§ *MR. SAMUEL SMITH
said, I rise in pursuance of the Notice I have placed on the Paper,To call attention to the Opium Trade with China; and to move, that this House views with deep regret the history of our Opium policy towards China, and regards the traffic in that drug as repugnant to the true interests of that country; that it calls upon the Government of India to take steps looking to the final extinction of the trade, and urges upon Her Majesty's Government to intimate to the Chinese Government that in the next revision of the Treaty of Tientsin full power will be given to extinguish the trade in Opium if it thinks fit.I am concious that I am raising a question of extraordinary difficulty; but I am so impressed with the gigantic evil of this opium trade that I cannot remain silent with regard to it. Our nation has woven for itself a network of difficulty in connection with the opium trade from which extrication seems to be almost impossible; yet we cannot sit still and idly fold our 1144 hands. I therefore ask the House once more to register a protest against England's greatest national sin. We have had no debate on the Opium Question in this House since the year 1886. There are no doubt many hon. Members to whom this subject may be somewhat strange, and who have not heard the old debates that used to take place upon it; consequently it will be necessary for me to-night to go to some extent over ground that has been trodden before, in order that all Members of this House may be able to judge of the morality of the position we occupy. We cannot form such a judgment except in connection with the history of the past. We find ourselves the heirs of what has gone before, and it is only by getting some competent knowledge of the past history of the subject that the House will be able to form a judgment as to the responsibilities that rest upon it. I will therefore attempt to prove the two following propositions—first, that we forced the opium trade upon China against its determined opposition and; secondly, that it has done incalculable harm to that country. To prove the first of these two propositions, I must take a rapid survey of our relations to China. The Chinese opium trade is one of comparatively modern growth. As far as I can gather from the early history of that country, there was no common use of opium there in the sense in which it now exists until towards the close of the last century. There is no allusion to it in the literature of the country as a national vice in the sense in which it is spoken of to-day. Indeed, there is no evidence that opium smoking was a common practice in China until towards the end of the last century and the beginning of this. Up to the year 1767- the export of opium from India to China seldom exceeded 200 chests a year; in, 1767 that amount was increased, and it grew during that century to about 4,000 chests, while now it has gone up to the terrible figure of 100,000 chests a year. As soon as the habit began to spread, the Chinese Government passed stringent regulations against the use, manufacture, and sale of opium in their dominions. These regulations became more and more severe until at last the Chinese Government went so far as to decree capital punishment against those who either smoked or 1145 sold opium. When the trade was forbidden it was carried on between India and China by smugglers, the opium being sold by the East India Company to the smugglers for the avowed purpose of being run into China, the profit derived from the trade being divided between the Company and the smugglers. To show what the East India Company thought of the effects of this drug I will quote a few lines from a despatch dated 1817, in which they say—Were it possible to prevent the use of the drug altogether we would gladly do it in compassion to mankind.But, notwithstanding this fine sentiment, the East India Company were not ashamed to make a profit out of the degradation of the Chinese. The trade thus went on until in 1836 the Chinese Government made a determined effort to stop it, and resolved once for all to stamp it out. The result of that action on their part was the first Chinese War. The act which immediately led to that war was the destruction of 20,000 chests of opium, which were seized by the Chinese Authorities at Canton and thrown into the river, in doing which the Chinese Government were acting entirely within their own rights. What would have any European country have done under similar circumstances? We had no right to go to war on such a ground, but unhappily we did go to war and bombarded Canton and many other defenceless towns, and in the end compelled the Chinese to pay to the smuggling traders an indemnity for the opium destroyed. Still, we could not get them to legalize the trade. Our Ambassador, Sir H. Pottinger, tried it, and what was the noble reply made to him by the Chinese Emperor? He said—It is true, I cannot prevent the introduction of the flowing poison. Gain-seeking and corrupt men will, for profit and sensuality, defeat my wishes, but nothing will induce me to derive a revenue from the vice and misery of my people.Then a letter was written by the Chinese Government to Sir H. Pottinger, in which they said—Our nations have been united by a friendly commercial intercourse for 200 years. How then, at this time, are our old relations so suddenly changed, so as to be the cause of national quarrel? It arises most assuredly from the spreading opium poison. Opium is neither pulse nor grain, and yet multitudes of our 1146 Chinese subjects consume it, wasting their property and destroying their lives, and the calamities arising therefrom are unutterable. How is it possible for us to refrain from forbidding our people to use it?That was what a heathen Government wrote to Christian England. And now I will read a few words from one whose authority, I am sure, will be recognized by this House. I refer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone). Speaking in the year 1840, about the Chinese War, the right hon. Gentleman said—They gave you notice to abandon your contraband trade. When they found that you would not, they had a right to drive you from their coasts, on account of your obstinacy in persisting in this infamous and atrocious traffic. You allowed your agent to aid and abet those who were concerned in carrying on that trade; and I do not know how it can be urged as a crime against the Chinese that they refused provisions to those who refused obedience to their laws whilst residing within their territories. A war more unjust in its origin, a war more calculated to cover this country with permanent disgrace, I do not know, and I have not read of. The right hon. Gentleman opposite spoke of the British flag waving in glory at Canton. That flag is hoisted to protect an infamous contraband traffic; and if it never were hoisted, except as it is now hoisted on the coast of China, we should recoil from its sight with horror.The right hon. Gentleman has spoken many noble words, but he certainly never spoke any that were nobler or truer than these. Nevertheless, the smuggling of opium into China still went on until, in 858, it had the effect of producing the second Chinese War, which sprang out of the case of the lorcha Arrow, which was seized by the Chinese. This was during the Government of Lord Palmerston. In this war the Chinese were again defeated, the capital of China was taken, and the Chinese compelled at the point of the bayonet to legalize the trade in opium under the Treaty of Tientsin. Therefore, it was not till we had fought two successful wars that we were enabled to bring about that result. The trade then went on; but what the Chinese thought about the matter may be gathered from what was. said by Sir Thomas Wade, our Ambassador at Pekin, who wrote the following despatch to the British Government in 1868:—We are generally prone to forget that the footing we have in China has been obtained by force, and by force alone, and that, unwarlike 1147 and unenergetic as we hold the Chinese to be, it is in reality to the fear of force alone that we are indebted for the safety we enjoy at certain points accessible to our force.… Yet nothing that has been gained, it must be remembered, was received from the free-will of the Chinese; more, the concessions made to us from time to time 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. To these, as a rule, the very extension of our trade must appear politically, or what is in China the same thing, morally wrong: and the story of foreign intercourse during the last 30 years can have had no effect but to confirm them in their opinion.These were the deliberate words of our own Ambassador at Pekin—the one who extorted the Treaty of Tientsin. There is one more quotation on this point of the subject which I should like to read. I do not know anything more touching, and I am sure there is not one here but will feel the force of it. Here is our Ambassador's despatch of 1869, in which he reports that the Chinese Minister used the following notable words in reply to the charge that the Chinese Government were hostile to foreigners. The Chinese Ministers at first disputed the fact, but —In the end Wen-Seang shifted his ground, and asked how could it be otherwise? They had often seen foreigners making war on the country; and then, again, how irreparable and continuous was the injury which they saw inflicted upon the whole Empire by the foreign importation of opium! If England would consent to interdict this—cease either to grow it in India, or to allow their ships to bring it to China— there might be some hope of more friendly feelings. No doubt there was a very strong feeling entertained by all the literati and gentry as to the frightful evils attending the smoking of opium, its thoroughly demoralizing effects, and the utter ruin brought upon all who once gave way to the vice. They believed the extension of this pernicious habit was mainly due to the alacrity with which foreigners supplied the poison for their own profit, perfectly regardless of the irreparable injury inflicted, and naturally they felt hostile to all concerned in such a traffic.… If England ceased to protect the trade, it could then be effectually prohibited by the Emperor; and it would eventually cease to trouble them, while a great cause of hostility and distrust in the minds of the people would be removed.I confess it is very difficult to read these words without feeling ashamed. I do not believe that, if the British 1148 people had fully understood the nature of these operations and the policy we were pursuing towards China, that they would ever have tolerated what we were doing. The great mass of the nation knew nothing about the question. Parliament was not at that time as fully representative of the views of the people as it is now. I do not believe that any educated democracy would tolerate such cruel and unjust conduct towards a helpless nation as we at that time practised towards China. Well, I have only one more step to allude to, and that will bring to an end this brief review of the history of our relations with China. I said that the Treaty of Tientsin legalized the trade in opium. But, after a few years, the opium merchants began to complain that local dues were placed upon opium in the interior, so high as to somewhat restrict the trade. The Treaty of Tientsin, it appears, only provided for an Import Duty payable at the Customs. And so they began, backed up by the Indian Government, to agitate that we should urge upon China to abolish these inland imposts so as to make it easier for opium to get up the country. And so we had the Chefoo Convention in 1876, providing that there should be no "likin" imposts in the interior, but that a certain fixed duty should be paid at the port in addition to the Foreign Import Duty. This Chefoo Convention was not considered to be sufficiently favourable to British trade by the Home Government, and it remained unratified for no less than nine years. All that time our Government continued to urge upon China more favourable terms. At last the ratification was completed in the year 1885. And, if I am not mistaken, the total amount of duty now chargeable is 110 "taels" per chest. But that Convention was liable to be cancelled by twelve months' notice from either Power from the year 1890. And I wish to call the attention of the House to this important fact, that we are approaching a time when either England or China can give notice to end this Convention; and it is partly in view of this that I venture to bring this question before the House. Now, what I have said I think will lead those who are present to accept the first part of the Resolution—namely— 1149That this House views with deep regret the history of our opium policy towards China, and regards the traffic in that drug as repugnant to the true interests of that country.I think I may challenge the unanimous assent of this House to this proposition. Now, I am quite aware that within the last few years a feeble and a futile effort has been made to persuade the British public that the use of opium is not noxious, that opium is a comparatively healthy drug, and that it may be used by the great mass of the Chinese without any greater harm than results from the use of beer by our population, or even with any greater harm than from tobacco smoking. There is one gentleman, Sir George Birdwood, who has signalized himself by propounding what I must call preposterous views in posing as an apologist of the opium trade. Now, in order to induce the House to believe that the evils resulting from the use of opium are no less than the Chinese Government have always alleged, I shall be required to cite some competent witnesses. I may state to the House that for some 20 years at least I have been in the habit of discussing this question with persons long resident in China. I have gathered the opinions of many missionaries and medical men—men in charge of the hospitals, and who have gained an intimate knowledge of the evils arising from the use of opium. I have collected a large amount of information on the subject during those 20years, and I make this statement to the House that I have never come across a single disinterested witness who did not regard the common use of opium as one of the most terrible curses that could befal humanity. [Sir G. CAMPBELL: Worse than whisky?] I say much worse than whisky. A man may give up the use of whisky and recover, but the opium eater, after a certain stage, cannot give it up, because to do so means speedy death. In any case, the recovery from the use of opium causes such torments, such exquisite suffering, that not one man in a thousand can undergo the ordeal. I will call two witnesses, both of them competent —two of our own Ambassadors to China, the two men who negotiated our Treaties with China, the one Sir R. Alcock, and the other Sir Thomas Wade. Sir R. Alcock examined before a Com- 1150 mittee of this House in 1871, answered the following question:—Can the evils, physical, moral, commercial, and political, as respects individuals, families, and the nation at large, of indulgence in this vice be exaggerated?—(Sir R. Alcock.) "I have no doubt that, where there is a great amount of evil, there is always a certain danger of exaggeration; but looking to the universality of the belief among the Chinese, that whenever a man takes to smoking opium, it will probably be the impoverishment and ruin of his family—a popular feeling which is universal both among those who are addicted to it, who always consider themselves as moral criminals and amongst those who abstain from it, and are merely endeavouring to prevent its consumption—it is difficult not to conclude that what we hear of it is essentially true, and that it is a source of impovishment and ruin to families.'That was the unwilling evidence given by our own Ambassador. Now I will give you the evidence of Sir Thomas Wade, who was intimately acquainted with the Chinese people and knew their language, who lived long in the country, and who, I believe, is even a more competent witness than Sir R. Alcock, and he says that it does greater mischief than drink, because it works insidiously and does not show external evidence of the effects which expose the victim of habitual drunkenness. His words are:—It is to me vain to think otherwise of the drug in China than as of a habit many times more pernicious, nationally speaking, than the gin and whisky drinking which we deplore at home. It takes possession more insidiously, and keeps its hold to the full as tenaciously. It has insured, in every case within my knowledge, the steady descent, moral and physical, of the smoker; and it is so far a greater mischief: than drink, that it does not, by external evidence of its effect, expose its victim to the loss of repute which is the penalty of habitual drunkenness.I think I could rest my case on the testimony of our two Ambassadors, competent witnesses, who were not likely to weigh unduly the charge against their own country, and whose natural bias would be the other way. But I will add to that testimony one or two statements made by missionaries of long experience in China. I believe there is no class of men who are so capable of giving an honest and true opinion upon such a question as the men who spend the greater part of their lives labouring among the poor Chinese, and, in many cases, attending in the hospitals, where they become acquainted 1151 with the evils of opium in a way that the merchants do not know of. Now here is the evidence of Archdeacon Wolfe, written only last September:—In consequence of the removal of the local tax on the sale of opium, the drug is very much cheaper than before; consequently its use is rapidly spreading among all classes, and is fast destroying the vitality of this people. The devil could not have invented a more pernicious vice for the destruction of soul and body than this of opium smoking, and woe to the man who by word or deed gives any support or encouragement to the hell-born traffic! It is necessary for every friend of the Chinese to speak out in the plainest and most decisive manner on the evils of opium smoking. The people are being ruined by it, and it is indeed a lamentable spectacle to see professing Christian men speaking and writing in defence of the horrible crime. The pernicious results of this soul and body-destroying vice are apparent all round. Cadaverous looking faces meet one on every side, and the slovenly habits and the filthy appearance of the people generally testify too plainly to the evil it is working on this once industrious and energetic population. The rapid progress which opium smoking has made during the last twenty years among all classes of this population is a very serious matter for us missionaries. Almost the entire population in some places is abandoned to the use of this poisonous drug. The effects are witnessed in the extreme poverty of the people, in the broken down and dilapidated dwellings all through the village, and in the gross immorality which prevails amongst the inhabitants. Men openly and without shame prostitute their wives, in order to procure for themselves the means of indulging in opium smoking. Little children are sold as slaves and turned away from the embrace of their helpless mothers in order that their degraded fathers may have money to buy opium. Often and often has the missionary to endure the humiliation which no other nationality has to bear in this country. Often has he wished in his heart that the flag of some other nation which is not stained with the poisonous, polluted opium drug, was the one under which he lived in this country rather than the English, which to the Chinese is the emblem of the moral ruin of their nation.Just let me give one more description of the physical effects of opium smoking, that by the testimony of the Rev. S. Whitehead, long resident in China—Hollow eyes, sunken cheeks, high shoulder-bones, emaciated frame, discoloured teeth, sallow complexion, are the signs which announce the opium smoker everywhere. And the evils thus set forth have their correspondence in the mental and moral degradation of the people. A smoker needs some three hours a day to consume the opium that is requisite for him. He is unable to do more than two hour consecutive work because he must have his opium, and when he needs it, whatever he may be doing, he must and will have it. If he has not time to take his rice and his opium, then he will smoke 1152 his opium. If he has not money enough to buy both rice and opium, he will spend his last cash on opium. If he has no money left, he will pawn his garments. If he has already pawned his garments, then he will steal. By one means or another he must have it. If he is deprived of it too long, water flows from the eyes, he experiences a burning in the throat and a dizziness in the head, and coldness in the extremities. If he is altogether denied the use of opium, he will die, and in agony.I have stated to the House that one of the greatest evils in connection with this system is the almost hopelessness of cure. The torment undergone by the patient is such that very few have the moral courage to withstand it. This is what Dr. Galt, who has charge of an hospital for opium smokers, says:—Giving up the opium is something dreadful. No one who has not seen it can form any idea. The stomach sometimes rejects everything, even a drop of water. They toss about in their beds, and they are sleepless for nearly a week. In fact, they are in the most abject misery it is conceivable for a human being to be in, yet they came in hundreds every year to the hospital, and were willing to undergo all the misery that they might give up the use of the drug. They wished to do it, and wanted our help, as the craving is so strong that few can do it unaided.Surely it is unreasonable to compare the use of alcoholic stimulants or tobacco smoking with opium smoking. Why the Chinese people treat opium smoking as one of the worst vices. I know it will be said that China now grows so much opium that it is useless to stop the importation of the Indian drug. It it, alas! too true. But for many years the Chinese Government struggled with all their might against the introduction of opium; they punished with death those who grew it, and indeed there was very little grown until after the first Chinese war. Then they began to realize their incapacity to keep it out of the country; the restrictions on the growth of opium were not enforced with the same severity, and after the treaty of 1858, which legalized the trade, they were still further relaxed. It was only after the last war that the Chinese Government found how hopeless were their efforts to stamp out the vice, and now we see the sad result in the poverty, misery, and demoralization which it has wrought among the people. In the last few years there has been a great increase in the growth and consumption of opium in Western China. It is computed by some that 1153 there are something like 25,000,000 of opium smokers in the country; and that every year 60,000 of these persons commit suicide. Are we now to abstain from doing what is right in itself because the Chinese have abandoned all restrictions and are gradually sinking deeper and deeper into the mire? Are we to go on having our share in the creation of all this misery, drawing our share of the wicked gain, simply because it is impossible to undo what has been done? If we were to set a good example for conscience sake, perhaps the Chinese Government might be encouraged even yet to make a supreme effort to stamp out this vice. I cannot admit that we should continue doing what we know to be morally wrong. One thing is certain, unless the vice is combatted, China will commit something like national suicide and her population will succumb to pauperism, famine and death. It is for the Chinese a matter simply of life and death. There is a mote in our eye which prevents us seeing our duty in this great question, and that mote is that India derives six millions from the export of opium to China; and the problem is how to make up that six millions which India cannot afford to lose. Remember that, owing to Chinese competition, the price of opium is falling, and we shall have to export more and more in order to keep up the revenue. I am afraid that the Indian Government will increase the export unless this House brings pressure to bear on the Administration. Of course, I cannot ask the Government to abandon this six millions of revenue without suggesting a substitute for it. Now, I am going to suggest one or two ways of making up this revenue. There is a tax which the population of India would willingly pay —a tax, speaking generally, on manufactured goods. To oblige Lancashire we took off the taxes on cotton goods imported into India, although the people of India did not object to that taxation. The manufactured goods imported into India exceed in value forty millions, and a tax of 10 per cent ad valorem would produce four millions, which would be increased by a corresponding tax on India home manufactures, and that would deprive the import duties of protective character. Thus the taxation would not be protection; it would 1154 be simply a fiscal arrangement. Then I think it right that England should do something in the way of a direct subvention. It is well known that the annexation of Upper Burmah was very repugnant to the native population of India, who believe it was carried out for the benefit of England, and that it is unjust to saddle the cost upon India. But India has had to bear an extra charge of two millions a-year ever since the annexation was carried out. I hold that this country ought to take on its shoulders this amount, being the extra cost of the government of Upper Burmah. That would give relief to the finances of India. Again, we know that India is very expensively governed, and something might be saved by a larger employment of native agency. Again the Indian Revenue has been depleted to the extent of three or four millions by the fall in the silver currency; and a considerable gain might be secured to it if we adopted bimetallism, even at the ratio of 20 to one. By these adjustments we would get out of this difficulty. I hope the nation may be induced to carry out a policy of practical righteousness. I know that such a great change cannot take place suddenly, but the adjustments could be made gradually in proportion as the opium revenue is surrendered. I may mention that this revenue is derived from two sources. About two-thirds is derived from the Government monopoly in Bengal, which brings in about three-and-a-half millions, and the remainder from what is called the Malwa opium, grown in native States, and which is subjected to a heavy tax as it passes through our territories. Now it will not be enough for us merely to retire from manufacturing and trading in opium, and leave the trade to private persons, in that case the remedy would be worse than the disease. The only logical policy that would attain the end at which we aim is one that looks towards the final suppression of the trade. Considering that the Bengal monopoly is in the hands of the Government, they have it in their power entirely to stamp it out. We have, of couse, to get rid of the difficulty with the native states, which are semi-independent and are large growers of opium; but none of their opium can reach the seaboard without passing through our territory; and practically 1155 the British Government would be able to accomplish the extinction of the opium trade if it set itself earnestly to effect that object. For instance, they could prohibit the opium passing through British territory, or they could raise the tax to a prohibitive point. Unfortunately, the Chinese Government have now ceased to protest against the traffic; and I am afraid that it connives at it. We have agreed to share the plunder with them and have dulled their conscience. China now derives a considerable revenue from it, though less than the Indian Government receives; and since she has shared so largely in the profit the conscience of her Government has, I fear, grown rather lax in the matter. I may be met with the argument that if we withdraw from exporting the drug to China other nations will take our place. But surely we can stipulate that when we retire from the trade it shall be prohibited all round. Already the Chinese Government in their treaties with the United States, Russia, and, I believe, other countries, prohibit the importation of opium into China; and, of course, if we surrender that revenue, it will be on condition that China concludes or maintains with other Powers treaties also excluding opium. When this country retired from the slave trade it was very jealous of its being carried on by other nations, and it employed a squadron to put it down; and so, if we obtain from China treaty stipulations absolutely excluding opium from all sources, no doubt we shall become exceedingly jealous that no opium should be smuggled into China. Japan, one of the most progressive countries in that part of the world, has stipulated with every Power that no opium shall be imported into her ports, and she imposes very heavy penalties on its sale; and the consequence is that Japan is rapidly rising in the scale, while China is declining. This is simply owing to the fact that one nation prohibits while the other allows the trade. I believe that if this nation had the honesty and moral courage to adopt the policy I recommend, compensations would come to us from unexpected quarters. We should gain enormously in our trade with China, which is at present stagnant compared with 20 years ago. With India our trade is increasing by leaps and bounds; with 1156 China it has been falling off for the last ten or fifteen years. Let me quote a few figures in proof of this. I will take the returns of the exports from the United Kingdom to India. In 1871 the exports were valued at £20,900,000; in 1887 they had risen to £33,600,000. But whereas the exports to China in 1881 were £9,400,000, in 1887 they had fallen: to £8,700,000. We have virtually free trade with China; we have access to all the great waterways and all the great cities, and yet our trade is falling off. China has 350,000,000 people, and India 250,000,000, yet while India spends 2s. 8d. per head with us, China only spends 6d. per head. The fact is the opium traffic has killed legitimate trade in China; and who can doubt but that the Chinese would spend much more on Manchester goods and on all our other products if they did not spend such large sums on Indian opium. I know that the proposals I am making will not be acceptable to Lancashire, yet most of my interests lie in that county; and let me point out that by the expansion of our trade with China, Lancashire would gain greatly, and there would be a great expansion if ten millions were not spent by the Chinese on Indian opium as now. I know that I am demanding a great deal of the House in asking it to pass a Resolution of this nature. after the kind support it gave the other night to a proposition of a not very dissimilar character. But I believe that the moral sense of the country is now rising in favour of such proposals more than it has done in former times. The reform I now ask. for cannot be carried except by some self-denial, but nothing ennobles a nation more than to make sacrifices for a great cause. God has blessed this nation in many ways; and if we refuse to purge away-this national sin, retribution will overtake us, and the evil thing will be wrested from us in tears and in blood. I appeal to the house to-night to show by their action that they believe in a righteous Ruler of the universe.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, 'this House views with deep regret the history of our Opium policy towards China, and regards the traffic in that drug as repugnant to the true interests of that country; that it calls upon the Government of India to take steps looking to the final extinction of the trade, and urges
upon Her Majesty's Government to intimate to the Chinese Government that in the next revision of the Treaty of Tientsin full power will be given to extinguish the trade in Opium if it thinks fit."—(Mr. Samuel Smith).
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Questions."
§ *SIR J. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)
I desire very heartily to support the views which my hon. Friend has enunciated with regard to the character of the opium trade with China, and the cultivation of the poppy in India. I know the statement that we forced this drug on China has been controverted in this House, I think the evidence proves—and I have looked carefully into it—that we did force the trade upon the Chinese. I find among my opium papers a dispatch from a Chinese Minister to Sir Rutherford Alcock, in which the writer complained that England was poisoning his country with opium, that she was wilfully working China's ruin, and had no friendly feeling for her. This was the view of a Chinese statesman as far back as 1869, and I believe it is at this moment the view of those Chinese who take a warm and proper interest in the welfare of their own country. In 1876 the Convention of Cheefoo was negotiated, but we declined to ratify it because it would have placed in the hands of China the entire control of those duties to which my hon. Friend has alluded. Lord Salisbury in the House of Lords said that such an action on our part would have a result which practically would neutralize the policy which hitherto had been pursued by this country in respect of the drug. It was the desire of those who supported the ratification of that convention to neutralize the policy of bye-gone days, and to leave China to control the importation of this drug. In the correspondence which took place between Lord Salisbury and Lord Granville on the one side, and China on the other, we kept the Chinese Government hanging on for years, and at last the Treaty was ratified In 1886. In the meantime we were demoralizing China. We got a larger quantity of opium into China in those years than ever before. The four years of the Treaty expire on the 18th of January, 1890; at any subsequent time after that, on 12 months' notice being given 1158 on either side, that portion of the Convention comes to an end. I would appeal to Her Majesty's Government to let the Chinese Government know that they are perfectly masters of the position, and that no pressure from Her Majesty's Government or from the English people will be put upon them again to negotiate a treaty of the same kind. All we ask is that the Chinese Government should have perfect freedom in this matter. Well, Sir, what has been our conduct on this subject? I think it was in 1843 or 1844 that the late Lord Shaftesbury called the attention of this House and the country to the iniquities of the Chinese opium trade, and made a speech of remarkable power and eloquence on the effect of that trade upon the Chinese, and he cited various authorities upon the physical effect of opium upon the human constitution. I may say that the cultivation of the poppy in China was then very small. As far as we can make out, there never was a time when the cultivation. of the poppy was unknown in China, but it was at one time very little cultivated, and was very little known or used. It was we who stimulated the growth of the poppy in China by introducing the Indian opium. I maintain that our Government officials stimulated the China trade in every way possible in order to increase the Indian revenue. What we did was politically wrong—it was morally wrong, at any rate, and what is morally wrong can never be politically right. No statesman who has ever sat upon the Treasury bench has ever said a word in favour of opium cultivation in India as a matter of morality. Everyone who has supported it has done so because of the revenue which India derives from it. [An hon. MEMBER: "No, no."] I ask my hon. Friend who says "No," whether he has looked back,. as I have done within the last few hours, to the different speeches made by Ministers on the subject. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) wrote an excellent despatch on the subject, in which. he tacitly admitted that a great deal was to be said against opium cultivation in Bengal. Lord Ripon, in a despatch, made use of very similar language. The present Governor of Madras, when Under Secretary for India, said that no one would defend the trade on moral 1159 grounds. So it was with the late Governor of Madras, and so it has been with Under Secretary after Under Secretary in this House. I do not wish to give all the quotations that are in my hand, but there is an enormous phalanx of evidence going far beyond that which my hon. Friend (Mr. S. Smith) has read as to the consequences of the use of opium in China. As far back as 1817 Lord Cornwallis received a despatch from the directors of the East India Company, in which they said—Were it possible to prevent the use of the drug altogether, except for the purposes of medicine, we would gladly do it in compassion to mankind.A missionary in China, the Rev. Griffith John, at the Shanghai Conference, said—Attempts are sometimes made to palliate the sin of the trader, and to make light of the evil effects of the drug. On such points our utterance must be clear and emphatic. We know that opium is a curse—a curse physically, a curse morally. and a curse socially to the Chinese, and this fact we must declare in loud, ringing tones. It is our duty to appeal to the great heart of England, for she has a heart, and when that heart begins to beat warmly on the question, this foul blot on her escutcheon will soon be wiped off.No one ever condemned the trade in opium as strongly as our former Commissioner in British Burmah, Sir Charles Aitcheson. He says:The papers now submitted for consideration present a painful picture of the demoralization, misery and ruin produced among the Burmese by opium smoking. Responsible officers in all divisions and districts of the province and natives everywhere bear testimony to it. To facilitate examination of the evidence on this point I have thrown some extracts from the reports into an appendix to this Memorandum, to show that among the Burmans the habitual use of the drug saps the physical and mental energies, destroys the nerves, emaciates the body, predisposes to disease, induces indolent and filthy habits of life, destroys self-respect, is one of the most fertile sources of misery, destitution, and crime, fills the jails with men of relaxed frame predisposed to dysentery and cholera, prevents the due extension of cultivation and the development of the land revenue, checks the natural growth of the population and enfeebles the constitution of succeeding generations.I daresay it will be said that the Burmese are of not so strong a fibre as the Chinese. But, still, that which does so much damage to the Burmese must do damage to the Chinese, as it has 1160 been proved to do damage to Frenchmen, to Californians and to Australians. The drink misery is undoubtedly bad enough, but the opium misery is ten times worse, and opium has a very much more degrading effect than alcohol. I hold in my hand a petition presented to this House a year or two ago and signed by 256 of the missionaries in China. They say—Opium is a great evil to China and the baneful effects of its use cannot be overstated. It enslaves its victim, squanders his substance, destroys his health, weakens his mental powers, lessens his self-esteem, deadens his conscience, unfits him for his duties, and leads to his steady descent—morally, socially and physically.I have had papers sent to me from China in which people are warned in the same placard against the missionary and against England which sends with the missionary the opium. Sir, we may lay upon ourselves the onus of having practically brought this trade into China, and now we have it in our Indian Empire in a way that is most demoralizing. ["No, no!"] I hear an hon. Member say "No, no." What did my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine) see in Luck-now? He says:—I have been in East-end gin palaces on Saturday nights, I have seen men in various stages of delirium tremens, I have visited many idiot and lunatic asylums, but I have never seen such horrible destruction of God's image in the face of man as I saw in the Government opium dens of Lucknow. To my dying day I shall carry the recollection of the face of a handsome young woman of eighteen or nineteen years, sprawling on the senseless bodies of men, her fine brown eyes flattened and dull with coming stupor, and her lips drawn back from her glittering white teeth.He goes on to describe what he saw in the places he visited one after another, and shows that opium is doing immense damage in India. It is perfectly plain to every thinking man who chooses to go into the question with an unbiassed mind that our connection with the opium trade has been a curse upon civilization, and that it is rapidly extending. What we ask of the Indian Government is that they should take such steps as will gradually decrease our cultivation of the poppy and put a stop to a trade which is in defiance of every law of political economy and of every moral law, and opposed to every precept of the religion we profess. One 1161 of the arguments used once or twice in debates on this subject is that there is an enormous increase in the growth of the poppy in China, and that the Indian opium bears no comparison to it. That we all admit. But there was very little growth in China when we began to send our Indian opium there. The argument seems to be—that of my hon. Friend the Member for Kircaldy (Sir. Geo. Campbell)—that it is far better that the Chinese should be poisoned with good Indian opium than with their own bad opium. But it seems to me that if the thing is bad we have no right to send it at all. What would be said if I saw a man was going to commit suicide and I shot him in order to give him an easier death? Or if a man was going to steal and I went into a jeweller's shop and took the watches out of a case before him? The argument seems to me to amount to the same thing in all these cases. A great temptation is placed before the eyes of the Indian officials to stimulate the trade whenever they are short of revenue, and I have on previous occasions quoted many despatches from Indian officials stating that they must grow more opium because the revenue is falling off. It is a degrading trade in all ways. Indian officials think so much of keeping up the revenue that they forget the consequences of the trade. The desire should be to decrease, and not increase, the exportation of opium from India. I think I have proved in this House over and over again that the opium traffic is of little or no use to the cultivators in India. But, Sir, what do your own people say? I have here a letter addressed to the Government begging that Government not to permit the poppy to be cultivated in Scinde, and expressing very strong objection to the introduction of an industry so demoralizing in its tendency as the poppy cultivation and manufacture of opium into a province where at present it is unknown and not asked for by the people. Now, Sir, the Indian Executive have ample power to do as they like in this matter as far as the cultivation is concerned, because they license every yard of land under cultivation, and if they choose to decrease the quantity they can do so, and I think this House will say they ought to do so. 'The Indian Government is acting, and the Government and my hon. Friends on 1162 the other side of the House who are supporting this trade are acting in defiance of the expressed wishes of the whole of the Christian Churches of the country. And I say that a great responsibility rests upon them. The Convocations of Canterbury and York have petitioned this House against the trade; the whole of the Roman Catholic Bishops of the United Kingdom have done the same; the Wesleyan Methodists, the Primitive Methodists, the Baptists, the Congregationalists, the Society of Friends, and both the Free Church and National Church of Scotland have petitioned the House against it. The representative bodies of the Christian Churches are united on the question, and the feeling they have expressed regarding it is one which the House ought not to put aside. I should think there is hardly an hon. Gentleman in this House who does not subscribe to missions in some way or other; certainly there is not one who does not represent a constituency that does not largely subscribe to them. As long as you are sending your missionaries to China, taking with them the hard-earned money of your constituents, you ought to see that no unnecessary impediments are placed in the way of their work. The Indian Government Report states:—There is no doubt the depreciation of export opium is one of the indications of the great falling off in the China opium trade. The reports from Consuls lead to the belief that the loss to the Indian Revenue will continue, that there will be a steadily increasing deficit.I find that the largest net revenue we ever had from opium in any one year was in 1881 when it was £8,451,276. In 1885 it was £5,849,829 and in 1886–7 it was £6,213,913. Of these amounts £5,926,924 was the amount derived from Bengal in 1881, £3,316,172 in 1885, and £3,629,615 in 1886–7, the remainder being due to Bombay opium. I have always felt the great difficulty of touching the Malwa opium; it pays a high duty to independent States, and it can only reach the seaboard through British India, and I have never recommended that anything should be done beyond leaving this to be dealt with hereafter by negotiation with friendly States in a manner that meets the just requirements of the case. But we ought to deal at once, and I think we can deal, 1163 with our own Department of Revenue. Looking at the depreciated value of silver we have to deal with a Bengal revenue from opium of some £2,500,000, but taking it even at £3,000,000 it is not a figure we need be afraid to deal with. My hon. Friend has made various suggestions as to how the falling off in the revenue could be met. The Cotton Dates, as he said, were not abolished at the request of the Indian Government, or people, but to meet the desires of the manufacturers here. £1,200,000 was the amount thus taken from the Indian Exchequer, and the duties replaced would be so much (nearly one-half) towards the £3,000,000 we desire to find. Investigations have been made by Lord Northbrook and others into the Indian military expenditure, and it has been pointed out as the result how large savings might be effected under that head without in any way detracting from the power we ought to possess in India. I have put the question to a great many military men, and they all agree that large savings might be made without lowering our actual military strength. Suppose we get £500,000 or £600,000 from that, and speaking from memory I believe that it has been suggested by some authorities we could save a great deal more, more than double that sum. There is then the question of what is the duty of this country as regards the expenses of Burmah. I have always advocated that if we in this House ask the Indian Government to make considerable sacrifices of revenue in order to fulfil the demand made on them by this country, we ought to be prepared out of our own taxation to do something towards meeting the deficit, if such occurred, by the adoption of our policy. I feel perfectly certain that if the Indian Government, instead of looking at the abolition of the opium trade as something impossible to accomplish would regard it as an end which, is desirable, and is to be attained, and were to apply their minds to it with the desire of accomplishing that which all Christian people desire, the cultivation of the poppy in Bengal might be abandoned without injury to the cultivators there, for it is all we can do to get them to cultivate it at all. By these methods by the Cotton Goods Duty, by the help of this country in regard to Burmah, and by 1164 economy in administration we could find a way out of the financial difficulty of the policy we earnestly recommend to the House. I have spoken earnestly, for I feel warmly on this subject as one of the greatest blots on the fair name of Englishmen and of English administration in the world. Turn over French and German newspapers, and you find it constantly alluded to. I really think, if Her Majesty's Government would look at it in the light in which we have endeavoured to indicate it, with the desire to do something that would not expose the people of India, who are poor enough and could not bear much more pressure of taxation, to fresh burdens, they would be able first to curtail and then abandon that portion of the revenue derived from the cultivation in Bengal, leaving for future negotiation the two and a-half millions of transport duties on Malwa opium. I have endeavoured to do what I could to throw light on the subject, and I have great faith in those religious teachings which, in one form or another, are dear to every Member here. This trade, demoralizing to so large a portion of mankind, stands in the way of the spread of the Christian faith that we all desire, knowing the blessings which always must accompany it.
§ *MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
The speech of the hon. Baronet who seconded this Motion is not nearly so thorough going as that of the hon. Member who proposed the Motion. The contention of the hon. Member for Flintshire is that the Government of India is as responsible for the duty on the Malwa opium as for the cultivation of the poppy in Bengal, and that is thoroughly consistent with the principle he has always advocated. No doubt, if we are to take the moral view recommended by the hon. Members who have moved and seconded this Resolution, if we are to try and fulfil what they call the desire of the Christian people of this country, that the traffic in opium should be abolished, we cannot stop at half measures—the abolition must be complete. I have always admired the courage and consistency of the hon Member for Flintshire, but I think to-night he has surpassed himself. Only two days ago he made a very serious attack upon the Excise Revenue the Government of India derives from 1165 the sale of spirituous liquors, and now he is attacking the Opium Revenue. Last year he attacked the Salt Tax, and, as we are now going back upon ancient history to make atonement for the sins of our fathers committed in carrying on the opium war of 1840, we might as well retrace our steps a little further and give up the land revenue of Bengal on account of the misdeeds of Warren Hastings; and as to the land revenue of the Punjab, I think, considering the number of undeveloped Burkes that sit below the Gangway opposite, we may look forward to the formation of a party to urge the claims of the Maharajah Dhuleep Singh to the revenue of that province. The hon. Member for Flintshire is perfectly insatiable in his attacks upon the revenues of India. I remember in his somewhat irreverent commentary upon certain passages in "Exodus" Mark Twain remarks that if Pharoah had only dreamed another dream and Joseph had interpreted it, the people of Egypt would have had nothing left to live upon; and I think if the hon. Member for Flintshire makes another pilgrimage to Bombay the unfortunate Indian Government will be in danger of having no revenue left. However, on this occasion, the hon. Member was good enough to tell us how he intended to supply the Revenue he proposes to take away in the manner set forth in his Motion. The hon. Member is, I think, a little in error in his estimate of the total amount of which he would deprive the people of India; he puts it at six millions, and that is the net revenue derived by the Government of India, but the total value of the crop sold to China is between ten and eleven millions. If you are going to do away with the cultivation of the poppy, you deprive the people of India of 10 or 11 millions derived from the cultivation of the crop.
§ *MR. J. M. MACLEAN
A suggestion readily made, but they could not grow anything so profitable. Opium is the most profitable crop that can be grown. The hon. Member made proposals to-night which were accepted substantially by his seconder, and as to which I shall, with some curiosity, watch the course of this debate to see if any 1166 responsible Member on the Front Bench opposite adopts them. The hon. Member would supply the deficiency he proposes to create in the Indian Revenue, first by laying a tax of ten per cent on all English manufactures imported into India, not only cotton goods but other goods, and he mentioned metals. From that he hopes to get four millions, and then he is going to ask the British tax-payer to be good enough to pay a million and a half a year for the expenses of the administration of Burmah, and then he proposes to get another half-million out of bi-metallism. This is the financial programme of the hon. Member for Flintshire, and I look with eagerness to see if it is adopted on the Front Bench opposite. It would be a delightful programme for the Liberal Party to go to the country with, but I should like to know how many Members who voted for it would return to this House to assist in carrying it into effect. The hon. Members opposite have told us a good deal about the frightful sufferings we inflict on the people of China by this Godless traffic, but I should like to know who are the hon. Members' clients. Are they the Government of China or the people of China? Where are the hon. Members' credentials? Why does the hon. Member for Flintshire come here and claim to speak in the name of the people of China, and ask for the abolition of the trade? The hon. Member has given us nothing in support of his claim, but extracts from the reports of missionaries—excellent men, no doubt, and animated by the best intentions, but, according to the hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Caine), who lately travelled over the scene of their labours, they are not always so successful as one would desire them to be. After all, missionaries are but human, and it must be a great temptation to them when they know their mission has failed to raise a cry likely to appeal at once both to the hearts and the pockets of the English people. I maintain that portions of the language quoted by the hon. Member show a tendency to exaggeration greatly to be deplored. Human nature, in all countries and among all races, has always shown a craving for stimulants of one kind or another. Some persons satisfy this craving by indulgence in alcoholic drinks, some by 1167 smoking tobacco, some by smoking or drinking opium, and some even gratify it by unlimited indulgence in platform oratory, or by moving sensational Resolutions in the House of Commons. All these ways of gratifying the appetite are injurious if carried to excess, but I believe a moderate use of stimulants is wholesome and beneficial rather than injurious to mankind. The hon. Member has declaimed upon the decay and degradation of the Chinese people, their terrible state of misery and poverty and so on, and offered as proof the falling off in the direct trade between Great Britain and China. Now I must say that in this part of his speech he was not quite so candid as I should have expected him to be, for he, with his very thorough knowledge of commercial affairs, must be perfectly well aware that the falling off in the value of trade between England and China of late years is due to these facts: First, a general decline in prices which has affected the trade of all countries in some degree; secondly, Indian tea now enters very largely into competition with Chinese tea, and the exportation of tea from China has considerably decreased; and also Indian cotton manufactures have to a considerable extent supplanted the cotton goods which used to be sent from this country to the East. So in both exports and imports there has been a considerable reduction in trade, but this falling off is not at all due to a falling off in either the producing or the consuming capacity of the Chinese people. The hon. Member tells us these people are in a state of miserable physical decay, but as everybody knows there is no more prolific, industrious, or energetic race in all the East than the Chinese; they overflow their own country and emigrate in such swarms, not only to the Straits Settlements, where they are predominant, but to America and Australia, that the Governments of America and Australia, the foremost communities of the Western World, are passing stringent laws to keep out the competition of Chinese labour, and this labour, which our own race find so difficult to compete with, the hon. Member says is that of a people utterly demoralized by the consumption of opium! Why, Sir, these are travellers tales, which seem to me even to be 1168 invented to trade on the credulity of the English people. For Heaven's sake let us deal with this matter as men of the world. The hon. Member for Flintshire sets up as a universal censor of morals; he has laid down the law that nobody in this country should drink a glass of beer or read a French novel, and now he appears to have taken under his protection the morals of all the people of India and China. I do not think they will thank him for his efforts. I do not believe that the Chinese people have any of those fine feelings about the consumption of opium he attributes to their Government. No doubt the Emperor at the time of the Chinese War of 1840 did give utterance to a very grand sentiment, that he would not at any price consent to the introduction of a drug that would demoralize his people, but I fancy that he must at the time have had at his elbow a mandarin of something of the same temperament as the hon. Member for Flintshire who indited this very beautiful moral maxim for him. The real position of the Chinese Government was to try and get as much revenue from the foreign. importations as they possibly could, and. the cause of their quarrel with us was that we would not let them have a larger share of the Opium Revenue than we thought they were legitimately entitled. to. The hon. Member says we are responsible for the introduction of the taste for opium into China, but I think it can be proved that, long before the war of 1840, native opium was very largely cultivated in many of the provinces of China, and that cultivation has gone on increasing ever since. If we were to give up the traffic, and inflict on the people of India the loss of this large revenue, we should do no good to the morality of the Chinese people. There is another point that I would impress on the House, and it is this. The hon. Member, in talking so glibly of the millions the British taxpayers ought to present to the Indian people as compensation. for their loss of revenue, has not told us where the money should come from. I hope when he lays his programme before the country he will tell the British taxpayers in what way he intends to bring this 11/2 millions a-year of extra taxation we are going to make a present of to the Government of India. 1169 Well, Sir, I do not say that we ought to extort any tribute from the people of India; but I must maintain that it would be far better for us to abandon that country, than to make it a drain upon the resources of England as the hon. Member proposes we should. I should have the greatest confidence in appealing to the country to maintain this revenue, which is of the greatest value to the people of India, against the programme of the hon. member to do away with it, and replace it by a burden on the taxpayers of Great Britain.
§ SIR G. CAMPBELL
The hon. Member below me has certainly been very fortunate in the ballot in securing two places in one week for his Motions in relation to India. I cordially voted with him on the last occasion but I cannot do so on this, and my main reason is that we are responsible for the people of India, but not for the people of China. This view prevents me voting with one part of the Motion though I could support the other, and in that sense I placed an Amendment on the Notice Paper that expresses what I think the right view in this matter. I entirely assent to the first part of the Resolution regretting the history of our opium policy in forcing the introduction upon China. That I think should be the subject of national regret, and I accept that part of the Motion in the most complete manner. But then my hon. Friend goes on to say that the traffic in the drug is repugnant to the true interests of China, and though I do not greatly differ from him I doubt whether it is any affair of ours whether the trade is repugnant to the interests of China or not. My view is that the Government of India have nothing to do with that; they impose a tax and restrict the cultivation of opium, as they might of any other drug, and for the rest my Amendment expresses my view that our Government should abstain from forcing or facilitating the introduction of opium into China by treaty or otherwise. We do not force opium into Chinese ports; China accepts it on certain terms arising 1170 out of circumstances of former times; but I go further and say we should not afford special facilities for the introduction of our opium. We are bound to let the Chinese Government take their own course; we are bound to regard the Chinese as a free and independent nation, and to say "we repent of our past sins; you are now free to admit or leave our opium; tax high, tax low as you please, we are not entitled to interfere, more than that the trade is on our conscience, and we do not feel justified in forcing you to take ours or any other opium. "That position I take it would be a just position and free us from much trouble. But I am afraid that it is the case that the Chinese Government are not now anxious to stop the trade, but are intent rather on dividing the profit with ourselves. They have made a bargain by which they agree to admit our opium on certain terms, and we agree to collect the duty for them. I object to that course. I think we ought to wash our hands of this business and make no attempt to induce the Chinese to receive our opium in return for our facilitating the collection of that duty. I think we should leave the Chinese free to do exactly as they like; but I object to the phrase in this Resolution, which says that it is the duty of the Indian Government to stop the opium traffic. The Indian Government have nothing to do with the introduction of opium into China. It does not encourage he growing of opium in India; on the contrary, it very materially restricts it by imposing a heavy tax upon it—a heavier one even than that upon alcoholic liquors in this country. Well, objecting as I do to the injury to Indian cultivators and to Indian taxpayers which would ensue from the stopping of opium cultivation, what strikes me is that neither the Mover nor Seconder of the Resolution has ever faced the practical question how you are to make up for the loss to the Indian Exchequer if you call upon the Indian Government to put an end to the traffic. What substitute would they propose for the opium duty? But I have denied before and I deny again that this is a question of Indian revenue. No doubt it is the case that the revenue derived from this source is incidentally an important question, but I maintain that it is not a 1171 vital question which we are entitled to put forward as an argument against stopping the opium trade, if it could be stopped. If China herself were to put a stop to it I should say we must submit and make up for the loss of revenue as best we can. But I deny that it is purely a revenue question. If the cultivation of the poppy were stopped in India the effect would be to stimulate the cultivation in other parts of the world. The Seconder of the Resolution alluded to the cultivation in the Native States, but did not attempt to deal with the point to which I am now referring. The result of putting an end to the cultivation in India would be that it would be taken up in the Native States. It may be said that we could prevent the cultivation there also. So we could, but it would only be by the adoption of a high-handed policy. How could we do it without taking on ourselves the administration of those States? And even when we had stopped the cultivation in the Native States we should be powerless to prevent increased cultivation in China. Why, even now the cultivation is increasing to such an extent in China that it threatens to extinguish the Indian trade. And if the Indian trade is stopped it will be stimulated in Persia, Turkey, Africa, America, and other places; so that, whilst we shall be doing no good to our own people, we shall be encouraging the trade in other countries. It is because this result would be brought about, that I cannot support the Motion. I would urge the Government to intimate to the Chinese that the Treaties of Tientsin and Chefoo will be brought to an end, and that this country will no more interfere with the opium trade of China than it does with the whisky trade at home. I have lived in opium districts a considerable part of my life, and have been responsible for the opium revenue in Bengal, where a searching inquiry was made into the question. I can say, from my own knowledge, that the opium cultivators are not debauched by opium—that they do not use their own opium to any extent. I have studied this matter a good deal, and the conclusion I have come to is that opium smoking is a matter of race. Nations, we are told, require some sort of stimulant— 1172 some opium, some whisky, some speechifying. Without dealing with the last-named category, the Arian races, I may say, are given to alcoholic stimulants, and the Turanian have a tendency to opium, and that probably is why opium is less baneful in its effects upon the Chinese than upon others. The opium question is not so difficult as the question of alcohol, and it is on that ground that I voted with the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smith) when he brought forward his Motion the other day relating to the liquor traffic in India, although I am not prepared to vote for a Resolution condemning the the cultivation of the poppy in India, either as an Indian or a Chinese question. With regard to the picturesque description which has been given to us of an opium den, I venture to say that a Chinese traveller in this country would be able to draw quite as vivid and telling a picture of horror of a London gin palace. Drugs and strong drinks are no more injurious in the one country than in the other, and when we have put an end to the liquor traffic in this country we may begin to think about putting an end to the opium traffic in India. I admit that opium in India and spirits in this country are bad, but I contend that opium in India is not nearly so injurious as spirits in this country.
§ *MR. MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbright)
I think that if we refer to what took place on this subject some 14 years ago when the question was brought under the consideration of the House we shall see that a great advance has been made towards a solution of the problem. At that time I myself brought forward a Motion having for its object a diminution in the manufacture of opium by the Government of India, and that Motion, as hon. Members may suppose, was rejected by a large majority. Since then the question has grown in the minds of the people of the country, so much so that in 1876, when considerable pressure had been brought to bear on the Government of the day and the Chefoo Convention was drawn up it took something like six years to 1173 get the Convention ratified, the Government of the day being unwilling to ratify it. That Convention produced almost a revolution in political history as between China and this country. China had no independence up to then, but she has now became practically independent, and was able to impose a far heavier tax on Indian opium than she had ever imposed before. We no longer coerce China in the matter, and that I hold is a considerable advance to have made. Indignant protests were made, extending as far back as 1858, when the Treaty of Tientsin was ratified between this country and China, and great dissatisfaction was caused in the minds of thinking people, but much of that dissatisfaction has been since removed, and China is now in a very different position from what she was then. Now that the matter has come before the House of Commons in a somewhat different form than formerly—rather attacking the Government of India in regard to the manufacture of opium and the monopoly it holds than dealing with the matter on general grounds—I think we, at all events, may have some good hope for believing that the Indian Government will take note of the view so strongly held by many persons in this country — held by every Christian Church, so far as I know, in the country. The opinion of the Christian Churches in this country is that the Indian Government ought no longer to be the producers and manufacturers of this drug. Those who have studied the question know the great difficulties to be faced, especially the difficulty of dealing with Malwa opium. You will not by raising the tax stop the flow of opium into China; and you have to consider the difficulty caused by the fact that this has become a question of revenue in China. Since the Chefoo Convention China has obtained a large sum from the 1174 opium trade, and now that she has got so much she will try to get more when the Treaty comes to be reviewed in the course of a few years. I hope she will be allowed to exercise a free hand in the matter, whether she desires to impose a prohibitive tariff or admit opium to the privileges of free trade. In addition to the evidence on this opium question quoted by other hon. Members, I would point out that Sir William Muir in an able article thought it most objectionable that the Indian Government should take so active a part in the opium trade, and that Sir Rutherford Alcock maintained some years ago that if there was a gradual diminution of the manufacture of opium in India the Chinese Government would pari passu, diminish the production of opium in China. Whether or not that can be said now I do not know. Travellers who have been to China tell us that the cultivation of the poppy is largely increasing in that country. Knowing well the difficulties that beset the Government, I do trust that they will use their best endeavours to, if not altogether abolish, at any rate diminish the amount of opium grown and manufactured in Bengal. Though we cannot hope for the total extinction of the manufacture of the drug, I believe that these protests from time to time, and the fact of our calling public attention to the matter, will strengthen the Government in taking a wise and equitable view of it, so that if any sudden resolution is passed by the House in favour of stopping the opium manufacture, this House will be found willing to recoup the Indian Exchequer for the loss.
§ *SIR R. TEMPLE (Worcester, Evesham)
At this late hour I shall endeavour to be brief, therefore I will not touch upon what has been brought forward by the hon. Baronet the Member for Durham in what is practically a reproduction of a speech about India de- 1175 livered from these Benches in 1886 and answered by me from the opposite Benches. I then ventured to play the part of St. George to the hon. Baronet's dragon. But more than this, I have the fear of your ruling, Sir, before my eyes, and do not desire to follow the hon. Baronet into irrelevant matter, the Motion before the House relating to China rather than to India. The hon. Mover of this Resolution has again made a temperance speech which ought to have been addressed to the people of China rather than preached to the Members of this House, who are already converted. The hon. Mover should go to China with an ascetic robe, accompanied by the hon. Member for Durham and the hon. Member for Cockermouth as acolytes. Their utterances would no doubt be adequately reproduced through the medium of a Chinese interpreter, and great would be the effect on Chinese hearts. Temperance advocates in this country, when they preach against the evils of gin-drinking, do not propose to do away with the revenue which the Chancellor of the Exchequer derives from that source. We are no more bound to give up the corresponding taxes on Indian opium than we are to abandon our revenue from wines and spirits in England. The hon. Baronet asks whether the whole opinion of China is wrong, and the opinion of England right, and points to the prohibitions against the use of opium issued from time to time by the Chinese Authorities. But are we to accept the opinions of men who preach against what they themselves practise? The Chinese proclamation of 1869 has been quoted, and its language sounded so near to the sublime that it touched hon. Members; but at that very time the Chinese Government were encouraging the growth of the poppy over a vast tract of their own country, and were deriving revenue therefrom. The very Mandarins were 1176 opium-smokers. Am I not entitled to say that these proclamations, which are quoted with such effect in this House, are nothing more than organized hypocrisy. One hon. Member mentioned the case of a district in China which had been depopulated from the consequences of opium smoking, and any outsider hearing him would have supposed that he was speaking of Indian opium. But that is not the case. It was native grown Chinese opium that the people had been smoking. Much is said about the evil of opium smoking in China; but the very same class of persons who draw these melancholy pictures of the condition of China would draw the same picture of intemperance at home. Why should we apply to China a standard which we dare not apply to our own revenue and our own people? The hon. Mover says England has a hand in the opium traffic, but I maintain that England has no hand whatever in the opium traffic in the sense that the hon. Member means. The fact is that the proportion of Indian opium to Chinese opium is now very small, the former bearing about the same proportion to the latter as is borne by the champagne wine of France to the rest of the wine grown in that favoured country. Thus it is China which has become the great producer of the opium drug. I will spare the House some quotations I had intended to make from the official reports of British Consuls, describing how the opium of China is superseding that of India; but they are accessible to any Member of this House. It is an extraordinary circumstance that 30 years ago India was a great opium producing country and China a great tea producing country, whereas India is now more and more driving the Chinese tea out of the British market, while, on the other hand, China is superseding India in production of opium which used to be chiefly an Indian drug. These results are, I think, altogether to the credit of India and of British rule. The 1177 fact is that the cause of the Chinese opposition is fiscal jealousy and nothing else. The Chinese desire to participate in the revenue from Indian opium, and, therefore, with an eye to the temperance advocates in England they have tried to throw every opprobrium on the Indian opium. They brought that to the front, though they knew perfectly well they had their own opium at the back of it. China has now gained what she considers to be something like a fair share of the tax, and, therefore, is now ceasing to protest. She has gained her object, and is now competing in the production and so beating off the Indian drug, so that her own may have the command of the market. Some hon. Members have spoken to-night as if we have a share in the profits of the trade; but that is not an accurate expression. Those profits go to the Armenians and Jews, and various other classes of highly esteemed nationalities.
§ *SIR. R. TEMPLE
I am afraid the word "profits" is used in a manner which involves misapprehension in this House. Our share is in the taxation, and we have no more concern in the profits than the British Exchequer has in the beer or wine trades of this country. With regard to the Chefoo Convention, it is a mistake to suppose that that Convention related to opium alone. That Convention is the latest edition of the Treaty of Tientsin. There is a tariff as long as your arm, containing hundreds of items, of which opium is only one. Of course, at the next revision of the Convention there may be modifications here and there, but opium must take its chance with the rest. That revision is, I understand, to take place in the year 1896, and not 1890, as has been said, that is beyond the duration of this Parliament. So I hope the House will not be inclined to interfere in the matter until then. I must say a word in contradiction of the statement that it 1178 was we who taught the Chinese to smoke opium. They knew something about opium smoking generations before we ever went there. The report of Sir Robert Hart, who is probably the best informed man on the subject, and who is the Imperial Commisioners of Customs to the Chinese Government, sets forth that the use of opium in China has been going on for—I forget how many generations. Then, again, as to the causes of the Chinese wars to which attention has been called, it is misleading and an entire misreading of history to stigmatize those wars as opium wars. No title was ever given to particular wars which had less justification. It is nothing more than this—that the Chinese had for generations determined to get rid of the barbarians and to have no commerce with England or any other nation. In opposition to that policy it was determined that China should be thrown open to the commerce of the world, and it so happened that in the struggle which arose between the British local officials and the Chinese officials the first quarrel occurred about certain opium stores. It chanced that some opium stores were destroyed. The case would have been the same had the stores consisted of grain or of piece goods. That was only the spark which set the powder magazine on fire, and hence it was that there arose what appeared to be an opium war, whereas it was nothing but a war of commerce and international communication—and very justly so. Then, as to the second war the same thing occurred. It began with the lorcha Arrow. But was she an opium vessel? Not at all; she was a trader, and the question that arose was one relative to the commercial position we held on the Coast of China. I would merely add that the proportion which opium bears to the trade of China has always been small. The trade with China now is not far from £60,000,000 or £70,000,000 per annum, and the opium trade is not more than one-fourth or one-sixth of that amount. The hon. Gentleman opposite proposes that we should sacrifice some six millions of Indian Revenue not for the purpose of improving the con- 1179 dition of the Chinese, because it would do no good in their behalf, and really for nothing at all that will conduce to the interests of China or the cause of practical morality anywhere. The hon. Member suggests by way of compensation for the loss of this revenue, that there should be a tax on the importation of piece goods into India; so that, for the sake of this most fruitless, bootless, and unnecessary sacrifice, we are to impose a burden on British enterprise entering British territory. To-morrow, I have to go to Manchester to address a meeting of my friends there, and I will take care to submit to the people of that city the proposal of the hon. Gentleman, and to ask them how they like the prospect of such a suggestion being carried into effect when the Party to which the hon. Member belongs returns to Power? Then it is suggested that there should be a subvention—that the British taxpayer is to bear a part of the cost of the late Burmese War. Why is not India to bear the cost of that war? Burmah is essentially a part of the British Empire. It is a neighbour of India—connected with India for two generations. The House will remember that for many years India has been drawing a great surplus from Lower Burmah. But after all that, India is not to bear the burden in relation to her own newly acquired territory, and the British taxpayer is to be called upon to sustain it, not for any moral purposes but simply to gratify or to satisfy the sentimental tastes of the hon. Mover. I appeal to the House to reject this resolution upon the very considerations which have been frankly and candidly adduced by the hon. Mover himself. His Resolution is virtually answered by his own reasons. He admits that the Chinese people are growing opium to such an extent that nothing we can do will have the slightest effect upon it. Therefore to sacrifice the Indian revenue would be merely to injure our own subjects in India for no purpose, and the remedies which the right hon. Mover approves and proposes by way of compensation are politically, socially, and administratively impossible.
§ *DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
My right hon. Friend has spoken of opium wars, but what he has 1180 stated with regard to them was not well founded, because they were simply wars of tariff. I wish simply to deal with our Government in connection with the charge of our having forced opium on the Chinese. I do not know whether hon. Members recollect the correspondence which appeared in the Times nine years ago, and which was carried on by the Chinese Envoy and the late Mr. Lawrence Oliphant. M. Lay, Chinese Secretary to Lord Elgin's Special Mission, wrote to the Times on October 22nd, 1880, and said:—The Chinese Government admitted opium as a legal article of import, not under constraint, but of their own free will, deliberately.And Mr. Lawrence Oliphant, Secretary to the same Mission, also referring to the Tientsin Treaty, wrote:—I was appointed, in 1868, to the Commission for the settlement of the trade and tariff regulations with China, and, during my absence with Lord Elgin in Japan, M. Lay was charged to consider the details with the subordinate Chinese officials named for the purpose. On my return to Shanghai, I went through the tariff elaborated by these gentlemen with the Commission appointed by the Chinese Government. When we came to the article opium, I informed the Commissioner that I had received instructions from Lord Elgin not to insist on the insertion of the drug in the tariff should the Chinese Government wish to omit it. This he declined to do. I then proposed that the duty should be increased beyond the figure suggested on the tariff; but to this he objected, on the ground that it would increase the inducements to smuggling. I trust that the delusion that the opium trade now existing with China. was extorted from that country by the British Ambassador may be finally dispelled.That correspondence proves successfully, if not to the House, to my own mind, that opium trade was not forced upon the Chinese Government by ourselves, and that really the Chinese were not reluctant to enter upon it, to say nothing more. I would like to say one word as to the effects of the use of opium. With great deference to my hon. Friend the mover of the Resolution, with whose object I have much sympathy, and who made an excellent and instructive speech on this question. I think there has been a great deal of exaggeration of the injurious effects of opium upon the 1181 Chinese and Indian populations. Mr. Hart, Consul at China, an extremely experienced man, sums up the number of opium eaters in China at one-third of 1 per cent, an infinitesimal percentage indeed. He pointed out that the Chinese people are strong enough and industrious enough, and do not seem in any way or in any material degree to suffer by the use of the drug. Really I think that those who take the opposite view try to prove a great deal too much. If it were correct that there is this frightful demoralization from the use of opium, we should see the Chinese people making enormously rapid strides to destruction. I am not prepared to say that the evidence in proof of such a statement is of a satisfactory character. I think a case may be made out on the other side. I venture to say that the use of opium in small doses may be of a beneficial character. Very many use it in small doses with in no degree hurtful, but beneficial, results. The Chinese soldiers are in the habit of taking, as a matter of routine, certain small doses of opium; at the same time those who have had an opportunity of seeing them in the field admit that a more brave, hardy, and admirable set of men cannot be conceived. My hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy will bear me out when I say that the Rajpoots, who are the finest race in India, the finest men, are also in the habit of taking opium as a matter of routine. It does not make the man sleep; it seems to brace him, and invigorate him for his work, I remember, on a former occasion, giving instances of opium eaters, and I recollect reminding the House that Wilberforce, one of the greatest of English statesmen, always took an opium pill before getting up to speak. Then I should like to say a word on the comparative effects of the use of opium and alcohol. Now, no one can deny, who has looked at the question, that the effects of alcohol are very much worse than those of opium. It causes degeneration of the tissues of the body, and injures the kidneys, or brain, or some other internal organ. No such effects are produced by opium, nor has anyone contended that such effects are produced. We often find a large number of 1182 diseases, including insanity, as the results of the use of alcohol. And it has been said that 40 per cent of the crime of the country is produced by alcohol. There is no proof whatever that the use of opium has produced any specific disease, certainly not any crime, because opium eaters in excess sleep away a considerable portion of their life. We see a great number of painful and humiliating external manifestations of the use of alcohol, but these are not seen, nor proved to exist, in the case of opium. I do not pretend to say for a single moment that there are not evils in connection with the excessive use of opium; but I do not think any of them are so terrible as the effects of alcohol. I do not know that there is any specific deterioration from the use of opium. As I endeavoured to show, we do not force opium upon the Chinese people, and the effects of opium upon the Chinese people have been very much exaggerated. I think a case has been made out against my hon. Friend, and, therefore, in support of my own convictions I shall walk into the Lobby against him.
§ *THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR INDIA (Sir J. GORST,) Chatham
Before I address the House on the main subject, allow me to say a few words on the moral aspect of the question. Now, I have the most profound respect for the good intentions of the mover and seconder of this Resolution, and I have been taught such a respect for all persons who spend their lives in seeking to improve the morals of their fellow-creatures. But the older one grows, and the more experience one has, the more one sees how frequently those who desire to improve the morality of their fellow creatures inflict greater hardships and misfortunes upon them, and how dangerous it is for people, however good and however earnest, to endeavour to impose by violent means their ideas of what is right and moral upon their fellow-creatures. Now, I was brought up in the belief that it was very wicked either to smoke or to drink 1183 opium, and that anyone who was engaged in that trade was guilty of a great moral laxity. Experience has taught me that no persons are more fond of abusing a particular food or drink than those who do not use it themselves. I remember I was myself once severely called to task by one of the New Zealand chiefs because my countrymen considered it a luxury to eat decayed and rotting cheese. And there are millions of people in the East possessing high education and strict moral fidelity who see no harm in indulging in opium. When one considers that the Rajpoots, the Sikhs, and some of the best men who cultivate the soil in India indulge habitually in the moderate use of opium, and when in this House one has experienced men like the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, who tell us from their professional knowledge and experience that there is such a thing as the use and abuse of opium, one perhaps is induced to admit that on the whole, it might be best if we were to confine ourselves to our own errors and leave the people of China themselves to judge whether or not it is wise or just to use opium or not. There is another aspect of the moral question to which I will ask the attention of the House. This is a practical assembly, and it must consider what is the practical result of the Resolution. It is easy to pass abstract Resolutions in this House recommending abstinence from alcohol and opium, but there is no very high morality in indulging in this cheap philanthropy and virtue, and getting the credit and the glory when somebody else has to pay the price of our heroic and exalted virtue. Nobody in the House will be a penny the worse if the Resolution is passed. Your constituents will not mind it much, as their interests are not involved, and no Member's seat will be endangered. All the difficulty will be thrown upon the Government of India, and all the hardship upon the poor people of India, of whom the hon. 1184 Member for Flintshire has sometimes made himself the advocate. And now after these observations on the moral aspect of the question, let me address myself to its practical bearing. In the first place, I will promise the House that I will not follow the hon. Member for Flintshire into ancient history. This ancient history of the conduct of Great Britain towards China has been discussed in this House over and over again. There have been debates in 1880, 1883, 1884, and 1886, and on all those occasions the House refused to go into ancient history and to condemn the conduct of previous Governments in respect of their relations with China. And, after these decisions of the House of Commons, I think it would be wise if the present House imitated the example of its predecessors, and confined themselves to considering the practical part of the hon. Member's Resolution. The Resolution calls upon the House to take steps to bring about the final extinction of the trade. Now, Sir, there are signs that the export of Indian opium may be extinguished without our assistance. All the opium which goes from India to China is only sufficient to supply the wants of about a million smokers; therefore of this 350 million of people less than one-third per cent can possibly be demoralized by the action of the Indian Government. The cultivation of native opium in China is increasing rapidly. As the importation had increased so had the native cultivation. The hon. Baronet the Member for Durham told the House there was no such thing as opium grown in China.
§ *SIR J. PEASE
No, Sir. I said that my reading on the subject showed me that there never was a time when there was no opium grown in China, but that when we began our dealings in it, in China it was grown to a very small extent.
§ *SIR J. GORST
That is very likely. No doubt there is a good deal of truth in that, and probably down to the end of the last century very little opium was either grown in China or imported into it. It may also be quite true there were the most stringent edicts against 1185 it, and that the growth of it was punishable with death; but I believe there is no record of the death punishment having been inflicted (an hon. Member: Yes); well, it has been inflicted very seldom. I can quote passage after passage from Consuls in China showing that the decrees were merely colourable announcements, such as were sometimes made for moral purposes in this country; and that all people knew that the mandarins who issued the decrees were not in earnest, and that while they denounced the cultivation of the poppy, the people quietly sowed their fields, reaped their fruits, and paid duty to the very mandarins who issued the prohibitions. Besides Chinese opium, Persian opium is becoming a formidable competitor with the Indian drug, and this competition is more and more squeezing the Indian opium out of the Chinese market. Not only is the revenue diminishing, but the acreage under cultivation in Bengal is diminishing too, and it is possible the Indian opium trade may by degrees die out. The Resolution asks the Government of India to take active steps to kill it. On whom would the loss and the inconvenience fall? We have heard that the extinction of the trade would involve the Indian Revenue in a loss of six millions. Very little is made of the loss to the million and a-half of Indian cultivators in Behar—one of the poorest parts of India—who depend on the production of the crop for their livelihood and their prosperity. No, Sir; the hon. Baronet opposite gained a laugh at the expense of these poor people because they are guilty of the monstrous offence of paying their rents. He said what sympathy could they expect for people who by means of that cultivation were able to pay their rents.
§ *SIR J. PEASE
That is not what I endeavoured to point out. It was that the Indian Report said that the ready money enabled their rent to be paid to 1186 the landlord. It was a landlord's benefit, not a tenant's.
§ *SIR J. GORST
Does the hon. Baronet suppose we paid their rent? I confess I thought that they paid it themselves. My knowledge of India is such as to lead me to think that if these cultivators do not pay their rent themselves nobody is likely to pay it for them. These people receive from 40 to 45 rupees per acre for growing those crops. The House will consider what a valuable crop it is. The hon. Member for Flintshire said, "Oh, they will grow something else." So they may in time; but you cannot turn 600,000 acres of land and a million and a-half of people from the cultivation of the poppy to the cultivation of corn or of something else at a moment's notice. Then we hear something about the native states which produce the poppy to a large amount. Are they to give up its cultivation? But the Chiefs have not got the moral sentiment of the hon. Member for Flintshire. They do not think it wrong to grow poppies or to eat opium as no doubt many of them are in the habit of doing; and how are we to make it intelligible to them that they are, for the sake of the idea of this Western Parliament, to abandon a cultivation that is so profitable to themselves and their people for some other kind of cultivation that has yet to come? The hon. Member for Flintshire would compel those people with whom we have made treaties to give up the cultivation of the poppy. I say we have no right to do so.
§ *MR. S. SMITH
I never proposed that we should compel the native States to give up the cultivation of opium, but I suggested that we should impose a tax on that part of the Indian opium which passes through our territory, and that it is in our power to put a prohibitory duty upon it.
§ *SIR J. GORST
A prohibitory duty would be just as much a breach of treaty. I cannot understand the morality which would break faith with those native Princes with whom we are 1187 bound by treaty in order to put down the cultivation of a drug which in our opinion ought not to be grown.
§ *SIR J. GORST
Yes, but these treaties are now in force. An hon. Member has spoken of compensating the native States for the loss to be sustained if we stop the growth of the poppy; but remember that the total revenue now received by the Native States from the cultivation of the poppy is 1,200,000 Rx, and the sum that would be required in compensation for the loss of that amount would be such as I should hardly like to propose either to the Indian or the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. And even if this were done, what would be the result? Would it stop the consumption of opium in China and turn the Chinese people into a people of abstainers? Nothing of the kind. It would simply open the door for native-grown and for Persian opium; and those poor Indian ryots would suffer in order that Persian cultivators might gain the profits which the morality of this House has deprived them of. Indian opium in China is a luxury, just as French wine is a luxury in this country. The common people in England consume beer and gin, and the rich drink French wine. So the Chinese common people consume native-grown Chinese opium, while the richer classes in China indulge in Indian opium, and it would be just as sensible for the French Government to stop the trade in French wine because of the intemperate use of gin and beer in Great Britain as it would be for the Government of India to stop the trade in Indian opium because of the excesses of the Chinese consumers of native-grown Chinese opium. Nay, the action of the French Government in such a case would be more sensible than that of the Indian Government, because the French Government would be inflicting injury on their own people, whereas we should be indulging our high moral sense at the expense of the Indian ryot who does not understand our scruples or our motives. The last part of the 1188 Resolution is, I consider, really an insult to China. The hon. Member for Flintshire invites the House to urge Her Majesty's Government to intimate to the Government of China "that in the next revision of the Treaty of Tientsin full power will be given to extinguish the trade in opium if it thinks fit." A great independent Power like China does not want such an assurance from us. I do not know whether the House has properly appreciated the extracts which the hon. Member for Aberdeen gave from letters written by gentlemen concerned in framing the Treaty which, it is asserted, has been wrung from China. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] As the hon. Member said "Hear, hear," I am afraid I must trouble the House by again referring to those letters. Mr. Lay, who was Secretary to Lord Elgin's mission, said:All the negotiations at Tientsin passed through me. Not one word upon either side was ever said about opium from first to last. The preparation of the tariff devolved upon me at the desire of the Chinese no less than of Lord Elgin. When I came to opium I inquired what course they proposed to take in respect to it. The answer was, 'We have resolved to put it into the tariff as foreign medicine.' I urged a moderate duty in view of the cost of collection, which was agreed to. This represents with strict accuracy the amount of 'extortion' resorted to.Mr. Laurence Oliphant who was one of the Commissioners engaged in the negotiation of the treaty, said:—When we came to the article 'opium' I informed the Commissioner that I had received instructions from Lord Elgin not to insist on the insertion of the drug in the tariff should the Chinese Government wish to omit it. This he declined to do. I then proposed that that the duty should be increased beyond the figure suggested in the tariff; but to this he objected, on the ground that it would increase the inducements to smuggling. I trust that the delusion that the opium trade now existing with China was extorted' from that country by the British Ambassador may be finally dispelled.So far, however, from its being finally dispelled by that letter to The Times in 1880, the delusion is in full vigour tonight, and after those words has been quoted twice in the House the delusion in the mind of the hon. Member for Durham is as vigorous as ever. But the Chinese are not inclined to renounce this treaty. They raise at present a 1189 revenue of £1,000,000 sterling from the opium imported from India, and they quite appreciate the advantages of that revenue, while they have no moral scruples which prevent them from accepting it. Therefore, if the Chinese and British Governments are let alone there is no doubt whatever that the Indian- trade in opium will be continued so long as it is not displaced by the natural growth of the native Chinese opium or imported Persian opium. And what I submit to this House is that in matters of this kind we should leave to the Chinese Government the care of the morality of their own subjects, and should not in our presumptuous ignorance venture to dictate to Oriental nations what they may morally eat and virtuously drink, but should rather confine ourselves to the condition of our own home population, with whose wants we are far better acquainted, and when we have put a final stop to the abuse of alcohol in Great Britain then will be the time to commence a crusade against the evils of the use of opium in China.
§ SIR R. N. FOWLER
Having on several previous occasions voted in favour of similar Resolutions, I shall now support my hon. Friend opposite, but I desire to explain I feel very strongly that we have no right to impose any addition to burdens on the people of India, and if the tax is to be taken away it must be at the expense of this country. If we take from India a source of revenue we must put our hands into our own pockets. My hon. Friend (Sir R. Temple) the Member for Evesham seems to think that there is an analogy between the revenue for spirits in this country and the revenue for opium in India. But nobody knows better than he that the opium revenue in Bengal is obtained in a very peculiar way, and that the Government make advances to the ryots from whom they purchase the opium which they prepare for the Chinese market at Patna and Gazeepore. To make the analogy perfect our Government should distil their own spirits and sell them to the people. We do not do this, and I do not think, therefore, that the analogy is borne out.
§ *SIR U. KAY SHUTTLEWORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
My hon. Friend often brings subjects under the attention of this House in a manner calculated to command the sympathies of hon. Members on these Benches, and I always feel a desire to vote with him, especially considering the class of argument he advances. If a policy is morally wrong I agree with him that it cannot be politically right. Now he asks the House to call on the Government of India to take steps for the suppression of this trade. But we have before us evidence which has been quoted over and over again in the course of this debate, that the Chinese are themselves producing more and more opium, and that they produce much more than is imported from India. Therefore the only effect of stopping the cultivation of Indian opium would be largely to transfer the cultivation to China, and to Persia and Turkey, and the state of China in the end would be no better than it now is. The object in view is, therefore, impracticable. But there is also this very great difficulty. In India a large portion of the native population, in whom my hon. Friend takes such a deep and sincere interest, is dependent on the cultivation of the poppy, and to deprive them of their occupation would be dangerous. Moreover if my hon. Friend advocates this, as he does in some degree from the point of view of the interests of opium-smokers among the Indian people, he must know that it is highly probable that if they did not consume opium they would consume those local alcoholic spirits which are so pernicious in their effects. The last state of the Indian population, therefore, would be worse than the first. Then he asks us to pass this resolution in the interests of the Chinese. It is very doubtful whether any benefit would be done to the Chinese. My belief is that they would consume just as much opium if we took the action proposed as they do now. But if we are about to enter upon the extinction of the trade in stimulants surely we 1191 should address ourselves to the question of the stimulants which are consumed in such great quantities in this country before we interfere with the stimulants in which the Chinese indulge. But what particularly called me to my legs at this hour was the substitutes for the Opium Revenue which my hon. Friend proposed to the House. He said that the problem of making good the revenue which would be lost by the non-cultivation of the poppy was insurmountable, and then he immediately proceeded to try and surmount it. He suggested that there should be a 10 per cent ad valorem tax levied upon all cotton goods imported into India, which he estimated would yield 4,000,000 sterling and he suggested a similar tax upon all goods manufactured in India. He also proposed that there should be something in the nature of a direct subvention and finally he advocated a resort to bimettalism. I will only deal with the first of these proposals. My hon Friend himself indicated that he did not expect his proposal would be received with very much favovr in the county in which he lives and a division of which I have the honour to represent. Certainly not. But consider it from the Indian point of view. He proposes to tax the cotton garments which the people of India wear. For what reason? In response to some demand, coming from the Indian people? No. Simply to satisfy a British cry the hon. Gentleman proposes to lay a tax on the whole population of India. Is this to benefit the Indian people? No: But to confer an imaginary benefit upon the Chinese. I say "imaginary" because it is well to remember that the Indian opium imported into China is the luxury of the rich in China. The opium consumed by the masses of the people is grown in China itself, indeed, the Under Secretary for India has told the House that out of 350 millions of people living in China only about one million consume Indian opium. Let us compare what we are asked to do with what the French Chamber of Deputies might be asked to do. Suppose the Chamber passed a resolution that it was immoral to intoxicate rich English and Scotch people with claret and brandy, and that therefore they must prohibit the export of the best claret and brandy. 1192 What should we think of the French Chamber? That is precisely the same position in which we should place ourselves if we passed this Resolution. On these grounds I am sorry to say that I cannot support the Resolution.
§ *MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
, who rose amidst cries of "Divide, Divide ": I ask the indulgence of the House for two minutes only. Having been for many years interested in the operations of the Church Missionary Society in China, I cannot allow the attack made upon the Bishops and Missionaries in China by the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Maclean) to pass without a word from me in contradiction. The hon. Member sneered at the Missionaries in China as men who, conscious of failure in their missions, made false excuses for that failure, and availed themselves of those false excuses to extract money from the pockets of the English people. I maintain that the missions in China have not been failures; that looking to the enormous obstacles in the way of the progress of Christianity in that country, to the great difficulty of the language, to the immobility of their ancient civilization, to the fact that many years ago—about the time we first planted Christian Missions there—opium was introduced into that country by the gun and at the point of the bayonet, I say the Missions have not been failures, but that the success of Christianity in that country has been equal to the success of the Apostles in the first century. Some of the Missionaries are personal friends of my own, and I know they are quite incapable of the conduct which the hon. Member for Oldham has imputed to them. I indignantly deny the charge, but I shall not not vote on this question at all.
The House divided:—Ayes 165; Noes 88. (Div. List, No. 95.)
§ House adjourned at five minutes before One o'clock, till Monday next.