HC Deb 01 June 1860 vol 158 cc1893-5

said, before the noble Lord replied to the question put to him by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Wyld) he wished to allude to the appointment of foreign inspectors in the Chinese ports. Now, as it seemed that we were to have another war with China, which he trusted would soon be followed by peace, it was more necessary than ever that British affairs in China should be put on such a footing as would meet with the approval of the British subjects resident there. From what fell from the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary a few evenings since, he seemed to think that there was a perfect concurrence and unanimity in this country in regard to the well working of the present system of inspectorship, but that was by no means the case. He was aware that some persons thought it the best one, but there were very many strong arguments against it. It was certainly a most anomalous state of things that foreign merchants should collect the revenues of another Tower and should hand over to its Treasury the funds that might be employed in carrying on hostilities against their own country. He would also call the attention of the noble Lord to the position of Hong-Kong. At the present moment that port was a free port but if this country was to persist in establishing a cordon of Custom-house ports along the whole coast of China, what would be the result as regards our own possessions? Why we should be actually doing our best to destroy the interest of the British establishments in that quarter, and the large amount of British property invested in Hong Kong. It was almost impossible that a complete organization of those Custom-house ports could take place. He doubted whether the Treaty powers would cordially co-operate in that arrangement. The Trench certainly had but little interest in it either way; but it was the opinion of those connected with the Chinese trade, that the Americans were very unwilling that the system should be adopted. At Shanghae they had declined to become joint assessors, and at Canton had also raised difficulties, in fact, had refused altogether. At Swatow the same objections were raised. He could not, therefore, conceive it possible that a full system of Custom-houses, with European inspectorship, could be introduced along the coast of China. But if it were not a complete system, the duties would be charged only at the regular ports, and smuggling would be encouraged at other points to the detriment of legitimate trade. He certainly hoped that the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office would give the subject his full consideration, and take the opinion of those who were most competent to form one, before adopting the system as if it were universally approved of.


said, he wished to say a few words in consequence of the disparaging remarks which the hon. Member for Poole had made against a deserving public servant. In the course of his historical sketch of our relations with Persia the hon. Member came to the name of Mr. Murray, and asked who he was, at the same time answering his own question by saying that he was a gentleman known to the public only through his having written a work upon North America.


I said he was best known to the public by that work—not that he was known only by it.


said, that neither of these disparaging descriptions was justified by Mr. Murray's previous career. Mr. Murray was a gentleman of extreme ability, talent, and energy, who had filled several situations of trust and responsibility, and he had always discharged his duties in a manner that gave complete satisfaction to those who appointed him. Was the hon. Member not aware that Mr. Murray was for a considerable period Consul General at Cairo— an office of very great importance, which brought him in direct connection with Constantinople, and commanded the key to all that was going on both in Persia and India? Than such a situation there could be no better training school for the high diplomatic employment which that gentleman had since obtained. By his acquirements as a linguist Mr. Murray-was also eminently qualified for the position he had held. With respect to the transactions connected with the late war with Persia, his conduct might or might not have been prudent. The matter had, however, been fully sifted in that House at the time when the hon. Member for Poole was himself in office; and, as the hon. Member did not then raise his voice against these transactions, he left it to be inferred that they had his fullest approval. Having had the privilege of Mr. Murray's acquaintance for thirty years, he trusted the House would excuse the few observations he had made.


as a personal friend of Mr. Murray, also wished to say a single word in his behalf, (Cries of "Spoke" when the hon. Gentleman resumed his seat.)