§ MR. COBDEN
rose to move the Resolution on the subject of China, of which he lad given notice, and said: The subject to which I venture to call the attention of the House has been introduced to our notice first by the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth, and in the next place by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northumberland, both with great ability; and it has also been referred to in another place by Earl Grey in a speech which displayed, I think, much wisdom and forethought. That being so, I should not now trouble the House on the subject had the circumstances in connection with our relations with China remained unchanged, or did they appear to be in a more satisfactory state than they were at the time when these Motions were brought forward. I cannot, however, read our more recent despatches from that country without feeling that there is little prospect of any amelioration taking place in those relations. I have read attentively the last blue-books, and I confess their perusal impressed me with a sense of great anxiety and uncertainty for the future. It seems to me that no one in China representing this country is satisfied with the present state of things. Our merchants are very much dissatisfied, and Sir Frederick Bruce, our Minister, appears to be in a state of despair, because the policy recommended by him, or carried out there with his acquiescence, seems to have failed and broken down, so that he has no longer any policy—so far as I can understand his despatches—in hand. Then with regard to our military commander, in his last despatch of December he has advocated the complete abandonment of that policy which we were led to suppose was the sole means of restoring pence and the authority of the Imperial Government. We must also recollect that the mail now on its way to China carries out with it an Order in Council, rescinding a former Order which allowed English officers to take service in the Imperial army—a step which in my opinion ought never to have been permitted. But we have it from Sir Frederick Bruce, that it is the foreign element in China which has gained all the late successes, 917 and I cannot but apprehend that when the news arrives in China, that those officers who led the disciplined contingent of the Chinese army are to be withdrawn from the service, renewed hope will be given to the Insurgents, and, probably, the result of the interference of our Government two years ago in China may be to make things there in a more distracted state than they were. Such being the uncertain position of affairs, I think we should be wanting in our duty to the country if we shrank from expressing our opinions on this important question. Taking a review of our position in China, I ask myself what is our object in going to that remote region at all? It is simply trade, and the profits of trade. The next question I put to myself is, have we pursued a course in China consistent with our interests and our honour? And I am bound to say that I think we have not consulted either in the line of policy we have adopted. It might have happened that we, with a sacrifice of national character, might have achieved great success in our commercial undertakings in China. That might be urged by some persons with the view to reconcile us to the course we have pursued; but I confess for my own part, that I should not be disposed to consider a satisfactory balance in the national ledger as sufficient to condone a course of conduct which I thought inimical to the national character. I am, however, sorry to say, that a most unsatisfactory feature in our relations with China is the commercial view of the question. We have been carrying on large military operations, and making great efforts to extend our trade in that country, and I am prepared to show they have ended in the most unsatisfactory manner. This appears to me a subject in respect to which the greatest misapprehension exists, and nowhere does it prevail more apparently than in the mind of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, for the noble Lord a little while ago made a reference to our trade with China, to which I shall presently allude. I want, in the first place, to show the House what the nature of our trade with China is, and what it has been during the time we have been attempting to extend it by these warlike operations. It is a somewhat remarkable fact, that it is the only foreign country in which we have been systematically attempting to force a trade by violence and war, and the only one which really forms an exception to the progress we have made 918 in all other directions in the extension of our commerce. I moved for a Return of the exports from this country to China and Hong Hong from the year 1835 up to the present time, thus including the whole of the period during which our trade with China has been carried on by private enterprise—I mean since 1834, when the monopoly of the East India Company was abolished. There is a peculiar characteristic in this trade. We have had three wars in twenty years, and whatever has been the apparent cause, the ultimate and undisguised object of those wars has been, to use a technical phrase, to open up China and to extend our trade with that country, The effect has been this—that whenever there has been a war our merchants, stimulated by the prospect of an extended market, have sent out speculative stocks, and that their enterprise has invariably been followed by disappointment and re-action. I am speaking in the presence of an hon. Friend of mine, through whose house I believe one-third of the export trade to China goes, who, on one occasion said to me, "The trade with China has been always a disappointing trade." If the House will allow me I will give it an analysis in a very few words of the Returns for which I moved and to which I have already alluded, which will serve to show how great is the misapprehension which prevails on this subject of our export trade to China. In 1835, the first year of the open trade after the abolition of the East India Company's monopoly, our exports to that country were £1,074,000. In 1836 they were £1,326,000, which was the highest amount they reached while the trade was confined to Canton. The opium war occurred in 1840, and by the peace of 1842 Shanghai and the other treaty ports were opened. For the following three years there was an increase in our exports—in 1843, they were £1,456,000; in 1844, they were £2,305,000: in 1845, they were £2,394,000. From this point they declined, and for the next ten years they remained, with the exception of one or two spasmodic efforts at recovery, at little more than half the amount of 1845. In 1854, they fell to £1,000,716, being less than in 1835, twenty years previously, when the trade was confined to Canton. In 1856–7, and again in 1859, the war arising out of the lorcha affair was carried on, and by the peace that followed several new ports were opened, and the great river 919 the Yang-tze was made accessible to foreigners. A treaty opening Japan was also entered into, and the first exports to that country were sent through China. Our exports rose in 1859 to £4,457,000, and in 1860 to £5,318,000; but. following the invariable law, they fell in 1862 to £3,137,000. Last year, 1863, they amounted to £3,889,000. Speaking the other evening the noble Lord at the head of the Government informed us, that owing to the great expansion of our trade with China the difficulties of our commerce in Lancashire had been largely met, and that we were indebted to that increase of trade for our ability to bear as well as we had done the pressure of the American civil war. Now it amazed everybody connected with the trade of Lancashire to find that the noble Lord made such a statement. The trade with China is almost the only one that has weighed on the business of Lancashire in consequence of the immense amount of stock which was lying at Shanghai and Hong Kong, and China is the very last market that responded to the rising prices consequent on the Cotton famine. A gentleman in business informed me that during the years 1862 and 1863, the very time when, according to the noble Lord, this market was relieving Lancashire from depression, there was such a glut in China that it would have been profitable to have brought cotton goods from Shanghai and sold them in Manchester. I am astonished at the reckless assertions that I hear made at that table. I can account for it in no way but this—that noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen who become Cabinet Ministers consider that they speak from a brief. They do not speak with the ordinary responsibility of private individuals. It is supposed that somebody else puts the figures into their hands and that they may say anything. I venture to say that there are more groundless statements made at that table to this august body — by both sides—when they are in office than in any other assembly of Gentlemen—and they are made with such solemnity and with such emphatic blows on that box, that all but the oldest and most obdurate Members of this House are imposed upon; and as for the public out of doors they unfortunately believe everything that is said by a Cabinet Minister. The noble Lord, from his long experience, must be considered the most accomplished master of this, which I will call official, language; and if I was asked to point out the 920 most promising of his pupils, I should say that it was my hon. Friend the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. It was, I believe, my hon. Friend who misled his chief. They ought to understand each other better. Speaking on the lapsed debate upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Northumberland, the hon. Gentleman read a tissue of the most fallacious statements to show the vast extension of our trade with China. He compared the trade of 1857 with that of the present time; he gave us the exports and imports of the treaty ports; the exports that went from an interior port to a coast port, and then the exports from that port to another; but he altogether left out of sight the fact that by Lord Elgin's Treaty in 1859 the trade in opium was legalized—that is, brought into the regular trade and into the statistics, in which it did not appear before, because it was a smuggling trade; and that generally amounts to three times as much as our legitimate exports. I have stated in general terms the facts with regard to our exports to China, but here is a statement which has been sent to me with regard to cotton goods, which will fix upon the mind the extraordinary nature of that market, and the great depression which has existed in it, more than the statement of any money amount. My friend, who was surprised at the noble Lord's statement, sent me these figures showing the quantity of cotton goods exported to China and Hong Kong for the four following years:—In 1860 there were 222,963,000 yards, and in 1861, 243,654,000 yards; that was during the time of excitement and speculation, when the hope that now at last there was going to be a large consumption in China was operating upon our merchants' minds. Now comes the recoil; in 1862 the exports fell from 243,000,000 yards to 80,000,000, and in 1863 it fell from 80,000,000 to 46,000,000 yards. So that the exports to China of cotton goods, which are really the chief article that we export to that country, fell in two years from 243,000,000 yards to 46,000,000 yards, or less than one-fifth, and that was during the time when the noble Lord tells us that Lancashire was sustained by the great extension of our trade with China. That is the character of the business that you are transacting with China. You have now tried it in every possible way. You have tried it by war; you have tried it by the extension of the treaty ports; you have tried it by 921 going into the interior; and that is the character of your market in China. I do not pretend to say what is the reason why we cannot find a large consumption of our goods in China. Whether it is that one third of the human race—as the noble Lord told us the other night when he said, "Think of having free and unrestricted trade with one-third of the human race!" —whether it is because the Chinese are the most industrious, the most frugal, the most energetic and persevering people in the world, because their labour is cheaper than anywhere else, and you get for the cheapness of the Hindoo the quality of the Scotchman or the Swiss,—whether it is in consequence of that that they can produce their own articles cheaper than even a steam-engine can do it on this side of the earth—whether it is that the opium traffic absorbs their means, and prevents their being in a condition to purchase other goods which we expect to sell, or whether it is that the revolution and civil war going on in China tend to destroy the cities and populations where the great consuming demand existed, I do not pretend to say; but this I do say, that from some cause or another you have arrived at this positive proof, that it is not by war or violence, or the increase of your treaty ports, that you are likely speedily to extend the consumption of your goods in China. If you look back for the last thirty-five years you will find that China is the only country that has disappointed you; that is, that the exports to China have not kept pace with the natural increase of your trade in other directions. Last year your exports to China were £3,800,000, your exports to the whole of the world £146,000,000: so that you only send 2½ per cent of your exports to China. If you run your eye over the table of exports you will find that China stands only twelfth in the list of your foreign customers, that it stands even below Brazil and Egypt. This is the moral—that it is not by blood and violence that you are to extend your commerce, That is the way to destroy trade and not the way to create it. I hope that after all this experience we shall none of us again advocate any violent measure with the view of extending our trade either in Chirm or elsewhere. The noble Lord told us truly that there is one-third of the human race—that is 350,000.000 or 400,000,000 of human beings—in China. They are but very small customers, but look at it in another way. If you are to follow that policy which is 922 peculiarly the noble Lord's; if you are to break into the country, hold it, and be its police; if you are to make another Turkey of China, and if, in addition to meeting Russia and France, you are to meet the United States at Pekin; if you are to trouble yourselves and future generations with governing and controlling and intriguing in China, recollect that you have a country of vast extent and prodigious population to govern, and that you ought well to consider whether it is worth your while to incur all these risks, and enter upon this policy with the proofs that you have that you are not likely to do more trade with that country than with Brazil or Egypt. We are too apt to forget what China is. China has ten times the population of France. It has eight times the surface of France. Having broken into Pekin by the most flagitious means, you have now a Minister there who is undertaking to remodel that vast empire. Read his despatches; what is he doing? Constantly advising the Government that they must change their mode of administration. They are to become a centralized Government. I can hardly speak of the tone of those despatches without expressing my feelings in un-Parliamentary language. Why! the idea of a man going to an empire that is now moving in the ruts created by 2,500 years of existence and of one civilization—a country which has probably transmitted to you very much of the habits and mode of living of the ancient Babylonians—to think of going to Pekin and coolly recommending that the Government of Pekin should absorb to itself the government of all the provinces—each province being as large as a European empire. What good can possibly come of that? It only shows the utter impossibility of our understanding the nature of the country with which we have to deal. Sir Frederick Bruce forced his way to Pekin expecting to find there a centralized Government and a great Power. When he got there he found a decaying capital and an Executive with very little power. It is very possible that it is owing to that circumstance that the empire has endured so long as it has. [Mr. WHITE: Hear, hear!] What is Sir Frederick Bruce doing? He is recommending the Emperor to withdraw the power and authority enjoyed by the local governors of the different provinces, and to assume their power himself at Pekin. He is recommending a complete revolution in the mode of governing China, It seems, 923 that the power of the governors of departments is really almost independent of that of the central Government. Now, I think that what we have to do in China, if it be a great empire in ruins, is to avoid the fall of the ruins, just as you would keep out of the shadow of an old castle wall for fear it should fall upon you. The wise policy would be to have as little as possible political or social relationship with that country. That is the policy which I should recommend this House to consider. What are we doing now? We are actually doing our very best to break up the little authority that was left to that central Government, because we are carrying into that country habits of insubordination, and letting into that country wild and lawless men. And the very circumstance of our opening the door to what is called the extra-territorial population is that we let in, not respectable merchants alone, but every kind of filibusters and brigands who can reach that country. There is nothing comes out so clearly in the late despatches as that you yourselves cause much of the disorder that is going on in China. You opened up the great Yang-tze river—that is, you stipulated that foreigners should have the right to navigate that river. Well, that was an unusual step, and we ought not to have done it unless with much better securities for the maintenance than we could possibly obtain. I believe it was done against the better judgment of Lord Elgin himself. What has been the effect? Read the despatch of Vice Consul Adkins, who is placed in a consulate on that river, and who describes the population. He says, writing to Sir Frederick Bruce from Chinkiang, on the Yang-tze, on the 2nd of September, 1862: —I am well aware that the river is likely to be overrun by foreign blackguards, knowing no law, and under no control; the more so that the Chinese authorities themselves shirk the responsibility, and take no steps to protect their countrymen.Writing again on the 23rd of September, and referring to outrages that had taken place, he says—The Europeans who caused the disturbance were in Chinese employ. It is a common practice to hire a foreigner 'to take care of the boat.' By this is meant hoisting a foreign flag when passing a native Custom House, and bullying any official who may get in the way.Again, on the 27th of April, 1863, he says—I very much fear that the foreigners trading on this river in sailing boats are almost without 924 exception men without principle or character— outlaws, in fact, who have no regard for treaties or regulations, and who look upon the Chinese as made for them to prey upon. Their drunken and debauched habits have made an impression even on the Chinese.And Sir Frederick Bruce, writing so late is July last to Earl Russell, speaks of the "constant scenes of blood and violence which have inaugurated the opening of the fang-tze river." Can any one realize what this extra-territoriality means? You have stipulated that Englishmen who go into China shall not be subject to Chinese laws. You make a sort of effort to follow your fellow subjects with your own law—that is, you set up Consuls 200 or 300 miles apart on this great river. I believe there is a space of 500 miles on that vast river where we have no Consuls at all. our countrymen go there, and foreigners also. This system of hoisting flags is carried on in all sorts of surreptitious ways. Let us suppose that Chinamen came here, and could penetrate into Oxfordshire without being subject to our law —that they could commit every species of robbery and outrage upon the constituents of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire, and that the local magistracy had no power to interfere with them beyond this, that they could seize them and carry them to the nearest Consulate, there to be judged according to Chinese laws. They must be taken to the Chinese Consulate at London, the witnesses must be brought with them, they go before a foreign tribunal, and then, after all this expense, what chance would you have of obtaining law or justice? Why, such a condition of affairs amounts to a state of actual lawlessness for every European and American in the interior of that country. The law allows every foreigner, be he English, French, or American, to pass into the interior, and foreigners having treaty rights are exempt from the jurisdiction of the mandarins. You must bear in mind that the mandarins shirk the responsibility of meddling with these people; and why? Because they know very well that one war, or rather two wars — the wars of 1856–7 —were caused by the lorcha Arrow. The same may be said of the war that followed the exchange of the ratifications; and there is not a Chinese authority that does not tremble in the presence of the English flag. The consequence is that for vessels under the English flag, since that lorcha war, there is a complete irresponsibility and 925 lawlessness. Chinese capitalists buy European-rigged vessels; they get a foreigner to come on board, as they did in the case of the Arrow, to take care of the boat. When he is on board he claims to be the owner of the boat. He bullies the Chinese authorities, he passes the Custom House, and defies them to fire upon him. Why, this amounts to an actual state of anarchy. These lorcha vessels are at the bottom of a great deal of this mischief. What says Sir Frederick Bruce in his despatch to Consul Sinclair at Ningpo, dated January 24, 1863. He says—I have to instruct you to execute strictly the treaty in the matter of clandestine and prohibited trade, particularly as against lorchas and small sailing craft engaged in the coasting trade. The class of men who sail these vessels, and their lawless and violent proceedings, make peaceful progress difficult, and do much to keep up a feeling of alarm and aversion to foreigners among the authorities and population of China. You must be aware, from your experience at Ningpo, that it is the employment to be found in these vessels which keeps up the class of lawless foreign adventurers which infests the ports, and is the hot bed of crime on the coasts of China.Now, you undertake the police of the vast region. You have got your gunboats on the Yang-tze river and on the coast, but I am very much afraid that you are led into almost as much lawlessness and involuntary crime as the natives themselves, because a wholesale massacre and destruction of the native junks by our ships of war has been going on, attributable, no doubt, to our ignorance of their language. Such acts, however, reflect a very great discredit on the national character. We read of 200 junks at a time being destroyed by our vessels. They destroyed first the pirates, as they are called, and then the Government vessels. There is a curious correspondence, from which I will trouble the House with only a short extract. It illustrates in a very short space the anomalous and discreditable relations to which I refer. Prince Kung sends a despatch to Sir Frederick Bruce, complaining that our force in the Yang-tze river had burnt three Government war junks for pirates, one of them having on board a mandarin, for the loss of whose personal effects a pecuniary compensation is demanded. In reply, Sir Frederick Bruce says—A short time since Captain Dew destroyed a fleet of 200 pirate vessels at Chusan at the request of the Chinese authorities; and in the case now complained of, the officers of Her Majesty's ships, at the request of the people, destroyed these 926 junks, which the popular voice, as well as the appearance of the vessels themselves, pointed out as Cantonese and piratical.And he adds, in reply to a second remonstrance, thatAs several respectable looking villagers on shore averred that these junks had been plundering them for some time past (a statement corroborated by a small mandarin), the commander of the larger steamer caused them to be set on fire.[A laugh.] That is not a thing to laugh at in a Christian assembly. You cannot realize such a state of things, because the scene of these outrages is so remote. There is an old saying that a man would sleep more soundly if he knew that the whole Chinese Empire would be destroyed in the night, than if he knew he was to have a tooth drawn in the morning. But our interests are becoming deeply compromised in the Chinese Empire. Here is the answer of Prince Kung, and I would rather have faced a broadside than have received such a communication—A well-dressed and well-to-do people are not necessarily well-affected subjects, nor is a small mandarin necessarily a genuine mandarin. Who can say that in this case the parties complaining were not pirates in disguise, who, in their dread lest the Government vessels should arrest them, trumped up this story of the evil done by these junks with a view to inciting the commanders of British steamers to destroy them.And the Prince proceeds to say that for this act of violence, in the summary destruction of these Government vessels, he hopes that a penalty commensurate with the offence will be inflicted on the British officers. This is a most demoralizing state of things when your forces are made the instruments of this brutal violence—when they destroy 200 vessels because they are denounced by a large mandarin, and then three Government ships because they are denounced by a small mandarin. I say that such a state of things, if allowed to go on, would re-act prejudicially on our home politics and the very character of our social life, and it is our duty to put it down. Why are our vessels there at all to do the behest of the Chinese Government in destroying what are called pirates? At Chusan it was said that 200 war junks that were destroyed were ready to join the Taepings. In the present state of things in China, you cannot draw a line between pirates and rebels, and yet these junks that are found ready to co-operate in the defence of the rebels — and these people had as much right to rebel as ever we had —are to be treated by our forces as a com- 927 mon enemy. Under what authority are such things done? I see in the despatches, Standing Order No. 10, from Admiral Kuper, he says—Chinese vessels are on no account to be destroyed by Her Majesty's ships, unless the officers in command are requested by a competent Chinese authority to aid in doing so; nor unless, on the sea coast of China, a pirate is caught in the act of piracy.It was an old standing order of the Admiralty that our vessels of war were not to destroy even pirates unless they were proved to have attacked a square-rigged vessel. I think I heard that standing order quoted by the late Mr. Hume some twenty years ago. It is not to be tolerated that our brave sailors are to he made the executioners of such a community as that. Now the question arises, What is the remedy for this state of things? If we were beginning afresh to-morrow to establish our relations with China, we should not hesitate a moment as to what we should do. We should avoid all political and social contact with that country. We should, in fact, follow the example given us by a man who was not only a statesman, but essentially a philanthropist—Sir Stamford Raffles. He founded Singapore in 1819. He purchased an island in the Malacca Straits about the size of the Isle of Wight, a barren island, covered for the most part with dense jungle, and gave no earthly advantage to the desert spot except the establishment of a complete freedom of commerce and complete security for life and property. What has been the consequence? That place has grown up from some 200 inhabitants to 100,000, and its exports and imports — which are genuine, and not fictitious, like those of my hon. Friend — I have lately seen stated at something like £12,000,000 sterling. Well, why not do in your China trade what has been done in Singapore? You have only to establish free ports on the coast of China, and to withdraw yourselves altogether from political contact with that people, and you will have a trade greater than ever you can hope for by assisting to destroy their civilization in the vain attempt to promote your commercial relations. You have an example of what might be done in the case of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is a mere rock at the entrance of the Canton waters. You have made a free port of it; it has no productive nor consumptive power whatever; but by making it a free port, one-third of all the commerce 928 which now goes on with China is carried on through that port. While Canton is deserted, and left quite out of the list of your export and import accounts, everything goes to Hong Kong; and there is no doubt if you could get two other small islands—the smaller the better—one towards the centre of the coast and the other towards Shanghai, and merely establish them as free ports—I do not ask you to do more—they would draw all the trade of China, and solve the question of your relations with that country without any more ado on your part. Well, then, having this example of what should have been done, we go on preferring a policy which is carried out at great loss to the national character, and at great cost to the people of this country, because such a policy imposes a great charge upon the people, and the time may come when this country will be very impatient of this sort of mismanagement. I would exhort this assembly and its constituencies—since we are now beginning to view ourselves as a kind of privileged class from which we exclude five-sixths of our people, because we are supposed to have more forethought, more political wisdom, more philosophy than they—that something is expected from us. I will show you by the conduct of a great, a brave, and essentially a just man—the Duke of Wellington—what the course you have pursued during the last thirty years is as compared with what he would have done. A very curious incident brings in the Duke of Wellington as an authority on this question. I may call to the recollection of this House that in 1834, after the opening of the trade with Canton to private enterprise, Lord Napier was sent out to that place. He addressed the officials there in the usual way, but they refused to have any communication with him except in the way of trade. Lord Napier, after some angry correspondence, wrote home some despatches inciting our Government to coerce the Chinese by sending out a few regiments, and showing how easily they might be brought to submission. At that time the noble Lord now at the head of the Government was Foreign Secretary; but before Lord Napier's letters arrived, that curious interregnum, which those at the wrong side of fifty cannot but remember, took place, when the Whig Government went out and the Duke of Wellington held all the seals until Sir Robert Peel should return from Italy. Those letters of Lord Napier's 929 fell into the hands of the Duke, who then held the seals of the Foreign Office as well as the seals of the other Secretaries of State, and he wrote in reply a very brief despatch, which is the only one from his pen of the papers of 1840, and here is one of the sentences, which contains the pith of the whole. It is dated February 2, 1835—It is not by force and violence that His Majesty intends to establish a commercial intercourse between his subjects and China, but by the other conciliatory measures so strongly inculcated in all the instructions which you have received.Now, I am bound to say, in justice to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, that the instructions which were sent out by him, being the King's ordinance by an Order in Council for the management of our trade in China, were all dictated in a spirit of justice, moderation, and peace; and I can say I have never seen any despatches of the noble Lord which have been addressed to China which have not always breathed that spirit of forbearance and justice. But what I find fault with in the noble Lord is this—if one of his subordinates in any part of the world commits any violation of those rules of moderation and justice, the noble Lord backs him. Now, I defy the noble Lord in all his correspondence to show me half-a-dozen lines conveying a courageous and just rebuke to an over-zealous or violent agent abroad like those few lines of the Duke of Wellington. What we want is a Government here which can check its officials at the antipodes as well as the Government of President Lincoln can restrain its officials from wars with China. [This remark of the hon. Gentleman excited some murmurs and subdued commentaries on the Opposition benches.] I understand what is passing among hon. Gentlemen. Well, I come now to the point to which I was going to refer, and that is. the Duke of Wellington's view of what should be our expenditure in China After sending the despatch from which I have quoted to Lord Napier he sits down, and in a memorandum prepared for the Cabinet, which you will find in the same volume of the Correspondence up to 1840, he goes into the question of Lord Napier's difficulties with the Chinese. He says—They refused to receive him at Canton; they had a perfect right to do so. For us to attempt to force the Chinese officials to receive an English official would be disgraceful.930 "Disgraceful," that is the word; and he goes on to say—If they do not want to receive an English Minister with high-sounding titles, let us be content.And at a time when Lord Napier was supposed to be a refugee at Macao, in a memorandum dated March 24, 1835, he fixes our establishment in China. He recommends, until trade has taken its regular peaceable course, a frigate and a smaller vessel of war for the protection of our trade with China; and he fixes the cost of the civil establishment there at £13.600 a year. So that, according to the Duke of Wellington's principle, our trade was to be protected by a frigate and a small vessel, and our civil establishment was to cost only £13,600. Now, last year I saw a list of Government vessels in the waters of China and Japan, and they were fifty in number, and we have a little army at Hong Kong, and another at Shanghai, and the expense of our civil establishments has enormously increased. While our trade with China has increased only threefold during all that time, our expenses have increased twenty-fold, and all that has been done under the purest delusion that ever any people were under. We went to work with the Chinese to force our political connection on them—a course which the Duke of Wellington thought ought not to be followed at all. We have done so on the assumption that the Chinese could be traded with fully only if we established our political connection with them. But the Chinese, with an instinctive knowledge of their own interests, immediately came to the conclusion that their peace and security were at stake in excluding foreigners from all political and social contact with them. They felt that they could not coexist on an equality in the same country with the English, and, while they have consequently resisted all social and political contact with us, we have been always acting under the delusion that a political and social connection was essential for the interests of our trade. That was the greatest delusion in the world, for the Chinese people were free-traders, while we were in the very mire of protection in this country. The Chinese and Asiatics never understood or felt the question of protection to native industry. I remember quite well, when I advocated the repeal of the Corn Laws in this country twenty-five years ago, repeatedly making use of the argument of the case of the Chinese, and showing what free-traders 931 they were, how they not only allowed rice to come into their country duty free, but they exempted from port charges a ship bringing a cargo of that first necessary of life in China. Some persons may attempt to answer me by saying that I am only speaking of exports to China, and that I say nothing of our imports from that country; but no one doubts that if we stayed at home the imports from China would still reach us. We have never gone to China to force the Chinese people to give us their produce, but to increase our exports to that country. It may be said that it is not a practical question to talk of withdrawing our present connection with China. I thank God I am not responsible for anything that has been done with respect to China, but we are in the midst of difficulties with that country, increasing every year in danger; therefore we cannot leave the matter alone, and if we cannot suddenly take that course which we might do if we had to begin again, we can, at any rate, move in that direction, and can apply the principle I advocate to Japan, where we have endeavoured to force ourselves on a reluctant people. The representatives of Japan are now in Paris, and they will come over to this country, and will be ready almost to prostrate themselves before us and ask us not to force ourselves on them; for if we should, they could not be answerable for the safety of our countrymen, and civil war and strife might be the consequences. Now I want to know whether we are going to receive the Japanese Envoys in the same way as we received the Ambassadors who pleaded in the same manner with Lord Elgin. The communications which passed between the Chinese Plenipotentiaries and Lord Elgin, when they were pleading in every possible way against the English forcing themselves on their country, were the most pathetic State papers I ever read. Are we to pursue the same course with respect to Japan? I trust not. I trust that we shall, in respect to that country, pursue the same principle as in Singapore and Hong Kong. Establish ourselves if we will on the mainland, but let us isolate ourselves, and not come in contact with the interior. Let us take this precaution. We have had the death of one Englishman in Japan—Mr. Richard-son—and to avenge that we have thrown away the lives of many brave men. We must observe, in our trading relations with these Oriental nations, precisely the same policy as was pursued by our Plantagenet 932 kings when we received in former times those merchants from the Hanse Towns who came here and were allowed to trade, but were obliged to keep themselves distinct from our people. The consequence was that those merchants settled in a distinct part, a place being set apart for them, and were obliged to avoid all contact with Englishmen, simply because they were exempt from our laws. In the end we must come to the same condition of things in dealing with these people, and in order to carry on business with them in quietness we shall have to establish free ports; if on an island so much the better, and if on the mainland we must keep our people to themselves. If Englishmen go out to these parts of the world, must they involve their countrymen at home in these wars because they will not confine themselves to five square miles for horse exercise? Why, our naval officers are content to be imprisoned on the quarter-deck, with the chance of an occasional walk of half a mile. Let our merchants submit to a similar ordeal, and as a matter of duty to ourselves we are bound to enforce such a course of conduct on them. I have brought forward this Motion because I think it right not to let this question be huddled up by a "count out," and a "count out" never takes place in this House unless the Government are in it, and because I wish to give the opportunity to hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House to express their opinions on the subject. I think—and the thought occurred to me since I gave notice of submitting a Motion on this question— that it would be the wisest course if this House should understand that, at the next meeting of Parliament, a Select Committee would be appointed to inquire into our commercial relations with China and Japan. It may seem presumptuous, considering the uncertainty of human and Parliamentary life, to say what should be done six months hence; but some steps might be taken in the interval of the recess to procure the necessary documents from China, and in the meantime hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House might express their opinions on the subject. After the debate is over, I attach very little importance to the fate of the Motion; but it is important people should know in China that this country is dissatisfied with the present state of things, and is not prepared to endorse the conduct of any Englishman which may involve a repetition of our Chinese wars. I hope that during the recess nothing will be done 933 to give us greater cause to blush than now, or to increase the humiliation which we must feel at what has passed; and that every man in that distant country, whether official or merchant, will bear in mind that, in dealing with an ancient but helpless people, it is our duty and interest to act in accordance with the mild character of Christianity. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, the policy of non-intervention, by force of arms, in the internal political affairs of Foreign Countries, which we profess to observe in our relations with the States of Europe and America, should be observed in our intercourse with the Empire of China,"— (Mr. Cobden.)
§ MR. LAYARD
said, it was curious that this Question, which had been brought under the notice of the House more frequently than any other foreign question this Session, should hitherto have received so little attention from hon. Members; and therefore he conjectured that the large audience which he saw assembled that evening, had been attracted thither not so much by the piece as by the actor. He thought that hon. Members might congratulate themselves on the speech they had heard. The hon. Member for Rochdale, who was always original in his views, had been more so than usual that evening. It was a speech characterized by the hon. Gentleman's usual ability and by unusual moderation and calmness. It fully deserved the attention of the House, and he would do his best to answer it. When, on a former occasion, there had been a difficulty in keeping "a House" to listen to a debate on China, that was not to be attributed to any desire on the part of the Government for a "count out," but rather to the fact that the House felt that the proposition to call on the Government to reverse its policy with regard to China involved a responsibility too great for the House to undertake; and he thought he could show that if Her Majesty's Government had simply followed the advice that was then given by Members of the House with regard to China, disastrous results would have followed both to our commerce and the lives of a number of British subjects in China. But after their speeches either no Resolution was put to the House, or 934 the House was counted out in consequence of there not being forty Members present. He never very clearly understood what those hon. Gentlemen meant. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) the other evening, after blaming the Government for their policy, concluded by wishing that they should continue to defend the Treaty Ports and to protect British interests in China. Why, that had always been the policy of the Government; and therefore, as between them and that hon. Gentleman and those who thought with him, the question became one of degree and not one of principle. But now the House had a totally different state of things before it. His hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale had advocated a totally new policy. He said the time was come when we ought to abandon the policy on which we had hitherto acted in China, and adopt another and a diametrically opposite one; in other words, that all direct relations with China, diplomatic and commercial, should cease. That was an original view, and such an one as might be expected from his hon. Friend —one displaying great ingenuity on the part of the hon. Gentleman; but it was a view from which he (Mr. Layard) totally dissented, and he thought he would be able to show that it was one which in these days it was utterly impossible to adopt, or that would be tolerated by the House and the country. He heard with surprise the statement of his hon. Friend, that the only exception to the increase in our trade with various countries, was China. He did not think that the hon. Member's own statistics bore out that assertion; because, towards the end of his speech, he stated that the trade with China had increased threefold during the last few years. He also said that the statistics he (Mr. Layard) quoted to the House on a previous occasion, on behalf of the Government, were not trustworthy — that the most reckless disregard of facts, accompanied by emphatic blows on the box, was exhibited at the table of that House. The hon. Member characterized the noble Lord at the head of the Government as the master of that kind of proceeding, and paid him (Mr. Layard) the compliment of saying that he was the most promising of the noble Lord's pupils. He should be proud of the past and hopeful of the future if the latter statement were correct; but he knew his hon. Friend only paid him an 935 empty compliment. He would now call the attention of the House to a few statistics which he had gathered from official Returns laid upon the table from year to year; and if his hon. Friend doubted them because they were official reports, he would refer to reports given in China by persons not connected with the Government, but connected with trade, and who had no interest in misrepresenting the facts. He found from the Return headed "Declared value of British and Irish produce exported from the United Kingdom to various countries and British possessions," these results relating to the exports to China, exclusive of Hong Kong—that in 1854 the amount was £532,639; in 1855, £888,679; in 1856, £1,415.478. There was a gradual increase till 1861, when the amount was £3,114,157; but in the following year there was a sudden drop to £2,024,118, which was easily accounted for. It was owing to the Cotton Famine and the consequent decrease in the cotton trade. The value of the imports into China was in 1854 £9,125,000; in 1862 it was £11,699,964, and the exports increased from £1,000,000 in 1854 to £5,451,557 in 1860. There could be no doubt whatever that those Returns were accurate; but if his hon. Friend should be inclined to question them, he would refer him to returns published in a supplement of The London and China Telegraph for the 7th of last March. In that broadsheet it was observed —The advance of the import trade from China is very remarkable, the value having doubled within the past two years. The imports of tea here have been very large—a considerable quantity now coming here for re-shipment to the States of America, Russia, and other parts of the Continent. Chinese wool keeps steady, although showing no very large increase, and a new item appears in the imports of cotton. Hitherto China has been an importing country, receiving large supplies from India, instead of an exporting country. The value of British exports to China has been rather on the decline of late years, but this arises in a great degree from the decrease in the shipped cotton manufactures, which is scarcely one-fourth of the amount of former years. Beer, coals, iron, lead, hardware, and other principal articles keep pretty steady.Our imports of tea from China and Japan had risen from 75,000,000 lb. in 1859 to 134,000,000Ib in 1863. In a former debate it was alleged that the proceedings of the Taepings had caused no diminution in the export of silk, and his assertion that it had decreased while the export of other articles had increased was Questioned by some hon. 936 Members, but in the same paper he found this statement—The total export of silk from Shanghai during the year (January to December) 1862 was 84,983 bales, against 70,459 during the preceding year; but of this increase 8,330 bales were Japanese silk re-exported, so that the increase on Chinese produce was only 6,194. A portion of this, too, may fairly be assumed to have been diverted from Ningpo, where the falling off during the last six months of 1862 was 6,620 bales; so that unless an increase be assumed at the latter port during the six months of Taeping occupation, the export of silk from the two ports has actually decreased. According to the annual circular of Messrs. Durant and Co., there was a diminished import here in 1863 of 21,400 bales of Shanghai silk, 800 of Canton silk, and 900 of Chinese thrown silk, but an increased import of 14,000 bales of Japan silk.His hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale had said that on a former occasion he had quoted statistics of the accumulated trade of China, instead of those of the trade of China with this country; but it would be in the recollection of the House that he had quoted those figures, as returns of the accumulated trade, in order to show the good results that had followed from the protection of the treaty ports by the British Government with our French and American Allies. His hon. Friend had advocated a new and original policy; but he must submit that his remarks were not altogether logical. He pointed out the great success which had attended Sir Stamford Raffles' occupation of Singapore. He (Mr. Layard) quite agreed that Sir Stamford Raffles was an eminent philanthropist as well as a far-seeing politician. He was able to purchase this island from its native ruler, and to establish a town and free port. The experiment had proved perfectly successful, and his hon. Friend suggested that we should pursue exactly the same course in China—that instead of having commercial communications with the Chinese in their own cities and upon their own rivers, we should establish free ports on the coast of China. His hon. Friend had, however, failed to point out how this policy was to be carried out. We must have the consent of the Chinese Government. The fact was that Shanghai had virtually within the last few years become a free port. Hong Kong had been made by us a free port, and the experiment had succeeded; but the fact of our doing so was a cause of considerable annoyance to the Chinese Government, and it was only after a long war, in which the Chinese were defeated, that we obtained 937 the cession of Hong Kong. But did the hon. Gentleman suppose that the Chinese would cede to us the islands he referred to of Chilean and Formosa without compensation, for the purpose of establishing free ports, and absorbing the commerce of the Chinese, and placing it in our own hands? Well, if we could not obtain these free ports by negotiation, would the hon. Gentleman suggest that we should seize the islands in question and go to war for them. We must either obtain them by negotiation or as the result of a prolonged war, It was utterly impossible to ask the Chinese for such a cession. Then his hon. Friend seemed to forget that there were other Powers in China besides England — there were France, Russia, and the United States, each of whom might come forward and demand a similar cession; and thus the result would be that we should get into difficulties and complications with China and other Powers. What had been our policy in China? We had obtained from the Chinese the right of trading at certain ports which had heretofore been closed against us. As soon as British and foreign trade was admitted into those ports an immense increase of commerce took place. Shortly afterwards the Taeping rebellion broke out. The Government had often been charged with having interfered in this domestic quarrel between the Taepings and the Chinese Government; but that was not the case. Our only interference had been to prevent the Taepings taking possession of the treaty ports. We had nothing whatever to do with them until they approached the treaty ports, and they might have gone on fighting for centuries if they had not threatened those ports. There was not a diplomatic agent, a consul, a missionary, or a merchant in China who had not urged Her Majesty's Government to defend the treaty ports against; the Taepings. Everybody concurred in asserting that the Taepings were utterly incapable of founding any settled form of government; that they would not respect our treaties with the Chinese Government; and that if they were allowed to take the treaty ports, British and foreign trade would be utterly annihilated, and that probably an immense sacrifice off human life would ensue. In the face of these representations what a responsibility would have rested on the Government if they had permitted the Taepings to enter the treaty ports! His hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Colonel Sykes) was 938 fond of quoting anonymous writers and newspaper extracts in favour of the policy he recommended: the other night he produced a string of newspaper columns stitched together as long as a tailor's measure; but he had never heard of any evidence given by any person of authority and knowledge in favour of establishing relations with the Taepings. When Admiral Hope went out he was exceedingly desirous to treat with the Taepings, and to enter into friendly relations with them; and he paid a visit to Nankin for the purpose. But he failed altogether, and he was the last man in China to give up the idea that relations could be established with the Taepings. His hon. Friend maintained that the Taepings were not destructive, and he was unwilling to accept the evidence of Ministers and Consuls to that effect. In fact, he, and some other hon. Gentlemen as well, seemed to think that there was a perpetual plot going on in China to deceive her Majesty's Government. There was no doubt about it, however. Everybody who had seen anything of the proceedings of the Taepings concurred in so describing them. Nankin, Hankow, and other flourishing commercial towns were ruined the moment they fell into the hands of the Taepings. A great deal had been said about the thirty miles' radius; but no general principle had ever been laid down that there should be a thirty miles' radius around all the ports. At Shanghai that radius was the military line of defence pointed out by the military authorises. At other ports a ten or twenty miles' radius might be sufficient. It was altogether a military question. It was true that this thirty miles' radius had been passed on several occasions, and the officers were not always justified in passing it. In several instances the Government had condemned officers for passing it; in others they had acknowledged the force of the reasons on which they had acted. It was thought necessary on one or two occasions, in order to prevent the Taepings closing the roads which lead to Shanghai, to dislodge them from posts outside the thirty miles' radius. The hon. Gentleman had condemned Sir Frederick Bruce as one of the authors of the policy which had led us into so many difficulties. On other occasions, however, he (Mr. Layard) had heard it said that Sir Frederick Bruce had a far different view of the policy that ought to be pursued from Her Majesty's Government, and that he was opposed to the employment of British officers in 939 China. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) went so far the other evening as to say that the Government had suppressed a despatch, or rather a memorandum, signed by Sir Frederick Bruce and others, disavowing the policy of the Government, and another hon. Gentleman said that an admission had been with difficulty extracted from him (Mr. Layard) that such a memorandum had been received. That showed the reckless manner in which statements were made in that House, for there was not a single word of foundation for that statement. Sir Frederick Bruce communicated a despatch and inclosures to Mr. Burlinghame, the American Minister, who wrote to his Government to say that he had seen that despatch, and had sent a copy of it, but requested that it should not be published until the English Government had published it. He himself was the first to bring that despatch under the notice of the House. He quoted from it to show the entire concurrence of Mr. Burlinghame in the policy proposed to be pursued by Sir Frederick Bruce, and he also stated that that was the policy which had been followed by the Government. There had never, he might add, been any difference between the Government and Sir Frederick Bruce as to the policy which should be pursued, and he had over and over again borne testimony to the great ability and tact with which that Gentleman had conducted his communications with the Chinese authorities. He could not lay the despatch in question on the table because it contained observations on the policy of foreign States which it would not be conducive to the public interests to publish; but he would to-morrow or the next day produce extracts from it which would give all the parts to 'which allusion was made by Mr. Burlinghame. One extract which bore on the point at issue he might be allowed to read. It was as follows:—On the appointment of His Imperial Highness to the post of Prime Minister, Sir Frederick Bruce had strongly urged Her Majesty's Government to support the Chinese Government—firstly, by protecting the ports against the rebels; secondly, by aiding it in the organization of a regular executive. The feeling of the British nation is always opposed to interference in the internal distensions of other States. Sir Frederick Bruce had, not with standing, on his own responsibility, authorized Her Majesty's army and navy stationed in China to defend the ports against the rebels: and it is entirely due to the exertions of the allied forces that Shanghai and Ningpo are not now in rebel possession.By Sir Frederick Bruce's own admis- 940 sion it appeared that he himself was the first to suggest the employment of British troops in defence of Shanghai; so that a distinct contradiction was given to the allegation that there was any disagreement between him and the Government on that part of their policy. But be that as it might, was it, he would ask, or was it not, the fact, that our relations with the Chinese Government and the Chinese people had improved? His hon. Friend had quoted the correspondence relative to the destruction of certain junks by British officers; but it was perfectly clear that if a similar circumstance had occurred some years ago, instead of Prince Kung writing a diplomatic note to Sir Frederick Bruce, and negotiations taking place, war might have ensued between the two countries. Lord Elgin was, he also thought, perfectly right—and the result justified his conduct —in pressing on the Chinese the conditions to which he endeavoured to obtain their assent. One of the greatest results of his mission was the concession under the treaty enabling foreign Ministers to reside in Pekin —it had proved of the utmost advantage. Constant intercourse now took place between Sir Frederick Bruce and the Imperial authorities, and matters leading to irritating differences were settled with comparatively little difficulty. With respect to our having entered into treaty engagements with Japan, his hon. Friend seemed to forget that we were not the first to adopt that course; that a similar treaty had previously been concluded by the United States and Russia with that country; and that he himself would, in all probability, be the very first to condemn the apathy of the Government if they had declined to follow in the same direction. His hon. Friend, he would further observe, condemned the existence in China of a state of things which no longer prevailed in that country. There was no doubt still in China much which was to be deplored. The collection there of large numbers of idle persons, known as "filibusters," was a great evil, and imposed on the British Government a great responsibility. But it was most difficult to know how persons of that description could be excluded from the free ports, unless we were prepared to withdraw from China altogether. What, under the circumstances, had we done? We had established that extraterritorial system, which he admitted was open to objection; but which, considering the cruel character of the Chinese, was 941 necessary for the protection of our own people and to prevent them from being exposed to unduly severe punishments. The exertions of our Consuls under the system had, he believed, already tended very much to check crime in China and to exclude from it idle and worthless persons. Nevertheless, acts were frequently committed by British subjects which deserved severe punishment; but in all these cases the offenders had been fairly tried, and entire satisfaction had been given to the Chinese authorities. He believed that no Government with any sense of responsibility would think of entering into relations with the Taepings—such a connection would be sure to turn out disastrously. It was all very well to say that we were supporting in China an usurping dynasty; but having spoken much on this subject with Mr. Wade, the British Secretary of Legation, who was perhaps better acquainted with that country than any other living man, he had been assured by him that the present was a popular dynasty, that the people looked upon it as having conferred upon them great benefits, and were willing to remain under it, while they looked with horror on the rebellion; and Mr. Wade also assured him that not a single Chinese of respectability had joined in the rebellion. Those were facts which he had never heard contradicted on reliable authority, and he asked the House, with confidence, whether after the explanations which had been given it would be possible for the Government to change the policy which they had hitherto pursued in China. It was true that, in order to mark our sense of the misconduct of the Futai in putting to death the Wangs who had surrendered at Soochow, an Order in Council had been issued to the effect that British officers must no longer take service under the Chinese Government. Therefore our exertions were now limited to the defence of Shanghai and the other treaty ports. Those ports we must defend against the Taepings, for if we allowed the rebels to enter them, Europeans by thousands, and Chinese by tens of thousands, would be slaughtered. If Shanghai, that great emporium of trade, which, according to Sir Frederick Bruce, contained 1,500,000 inhabitants, was allowed to fall into the hands of the Taepings, and to become a desert like other great cities of China, a vast responsibility would fall upon the Government, from which they would never be able to escape.
said, that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had commenced his speech by stating that he had listened with attention to many speeches made on this subject by himself (Lord Naas) and other Members on that side of the House, who condemned the policy of the Government with respect to China, but that he had failed to find out what those opponents wanted. Now what was "wanted" had been explained over and over again. What was wanted was a policy of absolute neutrality between the two contending parties, and the issuing of strict orders to all our diplomatic, naval and military employés that they should abstain altogether from mixing themselves up with the internal affairs of China. That had not been the policy of Her Majesty's Government since about six months after the signature of the Treaty of Tien-tsin; and if they were now returning to the policy which Earl Russell laid down in his despatch about that time, it was because they had tried a different policy and it had failed. It was true that he and those who agreed with him in condemning the policy of the Government had always admitted the necessity of defending the treaty ports, and protecting the enormous amount of British property which was to be found in the towns and cities of China; but they had always maintained that our interference with the internal affairs of the empire endangered the safety of that property and was calculated to defeat the objects which the Government professed to have at heart. Last year he showed that with regard to three essential particulars the policy of the Government had been one essentially of interference, and he ventured to predict that on all these points it would be a failure. He was surprised to see how quickly his prediction had been fulfilled. The three institutions in China established by our Government were the Inspectorship of Customs, the flotilla under Captain Sherard Osborn, and what was called the Anglo-Chinese force under a very gallant gentleman Major Gordon, and what had been the results? The foreign Inspector of Customs had been ignominiously dismissed; the flotilla, which went out under the command of Captain Sherard Osborn, had been as ignominiously withdrawn and disbanded; the Anglo-Chinese force was at present in a most critical state, and its maintenance would be so fruitful a source of danger to our relations with the Chinese Government, that he did not believe that 943 the Ministry would long be able to uphold it. The Under Secretary of State having taken credit for the success of the Government policy in China, it was necessary that he should show the House what the Government had really done with reference to these matters. He would not go minutely into the history of Captain Osborn's expedition, but would refer to only one or two points to show with what carelessness and almost recklessness the Government went into that most wild and extraordinary scheme. Before the expedition sailed last year he (Lord Naas) denounced it as impolitic and dangerous, and ventured to say that the Government had taken upon themselves, without authority from a Foreign Government, to despatch to it a large armed squadron. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs contradicted him flatly upon that point, and stated that the persons who had come to England to organize the expedition were armed with full and complete powers, and had satisfied the Government upon that subject. What were those powers? He found that Earl Russell very naturally suggested that Mr. Lay should produce some written authority from the Chinese Government before the consent of the Foreign Office was given to his request, or the Orders in Council were repealed. Mr. Lay's answer was that he had received such an authority—from whom?—from Mr. Hart, who was his own locum tenens in the Inspectorship of Customs during his absence from China. Mr. Lay said he had received a despatch from Mr. Hart urging the sending out of the vessels. The Chinese Foreign Board had no doubt told Mr. Hart that if he could send them any vessels they should be glad to receive them; but there was no written authority from the Chinese Government stating on what conditions this force was to be raised, or what treatment it was to receive when it arrived in China. Sir Frederick Bruce himself said that, although the fleet left England in the winter, it was not until the arrival of Mr. Lay in China in the following spring that the Chinese Government had any intimation of the position of affairs, of the cost of the vessels, or of the nature of the undertaking entered into by Mr. Lay. Therefore if our Government was not in ignorance as to the intentions of that of China, the Chinese Government was in total ignorance as to the cost, the intentions, and the objects of this expedition; and yet the Under 944 Secretary of State assured the House that the Government knew all about it and were in perfect accord with the Chinese Government and with Mr. Lay, who had come to this country armed with full powers to negotiate. If that was not keeping the House in the dark he did not know what it was. Parliament adjourned, the fleet sailed, and came to an ignominious end. There was a still more serious matter connected with these negotiations, to which he must call attention, because it showed how very suspicious was the nature of the whole affair. Mr. Lay and Captain Osborn made an agreement between themselves in this country which came to this, that Captain Osborn was to have the entire control of the vessels, and that he undertook to act upon all orders of the Emperor conveyed to him through Mr. Lay; but that Mr. Lay was not to give any orders unless he approved them himself. So that Captain Osborn was to be entirely under the control of Mr. Lay, and was to receive his orders from no one else, although nominally in the service of the Emperor of China. There was, however, a sort of agreement between the Chinese Government and Mr. Hart, and it had been stated that Mr. Lay must have been conversant with an agreement that Captain Osborn should be associated with a Chinese officer of high rank, who should control all matters relative to the fleet. He did not know whether or no the Government was cognizant of this fact. When this arrangement was found out, it was not surprising that indignant opinions should have been expressed on the subject. It was clear that Her Majesty's Government were entirely imposed upon by the representations made to them. So little indeed did they think of the importance of this expedition, that they sent out no instructions to the Ambassador at China when the expedition sailed, from which Sir Frederick Bruce inferred that Earl Russell could have no intention of being a party to the engagement. It was entirely owing to this neglect on the part of the Government and the carelessness with which the expedition was sent forth, that British officers and the British name had been subject to such an indignity as the contemptuous dismissal of Captain Osborn. It was impossible, in his opinion, to continue these Anglo-Chinese expeditions, to which he took exception last year. The great difficulty in China was, that the central authority was weak and the local authority 945 strong; and he agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), that the evils that afflicted the Chinese Empire were not likely to be remedied by these proceedings, and that no act of ours ought to increase them. These contingents had done more to weaken the central authority and strengthen the corrupt local Government of the mandarins than anything else could have done in China. The House would be surprised to hear that Major Gordon and his officers were not in the service of the Emperor of China at all. They were under the orders of the Futai of Shanghai, an almost independent Prince, who habitually set at naught the orders he received from Pekin. Let him implore the House to consider the disgrace that was brought upon British names and British arms by any man wearing Her Majesty's uniform being in command of such a force. He would remind the House that an act of the grossest treachery had been committed, contrary to the wish, but under the very nose of the officer commanding the force. An agreement for the capitulation of a town was made between the chiefs and Major Gordon, but as soon as the Imperial General got them in his power he cut off their heads. In another disgraceful case seven Chinamen were tortured in the very camp and station occupied by Her Majesty's forces. He alluded to these occurrences to show that it was impossible to continue this species of assistance to the Chinese without being mixed up in these abominable acts. Take the case of Colonel Burgevine, who succeeded to the command of the Foreign contingent after the death of Colonel Ward. He was dismissed by the Chinese Government, in opposition to the opinion of Sir Frederick Bruce, who thought it safer that the force should be under the command of a foreigner than under the command of an Englishman. He deserted to the Taepings, where he shot his second in command. He then left the Taepings and returned to the Imperial territory. Major Gordon thought it of great importance to get this man back into the Imperial service. What proposal did be make to Major Gordon?—that as they were both tired of serving the Taepings and the Imperialists, it would be better for them to set up for themselves, and create an army and an altogether independent Power in China. He then made a piratical attempt on a steamer at Shanghai, and was at last sent out of the country by the 946 American Consul. The truth was, that these Eastern waters were so infested by men of Burgevine's stamp, that it was impossible to officer the Chinese forces without having recourse to their assistance. It was perfectly impossible that any course of action at all creditable to this country, or in accordance with the general feeling, could be carried on with such tools as were to be found at our disposal in China. No wonder, therefore, that the Chinese Futai should have said that actions such as those of Burgevine and his comrades were altogether without the pale of civilization. It was deeply to be regretted that any countryman of ours should be mixed up in the unfortunate events that had occurred. He wished to say nothing disrespectful of the English gentlemen who were engaged in those affairs. He believed many of them were gallant men, and wished to serve their country; but he feared that daily contact with the people they had to do with, and with the scenes which they had to witness, would, in the end, blunt the finest sensibility. He greatly feared in the case of Major Gordon that, as a Chinese commander. he had witnessed and participated in acts which the young engineer officer in the Crimea ten years ago would have recoiled from with horror. No doubt the temptation was very great, and very large sums were offered for the services of such men. By the blue-book upon the table it would be seen that Mr. Lay himself made upwards of £10,000 in the last year. Those temptations ought not to be held out to British officers, and he implored the Government to prevent British subjects from yielding to them whenever they could. But to turn to another subject. He was somewhat surprised at the repeated statements made by the Under Secretary (Mr. Layard), that the opinion of the men of most influence and authority on China was in favour of the policy of the Government. The hon. Gentleman had endeavoured on various occasions to show "that the policy of Her Majesty's Government had been approved by the merchants in the East, by missionaries, by naval and military authorities, by Sir Frederick Bruce, and Mr. Burlingharne, and he hoped it would be approved by the House." Now, he (Lord Naas) thought he could show that every one of the authorities quoted by the hon. Gentleman had, individually and collectively, expressed his disapproval of that policy. With regard to the missionaries, taking as an instance 947 Dr. Legg, who had spent the greater portion of his life in China, who was a ripe Chinese scholar, and whose personal predilections would incline him to a favourable view, he had condemned the policy of the Government two or three different times. Sir Frederick Bruce had pronounced an emphatic condemnation of that policy; he showed how impossible it was that the flotilla could succeed, and was delighted at having got rid of it, and his opinion of the contingent was equally unfavourable. He said—I am of opinion that unless the force be properly constituted and relieved from the necessity of obeying the orders of the local Governors, it will do no real and permanent good, and that the officer who commands it will speedily find himself in a position neither compatible with his professional reputation nor with what is due to the character of a British officer.He could not but express his astonishment that the hon. Gentleman should to-night have repeated the statement which he had made on a previous occasion as to the views of the merchants in China with regard to our policy. The memorandum of the Chamber of Commerce of Hong Kong had been already read to the House. But the hon. Gentleman said that was not the opinion of Shanghai merchants. But anybody that knew anything about China was aware that the Hong Kong merchants were intimately connected with Shanghai, and he had himself received a personal assurance on the subject from a gentleman who had large trading transactions with Shanghai. [Mr. LAYARD: What I said with regard to the unanimous testimony of merchants and missionaries was with reference to the Taepings.] That was not what the hon. Gentleman had stated, because he had his words there, and they were to the effect that the policy of the Government in China had been approved of by the merchants in China. And besides, they must take the rebellion as it stood, and when the hon. Gentleman spoke of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in China they could not pick out this or that particular part of it. However, he (Lord Naas) distinctly affirmed that even the policy of the Government with regard to the Taepings, had been disapproved by all the authorities he had quoted. The hon. Gentleman had read a portion of a despatch from Mr. Burlinghame, the American Minister, as if he and the other representatives of the Foreign Powers approved of the policy of Her Majesty's Government. He (Lord Naas) had taken the 948 trouble to discover that despatch, and he found that instead of being favourable it was perhaps the strongest thing that had ever been written against the policy of Her Majesty's Government in China. Mr. Burlinghame stated that he gathered together the representatives of the Foreign Powers in Pekin in order to come to some joint understanding, the principal object being to alter the policy which had been carried on by Her Majesty's Government, and to return to the policy of total and absolute neutrality. And first he quoted the opinion of Sir Frederick Bruce to the effect that he did not wish that any English officer should lead troops against the Taepings; he would much prefer that the Chinese should take men from the smaller States of Europe, and relieve England from being considered the bully of the East. Mr. Burlinghame said that he was for a change of policy, declaring that the course of policy which had been pursued was wrong. This was in the very despatch of which the hon. Gentleman quoted a portion the other day to prove that Mr. Burlinghame and Sir Frederick Bruce approved the policy of the Government; and Mr. Burlinghame went on to congratulate his Government that he had been able to persuade Sir Frederick Bruce to write a despatch strongly disapproving the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and recommending an instant change. It was clear that Mr. Burlinghame expected that Sir Frederick Bruce's despatch would be published in England, and he hoped that they would soon have an opportunity of seeing it, for it would show beyond question that Sir Frederick Bruce disapproved of the policy of Her Majesty's Government in China. It appeared also that Mr. Burlinghame wrote to his Government to the effect that if he had known the constitution and nature of Captain Osborn's force, he would have objected to its employment, unless commanded by a mixture of officers, and not placed entirely at the disposal of an English captain. No one could read these despatches without being of opinion that they were opposed to the sense in which they were quoted by the hon. Gentleman the other evening. It was notorious that Sir. John Hope did not approve Captain Osborn's expedition; and no doubt Captain Osborn would have as strongly condemned, had his opinion been asked, Major Gordon's contingent. He thought that he had now disposed of the various authorities which the hon. 949 Gentleman had quoted for his policy, and shown that they, one and all, concurred in strong condemnation of it. Any hon. Member reading the blue-books—and particularly the last blue-book—must be struck with the absence of any explanation on the part of the Government as to the various important questions which arose. It might; be that European diplomacy had, within; the last six months, overtaxed the powers of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, but certainly he had found but little time to devote to the affairs of China, He could not help thinking, however, that American and Asiatic affairs were as; worthy of attention as were the struggles which were being carried on in Europe It was true that we had always supposed ourselves to be a first-rate European Power, though the events of the last six months might perhaps have changed that opinion, But in Europe we divided with other nations the supremacy of the Western world In Asia the ease was different. In Asia, England was all powerful, and its influence was paramount. England was in possession of an empire in India, by the side of which every other Asiatic Power was entirely dwarfed, and out of this state of things arose the relations of this country with China. When it was remembered that China contained 350,000,000 of inhabitants, those relations did certainly seem to him sufficiently important to justify the devotion to them of a large portion of interest and attention on the part of any one presiding over the Foreign Office, When it was recollected that during the last twenty years much of English blood and treasure had been spent in China with little honour, it behoved those who conducted the foreign affairs of this country to be, at all events, careful that nothing was done in China without their special and direct authority. But he had carefully read the last blue-books, and he did not find in them any indication of any policy whatever on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The affairs of China were left to take their course, and the consequence was, this country was drifted into difficulties and dangers in connection with that part of the world; and it was owing to good fortune, rather than to any other cause, that we had not found ourselves in a most serious scrape. This circumstance assumed importance when it was considered how necessary it was that, in dealing with a people so peculiar as the Chinese, the English should consistently endeavour to 950 set them a good example. The Chinese were most jealous of foreign interference, and, until lately, they excluded all foreigners from China. Such being the case, it behoved us to be especially careful to show them that we had no political object in view but the promotion of our commerce; that we were not moved by any desire of aggrandisement; that our only desire was that they should faithfully observe the treaty they had entered into with us, and to show them how national honour also demanded the fulfilment of national obligation. He feared, however, that what had occurred since the Treaty of Tien-tsin had impressed the Chinese with a totally different opinion, and had tended not to remove, but to increase old jealousies. The belief was deep-rooted in the mind of Orientals that Europeans never undertook an enterprise without having a selfish end in view, and he regretted that our conduct had tended to strengthen them in such an impression. When they saw an Englishman at the head of their Customs; when they saw an army commanded by British officers—an army which had proved so successful that the Chinese had denominated them as the "ever victorious" troops, and when they saw a strong fleet coming into their waters under the command of a foreigner, he did not wonder that they thought they saw the footsteps of a Power which had upset so many Eastern monarchies. They saw the danger, and they took the alarm, and as soon as Captain Sherard Osborn appeared they made up their minds that they preferred their existing state to the prevalence of foreign dominion. There were three great Powers besides England which had a direct and very considerable intercourse with China— France, America, and Russia. The interest the Americans took in the affairs of China might be learned from the despatches of Mr. Burlinghame, the American Minister at Pekin. France had a great object in view in China. Her great object was not connected with trade or commerce, but was strictly ecclesiastical, but not on that account the less important. The French people, and especially the French clergy, took a deep interest in this matter. There was now a French force organized at Ningpo, with the direct view of watching over French interests. The Jesuit missionaries were labouring diligently in China, and had been forward to render their services in elevating the education of the officials of that country. But Russia had far 951 greater interests. She had lately acquired a large seaboard in China, extending over nearly a thousand miles, and by means of telegraphic establishments, St. Petersburg was already within fourteen days' communication of Pekin, and probably before long this would be reduced to three or four days, Besides this, it was the intention of Russia to form a large maritime and military station, and we might probably see before long a new Sebastopol springing up, furnished with all the defences which science could supply, and which would form a standing menace to our interests in the Pacific. If we persisted in lending our officers to the Chinese, why might not other nations do the same; and thus they might have a French contingent, a Russian contingent, and perhaps an American contingent. He hoped the Under Secretary would have announced the discontinuance of the employment of British subjects under the Chinese Government. With respect to the remarks of the hon. Member for Rochdale, he (Lord Naas) thought the policy he had indicated was hardly possible at present. Extra-territorial jurisdiction was no doubt an evil, but in China it was a necessary one. He believed it would be impossible to hand over British subjects to be treated according to Chinese law, though such an end might be kept in view. A large population had been drawn to the concessions, and at Shanghai there were about half a million of people living upon the British concession, and in some cases they had taken the opportunity of drawing off numbers of the inhabitants; but these foreign concessions required the utmost attention, or they might find that they would become fruitful sources of doubt and disputation hereafter. He was glad that the hon. Member for Rochdale had intimated that probably he should not take the sense of the House upon this question. The time for Resolutions had gone by. Some of the matters to which objection had been taken were now at an end. He found that the fleet which had been fitted out under the direct control of the Admiralty, and with the consent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was wholly at an end, and he was glad to hear that the Order in Council had been revoked, and was not to be issued again. He should like to know how the revocation of that Order would affect the officers engaged in the Anglo-Chinese expedition. The policy of Her Majesty's Government had entirely failed in China. He had said last year, 952 that their success or their failure would prove the subject of equal apprehension. They had witnessed the ignominious withdrawal of Captain Osborn's fleet, and they were apprehensive of the misfortunes that had probably overtaken Major Gordon, and he thought it would be inexcusable obstinacy to persevere in the same course, by which they would be further involving themselves in results which must lead to disappointment and disaster.
§ MR. BAILLIE COCHRANE
said, he thought the House were indebted to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) for having given them an opportunity for the full discussion of this Question. After the able speech of the hon. Member and the eloquent remarks of his noble Friend the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas), he should not take up the time of the House, only it was due to the hon. Member that those who agreed with him should state their sentiments on this occasion. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, in replying to the speech of the hon. Member for Rochdale, quoted figures, the accuracy of which he for one disputed; but, assuming them to be correct, the hon. Member treated this Question too much as one of trade, and did not seem to regard it as one affecting the dignity, the honour, and the character of this country. He felt that the honour, interests, and character of England had suffered by the policy which our Government had pursued in the East. If he wanted a proof of the evil results of that policy he should find it in the fact that there was now crossing the sea the vessel that carried the revocation of the Order in Council of 1862–3, allowing British subjects to serve in China. That revocation had been sent out before we received the painful intelligence which appeared for the first time in the newspapers of yesterday morning. What, he asked, would be the effect produced in China when they learned the terms of the revocation, and that Major Gordon would not be permitted to serve any longer with the Chinese troops, and when they considered that this step had been taken suddenly following the great defeat which he had experienced? This defeat, it appeared, took place at a distance of only seventy miles from the city of Ningpo, the radius of which was thirty miles. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs seemed to dispute that point; but any person who would take the trouble of reading the blue-book would find that thirty miles was the 953 extreme radius. Whether the troops were Chinese or European it was quite evident that they were commanded by Major Gordon and other English officers, who became thereby responsible for the acts of the men under them. And what was the result of this battle? It was most serious as regarded this country, inasmuch ns no less than 14 British officers and 115 men fell in the action, which had been severely contested, the rebels having defended themselves apparently with the courage of despair. Well, it was after those defeats, that the despatch had been forwarded requiring Major Gordon and the English officers to withdraw from the military service of China. Let the House consider for a moment what an effect the receipt of such a despatch would have on the prestige of our arms in China. That was one of the evil results of our intermeddling policy in the East, That policy had occasioned us much mischief, and never was it more mischievously carried out than in China. He had heard it said in that House that it was; useless to discuss this Question, inasmuch as the events which they might have controlled had already occurred. It appeared, however, to him important that that House should express its opinion upon these matters in relation to which instructions had been sent out to China. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs spoke of the benefits enjoyed by our trade with China; but he (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) should like to know what were the expenses we incurred in the various China wars in which we had been involved. It would be an interesting piece of information to learn what the losses were which this country had sustained by the policy of our Government; then to make a debtor and creditor account, and ascertain by the results whether this country had lost or gained by this meddling policy of our Ministers. It was a melancholy fact that not only had that policy resulted in positive evil to this country, but it had actually demoralized the Christian population in China. He believed that the whole of the East was against this policy. He would refer to two or three authorities, and they would find that those persons who were best capable of judging of the state of things in China bitterly lamented the misconduct of many of the British subjects in China, and he would venture to say of many British merchants there. The hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter), who was deeply interested in the trade of the East, told the Government the other night that 954 they must not be coming periodically to the taxpayers of this country for money to enable them to carry out their objectionable policy. Speaking to the merchants of Shanghai, Lord Elgin said—Neither our own consciences nor the judgment of mankind will acquit us. When we are asked to what use we have turned our opportunities, we can only say we have filled our pockets from among the ruins we have found or made. An eminent French writer has observed that it is one of the glories of Christian civilization that it has caused a sentiment of repentance to find a place in the hearts of nations; let us hope that it will not be by pointing this moral that Great Britain, when she comes to review her connection with the furthest East, will make good her claim to the title of a Christian nation.A gentleman, long resident in China, wrote in 1860 —Our own advantage has been the regulating principle of our policy. We make exactions when it suits us, and do not exact them when inconvenient. Our diplomacy has resulted in confusion worse confounded. We shall probably now have to overthrow a Government we have been endeavouring to support. Had we been more considerate we should now have less to deplore.The misconduct of our traders was not a matter of yesterday. Two hundred years ago Dryden wrote of them—Industrious of the needle and the chart,They rash full tilt to the Japonian mart;Bereft of shame, and prodigal of fame,Sell all of Christian to the very name.And these lines were applicable to the conduct of too many of our merchants still. This was the language of Sir Rutherford Alcock on this subject—We are threatened with the same dangers now, by persons wholly regardless of what may happen if they can only secure their own temporary advantage. But it is the business and the duty of all foreign representatives to prevent a few individuals thus endangering the relations and damaging the permanent interests of nations. It is better that there should be no trade than a trade carried on under such conditions as those which it has been attempted to impose. It is better that there should be no intercourse than relations of ill-will and conflict, threatening only war as a final result.It certainly was very humiliating that periodically these lectures should be read to British merchants to teach them how to conduct themselves in their relations with foreign countries. The hon. Gentleman said, that Sir Frederick Bruce approved all that had been done in China; but such was not the fact. So far from Sir Frederick Bruce approving the policy of the Government, he had throughout conducted himself in a most able and proper manner, placed as he was in a most difficult position. 955 Writing in one of his despatches with respect to the conduct of our Consuls, he said—I have also to observe that the Chinese Government in employing foreigners in its Custom House is doing what Foreign Powers have advised her to do, and following a system of improvement which in other countries has led to the best results. I expect Her Majesty's Consuls to set an example to foreign communities of treating with respect the gentlemen who hold these important offices, and who are not inferior to them either in character or social position. It is your duty in this way to strengthen their influence with the Chinese provincial authorities, as it is to that influence that we must look for the peaceful execution of treaty privileges, and for the gradual introduction of progressive ideas into Chinese administration which will enable us to accommodate its maxims to the growing development of trade.The hon. Gentleman was, therefore, greatly mistaken in supposing that our policy had the approval of Sir Frederick Bruce, though it might have the approval of a great many subordinate officials in China, and of those who were prepared to take advantage of the confusion which they created in that quarter. Mr. Burlinghame, he might add, distinctly laid down, with Sir Frederick Bruce, the principles on which we were to interfere at all, which was simply to defend the treaty ports against the Taepings, but in such a way as not to make war on that considerable body of the Chinese people; and Mr. Seward, in reply to the despatch setting forth that policy, characterized it as wise and just towards the Chinese. And what, he would ask, was the cause of the rebellion in China? It appeared to him (Mr. Baillie Cochrane) that the manner in which we had conducted ourselves towards the Chinese Government on the question of the opium trade had given great force to the rebellion in China. Our policy at that time tended greatly to humiliate the Chinese Government, and thereby indirectly to give encouragement to the Taepings in their rebellion. Much had been said about the barbarities of the Taepings, but he thought that that was a mere assertion made use of by the Government and its supporters to excuse the course which they had taken against that people. He had read many works on the subject, and he could not find any foundation for the charges of cruelty and barbarity brought against the Taepings. The atrocities committed by the Chinese authorities were perfectly horrible. If the Taepings were as bad as they were represented to be, he did think that even then there was much to 956 choose between the two parties; but on reading the other day a very interesting work on the subject he found a very different account given of the Taepings from that which appeared to be generally accepted as correct. Mr. Forrest, in a work published in 1862, said of them—It is impossible to live among the people a long time and not take an interest in them, and in a certain way to like them. I have met with not only civility, but actual courtesy from them, and shall never regret the time I have spent among them. Heaven forbid that England or France should ever make confusion worse confounded by interfering in the struggle now raging. After seeing a great deal of both parties, I must confess I have no better opinion of one than of the other.Now, we might talk of a selfish policy and the necessity of pursuing a particular course in the interests of commerce, which seemed to consist in killing our customers; but let us not in support of such a policy as that which we pursued in China invoke the name of civilization and the interests of humanity. We seemed, in fact, to act on the principle of interfering everywhere, and our policy in the East was most ridiculous and inconsistent. One day we fought against a great Power in the East, and the very next allowed our fellow-countrymen to aid in strengthening it as much as possible. The plea of humanity was put forward in defence of the course which we took; but if that was the true ground of our interference in China, how came it to pass that we did not interfere in the struggle which was going on at the other side of the Atlantic? On the same principle on which our officers were allowed to fight the battles of the Chinese we might have permitted recruiting and interfered in the struggle in America. The reason of the difference which was made between the two countries was that America was a powerful and China was a weak one. If it was said that the Government had done what they had out of regard to the national honour and dignity, he replied that they might have interfered in a country nearer home, the sufferings of which had been caused by their foolish intervention and perpetual meddling. Allowing our men to go and fight in a quarrel in which they had no concern was nothing better than murder, and it was peculiarly disgraceful that we should adopt such a course at the very time when Switzerland, which in former times permitted its subjects to sell their blood to foreigners, had abandoned that practice. The House and the country were much indebted to the hon. Member for Rochdale for having brought 957 this subject on after the two "counts out" that had taken place upon it, and for his clear statement and exposition of our policy in the East. If it should have the effect of putting an end to this kind of intervention, which was as criminal as it was objectionable, not this country only but the whole world and civilization itself would owe him a deep debt of gratitude.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, that after the indulgence the House had accorded to him on two former occasions he should not detain them long; but the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had used what he (Mr. Liddell) considered was an unfortunate expression that night, which required some answer. The hon. Gentleman said that if Her Majesty's Government had reversed their policy in China: disastrous circumstances would have followed. He thought he should be able to show that Her Majesty's Government had reversed their policy in China, and that, nevertheless, disastrous circumstances had ensued owing to that erroneous policy, When the last accounts left China a distinguished officer, holding Her Majesty's commission, was lying severely wounded far in the interior of the country. He had lost a large number of his officers and many others were wounded. His assistance was cut off, and he was opposed by an army flushed with victory, and composed of the most warlike, ferocious, and hardy portion of the population of China, and they might hear; by the next mail—which God forbid!— that that gallant officer and the whole of, his force were cut off. That state of things, he contended, had been occasioned by the policy of Her Majesty's Government. The Government at first allowed British officers to detach themselves from their regiments for the purpose of joining the Chinese, but they had since rescinded that Order in Council. They were right in doing so, but their previous policy in employing English officers to lead the Chinese in the field had not met with the approval of any of the authorities in China. One of the worst features of that policy had been to teach the Chinese to distrust their own native leaders, The Taepings had discovered that native troops led by English officers triumphed over those led by native officers, and the consequence was that they had availed themselves of the services of adventurers, and he had no doubt it would turn out hereafter that the disasters they had recently heard of were to be attributed to the generalship of those foreign leaders. 958 Had General Burgevine remained in the ranks of the Taepings it was difficult to say what might have been the result. They might depend upon it that if this war continued—as there was too much reason to fear it would — there would be different bands of adventurers opposed to each other in that country, led by foreign leaders, which would have the effect of lengthening beyond its natural limits this unhappy internal struggle. The Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs said that the rebels did not keep treaty engagements. He (Mr. Liddell), on the contrary, had always felt a strong conviction that we ourselves hail not observed good faith in our dealings with the Chinese. An Englishman's word was his bond, and he held that it was the same with nations as it was with individuals. We pledged ourselves after the Treaty of Tien-tsin to observe a strict neutrality between the contending parties — and how had that pledge been carried out? But it was neither fair nor correct to assert that the Taepings — ruffians as they were according to the noble Viscount—had failed to keep their word. However low they might be in the social scale it should be remembered that we were a great civilized nation, and that it was our bounden duty not to lower our standard of political morality to the level of those degraded beings, but to raise them up to our own. So far as he had been able to ascertain, from study and careful examination, he believed that their conduct contrasted nobly in this affair with ours, and he challenged a contradiction of his statement. The supporters of the Government had placed the opposition to the Chinese policy on a false issue. The Opposition Members had never denied that it was the duty of Her Majesty's Government to protect our gigantic interests in China by a defence of the treaty ports, and if they had contented themselves with doing that it would have been all right; the rebels would have recognized our right to do so, and would never have attempted to interfere with us. But we had done otherwise, and had carried the war into the country, and had followed them into the middle of the silk districts, which was a great mistake. They had made enemies of people who were prepared to have been their friends; and ever since they had carried war into those districts the silk supply had fallen off. On the 14th April this year the silk from those districts was 350 bales for the fortnight against 800 959 bales for the corresponding fortnight last year, and 2,000 bales for the corresponding period in the year preceding. That was a tremendous falling off. The supplies of silk reached us regularly, as long as we did not interfere with the rebels. There was no doubt that we had supported the Chinese Government; we had re-established its authority; and the Taepings knew it; and having thus made enemies of these people they ravaged the silk districts by way of revenge. We had nobody but ourselves to blame for this result. The present stock of silk in hand was only 3,500 bales, against 8,000 bales at the same time last year. These were very serious things, and were the result of the policy of the Government—that policy from which they now receded, inasmuch as it had proved to be a mistaken one, and had indeed died a natural death. He wished only to say a word more before he sat down. He wanted to know for a certainty what the effect of the repeal of the Order in Council would be. He did hope that they would have a distinct statement that its application was retrospective, and not only prospective. Did it apply to Major Gordon, Captain Cooke, and those other officers who had permission given them by the original Order in Council to enter the Chinese service? He wanted to get rid of all quibbles, and to know whether it applied to all British officers serving at the head of Chinese troops. He hoped they would have an assurance to this effect. There was another important point which had never yet been cleared up. He wanted to know by what authority and at whose instance Major Gordon was appointed— because everybody in China whose opinions had any weight condemned that appointment. He desired also to know really and truly whether Major Gordon had ever held a commission direct from the Sovereign of the country in which he was engaged in warfare; because if he had not held a commission there he had been a filibuster, and was no better than a pirate on the high seas. He trusted that once for all we had done with British interference in the internal affairs of that country. He thanked the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) for lending the weight of his abilities, his commercial authority, and his high position as a statesman in this country, to this cause, which really was the cause of justice, the cause of humanity, and moreover the cause that was most likely to benefit the very trade 960 which the policy of the Government was calculated to destroy.
§ MR. GREGSON
said, he had supported the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) in his agitation for free trade, but he could not concur in much that he had said with regard to our policy in China. The hon. Gentleman had said truly that our objects in China were simply commercial, and he (Mr. Gregson) would have been delighted that our relations with that country had never been otherwise. He concurred with the hon. Member that it would be desirable next Session to have a Select Committee to inquire into our commercial relations with China; but he could not agree with him in thinking that those relations were unsatisfactory, because, whatever might be the internal dissensions of that country we had maintained amicable relations with the Government de facto. The hon. Gentleman said that we were the cause of the present state of things in China, and that we should drive that empire into anarchy. But it had been often stated in that House that China had been in a state of anarchy for a very long period, and it was not owing to us that anarchy had prevailed, was prevailing, and, he feared, long would continue to prevail there. He did not, however, intend to enter into that question. His hon. and gallant Friend near him (Colonel Sykes) suggested to him that he ought to say a good word for the policy of the Government, as there was no one else to do so, and that was the reason why he stood up there to make a few remarks. He was afraid the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Rochdale with regard to opening small free ports would be impracticable. In the first place, by so doing they would have to derange all the present establishments, and in the second place they would have to get the concurrence of the Chinese authorities. Now, Hong Kong had been established as a free port, but as compared with Shanghai it had not been at all successful. The hon. Gentleman alluded to the recommendations made by the Duke of Wellington. Those recommendations might have been all very well for that time, but we had got far beyond that point now. The noble Lord (Lord Naas) in his very able speech bad appealed to the opinions of the merchants in China. But he (Mr. Gregson) had taken great pains to ascertain from a large number of gentlemen connected with the China trade what their views were with re- 961 gard to the proceedings and policy of the Government, and the answers he had received to a series of questions to several eminent firms were in general effect that the past policy of the Government deserved approval. With the permission of the House he would read to the House a few extracts from these replies. [The hon. Member accordingly read passages from the papers referred to, stating that the Imperial Government was the only established Government in the country, and that the Taepings were only marauders.] Notwithstanding the devastations of the Taepings the exports of tea and silk from China had largely increased, and last year not fewer than 160,000 bales of raw cotton was sent from China, and relief was thus afforded to the manufacturing districts of England. The trade with China was, besides, of considerable importance to the revenue of this country, for the payment of the duty on tea yielded a revenue of about £4,500,000 a year, and during the last thirty years the enormous sum of £160,000,000 had been paid into the; Exchequer from that source. But he did not argue the case merely on commercial grounds. Our intervention was demanded on the ground of humanity and for the protection of British subjects.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he had refrained for the last two years from taking part in the China debates, because his predictions with respect to the policy of the Government had been completely verified, and because he did not see any way out of the difficulties into which that policy had led us. But little as he agreed in the course which the Government had adopted with respect to China, still less I could he agree with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) in his plan for extricating us out of our embarrassing position. He had always held that our policy in China should be to support the Chinese chiefs in the provinces where we traded, to support the Imperial Government, and not to break in upon the much cherished privacy of their capital and so destroy the prestige of the rulers of the country: Those bands of marauders who were now called Taepings, but who went under different names at different times, had long been the bane of China. When he first visited that empire, which was in 1820, he saw villages that those ruffians had set fire to, and the marks of their brutality on the bodies of those whom they had plundered. Brigandage was the normal con- 962 dition of affairs in China, It was caused by the descent of hordes from the more sterile districts, in which the population became too numerous for the means of support upon the fertile valleys and their industrious populations. Somehow or another those hordes were kept down by the Government of China until our attacks had qroken down its prestige, and he feared it would no longer he able to make head against these ruthless villains without European assistance. He did not believe the hon. Member for Rochdale's plan of free ports on islands practicable in China. The conformation of the Chinese coast, lined by an archipelago of islands, afforded a refuge to the piratical hordes which abounded there, and it would be impossible to trade with safety to our merchants unless these hordes of pirates were smoked out. It appeared to him that the only mode of carrying on commerce with China was through the treaty ports. We were bound to extend our protection to every man trading under the British flag; but, at the same time, he should like to see some general code of laws by which foreign nations could join in such protection. He should like to see itinerant magistrates, who, searching out evil-doers, should let the Imperial Government know that justice had been vindicated. Besides this, in concert with our Allies, we ought to adopt active measures to put down piracy in the Chinese waters; and there was no reason why we should not have a treaty in respect to that great navigable river in China which, under God, would, he believed, afford us the means of introducing European civilization into the heart of the Chinese Empire, It was said in the theology of China, that when making the world the Creator took a pair of bamboo compasses, and putting one leg into the spot where Pekin now stood drew a circle, and so marked out the world, which was China. The hon. Member for Rochdale drew a circle of which he made Manchester the centre. But his speech was a repetition of speeches that were delivered when the removal of the East India Company's charter was under discussion in that House. It had been found that the Chinese would not take our woollens. The reason was, Russia sent into China woollen material more suitable to the tastes and habits of the Chinese. He had never believed that the introduction of the opium trade was a disadvantage to China. The food of the lower classes of China—a great deal of 963 pork, sour vegetables, and vinegar—was of a character to produce intestinal disorders, and the little whiff of opium which they took after their meals was of great benefit to them. It was perfectly impossible for a man to make a beast of himself on opium under £120 a year. He hardly saw his way clearly out of the position into which our policy in China had brought us. It certainly was impracticable to adopt the course recommended by the hon. Member for Rochdale; but by taking up the matter with a strong hand and undertaking to curb the disorderly spirits who had been attracted to China by the love of gain, and who plundered the poor Chinese, by establishing a police force of gunboats along the rivers, we might produce some effect. By no manner of means ought we ever to have anything to do with the Taepings, for a more bloodthirsty, horrible set of scoundrels never existed on God's earth. Nothing had ever shown that they were likely to establish a form of Government. They had no idea of anything but rapine and licentiousness. Certainly he would be no party to recommending the Government to abandon the footing we had in China, but no doubt the Committee suggested by the hon. Gentleman opposite might be useful in devising a remedy for the evils of the present state of things.
thought the policy which had been recommended by the hon. and gallant Member (Sir James Elphinstone) must lead to a considerable augmentation in the expenditure we had already incurred in China. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had certainly kept his constituents in mind. He had often told the House of the gunboats which were lying at Portsmouth doing nothing, and if his advice were adopted there soon would be plenty for all of them to do. [Sir JAMES ELPHINSTONE: They are all rotten.] He could quite believe the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Gregson) that many gentlemen having a large stake in China praised highly the noble Lord and his policy; but what the House had to consider was, not the interest of a single class of traders, but of the British taxpayers. He could not but take notice at what a cost had our trade with China been purchased. In his Budget speech of 1863, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told the House of Commons that they had to face a war expenditure of £8,800,000, of which in 'round numbers £7,000,000 was caused by the war in China; and it was no exaggeration to say 964 that our Chinese policy at the very lowest estimate cost us an extra half million yearly. If on one side were set the trade we had gained, and on the other the sum it had cost us, it would be seen that there never was a policy which gave such barren results for such an enormous expenditure. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would find on inquiry at his own office that his figures were ludicrously fallacious, and his facts were pretty much of the same value. At the same time, he could not altogether concur in the course recommended by the hon. Member for Rochdale. At the time of the Treaty of Nankin it was practicable, and he himself had urged the adoption of a similar policy upon Sir Henry Pottinger at that time. The course which the Government ought to pursue was to dissociate British subjects as much as possible from all connection with the Chinese Government. To accomplish that, within a certain area, Shanghai, Ningpo, Canton, and the other ports should be deemed free, and so leave the native merchants to make their own arrangements as to duties with their own Government on both imports and exports.
said, he thought that the noble Lord the Member for Cocker-mouth (Lord Naas) at the close of his speech had used a phrase which might, perhaps, be understood in a sense very different from that intended. The noble Lord spoke of "the ignominious withdrawal" of the force under Captain Sherard Osborn. He felt assured that the noble Lord in saying so meant only that the policy which had originated the expedition had totally failed, and did not express any condemnation of the skill and ability of Captain Sherard Osborn personally. [Lord NAAS: Hear, hear!] If there was any fault which a microscopic mind could discover in the conduct of Captain Osborn, it was that he might, perhaps, be deemed too scrupulous as to the point of honour, and too resolute in determining to escape from a position in which he might have been subjected to orders which he thought no British officer could execute without loss of reputation. Great credit was due to the gallant officer for his behaviour in that respect, and also for the success with which he had brought home has force—a feat which could not have been accomplished except by a man possessed of high personal qualities and ascendancy of character. There lay before Captain Osborn and his men the prospect of much 965 fane, and of wealth to a very large amount indeed; but these things could not tempt him, and such was his influence with his force that, of 500, less than thirty failed to return with him to England. He was sure the noble Lord would be glad of an opportunity to correct any misapprehension as to his meaning on this point.
said, that nothing was further from his mind in the language he had used than to utter anything in the least disrespectful towards Captain Sherard Os-born. His remark applied not to the com mander, but to the expedition generally and the policy on which it was based, intending to convey that he did not think that an expedition sent out under the control of the Government could be withdrawn without ignominy. He thought the whole conduct of Captain Osborn from the beginning to the end of the transaction was beyond all praise. He had shown an utter absence of selfishness, and a sense of what was due not only to himself as a British officer, but to the interest and honour of England.
§ COLONEL SYKES
complained of the policy pursued by the Government, and hoped that neither the House nor the country would be misled by the fallacies put forward by the Under Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman had tried to delude the House into the notion that the other Powers represented in China were pursuing the same policy as ourselves. On the contrary, while our policy was one of direct intervention on behalf of the Imperialists, and slaughtering the Taepings, the other Powers were resolved not to take any active measures, except in defence of the treaty ports when attacked, and not to allow any of their officers to serve under the Chinese. All that he had shown in Mr. Burlinghame's despatch of the 30th June, 1863, to the American Congress, in the counted out debate of the 21st May, and he would not go over the facts again. The hon. Gentleman was in the habit of describing the Taepings as a sort of human locusts, who destroyed the fertility of the countries through which they passed. Since May, 1860, the Taepings had been in possession of the two great silk provinces of Chekiang and Kiang-su, embracing a vast area of country, and a population of upwards of 60,000,000 souls, and a large proportion of the silk used in this country had been drawn thence. This could not have been possible if the assertions of his hon. Friend 966 had any foundation in fact, He had, he might add, in his hand, monthly Returns of the exports of silk from Shanghai, part of which he had quoted in a former debate, and he found that while those exports amounted in 1860 to only 69,137 bales, they went on increasing until in 1864 they amounted to 83,264. And it had been stated in the evidence of European witnesses, the agents of Messrs. Hart and Co., of Ningpo, who were travelling in the districts to purchase silk, that from Ningpo up to Way-ho-kow, which lay on the verge of the thirty miles' radius of Shanghai, the country was flourishing and the inhabitants happy and contented, while within that radius its aspect was described as that of a desert. The crops in the neighbourhood of Soochow were reared by the Taepings, and the country was in a flourishing condition, to which numerous eyewitnesses bore testimony. Surely with such testimony the House must be satisfied that the Taepings could not be the devastating barbarians they were represented to be. In relation to the case of Major Gordon, it was painful to find that an officer in Her Majesty's service should have exposed himself to the odium which was heaped on that gentleman in China. The North China Herald, The Friend of China, and The Hong Kong Daily Press lamented that Major Gordon had condoned the treachery of the Futai of Shanghai, and had taken service with him again. Other newspapers had also condemned the conduct of Major Gordon in speaking of him as an "unprincipled soldier," and as a "mere mercenary;" and he regretted that Major Gordon, who had felt his position to be so irksome, and had tendered his resignation at one time, had not adhered to his resolution and come home, That gallant officer, in a letter addressed to a missionary, said that if half the pains had been expended upon the rebels which had been wasted upon the Imperialists the country would have been at peace long ago; and Admiral Hope, who had been cited a the direct opponent of the Taepings, in a letter dated 15th October, 1862, admitted that they had well observed agreements which they had entered into with him not to approach within thirty miles of Shanghai for a period of twelve months, and not to molest bona fide British vessels on the Yang-tze river. A friend of Major Gordon's, in a letter to The North China Herald, of the 27th February, 1864, says he only condoned the Futai's treachery when 967He had made him pay up to the last farthing some £27,000 for the wounded, and publish a proclamation taking the whole blame of the Soochow affair off his shoulders, and admit that he (the Futai) had acted wrongly.This receipt of £27,000 before again taking service, to say the least of it, has an ugly look. It was said that, if the insurgents came to Shanghai, there would be an immense destruction of European life and property; but the fact was that they were for five months in possession of Ningpo, and during all that time they allowed trade to go on without molestation, and inflicted no injury upon Europeans. The Taepings had repeatedly offered to us the hand of friendship, but their despatches had been returned unopened, and we had never taken the trouble to ascertain whether we could make any arrangements with them or not. Our motive for maintaining the Imperial Government was based upon the selfish desire to secure the payment of the indemnity of eight millions of taels, about £1,300,000 of which still remained unpaid. Our acts in China in short had been dishonourable and disastrous, and were likely to be still more so in the future.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I am anxious to say a few words before the House conies to a determination on the Question which has been proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale. There has been this remarkable character in the discussion —that while my hon. Friend took a very wide view of the subject according to his notions, those who have followed him have taken a narrow and confined view of it, and have limited their observations chiefly to the recent transactions of the Government with regard to their policy in China. I will, in the first place, deal with the remarks made by the noble Lord (Lord Haas) and those who agree with him. What they have blamed has been the course which Her Majesty's Government have taken latterly in regard to the expedition of Captain Sherard Osborn, the employment of Major Gordon, and the engagement of civilians to assist the Chinese Government in the collection of their customs duties and other matters of that kind. Now it was, I think, almost unnecessary that they should express their opinions with regard to the expedition of Captain Osborn, or the employment of Major Gordon and others; because we stated on a former occasion that the Orders in Council under which those officers were employed had been revoked, and 968 that there was no intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to renew them. Therefore that policy is at an end. I differ entirely from those who condemn it. I think that we were perfectly justified in the steps that we took; because it is evident that the more we can contribute to the internal pacification of China, the more that trade which everybody agrees to be the main and proper object of our intercourse with China would flourish, and it is quite obvious that in proportion as the interior of China is laid waste by civil war and rebellion, in that proportion must our trade suffer impediment and obstruction. I am very glad that the noble Lord had an opportunity of explaining the expression which he used as to the "ignominious" failure of the expedition of Captain Osborn. There was nothing ignominious either in undertaking that expedition, or in the grounds upon which Captain Osborn declined to continue his services. On the contrary, as was stated by my hon. Friend, and admitted by the noble Lord, the whole conduct of Captain Osborn, from beginning to end, did him the highest possible credit, and reflected honour upon the country to which he belongs. If by allowing British subjects to enter the service of the Emperor of China, we had been the means of strengthening the hands of the Chinese Government and enabling them to put down the rebellion or in any degree to diminish its scope, I say we should not only have been rendering a service to China, but should have been promoting those objects for which alone our intercourse with that country ought to be carried on. Those measures have failed. I am sorry for it. They have failed not from any fault of those who planned, not from any fault of those who were engaged in them—they have failed from the effect of those national jealousies which are too apt to prevail in many countries, and which have peculiar force in China, owing to the long established feeling of hostility to anything that is foreign and does not belong to the country. So much for that part of the subject. Then, Sir, I will take the more extensive view which was taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale. He blames the whole policy of England— not the policy of one Administration but of all—in regard to our intercourse with China. He finds fault with different wars in which we have been engaged. Now, Sir, the history of our intercourse with China is the natural and usual history of the 969 relations of a highly civilized with a half civilized people. It invariably happens that where a highly civilized race comes in contact with a half civilized race you find that they act upon different rules of conduct. The highly civilized race expects good faith, justice, fulfilment of engagements, honour, and an absence from wrong-doing. The half civilized race, on the other hand, are in habit totally different—they apply to the civilized race that principle of conduct which they themselves recognize, but which cannot be submitted to by those who are accustomed to a different mode of proceeding. Hence quarrels arise; wars follow the quarrels; engagements, treaties, and conventions put an end to this war; the conventions and the engagements are broken; further quarrels arise; and in that manner relations are embittered, until the superior strength and ascendancy of the civilized race assert themselves, and then the other nation, feeling that they cannot with safety or success practise their own rule of conduct, acquiesce in the regulations imposed upon them by their more powerful antagonists. And then comes a peaceful and friendly intercourse. That has been exactly the course of the relations between this country and China. Now, was our intercourse with China sought for simply by the Government? If the monopoly of the East India Company had continued up to this time, if our trade with China had been confined to that Company, in all human probability none of these wars would ever have broken out, because the intercourse would have been very restricted, nobody would have gone to China except persons under the control of the Company, and the policy of the Company would have been to submit to any indignity which might from time to time be offered, There would have been no national honour at stake, no interest save that of the Company would have been concerned, and they would have thought it better to submit to any little indignity and wrong than to break off commercial intercourse without after all having the power to redress these injuries. If, therefore, I say, the monopoly of the East India Company had continued, we should have lost that increased trade with China which many hon. Members think of national importance, but we should have avoided the contests which have taken place between the two countries. But it was not in the choice of the Government of the day to continue that system. The whole country cried out against the 970 monopoly of the East India Company. They said it was intolerable that such a trade should be monopolized by a single Company, and that monopoly was therefore abolished. Well, then, there was also a general feeling that in proportion as the industry and wealth of the country increased, in that proportion we ought to seek for new markets and new customers. It was said that the nations of Europe were so wedded to their protective system, that our intercourse with them must necessarily be limited, and that we must, therefore, go to other countries where the same impediments did not exist, and find out new markets and enable the commerce of the country to acquire its full development. When the monopoly of the East India Company was abolished, there came a series of contests. Injuries were inflicted by the Chinese Government, Our merchants were imprisoned and threatened with starvation, in order to extort from them their opium. The representative of the English Government, Lord Napier, was cruelly treated, and may be said, indeed, to have been killed by the Chinese, for when he was attacked by a severe fever, the Chinese surrounded the junk on which he was living with other junks, on board of which, under the pretext of doing him honour, gongs were sounded every hour of the twenty-four, and he died in consequence of not being able to obtain the rest necessary for his recovery. One outrage followed another. Again there was war. Next came an agreement. That agreement was afterwards broken—conflict ensued. And so, step by step, we arrived at the Treaty of Tien-tsin. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale was very sentimental as to the objections made by the Chinese Government to allow a British Resident at Pekin, and he said it was very touching to read the arguments of the Chinese Government against it. But I take leave to say that if we had had a Minister at Pekin at the outset of these disputes, it is probable that none of these wars would have taken place. It was because we were debarred from communication with the Government of Pekin—because we were at the mercy of provincial Governors, who committed acts of injustice, knowing that they could do so with impunity, and could render their own accounts of what passed, stopping all communications and remonstrances to the central Government — it was on this account that we did not obtain that redress which would have prevented 971 war; and, therefore, it was that war arose. I venture to say that nothing has been done of more importance, with a view to the maintenance of friendly relations between this country and China, than the admission of our Minister as a Resident at Pekin. Well, then, I say I take the larger view of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale. I think that this House and the country ought to consider, not the policy of one particular measure affecting our relations with China, but ought to consider the great features of our policy, commencing with the abolition of the monopoly of the East India Company, and ending with the residence of an English diplomatic agent at pekin and the establishment of direct diplomatic relations with the Chinese Government. The benefit resulting from this policy had been immense. We are told—and I agree with the statement—that our object in China is simply trade. We do not want conquest—we want trade. But the trade must be protected by treaties. Was the extension of our trade by means of treaties a matter of indifference to the nation? Why, we all remember the pressure put upon the Government for the abolition of the monopoly of the East India Company; and we also remember the enthusiasm excited in this country by the treaty signed by Sir Henry Pottinger, and the vast expansion of commercial intercourse which was anticipated from it. That treaty was made in consequence of instructions which it fell to my lot to draw up, and was concluded almost entirely in accordance with those instructions. One stipulation of importance, however, which I had placed in the draught, was, to my great regret, omitted from the treaty—the provision that if any dispute arose as to the interpretation of any article of the treaty, it should be settled according to the English and not according to the Chinese version. What happened? The Chinese inserted in their version a stipulation which was not in the English version, and upon that stipulation disputes afterwards arose. This bears upon the proposal of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, that certain ports of certain islands should be occupied as places of free commerce, for the stipulation which the Chinese fraudulently inserted into the treaty was that there should be no communication with Hong Kong except from the five treaty ports, that there should be no communication commercially between Hong Kong and any other part of the 972 Chinese coast. This very much diminished the value of Hong Kong, and showed that the Chinese would have been very little disposed to tolerate an English settlement like Singapore, free to communicate with any part of the Chinese empire; and unless it had that freedom its value would not be that which my hon. Friend attached to it. But let me recall to the House the great delight of the country on the conclusion of the treaty signed by Sir Henry Pottinger, and the great anticipation of commercial intercourse which would result from it. I recollect rather endeavouring to moderate the fervor of expectation in this House by reminding the House and the country that, though undoubtedly there was an ample field for the ultimate development of commercial intercourse between the two countries, the development would probably be of gradual growth, and that we ought not to be too sanguine of great results at a very early period. But trade has gone on increasing since then. My hon. Friend has quoted figures which have been disputed, but which are perfectly correct, and one remarkable fact is that the amount of our imports from China greatly exceeds our exports to China. In 1863, I think, the value of our imports from China was about £14,000,000; while the value of our exports was not above £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. The balance was of course to be made up by opium from India or by specie sent out. But how was that opium paid for? The Chinese did not send us £14,000,000 of goods without payment, and those who received those goods must have sent out commodities of some sort to India in order to get the opium by which the difference was to be paid, or to get the specie by which the balance of trade was to be redressed. Well, Sir, I must say that I very much agree with the description of the Taepings given by my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir James Elphinstone), if he will permit me to call him so. There can be no doubt that a civil war waged under such circumstances of cruelty by both parties — though the balance of the crime is very much on the side of the Taepings— must place the country in a much worse state than would be the case if peace were established. Whether peace will be speedily established in China it is impossible for any man in this country to predict. We know that for 3,000 years China has been the seat of turbulent disorders, of revolts, and rebellions, and it is, therefore, rather san- 973 guine to expect an entire termination of the war, though information received a short time ago gives the expectation that the rebellion is reduced within very narrow limits, and may be entirely extinguished at an earlier period than had been supposed. It has been said that our objects in regard to China have been purely selfish —and, no doubt, they are so, taken in a national point of view, But those who view this question only in the aspect which it bears upon the interest of the particular merchants who export to China, and who have establishments in that country, take a very narrow and limited view of the question. Those merchants in reality only form the outfalls by which the thousand rills of upland industry in this country find their way to the great ocean of the markets of the world. These merchants are persons who convey to foreign countries the results of the industry of hundreds of thousands of our working classes; and those who wish to change the policy at present pursued, to narrow our foreign markets, and to stifle the development of our foreign trade, are doing their best to take the bread out of the mouths of our working classes, and to deprive them of their means of sustenance. [Mr. BRIGHT: Oh, oh!] I beg pardon —it is true and demonstrable. What is your export trade but the carrying the industry of this country to foreign countries? And if access to those countries be debarred, the industry of our working class is checked, and they are deprived of the sustenance which they derive from the industrial operations of this country. For that reason I do not admit the expression that our policy has been a selfish one in the sense in which the word is sometimes employed. I say it is the duty of the Government to endeavour by every means in its power" to extend the commerce of this country — not for the mere purpose of revenue, or the advantage of those particular merchants who may he engaged in trade with any particular portion of the world, but for the purpose of aiding in the development of the general industry of the country, and thus enabling those industrious classes who produce those different commodities to carry their industry on with success, and so to render our own people happy and prosperous at home. Well, Sir, I claim the credit of this view for the policy of the Government—and I do not claim it for the present Government alone, because the other Governments have been parties to treaties with the Chinese 974 as well as ourselves. The policy which the Government of this country has pursued from the period of the overthrow of the monopoly of the India Company to the present time has been eminently successful, and the object is deserving the exertions of the Government and the approval of the country. I am persuaded that, having attained the great end of entering into friendly and direct relations with the central Government of China, our position will not easily be shaken; and that with the establishment of those peaceful relations we shall find our commerce and intercourse with that country increasing year by year. I am also most firmly persuaded that, if we can get an unrestricted commerce with so large a population as that which occupies China, we shall have succeeded in effecting an object of great importance to the industry and prosperity of this country.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Sir, the noble Lord, I think, is more sanguine than the House generally is upon this Question; for, on looking over the debate which has taken place to-night, it appears to me that with but little exception there has been expressed nothing but general condemnation of all that the noble Lord has done and approved of with regard to China during the last thirty years. The hon. Member for Lancaster (Mr. Gregson) has that sort of confidence in the noble Lord which might have been reasonable in him some sixty or sixty-five years ago towards any person older than himself, for he follows the noble Lord with a docility which is perfectly charming; and, I suppose with a view of supporting the policy of the noble Lord, he has been touting in the City for the opinion of China merchants that might support the noble Lord's policy. I understand there are from 120 to 150 English merchants in China, some of whom have very extensive business connections, and some not very considerable. Well, the policy of the noble Lord which the hon. Gentleman supports, requires that there should be at least one ship of war from this country to sustain each three of those mercantile houses. That is not the state of things with regard to English commerce in any other part of the world; and I suspect that there is some radical error in this particular branch of our commerce, or in. our politics connected with it, which it is worth the while of the House carefully to consider. Now, the hon. Member told us, that some of these gentlemen who have been writing—I must term them, unin- 975 teresting letters, and I am not sure the hon. Member did not provide them when he sent the questions with the answers, because the answers were so very much alike, and I should not be at all surprised if it were a sort of Treasury circular or something of that kind—but he told us that those houses had a great stake in China. No doubt they have so much stake of their own in China that they do not care very much for anybody else's stake; but the people of England also have a great stake in this Question; and looking back over the last thirty years, perhaps there is scarcely any portion of the annals of this country during that time of which we have less cause to be proud than those portions of them which are connected with our relations with China. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) did not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale, nor did he agree with the noble Lord (Lord Naas). He has prophesied everything would come to pass exactly opposite to what the noble Lord has prophesied; and now his only defence of the Government appears to be, that the Government have got them into such inextricable confusion that it is hardly worth while doing anything to get them out of it; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman proposes this most incredible plan — that on the banks of that great river, the length of which nobody knows, but which, as he says, is infested with every kind of ruffian who can make his way to China from every other part of the world, or within its banks, he would have I do not know how many gunboats—more than those which now he rotting at Portsmouth — and he would establish, I suppose, a sort of travelling assize, consisting of magistrates like those we have presiding in our police offices in London, who would have to travel all over the empire of China wherever any European or American ruffian happened to have settled himself, and carry out in China, not Chinese laws, but English laws; and thus we are to have within the empire of China an administration of justice which has nothing to do with it, and owes no allegiance to the Chinese Government, but dependent altogether, I suppose, upon the Secretary of State for the Home Department in Downing Street. I say a more ludicrous—I do not wish to be thought offensive — a more absurd — a more impossible scheme was never submitted to Parliament. Now we may come, I think, 976 to the conclusion that the House—with the exception of the two Members to whom I have referred and the noble Lord—universally condemn the policy which has been pursued. [Mr. KINNAIRD: No, no.] I beg pardon, I did not see the hon. Member in his place. A Member of the House asked me this evening in the dining-room whether anybody had got up to defend the policy of the Government in China, and the answer I made was, that the hon. Member for Perth (Mr. Kinnaird) is not in the House, and therefore there is no one to defend it. Why, the policy is condemned by men of every party in the House. Will anyone say that there was anything in the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale that exhibited party feeling against the Government, or personal feelings against the noble Lord. Take the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Cockermouth (Lord Naas) — a speech which, I think, every Member who heard him make it will say that it did him infinite credit — a speech of great research — in which the facts and arguments were placed before the House in the clearest manner, while it expressed sentiments of the very highest order. Well, hut that was not a speech of which any Member of the Treasury bench could complain. Take the speech of the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell)—take the speech of the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. B. Cochrane)—and the same applies to all the speeches that have been made. There has not been the slightest evidence of party feeling of any kind, and yet, from all sides and from every quarter of the House, there has come the same general condemnation of the policy of the Government, and there has been what I may call a universal lamentation expressed at the faults that have been committed during the last thirty years. It is not in this House only, but at Pekin, Sir Frederick Bruce has shown himself to be even disgusted at and weary with the policy he was expected to pursue, and we know perfectly well that this policy is directly in the teeth of the most emphatic expressions on this side of the House, only a few years ago, by the noble Lord who is now the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and it was condemned in language if possible more emphatic by the right hon. Gentleman, whom I do not now see in his place, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. And I think I can answer for it that other Members of the Government, if they were not 977 silent under the influence of their position in this House, would be ready to express in language equally decided their condemnation of the course which the Government have pursued in China. Well, but we have now got into a state of such difficulty and embarrassment that nobody seems to know exactly what is to be done. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) has been, in connection with this question, I think, remarkably reckless and unguarded in the statements that he has made, and I think that every prophecy that he has pronounced in past times has now proved to have been wholly baseless. He admits to-night, and. in fact, it is a part of his defence, that everything that he has done in regard to the more recent policy has been a failure, [Mr. KINNAIRD: No, no.] The hon. Member for Perth was not here, and did not hear the speech of the noble Lord opposite, [Mr. KINNAIRD: I did.] Then I beg pardon. Well, but the noble Lord at the head of the Government rather blamed the noble Lord the Member for Cocker-mouth for speaking upon points of which it was not necessary now to say anything, for they had failed. The noble Lord expressed his great regret that they had failed, but I do not think the House or the country has any reason to feel any regret that the policy in question has failed. But the noble Lord said the failure is no blame to them. No, the failure is no blame; but the conception of plans so absurd and impossible is a blame to them. And when these plans which the Government told us were to be so advantageous to our interests in China have failed, surely it is proper for a Member of this House to take note of that failure, and to ask the Government what pretence they have for asking the House to trust them further on this question after their failure is patent and clear to all the world, Now, the noble Lord treated us to an observation which is very common, and I have no doubt many of those Chinese marauders—I mean European and American marauders in China—would use exactly the same argument. The noble Lord said that the natural history of all contact between a highly civilized and a semi barbarous nation is that unpleasantnesses arise, disputes are occasioned, wars follow disputes, and after wars have been carried on till such a length of time as the highly civilized nation has battered pretty nearly to pieces the semi-barbarous nation, then the semi-barbarous nation becomes 978 entirely submissive, and nothing can possibly he more friendly and harmonious than the future relations of the two nations. This is what the noble Lord has told us. But the noble Lord has not told us that one consequence of his policy as representing a highly civilized nation has been to bring into a state of decrepitude and almost absolutely to destroy the Government of that nation which enjoys the most ancient civilization existing on the globe. At this very moment those horrors of which he has spoken, and which so many Members of the House have referred to, have their origin mainly in the policy of the noble Lord. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth, I think, only said what was true when he said that our insisting upon entering their great cities, and especially upon breaking the seclusion of their capital city, had, as it were, peeled off the mysteous and awful character which prevailed with regard to their Government. In point of fact, it has succeeded in shattering the whole political and social system of an empire comprising one-third or one-fourth of the whole population of the globe. Well, if I were in the position of the noble Lord, I durst not get up in this House or anywhere else and speak boastfully of the policy I had pursued, if results so grave and so disastrous had happened to so great a portion of the human race. But the noble Lord had, I will say, an audacity beyond that, for he charged my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale by implication with having no regard for the condition and interests of the industrious classes in this country. He attempted to persuade the House that the trade with China—the most miserable trade in the world when compared with the magnitude of the population—was of so great importance to the working classes of this country, that it was worth while to indulge in the policy which he has carried on, and to encounter the great expenses which have been incurred. Now, I will venture to say that our trade with China —I speak of our exports from England to China for many years back—I believe for thirty years—has not left one single farthing of profit, if you will pay out of it the cost of the wars, of the intermeddling, and of the military and naval forces now apparently permanently established there. The thing is very easy to calculate. There are fifty ships of war for the protection of tin export of less than £4,000,000 a year. If all our export trade required to be protected at an equal expenditure we 979 should require 2,000 ships of war to give that sort of guardianship to our foreign commerce which the noble Lord thinks is necessary to support our trade in China. The people of this country manufacture cotton and other goods which are sent to China; but the people of this country also pay taxes, and I believe that whatever interests they have in the way of employment and wages in the trade with China is at least counterbalanced by the excess of expenditure and Government taxation which they have to pay in consequence of our policy in that country. I waited to hear what the noble Lord would say of the future. He pointed to the past. He went to the East India Company. He told some very imperfectly narrated stories about our transactions with China. He admitted that his policy for some years past had been a total failure. He does not deny now that the country is in a state of absolute anarchy. He has English officers fighting out there, and he has sent out orders that they shall no longer fight. He maintains, notwithstanding, an army—I do not know exactly the number of the force — he maintains more than forty snips of war, and altogether I believe more than fifty ships belonging to the country— and he has not a single word to say to give us any hope that there will be any change in future. Does he intend to fight until the empire of China is restored and the Taepings are utterly put down? Or if the Taepings should get the ascendancy, will he join them and endeavour to establish another Government at Pekin? What does he propose to do? Is it not clear to every Member of the House that a policy of intermeddling in China is a policy of idiotcy? Here we are a small island on the opposite side of the globe, with a population so small that we are told we have not an army that we could transport to Denmark — yet we some how or other take within our great ambition this vast empire of 300,000,000 or 400,000,000 persons; we are to influence the dynasty that shall sit upon its throne; and, in point of fact, we are to direct the whole affairs of that empire as if it were some small neighbour close to us. I do not know how such an idea could ever get into any man's head; but having once entered into the head of the noble Viscount it has taken absolute possession of him, and I suppose at his time of life that he cannot get rid of it. But I protest against it. Let the noble Lord take the 980 course which has been recommended to him to-night by several hon. Members, of abstaining religiously from the slightest interference between two parties in China; of teaching—I will not say the merchants but that other class, none of which I hope are to be included in the list of English merchants, I mean those rude and unprincipled adventurers who abound in China— that it is not the intention of the English Government that the English army or navy shall take any step in China to defend them from whatever misfortunes may happen to them. It is a monstrous folly that the population of this country, so hard toiling and so. suffering in comparison with us who are here, as millions of them are, should be taxed year after year to carry on a policy which for thirty years has covered us with discredit and has wholly failed, and that this policy should be carried on only to please a curious crotchet which the noble Lord at the head of the Government has taken upon it—a crotchet which is not participated in, I believe, by a single member of his Cabinet, which this House is willing wholly to repudiate, and which, I believe, in every society in England where the question is discussed receives the condemnation which it has received in Parliament to-night. I do hope the noble Lord will now, when he sees this entire failure of all his plans and all his prophecies, for once come to the conclusion that he is not infallible, and that good sense and that wisdom which springs from experience, and which have been shown in the discussion to-night, ought rather to govern a great question of foreign policy like this than the violent prejudices which the noble Lord has so passionately cherished for thirty years that they seem at last to have got the better of his reason and his judgment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.