Puslapio vaizdai

volved in the discussion of such a subject, either as the result of their own observations, or as the expression-from long intimacy with them and a thorough acquaintance with their language, manners, customs and modes of thought—of the Chinese view, notwithstanding the charge to the contrary of their statements being "loose.” Our ministers have, it might be supposed, unusually good opportunities of reaching and fathoming the Chinese mind on this subject in their diplomatic intercourse at the Chinese Foreign Office with the ministers, many of whom form the Emperor's Cabinet. But it is almost proverbial that the Chinese statesmen, so eminently astute and shrewd, conceal their views behind diplomatic reserve, and on the opium question in particular before British representatives, it is hardly to be expected that they would give a free and straightforward expression of their opinions. Only once really, and that to Sir Rutherford himself, who by his outspokenness about opium and missionaries drew from Prince Kung his celebrated remark, that if you take away your opium and missionaries there need be no further causes of trouble, and the still more celebrated despatch of 1869, did the Yamên venture to sincerely unbosom themselves about opium. To the ministers of other powers, especially of the United States and Germany, they have been known several times to have thrown off all reserve and to have taken them into their confidence.

Sir Rutherford refers approvingly to the Customs' Yellow Book on “Opium" as affording valuable and reliable recent information, which however we have elsewhere shewn to be altogether unreliable in the matter of the estimated number of smokers; and although there, the native production in all China is put down as not exceeding the foreign import, yet Sir Rutherford tells us that the production of Chinese opium in the province of Szechuen, appeared by all accounts to be greater than the whole amount of the Indian crop; thus shewing no desire to avail himself of these reliable statistics ! Here no notice is taken of Yünnan, Shansi, Mongolia and Manchuria, the production in which together, certainly exceeds in any calculation that of Szechuen. The late minister gives us a review, necessarily brief and meagre, within the compass of a short magazine article, of the past history of the opium trade. There is nothing new in it. The facts furnished are all to be found in the “Middle Kingdom" and the Blue Books. There are great gaps here and there, the filling up of which would not have been favourable to the argument in hand. The writer thinks it desirable that the facts on both sides should be placed before the public at the present time in order to a right understanding of the points at issue. How lamentably he fails to place the Chinese side of the question must be apparent to the merest tyro in the history of our relations during the first half of the present century. We do not complain so much of the non-presentation of the Chinese side from the Chinese point of view, but from our point of view as attested by our own Blue Books. If it be possible to have the play of Hamlet without Hamlet himself, then Sir Rutherford has succeeded in his review of the opium trade with China. The great event, the first or opium war, is passed off with half a sentence, merely observing that "the war which followed, and terminated in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842," with an allusion to an old despatch of his own about opium being the immediate cause of the war in 1839, the edge of the statement being sought to be taken off by the remark “ that had there been no opium, the same causes would have led to the same results.” But suppose there had been no such causes? What then? Sir G. Staunton, strange to say, himself an advocate of the war, declared in the debate on the opium question, Ap., 1843, “If there had been no opium there had been no war;" and Sir H. Pottinger in his letter to Tau Kwang, the Emperor in 1843, admitted “ that the trade in opium was the immediate cause of the war.” The other difficulties arising out of pretensions could have been easily overcome had there not been this opium root of bitterness—this thorn working perpetually in the side of China, and if the trade had been carried on according to international law. But the Chinese laws were set at defiance by this contraband trade, and the seeds were sown of those misunderstandings and animosities which ripened into outrages and wars. As an instance of "spreading relevant information" and making people “ acquainted with the facts” take the statement that during the twenty-seven years from 1793 to 1820 no noticeable event had occurred to molest the trade or the opium vessel stationed at Whampoo." Now what are some of the events we find within the years just mentioned. We do not go back to 1782, when the importation of opium was forbidden on very severe penalties; when the opium on seizure was burnt, the vessel confiscated and the Chinese in whose possession it was found for sale, punished with death. We have the celebrated edict of 1796, in the first year of Kia King, generally supposed, but incorrectly, to be the first edict against opium. In 1799, the Governor of Canton presented a memorial, praying that prohibitions might be enacted agaiust opium and that offenders might be made amenable to the laws. In 1800, so active were the Chinese in their denouncements against opium, that the E.I.C.'s supercargoes at Canton, strongly recommended the Court of Directors to take measures for preventing all shipment of opium either from Bengal or England. In 1809, the Hong merchants were required to give bonds of security that all ships wishing to discharge their cargo at Whampoo had no opium on board, and ordering the expulsion of the vessel in case of refusal. In 1812 and 1815, we have records of memorials praying for further measures of repression, and of the Imperial commands rigorously to enforce the laws against them. In 1819, an attempt was made to search vessels, supposed to have the drug on board. And just on the threshold of the period limited by Sir Rutherford and down to the great event in 1839, a series of events occurred which, had there been the observance of the European code of honour, and the royal law of Christianity with its special provision for the weak, must have rendered the opium war impossible, stopped the opium traffic, and saved two great countries so much odium and misery. Need we refer to the seizure of the cargoes of one American and three English vessels at Canton, for introducing opium in violation of the laws and the confiscation of half the cargoes. The forfeiture however was afterwards remitted, the Viceroy finding that the merchants concerned were greatly


afflicted, but they were forbidden to sell their cargoes, to carry away any tea or rhubarb and the Hong merchants were ordered to make a memorandum of these ships and their merchants and forever to prohibit their coming to Canton to trade. One of the supercargoes of the company wrote regarding the intentions of the Governor of Canton, as

more determined than they have ever formerly been, and that the measures so frequently threatened by the Chinese Government for checking the opium trade at Canton had been recently renewed. These measures have since been persisted in by the Viceroy of Canton, with such a degree of pertinacity, as to occasion the most serious interruption to this important branch of trade of China." In consequence no doubt of these remonstrances and efforts of the Chinese Government, "we entered into a solemn engagement in 1822-23 to suppress the traffic in opium,” but broke the promise at once and ever afterwards. The increased irregularities of British traders in China led to a renewal of the Imperial edicts against opium with an earnestness which had never been recognised in them before. And much more to the same effect might be adduced. The history of our opium trade has yet to be written, and it is a page of history which may will make us blush. The above facts indicate part of the action at Canton during the period specified Elsewhere the same hostility was shewn by the Govern. ment to the opium. The entrance of Turkish opium through the overland routes of commerce in the north was likewise prohibited ; and at Peking the laws against opium smoking were still more severe. Opium was sold clandestinely at Tls. 18 per ounce and was smoked by the wealthy classes surreptitiously. During two years before the great war, the officials had detectives stationed on the roofs of houses in Peking so as to catch the smell of the fumes of the pipe. Houses were closely papered up to prevent the opium fumes from gaining egress. Numerous imprisonments and executions were the result.

. Eunuchs in the palace were beheaded, and Sir Rutherford testifies to the fact that the Emperor killed one of his sons for addiction to the narcotic. And even to this day, legalization has not wholly removed the former opposition to the drug. It is not allowed to be smoked in shops in Peking; raids are every now and again being made upon them, and the sellers, smokers and all found on the premises hailed to prison, their goods confiscated, and they themselves imprisoned. So late as three years ago, a rigorous edict was issued against the native growth in Shansi, and I have evidence that for the time it was conscientiously carried out. There is therefore very little comfort to be derived to the consciences of the traders in opium from the legalization. It has weakened the hands of the government, but legally and morally to the Chinese, it is still the old contraband trade forced upon them by the hated foreigner. The laws against it still stand on the statute book, in their latest editions. All that legalization did was to prevent seizure of the opium at the open ports and to allow it to enter these ports at a trifling duty. At Canton before the time of the war, the smokers one and all had to deliver up their pipes, lamps and opium, and for a time opium smoking was put an end to, entailing much suffering, but no deaths from deprivation of the pipe. Sir Rutherford's statement is altogether too brief and one-sided and calculated to mislead the reader at home unacquainted with the early history of the trade. I was astonished to learn that the "Fast Crabs” and “Scrambling Dragons,” boats employed in the smuggling trade, carried the Viceroy's flag. I have not been able to verify this statement, even from our own Blue Books. In several places we are told in them, in Chinese memorials, that these boats were well-armed with guns and other weapons and were manned with scores of desperadoes who plied their oars as they had been wings to fly with ; that the Custom house and military posts which they passed were largely bribed and that if they encountered any of the armed cruisers, they were so audacious as to resist, and slaughter and carnage ensued. Abundance of evidence, and that from the opium merchants themselves, might be adduced as to the severities of the Chinese Government preceding the arrival of Commissioner Lin. Capt. Elliot wrote of the “frequent conflict of firearms” that were taking place. Instead of twenty-seven years, therefore, if the writer had said fifteen months, the vessel lay without hindrance and molestation, history would have borne out the statement. Be it remembered also that when the opposition grew, the receiving ships were careful to observe the limits of the port and invariably anchored outside, as it were in the "outer seas,” thus just beyond the Chinese jurisdiction.

It is said, prior to 1839, the Chinese might have put down the trade if they had cared to do so. Here it is enough to say—that the evil was confined chiefly to Canton in the early days—that it was not known in the North where the capital is situated that inability to cope with the foreigners led to bribery on the part of the underlings of the yamêns (an army of poor, unpaid hangers-on, who live and enrich themselves in this unscrupulous way and who frustrate the good intentions of all reforms aimed at the rectification of abuses), but chiefly because all nations were supposed to be tributary to China and it was supposed that foreigners were kept alive by the favour of the trade, the tea and rhubarb, especially the latter, being thought indispensable to our existence and flesh-eating propensities. The Chinese did not wish to stop the legitimate trade, but they more than once stopped the whole trade on account of the opium smuggling; and to such an extent was their aversion to the contraband trade carried, that the E.I.C. was obliged to separate legitimate general commerce from the illegal opium trade and the commander of every vessel on arrival at Canton received a formal notice that the laws of China forbade the importation of opium, and that any attempt to smuggle it, would render him liable to severe penalties and the cargo of his vessel to seizure." The Emperor Tau Kwang said "yet these foreigners feel no gratitude nor wish to render a recompense, but smuggle opium which poisons the Empire. ...they are therefore called upon to rouse themselves to zealous reflection, to bitter repentance and reformation and alter their inhuman, unreasonable conduct.” But in spite of this matters did not improve. The lucrative smuggling trade was carried on in spite of all remonstrances. The laws of their own country were disregarded, it was hardly to be expected that much regard would be paid to that of China. Capt. Elliot was appealed to, but he replied that his authority only extended over the lawful trade and that his Government was not acquainted with any other, a miserable equivocation, as Mr. Gladstone justly stigmatized it, and thus the Chinese were convinced that if the opium trade was to be cut off root and branch, it must be by their own efforts. And the moment that the Chinese in 1839 proceeded to those measures from which Capt. Elliot in a former proclamation had warned his countrymen he could not and would not defend them, he ordered the British vessels in the Canton river to prepare to defend British property, in another word opium, that being the only property menaced by the Chinese authorities. The very next day, in proof of good faith, Lin, in the most natural manner, demanded the delivery of all the opium. The Chinese object was simply to get possession of the opium, but the superintendent, hearing that his countrymen were detained until the confiscated property should be surrendered, rushed to Canton and committed himself and his Government to their quarrel with the authorities, and, as Mr. Gladstone said, Capt. Elliot“had completely identified himself with the contraband traffic in opium." Before this our superintendent had actually aided the Chinese, by a system of river police to put down smugglers, and only desisted from it when told from home that it was an insult to the Chinese Government! In 1837 when the general trade was stopped, in consequence of the opium merchants, Capt. Elliot warned off the opium ships-ordered them not to return and told the merchants that H.M.'s Government would in no way interfere, if the Chinese Government thought fit to seize and confiscate the craft engaged in the trade. And indeed Capt. Elliot believed that this single move had once and forever suppressed the trade. And yet it was not these things that emboldened Lin to take the severe measures he did, but his own instructions and the solemn decision of the Imperial Government. It is unnecessary to recapitulate the tragic story of the war; the destruction of the 20,000 chests of opium delivered up; the humiliating defeat of the Chinese; the payment of twenty-one millions dollars, of which strange to say six millions were as indemnity for the opium destroyed; and the cession to us of an island-Hongkong--at the mouth of the Canton river, which became "a legalized opium shop."

But not only had the Chinese, it is said, the question in their own hands before the war, but Sir R. holds that after the war and up to the time of the legalization, they could have done the same; and any time since then they had the power, after the opium left the port, of putting whatever prohibitive tax they chose. The writer fails to state the difficulties of the Chinese side of the question-their ignorance of foreign countries, etc. The war—their first encounter with a Western power-left its salutary lesson on their minds. It, too, disorganized the country and its finances and lowered the Emperor's prestige and stimulated the official corruption of which we hear so much.

After paralysing the nation, we complain of the ineffectiveness of the administration !

No one denies that the Portuguese and the Dutch were the first traders to bring the opium to the shores of China, but they brought it

« AnkstesnisTęsti »