Observations on our Chinese Commerce; including remarks on the proposed reduction of the tea duties, our new settlement at Hong-Kong, and the opium trade | 1850














1850 .


/ 22/






THESE Observations were written to illus

trate the Miscellaneous Notices on China

published in 1822, and intended to be bound

up with the remaining copies of that work ;

but as the first edition and part of the second

are already in the hands of the Public, this

separate publication has been issued for the

convenience of the possessors of the original


LONDON, Jan. 1 , 1850.



Propose to trace the progress of events in China since

the original publication of this work . – State of the Trade

under the East India Company .-- Trade thrown open in

1833.-War commenced with China in 1839.-Peace re

stored in 1842, and its consequences .--Appointment in

1847 of a Parliamentary Committee of Enquiry.-- Its Con

stitution, Labours, and Recommendations. — Advantages

that may be expected to result from a reduction of the Tea

Duties.- Parliamentary Debate on the opening of the Trade

in 1833.-- Omission of precautionary Measures in China,

and consequent melancholy fate of Lord Napier. - Regrets

universally expressed at this omission when the China

War was subsequently discussed in Parliament in 1840.

Character of the policy recommended in our intercourse

with the Chinese, illustrated by a reference to Lord Am

herst's Mission to Pekin in 1816.-Condition and Pros

pects of our New Settlement at Hong- Kong.-Character

and Consequences of the Opium Trade.-- Recent enlarged

cultivation of the Tea Plant in India.-- Encouragements

held out since the Peace with China, for the diffusion of

Christianity in that country .

This little work , having been originally pub

lished in 1822, and a considerable portion of it

written in 1813, it may not prove uninteresting

at the present period ( 1850), to point out the

connection between the circumstances here

recorded , and the events that have since

occurred .



With respect to the literary notices con

tained in this volume, I have not much to say.

If they were at any time interesting, as illus

trative of the character, manners, and institu

tions of a very singular people, that interest

will not be much affected by the lapse of

years. The views and speculations which I

have hazarded upon these topics are not likely

to be less correct and appropriate now than

they were thirty years ago. But , in respect

to political and commercial questions, the case

is altogether different. During this interval

an entire revolution has taken place in our

political and commercial relations with China ;

first, through the abolition of the East India

Company's exclusive privileges, and, secondly,

by the fortune of war ; under such circum

stances the political and commercial reminis

cences contained in this volume might, at first

sight, seem quite out of date. Yet, if it be a

fact, as I shall endeavour to show, that the

course of events, since these pages were written,

has substantially confirmed all the leading prin

ciples which have been advocated in them ,

they may not prove altogether unworthy of

a second perusal .

Our present position in China is generally

felt to be a critical one. The next few


months may decide whether it be practicable

to maintain a mutually beneficial understand

ing with that country upon a solid basis, or

whether the force of circumstances may not

involve us in another sanguinary and protracted

conflict with the Chinese race,

It was one of my leading objects in this

volume to record the firm and honourable, and

at the same time consistent and conciliating

course, by which, during the latter years of their

administration , the servants of the East India

Company preserved the trade committed to

their charge in the midst of all its difficulties

and perils. Within a few months after the

trade was thrown open, an opposite course, to

which both vacillation and temerity have been

imputed, brought the unfortunate Lord Napier

to a premature grave ; and, after a few years

of feverish intercourse , led to an open rup

ture between the two countries, and a three

years' war. It is true we at length extorted

from the Chinese, by means of a series

of formidable naval and military operations

(which it would be very inconvenient to have

now to repeat), a favourable treaty of peace .

Nevertheless, at the port of Canton, which is

still the chief mart of British commerce , our

position is represented to be, both socially


and commercially, considerably worse than it

was previous to the war, and while the Trade

was subject to the rule of the Company !

A state of things so disappointing to the

hopes and expectations of the country, natu

rally led to the appointment, in 1847; of a Par

liamentary Committee, for the special purpose

of inquiring into the Condition of our Commer

cial Relations with China, and particularly the

state of the Tea Trade. The Committee con

sisted of several gentlemen of commercial

eminence, representing constituencies more or

less interested in our Eastern traffic ; one or

two individuals holding official situations under

Government ; and a few others, including my

self, who were supposed to possess more or less

local knowledge and experience upon the pro

bable subjects of inquiry . The Committee thus

constituted sat about three months, and ex

amined a great number of witnesses from

various quarters, upon the subject of the ac

tual working and condition of the Tea Trade,

both at home and abroad . In July, 1847,

they made their report, and accompanied it

with the minutes of the evidence, consisting

of nearly five thousand questions and answers,

followed by a copious appendix of official and

other illustrative documents, forming altogether


a Blue Book of somewhat formidable dimen

sions. In this Blue Book we have indoubt

edly a very useful and valuable collection of

facts and opinions, for future reference upon all

questions connected with Chinese commerce.

At the same time it must be confessed that a

viva voce examination of this kind, in the

presence of a Parliamentary Committee, is at

tended with some disadvantages . It burthens

the subject with much irrelevant matter, and

much tedious circumlocution and repetition ;

and whenever, as is often the case, questions

are proposed of too complicated a nature safely

to admit of such off-hand replies, it is liable to

become, occasionally, a record of hasty and ill

considered opinions. In cases also of conflict

ing evidence and contradictory statements on

matters of fact, it is difficult for those who

possess no previous familiarity with the sub

ject, or personal acquaintance with the wit

nesses, so to estimate the relative weight of

their adverse testimonies, as to draw any

very positive conclusions. The noble chair

man , Lord Sandon (now Earl of Harrowby ),

certainly showed much tact and judgment, as

well as ability, in summing up the evidence ;

and the Report, of which the following are


the opening paragraphs, was unanimously ap

proved by the Committee.

“ In reporting on the Condition of our Com

mercial Relation with China, your Committee

regret to state, on undoubted evidence, that

the trade with that country has been for some

time in a very unsatisfactory position , and that

the result of our extended intercourse has by

no means realized the just expectations which

had been naturally founded on a freer access

to so magnificent a market.

" Whether we look to the tables of exports,

which mark a declension of exports in nearly

every branch of manufacture, or listen to the

statements of experienced merchants and ma

nufacturers, we are brought to the same con

clusion .” Report, p. iii .

The Committee conclude this branch of

their inquiries with the following recommenda

tion of aa remedy, the commercial advantage of

which is sufficiently obvious, but which, in a

financial point of view, has not yet met with

much favour.

“ For these reasons your Committee think

themselves warranted in recommending to the

House a considerable reduction in the Duty on

Tea, at the earliest period which in its wisdom


it may see fit, as most desirable in itself, with a

view to the comforts and social habits of the

people, as involving but a temporary loss to

the Revenue, and as essential to the extension

of our trade with China ; nay, even to its

maintenance at the point which it has al

ready reached .” Report, p . vii .

Arguing upon general principles , it certainly

cannot be denied that the advantages which

our new position in China may be capable of

yielding, have not yet been fairly tested, while

we continue to impose a duty, averaging 200

per cent ., upon the chief article of import from

that country, a burthen altogether dispropor

tionate to that to which most other articles of

such extensive consumption are subjected . If

it could be assumed that our peaceful relations

with China would not be again interrupted ,

there would be little doubt that the proposed

reduction of the Tea Duty to a uniform rate of

one shilling per pound upon all descriptions of

tea, would soon lead to a very great increase to

our importations from that country ; and there

are also fair grounds for calculating that the

Chinese would take off additional quantities

of our manufactures and productions to a con

siderable extent, in return . We should, how

ever, be on our guard against indulging in too


sanguine expectations on this head . I fear

that the notion that what has been called a

taste for British goods can be expected to

spread to any great extent amongst the vast

population of the interior of China , must not

be confidently relied upon . The Chinese are

already in possession, from their own resources,

of all the necessaries , and of most of the luxu

ries and conveniences of life , at a very mode

rate cost. The Chinese Empire, exceeding in

extent and population the entire of Europe,

and comprising within its limits a no less great

variety of soil and climate, enjoys within itself,

by means of its Home Trade which subsists

between its several provinces, almost all those

advantages which in smaller states are derived

from foreign commerce. Though the Chinese

have little or no science, and possess but very

clumsy machinery, they have considerable ar

tistic and manufacturing skill ; and these they

apply with the most enduring patience and

industry. They are an eminently -practical

people. They are not likely to accept from

us any new and beautiful articles, even of the

greatest refinement and perfection, as long as

such articles are at the same time extremely

costly , or not adapted for use, in their present

state of civilization and social condition. But,


in all cases in which we are able, by means of

our scientific machinery and manufacturing

skill , to produce articles adapted to the same

purposes as those they have now in use, but

cheaper in price, or better in quality for the

same price, I am persuaded that neither popu

lar prejudices nor Government prohibitions will

ever stand in the way of their introduction

to an almost unlimited extent. This has al

ready been remarkably instanced in the recent

increasing export to China of cotton yarns, and

I doubt not, will be progressively experienced

in many other articles.

Whatever opinions, however, may be enter

tained of the policy of an extensive reduction

of the Tea Duties, as a remedy for the present

depression of the Trade, the fact of the depres

sion itself, as stated in the Report of the Com

mittee, is fully borne out by the evidence.

The state of the Trade at Canton is described

as “ unsatisfactory,” “ unprofitable,” “ very dis

astrous," pp. 16, 28. And in a petition to the

House of Commons in the same year, signed

by almost all the British residents at Canton ,

their social position is described in the follow

ing terms :

“ It is in many respects worse than it was

before any treaties between the two countries


existed . Residents at Canton cannot now visit

with safety even those places to which they

formerly had free access, attacks upon them

being now frequently made where heretofore

they did not experience molestation ; and there

is too much reason for believing that these acts

of aggression are connived at, if not encouraged ,

by the Chinese authorities. ” Appendix, p. 505.

Our commercial progress at the newly -ac

quired Port of Shang-hai no doubt offers an

agreeable contrast with the above description

of the state of things at Canton ; but even

at Shang-bai , the symptoms of jealousy and

distrust are said to be very apparent , and to

require constant vigilance. And the advan

tages we derive from our admission to that

port, whatever they may be, are obviously the

direct result of our success in arms, and in no

manner derived from our commercial policy.

If the East India Company had possessed as

fair a field for commercial enterprise at Can

ton as our private merchants now enjoy at

Shang -hai, there are no just grounds for as

suming that they would have neglected it.

The present condition of the China Trade, in

spite of the above- noticed representations of

our merchants , is undoubtedly , in appearance ,

a gainful one to the public. The prices of


Teas are considerably lower than they were

under the Company's monopoly, though it is

generally believed at a considerable sacrifice

in the standard of quality ; and the consump

tion throughout the United Kingdom has

progressively increased in proportion . This

change is no doubt to be partly ascribed to

the reduction of freights, consequent upon the

abandonment of that large and expensive

class of ships heretofore employed by the

Company, and which, being readily converti

ble into ships of war in a season of pressure ,

rendered a most important service to the coun

try on the sudden breaking out of the war after

the peace of Amiens. But, however this may

be, it is quite obvious that, unless our commerce

can be carried on in such a manner as to render

the position of our merchants permanently se

cure and remunerative, all indications of pros

perity derived from a temporary lowering of

prices must be transitory and delusive.

As far back as the first opening of the trade,

on the expiration of the East India Company's

Charter, in 1833, I submitted to the House of

Commons nine resolutions, embodying gene

rally the principles set forth in this volume, but

applying them specially to the new circum

stances then for the first time coming into


operation . Although I did not abandon my

original opinion as expressed in this volume

( p. 158), that “ while we are confined to one

port, and to eight or ten merchants, who,

although they are permitted to deal with

foreigners individually , are nevertheless for

many purposes incorporated together, and ob

liged to act as a body, it was a hazardous

experiment to throw open the Trade to all

British subjects indiscriminately,” - yetthis ex

periment having been irrevocably determined

upon by the Legislature, I thought I could

not do my duty to my country better than

by offering such suggestions as my experience

in China had dictated, for diminishing as

much as possible that hazard, and carrying

out the experiment with the best prospect of

success. These resolutions met with little at.

tention at the time. In the ardour of our zeal

for the establishment of an unshackled com

merce with China, no practical difficulties in

carrying out this great change amongst a peo

ple and Government so peculiar as those of

China were suspected or even thought possi.

ble. The President of the India Board, Mr.

Grant, now Lord Glenelg, after some per

sonal compliments to myself, and an expres

sion of his regret at differing from an authority,


he was good enough to say , was “ entitled to

the highest respect,”, disposed of my resolutions

in a summary manner, and concluded with the

following declaration of his opinion--an opi

nion which the unhappy fate of Lord Napier

contradicted in a most signal manner only a

few months after :

“ To enter into a negotiation as preparatory

to the change which it is proposed to effect,

would, I think , have a tendency to create

much embarrassment and great difficulty in

the way of carrying that change into opera

tion . I think if we do not ourselves sound the

note of alarm , the Chinese will receive any

functionary whom we may appoint as the re

presentative of the British nation at Canton ,

without any of the suspicion and distrust which

the formal process of a negotiation would be

sure to awaken in the minds of a people so

sensitive and so jealous ; and that the ordinary

transactions of business between them and us,

would proceed with little or no interruption.

Upon these grounds I am decidedly

of opinion that it would be anything but ad

visable to preface the proposed change of sys

tem by negotiation .” Mirror of Parliament,

June 13, 1833. P. 2294.

Conformably to this decided opinion, it



was determined that Lord Napier should

not be entrusted with any kind of official

document whatever by his Government, ad

dressed to the authorities in China, for the

purpose of explaining and authenticating bis

appointment. He was simply instructed to

make the best of his way to Canton, and to

assume there at once the official character that

had been conferred upon him . Strictly speak

ing, however, as far as the Chinese were con

cerned, he never really possessed any public

character at all . It is a well-understood prin

ciple of international law, that no public

functionary sent to another state can claim the

rights and privileges of his appointment till

he is recognised. As a captain in the British

service, though without a command , and as a

British nobleman , he was undoubtedly entitled

to every degree of respect and courtesy, as long

as he complied with the laws and regulations

of the country ; but, owing to the unfortunate

omission of our Government to apply for, and

obtain from the Chinese authorities , in due time,

his formal recognition , he had no official sta

tion , or public privilege, in China whatever.

Lord Napier was, in consequence, ordered

away forthwith by the Chinese authorities.

He resisted for a time, and even applied for


the assistance and protection of two of our

frigates then upon the coast . A smart en

gagement ensued , in which several individuals

were killed and wounded on both sides . But

he soon gave up the fruitless contest ; and ,

having been detained some time afterwards

in the river (apparently as a hostage for the

departure of the frigates ), his sufferings on

that occasion during an unhealthy season , and

while labouring under a previous indisposition ,

certainly hastened , if they did not cause , his

death . Under all the circumstances, however ,

of this lamentable affair, it was difficult to

sustain any very effectual claim for reparation ;

and yet, on the other hand , it cannot be doubted

that our silent acquiescence in the expulsion

in so degrading a manner of our first royal

superintendent of trade , lowered our character

in China, and contributed to encourage the

Chinese to venture afterwards upon other

outrages of a much more unequivocal descrip

tion .

In the year 1840, on the first occasion in

which the war with China, then recently com

menced, came under discussion in the House

of Commons, I had the gratification of hearing

the Resolutions, which I had proposed with so

little effect in 1833, quoted by the speakers on

B 2


both sides of the House, with strong expressions

of regret that they had not met with a better

reception , Sir James Graham said that “ jt

was impossible for him to refer to any authority

more entitled to weight and respect than that of

the hon . Baronet the Member for Portsmouth .

Wisdom après coup was of very little value,

but that foresight which anticipated the future

must be regarded with admiration , when sub

sequent events had demonstrated the accuracy

of the prediction. Sir George Staunton, be

fore · The China Trade Act ' was introduced ,

and when the question of the renewal of the

East India Company's Charter was under con

sideration , and the Government had announced

their intention of throwing open the China

Trade, took occasion to move certain resolutions.

These resolutions were not treated with much

respect or attention at the time. He did not

know whether the hon . Member for Bridport

made his usual motion for adjournment, but one

of the Sheriffs of London proposed that the

House be counted, and the resolutions of Sir

George Staunton were not at that time put on

record . Subsequently the hon . Baronet moved

them , and the prudence which dictated them

was now manifest. He would read two of the

most important, as bearing on the present state


of affairs . ” The right hon . Baronet then read

the sixth and seventh resolutions, as follows :

Sixth . “ That this influence being the sole ex

isting check now in operation for the control and

counteraction of the corrupt local administration

of the peculiarly arbitrary and despotic Govern

ment of China, it is indispensably necessary to

the security of our valuable commerce with that

country , that .whenever any change shall be

made in the British commercial system, having

the effect of putting an end to that influence,

an equal or greater instrument of protection be

at the same time created and substituted for it,

under the sanction of a national treaty between

the two countries, without which previous sanc

tion any attempt to appoint national func

tionaries at Canton for the protection of Trade

would, in the present state of our relations with

China, not only prove of little advantage to the

subject, but also be liable, in a serious degree,

to compromise the honour and dignity of the

Crown . ”

Seventh . “ That notwithstanding the failure

in this respect of all complimentary embassies


to the Court of Pekin , however otherwise

beneficial they may have been in raising, and

producing the due recognition of, the national

character, the evidence of the Treaties which


have been repeatedly negotiated by the Chinese

Government with that of Russia, through the

medium of the Commissioners duly appointed

on both sides, not only for the adjustment of

boundaries, but for the regulation of Trade,

prove that there is no insurmountable obstacle

to such an arrangement ."

“ Now the House would observe, that Sir

George Staunton regarded previous commu

nication with the imperial (or provincial ] au

thorities as an indispensable preliminary to the

establishment of aa Representative of the British

Governinent at Canton . With respect to the

last resolution [recommending the establishment

of a tribunal for the trial of Homicides] at

tention was paid to it in the Act which was

introduced! ; but the hon. Baronet's advice with

respect to communications with Pekin was not

followed, and had not, up to the present time ,

been acted upon .” — Hansard , vol. 53, p . 676.

On the adjourned debate on the following

day , the late Mr. Charles Buller, although op

posed to Sir James Graham's motion , expressed

similar sentiments.

He said " he should allude to the subject of

the resolutions brought forward by the hon .

Member for Portsmouth, not only in compli

ment to that hon . Baronet, but with feelings of


deep humiliation at the obstinacy evinced by the

House of Commons in reference to his pro

position. The hon. Baronet had produced the

several resolutions, to which the right hon.

Baronet opposite had adverted. He mentioned

all the circumstances of the case , convinced of

the impossibility of our continuing our relations

with China, without the means of a diplomatic

communication taking place with the Govern

ment of Pekin , and of the difficulties which

must arise from their law upon the subject of

homicide ; and he said , that if we threw open

the trade, we must adopt one of two alternatives

we must either send an ambassador over , with

a view to our establishing diplomatic relations

with the Government of Pekin , or we must

withdraw from the continent of China, and

must establish ourselves on some island near

the coast, and carry on the trade in such a

way as should relieve us from the difficulties

which it must be seen would inevitably arise.

When the hon . Baronet brought forward that

motion, he had not spoken five minutes before

the House was counted out. Upon a subse

quent occasion , he again moved the resolutions,

solely with a view to their being placed on the

votes of the House ; but on wbat terms was it

that he did so ? That he should not say one


word upon them ; that the seconder of the

motion should say nothing, and no one else was

to say anything. To these resolutions the right

bon . Baronet opposite, with all his foresight,

and all his precaution slumbering in his breast,

gave no sign or word of encouragement ; they

were read ; not a word was said upon them,

and they were negatived without a division .”

Hansard , vol . 53, p. 790.

I feel certainly some embarrassment in

quoting speeches so complimentary to myself;

but I conceive it would be a false delicacy to

withhold testimonies of such importance to the

principles which I have advocated . I am

willing to believe that the ultimate results of the

war with China will prove beneficial to both

countries ; but it can never be contended that

the war was not, in itself, a great evil , and that

it was not our bounden duty to have adopted

the course which appeared to be best calcu

lated, consistently with justice and honour, to

ward off such a calamity.

The proceedings and results of the embassy of

Lord Amherst to China, in 1816, are also dis

cussed at some length in this volume. They

are certainly very illustrative of the spirit and

character of the Government of China , and are

not undeserving the study of any person who


may hereafter be called upon to negotiate with

that singular people . This mission , under the

peculiar circumstances which existed at that

period , was, perhaps, not altogether a well

advised measure, and its results unquestionably

disappointed the country . The commercial

disputes at Canton which it had been sent out

to adjust, were already adjusted previous to its

arrival ; and the chief point, therefore, for the

consideration of the Commissioners of the em

bassy, when it reached the shores of China, was,

if possible, to promote, but certainly not to

weaken (which degrading concessions at Pekin

must have done) , the effect of the successful


settlement which had been just accomplished at

Canton . The Commissioners were unanimous

upon this point ; and although my excellent and

distinguished colleagues, Lord Amherst and Sir

Henry Ellis, did not at the time see the Chinese

ceremonial in the same objectionable light that

I did , they yielded their judgment upon the

subject to mine (supported as it was by that

of all those who had previously resided in

China) , on the score of our local knowledge

and experience. The practical result was un

doubtedly beneficial to the trade. The public

example which was given of unflinching re

sistance to menace even at head quarters,


strengthened our position at Canton ;‫ ز‬and for

many subsequent years our Trade continued

unusually free from molestation and disturb

ance.-- See Davis's China, vol . I. p. 104 ..

My vindication in this volume of the course

adopted by Lord Amherst and his colleagues,

in reply to the strictures of an Edinburgh re

viewer, may seem , atthe present day, superfluous.

There is probably no difference of opinion on

the impolicy, upon general principles, of any sub

missions, in our intercourse with Foreign Powers,

which involve a sacrifice of the national honour.

Yet there are persons who, however feelingly

alive upon all such cases, when directly con

nected with European interests, and occurring

on this side of the Cape of Good Hope, seem

to view with a degree of apathetic indifference,

cases which are equally or more objectionable,

when their locality is very remote and in the

other hemisphere.. It may,, therefore, be useful

to show that the Chinese Empire , notwithstand

ing its semi-civilized condition, and its many

strange peculiarities , cannot with justice or

with prudence be excepted from the operation

of the general rule. A national insult will be

found to be, in all cases and in all countries ,

practically , a national injury ; and the prompt

est vindication of the national honour , under


such circumstances, will be generally found to .

be not only the most effectual, but the most

humane. Had a higher tone been assumed

upon the death of Lord Napier, it is more than

probable that the subsequent outrages, by which

the Chinese forced us into a war, would never

have been committed ; and had that war, after

it became inevitable, been conducted with as

much vigour in the first campaign as it was in

the third and last, a vast sacrifice of life, and the

infliction of much misery to the unoffending

population of China, might have been avoided .

There are a few other points intimately con

nected with our Chinese commerce , which have

not yet been noticed in these preliminary re

marks. Amongst these is our newly-acquired

settlement at Hong Kong. No such acquisition

was, of course, in contemplation when this work

was originally published. Yet I did, to aa certain

degree, anticipate the possibility of such an

event , in one of the resolutions which I sub

mitted to the House of Commons in 1833. I then

suggested that if, when the Trade was thrown

open, it should prove impracticable to give it

the benefit of a national protection directly ema

nating from the Crown, it might become, in

that case, expedient to withdraw it altogether

from the control of the Chinese authorities , and


to establish it in some insular position upon

the Chinese coast ; so that it might be carried

on out of the reach of Chinese molestation

and oppression .

When we now consider the remarkable fero

city and lawlessness exhibited of late by the

Canton populace, their increasing alienation

from all foreigners, and their desperate de

termination ( announced in various published

placards) to resist to the death the admission of

foreigners within the walls of the city , although

they have freely enjoyed a similar privilege at

all the other Ports of Trade: and , finally , when

we take into the account the recent atrocious

assassination of the Portuguese Governor of

Macao, by a band of ruffians, expressly hired for

that service by a popular association, with the

knowledge and consent (it is positively asserted)

if not under the direct authority of the Govern

ment, it is difficult not to apprehend that the

hour is approaching when it may become neces

sary to place our Trade at Canton either under

the direct protection of a British military force,

or to remove it wholly to our own Colony .

As long, however, as the Port of Canton

continues accessible to our commerce , it is not

at all probable that the very sanguine expecta

tions which some persons have entertained


respecting the success of Hong Kong, can be

realized . No rational grounds exist for calcu

lating that it can speedily become the grand

emporium of Eastern commerce, beyond the

Ganges. If we may judge from the language

of the Nanking Treaty , Hong Kong was neither

demanded by us, nor ceded by the Chinese with

any such views. Considering the previous con

dition of the Island, and the avowed purposes for

which we have occupied it, our settlement upon

it must be admitted to have already arrived at a

greater degree of importance and prosperity

than could have been reasonably anticipated

in so short a space of time. This fact is fully

established in the clear and satisfactory Report

of the late Governor, Sir John Davis, dated

the 13th of March, 1847, and inserted at page

432 of the Appendix to the Parliamentary

Report. If, in process of time, more than

this shall be obtained,, and an extensive

carrying Trade drawn to the Colony, every

one must hail such an improvement with satis

faction ; but, in the meanwhile , I see no reason

for disappointment or despondency .

I am not , however, prepared to contend

that all the regulations under which this Colony

has been governed, from its foundation to the

present time, are the wisest that could have


been framed ; or that further experience in a

case so new and peculiar may not suggest

many important ameliorations. The severe

restrictions which have been imposed for the

control of the vagabond and piratical popula

tion resorting to the Colony , may, perhaps,

have been too indiscriminate, and needlessly 1

galling to the more respectable inhabitants .

The finaucial regulations of the Colony have

also , no doubt , been felt oppressive ; owing to

the premature desire of the authorities at home

to equalize the revenue with the expenditure .

The following observations , extracted from the

Report of the Parliamentary Committee, are

judicious , and I trust will be kept in view by

our Colonial Office.

“ From Hong Kong we cannot be said to

have derived directly much commercial advan

tage ; nor, indeed, does it seem to be likely , by

its position , to become the seat of an extended

commerce. It has no considerable population

of its own to feed or clothe, and has no right to

expect to draw away the established trade of

the populous town and province of Canton, to

which it is adjacent. From the only traffic for

which it is fitted, that of a depôt for the neigh

bouring coasts, it is, in a great degree, de

barred1 ; except in regard to the five ports, by


Treaties, which stipulate distinctly for the

observance of this restriction . In addition,

however, to these natural and necessary disad

vantages, it appears to have laboured under

others, created by a system of monopolies and

farms, and petty regulations peculiarly unsuited

to its position , and prejudicial to its progress.

These seem to have arisen partly from an

attempt to struggle with the difficulties in the

way of establishing order and security, in the

midst of the vagabond and piratical population

which frequent its waters and infest its coasts ;

and partly from a desire to raise a revenue in

the Island , in some degree adequate to the

maintenance of its civil Government. To this

latter object, however, we think it unwise to

sacrifice the real interests of the settlement,

which can only prosper under the greatest

amount of freedom of intercourse and traffic

which is consistent with the engagements of

treaties and internal order : nor do we think it

right that the burthen of maintaining that,

which is rather a Port for general influence

and the protection of the general Trade in the

China seas than a Colony in the ordinary

sense, should be thrown in any great degree on

the merchants or other persons who may be

resident upon it.


" To the revision of the whole system , we

would call the early attention of the Govern

ment, as well as to that of the establishment of

the settlement ; which, we cannot but think ,

has been placed upon a footing of needless

expense .” - Report, p. ix.

I wish I could close this general view of the

present condition of our commercial intercourse

with China, without adverting to the smuggling

Trade in Opium ; which continues, unhappily ,

to form a very prominent and important part

of it . It cannot be denied that it is a moral

stain upon the character of the British inter

course with China ; and that it embarrasses

and counteracts all our efforts for its improve.

ment . I entirely adhere to the following

opinions, which I expressed upon the subject

in my place in the House of Commons, in

1840 and 1843.

With respect to the immorality and impolicy

of this opium traffic, II yield to no Member of

the House in detestation of it ; and in the

anxiety for the adoption of measures for effectu

ally putting it down altogether. But, although

I feel very strongly on this subject,-although

I entirely disapprove of the resolution of

the Select Committee of this House in 1832 ,

that it was inexpedient to relinquish the


revenue arising from the cultivation of opium

in India , for the supply of the market of China ,'

-although I trace from that resolution all the

evils and enormities which have occurred in

the prosecution of the opium traffic, down to

the present crisis of the total interruption of all

trade and intercourse between Great Britain

and China,-I feel it would be the height of

injustice if I were rashly to condemn Her

Majesty's Ministers for not adopting my prin

ciples ; and for not at once setting at defiance

a recorded resolution of the Select Committee

of 1832 , sanctioned by Parliament, and en

forced by the tacit approbation of the

country ! I have no hesitation

in saying I have an opinion, a decided opinion,

as to what ought to have been done. I think

the cultivation of opium, in India, for the

supply of the Chinese market, ought gradually

to have been discontinued, and the trade

proportionately discouraged. I think a better

system might have been introduced gradually ;

that the best lands in India might be safely

devoted to produce beneficial to man ; instead

of that which exercises the most baneful in

Auence, and tempts him to his destruction . I

quite agree in the opinion expressed by Captain

Elliott, even before the late crisis, that it



cannot be good that the conduct of a great

trade should be so dependent upon the steady

continuance of a vast prohibited traffic in an

article of vicious luxury, high in price , and

liable to frequent and prodigious fluctuations.'

( Parliamentary Papers .) I think with him ,

that the fact that such an article should have

grown to be by far the most important part of

our import Trade, is of itself a source of painful

reflection .' And I think , lastly, that there

are many cogent reasons for regretting the

extent to which the Indian income is depen

dent on such a source of revenue . ' But the

question, it must be confessed, is surrounded

with difficulties. It would be an act of the

utmost injustice to visit upon Her Majesty's

present Ministers the consequences of a system

which Parliament has long sanctioned ; and

which, even now, it is by no means sure that

it is prepared to abandon .” — Debates on Sir

James Graham's Motion, April 7, 1840.

On the occasion of Lord Ashley's Motion

for a Resolution against the Opium Trade, on

the 4th of April, 1843, I added, " when I ad

dressed the House in 1840, on the occasion of

the motion of the right hon . Baronet the Mem

ber for Dorchester, I certainly maintained the

abstract justice as well as the practical ex


pediency of the war with China, in which we

were then about to engage. I contended , that

no act of smuggling which might have been

committed by ships or individuals on the Coast

of China could justify, or even palliate, the acts

of outrage and violence committed by the

Chinese authorities upon the whole British

community at the Port ; and that, therefore,

it was absolutely necessary to maintain our

honour and interests in China, by a demand of

ample reparation, supported by an adequate

force. But I never denied the fact, that if there

had been no opium - smuggling there would have

been no war. Even if the opium traffic had

been permitted to run its natural course -- if it

bad not received an extraordinary impulse from

the measures taken by the East India Com

pany to promote its growth, which almost sud

denly quadrupled the supply,-I believe it never

would have excited that extraordinary alarm in

the Chinese authorities which betrayed them

into the adoption of a sort of coup d'état for its

suppression.” - Debates, April 4, 1843 ..

To show that the project of a gradual dis

continuance of opium cultivation in British

India is not a mere visionary suggestion of an

enthusiast, I beg to quote a few sentences from

the Minute of the 14th of May, 1841 , of pro



bably the most distinguished authority on the

subject in this country, Mr. Henry St. George

Tucker ; who, after having passed a great portion

of his life in the discharge of most important

duties in India , has since twice filled in this

country the still more important post of chair

man of the East India Company.

“ Ever since I have had the honour of being

a member of this Court, I have uniformly and

steadily opposed the encouragement given to

the extension of the manufacture of opium ;

but of late years we have pushed it to the

utmost height, and disproportionate prices

were given for the article in Malwah. We

contracted burthensome treaties with the Raj

poot States, to introduce and extend the

cultivation of the Poppy. We introduced the

article into our own districts, where it had not

been cultivated before, or where the cultivation

had been abandoned ; and we gave our Revenue

Officers an interest in extending the cultivation

in preference to other produce much more

valuable and deserving of encouragement.

Finally , we established retail shops, which

brought it home to every man's door.

“ How different was the policy of Lord Corn

wallis , Lord Teignmouth, Lord Wellesley, and

Lord Minto, who circumscribed the produce


within the narrowest limits, confining the cul

tivation of the Poppy to two of our Provinces,

and actually eradicating it from districts where

it had been previously cultivated ! How fatal

have been the consequences of a departure from

this wise and humane policy ! Is there any

man still so blind as not to perceive that it has

had a most injurious effect upon our national

reputation ? Can any man be found so hardy

or perverse as to deny that it has led to the

total derangement of our Trade with China,

which was heretofore the source of wealth

and prosperity, both to India and the mother

Country ?

“ If a revenue cannot be drawn from such

an article otherwise than by quadrupling the

supply, by promoting the general use of the

drug , and by placing it within the reach of

the lower classes of the people, no fiscal con

sideration can justify our inflicting upon the

Malays and Chinese so grievous an evil.”

The war with China was raging at the time

Mr. Tucker wrote the above spirited and most

able minute ; and the war was undoubtedly

one of the fruits of the Opium Trade. But

it by no means follows that a war would have

taken place had the legitimate Trade been still

in the hands of the Company, or had the


Representatives of the Crown, after the Trade

was opened , been as careful as their pre

decessors, the servants of the Company , had

been, in guarding themselves from giving any

aid or countenance to this illegitimate traffic.

The opium smuggling had been carried on

most extensively on the Chinese Coast, for

many years previous to the abolition of the

Company's monopoly, yet the legitimate Trade

in Tea never sustained a day's interruption or

molestation on that account .

It is certainly idle, as well as unjust, to in

veigh against our merchants who are engaged

in this gainful but pernicious traffic, in the

Chinese Seas, while the production of the

drug continues to receive in India that extra

ordinary encouragement which has been so

powerfully denounced by Mr. Tucker. A

gleam of hope, however, exists, that the

principles advocated by Mr. Tucker may yet

ultimately be acted on , in consequence of the

recent discovery of the many advantages

that would arise from the substitution, on a

large scale, in India, of a new species of cul

tivation , that of the Tea plant. This subject

has been most ably and fully illustrated by

Mr. Ball, in his recent valuable work on the

cultivation and manufacture of Tea ; and I


cannot state the facts of the case better than

in his own words, referring to his book for the

details, which are so important and interesting

that they will fully repay perusal.

“ The discovery of the Tea Tree in Assam ,

and the recent successful cultivation of the

Chinese plant at Kamaon , in the Upper Pro

vinces of India, encourage a well-grounded hope

that this valuable tree may soon be enumerated

amongst the useful products of our extensive

Eastern Possessions, and thus conduce to the

comfort of the nativ ee inhabitants, as well as to

the internal prosperity and commercial relations

of the country. It is generally admitted that

the natives of India have a decided predilection

for Tea ; and , could this article be afforded

at a sufficiently low price, little doubt is

entertained that its consumption would rapidly

spread over that immense peninsula." -- p. 334 .

“ The population of British India , and its

dependencies, is computed at 114,430,000.

Supposing these to become, like the Chinese,

all consumers of Tea, the impulse which this

novel demand for labour would give to a

country mainly dependent on its agricultural

resources ; the new, ( hitherto ) unprofitable,

and otherwise unoccupied mountain lands which

would thereby be brought under cultivation ;


the industrial activity its manipulation and

preparation would call forth , as well as the

new and indirect demands on industry it would

develope; and lastly , though least to be con

sidered, but nevertheless of high importance ,

the new sources of revenue it would open to

the Government, are all considerations of such

vast interest, that it ought not to be a matter

of surprise, that the encouragement of the

cultivation of Tea on an extensive scale, is

daily becoming more and more a subject of

anxious solicitude on the part of the Indian

Government. Great as these immediate ad

vantages may be to India , as administering

to the comfort and happiness of the native

population , yet its remote benefits are not 9

less pleasing and important to contemplate .”.

p. 335 .

After stating some of these remoter advan

tages, Mr. Ball answers what he considers

“ the prominent argument put forth against a

successful cultivation of the 'Tea Tree in India ;"

namely, the great cheapness of labour in

China, and the erroneous supposition that the

process of manipulation was a laborious and ex

pensive art. He proves, by means of a very

curious and elaborate investigation into the

relative condition of the Hindoo and the


Chinese labourer, that the advantage in respect

to economic labour is decidedly in favour of the

Hindoo . This is a new and very important fact,

and it completely disproves the commonly -re

ceived notion that, owing to the excess of

population beyond the means of subsistence,

the Chinese bave been reduced to the very

lowest position in the scale of human existence.

Mr. Ball concludes by expressing his earnest

hope that the enlightened Government of

Bengal, now enjoying the blessings of peace,

will be able to turn its thoughts to the moral

and physical improvement of the people, and

give its fostering help and encouragement to a

species of cultivation so conducive to the com

fort , happiness, and sobriety of its subjects, as

well as generally to the wealth and prosperity

of Great Britain and of her Eastern Depen

dencies. Every friend of humanity must surely

desire that the revenues raised from the vast

and fertile fields of India should be derived

from a produce beneficial to man, rather than

from one which, however ingeniously defended ,

or at least palliated, unquestionably leads him,

morally as well as physically, to his destruction.

It is mere trilling, to defend the cultivation of

Opium, on the score of its utility in medicine.

The drug used in medicine, and that prepared


for the purposes of a vicious luxury, are well

known to be totally and essentially different.

The same may be said of the attempt to place

the abuse of opium upon the same level with

the abuse of spirituous liquors. It is the main

purpose in the former case ; but in the latter

it is only the exception . Nor can the Opium

Farms be fairly justified on the ground of their

supposed analogy to our gin -shops. It is true

that our Government tolerates gin - shops ; but,

at least , it does notbuild and maintain them !

I cannot, therefore, but think that if Mr.

Ball by his present publication shall have de

cided the Government of India to persevere

in their encouragement of the cultivation of the

grateful, and, at least, innoxious Tea shrub, in

the place of the seducing but poisonous Poppy,

he will be entitled to the cordial thanks of every

genuine philanthropist .

This most desirable consummation would re

move that, which now appears to be the only

remaining stumbling -block to the successful

and extensive diffusion in China, through our

intervention, of the blessings of pure Christi.

anity, and of all the consequent advantages of

that higher and more refined civilization which

may reasonably be expected to follow in its

train . Several imperial edicts have been is


sued since the Peace, expressly commending

the general principles of Christianity, and giv

ing a public and official sanction to the labours

of our Missionaries, as far as the limits assigned

to foreigners, by the provisions of the Treaty of

Nanking , extend. The difficulties, therefore,

which previously existed in an inter -national

point of view , are removed. There is now

no longer any reason why our religious and

our commercial intercourse with the Chinese

people, if governed and conducted with com

mon prudence, should not mutually aid and

promote each other ;‫ و‬and , by their harmo

nious operation , realize gradually all the ad

vantages anticipated from the renewal of our

peaceful relations with this extraordinary


Our chief difficulty at present lies in the

imputation to which our sincerity is unavoid

ably exposed, as long as we continue to intro

duce into China with the one hand our trans

cendantly pure Christian Gospel, but with the

other the destructive and demoralizing Opium

Drug ! If ever the enterprizing spirit of our

merchants shall succeed in breaking through

the barrier which ancient jealousies and habits

still interpose to a free intercourse with the


interior of this vast empire, it will be by

making the Christian Missionary his Pioneer,

and by availing himself of that powerful im

pulse which religious zeal in a righteous cause

can alone confer and sustain. The examples of

disinterestedness and universal good-will which

our Christian Missionaries and Physicians have

exhibited in union , in China , in the Free Hos

pitals already established at Canton and at Hong

Kong, are calculated to soften the most obdurate

hearts, and have not been altogether thrown

away , even upon the lawless and hostile popu

lation of Southern China. It can hardly be

necessary to add, that whatever thus raises the

moral, religious, and social character of fo

reigners in China, must tend, in an eminent

degree to a juster appreciation , amongst the

Chinese, of the advantages generally of Foreign

Intercourse .

G. T. S.

Devonshire Street ,

January 1 , 1850 .

Since writing the above, I have seen the

reports from China recently presented to the

House of Commons by command of Her Ma

jesty , and I extract the following paragraphs


from the report of Mr. Rutherford Alcock , our

consul at Shanghai. - p. 76.

“ For the further extension of our Trade on a

sound, prosperous, and permanent basis, I do

not believe any probable increase in our ex

ports from China, under present circumstances,

is likely to prove the efficient cause. For the

large and full development of our commerce

with the Chinese Empire, I have already sub

mitted my conviction that other conditions are

essential . Of these, access to the first markets,

the removal of the limits and restrictions to the

free circulation of our goods, and of all travel

ing limits in the interior, are amongst the most

important and influential. Additional resources

may thus be developed, other products found

for export, and new wants created ; all com

bining to promote a vigorous and profitable

extension of commerce . A mutual better un

derstanding, based upon reciprocal interests

shared by large masses of the Chinese people,

and a better acquaintance with our claims to

their respect and good- will , will follow as a

natural consequence .

“ The fears sometimes expressed , lest the

first consequence of free access to the interior

should be danger and confusion, do not ap

pear to me to be well founded, but rather to


arise from the conventional manner in which

for centuries we have been accustomed to regard

the Chinese. Their peculiarity of character

and habits seems but a bugbear of our own

creation, which has long given them the incon

venient licence of a privileged buffoon in

society , who, upon the strength of the conceded

indulgence, takes every kind of liberty ; a

privilege, however, which ceases the moment

we are no longer disposed to tolerate his eccen

tricities. My own limited experience of the

Chinese has strongly impressed me with the

conviction that they are very like other people,

in this respect at least, that they are prone to

take liberties only where their ignorance or their

knowledge leads them to calculate upon doing

so with impunity ; and are, on the contrary, ex

ceedingly loath to try the experiment where they

have good reason to anticipate a different result. ”


Shanghai ; forwarded from Hong Kong,

April 14 , 1848 .

Resolutions moved by Sir G. Staunton, in the

House of Commons, June, 1833.

1. That the British intercourse with China

is the source from whence this country is ex

clusively supplied with tea , an article in such


universal use as to be nearly equivalent to a

necessary of life, and through the consumption

of which a revenue of between three and four

millions sterling is annually raised with greater

facility and certainty , and with less pressure on

the people, than in the case of any other tax of

equal amount ; and that this trade moreover

employs a very considerable extent of British

shipping, is the medium of the export of the

manufactures and productions of Great Britain

and the British possessions in India, to the

amount, in annual value, of some millions ster

ling, besides affording a certain and convenient

channel for the remittance to Europe of that

portion of the Indian revenues required to meet

the home charges in this country .

2. - That this branch of British commerce

being of such great importance to the interests

of this country, even while it continues, as at

present, confined to a single port, and that

port one of the least advantageous in the

Chinese dominions, either for the export of

the staple commodities of China, or the dis

persion amongst the Chinese population of the

chief manufactures and productions of Europe,

it is not easy to estimate the vast field which

would be opened to the enterprise and the in


dustry of the manufacturing and producing

classes in this country, if such an improved

understanding could be effected between the

governments of Great Britain and China, as

might lead to a free and unrestricted inter

course of British subjects with the ingenious

and industrious population of an empire ex

ceeding, in respect to numbers, extent, and

natural resources, the aggregate amount of all

the nations of civilized Europe.

3. — That the peculiar jealousy of foreign

intercourse which distinguishes the govern

ments of all the nations beyond the Ganges

having been fully exemplified by the exclusion

of all foreigners, the Dutch only excepted ,

from the ports of Japan , and without any

exception from several of the ports of China

to which formerly they were freely admitted,

and by the obstructions which have been found

insurmountable to any extensive beneficial in

tercourse with Cochin -China and the other

minor states, and being partially mitigated in

the single instance only of the port of Canton ,

it is of the utmost importance that all legisla

tive measures, in any manner affecting a branch

of British commerce at once so valuable and so

capable of improvement, and yet so precarious,


should be founded on the fullest and most im

partial consideration of all the circumstances

which have contributed to place it in its pre

sent position .

4.-That, in the first place, instead of being

regulated by international treaties, and placed

under the recognised protection of a public

minister at the capital, and an acknowledged

consul at the port of trade, as is customary in

other civilized states, it is wholly abandoned

to the arbitrary control of the Chinese local

authorities, and is by those authorities subjected

to many very severe and vexatious burthens,

and to various personal restrictions and priva

tions of the most galling and oppressive nature.

5.-That these evils, in the second place,

are wholly attributable to the nature and cha

racter of the Chinese Government, and not to

any want of proper spirit and firmness in the

agents of the East India Company, who have,

upon various occasions, opposed the arbitrary

and oppressive acts of the local government

with considerable success, and in a manner

which individuals, pursuing their separate in

terests, and unconnected by any bond of union,

never could have attempted ; and have thus re

peatedly secured , for the general interests of

the foreign trade, privileges of the most essen



tial importance, and averted from it evils of

the most serious description, solely through

the influence derived from the magnitude of

their commercial dealings.

6.-That this influence being the sole ex

isting check now in operation for the control

and counteraction of the corrupt local adminis

trators of the peculiarly arbitrary and despotic

government of China, it is indispensably neces

sary to the security of our valuable commerce

with that country, that whenever any change

shall be made in the British commercial sys

tem , having the effect of putting an end to this

influence, an equal or greater instrument of

protection be at the same time created and

substituted for it, under the sanction of a na

tional treaty between the two countries, with

out which previous sanction any attempt to

appoint national functionaries at Canton for

the protection of trade, would, in the present

state of our relations with China, not only prove

of little advantage to the subject, but be liable,

in a serious degree, to compromise the honour

and dignity of the Crown .

7. — That notwithstanding the failure, in this

respect, of all complimentary Embassies to the

Court of Pekin , however otherwise beneficial

they may have been in raising and procuring


the due recognition of the national character,

the evidence of the treaties which have been

repeatedly negotiated by the Chinese Govern

ment with that of Russia, through the medium

of Commissioners duly appointed on both sides,

not only for the adjustment of boundaries, but

for the regulation of trade, prove that there is

no insurmountable obstacle to such an arrange


8. - That in the event of such expectations

not being realized, and it proving impractica

ble to replace the influence of the East India

Company's authorities, by any system of na

tional protection directly emanating from the

crown , it will then be expedient (though only

in the last resort) to withdraw the British

commerce altogether from the control of the

Chinese authorities, and to establish it in some

insular position on the Chinese coast, where it

may be satisfactorily carried on , beyond the

reach of acts of oppression and molestation ,

to which an unresisting submission would be

equally prejudicial to the national honour and

the national interests of this country .

9.-That, lastly, the state of the trade under


the operation of the Chinese laws in respect

to homicides committed by foreigners in that

country, calls for the early interposition of the


legislature, those laws being, practically , so

unjust and intolerable, that they have, in no

instance, for the last forty -nine years , been sub

mitted to by British subjects; great loss and

injury to their commercial interests accruing

from the suspension of the trade in consequence

of such resistance, and the guilty as well as the

innocent escaping with impunity ; and it is

therefore expedient to put an end to this ano

malous state of the law , by the creation of a

British naval tribunal on the spot, with com

petent authority for the trial and punishment

of such offences.





DQ, VA 100g