§ COLONEL SYKES
I think it necessary, Sir, to call the attention of the House, in the interests of the commercial community trading with China, to the present state of our relations with China in reference to the revision of the Treaty of Tien-tsin of 1858. Those relations may be expressed in a very few words—namely, that there is not any permanent security for the persons or property of foreigners in China. British merchants and missionaries even in treaty ports and in other places are exposed to personal outrage, to robbery and attempted assassination, without obtaining redress, unless by military demonstration or by military operations; and that the obligations of the Treaty of Tien-tsin of 1858 are still unfulfilled. 1780 This may seem a sweeping assertion, but I shall be able to prove—not from hearsay or newspaper reports, but from Parliamentary documents—that the statement is founded on facts, and that this mischievous and unsatisfactory state of affairs is the necessary and inevitable result of the weakness—indeed, impotency—of the Central Government of China. A few preliminary remarks on the constitution of the Government of China will assist to explain my views. Although of great antiquity, its origin being referable to 265 of the Christian era, no less than twenty-two dynasties have risen and disappeared since that date; two, three, or more contemporary rival Emperors have contested the supremacy, each change being accompanied by anarchy; rebellion has succeeded rebellion, but up to 1646 the Chinese contests had been confined to themselves, with one exception; but in that year they were invaded by foreigners—the Mantchow Tartars, of whom is the present Imperial family. The resistance of the Chinese was desperate, and at Canton alone 100,000 persons were put to death; and the feeling of hostility to their foreign rulers gave rise to the secret Triad Societies, which, by their intrigues and lawlessness, created constant terror in society. The Tartars endeavour to hold their own by garrisoning some of the great cities by troops of the Eight Banners, but the Tartar troops are always separated from the people of the cities by walls, as is the case at Pekin itself. But the country at large is under abortive military control, as is manifested in the constant rebellions co-existent in the provinces, and sometimes menacing the capital itself. Sir Harry Parkes, on the 24th of March, 1862, stated, at a meeting of the Geographical Society of London—"that he recollected some years ago a memorial to the Emperor, in which it was stated that ten rebellions were going on at the same time in different parts of the Empire." Mr. J. B. Robertson, in his letter to Consul Medhurst, February 13, 1869, speaking of the weakness of the Central Government, says—Now this might prove a serious embarrassment to a weak Government like that of China, which has to confront rebellion on occasion of every deficient harvest or overflow of the banks of the Yellow River.
Mr. K. H. Holl
, writing from Tien-tsin, April 28, 1868, says—"The rebels are 1781 burning villages in the neighbourhood of Tien-tsin." Mr. Burlinghame, the Ambassador from China to the Governments of Europe, had personal and painful experience of their presence by his detention on his journey from Pekin to Tientsin, from which he was only released by the blue-jackets of Her Majesty's gunboat Dove. The Imperial Customs Commissioner, Mr. Fitzroy, in his Re-port, March 15, 1867, from Shanghai, to the Imperial Superintendent of Customs, Mr. Hart, uses the following language:—Periodically during the winter the Nien-fei, who have existed from the time of the Ming dynasty, scour the neighbouring provinces, upon which they levy black mail. They are not to he despised, and if the Imperial Government does not display more than its usual energy, they may (the Nien-fei), at no distant day become formidable successors to the Taepings.To these Taepings it is not necessary, with the information before the House, to say more than they maintained their rebellion for thirteen years, established their government at Nankin, and would have extended it to Pekin, as our Ambassador, Sir Frederick Bruce, states, had not the British interfered and slaughtered them at the very time the British and French troops were marching upon Pekin. But testimony to existing rebellion in Shensi, or elsewhere, is given by a recent proclamation affixed to the walls of Shanghai, raising the war tax—which had existed from the date of the Taeping rebellion—30 per cent; and these new rebels are not designated, as of old, the Nien-fei, but, as a separate class, are called the Wei. These rebellions sufficiently testify to the weakness of the Central Government, but the proofs extend much further. One source of weakness is described by Sir Ruther-ford Alcock in his despatch to Lord Stanley, October 1, 1867, in which he says—The want of money for the payment of their armies is a main cause of continuous insurrection; whole divisions thus go over to swell the ranks of those who make all government impossible.With respect to provincial government the Viceroys of the eighteen provinces are appointed by the Central Government, which, however, takes little notice of their acts. They obtain their offices through intrigue or money and they are left to squeeze the people as far as they dare. The Central Government occasionally sends an edict terminating 1782 with the usual formula—"Tremble and obey." If it suits the interests of the Viceroy he obeys; if not, he quietly puts it aside and the Central Government rarely has power to enforce obedience. A man of vigour like Pseng-kwo-fan, however, occasionally establishes a temporary despotism in his viceroyalty, but he dare not proceed beyond certain lengths, owing to the constitution of society in China from the division of the people into "clans" like the Scottish Highlanders. The people of each clan have a common surname, have a community of interest, and when acting together they paralyze the authority of the Provincial Toutai or Prefects, and even at times that of the Viceroys. For years past the power of the Viceroy of Canton has been paralyzed by clannish feuds. The great Taeping rebellion originated in the neighbourhood of Canton with the clan whose surname was "Hung." There has been a chronic hostility between the Hakkas and Puntis of the province of Canton, which successive Viceroys have been helpless to put down. At this moment there is an illustration of this clannish power about thirty miles from Macao. The Hong Kong Daily Press of March 23, 1869, says—The outbreak in the south of this province, which for some time has been going on, appears to be assuming alarming proportions. The clan Chiang of over 10,000 men are the belligerents, and are opposed by other combined clans. The Viceroy of Canton, two months ago, sent a force to quell the disturbance but failed.At Katshan, near Canton, a new tax was laid upon the people some years ago, who rose, drove the Mandarin authorities away, and the Viceroy was obliged to remove the tax. In the Cockchafer affair, eighteen villages near Swatow had long been in a turbulent and in- subordinate state, and beyond the control of the Toutai, and the reducing them to order and obedience by Commodore Jones' squadron, with considerable loss of life, so far from being offensive to the Central Government no complaint was made of our interference, nor that an appeal for redress had not been previously made to the Central Government which, no doubt, together with the provincial authority, were thankful that we had done that for them which they could not do for themselves. The fortified town of Choo-chi on the Han River near Swatow defied the Toutai or Pre- 1783 feet of Swatow, and plundered boats coming down the river, and fired into the provision boat of Her Majesty's gunboat Bustard. Lieutenant Johnstone demanding redress, was candidly told by the Prefect that he had no power over Choo-chi; but if the gunboat would assist him he would try to reduce the place. The assistance was given, but failed, until the arrival of the Drake, when the combined operations of the two gunboats succeeded. Choo-chi was taken and found full of plundered property, grain, rice, sugar, &c. &c. This helplessness was not confined to the Toutai of Swatow, but extended to the Toutai of the great provincial city of Chao-chow-foo, who had been equally unable to repress the piratical operations of the people of Sinlao and other villages on the banks of the river Han to the injury of British trade. At Banca, in Formosa, the Mandarin had no power to redress a series of outrages on British subjects of so serious a character that Consul Holt on the 14th of October, 1868, wrote to Sir Rutherford Alcock that—All remonstrances had been in vain; in fact, our very lives are now threatened by people whose recent course of action has been so atrocious as to prove that the will is not wanting to murder us.In fact Messrs. O'Kerr and Bird were not only robbed but nearly murdered. Mr. Holt attributed these outrages to hostile "clans," which had a monopoly of the camphor trade, and the Mandarin authorities either dared not or could not control them. Mr. Holt sent to Foo-chow for a gunboat—the Janus—and the American Consul in the gunboat Aroostook also came over. This demonstration alone insured immediate redress, as reported on the 27th October, 1868. The outrages at Tamsui similarly originated in the camphor monopoly, and the Presbyterian missionaries had nothing whatever to do with it. Had the Mandarin authorities possessed the power or the will to give redress for the robbery of Mr. Pickering's camphor and his attempted assassination, and that of Mr. Hardie, the lamentable loss of life that occurred would have been avoided, as was the case at Banca, by Mr. Holt's firmness and tact. Another instance of the impotency of the local authority is exhibited in the case of the Rev. Mr. Wolfe, who had purchased 1784 a piece of land for a sanitarium at Sharp Peak Island, near Foo-chow-foo, in January, 1869, with the consent of the authorities of Foo-chow-foo. A native gentleman, however, induced the villagers to drive away Mr. Wolfe's people and seize his building materials; and the presence of the gunboat Janus was necessary to insure the treaty rights of Mr. Wolfe, and enforce the authority of the Mandarin at Foo-chow. Even the case of the Algerine, Lieutenant Domville, off Namou harbour, testifies to the helplessness of the sea-board authorities, not only to put down piracy, but smuggling. Lieutenant Domville was accompanied by a Mandarin, and entrapped into the belief that he was to attack pirate junks off the harbour, in which he was confirmed by the junks refusing to show their papers and firing upon him, and it was not until he had captured one of them that he found they were supplied with papers from Hong-Kong, and were, in fact, notwithstanding their papers, opium smugglers, which the Mandarin, as a Chinese authority, would have been entitled legally to seize in case he had the power; but neither he nor any Chinese Mandarin along the whole coast of China have the power to enforce the law, as the so-called merchant junks are heavily armed, defy the authorities, and do not scruple, when free from British observation, to exercise their power for piratical purposes. A writer in the North China journals says—But for the British fleet on the coasts of China—if that fleet were withdrawn the Mandarins would be driven by pirates from the seaboard within three months.In the taking of Ning-po from the Taepings, the Parliamentary Papers say that Captain Roderick Dew availed himself of the services of the pirate fleet under Apak. These instances of helplessness of the seaboard authorities could be greatly multiplied, of which I have numerous records, were I to go farther back in time.
In the case of the outrages upon missionaries, however, I fear the Mandarins, and Literati or expectants for office, and gentry are the instigators of the ruffian mobs. There are not any people on the face of the earth, of any religious persuasion, who are more tolerant than the Buddhists; they are free from all the exclusiveness of caste; they do not attempt to make con- 1785 verts; and their readiness to adopt the religious opinions of Christians is manifested by the hundreds of thousands of Taepings who adopted the Bible and New Testament, and established presses to multiply copies of our sacred books. In Burmah and Ceylon they live in harmony with the missionaries, and the missionaries equally do so in China, where the people are not incited by the authorities against them. The China Mission at Amoy and Swatow have sent to me, for some years past, their Annual Report, and the thirteenth is now in my hand. I learn from it that the earlier persecutions have ceased, and that the Mission, in 1868, had eleven stations, some of them in provincial cities, and that as the missionaries passed through villages from one station to the other the people stopped them to hear the doctrine, as they called it. Even in the great provincial city Chin-chow, the seat of the Literati, the chapel, which had been destroyed at their instigation, had been re-built, and not since molested. From the Foo city Chaou-chow, Dr. George Smith writes, on the 20th of March, 1868—I have now been here ten days, and you will be glad to learn in peace and comfort, undisturbed and unmolested. A great change has come over the people here both in their feelings and conduct since I was last in the place. I made two attempts last year to re-visit this city, but on both the acting Consul prevented my coming. This time, that I have come, no obstacle has been thrown in my way by Consul or Mandarins, but I have made this visit just in the same way as going to any other town of the department. Moreover, I have had no police or other officials to escort me, nor any need for them. I have had daily meetings with the people, who have come in groups varying from twenty to eighty, and have behaved quite orderly and respectfully, and, after listening and discussing for a while, have afterwards gone away quietly. On asking them to disperse, when wishing to stop from speaking, they have been quite submissive; hence there has been no pressure of undue excitement, but all has gone on smoothly and pleasantly.Even in the affair at Yang-chow the hostility against missionaries did not originate with the people, but with the Literati; the authorities, if not encouraging, at least conniving at the outrages upon them. Redress having been obtained by Consul Medhurst, with the aid of the naval authorities, the missionaries have been quietly reinstated in their house, the populace ceasing to manifest hostility, the Mandarins no longer daring to incite them. Sir Rutherford Alcock, in the China Paper, No. 3, says— 1786With respect to the feeling against missionaries in China—it is certainly not actively hostile, unless they are worked upon by interested authorities into believing monstrous stories that the eyes of children are scooped out, converts poisoned, &c., &c. The outrages at Chef-foo and Taiwan and Tamsui in Formosa originated in this manner.On the 24th of April, 1868, Mr. Jamie-son reports from Taiwan that a Roman Catholic and Protestant church, had been destroyed about six miles from Taiwan. Mr. Jamieson, appealing for redress, was told by the magistrate that he was helpless; but that everybody believed that poison was given to Chinese to induce them to become converts, and the Consul must investigate the matter. At Chef-foo, the Rev. Mr. Laughter's agent hired a house as a shop, two miles from Afoo, but intended it for a chapel. This fraud was very properly resented, but Mr. Alabaster, on the 9th of May, 1868, induced the villagers to atone. In short, in every instance the hostile action of the people is traceable, not to a spontaneous movement, but to the incitement of interested officials. In respect to foreigners, not missionaries, the published travels in the disturbed province of Szecheun of Mr. Cooper, those of Mr. Ellis to the Yellow River, of Mr. Tarrant from Ningpo to Shanghai, and the testimony of excursionists from the sea ports on shooting parties, and that of the Basil missionaries in the South of China, on every occasion speak of the civility of the villagers. Canton, which in former times prohibited the entrance of foreigners, now locates them in houses in the city; and Consul Robertson has a mansion and park within the walls. I have now fully proved that the difficulties in our relations with China originate not in the hostility of the people, but in the hostility of the central and provincial authorities.
I come now to the commercial aspect of our relations. The foreign trade with China, as detailed in the Report of the Imperial Commissioner of Customs, Mr. Hart, for five years, was as follows—this was sent by Sir Rutherford Alcock, from Pekin, 7th April, 1869, and has become a Parliamentary Paper:—
The above figures represent taels which have a variable English value, according to the rate of exchange, from 6s. 2d. to 6s. 8d. I prefer considering the tael at its book value of 6s. 8d., or three to the pound sterling. This would make the sterling value of the imports, in 1868, £23,707,071; the exports, £23,038,244; total trade, £46,745,315; the balance for 1868 being in favour of England £668,827, and for the five years of taels 30,910,168, or £10,306,389. Of this great trade the proportion that England alone contributed in 1868 was—England direct, 66,519,679 taels, or 47 per cent; Hong Kong, 24,642,974; and India, 26,362,615; total, 117,525,268, or 83.8 per cent, leaving only 16.2 per cent for all the other foreign nations put together; the next greatest trader to ourselves with China being the Americans, to the total value, in 1868, of 7,416,069 taels, or 5.3 per cent only of the whole trade. The total duties collected by Mr. Hart and his European subordinates of the Imperial Customs, in 1868, was 9,425,656 taels, the foreign portion of which amounted to 8,002,751 taels; and as the British proportion of this 83.8 per cent was 6,706,365 taels, or £2,235,455; and add to this 2½ per cent transit duties, £1,117,727, in 1868, England alone contributed to the Chinese Imperial Exchequer £3,353,782. But this was not the total cost to England for the maintenance of British trade in China. The Estimates of 1869–70 inform the public that the Envoy Extraordinary has £6,000 per annum, and the Secretary of Legation and Chinese Secretary £1,200 per annum. Two second Secretaries £900 per annum; twelve Consuls £12,700; five Vice Consuls £3,350; eleven Interpreters, £6,200; twenty Assistants, £6,900; Student Interpreters and Linguists, £6,100; Temporary Allowances at Shanghai and elsewhere, £2,600. Total for Consular Service, £40,450. Add to this the cost of the Supreme Court for China and Japan—Judge, £3,500 per annum; Deputy Judge, £1,200, and Law Clerks, &c.: total, £7,637; and wages to gaolers, constables, boatmen, &c, for China, Japan, and Siam, the charge for each not teing distinguished, £9,100. Legation Guards at Pekin, £977; Consular travelling, £2,500; Rent of Buildings, £8,200; Church Establishment in China, £3,000; Contingencies, £5,000; and the
total for China, with two or three small exceptions for Japan and Siam, is £88,764. But a very formidable charge is for buildings and land, the Estimate for which in Class I of the Civil Service Estimates, is £179,382, of which £80,000 has been expended. The mercantile public in China, in Memorials to Sir Rutherford Alcock, on the expected revision of the Treaty of Tientsin state that this trade would have been much further developed, had the obligations of the Treaty of Tien-tsin been fulfilled, and they are unanimous in urging, that the right of inland residence and the payment of the transit duty of 2½ per cent be made, not to the central, but to the provincial authorities; to save trade from the payment of double duties as at present. They speak in strong terms of the advantages which would occur not only to China, politically and socially, but to trade. They recommend an extension of the number of the trading ports, and the working of mines. The Treaty of Tien-tsin guarantees the right of inland travel and residence by Articles IX., XII., a guarantee not fulfilled during ten years—and the payment of 2½ per cent in a lump sum to cover all transit charges. Sir Rutherford Alcock doubts whether this was intended to cover provincial duties; but Lord Elgin, in the most express terms, provided that 2½ per cent should cover those duties, as is shown in his despatch to the Foreign Office, dated 12th July, 1858. In compliance with the following Instructions from Lord Clarendon, 20th April, 1857, to Lord Elgin, on inland residence, he says—
It would, however, be very desirable, at all events, to obtain an engagement that British merchants should be allowed to purchase, either directly or through their agents, the produce of China at the place of its growth, and that no duties except, perhaps, road tolls, should be payable on such articles on their passage to the coast for embarkation.
To insure these rights, Lord Clarendon further adds—
But your Excellency will be careful, in any engagements which you can induce the Chinese Government to accede to, to provide for unrestricted access to the interior of the cities which may be open to our trade. A permission actually to reside within the cities is of no less importance; but the facility of coming and going, and dealing directly with any Chinese trader who may dwell within the city walls, would not only enable the foreign merchant to carry on his trade with more advantage, but would also tend to fa-
miliarize the natives of China with the persons and habits of foreigners, and thus promote still more extended intercourse with the country.
All these conditions were embodied in Articles IX., XII., and XXVIII., of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, June 26, 1858, and were binding on the Chinese Government, and have never been fulfilled to this day; and it is a mistake to suppose they are capable of revision in any new treaty without our consent—the provisions for revision being confirmed by Article XXVII. Lord Elgin reported having carried out Lord Clarendon's instructions in these words—
The principal commercial advantages conceded to British subjects by the Chinese Government in this treaty are the opening to trade of certain ports, among which I would specify that of Newchwang in the North, and those which are opened by it in the Yangtsze river, Formosa, and Hainan, as the most important. Permission to British subjects to travel in the country for purposes of trade under a system of passports, and the settlement of the vexed question of the trausit duties.
This last mentioned subject presented considerable difficulty. As duties of octroi are levied universally in China on native as well as on foreign products, and as canals and roads are kept up at the expense of the Government, it seemed to be unreasonable to require that articles, whether of foreign or native production, by the simple process of passing into the hands of foreigners, should become entitled to the use of canals and roads toll free; and should, moreover, be relieved altogether from charges to which they would be liable if the property of natives.
On the other hand, experience has taught us the inconvenience of leaving the amount of duties payable under the head of transit duties altogether undetermined. By requiring the rates of transit duty to be published at each port, and by acquiring for the British subject the right to commute the said duties for a payment of 2½ per cent on the value of his goods—or rather, to speak more correctly, for the payment of a specific duty calculated at that rate—I hope that I have provided for the latter as effectual a guarantee against undue exactions on this head, as can be obtained without an entire subversion of the financial system of China.
Plainly, therefore, Lord Elgin was aware of local duties, and contemplated that the 2½ per cent should cover them; anticipating, of course, that it would be paid to the provincial authorities, but instead of this it has been taken as a lump sum at the several ports, and sent to Pekin, and the wants of the provincial authorities have compelled them to exact transit duties a second time, increasing the cost to the consumer and consequent diminution of consumption. These exactions increase the price of tea; in many cases, between the place of
production and the export port, 50 per cent. The Chamber of Commerce, in its memorial to Sir Rutherford Alcock, states, that in consequence of the exactions, a bale of goods cannot penetrate 100 miles into the interior; and the exactions on silk treble the amount of the export duty. Consul Winchester writes officially, Shanghai, 7th May, 1868—
The local and transit dues collected on tea amount, as far as our experience goes, to fully 50 per cent on the first cost, and it is amusing to see a correspondence being carried on by the Chambers of Commerce as to the propriety of reducing tea export duty by 2½ per cent while these heavy inland charges continue to be levied ad libitum. These bring in nothing to the Imperial Treasury.
And he gives instances of the arbitrary local charges, diverting cargoes of tea from the direct line to the ports to avoid them. Consul Hughes, of Kiukiang, confirms this; and adds that, owing to the venality of the Mandarins and violations of treaty stipulations "the foreign merchant is placed at a great disadvantage." The remedy it appears to me is very simple—that is, not to pay the duties in lump sum to the Customs authorities at the ports, but to pay duty at each barrier as the goods progress in the interior: the owner of the merchandize or his agent, according to treaty accompanying his goods. Maps of the barriers exist in every province with their respective tariffs. It is absurd as at present that as much transit duty should be paid for carrying a bale of goods ten miles as for 100. With respect to residence in the interior, travellers can now go into the country furnished with passports from their respective Consuls; but a curious oversight with respect to the idioms of the Chinese language has exposed such travellers to slights from the provincial authorities. In the translation of the English Treaty of Tien-tsin into Chinese, British subjects are designated Min-Jin, which in the Chinese idiom means "plebeian or fellow," or person of no position, instead of Shang-Jin, trading man, Shinsze, gentleman, or simply Jin-a-man. No correction of the terms used in the treaty has been made, and the words are, therefore, adopted in the passes granted, no doubt to the amusement of the provincial authorities; but these passes do not authorize the merchant to reside in the provinces, or accompany his goods, to his personal
damage and loss, and to the limitation of British trade. Owing to the misconduct of runaway seamen, who have occasionally got command of lorchas, it has most unjustly been attempted to fix unworthy conduct on the mercantile community, but the records of the British Supreme Court bear testimony to the paucity of cases involving mercantile character.
I have now made good my statements in the opening of my address, that British subjects have been subjected to personal outrage, plunder, and attempted assassination, and that redress has only been obtained by military demonstrations or military operations. Sir Rutherford Alcock now telegraphs to say that all is tranquil, and the best understanding exists with the Central Government. This tranquillity however, is plainly owing to redress for wrongs having been obtained without the aid of the Central Government. The chief cause being the weakness of Central Government, it remains to be asked, what is the line of conduct to be pursued in our relations with the Central Government of China and provincial authorities for the future? Lord Clarendon dictates this line of conduct in the following despatch to Sir Rutherford Alcock:—
Foreign Office, April 26th, 1869.
Sir,—I have received your despatch dated 5th of February, 1869, respecting the late occurrence at Taiwan in Formosa.
The instructions which I have addressed to you within the last four months, and as regards Formosa more particularly, my despatch, February 23rd, 1869, will have fully explained to you the views of Her Majesty's Government on the general question raised in this able despatch, and the particular incidents referred to in it.
You will lose no opportunity of pressing on the Chinese Government, with special reference to my correspondence with Mr. Burlingham—of which copies have been sent to you—that Her Majesty's Government look to it, and it alone, for redress of wrongs of any kind, and under any circumstances, done to British subjects, and earnestly trust that they will not look in vain. They hold the Government at Pekin alone responsible for the observance of treaties which are contracted with it alone, and they look to it to enforce on the local authorities a full observance of them.
Nothing can be more just or statesmanlike than the principles enunciated in this despatch. It is in thorough accordance with the obligations of International Law. But the intercourse between nations implies a power as well as will to fulfil mutual obligations. Has the
Central Government at Pekin that power? We ourselves distrust it by withdrawing British subjects from the control of the judicial courts in China, which we could not do in Europe. But we have painful experience of the inability or want of will of the Central Government to fulfil its engagements. Our Ambassadors—Lord Elgin, Sir Frederick Bruce, and Sir Rutherford Alcock—have equally testified to this. According to Sir Rutherford Alcock, references to Pekin to redress grievances would simply be to "beat the air." On the 5th of June, 1863, Sir Frederick Bruce addressed the following despatch to Prince Kung:—
I am greatly dissatisfied with the general disregard of treaty provisions manifested at the ports, contrary to the policy and the custom of the British Government. I, on my own responsibility, authorized the interference of Her Majesty's forces in the Taeping rebellion, thereby averting the destruction of the Imperial authority, and I had hoped some attempt would be made to organize a competent executive; but these expectations have not been realized, and at several of the ports the treaty is daily broken; and the Central Government, if not unwilling, shows itself unable to enforce a better order of things. The orders sent by the Foreign Board are not carried out, either because the local authorities do not stand in awe of the Foreign Board, or because they do not believe that the Board issues them in earnest.
Have matters improved since June, 1863? On the contrary, Sir Rutherford Alcock, in his letter to Lord Stanley, 5th February, 1869, says—
Hitherto the course of affairs has been only too truly described by the memoralists from the ports. When any wrong or injustice is suffered by a foreigner for which there is no appeal to a public court of justice, and a written code of laws—if the Chinese local authorities are not moved, as is too often the ease, by the Consul's representation, the only resource is a reference to the Minister at Pekin, and then commences an interminable series of references backwards and forwards, a succession of correspondence on both sides between the ports and the capital, and no final solution is ever arrived at. It may safely be affirmed that such is the common experience of all foreign representatives. I am assured there is no one of these who cannot point to numerous cases which have been so treated for a succession of years, despite their best efforts.
But this is not the only expression of opinion of Sir Rutherford Alcock. In a despatch to Consul Medhurst, at Shanghai, of March last, replying to an application of Dr. Macgowan on the subject of railways and telegraphs in China, his Excellency says, writing from Pekin to Her Britannic Majesty's Consul at Shanghai—
You may inform Dr. Macgowan that there is no argument in favour of telegraphy referred to in his letter, which has not been repeatedly and earnestly pressed upon the attention of the Ministers of Tsung-li-Yamén; and no objection to it on the part of the Chinese that has not been met in the way he would indicate, by my Colleagues and myself. You may also add, that the desire for progress, which the Chinese Mission, now in Europe, assured Dr. Macgowan's countrymen was so ardent and general with the rulers in China, there is no evidence here. If any hopes are built upon its existence therefore I fear there is nothing but disappointment in store for those who indulge in them. Projectors of telegraphic lines, railroads, and other plans for the sudden development of the resources of this country are but losing their time, while the Government here shows no disposition to entertain their projects. I think it is in the interest of all who are so occupied that they should know the truth, than to be deluded by false hopes, and expectation of changes which are still far in the distance.
These are strong words, and, coming from a diplomatist, whose sources of information are necessarily the best, seem conclusive against the statements made in America and Europe by Mr. Burling-ham and the Chinese Mission, that the Chinese Government is anxious to enter into the comity of nations. I should explain that this extract is taken from a reply by Sir Rutherford to an American gentleman much interested in telegraphy, who had addressed him through the British Consul, and his Excellency says—
You may tell Dr. Macgowan that of the desire for progress which the Chinese Mission, now in Europe, assured his countrymen was so ardent and general with the rulers of China, there is no evidence here.
Now, in the face of the testimony which I have adduced from our own Ambassadors and our Consuls and merchants of experience in China, is it likely to lead to practical results; or is it safe or even just to British subjects to appeal to the Central Government, or to its provincial officers, over whom it has only a nominal control? In truth, the Central Government is a gorgeous mockery, to be likened to Nebuchadnezzar's golden image, with feet of clay, and it would collapse to-morrow but for the contributions to its Pekin Treasury of more than £3,000,000 sterling annual customs duties; 83.8 per cent of the sum collected being from British trade, including £1,100,000 transit duties, improperly collected at the treaty ports, and, like the customs duties, sent to Pekin. Finally, considering that the present dynasty of Tartars was saved
from expulsion by our slaughtering our would-be-friends—the Taepings—considering that, at the expense of the taxpayers of England, we prevent the coasts of China from being under the control of pirate fleets—considering that we contribute to the Pekin Treasury millions sterling annually, we are entitled to the gratitude of the Pekin Government; and we owe it to the interests of British commerce to insist upon the fulfilment of the Articles of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, with respect to inland residence and transit duties. I beg to move for the Papers.
§ MR. LIDDELL
, in seconding the Motion, said, that the question raised by the hon. and gallant Member, involving, as it did, a large and lucrative trade, was of considerable importance at the present moment when our relations with China, as defined by the Treaty of Tientsin were about to undergo revision. The Papers moved for could not fail to be interesting, inasmuch as all Chinese correspondence was eminently sensational. A succession of Papers had already been laid before that House, containing details of armed landings, bombardments, military occupations, and other acts of war, which were of a very interesting, although, perhaps, of rather an alarming nature, and it had been very satisfactory after reading them to hear our Foreign Minister in the House of Lords state, in April last, that there was not the slightest cause for anxiety upon the subject, inasmuch as our relations with China had never been on a more satisfactory footing than they were at the present moment. The language and the tone our Foreign Minister had held in condemning the transactions to which he referred deserved the approval and the support of the country; because it was clear that if we desired to continue our present peaceful relations with China we must adopt some new system of diplomacy with regard to that country. He rejoiced to think that a new era was about to commence in our dealings with a community with whom we carried on a gigantic trade. They had had six distinct narratives of transactions, which had occurred in less than nine months, of differences with the local authorities, and in no case except one had they been settled without recourse to arms, and that, too, in a time of peace. He hoped that those who were to per- 1795 form the task of revising our treaty relations with China would not forget that the existing Treaty of Tien-tsin had been exacted from that country by fear and under the pressure of force, and that, therefore, it was only just that they should not insist too rigorously and absolutely upon all its stipulations. He was satisfied that concessions to Chinese interests, and, perhaps, on some unimportant points, even to Chinese prejudices, would promote the general interests of trade. It had been said that in dealing with Oriental nations it was unwise to make concessions; but he thought that justice could never be misplaced or conciliation mistaken, and if reasonable concessions on our part were accompanied by a firm, a determined, and even perhaps a peremptory demand for the strict fulfilment of treaty stipulations affecting our trade, no misunderstanding would be likely to arise as to our motives. He trusted that they might be able to establish a system which would prevent exactions by the Mandarins, and thus reconcile the governed class to the governing, and at the same time secure to the native trader that freedom which was so important to him and to us. Our peculiar position in China ought not to be forgotten. England was only one among the nations who were struggling for the greatest of prizes—an industrial trade in the interior of China. He was not going to flatter the United States of America, but the United States of America were entitled to our admiration and imitation in their intercourse with China, and they had invariably shown a conciliation, a prudence, and a conception of Chinese feelings which fully entitled them to any authority or influence they undoubtedly possessed over that nation. It was therefore important that we should observe International Law instead of violating those rights by which our policy in China had been marked. America, in consequence of the special protection which her trade received in China, and by virtue of the special treaty she had recently concluded with that Court, was bound, by all obligations of honour, to protect China in the observance of international rights. It was a dangerous thing for England in her transactions with China to violate international rights, and if America proved true to herself, she would maintain her compact with China, 1796 and if we wished to avoid awkward relations in that distant part of the world, we should treat China as we treated other nations. Without wishing in any degree to cast blame upon our Consuls or our naval officers in China, the difficulties of whose position he recognized, he condemned that system of diplomacy which always had recourse to force for the redress of any injury done to British subjects in China, instead of making proper application to the Court of Pekin on the matter. He, therefore, highly approved the principles lately laid down by Lord Clarendon for the guidance of our Consuls in China, by which, in future, any resort to force was not to be permitted excepting under circumstances in which life and property were in imminent peril; and our agents were instructed invariably to address remonstrances to the proper quarter—namely, the Central Government in Pekin. On the other hand, Lord Clarendon stated that the observance of treaty rights and a friendly reception to British subjects resident there were to be exacted from China. Those wise precepts would, he trusted, continue to be faithfully enforced by the Foreign Office. In conclusion, the prospect opened out to our trade in China was almost unlimited, and he sincerely hoped that the opportunity now offered us for placing that important trade on a peaceful, and, therefore, a permanent footing, would not be thrown away.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Copies of the Memorial of the Chamber of Commerce at Shanghai to Sir Rutherford Alcock, and his Reply to the Memorial addressed to Consul Medhurst, dated the 23rd day of March last:
And, of all Correspondence of the Foreign Office with Sir Rutherford Alcock on the subject of the renewal of the Treaty of Tien-tsin.''—(Colonel Sykes.)
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the Chinese Government had never admitted that it was responsible for outrages committed in Formosa in as high a degree as for those committed elsewhere; nor, indeed, was it really any more responsible for them than we were for the outrages perpetrated by the Maories in the north island of New Zealand. In regard to the revision of the Treaty of Tien-tsin, the two main points insisted upon by 1797 the Chinese Chambers of Commerce in the treaty ports were, residence in the interior of China, and the affirmation of the transit duties clause. There were difficulties involved in the question of the transit dues, as Lord Elgin, writing to Lord Clarendon, after the treaty was made, himself recognized. Those duties were imposed on the goods of both natives and foreigners; and, it should be remembered, that the roads and canals in China were kept up by the Government. But it had not been shown that the transit dues clause had been generally, or even in any case, broken. The Chinese authorities had always drawn a distinction between transit dues and special taxes levied at certain places after the goods reached those places. As to the other point, of residence in the interior, the matter was by no means so clear as his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sykes) would make it. He had stated before, and would venture to repeat now, that the right of residence was not asserted in any treaty; and Lord Russell, in a despatch on the subject, used these words—"that the specification of the right to reside in the treaty ports implied the exclusion of the right of residence in other towns." He would not go into the question that certain persons resided in various parts of the interior, because the Chinese themselves drew a distinction between residence as a matter of privilege and as a matter of right. The London Missionary Society had laid it down that their missionaries should never claim residence in the interior as a right, but ask it as a favour. It would not be wise for Her Majesty's Government to demand this right for the future, for it would imply that "extra territoriality" should be given up, and agents should be placed in every town throughout that vast Empire. The Chinese had conceded the dues; they had stated their readiness not only to revive the tariff, but to provide bonded warehouses, to make the draw-backs payable in ready money, to open new ports, to put forth a proclamation enforcing the transit clauses, and that the right of lodging shall be conceded to all foreigners passing through the country with passports, which was a very important point. In short, the Chinese were prepared to grant everything consistent with the safety of their country, and Sir Rutherford Alcock had said that every- 1798 thing had been granted which could be granted at the moment, and that it would be worse than a waste of time to postpone the revision of the treaty, for all was obtained that we could with justice hope to gain.
said, that his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sykes) had suggested a policy to be followed in our treaties with the Chinese Government from which he must express his entire dissent. His hon. and gallant Friend assumed throughout that it was necessary to deal with the Chinese Government and nation in an exceptional manner in consequence of the weakness of what he termed the Central Government. But let the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider the position of that Government and of the Chinese nation. Within the last thirty years the Chinese Government had to sustain three great wars. Two foreign armies had landed in China and marched to Pekin, and the palace of the Emperor had been sacked. The country had, in consequence, been more or less in a disturbed state. Was it to be wondered at, under these circumstances, that the Government should not possess all the power and concentration that was to be desired, and that its authority was not obeyed like one that had not undergone such vicissitudes? What was the policy recommended by his hon. and gallant Friend? Not to strengthen the Government in any way, but to proceed, on all occasions whenever there was any real or supposed wrong done to a British subject, to take the law into our own hands and delegate the operations necessary to recover compensation, or to enforce what we considered a right, to the naval and military officers stationed in that country. Was that a wise or a just policy? Why it was our interest to strengthen in every way the Central Government, and on that point he had heard with pleasure the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Liddell) with regard to the views of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Lord Clarendon had always, so far as he was informed, maintained the same policy, and it was only that very day, in looking over a file of China Papers, that he came upon a very curious fact which illustrated the views entertained by Lord Clarendon some fifteen or twenty years ago. He would not read the case to which he referred, because the opinion of the 1799 then Law Officers of the Crown, the present Lord Chief Justice Cockburn and Lord Westbury, would illustrate what those views were. Having been consulted with reference to the opinions of a gentleman who filled the office of Acting Attorney General of Hong Kong, they said—We do not agree in the conclusion of the Acting Attorney General that the Chinese are to be considered as beyond the pale of civilized nations.It was because Lord Clarendon did not agree with the opinion of the Acting Attorney General of Hong Kong, that the Chinese were to be considered as beyond the pale of civilized nations, that the case to which he (Mr. Otway) referred came to be submitted to the Law Officers of the Crown in England. If our conduct was not to be regulated by customs which governed our relations with civilized nations, it was impossible for our dealings with China to continue on a satisfactory footing. Reference had been made to our trade with China, which, by the Board of Trade Returns, appeared to amount to some £40,000,000 per annum. What would interfere with that trade? Anything like warlike operations would do so, and his hon. and gallant Friend advocated a policy which must lead sooner or later to war. That gunboat policy must, however, some day cease. The Chinese nation in course of time would possess gunboats of its own—in fact, they were now manufacturing and purchasing them—and did his hon. and gallant Friend think that his policy could be successful in the face of a nation so numerous, when that nation possessed the means of self-defence? The hon. and. gallant Gentleman had forgotten to allude to the fact that there were four or five other European nations possessing treaty rights with China, and in our arrangements for the revision of the treaty we must consider not only how we ourselves would act, but what might be the possible action of those other powers? If England demanded that her citizens should have power to reside under exceptional circumstances, in China, with ex-territorial rights, all the other nations having treaty rights would demand the same thing, and they would have inextricable confusion, tending to the disorganization of the Empire. He was aware that his hon. and gallant Friend, who was in the habit of speaking of 1800 "his friends the Taepings," wished to see the Empire disorganized; but that was not the view taken by Her Majesty's Government and by those interested in the Chinese trade. There was no hesitation on the part of the Chinese Government to allow missionaries or any other men to reside in China, if they would conform to Chinese laws and customs; but what nation would concede claims put forward which no one in this country acquainted with China attempted to justify but the hon. and gallant Member? The hon. and gallant Gentleman had alluded to the uncomplimentary term of "Min-Jin" or "fellow" applied to Englishmen on their passports when travelling in the country, but really he did not attach any importance to that. He read that day an interesting journal by Mr. Alabaster, who had travelled hundreds of miles into the interior of China, in which he stated that wherever he went, although never molested, he was sometimes called, "His Excellency the Devil." Such things must be expected in a nation as strange and as exclusive in character as the Chinese. Two important points, however, had been raised with reference to the Treaty of Tien-tsin—internal residence and transit duties. He (Mr. Otway) was prepared to allow that it was originally intended that goods should be allowed to penetrate into the interior of China with no further charge than that of the 2½ per cent ad valorem duty; but the Chinese authorities were compelled to make a change in consequence of the discovery that Chinese traders were fraudulently obtaining certificates from English merchants, and were by such means carrying on operations to the prejudice of their own countrymen. No doubt these matters were the subject of very serious consideration. When the time arrived last year for the Government to write and claim a revision of the treaty, they had first of all made themselves acquainted with the opinions of the mercantile classes in England, of Mr. Burlinghame, the gentleman who now represented China in Europe, and of some high English officials in the East. All these opinions concurred in recommending that every reform introduced by European nations into a vast Empire like that of China must be of a very gradual kind, because it was obviously necessary for the Chinese to comprehend the advantages of such 1801 appliances as the telegraph and steam before they could be induced to adopt them. Nor should it be forgotten that with regard to railroads they wore of less importance in China than in any other country, because the water communication there was the most vast and perfect in the world, and it was no light matter suddenly to deprive the many thousands of persons of the means of living which they gained by it. Another reason for deprecating haste was that the Chinese Government was at present in a state of transition. The young Emperor would in four years' time attain his majority, the same period determined the treaties with European Powers, and the wiser course would be to wait until the new order of things was established before steps were taken to secure any extension or alteration of treaty rights. In the meantime our relations with that country were gradually improving. There had been, and there always would be, outrages of the character referred to; and such outrages did not occur in China alone; it might happen even to hon. Members to be stopped or robbed before reaching their homes when they left that House. The matter had been fully considered by Lord Clarendon, and Her Majesty's Government had determined upon adopting the policy which had been already enunciated in the House. That policy was, in all cases in which British subjects were wronged, to look to the Central Government for redress, to make that Government responsible, and to abstain altogether from those acts which would relieve the Central Government of responsibility, and throw it upon the minor officials in the provinces. There was every desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to consult the wishes of the mercantile community in China and at home; but the Government were satisfied that the best course was to make demands gradually, and to wait for the expiration of the treaties with the other Powers, and the majority of the Emperor, when, perhaps, we might be able to give a greater development to trade. There was no objection to produce the Papers asked for; in fact, they had already appeared in the Shanghai Gazette, but those referring to negotiations that were in progress could not be given.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.