Page images
PDF
EPUB

EAST INDIA AFFAIRS :-CHINA CORRESPONDENCE.

A COPY of China SePARATE LettęR, dated the 18th April 1832,

presented on the 18th May 1832, in obedience to an Order of the House of Commons, dated the 15th May 1832.

East India House,

7 June 1832.

P. AUBER,

Secretary

Ordered, by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 8 June 1832.

Our PRESIDENT and SELECT COMMITTEE OF SUPRACARGOES at Canton in China.

Para. 1.

SINCE
INCE the preparation of our letter to you in the separate depart-

ment of this day's date, we have received by the late arrivals from China your several advices, by which we learn that your President and Mr. Davis reached Macao on the 22d of November, by the “ Ann and Amelia,” and that Mr. Davis proceeded to Canton on the 29th of November, where he was joined by your President on the oth of December.

2. We sincerely lament the indisposition which Mr. Marjoribanks suffered in the course of the voyage. We are gratified to learn that he has been enabled to enter upon the duties of the important station to which he is appointed, and we trust that his health will ultimately be completely re-established.

3. We shall now proceed to notice the details of your measures, which reached us subsequently to the date of our despatches of the 26th of May and 2d of June last.

4. In the latter despatch we adverted to the possibility of Mr. Plowden having quitted China. The course to be followed in that event was pointed out in a letter from our Secret Committee to your President and Mr. Davis of the ist of June.

5. The arrival of the “ Windsor" on the 30th of August, put us in possession of the fact of Mr. Plowden having embarked on the “ Bridgwater” in January.

6. We did not expect from the documents which we possessed at the date of our letter in June, that Mr. Plowden would have quitted China. The line of conduct which he had pressed upon the observance of the Committee, was (with the exception of consenting to a suspension of the trade in the first instance, and to part of the lengthened address to the viceroy of the 10th of November) generally in accordance with the principles we have laid down for your guidance.

7. The expediency of increasing the Hong, and a reduction in the enter-port duties, was conceded in the viceroy's reply of the 16th of November, and the questions were referred by him to the government at Pekin.

8. We animadverted in the 19th para. of our letter of the 26th of May, upon the tenor of the Committee's address to the new Hoppo, of the 25th of December.

9. To that address Mr. Plowden dissented. He very justly remarked, that

the property and best interests of the Company are at stake, for the purpose of enforcing on the Chinese government a commercial code of our own creation, which they have now frequently informed us is at variance with their laws and institutions. The Company are becoming involved in incalculable difficulties by the Committee endeavouring to force a system to remedy evils which, in fact, form a regular portion of an irregular administration of a despotic government. The only way to check evils in this country is to resist the imposition of any new exaction, or of any specific one which presses immediately on our commerce; but it is natural to suppose not only that the government of China, but of any country in the world, would contend against the imposition of a commercial code by Foreigners.”

10. The minutes recorded by Messrs. Baynes and Bannerman, in reply to that by the President, are expressed in terms, and evince an asperity of feeling uncalled

1

:

.

for by the circumstances, and inconsistent with that temper which should govern
the proceedings of individuals composing a body to whom such weighty and im-
portant trusts were committed. They gave rise to a reply from Mr. Plowden, in
which he stated his views to have been diametrically opposed to the measures
which the Board had pursued subsequently to the 16th of November. He acceded
to remonstrances which he thought consistent with reason and moderation, but
when these became magnified into demands upon the Chinese government, and
those demands urged in the most reprehensible terms ; when they were stated by
the viceroy to exceed his powers, and contrary to his judgment to grant, then he
differed from the sentiments of the Committee, and urged the opinions he
maintained against the impolicy and danger of their proceedings.

11. The reply from the new Hoppo to the Committee's address, stated that " if
they, the Chief and others, desire to change old regulations, scheming after their
own convenience and sinister purposes, it will be decidedly impossible to allow
them to have control, inducing irregular, fallacious and wild expectations.”

12. Upon the receipt of this reply, Mr. Plowden, convinced that the Chinese government would not be coerced by the threatening language of the Committee to alter its commercial laws, regulations and usages, proposed that the ships should be ordered up to Whampoa.

13. On this proposition, the majority of the Committee recorded a minute containing their view of the affairs in China ; they proposed to address the Emperor of China to order the ships to remove to Manilla, to request the Bengal government to send some of His Majesty's ships to China, and to prohibit country ships from entering the river.

14. The President finding that all negotiation at Canton was at an end, proposed that, upon his own responsibility, he should be allowed to order the ships to Whampoa, and the business of the season to be resumed.

15. The majority of the Select Committee determined to proceed in the course laid down in the minute above referred to, and rejected the proposal of the President.

16. Against this course Mr. Plowden protested in the strongest and most unqualified terms.

17. On the 15th of January, it appears that nine junior members of the Factory addressed a letter to the President and other members of the Select Committee, expressing their approbation of the line of conduct adopted by the majority.

18. On the 18th of January Mr. Plowden announced his intention to quit China.

19. On the 28th he recorded a letter to our Chairman, containing a summary of the line of conduct which he had pursued throughout the whole of the proceedings, and stating, that notwithstanding an address of a more conciliatory tone had been sent to the viceroy by the majority of the Committee, he felt that, under the circumstances of the case, he could no longer maintain with honour to himself that position which, as President, he ought to enjoy, and that as the influence of his station could no longer secure the interests of the Company, he had determined to quit China, and to avail himself of the permission of the Court for that purpose. On the 31st of January Mr. Plowden embarked on the “ Bridgwater.”

20. We have been induced to enter more fully into the foregoing proceedings than we otherwise should have done, because our despatch of the ad of June might lead to an inference, that the opinion therein expressed as to Mr. Plowden’s intended departure remained unaltered by the details which had subsequently reached us.

21. We see much to approve in the minutes recorded by that gentleman.

22. When we consider the united opposition of the other members of the Committee to his proposal for opening the trade in November ; when we advert to the indignity offered to him in his station as President, by the address from nine of the junior members of the Factory being recorded on the Consultations of the 15th of January, and to the want of power to act on his own responsibility, a power with which we invested your President by our letter of the 26th of May, we are disposed to consider Mr. Plowden justified in relinquishing a station in which he felt hiinself constrained to countenance by his signature, proceedings which he most highly disapproved and ineffectually attempted to oppose.

23. Entertaining these sentiments, we decidedly condemn the measures pursued by the majority of the Select Committee ; first, in addressing the Emperor of China themselves ; secondly, requesting the government of Bengal to forward their addresses to the Emperor ; thirdly, requiring the Government to send several of

His

[ocr errors]

His Majesty's ships to China (a compliance with which requisition the Supreme Government very prudently declined); and, fourthly, in directing the Company's ships in China to prepare to quit the coast thereof, in order to their proceeding to Manilla.

24. These measures being in contravention of our repeated instructions, fully confirmed us in the expediency of the change which we made in the Select Committee. We are not insensible to the advantages ultimately derived by the increase of the Hong, but it is the extraordinary and injudicious means resorted to for the attainment of that object, that have called for our severe animadversion.

25. We now proceed to notice the occurrences which took place at the commencement of the present season at Canton. The details are contained in the despatches of the 23d of October and 15th of November last. By the first, we are informed of the measures which were adopted by the Committee upon the proclamation being issued, prohibiting the residence of European females at Canton. The letter of the 15th of November is a general reply to our despatches.

26. The late Committee again refer to our despatch of the 3d of April 1829, regarding an increase of the Hong, as justifying a suspension of the trade ; reference is then made to the proclamation already adverted to regarding the resort of females to Canton; a justification is attempted of the line of conduct which the Committee adopted on the occasion, and they state their views and opinions to be diametrically opposed to those which we entertain, and that it is most essential that one or two of His Majesty's ships should be constantly on the China station to secure the trade from interruption.

27. Upon the first point, viz. the resort to Canton of European females, we stated in our letter of April 1829, that we could by no means sanction such a step;" and we accordingly desire you will in future be governed by this decision, a departure from which led to the extreme measures of ordering up a party of seamen and two carronades, for the purpose of being placed in the Factory, to repel any attempt which might be made by the native authorities to enforce the observance of their prohibitory edict. Such a course of proceeding might have produced a recurrence of the serious difficulties and embarrassments which had arisen in the preceding season, and that, not for the purpose of maintaining any point essential to the preservation of the important public interests committed to their charge, but to relieve them from a temporary domestic sacrifice, a sacrifice necessarily entailed upon the members of our Factory in the discharge of the duties imposed upon them by the stations to which they are appointed.

28. The sentiments expressed by the late Select Committee, in their general letter of the 15th of November, are, as has been already observed, at direct variance with the opinions we have always held, and still continue to hold, as to the policy to be adopted in our intercourse with the authorities in China. We are by no means disposed to prohibit, but would rather invite, the expression of opinions which

may be entertained by our servants in whom we have reposed especial confidence in the conduct of our affairs, and we should never be backward in acting upon such opinions when there is reason to believe that they are founded upon a sound and comprehensive view of the questions to which they more immediately refer. But when the conduct of parties offering such opinions has placed our interests in the most imminent peril, subjecting us to immense loss, and protracting for months discussions which might have been previously closed without such sacrifice and risk ; when we find that the same parties, regardless of the hazard which they have already incurred, plunge themselves into fresh difficulties, and in justification of such a course set aside those sound principles upon which the members of our Factory have been directed to govern their proceedings, we cannot consent to relieve Messrs. Baynes, Millett and Bannerman from the consequences entailed upon them by having acted upon the erroneous views we have felt it necessary so decidedly to condemn.

29. We desire that those gentlemen be severally made acquainted with our opinion of their conduct.

30. Mr. Daniell appears to have concurred in the measure of defending the Factory; it is true that his assent is confined to the approval of the abstract measure of personal security, and not as an approval of the step which created that nécessity. That step having been once taken, we are aware of the difficulty which, in point of policy, presented itself to an immediate acquiescence in the terms of the proclamation; but we think a course might have been followed, in communication with the Merchanis, that would have rendered the hostile demonstration on the part of the

[ocr errors]

late Committee unnecessary, especially as it was on the invitation of Howqua that Mrs. Baynes originally visited Canton.

31. These circumstances too clearly prove that the measures of last season did not produce that impression on the minds of the native authorities which it was expected would result from the course then pursued by the late Committee.

32. We have been induced to allude more particularly to Mr. Daniell, because it appears by his letter to our Secretary, under date the gth December last, that he was absent from the Committee when they issued the extraordinary order to Captain Daniell of the “Duchess of Athol,” that, “in the event of his not receiving his grand chop with the Company's packet, he should weigh anchor and proceed down the river in company with the Thomas Coutts' and William Fairlie,' and that in case he should be fired at by the fort at the Bocca Tigris, he was, in the first instance, to return with blank cartridge, but should his ship be struck, and the lives of the crew endangered, he was permitted to fire ball.”

33. We have adverted in an earlier part of this despatch to the letter recorded on your Secret Consultations of the 15th January 1830, addressed to the Select Committee by nine members of the Factory, and written professedly for the purpose of making known to us their sentiments upon the course adopted by the late Committee during the discussions with the Chinese authorities. Having placed the general control and management of our affairs in China in the hands of the Select Committee, we never can allow their conduct to be submitted to the judgınent of their juniors. Such a proceeding, under any circumstances, we must highly disapprove; and we cannot but express our surprise that the Select Committee, in placing the letter upon record, did not animadvert upon the conduct of the parties, instead of referring to it in terms of satisfaction. In the case in question, the parties could not have been ignorant that the President had dissented from the proceedings of the majority of the Select Committee, and their conduct was therefore the more unbecoming and deserving of censure. We direct that you inform the gentlemen who signed the letter that we are much displeased with the course they pursued on this occasion, and we desire that it be on no account repeated.

34. We rely with confidence on the temper and judgment of our Select Com. mittee for preserving in future that good understanding with the Chinese which can alone ensure a continuance of our valuable commerce, without sacrificing any point which is essential to the character we are anxious that you should at all times maintain in your transactions with that nation.

35. In order to remove all doubt as to the powers conferred on the President by our letter of the 26th of May 1830, we have now resolved that, when he may

differ from the majority of the Committee on any measures brought under discussion which he shall deem essential to the public interests, he be authorized to carry the same into execution upon his individual responsibility, taking care to enter upon the Consultations his reasons for the same; the other members will likewise state, in the form of a minute, their reasons for differing from the President on the occasion.

36. Since the preceding paragraphs were written, we received your Secret Consultations from the 24th of November to the, joth of December. On the Consultations of the latter date, a document is recorded which has attracted our most serious attention.

37. It is signed by the meinbers noted in the margin, who, it appears, have assumed the extraordinary and unprecedented course of volunteering their sentiments and opinions on the views and instructions which we have thought fit to issue for the guidance of the Select Committee.

38. We have never questioned the motives by which the majority of the late Select Committee were actuated, but it was upon the extreme deficiency of judgment, putting interests of such vast magnitude to hazard, which that majority manifested in the course of their proceedings, that we passed our unqualified

39. With these sentiments, it is impossible for us to continue as a member of the Select Committee a gentleman whose name stands at the head of the objectionable document in question.

40. When we originally nominated Mr. Smith to a seat in the Committee, we were not aware of his having been a party to the declaration of the 15th January 1830, upon which we have animadverted in a preceding part of this despatch. It is, however, to be observed that Mr. Smith was not then a member of the Committee ; but with a knowledge of the fact now before us, and of his being at the time of signing the document one of the Committee, we cannot consent to give that

gentleman

[ocr errors][merged small]

censure.

« PreviousContinue »