§ MR. RICHARD,
in rising to move—That, having regard to the unsatisfactory nature of our relations with China, and to the desirability of placing those relations on a permanently satisfactory footing, this House is of opinion that the existing Treaty between the two Countries should be so revised as to promote the interests of legitimate Commerce, and to secure the just rights of the Chinese Government and people,537 said: Mr. Speaker, the question to which I have to call the attention of the House this evening, it will be admitted on all hands, is one of very grave importance. We have, by our own act, or by a series of acts, entered into relations with an Empire containing between 300,000,000 and 400,000,000 of souls, and forming probably not much less than a third of the whole human race. Assuredly, it is desirable that those relations should be friendly and pacific. That they are not so, that they have not been so, any time for the last 40 or 50 years, is unhappily too notorious. A few months ago we seemed to be on the eve of another war with China, which, if it had broken out, would have been the fourth war we have waged against the Chinese within one generation. Now, the question arises—Whose fault is it that our relations with that country are in so disturbed and unsatisfactory a condition? Well, a thorough-going and unscrupulous patriotism would say without hesitation, and with great emphasis—It is entirely the fault of the Chinese; they are an arrogant, insolent, treacherous race of barbarians, or semi-barbarians, who know not how to keep faith or observe Treaty engagements, and they have come into contact with us, an upright, honourable, law-abiding people, who are always faithful to our obligations, and who have shown the most wonderful forbearance towards them; while they are resisting, by cunning and chicanery, our efforts to introduce among them the germs of a higher and better civilization than their own. Unhappily, the voice of historical truth does not ratify this self-complacent judgment. On the contrary, my impression, after a somewhat careful study of the question for many years is, that there is no part of our history upon which an honest Englishman, who brings to the examination of the case an unprejudiced mind and an unsophisticated conscience, can look back with so little of complacency, or with more of mortification or shame, than that which records our doings in China. That is to say, if we are to be judged by the ordinary rules of international morality. But if we are chartered libertines, men above ordinances, as some of the sectaries in the time of the Commonwealth claimed to be; if we have a dispensation which absolves us from observing the obligations of the moral law in certain latitudes 538 and towards certain races of men, that is of course a different matter, and we are left absolutely without any standard by which we can estimate our own conduct. And it really seems to me that some of our countrymen in the East seem disposed to push their pretensions even to that extent. I read in a recent number of The China Mail these words—We dispute that China has international rights similar to those preserved by ourselves and other Western nations. Justice to a semi-barbarian nation becomes injustice to our own people.But I hope the British Parliament will lend no countenance to such immoral doctrines as these. It seems to me, indeed, that one source of the errors into which we have fallen in China is just this—that we have virtually abandoned the initiative and the direction of our policy into the hands of a small commercial community, who have powerful connections at home, and who have interests real, or imaginary, of their own to sub serve, which, in my opinion, are not always the interests of the nation. It is not necessary for me to disclaim any hostility to commerce. I honour commerce as, next to Christianity, the most powerful agent in the civilization of mankind, dispelling ignorance, effacing prejudice, multiplying ten-fold by diffusion the beneficent gifts with which Providence has endowed humanity, and bringing men of different nations and races into relations of mutual dependence for the promotion of their common happiness and well-being. But that must be commerce content to clothe itself in its own legitimate attributes, and to use means that are in harmony with its own character. Not the commerce that is always clamouring for gun-boats and broadsides; not the commerce that wants to force itself on unwilling populations at the mouth of the cannon and at the point of the bayonet; not the commerce which is always holding its loaded revolver at the head of its customers to force them to receive articles which they do not want, or which they reject with abhorrence as injurious to them. I deny that that is honourable and legitimate commerce. I have no doubt that there are among our countrymen in China and Burmah, and other Eastern countries, many who cherish friendly and generous feelings towards the people among 539 whom they live and with whom they trade, and would willingly do, and are doing, what lies in their power to befriend them. But I am afraid that is not the case with the majority, if we may judge by the tone of the organs who are supposed to represent their sentiments. The fault I find with these classes of our countrymen is this—that they seem to be always looking out for occasions of offence, and when they rise, though they may be of a trivial character, they eagerly seize upon them and do everything in their power to present them in the most aggravated form, and make them the foundation for invoking the extremest measures—measures of vengeance, of aggression, of annexation. They seem always intent upon pushing this country into war with Oriental nations; wars in which they do not fight, and for which they do not pay. The way in which the thing is managed is this: When any difference arises between our officials and some Eastern Power—and differences will arise without any necessity of assuming that either side is purposely and perversely in the wrong—the most alarming telegrams are sent to this country about insult to the British Minister, or insult to the British flag, and the other customary phrases which rouse the British lion. And although later and more accurate intelligence may show that they were grossly exaggerated, if not altogether unfounded, they have in the meantime done their office in inflaming public opinion at home, and preparing a certain class of writers in our own Press, to raise the cry for vengeance and war. I can give some illustrations of the spirit of which I complain in connection with a late event in the East, which has attracted much attention in this country, I mean the expedition to Yunnan and the murder of Mr. Margary. As soon as intelligence of that deplorable event reached China, our countrymen there, in the absence of all authentic information, immediately rushed to the conclusion that it was owing to the treachery of the Burmese or Chinese Government, or a combination of both. Now there is abundant evidence to prove, especially that of Dr. Anderson, who was himself a member of the expedition, that there is no ground whatever for the accusation that either the Burmese Government or people were implicated in that matter. 540 On the contrary, Dr. Anderson shows that the embassy was treated with marked honour and hospitality.Nothing," he says, "was left undone to show that the king delighted to honour the members of the Mission….A numerous guard was assembled, the Royal order being that the Mission was to be safely escorted to the Chinese frontier.That guard performed their duty with the utmost vigilance and faithfulness, and at the hazard of their own lives protected the members of the expedition, when they were assailed.Nothing," says Dr. Anderson, "would have been easier than for the Burmese to have deserted their charge; but from first to last they displayed a zealous fidelity beyond all praise.But while the Burmese Sovereign and people were acting thus, what were our countrymen in China saying? These are the words of The North China Herald for May 15th, 1875—The impression in India is strong that the King of Burmah was the chief instigator of the outrage….If the Burmese King's complicity can be proved so much the better. His deposition and the advance of the British frontier to the borders of Yunnan would be a great political gain.In another number of the same paper we read—If a share of the responsibility can be brought home to the King of Burmah, we fancy his tenure of power will become precarious. There can be no doubt that England would be conferring a boon on the people by incorporating Burmah Proper with the sea-board territory over which she already rules.So again with regard to China, there is no proof whatever that the Chinese Government was guilty of any complicity in the murder of Mr. Margary. Yet that was quietly assumed and immediate hostilities demanded. The North China, Herald of April 15th, 1875, says—Apart from the punishment of the crime, and beyond the necessity to re-establish our prestige on the frontier, arises the broad question of our position and policy in China, and the opportunity should be taken to re-assert both with a firm hand. It cannot be denied that the influence gained by the last war has been gradually slipping from us, the respect which our victories insured for us has been dying out, and the traditional influence of the Chinese mandarin is again obnoxiously evident. It is high time to remedy this, and the present opportunity is a favourable one to teach the Chinese a new lesson.So that what these modest people proposed was, that on mere suspicion, we 541 should take two wars upon our own hands in the East—one in Burmah, to end by the annexation of the whole country to our Indian territories, and the other with China, to teach the Chinese a lesson, and also to annex—for that was part of the programme—some further portion of that country, for our countrymen in all parts of the world have a perfect mania for annexation. When we went to war with Abyssinia, we were told that after the capture of Magdala we ought to have taken possession of the whole country When we quarrelled with the Ashantees, on the West Coast of Africa, there were people who actually proposed that we should extend our possessions there. I believe, if a dozen of our countrymen could find their way to the moon, they would not have been there a twelve-month before they would send a memorial to the Colonial Office, asking it to annex the moon to the British Empire. Lest I should be thought to bear too hard upon our countrymen in the East in what I have said, let me fortify my own opinion by the authority of one whose name and character are held in honour by men of all parties in this House, and in the country, I mean Lord Elgin. It is well known that he was engaged in two special Missions to China. Three or four years ago, his Letters and Journals were published—a book of rare interest, especially as a revelation of the man. No one could read it without seeing that he was a man of noble, generous, humane character, and it is clear that the spirit displayed by our countrymen in the East was like a perpetual nightmare to him. Writing to his friends at home, he says—I have gone through a good deal since we parted. Certainly I have seen more to disgust me with my fellow-countrymen than I saw during the whole course of my previous life, since I have found them in the East, among populations too timid to resist and too ignorant to complain. I have an instinct in me which loves righteousness and hates iniquity, and all this keeps me in a perpetual boil.Elsewhere he says—I am sure that in our relations with these Chinese we have acted scandalously, and I would not have been a party to the measures of violence which have taken place, if I had not believed that I could work out of them some good for them.Again, speaking of Mr. Russell's book on the Indian Mutiny, and compli- 542 menting him highly on the courage with which he had exposed "the scandalous treatment" which the Natives received at our hands in India, he goes on—Can I do anything to prevent England from calling down on herself God's curse for brutalities committed on another feeble Oriental race? Or are all my exertions to result only in the extension of the area over which Englishmen are to exhibit how hollow and superficial are both their civilization and their Christianity?….The tone of the two or three men connected with mercantile houses in China, whom I find on board, is all for blood and massacre on a great scale. I hope they will be disappointed; but it is not a cheering or hopeful prospect, look at it from what side one may.I have dwelt upon this point, not with a view of casting reproach upon our countrymen in Burmah and China, and other Eastern countries, but because it is, in my opinion, a point of great practical importance. I say we have abandoned the control of our Chinese policy into the hands of these merchants; but I hope the British Government, and Parliament, and people, will become alive to their own responsibility, and to the necessity of taking that policy into their own hands, to be directed by their own principles. I differ wide as the Poles asunder from the doctrine laid down by the hon. Member for Orkney (Mr. Laing) last year in the debate on the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wigtown (Mr. Mark Stewart). He seemed to resent any one in this House presuming to discuss Eastern questions. He told us that India cannot be governed according to English ideas. Well, as I believe that, in the main, English ideas are ideas of justice, humanity and mercy, I want India and China, and Burmah also, so far as they are under our control, to be governed by English ideas. The same kind of language used to be held by the promoters of the Slave Trade and by the West India planters towards Clarkson, and Wilberforce, and Brougham, and Buxton, and Sturge. They were told that they did not understand the West Indies or the peculiar conditions of society that existed there, and that therefore they ought not to meddle. But the British Parliament did not listen to those reclamations, and insisted that the West Indies should be governed according to English ideas, and the consequence was that the Slave Trade and Slavery were 543 doomed, a fate which, I hope, awaits the opium traffic, which is almost as great an iniquity as either. Unhappily we got on a wrong track in our dealing with the Chinese from the first. From the time when, in 1883, the monopoly of the East India Company ceased, obeying the guidance of mercantile greed and unscrupulousness, we entered upon the mistaken course which we have since followed. In our first quarrel with the Chinese in 1838, which led to the war of 1840, we were wholly in the wrong. It was occasioned by the fixed, obstinate, audacious determination of British merchants to smuggle opium into China in flagrant violation of the laws of the Empire, and in open defiance of the reiterated proclamations and protests of the Chinese Government. That war had been called, and justly called, the Opium War. Some had objected to that designation; but no one can read the history of the events that led it to it without seeing that opium was the most important factor in the war. The Home Government, in the first instance, laid down the sound principle that—Her Majesty's Government cannot interfere for the purpose of enabling British subjects to violate the laws of the country to which they trade,and that they must take the consequences. But when Commissioner Lin seized and destroyed the contraband opium, which he had as perfect a right to do as our Custom House officers would have to seize and destroy a cargo of smuggled French brandy, we went to war with the Chinese on that issue, and compelled them, among other things, to pay $6,000,000 as compensation to the smugglers. Miss Martineau, in her able and interesting History of the Thirty Years' Peace, after narrating the events of that war, adds this remark—It is an humiliating story, and the wonder of a future generation will be, how we bear the shame of it so easily as we do.Now this evil thing, opium, has, more or less, from that time to this, tainted our whole policy, and has been the principal source of the ill-will and heartburning which have existed towards us on the part of the Chinese Government and people. At the end of the first war, we entered into a Treaty with the Chinese, which is known as the Treaty of Nankin. Now, the special charge 544 against the Chinese is, that there is no trusting them; and our Press are never weary of heaping opprobrious epithets upon them, as treacherous, perfidious, faithless, because they violate or evade their Treaties with us. But how have we observed the same Treaties? By Article XII. of the Supplementary Treaty of 1842, it was provided, that—A fair and regular tariff of duties and other dues having now been established, it is to be hoped that the system of smuggling, which has heretofore been carried on between English and Chinese merchants—in many cases with the open connivance and collusion of the Chinese Custom House officers—will entirely cease; and the most peremptory Proclamation to all English merchants has been already issued on the subject by the British Plenipotentiary, who will also instruct the different Consuls to strictly watch over and carefully scrutinize the conduct of all persons being British subjects, trading under his superintendence.Now, opium was "the" article in which smuggling had been most conspicuously going on. But no sooner was the Treaty concluded, than certain British merchants at Canton began to trade in opium, on the plea that, because it was not specified by name in the above provision, it must be regarded as being among the unenumerated articles in the tariff which they had a right to introduce on the payment of an ad valorem duty of 5 per cent. But when this came to the knowledge of Sir Henry Pottinger, who had negotiated the Treaty, and who must have known what its intentions were, he issued a Proclamation, in which he said—It having been brought to my notice that such a step has been contemplated as sending vessels with opium on board into the ports of China, to be opened by the Treaty to foreign trades, and demanding that the said opium shall be admitted to importation by virtue of the concluding clause of the new tariff, which provides for all articles not actually enumerated in that tariff passing at an ad valorem duty of 5 per cent, I think it expedient to point out to all whom it may concern, that opium being an article the traffic in which is well known to be declared illegal and contraband by the laws and Imperial edicts of China—any person who may take such a step, will do so at his own risk, and will, if a British subject, meet with no support or protection from Her Majesty's Consuls and other officers.This, therefore, authoritatively settled the meaning of the Treaty. Opium "was" among the smuggled articles which we bound ourselves to do all in our power to suppress. And yet in the 545 face of this, for 14 years, from the Treaty of Nankin to the Treaty of Tientsin, the British Government habitually violated the Treaty by monopolizing the manufacture of opium in India, preparing it for the Chinese market, and selling it for exportation. It allowed opium to be received in receiving ships in the ports at which our Consuls resided, and at Hong Kong it permitted opium to be carried along the coast in armed vessels, with the British flag flying; it granted registers to lorchas engaged in smuggling cotton and opium, and these, having the British flag, could bid defiance to Chinese authorities. It may be said that the Chinese Government connived at this trade. Connived at it! What else could they do? They had already bitter experience of what would befall them if they attempted a rigorous execution of their own laws. But how about other parts of the Treaty of Nankin? Sir Rutherford Alcock, in a remarkable Memorandum which he wrote in the year 1857, says that every privilege gained by us has almost invariably taken the shape of some evil or abuse attaching to the exercise of our acquired rights. One of the principal objects of the Treaty of Nankin was to procure relief from the system of cohongs and monopolies which restricted and embarrassed trade. But what use was made of this exemption? Sir Rutherford Alcock says—This gain brought with it an attendant evil. Foreign merchants in direct Custom House relations with Chinese authorities, all more or less venal and corrupt, launched into a wholesale system of smuggling, and fraudulent devices for the evasion of duties. Chinese laws and Treaty stipulations were alike disregarded, sometimes by one party with forcible infractions of port regulations; oftener by bribery and collusion between the native authorities and foreigners. The Imperial revenue was defrauded by both; and foreign trade was demoralized, and converted into a game of hazard and over-reaching.And he justly remarks that if the Chinese were then loth to make those concessions, how much less disposed they must have been to extend themwith the knowledge they possessed that no conscientious payment of duties, or respect for Treaty stipulations can be looked for at the hands of foreign merchants, if the Chinese themselves cannot find the means of making the evasion impossible.Referring again to another right ac- 546 quired by the Treaty of Nankin—"exemption from territorial jurisdiction," he thus describes the use that has been made of it by Europeans—Contempt for all Chinese authority, and disregard of inherent rights, habitual infraction of Treaty stipulations, license and violence, where-ever the off-scum of the European nations found access, and peaceable people to plunder; such were the first-fruits of this important concession, and time only served to increase their growth. Our whole intercourse since the Treaty of Nankin has been carried on under a perpetual menace of hostile collision and interruption of trade. The French and the English are both in arms at this moment, each to assert rights that have been mainly brought into peril by unchecked abuses. If gross abuse of foreign flags, and the immunities they gave by Treaty, had not been habitual and matter of notoriety, 'especially in the class of lorcha vessels—smugglers and pirates all'—the particular ground of quarrel in which the Canton difficulty began would, in all probability, never have arisen.In the face of such facts as these, we ought to be a little more modest in charging the Chinese with violation and evasion of Treaties. We now come to the war known as the lorcha Arrow war, the Arrow being one of that class of vessels which we have just heard Sir Rutherford Alcock describe as "smugglers and pirates all." We waged war upon the Chinese on that occasion because they seized in their own waters a vessel which was certainly a smuggler, probably a pirate, which had no legal right to registration at all, and whose pretended right had expired, even according to the acknowledgment of the leading actors on our side. I need not dwell upon that affair. It was condemned by a vote of this House, and by a more remarkable consensus of the leading statesmen of England than any event connected with the foreign policy of this country with which I am acquainted. Lord Lyndhurst, the late Lord Derby, Lord Grey, Lord Russell, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister, and all his Party, Mr. Cobden, all united in denouncing that war, and the pretext on which it was waged. I doubt whether there is a living Englishman who would undertake to defend it. Yet on that issue we attacked the river forts at Canton, sunk or burnt 23 vessels of the Imperial Navy, destroyed the large warehouses of the Chinese, and for many hours, if not for days, poured red-hot shot into a crowded commercial city like 547 Canton. Well, that war was ended by the Treaty of Tientsin, one of the principal provisions of which was the forced legalization of the opium traffic. I say "forced" because there cannot be a doubt that the Chinese retained as strongly as ever their dislike of that trade. Mr. Reed, the American Minister, spoke in one of his letters published in our Blue Book, oftheir fear even to talk on a subject which they thought had once involved them in war, and which might give them trouble again.It is only just to Lord Elgin to say that he also personally felt great reluctance to press this matter upon them. He says—I could not reconcile it to my sense of right to urge the Imperial Government to abandon its traditional policy in this respect.But he had his instructions from home, and his official and commercial entourage in China urged him to demand the legalization of the trade. That this was forced upon the Chinese, along with other concessions in the Treaty of Tientsin, there is ample evidence to prove. Here is an extract from Commissioner Kweilang to Lord Elgin in October, 1858, pleading for some forbearance as to carrying into execution certain of the Articles of the Treaty of Tientsin—When the Chinese Commissioner negotiated a Treaty with your Excellency at Tientsin, British vessels of war were lying in that port; there was a pressure of an armed force, a state of excitement and alarm, and the Treaty had to be signed at once without a moment's delay. Deliberation was out of the question; the Commissioners had no alternative but to accept the conditions forced upon them."—[Correspondence relative to Lord Elgin's Mission, pp. 408–9.]This is abundantly confirmed by the acknowledgments of our own officials. Sir Rutherford Alcock says—To keep as clear as possible of all foreign Governments is a very natural desire on the part of those who have thrice, in a single generation 'had objectionable Treaties imposed upon them at the point of the bayonet.'And so Lord Elgin, referring to the Treaty of Tientsin, says—The concessions obtained in the Treaty from the Chinese Government are not in themselves extravagant, but in the eyes of the Chinese Government they amount to a revolution. They have been extorted therefore from its fears.Still more emphatic, if possible, is the 548 language of Sir Thomas Wade, writing in 1868—Nothing that has been gained was received from the free will of the Chinese. The concessions made to us have been from first to last extorted 'against the conscience of the nation,' in defiance, that is to say, of the moral convictions of its educated men, not merely of the office-holders whom we call Mandarins, and who are numerically but a small proportion of the educated class, but of the millions who are saturated with a knowledge of the history and philosophy of their country.The Treaty, therefore, legalizing the opium trade was extorted from the Chinese against the conscience of the nation; and their proposals in the course of the negotiations, to put some check upon it, at least by means of a high duty, were likewise rejected. Now, Sir, I must say this appears to me a humiliating spectacle to see all the resources of British diplomacy, and all the terrors of British power employed in the name of a Christian nation to force on a heathen nation an article which they were doing all in their power to keep out, because it spread among their people debauchery, demoralization, disease, and death. I cannot argue with those who pretend to maintain that the habitual use of opium as a stimulant is not injurious. The evidence on this point is so overwhelming that I must say I find it hard to believe in the sincerity of those who put forth that view. We have a perfect cloud of witnesses to prove that it is injurious to body, and mind, and morals; witnesses so numerous, and of such various classes and conditions, and many of them of such high character, that, if it should turn out their testimony was unfounded, it would prove the most extraordinary conspiracy ever formed to misrepresent the truth without any conceivable motive. We can adduce the testimony of such men—most of them high officials in India and China—as Sir Stamford Raffles, Sir George Staunton, Sir Charles Forbes, Sir John Davies, Captain Elliot, Colonel James Tod, Captain Shepherd, Chairman of the East India Company, Mr. Henry St. George Tucker, another Chairman of the East India Company, Mr. Montgomery Martin, Sir Arthur Cotton, Sir Thomas Wade, and many others. I will only cite a sentence or two from the last, our present Minister at Pekin; and I do so especially, because it meets one of the favourite pleas 549 urged in defence or mitigation of this traffic. We are often told in this House and elsewhere, that though, no doubt, opium smoking is a great evil, it is not worse than the gin and whiskey drinking that prevails among ourselves. Well, it need not be worse, and yet be bad enough. But what a strange argument to be used by a Christian nation to say—"There is a habit among ourselves which, according to the concurrent testimony of Ministers of religion, magistrates, Judges, medical men, of all who are concerned in the administration of the law or who are caring for the health and morals of the people, is the most prolific source of disease, crime, and misery, and what we force on the Chinese is not much worse than that, and what right have they to complain?" But what does Sir Thomas Wade say on this very point?—It is to me vain to think otherwise of the use of the drug in China than as of a habit many times more pernicious, nationally speaking, than the gin and whiskey drinking we deplore at home. I know of no case of radical cure. It has ensured, in every case within my knowledge, the steady descent, moral and physical, of the smoker.Then there is another kind of evidence of quite exceptional value on such a subject—that of a large number of medical gentlemen, who have been engaged professionally in China, some in hospitals, and some in private practice; and who have themselves witnessed and treated the ravages produced by opium smoking—such as Dr. Parker, Dr. Allen, Dr. Lockhart, Dr. Hobson, Dr. Dempster, Dr. Little, Dr. Bell, Dr. De la Porte, Mr. Jeffereys, Mr. Loch, and others. The last is Dr. Dudgeon, who has lived for 12 years at Pekin as a medical practitioner, and has been appointed to the Chair of Anatomy and Physiology in the Pekin College. He is now in this country; and his testimony is most explicit and emphatic, to the dreadful and disastrous effects of indulgence in opium. Then we have the Missionaries of all denominations, who, with one voice, declare that the effects of opium on the people is deplorable; and that our complicity in the traffic is the most formidable obstacle in their way in promulgating Christianity among the Chinese. I hold in my hand a Petition just sent to me by the Directors of one of the most respectable and 550 powerful of our Missionary Societies—the London Missionary Society—in which this, and other points in reference to the opium question, are put with great force. Now another question arises—Are the Chinese sincere in their opposition to the trade in this article? We are frequently told in this House and elsewhere that all their edicts, and protests, and remonstrances on this point are sheer hypocrisy; but certainly there is no very obvious reason why we should suspect them of playing a part in their endeavours to prevent their people being poisoned by opium. Let me call the attention of the House to one very remarkable piece of evidence on this point. It is known that in the Treaty of Tientsin there was a provision which entitled either of the signatory parties to propose a revision of the Treaty at the end of every 10 years. Well, in 1868, an attempt was made by Sir Rutherford Alcock to procure a revision. Negotiations then took place between him and the Foreign Board, which he describes as, "in fact, the Imperial Government in its most influential shape." Among other things that came up for discussion was the opium question. On that subject a note was transmitted to Sir Rutherford Alcock from the Board by Prince Kung. It may be regarded, in fact, as a powerful and pathetic appeal from the Chinese to the conscience and kindly feeling of the British nation. As such I think it ought to be laid before the British Parliament, and I hope I shall be permitted, notwithstanding its considerable length, to read it to the House—From Tsungli Yamen to Sir Rutherford Alcock, July, 1869. The writers have, on several occasions, when conversing with His Excellency the British Minister, referred to the opium trade as being prejudicial to the general interests of commerce. The object of the Treaties between our respective countries was to secure perpetual peace; but if effective steps cannot be taken to remove an accumulating sense of injury from the minds of men, it is to be feared that no policy can obviate sources of future trouble.Day and night the writers are considering the question with a view to its solution, and the more they reflect upon it the greater does their anxiety become; and hereon they cannot avoid addressing His Excellency very earnestly on the subject.That opium is like a deadly poison, that it is most injurious to mankind, and a most serious provocative of ill-feeling, is, the writers think, perfectly well known to His Excellency, and it is therefore needless for them to enlarge further 551 on these points. The Prince [the Prince of Kung is the President of the Board] and his Colleagues are quite aware that the opium trade has long been condemned by England as a nation, and that the right-minded merchant scorns to have to do with it. But the officials and people of this Empire, who cannot be so completely informed on the subject, all say that England trades in opium because she desires to work China's ruin, for (say they) if the friendly feelings of England are genuine, since it is open to her to produce and trade in everything else, would she still insist on spreading the poison of this hurtful thing through the Empire? There are those who say, Stop the trade by enforcing a vigorous prohibition against the use of the drug. China has the right to do so, doubtless, and might be able to effect it; but a strict enforcement of the prohibition would necessitate the taking of many lives. Now although the criminals' punishment would be of their own seeking, bystanders would not fail to say that it was the foreign merchants who seduced them to their ruin by bringing the drug, and it would be hard to prevent general and deep-seated indignation; such a course, indeed, would tend to arouse popular anger against the foreigner. There are others, again, who suggest the removal of the prohibitions against the growth of poppy. They argue that as there is no means of stopping the foreign (opium) trade there can be no harm, as a temporary measure, in withdrawing the prohibition on its growth. We should thus not only deprive the foreign merchant of the main source of his profits, but should increase our revenue to boot. The sovereign rights of China are indeed competent to this. Such a course would be practicable, and indeed the writers cannot say that as a last resource it will not come to this; but they are most unwilling that such prohibition should be removed, holding as they do that a right system of government should appreciate the beneficence of Heaven, and (seek to) remove any grievance which afflicts its people, while to allow them to go on to destruction, though an increase of revenue may result, will provoke the judgment of Heaven and the condemnation of men. Neither of the above plans, indeed, is satisfactory. If it be desired to remove the very root, and to stop the evil at its source, nothing will be effective but a prohibition to be enforced alike by both parties. Again, the Chinese merchant supplies your country with his goodly tea and silk, conferring thereby a benefit upon her, but the English merchant empoisons China with pestilent opium. Such conduct is unrighteous. Who can justify it? What wonder if officials and people say that England is wilfully working out China's ruin, and has no real friendly feeling for her? The wealth and generosity of England is spoken of by all. She is anxious to prevent and anticipate all injury to her commercial interest. How is it, then, she can hesitate to remove an acknowledged evil? Indeed, it cannot be that England still holds to this evil business, earning the hatred of the officials and people of China, and making herself a reproach among the nations, because she would lose a little revenue were she to forfeit the cultivation of the poppy! The writers hope that His Excellency will memorialize his Government to give orders in India, and elsewhere, to substi- 552 tute the cultivation of cereals or cotton. Were both nations to rigorously prohibit the growth of the poppy, both the traffic in and the consumption of opium might alike be put an end to. To do away with so great an evil would be a great virtue on England's part; she would strengthen friendly relations, and make herself illustrious. How delightful to have so great an act transmitted to after ages! This matter is injurious to commercial interests in no ordinary degree. If His Excellency the British Minister cannot, before it is too late, arrange a plan for a joint prohibition (of the traffic), then no matter with what devotedness the writers may plead, they may be unable to cause the people to put aside all ill-feeling and so strengthen friendly relations as to place them for ever beyond fear of disturbance. Day and night, therefore, the writers give to this matter most earnest thought, and overpowering is the distress which it occasions them. Having thus presumed to unbosom themselves, they would be honoured by His Excellency's reply.I do not think I ever read a document in which the accents of sincerity are more apparent than they are in this. It is no wonder that Sir Rutherford Alcock, after receiving it, should have recorded his own opinion in the following strong language:—He had no doubt that the abhorrence expressed by the Government and people of China for opium, as destructive to the Chinese nation, was genuine and deep-seated, and that he was also quite convinced that the Chinese Government could, if it pleased, carry out its threat of developing cultivation to any extent. On the other hand, he believed that so strong was the popular feeling on the subject, that if Britain would give up the opium revenue and suppress the cultivation in India, the Chinese Government would have no difficulty in suppressing it in China, except in the province of Yunnan, where its authority is in abeyance.But, before passing from this point—the proposed revision of the Treaty of Tientsin—I have to call attention to facts of great significance, especially as illustrating the statement I have already made, how our policy in China is virtually surrendered into the hands of the mercantile classes. Sir Rutherford Alcock, of all our officials in China, was the statesman who had the most intimate acquaintance with, and the longest experience of, Chinese affairs. With infinite pains, and after negotiations prolonged for many months, he concluded a supplementary Treaty, which was signed in October, 1869, by himself and the Chinese plenipotentiaries. In that Treaty he had procured concessions of the most important nature from the Chinese Government, which would confer 553 very large advantages upon British commerce; but in return for these concessions he had yielded to the Chinese these three things—an increase in the export of silk duty amounting to 1 per cent ad valorem; an increase in the opium duty of 2½ per cent ad valorem; and the right to appoint Consuls at the British ports. The Treaty, of course, required ratification at home. It was entirely approved by the Government at home, first by Lord Clarendon and then by Lord Granville; but it was violently opposed by the China merchants and their backers in the Chambers of Commerce. And why? Mainly because of the small additional increase on the opium duty, which would have raised it to about 7 per cent altogether. Now, when we consider that we impose a duty on Chinese tea of 25 to 30 per cent, it does not seem a very unreasonable demand that we should allow the Chinese to put a duty of 7 per cent on opium; and yet the Government, acting against their own judgment, and discrediting their own most experienced representative in China, yielded to the clamour of those interested parties, and advised Her Majesty not to ratify the Convention. I now come to the unfortunate expedition to Yunnan, and the murder of Mr. Margary. No one deplores more than I do the death of Mr. Margary. He appears to have been a young man of rare promise—intelligent, enterprising, courageous, and likely to prove a great ornament to the Service to which he belonged. The one salient point, however, known to the people of this country in regard to that expedition was, that a gallant and high-spirited young Englishman had perished by unfair means in Burmah or China, or in the borderland between the two, and the cry was raised, "Let us have vengeance." If it be asked, "Against whom?" the answer seems to be—"Against anybody; against the Burmese, or Chinese, or somebody; English blood has been shed, and we must be avenged." I think, however, I can show that this accursed thing, opium, had something to do with this ill-fated expedition to Yunnan. I believe there is little doubt that one of the objects had in view in forcing open this trade route was to inundate the wealthy provinces of China in that direction with Bengal opium. How do I prove this? Why 554 thus. In 1862, Colonel Phayre, who was then Chief Commissioner of British Burmah, was instructed by Lord Elgin and his Council to procure a Commercial Treaty with the King of Burmah for reopening "the caravan route from Asia, viâ Bamo, to the Chinese province of Yunnan." In a letter from the Indian Council to Sir Charles Wood (now Viscount Halifax), who was then Secretary of State for India, among the articles which Colonel Phayre was specially instructed to press on the Burmese Government for insertion in the Treaty, this was one—Opium to be allowed to pass from the British territories through Burmah into Yunnan, either duty free or on payment of a moderate transit duty.Now, let it be observed that opium was the only article of merchandise specified by name in the instructions of the Indian Government, which sufficiently showed their anxiety at least to have it introduced through Burmah into China. Well, Colonel Phayre did his best to fulfil his instructions; but there arose difficulties, and most curious and significant are the words he uses on this subject in his despatch to the Indian Government—There is one subject which still requires to be mentioned. It is as regards opium. I had proposed that a separate Article should provide for its being conveyed through the country, either Burmese or British, for sale in countries beyond. The king has an objection on religious grounds to allow his subjects to consume opium, and was averse to admitting, by a special Article, that the drug might be conveyed through his country, but said he would not object to its coming in, like other goods, under Article IV.It is surely a humiliating contrast to find that while this heathen Monarch had an objection on religious grounds to allow his subjects to consume opium, and did not like even to have it carried through his country, the representatives of a Christian nation, so far from having any religious scruples, were actually trying to seduce the King of Burmah into complicity with their design of thrusting opium through, still another avenue, upon China. But there was a previous expedition to Yunnan, and it is necessary to know something of that as tending, perhaps, to throw some light on the failure of the second expedition. Seven years before, Major Sladen had taken the same route, and with the same object. 555 At that time Yunnan was in possession of the Mohammedan or Panthay rebels, who were in arms against the Chinese Government. Talifao, where it was proposed to establish our Consul, was their capital. In the Treaty of Tientsin, there were clauses which forbad our even approaching places held by rebels. But what will the House say when I inform them that Major Sladen, acting under the orders of the Indian Government, formed intimate relations with the Panthay rebels; that the Indian Government through him recognized the rebel chief, entered into friendly negotiations and commercial arrangements with him, and kept up the intercourse until the suppression of the rebellion by the Chinese Government four years later? Li-sieh-tai, who has been accused of complicity in Mr. Margary's murder, was then an officer in the Chinese Army. But Major Sladen actually instigated the rebel chief of Manwein to attack Li-sieh-tai in his stronghold at Manphos, from which he barely escaped with life and the loss of 300 men. We are always talking of the treachery of the Chinese; but what shall we say to this monstrous story of an officer representing the British Government entering into close alliance with rebels against the Chinese authority, at the very time when we were professedly not only at peace, but in friendly relations with the Chinese Government? I cannot enter fully upon the history of this last unwise and ill-fated expedition to Yunnan. It seems to me, after reading the Papers, to have been a perfect muddle throughout. What with the interchange of cross telegrams and despatches between the Chief Commissioner of British Burmah, our Ambassador at Pekin, the Indian Council, the India Office at home, and the Foreign Office, it is impossible to find out where the responsibility rests. Lord North-brook and the Indian Council—after the catastrophe had happened, indeed—declare that—The Government of India have never been disposed to entertain sanguine expectations of the advantages to be derived from the schemes which from time to time have been proposed for the exploration of the routes from Burmah to the Western Provinces of China,and that this expeditionwas undertaken in furtherance of the wishes of Her Majesty's Government.556 On the other hand, Lord Derby says the expedition was suggested by the Indian Government, and with his usual perspicacity and sound judgment points out in reference to one part of the project, of establishing a Consul at Talifao, that—Her Majesty's Government cannot claim a right to appoint Consuls at any places in China except the Treaty ports, and that there are grave difficulties in the way of any project for establishing British communities in the far interior of China, where British protection could not be extended to them in case of danger, which in the present state of the Chinese Empire is constantly threatening foreigners, and which the Government of Pekin, even if well-disposed to do, can only imperfectly guard against.For myself, I believe we have been on the wrong tack in our conduct towards China from the beginning. We have tried a high-handed and masterful policy for many years, and with what results? Always with ill results, in every possible respect. At every succeeding war it was loudly proclaimed that it would open up all China to British trade, but events have shown this to be a delusion. Our export trade with China had always been, and was now, in an utterly unsatisfactory condition. The late Mr. Cobden used to say that he had not the smallest doubt that if we were to compute the profits that we have received from our export trade to China for the last 40 years, and set against it all that it has cost us in wars occasioned by that trade, and in the Naval and Military and Consular Services thought necessary to protect and promote it, that the nation could be shown to be largely a loser by the transaction. But this is to be observed, that the profit goes into the pockets of a small body of China merchants, and the cost comes out of the pockets of the British people, though, as if by the operation of some strange Nemesis, even the former have of late years fared miserably ill. My contention is, that we have tried to extend our commerce in China by means that cannot be justified, and that we have failed utterly and ignominiously in attaining our object. I believe there is far more to hope as respects our commercial interests from another policy, a policy of conciliation and peace, instead of that of dictation and meddling. This is the opinion of Sir Rutherford Alcock. He says— 557If only means can be found of keeping from them all foreign meddling and attempts at dictation, there is yet ground of hope. But these rouse strong instincts of resistance and national pride, giving fresh force to the retrograde and anti-foreign party; while at the same time it paralyzes all hopeful effort in those more favourable to progress from the fear of its being made a new pretext for action on the part of foreign Powers. No nations like the interference of a foreign Power in its internal affairs, however well-intentioned it may be, and China is no exception to the rule. I am thoroughly convinced they would go much better and faster if left alone.The Chinese will have nothing to do with foreigners as the protégés of their respective Governments; and they are right. To keep as clear as possible of all foreign Governments is a very natural desire on the part of those who have, thrice in a single generation, had objectionable Treaties imposed upon them at the point of the bayonet…..Railways, telegraphs, steam machinery, scientific directions for the working of mines, the acquisition of foreign languages—all these may, within a very few years, be in full play throughout the country;….'but on one condition—that they are left alone,' free alike from dictation or control as to the selection of their agents, and the time and condition of their employment, and that they are free from all restraint or galling interference on the part of foreign Governments or their agents, diplomatic or Consular. Hitherto a different condition has undoubtedly existed.Sir, the time is coming for another revision of the Treaty of Tientsin. I wish that we should take advantage of the opportunity that will be thus afforded to review our entire Chinese policy in a large and generous spirit. I hope especially we shall have the courage to confront the great evil of the opium trade, which, in my opinion, more than any other cause—more than all causes put together—is the source of that chronic difficulty with which we have to contend in our intercourse with the people and Government of China, which, moreover, renders it almost impossible for our Missionaries to make any progress in the spread of Christianity, and which is dishonouring the British name before the face of all the nations of the world. I do not know how other hon. Members may feel; but I own I am oppressed with a sense of the accumulating responsibility we are incurring by the course we are pursuing in China. I am not ashamed to say that I am one of those who believe that there is a God who ruleth in the kingdom of men, and that it is not safe for a community, any more than an individual, recklessly and 558 habitually to affront those great principles of truth, and justice, and humanity on which I believe He governs the world. And we may be quite sure of this—that in spite of our pride of place and power, in spite of our vast possessions and enormous resources, in spite of our boasted forces by land and sea, if we come into conflict with "that" Power we shall be crushed like an eggshell against the granite rock. It is because I do not wish to see my country enter into that terrible and unequal conflict, that I entreat the House to re-consider our Chinese policy, and to accept my Motion, calling upon the Government, when the Treaty of Tientsin comes to be revised, to approach the task in a just and generous spirit, so as to place our intercourse with these teeming millions of the human race on a footing of justice, friendliness, and humanity. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Resolution.
§ MR. MARK STEWART
seconded the Motion, and called attention to the Burmah Commercial Treaty of 1862, under which it appeared to him that its main aim was to facilitate the transit of opium from Burmah into China, while on the other hand all opium coming from China was prohibited. He maintained that we were not doing our duty to China nor fulfilling our mission to that great country as the pioneers of civilization. The course we had hitherto pursued was not satisfactory, nor was it likely to raise us in the estimation of the Orientals. Our relationship with China had not been based upon justice, and there ought to be a revision of policy. With respect to the Mission of Colonel Browne in 1874–5, its object, which was practically recognized by Lord Salisbury, was to open up commercial intercourse between Western China and British Burmah, and the establishment of a Consul for that purpose. But there was no reason for anticipating any voluntary concessions from the Chinese, for it was known that great hostility was manifested by the provincial governor. Was that Mission ill-advised or ill-timed? He thought it could hardly be said to be well-advised. Lord Derby, with that foresight which so distinguished him, had apparently endeavoured to throw cold water on the whole affair. In a despatch which he sent from the Foreign Office in 1874 559 he said Her Majesty's Government could not claim to appoint Consuls in China except at the Treaty Ports. The Treaty of Tientsin, to which so many prohibitions were attached, ought to be thoroughly revised, with the view of our obtaining trade facilities which we had not at present, and placing the opium traffic on a more equitable footing according to Chinese ideas. He was anxious to impress upon Her Majesty's Government the necessity of using all their efforts by degrees, not only to prevent the extension of the opium trade, but to put a stop to it altogether. It was satisfactory to find that in the recent Treaties with China it had been studiously declared that no opium should be permitted to be imported into that country. Now that we had a Minister who was capable of dealing with this difficult and complex subject, no time should be lost in devising means to convince the Chinese that we were anxious to adopt a course of action that was just, sound, and true.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That, having regard to the unsatisfactory nature of our relations with China, and to the desirability of placing those relations on a permanently satisfactory footing, this House is of opinion that the existing Treaty between the two Countries should be so revised as to promote the interests of legitimate Commerce, and to secure the just rights of the Chinese Government and People."—(Mr. Richard.)
§ SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
observed, that the great difficulty of dealing with this subject was not to acknowledge the evil, but to devise some remedy for it. The suggestion that the late expedition across the Burmese frontier to China was intended to force our opium into China was entirely without foundation. At the time when it was undertaken he was one of the advisers of the Secretary of State for India, and could, therefore, speak with authority on this point. So far from the Government of India prompting the expedition, they acquiesced in it with great hesitation. Lord Lawrence, while Viceroy, negatived a similar proposal, but the expedition was at last undertaken after full consideration of the altered circumstances of the case. It was one of exploration simply, and he denied that there was any attempt in consequence of that expedition either to establish Consulates or to do anything contrary to the terms of the Treaties then existing. He thought his hon. 560 Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Richard) had done good service in directing attention to the fact that in dealing with China and the Chinese Englishmen had not always acted in a spirit of fairness and justice. We applied the standard of Western ideas to all our claims against them, but failed in reciprocity. Having now forced our intercourse upon the Chinese it was necessary to make it fair and just. One detestable feature of the system which we had adopted in our relations with weak countries was the practice of pressing private demands for compensation of an excessive amount in respect of injuries alleged to have been suffered by British subjects. Many of these claims would not be listened to in a British Court of Justice. He found from the Blue Book that when news was first received of the murder of Mr. Margary the first thing done by Sir Thomas Wade, himself a good specimen of an Oriental diplomatist, was to make what he must call a monstrous demand for compensation, being merely as the preliminary to inquiry. Not only was this proceeding unjust, but it was undignified, placing as it did private interests before the claims of public justice. He was glad to find that Her Majesty's Government did not entirely support that demand. The argument used by the Chinese Ministers when an appeal was made to them on this subject was that they would investigate the matter according to their own rules and laws and in their own Courts of Justice, which was all the satisfaction we gave them when they had a complaint against us. It seemed to require some explanation that, when all the demands made in March had been conceded on the 1st of April, we had not availed ourselves of those concessions, and that the whole question should have to be reopened with very much increased demands on our part. He hoped the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs would give some explanation as to the great delay which occurred in the despatch of the Mission. He thought our Government should not make exorbitant demands simply because they could back them with our ships and guns. In conclusion, he had only to say that the efforts of the Government ought to be directed to the object of impressing upon the Chinese Government that in all cases in which we had reason to com- 561 plain full justice would be required to be done, giving to them at the same time the assurance that when they had demands against us or complaints to be made of injustice full redress would be afforded to them.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
wished to say a few words on this subject, on the ground that having served in India and China the Motion deeply affected the interests of those two great countries. His hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) knew that he sympathized with the object he had in view. He (Sir George Balfour) was no defender of the trade in opium, and it was quite open for parties to plead for its discontinuance without asserting that it had led to wars between England and China, for he must say that it was not, as alleged by some hon. Members, the traffic in opium that caused the war to break out between Great Britain and China, but it was quite as well grounded to say that the first war was the act of English traders to force Manchester goods on China. In their efforts to break down the monopoly which the East India Company had carried on for 200 years in trading with the Chinese, the English Government destroyed a system of management created by the India Company which had for that long period preserved the peace between the two nations; and within the first six years of the direct rule of the affairs in China under the Foreign Office there was a succession of disputes, terminating in the first war of 1840. He (Sir George Balfour) did not mean to maintain that the monopoly of the East India Company was at all defensible; on the contrary, he must say that, in the interests of India, if not of China, he was glad that that monopoly had been broken down; but the British merchants, who succeeded to the India Company's trade with China, in their efforts to open the Chinese markets for Manchester and other goods, had certainly committed great wrong, and been guilty of great injustice and great excesses against Chinese feelings of exclusiveness. This was England's doing, and India ought not to be made responsible for England's mismanagement. The result was that for two centuries there was quiet in our trade with China, and for 40 years since the transfer there had been disturbance. 562 Since 1839 we had been in constant hot water with the Chinese, and the consequence had been that, since that time, there had been two great wars carried on between this country and China, and year after year a constant anxiety about war breaking out. Having served in the first war in China, and having seen the desolation and great loss of life thereby caused, he was happy to be able to assure the House that he fully agreed with the hon. Member for Merthyr in the hope that we might never again go to war with that country.
§ Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
proceeded to say that it was necessary to clear away a great delusion that prevailed as to the repugnance of the Chinese Government to the opium trade. He believed that the Government of China detested the presence of the Roman Catholic Missionaries, who spread themselves over the whole of China, and excited the fears and alarms of the Government; our Protestant Missionaries were also disliked. He could add that the greatest anxiety he felt when Consul at Shanghai was when that able man the Rev. Mr. Medhurst, of the London Missionary Society, visited the green tea country. The greatest efforts were made by the Chinese Government to have him seized, and it was his (Sir George Balfour's) duty to insist in stern language that in apprehending Mr. Medhurst the utmost degree of respect and good treatment should be shown. This was a far more troublesome task to perform than he had ever had with regard to opium. But it was not true that the Chinese Government were unwilling to admit opium. Immediately after the Treaty of Nankin—that was, in 1843—the opium question was discussed. It was at Canton that most of the negotiations took place with respect to the tariff, and it was distinctly stated by the two Chinese Ministers to Sir Henry Pottinger that they were willing to admit Indian opium if a proportionate sum of money was paid for its admission. Subsequently, when Consul at Shanghai, as stated in a former debate on the opium traffic, he (Sir George Balfour) did all in his 563 power at the time to prevent the import of opium. He seized three vessels which had it on board, but he got no support; he had to answer for his own sins, and take care of himself as he best could. They heard very much of the desire to abolish the opium traffic, and terrible descriptions of the vice and misery which it caused, but the like expressions were applied to the traffic in spirits, and yet foreign nations who supplied the spirits were not blamed as India was for furnishing an article which was fully as injurious to our countrymen as opium was to the Chinese. No doubt, it was desirable for England to be able to dispense with the Revenue derived from spirits, and it was equally so in regard to India dispensing with the Revenue derived from opium. The question was, how they could do without the £8,000,000 of Revenue derived from the traffic? India could not do without that Revenue, because England demanded from India, to the last penny, the return of the expenditure for keeping up the Army and other Imperial expenses. It was, therefore, neither right nor fair for England to urge upon India the abolition of the traffic. If England wanted it, let England pay for it. Objection had been taken by the hon. Member for Merthyr to our demand for compensation from the Chinese Government for Mr. Margary's murder. But had we no precedent for that? What had happened in Japan? Did not Sir Rutherford Alcock make demands on the Japanese Government not very long ago for offences committed against our people? He could tell the hon. Member that if our policy in China was carried out in accordance with many of the views he had expressed, a war, the worst of any we had had, must be the consequence. With respect to the abolition of the opium traffic, he desired it—they all desired it—but they must see their way to do so much more clearly than the hon. Member had shown them before doing it. He must oppose the Resolution, because he objected to Resolutions which said one thing and meant another, or which might be taken to mean different things.
§ SIRCHARLES W. DILKE
said, that until the Report of the Grosvenor Mission had been laid before the House it would be useless to enter into any discussion as to the murder of Mr. Mar- 564 gary. He would not enter into the consideration of the opium question, though he entirely concurred in the views which had been expressed by the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard). He was much struck last year when in China by the strength of the case as brought before him by some leading Chinese officials. A native merchant whom he met at Penang—a magistrate and a man of high standing, and well known to the British residents—spoke to him with great force and eloquence of his wish and the wish of all intelligent Chinamen to put an end to the opium traffic. There was, however, one great difficulty with respect to the Resolution of his hon. Friend. He spoke of the revision of the Treaties with China; and if we were the only nation that had relations with the Chinese the revision would be an easy matter. But we were only one of five great nations who had entered into Treaty relations with China, and the revision of one Treaty meant the revision of all. The United States and Germany would probably go with us in a liberal revision of the Treaties, but it was doubtful if we could carry Russia with us, and it was certain we could not carry France. It had always been open to great doubt whether the conduct of Russia towards China in the past did not show that she was desirous of putting pressure on that country in order to obtain concessions of territory, while there could be no doubt that France had always pursued in Chinese affairs a most ambitious policy—one of a constant intermeddling character which, with all his admiration of France, he strongly condemned. The reference that had been made to precedents in the case of Japan justified the remark that the more of such precedents there were the more was it proved that we adopted towards weak nations a policy different from that which we adopted towards the strong. It must not be forgotten that of late years the Chinese had made great advances in the path of modern progress. Partly influenced by emulation of their Japanese neighbours, they were beginning to send students to England and were commencing to work coal mines in Formosa. Orders had lately been given for the survey of all the coal-fields in the neighbourhood of Pekin for the purpose of opening coal mines. In dealing with 565 the Chinese these things should not be left out of consideration; and holding that in the present as well as in the past the Chinese had great grievances against this country, he hoped, if the Government could see a fair opportunity, in conjunction with Germany and the United States, of revising the existing Treaties, they would not lose the opportunity of doing so.
§ MR. CHARLEY
expressed his admiration of the policy that had been pursued by Lord Derby in China, which had saved this country from a disastrous war with China. He concurred in the views that had been expressed in condemnation of the opium trade, and said it was our duty as a Christian nation to assist in extinguishing it. It was not a question what other nations would do, but what we ought to do.
§ MR. BOURKE
said, that much as he differed from the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Richard) in some of the details of his speech, he concurred in two of his observations at the commencement of his remarks—namely, that it was a subject well worthy the consideration of the House of Commons, and that the House of Commons as a body was entitled to take the matter into its consideration. It was no part of his duty to defend the English nation and Governments against the serious indictment of the hon. Member for Merthyr, involving, as it did, questions of historical research rather than of practical statesmanship. No doubt much might be said for and against the mode in which our Treaty stipulations with China had been effected and carried out; but we ought not to forget one thing, and that was that if we were to wait until the Chinese voluntarily made a Treaty with us we should wait until Domesday. Our Treaties had been a great benefit to the Chinese themselves as well as to the commerce and the people of this country. So far from our merchants being interested in fomenting war with China, there were no persons more interested in maintaining peace, and he could not think that the imputations which had been cast upon the commercial body in this country were at all deserved. There was no foundation for saying that the merchants in China dictated the policy of the Government; and, indeed, nothing was more common in the records of the past than for the 566 merchants there to complain of the policy of our officials in China and of the Government at home as too favourable to the interests of China. As far as he had been able to learn from public documents, the British Government had always endeavoured to hold the scales of justice as equally as possible between the British merchants and the Chinese people. With regard to the opium trade, public men did not differ in their opinions upon it from a moral point of view; but it had been frequently said by wise statesmen experienced in Indian affairs that—"So long as you cannot find a substitute for the revenue derived from opium you are not justified in taking it away." The truth was if we took away that source of revenue we must impose an equivalent tax. As to Chinese opinion in regard to opium, they ought not to be too much guided by that. The Chinese were addicted to the use of opium quite independently of the importation of the Indian drug, and they would continue to smoke it as much as ever, even if that importation ceased. What the Chinese said as to the immorality produced by opium was, he believed, only an excuse on their part for carrying out the principle of non-intercourse, because they used precisely the same arguments against everything that we had gained by Treaty as they did with respect to opium. A gentleman calling himself the Chancellor of a Chinese Province, writing to the Emperor of China and the Government, begged them to crush, destroy, and root out all the foreign devils, and especially the Missionaries, who had produced so much evil in the country. There was, in fact, no part of the Treaty stipulations which the Chinese disliked, so much as that relating to Missionaries and to travelling in the interior; and if they were offered the choice whether they would give up opium or give up the Missionaries, he believed they would give up the latter. It must be remembered also that everything we had obtained by Treaty from the Chinese we had obtained by force; and if we paid too much attention to their opinion there would be an end of all our commerce with them, for they wanted to have as little intercourse with the outer world as possible, and would be glad to get rid of their Treaty engagements. The hon. Member having read passages from Blue Books 567 —one quoting the opinion of one of our Consuls in China to show that the use of opium was not so hurtful as he had at first supposed, and that further observation convinced him that it afforded a solace and a stimulus to persons who did the hardest and rudest work without injuring their health: and others to the effect that the cultivation of the poppy in various parts of China was gradually extending, while the action of the authorities, local and Imperial, in reference to it was very uncertain: in some cases its cultivation was treated as an illicit, and in others as a recognized trade, the native revenue officers exacting bribes from those who carried it on—proceeded—therefore, notwithstanding all attempts to discourage the growth of the drug, the Chinese were so much addicted to its use that there was now no prospect of its not being grown even to a greater extent than it had heretofore been. Nothing could be farther from the truth than the allegation that an attempt had been made to force opium upon China through Burmah. Some observations had been made with regard to the delay in making inquiries as to the murder of Mr. Margary. The reason why a mission with regard to the murder of Mr. Margary did not take place immediately was the impossibility of obtaining from the Chinese Government those guarantees which Sir Thomas Wade thought were absolutely necessary. But those guarantees were finally obtained. If a route from Burmah to Western China could really be opened up by means of negotiation, then the object of Mr. Margary's mission would be secured, and far greater results would be gained for this country than could have been conceived. It had been said that the English Government was liable to make exorbitant claims on behalf of private individuals. He knew of no such cases since he had been at the Foreign Office; but, at the same time, if the lives and. property of British subjects in China were to be protected, they must hold the Chinese Government responsible for any injury or maltreatment which they received. The hon. Member opposite had raised objections to the exterritoriality of English settlements in China; but although it was not a system that we should like to see established in this country, it was absolutely necessary in conducting our commercial intercourse with nations like 568 China, because without it no English merchant could carry on his business there for a single day. Her Majesty's Government agreed with the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles Dilke) that the time had come for a revision of our Treaties with China, and, indeed, negotiations having that object in view had been going on between the two Governments for some years. A Convention, in fact, had been agreed upon with the Chinese authorities for that purpose, but it having been submitted to the Chambers of Commerce in this country, and having been disapproved by them, the late Government had been compelled to inform the Chinese Government that it could not be ratified by us. That showed how careful the late Government was of commercial interests. In conducting our negotiations for a revised Treaty with China, we were bound to remember the peculiar position of the Government of that country, and should endeavour to adopt a line of conciliation, and to bring the interests of our merchants as much as possible into harmony with those of the Chinese people; and looking at the present political position of China, we must avoid all acts that would derogate from the authority of the supreme power, and thus prevent what at one time was imminent—the complete social disorganization of that country. It was, however, at the same time, necessary to be very firm in our dealings with the Chinese authorities, because a large body of the people were anxious to have nothing to say to us, and he was sorry to say that our experience of the Chinese was that they would take every opportunity they could to avoid carrying out the terms of their Treaties with us. There was nothing to be gained by denying that fact, and therefore it was necessary to show that Her Majesty's Government was prepared to insist upon the observance of Treaties which had been entered into. They had done all that was possible in the way of negotiation; but, as the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil had remarked, it was necessary to consider the opinions of other Powers in reference to a question of this kind. Having consulted the Governments of France, Germany, and the United States, Her Majesty's Government was waiting to learn what was likely to be done by those Powers in reference to the revision of 569 Treaties before deciding upon any definite course as far as the action of this country was concerned. If it were necessary to act we should not do so without the co-operation of one or two, and perhaps three, other Powers. He hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion to a division. The Government was anxious, as regarded opium, to do all that it could; and, as to a revision of the Treaties, he did not think there was much difference between the Government and the hon. Member, who, he hoped, would be satisfied with the complete discussion which had been conducted with so much ability on both sides of the House.
§ SIR JOHN KENNAWAY
held that the country had no right to make use of its strength to force opium upon an unwilling people like the Chinese. He joined in the appeal to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil not to take a division on his Motion. It was clear from the statement of the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken that Her Majesty's Government was not only inclined to deal with the question, but had actually taken it in hand.
§ MR. RITCHIE
said, the House had sat a great many hours, and had to meet again at noon that day. It was time for them, at half-past 12 o'clock, to go home, and he therefore moved the Adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Ritchie.)
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN
gave Notice that if the Government should support the Motion for Adjournment he should divide the House against every Morning Sitting during the remainder of the Session.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
appealed to the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets not to press the Motion, because, undoubtedly, when a Morning Sitting was taken there was an implied understanding that the Government would endeavour to secure for hon. Members a fair opportunity of discussing matters in which they were interested.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.