HC Deb 15 May 1863 vol 170 cc1783-803

rose to call the attention of the House to events in China, with a view of obtaining an expression of opinion from the House upon the course of policy pursued in that country. He felt that much apology was due from him to the House in asking attention to a subject so important, yet so vague, as our relations with the Chinese empire. But, he did so as an act of public duty, and without concert with any one, because he felt that the time had come when the House ought to review what had occurred in China, ought to inquire-and scrutinize strictly what was now going on in China, and—most serious consideration of all—ought gravely and deliberately to weigh the responsibility which necessarily attached to our position in that country. It was a long time since any debate on Chinese affairs had taken place, and during the interim very grave events had occurred. It was often remarked how great and how growing an interest was felt by all classes of this country in all matters relating to the conduct of our foreign affairs. The people had found out that upon our foreign policy—according as that policy had been unobtrusive and conciliatory, or otherwise—the burdens of the people mainly depended—they, rose and fell according to our foreign policy; and the result was, that the public mind had reached a juster appreciation than formerly of the principles which ought to guide our conduct with foreign nations. What was the principle, professed by the Government, and which had received the solemn approval of the country? It was non-interference in the affairs of foreign nations, as far as that was possible. This was the principle which was sternly and steadily pursued in our relations with America, during the whole course of the unhappy contest which was now raging there, and they had adhered firmly to it in spite of the appeal that would probably have been addressed to the House by the starving millions of Lancashire, and in spite of no small amount of provocation. It was curious, too, to observe the analogy existing in the position of America and China at the present time; each was using its utmost efforts to put down a vast internal insurrection—each apparently with about an equal chance of success. But what was the policy we were pursuing in China? It was of a totally different character. It was a policy of active interference in the internal affairs of a friendly State. And, what were the means by which we were carrying that policy out? We were endeavouring by force of arms to prop up a weak and corrupt Government against the efforts of its own subjects, who were bent upon subverting that Government; and this we were doing on behalf of a Government which we had done more than any other nation to weaken and degrade in the eyes of its own subjects. This was a policy difficult to conceive; still more difficult to execute. The noble Viscount (Viscount Palmerston) said, the other night, "It is not fitting for one nation to interfere in the internal affairs of another." With all deference and respect to the noble Viscount, he wished to ask him to explain how he reconciled the expression of that opinion with the policy he was now pursuing in China. He (Mr. Liddell) had said, that the Government of China was an effete and corrupt Government, and in proof of that he would adduce several high authorities. He would call the attention of the House to the opinions expressed by persons on the spot. Mr. Consul Meadows, writing to Earl Russell in February 1861, said, that the Imperial Government, which had hitherto become weak by internal causes, had received its death-blow from the external action, first of the British arms alone, and then of the French and British combined. Mr. Parkes, in writing to Mr. Bruce a little later, said, that the people had abandoned all hope of protection from the Government, One of the Chinese Viceroys had expressed to Mr. Parkes his opinion that the vice of the Government lay in the falseness of its system That being the condition of the Government, he would leave the House to judge of the difficulty of the task we had undertaken of maintaining it. He would now call the attention of the House to the state of China. A great rebellion existed there. He was not about to detain the House with any speculative notions on the subject of the religion of the Taepings; he was sceptical on that subject, and thought that too much attention had been given to the earlier representations of missionaries, which had since proved erroneous, in reference to their profession of Christianity. But what he wished the House to remember was, that the Taeping rebellion was an established fact of eleven years' standing, and that the rebels had for ten years held the ancient capital of the Chinese empire, Nankin. In the year 1853, one of the most remarkable military movements on record was conducted by the Taeping chiefs. Issuing from Nankin, they marched in a northerly direction by two routes towards Pekin, a distance of some 1,600 miles; and he believed that if they had effected their intended junction, Pekin would have fallen, and the Tartar Government of China would have long since ceased to exist. So much for the duration of the rebellion. It was a difficult task to attempt to justify the conduct of the rebels, and he should not make any such attempt; but he wished to remind the House that China was in a state of chronic anarchy. China was carrying on a civil war of immense magnitude. A civil war, as it was well known, was always accompanied with anarchy, rapine, bloodshed, and every horror that could disturb and distress a nation. Then, there was the habitual disregard of human life, which had always been a painful and distinguishing feature in the Chinese character. It belonged to the people, and its intensity has been increased by the excitement of civil conflict. He wished the House to bear this in mind, and not to be led away by eloquent declamations respecting the bloodshed and slaughter which had been perpetrated—for however great these cruelties had been, they were not confined to the rebels, but were chargeable to both sides. There was another thing which ought to be considered. Anarchy and civil war called into action all that was vicious and bad, all the worst elements in a country, and these elements were at work at this moment in China, and bands of marauders, wholly unconnected with the Taepings, ravaged the country in every direction, north, west, and south. No one in this country or even in China could tell how much of that country owned the Imperial rule, or what was the actual extent of the insurrection. It was however very important that we should consider what was the feeling of the rebels towards us; and he would endeavour, on the authority of persons on the spot, to show the real feelings of the Taepings in that respect. Consul Meadows, writing to Earl Russell in the early part of 1861, said there was a long succession of proofs that the Taepings desired to have friendly and commercial relations with us. Mr. Parkes, in his memorandum respecting the capture of Ningpo, in December 1861, said that the Ningpo rebels had shown the utmost desire to be on friendly terms with foreigners. Consul Harvey, writing some weeks after, stated that the insurgents continued to conduct themselves with moderation towards the Chinese, and showed a strong desire to cultivate a good understanding with foreigners; but he attributed this, moderation to fear and want of means. Mr. Harvey, writing to Mr. Bruce in March 1862, three months after the capture of Ningpo by the rebels, said— I have no bias one way or the other; and indeed I should state personally that I have received every mark of courtesy and proper regard from the Taeping chiefs; and further, I have found in official dealings with thorn a rough and blunt sort of honesty, quite unexpected and surprising after years of public intercourse with the Imperial mandarins. Nevertheless, the Taepings, with their frank demeanour and bluff energy, have a fume of blood and a look of carnage about them, from which I, for one, recoil with horror. He would leave the House to form its own estimate of these impressions. But he might say that Mr. Harvey's opinions were subject to sudden convulsions, and when Ningpo was re-captured his horror of carnage faded: when shot and shell from English men-of-war were poured into the crowded city for five hours without intermission, nothing more was heard about it. He must now go a little backward, and show that if a change had occurred in the feelings of the Taepings, it must be attributed more to our conduct towards them than to any design or intention on their part to injure British interests. He had read every sentence in the papers, and could not find a single proof that they had ever intentionally injured either British life or property in China. Let him remind the House of what had occurred at the close of the year 1860 at Shanghai. The attack on the part of the rebels was made by some 3,000 ill-armed men and boys. It had been doubted whether that was a bonâ fide attack or not. It was supposed that they had approached the city under a misunderstanding, partly deluded by the language of the missionaries, and partly by the promises of traitors, expecting to be received with open arms by the ill-disposed inhabitants within the walls as in 1854. They did not anticipate any resistance to their taking possession of the city, and had no intention of injuring the settlement. However, we opposed them with our forces, and they were mowed down by grape shot and musketry, and seeds of hostility were then sown in the minds of the whole rebel population of China. The only injury done to Shanghai was done by the French, who burnt down the Water Suburb, the wealthy quarter of the city. That was the first collision with the rebels, and he would refer the House to a remarkable passage in the address or proclamation of the rebel leader after our defence of Shanghai— Should any of your honourable nation regret what has occurred, and hold friendly relations with our State to be beat, they need have no apprehension in coming to consult with me. I treat people according to right principles, and will not certainly subject them to any indignities. Should, however, your honourable nation still continue to be deluded by the Imperialists, and follow their lead in all things without reflecting on the difference between you, you must not blame me if hereafter you find it difficult to pass along the channels of commerce, and if there is no outlet for native produce. This showed an alteration in the feelings of the people, brought about by the action of the British forces in China, and Mr. Forrest, writing from Nankin in March 1861, said— I have heard, and believe it true, that the Taepings are making such efforts to take the Yangtze ports, on the idea, that if a foreign consul is once established in any of them, the same protection will be afforded to the place as is given to Shanghai. On the very same day, August 18, that the French fired the suburb, Sir R. Napier led his troops to attack the northern forts, and a few days later Lord Elgin commenced his triumphal march to Pekin to extort a treaty of peace from the weak and defeated Emperor. Thus, while we were knocking down the Emperor of China with one hand, we were fighting his rebellious subjects, the Taepings, with the other, and loudly proclaiming neutrality as the only course to pursue. He had mentioned these matters that the House might know the exact state of feeling of the rebels at the period to which he was about to allude. The tactics of the Taepings appeared to be to possess themselves of towns and garrisons, and to expel the inhabitants, so that they might have fewer mouths to feed. Their great object was to possess themselves of the towns and ports on the Yang-tze river. By the 10th article of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, it was expressly provided, that inasmuch as the upper and lower valley of that great artery of Chinese communication were disturbed by outlaws, the opening of the river to trade should be conditional, and subsequent to the establishment of peace; and it was only after a considerable amount of negotiation and the most urgent demands of Mr. Bruce, addressed to Prince Kung in the autumn of 1860, that two ports were opened, and the trade was confined to them. This was a concession which we had no right to demand, and one which the Chinese need not have granted. The whole river was opened for trade by notification by Admiral Hope and Mr. Parkes in March 1861, though it appeared from a memorandum of Mr. Bruce that at least half the provinces at the mouth of the river were in the hands of the rebels. They overrun vast tracts of land on both sides of the river, and Mr. Parkes described a remarkable scene at Hankow. News had arrived that the rebels were in the neighbourhood. Their emissaries poured into the town, spreading a report of their coming, on which the whole population of the city, amounting to a million souls, fled to the water side, and embarked in boats in the course of the evening. The city was evacuated, and the rebels walked in while the whole population of three large cities was moving slowly up the stream. Mr. Bruce, in writing to Earl Russell in August 1862, said— The notice issued by the Admiral and Sir Henry Parkes, on their return from Hankow in the beginning of 1861, had thrown open rather hastily the whole course of the river Yang-tze to trade. In another passage he said— I look upon our position on the Yang-tze as provisional, so long as the insurrection is in force in that quarter. We have no right to be there at all. It is unreasonable to expect that trade can be carried on in a district which is the seat of civil war, without the inconvenience and restraints due to that unhappy situation. And, again, he said— I regret that the river was declared open in spite of the objection of Sieh (superintendent of trade at Shanghai, who had protested against it), and that the question was not referred to Pekin in the first instance. The concession made by the Chinese was, that two ports, and two only, should be opened. What was the consequence of the opening of the river? The very consequences that were anticipated by Lord Elgin. An immense illegal trade sprung up—and as the Chinese Prime Minister foresaw—arms and munitions of war were supplied to the rebels. Illegal settlements were formed at all sorts of places, which had not been sanctioned by treaty, which were not under the superintendence of our consuls, and which were free from any control whatever. Lorchas, manned by pirates and adventurers of every class, and commanded by most unscrupulous persons—most of them Europeans—were employed by Chinese traders to carry on the salt trade, from which foreign nations were precluded by treaty. By the employment of these lorchas, an immense amount of smuggling took place up and down the river; and the acts of these people were in consonance with the character of the trade they carried on; the Chinese Customs authorities were set at defiance; payment of duties was refused, violence followed, and bloodshed took place. Memorials were presented to Mr. Bruce, and complaints were addressed to him by the Chinese. Mutual recriminations ensued, and the natural result was that the Chinese officials became exasperated, and, in some instances, illegal seizures and the detention of bonâ fide cargoes took place—on one occasion a cargo of tea was detained in the river; and he was afraid that on some of these occasions the conduct of our officers had not been such as to allay the irritation which had been created. In one instance we had seized war junks which had been stationed at a hairier for its protection, and we carried off the customhouse officer and ether persons. He referred to this proceeding, which was strongly condemned by Mr. Bruce, to show the consequences of attempting to open 600 miles of a river to trade, when the country was torn by civil war, and it was difficult to say in whose hands it really was. Mr. Bruce had also condemned the use of force to obtain sites for our settlements, the applicants refusing to give the price which the proprietors asked. That was what we were accused of; and Mr. Bruce himself condemned our proceedings. He would now ask the House, was it wise on the part of a foreign nation, established in a country against the wishes of the people for the purposes of trade, to enforce treaty stipulations at the cannon's mouth? and was such conduct likely to reconcile the elements of opposition? Did it not rather afford a handle to the party opposed to foreign intercourse? These unscrupulous proceedings and illicit trade had produced numerous complaints from the Chinese Prime Minister, and recriminations passed between him and our Minister; but the Chinese did not offer forcible opposition, and did not even attempt to check the outrages, as we had taught them by bayonet and shell the consequences of interfering with foreigners. One of the great evils consequent on such a protectorate as we had assumed over China was that it was destructive of the authority of the Government and the self-reliance of the people, and the Chinese preferred to allow these practices rather than make an effort to stop them. On looking through these papers, he had arrived at the conclusion that the good sense of the Chinese Prime Minister had done more to prevent a collision between the British and Chinese authorities than any good management on the part of our officers. Another result of opening out to trade a district in a state of civil war was that we were brought into collision with the rebels. He did not wish to blame officers who acted under orders, but to point out that collision was incidental to the position of a Power which attempted, in a period of civil war, to occupy however small a portion of the country. We had undertaken to give protection to British property and life in China, and to protect a certain space around the treaty ports—a radius of as much as thirty miles in the case of Shanghai—and hence we had been in constant conflict with the rebels in the neighbourhood of Shanghai and of Ningpo. He had no doubt that the combined naval and military operations of the allies had been admirably performed, and several towns had been captured, on the express condition that they should be garrisoned by Chinese troops. These troops, however, had either not been forthcoming or insufficient; so that as soon as we retired, the garrisons had been ejected by the rebels, who subjected the people of the towns to the greatest cruelties. Some of these towns had been captured and recaptured two or three times, and the reprisals had been horrible. In the operations around Shanghai the English Admiral had been wounded, and had narrowly escaped being taken prisoner; a French Admiral was killed, and General Ward was killed in September 1862. Ningpo was captured by the rebels in the autumn of 1861; in May 1862 we re-captured it, and placed the Imperialists in possession. Ningpo was opened to foreign trade in 1843; and it was not until six weeks after it fell into the hands of the rebels in December 1861, that Consul Harvey discovered we had no legal settlement there at all. "No definite foreign concession," he said, "had ever been obtained." Admiral Hope, writing about the same time, paid, "I found, on my recent visit to Ningpo, that no foreign settlement had ever been obtained at that port;" and in n state of some trepidation he wrote to Mr. Bruce— I request that you will bring the measure, which is at present provisional, to the notice of the Imperial Government at Pekin, in order that the district set apart for the settlement may as soon as possible be made the subject of a joint concession to the treaty Powers, in order to give their consuls and subjects that legal status which is indispensable to their security and the continuance of their rights. He wanted to know where the answer to that despatch was. He could not find it, and he did not believe that any legal settlement had ever been assigned to us by the Imperial authority. Writing to Earl Russell, in January 1862, Mr. Bruce said— The Government has addressed me, requesting me to warn British merchants to leave the place [Ningpo] as it will shortly be blockaded. They hope thus to prevent foreigners trading with rebels. He wished to speak with every respect of Captain Dew; but he must express his opinion that the gallant officer required a very wide area for his operations. Under the pretext of protecting a settlement which we did not possess, he moved his vessel into the direct line of the fire of a rebel battery erected to defend the place against the Imperialists; and when the Imperialists came up, being in the direct line of fire, of course his vessel was struck by some musket-balls—an injury which was at once resented by the bombardment of the town. The position of China at this moment was a remarkable one. As an author said, Russia overshadowed China in the north, France sapped up to her from the south, while England was calmly planted in her centre. But a fourth Power was in the field, and the position of America there was more secure than that of any other country, for it had been obtained by conciliation and forbearance. Here were four of the greatest Powers in the world contending for commercial supremacy in a country torn by civil war, and where no government deserving the name existed. We had assumed a joint protectorate, and was it not likely to lead to complications? The foreign settlements in China were sites of land originally granted in consequence of the Chinese dislike to foreign intercourse, so as to isolate the places of business and the residences of foreign merchants; but, in these times of anarchy and confusion, these settlements had become crowded by enormous Chinese populations, who sought safety under the protection of foreign bayonets. There were 72,000 Chinese located within the Ningpo settlement. The price of land had risen to an enormous extent; and, of course, there was a great inducement on the part of the foreign settlers to sell the land to natives. Every one of these natives making such a purchase claimed to be ex-territorialized, as it was called—that is, exempted from Chinese jurisdiction for any infraction of the law; and to punish one of them the Chinese Government had to obtain the permission of the consul of the nation to a subject of which the site which he had bought had been granted. In the position of these settlements he saw a source of endless embarrassment. He wished to hear from the Government how long they intended to keep up the policy of defending the radius of thirty miles. Did they intend to form an Anglo-Chinese Empire? Did they mean Chusan to be a new Island of Bombay, Shanghai a second Fort George, and Ningpo another Fort William? The only parallel to our present position was to be found in the history of India. It was well known how the French and the Dutch and the Portuguese settlers had faded away before the energy of the Anglo-Saxon in India; and might not the same result follow here? The foreign element in the Chinese custom-house was a most unpleasant matter. There was growing up there a large civil service drawn from the diplomatic ranks of foreign countries; and the only excuse which could be urged for all this interference with the internal affairs of a foreign State, which he understood the noble Lord at the head of the Government to deprecate a week ago, was to give protection to trade. Were those connected with the Chinese trade satisfied with the Chinese customs regulations? On the contrary, the merchants complained, and the Hong-Kong Chamber of Commerce and the Shanghai merchants had memorialized Earl Russell, complaining of the despotic conduct of the custom-house officers, and showing that they stood in more need of protection than they did when the system was worked by Chinese officers only. Lord Elgin himself had borne testimony that the precautions which the mercantile body in their own interest requested the Government to take were directed against the difficulties which might be expected to arise from the introduction of the foreign element, American or British, into the Chinese custom-houses, and he added that the former administration of the Chinese custom - houses was singularly liberal. That was a very extraordinary admission, coming from a man who, to use his own words, had extorted at the mouth of the cannon a treaty of peace and commercial privileges from the Chinese Government. He believed that the Chinese were natural traders. He did not want to defend the excessive claims of the foreign traders, but he would say that the only justification that could be offered for a military and naval occupation of China was to obtain facilities for trade, and the facts which he had submitted to the House would show that the Chinese, if left to themselves, would give all the facilities that could be desired, provided we did not mix up politics with trade. How very differently our trade was conducted with China before 1833, and after that date, when the Company's charter expired. During the time that the East India Company's charter existed commercial operations were conducted peacefully, but after 1833 we sent a Commissioner to China, who mixed up politics with trade; and this brought on all the subsequent embarrassments. Yet we still continued the same system. The merchants also had added to the confusion by their precipitancy, and had sought to plant themselves where they would be beyond consular control, in the interior of the country, in opposition to the provisions of the Treaty of Tien-tsin. Let it be remembered that two-fifths of the Chinese custom-house revenue was paid over by way of indemnity for the last war, and the English taxpayer was told that in this way he was being recouped the costs of the war; but the merchants told a very different tale. The Shanghai Chamber of Commerce told us, that in consequence of the additional duty levied for war purposes in the interior, on silk and other articles, the burden fell not upon the Chinese Government, but upon the foreign trade. And therefore the British taxpayer was in this position—that he was actually paying in increased prices the indemnity which he was getting for his expenses in the Chinese war. If it were not for the seriousness of the question, he should say that the position of the English taxpayer was ludicrous. He should like to see put in one column of the account the cost of our fleets and armies in China—the cost of the navy, he believed, was at least £300,000 annually, and probably the cost of the army was about the same—and the amount of indemnity received in another column, and then we should see on which side the balance lay. They had heard a good deal about an expedition fitting out for China, and he believed almost all the ships composing it had left these shores; but he wished to remind the House, that when application was first made to select men and to permit officers to engage in the service of the Emperor of China, the Home Office had not regarded the project with favour. They had described Mr. Ley's request as an unusual one. He looked upon the matter with the eye of a civilian, and as an English subject he felt sorry that the services of such distinguished officers as Captain Osborne and those who accompanied him should be lost to Her Majesty for an indefinite term—not to say anything of the 600 picked men who accompanied them. These men wore Her Majesty's uniform, with the exception of the crown on the button, and even wore the same kind of lace as the Royal navy. What would the Admiral commanding on the Chinese station think, when he knew that the Anglo-Chinese Admiral was receiving a larger salary than himself? He did not know whether this was to be looked on in future as one of the prizes of the naval profession. But he wanted to know what this magnificent expedition, with such fine officers, such picked men, and with such improved arms, was required to do? He presumed that one object for which they would be required would be to control the Chinese navy, of which a notorious pirate was at present Commander-in-chief; and he supposed another object would be to put down English smuggling in the Yang-tze-Kiang. Why was it, when the Foreign Enlistment Act was being carried into execution against honest English traders with a rigour that was offensive to the feelings of the people, that it was to be set aside by Royal proclamation in favour of the Emperor of China? He had always thought that mercenaries were looked upon with disfavour in this country, and discouraged from enlisting in quarrels where neither their religion, their laws, nor their liberty was concerned. Yet here we have an expedition setting out in aid of the Emperor of China, under the command of a distinguished British officer, and relieved from the penalties of the Foreign Enlistment Act. No doubt the stake for which we were playing was a high one. He believed that the Chekiang province, of which Hang-chow was the capital and Ningpo the port, with a population of 26,000,000, and the Kiang-suprovince, of which Nankin was the capital and Shanghai the port, with a population of 38,000,000, formed two of the finest trading sites in the world. But a higher than human power controlled human events— and the success or failure of an enterprise depended materially on the justice of the means employed to carry it out. He had not ventured to approach the international part of this question—he would not say whether they had violated neutrality—he would not say whether or not we had kept our promises and pledges; but this he would say, that much would be said and written by high legal authorities and historians on the international bearings of this question. Sooner or later our conduct in all these matters must be brought before the searching tribunal of public opinion, and much, no doubt, would be said before a verdict is pronounced decisively in our favour. Under these circumstances, he asked the House of Commons to weigh well the responsibility which attached to our present position in China For himself, he believed, that unless we changed our policy in China, that civilization which we proposed to extend there, instead of being the pioneer of peace and progress, would be accompanied with the stain of blood. That trade, from which we expected such benefits, would be a permanent burden upon our resources, and irritation and discontent would be created in the minds of a naturally peaceful and contented people. He would now conclude by moving, by way of Amendment, that an Address be presented to Her Majesty for Copies of all further Correspondence relating to this subject.

Another Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copy of a Letter, dated the 24th day of March 1863, and addressed to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, by Colonel Sykes, M.P., together with a Translation of Copy of the Taeping Customs Tariff accompanying the said letter; Copies of all instructions given to Captain Dew, of Her Majesty's Ship 'Encounter,' by Admirals Hope and Kuper; Copies of all Communications received from or addressed to Admiral Kuper by the Board of Admiralty relative to Naval operations in China; Copies of all Communications between Sir Frederick Bruce and the Chinese Government at Pekin relative to the Foreign Settlement at Ningpo; and, Copies of all further Correspondence relating to China, in continuation of Papers presented in 1863, —instead thereof.


said, he was not at all surprised that his hon. Friend should have brought the subject to which he had just drawn attention under the notice of the House. The cost of maintaining a military force in China at the present moment amounted, he believed, to £1,000,000 sterling per annum, and it behoved the representatives of the people to see whether that large sum, which amounted to an additional penny of income tax, was or was not being wisely expended. It behoved hon. Members also to learn what was the end proposed to be attained by alt those desultory military and naval operations in China, and what were the views with regard to them of Her Majesty's Government. Any one who had read the despatches of the noble Lord the Secretary; for Foreign Affairs on the subject, must, he thought, have arrived at the conclusion, that when the Chinese war was brought to a close, and when the joint occupation of Tien-tsin by the allied forces terminated, it was the intention of the Government to withdraw all our forces from the Chinese Empire. Such, however, did not appear to hare been the view entertained by the, Emperor of the French. He had sent a; large body of troops to that distant part of Asia for the purpose of punishing the Tartar Government of China for atrocities committed on the persons of certain French priests; and having succeeded in accomplishing that object, when the time arrived for the evacuation of Tien-tsin by the allies, a portion of the French troops were sent to Shanghai, with the ostensible aim of defending the mercantile establishments of that place from the threatened attack of the Taepings. What the real object of the French Government in thus inaugurating a crusade against the Taepings was it was difficult to understand. By some, it was attributed to religious motives. It was alleged that the Taepings had embraced a spurious Christianity from the teachings of certain Protestant missionaries, and had imbibed a hatred against the ceremonials of the Roman Catholic religion which they did not hesitate on all occasions to display. But if the Taepings had incurred the hatred of the French on account of their fanaticism, they had no less incurred the hostility of the Anglo-Indian opium merchants because of their rigorous and successful prohibition of the use and consumption of that pernicious drug. Both the parties to which he referred, therefore, might feel themselves aggrieved by the Taepings; but why Her Majesty's Government should have set themselves in opposition to the Taepings, unless to redress the wrongs of the French and the opium merchants, he was, at a loss to discover. They had displayed no hostility to our religion or trade, nor had they, he believed, ill-used any British subject. Our Government, nevertheless, thought it desirable to send a British force to Shanghai, to which the most stringent orders were addressed by the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. That noble Lord, in writing to Mr. Bruce on the 24th July 1861, said— You will understand that Her Majesty's Government do not wish this force to be used against the rebels in any case except for the actual protection of the lives and properties of British subjects. On the 8th of August, in the same year, the noble Lord, writing again to Mr. Bruce, observed, that if British subjects were taken prisoners, he should do his utmost to protect them from capital punishment, but that he should abstain from all interference in the civil war. He added, on the 7th of September following, that the Government agreed with Rear Admiral Hope in regarding an attack on Nankin as highly impolitic; but that it might he expedient to defend the treaty ports, if the Chinese consented not to use those ports for the purposes of aggression. Nothing, therefore, was more clear than that the noble Lord was then desirous of abstaining from all aggression against the Taepings. No sooner, however, had the English and French forces assembled in Shanghai than they immediately proceeded to concert measures with the view of prosecuting active operations against that very people. Expeditions had been sent into the interior, and towns and fortresses captured from them. The next step was to undertake the disciplining of a large body of Chinese troops, and this force of 10,000 men was placed under the command of an American officer, named Ward, and acted in concert with the English and French forces; and the last was the arrangement made by Mr. Bruce, at Pekin, by which the surplus of the customs duties received at Shanghai, which was not required to pay the indemnity to France and England, should be applied to the purchase in England of vessels, to be manned and officered by Englishmen, and employed in operations against the Taepings upon the rivers of China. Thus, step by step we had been led on, until we found ourselves engaged as partisans in the bloody civil war which had been ravaging China for the last ten years. In a remarkable work lately published, it was explained how the Cabinet of Lord Aberdeen, having been entangled in a French alliance, had been led, step by step, into the war with Russia. It was their duty to take care that the Government now presided over by the noble Lord should not drive us into a war, the results of which it was impossible to foresee. The noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office, who had ever been the great champion of nationality, and who maintained the doctrine that nations had a right to self-government, and to select that form that best suited the wants and necessities of the people, was now engaged, in connection with the Government of France, in endeavouring to prop up the Tartar Government in China, contrary to what appeared to be the wishes of the great body of the population of that country. They might be told—as they had been told before—that the Taepings were a host of barbarians who ravaged the country with fire and sword, and were the enemies of the human race. He would undertake to say that those statements were not founded in fact—the statement was disproved both by the evidence contained in the blue-book and by independent testimony. No doubt, the war had from its commencement been carried on with great barbarity on both sides, the prisoners having been slaughtered, and captured cities having been plundered and devastated. But there was quite as much barbarity exercised on the part of the Tartars as on that of the Taepings. Commissioner Lin, during the time he administered power in China, caused about 60,000 persons to be put to death. It was not correct to say that the Taepings laid waste or committed any atrocities in the towns where the inhabitants submitted to their Government. A commercial traveller in the employment of Messrs. Hart, of Ningpo, had travelled through the whole of the province of Chekiang, which was in the hands of the Taepings, and he stated that the poor were contented and happy, the country in a most flourishing condition, and the crops promising well, and that it was only on approaching Shanghai and the area of our hostile operations that the people were found to be wretched, poor, and suffering. This account was confirmed by a letter addressed by General Staveley to the Secretary of State for War, on the 3rd of July 1862, in which he stated that the Europeans who visited the rebel country for the purposes of trade were treated with civility, that large quantities of silk had been brought into Shanghai during the previous fortnight, and that trade seemed to be in a thriving state. The enormous increase in the exports from Shanghai was a proof that the Taepings, in whose hands was all the country from which the produce came, were not the ruthless destroyers that they had been represented to be. In 1858–9 only 17,000,000 pounds of tea were exported from Shanghai; in 1861–2 the quantity was 53,000,000 pounds; in 1853–4 only 58,000 bales of silk were exported; in 1860–1 112,000 bales. Mr. Roberts, a missionary, passed more than a year at the head-quarters of the Taepings at Nankin, and though he was disappointed with their religious condition, he stated that they were not all bad, as the hon. Gentleman opposite represented, but that the evil was mixed with good. It was impossible to believe that our desultory operations upon the coast of China could exercise any influence upon the result of the great contest, and it therefore became a question whether, as far as our commercial interests were concerned, they would not do more harm than good. Almost all the produce which we received from China, whether tea, silk, or cotton, came from the country which was under the government of the Taepings, who could, if they thought proper, stop the trade. They must be well aware that we had undertaken to collect the customs duties, and they must soon learn, if they did not already know it, that a portion of the money so collected was to be applied to the purchase in England of ships which were to be employed against them. Could we suppose that when they saw such active measures taken in support of their enemy, they would exhibit so much forbearance as to look on and take no steps to help themselves. It appeared to him that the Government had placed themselves in a false position, from which it was equally difficult to advance or recede; in their anxiety to advance our trade with China, they had, in his opinion, unhappily adopted a course which, in all probability, would lead to its destruction.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and agreed to.

MR. SPEAKER having thereon put the Main Question "That I do now leave the Chair,"


said, he did not know that in the whole course of his experience in that House he had encountered such a proceeding as they had just witnessed. An hon. Member opposite brought forward a most important question, to which he had devoted considerable labour, and which he had stated to the House with considerable ability; and undoubtedly there were other hon. Gentlemen who were prepared to have taken part in the discussion which was naturally expected to arise. After the speech of the hon. Member had been followed by the speech of the hon. Member for Inverness, it was naturally expected that some answer would be made by some Member of the Government. He thought that not merely ordinary routine, but common respect for the hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, and for the House, ought to have led the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to have made some reply to the very important statement of facts which had been laid before the House. But utter silence had been preserved on the Ministerial bench. He considered the question as affecting our relations with China, whether viewed with relation to our commerce, viewed as a great political question, or viewed in reference to the interests of the great mass of the people of this country, to be one of the most grave and perilous that could be brought before Parliament. He believed that the forms of the House would not then allow the discussion to go on, and he could only repeat his extreme astonishment at the course taken by the Government.


said, he wished to express the same sentiments as those just uttered by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden). He had never witnessed such a scene before. One of the most important questions, affecting our relations with China, which had been introduced in an able and elaborate speech, was treated with something like contempt by the Members of the Government. To abstain from all notice of the speeches that had been made was treating the House and those hon. Members who had spoken with gross disrespect. He was of opinion that this question ought to be brought on again with the view of insisting upon an explanation from the Government. It appeared that forces were to be sent out to China, that the Foreign Enlistment Act was to be suspended, that the general policy of the country was to be altered—some persons entertained a belief that a conquest of China was in the contemplation of the Government, and that Captain Sherard Osborne was to be a second Clive, and that the first victory was to be a second Plassy—and yet not one word was uttered by the Government. Such a course, on the part of Her Majesty's Ministers, appeared to him to be the grossest disrespect to the House. He hoped that another opportunity would be afforded to hon. Members for the expression of their opinions upon this important question. He did not think that they would be doing their duty to their respective constituents if they did not insist upon knowing what the precise policy of the Government was in this respect.


said, that during the fifteen years he had had the honour of a seat in that House, he never recollected a precedent for the conduct of the Government that evening. It appeared to him that of all the questions that could occupy the attention of Parliament during the Session that of China was the most important. Notice of the hon. Gentleman's intention to bring forward the subject had been given for a month, and now it had been brought forward in a manner that ought to have commanded the calm consideration of the House and the Government. The hon. Member brought the subject forward in no party sense, but wished only to obtain an expression of the opinion of the House and of the Government as to the extraordinary course taken by Her Majesty's Ministers in respect to China. If the Government chose to conduct the business of the country in that way, totally disregarding the usages and courtesy of the House, they might continue to deprive them of the opportunity of the discussion to which he looked forward. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the noble Viscount at the head of the Government were in their places, and made no sign whatever of rising upon this question. He (Lord Naas) thought that the country would experience considerable disappointment when it found that this great question had been treated in this cavalier manner by the Government. He now gave notice that upon the earliest opportunity he would call the attention of the House to this subject, and the Government could not now complain if he interposed upon nights of Supply.


said, it was a rare thing for him to come forward as the apologist of the Government; but he thought, when they recollected how few Members were in the House during the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen who addressed the House upon this subject—sometimes not more than ten or twelve—when they saw so small an interest excited on the matter, it was not surprising the debate should have collapsed as it had done. Personally, he deplored the fact that the Government did not reply to the statements made by the hon. Members opposite. But when such an apathy was shown on the part of the House, he did not think that they should display such a measure of wrath at the conduct of the Government.


hoped he should be allowed to say a word or two in explanation.


The Question is—"That I do now leave the Chair."


wished merely to explain. If his very warm and enthusiastic Friend the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Henry Seymour) had looked at the paper, he would have seen, that if he (Mr. Layard) had spoken upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell), that he would have been precluded from speaking again, although there were no less than five Questions on the paper (one of them being another on China from the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen), that would have demanded answers from him. He naturally did not like to preclude himself from the power of again rising, but intended in the one speech to reply to all the Questions that were on the paper. If the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) took an interest in this question, he wondered that he had not risen to speak on it. He (Mr. Layard) thought it was most unfair of hon. Members to visit him with those observations. He came down to the House fully prepared to speak upon the question, and the reason why he had not done so before this was to be attributed entirely to the manner in which the hon. Gentleman brought forward his Motion. He had taken notes of the hon. Gentleman's remarks; and if the debate was not carried on, it was the fault of the hon. Gentlemen who had abstained from taking part in it.


said, that his hon. Friend the Under Secretary was under a misapprehension in supposing that he was precluded from speaking on the several Motions on the paper. The Question was that the House go into a Committee of Supply, and each of the notices on the paper was a separate Motion. It was therefore competent for the hon. Gentleman to have addressed himself to each Question, and to have given his views on it to the House. He was glad to find that it was owing to a misapprehension of the hon. Gentleman that this mistake had occurred, and not owing to what appeared to be a contempt of the feelings and opinions of hon. Members.


reminded the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary that the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northumberland included the very papers which he (Colonel Sykes) had intended to move for; and consequently, if that Motion had been carried, there would have been no necessity for the second Motion. As an independent supporter of the Government whenever his conscience would permit him, he could not but regret that a course had been adopted upon this occasion which must injuriously affect their reputation.


said, the practice of the House had been, when several subjects were brought forward, for the Ministers to reply to the whole afterwards. He would agree in bearing testimony to the ability and fairness with which the subject had been introduced to the House by the hon. Member for Northumberland; but he must say that from a study of the blue-book, and from information which he had received from other sources, he had come to the conclusion that the action of our Government in China had been taken merely for the purpose of protecting our fellow-countrymen and their property and interests. Although much was done by the Chinese Government which no one could approve, it was as nothing to the fearful atrocities of the Taepings. These latter ran over the land like a flight of locusts, destroying human life and the means of livelihood in one province, and then going off for a like purpose to another. As to the Taepiug Government, there was no such thing. The conduct of our Government with regard to China had been marked by as much moderation as could be expected in a country like that. The whole state of things was exceptional; and it was not to be expected that our representatives could deal with the Chinese and the Taepings in the same manner as they would deal with Europeans, From all that he had heard, the only chance of restoring tranquillity to China was by the English Government giving a moderate support to the Chinese Government.

The Question that Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair was then agreed to.

Supply considered in Committee.

House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again on Monday next.