noble Lord was not censurable. But he should have said, that if such a despatch had been written to Paris or to Brussels, it would not have been half so censurable, because then, another might have been written next day to correct it, but in the case of China, mistakes and neglects could only be corrected at considerable intervals. He did not 733 mean to cast any reproach upon Captain Elliot, he thought that in many of the letters, until they came towards the end, he displayed great discretion and firmness. Was it to be wondered at, that in the absence of advice and instructions he should take any step, or commit any indiscretion, which might lead to losses, or even to the unhappy result of war? Why did not the noble Lord tell him what to do? Why was he left there in extraordinary circumstances of danger after he had pointed them out with clearness? But the thing did not rest here. The noble Lord, as he had begun, so did he end. At page 299, there came another letter after this, an alarming letter, in which Captain Elliot spoke of the Chinese as being in earnest, and that they had executed a Chinese under the very walls of the factory, at Macao, for traitorous intercourse with foreigners, and for smuggling opium and Sycee silver. Again, he (Sir W. Follett) wished to call attention to the fact, that this letter was written in April, 1838, and that it was received at the Foreign-office before the noble Lord's next letter was written. At page 323, there was another letter, in which was an account of a seizure of opium, and the case of Mr. James, and a statement that the trade had been wholly stopped in consequence of the want of power. Then there was another letter of the 2nd of January, 1839, at page 326, and another of a private character, and of the same date, at page 339. He stated that,It was not less needful that the officer at Canton should be forthwith vested with defined and adequate powers for the reasonable control of men, whose rash conduct cannot be left to the operation of Chinese laws, without the utmost inconvenience and risk, and whose impunity is alike injurious to British character, and dangerous to British interests.Now this warning to the noble Lord was written on the 2nd of January, 1839, and he spoke of a conversation which he had held with a Chinese, who referred him with earnestness to the requests which had been made before the Company's monopoly was abolished, to make provision for the government of her Majesty's subjects, and he desired to know what more was wanting, and how it was possible to preserve the peace, if all the English people who came to that country were to be left without control.He further entreated me," (said the des- 734 patch) "to remind my nation's great Ministers," (meaning, he supposed, the noble Lord and his colleagues), "that this Government never interfered except in cases of extreme urgency, upon the principle that they were ignorant of our laws and customs, and that it was unjust to subject us to rules made for people of totally different habits, and brought up under a totally different discipline. I must confess, my Lord, that this reasoning appears to me to be marked by great wisdom and moderation, and at all events, convinced as I am that the necessity of control either by British or Chinese law is urgent, I would most respectfully submit these views to the consideration of her Majesty's Government. My own anxiety on the subject will be more explicable when I inform your Lordship, that until I am differently instructed, I should hold it to be my duty to resist to the last, the seizure and punishment of a British subject by the Chinese law, be his crime what it might; and crimes of the gravest character have lately been of every day probability.Still another letter was addressed by Captain Elliot to the noble Lord, on the 21st of January, 1839, in which he said,In the mean time, however, there has been no relaxation of the vigour of the Government, directed not only against the introduction of opium, but, in a far more remarkable manner, against the consumers. A corresponding degree of desperate adventure upon the part of the smugglers, is only a necessary consequence. In this situation of things, serious accidents and sudden and indefinite interruptions to the regular trade must always be probable events.Now, these letters were all of them written and received at the Foreign-office before the answer of the noble Lord, at page 344, and though he knew that this answer of the noble Lord's could not have arrived in China until after the disasters had occurred, which were the consequences of his previous policy, and he did not therefore attribute those disasters to the noble Lord's letter, but he did think that the letter showed what degree of attention the Foreign-office paid to matters of this kind, and to the remonstrances which were addressed to them. What did the noble Lord say?With reference to such of those despatches as detail the circumstances which led to art interruption of the trade for a short period in December last, and the steps which you took in consequence, with a view to the re-opening of the trade, and to the re-establishment of your official communications with the Chinese authorities, I have to signify to you the entire approbation of her Majesty's Government of your conduct on those matters.735 Was that an answer to the proposition which Captain Elliot had made, to the remonstrances which he had made, in order that fresh powers might be sent out to him. What did the noble Lord say about the opium trade? What about the piratical conduct of the English boats? What advice did he give to the superintendent for his general guidance? Absolutely none. This was the remainder of the letter, in answer to the grave representations which had been addressed to the noble Lord by Captain Elliot—I have at the same time to instruct you not to omit to avail yourself of any proper opportunity to press for the substitution of a less objectionable character than the character "Pin" on the superscription of the communications which you may have occasion to address to the viceroy.Now, he would say that it was very well for the right hon. Gentleman, who had spoken with so much eloquence, to enlarge upon the barbarities of the Chinese, to talk of their political economy, and of their attempts to put down the opium trade, and to compare their conduct in that respect to the conduct of the Spaniards in putting down the trade on the Mexican coast, that was a very good way to get over the real point in discussion; but he would recommend to the right hon. Member, and every Member of the Government, first to read the superintendent's dispatches, and then say whether it was right that there should be no advice given, no instructions sent, no references even made to the letters, but that he should be told only "to press for the substitution of a less objectionable character than the character 'Pin.' The two letters of the noble Lord to which he had referred, were the only letters, they were all the instructions that the superintendent received, all that he had to guide him in the extraordinary circumstances in which he was placed. If the House were to decide this question, aye or no, is not the disastrous state of affairs in China to be attributed to the supineness and neglect of her Majesty's Government? He (Sir W. Follett) said, that it was impossible to deny that there was neglect, and that the superintendent was left there without receiving proper powers and instructions, though he repeatedly pressed for them. The right hon. Gentleman, the House would remember, had said that that part of the charge, that the superintendent was left 736 without powers and instructions, was the most important part of it; but he did not grapple with it, nevertheless. Indeed, he did not remember that the right hon. Gentleman had given any answer to it, except that China was further off than Paris. Now, that being admitted to be the gravest part of the charge, when a Member of the Cabinet could make no other answer, that he thought was almost as conclusive a censure on the Government as the vote of a majority. Now, with respect to the mode of communication. The right hon. Gentleman said that no part of the present inconveniences had arisen from the attempt of the superintendent to fix his residence at Canton, because he bad permission to establish himself there before they began. True, he at last had got permission, but it was important to notice that Captain Elliot had got this permission because he had departed from the course adopted by Lord Napier, and he was treated the same as, under the East India Company, their supercargo would have been. However, the Chinese would never admit a permanent resident there; it was almost impossible to suppose that they would, unless the whole character of the nation were changed, nor would they admit of direct communication with the viceroy. That, however, the noble Lord, against the advice of Sir G. Robinson, against the advice of the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth, against the advice of the Duke of Wellington, had pressed again and again. It was predicted that collision with the Chinese would take place upon the abolition of the East India Company's charter. The Government, then, were to take precautions against such a result. They had notice of the probability five years ago nearly. The result was that the trade was now stopped altogether; that we had declared, or were about to declare war; that we were going to send out an expensive expedition, and send soldiers and sailors to fight with an ill armed people, as the right hon. Gentleman called them; but if ill armed they were, then our troops were about to enter into conflict with a nation against whom no honour could be gained. The right hon. Gentleman had not said that the war was a politic or well advised one, only he said it was a just one, and likened it to the case of a French Consul at the Mauritius being imprisoned by the Governor there, he asked would 737 not a war on such a ground be a just war on the part of France? But he would ask in reply to this, whether it were right to apply the international laws of Europe to such a country as China? The Chinese would not allow the representative of any foreign power to have a residence within their dominions. That was their law; but could we seek to impose upon them our notions of international law in this respect, when at the same time in all our other dealings with them we proceeded on the supposition that they were not subject to international law at all. It, might therefore, be no cause of war if the British refused to give up those who violated Chinese laws to be tried by those laws, and the Chinese thereupon did what was not strictly in accordance with European international law, so that he very much doubted whether, if the Chinese imprisoned a British subject in order to put down the opium trade, such an act could be considered as a justification of going to war. Although the British were violating continually the laws of that empire, yet they said now that the violation on the part of the Chinese of international law was a just reason for war. He was not favourable to war at any time; but, if this country must go to war, he trusted that it would be a just one. He confessed he could not see without some anxiety that we were engaging in a war with the Chinese, a people who, as Captain Elliot described them, were anxious only for justice. He must say he was averse to letting loose against such a people the horrors of war without the certainty of the justice of it. When the right hon. Gentleman said he thought the feeling out of doors would be in favour of the war on such principles as the right hon. Gentleman had enunciated, he knew not what the feelings out of doors might be; but he thought he could venture to tell the right hon. Gentleman that there was a growing feeling in the country with respect to our foreign transactions. The times were full of peril; the foreign relations of this country were in far too delicate a position, and the questions of peace and war were on too nice a balance to be longer trifled with. He said it was impossible to see where this war, whether just or unjust, which had been brought about by the conduct of the Government, would terminate. It might produce hostilities with other nations. There was no one 738 who could say that they would be exclusively confined to operations against China. There was none who could say to what results this war might lead. Without referring, however, to any consequences that might result from it, he must say, that after giving the motion now before the House the most careful consideration, he felt bound to vote with his right hon. Friend, because he was satisfied that the charge in his motion against the Government, for their past conduct in respect to China, was fully and completely made out.
§ Sir G. Staunton
could assure the House that he did not rise to answer the legal arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, being quite sensible that that task would be more ably performed by others; but, so peculiarly connected as he was with the subject of the debate, from having resided for many years, and filled a commercial office in China, he felt that it was his duty to endeavour, as far as he could, to express his feelings on so important a question. He felt, too, that he was further called on to do so by the very flattering allusion of the right hon. Gentleman who had opened the debate, to certain resolutions which he had proposed to this House some years ago. All he could say with respect to those resolutions, after the fullest consideration he could give them, was, that he fully adhered to every word they contained. He was sensible that he rose under circumstances that, from the complexity and difficulty of the subject, might well embarrass a more practised debater; but he felt assured that the House would grant him that indulgence and liberal allowance which were always shown to Members who rose under peculiar circumstances to state their opinions. Before he entered into the general subject, however, he must request permission to allude to something like a personal allegation against himself, which he found in the volume of papers now on the table of the House. It there appeared, at page 340, that in a conversation with Captain Elliot, Howqua, the Hong merchant, had expressed his surprise that in reference to the China Courts Bill, which had been introduced by his noble Friend, that measure "had been mainly arrested in its progress by his (Sir G. Staunton's) objections." Now, the fact was, that he had not opposed that bill, but he had suggested certain amendments, because he would not give the Chinese 739 the power of harrassing British subjects without introducing some protecting clauses. With regard to the present motion, the impression on his mind was, that it entirely omitted the consideration of that great question which now agitated the country—namely, whether the important contest in which we were about to engage was a righteous and just one, or a cruel and iniquitous one. He certainly felt that he should not do his duty if he were to confine himself to the very narrow view implied in the motion, and therefore, when he considered that the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had announced to the House distinctly that the object of the armament which was notoriously fitting out was for the reparation of the injuries and insults of British subjects, to procure indemnity for their losses, and to re-establish our trade in China, he must say he felt great surprise that at the end of three weeks, when a sort of field-day was appointed for the Chinese discussion, not one word was introduced into the motion having any reference to the objects of that expedition. He must, however, say that he rejoiced at it, for when he saw this very day, and every day of late, in those public papers which were supposed to coincide with hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, language of the most violent nature, that the war about to be undertaken in China was most atrociously unjust and dishonourable to this country, and described by every epithet that was disgraceful, he rejoiced, he said, to find that in this House no person rose to give any sanction to such opinions. Considering, as he did, though very reluctantly, that this war was absolutely just and necessary, under existing circumstances, he rejoiced to find that it had received the tacit approbation of that House. He did not concur in the sanguine opinions that were entertained by many, but was prepared to meet with many difficulties. He expected that it would be a protracted war, and he thought that those who considered it to be unjust and impolitic were bound in duty to interpose their protest to its being entered into. Those who entertained such opinions were bound to express them without further delay; for a fast-sailing vessel might yet stop the armament, and prevent its consequences. He was not advocating the particular policy of the Ministers when he said that he 740 thought this war necessary, for he was not at all in the confidence of the Government. He knew nothing whatever of the course they intended to pursue, except so far as it had been publicly announced. In rising, therefore, to state his approbation of the general principle, he did not intend giving any opinion as to the particular course adopted. He must say, he had given his most reluctant assent of approbation to the war. He had long been engaged in negotiations with China, and it had always been his endeavour to act on the principle, that whatever opinion might be formed of the vexatious and embarrassing character of the laws of China, we had no right to interfere with them. In his official character in China he had remonstrated to the utmost of his power against those laws which he considered most embarrassing. He stated that they were injurious to both parties, but no pretext could induce the Chinese government to alter them. He had never used intimidation; his argument was, "if you oppress the trade we must give it up." With respect to Lord Napier, he believed that in that case our Government was entirely wrong, and he lamented that proper steps had not been taken to secure his recognition. On the unfortunate issue of the noble Lord's mission there was a strong feeling entertained that the time was come when the interests and honour of this country required interference and vindication; but he protested against it, and the events which afterwards happened justified him in the opinion he then expressed. Under the able mission of the noble Lord's successor, Mr. Davis, trade was restored, and the prosperity of it continued for about two years. Captain Elliot then succeeded him, at, certainly, a very unfortunate period, for it was at that time that the Chinese government were taking more vigorous steps than before for the suppression of the opium trade. With respect to the immorality or impolicy of the opium trade, he thought he might say he yielded to no Member of the House in his anxiety to put it down altogether. In accordance with this opinion, he offered to second the motion of his noble Friend, the Member for Liverpool, whenever he should bring it forward. But, though he felt very strongly on this subject, though he disapproved of the resolution of the Select Committee in 1832, which declared," that it was not then expedient to relinquish the 741 revenue arising from the cultivation of opium in India to send to China;" though he traced to that resolution all the consequences which had taken place down to the present interruption of the trade between England and China, yet he felt that there were circumstances connected with the trade which prevented his feeling surprise that her Majesty's Government had so acted. He hoped that the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, would deem it expedient to give more time before he brought forward his motion. But the question between us and the Chinese government with regard to the opium trade was not a question of morality or policy, but a question whether there had been any breach of international rights or international law. For a time, certainly, when the laws against the opium trade were in a state of abeyance, when the viceroy of Canton gave the use of his own vessels to bring up the opium to Canton, they could not feel surprised that foreigners did not feel themselves bound very strictly to obey the edicts of the government. But, undoubtedly, the Chinese government had a right to carry their laws into more stringent effect, and it was for foreigners then to inquire what those laws were and obey them. Now, from the earliest period, foreigners had not been permitted directly to come before the Chinese tribunals, but through the medium of the Hong merchants; the remedy was, first, against these sureties; then against the property of the party. The former course had been when the edicts were not to suspend the trade of the country, and the last step was to expel those who set the laws at defiance. Up to the arrival of Commissioner Lin there was no other law. There had been no other penalty against the importation of opium than these—the remedy upon the property of the person, extending to confiscation of all found within the river of Canton; but there was no law which reached property out of that river. When the imperial commissioner arrived at Canton he brought with him a new law of a very extraordinary and severe character a law denouncing death against any foreigner that traded in opium, and subjecting his property to confiscation to the crown. However severe this law, it might be justified. It might be said, that we must submit to it or relinquish our trade; but to attempt to punish those under the new law, who had arrived in China under 742 the old law, must be condemned by all parties as a most atrocious injustice. There was no law before in China by which the hair of the head of any European could have been touched for smuggling. He therefore said, that an act of such atrocious injustice, without looking at all to any subsequent events which had occurred was a full justification of the measures which had been taken to exact reparation. He conceived that the commercial interests of the merchants dealing with China were not alone at stake. An American merchant had well described the conduct of the Chinese towards the English as resembling their treatment of a refractory village; and doubtless, had not the opium been delivered up, they would have treated the English as they did refractory hordes—put them to the sword. Let the House recollect that our empire in the East was founded on the force of opinion; and if we submitted to the degrading insults of China,—the time would not be far distant when our political ascendancy in India would be at an end. The course which he hoped and believed her Majesty's Government were about to pursue was to make rational proposals to China—such proposals as the Chinese would accept without any improper submission. But, considering the character of that people, such proposals, to be successful, must be accompanied by a competent force. If ever the opium trade were put down, it would be by the co-operation of the Chinese government with our own. That cooperation could be maintained only by a treaty, which he hoped would be established; and the measures now in force appeared to him to afford the only prospect they now could have of putting down a traffic, of which he was anxious to see the end. The motion of the right hon. Baronet seemed to indicate that some other policy ought to have been pursued than, that which her Majesty's Ministers had pursued; but he certainly could not trace in the terms of the motion what that policy ought to have been. If they had been told in distinct terms what orders ought to have been given by her Majesty's Government to put down the opium trade, he should have understood it. But it seemed that the right hon. Baronet was not even wise after the event; he was not prepared to tell them what ought to have been done. He was prepared to say what, in his opinion, ought to have been done. 743 From the earliest period that the opium trade had come under consideration he had formed his present conclusions, and at the time of passing the resolution of 1832, he thought that that was a very improper proceeding. He was quite aware of the difficulties connected with the opium trade, but he thought those difficulties ought to have been grappled with at the time; the committee had then sufficient evidence of the nature of the opium trade; Captain Shepherd had said, that the trade would ultimately lead to the adoption of extreme measures by the Chinese, and that they would say, if you poison our people we will deprive you of your trade. The destructive nature of that trade to the character of the Chinese people had been pointed out, and sufficient grounds had been shown for the adoption of a different course. The course which might have been adopted had been suggested by Captain Elliot himself. He said, that it could not be good for a great trade to depend upon a prohibited traffic; and Captain Elliot added many cogent reasons for regretting the extent to which the East India revenue was dependent upon such a course of trade. It appeared to him that a better system might gradually have been introduced, and that the best lands of India might have been made to produce that which was beneficial to man, instead of being devoted to the cultivation of such a pernicious article. The Parliament of that day, however, had approved of the resolution of the committee, and the right hon. Baronet himself, among others, had approved of it. He therefore thought it in the highest degree unjust to visit upon her Majesty's present Ministers the consequences of a system which had received the approval of the House and the country. With regard to the orders issued by his noble Friend, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, having read all the papers before the House with the utmost attention in his power, he felt bound to say, that he could not at all connect the present unhappy state of things in that country with those orders. Entertaining-the strong opinions that he did on the opium trade, he could not hastily condemn his noble Friend for not attempting to put it down after it had reached the great extent it had done in 1837, when it had become connected with every branch of the British trade with China—consti- 744 tuting, he believed, nearly three-fifths of the traffic, and when the existence almost of the rest of the trade depended upon it. With regard to the immediate cause of the rupture, he thought that was entirely attributable to the conduct of the Imperial Commissioner Lin; and he thought that neither his noble Friend nor any other person at all acquainted with the habits of the Chinese people, could have at all anticipated the conduct of the Commissioner Lin. During the last 200 years, since the commerce with China had first commenced, he had no hesitation in saying, that there was no instance of a similar outrage having been committed. The utmost that had ever been done before had been to suspend the trade. The memorandum of the Duke of Wellington had been referred to. There was much in it to confirm the high character of the illustrious Duke, and to exhibit his great foresight and sagacity. But what were his orders to Lord Napier? Why, that he should pay the utmost attention to the instructions he had already received from Lord Palmerston; therefore, so far the illustrious Duke confirmed the orders of the noble Lord. A great deal had been said about the want of powers to Captain Elliot. It was rather singular, that at page 285 of the papers before the House, Captain Elliot entered into a particular discussion as to whether it were expedient formally to require all British subjects engaged in the opium trade to quit the coasts of China, and if the order issued in 1839, had it been issued seven months before, and been obeyed, the immediate cause of the present rupture would have been avoided. Captain Elliot, in the passage referred to, gave five reasons why he could not then give those orders, but want of power was not one of them; therefore, if power had been given by the Government at home, still he would have adhered to his own view of the subject. He was sorry to see in a pamphlet which was circulated yesterday, that he was reported as pressing hard upon the conduct of Captain Elliot; this was not the case, and having exercised the functions in China which he (Sir G. Staunton) had exercised, he felt it impossible not to feel the utmost sympathy for the difficult and embarrassing position in which that gentleman was placed—he had exhibited great gallantry and great anxiety to do his best for his country; 745 and what appeared to be vacillation he verily believed was only extreme anxiety to meet the various exigencies of the case. The pamphlet then went on to ask what he would have done if he had been subjected to the edict of Commissioner Lin, and been told to tremble? The only answer be would give would be to state what he actually had done under circumstances somewhat similar. When he accompanied Lord Amherst to Pekin, similar threats had been held out to him; he was told that his life would be forfeited if he did not advise the ambassador to perform the ceremony of the Ko-tow; he did not tremble at the order; he did not advise the ambassador to perform the ceremony. The ceremony was not performed, and the embassy was dismissed in safety, and on its returning from Pekin, received even greater honours than had been accorded to the preceding embassy of Lord Macartney. He did not say this in disparagement of Captain Elliot,—he believed he had been actuated by a sincere desire to benefit his country, and that he had exhibited a total disregard to his personal safety in the execution of his duty. Still, entertaining as strong an opinion on the opium trade as he had ever done, and hoping that the Government would give the fullest consideration to that part of the subject, having considered the orders that the Government had issued, he could see no ground for fixing on those orders the present unhappy state of affairs, and he therefore felt bound to give a decided negative to the motion of the right hon. Baronet.
§ Mr. Sidney Herbert
said, the House was now so fully in possession of the facts of the question, that he was glad to find that there was no necessity to go further into details. He, in common with other hon. Members then present, had listened most attentively to the hon. Baronet who had just sat down, considering from his knowledge and experience upon subjects connected with China, and with our Indian empire, that his observations were entitled to respect, and would excite interest in every quarter where they became known; but he confessed that, in one respect, at least, the speech of the hon. Baronet had grievously diappointed him—it was impossible to collect with certainty the views or opinions which the hon. Baronet entertained. It would seem from the speech which the House had just heard, that the 746 hon. Baronet was opposed to any species of interference with the people or government of China, at least that that was formerly his opinion; but it was by no means certain that he did now entertain sentiments of a widely different nature. The hon. Baronet appeared to admit that he was unable to connect the despatches of the noble Lord with the question to which the opium trade had given rise. Now, that being so, he desired to know was it well or fitting that the Foreign Minister of such a country as England should write no despatches which were connected with that which formed the great object of anxiety, dispute, and eventual hostility? The right hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh had complained that the present motion was retrospective, that the censure which it was intended to convey was retrospective. He begged to know how censure could, with any shadow of justice, be otherwise than retrospective. He confessed he did not see how it could be made prospective. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh asked why the motion had not been made to apply to the future policy of her Majesty's Government. He would answer that question very briefly by saying, that the reason of its not being made to apply to the future was, that on the Opposition side of the House, they had no knowledge of the future policy of the present advisers of the Crown. They did not desire, prematurely, to extract that knowledge from Gentlemen on the other side, and therefore it was that they forbore, lest such enquiries should prove detrimental to the public service, to put any questions of an inconvenient character, or make any motion calculated to harass the Ministers of the Crown. They had abstained from that, even when they knew that the Government were to blame. He was as much averse as man could be from making observations upon the conduct of our representative at Canton, which could be regarded as in any respect harsh or severe; but, looking at his conduct in the most favourable light, it must be described as vacillating. When, in the first instance, he was called upon to remove the opium ships, and take their cargoes, his reply was, that he possessed no power to do anything of the sort; that reply was founded in truth; it was perfectly true that he did not possess the power to do so; but so soon as the Chinese authorities placed him in confinement, their objects were accom 747 plished, not perhaps by the exercise of authority, for it might be quite true that Captain Elliot possessed no such authority, but by moral force he might have effected that which was necessary for the time to satisfy the Chinese, and having done so, was he at all justified in taking for granted that they would understand the distinction—that they could reconcile his first declaration with the facts which subsequently took place? The despatches of the noble Lord were sixteen in number, two of them related to ships of war, one to extension of jurisdiction, and all the others to disputes about mere ceremonials. He did not blame the noble Lord for devoting a considerable quantity of his correspondence to the subject of ceremonials, for, however cheap we might hold them, they were objects of great interest and importance with the people of China; but of this he did complain, that the noble Lord should so long have remained insensible to the calls so frequently made upon him for fresh and more full instructions; he did complain that the noble Lord should in so remarkable a degree have disregarded the numerous instances in which his attention was called to the affrays which were daily taking place with the Chinese. He could not help saying, that to him it appeared most inconceivable how the noble Lord could pay so much attention to one class of subjects, and so very little to another; and it was further remarkable, that the very instance in which Captain Elliot proved successful was a case in which he had received no instructions from the Government at home. It was perfectly true, that in carrying on negotiation and intercourse with with the Chinese, Lord Amherst and both the Wellesleys had disdained the letter of the instructions forwarded to them, but it was equally true, that they possessed a general authority to act upon their own discretion. If it were true, as there was every reason to believe it was, that the Chinese were not indisposed to commercial intercourse with the English, and felt no personal objection to maintain friendly relations with this country, but were influenced solely by a feeling of apprehension, occasioned by our supposed love of conquest, then he should say, that peace, not war, formed the best mode of reconciling them to the course which our sense of duty and of interest induced us to pursue. It was perfectly natural that the people of China should regard with dread 748 the progress which the arms and the diplomacy of England had made on the continent of Asia. Nothing could present to their minds a more striking illustration than did the Governments of Clive and the two Wellesleys, of the restless, indomitable energy of our character. He deeply regretted to think that the country had engaged in a war of doubtful justice, that we were expending 6,000,000l. to recover 2,000,000l.; that we were sending good money after bad, and that we were contending with an enemy whose cause of quarrel was better than ours. Sir Joshua Reynolds, in the course of his observations upon art and nature, observed, that if an Indian were to see a gentleman of that period with his head shaved, and the place which his hair had occupied supplied by a powdered wig, he would think the accomplished man of fashion the greater savage of the two. Now, it really appeared to him, that in our conduct towards China, we had proved ourselves to be the less civilized nation of the two. He did not complain of her Majesty's Government for sending out an armament, but he did complain of this—that their previous conduct had rendered such a proceeding necessary. The effect had been, that the country now had an expensive war upon their hands; that we had incurred the hazard of losing that which was essential to the comforts and the morals of a large proportion of the humble classes of the community; and when the probable evils of such a war were pressed upon the attention of Ministers, they went off to the question—Would it be successful? He must say, that to him it appeared impossible to read the book then on the table of the House respecting the affairs of China, without coming to the same conclusion at which the right hon. Mover' had arrived. Unless men were blinded by factious or party feelings, they could not shut their eyes to the fact, that we had engaged in a war without just cause—that we were endeavouring to maintain a trade resting upon unsound principles, and to justify proceedings which were a disgrace to the British flag.
§ Adjourned Debate.