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perity, and they were not likely to act imprudently. The orders of the supreme government for its officers on the coast to stop the traffic were utterly powerless, through the cupidity and venality of those officers and their underlings; yet their almost complete failure to execute them does not impugn the sincerity of the court in issuing them. There is not the least evidence to show that the court of Peking was not sincere in its desire to suppress the trade from the first edict in 1800 till the war broke out in 1840. The excuse that the government smuggled because its revenue cruisers engaged in it, and the provincial authorities winked at it, is no more satisfactory, in a large view of the case, than is the successful bribery of custom-house officers in England or elsewhere a proof of the corruption of the treasury department. The temptation of an “increasing and lucrative” trade was as strong to the unenlightened pagan Chinese smuggler as it was to the Christian merchants and monopolists who placed the poisonous drug constantly within their reach. It would have been far more frank on the part of the British superintendent to have openly defended a traffic affording a revenue of more than two millions' sterling to his own government, and suggested that such an “increasing and lucrative” business should not be impeded, than to say that he could stop British ships engaging in it as soon as he received orders to that effect. The existence of the commission at the outer anchorages was fully known to the authorities at Canton, but no movement towards reopening the intercourse was made by either party. Lord Palmerston instructed the superintendent not to communicate with the government through the hong-merchants, nor to give his written communications the name of petitions. By a dispatch received in Dec., 1836, Sir George Robinson was directed to hand the papers of his office to Charles Elliot, R. N., as the office and salary of chief superintendent was abolished, and the whole commission placed on a more economical footing, its annual salaries being reduced to about £10,000. Captain Elliot set about reopening the communication with the Chinese officers in the same way that the supercargoes of the E. I. Company had conducted it, on the day that he assumed office. In his dispatch, he explained the reasons of his conduct, upon the grounds that he had no right to direct official communication with the governor, and that the remarkable movements of the Chinese, and the criti.
PROPOSAL to LeGALize opium. 491
cal state of uncertainty in respect to the whole foreign trade, rendered it highly desirable to be at Canton. A new governor, Tăng Tingching, had superseded Lu, who willingly responded to the proposition of Captain Elliot, by sending a deputation of three officers to Macao with the hong-merchants, to make some inquiries before memorializing the emperor. In his report, the governor avoided all reference to Lord Napier, and requested his majesty's sanction to the present request as being in accordance with the orders that the English merchants should send home to have a supercargo come out to manage them. It was of course granted; and the British commission, having received a “red permit” from the collector of customs, returned to Canton, April 12th, 1837, after an absence of about thirty months. In his note to the governor upon receiving the imperial sanction, Captain Elliot says, “The undersigned respectfully assures his excellency, that it is at once his duty and his anxious desire, to conform in all things to the imperial pleasure; and he will therefore heedfully attend to the points adverted to in the papers now before him.” This language was much too strong, and his excellency afterwards called upon the superintendent to do as he had promised. The remarkable movements of the supreme government referred to by Captain Elliot, grew out of a memorial from Hu Nai-tsí, president of the Sacrificial Court, and formerly salt commissioner and judge at Canton, proposing the legalization of the opium trade. The memorialist states it to be his conviction that it is impossible to stop the traffic or use of the drug; if the foreign vessels be driven from the coast, they will go to some island near by, where the native craft will go off to them; and if the laws be made too severe upon those who smoke the drug, they will be disregarded. By legalizing it, he says the drain of the precious metals will be stopped, the regular trade rendered more profitable and manageable, and the consumption of the drug regulated. He proposes instant dismissal from office as the penalty for all functionaries convicted of smoking, while their present ineffectual attempts to suppress the trade, which resulted in general contempt for all law, would cease, and consequently the dignity of government be better maintained. The trade on the coast would be concentrated at Canton, and the fleet at Lintin broken up, thereby bringing all foreigners more completely under control. This unexpected movement at the capital caused no lit"
at Canton, and the hong-merchants presently advertised the foreigners that soon there would no longer be any need for keeping receiving-ships at Lintin. Captain Elliot wrote in his dispatch, that he thought legalization had come too late to stop the trade on the coast, and that the “feeling of independence created among British subjects from the peculiar mode of conducting this branch of the trade,” would erelong lead to graver difficulties, and acts of violence requiring the armed interference of his government. The impression was general at Canton, that the trade would be legalized, and increased preparations were accordingly made in India to extend the cultivation. The governor and his colleagues recommended its legalization on the grounds that the “tens of millions of precious money, which now annually ooze out of the empire, will be saved,” the duties be increased, the evil practices of transporting contraband goods by deceit and violence suppressed, numberless quarrels and litigations arising therefrom, and the crimes of worthless vagrants, diminished. They also delude themselves with the idea that if the officers were dismissed as soon as convicted, the intelligent part of society would not indulge their depraved appetites, but let the “victims of their own self. sacrificing folly,” the poor opium smokers, be found only among the lower classes. In connexion with this report, the hong-merchants replied to various inquiries respecting the best mode of carrying on the opium trade, in case it should be legalized, and their mode of conducting trade generally; adding, that it was beyond their power to control the smuggling trade, or restrain the exportation of sycee, and showed that the balance of trade would naturally leave the country in bullion. Both these papers are fairly drawn up, and their perusal cannot fail to elevate the character of the Chinese for consideration, carefulness, and businesslike procedure. There were other statesmen, however, who regarded Hu Nai-tsi's memorial as a dangerous step in the downward path, and sounded the alarm. Among these, the foremost was Chu Tsun, a cabinet minister, who sent in a counter memorial couched in the strongest terms. He advised that the laws be more strictly maintained, and cited instances to show that when the provincial authorities earnestly set about it they could put the trade down; that the people would soon learn to despise all laws if those against opium-smoking were suspended; and that recreant officers should
CHU TSUN opposes THE PROPOSITION. 493
be superseded and punished. His indignation warms as he goes on : “It has been represented that advantage is taken of the laws against opium, by extortionate underlings and worthless vagrants, to benefit themselves. Is it not known, then, that when government enacts a law there is necessarily an infraction of that law And though the law should sometimes be relaxed and become ineffectual, yet surely it should not on that account be abolished; any more than we should altogether cease to eat because of stoppage of the throat. The laws which forbid the people to do wrong may be likened to the dikes which prevent the overflowing of water. If any one, urging then, that the dikes are very old and therefore useless, we should have them thrown down, what words could express the consequences of the impetuous rush and alldestroying overflow ! Yet the provincials, when discussing the subject of opium, being perplexed and bewildered by it, think that a prohibition which does not utterly prohibit, is better than one which does not effectually prevent the importation of the drug. - - - - - - If we can but prevent the importation of opium, the exportation of dollars will then cease of itself, and the two offences will both at once be stopped. Moreover, is it not better, by continuing the old enactments, to find even a partial remedy for the evil, than by a change of the laws to increase the importation still further ?” He then proceeds to show that the native article could not compete with the foreign, for it would not be as well manufactured, and moreover “all men prize what is strange, and undervalue whatever is in ordinary use.” Its cultivation would occupy rich and fertile land now used for nutritive grains: “to draw off in this way the waters of the great fountain requisite for the production of food and raiment, and to lavish them upon the root whence calamity and disaster spring forth, is an error like that of the physician, who, when treating a mere external disease drives it inwards to the heart and centre of the body. Shall the fine fields of Kwangtung, which produce their three crops every year, be given up for the cultivation of this noxious weed 7” He says the question does not concern property and duties, but the welfare and vigor of the people; and quotes from the History of Formosa a passage showing the way in which the natives there were enervated by using it, and adds that the purpose of the English in introducing opium into the country has been to weaken and enfee
ble it. Kanghi long ago (1717) remarked, he observes, “There is cause for apprehension, lest in the centuries or milleniums to come, China may be endangered by collisions with the various nations of the west, who come hither from beyond the seas.” And now in less than two centuries, “we see the commencement of that danger which he apprehended.” The suggestion of Hu Nai-tsi to allow it to the people and interdict the officers, is called bad casuistry, “like shutting a woman's ears before you steal her earrings.” He shows that this distinction will be vain, for it will be impossible to say who is of the people and who are officers, for all the latter are taken from the body of the former. The permission will induce people to use it who now refrain from fear of the laws; for even the proposal has caused “thieves and villains on all hands to raise their heads and open their eyes, gazing about and pointing the finger, under the notion that when once these prohibitions are repealed, thenceforth and for ever they may regard themselves far from every restraint and cause of fear.” He asserts that nothing but strong laws rigidly carried into effect will restrain them from their evil ways, and concludes by recommending increased stringency in their execution as the only hope of reformation. This spirited paper was supported by another from a sub-censor, Hú Kiu, on the necessity of checking the exportation of silver and recommending that a determined officer be sent to punish severely the native traitors, which would add dignity to the laws; and then the barbarians would be awed and consequently reform, and be entirely defeated in their designs of conquering the country. He cites several instances of their outrageous violation of the laws, such as levelling graves in Macao for the purpose of making a road over them, landing goods there for entering them at Canton in order to evade the duties and port-charges, and even riding in sedans with four bearers, like Chinese officers. Force need only be put forth a little, he thought, and they would again be humbled to subjection; but if they still brought the pernicious drug, then inflict capital punishment upon them as well as upon natives. The sub-censor expresses the same opinion as Chu Tsun regarding the designs of foreigners in bringing opium, that v wished first to debilitate and impoverish the land as a prev measure, for they never smoked the drug in their own but brought it all to China. This impression was preva