§ MR. BAXTER
, in rising to call attention to the state of affairs in China, and to put a Question to the First Lord of the Treasury on the subject, said, he was unwilling to take any course which might be considered unfriendly to Her Majesty's Government. He did not share in the general dissatisfaction which had been expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite with respect to their recent management of our foreign policy; on the contrary, he entirely approved of the course Her Majesty's Ministers had pursued in Europe and America, and which had ensured the continuance of our peaceful relations with those countries. But it was because he approved of their policy of peace and non-interference in Europe and America, that he disapproved of their policy of war and interference in China. He believed the time had come when a stop ought to be put to a course of proceeding which was not creditable to British arms, and which, if it were much longer persisted in, might lead us into difficulties, the importance of which it would be hardly possible to exaggerate. He objected to the policy of assisting the Imperial Government in China for two reasons: in the first place, because he believed that in doing so we were acting on a bad principle; and, in the second place, because he did not think our efforts in that direction were likely to be attended with success. He did not, however, deem it necessary, after the exhaustive speeches which had been made on the subject by the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) and the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas), to enter very largely into details on the present occasion. As a merchant owning goods in the treaty ports of China, he did not hesitate to confess that he naturally wished those goods to be protected; but it was, he admitted, a doubtful question whether he was justified in calling upon the general body of the taxpayers of this country to contribute their money with that object, under the exceptional circumstances in which China was placed. Be that, however, as it might, he felt perfectly convinced that he was not, as a representative of the people, justified in voting away their money to assist a dynasty in that country which he looked upon as utterly effete and tottering to its fail. He should, no doubt, be met at the outset by the argument, that Her Majesty's Government had done nothing more than defend the treaty ports; and the Under Secretary 528 of State, indeed, had over and over again maintained that we had been guilty in China of no breach of neutrality; but if the hon. Gentleman would read the speeches which he had made on the subject, he would find that while seeking to justify everything that had been done there, and everybody by whom it had been done, and doing so with great ability, he had admitted more than once that our policy in China had been neither impartial nor uniform. The papers which had been laid on the table of the House did not, at all events, bear out the statement that we had been guilty in that country of no breach of neutrality. In the first despatch of Mr. Hammond to Sir Edward Lugard, in April 1863, he found it stated that Earl Russell did not deny that there was inconvenience in the state of things pointed out by the Commander-in-Chief, but that Her Majesty's Government could not allow British officers who were only temporarily detached from their regiments to be making war on the Taepings all over China. Again, in March of the same year, Sir Frederick Bruce wrote to General Stavely to the effect, that he was very anxious it should be borne in mind that we were not making war on the Taepings; while, in the month of June, the Secretary for the Admiralty, in writing to Mr. Hammond, said he was commanded by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to send for the information of Earl Russell a copy of a letter dated 14th of the previous April from Admiral Kuper, respecting the proceedings of Captain Dew, of the Encounter, at Show-Shing, and to state that the Admiral had been instructed to inform Captain Dew that he had exceeded his instructions in taking part in hostilities beyond the prescribed limit of thirty miles. Now, these instructions were all very well; but there were unfortunately other letters of the noble Lord which have a different aspect, as well as two letters from the Foreign Office, in the latter of which Mr. Hammond stated that he was directed by Earl Russell to say that, during the then existing state of affairs in the neighbourhood of Shanghai, British officers on full pay should be allowed to join the force under Major Gordon's command, and to serve beyond the thirty miles' radius. There wag, besides, among the papers for 1862, a curious despatch setting forth the opinions of the noble Lord with respect to the discipline to be observed in the British contingent in China. So that the instructions given on the one side of the question 529 might, he thought, very well be set off against those given on the other. He would, however, appeal from the instructions to the facts, and he believed the facts justified him in saying that, if the instructions enjoined upon our officers a policy of neutrality, those instructions had been violated times without number; and what ever might have been our professions, our policy had been one of actual co-operation with the cruel and corrupt Government of the Mantchou Tartars. We had broken our neutrality by our early operations within the thirty miles' radius round Shanghai, and subsequently by our operations at Ningpo, which was taken by a force com mantled by Captain Dew. Our neutrality was again broken when the Commander-in-Chief of the British forces at Shanghai appointed Major Gordon to the command of the Chinese auxiliaries. What was the character of these allies of ours, and what had been the proceedings of the men with whom it had been thought right to associate the soldiers of a Christian nation? The barbarities which were committed at Soochow were a sufficient answer to this question; but the blue-books were full of instances of the cruelty and perfidy of the Imperialists, and Sir Frederick Bruce had over and over again remonstrated with the Chinese Government upon the subject of the barbarous cruelties committed by their soldiers, which cruelties were defended by Prince Kung, the very man who was held up in that House by the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs as a man of humanity and enlightenment. He now came to his second objection to the policy of upholding the Tartar dynasty —that it was not likely to succeed. In point of fact, we had been endeavouring to uphold a foreign dynasty which had never established itself in the affections of the people, and which those who had travelled in China told us would have fallen long ago if it had not been for foreign interference. This was a fact which had a strong bearing on the policy pursued by Her Majesty's Government. Abbé Hue, a French missionary who had long resided in China, wrote that of late years morality, arts, and industry had decayed, that poverty and destitution were making rapid progress, and that since the accession of the Mantchou dynasty Chinese society had undergone a great alteration for the worse. Captain Blakiston, in his work entitled Five Years on the Yang-tze, declared that since the accession of the Tartar dynasty everything in the empire had fallen into a 530 languishing and expiring condition, and that the rebellion against the Government was by no means confined to the Taepings, but extended very generally over the population; and he protested against the British Government making this confusion worse confounded by interference in their internal affairs. He had rather accept this testimony, agreeing as it did with the evidence of all missionaries and travellers, than the statements of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who represented everything as couleur de rose.; Sir Frederick Bruce and our Consul at Shanghai told a very similar tale. It had been asked, How it was that if the Mantchou dynasty was so weak it had held power so long? The answer was, that it was a noticeable fact that no revolution had ever been accomplished in China until after years of convulsion, insurrection, and civil war; and he, in his turn, might ask how it happened, if the Taepings were so universally detested as had been represented in that House, that fears were so generally entertained lest the Imperialist troops and the auxiliary forces themselves should go over to the rebels. He had observed with regret the support given by the Government to the expedition sent out under Captain Sherard Osborn, and more particularly the parting benediction of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and he rejoiced at its failure because it opened to us an escape from a situation of great embarrassment and difficulty. He hoped that we should date from that event a total change: in British policy in China. Our whole policy with reference to China had for many years past been not a "comedy of errors," but a "tragedy of errors." He freely admitted that the whole blame did not rest with the present Government or the late Government, but must be shared by both Houses of Parliament and by the country; and his object was not to cast reproaches upon anyone for what had been done in the past, but to provide security for the future. In the last sentence of a despatch written in June, 1860, Sir Fredorick Bruce said—No course could be so well calculated to lower our national character as to yield our materia support to a Government the corruption of whose authorities is only checked by its weakness.That was what we had been doing, and our Ambassador still adhered to his opinion of the impolicy of our conduct. Only the other day his hon, and gallant Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) brought out the fact that in June, 1863, 531 Sir Frederick Bruce, in concert with the other Ambassadors at Pekin, signed a memorandum in which he expressed these same views, and complained of the employment of British officers in the Imperial service. That memorandum had been presented to the American Congress; but it had been suppressed by our Foreign Office, because if it had been produced the House would have seen the difference between the course recommended by our Minister in China and the Government at home, and the Government would have been forced to change their policy. In June or July last year, the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in replying to the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas), entreated the House to wait for one year and see the result of the policy which was then being pursued. They had waited a year—they had seen the result of that policy—and every word of warning which was spoken by the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth had been proved to be true. Therefore, the Question which he had to ask the noble Viscount at the head of the Government—whom he was sure that they were all delighted to see again in his place—was, whether the Government meant in future to adhere strictly and honourably to the defence of British property in the treaty ports, refusing every kind of aid, direct or indirect, to the Imperialists, and abandoning altogether the attempt to bolster up and support the Government of Pekin? He should also like to know what instructions, if any, had been sent to Her Majesty's servants in China with reference to this important Question; and whether they had been enjoined for the future, not only not to accept employment under the Imperial dynasty, but to take no step, however indirect, to support the Government of the Emperor? Every one acquainted with the history of India must be struck with the remarkable analogy between the position of that country when English merchants resorted to it in the time of Hastings and Clive, and our present position in China. We had only just begun to develop the civilization of India, which had so recently been transferred to the Government of Her Majesty, and we ought to beware of increasing our responsibilities by mixing up ourselves in the internal affairs of so vast a country as China.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I am quite ready to answer the Question of my hon. Friend, but I must be allowed to say I regret, that though my hon. Friend says that 532 he has studied with great attention all the blue-books on the subject of China that have been presented to Parliament, and notwithstanding the acuteness of his mind and the ability which he shows on all occasions, he has come to conclusions which are not supported by the materials which he says he has searched and digested. My hon. Friend started with a general theory; but nothing is so liable to mislead as a general theory. My hon. Friend said that the principle upon which the British Government ought to act is that of non-intervention in the affairs of other States; a very plausible principle, and one which in many cases ought to be strictly adhered to; but my hon. Friend forgets that there are cases in which we have treaty rights—that there are cases in which we have national interests—and if his doctrine were to be applied rigidly and in every case, our treaty rights would be abandoned and our national interests would be sacrificed. It is not true that non-intervention is the principle invariably acted on by the British Government. We have interfered with great success in the affairs of other countries, and with great benefit to the countries concerned. We so interfered, for instance, in the affairs of Greece, and we established the independence of that State. We interfered in the affairs of Belgium, and we established the independence of Belgium as a separate State. We interfered in the affairs of Portugal, and enabled Portugal to obtain a free and Parliamentary constitution. We interfered in the affairs of Spain with like success and with a similar result. We interfered in the affairs of Turkey, of Syria, and of Egypt, and we maintained the integrity of the Turkish empire. We interfered in the Crimean war, and I do not think any man in this House will say that in that struggle we were unsuccessful. We have interfered in the affairs of China. Why? Because our treaty rights were endangered and our national interests were at stake. See how inconsistent my hon. Friend was at the beginning of his speech and in its conclusion. At the beginning he said he would never, as a Member of this House, consent to throw on the taxpayers of this country burdens for the sake of protecting his own individual interests in China.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, the noble Lord had not properly caught his meaning. His observations referred to upholding the Imperial dynasty in China.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
My hon. Friend said it was quite true he had mer- 533 chandise and interests in China, and that he would not call on the taxpayers of this country to protect them.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
My hon. Friend now says that would be an open question. But, at all events, in the question which he put to me at the conclusion of his speech, there was no uncertainly whatever; because he asked whether the Government would confine themselves to maintaining the security of our establishments in the treaty ports, in one of which I suppose his property must lie. I am bound to say that I quite concur in the propriety of maintaining and defending the security of British interests in the treaty ports. But what has been the history of our interference in China? See the inconsistency of these mercantile gentlemen. They are constantly urging the Government to make treaties of commerce with foreign countries, and to extend the range of our commercial intercourse. Only the other day I received a deputation from the manufacturing districts urging that a re-organization of the Foreign Office and the Board of Trade should take place, for the purpose of enabling the Government more adequately to extend the commercial relations of this country. And the feeling no doubt was honestly entertained, because everybody must know that on the extension of our commerce depends, in a very great degree, the prosperity of our country, the accumulation of our capital, the abundance of our revenue, and the strength and prosperity of the nation. Any measure, therefore, calculated to increase the commercial relations of the country, so far from meriting the censure which my hon. Friend, as a commercial man, thought fit to pass upon it, is deserving of praise, because it accords with the wishes and interests of the country. It was long felt that trade with China would open a vast field of commercial enterprise to us; and there can be no doubt that, among other things, the great expansion of commerce with that empire has contributed to enable us to meet without disaster the unfortunate obstructions to our commerce and manufactures occasioned by events still going on in America. My hon. Friend says that the Chinese, especially the Imperialists, are a cruel people. Well, I have myself said in this House, and I repeat it, that the characteristics of the Chinese population are cruelty and perfidy. But those qualities are not confined to 534 Imperialists — they are shared in a far higher degree by the Taepings, who are peculiar objects of interest to some hon. Members of this House. My hon. Friend talks of a massacre at Soochow. There was no massacre. ["Oh, oh!"] There was a very treacherous act committed towards the Whangs, who were decoyed into the power of the Tartar commander, the Footai, who revenged upon them what he stated to have been an act of great barbarity committed by them on a former occasion. I will not justify in any degree what the Footai did. I am merely stating the extenuation put forward by him. But what happened the other day? — and this is a specimen of the acts of which Taepings are capable—there was a little steamer called the Firefly, which they seized and carried off, and it was stated and not contradicted, that four or five unhappy persons who were on board the vessel, were roasted to death.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I believe their bodies were found in a charred state, but there is no other proof of the fact. Of course persons in the interest of these people—who like to carry on a contraband trade with the Taepings, and to make a profit by supplying them with arms and ammunition—send home to their acquaintances high-flown panegyrics on the Taepings; but every impartial person writing from China, bears witness to the desolation marking the track of the Taepings. The districts which they occupy are laid waste, the people reduced to starvation; and only the other day we heard of a place in which the people were obliged to eat human flesh as a last resource. Is that a state of things conducive to British commerce? Is that a state of things the extension of which to the immediate neighbourhood of our treaty ports we ought to permit? My hon. Friend does not deny that as far as the radius of thirty miles from these ports extends, we are justified in what we have done, and that it is our duty to keep these marauding Taepings from making piratical incursions within those limits. But my hon. Friend who says he has carefully studied the blue-books, has not studied with equal care the history of China. He talked of the present dynasty as a foreign dynasty; and though he did not say, he certainly implied that it had 535 been recently established in a conquered country, and, therefore, had no root in the affections of the population. If I am not misinformed, I rather think the dynasty has been the best part of 500 years in possession of the throne. [Colonel SYKES: No, 250 or 260 years.] Well, when a dynasty has been established in a country for 250 years, I think that we, in England at least, ought to admit that it is well rooted, has a good hold on the population of the country, and is no longer entitled to be called a foreign dynasty. I say that it is greatly to the interest of this country to maintain those commercial rights which the treaty concluded with China assured to us. When first the war with China began, Sir James Graham, a sagacious man, warned this House of the danger that must arise from entering into war with a third portion of the human race. I return that argument to my hon. Friend, and I say what must he the commercial advantages to this country if it can have an unimpeded, uninterrupted commerce with one-third of the human race? It is, therefore, for our interests that tranquillity should be restored in China. My hon. Friend says that the Mantchoo dynasty is tottering to its fall. I can only judge from what reports reach us; but I should rather be inclined to say that the rebellion is more likely to end than the dynasty to be overthrown. No doubt in so large an empire as China there are parts which are always threatened or disturbed by rebellion more or less violent, but that, I am sorry to say, is the normal state of many of those Oriental Governments which lack the organization and energy necessary to maintain order throughout their entire dominions. Such has been the condition of Turkey; such has been peculiarly the condition of China, whose central government has always had the greatest difficulty in maintaining order in its remoter provinces. But I can assure my hon. Friend that, as far as we can trust the accounts which reach us, the Taeping rebellion has been narrowed to a much more restricted circle than it occupied some years ago; and that if we are to speculate on the future it will be safer to reckon that the rebellion is tending towards extinction, than that the Imperial dynasty is tottering to its fall. Besides, what must happen if the Imperial Government be overthrown? You would have nothing but extensive anarchy. The Taepings are perfectly incapable of ruling the empire, and if they attempted to do so there would soon be fresh rebellions against 536 them. In reply to my hon. Friend, I have stated that our interference as a direct interference has been limited to the treaty ports; but we certainly did give to the Chinese Government the assistance of British advice and arrangement in collecting their Customs and improving their revenue, and great benefits have resulted to the Chinese Government from that assistance. Last year we issued an order authorizing Captain Osborn and others acting under Mr. Lay to raise a squadron for the purpose of restoring order in the waters of China, and getting rid of the pirates who endanger navigation. My hon. Friend says that when the expedition started he foretold its failure. Perhaps in that respect he was a better judge of Chinese character than we were. It certainly did fail, owing to the jealousies which existed between the central and provincial Governments, and to their desire to subject Captain Osborn to restraints and restrictions which he felt it would not be for his honour or for the advantage of this country that he should submit to. I regret very much that the expedition of Captain Sherard Osborn did not succeed, because I believe that if it had gone on, and if Captain Osborn had been allowed to direct it according to his views, it would have put an end to that piracy which is now desolating all the coasts of China. That Order in Council has been revoked, and there is no intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to issue such an Order again. Then there was another Order in Council, authorizing British subjects to enter into the service of China. Major Gordon was one of those who took advantage of that Order in Council. It has, however, been revoked, and there is no intention of renewing it. Major Gordon, I am sorry to see by the last accounts, has sustained a check, and has been wounded—I hope not severely. He is a most able and distinguished officer, and one who has performed great services for the Imperial Government. My conviction is that if the Imperial Government could by his or any other means put down the rebellion, not only would they gain a great advantage for themselves, but they would confer an immense advantage upon the commercial interests of this country. All I can say is that it is not our intention to authorize any direct interference in the military or naval service of China as between the Imperial Government and the Taepings, beyond the protection to be 537 afforded within a radius around our treaty ports. That is a duty which Her Majesty's Government owe to the commercial interests of this country, and I am quite convinced that if the commercial interests were assembled and were asked their opinion, they would say, "For Heaven's sake protect our commerce in China in the treaty ports." That commerce is daily assuming more and more importance, and is one of the means by which this country has weathered the difficulty arising out of the diminished supply of cotton from America. I trust my hon. Friend will be satisfied with what I have stated, although I cannot agree with him in the conclusions he draws or the objects he desires to attain. My opinion is that the country at large will be of opinion that the Government are doing their duty in protecting the commercial interests of this country in China, as de fined by the treaty with China; and so far is it from being desirable that the Tartar dynasty—that is, the Imperial Government—should be overthrown, and that these ragamuffin Taepings should get the ad vantage, I am convinced that those who know anything about China will feel it to be an object of immense importance that order and tranquillity should be restored in a country in which our commercial relations are so extensive.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, the noble Lord had expressed a hope that his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) would be satisfied with the explanation which he had given to his statement. He (Mr. Liddell) trusted that the House of Commons would not express themselves contented with the answer just given by the noble Lord, for a more unsatisfactory answer than that of the noble Lord he had never heard. He (Mr. Liddell) felt himself compelled to offer a few observations in reply to some of the most glaring inconsistencies it had ever been his lot to listen to from a responsible Minister of the Crown. The noble Lord spoke with the natural pride of an Englishman of the extension of our trade in China, which extension, the noble Lord said, was due to the policy of Her Majesty's Government; and in the very next sentence the noble Lord spoke of the desolation of the country, owing to what he called the inroads of the rebels. But he (Mr. Liddell) would ask, in whose hands had been the great producing districts of China? When the noble Lord accused his hon. Friend behind him of not having read the despatches, he (Mr. Liddell) must, with great deference, accuse 538 the noble Lord of not having studied the question himself, for if he had he must have known that the great producing districts from which there had been that increase of trade, in which the noble Lord took such natural pride, had been in the hands of the rebels for many years. The hon. Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs shook his head at the statement. Did he mean to deny it? If the hon. Gentleman did mean to deny it, he would find it a matter of great difficulty to prove the contrary of what he (Mr. Liddell) had just asserted. Then the noble Lord told the House that the rebellion was waning; and in the next sentence he said that our disciplined troops headed by a distinguished English officer had received a severe check, and that that officer had been wounded. He (Mr. Liddell) learned from the last accounts that the French contingent had also received a check; and in the opinion of persons on the spot there was a great probability of Major Gordon being cut off with his whole force. Now, it did so happen that the successes of the rebels had been very considerable of late, and had followed each other in rapid succession, even since the last debate in that House. Those were facts which went to prove that at any rate the rebellion was not now in so waning a state as the noble Lord appeared to suppose. The noble Lord had defended the policy of the Government in China, and said it was intended to continue it. He (Mr. Liddell) wished to ask the noble Lord whether he had studied the advice given him by his own Envoy? because, if he had, he would find that the Government policy on many important points had been absolutely disapproved by his own Envoy. Sir Frederick Bruce was opposed on many material points to the whole of the Government policy in China. He desired to ask the noble Viscount whether he had or had not confidence in his own Envoy? Did he intend to abide by his advice or to recall him? Sir Frederick Bruce was the representative of British interests in China, and seemed to have omitted no opportunity of expressing his objections to the policy of the Government. Now it behoved the Government to do one of two things—either to listen to the despatches of their own Ambassador, or to recall him in consequence of the advice which he had given. There was one sentence in the noble Lord's speech which was particularly significant. The noble Lord began by saying that general theories were likely to mislead. He (Mr. Lid- 539 dell) did not know whether that observation of the noble Lord was applicable to the speech made the other night from the Treasury benches in his absence. If it were, he ventured to express his belief that if the noble Lord had been present those very misleading general theories, which had been uttered very recently by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would very possibly not have been heard in that House. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Question, question.] Well, he (Mr. Liddell) admitted that that reference did not bear precisely upon the immediate question before the House. He must, however, say that he was disposed to agree in opinion with the noble Lord, that general theories were very apt to mislead. He thought after what had passed—after the experience they had had of the working of the Government policy in China—that they had a right to expect from the lips of the Government a more complete enunciation of their policy in the interest of the trade which they professed to protect. Now, it had been over and over again stated in China, as well as in this country, that the policy pursued by the Government in China was prejudicial to the interests of our trade in that part of the world. The noble Viscount said that the Government interfered because our treaty rights were in danger. He wanted to know in what single instance had our treaty rights or our trade been endangered? He had asked that question before, and he now repeated it. He wished to know any instance in which either the property or the life of a British subject had been placed in danger, except on the recent occasion of the reprisals in the case of certain persons taken on board the Firefly. But the House should recollect that those reprisals were in consequence of the murders committed in Soochow. Those were the sort of acts which civil war naturally gave rise to, and in China the civil war had been pushed beyond its limits by our unhappy interference.
said, he was unwilling to go at any length into this subject, because he could not do so without interfering with the discussion which must come on upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden); and at present there was no Question before the House except that the Speaker leave the Chair, and, therefore, it was impossible to ask the House to give an opinion on the subject. 540 But though he should limit his observations on the present occasion, he was, nevertheless, fully alive to the importance of the Question. He could not, however, refrain from entering his protest against some of the assertions made by the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston). He confessed he felt disappointed at finding that the events of the last year had made no impression upon the minds of Her Majesty's Government. When he heard the Question put by the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), he was in hopes that the noble Lord would have informed the House that the new policy inaugurated in China was a failure, and would be given up, and that the Government intended to return to the policy followed about two years and a half ago. But the noble Lord, so far from making such a statement, had defended the policy of the Government, and actually told the House that they were determined to walk in the same path which they had been pursuing for the last eighteen or twenty months, observing, at the same time, that they were bound to protect our treaty rights as well as the property of British subjects in China. But what he (Lord Naas) said was, the policy of the Government went far beyond that. It was a policy calculated rather to endanger our treaty rights than to maintain them. Her Majesty's Government were interfering in every way in China and against the interests of the country. When the noble Lord talked of maintaining our treaty rights, he entirely misapprehended the question and the objects which those who took a comprehensive view of those subjects had really at heart. The object of those with whom he (Lord Naas) acted was to maintain and protect the treaty rights, but, at the same time, not to interfere in the internal or domestic affairs of the country. Now, Her Majesty's Government had interfered very actively in those affairs— had fitted out a fleet for the Imperial Government, and had lent them upwards of 100 officers to command the forces, not of the Emperor, but of the local and provincial authorities. It was an utter fallacy to say that those with whom he (Lord Naas) acted objected to the maintenance of treaty rights. He should be able to show on a future occasion that the Government had actually endangered those treaty rights, and that our merchants themselves were of opinion that our policy in China had risked the security of our trade in that quarter; and that our policy had been in direct con- 541 tradiction to the opinion not only of our naval commanders, but of many of our most eminent representatives. No one acquainted with the affairs of China but must see the danger of the course which the Government were now pursuing; and all who were competent to give an opinion on the matter were anxious that we should go back to the principles laid down by Earl Russell in his despatch immediately after the Treaty of Tien-tsin—those principles; being in favour of non-interference in any way in the internal affairs of the empire. As he thought it quite impossible to go at length into the Question at that moment, he had only to express a hope that an early opportunity would be given to the House for a more general discussion upon the subject. It was one of the most important Questions that could be considered, and he believed when the time came, for its calm consideration, both the country and the House would be made fully aware of the enormous danger of the policy which the Government were now pursuing in China.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, as there was a prospect of a full discussion upon this subject, he would limit himself to a few remarks. The noble Viscount justified his interference in China by saying that he had interfered in other countries, but he had overlooked the motives for interference, on those occasions. In Europe we had interfered to protect the rights of the people against oppressive Governments, and that interference was to our honour in the cases of Belgium, Portugal, and, to some extent, Spain; but in China we had interfered in behalf of a Government which had been described by Sir Frederick Bruce and others of our representatives there, as the most corrupt, treacherous, and cruel Government on the face of the earth. He held in his hand extracts from a despatch of the American Minister at Pekin, which contained the real views of the representatives of the four great European Powers in China, namely Russia, France, America, and England—and which despatch had been presented as an official communication by the American Secretary of State to Congress. He (Colonel Sykes) came to a knowledge of the existence of Mr. Burling-hame's despatch in this wise. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs on a recent occasion had quoted a passage from Mr. Burlinghame's despatch to the American Secretary of State. To verify that quotation he (Colonel Sykes) consulted the 542 despatch in the library, and to his amazement found reports of lengthened conversations between Mr. Burlinghame and Sir Frederick Bruce on the desirableness of the great European Powers pursuing a neutral policy in China—Russia and France entertained the same views. Mr. Burlinghame asked, whether Sir Frederick Bruce would inform the British Government of the views held in common, and his reply was, that he would not only do so, but give Mr. Burlinghame a copy of the despatch on the sole condition that it was not published in America until it had been published in England. It was for this despatch, part of which had been quoted for his own purposes by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, and the rest suppressed, that he Colonel Sykes had asked and was told that it could not be produced without injury to the public service, although Congress had been informed of Sir Frederick Bruce's despatch and of its contents. He (Colonel Sykes) would read to the House some passages in Mr. Burlinghame's despatch of the 20th of June, 1863, and the House would then see, that the policy proposed was that which he (Colonel Sykes) and other Members had advocated in the House of Commons for the last four years. Mr. Burlinghame says—I expressed a warm desire that he (Sir Frederick Bruce) would present them (his views) to his Government, that they might become the basis of our future co-operation.Mr. Burlinghame went on to say—He accordingly wrote the powerful despatch marked A, which he communicated to me for my private use, and which, with his permission, I send to you confidentially, with the most positive request that it is not to appear until it is first published in England. The three Ministers hailed with delight this frank avowal. The policy upon which we are agreed is briefly this, 'That while we claim our treaty right to buy and sell and hire in the treaty ports, subject, in respect to our rights of property and person, to the jurisdiction of our own Government, we will not ask for, nor take concessions of territory in the treaty ports, nor in any way interfere with the jurisdiction of the Chinese Government over its own people, nor ever menace the territorial integrity of the Chinese Empire. That we will not take part in the internal struggles in China, beyond what is necessary to maintain our treaty rights. That the latter we will unitedly sustain against all who may violate them.' To this end we are now clear in the policy of defending the treaty ports against the Taepings or rebels, but in such a way as not to make war upon that considerable portion of the Chinese people by following them into the interior of their country. In this connection, while we feel desirous from what we know of it to have the rebellion put down, still we have come to question 543 the policy of lending Government officers to lead the Chinese in the field, for fear of complication among ourselves growing out of the relations to the employed, &c. That while we wish to give our moral support to the Government at the present time, the power in the country which seems disposed to maintain order and our treaty rights, we should prefer that it would organize its own people as far as possible for its own defence, taking only foreigners for instruction in the arts of peace or war, and these as far as possible from the smaller Treaty Powers.Other parts of the despatch are worthy of the attention of the House; and it is to be lamented that with a knowledge of its contents the noble Viscount should justify our breaches of neutrality. It was stated by the noble Lord at the head of the Government that the Taepings had roasted four Europeans; but there was testimony from a person in China to the effect that those four persons said to have been roasted in December were alive in January. In contrast with the assertions made of the desolation which accompanied the march of the Taepings, he directed the attention of the House to the following description by Dr. Legg of the proceedings of the Imperialists. Dr. Legg is a most highly respected Missionary, who has been many years in China, and his letter is dated 1st October, 1862. He says—It behoves the British Parliament—the British people—to look to the new complication of affairs in China, to look it fully in the face. If we are to pacify the Empire, we shall require 50,000 troops, and may then find again that we have undertaken more than we are equal to. But, I ask, in whose interest are we to put down the rebellion? Hitherto, Admiral Hope has been acting in the interest of the Imperial Government. Now, I protest against our putting down the rebellion on behalf of the Imperial Government on two grounds. The first is, the ground of its cruelty. I have read harrowing accounts of the devastations of the rebels—how the country is blasted by their march. The accounts are, no doubt, true. But I have seen also the ways of the Imperial braves, and kept company with them for hours together. Their march over the country was like the progress of locusts and caterpillars. Their thirst for blood was quenchless; their outrages on the young and old were indescribable. On the score of cruelty the case must be about equal, inclining to the Imperialist side, if we may judge on the principle that the more cowardly are the more cruel.Well, but the noble Viscount and others assert that the Taepings are desolators. Now I would make an appeal to the common sense of the House. If they were the desolators described, alighting like a swarm of locusts, and having destroyed the country taking a new flight and only alighting for more desolation, surely a most important article of export from China— 544 namely, silk, could not have increased. There is, probably, no article of produce that requires more careful, persevering, and peaceful manipulation than the whole processes of silk production, from the hatching of the eggs, rearing of the worms, cultivation of the mulberry tree, and winding of the silk, to the bale packing; and yet the silk districts since they fell into the hands of the Taepings on the 26th of May, 1860, by the capture of Soochow, have annually sent an increasing amount to the Shanghai market, for I hold in my hand not only the annual Returns of the export of silk from Shanghai, but the monthly Returns. I will not enter into details, but give the general results for a few years past. In 1853, when the Taepings captured Nankin, the export from Canton and Shanghai was 25,571 hales, in 113 vessels. In the year 1851–2, the year before the Taepings captured Nankin, the export of silk from Canton and Shanghai was 23,040 bales, in 117 vessels. In 1857–8 the export from Canton and Shanghai was 60,736 bales, in 149 vessels. In 1860, when Soochow was taken by the Taepings, the export from Shanghai alone had risen to 69,137 bales; and, in the year 1862–3, to the 31st of May, the export was 83,264 bales; and for the last and present year, since Soochow was treacherously obtained from the Taepings by Major Gordon, the export of silk has fallen off to 44,000 hales, owing to the plunder of the country by the Imperialists, by the aid of Gordon and the British authorities; and yet, in the face of these facts, the friends of the Imperialists have the hardihood to assert that the Taepings are only hordes of banditti and ruthless desolators.
§ MR. GREGSON
said, he was satisfied with the noble Lord's declaration, that the Order in Council had been withdrawn, and that the policy of the British Government would be confined to defending the treaty ports and defending British life and property, and would not be in any way directed to hostilities against either party in China. The expedition of Captain Osborn had, as stated by the hon. Member for Montrose, failed; but he regretted that that was the case, for its purpose was a noble one. The Chinese Government were very sincere in their application for that force, and promptly remitted the whole of the money to pay for the ships; but afterwards some interference took place on the part of the officers of the Chinese Government, and Captain Osborn would not 545 submit to be placed under any Chinese authority. He must say that he regretted that the Chinese Government had not acted more consistently with their first intentions; for he believed that the valuable assistance which Captain Osborn's expedition might have afforded would have been of the greatest benefit to China, With regard to the silk districts, to which the hon, and gallant Member had just alluded, it was his opinion that they had been destroyed by the Taepings.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
believed that Admiral Hope had the utmost desire to act with perfect good faith towards the Taepings, but experience showed that those people would not keep faith themselves. He concurred in thinking that Captain Osborn's expedition would have been of great benefit to the Imperial Government, and of great advantage to our trade in clearing the livers of pirates; but, under the circumstances, Captain Osborn acted with great discretion in withdrawing his ships, though that step was a great loss to the Imperial Government in China.