Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

There was, however, so little interest in the subject, that this premium was never awarded, though the proposal was extensively dvertised both in China and England. The memorial of Hu Kiu mentioned the names of several fo. reigners, English, Parsees, and Americans, residing at Canton, who were extensively engaged in the opium trade; and in three edicts issued by the governor in the autumn of 1836, the immediate departure of nine persons therein mentioned was required. So habitually, however, did foreigners disregard the commands and prohibitions of the local government, that none of them has: tened their departure in consequence, though a report was of course made to the capital that orders had been issued for their expulsion. It was this posture of affairs which Captain Elliot referred to, and the desirableness of his coming to Canton was evident. The governor and his colleagues soon learned that the feeling at court was rather against legalizing, though they were directed to report concerning the amount of duty proper to be levied on it; and to show their zeal, arrested several brokers and dealers, some of whom were tortured and imprisoned. Aming, one of the linguists, was severely tortured and publicly exposed in the cangue for exporting sycee ; others escaped similar and worse treatment by absconding. The chief superintendent expressed his opinion, that “the legalization of the trade in opium would afford his majesty's government great satisfaction,” but suggested that the gradual diversion of British capital into other channels would be attended with advantageous consequences. To one situated as Captain Elliot was, between his own government which promoted the importation of opium, and the Chinese government which was now making extraordinary efforts to regulate it; and deeply sensible Personally of the injury resulting from its use to the people, and to the reputation of his own and all foreign nations generally, from the *stant infraction of the laws; the proposed step of admitting it by duty offered a timely relief. No one was more desirous of P*ng a stop to this destructive traffic than Captain Elliot, but knowing the impossibility of checking it by laws, he naturally wished to see the many political and commercial evils rowing out of smuggling done away. It was, indeed, much to be desired, that the Chinese would take this course ; and it is very remarkable that, the great reason why the emperor and his

BRITISH COMMISSION RETURNS TO CANTON. 501

advisers did not do so, was because it would be detrimental to the people. During the years 1837 and 1838, there was a constant struggle along the coast between the officers of government, the native smugglers, and the foreign dealers; sometimes the former competed with, and sometimes connived at, and then arrested the latter, while the foreigners seldom came in collision with either, but did all they could to promote the sale. In February, Capt. Elliot wrote to rear-admiral Capel, in India, requesting him to dispatch a ship of war to China, in order to visit the outer anchorages where the opium trade was carried on, “as one of the movements best calculated, either to carry the provincial government back to the system of connivance which has hitherto prevailed, or to hasten onwards the legalization measure from the court.” The sloop-of-war Raleigh soon after arrived in compliance with this request, and was dispatched to Fuhchau to procure the release of the lascars forming part of the crew of the opium brig Fairy, who had been detained there for many months, which she successfully accomplished. The main object, however, of the superintendent's request, could better be brought about by the action of the home government; and in the autumn of 1837, her majesty's secretary transmitted orders for the admiral himself to go to China and communicate with the British authorities there. Captain Elliot, being now at Canton, as the recognized head of the British trade, received an order through the hong-merchants from the provincial authorities, in September, to drive away the receiving-ships from Lintin, and send the emperor's commands to his king, that henceforth they be prohibited coming. He replied to the effect that he could not transmit any orders to his own sovereign which did not come to him direct from the government; and quoted the recent instance of the governor-general of Fuhkien communicating directly with the captain of a British ship of war. The governor was therefore forced to employ a different channel, and sent his orders to the prefect and colonel of the department to be by them enjoined on Captain Elliot. He replied by promising to send it to his country, and adds, in true diplomatic style, “He has already signified to your excellency with truth and plainness, that his commission extends only to the regular trade with this empire; and further, that the existence of any other than this trade has never yet been submitted to the knowthree junks were sunk, one blown up, and the rest scattered. Active measures were taken by the Chinese against the fleet at Hongkong, and the ships there went to Tungku. The commissioner on his part, finding every effort to induce the British ships to re-enter the port unsuccessful, two only having gone in, declared the trade with that nation at an end after December 6th., and forbade their goods to be imported in other vessels. Near the close of the month, Captain Smith issued another notice of a blockade to commence January 15th, but neither was this carried into effect, as Mr. Gribble, the person seized by the Chinese in the act of disobeying their laws, was restored. The great losses attending the detention of cargoes afloat, led to the request that English goods might be stored in Macao, but the Portuguese felt themselves obliged to refuse. The close of the year 1839 saw the two nations involved in serious difficulties, and as the events which have here been briefly recounted were the cause of the war, it will be proper to compare the opinions of the two parties, in order to arrive at a better judgment upon the character of that contest. The degree of authority to be exercised over persons who visit their shores is acknowledged by Christian nations among themselves to be nearly the same as that over their own subjects; but none of these nations have conceded this authority to unchristian powers, as Turkey, Persia, or China; mainly because of the little security and justice to be expected. The Chinese have looked upon foreigners resorting to their ports as doing so by sufferance; they entered into no treaty to settle the conditions of living in their borders, though they gave facilities for carrying on trade in a certain manner. Their right to prohibit the introduction of saltpetre and opium was acknowledged; and the propriety of making regulations as to the duties to be paid, allowed. But traders from western nations often set light by the fiscal regulations of such countries as China, Siam, &c., if they can do so without personal detriment, or loss of character; and where there is a want of power in the government, joined to a lack of moral sense in the people, all laws are imperfectly executed. No one, acquainted with these countries, is surprised at frequent and most flagrant violations of all law, order, and justice, both among rulers and ruled ; yet the obligation of foreigners to obey just laws made known to them, surely is not to be measured solely by the degree of obedience

ACTION OF THE COURT AGAINst opium. 503

or women were in her. The Wellesley and her two consorts were anchored near the forts, and the Chinese admiral made a full apology for the mistake, which had occurred without his or. ders; his conduct in the whole affair was very creditable both to his judgment and temper. As soon as Sir Frederick arrived, Captain Elliot endeavored to reopen the correspondence with the governor by sending an open letter to the city gates, which was received and taken to him, but returned in the evening, because it had not the required superscription. He therefore rejoined the ships of war. Two or three friendly communications subsequently passed between the two admirals, and in October, the Wellesley left the Chinese waters. Having now fully taken the sense of the empire, the efforts of the supreme government to suppress the contraband trade were much greater in the year 1838 than ever before, and indicated a determination to do its utmost to carry that will into effect. In April, a native named Kwoh Siping, was publicly strangled at Macao by express command of the emperor, as a warning to others not to engage in exporting sycee, or introducing opium. The execution of the sentence was conducted by the district magistrate and sub-prefect with the utmost propriety and order in the presence of a large crowd of natives and foreigners. A visit was paid one of the European smuggling schooners near the factories, some weeks previous to this tragical scene, and three chests of opium seized by the Chinese, and the hong-merchant, who owned the house of L. Just, the agent of the opium, was held responsible for not having duly warned his tenant, and for not seeing that his instructions took effect; it was understood he paid nearly ten thousand dollars to hush up the matter. The number of the soreign small craft under English and American flags plying up and down the river at this date was over fifty, most of them engaged in smuggling; sometimes the government seemed determined to exert its power, and boats were consequently destroyed, smugglers seized and tortured, and the sales checked; then, it went on again as briskly as ever. These boats were easily caught, for the government could exercise entire control over its own subjects; but when the foreign schooners, heavily armed and manned, sailed up and down the river delivering the drug, the revenue cruisers were afraid to attack them. In August, they were required to exhibit their passports at the Bogue. The hong-merhis conduct, and judging the probity and good faith of foreigners by his own standard, he deemed it safest to detain them until the opium was actually in his possession. Concluding that Captain Elliot did attempt to abscond with Mr. Dent, it is less surprising, therefore, that he should have looked upon his offers to “carry out the will of the great emperor,” when set at liberty, as a lure rather than a sincere proposition. In imprisoning him he had no more idea he was imprisoning, insulting, threatening, and coercing the representative of a power like Great Britain, or violating rules western powers call jus gentium, than if he had been the envoy from Siam or Lewchew. Whether he should not have known this is another question, and had he candidly set himself on his arrival at Canton, to ascertain the power, position, and commerce of western countries, he would have found Captain Elliot sincerely desirous of meeting him in his endeavors to fulfil his high commission. Let us deal fairly by the Chinese rulers in their desire to restrain a traffic of which they knew and felt vastly more of its evil than we have ever done, and give Lin especially his due, whose endeavors failed so signally. The opium was now obtained ; no lives had been lost, nor any one endangered, but the British government was bound to pay for it to its own subjects. The only source Captain Elliot suggested was to make the Chinese pay for it. The emperor ordered it to be destroyed, and the commissioner after executing that order, next endeavored to separate the legal from the contraband trade by demanding bonds; they had been taken in vain from the hong-merchants, but there was more hope if demanded from foreigners. The first contained nothing very objectionable, but the second involved the penalty of death. The bonds were not made a pretext for war by the English ministry; that, on the part of England, according to Lord John Russell, was “set afoot to obtain reparation for insults and injuries offered her majesty's superintendent and subjects; to obtain indemnification for the losses the merchants had sustained under threats of violence; and lastly, get security that persons and property trading with China should in future be protected from insult and injury, and trade maintained upon a proper footing.” Looking at the war, therefore, as growing out of this trade, and waged to recover the losses sustained by the surrendry to the British superintendent, it was an opium war, and eminently an unjust one, more especially

« EdellinenJatka »