§ Mr. Hawes
had listened with the greatest possible attention last night to the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke, and undoubtedly the importance of the interest at stake, the great ability and perspicuous arrangement of the right hon. Gentleman, demanded, on the part of every Member of that House, the most careful attention. The interests at stake were great indeed, they were great in a naval and mercantile point of view, and also as involving the character of this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, in the course of his reply to the speech of the right hon. Baronet, separated correctly the accusations brought against the Government into four distinct charges, and having carefully considered since what fell from the right hon. Gentleman, he thought the answers were complete. The first charge related to the original instructions for enforcing the residence of Lord Napier, at Canton, for which the right hon. Gentleman was himself responsible. The next related to instructions enforcing direct communication with the vice-regal authorities of China, for which he was also responsible, and both of those charges were entirely disposed of by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Macaulay), both having been conceded by the Chinese government. The two last of the right hon. Baronet referred to the want of sufficient force in the Chinese seas, and the not having taken measures to suppress the contraband trade in opium. He proposed to deal only with the last charge, but would first take the liberty of noticing an observation which fell from the hon. Gentle man who spoke in the debate, the 750 Member for Wiltshire, who claimed credit—as he owned to his surprise, and that of many hon. Members around him, for forbearance on the part of Gentlemen opposite in putting questions to the Government, or raising discussions which were likely to be prejudicial to the public service. He must say, if ever there was an opposition in the whole history of party which had so little right to claim that credit, it was the opposition he had the honour to see on the other side [Hear], and those cheers might probably form his authority for stating the grounds on which he made the statement. He could not forget the debates which had occurred in that House on several important occasions. He would just allude to one circumstance to justify this statement. They must all recollect in 1838, the discussion which had taken place in that House on the subject of the Spanish Auxiliary Legion. Scarcely had a slight disaster occurred to that force when it was made the subject of discussion in that House, although the subject had been mentioned distinctly in the speech from the Throne, it had never been alluded to by Gentlemen opposite then. It had never been made the subject of a discussion in that House until the occurrence of some slight disaster, nor was that the only occurrence of the sort. He could not forget the Jamaica case. He could not forget the Jamaica Prisons Bill, which had passed both Houses with scarcely any opposition. The opposition of the planters of Jamaica had been made in that House by Gentlemen opposite a matter of party discussion and party division. In fact, he never saw any occurrence calculated either to create trouble or difficulty at home or abroad, but what it was made the subjects of party debate, and as regularly as from the alterations of the barometer the observer could foretell fair or foul weather, just so, from the occurrence of any minute difficulty, or of any slight disaster, could be foreseen a most severe party debate in that House. He would now address himself to the subject more immediately before the House. The right hon. Gentleman had acknowledged distinctly his responsibility respecting the China Act. He meant to lay it down as a principle, that the contraband opium trade were the foundation of all these troubles. In 1833, when the India Act was passed, and the instructions were sent out, all the evils of this 751 trade were well known, and the dangers attending it had been distinctly pointed out, no information had been wanting to prove the nature of the trade, or to show its tendency to produce collision with the Chinese authorities, and to put a stop to trade with that country altogether. All these circumstances were as distinctly known then as they were at present. He would refer only to one document to show that the pernicious nature of this trade had long since been pointed out. In a despatch of the East India Company, which had been laid before the House as long back as 1831, they found this remarkable passage relating to the trade in opium. The Company state thatThey do not wish to increase but to lessen the use, or rather the abuse, of opium, by making the price, both at home and abroad, as high as possible, consistently with a regard to the state of the markets, so as not to be undersold by foreign powers; and if it were possible, they would gladly prevent the use of the drug altogether, but that was absolutely impracticable.The pernicious tendency of that trade was well known before that time, yet, notwithstanding that, it was directly encouraged first by the East India Company, and then in Canton by the supercargoes, who, instead of taking steps to put it down, allowed it to be carried on under their sanction. Mr. Grant, on bringing forward the bill for opening the trade with China, expressly stated, that it was a contraband trade—that it was a dangerous trade, and one that could not continue. Now he wanted to know, if all this information was well known, how it was that measures were not taken by the Government of that day to put down the trade in opium. To that trade he (Mr. Hawes) attributed all the evils which the trade between this country and China had been suffering, and to that he attributed all the jealousies of the Chinese. The right hon. Gentleman who had brought forward the motion was a Member of the Government of that day, and therefore he must be considered as being responsible for having encouraged the trade in opium. The speech of the right hon. Gentleman last night made scarcely any allusion whatever to the trade in opium, and was marked for its avoiding all allusion to the difficulties that surrounded the question. He did not tell the House what it was his intention to do with respect to it—he did 752 not say that it was desirable to put that trade down, but left the House in a state of total darkness as to what his views were. He would venture to say, that no one in that House could doubt that the right hon. Baronet had ample grounds for taking the course he had done. He was a Member of the Government in 1833, and he knew very well that the opium trade was a source of great revenue. He knew also that there was a resolution of that House, sanctioning the trade, and that it was almost impossible to put it down. He contended, therefore, that the mercantile interests ought not to be treated in the manner they had been by the right hon. Baronet, they had a right to know what the intentions of the right hon. Baronet were, and what would be the course pursued by that Cabinet, which it seemed the right hon. Baronet was in hopes he, and those with whom he acted, would be called upon to form in consequence of the result of this motion. The difficulties that surrounded the question were notorious. Putting an end to the contraband trade in the port of Canton would not stop the trade in opium. That trade would continue to its fullest extent—and it was stated in the papers before the House that notwithstanding all that had been done to suppress that trade, it was now more flourishing than it was at any former period. The right hon. Gentleman was afraid to propose a distinct resolution for the purpose of putting a stop to that trade. He challenged hon. Gentlemen opposite distinctly to state their opinions on this subject. Would they put down that trade—could they put it down? It appeared to him, that the Chinese had sought to make the British a kind of Preventive Service, having no sort of power on their part to stop that trade which they considered to be pernicious. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was responsible for having sanctioned and encouraged the trade, and that would explain his silence on this most important branch of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had also alluded to the conduct of Captain Elliot. He was anxious to say one word, as to a portion of Captain Elliot's conduct, which had been the subject of condemnation. The conduct of Captain Elliot, with reference to the surrender of opium, had been freely canvassed. Captain Elliot had only two courses to pursue—his first duty was to 753 preserve life and property. Again, he had two courses to pursue with respect to the opium—either to allow it to be confiscated by the Chinese, to the utter ruin of the British merchant, or withdraw it from the market and seek some other place for its sale. On either side ruin stared our merchants in the face; and although the trade was contraband, it had been carried on so long, and had been participated in and connived at by the Chinese authorities, that it had become a large, an important, and a well-known and regulated trade, and it was utterly impossible for Captain Elliot to have acted up to his instructions without watching over it. He was to watch over the trade of the port of Canton. It was well known that the opium trade was the most important part of it, and he was justified in considering it his duty to watch over it. The Chinese Government, by seizing upon the persons of British merchants, putting them in prison, seizing the opium of the parties under threats, put themselves in the wrong, and Captain Elliot immediately took advantage of it—put himself in his uniform, and put himself in confinement along with his imprisoned fellow-countrymen. He would not give his support to the Government in any case involving a war, unless he thought it was absolutely necessary, but he did not think that there would, in fact, be any war. It had always been recommended by all who had visited China, from the first time a ship of war had arrived on the coast until the present time, that, in order to negotiate with the Chinese with advantage, it was necessary to negotiate backed by an imposing force. In all probability, when the Chinese Government came to reflect upon the illegal conduct of their own commissioner, and when they found that the British would no longer be trifled with, he fully believed that the object of the argument would be attained without any war, and if this country were to be respected throughout China and India they must now take a decisive course. He believed he was entitled to say, that all those engaged in the trade with China were satisfied with the course pursued by her Majesty's Government, inasmuch as it was calculated to give security to their future intercourse with it. Unless these steps had been taken, the probability was that the trade would have been carried on under the most painful and humiliating circum- 754 stances. The indignities practised upon British merchants, the sufferings, exactions, and extortions, which had been so flagrantly practised, were matters well known to every person engaged in the trade, as well as to all who had looked through the papers laid upon the Table—the course taken by the supercargoes of the East-India Company was one of cringing and submission, and utterly unworthy of the spirit and independence of this country, and it was naturally foreseen that the appointment of a British officer would produce some collision requiring the intervention of an armed force? He would give them one instance of the conduct of these supercargoes. Mr. Pigot, an officer on board the Scaleby Castle, having accidentally killed a Chinese, the authorities required that he should be surrendered to them for execution. Instead of resisting the demand, they showed the Chinese the body of the mate who had died a few days previously, stating that it was the body of Mr. Pigot, who had destroyed himself from fear of the anger of the Chinese. He read the despatch of the resident to the directors of the East-India Company, to show that the officer of that great Company gave his countenance to so great a fraud. The despatch stated that—By this expedient the Europeans had been relieved from great difficulty and embarrassment, and he trusted that he should not incur the blame of the honourable directors for having acquiesced in it.It was impossible not to suppose that those who were responsible for the Act of 1833, anticipated that some collision of the same kind was likely to arise at a future time. Lord Napier had scarcely arrived in China when he perceived the absolute impractibility of referring home for instructions how he was to act. In fact, it could not be denied that it was impossible for the Government in Downing-street to provide for all the contingencies that might arise in Canton, and a great deal must be left to the discretion and energy of the superintendent. He referred to the statements of Lord Napier, and of Sir T. Metcalf, in proof of this; and in truth no fact was better known than that our great empire in India was consolidated, and held together by the spirit and energy of the Governor-general acting on the spot, without waiting for the instructions, and sometimes acting against the instructions, of 755 the Board of Directors in England. On the present occasion, he would not support the Government if he did not think that they were entitled to his support. Had hon. Gentlemen opposite stated what course they meant to pursue in the existing critical emergency? Not a syllable of intimation as to their course of policy on the subject of China which could be clearly and distinctly understood had they given. Allusion had been made to the memorandum of the Duke of Wellington, recommending peaceful measures. What peaceful measures did the accompaniment of the stout frigate and the sloops of war in the Chinese seas portend? That was rather a curious mode of expressing and manifesting peaceful intention towards the Chinese in their trade with British merchants. Were the merchants of this country to continue their trade with China assisted with such accompaniments? Large discretionary powers must of necessity be vested in Captain Elliot, or any Other British officer similarly circumstanced. From the speeches delivered by hon. Members opposite, he could glean that it was their intention to support the Government in their hostility towards China. The armament had already gone forth, and what was the object or the peculiar good expected to result from the present discussion? Was it the object of hon. Gentlemen opposite to terminate the trade with China? There were not in this country means ample enough to put down the opium trade, for it was a trade that could not be sufficiently checked; or if it was suppressed with one class of traders, it would only devolve into the hands of a different and a desperate class. If it was intended to put down the opium trade—if it was determined to terminate the commercial relations of this country with China—if the national honour was not to be indicated from injury and insult—then he must say, that one of the greatest misfortunes which could befal would occur to this country, whose very existence in Asia and Europe depended upon its conduct in this critical and difficult emergency. England, on, the present occasion, sought not conquest or extent of dominion; her object was not aggression nor aggrandisement; all she sought was reparation from insult and injury. There was no actual state of war then existing. An armament was merely equipped effectually to support, the trade negotiations of this 756 country, and all history proved that the success of any nation was proportioned to the physical powers with which she supported her negotiations. The course pursued by the present Government was a course satisfactory to the country at large, and satisfactory to the merchants engaged in the trade with China; for the country and the merchants felt that insults to British subjects were not to be slightly committed, especially in India, where Britain was powerful more by her moral than her physical influence—in a region where the light of Christianity had not as yet dawned, and which could be introduced solely through the medium of commercial agency.
§ Mr. Thesiger
, in rising to address the House for the first time, said, that he had but little claim to their attention, for he could bring nothing to the consideration of the question but the industry which had enabled him, in the midst of other avocations, to examine the voluminous mass of papers on the table, and a desire to comprehend them exactly, and to trespass no longer on their attention than was absolutely necessary. This was a question of the most momentous importance. We were on the eve of a war with a nation of which we scarcely knew anything, and it was impossible that human sagacity could foretell the results of that war. It certainly might be, that by a mere demonstration of force, we might avert hostilities, and restore again this wide field of commercial enterprise; it might, however, happen, that this empire, of which we knew so little, having resources of which we had no conception, might defeat our attempts; in which case the issue would be, that we should lose a trade of vast importance to the country, which loss would be enormously aggravated by national defeat and disgrace. It might, under such circumstances, be wisdom to stop on the very threshold of war, and inquire whether the circumstances were such as to place the question of peace and war beyond human control, and whether, also, in the course of policy which had been pursued, the great interests of the country had not been neglected by the Administration. It was in vain for the hon. Member for Lambeth to say, that the present charge, emanated from a spirit of party. Opposed as Gentlemen on his side of the House were to the principles of the present Government, it was very easy to impute party spirit as 757 a motive for their actions; but the country would not be deceived; nor would the House be deterred by any such imputations from the discharge of an important duty. Neither was he ashamed to express his conviction, whatever might be the result of this debate, that the nation was deeply indebted to the right hon. Baronet (Sir J, Graham) for having brought the subject under the consideration of the House. Hon. Members on the Ministerial side of the House cavilled at the terms of the motion of the right hon. Baronet. He believed it would be very difficult to make any such motion agreeable to them; but still the roost extraordinary charges were made respecting the terms of the motion. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh complained because the censure against the Government was retrospective;—this complaint was, however, disposed of in one minute by the hon. Member for Wiltshire, for it was impossible that censure could be otherwise than retrospective, as it was impossible for hon. Gentlemen on his side of the House to know what might be the policy of Government as to the future. They wanted the right hon. Gentleman's means of knowing what that policy was. The right hon. Gentleman had observed that the Government were only charged by the right hon. Baronet with sins of omission. The right hon. Gentleman would permit him to say, that his notion of the duties of Ministers was most extraordinary, if the right hon. Gentleman really thought that it was not a serious charge against a Minister, that he neglects or omits to supply with proper instructions, the representatives of the Crown in foreign countries. The right hon. Gentleman objected, that we ought to bring forward charges that we could prove, but the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir G. Staunton) brought forward other objections, with which he came forward in aid of Government. The hon. Member said, that the motion did not go far enough to satisfy him, because it did not say whether the supporters of it really condemned the war or not; and therefore, said the hon. Gentleman, though all my arguments make against the Government, yet they shall have my vote on a division, for the words of the motion are not satisfactory to me. But, as it seemed to him, the hon. Member did not look at the situation in which the supporters of the motion were placed in regard to the Government. The war, 758 under circumstances which might be disclosed, would possibly bear the aspect of a just and necessary war; but the question which they meant to submit was, whether the war had not become necessary in consequence of the gross neglect of the Government. There was no question made by them whether it was necessary or not now. He had his own opinion as to that. You, said the hon. Baronet (Sir G. Staunton), have declared that the war is owing to want of foresight, and to neglect on the part of Government, but you have not told me what you would do yourselves. In reply to this, he begged to observe, that this was the first time he had ever heard that when a charge was made by any one, it was necessary for him to tell what he would have done himself in similar circumstances; but if hon. Members had not been able to discover in the clear and perspicuous speeches of the right hon. Member for Pembroke, and the hon. and learned Member for Exeter (Sir W. Follett) what was the policy which should have been adopted, he apprehended that no man would be able to inform them. One objection to the conduct of her Majesty's Government was, that none of the usual forms had been observed on this occasion; there had been no message from her Majesty brought down by the noble Lord opposite, to tell them whether there had been any declaration of war or not. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh spoke as if we were in a state of actual war; he praised, he justified, he dwelt in a very high strain on the justice of the war. The hon. Baronet (Sir G. Staunton) said, that he was not sure that we were at war at all, and that, at all events, a fast-sailing vessel, if sent out immediately, might stop all that was in preparation, and that all that he wanted was, that representations should be made to the Chinese government by some one, backed by a competent force. The hon. Member for Lambeth, on the other hand, spoke as if there were no doubt about our being at war. For his part he was not able, amidst such conflicting statements, to find whether the war existed or not. But he would pass from, this to the question immediately before the House, and he would say, that this was not a question which was to be decided by strong language or forcible eloquence. If it were, the right hon. Member for Edinburgh would have swept away all opposition. Hon. Members on the Oppo- 759 sition side of the House had last night followed the lofty flight of the right hon. Member's eloquence, and looked on in admiration of his talents; but they now descended to the humbler duty of examining the documents before the House, and then, after that examination, attempting to tell whether the ground taken by the terms of the motion were or were not well founded. In considering this question, it was necessary to strip it of all irrelevant matter, and drop all those points which were admitted by all parties. For two centuries we had carried on a very beneficial trade with China. That trade was carried on under certain restrictions, which were completely understood by all parties—that, namely, which prohibited a fixed residence of our merchants at Canton, and that which prohibited us from communicating directly with the viceroy of Canton, or in any other way than through the Hong or security merchants. Such were the Chinese regulations, and they appeared to be unalterable. We might refuse to deal with them if we pleased, but if we continued to seek a trade with them, we must be content to carry on that trade in the way they chose to point out; if we took the benefit we could not refuse the conditions. On these terms we had dealt, and dealt advantageously with the Chinese for 200 years. In 1834 the exclusive privileges of the East India Company were taken away, and a new system was established at Canton. Now, he was not aware of anything more likely to create jealousy and suspicion in the mind of so peculiar a people as the Chinese, than to hear that a course of dealing to which they had been so long accustomed was to come to an end, and that a wholly new system was, all of a sudden, without any previous communication of our intentions, to be adopted. It was most likely that the Chinese would feel alarm at such a course, and that they did so appeared evidently enough. While on this point, he might observe, that it was very important that the House should bear in mind the real state of facts, as to the residence of the East-India Company's supercargoes, for by that means would be removed an impression of the most erroneous kind which had been created by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh. The fact was, that the supercargoes had not resided at Canton, but at Macao. The necessities of trade, when they occurred, called them to Canton, and they used to 760 proceed thither from Macao under a permit, as it was sometimes called, sometimes a passport, obtained from the Chinese authorities. But the duration of this permit was limited to the special purposes of their stay in Canton, and when the ship had cleared out they used to return to Macao. This was very important to be fully understood. Well, by the statute of the 3rd and 4th of William 4th, passed in 1833, the East-India Company's privileges were abolished, and, instead of the supercargoes, three superintendents were created under it. Now the first order in council would be found to give the superintendents the same powers in regard to British subjects trading to Canton, and the necessary control over their proceedings, that the supercargoes of the East-India Company exercised before the termination of their exclusive trade. But that provision, as the right hon. Member for Pembroke had shewn, gave no powers whatever, because the powers and authorities of the supercargoes, with respect to the control of British subjects on the Canton waters had already ceased, in virtue of an act passed previously to the act of the 3rd and 4th of William 4th. All the provisions, therefore, of the order in council with respect to this, referred to a state of things which had passed away, so that the authority meant to be vested in the superintendents, by the order in council, utterly failed and came to nothing. This was the fundamental error, and in his opinion the origin of all the disasters which had ensued. However, to remedy these deficiencies in the order in council, there were the instructions under the royal sign manual, and a letter from the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs of further instructions and explanations. Now, in these letters of instructions there were two capital mistakes, which, in his view of the matter, led in a very considerable degree to the unfortunate results which had taken place with respect to the trade with China. He alluded in the first place to the directions given to Lord Napier to communicate his arrival to the viceroy; and in the second place, to the directions contained in his instructions to take up his residence in Canton. It was quite evident that Lord Napier considered that that portion of his instructions which required him to communicate his arrival to the viceroy, d d not permit him to adopt any other species of intercourse than that of direct communi- 761 cation; and there was no doubt whatever, that that sensitive and ill-fated nobleman, acting up, as he thought, to the letter and spirit of the instructions, forced his residence at Canton, without receiving the preliminary passports, and attempted to compel a direct mode of communication with the viceroy. The difficulties which followed on that attempt were too well known to hon. Members. In the course of three months he sank under those difficulties, and under the degradation and disgrace of the position in which he was placed. It was a most remarkable thing, that in the whole course of these despatches there was not one word of sympathy or of feeling—not one word of regret—not the slightest expression directed towards this event; the grave was permitted to close over him silently, and without observation. And although the noble Lord's attention was particularly called to it in a letter from Sir George Robinson, entreating the noble Lord to ask for some redress for the contumely and insult to which Lord Napier had been exposed, there was no mention made of it, no attempt, nothing done by the noble Lord; his memory was left in silence, and the country was left in the unfortunate position in which it was placed by the issue of the conflict which took place. Mr. Davis succeeded Lord Napier as the first superintendent. He had the authority of the hon. Baronet the Member for Portsmouth for saying, that Mr. Davis was a person of very great experience, and of very great knowledge. Mr. Davis considered, in the unfortunate position in which affairs had been left by the untimely death of Lord Napier, that it would not be expedient that he should force himself at all on the local authorities; and it would be found that he and Sir George Robinson, who succeeded him, carefully avoided any attempt to communicate with the authorities at Canton, and by their forbearance they were enabled to allow the trade to go on in its natural and ordinary current. But it was not to be supposed that they did not feel the greatest anxiety as to the position in which they were placed. The events which accompanied the struggle of Lord Napier showed them evidently that there was a vital fundamental error in the instructions given to them. They were afraid to act; they remained perfectly "quiescent"—a term which was used by Sir G. Robinson over and over again; but they entreated of the noble Lord, the Se- 762 cretary of State for Foreign Affairs, repeatedly definite instructions, precise powers, information how they were to act in the position of affairs in which they were placed by the circumstances which accompanied the struggle with Lord Napier. He wished to press this particularly on the attention of the House. Lord Napier died on the 11th of October, 1834. The first despatch which reached the Foreign-office afterwards, arrived on the 31st of January, 1835; that was answered, as the House knew, immediately—within two days, by a despatch from the Duke of Wellington, who then held the seals of the office for Foreign Affairs. He should refer to that presently. But there was no other despatch from the Foreign-office till the 28th of May, 1836—being seventeen months after the arrival of the first despatch at the Foreign-office (cheers). Now, hon. Members at the other side of the House cheered him when he adverted to the despatch of the Duke of Wellington of the 2nd of February, 1835. He believed the right hon. Member for Edinburgh had last night used that despatch as an argument in favour of the Government, to show that the Duke of Wellington approved of the conduct of the Foreign-office. There was no doubt that the noble Duke did point out particularly to the attention of Lord Napier the 18th and 19th articles of these instructions; but the 18th and 19th articles of the instructions were perfectly inconsistent with the course which had been recommended by the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, because they required Lord Napier to respect even the prejudices as well as the laws and usages of the Chinese; and yet the same noble Lord, under the instructions of the sign manual, required him to violate the prejudices of the people of the Chinese empire, by communicating directly with the viceroy, and by taking up his permanent residence at Canton. The noble Duke, in that despatch, also adverted to what the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, had never denied, to the conduct which Lord Napier was stated to have pursued with regard to following out the instructions he was stated to have received; and the noble Duke cautioned him most particularly thatIt was not the intention of his Majesty's Government, by force and violence, to establish a commercial intercourse with the Chinese.763 No such warning had at any time been given by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; no intimation of the kind had been given; and therefore this despatch, which hon. Members on the other side of the House thought so important to their case, was the first rebuke they had received from the same warrior's hands, the other being that memorial which the noble Duke had drawn up about a fortnight before he relinquished the seals of office. It would now be most important that he should call the attention of the House, which he was afraid he should fatigue, to the details, and present them to hon. Members in a tangible shape. He wished to confirm the position he had laid down. He said that both Mr. Davis and Sir George Robinson earnestly and repeatedly called on the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to give them some instructions as to the course of proceedings they should adopt, and the noble Lord was deaf to every such solicitation; no such instructions were given at any time, except those of a very trifling nature. The House would allow him, in the first place, to call attention to Mr. Davis's correspondence. He would give the pages, so that hon. Members might refer to them. The first of the correspondence of Mr. Davis was on the 12th of October, 1834. The dates were very important. It was received on the 23rd of February, 1835, and would be found in page 44 of the correspondence relating to China. It said—In the absence of any advances on the part of the Chinese, a state of absolute silence and quiescence on our part seems the most eligible course until further instructions shall be received from home.Op the 28th of October, 1834, which was in page 45, he said—Whatever maybe the line of proceeding finally adopted by his Majesty's Government, I have already stated my conviction, that during the progress of the commercial transactions of individuals, and awaiting the arrival of further instructions from England, this commission has no other course to pursue than that of absolute silence.Then on the 2nd of January, 1835, there was a very important letter from Mr. Davis, page 77, which contained an account pf the principal occurrences of tile period, as the best ground for an opinion concerning the measures which his Majesty's Government deem it fit to adopt 764 relative to China; and he suggested that an opportunity was afforded by the edict against the Hong merchants. (Hon. Members would remember that there was an edict against the Hong merchants for their extortions from the foreign merchants at Canton), of coming to an arrangement with the Chinese about the rupture with Lord Napier. Mr. Davis was not aware how very much inclined the Foreign office was to neglect every opportunity for interfering in the affairs of China at all. Mr. Davis retired on the 19th of January, 1835, and left a memorandum of instructions for his successor for pursuing the same policy which he had pursued previous to any further instructions from home, and Sir G. Robinson, who followed him, and who executed his duties faithfully and efficiently, acted on the same policy, and, in the same way as Mr. Davis had done, earnestly pressed on the Foreign-office the necessity of sending out more definite instructions. They would find that on the 13th of April, 1835, page 94, he intimates his resolutionTo maintain his present position until he is in possession of the views and intentions of his Majesty's Government.On the 3rd of February, 1835, page 81, there was a very important letter indeed from Sir G. Robinson, which contained the account of the boat and crew of a vessel, called the Argyle, having been seized by pirates; and it staled to the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that an account of this outrage was proposed to be delivered by Captain Elliot to the Chinese authorities, but was refused to be received by them, because it did not contain that very objectionable word—the superscription "Pin"—because it was not in the form of a humble solicitation. The noble Lord was made acquainted with the difficulty of communicating with the Chinese government except under that superscription, to which he so strongly and repeatedly objected. Afterwards, on the 26th of July, 1835, in page 100, Sir G. Robinson said,Pending the arrival of those instructions I am now awaiting, I have deemed it my imperative duty to maintain the same position of affairs regarding his Majesty's commission in China that prevailed on the departure of Mr. Davis.On the 16th of October, 1835, in page 101, he said, 765I trust your Lordship will approve of the perfectly quiescent line of policy I have considered it ray duty to maintain under the present aspect of affairs.On the 10th of November, 1835, in page 101, he said,Confidently impressed with the conviction that any movements or attempts to enter into communication with the Chinese authorities would not only prove futile, but probably involve serious consequences—such as stoppage and interruption to the trade—I shall carefully abstain from any measures of the kind until in possession of further information and definite instructions.The noble Lord (Palmerston), and hon. Gentlemen would stop and see when the "definite instructions" and "further information" went. This was what was asked for—repeatedly and earnestly asked for, and never given. He was now coming to the requests, and then he was coming to the mode in which they were answered. In page 105, there was a suggestion in a letter dated December 1, 1835, from Sir G. Robinson, as to extending the powers of the superintendent beyond the limits of the river to Macao and Lintin. In the letter received on the 5th of January, 1836, which was the last of the letters to which he should call attention, and which would be found in page 110, Sir G. Robinson informed the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that he had taken up his residence at Lintin on board a schooner called the Louisa; that he had done that for the convenience of captains of vessels who required port clearances, and that he had the sanction of the Chamber of Commerce for the course he had pursued, and he enclosed a letter from the Chamber of Commerce to the noble Lord. Now, here hon. Members who had cheered might perhaps pause, and would come to this conclusion at all events, that both Mr. Davis and Sir George Robinson felt themselves hampered from the want of defined and accurate powers, and that they earnestly and repeatedly pressed on the noble Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs the necessity of sending them out precise and definite instructions. They pointed out that it was quite impossible for them to act; that they were compelled to adopt a "quiescent" course of policy, and that it turned out fortunately that through it the trade was continued. But it was never intended to continue, that the 766 superintendent sent out to Canton was to be a man banished from all intercourse with the local authorities; and yet for want of instructions Mr. Davis and Sir G. Robinson felt themselves under the necessity of pursuing that course of policy. And now they came to that for which Members on the opposite side of the House were so anxious. Now they came to the prompt attention to all the difficulties in which the superintendents were placed, to the ready redress with which the noble Lord furnished them. They had the first despatch of the 28th of May, which would be found in page 111, seventeen months after the last despatch. Now, what did the noble Lord advert to? Did the noble Lord advert to the difficulties in which the superintendents were placed? Did he say, "I am anxious to define your authority; I know it is impossible you can proceed with advantage with the trade unless your powers are accurately understood?" The noble Lord adverted to nothing of the kind. He did not even turn the most cursory attention to any of the complaints made from time to time, but he assented to and confirmed the recommendation made in the last letter of Sir George Robinson, namely, the desire that the power of the superintendents should be extended beyond the port of Canton; and his first despatch of the 28th of May, 1836, said,I have to instruct you publicly to notify that the jurisdiction of the commission is to be extended so as to include Lintin and Macao; and that from the date of the promulgation of such notification the authority of the superintendents over British subjects and ships is to be considered as extending to Macao as well as Canton; and as being of equal force and validity within this extended jurisdiction as it has hitherto been within the limits of the port of Canton.The hon. and learned Member for Exeter had showed last night that the superintendents had no power whatever in the port of Canton; and therefore the noble Lord, who must have known this, or ought to have known it, extended an authority which did not exist, and gave it equal force and validity with one which had no being, and the noble Lord did that after seventeen months' consideration ! But, the noble Lord having exhausted himself with this first effort of official exertion, the noble Lord sank back into his accustomed lethargy. The noble Lord did upon the 6th of June, 1836, send 767 another despatch with respect to the case of Mr. Innes, which, in a note to this voluminous mass of papers, was stated to be a case of no importance, except to show how necessary it was that there should be a jurisdiction of the superintendents at Canton. But no more was heard till after two more letters from Sir G. Robinson, and then these letters had been attended to. In the month of June there was a wonderful exertion on the part of the noble Lord, but an exertion perfectly unaccountable; for on the 5th of January, Sir G. Robinson having pointed out to him that his residence on board the Louisa had been productive of great advantage to the trade of China, and had been approved of by the Chamber of Commerce, the noble Lord, on the 7th of June, 1836, adverted to this circumstance. He could not say that Sir G. Robinson was wrong; he would not say that he was right; but he told him—You are not, however, to understand, from what I have said above, that I disapprove of your having resided for some time at Lintin. So imperfectly informed as I am with respect to what can be stated for and against the step you had adopted, I am obliged to take for granted that your reasons for having adopted it appeared to you to be of sufficient weight to counterbalance the inconveniences attendant upon your having separated yourself from your colleagues, and having undertaken alone to carry on the business of the commission, without waiting to learn whether your Government coincided in your own particular views or not.So that the noble Lord gave a faint praise to Sir G. Robinson, and a backhanded blow of censure, and then went on without the slightest explanation, under the pretence of economy (he thought he had a right to say), to remove a faithful servant—a gentleman of sixteen years' experience, who had performed his duty without any complaint. The noble Lord, on the 7th of June, removed him from his situation, and gave that situation to the present superintendent. The noble Lord said he had "abolished" the situation. What was Captain Elliot now? Was he chief superintendent or not? He had corresponded under that designation. Sir George Robinson was abolished, but the situation was not. [Lord Palmerston—6,000l. a-year was abolished.] 6,000l. a-year abolished? And how much had Captain Elliot? Would the noble Lord be kind enough to tell them that? [Lord 768 Palmerston—3,000l.. a-year.] The noble Lord had been pleased to interrupt him; but, granting that this was the case, he wanted to know what difference it made in the argument? He wanted to know why Sir George Robinson was removed under those circumstances, after he had faithfully performed the duties of his office under very trying circumstances? Not a word of thanks—not a word of expression of gratitude—they could hardly expect that—but not a word of the services of Sir George Robinson. But what was the first act of the noble Lord after Captain Elliot had been appointed chief superintendent? Still there were no defined powers—still no definite instructions. But it became necessary that Captain Elliot should act promptly and decisively in a matter of very great importance. It appeared that there was a steam-vessel called the Jardine, which had been denounced by the provincial government; there had been an edict against it. There was an intention on the part of the captain of that vessel to pass up the river to Canton, and the river was then full of shipping waiting for their cargoes. Captain Elliot believed, as he expressed it, that this might be exceedingly dangerous, that it would lead to great interruption and injury to the trade; and therefore, acting under the discretionary authority with which he thought he was invested for the protection of the trade, he required the captain not to pass up the river. What was the answer he received in consequence of that interference? One would have thought that, in a matter of so important a character, something would at least have been left to Captain Elliot's discretion; but the noble Lord in his third despatch rebuked Captain Elliot—For interfering with the enterprise of British Merchants in that way, and begged he will be very careful indeed not to assume an authority with with which he is not invested by the order in Council.Was Captain Elliot chief superintendent for the protection of trade or was he not? If he was such superintendent, could there be a more important exercise of his authority than to prevent the intrusion of a vessel which was under the ban of the empire, and the presence of which in the Chinese water was likely to be exceedingly prejudicial to the ordinary and regular trade of the port of Canton? He now come to the point which last 769 night had been adverted to by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, as to the course which Captain Elliot had pursued when he became chief superintendent. The right hon. Gentleman, adverting to the charges made by the present motion against the Government, spoke of the first question as being a charge of an attempt on the part of the superintendent, in pursuance of instructions, to force his residence at Canton; and the right hon. Gentleman stated last night, that in fact that charge fell entirely to the ground, inasmuch as that point had been conceded by the Chinese Government. He had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman believed that the result of the despatches and of the edicts to be found amongst the voluminous mass of papers before the House was such as the right hon. Gentleman had stated them to be; but he must take the liberty of correcting a very important error, into which the right hon. Gentleman had led the House in that respect. Most unquestionably it never had been, and probably never would be conceded that any person, superintendent or otherwise, should take up his permanent residence in Canton. The permission which was given to Captain Elliot was precisely the same permission which had formerly been conceded to the old supercargoes, and that this was the case he would show, by referring the House to the edict in question. It would be found at page 194, and contained the following words:—It is, therefore, our imperial pleasure, that he (the superintendent) be permitted to repair to Canton under the existing regulations applicable to chief supercargoes, and that on his arrival at the provincial capital to be allowed to take the management of affairs. For this purpose the superintendent of Customs is hereby commanded to grant him a passport. In future he is to reside sometimes at Macao and sometimes at Canton, conforming herein to the old regulations; and he must not be permitted to exceed the proper time, and by loitering about gradually to effect a continued residence.The right hon. Member for Edinburgh could not have read the edict, but had read only the letter of Captain Elliot, and thus he had fallen into the mistake which had induced the House to believe that the local authorities at Canton had given way on this most important point, and that the Emperor had permitted the continued residence of the English authority at Canton. The first point, therefore, remained 770 just where it did when the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, made his statement to the House. But with respect to the next question, that as to the direct communication with the viceroy, the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, had again fallen into a mistake, for he had said that this point also had been conceded. It would be necessary for him to call the attention of the House to the circumstances under which the attempt had been made by Captain Elliot to accomplish that direct communication, but which attempt failed entirely through the interference of the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Now, how did Captain Elliot commence his overtures to the local authorities, for the purpose of effecting; a direct communication with them? Why, in the regular mode in which that course had been pursued by the supercargoes of the East India Company, viz. in the form of a petition, and by reason of his addressing them in that humble, supplicatory form, the local authorities, who from the time of the death of Lord Napier had held no direct communication with the English superintendent, did place themselves in communication with him through the ordinary channels, the Hong merchants. Now, the noble Lord's instructions on the subject were entirely different from the course pursued by Captain Elliot. The noble Lord desired that no communications should be made through the Hong merchants; this mode of communication the noble Lord seemed to think derogatory to the dignity of the Crown, and, therefore, he desired that Captain Elliot should avoid communications in that indirect way, and desired him not to approach the viceroy in the form of a petition. The despatch of the noble Lord, to which he alluded, was dated the 12th of June, 1837, and was to be found at page 149. In that despatch the noble Lord said —I have received your despatch of December the 30th, 1836, detailing the particulars of a communication into which you have thought proper to enter with the authorities of the Chinese Government at Canton, through the Hong merchants; and I have also received your despatch of January the 12th, 1837, in which you state the course you intended to pursue until the arrival of further instructions from this department. I have now to desire that, upon the receipt of this despatch, you will forthwith inform the Hong merchants and the Viceroy that his Majesty's 771 Government cannot permit that you, an officer of his Majesty, should hold communications with an officer of the Emperor of China through the intervention of private and irresponsible individuals. You will, therefore, request, that any communication which the Governor may have to make to you in future, may be sent to you direct; and that the Governor will consent to receive directly from you any communications on public affairs which the interests of the two Governments may require you to make to him. You will also explain, that if, in future, your written communications should not be endorsed with the character which is usually adopted by subordinate officers in China when addressing representatives to superior Chinese authorities, this alteration will not arise from any want of respect on your part towards the Governor.Now, the noble Lord had known, as early as June, 1835, of the great danger, unless this particular form of address was adopted, that the statements would not reach the local authorities, and yet the noble Lord in defiance of that information, had chosen to press on Captain Elliot not to adopt the only mode he had of opening a communication with the local authorities. But Captain Elliot disregarded these instructions, and did address the local authorities in the proper way and according to their views; he humoured their foibles, which the noble Lord was not disposed to do, and in that way procured great concessions from the local authorities; in short, they conceded to him the tight of direct communication with the governor, and ultimately of communication by sealed letters with two officers of rank. This state of things, however, only continued until the arrivals of the despatch of the noble Lord, whose mind seemed to be harrassed with apprehensions as to the obnoxious word "pin," and would not permit that course to be followed. The House was well aware that Captain Elliot in vain attempted another mode of address, and the consequence ultimately was, that he struck his flag at Canton, retired to Macao, and communicated to the noble Lord that the entire trade was interrupted by this petty form of ceremony. The noble Lord, however, still persevered in entreating Captain Elliot to procure the adoption of some mode of communication without having recourse to the word "pin." This was the position of things with regard to Captain Elliot, and nothing further was done until the unfortunate opium question broke out, when Captain Elliot found it 772 necessary to adopt that very form of communication to which the noble Lord had objected, and in that way Captain Elliot had contrived to re-open the communication which permitted his return to Canton at that time. Now, he begged to ask hon. Members whether, having arrived at this part of the question, the documents before the House did not show that no powers were given—no instructions were afforded—no measures were adopted by the noble Lord, to assist and direct the superintendent in the novel and difficult situation in which he was placed. If any hon. Gentleman could show that any information, any definition of the powers vested in the superintendent, had at any time been given by the noble Lord; then he would admit, that the noble Lord might be defended, but no such definition, authority, or explanation was to be found in these scanty and meagre—he used the words of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh—despatches; there was nothing to be found in them which could afford the slightest justification in the noble Lord, or induce any person not embued with party feelings to believe that the noble Lord had paid that careful attention to the affairs of China, and especially to the duties cast upon the British superintendent there, which he ought to have done. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, that where there was a Government established with known powers and authority, and that Government was located at a considerable distance from the mother country, it was not desirable that the Government at home should interfere with every particular minute detail which might arise, and that it was therefore better to trust to the discretion of the person invested with authority abroad, than for the Government at home to interfere, except in cases of great emergency. But that was not the case now before the House. In China there was no established English authority or government; the British functionary there had no defined powers. For, in this instance, the absolute necessity of occasional communications with the local authorities had arisen; the time had arrived when at least something ought to have been done. Surely hon. Gentlemen could not consider the slightest analogy existed between the case of an authority created in 1832, and which was afterwards to have been invested with powers which were over and 773 over again solicited, and the case of the noninterference of a government established like that of India. What he and others on his side of the House complained of was, that the noble Lord had pursued, in this instance, his darling system of non-intervention; that he had not at any time given this authority an opportunity of knowing how he was to act; that he had not given him the benefit of his counsel and advice, and, therefore, they had established the first position; viz., that the noble Lord had not given instructions adapted to the novel and difficult position in which the British superintendent was placed. He next came to the point to which alone the hon. Member for Lambeth had adverted—he meant the opium question—and he believed he might venture to say, that with respect to the opium question, there would not be found one word of any sort of instruction respecting it, beyond the mere allusion in one of the letters sent to Captain Elliot about something Captain Elliot never demanded, and with respect to which he was not anxious for information, and which stated that the Government would not consent to give facilities to enable smugglers to evade the Chinese laws. Now, the first time the attention of the noble Lord had been called to the opium trade was by the edict of November, 1834, which was received by the noble Lord in May, 1835, and was to be found at page 77. It seemed to him to be quite clear, that if Captain Elliot had continued on that friendly footing of intercourse which he had established with the local authorities, and which had been disturbed by the noble Lord, he might, with the co-operation of the Chinese government, have succeeded in putting down the opium trade; but the position into which Captain Elliot was forced by the noble Lord's pertinacity on the subject of the mode of address, prevented the only chance of accomplishing that important object—important not with regard to that particular species of trade, but important because that traffic affected deeply and intimately the regular trade with China. On this subject there was a remarkable letter from Sir George Robinson, in which that officer stated, that if he had any authority from the Government, he could immediately stop the traffic in opium. Was that true or was it not? The right hon. Baronet, the President of the Board of Control, said it was not. 774 How did the right hon. Baronet know? At page 120, would be found the letter in question, in which Sir George Robinson stated,On the question of smuggling opium I will not enter in this place, though, indeed, smuggling carried on actually in the mandarin boats can hardly be termed such. Whenever her Majesty's Government direct us to prevent British vessels engaging in the traffic, we can enforce any order to that effect. But a more certain method would be to prohibit the growth of the poppy, and the manufacture of opium in British India. And if British ships are in the habit of committing irregularities and crimes, it seems doubly necessary to exercise a salutary control over them by the presence of an authority at Lintin.Though he suggested a mode of stopping the opium trade at which the right hon. Baronet smiled, still Sir G. Robinson distinctly stated he could put down the traffic in opium if the Government would give him powers to do so. He therefore contended, that at least some experiment ought to have been made by the noble Lord. No attempt had been made; neither had there been any allusion made by the noble Lord to the subject beyond the casual observation to which he (Mr. Thesiger) had already adverted. He must, however, now beg to call the attention of the House to that part of this lengthy correspondence with regard to the opium trade upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh descanted at some length last night. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the reason why the Government did not interfere was, because, from certain letters received from Captain Elliot the Government was disposed to think there was an intention on the part of the Chinese Government to legalize the traffic in opium. It was true that such a letter had been received at the Foreign-office on the 22nd of August, 1837, but he (Mr. Thesiger) thought he was justified in this observation, that on the 15th of May 1838, all hopes of that kind had been entirely removed; for if hon. Members would look to page 233, they would find four very strong edicts against the opium traffic, and at page 242 a letter of Captain Elliot's received the same day at the Foreign-office, in which he drew the serious consideration of her Majesty's Government to the subject and added, "that the moment has now arrived when its active interposition was necessary." Again at 775 page 247 there was another very important letter, in which Captain Elliot informed the noble Lord—The trade is proceeding tranquilly for the present: but the vast opium deliveries at Whampoa, under extremely hazardous circumstances, may certainly at any moment, produce some grave dilemma.And in other letters, with which he would not fatigue the House, Captain Elliot pointed out the same state of things. On the 5th of February, 1838, Captain Elliot communicated that the regular trade was stopped; and then came the memorable despatch of the noble Lord, of the 15th of June 1838, in which for the first and last time any mention was made of the opium trade. The noble Lord's words were these—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.Did not that document exhibit a most anxious desire that the Government would adopt some course for arming the superintendent at China with some sufficient power and authority to follow out the course which was indicated by Sir George Robinson, when he said that if he were vested with the power he would put down the illegal traffic? On the 28th of April, 1838, Captain Elliot stated in a despatch that the contraband traffic rendered matters so dangerous, and placed the legitimate trade in such hazard, that some interposition was absolutely necessary. And on the 13th of December, in the same year, Captain Elliot proceeded to state, that in consequence of directions given to the Hong merchants there was a cessation of business for three days, and this was consequently followed by an event which, according to the words of the despatch, put to "imminent hazard the lives and property of the whole foreign community." The occurrence to which he alluded was the attempt made to strangle a native who had been found trafficking in opium. The execution was ordered to take place in the square in front of the factories, which so excited the indignation of the foreigners that they prepared to resist it. Let the House now attend to the despatch which the noble 776 Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had transmitted in reply to those communications. It was to be found in page 325, and was as follows:—Foreign-office, April 15, 1839.—Sir—Since the despatch of February 27 was written, your despatches of the 2nd and 13th of December, 1838, have been received. I reserve any observations or instructions I may have to send or make to you on the subject of your despatch of December 13, till I receive the further ones which you announce your intention to send. These accounts will probably contain all the information that may be requisite for enabling her Majesty's Government to form an opinion upon the proceedings that have occurred at Canton, and which appear by intelligence to the 31st of December contained in the London newspapers of this morning, to have ended in a satisfactory manner; but should you however, not have stated the point specificially, I wish to be informed whether the foreigners to whom you allude in your despatch as having resisted the intentions of the Chinese authorities to put a criminal to death in the immediate front of the factories, were British subjects only, or the subjects and citizens of other countries also. I also wish to know upon what alleged ground of right these persons considered themselves entitled to interfere with the arrangements made by the Chinese officers of justice for carrying into effect, in a Chinese town, the orders of their superior authorities.—I am, &c,PALMERSTON.From this it would be seen that the noble Lord, having received important despatches respecting the dangers arising from the contraband traffic in opium, instead of sending out instructions or expressing an opinion as to what should be done under the circumstances, referred to the newspaper accounts, and declined to interfere because these accounts announced, that the affair had been settled. For his part, he could not conceive a more extraordinary course than this. Was that the sort of despatch to be forwarded at a lime when Captain Elliot found matters in such a position that he felt himself compelled to break through the instructions given by the noble Lord, and to adopt the style of communication insisted on by the Chinese authorities, proceeding to Canton to perform the important duties which the emergency demanded on his own discretion? Was it not strange, that such a communication as the one sent by Captain Elliot did not awaken the noble Lord to the dangers which impended, and urge him to adopt some means of averting them? Whilst things were in this state 777 the high commissioner Lin arrived. It was unnecessary to go into the circumstances attendant on his arrival, which must be fresh in the memory of hon. Members. The commissioner proceeded to execute the important duties intrusted to his charge. The result was the imprisonment of Captain Elliot, the delivering up of a vast quantity of opium, and all the disastrous events which followed, and which continued up to the last accounts. The hon. Member for Portsmouth stated, that he was prepared to vote against the resolution in consequence of the course which had been pursued by the Chinese authorities—that these authorities had exhibited so much vacillation, and had for so long a time shown such forbearance to those engaged in the trade, as to be almost equivalent to a sanction of it, and that the Chinese Government had acted with great cruelty in putting to death a person who was engaged in the contraband trade, of which no similar instance had ever before occurred. Now, he could see no vacillation in the conduct of the Chinese authorities with respect to this trade. He saw nothing in the entire proceeding which did not lead to the conclusion, that an end was intended to be put to the illicit traffic. It was obvious, that the attention of the Chinese Government was directed to this object from the issuing of the edict of 1834 to the appointment of the high commissioner. It appeared to him, that the Chinese Government were under the impression, that the orders which had been sent to Canton had been obeyed, and when it was found in 1838 that such was not the case, the high commissioner was sent with plenipotentiary powers to take ample measures for putting an end to the trade. Where, then, was the vacillation, or where was the cruelty which the hon. Member for Portsmouth alleged as inducing him to vote against the motion? He did not approve of the infliction of extreme punishment for trifling offences; but it should be remembered, that in our intercourse with China we were dealing with a nation which the right hon. the Secretary at war called a barbarous nation, but which had a right to execute its own laws in its own way on its own subjects. These were the circumstances which brought us into the unhappy position in which we were at present placed with respect to China. It had been asked by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh, and the 778 question was repeated by the hon. Member for Lambeth, what was to be done if the traffic in opium had been driven from Canton to the other coasts? and it was added, that such a result would lead to an extensive system of piracy and buccaniering. Was that an argument against relieving Canton from the danger which threatened the free trade in consequence of the illicit traffic? Were they to run such a hazard for fear of a contingency? He did not think that the House could entertain any fair doubt, that the whole of the disastrous results which had taken place arose out of the want of caution, prudence, and foresight in the Government at home not having furnished adequate instructions and ample power to the superintendent to suppress the unlawful traffic which was carried on. It could not be denied, that the absence of definite instructions led to the war in which we were now about to engage with China. Was that war a just one? He should not be afraid to meet that question. He was ready to contend, that the Chinese authorities were justified in the course which they had adopted. They looked to our superintendent for the suppression of the trade which their Government had interdicted, and called upon him to deliver up the opium, and his answer was, that he had no power to compel the delivery. They appeared to be surprised at this. A simple and unsophisticated people, they could not understand, that our superintendent, deputed officially to superintend and control our trade at Canton, should be left without the power to perform his duties. They did not believe that this was the case. They therefore resorted to the course to which all foreigners were exposed, and which had frequently before been adopted. They put the superintendent under restraint. [An hon. Member: He put himself.] Well, be it so. Having been put under restraint, the superintendent requested, that the opium should be delivered, and the request was complied with. Did not that justify the Chinese in believing, that he was vested with the power which he previously denied that he had possessed? How could they come to any other conclusion? Whilst the superintendent was at liberty, nothing would be done; but the moment he was put under restraint the opium was delivered up without any objection. It might be said, that this was done at the request, and not at the com- 779 mand, of the superintendent, but the people of China did not comprehend these fine distinctions. They merely judged from the facts, and thus judging, he thought they were justified in the course which they had adopted. No doubt there might be some cruelty in the conduct of the Chinese Government to their own subject who was caught in the illicit traffic, but was that a cause for engaging in a war the issue of which it was impossible to foresee? One thing at least was obvious—namely, that the expense which it must entail would be enormous. In the present state of our revenues, nothing would justify a war but absolute necessity. Was this war the consequence of inevitable necessity? On the contrary, did not the present state of things arise out of the carelessness, the neglect, the want of caution, of prudence, and of foresight on the part of the Government, and when those on his side of the House were asked what they would have done under the circumstances, his answer was, that they would have acted in a manner totally different. They would have sent out definite instructions to the superintendent, enabling him to act with full authority in all circumstances connected with the trade, and thus have prevented the fatal war which threatened. Fatal, he called it, for he feared it would be found so from one extremity of the empire to the other, and from the highest to the lowest classes. He was fully satisfied, that the evidence in the papers laid upon the table fully warranted the motion of the right hon. Baronet, and he should give it his concurrence and support.
§ Sir George Staunton
rose to explain. He had stated that the grounds on which he opposed this motion were that he could see no connection between the rupture with China and any act of omission or of commission on the part of her Majesty's Government. The hon. and learned Member had also misunderstood him relative to the conduct of the Chinese government. He did not object to the sanguinary laws to be administered by Mr. Commissioner Lin generally, but he did object to such sanguinary laws being acted upon retrospectively against those who had come to China on the faith of the old law. The hon. and learned Gentleman had also stated, in reference to the British subjects, that they had always been under restraints or restrictions, whilst he believed that 780 there had been no instance of such restriction for at least two hundred years.
§ Mr. Charles Buller
would not follow the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Thesiger) through his lengthened examination into the blue books, nor would he make upon that examination many comments; he would rather wait to hear what the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, would say to the declaration of the hon. and learned Gentleman, that the whole of the evil had its origin in the instructions sent out to Lord Napier when the right hon. Baronet was himself a Member of the Government. [Sir James Graham: That was six years ago.] Six years ago be it. But the hon. and learned Gentleman said that those instructions, given six years ago by the Government of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member, were the origin of the evils that had since arisen. He hoped also that the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) had some defenders in that House that would undertake to defend him from the learned Gentleman's charge of great negligence, and of a great want of humanity. The hon. and learned Gentleman's charge was, that no answer had been given to a despatch for seventeen months except the despatch of the Duke of Wellington. There was but one despatch sent out by the Duke of Wellington, and that single despatch only referred back to the instructions given long before by Lord Palmerston; and when hon. Gentlemen opposite praised the noble Duke, and contrasted his conduct with that of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston), they forgot that it was while the noble Duke was in the administration, and when he wrote that single despatch, that the despatches were received which brought the sad tidings of the death of Lord Napier; and if any one was called upon, the noble Duke was called upon, to pay that tribute of respect to the memory, and to say something sympathising with the untimely death of Lord Napier, so eloquently suggested by the learned Gentleman. For six weeks the noble Duke remained in office after that news arrived, and yet not one word of confidence did he express in the policy or sympathy for the sufferings of the unfortunate Lord. But he thought that they might all have been guilty of the want of humanity, and have let Lord Napier sleep quietly in his untimely grave rather than rake up his memory for mere 781 party purposes in a party debate. And as the learned Gentleman was a new Member, and he was somewhat older, he would give him one hint, that when he flung out personal insinuations against individuals, he should study a little the character of those against whom he threw them out, or they would fall harmlessly. If he could throw out one charge which would be perfectly harmless, it was the charge of lethargy against the noble Lord, the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The noble Lord had been often abused on one side of the House as well as upon the other, but the last charge which could be brought against the noble Lord was the charge of lethargy, or the charge that he had not done enough. His hon. and learned Friend had put this in a forensic point of view; he had endeavoured to get rid of the charge in what he must call an Old Bailey manner. The whole of his argument was, "Why should we say what you ought to have done—who ever heard of a prosecutor tell the man indicted what he ought to have done?" Did the hon. Gentleman who used this argument recollect that he had said, only the minute before, that the charge against the present Government was for sins of omission? They were charged only with omissions; and when hon. Gentlemen opposite came forward to make this charge, they did not—even one of them—did not condescend to tell them what they had omitted to do. This charge against the motion seemed to be felt much by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter, through the whole course of his speech, complained of the eloquence with which his right hon. Friend, the Secretary at War, had, by bringing before the House the great and general bearings of our relations with China, evaded the question involved in the motion then before the House. It might well be so; for the motion itself was nothing but an evasion of every question that ought to be brought before them. He certainly concurred with the right hon. Baronet in his view of the magnitude of the national interests involved in the policy which this country might now decide in adopting, as well as of the great delicacy and difficulty of that decision. We were now in a crisis in which we must either lose for ever, or for a long time, the very large and lucrative trade that had for more than a century been carried on with China, or turn the inter- 782 ruption that had taken place to such account as to enable them to place that trade on an entirely new, secure, and progressive footing, and lay the foundation of those mutual benefits that must result from a really free intercourse between this country and three hundred millions of civilised and industrious people. He was also inclined to concur with that right hon. Baronet in feeling some doubt as to the result of the hostilities in which we were now involved with those three hundred millions; though it was not easy to determine whether our difficulties were the more likely to arise from our having miscalculated the strength or the feebleness of an enemy—whether, if we are to be foiled, it will be by the great military resources which the immense population and wealth of China may bring into action, or by the passive endurance of the people—or whether, on the other hand, the first blow struck by us might not bring down the whole fabric of its corrupt and anti-national despotism, impose on us the necessity of conquering another empire larger than India, and bring us into collision with all those foreign powers who would not look on quietly while we made ourselves masters of more than half the whole human race. These were grave considerations; and he thought that the country had a right to complain—not of any expression of opinion as to the best mode of acting now, or heretofore—for if any one doubted either the policy or the justice of the course hitherto pursued with respect to the Chinese, if he thought we had been wrong in our past behaviour to them, or if he disapproved the measures contemplated at present, he should be the last man to complain of his frankly stating his objections and developing his views of the policy which ought to be adopted. But he did think that the country had a right to complain that in such a state of affairs a great party like that opposite used the occasion for no purposes but those of personal ambition and animosity. Throwing aside every one of the great questions involved in our relations with China, suggesting no course for our adoption, committing themselves to no principle of action, but concentrating all their energies on the unworthy purpose of bringing these great interests to bear on their own paltry party squabbles, they had, in fact, brought the great question then in discussion down 783 to such a level, as to have literally no bearing or any result except that of which party in this country shall have power. He thought that the House had a right to complain that the right hon. Baronet in his anxiety to catch as many votes as possible, and to commit himself, and those who voted with him, to as little as possible —to swell the number of his supporters here or out of doors with a number of those very honest and benevolent persons who look with great disapprobation on the opium trade, and are very averse to war with China, and at the same time not to alienate the very large body of persons interested in the China trade who think that our Government must now make use of forcible means to obtain idemnity for the past, and to place our intercourse with China on a free and secure footing, had so framed his motion as to avoid all expression of opinion as to the opium monopoly of the East India Company, or the opium trade, the character of the measures adopted by the Chinese government for the suppression of that trade, and the propriety of our adopting coercive measures in consequence, and that thus excluding from consideration every matter worthy of the attention of the House, he had brought down the affair to this mere purposeless, party attack, which could have no useful practical effect on the settlement of our relations with China, and which was a mere waste of the time of the House by a repetition of the non-confidence vote of his hon. relative, the Member for Devon (Sir J. Buller), which the House negatived at the beginning of the Session. He would not, however, deny that when they had determined what course ought to have been and ought now to be adopted, it might be well worthy of inquiry whether her Majesty's Ministers might have foreseen the difficulties that had arisen, and might, by adopting the proper course in time, have averted them. But, then, those who take this line were bound to show what precautions would have had the desired effect. There was a mighty difference between foresight and precaution, particularly when it was this purely retrospective foresight. He was aware that this term was a bold innovation upon the English language, but he must either use that or coin a new word, and call it "back sight." It was a retrospective foresight that enabled the right hon. Baronet to predict what was passed, 784 and to warn them against dangers that had already been incurred. But giving the right hon. Baronet the benefit of all his ex post facto foresight, what use would he have made of it? Foreseeing all things, what would he have done to bring about a different result? This was what he ought to tell them; but this was what had not been vouchsafed to them, either by the right hon. Baronet or by any of those who had followed him in his course of vague inculpation. Of powers and instructions they talked boldly enough, but it was always of some powers and some instructions, without letting them know what. Before they blamed Ministers for what they did do, or did not do, let them show what they would have done in their places, and that would have prevented the mischief that actually occurred. Indeed, he thought the fair thing would have been for the right hon. Baronet, in order to enable them fairly to contrast his vigorous and foreseeing policy with the actions of those who kept him out of office, to have laid on the Table of the House previously to the debate copies of all the despatches which he would have written to Captain Elliot, had he been Foreign Secretary instead of the noble Lord. He trusted the House would excuse him, if before attempting to rebut the inference which the Gentlemen opposite had drawn from the papers before them, to state in a few words the conclusion to which he had come after a minute attention, not only to the papers laid before Parliament, but to every other recent publication connected with this matter, or with China, that he could get hold of. His hon. Friend the Member for Exeter, when he desired him, in consequence of some interruption he gave him, to read the "Blue Book" over again, could not have known the cruelty he was inflicting, for he had already read it three times, or his hon. and learned Friend would not have had the heart to sentence him to a fourth perusal, and he doubted whether, if he had complied with his hon. Friend's directions, anything fresh would have struck him. The conclusion at which he had arrived after the perusal was, that no sagacity on the part of her Majesty's present Ministers could have averted or even staved off what seemed to him to be the inevitable consequences of free trade with China established on the footing on which we placed 785 it in 1833. As the business had turned out, and as the noble Lord had not prevented results which he believed it was utterly impossible for any human sagacity in his place to avert, the noble Lord could lay claim to no merit except that which was after all a very great, though not very brilliant one, of having prudently avoided making matters worse than they were made by events over which he had no control. But he could safely affirm, that the more he had attended to his conduct as developed in these papers, the more decidedly did he think that he deserved no blame. He could point out no material instance in which he could on reflection say, that either by acting differently, or by prescribing a different course to those under him, the noble Lord could have brought about more desirable results. Faults there had, undoubtedly, been on both sides, for he must frankly say, that he was by no means convinced that the Chinese had been the only parties to blame; but the faults on our side had been faults of the general policy pursued by us as a nation. Our error dated from that period, when, having determined to throw open the trade with China to all our countrymen, we left it on a footing in which it was utterly impossible for it to continue with either honour or security. He would not say that we were wrong in taking away the East India Company's monopoly of the China trade; but if we were right in that, we were very wrong in not perceiving that that step was calculated to disturb all our existing relations with the Chinese, and we were wrong in not making that complete change in our whole mode of carrying on the trade which ought to have accompanied the one that we did make. He must confess that when he looked back to the change which we made in 1833, and considered the footing on which that change placed our relations with the Chinese, he could not but regret that our information at that time was so incomplete that we did not perceive that continued and serious collision must be the immediate result of the position in which we placed ourselves. In speaking of the exclusion of foreigners by the Chinese government, we were in the habit of talking of it as if it emanated from a mere attachment to old customs and an illiberal contempt of other nations; and if we did them the justice even to attribute it to their fears, 786 we traced those fears to the childish tale of some ancient prophecy of the Chinese empire being overturned by a woman of the red-haired race. Now, foolish as he considered the precautions which the Chinese take to avert the danger that they apprehend, he by no means regarded their fears for themselves as chimerical or absurd. Experience had taught them, undoubtedly, to fear the aggressions of foreigners, inasmuch as they had often been overrun by them; and if they now pointed these apprehensions at Europeans, and especially at the English, which of them would say that they had not great reason to suspect us of aggressive designs? There had been much to strengthen that suspicion. The fall of the dynasties in the East were not unknown. It had not been unheard of how one of the mightiest dynasties that ever filled the thrones of this world had fallen before us. At the court of Aurungzebe a few merchants had suddenly asked permission to establish a trade in the distant parts of the territories, and the Chinese knew well that the last descendant of that ancient dynasty was now a pensioner of the successors of those very merchants. Was it not, then, perfectly natural that the Chinese should view with alarm any change that appeared, as if the factory of Canton were to be the germ of aggressions visible to those that had subjugated India? In the first place, the very fact of change was in itself a ground of suspicion in the eyes of the eminently conservative government of China, and then the nature of the change was just such as would inspire vague fears of aggression. The Chinese had got accustomed to the East India Company. Its officers pretended to no public capacity. They came as humble merchants, put "Pin" upon their letters, and kept the trade in a very jog-trot, though advantageous, state. Suddenly we chose, why or wherefore the Chinese knew not, to make an entire change in our system. The East India Company ceased to trade, and in place of their mercantile supercargoes, came men claiming to be officers of another and an equal government, and who, in fact, put forward claims on points of form that the Chinese very naturally regarded as only the commencement of more serious encroachments. Surely that House could not pretend to blame the noble Lord for such consequences. The change in our 787 system was adopted not merely by a Ministry, but by the deliberate decision of the Legislature. In spite of the most emphatic warning, Parliament abolished the supercargoes. Parliament vested their authority in the hands of King's officers, instead of mercantile agents; and the noble Lord, in sending out a superintendent, with instructions to get into direct communication with the Chinese authorities, merely discharged the duty imposed on him by Parliament. These changes, however trivial they appeared to the House, were regarded by the Chinese as serious encroachments; and the opening of the trade was accompanied with other natural consequences, which gave the Chinese government more serious cause for alarm. The number of European ships, merchants, and seamen rapidly increased. The contraband trade in opium was suddenly augmented; those who carried it on became more daring, and their ships, instead of waiting at Lintin, were seen on various parts of the coast of China. Even more suspicious events occurred. It became known to the Chinese government that a more daring attempt had been made to break through all the established restrictions on European intercourse; that two ships had visited various parts of the whole coast; had attempted to open a trade with the inhabitants; and had also circulated missionary tracts in the Chinese language. Another of those circumstances that gave rise to suspicion was the vast increase of foreigners into the Chinese dominions, not from one point only, and not alone from the sea-coast, but various travellers had attempted to go over the pass of the Himalaya Mountains, and thus to enter Chinese Tartary; and, though they had been stopped, yet no doubt the fact was well known to the Chinese. This of course had nothing to do with the opening of the trade; but all these circumstances, many of which were the natural results of it, and all contemporaneous with it, were calculated to excite the utmost possible degree the alarms of the Chinese. He might say, therefore, that the opening of the trade necessarily brought us into collision with them, by thus acting on their jealousy of our aggressive design. There were two causes, he conceived, which had led to the existing hostilities. The first was the absence of any means of communication between 788 our merchants and the central government of China, and the necessary confinement of our negotiations to the provincial authorities, who would afford no proper redress; and the ill effects of this circumstance were distinctly and very plainly shown recently, in the proceedings with regard to the opium trade. If they took the public acts of the court of Pekin, they would perceive that there could not have been a greater desire manifested to put down a trade, than was exhibited by them, from the year 1836, down to the time of the commencement of these hostilities; but there were other acts of the provincial authorities which completely nullified everything which was done by the superior power, for as fast as the government of Pekin gave any sign of an intention to put down the traffic, so certainly did the provincial government give some evidence of its determination to maintain it. The government of Pekin actually put down the traffic at one stroke between Lintin and Canton, but the viceroy of Canton substituted himself for the other opium smugglers, and instead of allowing the traffic to be carried on by the boats, carried it on himself. [Sir J. Graham: That does not appear in the papers.] It did not appear in the papers it was true; but it was distinctly stated in Mr. Lindsay's pamphlet, and it was shown that the viceroy himself took up the trade, so that in point of fact the whole affair bore the aspect of a juggle among the Chinese authorities, the only effect of which was to throw a larger share of profit into the hands of the governor. Nor was the opinion which he had expressed founded only on the fact to which he had alluded; but it was backed by the authority of an article in a work which he thought would be admitted by hon. Gentlemen opposite —he meant the Quarterly Review— which was supposed to have emanated from the pen of a person in this country the best acquainted with the affairs of China; and that said, that it was impossible for this country to maintain any friendly relations with a country which would not permit any diplomatic interference. He would venture to say, that the second point was yet more remarkable in the intercourse of nations than the first. He alluded to the fact of the presence of the English and other foreigners at Canton, and the principle of their conduct, that none of them were 789 amenable to the laws of the country, This might do in cases where none but savages existed, but from what he could see in these papers, it appeared to him, that the Chinese, with all their faults, had a regular administration of justice. That it was a corrupt administration of justice, he granted, but at the same time it was regular. The best laws of modern Europe were obtained from a country where their administration was most corrupt—the Greek empire, and it was impossible to suppose that a government like that of China would ever tolerate the presence of foreigners who professed and declared that they would not acknowledge their laws. He said, therefore, that these two causes might have tended to produce a collision between the two countries. In the time of the monopoly of the East India Company there was a different state of things in existence—there was a restricted trade, and all was under the control of that company. But still he warned hon. Gentlemen not to rely too much upon the occurrences of those times, because after all there were frequent interruptions to trade; and then there never was a homicide committed in China but some disturbance, some quarrel arose, and generally the trade was for a time stopped. The company, by reason of their monopoly, had it fully in their power to cause the suspension of commercial intercourse; but now a free trade existed, and it was impossible for anybody, by his own exertions, to put a stop to the existing trade. But after all, this reminded him that he ought to take rather a retrospective view of the question, and keeping in mind the boasted foresight of the right hon. Baronet, he should allude to the subject of the resolutions brought forward by the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir G. Staunton), not only in compliment to that hon. Baronet, but with feelings of deep humiliation at the obstinacy evinced by the House of Commons in reference to his proposition. The hon. Baronet had produced the six resolutions, to which the right hon. Baronet opposite had averted. He mentioned all the circumstances of the case convinced of the impossibility of our continuing our relations with China without the means of a diplomatic communication taking place with the government of Pekin, and of the difficulties which must arise from 790 their law upon the subject of homicide, and he said, that if he threw open the trade, they must adopt one of two alternatives—they must either send an ambassador over with a view to our establishing diplomatic relations with the government of Pekin, or they must withdraw from the continent of China, and must establish themselves on some island near the coast, and carry on the trade in such a way as should relieve them from the difficulties which it must be seen would inevitably arise. When the hon. Baronet brought forward that motion, he had not spoken five minutes before the House was counted out. Upon a subsequent occasion, he again moved the resolutions, solely with a view to their being placed on the votes of the House; but on what terms was it that he did so? That he should not say one word upon them; that the seconder of the motion should say nothing, and no one else was to say anything. To these resolutions the right hon. Baronet opposite, with all his foresight, and all his precaution slumbering in his breast, gave no sign or word of encouragement; they were read; not a word was said upon them, and they were negatived without a division. He was exceedingly sorry that the collision which had taken place, and which he considered to have been rendered absolutely inevitable by the course of events, should have been caused by the opium traffic. It would have appeared natural that men possessing any foresight—he pretended to none—but he thought that hon. Gentlemen opposite, who claimed some credit for it, should have anticipated the events which had occurred, and should have said, that a great contraband trade existing, which in a great measure regulated the exchanges, and being more likely to increase rather than diminish, care should be taken that no difference should arise out of it. He repeated his most sincere regret that the cause of quarrel should be in anywise connected with the monopoly of the East India Company in the trade in opium; for, if it were not so connected, we should not have the appearance in the eyes of the world of being dragged into a dispute on account of a traffic carried on for the purpose of introducing into China an article manufactured by that country to suit the Chinese taste. He called upon the House, however, not to charge all the mischief which had occurred upon the Ministry, 791 They did not create the monopoly, for there never had been a monopoly more openly established, or more deliberately sanctioned by this House. The gravamen of the charge on the other side, however, was, that the Government might have put a stop to the opium trade, and he wished particularly to refer to two passages which had been alluded to in the course of the debate upon this subject, by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House, which sufficiently showed the spirit with which they made their quotations. Captain Elliot and Mr. Davis had both pointed out the nature of the opium trade, and these were both looked upon by hon. Members opposite as warnings in reference to the future conduct of the Ministry; but he must say, that, if ever there were despatches which were not entitled to the character of warnings, they were these. A quotation from a despatch, to be found in page 76 of the Blue Book of Mr. Davis, containing an edict of the Chinese government, issued at the end of the year 1834, was made, and this was followed up by the right hon. Baronet, by the hon. and learned Gentleman, the Member for Exeter, and by the hon. and learned Member for Woodstock, with remarks tending to show that it was a warning to the Government. Mr. Davis wrote a despatch upon the subject of this very edict, and a portion of a paragraph which was contained in it was in these terms:—It is almost needless to observe, that previous documents of the nature have proved entirely nugatory, and that the opium trade, at last, has continued in spite of them. It remains now to be seen, whether the native government, having its attention at length awakened by the increased amount of smuggling transactions, consequent on the open trade of this season, will endeavour to give greater efficacy to its edicts, and oppose some effectual impediments to the contraband commerce of Lintin.It was contended, that the last sentence answered the first; but what was the general effect of the despatch? It was, that an edict was sent, forbidding the continuance of the opium trade; that similar documents had hitherto been mere matters of form; that he was not sure whether that which was now published would be so too; and that they should wait to see. [Viscount Sandon: Not five years.] He was talking of the despatch; and, from the terms of the quotation, the noble Lord might fairly have concluded— 792 as, for the next two years, he had heard nothing more of the edict—that, in fact, it had been as nugatory as those which preceded it. Another despatch on which great stress had been laid, was that of Captain Elliot, dated the 19th November, 1837, in which he called the attention of the Government to the aspect which the trade was then assuming. Captain Elliot alluded to the time at which it was fit that the interposition of the Government should take place, and what was the effect of his suggestions? Some attention must of course be paid to them, but he must say, that if ever there was a despatch leading the Government to any point but that of suppressing the opium trade, it was this. Because, what did it recommend as to the practical mode of interposition? That they should take steps to put down the growth of opium?—that they should give him the power to put down the traffic at Canton? No; but that the Government should take measures for legalizing the trade, and should send an ambassador to Pekin to endeavour to secure this object. Now, as to the good effect with which this suggestion, supposing it to have been favourably entertained by the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, might have been attended. The despatch was received on the 15th of May, 1838. Supposing the noble Lord to have acted with the greatest possible promptitude—that he had immediately engaged with some person of sufficient weight and intelligence to undertake the mission—was he going too far when he said, that the preparations necessary for such an expedition could not be completed, and the ambassador could not arrive at Pekin, taking the chances of the voyage into consideration in less than a year after the dale of the despatch? Then, what effect would the promptitude of action of the noble Lord have produced? The ambassador would have arrived at Pekin to treat for the legalization of the opium trade, just as Commissioner Lin had confiscated the whole of the British property in Canton, and had driven the British residents from that place. There was another course, however, which it was suggested the Government might have adopted, which was, that they might have taken measures to put down the opium trade, and upon this point the hon. and learned Member for Exeter had, as far as regarded the river 793 smuggling, been precise. He said, "You should have given Captain Elliot power to put down the contraband trade, which was known to be going on at Canton." He must say, that he thought that a Government which had done such a thing would have been guilty of an act of the greatest insanity. Were they to consider what was desirable, or what was really practicable? Was the experience of every nation to be thrown away, and were they to suppose that if there was an article of produce for which the Chinese possessed so general a desire, it was in the power of our Government to take measures to prevent their obtaining it; that we could do for China what Napoleon had failed to do on the Continent, and enforce those new Milan decrees throughout the celestial empire? Why, the force of law to render the trade illegal was not wanted. Hon. Members talked as if the smuggling of opium was a legal trade. No assistance from this country was wanted to make the traffic illegal, for it was already declared to be carried on in opposition to the existing laws of China. The laws—flamingly luminous statutes of the celestial empire were well known, but the people who were engaged in the trade cared nothing for them, and put them at defiance. If this course, then, had been adopted, we must have sent out a sufficient force to Captain Elliot, to enforce this new commercial code. The smuggling trade might be driven from Canton, but it would have been carried on in a manner far more disgraceful, and far more dangerous, all along the coast, and then, in order to carry out the views which were supported, and upon which this country was required to put down the trade, we must have despatched to the superintendent a coast blockade far greater than the force we had for that purpose in England, and the ultimate effect would have been the establishment of the most mischievous and the most sanguinary warfare which could possibly exist. The noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, however, might yet have adopted another course. He might have come down, and, at any rate, as was contended, he might have paid a tribute of respect to decency and good feeling, and he might have proposed that the opium monopoly enjoyed by the East-India Company should be done away with. Supposing he had done that, and had proposed that in the course of three or 794 four months the whole of the traffic should be swept away at once; upon what authority, he begged to ask, would he have taken that step? The only ground which he would have had upon which to support such a proposition, would have been the despatch from the superintendent, Captain Elliot, telling him what? To take measures to put an end to the traffic? No; but to take the steps proper to procure the legalisation of the trade. Of course, such a proposition, so evidently founded on good sense and propriety, would have met with that degree of support which it deserved. Hon. Members opposite would have maintained that same dignified freedom from party warfare which they had always shown. Not one word would have been heard of the impolicy of such a course, unsupported by any better information than that which had been received—they would have forgotten the impolicy of the proceeding in their anxiety to promote the cause of humanity—reckless of majorities, of constituents, or of general elections, they would have assented to the proposition without any question. He felt perfectly confident that if the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, had made any such proposition, on any such authority, at that time, he would not long have kept anybody out of the post which he held, for he would have been placed under such proper restraint as would have prevented his longer performing the duties of his office. He was, for his own part, so strongly opposed to the immorality of the opium trade as any philanthropist on the other side of the House, and as desirous that it should be at once terminated, but he begged to say, that he thought that it wanted such a state of affairs as that which they now deplored to awaken the feelings of this country on such a subject—that it wanted such a case to induce the House to declare that the monopoly could not be continued with safety and with honour, and he conceived that we might now rely upon proper steps being taken to remove this stigma from the character of our country and its Government. But in his opinion, there was only one course which could be properly taken by the noble Lord, which was, when he found that he could not either secure the legalization or the suppression of the trade, to hold entirely aloof from it. That course the noble Lord had taken, and adhered to 795 it; and he thought that unless the British Government had taken upon itself the administration of Chinese laws, he could have adopted no other line of conduct. If the arguments which had been adduced then, were sufficient to show that the Government of this country could not have put down the trade in opium, and could not have pursued any course so wise as that of perfect forbearance, which they had taken, he thought that he had shown that no part of the disaster was to be in any way attributed to the negligence or the misconduct of the noble Lord, because no one could for one moment deny that the disturbances which had arisen were caused entirely by circumstances proceeding from the traffic which had been carried on; and he thought it was wasting the time of the House to go on in the manner adopted by hon. Members opposite, picking out first one place, and then another, and contending that one sentence in a letter was not answered, and that another received no answer for a long time afterwards. The object of this inquiry was not to show that the noble Lord was a bad correspondent, but it was to convince the House, that from the neglect of which he had been guilty, the evils complained of had arisen. Then of what avail were all the irrelevant inquiries upon points of etiquette, which were imported into the case. The question upon the employment of the word "Pin" had become one of the most pointless pins of which he had heard. Whatever their opinions on such points might be, the noble Lord in stickling for these points of form, had been acting in perfect conformity with the expressed opinions of the persons most conversant with the merits of the question. The ideas of Mr. Davis, and of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Portsmouth, were well known, and had been expressed on many occasions; but it appeared that whenever there was an act which appeared shocking to our notions with regard to China, it was always recommended by our best Chinese writers. With regard to the residence of Captain Elliot at Canton, it appeared that he had gone to that place, although his instructions at that time were opposed to such a course; but the whole truth of the matter was, that all this discussion in reference to his residence at Canton was settled, and that it had no more to do with the disturbances in China than this motion. There was one thing which hon. 796 Gentlemen had forgotten to mention, and that was, that though he was told to reside at Canton only a certain time, he had permission afterwards to go there, to and fro, from Macao as often as he pleased; but he only mentioned these circumstances for the purpose of exhibiting to the House the necessity for quoting passages, which were referred to fully. The general arguments which had been adduced upon the subject of the instructions sent to Captain Elliot had been well disposed of by the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary-at-War, and though much of what he had said had been ridiculed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, it seemed to him, however, to be plain common sense, that when the Government was at a distance from a person in whose hands they had placed responsible duties, they ought to fetter him as little as possible by direct or positive instructions. [Sir J. Graham: There were no instructions at all.] The right hon. Baronet said, that there were no instructions at all sent to Captain Elliot, but it seemed to him that those were the very instructions which ought to have been given, if he might be permitted to use the expression. The right hon. Baronet was a party to the general instructions first sent, to those instructions to which the Duke of Wellington, in the hour of need, referred Lord Napier, and, after all, they contained all the advice which could be given to a person at the distance at which Captain Elliot was from this country. They told him to carry on all the ordinary commercial business between the Europeans and Chinese so far as they were able; to avoid offending the prejudices of the Chinese, and to get into communication with them; and he asked what further instructions the House could wish to be given. He thought that in fact mere negative instructions should have been sent out, and that the old monkish maxim, "Sinere res vadere ut vadant," should have been followed. On every point which had arisen in the correspondence requiring specific instructions, he thought that the most distinct answer had been given by the noble Lord; and in all cases in which precise instructions had been required—such as those of the Jardine steamer, of the piratical designs of Mr. Innes, and of various private claims—they had been immediately sent out. There was one matter of emergency on which the noble Lord had given very clear instructions. When the news came 797 of the interference of the British to prevent the execution of a native of China, he wrote out immediately that such an interposition should in future be avoided. He had already pointed out one instance, in speaking of the suggestions made by Captain Elliot for an embassy to treat for the legalisation of the opium trade, in which, if precise instructions had been given, or immediate steps taken, they would have produced the utmost confusion; and allowing five months for the passage of news to England, and five months for the transmission of instructions, he thought that they would find, that with ten months intervening, there would hardly be an instance mentioned in the papers in which circumstances would not be so changed in the interval, that precise advice would in general have been perfectly useless, and often mischievous. There was only one point further to which he would refer, and that was the absence of power in Captain Elliot. He would admit as a general principle that the superintendent should have had greater powers conferred on him, and that a criminal court should have been established; but he conceived that the circumstances of the case did not show any one of the mischiefs which had arisen, to have proceeded from the want of those powers. The hon. and learned Member for Exeter had alluded to the cases of the Jardine, and of the Thomas Coutts, but he would ask the House whether they considered that it would have been proper for the Government to have given the superintendent power to stop the trade, when it might have been carried on immediately after? What powers could the Government give him? Fine and imprisonment would have been nugatory unless he had a fleet to enforce them. There would have been one power available, and that was deportation. The noble Lord was not to blame that this was not given; he would show who was. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had read a copy of his speech on the China Courts Bill, to show that he was not answerable for the absence of this power on that occasion. He did not know what copy of his speech the right hon. Baronet had read, but he had been looking at a report of it in the Mirror of Parliament, and he would read one or two extracts. In a debate on the China Courts Bill, on the 28th of July, 1838, the right hon. Baronet said:— 798I do not see how the writs and processes are to be served, and I much disapprove of the absolute power of deportation of British subjects. If the noble Lord, on renewing his motion next Session, should think it necessary to ask the consent of the government of China, and should produce that consent, notwithstanding the infringement of national rights should be involved, I will support it.So that if a bill had been brought in the next Session (leaving out the condition of the consent of the Emperor of China), and if it had passed, it would have received the royal assent just when Commissioner Lin was confiscating British property. The right hon. Baronet might now say, however, that the statement he had then made was no reason why further powers should not have been given to the superintendent at Canton. But the right hon. Gentleman was foreseeing, and for fear his words on the occasion to which he had alluded should have been mistaken, he had afterwards explained what his real views were. The right hon. Gentleman wound up in these words—he said, "so far from being favourable to an extension of the powers of the courts, I think, on the contrary, that they ought to be withdrawn." This, then, was the power which the right hon. Gentleman would have given had his advice been followed. There was one point more on which he wished to say a few words before he sat down. That point was the charge brought against the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, for having neglected to follow the advice of the Duke of Wellington on the subject of the "stout frigate." Now it would be with pain that he should ever bring himself to speak of the Duke of Wellington in terms which could by possibility be construed into those of disrespect; but if the advice of the noble Duke had been rightly interpreted by hon. Gentlemen opposite, then he must say that that advice was the most foolish and mischievous that ever could have been given by anybody. But there was no necessity for his saying so of the advice of the noble Duke. The noble Duke's advice was perfectly sound, although it had been improperly construed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The noble Duke had not said that there ought to have been at all times a naval force in the Canton river. What he said was:—I would recommend that, till the trade has taken its regular peaceable course, there should always be within the consul-general's 799 reach a stout frigate, and a smaller vessel of war.That advice was sound and judicious, and what every one must approve of. It was, however, very different from the advice of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, who was of opinion that there should have been at all times, and under all circumstances a naval force within the Canton river. He must say that if there was one course more foolish or more fatal than another which could have been pursued in this matter, it was that recommended by the right hon. Baronet, that without reference to the state of trade, and without reference to the position of our relations with the Chinese Government, there should have been at all times a "stout frigate and a smaller vessel of war" stationed at Canton. If there was one thing more than another calculated to alarm the jealousy of the Chinese, he would say that it was such an exhibition of armed force as the right hon. Gentleman had recommended. Never had there been any exhibition of force in the river of Canton without arousing the suspicions of the Chinese government. Let the House look at the results of Admiral Maitland's visit to the Chinese coast. That officer had no sooner arrived in the outside waters, for he had not passed the Bocca Tigris, than messengers arrived from the Chinese authorities, requesting to know his business, and asking him to go away. And when Lord Napier arrived with two vessels of war, the same jealousy was excited, the same irritation and suspicions were created, and he believed that many of the unfortunate results which followed, arose from the display of the naval force which accompanied his Lordship. Allusion had been made to the fears produced in the minds of the Chinese by the progress of our empire in India, and what, he would ask, could be more calculated to make them think that the Indian game was to be played over again in China than having an armed force constantly stationed in the vicinity of Canton? The debate had not turned on the seizure of the opium, nor should he go into that part of the question, for it was not connected with the charges which had been brought against the noble Lord and the Government. He had endeavoured to answer such of the arguments of the hon. Gentlemen apposite as seemed to him to have any ground on truth or justice, and he 800 trusted that, as hon. Gentlemen opposite could only have a party object in view, the House would not allow itself to be led away from the real nature and character of the motion which had been brought forward, and that they would dispose of it as—what it really was—an attack upon the Government.
§ Mr. W. E. Gladstone
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down, had delivered a speech characterised by that ability and ingenuity for which he was distinguished; but he could not help remarking, that although the hon. and learned Gentleman had declined to support the motion of his right hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke, yet upon two points, and those points of the most vital importance, the hon. and learned Gentleman had agreed with the sentiments which had been expressed on the Opposition side of the House. The first of those points was, that Captain Elliot ought to have been furnished with larger powers and more specific instructions; and the second was, that courts ought to have been established in China by her Majesty's Government having authority over the conduct of British subjects in that part of the world. The hon. and learned Gentleman added more particularly that such steps were necessary because the jealousy of the Chinese towards strangers was well founded. That jealousy had been increased by the great change which had taken place in 1833, by which the trade with China was opened. It had also been strengthened by the hon. and learned Gentleman, by the great increase which had taken place in the number of persons visiting and residing in China consequent on the passing of the Act of 1833, by the rapid growth of the opium trade subsequent to that period, by the greater daring of those who carried it on, and by the demand of a direct correspondence with the vice-regal authorities. All these circumstances showed that the Government ought to have sent out Captain Elliot as an accredited agent, and that they ought to have furnished him with ample powers to carry into effect the object which they had in view. The hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to think it strange that those who blamed the conduct of the Government in not furnishing Captain Elliot with more ample instructions should have taken no notice of the fact that the Duke of Wellington, during the six months he 801 was in office had only written one additional despatch, and he had said that, in that despatch, the noble Duke had not blamed the conduct of Lord Napier. Now the hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that he had read over three times the papers which had been laid on the Table of the House, but he would recommend him to peruse them again before he made such statements. In the despatch of the Duke of Wellington to Lord Napier, the noble Duke said—It is not by force and violence that his Majesty intends to establish a commercial intercourse between his subjects and China; but by the other conciliatory measures so strongly inculcated in all the instructions which you have received." ["Hear."]The hon. Gentleman cheered, but he would beg to remind him that no one had objected to the general tenor of the original instructions which had been given to Lord Napier. The part of the noble Lord's conduct which was blamed was that which directed Lord Napier to take up his residence at Canton, knowing the jealousy which the Chinese had of strangers. He thought that those who were so charitable to the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and who were of opinion that there had been no want of instruction on his part might learn a lesson from the conduct of the Duke of Wellington, when they found that in the short time which he had held office he had digested the whole subject and formed a plan which, if the noble Lord opposite had been wise enough to adopt, would have prevented all the unfortunate transactions which had since taken place. The despatch which the noble Duke had written, and the plan which he had drawn up with such ability, would have been followed by the most ample instructions within a short period, but before those instructions could have been prepared, the noble Duke had retired from office. It had been truly observed by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, that the only charge against the Government was a charge of omission. A son starved his father to death, but that was only a sin of omission. A rebellion took place, the magistrates were not on the spot, the military were not called out, the peace of the country was disturbed, and several lives were lost, but these were only sins of omission. All those disasters which the country had wit- 802 nessed arose only from sins of omission, and such was the character of the omissions of the noble Lord. The noble Lord had not carried out the intentions of the Legislature, for the Act of 1838 authorised the Government to furnish the superintendent with powers even more stringent than those which had been formerly entrusted to the supercargoes. The noble Lord had, most improperly, omitted to comply with the provisions of that Act, and had most unwisely taken no notice of the recommendations of Sir G. Robinson, of Mr. Davis, or of the able document which had been prepared by the Duke of Wellington. Instead of complying with the provisions of that Act, or following the recommendations which he had received, the noble Lord had given one general rule —namely, to insist on the use of a new character in all communications with the Chinese, notwithstanding the Chinese had refused in the most positive terms to admit that character to be used. By pursuing that course, the noble Lord had violated the compact by which our trade was permitted by the Chinese government to be carried on, for the Chinese had always said, that they would have no diplomatic relations with foreigners. They had, in the most positive terms, refused to enter into such relations with any strangers trading to their shores, and yet, in spite of that refusal, what did the noble Lord do? He had desired the superintendent to aim at attaining a diplomatic character as a principal object, while he had refused to grant him the power necessary to control the British subjects within the dominions of China. The noble Lord had neglected to give the necessary powers and instructions to Captain Elliot, while he had ordered him to obtain that which the Chinese had always refused to concede. The next omission charged against the noble Lord was, that he had neglected to establish courts in China, and on this point the lion, and learned Gentleman (Mr. Charles Buller), had alluded to the course which his right hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke, had pursued in reference to the China Courts' Bill which had been brought forward by the Government. By the provisions of that bill, the court proposed to be established would have been invested not only with criminal and admiralty jurisdiction, but also with civil jurisdiction, and the hon. and learned Gentleman had said, that his right hon. 803 Friend had objected to the clause which gave a power of deportation. But was the opposition of his right hon. Friend a justification of the noble Lord? Did the noble Lord think that the powers which that bill would have conferred were right and necessary and essential for the prosperity of our China trade? If the noble Lord did not think that those powers were essential, then he could not object to the course which had been pursued by his right hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke; but if, on the other hand, the noble Lord thought that those powers were necessary, why then, he would ask, had he not given those powers without coming down to that House and asking for the interference of Parliament. Why had he not given them by the authority of the Act to which he had before alluded? But the noble Lord had said, that his right hon. Friend had insisted on the clauses giving those powers being withdrawn from the bill; but what, he would ask, was the position of the House when that bill was under consideration? The House, at that time, had no information as to the actual state of affairs in China. The noble Lord had brought down a collection of extracts, carefully culled from the documents which had since been laid before the House, and in which there was no information as to the state of the opium trade or as to the determination of the Chinese Government to put it down. The noble Lord had kept all that information to himself, and had refused the House an opportunity of forming a sound decision on the subject. The noble Lord alone knew the necessity, if necessity there was, for those additional powers, for he alone was aware that the imperial and provincial Governments of China had issued their most strict edict against those who embarked in that trade. All that information, however, the noble Lord had carefully excluded from the papers which he had laid on the Table, and not one word was to be found in them from beginning to end having relation to opium. When, therefore, the House had no knowledge of the actual position of affairs, and when the noble Lord had perfect knowledge of the state of the opium trade, and of the determination of the Chinese Government to put it down—when there was nothing on the Table of the House but a garbled and most imperfect statement—were they to be told, that under such circumstances 804 the objections of his right hon. Friend to the bill which had been brought forward was to be pleaded as a justification of the conduct of the noble Lord? If the noble Lord thought that order could not be maintained amongst British subjects residing in or trading to China without the superintendent possessing some such powers as those which would have been granted by the bill, and if Parliament refused to grant those powers, there was one course still open to the noble Lord—a course which he, of all men, seemed the most reluctant to adopt—if those powers were essential, and if the Legislature refused to grant them, it was still open for the noble Lord to resign the office which he held. But, instead of pursuing such a course, the noble Lord had acquiesced in the opinions of his right hon. Friend, and had withdrawn the bill altogether, and they must, therefore, judge of his conduct as if no such bill had ever been introduced. The noble Lord, alone, was responsible for not pressing for the erection of a court in China; and if it was argued that the noble Lord had incurred no such responsibility, then he would ask why, if the Government considered such a court essential, the bill had not been introduced in the following Session. It was said, that it would have been too late in the following Session to have introduced this measure again, and that it could not then have prevented the mischief which had since happened. But the noble Lord could not, in the following Session, have known that fact, and it certainly was his duty, if he considered the bill necessary, to have again brought it forward. As it appeared to him, however, the greatest omission with which the noble Lord was chargeable had relation to the opium trade, and on this part of the subject he wished the House to observe that there was a broad and marked distinction between that trade as carried on before September, 1836, and as carried on subsequent to that period. A report of the Committee of the House of Commons had referred to the former period, and he could imagine that in the lax state of morals which there prevailed both in this country and in China with respect to the smuggling of opium, that that Committee should have been unwilling to enter on the subject of the suppression of the opium trade, when it was supposed that the Chinese themselves were not in earnest 805 in their desire to put it down. The quantity of opium raised and exported to China was, however, at that time, much less than it had subsequently been The trade had not then taken the enormous spring which it had since done; and besides there was at that time a power in the supercargoes enabling them to put a stop to the opium trade whenever they might see necessary to adopt such a course, and that power it was the intention of Parliament to continue by the Act of 1833. It was therefore a just charge against the noble Lord that no steps had been taken to carry out the intentions of Parliament when the Chinese had openly declared, and in the most positive terms, that they would no longer allow the trade in opium to be carried on. What were the facts in relation to this trade subsequent to the year 1836? Up to that time the Chinese had connived at the trade in opium, but he would call into court an imperial edict, ordering a stop to be put to that trade in the most strict and positive terms. In this case they were the judges in their own cause, and no one appeared on the part of the Chinese; but what was the opinion of Mr. King, an American merchant, who had written a work on the opium crisis? That gentleman said, that the connivance of the Chinese before 1836, was only a subaltern connivance, for all the respectable Chinese denied that any of the higher functionaries connived at the trade. It was only, as it appeared from the evidence of Mr. King, the connivance of the inferior officers of the Chinese Government, and he would ask whether there was any one of the second rate powers on the continent of Europe which was not perfectly aware of the corruption which prevailed amongst its Custom-house officers. But that was no reason for saying that the Government itself connived at the corruption of its officers, or at the contraband trade which was carried on in consequence, so that it was no justification of the opium trade to say that it was connived at by the inferior functionaries of China. Let them, however, look at the state of the trade subsequent to the year 1836. In September 1836, the Emperor of China issued an edict, commanding that all persons engaging in the purchase or sale of opium should be severely punished. That was not a hasty measure adopted on the moment without consider- 806 ation, but on the contrary, it was an edict resolved on after mature deliberation, and which was promulgated in the most solemn and impressive manner, and if there was any want of proof of the sincerity of the intentions of the Chinese government to put down effectually the trade in opium, it was to be found in the fact that the Vice-president of the Sacrificial Court had been punished for the advice which he had given for its continuance. Another edict had subsequently been issued against foreigners engaged in the opium trade, and which commanded them to depart at once from the country. Why, then, had the noble Lord remained idle and taken no steps, when he heard that those edicts were issued? Captain Elliot had told him that the Emperor had issued the most strict edicts, commading all parties engaged in the opium trade to give over their traffic, but nothing however had been done. No one could blame the conduct of Captain Elliot, nor could the noble Lord now have anything to disavow as regarded that gentleman's conduct. Considering how hard a master the noble Lord had been— that he had acted the part of an Egyptian task master, commanding his officer "to make bricks without straw"—it was impossible for any one to visit with blame the conduct of Captain Elliot. Captain Elliot's errors were those of the noble Lord, while it would be difficult to show that his merits were ascribable to his instructions from the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. On the 23rd of November Captain Elliot received notice of the intention entertained by the Chinese government with respect to the parties engaged in the smuggling of opium, and an edict was issued commanding the merchants to leave the country in half a month. The noble Lord was duly informed of this; and the consequence of these preparations on the part of the Chinese government was, that Captain Elliot came to the determination of resisting this removal of the smuggling merchants. Were they to be told after this that the course adopted by the noble Lord was the wise course of keeping wholly aloof, and not mixing himself up in any way in the opium trade, as had been put forward in the ingenious defence of the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down? On the 12th of April 1837, Captain Elliot arrived in 807 Canton. The Hong merchants demanded that the receiving ships should be made to depart from the coast. On the first of May the boats concerned in the opium trade were removed to Whampoa, and there the prohibition was effectually enforced. The hon. and learned Member for Liskeard bad quoted a passage from the evidence of Mr. Lyndsay, a very respectable man, but largely concerned in the opium trade, in which he stated that the viceroy himself was concerned in the traffic. But even if he were, it was quite clear that the general spirit of the imperial government was most adverse to it. From that time collisions and scenes of violence and bloodshed were of two frequent occurrence, without, however, once moving the noble Lord from his state of complete imperturbability. In the months of July, August, and September, an imperial edict and others by the commissioner at Canton, ordered the removal of the ships engaged in the smuggling trade, and warned the English residents that the continuance of their trade with China was dependent upon their obedience to this injunction. All the edicts issued up to this time, together with the commands given to the merchants, were treated with indifference by the noble Lord. Captain Elliot suggested the propriety of sending out a commissioner to negotiate with the court of Pekin. But of this the noble Lord did not approve. These accounts, however, of bloody collisions and scenes of confusion came to the noble Lord's department year after year, yet the noble Lord never thought it necessary to make the slightest communication to Parliament. After all this, the noble Lord came down with that garbled statement upon which he founded the China Courts Bill. Now, the noble Lord at that period had every demonstration which he could have of the sincerity and earnestness of the Chinese government in relation to this matter. The noble Lord had not the slightest reason to suppose that Parliament would treat the subject with indifference, or be indisposed to legislate upon it. And whether Parliament was or was not disposed to do so, it was equally the noble Lord's bounden duty to introduce the subject to their consideration. Yet, the noble Lord, though lie received these despatches in May, 1838, took no step whatever in regard to them; and this, forsooth, was to be now advanced in his excuse—that because 808 he had allowed matters to come to a head, and had suffered so much time to elapse, he could not, then, interfere without doing mischief. The Chinese government had been very hardly used in the course of this debate, and more particularly by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh. Now, the Chinese government had trusted, in the first instance, to Captain Elliot's statement—a statement which he must say, that he did not consider a very open or straightforward one, that—His Government had no knowledge of the existence of any but the legal trade, and that over an illegal trade he could exercise no power.If they were judging the conduct of Chinese, not of British officers, they would call that a miserable equivocation. No one could doubt that Captain Elliot was quite as well aware of the existence of the illicit as of the legal trace. But the tenour of the noble Lord's instructions was—"Don't confess that you know anything at all about it."
The passage he alluded to would be found in page 233. These were the words:—That my Government had no formal knowledge of the existence of any other but the regular trade of Canton, and that his Excellency must be sensible I could concern myself only with the duties I had due authority to perform.And in page 240He has already signified to your Excellency, with truth and plainness, that his commission extends only to the regular trade with this empire; and further, that the existence of any other than this trade has never yet been submitted to the knowledge of his own gracious sovereign.He hoped that hon. Gentlemen were now satisfied. Was it to be expected after this that the Chinese government would continue to communicate with Captain Elliot, when he—the professed agent of the British Government—declared himself unable to keep her Majesty's subjects at Canton in obedience to the laws of the Chinese empire? Were they to waste time in fruitless negotiations, and decline to adopt other more cogent means of effecting the legitimate and praiseworthy object which they had in view? On the 20th of November, 1837, another edict was issued, distinctly threatening the stoppage of the British trade if the receiving 809 ships were not dismissed, and the edict was repeated on the 22nd of December, 1837, and the 19th of February, 1838. He entered into these details to show with what unwearied and exemplary patience the Chinese government had acted in this matter, and what numerous warnings they gave; without those warnings, however, receiving the slightest notice on the part of the noble Lord. Was he to be told, that because the noble Lord had been a meddler in one part of the world, this was to be held as an excuse for his doing nothing in another part? The noble Lord had shown that there were some things which he was ready enough to do and those which he did were frequently found as mischievous as those which he did not do. The noble Lord certainly had exerted himself in one particular. He had done his best to get Captain Elliot to obtain from the commissioner at Canton the substitution, instead of the word Pin, of some term less objectionable. Here was an endeavour, notwithstanding Captain Elliot's confessed inability to put an end effectually to smuggling, to obtain for him a recognition in his diplomatic character. In 1838 the Chinese government began to be of opinion that some more stringent means must be adopted. In the month of April a Chinese was executed without the walls, as an ignominious example, and it was stated that he was—So punished on account of the intercourse which he had held with the traitorous barbarians, and of his dealing in Sycee silver.This appalling incident was evidently designed for the instruction and intimidation of the European residents engaged in the smuggling trade. But the noble Lord was no more moved by this event than he was before. During the whole of that year many seizures of opium were made, and many bloody encounters took place. Shortly afterwards occurred the affair of Mr. Innes. Captain Elliot at last assumed an active position, stopped the trade in the river, and declared that it was a lawless traffic, and so far met the demand of the Chinese government. With this they appeared to be content for a time. But, so long as the receiving ships were not removed, the Chinese government could have no security that their intentions would be faithfully carried into effect. It was with great regret that he found Captain Elliot at last setting his 810 face deliberately against the removal, and supported in this course by the noble Lord. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, had told them that he deplored the prevalence of the prohibited opium trade as much as any hon. Member at their side of the House could. But what was the value of such formal declarations, when the agent of the Government, (for such Captain Elliot was) exhibited himself at Canton, as the supporter of the British merchants engaged in the contraband trade, and the opponent of the Chinese government in their attempt to remove the offending ships? On the 12th of September, 1838, an attempt was made to execute a native Chinese in the very square of the factories. An edict was directed to the foreigners resident at Canton, totally contrary to the practice of the Chinese government, in which they were distinctly charged to send off the receiving ships, and were informed that a new law would be presently sent down from the imperial government, and carried faithfully into execution. Had he not a right, therefore, to assume it was an indisputable fact, that the Chinese government had adopted every means, during a period of two years and a half—that both imperial and provincial governments had used every lawful endeavour to stop the opium trade, and resorted to every proper means of making their intentions known to the British Government? Yet they had been treated with contempt and neglect—with the same contempt by the noble Lord at home as by the British superintendent at Canton. At length, in the month of November, the last step was taken, and a native was actually strangled in the square of the factories. This was interpreted as a gross and meditated insult to the flag of those who had been themselves, in effect, the cause of the death of that unhappy man. Let them mark the conduct of Captain Elliot. He knew that the commissioner was coming, and in answer to a communication which he received from him, he stated that he should consider himself bound to protect, not only British persons, but British property. The meaning of this was, of course, that he would resist every attempt made by the Chinese to carry into effect the intentions of the imperial government. Captain Elliot described this measure taken by the Chinese government as sudden and violent. Why, it had proceeded by regular 811 gradation. For two years and a half, the Chinese government were continually remonstrating, continually announcing their firm determination to suppress the trade, though during all that time not the slightest notice was taken of these remonstrances by her Majesty's Government. They were told that the Chinese ought not to have taken possession of the person of the British residents at Canton. This was a subject upon which the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Edinburgh, had become very indignant, and demanded what proof the Chinese officers had of these individuals being concerned in the prohibited traffic. What proof? Why, it was a matter of universal knowledge. The seizure of the opium was recorded regularly in a printed form at Canton. Captain Elliot had no power to arraign and judge those engaged in the opium trade. On the other hand, the Chinese had no power to try them. There were no means, therefore, of legally establishing the guilt of these parties. Yet they were to be told, that it was matter of complaint against the Chinese government, that they should have seized their persons. The Chinese government had acted in accordance with their fixed determination, to put a stop to the opium smuggling. Had they not a strict moral right to put a stop to it? Was it not mere mockery to affect—to pretend indignation as to the pernicious consequences of the opium trade, and yet exhaust all the armoury of ingenuity and eloquence to prove that the Chinese government were not justified in taking effectual means for crushing that trade? Her Majesty's Government would have unquestionably evinced a more sincere desire to discharge their duty satisfactorily had they manfully encouraged those efforts of the Chinese government, instead of systematically and deliberately taking measures to defeat those efforts. Another theme of the indignant denunciation of the right hon. Gentleman opposite was, that that the Chinese should have indiscriminately confined the innocent with the guilty. He owned, that when the news of this transaction first reached him, he did think it a cruel and monstrous act. But from further and more accurate information, he found that the whole British community, almost to a man, bad been engaged in that illegal traffic. What were the facts? 200 persons had been confined. Had the right hon. Gentleman inquired how many 812 were innocent, and how many were guilty? Did he suppose that five out of the 200 were innocent? If not, what of his charge? The circumstances being so notorious, the guilt being so undeniable, the Chinese government were justified in acting against the entire community, the more especially, because there was no possibility of fixing the guilt upon individuals. What did Mr. King say of the state of affairs at Canton? In the month of August, 1838, Mr. King stated, that he proposed a pledge to the foreign merchants resident at Canton, which went to bind them not to take any further part in the opium trade. Mr. King proposed this pledge to the merchants for signature; and what did the House think was the reply which the press at Canton gave to his proposition? The press replied, that no merchant could give this pledge, as they were one and all more or less interested in the sale of the drug. And yet, notwithstanding all this, the right hon. Gentleman opposite came forward, and with all his powers of eloquence, endeavoured to move the indignation of the House against the Chinese government, because in its measures of repression it had confounded the guilty with the innocent, though it was notorious that in that country the legitimate and illegitimate trade was conducted by the same hands, and was centred in the same houses. He thought that it was of importance to show that the Government of China, before it had resorted to violent measures to suppress the opium trade, had exhibited great moderation in the measures which it had adopted; and that by appeals to individuals and their agents, by serious warnings, by the constant confiscation of the opium found in the possession of natives, and in a word, by every means that could be devised, it had attempted to prove the sincerity of its endeavours to put an end to that illegal traffic. He thought that the noble Lord ought to have cooperated, as far as he could, with the Government of China, when the sincerity of its endeavours was proved to him. The right hon. Gentleman opposite asserted, that it was quite impossible for us to put down the opium trade in China ourselves. Admitting that to be the fact, still we might have shown a desire to co-operate with the Government of China; and if we had done so, we should have put down the traffic to a great extent, though we might not hare succeeded in abolishing it. 813 We might have sent away the receiving ships—we might have refused them the protection of our flag. "But then," said the right hon. Gentleman opposite, "we should have created piracy, and should have converted the present illicit traffic into something much worse." Why, the trade in opium had already generated piracy not only on the river, but also all along the coast of China. But he was convinced in his own mind that if we had sent away the receiving ships, that measure would have produced other and very different measures on the part of the Chinese. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had also asked—Shall we establish at our own expense a a preventive service on the coast of China to put down the smuggling of opium into that country!Now to that question he would give an answer by asking another, and that was—Did the right hon. Gentleman opposite know that the opium smuggled into China came exclusively from British ports—that was, from Bengal, and through Bombay!If that were the fact—and he defied the right hon. Gentleman to gainsay it—then we required no preventive service to put down this illegal traffic. We had only to stop the sailing of the opium vessels; and it was matter of certainty, that if we bad stopped the exportation of opium from Bengal, and broken up the depot at Lintin, and had checked the growth of it in Malwa, and had put a moral stigma upon it, we should have greatly crippled, if, indeed, we had not entirely extinguished, the trade in it. He did not mean to blame the noble Lord for not having done this by means of a despatch—it was impossible that he could have so done it. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had told them, and told them very properly, that an order of that kind could not execute itself. Undoubtedly it could not. We knew that the interference of Parliament would have been necessary; but we also knew that the opium trade had been denounced in the strongest terms by the Chinese authorities—that it had been the cause of bloodshed—and that it had led to many other mischievous and dangerous results; and, such being the case, the noble Lord would only have had to declare the difficulties that were before him to establish the necessity for the interference of the Legislature. Then, said the right 814 hon. Gentleman—"Our Sovereign has been insulted in the person of her representative." But how did the right hon. Gentleman opposite show that Captain Elliot was the representative of his Sovereign? Was he the representative of his Sovereign because he was unable to control her subjects, or because the Chinese authorities had formally acknowledged him as such? It was clear, from several passages in this blue book, which he would not weary the House with reading, that the Chinese authorities had never formally acknowledged Captain Elliot as the representative of the Sovereign of this country, and that they had only recognized him as a person appointed to reside at Canton to preserve order in the regulation of the trade, and in no other character whatsoever. And here he must be permitted to say one word in vindication, or rather in palliation, of the conduct pursued by Captain Elliot, but certainly not in vindication or palliation either, of her Majesty's Government in this country. Captain Elliot was placed in a situation in which he could not, from want of powers, fulfil the task that was imposed upon him. In the discharge of his duty he had throughout shown great courage, and in some part of it great tact and discretion. But the fact was, that whenever he showed a disposition to check the trade in opium, he was regularly discouraged by the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department. Nay, more, whenever Captain Elliot implored the noble Lord to interfere either one way or the other, and to prepare measures either for the suppression or for the legalization of the trade, he was met by the noble Lord with a total and contemptuous silence—with an utter and unpardonable neglect of all his suggestions, quite incompatible with the doctrine now for the first time advanced, that it was inconsistent with the confidence necessarily reposed in an agent at such a distance from head-quarters to trouble him with minute and manifold instructions. Was it not quite evident, that before the principle of the right hon. Gentleman opposite could tell against multiplying instructions to a distant agent, it must tell still more strongly in favour of strengthening and multiplying his powers? Now, Captain Elliot, in the course of the spring of last year, had completely identified himself with the contraband traffic in opium. He would not weary the House with reading passages out of the blue book 815 to prove it; for he was sure that no one who had paid the slightest attention to these despatches would venture to dispute it. It was stated therein that Captain Elliot declared to the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department, on the 13th of March, 1839, that he had made up his mind to direct British subjects to resist by force of arms any attacks that might be made by the Chinese government upon the opium vessels at Lintin. The noble Lord had recognized that act of Captain Elliot. As the noble Lord had refused to interfere with the Chinese Government when there was yet time for interference, and as by his refusal he had placed Captain Elliot in a situation of difficulty, the noble Lord might be right in not disavowing the acts which he had compelled Captain Elliot, as his agent, to take; but the noble Lord could not be allowed to acquit himself of his responsibility for those acts, if it were a necessary consequence of his policy, as undeniably it was, that on the 13th of March, 1839, Captain Elliot declared it to be his intention to defend, not only the persons of British subjects, but also the property which they had engaged in these smuggling transactions. Was the House of Commons, he would ask, to be told that the present motion had no bearing upon the war now about to commence—that it was brought forward for mere party purposes—and that it had no reference whatever to the real merits of the case? If the House should vote that this war was owing to a want of foresight on the part of her Majesty's Government, and to the neglect of the noble Lord to forward Captain Elliot instructions how he was to proceed against the growing evils of the traffic in opium, could any one doubt that it would be equivalent to its saying that there were evils in the opium trade which required to be remedied, and that, in shifting the responsibility of the war from the Chinese to the British Government, it imposed on itself the necessity of resorting to negotiation, and of making reparation for our past injustice before we resorted to violent measures for redress? The right hon. Gentleman opposite had said that no person hitherto had denounced this war. Now, if he had heard his right hon. Friend, the Member for Pembroke correctly, he had denounced the war as one in which success could produce no honour, and in which failure must produce 816 indelible disgrace. Besides, if he was not mistaken, he had heard his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Exeter go the length of saying, that it was doubtful whether on purely technical principles you were justified in excepting to the seizure of the opium, and to the mode of its seizure by the Chinese government. If he could bring himself to think that this motion would have no effect upon the war now in contemplation, he for one should care little about its success. With respect to the charge that such motions as the present were only made for party purposes, he was of opinion that it was an useful maxim not to attend to any allegations of party motives. They were weapons which were used daily by both sides; they were very useful to excite cheers—but than such cheers nothing could be more worthless. There were real merits in this case, for the great principles of justice were involved in this war. "You will be called upon," said Mr. Gladstone, addressing himself to the Ministers—"you will be called upon, even if you escape from condemnation on this motion, to show cause for your present intention of making war upon China. I do not mean to say that you ought not to send out an armament against China. Far from it. We have placed ourselves under your auspices in a position so unfavourable, that it is a matter of certainty that we cannot even demand terms of equity without a display of force. But we are going to exact reparation for insult, and compensation for confiscation which we allege ourselves to have suffered. If that be so, then I tell you that you are bound to show to us and to the world what the insult is for which we are to demand reparation. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has spoken to us of the cruel murder which he says the Chinese committed upon a boat's crew which they captured. Now, I beg leave to remind him that in one of his despatches Captain Elliot alleges that this was an act committed by pirates, and not by Chinese authorities. It is only in his last despatch that Captain Elliot says that his conviction now is that he was wrong in that allegation. Now, I must say, that all the conduct of the Chinese authorities militates against all this recent conviction of Captain Elliot. They had had not only the opportunity, but also the power, of putting to death other British subjects than the three Lascars whom they had captured, 817 and if their object had been to inflict terror, the murder of the former would have answered their object better than the murder of the latter. Even in the case of the Lascars, the Chinese authorities had never been asked for explanation; and before explanation is asked, are we to be told that this outrage is a sufficient cause of war? But, says the right hon. Gentleman opposite, "The Chinese have poisoned their wells, and such a step would be certain to lead to retaliation and vengeance on the part of our sailors, who get their water from them." Now, as Captain Elliot declared to the Chinese authorities that he had no formal knowledge of what would be the orders of his own government when it heard of these transactions, and as he refused to give a formal injunction for the abandonment of the trade in opium, it appears to me that the Chinese were justified in saying, "We have no other alternative than to expel these smugglers from China," and they offered in consequence to Captain Elliot expulsion on the one hand, or legal traffic in the usual way on the other. Captain Elliot refused both. He would not let the shipping go up to Whampoa. Every objection that could be made was made by Captain Elliot to the renewal of the legal trade. The Chinese were anxious for the renewal of it; but "No," said Captain Elliot," We will go to Lintin, we will establish ourselves there, we will maintain our right to procure provisions there, and at Lintin we will remain till more favourable circumstances arise." Now will the House consider what this language really amounted to? It was a claim on the part of the British merchants to go to the very focus of smuggling; and this afforded a suspicion—a seemingly well-founded suspicion—to the Chinese, that it was their intention that the opium trade should be resumed there. The Chinese had no armament ready wherewith to expel us from Lintin. They therefore said, "We will resort to another mode of bringing you to reason. We will expel you from our shores by refusing you provisions," and then of course they poisoned the wells. (Cheers from the Ministerial benches). I am ready to meet those cheers. I understand what they mean. I have not asserted—I do not mean to assert—that the Chinese actually poisoned their wells. All I mean to say is, that it was alleged that they had 818 poisoned their wells. They gave you notice to abandon your contraband trade. When they found that you would not, they had a right to drive you from their coasts on account of your obstinacy in persisting in this infamous and atrocious traffic. You allowed your agent to aid and abet those who were concerned in carrying on that trade, and I do not know how it can be urged as a crime against the Chinese that they refused provisions to those who re fused obedience to their laws whilst residing within their territories. I am not competent to judge how long this war may last, or how protracted may be its operations, but this I can say, that a war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated in its progress to cover this country with permanent disgrace, I do not know, and I have not read of. The right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke last night in eloquent terms of the British flag waving in glory at Canton, and of the animating effects produced on the minds of our sailors by the knowledge, that in no country under heaven was it permitted to be insulted. We all know the animating effects which have been produced in the minds of British subjects on many critical occasions when that flag has been unfurled in the battle-field. But how comes it to pass that the sight of that flag always raises the spirit of Englishmen? It is because it has always been associated with the cause of justice, with opposition to oppression, with respect for national rights, with honourable commercial enterprize, but now, under the auspices of the noble Lord, that flag is hoisted to protect an infamous contraband traffic, and if it were never to be hoisted except as it is now hoisted on the coast of China, we should recoil from its sight with horror, and should never again feel our hearts thrill, as they now thrill with emotion, when it floats proudly and magnificently on the breeze. No, I am sure that her Majesty's Government will never upon this motion, persuade the House to abet this unjust and iniquitous war. I have not scrupled to denounce the traffic in opium in the strongest terms—I have not scrupled to denounce the war with equal indignation; but supposing that we pronounce no opinion upon the traffic, and no condemnation upon the war, the charge against the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Department is nevertheless equally complete. Whether the opium trade be 819 right or be wrong—whether we ought to have continued, or whether we ought to have negatived it—the noble Lord has been equally neglectful of his duty. The circumstances which were represented to the noble Lord in July, 1837, the circumstances which were afterwards brought to his knowledge in May, 1838, and the circumstances which he learned in April, 1839, were all of them circumstances which called upon him for more powerful interference, no matter what the object of that interference was. I have already expressed my opinion that the interference of the noble Lord should have been for the suppression of the trade in opium, and that the war was not justified by any excesses committed on the part of the Chinese. I have already slated, that although the Chinese were undoubtedly guilty of much absurd phraseology, of no little ostentatious pride, and of some excess, justice, in my opinion, is with them, and, that whilst they, the Pagans, and semi-civilized barbarians, have it, we, the enlightened and civilized Christians, are pursuing objects at variance both with justice, and with religion. I am, however, most particularly anxious to call the attention of the House to this point—that, though I do not evade either the question pf the opium trade, or the question of the war, I think the merits of the noble Lord, at the head of the Foreign-office rest on a very, different footing. In whatever, sense the noble Lord ought to, have interfered, one thing is clear, that he ought to have interfered with spirit and effect. It was not his duty to have allowed the contraband trade in opium to have gone on to the extent which it reached. If the noble Lord had ever read those papers—yes, I repeat, if the noble Lord had ever read those dispatches—for it is to me matter of doubt, whether he has read them. Gentlemen may cheer, but I will never believe the noble Lord has read them, till I hear him make with his own lips a declaration to that effect. Yes, I want to hear that declaration from himself. The noble Lord has dope all in his power to keep us in the dark with respect to them, certainly, and now, when at last he condescends to give us them, he gives us them in one vast, rude, and undigested chaos which the wit of man is incapable of comprehending. I therefore, think it more charitable to suppose that the noble Lord has Sever read those dispatches, than to sup- 820 pose that, having read them, he was so ignorant of his duty as to make no application to Parliament upon this subject. Be the trade in opium what it may—be it right, or be it wrong, we are now called on give an assent to a war caused by the indolence and apathy of the noble Lord. The rupture was caused, in the first instance by his not sending out sufficient instructions on the subject of the opium trade to Captain Elliot. It was continued in the next by the continuance of our merchants to smuggle opium into China, and by the determination of Mr. Innes, and others to go up the river in prosecution of their trade. It was further continued by the murder of a Chinese on shore by British subjects—a murder which Captain Elliot could not punish, nor yet prevent, from his want of control over British subjects in the waters of China. It was further continued by the passage of the Thomas Coutts up to Canton, an occurrence which Captain Elliot would have had power to prevent, if the noble Lord had attended to his pressing applications. Be the trade or be the war what it may, I will never flinch from the assertion which, I have already made, that the noble Lord is chargeable for the results of both. On his head, and on that of his colleagues, that responsibility must exclusively rest, unless the House shall think fit to negative the motion of my right hon. Friend by its vote on this occasion, and if it does, it will become a voluntary participator in that great and awful responsibility.
§ Mr. Ward
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House, as he always did, with great sincerity of feeling, and with so much power, had the merit of being the first in the course of the debate who had given any clear indication of the policy of the party to which he belonged. He told them that he did not wish to evade the opium question—that he had no doubts about the subject, and he proved the justice of his statement by telling them subsequently, that from first to last, in all their proceedings, and however much their conduct had been at variance with the principles which regulated the intercourse between civilized communities, that he conceived the Chinese to have been fully and entirely in the right. The hon. Gentleman justified the blockade of the English factory. He justified the seizure of the innocent and the 821 guilty together. He justified the poisoning of the wells. [Mr. Gladstone, he justified the allegation]. The hon. Member justified the poisoning of the wells on the line of the Chinese coast, in order to deprive of fresh water English women and children, who at least were not implicated in the opium trade, but who were expelled by the imperial commissioner at three hours' notice from Macao. The hon. Gentleman blamed Captain Elliot for having the presumption to organise anything like a defiance against the attempt, on the part of the Chinese, to destroy a fleet of English vessels assembled at Lintin, composed of sixty ships, which had never been implicated in the illicit trade; when the imperial commissioner threatened to send against them a fleet of the fire-ships, which he had adopted as a kind of coast guard. In a skirmish or drunken brawl, in which both English and Americans were concerned, a Chinese came to his death by an unknown hand. It was impossible to ascertain even to what nation the person who inflicted the blow belonged. Captain Elliot stated in different passages that it was impossible to trace the individual, and yet the hon. Member blamed Captain Elliot for not having consented to give up an innocent man. [Mr. Gladstone: No, no, I did not.] The hon. Member denied it, but he appealed to the recollection of the House whether the hon. Gentleman did not allude to the murder of Lin Wiehee, and blame Captain Elliot for his refusal to give up the culprit, and assign that refusal as one cause of the outbreak. The hon. Gentleman told them that the policy which ought to be pursued was not to demand compensation for the injuries sustained from the Chinese, but rather to offer reparation for the wrong we had committed ourselves. He told the House that negotiation should precede hostilities. He trusted it would do so in the present instance, and he should express his own feelings on that point afterwards. But, notwithstanding those strong principles and enunciations of opinion of the hon. Member, and it was not possible for any one to carry the anti-opium mania further than he had done, still the hon. Gentleman told them, that even if the motion succeeded, it would make no difference in the policy to be pursued. It would still leave them in a position in which an armament would be indispensable. No 822 amount of humiliation—no extent to which they might lower themselves at the feet of the Chinese—would free them from the necessity of having an armament on the Chinese coast, with all the risks and chances attending such an armament. Although the hon. Gentleman laid the whole blame and responsibility on the present Government, he omitted to point out one act which at any particular time the Government could have done to avert the necessity of having recurrence to hostilities. The hon. Gentleman alluded to the memorandum of the Duke of Wellington, which he had read with the interest, and which every Member of the House must have read with the interest which the name of the noble Duke commanded. The hon. Gentleman inferred that the course of policy pointed out in the memorandum must have been eminently successful if the noble Lord had the manliness and courage to follow it up. He had read the memorandum with as much attention as any Gentleman in the House, but he confessed he could find in it no traces of the policy which the hon. Gentleman had discerned. Not only with respect to the vessels of war, as his hon. Friend, the Member for Liskeard, had observed, but with respect to the two cardinal points of the memorandum, the noble Duke was wrong. In commenting on the unfortunate issue of Lord Napier's mission, the noble Duke attributed it to the fact that he was required to take up his residence at Canton, which the Chinese would not permit him to do; and secondly, to the attempt to communicate with the Chinese in a manner which their national customs did not sanction. Captain Elliot, however, succeeded in both. The residence at Canton was refused, in the first instance, in consequence of the manner in which it was urged, and in which there was a total disregard of the ceremonies which the Chinese required. To that the failure of Lord Napier was to be ascribed. From the moment the course which the right hon. Baronet recommended was abandoned, the mission became successful. The proceedings under Sir George Robinson and Mr. Davis terminated by transferring to Lintin the seat of the opium traffic, the residence of the British commissioner—for it was there that Sir George Robinson took up his quarters permanently; but Captain Elliot by a wise, moderate, and discriminating course, steadily and successfully pursued, 823 carried the points which the Duke of Wellington supposed were unattainable. He was permitted to reside at Canton during the only period at which residence was desirable, and obtained an imperial edict, recognising his official character as distinct from the character of the supercargoes who preceded him. Although he was not invested with those powers which the hon. Gentleman opposite deemed essential, he had all the powers that a consul-general would possess over British trade. He did not possess the powers of a representative or ambassador, but he had all the power and influence which a consular office could give. He had not dictatorial power. He could not dictate the movements of British merchants, but he had more power than was ever before possessed by any English authority in China. He succeeded in communicating with the Chinese authorities in a perfectly satisfactory and honourable manner. He was quite aware of the antipathy naturally felt by hon. Members, at that period of the debate, to reference to papers. He must observe, on passing, that the papers on this subject had been read more carefully and conscientiously by a great number of Members than ever state papers were before, although the hon. Member for Woodstock seemed to think that nobody had read them but himself. He should compress what he had to say in the smallest possible compass, hut he felt the more bound to go into the subject, because he had presented a petition, signed by a large portion of those whom he represented, of which the sentiments coincided a great deal more with the opinions expressed on the other side than with his own. He never shrank from saying so to those whom he represented, and he would now give the reasons for the vote he was about to give. The hon. Gentleman who had spoken last seemed to think that the opium trade ought to have been put down altogether, and by some act to be done by the Government. The subject had been discussed in that House in 1833, when one of the colleagues of the right hon. Baronet expressed his opinion upon the whole system of the opium trade. It was not an open question, and Mr. C. Grant, in developing the whole matter to the House, expressed of course the opinions of the Government. That right hon. Gentleman then said that the opium trade, though contrary to the laws of China, 824 was under the patronage of the authorities at Canton, and that the extensive profits derived from it rendered it necessary to be carried on. The hon. Gentlemen opposite said, it was to the want of interference and instruction for the suppression of the trade that all the present difficulties were to be attributed. It was easy to say so, and talk of prohibiting the export of opium from India; but it was not in British India alone that opium was grown, and it did not appear that there could have been any direct control over the opium trade of Malwa. The example of what occurred with regard to the slave trade, to which every Christian feeling was opposed, but on which, by the admission of Mr. Buxton, the evils had been aggravated by the measures adopted to put it down, the example of that trade ought to have taught the hon. Gentleman not to be sanguine of the possibility of putting down the evils of the opium trade. He believed the evils of the opium trade were very considerably exaggerated. If used in moderation, opium was not injurious to morals or health, and the trade in it was hardly open to more objections than the revenue derived from the consumption of spirits. The hon. Gentleman dwelt much on the silence of the Government, and the absence of instruction; but if he looked into the book he would find that where no instructions were sent, it was because the expressions in the communication made to the noble Lord were doubtful or uncertain. He concurred with the hon. Gentleman that it was very desirable that there should be some effective interference on the part of the Government, but as he did not see how that was possible, he could not give his vote for the motion. The Government, it appeared to him, had no reason, from the conduct of the Chinese authorities, to anticipate such a result as the present state of things. The right hon. Baronet had detailed a number of warnings, and the first solemn warning to which he had referred was in 1835. But what was the opinion of Mr. Davis with his long experience in China? He treated it as perfectly nugatory, and so it turned out. There was then no mention of the opium trade in the papers before the House till the 5th of February, 1836, in a despatch from Sir George Robinson, who said that he apprehended no danger would arise from it. In April following that Gentleman said, that perfect tranquillity 825 existed. In July, 1836, was the next mentioned, and Captain Elliot then said that he expected the legalisation of the trade would take place in six weeks, and added, in speaking of the trade, that it was a confusion of terms to call it a smuggling trade, for, though formally prohibited, it was commenced, carried on, and encouraged by the Mandarins. In February, 1837, Captain Elliot enclosed home some papers which he justly pronounced amongst the most extraordinary state papers in the world, and which certainly in the discussions on either side in favour of free trade on the one, and prohibition and adherence to ancient customs on the other, were calculated to inspire very high notions of the ability of those Chinese who produced them. It appeared from Captain Elliot at that time that the illegalisation of the opium trade was only carried by a majority of one in the imperial Chinese Cabinet, nor was it till the 10th of February, 1837, that any very serious indication of change in the policy of the Chinese took place. He alluded to an edict misrepresented by the hon. and learned Member for Woodstock as an edict directed against the steam-boat Jardine; whereas it was for the expulsion from Canton of Mr. Jardine, one of our leading merchants there, and fifteen of his fellow-residents.
§ Mr. Thesiger
referred the hon. Member to the page in which the edict against the steam-boat was alluded to.
§ Mr. Ward
, on reference, saw that such an edict was certainly spoken of, though it was not given; and he had been informed by the person who was principally concerned that no such edict had appeared at all. But the edict was issued for the expulsion of Mr. Jardine and his compatriots, but so far from the Chinese government being serious, it was merely issuedpro formâ, and annulled immediately. So far, therefore, from anything that had happened hitherto giving rise to apprehension and requiring interference, Captain Elliot said, in writing to Lord Auckland, that he did not apply for instructions, because he did not wish the Government to be committed on delicate points. He applied, however, for a ship in February, 1837; the despatch arrived in August, and in September a ship was put under his control, with instructions as judicious and as moderate as the hon. Gentleman himself could have desired. 826 Up to this very time, however, the most friendly relations subsisted between the viceroy and Captain Elliot, the former having treated with great kindness about fifty men who had been shipwrecked, and delivered them over to him, and having allowed him to interpose his authority even in favour of some persons who had unfortunately involved themselves in a riot. In short, till November, 1837, till the series of four edicts were issued, there were certainly no serious indications of the difficulties with which our superintendent had subsequently to contend, and consequently no necessity for instruction or interference on the part of the Government at home; and even then, after that, Captain Elliot expressed his opinion that the trade would be legalized, although in so doing it would be acknowledging that Captain Elliot came to rather an unnatural conclusion, although he might have strong reasons for doubting the immaculateness of a viceroy who had himself derived large profits from being concerned in the smuggling. This termination of these edicts appears to be a result of that system of provincial dependence upon the imperial court of Pekin which prevailed in China. It was quite evident that all the provincial officers were closely watched by the court of Pekin. All their communications to that court were in writing. The consequence was, that whilst they were conniving at and encouraging the evasion of the laws, they protested in their decrees and edicts most loudly against such evasion, and when any flagrant instance occurred, the provincial officer shifted the blame to his subordinate, the subordinate to one below him, and the last of all to the foreigners. This was particularly the case with their unfortunate law with respect to homicide. There was no subterfuge, no means for a Chinese Mandarin to resort to in order to avoid putting that law in force, and yet escape the responsibility of evading it; and it was in evidence that whenever unfortunate circumstances of that kind occurred, arising out of the opium traffic, they actually suborned an unfortunate Lascar to declare himself the murderer, and had it not been for the threats of our supercargoes to expose the share of the Mandarins themselves in the transaction, the unfortunate man would certainly have been executed. Under the East India Company the same system was 827 carried on between the supercargoes and the Mandarins. It was a war of words on both sides, whilst, at the same time, both were equally implicated in the traffic—the Company clinging to their profits, and the Chinese to their bribes. He admitted, however, that the evils of this trade had grown to a great length in November, 1837, and Captain Elliot had then, in a despatch which arrived the following May, stated that it was time to interfere. But what was it, then, that Captain Elliot chiefly apprehended? It was the river traffic. And there he was mistaken again; for, though he stretched his power—though, by a moral power greater than any that could have been given him directly, except by an act of Legislature, which was impossible, he put a stop to the traffic in that river to a great extent, yet the trade only extended the more to the coast, and both parties being interested in carrying on the trade, it was found impossible to stop it. But even then Captain Elliot did not describe the Chinese government as some hon. Gentlemen opposite had described it, as laying down a beautiful, distinct, and definite principle on which we could have joined them in suppressing the smuggling trade. On the contrary, he described them as wandering in their determination, and changing their resolutions from day to day. The viceroy, in his edicts, certainly complained of Captain Elliot loudly, and taunted him with being unfit for the office of superintendent if he could not put down the traffic. But those edicts were intended more for the Court of Pekin than for Captain Elliot. They were intended to shift the responsibility from his own shoulders, and enable him to plead in excuse the obstinacy of the "barbarians." Under these circumstances, therefore, he did not see what other answer the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, could have given titan the one he gave in the despatch of the 15th of May, 1838, viz., to disclaim on the part of the Government any encouragement to the opium trade in China, and to throw the whole responsibility of it on those who engaged in it. That was the course taken not only in China, but in all other countries where smuggling British goods was carried on. It was notorious that such smuggling was carried on all over the world, and in Spanish America, before the declaration of independence, there was a state of 828 things very similar to that which prevailed in China—the Viceroy and officers deriving a large and regular income from the money paid for licenses to trade, or in other words, bribes to countenance smuggling, and therefore, he thought the noble Lord, if not encouraging or protecting this trade, had a right to leave it to the Chinese themselves to put a stop to it on their own coast. Why it was notorious, that nine-tenths of the trade of England with Spain was smuggled; but did the Spanish Government call upon that of England to prevent it? The hon. Gentleman who spoke on the other side, said something must be done, and so he said, and so said every one, but no one ventured to say what that something was, until the hon. Member for Newark spoke. If the motion, instead of being one of censure, turning upon miserable points of petty detail, had laid down some broad principle—if it had slated, as the hon. Member for Newark had said, that this was an unholy and unjust war, and that at the expense of national humiliation we ought to throw ourselves at the feet of China, then he would have understood on what it was the House was called on to vote. But the motion set forth nothing of that kind. It used the strongest language of censure, but there was nothing in it to indicate a disapproval of the course of policy pursued. Nothing to indicate such a disapproval had fallen from the lips of the right hon. Mover—not from those of the right hon. Baronet who generally spoke for his party in that House. How, then, could he possibly vote for a motion which would endanger and paralyse all our commerce, legal as well as illegal, prostrate this country at the feet of Mr. Commissioner Lin, and induce us to give up our trade in favour of our rivals (the Americans), or carry it on in the vessels of any power whom we could persuade to lend us their flag? He certainly did believe, that nothing but the concurrence of the British resident in China with the Chinese authorities could put a stop to this traffic, or keep it within bounds. But he could not say, that all the fault was on our side, that Lin had been always right, and that oppression and cruelty had not been exercised towards British subjects, such as gave us a just right to complain, and called upon us to interfere. What had been the conduct of the Chinese authorities? Had they not systematically issued decrees 829 without ever attempting to enforce them? Had not the Spanish proverb, "obey and not execute," been theirs? Was it not notorious, that even the Admiral of the Chinese junks received large bribes, and stipulated, that they should be paid annually, and that the Hoppo and all the principal officers did the same thing. Under these circumstances, he asked the hon. Member, who had no fault to find with Commissioner Lin, whether he could justify the imprisonment of British residents, guiltless as well as innocent, in order to obtain the opium from the ships, or the expulsion of our fellow-countrymen from Macao, almost a neutral port, and where the Governor was anxious to receive us, and give us protection if he had dared? He thought there was fair cause of complaint, and that it did entitle this country to redress. Nay, look even at the recent point of difference between Mr. Commissioner Lin and Captain Elliot as to the bond required from trading ships. Lin required from every ship entering the river a bond, that if they had one single pound of opium on board, the ship was to be confiscated, and the crew given up to punishment, that punishment being death. If such a bond were executed, it would place every British vessel and its crew, whether engaged in smuggling opium or not, at the mercy of the Chinese authorities. Whatever might be the opinion of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone), as to the Chinese being a simple and an unsophisticated race of people, he could not agree with that opinion, for the evidence showed them to be possessed of great shrewdness and unscrupulousness in all their proceedings. The explanation that was given by the commissioner of the intended effects of the bond, ought to make British subjects doubly cautious in affixing their signatures. It declared that there should be the confiscation of the vessel, and the punishment of death inflicted upon the crew, provided a pound of opium was found on board the ship. This would place it in the power of any fraudulent mandarin to whom a supercargo might have refused a bribe, to confiscate the vessel, and put the crew to death, and this, too, without any appeal lo British authority. The bond was to be this:—From the commencement of autumn in this present year, any merchant vessel coming to Kwangtung, that may be found to bring 830 opium, shall be immediately and entirely confiscated, both vessel and cargo, to the use of Government; no trade shall be allowed to it; and the parties shall be left to suffer death at the hands of the Celestial court, such punishment they will readily submit to.Upon this bond, it was to be recollected that an imperial commissioner insisted, in the strongest possible terms, for if before a vessel arrived at the coast it happened to have any opium on board, and that opium by any chance got upon the Chinese coast, and a connexion could in any manner be made out between the opium and the vessel, the penalty would be enforced. Persons who would sign the bond required from them would have been liable to search, and upon any allegation and any proof that might be satisfactory, to the imperial commissioner, who was alone to be the judge, punishment would be inflicted. He had been told of the good faith of the Chinese. He might ask if it had been shown in the case of the Spanish ship, which was to be found in the latter part of these documents. They burnt that ship in mistake for an English one, though the mistake was discovered immediately afterwards? The poor fellows who were taken prisoners were detained in the presence of the mandarins upwards of four hours—threatened with death, and the executioner actually introduced in order to compel them to sign a declaration that the ship was a British ship engaged in smuggling, and that its fate and theirs was therefore deserved. It was not on the ground of the morality or the immorality of the opium trade that he should give his support to her Majesty's Government on the present occasion, but because the Chinese had discarded and abandoned every semblance of respect for the principles of international law, and had brought affairs to such a position that he could see no chance of averting the fatal consequences which impended over them, but in the course adopted by the noble Lord. But he still hoped and prayed of the noble Lord, that all that had passed of good and conciliating conduct on the part of the Chinese people during the last six years, and before the arrival of the Imperial Commissioner Lin at Canton, might be borne most scrupulously in mind. Let the noble Lord recollect, that we are the strongest power. He admitted, that we had to deal with a people who were a little known to us, and 831 whose resources were not as yet ascertained; a people who, on a recent occasion, in a contest of arms, had conducted themselves in a manner which drew down the merited eulogy of Captain Smith, who witnessed their conduct, and he hoped that these facts would be borne in mind, and that when our armament arrived in China, as he supposed it was determined an armament should proceed thither, every attempt would be made to settle the existing disputes upon reasonable grounds, without the necessity of having recourse to hostile proceedings. He did not think, that this was a hopeless case, and he thought, that at least the attempt should be made. He therefore should give his vote against the motion of the right hon. Baronet, because he thought, that in supporting the policy of her Majesty's Ministers he should best promote the restoration of peace and commercial prosperity on a lasting basis.
§ Mr. G. Palmer
could assure the House that upon this subject he was actuated by no party feeling whatever. He had no individual feeling; as connected with this question, for any Gentleman who sat below him; and he was only influenced by that high feeling which he thought all persons ought to entertain on such a subject. Some days ago he put a question to the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, as to whether there were any other despatches in his possession upon the affairs of China besides those which were in the printed return, and the noble Lord replied, that there were, but that they were not considered relevant or necessary to the subject. In answer to a question from the hon. Member for Oxford, the noble Lord had said, that it was not his intention to recall Captain Elliot; and this being the case, he thought that he was justified in saying, that the noble Lord had taken upon himself the responsibility of every part of Captain Elliot's conduct as reported in these returns. There was another question which he had put to the President of the Board of Trade, the substance of which, as the right hon. Gentleman was present, he would now repeat, because he was sure the right hon. Gentleman would not have given the answer which he had done if he had read the despatch of the 11th of May in connection with the version which had been put upon that despatch, to the effect that it was the determination of 832 Captain Elliot to resist by force the entrance of any ship into the port of Canton. The question which he had put to the right hon. Gentleman in February last, was, whether any ships would be allowed to clear out of the port of London for China? and he was told that there would be no impediment to so doing— that the only impediment on arriving at their destination would consist in such regulations as the British superintendent might be advised to adopt. The reason why he put that question was, that at the very moment when he did so the Government were sending out ships to China full of stores, and they blinded foreign powers ail the while—whether intentionally or not he would not pretend to say—as to the purpose for which those ships were sent out, by authorising the commanders of them to advertise to take out merchandize to China. Having mentioned these points, his purpose now was to say a few words in order to point out to the House a few features of the moral character of the Chinese people, which he thought had not been done justice to in the course of this debate. Now, in the first place with regard to the regulation regarding foreigners, and the term "barbarians," which was applied to them. This term "barbarians" was not used towards us in the same sense in which we used it of the Chinese themselves; it was nothing more than the ordinary designation for foreigners, much in the same way as the term had been used in ancient times by the Greeks and others. Next as to the hospitality and humanity of the Chinese: he would beg to read a passage in these papers, being a proclamation of the Chinese governor regarding certain shipwrecked mariners who had been cast upon their coast. [The hon. Gentleman then read the extract, which ordered that the governor of the province should give relief to the sufferers, provide food for them, and assist them to repair their vessels, in order that the benevolence of the Chinese empire might be known afar.] Another passage he would read, which declared that—If any soldier or mandarin should not hasten to the relief of the distressed without being actuated by any hope of reward, he should be beheaded without mercy.This edict was no idle enactment. Among other examples of its operation he would mention the case of the Sunda 833 East Indiaman, which was lost in the Chinese seas about the time that the proceedings complained of had taken place, and whose crew had been taken to Canton, and most kindly entertained, even on the very day that the attack was made on the war junks by the Volage. There was another ship the crew of which were Lascars who were similarly succoured, who were afterwards brought up to Canton to Commissioner Lin, who received them cordially, gave them presents, and then sent them to Captain Elliot. Another instance he would mention which happened some years ago, within his own knowledge. An English vessel was dismasted and disabled in a storm many miles out at sea; the government of China sent off a pilot to her succour, who remained on board for six weeks, in the course of which they encountered three heavy gales, and eventually brought the ship safe into Whampoa; and when this pilot was asked by the captain what he was to be paid for his services, he replied, "Nothing; that he had been ordered by his government not to receive a single dollar." He knew that to be the fact, for he was the individual who commanded that vessel, and therefore he could speak with confidence on the subject. He could not help saying, that there was a great deal of exaggeration as to the unreasonable demands of the Chinese, and the objections which were made to them. With respect to the bond, for instance, he did not believe that the commander of a single vessel at Whampoa was unwilling to sign that bond. They looked upon it merely as an acknowledgment and declaration that they were not smugglers, and that they were ready to abide by the Chinese laws and restrictions in the event of their turning out otherwise. They had nothing to conceal, and therefore nothing to dread. He would now beg to read to the House a passage from the speech of Mr. Jardine at a public dinner given to him in March last, in which he bore testimony to the high moral character of the Chinese, and the efficiency of their laws. [The hon. Member read the extract to the following effect—that he (Mr. Jardine) had resided a long time in China, and that he had found life and property more effectually protected there by the law than in any other part of the East, or probably of the world—that a man might go to sleep in his House with his windows open, 834 without incurring any danger to his life or property, so well guarded were they by a watchful police; that, generally speaking, business transactions were conducted with great good faith, and that in all transactions with foreigners the usual personal courtesies were scrupulously observed, and that for these reasons it was that so many of our countrymen visited this country, and remained there so long.]—The head and front of the dispute at issue were comprised in three points, which he should briefly deal with. The first was the horrible crime of sticking the word "pin" on the outside of a letter, as if the noble Lord and his colleagues did not hold their seats by means of pin-stickers in another place. But what did this amount to? Simply that as "pin" only meant petition, and as nothing was done in that House except by petitions, there could be as little objection to place it on a letter as there could be for the people of England to address Parliament in the supplicatory form. It was, in fact, only a point of form and nothing more, and was anything but a ground sufficient for going to war. The other point was respecting the homicide. It no doubt came home to the feelings of Englishmen to deliver their fellow-countrymen for punishment; but was not every man illegally engaged in any transaction when death accidentally ensued, deemed guilty of homicide by the laws of England, and punished accordingly? The Chinese only carried out the same principle when they required the murderer of Lin Weihe, or the companions who were with him at the time the murder was committed, to be given up. Finally, with respect to the third point—the great question of opium. What was the true state of the case? The noble Lord opposite said the Government gave no encouragement to the illegal traffic in that article; but the papers before the House left it clear to every man's mind that the contrary was the case. These documents proved that there existed a complete understanding between the noble Lord and Captain Elliot on the subject—that it was the topic of secret instructions to the superintendents—and that the opium trade was carried on under their countenance, though it had been admitted that the Chinese had a full right to suppress it. The Chinese authorities had only exercised that right. They had given ample warning of their intentions preceding the carrying them into execu- 835 tion, and it was too bad to tarn round on them now and attack them for its exercise. It might be urged that the anchoring ground of the ships was not within the Chinese waters; but that could only be asserted in utter ignorance of the locality. It was as much so as Margate was within the English seas; and Hong Kong was at no greater distance from China than that port was from London. It was urged that the means adopted by the Chinese were objectionable. To this all that could be answered was, that they were the best in their command, and in fact it would be quite as just to blame General Elliot for using red-hot shot at the siege of Gibraltar as to blame them for their employment. With respect to the position of the superintendent on that occasion, there could not be much reasonable sympathy for him. He had put his own neck in the halter—he knew that opium was daily landed—and as he chose to identify himself with the smugglers, he should be prepared to take the consequences. He claimed jurisdiction and control over English vessels in the China waters to serve his own purpose with the Chinese authorities; but when he was called on to exercise it he altogether disclaimed its existence, alleging that he never had any. To the last moment he was aware of the opium smuggling, and to the last moment he lent himself to it, if the correspondence between him and the noble Lord, of the 10th and 11th February, 1837, could be credited. After the 20,000 chests had been delivered up, what was the duty of the superintendent? If he had acted honourably, ought he not to have detached himself entirely from the opium ships? Instead of that, he had hired a guard-ship, which he suffered to be surrounded by opium ships; he saw opium selling alongside of him; and he wrote to the noble Lord, saying that opium was being sold for 500 or 600 dollars a chest. He begged to remind the House, too, of the last letter which he had written; the purport of it was that the merchants were very much obliged to Commissioner Lin for seizing the opium, for that now the opium trade was all alive again; that fresh supplies were coming in from India, and that it was selling for double the pride; that consequently the dealers in opium would make a great deal of money by the destruction of the 20,000 chests. 836 But whether that was the way in which the Government were to excuse themselves for not paying the bill he did not know. It had been said that no Member was willing to declare himself directly opposed to a war with China; but if he stood alone he would offer his solemn protest against such a war. It was a most unjust and unfair attack upon the Chinese, who had done nothing more than we had compelled them to do—less they could not have done unless they had suffered the opium smugglers to carry their trade up to the very doors of Canton. If we respected our own independence ought we not, he asked, to pay some regard to that of other nations? He was afraid that the noble Lord was tainted with the feeling that they were justified in dealing with these strangers inhabiting so distant a region as perfect barbarians, but he had seen to-day an instance of retribution in a statement which appeared in the newspapers of that day—an account of the murder, as it was properly called, of two missionaries in the island of Ennomongs, in the South Seas; because a vessel had gone there some time before, and an attempt had been made to carry away from the island what the people did not choose to part with. That was the retribution, and he believed that ninety-nine times out of a hundred in cases of that sort they might trace the murder of these people to some previous attack made upon the natives. The Chinese government had invariably, in respect to trade, been our fast friend. They had been with us conscientious in all their dealings, and the value of our trade with them was of no trifling importance. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had stated it in part, but he felt justified in pointing out to the House the real value of that trade. The value of the tea imported to Great Britain was at prime cost two millions and a-half, and of silk 900,000l.The value of the exports direct to China was one million and a-half in manufactures, and the value of the raw cotton exported from India was about two millions. But how was that paid for? The raw cotton imported was just equal to the quantity of manufactured cotton which India took from this country, about six or seven millions. The tonnage from England employed in the China trade was 40,000 tons. That was of no trifling importance in every point of view, and it was not the least im- 837 portance with regard to the employment of seamen which it produced. The tonnage from India to China was still greater; amounting to between fifty and sixty thousand tons. The revenue derived from this trade by the British Government was between four and five millions a year. It might be said, that there would be the same duties if the Americans traded here. But did the noble Lord suppose that America would submit to a blockade of the port of Canton? The case was not the same as that which had occurred at Mexico, when the quarrel was simply between the French and Mexican Governments. At Canton the Chinese did not require the bond from the English only, but from all foreigners. The Americans said, they were willing to sign it, we said, we were not; but what ground did that afford for excluding them? Of his own knowledge he could speak to the difficulty of navigating those seas, and the risk of hurricanes occurring at all times, but especially in the months of June and July; and all that ought to be the subject of serious consideration with reference lo the proposed expedition. If they adopted conciliatory measures, if they acknowledged the Chinese as an independent power, and were willing to respect their independence, he was satisfied that they would be received on favourable terms; but if they attempted to gain their ends by force, he knew that there was a high spirit amongst the Chinese, which, even if their government could be persuaded, would prevent the people from suffering them to yield until they had been convinced that they would be beaten in the struggle, just as much as the people of this country would not allow the Government, under the belief that Russia or France could conquer us, to accede to disgraceful terms. He should cordially support the motion of the right hon. Baronet, because he thought that her Majesty's Ministers had not taken the precaution of giving such orders as were necessary for the maintenance of our trade with China.
§ Debate again adjourned.