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Canton in 1841,) dangers may not be pointed out but at the risk of degradation and banishment.
A general suffers a defeat and, no matter how gallant his conduct, how impracticable his position, he must either deceive the emperor or await (unless he observes the Chinese punctilio by committing suicide) such an edict as that which was launched against Keshen, one of the ablest of Chinese statesmen, because he dared to propose making terms with the barbarians. Sir John Davis has given us a translation of this edict (vol. i. p. 40.), and in it occurs the following passage: - And yet he dares to ask such favours for the Eng• lish rebels, and moreover descants on the wretched condition of Canton to induce us to agree to the proposal. How great is the presumption and shamelessness of Keshen! Let • him be degraded and placed in chains, and brought to the
capital under convoy; and let his property be absolutely con• fiscated.' This edict, indeed, was but the precursor of a sentence of death, and of a long and cruel imprisonment. So utter was this degradation, that the great Keshen, whose confiscated property amounted, we are told by Sir John Davis, to several millions of personalty, besides 500,000 acres of land, could scarce procure a few copper coins to feed himself in prison ! Another remarkable instance is given of this despotic cruelty in the case of Elepoo, who was governor of the province in which Chusan was situated when that island was first occupied by our troops.
"Suddenly there appeared an order for him to appear at Pekin, there to answer with Keshen for not having exterminated the English. He himself and all his adherents and employés had to kneel for three days at the palace gate (rather a protracted levee) before they could obtain a hearing, and then the sentence of their condemnation was pronounced. The old Elepoo, a hoary bead of seventy-five, who had been for many years governor of several provinces, was to be sent as a common convict to the river Amoor, on the frontier of Siberia, where they either track boats or are given as slaves to the hunters of fur animals. Such was to be the reward of his public services; and if he escaped this fate it was solely owing to the uninterrupted success of the British forces, which demonstrated the value of his earliest advice, and led to its adoption in the end.' (Vol. i. p. 73.)
Now this state of things, the notorious, the invincible treachery and bad faith of the Chinese, appear to render it essential to any considerable amelioration of our condition in China, that Pekin be made the seat of negotiations, the residence of the British plenipotentiary. There can be no doubt that the institution of such diplomatic relations would be vehemently opposed, and would require to be carried out with the firmest hand. It is hardly imaginable that the existing state of things can continue, and the most desirable event is that the Chinese empire, before it is further weakened, should be opened absolutely and freely to intercourse with the world. While such absurd puerilities as an autograph letter, conveyed by a war steamer and handed to a mandarin, who would probably devote it to any other purpose than that for which he received it, cannot fail to be injurious, we believe that a becoming, dignified embassy, even if it proceeded without the sanction of treaty, could not fail ultimately to be received, not, as formerly, as delegate of an island monarch, asserting an unknown dominion, but as representative of a member, far from the least important, of the society of nations, having well proved its title to such a position. We are not, however, left to proceed independently of treaty, for it is specially provided that Her Britannic Majesty's chief officer in China shall conduct his correspondence
in the capital and out of the capital, without distinction. We are glad to be able to quote the authority of Sir John Davis, in favour of the establishment of diplomatic intercourse at Pekin. While deprecating any interference with the progress of the Chinese rebellion, we do not see in it a sufficient reason for delaying what is on general grounds desirable; nor is it probable that any issue of that event will affect the importance of this point.
Hitherto there has been a very gratifying unanimity of feeling between the French, the Americans and ourselves in China. All of us are reciprocally entitled to the advantages stipulated for by the others; and that these three countries should act together in the settlement of this important question is very much to be desired. We have before observed that the period stipulated for the revision of the treaties is at hand, nor should it be forgotten that the intestine disturbances in China would probably at the present moment greatly predispose the imperial mind to consolidate his relations with European nations.
In whatever mode, however, our diplomatic intercourse with China may be carried on, the objects of that intercourse should be three principal points, -- the remission (so far at least as they are inconsistent with the spirit of the treaties) of the transit and customs duties on tea, the legalisation of the opium traffic, and, chief of all, the absolute freedom of intercourse with every part of China.
The legalisation of the importation of opium would be productive of a very considerable benefit to us by allaying those VOL. XCVIII. NO. CXCIX.
prejudices which exist against the purveyors of that drug, and mitigating its evil results in China. No doubt it would be still just as poisonous a drug, the habit of smoking it would be not one whit the less vicious; but whilst its use would not be at all likely to extend in consequence of its importation being permitted, all those innumerable evils which result, as we have seen, from the prohibition of the traffic would be removed. When we anticipate the non-extension of the use of opium, it is because we bear in mind the frequently exemplified fact, that prohibitions of this nature appear to lead directly to their own violation. They draw attention so much to the forbidden luxury; they invest it with such a special charm to the weaker, more excitable, and more perverse classes of minds, which taken together always form a very considerable part of a community, that numerous instances occur in history in which prohibition has actually fostered the thing forbidden. And we further assume that the Chinese government would, in the case we anticipate, impose a custom duty nearly equal to the cost of smuggling. Although opium smoking is at present strictly forbidden by law, that law is inoperative. Keying, in the year 1844, openly proposed to Sir John Davis the recognition of that connivance (but only as connivance), with which the traffic in opium was condueted (vol. ii. p. 203.), and we should entertain very considerable hopes, were the subject mooted, of the celestial politicians yielding the point upon its being pressed upon them for their own direct advantage. In fact, this course has just been suggested by some of the Emperor's ministers; but it will probably be found that, unless the English nation supports the Chinese Government in adopting this step, the latter will hardly venture to sweep away the enormous gains of the officials who are interested in the smuggling trade, supported as they will be by the old Chinese party and the stricter sort of moralists.
The grand aim of all our efforts should, however, be the complete removal of every legal restriction upon intercourse with any part of the middle country. No doubt, even were they removed, the seats of our commerce would still probably remain at Canton, Amoy and Shanghae, with the addition of Tien-tsing; but although this would be so, there can be equally little doubt but that quite a sufficient number of that class of English traders, who are so common in remote parts of other Oriental countries would be found to saturate the most important districts of the empire with European produce. This measure appears to go to the root of the matter, and therefore to be of infinitely greater importance (with reference, we are now speaking, to the increase of our commerce) than any reduction of import duties, the effect of which, whilst our international relations continue unchanged, is only somewhat narrowly limited or problematical. The fact is, as we have before stated, in order to develop the resources of China a great stimulus must be applied; and nothing perhaps short of such an impetus as would be given by suddenly throwing open the whole empire, so that its marts may be open to our own enterprise, new tastes may be developed, and mechanical knowledge may be given, is adequate to that end. China is a rich country, but it must supply its teeming millions with grain, it must clothe them with cotton and silk; it is as great a delusion (as any one who has there observed the husbandman terracing off the mountain side, and forcing the rill up the steep to cultivate his rice and cucumbers, must be satisfied) to imagine that, without our supplying their wants, they can supply ours to an unlimited extent, as it would be to suppose that we could support such a one-sided traffic.
If, however, we can obtain the means of carrying to the knowledge of the inhabitants, not of five ports, but of all the great marts of China, the merits of our own cotton manufactures, and if we supply them with the raw cotton and the wool of our own Indian and Australian growth, without even considering the less staple articles of our importation into that country, or the subtle questions of agricultural and manufacturing improvements and intellectual excitement, we surely are entitled to expect not only an immediate and considerable increase in the supply and diminution in the price of teas, but also a still extending demand for our various products. And, looking forward a little further, and indulging in hopes less measured certainly, - perhaps not less justifiable,-may we not imagine the remarkable country of which we write displaying the iron road, the snorting engine, the busy wheel, improved civilisation, and the renovated energy and combined enterprise of a mighty nation ; stimulating the industry of all countries with a prodigious excitement; adding to and circulating the wealth of the world to the advantage of other communities and extending, in no common measure, peace on earth and good will among men ?
ART. V. – Lives and Letters of the Devereux Earls of
Essex in the Reigns of Elizabeth, James I., and Charles I.: 1540-1646. By the Honourable WALTER BOURCHIER DEVEREUX, R.N. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1853. IF F the universality of any intellectual taste could justify its
being called natural, the love of history might assuredly lay claim to that distinction, so strongly has the desire been evinced by all people and in all ages to discover and preserve the traditions both of their own and of other countries. The earliest literature of every nation consists of poetical recitations of the events of a period still more remote, or of the adventures of some hero whose deeds have captivated the fancy or flattered the national pride of his fellow-countrymen. Even when distorted by marvels, and overlaid with exaggerations, these recitations maintain their value in later times rather by their historical pretensions than by the interest attached to them as mere romantic compositions; and sooner than abandon them to the province of fiction, much labour and learning has been often expended in endeavouring, by some ingenious theory, to reconcile the fables of antiquity with the more modern notions of probability. No one willingly believes that Troy did not exist, that Æneas did not found a colony in Latium, and that traits of Roman valour and virtue existed but in song; and still less willingly does any one withdraw his faith from those chivalric romances of the Middle Ages that recount the doughty deeds of Good King Arthur, the exploits of Charlemagne and his leudes, or the wondrous adventures of the renowned Roland. So great is the wish to possess or even to believe we possess the links that
may connect us with the distant past that every tale is cherished which can be regarded as even possibly founded on fact. The taste for history may indeed be referred not only to a thirst for knowledge, but to the love of truth; and the nearer that history approaches to the time in which we live, the more stern become the demands, and the more searching the inquiries respecting its authenticity. Then the doubts of a hero's actual existence, or of the credibility of an event is exchanged for an examination into the niceties of character and the details of every fact; and in this demand for complete and perfect information, there is some danger that historians may be tempted
, to fill up the deficiencies in authentic records by the expression of strong opinions or bold speculations. It is for this reason that we must receive with gratitude and hold in great respect every contribution of original documents that may serve to en