House of Lords, 26 February, 1857
RESOLUTIONS MOVED. RESUMED DEBATE (SECOND NIGHT)
HL Deb 26 February 1857 vol 144 cc1310-88 1310
§ Order of the Day for resuming the adjourned Debate on the Motion to resolve— 1st. That this House has learnt with deep Regret the Interruption of amicable Relations between Her Majesty’s Subjects and the Chinese Authorities at Canton, arising out of the Measures adopted by Her Majesty’s Chief Superintendent of Trade to obtain Reparation for an alleged Infraction of the Supplementary Treaty of 8th October 1813. 1311 2nd. That in the Opinion of this House the Occurrence of Differences upon this Subject rendered the Time peculiarly unfavourable for pressing upon the Chinese Authorities a claim for the Admittance of British subjects into Canton, which had been left in Abeyance since 1849, and for supporting the same by force of Arms: 3rd. That in the Opinion of this House Operations of actual Hostility ought not to have been undertaken without the express Instructions, previously received, of Her Majesty’s Government; and that neither of the Subjects adverted to in the foregoing Resolutions afforded sufficient Justification for such Operations,
§ Read: Debate resumed accordingly.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
said, that the able speeches they had heard the other night had so thoroughly exhausted the subject that he felt it almost impossible to throw any fresh light upon it. At the same time, however, he thought he should be justified in recalling to their Lordships’ recollection the main facts of the case under consideration, and in restating some of the principal arguments which had been urged in defence of the Motion of his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), and that he should inquire into the validity of the answers urged against those arguments by noble and learned Lords on the opposite side of the House. Those Members of the Government who spoke the other evening dwelt very much on the Chinese character; they adverted to the ignorance which prevailed among the Chinese of English habits and English laws and customs; they dwelt on the difficulty of dealing with the Chinese by any application of the principles of international law; and a noble Earl, not then in his place (the Earl of Clarendon) used in reference to that point an expression which he (the Earl of Carnarvon), for one, heard with the deepest regret—for the noble Earl talked of the difficulty of dealing with the Chinese in any other way than by making them sensible of the law of force. But the prime argument which their Lordships had to consider, and on which the whole case turned, had been left entirely untouched by the noble Lords opposite—the point, namely, whether the lorcha was an English or a Chinese vessel. That was the real question at issue; because if it could be shown, as he submitted it had been and could be shown, that the lorcha was a Chinese and not an English vessel, then he said that all the arguments advanced in opposition to the Motion, based as they were on the contrary assumption, fell at once to the ground. The character of a ship is determined by the nationality of the owner. 1312 Mr. Parkes said that the owner was English, Commissioner Yeh affirmed him to be Chinese. Nothing can be gathered from this direct contradiction. But they agree in one point. They both admit that the owner of the lorcha was a Chinese resident in Hong Kong. The question resolves itself into this—What is the condition nationally of a Chinese resident in the English colony of Hong Kong. Let their Lordships turn to the words of their own Attorney General at Hong Kong. That Gentleman said— The colony of Hong Kong, with a Chinese population exceeding at the present time 60,000, hardly contains ten Chinese who can legally be called British subjects, for it has not been deemed advisable to naturalize the Chinese here, and the recent settlement of the colony prevents the possibility of their having become subjects by birth. The great proportion of the respectable part of this population have, however, constituted themselves bonâ fide British subjects by becoming Crown tenants of leaseholds for long terms of years (a tenure of which an alien is incapable), and by permanent settlement have evinced the clearest intention of perfecting themselves in the persons of their descendants British subjects secundum leges as well as de facto.” He (the Earl of Carnarvon) contended, then, upon the statement of the Attorney General for Hong Kong, that the population there could in no sense be designated English subjects. What were they then? The answer was a simple one. He (the Earl of Carnarvon) believed that the Chinese residents at Hong Kong had a double capacity—they served two masters; they were English to England, Chinese to China. It would ill become him to place himself on a question of law in contradiction to the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack; but, as he could not do that, he trusted he might be permitted to quote the opinions of others to which he thought the noble and learned Lord himself would be disposed to defer. The noble and learned Lord in the course of his speech on Tuesday night said— If the British Government authorizes a ship to go into a foreign port and carry the British flag, as between us and the foreign country this is certainly a British ship. Now, he (the Earl of Carnarvon) could not pretend to set up his authority against the noble and learned Lord upon such a point; but it did seem that the noble and learned Lord was at variance in the matter with some of the most distinguished jurists who had ever attempted to define the principles of international law. For example, it had been laid down by Blactstone— 1313 Natural allegiance is such as is due from all men born within the King’s dominions immediately upon their birth. … … Natural allegiance is therefore a debt of gratitude, which cannot be forfeited, cancelled, or altered by any change of time, place or circumstance, nor by an thing but the united concurrence of the Legislature. That is of course not the Legislature of the adopting State, but the Legislature of the State where the individual is horn. An Englishman who removes to France or to China owes the same allegiance to the King of England there as he did at home, and twenty years hence as well as now. Again, Chancellor Kent, the great American jurist, who could have no sympathy with feudal prejudices and obsolete customs, after allowing that there had been some discussion on the point in the American courts, stated that the best opinion seemed to be that— A citizen could not divest himself of his allegiance, except under the sanction of a law of the United States. But he would rest his case entirely on the judgment pronounced in this matter by Her Majesty’s Government themselves. A few weeks ago a letter was written by Mr. Waddington, as representing Sir George Grey, on the subject of naturalization, from which he (the Earl of Carnarvon) would, read an extract. Mr. Waddington said:— As there is reason to believe that some misconception prevails as to the extent of the privileges conferred by a certificate of naturalization, I am directed by Secretary Sir George Grey to explain to you that no certificate or other act of naturalization granted by the British Government to an alien places him beyond the lawful power and control of his native country, unless he has received from the Government of such country a certificate of denationalization, or been released from his original obligations as a subject or citizen in some other legal way. Now, he would ask, had there been any such denaturalization in this case? He contended that there had not been one single vestige of assent or concurrence by the Chinese Government in the powers which were claimed under the ordinance of the Hong Kong Legislature. On the contrary, there was a distinct repudiation on their part by the Commissioner Yeh as to the existence of any such powers. Nemo potest patriam exuere had long been a recognized maxim of our law; but with what consistency was it that, after adhering rigidly to that rule in our dealings with other countries, we refused to acknowledge its application when it was pressed against ourselves? He believed the was, that 1314 a Chinese resident in English territory was an English subject in his relations with every country except one, that one being the country in which he was born. But of his allegiance to his natural Sovereign neither his own act, nor the act of the local legislature, nor even the act of the Imperial Parliament of England, could divest him without the express concurrence of his native country. This ordinance could not possibly affect the Chinese, who had never given their assent to it.
The noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs had argued as though the treaty was to be read by the light of the ordinance; and that brought him (the Earl of Carnarvon) to the consideration of what was this colonial ordinance. A colonial ordinance was, he contended, an instrument in no way warranted by the ordinary course of international law; but this ordinance contravened an act of the Imperial Parliament and was unconfirmed by an Order in Council; it was not certified by the home authorities until after the date of the issue of the register which, according to some noble Lords, made the Arrow an English ship; and if it was ever communicated to the Chinese authorities, which was very doubtful, it certainly never received their sanction. Thus, then, a prior foreign treaty was to be read by the light of a subsequent domestic arrangement among ourselves, which was barely communicated, never assented to by the Chinese Government, and which was at variance with the original treaty itself. The noble and learned Lord on the woolsack had argued the other night that every lorcha with a colonial register was a British ship, and that the Chinese, therefore, were acting in contravention of the treaty in boarding the Arrow and in making this seizure. There was, however, nothing in the 17th Article of the treaty which in any way defined what constituted an English ship. That Article said that any lorcha might, under certain conditions, have a register, but it did not say that every lorcha which had a register was therefore a British ship. Yet the argument of the noble and learned Lord came to this—all lorchas are British vessels: the Arrow is a lorcha; therefore the Arrow is a British vessel. But it was perfectly apparent, from official returns, that at least one-third of the traffic which went out of the port of Canton was not English, but foreign—Dutch, French, or American. What he complained of, then, was, that after concluding a treaty with a 1315 particular nation, securing to ourselves exceptional advantages, in total opposition to the usual course of international law, we then extended those privileges, applied in the first instance solely to Englishmen, to every nation of the world. It amounted to the assertion of a principle which, if carried into effect, would be inconsistent with that allegiance which was due from the subjects of China to their own Government. Could anything be more unjust? As the Government had identified themselves so closely with the acts of the consul, their Lordships would do well to remember that, only one year since, the present Ministry formally renounced the right of privateering; and yet it was reserved for the same Ministry (with what consistency he did not pretend to say) to assert a right which he honestly believed was ten times more unjust and more oppressive. The doctrine to which he had just alluded was utterly unknown to international law, and utterly subversive of any principles recognized in the intercourse of nations. The argument might be summed up thus:—The colonial ordinance was a contravention of international law, and was invalid from its own irregularity and from the numerous flaws it contained: by reason of the international law no Chinese residents in Hong Kong could be released from the duties which they owed to their native country or from the control of the Chinese authorities without a certificate of denationalisation: as it was with a man, so it was with his property; and therefore no Chinese ship could, by virtue of a British register, be released from the lawful power and control of the Chinese authorities, unless they concurred in that release. As a matter of fact they had not so concurred, and therefore it followed as a necessary conclusion that a lorcha owned by Chinese and manned by Chinese was not in any way exempt from the authority of Chinese officials. But he might grant every single statement relating to that part of the question which had been brought forward by the Government—he might go so far as to say, that if he were to grant three-fourths of every argument urged by the Government the one-fourth which remained unanswered by them would be amply sufficient to insure a strong censure of Sir John Bowring’s acts on the part of this House. The more they exaggerated the powers granted under the colonial register the more rigidly scrupulous, every one must 1316 feel, ought the British authorities to have been in dealing in this question with the greatest legality and accuracy. But the register was, after all, a mere fiction and imposture. Sir John Bowring’s own words—his, in every sense of the word—double declarations on this subject were its strongest condemnation. Let their Lordships place in parallel columns these two statements and see whether they did not involve the grossest contradiction. Sir John Bowring wrote to Consul Parkes that the Arrow had no right to hoist the British flag; that the licence expired on the 27th of September, from which date she had not been entitled to British protection. On the other hand Sir John Bowring wrote to Commissioner Yeh—”Whatever representations have been made to your Excellency, there is no doubt that the lorcha Arrow lawfully bore the British flag under a register granted by me.” This shield certainly had two sides to it; and no man could read this declaration without feeling that there was a falseness and a perfidy about this transaction which could not be too strongly characterized. No member of Her Majesty’s Government who had yet spoken had for one moment dwelt upon, glanced, or hinted at this fact, so conscious did they appear of the weakness of their case in this particular. For his part, he could not understand by what sophistry Sir John Bowring reconciled these conflicting statements with his feelings as a gentleman, his position as the representative of the Sovereign, and, above all, with that national honour to which he so often appealed, but which he only insulted by that appeal.
The noble Earl opposite, the Foreign Secretary, dwelt much the other night upon the importance of passing no hasty condemnation upon our officials in a distant country. No one could concur in this more heartily than he (the Earl of Carnarvon) did. He felt keenly the cruel injustice of censuring upon light grounds those who in a distant country, surrounded by difficulties which could hardly be appreciated here, were doing their best to perform their duties; but were the Government at home to throw their œgis alike over those who acted rightly and those who acted wrongly? Were they to sanction acts of officials who, by their own acknowledgment, had stated what they themselves confessed to be almost a lie? It was very well for us to condemn the founders of our great Indian empire, and who had committed acts of 1317 which we could not now approve; but scarcely any one act in the history of those times was blacker than those events which the papers on the table disclosed. The noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) dwelt upon the long series of insults which had been heaped by the Chinese upon the British flag, and urged strongly that necessity at last warranted a recourse to arms. Now, what was the insult assumed to have been offered by this seizure of the crew of the Arrow? Noble Lords opposite had argued that a decided animus had been shown on the part of the Chinese in hauling down the British flag. In the first place, however, it should be remembered that they were assuming that the flag was hoisted, a fact which was by no means satisfactorily established. In the next place it was stated that the Chinese officials, after rowing away in their boats, allowed the two sailors left on board to hoist the flag again—this certainly did not show the existence of any animus, but rather the reverse. He would ask, however—and on this point the House had received as yet no explanation—what was the real object for which we were at present at war? If a war was founded upon any pretence of morality it must have an object; and that object could be ascertained only by ascertaining the demands we had made upon the Government with which we were at war. Now, on perusing these papers he found four different demands had been made at different times upon the Chinese authorities. On the 8th of October, the day upon which the lorcha was boarded, Consul Parkes demanded the public return of the twelve men seized. Four days afterwards he made a further demand, and asked for the public return of the crew plus an apology, plus an assurance for the future, coupling this demand with the threat that unless redress were afforded within forty-eight hours he should have recourse to active measures. Considering that this was the second letter contained in the correspondence, this was surely rather early to talk of active measures. This demand was enforced by the seizure of a junk, by breaching the walls, by blowing open the gates, by firing upon the Commissioner’s residence, and by two conflagrations of the town. All this was undertaken according to Sir Michael Seymour’s distinct admission on grounds connected with the lorcha alone, and because of the refusal to make reparation in regard to it. What followed next? The Chinese scarcely 1318 returned a single shot, but, on the contrary, returned the twelve men and made an apology which he believed might have been accepted without discredit. There was, however, one fact which was very significant and worthy of their Lordships’ attention, and that was, that it was after the return ofs these men that the fire was opened upon the town. The men were returned and the apology made on the 22nd October, and on the 23rd the fire was opened on the town. But this reparation was not sufficient, and then came a fresh demand. Sir John Bowring wrote to Mr. Parkes telling him to wait for the development of events, and then came the demand for means of free communication between the Imperial Commissioner and Her Majesty’s officers. But that was not all; a fourth and fresh claim arises, which he had no hesitation in characterising as the most preposterous he had ever heard, which was that free means of communication should be afforded between the representatives of all foreign States and the Chinese authorities. Well, and what did Sir John Bowring then say? “Poor benighted creatures, how can they be so blind to their own interests? Why will they be so obstinate as to refuse admission into Canton, when it would be so much to their own advantage?” But when, after the bombardment of the town, after wasting lives and destroying houses, Sir John Bowring assumed a somewhat milder tone, and with all the earnestness of an enraptured lover, pressed for the freedom of daily intercourse and access, and wooed the reluctant city into union with himself, he reminded him of the scene in Shakspeare in which Richard the Third wooed the Lady Anne:— Was ever woman in such humour wooed? Was ever woman in such humour won? What! I who killed her husband and his father, To take her in her heart’s extremest hate, With curses in her mouth, tears in her eyes, The bleeding witness of her hatred by, With God, my conscience, and these bars against me. But then, as a feeling of half modesty, half self-respect steals over, he may say with King Richard— I do mistake my person all the while— Upon my life find—although she cannot— Myself to be a marvellous proper person. Now, he could only say that, if Richard the Third was an improper person on the throne of England, Sir John Bowring ap- 1319 peared to him an equally improper person to represent England at Hong Kong. The claim of free communication had been deliberately waived by Sir George Bonham as being immaterial to British interests, and the successive Foreign Secretaries had adopted in that respect the policy of Sir George Bonham, and yet that claim was again vamped up by Sir John Bowring, and he deeply regretted to find that the Government were willing to share the responsibility of such a course. The noble Earl the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had accused the Chinese of constant infractions of the treaty, but it appeared to him that the noble Earl had forgotten the maxim that persons who live in glass houses should not throw stones. Had there been no infraction of the treaty on our part? In 1822–3 we entered into a solemn engagement with the Chinese to suppress the traffic in opium, but, as had been stated by his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), this very colonial ordinance tended to facilitate that traffic. By the original treaty the residence of British subjects was confined to five ports; but even in the time of Sir Henry Pottinger there was established a British settlement in the island of Amoy. By that treaty British subjects were forbidden to go into the interior, but there was now, he believed, a highroad travelled constantly by British merchants between Shanghai and the Chusan Islands. Persons who accused others of a breach of solemn engagements ought at least to have clear consciences themselves.
There was one more question which he wished to advert to before sitting down, and that was whether Parliament was prepared deliberately to sanction the acts of an official who, without any reference to the Government at home, or to the Chinese Government at Pekin—without one line of correspondence—on his own responsibility declared hostilities against a peaceful, a friendly, and a commercial town? The war in Persia was, he believed, of a very questionable nature, but there had been some formality in its declaration, inasmuch as it had been proclaimed by the Governor General for India; but in the present case there had not been even a proclamation of war. If it was war, it was war of an unconstitutional nature; if it was not war, it was mere bucaneering and piracy. The noble Earl had stated that the question was one which might arise between any two nations in Europe, and 1320 certainly he was much surprised at that statement. Suppose, for instance, the consul at Marseilles became involved in a difference with the French authorities, and on his own authority summoned the British fleet, and, after seizing a French brig, within forty-eight hours commenced bombarding and shelling the town, on the pretence, forsooth, that he was not acting against the people of the country, but adopting only justifiable coercion to its Government, would any Government of this country support the consul who had acted in such a manner? or, if they did, would either House of Parliament support them? Or could there be found in Europe one single State, however insignificant it might be, which would not indignantly resent such an indignity? The noble Earl had also used the singular expression, “the law of force.” Now, he had always thought that law signified some established rule to which force was an exception; but the expression of the noble Earl, if it meant anything, would seem to imply that force should be the rule, and established law the exception—in fact, that might should be right. It was impossible to calculate what might be the result of the present war, in which the French and Americans were now active parties; but, if the result were as successful to the British arms as could possibly be hoped for, the result might only be to place this country face to face within closed lists with that very Power of whose aggression the Government had always expressed the greatest apprehension. If there were anything in those apprehensions, and if it were necessary to preserve Turkey and Persia as the non-conductors of the enmity of nations, equally China was a necessity to the political equilibrium of the Eastern world. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey) had justly referred to the injurious effect which this war would produce to the cause of Christianity in China; but he might console himself by observing from the papers before the House that the Sunday had been most carefully observed. He had read that part of the papers with great pain, for he could not but look upon that statement as a mockery of religion. He would not dwell on the violence and intemperance of the language which had been employed by the British authorities at Canton, but he must say that that passage with regard to the observance of the Sunday was one of the most painful and least creditable in, the whole papers. This war had been characterized by the 1321 Government as just, necessary, and expedient; but how could it be necessary when the object of it had been condemned by three Foreign Secretaries. How could it be just when it was undertaken with one pretext on the lip and another in the heart? How could it be expedient when its result might be to destroy that which it was our object to preserve? It had been truly said that injury was swift and justice slow. Injury in this case had been swift indeed; but it was the duty of their Lordships, as the court of last appeal, to hear the claim of every suppliant who lived under the shadow of the English flag, and to see that justice, however tardidly, should at length he done.
said that, notwithstanding the splendid display of eloquence which they had heard from the noble Earl opposite on Tuesday last, it was his intention to vote against his Resolutions. He trusted, however, that nothing would fall from him during the few remarks which he was about to make, which would seem to indicate any want of respect for the transcendent talents; and very high position of the noble Earl. It appeared to him that the question which they had to consider was very clear and simple—it was, whether the lorcha Arrow was a British vessel or not. The only evidence which he had that she was not a British vessel was that furnished by Commissioner Yeh himself and the Friend of China. Now, it was clear in this case, that Commissioner Yeh was an interested witness, and, as to the testimony of the Friend of China, he hardly thought that the leading article of a newspaper could be accepted as affording incontrovertible proof of a disputed fact. The evidence which they had that the English flag was carried by the lorcha was that of two Irishmen and two Chinese, and it was clear, that even if the flag was not at her mast-head it was on board, and against that he had no other evidence than that of Commissioner Yeh himself. He could only judge of Commissioner Yeh’s opinion on the subject of whether she was a British vessel by his conduct, and if Commissioner Yeh did believe her to be a British vessel it was pretty clear that his intention was to insult the flag of this country. His principal reason for thinking that the Commissioner looked upon the Arrow as a British vessel, was the great promptitude with which he returned the men whom he had taken prisoners. Yeh was evidently a very obstinate man; 1322 one would imagine that his name should have been “Nay” instead of “Yea:” and it was clear that he would never have given up those prisoners if he had not believed the vessel to be a British one. He regretted to hear the strong terms in which the noble Earl had thought proper to characterize the conduct of Sir John Bowring, because such epithets as “disgusting,” applied to the conduct of our representative there, must tend very much to depreciate Sir John Bowring in the eyes of the Chinese. He trusted that their Lordships would not yield to the opinion of the noble Earl upon this subject, but that they would support the British agents at that great distance from England; for if they did not, it was idle to expect that this country could be faithfully and effectually served by its representatives abroad.
said, that he was sorry to intervene between his noble and learned Friend and the House; but as he had risen early on Tuesday night to address their Lordships, and had then given way to the noble Earl opposite (Earl Grey), he trusted that he should not be thought discourteous if he now persisted in his claim to address the House. Considering the particular relation which he bore to their Lordships in their judicial character, he felt that he ought, in justification of the vote he was about to give, to state shortly the grounds on which he based the decision at which he had arrived; and having heard doctrines of international law enunciated in that House which were wholly unwarranted, he thought that it was his duty to rise to vindicate the law itself. In the case which they had to consider there were involved two questions, one of which was strictly judicial, and the other was simply a matter of fact. He should principally address himself to the former, and he would assure their Lordships that he should not state one word which he would not state at a morning sitting if he were called upon to give an opinion in adjudicating a cause pending between two parties. There was, however, an essential difference between the attributes of the House in the morning, when they discharged judicial functions, and those which appertained to them in the evening, when they acted in their legislative capacity. In the morning, when strict justice was administered according to law, and when all the facts were sifted, the two contending parties were always before the House; they were both 1323 heard in support of their own interests, and the decision was arrived at after an impartial hearing and the most mature consideration. But on the present occasion they were in a different position, for the Chinese were not there to defend their own conduct—China was not there to adduce evidence in her own favour. The Government very naturally supported the acts of their subordinates in China, and it remained for those of their Lordships, who believed that the Chinese had been wronged, to stand in the place of the Chinese there, and to see, in the absence of that Power, that right and justice were done. The question whether the lorcha Arrow was a Chinese or a British vessel was strictly and simply one of a judicial character; and in order to appreciate it accurately he must first direct their Lordships’ attention to the treaty itself. There could be no doubt that the Chinese had been compelled to surrender Hong Kong to this country; and without doubt we possess it in full sovereignty, but the third Article of the treaty stated that it was desirable and advisable that British subjects should have a port in China in which they could refit and careen their vessels, and where they might deposit their stores for that purpose: he was not, therefore, about to deny the Sovereign rights possessed by this country in Hong Kong. We stated that we wanted the port of Hong Kong to refit our vessels and to keep our stores; but had we said that we wanted it in order to establish there a registry for the conversion of Chinese into British subjects, did their Lordships believe the island would have been conceded? In discussing a treaty we must not discuss it largely and in general terms, but must take its exact words. Looking then at the ninth Article of the supplementary treaty of 1843, they found that it expressly prohibited the Chinese from taking out of an English ship, or from Hong Kong, any person who in their estimation had been guilty of a criminal act without making application to the proper English officer. The words were, “If any such person shall flee to Hong Kong, or to an English ship of war, or an English merchant ship,” and so on. Now could there be any doubt as to what was meant by those two descriptions of vessels? Could any one suppose that it was ever meant by the words “English ship of war” to include a Chinese junk, or that a Chinese merchant junk meant the same thing as an English merchantman? Our navy consisted either of ships 1324 of war or of merchant ships belonging to this country, and to attempt to draw from this Article an argument in favour of the power of this country to treat a Chinese merchant ship or armed ship as a British vessel appeared to him to be utterly absurd. Turning next to the 17th Article of the treaty, he found that the words there used were “various small vessels belonging to the English nation, called schooners, cutters, lorchas, &c.” This carried the point a step further. The ninth Article referred to ships of war and merchantmen, and in the 17th Article the small craft were included. What was meant by small craft? Plainly small craft belonging to the English nation, not Chinese small craft. This appeared to him so plain that he could not understand how an opposite conclusion was arrived at. Yet it seemed to be supposed that we were at liberty to convert by the mere force of a paper certificate a whole fleet of Chinese junks into English vessels, if we were so disposed. The 17th Article manifesty refers only to foreign small craft. It says “But this class of small craft are not like the large ships which are engaged in foreign trade, they are constantly coming and going, they make several trips a month, and are not like the large foreign ships, which, on entering the port, cast anchor at Whampoa.” And the first rule is “that every British schooner, cutter, lorcha, &c., shall have a sailing register.” Having thus seen the intent of the treaty, let their Lordships next consider what was the effect of the Imperial law. The Imperial law of this country was that you could not have a British ship unless it was British owned, and that law governed the whole empire and extended to every English colony. Aliens could be nationalized for this purpose, but they were required to produce a certificate that they had taken the oath of allegiance. With regard to the ordinance of which they had heard so much, the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) contended that that ordinance could not be affected by the Merchant Shipping Act of 1854, because it came into operation before that law was passed. Was it the intention of the noble Earl to represent to their Lordships that there was no law applicable to the ordinance before 1854? If the law of 1854 did not apply to this particular ordinance the law previous to it did, and the ordinance would be equally invalid according to that law. Whether by Acts before the Act of 1854, or 1325 by the Act of 1854 itself, there was a law—an Imperial law, known to the whole world, and binding on all British subjects—which did give to a particular class of vessels the right to be called British vessels, to hoist the British flag, and to require its protection. That being so, then their Lordships need not be told that they could not by an Act subsequent to the treaty give a new definition to that treaty; and he asserted without fear of contradiction, that according to the law at the time the treaty was made, none but a vessel with a British owner could be treated as a British vessel. Nobody pretended that the colonial legislature, even with the consent of the Crown, could in any manner repeal or vary an Act of the Imperial legislature, though the Imperial legislature had, as it ought to have the power of repealing or varying an Act of the colonial legislature. Where was the right in the colonial legislature to enact that a certificate of registry under an ordinance should give to a Chinese or any other foreign vessel, a right to hoist the British flag, and to say, woe to the person who should venture to pull it down. Something had been said about the vessel having a British master; but it was not the British master, but the British owner, which made a vessel British. Sir John Bowring and Mr. Consul Parkes both expressly stated that any one having a register under the colonial ordinance would be entitled to hoist the British flag; but he declared solemnly his belief, as a constitutional lawyer, that the ordinance, to the extent to which it was carried, was a simple piece of waste paper. The Governor of Hong Kong had no power to pass it, and, foreseeing the difficulties it might occasion it was a long while before the Government would advise the Crown to sanction it, the Board of Trade having, to its credit, seen difficulties in the way of adopting it; but it did eventually obtain the Royal sanction, but not in the manner required to give it legal validity as against the provisions of the Act of 1854. The title to regard the Arrow as a British vessel rested on the two ordinances, which professed to be under Acts of the Imperial Legislature. The Government were so impressed with the conviction that the first ordinance was contrary to law that they endeavoured to repeal the operation of the 547th section of the Act of 1854, and to give validity to the first ordinance by a second. But there was no power in the Governor of Hong Kong 1326 to convert a Chinese into a British vessel, and so far the ordinances were a perfect nullity. His belief was, that the certificate was never intended to give any such vessel any privilege except in the port of Hong Kong; that it had no more effect in the waters of Canton than in the waters of the Atlantic; and that Sir John Bowring had not the slightest notion of the operation of his own ordinance. It never entered into the minds of the Government and legislative council of the colony that registers would ever be used, as against the Chinese authorities, to break down the allegiance which Chinese subjects owed to their legitimate Sovereign. He begged to call the earnest attention of their Lordships to the words of the ordinance. After reciting that many illegal acts had resulted from the improper use of registers granted at Hong Kong under imperial Acts, it went on to enact that 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. The ordinance in fact had not the slightest relation to the question before the House. The complaint, as we find from a letter from Sir John Bowring to Sir George Grey, was that a vessel no sooner obtained a register than she escaped colonial jurisdiction, carried on her trade within the waters of China; engaged probably in every sort of fraudulent dealings, and might never appear again to render any account of her proceedings or to be made responsible for her illegal acts. Now, to guard against these abuses, the ordinance prohibited ships or vessels owned by a British subject from trading in any of the harbours of the colony, unless, in the case of a China trading ship or vessel, she in all respects complied with the requisitions of the ordinance. So that the ordinance is confined to ships or vessels belonging to a British owner and the penalty is exclusion from the harbours of the colony; for it was manifest that no craft could trade between Canton and Hong Kong if they could not enter the harbours of the latter. The ordinance did not affect by its own force to give any rights in the waters of Canton. The noble Earl (the Earl of Clarendon) had Said that the ordinance of March did not contravene any British law, and was 1327 passed to restrict the abuse of the British flag; but that was a mere assertion, destitute of proof. It was said that it had been passed before the Merchant Shipping ActMerchant Shipping Act. The noble Earl had also told the House the ordinance would have contravened the law if it bestowed a British register, but that, in fact, it gave only a colonial register. Was it, then, to be understood, after all the discussion that had taken place, that the register was not a British register? Was the Arrow an English ship without a British register? [The Earl of CLARENDON: With a colonial register.] If it was colonial only, it was mere waste paper; if it were British, let it stand or fall by the Imperial law. What right had the colonial authorities of Hong Kong to regulate proceedings in the river of Canton? Supposing the positions to be reversed, and that, instead of the seat of war being in China, we having been conquered by the Chinese had ceded to them the Isle of Wight, what would we have said if the Chinese authorities on the Isle of Wight had granted Chinese registers to all British vessels coming out of Portsmouth, and sent them back to Portsmouth, Chinese ships with Chinese subjects? The noble Earl had also told them that Hong Kong was a conquered colony, and that the Crown, with the assistance of the legislature of a conquered colony, could deal as it pleased with it. Without entering upon any argument as to the character of the colony of Hong Kong, he (Lord St. Leonards) would remind the House that the Act of the Imperial Legislature had put an end to that particular power of the Crown, and had declared what should constitute a British vessel, entitled to bear the British flag all over the world. The right of the Crown over a conquered colony was a right by conquest over the colony; but had it ever before been suggested that because a colony had been conquered, therefore the Crown had a right to confer upon the inhabitants of that colony powers in relation to other independent countries which the great nation itself to which the colony belonged was utterly powerless to give? His noble and learned Friend on the woolsack put the case on two grounds, one of which was the ground of international law, and the other the evidence of the vessel being a British ship. Now, he would take the liberty of saying that the law which his noble and 1328Arrow was undoubtedly a British ship. If the British Government authorizes a ship to go into a foreign port and carry the British flag, as between us and the foreign country, this is certainly a British ship. His noble and learned Friend continued to say— This may be a case of comparatively small importance; but if we once yield to the notion that, having entered into a treaty of this kind with a foreign country, the authorities of that country may forcibly board a vessel and decide the point of nationality for themselves, who shall say to what important consequences this will lead? Therefore, my Lords, had this been entirely a foreign vessel, and unentitled to a British register, we, by the law of nations, were justified in the steps which we took. Once admit that the British flag was hoisted, and was, by the authority of the Chinese Government, hauled down, and he cared not, for the purposes of his argument, whether they had a right to enter the ship or not; they hauled down the flag, and the consequences must be on their own heads. He believed he had argued this point upon perfectly sound principles of international law. His noble and learned Friend, therefore, put the case not doubtingly, but with the utmost confidence. Notwithstanding that, however, he (Lord St. Leonards) would repeat that his noble and learned Friend was under a misapprehension as to what was the law of nations. A ship of war with its flag never lost its nationality. The ship was the home of the crew, it was extra-territorial. It was indifferent, therefore, whether it was on the high seas or in a foreign port. If it committed an offence, recourse must be had to the Government of the country under whose flag it sailed, and the foreign Power could not, because the ship was in its waters, enter it and take out of it any one for a breach of the municipal laws of the place. It is idle to inquire whether this proceeds from the comity of nations, or on what other ground, but no doubt it was adopted in order to prevent collisions between the authorities of the port and an armed ship of another Power. But in the case of merchant ships the law of nations is just the reverse, for 1329 when they go into a foreign port they become subject to the lawful authority of the Government within whose waters they are; they may be treated as within the jurisdiction, and therefore are liable to have criminals taken out of them, without any offence to their flag. Take the case of the port of London. Merchant ships of every nation entered it by hundreds every day, and if in any case we had reason to suspect that there were criminals on board amenable to our jurisdiction we boarded them without ceremony, seized those criminals, and handed them over to the proper authorities. That was the law in this country, and what was law here was law in China. Merchant ships were not entitled to any particular privileges, either here or elsewhere. I have just been addressing myself solely to the abstract question of international law. But then my noble and learned Friend, like the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) insists that the Arrow was to all intents and purposes within the meaning of the treaty a British ship. The ordinance, he said, authorized the Arrow to carry the British flag. It was a ship on which the Crown might, by its prerogative, confer the privilege of a British ship, and the Crown did so. I will not repeat the argument by which I have endeavoured to show that the Arrow was not a British ship within the meaning of the treaty, and that the Crown had not the power by its simple prerogative to confer on it the privilege of a British ship. But the Chinese believed the lorcha was a Chinese and not a British vessel, and they acted on that conviction. What took place? The young man who was only nominally master of the lorcha was not on board of her at the time she was entered by the Chinese; he was at breakfast in another vessel lying close to her, and when he heard what had taken place, which he did almost immediately afterwards, he proceeded to his own ship and demanded to know who had pulled down his flag. He was told the Chinese; and thereupon he instantly—the Mandarins being still alongside—seized his flag and hoisted it again; so that the flag had been hauled down but a very short interval of time, and was hoisted again by the master without the slightest interruption by the Chinese. But there are great discrepancies in the accounts about the flag, some declaring that it was flying and others that it was not—there was some confirmation of the probability of the latter being the true version 1330 in Commissioner Yeh’s letter, in which he remarks upon the point, “That it is the custom of your honourable nation to take down your flag upon entering port and not to rehoist it until you put to sea again:”—but the result was to make an impression on his (Lord St. Leonards’) mind that it was doubtful whether an insult to the national flag was intended or not. He would remind their Lordships that on the 3rd of October the register of this vessel was delivered up by the master to Consul Parkes, who, therefore, knew, even then, that the register was five days out of date. Now, here he might remark that there appeared to be a misconstruction of part of the ordinance upon which this register was based. It seemed to him quite clear upon the face of the ordinance that every vessel, without exception, must be absolutely re-registered at the end of the twelve months. The object was, of course, to make vessels which enjoyed the privilege of British protection report themselves regularly at this interval. The ordinance accordingly specified that each register should be in force for one year from the date thereof, “and no longer;” that at the end of that period it was renewable if properly applied for; but that upon the expiration of the term it became ipso facto invalid. There was a further proviso that such register should be deposited at the office of the Colonial Secretary one week before the expiration of the year. Did not this prove it to be absolutely necessary that the registers should be renewed within the year? Now, it had been gratuitously assumed that this vessel was at sea at the time, and that, being at sea, she was not bound to have her licence renewed at the exact period mentioned. If such a provision were once allowed, a door would be opened to the very mischiefs against which the Government of Hong Kong evidently wished to guard. A vessel in such a case had only to keep at sea at the period when the licence became out of date, and, according to this doctrine, she might, without renewing it, keep the British flag flying for six or seven years and claim British protection. He took it, then, that the moment the year expired a vessel lost its rights (if ever it had acquired any) under this ordinance. Their Lordships had heard that this was the opinion of Sir John Bowring. Consul Parkes had the register deposited with him on the 3rd; he knew it was void; on the 11th Sir John Bowring himself be- 1331 came acquainted with the same fact; and Sir John then wrote in the most explicit terms, stating that the right to the register had expired, and that it would be impossible legally to give the Arrow the benefits of that ordinance. The conduct of Sir John Bowring on this point had been referred to in terms strong certainly, but he thought not too strong, considering the nature of the offence, which was entirely unworthy of the representative of a great and civilized country when dealing even with what was called “a semi-barbarous” country with which we were on terms of amity. What the British authorities ought to have done was this—they knew that the right to hoist the British flag was gone, and then it would have been the easiest thing in the world to say to Commissioner Yeh that an insult had been offered to the British flag, which Under other circumstances could not have been passed over, but that it would not be noticed on this occasion because the Arrow was at the time carrying the English flag without a licence. Instead of this, however, Sir John Bowring was, on the one hand, representing to Commissioner Yeh that this register was in full force at the time of the seizure, while at the same time he was saying to Consul Parkes that he would consider whether or not he would re-register the lorcha, and was reserving his right to do so. Sir John Bowring, therefore, knew that the vessel was not entitled to use the British flag at the time, otherwise he would not have reserved to himself this right. He (Lord St. Leonards) repeated that it was unworthy the representative of this great country to play such a double part as this. And then what as to the apology required and offered? In a very short time after their seizure the twelve men were returned by the Chinese, and Commissioner Yeh promised that the occurrence should not happen again, and that in future the usual reference should be made to the British Consul. Mr. Parkes, however, demanded that the men should be publicly restored; and upon this simple question of form, apparently introduced for the purpose of embarrassing the question, the rupture took place. Now, let these facts be stated for the first time to any assembly of Englishmen; let such an assembly be told that twelve persons, subjects of the Emperor of China, were seized by Chinese officials, on board a Chinese vessel, in Chinese waters, two of them being notorious pirates; let it 1332 be added, that after a remonstrance these men were returned, the Chinese Commissioner promising to guard against a recurrence of the event; and see how it would startle the common sense of a body of Englishmen to be told that Mr. Parkes rejected these twelve men, sent them back, and took what he called “active measures” thereupon. It was not denied that two of the crew carried off were notorious pirates, and Yeh asked for the return of these two men, as he was perfectly justified in doing according to the terms of the treaty. But none of the concessions made by the Chinese would serve. What was supposed to be a war junk, but turned out to be a merchant vessel, was cut out by the British Admiral. Well, that in itself was reparation; but apparently it was not enough. From step to step the Admiral on the station proceeded, destroying Chinese vessels and Chinese ports, breaching the walls, firing upon the Commissioner’s residence, and making a forcible entry into Canton. In the late war Odessa was spared. It was a town full of men and material of war, and from which large supplies could be drawn for the defenders of Sebastopol, and it was also fortified; and if Odessa were spared—and great credit was taken for sparing it—why could not Canton be spared also? There was nothing in Canton to affect the power of the British forces, while in Odessa the case was quite the reverse. There was every reason why we should have attacked the city we spared, and spared the city we attacked. After we had attacked the forts and destroyed them, we ought to have considered that the insult to our flag had been atoned for. He did not blame the Government for sparing Odessa, because he should be sorry to see the forces of this great empire brought to bear upon a defenceless city. But why bombard Canton? The answer was, unfortunately, an easy one. Canton was at your feet. From the unfortunate condition in which the Government of China was placed, there was no chance of retaliation. A civil war was raging throughout the country. And what glory could there be at any time in a war with China? It had been shown what they were worth in previous wars, and in 1847 General D’Aguilar took or destroyed between 800 and 900 pieces of cannon, and dictated terms under the walls of Canton without, he believed, scarcely the loss of a single man. How had the Americans acted? They had been fired Upon, and, 1333 after destroying some forts they considered that they had exacted sufficient reparation and retired. The French, also, although they said that we were acting rightly, asked to be allowed to go away; and yet we, after destroying ships and forts must needs proceed to bombard a defenceless town. Commissioner Yeh wished Sir John Bowring to treat the two matters of the Arrow and the entrance into Canton as distinct, and offered reparation in respect of the Arrow: Sir John Bowring refused to accept it, or to separate the two subjects: from that moment, he feared, the opinion of the whole world would be against us. Before resuming his seat, he wished to call their Lordships’ attention to the fact that some of the influential persons in the city of Canton had expressed the opinion that satisfactory terms might be arranged. He would refer the House to the minutes of conference with some of the Chinese gentry on the 11th Nov. 1856, where, when they urged “that the Arrow case should be settled first,” they were told once and again that it was impossible to take less than what was then asked. “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.” This clearly showed that the war was commenced on one ground; for which reparation had then long ago been obtained, and had been continued up to this moment upon another. In conclusion, he prayed their Lordships to consider what the effect of their vote must be. If they agreed to the Motion no mischief could by possibility result, and the consequence would be to authorize the Government to put a termination to the lamentable contest which was now going on. If, on the other hand, they rejected the Motion, the war we were waging would be continued; Sir John Bowring and Mr. Parkes would construe the result into an approbation of their conduct, and they would insist upon the right of free and immediate access to the city of Canton, although it seemed to be generally admitted that no commensurate advantages would flow from the exercise of that right. Our trade would be stopped, property would be injured, life would be sacrificed, and we should be imposing a great affliction upon the Chinese at a time when that nation was already in deep tribulation. It was simply a question of the continuance 1334 or cessation of the war, and he entreated their Lordships, by supporting the Motion, to do all in their power to put an end to so great a calamity. came into force in the colony; but, even so, there had been another law in existence before the learned Friend laid down was not the law of nations. What his noble and learned Friend stated was that if a nation gave a flag to a ship, and she went to a foreign port and there gave some offence, or infringed some law, the foreigner was bound not to interfere with that ship, but must apply to the country to which she belonged for redress. His noble and learned Friend asked— Was this or was it not an infraction of the treaty? Certainly; for, as between us and China, the
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
wished to say a few words in order to point out to their Lordships a mistake into which his noble and learned Friend who had just sat down had fallen with respect to what he (the Lord Chancellor) had said upon Tuesday night. His noble and learned Friend had brought the grave charge against him that he had misled their Lordships in stating an important principle of international law. If he had done so intentionally he could not express the humiliation which he ought to feel; if he had done so through mistake he should still feel amenable to grave censure; but the fact was, that to every word and every syllable which he had used upon the subject of international law he adhered. What he said was, that it depended upon each particular country to say whether a ship were a national ship or not, and if a licence was given the nationality of that ship could not be questioned by any foreign nation. From that proposition he never could be shaken; it was monstrous to assert that third parties were competent to interfere between the nation and the ship. He maintained unhesitatingly that that was the principle of international law. His noble and learned Friend said that when such nationality was given to a merchant ship, and she came into the waters of a foreign country, she might be treated like a portion of the soil of the country, and was liable to be boarded and to have taken out persons who had violated the laws of that country. He (the Lord Chancellor) said nothing to contravene that proposition; but he said, after referring to the 9th Article of the treaty, which specially provided that it should not be lawful for the Chinese to enter upon British ships, and remove persons from them, that if by international law that vessel were a British vessel and the Chinese had entered upon her and taken persons out, they had been guilty of an act in contravention of the treaty. Let them displace him from that if they could.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
He really was astonished, after his noble and learned Friend had represented the 1335 Lord Chancellor as having misinformed them on a point of law, that he should complain that he was “replying,” when he claimed their Lordships’ indulgence to allow him to explain what he really did say. His noble and learned Friend must allow him to observe, moreover, that when he (Lord St. Leonards) accused the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of having misstated the law when he said that the ordinance came into immediate operation, his noble and learned Friend fell into a most grievous mistake in point of law. [“Order, order!”] He felt that he was now out of order, and he would not therefore add another word.
(who was indistinctly heard) said, that their Lordships were called upon to decide in a judicial spirit upon three propositions. With respect to the first of the three Resolutions which had been submitted to the House he apprehended that there would be no difference of opinion. This Resolution was to this effect:— That this House has heard with deep regret of the interruption of amicable relations between Her Majesty’s subjects and the Chinese authorities at Canton, arising out of the measures adopted by Her Majesty’s Chief Superintendent of Trade to obtain reparation for an alleged infraction of the supplementary treaty of the 8th of October, 1843. He conceived that there was no one in that House who could doubt the truth of that proposition, because it was unquestionably a subject of deep regret that the consequence of these proceedings should have necessarily been to endanger our trade, still more that they had caused the destruction of property and life, and the miseries incident to war. The two other Resolutions, therefore, were those which were really the subject of consideration. They expressed an opinion that the ”occurrence of differences on this subject rendered the time peculiarly unfavourable for pressing on the Chinese authorities a claim for the admittance of British subjects into Canton, which had been left in abeyance since 1849, and for supporting the same by force of arms,” and, “that in the opinion of this House operations of actual hostility ought not to have been undertaken without the express instructions, previously received, of Her Majesty’s Government; and that neither of the subjects adverted to in the foregoing Resolutions afforded sufficient justification for such operations.” It appeared to him 1336 that those two Resolutions might very properly be divided into two heads—the first question, whether the Chinese had been guilty of an unjustifiable act in entering the Arrow contrary to the law of nations or to the stipulations of the treaty; and the second, whether the particular mode adopted by the British representatives in that country for obtaining redress was the one which should have been taken on such an event. He had few observations to offer on the latter branch of the inquiry. Looking back now upon the events which had occurred, and considering the mischief which accrued, their Lordships, no doubt, might think it would have been better if our representatives in China had waited for instructions from the Government before proceeding to warlike extremities. Their Lordships ought not now, however, to view the transactions by the light which subsequent events had cast upon them, but should place themselves as nearly as possible in the position of those who were called upon to act, not being endued with the gift of prophecy or the ability to foresee what was about to occur. Looking at the situation, then, in which our representatives were placed, with a better knowledge than their Lordships could have of the disposition of the Chinese, and of the facts and of the bearing of those facts, was it wise in them immediately to take into their own hands the means of procuring redress by making reprisals, seizing one of the Imperial junks, and resorting to the destructive measure of taking the forts and bombarding part of the town of Canton? Putting themselves in the position of the officers of the Government at that time, was it made out to their Lordships’ satisfaction that the measures taken by them for the purpose in view were improper? If they had held their hands and had refrained from taking any steps until they received instructions from the home Government, the probability was that the Chinese fortifications would have been strengthened, their military defences would have been rendered more complete, the difficulty of ultimately bringing them to reason would have been immensely increased, and the loss of life and injury to property would have been much greater. Instead of so waiting, our representatives, bearing in mind the great success which had attended the employment of a very small force in a vigorous 1337 manner under General D’Aguilar in 1847, determined upon following the example which was then set; and, on the whole, putting himself in the position of Sir John Bowring at that time, he was not prepared to say—and he thought the House would come to the same conclusion—after repeated attempts to obtain redress by other means had failed, he was not justified in the course which he adopted. At the same time, however, that he certainly did blame a part of the conduct and bearing of Sir John Bowring, recourse to warlike acts he considered to be justified. The question therefore was reduced to this,—was there an illegal act on the part of the Chinese, justifying us in our demand for redress, and the enforcement of it if refused? The question depended partly on the law of England, and partly on the law of nations. If the vessel possessed a register, or licence, or other power, given by authority of the English Government or its representatives, and if the vessel was on the high seas that protection given by such Power could not be called in question. The only mode in which redress could be legally obtained was by representation on the part of the Chinese authorities to our authorities, and by requiring that the licence should be withdrawn. It was, in fact, contrary to the established law of all nations that one nation should endeavour to enforce its rights against another without preliminary representation. The act complained of was the boarding of the lorcha Arrow with an armed force and seizing the crew. The weight of evidence was that this was done when the British ensign was flying, for it was proved by three witnesses, and, in the first instance, not denied by Yeh. The Arrow, therefore, had the British colours and a British licence granted by Sir John Bowring. Whether the licence had expired at the time he would afterwards consider. Assuming, then, that the licence existed, that gave a national character to the vessel, and whether it was rightly given or not was not a matter the Chinese could settle by taking the law into their own hands. Respect was due to the national character, as indicated by the licence and colours. The case, therefore, resolved itself into these questions, was the licence, in point of fact, given by adequately-empowered British authority? and was the vessel on the high seas or in a Chinese port? If she was on the high seas, then all right of that kind was undoubtedly 1338 put an end to by the flag. A striking instance of the admission of this principle was afforded by the treaty concluded by a noble Earl near me (the Earl of Aberdeen) in 1845, with Monsieur St. Aulaire and the Due de Broglie for the purpose of suppressing the slave trade on the coast of Africa, by the joint operation of an English and French squadron, where a mutual right of search of vessels bearing the national flag was made the subject of express stipulation between the two countries, which would have been wholly unnecessary if it had been permitted by International Law. With regard to the question as to whether the licence had been given by competent authority, acting for Her Majesty’s Government, he (Lord Wensleydale) differed from his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst), for whose opinion he had the greatest possible respect; and he could not but think that even in foro domestico the licence was legal. The authority was given by the Governor and Council of Hong Kong, a colony conquered by the Queen, in which Her Majesty had the undoubted right to give such laws as she chose, until or unless she was controlled by Parliament. The Governor and Council had authority to make such a law in March, 1855, when it was made, and it was binding, when made, as soon as it had received the Queen’s consent. It remained in force certainly until the Merchant Shipping Act, which came into operation on the 1st of May, 1854; and the question was whether that Act annulled it. The 537th section, which enabled the colonial legislation to repeal wholly or in part any of the provisions of the Act, with the consent of the Queen in Council, did not seem to apply to the law of any colony in existence before the Act took effect; and so the Government seemed to think, for the Secretary of State had given his sanction to the ordinance of the 3rd of March, 1855, after the Merchant Shipping Act had come into force. Though he doubted much whether Sir John Bowring would be liable in foro domestico as related to this country, on the ground that his authority was put an end to by the Act of Parliament, he did not mean to say that his noble and learned Friend (Lord Lyndhurst), whose authority he so greatly respected, from long experience of his great knowledge of the law, directed by his admirable good sense and powerful intellect, was certainly wrong in his views 1339 of the case. But he thought that formed no part of the question in this case, which was not whether Sir John Bowring’s conduct could be questioned and punished by the court of this country as being unauthorized by our law; but whether the national flag having been given by the persons exercising the power of the British Government in that part of the world, the Chinese Government could question it in the mode they had adopted. His noble and learned Friend argued however, that the power to grant such licence to an alien was not given under any circumstances—that, in fact, the authorities of Hong Kong had no right to give it to any but a native owner. He (Lord Wensleydale) entertained a different opinion; he believed, on the contrary, that it was quite within their power to grant it, and that the licence so granted was perfectly legal. The noble and learned Lord was, no doubt, perfectly right in the opinion he had given, that we could not deprive the Government of China of its authority over its own subjects by making them denizens of Hong Kong; they are all of them still subjects of the Chinese Empire, and amenable to its Sovereign; but this did not affect the true question in the case, whether that Government was authorized to seize with violence a ship in actual possession of our national flag, though its subjects were on board. If the ship had been on the high seas when seized, then, by the law of nations, the act would undoubtedly be wrong. If, on the other hand, it was then in the port of Canton, within the territorial bounds of China, the Chinese had undoubted authority to search for and seize criminals who had broken their laws, if found on board the ship, in their own ports, as well as on land in their own territory, and we had no right to treat the seizure as a wrong done to us, unless the Chinese had by treaty undertaken to forego that right. That depended upon the construction of the Supplemental Treaty of 1843, which, he thought, applied to all English ships, especially when the Supplemental Treaty expressly provided for the case of lorchas and other small vessels. He did not think that the noble Earl (Earl Grey) was right in limiting it to ships described in the Registration Act, that is “ships British owned, with three-fourths of the crew English subjects, built in England, and not repaired abroad” to a greater amount than a certain proportion of the value. Otherwise, if the Parliament should please after- 1340 wards to alter these provisions and diminish the required crew to one half, or make any other slight alteration, the treaty would be done away with and protection of the vessel lost. It was impossible to read the treaty as if all the particulars required by the Act were in and formed part of it, and created an obligation on our part not to alter any part of those particulars without the consent of the Chinese. This being so, the word “English” must be understood in a more lax sense, and would include the vessel in question, as though the treaty confined the Chinese Government to such redress by application of the ninth Article to the proper English officers. That part of the crew were Chinese subjects made no difference. The Baltic Powers—Prussia, Denmark, and Sweden—gave the national character to ships owned by any residents for a short time in their respective dominions, of whatever country they were subjects, and no one ever questioned their right. The case might be made clearer to us by supposing a treaty made with the French Emperor by the Queen for the extradition of English criminals by us, similar to the treaty of the Chinese with our Government. Assuming by the French law that no ship should have a French licence unless with certain qualifications, as for instance, that security should be given for its proper use to some public officer, that it should be French built, owned and navigated by a crew composed of a certain proportion of native-born Frenchmen, could it be pretended that we could seize the French ship and take out the criminal by force, or any of the English crew, on the ground that the licence was irregular and not warranted by the French law? It is clear we could have no such right, and our so doing would be a violation of international law if the vessel was at sea, and a violation of the treaty, if she was in port. So the Chinese officers, in neither case, had a right to board the vessel with an armed force, pull down the British flag, and carry away a part of the crew. The treaty which existed between this country and China regulated that right in a manner which had certainly been violated in the present instance. His noble and learned Friend seemed to think that the vessel was not under the protection of the British flag, because her licence, as he alleged, had expired. But was that really the case? When there is a licence for a limited time, and the ship is 1341 out of the port of registration, it continues, from the very nature of the case, beyond the prescribed limit for such a time as to enable the ship to reach with reasonable despatch its port of registration, and she is bonâ fide so proceeding. This was in extension absolutely necessary, and implied in the very grant itself. He (Lord Wensleydale) need only to remind the House that at this moment all the Belgian merchant navy were sailing under licences for a limited period, all being given for two years. But was it to be supposed that these ships would lose the national character if their licences expired, in whatever part of the globe they might happen to be at the expiration of the prescribed period? Sir John Bowring had mistaken his case in supposing that the licence had expired; for it was clear it had not, as on the evidence it appeared that the captain of the lorcha at the moment of the seizure was intending to return to Hong Kong, and renew his licence, having previously deposited his licence in the registry at that place. If that was the fact, could any case be more clear than that she had not lost her nationality? And thus, whether the vessel at the time of the outrage committed by the Chinese Government was on the high seas or in port, it was under the protection of the British flag, and their entry in the manner in which it took place was an unauthorized and unjustifiable act, an injury to our national rights and justly entitling us to redress—first, by remonstrance, and then, if necessary, by reprisals and even by force. If the vessel was at sea, it was a violation of the law of nations; if in port, of the treaty; and in no way could the Chinese be authorized to enter with force and haul down the British flag.
On these grounds he considered that nothing had been alleged which would justify the House in passing the two last Resolutions. He was quite satisfied that the act of the Chinese Governor was altogether unwarrantable; and he was not satisfied that the British authorities had pursued an improper course, in the circumstances in which they were placed, in vindicating our national rights. He should, therefore, give his vote against the Motion.
My Lords, if before this debate commenced the other night I felt a deep conviction that the primary cause of the unfortunate transactions which have arisen out of the case of the Arrow was the technicalities 1342 of the treaty itself, I am still more persuaded of it after having heard in the House of Lords, ranged on both sides of the question, the arguments of the ablest lawyers, who, discussing the question with equal confidence, are firmly convinced that the opposite side is wrong. If the noble and learned Lords and the Peers of England are perplexed with the technicalities of the question, how much more must a semi-barbarous officer like the Chinese Commissioner and his countrymen be perplexed by the accusations made against them? and surely if the Chinese are to be attacked and despised for their ignorance, those noble Lords who believe they have right on their side are much more open to scorn and derision. But to us, who are not lawyers, there are two important questions to consider; the first is one of morality, the other one of policy. It does, I must confess, often happen that those who take part in politics, and especially in Parliamentary assemblies, seek to excuse great political immoralities for the sake of some great political good. In this case, I regret to say, that there has been as much impolicy shown as there has been immorality, and England cannot be defended upon any ground of public or political good in these proceedings. And with regard to the question of policy, is it, I ask, safe to delegate to our foreign officials, of the class of governors of colonies and consuls, the power of making war with a foreign Government without having first applied for the sanction of the Government at home, and—what is in my opinion still worse—without even appealing to the Government of the nation against whom they mean to make war! For I cannot forget that in this instance Sir John Bowring, in the early part of the correspondence, specially precluded his colleague and competitor in folly, Consul Parkes, from allowing any appeal to the Court of Pekin, or the Emperor of China himself. Though nothing has been said in this House with respect to the Admiral, I must say I think he showed great superiority over both the Governor and the Consul, in his knowledge both of the law and of the usual comity of nations; for the Admiral, when he commanded the forts to surrender, did express to the Chinese general a desire to leave those forts alone until a representation had been made of the conduct of the Commissioner to the Court of Pekin. There appeared to be at least some approach to observance 1343 of civilized forms so far as he had been concerned in the matters in dispute; and on more than one occasion afterwards we see that the Admiral has followed a different course to that of the Governor. We need no argument to show the dreadful danger of committing to hands such awful power—to such hands of those of the English Plenipotentiary and Consul at Canton. The very news that has arrived in London to-day, that the Chinese have taken the offensive, and have attacked the English fleet, and that the rebels that had been dividing the country by civil war, aroused by a national feeling, had joined the Emperor’s forces in avenging the cruelties inflicted on the citizens of Canton by our officers there, show how impossible it is to say how far a war will extend after the first cannon shot has been fired.
My noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said in his speech the other night that we should not have heard of this question of entrance had the case of the Arrow been settled; but it is more likely that we should never have heard of the question of the Arrow if the question of the entrance had been settled before; and I believe that if my noble Friend opposite, the President of the Council, had not written his despatch, and I had not written the two despatches which your Lordships may have seen, which were not quite in the official style, but in those more peremptory terms which my conviction of the character of the man justified me in using, transactions similar to these we have now to deplore would have occurred long ago; and had it not been for the handle it afforded for further proceedings to carry out the monomania of Sir John Bowring we should not have heard of this case of the Arrow. Much less reparation was at first required than was afterwards demanded, and which if taken, the affair of the Arrow would have been settled. In one of the first letters the consul states:— ”I have only to add, with all due submission, the opinion I entertain that the inviolability of the British flag may in this case be satisfactorily and easily vindicated by reprisals on one or more of the war boats of the Chinese force by which the violence was committed, and which are still at anchor in the river, without danger or prejudice, I would rather say with benefit, to our general interest. Well, then, the very perplexed question of the Arrow would have been fully satisfied if you had held your hand when you had seized a junk—or at all events when the 1344 Admiral destroyed the Barrier forts—there would have been no degradation of the English character, and none of the miseries which afterwards followed. There was no degradation in the case of the Americans, in their view of the matter, after they had silenced the fort that had fired upon them. On the point of giving power to foreign officers of waging war, I have never heard a principle more dangerous than that which was advanced the other night, that if the British Government authorized any ship to go into a foreign port carrying the British flag, that as between us and that foreign country, that was certainly a British ship. I will not enter into legal technicalities, but I think noble Lords will agree with me that if that is the positive Setter and spirit of the law, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would sit on a volcano.
With respect to the ordinance itself I throw aside all legal argument; but I am bound to confess that I never understood what the necessity was for such an ordinance. I do not think the preamble of Sir John Bowring at all explains its necessity. That it had been effective of no good I firmly believe; at all events, we know only of the evils it had caused. But there is one consideration which I could not help thinking must have tempted Sir John Bowring to issue that ordinance, and I confess that it appears to me likely to be a point of some moment to a Gentleman who is Superintendent of Trade at Canton. There is no doubt that if registers are given which transform fleets of Chinese ships and all sorts of crafts, with which the Chinese waters swarmed, into British vessels the Superintendent of Trade when he made his returns to this country would be able to point with something like triumph to our largely-increasing trade in that part of the world. That seems to me the only explanation why Sir John Bowring should have been so anxious to put forth an ordinance which was almost certain to bring him into difficulties. My Lords, I will not weary your Lordships with any argument as to the certificate of the Arrow.1345 John Bowring on the 11th of October declared to his colleague, Consul Parkes, that the ship had no right to protection—but he also repeated it on the 13th. And on the 12th, between those two dates, with the same pen, and out of the same inkstand he writes to the Commissioner Yeh and tells him he has violated the ninth Article of the treaty, because the vessel had a right to protection. But there was another person whom he did not inform, and that was no less a person than Sir Michael Seymour. They were a triumvirate representing the English Government, and only two of the triumvirate knew of the flaw in the indictment. Sir Michael Seymour was never informed of it; for your Lordships, on reference to the papers, will see that after Admiral Seymour had bombarded the wall, and entered into open hostilities, Sir John Bowring writes to him that he has acquainted Commissioner Yeh that he has done this not to carry out the right of entrance into the city, but on account of the refusal to afford reparation in the case of the ship. Sir Michael Seymour was convinced that he was vindicating our honour in respect to the Arrow, for I do believe that if he had not positively thought that to be the case, he would not have fired a single gun on the town. Not only did Sir John Bowring conceal the flaw in the indictment from the Commissioner, which was dishonourable enough, but he concealed it also from the Admiral on the station, whose duty it became to extort reparation for the alleged insult to the British flag. It would be mere surplusage to argue on that point, because Sir John Bowring has put himself out of court by an admission in his own writing that the certificate had expired, and the ship having given up her papers was not entitled to carry an English flag, or to the protection of that flag. My noble Friend who spoke the other night did not put the case strong enough, because he said that Sir
Need I say a word upon the dangerous policy of placing such awful power as that of declaring war in the hands of an official, who may act without making any representations whatever to the Government at home?
Now, as to the question of morality. Even assuming that the Arrow was a British ship, that she was British-built, British-owned, commanded by a British subject, and British from stem to stern, I deny that there was any justification for the horrible proceedings which were taken against the town. What was the excuse? The dignity of the British flag was to be vindicated. My Lords, the dignity of the British flag is, I know, a magic phrase in either House of Parliament, or before any assemblage of Englishmen. What is the British flag, and in what character do we look at it? We look at it as an emblem of liberty and civilization—as a 1346 symbol of blessed Christianity—as a symbol of great national glory, of great national victories; it is surrounded by a halo of everything that is glorious in the past, and with hopes still greater, and still more glorious, in the future. Do we look upon this flag as a most sacred emblem, and believe that ordinances such as this will raise the prestige of this glorious symbol of which I speak? If you confide it to the care of a population such as I have described, of whom tens of thousands are roaming about the Chineas seas, and a great many of whom are the very dregs and refuse of mankind, is it not almost certain that such men will dishonour your flag and bring it into discredit? and is it not almost certain that circumstances such as this will follow? What know these antiquated and barbarous Chinese of our respect and feeling for the flag of England? Indeed, speaking of the English flag, Commissioner Yeh himself says— I have always understood foreign flags to be each one peculiar to a nation; they are never made so little of as even to be lent; how then could a foreign nation do anything so irregular as to sell its flag to China? This appears to your Excellency a proceeding in accordance with law; all I can say is, that I am not aware that foreign nations have any such law. As I have said before, therefore, had the flag belonged bonâ fide to a British merchant vessel, it would have been proper to follow some other course than the one pursued. That is a sentiment worthy of a man more civilized than the Chinese Commissioner is considered to be by the British authorities. But that brings me to the point that the ordinance was not known to, and not understood by the Chinese, and that it was in fact an ex post facto law riveted on to the treaty. How can such an instrument bind them unless both parties thoroughly understand it and agree to it?
What, then, is the cause of all these deplorable events which have led to so much misery? The first cause of these misfortunes was the appointment of Doctor, now Sir John Bowring, as British Plenipotentiary to China. If that gentleman had not been appointed, he believed, in opposition to what his noble Friend the Earl of Clarendon had said on this subject the other night, that the status quo would have been maintained, and that it would have lasted with proper care on both sides for a long time. What was the state of Canton? Our trade had more than doubled itself in ten years; the insults, which have been so ostentatiously put forward 1347 in a blue-boot, were no more than could naturally be expected from the natives of a country so savage, so semi-barbarous as the Chinese, but every one had been atoned for; and what kind of man, therefore, was it necessary that this country should have sent out to deal with this people—Her Majesty’s representative at Hong Kong? He has immense power, there is enormous business passing through his hands, and he must be constantly annoyed by things such as I have alluded to. You require for such an office a man of sound judgment, of great tact, of large discretion, and endowed with a consummate knowledge of human nature. I say that Sir John Bowring possesses none of these qualities; and I believe it must come to the practical question as to whether you are to leave Sir John Bowring in that position in which he has proved, not merely in this case, but in many others, that he is a man whose incapacity is such as to unfit him for filling such a position; and I pray the attention of the noble Lord at the head of the Foreign Office to what I say. My Lords, as proved by these papers, during these very transactions Sir John Bowring showed indiscretion in respect to the Chinese, and still greater indiscretion in regard to our own interests, and with respect to his colleagues, the Admiral and Consul, you will find in one of the Admiral’s despatches that he writes— The command of the river being now in our hands, I have no other operation in immediate contemplation, beyond the security and maintenance of our position, and it will remain with Her Majesty’s Government to determine whether the present opportunity shall be made available to enforce the treaty stipulations, which the Canton Government have hitherto been allowed to evade with impunity. That is a letter to Sir John Bowring; and what does he do? Why, with a vanity which is part and parcel of his very nature, he publishes at Hong Kong, in a sort of official newspaper, his account of the operations, and this publication of the Admiral’s intention to remain passive and on the defensive, and the evil effect is shown by the fact that after the publication of this foolish gazette, which ought to have been kept secret, the Chinese took the offensive and set fire to our factories. That is an instance of his indiscretion; but I do not say the only one. In 1854 Shanghai was taken by the rebels, and at that time there was such a complete displacement of all authority that it was impossible to say to whom the English mer- 1348 chants should pay the customs duties. In this difficulty the Consul suggested that the English ships should be allowed to clear out, the Consul receiving bonds from the merchants binding themselves to pay the duties in accordance with the directions of the English Government at home. The question was referred to the English Government, and in the meantime Sir John Bowring was sent out as Superintendent to China. The English Government were determined that the bonds should be cancelled, and that the dues should not be paid. Sir John Bowring went to Shanghai, and said he was authorized to settle the whole business. He declared that the dues should be paid, and that he would open what he called a consulate court to which the Chinese could appeal for the recovery of their dues, and that declaration not having been acceptable to the English merchants, he proposed—and they accepted the proposal—that he should become arbitrator in the case. But two days after he had stated that he would open a court for the purpose of enabling the Chinese to recover those dues, a letter was received at Shanghai from the Foreign Office, written by Mr. Hammond, ordering that the bonds should be cancelled. I will now, with a view of showing their Lordships what confidence Sir John Bowring inspired, read a passage from a letter written by Mr. Adamson— A short time previous to the receipt of Mr. Hammond’s letter from the Foreign Office, Sir John Bowring, by inducing a general belief that the British Government considered the duties ought to be paid, and by asserting that he was intrusted with extraordinary and plenary powers to enforce them, had obtained from the merchants authority to arbitrate this question with the Chinese Government. Upon the receipt, therefore, of Lord Clarendon’s views, as communicated by Mr. Hammond, to the effect that no decision had been come to by Her Majesty’s Government, the greatest surprise was felt, and the offers of compromise were subsequently withdrawn, as they had only been obtained by Sir John Bowring’s reiterated assurances that the question was already decided, and the proceedings upon such decision rested entirely with him. This Chamber feels that the British merchants who signed the letter of compromise have been temporarily placed in a false position by their reliance on Sir John Bowring’s representations, and it is anxious that Her Majesty’s Government should be made aware of the circumstances under which the offer of arbitration was made, in the event of such offer being reported to the Home Government to their prejudice. What their views were of the justice of their cause, and of the qualifications of Sir John Bowring as an arbitrator, is sufficiently shown by the remonstrance signed on the 8th of July, by the entire body of English, merchants, with a solitary 1349 exception, and it was only when they failed to induce his Excellency to pause that they finally agreed to abide by his decision. I am stating these facts for the purpose of showing how improperly and unwisely Sir John Bowring acted, and how he forfeited by his indiscretion the confidence of the English merchants in China. It appears that a deputation from the East India and China Association, headed by Mr. Gregson, the Member for Lancaster, had an interview with my noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Clarendon) at the Foreign Office, and this is a Minute of what took place— 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 might be represented by some person of known experience and discretion. And it was remarked by a member of the deputation, that either the powers with which Sir John Bowring had been entrusted were too extensive, or he had greatly exceeded their limits. Lord Clarendon replied, good humouredly, that it was less than a year ago that he had been urged by a great meeting (at Manchester) to be sure and give Sir John Bowring scope enough—it could hardly be too much; and as regarded Sir John Bowring’s exercise of the powers committed to him, he assured the deputation that he (Sir John Bowring) would not be left in ignorance of his (Lord Clarendon’s) intentions about the securities, and that they (the deputation) need have no apprehensions about his errand to Pekin. Nothing could be more harmless to the interests of British trade than the objects to which he would there confine himself. That, in consequence of the Chinese Commissioner at Canton professing to have no authority to investigate complaints or redress grievances, things were found to be literally at a deadlock, and Sir John Bowring, M. Bourbillon, and Mr. M’Lane had, he really believed, found it indispensable to proceed to Pekin in person, to get matters put to rights. As to the renewal of the treaty, Sir John Bowring would make it no part of his present mission to commit the British Government upon any one point of it; and he (Lord Clarendon) Would with pleasure undertake that nothing should be finally done in it (the treaty) without direct communication with the parties with whom he was then in conference. The fact is, that the French had a treaty With China which was to expire about that time, and as we had a right to the enjoyment of any privileges which any foreign nation might receive from the Chinese, we had a manifest interest in the progress of the negotiations between France and China for a renewal of their treaty relations. My noble Friend stated, in reply to the statements and remonstrances of the deputation, that he had received a resolution which had been 1350 agreed to at a public meeting in Manchester, calling upon him to give Sir John Bowring “scope enough.” That declaration of my noble Friend was perfectly correct; but it appears that Sir John Bowring had since lost, in a great degree, the confidence of the merchants and traders of Manchester. But I must remind your Lordships of a circumstance which renders the conduct of Sir John Bowring in these recent operations even more indiscreet and more inexcusable than may at first sight appear. It is that we are on the point, as he was well aware, of renewing our treaty with China, and of taking part with the French in negotiations for a more favourable settlement of the relations between that country and the great commercial nations of the world; and yet Sir John Bowring chose this particular time to throw our communications with China into a state of the most complete confusion, as if he wished to compel the English Government to make him the only man who could be left out as our representative in that country.
My Lords, I will now say nothing of the horrors that have been committed by our ships on what I must call an unoffending population. There can be no doubt that a great many Chinese have perished in consequence of these operations, and it is equally certain that we have inflicted these calamities on others without any loss, and without any glory to ourselves. In order to show you what is the opinion entertained by our sailors themselves of these transactions, I will read you a very graphic passage from a letter of one of our midshipmen to his mother. It is as follows:—”Dear Mother,—Don’t trouble yourself about me, for I am in no more danger than if I were practising against an old tea-caddy!” That is the statement of a boy; but I have no doubt that it reflects the general feeling among the fleet.
But great as were the faults of Sir John Bowring, they might have led to no very serious results if he had had some men of temper and discretion to guide him. Unfortunately, however, we have had the peculiar ill-luck in this case of being represented by two men who are both unfit for their duties. If it were not for the serious consequences involved in this matter, I do not know that I have ever met anything which I should consider more grotesque than the conduct of Consul Parkes throughout these transactions. That gentleman contended that twelve men had been wrong- 1351 fully seized, and when ten of them were sent back to him he refused to accept them; and after that again he would not take the twelve because he had not received them in the form he required. And thus because the whole of his demand had not from the first been complied with, he would not consent to accept any portion of the redress which he claimed; and the ten men, according to his own statement, were again consigned to captivity. Do your Lordships believe that if this had been a pecuniary transaction, and if the Chinese had owed Mr. Parkes twelve bank-notes, and had sent him ten of those notes, he would have refused to accept that large instalment of his whole demand? And do you believe that if the twelve were afterwards sent to him, he would not have taken them because they were not folded or presented in the particular manner he required? And was this treatment such as was due to men who were to be considered Englishmen? They were returned just as a man might send back goods which he had brought from his grocer because they were not full weight. Mr. Parkes should have remembered that these men were human beings, and that he himself had made them Englishmen. I refer to these facts for the purpose of showing by what kind of persons England is represented in China. I contend that the Government ought not to lose a moment in removing both Sir John Bowring and Mr. Parkes, as persons totally unfit for the situations which they now fill. I cannot help apprehending that every shot fired in this case adds another year of rancour to the century of accumulated jealousies which preceded these events. How the hatred with which we must now be regarded by the Chinese is to be abated, I am utterly at a loss to conceive; but I believe that the first thing to be done is to send out to them as the representative of this country some man less obnoxious than Sir John Bowring, for the purpose of restoring that peace which is so essential to our interests and our honour.
I do not, my Lords, regard this as a party question. I only look at two points. I look first at the immense danger that we incur by entrusting to our agents in foreign States the right to wage war at their own discretion. That is a question of policy. I look next at the inhumanity of the acts which have here been committed in our name; and I maintain that, even if this vessel was proved to be British from stem 1352 to stern, what took place on board of her would not justify the conduct of our officials, and the calamities which followed from that conduct. I feel that the honour of the country is at stake in this instance equally with its morality. I fear that a foreigner like Count de Montalembert, who in a recent publication has exalted all the virtues of our country, while at the same time he passed very leniently over our faults, cannot abstain from pointing out, in some future page, with horror, and even with disgust, this aggression on the part of civilized and Christian England. It is for this reason I would entreat your Lordships not to consider this as a party question. There are naturally many new Members introduced from year to year into your Lordships’ House. I believe there are three or four right rev. Prelates who will now be called upon for the first time to record their votes as Members of this Assembly. There are also a number of noble Lords who have been selected by the favour of the Prime Minister and the graciousness of the Queen to fill places in this House. I believe that some seven or eight Peers have been thus, by the present Government, added to our numbers, and among them several who never before voted on any great national question. No man honours party feeling, in its proper place, more than I do. I believe it to be inseparable from the very nature of our Parliamentary system, and beneficial to it; but on a question of conscience and morality, we ought to fling mere party considerations to the winds. This is not, let it be remembered, a matter in which the fate of a Government or the fall of a favourite Minister are involved; and I would ask noble Lords, on either side of the House, to treat the question as one exclusively of justice and humanity, to consult the dictates of their consciences, and to disregard mere personal and party ties. I dare not attempt to describe the feelings with which I regard the hostile operations which followed this dispute. There is no language at my command in which I could describe these feelings; and the best attempt I can make to find for them an expression is to repeat the words which fell from my noble Friend behind me on the first night of this discussion—”I feel shame for my country!”
said, that in the course of the discussion a distinction had been drawn between an English and a Chinese lorcha, and he noticed that when- 1353 ever the word “lorcha” was used upon the Ministerial side of the House the observation proceeded from the opposite benches, “not an English lorcha.” After the able speech which had been made by his noble and learned Friend (Lord Wensleydale) their Lordships could hardly have a doubt that the Arrow was an English vessel; but, whether English or not, it was quite certain that she could not be a Chinese vessel. The Chinese had no such vessel as a lorcha; they were forbidden by law from having a lorcha, which was a privileged class of vessel introduced by the Portuguese and adopted by the Europeans for convenience sake. A lorcha was a vessel of from 100 to 150 tons; she was completely European both in hull and rigging, and widely different in rig, build, and appearance, from a Chinese vessel. The register of a genuine Chinese vessel consisted in her clumsy form, from which by law it could not deviate—it was the junk, a specimen of which their Lordships might have seen a few years ago at Blackwall. The junk was supposed to represent a huge marine animal—a regular monster; it had a large mouth, formidable teeth at the cut-water, two huge eyes to enable it to see with, and the high stern formed the monster’s tail. All this was regulated by law. By the law of China, too, the junk was obliged to carry nothing but square sails, and she must be painted a particular colour to denote the province to which she belonged. Thus, a junk was painted red in Canton, and green in the neighbouring province of Fokien. The lorcha had not only square sails, but fore and aft sails also; she had neither teeth, eyes, nor tail; and that was quite a sufficient distinction to enable the officials of Canton to know a lorcha from a native vessel. The very name was sufficient. Lorcha was a dissyllable, and the Chinese language had not a dissyllable in it; their words were all monosyllables, and that alone showed that the lorcha could not be a Chinese vessel. With respect to the legality of the registration, it was not necessary for a layman to pronounce an opinion, but he thought that nothing could be more satisfactory and convincing upon that point than the speech of his noble and learned Friend on the cross-benches (Lord Wensleydale). If the converse were true, and the view taken by the noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord St. Leonards) was correct, he thought that a greater set of blunderers could not exist than those who had framed the Imperial Act of 1854, be- 1354 cause it would, according to Lord St. Leonards, not merely disfranchise the colony of Hong Kong, but it would, as far as shipping was concerned, destroy the property of Singapore and all our Crown settlements in the Straits of Malacca. He considered that the English representatives in China were justified in availing themselves of the infraction by the Chinese authorities of one article of the treaty to insist upon compliance with another article in it; and he came to that conclusion, not so much from a perusal of the papers on their Lordships’ table, which in his opinion made a very bad case out of a very good one, as from a consideration of the previous condition in which we, in common with other European nations, stood towards that peculiar people, the Chinese. The time might have been or might not have been opportune; but one thing was certain, that at no distant period a hostile collision with the Cantonese was inevitable, for we had submitted to such frequent infractions of the treaty that the Chinese authorities were determined to heap every kind of indignity upon us, the extent of that indignity being only limited by the amount of our forbearance. Our trade with China amounted, including the trade with India, to £15,000,000 of imports, and about the same amount of exports. The contribution of one article alone—tea—to the revenue was between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000, to say nothing of upwards of £3,000,000 to the Indian revenue, being one-sixth of the whole of the revenue of that country. These were serious national concerns, and not lightly to be trifled with. It might be said that the Chinese had no interest in driving such good customers out of their country, and, as far as the Chinese people were concerned, he quite admitted it: there was not a more mercantile nation in the world, and he had no doubt the Chinese people understood and appreciated the value of our trade too well to do anything to harass or disturb us. Their love of trade was so great that they were ready to run the risk of torture or death in order that it might be secured to them. But the case was very different with the Tartar rulers of China, who, fearful of our annexation propensities, would be ever ready to heap indignities upon Europeans, in the hope thereby to drive us out of their territories. He believed that Yeh, that vox populi vox Dei Commissioner, would be ready to sacrifice the interests of the whole Chinese 1355 people, if by so doing he could expel the outside barbarians from the country. We claimed admission into Canton, and it appeared to him a very reasonable request. It appeared so to the Privy Council of Pekin, who, in their Minute to the Emperor on the 20th of February, 1849, say— The entrance into the city and renting of ground was conceded to them (the English) by the late Commissioner and Governor Keying. That the barbarians should now insist upon this privilege is a matter dictated by common sense, and is not a very important question. Not an important question to the Chinese, but very important to the English, if for no other purpose, that there should be a free parole communication between the authorities of the two countries. The English had been denied admission into the city by Commissioner Yeh, simply because of the fierce and violent character of the Chinese people. That description was perfectly correct, and the Tartar Commissioners had taken care to make the people fierce and violent; and much of their ferocity and violence had arisen from the false policy we had pursued in submitting to every kind of indignity they chose to cast upon us. No wonder that they should entertain a sort of hereditary contempt for a people who had suffered themselves to be so trampled upon. He would give one or two instances of the sort of treatment they bestowed on Europeans. In 1822 a fire broke out in Canton, which consumed 70,000 houses, including the European factories, and destroyed £600,000 worth of property belonging to the East India Company, among which were £300,000 worth of woollens. This had not paid duty, but the Chinese determined that it should pay it, although the property was burnt. The supercargo petitioned the Commissioner to be exempted from this impost; an acquaintance of his (Lord Albemarle) was present at the reading, and the petition ran somewhat to this effect:—”We, the supercargo, &c., beg to inform your Excellency that your slaves have lost £300,000 worth of woollens, and that these woollens belonged to your slave, the barbarian King of England,”—this barbarian King being the most refined gentleman of all Europe, his late most gracious Majesty George IV. A Chinese was accidentally killed by a seaman on board one of our ships, and the Chinese authorities demanded that the man who had caused his death should be delivered up to them. This was evaded, knowing that the cer- 1356 tain consequences would be death to the man. Trade was stopped as usual, and the supercargoes were at their wits’ end, when, luckily, the butcher of the Duke of York East Indiaman put an end to himself, and the English sent the dead body of the butcher to do duty for the supposed murderer. There was another case in point on board an American vessel:—A Chinese woman was attempting to smuggle ardent spirits into the ship, when a seaman did something which caused her accidentally to tumble overboard—she was drowned. The Chinese authorities demanded that the man should be given up, and the Americans, on the express assurance that it was a mere form, sent him ashore. The Chinese strangled him immediately, and sent his dead body triumphantly back to the ship. These were the sort of people we had to deal with. But he submitted to the House whether British subjects should be liable for accidental homicide to pay the penalty due to the commission of deliberate murder? He could not sit down without adverting to some passages which he had found in one of the latest papers laid before the House, and which contained what he must call an ominous sentence, recommending the establishment of a regular Embassy at Pekin. He hoped Her Majesty’s Ministers would think seriously before they acceded to this very foolish suggestion. It was a question of the deepest importance. A few days ago he had placed a notice on the Votes with the view of showing the general impolicy of civilized nations entering into diplomatic relations with semi-barbarous communities, and he intended to illustrate the bad effects of that system by our relations with Persia. Into that subject it was not his intention to go at the present moment; but he begged their Lordships to remember that those relations with Persia had produced endless bickerings and two wars. We established diplomatic relations with Burmah, and they caused great irritation to the Burmese and a series of insults to ourselves. Lord William Bentinck had the courage to do away with that establishment. He would say nothing of our former Affghan enemy, but now friend, Dost Mahomed, who, in his late treaty with us, very wisely prevented us from committing the great folly of entering into diplomatic relations with him, and stipulated that we should not interfere with his government. But these instances sank into insignificance when compared with the Chinese; for let the House consider for 1357 a moment what China was. China, according to themselves, was the Celestial Empire, and the Emperor was the Son of Heaven. This title did not imply any preternatural attributes to that high potentate. It did not give him any divine rights, there is no heir presumptive to the throne in China. It was only part of the system believed in China, and meant that, as the occupant of the throne of China, he was by Divine appointment the sole representative of the Supreme Power in the world. Hence the inevitable deduction that the recognition of any other Power on terms of equality was an impossibility. The very existence of this autocratic system rested on the assumption of immeasurable superiority. It was necessary to bear this in mind, before we tried to compel the Emperor to admit our equality by the reception of an Ambassador, and he hoped Her Majesty’s Ministers would consider precedents before they listened to the suggestion of so unwise and impolitic a step. The Portuguese sent four separate missions, all attended with insult and indignity. The first envoy, after passing three years in prison, died in 1523 by the hand of the public executioner. Spain sent one mission, and one only. The Ambassador of Philip II. and his suite were passed from prison to prison, and considered themselves lucky to leave the Celestial City with a whole skin. But the Ministers sent from the land of his (the Earl of Albemarle’s) forefathers had suffered the greatest indignity of all. The envoys from Holland went prepared to conform to everything required by the Chinese. The Chinese, while they tasked their complaisance to the utmost, would not even listen to their representations. The historian Williams thus describes their treatment:— They were brought to the capital like malefactors, treated when there like beggars, and then sent back to Canton like mountebanks, to perform the three times three prostration at all times and before everything their conductors thought fit. The French had had the good sense never to send a formal mission to Pekin, and escaped indignity; they had notwithstanding contributed more information respecting the Chinese than any other nation. With regard to England, he need not remind their Lordships of Lord Macartney’s mission in 1792. It was before he was born, but the jokes upon that abortive mission had not died away when he was a boy, and he was just able to remember a squib which, by tacking a line to one of Horace, implied 1358 the indignity supposed to have been in flicted on the King’s representative: — Impiger extremos currit mercator ad Indos, Pauperiem effugiens, multùm vapulandus in aulâ Tartariæ. The expedition cost £170,000, and the only effect it had was to impress the Chinese Emperor with the idea that it was a munificent testimonial of unbounded respect from a feudatory towards his Sovereign Lord. The English were henceforth considered as tribute-bearers and as barbarians, from whom greater allegiance was due than from any other nation. The way in which Lord Amherst, in 1816, was jostled and hustled out of the Imperial antechamber, for he never got further, did not prevent another expedition in 1837, when Lord Palmerston sent Lord Napier to endeavour to open direct communication with Pekin. Not only did Lord Napier not open direct communication with Pekin, but he could not even open it with Canton. The tide-waiters at Canton officially reported, speaking of Lord Napier and his brother Superintendents, that “three foreign devils” had arrived. Lord Palmerston had directed Lord Napier to communicate with the Canton authorities by letter. But that would not do. “Foreign devils” might write petitions, but they must not presume to send letters. Commissioner Leu first of all pretended to doubt whether he was a bonâ fide officer, and added,— But even though he be an officer of the said nation, he yet cannot write letters on an equality with the frontier officers of the Celestial Empire. The refusal of the mission caused the death of Lord Napier and led to the war of 1842; and, to prevent such a recurrence, he implored Her Majesty’s Ministers to pay no heed to the suggestions contained in the blue-books to send another envoy to Pekin. Rumour had spoken of the offer having been actually made to some most distinguished statesman, and he wished to hear it denied. Without an armed force insult and indignity would be sure to follow, and another war ensue. With an armed force we should lower the Emperor in the eyes of his subjects, and thereby play the game of the insurgents. In fact, we should subvert the Chinese Empire. He did not think these remarks unconnected with the subject, because there was too great a disposition on the part of Her Majesty’s Ministers to interfere with the internal relations of foreign States. 1359
My Lords, I wish to be allowed to offer a few words to your Lordships on this question. It is naturally one upon which I feel a very deep interest. It so happens that towards the termination of the last war with China, I, being then in India, officially co-operated with my noble Friend, who made the Motion, in the preparation of the force required for the war, and in the direction of the efforts of our arms. The Whigs, with whom that war originated, knew neither how to conduct nor how to terminate it. There was a change of Government, and in a few months it was terminated by the adoption of a totally different plan of operations with the most signal success. Every object placed before us as desirable was effected by the peace imposed on the Emperor of China. I did hope, my Lords, that that peace might have lasted longer. It gave us all we asked; and undoubtedly, during the early period which succeeded the completion of that peace, nothing could exceed the fidelity of the Chinese to their engagements. The manner in which they paid the enormous sum of 20,000,000 of dollars, which was extorted from them, is beyond all praise—it was beyond all expectation—and I think it shows, that had the measures of the Government continued to be directed with tact, discretion, and judgment, as well as firmness, amicable relations might still have been maintained. My Lords, we are told that sooner or later there must have been a contest with China. Then, I say, in God’s name let it be at the latest period possible—I say so in the strongest terms I can use, because, having conducted that war, I know the dreadful horrors with which it was accompanied—horrors, I believe, exceeding those in any previous war recorded in modern history; not proceeding from anything reprehensible in the conduct of our troops, but originating among the Chinese themselves, the necessary consequence of the action of our troops, of the anarchy which that action produced, which Sir John Bowring knows must be produced now, and which will lead to the most dreadful calamities in every part of an empire containing more than 300,000,000 of people. I do say the cause must be strong indeed which can justify any human being in venturing on a conflict which must be accompanied with such dreadful calamities as these. What is the cause in this instance? I will re- 1360 lieve your Lordships at once from the apprehension that I shall go into any legal discussion as respects registers, ordinances, or any matters which have occupied several noble and learned Lords. We have heard noble and learned Lords on both sides of the House, and there is no doubt every noble Lord has made up his mind as to the legal points involved in the discussion, so that anything I might venture to say upon that matter would not have the slightest chance of altering their determinations. But this only I will say, that having carefully read all the papers, and carefully considered them, my firm impression is that there was no intended insult to the British flag. I say so decidedly, because, although the flag may have been hauled down—and there is no proof that the flag was actually flying at the time of the seizure—the mandarins on board allowed the English master to rehoist it before they left the vessel, and repressed the seamen who were disposed to use contumelious expressions towards the master, who happened not to be on board at the time they took possession of the vessel. That, my Lords, is an indication that there was no intention to insult the flag; had there been, the master would not have been allowed to rehoist it. However, that was considered by Dr. Bowring to be a sufficient excuse for proceeding to the extremity of hostilities. If that insult had really been offered in the manner which has been described—if it really was an intentional insult, is there one man present who will not say it has been abundantly atoned for? The forts along the whole course of the Canton river have been destroyed—not one stone remains upon the other; merchant vessels have been destroyed, war vessels have been destroyed, fire and bloodshed have been carried into an unoffending city—is not that enough for the offended dignity of this country—or even of Dr. Bowring? But in what manner does this representative of a benevolent Sovereign commence his operations? He commences a war against a vast empire with a force of 400 disposable men, with the knowledge that that force must diminish, that he had no means of increasing it whatever might be the demands of the public service. Already one large vessel, the Winchester, by the orders of the Admiralty, has been sent home; but, unfortunately, from experience in the last war, I know that disease also will diminish the force already there, and that it is impossible that 1361 such diminution should not have already occurred. But more than that, it must have been known that hostile operations once commenced they must extend to all the other ports of China. You must send ships to other ports. So he began a war of this kind with a force of 400 men with a certainty of that force being speedily diminished. Now, what has been effected in the course of three months? Nothing whatever to lead in the slightest degree to the settlement of the dispute—to the attainment of our object—to the restoration of tranquillity, but much has been done to alienate the Chinese people. Much has been done to render almost impossible the restoration of friendly relations with the vast population of Canton. Much has been done to injure the national character, and for this Dr. Bowring is responsible—for this the Government have made themselves responsible; but for this I ask this House not to make itself responsible. My Lords, Dr. Bowring might, if he had desired it, at a later period, have obtained the advantage of a personal interview with Commissioner Yeh—he might have employed his eloquence, which, however unappreciated by the House of Commons, yet, when translated into Chinese, might have been effectual with Commissioner Yeh. All these matters might have been discussed between Plenipotentiary Bowring and Commissioner Yeh in the warehouse proposed for the interview—surely not an inappropriate place for the calm discussion of matters relating to trade. If Dr. Bowring considered that a desirable object, surely he might have obtained it without stipulating for those precautions for his own protection which he required—namely, to march with lighted matches and loaded guns into the yamun. Does any one believe that such a conference could have been conducted in quiet—that it would not have been interrupted by the outcries of the populace, by volleys of musketry, by the yells of those engaged in deadly conflict? But this man’s monomania, as my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby) has well termed it, led him to insist upon a public reception, and to decline a private interview, at which alone matters could have been satisfactorily discussed. I dislike much, at this period of the evening, having to trespass upon your Lordships in respect to matters which have been already mentioned by my noble Friends, but really I feel so strongly the conflict between the words used by Dr. 1362 Bowring to Consul Parkes and those he used towards Commissioner Yeh, that I cannot forbear again pointing it out. To Mr. Consul Parkes he says, “The Arrow had no right to hoist the British flag;” to Commissioner Yeh he says, “There is no doubt the lorcha Arrow bore the British flag.” And that man remains in office! The Secretary of State approves the course he has taken—a senseless and puerile course, in first requiring a visit to Commissioner Yeh’ s house, and then bombarding the city. I cannot comprehend how any man, a British Minister, seeing this conflict between these two passages I have read, should not instantly have brought them under the notice of his Royal Mistress, and advised the Queen to direct him to tell Dr. Bowring that Her Majesty could not permit any man to remain in her service who could state the thing he believed not to be true. So much for Dr. Bowring. I tell those who may have doubts as to the course they shall pursue that what we desire is the recall of Dr. Bowring. That is our object. If he remain we shall never have peace. He is the eternal obstacle to peace. He has disregarded the instructions of four successive Secretaries of State; he cares nothing for them, supported, as I suppose he is, by those in the House of Commons who have listened to his eloquent harangues, or by an influence with the Government which I cannot comprehend, and superior to that which should be held over him by those who were impressed with a sense of the dignity of their Sovereign and the good faith of the country. Let me ask your Lordships to consider under what circumstances Dr. Bowring thought fit, having obtained such satisfaction as he had for the alleged insult of hauling down the British flag, to bring forward the additional demand for admission into the city, and personal communication with the officials of Canton. Not only was this the least fit and least auspicious moment for bringing forward that demand, but it was entirely contrary to the views he expressed in 1852. But if he had looked not only to the condition of Canton, but to Europe or to any part of Asia—to the interests of England in any part of the world—he would have seen it was the very last moment to bring forward a demand which he must have known would have led to the greatest conflict of negotiations, if not of arms. Dr. Bowring knew well what vast financial interests were imperilled, for he has stated in his letters the importance of 1363 the trade with China. He states the amount of duties received by England and India to be about £9,000,000. But that does not represent the full value of that trade. There is the whole trade itself. Stop that trade with China, and you stop the most material exports from the whole of our Indian Empire. You make it more difficult, if not impossible, for the poor ryot to pay his rent to the Government. But it is not only in India that the effects of any interruption of our trade with China would be felt. It is a great link in the chain of commerce with which we have surrounded the whole world. I remember hearing in a Committee of this House that the cotton of America, the staple of our greatest manufacture, is paid for by bills upon England. Those bills are taken by the Americans to Canton, where they are paid away for tea. The Chinese give them to the opium merchants, by whom they are taken to India, there exchanged for other commodities, and they furnish ultimately the money remittances of private fortunes, and the funds for carrying on the Indian Government at home. I do not state these as peculiar circumstances, but as illustrating the fact how the breaking one link in the chain of commerce affects, not only the country with which the rupture takes place, but the commerce of every part of the world, even the most remote. My Lords, it is a great principle in the policy of nations never voluntarily to engage in two wars at the same time. But Dr. Bowring could not have been ignorant of the orders which had been issued for the preparation of a force in India for the purpose of carrying on warlike operations in Persia. We have just terminated one war. He must have known the great difficulties under which the finances of India and of England laboured, the weakness of the European force in India, and the enormous expense of removing those forces beyond seas; and he must have felt, that to commence another war at a distance of many thousand miles from this country, and to feed it with troops from the same country immediately after the conclusion of a great European war, would be an enterprise in the last degree replete with difficulty and hazard. What we most desire is peace, and not war; and we did not desire, having just terminated a war in Europe, to have two wars in Asia. Yet two wars we have in Asia—one, perhaps, inevitable; but the other, owing to the ill-advised proceedings 1364 of Sir John Bowring alone. One million, that is, one penny in the pound of the income of the country is already gone for that war—and for what? No progress has been made. But, my Lords, I say there was a still higher obligation than any arising out of the consideration of our mere financial difficulties and our military position in Asia. Sir John Bowring must have known thoroughly the position of the empire of China. It has greatly deteriorated during the last twelve years. Rebellion now prevails in many parts of the country, and I recollect, when I was conducting the war in 1842, that I felt that if the pressure of our military operations had lasted only a few months more, the effect would have been to dissolve the Government in all the maritime parts of China. I feel that the time must come, looking at the condition of China, when there will be effected in that country a very great, general, and, I fear, a sanguinary revolution. I look forward to it as a necessity, but I deprecate that necessity. But, my Lords, let us keep our hands clean; let us not in any manner be ancillary to the bringing on of so dreadful a calamity in that country. There is another consideration, my Lords, and it is one of great importance. There can be no doubt whatever that of all the countries in the East, China is that of which the condition is the most favourable to the introduction of Christianity; and in China there is every reason to hope that by judicious measures the Christian religion will be disseminated at no distant period. My Lords, how are we to present ourselves to the people of China as those who are to introduce a religion of mercy, of benevolence, of virtue, and of truth; if they see our own Minister violating three of the commandments in the Decalogue—committing murder through an unjust war, not saying that which is true with respect to his neighbours, and acting throughout with no motive whatever but that which is denounced—general covetousness and the desire of making money by the misfortunes of mankind? What can these benighted people think of our religion? My Lords, it is not safe to assume the tone of bullying the weak; least of all is it safe, when we have not the prudent precaution or the spirit to make ourselves strong at home, to undertake foreign operations of a dangerous nature without adequate preparations and without adequate means. Depend upon it, the punishment will come. If it comes not to us on ac- 1365 count of our dereliction of the ordinary principles on which nations should be governed, such events as those which have recently taken place cannot for ever escape punishment from Above. My Lords, I must say I most deeply regret the little consideration which seems to have induced the Government on this occasion to adopt a course so inconsistent with the character of the country. How could they, for a moment, hesitate to remove from office a man who has shown the ferocity of a Nadir Shah by the side of the miserable and wretched policy of a clerk in a counting-house? My Lords, it is for us to vindicate this House from agreement with Her Majesty’s Government, and from following in the wake of Dr. Bowring. I trust the House will, by its vote to-night, protect us from the further prosecution of a war which is at once a folly and a crime.
My Lords, when the noble Earl who has just sat down began his speech with that magnificent denunciation of the horrors of war to which the Chinese war bears testimony, I thought he was going to avoid what appears to me to be a deep stain in the otherwise able and distinguished speeches which have been made on the other side of the House during this debate. I think, my Lords, it would have been desirable that he should not have followed the example set him by every possible exaggeration, by every possible tone of voice, by every possible means of ridicule, even descending to the constant introduction of the word “Doctor,” to hunt down a man who, whether he is right or wrong, deserves, at all events in a great discussion like this, to have his conduct seriously and dispassionately reviewed. Criticise if you like, but do not appeal to such feelings as have been addressed in order to create an unjust prejudice against a public servant. The noble Earl is the first of your Lordships who has taken part in the debate who has put the question of to-night on what appears to me the proper footing. He has stated that it is an attack on the Government. Of course it is. The Government—not hastily, as he says—but after due consideration—after weighing the facts of the case—after having consulted as to the legality of the acts and the future consequences of disowning what has taken place, have come to the resolution of entirely supporting their subordinate abroad, and, in go doing, take upon themselves the whole responsibility of the acts of the 1366 three English representatives of the Government at Canton.
My Lords, I shall go through as shortly as I can the facts of the case under consideration, but without having recourse to any appeal to your Lordships’ passions; and I hope you will listen to the plain, probably dull, statement I have to make why I think Sir John Bowring, Sir Michael Seymour, and Mr. Parkes are justified in the course they have taken. The first event to which I shall take the liberty of alluding is this. It has been clearly laid down that the real question at issue is divisible into two points—that is to say, was the British flag flying on board the lorcha when she was boarded by the Chinese; and, if so, was that flag entitled to be there?
Now, I own I was never more surprised than to hear some of your Lordships, professing to take a perfectly impartial view of this question, and especially my noble Friend (Earl Grey), state the opinions you have as regards the fact of the flag being hoisted or not.
I certainly understood my noble Friend to express an opinion in that sense; but what is the evidence we have upon this point? Considerable stress has been laid upon Commissioner Yeh’s statement that it was not the habit of English ships to hoist the flag of their nation when in the harbour, and noble Lords said triumphantly that Sir John Bowring had never answered this statement. Now, what are the depositions on that point. It appears from the depositions that this vessel was on the point of weighing anchor—that the blue peter was up, which I believe is the signal for that act; and this, therefore, entirely disposes of the anomaly to which allusion has been made. So much for indirect evidence. When I come to direct evidence, I have that of two of my fellow-countrymen—one of whom (I do not know why) two noble Lords opposite have chosen to call the nominal master—
These two men, 1367 being distant about 150 yards from the lorcha, state on their oaths that they saw the flag pulled down by a mandarin sailor. Their evidence is corroborated by a Chinese sailor on board the Arrow. And what is the evidence adduced on the other side? You have the deposition of a Chinese sailor—a criminal, bound under the authority of that Commissioner Yeh, who has been made a perfect idol of by noble Lords opposite, but of whom no idle story is told when it is said that he has boasted of putting to death 70,000 of his fellow-countrymen. Do you suppose that a criminal, bound and in the hands of such a monster as this, would be likely to give very free and independent evidence? But it is said that the deposition of this criminal is corroborated by the evidence of the Chinese Mandarin himself. Now, my Lords, I trust that I am not more imbued with prejudice against foreigners—whether Orientals or Europeans—than other noblemen in this House; but I do think noble Lords can hardly seriously maintain that in their belief the Chinese authorities are to be trusted in assertions of this kind. I beg you to consult the statements of every missionary, whether English or foreign, upon this point. Go back to the history of our embassies. What happened to Lord Napier? The authorities pretended that they were going to treat him with great honour, and carried a flag before him in procession, magnificently emblazoned with letters of gold, purporting to represent his name and style, but which really signified “Tribute-bearer from the outer barbarians, come to apologise for the faults and errors of his country.” Do you believe that there is a Chinese mandarin who thinks that a story of that sort, invented to gull their own people, and to deceive a foreign Plenipotentiary, involved any immorality? But if you are so inclined to distrust what is stated by your own officials on this occasion, I will read to you what is the opinion of the American Consul as to the value of Chinese assertions. It is contained in a Hong Kong newspaper lately received:— To the Merchants and other Citizens of the United States. Legation of the United States, “Macao, Dec. 27, 1856. His Excellency Peter Parker, Commissioner of the United States of America to China, &c., referring to the notice of the 9th instant, hereby makes known that the reply of the Imperial Commissioner to his Excellency’s despatch of that date was received last evening, and that with the semblance of a desire to maintain friendly rela- 1368 tions between the two countries, the same disposition to evade obligation, misrepresent facts, and erroneously interpret treaty stipulations, which for years has characterised the correspondences of Imperial Commissioners, still obtains with his Excellency Yeh. The resumption of trade to any extent at the port of Canton during the existence of the local hostilities is not encouraged by the tenor of the communication now received. Now, I really think it is trifling with your Lordships to assert the superior truthtelling of the Chinese, while, on the other hand, I think it is quite consistent with certain good parts of their character as a nation to doubt their appreciation of the value of truth. At all events, when I have the evidence of two of my countrymen on oath, all I can say is that until those individuals are shown to be unworthy of credence, I, for one, shall continue to attach some authority to their statements.
The next point is whether the Arrow had any right to hoist the British flag on this occasion. Now, I am certainly not going to weary your Lordships with the law of this case. I think it would be presumptuous in me to weaken as I went along that very clear and unanswerable argument put forward by the noble Baron who has so lately taken his seat in this House (Lord Wensleydale). He has shown, beyond doubt, that until the Merchant Shipping Act was passed, the Crown had power to issue such an ordinance as the one under discussion; he, indeed, had some doubt—a doubt which could only be removed by a trial in a court of law—whether the Act in question repealed that ordinance or not; but, whether this was proved one way or the other, he stated that it did not in the slightest degree invalidate our international right on this subject in connection with the Chinese. I must say that when, in listening, one finds noble and learned Lords so differing among themselves—or even in listening to a statement from any one of them—a considerable difficulty must present itself to your Lordships generally. A noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord St. Leonards) stated it was impossible for one country to invest the subjects of another with rights in opposition to the Government of that country. Almost immediately afterwards, however, he cited the Merchant Shipping Act—one clause of which gives power to create a denizen and a shipowner in every respect entitled to British protection. We have therefore a municipal law in direct opposition to international law in the matter of conferring rights which, according to 1369 the noble and learned Lord, we cannot give. Then a noble and learned Lord opposite (Lord Lyndhurst) quoted a letter from Sir George Grey, which is supposed to lay down the rule as regards naturalization. But does that rule apply to other countries? A noble and learned Lord, who had recently left this House for his seat in the south of France, once applied to the French Government to be naturalized. The reply was, “We cannot, unless you give up your nationality as an Englishman.” Now, Englishmen are naturalized in France, and yet our law is such that we have a right to hang these persons if we find them in arms against this country. All this proves that on these very refined and subtle questions of international law points arise so delicate and difficult that even among the most civilized nations of the West you have come to no agreement on the point; and I do think therefore you are going too far (though undoubtedly you are bound to act with justice towards Orientals) when you are asked to bind yourselves with the cobwebs of your own subtleties in dealing with a nation which utterly denies the existence of any jus gentium, and refuses to have any connection with foreign countries. These are points of law which may be argued more ably than I can pretend to argue them.
What I come to now is this:—Were Sir John Bowring, Admiral Seymour, and Mr. Parkes, sharing, as they do, the responsibility of these transactions, justified in considering that the British flag ought to be hoisted? Going back to the correspondence of 1855, I find there a letter from Sir John Bowring to Commissioner Yeh, recapitulating what had taken place with regard to two lorchas, the crews of which were convicted for smuggling, in which case the Chinese authorities, contrary to the treaty, besides seizing the goods, had seized and dismantled the vessels themselves. In reply to Yeh’ s statement that these were Chinese, and not British vessels, Sir John Bowring transmits to him a translation of the ordinance, explains the objects of that ordinance, and describes how it will assist both parties in obtaining an object mutually desired,—namely, the putting down of smuggling. On the part of Yeh not the slightest symptom of objection is given to that communication—for all that appears it had his full acquiescence. Well, Sir John Bowring having sent all these papers home, 1370 they were submitted by the Secretary of State for the opinion of the then law officers of the Crown—the present Chief Justice of the Common Pleas (Sir Alexander Cockburn) being one of them. Having received their opinion upon the whole of the papers submitted to them, Lord Clarendon announces to Sir John Bowring that he entirely approves his conduct. Now, I say that the conduct of Sir John Bowring, in making any demand whatever as to these lorchas, would have; been utterly indefensible unless they came within the purview of the Supplementary Treaty, being authorized at the same time by the ordinance. This being the case, I ask your Lordships what was the course which Her Majesty’s Plenipotentiary ought to have taken? In the course of this debate our law has been represented by many speakers as bad, and the treaty has been picked to pieces as inequitable; but were these considerations to weigh with Sir John Bowring? Was he to be the person to say, “This is certainly the law; this is certainly in my instructions from the Foreign Office; it is sanctioned by the highest legal opinions at home, but I myself think the law bad; I shall therefore take it upon myself to put a perfectly different construction upon it?” If Sir John Bowring had done this all I can say is he would have been guilty of a decided dereliction of his duty. If that had been the case we should perhaps have had complaints, but they would have been of a very different character. It would have been said, here is this Radical of “the Manchester school,” who for the temporary and paltry interests of commerce neglects the honour of the British flag—that flag which has never incurred a stain, and upon which every Englishman in the most remote district of the world looks and is reminded that he belongs to a nation which has never known shame, defeat, or humiliation, and which is renowned for carrying to the utmost part of the earth vengeance for wrongs inflicted upon her subjects. That is something like the kind of language we should have heard. But because Sir John Bowring did not take that extreme view he has been denounced in a way in which I think no public servant has ever been denounced before. For my own part, I should have thought that the very fact of Sir John Bowring having served under the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Malmesbury) would have made that noble Earl more cautious in attacking him. What are the 1371 antecedents of Sir John Bowring? After hating admirably discharged his consular duties he was appointed to his present position, and on his appointment addresses from Manchester and Liverpool were sent into the Foreign Office expressing regret that sufficient powers had not been given to so able a man to enable him to carry out the important mission with which he had been entrusted. A noble Earl opposite has quoted some opinions of Chinese merchants as to the conduct of Sir John Bowring, with regard to the Shanghai duties; but, my Lords, you must remember that Sir John Bowring imposed upon the British merchants the necessity of paying duties which for six months they had evaded, and therefore was not very likely to be a popular man; and that fact at the present moment tells in his favour, because, although he then made himself unpopular to a certain class of merchants, all those merchants are now unanimous in giving him their support. Since that address to which the noble Earl referred, Sir John Bowring and Mr. Parkes have negotiated a most important treaty with Siam which others had failed to effect. With regard to the Arrow it seems to me impossible to deny that he was justified in assuming that it was a British vessel, for he had, as I have endeavoured to show, absolutely no other course to pursue. Then it has been said that even assuming that the lorcha had a right to hoist the British flag, the reparation demanded was of an extravagant character. Now, my Lords, I cannot agree to that statement. The fact of boarding the Arrow, and thus entirely disregarding the stipulations of the treaty, Speaks for itself; and the demand made by Consul Parkes was a moderate demand, and I cannot see why the Chinese authorities should have refused to give satisfaction in the way then demanded. It has been Said that we got the substance, but not the exact reparation with all the publicity which we asked for; but in that country of punctilio and ceremony publicity is a matter of the utmost importance. It must be remembered, my Lords, that in dealing with Oriental nations, and perhaps more especially with the Chinese, it is almost fatal to our interests to take any step which they can posssibly construe into weakness or vacillation; and they are but too apt to regard in that light any attempt at conciliation. As an instance, I may mention the case of Sir George Bonhem, who having displayed forbearance respecting 1372 the question of admitting foreigners into Canton, that forbearance was attributed to fear and indecision, and granite tablets were set up to celebrate the retreat of the outside barbarians. I think, my Lords, that we ought not altogether to keep from our view what effect our proceedings have upon the minds of these people. No man can regret more than myself anything which approaches the horrors of war; but, at the same time, I am bound to say that, notwithstanding all that has been stated, in my opinion great care was taken by the Admiral to warn unoffending citizens away from any place where mischief might occur, and full time was given them to profit by that warning. I make this statement, my Lords, because I think it would not be fair on the part of your Lordships to place an indelible mark upon these men by placing it upon record that in your opinion they have used unnecessary and superfluous cruelty. Much effect was produced by the reference of the noble Earl to the shelling of the residence of the High Commissioner Yeh. Now, my Lords, when once recourse is had to hostilities it appears to me most prudent and, at the same time, most merciful to adopt those means which will be most likely to lead to practical results; and I cannot help thinking that Commissioner Yeh is a man who would be more moved by the injury done to his own property than by the destruction of unoffending citizens or even of soldiers. Noble Lords have referred to what they are pleased to call the Monomania of Doctor Bowring, on the subject of a free admission to Canton. I beg pardon, I have used the word Doctor, but I assure your Lordships I did not do So in the way in which it has been used by the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough), who, by the peculiar stress he laid upon the word, evidently intended to apply it in a manner calculated to create ridicule. As to the statement of Sir John Bowring, with regard to the protection to which the Arrow was entitled, I can only say that I rely upon the doctrine so ably laid down by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Wensleydale) that it is of the greatest importance not to allow a foreign Government to deal with individual cases, but, if they think that wrong is done in any particular case, to insist upon their making proper representations to the Government. Sir John Bowring may have had a temporary doubt as to the right of the Arrow to protection, and there may appear a slight contradic- 1373 tion in the words used, but he felt and knew that he had a good and valid ground for demanding reparation for the insult which had been offered. As regards monomania, I believe that the term implies a single species of madness in an individual. Now, I do not know if, besides the opinion that great advantage would arise from free admission to Canton, Sir John Bowring has any other madness; but if this be a madness, Sir John Bowring is not the only person who is afflicted by it. Both Sir John Davis and Sir George Bonham were convinced of the importance of having an entrance into Canton. But there is another authority, whose opinion, I think, is most sound, just, and candid—the noble Earl below me (the Earl of Aberdeen), who was Foreign Secretary in 1845, and who has never been charged with bullying, though he has been charged with acting too much in a spirit of conciliation towards foreign nations. I find in a despatch, written to Sir John Davis in 1845, that the noble Earl says— It would certainly be desirable to obtain free access to the city of Canton, and I am prepared to sanction your attempts in that respect. Much prudence, however, will be required in dealing with the question, and probably there is more ground for the apprehensions of the Chinese authorities with regard to the difficulty of controlling the populace at Canton than experience has shown to have been the case at Foo-chow-foo. But those authorities seem to have the power, when they have the inclination, to keep the people in order; and when they are made to perceive that the responsibility of any breach of the peace committed by the people will fall upon themselves, they may be expected to take effectual measures to prevent such an occurrence. I do not in the least impute blame to the noble Earl for that opinion, but I merely refer to it to show that Sir John Bowring is not the only person who is convinced of the desirability of free admission to Canton. As regards the natural disposition of the Chinese to hold intercourse with foreigners, I will read to your Lordships a statement from a high authority upon this subject. It is a statement made by the Missionary Huc:— In Europe people have strong ideas of the immobility of this people. ……. Who, for instance, is not convinced that this people has a natural antipathy to foreigners, and has always endeavoured to keep them away from its frontiers? Yet nothing can be more incorrect. This exclusive and jealous spirit belongs particularly to the Mantchoo Tartars, and it is only since the commencement of their rule that the empire has been hermetically sealed to foreigners. In past ages the Chinese kept up constant relations, with all the countries of Asia. 1374 Arabs, Persians, and Indians, traded in their ports without hindrance; they even penetrated into the interior, and freely traversed the provinces. It appears, therefore, my Lords, that there is no natural repugnance on the part of the Chinese to free intercourse with foreigners. Is Sir John Bowring alone in that? Is not everybody in China connected with our trade of the some opinion? Do not the Governments of the United States and of France hold that view? And is it fair, when a man shares in an opinion of that sort, that you should brand him, in a serious discussion of this nature, with the degrading epithet of a monomaniac? The noble Lord referred to the general instructions which I gave to that gentleman when acting as a temporary chargé d’affaires; but my instructions amounted only to a rather lengthened version of one of Talleyrand’s recommendations to a diplomatist—”Above all things, not too much zeal;” a recommendation which is generally more necessary to one who, as a chargé d’affaires, knows that his tenure of office is short, and who may be actuated by a desire to achieve a reputation during that period. The two Secretaries of State who followed me admitted that the advantage to be gained from a free access to the city would be considerable, but they doubted whether it would be commensurate with the risk to be incurred in insisting upon the right. When this occurrence took place, however, the aspect of matters was completely changed, and it appears to me that a fair and reasonable opportunity was afforded to your Plenipotentiary for pressing his claims. I beg your Lordships to remember that Sir John Bowring did not, even under the indignities which had been put upon his nation, demand his extreme rights, but that he made a very limited and moderate demand, to which he was fully entitled by the treaty. With regard to the point that there ought to have been a greater delay, I cannot agree with what has fallen from the noble Lord, considering that it would have been at least four months before Sir John Bowring could have received an answer to any question which he might have put to the Government. If I have proved, as I think I have, Sir John Bowring had a right to believe that an insult was offered to the British flag, a great principle was involved. Suppose that, instead of twelve Chinese, one Englishman had been taken out of such a lorcha, and had been car- 1375 ried into the country, would your Plenipotentiary have been justified, being provided with a naval force, in holding his hands and sending home to know what he should do? Why, my Lords, the man would have been assassinated, or put to death with those horrible tortures which we read of their having inflicted upon a missionary? The inconvenience of sending home therefore for instructions was very great. The outrage having been committed, I have no doubt that Sir John Bowring, Sir Michael Seymour, and Mr. Parkes thought at first that the taking possession of a war junk would be sufficient to show the Chinese Government that the English were in earnest, and that they would have seen that the matter was adjusted; and with a man less obstinate than Yeh I believe that such a step would have been successful. But supposing that no such measure had been taken, and that instructions had arrived at the end of four months to take certain moderate measures, is it likely that such moderate steps would, after that interval of time, have been equal to the object in view? For my own part, I think not; and, therefore, I am unable to agree in a Resolution setting forth so strongly the necessity of such a step.
Now, my Lords, in what I have stated with regard to these Plenipotentiaries I have been actuated by a calm and fair review of the circumstances, and by a consideration of what is justly due to their character; but I also feel a little anxious about the position which this House is going to take. The noble Earl on Tuesday night, at the end of his very magnificent speech, made an appeal to the right rev. Bench. This is not the first time that I have seen noble Lords opposite, whenever they think that the right rev. Prelates are not going to vote exactly as they wish, constitute themselves lay readers to the Episcopal Bench and read a homily or a sermon to them on the occasion. Sometimes the sermon is long and interesting, and sometimes it is short but tedious. That of the noble Earl was most solemn, most impressive, and most eloquent—reminding one, indeed, to a very singular degree, of an appeal which was made to that right rev. Bench by one of his eloquent predecessors in this House. I listened with attention to that advice, and the great truth which I evolved from it was that any right rev. spiritual Lord who wished to obtain a short cut to fame and 1376 to establish for himself at once that he possessed all the virtues which could adorn a Christian Prelate had only to abdicate the right of private judgment and to put himself and his vote into the hands of the noble Earl. I certainly do not venture to give one word of counsel or advice to the right rev. Bench, because I believe that those rev. Lords will take the course which they think they are bound in their consciences to take, undismayed by the censures of noble Lords opposite, or the pathetic lessons addressed to them for the purpose of obtaining votes. Another noble Earl with less pathos and less eloquence appealed to the younger Members of your Lordships’ House; but for myself I must say that I have such an opinion of the judicious selection of Lord Palmerston in that particular as to think that they have quite sufficient intelligence to judge for themselves, and that they are not to be guided in their political views by the disinterested advice of the noble Earl. The noble Earl also appealed to the collective wisdom of the hereditary legislators of this House. My Lords, in venturing to repeat that appeal, I cannot repress one short expression of regret at the loss which we have lately sustained. This very day the last solemn rites have been performed over the body of one of the most distinguished Members of your House. It is not, my Lords, given to many men to combine in themselves, in so eminent a degree, both in public and private life, those qualities which made the Earl of Ellesmere a type of that character which I believe has contributed more than anything to entitle the aristocracy of this country to the respect and regard of all classes. Although we cannot hope to emulate his many virtues, yet I believe sincerely that there is no Member of your Lordships’ House who is not desirous, in the part which he plays here, to act according to the dictates of justice, candour, public spirit, and, let me add, of that practical, plain good sense to which every Englishman lays claim. I beg your Lordships, then, to consider the position in which you are placed to-night. You have heard noble Lords who have filled the very highest position in the State, in the law, and in the government of your British possessions—you have heard them—the masters of an oratory not surpassed in any other assembly in the world—use every argument that could be thought of, make every appeal to passion, employ all their ex post facto knowledge of events, bring 1377 all the weight of their character and position to bear against men some thousands of miles distant from our shores at a moment when they are doing their utmost to maintain the honour and interest of the country. I beg you to consider also that, while those distinguished statesmen and lawyers have shown great research in going through all the circumstances of the case, and have lost no opportunity of condemning whatever has been done, they have either failed or abstained from giving the House a description of what they thought was the course which ought to have been taken when the outrage on the Arrow was committed. On the other hand, you have before you the course which was adopted by these gentlemen on the spur of the moment; you have had it most thoroughly approved by all the commercial bodies, who, you say, are suffering so greatly from the temporary disruption of trade; and, if their concurrence be not sufficient, you have also the approval of foreign nations established there. Under these circumstances, I am sure that your Lordships will pause before you commit what I am persuaded will be an act of manifest injustice. Censure the Government if you will; but if you do, do it in Resolutions which bear that clearly upon the face of them—but do not, my Lords, pass a condemnation upon men who, I firmly believe, do not deserve the censure of your Lordships’ House.
THE BISHOP OF OXFORD
My Lords, if I could regard the subject which you are now debating in the light in which it has been represented by the noble Earl who has just sat down, as distinctly a question of political partizanship, I would not, at least at this hour of the night, trouble your Lordships with a single remark; but it is because, in the most conscientious conviction of my mind, I am persuaded that it is one of those cases that rise into an atmosphere high above the cries of all political strife—because it rises into a higher and more serene atmosphere, one which has to do with national justice or national crime—that I must, late as it is, enter for a few moments into the reasons which lead me to support the Resolutions now on your Lordships’ table. The first great principle I have to lay down is one the truth of which I am sure every noble Lord will be ready to admit. It is that war is either one of the greatest crimes that a nation can commit, or else a strong and inevitable necessity, forced on a nation 1378 by a law of duty from which it cannot escape; and that in entering on war, if a Christian nation, it must be able to appeal to the God of right, and say that it is an appeal to Him, the supreme arbiter of law and justice. For a nation to maintain this it must in the first place be able to say that the war on which it has entered is eminently just.
I have listened, however, with the deepest attention I am capable of commanding to all that has been urged in the course of this debate, and I have not heard the unanswerable arguments of the noble and learned Lord at the table (Lord St. Leo-nards) on this point taken up by any speaker. The great principle laid down by the noble and learned Lord, that it was not possible, according to the law of nations, for any one nation by its own internal regulations to take away the rights of an independent Government over its own subjects, has never yet been answered. I am aware that the noble and learned Baron (Lord Wensleydale) addressed himself to this part of the subject; but I think he himself allowed that there were great doubts in his own mind on many points connected with it, and that it was not altogether so very clear a case as has been assumed. I venture to affirm, though no lawyer, that in one part of his case he will find few of his legal brethren to agree with him—when he said, for example, that before the Act of 1854 was passed there was any power whatever in a colonial legislature to make such an ordinance as that which has undergone so much discussion in the present case; because the Navigation Laws, which were in force at that time, made it clearly impossible for any colony to frame such an ordinance as this. The whole question, so far as the direct technical legality of the matter is concerned, turns on this—was the Arrow entitled, or not entitled, to be called a British vessel? Now, allow me on this part of the subject to point to the 17th Article of the Supplemental Treaty, where there are laid down specific rules for enabling a ship to obtain a claim to be called a British vessel. It is there said that— Every schooner, lorcha, and such vessel shall report herself at the Bocca Tigris; and when she carries cargo she shall 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— And so on. Now, there is not the slightest evidence in the papers laid before the 1379 House that this step had been taken by this lorcha. It has never been mentioned that permission was asked or obtained from the Hoppo to discharge her cargo—and if it had been so, beyond doubt it would have been mentioned—and it follows that if she was such a vessel as she is said to be, she had not fulfilled the regulations of the treaty; so that it was impossible the Chinese could suppose that she had any claim to the character of a British vessel. This first point, then, remains wholly unproven, and if it be unproven the conclusion is undeniable that in the sight of God and man we have entered on an unjust war.
But I say further, that to justify any war, according to the rules of civilized and Christian nations, it is necessary not merely that you should be able technically to prove a ground of justice, but that that ground of justice should be so broad and so palpable as that it shall be easily and plainly apprehended. Can any one say in this case there is such a broad rule of right? Can we say, now that we have all the facts before us, and after the event has occurred, that there are no doubts as to there being a sufficient basis on which a Christian nation ought to go to war? Noble and learned Lords on both sides of the House differ as to the right of the lorcha to hoist British colours. When such difficulties exist in the minds of such learned persons, can it be said that there is such a broad basis of right as will alone justify a Christian nation in going to war? But there is another condition to which I must allude. Not only must the justice of our cause be plain and appreciable, but the matter for which you go to war must be in itself of such intrinsic and vital importance as to justify your having recourse to so sad an extremity. Was it so in this case? An attempt has been made to show that the honour of the British flag was at stake, and we have heard much in the way of appeal to our loyalty on behalf of that flag, which never suffered an insult to be offered to it with impunity. But what was the matter in dispute? Did Commissioner Yeh claim a right on the part of the Chinese Government to haul down the English colours? Did he claim a right to seize a British lorcha protected by a licence or register? No such thing. He said, on the contrary, that the Chinese Government would not follow foreign vessels to take Chinese subjects out of them. Therefore it came to be a simple question of fact, whether any right whatever was attempted 1380 to be violated. The Chinese Government was ready to say, that if any right had been violated an apology would have been made for it; but none could here be made, as the Arrow did not come under the character which called for such a concession; that they considered the vessel to be a native vessel and not a foreign vessel. Now, will any one stand up and say that he considers this difference on a mere question of fact, a sufficient ground to carry the misery and destruction of war among the million Chinese in Canton?—or, that because Commissioner Yeh was wrong in stating that the lorcha was a Chinese, not a British vessel, the horrors of warfare should be inflicted on the people?—in a word, that the simple difference of opinion on a matter of fact was a just cause for plunging this nation into a state of war with China? It is a proposition untenable by any Christian nation. But there is another position which must be occupied by a Christian nation before war with another nation is justifiable—war should be undertaken deliberately, and with a full observance of all the usual formalities of a declaration. What mean those heralds trumpeting forth the defiance of one nation to another? Are they nothing more, as some seem to suppose, than the painted pageant of a dream? There are great truths lurking in these formalities. Civilized nations have laid it down as a rule, that without giving the nation they are about to attack the fullest notice, and without affording it the opportunity of reconsidering all the matters in dispute, they are not justified in rushing into war, with all its concomitant misery and woe. But how stands the case here? The blow has been struck secretly and unknown to the Government of the nation we have attacked. Care was taken to hide from the Chinese what was intended to be done, and it is worthy of remark that the Plenipotentiary of Great Britain—I am afraid to mention his name after the rebuke of the noble Earl—did not come up to the scene of warfare because he was anxious not to give the slightest intimation of what was about to be done. Thus, through a headstrong consul and a thoughtless Plenipotentiary, this country have been drawn into a great war with one of the most populous nations on earth. I say, therefore, that you want the element of justice here also, and I say further that whatever difficulties you may be involved in, if it can be shown that you have committed wrong, you have but one duty to 1381 perform, and that is to retreat from that wrong. I think, my Lords, I can show in a single moment you have still opportunity of withdrawing from further procedure in this course of iniquity without danger to the country—nay, I believe you will be turning aside the great dangers that are before you. The one thing needful is, that the guilty cause of this evil shall be marked by this nation as being the guilty cause; and, that having been done, this nation as a nation, with that nation as a nation, can enter into the necessary communications for adjusting the quarrel. I say—and I venture to say, even after what has fallen from the noble Earl—that every page of these papers does to my mind, as an unprejudiced reader, show that Sir John Bowring is the guilty cause of all this bloodshed and misery. I do not wish to press upon one distant undue censure, but justice requires, if I believe it, that I should state it. I cannot for a moment admit that Admiral Sir Michael Seymour stands on the same footing as Sir John Bowring, and I do complain, in justice to the navy, if any words spoken in this debate seem to implicate Sir Michael Seymour in the same guilt as that which attaches to Sir John Bowring. The Government have not told us that Sir Michael Seymour ever saw all the previous correspondence. We do not know—I have every reason to believe the contrary—that Sir Michael Seymour was aware that the British representative had been charged by successive Administrations not to get into this quarrel. I know Sir Michael Seymour to be not only a most gallant, but a most humane officer. I know that even in this miserable warfare in which Sir John Bowring involved him, he studied, as far as a man in his position could study, the interests of humanity. Therefore, I cannot bear to hear Sir Michael Seymour charged unfairly with the great guilt which attaches to the Plenipotentiary. In my opinion, even Mr. Consul Parkes is in an inferior degree guilty in this matter, because Consul Parkes was, from the very nature of his position, brought day by day into the centre of squabbles with the Chinese; and he must have been more than human if he did not feel somewhat of a sore and irritable temper in dealing with them. But what is the purpose of a Plenipotentiary seated at Hong Kong but to repress these ebullitions of feeling, and to inculcate calmness, caution, and prudence? It is his duty not to take up so hostile a 1382 position, but to remember that he is the representative of a great empire, of a great Sovereign, of a great, benevolent, and Christian empire and Sovereign; to put up with anything which does not absolutely endanger the honour of the country; and, if he sees that honour endangered, to be careful and make no demand from which he cannot conveniently retire or justly persevere in. Therefore, I say, neither Sir Michael Seymour nor Mr. Consul Parkes, but Sir John Bowring, is the offender. If, I say, in the sight of Heaven and in the sight of nations, he is the offender, either through bad judgment or bad management, or, as I think, through being possessed of that one fixed idea which certainly approaches what the noble Earl calls monomania, which does make a man more dangerous in every single relation of life than almost any other constitution of mind—when a man in that strange way assimilates everything that can be suggested to him and everything he can do with one fixed fancy, which pervades him day and night—when every idea is turned and twisted, and everything looks small and insignificant compared with the carrying out one favoured project—if, as I believe, acting in a very narrow mind—a mind naturally cramped, marvellously cramped, very small and inexpansive—drawn, perhaps, by the contiguity of China into additional contraction—monomania has led him into guilt—if this man is guilty, mainly from intellectual faults, but also from grievous moral faults (for he seems never to have appreciated the crime and evil of the bloodshed and misery he was causing)—if, I say, he is the forefront of this national guilt, the Government is bound to recall him; and the Resolutions ought to have, and, taken up as I trust they will be by the people of the land, will have the effect of leading to the recall of that most unhappy functionary. If I have shown the reason why this war is an unjust war, and how we may yet escape from the evils in which it has entangled us, I do ask your Lordships for a single moment to weigh what is the real amount of guilt, and what are the probable circumstances and punishment which will follow a continuance in such a course. In the first place, only remember the great guilt of the stronger nation oppressing the weaker. [The Duke of ARGYLL: What! 30,000,000 against 300,000,000?] Yes; it is just the great population of that country which constitutes its weakness 1383 and makes our guilt the greater. It is like the wolf attacking the flock of sheep—the more numerous the greater the slaughter. You speak of Canton as in some degree a fortified city, but it is not so. It is a mere congeries of habitations, wholly indefensible against the modern arts of war. It is a special necessity that the warfare to be waged against China should be a wholesale slaughter of the unoffending members of that empire, through which wholesale slaughter you will seek to act upon the Government. Evil as war is when you go against armies, it is nothing as compared with fighting the Chinese in this way. And what is it you hope? You hope to produce an effect upon the Government. But is it likely Commissioner Yeh will be affected by your killing the Chinese when you tell us in the same breath that such is the obstinacy, such is the cruelty of the man and the indifference he feels to the death of his fellow countrymen, that he has himself killed 70,000 Chinese? Do you hope to turn him from his obstinacy by killing a few more thousands of them? I say again, because England is so strong and because China is so weak your guilt is great. Why is it that England is strong and China is weak? England is strong because she is Christian, and China is weak because heathenism has eaten out the heart of manhood in her people. There was a time, when your Plantagenet Princes could hardly write their own name legibly, when China was in a high state of literary excellence. And how is it that England is what England is now and China what China is? It is because Christianity has raised a high moral tone in England, and in raising that high moral tone has elevated the people and given them superior strength. See, then, what you are doing. Having received this gift from God, with the trust which accompanies Christianity, you are using it—for what? To bring misery, depopulation, waste, suffering, and a multitude of evils which attend on war, upon a nation which has given no just cause of offence, simply because you have that strength, because it is possessed by that weakness. There is but one more reason. It is hardly possible for any reasonable man to doubt that this power is given to do God’s word—to Christianize these feebler populations. Why is it that power accompanies Christianity, and weakness the want of that blessing? Why is it, but that the strong should give to the 1384 weak this greatest boon? and your special wrongdoing is that you are making it almost next to impossible that you can be the means of conveying Christianity to that great empire. Do not for a moment believe that the Chinese are unobservant witnesses of these, your contradictions. It was but a few years ago that you were taunted by them—”How can we believe that you wish to introduce Christianity when you are the great importers of opium?” Do they not taunt you now, “You profess to serve the Spirit of Heaven, but are these the dictates of Heaven’s Spirit?” Is it not true witness these papers bear when they tell you Commissioners are changed, men in power pass away, but dwellers in a city are represented in the next generation by children and grandchildren, who live to cherish the records of your crime? I say for all these reasons I earnestly hope this great Christian judicial as well as legislatorial assembly, will indeed pause before they are led by a taunt of supporting a party Motion to throw their weight into the scale of injustice and wrong. Sure I am, my Lords, that whatever dangers may threaten to accompany a backward step, they are nothing compared with the dangers which accompany continued wrongdoing. I do not believe in the greatness of the dangers from the Chinese. I do not believe they are possessed of any great sense of their own power and your weakness. I believe they are thoroughly possessed with the idea that we are wiser, stronger, and more capable than themselves, and need no fresh teaching of this most unhappy kind. But, my Lords, there is a Power against which you are parading the strength of England if you persist knowingly in a course of wrong, and that Power never will permit self-willed strength cruelly to assert its right to the wrong and despite of the wretched victims of tyranny. You are going against a Power which knows in its own time to work its own purposes, which never fails to visit the wrongdoing of the oppressor, and never leaves a wrong unavenged. It is not for me, my Lords, to prophesy how such punishment may come. I may see dark clouds gathering in the distance; I may believe I see the threatening cloud—even hear the mutterings of the thunder. England’s might—England’s supremacy at sea—her assertion of it—are not favourably regarded in any part of the world. Depend upon it, that so appalling an example of the denial of 1385 right, of such overweening confidence of your own strength, and the exertion of that strength to force a lawless policy upon a helpless and unoffending race, will not pass unnoticed among the nations of Europe, of Asia, or of America, nor without concentrating against you the just hatred of other people. Depend upon it that some way or other judgment will follow. He who has set his stamp upon the lightest and most trivial object in his creation can make it the most powerful. Remember that He who has made the sand so light and impalpable that the wind of the desert bears it away upon its wings, powerless as an element, has yet set it to be a sufficient barrier to the raging sea; that Power will, if need be, find in the weakness of China, an element to chastise and rebuke the pride and strength of Britain.
§ On Question, their Lordships divided:—
|Resolved in the Negative.|
|List of the CONTENT.|
|Eglinton||Colville of Culross|
|Hamilton and Brandon||Stradbroke|
|Leven and Melville||Kenyon|
|Powis||Willoughby de Broke|
|List of the NOT CONTEST.|
|His Royal Highness the||Shelburne|
|Duke of Cambridge||St. Germans|
|Ailesbury||Bath and Wells|
|Mostyn||Stanley of Alderley|
|Panmure||Talbot de Malahide|
|Saye and Sele||Wrottesley|
|Essex||Howard de Walden|
|Waldegrave||Stuart de Decies|
|Bantry, Earl||Grafton, Duke|
|Grey of Kilfauns, Lord||Poltimore, Lord|
|Lonsdale, Earl||Radnor, Earl|
|Glengall, Earl||Donegal, Earl|
|Southampton, Lord||De Mauley, Earl|
|St. John, Lord||Bedford, Duke|
|Macclesfield, Earl||Wenlock, Lord|
|Ailsa, Marquess||Athol, Duke|
|De Lisle, Lord||Ribblesdale, Lord|
|Manchester, Duke||Holland, Lord|
|Drogheda, Marquess||Conyngham, Marquess|
|Hopetoun, Earl||Clifden, Viscount|
|Kinnoul, Earl||Norwich, Bishop|
|Mountcashell, Earl||Elphinstone, Lord|
|Plunket, Lord||Huntly, Marquess|
|Selkirk, Earl||York, Archbishop|
|Stamford and Warrington, Earl||Stafford, Earl|
|Talbot, Earl||Stourton, Lord|
|Waterford, Marquess||Lovelace, Lord|
|Orkney, Earl||Lurgan, Lord|
|Bateman, Lord||Dormer, Lord|
|Winchester, Marquess||Sefton, Earl|
|St. Vincent, Viscount||Godolphin, Lord|
|Bangor, Viscount||Sutherland, Duke|
|Pomfret, Earl||Minto, Earl|
|Winchilsea, Earl||Anglesey, Marquess|
|Crofton, Lord||Vaux, Lord|
|Beauchamp, Earl||Ilchester, Earl|
|Strathmore, Earl||Suffield, Earl|
|Harrington, Earl||Cawdor, Earl|
|Verulam, Earl||Cowper, Earl|
|Downes, Lord||Gainsborough, Earl|
|Beaufort, Duke||Clare, Earl|
|Downshire, Marquess||Bolingbroke, Viscount|
|Rochester, Bishop||Chester, Bishop|
|Enniskillen, Earl||Craven, Earl|
|Egmont, Earl||Suffolk, Earl|
|Wilton, Earl||Portsmouth, Earl|
|Combermere, Viscount||Durham, Earl|
|Lanesborough, Earl||Lansdowne, Marquess|
|Delamere, Lord||Campbell, Lord|
|Exeter, Bishop||Llandaff, Bishop|
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.