§ EARL GREY
I have to move your Lordships that an Address be presented to the Crown for Copies or Extracts of any Despatches Her Majesty's Government may have received respecting an Expedition which it is reported is to be sent up the Yang-tze-Kiang. If this expedi-is to be undertaken with the view of entering into communication with the rebels who are now in possession of some of the chief towns on that great river, the step is one of great importance, and it is desirable that the House should be put in possession of any information bearing upon it. If, however, there should be the slightest objection, on the part of Her Majesty's Government to produce any despatches they may have received, I shall not press my Motion; indeed, my principal object in making it is that it will give me an opportunity of calling your attention to the general subject of our relations with China. I should not, my Lords, have taken upon myself to do this were it not that I consider the subject to stand in urgent need of discussion, while I have learnt that Her Majesty's Government do not propose to bring it in any manner before us (as I think they ought), and that it is unlikely that any other noble Lord will do so. I do not propose calling your attention to the important papers relating to China that have been laid before us, with the intention of again discussing the question as to the origin of the war, which was so fully discussed four years ago— though I believe the war just concluded to afford a solitary example in our constitutional history of an important war having been begun and finished without the servants of the Crown thinking fit to ask for a direct approval of their policy by Parliament. It is remarkable that Parliament has never been asked to express an opinion on the subject except by those who think the war to have been wrong. While neither House has even been invited to approve it, your Lordships, by a small majority, rejected Resolutions directly condemning it; and the other House, by a still smaller majority, adopted a Resolution to the same effect, which still remains unrescinded on its Journals. In these circumstances T have no wish to re- 547 open the question, being content to leave it as it stands, resting on the arguments unanswered and unanswerable, as I consider them, which were at the time urged by some of the most distinguished members of the present Government, to show that the war was unjustifiable. I rest the case on the speeches of the Secretaries of State for War, and for Foreign Affairs, and of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is true, that the circumstances which led to the renewal, or, according to the noble Duke the Secretary for the Colonies, the continuance of the war, have never been discussed in this House; but though I believe it would be perfectly possible to show that for the unhappy catastrophe at the mouth of the Peiho the blame rests far more with us than with the Chinese, I do not propose to enter into that matter. It is not my object to refer to past mistakes except so far as they bear upon our future policy, and my intention is to call your attention to our relations with China in times past, and to the existing state of those relations, only as they affect our future conduct. The question what course we ought hereafter to pursue towards China is one of the deepest importance, and I am persuaded we cannot form a sound judgment upon it without looking back to past transactions. I will, therefore, endeavour, as shortly as I can, to recall some of those transactions to your recollection.
My Lords, when the trade between China and this country was thrown open by the abolition, in the year 1833, of the monopoly formerly enjoyed by the East India Company, our commerce with that great empire was considerably increased. Its extension, however, fell far short of the high-raised expectations and eager wishes of the nation, and especially of the mercantile community. The failure of our commerce to increase as rapidly as had been anticipated was attributed to the adherence of the Chinese to the system we had abandoned, and to their still allowing European trade to be carried on only with one of their ports, and through the close monopoly of a society of merchants called the Hong merchants. No doubt, this mode of accounting for the disappointment of our expectations of increased trade was in part true; but though much discontent was, in consequence, felt in this country, nothing was for some time done to compel the Chinese to admit our commerce more freely. I presume it was felt that we had no 548 more right to insist upon this with the Government of China, than we should to insist on a similar concession from the Governments of France or of Spain; that the Chinese were entitled by all the laws of nations to lay down the rules upon which they would consent to any on intercourse with us, and to tell us that we might accept or refuse intercourse on these terms as we might think fit. But after a time an opportunity arose which was thought to justify us in pursuing a different course towards China. Partly by force, and partly by corrupting the Chinese authorities, British subjects had established a very large smuggling trade in opium. This was done against the loudly expressed wishes of the Chinese Government, and in spite of all their efforts to put it down. They believed—whether rightly or not—that the traffic was one which was extremely detrimental to the true interests of their Empire, and, therefore, they were most anxious to suppress it. But it was not discountenanced by us; on the contrary, it was encouraged and supported, and the British Government in India derived a very material part of its revenue from this trade. Annually large quantities of opium were grown in India, and sold by the Government, avowedly for the purpose of being smuggled to China. This state of things in the opinion of the Chinese Government was so intolerable, that at length they determined to take measures to put a stop to it; and they adopted a course quite consistent with their own traditional notions as to the rules which ought to govern the intercourse between themselves and foreign nations, but which, in our opinion, was inadmissible. They seized on the representative of the English Government, and some of the principal British merchants at Canton, and they made them redeem their lives by giving up a large quantity of opium for the purpose of being destroyed. There can be no doubt that the Chinese were quite unjustifiable in the measures to which they resorted; but it can hardly be denied, that they had a real grievance, though the means they took to obtain redress were indefensible, and we ought to remember that they knew nothing of those conventional codes of international law which prevail in Europe. They are not able, like the Foreign Secretary, to quote Vattel (perhaps their ignorance saves them from making some blunders), and some indulgence, therefore, must be shown for 549 the error into which they fell. These circumstances led to what has been called the Opium War. In that war the Chinese, of course, were entirely defeated. They were even more incapable then than now of making any stand against European forces. They were utterly subdued, and compelled to accept what terms of peace we chose to impose on them, and we were not very forbearing. We required, in the first place, a large pecuniary indemnity, as compensation for the injuries said to have been sustained by British subjects and to defray the expenses of the war. We next required that five Chinese ports should be opened to our trade, and that very low rates of duties should be levied both upon imports and exports. We also required that the monopoly of the Hong merchants should be abolished; that English subjects should be permitted to trade with any Chinese they pleased; we required the cession of the island of Hong Kong; and, above all, we insisted that English subjects in China should be exempt from the jurisdiction of Chinese authorities and from the operation of the Chinese law. Such were the principal conditions of the treaty which we imposed upon China.
There might, I think, be some question as to what right we had to impose these terms upon China. Even if the fault had been more clearly, and more exclusively with the Chinese in the original quarrel respecting the importation of opium, I own that I am not aware by what principle of the law of nations, or of natural justice, we were in titled to insist that beyond making the most complete compensation for the wrong we complained of, the Chinese should further make concessions which were in the highest degree distasteful to them, and which involved a large sacrifice of that authority in their own territory, which properly belonged to them as an independent State. I have never understood what right, but that of superior force, we had to insist upon this; but, waiving that question, I wish to call your Lordships' attention to the manner in which the treaty has been observed by both parties, and to its results. So far as regards the Chinese, I have never heard it suggested that that treaty has not been fully and fairly carried into effect, except in two particulars. Complaint has been made of their having departed from the rules agreed upon on certain points of etiquette in the communications between the two coun- 550 tries; and complaint is also made of their having refused to admit British subjects into the city of Canton. The Chinese authorities always alleged their inability to; perform the latter provision of the treaty, i without risk to the peace of the country, and their excuse was for several years expressly admitted by Her Majesty's Government. I wish I could say that I thought that the treaty had been observed with I equal fidelity by Englishmen. When we obtained from China the large concessions which I have described, we, on our side, took upon ourselves the obligation that we would enforce payment of all duties justly due to the Chinese Government, and obedience to the laws of China on the part of British merchants and subjects. It was expressly stipulated thatThe security merchants being now done away with, it is understood that the British Consul will henceforth be security for all British merchant ships entering any of the aforesaid ports.And also that our consulsWere strictly to watch over and carefully scrutinize the conduct of all persons being British subjects trading under their superintendence.Among the laws of China, which were to be thus enforced by us, because the Chinese authorities had been deprived of all power over British subjects, was the prohibition of the sale of opium. Sir Henry Pottinger distinctly declared this to be the case in a proclamation he published immediately after the signing of the treaty. But, instead of assisting the Chinese in suppressing the smuggling of opium, from the first hour of the treaty's coming into force, up to this time, the traffic has received our open countenance and support. The British Government in India has continued to regard the sale of opium for the purpose of being smuggled into China as one of the main sources of its revenue. Further, it is stated that the foreign merchants in China launched into a wholesale system of smuggling and fraudulent devices for the evasion of duties. Chinese laws and treaty stipulations were alike disregarded, sometimes by one party with forcible infractions of port regulations, oftener by bribery and collusion between the native authorities and the foreigners. The Imperial revenue was defrauded by both, and foreign trade was demoralized and converted into a game of hazard and over-reaching. In spite of the provisions of the treaty no effort was made on our part to arrest these evils, except in 551 the single instance of the establishment of what is called the foreign inspectorate of customs at Shanghai, a remedy as bad as the disease. The consuls of some of the Powers, instead of checking, are stated to hare been active parties in promoting these abuses, in which they were directly interested not receiving any salaries but being paid by fees and allowed to trade. And here, my Lords, I must remind you that the power thus abused by the consuls of some other Powers was derived from our interference; we professed that we wanted no exclusive advantages for ourselves, and, therefore, caused the privileges we obtained under the Treaty of Nankin to be extended to other European nations and to the United States. The consequence was, that the consuls of different powers, in their eagerness to secure as largo as possible a share of the trade for their own countrymen, vied with each other in supporting the frauds perpetrated upon the Chinese Government. These frauds extended to the smuggling carried on not only by Europeans but by Chinese. It is said that when a Chinese merchant had had his property seized, perhaps hundreds of miles from one of our ports of trade, he would go to some European to whom he would make a nominal sale of his property, who thereupon would claim, through his consul, the restitution of the property. Thus the consuls of the various Powers actively interfered to prevent the enforcement of the revenue laws by the Chinese authorities, not only against Europeans, but even in these instances against their own subjects. In the papers there is one remarkable instance of the manner in which the power of the consuls in these ports has been abused. Lord Elgin states that he finds in one of the ports, I think at Foo-chow, the foreign consuls had four times stopped the payment of all duties to the Chinese Government as the means of extorting redress for some alleged grievance. This was done three times by the American, and once by the English Consul. Lord Elgin does not mention the case in which the English Consul resorted to this highhanded proceeding, nor have I been able to trace it; but he says that on the last occasion, when such a power was exercised by the American Consul, it was for the purpose of compelling the Chinese authorities to take Mexican dollars at a higher rate than the current market value. The Chinese were willing to take them at 552 their real value; but these coins were not so popular in the country as some others, and therefore these other coins, according to the current rate, had an advantage of 10 per cent. The American Consul required that Mexican dollars should be taken at the same rate as the other coins, and this demand, preposterous and unreasonable as it must be considered, was actually enforced. The English merchants, who had contentedly paid in the Mexican dollars at their current value, received back this 10 per cent on their payments for some time previous, in order to put them on a footing of equality with the Americans. Of course this was necessary. You could not, without disorganizing trade, allow one nation to obtain greater commercial facilities than another. But it shows how grossly this system operates when one nation being guilty of such an abuse other nations are compelled to follow in a similar course. These abuses prevailed not alone for the purpose of defrauding the Chinese revenue. I find it stated that they were also practised (and I am afraid that a British firm of considerable standing was concerned in them) for the purpose of supplying heavy cannon to the insurgents in arms against the Chinese Government, in defiance of all international law. A still worse traffic was supported in the same manner. I mean the trade in coolies; in other words, a traffic which vies in its horrors with the African slave trade in its worst days. We are informed in these Papers that, at the instigation of foreigners who were ready to purchase so-called emigrants, abandoned Chinese practised a system of kidnapping and decoying their fellow-countrymen, in order to ship them to European colonies, under circumstances of the greatest atrocity. Sometimes these poor people were taken by force, sometimes they were tempted to drink, and then to gamble away their liberty; and, once in the hands of the kidnappers, they were confined in places provided for the purpose, and there treated with the greatest cruelty, so that when ill, and when it was thought they would prove unfit for work, they were turned out to die by inches in the public roads. Lord Elgin tells an affecting story of an unfortunate widow who had two children. Her son was induced to gamble away his freedom in the way I have described, and fell into the hands of the kidnappers. His mother, in order to release him, sold her daughter, and then, when she went to redeem her 553 son, found she was too late, and that he had already been shipped to an European colony. Lord Elgin says that, though the subordinate agents employed are generally natives of the country, the horrors of this traffic are put down by the Chinese to the account of the foreigners. They are justly so put down, because if it were not for the privileges which we secured to foreigners, and their consequent immunity from Chinese law, these horrors would very soon be suppressed by the local authorities. But the foreigner is safe under the protection derived from our treaties. He is able to bribe the bad men who are to be found in the great cities of China to carry on this inhuman trade; and I say that the Europeans who do so are as much responsible for the cruelties and iniquities which are consequently perpetrated, as a receiver of stolen goods in this town is answerable for the guilt of some unfortunate apprentice whom he may tempt to steal his master's property. I grieve to add that I think no small part of the responsibility for these abuses falls on the Government of France, because I believe that Government has made contracts for the conveyance of emigrants to its colonies without taking any security whatever against the abuses I have described. Nor is this all; we are told that "vile and reckless men," deserters from ships and adventurers of all descriptions, the scum of Europe and America, have infested the coasts of China, and availing themselves of their immunity from Chinese authority, of the laxity of the consular system, and of the fear inspired by our arms, have committed every kind of outrage. As an instance of the open lawlessness of their conduct, Lord Elgin mentions a fact which came under his own observation; he states that when he was proceeding up the estuary of the river leading to Foo-chow, two men calling themselves Americans came on board the frigate to offer their services as pilots; they proved incompetent, and upon inquiring why some perfectly competent Chinese pilots had been unwilling to come forward, one of them replied, drawing his hand in a significant manner across his throat, "These Americans make too much bobbery." But the mere driving the natives of the country out of their legitimate employment, is nothing compared to the outrages these foreigners commit. Smuggling, piracy, and violence of every kind are habitually practised — these men, it is said, for 554 the most part, confine themselves to the coasts, where they commit depredations of all varieties; but sometimes they do business on land, either on their own account or that of Chinamen who employ them. They occasionally disappear altogether, having fallen victims, it may be supposed, to the vengeance their conduct has provoked. And these disorders have been facilitated by the gross abuse of European flags, and especially of the British and Portuguese flags. When we concluded the Treaty of Nankin, and acquired by it special privileges for our flag, the law did not admit of its being assumed by any vessels not bonâ fide British, and of which the owners, and at least three-fourths of the crew, wore British subjects. It was to vessels of this description that the Chinese meant to grant the privilege; but, without consulting them, or asking their consent, we altered our law, first, by an Act of Parliament, and then still more largely by a colonial ordinance, which allowed vessels having no pretensions to the character of British ships to hoist our flag and claim the privileges which belong to it. I find it stated that "Canton built vessels owned and manned by Canton men, some having a white man, some a black, some no foreigner at all, on board," have hoisted the British flag, and under its pro-lection, have carried on piracy and smuggling in the most daring manner. I need hardly remind your Lordships that it was our claim to give protection to a vessel of this description which caused the quarrel that led to the unhappy war just concluded; and with reference to that quarrel, Mr. Alcock, who was then Consul at Canton states, that in all probability it would never have taken place, if the gross abuse of foreign flags and the immunities they enjoy by treaty had not been habitual and matters of notoriety, especially in the class of lorcha vessels, which he describes as "smugglers and pirates all."
You may, perhaps, be inclined to believe that such an accoun tas that which I have just given of the state of things in China cannot possibly be accurate, and must be exaggerated. Allow me to assure you that it is far otherwise; I have drawn it from no Chinese or doubtful authorities, but entirely from the papers laid upon the table by command of Her Majesty, and from the statements contained in these papers of men entitled to our implicit confidence. Many of the facts I have mentioned are taken from a very able 555 memorandum drawn up by Mr. Alcock, which derives weight both from the character of the writer, and from the manner in which it has been given to us. This memorandum was drawn up at the desire of Her Majesty's Government in the year 1858 by Mr. Alcock, who was on leave of absence in this country from the post he then held of Consul at Canton. It was deemed of so much importance by my noble Friend Lord Clarendon, then Secretary of State, that he sent it officially to Lord Elgin to assist his judgment in the negotiations he was entrusted to conduct with China. Of the reliance to be placed on Mr. Alcock's judgment we have the best proof in the fact that he was selected by another Secretary of State for the post of British Minister in Japan. This is a post which at the present moment is, perhaps, more important and one requiring higher qualifications, than any other in our diplomatic service, and I believe the selection for it of Mr. Alcock has commanded the entire approval of all to whom his character is known. A memorandum proceeding from him, and endorsed as it were by the Secretary of State, is a paper of no ordinary authority. I have also made use of the able reports of Mr. Meadows, Mr. Winchester, and Mr. Robertson, who are employed in our consular service, a very able letter from Mr. Davidson, the senior British merchant at Ningpo, and above all the despatches of Lord Elgin. The statement I have laid before your Lordships is a feeble and imperfect summary of what is to be found reported by these high authorities in the papers on your table. I could easily have supported what I have said by quotations from what they have written, and I have only abstained from doing so, because I feared unduly to trespass on your time, and because I know how unpalatable it is to you to be called upon to listen to long extracts from blue books. But, so far as my memory would serve me, I have used their very words. I hold in my hand references to the passages to which I have referred, and if even the minutest particular of my statement should be disputed, I am prepared to point out the page in the papers in which the authority for it will be found.
Perhaps, my Lords, I may be told that, granting the evils I have described to exist, it is not to this country that they are to be imputed, but to the venality and corruption of the Chinese authorities. 556 I do not dispute the fact that the Chinese authorities are too generally corrupt, but I find it to be the opinion of Lord Elgin that "the terror inspired by the foreigner and the dread of getting into difficulty with him are accountable for the irregularity of the Chinese custom-house, in a hardly-less degree than the habitual venality of the Chinese officials." But, further, I must call your attention to the fact that the Chinese did not willingly adopt that system of intercourse with us which has proved so injurious to them. They were aware of the defects of their own Government, and of their inability to maintain their revenue and good order under the system we imposed upon thorn, and which they so little understood, though they were quite able to do both if we had permitted them to adhere to their old and traditional policy, which, barbarous as we consider it, and so in many respects it really is, has yet been proved by experience to be efficient and well suited to their state of society. But we would not listen to any remonstrances, they were unable to resist our superior strength, though they would far rather have foregone all trade with us, than allow it to be conducted on the terms we prescribed, we compelled them to do so. If, therefore, under the system we have established, Europeans avail themselves of the corruptibility of Chinese officers to commit abuses, this is only an additional ground for just complaint on the part of the Chinese Government.
But, my Lords, the real question is not who is to blame for the evils that have arisen, but how does the system of intercourse between the two nations, which we have compelled the Chinese to submit to work for the benefit of either? I have already sufficiently shown you how it has worked for the Chinese;—has it been really more advantageous to the true interests of England? Lord Elgin, in one of his despatches, observes that in general the evils of the existing state of things which he describes, appear in the first instance to fall exclusively on the natives and on the Imperial revenue, except, he adds, "that foreigners have been placed in a position in which the common virtues of truthfulness and honesty can be practised only at a ruinous sacrifice." This is a significant observation, and there is abundant evidence in the papers that, under the existing system, there are such facilities for fraud on the part of European 557 merchants, and that those who adopt dishonest practices have so enormous an advantage over more conscientious traders, that it is impossible for the latter long to carry on their business, in competition with their dishonest rivals, and thus, even men who have gone out with the fullest intent of conducting their trade on the principles of honour and justice, are gradually drawn in to adopting more or less of the evil practices that prevail around them, and thus trade has been demoralized and corrupted. In a national point of view, this is no light evil. Complaints have been made of late years that the standard of commercial morality in this country has become perceptibly lower; that frauds and malpractices take place to an extent that was formerly unknown. I cannot say how far that is true; but, if it be so, I want to know whether it is not possible that our having allowed a great branch of our trade to become thus corrupted may have contributed to this most unfortunate result. I think the high name for honour which the British merchants formerly bore, and the character for uprightness which they enjoyed all over the world, were one of the most precious possessions of the country, and, I should, indeed, grieve if it were lost. But it is not in this way; only that we have been losers; —we suffer also in a more pecuniary and commercial sense from the evils we have inflicted upon China. It is obvious that the permanent prosperity, and the extension, of our trade with China, depend upon her internal peace and prosperity. If her provinces are laid waste by anarchy and civil war, her power of purchasing our manufactures, and furnishing the produce we import from her, must, of necessity, be diminished. It is impossible that such disorders as I have described can exist on the coast of China, without carrying great discouragement to trade and industry; the depredations of the ruffians who avail themselves of their immunity from Chinese law, cannot prevail unchecked, without destroying that security which is the very soul of industry, in all places within their reach. It is true, that these outrages chiefly affect the coast, and are little felt in the great producing districts, but there are still worse evils in the interior of the Empire. I would remind your Lordships that, since the Treaty of Nankin, and, as I am persuaded, mainly in consequence of it, extensive provinces of China have been laid waste by a fearful 558 rebellion. I am aware that rebellions have not been uncommon in China, but in general they have been of a very different character from that which is now raging. They have usually been mere local insurrections for the removal of some local grievance, and have been soon terminated, either by the redress of the grievance, or the defeat of the rebels. But this rebellion has now raged for ten or twelve years, over a wide extent of the richest districts of the Empire. There is a great difference of opinion among high authorities as to the true character of this rebellion. Some believe it to be an earnest religious movement, in which there is a serious desire to adopt Christianity, although, at present, in a sadly distorted form, combined with a national movement of the Chinese against the Tartar dynasty. Others hold on the contrary with Mr. Bruce; and from the facts stated in his recent despatches, I am inclined to believe this to be the more correct opinion—that it is a mere rising of the dangerous classes, having for its object to upset all Government and authority, and to enable the stronger to pillage the weaker; and that its result, wherever the rebels prevail, is to establish the rule of the sword in its worst form, to the destruction of confidence, capital, and commerce. But whichever of these views may be the more just, whether the rebels, or the imperialists, are the chief workers of destruction, there can be no doubt that, in the wide districts affected by the rebellion, there has been an amount of bloodshed and devastation which is almost beyond belief. When Lord Elgin went up the Tang-tze-Kiang he found the mouth of the great canal, which in 1842 was so crowded with grain junks that a passage could hardly be made through them, deserted, except by a few Imperial war junks; and cities which were then rich and prosperous, the seats of commerce and industry, almost reduced to heaps of ruins. To show the extent of the devastation he mentions that in walking through one of these towns (Woo-chang) he sprang pheasants in what had been the very centre of the walled town. All that he describes tends to confirm what is stated by Mr. Meadows, that it is the internal troubles of China which have caused the check to consumption in the interior, and have prevented the hoped for extension of our trade. This rebellion, which has thus devastated China, I believe to be the direct consequence of the 559 Opium War of 1842, and of the treaty by which it was concluded. These events shook the authority of the Emperor in the minds of his subjects, while the government in the Southern Provinces (on which the consequences of the war mainly fell) was utterly disorganized by its financial difficulties, arising, in the first instance, from the expense of the war, and the large pecuniary indemnity we exacted, and afterwards from the failure of the customs revenue from the system of smuggling that was introduced. The Mandarins not receiving what was due to them from the Government, owing to the financial distress thus created, were led to carry the abuses and venality from which the Chinese Government had never been free, to a height previously unheard of. Those whose duty it was to maintain public peace and order became themselves the accomplices of robbers and pirates, and the population were the victims of intolerable oppression. Dr. Gutzlaff, who knew China well, informed me that it was impossible to describe the extreme misery thus brought upon the inhabitants of these provinces, and the complete disorganization of the Government and of society. Discontent was still more widely spread by the means the Imperial Government was driven to adopt to raise money in order to meet the demands upon it. From evidence with which I will not now trouble your Lordships, I hold it to be clear that the primary causes of the great rebellion in China, and of the inability of the Imperial Government to suppress it, are to be found in the war of 1842, the treaty by which it was closed, and the manner in which that treaty has been acted upon.
I have troubled your Lordships with this review of the Treaty of Nankin and its consequences, because I think this will help us to form a sound opinion as to what we have to expect from the treaty just concluded. Judging of the terms of peace which Lord Elgin, under the instructions of Her Majesty's Government, has exacted from the Chinese, by the light of past experience, I can only regard the arrangements now made as a further step on a wrong road, and in a vicious policy. You have opened additional ports to our trade, but have you in doing so taken any new securities against the frauds and the violence which have prevailed in those already open to us? Lord Elgin, in one of his despatches, says that 560Morality apart, it is not for our interest that concessions extorted from the Chinese Government by British arms should be employed by British subjects and others for the promotion of rebellion and disorder within the empire, or for the establishment of privileged smuggling and piracy along its coast or up its rivers.A most true observation, but I look in vain in the treaty for any effectual security against such evils, and without a complete change in our system I am at a loss to understand how such a security can be provided. Again, my Lords, I have endeavoured to show how grievously China has suffered from the exaction of a large money indemnity at the end of the opium war. You are going to exact a far larger amount now. At the conclusion of the opium war we required China to pay a pecuniary indemnity of 15,000,000 dollars or little more than £3,000,000 sterling. The united demand of England and France at the present moment is 18,000,000 taels, or rather more than £5,300,000. The burthen imposed is increased; but is China as able now to bear the weight as she was in 1842? In 1842 China had long been in the enjoyment of internal peace and prosperity. Her resources were then unimpaired, except by the foreign war just concluded. That foreign war had affected an almost insignificant portion of her territory, and inflicted comparatively little injury upon her. In the foreign war which has now terminated she has suffered far more severely. She has lost many thousands of her best troops, in the unequal contest of matchlocks, and bows and arrows, against Enfield rifles, and Armstrong guns; her capital has been taken by the invader, and she has suffered over a far wider extent of country than before. Yet her losses from foreign war are absolutely as nothing, compared with what she has suffered from the long continuance of rebellion. The country, as far as it has reached, is one wide scene of devastation and ruin. China, therefore, is little likely to be able now to support a demand much heavier than that which was found to be more than she could bear in 1842, especially when we consider what is the state of her finances? I find that in 1858 Lord Elgin reported to Her Majesty's Government that there was every symptom of extreme penury in the Chinese treasury, and that he had reason to believe that even the troops defending the capital remained unpaid. And in October last he informed Her Majesty's Government that as to obtaining from China the payment of any 561 large sum, it was simply impossible—that all that could be done was to impose on her the payment of 40 per cent of her gross Customs revenue (equal to more than half the net revenue) to discharge the debt incurred by the indemnities she has undertaken to pay. Lord Elgin adds that it will take about four years of this large proportion of her Customs revenue to discharge that obligation. Nor is this all that you have done by the treaty, to press down China under an intolerable load of financial difficulty. While you have increased the demands upon her treasury, you have compelled her to submit to what will cause a large falling off in its receipts. Notwithstanding the Report from your own officers, that the Chinese tariff is the most liberal, and most liberally enforced, of any that is known—that it contrasts very favourably with our own, and still more so with those of every other European nation —at this very time we compel them to submit to very large reductions in some of the most important items of their Customs revenue, for the purpose of encouraging our trade. One of our public servants (Mr. Wade) says he thinks it hardly fair to China —when we will not ourselves consent to reduce our tax of 1s. 3d. per pound on tea —that we should oblige her to lower her present tax of a fraction more than five farthings to about three farthings a pound. You have likewise insisted upon her very largely reducing her internal transit duties upon the commodities in which we deal with her, though from time immemorial, these transit duties have been one of the chief means for meeting her local expenses, and especially that of maintaining those canals and roads by which her produce reaches its markets. If, therefore, China is already staggering under her accumulated difficulties—if it is in the highest degree doubtful whether her Government can suppress the rebellion which has been so long consuming her strength and wasting her resources, is it not, my Lords, most improbable that she should be able to endure the exaction that you are now putting upon her? Is it not almost certain that her Government will sink altogether under the burden, and that the once rich and flourishing provinces of an empire that was prosperous for much more than 1,000 years, until we forced upon her that intercourse with Europe which has proved so fatal to her, will fall into confusion, and become—as some of them are already—the scenes of devastation and ruin? 562 If this result takes place, and takes place by our interference—I will say nothing of the deep guilt which, in the eyes of God and man, will rest on this country for producing such a catastrophe, strongly as I feel on the subject-—but I will ask you, even taking the lowest and most selfish view of the question, will this be for your own interest? Mr. Meadows, in one of his very able papers, after describing the peculiarities of Chinese institutions, observes that—Under those national institutions, with no improvements or aid from western foreigners, an agricultural and commercial people has grown into existence, which can take off a large and, in time of peace, an increasing quantity of foreign produce, which can furnish a large and increasing quantity of silk, and can supply all the world with tea. It cannot be too often repeated that foreigners who come here to trade cannot use too much care in abstaining from everything that tends to impair institutions under which such results have been obtained.Lord Elgin expresses a similar opinion. He says that—Privileges acquired by a process which enfeebles the Government and destroys its moral influence may sometimes be purchased at too great a cost.My Lords, our experience of India ought to warn us upon this subject. It ought to teach us that it is easy to destroy an Asiatic Government, but not so easy to replace it. It ought to teach us that, if we take the first step towards interference with such a Government, we may be irresistibly led on, until nothing remains for us, but to take its administration into our own hands. We have had a late example of this in Oude. We know how, by our interference, we gradually weakened the Native Government of that State, until at length it was alleged that common humanity made it absolutely necessary to incorporate it with our dominions. We know, too, that we have carried this policy so far in India, that it now throws a burden on our military resources, which is a subject of serious anxiety to every man capable of properly considering the question. But the difficulties of India are nothing compared with those to be expected in China, if you should there also pull down the national institutions and Government. And this, my Lords, is what I fear you are doing. I see symptoms that you are entering upon that fatal course of policy—that you are beginning a system which will take you on from one step to another until you have 563 utterly destroyed those institutions which have existed for ages in China, but for which you will be totally unable to find a substitute. You will then be left in this dilemma—that you must either abandon China to anarchy, or attempt that which is far beyond your strength—namely, to govern her by your own power. You have already, I think most unadvisedly, defended Shanghai against the rebels. Mr. Bruce very properly declined to carry that interference further until he had received instructions from home; but it is obvious that, having by our policy so enfeebled the Chinese Government that it cannot uphold its authority against the insurgents, a pressure will be put upon Her Majesty's Government to lend it their assistance for that purpose. This will come very soon, because the rebellion is now approaching the silk producing districts, and on the maintenance of tranquillity in these districts one of the most important branches of our trade depends. Mr. Bruce, too, has very truly pointed out to you that in these Asiatic Governments the only check on abuse and tyranny, on the part of the local officers, is the power of resistance on the part of the people. Insurrection is their recognized resource against oppression and misgovernment. In China insurrection is regarded as an appeal to the judgment of Heaven when the people are oppressed; they consider the success of insurrection a proof of its justice, and hold it to be even a duty in certain cases to take part in it. If, then, you suppress Chinese insurrection, you take away what has heretofore held very much the same place in their institutions as the power of refusing Supplies in our own Parliamentary history. It is the recognized method of obtaining the redress of grievances, from either the general, or local Government. If, after having so weakened the Chinese Government that it cannot protect itself against rebellion, you interfere and say we cannot allow these insurrections, you will remove the only efficient check on that venality and corruption of the mandarins which is so much complained of, and thus bring on the people the evils of misgovernment. If you attempt to avert this consequence, by controlling and directing in detail the acts of the local authorities, you will in effect supersede the Chinese Government, virtually usurping the Government of China; and, I caution you, this is a task you cannot perform, unless 564 you are prepared to support it by an enormous military force. Is Parliament prepared to vote such a force in addition to that you already find necessary in India? There are other parts of the treaty which have a similar tendency, especially those clauses which take away a large part of the Customs' duties in China, and stipulate for the abolition of transit duties. How are you to enforce either of these stipulations without constant interference with the internal administration of China? One of your own consuls has distinctly told you that it is impossible to enforce the reduction of transit duties, unless you interfere with the internal Government. It is the same with the Customs' duties; when you cut off a large portion of them the Chinese Government will very soon permit smuggling, and the recognized Chinese process called "squeezing," by which they will obtain the duties in another form and another place, will he resorted to. You will be unable to guard against this except by interfering more and more in the internal administration, and thus more and more completely destroying the moral authority of the Imperial Government. Lord Elgin has already warned you that "embarrassing questions respecting the occupation of Chinese territory are involved in this arrangement," for obtaining payment of the indemnity out of the Customs' revenue. All these questions will be the more embarrassing, because you are sure that the Chinese will use every means in their power to evade the performance of the hard conditions imposed upon them. This is the invariable conduct of Asiatic Powers, and it is the more certain to be that of China, because, Lord Elgin, informs you, that in the eyes of the Chinese Government the terms of the Treaty of Tien-tsin amount to a Revolution, that they involve the surrender of some of the most cherished principles of the traditional policy of the empire, and that they have been extorted from its fears. You cannot, therefore, expect that terms so regarded, and so obtained, will be observed, except when it is impossible to evade them, and so long as you can continue to enforce them by fear. For these reasons, my Lords, I must regard the treaty which Lord Elgin was instructed to obtain from China—and which I am satisfied would have been very different if he had been left to follow his own judgment—as one containing within itself abundant seeds of future difficulties, and, 565 I am afraid, of future wars. These are things which I think, my Lords, you ought to consider now while there is yet time. It is the more important that we should do so, because the lesson we ought to learn from the past is no less applicable in Japan than in China. In Japan, as in China, we have obtained, in reality by fear, rights of access and trading privileges, which its rulers would gladly have withheld if they had dared. Already there are symptoms that, unless Her Majesty's Government exercise a firm control, these privileges will be abused in Japan as they have been in China, and will, no doubt, lead in the end to the similar result of a Japanese war. I earnestly hope that Her Majesty's Government will not allow this to happen, and my object in bringing this subject this evening before you, has been, if possible, to convince Her Majesty's Government, your Lordships, and the country, that, in our recent dealings with these semi-barbarous nations, we have been pursuing a policy inconsistent alike with our duty and our interest, and that we can only hope permanently to maintain satisfactory relations with them, and to carry on a profitable commerce, if we are content to trust for it to the good will of the people to be earned by fair and considerate treatment, and to their sense of their own interest,— not to privileges extorted by the sword. If we had heretofore acted upon this principle, I am persuaded that we might have obtained the means of carrying on, without war and violence, a large and lucrative commerce with China and Japan; but by the policy we have actually followed, all we have gained is this:—We have inflicted upon China the horrors of war; while we have brought upon ourselves, an enormous expenditure, the amount of which, I am persuaded, when fairly known will both astonish and alarm the country; and the result of this immense outlay has been not to extend your trade, or to make it more secure, but, on the contrary, to leave it on a more precarious footing than before. Do not, my Lords, let it be supposed that when I say this, I mean to impute the whole blame for all these evils to the Europeans, and none to the Chinese. Far from it. The Chinese have made great advances in many of the useful arts of life, and they are in some respects a civilized people; but in others they are still essentially barbarians. They have shown this too much by the dread- 566 ful treatment of their prisoners, which has justly excited the horror and indignation of all Europe. But still I say the Chinese are singularly impressible by fair and generous treatment—witness the manner in which they behaved to Mr. Fortune, and even to Lord Elgin, as pointed out by himself on more than one occasion. They are amenable to the law of kindness; though, when their passions are raised, and they think themselves treated with injustice, they are also capable of the most frightful excesses. We must also remember that they have not, like us, been instructed in the great truths of Christianity; they have been brought up under a far lower standard of right and wrong. We must, therefore, expect often to meet from them with conduct of which we have good ground to complain. But it is not by meeting wrong with wrong, and violence with violence; but, on the contrary, by forbearance, and by the strictest adherence on our own part to those rules of right which we profess to reverence, that we can hope, by degrees, to bring about a better state of things.
My Lords, I have to add before I conclude that I think all the objections to our policy are greatly aggravated by our having united with the French in this war. Their quarrel was totally distinct from ours, and it ought to have been separately pursued; we had nothing to do with it, and ought not to have made ourselves responsible for the measures the French might think fit to adopt. At all events, before we joined with them in military operations, and aided them in exacting redress for the grievance of which they complained, there ought to have been a careful inquiry as to how far that grievance was a just one, and a complete understanding with our allies as to the redress to be exacted by them from the Chinese. I find in these papers no trace of any such inquiry, or of any understanding entered into between our Government and that of France, as to the terms which France might properly demand. What I do find is that our highest and most trusted diplomatic agents in China have expressed themselves in a manner which implies, I think, pretty clearly an opinion adverse to the justice of the French quarrel. In the first place, I observe that Lord Elgin, in an answer to an address presented by certain missionaries, urging that Chinese converts to Christianity should be protected by the treaty, replied, it was quite 567 right that Chinese converts should not be persecuted by their own Government; but it was also quite right that the Chinese should not be tempted to profess being converted in order to obtain abnormal protection against their own Government. Now, it is the power to protect Chinese converts to Catholicism which it has been the main object of France to establish. Again, Mr. Alcock states that the Chinese Treaties with France and England give to missionaries the right of protection, and to native converts the right of exemption, from any persecution on account of their change of religion; but he adds that the same treaties contain an express stipulation that missionaries are on no account to go into the interior of the empire. He says that this stipulation has been systematically violated from the beginning, both by Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries, but chiefly by the latter; and that the Roman Catholic missionaries, not content with penetrating into the interior of China, in defiance of the treaty, at the same time used the stipulation in favour of toleration in a manner justly offensive to the Imperial Government:—That this stipulation had for many years been made the ground of such frequent and irritating interference between Chinese subjects and their own authorities, even in the most distant provinces upon Reports of Roman Catholic missionaries domociled in the interior, as not only to force the fact of such domocile upon the Chinese in office in direct violation of the treaty, but to prove to them that it was systematic, and openly protected by one of the treaty powers.Mr. Alcock states that the alarm which this state of things has naturally created in China has been the greater from the fact that the rebels, or Taepings, as they are called, profess to entertain a form of Christianity, and is further aggravated by their recollecting that, two centuries ago, the interference of the missionaries was carried to such an extent, and became so unbearable, that the Chinese Government put an end to the whole system. All the missionaries then in the country were massacred, and a persecution was raised against Christians which has lasted till the present time. It thus appears that the traditional feeling of two hundred years has been enlisted to increase the jealousy of the Chinese, which led to a Roman Catholic Bishop in the interior being put to death by the local authorities, on the suspicion of his having been acting in concert with the rebels. It is for the 568 execution, or murder, of this missionary that France sought redress in the late war; but Mr. Alcock remarks that, with such legitimate causes for jealousy and alarm as he has described, it must be a matter of surprise that a single missionary out of the many hundreds in the interior has been left alive, not that one should have been sacrificed; and he winds up this part of his memorandum by observing "the French and the English both are in arms at this moment, each to assert rights that have been mainly brought into peril by unchecked abuses." Such is the nature of the quarrel between France and China. "We have enabled France virtually to establish political power, through the instrumentality of Roman Catholic priests throughout the whole country; and we have also enabled her to establish this extraordinary claim that she is at liberty to demand the restitution of any part of the property said to have been taken from the Roman Catholic Church some two centuries ago. In-the exercise of that power she has already, to the great astonishment and dissatisfaction of the British community, claimed as a site for a Roman Catholic cathedral one of the most valuable portions of the city of Canton. I doubt the wisdom of the policy we have thus pursued. When I look at the manner in which French Roman Catholics missionaries have used their power in other places, when I remember how they employed it in the South Sea Islands, when I call to mind how nearly France and England were embroiled in war, by the over-bearing conduct of the French missionaries in the celebrated case of Mr. Prichard, when I remember, further, that missionaries of all kinds—not Roman Catholics only, but Protestants as well—are too apt to interfere unnecessarily with the governments of barbarous countries, I must question the wisdom of our having given our support to the establishment of a system which will give so much power to French priests throughout the Chinese Empire. One word more and I have done. I have thought it my duty to bring this subject before your Lordships, because I believe that we are now pursuing a course which, if persevered in, must lead to the most calamitous results. Although I cannot flatter myself that my weak voice will be able to change the opinion of any of your Lordships, or of the country, yet I do hope that what has 569 passed this evening may induce some, both within and without this House, to look into this subject for themselves; and I am persuaded that, if the subject should attract the attention it deserves from its extreme importance—if the papers which have been laid before us are studied as they ought to be, public opinion will eventually be brought to the same conclusion at which I have myself arrived, and the necessity of reconsidering our whole system of Chinese policy will he generally recognized.
My Lords, I am relieved from the necessity of entering into all the circumstances which led to our dispute with China, or of discussing the questions arising out of the conduct of Her Majesty's Envoy in that country, because the noble Earl throughout his interesting speech has almost entirely abstained from referring to those matters. It is true that he alluded once or twice to the almost forgotten affair of the lorcha Arrow; but he did so in an incidental manner, and it is quite unnecessary that I should make any observations upon that much-discussed subject. Before proceeding to notice the remarks of the noble Earl, I wish to state that there will be no objection to produce the papers for which he has moved. There are only two despatches, which, or parts of which, I will lay on the table. They explain shortly what was Lord Elgin's intention in proceeding up the Yang-tze-Kiang. That intention was, not to interfere in any manner in the civil war now being waged between the insurgents and the Chinese Government, or to use force, but to endeavour to make arrangements for the carrying on of trade. I may add, that Lord Elgin's intention has been communicated to the Imperial Government at Pekin, and that they have made no objection to its being carried into effect.
My Lords, the noble Earl began at a very early period. He went back some thirty years, and told us of a time when commerce was carried on from only one port in China. He then came down to the events which led to the Treaty of 1842; and I think it will be sufficient if I begin with the events which led to the Treaty of Nankin. The noble Earl was extremely severe upon the Treaty of Nankin, and what he called its consequences. I think that, in many respects, the noble Earl has exaggerated those bad consequences. I am afraid, also, he has not considered what 570 alternative course could have been pursued by this country. He has not sufficiently taken into account the weakness of the Chinese Government, and the extreme difficulty of dealing with that Government on the one hand, and a large number of Europeans anxious to trade on the other. I think I can show that our officers in China have done their utmost to carry out the stipulations of the treaty, and have displayed the utmost good faith towards the Chinese Government, and have, in some respects, succeeded in effecting a considerable amelioration.
The first point to which the noble Earl referred, in speaking of the Treaty of Nankin, was the question of opium. It is very easy to throw the whole blame of the opium trade, as is constantly done, upon this country; but let it not be forgotten that, although the Chinese Government prohibited by law the use of opium, they never were able practically to enforce that prohibition. If we had endeavoured to stop the trade in opium, we must have done that which the noble Earl also says is so undesirable—namely, enforce the laws of the Chinese Government. I believe that practically it is inevitable that opium should be carried into China, and that the arrangement under the new treaty by which the trade in opium is legalized and subjected to a moderate duty, is the most humane, the most reasonable, and the most sensible arrangement that could be made. I pass now to the question of the payment of duties. My noble Friend will find in the papers that have been laid on the table of the House a great deal of information on the subject. It has been, as all who have taken an interest in the affairs of China very well known, a very embarrassing question for the Government of this country to deal with. We were bound by the Treaty of Nankin to assist the Chinese authorities as far as we could in the duty of enforcing the duties payable by our merchants. Other Powers did not undertake that responsibility; and, in consequence of the weakness and corruption of the Chinese system, a great inequality was established, which became intolerable to our merchants. The merchants of other countries—and in all countries there are unscrupulous men— evaded the payment of the duties, or paid only a small portion. The conscientious British merchant, therefore, who paid full duties, found himself in a position in which he could not carry on trade with advantage. So far from Her Majesty's Govern- 571 ment being responsible for this state of things, the responsibility falls primarily and principally on the Government of China. The Chinese Government were bound to see that they had efficient officers and that the duties were fairly enforced. But when we found that the weakness of the Chinese Government was such that they could not enforce those duties, we took the only measures which could be devised for endeavouring to secure their fair collection. The noble Earl has mentioned the system established first at Shanghai, and since extended to other ports, by which what is called foreign inspectorships have been established, and under which, as now finally arranged, foreign gentlemen, officers of the Chinese Government, and independent of foreign Governments, are to superintend the collection of duties. Nothing, I believe, can be more fair or just than the system carried out by these gentlemen; and Mr. Bruce points out in one of his despatches that the Chinese Government have received no less than £1,000,000 under the new arrangement. I have no intention to weary your Lordships by reading despatches, but as the noble Earl has brought a wholesale accusation against the consular authorities for not having done their duty previous to the establishment of inspectorships, I shall trouble you with a short extract, and it is the only one to which I shall refer. Mr. Bruce says—The records of the Foreign Office will prove that for several years after the opening of Shanghai to trade a system of smuggling and of compromising duties prevailed to an extent that destroyed practically the value of a fixed tariff, and defeated the calculations of the honest merchant who found himself, owing to the corruption of the Chinese Custom House officials, exposed to a ruinous and unfair competition with his less scrupulous rivals in commerce. Her Majesty's consuls, in fulfilment of the obligation imposed on them by the Treaty of Nankin (an obligation not assumed by the other Treaty Powers), omitted no effort to insure the payment of the just duties to the Chinese Government. They imposed fines for breaches of regulation on British merchants, they gave notice of lax proceedings to the Chinese, but they succeeded in effecting no improvement in the system, while they incurred much odium among their countrymen by inflicting penalties on them for acts which it was notorious the citizens of other countries were committing every day with complete impunity.That proves that no effort was spared on the part of the British authorities to procure a fair execution of the stipulations. More than that they could not do. It was 572 impossible to make the authorities incorrupt or to prevent abuses which are inherent in Chinese administration.
My Lords, the next point to which the noble Earl referred is one of great and deep interest—I mean the emigration of coolies. I entirely concur in the general remarks of the noble Earl, though not in his conclusions. I entirely concur in all which he said as to the iniquity of the system—not only on the ground of humanity, which is the highest, and amply sufficient for the occasion, but on other grounds. It was our obvious policy and interest to try to put an end to that system, because a continuance of a system of kidnapping on the coast justly irritated the Chinese population, and if continued would have probably endangered peaceful intercourse with them, and might perhaps put an end to our whole trade with China. But when the noble Earl goes on to charge the British Government and this country with being responsible for that system, I can assure him that, so far from that being the case, no effort was spared to put an end to it; and, moreover, that our efforts were far, indeed, from being without success. Some years ago, when I held the position of Under Secretary of State, I moved in this House a Bill brought from the other House of Parliament, which was the first which passed on this subject, and by which regulations were imposed on Chinese passengers. This first step was followed by further regulations, and as regards British ships they were quite sufficient. But the kidnappers, finding that British ships were unavailable, had recourse to foreign ships. When the allies occupied Canton they determined to establish a better system, so far at least as that port was concerned. A gentleman recommended by the Colonial Office, Mr. Austin, who was well versed in the emigration system to the West Indies and other parts, succeeded in establishing a system of regulations at Canton under which coolies have been regularly and peacefully engaged for emigration to our West Indian colonics. So great has been the satisfaction of the Chinese with those regulations that whereas before it was impossible to obtain Chinese women and children to accompany Chinese men to the Colonies—whereby great evils resulted—whole families have since been embarked, and 300 or 400 respectable Chinese women have been sent to our Colonies. This was done with the full approbation and co-operation of 573 the Chinese authorities. The Chinese Governor General, being a sensible man, entered at once into the reasons which were laid before him for legalising this emigration. He concurred with our authorities in the regulations adopted, and they succeeded by forcible measures in putting an end to kidnapping in the river, and in establishing a system as humane as any system of emigration from the ports of this kingdom. Her Majesty's Government are anxious to see the system extended to other Chinese ports, and to all European ships. They have communicated with all the European Governments and with the Government of the United States. They have urged on those Governments, in the strongest terms, the policy and humanity of adopting the present system, and I hope the different Governments will concur in a single course of action upon a matter which, in our relations with the Chinese, is of the greatest importance. If any Government should not do so, then I agree with the noble Earl it will incur a grave responsibility for neglecting an obvious and pressing duty.
My noble Friend mentioned, among other topics, the great increase of piracy on the Chinese seaboard. There is no doubt that the Chinese seaboard is in a condition far from satisfactory. But the efforts of Her Majesty's and other European Governments to suppress piracy have been untiring, and I am sure every one in this House must have remarked frequent accounts of gallant engagements between naval officers and Chinese pirates. Of course, all the Government can do is to keep men-of-war on the coast to suppress a crime which is disturbing to our trade and pernicious to our interests. These, I think, are the principal points to which the noble Earl has called attention.
The Treaty of Nankin naturally led to the present treaty. The present treaty is an extension, undoubtedly, of the Treaty of Nankin. My noble Friend finds fault with the whole of our policy towards the Chinese. He says that our intercourse has been the source of all the evils which have been witnessed; that it has corrupted the honesty of our merchants—that it has entailed an immense pecuniary expenditure, and that it will probably end in a permanent occupation of the country. I admit that, in dealing with such an Empire as China, questions of grave character and great difficulty must arise. But they are difficulties which have arisen wherever 574 European civilization and strength have been brought in contact with Eastern barbarism and weakness. In India, Turkey, and Japan, the result has been the same. The noble Earl has stated, with great force, all the difficulties of the problem, but he has not contributed a single element for its solution. I cannot suppose that he thinks trade might be limited to one port, as formerly, because, in that case, Europeans would repair to others which were not under our control. We, therefore, extended the number of ports and regulated the intercourse by treaty. If the Chinese had simply and honestly endeavoured to observe the provisions of the treaty, I maintain that they would never have been subjected to another foreign war. The Chinese Government, by their treachery and insincerity, and their refusal to adhere to plain engagements, have brought the war on themselves. With a Government which conducts itself in this way, it is impossible to avoid quarrelling. If you submit to their evasions and their insults they are constantly on the increase; and, if you take measures to vindicate your rights and compel them to fulfil their engagements, then you put yourself in the position of killing the goose which lays the golden eggs—you go to war and you run the risk of shaking the whole fabric of the Government. I fully concede that to my noble Friend, but it is inevitable if you have dealings with a Government so constantly insincere and treacherous. In fact, there are but two alternatives in dealing with Asiatic Governments, either there must be no intercourse at all with them as in Japan, or that intercourse must be placed under treaty regulations. If an Asiatic country like Japan can entirely shut out foreigners, then none of these difficulties arise: but if they open a communication with you, and you conclude a treaty, you ought to adhere strictly and simply to the words of the treaty. If you think there is a provision in that treaty which need not be carried out, renounce it at once, plainly as useless; but if you once give them an idea that you will depart from the simple words of the treaty you will get into endless difficulties—Asiatic diplomacy is sure to beat you in the long run, and you end the controversy by cutting the Gordian knot with the sword. My noble Friend drew a very lamentable picture of the state of China, which is, I am afraid, to a considerable extent too true; but the blame of which rests neither with the people nor the Go- 575 vernment of this country. It is easy to say that the Taeping rebellion has been caused by the consequences of the war of 1842, but any one who has read all through the documents on this subject will find it extremely difficult to determine the causes or the object of that rebellion. I have always understood—though I am not sufficiently well read in Chinese history to be certain of the fact — that such rebellions had happened in China before several times, and that they have lasted twenty and thirty years; so that, in fact, there is nothing taking place in China different from what has taken place before. As to our conduct at Shanghai, I cannot conceive how any other course could have been adopted there. When the rebels attacked Shanghai it was not a question of interfering between the Chinese Government and its rebellious subjects—it was a question whether or not you would allow a community of British merchants to be murdered, and the trade broken up, and the settlement destroyed. I should have thought that there could not be two opinions on the point. I can assure the noble Earl that we have not the slightest intention of interfering in the civil commotions of China, but in cases where our merchants are menaced by such peril, it is the duty, and it is the policy, too, of the Government to ward off such a calamity. My noble Friend went from China to Japan, and he gave us to understand that we were very likely to have a repetition of the same difficulties there. My noble Friend had but one remedy, and that was that we should trust in all things to the goodwill of this Asiatic people. As far as we have yet gone we have pursued that plan. We have certainly shown no disposition to quarrel, or to cause unnecessary difficulties; and though thus far, owing to the prudence and judgment of Mr. Alcock, we have avoided any serious difference with the Japanese Government, we certainly have not met with that goodwill, but with what we always meet with —the ordinary treachery and chicanery of Asiatics. My noble Friend has praised the conduct of Lord Elgin, and seems to think that if Lord Elgin had been left to his own discretion he would probably have concluded a different treaty with China. I can only say that I have had many conversations with Lord Elgin on the subject of this treaty, and I never for a moment heard him propose any other policy than the policy of this treaty; and when he went back to China and had an oppor- 576 tunity of inserting modifications in it, he never, that I know of, made any such attempt. With regard to the indemnity, I am sure the demand we made upon the Chinese Government—two and a-half millions for the expenses of the war — was extremely moderate; the most moderate ever asked, I think, from any Government under such circumstances. Whoever we may have done in 1842, the moderation displayed all through our late negotiations must be apparent to any one who takes a candid view of these matter. The mode of attack chosen at the commencement of operations was such as would least interfere with the trade of the country. It was an attack on the central Government alone; the march was a short one, the conduct of our troops was excellent, and, with the exception of the burning of the Summer Palace—which it would not be difficult to justify —*- the Chinese suffered very little. Operations of such magnitude had never been carried on with so slight injury to an invaded people. On the other hand, the conduct of the Chinese Government, it must be admitted, was not such as demanded any great consideration. The Emperor of China issued an edict, setting forth the origin and circumstances of his difference with us, and offering so much per head for the heads either of black or white men. Looking at the language in which that edict was couched every one must admit that the barbarity of the Chinese Government was carried to the utmost pitch. Nor was it confined to edicts alone. The House knew too well the barbarous manner in which our countrymen—prisoners—were treated; and never was greater moderation shown than in our concluding peace without increasing any of the demands we had made before that abominable outrage was committed.
My Lords, I do not think it necessary that I should trouble your Lordships with more observations, which can only be of a general character. My noble Friend has made no specific charge against the Government. He has merely objected, in general terms, to the whole course of our policy towards China. There are great difficulties connected with the matter, but I believe there is no other course than to get access to the central Government, and conclude a distinct engagement with it, and to endeavour to induce it to perform its engagements faithfully. As regards our intercourse with the central Government, 577 I believe our policy is eminently a right one. It has been said that it would have been better if we had confined ourselves to dealing with the local Governments alone. I believe a greater mistake could not be made. The system of China is a highly centralized system; that is to say, although you have local authorities who are in a position of great laxity towards the central Government in minor matters, yet you have no great satraps or governors who are independent of the central authority. More than one instance might be cited of the wisdom of going to the central authority. You will find in one of the dispatches that, when Mr. Bruce spoke to Prince Kung of the events which had occurred at Shanghai, the Prince owned that he was utterly ignorant of what had taken place, and expressed himself as grateful for the information given to him. As far as we can see, the communications made by Prince Kung to Lord Elgin and Mr. Bruce show that if the Chinese Government could be enlightened as to the condition of the seaport provinces it would be amenable to reason on all subjects of dispute between us. While, on the one hand, you thus have a proof of the advantage of such communications, a singular instance of the want of them is also furnished in the papers. A curious letter is there given, in which the Lieutenant Governor of Shanghai gives the Imperial Government an account of the attack of rebels and their repulse. In this account there is not one word about the assistance given by the European forces; the whole merit of the action is given to the local troops, who all ran away the moment the insurgents appeared. In return, the Chinese Government were so pleased that they gave this man a red button, and the other a white one, and promised a third the first appointment that fell vacant; adding, however,—"Let him hand over the usual fee forthwith." Such communications show how disadvantageous both to us and to the Chinese Government has been the system which allowed us to communicate only with the local authorities. A different system is now inaugurated by the treaty. I admit that, if the Central Government is so weak, and if China is so disorganized, that no authority can be exercised at Pekin, and no influence can be brought to bear by the Government there upon the local authorities, then, of course, our efforts to carry out the treaty will be unavailing, and our relations with 578 China will be thrown into confusion. But I maintain that in going to Pekin, and in concluding this moderate treaty—in endeavouring to show the Chinese that we act in good faith, and wish fairly to observe all our treaty stipulations—we have made a just and righteous effort to prevent the evils which the noble Earl apprehends, and the responsihility of those evils, if they occur, will fall not upon us, but upon the Chinese Government.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, I am unwilling to allow this discussion to terminate without expressing how entirely I concur in all that has fallen from my noble Friend (Earl Grey), and to thank him for myself, and I think I may say for your Lordships also, for his extremely able and useful speech, recalling to your Lordships' attention the whole of our transactions with China during the last twenty years. My Lords, it is with pain and regret I say that the state of things pictured by the noble Earl has not been in the slightest degree, in my judgment, over coloured; and the state of things pictured by the noble Lord (Lord Wode-house) has not dispelled the pain which the noble Earl's picture has excited. I think we have acted towards China with injustice. The cruelties and treacheries of the Chinese officials, which recent transactions have particularly manifested, have deprived them of all sympathy. The result will be, on our part, more injustice; and, I fear, more calamities for China. We have now terminated the fourth campaign of Sir John Bowring's war. I might call it also Lord Palmerston's war, because Lord Palmerston adopted it. But are we at the end of the war itself? Of that I am not so confident. Until all the conditions of the treaty are fulfilled—until our troops are withdrawn from Tien-tsin, and from every other portion of the Chinese territory—I cannot think that the war is wholly concluded: because, at any moment that war may break out again. The position of our troops in Tien-tsin in particular is the cause of great anxiety. For four or five months in the year they can have no communication whatever with the south; they can receive no reinforcements. It is true there is a force there that is probably sufficient to repel all attacks; but it is not sufficient to deter attack, and an attack, however repelled, is the renewal of the war. My Lords, I have always looked with the greatest pain on the condition of China as produced by our transactions 579 there in 1842. I recollect perfectly well the events of that war; and I recollect also that the accounts transmitted to the Government at that time stated the impending dissolution which the success of our arms threatened to bring on the Chinese Government. From that war, from its success, and the consequent weakness of the Chinese Government, I date the commencement of those troubles which have since desolated the fairest portion of the Chinese empire. There is one article in the treaty just concluded which I confess I see with very great regret—the article which legalises the emigration of coolies. I doubt its propriety—I doubt its justice, and still more doubt its policy. Its effect will be to identify us, in the opinion of the Chinese, with those other European nations who do not exercise their right in respect to coolie emigration in the same manner in which it will be exercised by us. It will obtain for us—it has already obtained for us—in place of the former name which the Chinese thought fit to give us, of "foreign devils" and "barbarians"—it has obtained for us the name of "man-stealers," which is the most odious name that can be inflicted on any body of persons in the world. I know that the Government will discountenance —I hope that our merchants will not engage in—a discreditable trade of this description. At the same time it is impossible for us, with this article keeping its place in our treaty, to direst the Chinese of the idea that we shall act in the same manner as other European nations have unfortunately acted. There is another matter which has been rather slightly touched upon. I refer to the rumour that it is the intention of Government to send an expedition up the river Yang-tze-Kiang. I think this is one of the most important subjects which can occupy the attention of Government. As I understood the noble Lord (Lord Wodehouse) the object of that expedition is merely for the purpose of protecting or furthering trade. [Lord WODEHOUSE: Opening trade.] Now, my Lords: first of all, we are not justified without further communication, and without the authority of the Chinese Government, in going up the Yang-tze-Kiang for such a purpose; because by the treaty we are not entitled to open the trade of that river till peace was established on its banks, and we know that the right bank is held in force by great bodies of rebels.
The noble Earl 580 is perfectly correct in saying that, according to the treaty, we are not entitled to proceed up the Yang-tze-Kiang until after tranquillity is restored. But in the communications which were subsequently made to the Chinese Government, Mr. Bruce stated that he thought permission might be given now, and the Chinese Government raised no objection to the expedition proceeding at once up that river.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
I rejoice greatly to hear that explanation from the noble Lord, because I think that, rightly managed, this expedition will afford the only hope of restoring good government in Central China. The noble Lord talks of opening trade, but the noble Lord must know that that means opening fire. Your Lordships are aware that when Lord Elgin made his former voyage up the river as high as Hang-Kow he was fired upon by the rebels at Nankin and at other places. The British returned the fire, and with effect. If it is intended now to go up the river for the purpose of opening trade, we should be perfectly justified, if these banditti—for banditti they are—if they place any obstructions in the way of the expedition, we shall be perfectly justified in removing those obstructions. We cannot remove them otherwise than by arms, and in doing so we shall incidentally be doing something in the heart of the Chinese Empire to restore the authority of the Chinese Government. That is the only way in which we can incidentally repress the advances of these rebels—in which we can put an end to the horrid combinations of those miscreants, who to their bloodshed and massacre add the crime of blasphemy; who violate women, who destroy men and all men's works. It is only in using our arms and our strength in repressing those banditti that we can in any manner atone for the great miseries we have brought on the Chinese Empire, and for the injuries we have done to humanity by our conduct in these wars.
§ EARL GREY,
in reply, denied that he had made any wholesale charges against the consular body. On the contrary, he was much impressed with the evidence the paper contained of the ability and honesty with which these gentlemen for the most part discharged their duties—nor had he made any charge against the English Government for having wilfully neglected to enforce the provisions of the Treaty of Nankin. He well knew the insurmountable difficulty of doing so; but, 581 what he complained of was that through ignorance the British Government had come under engagements to that of China, to do certain things which it was wholly incapable of doing; and that, upon the faith of these engagements, had compelled the Chinese to submit to alterations in their laws which had proved ruinous to the Empire. The Chinese formerly had a system they were used to, and which they perfectly understood. If we had allowed them to continue their Hong, and if the trade had been confined to it, the Chinese agents would have levied the duties. It might have been a barbarous system, but the Chinese understood it, and it answered the purpose. We forced them to change it, and the responsibility rested on us. In fact, all the evils and abuses of which he had complained came under one head. English subjects had been exempted from all Chinese authority. No doubt it would often have been exercised with great barbarity; but if Europeans went to the country they should do so at their own risk, knowing what was likely to happen. But if they were only to be judged by English laws, when there were no English police, no English courts, and no means of maintaining order and peace, it was utterly impossible that abuses should not prevail. What he complained of was that they had taken a wrong course of action. The noble Lord stated that we must either abstain from intercourse with China altogether, or that our intercourse between the two nations must be regulated by treaty. He entirely differed from him. He believed there was a third alternative. The intercourse might be carried on with all the risks attached to it—a pure voluntary intercourse carried on by merchants who might be disposed to trade, apart from all treaties. He objected to treaties with semi-barbarous nations, because the stipulations they contained were sure to be violated, and when violated we are compelled to interfere for the purpose of enforcing them. The Chinese could not be forced into European systems without pulling down the whole fabric of the barbarian Government. By the manner in which they were treating China they were, as the noble Lord had himself admitted, "killing the goose that laid the golden eggs." The noble Lord had called the present treaty an extension of the Treaty of Nankin. He entirely concurred in this description of it, and that was his reason for objecting to it. The treaty of 582 Nankin had been proved to be a mistake by its results. Its extension, therefore, was only an extension of the mistake; it was a further step on a wrong road and in a pernicious course of policy. The noble Lord had referred to the amount of the Chinese indemnity as exceedingly moderate. If they had any right to an indemnity at all, he admitted it was moderate; it amounted to but a fraction of the expenses of the war. But what he urged was this—that, moderate or immoderate, it was placing a load upon China which was more than she had strength to bear, and which must insure the ruin of that empire.
§ Motion agreed to.