House of Commons, March 2, 1857
RESOLUTION MOVED. RESUMED DEBATE. (THIRD NIGHT.)
HC Deb 02 March 1857 vol 144 cc1589-684 1589
§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [26th February]— That this House has heard with concern of the conflicts which have occurred between the British and Chinese authorities in the Canton river; and, without expressing an opinion as to the extent to which the Government of China may have afforded this Country cause of complaint respecting the non-fulfilment of the Treaty of 1842, this House considers that the Papers which have been laid upon the Table fail to establish satisfactory grounds for the violent measures resorted to at Canton in the late affair of the Arrow.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
said, that it had been very generally admitted in the course of the debate that the great and momentous question which occupied the attention of the House was one that demanded in a great measure a just application and a true construction of the principles of international law. The study and practice of that jurisprudence had occupied many years of his life, and it was in the humble hope that he might bring some contribution to the debate by means of that study and practice that he ventured to claim for a short time the indulgent attention of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies—the organ of the Government on this present occasion, and the only Cabinet Minister that had as yet spoken—had made some observations in which he fully concurred. He said that it would be most unbecoming that these transactions should have been passed over without receiving the deliberate consideration of the House of Commons, 1590 that they deeply concerned the most important commercial interests of this country, that they affected most deeply the reputation and credit of the British Empire, and that the members of the Legislature should vote, not as Whigs or Tories, not as Liberals or Conservatives, but solely on considerations of the honour and credit of their country. Such observations were worthy the unblemished character which he (Mr. Labouchere) had long maintained within and without those walls, and of his high position in Her Majesty’s Council. There had been meetings of rival political chiefs, in reference to this debate; but he had not attended any of them, because he thought that his vote on such a question as that now before the House ought not to be influenced in the slightest degree by any political or party considerations. He had no object either in upsetting or maintaining a Government—he had no other object in view than the single one of doing justice and giving a true verdict on so great and so important a question. Certain extraneous elements, calculated to lead the House astray instead of guiding it to a right conclusion, had been introduced into the debate. They had the blue-book with the memorable misnomer of Insults in China. Those who had read that document would know how little it deserved its appellation. The very last pages of that book recorded the case of a missionary named Burns, who, having put on the dress of a Chinese and gone into the forbidden towns, was seized by the Chinese authorities, and afterwards demanded by the British Consul. Commissioner Yeh said— I cannot but look upon it as exceedingly improper that Mr. Burns (admitting him to be an Englishman) should change his own dress, shave his head, and, assuming the costume of a Chinese, penetrate into the interior in so irregular a manner. Burns was sent to the British Consul; and what did Consul Parkes say respecting him?— Mr. Burns is now suffering from sickness, brought on by the fatigues of the journey from Chaou-chow, protracted by the delays encountered on the way. He expresses himself, however, very grateful for the kind treatment he has received. Two other persons who had been seized along with Mr. Burns were also liberated. The whole transaction showed anything but an intention to insult the English. He did not, however, think, the general character of the Chinese ought to be mixed up with the subject now under discussion. 1591 The hon. and learned Lord Advocate had read an extract from the work of M. Huc, a French missionary, to the effect that the Chinese must be “bent down like a bamboo cane and held fast,” otherwise we could not deal with them at all. Now, the late work of Mr. Meadows, the Chinese Interpreter to the Crown, expressed an entirely opposite opinion, and cautioned its readers that of all accounts of China the one most to be distrusted was that given by M. Huc. Again, the question as to our right to enter Canton, and whether the treaties on that subject had been violated, had nothing to do with the present discussion except so far as they might be deemed to affect the bonâ fides of the lorcha dispute. The hon. and learned Attorney General, in speaking of Sir John Bowring being “stabbed in the back” by his friends, had entirely misrepresented—unintentionally, no doubt,—what had been said by the right hon. Baronet below him (Sir J. Graham). The right hon. Baronet spoke in high terms, as everybody must do, of Admiral Seymour, and stated distinctly, at the same time, that he had no acquaintance, beyond a House of Common’s one, with Sir John Bowring. No hon. Member’s vote ought to be influenced by a feeling that they were censuring Admiral Seymour, who had no other course open to him but to obey the orders of the Plenipotentiary. The real questions before the House were these, “Was the war just in its origin and right in its continuance? And if not, what verdict ought a British House of Commons to pass upon it?” The papers on the table contained an address from the inhabitants of Canton to his Excellency the Plenipotentiary, which was one of the most touching documents ever presented to a deliberative assembly. That address stated:— We, the Cantonese, who have been born and brought up in this place, some of us in the public service, some of us in trade, whatever our vocation, have each one and all our property, our very food and raiment in this city, and to all of us, hundreds of thousands in number, the city is our base and our foundation. Your nation has traded at Canton for more than a century, during which it may be said that between you and ourselves, the Cantonese, there have been relations of friendship, and not of hostility. The late affair of the lorcha was a trifle—it was no case for deep-seated animosity, as a great offence that could not be forgotten; yet you have suddenly taken up arms, and for several days you have been firing shell until you have burnt dwellings and destroyed people in untold numbers. It cannot be either told how many old people, infants, and females have left their homes in affliction. If your countrymen have not seen this they have 1592 surely heard, have they not, that such is the case? What offence has been committed by the people of Canton that such a calamity should befall them. He asked the House of Commons what answer they could make to this question? It could make only one of two answers, viz., either that they entirely approved, like Lord Clarendon and the rest of the Government, the course adopted by Sir John Bowring, Consul Parkes, and Admiral Seymour; or that they concurred with the hon. Member for the West Riding in asserting that the papers on the table “fail to establish satisfactory grounds for the violent measures resorted to at Canton in the late affair of the Arrow.” These were the two issues before the House.
Now, the first proposition of international law which he proposed to lay down was that, whatever the principles of that law were, they were as applicable in a case of the kind now before the House to China as to any other country. The Lord Advocate had alleged, indeed, that China was not entitled to be put into the category of nations which could be dealt with according to strict international law. But if such language had been held by Russia towards Turkey during the late war, it would have provoked most indignant disclaimers from all parts of the House. The despatches of Commissioner Yeh gave a better exposition of the principles of international law than, he was ashamed to say, could be found in the letters of the British Plenipotentiary. Governor Yeh said:— In reference to this matter, who is in the right and who is in the wrong, all countries must have principles of justice by which to decide. What reason is there in thus disturbing the quiet of the people of all countries? Had we not treaties with China recognizing her police and her courts of justice? Was there any ground by which we could mete out a different measure of international law and justice to Turkey and to China? It was true, indeed, that as to minor matters of the comity of nations, a distinction might be made between Christian and heathen nations; but in all matters of the present character between State and State it was an unquestionable proposition that China must be dealt with on the principles of international law. What, then, was the national character of the Arrow, and how must it be ascertained? Either by the English law, by international 1593 law, or by the specific provisions of the treaty. The House could not have failed to observe the different lines of argument pursued by the Secretary of State for the Colonies and by the Attorney General. The former rested the case mainly on the colonial ordinance; while the latter held that the whole question depended on the construction of the treaty, and that the colonial ordinance had nothing whatever to do with the matter. The Colonial Secretary likened the colonial ordinance to what were called the Mediterranean passes. But there was no analogy between the two. The Mediterranean passes were given to protect Christian commerce against the Barbary corsairs; but then they were given in consequence of treaties with those very Barbary corsairs authorizing the issue of them. This colonial ordinance, on the other hand, was not founded on a treaty between England and China. To put it on an equal footing with the Mediterranean passes it must rest on treaty. He passed by the historical fact of the constant complaints of the abuses growing out of the grant of these passes. Therefore the doctrine asserted elsewhere, and repeated here, that it was not possible for England, by any municipal law she might enact, to take away the rights of other countries, remained wholly unshaken by the discussion in this House. With regard to the question whether the flag of the lorcha was flying at the time of the seizure, upon which so much had been said, he differed with some hon. Gentlemen on the evidence as to the fact, and he did not believe that any Judge or jury, with such conflicting evidence before them as existed on this point, would come to the conclusion that the British flag was flying. It should also be remembered that Governor Yeh had over and over again said that it was not the custom of lorchas to carry the British flag when at anchor. This he stated not only to Sir John Bowring but to Admiral Seymour, who must have known what was the practice; and yet his assertion never met with a single contradiction. But it was perfectly immaterial whether she carried the flag at the time or not. It was not the flag that determined the character of the ship, it was the real character of the ship that determined the country to which she belonged, and to whose protection she was entitled. The opposite doctrine, laid down by the Lord Advocate, entirely overlooking the true nationality of the vessel, would, if 1594 strictly carried into effect, generate perpetual discord. The right of ascertaining whether the vessel rightfully carried the flag which she had hoisted had never been denied. What was the history of this vessel? There was clear evidence that she had been at one time piratically engaged; and at the very time of this seizure there was a pirate on board. It could not be maintained that under such circumstances the Chinese were not entitled to board her while in their own waters, and ascertain whether she was really owned by an Englishman or not. His right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) had called the attention of the House to many of the contradictions as to the register of this vessel which were furnished by Sir John Bowring. He (Mr. R. Phillimore) would add another to that disgraceful catalogue. At page 58 of the blue-book they would find a document headed, “Notification of Mr. Parkes, Her Britannic Majesty’s Consul at Canton, on November 1, 1856″—for what purpose issued? “for the removal of misconceptions by a declaration of the truth;” and for what end? “to the end that confidence may be restored to the public mind.” And what was the first averment in this “declaration of the truth”? “That the lorcha Arrow was a vessel duly registered as above.” That was one of the many misrepresentations which, to the shame of this country, these papers displayed. His learned Friend the Attorney General had said that the Chinese had nothing to do with our municipal law, and that if the lorcha had violated our municipal law that was nothing to the Chinese. But even if this were so, which he (Mr. R. Phillimore) denied, was it nothing to the Parliament of England? Was it nothing to the British Parliament that our authorities had put forward a claim which was not founded on right? Was it nothing to the honour of this country, and what would be the opinion of the whole Continent of Europe, to whom the whole contents of these papers would speedily travel? Was it nothing to us what would be the opinion of the Chinese themselves as to the good faith of England when they learned these facts as they would now learn them by the perusal of these papers? Our municipal law might be nothing to the Chinese, but it had everything to do with those who had the honour of England at heart. He would venture to differ from the opinion of the hon. and learned Attorney General, and would put 1595 it to this test:—Supposing that this vessel had been the subject either of a civil proceeding to determine the ownership, or of a criminal, was there any lawyer who would say that on the evidence of these papers the vessel had been registered, or that, putting aside the question of our jurisdiction by treaty for 100 miles from our coasts, that the parties would be liable under our law? Would any court, in short, have held that this ship was a British ship? These were the true means of trying the national character of the vessel. What was the celebrated case of the Felicidide! A British murder committed on board the deck of a captured Portuguese slave-ship, our flag flying in the jolly-boat at her side; the murderers tried before all the Judges of England—the fact admitted—the murderers acquitted. Why? Because the Judges held that the British jurisdiction over the vessel was not founded in strict law. His hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General had contended that, having regard to two Articles of the treaty, the ninth, he thought, and the seventeenth, it was perfectly clear that this was a British vessel in the sense of that treaty, and that in fact the treaty was the real instrument to look to, and all the rest was beside the question. Now, he ventured to say that the rules of interpretation of that treaty were not laid down by the Attorney General in accordance with the principles of international law. He (Mr. R. Phillimore) denied that we could now turn round on the Chinese and say, “We did not mean to use the term British vessels in the sense used in our own statutes.” The Chinese would be entitled to say, “You are estopped from that argument.” The maxim verba accipiuntur fortius contra proferentem, applied, and particularly in a contract between two States, words of restriction must be taken against us, and not against the Chinese, and having used the term “British vessel” in the treaty, we must interpret those words in the sense in which we had used them in our own Acts of Parliament. Besides, this argument as to the treaty being everything, and every other consideration nothing, went too far; for if the treaty was everything and the colonial ordinance nothing, why was that ordinance passed at all? Let them, however, assume that the Attorney General’s interpretation was correct, and that the words “British ships” meant British ships in the popular sense of the words, and not in its technical and restrict- 1596 ed sense, and they must then fall back upon international law to decide what was a British ship. According to that law a British ship was one which had proper British papers; but by the statements of Sir John Bowring himself it appeared that this lorcha had not, and moreover could not have had such papers. Therefore, however the words “British vessel” were interpreted, whether by our own statutes or by general international law, it was clear that no wrong had been done by the Chinese. The hon. and learned Attorney General had further argued, and had cited cases in support of his argument, that if this ship had been owned by a domiciled Chinese subject it would have been a British ship. Now, the cases cited from the “Admiralty Reports” simply established the position that in time of war—and it was to a time of war only that they referred—ships were to be considered primâ facie as belonging to the country under whose flag and pass they sailed—an elementary proposition which no one would dispute. The cases cited from the common law “Term Reports” would no doubt be dealt with by other hon. Members in the course of the debate, and he would pass them by with this observation, that even if the hon. and learned Gentleman’s position were a sound one, there was no evidence that the owner of this vessel was a domiciled British subject. On the contrary, it appeared from these papers that if domiciled anywhere he was domiciled at Canton. But even if he were domiciled in a British possession, the true doctrine of international law was, that such domicil, though it might warrant the Government of the country of the domicil in protecting the domiciled person against other States generally, or as lawyers say, third parties, could not avail him against the country of his allegiance.
He (Mr. R. Phillimore) hastened from these legal questions, with which, however, he trusted he had not wearied the House, to that which was more properly a consideration of a moral character. Assuming that the British authorities were right in everything which they did with respect to this vessel, assuming that she was a British vessel duly registered, how was the case of Sir John Bowring benefited by the admission? Let the House look at the hideous disproportion between the offence and the chastisement! Was the law of nations really so stupid and so detestable a code that it exacted the blood of men as satisfaction 1597 for an offence of this description? Did it point at no intermediate course? Certainly it did. And what was the intermediate course which the Queen’s Advocate, in the letter read by the Attorney General recommended? Reprisals; and what was the difference between reprisals and war? Reprisals were made manente pace,in re minimè dubiâ, by all the tribunals, and afterwards by the prince. The question arose, then, was this an injury supported by the State, and for which all reparation had been denied? The Attorney General had deprecated the attacks made upon Sir John Bowring for not understanding a question of law respecting which Lord Lyndhurst and Lord Wensley-dale were at variance. But did the House reflect upon the bearing of this argument upon the unfortunate Chinese? If the point of law was so doubtful that the most eminent lawyers of England differed in opinion as to its construction, in God’s name, and in the name of our common humanity, why was Canton bombarded? He contended that in this case the res was not only dubia, but that it was minima in itself, and that the proceeding was indefensible upon any principle of municipal or international law. What were the admitted facts of the case? Here was a Chinese built, a Chinese bought, and a Chinese owned vessel, having a pirate on board, without a register cognizable by the English courts of justice, and with a British flag which had been purchased for 1,000 dollars. She was boarded by the Chinese authorities, who took off ten of the crew, but neither 1598 touched the property in the ship nor injured any of the persons who were on board. Now, one of the false statements reiterated by Consul Parkes was that the master was on board at the time this proceeding took place; when in fact he was not on board. Now, what reparation did they want? Did they want the men brought back? They were all brought back. Did they want them brought back by authority? They were brought back under the authority of a public officer of high rank. Did they want an apology for the insult offered to the flag? Why, Commissioner Yeh declared over and over again that he never intended the slightest insult to the English flag, and that he had no idea that the lorcha was an English vessel, and he referred to the antecedents of the vessel to justify what he had done. Was this, then, a case even justifying reprisals? And if not reprisals, how much less war? On the 13th of October, 1856, Sir John Bowring wrote to Consul Parkes in these terms:— In reply to your despatch of the 12th instant, it is undoubtedly my intention that the apology of the Imperial Commissioner shall be in writing; and the requirement that the conditions of the treaty be strictly fulfilled necessarily implies the return of the arrested Chinamen to the ship, and their delivery to the authorities (if delivered) by and through you. As to the modus faciendi, I shall leave that to be arranged by the Commodore and yourself. At that time, therefore, Sir John Bowring did not conceive that there was any particular manner in which the men should be returned. On the 22nd of October Consul Parkes wrote to Admiral Seymour that he had received this statement from the Imperial Commissioner:— Hereafter, if any lawless characters conceal themselves on board foreign lorchas, you, the said Consul, shall, of course, be informed of the same by declaration (from the Imperial Commissioner), in order that you may act in conjunction with the Chinese authorities in the management of such affairs. Upon that statement Mr. Parkes himself observed, “This may, perhaps, be considered a sufficient assurance.” On the 12th November, 1856, Yeh wrote to Sir John Bowring, stating that the Assistant Magistrate Hew had been sent twice with the men to be surrendered, and he added:— Heretofore any foreign business that has had to be transacted by deputy has been transacted by officers similarly deputed, and the present was a case of all others requiring common conference; but Consul Parkes had made up his mind not to consent to what was proposed … Imagine it, that the simple fact being that a seizure was 1599 made by the Chinese Government of Chinese offenders whom it was a duty to seize, it is pretended that the British ensign was hauled down; and this is followed up by a movement of troops and a cannonade, to the infliction of terrible suffering on the people. I must beg your Excellency to pass an opinion on such a state of things. He (Mr. Robert Phillimore) now asked the House of Commons to “pass an opinion on such a state of things.” In page 111 of the proceedings there was a document most damning to the British honour. He referred to the minutes of a conference with some of the Canton gentry, dated November 15, 1856. These unhappy Cantonese gentlemen urged that it would be better to detach the question of free intercourse with Canton from the Arrow case; but the minutes continued with these remarkable words:— If simple reparation for outrage in the Arrow case had been all we required the Admiral would doubtless have been long ago satisfied with what had been done; but that a principle was at stake which could not be abandoned. He (Mr. Robert Phillimore) asked whether auy statesman or any lawyer would contend that reprisals were justified when reparation had been made? But it appeared, according to the confession of the parties who demanded reprisals, that they would doubtless have been satisfied long before if reparation for outrage in the case of the Arrow had been all that was required. Now, what was the House discussing. The proposition of the hon. Member for the West Riding was that the punishment inflicted upon Canton was more than adequate to the outrage upon the Arrow, and it appeared on the papers before them that the official of this country had himself declared that satisfactory reparation for that outrage had been given long ago. but war introduced a totally different state of things; and he ventured to say that reprisals, and not war, were the proper remedy for the wrong which was alleged to have been committed. He contended also that the papers before the House showed that full satisfaction had been afforded, and that, apart from obtaining reparation for an injury, it was indefensible upon any principle of law, of justice, or of humanity to make war for the punishment of a nation. He begged attention to an authority upon this point of reprisals, which would not be disputed. In the famous answer to the Prussian memorial, which Montesquieu said was never replied to, this passage occurred:— The law of nations, founded upon justice, equity, convenience, and the reason of the thing and confirmed by long usage, does not allow of reprisals except in case of violent injuries, directed or supported by the State, and justice absolutely denied
He (Mr. Phillimore) now came to a portion of the case which had been dexterously handled by the Attorney General, who referred to Lord Clarendon’s letter containing the opinion of the Queen’s Advocate, an officer, as the hon. and learned Gentleman remarked, who was appointed by Lord Derby, and to whom he applied a well merited eulogium. He (Mr. Phillimore) thought, however, it was evident from the opinion that the real facts of the case were not before the Queen’s Advocate, because he said that there was no evidence to show that the vessel was not registered. Now, they all knew that she was not registered. Was that learned 1600 person in favour of going to war? No such thing. He said at page 16,— Under all the circumstances of the case, I approve the intention to seize and hold one of the Imperial junks as security for the redress which the High Commissioner has been called upon to afford in this case. This letter went no further than to justify the seizure and holding of Chinese property as a reparation, and he should like to know whether the Queen’s Advocate had given an opinion to the effect that what had occurred since justified in law the bombardment of Canton? Where was that opinion? Both the Lord Advocate and the Attorney General in their address to the House on Friday night expressed their opinion that nothing could justify the strong measures which had been adopted but intentional insult or malus animus on the part of the Chinese. But did the papers afford evidence of any intentional insult or of malus animus? The impression produced on his mind by the perusal of them was exactly to the contrary. The law as regarded these colonial registers was so doubtful that the highest authorities in England were at issue on the point, and it was admitted both by Sir John Bowring and Admiral Seymour that there was great practical difficulty in discovering the truth as to lorchas. In the Correspondence relating to the registration of colonial vessels he found this passage:— The question presents grave difficulties; a vessel no sooner obtains a register than she escapes colonial jurisdiction; carries on her trade within the waters of China; engages probably in every sort of fraudulent dealings, and may never appear again to render any account of her proceedings, or to be made responsible for her illegal acts. The preamble of the colonial ordinance commenced thus— Whereas many illegal acts have resulted from the improper use of registers granted at Hong Kong under the provisions of the Imperial Acts to vessels employed solely in trading with the mainland of China, and it is necessary that legal trading should be protected and illegal trading prevented— And the British Admiral thus began his Proclamation:— Whereas it is difficult, on account of their numerous designations and flags, to ascertain the true character of Chinese junks or vessels, and whereas, so long as the present operations continue, all Chinese vessels by anchoring in the vicinity of any of our positions inconvenience Her Majesty’s’ ships of war, and endanger their own safety, by the doubts or mistakes that their appearance may at any time occasion, &c. 1601 If it was difficult for the Admiral on the station to ascertain the true character of a lorcha, what right had we to take it for granted that the Chinese authorities in boarding a lorcha which had been a pirate, and which was Chinese manned and Chinese owned, had intended to insult us? Commissioner Yeh denied over and over again that such was his intention; he promised that for the future the utmost care should be taken that nothing of the sort should occur, and he sent back every man who had been taken out of the lorcha, including the pirate; and yet the British Plenipotentiary, being of opinion that the honour of his country was not sufficiently appeased, empowered the Admiral to bombard one of the most populous cities in the world. He could not accept the benevolent suggestion of the Colonial Secretary, that we were not at war with China, for at page 46 he found Sir John Bowring thus writing to the Commissioner— I must now leave to his Excellency the naval Commander in Chief the measures which a painful necessity may compel him to take, and to your Excellency all the responsibility which belongs to those who disregard treaties, and visit upon a people the unhappy consequences of their own obstinacy. I shall not fail to advise the Court of Pekin of the needless miseries your Excellency has brought upon this city and neighbourhood, all of which might easily have been averted. Soon after the Admiral thus wrote to Yeh:—that the city now lay at his mercy, and could be destroyed without difficulty, if any cause should impose upon the Admiral so sad a necessity. He had abstained so far from quoting any authorities in support of the propositions which he had advanced—not that he was not fortified in all his positions, for his authorities were abundant—but he could not resist reading to the House a passage from Lord Bacon, in which that great man—the greatest philosopher and not surely the meanest lawyer that ever lived—laid down the causes which justified a war:— As the cause of a war ought to be just, so the justice of that cause ought to be evident, not obscure, not scrupulous. For by the consent of all laws, in capital cases, the evidence must be full and clear; and if so where one man’s life is in question, what say we to a war which is ever the sentence of death upon many? Was the evidence in this case, which had divided the learned Judges in the House of Lords, so devoid of obscurity, so little scrupulous, as to entitle the House of Commons to justify that act which was a “sentence of death upon many”? If it 1602 was not, then it was impossible to avoid voting for this Motion. On reading these words he could not help reflecting with the deepest and sincerest pain that there was in another place an order of men whose peculiar mission it was to proclaim “peace upon earth.” He could not help reflecting what, perhaps, the Members of this House might not know, that by the ecclesiastical law, and by the rules of their own House, the right rev. Prelates were not allowed to vote upon questions of blood, where the life of even one man was at stake. At the trial of Lord Cardigan they all retired from the House in a body, refusing to interfere in a matter of blood. Where, then, did they find their justification for voting this “sentence of death upon many”? Lastly, he would remark that he had earnestly endeavoured to state correctly to the House the premises both of law and fact which appertained to this arduous question. What was the conclusion to which these premises inevitably led him? It was this, that by the plain dictates of common sense; by the laws of his own country; by international law; by the principles of that eternal justice which is the foundation of both and which is written by the unerring finger of God upon the heart of every man, be he Chinese or European, he must pronounce this war to have been unjust in its origin, and to be unblest in its continuance.
I am anxious, Sir, in the few observations which I have to address to the House not to go over the ground which has already been occupied by other hon. Members who have preceded me, and I can assure the House that I shall not attempt to touch upon the legal part of the question, which I am quite ready to rest upon the able, lucid, and convincing speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. Neither do I rise for the purpose of questioning the motives which have influenced the votes of any Member of the other House of Parliament. I cannot admire the taste displayed by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. R. Phillimore), who, I believe, rather prides himself upon the support which he extends to the Established Church, in thus appealing to the House of Commons against a vote given by the Prelates of the Church in the House of Lords, not acting in a judicial, but in a legislative capacity. The hon. and learned Gentleman says that because this is a question of blood the right rev. Prelates ought to have with- 1603 drawn; but he forgets that the noble Earl who introduced the Motion was so far from thinking that this was a matter in which the Spiritual Lords, to whom the hon. and learned Member has made this indecent allusion, ought not to interfere, that at the close of his powerful and able speech he addressed to them a stirring appeal—almost an exhortation—in the name of humanity, of that Christianity of which they are the legitimate defenders, to show by their votes the sense which they entertained of the proceedings of our authorities in China. They obeyed his appeal, exercising an undoubted privilege and acting in accordance with every precedent; and because, after hearing all the arguments which were addressed to that House on both sides of the question, their votes augmented that majority which has given such great dissatisfaction to the hon. and learned Gentleman, they are now exposed to his censure and reprobation.
Dealing alone with the facts of the case, I shall make a few observations on what has fallen from right hon. and hon. Gentlemen in the course of the debate—for I am bound to say that the representations made by more than one supporter of the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), have had the effect of giving a very incorrect view of the case. I have already said, I shall not enter into the legal discussion of the question. I will only say I am glad to find from the course taken by the hon. and learned Gentleman who last addressed the House, that we are no longer asked to argue the case on the ground laid down in the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding—that there was not a shadow of law for our proceedings against the Chinese. I had thought that the House of Commons was called upon to say whether we had or had not acted in accordance with law, when it was asked to give its support to the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding, founded as that Motion is, on the assumption that there was no shadow of law for our proceedings in China.
But, passing from that, let me ask how this case has been represented? It has been represented as if the vessel boarded by the Chinese authorities was without doubt a Chinese vessel, and that in boarding it they acted in perfect innocence of all intention to commit a wrong, and in the exercise of an undoubted right; that, in short, they boarded the ship with- 1604 out the slightest suspicion that it had any pretensions to the character of a British vessel. One hon. Gentleman has told the House that he fully believes Commissioner Yeh when he said he had no idea that it was a British ship. Now, anybody at all conversant with the state of trade as carried on in those waters, knows that these lorchas are not Chinese vessels—that some of them sail under the British flag, some under the Portuguese flag, and some under the flags of other nations, but none under the flag of China, and that under the protection of these different nations they are carrying on an extensive trade. Consul Parkes says only the truth when he states, that in consequence of this state of things these proceedings assume a most important character and object, not being limited in their results to the particular case out of which they have arisen, but affecting a large and numerous class of vessels engaged in trade in that part of the world. It has been notorious for years that great numbers of these vessels have sailed under foreign flags, and that they have enjoyed all the protection which these flags afforded. The colonial ordinance, being a municipal law of our colonial Government, could not and did not confer the right to fly British colours—it only regulated and restricted a right which had long been exercised and which had been recognized and allowed by the Chinese Government. But it has been said that this particular lorcha was a piratical vessel, and that the British flag was used in screening pirates. What evidence is there in favour of this assertion? Gentlemen have assumed it to be a piratical vessel, though no one has brought forward the slightest evidence that it was so. On the contrary, the Arrow was proved to have been a vessel engaged in lawful trade, and that is clear, even from the evidence transmitted by Yeh to Consul Parkes. In the deposition of Woo-ajens, one of the crew taken out of the vessel, and sent by Commissioner Yeh to the Consul, it is said, with reference to the Arrow:— Hitherto she has made voyages along the coast to Foo-chow, Amoy, and Shanghai, trading in rice, pulse, and general merchandise. I am informed that these lorchas and all other vessels, on their arrival at Canton, are required to deposit their papers at the Consulate (which appears to have been done in the case of the Arrow, as proved by Consul Parkes’ letter of the 10th of October, 1854, to Sir John Bowring), and before they can receive back their papers and 1605 clear out, they are obliged to produce a pass from the Chinese custom-house. The Arrow, being a regular trader, must often have been cleared in this manner, and the Chinese officials must therefore have been perfectly able to recognize her as a British vessel. With regard to the assertion that the British authorities were guilty of screening pirates, I have only to reply, that in the event of a British vessel being charged with piratical practices, Consul Parkes would, in the discharge of his duty, have been called upon by the Chinese authorities to proceed against it. The letter of Sir John Bowring to Consul Parkes, dated October 11, 1856, shows the course that was generally followed in such cases. He says— You will add, that on any sufficient evidence being given that British ships or British subjects have been engaged in piratical practices they will be proceeded against without hesitation; and that, on application to the proper authority, Chinese offenders will not be harboured on board British vessels, but that all proceedings must take place according to the conditions of the treaty. I say, the charge of piracy rests on no foundation whatever; and I maintain that the accusation brought against the British authorities of having employed their powers to screen pirates and other criminals is just of a piece with all that has been said in the course of this debate to damage and disparage Government officials acting in the discharge of the most arduous and difficult duties, to impute to them every dishonourable motive—to charge them with crimes of which they are not capable—a course of proceeding which I think utterly unworthy of the character of this House. There being no foundation for the charge of piracy in this case, there could be no surrender on the part of the British authorities of that protection which the crew of the Arrow were entitled to claim as a vessel sailing under the British flag; and that being so, these gentlemen had done no more than their duty; for if they had acquiesced in the insult to our flag, they would have given up a right most necessary to be enforced for the purposes of legitimate trade. In order to give some colour of support to the charge of piracy, and to throw, if possible, discredit on the whole of the British authorities at Hong Kong, the hon. Member for the West Riding read the other evening a communication from a Mr. Cook, who he said had for four years held the important office of United States’ Marshal at Whampoa. The object 1606 of the hon. Gentleman in reading this communication was, to show what monstrous proceedings take place under the English flag in those waters. He stated that he had been in conversation with Mr. Cook, and that that gentleman had stated something in connection with British ships which led to the conclusion that the British authorities had connived at acts of smuggling. He had astonished the hon. Gentleman, by the details which he communicated as to the mode in which trade was carried on in that quarter, and in consequence the hon. Gentleman asked Mr. Cook to give him those details in writing, so that he might lay them before this House. Mr. Cook, accordingly, wrote a letter, of which the hon. Gentleman read the following extract:— During the summer of 1855, in June or July, there lay near our chop, which is close to Her Britannic Majesty’s Vice-Consulate at Whampoa, from ten to fifteen lorchas engaged in smuggling salt, and eight or ten of this number hoisted British flags during the day, the salt being discharged at night. The number of vessels was thus large at that time, in consequence of the mandarin boats having been sent above Canton to repulse the rebels; but the Government could not keep ignorant of so bold a matter long, and twelve or fifteen mandarin boats, each containing upwards of sixty men, made their appearance one morning soon after sunrise and captured the whole fleet, five or six of which had British flags flying at the time, the Europeans (generally a captain) as well as the Chinese, jumping overboard and swimming to the different vessels for safety, several of whom came on board of our vessel. The mandarin force took the captured fleet to Canton, and the parties having the right to fly the flag subsequently claimed their vessels, which were eventually returned, and the remainder retained for the Government. Now, in all this there is nothing to show that the British flag was improperly used with the connivance of the British authorities. What the letter does, however, show is, that the Chinese Government on this occasion expressly sanctioned what they had long before recognized in practice—the right of certain lorchas to carry British colours when duly licensed to do so. The hon. Member (Mr. Cobden) instituted a comparison between Mr. Cook and Mr. Parkes with a view to disparage the latter. Of Mr. Parkes I shall have more to say presently; but I will now refer to the hon. Member’s account of Mr. Cook. He said, that Mr. Cook had been four years Marshal at Whampoa; and then he went on to state that Mr. Cook had told him we had not a leg to stand on, and that he would not allow the American stars and stripes to cover such proceedings. The 1607 hon. Gentleman had said he always looks with suspicion upon extracts. There are other Gentlemen who look with suspicion upon extracts; and amongst them is Mr. Cook. Mr. Cook saw what the hon. Gentleman said; and considered that the hon. Gentleman had misrepresented him. He has therefore written a letter to the public journals, which I will read to the House. Mr. Cook said—”In Mr. Cobden’s speech he makes reference to me”—[Mr. SPEAKER: Order!] I will omit that part of the letter which the Speaker intimates cannot be read. Mr. Cook says— I beg to enclose a copy of the said letter, which please publish, to prevent my liability to the charge of inconsistency among those who perfectly understand my views on the matter in question, to which, of course, the hon. Member can have no objection. In regard to the office of United States’ Marshal, which he refers to, it is entirely a subordinate one, and the orders from Government were not to allow the use of the flag except by vessels regularly registered. With regard to that, the hon. Gentleman seemed to think it was of importance to have the testimony of this gentleman, and he took care to tell the House that Mr. Cook had very significantly said such doings would not be allowed under “the stars and stripes.” I will only say, that I have no doubt the same objection is made by the Chinese to the American flag as to the British flag, and that no Chinese vessels are allowed to assume it for their protection unless they have it registered under an arrangement made by the American Government similar to that provided for by the colonial ordinance as to the British flag. I will now, however, come to that part of Mr. Cook’s letter, about which the hon. Gentleman said not a word.
No doubt the hon. Gentleman said as much as he thought would suit his purpose. He said, that Mr. Cook was anti-Chinese there can be no doubt, but whether he conveyed to the House the full impression Mr. Cook intended to convey, or whether he stated the case quite as fairly as he would have done had he read the whole letter, instead of resorting to what he has himself termed the suspicious plan of quoting extracts, I will leave the House to judge when I have read the remainder of the letter. 1608 At all events, Mr. Cook himself believes that the impression made upon the public mind by the hon. Member for the West Riding is one calculated to subject him to misrepresentation and misconception, and, in order to avoid the possibility of that, he has published in the public journals the letter which I am about to read. After the passage quoted by the hon. Member, Mr. Cook says: — But as regards the present troubles, to prevent any misunderstanding of my views, I wish to express my opinion, that the duty of the Home Government to support the servants of the Crown engaged in China to the fullest extent should not be called in question for a moment, or until a satisfactory termination of the present difficulties, at least; for in case of a suspension of hostilities by the Government, it would be an impossibility for Europeans to live in the vicinity of Canton, and no amount of negotiations could alter it for the better. Any one who has lived among the Chinese can testify to the continued insults and injuries heaped upon foreigners whenever an opportunity offers, and the studied contempt shown upon all occasions, superinduced by feelings of superiority entertained by the Cantonese in contradistinction to all the other ports in China, all of which has been brought about by the previous settlement made with them, or, in other words, the want of an application of physical power to convince them of their position; and, although we are pecuniary sufferers to a very great extent in consequence of these troubles, we should prefer to suffer still more than see any settlement which did not involve the necessity of the Chinese realizing their position, and a sufficient guarantee for the liberty and safety of foreign residents while among them. My particular reasons for these views have been acquired by a long and very close intimacy with them, and, of course, cannot be condensed in a note of this kind. Having read that letter, I must say that I cannot agree with the hon. Member for the West Riding, that in stating that Mr. Cook was as anti-Chinese as it was possible for him to be, he said all that he ought to have said, or did full justice to the views and opinions of Mr. Cook; opinions the more valuable, because they are formed upon long experience of the character and disposition of the Chinese.
There are two other points in the speech of the hon. Member to which I wish to call the attention of the House. It will be recollected that the hon. Member brought a complaint against the Government that they had played a trick upon the House, and attempted to mystify it by the production, immediately before the debate upon his Motion, of a blue-book, entitled Correspondence respecting Insults in China.1609 opposite, calling them “plain, simpleminded country gentlemen,” and representing them as saying, “Mercy on us ! Here is a book of 225 pages, all about the insults we have suffered in China. It is high time that Lord Clarendon should interfere for the protection of British interests, and it is quite right to go to war on the subject, if necessary.” Now, what are the facts of the case? The hon. Gentleman might very easily have ascertained how this blue-book came into existence. A noble Lord in another place—I mean Lord Grey—who has taken a very great interest in this question, and for whom I entertain, both on public and private grounds, the greatest esteem and affection; a noble Lord, moreover, who agrees with the hon. Member for the West Riding in his views upon this subject, and who has spoken ably in the other House in that sense; but a noble Lord, let me add, who never seeks to support any cause by the suppression of facts—moved an Address for the production of papers relating to China, a knowledge of which he believed would be conducive to the full discussion of the question. I hold in my hands the terms of that Motion, which was submitted before the debate came on in that House, extracted from the Journals of the House of Lords. It is headed, Correspondence respecting Insults in China, and runs as follows:— Copies or Extracts of any Reports made to Her Majesty’s Government of Insults offered by British Residents at Canton to Natives of that place, since the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace between this Country and China in 1842; also, of any Reports of Insults offered by Chinese to Foreigners. In answer to that Address, these papers were presented to the House of Lords, and we then thought it right to lay before this House the same papers, being those referred to by the hon. Member for the West Riding. The House will see, therefore, that the Government were not the first to move in the matter, but that, on the contrary, we were willing to meet in the other House, a Resolution if not the same in terms, at least identical in purpose and effect with that which we are now discussing, without the production of the documents which the hon. Member says we have published with a view to mystify Parliament and the country, that they were produced at the instance of an advocate of the views of the hon. Gentleman. I think the House will agree with me, after what I have said, that the mystification, if any, 1610 has been on the part of the hon. Member himself. Recurring to a practice which was much resorted to some time ago, the hon. Member addressed himself to hon. Gentlemen
Again—and this is the second point to which I wish to refer—the hon. Member has sneered at the character, acquirements, and experience of Mr. Consul Parkes. I must say, indeed, that a main object of most of the speeches which have been delivered in this House in support of the Motion has been to run down everybody concerned for us in China. All our authorities, however able and valuable may have been their services, have been held up to ridicule, contempt, and scorn. What, for example, has the hon. Member for the West Riding said of Mr. Parkes? He told the House to contrast the correspondence of Commissioner Yeh, a gentleman for whom he seems to entertain the highest respect, with that of Mr. Parkes; who, he said, was a clerk in an office, a young man who might possess some abilities, but who was entirely deficient in the experience and discretion which were necessary for the conduct of the important affairs intrusted to him in China. Such an official, said the hon. Member, so young and inexperienced, was not able to deal with an Imperial Commissioner, a Cabinet Minister—I am glad to find he has some respect for Cabinet Ministers—a man who had gone through all the grades of civil employment. What right has he to speak of Mr. Parkes in the manner he has done? I do not intend to go into the biography of Mr. Parkes, but I have before me a short notice of his public services which I shall take the liberty of reading to the House. I find that Mr. Parkes was— Attached to Sir Henry Pottinger’s suite in June, 1842; acted as interpreter at Foo-chow-foo, 1845–46; acted as interpreter at Shanghai, 1846–48; appointed interpreter at Shanghai, April, 1848; appointed interpreter at Amoy in 1849; sent to Formosa to distribute rewards to Chinese in 1851; served as interpreter at Canton in 1851; appointed Consul at Amoy, August, 1854; accompanied Sir John Bowring to Siam in March, 1855; arrived in England with Siamese treaty, and returned with ratifications, January, 1856; took charge of Canton Consulate, June, 1856. It will thus be seen that Mr. Parkes has raised himself, by his character and abilities, to a position of considerable importance, and if the hon. Member for the West Riding, when he called him a clerk in an office, referred to his connection with Sir Henry Pottinger, all I have to say is that he served an apprenticeship eminently fitted to qualify him for his present duties. If he meant to say that Mr. 1611 Parkes was taken by Sir Henry Pottinger out of some office in this country on account of his abilities, surely the hon. Gentleman ought to have said so. I must say that I think the hon. Member should be the last person to disparage any man who by talent and integrity has elevated himself to an honourable position in life, and to attempt to sneer him down by calling him a mere clerk. Such, however, is a specimen of the fairness of the statements made with regard to our agents by Gentlemen who ought to sympathise with them. But the depreciation of the hon. Member did not end here. He extended his attack to the British merchants in China, and, indeed, all over the world. It is not necessary for me, however, to answer that part of his speech, which has been already sufficiently handled by the hon. Members for Lancaster and Liverpool. I do not believe that what he said will have any effect either in or out of this House, or that the character of English merchants will be judged at home or abroad by the portrait which he has drawn of them. But with regard to Sir John Bowring I must say that there has been a torrent of invective and sarcasm directed against him which has both pained and astonished me, considering the quarters from which it has principally proceeded. Amid the storm of obloquy and reproach which has raged now for nearly a week, only one person, as far as I can remember, has been marked out for exemption in the wholesale condemnation of our authorities in China. That exception is Sir Michael Seymour. Against that distinguished officer no Member of this House has raised his voice, except a gallant Admiral (Sir Thomas Herbert), who I should have thought would have been the first to sympathize with a brother officer when placed in circumstances of great difficulty; yet the hon. and gallant Member sneered at the Admiral for having treated Sunday as a day of rest. But well-abused as all, or nearly all, our authorities have been, none of them have so much reason to complain as Sir John Bowring. It was with great pain that I heard the noble Lord the Member for the City, at the close of his speech, allude to Sir John Bowring as “a troublesome, meddlesome official.” Following in the same strain, but improving upon it, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle told us that he had sat for a long time in this House with Sir John Bowring, and had consequently enjoyed many opportunities of be- 16121613 favour from those who concurred in his appointment, but he has a right to justice, and from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle he has not received the shadow of it. I need not go, I am sorry to say, beyond the limits of this debate for evidence, that long political associations, the memory of many years spent in office together, and the discharge of duties involving mutual cares, anxieties, and responsibilities, do not mitigate the tone of censure which we are sometimes disposed to cast upon each other, or suggest any very favourable construction of the motives which may influence Members of a Government. I am not surprised, therefore, that Sir John Bowring should have met with no favour from those to whom he might have been indebted for his appointment from a full knowledge of his character; but I repeat that he was entitled to justice, and that justice, I think I shall be enabled to show, he has not received. My noble Friend the Member for London had a right, of course, to express himself as he did with regard to Sir John Bowring—and let it not be supposed that I am endeavouring for a moment to restrict the right of any hon. Member to express his feelings upon public men and public events as freely and as energetically as he pleases—but my noble Friend’s speech rather exceeded in the severity of its censure the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside)—with whom I never had any political relations. Painful, however, as that speech was to some of us who heard it—not so much for the sentiment conveyed in it as from its tone—I give my noble Friend credit for that honesty of purpose, and that depth of conviction, which I know influence every action of his life. I wish that I could say as much—and I would gladly if I could—for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle; but I must say the whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman resolved itself into an ungenerous and unjust attack upon Sir John Bowring. Now, who are the parties that are aimed at by this Resolution? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) stated on Friday evening that it was a vote conveying censure on the Government; and the Government are willing to accept their share of the censure, and to acknowledge the responsibility which attaches to them; because, when these proceedings were made known to them, looking at the whole of the circumstances 1614 existing at Canton, at the course of conduct pursued by the Chinese towards the British, at the difficult circumstances in which the British authorities were placed, at the entire concurrence of opinion between the British Plenipotentiary and the Admiral, and between those authorities and all the foreign residents, the Government felt that it was their duty, without criticizing every act, scanning every expression, and cavilling at this or that detail in order that they might say, when the question came before Parliament, that they had not given an unqualified approval—the Government felt that it was their duty, I say, to give an open and cordial support to British officers placed under circumstances of great difficulty, because they thought that those officers had been actuated by a true sense of what British interests required, and that a disavowal of their conduct would be fatal to British interests in China. What was the laboured object of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle, throughout his entire speech, but to show that all the responsibility rested undividedly upon Sir John Bowring? That attempt to separate Sir John Bowring from Sir Michael Seymour has run through the whole debate, but it was not displayed by any other hon. Member to the extent that it was by the right hon. Member for Carlisle. The right hon. Gentleman says:— I have long known Sir Michael Seymour, and I fully corroborate all that has been said by the gallant Admiral. I believe Sir Michael Seymour to be one of the most brave, humane, and discreet officers in Her Majesty’s service, and I am bound to say I do not think that a better selection for the Chinese command could possibly have been made. The right hon. Gentleman having filled the office of First Lord of the Admiralty, and having often had the appointment of admirals in his hands, his testimony upon that point is highly gratifying. He goes on to say:— I would add also in confirmation of what my right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir M. Berkeley) has said, that I do not think in the discharge of the duties of his command any man could be more certainly influenced by motives of humanity and Christian principle than Sir Michael Seymour. I have said thus much of an esteemed and gallant Friend, and all my presumption would be in favour of the course which in difficult circumstances that gallant officer thought fit to adopt. My right hon. and gallant Friend has observed that, when the Ambassador fails the Admiral is called upon to act. In this case the Ambassador, invested with the full authority of the Crown, has, in my view, called upon the Admiral, exercising his own discretion, and leaving none to that officer. 1615 And he then proceeds to argue that in this instance the whole of the responsibility was exercised exclusively by the civil officers at Canton. Now, I am prepared to show that not one of these transactions which it is proposed to censure was taken without communication with Sir Michael Seymour in the first instance, and without his full and entire concurrence. The first letter from Sir John Bowring to Mr. Parkes shows the course which he thought it right to take. Sir John Bowring has been represented as exercising an authority for which he was quite unfitted, and as acting in a rash, hasty, and intemperate manner. Let us see how far that charge is borne out by his conduct. He receives an account from Mr. Parkes of the outrage on the lorcha Arrow. What does he say to it? In his first letter, dated 10th October, 1856, he says:— I have had a conference with his Excellency the Naval Commander in Chief on the subject of your despatch dated 8th October, reporting the improper proceedings of Chinese officers in carrying away the crew and lowering the flag of a British vessel called the Arrow; and which I find is registered in the name of a Chinese settler in this colony. Sir Michael Seymour will instruct Commodore Elliot to discuss with you the most appropriate means of obtaining redress for the wrong which has been done.’ The first step taken by Sir John Bowring, then, was to call in the counsel and advice of Sir Michael Seymour before addressing any instructions to Mr. Parkes. What did Sir Michael Seymour himself do? Writing to Commodore Elliot—who is also one of the naval officers represented as being under the orders of Sir John Bowring or Mr. Parkes—he says:— I have to desire you will lose no time in conferring with Mr. Parkes, after he has received Sir John Bowring’s despatch and act according to the determination both you and the Consul may ultimately come to. Is not all this in exact opposition to the representation of the right hon. Gentleman that the naval officers were not consulted? What next is Mr. Parkes’s conduct when he receives an answer to his demand for reparation from Commissioner Yeh? And here I must again allude to something which fell from my noble Friend the Member for London with regard to the tenor of that answer. Mr. Parkes received Yeh’s answer, and that answer is one which my noble Friend says was satisfactory. The statement was repeated by an hon. and learned Gentleman to-night; but my noble Friend must have quoted 1616 from memory, because his quotation was incorrect. What did Mr. Parkes do? Did he, as represented, immediately say that the answer was insufficient, and at once call upon the naval officers to put the forces of the Queen in motion, in order to revenge the insult which had been committed, and to exact reparation? No; but he writes to Sir John Bowring:— On receipt of this reply from the Imperial Commissioner I at once communicated it to Commodore Elliot, who, being equally dissatisfied with its terms, determined to give effect without delay to his instructions, by enforcing the redress which has thus been twice refused. He communicated, then, with Commodore Elliot—whose judgment may be thought to be entitled to more weight than Sir John Bowring’s or Mr. Parkes’. Commodore Elliot agreed with him that the answer was unsatisfactory, and he therefore felt bound, under the instructions which he had received from Sir Michael Seymour, to act in conjunction with Mr. Parkes; and he accordingly adopted the measures which were subsequently taken. What was Yeh’s answer? He said, “Hereafter Chinese officers will on no account without reason seize and take into custody the people belonging to foreign lorchas.” Why, Sir, as is stated in a despatch from Mr. Parkes, with the full concurrence of the naval commander, the very insertion of the words “without reason” entirely neutralizes the assurance given, and, taken in connection with his past conduct, clearly shows that he did reserve to himself the right, under certain circumstances, of boarding British ships in violation of the express terms of the treaty. My noble Friend has stated that the crew of the vessel having been returned, all the satisfaction which could properly be demanded was given by the Chinese authorities. Now, with reference to that point I will quote, not the opinion of Mr. Parkes, not the opinion of Sir John Bowring, but that of Sir Michael Seymour himself. Sir Michael Seymour writes, The men who had been publicly seized on board the Arrow were not publicly restored to their vessel as he had requested, nor was the required apology made for the violation of his jurisdiction by your Executive. It must be remembered that these proceedings did not take place in a perfectly civilized country, but in one where matters of form are looked upon as matters of substance; it must be remembered the Chinese 1617 authorities have maintained a constant struggle to disparage foreigners in the eyes of their countrymen, and to lead them to look upon them as inferiors; and under such circumstances to accept half an apology may lay the foundation for future insult, and therefore a representative of this country in accepting such an apology would not be consulting the interest of the State whose interest he was sent to protect. I come now to a most extraordinary statement made by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman said— Now, it is very remarkable that, for the first time, I believe, in naval history, not only were the naval operations suggested, but the future course and extent of those operations were laid down by the superintendent of trade, who not only took the command of the fleet as regarded what operations were to be performed, but who laid down in most extraordinary detail the precise mode in which those operations should be conducted. I do not think that the passage has been brought under the notice of the House, and, with its permission, I will read this most remarkable scheme of naval operations laid down by Mr. Consul Parkes. Talk of the discretion of the naval officer, and of holding Admiral Seymour responsible for what has occurred! Why, he was not only called upon to commence naval operations by the civil officer, but the precise nature and extent of those operations were laid down for him. Now, I must say that it astonished me to hear the right hon. Gentleman, who himself has been First Lord of the Admiralty for many years, express a supposition that it was possible that a British Admiral could so far compromise his character and the honour of his flag as to blindly place himself under the orders of a civil Commissioner; that he should allow that Commissioner to take the command of his fleet, and even point his guns. I should have thought that the experience of the right hon. Gentleman would have taught him the extreme improbability—nay, the impossibility—of such a course being adopted. The right hon. Gentleman then went on to describe what he was pleased to call the instructions of Mr. Parkes to Admiral Seymour, and he condescended, as the Scotch say, to particulars, and in one passage of his speech he imputed to Mr. Parkes an offence which could not have been perpetrated with a British Admiral as agent. He stated that Mr. Parkes instructed Admiral Seymour to shell the house of Yeh, which was known to be surrounded by densely-populated houses. So that the insinuation of the right hon. Gentleman is that Mr. Parkes imposed 1618 upon a British Admiral the obligation of performing an act derogatory to his character as an officer. I must say that the right hon. Gentleman, who has read these papers and who has listened to the discussion in this House, has in this case been ignorant of, or by some most extraordinary accident has overlooked in the imaginary case which he presented to the House, one important fact relating to what he calls these instructions of Mr. Parkes. In a despatch, dated October 23, Sir John Bowring writes— No satisfaction having been obtained from the Imperial Commissioner, Mr. Consul Parkes, wisely judging that a conference with the Naval Commander in Chief and myself would be very useful, came down to Hong Kong on the morning of the 20th instant, and, after a long and interesting discussion, it was decided that Mr. Parkes should give in writing a succinct account of what had occurred, and that such suggestions as obtained the general concurrence of Sir Michael Seymour and myself should be embodied in a despatch, to be acknowledged by me, and which should serve as a general outline of proceedings intended to be taken. I beg to refer to Mr. Parkes’s communication of the 20th instant, and my answer thereto. So that the right hon. Gentleman, if he had taken the pains to look into the matter, would have seen that what he characterizes as the voluntary instructions of Mr. Parkes to Admiral Seymour were, in point of fact, nothing more than a statement which he was directed to make of what had occurred, and of the suggestions which had been approved in a conference in which Sir John Bowring and Admiral Seymour took part. But does the matter rest on this despatch alone? No; Sir Michael Seymour himself, in a despatch to Sir John Bowring, dated Oct. 23, says— I have the satisfaction to inform your Excellency that in furtherance of the decision come to in our conference on the morning of the 20th instant, at which Her Majesty’s Consul at Canton was present, I have this day taken possession of the four forts known as the Barrier Forts, without casualty on our side, but with the loss of four or five killed on the part of the Chinese, solely arising from their ill-judged resistance to our forces, two of the forts having fired upon us with guns in position and small arms. So that Sir Michael Seymour himself speaks of having taken possession of the Barrier Forts, not in accordance with the instructions of Mr. Parkes, but in furtherance of the decision come to at the conference of the 20th instant. Sir Michael Seymour does not stoop to any shift or evasion, but boldly and honourably accepts the responsibility of his acts. He does not attempt, as others have done for 1619 him here, to vindicate himself by saying that he was acting under the instructions of Mr. Parkes. Let me call the attention of the House to the fifth paragraph of the letter of Sir Michael Seymour to the Secretary of the Admiralty. In that he states— At this period Mr. Parkes proceeded to Hong Kong to consult with Sir John Bowring and myself as to the best measures of compulsion to be adopted, and we all considered that the seizure of the defences of the city of Canton would be the most judicious, both as a display of power without the sacrifice of life, and of our determination to enforce redress; experience of the Chinese character having proved that moderation is considered by the officials only as an evidence of weakness. Then again, in the 11th paragraph, he says— On the 25th I took possession of the Dutch Folly, a fort with fifty guns, on a small island opposite the city, where I afterwards placed a body of 140 officers and men, under Commander Rolland, of the Calcutta. All the defences of the city being now in our hands, I considered the High Commissioner would see the necessity of submission, and I directed Mr. Parkes to write and state that when his Excellency should be prepared to arrange the points in dispute in a satisfactory manner I would desist from further operations; but the reply did not answer my expectations. From the terms here used it is clear that Sir Michael Seymour knew the position he occupied, and did not consider himself as subordinate to Mr. Parkes; and, therefore, I think that there is no foundation for the unfair, unjust, and ungenerous charge which has been made against Mr. Parkes and Sir John Bowring. It is of course quite allowable to make comments on the public acts of a public man, but, although I do not profess the same friendship for Sir John Bowring which some persons do, I must say that I think that he has been most unfairly dealt with, and I should have felt myself degraded had I not endeavoured to show the unreasonableness of the charges which have been made against him. Do not overwhelm one man with panegyric, however much he may deserve your praise, simply in order to embitter your weapons of sarcasm and censure against another, and that other Her Majesty’s representative in China. I confess I heard with pain and with regret the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, speaking, as he professed to speak, in the name of truth, justice, and morality, and concluding by a solemn appeal to that dread tribunal before which we must all appear. coming acquainted with his real character. He said that Sir John was a man of strong opinions, but, as I understood the meaning of his words, totally destitute of judgment. Then, with that peculiar blandness which characterizes all his speeches, but also with great deliberation and gravity, the right hon. Baronet said that the responsibility of selecting him for the particular duties assigned to him in China was a grave responsibility. Now, when I heard that I could not help asking, by whom was that responsibility incurred? My noble Friend knew Sir John Bowring better perhaps than the right hon. Gentleman did, for in times of close political conflict he was among those who had followed his standard. They were associated in political life, and my noble Friend knew his character and his faults. We all have our faults, and those of Sir John Bowring perhaps are on the surface. Well, who appointed Sir John Bowring? I find that he was appointed Consul at Hong Kong on the 10th of January, 1849, my noble Friend the Member for London being then at the head of, the Government. He held that office for some time; and I presume that the Government had no reason to be dissatisfied with the mode in which he discharged the duties of his office; for I find that on the 24th of December, 1853, he was appointed Plenipotentiary and Chief Superintendent of Trade at Hong Kong by the Government over which the Earl of Aberdeen presided, and of which both my noble Friend and the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle were members. The right hon. Gentleman now knows on whom “the grave responsibility” of the appointment rests; and he must forgive me for saying that this is not the first occasion in his public life on which he has thought too late of the responsibility of acts to which he has been a party. I have said that Sir John Bowring had his faults and that they were on the surface; but I should not do him justice if I were not to say that he possesses great zeal in the public service, very great ability, and great humanity; and I believe that there is no gentleman conversant with Chinese affairs who will not say that all his prepossessions are in favour of China, such being the impression which was derived also by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General from the perusal of the papers which had been officially submitted to him. Sir John Bowring has no right to
1620 As to another part of the question, that of the free entrance into Canton, Sir John Bowring has been spoken of as a monomaniac for wishing to enforce it, and has been accused of desiring to gratify his personal vanity by an entrance into the city attended with great pomp and ceremony. That was not the case. There is a letter written by Sir John Bowring to Mr. Consul Parkes, in which he says— I have conveyed to Sir Michael Seymour an opinion that, if his Excellency and yourself agree on the fitness of the opportunity, it would be well if the vexata quœstio of our entrance into the city should now be settled, at least as far as to secure us an official reception there. That is all that has been insisted on. It is not the free right of access to Canton on the part of British subjects generally, but only the right of the representatives of the British Government to unrestrained communication with those of the Chinese Government. On this subject Sir John Bowring again consults Admiral Seymour, and invites the expression of his opinion. In proof of this let me turn to a letter written by Sir Michael Seymour to the Admiralty, conveying his views on the question:— Early on the morning of the 27th I caused another letter to be written to the High Commissioner to the effect that, as satisfaction had not been offered for the affair of the Arrow, I should resume offensive operations; and his Excellency having, by his illegal measures and determination to refuse reparation, produced this display of force, I concurred in opinion with Sir John Bowring that this was a fitting opportunity for requiring the fulfilment of long-evaded treaty obligations, and I therefore, in addition to the original demands, instructed Mr. Parkes to make the following communication:—’That, to prevent the recurrence of evils like the present, which have been occasioned by the disregard paid by the Imperial Commissioner to the repeated applications for redress and satisfaction made to him by letter in the matter of the Arrow by Her Majesty’s Plenipotentiary and the Consul—writing, in consequence of the closing of the city to foreigners, being the only means of communication—I demanded for all foreign representatives the same free access to the authorities and city of Canton (where all the Chinese high officials reside) as is enjoyed under treaty at the other four ports, and denied to us at Canton alone.’ Such was the demand made by Admiral Seymour, after his opinion had been asked by Sir John Bowring, limiting that demand, as Her Majesty’s Plenipotentiary suggested it should be limited, to this official reception, the Admiral stating that he quite concurred with Sir John Bowring in thinking this should be granted. It is necessary to show by these passages that not the general right of access, but only 1621 the official reception was insisted upon, because this makes a material difference in the view which ought to be taken of this question. The one was a demand about which there might, perhaps, reasonably be a difference of opinion; the other was a right of the utmost importance, without which there would be no security against a recurrence of these disputes.
Another article of indictment against Sir John Bowring is that he stimulated the attack made on Commissioner Yeh’s house. Now, I concur in every word which has been said in commendation of Admiral Seymour, and I do not think there is one act sanctioned by that gallant officer which shows that he is deficient in those high qualities and especially in those feelings of humanity which have been ascribed to him. It has been assumed that the city of Canton was bombarded; but there is no evidence to show that a shot has been directed against any but the Commissioner’s residence and the outside walls of Canton; and in every case efforts appear to have been made to warn the inhabitants away from the points which it was thought necessary to assail. Neither is there an atom of evidence to show that Sir John Bowring instigated the attack on Yeh’s house. From the narrative given by Admiral Seymour in his letter to the Admiralty it appears that he thought it right to enforce the demands made by certain operations, among which were shots fired “from the 10 inch pivot gun of the Encounter,” “at intervals of from five to ten minutes from 1 P.M. till sunset,” “on the High Commissioner’s Compound (the Yamun), a large space of ground within the old city, surrounded by a high wall, which contains his Excellency’s residence, and is consequently Government property.” This operation was effected by Admiral Seymour in the execution of what he thought an important duty, and I say that throughout he carefully abstained from the destruction of private property, and abstained still more (as much as was possible) from the destruction of human life. My object in making these observations has been to show that you are not entitled to draw a distinction between Sir John Bowring and Sir Michael Seymour, that if you condemn the one you must equally condemn the other, and that every act which was done in the course of these proceedings bore the stamp of the direct approbation and concurrence of both. These proceedings were moreover fully approved by the European 1622 residents at Canton. “During the whole of my proceedings,” says Sir Michael Seymour at the close of his despatch, “I have received the most cordial support of the British and foreign communities, from their confidence that future benefit must be the result.” The House, however, is asked to condemn the steps taken by our officers, civil and naval, under circumstances of great difficulty, and upon their joint responsibility, after due deliberation, and after mutual conference and counsel, with a view to the protection of the interests confided to their care, which they believed seriously endangered unless they were protected in the mode resolved on by them.
Sir, this House ought to hesitate before it passes a vote the effect of which, I am afraid, will be to prejudice British interests throughout the whole world, when you have officers, civil, military, and naval, placed in circumstances like the present. Before you come to a vote confirming this Resolution, I entreat you to think of the consequences which will ensue from its adoption. I do not now speak of the political consequences which may take place at home. I do not allude to rumours which, on the authority of one of those organs supposed to represent the opinions of some right hon. Gentlemen opposite, intimate to us that if the present Government is overthrown there must be a reconstruction of parties, and that a Ministry is to be formed out of elements not altogether confined to one side of the House. These are matters of minor importance. I do not stop to inquire into them. We are not concerned in them. We feel that we have done our duty as a Government in giving our support to officers placed under such difficult circumstances and having to perform such responsible duties. Every day’s experience, all the information derived from persons connected with the China trade or from persons arriving from the colonies whose interests are bound up with that trade, confirm us in the opinion that if we had disapproved the course pursued by our officers at Canton, or if we had expressed but a half approval of their proceedings, with a view to shelter ourselves from any share in the responsibility, such a course would have been attended with fatal results to the interests of British trade in China. The hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Horsfall) told you that if this House should express an unfavourable opinion of the acts of Sir John Bowring, and should decide that the proceedings subsequently taken were of 1623 the character described by hon. Gentlemen who have supported this Motion, intelligence of this will be communicated to the Chinese as soon as to your own officers; and, looking to the accounts of the atrocities performed there—looking to the treacherous murders and acts of barbarity which are now being perpetrated under the sanction of Chinese authority—I ask whether you will pass a Resolution which will make every English resident feel that his life is unsafe from day to day after the news has arrived there? I trust the House will bear in mind the various considerations which must be taken into account in deciding this question, not looking at it as a technical question upon which lawyers may argue and differ, but remembering that the trade carried on by those lorchas was recognized by the Chinese, as being under the sanction of the British flag; remembering, too, that if you overlook this outrage there will be no security against the recurrence of similar insults, that the hands of British functionaries will be tied up, and that there will be no possiblity of obtaining redress in such cases. Such results will inevitably follow if you arrest these proceedings and say that the British are to restore the forts, withdraw their forces, place the Chinese in the same position in which they stood before, and are to abstain hereafter from asserting, on the part of the British flag, the rights which that flag bestows. I believe that the House will not deal with the question upon any technical and insufficient grounds, but with reference to broader and far more important considerations, and that they will hesitate before they come to a vote confirmatory of the Resolution of the hon. Gentleman when they think of the consequences which may result from its adoption.
said, that having been many years resident in China, as well as in constant connection with the trade with that country, he should, perhaps, be excused for rising and taking part in the present debate. In doing so, he must ask for even more than the usual indulgence of the House, as, in addition to his addressing it then for the first time, he felt the ordinary difficulties of such a position enhanced by the fact that he was about to express an opinion and record a vote against the views which had been expressed, and he supposed would be supported by their votes, by those Gentlemen to whom he looked as the leaders of the great Conservative party of which he was 1624 an humble Member. He felt, however, bound to state to the House the conclusions he had come to on this question. The last act of the Chinese which had brought matters to a crisis—for he denied it to be the only thing we had gone to war about—was that connected with the lorcha Arrow. Now the House ought to know that a lorcha was a vessel purely and entirely of a foreign build; and though it might have been built by Chinese workmen, it was so completely distinct from the orthodox Chinese model that there could be no mistake on the part of the Chinese with regard to its character. Until the treaty of Nankin lorchas were not admitted into the Canton river. Their presence there now was a proof that they were recognized and admitted under treaty as foreign vessels, and they paid the dues to which foreign vessels were liable. Had there been no flag, therefore, flying on board the Arrow, and if the name had not been a sufficient indication of her nationality, she could not have been mistaken for a Chinese vessel. Then the question arose, what was the animus of the Chinese Government in acting as they had done? A long experience of the Chinese character led him to infer that the attack on the lorcha was designedly done, and he was borne out in that opinion by looking at the facts of the case. It was said that there was one man on board the Arrow who was accused of being the father of a pirate; and what did the Chinese officers do hereupon? They went on board the vessel and seized all the crew—not merely the man accused or suspected of being the father of a pirate, but the entire crew. They were then bound—excepting two who were left—with that humanity which he knew the Chinese officers always bestowed upon prisoners who had the misfortune to fall into their hands. It might be supposed that he was drawing on his recollection of former experience of the Chinese when he made such an assertion as to their probable animus. That was not so. At page 14 of the blue-book, entitled Insults to China, he found a letter from Mr. Davis to Lord Aberdeen, dated the 10th January, 1845, in which occurred the following passage:— I have found, in the archives of my office a Chinese paper, which completely embodies the vindictive spirit that has actuated the Government of the country, from the first, towards those of its unfortunate subjects who adhered to us during the war; and, at the same time, clearly explains and accounts for all that has happened at Ningpo, 1625 Chusan, and Amoy, as well as Shanghai, where Captain Balfour successfully interposed in favour of a persecuted Chinese in our service. The paper in question was addressed, in 1842, to the Emperor, by the Governor of Che-Keang, and I think it too important not to forward it to your Lordship as enclosure No. 4. The Emperor enjoins his Ministers to transact this business ‘secretly;’ and the reply of the Governor proves that a fitter instrument could not have been selected for any work involving perfidy and deceit. He recommends that inquiries should be made whether ‘the said traitorous natives have not, at a previous period, been put down as villains; and if there is any evidence of their wickedness, the said constables ought to bring the case forward, and on their guilt and transgression being proved, they should be prosecuted for their old crimes.’ Then followed an observation which, unfortunately, recent experience showed to have been premature. It was:— The consequences to some of our former adherents were disastrous. Mr. Gutzlaff observed in a private note to myself—’Fortunately for the poor Chinamen, Thorn took Suh-ming’s part, and Balfour as well as Campbell that of the other unfortunate fellows; for otherwise the proscriptions and the handing over to the tender mercies of the Mandarins would have been without end. The tragedy is now concluded. Two men paid with their lives Captain Bamfield’s surrender; the policemen were all liberated; the Taekosan Mandarin (a great persecutor)retired from office; and your Excellency’s orders have for ever put a stop to handing over the Chinese in our employ to their own authorities.’ This, he thought, threw some light upon the animus by which the Chinese Government might be supposed to be actuated. But the hon. Member for the West Riding sought to fortify his position, not only by dispraising the English officials and English merchants, but by bestowing a considerable amount of praise on the Chinese Government and people. His praise of the Chinese Government was divided between praise on their courtesy to foreigners and their paternal treatment of their own people. Now as he (Mr. Robertson) had no wish to do anything but remove the erroneous impression which these remarks of the hon. Member might have produced on the House, he hoped he should be able to avoid the use of language which would give annoyance to any hon. Gentlemen who had spoken, no matter how widely they differed in opinion from one another. The hon. Member had stated that the Chinese Government had always been courteous to strangers. But he (Mr. Robertson) would remind him and the House that two centuries ago, in 1634, the very first time that the English flag ever waved in the waters of China, what did the 1626Insults in China, it would be seen by a letter written by Commissioner Keying to Sir John Davis, on the 24th of August, 1847, that the Commissioner declared, with reference to a charge brought against the Hwang-chu-che villagers by Sir John Davis of having fired at a party of Englishmen, that, “as he was afraid the whole truth had not been told, and was apprehensive that there might have been others on the same spot who assisted in the firing, he had again directed the magistrate to elicit by torture the real facts, and seize the whole band with all severity.” In further illustration he might state that he held in his hand a letter received by him from China in 1855, which stated:— 1627 As regards the stability of the existing state of our import market and the future political condition of the country, we may remark that the probabilities are very much in favour of quiet, though perhaps not throughout the whole empire. So far as the south is concerned, we are enabled to judge of the restored power of the Government from observing the wholesale system of extermination which prevails, the official return of executions within a mile of the factories of Canton during the first six months of the Chinese year, being no less than 70,000, and we learn that the same system is carried on in other parts of the Canton provinces. Indeed, wherever they can exercise their sway the result is excessive brutality towards their own people. Truly, these people were very kind among themselves. It was said that proverbs sometimes threw light upon the institutions of a country, and the Chinese had a proverb—referring to the exactions of their mandarins—that “the large fish ate the little fish, the little fish ate the shrimps, and the shrimps eat the mud.” The hon. Member for the West Riding also praised the Chinese people for their quiet and inoffensive demeanour to foreigners. Now, one of the first things that struck him (Mr. Robertson) on arriving in China in 1831, during the regime of the East India Company, was the manner in which the children were taught to regard strangers. Whenever he or any other European was seen to pass by, the children cried after him “Fan-kwei! fan-kwei!” which meant “Foreign devil!” the cry being accompanied by a gesture indicating their desire to cut his throat. At that period the resort of foreigners to Canton was extremely limited. The East India Company were the only authorized residents on the part of England, and he was certain there was no such description of European community there as would have provoked this exhibition of feeling on the part of Chinese children. Well, these children had since grown up to be men and women; and we all knew that “teach a child the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” He would give the House an instance or two of the kind and quiet conduct of the Chinese people towards foreigners. In 1840 a gentleman, who had gone out from this country to act as tutor to his (Mr. Robertson’s) wards, was bathing in the neighbourhood of Macao, when he was suddenly seized by a Chinese boatman and carried off to Canton, where the boatman was rewarded by the authorities and the gentleman thrown into prison. There he was kept with six inches of chain attached to his ankles, his con- 1628 finement occasionally varied by his being trotted up and down in the gutter for amusement, and by incidental threats of having his head cut off. Another most melancholy case to which he would refer was the case of six gentlemen who, on the 5th of December, 1847, went to take a walk in the neighbourhood of Canton, where he (Mr. Robertson) had frequently been, and where, by treaty, these gentlemen were at liberty to go. During their stroll, they were attacked by the rabble of the village and never returned. Not making their appearance at home in the evening their friends at Canton became alarmed for their safety, and through Consul Macgregor an application was made to the Viceroy Keying early the following morning. Keying wrote back in reply, that before he received the Consul’s letter he had been made aware of the fact, and had sent orders to have a search made for the foreign gentlemen and to set them at liberty. What was the result of this interference on the part of the Governor of Canton? Why that, within four miles of his residence on the morning of the 7th, these six gentlemen were found barbarously and cruelly murdered in cold blood, after having been put to the torture during the whole of the 6th. The Chinese Government not only did not release these unfortunate gentlemen, but took not the slightest trouble about the matter; and surely the fact that they had taken off 70,000 heads in the short space of six months was proof sufficient that they had energy and power if they had only chosen to use them. Another instance of a similar kind had been communicated to him on the morning of this very day. He held in his hand a letter, which he had received from Hong Kong, bearing date the 15th of January last. The writer said, You will read an account of the occurrence in the papers, and I have only further to add that this morning the bread was poisoned which was issued from the Chinese bakers’ establishments, but fortunately so strongly that it was found out after a few mouthfuls. The writer further stated, Be assured that some demonstration on the part of the Chinese will take place before the new year, but where the blow is to fall no one can tell. It was said by the hon. Member for the West Riding, and some hon. Members appeared to have adopted his opinion that the British merchants advocated war because war tended to promote their inte- 1629 rests; but surely any one that knew anything about commerce must be aware that of all things war was always most injurious to them. He could assure the hon. and learned Member for Devonport (Sir E. Perry) that he was mistaken when he supposed that the balance of trade was always in favour of China—that was, that the British merchants were debtors of the Chinese. The fact was the other way. In the years 1779, 1796, 1810, 1813, 1829, 1838, and 1839, there were heavy balances due by the Chinese. He that morning received a document signed by Chinese merchants on the 5th of January last, in which they addressed Sir John Bowring, asking what steps would be taken to insure the safety of the goods left in Canton, and what possible mode there was for procuring compensation for the merchants and agents in China whose goods were in jeopardy, and for securing the debts due by the Chinese to British merchants. He trusted that the document would remove from the mind of the hon. and learned Member for Devonport the impression that the merchants in China were actuated by any desire to avoid the payment of their just debts. With respect to the allegation that had been made of the overbearing manners of Englishmen in China, he would refer hon. Members to various edicts which had been issued directing the English residents how to behave themselves. One of these edicts was issued for the purpose of depriving the English of almost the only means they had of exercising themselves at Canton. They had been accustomed to row up and down the river in small wherrys built in London, and that could not at all impede the large Chinese barges that floated on the river; but the edict to which he referred directed the English not to “run, fly, and gallop” through the river to the injury of these great barges. He trusted that he was not wearying the House; but he was anxious, as he was the only Member connected with the mercantile interest who had resided in China, who had taken part in this debate, to vindicate, from practical experience, that interest, as it had been charged with a desire to promote war between this country and China. The hon. Gentleman, the Member for the West Riding had charged the British merchants in China with being deficient in education, ability, and intelligence. [“No excl;”]. Well, he certainly had said something in that way. The hon. Gentleman had threatened 1630 that the British merchants would be supplanted in China as they had been in the Mediterranean, by Greeks, Swiss, and German merchants; and he (Mr. Robertson) thought his hon. Friend had attributed this supplanting to the want of education amongst the British merchants. The hon. Gentleman ought to be a good judge on that point, for Lancashire was swarming with foreigners. He thought, however, that the hon. Gentleman did not mean to insinuate that this influx of foreigners into Lancashire was owing to the merchants and manufacturers in that part of the kingdom being deficient in ability and education. It was now necessary for the people of this country to consider well what demand they would make on China; and having fully and deliberately made up their mind on that point they should make their demand and not fall hack. As regarded a residence in the city of Canton, it was a city into which individually no merchant would wish to go. But English residents were subjected to restrictions imposed for the purpose of degrading them in the eyes of the Chinese. So far as his individual feelings went, he granted that he would not have been disposed to go to war even for the purpose of removing those restrictions; but he did not say that those restrictions would not form part and parcel of his complaint against the Chinese. The demand at present was for official communication; and he said that the murder of those six young men, to whom he had alluded, showed that direct, immediate, and personal communication between our representatives and the Chinese authorities was absolutely necessary. He might speak a little warmly on that point, because one of the murdered men was his own first cousin. Should this country now falter or fall back the disaster would be very great indeed; and the consequences would not be confined to Canton, but it would be felt in all the other ports of China; and it would not be confined even to China, for it had gone to Singapore already, from which place it would spread through all India. He that morning received a letter from Singapore dated 23rd of January, and stating that numerous placards had been posted about the country. The letter added that these placards were of a very alarming nature, threatening the British, and calling them barbarians and other such names; that one notice offered 2000 dols. for Governor Blundell’s (the English Governor’s) head; 1631 and that a report was abroad that on the 29th of January all the shops were to be closed, preparatory to a set-to. The writer went on to say that he certainly did not like the present state of affairs, particularly as matters in China were so bad, for that it was very naturally supposed that the Chinese in Singapore would side with their own countrymen, and try to interfere with European property, by intimidation and other means. The writer concluded by saying—”I assure you it is not at all pleasant to go to bed with revolvers under one’s pillow; but it is as well to be prepared for the worst.” He (Mr. Robertson) hoped that under circumstances such as these the House would not pass a vote of want of confidence in the Government. He did not stand up to defend Sir John Bowring; he did not say whether or not he was a fit man to have been sent out, because that was at present beside the question. What should be considered was the practical effect of a vote of that House, and he entreated them not to be led away by anything like party feeling, but to decide upon the real merits of the question. It would be no light matter to endanger our position in China—he did not speak of the revenue derived from the trade with that country, for the question ought not to be decided upon fiscal grounds, but upon grounds of humanity; if we drew back upon the present occasion it would be imperilling our whole position in that country. He should therefore give his support to the Government, and vote against the Resolutions. Chinese Government do? Why, there was evidence to prove that they endeavoured to deceive Captain Waddell and then fired upon him; and it was not until their tire was returned with effect that the Chinese opened communications with this country. That was the commencement of our intercourse with China, and it began with an act of discourtesy on the part of the Chinese Government. Lord Napier also wrote that the Viceroy of Canton was a presumptuous savage; no doubt his Lordship had very good reason for entertaining that opinion, and that the Chinese Government were busy circulating prejudicial reports about him and other foreigners in China. The truth was that the Chinese Government had been in the habit annually of issuing edicts for the express purpose of destroying in the minds of their people anything like respect for foreigners; they accused them of the vilest crimes in order to debase them in the eyes of the people of Canton; and we now saw what were the consequences. To the same tenor he might quote the authority of Sir John Davis, Sir George Bonham, Captain Elliot, and various other persons. It would be enough, however, to refer to the words of Sir Henry Pottinger, who, writing to the British merchants at Canton, described the Chinese Government as “jealous, arrogant, and unapproachable, and which we had for ages allowed, and almost encouraged, to revile and treat us as human beings of a lower grade.” Did that show that Sir Henry Pottinger was satisfied with the courtesy of the Chinese Government in their relation with foreigners? Then, as to the paternal nature of the Chinese Government, that was best illustrated by their treatment of their own people. At page 82 of the blue-book,
Sir, I listened with the greatest attention to the speech which the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department addressed to the House this evening, but I am sorry to say that that speech has not made the slightest change in the views which I take on this question. On the contrary, Sir, I think the speech of the right hon. Baronet, like that of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies, has only been successful in evading all the principal points on which we have to decide. I am of opinion, also, that the House will feel that a very great portion of the speech of the right hon. Baronet was directed to points which have nothing to do with the issue which this House is called upon to decide. The right hon. Baronet complained of the tone of the speeches delivered in support of the Motion, and said that those speeches were 1632 unfair to public officers abroad, and evinced a desire to run down and depreciate public servants at a distance. But, Sir, I think the public will feel, and that this House will feel, that no censure has been passed in the speeches delivered in the course of this debate on officials in China which have not been forced upon us by the strongest considerations of justice. I hope before I sit down to show the House that the right hon. Baronet has been altogether unsuccessful in his attempt to defend Sir John Bowring from the attacks made on him.
Sir, I confess that I never rose to address the House with greater reluctance than on this occasion. The subject itself is a most painful one, and I hope I shall not be suspected of such presumption as to suppose that I can add anything to the amount of ability, eloquence, and learning which has to, I may say, an unusual extent distinguished the debates in both Houses of Parliament on this subject; but from the first moment that I read the despatches on this question that were published some time since in the newspapers, my mind has been so filled with a feeling of shame at the extent to which the character of this country has been compromised by the proceedings which have taken place in China, that I cannot consent to give a silent vote on this matter, and abstain from recording the sentiments I entertain on it. The Secretary of State for the Colonies has deprecated party feeling on this subject, and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, in his speech on Friday night, complained that the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposed to the Government had been marked by party feeling. My hon. Friend who had just addressed the House has adverted to the same subject; but I think, Sir, that this imputation is most unjust. It is quite true, Sir, that in the course of this debate there have been speeches which touched on party questions in a manner which I, for one, heard with regret. The hon. and learned Member for Devonport (Sir Erskine Perry) said that in obedience to his convictions he supported the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding; but the hon. and learned Member added that if the Motion had proceeded from this side of the House he would, have given a different vote. An hon. Friend on this side of the House, the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) has said that his opinions concur with the views expressed by the hon. Member for the West Riding 1633 —that he sees the force of this Motion, but that he shall be governed by views altogether extraneous from the Motion before the House, and under the influence of an entirely different feeling vote against the Resolutions of the hon. Member for the West Riding.
I beg my right hon. Friend’s pardon. I said that I believed there were other considerations besides those stated by the words of the Motion; but I never said that I would be guided by motives extraneous to the question before the House.
I understood my hon. Friend to say that he would not deny or affirm the words of the Resolution; that he felt the force and justice of the Motion; but should be guided by other considerations. I mean no disrespect to either my hon. Friend or the hon. and learned Member for Devonport when I say that I hear such declarations with the deepest regret, believing, as I do, that they can only tend to lower the character of this House. But if the Attorney General and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies meant that we who are opposing the conduct of the Government on this occasion are influenced by party considerations, I say that I believe a more unjust or unfounded charge never was made. It does so happen that I can afford proof that my opinion has been formed irrespective of party considerations. Immediately after I read the first despatches that came from China, I remarked to two hon. Friends, who are, I believe, at present listening to me, that the proceedings of our representatives in China were so atrocious—so utterly unjustifiable—that we should have no discussion in Parliament on the subject, as of course the Government would immediately repudiate the acts of their officials, and recall the persons who had brought this disgrace on England. That was the opinion I expressed immediately after reading those despatches, and I think that fact is sufficient to show hon. Members that I, at least, am not influenced by party considerations in dealing with the Motion now before the House. Most deeply do I regret that Her Majesty’s Ministers have not taken the course I expected they would take. Most deeply do I regret that they did not repudiate the acts of Sir John Bowring and the other officials who have acted in the manner those gentlemen have acted, and that they did not at once recall them from the scene 1634 of their misconduct. Sir, no triumph of argument—and I think there never was a greater triumph of arguments than that which has been achieved in this debate on the side of the Motion—no triumph in the division can in my mind compensate for the unfortunate and dishonourable fact that the Government of England has been compromised for a time, however short, by its having given any approbation to the conduct of its officials in China. And, Sir, I have heard no reason given by Her Majesty’s Government for that approbation except the necessity strongly dwelt on by several members of the Government, and especially the Secretary of State for the Colonies, of upholding distant servants of the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Colonies said that if the Government recalled officials that had acted with good intentions they would no longer deserve to be served by honest, upright, and independent men. Now, Sir, I would be the last man to deny that servants of the Crown in distant dependencies do decidedly deserve the support of the Government to the utmost extent that it can properly be given. But, on the other hand, believe that you can maintain no doctrine more dangerous to Government—more destructive to the interests of this country—than this broad principle, that whatever the conduct of those officials may be, whether they deserve credit or have by their misconduct compromised the interests of England, at all events and at all risks they are always to be supported by the Government at home. Sir, I protest against that doctrine, which I believe to be most dangerous to the interests of the British empire; and from the very case before us, I would draw the inference that such a policy would be most disastrous to this country. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department mentioned to-night, with apparent satisfaction, that it was the Government to which the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London belonged that sent out Sir John Bowring to China. Sir, let us, whatever Government appointed him, draw this deduction from Sir John Bowring’s appointment, that there is very great danger to the public interests from the practice of all Governments in making these appointments to consider the number of votes given in a particular lobby by the candidate for public office, rather than his competency or real fitness for the particular 1635 office which he is to be appointed to hold. I think that, whatever Government nominated Sir John Bowring, the consideration which I have condemned was too much attended to in his instance, and that we are now suffering for it.
Sir, at this period of the debate, like the Secretary of State for the Home Department, I shall not presume to enter into the question of which the House has heard so much, and which is so much a legal one—namely, as the claim of the lorcha to be considered a British vessel. That question has been discussed with great ability by gentlemen competent to deal with it; and I shall not go into it. There is then the question of fact—whether or not the flag was flying from the lorcha. That is a question of evidence, and I must say that as a question of evidence it is very doubtful. I think the evidence is as strong one way as the other. The question whether it was right or otherwise for the British flag to fly from the Arrow is one of those legal questions into which I shall not enter. Again, there is a question as to whether the licence had or had not expired. That is a question not of law but of fact. It is relied on that the provision respecting the licence not expiring while a vessel is at sea saved the licence for the Arrow. But was the Arrow at sea? By any principles of reason or common sense can the Arrow be said to have been at sea? Why, she was lying in the river; Hong Kong is at the mouth of the river; and I cannot imagine any reason why she might not have gone down the river to renew her licence. I presume she must have passed Hong Kong to come to Canton; but she did not make a call to renew her licence; for I see in a despatch written by Sir John Bowring on the 13th October, two days after the date of the despatch in which he denies the right of the Arrow to protection, that he says:—”I find, on inquiry at the harbour master’s, that the registry of the Arrow has not been regularly presented at his office, according to the regulations.” I presume that refers to the regulation that the licence is to be presented every six months, and here is another proof that the Arrow was not within the terms of the licence. There is a point connected with these questions of law to which the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock (Mr. R. Phillimore) adverted in the able speech which I heard with great pleasure this evening. I will appeal to the House what will be the effect on other countries—what 1636 will be the effect on Europe, when they find the British Government sanctioning those atrocities and this bloodshed on doubtful grounds? We have had the opinion of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, and perhaps that hon. and learned Gentleman never gave a more striking proof of his signal ability than when during this debate he kept for so long a time the attention of a popular assembly like the House of Commons riveted on a dry legal argument like that with which he so ably dealt. I speak with all frankness of the hon. and learned Gentleman, and if he were in the House, I am sure he would feel with me when I say that he has not yet arrived at the period when his opinion, however able it may be, can compete with that of the illustrious Lyndhurst. Unfettered by party connections and uninfluenced by party hopes, that great and distinguished man has laid down the law affecting this case in a way that will have its effect in every country in Europe. I am, however, quite willing to admit that the legal authorities are balanced. In the House of Lords, we have on one side Lord Lyndhurst, on the other the Lord Chancellor; and again, the opinion of Lord St. Leonards balanced against that of Lord Wensleydale. Here we have the Attorney General on one side, and the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock on the other. Is it not a lamentable state of things to exhibit to the world, that these proceedings in China, when discussed in the British Parliament, should lead, not to an unanimous opinion on the legality of the measures adopted, but to the utmost diversity of judgment on the part of the most eminent legal authorities? Another portion of this subject has, I think, been very little adverted to, if at all; and to it I am desirous of calling the attention of the House—I allude to the opinion which was conveyed to China in reference to this very matter in the name of the Crown by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The House will recollect that this doubtful ordinance was passed in March, 1855, and that when it arrived in this country the noble Lord the Member for London, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, would not give the consent of the Crown to it, but referred it to the Board of Trade. That Board thought its legality extremely doubtful, and it was sent back to China on the 22nd of June unconfirmed. The ordinance thus sent back must have been received there before the 1637 end of September, and therefore the licence granted to the Arrow must have been granted at the time when the ordinance was received back without having obtained the consent of the Crown. But what follows? The next step was this, that information having been requested by the Secretary of State, reasons were returned from China explaining why it was thought expedient that the ordinance should be confirmed. But it was suggested from this country that another ordinance should be passed, and I beg the attention of the House to this most important language proceeding from the Board of Trade. Mr. Booth, one of the secretaries, wrote in the name of the Board to suggest whether, as some doubts might be entertained as to licence to use the British flag in vessels registered in the name of Chinese residents as provided by the ordinance, it might not be desirable to pass a further ordinance. Here you have doubts thrown on the legality of the very ordinance under which alone it could be contended that the Arrow was entitled to use the British flag. Well, while the legality of the ordinance appears to be doubtful, I will—though my own conviction is that it was not legal—assume, like the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock, for argument’s sake, the entire correctness of the licence, and that it was everything for which any one can possibly contend—that it gave her all the privileges of a British vessel; I will assume that she was a British vessel; and then appeal to the House of Commons whether the facts of the arrest and the subsequent proceedings on the part of the Chinese, were such as to justify the steps taken by our officials, and the punishment which they caused to be inflicted on the Chinese? Sir, what will be the judgment of Europe on such conduct? Will not the verdict of all civilized nations be that whatever the claims of the vessel—whatever may have been the rights of the vessel—the revenge taken by the British authorities was excessive and unmeasured. Sir, I shall not detain the House by adverting again to those disgraceful contradictions of Sir John Bowring with regard to the character of the vessel. That branch of the case has been alluded to by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London in that high-toned speech which was admired and appreciated by all parties in this House; but much as I admired the speech I do not think the noble Lord dwelt on this part of the case with the severity it deserved. 1638 However, that was dealt with by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, who did place in clear juxtaposition the two contrary statements of Sir John Bowring. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department told us this evening that we treated Sir John Bowring with harshness and unfairness; but the right hon. Baronet did not deny the truth of the charges brought in this House against Sir John Bowring. If we treated this gentleman with harshness, if we have been severe towards him as a public officer, he stands before us with, I shall not say a deliberate falsehood, but a glaring contradiction of himself—so glaring, indeed, that if his character is to stand free before the world, it will be absolutely necessary that that contradiction be explained. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department did not even advert to the charge. But, Sir, the charge of self-contradiction is, in respect of Sir John Bowring, not limited to this case of the Arrow. I do not know if my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mr. Gregson) is in his place. But my hon. Friend being chairman of the East India and China Association, and knowing perfectly the circumstance to which I am about to advert, I listened to him with some surprise as he vindicated the conduct of the Government in this matter, and as I understood him to vindicate the conduct of Sir John Bowring. When the Shanghai question arose—that one respecting the collection of certain duties—Sir John Bowring had to interfere; and he was charged by the Chamber of Commerce at Shanghai with having deliberately misrepresented the instructions he received from the Foreign Office here, and thereby obtained the consent of the merchants of Shanghai to an arrangement to which otherwise they would not have given their consent. The charge was sent home to this country; and I hold in my hand the report of an interview which in 1854 the East India and China Association had with the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I find it stated in this report— Mr. Gregson read to his Lordship a resolution this day passed, to the effect that Sir John Bowring’s proceedings had lost him the confidence of the merchants engaged in the China trade; and praying that in the approaching revision of the treaty Her Majesty’s Government be represented by some person of known experience and discretion. Here we have a proof of the estimation in which Sir John Bowring was held by the 1639 mercantile body connected with China; and it affords ground for concluding that the Government would have acted with more discretion if they had not kept our interests at China so long in the hands of Sir John Bowring. We heard a great deal this evening from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for the Home Department in favour of the discretion of Mr. Parkes. The right hon. Gentleman found great fault with the hon. Member for the West Riding in consequence of what he had said about Mr. Parkes. Sir, I will not designate the letters of Mr. Parkes “flagitious,” as the hon. Member for the West Riding called one of Sir John Bowring’s documents; but I find in the correspondence of Mr. Parkes contradictions to an extent which I think most dangerous—most unwise in a party employed in such high and serious negotiations. On the 14th October Governor Yeh wrote these words:— Hereafter Chinese officers are on no account, without reason, to seize and take into custody the people belonging to foreign lorchas; but when Chinese subjects build for themselves vessels, foreigners should not sell registers to them; for if this be done, it will occasion confusion between native and foreign ships, and render it difficult to distinguish between them. Thus may all parties conform more precisely to the conditions of the 19th Article of this treaty. I think, Sir, that every one will sympathize with the feeling that seems to have prompted Governor Yeh in writing that statement, because I believe that no system can be more dangerous than that of allowing Chinese vessels to avail themselves of the protection of a foreign flag. But what do we find Mr. Parkes writing to Sir John Bowring; after he received the letter containing that statement— It was eventually delivered to me at ten o’clock, and from the translation of it, which I beg to submit to your Excellency, you will perceive that it is altogether unsatisfactory, no indication being therein given by the Commissioner of his readiness to comply with the treaty by claiming the men now seized through me, no apology or expression of regret being offered for what has occurred, nor any reliable assurance afforded that the Chinese officers will not again act in the same unwarrantable manner. This, you will observe, was written by Mr. Parkes on the same day that he received Governor Yeh’s letter, pointing out means for the avoidance of any such unpleasantness for the future. I think it was on the 14th of October that Consul Parkes wrote the letter to which I have just adverted. Well, on the 15th of October he received this assurance from Commissioner Yeh; 1640 yet, in one week from that time he wrote (on October 21) to Commissioner Yeh as follows— But your Excellency, with a strange disregard both of justice and treaty engagements, has offered no reparation or apology for this injury, ‘and by retaining the men you have seized in your custody signify your approval of this violation of the treaty, and leave Her Majesty’s Government without any assurance that similar aggressions shall not occur again.’ Such was the language o Mr. Parkes, though only a week before he had received a most distinct assurance that the very thing should not occur again. What is the meaning of such language—of such a denial of the fact? There was but one reasonable construction for Governor Yeh to put on it—that the British authorities were determined not to consent to terms, but to insist on a quarrel. That was the only assurance that Commissioner Yeh could give. What said Consul Parkes soon afterwards? He writes to Admiral Seymour on the 22nd— I add two extracts from my letter to the Imperial Commissioner of the 8th and 12th, referred to in the above enclosure, from which your Excellency will learn that the demands authorized by Her Majesty’s Plenipotentiary consist of the surrender of the Arrow’s men in the particular manner therein described, an apology for what has occurred, and an assurance that the British flag shall be respected in future. And in the following paragraph comes the admission that all of the twelve men captured by the Chinese authorities had been returned.
Now, let me remind the House that it was at this moment that Sir John Bowring had declared that the vessel had not a proper register. Commissioner Yeh had, in reply to the remonstrance of Consul Parkes, given an assurance that such a circumstance as the boarding of the lorcha should not happen again; that the seizure occurred through ignorance that she was a British vessel; that while apologising for the act he declared to the best of his knowledge that the British flag was not flying from her. Well, at this moment the whole issue was at an end. The question of the lorcha had become too weak to be any longer sustained. An ample apology was made, the men were returned, and the whole dispute upon this point was apparently settled. It was then thought desirable to break a new ground of quarrel, by reviving the old claim of our right to enter the city. It was determined that that demand should be made. It was accordingly made, and 1641 an intimation given that if it were not immediately complied with the city of Canton would be bombarded. Sir, I cannot pass by this part of the case without adverting to what has this evening fallen from the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Home Department, in reference to the conduct of Sir Michael Seymour. I listened to the generous language of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) with an entire sympathy of feeling. I listened with no less sympathy to the natural and generous language used by the Lord of the Admiralty opposite (Sir M. Berkeley), who took the same line of observation; and let me add, the expression of my own opinion as to the honourable motives by which the gallant Admiral is, I believe, at all times actuated. The last thing I desire to do is to impute the slightest injustice to so gallant and distinguished an officer. I have no doubt that he acted in this matter most reluctantly—that he acted under a full and sincere conviction that having received orders from Sir John Bowring, it was his duty to carry them out. But, at the same time, in a matter of this kind, I cannot consent to compliment away the truth. My opinion is this—that a man of the high character and reputed ability of Sir Michael Seymour might have discovered very soon that he had to deal with a chief who was really not competent to manage matters of such grave importance and delicacy. I think, Sir, that he would have acted with much more discretion and judgment if he had exercised rather a restraining hand, and if he had not shown himself so much the willing agent of Sir John Bowring. I am sure that everybody who reads the despatches with an unprejudiced mind must be of the same opinion. Undoubtedly Sir John Bowring must bear the whole responsibility of the affair; but I wish that the conduct of Admiral Seymour had been more forbearing than it was.
Let me now remind the House of these very remarkable passages in the correspondence of Commissioner Yeh, which I do not think have been, as yet, adverted to in this House. It was after the unhappy bombardment—after that ill-judged claim had been made of the right to enter the city—that Commissioner Yeh wrote these words, which I confess I think must raise the blush in the cheek of any Englishman who reads them. On the 5th of November he writes— It is said in the book of history, ‘Heaven 1642 sees as my people see; Heaven hears as my people hear;’ that is to say, that what the people are averse to, Heaven (the Deity) is averse to. Is not this an additional reason why I should be unable to constrain (the people)? I must add that, as it is the habit of your Excellency’s nation to adore the Spirit of Heaven, it behoves you, in my opinion, so much the more to conform in your actions to the principle given us by Heaven. After the conduct of the British officials became known—after the bombardment of the town had been effected—I cannot imagine a severer sarcasm could have been written by any man—much less a person considered in the light of a barbarian—to Christian officers. Again, on the 11th of the same month Commissioner Yeh writes thus to Admiral Seymour:— Your Excellency fired at once into the city, and ask yourself whether this consists with the forms of war as waged by a great State, or whether this is the practice of civilization. In the same spirit I ask the House whether they really think that these proceedings are consistent with the ordinary forms of war by a great state, or with the progress of civilization. Sir, I deeply regret to say I think that the whole of this correspondence betrays the same discreditable conduct. On the one side I find pride, arrogance, and insult. On the other, the calmness of reasoning minds. Sir, I see an hon. Member, who has been but a short time in this House, and who is, therefore, not accustomed to take part in our debates, expressing his feelings rather loudly during my remarks. Now, I strongly suspect that that hon. Gentleman has not read these papers, or if he have read them it was not with that intelligence which I know him to possess, or he would not act in the way to which I have referred. I say, that the correspondence of Commissioner Yeh is distinguished by ability, calmness, and a reasoning mind; above all, by a moderation of language under the grossest affronts and injuries, highly to the credit of that person. I would ask the House to say which of those letters are the most becoming a Christian? Are they those that have been written by this barbarian or non-Christian, or those that have been penned by our Christian officials? I am sorry to observe that the tone assumed in these debates in support of the proceedings adopted by the British authorities at Canton, is not that which ought to characterize a civilized Power towards an Oriental state. The Vice-President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Lowe) drew a distinction between the conduct that ought to be pursued towards 1643 a Christian or civilized state, and that which should actuate them when dealing with a barbarous people; and a noble Earl in another place (the Earl of Clarendon) said it was important to make the Chinese sensible of the law of force. Now, I confess I would much rather adopt the sentiments expressed in the able and argumentative speech of the noble Lord the Member for London. “I care not whether we are dealing with Chinese or Europeans; depend upon the sound maxim ‘Be just and fear not.'” Those sentiments are both more humane and more politic. I cannot conceive any doctrine more monstrous than that we should act the character of a despot or a bully under any circumstances—that we should bombard a city, and destroy a peaceable town when the inhabitants do not happen to adopt the same doctrines or the same laws as ourselves. The supporters of the Government have all, in my opinion, shown a strong sense of the weakness of their cause in the arguments to which they were obliged to resort. I was surprised to find a statement made by a noble Earl in another place (the Earl of Clarendon) that the circumstances of this outbreak in China were precisely analogous to the occurrences which took place in the same quarter in the years 1846 and 1847. Now, what occurred there at that period? In, I think, 1846, a violent outrage was committed upon British seamen. Soon afterwards a murder was committed, and British lives were sacrificed. Under these circumstances the law of force was resorted to; compensation and redress were demanded from China for those injuries. But when an hon. Member declares that this outrage on British seamen and the murder of British subjects was a precisely analogous case to that of Chinese officials coming alongside a vessel for the purpose of capturing a notorious Chinese pirate, I can only declare my entire dissent from such an observation. Instead of any analogy between the two cases, I am of opinion that the circumstances of each were as widely different as it was possible for two things to be. With regard, then, to this unfortunate revival of our claims to enter into Canton, let me again remind the House of the declaration made by one Secretary of State after another—a declaration the most distinct—of their disapprobation of any such claim being revived without specific instructions from home. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlise spoke of three differ- 1644 rent Secretaries of State who had given instructions to this effect. I think, however, that the right hon. Gentleman understated the case:—he forgot the fact that the noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs himself, no longer than 1854, repeated those instructions as distinctly as either of his predecessors. They were also distinctly given, and they had never been given better or more powerfully than by the noble Lord the present Prime Minister in 1848–49. The same instructions were repeated by Lord Granville, and by his successor, Lord Malmesbury; and in equally plain and distinct terms by Lord Malmesbury’s successor, the present Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. In making this enumeration I feel I am passing by another distinguished authority—I mean that of Lord Grey, whose instructions were not less explicit, and who sent out, in most distinct terms, a peremptory order of the Government that no violent measures were to be attempted against China without special authority from the Government at home. Lord Clarendon writes in February, 1854— There are, unquestionably, points which it would be desirable to secure, and to which we have even a right by treaty; and among those I would mention free and unrestricted intercourse with the Chinese authorities, and free admission into some of the cities of China, especially Canton. The treatment of these questions requires, however, much caution; for if we should press them in menacing language, and yet fail in carrying them, our national honour would require us to have recourse to force; and in order to obtain results, the practical advantage of which is not clearly demonstrated, we might place in peril the vast commercial interests which have already grown up in China, and which, with good and temperate management, will daily acquire greater extension. The language of the noble Lord opposite (Viscount Palmerston), when Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, was so explicit and, in my opinion, so prudent, and so directly in opposition to the conduct which the noble Lord is now sanctioning and supporting with the approbation of Her Majesty’s Government, that I trust the House will allow me to read an extract from his despatch. The noble Viscount, writing in December 1848, said— I am clearly of opinion that it would not be advisable to proceed to hostile measures against Canton, or to take the unusual step of a mission to Pekin, in regard to a privilege which, like the admission of British subjects into the city of Canton, we have indeed a right to demand, but which we could scarcely enjoy with security or advan- 1645 tage if we were to succeed in enforcing it by arms. And again— We should not find it more difficult to employ coercion in order to enforce a more really useful and valuable right than in order to obtain the practical acknowledgment of this right of very doubtful value; but a great naval and military effort made to enforce a valuable right would be well warranted by the value of the advantage to be gained, while such an effort for a right which would be of little use or benefit when obtained would not stand upon equally justifiable grounds. I agree most cordially with this language. I do not see how these opinions could be better expressed, nor do I see how it is possible to reconcile these opinions with the course which has been taken in the present case. We have been told that it is very well to talk of the indisposition of the people of Canton to admit Europeans into their town, but that the Government is despotic, and that if the Commissioner pleased he could control the people and enforce our admission. I will not trouble the House with the extract, but will simply refer to a despatch of Sir George Bonham, in which there is a distinct expression of opinion, founded upon the authority of a medical man resident in Canton, that the indisposition of the people of that city to receive foreigners is so great that it could not be resisted, and that it would be most imprudent to enforce our claims for admission into the town. Now, with the knowledge of those facts, I have read with great surprise the address published from the East India and the China Association to Her Majesty’s Government, which contained the expression on the part of the Association of their most anxious desire that this right of entry into China should be enforced. At the end of the address the Association reminds Her Majesty’s Government that since 1842 the tea trade had doubled, and the silk trade had increased twenty-fold. I wonder, then, that the merchants, who must have been greatly pleased with this increase of trade, did not reflect upon the extreme importance of avoiding a course that must necessarily imperil such a trade, by endeavouring to force against the wishes of the Chinese the admission of Europeans into their country.
Sir, I heard with much regret—and I can only account for it by the sense of weakness under which the supporters of the Government labour—an attempt made to justify those outrages in China by the alleged cruel character of Commissioner 1646 Yeh. An hon. Member sitting behind me (Mr. Robertson) told us of some fabulous number of thousands that were, truly or untruly, reported to have been put to death or tortured by the orders of the Chinese Commissioner. Let us even suppose this to be true, which I for one do not think is consistent with probability. Before condemning Commissioner Yeh we are bound to bear in mind this fact, that the empire is exposed to great disturbances, that the very neighbourhood of Canton has been the scene of a struggle between the forces of the Emperor and those of the rebels. I do not think that any one can venture to say whether any loss of life that has been sustained under the authority of Commissioner Yeh has not been an act of necessity, in the discharge of his duty towards his Sovereign. We have likewise been reminded of the proclamation in which he sets a price upon the heads of Englishmen, and have been told of the atrocities which the Chinese are committing. Those who urge these considerations have lost sight of two facts. One is that they stigmatize the Chinese as barbarians, and therefore ought not to be extreme in their censure of their conduct; the other and the more important is the provocation which our authorities have given. I would beg them to put themselves in the situation of the Chinese, who have had a peaceful mercantile city bombarded without any fault having been committed by its inhabitants, and then to ask themselves whether they would not think it right and just to authorize resistance by any means which might be at their command? I hope, in the verdict you are about to pronounce, the House of Commons will be influenced by other considerations—I hope that it will bear in mind that the eyes of this country, as well as of Europe, are now fixed on us. You are bound to recollect the character of this country is at stake; and you should not consider any of those questions to which I have just referred, which really do not affect the case. The broad facts are now before us. Our relations with China are interrupted, our commerce is impeded, a great mercantile, peaceable, and almost undefended city, has been unjustly bombarded—human life has been cruelly sacrificed, and the name and character of England have been tarnished and impaired. This, I believe, will be found an unexaggerated statement of the facts; and I think we have a right to demand from the Government a better ex- 1647 planation than we have as yet heard of the grounds upon which they have sanctioned proceedings so disgraceful and so disastrous.
said, that an attempt had been made to knock down all the lawyers in that House with the opinion of a noble Lord delivered in another place. He ventured to think, however, that both the legal and non-legal members of that House would feel that this was a question which ought to be decided, not so much by authority, as by argument. He would at once have proceeded to the subject of this Resolution had not the hon. Member who moved it, and many of those who had followed him, referred a great deal to the history of our previous relations with China. The hon. Member for the West Riding passed an eloquent eulogium upon the fair dealing and humanity of the Chinese, and spoke in terms of indignant reprobation of the conduct of his own countrymen. He had described our officials as insolent and overbearing, our merchants as greedy of gain and actuated by the lust of conquest; and he had endeavoured to illustrate our relations with China by imagining what they would have been with France or America under similar circumstances. There was no foundation for any such parallel. He (Mr. Collier) was not aware that in times of peace Englishmen had ever been refused admission into either French or American towns, or that if they strayed about French or American territory they ran the risk of being murdered or tortured. From any fair comparisons between cur conduct and that of the Chinese he felt confident that we should not suffer. Suppose that America had bombarded our seaports, would the noble Lord at the head of the Government have issued a reward for the head of every American who might be captured? Depend upon it this eulogium of our enemies, whether Russians or Chinese, and this depreciation of ourselves, was neither wise nor statesmanlike, nor patriotic. The Chinese, it could not be denied, had committed the deliberate violations of the treaty for upwards of fifteen years, and had frequently furnished this country with ample casus belli; but we had treated China, because she was a weak Power, with the utmost forbearance and had submitted to treatment which we should not have put up with from any strong Power like France or America. The population of Canton had been represented at one moment as turbulent, and at the next 1648 as peaceable and inoffensive. He believed that the population of Canton were turbulent and unruly, but that their turbulent passions were excited by their Government, that they were hounded on against us, and that their turbulence was then used as an excuse for the violation of their treaty engagements. Upon that treaty the whole question turned. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had put the case of granting passes to certain vessels in the Mediterranean, and had asked whether the Spaniards could not board such vessels in their own waters for the purpose of apprehending a malefactor? The cases, however, were not parallel, because the Spaniards had not given up their right so to do by treaty, whereas we had a treaty with the Chinese by which they gave up their right of searching for criminals on board British vessels. By Article 9 of the treaty the Chinese relinquished their right of searching English vessels; and the 17th Article refers to lorchas of this class plying between Hong Kong and Canton as Engvessels—with English registers. Surely it had never been supposed that any of the lorchas sailing between Canton and Hong Kong were British built. If in order to constitute these vessels British they must be built in Great Britain, the treaty was utterly useless. What, then, was meant by the term English vessel? He contended that the treaty was no better than waste paper if this lorcha were not an English vessel under the 17th Article. The English authorities had clearly a light to grant registers to vessels of this kind belonging to persons who were domiciled at Hong Kong, under the protection of our laws, and owing allegiance to our Queen. If, however, the Chinese authorities thought we ought not to have granted licences under such circumstances, they ought not to have disputed our right by force, but should have applied for redress to the British authorities. It was said that the date of the licence had expired; if so, by the provisions of the treaty, it did not become a Chinese vessel, but was forfeited to the Crown. But was the Crown bound to enforce the forfeiture of a vessel in every case where the licence was not renewed on the very day? The Queen’s Advocate appeared to be clearly of opinion (page 15 of the blue-book), that the Act of the Chinese authorities constituted an infraction of the treaty, and that, even if the licence had been improperly granted, this was a matter of British internal regu- 1649 lation which would not justify the seizure of the crew of the lorcha. They had heard a great deal during these debates about Christian charity; yet there had been few debates in which less of it had been displayed. When Sir John Bowring expressed an opinion that the expiration of the licence of the Arrow, of which the Chinese were unaware, had nothing to do with the question, an opinion in which he might have been right or wrong, but in which he agreed with the Queen’s Advocate, it was reserved for the Christian charity of a bosom friend to turn the error he had committed (if it were one) into a “flagitious” crime. What was the redress that ought to have been sought and obtained for this outrage? Consul Parkes, in his first letter, described the measures he took and the representations he made to the Chinese authorities, which were of the most moderate and reasonable character. Yeh’s answer to the application made to him was most evasive and unsatisfactory. His attention having been expressly called to the insult offered to the British flag, in his first answer he did not attempt to deny it, but at once ran off to the charge of piracy against a portion of the crew, and afterwards set up the excuse—which he must have known to be frivolous—that the lorcha was not British built. He said:— The prefect of Canton was ordered by me to examine the twelve men seized on board the lorcha, but prior to the issue of these directions I had already been informed by certain subordinate naval authorities, that these seamen and others were the perpetrators of the piracy committed at San-chow-tang, on the merchant vessel belonging to Hwang-leen-vral, &c. And further on he added:— As to what the Consul states relative to the lorcha being reimbursed the expense consequent on her detention, I find that as the lorcha was built by Loo-a-ching, who obtained a register for her through Po-lo-la, she is not a foreign lorcha, and it is useless, therefore, to enter into any discussion respecting her. In the whole of this communication, therefore, Yeh, though his attention was called pointedly to the insult offered to the British flag, never once denied it, nor affirmed it, but confined himself solely to the narrow ground of the lorcha not being a foreign lorcha. If Consul Parkes had adopted this plea, and put up with the insult, he would have been severely blamed by those who were now loudest in condemning him. The conduct of the Government, too, in endorsing his acts, would have furnished a 1650 theme for the eloquent but somewhat vague declamation of the hon. and learned Member for Enniskillen (Mr. Whiteside), who would then have favoured the House with a torrent of invective as strong as that which he poured forth the other night, but running in quite the opposite channel. He would have declaimed about the honour of the British flag, the gross outrage offered to it, the meanness, the cowardice, and pusilanimity of Consul Parkes, Sir John Bowring, Admiral Seymour, Her Majesty’s Government, and everybody who differed from him in opinion. It was clear that Consul Parkes and Sir John Bowring were bound to demand some reparation for the outrage on our flag; and the question was, were the terms they put forward unreasonable? He believed they were not. Yeh’s letters were a tissue of subterfuges and excuses. He held one language towards Sir John Bowring, and another towards his own people. He talked to us of appeals to the Spirit of Heaven, while he was publicly offering rewards for our countrymen’s heads. As to the demand for admission to Canton, it should be observed that what was sought was a mere entrance for diplomatic intercourse, not an indiscriminate entrance for everybody. True, we had previously waived our treaty-rights in this matter for a time, but when those rights had been grossly violated in another point we were justified in insisting that the entire series of stipulations should henceforth be fulfilled. We did not, however, even now insist on our strict rights, but only on a part of them, which was absolutely necessary to prevent future embroilments. To effect these objects there had been no wanton effusion of blood, as had been stated by the hon. Member for the West Riding; nor had any act been done by the Admiral in command inconsistent with humanity or which was not absolutely necessary. To lay down the proposition that, under no circumstances should injuries to British subjects be forcibly redressed without a previous reference home, would be materially to impair the position hitherto occupied by Englishmen resident abroad. With nations, as with individuals, a prompt demand for redress tended to prevent the repetition of outrange; and the employment of a small force at the beginning might obviate the necessity for calling in a great one in the end. It appeared to him that the House would not be warranted in saying that Sir John Bowring had been substan- 1651 tially in the wrong; and it must be remembered that the mere fact that all his acts were not such as hon. Gentlemen would have done themselves, would not justify them in supporting this Motion. The adoption of the Motion would be interpreted by the Chinese as a confession that we had been in error from the outset—that it was our duty to make an abject apology for what we had done, to restore their forts, and reimburse them for their losses. Such an acknowledgment would probably also be followed by a claim for compensation on the part of the Americans. Governor Yeh, the ruthless slayer of 70,000 of his own people, was held up by men who talked loudly of humanity, and obtrusively of their own consciences, as a paragon of Christian governors, the model of Cabinet ministers. That saintly personage was doubtless unaware that his supporters in that House, if they were to change places with the present Ministry, would in all probability adopt, the same line of action as their predecessors. He might therefore fancy that, whatever fresh violations of treaty he might commit, he would have advocates in that House who, if he found no excuses for himself, would be able to invent them for him; and that the more audacious his aggressions the stronger would be his defence. The effect of this Motion, therefore, would, he believed, be to convert a small contest into a great one; and that what the hon. Member for the West Riding fancied to be the breath of peace, would but blow the flames of war. In negativing the Resolution, he did not commit himself to the ridiculous bugbear with which the hon. Gentleman sought to frighten the House:—viz., the annexation of China. He merely wished to protect our officials under difficult circumstances, unless they were shown to be in the wrong; and that had not been shown in this instance. The propriety of their conduct was, at all events, a matter of doubt here, even among those most opposed to the war, while it was universally approved by the Englishmen, the Americans, and, in short, by the entire foreign community in China. He merely affirmed the principle that, where treaties had been violated and our flag insulted, it was incumbent on us to seek redress; that that redress should be moderate, and, being so, ought to be rigidly enforced. He was in favour of no more compulsion than was requisite to obtain that reasonable end. This was a policy equally applicable 1652 to the weak and to the strong, to barbarous as well as to civilized Powers, and he was wholly at a loss to know how its adoption could be inconsistent with the honour and dignity of England.
said, he was sorry that he could not congratulate the House on the appearance of a speedy termination of the debate; and he felt embarrassed that he should have interfered with the wishes of so many hon. Gentlemen to address them. It had not been his intention or wish to take part in the discussion, for he had been too much engaged to prepare himself in the papers before the House, so as to entitle himself to be heard on the question—for he did not consider it respectful to the House for any Member who was only half prepared on the subject before it to occupy the place of others better qualified to instruct them on it. It was not until he had heard the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General that he felt it almost imperatively his duty to express his sentiments upon the question. That speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman had been characterized by the right hon. Baronet the Home Secretary as clear, lucid, and convincing; and it had certainly had the wonderful effect of convincing the right hon. Gentleman, who had that night endorsed it and adopted every part of it. Now, he (Sir F. Thesiger) regretted to find himself in the position of either, by his silence, acquiescing in the principles enunciated in it, or of expressing the reasons why he differed from them. He felt the full disadvantage of the position in which he was placed after the speech of the hon. and learned Gentleman, who had told them not to allow their feelings to be swayed by party considerations; and, as he, of course thought himself perfectly free from any such motives, that salutary warning could only be meant for those that differed from him. He knew that the House heard with indifference, if not impatience, dry legal arguments. They took it for granted that the lawyers were sure to differ, as a matter of course, and were indifferent as to which side of a question the right lay. The consequence was, that if any bold statement of a legal opinion once got possession of the minds of hon. Gentlemen it was difficult to disturb it, because it was taken for granted that every contradiction of it was a mere matter of course, and must necessarily be wrong. He was old 1653 enough not to feel confidence in the strength of anything he might advance. He was also aware of the bias that swayed the human mind, and therefore would not venture to address the House in a tone of authority. Without assuming a tone of authority on the question, he should endeavour to lay it before the House in so clear and simple a manner that every hon. Member might form his own judgment upon it without reference to the weight of professional authority. The matter itself was not so very difficult of comprehension after all. It turned on a treaty, which was an agreement between parties, and which was expressed in plain and intelligible terms; and on an ordinance which was not less intelligible—although it was from the hand of Sir John Bowring—than the Acts of Parliament which the House was making daily, and which, therefore, hon. Members ought not to have much difficulty in construing. He, therefore, thought that, if the House would favour him with its attention, he would be able to show to them, in the legal view, what was the real question which was submitted for their judgment, and after that he might call on them to weigh with what he might advance the opinions of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General. The Lord Advocate, who always spoke well, and had made the most able speech which had been delivered in opposition to the Motion before the House, had affirmed that it was his opinion that it was impossible to place the Chinese in the same category with those civilized nations to whom the strict principles of international law could be applied. He (Sir F. Thesiger) presumed that the hon. and learned Lord meant that, from their peculiar customs and habits, and from their restricted commercial intercourse with other nations, those conventional usages which were incorporated into a code for the regulation of affairs between nation and nation were inapplicable to the Chinese. So far, he (Sir P. Thesiger) was disposed to agree with him. But there were other principles of a higher character, anterior to the law of nations which were inherent in our nature, and which should come into action in every dealing, whether between individuals or nations, and whether those nations were civilized, semi-barbarous, or even barbarous—the principles of truth, justice and humanity. It was not in metaphor merely that jurists considered States as moral persons, and so bound by the law of mo- 1654 rality equally with individuals. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General, however, called on them to discard all these higher considerations, and to descend with him to consider the peculiar language and structure of the documents before the House. However disagreeable it might be to leave the higher ground, where the atmosphere was purer, he should be ready to meet his hon. and learned Friend even in these close lists which he lad chosen, and in which he stood ready to receive all comers. He certainly had been rather astonished to learn from the speech of his hon. and learned Friend that during the whole discussion of this question, both there and elsewhere, the ground upon which it had been placed had been, until he put them right, entirely mistaken, and that, instead of resting it upon the basis of the ordinance of 1855, it could only be argued upon the Supplementary Treaty of 1843. It was very surprising that all the able and powerful minds which had been applied to this question should have gone so completely astray; and it was still more remarkable that our Plenipotentiary, whose acute and subtle mind had he lived in the times of the schoolmen would probably have earned for him the title of the second “Irrefragable Doctor), should himself have been so entirely misled as to the true ground on which his case ought to rest. On the 11th of October the Plenipotentiary wrote thus to Consul Parkes:— It appears on examination, that the Arrow had no right to hoist the British flag; the licence to do so expired on the 27th September, from which period she has not been entitled to protection. You will send back the register to be delivered at the Colonial Office. But, according to the Attorney General, the expiration of the register did not at all affect the right of the Arrow to protection. This was the hon. and learned Gentleman’s language on Friday night:— When a merchant ship entered the harbour of another country those who were on board of her were obliged to conform to the laws of that country; and if there were among her crew any offenders against the municipal law, it was competent for the authorities of that country at once to enter the vessel and to bring them to justice; and undoubtedly the Chinese authorities might have dealt with the Arrow in a similar way if it had not been for the treaty in question. If he was able to satisfy the House, as he believed he could do, that the treaty had no bearing upon the question, the Chinese would find that they had an unexpected 1655 advocate in his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. That hon. and learned Gentleman had occupied a good deal of the time of the House in a dissertation as to what was the meaning of the terms “a British ship,” and “an English merchant vessel,” and he stated that the latter phrase, used in the Supplementary Treaty, meant a ship built no matter where, manned in any way that accident might bring about, but belonging to a British subject, and that in that sense the expression was used in the treaty. His hon. and learned Friend went on to say— The words ‘British ship or English merchant vessel,’ were plainly used in the Supplementary Treaty, not in the technical sense given to those words in the Imperial statute, but in the general, universal sense of a vessel belonging to a British subject. It must be observed that he expressly used the term ‘British subject,” and not ‘Britishborn subject,’ which were the words of the Merchant Shipping Act; and by British subject he meant a person resident in some part of the British territory and living under British rule. In that sense only was the term ‘English merchantship’ in the Supplementary Treaty to be interpreted. He (Sir F. Thesiger) had examined the treaty, and especially the 17th Article, in order to see what was the context of the term “English merchant vessel,” and he had been astonished to find that from the beginning to the end of that treaty the words “English merchant vessel” did not occur. The only terms at all similar used in the article were in its title, where “British small craft” were mentioned, then the terms “vessels belonging to the English nation,” and again the words “British schooners, cutters, lorchas, &c.” The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth (Mr. Collier) had endeavoured to import a new term, “British built,” into the Supplementary Treaty for the purpose of his argument; but no such words as “British built” occurred in that treaty; and it was a strong argument in favour of what he (Sir F. Thesiger) and those who took the same view of the case advanced, to find that it was impossible for their opponents to controvert them without introducing into the debate terms for which there was no justification. He asked the House to consider the fair effect of the treaty. It was dated in 1843, twelve years before the new-fangled colonial registers, under the ordinance of 1855, came into operation. They were dealing with a treaty with the Chinese, and the term “British ship,” and “British lorcha” had a plain meaning, easily understood by the 1656 contracting parties. Now what did it mean. It meant a vessel which was owned by a natural-born subject, or by a person who had been naturalized or had obtained letters of denization; and unless a vessel answered these conditions she was not a British vessel within the understanding of the parties to the treaty. It was too absurd and unreasonable to suppose that some twelve years ago the Chinese would have entered into a treaty anticipating that a new description of registration would be established which would enable their countrymen to appear under a disguise as British subjects. It was quite clear, therefore, that the treaty referred to British ships in the strict sense of the term, and they were to have a particular sailing letter or register, differing altogether from that prescribed by the ordinance of 1855. Now, what was the intention of this Supplementary Treaty? Before its conclusion the smaller vessels had not been liable to the payment of duties even when they carried dutiable articles, and the object of the treaty evidently was to render them liable to those duties. The 17th Article of the treaty declared— Various small vessels belonging to the English nation, called schooners, cutters, lorchas, &c., have not hitherto been chargeable with tonnage dues. It is now agreed, in relation to this class of vessels, which ply between Hong Kong and the city, and the city and Macao, that if they only carry passengers, letters, and baggage they shall, as heretofore, pay no tonnage dues; but if these small craft carry any dutiable articles, no matter how small the quantity may be, they ought in principle to pay their full tonnage dues. The Article then described the mode in which the tonnage was to be ascertained, and laid down the following rules— 1. Every British schooner, cutter, lorcha, &c., shall have a sailing letter or register in Chinese and English, under the seal and signature of the Chief Superintendent of Trade, describing her appearance, burden, &c. 2. Every schooner, lorcha, and such vessel, shall report herself, as large vessels are required to do, at the Bocca Tigris; and when she carries cargo she shall also report herself at Whampoa, and shall on reaching Canton deliver up her sailing letter or register to the British Consul, who will obtain permission from the Hoppo for her to discharge her cargo, which she is not to do without such permission, under the forfeiture of the penalties laid down in the 3rd clause of the General Regulations of Trade. There was a clear meaning of this Article of the treaty. It applied to a totally different subject to that which the ordinance was applicable, and to a different purpose, and was altogether a matter distinct and 1657 independent. It would have been impossible for the Superintendent of Trade, or any of the authorities, under those articles, to give a vessel owned by a Chinese a sailing letter or register which would confer upon such vessel the character of a British vessel without a violation of the treaty. He (Sir F. Thesiger) thought the matter was so perfectly clear that hon. Gentlemen must be satisfied that the proposition of the Attorney General ought to have been reversed. Instead of relying upon the treaty and not upon the ordinance as a justification of our proceedings, he (Sir P. Thesiger) contended, on the other hand, that they must rely upon the ordinance and not upon the treaty, which was wholly inapplicable to the subject. Now, with regard to the ordinance, it was considered desirable that some check should be put upon the practice of smuggling, which was very extensively carried on, and in March, 1855, the following ordinance was passed, in which a distinction was sedulously preserved between British vessels and those of another description:— From and after the passing of this ordinance no ship or vessel whatsoever, owned by a British subject, shall be at liberty to trade in any of the harbours of this colony, unless, in the case of an outward trading ship or vessel, she be provided with a certificate of registry in conformity with the Imperial Acts of Parliament on that behalf; and in the case of a China trading ship or vessel she has in all respects complied with the requirements of this ordinance. A new system of registration was then introduced for the first time, and it was provided that Chinese residents within the colony should be entitled to apply for and obtain colonial registers if they held registered leases of Crown lands in the colony. He asked the House to observe the distinction preserved by the ordinance between vessels owned by British subjects and vessels of another description, which were the objects of this peculiar colonial register. There might be great doubt whether that ordinance was legal, and whether it had not the effect of repealing the Merchant Shipping Act, so far as that Act dealt with the ownership of vessels and the consequent registration. The 547th section of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854 first gave power to the colonial legislatures to repeal any of the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Acts, and colonial ordinances repealing the provisions of those Acts did not become law until they were sanctioned by Her Majesty in Council, and such approval was proclaimed, or until the 1658Arrow took place. It was in November, 1855, that the Secretary of State for the Home Department gave a somewhat sullen consent that the ordinance might be permitted to come into operation; and, therefore, undoubtedly, when these proceedings took place, there was a very questionable legality in the authority on which Sir John Bowring founded them. The House would observe the difference that existed between the treaty registration and the ordinance registration. The registration under the treaty could only be of British ships; the colonial registrations under the ordinance might be of Chinese residents who were also Crown lessees. The registration under the treaty was not temporary, but permanent; for the House would observe that the register was to be delivered to the proper officer at the Custom House when the vessel arrived in port, and given back again when it cleared out, so that it was a permanent registration; but the registration under the ordinance was only annual, and was forfeitable under certain conditions. It therefore appeared clear that the registration under the ordinance was something totally different from that under the treaty, and that the House had to consider this question on the footing of the ordinance alone. Now, what was the fair legal effect of that ordinance? Undoubtedly—supposing that it was not opposed to any Imperial law—that ordinance might confer rights as against ourselves. A register under that ordinance might perhaps be entitled to respect from foreign nations; but he apprehended that it could confer no right whatever on Chinese subjects as against the Chinese Government. That was the opinion of Lord Lyndhurst, who expressed himself very clearly and strongly on the subject. He said,— Allow me to lay down a principle which no one can successfully contest. You may give rights as against yourselves. You may pass a law for that purpose, but you cannot give any rights to the subject of a foreign country by any of your laws as against the country of which he is a subject. Oh! but, said the Attorney General, the noble and learned Lord, for whom he professed the utmost reverence and respect, was entirely in error, and it was a most remarkable thing that he was utterly igno- 1659 rant of an authority on the subject which was completely decisive against his views. Lord Lyndhurst ignorant of the law! lapse of a specified time after they had received Her Majesty’s sanction. Now, this ordinance had certainly not been sanctioned in any way when the proceedings with regard to the
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I said no such thing—I said no such thing. I said that though Lord Lyndhurst’s proposition was true, another proposition might be true also, and that Lord Lyndhurst seemed not to be aware of a certain authority; but I never said he was ignorant of the law; but the hon. and learned Gentleman does not seem to understand the difference.
had only to say that he had seen what appeared to him to be an accurate report of the Attorney General’s speech, and he certainly found these words:—”It is remarkable that the noble and learned Lord who insisted on this topic in another place was not aware of this authority.” Now, he thought that if any one in that House versed in the law had ventured to address Lord Lyndhurst and tell him he was ignorant of any authority on a particular case before him, he might answer as Serjeant Maynard was said to have done on a similar occasion, “I have forgotten more law than you ever knew.” The case to which the Attorney General referred was one which was familiar to everybody connected with the law, and was not likely to be overlooked by so great an authority and so learned a person as Lord Lyndhurst. But he must say, that when the Attorney General contended that the authority to which he referred was a complete answer to Lord Lyndhurst’s reasoning, and, moreover, that it was a complete authority to show that the Superintendent of Trade at Hong Kong had a right to give to a Chinese subject a register that would entitle him as against Chinese authority to become a British subject, he would not venture to say that he was ignorant of the case, but that a more complete misrepresentation of a case he had never heard. What was that case? A person who was a natural-born subject of England removed to the United States with his family with the intention of settling there, was domiciled, and became a naturalized subject of the United States. Under a treaty with America, confirmed by Act of Parliament, citizens of the United States were allowed to trade with the East Indies in a particular article, which at that time no subject of England could do. The person alluded to had been for a considerable time engaged in the ship- 1660 ping trade. He was the owner of several vessels, and the master of one of them; and the question was, whether he, as a domiciled, naturalized subject of the United States, was not within the terms of the treaty and the Act of Parliament—whether he was not sufficiently clothed with the character of a citizen of the United States to entitle him to have the benefit of that particular treaty. There were great authorities, as the hon. and learned Gentleman told them the other night, who thought he was not entitled to the benefit of the treaty, and the Act of Parliament—such as Lords Stowell, Eldon, and Redesdale; and in a case very similar, relating to a Swedish subject, Lord Hardwicke was of the same opinion. But certainly the hon. and learned Gentleman did not express himself with his usual accuracy when he enlisted all these great names in support of his views on this question. He (Sir F. Thesiger) had looked into the record, and he thought the hon. and learned Gentleman was mistaken when he so expressed himself. He could not conceive how it was possible, on such an authority, to establish that a Chinese resident, not domiciled at all, and having no rights whatever as a British subject, could, under this annual register, be clothed with the character of a British subject, and be entitled to all the privileges which were claimed for him in virtue of the colonial ordinance. The Attorney General was a lawyer of unquestionable eminence and experience, and he could not presume he was ignorant of this authority, for he had himself referred to it; but certainly it appeared to him that he had entirely misunderstood it when he put it forward as an authority that was decisive on his side of the question, the hon. and learned Gentleman seemed rather to have relied upon a practice sometimes adopted in that House—to make a bold assertion of law, and trust to its being taken without question. The hon. and learned Gentleman also chose to advert to another point on which he had the misfortune to be at issue with him, and he found it necessary to correct the information he had conveyed to the House. He said, that the respect which was due to the British flag and the British papers known to be possessed by the owners of this vessel, ought to have entitled it to protection without the Chinese entering into an examination of these matters, and he quoted as an authority an isolated passage in a judgment delivered in 1661 the Admiralty Court, amounting to something like an abstract proposition. He culled this passage carefully from the particulars of the case, and put it boldly before the House as an authority in his favour. It was from Lord Stowell, and was as follows:— It is a known and established rule with respect to a vessel, that if she is navigating under the pass of a foreign country, she is considered as bearing the national character of that nation under whose pass she sails; she makes a part of its navigation, and is in every respect liable to be considered as a vessel of that country. That, no doubt, was at first sight startling. Everybody who heard such a proposition from such an authority, and passing through such a channel, was naturally enough apt to be led away by it. Let him tell the House what the case of the Vigilantia, paraded with so much pomp by the Attorney General, really was. The Vigilantia was a vessel sailing under Prussian colours. She belonged to a native of Holland. At that time we were at war with the Dutch, but Prussia was a neutral State. An endeavour had been made to give the Vigilantia a Prussian character by granting her, in some form or other, a certificate from the magistrates of Emden, that the assumed owner of the vessel was a native of that city. The result was, that she sailed under Prussian colours and carried Prussian papers. But, when Lord Stowell laid down the proposition which had been read to the House, he did so with a number of qualifications which, of course, were wholly omitted by the Attorney General; and though he admitted that primâ facie, a vessel sailing under the colours of a particular State must be assumed to belong to that State; yet, the papers of the Vigilantia having been overhauled and found to be fraudulent, the vessel, which was protected by the general propositions which the Attorney General had put before the House, was condemned as a prize. He must say, therefore, that the House had not been treated fairly. They had to consider a case which all agreed to be a difficult one. They heard of contradictory opinions expressed elsewhere. They were anxious for some light to be thrown upon the question. The dignus vindice nodus1662 of intellectual legerdemain, had disappeared in a cloud of authorities. He had endeavoured to track the hon. and learned Gentleman’s course in the dark, and to turn the light of his feeble understanding upon it; and he asked the House whether they were now as prepared to receive without hesitation the propositions of law which were maintained the other night by the Attorney General as they were at the time they were delivered? had arrived. The hon. and learned Attorney General had descended among them to enlighten their ignorance and to dissipate their doubts; and, after exhibiting to their astonished eyes a few feats
What, then, was the position of the question before them? He conceded that it must turn entirely upon the right of the lorcha Arrow to be regarded as a British vessel, and that entirely upon the footing of the ordinance. Now, let them suppose, for the sake of argument, that everything must be in favour of the view which was taken on the other side—that the ordinance was a legal ordinance, and that the register conferred upon the Chinese resident the right during its existence to have the temporary character of a British subject. But the register had expired at the time of the boarding of the Arrow, and whatever rights had been enjoyed under the ordinance were lost in consequence of the certificate not being renewed. The Lord Advocate, in adverting to the letter in which Sir John Bowring said, “it appears, on examination, that the Arrow had no right to hoist the British flag; the licence to do so expired on the 27th of September, from which period she has not been entitled to protection,” asserted that he saw no duplicity, secrecy, or unfair dealing in that document. Nor did he. The letter was a very innocent one. So with respect to the letter in which Sir John Bowring said, “The lorcha Arrow lawfully bore the British flag under a register granted by me.” He saw no duplicity there, because Sir John Bowring might have believed that the Arrow lawfully bore the British flag. But when he put the two letters together—when he found Sir John Bowring writing on the 11th of October that the ArrowArrow was boarded by the Chinese authorities she had lost her right, whatever it might have been under the register which had been granted to her at Hong Kong. He knew perfectly well that although at that time the secret was 1663 locked in his own breast, unknown to the Chinese authorities, the period would arrive when all must be known to the world, and when it must be patent that he was acting upon a false ground, in spite of information which he possessed, but which he withheld from the Chinese. What ought he in such circumstances to have done? He ought, surely, to have been most careful, if he was determined upon retaliating, in the steps which he took to effect that object. Here, to his mind, was the most painful part of the case. He could not help thinking that there had been a feeling rankling in the mind of Sir John Bowring, which appeared to have been waiting for an opportunity to develope itself. It was recorded in what they might call the Book of Insults, that there had been gradually gathering in the minds of the British authorities in China a growing feeling against the Chinese. There could be no doubt, also, that Sir John Bowring was exceedingly anxious, to say the least, to obtain admission into Canton under the treaty of 1842. Now, he could not help thinking that advantage was taken of the first opportunity to give expression to these feelings, and, as frequently happened on such occasions, the very worst opportunity was selected. Sir John Bowring chose to assume that there was a deliberate insult to the British flag by the Chinese. But Commissioner Yeh had never, from the beginning to the end, asserted anything which could induce Sir John Bowring to come to that conclusion; on the contrary, he had always written humbly and submissively, but always insisting that the Arrow was not a British but a Chinese vessel; and why Sir John Bowring should assume that the Imperial Commissioner’s impression was only a simulated one, and not a true one, why he should assume on the part of the Chinese a deliberate intention to insult the British flag, unless for the reasons already assigned, it was impossible to imagine. However, granting the insult, what ought to have been done? Why, as the hon. and learned Member for Tavistock, (Mr. R. Phillimore) had pointed out, the Queen’s advocate advised the Government what was all that would be requisite upon the occasion—namely, the seizure of an Imperial junk. That was considered to be the sort of reprisal which would satisfy the demands of the case. Flag for flag, junk for junk,—such was the law laid down the other night by the right hon. Baronet the Member for 1664 Carlisle. But the seizure of a junk had already taken place. An insult had been offered to the British flag, and it was resolved to resent it by offering a similar insult to the Chinese flag. Accordingly, Commodore Elliot seized what was supposed to be an Imperial junk, but, according to the bitter complainings of Yeh, it turned out to be a trading vessel. Yet the intention of the British authorities was to seize an Imperial junk; and if, as was argued by those on the other side, the acts of the parties were to be judged by intention, no more ample retaliation could have been desired for the insult offered to the British flag. The matter might safely have been left there, or, at all events, further proceedings should have been suspended until the receipt of instructions from home. There could be no doubt that the authorities in China believed that the insult to the British flag had been completely redressed, and that the idea of taking advantage of the opportunity to compel admission into Canton by force of arms was an afterthought. He must say, therefore, that the Government had no right to claim anything for their humanity and forbearance. They began, undoubtedly, by attacking the distant forts; they proceeded to batter the walls; they directed their artillery against the house of the Chief Commissioner, surrounded by many dwellings; and imagine the slow torture of firing guns every five minutes—conceive the agony of dread and suspense in the interval? Why, a hot fire continued would hardly have been more fearful than the anxiety which filled every mind during the dreadful interval. He was old enough, unfortunately, to remember the bombardment of Copenhagen. A mighty armament left these shores which it was quite impossible for the Danes to resist; but they made a feeble show of opposition, and for three or four days they endured the bombardment of their town. He (Sir F. Thesiger) was a witness of the dreadful conflagration. The loss of life was immense. In the midst of all those horrors there came forth a voice, as it were, from the flames, which, after depicting the carnage that must have happened and the appearance presented by the heaps of slain, and after describing the striking down of a woman with a child in her arms by the explosion of a shell, burst out into this pathetic apostrophe, “Oh, Britain, Queen of Nations, mother of such manly sons, can this unjust and cruel work he thine?” Similar to 1665 that was the sound which in this case would go out into all lands, and wherever it went it would carry sympathy with it. He feared that the humanity and generosity and love of truth on which we had prided ourselves would receive a deadly shock from this transaction. The noble Lord the Member for London stated that he found in the despatches no single expression of sorrow or regret on the part of the Government for all the blood that had been shed, and the learned Lord Advocate said that he thought there was no occasion for such an expression. He (Sir F. Thesiger) deeply regretted that some such passage was not to be found in the despatches; but he was much astonished and pained that men of worth, gentlemen of education, noblemen, ministers of the Gospel, and dignitaries of the Church, should be found, some to raise their voices, many to give their votes, in approbation of the proceedings at Canton. He could not trust himself with utterance of the feelings of sorrow and shame and indignation which had burned within him upon perusing the papers which were before them, and which would remain a lasting monument of the bad faith and cruelty of Britain; but he never could have enjoyed one moment’s peace if he had not seized eagerly and anxiously the opportunity which had been afforded him by the Resolution of the hon. Member for the West Riding of pronouncing his hearty approbation of that Resolution, and of expressing thereby his horror of those proceedings. had no right to hoist the British flag, and on the 14th of November that she lawfully bore the British flag—he recognized not only double-dealing, but what appeared to him to be a direct falsehood. Sir John Bowring then knew that at the time when the
SIR WILLIAM F. WILLIAMS
said, he should have given a silent vote on this occasion, but that he had a duty to perform to his country and himself—to his country, because he was going to offer explanations which he was sure would be received with pleasure by both sides of the House—to himself, because he must inform them that for twenty-six years he had served his country in the East, in those portions which lay between the Bosphorous and the waters of China. Previously to the first war he was in those waters, and he saw the Chinese in the colonies of Singapore, Malacca, Penang, and elsewhere, pursuing their commerce and enriching themselves under our laws. He saw them treated with every possible kindness, and treated in every respect as British subjects; but during the whole of that time those insults and injuries were being offered to Englishmen by the Chinese which led to the first war, and to the stipulations in the treaty which ter- 1666 minated it, which conveyed to us very great power in China with respect to our consuls and the shipping on the coast. Lord Lyndhurst had stated in another place that when we were talking of treaty transactions with Eastern nations we had a kind of loose law and loose morality with regard to them. He (Sir William F. Williams) took that statement to imply that in those treaties we had stipulated for an unjust amount of concession, and that we had thus placed them in an inferior position to ourselves. He wished to explain to the House, however, that those nations had brought themselves into that position by separating themselves from the family of mankind, by treating their own subjects of the non-dominant religion with the greatest injustice, and strangers who frequented their country with horrible cruelty. The hon. Member for the West Riding commenced his address the other evening by alluding to those treaties, and he said that they had nothing in common to do with the treaties which we had made with Turkey and Persia. He (Sir William F. Williams) contended that they were in principle identical, and that they had resulted from the same circumstances which had led to the last treaty with China. He had been in Turkey for sixteen years, and he saw so much tyranny and oppression exercised, not only towards the Christian subjects of the Porte, but towards strangers, that he was persuaded it would have been quite impossible for English people to live there if those treaties had not existed which we had made for the protection of our subjects. Precisely the same remarks applied to Persia. He had been in that country also, and he defied any Englishman to remain in it a day unless he was protected by similar treaties. Instead, therefore, of talking about meting out injustice to the weak and truckling to the strong, we should remember the bearing of these Eastern nations towards ourselves, and we should find that the superiority which we had found it necessary to assume over them entirely resulted from their separating themselves from the great family of mankind. The hon. Member for the West Riding had been kind enough to pay a high compliment to the officers of the army and navy, and he could assure him that those praises were received with great pleasure, but he hoped that when the Estimates came to be discussed he would not prove to be one of those who thought that curtailing our establishments in time of 1667 peace increased their efficiency when the time of war arrived. The hon. Gentleman had also complained of the documents which had been laid before Parliament being garbled; but in making that complaint he had, in reference to one document, stated that it ought to have been omitted altogether, thereby displaying his real principles upon the subject. The hon. Member had also stated that British merchants had lost a large portion of their commerce in the East through their arrogance and insolence, but his (Sir William F. Williams’) experience suggested quite a different explanation. Where they had lost any part of their commerce it was because they were not able to live in the same simple and economical manner as the native merchants, or as those with whom they were brought into competition. With regard, however, to the real point at issue, he felt bound to vote against the Resolution, because he felt certain that the outrage offered to the British flag was a premeditated insult, and ought therefore to be resented, and that any vote of that House in censure of the proceedings which had taken place might lead to most dangerous consequences throughout the East.
At this hour of the night, and after so lengthened a debate, I certainly shall honestly endeavour to say what I have to say in words as concise as I can possibly make them, and I shall refer as little as possible to those papers which I think we now know almost by heart. I rose, Sir, in the hope of catching your eye when the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department sat down, for he gave me a challenge which I was anxious to accept — a challenge to discuss this question on broad grounds — and that challenge I now accept with pleasure. I should like us to dismiss from our minds all the legal technicalities which no doubt were necessary to be laid before us, and which have been so admirably stated, relating to the rights of the particular lorcha Arrow to bear the British flag. I will upon that point state my belief in one sentence, which I am afraid must be a long one, and say with whom I agree and upon what points. In the first place, I agree with Sir John Bowring that the Arrow was not a British lorcha; I agree with Kennedy, the stripling from Belfast, in his statement that he knew that he was only the nominal master, and that he believed that the ship was owned by a Chinaman. I agree with Mr. Booth, of the Board of 1668 Trade, who says that the ordinance under which these licences are issued is illegal. I agree with Mr. Bridges, who was the acting Attorney General for Hong Kong, who says that the British subjects to whom these licences were issued were not British subjects at all. And, lastly, I agree with Mr. Parkes, that if the Arrow had been legally a British vessel, the reparation was far more than the occasion required. I also agree with the Lord Advocate that the argument on these matters of the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies, and of his absent Friend in another place, the Lord Chancellor, are perfectly immaterial.
Sir, I will not revert to the question of the Arrow, but this I must say, upon the colonial ordinance in general, that when I see it stated what are the objects for which these licences are issued, I think the whole system requires the careful supervision of Her Majesty’s Government, because when I see it avowed that the state of Hong Kong depends upon the prosperity of its coasting trade, and at the same time I see that the Colonial Treasurer tells us that the coasting trade depends upon the import of Indian goods, such as opium, &c., and when I recollect that we are bound by treaty to use all our authority, it does appear to me that the less we talk about the faith of treaties the better; and when I hear of an insult to the English flag, I think it is time to look well into an ordinance under which the British flag is prostituted for wrongful purposes.
Now, Sir, there is a subject which has been alluded to — and I wish to clear away all this ground at once — I mean the discrepancy between the two letters written upon the subject of this lorcha by Sir John Bowring. The right hon. Secretary for the Home Department has this evening thrown the shield of his protection over Sir John Bowring, but he took no notice of that circumstance. I believe that his truthful nature revolted from it; but I will only say that I wish it could have been explained. It has not been explained, and I think that it is a bad business for us as Englishmen, and the less that is said about it the better.
Now, Sir, I come to the much more important question of the right of entry into Canton, about which the right hon. Secretary for the Home Department has made some assertions with which I wish to deal. The hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. Robertson) read to the House several statements showing us what the character of 1669 the Chinese nation is. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department adopted the same tone. He read an extract from a letter written by an American gentleman, Mr. Cook. I do not know whether it was for the purpose of endorsing the opinions contained in it, or whether it was for the purpose of fretting a cheer at the expense of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding. If it was done with the first object, I must say it was not well calculated to insure success, because, as it happens, the hon. Member for the West Riding had said on that subject quite as much as Mr. Cook himself. [“Oh!”] Well, I am anxious to satisfy the minds of hon. Gentlemen who cry “oh!” so I will read an extract from the newspaper records of the hon. Gentleman’s speech:
In justice to the writer I must say — and without the proviso he would, I am sure, feel that I had been guilty of a breach of faith — that he is as completely an anti-Chinese as anybody I ever met. He wishes every success to every one who will go and attack the Chinese to make them more American and more European in their notions, and he would not be supposed to say a word to save them from any horrors that you may inflict upon them.
Now, if my hon. Friend had omitted to make that statement, I think he would have empowered me to offer his thanks to the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Grey), who strengthens his case by showing that this witness, Mr. Cook, was a hostile and an unwilling witness, who could not, however, suppress the truth as to the iniquitous transactions now sought to be impugned. Before I go further let us have a clear understanding as to the character of the Chinese people. During this discussion, if anybody has shown any squeamishness with regard to the bombardment of a populous city and the shedding of innocent blood in China, he is called an “anglo” mandarin, and then hon. Gentlemen get up instances of insult and torture which occur among this semi-barbarous people, and we are asked what we think of them. Now, having read the current works descriptive of the Chinese, and accessible to all of us, I will venture to express in a sentence my opinion of this nation. I believe them to be a most precocious and extraordinary people, and to possess an extraordinary degree of refinement — I do not call it civilization, because I do not believe that civilization, in the higher sense of the word, is possible without Christianity. But with this refinement 1670 is found great cruelty, selfishness, and the most degrading vices. But then you tell me — and it is the popular argument adopted by the Home Secretary — that these Cantonese are a set of blackguards. Well, that is a very simple way of settling the question. But, surely, it is not logical to say that every town with a blackguard population may be justly subjected to a bombardment. I suppose most Gentlemen present have visited some of our seaport towns. The city of London has four Members in this House, and it is, therefore, rather dangerous to talk about the character of the waterside population here; but there are certainly not wanting disparaging reports as to the character of the “longshore men” living by the river side. And did you ever know any seaport town which has not got a rascally population living upon its outskirts? Remember, too, when you are using this language, that this is the very class of people whom you want by means of your ordinance to convert into British subjects. What were the twelve men in the lorcha? Chinese, picked up from the very refuse and scum of the population along the Canton river, whom you put into this vessel with a register with no limit to it — a vessel, therefore, which might go into any port in the world, which might have come over to Hamburgh, to Constantinople, or to Marseilles, and the crew might have got into a row at any of these places, and have gone with their Chinese faces and Chinese costumes up to the British Consul, when each one of them might have exclaimed to that astonished functionary, Civis Romanus sum. Now, I go back to these operations at Canton. It seems to have occurred to Mr. Parkes that the retribution exacted for the Arrow was far beyond what the case required, and Sir John Bowring appears to have cast about for some pretext to justify ex post facto the satisfaction he had demanded from the Chinese. I will not quote a despatch on the subject, but we all know for how long a time Sir John Bowring had been carrying on a species of controversy with the Foreign Office on the subject of access to Canton. Perhaps the House will allow me — it is rather curious — to show them what it was that induced Sir John Bowring to say that the moment had arrived, the auspicious moment, for reopening the question. In 1854 I find this sentence in a letter of Sir John Bowring to the Earl of Clarendon. At that time we were engaged in war with Russia, and he says — 1671 “My reception within the city is a question which must for the present be made subordinate to more important matters. I did not think right to demand such a reception, as the enforcement would have required more time than I could now give to the matter; and” — now, mark this — “I could not safely have carried on the controversy in the absence of the fleet.” Is not this an indication of what Sir John Bowring anticipated when he began the controversy? He writes again in July, 1855, and says: “It would be idle for me to use any language of displeasure or of menace, altogether helpless as I am in the absence of the fleet. I am informed by the hon. Captain K. Stewart, of Her Majesty’s frigate Nankin, that his peremptory instructions, are to proceed to the north, and to join the Admiral there.” And, from a subsequent communication, it seems that Captain Stewart does proceed to the north. Now, you see from this what was the meaning of an “auspicious” moment. Peace was declared here, I think, at the end of the month of March. It must have been known to Sir John Bowring in the beginning of July: and let me just show how he stands in 1856 with regard to that great assistance to peaceful controversy — the fleet. In 1856 he had the largest fleet in the Canton river which had been there for years. The Admiral and the Commodore were both together. He had got the Calcutta, line-of-battle ship; the Nankin, a 50-gun frigate; the Winchester, of 50 guns: the Sybille, of 44 guns; the Encounter, of 14 guns (screw); the HornetCoromandel (screw); the (screw); the Niger (screw); the Samson, 6 guns (paddle); the Barracouta, 6 guns (paddle); and the Bittern, of 12 guns (sailing sloop). Having got this great assistance, it occurred to Sir John Bowring, to use his own expression, “that the circumstances are auspicious for requiring the fulfilment of treaty obligations as regards the city of Canton.” Recollect that we had originally acquired this right of access by treaty, and that we had not only never made use of that right, but had consented not to abandon, but to waive it. We waived it for two years. At the end of that time we did not re-assert it — that is, if we re-asserted it in words we took no steps to alter the status quo. During the whole of this period every successive Secretary of State was showing his wisdom by writing the most peremptory instructions, so as apparently to restrain the exuberant activity of the Governor of Hong Kong. 1672 The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) wrote two or three letters in great detail, filled with wisdom, and cautious against risking immense interests, and paying a great price for something almost worthless. Then came Earl Granville; then the Earl of Malmesbury; then the Duke of Newcastle, who sent Earl Grey’s despatch; and next the Earl of Clarendon; each of them writing more strongly than the others, and each urging this man to give up his project, which he seemed to dream of as the one thing by which the British power in the East was to be consolidated. It appears from the papers that the Chinese Government attached so much importance to our not having access to Canton, that when the negotiations terminated, which led to the right being waived for two years, they gave honours and decorations to the Commissioners who had brought the matter to that successful issue. Clearly, then, this was not a question on which Commissioner Yeh could deal without instructions from Pekin. What time then ought to have been given to the Chinese Government for consideration before commencing hostilities? Surely we ought not to have attempted to resume our rights without giving, say, a month’s notice. But what notice was really given him? The subject was mooted on the 24th of October. A letter was sent from the Admiral to Yeh on the 30th. The Commissioner answers in effect to that: “You are quite wrong: your Government has waived this claim”; and he makes a diplomatic answer to what was to him a disagreeable proposal. Admiral Seymour writes again on the 1st of November, and, no answer being given, Mr. Parkes writes on the 3rd that the demand is to be pressed irrespective of antecedents, and that if it is not granted “We are going to resume hostilities.” When? Why, “this morning.” That was the way the Chinese were treated! The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Sir George Grey), referring to the speech of my right hon. Friend (Sir James Graham), says that throughout these transactions Sir John Bowring had the cordial approval of Admiral Seymour, and that the statement that the Admiral acted ministerially, and merely as the instrument of Sir John Bowring, is untenable. He says we have endeavoured maliciously to defend the one at the expense of the other. In reply to this, I think I may rather say that the Government have 1673 endeavoured to shelter Sir John Bowring at the expense of Admiral Seymour, and that they attempt studiously to implicate the latter in the guilt attaching to those transactions, My right hon. Friend (Sir George Grey) even went so far as to contradict the right hon. Baronet near me (Sir James Graham) in his assertion that Mr. Parkes had drawn out a sketch of operations. Now, surely, a denial of that sort is inconsistent with such phrases occurring in Consul Parkes’s letter, as “I advise,” “I submit,” and so on. At all events, I venture to say that this passage is entirely Mr. Parkes’s: “I think the residence of his Excellency, which is not far from the water-side, should also in that case feel the effects of the bombardment.” Now, I never in my life set eyes on Mr. Consul Parkes or Sir Michael Seymour; I have no friendship with either of those gentlemen; and I have nothing to induce me, other than what my sense of duty may dictate, to show the slightest favour towards the one or the other; but I will undertake to say, from my knowledge of the British navy, that that was not an original idea of Sir Michael Seymour. I was reading the other day the biography of Sir Charles Napier, written by his brother, the worthy historian of one of the noblest soldiers we ever had, and I met with this passage, which is an extract from Sir Charles’s journal, and which in such matters will show the House the true feelings of a military man as compared with those of the civilian. It is under the date of Portugal, 26th of June, 1810, and is as follows: Marshal Ney is supposed to have passed the Ford where my brother’s picket was, and the men fired at him without George’s orders, wounding one person of his suite. Had Ney been hit it would not have been creditable. It is not right to fire at people without necessity, like Indian savages. There is the true spirit of the veteran English officer, contrasted with the vindictive feelings of the civilian. But in all this blue-book, which my right hon. Friend (Sir G. Grey) hunted through, all that I have found in corroboration of his view — though I have sought for it as if it were a needle in a bottle of hay — is that these operations had the general concurrence of the Admiral. Of course they had, or he (the Admiral) would not have had anything to do with the matter. The question was whether he was to act at all. Let me point out to the House a passage from a despatch showing how this general con- 1674 currence as obtained. This is rather an important matter; and I am anxious that the House should attend to it, as it bears on the defence of Sir Michael Seymour. It was necessary before this change of treaties was carried into effect that it should have the consent of Sir Michael Seymour. The Admiral may perhaps have asked Sir John Bowring, when Sir John called upon him, to interfere, if he was sure he was acting on the sense of his instructions from home. What does Sir John Bowring say?
Hong Kong, Nov. 4, 1856.
Sir, I have to acknowledge your Excellency’s despatch of yesterday, announcing the resumption of offensive operations. I think under present circumstances it is desirable to convey to your Excellency a copy of a communication, draughted at the Foreign Office, and sent by Sir George Bonham under Lord Palmerston’s instructions to the Imperial Commissioner on the 21st of August, 1849. In a communication, dated the 6th of July, made to the India and China Association by order of Lord Palmerston it is stated, ‘Her Majesty’s Government have no intention to renounce the right of entering the city of Canton.’
I have, &c.,
I had some difficulty in finding the documents referred to in that letter, but I at length discovered them in the appendix. There I find the draught of a note written by my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) with all that easy aptitude with which he adapts himself to varying circumstances. It is the draught of a letter to be addressed by Mr. Bonham to the Chinese Commissioner, and it is remarkable for the facility with which my noble Friend expressed himself in the Chinese style of phraseology. That letter to the Chinese Commissioner, which is rather a minacious document, begins by stating, that The British Government has learnt with surprise and displeasure that the Government of China has declined to fulfil the engagements of the treaties by which British subjects were to be admitted to free access to the city of Canton. After reciting the terms of the Treaty of Nankin of the 29th August, 1842, the Supplementary Treaty of the 8th October, 1843, the treaty signed at Bocca Tigris in April, 1846, and the Articles agreed on at Canton on the 6th April, 1847, the note goes on to say— These engagements, thus solemnly recorded, the Chinese Government has now declined to fufil. But the faithful performance of treaty engagements by Sovereigns is the security for peace between nations. The Queen of England has fulfilled her treaty engagement to the Emperor of China. The Emperor of China has not fulfilled his treaty engagement to the Queen of England. 1675 Why has the Emperor broken his word? Is it because he is unwilling to keep his engagement, or because he is unable to do so? If he is unwilling to keep his engagement, how can the British Government trust to the Emperor’s word; and how can there be lasting peace between the two Governments? If the Emperor is unable to keep his promise, because his word and his orders are not respected by his subjects, how can he expect that foreign Governments should show him more respect than his own subjects are willing to show; and will not foreign Governments be obliged to inflict on the Chinese people, in order to repress their violence, those punishments which the Emperor is too weak to be able to award? But is this the way to secure tranquillity to the Chinese people? Let the Chinese Government well consider these things, and, whatever may happen in future between the two countries that may be disagreeable to China, let the Chinese Government remember that the fault thereof will lie upon them. Let the High Commissioner send this communication to the Imperial Government at Pekin. This was put into the hands of Sir Michael Seymour, and it would have been only fair for Sir John Bowring to give the Admiral the despatch of Lord Palmerston to Mr. Bonham by which it was accompanied. But here is the letter written to the then English Plenipotentiary, Mr. Bonham. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) in that note, which is full of wisdom and judgment, writes:
I have now to state to you that, although it would, no doubt, simplify matters if Her Majesty’s Government were to renounce entirely and for ever the right accorded by treaty to British subjects to enter Canton; and although it would possibly, on the other hand, place our future relations with China upon a more certain and satisfactory footing if we were by force of arms to compel the Chinese Government to fulfil this engagement, which there can be little doubt that they could do if they chose; yet, all things considered, Her Majesty’s Government are not disposed to take either of these courses. A renunciation of the treaty right would be inexpedient, because, though the exercise of the right may not for the present be attainable without efforts which would be disproportionate to the object, or without risks in the enjoyment of it which would counterbalance its value, yet at a future time the state of things may be different, and the privilege may be willingly granted and safely enjoyed. An enforcement of the treaty right by military and naval operations would require an expensive effort, might lead to loss of valuable lives on our part, and much loss of life and destruction of property to be inflicted on the Chinese, while the chief advantage which it seems by your account we should derive from a successful result would be that, by giving such un example of our determination and power to enforce a faithful observance of the treaty, we should deter the Chinese from attempting future and other violations of the treaty. But Her Majesty’s Government are not disposed for this object to make the effort, or to produce the consequences above-mentioned; and they prefer waiting 1676 to deal with future violations of the treaty, according to the circumstances of the case, if such violations should occur. Her Majesty’s Government, therefore, prefer taking a middle course, and to make to the Chinese Commissioner a communication according to the enclosed draught. You will therefore send to the Chief Commissioner a copy of the accompanying draught, together with a correct translation of it into Chinese.
I ask, was it an ingenuous proceeding on the part of Sir John Bowring — supposing I am right — to send the Admiral the minacious document, but not the letter which conveyed the real instructions of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) to Mr. Bonham? I have one sentence further. Sir John Bowring states, that in a communication dated the 6th of July, 1849, written by Mr. Addington by order of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) to the Chairman of the London, East India, and China Association, Her Majesty’s Government announced that they had no intention to renounce the right of entering the city of Canton. I turn to that despatch of the 6th of July, 1849, and I find this passage:
I am to state to you, in reply, that Her Majesty’s Government have no intention to renounce the right of entering the city of Canton.
Does it stop there? There Sir John Bowring stops, but there I am not going to stop. Here is the passage in its entirety:
I am to state to you, in reply, that Her Majesty’s Government have no intention to renounce the right of entering the city of Canton, although they are not prepared at present to resort to hostilities with China in order to enforce that right. Her Majesty’s Government are not ignorant that some inconvenience may result from the adoption of a policy of moderation in this instance: but as the practical advantage which could be derived by British trade from free access into the interior of Canton is probably not very great, while the effort to obtain the immediate fulfilment of the Chinese engagement in this respect would be costly, and might lead to a great loss of life and destruction of property, and to a considerable interruption to British trade in that quarter of China, and might, moreover, seriously affect the trade at the other ports, Her Majesty’s Government are of opinion that the general commercial interests of the country are best consulted by not pushing matters to extremities on the present occasion.
Now, my right hon. Friend (Sir George Grey) tells you that you must make no distinction between Sir John Bowring and Sir Michael Seymour, because Sir Michael Seymour was consulted throughout. But the question is, if the Admiral was brought to a decision by these means, was he not induced to come to that decision by some- 1677 thing like false pretences? When my right hon. Friend (Sir George Grey) spoke so keenly about omissions from the despatches, what does he say of the suppression of a whole despatch? And for what purpose can this have been done if not to induce a humane man to use the gigantic force at his command against a defenceless commercial city? I must say Sir John Bowring acted a most unwise part, even if he had had instructions, in forcing this question on the Chinese. Are we not in the habitual violation at this moment of a treaty which says that all our efforts shall be used for the suppression of the opium trade? Now, I do not pretend to be more virtuous than my neighbours. We know that this trade is necessary to Indian finance. (Mr. KINNAIRD: Hear, hear!) My hon. Friend (Mr. Kinnaird), I know, thinks this trade exceedingly abominable, and as it was the tendency of the ordinance and Sir John Bowring to encourage it, I think we shall have the support of my hon. Friend.
Now, when these news arrived, what was the conduct of the Government? The hon. and learned Lord Advocate stated at the commencement of his able speech that he admitted there was much that was good in the motives of those who supported the present Motion. I will say the same, because I hold that it is the duty of a Government to back their servants, even when they commit an error, so long as they are doing their best, and so long as they conscientiously believe they are doing their best. It is generous and just to do it. But there is a limit beyond which a Government cannot go. Now, see what the Government do. They receive, first of all, an account of this miserable affair of the lorcha. I am one of those who think you ought not to treat Orientals as you would treat Europeans. There may be occasions when it may be necessary to have recourse to force towards them; but you must, above all things, in your dealings with them show at least that you respect truth; and you must be sure you are in the right before you attempt to coerce them. I say that every Government must expect sometimes to get into difficulties through slight or venial errors committed by their servants; but there must be some limit imposed to this doctrine that consuls can do no wrong. They are thousands of miles away with important interests in their charge; but if you could select from this House the very wisest men to represent 1678 the British Government in all parts of the world, still you must qualify the general principle by great limitations. Ministers are not infallible; and the fallibility of Ministers is shown in nothing more than in their selection of public officers, and of all public officers, it is in the selection of consuls that their fallibility is the most remarkable. Are we come to this, that a Governor or Consul representing this country in a distant part of the earth is to exercise unquestioned that power which is here only exercised by the Crown — a power the exercise of which is regarded with such jealousy that night after night we are now asking questions of a responsible Government here in England why they have commenced a war without due and proper notice? You cannot maintain the doctrine that, irrespective of all offence, the public officer must invariably be supported. Well, the Government in the first instance gave that answer. They afterwards gave another, which to me is more painful. If the House will allow, I will just relate a Chinese anecdote, which appears to me to apply to the present case. There was in a distant province of China a formidable insurrection, and the Emperor of China selected his best General, a man distinguished for his “judgment, firmness, and moderation,” to whom he said, “Suppress this rebellion.” The General took his army, surrounded the province, then narrowed the circle, until all the population were driven into a wood, and then he set fire to the wood, and the whole population, men, women, and children, were destroyed. He wrote a despatch describing what he had done, which he sent to the metropolitan authorities, and the Emperor, in the flowery and poetical language of China, wrote with his vermilion pen, “Truly this is news which gladdens the heart of man.” Now, Sir, we are less poetical in our expressions, but we can convey the same thoughts and the same moral in our more dry language. With us the Secretary of State approves the judgment, the firmness, and the moderation of Sir John Bowring, and especially his respect for life and property. When my right hon. Friend told us we were entirely mistaken, that Canton had not been bombarded, he could not have read the despatch of Sir Michael Seymour in which he says, “I am now shelling the city.” In another place he says he is dropping shot at moderate intervals. That is the moderation which has so pleased the Government. 1679 This is, however, too serious a subject to joke upon, After all, when you have said the Chinese are a rascally set, and that as barbarians they are not to be dealt with in the same way and with the same regard and forbearance as Europeans — when you have said all this, of which I give you the full benefit, and also that you must defend your servants wherever they may be, there then remains this fearful case, that in a miserable quarrel, which was not worth half an hour’s difficulty, which might have been settled by reprisals — for, if one junk was not sufficient you might have seized fifty — you suddenly turn round upon a new pretext, and, after destroying forts, you proceed to drop in shot and shell, in order, as my right hon. Friend has described it, to disperse a crowd — a proceeding, in which, of course, neither age nor sex could be regarded, and all these for some rascally Chinese whom you wish to call British subjects.
I do not wish to say one word that could be hurtful to the feelings of gentlemen who may conscientiously differ from me. I know how different are the conclusions at which human intellects arrive upon the same data. I will therefore not allude to other motives which should guide us in cases like the present. I may remind them, however, that some barbarians like the Chinese may, seeing the proceedings of our Governors and our Admirals, ask upon what principles we act. I think I may ask those hon. Gentlemen the same question, and am assured that when they come before their constituents they will be called upon to answer it then. I will not press it, as I know among those who differ from me are gentlemen incapable of acting from any but the highest and most religious motives; but at the same time I cannot stifle the feelings within me when I read of these things. I know what is the public opinion of England throughout Europe; I am not anxious that we should go on piling up year after year fresh offences against that public opinion, until some day we may reap the consequence to our detriment. Above all, I confess I see with the deepest sorrow force exercised with so little mercy, upon a pretext so transparent — I will not say so transparently fraudulent — in a manner so destructive to the character of this country for truth, justice, faith, and mercy, I shall give my hearty and honest support to the Resolution, and, as my right hon. Friend has observed, irrespective of cones- 1680 quences. I cannot believe that the House of Commons upon such a matter will allow the miserable question of party ties or party feelings to interfere, when asserting the great principle of relieving ourselves, and, I trust, relieving the country also, from the responsibility of these transactions by the honest reprobation which the Resolution conveys.
said that finding that many of those for whose judgment he entertained great respect, entertained strong opinions upon this subject, he was desirous of explaining his reasons for voting against the Resolutions. Opinions on the law of the question had been expressed in another place to which it was impossible for him to assent; and he hoped to be able to satisfy the House that if the doctrines laid down by Lord Derby, Lord Lyndhurst, Lord St. Leonards, and reiterated in this House by hon. Gentlemen who took the same views, were to prevail, the treaty of 1843 was in all its essential articles repealed. He submitted that the true construction of the treaty was that a ship, Chinese built, Chinese manned, the property of a Chinese resident in Hong Kong, and registered by him at the British registry of Hong Kong, was to all intents and purposes, within that treaty, “an English merchant ship.” Unless that conclusion was come to there was not a single Article of the treaty which could stand, and the whole trade stipulated for by that treaty with the new colony of Hong Kong and China, must be entirely at the mercy of the Chinese. The treaty contemplated two objects. It contemplated the regulation of the trade between British subjects and the five Chinese ports in Chinese vessels, and the regulation of the trade between British subjects and those ports in British vessels. It was necessary to call the attention of the House to the circumstances and condition of Hong Kong before that treaty was made. In 1847, Sir John Davis stated that the population amounted to 21,000 Chinese, that is, natives of China, or persons of Chinese race, born in the islands of the Archipelago, and 600 British subjects. In 1842 Hong Kong was ceded by the treaty of Nankin in full sovereignty to the Crown of England, with express power to make such laws as Her Majesty might think proper. After the treaty was signed, it became necessary to make regulations for the trade between Hong Kong 1681 and between British subjects and the five Chinese ports that were open to us. There was to be no traffic by natives of China resident there between Hong Kong and any of the five ports, except in Chinese vessels, and if a native of China wished to purchase goods at Hong Kong, and take them in a Chinese ship to China, he had to go to one of the five ports, employ a vessel there, get a pass, go to Hong Kong, get the goods, take them to the Chinese port, and then surrender the pass; so that, between our new territory of Hong Kong and the mainland of China no trade was permitted to natives of China resident in China, except in Chinese vessels, belonging to one of the five Chinese ports. It was clear that a ship, manned by Chinese, belonging to a Chinese resident at Hong Kong, and registered at the British registry at Hong Kong, would not be a Chinese ship within the meaning of these provisions. Articles 13, 14, and 16 of the Supplementary Treaty were perfectly plain on the point. Having thus provided for the trade between Hong Kong and China in Chinese vessels, the treaty made two provisions with respect to British vessels—one relating to vessels of more than 150 tons, and the other relating to smaller vessels, coming under the description of schooners, cutters, lorchas, &c., which were to be furnished with a register from the Chief Superintendent of Trade, and to pay certain dues which were to be levied only on British ships. It is admitted, that unless it could be shown that such small ships were not within the meaning of the treaty, English merchant ships, it was impossible to support the Resolution which had been submitted to the House. It had been said that they were not English merchant ships because they were not “British ships” within the meaning of those words in the British Registry Acts, not “British ships,” because not owned by natural-born British subjects. That was stated to be the essential condition of an English merchant ship within the meaning of the treaty. But the hon. and learned Attorney General had stated, and rightly stated, that the description “English merchant ship” was much more comprehensive than the technical words “British ship” as used in the English Registry Acts. If the hon. and learned Gentleman was right, there was no difficulty in the construction of the treaty. It would not be disputed that whatever was the meaning of the words “English ship,” it 1682 must be the same that it was at the time the treaty was signed, and that the provisions of the treaty in this respect could neither be extended nor diminished. If, as had been stated, a ship must be owned by a natural-born British subject, it would exclude all the new subjects of the Crown at Hong Kong which is absurd. At the date of the treaty the technical description “British ship” did not mean a ship owned by a natural-born British subject. Under the Registry Act 4 William IV. c. 34, which was in force at that time, such an ownership was not necessary. By that Act, it was necessary that the master should be a British-born subject, and that three-fourths of the crew should be British-born subjects, but not necessary that the owner should be a British-born subject. Now, what right had any one to make a British ship mean what it did not mean at the date of the treaty? The Emperor of China had no right to require, as a qualification for a British ship, that it should be owned by a British-born subject, since that definition was given by the Act of 1854. The Emperor of China’s object was to exclude, as much as possible, the English from his dominions, and if he tried to limit English merchant ships to ships the owners of which were born British subjects, he would do so to his heart’s content. But what right had he to do that if such was not the meaning of the treaty? Again, on what pretence could we extend the treaty against him? In 1843 every British ship, besides having a master a natural-born British subject and three-fourths of the crew answering the same description, must have been built in a territory which at the time of the building belonged to His Majesty, must be registered in a particular way, and have a certificate of registry containing a variety of particulars. All these conditions of the character of a British ship having been removed, would not the Emperor of China have the right to say, “I entered into a treaty permitting “English merchant ships” to come to my dominions, but “English merchant ships” at that time meant what the British registry and navigation Acts described them to be, and the ships you are now bringing to my ports are not manned by British seamen, the masters are not natural-born British subjects, the ships are not built in your dominions, and are not registered as they were at the time of the treaty?” By rejecting the construction of the Attorney General and adopting the construction first 1683 suggested in the House of Lords, very hastily and taken up very inconsiderately, the Emperor of China would thus be enabled greatly to limit our trade, for there was scarcely a vessel frequenting any of the five ports, or sailing from Hong Kong, or any of the Presidencies of India, or Malacca, or Singapore, which fulfilled the requisites of the British registry and navigation Acts at the time when the treaty was signed. It was impossible, under the provisions of the treaty, for the trade between Hong Kong and China, to be carried on in Chinese ships. It was impossible, according to their version of the law, to be carried on in any other ships. If they adopted the construction which was broached by Lord Derby, and taken up by Lord Lyndhurst, in the House of Lords, in opposition to the construction put upon it by common sense, it appeared to him there would be that serious difficulty in the way of the Resolution which they were called upon to affirm. Though it may now be necessary that a, British ship should be owned by a natural-born British subject, it was not necessary at the time of the treaty of 1843. It was enough that the owner should be a British subject. But then it was said these residents at Hong Kong were not British subjects, and the argument was, that they could not give these persons a privilege against their own Sovereign. But, under the treaty of 1842, the residents at Hong Kong were not foreigners. They took it for granted that a man could not become a British subject by cession of territory to the British Crown, but they were mistaken in that. The 3 & 4 Will. IV., c. 34, gave a definition of a British subject by cession. In stating what should be the qualification of a master of a British ship, it mentioned that he must be, first, a natural-born British subject; but it went on to provide that a British subject, who had become so by cession of territory, acquired by His Majesty, was entitled to become a master of a British vessel. A country having been ceded to Great Britain, the residents in it became British subjects for the purposes of any treaty with the Crown of England and the Sovereign to which they formerly owed allegiance. Independently of that, the nationality of the ship depended on the residence of its owner. His learned Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir F. Thesiger) adverted to a case decided by Lord Stowell. That case was determined in time of war, but it decided on principles 1684 applicable to a time of peace, that the nationality of a ship depended upon the residence of its owner. In the case of the Indiana, the ship was owned by a foreign consul resident in England, but it was held to be an English ship just as these lorchas were English ships.
There are some notices standing for to-morrow; but I hope that those Gentlemen who have given these notices will feel that it is of importance that this debate should be brought to a close to morrow, and that they will permit the debate to come on.
I may say, for myself, that as the division has not yet taken place, and as the debate has assumed its present character, I am, of course, unwilling to attempt to force a division. I cannot, however, help remembering that in that other place which has been so frequently, and, as I think, so irregularly alluded to in our debates, when a Motion for the adjournment of the debate was made on the first night a leading Minister of the Crown objected to the adjournment. I had therefore thought that as the question has been discussed in this House and was adjourned over Friday, we might have come to a conclusion to-night. I, however, now collect that there is a very general feeling that the debate should be again adjourned; but I do hope that there will be an understanding among us on both sides that the division will be taken tomorrow.
§ Debate further adjourned till To-morrow.