HC Deb 27 July 1840 vol 55 cc1029-54

On the resolution that 173,442l. be granted for the expenses of the expedition to China,

Mr. Gladstone

would not allow the pre- sent opportunity to pass without calling the attention of the House to, and entering his protest against, the expedition to China. There was now a positive demand on the part of the Government, although somewhat late, for a vote of money in support of an expedition, the objects of which, it was due to the Government and to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, to say, had been fairly and ingenuously declared. The noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, in the early part of the session, plainly stated that the object of this expedition was threefold:—first, reparation for insults offered to the English flag; second, compensation for injuries inflicted on the property of British subjects; and, third, security for our commercial intercourse for the future. The statement of those objects was a challenge to the House, which he, for one, did not in his conscience feel he should be justified in allowing to pass altogether unnoticed. He would leave to the prerogative of the Crown and her Majesty's Ministers the responsibility of the expedition; he would not determine whether, upon the whole, this was a case which justified its objects; but there was one of the three objects enumerated by the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, which, if he interpreted his language right, did appear to call for some expression of sentiment on the part of that House—he meant the object of demanding from the Chinese government a full compensation for the opium surrendered in the month of March, 1839. The noble Lord had used the term "compensation for injuries inflicted on the property of British subjects." According to his interpretation, that meant compensation for the surrender of the opium into which they had been coerced. If he were wrong in his supposition that this was the noble Lord's meaning, he would wish at once to be corrected. If he were not contradicted he should assume that he was right in his interpretation. Setting aside the general policy of the war, let him consider what effect the present expedition had upon the opium trade itself. There were very many persons who took an interest in this portion of the question, and it was right that they, at least, should know how direct had been the influence which this expedition had exercised in the promotion of the trade. A very few figures would place the matter in a clear light. At Calcutta, during the October sales, the Patna opium produced 437 rupees, and the Benares opium 413 rupees a chest. Between the October sales and the month of January, it became pretty generally known that hostile measures were to be taken against China; and in the February sales the Patna opium, which at the October sale produced 437 rupees, rose to 610 rupees; whilst the Benares opium, that had sold in October for 413 rupees, rose to 550 rupees. The amount of the vote which was proposed was 173,000l., but it was said the other evening, that this was a mere mite as compared with what the total expenditure was likely to be, and that possibly the charges connected with the operations would equal this sum. Supposing, however, that the armament should be conducted as cheaply as the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given the House to understand—that this should be the cheapest war upon record—what might be the consequence? Pecuniary compensation was demanded of the Chinese; what was to prevent them from saying that they would give the whole of the sum claimed, and afterwards imposing such a tax on tea and silk as should cover the amount? It was the belief of many persons that this course would be adopted, and who, he asked, would then pay for the compensation? The consumers of tea and of Chinese silks, and the British public would be twice taxed, instead of once. They must all feel that the greatest moral responsibility was incurred by those who commenced the war. The cruel waste of human life, the destruction of property, and the deprivation of comfort and happiness which would take place, would demand the most invincible necessity to justify the adoption of such measures as had been commenced. Was there any such necessity in reference to the demand for compensation? Had we any claim to compensation which was founded in justice? It was not his object to cast any blame upon the conduct of Captain Elliott, whose demeanour, in the position in which he was placed, was that only which he could have exhibited, for in March, 1839, affairs had reached such a pass that it was impossible for Captain Elliott, amidst conflicting difficulties, to choose any course not open to just reflection. It was not his intention either to prejudice the character or the name of those merchants who were interested in the opium trade. He said their character, because he thought it would be making a most ungenerous use of the circumstances which had occurred, if he attempted to implicate them in any discredit which might attach to the trade which they had carried on. Their character stood high in the commercial world, and there were many houses among them not surpassed in any part of the universe for honour, integrity, and enterprise; and it had been more their misfortune than their fault that they had been implicated in this unhappy conflict. Nor was it his intention to prejudice the claim which they had made. It would be monstrous to maintain that the opium merchants should be the sole sufferers by the seizures. Their claims for compensation were not advanced against the Chinese government, but against that of Great Britain, and although that claim had been disowned, he must be permitted to say a few words in support of it. The parties interested in the surrender of opium contended, first, that its value was guaranteed by Captain Elliott, and they were, therefore, entitled to the recognition of their claim. He must say, that he could not exactly understand how it was possible for the Government to continue Captain Elliott in the situation which he held, and to give its approbation of the line of policy which he had adopted; and, at the same time, to disown an act of his—not trifling or of secondary importance, but the corner stone upon which the maintenance of his whole system depended. This was a claim, therefore, he maintained, which was good against the Government, and against all those who approved of the conduct of Captain Elliott; and even supposing the guarantee to which he had alluded not to have been given, he still thought that if the seizure had occurred under the other circumstances of the case, on the ground of general equity, if a petition had been presented to that House, it would have been their duty to have lent a favourable ear to its prayer. Who had been the real gainers by the opium trade? The merchants, it was true, had been the principal parties concerned, and on them the responsibility must rest; but, after all, they had been merely the agents of higher powers, of the imperial authority of the Government; the Indian Government, principally, it could not be denied, but recognised and acknowledged by the Government at home, and that for a long series of years, not by any particular administration, but through many political changes, and without any variation. The conduct of the Indian Government, it was true, had been fully sanctioned by a committee of the House, but they had not only been the real parties in the opium trade, but the real gainers by its being carried on, for there was no doubt that the greater part of the profit had passed into the coffers of the East India Government. He said, therefore, that the claim, in his judgment, was one which was not to be rejected, but which that House at some time or other would sanction, and would favourably entertain. There was a general notion prevalent with respect to the conduct of the Chinese to foreigners, which, although no man would advance in the form of an argument against the system of dealing with the Chinese, did notwithstanding possess the minds of many men with an impression that because they were inhospitable in their manner of treating other nations, they should themselves also be treated with harshness. He conceived, however, that this notion was totally without foundation. It was impossible not to acknowledge the opinion expressed by Captain Elliott upon this subject, who said that they were the most moderate people upon earth; but he begged also to refer to the remarkable words used by Mr. Jardine, who had been long resident in Canton. In describing the conduct and character of the Chinese in January, 1839, two months before these occurrences, at a public dinner, he said, I have been a long time in this country, and have a few words to say in its favour. I must say, that here we find our persons and property more effectually protected by laws than in many other parts of the world. In China a man can go to sleep without a fear of his property or his life being endangered, which are well guarded by the excellent police which is established. Their trade is conducted with unexampled facility, and generally with singular good faith, although there are of course a few instances of a different description, which only the more forcibly bear out my opinion. If this was the account given of the general conduct of the Chinese as a people, by a person himself the most deeply interested and implicated of all others in the transactions of the opium trade, then he did say that it was ungenerous to attempt to make out a case against them upon the ground of their comparative barbarity; and he thought that we were bound to trade with them in a spirit of equity, fair dealing, and humanity. Thedemand for compensation for the opium which had been surrendered rested, he concluded, upon this foundation, that the act was an unjust one. It was said that a system of connivance had been carried on by the Chinese governors, by the bribery of the inferior authorities. We, however, were only the offerers of the bribe, and had little right to take advantage of—our own misconduct. Mr. Marjoribanks, before the committee of 1832, attributed the system to the lower, and not to the higher Chinese authorities; but he still maintained that even this had ceased long before the occasion which the House was now considering. It was argued next, that the confiscation of the opium was a penalty not justified by the Chinese law, or by usage. In point of fact, however, when they looked into the real circumstances of the case, they found that the law of China rested upon edict only; and that whatever was declared by edict was law, and that no other law was known. The argument upon the law of China, therefore, failed. Then, with regard to custom, no one could deny that confiscation was the usual, as well as the most natural and appropriate punishment for smuggling, and so far from this custom not being recognised and acted upon in China, it appeared from statements made on behalf of the persons interested in the seizure, that from the year 1821 down to the present time all foreign ships entering the Canton river with opium were deemed and held liable to confiscation, or to be expelled the river, and to be constantly interdicted from trading there. Then it would be a narrow ground, indeed, to take, that although the right of confiscation extended to the Canton river, it was not to be carried beyond that. It was not a question of legal jurisdiction, but if it were, the maritime jurisdiction of China was not confined to the river Canton. The waters of China extended far beyond that, and the opium which was confiscated was found far within their limits. Then it was urged that the measures which had been taken were sudden and unexpected, and of which no reasonable anticipation could have been formed. It stood proved upon the evidence of the witnesses who were examined before the committee that the policy of the Chinese had materially altered within the last three years, and that in the spring of 1839 it was impossible for any person, except such as were blinded by prejudice or interest, not to see that a crisis was about to take place. An edict of punishment was published against the natives who should be guilty of being parties to the trade, and of banishment against all merchants who should so offend against their laws. These and almost innumerable other acts of the Chinese government sufficiently indicated their determination, and no good reason could be shown for the continuance of the traffic, except that which was founded upon the fact of these parties having got into the trade, and of their unwillingness to withdraw from it, unless it should be absolutely necessary. Mr. Inglis stated in his evidence, that he was convinced, long before these circumstances occurred, that a crisis was at hand, and that he had I informed Captain Elliott of his belief four or five years before; while Mr. Jardine also expressed the opinion, in the month of December, 1838, that the Emperor was in earnest in his declared intentions. The plea, therefore, that no notice had been given was totally worthless, for it was clear that every means had been adopted which could possibly be taken to convey a knowledge of the determination of the authorities to put the law in force, as it had been frequently declared. It was also said that the Chinese, contrary to the law of nations placed in duress a community of innocent foreigners for the purpose of obtaining the goods which only belonged to a portion of them. He thought, however, that it was clear that the general law of nations could not be rendered applicable to China. That law was divisible into that which must be considered to be the law of nature, which was the universal rule by which all mankind must be governed, and that which was more peculiarly the law of nations as resulting from the improvements effected by the civilization of society. China, however, could not be considered to be amenable to the latter portion of the law, because, partially barbarous, she had never admitted its necessity, nor subscribed to its provisions, and the circumstances of this part of the case could not for one moment, be said to come within the line of that rule, which must be looked upon as the universally acknowledged law of mankind. The merchants had been only, in fact, surrounded by a species of cordon, which prevented their quitting Canton, and which, in fact, amounted to no more than to a refusal of a passport to leave that place. The noble Viscount, he presumed, would admit that there had been no actual imprisonment before the arrival of Captain Elliott. [Viscount Palmerston would not admit any such thing.] Then the noble Lord would deny that which was stated by witnesses before the committee, and he thought that the coble Lord would have done well to have attended the committee in order, that he might have been informed upon this point. There had been no violation of the law of nature or the law of nations on the part of the Chinese. At the time when Mr. Dent's presence was demanded by the Chinese, they used no violence. Their reason for demanding Mr. Dent's presence was declared by Mr. Inglis to be, that be was known to be extremely popular among the Chinese, and that they knew him to be of consequence among his own countrymen. It was a question, then, if Captain Elliot had been out of the way, how far the merchants would have been able to make arrangements for themselves with the Chinese. The remaining point was, how far the person of her Majesty's representative had been insulted by the Chinese, though he was at a loss to understand how, even if that were proved, it could be made a justification for demanding compensation for a trade, if admitted to be contraband. It appeared to him, however, as had already been stated, that the first injustice consisted in terming Captain Elliot the representative of the queen. By the Chinese he had only been received as; a commercial officer, and it was unjust to contend that the Chinese were responsible as if they had known him in the character: of a regularly-accredited diplomatic agent. In the official edicts of the Chinese, on Captain Elliott's arrival, his office was expressly recognised as the same as that of the supercargo of the East India Company, though his rank was known to be different. If Captain Elliott was a consul: only (and he could not be said to be anything higher), the principles applicable to him could not be the same as those that would be applicable to a public minister of the country; and before you argued that he ought to have been treated as the representative of the Queen by the Chinese, you ought to show that he had been received by them as such. This the official records of the Chinese denied. On the other hand, by making himself a party to the detention of Mr. Dent, and by declaring his intention of defending the opium ships, he had identified himself, in the eyes of the Chinese, with a traffic which they deemed contraband, at the same time that he was not invested, in their estimation, with any diplomatic character. Because Captain Elliot placed himself in a false position, were the Chinese to be debarred from taking any steps which they might think fit in order to put an end to the opium smuggling on their coasts? It might be said, that they had not pursued a right course in their endeavour to do this. It might be said "why did they not take possession of the smuggling ships?" But did any hon. Member believe that the war junks of the Chinese were equal to capturing these armed vessels? He would not stop, however, to inquire whether or not the Chinese had technically put themselves in the wrong. They might have done so in their subsequent proceedings, but what he contended was, that at the time when Captain Elliot threw himself into Canton the policy of the Chinese was not bloody; that their confiscation of the opium did not involve any substantial injustice; and that we had no right to make that confiscation either the subject of a war, or the ground of a demand of the value of the opium confiscated. If the exaction of the compensation was delayed, he was convinced that the time would come when it would be difficult to persuade the British House of Commons to sanction it. He recommended the noble Lord, therefore, to use great speed before the indignation of the country was aroused upon the subject.

Sir John Hobhouse

said that, although the hon. Gentleman was undoubtedly perfectly justified in delivering his sentiments on the present occasion, yet at the end of the speech as at the beginning of it, he had not the slighest conception of the good the hon. Member proposed to attain by it. He did not feel himself called upon to follow the hon. Member through all the topics of his speech. It was in almost all respects only a repetition of the China debate. Since the 9th April, when that debate occurred, a committee had been appointed to inquire into the subject of compensation, which committee, he presumed, had performed its duties fully, examining into every case for and against any parties. Their labours, however, led to no practical result, for they reported their proceedings only, without any opinion. The hon. Member alleged that one effect of the armament would be to increase the contraband trade in opium. The opium smuggling would go on increasing until the Chinese Government ceased to act in defiance of the determined wishes and habits of the people. Captain Elliott had foretold that the trade would go on increasing until the Chinese had entered into some established relations with us. The opium trade had already been sanctioned by two committees of that House, and by Mr. Grant in 1833, when President of the Board of Control, in a speech to that House on the effects of it. On that occasion the subject was received with perfect quiescence, no Member rising to oppose it but Mr. Buckingham, and he could not meet with a seconder. But if he was unable to comprehend the principle on which the argument of the hon. Gentleman was grounded or the trade itself was based, still more was he at a loss to understand what could induce him to characterise the proceedings at Canton. He could not conceive what had induced him to characterise the atrocious conduct of the Chinese authorities at Canton as nothing more than a mere ebullition, an infirmity of human nature, which might well be pardoned. For his own part, he could not look at those proceedings but with the utmost horror and indignation—proceedings which had led the Duke of Wellington to say, "made every drop of blood boil in the veins" He was surprised, too, to hear the hon. Gentleman say, that there had not been, on the part of the superior authorities at Canton, connivance at the opium trade. The hon. Gentleman might speak upon peculiar evidence, but he took the written records of those who were resident at Canton. No connivance! What did the hon. Gentleman say to the Viceroy himself conniving? He did not mean to say that their participation in the trade was a common every day practice, but that when matters were at a push it was the practice of the highest authorities at Canton to participate in the smuggling. But the hon. Gentleman argued, what objection could be raised to the confiscation of the contraband article. He admitted that no objection could be raised. But the question was how, and under what circumstances, was it confiscated? It was not the confiscation that was objected to, but the circumstances of severity under which it took place. The hon. Gentleman, however, denied its severity, it was with him a kind of gentle tyranny, a cordon drawn round the British. Yes, a gradual deprivation of all the means of subsistence, and wherever any of the servants were found to be British, shutting them up too. It appeared from the hon. Gentleman's statement that the Chinese authorities required Mr. Dent's appearance in the city, to show how popular he was amongst them; but then it might be said of other of the English merchants there, that they were so popular that the Chinese gave such an earnest of it that they would not part with them. Under these circumstances, it was hardly possible to tell what would have been the extent of their hospitality to the gentlemen he had alluded to. If the hon. Gentleman was not a very serious person, he could hardly have believed that he expected any one to agree with him on the subject. It was urged that this gentleman was a very important person to pass between the merchants and the Canton authorities, but the course that had been pursued was at any rate the best that could have been followed for the safety of that gentleman. The hon. Gentleman said, that the law of nations was not exactly to be applied to the Chinese. The hon. Gentleman was most difficult to deal with, in consequence of the mode that he adopted in arguing this question. He stated that he would not treat them as barbarians, because they were not deserving of being treated in that way; but, at the same time, the hon. Gentleman declared that he did not consider that they should be treated as civilized persons. On this ground the House was told, that the law of nations was not to be applied to them, but the law of nature. He did not agree in this opinion, nor did he think, that the Chinese were unlike any Europeans, or other people, in believing, that they were justified in taking the goods of another people, or their lives, with impunity. The law of nature, however, appeared to be the law which the hon. Gentleman thought was that which influenced the Chinese in their dealings with other nations. Let them, then, take that law, and he would ask, was there anything in it to justify one man taking the property of another at his will and pleasure? Was there any existing law, or any law that had ever been acknowledged, by which such a principle could be defended? He confessed, then, that he was utterly ignorant of any so called law of nature which could justify the Chinese authorities in the treatment which they had shown to our countrymen. He could not understand under what law men were justified in seizing persons for the purpose of getting possession of property on shipboard 120 miles off, over which they had no control, and thus making them amenable for their countrymen, for the purpose of obtaining the goods of the latter. The hon. Gentleman said, that the preventing the departure of the English merchants from Canton was analogous to the refusing passports in Europe. Could the hon. Gentleman be serious in contending that the conduct of the authorities in Canton, in withholding food and water from the English merchants, was anything like the refusal of a passport from Berlin, St. Petersburgh, or Paris, or any other of the capitals of Europe? [Mr. W. Gladstone: It was equivalent.] He had no objection to take the hon. Gentleman's words, and he was then to understand, that the treatment that those merchants experienced was only to be regarded as equivalent to refusing them their passports. He was justified in saying, then, according to this argument, that if his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Foreign Department, being asked for a passport, instead of doing so, shut a person up in his house, and took means of preventing his being supplied with provisions or water, he would be justified in so doing. If, therefore, he asked for a passport, his noble Friend would not only be justified in refusing it, but in taking care that he should be deprived of the means of getting a dinner. Was this the treatment to inflict on persons who had not infringed the law of the country they were in? Were they to be deprived of their liberty? Were they to be prevented obtaining supplies of food? Were they to have their servants taken from them, and only on special occasions to be allowed to be served with water, and that on the miserable plea urged by the hon. Gentleman? They were at length allowed water, and ultimately they were set at liberty; but that the treatment they experienced, did not end in their starvation or in the death of many of them, there were no thanks to the Chinese, nor to the authorities at Canton, nor to the tender mercies of Commissioner Lin. That this result was not attained was owing to the perseverance of the man to whose conduct and courage an illustrious Duke in another place had paid a due tribute. The Duke of Wellington had alluded in glowing terms to the chivalrous proceedings of Captain Elliot; and he trusted that, in spite of the denunciations of the hon. Gentleman, the results would turn out to be satisfactory to persons and property. The hon. Gentleman saw that there had been no violation of the law of nations on the part of the Chinese authorities; he would not allude to what the hon. Gentleman said on the last debate as to the conduct which the Chinese would be justified in pursuing; but what had occurred to justify the hon. Gentleman on this occasion in using such language in defence of those people? To use such expressions as the House had heard from the hon. Gentleman, was not only a perversion of language, but flying in the face of every proceeding that had ever been pursued by a free state, or even by any state that might be termed a tyrannical government. Neither his colleagues nor himself were afraid of the feeling or opinion of the country on this subject; for they felt assured that, upon reflection, their vindication would be the same as that which had been passed on them by the illustrious warrior in another place, and that it would be felt that that which they had followed was not only a just course, but that no other could have been pursued than that which they had adopted; and that if they had not taken the steps which they had, they would have been justly branded, not only with not having taken the best course, but with having acted contrary to humanity, justice, and religion. The hon. Gentleman refused to rate them amongst the civilized nations of the world; should this country then bow to them, and suffer such a people to plunder our merchants with impunity, when we would not allow any civilized power in the world to take from any of our people with impunity even the value of a farthing. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to the question of compensation, and stated that his noble Friend had urged these grounds of objection to it at one time. He would not press that part of the subject; but be felt bound to state that he thought that these merchants were fully justified in asking for compensation from the Chinese. According, however, to the hon. Gentleman, they were entitled to nothing of the kind, and the Chinese would be justified in seizing and shutting up, and depriving of food another 100 of our countrymen without the sacrifice of either humanity, religion, or justice; and, indeed, in treating them in any way they pleased, because they asserted that others of their countrymen had infringed the municipal laws of the country. He did not know that it was necessary for him to say more on this subject, although he knew that he had left many points dwelt on by the hon. Gentleman altogether untouched. With respect to many of them, he had not done so because he had thought that they were amply answered on the debate of the 9th of April; he would then only add, that then, as now, the hon. Gentleman did not show what earthly benefit was to be derived from adopting the course recommended by him.

Mr. G. Palmer

commenced by saying that the whole of these transactions from beginning to end were the act of her Majesty's Government, and that the result had been a profit to the revenue of this country through India of l,000,000l. or 1,500,000l. per annum. [Sir J. Hobhouse: The average for about eight years has been 900,000l] No matter what the amount might be, the interests of this country were involved in the revenue of India, and after certain payments that revenue centred in the ways and means of this country. From the documents before the House it could be seen that Captain Elliot had, from the beginning, acted as the great fosterer of this trade, and this was manifest from all his own letters and despatches, commencing from the date of February, 1837. [The hon. Member read long extracts from the correspondence on the table to support the assertion.] Captain Elliot had, in fact, identified himself and the Government in the recognition of it, and except in so far as the Government had refused to pay his bill, still they were as responsible as if they had done precisely that which Captain Elliot had done. He regarded the position of Captain Elliot as that of the representative of this country, and being such, to take care of its trade in the same way as would a consul. And what was the duly of a British Consul? Why, to take especial notice of all prohibitions as to the imports and exports of all articles stated to be illicit or detrimental to the revenues of the nation to which he was attached. It was his duty to guard against the selfish views of individuals, and to prevent them from causing by violating the laws of the country in which he resided, injury or damage to the shipping and commerce of the country to which they belonged. Now, the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Hobhouse) had endeavoured to separate the Government from this practice of smuggling opium into China. If it were smuggling, this country and the East India Company had been as much parties to it as any other individuals, and what was more, had derived a great portion of the profits of that trade—they were both interested just about in the same way as was the receiver of stolen goods in the product of the commodity. In short, they were all parties together, and were all responsible for the consequences. There was not the smallest doubt but that the trade had been forced on by the Government of this country, to an extent to which this country had no right to enforce it, and the representative of the British Government ought never to suffer under the guns of the ships of his nation & smuggling trade to be carried on in contravention of the laws of the country in which he was by the authority of the Crown invested with authority. He thanked the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Gladstone) for bringing forward this matter, and thus enabling him to disavow and disclaim the course which the Government had taken in this matter, a course which, Sri his view, was a disgrace to the country.

Sir C. Grey

The hon. Gentleman who had brought forward this question, as well as those who took the same views, argued it not upon broad and general principles, but as it appeared, with the object of throwing the whole blame of the war with China, which was now pending, upon the present Ministry. It should seem that the circumstances out of which the present State of things with China arose, had existed before the present Government was formed, and previous to the granting of the charter of 1813 to the East India Company. Hon. Gentlemen would remember who they were that formed the Government at that period, and, perhaps, the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) might have some tradition in his family concerning the protection then given to this trade. When the opium trade was in its nascent trade, it might have been so regulated as to prevent the evils which had since unhappily occurred, and which were greatly owing to the absurd and unsocial policy with which the Chinese people entrenched themselves, but it was scarcely possible from that policy to negociate with them in an intelligible manner, and the consequence was, that for the last ten years the opium trade was in such a state, that no Government of this country could put an end to it without the concurrence of the Chinese government. It would appear that China was desirous of deriving all the advantages arising out of commerce, but, forsooth, the "inhabitants of the celestial kingdom," "the flowery land" would not condescend to treat with us upon equal terms, and the natural consequences followed. How could it be otherwise with a trade so extensively carried on, not only with England but with other European States, and with the United States of America under such undefined and imperfect regulations. As to competition with our force, from all he could learn, if our fleet escaped the storm, he had no hesitation in believing that its operations would at once vindicate the honour of this country, and in the end benefit China itself. According to his view, the first point to be gained was, that the Chinese should in so far be brought to reason as to abstain from issuing edicts, and be prepared to agree to mutual arrangements with other governments. When they so far approached to reason, we should have accomplished a great moral conquest, and our merchants would find ample indemnity and compensation in an enlarged intercourse with a great family of mankind.

Viscount Sandon

had not intended to take part in this debate, as none of the statements or arguments of the hon. Member for Newark had been at all answered; but he wished to say a few words upon what had fallen from the hon. and learned Member who had just sat down. He did not think that the Government would be pleased with the advocacy of the hon. Gentleman, for he had gone so far as to say that the Chinese policy of excluding us from trading with them on our own terms was illegal. He could not imagine in what school the hon. and learned Gen- tleman had learned that doctrine. Certainly with regard to the attempts made by the French Government to force their trade on the republics of South America, both the noble Lord opposite (Palmerston) and the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets had declared, that a war on such grounds was perfectly untenable. They rested their opposition to this war on broad grounds; they saw with regret, this country forced into a war which presented only this alternative—either that the honour of the country should be tarnished by failure, or a great country be compelled to admit a traffic of a most noxious nature, which she was most anxious to repel. That was the broad question at issue. The British Parliament, and the British Government, and the East India Company, had for a long time been encouraging the trade in this noxious article. The Chinese Government had winked at this trade; many of their officers had connived at it, and some, perhaps, shared in it; but at that time the trade was small; the evil, however, grew. It extended itself into the interior of the country; it affected the court, the camp, and the places of education; and it was now contended, that because the Chinese Government had winked at the traffic when it was small, they were to be for ever prevented from taking vigorous measures for its suppression, even when it threatened to disturb the whole social system of the empire. The Chinese Government had given, too, every possible notice of their determination. The discussions in the cabinet were published, and it was known that an opposite policy had been proposed and rejected. The severest measures were taken, and indeed it was not until every measure of severity had been exhausted that they had recourse to that extraordinary proceeding, inconsistent, no doubt, with the ordinary practice of civilised nations, but not more so than the unwarrantable encouragement of the opium trade. The Chinese Government had even urged upon the British commissioner to represent to his Government how essential it was that England should co-operate with them in putting down that trade; and had departed from its usual policy by promising, upon those terms, to enter into an agreement to settle the lawful trade satisfactorily. This transaction had been spoken of as if the merchants who had been shut up at Canton had suffered hard- ships; but that was distinctly disproved by the statements of Mr. Inglis, who said that, except amongst the young and inexperienced merchants, not the slightest apprehensions were entertained, until the British commissioner had thrown himself into prison, and thus completely identified the Government with the illegal trade. Then, but not till then, a different course was pursued, which it was not necessary for him to defend. He trusted that, whatever might be the result of the present operations, Parliament and the Government would no longer recognise this trade; for so long as the Indian Government retained the monopoly of the growth of opium, and prepared it particularly for the Canton market, and so long as the British Government consented to make a great part of its revenue depend on the dissemination of that poison, they could not honestly and boldly say, "We are free from any implication in this trade." They could not but consider that we were juggling with them. He had not wished to enter upon the question, but he had been surprised to hear the Chinese policy denounced as illegal from the lips of so respectable a legal authority.

Viscount Palmerston

did not wish to prolong the conversation, which was somewhat irregular; but he was anxious that it should not close without some observations on his part. He concurred with his right hon. Friend, the President of the Board of Control, in being unable to understand the precise bearing of the hon. Member for Newark's mind on the question, whether those persons who had lost their property by the acts of the Chinese Government, are or not entitled to compensation. In one part of the hon. Member's speech, he seemed to contend that the merchants were not entitled to compensation; but in another part of his speech he contended that compensation ought to be given to them, and that it ought to be given out of the revenues 'dl the country. Whichever was the opinion of the hon. Member, he was at a loss to understand the course which the hon. Member had taken with regard to this question. The hon. Member certainly appeared to entertain a very strong opinion, that the proceedings of the Government towards China were unjust, and ought not to be persevered in, for the hon. Member had staled that opinion very strongly, indeed much more strongly than he could have expected from any hon. Member, and had put forth principles which he was very sorry to hear expressed in that House. If, then, such were the hon. Member's opinion now, it was to be presumed, that such was his opinion at the beginning of the Session; and, supposing this to have been the case, when his noble Friend, the Secretary for the Colonies, had stated, that it was intended to demand from the Chinese satisfaction for the injuries and losses which her Majesty's subjects had suffered, why had not the hon. Member on that occasion made some motion in the sense of the observations which he had now addressed to the House, instead of reserving this strong expression of his disapprobation till the end of the Session, when it could be attended with no other practical result than to throw discredit on the cause of England. If the hon. Member thought the merchants were entitled to compensation out of the revenues of this country, why had not the hon. Member, when the House was voting the supplies for the year, proposed a vote for granting that compensation? With regard to the question between this country and China, the hon. Member had stated that one ground on which the Government founded its right to proceed against the Chinese was this—that no sufficient notice had been given to our subjects of the course which the Chinese Government intended to pursue. Now, this was not the ground on which the British Government proceeded. It was true, that in point of fact no notice whatever had been given; but if notice had been given, it could not have altered the character of the proceedings which had been resorted to, and which were alike contrary to the law of nations, to the law of nature, and to every principle which should guide the intercourse between man and man. Was it consistent with the law of justice or of nature to seize the innocent because you could not take hold of the guilty, and by their sufferings to extort from others property which you could not otherwise reach? He was never more surprised than at hearing the hon. Member state that to be the law of nature which was the law of banditti, who seized upon travellers, carried them to the mountains, and there starved or shot them, unless their friends sent such sums of money for ransom as the robbers chose to demand. There was no difference whatever in point of principle. Therefore he was astonished when he heard such doctrines from the hon. Member, who would be the last man to give by his example the least countenance to a principle which would justify the most atrocious acts that had been committed either in ancient or modern times, which would lead to a general corruption of public morals, and which were wholly inconsistent with justice between man and man. The great principles of public morality should never be broken down for the sake of a temporary or party triumph. The hon. Member had talked of the sin of poisoning the Chinese people by sending opium among them; it was as great an offence to poison the public mind by producing a disregard for the great principles on which the welfare of every one depended. The hon. Member disputed the fact of the English having been imprisoned and threatened with starvation; but he thought the statement was fully borne out, and when the hon. Member spoke as if Mr. Dent had been sent for only because they were very fond of his company, their affection seemed to him like that of Isaac Walton for the frog, which he directs his disciples to handle when they put the hook through him as if they loved him, Mr. Dent was very wise in not trusting to their affection. The hon. Member said, that we were not entitled to redress for the treatment to which our commercial representative in China, as the hon. Member called him, had been exposed, and the hon. Member said, that Captain Elliot was not our representative, he being not a diplomatic but a commercial agent. But that argument did not deserve a serious answer. When the British Government appointed an agent to protect the interests of British subjects, and to urge their claims against the Government of the country to which the agent was sent, whether he were called a diplomatic or commercial agent, he was equally entitled to respect, and if outrage were offered to him, the nation was outraged in his person, and was entitled to demand satisfaction, reparation, and redress. The hon. Member said, that according to writers on the law of nations, consuls were not protected; but there were many instances in which they had been considered entitled to protection. He need hardly refer to the dispute between the French Government and the Barbary chief, when the French consul being threatened with execution for some offence— Quoted Wicquefort, And Puffendorf and Grotius, And proved from Vattel Exceedingly well, Such a deed would be quite atrocious. But did the hon. Member forget, that the proceedings which had been recently taken by the French Government against the Dey of Algiers, and the present occupation of Algiers by France, had their origin in an insult offered to the French consul? The hon. Member had timed the expression of his sentiments rather ill, for if he thought the measures taken against the Chinese for the purpose of obtaining compensation were unjust, he ought to have acted upon his opinions when there was yet time for them to be of some effect, either on the occasion to which he had already adverted, or on the debate which had taken place upon the motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke. It was stated in the course of that discussion, that a quick sailing ship might then prevent further mischief. Why was the hon. Member for Newark silent on that occasion? He had made a speech, but had not proposed as an amendment that a quick sailing ship should be despatched. But after denouncing the proceedings of the Government as abominable and atrocious, and inconsistent with humanity and religion, what advice had the hon. Member addressed to the Government? Why, he recommended them to lose no time, and thinking, perhaps, of the maxim, "bis dat qui dat cito," the hon. Member threatened the Government with public indignation in case of delay. Nothing that had fallen from the hon. Member had altered his view of this matter, fortified as he was, not only by a conviction, but by the opinion which had been quoted by his hon. Friend, and by the general opinion of the country, and while he regretted the necessity which imposed on the Government the duty of taking hostile measures against any nation, and especially against one between which and ourselves nothing but an intercourse of a commercial nature had taken place, he felt we should abandon our duty if we hesitated to use those means which the honour and interests of the country demanded.

Sir R. Peel

said, our relations with China were at present in a very complicated state, and it was possible that the result might be embarrassing in the highest degree. With regard to the compensation due to the merchants, conceiving that their claims were well founded, and that they were entitled to compensation from some source, he feared that the burthen of compensating them would fall on British trade and commerce. Although we might be able to find sufficient funds for the purpose, and although they might, in the first instance, be procured from the Chinese, it was the commerce of this country which would ultimately suffer. He still thought, the course taken by the Government could not be justified; for while the insults which had been offered to British subjects by the Chinese government were unjustifiable, he felt that the complication of affairs was mainly attributable to the want of proper foresight and precaution on the part of the Government, A series of proceedings had taken place which had ended in acts of violence, but these acts were not to be judged of abstractedly and with reference merely to their own character, but they must be looked at in connexion with the whole series of transactions, and he believed they might have been guarded against had the Government exercised a proper degree of precaution and looked forward to contingencies which might have been regarded as highly probable. He had not heard that part of the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Newark which the noble Lord had commented upon in so harsh a tone, but he felt sure that his hon. Friend was actuated by no other feeling than his own strong and conscientious feeling against the acts of the Government, which he considered to be acts of injustice, and such as were not warranted by the circumstance of the case. He thought that the noble Lord, in denouncing the principles which he attributed to his hon. Friend the Member for Newark, had himself gone a little too far; for the noble Lord said, that it was utterly inconsistent with either law, justice, or morality, for a nation to enforce its demands by seizing on the property of innocent individuals. [Viscount Palmerston: On their persons.] He thought there was no distinction in principle between seizing their property and their persons. The noble Lord compared such a proceeding to the practices of the banditti of Italy and Spain; but how had the noble Lord acted with regard to the sulphur question? Why, he had issued orders for seizing the property and persons of Neapolitan subjects, so that the noble Lord took the very course that he had denounced without qualification; he seized on the ships, the property, and the persons of individuals who were perfectly innocent, not for the purpose of inflicting wrong upon them, but in order to procure redress from the Neapolitan government. Did the noble Lord recollect the Dutch embargo? He in that case felt himself under the necessity of seizing the property and persons of Dutch merchants, who were as innocent of the cause of dispute as he (Sir R. Peel) was, because it was thought that their detention would be likely to raise such a clamour against the Dutch government as would induce that government to do justice. These in. stances proved that it was necessary to qualify the propositions which the noble Lord had laid down in so peremptory a form.

Mr. Hawes

said, that the hon. Member for Newark appeared to forget that the Chinese government had invited the government of this country to send an officer to take the superintendence of the trade on the expiration of the East India Company's charter. An edict was issued on the subject, and therefore the British superintendent was recognized by the Chinese government. There was no doubt of the brutal and inhuman treatment the representative of the British Government and the British residents had received, and that, he conceived, was a good ground for demanding reparation from the Chinese government. The question was of the greatest importance to our commercial policy. He thought hon. Gentlemen opposite were hardly entitled to say, that a war had actually commenced with China. He hoped that a strong demonstration of the power of Great Britain might be the means of procuring something like justice from that barbarian government. The conduct of Captain Elliot had been characterised by the greatest possible energy and discretion, in circumstances of almost unparalleled difficulty; and for the property which had been unjustly seized, the British Government were bound to exact compensation at the point of the bayonet.

Mr. Hume

admitted the illegality of the traffic in opium, but contended, that from the moment British subjects at Canton were placed in prison to the danger of their lives the Chinese became the aggressors, and the British Government were bound to insist upon reparation; but, at the same time, he could not think that her Majesty's Ministers had adopted the wisest course in refusing, while they sanctioned the conduct of Captain Elliot, to recognise the claims of the British merchants to compensation. Considering the vicinity of China to the Burmese empire, he could not help thinking, that the peace of India greatly depended on our vindicating British supremacy before China.

Mr. Maclean

said, that looking at the facts of Captain Elliot's imprisonment, and the subsequent proceedings of the Chinese, he was not prepared to say that the Government was wrong in the steps it had taken to vindicate the national honour. But there were many other circumstances attendant on this transaction, which had not been properly investigated, and he did think that there were strong claims in behalf of British merchants, on the Government for compensation. An immense quantity of property was given up by British merchants to Captain Elliot, on his requisition, he undertaking to pay for it, and giving certificates for some portion, and drawing bills of exchange on the Government for the remainder. Yet her Majesty's Government did not intend to recognise this act of Captain Elliot's. He thought this was not fair or just to the British merchant. It might be a delicate thing to admit a claim for compensation to the amount of 2,400,000l. worth of opium; but it was not a delicate thing for the Government to recognise that British merchants had some claim against them for the destruction of that property, on the destruction of which, the Government founded its own claim for compensation against China. He thought that the Government ought not to do more than exact from the empire of China a just retribution for the injuries received. But what he wished to know was, whether compensation was to be exacted from them for the property destroyed, or simply for personal injury? If the Government did not admit the claim of the merchants on them, they would be placed in a delicate situation when they came to make the demands on the Emperor of China, and, if they did not admit the claim, he thought they would act not only without sufficient consideration for the interests of the mer- chants, but shake the confidence, not merely of our own merchants but of other nations, in the future acts of our accredited officers.

Mr. Elliot

acknowledged the consideration shown in a former debate, by the hon. Gentlemen opposite, to his relative, Captain Elliot, who had been placed in a situation of difficulty and embarrassment. On the present occasion, however, his conduct had been made the subject of one or two attacks. The hon. Member for Essex had charged Captain Elliot with identifying himself with the opium trade, because he had sent to the admiral on the eastern station for a man of war. Now, this proceeding coincided with the advice of the Duke of Wellington, which it had been made a charge against the Government that they had not acted on. The hon. Member had also said, that Captain Elliot had withheld from the merchants at Canton a communication, which he received from the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, cautioning him not to give protection to the merchants engaged in the smuggling trade. In this statement the hon. Member was entirely mistaken, for Captain Elliot published the communication in the papers of Canton. The next charge brought by the hon. Member against Captain Elliot was, that he allowed the opium to be landed under his guns; but if the custom-house officers of the country did not prevent the landing of the goods, what authority had Captain Elliot to interfere? The noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, had distinctly stated that the community in Canton were in no danger until the arrival of Captain Elliot there, implying thereby, that Captain Elliot was the cause of all the risk in which they were placed; and in proof of his statement he quoted from evidence which had been merely obtained with reference to the question of compensation. He (Mr. Elliot) had, in order to put the matter in a right position, cross-examined the witnesses, and the result was, that they admitted that a memorial, setting forth that the British inhabitants of Canton felt both their lives and property in a position of fearful jeopardy previous to the arrival of Captain Elliot, had been signed by all the principal merchants there. He had also felt it his duty to ask several of the witnesses, Mr. Jardine among the number, whether, from any circumstances which had occurred within their experi- ence, they could form any judgment what the proceedings of Commissioner Lin might be? and they replied that his conduct completely baffled their judgment. After this sort of evidence had been given, it was hardly fair in hon. Members opposite to endeavour to make out a case by garbling evidence.

Mr. Muntz

thought the Government would not have been fit to administer the affairs of the country another day, if they had not had spirit to demand reparation for the insults heaped on this nation.

Mr. J. A. Smith

condemned the conduct of the Government with regard to the compensation part of the question. After the conduct of Captain Elliot, he did not see how it was possible to refuse the merchants compensation, whether that compensation was ultimately paid by the Chinese or the British Government. The disavowal of that particular act of Captain Elliot was calculated to destroy all confidence in the agents of the British Government. Captain Elliot's name would be dishonoured, commercially speaking, from one end of the kingdom to the other, and yet he was still retained in his post. The Ministry appeared to have acknowledged all Captain Elliot's acts which they thought tended to their own interests, while they disavowed others when it suited their own purpose. Nevertheless the policy of the Government in the war had his entire and most sincere concurrence. He thought the war was just. He believed that the way to produce a good system of commercial intercourse with China was to exhibit a large British force on that part of the world.

Mr. W. Hobhouse

thought that the Government could not have awarded compensation for the opium surrendered, because, in giving the orders on the British Government, Captain Elliot had exceeded his instructions, but yet he thought that Captain Elliot was properly retained in her Majesty's service as commissioner, because he had acted in that. instance under duress, and for the purpose of saving the lives and properly of the British community.

Resolution agreed to.