HC Deb 13 July 1860 vol 159 cc1887-912

House in Committee.

Mr. MASSEY in the Chair.

£443,896 Repayment of Advances on account of former Expeditions to China.


I should like to ask whether any Member of the Government can tell us when the East India Company announced to the Imperial Government that the money was not only-due, but that payment was expected during the present financial year?


In point of fact the true explanation of this case is to be found in the nature of the system which prevails between the two Governments, whereby payments are in fact allowances made on an open account. The British Government has at present, under the system under which it supplies so very large a British force to India, very large claims against the Indian Government, and the consequence of that is that the Indian Government can withhold satisfaction of the claims sent to them, and thus pay themselves. The British Government is not in a state to prevent the operation unless in case we happen to be debtors to the Indian Government, and then it is a question of account before the balance is liquidated. I think the question of my noble Friend is, when the Government became aware that the Indian Government had made these stoppages. I can ascertain that exactly by inquiry. I myself was not aware of it until a fortnight or three weeks ago. I believe that before the commencement of the last quarter the Treasury were made aware of it, but I only knew of it within the last two or three weeks, since the time when my statement was made to Parliament with respect to Chinese expenditure. Upon inquiry a more particular answer can be given to the question.


I wish to ask the right hon. Secretary for War how soon he thinks the Returns will be laid on the Table for which I moved the day before yesterday, as I think it will throw light on the subject?


I will take care that it shall be laid on the table as soon as possible, but I am afraid it will not throw any great deal of light upon the subject, because I stated that the figures were entirely conjectural, and of course the Government will not be bound by a Return of that character.


I wish to ask a question of some Member of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the amount of force out in China. If I am not mistaken, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India stated that the amount of force ordered was not more than 10,000 men. We hear now that there are 20,000 men there. I will not go into the question whether 20,000 were necessary, or 10,000 not enough. I believe that for any purpose contemplated by the Government, however unjust, 10,000 would be ample. But I should like to know who ordered that increase of force—whether it was the decision of the Cabinet, whether it was the decision of some authorities in India, or whether it was the decision of the Horse Guards at home. It makes a great difference in the expense, which embarrasses the House and is embarrassing and threatens to be very perilous to the Government. I do not know whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, the Secretary of State for War, or the Secretary of State for India can answer,—because it may be under either of those four heads; but can any one tell us anything about it? The House has a right to know. I, therefore, take the liberty of putting a distinct question, and I hope I shall have a distinct answer.


I think that on a former occasion both myself and my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for India, stated the intentions of the Government as to what force should be employed. I should say that Estimates framed by the Earl Canning, on the representations of Lord Clyde, differed from the estimate at which we arrived. When first we became aware of the events which took place at the Peiho, we sent reinforcements to the garrisons of the ports in China, fearing some general rising against the European population, and thinking it better to have at those ports a sufficient force to guard British life and property. We stated at the same time that it was the intention of the Government to send, in the spring, a larger force for operations in the North. The Indian Government wrote to us that they were about to send a force, on the whole, larger than we contemplated. We endeavoured to arrest their departure by communication; but it is not so easy to conduct war at that immense distance; especially as the basis of operations was beyond the reach of constant communication with ourselves. Under those circumstances a larger force was sent. The force now in China amounts to between 17,000 and 18,000 men. The expeditionary force itself is about 10,000. The rest form the garrison, and there are about 1,700 men detained at Singapore as a reserve.


I do not ask any question about the French force, and I do not know that we have anything to do with it; but, of course, the amount of the French force bears on the necessity of so large an English force. I should like to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will lay upon the table of the House any correspondence between the Government and the Government of India upon this subject? Bad as our condition is, it will be ten times worse if Lord Clyde, or any one else, can send off 10,000 men without orders from the Cabinet; and, without knowing what policy is to be pursued, can ship off some 5,000 or 10,000 men numberless miles further, and then send in the bill for payment to the English nation. Nothing is more likely to preserve our finances in a chronic state of embarrassment, and cause endless difficulty to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Of course there must be despatches; and I wish to know whether the Government will let the House know by whose authority, and in what manner, this extraordinary act has been committed, by which an unnecessarily large force is accumulated in China—increasing the temptation to the authorities there to enter into warlike proceedings; aggravating the expenditure, and therefore increasing the taxation of the people. If the Government tell us they will give the despatches, we shall know all about it; all which the statement of the right hon. Gentleman does not tell us, and which ought to be known.


I will look through the despatches and see if they can be given; hut, of course, many communications took place by telegraph. Let me add, that Lord Clyde had been in China; and it was not unnatural that Earl Canning should be influenced by his opinion. I know that the opinion of Lord Clyde was, that a large demonstration was more likely to terminate these differences rapidly, and prevent the effusion of blood; and therefore to say that the act was without the consent of the Cabinet, when it was only in anticipation, is to cast blame when it is not deserved.


I am not about to cast blame. What I want to know are the facts. But I protest against the assumption just made that Lord Clyde thought this or that. I might think that a great demonstration would prevent the effusion of blood; but, whatever I might think, neither I nor Lord Clyde had a right to send a single soldier beyond what was or- dered by the Government. If the course to be taken is to be dictated by public servants thousands of miles off, the Cabinet may as well be dethroned, and the House of Commons may as well abdicate its functions.


There is another point of great importance. This House ought to be in possession of accurate details of the monthly expenditure with regard to this war. We have 17,000 men in China, but those 17,000 men are attended by a very large number of camp followers. There is also a large Transport Service, and the price of coal is 60s. or 70s. a ton. The cost, therefore, of carrying on warfare at that distance must be enormous. I believe that this war will last for a very long time, and under the present policy I do not see any end to it. But it will not do for the hon. Member for Manchester to object. It is really a Manchester war. It was originally got up for the purpose of creating traffic with China, and forcing our manufactures upon that people. I do not see how it is possible for my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester to stand up and find fault with a war which he and his Friends were the first to commence. But we ought to consider the position in which we are placed. We can exercise no control. The Governor General sends on troops when he pleases, and the accounts are always running. We shall find our finances in a very extraordinary state if we do not very speedily bring the matter within compass; and, as a first step, we ought to know what are the actual monthly outgoings.


I trust the House will allow me to interfere for a moment. The hon. Gentleman ought first to recollect that I am not the Member for Manchester; and, secondly, that there have been no greater opponents of mine in that city than those who are connected with the China trade. It was exactly upon that question that I ceased to be Member for Manchester. Further than that, the House must recollect that the origin of all the calamities in China, as stated by the hon. Member for Lanarkshire, has been connected with the trade in opium and not the trade in cotton. If there be any Friend of mine who believes that honest trade can be promoted by this policy, I can only say I will utterly repudiate him and his views.


I was anxious to rise before the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), in order by my independent evidence to exculpate him. But while exculpating him there are others who do deserve blame. I remember once a majority against the noble Lord at the head of the Government, joined by the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, the right hon. Secretary for War, and the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. They were all then virtuously indignant at this Chinese war. We were told that we had so advanced in knowledge that we ought to set an example in virtue and forbearance; but that we were about to impose by force, on a people who in religion were much beneath us, and in virtue could not dare to compete with us, a traffic which was odious to them; that we were about to send a force to thurst down the throats of that people a drug the consumption of which violated one of the first principles of their morality. And there was a party in this country—connected, I believe, with Manchester, but to which I do not say that the hon. Member for Birmingham did then, or does now, belong—who sided with the noble Lord at the head of the Government in a war with China. The House of Commons placed these men in a minority. The noble Lord then appealed, as the cant phrase is, to the country. The country gave him an acquittal, and supported him in the policy which he had adopted, and now we have to pay for it. We are not yet at the end of the Bill, though. At the commencement of the Session we were told that the Estimates would be laid on the table, and that we should soon know what the China war would cost us. The Estimates were laid on the table. Persons whose ill fate it always is to find fault, said we did not know what the whole amount would be; and in reply they were told that they were always groaning, always grumbling, always prophesying evil. Then came the Chancellor of the Exchequer with a Bill of £4,000,000 more. But £4,000,000 more is not the end of it. And what has all this outlay been for? The original object of this war was to maintain the opium trade for India. That was the end which the war was really intended by the country and by the Government to attain. The House of Commons repudiated the transaction; but the people of the country, fascinated by the prospect of getting our manufactures introduced into China, aided and abetted the Government in a most immoral war. I am glad that there is a Nemesis. The punishment has followed swiftly on the crime. We have now £4,000,000 of money to pay; and the happy expectation is, that to the Bill £4,000,000 more will soon be added. [An Hon. MEMBER: "It will be £6,000,000.] Aye, £6,000,000, I warrant you, and more than that. The people of this country must learn that they cannot break through the great principles of justice and morality and expect to retain the good opinion of the world. This House—no, not this House, but one which preceded it—did its best to prevent the calamity. The present House has aided and assisted, as much as it could, the noble Lord in the career in which he is now running. We are now reaping the first fruits of his policy; the last fruits we have yet to see. It will be a lucky thing if we see them twenty years hence.


I have to offer an apology to my hon. Friend opposite for having connected his name with the imputation which I cast on that section of politicians to whom I believe this war is duo. I had not the honour of a seat in the House at the time when these occurrences took place, and I had forgotten some of the circumstances. But in my place in this House, I must express my conviction that the Chinese war was originated by the pressure of that party in this House, and that if that war be not arrested, its consequences will prove highly disastrous to this country.


observed that nothing could be more natural than that Earl Canning should be guided by the opinions of Lord Clyde; but he should be glad to know whether Lord Clyde was aware of the amount of force sent by the French to China, and of the policy of the Government at home when he recommended the additional men to be sent.


said, he trusted that the House, and especially those who represented the commercial party in it, would profit by the severe lesson which was now being administered. He hoped that the policy which had involved us in that war would be abandoned; that the desire to extend our commerce would not be indulged beyond its legitimate bounds; and that we should not again be driven to support our commercial policy by force of arms.


said, the preparations in India were made in the first instance without any instructions from home, upon the receipt of the intelligence from China of the affairs at the Peiho. The consequence was that a much larger force was ultimately sent to China than was thought necessary by the Cabinet. Even after the instructions had been sent out to India, Earl Canning still doubted the expediency of sending so small a force to China, and on the advice of Lord Clyde recommended the employment of a much larger force.


said, that he had been for some weeks engaged in assisting a friend of his in bringing under the consideration of the Government a mine in Formosa, from which, it was alleged, coal could be raised at a cost of from 6s. to 12s. per ton. He was desirous of knowing whether the Government had taken any steps in the matter.


said, they were now called upon to vote £443,896 for a purpose which had nothing to do with the present war, and he therefore hoped that that war would be left entirely out of consideration while that item was being discussed. The observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) showed that they were in imminent danger of bills being run up on account of India which this country would have to pay. Such was the position in which they now stood. This £443,896 had been so incurred, but no Gentleman could now object to its being paid. He did not, however, think that any Gentleman knew for what that debt had been incurred, and he submitted, therefore, that the Government ought to prepare a balance-sheet showing the purposes to which it had been applied. It was obvious, now that the old Government of India was done away with, we were in still greater danger than we were during its existence of having more debts of a similar kind incurred, which of course would have to be paid. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had stated that there had been no settlement come to with the Indian Government since 1848. That was eleven years ago, and other debts night have been incurred since. He should, therefore, like to know up to what period this £443,896 would balance the account. Did it clear the account up to 1858–59? He believed not. He bad also understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that there was a sum of £281,000 yet in dispute. Was there still a large amount outstanding on account of a previous China war? These were points which the Committee should clearly understand, before they passed the Vote now applied for. They ought to be specially guarded upon this point, because they had heard from the right hon. Gentleman that an account was already running up with the Indian Government amounting to nearly £2,000,000 for the present war. The Vote under consideration was only a sample of others which would follow in the course of time. There was no hope, he supposed, of finding out how the debt was incurred; but it was the duty of the Committee to insist upon the production of a balance-sheet, showing how the Indian Government ran up these accounts against the British purse. Unless they did that the two finances would become perplexingly intermixed. He had the greatest fears for the finances of India; those of our own country did not present a very pleasant prospect. It was high time that steps should be taken to check these demands upon the national Exchequer. He therefore requested the Secretary of War to state distinctly the period up to which this sum of £443,896 balanced the account, and whether there was any other debt still outstanding.


said, this was the third time this country had been compelled to wage war with China, and on each occasion it was for pretty nearly the same cause—namely, their utter disregard of treaties we had made with them, and our obstinate persistence in our own course. By the two former wars we were compelled to garrison Hong Kong and Canton. The present war arose from our insisting upon the strict observance of the third article of the Treaty of Tien-tsin. That treaty entitled us to have an ambassador at Pekin. But how did we attempt to carry that into effect? We made a military demonstration, and we told the Chinese we could only approach the capital in our own way. But instead of insisting upon what we considered a fit and suitable mode of approaching their capital we might have done the same as the Americans, who were quite as tenacious as ourselves of their dignity, and have followed the advice of the Chinese Government by taking a different route. Had this been done our Ambassador would have been received with honour, our treaty confirmed, and this war rendered unnecessary. But we had obstinately pursued our course, and what was the result? Brave lives and British blood had been sacrificed, and no benefit had been obtained. Our pertinacity, obstinacy, and pride had been the cause of all this. He did not doubt that we should be victorious in the present war, and that we should get another treaty, or a piece of paper containing certain conditions. But to ensure those conditions being adhered to, what must be done? Were our men to remain in China and garrison the Peiho? Nothing short of this would secure the performance of those conditions, and we should further have to garrison Hong Kong, Canton, and Shanghae. This would impose a permanent charge upon the country which he was sure would not be submitted to. Under these circumstances he hoped Her Majesty's Government would regard more attentively the probabilities of the future, and provide in some better manner than had hitherto been done for the ratification of the treaty which would follow a successful termination of this war.


said, he wished to make a suggestion in reference to the expense of the war in connection with our occupation of Canton. He was told that the English authorities kept order in the town, paid the police and other expenses, and then handed over the balance to the Chinese Treasury. He also heard that the Governor of Canton was most anxious that we should still occupy the town, because we gave him a larger revenue than he ever had before. The people, on their part, were equally anxious, because they were protected in purse and in person, which had never been the case before. Now it appeared to him that that balance of the revenue, instead of being placed at the disposition of the Governor of Canton, ought to be paid into a reserve fund to provide for any indemnity which we might require in future from the Chinese on account of their well-known disregard of treaties, and our consequent loss and misfortune. He entirely concurred with the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) in the sentiments he had expressed, and no one admired more than he the humane policy of modern times, which mitigated the horrors of war as far as the unarmed and defenceless population of a country was concerned. But he was bound to say that he thought it was carrying that principle a little too far when warfare was made so agreeable to our enemies that the event they regarded with the most dissatisfaction was the return of peace.


The hon. Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) has demanded a balance-sheet. In that demand I fully concur. But there is another thing for which I would also ask, and that is that Her Majesty's Government should tell us what we are to gain by this war. What object have they in view, and what benefit is to be conferred by so extraordinary an expenditure of blood and treasure as that now contemplated? It was my fate to sit on the benches opposite, just under the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he delivered a speech to this House, than which I never heard one more startling, which more enchained attention, or which more completely won admiration and esteem. He then, Sir, fulminated against the Administration of that day for undertaking a Chinese war. He pointed out how vain were the ends they sought; and how mischievous were the means they took to attain those ends. But now, places being changed, opinions change, and I find him supporting the very vote which on that occasion he described as a disgrace to the country. The very words of that speech are now ringing in my ears, and I recollect turning round to the right hon. Gentleman and expressing to him—very presumptuously perhaps, but very sincerely—my earnest admiration both of the sentiments he then expressed and the manner in which he uttered them. Little did I think it would be my fate within three years to sit opposite that right hon. Gentleman, and find him the most eloquent supporter of this most atrocious proceeding. At that time, Sir, he spoke with an eloquence which was impressive, startling, and affecting. There could be no mistake as to his meaning, and no doubt as to his feelings. He did not then cover up his meaning with a multitude of words. He did not on that occasion smother his feelings in a multitudinous assemblage of verbiage. Not a bit of it. He was plain, succinct, and, on that occasion, very effective. So much so, indeed, that the effect of his speech on my mind, and upon the mind of the country, has lasted to this hour; and if I want a strong argument against the Chinese war, I have only to go to the quiver of the right hon. Gentleman and draw out the most effective arrow that could be discharged against that project. But, Sir, I want to know why this change has taken place. How is it that that which in 1857 was considered so very immoral becomes in 1860 so very right and proper? And why, descending from one step to another, do we find the right hon. Gentleman now an advocate for that which he then most violently and most success- fully attacked? I would again ask any right hon. Gentleman on the Ministerial benches to state to this House the object which they expect to gain, and what benefit they expect this country to derive from an expenditure of blood and treasure, the end of which we do not now see, and from the violation of every principle of morality which was in 1857 so effectively defended by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would ask him, and his colleagues who on that occasion went with him into the lobby, how it is that, on this occasion, black has become white and white has become black?


Sir, I feel no difficulty whatever—[Much laughter.] I was going to add, if I had not been interrupted by the humorous reception of my first words, that I felt no difficulty whatever, although I felt a good deal of pain, in answering the challenge of the hon. and learned Gentleman. He asks how it is possible for a man to be so inconsistent as to have objected to a war with China in 1857, and to be the supporter of a Vote to carry on a war with China in 1860? The explanation of the fact, I apprehend, is this:—The nature of these two wars is entirely distinct—their causes are entirely different. It may be that the war in 1857 was right and the present war is wrong; or it may be that the present war is right and the war of 1857 was wrong; or it may be that both are right, or it may be that both are wrong. Without inflicting a multitudinous assemblage of words upon the hon. and learned Gentleman, there is here an abundant choice of alternatives. With respect to the present war, I hope I have never spoken of it in any other terms except those of the deepest regret and lamentation. I conceive that the steps taken by the Government have been adopted in conformity with their public duty, and, painful as that duty has been, I do not think that that opinion has been at all confined to such Members of the House as have changed places since 1857, because the policy of the Government had not been challenged in this House. And, though I for one have seen with the greatest satisfaction that the House was disposed to deplore the occurrences which have rendered the war with China inevitable, yet I think hon. Gentlemen, generally speaking, admit the existence of its necessity. When we found what had taken place at the mouth of the Peiho, the hon. and learned Gentleman will, I am sure, admit that while we deemed it to be our duty, in the interests of our countrymen and humanity at large, to send a considerable force to China, we at the same time manifested a desire to make that force the bearer of a message containing terms as moderate as it was possible for us, under the circumstances, to propose. I do not believe any hon. Gentleman has stated it to be his belief that those terms inclined to the side of violence or severity. Sir, I, for one, have ventured, perhaps in excess of my duty, to point out in remarks lately made in this House what I consider to be the root of these wars. I have never attempted to dissemble in this matter, or to gloss over the evils in respect to it with which we were called upon to deal by an appeal to national pride. Upon the contrary, it has always appeared to me right that the House should be afforded a full view of the enormous cost of this war, and should be made alive to the possibility of the renewal from time to time of a great expenditure for the prosecution of hostilities with China, unless we adopt wise and prudent rules to guide us in all our transactions in the East. I cannot regret that hon. Members should have an opportunity of daily weighing all the social and political responsibility which this quarrel involves. I, therefore, feel I have no reason to shirk the questions which, in a temper of which I have no reason to complain, have been put to me by the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite.

I now turn to the observations of the hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) who has expressed a wish to know what the monthly disbursements are on account of this war with China. My answer to the hon. Gentleman must be that it is entirely beyond our power to furnish him with any trustworthy accounts of that nature. In regard to a war of that nature, having its basis of operations in India, it would be a mockery to attempt to render any precise information, such as that for which the hon. Member asks. I may, however, state that we have framed the best estimates in our power from such unofficial data as the Indian Government have supplied, and our knowledge of what has actually taken place in China. We are not, I may add, aware that there is any ground for the assertion which is made by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield and others, that all the money which we require at your hands has been already spent, and that many more millions will be required in order to defray the expenses of the year. At the same time I feel it my duty frankly to state, now that hostilities have broken out, that this whole matter is full of uncertainty. One piece of information, I may say in conclusion, which I can give the hon. Member for Portsmouth—if he should wish to have it—is the amount of the draughts drawn by the Treasury Chest in China upon the Treasury at home, with the view mainly of meeting the expenses of the war. But even that account, if furnished, would not be very explicit, inasmuch as the ordinary and extraordinary expenditure could not be distinguished on the face of it. It simply remains for me to add that the Government are in possession of no information on this subject which they are not desirous to lay before the House.


reminded the right hon. Gentleman that he had not answered the question put to him by the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) with respect to the advances made by the East India to the Home Government.


said, the estimated amount of those advances during the years 1848–49 and 1858–59, was £281,396, while the charge at the end of last year, on account of the Indian military force sent to China, was £82,500, there being a further charge of of £80,000 for the augmentation of that force, which sums, added together, gave the total of £443,000 and odd, provided for in the Estimate which had been laid on the table. His right hon. Friend near him (Mr. Sidney Herbert) had read a document to the Committee in which it was stated, and he believed with truth, that the accounts for the last China war were not yet closed, various items remaining over to be adjusted. So far, therefore, as the details of the expenditure were concerned, no balance-sheet had been rendered. The audit of those accounts was, however, in progress, and although several points with respect to them still continued open, he did think the sum dependent on those points for adjustment were very large.


said, the right hon. Gentleman had given no answer to the important question which had been put to him by the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield with reference to the objects of the war.


remarked that if the observations which the right hon. Gentleman had just made were to be regarded as furnishing an explanation of the policy of the Government in the case of China, he could only say that explanation left that which was before sufficiently inexplicable in total darkness.


said, he wished to know whether the Government could not place upon the table the balance-sheet to which he had drawn their attention, so far as it went.


said, he did not think there would be any advantage in producing a statement of accounts which he believed had been actually balanced only up to the end of 1854.


said, it would be useful to have a balance-sheet up to the year in which there was a balance.


The right hon. Gentleman has not deigned to give any reply to the questions which have been addressed to him as to the real objects of the war for which this Vote is to be taken. He, however, favoured us with a declaration, which I should have been glad to hear if it were of any practical value, to the effect that unless wise and humane rules were adhered to in the conduct of hostilities with China, nothing but evil could in his opinion result from the contest. But I may be permitted to remind the right hon. Gentleman that if such rules are observed something very different would have taken place from that by which preceding wars in China have been characterized. I may add, that although the right hon. Gentleman gives us no more satisfactory assurance than that which I just mentioned, he assumes a position which I venture to dispute, and which is that this House has sanctioned the war with China, and that it is being carried on with our full approval. Now, let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that this war was virtually commenced not only without the consent of Parliament, but that military proceedings had been entered upon and a large expenditure on account of it incurred even before Parliament assembled, and that this is really the first opportunity on which the opinion of the House of Commons has been tested on the subject. And how, let me ask, is that opinion now tested? Why, by laying before us a gigantic bill for a sum which has been virtually expended, and the payment of which we have, consequently, no power to resist. I am, however, happy to think that, so far as the debate to-night has gone, no inadequate test of the view which the House of Commons takes on this question has been afforded; and I would entreat the Government to reflect, to weigh well the fact, that scarcely a single Gentleman on either side of the House has in the course of this discussion risen to express any sympathy in the objects for which this war is undertaken. For my own part, I earnestly pray and hope that this melancholy and miserable contest may be brought to as speedy a termination as possible, and that the utmost consideratiun may in its prosecution be shown for the feelings of the Chinese people.


I have heard again from a Member of the late Government the expression of his ignorance of the objects of the war with China, but surely if any Gentlemen in this House ought to be informed as to the origin of that war, those are they who chose a Minister to go to China, who appointed an Admiral who was to command our vessels in the Chinese waters, who gave instructions to Mr. Bruce, and who directed from the Admiralty that he should be accompanied by a sufficient force, said one Minister; by an imposing force, said another Minister. We were, like the rest of the House, astonished, and at the same time grieved, by the arrival of the news from the Peiho. Those events were not of our preparation. We had not appointed the Minister, nor had we given him his instructions, but there came upon us this calamity, and now it appears that the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty hold us responsible for that calamity. Well, the noble Lord seems to think we were not afflicted by this intelligence. But we are not to be supposed to be less than other Members of this House, or than any person in this country, afflicted by this intelligence, or to grieve less for the loss of our countrymen. I apprehend that we regarded with more sorrow than any one else the renewal of the war. We did grieve deeply to receive this news, but it was not the less our duty to consider what, as the Ministers of our Queen and of the country, it behoved us to do under the circumstances. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Sykes) says, to my surprise, we might have taken the same course that the Americans took; but they took that course, not having sent out an imposing force to the Peiho, and not having endured this calamity. The time had passed. I am not now disputing whether that was a wise and a dignified course which was taken by the Americans, but the time had past when we could take that course. It seemed to us, not only from the first aspect of affairs, but from every account that came from China, that unless we asked for some reparation upon a basis honourable to this country, the lives and property of every British merchant and subject in China would be exposed to great danger. It was our business—it is our business—to protect the lives and the property of our countrymen. That duty we are bound to perform, and that duty we will perform. I am told that this war may cost much treasure. I regret much that our treasure should be lost. I am told that it may expose the lives of many gallant men. I lament that those lives should be exposed to danger. I lament the loss of life that may occur, but it is our business, as representing this great empire, to see that the subjects of this empire are not injured. It is our duty to see to that; but if the noble Lord or any one else thinks we are pursuing a wrong course, I can only say that at the commencement of the Session we described the general course we were pursuing, and, if I mistake not, we took a Vote of money on account of it. The noble Lord then, or any other Member, might have moved an Address to the Crown praying that no naval or military forces should be sent to China, that we should rest contented with the disaster at the Peiho, that we should not take any steps to resent it, but that we should continue, without the enforcement of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, upon our ordinary relations of peace without making any demand for reparation. That was in the noble Lord's power; and if his opinion is what it appears now to be, why did he not take that course, and boldly take the opinion of the House upon the subject? But no; the general opinion was that we could not sit down under the disaster. I am now told that for the sake of morality we should be satisfied. It is an odd way of teaching morality to say that a treaty having been made with a nation, when a Minister comes to ratify it, that nation shall not give him any notice that he will not be received if he conies by a certain route, but shall enter into apparently friendly relations with him, and receive his announcement that he intended to take a certain route, which was the common and usual route to the capital, and then that it should place in that route an army and cannon prepared with the exact range of his vessels, in order to destroy him. That is the way in which the Chinese endeavoured to teach us morality. I know not that by submitting to that course we shall be doing anything to promote morality. But it is quite certain that the terms we proposed, seeing what a dreadful calamity war is, were not severe terms, but were moderate terms, such as, no doubt, required a disavowal and apology for those proceedings; but as to the terms of our future relations upon which this nation proposed to live in amity with China, they were no other than the terms to which the Emperor of China had already given his solemn assent, to which we asked for no addition. We sought no additional articles, but we asked for the execution of the Treaty. I am told, and my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is told, that those who were against the war on a former occasion must also be against it on the present occasion. The cause of the war may be utterly different, and it is the most absurd thing in the world to say that because a man was against a war with a certain cause, therefore he should be against a war with a different cause. Mr. Burke was taunted in the same manner when he approved the French war. He was told, "You opposed the war with America, and it is inconsistent for you to support the French war." This argument is, that because you think there is not sufficient cause for one war, therefore there is not sufficient cause for any war. Sir, I do not disguise from myself, and none of Her Majesty's advisers disguise from themselves, the fact that the entering upon a new war with China is a great calamity. We believe that the Chinese themselves are not hostile towards English traders who resort to their shores, and we find that the relations of commerce have continued uninterrupted from the day of the events at the Peiho down to the present time. Our orders have always been to confine the war as much as possible to those who are engaged in hostilities, and not to extend its misfortunes to innocent persons pursuing their usual occupations, and who are willing to enter into relations of amity with us. I believe those relations exist and will continue, and that the struggle will be between Her Majesty's forces and the forces of the Emperor of the French on the one hand, and the forces of the Emperor of China on the other; and, so believing, I cannot but think that the war will be of short duration. But, at all events, as I have said, it is our duty to protect the lives and property of British subjects. Those lives and that property-have been endangered by an act of a Government which has made a solemn treaty with us; and when, in defiance of that solemn treaty, that Government sends a body of soldiers to attack our sailors and subjects, I say we are bound to demand some reparation for that injury, and to place our relations with that country in such a state that the Emperor of China and his Ministers shall respect this nation as one that is equal, at least, to the Chinese in all the qualities that become a great and independent nation.


Sir, I find it is said that this war is to be carried on in favour of commerce. As one somewhat interested with commerce, I must say I do not believe that so far as commerce is concerned there can be a more unfortunate event than this war. I say that for the protection of trade and of those engaged in trade it is not necessary that we should insist upon our Minister going up to Pekin. If the noble Lord had consulted those who are concerned in trade there, he would have learnt that it is not at Pekin that trade needs protection, but in those ports where commerce is carried on, and where alone British interests should be protected. The noble Lord says, "Why do you accuse us when you, when the Earl of Malmesbury, recommended that our Minister should go up to Pekin?" The representatives of trade will tell the noble Lord that these contests and struggles of party, so far from interesting them, are much against their interests; and if the only answer the noble Lord can give us is that his predecessors did something like what he has done, then I say that trade does not care for either but laments the acts of both. I am bound to say, although I speak in opposition to the opinions of a majority in this House, that I have lamented throughout the policy of this country towards China, and I regret that the policy of Sir John Bowring and the noble Viscount received the approval of the country. I believe that the policy then pursued was the most disadvantageous, I might almost say the most disgraceful, to the country. It has led to what has followed, and the noble Lord and those who sit with him on the Treasury bench may reconcile the fact as they please to their own consciences and feelings. It gave, I say, au impulse to the opposition to what they call in China foreign interference, and we are now reduced to this position—that if you go on with the war in China you may shake the dynasty that reigns there; for if you are successful the feeling in China is not with foreigners—with those whom they look on as barbarians; if you make the Emperor yield he yields against Chinese feeling, he may be shaken from his throne; you may introduce anarchy and confusion, and what you gain for trade you will get by upsetting all the established institutions in China. You are reduced to this most unfortunate alternative—you say you must avenge what has happened at Pekin. The noble Lord says we are to do that for trade, for the protection of the merchants. But we do not for that purpose want to force the passage of the Peiho; still less do we want a Minister at Pekin. The noble Lord said, the whole thing is now changed; Russia has a Minister at Pekin, therefore we must have a Minister at Pekin too. Now I do not want a Minister at Pekin unless it will benefit British interests, although Russia may have a Minister there. I believe Russia in old times had a representative at Pekin; but if we had a Minister at Pekin, and France had a Minister there, and the United States too, all they would do would be to quarrel with one another, to introduce a system of jealousy and confusion, as has been done in other countries by diplomatic bodies. We do not want diplomacy, but trade, in China, and we want protection in those places where trade is carried on. This is not to be gained by forcing the entrance of the Peiho or establishing a Minister at Pekin. The noble Lord said this war was a defence of morality—we must teach the Chinese morality.


I beg pardon of the hon. Gentleman. It was said on the other side that for the sake of morality we ought not to make war with China. I was answering that argument. I did not say we were teaching them morality.


One great mistake we have made all along in China is that we seem to think that country is like France, or any of the other Powers of Europe, and we must force on China the same arrangements we have established with those Powers with which we have been for a long time connected. I believe that China, in view and feeling, is perfectly distinct from other civilized countries. I believe that if you seek to force on China a system of diplomacy and policy like that established among the European Powers you will have a great deal before you. You will never do much except to damage the trade of this country and force yourselves into repeated, constant, and, perhaps, unfortunate wars.


said, the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) had asked what would be got by the war; the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne) had asked what was the object of the war; but, for his part, he should like to know if the object of France and England were exactly the same, and why the Earl of Elgin did not remain in China and see his own treaty carried into execution?


said, he would call the attention of the Government to only one point—how to prevent the recurrence of these wars. It was not fair for one party to cast blame on the other for these wars. Cabinets were mere puppets in such cases. They were invariably dragged into such contests by the unbridled combativeness of officials in those distant parts. Until they restrained the officials they employed they never would be able to prevent the recurrence of these wars. Mr. Bruce had led them into one war, Sir John Bowring had dragged them into another; Mr. Murray had dragged them into the Persian war, and the Marquess of Dalhousie into the Burmese war. If our officials led us into embarrassments with a European Power, as all officials thought themselves at liberty to do in Asia, they would be immediately recalled or disavowed; and until some condemnation was uttered, not only by that House, which had done its best, but by the Government, against those persons who had dragged us into these wars, it would be vain to suppose that any other measures they could adopt would be effectual to prevent their recurrence.


The noble Lord who has just sat down seems inclined to think that all the officials employed abroad by the Government in different administrations have violated their duty by dragging this country into unnecessary wars. I venture to say that if anybody will look into the circumstances to which he alludes he will find that these officials have done their duty and no more than their duty to this country. The hon. Gentleman who spoke before him greatly perverted and misrepresented the argument of- my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. He wished the Committee to understand that my noble Friend had said that we want to go to Pekin there to trade—"Why don't you go," said the hon. Gentleman, "to Ningpo, Shanghai, and Canton? If trade be your object, you ought not to insist on the terms you are requiring from the Chinese Government." But does the hon. Gentleman think that trade in a country like China can be secure unless your fellow subjects have certain rights and privileges assured to them? Does he think that a great number of British merchants would establish themselves on the coasts and in the towns of a remote country without any security whatever arising from the compacts made with the Government of that country that their persons and property would be safe? The hon. Gentleman knows commercial transactions too well, he is too well aware of the sentiments and opinions of merchants not to know that such a supposition is utterly inconsistent and untenable. It is perfectly well known that in order to enjoy good and advantageous trade with a country you must have treaty conditions and engagements by which your merchants who enter into transactions in that country may be secure, that they shall not suffer injustice either from individuals or from the Government. That is the object with which our treaties with China have been concluded. It is very well now to endeavour to treat lightly all such compacts obtained from the Chinese Government, but does the hon. Gentleman not remember with what acclamations of applause the treaty concluded by Sir Henry Pottinger was received in this country? Does he not recollect the anticipations which then prevailed in the mind of every one of the commercial advantages to be derived from that treaty? And although these anticipations may not have been realized to their full extent, yet allow me to say the increase of our commercial transactions with China since that treaty, and in consequence of that treaty, has been such as fully justified the policy of the Governments by whose instructions that treaty was concluded, and under whose auspices the ratifications were exchanged. Why, Sir, I had the honour of sending out the instructions under which Sir Henry Pottinger acted; the Earl of Derby's was the Government by whom that treaty was received, and who took credit for the transaction, and, so far from dealing with it as a light and insignificant treaty, were the first to proclaim that it would be attended with great advantage to the commercial interests of the country. After that came the transactions in the Canton river, to which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. B. Cochrane) traced the present war. Why, Sir, the present war has nothing whatever to do with those transactions. That is a most unjust and injurious charge to bring on the name of Sir John Bowring. Sir John Bowring had no more to do with the causes of the present state of affairs in China than the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. The late Government authorized the conclusion of the Treaty of Tien-tsin. The late Government sent out, as my noble Friend stated, a Minister, to be supported by a sufficient force, in order to exchange the ratifications of that treaty at Pekin. The Earl of Elgin was not sent out to establish a set of merchants at Pekin; but it was at Pekin, the seat of the Government, that the ratifications of the treaty with the Government were to be exchanged, and without that treaty all our commercial transactions at Canton, Shanghai, and Ningpo and the other parts of the Empire would have been placed in jeopardy. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baring) says we are dealing with the Chinese on the mistaken notion that they are to be dealt with according to the forms of diplomacy usual in Europe, that the Chinese Government are simple-minded men and know nothing of these forms. But he must know that, of all men, the Chinese attach the most importance to forms. With the Chinese forms are as vital as matters of substance. And, so far from their being ignorant of forms, there is no nation which attaches more importance to the most minute gradation of form, none with whom it is more essential to maintain your own dignity and assert your own rights by binding them with those formalities, the value of which they estimate as well as, if not better than, any other race. Well, our object was to obtain that ratification of the treaty which should be binding on the Emperor of China. The Emperor, by an edict which he ordered to be communicated to our Minister, sanctioned in the fullest manner every article and every word of the treaty; but he knew as well as anybody in Europe does that a treaty, until it has been ratified by the Sovereign, is not obligatory on the Sovereign by whose agents it has been concluded. Therefore, although by an edict addressed to his own Minister the Emperor of China acknowledged and approved every part of that treaty, yet by refusing to exchange the ratifications he endeavoured to hold himself free, and at liberty to break every stipulation to which he had given his sanction. That was a state of things to which it was impossible for the British Government to submit. It was necessary, therefore, that the ratifications should be exchanged, and that by the terms of the treaty itself could be done only at Pekin. It was, therefore, not, as the hon. Member implies, for the purposes of trade that our Minister was to go to Pekin, but to obtain at that capital the ratification of a treaty which was to give security to the trade carried on at other places. It is a gross misrepresentation to pretend, then, that we are going to Pekin for the benefit of trade at Pekin, when the fact is, our object is the benefit of the trade elsewhere. Pekin is the seat of the Imperial Government, where alone the ratification is to be obtained, and, unless it is obtained there, our commerce in every part of China must be insecure.

It is asked, "Why did you insist upon having direct communication with the capital—why did you insist on having a Minister there?" I say to that, ask those who sent out these instructions. If they do not choose to defend their own proceedings, I will give an answer for them. Ask any of our own merchants connected with China, or any of the merchants associated with them, and they will tell you that we have sustained very considerable inconvenience at different periods from being compelled to carry on our communications with the Chinese Government through their officers at the different outposts, who have played off against us all sorts of excuses and delays, pretending they have received no answer to our remonstrances, putting us off with one frivolous pretext and another, whenever we have complained of serious injuries or the violation of our rights. Everybody acquainted with China thinks we should have the power, whenever we choose, to hold direct communication with the seat of Government itself. What other country in the world with which we have commercial or political relations is there to the centre of whose Government we have not a right to go, and communicate either with the Sovereign or those who are responsible for the conduct of his affairs? I say that for us not to have the power of reaching Pekin and having a representative, either resident there or, at least, able to visit the capital periodically when cirumstances demand it, is to be placed in a position of inferiority in regard to the Chinese Government in which no country ought to stand in regard to another and which certainly the rela- tive importance of England and China does not require us to occupy. As my noble Friend has stated, the Government of Russia has a representative at Pekin; so that at once falls to the ground every pretence put forward on the part of the Chinese that it is contrary to their feelings and habits, or inconsistent with the stability of their empire that there should be a foreign Minister resident in their capital. The hon. Gentleman says our proceedings will defeat our very purpose by involving that vast empire in convulsion and anarchy. I believe no such thing. That may seem very good reasoning to those who cannot attack what they wish to impugn by arguments of a different kind. But I say that if we succeed, as I trust we shall at no distant time, in obtaining from the Emperor of China the full and formal ratification of the treaty he has concluded with us, I am convinced that, so far from this endangering his empire, by restoring friendly relations between him and the great Powers of the West, we shall add strength and security to his authority. The hon. Gentleman says we ought to bear patiently the gross insults and cruel outrages offered to us, and submit quietly to the perfidious attack which took place at the mouth of the Peiho. Why, what were the feelings of the people of this country when the news of that disaster reached them? Was there a man living here who would not have indignantly scouted any Government which should have come down to Parliament and said we ought passively to submit to that insult—that we ought to allow our fellow-subjects to be murdered, our treaty to be torn up as waste paper, every indignity and outrage to be heaped upon us; and all this, which would not be borne for a moment if it came from any other nation in the world, was to be endured because it was received at the hands of a remote and comparatively less civilized State. I say that if any Government had proposed to the country such a course of action it would have been visited with universal condemnation. We had no choice, then, as to the conduct to be pursued. The only question in regard to which we stand responsible to Parliament and the nation is this,—whether we have adopted adequate measures and means for obtaining redress for the injuries that have been sustained, and whether those measures have been wisely planned and those means judiciously applied to secure the object to which our expedition and our resources are directed, and I trust the result will answer those questions in the affirmative.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported on Monday next.

Committee to sit again on Monday next.