[ocr errors]

invading the northern provinces, where we had had no transactions and suffered no injuries, than by the more natural proceeding of making ourselves felt at Canton, therefore peace would be more effectually secured by that course; whereas the fact is, that the Chinese authorities are so ready to violate treaties if they can do so under any excuse, however flimsy, that our first duty was to remove from them the pretence which they have since adopted — and which ordinary foresight should have discovered to those who knew their character,—that the populace at Canton were too ungovernable to be set at defiance by the Government, acting up to the terms of the treaty, unless that populace had been terrified into order by the experience of our real power, and of our determination to use it.

Instead of such a course, the delusion which they nourish as to our force and policy has been industriously confirmed; as, for instance, in our defeat at Canton in 1841, for in that light the Chinese consider the following affair. When Lord Gough in that year had taken up his position on the heights commanding Canton, his troops suffered so considerably in detail, from the harassing attacks of the village braves, that their character was to be retrieved there only by action. A ransom was accepted for the only offending city of the empire, and our forces withdrawn to desolate innocent and distant provinces. The effect of this was foreseen by all those who were acquainted with the Canton people. The people, indeed, never heard of the ransom which was paid, and even to those from whom it could not be concealed, including the Central Government, it was represented as the payment of debts due by the Colonythe whole of the sum being extorted from the Hong merchants ! It is very difficult to persuade an inhabitant of this favoured city to draw a distinction between being forced away vi et armis, and being so forced åpyupéais Lórxaiol, or by money being given to our plenipotentiary as a ransom; or if at last convinced, he merely says, No matter! Whether you were driven away by sycee and dollars, or by round shot and flights of arrows, the victory is the same; and it is often more convenient to a wealthy country to use the former than the latter means !

At subsequent intervals, usually very short, acts of violence, often fatal, committed by the rabble of Canton upon British subjects bave called for remonstrance and demands of satisfaction. The same answer is always ready. •We would if we could, .but our people are very violent and turbulent; we cannot manage them; your people must be more cautious, and protect themselves!' And after long and flowery correspondences, the affairs have from time to time died out during the course of


some pretended investigation, the excitement caused by them having of course expired, and our diplomatic officers in the South of China having been fatigued into acquiescence.

The writer of these pages was himself one of the victims in the Fuhshan outrage in 1847, and had some opportunity of observing the effect upon the Canton populace of the abortive demonstration which was made in order to obtain an adequate amend for that and other grievances, which at that time engaged the attention of our government. That failure could not fail to impress them as well as their government, with a sense of overbearing, faithless and impotent insolence on our part, and flush them with a sense of victory on their own. It was not inaptly caricatured by the Chinese in a squib which covered the walls of Canton for weeks afterwards, purporting to represent the red-haired devil' (John Bull) of the most portentous countenance and stentorian mouth, but with a ridiculously disproportionate body, and yet more diminutive arms, his hands being but rudimentary; and this impotent and frantic bawler was freely accepted by the Cantonese as a faithful symbol of Great Britain. The ill effects of such abortive efforts on the self-complaisant and gratulatory Chinese mind, we are convinced, can hardly be over-rated, and how must they be fortified in their notion of our tyrannical cowardice, when they hear of those very officers whom in China they wheedle and fancy they frighten out of half their points, hectoring and fuming most potently over an impotent, unoffending king of Loochoo? We could fill this volume with accounts of similar errors were they not in themselves too unimportant to fail of being tiresome.

After this review of our policy in China we may see that we have been far from doing all we could to allay prejudices, to promote confidence, to extend commerce, and at the same time, and it is essential to all these things, to command respect in China; and consequently the state of our commerce with that country is far from satisfactory, and still further from being promising Enough has been said to show that the existing prejudices of the people of China are not entirely destitute of cause; and if we have not ourselves to blame for their origin, we have, in great measure, for their continuance and extension. It is time to remedy this, and to forsake that excellent foppery • of the world that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeits

of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, • the moon, and the stars.'

Our experience of the past may guide us in our policy towards China in that future which we have yet at our command. The


question of the reduction of the tea duties in this country does not come, in all its aspects, within the scope of this Article. It is before the country as part of a proposed scheme of taxation, and its merits must be decided upon those general grounds which determine fiscal regulations of that nature. Whether even in the actual state of our relations with China, a material reduction of the price of low teas might not so extend the consumption as to maintain the revenue in that mode which has so often and remarkably been exemplified in the course of the last twenty years, is a question worthy of consideration. We have, in the history of the trade in this very article two salient instances of the effect naturally consequent upon such a measure, in the results of the alterations of the tea duties in 1745 and 1784. Prior to the former of these years the impost upon tea was of a compound character. An excise duty was levied of four shillings per pound, and an ad valorem customs duty of four per cent. In that year, however, a modification of this fiscal arrangement took place, and tea was then charged with an excise duty of 1s. per pound, and a customs duty of twenty-five per cent. The average current importation of tea for the five years preceding 1745 was 768,520 lbs.; whereas in the five years subsequent to that year the annual amount of imports rose on the average to 2,360,000 lbs.

Again, in the year 1784 a great reduction in the tea duties was effected. That commodity was then for the future charged to the customs with an ad valorem duty of 12, per cent only, in lieu of the then existing duty of 119 per cent! The result of this measure in one direction was a general abandonment of an almost universal system of adulteration, and in another the fourfold increase of the quantity imported within ten years. Notwithstanding what has been urged by us as to the folly of expecting the supply of Chinese produce to be unlimited, there is no reason to doubt that, even without looking to the ultimate effects of a great extension of Chinese commerce which we have endeavoured to point out, the supply of tea at once obtainable is adequate to answer a considerable extension of consumption. A sufficient evidence of this is to be found in the fact that, while the entries of tea for consumption in the year 1851 were only 54,000,000 lbs., the quantity imported rose to the immense total of 71,466,000 lbs., while every additional importation of grain and of cotton, whether raw or manufactured, from our Indian possessions will tend to extend the area applicable in China to the cultivation of tea, in so far as this increase in the means of production is not realised, the increased demand will naturally tend to raise the price of tea temporarily, and, there

fore, to devote the existing tea plantations to the better class of plain teas, which form the staple export to foreign countries, and which realise a much more considerable profit than the coarse tea which form the staple of home consumption. The Chinese populace will have recourse for their beverage to the

brick tea, which is at present used by the Tartars in great quantities, to other lower classes of teas than are at present produced, and to redried or second-hand teas.

We have already expressed our own inclination to the opinion that the existing rebellion will not have any considerable effect on the prices of teas or their supply, or the course of our commerce generally; but should this expectation be disappointed, any rise in prices consequent upon current events in China, being accidental and temporary, must not be taken into consideration in estimating the proper effects of the reduction of the duties on tea. In fact, though it may be disturbed, the effect of that reduction will immediately be, in case of such a rise, to secure tea for our own consumption at a price so much the less increased as, had other things remained the same, it would have been reduced. As it appears then, that we may anticipate that China, even in its present condition, is competent to answer a considerably increased demand npon its tea countries, so we think there can be little doubt that the consequence of the reduction of the tea duties will be to give rise to such a demand. This result will of course be suspended if for any period other causes should maintain the existing prices; and had a small proportion of the impost been remitted, or had the remissions been extended over a more prolonged period, the benefit would probably for some years have been reaped almost exclusively by the tea dealers. The measure, however, of the present Government will reduce the tea duties by more than 50 per cent. in less than three years from the present time; fixing them at 1s. 10d. per pound up to the 5th of April 1854, at ls. 6d. for the following year, then for one more year at 1s. 3d., and thenceforward at 1s. per pound only.

So great a reduction to be made so soon, no class can hope to retain from the consumer, and therefore it may confidently be expected that the very keen competition which exists amongst the retailers of tea will soon give to the public its full benefit. If we are correct in our anticipations, the fall of price will infallibly occasion a very extended demand for an article, the taste for which is very much increasing, the use of which with the mass of the people is from its cost very much restricted, and the increased consumption of which, it is very generally and with much reason supposed, will counteract to a considerable extent habits of dissipation and dram-drinking, and add to the domestic comforts of the poorer classes at the same time that even with the reduction of duty the revenue will be sustained.

Reverting, however, to the general question, of the best course to be taken for the improvement of our relations with China, we would remark that, even if our position in that country were to remain unchanged, much benefit would be derived from the repression of all the grievances which from time to time occur at Canton, and our course should be the same whatever dynasty may rule that immense empire; nor need we speculate further on what will be the issue of the present civil dissensions. It would be most desirable instantly to require the opening of the city gates, in pursuance of the treaty engagements to that effect; to insist on complete liberty for British subjects at Canton to perambulate the vicinage under the bonâ fide protection of the law; and the absolute discontinuance of the insulting manifestoes which so exasperate the Cantonese against us.

All this, however, appears to us to have become a comparatively trivial matter, for not only is the importance of Canton, even under the present régime, rapidly declining, but the measures which we would press upon the Government of the country would supersede any such steps. At the foundation of our future prosperity in China we place a direct diplomatic intercourse with Pekin. That the race of Chinese statesmen and diplomatists, perhaps not less astute than any of their tribe, are particularly distinguished for the most singular depravity in the matter of veracity, for the most daring flights of imagination and the most incredible schemes of deception, those who have given any attention to Chinese affairs have long been aware. Sir John Davis, however, has thrown a new and more certain light upon these circumstances. He has shown, in a curious manner, how utterly in the dark the head of the Government is kept as to the true colour of events, until he can no longer be blinded; and he has shown us a cause for this which must inevitably work such a consequence. Nothing can be more comically capricious and tragically absurd than the fashion in which the highest ministers of state are treated by his Celestial Majesty. The mode in which they conducted their communications with Pekin throughout the war is all but incredible — the barefaced falsehood, the ridiculous bravado, the servile adulation, are equalled only one by another. And the very sufficient cause for all this is, that want of success appears at Pekin to be a crime, that even (as in the case of Keshen, who candidly told the emperor of the weakness of

« 前へ次へ »