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persons on board our vessels, and to daily collision between them and the sailors, Select Committee of Supracargoes
which it has always been our endeavour to prevent as much as practicable; added
to which, our people would become prisoners under the surveillance of an undisCourt of Directors, ciplined rabble, who would lose no opportunity of creating trouble, as an almost cer31 May 1831.
tain source of profit to themselves.
6. The right of presenting petitions at the city gates is, in the present state of our relations with this country, indispensable ; and an attempt to place restrictions upon it or to hamper it with difficulties, which may easily be assumed when it suits the convenience of the Chinese not to listen to us, obviously calls for resistance.
7. The use of European boats is so necessary for the conveyance of commercial and other intelligence, as well as for the transit of individuals in the prosecution of their business, that no house of agency is without one or two such boats, manned by Lascars. The delay attending the procurement of a license for any native boat renders such a conveyance utterly useless on any occasion where dispatch is required ; and the use of European boats has been accordingly established as a measure of mere necessity.
8. The most extraordinary, perhaps, of the threatened regulations, is that which prohibits Europeans from uncontrolled ingress and egress at their own Factories. It is in fact tantamount to imprisonment, and though we can hardly expect that any attempt would be made to carry it into execution, it tends equally, while existing in its present shape, to degrade foreigners in the eyes of the natives, and to render them subject to insults and annoyances from the populace.
9. The interdict against native servants is the same as that attempted in 1814, and while hanging over them can only tend to make our service one of ignominy and hazard, and to hold out a pretext for continual extortion, until no native of respectability could be induced to engage himself. Your Honourable Court will from our records that an attack has already been made upon our Compradore, the most confidential native in the Company's employ.
10. Such are the most obnoxious innovations with which we are at present menaced. On the termination of a season of unexampled shortness, we left Canton for this place, confident in the hope of tranquillity, and resolute in the determination to leave no means untried to secure it. Your Honourable Court will therefore do us the justice to perceive that the late conduct of the Foo Yuen was as unexpected by us as it was unprovoked ; and the nature of the inflictions which he is attempting to lay upon our intercourse with this country will, we trust, fully justify the course which we have deemed ourselves compelled to pursue. Much of the violence that characterizes the late proceedings of the Chinese government is, we believe, attributable to the personal character of the Foo Yuen, lately arrived in his office, and ignorant of Europeans ; and we have some reason to anticipate that the return of his superior, the Viceroy, combined with the unexpected position which his acts have obliged us to take up, may alter his sentiments as to the extent to which he is at liberty to carry his aggression. We may add with satisfaction, that we have not only the opinion and wishes of the British and European community on our side, but that respectable natives themselves have expressed their disapprobation and regret at the late occurences at Canton.
11. In pursuance of our views, Mr. Lindsay was on the 20th instant dispatched to Canton, to deliver up the keys of the Company's Factory to the Hong Merchants, with a letter to the Foo Yuen, expressive of our regret at the orders he issued on the 12th instant, and stating at the same time that we cannot retain the Factories while they are subjected to such inroads, and our property to such wanton destruction.
12. In our late address to the government we were deterred from including, among our other topics of complaint, the treatment of the deceased merchant, partly because we supposed that the Foo Yuen might perhaps congratulate himself on our combining an act of his predecessors with the remonstrances which his own individual conduct had drawn forth, and partly in consequence of our unwillingness to afford a colour to any further imputations against the Hong, and a pretext for carrying on a system of extortion against the survivors. We are not the less disposed, however, to regard the fate of the late unfortunate merchant as a most serious though indirect attack on the prosperity of the European trade, and as forming part of a system which, if allowed to proceed altogether unchecked, must terminate in its ruin.
13. It is perhaps unnecessary for us here to enter into a more lengthened com
ment on those several points which are fully discussed in our Consultations
No, i. transmitted herewith, under date the 20th instant. The forcible violation of our Select Committee
of Supracargoes Factory, the degrading outrages there committed, the demolition of the quay constructed three years since by express sanction, and the general destruction of Court of Directors, property, were all in open infraction of every principle of justice and propriety, as 31 May 1831. well as of existing agreements between ourselves and the provincial government. These, however, as your Honourable Court will perceive, were nothing but the forerunners of a more systematic course of proceedings against the interests of the trade. We contend for the establishment of no new privileges or immunities, but for the preservation of old ones long since enjoyed by our predecessors, and sufficient alone, by their extinction, to prove a death-blow to all desirable intercourse with the country. The proposal to confine us to our own Factories, the interdict against native servants, the stationing guards of soldiers over our ships, the noncommunication by European boats, and the restriction of our right of presenting petitions, would plainly reduce our condition here nearly to a level with that of the Dutch at Japan.
14. The printed notice addressed to the British community in China, copies of which we have the honour to enclose, we deemed to be at once an act of justice to all parties interested, and a measure of salutary precaution against those mis-statements which past experience fully warranted us in anticipating. It is, however, our earnest hope that the possible crisis which is therein contemplated may be averted by timely and judicious measures. After what we have already said, your Honourable Court will do us the justice to think that nothing is further from our intentions than to enter into collision with the Chinese government; our views are to preclude, if possible, all chance of it, and, by timely precautions, to prevent any delay in the commercial transactions of the ensuing season. At present we have refrained from advancing any propositions in our correspondence with the government, acquainting them merely that if they extend their acts of aggression against the trade, without some security against the recurrence of those complained of, we shall be compelled, at an early period, to suspend all British intercourse. We are fortunate in the period which has been selected for offensive operations by the Chinese, and for the promulgation of their restrictive regulations. Our season of business would not,
, under ordinary circumstances, commence before the 1st of October : the interval is open for negotiation, and for the adoption of such a course as shall convince the Chinese that we are not disposed to admit the imposition of restrictions injurious to our commercial interests. The country trade, in amount and tonnage at present so important, combined with that of the Company, is calculated, we are convinced, to prove a most important persuasive, as these two together constitute in fact the bulk of foreign commerce at Canton. We have afforded, in the meanwhile, to the provincial authorities the opportunity of abstaining from the further enactment of injurious regulations, and left it open to ourselves, should their conduct not render the opposite course imperative, to continue our trade without interruption.
15. On the 23d instant we received from Mr. Lindsay intelligence of an interview which he had with the Hong Merchants, on presenting them with our addresses to the provincial authorities, together with the keys of the Factory. They protested that their lives would be endangered, did they present our letter, from the violence of the Foo Yuen; and added, that the address from Messrs. Daniell and Smith was for the same reason still in their possession. Mr. Lindsay informed them that the letters must be forthwith conveyed to their destinations, or that we should be compelled to send them ourselves to the city gates
16. We have been induced, under a view of existing circumstances, to suggest to the Supreme Government of Bengal, in connection with the detail of our grievances, the proposal of an address from his Excellency the Governor-General to the Viceroy of Canton, to be forwarded in charge of a commander of a frigate or other King's ship. The arrival of such a despatch might, we conceive, have a most favourable influence on the minds of the provincial authorities, at the same time that it opened a legitimate road to personal negotiation in case of need. Our letter, a copy of which we have the honour to enclose, will be forwarded to Calcutta by the “ Austen,” a small vessel of 223 tons, which will likewise carry the present despatch, to be forwarded from Bengal, as well as a duplicate to be left in the straits of Sunda, for transmission from Batavia. The season for the departure of vessels to India being now passed, and no chance existing of an opportunity to transmit our despatch to the Supreme Government with due celerity, with a view to providing against delay in the ensuing season, we have been induced to engage the" Austen” for that purpose,
for the consideration of sicca rupees 8,000, to be paid on his arrival at Calcutta. Select Committee Captain Ladd is to quit China on the 1st of June, to leave our despatches at Anjeer of Supracargoes without touching at any other intermediate port, and to obey implicitly all directions
We have the honour to be, with much respect, Honourable Sirs,
Your most faithful humble servants,
(signed) Charles Marjoribanks, British Factory,
J. F. Davis,
J. N. Daniell,
- No. 2. COPY of a Secret LETTER from the SELECT COMMITTEE of SUPRACARGOES
in China to the Court of DIRECTORS of the East India Company, dated 18th June 1831.
To the Honourable the Court of Directors of the United East India
2. In that address it became our duty to state the very serious aspect which affairs connected with your interests had assumed in this country, and the measures to which we had recourse, with a view to the amelioration of existing evils.
3. We stated to your Honourable Court, that after the conclusion of the season in apparent tranquillity, and while anxious only to preserve it, we were residing quietly at Macao, the conduct of the Canton authorities suddenly assumed a form of the most violent and aggressive kind.
4. The English Factory at Canton was, without any previous intimation given, invaded by their Excellencies the Foo Yuen and Hoppo, accompanied by a train of armed attendants; the public hall was forcibly entered, the coverings torn down from the pictures, and that of His Majesty treated with marked indignity. The Hong Merchants were summoned, threatened with immediate imprisonment and death, and kept for upwards of an hour on their knees, soliciting pardon for their alleged
“ traitorous connection with the English.” The senior Chinese Linguist, for the same alleged reason, was thrown into chains and committed to prison, and the orders of the Foo Yuen for his execution were only suspended on the intercession of the Hoppo. Hitherto the Company's Factory has been considered, and has been admitted by the Chinese government, to be sacred against such intrusion, and hitherto it has remained unpolluted by such deeds of violence.
5. To these succeeded acts of a still more aggressive character. The gates of the Factory leading to the river were torn down; the quay, built by the express sanction of the Governor of Canton, was destroyed; the trees in front of the Factory uprooted, and the premises generally laid waste; several hundred natives being employed, and not intermitting their labours even during the night. The devastation is, by the last accounts, still going forward, and the ground in front of the Factory is a heap of ruins. This ground, we may observe in passing remark, was the only space which we possessed for the purpose of recreation and exercise.
6. A proclamation was simultaneously issued by the Canton authorities of the most severely restrictive kind, interdicting the employment of native servants, and denouncing vengeance on those now employed by us. Without the assistance of natives in numerous menial offices, the conduct of commercial transactions would be next to impracticable. Addresses to the government were declared inadmissible. This is amongst our only safeguards and privileges. Foreign merchants were refused residence in Canton throughout the year, a point of essential necessity to the general British commerce at this port. Foreign boats were precluded from passing between Macao and Canton, without which privilege foreigners can only have recourse to the native smuggling boats, or be detained for ten days or
a fortnight waiting for a pass, which may even then be denied them. Chinese
of Supracargoes foreigners were ordered to be confined within the Factories, and not to pass beyond
to the the doors without special permission previously obtained.
Court of Directors, 7. Surrounded with these overwhelming evils, we resolved, as the only alterna
18 June 1831. tive left, to oppose them by every legitimate means in our power. Two members of the Select Committee proceeded to Canton ; their remonstrance was unattended to, and their address to the Canton government rejected. We then deemed it absolutely necessary to intimate to British subjects, that while exposed to such acts, it was impossible that commercial intercourse could continue, and that, unless the evils were remedied, it would be suspended on the 1st of August next.
8. We deemed it expedient to fix the period in our notice to British subjects, that, in the event of such suspension being necessary, which would have included the whole of the English trade at this port, sufficient previous warning might be afforded to them. We at the same time, on the rejection of our further addresses to the government, drew up a short notice in Chinese, which was generally distributed, and affixed on the most public places in the neighbourhood of the Factories, stating in few words, “ That the English came to China for the purposes of commerce; that their anxious wish was to be the friends of the Chinese people ; but that our Factories had been attacked and our property destroyed, while we were peaceably residing at Macao; that our addresses to the government had been rejected, and that new and severe restrictions had been imposed upon trade ; that under such circumstances it was impossible that intercourse between the two countries could continue, which must be suspended at an early date; that the English had none other than a feeling of perfect good-will to the Chinese, but that they never would submit to oppression.
9. We have reason to believe that this notice created a very considerable sensation in Canton. The keys of the Factory had previously been delivered to the Hong Merchants, to be carried to the Foo Yuen, stating, that as we had no present means of protecting our property we abandoned it. The keys, and we believe our addresses to the government, still remain in possession of the Hong Merchants.
10. Previously to these events an occurrence had taken place of a serious and most distressing nature, and one which we were conscious inflicted a severe blow on the security of our commerce. The Hong Merchant Woo Yay, the managing partner in the Hong of Goqua, on whom the stability of the firm depended, the most respectable perhaps of the class to which he belonged, and most trustworthy in his commercial dealings, was early in the course of the last season imprisoned, his alleged offence being his “ traitorous connection with the English.” We were compelled to abstain from remonstrance with the government by the expressed apprehensions of his relations, that our doing so would only precipitate his fate. It was generally believed that banishment for life or perpetual imprisonment were the least evils which awaited him ; but from these he was recently relieved by death, while subjected to privations of a very aggravated kind.
11. We did not deem it expedient further to excite the irritation of the officers of the government by a remonstrance on this occasion, as we felt satisfied it could be attended with no useful result; but we need not state to your Honourable Court how cruelly afflicting to your representatives in this country must be the punishment and death of natives for no other cause than their alleged connection with us; that of the Hong Merchant in question, we need not add, was solely of a commercial nature. ·
12. Having by the measures above briefly adverted to adopted the only means in our power to check the violent current of oppression, we sent by express to the Supreme Government of Inolia a statement of affairs in this country, and considered it our duty to contemplate from their very serious aspect every possible contingency, from the restoration of tranquillity to a positive rupture with the Chinese government.
13. We recommended that a letter should be addressed by the Governor-General to the Viceroy of Canton, strongly remonstrating against the late proceedings. We suggested that the commander of one of His Majesty's ships should be the bearer of the letter, and submitted the expediency of his Excellency the admiral on the Indian station being applied to for one or more of His Majesty's ships to visit China in the ensuing season. We gave to the Supreme Government our unreserved opinions, as we have already offered them to your Honourable Court, that should the conduct of the Chinese government precipitate a suspension of amicable inter
course, it could readily be reduced to submit to such terms as were prescribed, and Select Committee our commerce without much serious injury be established on a basis firm and
of Supracargoes respectable. We further recommended that an address should be forwarded from Court of Directors, the Governor-General to the Emperor, to be used or not as was expedient. The 18 June 1831. formal reception of such a letter might be declined, but the means of communicating
its contents to the Pekin government might be otherwise available.
14. From the ready attention that communications which we have made on subjects of minor importance have met with from Lord William Bentinck, we have every confidence that our suggestions will receive from him that due consideration which their importance, and which his high character will ensure for them ; while his decision will be regulated by an anxious desire to preserve unimpaired our national character and interests in China.
15. Having taken these measures, which pledged us to no defined course of proceeding, which made no present sacrifice of important interests, which afforded to the Chinese government ample period for reflection, and which would ultimately prepare us as the season advanced for any event which might be necessary, we resolved to await in silence any further expression of the disposition of the Canton authorities. The Governor was absent, engaged in quelling an insurrection in Hainan; and it was possible on his return he might refuse to sanction the violent conduct of the Foo Yuen, who acted as his representative.
16. We may here remark, that the resolutions of the British resident merchants of Canton expressed their “unequivocal" approval of the measures which we had adopted, and that great anxiety was betrayed by all Chinese interested in the trade, who did not hesitate to condemn the violent proceedings of the government.
17. Affairs had remained in this situation for about the period of a month, when a despatch was transmitted to us from the Governor, still in Hainan, accompanying an Imperial edict, in which the new restrictions imposed upon foreign commerce were confirmed by the Emperor, and a tacit sanction given to the acts of aggression which had been committed. The posture of affairs thus assumed an altered and a much more decided character; and, while they confirmed us in our opinion of the necessity of opposing the present hostile spirit of the Chinese government, and of redress being required for the aggressions committed and indignities offered, rendered it most desirable that we should look to the attainment of these ends with the most likely prospect of a beneficial result, and with the least possible sacrifice of the great and important interests entrusted to our care.
18. The Canton authorities, in addition to their own disposition to oppress foreigners, are now supported by the full influence of imperial authority: if appealed to, they would seek shelter under that authority, and plead it in their justification ; all hope of redress, therefore, by remonstrance was removed from us.
19. The suspension of trade we will ever regard as an extreme measure; and under present existing circumstances, we should not have been prepared for any decided course of conduct on the 1st of August. British commerce would have been suspended to its great injury, and valuable time would have been spent in fruitless negotiations. We had deemed it expedient to name the 1st of August, as previous warning to British merchants of a fixed period was indispensable ; but finding ourselves, on the receipt of the edict from the Emperor, placed in a situation where we had no means of contravening it, we gave the earliest notice in our power, on the 10th instant, that no suspension of intercourse would take place on the day named, but that we should await the result of the measures which we had adopted, and the references which we had made. Your Honourable Court will do us the justice to believe, that we upon this occasion made a painful sacrifice of individual feeling to what we considered a sense of our public duty, which induced us to abandon personal considerations, and look forward to a permanently favourable and useful result.
20. It is difficult, if not impossible, to account for the extreme course which the Canton authorities have lately deemed it proper to pursue.
We were prepared to expect that they might be induced to act on the presumption, that on the succession of the present members of the Select Committee to the situations which they fill, their disposition would be one of tacit submission to the dictation of the government, but we are not conscious of any one act or declaration of our own, previously to the attack on the Factory and to the events which followed it, which could give countenance to such a supposition.
21. In our very first address to the Governor of Canton, we took the firm and temperate ground on which we had resolved to stand; the same violent and insult